"This is great!" Serena exclaimed, between huge spoonfuls of ice cream. "Great food, great shopping, great view...."
"I'll say," Lita agreed, as a rather attractive young man strolled by them. Raye rolled her eyes. So that's why they wanted to be out here. Typical.
"I'm just glad we managed to convince Luna and Artemis to remain at home," Mina said, stretching. The plate of fries set before her was half-eaten, and Lita took a few, here and there.
"No kidding," Serena agreed. "Nothing like having them around...`blah blah blah it's the Negaverse'."
"You know," Raye interrupted sourly, having about enough of the food-and-boy-fest, "that may be because they're right. We should be out there looking for the Negaverse, instead of wasting the whole afternoon sitting out here."
"Some one should cut back on their caffeine," Lita snapped, in between pinching mouth fulls of Mina's fries. The girls stared towards Raye's cappuccino.
Raye scowled. She started to say something to them to mind their own business when the waiter approached. He had a tray, and lifted an ice tea and a sandwich off of it, placing them in front of Amy.
"Thank you," she said genteelly, setting aside the book she had been reading to start on the sandwich.
"What kind did you get, Aims?" Serena inquired, leaning over, draping herself over the table, her long hair trailing.
"Chicken salad," Amy replied.
"Watch it, Meat-ball head, you're leaning over my coffee and the last thing I need is blonde hairs in it," Raye snapped, her face a deep red as her patience snapped.
"Whoa," Lita remarked, "What has gotten into you?"
"Nothing," Raye remarked, leaning back in her chair and crossing her arms over her chest. "I just don't want blonde hairs in my coffee." Why did they always take Serena's side? She was the one working long hours in the Temple, studying hard afterward for the exams, training to fight, while Serena just sat around eating and reading comic books. But it was Sailor Moon that got all the glory. All the reward.
"I see," Lita nodded, and she took Raye's coffee away. "I think maybe you need to calm down, Raye. This is your third cup this morning."
"Why don't you keep out of it?" The priestess in training was about ready to pop the tall brunette one--she deserved it-- when Darien approached from behind Amy's back just as Amy put down her book. "You two need to calm down," he said, just Amy was about to speak, and it seemed as though her voice had dropped a few octaves. The other girls giggled, even Raye, as Amy turned to see Darien behind her.
"Oh," she exclaimed. "You startled me."
"Sorry, Amy," he apologised. "I couldn't help overhearing the conversation and came to stick my two cents in."
"Do you want to sit down?" All of a sudden, Serena grew especially attentive, and even put her spoon down for a moment. Raye rolled her eyes again. The only time--the only time!-- Serena perked up was when Darien was around.
"Oh no, I can't stay." Darien shrugged in his green jacket and black top, which he wore even though the temperature seemed too uncomfortable for that.
"Actually," Raye burst out, not wanting to stick around while Serena fawned over Darien, "I have to be going. It's time for me to get back to the Temple." No one looked sorry to see her go.
In response, Mina looked at her watch and nearly fell out of her seat. "Omigod!" she exclaimed. "I really have to get going- -I've got to be at my Aunt's by two or my mom will kill me!" She leapt to her feet, gathering her stuff together like a whirlwind collecting debris, while Raye managed to be the polar opposite, calm and collected and deliberate.
Let them have their little "break", she thought. Some of us have things to do.
"I guess I should be going as well," Lita said with a shrug. "I've got a bit of homework still to do. Want to come help me with it, Aims?"
Amy looked up. She had been engrossed in her book, and hadn't heard the question. "Pardon?"
"Oh, never mind. I'll catch you guys later," she called. All she had was a purse, and she slung the strap over her shoulder and trotted out.
Raye followed demurely after and Mina flew past them in a tornado of flying legs and hair.
They all went their separate ways, and Raye trudged along the street towards the Temple. She hated having to give up the greater part of her day, every day, to the Temple. Well, no, that wasn't true. She loved working at the Temple, and she liked being busy. What she didn't like was how the others--Serena particularly--seemed to do nothing and yet breeze by okay. It didn't seem right, for Raye to spin her wheels in frustration while Serena kept up without effort.
Sometimes it seemed as though the purpose of the Scouts wasn't to protect Earth, but to cover up for Sailor Moon.
Raye looked up at the sky. It was a gorgeous deep blue, with out a cloud in sight. She sighed, and kept walking.
A few feet further along, and she thought she heard someone crying. A child. Looking over her shoulder, she saw the side- street was empty.
The crying continued. She narrowed it down to a small alley, and she looked around the corner. A small child, around five or six, was huddled on the ground, wailing.
Raye was stunned for a moment. She couldn't see any parents around...
The child looked up, and saw her. His eyes narrowed, as he tried to place her as someone he knew. When he couldn't, he hugged his knees tighter, trying to make himself as small as possible.
"Hello," Raye said, taking a deep breath, and kneeling. "Are you lost?"
"Go away!" the boy blurted, before burying his face in his knees. Raye was taken aback by the cry. She was tempted to get up and leave. But she knew she couldn't. "What's your name?" she asked gently.
"Go away!" the boy screamed again.
She bit down her first, angry response. He was just a little boy. "Are you lost?"
