912 Going On 14
or: Why it sucks when your parents are hot
By Lilac Summers
Being fourteen is not easy in the best of times. What with the acne and the puberty and the discovery of the opposite sex, it's positively hellish.
And she didn't care what the populace and the world and the whole damn galaxy had to say, these could NOT be the best of times. Because being the princess of the most powerful imperial court of the galaxy certainly didn't help matters. Having two parents who were ageless and apparently locked in their early twenties only exacerbated the problem.
Especially when you knew they were playing footsie under the dinner table.
Usagi Small Lady Serenity Tsukino, more commonly known as Usagi (she had recently taken to demanding she was no longer "chibi"), tried valiantly not to gag over her dinner of glazed salmon and steamed baby vegetables. Not because there was anything wrong with the fresh fish, but because the sound of her mother's stifled squeals was making her sick.
"Mom," she managed to stretch the word into three syllables, a skill obviously developed in adolescence, "please, just . . . please. Will you two stop it?"
Neo-Queen Serenity and Neo-King Endymion sat upright, guilty flushes coloring their faces. The rest of the senshi continued their conversation with nary a pause, used to the spectacle. They weren't much better, in Small Lady's (not so small now, she thought smugly, almost as tall as her mother) opinion. Why, there Minako was with her newest boy d' jour. The poor man was going to end up with a face full of glazed salmon if his jaw dropped any lower. This was apparently Minako's aim all along, as she had managed to find the lowest-cut dress in the entire universe.
But this was all beside the point. She gave a much-beleaguered sigh and stabbed a carrot with her fork.
"Honestly, you two. Can't you not embarrass me for once?" Never mind no one else at the table had even noticed nor cared what was going on. At fourteen, the mere thought of embarrassment was enough to embarrass Usagi.
"Honey, how are we embarrassing you?" Serenity asked, true confusion making her silver brows draw together into a frown.
"With, with all of . . . all of that!" exclaimed Usagi, waving her fork to encompass both Serenity and Endymion.
"All of what?" Endymion's calm voice asked, quite reasonably.
"That! The flirting and the giggling and footsie and the . . . the stuff you two do which, by the way, you do TOO LOUDLY and hello! Walls of crystal not as thick as you two might think, what with me right next door! I mean," Small Lady's voice rose with grievances that had been simmering in her mind for a while, borne of nights wishing that her parents were like normal ones who kept their hands to themselves and didn't make it their lives' goal to kill their children from ickiness. "I mean, you two are ancient! Haven't you had enough?"
A snicker from down the table was ruthlessly cut off by an icy glare from Endymion. Makoto decided it was time to admire the lovely hue of her wine.
"Usagi, I'm sure that the dinner table is not the appropriate place to bring this topic up," stated Endymion with a "no arguments" voice.
Usagi battled back the urge to flinch. Her dad only ever called her Usagi when he was not pleased. Most of the time it was "Usa" or sometimes "Chibi" and although she hated that from anyone else, it was okay from him. But this hanky-panky business had been going on for too long, as far as she was concerned. "Oh, but it's an appropriate place for you and mom to play 'let's see who can make the dishes jump highest'?"
"Honey," began Serenity bravely, battling back the blush that had risen to her cheeks, "you see, when two people really love each oth--"
Usagi blanched until her complexion matched the snowy-white table cloth. "MOM," that screech proved beyond doubt whose progeny she was, "I can't believe you want to give me the sex talk! Over dinner! Over dinner with everyone at the table!"
The aforementioned "everyone" included Rei, Makoto, Ami, Minako, and Minako's date. The girls had decided to sit back and enjoy this recent development. The date had begun to wonder if he could somehow sell what he was seeing to the tabloids.
"Besides, I already know about sex!"
The table fell deadly silent at that proclamation, due perhaps to the fact that the vicinity of the table where Endymion sat had dropped twenty degrees.
"Usagi. How. Do. You. Know. About. Sex?"
Serenity sat perfectly still, as if afraid that any twitch of muscle would send her husband over the edge. She hoped --nay, prayed-- that her daughter would have a good answer, otherwise the male population of the earth would experience dark days at her husband's (and probably Haruka's) hands.
"Duh," scoffed Usagi, blissfully unaware of the ticking time-bomb sitting before her, "I'm fourteen, not two!"
"Nine-hundred twelve," supplied Ami helpfully.
Usagi's attention whipped in her direction. "What?"
