This fic is very firmly Alternate Universe. If you're not a fan of AU or open-minded enough to give it a try I'd recommend backing out now. There is one HUGE deviation from canon and a few smaller ones. I don't alter canon without a reason, though, and that is explained, hopefully adequately. A few of those things are not canon in one continuity (i.e. anime) but are in another (PGSM).
I've used the Japanese names of characters throughout, but without any of the honorifics. Frankly I've never been able to figure out which one should be used when and it seemed like it'd be less offensive to eliminate them altogether than to use them and get them wrong. Any other errors connected to Japanese culture, society or mores are strictly the result of my own ignorance; please feel free to enlighten me and I'll make the necessary changes.
It was the sort of morning that had the power to render one speechless. The mellow sunlight shone out of a peerless blue sky, sparkling in the moisture that hung on the grass and the leaves of the trees. The previous night's rain had washed the air clean, and the rain-scented damp blended perfectly with the last of the night blooming jasmine.
It was, in short, exactly the sort of moment described as the calm before the storm.
Usagi sat bolt upright in bed, one hand pressed to her pounding heart while the other reached for the heart-shaped brooch on her nightstand, impelled by the sound of her daughter's shout. It was only when she heard her son's voice angrily responding that she let out the breath she was holding and relaxed.
"Were you and your brother this bad?" a voice asked from beneath the bedclothes.
Usagi grinned. "Worse, I think. I've considered asking my mother's advice about the two of them but figured after everything Shingo and I put her through she'd just laugh at me."
She heard a sigh and then an arm reached out and pushed the covers down, revealing Mamoru's dark, tousled hair. "Do you want to put a stop to this fight or should I?" he asked.
Usagi shook her head and lay back down. "Neither, I think. They need to learn how to deal with each other without shouting."
Mamoru gathered his wife in his arms and pressed a kiss to her temple. "If we hear anything breaking, though -"
"We'll both go then."
"So as long as nothing breaks I get to have a lazy Saturday morning in bed with my wife?" he asked, sliding a hand across her stomach.
No sooner had the words left his mouth when the sound of something shattering echoed through the house. With a groan Mamoru dropped his head onto Usagi's chest. She laughed. "You had to go and jinx it, didn't you?" she asked as she slid out from beneath him and left the warm bed. She was belting her robe around her waist when Mamoru rose as well.
Which one do you want?" he asked. "Or should we play rock paper scissors to decide?"
"I'll take Chibiusa. This time," Usagi replied, with a wink and a shake of a warning finger. She left their bedroom and made her way up the stairs to her daughter's room. The door was slightly open and she could hear movement and muttering. She pushed the door open completely.
"Chibiusa?" she called. When there was no response except for an increased volume to the muttering she raised her voice and with a touch of anger called again. "Chibiusa!"
He daughter appeared from behind the closet door, a pair of shoes in one hand and a blouse draped over her shoulder. As usual when there was a problem with her brother she looked murderous.
"Do you want to tell me why you disturbed such a peaceful morning?" her mother asked, crossing the room to sit on the bed.
"I didn't disturb anything," Chibiusa replied, the look on her face mellowing slightly.
"That's strange, because I distinctly remember your voice shouting first," Usagi said, moving over slightly as her daughter sat beside her. "What was it this time?"
"The same thing it is every time! HIM!"
Usagi bit her lower lip to hide her smile. It was like watching a film of her own teenaged years playing; this arguing between brother and sister. Chibiusa's uncanny resemblance to her mother only made it more surreal. "Could you be a bit more specific?" she asked, half afraid of the answer.
"He's been messing around with my stuff again, I can tell. He was in my closet!"
Usagi sighed. "I'm pretty sure he had a good reason for being in your closet," she said, glancing sternly at her daughter. "And he had my permission. Or have you forgotten the sweater you borrowed from him last week?" she asked and was gratified to see the blush spread up Chibiusa's throat and into her face. "Well," she began as she stood, "now that that's settled perhaps you'd like to make breakfast as an apology? Both to your brother for accusing him and to your father and I?" When her daughter nodded she left the room, knowing that nothing further needed to be said.
Mamoru was waiting at the bottom of the stairs. "I hope you had better luck," he said. "All I was able to get out of Seiya was something about a sweater and that he had your permission to go into Chibiusa's room."
Usagi leaned against the wall. "Everything's fine," she said, and told him the story of the borrowed sweater and the visit to the closet. "And we get free breakfast out of this. One we don't have to cook."
"Not a bad outcome," Mamoru said with a grin. "Maybe they should fight more often."
"I don't think it's possible for them to fight more."
