Blood and blisters
On my fingers
Chaos rules when we're apart
Watch my temper
I go mental
I'll try to be gentle
When I grow up
I'll be stable
When I grow up
I'll turn the tables
Artemis purred. He meowed. He scratched. He even attempted a roar. The resulting meek, but irritated, sound that came from his feline throat finally caught his master's attention. She peeked into his cramped travel carrier.
"Artemis," she whispered harshly at him, barely audible over the bustle of the other travelers in the airport. "Not now. I'm trying to think."
"What is there to think about Minako?" He whispered back, furious at having to be caged up for more than the agreed upon amount of time.
He was relieved to hear her sigh petulantly and felt the carrier move as she tucked it under her arm, grabbing her one carry-on suitcase and hurriedly finding a bathroom. She shut them in a stall and let him out of the cage, after which he gasped for air dramatically.
"Oh come on, it can't be that bad in there."
"You try being confined in a box for a fourteen hour flight!"
She stroked his coat apologetically, "Well don't worry, there won't be anymore anytime soon."
He sighed, "You've made up your mind then? You won't return to New York?"
She shook her head, lips pursed. "The agency was right. There really is nothing for me there."
Artemis was still with anger. He wanted badly to berate Minako, her lackadaisical agents, and himself for letting her get carried away with the illusory promises of the glamour world. He calmed himself. Rebuking her for events already past would get neither of them anywhere. "Fine. Then why haven't we left this airport yet?"
Minako looked up at the fluorescent lights, blowing air threw her lips. "I don't want to go home," she said with all the dread of someone who knew nothing good could come out of her unexpected return to Tokyo. "I don't want to see them. I don't want to hear all the nasty things they're going to say, once they find out that everything they said would happen, did happen. I don't want to see them, Artemis," she repeated dejectedly.
"Minako they're your parents!"
She looked at him, and he knew that argument meant close to nothing.
"I know, and that's exactly why I can't seem them. I can't listen to them call me a failure again, not today." She paused, brushing blonde bangs away from her eyes, unsure if she should tell Artemis what she really had planned. "I think I should see my friends. I think we should go to the Shrine."
Artemis' response was predictable. "Absolutely not. You should meet your parents first. You haven't seen Rei in months, and you can't just drop yourself on her doorstep and expect her to take you in." He hesitated, and then added quickly, just in case she was thinking it, "She's not in love with you anymore, y'know."
Minako scoffed, rolling her eyes. "I know that, Artemis, damn it." Annoyed, she shooed him back into the travel carrier. "Fine, we won't go the Shrine. But I am not going home."
"You're still here Kino?"
Makoto looked up to find her boss, towering over her, twisting his chef's hat in his hands irritably. "Yes sir, I'm still waiting for my ride."
"You've been waiting for twenty minutes, if you're going to stay late, at least make yourself useful," he told her gruffly and shoved a broom towards her.
She bit back a reply about how sweeping was not apart of her job description, and took the broom from him. "Yes sir… bastard…" She mumbled, hoping that her girlfriend would be there soon to pick her up.
Ami ran out of the lecture hall, bag half open with papers flying behind her. Sprinting to her car she dumped all that she was carrying in the backseat and sped off towards Makoto's restaurant.
She could see when she stopped in front of the restaurant that it was already closed, and that Makoto was already upset. She slid into the passenger seat without a greeting, slamming the door.
"I'm sorry Makoto!" Ami gushed right away, "The anatomy lecture ran long, and the professor decided to give us copious notes today, plus a pop quiz, I'm sorry honey, next time I'll sneak out or something…"
Makoto chuckled, the idea of Ami Mizuno sneaking out of class so amusing her that she momentarily forgot how angry she wanted to be. She cleared he throat, becoming serious again. "This is the third time this week Ami. I can get home by myself, if you're too busy."
Ami took her hand cautiously. "I'm never too busy for you."
"Apparently you are." Makoto answered cuttingly.
