The Aino Minako Support Group
by Kihin Ranno
It was a time that could never possibly occur, yet it had to or else there would be nothing to record in these annals. It was a place that simply could not exist, but all present felt the well worn carpet beneath their tired feet, the splintering grain of the unvarnished wood, and the sorry excuses for cushions on the largely uncomfortable chairs. In fact, by all accounts all of those present should not have even existed anywhere outside of untold fairy tales, unpopular television shows, and history long since forgotten. But they all breathed, felt, experienced, and existed just like anyone else. Thus, in spite of the overall impossibility of the situation, this was real.
But how had it happened? How could this have come to pass? Had the Time Guardian gotten a little schnockered on one too many Dirty Girl Scouts and allowed the different threads to bleed into one another? Had someone hit her over the head, tied her up in a broom closet where wombats roomed the earth and fish ruled? Was this all actually just some really bad fever dream that was as vivid as reality?
No one was entirely sure. However, there was one thing they did know. By whatever powers, godly or otherwise, they were all there. They were all together. And none of them were at all pleased with that prospect.
They were all vastly different from one another. One looked to be nothing more than a boy with positively cherubic features. In fact, he was hardly heaven sent. As a matter of fact, his expression was hardly ethereal. It was quite terrified of the rock solid, grey clad, muscle mass sitting across from him. The look the latter was giving to the former would not kill him, but it was quickly rendering him to dissolve in a trembling mass of grape Jell-O.
Their two companions, separating them for fear of getting a massive amount of blood on the carpet, were strange to say the very least. While one rather resembled grape Jell-O simply by coloring alone, the other must have been born from wild fire. They were polar twins, dissimilar in look and in manner, but alike in so many other ways. But then that could be said for all of them. It could also be said that there was no one human being among them who would not have leapt at the chance to tear every other man limb from limb and wear their various body parts as accessories because of that one similarity.
It was only due to the one among them who was not human that prevented this from happening.
The little white ball of fuzz looked at each man in turn. None of them looked at all happy to be there, but that couldn't be helped. They had all simply appeared one day with no explanation as to how they had gotten there. Chaos had erupted almost immediately and there had been some minor blood loss as a result. He was really left with no choice but to do this.
But he didn't have to like it either.
"Okay..." Artemis began tentatively, trying to keep from laughing nervously. That would be a sure sign of unease. Any signs of weakness and they might pounce. They were no longer a danger to the world at large, but they were still a danger to him. "It seems as though we're only missing one. Would you all like to get started before he arrives?"
"No," they all responded at once, surprising him with their forcefulness.
Artemis chuckled slightly but swallowed it quickly. He cleared his throat, deepening his voice needlessly as they all knew exactly what he sounded like. "All right then. So, we wait."
And so they did. All silent and glaring at each other. Artemis didn't last long in the uncomfortable atmosphere and began whistling a happy little ditty under his breath. Then all of their rage was focused in his general direction.
He nearly swallowed his tongue.
Thankfully, the door to the room that should not have been there finally opened and in walked a rather effeminate looking boy with long, silver hair. His looks would have been perfect were it not for the gash on his lip. The one born from fire with the eyes of a tiger smiled in self satisfaction.
"Sorry," the man said dryly, adding his own glare to the mix. "Blood was a little messy. You know how that is."
Artemis laughed again and nearly hit himself for it. "Yes, well... We understand Yaten. Why don't you take your seat?"
Yaten eyed the only open seat housed between the one who had hit him and the rather large brute whom he would rather not tangle with. He touched his fresh wound gingerly, pondered his situation for a moment, and then shook his head. He did want to actually survive the next few hours or however long this would take. "I think I'll stand. Thanks."
The young blond boy practically leapt to his feet and moved as far away from the group as humanly possible. "I wish someone would have told me that was an option an hour ago."
The man he was so terrified of snorted and drawled, "Yes Ace, because heaven forbid you actually have an original thought."
Artemis sighed. He should have anticipated inner rivalries being strengthened thanks to certain people's histories with one another. He was so unprepared for this. "Kunzite, if we are going to make any progress, I'm afraid you are going to have to get over this loathing for Ace."
"I like nurturing my hatred. But thank you for the suggestion."
If Artemis were human, he probably would have just reached for the Vodka right then and there rather than prolong the pain. He was surely going to need it feline or no before this day was over. He turned to the two brightly colored gentlemen in the room. "That goes for you as well, Hawkseye and Tigerseye."
Tigerseye pointed in Kunzite's general direction, but he didn't dare make eye contact. "I'm with him."
"Yes, quite," Hawkseye added as he adjusted his glasses on the bridge of his rather pointy nose. "I prefer to harbor my hostilities for all present. They are, after all, rivals for the intended goal."
The other four in the room simultaneously turned to him with various looks of rage,
malice, fury, disgust, hatred, and a plethora of other things on their faces... As a matter of fact, Artemis could have sworn that he saw steam, fire, devil horns, and rather large knife flying about as they all snarled, "Don't talk about her like that!"
Hawkseye sank as far into his creaky chair as possible, attempting to fade into obscurity. He failed miserably.
"She's not something you win at the end of a game of Scrabble!" Yaten snapped, clenching his fists so tightly that they shook. "She is a wonderful, beautiful human being, and I will not have you-"
"Don't talk about her like you own her!" Ace shouted, gaining some backbone now that his attention was not focused on Kunzite. "You don't have any right to stand up for her!"
"And you do?" Kunzite asked darkly. Ace shut his mouth and turned a very sickly shade of grey. "Do any of you?"
"Oh, and I suppose you're the authority on the subject?" Hawkseye asked haughtily.
Tigerseye reached over and slapped him upside the head. "She's not something you can read about in one of your stupid books, Hawkseye! She's a woman!"
Ace snorted, shaking his head. "She is no mere woman. She's a goddess."
"She's an angel!" Hawkseye lamented and for once he was not questioned.
Yaten smiled nostalgically and whispered, "She's a star."
"She's a warrior," Kunzite added, although none of the others present could see how this fit into the grain of the conversation... Nor could the reconcile themselves with the fact that he looked inexplicably cheerful when he said that.
