Sprawled on Chair
Katherine Hana Li spin_kick_snap
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Room 508, Tuesday Evening
Kathy had no idea why she hadn't yet brought the pen to Mr. Gaunt. She'd had it for hours now--hadn't she? Time was starting to get all blurry and disjointed. She knew she'd gotten the pen during the daytime and it was evening now, but she thought she remembered it getting dark sometime in there. Or maybe that had been a different day? Without eating or sleeping or classes to help her keep track, Kathy's grasp of, well, everything had gotten shaky.

Oh. Right. Eating. She should do that. She just hadn't been all that hungry lately. Even without the mirror, it seemed like too much effort. Heck, just refilling her water bottle had almost been too much and every time she took a sip, she had to fight down the urge to retch.

But the important thing, in fact the most important of things, was that she still had Minako's pen, rather than having brought it to Needful Things and giving it to its rightful owner. And she couldn't figure out why. Mr. Gaunt needed help! Her mirror had woken up long enough to tell her that. She was a hero, she had to help him. More than that--she wanted the mirror to work again. She needed the mirror to work again. Mr. Gaunt was trusting her to deliver the pen!

...Just like Minako had trusted her to be a good friend.

Maybe she needed to think about this a little more.


Minako
Minako was frantic and Artemis was pissed and if there was one person in this place she should be able to go to about sekkrit identities and stuff, it should be Kathy.

So here was one sleepless Aino Minako, banging on the door just a few down from her own room. Maybe if she was lucky, Kathy had seen something.

Kathy
Kathy was so startled that she nearly fell off the bed. She--she wasn't expecting anyone! Had someone come to steal her mirror! Had Mr. Gaunt come to demand his payment?

"Just a sec!" she called, hastily shoving Minako's pen under her pillow. Her mirror, she treated more gently, wrapping it back up and tucking it in her desk drawer. Even if it wasn't someone sent for the mirror, she didn't want them getting any ideas.

Funny. When she'd thought of all the people who could be coming to steal from her, Kathy had never once given thought to the possibility that it could be someone that she had stolen from. "Mi--Minako..." Kathy stuttered, her heart dropping into her stomach and leaping up into her throat at the same time. "You're here."

Busted.

Minako
"Is this a bad time? Gomen, but I really, really need to come in. Please?" she asked, looking around nervously. "It's important."

Kathy
"Well...." Kathy was on the verge of telling Minako that it was a terrible time and that she should come back later.

Or maybe never again.

But Minako didn't seem furious and accusatory. Maybe...maybe she didn't know? Maybe it would be okay?

Maybe turning her away would make her start to suspect.

"Of course you can come in," she said, opening the door wide so Minako could come in out of the hallway. "Sorry, I've just been under the weather lately and I don't want you to get what I have--" understatement "--but you look like you could use a friend."

Oh god she was the worst.

Minako
Minako came in, carefully shut the door behind her, and then burst into tears.

"I...I don't know what to do," she said, dashing away tears with the back of her hand. "Kathy, someone stole my pen. Artemis accused-- er, I mean, I figured Artemis played with it and knocked it behind a dresser or something, or I had lost it somehow, but I didn't, I know I didn't! And if I don't have it, I can't transform! I can't save her! And I can't fail again. Not again."

She swallowed hard, shaking her head to clear her thoughts. "But-- have you seen anything weird in the last day? Or hear anything? I know you said you're sick?" And, yes, Kathy looked very sick. "But anyone at all?"

Kathy
"Can't save her?" Kathy asked, confused. Was it her headache that was making this conversation impossible to follow or was Minako legitimately not making any sense? "Can't fail again? Fail who? Fail what? What are you talking about Minako? You've never failed anything in your life!"

Not that Kathy was bitter or anything. Really.

Minako
"That's not true." Minako looked down at her hands. "I killed a boy who loved me, right before I came here. It was my fault. He was a sad, lost boy, who'd been eaten up with waiting through two lifetimes for someone to love him back in the way he deserved, and it destroyed him."

"This time around I am Aino Minako. Daughter, student, human, with hopes and dreams, but I don't know for how much longer. I'm changing, Kathy. You see it, sometimes, when I'm Venus. I'm her, but she's not me because she's never been me, but I was her ten thousand years ago." She took a breath, then looked up to look Kathy square in the eyes. "I was the Princess of Venus, reincarnation of the Goddess herself. I still am, I suppose. But then? I was the Heavenly Soldier and Captain of the Sailor Senshi, bodyguard and body-double to Her Royal Highness, Princess Serenity of the Moon. I led armies across the galaxy and men died at my command."

