PREY OF THE QUEEN SPIDER
Chapter 1: "Adulthood Isn't Easy"
A Sailor Moon fanfic
By Bill K.
Sailor Moon and all related characters are (c)2005 by Naoko Takeuchi/Kodansha and Toei Animation and are used without permission, but with respect. Story is (c)2005 by Bill K.
As always, for those only familiar with the English dub:
Thank you to Stan Sakai for the information, the inspiration and for his own Usagi.
May 29, 1999.
Usagi Chiba eased her way out of the double doors of the Swirling Grasses Artists Academy with some difficulty. In one hand was her satchel, filled with an art history text and notebook, and her equipment case. Under her other arm was her portfolio and portable drawing board. It didn't leave any hands free to open the door, so she used her bottom to press the bar and push the door open and prayed that she didn't slip and fall - - as she'd done three times already this semester.
Fortunately she kept her balance and eased down the stairs to street level. Walking to the bus stop, Usagi reviewed her day, dismissing the boring art history lecture for the more intriguing figure drawing class. That was the class she loved. She only took art history because it was required. If she passed by the skin of her teeth, that was fine. Figure drawing was the class she worked the hardest on and the one she was getting the most rewards on.
And in a month, they'd be using live models.
"I hope he's cute," Usagi smirked to herself. The bus pulled up and Usagi struggled to keep hold of everything and dig her fare out of her purse.
It was a short commute to her apartment in Juuban. When the bus pulled up to her stop, Usagi got up and headed for the exit. But first she bowed to the driver.
"Please forgive me for hitting you with my board," groveled Usagi. "I really thought I could get my fare without putting it down."
The bus driver smiled and nodded. As Usagi left, he stole a last glance at her. Perhaps he wouldn't have been so forgiving if she hadn't been so lovely. Though a post-high school student, Usagi still favored short skirts and still had the youthful figure for them.
"What time is it?" Usagi wondered. Three contortions later, she got a look at her watch. "Is it that late! And I haven't done anything about dinner! And Mamo-chan can't make it because he's still taking finals." The woman, a month shy of her twentieth birthday, sighed. "Oh well, I guess it'll be the usual. Let's see, Thursday is Chicken Tetrazzini."
The door at La Café Italian opened and the hostess looked up. Her face lit up at seeing a familiar face.
"Usagi-san," the woman, a pleasant Japanese woman of forty, said. "How nice to see you again!"
"Hi, Shinobu-san," Usagi beamed. "It's me again. Sorry to trouble you."
"Get that thought right out of your head," Shinobu replied. "The usual?"
Usagi nodded self-consciously. "Some day I'll learn to cook myself."
"Don't do that!" chuckled Shinobu. "You'll put the place out of business. Come on. I'll let Makoto know you're here." She escorted Usagi into the restaurant while another hostess took over her station. "So how's that gorgeous husband of yours doing?"
"Studying himself into an early grave," moaned Usagi. "He says it can't be helped because he's in his first year of doctoral studies, but I wish he'd take some time off. I worry."
"Maybe you need to put your foot down," Shinobu recommended.
"I'm," Usagi mumbled, "not very good at that."
"OK," and the woman leaned in close, "then get into your skimpiest lingerie, sit down right on his text book and refuse to move until he spends the night relaxing. That'll get his attention." Usagi's blush caused Shinobu to smile.
Shinobu led Usagi back through the double doors to the kitchen. Usagi quickly spotted Makoto working with three other chefs preparing meals. At the sound of Shinobu's call, the tall woman turned. Upon seeing Usagi, her face lit up.
"Hi, hon'!" Makoto said. She scooped up a sacked carry-out order and brought it over.
"Am I becoming that predictable?" Usagi whined.
"I take it as a compliment to my cooking," Makoto smiled. "Besides, you and Mamoru's schedules don't allow much time for that stuff."
"Sure, I'll buy that," smirked Usagi. Makoto returned the smirk with a knowing one of her own.
"Heard anything from Ami or Rei?" Makoto asked.
"Not since last week from Rei. She said she was going to be snowed under studying for finals. I got my last e-mail thingy from Ami two days ago, so there's probably one waiting for me at home."
"I wonder how she's doing in England," sighed Makoto.
"Straight A's, naturally," Usagi replied.
"No, I mean socially. England's a different country, a different culture - - and you know she's not going to say anything if she's having trouble."
"Hmm," Usagi scowled. "Maybe I should ask her?"
"She's not going to say anything. Just leave the question out there and keep your ear to the ground. I worry about her sometimes."
