AN: So I just realized I have over 200 followers and 100 favorites on this story… HOW EXCITING! :D I'm also almost at 200 reviews, so let's make that happen!
You guys, all of you, are amazing, but I want to give a special shout out to those readers who have been following this story since it started. You are wonderful and extremely patient people :) This chapter is for you!
Usagi tried not to wince as she watched Mamoru's expression change from one of shock to one of indifference as she approached him, not unlike that which he had often worn ten years ago when she or Motoki weren't around to make him smile. It was the expression he used with strangers, with other people, people who weren't her. She had never really thought about what it might be like to be on the other end of it. She found it left her oddly cold.
Stopping in front of him, she tried not to notice how he didn't move his paper, leaving it sprawled across the table as if to deny her entrance, as if to keep her away. Clutching her sweater tightly in her fists, she struggled to remember what she had planned to say. His eyes, usually so expressive, were now so…blank. What was he thinking?
Perhaps she was quiet for too long, she honestly wasn't sure, but suddenly his voice was rumbling towards her and she snapped to attention.
"Tsukino-san. Good morning."
Usagi felt her mouth drop open and while some distant part of her brain registered that she must look ridiculous, she didn't think she could close it even if, in that moment, her mother appeared to spoon feed her cough syrup. Because that? That hurt. Tsukino-san? What the heck, were they business associates now?! She felt her heart grow heavy. Maybe he had decided he didn't even want to deal with her anymore…that she wasn't worth the trouble even of being his friend...
Close your mouth, Usagi, you're catching flies, her mind chided her, sounding far too much like Rei. But it did help and she managed to do so, swallowing painfully around the lump that had decided to spontaneously form in her throat.
"Mamor-" she stopped with a cough, "Chiba-san."
Did I flinch? Could he see that? Usagi felt like she must have because god that just felt so wrong. And it signaled exactly the opposite of what she came here to say! No, she had to show him that she wanted to be friends and that started now.
With a renewed sense of purpose, she straightened her shoulders and said firmly, "Mamoru-kun. I came to find you today because I wanted to apologize."
She waited for some sign that her words had registered, had meant something, but he simply continued to stare at her, hands folded in front of him as if this entire thing bored him. Worse, his eyes now looked arrogant, cocky, and cold. Like she wasn't worth his time. Like she wasn't worth listening to. Usagi hated it.
Looking away from them, she focused on the collar of his shirt instead, determined to forge ahead. The faster she got this over with, the faster Mamoru would be back to normal. She had decided to stick with a simple apology—nothing over-emotional, like she might use with her friends. He would probably hate that.
"I realized after you left the fair yesterday that how I behaved was not only rude, but also wrong. Especially after the fun we had together. And, well, it has come to my attention that you wish to be friends and – "
She thought she heard him snort lightly, but quickly pushed the thought aside and finished in a rush, "and I would like that too."
She waited with baited breath for his answer, but still couldn't bring herself to look back at his eyes. Were they warmer now? C'mon Mamo-chan…
Frustratingly, his voice revealed nothing, "You want to be friends?"
"Yes…" He's not normally this dense…
"No, you don't."
"Yes, I – wait, what?" Usagi's eyes whipped up to his face, then, shocked to see that he looked completely serious and, still, completely bored. "Yes, I do!"
Mamoru shook his head and she swore she saw a glimmer of something in his eyes before it disappeared, "Save it, Usagi, you made it very clear how you felt about me at the fair yesterday."
"But I didn't mean any of that!" she replied, fighting to keep the desperation out of her voice. This was not how she had expected this to go. "And I felt awful afterwards – "
"Oh, and you thought you'd come down here to clear your conscience?" Mamoru rolled his eyes, and if Usagi wasn't starting to get pissed off at his responses she might have been excited to see him finally showing some emotion. "Well then fine, I forgive you. Better?"
"What?!" She heard herself squawk. Is he serious?! I'm only trying to apologize, why the hell is he making this so damn difficult?
Usagi was about to lay into him when a loud 'ahem' to her right reminded her of their environment. With a huff, she pushed herself into the seat across from him and leaned forward with a glare.
"No not 'better'" she hissed, "I came down here because we were having fun the other day and then I – "
She watched him raise his eyebrow with skepticism, but pushed ahead before he could interrupt her, "I screwed it up. And I am apologizing because I don't want you to leave thinking I hate you because I don't."
