Disclaimer: I do not own these characters.
A/N: I suppose I just felt like writing something a little less heavy.

This is Why
By Victoria G.

Usagi kept pace with the blonde beside her, frowning slightly. The expression looked out of place on her. "Rei-chan didn't want to come?"

Minako was also wearing a frown. "I guess not."

Pigtails bounced as they turned a corner, and the Moon Princess regarded her friend, a question forming on her lips. "Did you ask her too?"

"I texted her at lunch."

Interested blue eyes met a pair that were just the slightest shade darker. "Well did she answer you?"

A sigh. "Yes."

Annoyed at the slow deliverance of important details, Usagi turned to her friend. "Mina! What did she say?"

The girl beside her shrugged dejectedly. "She said 'no'."

"But just 'no' or anything else?"

"Just 'no'." She showed her friend the text message, looking a bit put out. "With a period at the end."

"That's exactly what she said to me! Well, no period, 'cause we were talking." That made sense to both of them. People did not usually speak their punctuation marks aloud.

"When she said 'no' did she seem kinda mad?" Minako asked absently, poking at her hip... the text message had looked annoyed to her.

A confused expression came across the shorter woman's face. "Doesn't Rei-chan always seem a little bit mad?"

There was a pause during which she gave the question due consideration. That was true... their friend always did seem a bit irritated. A bit irritated and ditching friends were two very separate things though... "A little more than usual?"

"You think so?" Usa questioned, trying to ignore the rumble in her stomach.

"Yup. She was extra cranky." It was unusual to get such a short message in return, the Senshi of love silently acknowledged. Typical Hino responses were at least two words... or had been until now. Whatever happened, it must've been serious… Minako decided.

"I was worried about that too." This confirmed thoughts already spinning beneath bunned pig-tails. Whatever happened, it must've been serious… Usagi decided.

With a forlorn sigh, the volleyball player pulled open the door to Crown Arcade. "Maybe she's mad at me."

"I think it's me. I think I annoy her." Her companion answered as she scurried inside.

Minako was fairly certain she had annoyed Rei too… at least on one occasion. It was possible they both did but did that mean they were annoying people or that Hino Rei was easily annoyed? It had to be the second one. Her and Usa were fun... most people liked them. Still... Rei could be an exception even if they were friends. Rei made a habit of being the exception. "Me too." She confessed.

"I asked her today if I did," Usagi spoke as she slipped into the booth, eyes already sparkling at the sight of the ice cream menu. "Do you know what she said? the big meanie!"

"What?" Minako could certainly venture a guess. All anyone needed to do was spend a couple minutes with those two and the answer was pretty clear. Rei's response when the volleyball player had asked her the same question though… totally unexpected!

With a pout, the question was answered. "Sometimes!" Usagi deserved a treat for putting up with such a grump, in her opinion.

A chin was rested atop of folded arms. "... she said that too when I asked her."

"You asked her too Mina-chan?"

"Yesterday." She admitted, still brooding over the Miko's half-confirmation.

The pout became more pronounced and the beginnings of tears pricked at her eyes... dessert momentarily forgotten. "Why would we annoy her? We're her friends!"

A bit of paranoia began to creep in. "I think it's because I text her too much. Yesterday I found all these cute puppy pictures. I was sure she'd wanna see them."

"Did she answer you?"

"Not after the third one. I couldn't help it though! Look!" She scrolled through her phone showing them to her friend, who cooed and swooned exactly the way she thought Rei would. The puppies were some of the cutest she'd seen in recent weeks.

"So cute!"

Hands were thrown up in vindication. "I know!" At least someone understood…

"I woulda sent them too." Minako looked at them one last time, deciding no one could be irritated after seeing puppies that adorable. It had to be something else.

That girl was so difficult to understand. Part of her thought the Miko did it on purpose... like she just had to be mysterious. It wouldn't surprise Mina if she had some rule about how often she had to refuse social gathers just to be extra aloof… or maybe she really was mad at her for something. Why the idea of that was so unsettling to her was a question she had no intention of asking herself. Ever since Rei had said she annoyed her though, since her refusal today… all afternoon it had been bothering her. She checked her phone again just to be sure… nope, definitely not those puppies…

Usagi interrupted her thoughts. "It might be because I eat too fast."

