Disclaimer: I'm a poor twenty year old with two jobs. How on earth do you expect me to buy off the rights to Sailor Moon with my meager paycheck?
Author's Note: So I wanted this to be longer, given just how freaking LONG it's been since I've updated, well, anything... but then I got to the current ending and just... stared. For like, days straight. Not at all kidding. So even though it's incredibly anti-climactic and lame and whatnot, it's the best I've been able to do. Sigh. I apologize for the filler-y-ness of this chapter. I promise good stuff is coming up, VERY soon, but... I'm trying to figure out how it all unravels. This story is quite the epic and requires more brainpower than I can muster at this immediate point in time O.O So... happy Thanksgiving?
This year I am grateful for my reviewers! Hee. StarryNight101, stormy-eyed serenity, Bakagirl123, Bin82501, Fedski, Serandi82, CharmedSerenity3, saya, misako princess, Fiery Dancer, love, Luthien Morgon, Ashlyn Darke, Katie, HisFangsOfLove95, anonymous, Sam, LBricker88, Butta Usagi, Fire Dolphin, Ash, and your candy perfume girl. I LOVE YOU ALL MORE THAN WORDS CAN ADEQUATELY EXPRESS. SO I'LL JUST USE CAPS LOCK :D
Rei sank weak-kneed onto her bed, staring at the small child nestled in her best friend's arms with something akin to disbelief on her features.
"So you just found her in the bushes? Exactly like that?"
Usagi nodded for what seemed the umpteenth time. "Luna thinks maybe Chibi-Usa had some sort of accident while attempting to cross the Corridor to visit us. I'm not so sure- she's got a gash on her face, see here?" The blonde seventeen-year-old shifted her future daughter so Rei could get a better look at the deep cut lanced across Chibi-Usa's chubby cheek. "I wonder if maybe Neo-Queen Serenity sent Chibi-Usa to the past to keep her safe. Maybe there's been another attack..."
"Where's Sailor Pluto when you need her?" Rei sighed. She eyed Usagi up and down. "You look exhausted. Why don't you let Chibi-Usa-chan sleep in my bed for a bit? I can prepare the Sacred Fire while you wait for Luna to get back. And maybe once the Senshi arrive, I'll have been able to tease an answer from the flames."
"Thanks, Rei-chan," Usagi said gratefully, easing her slumbering charge underneath the covers. Rei nodded and padded out the door, leaving Usagi alone with Chibi-Usa.
The open window let in cool gusts of fresh night air. Usagi perched herself beside Chibi-Usa, tucking her in all snuggly so the young toddler didn't catch cold. Running soft fingers across Chibi-Usa's delicate round face, it struck Usagi that the little girl was still in dire need of a bath, and perhaps a bandage, though luckily procuring one was not of the essence. She'd had enough personal experience to know peroxide didn't always go over well with children, and that laceration was almost begging to be cleaned. Usagi nibbled her lower lip. This was one of those times when she wished she was smarter. When she wondered, how am I ever going to be a good mother to Chibi-Usa if I don't even have basic training in medicine? Pushing her insecurities aside, Usagi remembered the Senshi had been called and were on their way. Ami could help. For now, it was probably best that Chibi-Usa rested. There was no telling what the child had just endured, and Usagi of all people knew there was no better mental escape than in dreamland.
Except, not all dreams were pleasant. Chibi-Usa's eyelids began to spasm frantically, as if she were watching a movie on fast-forward. Usagi frowned as the little one became restless under her cocoon.
"Hey... hey... it's okay. Shh. Keep sleeping, you're okay," the seventeen-year-old whispered, but Chibi-Usa let out a pitiful whine instead. There was a brief second of panic, where Usagi deliberated over what course of action to take next, when a strange feeling of maternal instinct unexpectedly seized hold. Almost without thought, Usagi reached out and laid a comforting hand on Chibi-Usa's chest, beginning to murmur the first few verses of an old lullaby her own mother used to sing. Nightmares had been a constant and unwelcome visitor during Tsukino Usagi's puerile years, and it had only been the sound of Ikuko's warm, trilling tones that calmed away these inner terrors. Maybe, just maybe, it was the same for Neo-Queen Serenity and Small Lady.
"I see the moon,
The moon sees me,
The old oak tree.
Please let the light
Shine down on me,
Shine down on the one
That I love..."