"Yeah, me too. Well, I've got to get home. Lot's of homework to do!"
"How's art school going?"
"OK. We start drawing from live models next month." Usagi grinned. "If he's cute, I'll point him in your direction."
"Thanks," chuckled Makoto. "I take all offers of charity."
"See you tomorrow."
"Ah, ah," Makoto said, waggling her finger.
"That's right!" Usagi gasped, smacking her head. "You're going to the temple to train with Kakusui again!" Usagi's eyes narrowed. "Maybe I won't have to point that model at you."
"It's not like that!" Makoto huffed. "Training with Kakusui keeps me in fighting shape."
"Oh, I'm sure it does," sang Usagi, her eyes pointing skyward.
"Get out of here," Makoto grumbled playfully. "Honestly, when are you going to stop matchmaking?"
Usagi picked up her dinner for two and headed for the door, giggling devilishly.
Fumbling with her keys as she tried to put them in the lock without spilling either her satchel and supplies, dinner, or her art board and portfolio, Usagi was a comical sight in the hallway of their apartment building. Inside the tiny apartment, Luna lay on a window sill sleeping in the sun. A sharp crash woke her up. Moments later she saw Usagi struggling through the door.
"Did you drop your art board again?" Luna asked.
"HONESTLY, ART STUDENTS NEED SIX ARMS SOMETIMES!" Usagi howled. "And thanks for the sympathy!"
"Six arms would only give you more opportunities to drop things," Luna cautioned. Then she sniffed the air. "Chicken Tetrazzini? I hope there's leftovers tonight! I do enjoy the way Makoto seasons her Chicken Tetrazzini."
"I'll save you some," Usagi said, barely setting her portfolio down and grabbing the bag with dinner before it spilled.
"Thank you. Given the way you eat, leftovers aren't always a given."
Usagi turned and stuck her tongue out at the cat.
"Is Mamo-chan home yet?" Usagi asked, turning on the television as she passed by it headed for the kitchen.
"No, unfortunately," Luna replied sadly. "I fear it will be another late night at the library. And I was hoping for an early supper."
"Luna, it's not right for someone to push themselves that hard," Usagi whined, popping back out of the kitchen. She nibbled on a cookie. "I've got to do something. Mamo-chan needs a break!"
"I agree. But short of threatening him with divorce, I don't see how you'll manage it. Mamoru is quite dedicated to succeeding, both as a personal mission and because of the mounting debt to your father."
"Daddy and I both have told him not to worry about that!" fumed Usagi. "It's just macho pride!"
"Yes, it is. Unfortunately, macho pride is the price we pay for falling in love with the males we do. Why do you think I've put off Artemis as long as I have."
"I thought it was because you're frigid," Usagi mumbled, watching a situation comedy on television.
"You are not funny in the least!" scowled Luna. "And don't you have homework to do?"
"Don't I get a little time to unwind?" howled Usagi.
"Oh and how many years have I heard that excuse?" Luna sighed, rolling her eyes.
"OH MY GOD!" shrieked Usagi.
"What?" cried Luna, crouched and ready for action. "What is it? Where?"
"ON THE TELEVISION! IT'S MINAKO-CHAN!"
"Oh gracious," huffed the black cat.
"That's the commercial she told us about!"
Luna perched on top of the chair back, over Usagi's head, and peered at the television. Minako was on the screen in a bathroom. She was wrapped in a towel draped to emphasize her cleavage and her smooth skin. Her hair was covered with shampoo and as a voice-over extolled the virtues of the shampoo Minako looked at the bottle like it was a long lost lover. Luna glanced down and saw Usagi perched on the edge of the chair absorbing every inch of the commercial.
"The way you were carrying on, I thought it was an emergency," the cat grumbled.
"It's Minako-chan's big break!" Usagi replied. "Can't you ever be happy for anyone?"
"How Queen Serenity delivered a child like you I'll never know," Luna thought to herself as she scowled.
Mamoru closed the door behind him and leaned against it. He was dead tired, but it wasn't just fatigue contributing to his listlessness.
"Usagi is going to hit the roof," he murmured to himself.
"And with good reason." He turned and found Luna padding up to him, her eyes seeming to glow in the low light. "I realize your studies are important, but couldn't you at least call if you're going to make it a late night? Dinner was quite ruined."
"She should have started without me," Mamoru sighed.
"She did, but that's beside the point. She spent the entire night worrying about you and it affected her ability to do her homework. Do you think it's easy to draw when you're worried about something?"
"Do you think it's easy to remember disease symptoms when you're consumed with guilt?" Mamoru shoved off of the door and started for the bedroom, letting his books drop on the sofa. Luna watched him and felt some remorse for scolding him.
