As she didn't want to risk the cubs being discovered, Makoto had used the sway she held with the Stalkers, called in a few favors, and chartered a private plane to ferry them back across the Pacific. They were traveling back along the same route Ami and Oso had taken when they moved to America nearly ten years before.

Now, with the two orphan cubs in tow, she was returning to the land of the Rising Sun. She didn't have any room at her old apartment for her new charges but she had discovered the deed to Oso's townhouse in Juuban, an upscale section of Tokyo, among the papers in the envelope Ami had given her. She had assumed that Oso had sold the house before leaving for the Vega family home in California but, apparently, she was wrong.

Saeko and Ramon would be starting, as soon as they felt able, at Juuban Secondary Academy, Makoto and Ami's old Alma mater. There, they would finish their schooling while training with her, as Ami had wanted.

It was Ami's wish, for some reason, that her children be groomed to, eventually, joined the Night Stalkers. Makoto couldn't even begin to conceive of why. The Night Stalkers had made her life a living hell. There were several things she had wanted to do with her life that she'd never get to do.

There was one thing she knew for certain. She never saw herself, at this point in her life, taking care of two orphaned cubs. She held no animosity towards Ami or her cubs for putting her into this position but, the fact was, this was never what she would have wanted for herself. She shook her head. She had to stop wallowing in self-pity. Right now, the most important things were Ami's cubs, her cubs, and helping them cope with their new found orphan-hood.

After a while of quiet tears, Saeko had cried herself to sleep. Ramon, however, remained awake, silently staring out the window at the blackness and grinding his teeth. The poor boy seemed so angry that Makoto, who had faced down all degrees of evil, had a degree of trepidation at the thought of disturbing him. She remembered Hotaru's warning about asserting her authority too early. It was sound advice, given what she knew of these two.

She shook her head, the realization falling upon her that she was now their mother. She was responsible for their upbringing. She would have to pass judgment on all of the people these two would have a relationship with. She would have the honor of giving Saeko away on her wedding, if Sae wanted her to have that honor. She would be standing in at Ramon's wedding. Their children would be calling her "Grandma".

"What?" Ramon was staring at her.

It was only then that she realized she had spoken aloud, "Nothing."

Ramon snorted and returned his attention to his thoughts, pressing ear buds into his ears and turning up the volume on his mp3 player to prevent any more distractions. She could hear the vague beat and knew that he was listening to his "angry" music, all hard rock, metal, and scream-o.

She hadn't slept since two nights before. Between that and bouncing back and forth across the Pacific, she was absolutely exhausted. She wanted to sleep but was too keyed up and more paranoid than she had ever been in her entire life. She hated flying and half-expected the plane to be shot down before they reached their destination.

Mamoru's face appeared in her mind and her thoughts turned to him. She had known him for years and had never believed he would have been capable of such atrocities but the evidence didn't lie. It was no small wonder why he had such animosity towards Creatures of the Night. Ami was responsible for ruining his life. Usagi had been Changed and, later, killed by Ami's hand. Chibi-Usa would never be born because of what Ami had done. But, the only question was, both of these events had occurred after he joined the Silver League. What, then, caused him to join in the first place?

A stewardess tapped her on the shoulder, "Lieutenant Kino, we'll be landing soon."

She nodded, "Thank you." Reaching across, she tapped Ramon on the shoulder, "Turn that off please. We're getting ready to land. And wake your sister."

He nodded and shook Saeko's shoulders. Makoto could hear them conversing with each other quietly while the plane descended from the sky and into an illusion of safety. Saeko's whimper caught her ear, sounding like "...wish this was just a nightmare."

The plane bumped as tires touched tarmac. The engines roared again and, for a moment, Makoto feared that the plane had been hijacked and would take off again before the realization dawned on her that the pilot had put the plane in reverse.

She looked out over the dimly lit private airstrip, watching for anything out of the ordinary but, aside from their plane, the tarmac was silent and empty.

The plane rolled to a halt and the stewardess opened the door, allowing the trio, and their baggage, onto the pavement. Only then did Michiru's car pull up, gliding silently up next to the plane. She got out and opened the trunk, "You're late." she commented.

"Sorry, you know how these things are. Did you have to wait long?"

"No, not long at all. Hey, kids, go ahead and put your things in the trunk." She returned her attention to Makoto, "How are they taking it?"

"Well, I'd say they're taking it well. They haven't had a freak-out or anything, excepting that little outburst from Saeko earlier, but they've both been very quiet. Saeko's been crying almost non-stop and Ramon's done nothing but grind his teeth and listen to his music."

"Keep an eye on them. They're in the denial phase of grieving, trying to distance themselves from reality. I went through the same thing after Haruka's death."

"How long will this last, do you think?"

Michiru shrugged, "There's no telling. Could end tomorrow, could end in five years. But, keep in mind, there's four more steps after this. Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance."

Makoto rolled her eyes, "Great. And I have to help these two through it."

"I'll help you. Rei and Minako will be more than willing to lend a hand, I'm sure and Hotaru's being transferred so she'll be around to lend a hand."

"Hotaru's coming back?"

