-The Best-Laid Plans…-
Disclaimer: I don't own Sailor Moon, so please don't sue me.
Masae put on her cleaning apron and, feather duster in hand, began to dust the house she and her husband lived at. She found herself in the study staring at the Butsudan, the family altar that many Japanese used to display tablets inscribed with the names of ancestors and deceased family members. As she dusted, she did her best to avoid looking at one of the tablets on the display. It was too shameful.
In the living room looking out towards the street, Masae's husband Kaname was watching the television and relaxing after his night shift at the factory job he held down. As he was about to reach over for the remote to try to find else to watch, he noticed something out of the corner of his eye. Turning towards one of the windows, he saw a taxi slowly drive up to the front lawn.
"Masae," he called out, "Are you expecting company?"
His wife came out into the living room, "No, not today." As both husband and wife watched, a young girl exited the taxi. She was wearing a school uniform consisting of an almost plaid blue and green skirt with matching bow on her maroon blouse. She had a pale complexion, with straight black hair and dark purple eyes. She looked at the house, a momentary look of pensive uncertainty showing on her face before she turned back towards the cab and retrieved her book bag from the back seat and paid the taxi driver. As the cab took off, she reached into her bag and pulled out an inhaler. She took two puffs, put it back in her book bag, and began to make her way towards the house.
Masae looked from the window to her husband. "Kaname, what do you make of that? What do you suppose she's here for?"
Kaname shrugged his shoulders. "Well, she's wearing a school uniform. Maybe she's here selling tickets to a school charity event."
"Oh, not another one," Masae sighed, "I just donated money to the Juban High bake sale three weeks ago," she said just as the doorbell rang.
"Go in the kitchen," Kaname said as he used the remote to turn the TV off. "I'll handle this." And with that, he got up to answer the door as his wife left the room.
Hotaru Tomoe took out the piece of paper once more and studied it. Yup, she was at the right place all right. As Sailor Saturn, she'd fought Pharaoh 90, Queen Nehelenia and Sailor Galaxia. She was powerful enough to destroy the Earth if it ever came to it.
So why was she so nervous now?
She grudgingly acknowledged to herself that it was because she was out of her element, and she knew it. She wasn't extroverted or outgoing, and truth be told she wasn't normally very daring when she wasn't Sailor Saturn. She was a shy introvert who preferred spending time with her Michiru-mama in the garden or taking care of her lamp collection to going up to strangers houses and accosting them.
But oh, if her little plan worked, wouldn't her Haruka-papa be happy. It would be the best birthday present ever.
With a smirk, she realized that what she really needed right now more than anything was a certain pink-haired best friend behind her, pushing her towards the door as she gave one of her overly enthusiastic pep talks.
Standing in front of the door, Hotaru smoothed out the pleats of her Mugan Academy dress skirt. She decided not to go home after school to change for two reasons. First, she just knew that one of her parents would've been home, and she really didn't want to have to explain what she was up to or deal with having to make something up. And secondly, almost all her clothing was black. She wasn't morbid, she just liked the color. That being said, she didn't want to scare these people off by appearing to be some sort of goth chick or, worse, emo. Besides, Mugan Academy was her Haruka-papa and Michiru-mama's alma mater, and there was a small sense of pride in wearing the uniform (though she'd never admit it to her parents).
Hotaru suddenly realized that she'd been standing in front of the door stalling for far too long. Taking a deep breath, she reached up and pushed the doorbell.
A man in his mid-forties answered the door, wearing a cardigan and casual kakis. His hair was graying at the temples, and as Hotaru studied him she noted the familiar shape of the mouth.
"Hello," he said rather curtly, hoping to send her on her way soon, "I'm sorry, but we've already donated to…"
Kaname blinked in surprise. "What?"
Hotaru looked again at the slip of paper in her hand, "Are you Kaname Tenoh-san?"
Kaname was now perplexed. "Hai, I'm Kaname Tenoh. Why? What's this all about?"
Hotaru felt uncomfortable under his questioning stare, and she fidgeted a bit with the paper she was still holding as she tried to force a smile. "Tenoh-san, my name's Hotaru Tomoe. I… I'd like to speak with you about your daughter Haruka."