"Nine-hundred twelve years old. Not fourteen . . . nine-hundred twelve."
"I'm fourteen biologically!" Usagi countered, stomping her foot and making the table bounce in the process.
"I'm just saying . . ."
"FOURTEEN! It's not my fault it took me so long to get to fourteen! But that's not the point!" Another stomp emphasized how much that wasn't the point. "The point is that I've heard and seen enough! In this palace, with you two, how could I have NOT figured stuff out!"
She had turned back to accuse her parents, only to become more incensed that, after finding out there was no man in the kingdom he needed to kill, her father had returned to eating his mango mousse. Her mother had, predictably, already finished hers.
She stretched forward, bracing her hands on the table to better thump her fist. Dishware rattled, water glasses sloshed.
"Listen to me!"
"Usa," Serenity finally sighed, "we are listening to you. But you're overreacting--"
"I'm not! Do you know how supremely icky it is to know you two do that! Why can't you be normal? Why can't you be like Sayuri's mom and dad--they don't go gallivanting about playing footsie and having . . . having sex," she infused all the disgust she could muster into that one word. "Parent's don't have sex."
"But that's not logical," Ami piped up again. "How would children be born if parents didn't have sex? And sex is a physiological need that has many emotional and psychological purposes. It's not only for procreation. Just because parents have already had kids doesn't mean they just stop."
As much as Endymion wanted to be anywhere but at a dinner table with his daughter discussing sex, this was obviously a conversation that was not going to resolve itself on its own. "That's right, Usa. All parents are . . ." he floundered, flustered, reached for a word that he could find appropriate, "intimate with each other. I'm sorry if the idea of your mom and I being intimate is odd for you, but rest assured its very normal. I'm sure Sayuri's parents act the same way. Heck, when you lived with the Tsukinos in the 20th century, they--"
"EWWWW! They so did not!"
With failing patience, Endymion forged onward. "Usagi, be reasonable, they were adults and they--"
"No, no. She has a point." This from Serenity, who had until now been more engrossed in her husband's leftover dessert than her daughter's squickiness.
"What do you mean she has a point? All parents h--"
"No, no. They didn't. I'm quite positive my parents did not have sex."
"Sere-chan," Rei languished on the far end, placidly sipping her wine. "Of course they did. How were you conceived?"
"Stork brought me," Serenity replied with perfect seriousness. "And then a demon must have left Shingo at the doorstep. Only explanation. Or--or I could have been an immaculate conception."
"Sere, don't be ridiculous. Isn't this the very same thing we're arguing about with Usagi? Your parents did too have relations, and it's perfectly normal. Just like we have re---"
"MY PARENTS DID NOT HAVE SEX. My parents did not do the things we do, and I'm sure they did not do the things we did last night, because not only were they not that flexible, my parents simply Did NOt HAVE SEX. EVER." She intoned the last in a voice that shimmered with just a little bit of power. It was a voice that warned she was not to be trifled with.
But Rei had never been one to let something die. "Yeah they did. Every night, I bet. All over the house. You know what they say: when the kids are away the parents will play."
"EWWWWWWW," twin choruses from both mother and daughter. "THEY DID NOT!"
Serenity and Usagi stared at each other for a moment in perfect agreement, before Usagi remembered what her original grievance had been about. Then she leveled an imperious finger at her mother in betrayed condemnation. "You! You think it's gross when your own parents do that, too! But yet you refuse to desist, at the request of your one and only child! Do you WANT to scar me? Do you WANT me to have to go to therapy for the next 500 years?"
Serenity promptly closed her mouth, mulish expression on her face. "That's different. They were old."
"SO ARE YOU! YOU'RE ANCIENT!"
The squabbling deteriorated from there. Endymion could only watch in a sort of resigned exhaustion until a hearty pat on the back almost pushed his face into the table-cloth, courtesy of Makoto.
"You hit the jackpot with those two," she smiled toothily.
Finally, Endymion broke. "ENOUGH," he roared, interrupting a very intense "are too," "am not," debate going on between Serenity and Usagi.
The table fell silent, Serenity leaning back to rub her temples and Usagi adopting the classic "stubborn teenager, arms crossed, chin trembling" pose her mother had perfected a millennia before.
"Small Lady, I'm sorry if the idea of your mother and I being a loving couple bothers you, but I've had quite enough of your theatrics for tonight. Lately you've been insisting that 'small lady' is not longer an appropriate moniker, nor 'Chibi-Usa.' But if you want to be treated like an adult, you're going to have to start behaving like one and let go of some of your more childish notions. Do I make myself clear?"
