This was just not his day, Duo admitted to himself. Steal one little bit of food (never mind, punching the soldier it had belonged to) and suddenly every soldier on L4 is after you. Just not a good day to be an eleven-year-old kid.
He weaved through the pedastrians in the park. He could tell the soldiers behind him were getting closer with each step. This was not looking good for -
A hand grabbed the back of his shirt and pulled him back against a warm, thin woman's body, where a second, also strong arm went around him as well. A feminine voice, a vaguely familiar one at that, began speaking so loudly he wondered if she thought he was deaf. "Honestly, Duo, I leave you alone for five minutes and you get in trouble again!" She turned them both to face the soldiers, who skidded to a stop before her. "I'm very sorry. He's just such a handful. I can't k-keep an eye on him at all times, and he gets into all kinds of t-trouble!" By the way she spoke, he could tell she was producing some pretty amazing tears for the soldiers. "I just don't know what I'm going to d-d-do with him. I'm so, so v-very sorry. I'll - I'll pay for any damages."
She kept a death grip around him as she slowly reached for a very thin looking wallet. Before him, the soldiers exchanged nervous looks. Finally the one with the black eye spoke up. "Don't worry about it, ojousan. Just try to keep him on a shorter leash from now on, okay?"
"Okay. Thank you."
She kept a hold of him until the soldiers were out of sight then allowed him to break free. He turned, not sure if he wanted to thank her or berate her - and nearly tripped over his own tongue.
The angel woman... Neo Queen Serenity...
For a long moment, he stood there, words unwilling to come from his ususually glib mouth. Finally he asked the only question he could think of. "Did you find him yet?"
"No, not yet, Duo-kun." She bent down and smoothed his hair back into his braid, smiling at him softly. "Would you like to join Juu-chan and I for a little bit? We're having a picnic."
"That's okay. You've helped me enough. I should -" His stomach growled, belying anything else he was going to say. "Okay. For just a little bit."
She nodded. "Okay." She put an arm around his shoulder and led him to the back of the park to a large tree where the other blonde woman from before was waiting, leaning against a tree and measuring up anyone near her queen. "Juu-chan, you remember Duo, right?"
"From the church on L2 four years ago, hai. I'm Juuhachi-gou, Duo."
He had been wondering who she was and had pretty much decided she had to be one of those so-called Sailor Senshi. But her being Jinzouningen Juuhachigou? That never crossed his mind. "Pleased to meet you."
Serenity sat down on the blanket, smoothing out a white dress identical to the one she wore four years ago, and gestured for him to sit as well. "Juu-chan and I have already eaten. The rest is yours."
If this is what was left over, he would have hated to have seen it before now. "You don't mind?"
"Go right ahead. Enjoy."
Those words were barely out of her mouth before he was stuffing his. She smiled. Juuhachi sat down beside her, and the smile faded to a serious look. "We've searched all the colonies," the Jinzouningen was saying. "We might as well go back and search Earth again."
"I don't understand why we can't find him."
"It could be he's moving around. He may have a guardian or something." Juuhachi snorted. "These aren't the best of times to stay in one place and especially not alone. And I'm sure my brother was very indiscriminate about where and with who he left him."
"Oneesan?" Serenity glanced back over at him, a new smile on her face that soon faded. "What happened? Why isn't he with you?"
"Have you heard about what happened ten years ago?"
"When the Federation destroyed Crystal Tokyo? Yeah. Everyone knows about that."
"Well, when their soldiers attacked, we weren't prepared for a war."
"It was my daughter's birthday," Juuhachi added sadly. "Marron was turning thirteen that day. The Federation attacked, and everyone got separated. When the smoke cleared, Serenity here and I thought we were the only ones left alive. A year later, we ran into my brother, Juunanagou, and found out differently."
"He'd survived the attack too and somehow found my son, saved him." Serenity sighed deeply. "The Federation had had him, and Juunanagou took it as a challenge to take him back. Which he did, then -"
"Then he got bored," Juuhachi interrupted, "and, according to him, 'gave the brat to the first ningen he saw.' Direct quote."
"So that's why he isn't with me, Duo-kun. How was the food?"
He looked down to note the fact he'd eaten almost everything that had been on the picnic blanket. "Really good. Thank you for sharing it with me."
She smiled brilliantly. "I'm just glad you enjoyed it. You're probably about to leave, ne?" He nodded slowly. "Then why don't you take the rest of it with you?"
He eagerly agreed and watched with hungry eyes as she packed up a brown paper bag of leftovers for him.
One thing was for certain: she was certainly like no other grown-up he'd ever known.
And he really hoped he'd be able to see her again someday.