Miko sighs as she strides over to the crib into which she’s set little Makoto. She loves them, she really does, but she’s only had them for a few days and they’re already driving her insane. Waking her up at all hours of the night… Always being hungry… The way she needs to clean up after them…
One part of Miko wouldn’t trade Makoto for anything. The other wishes she had never even considered having a child, because babies are apparently tiny demons hell-bent on putting their parents in an early grave from stress.
When Miko reaches the crib, she freezes.
Makoto is gone.
Before she can panic too much (her heart only feels like it’s about to explode from how quickly it’s beating, it’s fine, she can breathe, really!), she notices a tiny little pink-and-purple ball of fluff curled up on the pillow. When she leans in to check, she’s able to confirm:
It’s a little fox kit with fur exactly the colors of Makoto’s hair.
“Ei,” Miko calls softly. “Ei! You need to come here!”
“What is it, Miko?” Ei asks, rushing to her side. “Is Makoto o—”
Ei falls silent, and Miko knows her wife has seen exactly what she has.
“They transformed,” Ei breathes. “I had wondered if they’d be able to, since they were born in human shape… but isn’t it supposed to take 50 years to gain that power?”
“It is,” Miko agrees, reaching out to tentatively stroke the head of their sleeping child. “But I don’t think there’s ever been a kitsune that’s half-god before. Who knows how that affects things?”
“That’s a good point,” Ei agrees. “Divine blood is… unpredictable. The idea that it would let them transform more easily is a likely one, but still… So young?”
“Our child is something special,” Miko whispers, snuggling up against Ei’s side and burying her face in her wife’s neck. “I can’t even imagine what they’ll be like when they grow up.”
“Neither can I,” Ei admits as she wraps her arms around Miko. “A better person than either of us, I hope.”
“We’ll just have to make sure to be the best role models we can be,” Miko whispers. “Even if it’s a lie.”
Ei nods silently.
“So this is little Makoto, is it?” Kokomi asks, peering down into the crib. “They’re adorable. How old are they?”
“Aren’t they?” Miko asks proudly, puffing up her chest. “I gave birth to them, so it’s only natural, of course… And they’re about to be six months.”
“I put them in you,” Ei grumbles, narrowing her eyes. “Their cuteness is obviously from me.”
Miko laughs in Ei’s face, then turns back to observe the Divine Priestess who’s tickling their child’s chin. It had been Ei’s idea to form a friendship with the leader of Watatsumi Island in an attempt to help calm hostilities, and Miko has to admit that it was a good idea. She’d always thought the other priestess was very cute and wanted to get to know her, so really, it’s a win all around. Miko can’t think of any reason that it could end up as a proble—
Miko freezes. Did Makoto just…? She rushes over to the crib and glares down at the baby inside.
“I’m your mama!” Miko growls, shoving Kokomi back a step. “Not her! She’s just… just… some fish!”
Miko hears the Divine Priestess giggling behind her.
“Calm down, Miko,” Kokomi soothes. “I don’t think Makoto can even see very clearly yet, they probably just saw a silhouette with pink hair and thought it was you.”
“I’m their mama, though,” Ei grumbles, stalking forward to peer down into the crib. “So obviously they thought you were me.”
“What?” Miko demands, spinning to glare at her wife. “I gave birth to them!”
“So?” Ei returns, glaring back. “I’m still their mama! You can be their incubator!”
“Incubator?” Miko shrieks. “Incubator? Are you unpersoning me now?”
“If you’re going to try to steal my role as Makoto’s mama, maybe I will,” Ei growls.
Miko has never been so insulted in her life. Obviously if Makoto is saying ‘mama’ they mean Miko! She can admit that her reaction to Kokomi being closest was probably unfair to the Divine Priestess, whose assessment was likely spot on.
And that means that Miko is the mama that Makoto meant!
“You meant me, right, you little menace?” Miko demands, prodding at Makoto’s face with her index finger.
“No, you mean me, right?” Ei asks, her own finger poking Makoto’s other cheek.
Makoto giggles up at them, grabs one finger in each tiny little hand, and…
Miko’s heart melts. She meets Ei’s eyes, and sees her wife looking just as awestruck as she is.
“I guess we’re both their mamas,” Miko whispers.
“Looks like it,” Ei whispers back.
Kokomi is still laughing her ass off, and Miko makes a mental note to get her back for her amusement later, but…
It’s still a perfect day.
