Harlequin[Author's Notes: A "test fic" used to work out some characterization and theories on some of the Tenchi crew's pasts. Based on OAV 1 and 2, the Mihoshi Special, and information in the Tenchi 101. The characters and setting aren't mine, they're AIC's, blahdeblah etc.]
"It just seems... wrong..." Tenchi said, looking worriedly out the window.
"Ah, it's not a big deal," Ryoko grumbled from her perch in the rafters over the living room. "She probably just wants attention." Her eyes were also staring out the window, indicating to Tenchi that she was also concerned, despite her usual nonchalant demeanor.
"She didn't talk much to me today, except to say she was thinking about some friends, and that even I couldn't help her," Tenchi said.
"Maybe she wants to talk now," Sasami said, walking in from the kitchen door. She approached Tenchi, her rose-colored eyes wide with worry. "She didn't even eat any dinner. Try talking to her again, Tenchi, can't you?"
"I'll talk to her," a voice from behind them surprised them all. They turned to see Washu closing the door to her lab behind her. "I may know a little of what's bothering her."
* * * * *
Mihoshi was sitting alone on the little pier that faced the lake near Masaki shrine. Her feet dangled off the edge, letting the tips of her shoes get slightly wet, but she didn't seem to be aware of it. She seemed lost in her reflection, which frowned sorrowfully at her, not, apparently, knowing what to say to the face so intently looking at it for an answer. Every once in awhile her hand lifted to the bow on her head, but she would then let her hand fall back into her lap.
Washu padded quietly up the pier, Mihoshi apparently not noticing. The pink-haired "adolescent" sat next to her and also peered down at the water. She looked earnestly at Mihoshi's reflection, as if addressing it instead of the real person. "You could just take off the bow and forget," she said.
Mihoshi turned to look at Washu, eyes wide and slightly quivering. There was something different about Mihoshi, something in the eyes that seemed almost disturbingly intense.
"That is what you were thinking, wasn't it?" Washu pushed.
Mihoshi nodded slowly. "I shouldn't..."
"Why don't you tell me what it is you want to forget?"
The blonde bit her lip and turned her eyes back to the water.
"I've been thinking about a lot of things... that story I told you guys awhile ago, it got me thinking... about the partners I've had. . . about the people who have died..."
"You want to forget them?"
"No!" Mihoshi quickly answered, looking at Washu briefly before turning back to her reflection. "I just... I don't think about it very often." Mihoshi made a faint "hmph" noise that could almost have hinted at a laugh. "And I know... I'm not the officer I used to be." She furrowed her brow, frowning at the face in the water for a long pause before she spoke again in a slightly harder, yet quieter voice. "I used to be in special operations, you know."
"I thought I'd heard something about you having a reputation for being a good officer," Washu said, nodding. She turned her head slightly, locking her eyes on Mihoshi's face to see her response as she added, "I believe it."
Mihoshi's eyes widened in surprise, but her face rapidly sunk back into sadness. "Do you know why they demoted me?"
"I was in stasis at the time."
"Insubordination. They wouldn't let me go back... for them... I was just following orders," she managed to say before she started to quake with sobs. After a few moments, she spoke again, "I finally couldn't stand it. I... knocked out Inspector Fumi, and I turned the ship around, but it was too late. The station... I knew it was going to blow, the pirates were going to destroy it, and all those innocent people... If I had gotten there earlier, if I had access to my ship, if... if I hadn't listened to them. . ." she paused, sobbing again. "I was so shocked... The pirates had gotten away. I was captured, and they used the mind probe machine on me... and after I was rescued, I was demoted for insubordination and for being a security risk."
The blonde reached up to the bow. "This helps my memory work... the mind probe damaged my memory. But the ribbon also still reminds me how I failed. How I failed them. I hate it!" she finished with the short, fiery remark. Washu frowned pensively, noting how strange the word "hate" sounded coming out of Mihoshi's mouth.
"You could take it off and let your mind degrade, and you would forget. You'd forget the reminder. Is that what you'd like to do?"
