Aunt Sandra

Nephrite brings Makoto and Mamoru to Canada to meet his Aunt Sandra who raised him and who he hasn't seen in five or six years.

Date: 2017-08-06
Pose Count: 31
Nephrite 2017-08-06 19:37:55 81230
Bella Bella is more of a village than a town, boasting a post office and general store among its attractions. Of course, as the largest community on the Central Coast of British Columbia, close to the Great Bear Rainforest, it manages to hold some tourist amenities for the backpackers and resort fishermen. Situated on the edge of a densely forested island in the Pacific Ocean, the only way in or out is by ferry or by airplane. Or, if one is magically gifted, by teleport.

"Okay last one. Look, it's like right there. We could walk there if water weren't in the way." From Nephrite's palace, the town would be a quick flight or a relatively short ferry trip. That is, if either actually approached the "middle of nowhere" doorway to the palace. Teleporting is faster, even if it makes certain members of their party ill. And no airplanes involved, for a certain someone who is very averse to them. The most recent jump took them right across the bay from Bella Bella, and the town spreads out invitingly before them.

Neil is practically bouncing, but he manages to contain himself enough to look at Mamoru. "You gonna be okay for one more?"
Mamoru Chiba 2017-08-06 19:44:42 81231
It's kind of hilarious -- or would be, if Mamoru weren't honestly unhappy with the process -- but he's trying to look as excited as he did when they set out, and it's layered over the pale and clammy appearance of someone clinging to an airsick bag in coach. "Yeah," he says, trying not to let it sound like a gasp, "yeah. It'll just be a minute before I can go inside. I don't want to ruin the reunion by being a dysphoric and motionsick drama queen. Just leave me facedown in a ditch and I'll be okay in a few minutes..."

Thin, wan little smile with steely determination behind it. Teleporting really is the quickest way to travel, after all.

He's already on his knees with his fingers in the dirt, but at the question he's begun hauling himself up again; at the end of his response he's reaching for their hands again even if his are dirty. "Let's go. I can handle one more. I can do it."
Makoto Kino 2017-08-06 20:04:21 81232
As for Makoto, she's been a mess of excited-slash-terrified-slash deeply relieved that they didn't have to go by plane... plus increasingly a sense of samefaced guilt at being relieved given how badly teleporting affects Mamoru. At least now they're almost there.

She may have spent several hours last night in a ruch of baking and going through every piece of clothing she owns in search of just the right balance between 'cute' and 'not overdoing it'. After anxiously checking her bag for the twelfth time, she offers Mamoru a sympathetic smile. "You don't have to rush yourself," she says, flicking a quick glance toward Neil for confirmation. "If you need a few minutes to recover..."
Nephrite 2017-08-06 20:11:27 81233
A warm surge of gratitude is waiting for Mamoru when he takes Neil's hand with his dirty one. There's no filters when they're teleporting, but Neil can hardly think of anything except the home he remembers right in front of them, so the greatest risk is of Mamoru getting punched by nostalgia. He can see his old school from here. "I'm sorry, buddy. Mako's right; we can take a break before we go again. And we'll jump a few blocks down the street so you have time to walk it off." Just as importantly, not teleporting directly in front of the house where anybody can see them appear out of nowhere.

Seeing Makoto's anxious glance into her bag, he wraps an arm around her shoulders and plants a kiss on her forehead. "You look beautiful. I'm so glad you could come."
Mamoru Chiba 2017-08-06 20:25:53 81234
"N-no I'll take my recovery time after this last jump or I'll have to recover all over again," says Mamoru grimly, gripping both their hands like a vise.

And to get it over with that much more quickly, he handles the teleport this time, concentrating on them and their relative locations and their connections to him and the Earth itself and everyone they love, and his destination focus is on the image that flashed through Neil's head when he said 'a few blocks down the street'.

They can both feel the love he has for them and the love he has for this woman he's never met, for raising Neil the way she did, for the love she has for him-- and the honest excitement suffusing everything, echoing off of theirs and pushing nervousness away as firmly as he tries to push away the feeling he gets of being a brain in a jar when he teleports.

And then there they are, a few blocks away, and Mamoru pretty much instantly lets go their hands and dives for the closest shrubbery. Apparently while Gravol can handle one jump's vertigo, repeated jumps means that the Gatorade Mamoru chugged before leaving in case of just this event is finally exiting the building. (When you know you're gonna ralph, filling your stomach with something that won't completely suck coming back up is a better idea than the wretchedness of dry heaving.)

