Reality Check

This story is yet another little ficlet I wrote when I should have been working

on my Master's Project (Which I completed in 2001!). It

takes place after the events of "Mother's Day", which in its self takes place

after "Ghost in the Machine".

And if you want to start at the very beginning, read "Little Ryoko" first.

Mini Chapter One

Deep purple sparks blossomed into sprays of gold and orange against the night

sky, wreathing trails of

smoke in their wake. As soon as the colors faded away, a sharp pop heralded

another display this time in

reds and greens.

"Yay!" Sasami giggled, waving an ignited sparkler around, creating lingering

arcs of light in wide circles.

Ryo-Ohki jumped at the sparks and batted at them with her paws, crying out her

delight in soft meows.

It was mid-summer now, and to escape the heat most of the Masaki household was

gathered on the porch,

enjoying ice cold lemonade and Yosho's pyrotechnic display. Only missing was

Ayeka who had taken to

seclusion as she came to terms with Tenchi and Ryoko's relationship. Even Washu

had been coaxed out of

her lab to participate, her hair glowing and changing hue under the colorful


Washu smiled at Sasami's antics and took a long drink of tea. She shifted,

trying to get more comfortable.

She permanently wore her adult form now, as it seemed more appropriate. She was

a mother after all.

However, having more mass made sitting on the hard wooden porch less comfortable

than it had been when

she was lighter. Washu smirked as Sasami barely avoided singeing Mihoshi with

the sparkler. Thank every

deity that little Ryoko had never been near fireworks during her childhood.

Disaster would be an

understatement. Her developing powers had been enough on their own, thank you.

Speaking of which,

where was Ryoko anyway? She had been sitting by her only moments ago.

Washu looked around and noticed Tenchi was missing as well. Those two. they

were worse than

honeymooners. A quick check of her mental link with her daughter allowed her to

pinpoint Ryoko's

current location. Washu got to her feet and walked over to Yosho as he set up

the next rocket. Smiling at

him, she changed its angle just before he lit the fuse.

Yosho met her eyes with a mischievous grin. He knew exactly what she was up to

and agreed completely.

It was time for two certain youngsters to be social. He touched the glowing end

of the puck to the fuse and

stood by Washu to watch the show.

The rocket whizzed towards the porch, eliciting a shocked scream from the

spectators which turned into a

sigh of relief as the slope of its trajectory carried the rocket up to the roof,

where it exploded in a shower of

sea foam green sparks.

"Hey!" squawked an unhappy Ryoko from the other, hidden, slope of the roof.

The people on the porch erupted into laughter.

"Ha. Ha. Laugh it up," complained a charred Ryoko as she and Tenchi appeared,

hand in hand, in front of

Washu and Yosho.

Washu reached over and rubbed a bit of soot off of Ryoko's cheek. "Ready to

join us now?"

"You could have just asked us, you know, like normal people," Ryoko stated in

mild annoyance as she

brushed more soot off of her teal and pink dress.

" `Normal' ? " Washu snorted.

"Yes, Tenchi could have been hurt," Ryoko said tightly, some of her old, bitter

feelings towards her mother

boiling to the surface of her mind. "You can't go around blowing things up

around him."

Washu recoiled a little, sensing a tiny flavor of Ryoko's feelings through the

link. "I'm sorry," she

apologized hastily, hurt that Ryoko was reacting this way.

Yosho crossed his arms. "Consider it part of his training. Someday someone may

surprise him with

something more dangerous than stones," he intoned, referring to his habit of

pelting Tenchi with small

rocks to make him stay aware of his surroundings.

Ryoko shrugged as if it didn't matter, but her eyes still flashed. She might be

getting along with people

better these days, but she still could not tolerate anyone endangering her


Seeing this, Tenchi gently took her hand. "Let's just watch the fireworks,

Okay? It's fun."

Her expression softening, Ryoko nodded. She allowed Tenchi to lead her to the

porch where they settled

with Ryoko leaning against Tenchi's chest.

Washu watched this interchange and wondered how Tenchi did it. That boy

certainly had more going for

him than the ability to conjure the lighthawk wings.

Yosho laid a hand on Washu's shoulder and looked down on her. "Love changes

everything, doesn't it?"

he observed wisely.

Washu nodded, her mouth twisting into an annoyed slash. Love had helped Ryoko

begin to overcome her

personal demons, but it was also consuming her. Washu never would have put

Tenchi in danger, she had

calculated the rocket's trajectory perfectly. Ryoko should have known that.

Besides what else could she

have done to get her daughter's attention? Ryoko was spending so much time with

Tenchi, Washu hardly

saw her anymore. Washu crossed her arms and scowled. Who could blame her for a

little prank?

