Part 3, #4 & 5 tomorrow.
Hope Through the Ages By the AP Scout (c) 2003
Little Rini Tsukino sat quietly while the adults talked. The memory of the horrible soapy taste in her mouth still lingered. Her bottom was aglow with a very firm spanking Serena had delivered moments before. Rini was glad her mother hadn’t delivered her punishment in front of Susan but had instead marched her upstairs. The blond permitted her to come back downstairs, which Rini did after washing her face.
The conversation that the adults were having was about the "new reality" and what things had changed. The fact that Sailor Pluto wasn’t talking about changing things back made her worry. Feeling insecure, the seven-year-old got up and walked around the table.
When Serena turned to her, she crawled into the blond’s lap and snuggled close. "You ready for bed, Rini?" Serena asked.
"No," Rini mumbled. She wiggled a little to get comfortable and closed her eyes. Her mother wrapped arms around her and sighed before picking up the conversation in a lower tone of voice. Eventually, the little girl drifted off to sleep.
In another house lay fourteen-year-old Darien Shields. He was trying to puzzle a few things out. First, why he had grown younger? He remembered being twenty, going to college, having his own apartment, his own sportscar, even a motorcycle at one time. Somehow, last night while watching television, he had simply changed. His features softened slightly. His face picked up a little acne. His muscles mostly remained but he lost a few inches in height and a corresponding loss in mass. He just wasn’t himself. Then his apartment began to change. His living room took on a completely alien atmosphere.
Then suddenly he found himself sitting next to one of Rini’s friends. He had met her a couple of times. He thought her name was Melissa. The seven-year-old didn’t seem nervous in the least at his unexpected appearance. In fact, she was leaning contentedly against him.
"Hey!" Melissa protested when he stood up suddenly.
"Sorry Melissa," he said, his voice wasn’t as deep as he remembered.
"Whatcha sore at me for?" she asked, a puzzled look coming onto her face.
"I’m not sore at you," Darien said.
"Oh..." Melissa said and then asked, "So what’s up?"
"I just need to go." The little girl shrugged and turned her attention back to the program. He left the room pondering his situation.
He started poking around the house. It appeared to be a single story place with a basement and a nice lawn. Definitely upper middle class. He found the master bedroom, and more shockingly, family photos of himself, Melissa and presumably his parents, though they weren’t his parents. His parents were dead, weren’t they? He found his "kid sister’s" room without any problem. And he found his room.
He cringed. "You’re a slob," he commented to himself. Darien had always kept a neat apartment. He had to not having very much space, but the bedroom that he supposedly had now was messy.
His mind went to Serena. An image of an older woman came to him. He tried to picture her as a teen but he could only do so vaguely. He didn’t have any strong feelings for her as he had, even with the dreams coming as they did.
The teen tried to think of the other Sailor Scouts. They were friends of his. His friends at Crossroads Junior High were envious always bugging him to arrange dates for them. Junior high? However, the reaction he got thinking about Raye Hino was the strongest. His crouch became uncomfortable and things started to grow warm. Thinking of Serena cooled him down, and that distressed Darien, but only mildly. Trying to mull over of what to do, he wandered back out to the couch and sat down next to his sister.
"Hey!" he protested as the little girl crawled onto his lap.
"Mommy said you’d read me a bedtime story."
"Good grief," Darien grumbled.
"Come on, Darien, please?!?"
"Oh... alright, Missy."
"Cool!" Melissa declared. She hopped up and ran out of the room calling over her shoulder, "I’ll get the book!"
He heard a whispering sound behind him but before he could turn, he felt a sudden heaviness overcome him. The teenager slumped to the side of the couch, apparently asleep.
"That was close," Pluto said, "Well, it could be worse."
When Missy came back, she became a little concerned when her big brother didn’t respond to her, so she hit him over the head with the storybook until he woke up.
Darien was not amused.
Morning sunlight was just filtering into the master bedroom of the Tsukino home when a seven-year-old woke up. The pink-aired girl stirred just a little, shifted onto her side, and raised her one foot so it was against the opposite knee.
A rather loud, and high-pitched, noise indicated elimination of gas. Rini sighed in relief. She carefully opened one eye. It was sleep-filled and she was still feeling groggy.
Hearing a funny noise, she opened the other eye and lifted her head. Serena’s adult form was sitting at the computer. So it hadn’t been a dream. Very sleepily, she pushed herself out of bed and padded bleary-eyed over to the computer.
"Did I wake you up, Rini?" the blond asked softly. The youngster shook her head. "Come here," Serena said and lifted the little girl up. She sat Rini in such a way that the seven-year-old was straddling one of her legs. The child hugged her and rested her head against Serena’s shoulder.
