Chapter Two: Monday

"Now remember," Usagi coached herself as she rang Minako's doorbell, "You are not going to let her persuade you. You are going to dinner with Mamoru, darnit, and nothing she can say is going to change your mi –"

The door swung open. "Aunt Usagi!" a pale-headed child exclaimed excitedly, and hugged Usagi tightly around the middle. Usagi returned the embrace affectionately.

"Naoko darling, how are you? Are you excited to have your Mom home?"

The petite six year old nodded seriously. "Yes. We had a lot of fun with Dad but we really missed her."

"I can imagine," Usagi smiled gently. "Is she home? I'd love to speak with her if she's around."

Naoko nodded, and stepped inside the large white house. Usagi followed found immediate relief in the air conditioning, as if she were a sponge soaking all the cool air into her pores in preparation for the next time she had to venture outside.

"Mom!" Naoko called, walking towards the large staircase to the left. "Mooooom, Aunt Usagi is here!"

"Usagi!" Minako whirled around the corner. "What a pleasant surprise! What brings you to my humble home so early in the morning?"

It's nine-thirty in the morning, Minako, Usagi thought almost sarcastically, but her throat suddenly tightened and she had to clear her throat. "Well… I wanted to talk to you about Wednesday. I –"

"OH! I'm so glad you mentioned that, because I need to give you the movies to watch beforehand! I'll be back in three seconds!" Just as abruptly as she had appeared, Minako disappeared again. Were it not for her goddaughter's presence beside her, Usagi might have groaned at her friend's predictable ineptitude.

"Back!" Minako panted, screeching to a halt less than a foot in front of Usagi. "Here!" She held out two DVD's, which Usagi took with hesitant fingers.

"Minako, I really don't –"

"Oh, please don't worry! We've already watched them several times so we won't miss them for a few days. You and Mamoru should watch them together! They're actually pretty good date movies." She winked, and Usagi felt frustration rising in her throat like an unwanted shriek.

"Minako, you –"

"Just watch them before Wednesday, ne? And then we can talk about them before we go see the movie." She beamed in what seemed to be a self-satisfied way, and Usagi had to glance at Naoko to remind herself that there were some things that could be said in front of children, and some that could not.

"Minako! You're not listening! I don't think –"

"Please don't say you can't come on Wednesday!" Minako suddenly grabbed Usagi's hand and she had to flounder with the other so as not to drop the DVD's. "It'll be so much fun, and we haven't had a night out in so long… please Usagi, please say you can come!" She fixed her most pleading, pathetic face and bored her earnest blue eyes into Usagi's.

Resistance was futile. She ought to become a hypnotist, Usagi thought with a small measure of disgust, but it wasn't aimed at her friend; rather, at herself. Mamoru would have said she gave up too easily; Usagi would have countered that Mamoru never had to look one of her best friends in the eye and deny her while receiving that stare.

Usagi sighed. "We'll see you on Wednesday, I suppose?"

Minako clapped her hands together gleefully. "Oh, I can't wait! And don't worry, I'm taking care of all the babysitting arrangements for the kids, so you have nothing to worry about!"

"Aren't Luna and Artemis already taking the older ones to the seashore that day?"

"That's right! I forgot… I'll have to make sure Kunzite remembers," Minako frowned; Usagi had to bite her lip to keep herself from grinning. She was prepared to bet that Kunzite had been cognizant of the outing since it was planned.

"Well, I should be going," Usagi said. "I have to run a few errands and I don't want to leave the kids alone too long."

Minako nodded sagely, understanding. "All right. Thanks for dropping by, Usagi. Say goodbye, Naoko!"

Usagi bid them goodbye and left quickly with the familiar weight that comes after giving into Minako at her most overwhelming.

-.-

When Usagi got home a few errands later, the voicemail light was blinking at her from the kitchen counter. She pressed the button to listen as she started unloading groceries from their bags.

"Usagi, it's Minako! I just spoke to Haruka and Michiru and Naru and Umino. All of them are willing to watch the kids that aren't going to the beach with Luna and Artemis, so you have nothing to worry about! I also got Setsuna to watch Kaito and Souta so Rei and Ami definitely have to come, plus I gave them all the first two movies to watch before Wednesday so you all have no excuses. And Kunz is clearing the evening with the men, so it's alllll working out. Don't forget to watch the movies! I'll quiz you on them! Love you, ja ne!"

Mei and Sora wandered into the kitchen then, both oblivious to the tried look on their mother's face as she deposited the last of the groceries in the refrigerator. "Mama, was that Aunt Minako on the phone?" Mei asked.

Usagi closed the refrigerator. "Yes, darling."

"But didn't you just go to her house?"

"Yes, darling. She forgot to tell me something while I was there." Then, almost under her breath, "Aunt Minako can be silly like that."

She looked down at her children and smiled, letting the frustration ease out of her. "But never mind that. What have you two been up to?"