“You can do it,” Ei encourages, holding out her hands. “Come to Ei-mama!”
Miko holds her breath as Makoto lifts their foot… and tips over. Ei, fast as the lightning she rules, catches them safely.
“I still say you should probably hold their shoulders while they learn,” Kokomi pipes up from the chair she’s been reading in. “It’d save you a lot of rushing around.”
“This is how I learned to walk,” Ei grumbles. “It works.”
“Nobody helped me figure out how to walk on two legs,” Miko agrees. “It’s normal to do it like this.”
“…Right, you were born as a fox, weren’t you?” Kokomi asks, closing her book and moving over to join Ei and Miko in kneeling on the floor around Makoto. “What was learning to be a human like?”
“Weird,” Miko declares flatly, shuddering as she thinks back to her first transformation. “I had to get used to wearing these awful clothes, learn how to walk on two legs like some kind of savage, figure out how to use hands… You humans think you’re all that but everything about you sucks for someone trying to learn how to operate one of your stupid little bodies, let me tell you that.”
“When you say you had trouble learning to walk,” Ei asks slowly. “Does that mean you fell on your face? In the form you had when you were fifty?”
“…No comment,” Miko grumbles.
She had, in fact.
…Several dozen times.
She’s gotten used to living as a human now, and it’s not as horrible as it had seemed in those early days — she’s certainly glad that she learned to appreciate the beauty of human women, or she never would have fallen for Ei as she did — but she still thinks foxes are a superior species, even if they don’t have thumbs. That’s the only advantage humans have, and she’ll say as much to anyone who asks.
“Makoto,” Kokomi encourages, apparently having decided to take a turn while Miko was lost in her memories. “Come on, little one.”
The Divine Priestess is holding Makoto’s hands in hers, and as Miko watches, their child manages to take one stumbling step forward.
“Good!” Kokomi cheers. “Come on, do it again!”
“…She’s good with children,” Ei murmurs to Miko. “I guess she had the right idea after all.”
“…I guess so,” Miko admits, watching as Kokomi lets go of first one and then both hands, and Makoto manages to continue toddling forward, giggling.
“You did such a good job!” Kokomi coos, pulling Makoto into a hug.
Watching this, Miko…
Doesn’t feel jealous.
She would have thought she would, but… seeing Makoto so obviously happy, and the genuine affection that Kokomi holds for their child…
Miko feels something growing inside of her that she’s not sure she wants to focus on right now. She leans against Ei and lets her eyes slip shut.
“I’m glad we’ve let her into our life,” Miko murmurs. “She’s been good for us.”
“Yeah,” Ei agrees, just as quietly. “Yeah, she has.”
“S-Say that again,” Ei demands.
“Love you?” Makoto repeats.
Ei collapses against Miko, who’s not doing much better.
“They love us,” Ei whispers. “They love us!”
“They do,” Miko whispers, rubbing at her eyes to try to preempt the tears that she can feel building up. “Kokomi, did you hear…?”
“I did,” Kokomi agrees, smiling at them wistfully. “Congratulations.”
Ei and Miko trade a look, then urge their little one towards Kokomi.
“Tell your Auntie Kokomi how you feel about her,” Ei encourages. “Go on.”
“Love you!” Makoto declares.
Kokomi’s gasp makes it very clear to Miko just how happy Makoto’s words have made the Divine Priestess, and she can’t help smiling.
“They’ve got a lot of love to go around,” Miko says. “Go on, Auntie Kokomi — tell Makoto how you feel about them.”
Kokomi gives Miko a wide-eyed look, then falls to her knees to pull Makoto into a hug.
“I love you, Makoto,” Kokomi whispers. “Thank you for being born.”
“Hey, I’m the one you should be thanking for that,” Miko complains.
“Excuse me? She should be thanking both of us,” Ei huffs. “You didn’t have Makoto all by yourself, Miko.”
“No, but I’m the one who carried them all those months,” Miko says. “Obviously that was a more important contribution, given how much more difficult it was than your part in things. You just had to—”
“Ei, Miko,” Kokomi cuts in. “Can we please just agree that you’re both equally responsible for Makoto’s birth? Look at them, they don’t like to see you fighting.”
Miko’s eyes snap to Makoto’s face, and indeed their child appears slightly distressed.
“I’m sorry, Makoto,” Miko whispers.