He's also got enough experience in doing this that he doesn't even get any on himself. Which is good. Because he wore his favorite NASA t-shirt under a white button-down and a pair of well-loved jeans, and only has a backpack's worth of extra clothes.

Anyway they're not far at all!
Makoto Kino 2017-08-06 20:32:10 81235
Mako leans gratefully into Neil for a moment, smiling warmly despite the jitters. "Thank you," she tells him. "I'm glad, too... I just hope I don't embarrass myself too much." Waving off her own worry with a breathless little laugh, she steadies herself and clasps Mamoru's hand firmly for the last teleport.

Once he's done yarfing, she meets him with a clean handkerchief (hand embroidered, because all of Mako's handkerchiefs are hand embroidered, with a little spray of pink flowers at the corners) from out of her bag.
Nephrite 2017-08-06 20:47:38 81236
Mamoru has certainly improved on the teleportation front since the time he did his best groundhog impression. He dropped them in a small playground, thankfully deserted at this time of the evening. Despite the timezone jump, the weather here is not so different from a typical summer day in Tokyo, if a bit cooler due to being so close to the water. Neil waits for Mamoru to recover like an impatient puppy that is trying very hard to be good. He picks up Mamoru's abandoned backpack and slings it on the shoulder not holding his own. Is he being nice, or is he ensuring they can move faster? The answer to that question is 'yes.'
Mamoru Chiba 2017-08-06 20:55:04 81237
Honestly, if you're feeling like you're gonna throw up, nothing cures it as fast as throwing up. So it's only a few moments -- handkerchief gratefully accepted with a firm resolution to launder it for Mako (it's so pretty aaaaa) -- before Mamoru can rejoin the land of the functional. And walking it off really does help, too.

He doesn't talk much on the way, but that's understandable. His color's almost back to normal by the time they get to the house, and because Mamoru rode out the reacquisition of those memories with Neil, it's almost as familiar to him... secondhand, but familiar. By the time they get to the door, his eyes are shining again, he's visibly having to contain himself again; he puts a hand on Mako's shoulder and squeezes it, grinning. Then, sotto voce, "If you hold my hand I can make sure you understand what she's saying, and I'll definitely translate for you. I mean unless she's okay with magic in which case I'll just hold both your hands..."
Makoto Kino 2017-08-06 21:00:52 81238
Once she's reassured that Mamoru is recovering and they're properly underway, Makoto - the only one of them for whom these sights are entirely new - is free to get a look around at the scenery that they're walking through, and she takes in everything around her with bright-eyed interest as they go. "It's pretty here," she observes, glancing toward Neil. "Is this where you grew up?"

The nerves return in force when they're actually in front of the house, and she's grateful for the squeeze of Mamoru's hand on her shoulder. "Thanks," she murmurs back with a quick flash of a smile. "I've been practicing as much as I can, but..."
Nephrite 2017-08-06 21:06:35 81239
Neil has grown uncharacteristically quiet on the walk there, looking at the streets he grew up on, noting what has changed and what hasn't in the years he has been away. It's strange, standing at the front door of the house you grew up in, and not knowing whether to knock, and his steps slow as they near it. But before they have even reached it, the door bursts open, and Aunt Sandra is there.

She is a stately woman, tall and dark like Neil, with streaks of silver in her long hair. Her eyes land on Neil, and the tears fall instantly. Neil drops both his backpacks to catch her in a hug when she races down the stops to meet him. There is a long moment when it is just the two of them, tears and mutterings through their embrace that are unintelligible to the non-native speakers nearby.

Sandra Burke finally stands back and takes Neil's face in both her hands. "I knew you would return to me. My boy, my son. We have all been waiting for you." She looks finally to the other two standing behind him. "Thank you for bringing him back to me. You must have had such a long journey."
Mamoru Chiba 2017-08-06 21:22:34 81240
Mamoru's taken Makoto's hand by then, and he's just grinning at the sight of the reunion, silent and overjoyed and proud-- overjoyed above all. The handhold means Makoto can definitely understand Aunt Sandra once she's addressing them -- she'll hear the English, but get the meaning via Mamoru's understanding of it.

The thing is, the minute Aunt Sandra's attention is directed toward them, Mamoru gets shy.

His face colors slightly, but he stoically doesn't look away, except to give a brief but most respectful bow in greeting. When he finds his voice, it's a little hesitant, though it's definitely trying not to be. "It's-- been a long journey to bring him back to you, yes," he says with a hitch of a laugh, "though this last leg flew by. Thank you for being such a wonderful mother, to-- to raise him as you did-- to help him be who he is. He-- he means a lot to us. So very much. It is-- a very great honor to meet you, Ms. Burke."