Kaname's eyes narrowed as he now glared at the school girl in front of him. "I have no daughter."
Hotaru frowned. "Are you talking figuratively, or do I really have the wrong house? Are you the Kaname Tenoh whose wife is named Masae and…"
"No, no, no," Kaname interrupted tersely, "I'm talking figuratively. Yes, my wife and I used to have a daughter named Haruka, but she's dead to us now. Why?" he asked as he now studied the young girl before him suspiciously, "How do you know my daughter?"
"I'm her daughter."
Kaname raised an eyebrow at that. "Come again?"
"I'm her daughter. Well, adopted daughter."
"I see," he answered coldly. "Tell me, how did you find me?"
"An internet search. Look," Hotaru said, looking past Kaname into the living room behind him, "I'm usually not this bold, but rather than standing here like this in the door frame why don't I just come in and we can talk?"
"Kaname?" a feminine voice called from the kitchen, "What was it? Is everything alright?"
"I'm taking care of it," he called back, turning away momentarily from Hotaru as he did so. "It's nothing to worry about."
"Masae-san?" Hotaru called out.
Kaname turned angrily back to Hotaru. "Now see here," he said irritably as his wife came into the living room, "I don't know what your little game is, but…"
"Kaname, calm down," Masae said as she removed her apron and came up to her husband and Hotaru, "Can't you see your scaring the poor girl?" Looking at Hotaru, she smiled, "Forgive my husband, he can be an ogre at times. Now what school charity are you collecting for?"
"I'm not," Hotaru responded, noting the similar eyes and nose, "My name's Hotaru Tomoe, and I'm your granddaughter."
Masae's jaw dropped, "My… my what?"
"She was just leaving dear. Pay no mind to…"
"Kaname," Masae admonished, pushing past her husband as she grabbed hold of Hotaru's arm and pulled her into the house. "You said your name's Hotaru?"
"You're a little… old to be Haruka-chan's daughter, aren't you?"
"Oh, I see. Here," she said, leading the young teen to a chair, "Sit down for a bit. Would you care for some lemonade?"
"Yes, please," Hotaru said, feeling a bit more at ease around Mrs. Tenoh than her husband, "I'd like that."
"Be right back then." Masae said as she scurried back off into the kitchen, leaving Hotaru alone once more with Haruka's father. Neither spoke, but Hotaru could feel herself shrinking under Kaname's scathing look.
Masae returned (not soon enough for Hotaru) and handed the girl a tall glass of lemonade. "You say your Haruka's adopted daughter?"
"And who's your father?" Kaname asked, "Or is there one?"
Masae give him a disapproving look and Hotaru to look down. Did her papa really grow up in a family like this?
"Actually," she answered, avoiding eye contact with either of the Tenoh's in front of her, "I… I tend to… to think of your daughter as my papa." Taking a sip of lemonade, she looked back up at the two adults. "Your daughter is… she's… you would be proud of her, she's…"
"Proud?" Kaname growled, pushing his wife aside as he stared down the young girl in his house, "Proud?!"
"Kaname," his wife interjected, "Don't…"
"I gave her everything," Kaname growled, years of pent-up and suppressed anger now finding a displaced target in the young schoolgirl before him. "Do you hear? Everything! I worked overtime, multiple shifts mind you, to see her through private school and private piano lessons. I bought her the prettiest dresses to go to Sunday school in, and I went to all her track meets. And what does she do? She fights us, every damn time we try to get her to wear her dresses I worked so hard to buy her. They weren't good enough I suppose. She then breaks our hearts, getting caught behind the school ground doing filthy things to another girl…"
"Kaname!" Masae cried.
"No! Let her hear about her 'papa.' She should know how Haruka disgraced us, both of us, and then has the nerve to ask us to accept her. Accept her? She's dead to us now. I personally added her name to the Butsudan altar of the family dead, do you understand?"
