The first day at school was always a big deal and it was always nerve-wracking. Brina's nerves were currently two-fold. Not everyone happened to start school on the same day that their daughter did. But of course, Brina wasn't starting as a student this time. No, this was her first day teaching at the Death Weapon Meister Academy - the same school that she'd attended back when she was a teenager.
If anything, she was even more nervous about the day ahead than her daughter was. But then Aya had a much higher level of composure than she did. She'd certainly inherited some of the better traits from her father. The composure, the coordination, the golden eyes...
Brina stood clutching a folder awkwardly, much more so than her daughter stood beside her with her bag slung casually across her shoulder, looking thoroughly bored with the current inspection. But apparently, if they could pass Kid's standards of neatness, then they'd have nothing to worry about. Apparently.
"Dad, it's not always about being neat, y'know," Aya pointed out, as he straightened up her scarf. "Plus being asymmetrical is totally in right now."
"Then there's something very wrong with this generation," Kid grumbled. He turned to Brina accusingly. "Why did you buy her a shoulder bag?"
Brina shrugged. "She wanted a shoulder bag. She didn't want a rucksack."
"Shoulder bags are better, Dad. Rucksacks are ugly," Aya insisted.
"At least they're balanced," Kid argued. "It's not healthy for you to carry more weight on one shoulder. You'll end up unbalanced like your mother."
"Hey!" Brina protested. "I'm way better now than I used to be."
"I'll swap shoulders every hour," said Aya dryly.
Kid frowned at the sarcasm. "And why are you only wearing one earring?"
"I told you, symmetry isn't cool anymore!" Aya reminded him.
"Take it out now."
"Or put the other one in. I don't care which."
"But it's all the way upstairs on my nightstand!" Aya whined.
"Fine. Then I'll get it for you," Kid decided.
"How did you ever marry him?" Aya grumbled to her mother, the moment that Kid was out of sight.
Brina just laughed. "I learnt to ignore him." Aya had started to readjust her scarf again, but Brina stayed her hand. "At least wait until you're at school. Then you won't have to give your dad an embolism."
Aya couldn't help but smile at that. She did as she was told and moved her hand to her bag strap instead, toying with the name that Liz had helped her to sew on. As she did, a frown crossed her face. "Heeeyyy... Even my name's symmetrical!"
Brina laughed again. "Even I couldn't change your dad's mind on that. It was either Aya, Hannah or Eve."
Aya made a face. "Well, at least you gave me the better one."
"You don't really dislike your name, do you?" Brina asked, suddenly concerned.
"Geez, Mom, you're such a worrier. Of course I don't," Aya assured her. "I just think Dad's mental, that's all."
"Well, you're not the only one," Brina grinned.
They both shut up sharply when Kid returned with Aya's other earring. "Here."
"Thanks," Aya sighed, reluctantly fixing the second earring into place.
Kid looked a little suspicious as he looked between them, as if he knew what they'd been talking about, but his frown lines turned out to be out of concern. "I really wouldn't worry - today's going to be fine. If any of the kids try bullying you, then you just have to stand up to them."
Aya rolled her eyes. "I'll be fine, Dad. No one's gonna bully me."
"Actually, I was talking to your mother."
"Oh, come on, I'm not going to get bullied by the students!" Brina protested. Luckily, she was saved from Kid backing up his claim by the doorbell ringing.
"I'll get it, I'll get it!" Aya exclaimed excitedly, rushing for the door. She flung it open to find herself face-to-face with her best friend, who she immediately grabbed in a hug. "Hey, Verri!"
"Don't clog the doorway, Aya," came the teasing voice of Verity's father, who had stepped up behind her.
"Sorry, Uncle Jesse," Aya grinned, releasing the blonde girl and backing up to allow them both inside. She then pursed her lips when she got a good look at her friend. "Oh, Verity, I told you not to get a rucksack!"
"I like it," Verity replied unconcernedly, ever the practical one. "The other kind always hurt my shoulder."
