PREY OF THE QUEEN SPIDER
Chapter 12: "Home Sweet Home"
A Sailor Moon fanfic
By Bill K.
Kakusui lifted his head from the block it rested on. He listened in the dark. Someone was in the temple. Rising from his mat, he donned his robes and went out to investigate. He hoped he knew who was stirring, but the monk ventured cautiously. Just because it was a temple didn't mean everyone respected it or the people inside. That was another lesson he'd learned on his journey to enlightenment.
The light out in the hall allayed his fears. Standing in the hall were Tsukino and her three companions. Even from a distance Kakusui could see the four were somewhat worse for the wear from their journey into the forest, particularly the tall blonde. But the monk was relieved to see them safely back nevertheless and approached to offer them some tea or food. It was at that point they were joined by a fifth person.
"Kino-san!" Kakusui exclaimed upon seeing Makoto. She was worn from whatever experience she'd had, but she was alive and it thrilled his heart.
Makoto, for her part, glanced up in surprise at Kakusui. Then she averted her eyes. The woman seemed shamed to the monk and he wondered why. Then he noticed the suitcase in her hand.
"H-Hi, Kakusui-sensei," Usagi offered up lamely. "Um, look who we found!"
"Are you hurt, Kino-san?" Kakusui inquired.
Makoto shrugged. "I'll live. It's not something I'd ever want to do again, but-but I'll get through it."
"Thanks to your friends here, no doubt," Kakusui observed. A small smile forced its way onto Makoto's face and she glanced at Usagi and the others. "It is a testament to your character that you are capable of inspiring such loyalty in others."
"More like a testament to how lucky I am," Makoto whispered.
"May I inquire as to what happened? Did you merely lose your way in the dense forest? Or - - are the legends true?"
Usagi's gaze hit the floor. Makoto still wouldn't face Kakusui. Setsuna glanced to Haruka and Michiru. Haruka only looked at the monk in stony silence.
"Sensei," Michiru began as diplomatically as possible, "please don't take this as an insult. But there are things in this world that it's better the public at large know nothing about. I will tell you that the community in this area won't be threatened any longer. Please don't ask me more."
The monk nodded his acceptance, to the relief of all. His gaze shifted to Haruka.
"You are injured," Kakusui pronounced.
"I'll manage," Haruka mumbled gruffly.
"I have some herbs . . ."
"I'LL MANAGE," Haruka reiterated. Then she caught herself. Her expression and tone softened. "Sensei."
The monk nodded reluctantly. Then he turned and faced Makoto directly.
"You are leaving?" Kakusui asked.
"Um, yes," she whispered. "I was going to tell you. I just - - wanted to pack first. I-I can't stay here. It's nothing you've done, believe me! I just . . ."
"I understand," Kakusui replied charitably. "We must all follow the path we have chosen. Sometimes those paths diverge. Do not feel guilty, Kino-san. Sometimes avoidance of that which is painful is a good thing. I am glad you are safe, Kino-san. I am sorry I could not be of more help in your return."
Makoto nodded and began to head for the exit, Usagi and the others following.
"Kino-san," Kakusui said suddenly. "Please know that you are always welcome here - - should you ever decide to return."
"Thank you, Sensei," Makoto said, turning toward him - - but not looking at him. "Maybe some day I'll be able to."
With that, Makoto and her companions left. As he watched them depart, Kakusui sensed a door closing, a door he would have gladly wished to remain open.
But such were the workings of fate.
Minako Taiharu walked down the street oblivious to everyone around her. She had just come from an audition for a recording company who was putting together a new idol act. The man had been complimentary, even encouraging. But she didn't get the contract.
"Beats me how he's managed to be such a success," Minako grumbled to herself. "It's obvious he doesn't know talent." Then she expelled a frustrated sigh. "What do you have to do to get a break in this business? I was sure I'd be a star by NOW!" Men who passed her admired her long hair, pert figure and short skirt. They went unnoticed. "Maybe Rei was right. Although I'm not sure I'll survive if I have to wait THAT LONG!"
