Aika-centric oneshot. An origins story.
Her father always gave the best reaction. Blue eyes peeled open as wide as possible and arms flailing as she jumped up and down on his stomach. As she squealed in delight, her mother groaned and tried to submerge deeper into the covers.
"Aika!" Her father frowned, serious. "Don't scare me like that."
Aika's smile died. "Sorry, Daddy."
Her father glanced over at his wife, attempting to get another minute's rest. "You'll be sorry, alright." He lurched forward and scooped his daughter up, tickling her until she shrieked with laughter.
Aika squirmed, snorted, cackled and kicked until her mother stirred. Daddy grinned as he set her down on her mother. "Looks like Mommy's up."
"Takes after you," Mommy mumbled and rubbed at her eyes.
Daddy shrugged. "It's a redhead thing."
"Must be." She grabbed Aika's outstretched hands and pulled her into her arms. "I thought you said we had to be well-rested for this expedition?"
"This is rested well enough, isn't it?" He propped his chin on his wife's shoulder. "We're going to be gone a while, Aika's going to miss us."
"I'm going to miss Aika." She hoisted her daughter into the air and raspberried her stomach. "Miss you, you hear me?"
Aika kicked out at the air, laughing. Her mouth hurt from smiling, sides ached from laughing, tummy burbled demanding breakfast, head rested on Mommy's chest, listened to the even, heavy rasp of Mommy's breathing. Soft arms encased her and Aika struggled to see her parents' faces.
"I can come too," Aika said.
"Oh?" Daddy chuckled.
"I'm a pirate," Aika insisted.
"The tiniest rogue in all of Arcadia," Daddy exclaimed. "Do you fight for love or justice?"
Aika shook her head. "Shiny things."
"Shiny things it is," Daddy decided. "I'll bring you back something that glitters like the sun."
"But I'm coming," Aika said.
"I don't know about that." Mommy reached for a brush on the nightstand. "I don't think Arcadia is tough enough to deal with you just yet."
"Please?" Aika threw herself deeper into her mother's arms.
"Not this time," Mommy said. "You've got to be bigger than your boomerang, first."
Aika pushed her way out of her mother's lap and turned her big eyes to her father. "Please?"
"Not a chance." Daddy grinned. "If we come across a group of loopers, they might try to take you back."
"Nuh uh!" Aika exclaimed.
"Your mom's right," Daddy said. "You're not ready. Maybe in a couple years."
"A couple years?" Aika frowned. "But that's so long!"
"Maybe for you, it is." Mommy started to brush Aika's hair. "But ships can be dangerous."
Aika stuck her tongue out. "Dangerous for you, Mommy. But I've got the red moon."
Mommy shook her head and glanced at Daddy. "Definitely takes after you."
"Are you and your yellow moon jealous?" Daddy teased.
Mommy rolled her eyes.
"You think you're a red moon tough gal?" Daddy asked Aika.
"Show me what you've got," he said.
Aika beamed and slapped her hand onto the mattress in front of her. "Lambda Burst!"
Daddy laughed. "Almost, just keep practicing."
"That means I can come?" Aika asked.
"You master the Lambda Burst before you turn seven and I'll get you your own ship and start calling you captain," Daddy promised.
"Careful, now." Mommy laughed. "She'll hold you to it."
"It'll be worth it," Daddy replied. He stretched and leaned back against the headboard.
"Make my hair pretty," Aika said. "Like Mrs. Vyse's mom."
"Like Mrs. Vyse's mom?" Mommy murmured. "Let's see about that."
"Why do you want to look like Mrs. Vyse's mom?" Daddy asked. "She's not a pirate."
"Vyse says that's how girls are supposed to look," Aika huffed. "Says I have huskra hair."
"Is this before or after you tried to force him to eat dirt?" Mommy asked.
"It was a pie," Aika protested.
"A mud pie," Daddy corrected.
"He didn't eat it," Aika muttered.
"That doesn't make it any better," Mommy said.
"You don't want hair like Vyse's mom, anyway," Daddy said. "You want pirate hair."
"Pirate hair?" Aika asked.
"Uh huh," Daddy replied. "Pirate hair. Like I have. Give her some braids like her dad, Nell."
"Braids like Daddy," Aika piped in. "Pirate hair!"
"Alright," Mommy said. "But it won't look the same. Her hair's thicker than yours."
"I want it," Aika insisted.