"Mei was telling me a story," Sora said, his usually soft voice barely above a whisper.

"Oh? What kind of story?"

"One that Dad's told us before," Mei replied, "about schoolgirl superheroes. Mama, are we going to camp today?"

"That's tomorrow," Usagi said. "We could go to the park, though, or the library – where are Chibiusa and Dakai?"

"Dakai's reading and Chibiusa's on the swingset outside," Mei told her promptly.

Usagi's face softened even further as she gazed at her two youngest children, momentarily forgetting all the morning's irritations. Oh, how she loved her children – God had been so good to her.

"Did you eat breakfast already?"

"Yes, Mama."

"Okay. Let's go get Chibiusa and Dakai and maybe we can all go to the park."

The DVD's were placed upstairs on her night table, to be forgotten about until Mamoru came home that evening. Then, maybe – maybe – she would listen to Minako and watch them.

-.-

"Mamo-chan… you love me, right?"

Mamoru raised an eyebrow. The twins were in bed, Chibiusa and Dakai in their rooms reading until it was time for lights out, and his wife was looking up at him with a halfway-guilty expression.

"Yesss…" he said slowly. "I should think so… what's up, Usako?"

She shifted on her heels, back and forth. "Well, things with Minako didn't quite go as I had planned…"

"Oh?"

She exhaled sharply through her nose and averted her gaze. "So I couldn't say no to her. You know how she gets – she's so overwhelming! At any rate, she forced me to take the first two DVD's home to watch before Wednesday…"

"So we are going to see this movie on Wednesday after all?"

She peeked up at him. "You're not upset that I was a pushover?"

Mamoru chuckled and pulled her into his arms. "Usako, it's your birthday – I don't mind what we do, so long as you're happy. Will you be happy if we see this movie?"

He felt her shrug. "I'm over the initial disappointment – I mean, it'll be a night out with everyone, and how often do we get one of those? I'll take the opportunity."

A thought struck him. "What are we doing with the kids, by the way? What are Ami and Rei doing with their kids?"

Usagi snorted into his chest. "I came home from her house and errands and already Minako had left a voicemail about the babysitting arrangements. Umino, Naru, Haruka and Michiru apparently are going to watch the younger ones, because Luna and Artemis are already taking the older ones to the beach that day, remember? For Chibiusa's birthday."

Mamoru raised both eyebrows. "Haruka and Michiru are going to help take care of the younger ones? Do I trust Haruka with the younger ones?"

Usagi shoved him a little without breaking the embrace. "Of course you can. It's not like Michiru will just let Haruka take a kid or two on her motorcycle… or in her sport's car… or do anything remotely reckless…"

I think.

"Besides, I called her today to make sure Minako hadn't bribed her into it," Usagi continued, "and apparently Minako's first attempt had been for them to join us watching the movie."

"And Haruka would rather watch ten or so children than see the movie?" Mamoru was amused by this.

"She kept mentioning sparkling vampires, which I don't exactly understand," Usagi admitted, "but that's why I was wondering… well, I'm going to just watch the darn movies. Do you want to watch the first one with me tonight?"

Mamoru glanced at the clock. Only 8:30. "Sure… but I might fall asleep."

She pushed him for real now and went to get the first movie off the nightstand. "Don't worry, I won't let you."

-.-

The movie watching passed rather uneventfully, aside from a few comments from Mamoru – but that was only to be expected. ("Why is he so unconfident talking to her? If he's this big scary vampire you would think he has centuries of experience dealing with high school girls under his belt. What is that?" and "Ohhh, so that's what Haruka was talking about. Now I'm not surprised. What kind of vampires sparkle?")

When the credits started rolling across the screen, Usagi looked up at Mamoru as best as she could from her curled up position at his side. "So? What did you think?"

He pretended to think deeply about it. "Well… not bad, I'd say. The romance was acceptable, the action fairly entertaining, the angst overwhelming –"

She headbutted him lightly. "Come on now. What's all this facetiousness?"

"Okay, fine," he laughed, and kissed the top of her head. "I enjoyed it. Did you?"

She nodded. "Yes – more than I thought I would. I think I may read the books; Minako said they're much better than the movies… but that usually is the case, anyway."

Mamoru nodded. "And there's a sequel, you said?"

"Yes, called 'New Moon'. And then the third sequel is coming out on Wednesday." A frown tugged at her features, but then Mamoru poked her in the side. She squeaked and rolled out of his arms, turning to glare at him. He laughed and then pulled her to him again so he could kiss her.

"I love you," he told her, eyes dancing when they'd broke apart. She rolled her eyes. "But it's also late, and I have to work tomorrow." He tapped her gently on the nose.

"You stay home one summer day and see what real work looks like – it's called four children," she challenged him, grinning wickedly, her mood already much lighter.

Mamoru grinned. "I know, I'm amazed each day I come home to find the house still standing."

"Just try it, mister."

"One day, Usako… one day."

End Chapter Two.