The exclamation caught her off guard. "Huh?"

"I think it makes her mad... she always rolls her eyes at me and calls me an idiot or a pig. She probably didn't come because of that." A bit of hurt crept into the words. "I can't help it if I like ice cream!"

"You don't eat that fast." Her friend debated, patting her back gently. It seemed to soothe, even if it was a lie.

"So why is she mad at us then?" The princess was puzzled... if it wasn't the puppies... and if it wasn't her eating... why then? They still didn't have a why and there was always a 'why'.

Something quite suddenly occurred to Minako. "Maybe she feels like we invited her as an afterthought or something, 'cause we were already going, y'know?"

Blue eyes teared up again at the thought that they had planned this with such thoughtlessness. Suddenly the world had been flipped on end because Rei was not the one being mean... they were. It had to be fixed immediately. "Poor Rei-chan! I didn't mean it like that."

Fingers drummed on the table nervously, mouth quirked. It was a possibility, a good one too… she would have been irritated. "Maybe we should…"

Worried eyes turned pleading as they met those of the girl next to her. "What should I say Mina-chan?"

"I dunno. Say we're sorr..." Before the words were even out of her mouth, the text was sent and a sigh of relief was breathed.

"I just did."

Minako's lip slipped beneath her teeth, concern all over her face. Rei might just be angrier at their calling attention to it, might want to be left alone. She liked her privacy... her space... maybe texting her 'sorry' was worse. "Just 'sorry' Usa? What if that makes her feel weird about it? That could make it worse."

"Oh no! I didn't think about that. What else should I say?" A little panic crept into that high-pitched voice.

Minako wasn't sure how to fix it. She never was where Rei was concerned. "I don't know."

Thumbs began working busily. "What about... sorry if I... no..." Texting...erasing... texting... erasing... confusion... frustration... towel thrown in and a dejected roll of a forehead on the table accompanied by a groan. "This is so hard."

Her friend watched the fidgety, anxious typing...watched the resignation. It all made her nervous. "Don't say anything else till we think of something good."

"Okay. Maybe we should go to the shrine and just apologize after?"

Minako saw no reason to completely forego their entire reason in coming, even if Rei was mad at them. "But I thought we were getting milkshakes?"

"After silly!" As far as Usagi was concerned, abandoning their milkshakes was not even an option.

A thought crawled its way out of Minako's mind, knocking on her skull, gathering every bit of paranoia that swam there. "What if we're wrong and she has a secret date or something?"

Realization dawned like a slowly rising sun on the pig-tailed blonde's face. It was possible... it was absolutely definitely kinda possible. "A secret date? Why wouldn't she tell us? Doesn't she trust us?"

Gears were turning now, mulling over the details of this new explanation. It was the most likely one they'd come up with... likely enough to merit some mischief. "Maybe she's nervous about it."

Despite the insult of hiding it... dates were romantic things... beautiful things that deserved a bit of swooning and Usagi required no convincing to provide it. "Oh, that would be so cute! You're right, Mina-chan. Rei-chan would hide something like that!" Her hands clasped together at the exclamation. "Who do you think it is?" A mystery... it only added to the romance.

"I don't know... someone from school?" There was a touch of unhappiness at the thought that Minako could not easily explain away. Maybe it was that they'd been ditched for some boy... some boy who probably had a bunch of cute friends that their own friend had not bothered introducing them to. That was the reason. Rude, is what it was.

"Rei-chan goes to an all girl's school though..." That was right... the Senshi of Love had forgotten that Tokyo Academy was an all girl's school. After the mess she caused there, she wasn't sure how she could have misplaced those memories... even for a second.

She slumped in the booth, growing frustrated with trying to unravel their mysterious Miko companion. Rei was unravelable... if that was even a word. "So that's not it then"

"ooooooooooor...what if..." Usagi's face split with the force of her disbelief, mouth agape. "…it is?"

Minako rolled her eyes. It was just silliness now. She scoffed at the idea. "No way."