At the sound of her name, all of the men found themselves sighing as if in a dream. Their expressions grew distant as they remembered the times they had spent with her, whether they were secret kisses shared in shadowy alcoves or attempting to murder her, but all the while wishing that it didn't have to be that way. For a moment, they were all lost in the heaven that was any time spent with the avatar of the legendary Aphrodite.
Artemis, who had remained silent only because all of the men were much bigger than him, stared at them all in disbelief. He only realized later that his jaw had unhinged itself past the point where it should have gone. This he had not expected although he supposed he should have. That was how Yaten had gotten the bloody lip after all.
"Well," Artemis said quietly. "It appears as though we have a long way to go for the healing process to being. I suppose the only thing to do now is officially start this... this... whatever it is."
The white cat cleared his throat, his posture straightening and his head tipping up towards the ceiling. It was rare that he felt important or in charge what with being all but married to Luna. However, he was finally placed in the role as leader of something, and he was going to prove that he was worthy of the position.
And it had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that she would skin him alive if he didn't.
"I hereby call this meeting to order. Hello and welcome gentlemen to the first official meeting of the Aino Minako Support Group."
Again, they all sighed.
Artemis raised his whiskers. Were they going to do that every time her name was mentioned? If so, he was going to have to avoid it at all costs. It was already getting annoying. "Uh huh... Anyway, the purpose of this group is to put you men back on track. To love is one thing, but I would say that it is fairly safe to say that what you all feel borders on obsession."
Yaten scoffed at that, halting Artemis's narrative. "Obsession... I will have you know that sleeping with her picture that I stole from her house when she was sleeping and didn't even know I was there is perfectly healthy."
Artemis didn't feel like he had to dignify that with a response. Kunzite's glare said it all for him and more.
"As I was saying," Artemis continued loudly, turning the attention back to him. "This group has been formed so that you might be able to at least get to a point where you can go through life as normally as possible. This means that you are all going to have to get over Mi- her."
Hawkseye sighed dramatically. "Ah, the paradox. He wants me to exist without my one true love, but how is that possible? How can one exist without her? She is my world. My light. My sun. My air. My dreams. My reality. My-"
"Man has she ever got you whipped," Tigerseye mercifully interrupted.
"As if you haven't fallen under the same spell."
"Do shut up," Ace said, evoking an odd British accent for no apparent reason.
"Don't do British," Yaten advised wisely.
Artemis coughed loudly, regretting it soon afterwards. His vocal cords were not going to be happy with him in the morning. "Yeah, attention back to me. Thank you... Now that the formalities are out of the way, I suppose we better get started. I believe you all know me. I'm Artemis, Minako's guardian."
There was a collective sigh at the mention of her name, and Artemis would have kicked himself had he been so flexible. Unfortunately, Yaten recovered quickly. "What I wouldn't give for that job. You get to sleep with her."
Artemis made an odd noise and promptly fell off of the chair he was occupying. He quickly pulled himself back up, fearing that Yaten had caused yet another death stare off. Much to his surprise, they were simply nodding and making various sounds of agreement.
Not for the first time, Artemis wished he were human for the express purpose of throttling all present.
"One more word like that and I'll do something so drastically evil that I haven't even thought of it yet," Artemis ground out. "Since you like talking so much, Yaten, you can start. Tell us all about yourself and a little snippet about what Minako err... Did to you?" Artemis scratched his head, ignoring all the men as they sighed once more at her name. "That sounds so wrong for so many different reasons. Go ahead Yaten."
Yaten felt that it was necessary to make some sort of comment at that. However, he also felt that he would be risking life and limb in doing so. Even if the men around him found no fault in words, he did so life his summer green eyes and he did not want them gouged out by a hyperactive, overprotective kitty cat.
In the end, he had to forego his devotion to lewdness and began his narrative.
"Well, my story begins when I met her about two years ago. At the time I sort of but not really fought evil with her by transforming into the wacky, gender bending Sailor Star Healer. And when I was just regular old Yaten, she chased after me and a crush developed. I was flattered, but at the time I admit I didn't take it all that seriously. Most of the girls I knew professed their love for me daily even though they didn't know me at all. Besides, she was simultaneously chasing after my colleagues and band mates, Seiya and Taiki."
Yaten had been behaving in a surprisingly subdued manner given the overall tension in the room. Artemis had been grateful and relieved. However his bubble was deflated as the lanky male suddenly turned a rather curious shade of crimson.
"He's going to blow," Tigerseye muttered under his breath.
Artemis nearly snapped at him to keep his mouth shut, when his prediction proved to be correct. "Seiya, the resident playboy who ran after a God damn bunny rabbit with boobs and Taiki, Forehead Man! FOREHEAD MAN! Look at him!" For a visual aid, Yaten pulled out a poster of the three together as well as a teacher's pointer. He stuck it on the wall and slapped Taiki right beytween the eyes as he continued his tirade, "He has a gigantic forehead! I had nothing to compete against, and still she actually paid them the slightest bit of attention! Do you have any idea how frustrating that is!"
"Yes," the four men chorused, eyeing each other darkly.
Yaten yanked the poster off the wall, throwing the metal pointer down on top of it. Artemis couldn't believe he was actually pouting, folding his arms over his chest and muttering to himself like a three year old child. After awhile, his gaze softened and he continued, sounding wistful. "I suppose what hurt the most is that Seiya and Taiki were like sisters... brothers to me."
Yaten pondered which it was, but quickly gave up on the notion. He did not want to give himself a headache with too much brain activity.
"I was always so mean to her," Yaten murmured in regret. "Maybe I was in denial. Maybe I was too stupid to appreciate her for what she was. But I was always ready with a snide comment or rude insult on what she was wearing. Maybe I didn't like her at all for a little while, assuming I didn't just convince myself that I did.
"Then there was that damn idol contest."
Ace looked up, interested seeing as this sounded very familiar. He cleared his throat and asked, "What idol contest?"
Yaten frowned at the memory. It wasn't a day that he cared to dwell on. However, that was the point to all of this. He didn't really have a choice. Besides, he was the one who had brought it up.
