Minako frowned into her lemonade, tuning out the surrounding chatter with practiced ease. They often forgot and she couldn't really blame them, but it could be quite frustrating when the world went up in flames around them and nobody thought to draw on her experience for guidance. Instead, they fell back on sacrifice and desperation and the Moon Crystal. They were a team and Sailor Moon was their leader, but they forgot scatter-brained, lovelorn Minako came first.
She wondered sometimes if they even realized – and then the chaos that was their normal smacked her in the face and she wondered who even had time. Only Ami, the only one to give her opinions a bit of extra attention, recognized superior experience through it all. Still, she really had to wonder sometimes how the others could not realize. Did they forget how long they'd been hearing about Sailor V? Did Usagi suddenly misplace her memories of obsessing over this or that Sailor V videogame? How could they never even ask her – what was it like to suddenly have these powers? How did you survive so long on your own?
Yet they never asked, never wondered. In her worst moments, she couldn't help the thought that they just didn't care that she spent years without them, fighting the good fight without the support and hope that spoiled them. She was a happy girl by nature but even happy natures could be stifled under years of loneliness and suffering, with only Artemis for company. Much as she loved him, one talking cat couldn't make up for a team or even a proper friend.
She hadn't had many of those during her solo years. Hard to keep up a friendship when you couldn't even keep up your grades, couldn't keep up with life outside of midnight patrols and early morning crash courses in first aid. If she were honest – brutally so – she wasn't sure how she made it, surviving to smile and hope with her team in a future she could have never predicted. One of her clearest, earliest memories as Sailor V was of dragging herself over her second-story windowsill, Artemis mewling sadly at her side as she figured out an explanation for her latest injury. Another scar for the collection.
Her one saving grace: at least she didn't have to make excuses to parents as the others did. Another thing they'd never bothered asking – what did you tell your parents when you were fighting all night, all alone? How could they let you move continents whenever you had to?
She would have told them her dead parents didn't really have a say. She'd been on her own since the day she turned fourteen. Her parents had always been busier with work, more in love with their corporations and each other than her, so for her birthday she had asked that they take her with them on a business trip to Albania and have her declared a legal adult under international law. Unsurprisingly, they had complied with little resistance. By that time, she'd been fighting the Dark Agency for over a year. Six months later marked her second anniversary as a senshi, her parents' deaths by plane crash, and her move to Japan.
The rising tones of an argument broke through her thoughts.
"Stupid Usagi! They're not nice, they're not just going to surrender with an apology for being rude—"
"Rai, you jerk, don't yell at me! I was just saying we should give them—"
"Both of you, calm down, this isn't helping anything—"
"Stay out of it, Makoto!" Usagi and Rai shouted in concert, turning back to glare at each other as Makoto rolled her eyes, hands up in surrender. The others kept right on arguing, but Ami's eyes were on Minako, and her soft voice soon cut through the chaos.
"Minako, what do you think should be done?" Minako almost startled at the sudden attention from her fellow senshi, all of whom looked confused but Ami. At least they hadn't noticed her uncharacteristic silence - it wasn't like her to lose herself in brooding over the past. Drawing a breath, she kept her eyes on Ami and answered, "Nothing."
The reaction was immediate and typically dramatic, but she cut through with the ease of one accustomed to having to make herself heard.
"Supervillians are all hopeless drama-queens, and I would know." She grinned a little sheepishly when that got a few chuckles, but Ami's eyes were still serious and surprisingly so were Makoto's. "They'll come to us. They can't stand the idea of their arch nemeses suddenly not caring what they do, it'll drive them nuts. We back off, I give it three days before they're running right into our arms."
They were all staring at her again and there was an uncomfortable awareness dawning in Makoto's and even Rai's eyes. Usagi, thankfully, was her stubbornly oblivious self and broke the momentary awkward silence with a cry as the oven timer went off in Makoto's kitchen, marking the arrival of chocolate chip cookies.
Minako watched them rush about and a faint smile touched her lips. It was never easy, but it was a start.