Punctuating each word with a sharp poke to his paper, she tried to get it through his thick skull, "I want to be your friend!"
Usagi felt herself breathing a bit heavy, but refused to relax. During her small tirade, Mamoru had leaned back in his chair, arms folded across his chest, but his face remained impassive and he appeared to be studying her. She had never liked when he did that. It made her feel young.
After a couple moments, he finally spoke, and his words immediately made her want to crawl back into her bed and never come out. "What makes you think I'd want to be friends with you?"
Usagi could feel herself shrinking – her shoulders sinking along with her confidence, because of course. Of course, he didn't want to be friends with her. Who had she been kidding?
Her voice suddenly sounded small and weak, but at least she wasn't crying. Rei would be proud of her for that.
"I-I'm sorry, I didn't mean to assume it's just you'd – well you've been acting differently lately or, well, my friends and I thought – or at least they thought – " her throat was aching and she could feel the tears building now as she fought to form a coherent sentence, "never mind what they thought, but Ami – Ami suggested we might be friends and then it seemed like maybe that's why, why you were being nice to me when – "
"Ami said that?"
Usagi looked up to see Mamoru with both eyebrows raised and then he snorted derisively. "And here I thought Ami was the smart one."
The last bit was muttered, but she heard it. Plain as day. Along with his meaning... He didn't care about her. He probably never had. She felt like such an idiot.
Holding herself together as best as she could, Usagi pushed back her chair, "Well then, I'm sorry I wasted your time this morning. I just thought – " she shook her head to cut herself off and quickly got to her feet. She had to get out of here before she broke down completely. "Goodbye, Mamoru."
She had only taken one step, however, when a warm hand encased her wrist and brought her to a stop.
She tried not to cringe as she felt him come up behind her, his body warm against her back, just like at the club. God, why couldn't he just let her leave?
His next words were lower, gentler, yet somehow, they hurt her even more. "I'm sorry"
He was pulling at her hand then, softly but insistently trying to turn her to face him. She hadn't actively started crying yet, but she knew he would be able to tell she was going to. Funny how the first time she saw him after ten years she ended up crying and now that's how he would remember her when he left. No wonder he thought she was a crybaby.
"Usagi," he said again and she allowed herself to turn slightly, hoping it would make him let her go, her eyes fixed pointedly at the floor.
Forcing back her tears, she gave a small shrug, "I should have known you didn't. I mean we have absolutely nothing in common," she gave a small laugh, hoping it didn't sound too forced, "Why would you want to be friends with someone like me?"
For a brief moment, Mamoru's hand tightened hard on her wrist, but then it relaxed. Taking advantage of this, she started to slip from his grip, "At least it's not as crazy as what my friends thought."
In an instant, his grip was back and she fought a frown. Why couldn't he ever leave her with at least some dignity?
"What did your friends think?" His voice sounded slightly strangled, but she didn't really notice. Maybe if she stamped on his foot she could make a run for it?
Pulling at her arm a bit to test his grip, she shook her head, "It doesn't matter."
The hand on her wrist suddenly pulled her backwards and, with a gasp, she stumbled toward him, her nose almost colliding with his breastbone.
"Usagi, what did – "
"Mamoru, please it doesn't – "
"Usako," he murmured, causing her words to dry up and her eyes to leap up to his, "What did your friends think?"
Usagi tried desperately to process what he had just said, but her brain and her mouth appeared to have disconnected and so she could only stutter out, "They – well they thought – but you don't, so…"
And he was staring at her with that expression in his eyes she had seen so often the past few days, but hadn't been able to read, but now it seemed to radiate out of him, pulling at her heart and causing her legs to turn to jelly.
She felt herself slowly shaking her head, not able to believe, to think… "You can't."
Mamoru's other hand brushed across her cheek, pushing a strand of hair behind her ear; so gentle, so warm and – and –
"Can't what?" he whispered.
She opened her mouth but there were no words there anyway, so she simply watched him, finally understanding exactly what his eyes had been telling her the whole time.
In response, her own eyes narrowed.
"You've got to be kidding me!"
Usagi watched with satisfaction as Mamoru winced and stumbled back a few steps, groaning, "Dammit, Odango, lower the decibels!"