"It wasn't long before the last battle with Galaxia. I knew she was Venus by then and she knew I was Healer. She had gotten mixed up into a contest where the prize was something like a record deal and a movie contract or something along those lines. I was one of the judges," Yaten snorted as his memories came back to him with such crystal clear clarity that it felt like it had just happened. By ignoring this memory, he had preserved it like an ancient text locked up in a glass case. He recalled exactly what he had felt that day... And he despaired.
"I don't suppose I was biased for her so much as against her. Before it started I spotted her in the sea of girls and managed to get near her, no small task mind you. I was frustrated with the battle, and I yelled at her for being there. It would interfere with her duties as a senshi. After all, the only reason I was a teen idol was to find Kakyuu, but she didn't have an excuse.
"But then she started talking about how it was her dream. I was still angry at her for it. More so really. She was acting like her dream was more important than the fate of the world.
"Then it came time to audition. I gotta tell ya... She was horrible."
All four men gasped, as if the very notion of it was absurd. Yaten nodded knowingly, understanding their disbelief. Artemis face faulted right to the floor.
No one noticed.
Then Hawkseye spoke up. "Impossible! Aino Minako could not fail or be bad at anything she so desperately loved! I saw that dream, and it was one of the most. Nay, it was the most beautiful I had ever seen, Helios be damned! She is the very personification of perfection in all things she dips her succulent toes into!"
Artemis, who had been so close to getting back up to his seat, hit the floor yet again.
Tigerseye raised an eyebrow and made a noise like a whip cracking, complete with hand motion. "Do me a favor, Hawkseye. Never say the word succulent ever again, I don't care what it's regarding."
"You're just jealous."
"Of what?" Tigerseye said with a laugh.
"It's not my turn yet," Hawkseye uttered, turning up his nose at his partner. Then he looked over to Yaten prompting him to continue.
Yaten gave the two men an odd look, but continued on, nodding his head. "Yup, she did bite the big one. I mean we're talking bad. Really bad. She was so bad-"
Artemis growled slightly and ground out, "All right Yaten. We get it. You should move on now if you don't want to do your next gig with several broken bones." He cocked his head over to the other four who did not look happy. At all.
Yaten eyed them all warily and gulped, laughing nervously. He took Artemis's advice in spite of his normal inclination to deny authority. "At first anyway! I think my talking to her before it started threw her off a little. But she was determined to do her best, just to show me up-"
"I think she would have wanted to achieve the dream as well," Tigerseye drawled.
"Trust him on that," Artemis said dryly. "He'd know."
Yaten shrugged and once again continued, "Then after a few moments, she was wonderful! I couldn't believe it. I knew it was her dream, but I never actually expected her to be any good."
"Typical," Hawkeye chided self righteously. "You obviously don't appreciate her for how wondrous she truly is."
I suppose I didn't," Yaten conceded quietly. "When it was over, I had to talk to her again. I asked her why she tried so hard. I couldn't understand why one person would put that much effort and energy into attaining a goal, even though she was going through so much with Galaxia. I'll never forget exactly what she said to me... She said, 'Because I want to answer to everyone's feelings. Usagi told me to give it my best. My dreams are everyone's dreams. Everyone's dreams are my dreams.'
"Then I started think."
"A dangerous anomaly," Kunzite spat out acidly.
Yaten didn't appear to hear him or the sound of everyone else in the room agreeing with him. He was far away from them at that moment. "The Starlights and I, we still hadn't found the princess. I was beginning to lose hope, and starting to feel like we weren't accomplishing anything. I wondered what we were missing.
"But then Minako said we weren't missing anything. That we were shining brighter than anyone." Yaten chuckled and said, "She thought that she just cheered me up, but truthfully... That's when I fell in love with her."
Then all the men sighed dreamily in a way that reminded Artemis all too much of the girls when they gathered around to watch a Soap Opera. He twitched at the memory.
"Leave it to Minako..." Ace whispered softly, a rueful smile on his face. "She always knows how to cheer people up."
Those words were followed by yet another dreamy sigh. After all, her name had been mentioned in passing and the timing was entirely inapproriate.
"And she probably doesn't even realize it. She's so modest," Hawkseye said, greatly overestimating her virtues to the point where Artemis had to fight not to laugh.
"Is there anything more, Yaten?" Artemis forced out, biting his lip to keep from laughing.
Yaten nodded and continued. "I went crazy for the next few weeks trying to figure out what to do about it. I had hundreds of girls chasing me all the time and throwing themselves at me, and she was one of them. But she was the only one I wanted there. And I'd spent so much time trying to get rid of her!
"Then came that final battle with Galaxia." Yaten looked down, sniffing slightly. He didn't stay silent for long. "Galaxia... Galaxia sent four blasts heading towards me and the other Starlights. There was absolutely no time to move. But..." He shut his eyes and said, "But Venus and the other Senshi took the hits. She took the one that was meant for me."
There was absolute silence in the room as Yaten paused to compose himself. It was amazing that he was sharing any of this. He had not even told this story at its full length to Seiya or Taiki. Taiki would overanalyze it. Seiya would probably make a huge joke about it... And he hadn't wanted to trouble Kakyuu with something so trivial. But it seemed now, with all these men who shared his problem that he could finally talk about it.
"I continued that battle," Yaten croaked after awhile. "My thoughts were on her the entire time. She had... died for me. That killed me inside. I never got a chance to tell her how I felt." He sniffed and paused again.
There was a heavy, solemn silence that hung in the very air. It was as though all the men knew what he had gone through because they had done it all. They knew his feelings not by empathy but because they had lived through them and somehow survived. And by knowing how those moments crushed him, they too were crushed for him. For that brief moment, they all had a common bond, drawn in tears and in regret...
Then Tigerseye ruined it.
"Good thing it's impossible to be killed and stay dead around here."
Hawkseye nodded and agreed, "Yes, quite fortunate."
Kunzite glared in the same direction he had been glaring in since he had walked in the room. He was really quite surprised the man hadn't collapsed in fear or simply died. Life would be so much better if he had. "I wouldn't say that always holds true."
Ace meeped, fearing for his life once more.
Artemis fell to the floor again. Once again, no one noticed.
