The Cruelty and Fairness of Fate

by Crawlspace


~ Chapter 4:  Finding Out – pt 2 ~



            Makoto fidgeted as she waited for the pharmacist to fill her prescription.  She knew it was mostly her imagination, but she felt like everyone was staring at her.  Why were there this many people in the drugstore anyway?  It was a nice Saturday afternoon.  Didn’t they all have someplace better to be?


            She got up and walked a few feet so she could see out the door.  Ami was outside waiting for her, but Makoto couldn’t see her from here.




            Makoto turned when the pharmacist called her name.  She took the bag the man handed her, ignoring the disapproving look he wore at the sight of her bare ring finger.  She paid quickly and went outside to look for Ami.


            After several seconds, Makoto spotted Ami outside the bookstore across the street.  She had picked up a book from the outdoor display and looked to be lost within its pages.


            “Looks like it has you pretty interested,” said Makoto as she walked up to Ami.  “May I?” she asked, holding out her hand.


            Ami closed the book and handed it to Makoto.  ‘Raindrops in the Garden & Other Short Stories’ was written in shiny green script across the cover.  Makoto smiled, then took the book and went inside the store.


            “Mako-chan?” questioned Ami, following behind her.


            “You like it, right?”


            Ami nodded at Makoto’s question.


            “Well, I’m buying it for you.  It’s a thank you for my snack fairy.”


            “You don’t have to do that.”


            “I know.  But, you see, she’s been really good to me recently,” explained Makoto, “and I’ve been pretty rotten to her.  She keeps forgiving me, though.”


            Makoto paid the clerk, then turned to a quiet Ami.  Ami was never terribly talkative, but ever since their phone conversation Wednesday night, she’d barely said three words to Makoto.


            That phone call had been a disaster, Makoto thought.  She had yelled long and loud at Ami, not caring about what the girl had gone through for her.  All Makoto heard was that one more person knew her secret, and Ami was the one who had told.


            That conversation had ended with a teary sounding Ami saying she was sorry and would Makoto please call the doctor anyway.  As soon as she hung up the phone, Makoto had begun to feel guilty.


            The next day at school, Makoto had pulled Ami aside and told her how sorry she was.  When she thanked Ami for her and her mother’s help it was with an honest gratefulness.  She’d even already called the doctor’s office.  Her appointment was Saturday at 2:00 pm, and if Ami wasn’t still upset with her would she please go with her.


            Ami had nodded and said of course she would.  And Makoto was forgiven, because Ami understood.  The apology had been given and accepted, yet to Makoto things still felt wrong somehow.


            Ami accepted the gift Makoto handed to her.  “Thank you,” she said.


            They walked together in silence for a while, until Makoto couldn’t take it anymore.  “I’m not mad at you anymore,” she blurted out of nowhere.


            Ami looked at her questioningly.  “I didn’t think you where, Mako-chan.”


            “You’re acting like you do,” answered Makoto.  “Ever since Wednesday night.  I know I handled that badly, Ami.  I mean, if anyone should be angry, it’s you.  You keep doing all this stuff for me, now your mom, too, and all I do is yell at you and get you in trouble.”


            It’s okay, Mako-chan.  I…”


            Makoto cut her off.  “Don’t say you understand.  Yell, scream, call me names for using you, anything.  Just stop saying its okay and that you understand.”


            “All right.  You’re an ingrate, Kino Makoto,” said Ami, a grin tugging at the corners of her mouth.  “Feel better, now?”


            “Not really,” said Makoto.  “But I’d rather listen to you call me names than not have you saying anything to me at all.”


            “I know I’ve said it before,” went on Makoto, “but I really am sorry about that night.  All I kept thinking was that more people knew, and I haven’t even told anyone yet.  This is all happening to me and it’s like I have absolutely no control over any of it.  I don’t like that feeling.  You were just the unfortunate one who was there when I cut loose.”


            “You’re forgiven, Mako-chan.  Honestly,” said Ami with a grin.


