"C'mon Aunt Cass! C'mon, c'mon," little Hiro practically pulled his aunt through the back of the closed cafe as he spoke excitedly. "Dashi's waiting upstairs!"
"Okay! Okay! Haha," his aunt laughed as she let Hiro tug her along. "I hope you boys didn't make too much of a mess up there," she teased, stopping to pull Hiro into a crushing hug just to rile him up even more.
"Aunt Caaasss," he whined as he struggled to free his tiny body out from her arms. "Hug time later, upstairs time now!" She gave another warm laugh as she released her grip on the boy and he darted up the stairs. "C'mon!' He waved at her from the top, trying to get her to hurry. Of course that meant she took her time, feigning tiredness.
"Oh, but Hiro, I'm just so tired from working so hard," she sighed as she leaned against the wall on the way up, lifting the back of her hand to her forehead dramatically. "I don't think I can go any further..." Trying and failing to hide the smile on her lips as she took another step, she stifled a giggle. Hiro shook his head as he met her halfway down the stairs, grabbing her arms and tugging her towards the top.
"You can do it Aunt Cass, I believe in you! Dashi and I aren't giving up on you!" He seemed to have said the magic words, and her face bloomed with fondness as she looked at her youngest nephew.
It'd been 3 years since her brother and his wife had passed away and she'd taken custody of her nephews. It had been tough at first, especially since they were so young— herself included. She'd had no idea how to raise children then, but she'd found herself suddenly taking care of two. She'd done her best to make them comfortable and to provide for them.
Tadashi, the oldest, had been such a big help despite only being seven when they moved into the cafe with her. Hiro though. Hiro had only been three. Not to say she hadn't been worried about them both, but she had worried immensely about Hiro. There had been a few times where things got really rough, but each time she had reassured them.
'I'm not giving up on you two,' she'd said as she cradled them in her arms.
And now here was Hiro— the same Hiro who had been too afraid to even ask his aunt for anything for the first half of a year they'd spent together— using the line on her. Even though it was just in play, it still pierced her heart in the best way.
She had to take a moment to reel in her emotions, pausing at the top of the stairs to rub her eyes as if it would prevent the tears from forming.
"Aunt Cass?" The brothers asked in unison as they stared up at their aunt, matching looks of concern on their faces.
"Sorry," she said, "I just love you boys so much." The tears she'd tried to prevent came now, gathering at the corners of her eyes and threatening to spill over.
"Aunt Cass," Tadashi began as the two stepped closer to wrap their arms around her.
"We love you too!" Hiro added as he did his best to prove it, hugging her hip with all his might. She wrapped an arm around each of her boys and held them tight.
The touching moment was broken by faint mewling and Cass' head shot up.
"Boys. What was that?" Her grip on her nephews tightened as she asked.
"H-Happy birthday Aunt Cass," Tadashi winced as he shifted against his aunt in an attempt to loosen her hold on him.
"Happy birthday!" Hiro laughed as he easily slipped from her arm thanks to his short stature, and ran behind the couch. He returned a second later, toting a mostly white ball of fluff in his arms with a huge grin. Tadashi smiled up at their aunt, a small hint of worry in the way his eyebrows almost met when she threw her hands over her mouth in surprise. She stood there, rooted to the spot, as Hiro padded his way over to her.
"His name is Mochi!" Hiro provided as he held up the kitten.
"He's a couple months old, he's had all his shots, and since he's a calico the woman at the shelter said he's probably sterile. But if we want to get him fixed anyways we can make an appointment anytime." Tadashi began explaining out of fear that their aunt might not like her surprise.
"Mochi..." She finally spoke, reaching out and gently taking the kitten from Hiro. She cradled him against her chest as a few tears ran down her face. "Mochi," she repeated softly, her voice shaking.
"I tol' you she'd like him." Hiro gave his brother a smug grin. Tadashi rolled his eyes, ruffling the messy mop of black that was Hiro's hair. Hiro giggled and shoved the hand away.
"Boys, how did you-" Cass began to ask as she sniffled, "Why-"
"We're the Lucky Cat Cafe," Hiro was the first to answer. "How can we be the Lucky Cat Cafe with no lucky cat?!" He threw his arms up to fully express how absurd it was.
"Hiro!" Tadashi pinched his brother's cheek.
"What? It's true!" Hiro snapped, smacking the older Hamada's hand. Tadashi just shook his head.
"You always talked about how you wanted to get a cat, but you never had the time to take care of one. You also said you didn't even know how to care for one-" Tadashi explained, only to be cut off by Hiro in his excitement.
"So Dashi and I went to the library, an the shelter, an the vet, an did all kinds'a research an-"
"We'll help you take care of him. Like you took care of us even though you didn't know anything about kids." The elder brother finished and the two gave their aunt the sweetest smiles she'd ever seen. When Mochi mewled again, she couldn't hold back the happy sob that rose from her chest and she sank to her knees, beckoning to the boys.
Without hesitating, the two returned to her side and enveloped her in their arms as Mochi began to purr.