Yaten chuckled slightly, feeling genuinely uplifted, though not by much. "Yeah, that is a handy little loophole. I can't tell you how happy I was when I saw her alive again. I would have hugged her right then, but I couldn't do it with everyone watching."
Ace spoke up, his voice a few octaves higher than before. "Did you tell her?"
Yaten nodded, not seeming to notice or care about Ace's predicament concerning the Shitennou leader. "I honestly wasn't going to. I thought it might be better for both of us if she never knew. I was going to leave soon, and I wasn't planning on coming back. I didn't want her to be pining away or anything like that... I couldn't bear the thought of her waiting for me when I wouldn't come back, holding her back and refusing to let her move on...
"But I told her anyway.
"I spoke to her just before we all went back to Kinmoku. And that's when I told her I loved her.
"I had been half expecting her to shriek with glee at the prospect. I mean, I am quite a catch."
By some miracle, no one commented.
"But she just stared at me like she was in shock. Like there was no possible way I could love her." Yaten shook his head and said, "I know that's what she was thinking. I never thought Minako could be insecure, but she was."
There was another collective sigh among the men, this one a great deal more depressing than the others had been. They others had been disheartening simply due to how utterly pathetic they were. They evoked emotion because there was genuine feelig and understanding behind them.
"This really is going to happen every time someone says Minako's name isn't it"
Artemis asked needlessly.
There was another long sigh.
"I had to ask."
Then for no inexplicable reason, Yaen stamped his feet and picked up the poster again. He obviously had a lot of rage.
"But at the time I thought it was because she was in love with Taiki, or worse, Seiya! She chased after those two endlessly! Have I mentioned Taiki's exceptionally large forehead! It's a separate life force! It's the fourth Starlight! It probably has its own power like 'Starlit Forehead Blast' or something! And Seiya's just... Seiya! And he was obviously fawning after that annoying Bunny with Breasts, who had a boyfriend I might add. But would she leave him alone? No. Did she notice Taiki's abnormally sized forehead? No! Did she bother to notice that I was obviously perfect for her! NO! And-"
Artemis coughed before Yaten could continue and hissed, "Yaten. Drop it. Drop it now."
"I thought I'm supposed to talk in these things!" Yaten cried indignantly.
"There comes a time to be silent unless you want to be hurt. Now shut your trap unless you wish to be pummeled to death by four very angry men," Artemis whispered loudly, motioning to the other men who sat... Well, Ace was still standing, but that was beside the point. They were red in the face and not looking at all merciful.
Yaten made a noise which sounded suspiciously like a puppy whimpering. He too tried to disappear from their view, but he managed to fail even more spectacurly than his two counterparts as his flashy suit didn't exactly blend in with the overwhelmingly drab decor.
"Well," Artemis said finally, looking around to see if there was any form of escape. Unfortunately, Yaten was standing in front of the only door and there were no windows. He was trapped. He was trapped in a room with five psychotic love sick soldiers and there was no escape. In short, he wasn't sure he was going to get out of this alive.
He briefly lamented the daughter that would never be born and the tuna that would never be consumed and then went on valiantly. He was one of the good guys, and they never gave up until the very end. He would fight until his last breath because he was just that disillusioned and idealistic, and damn it he liked it that way.
"That was interesting."
He didn't actually make that much progress as he was now at a loss.
"Artemis, do you want Hawkseye to lament now?" Tigerseye said, once again proving that tact was not a thing that he believed in.
Artemis praised the gods for his arrogance and then gave Hawkseye the go ahead.
"My tale of sorrow and woe having to deal with the Aino Megumi herself unfortunately intertwines with that of Tigerseye. Hence, I suppose our gallant hero that is seated next to me wishes to get out of having to tell his tale. Thus, I am stuck telling enough story to accommodate for two men.
"But I'm rambling."
"They noticed," Tigerseye said loudly.
Hawkseye cleared his throat delicately and adjusted his glasses so that they fell on the very tip of his sharp little nose. Then he looked up at them and said, "There's no reason not to begin at the beginning. I first met the goddess-"
"Must you call her that?" Artemis moaned. He hated to encourage her even when she wasn't in the room.
Hawkseye didn't appear to have heard him. "-when I found her picture in an array of photos we had of those with dream mirrors that could possibly have Helios hidden within." He frowned as if something had just dawned on him. "What do you know? The troublesome thing had some use after all."
Tigerseye coughed and muttered, "Excuse me, but he's the one who let us live in Elysion. I would prefer if it stayed that way. You want to move along?"
"Righto," Hawkseye said, doing just as his companion asked of him, for the first time in either of their memories. "I was immediately taken with her and decided that she would be my next target. Little did I know that Tigerseye had the same idea."
Tigerseye rolled his eyes and said, "For the last time, it is not my fault you didn't talk to me."
Hawkseye sat up a little straighter, his very manner reeking of supposedly righteous indignation. "Like I'm supposed to clear my ideas and missions with you before they are begun!"
"Well, it would have saved us a lot of trouble, wouldn't it?" Tigerseye pointed out soundly.
"Anyway," Hawkseye continued, once again practicing the art of selective hearing. "As I was saying, the goddess was to be my next target. I set the whole affair up by pretending to be a magnificent, as-of-then-no-discovered, starving artist named Mr. Takano. It wasn't until later when I found out that Tigerseye had a similar idea. Only he pretended to be a rock star wannabe, Mr. Torajima."
"Aspiring you mean," Tigerseye corrected, chuckling.
Hawkseye smirked and said, "No, I believe that wannabe is quite sufficient in this case."
"Don't make me hurt you."
Hawkseye laughed haughtily and scoffed at the very notion. "As if you could. The battle lines were drawn. We made a bet as to which one would actually win the heart of the fair love goddess and who would get a look at that prized dream mirror first. Whoever failed would have to make their departure from the Amazon Trio, thus making it an Amazon Duo if I'm not mistaken, which I never am."
"Your arrogance is stifling," Tigerseye uttered through clenched teeth.
"You act as though yours is any smaller than my own," Hawkseye retorted gravely. "And if you don't wish to hear me speak, why don't you tell them the story?"