"But I failed in my duty and Serenity died. I slew the woman responsible for the madness, killed the man I loved with my own hands, even as he murdered me, and we all died. Planets died, Kathy. I've only been brought back to stop the cycle from repeating itself. Serenity is out there, defenseless, without her memory, and they're trying to kill her. She's just a girl." Minako clenched her fists and looked down. "Half the time I don't even know where I end and Venus begins but I cannot fail again. I won't let Earth fall a second time. But if I can't transform, I can't protect her or the planet. I can't protect you, or Sparkle, or Johnny or Gwen or Jessica or Mara or Miss Adler or Miss Parker or Ezra or Alana or anyone."

Kathy
"What? Wait, wait, wait, slow down." Yeah, Kathy was pretty sure that Minako was making this conversation impossible, not her headache. Of course, that headache--swiftly turning into a migraine--wasn't helping, so she crossed over to her desk and shook a couple of aspirin into her hand. "I'm so lost. Did you just say that you're a goddess? And that whole planets died? Including the Earth?"

Minako had killed someone?

Minako
"I was a goddess, at one point, but now I think I'm the reincarnation of a reincarnation of a goddess. It makes my head hurt." Minako shoved her hands through her hair in frustration. "Look, I can prove it, but that's not what's important. What's important is that someone stole my transformation pen, and I've failed once which cost billions of lives and sent this planet into the stone ages. I so cannot afford to fuck-up again."

"Did you see anything? Anything at all? Who around here would even do such a thing?"

Kathy
"I've barely left my room," Kathy hedged. Which was true enough in its own way. "And, of course you don't have to prove anything to me. I believe you. You wouldn't lie to me."

Friends didn't lie to each other. Friends shouldn't lie to each other.

"Minako, I..."

The Mirror
"Katherine Hana Li, don't you dare!" Kathy jumped, staring down at her desk drawer in amazement. She hadn't closed the drawer all the way when she'd hid her mirror and now, clear as day, her mother's voice was issuing forth from it. "I know exactly what you're thinking and I won't have it, do you hear me? Your father would be ashamed of you! Giving in to this jjokbari! Have you no shame? No pride? We raised you better than that!"

She could see movement beneath the thin silk she'd wrapped the mirror in. Her mother prided herself on her composure; if she was angry enough to pace then Kathy had angered her very badly indeed.

"Or are you such a coward that you need to hide behind the protection of this ilbon-nom? So much that you'd throw away the one thing that makes you special?"

Kathy
Kathy looked over at Minako, standing woebegone in the middle of Kathy's room. The evening sunlight had caught in her hair, kissing it with flame and limning her pale skin in gold. Even after crying, Minako was beautiful. She was everything that Kathy had ever wanted to be.

And her mother was right. Kathy wasn't some kind of reborn goddess, with past lives filled with romance and excitement and drama. She didn't have magic at her fingertips to shock and awe her enemies into submission. No, she was just a mostly-ordinary girl, a little faster and bouncier than normal, who went out every night not to atone for some massive fuck-up in a previous life or to protect some precious princess. No, she went out there risking her neck because it was the right thing to do. And if she fucked up, she wouldn't get reborn again and again and again until she got it right. Nope, that was it, Kathy's only shot--gone.

She didn't need Minako's protection. Minako hadn't even trusted her enough to tell her! Not until she'd decided to transform in front of everybody! And now all this 'oh-I'm-a-reincarnated-goddess' stuff, which she was only telling Kathy now because she wanted her help!

Were they really even friends? If Minako was keeping huge secrets like this to herself, could they be?

Kathy didn't think so. And Kathy wasn't going to give up her only chance to be special to someone who wasn't even her friend.

"You're right," she said. "No one around here would do something like that. You must have lost it. That doesn't seem very responsible of you, Sailor V."

Minako
Wait, what?

"What?" Minako blinked at Kathy, shocked. She didn't just... "You know I didn't. I'm not stupid, Kathy. I keep it with me all the time, unless I'm in the dorms. I didn't even leave the dorms yesterday, so it was in my room the whole time. Why would you say something like that?"