Ami let go of her hand and put the car in drive. "Don't be like that Makoto. I've already apologized."
Makoto looked at her. Her maturity level always awed Makoto, and in this case made her feel guilty. "I know, sorry." She said quietly, making Ami smile. "Y'know, we wouldn't be having this problem if you would just move in with me."
Ami sighed. She was becoming tired of this argument. "We've already talked about this, several times. Let's not argue about it tonight, it's Friday."
"I'm not gonna drop it so easily."
"Clearly. But I have class in the morning, and you don't really want to spend the few hours we have together arguing do you?" Ami looked at her, pouting indignantly, but still so adorable. "Personally, I have better options in mind."
Makoto caught the mischief in her voice and couldn't help but crack a smile.
Ami wasn't entirely sure Makoto was listening to her as she finished telling her about her day, while they walked up to her apartment. She was startled when the taller girl stopped in her tracks, causing her to bump into her back. "What is it?"
Makoto looked at her, at a loss for words.
Ami stepped from behind her and gasped, "Minako?"
The blonde was propped up against her luggage in front of Makoto's door holding Artemis' in her lap while they gently snoozed. Makoto moved forward and shook the blonde girl lightly by her shoulders.
Minako's eyes fluttered open, Artemis stirring in her arms. "Hmm... huh?"
Makoto grinned, despite the millions of questions about to burst from her mouth. "Mina-chan!" She laughed, extending a hand to her friend and pulling her up. "What in God's name are you doing here?"
Minako smiled back, dropping Artemis. "Aren't you glad to see me?"
Ami finally found her voice, "Of course! Mina-chan it's been so long!"
The blonde opened her arms, to which Makoto and Ami automatically embraced her.
They decided not to ask the obvious questions, assuming Minako would give the answers unprompted. Unfortunately, she prattled on about the new décor of Makoto's apartment and the various snacks that had been prepared for her.
"Oh wow, did you finally get a new sofa?" She threw herself onto the sofa, luxuriating on its softness. "Mmm… This feels good. I've been sleeping on a mattress for the past two years." Ami and Makoto waited, hoping this would lead into some explanation as to why she was suddenly in their presence. "Oh! You put in new carpet too! Wow, Ami-chan, you really broke her in didn't you?"
Makoto and Ami looked at each other. Makoto finally threw her hands up, done with being polite. "Mina-chan, you know I love you, and I'm ecstatic that you're here. But you haven't said a word yet about why you're here."
Artemis joined the blonde on the couch, nudging her for support. She sat up, smile faltering. "I would've gone to Usagi's house, but I didn't want to disturb her parents this late."
"Yes, but," Ami pressed, "What brings you back to Tokyo? Is there a show, or a photo shoot?"
Minako looked at her hands as they fidgeted in her lap. To Ami and Makoto she looked, at the moment, remarkably like her seventeen year old self. "No. I'm back for good, or a pretty long time at least."
"Oh, so you're going to work from here then? Did your agency move or something?" Makoto asked.
Minako scratched Artemis behind the ears, concentrating on the bristly white fur. She answered quietly, "My agency dropped me."
The sentence stung Makoto and Ami. They didn't know what to say, there wasn't much they could say. They sat on either side of her as she let her frustrations out through tears, consoling her.
They remember back to the day Minako had announced that she would be forgoing the second semester of college to move to America, where a modeling agency had expressed keen interest in her (after attending countless open-calls).
They remembered her forced smile when they, along with Rei, Usagi, and Mamoru sent her off at the airport, her parents conspicuously absent.
They remembered their uncontrollable excitement when they first flipped open a fashion magazine and saw her face on one of the glossy pages.
Makoto kissed the top of her head as Ami rubbed her back gently. "Don't worry about it Mina-chan. We're here for you now. You can stay here as long as you'd like."
Minako wiped her tears away, pulling herself together. "I love you guys. But I don't want to crash your love nest." She said, regaining her mischievous smile.
