A Mother's Work (Saeko Mizuno)

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A Mother's Work (Saeko Mizuno)
Date of Cutscene: 26 July 2016
Location: Mizuno Residence
Synopsis: Saeko comes home after a very long shift only to discover there's a whole new crisis in need of her attention. A mother's work is never done.
Cast of Characters: Saeko Mizuno, Ami Mizuno

Forty-eight hour shifts are brutal in any profession, but they're the norm for a Trauma Surgeon at Mitakihara General. Nevertheless, they are exhausting even when they're the norm. Every case is a crisis, every crisis a risk of death, and it's downright overwhelming.

And Doctor Saeko Mizuno wouldn't have it any other way. Yes, it's hard work, and yes it frequently leaves her cat-napping whenever she's on a break, but the reward of saving a life--of saving many lives--is like an addiction, and she can't quit it.

Of course, she might find her job far less rewarding if she didn't have such a responsible daughter. Ever since she and her husband were divorced, she's had that constant nagging worry that she isn't doing enough for Ami's safety and well-being, but every time she comes home to a clean house, a smiling face, and a perfect report card she is reassured that her daughter is going to be just fine, despite her husband's lack of commitment.

Turning the key to the apartment, Saeko makes her way through the door and finds the house a little quieter than she might expect, given the time of day. It's only late evening, which usually would have Ami up working on a research project, or watching a movie with her friend Usagi. As she takes off her shoes and slides them into the rack by the door, Saeko's nose picks up the scents of cocoa and tea in the house, and she perks up just a little.

"Ami-chan?" she calls, as she steps down out off of the hardwood landing into the livingroom. No sign of Ami there, except the shoes in the rack and the laundry waiting by the laundry room to be folded and put away.

"I'm in here," comes the response, only a moment later. The fact that it's faintly muffled and a little simpering is not lost on Saeko, even tired as she is. Nor is the fact that it's coming from her ex-husband's studio.

Saeko couldn't even bother to go in there, which was fine as--with only the two of them, it meant she and Ami each had exactly half of the apartment to themselves. She still doesn't particularly like going in there, but something in Ami's tone of voice draws on her motherly instincts, and for Ami she would brave any hell.

Stepping up to the doorway, she peers around the corner into the room. Of course, Ami has converted it away from what it once was. The many racks of paints and brushes, easels and tools, have all been replaced with a computer desk, a writing desk, and a crafts desk. It's got some of Ami's old dolls from when she was a little girl, and if it weren't for that one damned easel still sitting in the corner right by the window, Saeko wouldn't recognize her husband's studio at all.

But that easel was the one he spent the most time at; the one he looked out at the world and brought forth his creativity from. It's the only piece of him left in the room, and somehow it's simple presence brings back his memory like a ghost.

Which of course is why Ami kept it, and why she's sitting at it now, dressed in a long teeshirt with cap sleeves, her bare legs tucked up beneath her on the stool. In her hands she holds a simple white mug with some message about 'stop your heart' and 'restart' inked onto the side. She's been crying, but isn't openly weeping, now.

Without a second thought, Saeko makes her way into the room and wraps her arms around her daughter, pulling Ami close to her chest. "Ami-chan," she says quietly, immediately wishing she'd managed to come home earlier. Whatever has upset her daughter must be serious; she isn't usually the type to sit in self-misery, and especially not at her father's easel.

"Mama," Ami says, setting her mug aside. She reaches up to wrap her arm around Saeko's and lean into her mother's embrace. "I don't know what to do, and Mako-chan isn't talking to me."

Mako-chan? Saeko searches her memory quickly. Makoto was recently so sick Ami actually moved in with her for a few weeks, just to make sure she was taken care of since her own mother and father had passed away. "What happened?" Saeko asks neutrally, as she tries to remember more about Makoto ... Kino. That was her name. How did a relationship go from 'staying over when sick' to 'not talking to one another' so quickly? Oh, Teenagers.

"I don't know," Ami mumbles quietly, sniffling again as she buries her face into her mother's caring embrace. "My boyfriend--" that would be that Agera fellow. Wait, didn't they break up?--"made a mistake, and Mako-chan got hurt. He's had a really bad life; his parents were abusive to him, and ..." something about the story doesn't sit quite right with Saeko, even now, but she's not going to challenge Ami about lying. The simple truth is, Saeko trusts her daughter's decisionmaking implicitly, and if Ami doesn't want to tell her the exact story, then she's sure there's a good reason for that.

"I thought you two broke up," Saeko says, gently. "Did you get back together, again?"

