|Behind The Mask
Author: Bill K PM
Usagi's father loses his job. Akiko has loose lips, to Makoto's consternation. Junko has a boyfriend and Haruka doesn't like him.Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama - Haruka T./Sailor Uranus & Makoto K./Lita/Sailor Jupiter - Chapters: 12 - Words: 39,332 - Reviews: 45 - Favs: 13 - Follows: 5 - Updated: 12-26-09 - Published: 10-10-09 - id: 5432442
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
BEHIND THE MASK
Chapter 1: "Family Relations"
A Sailor Moon fanfic
By Bill K.
Sailor Moon and all related characters are (c)2009 by Naoko Takeuchi/Kodansha and Toei Animation and are used without permission, but with respect. Story is (c)2009 by Bill K.
Ikuko Tsukino heard the front door open and glanced at the clock. It was late for her husband to be coming home, but he was home. No doubt another crisis at the magazine had held him over. That was her hope, anyway. Mildly concerned, she ventured out into the front hall and spotted an unexpected figure standing by the door.
"Usagi?" Ikuko responded curiously. "Well this is a surprise."
"Hi, Mom," the woman signed. Even though she was twenty-seven, there was still something about her manner that always seemed to be stuck in her teen years and it gave Ikuko a familiar sense. Usagi had her portfolio under her arm and a scowl on her usually buoyant face.
"What's the matter, honey?" Ikuko asked. Then she grew a wry smile. "Forget you don't live here anymore?"
Usagi responded with a narrow-eyed glare and it brought back more memories. "I just wanted to visit. Mamo-Chan is still at that symposi-what do you call it, and the new apartment is so lonely without him. And Luna will just nag me about my deadlines. Besides, it's been a while since I saw you and Daddy."
"And this way you don't have to cook," Ikuko smirked.
"I can always leave if it's that much trouble!" Usagi groused.
"No trouble. You're always welcome," Ikuko beamed, hugging her daughter. The two walked into the kitchen where Ikuko was preparing the evening meal. "I haven't seen you and the senshi in the news recently. Have things been quiet?"
"Thankfully," sighed Usagi. "Nothing's happened in over a year - - not since that whole vigilante thing."
"Are you still visiting that girl?"
"About once a month. I think I'm really making progress, too. Hana is a really bright girl and once she saw how pointless what she was doing was, she's really come around. I think by the time she gets out of juvenile detention, she can lead a happy, productive life. She said she might like to go into martial arts instructing."
"What about the Yakuza?" her mother asked.
"Well," Usagi swallowed, "Superintendent Sakurada arranged a meeting between me and some of the heads of the organization Hana was striking against. And I explained to them that Hana was trying to change her life and getting away from her vigilante ways, and that she was a changed person. And that everyone really needed to help her make this change in her life."
"And then," Usagi grimaced, "Superintendent Sakurada told them that reprisals against her would be dealt with swiftly and harshly, not only by the police, but by the senshi as well. I didn't really like her doing that, but it seemed to convince them to leave Hana alone." And she gave her mother a hopeful look. "I really think I can help Hana. I really feel like I've accomplished something." Her spirits fell. "Certainly more than I have as an artist."
"Didn't the publisher like your new story? What was it, Fire . . .?"
"Fire Princess Rika," Usagi said, crestfallen. "No. I should have known."
"What was his reason for rejecting it?" Ikuko asked.
"He said sales were flat right now and they couldn't afford too many new characters," Usagi sighed. "But I know it was because it wasn't good enough." Her mother could see Usagi was fighting back tears. "I put so much effort into that. I thought it was perfect. I should have known I couldn't write something anyone could be interested in."
"Well, if he didn't like it, then you just try another publisher," Ikuko told her. "These are tough times in the publishing industry. Your father has been saying for months that his publisher has been trying to cut costs. They've already cut the page count of the magazine once. Maybe it is just the timing and not the story. Try another publisher. You might have better results. Just don't give up."