            “Maybe, but I still want to do something to thank you.  Your mom, too.  That book is just a token.”  Makoto thought for a minute.  “I know.  When things settle down a bit and your mom has a free night, I’ll make dinner for you.  Something big, with all of your favorites.  Dessert, too.  There’s this recipe I found for a chocolate-peanut butter cake I want to try.  This’ll give me a great excuse.”


            Right on cue, Makoto’s stomach grumbled.


            Ami giggled.  “I guess we know where that idea came from.”


            Makoto grinned sheepishly.  “I am kind of hungry.  Do you think we have time to stop for a burger before we go to Haruka’s?”


            “I don’t see why not,” answered Ami.  “Everything for the party was pretty much done by last night, from what you told me.  All we have to do is stop by your apartment to get the cake and drop it off before we go to the high school.”


            “Great.”  Makoto smiled teasingly at Ami.  “You know, it’s probably a good thing you got grounded this week.  Because even with Minako and Rei gone, if you’d actually shown up at the meeting, we would have wound up studying.  I never would have had time to finish the cake, then.”


            Ami sighed.  “It’s good for you, perhaps, but Usagi is going to fail her next English test.  In any case, I’m just glad no one asked what was so important at home that I couldn’t make it to the meetings.”


            Makoto nodded at Ami, deciding it would be a bad idea to tell her their friends had actually wondered about it.  They were just too polite to pry beyond the ‘Ami wants to spend time with her mom’ excuse Makoto had given them.


*            *            *


            Aika walked back stage to the area that had been designated the girls’ dressing room.  “Hey, Minako,” she called happily, “I think your stalker is escalating.”  She set the bouquet of peach colored roses on the table in front of Minako.


            “Thanks, Aika.”  Minako pulled out the little note card and smiled hugely.


            Aika’s voice had brought over the other girls in the room.  They gathered around Minako, ohhing and ahhing at her latest gift from her mystery fan.


             “So what does it say this time?” asked one of the girls.


            “Same as every other time,” answered Minako.  “’Break a leg, and I’ll bring the jam.  Signed, Moldy Bread.’”


            “That’s somehow less than romantic,” said Aika.  “Couldn’t he profess his undying love of your beauty and talent?  Or at the very least say what kind of ice cream he plans on hiding your severed digits behind.”


            “Jeez, Aika!” complained one of the girls.


            “Forget the sentiment,” said Yukari.  “I want to know who keeps sending these roses.  Spill, Minako.  Who’s the mystery guy?”


            Minako’s smile became secretive.  She turned from the girls and went back to fixing her makeup.


            The girls groaned collectively.  Minako heard mutterings about the unfairness of it all as Aika set them back to their tasks.


            Minako knew who the roses were from, of course.  Rei hadn’t actually tried to be secretive when they were alone.  “Just because,” Rei had said when Minako asked about the single peach rose and note card that were left on her dressing table opening night.  Each night since then, there had been a rose and note waiting for her.  Thus the teasing about a mysterious stalker fan.


            Minako reached over and fingered one of the soft petals.  There were half a dozen this time rather than the singles she’d gotten the other five nights.  She wondered why the extravagance tonight.


            Looking over her shoulder at the other girls, Minako wondered what would happen if she told them about Rei.  What would they say if she told them about the silky black hair that framed a beautiful face with deep and mysterious purple eyes?  Eyes that could always see into her soul and know all the things she tried to hide from others.  Would they sigh with envy if she tried to describe the soft lips and gentle hands that held her and took away all the hurt and burdens she’d carried around with her for so long?


            They would envy her, she thought.  They would also giggle at the girlish romanticism of it all and then proceed to spread the news of how Aino Minako was in love with the psychic girl from TA.  That was the sole reason she kept quiet about her mystery fan.


            Very simply, Minako’s parents didn’t know about her and Rei.  It was very likely that if the collective of the school found out, it would eventually reach her parents as well.  After all, the parents gossiped as much as their children.  Minako just wasn’t ready to deal with their reactions, yet.  And while there were those who knew, Rei’s grandfather included, Minako felt relatively secure that those people would never cross paths with her parents.