Tigerseye considered his suggestion for all of three seconds before he actually shrugged and conceded. This was not something anyone had been expecting, but the entire point of being here was to talk. Artemis had just expected him to sit there and be obnoxious. And here he was sharing!
This was a strange day.
"The long and the short of it is, she accidentally double booked and had to run between the two of us all day. We captured her, fought about who would look in the dream mirror, and ended up actually doing it together. She screamed like a banshee and was decidedly unhappy about the scenario. Then she kicked our butts. Bing, bang, boom, end of story."
Why hadn't he seen this coming?
"I remember that day..." Artemis said, his voice not at all nostalgic in the happy way. More like in the manner where he was remembering a deep seated hatred that he had somehow forgotten about over the course of time. "I wish I didn't, but I do. I hate remembering that day. Truly. I would love to forget. I would do anything short of selling my soul to forget."
He realized he was being redundant and remindedhimself that he was the important guardian who always knew what to say and how to say it. He was his own person (or feline) and he had to be a rock. He had to be in control. He had to get them to do this correctly or they would never be cured of this sickness.
He quickly thought of what Luna might say and spoke.
"You can't get away with just saying that. This is a support group after all. You're supposed to be able to express your feelings and frustrations so that an end can be brought to them and things can be mended. Would you please care to elaborate on how that makes you feel?"
Artemis smiled to himself. God he was good.
Tigerseye didn't seem to think so and looked at him as if he was meant to be wearing a straight jacket. "There's nothing to tell."
Maybe not that good.
Artemis stared at him for a moment, thinking of how to go about this. Finally he just decided that instinct was the best way to go. "Did you feel angry when Minako-"
The longing sigh interrupted him. Once he was sure they were done, he continued.
"When she double timed you?
"Did you feel hurt?" he asked again.
Tigerseye shrugged again.
Artemis couldn't help but wonder how long this was going to last. "Did you feel betrayed?"
Tigerseye didn't shrug this time... He just stared at Artemis blankly.
This was an annoying day.
Artemis sighed and said, "Good lord, what did she ever see in you?"
The moment the words had left his mouth, Artemis realized he had made a grave mistake... But all too late. For a fire was lit underneath Tigerseye and he was more than inclined to speak. The orange haired man leapt to his feet, surprising all present, and he began to scream so loudly Artemis wondered if those who had actually managed to remain dead were now waking up.
"Damn it, why does everyone keep saying that? Just because I'm not perfect doesn't mean that she can't look my way if she wants to! All of you and hundreds more are always telling me that I don't have a chance with her and that they're amazed she even gave me a second glance! But she did! Why can't anyone just accept my faults? She could! She overlooked them! She liked me in spite of them!"
The room fell silent for a moment, no one daring to even breathe in the wrong direction lest he begin anew. Kunzite even managed to tear his threatening gaze away from Ace and evoke surprise, a welcome change for all present. No one's eyes left the face of the man gone mad...
...until they heard Hawkseye laughing at him.
Tigerseye sprang forward, gripping the fuchsia haired man he had worked on fought and lived along side for countless years. His eyes were wild like the animal he once was. He shook Hawkseye and shouted, "Stop laughing at me! You're the worst of all! At least Fisheye as some sympathy!"
Hawkseye suddenly stopped laughing and rose in order to break free from his so-called friend's grasp, upsetting the chair he had been occupying. "Of course Fish has sympathy for you! You're the one chasing after the goddess of love embodied in the form of perfection that you cannot ever grasp between your inferior palms!"
"He sympathizes because I can and no one, especially you believes in me!"
Hawkseye scoffed and said, "Because I know you don't have a chance with one as beautiful as her!"
"She double timed you too! Not just on me!" Tigerseye reminded him spitefully.
Hawkseye clucked his tongue, clearly feeling some misguided sense of sympathy for his companion. "The goddess only did that in order to spare your feelings my boy. She does feel endless kindness for the underprivileged and unwanted."
Tigerseye was in a word, livid, and in a series of words, more than willing to kill Hawkseye and anyone who tried to keep him from doing so. He had this annoying ability to infuriate Tigerseye at a speed that defied all logic. Maybe it was just a personality clash, fate getting a few good laughs at his expense, or Hawkseye was purposely trying to aggravate him because he had nothing better to do with his time.
It was more than likely that it was just a combination of all three.
"And believe me, I know her. I know just how flawless the goddess is," Hawkseye said in that weird ominois tone that villians tended to use right before they dropped an emotional bombshell.
Tigerseye was wise to be wary. "What do you mean?"
Hawkseye did his best to look innocent and angelic, but it was a useless endeavor as he had never possessed either of those qualities. "Remember when I was talking about how I was planning on getting Minako-"
They sighed. Again. Artemis was beginning to think that he shouldn't even make not of it anymore.
"...to pose nude for me?"
Tigerseye thought about it for all of three seconds before he responded. "I think so... Why?"
"She did it."
A silence fell over the room. No one even dared to breathe after those words had been spoken... But they did move. Kunzite once again tore his fiery gaze away from Ace and tuned it to Hawkseye. Whatever that boy had done in his relatively short Kunzite paled in comparison to what he had just learned about the Amazon within the last five seconds. Tigerseye became just as livid, if not more so, but he sputtered, attempting to say something. It followed in with the general motif that he did not accomplish anything in doing so aside from spitting all over Hawkseye. Yaten and Ace pretty much followed suit. Hawkseye was blissfully unaware of all of this, including his impromptu shower, and basked in the glow of triumph.
Artemis bid another fond hello to the carpet.
Then something changed. Specifically Tigerseye's expression. He lost the anger and rage he was so entitled to after that news. The need to destroy Hawkseye body and make him regret the day he was ever created vanished. Hawkseye's blood was no longer appetizing. His face softened...
And his lower lip quivered.
"This is so ridiculously unfair!" Tigerseye moaned mournfully. "She falls for the starving artist thing and passes up the handsome up and coming rock star and actually posed nude! You can't even draw a straight line! Of all the injustices...
"I did everything for her. I would have given everything for her. I didn't even kill her when I saw her again after this happened because I loved her so! And now you tell me that you actually saw her out of those damned overalls!"