“I am too,” Ei agrees. She holds her hand out, and Miko takes it reluctantly. “Truce?”
“Truce,” Miko sighs. “I guess we both did contribute a lot…”
“They wouldn’t be here without both of us,” Ei agrees.
“You two are absolutely ridiculous,” Kokomi sighs, shaking her head. “I’m going to have to make sure to be here as often as I can so poor little Makoto has one role model that can go a day without being more of a child than they are.”
Miko would like to feel insulted, but she’s honest enough with herself to know that Kokomi’s assessment is rather accurate… even if she would like to say it’s more accurate for Ei.
“You’re already here nearly a day a week,” Ei points out. “Do you want us to prepare you a permanent room to stay in or something?”
That’s a good point, Miko thinks — Kokomi’s already becoming quite the fixture in their lives. If the Divine Priestess says yes…
“…I wish,” Kokomi sighs, gazing down at Makoto with a longing expression. “But I’ve got my duties as Divine Priestess… that’s just not viable.”
Makoto hugs Kokomi’s arm and looks up at her with wide eyes, and Kokomi smiles down at them.
“Komi sad?” Makoto asks.
“No, no,” Kokomi reassures them. “I’m very happy, because I’m here with you.”
Makoto beams, and Miko feels her heart soften towards Kokomi even more.
“How about you spend a night a week here, then?” Miko suggests. “Makoto would love it if you were here overnight instead of heading out again so quickly. I know that using waypoints takes a lot out of humans, but if Ei helped…”
“I would be more than happy to take you back to Watatsumi Island after your visits,” Ei agrees.
“…I would love that,” Kokomi admits quietly. “Thank you.”
Sitting on the bed next to their mother, Makoto peers at the baby in Kokomi’s arms with an awed expression.
“This is Ren, your baby sibling,” Kokomi tells them, smiling tiredly. “You’re an older sibling now, Makoto, so you’re going to have to set a good example, okay?”
The almost-six-year-old nods vehemently, eyes still locked on little Ren.
“They’re so tiny,” Makoto whispers. “Can I touch them?”
“Go ahead, but be gentle,” Kokomi says.
Miko watches proudly as Makoto reaches out to gently stroke Ren’s head.
“They really are a good kid,” Miko whispers to Ei. “I know Komi thinks they got that from you, but…”
“They got it from Komi,” Ei agrees. “I wasn’t nearly that gentle.”
“My cuteness and love of teasing, your obsession with sweets, Komi’s kindness… hopefully her brains, too,” Miko lists off. “Makoto’s got the whole package, don’t they?”
“Our cuteness,” Ei corrects, scowling. “We settled that one, Miko.”
“Did we?” Miko asks innocently, grinning at Ei. “Silly me. I must have forgotten which one gave them their fox shape… and their little ears and tail.”
Ei falls silent, staring at Miko.
“…Fine,” she finally admits. “You win.”
Miko pumps her fist in victory.
“What are you idiots up to this time?” Kokomi calls.
“Nothing,” Ei and Miko chorus innocently.
“See, Makoto?” she says. “That’s why you need to set a good example for Ren. Ei-mama and Miko-mama are going to be doing their best to do the opposite.”
Makoto nods seriously.
“I know,” they say mournfully. “It’s hard being the adult.”
Miko tries to find words to respond to that, but her voice fails her. A glance at Ei suggests she’s in the same position.
“It really is,” Kokomi sighs. “It really is. I hope Ren takes after you.”
“They will,” Makoto says confidently. “They’re yours, Kokomi-mama.”
“The disrespect!” Miko hisses to Ei. “The nerve of that child! I take it all back, they’re the absolute worst. Who did they get that from?”
“That would be from you,” Ei whispers back. “You would have said exactly that in their shoes, and don’t you dare deny it, Miko.”
Miko wants to deny it, but…
Ei is right. Miko would have said that, just to tweak her mothers’ noses.
“I hate when you’re right,” Miko sighs. “It’s against the natural order of things.”
Ei’s response causes things to devolve first into an attempted tickle fight and then into wrestling on the floor, all the while Makoto and Kokomi ignore them and continue to coo over Ren.
It was, Miko would later reflect, a rather good summary of their relationship, really.
“Don’t be so nervous, Makoto,” Miko soothes, gently stroking their child’s head. “It will be okay.”
“Really?” Makoto asks, peering up at Miko.