"You've got it," Mommy replied. "Now hold still."
The child sat, patiently fidgeting while her mother finished with her hair. Daddy looked on, nodding and grinning.
"You approve, I take it?" Mommy asked.
"Beautiful," Daddy said.
Aika clapped her hands. "I'm a pirate!"
"A hungry pirate, I bet," Mommy said. "Let's get some breakfast."
Breakfast was quick and simple, so that Mommy and Daddy could get ready to leave. Aika decided to keep herself thoroughly underfoot while much of her parent's preparations were taking place. On her father's shoulders, she used his braids as makeshift reins as he rinsed his mouth out. In her sturdy leather sailing outfit, Mommy hastily pinned back stray locks of her short hair.
Inevitably came the moment when Daddy had to attempt to remove Aika from his waist.
"You know, I've heard of bugs like this," Mommy said. "You're supposed to burn them off."
"No!" Aika exclaimed.
Daddy swept her up into his arms and she was promptly sandwiched between him and Mommy.
"I'm going to miss you," Mommy said. She planted a kiss on her daughter's forehead.
"Miss you," Aika echoed.
"We'll be back before you know it." Daddy kissed her cheek. "Behave for Vyse's mom, okay?"
"And be nice to Vyse for a change," Mommy added.
Daddy pinched Aika's nose and winked. "Give him hell for me."
Aika nodded and giggled.
"You can deal with Dyne, then," Mommy told him.
Daddy placed a hand on Aika's head. "Good pirates will get something shiny, okay?"
"Promise?" she asked.
They were gone for a long time. But that's how it always was. Aika behaved as well as she could. The new braids she donned initially proved to be easy prey for Vyse's hands, but she was resilient. By the week's end, Aika managed to get him to eat two mud pies and a worm sandwich. Life was good.
Every night before supper, Vyse and Aika would forego their island-wide antics and wait atop the lookout for a sign of the Albatross. It was a quiet time where the two children could take comfort in each other's company, interrupted only when Vyse's mom called them to her table.
"I'm gonna be a pirate when I'm bigger," Vyse said.
"Me too," Aika chimed in.
"Why?" Vyse asked. "My mommy's not a pirate."
Aika grinned. "My mommy is. 'Sides, I can do anything you can."
"Oh." Vyse blinked. "Can you eat a worm sandwich?"
Aika scrunched up her face. "I could!" She frowned. "If it wasn't so gross."
Aika scowled. "Don't tell," she asked. "Please."
"Okay," he agreed. "I won't. Promise."
Aika had gotten bored and had started examining a line of ants when Vyse first spotted the Albatross. Tiny, at first all that was visible was the masts. It gave the children time to work themselves into a frenzy. Jumping, shrieking and dancing on the lookout in a thoroughly ridiculous manner.
Lindsey's dad came back. Vyse's dad came back. Even the huskra pup, Pow, came back. Aika waited.
Vyse threw his arms around his father's leg and had his hair ruffled in return. Vyse's dad looked his son in the eye and gave a smile that didn't touch the rest of his face. "Why don't you head back to your mother? I'll be in after a bit."
Vyse cocked his head to one side, but the tone of his father's voice prompted the boy to obey. The older man's brows furrowed as his son scampered off.
When Vyse's dad crouched down on his knees next to her, Aika frowned. Dried blood was on his earlobe, dirt was on his face. He never laughed as much as her daddy, but his pockets usually had candy in them.
"It's getting dark out, Aika," he said. "Why don't you come with me? My wife made grule stew. You like that, don't you?"
Aika shook her head. "I always wait for Daddy and Mommy."
"They wouldn't want you outside so late," he tried.
"But when Daddy and Mommy come back we're going to have fried fish and ice cream for dessert and Daddy's going to bring me a present," Aika insisted. "He said so."
"Yes, he did." Vyse's dad sighed. He reached into his pocket. "Something shiny, right?"
Wrapped in a rag, the red moonstone gleamed under the lamplight as he pushed the oiled cloth from it. He placed it into her small hands. "He wanted you to have this."
"Where is he?" Aika demanded. "Where's Daddy."
"Let's go inside, sweetheart," Vyse's dad said softly.
Aika allowed him to take her hand in his as she spared a final look past the island and into the empty sky. Dyne led the little girl back to his house as the sun faded to a red-orange. Aika had been raised as a pirate, he reasoned, she would understand.