Tigerseye wept like a woman.
And Hawkseye laughed at the havoc he had created, forgetting that while he had broken Tigerseye's spirit, Kunzite was beginning to get out of his seat.
Artemis had at last managed to drag himself back into his chair, his face quite red from his multiple crash landings. This was bordering on the ridiculous. His back arched. He literally spat as he screamed, "Hawkseye, you miserable little liar! Minako told me about what happened when you asked! She flat out refused!"
Tigerseye stopped crying. Hawkseye stopped laughing. Chaos ensued.
"She what!" Tigerseye thundered.
Hawkeye looked up at the taller, stronger, and bloodthirsty man before him and did laugh again... in fear. He looked around nervously but soon discovered he would be given no aid. He was an island and he was under attack by hostile forces.
Tigerseye knocked him unconscious and sat down beside the man's prone body.
Artemis hung his head in utter defeat. It was hopeless. They were incurable. There was no possible way that this was going to be at all successful. But he couldn't back out now. He would see this through. And then he would go to kitty heaven where he could chase mice all day and not have to hear any judgements about it.
"There are some that cannot be helped." Artemis turned to Ace, his eyes wide and sparkling, mimicking his owner's perfectly. He even got his lower lip to tremble as he added, "Don't fail me."
Ace had not yet returned from his corner, and he didn't plan on doing so any time soon. He didn't have the greatest memory in the world, but he was well aware of the fact that Kunzite could kill him without exerting any effort in the act. He began his tale, hoping that he would live to tell it again.
"But I have so many names..." he said in a futile attempt to lighten the mood. His attempt at the joke failed for numerous reasons. One of them being that only one man in the room could even remember what one of his names was. The other being that they probably had not seen "The Devil's Advocate."
"I'll give you a new one," Kunzite offered. "How about bastard?"
Ace did his best to ignore him and the feeling that he was about to throw up from terror. "I was known to her for a time as Saijou A. Later, she knew me as Kaitou Ace. Think Tuxedo Kamen in white and throwing cards instead of roses. And cuter at that."
Kunzite merely snorted this time and allowed Ace to continue, feeling he had shown his contempt for the boy sufficiently. "However, I did work for Beryl and the Dark Kingdom. I was known as Danburite. I worked under stone face over here."
Ace didn't know where that brief moment of bravery had come from, but he soon regretted it. Kunzite didn't even have time to respond before Ace collapsed into a pile of gelatin, resting on his knees and screaming, "Don't hurt me! For the love of God, don't hurt me! I didn't mean it! I lost my head! Just let me live!"
"Down Kunzite," Artemis said sternly. "Continue, Ace."
Ace peeked out from behind his arms, seeing that Kunzite was hard pressed to obey, but he was not the type to go against an order. He got to his feet, dusting off his pants in an attempt to salvage his dignity. It was a futile effort.
"My story goes back farther than that..." Ace finally continued softly. "It all began in the Silver Millennium, when I was in the Venusian Army. I got to be around her a lot. And from that I developed a..." Ace allowed his voice to trail off as he struggled to find the correct words to describe just what he felt for the angelic Aino Minako.
Kunzite did it for him. "Obsessively unhealthy infatuation?"
Ace disagreed for obvious reasons and quickly voiced an alternative, more suiting description. "Unrequited love... It would have been a lot different, but she was taken by a man who would ultimately betray her."
Everyone followed Ace's gaze to the grey stone man who had not once risen from his chair the entire time. Most of them were surprised by this revelation. Minako had loved him? She had been with him and him alone? And he had thrown it away? It was unthinkable!
And it was about to warrant some interesting consequences.
Artemis leapt off of the chair this time. This had really been inevitable and he wanted to be under sufficient cover.
"You turned over just as quickly as I did!" Kunzite roared, vaulting to his feet. He advanced on the smaller man, feeling not guilt as he had never heard of the Fifth Commandment. "Don't you dare presume to know why I did what I did!"
Ace attempted to back up, but he didn't have anywhere to turn. He was forced to stand his ground in spite of the fact that his knees were about to buckle. "All I know is that she loved you! And you betrayed her! I did the same thing, but I didn't hurt her! She didn't even know who I was. And I didn't end up pitted against her in the moon's last stand!"
"You were a thousand years later! And you hurt her then! You took away her innocence! You took away any hope for the future! Why do you think she looked at Yaten that way? Because of you! You did that to her! I never tried to destroy her spirit. I just did my job!" Kunzite shouted, seething.
"I didn't kill her," Ace whispered dangerously.
Artemis knew now was the time to intervene, right before Kunzite lost what little self restraint he was clinging to and tore the man/boy limb from limb and then do despicable things to his lifeless remains once that was over and done with. He set his small furry face into a frown and sternly said, "Ace. Kunzite. Enough. We are not here to argue. This is a support group, not a brothel. And-"
"Well, yeah, they aren't doing it," Tigerseye said tactlessly.
Artemis desperately wished he could throw something at the man. "Just sit down!"
The men regarded each other angrily for a moment, both looking like they were more than ready to spring upon the other at any given moment... The other two men looked poised to jump in and tear the two apart if necessary... Or maybe join in on the fight. Whatever they felt like. But eventually a silent agreement passed between them and they did sit down.
Artemis sighed in obvious relief and let his heart slow down. Once he was sure that he would not fly into another coronary should he so much as speak he cleared his throat. "Kunzite, please try and control your comments. They don't help. At all."
He looked at the former dark king, half expecting to get an answer from him. But of all he got out of him was an icy stare.
Hawkseye awoke and was about to ask what was happening. Tigerseye didn't feel like talking to him and knocked him out again.
The cat let out another sigh, this one of exasperation, a welcome change from all the longing ones that had been breathed as of late. "Go on Ace."
Ace nodded and began again. "Later on, one thousand years later, I was given a second chance... But I blew it."
"What do you mean?" Yaten asked, genuinely interested in something aside from stabbing Taiki's forehead with a pencil he had found several minutes earlier.