They’re attached tightly to her leg, mostly because Ei and Kokomi are involved in an extremely embarrassing public display of affection over on a bench and Makoto, who seems to have a sense for situations that would end up being a pain, has decided that Miko is for once the most reliable of their mothers.
“Really,” Miko confirms. “It’s not like you’ve never spent time with Hanabi before — you’ve seen her every time you’ve stayed at Ayaka and Yoimiya’s. Why are you so worried about today?”
“…What if she only spent time with me because I was the only one there?” Makoto whispers, staring at the ground. “Here, there’s…” They gesture vaguely to indicate all of the other children at the park.
It isn’t, Miko thinks, terribly crowded — but Makoto’s been a bit of a shut-in for most of their life, so even the sight of eight or nine other children must seem like an entire mob.
Miko kneels down and wraps her arms around Makoto.
“I promise you that’s not true,” Miko whispers. “Don’t tell Hanabi I told you this, but Ayaka told me that she’s been looking forward to this so much that she’s been forgetting what day it is and asking Ayaka if it’s time for your playdate yet every morning.”
“R-Really?” Makoto sniffles, staring into Miko’s eyes.
“Really,” Miko promises. “So just smile, okay? Have faith in your friend.”
“Friend…” Makoto whispers. “Is she?”
“I guarantee you that she would say she is if you ask her,” Miko says firmly. “So just have fun today.”
She rises to her feet as her keen hearing detects the sound of approaching footsteps, and she turns to welcome Ayaka and her family.
“Ayaka, Yoimiya,” she greets. “It’s good to see you. And little Hanabi! Look how much you’ve grown since I last saw you!”
“Thank you, Miss Lady Guuji,” Hanabi says, bowing gracefully. “I have grown one centimeter in the last month, which to one as astute as you must seem like a great amount, though I must confess I had hoped for a little more. You are as beautiful as ever. I hope you are well?”
“Such a little charmer,” Miko giggles, covering her mouth with one hand. “I’m doing very well, thank you.”
Hanabi, Ayaka and Yoimiya’s daughter, is about a year and a half younger than Makoto’s six years, but she behaves with far more intelligence and maturity than Miko generally expects from four-and-a-half-year-olds. Her perfect memory indicates that Ayaka had been very similar, while her brat of an older brother had been even more of a drooling runt at that age than he is today.
It must be something about Kamisato women, Miko thinks. Even Yoimiya’s excitable lineage doesn’t seem to have created any cracks in little Hanabi’s perfect composure, though her appearance has Yoimiya written all over it: while the base color of the little girl’s hair is Ayaka’s silver, it’s streaked through with blonde, and her eyes are the typical Naganohara golden color.
Hanabi turns to Makoto and covers the lower half of her face with the little fan she always carries, something Miko finds unspeakably adorable.
“Hello, Makoto,” Hanabi greets, not quite able to keep a little tremor out of her voice that makes Miko’s smile even broader. “I hope you are doing well today.”
“I-I am!” Makoto blurts, taking a step forward. “Um! D’you wanna…” They gesture towards the park.
“I would be delighted,” Hanabi says, snapping her fan shut and moving to take Makoto’s arm. “If you would be my escort?”
“Um. Yeah!” Makoto agrees. “Let’s go!”
“…They’re adorable,” Yoimiya sniffles, rubbing at her eyes as they watch their children head off. “Why are they so cute?”
“I don’t think I was half that cute at their age,” Ayaka agrees, rubbing her wife’s back.
“No, you definitely were,” Miko corrects her. “I’ve got quite a few stories I could tell if you’re interested, Yoimiya…”
Yoimiya perks up immediately. “Oh, yes, please! We didn’t meet until we were a bit older, you know, so I missed out on adorable tiny Ayaka…” she says.
“Well, well. Where to begin…” Miko muses as the three stroll towards the bench where Ei and Kokomi are still being disgustingly sappy at each other. “How about with the time that she learned her brother was afraid of frogs and decided to fill his underwear drawer with them?”
“Miko, wait—” Ayaka protests, but Yoimiya slaps a hand over her mouth and beams at Miko.
“You, Miko,” Yoimiya says. “Are my new best friend. Please, continue.”
Miko smiles. She gets to fluster Ayaka, Makoto is learning to embrace friendship, she’s going to have plenty of material to tease Ei and Kokomi with later…
What a perfect day.