            “All right, everybody,” called Aika, “it’s time.  Tonight, we go out with a bang.”


            A wave of excitement rose up as the students filed out to take their places on the stage.  So occupied where they, that no one noticed a pair of amber eyes staring out from a dark corner or the low hiss that issued from their owner.



*            *            *


            Hotaru sat in the windows outside the auditorium waiting for Chibi-usa.  Michiru and Setsuna were inside, holding seats for everyone.  Haruka was with Hotaru out in the hall.


            Hotaru looked over to where her Haruka-papa had been cornered by some fans.  She was rather enthusiastically relating something to the girls who had gathered around her.  Hotaru grinned and lifted the camera she had hanging around her neck, snapping a picture as the young girls continued to moon over her papa.


            Keeping the camera to her eye, Hotaru gazed at the people milling about in the hallway.  Her lens landed first on an old woman standing patiently by a display case.  A teenaged boy dressed as a butcher put a hand on the woman’s shoulder.  She startled, but her expression became happy and she put her arms around him.


            Snap.  Hotaru smiled.  That would be a good one.


            Moving her focus further down the hall, Hotaru saw another boy about the same age as the butcher.  He was dressed in baggy jeans and a dark green t-shirt.  Headphones were on his ears, and he was playing something on a green Gameboy, yet his expression and the way he slouched against the wall made him appear to be very bored.




            Her lens next caught a little girl running into the hall from another part of the building.  She was wearing a school uniform, but Hotaru didn’t know what school it was from.  The girl’s hair was dark brown and came just past her shoulders.  And on top of her head…


            “Cat ears?” mumbled Hotaru to herself.


            Before Hotaru could snap a picture of the girl, a face popped up into her viewfinder.


            Hotaru bobbled her camera.  Balancing it, she frowned at the boy in front of her.  He had blond hair, brown eyes, and a playful smile.


            The boy blithely ignored the look Hotaru was giving him for interrupting her shot.  “Hi,” he said, “my name’s Ti.  What’s yours?”




            “That’s a neat camera, Hotaru,” went on Ti.  “Where’d you get it?”


            Hotaru’s mood towards the boy quickly lightened as he brought up her current favorite thing.  “My Setsuna-mama bought it for me for summer vacation.  Michiru-mama plays the violin, and she went on tour.  I went with her and Haruka-papa, and Setsuna-mama wanted me to be able to take my own pictures of the trip.”


            “Wow.  You have a lot of parents.”


            “So,” said Hotaru defensively.


            “I think it’s cool.  I only have my brothers and sister,” said Ti, pointing to the boy with the green Gameboy.  Next to the boy now stood an older boy dressed all in black and the little girl with cat ears.  “But Shin gets us stuff to play with all the time,” continued Ti.  He stuck his hand in his pocket and pulled out a blue and white rubber ball.  “See, he just got me this last week.”


            “Ti!  Get over here!” called Shin.


            Awww, but I was gonna see if she wanted to play,” Ti called back.


            “You can play later.  Let’s go.”


            Ti shrugged his shoulders.  “Sorry,” he said to Hotaru, then ran to his brother.


            Hotaru put the camera back to her eye and watched as Ti and his siblings went into the auditorium.  The older brother, Shin, unnerved her.  He looked about the same age as her papa, but stood at least a head taller.  His hair was as black as his clothes, and a small goatee gave him a sinister look.  His eyes were dark as well.  Not the soft brown of his little brother’s, but nearly as dark as the depths of space.


            A high-pitched voice calling her name got Hotaru’s attention.  She aimed her camera in the direction it had come from and caught Chibi-usa in her sights.  Hotaru smiled.




            As the film began to rewind itself, Hotaru ran to greet her friend.



*            *            *


            Minako stood and stared in shock at the shredded roses that lay scattered on her dressing table.  The top of the table was a mess, water from the flowers and makeup mixed among the remains of the roses.


            Yukari put a hand on Minako’s shoulder.  Aww, Minako.  They were such pretty flowers, too.  Who would do something like this?”