Operating on auto-pilot, Minako navigated down the seedy streets, past the garish signs and gaudy shops toward the club she sang at. The manager had given them a week for their honeymoon - - and only because they'd called him from Hokkido. It seemed like a funny joke then. A lot of things seemed different then - - including Tomo.
"Screw him!" Minako thought, setting her jaw and picking up her pace. "I will make it! And when I do, everyone who passed on me is going to get a copy of my CD - - or movie, or whatever!" She smirked devilishly. "And maybe I'll send them an eight by ten of me patting my butt, too."
From out of the blue an arm wrapped around her throat, throwing her off-balance. For a moment Minako thought she was being mugged - - it had already been attempted twice this year alone - - until another arm wrapped around her throat from the other side and she felt a woman's body press into her back.
"Usagi?" Minako asked.
"How did you know?" Usagi demanded, releasing her grip. Minako turned and saw she'd been waiting by the entrance to the club. Her ever-present portable art board and tool case were there.
"Who else mugs people with kindness?" smirked Minako. "What are you doing in a lousy neighborhood like this?"
"I came to see you!" Usagi squealed, then grew a pout. "And I don't know why! I should be mad at you! Running off and getting married without inviting your best friends!"
"Sorry about that," Minako offered uneasily. "It was kind of a spur of the moment thing. We were out partying after our last set and, well, we kissed. Then we kissed harder. Then we started groping - - and the next thing we knew, we were in front of a magistrate saying 'I do'." Usagi seemed stunned. "If it makes you feel any better, Artemis already ripped me a new one. Guess I can't blame the little fuzz ball. I did kind of leave him stranded for a week."
"Are you happy?" Usagi asked.
"Sure! What's not to be happy about? Tomo's great in bed, and - - stuff. We've got a great future. When we make it, we can even host our own TV show together!"
"I'm glad for you," Usagi said and it made Minako feel good. "So how soon until we see little Mina-chan's running around?"
"Hey, whoa!" Minako gasped. "Don't jinx me like that! Tomo and I both have careers to think about! No way I can even consider kids!" Her eyes darted to the sidewalk. "Besides, kids and me don't get along."
"Minako, you're great with kids!"
"As long as they're not my own." Minako mumbled, then perked up like she was flipping a switch. "So what's new with you?"
"Oh," Usagi cringed slightly, remembering the promise she'd made to Makoto, "nothing much." She glanced at her watch. "I'm sorry, Minako-chan! I've got to get home. Mamo-chan is getting home from his seminar tonight!" She grasped Minako by the shoulders. "Is there a time we can have lunch? I want to hear all about your new husband!"
"Sure," Minako chuckled. "How about Thursday?"
Usagi nodded enthusiastically, scooped up her art tools and hurried off. Minako watched her go. It never failed. Whenever you needed your spirits lifted, seek out Usagi.
As she turned to go into the club, Minako brushed against a man coming out. Stumbling to the side, she turned to look at him. She only got a moment's glimpse of him before he disappeared into the crowd of passers-by. Still she looked harder, trying to catch another glimpse of him.
"Hey. That almost looked like - - Ace," Minako thought. Then she shook her head. "Nah! What would Ace be doing in a dump like this?"
Makoto put the last dinner dish in the dish rack to dry. She picked up a cloth and obsessively wiped up all the spilled water on the sink, then wrung the cloth out and folded it neatly and perfectly before replacing it on the rung. Then she scowled at it. Pulling a fresh cloth from the drawer, she replaced it on the rung and threw the used cloth in the laundry hamper.
Softly padding into the living room, Makoto silently debated between television and reading. Neither option particularly appealed to her. She'd prefer to be out dancing and laughing with some very cute guy on her day off from the restaurant. Unfortunately, you needed a cute guy for that and she was fresh out at the moment. Reclining on the sofa, she was about to grab the remote when she spotted something on the ceiling.