Usagi was fighting a losing battle to keep her chin from trembling and her eyes from tearing. It was always somehow worse when her father was the one who lectured her. And it always, always happened whenever she and her mother started fighting. It had been like that forever, even when she'd visit the 20th century. 'Why does he always have to take her side', she thought angrily, biting her lip to keep from crying.
"Now, if you're done, we're going to finish our meal like civili--"
The sharp sound of Usagi's chair scraping back echoed through the high-ceilinged room, interrupting Endymion one last time. Then she stood there, all pink hair and clenched fists and quivering insecurity and humiliation. "You never understand! It's always about you two and what you want! You don't ever care about what I want!" A whirl of pink odangos and silk skirts, and then all that was left was the sound of her footsteps racing down the hall.
"Well, you handled that splendidly," Minako sighed, standing up herself and then leaning over the table to give her date an eyeful. "Sweetums, we're going to have to continue our date another time, 'kay?" She ushered the befuddled guy out the door and handed him over to the ever-silent staff that waited just outside the dining room doors.
"Wait, I thought that we. . . that you--"
"Uh huh! I'll call you later! Ta!" She had the door shut in his face and had twirled around to face Endymion. "You don't know a damn thing about teenagers, do you?"
"Well, technically, she's 912 year--"
"Will you let it go, Ami-chan!"
"I'm just saying . . ."
"Anyway! But Endymion, after living amongst your superior female kind for a few odd thousand years, have you learned nothing?"
Endymion eyed his spoon thoughtfully and contemplated shoving it through his left eyeball to just end it all here and now. Why had he ever thought having a daughter would be easy? Or, more importantly, why had she had to suddenly grow up? Why couldn't she have simply stayed 4 --or as Ami would insist, 902-- when everything was so much easier?
"Minako, she's being hysterical and irrational. First she brings up Sere's and my private life up at the dinner table, then when we try to discuss it calmly she throws a tantrum. I'm not going to just sit here and let her be a spoiled little princess."
"Well, you're about 900 years too late for that one," muttered Makoto.
"What was that?"
"This isn't about your sex lives. Well, maybe a little of it is, but not the whole of it," continued Minako, undaunted.
"Then what is it about? Because I have no idea."
"I think I do," said Serenity quietly. "And frankly I was wondering when I'd have to deal with this, anyway." She placed a cool hand atop Endymion's and balanced over to place a soft kiss on his lips. "I'll handle this one, don't you worry." Her voluminous skirts drifted behind her as she flung open the dining room doors one more time and then swept through them.
"Well, if it is about the sex thing, I have a solution," Rei announced, licking mousse off one fingertip.
"I hope it's not that Serenity and I become celibate, because that just isn't happening."
"You could just gag her," Rei offered helpfully. "Or do you want to keep that as a special occasion type of thing?"
She managed to duck from the spoon that came flying her way.
The door was not locked, which made Serenity wonder if Chibi-Usa secretly wanted someone to come after her. Wait, it was "Usagi" now, not "Chibi-Usa." Funny how it was suddenly so important to her daughter's identity that she no longer be considered little, as if there was no connection between her and the munchkin who'd dropped down on her head two thousand years ago. It was hard sometimes to remember her daughter was a teenager now, especially since she'd been a little girl for so very long! But then suddenly her growth had begun at a normal pace. Ami had pointed that there was no such thing as a "normal" growth rate anymore, not since the beginning of Crystal Tokyo. After all, why had the Senshi and the royal couple just stopped aging at 21? Why not 22? Why not 25?
Serenity could only pray that her daughter moved through fourteen and kept right on going until she passed her teens. She didn't think she could handle it if Usagi was stuck as a teen for another few hundred years.
But she'd dallied enough. Serenity drew in a deep breath and knocked on her daughter's door perfunctorily, not expecting an answer and not receiving any. She slipped inside anyway to find her daughter crying into her bedspread.
It was heart-wrenching to watch, and brought such an immediate sense of deja vu that Serenity had no difficulty over-imposing blonde over the pink hair, dissolving the grand chamber into a modest pink bedroom with manga scattered on the floor.
When she settled on the bed, Usagi curled into a little tight ball away from her. Serenity tried to ignore how much that hurt.
"Chib-- Usagi-chan. What's really the matter?"