Kathy
Kathy shrugged. "Well, it seems better that than accusing someone in the dorms of stealing your little magic wand, doesn't it? I mean, who do you want to point fingers at? Who were you thinking of accusing? Flick, maybe? Edward? Sparkle?"

Minako
"'Who around here would even do such a thing,' as in I DON'T think a person did it!" Minako retorted, hurt. "Sparkle would never take something from me, and I don't think Flick or Edward or anyone here is like that! We might be a bunch of weird and screwed-up people who don't always get along - look at King Grumpypants Ronan - but we're still family even when we don't get along and family doesn't do that!"

"That's why I'm asking if you saw or heard anything, because it must have been a squirrel or a gremlin who just saw a shiny and didn't understand what they were doing! Why would you even think I'd go around accusing people?" Minako shook her head, backing up. "My 'little magic wand?' Making fun of me being irresponsible? Why are you being so mean? My transformation pen - part of my soul - is missing and I came to you for help because I thought you'd understand and want to help!"

The Mirror
Family. Kathy's heart twisted up inside her chest. Family.

"What about me?" Sarah, this time, voice echoing through the mirror. "Your real family? She's not going to protect me, is she? I'm not special. I'm not her princess. I'm just me, your baby sister."

The stress on 'your' was subtle, but enough that Kathy felt it, right in her gut. She doubled over and gagged.

"You have to protect me, Kathy! You do! She won't--and if I don't have you, I'll be all alone."

Kathy
Kathy hit the ground, landing on her hands and knees, coughing and retching, though she had nothing in her stomach to come up. Pale and sweating, she looked up at Minako and hissed.

"You don't...need it...I do..."

Minako
Minako was already going for Kathy's trashcan, dropping to her knees to put it in front of her and reaching to help hold her hair back. "We need to get you to the Clinic--" she started, before Kathy's comment hit home.

"You need...? No," Minako shook her head firmly. She misheard. "Are you dizzy? Do you need to go to the Clinic? I can call a rickshaw."

Kathy
"Don't touch me!" Kathy growled, leveraging herself to her feet with help from her bed. "I don't need your help. I already got everything I needed from you."

And with that she snatched Minako's pen from under her pillow and tried to shove Minako to the ground. If she could just start running, she could get to Needful Things in mere minutes, long before Minako could. She could give him his pen and come to his rescue at the same time! No one would be able to doubt what a hero she was then!

Minako
Banzai could outrun Minako in an instant. But this wasn't Banzai or Kathy, and Minako shot to her feet, pivoting to try and sweep the other girl's legs out from under her.

"I don't know who you are or what you think you can do with my pen," she said coldly. "Where is Kathy?"

Oh Minako, always assuming the best in people.

Kathy
In fairness, the normal Kathy would never do this! And if Minako were to use her compact, she'd almost certainly see something dark tainting Kathy's aura.

Kathy's unnatural agility came to the fore and let her turn her fall into a one-armed handspring, landing her back on her feet. She bared her teeth at Minako and sneered. "I know exactly what I'm going to do with your pen. I'm going to use it to become what I always should have been! I'm going to finally become someone important! Someone worthwhile! Someone who matters."

Her family started cheering from the mirror, she barely noticed. Tears were streaming down her cheeks, but she didn't noticed those, either.

"You already had your chance, Sailor Failure. I'm not squandering mine!"

[To be continued in the comments. Preplayed with the amazing beautifulsenshi. All mentions of past lives, Sailor Senshi, and the pen's magic powers NFB.]

beautifulsenshi

2015-03-25 04:01 am (UTC) (Link)

Minako moved to get between the Kathy-shaped person and the door. "I said, where is Kathy?" she said flatly, one hand sliding behind her to slip a compact out of her back pocket.

After the pen had gone missing... Minako hadn't taken off her communicator, or left the compact unattended, now she was glad she'd been paranoid. "You think you can make yourself important by taking me on, fine, we'll party. But where is Kathy? If you've hurt her, we're gonna have a Problem."

spin_kick_snap

2015-03-25 04:10 am (UTC) (Link)

"You can't confuse me," Kathy said, feinting left and then darting to the right in an attempt to get past Minako. Even ill, she was still frighteningly fast. "You're trying to get into my head, trying to confuse me. It won't work!"