Here, Ikuko had always leant down and kissed Usagi on the nose, giggling, "That's you!". But Usagi was more than a tad embarassed at the thought of doing so presently. It wasn't that she didn't love Chibi-Usa. She did, very much. But saying so, aloud, had never come easily. Their relationship had always been complicated; sisterly. But this toddler, who now slipped back into unconsciousness with her tiny chest rising and falling beneath Usagi's hand, was a far cry from the annoying tagalong the blonde once played house with. Thrust into a position where Usagi actually felt like Chibi-Usa's mother and not just a protective older cousin of convenience... well. Suffice to say, it was a very new, mostly frightening transition. What if she failed?
"You won't," a voice assured gently.
Usagi started, azure eyes seeking out the window. Her heart returned to its usual leisurely pace when she realized it was just Luna and Artemis. Then she blushed, a vibrant shade of crimson. "Did I say that out loud? ...Er, how long have you two been standing there?"
"Long enough to discover your singing has improved. Drastically," Artemis praised, a sincere smile spreading his whiskered cheeks apart. "I'm impressed, Usagi-chan."
Aforementioned Odango Atama wasn't sure she could get any redder. "Yeah. Um. I don't like to show it off." She hastened to change subjects. "That didn't take very long. Luna, I thought you said finding Artemis would take the better part of an hour!"
Artemis cocked a brow his feline companion's direction, and Luna had the grace to look sheepish. "Well. Usually he has a tendency to wander aimlessly. Usually."
The white cat rolled his eyes. "Isn't that the pot calling the kettle black?" One ear twitched. "Oh, Minako-chan and Mako-chan are here. And if I'm not mistaken, Ami-chan's not far behind."
"I've always been jealous of his ability to do that," Luna muttered to Usagi, and the teen giggled.
"I'm going to go join them. Coming, Usagi-chan?" Artemis queried. The blonde glanced over at Luna, who shooed her on.
"Don't worry. I'll stay right here," the ebony-hued guardian assuaged, pouncing up onto the mass of blankets and curling up near Chibi-Usa's ear. The room was filled with her contended purrs, and Usagi had to grin. No matter the reason, no matter her size, it was nice to have Chibi-Usa in their midst once more.
Usagi was embraced into her friends' presence by a barrage of questions. How was Chibi-Usa, where did they find her, did Usagi think this happened for nefarious purposes, was the future under attack, did Chibi-Usa say anything, could they see her, what if she was followed, what was their next step...
Usagi tried to face the firing squad, but it ended up too much. She raised a palm for silence, and instantly they fell mute for their leader.
"Guys. I understand how overwhelming this is- believe me. I know. But the truth is, we're all in the dark here, and until we stumble across something- some clue- that points us in the right direction..." The blonde shook her head helplessly. "I'm sorry. But apart from finding Chibi-Usa de-aged in the park, there's nothing to go on. Anyways, she's sleeping now. I think she needs it. Ami-chan, can I talk to you?"
Makoto exchanged a "Come on, let's go" look with Minako. "Take your time. Usagi-chan, we'll be with Rei-chan. Whenever you're ready, join us, okay?"
"Hopefully after Rei-chan fire reads, we'll get at least a few of our questions answered," Minako agreed, and she left with the brawny brunette. Usagi turned to Ami, her facade of strength and authority crumbling.
"Ami-chan, I'm really worried."
"I know," Ami said sympathetically, patting her friend on the shoulder. "At least Chibi-Usa-chan's safe, yes?"
"Yeah. I suppose that's the silver lining in all this confusion, right?" Usagi mused wryly. "Ami-chan, I was wondering if you could take a peek at Chibi-Usa. It's as if something sharp took a chunk out of her cheek. Considering I barely passed first aid..."
"Ah. You want an experienced eye checking it over. I see," Ami nodded kindly, very much the future doctor. She laughed when Usagi forced a quick hug on her.
"You're the best!"
To Be Continued...
Author's Note: I got the idea for the lullaby from an episode of Fringe (one of my new favorite shows!), where the alternate universe version of Olivia Dunham (aka "Fauxlivia" or "Altlivia"... yeah, don't ask, it's too complicated to explain here XD) sings to her son Henry. I thought the lyrics fit perfectly with Usagi and Chibi-Usa. Apparently it is a slight variation on an old 50s song's chorus.
Reviews are so appreciated.