Hotaru shrank down further in her chair, unable to meet Kaname's gaze. "I… I'm sorry… I…" her voice began to choke up as she stared down at her lemonade. "I thought that, with my Haruka-papa's twenty-first birthday today, that…"
"That what?" Kaname yelled, "What, that all of a sudden we would rush to her, forgive her for disgracing us and ask her back? Welcome to real-life," he said acerbically as his wife began to weep. "No one asked you to come into our lives, to remind my wife and I of painful memories of a daughter who turned out to be a pervert. And this isn't some imaginary TV show where everything ends on a happy note. She's made her choice, and she can damn well live with it!" His tirade over, he stormed out of the room, leaving his wife and Hotaru in a stunned silence.
After an uncomfortably long period of time, Hotaru put the glass of lemonade down and stood up. Taking out a small slip of paper, she set it on the coffee table. "This is your daughter's address," she said in a low tone of voice, "You're both welcome to the birthday party tonight." She turned around and silently left the house as Haruka's mother stared at the address.
"Has she left yet?" Kaname yelled out from the other room.
"Y… yes," Masae called back, wiping her tears away as she pocketed the slip of paper. "By the way, I… I forgot to tell you. I'm going out to Akio's tonight to play bridge…"
"Happy birthday, Ruka-kun!"
"Arigato, Usagi-chan," Haruka said as she hugged her princess. Shaking Mamoru's hand, she took their present and put it with the others littering the loveseat in the living room. "The others are all out in the backyard already. Help yourself to the sweets and…"
"Ooh, sweets," Usagi cooed as she grabbed Mamoru's arm and yanked him out of the room towards the back door.
Haruka just shook her head and chuckled. Her princess would never change. She was about to follow when the door opened and Hotaru came in. "Firefly, your late," she admonished. "Usagi and the rest of your 'aunts' are already here. If you were going to be late, you should've called or…" her voice died off as she saw a tear slowly trickle down Hotaru's cheek. "Firefly?"
The girl looked up at her papa and opened her mouth, but no words came out. After a few seconds, her lower lip began to tremble and she ran to Haruka, burying her head in the blonde's strong shoulder as she sobbed.
"Hotaru-chan," Haruka said, wrapping her arms protectively around her daughter as she held her close, "Hon, what's wrong?"
"Ruka-kun?" Michiru called, the aqua haired young woman coming in from the back, "Is Hotaru here yet? Usagi-chan was asking about her, and…" she stopped cold when she saw her daughter crying on her love's white blouse. "Taru-chan, what's wrong sweetheart?"
Hotaru pulled her head away from her papa's shoulder and, between sobs, whimpers and sniffling Haruka and Michiru began to piece together a fairly accurate picture of what had occurred. "I… I just wanted to give you something special for your birthday, papa."
"Oh, firefly," Haruka whispered, her voice softer than normal as she ran her fingers through her daughter's hair, "Do you remember, after Sailor Moon defeated Galaxia, when we were all leaned up against my car, and we watched the shooting stars as the Princess Kakiou and the Sailor Starlights left?"
"(sniff) Y… Yeah…"
"You and your Setsuna-mama each made wishes upon the shooting stars, but your Michiru-mama and I didn't. Do you know why?"
"You… you said, you already had everything you could want," she mumbled. "But… but I thought if… if your family…"
"You're my family, firefly," Haruka said, smiling warmly at Hotaru. "You and your Michiru and Setsuna-mamas, to say nothing of the quirkiest extended family one could imagine out in the backyard right now," she said, getting Hotaru to chuckle in spite of herself. "Besides, would you really want someone like that in our family?"
"I suppose not, I… Oh," she said, pointing at the tear stains she'd left on her papa's blouse, "I ruined your shirt.
"Here," Michiru said as she took Hotaru's hand, "While your papa changes her shirt, let's get you cleaned up a little bit." As Haruka went upstairs to change, Michiru led Hotaru over to a box of tissues. "Blow your nose hon, and try to calm down. Soon you'll be overheating, then you'll be coughing, then you'll be having an asthma attact if you're not careful."
"I don't get it," Hotaru pouted after she blew her nose and sat down on the easy chair, "Why would he act like that? Your father is accepting of you and papa."
Michiru chuckled sweetly. "That's because he's gay too."
Hotaru looked taken aback. "Really?"