Her father's voice coming from the mirror now, telling her he was proud of her, that she was a good girl, that she had to keep fighting and bring the pen to Mr. Gaunt and everything would be fine, better than fine, perfect.

beautifulsenshi

2015-03-25 04:48 am (UTC) (Link)

"Kathy knows her own worth," Minako said proudly, keeping pace with this crazy-person's zigging and zagging. "She doesn't have to tear other people down to be special, she's already important."

She whipped the compact out, flipping it open in a smooth motion. Minako had no idea if it would still work to change her into at least Sailor V, but she did know one function that still held power. "Now let's see who the moonlight says you really are!" she yelled, aiming it at the Kathy-shape.

Minako glanced down and...well, okay, so it was Kathy. BUT KATHY WITH A GROSS AND SCARY AURA.

It was entirely possible she said something very unladylike right then, that her mother AND Artemis would wash her mouth out with soap if they ever heard.

Edited at 2015-03-25 04:49 am (UTC)

spin_kick_snap

2015-03-25 05:13 am (UTC) (Link)

"What do you know about being unimportant?!" Kathy screeched. "What do you know about being friendless and scared and useless?" She lashed out with a sharp kick towards Minako's knee. "You've always been special, always been somebody, always been pretty and popular and wanted!"

A flurry of punches, flung out with no real aim. Her eyes were blurry with hot tears she still didn't realize she was crying. "You don't know what it's like to be a disappointment to your parents! To sit in the same room as people you've gone to school with since elementary school and realize they still don't even know your name! You're a fucking goddess! A reincarnated soldier with magic! Me? I've been nothing for so long, I barely know how to be something! And now I have something that will tell me what to do, how to act, how to be seen and respected and loved and you're trying to take that away from me!"

She was sobbing in earnest now, collapsing to her knees, all the fight (and energy) drained out of her.

beautifulsenshi

2015-03-25 05:29 am (UTC) (Link)

Oh Kathy.

"I know my mom sent me here thinking it was a summer cram school to raise my grades, because she thinks I'm not smart enough to go to high school or get a job," she said, kneeling down next to Kathy warily, in case she tried to run again. "I know that I woke up one day and lost my friends that I'd had since preschool to a duty I knew nothing about and couldn't share with anyone."

"I know that you already know how to act and be loved and respected, and the only thing you need to tell you how to do that is your heart. So, I don't know what the rest of this is about? Or what you think I'm trying to take away from you, but I know you stole part of me." Minako reached out her empty hand, palm up. "I'd like it back, please."

spin_kick_snap

2015-03-25 05:36 am (UTC) (Link)

Kathy looked up at Minako, tear-streaked and woebegone. "But if I give it back, it'll all be for nothing. Your pen...the letter...I'll have ruined everything and I'll have nothing to show for it."

Even so, she was already bringing her hand out to hover above Minako's empty palm. Her fist was still clenched around the pen, the tendons in her wrist twitching as she fought against what she knew was right and what she wanted more than anything else.

the_family_li

2015-03-25 05:42 am (UTC) (Link)

From her desk drawer, the voices in the mirror rose in a clamor. Sarah was crying and begging Kathy not to do this, not to abandon her, not to give up when she was so close. Her mother was arguing, reminding her that Kathy was her beautiful girl and once she gave the pen to Mr. Gaunt, the mirror would tell her exactly how to make the world see that she was beautiful, wonderful, finally worth caring about.

And her father...her father's voice was the softest. He didn't have to raise his voice for his words to cut clean through her. He didn't need to scream or yell; he simply told her exactly what he thought of her, throwing all of her worst fears back into her face.

"You will never amount to anything. You are a disappointment. You are a burden. Nothing you do will ever be good enough. I am ashamed." He knew exactly the right things to say to lacerate her soul.

But then, he always did.

spin_kick_snap

2015-03-25 06:01 am (UTC) (Link)

Kathy froze. For a moment she was utterly still, not even breathing.

And then she dropped the pen into Minako's waiting hand, put her hands over her ears, and sagged forward, like a puppet with its strings snapped.

She was done. She was just so done. She wasn't a hero. She wasn't a friend. She was nothing.

beautifulsenshi

2015-03-25 12:51 pm (UTC) (Link)

Minako's fingers closed around the pen first, shoving it inside her shirt, and then she reached forward to catch Kathy. The mirror wasn't showing a possession aura anymore, but that was no reason not to be cautious.