"Now this is what I was talking about," Kid chimed in. He gave Verity an approving nod. "Good choice, Verity. Rucksacks are by far the superior option."
"Please can we swap dads?" Aya hissed to Verity.
"I like your dad," said Verity with a shrug. "I think he's funny."
"Funny in the head, more like," Aya muttered.
"That's enough, Aya," Brina warned her. She knew that Aya's comments were far from unfounded, but she still had to draw the line somewhere. Especially in front of company.
Thankfully, Jesse had already engrossed Kid in conversation, so neither of them heard Aya's comment. Just watching them talk was a pleasurable enough sight for Brina. It was almost impossible to believe now that they'd had almost zero contact in those first few years at the Academy. As for Adrian, that was still another story. But at least they could maintain civilised niceties now.
"Sorry, Mom," Aya apologised grudgingly.
"You are quite mean about your dad," Verity pointed out.
"You should try living with him," Aya replied, though less scathingly than before. They all knew how much she loved her father, even if he did drive her insane a lot of the time.
"He does have his moments," Brina couldn't help but agree with another grin.
"If he's as bad as you both say he is, then doesn't your tattoo bother him?" Verity asked Brina, gesturing towards the spider web inked across her collar bone. It still showed occasionally when Brina wore lower-necked tops. "That's definitely not symmetrical."
"Oh, trust me, I know. It took him a long time to accept the fact that I wasn't going to even consider having it removed," said Brina. She then indicated the pink scarf that Aya was wearing, which she'd allowed her to inherit after one too many times of 'borrowing' it. "He bought me that scarf. That was one of his more obvious attempts to get me to cover the tattoo up."
"Maybe he was just concerned that you'd get cold," Verity suggested.
"It was June."
Aya started laughing. "Typical Dad. Hey, Verri, did you know that even my name is symmetrical?"
"Of course. I realised that ages ago," said Verity, nonplussed.
"I think you were last on the ball there, sweetie," Brina chuckled, teasingly patting her daughter's brown hair.
"Oh, whatever. I may be last on the ball, but I make it a very stylish ball," Aya joked, twirling ridiculously on the spot so that her plaid skirt flared out.
Brina smiled, knowing her daughter too well. Image was important to her. "If you're going to take your other earring out when you're at school, then just make sure you don't lose it. Otherwise your dad will have a fit."
"Duh, I'm not stupid."
Brina noticed that Verity was watching Aya suspiciously, almost frowning at her. "What's up, Verri?"
"How are you so happy?" Verity asked, directing her question at Aya. Her friend's still bubbly attitude was surprising her. "Aren't you at all nervous about our first day?"
"Of course not," replied Aya, like the very idea was absurd. "I can't wait to start learning to fight!"
Verity didn't look so sure about it. Brina patted her on the shoulder reassuringly, hastily quashing her own nerves. She knew that it would only make Verity feel worse if she knew that Brina was worried about the day ahead too. "Starting a new school isn't actually as scary as it sounds. I wouldn't worry too much."
"But is it true that students are actually allowed to fight at school?" Verity asked worriedly.
"Only if there's a teacher present to supervise," said Brina. "And you don't have to accept any challenges if you don't want to."
"Plus I'm sure Aya will more than look after you," Jesse added with a grin, joining in on the conversation.
"Totally!" Aya agreed, grinning back.
"Plus if it makes you feel any better, Uncle Adrian's gonna be helping me out with one of my afternoon classes, so I'm sure you'll see him around," said Brina.
"He is?" asked Verity, looking hopeful.
"Great!" Aya exclaimed enthusiastically.
Brina smiled to herself. Though he was still a grouch and certainly not the most sociable of people - although he had gotten much better over recent years - Adrian had turned out to be fantastic with the kids. Both Aya and Verity completely idolised him. Brina and Kid had even once overheard them debating over who was going to marry him when they were older, much to Kid's disdain.
"You said you'll be checking in at some point too, didn't you, Kid?" Jesse prompted.