A beat, and his color raises higher, and he finally looks down a little, red to the tips of his ears. "I'm sorry my English is-- stilted. I am out of practice."
Makoto Kino 2017-08-06 21:45:35 81241
Makoto is too flustered to even try to be stoic, not that she'd have been very convincing in any case. As Mamoru bows, she does too, probably a little too deeply and vigorously in her efforts to show a proper level of respect; as she straightens again, she's clutching her bag tightly against her side, eyes wide and cheeks bright pink.

Her thoughts fumble for a few moments, and she's intensely grateful for Mamoru's translation assistance as she calls up one of the phrases she's most carefully and diligently practiced and rehearsed for just this occasion. Her English is halting and heavily accented enough to give the lie to Mamoru's claims of being out of practice, but the sheer sincerity shines clearly enough through the rote phrasing: "Thank you. I'm very pleased to meet you."
Nephrite 2017-08-06 22:11:26 81242
Sandra smiles at their politeness. Her arm is around Neil, but she waves them hurriedly inside with her other hand, as though they are long-unseen relatives who have finally come to visit. "Get in here, all of you. You need to put your things down and tell me all about what has happened. I've got stew in the pot. Neil, show them where the bathroom is, won't you?" As she's talking, she's ushering them all in, taking Mamoru's dropped backpack before Neil can pick them both up.

The house is small but cozy and well-kept. There is no step inside the door separating where shoes should be removed, but shoes line the front door anyway, so that habit is unchanged for the Japanese visitors. Sandra deposits Mamoru's backpack on the living room couch as she passes it and moves into the kitchen. "You just missed Bill and the kids, I'm afraid. They'll be back tomorrow. I called them as soon as we hung up this morning, but they're out camping and with the ferry it's a five-hour drive--"

"You didn't have to drag them back!" Neil looks affronted. "Uncle Bill spends all year planning that trip." Sandra gives him a look that tells him how ridiculous that statement is, then looks to her guests. "What would you like? Coffee, tea, water?"
Makoto Kino 2017-08-06 22:28:53 81243
It becomes clear to Mako almost immediately that if it weren't for Mamoru's help, she'd be completely lost even in spite of all Ami and Neil's efforts to help her get used to conversational English. She's clutching at him as they're herded inside, eyes on Neil and their host - mostly on Sandra.

The clear indication of where to take off shoes is reassuring; this much, at least, is familiar.

"Um, um!" It's Sandra's offer of beverages that finally prompts her to speak again, after diving into her bag to bring out the carefully-packed white paper box, wrapped with pink and green ribbon, which is the main reason she's been constantly fussing with her bag this whole trip. "Please." This is the point at which English completely fails her, but she offers the box out to Sandra with only a quick pleading glance toward Mamoru. "I made these," she says, falling back onto Japanese, "for you and your family. I hope you'll enjoy them."
Mamoru Chiba 2017-08-06 23:06:38 81248
Mamoru, too, is grateful for the shoe-place by the door, and toes out of his own (which are neither ostentatious nor his ragged gardening sneakers, today -- just a pair of slip-on Vans). He shoots up a look of intense amusement at Neil's protest, in unison with Sandra's 'are you serious right now, really' look, and then slips over to unzip his backpack and take out his own house gift for her.

Mako spent her fuss time baking and packing; Mamoru spent Mako's fuss time shopping for something precisely not too expensive, not too breakable, not too cliche'd, not too useless, and just meaningful and pretty and representative enough. It's definitely not delicious at all. It's also heavy-ish. He glances at Neil, and then at Makoto, and he smoothly translates for Makoto: "She says she made them for you and your family, and hopes you'll enjoy them." And then he gets a quick, bright, crooked grin. Sandra's busyness has, in fact, put him at something like ease. "And she definitely made them, and they're wonderful-- Mako-chan is an amazing cook and baker."

He waits until Sandra's taken Mako's gift before presenting his own, wrapped delicately in deep blue paper with sunshine-colored ribbons. "This is not nearly so delightful, but I hope you also enjoy it, and maybe think of us when you see it."