Mihoshi remained silent for several minutes. She opened her mouth finally, seeming to mouth the words first before she could voice them. "I need to remember. I need to remember what happened at the station. I need it to remember other people too... Kiyone... they wouldn't let me go back for her either. It was like... it was like in a different way, it happened all over again."
Ah. That's what had started all this, Washu reflected. Mihoshi had told that story about losing her last partner to a slippery floor and an energy reactor. It was supposed to have been an entertaining story, but the recollection must have triggered the depressionand the acknowledgement of other trauma Mihoshi had been avoiding. Washu wondered if this was the first time Mihoshi had actually let herself grieve for her fallen comrades.
Mihoshi blinked, and a final single tear formed at the edge of her eye, hovering a moment before breaking and trickling down her cheek. She looked at Washu again with that disturbing intensity. "I'm not a coward."
Where did that come from? Washu wondered. "I know." Washu reached forward and tugged at the unevenly tied ribbon hanging off the side of Mihoshi's head. Before Mihoshi could protest, the bow came undone, fluttering into the scientist's small hand.
"Wha-" Mihoshi blinked. "I haven't lost my memory." She looked at Washu.
"I know," Washu said.
"But I thought I wasn't supposed to take it out..."
Washu shrugged, holding the thin strip of "cloth" between her fingers, staring at it intently. "That's the problem with family heirlooms. The purposes of items get lost or garbled with time. Your family members are fairly long lived, so they didn't mess it up too much, but ironically they didn't remember exactly how it works. It repairs the memory, regenerates a damaged mind. It does not need to be worn once it finishes doing its job. You've worn it so long your memory has actually improved. It's practically eidetic." She smiled as if satisfied with an experiment gone right.
"How did you know?"
"I made it."
"Oh. You were the one who gave it to great great grandfather Mikamo?"
Now it was Washu who looked away at the water. "A long time ago, he and I... actually, we made it together. A simple little science project," she replied. "Nothing really important," she added, trying to make it an offhanded comment, but her distant gaze seemed to belie her words. After a few moments she added more quietly, "There's something I hope he never forgot, even if he never used it himself."
The two stared at their reflections for quite awhile, rippling and swaying before them.
"You know what, Miss Washu?" Mihoshi finally broke the silence. "I think you and I are kind of alike."
"I think in some ways, you and I both would rather be like children."
Washu turned her head and looked at Mihoshi, who had again returned to looking at the water. Washu realized what had seemed so disturbing about her gaze. Mihoshi so often wore the "absent" look, it was rather noticeable when that was what was absent. No blank childlike stare filled only with innocence and wonder... the endless blue eyes were instead full of sadness and anger... and weariness.
Washu nodded slowly. "I think you're right, Mihoshi. I think you and I are very similar." She looked at the ribbon in her hand. "Perhaps one day we will both learn to forgive ourselves for our mistakes... and to accept the things that are out of our control." She looked at Mihoshi, an odd, wry smile re-forming on her face. "I just hope it takes you a little less time than twenty-thousand years."
Mihoshi smiled and shook her head, reaching over to wrap her hand around Washu's, the brown, slender adult fingers contrasting sharply with Washu's pale adolescent digits. "I think you are very brave, Miss Washu. And I am so glad you and I are both here..." Mihoshi turned her eyes toward the Masaki house, where the silhouettes of the others could be seen against the window, watching what must have been a curious display from their point of view. She then looked back toward the scientist, "Here to be part of this family."
Washu allowed herself to smile briefly before she pulled her hand away, waving embarrassedly. "Stop with this mushy stuff, Mihoshi!" she whined like the child she physically emulated. She stood up. "Let's go inside. Ryoko and Ayeka are probably torturing Tenchi again."
Mihoshi blinked as she stood. "Oh my! Would they really do that?" The blank look was there again. Mihoshi was a ditzy space cadet and Washu a petulant twelve-year-old: masks so long worn they were more comfortable than the facesand heartsthey protected beneath.