Makoto chuckled, then said more bitterly than she meant to, "You don't need to worry about that. Ami doesn't live here, she has her dorm. I'm here by myself, all alone."
Minako, as the Senshi of Love, was surprised at this. She turned a shocked look on Ami. "But you've been together for like, four years!"
"Hear that, Ami?" Makoto prodded, unnecessarily. "Even Sailor Venus thinks it's time."
Ami barely fought the urge to roll her eyes. "Enough about that. Tomorrow afternoon we'll all get together and give you a proper welcome back, Mina-chan. I know Usagi-chan and Rei-chan will be overjoyed to see you."
Minako smiled, drawing up memories of her two closest friends. "I can't wait to see them."
Rei blinked her eyes open, from what seemed like a long deep sleep. Mild disorientation set it. She seemed to be in the same state she fell asleep in: nude, limbs variously entangled with another's, sheets barely covering the two to them. Her eyebrows furrowed together. She had dozed off, while they were talking, about something rather important too.
A soft chuckle distracted her from her thoughts. She looked up at the woman, whose chest she used as her pillow.
"You fell asleep on me again."
She frowned, her suspicions confirmed. "I didn't mean to, I guess I'm more tired than I thought," She sat up, kissing her collarbone, then resettling against her shoulder. "Sorry, Kimi."
Kimika brushed dark hair away from her violet eyes. "It's okay. You did exert yourself quite a bit."
The miko was unsuccessful in trying to curb her grin. "So, what were you saying before?"
"I asked you about your previous relationships. And don't pretend to fall asleep either!" She giggled.
"I didn't pretend," She said quietly, sighing. It was a completely legitimate question, especially after all the time she and Kimika had been spending together. It was official now, they were together; the society pages hadn't failed to mention it. And so Rei kicked herself, for not being prepared for the inevitable question.
She considered turning the question around, but remembered that Kimika had already volunteered the information almost as soon as they began dating. Unlike Rei, the woman as an open book, leaving her the only one left with secrets.
She sighed again. For once, she really liked a girl who wasn't a blonde sailor Senshi. She could even imagine letting herself fall in love with her. She smiled as Kimika ran her toes against her legs, waiting for an answer.
"Well," she dove in, "I haven't had many. I only really count one."
Kimika was intrigued. "Just one?"
Rei nodded. "My first. Actually, she wasn't my first, but I count her as my first anyway. Anyway, I was crazy about her and she was crazy about me. But…" She peeked at Kimika, hazel eyes urging her to continue, "But, I messed up."
"You messed up?" Kimika repeated curiously, "How?"
Rei sat up, pulling her knees to her chest. This is where she would probably run. "I cheated." She looked away so she wouldn't have to see Kimika's eyebrows rise to the top of her forehead. "If there's one thing I will ever regret, it's that. I nearly got on my hands and knees and begged her to take me back."
Kimika was more surprised at this than anything else. She wondered if she could ever enamor the dignified and majestic Hino Rei enough to take her to her knees.
Rei continued her story, "We struggled for awhile, until she finally decided that it would be impossible for us to ever be together again. And that was it." She concluded. She was glad to receive the kiss on the shoulder, and so encouraged, she added, "but she's still one of my best friends."
For Kimika, this was the most surprising and alarming part of the story. She lifted any eyebrow. "Really? Which one is it? Ami-san? Or Makoto-san?"
Rei laughed outright. "Neither! No, you haven't met her. She's out of the country."
"She's a model."
Another disarming addition to the story. Unfortunately, further details could not be divulged, as the phone began to ring out of the room.
Rei wrapped herself in a bed sheet and hopped to her feet. "It's probably Grandpa. I think he's in Osaka, by now. Be back in a minute."
Kimika nodded. She needed at least a few minutes to her gather her thoughts on the information Rei had just given her. As she suspected, there was a lot more to the mysterious miko than she let on.
Rei returned quicker than Kimika expected, a wry smile on her face.
"What?" Kimika asked.