In her excitement, the princess lifted herself from the bench, hand in the air, voice on the rise. "But what if Mina-chan, what if!"

Embarrassed the other blonde grabbed her friend's shirt and tugged her back down roughly. "...I don't think she's like that, Usa." She whispered. Rei couldn't be like that, she would totally know.

"She could be! Oh my gosh, what if she's totally in love and they're on a romantic date right now in the park or something!" Hands flew back to her mouth, covering her lips. It would be too adorable! "Aw!" The sound was muffled by fingers.

"Maybe she just had work to do at the shrine." There was no way Rei was like that… not when she'd never even drunkenly tried to kiss Minako. Being possessed didn't count…

"Or she wants us to think that!" Shifty blue bounced back and forth. It was out and out deception and Usagi would have none of it. Lying to her friends... it was mean, even for Hino Rei.

"...it would be a pretty good cover." The Miko couldn't possibly be like that... her minded yelled the words again. She was surrounded by some of the cutest girls in Shibuya on a daily basis and had kept herself together. For the love of love, she was right next to Minako during study sessions and hadn't tried a thing... not even something grade school and boring like holding her hand or brushing against her. "Maybe we should scope out the park," Mina suggested thoughtfully.

"Well if she didn't want us to know about it..." In her head, Usa imagined the wrath that would be unleashed if they were caught. Really it was the only deterrent…

"We should know about it! We're her friends! She shouldn't be keeping it to herself in the first place." Mina argued righteously.

"Rei-chan can be secretive." She admitted.

"Too secretive!" Mina nodded. A growing bit of annoyance blossomed into a touch of aggravation. The tables were turning and Hino Rei was losing her moral high ground… it was Minako's turn for a little rage reveling. "I can't believe she wouldn't tell us that. We are totally going to park after this."

"How long do you think they've been dating?" Usa asked curiously.

That was a good question. How long had this been going on under her back? Or behind her nose... or whatever. The point was that it had been going on and not with her... … … knowing!... not with her knowing was what she meant to think. God, she needed that ice cream. Not eating was starting to mess with her head. "Did she come last time we went out?" She changed the subject.

Brow furrowed as the Princess thought. "Nope. It was when we went to the arcade two weeks ago, remember?"

Rei was there. Minako remembered her wearing that little skirt… she still planned to pilfer it from the other girl's closet. "She came."

"She didn't!" A little whine at being openly contested escaped.

"I thought I remembered her yelling at you for stealing a french fry?" That definitely happened.

Usagi reluctantly nodded, a bit of residual outrage coloring her face. "Well, she wasn't even eating them! Didn't she leave early then?"

Oh, that's right. That wily fire Senshi was playing Minako... playing all of them. "... she did."

"Suhhh-spiiii-cious!" Usa proclaimed, her voice sing-song, eyes excited as a milkshake was placed on the table.

Was it ever. "What about before that?

A big sip and a blissful smile before the answer came. "She skipped the karaoke party."

Mina gasped and slapped the table. This was really happening... Rei was dating a girl. "She did, you're right Usa!"

"Mmm. Proof!" Another delicious swig.

That sunny face fell into cloudy despair... proof... it was proof. "Rei-chan's dating a girl." She said it quietly, tasting the words and finding something she wasn't quite sure she liked there. It was ridiculous. Rei liked girls and had never told her? Never tried to practice kissing with her... never did any of the tip-off things? She was offended actually... was she not even worth being an experiment?

"What's wrong Mina-chan?"

She felt suddenly sick. It must be hunger... her friend's stomach had been growling the entire time they'd been waiting. Her stomach was just following along. "Nothing."

"You sort of look... upset." Usa's eyes stayed on her, cheeks hollowing as she took a bigger sip.

"I'm not upset!" A laugh at the impossibility of such a thing. If Rei couldn't see a good thing when it was right in front of her... well she deserved some snotty TA girl. With that decided, she took a drink of her own chocolate milkshake.

"It's a little weird." The princess remarked when the cold of the ice cream became too much for her brain.

"No, it's not!" Her response surprised her, the quickness.

"...no? The girl who tried to steal my boyfriend?"

Minako rolled her eyes. "She didn't try to steal him Usa."