There's a pause, then, and the slender, dark-haired teenager's eyes widen. "Oh. Umm-- I'm sorry!" He gestures, one handed. "This is Neil's girlfriend, my sister, Makoto Kino. I'm Mamoru, who called you last night-- I mean, this morning." He takes a breath. "And what happened is a very long story. It's also--" He shifts his weight uncomfortably. "--going to be hard to believe. But I think you would prefer difficult truths to believable lies." Then he holds up a finger and looks to Makoto, and repeats everything he just said but in Japanese.
Nephrite 2017-08-06 23:38:35 81251
Sandra accepts Makoto's gift first, and admires the French palmiers and chocolate rose honey madeleines. "These look amazing. You made these? I haven't seen those little French cookies since we lived in Vancouver. Remember that bakery, Neil?" As she speaks, she sets the kettle on the stove, already filled. Four cups are already set out, ready to be used, along with sugar. "Coffee's in the carafe, tea is incoming. Sit down, please. Neil, will you get the cream out?"

Mamoru's gift, as well, is accepted. "Goodness, all these gifts! I should be the one showering you in presents." In mamoru's box is a small cast-iron japanese tea set, with a pot with feet and an overhead handle, and four cups. they're washed in blue and the raised pattern on them is brushed with gold. annnnd the raised pattern is stylized roses and bees. She lifts it into the light appreciatively. "What a treasure. And just in time, too. Our old one needs replacing."

When Mamoru introduces Makoto, Neil sets the cream down and moves to stand beside her, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. Sandra lifts an eyebrow at the pair. "My God, he found someone who will put up with his hockey rants? And she bakes, too? Has he eaten you out of house and home yet?" Neil's eyes widen. "Auntie!" Sandra laughs, and it is clear that the teasing is affectionate. She winks at Makoto. "It's good to meet you, dear. Good to meet you both." She gives Mamoru another glance, and finishes preparing the tea. When the tea is steeping in the new ornate teapot, she finally joins them at the table. She fixes first Neil, then Mamoru, with a stare that seems heavy with knowing. "Now, tell me these difficult truths."
Makoto Kino 2017-08-06 23:58:59 81254
Mako was of course too busy with her own preparations to have ever gotten a look at Mamo's gift selection before it was wrapped up, and she blinks in momentary surprise at the sight of the gold pattern on the tea set before a grin of delighted amusement lights up her face. Mamo gets a good-natured, sisterly shove to his shoulder. "Roses and bees, you jerk," she says, laughing. "That's perfect."

Very shortly Sandra has Mako's full attention again, and the humor in her expression slowly fades into concentration with the effort of keeping up with the English. It's a losing battle, and finally Makoto smiles again, this time in apology. "I... sorry," she says, augmenting the awkward, badly-accented English with a helpless wave of her hand. "My English... still is not very good, yet. But, I am learning!"

She follows the guys' lead, settling in at the table with them to await Sandra and the tea. As that heavy stare descends, she reaches out automatically - one hand settling onto Neil's arm, the other grasping for Mamoru's hand. Right now, understanding what's being said is more important than tea.
Mamoru Chiba 2017-08-07 00:13:53 81256
There's a little smack of palm to forehead and Mamoru laughs sheepishly. "Sorry! You asked and we were all too distracted to answer-- I'll drink whatever everyone else is, but since you've got coffee and tea on already, I'd love a coffee. It's still morning for us..." And Sandra's exclaiming over her gifts, and that's not something Mamoru's entirely used to either, but he's had American friends and gets the whole 'open immediately' thing, so he just smiles a little and ducks his head.

He's background at the moment, and that's fine with him; his own pedantic nature means he can't leave polite hostess questions unanswered, but the real stars of the show are, at the moment, Neil and Makoto-- and Mamoru's more than happy about that. He fusses with pouring himself some coffee from the carafe into one of the four cups, and then takes a seat when it's indicated he should, making sure he's sitting to one side of Makoto so she can--

--yes. There. Instant translation.

He glances at Mako and Neil for a second after Sandra's heavy gaze descends upon them, then takes a breath--

Suddenly the black-haired boy is, in bearing and demeanor and presence, almost a different person. Older, in some ways. Visibly uncannily aware. Making a pointed effort to defer to Neil rather than reflexively doing so. Diplomatic, used to the power of authority both by birthright and merit. There's something ancient behind his eyes that mirrors something Sandra may have seen in a much younger Neil-- but it's still kind, and love suffuses it.

"Are you open to the ideas of magic, fate, the connections of souls, and actual good and evil?" he asks her reasonably. "Because the story involves all of them. And-- if you require proof of magic, or the supernatural or paranormal--"

Mamoru sets his coffee down and extends his hand across the table.

"--take my hand, please. It will also make translation easier for Makoto, as I can act as a bridge between the two of you. I promise I won't read any thoughts you don't put forth as what you're saying; I won't pry."
Nephrite 2017-08-07 00:48:31 81257
Sandra smiles at Makoto's apology. "Your English is just fine, dear." But there are questions in her eyes. Such as: how is Neil dating a girl who does not speak English?