"Haven't you ever wondered why your Grandpa Kaioh always travels with 'Uncle' Jiro?"
Just then, the doorbell rang. Michiru looked surprised. "Everyone's here for your papa's party already. I wonder who that could be?"
"I'll be alright," Hotaru said as she held onto the tissue box. "You can answer the door mama."
Michiru kissed Hotaru lightly on the forehead and went to the door. "Hello," she said as she opened it.
"Hello," a familiar voice nervously answered, "I, um…"
"Mrs. Tenoh?" Hotaru asked as she came up beside her Michiru-mama, not believing her eyes.
Masae nodded slightly to the teen, "Hello, Hotaru-san. Is… Is my daughter home?"
"Firefly," Haruka called out as she headed down the stairs, "If you're feeling better, we can go out back to the party now and…" she stopped dead as she saw her mother standing in the doorway. Both women stared at one another, noting how much had changed as well as old familiarities. "Hello."
"Hello," Masae answered as Michiru discreetly pulled Hotaru back a few feet. "If… If your father found out I was here, he'd have a fit."
"I'm sure he would," Haruka answered as she slowly left the stares and came closer. "Mom, why are you here?"
"Your daughter Hotaru stopped by today."
"Yes, so I learned."
"Well, I… It's been seven years, Haruka-chan…"
"Has it really?" Haruka asked, crossing her arms as she came over to her mom. "I'm not going to apologize."
"I know. You're as stubborn and pig-headed as your father."
Haruka smirked at that. "Yeah, I suppose so." More seriously, she motioned with her head toward Hotaru, the young girl's eyes still red from crying. "Dad's people skills are as fine-tuned as ever."
Masae put her hand to her forehead, "I know, I'm sorry about that."
A few seconds silence crept in, during which the two studied one another more closely. "I'm doing well," Haruka finally said.
Masae managed a smile. "I'm glad."
After another silence, Haruka allowed a sigh. "So, where do we go from here?"
"I knew sooner or later it would come to that," Masae said, getting a slight grin out of her daughter. "I'm not sure, Haruka-chan. I will admit to not fully understanding how or why you are the way you are, but…"
"But I don't want to lose another seven years either. It… it's not going to be easy, getting used to or accepting you like this, but… I'm willing to try, if you'll be patient with me."
Haruka's face brightened as she smiled at her mother. "Mom, that's all I ever asked."
With that, mother and daughter hugged. "I've missed you," Masae whispered.
"You too mom, you too," Haruka answered, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand. "Well," the sandy blonde said as she composed herself, "Now that you're here, you might as well join the party. You've already met my daughter Hotaru, but I want you to meet someone else special in my life. Mom, this is Michiru Kaioh. If you really want me back in your life, she's part of the package. Michiru, this is my mother."
Masae looked back and forth between her daughter and the violinist before taking a few timid steps toward her. "You and my daughter, I take it you're…" she said as she crossed her fingers.
"Hai," Michiru nodded, "We are."
"I see…" she said, suddenly looking more critically at the wavy haired young artist in front of her. "So, what do you do for a living?"
Michiru was a bit surprised by the question. "I'm a musician and artist," she answered.
Masae turned from Michiru to look back at her daughter. "That's a living?" she asked suspiciously, "I thought most artists were starving."
"You're not having to support her, are you?"
"Actually, my family's fairly well off," Michiru interrupted, trying hard not to let her annoyance show. "And I'm quite successful."
"Ah," Masae said, seemingly satisfied with the answer.
"Papa," Hotaru whispered as she came over to Haruka, "When I start dating, you're not going to grill any future dates of mine this bad, are you?"
"Worse," her papa whispered back before turning back to her mother. "Tell you what mom, why don't the three of us go out into the back yard where the party is, and I'll introduce you to everyone."
"Oh, alright. So, tell me," Masae said, turning back to Michiru as Haruka led the way, "Your friends, are they, you know, funny like you and my daughter too?"
As Michiru rolled her eyes, Hotaru couldn't help but chuckle as she followed them out the back door to her papa's party. Things definitely didn't go according to plan, but at least in the end the whole affair ended on a note of cautious optimism. And really, who could ask for more than that?