She chuckled, "'Speak of the devil, and she shall appear.' Get dressed, my friends are coming over."
Makoto and Ami watched with amused smiles as the two blondes in front of them reunited, stifling each other with heartfelt hugs and squealing words of affection in fast, high-pitched voices at the café that had replaced the Crown as their regular haunt.
"Ohmigod Mina-chan!" The Moon Princess squeezed her soldier tightly around the neck, then pulled back to take a look at her. "You look so good!"
"So do you!"
Usagi waved off her automatic, polite reply. She knew she hadn't changed much; she would look practically the same in a thousand years anyway. "I mean it Mina-chan, you look great! I love your hair!"
Minako gave her a grateful smile. She had been more than a little reluctant when her agents had advised her to cut her treasured long hair up to the shoulder, at a blunt angle. They said it would make her look "edgier". There were tears in her eyes as the stylist cut, what felt like chunks of memories off of her head, only breathing a sigh of relief when they decided against dyeing it too. A stylist had handed her trademark red bow back to her afterwards and told her, "And stop wearing this silly thing!"
"I'm glad you like it Usagi," she swung an arm around her shoulder and followed Makoto and Ami out of the café. She grinned, feeling a warm happiness inside her, which was conspicuously missing overseas. "Y'know, I never thought I'd miss this place as much as I did."
"It wasn't Tokyo, it was us!" Usagi told her, hugging her once more around the waist. "And we missed you too."
She gave a dispirited smile, "Maybe getting dropped was a blessing. I thought it was going to be a drag to come back home, but after seeing you guys, I'm in no rush to send my resume out again."
"I'm sure your parents are glad to have you back after so long too," Usagi waited for a reply but Minako only looked in the other direction and mumbled something incoherent.
Makoto sighed, apparently she would have to tell on her. "She hasn't seen her parents yet, Usagi-chan. She doesn't want to."
Usagi stopped right in the middle of the street to glare at her.
"Jeeze thanks Mako-chan."
"They're your parents Minako! It's been years."
"But Usagi-chan," Minako whined, "You know how they are! They'll be happy to see me for about five minutes until they ask me why I'm here, and then I'll have to tell them that I basically got fired! And then I'd get to hear it from my mother and—ugh, I'd rather not deal with it right now."
"You'll have to eventually," Ami told her.
Minako crossed her arms indignantly, "I know…" Agitated, and without thinking, she reached into her purse and retrieved a packet of cigarettes. For the first time, her three friends looked at her like she was a stranger.
The future doctor cracked first, "Minako! Are you trying to get cancer?" Ami yelled.
Minako blinked, then chuckled self-consciously when she realized what Ami was talking about. "It's not a big deal Ami-chan, at least not in New York." Seeing their worried faces, she decided to put the packet away for now and change the subject. "Isn't Rei expecting us? We all know how she feels about promptness."
"Right," Makoto picked up the walk again, "Have you talked to her recently?"
"We've only talked on the phone a few times since she came to visit a few months ago." Minako remembered with a smile. The miko was the only with the time and the funds to fly to America to celebrate her twenty-first birthday with her. She had been momentarily disappointed that Usagi, Makoto, and Ami could not make the trip, but Rei gave her a gift that couldn't possibly be given with the others around. Minako snickered quietly at the memory.
Their phone conversations were a different story, particularly the last few. Minako was fine with her ex-girlfriend dating other people, but she certainly didn't want to hear about it. She wasn't surprised when Rei hung up on her after she said so, nor when she called back and apologized.
"Maybe this isn't as ingenious as we originally thought," Rei had said, referring to their "just a little more than friends" arrangement.
"Well, nothing else works for us. And I can't be blamed for that."
"But I can be? Kami, Mina. You never let me forget anything. One of these days, I'm going to meet someone who will."
That was when Minako hung up on her. She, however, didn't call back to apologize.
Part Deux, coming up! R&R please!!
When I Grow Up - Garbage