"I could get used to this," Rini thought sleepily.
"You know, kiddo. I’m tempted to like put things back to normal."
"I’m majorly not smart enough." The former teenager knew her limitations. She was barely passing eighth grade. "I can’t get this stupid thing to work... Hell, I even had trouble with Sammy’s PlayStation." At least she wasn’t like Mina and blew things up at her touch. "There’s like no way I can work where I gotta."
"Where’s that, Mommy?" Rini asked, shifting a little and making some more noise. "’Cuse me."
"I’m a receptionist like at some doctor’s office. Susan told me yesterday."
"Oh..." The pink-haired girl tried to remember the conversation but it was all a jumble. "Couldn’t you use the Silver Crystal, Mommy?"
"To make yourself smarter."
"I never thought of that," Serena admitted. "Wouldn’t it be... like wrong?" She already felt guilty. It was like cheating.
"Did Puu say you gotta undo everything?"
"Then it’s gots to be okay," the little girl said, "’Sides, I like this."
"You’ve like only had one day, honey. You might change your mind." Rini shrugged and yawned. "Well okay." The child was slightly annoyed when her mother lifted her up and then put her down on the chair. "I just wanna be careful. I’m like gonna practice on your bed first."
"Good idea, Mommy," Rini said.
Once the blond was out of the room, she turned her attention back to the computer. To be sure, it wasn’t as complicated as Mercury’s but she didn’t think it was as simple as the ones at school either. She clicked on a folder icon with her name, and immediately found stuff that would likely keep her busy for quite awhile. A short time later, Serena came back, a slightly pained expression on her face.
"What?" Rini asked when she noticed the look on her face.
"I got a headache, Rini," Serena said softly and winced, "But I think it worked." The adult staggered over to the bed and flopped down on it.
"So my bed’s fixed?"
"Don’t even think about jumping on it," was the mumbled reply.
"I won’t, Mommy," the youngster assured her mother. She wasn’t in any hurry to get into trouble. "Can I play on the computer?"
"Sure." Serena pulled a pillow over and went to sleep.
Melissa was going to be sick. Her brother and his stuck-up girlfriend Raye Hino were kissing. "Jeez!" she said in a huff, "Ms. Tsukino’ll wonder where we are!"
Darien reluctantly broke the lip lock with the pretty brunette. "The kid’s right, Raye."
"At least you don’t have to watch her all day, love," Raye said consolingly. "I’ll get my purse and then we can go someplace private later." The young girl sighed, crossed her arms, and looked impatient.
"Oh don’t pout like that, Missy, or I’ll think up something nasty to tell mom ’n’ Dad about." Melissa grumbled but uncrossed her arms. Moments later, Raye appeared and the trio headed for the Tsukino home. When they got there, Rini answered the door.
"Darien!" Rini cried out in surprise and then covered her mouth. She couldn’t believe what happened to the tall, handsome Darien.
"Hi Rini. Is your mommy here?" Raye asked, "I gotta ask her something."
"Hi Missy," Rini said quietly then she said to Raye, "Sorry, Mommy’s asleep still."
"And you opened the door?" Raye asked.
"I know you guys," Rini said.
"Alright then... You be good for Ms. Tsukino," Darien told his little sister. He waved good-bye to Rini and walked with Raye from the yard. On the sidewalk, he stopped outside the gate, gave her a quick kiss, and put his arm around her waist. Then the couple continued walking out of sight.
"Snotty little worm," Melissa muttered.
"That Raye," Melissa said in a frown. "So like whatcha doin’?"
"Making Mommy breakfast," Rini said. Her friend grinned. "Wanna help?"
Luna and Artemis sighed in unison. "I tell you, Luna, things are really strange."
"Why?" Luna asked the white cat. The two Moon Cats were sitting in Lita’s apartment waiting for her to give them some milk. "Well, for one thing, I can’t help but feel that something’s different."
"I don’t know... it’s just... different."
Luna got up and padded about for a few moments before sitting back down. "Yes, I suppose it is. Maybe I should go back home and check on Serena. It might be the Negaverse acting up."
"Can I come with you?"
"No, you have to keep an eye on Mina."
"Man, that’s rough. Why did I get stuck with Mina?"
Before Luna could respond, Lita came in. The young woman was tall and well built. Her brown hair was in a ponytail set high on her head.
"There you go."
"Oh thanks!" Artemis said and started lapping at the milk, "This is good!"
"You sound like you haven’t eaten in awhile, Artemis."
"Not that... It’s just me ’n’ Luna was out hunting last night."
"Oh... Mina’s so lucky. I kinda wish I had a cat like you sometimes," Lita said.
"I’m up for adoption," Artemis commented. Luna bopped him on the head. "Hey!"