In short, she was jealous.

Seeing Washu's downswing in mood, Yosho gathered up handfuls of firecrackers,

the kind that served only

to make loud noise, and passed them around. Soon the yard was full of laughter

and mini explosions as

everyone set them off.

Trying to shake off her mood, Washu made some quick alterations to her

firecrackers and joined in the fun.

Sasami giggled and lit the fuse of her firecracker. Before she could throw it

down she noticed that Washu's

firecrackers had somehow been taught to sing a naughty tune right before they

went off. "Wow!" she

giggled, forgetting what she was holding.

"Sasami!" Ryoko shouted batting the cracker out of her hand just before it


The blast caught Ryoko's hand instead, and she screeched as the small, but

focused explosion burned her


Sasami stumbled backwards in shock, tears welling in her eyes as she feared for

Ryoko's safety.

Ryoko hissed and shook her hand in the air, trying to get the sting out. "Oh,


"I'm sorry Ryoko! You could have lost your hand!" Sasami wailed throwing her

arms around Ryoko's

waist. Her face was hidden, but the quivers in her blue pony-tails revealed her


"Hey there Kiddo, I'm okay. I'll take more than a little fire cracker to hurt

me!" Ryoko said patting

Sasami's head. She narrowed her eyes and looked at Washu. Mom, I can't

believe you.

Sasami pulled back and looked intently into Ryoko's yellow eyes. "Really?"

What did I do? Washu snapped waspishly across their link.

Ryoko ignored Washu for the moment and smiled down at Sasami. "See?" she said,

showing Sasami her

intact hands. "Be careful okay?"

"Okay!" Sasami said clearly, her earlier vibrancy returning. "I promise!" She

selected a safer sparkler and

was soon back to dashing about and chasing Ryo-Ohki.

Ryoko returned her gaze to Washu. Don't goof off when the little one is

playing with explosives.

Washu crossed her arms, hating to be chastised by her own daughter, and the fact

that Ryoko was right

made even harder to bear. She frowned, but nodded her agreement.

Ryoko relaxed. "Thanks. I don't want her to get hurt."

Washu's annoyance was mediated by feelings of pride. Ryoko had a maternal

capacity to her that few

would ever guess. The depth of care and protection Ryoko unconsciously offered

Sasami was

heartwarming. And besides, Ryoko had just called her `Mom' during a fit of pique

instead of reverting to

`Washu'. It was hard to stay annoyed at someone she loved so dearly. Maybe

they should spend more

one-on-one time together.

Washu slid an arm around Ryoko's shoulders. "What do you say to a drink?"

Ryoko arched an eyebrow. "There's some sake here on the porch."

"I was thinking more of a good glass of red wine and fresh oysters on the half


"Now?" Ryoko asked a little surprised.

"Sure, why not? I think these firecrackers make you too nervous anyway," Washu

said knowingly.

Ryoko winced, sheepishly. "You're right. They remind me too much of. the


"Let's go then." Washu nudged Ryoko with her hip and they started to amble off

to the house.

Ryoko looked back over her shoulder and made eye contact with Tenchi. He nodded

with a smile and

made shooing motions with his hands, letting her know he didn't mind her leaving

him on such short


Washu caught the exchange and snickered darkly. "Getting permission from

Tenchi?" she teased, the edge

to her voice surprising even her.

"No," Ryoko said with a tone of annoyance. "I was just making sure he didn't


"Oh, there's the difference," Washu said dryly.

Mini Chapter Two

The two women sat at a quiet table in a private lounge high atop a Science

Academy building. The

Penthouse's glass ceiling revealed a clear sky and the streaking lights of a

meteor shower. The inside was

decorated in muted tones of blue and green. Overstuffed chairs pushed right up

to the glass tables and

candlelight made it a place of peace and relaxation. Only the top professors and

their guests had access

here. It had been, of old, a regular hang out for Ryoko and Washu.

Ryoko dreamily watched the falling stars as she sipped from her wineglass. "I

always loved coming here.

I remember now."

Washu smiled quietly and nodded. "You did. If you hadn't been so in love with

rocks, I might have

thought you would be an astronomer."

Ryoko tilted her head. "Hmmm. I think if my life had been more straightforward I

might have been both,"

she said wistfully.

Washu's lips angled downward as she picked up on her daughter's mood. "It's not

too late for that. You

know I want you to go back to school," she said her earnestness making her crab-

leg-like bangs quiver a


"So remind me, how do they position this building in order to catch all of the

really neat atmospheric

effects?" Ryoko asked idly, clearly avoiding the subject at hand.