"The powers that be want her to keep an eye on Mamoru, personally, and take him out when the time is right. C'mon, it's late. Let's get going."

Makoto closed the trunk and climbed into the car.

"Rei and Minako have been cleaning the house and they aren't quite done yet." Michiru explained, "You'll be staying with me until it's ready."

"Don't worry about us. We'll just stay at my apartment until the house is ready."

"Nonsense."

"I'd hate to impose."

"It's no imposition. To tell the truth, that house has been a little empty since Haruka died and Hotaru moved out. I mean, Setsuna drops by on occasion but she spends most of her time out by the Time Gates. I could use a little company."

l-l-l-l

The car ride to the house was silent. Nobody spoke. Saeko stared out the window at the brightly lit city. Ramon stared at the floor of the car, lost in the sounds of screaming guitars and heavy drums.

"What happened with Ami?" Michiru asked.

"There's no telling. I think Oso's death left her so distraught that she simply snapped. Though, to be honest, she gave both myself and Hotaru instructions on what to do in the event of her death just after his funeral. She had all of her bases covered, which leads me to believe that this was premeditated. She planned for everything."

Michiru shook her head, "Obviously not. She didn't leave herself an escape route. She went into a heavily-guarded compound without backup. No, she knew she wasn't coming back. That was a suicide mission."

"Why would Ami pull a suicide mission when she's got two kids to think of?"

"You, yourself, said it perfectly. She snapped, pure and simple. She thought of nothing but her hatred for Mamoru and how much pain he's caused her."

"Selfish bitch." Saeko muttered.

"Don't say that, honey. She had the best of intentions." Michiru gently chided.

Saeko grunted, "I recall something about the road to Hell being paved with the best of intentions."

Makoto opened her mouth and was about to chew her out when Michiru touched her arm and furiously shook her head, "Don't come on too strong." She warned.

"She's insulting my dead friend."

"And her mother. She's just venting, expressing her pain and anger. It's actually quite healthy. She seems to be moving through the stages much faster than expected."

"I really wish you two would stop talking about me like I'm not here."

"Sorry, honey. Are you hungry?"

Saeko hunched over and returned her attention to the panorama passing by the window, "No." she muttered.

"How about you, Ramon?"

"He can't hear you."

"What's he listening to?"

Saeko leaned over, "Sounds like Slipknot."

Michiru fixed Makoto with a questioning look.

"American Metal band. They're actually pretty good, somewhat poetic, if a little dark." she explained.

l-l-l-l

Near dawn, the group arrived at Michiru's house. Saeko had fallen back asleep while Ramon continued to bang his head to the blaring music in his ears. Makoto reached back and tapped his knee, waiting until he had removed the ear buds before speaking, "We're here."

The rustling of movement and slamming of doors woke Saeko, who looked about blearily before joining the others at the front door of the house. Michiru was staring at the door, noticing how it was open just slightly.

She motioned to Makoto and drew a pistol from under her coat.

"Since when do you carry a weapon?"

"Since Usagi paid me a visit and damn near killed me. Watch the cubs and stay on your toes."

"Since when do you give me orders, Sergeant?"

"Since we're standing on my front lawn, Lieutenant. And since you have those two to look after."

"We can look after ourselves," Ramon objected.

Michiru turned and glared at him, "Listen closely, young wolf. This isn't some schoolyard bully. These are some of these most dangerous people in the world. Your parents were two of the best trained agents the Night Stalkers had and even they were no match for the League. You are an untrained and presumptuous pup. I have no doubt that you'll get your asses whipped by whoever is on the other side of this door. You will wait here while I go and find out what the hell is going on. Do you understand?"

Ramon was shocked by the change from Michiru's normally calm and somewhat euphoric nature to a very strict, no-nonsense, demeanor. The woman glaring up at him intimidated him. "Yes, ma'am," he replied.

"Good boy." With a knuckle, she pushed the door open and slipped inside. Through the quiet and deserted rooms, she crept. The silence was deafening and her ears strained for the slightest sound. Her muscles strained and her nerves thrummed with tension. If a twig had suddenly snapped, she would probably have leaped out of her skin.

There was a click and a scrape. She cocked the hammer and raised the gun, turning the corner into the kitchen to find Setsuna in an apron, holding a spatula. Michiru lowered the gun, "What are you doing here?"

"I figured you and your guests would like some breakfast when you got back."

"I wasn't expecting you. For a moment, I thought a League assassin had broken in, looking for the cubs. You've heard about what happened to Ami?"

"Yes. I tried to warn her. She didn't listen."

Michiru cocked her head, "I don't understand."

"I knew what was going to happen to Oso. I knew that Ami was going to act irrationally and I tried to tell her not to but she didn't listen."

"Did you really expect her to? Granted, Ami never was one for showing much emotion but that doesn't mean she's incapable of making decisions and acting on them purely out of emotion." She put away her weapon and went to the front door, allowing Makoto and the cubs in.

"Is everything alright?" Makoto asked.

"Yeah, it's just Setsuna. She's made breakfast."

Makoto rubbed her face, looking exhausted, haggard and twice her years, "I could go for a bite."