"I don't know anything about a letter, but whatever this was for, it was always already for nothing," Minako said unsympathetically, even as she cradled Kathy to her, petting her friend's hair. "You compromised yourself and stole from a classmate, and worse, from a friend, and then you lied about it and tried to hide it."

"I think you owe it to me to tell me what this was about."

spin_kick_snap

2015-03-25 08:47 pm (UTC) (Link)

Kathy couldn't argue the point; there was no question that she owed Minako big time. Haltingly, she spilled the story, starting from when she'd entered the store to find something to send to Sarah to her discovery of the mirror to the price that Mr. Gaunt had extracted from her--not once but twice.

"I just--I just wanted to be a real hero," she said softly. "Like you. I love being Banzai, it's when I feel free, but I still feel like a giant impostor, too. I'm just boring, quiet Kathy with a few new tricks. Why should anyone look up to me? Why should anyone respect me? And I thought the mirror would show me how--show me the secret that would turn me into the person I always wanted to be."

beautifulsenshi

2015-03-26 01:33 am (UTC) (Link)

"That's all?" Minako was so disappointed in you, Kathy. "Being a hero isn't about other people giving respect, it's about duty and doing what's right."

She pulled away from the girl she'd thought she was her friend, and stood up. "I'm going to call a rickshaw to come up to the dorms and take you to the Clinic, and I'll find someone to help you downstairs. You look like you haven't eaten in weeks. Go get looked at."

She paused by the door, looking at Kathy again. "What you did? That is not what banzai is about. You might want to think about that."

With that, Minako left, and shut the door behind her.

spin_kick_snap

2015-03-26 04:03 am (UTC) (Link)

Kathy didn't look at Minako as she left. Kathy couldn't look her. She didn't have the right.

"I'm--I'm sorry," she whispered, but the sound of the closing door cut her off entirely.

For several long minutes, Kathy just sat there, staring blankly at her hands. She wasn't entirely sure what to do. What she even could do. The mirror wouldn't even work now that she'd given Minako her pen back--and, truth be told, she wasn't sure she even wanted it to anymore. Everything it had ever said--everything it had ever shown her...It just felt so hollow.

Minako was right. She hadn't been a hero. She'd lost sight of what that had meant, wrapped up in childish wish-fulfillment and ego. She wanted to blame the mirror, blame Gaunt, but she knew that the real blame belonged to her alone. Even now, she could feel it's tug on her, trying to entice her into forgetting it all and losing herself in dreams again.

Well fuck that. Finally, she knew what she could do. What she had to do. She pushed herself up to her feet, strode to her desk, and took out the mirror.

Edited at 2015-03-26 04:03 am (UTC)

spin_kick_snap

2015-03-26 04:08 am (UTC) (Link)

The fog swirled over the surface, preparing to show her something else, trying to ensnare her once more.

Just watch... it whispered to her mind at a level below words and conscious thought. Just settle down and watch. Forget your hurts. Let them all float away....

spin_kick_snap

2015-03-26 05:00 am (UTC) (Link)

"Fool me once, shame on you," Kathy said, picking the mirror up. Her hands were still trembling, hadn't ever stopped really, so she held it tightly enough to turn her knuckles white. She didn't want to drop it by accident.

No, she wanted it to be very much deliberate.

"You don't get a second time."

And she hurled the mirror to the floor with all the strength she could muster.

spin_kick_snap

2015-03-26 05:08 am (UTC) (Link)

The glass shattered into a hundred tiny fragments. But the mist that had been swirling at the surface kept swirling, rising up until it was at eye-level to her, thickening, and turning black.

And then it solidified into a person, staring back at Kathy with familiar brown eyes.

If it had been her father, Kathy would have been prepared. After all, the mirror had mimicked her family to manipulate her for her entire talk with Minako. Seeing her father, or even her mom or her sister would have hurt, but she would have been prepared.

"Look at yourself," mirror!Kathy sneered. "Utterly pathetic. You feel brave now? Because you're not. You're still nothing. Now everybody knows it."

And then the smoke lost its cohesion and dispersed, leaving Kathy utterly alone amid a pile of broken glass.

Edited at 2015-03-26 05:10 am (UTC)