"I was seduced once again, by Beryl. I had no memory of the first time until I was taken in by that witch. Then suddenly it all came flooding back. I wanted to make amends to her and the rest of the female population. As if that would do any good. Apologizing for something I was doing and would continue to do instead of what I had done.
"But I did it. And to accomplish the feat, I became a picture perfect idol who was everything women wanted. I knew it would draw Minako to me like a moth to a flame. It was an evil scheme I suppose differing only in motive. It was my last desperate attempt to have her. And that drive to have Aino Minako as my own drove me more than Beryl ever could.
"It worked perfectly. Minako easily won a contest for who was to be my leading lady in my next film. She was contestant number 23. I still remember that." He chuckled slightly and said, "Sad isn't it?"
"Yes," Kunzite affirmed bitterly.
Ace decided that it was best to just ignore the former general of darkness and continue on. "We ended up going to China. I did romance her a bit, I'll admit. How could I resist? She was beauty. She was perfection. How could I look at her and not be dazzled? Not want to take her?
"I was working with another woman from the Dark Kingdom. And of course our mission was to rid the earth of Sailor V. I was pitted against her... And she killed me.
"But not before I read her the final love fortune," he closed his eyes and mimed pulling out a card from midair. When he flicked his wrist, a card appeared in his hand. It was face up, revealing its suit and number for all to see.
"The Ace of Hearts."
"You cursed her," Kunzite snarled.
Ace scowled and threw the card away, accidentally cutting off a lock of Hawkseye's hair as he awoke. Those things were mighty sharp after all. Tigerseye, out of the goodness of his heart, knocked him out again, so he wouldn't have to see it. Ace ignored that and Artemis throwing himself out of his chair to see if that would kill him and end his misery.
"I did not curse her. It is part of the so-called gift given to them by the Ginzuishou, but it is truer for than the others. They are meant to live forever. They can never find true love. Their duties are too great."
"Bull shit!" Kunzite raged.
"It's the truth!" Ace screamed, rising to his feet and going over by Kunzite. He would later ponder just what alien life force had possessed him to willingly throw himself into danger like that, but he was too consumed just then. "Her duty is solely to her princess! Anything else would get in the way! Especially when the one she did love betrayed her and killed her!"
Kunzite leapt to his feet once more, grabbing the smaller man by the collar. His silver eyes, usually holding a calm smoldering contempt for Ace were now alight with rage. And for once, Ace did not shudder in fear.
"Don't you dare talk about it like that! You know nothing of what you speak! You don't know me or my motives! You know nothing, you miserable little-"
"What were they!" Ace screamed, praying that he would not regret this in his final moments. "Why did you do that to her? Why!"
"Beryl threatened to kill her! I betrayed my prince, his kingdom, the moon, his princess, and my own! And she lied to me. She didn't go after Minako, but she poisoned my mind so much that I had not choice but to obey her! And I killed her! I killed the one person who ever truly cared! Don't you think that haunts me every night and every day? Don't you think I hate myself enough without you lording it over me every day of my life?"
All was still for a moment. No one outside of this conversation dared to speak and break the tension that had been so quickly erected. Those involved stared each other down, one in rage and self loathing untold... and one in guilt.
"Kunzite I..." Ace began softly.
The grey man just dropped him back into his chair and took his own seat. His face was still set into a scowl, but it was now directed at the carpet, not Ace... or maybe there should have been a mirror on the floor.
Artemis has somehow gotten back into his chair (and was now bound and determined to stay in it) and said, "I suppose that takes care of Kunzite's story... Umm... Ace? Why did you go over to Beryl's side anyway?"
Ace looked down and muttered, "Metallia... she... promised I could have her..."
Artemis nodded. He had expected as much. "Now we all know exactly how we got here. Now my job is to see that you eventually get out of here."
"And how do we do that?" Yaten asked, bored now that nothing interesting was happening.
"Getting over Minako."
There was no sigh for once. Instead they all leapt to their feet and started shouting.
"The hell I will!"
"What are you? Insane!"
"Never in a million years!"
"Do you want to die cat?"
Artemis meeped because the last had been spoken by Kunzite and the man now had him by the throat.
"No, don't kill the cat," Yaten said, taking Artemis from Kunzite and plopping him into his chair without ceremony. "I like cats."
"Besides she'd kill you," Tigerseye supplied, having forgotten about pounding Hawkseye into mincemeat.
"Kill? Kill! That wondrous woman has not a mean or vicious bone in her body! She would not harm a flea!" Hawkseye shouted, apparently forgetting about all the youma she had killed and what happened that day when she had two timed the both of them and proceeded to try and make them resemble living Swiss Cheese.
Tigerseye was now just practicing an amazing amount of self control.
Artemis shook his head and said, "All right then... We won't worry about that right now. In the meantime, you five have to learn to co-exist. You have all attacked each other multiple times throughout today alone. We simply can't have that. Now you all share a bond. Can't you all just get along?"
Artemis waited for a resounding no... But it never came. He looked up and sadly fell out of his chair yet again when he realized what was happening...
They were THINKING.
Each man looked from one to the other. Their eyes for once held no malice but a look of realization. Perhaps it could even be called enlightenment. It was a shocking thing to see.
Yaten was the first to speak, "You know..."
"He does have a point," Ace finished, nodding.
Hawkseye furrowed his brow and said, "You know... We all did have a relationship with her at one time or another."
"Thank you Albert Einstein. Any more brilliant insights?" Tigerseye drawled.
"No, I think I see where he's going with this," Yaten said. Hanging around Taiki had forced him to think just so he understood what the brunette was saying. He was used to deciphering cryptic concepts. "If she did have feelings for us at one time..."
"Maybe she could have them again?" Kunzite whispered.
"But the Ginzuishou..." Ace began. He shook his head and said, "Oh, forget that. Forget that damn love fortune!" He pulled out another one of his Ace of Hearts and ripped it in two. "There's five of us! Surely there's one she can fall in love with!"
"And in the meantime, we can help set up dates with Minako!" Yaten shouted enthusiastically.
They all sighed.
"That's right!" Hawkseye said happily, "We can work together in order to snare the fair goddess into our hearts!"
"What he said," Tigerseye agreed.
"Hey, as long as it works," Ace said with a smile.