A cold chill passed through her heart as Makoto stared up at the cobweb in the upper corner of the room. For a moment she couldn't move. Then she got up, got a broom out of the closet and brushed the cobweb away. The question struck her as she replaced the broom on its hook in her very organized closet: Was she bothered because it detracted from her spotless living room or because it was a web? She was pondering that conundrum when the door buzzer sounded.
"Usagi, I'm all right," Makoto sighed to herself, recalling that Usagi had been to visit her every day since the battle with the Kumo-onna making sure she suffered no lasting ill effects from her time as the spider queen's captive. She'd only chased the woman out of her apartment that morning.
But a cautious peek through the spyhole in her door revealed a surprise to Makoto Kino.
"Rei?" Makoto grinned, opening the door to her friend. "Come in! When did you get back from college?"
"Today," Rei smiled. "I just got back from Usagi's." The woman grew serious. "How are you doing?"
Makoto shrugged. "I'm alive. We won. What more can you ask for?" she grinned. Rei only stared neutrally. Makoto's smile turned into a frustrated scowl. "Ok. Boy, nobody can get anything past you anymore. Sit down, I'll get you something to drink."
"Thanks. Do you have diet? I'm trying to watch my figure," Rei called to her.
"You and who else?" Makoto called out from the kitchen.
"If only," Rei scowled. Makoto came out with two canned diet teas and handed one to the young priest-in-training. She took a seat across the couch from Rei. "So, how ARE you doing?"
Makoto expelled a breath, looking down. "I'll live. Usagi's been a big help. I'd hate to have to get through something like this by myself."
"She does have her uses," smirked Rei. "What was it like - - if you don't mind talking about it?"
Makoto sighed again. "Scary," she whispered. "I don't think I've been that scared since the first days after my parents died." She looked up at Rei. "And, you know, it wasn't dying that I was scared of. Heck, we've both been through that, a couple of times."
Rei nodded sympathetically.
"What scared me was how I was going to die," Makoto continued. "The thought of-of being eaten alive - - or of that spider queen laying her eggs in me and having them hatch inside of me." Makoto's face recoiled in disgust. "It just makes your skin crawl." She offered Rei a half-hearted grin. "The next time Blondie wants to take us to one of those gross-out horror films she loves, I'm going to have to pass."
Makoto felt Rei's hand close around hers. She looked up and got an encouraging expression.
"But that's in the past," Makoto said with a melancholy manner. "I'm coping with it. Like I said, Usagi's been a big help. Don't worry. The next time the senshi are needed, I'll be ready to answer the bell."
"Good," Rei nodded. "If you need anything, even if it's just to talk, you know my number."
"Yeah," Makoto smiled. Then she grew serious. "Now don't breathe a word of this to Ami."
"Because," Makoto began to explain, but stopped. She almost seemed embarrassed. "Ami already has a lot on her plate, what with school and coping with a strange country - - and she already feels guilty about leaving the senshi behind. She doesn't need to worry about this, too."
Listening to this explanation, Rei couldn't help but feel an uncanny sense of deja vu, given the angry words she'd exchanged with both Yuuichiro and her grandfather just this afternoon over nearly the same subject. It made her regret much of what she'd said.
"OK," Rei sighed with resignation.
"Thanks," Makoto smiled. "If you want to tell her after she graduates, go ahead - - if either of you still care. Just don't add to her burden now."
"OK, OK. But I think you're being stupid."
"Wouldn't be the first time," Makoto shrugged. "You know, that's what Usagi said when I swore her to secrecy."
"Well, maybe the little ditz is growing up after all," Rei smiled warmly. "Hey, you want to go do something?"
Makoto glanced around the room. "Sure. Maybe we can hook up with a couple of cute guys and have some fun. I'm certainly in the mood for it."
"Great! Let's go!" Rei said. They both sprang up and headed for the door. "So when do you swear Minako to secrecy?"
"Who says I'm going to tell her?" Makoto laughed. "It's bad enough Usagi knows. I tell Blondie and it'll be on the evening news the next day!"
The deep, rich sound of Rei's laughter made Makoto feel that much closer to being normal again.