Seeing as the strange women wasn't going to go away like instructed, the little boy looked up. He had very dark, very intense eyes, and met Raye's gaze without any trepidation. He nodded, very slowly.
"Oh." Raye wasn't sure what to do next. "Well, where do you live?"
"I don't know," the boy replied.
"What's your name?" She tried a different track. He looked at her sullenly.
"Why should I tell you?" he said darkly.
"I can take you home," she said simply. "I can find your parents."
"I can find them on my own," he replied, hugging his knees firmly. "On my own. Don't need you!"
Raye fumed. "I'm just trying to help," she said sternly. "Why are you being so stubborn!"
"I'm not stubborn," the boy replied.
"Yes you are!"
"No I'm not!" he yelled.
Raye started to retort, but caught herself. There was no point in arguing with him like this. "Little boy," she said firmly, "I can't help you find your parents if you don't tell me your name."
He stared at her. "Why do you want to help me, anyway? Go help yourself!"
Raye half-smiled at the remark. "It's my job to help people," she said. She pointed in the general direction of the Temple. "If you come out onto the street, you can see where I work. I can take you there, and help you find your parents."
She was startled. "What?"
"No. I don't want your help." The boy sniffled, and wiped his nose on his sleeve. "I can do it on my own."
Raye was starting to have it with him. He was behaving just like Serena--completely irrational. But should she sink to his level? Or remain the mature one?
"Fine," she said, getting to her feet. "I'm going to call the police, and they'll come help you."
"No!" The boy leapt to his feet, frightened. "You can't call them on me! No! No!" He started to wail, and Raye got to feet as well.
"Stop crying," she said, gently. That had no effect. She wasn't sure how to act with children, and his crying was starting to get on her nerves. "Stop crying!" she said again, louder. That had no effect, either. The boy continued to wail and weep.
"I don't want to see the police," he cried, "I don't want to!"
"Then tell me your name," Raye said, grabbing an insight.
The boy stopped. "You won't tell on me?"
"Not if you tell me everything I need to know," Raye said with a grin. This was it. She was winning.
He nodded, still scared. "Richard."
"Richard...?" she prompted.
"Richard Leakey," he replied. "I'm visiting my grandma. She said not to run away, and I didn't listen!"
"It's okay, Richard," Raye said smugly. She held out her hand to him. "I'll get you home safe and sound."
He took her hand, and she led him out of the alley, and towards the Temple. He clutched her fingers too hard, and she had to switch hands to keep from getting a cramp. They walked up the Temple hill, and he stared at the sacred ravens.
"Mama has a bird," he said, pointing. "But yellow. It sings."
"That's nice," Raye said absent-mindedly. She wasn't really paying attention. Something was bothering her.
The little boy acted a lot like Serena, she realised. Immature, whiny--well, he wasn't whiny. He wasn't clingy, either. He wanted to do it himself. He was outspoken, and angry, and...
Raye stopped in her tracks. Richard looked up at her, concerned.
"Is that how they see me?" she asked him. "Loud, stubborn and always wanting my own way? Won't except help? Immature?"
"What?" he blurted, confused. She just gave his hand a squeeze, and headed the rest of the way to the Temple, her mind whirling. That's why they acted the way they did. They didn't see someone trying to make her own way, besieged by immature brats like Serena; they saw a stubborn, wilful girl who was just as bad as Meat-Ball Head. And Raye had been so touchy lately, what with all the assignments and late-night work. She shook her head, and tried not to think about it.
As soon as they got in the Temple, she filled her grandfather in, and he promised to call the P-O-L-I-C-E while Chad served the boy some tea. Raye was needed for some chores, so she left Richard with Chad, and started to make her way to her room.
There was a sudden pull on her shirt. She looked behind her.
"Don't go," Richard begged. "Don't leave me."
"I have to go do my work," Raye replied. "It's okay, Chad's here."
"No," Richard wailed, his eyes welling with tears. Don't go! Don't go!"
"Richard," she said, putting her hands on her shoulders, "We all have to do stuff we don't want to--"
She stopped herself mid-sentence. Where did that come from? No one made her do anything. She took care of the Temple, and loved every minute of it. She did her homework, grades being important to her, and trained three hours a night. She was the one who had to choose between studying and a quick visit with her friends at a local cafe. No one made her do anything she didn't want to. So why was she so mad at Serena for making a different choice? Serena choose not to concentrate on schoolwork. That was her decision.
"Okay," Raye said agreeably, taking his hand, "I think I will stay with you. Just because needs to be done doesn't always mean it needs to be done right away."
Richard nodded, unsure of what she was talking about; he hadn't been privy to her thoughts and revelations. All he knew was that he didn't have to be alone. Or with a stranger.
Raye led him back to the tea room, and together they waited for the P-O-L-I-C-E to arrive, with Richard's grandmother. Reunited, she thanked Raye profusely.
"When he ran away, I didn't know what to do," Mrs. Brown exclaimed. "My daughter left him with me for just a few hours, so we went to the park, and I told him not to run away--"
"Oh, kids," Raye said with a smile.
The woman smiled as she shook Raye's hand. "I can tell you're good with children," she said.
"Well, I'm not, really," she replied. "But it seems they're good with me."