            “Minako,” started one of the girls hesitantly, “you do know who’s sending you these, right?”


            “Yes, I know,” answered Minako, understanding what an overactive imagination was causing her friend to ask.  “They wouldn’t do something like this.”


            “It wasn’t a ‘they’,” said Aika.  “It was a ‘what.’  If I had to guess by the paw marks, I’d say a cat,” she explained, pointing to the paw prints left in the mess on the tabletop.  “I’m sorry, Minako.  I left the window open.  It must have come in through there.”


            “It’s not your fault, Aika,” said Minako sadly.  “And this is going to be a pain to clean up.”


            “The sooner we get started…” said Yukari.  She went over to the table and bent to right the overturned chair.  Instead she stood, a bright smile on her face.


            “Hey, Minako,” said Yukari, “look what I found.  And it looks like it survived pretty much intact.”


            Minako took the rose Yukari held out to her.  “Thank you,” she said, happier to have at least one to keep with her.



*            *            *


            “It looked like Artemis had a temper tantrum,” Minako explained to her friends as they walked to the parking lot.


            The entire group was together tonight.  They were headed back to the Outers’ house, ostensibly for a spur of the moment, take-out dinner.  In truth, Setsuna’s clan had offered their house for the party the girls wanted to throw for Minako.


            The school parking lot was all but deserted as they tried to figure out how to fit ten people and two cats into Haruka’s and Setsuna’s cars.


            Minako was leaning up against the door of Setsuna’s car, tapping the surviving rose absently against her cheek, when a small hand took hold of her arm.  She looked down and saw a little girl about Hotaru’s age with costume cat ears on her head.


            The little girl grinned up at Minako.  “Hi.  My name’s Kei, and I thought you were really great in the play.”



            Hotaru followed behind Chibi-usa, her arms outstretched for balance.  Together, they tightrope-walked along the logs that ran the perimeter of the parking lot as they waited to be told who they were to ride with.


            A small bark got the girls’ attention, and they knelt down to the puppy it had come from.


            “Aren’t you cute,” said Chibi-usa to the little golden retriever as she scratched the top of his head.


            The puppy barked as if to agree.  His tail wagging gleefully, the puppy ran over to the grass and picked something up in his mouth.  Then he ran back over to the girls and dropped the blue and white rubber ball in front of them.


            “Do you want to play with me, now?” asked the puppy.


            Both girls stared wide-eyed in shock.  Then something clicked in Hotaru’s mind. 





            Makoto sighed in frustration.  They had been so careful in planning everything out.  Why hadn’t anyone thought about the driving arrangements?  She was just about to suggest that some of them walk when she noticed the little girl talking to Minako.  She squinted her eyes, thinking maybe they were playing tricks on her in the twilight.


            “Hey, Rei,” said Makoto, nudging the dark haired girl beside her, “look at the kid over there with Minako.  Is it my imagination or does she have a tail?”


            Rei turned to look at her girlfriend.  When she saw the child, her mind flashed quickly to a stone room, a large bed, and a kitten lying in a pile of pillows.  Rei cursed under her breath and started for Minako, only to be stopped as a teenage boy stepped in front of her.


            His grin was less than friendly as he said, “That’s my sister over there.  She likes your friend, but I think I like you better.”



            From the shadows, Shin watched as his younger siblings found their desired targets.  The playroom was already a bit cluttered, but he supposed a few more additions couldn’t hurt.  Besides, this would be a good exercise in how and not how to get the things you wanted.


            The black dog that was Shin’s true form relaxed into the shadows and waited.



            Kei’s head turned quickly when she heard her brother’s words.  Her grin turned to a scowl as she glared at him.  “Not that one, Kai!  I don’t like her!”


            Kai huffed at his little sister.  “Like I care.”


            “I said no!”  Kei’s grip tightened on Minako’s arm, her nails digging into the skin.


            Ow!  Let go,” said Minako, trying to pull away.  The child’s grip was like iron.  Little rivulets of blood began to drip from where her nails were digging in.