"Myo mueme mphhh-phhh mph!"
Although once adept at sniffles-smothered-by-pillows-and-blankets talk, over the years Serenity had lost the skill.
"Myo mueme mphhh-phh mph!"
"Uh . . ."
"You never understand!" Usagi turned accusing red-rimmed eyes at her mother.
"What don't I understand?"
"EVERYTHING! You and dad always being all kissy and gross! And my friends SEE that! And it's so embarrassing! And it just makes it worse that you look . . . you and dad look like . . . like sex bunnies or something! You aren't all wrinkly and fat like their parents! I have guy friends, really cute guy friends . . . and they're all looking at YOU. And it's really nasty . . . and. . . and"
Serenity silently fished a handkerchief from her bodice, passed it to her daughter who used it to blow her nose noisily.
"And no one ever takes my side. You always back daddy up and he always backs you up and I never matter. You only care about each other."
"Usa, that's not true."
"It is! It's always been that way! But . . . but I don't even care," she wailed in a way that made it obvious she did care, and quite a lot. "I don't even care because this family is all screwed up anyway! You're the stupid queen and he's the stupid king and I'm the stupid princess and I wish we could just be normal!"
Serenity smoothed a hand down a candy-pink odango, marveled at the silky texture as she chuckled quietly. It was exactly what she'd thought would be at the root of her daughter's anger. Hadn't that same thought reverberated through her own mind endlessly after Luna had first crossed her path? And it had taken her years of struggling to come to terms with who and what she was. She hoped to save her daughter some of that pain.
"Honey, there are some things I can't change. I can't change the fact that I'm the queen, your daddy the king, and you the princess. I can't change that you are a superhero and have powers that your friends can't understand.
"Sometimes . . . sometimes when I'm stuck in a meeting shaking hands with the Duke of Somethingorother, figuring out if we're going to build an irrigation channel or build another space colony . . . I do wish that you and your daddy and I could just be a little family with a little house somewhere.
"But then I think of all the wonderful things we've been able to do. I think about the fact that your friends can walk down the street without worrying about youma, as I used to do back when I was your age. I think about how for the first time since my mother ruled on the moon, there is no hunger or disease.
"And then I think about how just a couple of years ago you traveled back in time and helped me fight Galaxia, and how strong you were, and what a wonderful woman you're growing up to be, and I'm so proud."
Usagi had stopped sniffling and now lay very still. It was often disconcerting, the two dichotomies that built Queen Serenity. So many years of life had granted her with such wisdom, and yet the innate personality of Usagi Tsukino still shone through so brightly. It was easy to forget sometimes that her mother had become queen for a reason.
"So no, I can't change some things, and if I could, I wouldn't want to, because then you wouldn't be the pink-haired munchkin who fell on my head thousands of years ago. And whenever you think we don't understand how you feel, remember that I, and all the Senshi, went through what you're going through right now. And it wasn't easy, and it wasn't fair, but we're still together and that's so much more than I ever believed we'd . . . "
Serenity's voice had started to shake, just a little, and it scared Usagi because her mother rarely cried. Wailed, sure, but rarely actually cried. She turned around and reached for her mother's hand, squeezing softly.
Serenity squeezed back and smiled down at her daughter. The tears in her eyes dried before they ever fell, and then it seemed as if that which made her Queen slipped away just a little, leaving a 21-year-old woman with a teasing grin on her face.
"So is that what's really bothering you?"
"Maybe," mumbled Usagi. "I see my friends, and they're all so happy. And -- and it makes me mad," she confessed in a whisper, as if this were a great sin. "It makes me mad that they don't have a clue what it's like to know that you have to fight for your happiness. That I have to fight for their happiness. And one day, I'll be Sailor Moon for real, maybe forever."
She turned pained magenta eyes at her mother. "You've always had dad. You make each other so happy, so maybe it doesn't matter if you two live forever and battle bad guys forever. But what if I don't have someone like that? I haven't even seen Helios since when I traveled back in time, and I was so little! And then the Quartet are great, but they're not like the Senshi.
"Mom...I just don't think I'm going to be able to do what you do. I'm never going to be like you, never good enough." Her face was set in sad, serious lines. It was strange, but confessing these thoughts made her feel lighter for having spoken them, but also heavier, as if saying it finally made it true.
Serenity sat contemplating her daughter's frightened, sad face . . .
And then burst into laughter.