Makoto's hand is on Neil's arm, but as soon as he sees the switch in Mamoru's demeanor, he shifts to take her hand in his and squeezes it. It was clear from that phone call, only a few hours ago, that he deferred to Mamoru on this, and now it is clearer still.

Sandra listens attentively, seriously, as Mamoru speaks. But when Mamoru asks his question, she looks down at the teapot, and with a small chuckle, begins to fill her mug. "My dear, my grandmother was a medicine woman. What you call magic, supernatural, we know by other names here. I do not know about fate, but if you know anything of my people's history, then you may believe we know something about evil." She spoons sugar into her mug, and looks across the table to Neil, her eyes sparkling. "You were always too old for yourself. Your grandmother thought so. Your father too, before he died. You carried another life in you, and it hurt sometimes." Neil swallows thickly, but says nothing. She turns back to Mamoru, and looks into eyes that also look far too old for his face. "You promised me no lies, and I will hold you to that." Without hesitation, she takes his hand.
Makoto Kino 2017-08-07 00:54:27 81258
Neil's hand clasping Makoto's is more than welcome; she curls her hand around his and squeezes back, gently, while Mamoru speaks. She doesn't say anything, not yet, and not just because of any language barrier. Instead she watches Sandra's face closely, trying to read her reactions to what Mamoru is saying - and despite herself, the anxiety returns, enough that she can't help biting her lip.

The hope that begins to light in her expression at Sandra's reply, her understanding, is just as obvious. By the time the older woman reaches to take Mamoru's hand, Makoto is holding her breath.
Mamoru Chiba 2017-08-07 01:59:29 81259
And when Sandra takes Mamoru's hand, she's pulled briefly into a visceral awareness of the planet beneath her feet, of the visible connections or strings of fate and love between all parties present (including herself), of the weight of history and dream on a global scale, of something of the nature of the boy and girl who showed up here with her Neil-- and of peace and a warm golden strength, welcoming and shielding, affectionate and protective.

This filters out quickly to focus on communication: Sandra can tell what Mamoru is feeling, and to a lesser extent Makoto and then Neil since they're all touching in a line, but the emphasis is on transmitting the meanings of words between people without a fluent common language. Understanding comes in images and references and similes and metaphors, when there's no direct translation. Usually there's direct translation.

Sandra can also tell something else that the two newcomers likely don't intend to say, but which is at the very least an awake concept at the back of Mamoru's mind-- these two are orphans, and are as wistful about this reunion as they are happy.

"I'll start at the beginning, then. Aeons ago, before the archaeological record, all Earth was united in one kingdom. The family that bore the crown was also responsible for guardianship of the planet's dreaming heart, Elysion. They were aware of the civilizations on the other planets in the Sol system, and the alliance all of those planets had under the aegis of the Moon Kingdom and its powerful Queen, but there were laws set down by the gods that the people of Moon and Earth couldn't fall in love," Mamoru says, and everyone can tell that he's thinking 'not the boss of me' and 'see how well that worked out' but he doesn't slow in his storytelling.

"Now, the last generation to be born of the royal family of the Golden Kingdom of Earth was a son, born to Queen Demeter--" There's a spike, quickly suppressed, of grief; the boy's tone is a little more matter of fact thereafter. "--and the king consort; he was strange, born with magics no one else had, born with a sense of the land and the knowledge of people's hearts. When he was three, the Queen brought in the first of his guard, Kunzite. They had a connection that was more than friendship, more than guardian and charge, more than love. When he was eight, it was obvious to all that one Knight Protector was not enough for the Crown Prince, and the Queen allowed Kunzite to begin the search for others.

"The first of the others came to them first. Nephrite." Neil. There's a mental image of what he looked like back then: remarkably similar, too-tall for a nine- or ten-year-old, luxurious locks of flowing brown hair, self-assured, loud. Seen through Endymion's eyes, he's probably kinder than he really was. "He was the prince's seer and sorceror as well as his guardian. Not long after, Jadeite and Zoisite were also found, and then there were five boys, much stronger for it. They were a unit; as they grew they worked together so closely as to become seamless in their operations--

"But then the Crown Prince met the Princess of the Silver Millennium, the Moon Princess, the girl who was to become Queen of the Sol System after her mother. And fell in love. And she had guardians of her own-- and some of them fell in love with some of the prince's guardians..." There is an image of an older Nephrite and a strikingly powerful and beautiful warrior woman with a startling resemblance to the girl sitting at Sandra's table between the two boys. "...and everything was blissfully happy for a while, though worriers worried. Unbeknownst to any of them, a young seeress in the Prince's court desired him above all others, and grew jealous once she saw him with the Moon Princess."

