"So", Michiru stated several days later as they all sat at the breakfast table together, looking at Haruka lovingly, the blonde immediately smiling back at her, "today's the anniversary celebration, Haruka, did you make up your mind yet?"
"I don't think I'll be able to make it", Haruka replied at once, not really surprising Michiru, but disappointing her nonetheless, "now that I'm managing my replacement in the racing team, I got a lot to do, the sponsors are falling over each other trying to make us choose them…"
"What a pity", the violinist gave back, while Hotaru frowned at her papa, clearly not buying the blonde's words, "Makoto-chan and Ami-chan will be disappointed, I imagine…"
"I'm sure they'll understand", Haruka muttered, glancing away from her and into her coffee cup, stirring the dark liquid with great concentration, even though she hadn't poured any sugar into it, "give my best to them for me, alright?"
"I will", Michiru promised her, making herself smile at the taller woman – after all, she had promised her that she wouldn't hold it against her, should she decide not to come along, and thus didn't want Haruka to see her disappointment, a charade Hotaru noticed immediately, her frown deepening slightly.
"Well", the blonde now said, picking up her coffee with one hand and grabbing her cane with the other, "I better get back upstairs, much to do, you know…" She moved over to Michiru, then bent down to kiss her briefly, but gently, making the aqua haired girl smile slightly and tell her not to overdo it before the taller woman left the kitchen, the thumping of her cane slowly fading away as she made her way upstairs.
"Haruka-papa shouldn't be that way", Hotaru mumbled as soon as she could be sure her papa was out of earshot, "you really wanted her to go there with you, right?"
"Yes", Michiru sighed, momentarily awed by their adopted daughter's powers of observation and reading both Haruka and her, "but if she doesn't want to, I'm not going to make her. She's not ready to face them yet, you know…"
"That's stupid", Hotaru grumbled, surprising and slightly shocking Michiru with her choice of words, "she should know they won't mind, I mean, Makoto-chan and Ami-chan were here and they didn't! Surely the rest won't either!"
"Give her time", Michiru told the young girl in reply, smiling calmingly at her adopted daughter, "sooner or later, she'll come to realize this, as well, and you know how she reacts if someone tries to pressure her into doing something she doesn't want to do…"
"I know", Hotaru sighed, still sounding and looking annoyed; the aqua haired girl smiled at her, then reached over to caress her hair briefly, but tenderly before she got up from her seat and let Hotaru know that she'd retreat to her small study, eager to get some painting done now that the inspiration to do so had returned.
Finally smiling back at her, the young girl wished her good luck with her painting; this earned her yet another smile from the violinist, then Michiru left the kitchen and headed for her study, both Hotaru and her unaware of the fact that Haruka had been standing on top of the stairs and had heard every word they had exchanged.
"Thanks again for the invitation", Michiru smiled several hours later, "and Haruka asked me to give her best to the two of you, unfortunately, she couldn't make it…"
She noticed how Makoto and Ami exchanged a look at hearing this, but both of them were tactful enough to not say anything; they just thanked her for coming and for delivering Haruka's message, then gestured at the big table at the back of the café and asked her to sit down.
"I tried to make Mako close down for the day", Ami informed her as they made their way to said table, where the Inners were already sitting, "but she absolutely wouldn't, so stubborn. I'm sure you know all about being with a stubborn woman."
"Indeed", Michiru gave back with a slight smile; the two smirked at each other, then Michiru sat down, ending up next to Rei, nodding when Ami asked if Setsuna and Hotaru would join them, too.
"They'll come here a bit later", she then explained, "Hotaru has a project to finish for school, and Setsuna's really inspired about a design she wanted to get done before leaving."
"Mako-chan has been inspired about their anniversary cake!" Usagi cried before Ami could reply to this, "just wait, it'll be so amazing!" Her eyes started to sparkle, and Michiru giggled, something which came much easier to her now that things with Haruka were back on track; next to her, Rei rolled her eyes, then scolded the future Queen for being so gluttonous, her words immediately causing Usagi to start wailing about how mean the Senshi of Fire always was with her.
"Oh, quit it", Makoto snapped as she finally joined the group and took the seat next to Ami, rolling her eyes in annoyance, "both of you. No fighting today, remember? You promised."
"Sorry", Rei and Usagi murmured in perfect unison and rare agreement; pleased, Makoto smiled, then asked Michiru what she wanted to drink, not surprised when the aqua haired girl chose tea in response – even though by now, they all were old enough to drink, they hardly ever did so, well aware of the fact that they might ended up in a fight from one moment to the next, and after the disastrous fight they had gone through once when half of them had been tipsy, they usually steered clear of any kinds of alcohol.
"So", Usagi spoke up again while Makoto called for one of her waiters and ordered Michiru's tea, "when will we get the cake?"