"Don’t mind him. He was just griping about Mina again."
"That is funny. How did you wind up meeting Mina before any of the rest of us anyway?"
"It’s difficult to explain..."
"Do I really want to know?" Both cats looked at each other and then shook their heads. "Well, I still say it would be neat to have a cat like you."
"You must be lonely, Lita," Luna said after taking some milk.
"A little." Lita then grinned. "Being a cat must be pretty fun."
"Let’s find out." All three turned to find a strange sailor-suited figure standing into the room.
"Who the hell are you?!"
"Oh shit!" Artemis said and made for the window.
"Pluto!" Luna shouted, "This is bad!"
Lita didn’t even think. She brought forth her transformation pen and shouted, "JUPITER STAR POWER!" At that instant, Pluto’s magic hit her.
Luna blinked to clear her vision. When she saw what had happened, she gasped. There before her was a sleek, powerful looking cat. Its fur was dark brown like Lita’s; its eyes were green. And on its forehead was a crescent moon sigil, but it also had the sign of Jupiter as well.
"Why did you do this?" Luna asked Pluto.
"I had an opening," Pluto said, "Now shall we talk?"
The brown cat started to glow as it arched its back and hissed. "Pluto, I think she’s pissed off at you," Luna remarked.
"Yes... perhaps later then," Pluto did the smart thing and vanished.
Breakfast did not help Serena’s headache, or her upset stomach for that matter. The blond happily (read thankfully) gave Rini and Melissa permission to go to the park and play. The only condition she set was that the girls had to be back by eleven-thirty for lunch and they were not to cause too much trouble.
Once the two youngsters were out of the house, Serena flopped down onto the couch and silently apologized to her stomach. It wasn’t that the breakfast her daughter had made was bad; it had just been too much. Like her own mother though, Serena ate it and smiled. Actually, the thirty-one-year-old woman was rather pleased that the mess had been minimal.
Serena was really regretting the magic she had preformed earlier that day. The fact that it had worked was really of little consolation. The mere thought of working as hard as she must have done to get enough knowledge into her brain made the former ditzy teen weary.
Deciding that she couldn’t laze about the house in her bathrobe all day, she slowly pushed herself up and went in search of some aspirin and then clothing.
A short time later, Serena Tsukino came back downstairs feeling much better. Walking down the hall, she was surprised and delighted to see Luna and Artemis sitting on the coffee table. Then her mind realized that there was another cat with them.
"Hi!" she said cautiously.
"Hi Serena," Artemis said, "You look nice."
The blond blinked. "Uh... thanks." She was wearing a short-sleeved white blouse and a knee-length blue skirt.
"Never mind him, Serena. He’s trying to dump Mina again," Luna grumbled.
"Who’s your friend?" Serena said, sitting down. The brown cat lifted its face up to look at Serena and the blond gasped. Blue eyes widened as they took in the sigil on the cat’s forehead.
"Lita got changed," Luna said. Serena shook her head.
"Lita? No way!" Serena exclaimed. "What happened to you?" Briefly, the three cats explained what Pluto had done. "But why?"
"She said something about an opening."
"Oh..." Part of her conversation with the Guardian of Time came back to her. "Well it’s possible there is." Luna gave her a hard look. Lita started to look angry again.
"I tried to change back from Jupiter." The brown cat said, "It didn’t work."
"Oh you poor thing," Serena said in sympathy and lifting Lita up started to rub the former fourteen-year-old girl behind the ears.
"Would you... yes... Please to the left," Lita purred in relief. "I can’t believe I’m enjoying this," she said with annoyance.
"I suppose..." Artemis said, "It could’ve been worse."
"How?!" Luna and Lita demanded.
"She could be stuck with Mina."
The white feline yelled as he was dropped-kicked by Luna through the open window of the living room.
The time before Rini and Melissa were due to come back home was busy for Serena and the two remaining cats. Despite Serena’s best efforts, she couldn’t revert Lita back to her human form for any appreciable length of time. The transformation held only minutes. Eventually Serena had to give up; it was too tiring to use the Silver Crystal.
She suggested that Lita try to detransform again. That made matters worse. The mark vanished from the brown cat’s forehead and she could no longer talk. After a few minutes of meowing, hissing, hopping about, and growling, Lita somehow managed to transform back. At least she could talk now.
Serena felt sorry for her friend but wasn’t sure how to react. She offered Lita the option of staying in the guestroom but the brown cat shook her head.
"You got Rini to look after. I can stay at my place for now." Despite the mother’s objections, Lita left. Luna followed her hoping to cheer her fellow feline up.
Thoughts of Lita’s situation were soon forgotten as two giggling and boisterous seven-year-olds bounded into the house. The rest of that afternoon passed quickly enough. Serena cleaned and poked around the papers in her desk.