            Kei turned back to Minako.  Her lips were pulled into a feral grin, her eyes glowing amber in her anger.   “I said I liked you.  I plan on keeping you,” said the girl, a slight hiss to her tone.


            Kai was steadfastly ignoring his sister, instead focusing on Rei.  “How about you come home with me,” he said as he advanced slowly.  To make his point, a low growl emanated from his throat and his eyes glowed a pale red.


            Before he could get very far, Kai was hit by a ball of bright orange light.  He was knocked off his feet and landed against the concrete wall of a storage shed.  The boy slumped to the ground, not moving.


            Makoto, Ami, and Usagi turned to see Setsuna, Haruka, and Michiru already transformed.  Rei didn’t bother looking at what she knew she’d see.  Her attention was instead on Minako and the cat girl.


            Kei had Minako on her knees.  One hand clutched at Minako’s throat, the other still gripped her arm.  Rei could see Minako struggling to stay conscious as her air was being cut off.


            Without hesitation, Rei charged forward and tackled Kei.  The girl screeched as her grip on Minako was lost.  Minako fell the rest of the way to the ground, coughing and gasping as Rei rolled with Kei.


            Uranus’ World Shaking slamming into Kai had drawn the attention of the ones across the parking lot.  Shin looked up from his place in the shadows.


            “Well, that was unexpected,” he said to himself.  Kai’s target was already heading for Kei, and Ti’s two were getting ready to join her.  “Not exactly fair, now is it?”


            Shin turned first to his youngest charge.  Might as well let Ti play with his toys rather than have them add to the fray.  Shin’s eyes glowed bright red as he stared at Ti and the girls.  His chuckle was a low growl as Chibi-usa ran head first into the barrier that appeared around the three.


            Rei was struggling on the ground with a  scratching and hissing Kei.  Uranus and Neptune began to move towards them when Shin jumped into their path.  The two braced to fight the snarling black dog.


            Movement by the shed where Kai had fallen caught Usagi’s attention first.  She grabbed Makoto’s arm, frantically pointing out the boy as he slowly rose to his hands and knees.  His lips pulled back in a snarl and his features filled out to resemble a shaggy German Sheppard.  His red eyes locked on to the three who were staring at him.


            Setsuna stepped between them, giving the girls the opportunity they needed.  Makoto grabbed Usagi and Ami and pulled them off to the side.  “Come on.  We have to transform.”


            Usagi nodded, her brooch appearing in her hand.  Ami hesitated, however, a worried look on her face.


            Makoto noticed and shook her head at her friend.  “There’s no time for that, Ami.  Transform.”


            Ami held back her argument and called her henshin pen.  Duty first, she reminded herself, a speech Luna had given them not so long ago coming back to her.


            The other two in the midst of their transformations, Makoto held her henshin pen before her.  “Jupiter Crystal Power, Make-up!” she called out.  She could feel the slight physical change that signaled her transformation beginning.  The familiar feeling of light and power began to envelop her.  And then abruptly stopped.


            Makoto blinked in confusion at the henshin pen in her hand.  She looked at the other two, now transformed.  They looked as confused as she felt.  Once again she held the pen before her and called out her transformation phrase.


            Nothing happened.


            From the parking lot, they heard Neptune scream.  It was followed by an angry yell from Uranus.


            “Go!” said Makoto.  “Don’t worry about me.  Just help them.”


            Sailors Moon and Mercury obeyed their friend’s command and ran to help the others.


            Makoto watched as they left, her hand wrapped so tightly around her now useless henshin pen that her knuckles were turning white.


            Chibi-usa and Hotaru were stuck inside the enclosure Shin had trapped them in.  They pounded against it futilely, screaming to be let out, as Ti yipped excitedly and jumped around their feet.  Shin was now staring down Pluto, while Kai had made a lunge for Neptune.  He had managed to get his teeth into her leg.  Ami was certain he was going to regret that as Uranus unleashed a Space Sword Blaster at him.  Uranus’ attack landed, and Kai was thrown once again, landing with a pitiful yelp against a tree.