"Of course it'll work," Kunzite said with the ghost of a smile (which almost caused Ace to have a coronary). "Teamwork and working together produces more results than working alone or a team that can't agree on anything. Look at the Americans."
"Good point," Ace said smiling brightly. Then something very strange possessed the boy once more and he cried out, "Group hug!"
Surprisingly all agreed... Well, all but Kunzite who punched Hawkseye when he went to hug him. Poor thing got knocked out again.
"One step forward. One hundred steps back." Ace muttered.
Tigerseye went over to see if Hawkseye was okay.
"Then again..." Yaten said with a smirk.
Artemis hadn't noticed that last part. He was too busy sobbing. Much of it was due to his relief that he had survived the ordeal, bue he was also moved. So much so that he felt it necessary to add his own two cents. He padded over to the group and sobbed, "That was so beautiful! And inspiring! I have a confession to make."
Kunzite snorted and said, "What? Don't tell me you love Minako too?"
Hawkseye sat up straight as a board. Tigerseye fell over in a dead faint. Yaten and Ace let go of each other and gawked. Kunzite just shook his head.
"I knew it."
"That's sick man... err... cat. Whatever."
"You're a cat! You can't love a human! That's just... so very wrong in so very many ways..."
"Holy crap! There isn't more to that sleeping together thing than just... Oh, that's disgusting!"
"Well great! There's an image I really want to take to bed with me! Thank you very much!"
"You're a vile and disgusting feline Artemis."
"You sicken me."
"Can I kill him now?"
"Wait until Tigerseye gets up. He'll want to help."
Artemis sweatdropped and hung his head again. So much for this support group.
After a few more comments similar to the ones above, the subject was changed. "Hey I just thought of something," Yaten proclaimed.
"Shocker," Artemis muttered so no one heard.
"What happens when she chooses one of us though?" Yaten questioned.
"Then we kill him so she can move onto the next one until only one's left," Kunzite supplied.
"Now there's a plan!" Tigerseye shouted.
"Yes, yes, that seems quite suitable," Hawkseye agreed, pushing his glasses up on his nose.
"Works for me," Yaten said with a shrug.
"God help me," Ace whimpered.
That was when the door flung open and a very familiar voice called out, "Hey! What are you guys doing in here anyway?"
All eyes and ears turned to the door... And all nearly passed out when they saw who it was.
There, standing in the doorway with the light pouring in behind her so she seemed all the more like angelic vision or visitation, was Aino Minako. Her smile was bright and cheerful, completely oblivious to what had been transpiring just before she entered. Her eyes were bright and shining and her hair caught the light as she moved through the door.
Then she blinked and the effect was ruined. Or maybe it was ruined by her next words, "Artemis, why are you banging your head against the wall?"
"To distract myself from the pain."
Minako just shrugged and said, "Whatever you say Fuzz Butt."
She jogged over to Ace, whose face was taking a great interest in perusing the ceiling. She wrapped her arms around his neck and pouted cutely. "Ace... I've been waiting outside for twenty minutes so you can be done with... whatever this is. Now come on. I'm bored and we're going to miss our reservations if you don't hurry."
All eyes turned to Ace. They were back to being angry. Ace meeped again and said, "Well I... That is... I..." he sighed, defeated and resigned to his fate. "We're almost done here, Minako."
Minako smiled brightly and said, "Good!" Then she turned to the other guys and flashed another dazzling movie star smile at them and chirped, "Hey boys! How's it going?"
Artemis groaned and said, "Why do you think I'm banging my head on the wall?"
Minako turned and said, "Someday, I'm going to understand you Artemis. But right now, I need to talk to you!"
Then she scooped up her guardian, walked out of the room, shut the door, and left Ace alone...
Minako set Artemis down on the floor in the hallway outside. The door to the room she had just been in was marked AMSG. She wanted to ask what it stood for, but moved on to more relevant matters. "So! What do you think?"
"Of what?" Artemis said with a sigh as he rubbed the red bump forming on his head.
"They guys! Do you think they still like me?"
Had Artemis been in his chair, he would have fallen out of it. Instead he shrugged as best as he could and said, "I'd say its a possibility."
Minako giggled happily and said, "That's so cool! I kind of like all of them too, but I just can't decide which one I like best...
"I suppose I'll just have to date all of them until I decide."
Artemis realized that he should have waited to bang his head against the wall. This warranted it more than previous events. He clenched his teeth and hissed, "Mina..."
"I'm only kidding Artemis! Well partially. This time they're going to know that I'm dating all of them and they'll all have to vie for my affections! Mako-chan will be so jealous when she finds out that five guys are fighting over me!
"Well, I better go get Ace. See you later, Fuzz Butt!"
Artemis shook his head as he watched Minako go back into the room. If the blonde really wanted to go through with that plan... It wasn't going to make his life any easier.
Suddenly, Artemis heard a crash from the room across the hall. He spun around and stared at the door marked TUSG. Then he heard a familiar yowl followed by a few curses.
"At least I don't have Luna's job."
I now realize in revising this that it might have been more interesting to write Yaten as a girl and play her off of the other men, which could have proved even more hilarious... But this fic really is anime based in spite of the presence of Ace thanks to my weird theory that Ace could have coexisted with Alan and Katarina, which is the basic premise for Mask of Lies... Not to mention, I'm more comfortable with the anime version of Stars than the manag even though I own both. Maybe because there's so much more of Yaten in the anime version?
I don't know. I'm not a huge fan of the Starlights period. :P
I also realize that this fic must be incredibly boring with all of the exposition. Yes, I could alter that as well, but frankly, I don't really have the drive to overhaul it quite that much. I like this idea, and I think there are some relatively amusing moments. Not to mention, it would make a good reference for what actually happened in the series. . But it isn't fantabulous. It doesn't suck enough for me to remove entirely, and that's why I spruced it up a little.
If you want a better example of my comedic writing, check out "All Kidding Aside" if you enjoy Harry Potter. Or "Hands Fall Together" has a few amusing moments. Not to mention the writing is much better.
I will leave you now with promises to work on "Mask of Lies" as well as several spin off stories that I hope to have out before the end of the year.