Usagi grinned shyly. "Seems you've been telling me that all my life - - screaming it, sometimes."
"I only say it because it's true, Usagi," Ikuko smiled. "And I only scream it when you're too busy being lazy to listen." They both heard the door. "That must be your father."
Quickly Usagi hurried into the hall. Kenji Tsukino turned and she could see he was deeply troubled by something. But when he spotted her, he lit up with joy.
"Princess!" Kenji exclaimed, extending his arms. Usagi took the invitation and jumped in, squeezing tight to him as his arms folded around her. "This is a pleasant surprise! Smelled your mom's cooking and couldn't resist, could you?"
"Well, you know me and Mom's cooking," Usagi grinned. "Actually, Mamo-Chan's away and I was lonely, so I thought I'd visit my other favorite man in the universe." Usagi eased her father's jacket off of him and hung it up. But when she turned around, Usagi noticed the odd expression back on her father's face. "Daddy? Is something wrong?"
"Come on," Kenji said, forcing a smile onto his face. "Dinner's probably ready and you know how your mother hates to be kept waiting."
Kenji ushered his daughter into the dining area and the three sat down to Ikuko's meal. Usagi ate voraciously, in spite of her low spirits, and was half-way through when she spotted her mother staring at her father with concern. That stopped her in her tracks.
"Kenji?" Ikuko asked, her brow knit with a sense of unrest. "Did something happen at the office today? You seem preoccupied."
Kenji looked down.
He exhaled a sigh. "I didn't want to spoil dinner with this," the middle-aged man began hoarsely, adjusting his black horn-rim glasses. "There's really no good time to tell you, I suppose."
"Tell me what?" Ikuko asked, her anxiety rising. Usagi was glued to them both, her own solicitude engulfing her.
"The word came down from the publisher today," Kenji explained, avoiding eye contact. "The issue going to press - - is the last one. They're folding the magazine - - folding the entire publishing line. They said they couldn't find a buyer and they couldn't continue." He took a moment to gather his strength. "The editors had to pass out notices to the entire staff. And then we all got our own." Kenji looked up at his wife of twenty-eight years and she could see quiet desperation in his eyes. "I don't have a job anymore."
It was late, later than Makoto liked being out shopping. But Akiko's time at the dentist's office took longer than anticipated and now she was running late. The woman glanced at the clock over the meat counter and saw it was six already.
"I hope San-San understands," she sighed.
One hand wheeled Ichiro's stroller over toward the meat counter. The boy was getting too big for the stroller, but Makoto still wasn't confident enough in his ability to walk to let him get around on his own yet. As she guided the stroller, Makoto gently pulled on the leash attached to Akiko's body harness, easing the girl in her direction and away from the sugar cereal aisle. After a couple of futile attempts to break free of the tether, Akiko capitulated and followed them over. Arriving at the meat counter, Akiko jumped up, caught the top of the meat display and pulled herself up high enough to see which cut of meat her mother was selecting.
"Energetic child, isn't she?" smiled the clerk behind the counter, a pleasant woman of forty-five. Several other people milled about near the display.
"You don't know the half of it," grinned Makoto ruefully. "After I'm done here, I'm going to the fruit department and get this little monkey some bananas."
"Aren't we having salmon tonight?" Akiko asked.
"We can't have salmon every night, hon'," Makoto told her.
"Well, aren't you a cute little girl," the clerk said.
"I'm Akiko! I'm almost four!" Akiko chirped while she hung on the side of the meat case.
"Practically an adult," the clerk responded. "You like salmon, do you?"
"Yes! Mommy makes a great grilled salmon! She's a very good cook!"
The clerk glanced at Makoto and Makoto shrugged modestly.
"And she can beat Daddy at basketball, too!" Akiko continued.
"He doesn't have a very good jump shot," Makoto added, to the clerk's amusement.