Raye was, to Serena’s horror, even more stuck up than normal. She was polite enough to her but it was obvious that the temple priestess didn’t like Melissa or Rini either for that matter. The fact that Darien, her prince, was now openly dating Raye and him being Melissa’s fourteen-year-old brother gave her pause.
Her own daughter’s behavior added to her worry as well. Put plainly, the pink-haired girl didn’t cause her usual commotion, though she did squeal with delight when her grandparents arrived. Serena nearly fainted when Rini ate the carrots she was served without complaint. Why she had even cooked carrots eluded the blond.
It was Rini who reminded her mother that it was her bath time. The little girl did complain about having to go to bed at eight but left with little fuss. This made Serena deeply suspicious. That suspicion though would have to wait until the next day for when Serena checked on the little girl after her parents left, she found Rini sound asleep.
"Okay Rini," Serena said at the breakfast table, "What do you want?"
Rini, still in her pajamas with her pink hair down, gave her mother a curious look. "Uh... A pony?"
Still confused, Rini ate some of her cereal and then said, "I don’t want nothin’, Mommy." Serena narrowed her eyes. "What?" the child asked with her mouth full.
"Okay if you don’t want anything, then what did you do, young lady?"
"What are you talkin’ ’bout, Mommy? Ain’t I been good?"
That answer wasn’t helpful in the slightest and Rini’s look said so. "So?"
"It’s not like you, Rini," Serena said, "I mean you ate carrots last night."
The little girl put her spoon down and gave Serena a serious look. "I wanted dessert."
"You thought you wouldn’t get any if you didn’t?" Serena was a little surprised. Rini nodded. "Okay, so what about bedtime?"
"Bedtime is bedtime," Rini replied and started eating her breakfast again. The youngster couldn’t figure out why Serena didn’t see the obvious. She was her mother, and she didn’t want to get into trouble if she didn’t have to. Besides, being scolded in front of her grandparents would have been embarrassing.
To change this subject, she asked, "So what’s this Day Camp, Mommy?"
"Oh... it’s kinda like going to camp with other kids but you get to come home at night to sleep."
"I don’t know if I like the sound of that," Rini said.
"Well let’s give it a couple of days, Rini. If you don’t like it... we’ll find somebody else to watch you when I’m at work."
Rini frowned and then nodded, "’Kay Mommy."
Time passed and Serena met the other girls. Thankfully, they seemed to be the same. Like Raye and Darien, they didn’t see anything unusual about her being a grown woman and single mother. Rini got to like Day Camp, mainly because Melissa was going as well (apparently Darien wasn’t much of a babysitter), and there were a lot of fun activities. Serena continued to be surprised at Rini’s behavior. It wasn’t that the blond wanted her daughter to misbehave, it was just a shift from the brat the meatball-headed blond was used to.
That wasn’t to say that Rini was on her best behavior all the time. Occasionally she got scolded for something or put into a corner. On a couple of occasions, she was grounded to her room. Generally though, she was a typical normal little girl.
It was late on a Friday night. Serena sat in a pair of shorts and a loose fitting T-shirt. The rain earlier in the day had caused the weather to become very muggy. It was hot and sticky and nothing moved. The blond suspected that tomorrow would be even hotter.
She was sitting in the dark watching television. A noise to her right drew her attention. There, standing in the gloom, was a very tired looking seven-year-old.
"I’m hot, Mommy," the child whined plaintively. The little girl walked over and Serena could see that Rini was sweating. "Can we do that thing again?" It took a moment for Serena to realize what Rini was referring to.
"Sure munchkin," Serena said, "Got some fresh clothes?" Rini held up a pair of panties. "That all?"
"It’s too hot," Rini complained.
"Come on then," Serena said and they left the living room for the bathroom. Moments later, Rini was feeling better as the cool cloth was moved over her skin. She stood, eyes closed, and feeling ready for sleep. Unlike the last time, she let Serena move the cloth about alone.
Talcum powder was also nice when it was patted around. With fresh panties on, she was lifted into Serena’s arms.
"I’ll take you back upstairs, Rini."
"Can’t I stay here, Mommy?" Rini mumbled out. "It’s cooler down here."
"Promise to be quiet?" Sleepily the seven-year-old agreed. Her mother turned off the bathroom light and walked back to the couch. There she laid Rini down and then sat down herself. Rini shifted around until she had her head resting in Serena’s lap. Smiling, Serena pulled the afghan from the couch and covered he little girl.
The little girl rolled to her side and almost immediately dropped off to sleep. Serena turned the television off, laid her head back against the couch, and went to sleep soon afterwards.
And peace reigned in the Tsukino home.