"There's still some Chicken Tetrazzini in the oven," she mentioned.
"I ate on the way home," he replied.
"Wolfing down a meat bun while driving isn't a proper meal," Luna huffed, but Mamoru ignored her. "Fine. I'll keep my good advice to myself."
Watching from the doorway, Luna observed Mamoru quietly enter the room. Usagi was on the bed, asleep in her clothes. A sketch pad and pencil lay next to her where she'd dropped them upon falling asleep. The cat observed Mamoru's face color with a mixture of remorse and affection. Then he bent down and, like Prince Charming waking Sleeping Beauty, lightly kissed his wife on the mouth. Usagi regained conscious leisurely, sighing into his mouth as she arched up.
"Mamo-chan," she sighed as their mouths parted. Her arms came up and draped around his neck. Then she fully woke up. "Where have you been?" she whined.
"I'm sorry," he murmured, sitting next to her on the bed. "I had a late conference with Dr. Ogami. By the time I got out, it was nearly ten. I figured you were asleep and I'd just wake you."
"I forgive you," Usagi whispered, rubbing her husband's forearm. Then she balled up her fist and struck him near the elbow. "Just don't do it again."
"I'll try not to, slugger," Mamoru grinned. His smile quickly faded. "Dr. Ogami got me a chance to study with Dr. Tomohama. He's one of the leading physicians in radiation diagnostics in all of Japan. It's a very select study group - - hard to get in to."
"Mamo-chan, that's great!" Usagi beamed.
"It's in Nagasaki," Mamoru added. Usagi took a moment to digest this.
"I've always wanted to see Nagasaki," she replied supportively.
"I'm sorry, Usako," Mamoru grimaced. "It's just students. No family."
Luna observed Usagi's spirits fall. Her feline heart went out to them both.
"But Mamo-chan," she whimpered.
Mamoru hugged her.
"It'll just be two weeks," he said.
"But it'll be the first time we've been apart," Usagi said, her voice thick with emotion, "since we've been married."
"It can't be helped," Mamoru sighed. He felt her cling more tightly. "Usako, I need to go. I was planning on doing my Doctoral Thesis on Dr. Tomohama's work with radiation sickness. These two weeks will be better than six months worth of library and lab research."
Usagi clung wordlessly to him.
"Usako, you're a big girl now," Mamoru told her. "You can stand being by yourself for two weeks."
"But how will I stand being without you for two weeks?" she whimpered.
Mamoru gave her a squeeze.
"When do you leave?" she asked.
"Tomorrow," he said. Usagi pulled away and looked at him in shock. "The spot opened up last minute. It was either take it or go back on the waiting list and risk never going."
Usagi looked down and it broke Mamoru's heart. He pulled her back in close and kissed the top of her head.
"I'll make it up to you, Usako," he whispered in her ear.
"Study hard," she said, clinging to him. "That'll make it up to me."
Mamoru bent in and kissed her. It was a grateful kiss and Usagi took solace in pleasing the man she loved. Getting up, he went to the bathroom and she got up to change out of her rumpled clothes and into her nightie. Just then the phone rang.
"I've got it!" she called out. "Now who could be calling at this hour?"
"Hey, Usagi!" she heard Minako say over the phone after she answered it.
"Minako? Do you know what time it is?"
"Huh? Oh. Wow, I guess it is late. When they said 'time flies for no man', they weren't kidding!"
"Minako-chan," grumbled Usagi, "just because you have late hours singing in that cheap nightclub . . ."
"Cheap? Have you seen what they charge the customers?"
". . . doesn't mean EVERYONE does. I have to go to school tomorrow."
"Hey, you could have washed dishes for a living, but no! You had to have a career."
"I'm sorry, Usagi," Minako giggled over the phone. "I'm just so happy, I'm silly."
"Why are you so happy? Did you get another commercial? I saw your shampoo commercial today!"
"That? Is that finally running? It's been so long since I did that, I've spent all the money I got for it. No, no new commercials. I thought getting the first one was the tough part. Turns out it's getting the SECOND one."
"So what's up? You're even more upbeat than usual."
"Well, that's the surprise. Guess where I am!"
"I don't know."
"I DON'T KNOW!"
"I'm in Hokkido!"
"Hokkido? What are you doing in Hokkido?" gasped Usagi. Mamoru and Luna stood in the doorway staring curiously.
Over the phone, Minako giggled like a five-year-old.
"I'm on my honeymoon!"
Continued in Chapter 2