            Ami looked over and saw Rei.  The miko was still struggling with Kei, who, while still in human form, had taken on more felinoid features.  Her fingernails were long and sharp as they slashed across Rei’s chest.  Her fangs were obvious as she hissed her anger at her opponent.


            Just as Kei’s arm came up with the intention of raking across Rei’s face, Venus’ Love Me Chain wrapped around her arm.  The action caught both girls by surprise, and they looked over to see Venus glaring daggers at Kei.  With a sharp tug, Venus pulled Kei off of Rei.  The cat girl yowled as she landed hard against the ground.


            The pained cries from his two younger charges pulled Shin’s attention away from Pluto.  Kai was closer to Ti now, struggling to get up.  His right front leg was giving him no support and looking from Shin’s perspective as if it were broken.  Kei was on her back, dazed.  Her plaything had transformed like the others and was looking very unhappy.  And here there were two more running in to make things worse.


            Shin ground his fangs together.  This was too much trouble to go through just so the kids could have a few more toys to play with.  His decision made, Shin turned from Pluto and started running towards Kei.


            Reverting back to his human form as he moved, Shin pushed a wobbly Venus aside and grabbed Kei by her shirt collar.  He hauled her up and headed towards the other two, ignoring his little sister’s protests.


            “Kai!  On your feet!  We’re going home,” called Shin.  A portal quickly opened near Kai.  “Ti, say goodbye to your friends.”


            Kai managed to limp the few feet to the portal and stumbled through.  Ti whined in disappointment, but obeyed his older brother and made a run for the portal as soon as the barrier dropped.  Shin and Kei followed on Ti’s heels, and the portal closed a second later.


            Those Senshi who needed to detransformed.  Michiru was leaning against Haruka, trying to keep the weight off her injured leg.  Minako leaned against Setsuna’s car and slid to the ground.  Rei quickly joined her, the two checking each other for injuries.


            “Guess I had a stalker fan after all,” said Minako with a weary chuckle.  There was bruising around her neck and bleeding puncture wounds in her arm from Kei’s claws.


            Minako frowned and gingerly lifted a finger to Rei’s face.  She let it hover, not wanting to hurt the girl by touching the scraped bruise on her cheek.  Minako panicked when she saw the slashes across Rei’s chest.


            Rei took the blonde’s hand and smiled.  “That little brat ruined my jacket and I think there may be some pulls in my shirt, but she didn’t break skin.”


            Minako sighed in relief.


            Hotaru had run up to Michiru.  The little girl had an arm around her mama’s waist, feeling as if she were offering some support even though Michiru’s full weight was on Haruka.


            Setsuna was wrapping a handkerchief around the bite on Michiru’s calf, telling the young woman she should probably go to the hospital, just to be safe.  Michiru, for her part, was doing her best stubborn Haruka imitation by refusing and saying they could treat it well enough on their own.


            Makoto began walking slowly towards the group.  Ami saw her, but stayed still, not knowing what to say or do.  Usagi, on the other hand, ran up to the girl, full of questions.


            “What happened, Mako-chan?” asked Usagi, her concern evident.  “Why didn’t you transform?”


            “I… I don’t know,” answered Makoto.  “I tried, but…”


            From where she stood, Ami could see one of Makoto’s walls begin to crack.  Makoto’s right hand flexed around the henshin pen she still held.  As tears of defeat filled Makoto’s eyes, Ami hurried over to her.


            All of her anger and frustration came to the surface as the others watched her.  Makoto looked into the face of her princess, feeling as if she had failed the girl utterly.  When Ami’s warm hand touched her arm, Makoto lost it.


            She shook off Ami’s hand and raised her arm.  Her henshin pen hit the ground with a loud clatter and rolled away.  “Damn it!  I don’t want it this way!”  Makoto sank to her knees, Ami going with her.  “This isn’t what I wanted.  I only wanted someone to stay.”


            Ami put her arms loosely around Makoto as the taller girl’s head rested on her shoulder.  Ami’s heart ached for her friend as Makoto cried quietly.


            The others didn’t know what to do, completely lost at what was going on before them.  It was Luna who finally broke the trance everyone had seemingly lapsed into when the usually strong Makoto broke down.