Mamoru takes a breath, working out how to tell the next part. His eyes flicker over at Makoto, then to Sandra again, and he holds up a finger and lets go Sandra's hand to drink some of his coffee. Now is probably a good time for questions and objections, too.
Nephrite 2017-08-07 02:33:57 81260
There is a slight gasp from Sandra when the connection is first made, but from then on she is silent, listening. Her eyes flicker from Mamoru to Makoto when she learns they are orphans, in quiet understanding. She watches Mamoru as he speaks of long-distant kingdoms, of a Moon Princess, of her nephew as a protector. But when he pauses, she interjects. "One kingdom? Which kingdom is that? You're saying all people served this king?"

Neil shifts in his seat. "Uh--let me." He gives an imploring look to Mamoru before leaning across the table towards his aunt. "Our people were still an independent nation, even though the world was more united then. We weren't colonized, we weren't disregarded. They uh, had opinions about the rest of the world, too." He smirks, and if Mamoru is transferring any of his thoughts, they are of a people who viewed the distant Golden Kingdom as quaint and perhaps a little backwards.

Sandra nods thoughtfully. There are still questions lingering in her eyes, but too many questions would slow the story down. She looks back at Mamoru. "Continue, please."
Makoto Kino 2017-08-07 02:50:44 81261
Though it's Mamoru Sandra prompts to continue, once their hands are linked again, Makoto speaks up after a brief and faintly apologetic glance aside to her brother. "The prince and princess and their guardians were able to get to know each other as people, and they were happy," she says. "But a lot of other people weren't. People on the Moon and the other worlds it ruled thought the people of the Earth were backwards, like children, and people on the Earth thought that the people of the Moon intended to - to lord over them and keep them down. The seeress who Mamoru-niisan mentioned, the one who was so jealous - she took advantage of that, and stirred up people on the Earth against the Moon. And she manipulated the prince's guardians."

She pauses for a moment, draws in a breath. "The prince, and the princess's guardians, who should've been able to help them... didn't understand what was happening until it was already too late."

Here Mako stops, and looks toward Mamoru. It's probably better if he takes back over from this part.
Mamoru Chiba 2017-08-07 03:16:48 81262
Here, the corner of Mamoru's mouth quirks upward; he nods to Neil's explanation and sets his coffee back down, and he looks a little wry. "There was the Golden Kingdom and there were all the smaller kingdoms that made it up, all with varying levels of autonomy; the Elysian Queen was a... High Queen? Who handled disputes between nations and factions. The Crown Prince's guardians were from four very different regions comprised of many nations, all princes themselves, though none were primary heirs. Asking them to serve was not an attempt to deprive their kingdoms of power, and they could refuse. Once they met the Crown Prince, Endymion, they didn't want to refuse." The wry little smile becomes a fleeting grin, only subsiding after he adds, "Nephrite's region was the very continent we're on now."

That's when he takes Sandra's hand again, and Makoto continues the story-- he nods, and then he takes a deep breath once more. "And what was happening-- what was happening was that that evil that I mentioned came into play. A black spot grew on the surface of the sun, and then there was a massive solar flare-- nobody knew that it was a demon of immense power that the seeress had made a deal with. She wanted enough power to obtain the Earth Prince for herself, and dealt with a being composed of intelligent evil. She gave the seeress, Beryl, the power to magically influence the unhappy, worried people she'd already stirred into an unstoppable mob; she gave Beryl the power to falsify evidence to the Crown Prince's guardians and sow the seeds of doubt in their hearts as to whether their Prince was in control of his faculties. From what I understand, she painted the Moon Queen as able to sever the connection between the Prince and the planet and feed him false reports, blinding him to what she said was going on--"

Mamoru sighs; his heart is heavy, his mind is trying to filter out guilt. "--and he argued with them, he yelled, he wouldn't listen to them trash-talking the Moon because he knew that they were honorable and that they meant only to help without interfering. With the demon's influence working on their minds and hearts and magic, that was proof enough that he was ensorceled. They believed the only way to save him and the Earth was to follow Beryl. So they agreed to work with her, and that agreement was enough to allow the demon to strip their reason and decency and wills from them."