"Soon enough", the taller Senshi replied with a roll of her eyes, making the aqua haired girl giggle yet again, "don't worry, Usagi-chan, you won't starve at my party."
"I was never worried about that!" Usagi protested at once, shaking her head with fervour, "I've just been looking forward to this all week! To the cake and the cookies and of course pudding, if anyone of you doesn't want their portions I'll gladly eat it, just so…"
She kept babbling on about how much she wanted to eat and how she was looking forward to the food, but Michiru tuned her out, having heard such words from her a thousand times by now; instead of focusing on the babble of her future Queen, the violinist thought of her partner again, wondering what she was doing right now, if she was sitting in her little office and regretted that she hadn't come along after all.
"Michiru-chan", Minako's voice distracted her from those thoughts, making her look across the table and the perky blonde, "how are you doing? We haven't had some girl talk in ages!"
"Minako-chan, we just met a few weeks ago", the elder Senshi gave back, amused; shrugging, Minako waved her words aside, then asked her how she was doing, making her shrug as well before she told her that she was doing well, making the Senshi of Love beam at her moments later by telling her that she was working on a new painting.
"Finally!" Minako then cried out, looking as if she wanted to jump over the table to hug Michiru, "it's been a while since you painted, right?! How is it going?!"
"Fine", Michiru smiled, touched by the blonde's enthusiasm, "I'm really inspired, it's been going as well as…"
She had been planning to say that it was going as well as it had before Haruka's accident, but the by now very familiar thump… thump… thump… of a cane on wooden floor interrupted her; she felt her heart speed up, then told herself not to be stupid as she slowly turned in her seat so she could look at the door, surely there were thousands, if not more, people on Tokyo using a cane…
"Haruka-chan!" Usagi shrieked, causing Rei to flinch next to Michiru while Ami squeezed her eyes shut momentarily and Minako nearly choked on the sip of tea she just had been taking, only to end up getting almost thrown off her seat when Usagi jumped up quite enthusiastically, crying out to Haruka again, the taller woman giving her a slightly sheepish smile, clearly not having expected this kind of reaction.
Smiling widely as well, Michiru got up from her seat and hurried to where her lover stood closer to the door, briefly making her wonder if she would have walked right back out, had the other Senshi reacted with anything else than joy and happiness to see her; all of them were smiling though, Usagi now moving closer to the blonde as well and pulling her into a hug, to Michiru's relief not even glancing at the cane for a second.
"Glad you could make it", Makoto now stated as she moved closer as well, not hugging the taller blonde, but briefly touching her shoulder, "come on, take a seat, what would you like to drink? Rei-chan, move so Haruka-chan can sit next to Michiru-chan!"
"Sure", Rei agreed at once, moving to the next free seat so Haruka take the one next to her partner; gladly, the former racer did so, her leg acting up quite a bit again after the drive to the café and the short walk from the parking lot to the building where it was located, forcing her to hold back a grimace as she lowered herself onto the chair, not wanting to just drop down on it the way she usually did, well aware of how clumsy she already had to look just walking around.
"So nice you came!" Usagi gushed, nearly sitting down next to her, only remembering in the last second that this was Michiru's seat and stopping herself, "it's been so long, Haruka-chan!"
"Yeah, well, sorry about that", Haruka gave back, having the decency to look slightly ashamed, "but I was quite busy…"
"Of course, of course", Usagi nodded understandingly, "you must be so busy, being a manager now! What is it like to be a manager?!"
"Stressful", Haruka gave back, not all too talkative; to her relief, Makoto saved her by telling Usagi that the blonde wasn't here to talk about work, then asked her once again what she wanted to drink, smiling when, just like Michiru, she ordered tea.
"Hiroshi-kun!" the brunette then hollered so unexpectedly that it made Haruka flinch, "more tea over here please!"
"Yes Makoto-san!" a young guy cried back from the counter, then hurried off; smiling, Makoto told them that he was the talented young waiter she recently had hired, then finally sat down again as well, waiting until Haruka's drink had been brought before she raised her glass.
"Let's toast", she beamed, conveniently ignoring that Setsuna and Hotaru hadn't arrived yet, "to the anniversary of Ami and me, and to Haruka-chan and Michiru-chan finally figuring out again that they belong together!"
"Makoto-chan", Haruka mumbled, shaking her head while next to her, her partner blushed slightly; Makoto just grinned and winked at her, then cried out "Banzai!", prompting the rest to echo the cry, all of them taking sips of their drinks afterwards, the Inner Senshi cheering happily when right after putting down her glass again, Haruka decided to go with the flow and bent down to innocently, but tenderly kiss Michiru, feeling the aqua haired girl smile against her lips at the happy sounds coming from their friends, making her glad that she had decided to come to the party after all.