            Luna walked silently up to the girls, stopping Usagi from bending down to them.  The black cat watched for a moment, hearing Makoto apologize over and over as she cried.  “Mako-chan,” she said quietly.


            Makoto looked down at Luna.  Their eyes held for several seconds.  Then Luna shook her head in disappointment.  She wouldn’t have thought the girl to be so careless as to let something like this happen.


            Luna turned to the group.  “We’re having an emergency meeting at Makoto’s.  We’ll get you all bandaged up there.  Setsuna, I would appreciate it if the Outers came as well.”


            Setsuna nodded her agreement.


            That decided, the group split up between the two cars and headed to Makoto’s.



*            *            *


            As soon as they got to the apartment, Luna and Makoto disappeared into Makoto’s bedroom.  The others spread out around the living room as Haruka and Ami administered first aid to those who needed it.


            Haruka was carefully wrapping a bandage around Michiru’s leg.  Even with her rapid healing ability, it would take a few days for the swelling and marks to go away completely.  Not to mention that Senshi healing did nothing to alleviate the sting of peroxide on an open wound.


            Minako was getting similar attention from Ami and Rei.  She winced as Ami dabbed on the peroxide, then again as raised voices floated in from the bedroom.  The words were too muffled to understand, but the noise was enough to have everyone on edge.


            “What’s going on?” Minako asked Ami quietly.  “I know you know, and that you haven’t told us everything.  How sick is she really?”


            Quiet in a small room didn’t really count for much.  Haruka proved this by turning her head to them and asking, “She’s sick?  What’s wrong with her?”


            “She has anemia,” answered Usagi from her place on the floor.  “But she said it was under control.  That’s right, isn’t it, Ami?”


            Ami bowed her head even further to Minako’s arm, suddenly finding her bandage the most interesting thing.  She chewed on her lip as she tried to ignore her friends’ questions.


            As the others pushed Ami for an answer, Chibi-usa went over to Setsuna.  Puu,” whispered the pink haired girl, “I know why Senshi can’t transform sometimes.  And I think I know why Mama sent me here now.”  Chibi-usa looked to a suddenly quiet hallway.  “My Jupiter tells me about it sometimes.  And Mama reminded me that I wasn’t supposed to talk about this at all while I’m here, because if they knew about it before it happened, then it wouldn’t happen at all.  And they need each other too much for it not to.”


            Setsuna smiled at the girl.  “I believe you’re right, Small Lady.  But take care that you don’t accidentally disobey your mother.”


            “What are you two whispering about over there?” called Haruka.


            “Nothing of importance,” answered Setsuna.


            “I don’t believe that,” said Michiru.  “You two know something.”


            “I wouldn’t be surprised if they did,” said Makoto as she entered the living room.  “Everyone seems to be finding out without me having to tell them.”


            Luna jumped up on the back of the couch with Artemis.  The others in the room all turned to Makoto as Usagi ran up to her.


            “Mako-chan,” said the blonde, “how sick are you really?  It’s worse than you told us, isn’t it?”


            Makoto put on a smile to try and hide the guilt she felt for lying to her friends and making the girl in front of her worry so much.  She reached up and tugged playfully on one of Usagi’s ponytails.  “I’m not sick at all, Usagi.  I’m as healthy as I’ve ever been.”


            Usagi looked confused by this answer, but Minako beat her to the question.  “Then what was wrong?  Because you were sick, Mako-chan.  The meetings you missed, the soccer game, whatever else you and Ami have been hiding.  If it wasn’t anemia then why tell us that instead of the truth?”


            “Because,” began Makoto.  She hesitated and took a deep breath.  “Because I wasn’t ready to tell you yet.  I just needed a little time.”


            Usagi reached over and took Makoto’s hand.  The gesture was done as much to reassure herself as it was for the other girl.


            Makoto forced a grin.  “It’s all right, Usagi.  I promise I’m not dying.  It’s just…”  Makoto shrugged, her grin faltering.  “I’m just pregnant.”