His hands are tight on Mako's and Sandra's, and they can all see the flicker of Endymion's perspective, of the Kunzite he loved so very much with the eyes of a stranger, cold and cruel and unfeeling, weapon raised. "They burned their own cities to gather the energy required to invade the moon. The Queen and King of Earth died. The Crown Prince sealed off the Earth's heart, Elysion, and fled to the Moon to warn them, or to ask for help... I don't remember... but yes: it was too late. Everyone died in madness. Endymion died saving Serenity, the Moon Princess, from Beryl's blade -- but with everyone she loved dying around her, Serenity-- who had only ever known peace and love-- couldn't go on. She took her life even as her guardians fought to protect it. The Moon Queen, with her kingdom and her charge the Earth and her beloved daughter all dead or dying, used up the last of her wondrous power to seal the demon and send all the souls of those who died in the conflict ahead into the future, so they could live in a world free of that evil, free of the laws that prevented Moon and Earth from love, free of... of all that she had failed to prevent."

Mamoru licks his lips and shifts in his chair, then closes his eyes and continues. "We were all reborn in this age. I remembered who I was-- but it was stripped from me in an accident when I was six, which also took the lives of my parents. I didn't remember anything at all, and couldn't help them find me. And before Neil and the others could find me on their own, Beryl-- she had already found, again, where the demon was sealed. And she pulled on those agreements from the previous life. She tricked them again. She tricked them and filled them with the demon's evil magic, and they forgot who they were, and who they sought, and served her again."

Finally, the reborn prince opens his eyes and looks back at Sandra. "Mako-chan and the other guardians of the Princess, and the Princess herself, fought to free Neil and the other boys from her control, and a year and a half ago, we all worked together to help the Princess finish Beryl and the demon for good. Neil's been living with me in Tokyo ever since, but didn't remember who he was before Beryl stole him. Not until now."
Nephrite 2017-08-07 03:50:50 81263
Mamoru concludes his story, and there is silence. The sky outside the little kitchen window is dimming, though summer above the 49th parallel means it will be nearly 10:00 before it darkens completely. "Thank you for telling me," Sandra says. "I can see that this story is not an easy one for you to share. The journey has been long, for all of you." She casts a glance around the table. "But I must know this. What do you mean to do with him now?"
Makoto Kino 2017-08-07 04:01:16 81264
"What do you mean 'do with him'?" Makoto speaks without thinking, straightening up a bit in her seat. It's unmistakeably a tone of affront, but through Mamoru's translating link between them, the nature of her affront is made clearer - it's not Sandra she's bristling at, nor is she offended personally or on her brother's behalf. It's the very concept of anyone making plans for another person as though he weren't sitting right there at the table with them that's drawn this knee-jerk reaction, and maybe it's the whole story that they've just finished telling that's made her more sensitive about it than she might have been.

In any case, her mouth is tight and her grip on Neil's hand is a protective one. "Whatever Neil decides to do from here is his decision," Makoto says firmly. "We just want him to be happy."
Mamoru Chiba 2017-08-07 04:10:42 81265
The flare of indignation at 'what do you mean to do with him' is echoed down the link from Mamoru's direction, though it's tempered by Mamoru's knowledge that the story he just told and the way he told it and the fact that he and Mako came with Neil... well, does, in addition to Neil's deference to Mamoru, seem to indicate that Mamoru's calling the shots.

So he waits for Makoto's kneejerk reaction and forthright firmness to leave an opening, and he answers gently: "When Neil didn't remember being Neil, and was only the Nephrite part of himself, he was afraid to remember. He didn't want unknown loyalties to sever him from us. I made him do it anyway, because family is so important. And I told him back then, even before he started the process, that whatever he did we would back him every step of the way. Whatever he wanted to do, wherever he wanted to go, we would facilitate it. If he wants to move back here, we can visit. If he wants to finish university in Tokyo, he can come home to you whenever he wants. Even if we didn't have a shortcut, I'd pay the airfare. Even if you want nothing to do with us-- Neil needs you, and you need him, and none of us would ever stand in the way."

There's, finally, a sort of shy and self-deprecating smile, much more of Mamoru than of Endymion. "Though I sincerely hope you don't object to us. I'd like to visit, myself." That's what his mouth says. His heart says, through the link, 'I want you to be my family too. I want to be in your family. I hope, I hope, I hope--'
Nephrite 2017-08-07 04:30:16 81266
Neil squeezes Makoto's hand, and he dips his forehead against her temple affectionately. Sandra turns to Makoto, eyebrows drawn up. She looks at her, evaluating, before her smile returns. "Oh I do like you. I can see why he does too. I'm sorry, I am being unclear. My nephew is his own person, as he has always been. And now that he is 19, I do not have a legal say in his life." She turns to Neil. "You are our son. You have a place here, now and forever, and I want you to do what is best for you. And we will be talking more, about what is best." Neil's smile in return is brittle, though he laughs at the last statement. There is a lecture reserved for him later.