"Kinda," Ami replies in the most frustratingly evasive manner possible. Saeko's eyebrow quirks upwards, but she doesn't challenge it. "But I like him a lot, and I think he could become a really great man, some day. He's so smart, mama, and he could change the world with his ideas. I want to be a part of that. But ..."

"... he hurt your friend," Saeko chimes in, "and she doesn't understand why you've forgiven him."

Ami's quiet whimper confirms the theory, and Saeko simply hugs Ami gently for several moments, not pressuring for more information, right away. Despite her exhaustion, Saeko finds the strength to hold on, and the concentration to think through her daughter's problems. Ami had never been very good with people. She'd never had a lot of friends at all.

When that Tsukino-girl came into Ami's life, and brought Makoto, Rei, and others into her life, Saeko was delighted. Moreso because they seemed like such responsible girls who looked up to her Ami as a rolemodel for education and kindness. That they became so close so quickly helped give Saeko a renewed sense of confidence in her daughter's ability to cope with functionally raising herself for the past six years.

"Ami-chan," Saeko says gently, squeezing her daughter briefly before she disengages enough to look Ami in the eyes. She reaches up to wipe away one of those tears, then says, "Sometimes, friendship is difficult. Especially when two of your friends don't get along, it can be hard to figure out what to do. Sometimes, people can say things they regret, and sometimes they will do things they don't mean."

God she's bad at this. Poor Ami.

"But," Saeko suggests to the pleading audience of those trusting eyes, "I have seen the way you and Mako-chan interact more than once, and I don't think it is a casual friendship. Right now, it hurts. I know it does, sweetie, but it's not going to hurt forever. Your friend is hurting, too, I'm sure, and she doesn't understand what's going on. Be patient," Saeko recommends gently, "and make certain your boyfriend apologizes for his mistake, too. It will take her some time, but friendships like yours are not broken by these things; they may be damaged, but it is the same way a muscle is damaged when you exercise: it tears a little, but it rebuilds all the stronger."

Ami's tears were flowing anew, and Saeko can't tell whether they're tears of grief or of hope, but she presses on anyways. "You're going to be okay," Saeko promises gently, "and you aren't going to lose your best friend over this. Just be there for her. Be available for her. And continue to love her anyways. You will get through it," she promises. And she desperately hopes.

Again, Saeko wipes at Ami's tears, then pulls her back into a hug. If her daughter needs to cry a little while longer, Saeko can let her do that. As long as she needs.

And when those tears begin to fade, Saeko gently provides, "I have the day off, tomorrow. As I recall, your friend likes baking and treats. We're neither of us perfect chefs, but certainly a scientist and a surgeon can manage to follow a recipe well enough to put together some cupcakes that you can take to her. Would you like that?"

The little nod from Ami brings a brief smile to Saeko's face. She kisses her daughter's forehead, then brushes the tears away one more time. "Then let's do that," Saeko says quietly. "But for now, I'm exhausted. Mama's worked a long shift."

The hug Ami gives her brings another smile to Saeko's face, and it brightens when Ami slides off the stool to kiss her mother's cheek. "Go to bed, mama," Ami says, still clearly not better, but at least Saeko did what she can. "I'm going to stay up a while longer." Which wouldn't be surprising even if her daughter's heart wasn't broken, given it's still early in the evening.

"Okay," Saeko replies quietly. "I love you, Ami-chan," she says as she tries to will herself to let Ami go so she can sleep.

"I love you, too, Mama," Ami replies quietly.

The pair hold on another few moments, and then Saeko finally lets her daughter go. As Ami sinks back onto the stool and reaches for her mug--is that cocoa and ice cream in there? That sounds so tasty--Saeko retreats from the room with one last baleful glance towards that easel.

If only Ami's father had stuck around long enough to teach her how to deal with people. It just wasn't a skill Saeko knew how to teach.

Saeko sighs very quietly as she pads across the house towards her bedroom, turning out lights along the way.

And as she shuts the door, Saeko looks out towards the ocean and is briefly startled to see a cat on her balcony. Eight stories up, but by now she's grown used to this cat. She doesn't come around often, but she does seem to comfort Ami whenever she is around.

Saeko moves to the sliding glass door and opens it, then lifts up the cat into her arms. "Hello again," she says to the cat, once more marveling at the strange moon-shaped marking on its forehead. "Take care of her," she begs the little cat, then sets it down in her open doorway.

The cat looks back up at Saeko, and for a moment the doctor is sure the creature must have something akin to human intelligence. But then it hops away towards the livingroom, and Saeko closes the door to another day.