"She kinda did!" The blonde defended... Rei was a borderline pre-home wrecker.

"...she dated him first." Minako was only becoming more and more annoyed with the raven-haired girl. Did she only pretend to like Mamoru? A faker with no taste in women…

"I had my eye on him!" A finger waggled and the fell limp as she noticed the expression on her friend's face. "Why are you pouting?"

"I'm not!" Another overly defensive response and the other girl's eyes were already growing watery.

"Miiinaa-chan... just tell me already! I don't need you mad at me too!" Such sadness in those big eyes…

A sigh. "... it's just..."

"What?" Though her slurping drew the attention of several nearby patrons. The princess was unperturbed.

Minako crossed her arms over her chest. "She didn't even try to date me first?"

"She didn't try to date me either." Brain seemed to catch up with mouth a moment later. "Wait...do you wanna date Rei-chan?"

"That's beside the point!" It was completely beside the point in fact. There were no points being made about what the Senshi of Love did or did not want. Rei was lying to them, that was the original point. The other more important point was that Aino Minako was completely datable... a hot commodity. It was a point that needed recognizing.

Her princess was equal parts confused and amused. "It is?"

"Yes! I'm cute!" Another slap to the table to punctuate. "That's the point!"

Usa nodded happily. "You're totally cute!"

Minako flopped back against the back of the bench. "So then why?"

Another sip of milkshake and a strange look. Her friend was being very weird about this, but her drink was fabulous. Mitoki had outdone himself. "I don't know Mina."

The irritation was dripping onto the seat, pooling around her and making Usa inch away from the gathering storm. "What? She doesn't think I'm good enough for her?"

"Rei's snobby sometimes." It was said warily… the weirdness beginning to overtake the deliciousness of the ice cream…

"I am?" A new voice broke in and both blondes straightened in shock.

"Rei-chan! I thought you weren't coming!" The moon princess remarked sheepishly, laughing, grinning, and resting a hand on the back of her neck. She was trapped between a controlled flame and a black cloud. The urge to protect her milkshake was strong.

"I changed my mind. It's rude to talk about people behind their backs you know!" Minako turned around in a huff, ignoring the woman completely but making sure to send her an annoyed glare first. It was not overly effective with the back of the bench in the way, but that was no matter. The point was being made nonetheless. "What's her problem?" Rei asked Usagi, who shrugged and pretended ignorance with the skill of a guilty three-year-old. "Fine." She tapped the irate girl's shoulder. "Helllooo?" She said, sighing when no response was forthcoming. "Earth to Minako..."

The blonde whipped around, thrusting an accusatory finger toward Rei's face who stumbled backward in some combination of anger and shock. "You're not better than me!" She nearly yelled the words, arms crossing in a huff. Several of the patrons in the shop turned to gawk hoping to see a bit of drama... it was a promising start at least.

The Miko froze, staring in disbelief at her friend. "...what are you talking about?" Irritated, she pulled her phone from her pocket, the continued beep of an unread text too much for her nerves... these girls were too much for her nerves. She glanced down at the device and then rolled her head toward the blonde sipping her strawberry milkshake and watching them just as the others were...with fascination and anticipation. "And why are you 'sorry'?"

Usagi waved her hand dismissively and giggled awkwardly. Rei's eyes bounced between the wounded stare of one blonde and the goofy smile of another. "I wonder what made Rei-chan laaa- aaate?" Again with the singing, her words said to herself and an irritated eyebrow twitched.

The lyrical tease only seemed to darken the Senshi of Love's mood. "Plenty of people would want to date me!" The other girl threw out, glaring and then turning her nose up and away.

"It's true. She has a new boyfriend like every other week!" Two cents thrown in, the Princess happily went back to her milkshake.

"Usa!" She reprimanded, while Rei's eyes narrowed. "Anyway...the point is that you!" She flicked her finger at the Miko. "Would be lucky!"

After the absolute haze of confusion dissipated, the dark-haired girl threw up her hands and released a frustrated growl. "Why do you two always have to be such idiots?" She turned around and stomped out of the arcade, pausing in the doorway. "This is why I don't come out!"