Washu selected an oyster from the silver serving plate. "You know as well as I

do that they can control the

cloud cover, and that there are always interesting atmospheric effects going on

around here. It's the

Astronomy Department's planet, after all."

"Oh, right." Ryoko shrugged and took an oyster as well. She placed the shell to

her lips, tilted it back, and

swallowed the slick muscle in one gulp, smacking her lips as it slid down her

throat. "Hey, I know! Let's

do some oyster shots!"

Washu refilled their glasses with wine and shook her head. A drunken Ryoko would

be even harder to talk

to. "And to think the last time I brought you here you were only interested in

the banana split sundaes."

Ryoko's eye's sparkled. "That sounds really good!" She motioned to a waiter.

Washu turned pale green. "Ice cream and oysters? Ugh, you can't be serious."

"Ice cream, oysters, and Merlot!" Ryoko said with a wink. She turned to the

waiter. "One banana split

sundae please!" She slid an eye over to her grossed-out mother. "With two


Washu folded her hands and watched Ryoko inhale the ice cream. For safety's

sake she had asked the

waiter to remove the remaining oysters and wine. A steaming cup of coffee sat

untouched by her right

elbow. She was busy watching her present daughter and an overlay from the past

dance before her eyes.

.. A teenaged Ryoko sat uncomfortably in her chair, hers eyes puffy and red from

recent tears, despite her

attempts to act like nothing was wrong. Her fork toyed listlessly with her

dinner, and she was ignoring the

spectacular comet tracing across the sky above their heads. Washu looked across

the table at her daughter

with true concern.

"Ryoko, are you okay?"

Ryoko nodded, pushing a vegetable around her plate.

"Sweetie, something happened in the cave didn't it?"

Ryoko looked up in surprise. She brushed the locks of hair that usually hung

before her ears behind them.

"Who told you?" she asked quietly.

"Your body did. You usually are happy after we explore the caves. You are not

happy now. So, as the

greatest scientific genius."

".in the universe, you can only make a logical guess." Ryoko finished with a

tired smile. "Mom. You

need a new line."

Washu smiled at her daughter's attempt to change the topic. "Won't you tell me

what happened, my little


Ryoko hunched her shoulders and looked down at the table. "I got lost. I

wasn't paying attention. I ended

up alone in the `Fat Man's Misery' part of the cave."

Washu nodded. She hated that part of the cave herself. It was very deep within

the caverns, a tight, wavy

fissure cut into the rock by an ancient trickle of water. There were body

measurement rules about who

could and could not safely fit through that section of the trail. Even for

people as lithe as she and Ryoko it

was uncomfortably narrow. "But you weren't gone very long. I hardly noticed

you had left us."

"I wanted to check out a calcite formation, to see if it had changed since we

had last been by it." Ryoko

paused and gulped.

Washu waited patiently. Ryoko was clearly working herself up to tell the whole


"So I phased through the rock, trying to take a short cut," Ryoko said softly,

looking up at Washu expecting

a reprimand. She had just started to learn about that ability and wasn't

supposed to do it unsupervised.

Washu's lips tightened, but she chose her words carefully. Any scolding now

would just silence Ryoko.

"Well, since you sneak and do it at home, I can see why you would do it at the

cave also," she said calmly

trying to keep the irritation out of her voice.

Ryoko smiled weakly. It figured that Washu knew about that. "Anyway. I got lost

in the rock. It - it went

on and on forever. I couldn't see, and I couldn't breathe," Ryoko's voice

tremored with the remembered

fear. "It took me a little while to remember that I didn't need to breathe if I

didn't want to. I finally figured

out which way to go and found the trail again. I was just behind you guys."

Washu swallowed thickly. Ryoko would have died if she had been dependent on

oxygen. Her knuckles

whitened as she gripped the edge of the table. Thank goodness Ryoko had been

designed otherwise.

Washu motioned to the waiter. She murmured something to him and looked at Ryoko


"So you can see why I might make some simple requests of you?" she asked grimly.

Ryoko let out a puff of air and nodded, sensing what was coming next.

"It's always pushing the limits with you, Ryoko. I do not make rules to

inconvenience you. I do it to keep

you safe." Washu stretched out her fingers and her holographic laptop appeared

under them. She began to

type. "Since you cannot follow the rules, I have inhibited your teleportation

ability. I will only re-engage

it when we are training together. Understood?"

"Yes, mother," Ryoko said meekly.

"And you are grounded for two weeks. That means no class trip to Jurai this


Ryoko groaned, but wisely stayed silent.

Washu arched a brow. "I don't want to hear it. You brought this on yourself."

The waiter unobtrusively set a banana split between he two of them and deftly

handed each a spoon.