"So I got stuck making breakfast, and I have to do Seiya's chores tomorrow. And all because I borrowed his sweater last week."
"I think it was more that you forgot that you borrowed the sweater and had a fit about him being in your closet."
Chibiusa glared at her friend. "Whose side are you on, Mariko?"
Mariko laughed. "I'm not on any 'side'. I just think you should be more honest with yourself." She leaned back in the booth at their favorite coffee shop. "Besides, if I had a choice I'd take a brother like Seiya any day. He's nowhere near as bad as you want to think."
Chibiusa grunted. "He's a pain and a pest. But I suppose he's not all bad."
"You never know, some day you he may really surprise you," Mariko said, glancing at her watch. "Where are they? It's not like Rio to be this late."
"How late?" a new voice asked, and the pair looked up to see their friend Rio arriving. She glanced around. "It can't be that late; I'm here before Akemi."
Chibiusa grinned. "No, you're not. Akemi isn't coming today; her mother grounded her for failing that test we had last week."
So in other words," Rio began as she checked her text messages, "there's no real point in any of us being here today." She made a disgusted sound in the back of her throat. "I may as well get a few other errands done while I'm here in town," she concluded before standing up and walking off without a backward glance.
Mariko and Chibiusa watched her go, surprise all over their faces. "What's up with her lately?" Chibiusa asked. "She's always running off, and being pretty rude about it."
Mariko shook her head. "You know how she get's about her mom at times. She doesn't like being pressured about being a miko."
Chibiusa nodded, thinking to herself that she understood the pressures that could come from a mother. It was different for her, though; none of her friends knew everything about who, and what, they were to become. Not yet. No, that was a knowledge that for now she had to carry all by herself.
After parting from Mariko outside the coffee shop Chibiusa wandered a bit aimlessly, without a destination in mind. All she knew was that she wasn't about to return home just yet, so when she found herself in front of the high-rise building where Akemi lived with her parents she decided to visit with her friend.
"You do know that I'm grounded," Akemi said when she opened the door with a smile.
"That means you can't go out, not that your friends can't come in. But if it makes you feel better I'll be gone before your mom comes home." She kicked her shoes off in the foyer and followed Akemi to the other girl's room. "Where's your father?"
"In London on business." Akemi grimaced. "If he was home I probably wouldn't have been grounded. He has a knack for getting Mom to calm down about these things. I think he's the only person who can."
Chibiusa sat on the bed and drew her legs up. "So, how bad was it this time?" she asked, grinning.
Akemi laughed. "About as bad as usual. She raved for close to an hour about how my bad grades have nothing to do with my not being smart and everything to do with my being lazy." She sank into the desk chair. "And to you I can admit she has a point; I just don't like putting in the work."
Chibiusa looked at the computer monitor on the desk behind her friend; it showed the page from an online encyclopedia about the Meiji Restoration. She nodded towards the computer. "You're putting in the work now," she said. "Isn't that the history project that my mom assigned your class?"
Akemi looked at the monitor. "Yeah, it is. But history never seems like work to me. I think that's another thing that get's my mom so riled up; I do fine in the subjects that she never had much interest in. She loved math and science and I really dislike them." She shrugged. "We're just too different, I suppose. I don't want to grow up to be like her and she views that as wrong, somehow."
Chibiusa stretched out on her stomach on the bed. "There's no telling what sort of person you'll grow up to be, though. I mean look at my mother. It's a great family joke that someone who was as bad a student as she was actually grew up to become a teacher!"
Akemi looked shocked. "But your mother is a great teacher!"
"I know she is," Chibiusa said, grinning. "But she was a lousy student, so it is kind of funny. Dad especially gets a lot of mileage out of joking about it. He loves to tell the story of how when they first met Mom was crying over a horrid grade on a test and he gave her a hard time about it. He says that they were clearly destined to fall in love and get married after such an auspicious beginning."
Akemi giggled. "Your father has a strange idea about destiny."
Chibiusa sobered and the grin slipped from her face. "You'd be surprised," she commented under her breath.
"What?" Akemi asked
"Nothing," Chibiusa replied, hastily replacing her smile. "Nothing important."
"And that's another thing," Akemi said, standing up and pacing the room. "Mom's always telling me that I have to work harder because I'm meant for something great. Destined for it, she tells me. As if I need to be 'great'," she said with a snort. "I just want to be a normal, everyday sort of girl."
"And she never gives you any hints about what this great destiny is supposed to be?" Chibiusa asked, trying to sound casual.
"Never a hint," Akemi confirmed. "I don't know if she thinks the mystery of the whole thing is supposed to get me interested or not, but I can tell her it isn't working."
"Don't you believe in destiny?" Chibiusa asked.