"Plus she's Sailor Jup'ter!" Akiko continued. Makoto felt the blood drain from her face. Several other shoppers turned to them.
"My, such an imagination," the clerk chuckled.
"Yeah," Makoto choked out. She selected a piece of meat and moved on. Akiko waved to the clerk and the clerk waved back. But Makoto quickly turned up an aisle and, seeing it was empty, knelt down and seized her daughter around the arms.
"Akiko!" Makoto hissed urgently, getting her girl's attention instantly. "You can't tell people that I'm Sailor Jupiter!"
"But why?" Akiko asked. She sensed her mother's anxiety and that this was an urgent situation, but she was too young to grasp what made it urgent.
"Because," Makoto struggled to know what to say, how to make her understand, "it's a secret, Akiko. If somebody tells you a secret, they're trusting you not to tell it to other people. And if you do, you're not being very nice to the person who trusted you. And you might end up putting them in a bad spot. Now only you and I and your daddy know Mommy is Sailor Jupiter, and we're trusting you to keep that secret."
"I'm sorry, Mommy," Akiko sniffed, tears bubbling in her eyes. And Makoto wanted to believe her. But she knew that Akiko knew that 'I'm sorry' was a magic phrase that often got a person out of trouble and Makoto couldn't tell if Akiko thought this was one of those times or not.
"OK, honey," Makoto replied, hugging her daughter to try to ease her anxiety. Then she heard Ichiro becoming restless in his stroller. It had been a long day for both of her children and she couldn't take anymore time with this incident. She could only hope that she'd gotten through.
A blue, prototype Fiat sports car sped expertly through residential traffic as the last rays of the late September day began to die behind the horizon. Guiding the car was Haruka Tenoh, heading for the home of her estranged parents. In the seat next to her was her sister, Junko. Haruka wore beige slacks and a knit pullover top. Her leather racing jacket was in the back seat. Junko was dressed familiarly, in baggy blue jeans and a printed t-shirt sporting the logo of her favorite rock band, Slashwave.
"Thanks for taking me car shopping, Haruka," Junko said.
"See anything you like?" Haruka asked.
"All of them," Junko sighed. "I just want something that runs - - something that can get me from place to place. I'm sick of the trains, you know."
"Dad's going to spring for a car for you?" Haruka inquired.
"That's my next job," Junko admitted.
"Well, good luck. Be ready for the 'planning for the future is more important than the whims of the present' speech."
"What makes you think I already haven't heard it?" Junko scowled. "Damn it, I'm seventeen! I should have a car!"
"I had a car when I was seventeen," Haruka replied. "I found an old junker and rebuilt her myself."
"Show me how and I'll do it!" gasped the teen. Haruka smothered a grin.
"I've been thinking of trading this thing in, too," Haruka admitted. "After all, it's three years old."
"You could give it to me," Junko perked up hopefully.
"Why would I do that to the world?" Haruka jabbed.
"HEY, I'M A GOOD DRIVER!"
"How would you know? You haven't had a car since you got your license," countered Haruka.
"Well, give me this one and I'll show you," Junko proposed.
"Nice try, con artist," Haruka replied cynically. Junko flashed her a knowing smirk. "You could always get a job and buy your own car."
"Now you sound like Dad," Junko said, eyebrow raised.
"Knew I got it from somewhere," Haruka quipped.
The Fiat eased to a stop next to two parked cars in front of the Tenoh house. As Junko was getting out, Haruka noticed a teenage boy lingering outside the Tenoh house. He was tall, with black hair and a wiry frame that was filling out, wearing normal clothes for the youth of today. His hair was thick and dangled into his eyes, which seemed brooding and intense. To Haruka, the boy seemed anxious about something. As Junko emerged from the car, the youth spotted her and began to approach. Suspicious as always, Haruka quickly emerged from the driver's side, ready for trouble.