Washu took the first bite. "I'm glad you are okay my little Ryoko," Washu said

around a mouthful of hot

fudge. She was never one to linger over an infraction once punishment had been

dealt. This most

important thing was Ryoko's well being.

Ryoko relaxed and took up her own spoon. There were few ills that ice cream

couldn't cure..

Letting the memory of the past fade away, Washu watched her grown daughter

eating the ice cream with a

child-like gusto. She smiled, happy Ryoko had somehow made it to adulthood in

one piece despite her

many difficulties. She retrieved the spare spoon and licked off the strawberry

syrup coating its bowl.

Maybe her jealousy wasn't fair. Of course it wasn't.

Washu regarded her spoon thoughtfully. She just wanted Ryoko to realize her

full potential. She had so

many dreams for her. And as a mom, she had a duty to help Ryoko succeed.

As she carefully scooped up some ice cram she asked a casual question. "So are

you going to ignore my

statement about school?"

Ryoko swallowed and waved her spoon around. "School. Can you see me in a

school? I sure as hell


"Why not? You are more than smart enough for the Academy. Waaaay more," Washu

said, deftly beating

Ryoko to the last maraschino cherry.

"Yeah, well, I may have the brains, but I've forgotten so much that I used to

know," Ryoko turned her eyes

back to the shooting stars, longing to lose herself amongst their streaking

light. "I wouldn't know where to

start in school."

"You are a free woman now. You can do what ever you want with your life," Washu

stated firmly,

knowing Ryoko was really referring to how much her life had been interrupted and

changed by Kagato.

"But what am I good for now? Really?" Ryoko sighed. "I don't have a lot of

ambitions anymore. I just

want to be happy."

Washu nodded. "What makes you happy?"

A dreamy smile drifted across Ryoko's lips. "Tenchi."

Washu chuckled uncomfortably. "I knew that. But what else?"

Ryoko frowned. "I don't need anything else."

Washu frowned back. "So you are just going to be Tenchi's wife? That's it?"

she asked incredulously.

"Hold your horses. Who said anything about getting married? And if we did,

what's wrong with being

Tenchi's wife?" Ryoko growled.

Washu placed her palms flat against the table and leaned forward. "I'll tell

you what's wrong with it!"

Washu roared. "I gave you too much intelligence, attitude and talents for you

to throw it all away by

becoming a house wife!"

"Well I'm not you! I don't want to be "The Universe's Greatest" ANYTHING! Stop

trying to run my

life!" Ryoko roared back.

They both started at each other, their faces flushed with pique. Then, almost

at the same time, the corners

of their mouths began to twitch. Soon they were both leaning back in their

chairs laughing with abandon.

"Did - did we just have a normal `mother/daughter' argument?" Ryoko wheezed.

Washu nodded happily. "Yes we did. That has been brewing for weeks. Couldn't

you feel it coming? Oh,

but I feel better now it's over," she said holding her aching side.

"If you are wondering whether or not you were annoying the hell out of me, then

the answer would have to

be yes," Ryoko said tartly, sending the two of them back into gales of laughter.

Washu basked in the normalcy of it all. During her darkest hours, suspend in a

crystal prison, Washu had

given up hope of being with her daughter ever again. Lately they had been

learning to love each other

again. And now, they were feeling secure enough to have a little fight. This

was real. A real, human

relationship with her daughter.

Ryoko, I'm just asking you not to pin your entire identity on Tenchi. There is

so much more to you than

that, Washu whispered lovingly into Ryoko's mind.

Mom, Ryoko thought back warningly.

Washu pressed on. It's not fair to Tenchi. You can't ask him to bring all

meaning to your life, its too big

a burden for him.

. . . Ryoko was silent, but a feeling of honest consideration flavored her

side of the mental connection.

Washu reached across the table and took Ryoko's hand. I know this all new to

you. Just take your time

and never give up on yourself.

Ryoko grinned with a wryness that she felt to the tips of her toes. She had

been dependant on Kagato for

everything, even for her very life. To be independent was new. It was scary.

And the most annoying thing

was that Washu was right. Again. She squeezed Washu's hand back.

"I'll try," she said slowly, not wanting to make a commitment to any course of

action just yet.

Washu nodded and closed down her side of the link and busied herself with the

check. Ryoko was still

getting used to her freedom. Being free for such a short time was only a blink

in the scheme of Ryoko's

long torments. She needed time to adjust. But one thing was for certain, Washu

needed to provide

guidance not control. Ryoko needed to find her way on her own, even if Washu

felt certain she knew what

was best for her daughter.

Yes, being a mother was wonderful, but it was difficult too.

Update 12/19/2010: Happy 10th b-day little fic. I hope others can find you and enjoy you now!