"Maybe. Sometimes. I don't really know; I haven't thought about it." Akemi laughed. "Who does think about stuff like that when they're sixteen?"
Chibiusa was saved from responding by the sound of the email alert on Akemi's computer. She opened the email and gave a delighted gasp. "It's from Mizuki!" she exclaimed. "She sent it to you as well, but you may as well hear it now." She was quiet for a brief moment while she read. "She's coming home! And she thinks her mom may be serious this time about retiring! Listen," she said and began to read out loud.
This has been, in a lot of ways, the worst tour ever. I know that Mom has always pushed herself really hard, but now it just seems to take so much longer for her to bounce back. As I told you she had to spend two days in the hospital while we were in Germany due to exhaustion and then that cancelled concert in Prague caused a lot of embarrassment. I think that she's as much fed up with the whole thing as she is tired. She said the other night that she had once promised herself that when music became too much of a job she'd quit and that's how she feels right now. So this time we might be coming home for good!
Akemi spun around on her desk chair to meet Chibiusa's beaming smile. "Isn't this great? Oh, I hope her mom is serious this time; it'll be so fantastic to have Mizuki home to stay!"
Chibiusa definitely agreed; it would be great for all of them to have Mizuki home. Then her mind started racing in another direction; what if Mizuki coming home triggered everything else? She'd have her friends with her all the time then, and could stop fighting battles by herself. She jumped off the bed.
"I've got to go! I just remembered something I promised I'd do for Mom while I was out today!" She ran out of Akemi's bedroom with a cheery wave. "I'll text you!" she called out as she pulled on her shoes and left the apartment.
Once outside she sprinted to the nearest bus stop, arriving just in time to catch the bus that would take her home. If I was looking for good omens, she told herself as she collapsed into a seat, this would definitely qualify. She got off of the bus a block from home and ran the rest of the way, bursting through the front door with a shout of "MOM!".
Usagi came out of the kitchen, the spoon in her hand dripping sauce on the tile floor of the hallway. "What?" she asked, looking surprised.
Chibiusa ran to her mother's side, grabbed the spoon from her and plopped it back into the saucepan. She remembered to turn off the heat before pulling Usagi to sit down at the table with her. "Mom, it's the absolute best news, but you'll never guess!" she said, her joy and happiness visible to anyone who looked at her face.
"Mizuki's coming home."
Chibiusa's face fell. "How did you guess?"
"I didn't," Usagi replied, smiling. "I got an email from her mother today. How did you find out?"
"I was with Akemi when she got a message from Mizuki. She told me what it said, since I'd find out as soon as I read my own email."
"What were you doing with Akemi? She's grounded," Usagi said, looking severe. "Grounded, and not supposed to be receiving visitors."
Chibiusa blushed. "I know, I know," she said. "But can we save any discussion of punishing me for another time? This is more important."
Usagi looked slightly chagrinned. "Chibiusa, I don't want you to get your hopes up. I know you want your friends to wake up to who and what they truly are, but having Mizuki back doesn't guarantee that it will happen."
"I know that!" Chibiusa protested. "But can't you see, Mom? I have to hope. I can't keep doing this by myself!"
Usagi bit back her instinctive response, which was that Chibiusa wasn't doing anything by herself; that she had always had her mother and her father at her side, fighting just as hard as she ever did. Now was not the time to point something like that out to a self-absorbed teenager. Especially not since there seemed to be some sort of truce holding after the morning's dust-up with her brother. Instead she sighed and stood, moving back to the stove. "It'll be another hour, at least, until dinner," she said. "Get out from underfoot and I might get it done sooner."
Chibiusa smiled and ran from the kitchen, her steps clearly audible as she raced up the stairs. Her mother sighed again, but didn't go back to her cooking. Instead Usagi went to where her purse was sitting on the counter and took out her mobile phone, speed-dialing a particular number. There was a pause before she spoke.
"Minako? It's Usagi."
"Usagi! It's great to hear from you but I was just on the way to a rehearsal. I'll have to call you back."
"This won't take long," Usagi said, sounding determined. "Tell me why you're bringing Mizuki home, and don't bother with any of the lame excuses you used in that email."
"They weren't lame, they were the truth," Minako said, huffy.
"OK, fine, I know they were the truth, but only part of it. What's the rest of the story? Is Mizuki. . ."
"Just tell me. Is she. . ." Usagi sighed, hating all of the dancing around the subject, but the mobile phones were not secure so certain subjects couldn't be discussed directly. "Did she wake up?" she finally asked.
"Yes, she did," Minako replied, the pride obvious in her voice. "The next generation is two-fifths complete."