Ha! As if her volume should really surprise him. No, there was something actually surprising here and it definitely wasn't her!
"You like me?!" she screeched.
Mamoru stared at her, looking flabbergasted. Oh, was he confused now? Well he could join the damn club!
His confusion didn't last long, however, as his shoulders hunched towards his ears in anger. "So what if I do? You don't need to go screaming about it!"
She snorted, "Well how exactly do you expect me to react? It's not like you've ever showed interest in me before!"
Mamoru spluttered, "What?! What do you think I've been doing the last few days?"
"Driving me insane, like you always have!"
His mouth opened and closed like a fish, but she could only appreciate his ridiculous appearance for a moment and then he was in her face, brandishing his fingers fiercely as he began to count them off, "I grabbed the elevator to see you. I went to Motoki's to see you. I went to the club to see you. I went to the fair to see you. I've been following you around like a goddamn puppy! What more was I supposed to do? Hold up a giant sign saying I LIKE YOU?"
Usagi could feel the stares of the other patrons itching at her skin, but they were surprisingly easy to ignore when a prickly Baka was standing in front of her trying to act like she was the idiot here!
"Well it may have helped," she spit out, poking him firmly in his chest, "if you'd at least spoken to me like a civil human being, but noooo! You had to continue to mock me and insult me and treat me exactly like you did when I was a kid! How the hell was I supposed to realize this is any different than before?!"
"It's not!" Mamoru yelled back, his hands forming fists in his hair, "I've always liked you!"
Okay, that one shut her up.
Usagi watched with surprise and a bit of worry as Mamoru began to pace back and forth in the limited space afforded between his table and the next. Normally she might have laughed at the appalled look of the old woman sitting at said table, but she couldn't tear her eyes away from the man now falling apart before her. She had never seen Mamoru look so…discomposed.
"I know I haven't been very clear about my feelings for you. I'm not good at talking to people or having" he gesticulated widely, "emotions. I've never known how to tell you how I feel. Hell, I didn't even know how I felt myself until two days ago!" she watched him clutch at his hair again, "But it's been there for-for years and how screwed up is that that I didn't even know?!" one of his hands moved to his shirt front, twisting in the fabric, before returning to his hair, "Motoki knew and your friends knew, but I didn't know, which is ridiculous! And even when I knew I couldn't stop teasing you because it's easy and you look so pretty when you're red – but that's not – I mean that isn't what I meant – I mean – well, see your face is – and-and you smell like lavender and it – what I mean is – "
As Usagi watched him pace – hair mussed, shirt wrinkled, hands unable to stop moving – she found herself grow calm. It was odd how seeing Mamoru come undone in front of her suddenly made everything in her own heart make sense. Because, really, this entire situation was quite easily resolved.
"Mamoru," she called and he stopped pacing to stare at her, his face solemn, his eyes lost. She felt herself smile, "You are the biggest idiot I have ever met in my entire life."
In the time it took for her to reach him, he only managed to blink twice, and then she was twining her arms around his neck and bringing his lips down to hers.
She was proud to note that he only stayed frozen for approximately two seconds before wrapping his arms around her and returning the favor. And then she quite lost all coherent thought.
Outside the café, a man whooped in glee as a woman snapped photos with her phone.
"I knew it! I knew they liked each other! YES! I am the king! I am the god of love! I AM KING CUPID!"
Reika snorted and spared a glance at Motoki before turning back to her screen. "Yes, yes - congratulations, honey. Now would you calm down and take a video from the other window? We'll need multiple shots of this for their wedding."
AN: First off, don't fear – this is not the end! I have one or two more chapters bouncing around in my brain :)
Secondly, this chapter was incredibly hard to write because it is like THE chapter. The chapter with the emotions and the climactic resolution and the first kiss and UGH it felt like a lot of pressure! It could have gone a number of ways – I actually originally wrote it with both Mamoru and Usagi's minds open to narration, but that just got WAY too complicated and jumbled. That said, I always welcome feedback and I invite you all to imagine this scene however you want if my own rendition has disappointed you. I really hope not, but scenes like this never please everyone because now we've lived with the story for months and have our own expectations for how it should go. Just know that I wrote and rewrote and rewrote it again, so please go easy on me...