"Yes, that's right. Though that's more moral support for Brina than the kids."
"I don't need moral support. You're being very mean to me this morning," Brina complained.
"Like I always say, it's just so easy," Kid said lightly, the hint of a smile touching the corners of his lips. Brina had always been very quick to react to teasing.
"Aunt Liz and Aunt Patty are gonna come and see us as well," Aya told Verity happily. "Aren't they, Mom?"
"Of course they are," Brina confirmed. "They want to see you guys in action." Though Liz and Patty weren't related to the girls by blood, they'd still both insisted on family titles.
"And I'm sure they'll take even greater pleasure in you watching you try to teach a class," Kid teased. He knew how excited his old weapons were that Brina had chosen to return to the Academy as a teacher.
"Well, they can take whatever they want from it - I'm going to give the perfect lessons today, so they'll have nothing to pick at," said Brina in an attempt to sound lofty. "And I'm going to ignore the fact that you said 'try'."
"See, there'll be plenty of familiar faces around to make you feel better," Jesse assured his daughter. "And both myself and your mother will be coming to pick you up at the end of the day." He'd saved that surprise till last, knowing that it would be the one that Verity would appreciate the most.
He wasn't wrong. "Really?" she exclaimed excitedly. "But I thought she was working."
"That's why she had her shoot moved to earlier in the morning," Jesse explained. "She wanted to be sure she'd be finished in time to meet you from school on your first day."
"Aww, that's great!" Brina agreed enthusiastically, seeing Verity's face light up. She knew that Lisabeth's shifts could be awkward sometimes. Personally, she just found it amazing that Lisabeth could still model after having a daughter. She'd always felt like a frump in comparison to her - even more so now that they were older and both had kids.
"Liss wanted to see you too," Jesse told Brina with a smile. "She says she'll be there to spy on one of your classes before school finishes."
Brina was a little taken aback by that, but pleasantly so. Her and Lisabeth's friendship had been an awkward one from the start, no matter how much she'd always wanted it to be otherwise. Only over the last few years had Lisabeth really started to let her in.
"That'd be lovely," she said genuinely, smiling back.
"Well, there you go," Aya said to her friend. She sounded almost impatient, but everyone knew that it was just out of concern. "There's gonna be loads of people there to look out for you and if anyone even looks at you funny, then I'm gonna kick their butts! So will you please just stop being so worried?"
Verity couldn't help but smile. "Thanks, Aya." She gave the smaller girl a hug.
Kid rolled his eyes. "Our daughter's going to be the class bully, isn't she?"
Aya grinned sheepishly. "Well, it's better than being the class pushover like Mom."
"Or the class klutz," Jesse added, laughing.
"Hey, why is it pick on Mom day?" Brina protested.
Kid slid his hand around hers. "Has it made you feel better?"
"It's made me feel victimised," Brina replied dryly. Kid just gave her a look and she smiled grudgingly. She knew that all the teasing had just been to lighten the mood. "Yes, it has. Thank you." Kid squeezed her hand lightly in response.
"Mom was nervous about today too," Aya enlightened Verity, giving her mother away.
Thankfully, it didn't seem to bother Verity like Brina had thought it might. "I wouldn't worry. You'll be a great teacher, Auntie Bree," Verity assured her without hesitation.
It came to something when the two thirteen-year-old girls had more nerve than Brina did. But she was touched. And in everyone's combined efforts to make Verity feel more confident, Brina had felt the same effects from them too.
Any new beginning was always scary. The beginning of a new job, a new relationship, a new family... But Brina knew that whatever she took on in her life, she'd still be surrounded by all those people that she loved and who loved her back. Even if it didn't work out and her plans ended up backfiring, they'd always be there to pick her back up or laugh along with her. Either way, they'd be there. That was all that mattered.
With that in mind, her first day at a new job - at the very place she'd grown in herself - didn't seem so scary.
"You bet I will," she smiled suddenly. "Come on then, girls. Let's go show the DWMA what we've got."