She turns back to Mamoru. "But my question was about your intentions, not his. I needed to be sure what he is to you. Now I see how much you love him." She reaches up to Mamoru's face and rests a palm on his cheek. "When he disappeared from our lives, my greatest fear was that he was alone. Now he returns to me with a brother. You were with him when I could not be." She releases Mamoru's face and turns to Makoto now, and lays her hand on hers and Neil's clasped together. "Whatever love you have found together, if it makes you happy, then I am glad for you. Of course you are welcome here as well."
Makoto Kino 2017-08-07 04:47:59 81268
The edge promptly vanishes from Makoto's demeanor and she subsides into a smile that is both distinctly sheepish and very, very relieved. "Thank you," she replies, quiet and heartfelt. "That means a lot to me... really, you have no idea how much."

Or maybe Sandra does have some idea, through the link that Mamoru has been maintaining if nothing else. There's an old and deep-rooted yearning in Makoto for home, for family, not entirely abated by finding her place with the Sailor Senshi or a brother in Mamoru, and maybe some hint of that is carried through the link.

Or maybe it just shows in her eyes. Goodness knows she's never been able to hide anything she's feeling.

"I'm sorry for going all 'rarr' just now," she adds after a moment's hesitation. "We all went through a lot to make sure he'd be free from anything that would use him like a tool. No matter what, I'll fight to keep it that way."
Mamoru Chiba 2017-08-07 05:00:09 81269
"Even when--" Mamoru's breath hitches; he's so relieved, his eyes are too bright; his head leans into Sandra's hand just a little bit, "--even when we couldn't be with him, the others were. And in the time that he found himself alone, he held on to himself long enough for me to find him, even though I was lost myself. His star is so bright, Aunt Sandra -- nothing can douse its light. You're right: he'll always find his way home."

He pulls his hand back to scrub at his face a little when Sandra moves to Makoto, and swallows something that sounds almost like a laugh, and prudently decides to finish his coffee right there, listening still, to Sandra and to Makoto. With the coffee as a shield, he smiles behind it and adds, "And just wait 'til you meet his other brothers. Including the one who's seven years older and had to put up with herding four headstrong pre-teens at once." A beat. "I literally have no idea how Mako and the other girls put up with us, even now."

The coffee's a shield, and the link-- limited by touch-- is something Mamoru needs to filter through; he's trying to keep hidden the fact that it's making him tired, but it's difficult, too. And finally he gives up, because honesty is the best, always. "What she said," he says, putting the empty cup down and gesturing at Makoto-- then firmly putting his hand over Sandra's over Makoto and Neil's joined ones as if to say 'yes stay there it works from there too'. He withdraws it, but keeps holding Mako's other hand. "I'm sorry, though. Teleporting takes a lot out of me and we had to do several jumps to get here from the shortcut door, and--" And I'm an introvert and there are three other people sharing my headspace, the link says. "--and organizing this connection is also somewhat taxing. I'm-- I'm sorry I'm going to have to rest soon, and Neil will have to translate--" chagrin in Mako's direction "--but I can go a little longer, if you have any other questions that need all of us?"
Nephrite 2017-08-07 05:26:29 81270
Sandra feigns surprise. "Neil is headstrong? You don't say! Wait until you meet his cousins tomorrow. You'll see that it runs in the family. I can imagine what your poor eldest has been through."

The word "teleporting" is yet another foreign concept reserved for sci-fi, but for Sandra this is another question answered: how does one leave Tokyo at six in the morning and arrive in a small town in Canada by the same evening? The length of time required is just short of plausible. His full explanation does not quite make sense to her, but she gathers well enough that whatever they did involved a lot of effort. She looks at Mamoru with concern. "You poor dear! Let's get you to bed." She stands, and suddenly Aunt Sandra is in Mom Mode, ushering Mamoru out of the kitchen. "Get your things and I'll show you where you'll be sleeping. We'll put you in Sam's old room--she moved out for uni and has hardly been back since. You two--" she turns back to Makoto and Neil, even as she is physically escorting Mamoru out. "Help yourselves to anything. Neil, I changed the sheets on your bed but it might not be big enough for you both. We can set you up on the floor. Now Mamoru, before you go to sleep let me show you where you can find the extra blankets if you get cold..."

Back in the kitchen, Neil breathes a long sigh against Makoto. "Oh my god, she loves you."