"Mom!" cried Usagi, appalled her mother would laugh at her deepest insecurities.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry! It's just that," Serenity clutched at her sides and rolled on the bed, "I can't believe I'm your highest standard. Wait until I tell Rei!"
"Oh sweetie, if you only knew how horrible I was at everything when I was your age--"
"I do know how horrible you were at my age, I was there half the time."
"Well then," replied Serenity, managing to quell her laughter momentarily, "why are you so worried?"
"Because! You still managed to beat Beryl and all those other crazies, even Chaos! I . . . I couldn't do that."
"And you won't have to. Because you're not me, Usa-chan, and you won't be me ever. You're going to be you, with your own battles to fight. And I have no doubt you'll grow up to be a fabulous fighter, and an even more fabulous Queen."
Serenity smoothed aside her daughter's bangs, smiling as she met her dubious gaze. "Of that, I have no doubt. Don't ever compare yourself to others, sweetie, and least of all to me. All I or anyone else wants you to be is yourself."
Serenity watched Usagi lower her eyes. She knew her words had not quite quieted her daughter's fears, but there were some things she would only be able to learn through experience.
"I know that right now you may think I'm just trying to comfort you, but I know one day you'll see I mean what I say." She nudged her daughter until Usagi raised her gaze again, then winked impishly and pulled on a pigtail. "You okay?"
"Yeah, I guess." And she did feel better, she realized. It felt good to discuss these things with her mother. It seemed so many times like her parents were so involved with each other that they never really noticed her. The thought tugged her mood downward. "But I still don't like that you and dad always take sides against me!"
"Oh, whatever! Who convinced her father to let her and the Quartet go to Paris with only Minako -- MINAKO, of all people -- as their chaperone?"
"Well . . . "
"And who stood up for you when the aforementioned culprit came back with what I swear was a hickey, and dad wanted to rampage off with a shotgun?"
"Uh, I . . . "
"Alright! I get the point!" Usagi flopped back on her mattress, as if exhausted after the grudging concession. She threw her arms over her eyes dramatically. "So I guess maybe you two don't always take sides against me."
Her mom leaned over, placed a cool kiss on her cheek, and then Usagi felt the mattress shift as Serenity stood and made her way to the door.
"Mom?" She sat up, grabbed Luna P (and if she had to say it once, she had to say it again, Luna P was NOT a toy, she was an ACTION FIGURE.) She fiddled with Luna P's antenna, a little embarrassed.
"You're welcome, baby." She could hear the smile in her mother's voice. She peeked up to see her resume her walk to the door.
Serenity's shoulders slumped (oh! so close to escape!) almost imperceptibly. "Yes?"
"I'm still totally grossed out. You and dad getting it on is totally blegh. Think you could cut it out and stop embarrassing me by being all gooey with each other?"
"Uh . . . No."
"But it's so . . . it's . . . .EWWWWWW!" Agitated arm swinging threatened to send Luna P out the window. "And you guys are all over the place! Sayuri and I practically walked in on you two in the billiards room!"
"Oh, yeah. Sorry about that one."
"It's not healthy for my innocent mind to be polluted by such images! Freud would agree with me."
Serenity threw her hands up in the air. "Freud was an idiot! I'll be more careful locking doors, alright!"
"Yeah, like that's going to drown out the noise, too! Did you know that Wednesday night I was having a study session in my room? Did you know that Marco almost died of a nosebleed when the nightly rendition of 'yes, yes, thump, thump' started? He and Ayumi ran out of here so fast."
"Usagi, your father and I are not going to put a hold on our relationship just because you find it convenient for us to do so. But," she forestalled the whine she felt building in her daughter's throat, "I do have a solution."
"What? A gag?"
"No, that's only for special occasion."
"I'm joking!" Serenity called over her daughter's theatrics as Usagi rolled around on the bed, hands clapped over her ears and crying out "eww" in a constant refrain.
The last "eww" sputtered off, and then blessed silence. "As I was saying, I have a solution."
And that very night, Usagi Small Lady Serenity Tsukino moved her bedroom to a completely different wing of the palace. She fell asleep feeling like maybe she was going to get the hang of being a fourteen-year-old princess/superhero after all.
That's it! Hope you enjoyed it. I surprised myself as well by writing a Chibi-Usa piece (I'm so NOT a fan), but what the hey. I felt a little sympathy thinking of how absolutely gross it would be to know your parents are getting it on all the time. ;)
Let me know what you thought.