The door opened and Mamoru trudged into the apartment he shared with Usagi and Luna. A deep, guttural sigh of fatigue escaped his mouth as he sat his satchel by the door and doffed his shoes. It had been two weeks of intense study - - rewarding study. He felt that much more competent, that much more capable. And the new questions that had formed in his mind during his time in Nagasaki would be the basis for a thesis that would blow the socks off of anyone who read it. Plus he now had a closer, less adversarial relationship with Dr. Tomohama that could only be a benefit.
But it had been an exhausting two weeks and he was done in.
"Usako, I'm home," he called out with the last of his energy. Mamoru fully expected Usagi to come bounding in and smother him either with kisses of joy or tears of remorse. And in his state of fatigue, he'd probably collapse under the weight of either.
"I'm in here, Mamo-chan," came her response - - if that was her. It sounded like her, but her voice was a throaty purr that was unlike anything he'd ever heard from her. And it was coming from the bedroom. Piqued, Mamoru doffed his jacket, pulled off his tie and ventured in to satisfy his raging curiosity.
"Usako?" Mamoru asked, gaping in surprise.
Usagi stood in the room, her hands folded across her chest, peeking over one shoulder. She wore a lacy black bra and panties set that he'd never seen before, black spike heel pumps and black stockings held up by a lacy garter belt.
"Mamo-chan," she smiled, her mouth painted glossy red and her hooded eyelids cast in sapphire blue. She turned to him and flung her shoulders back dramatically. "You're home at last."
Usagi took in a deep breath that seemed to thrust her chest at him, then crossed the room toward him. Slowly. Seductively. The entire time, her eyes were locked with his.
"I've missed you so," she purred, cramming every syllable with as much "come hither" as she could. The woman eased up against her husband, her hands on his chest, and gazed up at him.
And Mamoru began giggling.
"WHAT ARE YOU LAUGHING ABOUT!" fumed Usagi.
"I'm sorry," Mamoru laughed helplessly. "It's just - - you trying to vamp me . . .!"
"I'm trying to seduce you! But obviously I'm not doing a very good job!" With that, Usagi turned her back to him and crossed her arms over her chest in a petulant pout.
"I get the message," Mamoru smiled, folding his arms around Usagi from behind and feeling her resist him. "I've been too wrapped up with school. But you didn't have to go to all this trouble."
He kissed her at the base of her neck.
"I didn't fall in love with a tarted up seductress. I fell in love with a woman who is sweet," and he kissed her neck again, "and kind," and kissed her again, "and considerate," and again, "and giving," again, "and so very beautiful in her own right, without all the lace and lipstick."
By now he could feel his wife becoming a quivering mass of jelly in his arms. Her contented sigh confirmed it. Usagi turned in his grasp, snaked her arms around his neck and pulled his face toward hers. Their lips met and passions enjoined.
"Oh, Mamo-chan," she sighed when their lips parted. "I have missed you so."
"Not as much as I've missed you," he whispered into her mouth.
"I do feel kind of naughty dressed like this," she said, rubbing the tip of her nose against his cheek.
"I have to confess," he murmured as he held her close, running his hand up and down her bare back, "the less of you that's covered, the more I like it."
"Sauce for the goose," Usagi smirked, unbuttoning his shirt.
Usagi allowed her husband to back her to the bed. As she eased down on it, she gently pulled Mamoru down on top of her by his shirt.
As the couple engaged, they were unaware of Luna creeping out from under the bed. She'd been sleeping there until they came in and only now saw her chance to discreetly give the couple some privacy. Once she was safely in the living room, she relaxed and breathed a sigh of relief.
"Well, that was potentially awkward," Luna thought. "Clearly I'm going to have to stop sleeping in the bedroom from now on." Despite her embarrassment, she softened, glancing back at the bedroom. Her expression mellowed. "Have fun, my children. No two people deserve it more."
The infectious glow of the young couple's love made the little black cat smile despite herself.
"Perhaps I should go and make up with Artemis," Luna thought. Quiet as a cat, she padded to the door and out.