"Aki!" Junko exclaimed when she saw him and ran to him. The girl flung her arms around him and they kissed openly and intimately.
"Well, this is new," Haruka thought, watching the tableau. Clearly Junko was very enamored of the brooding young man, but when they parted, Haruka could see different emotions on his face.
"What are you doing here?" Junko asked happily.
"I got tickets for the Gold Rush Down concert tonight. I was hoping you'd go with me. Your mom said you were out, so I waited," he explained. Then he glanced at Haruka and his expression turned instantly from hopeful to suspicious - - almost threatened. "Who's this?"
Junko looked and saw he meant Haruka. "That's Haruka. We were out car shopping."
Haruka noticed that the boy wasn't placated by the explanation. The hairs on the back of her neck began to rise.
Junko sighed. "Haruka, this is Akinori Masumoto. We're kind of - - dating. Aki, this is my sister, Haruka."
"Sister?" the boy repeated with genuine surprise. "That's a girl?"
"Don't let the 'butch' look fool you," chuckled Junko. "She's all girl inside - - in spite of what she wants everybody to think," she taunted.
"Don't spread it around," Haruka quipped while maintaining her wary attitude. "Folks on the track will start thinking they can beat me again."
"Track?" Aki repeated. Then recognition came to him. "Y-You're Haruka Tenoh? The female race car driver?" And suddenly the boy's entire demeanor changed. He instantly was thrilled and solicitous. Haruka noticed it immediately.
She just couldn't decide whether he was impressed by meeting someone famous or relieved that Haruka wasn't a man.
"I'm," Aki sputtered, "very sorry I mistook you for a man just now. Please don't be offended."
"Happens to me a lot," Haruka shrugged. "But I don't think you came here to see me, right?"
"Oh, yeah!" Aki nodded and turned back to Junko. "So how about it? Will you go? You'll really like this band."
"I'd love to go, Aki," Junko sighed. "But there's no way my parents would let me. I've got homework to do and they'll really insist I get it done."
"You can do it tomorrow, can't you?" Aki persisted.
"You know my parents - - no fun until you do your work," Junko explained. "And I've already been out later with Haruka than I should have been. No way they'll agree."
"Well, can't you just go? I really want you to be there," Aki persisted.
"Another time," Junko said and kissed him on the cheek. She started for the house, but Aki grabbed her hand and held her back.
"Please?" he asked plaintively. Junko wavered and, for a moment, Haruka thought she was going to give in. She glanced momentarily at Haruka.
"I can't," Junko sighed. "Tell me all about it tomorrow. We'll go 'malling'."
Junko attempted to reclaim her hand and Aki released it - - reluctantly. He watched her go until she disappeared into her house. Turning, his disappointment like a cloak around him, the boy started to leave. Then he remembered Haruka was still there.
"It was very nice meeting you, um . . ." he began, unsure whether to address her in a masculine or feminine form.
"Haruka's fine," Haruka murmured.
"OK. Good luck with your racing," he said, then bowed and left. Haruka stared after him.
Entering the home she shared with the love of her life, Haruka wandered into the kitchen. There Michiru was cooking the evening meal.
"You're late," Michiru said with a cocked eyebrow.
"Sorry. I was out with a girl," Haruka replied, grabbing Michiru around the waist and kissing her neck.
"You ask that like you aren't sure," Haruka glanced back at her.
"With you, I never am," Michiru replied with a smirk.
"We were out car shopping."
"For you or for her?" Michiru asked.
"A little of both," Haruka shrugged. Michiru emitted a disdainful sigh. "Got a surprise, too. Junko's got a boyfriend."
"Oh? Well, she's certainly attractive enough. Did you meet him?"
"Yeah," Haruka tossed out indifferently.
"And?" prodded Michiru.
Haruka sighed. "I don't know. I don't know if I'm just being possessive or if it's him." She turned earnestly to Michiru. "But I don't like him."
Continued in Chapter 2