This showed up in my head, was planned, written and beta'ed within the space of a day. So, I mean, if that's obvious in execution, that's the explanation.
It's meant to be funny and light-hearted. Take it that way, ok?
Thanks as always to Irritablevowel who told me this fic wasn't as terrible as I assume it is. :)
"Seven, seven point five, eight, one, one, three, eight, oooh nine..."
"Minako, would you please stop? We aren't touring Keio University to rate the dateability of the students."
"Fair enough," Ami said. "Perhaps you could consider an internal monologue then?"
"I consider this a public service. Yowza! Twenty!"
"Who? That girl?"
"Yup. I don't discriminate."
"Oh, I know her," Usagi spoke up suddenly, making both Ami and Minako turn to look at her in interest. "Her name is uh... Something-ko."
"Everyone's name is Something-ko," Minako said.
"Not mine," Usagi said. "Or Ami's. Or Rei's. Or Makoto's. Or-"
"Fine!" Minako said. "I'm basic. I get it. Anyway, introduce us to your gorgeous friend."
"I don't know her that well. She's Mamo-chan's friend. She's, like, some model or something, who is also super smart."
"And you are cool with her being Mamoru's friend? You've come a long way I'm super proud of you!" Minako slapped Usagi on the back so hard the small blonde almost fell over. "I'd totally be freaking out."
"Michiru is way more beautiful than that, and he's friends with her," Usagi pointed out.
"Lesbian," Minako said.
"Loyal to you to a fault."
"ANYWAY," Ami interrupted, "we are very proud of you trusting Mamoru, and even if this Something-ko girl isn't your friend per se, let's go say hello."
"Yeah, I want to ask her about her skincare regimen," Minako said, pulling Usagi along. "I bet it's Korean and at least 15 steps."
Suddenly, Usagi found herself flung against the back of a tree, with Minako next to her, shushing her with a hand over her mouth. "It's Mamoru!" the taller blonde whispered.
Ami joined them, with a 'what now, Minako?' look, arms crossed and lips purse. "And?" she mouthed.
"I wanna see how he interacts with this 'friend'," Minako said, peering around the tree.
"What, so now that Usagi isn't jealous anymore, you had to step in the fill the crazy-shoes?" Ami muttered. Usagi glared at her over Minako's hand.
"Oh, and six-point-five," Minako threw out, when Mamoru came into view with a group of other co-eds. Usagi shifted her glare to Minako.
The conversation was something about the literature of the Meiji restoration, but it quickly turned to the subject of good places to get desserts, and Usagi elbowed Minako in the side because this was a subject in which she could be impressing all of Mamoru's friends, honestly.
"There is a new place that opened up just a block from my apartment, Starlight Rain Cafe?" 'Something-ko' was saying.
"That's Mako-chan's place," Ami whispered, at the same time Mamoru said:
"Oh, Namiko, you live by there? My friend Makoto Kino is an apprentice to the pastry chef."
"Really?" Namiko, stepped closer, putting a hand on his arm and drawing him away from the group. "I had no idea!"
"Yes, it's amazing. She's still in her last year of high school, but she's so talented they made an exception and have her working weekends and some evenings."
"We should eat there sometime."
"Definitely," Mamoru said, turning to the group. "We can get a group together, and I can make sure she's working when we go."
Namiko cleared her throat a little, tucking a lock of hair behind her ear. "Um. I meant... you and me. Alone."
("Mamoru, you idiot," Minako murmured.)
"I... guess, but- oh. Oh!" Mamoru's eyes widened. "You don't mean like a date?"
Namiko laughed. "Yes, silly, like a date."
"Oh, um, I'm flattered, Namiko, but I'm seeing someone." He shook his head a little, looking flustered. "I'm sorry, I thought you knew."
"Obviously not," Namiko said, smoothing her hair behind her ear. She gave him a smile. "Is it serious?"
("Yes," Ami hissed, arms crossed and eyes narrowed.)
"Uh... yeah," Mamoru ran his hand through his hair. "Very much so."
Namiko twisted her perfect lips in a rueful smile. "Well, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. I apologize."
"No need," he said, gesturing that they should rejoin the group.
Once they were out earshot, Minako finally took her hand off Usagi's mouth.
"Okay, full disclosure, I sort of just wanted to avoid making small talk with Mamoru, but dang!... I guess it'd be too awkward to go say hi, now, huh?" Minako said, and this time both Ami and Usagi glared at her.
"It's not about the girl," Usagi said, helping herself to her third cookie. (She was a nervous eater. And a depressed eater. And a happy eater. Basically, all ranges of emotion could be guided along with a bit of help from shoveling food into her mouth. At least, that's what Usagi found.) "Even if she is his type. Or would be, if he had a type besides 'reborn princess from his childhood dreams'."
"It's not," Usagi said. "I know Mamo-chan loves me." She ran her finger around the rim of the teacup.
"So what is it about, then?"
"He didn't choose me."
Her companion took a sip of tea. "The ring on your finger says otherwise."
"You of all people know what 'predestined' means, Setsuna!" Usagi said, huffing. She leaned back in her seat and blew her bangs off her forehead. Ever delicately, Setsuna helped herself to a cookie, broke it in half and nibbled on one end thoughtfully. Usagi reached for her fourth. "He didn't choose me. He didn't choose any of this."
"To be fair, none of you did."
"And none of us ran away, either."
"He left, Setsuna! He left me! Planning to go as far away as he possibly could while still sharing a planet. That was his choice. Even though it didn't work out, it had to mean... something."
Usagi took Setsuna's silence as a cue to continue. "That there needs to be a break in this - whole red-string-of-fate thing. I don't know how I know, but I know. He needs to be himself without me. Without..." she waved her hands around her in a vague gesture, "all this. King Endymion knew it. I know it. I'm not the same person I was before Galaxia - none of us are, but especially me. I'm seeing things I didn't see before. Realizing things. Mamo-chan needs to make his own choice. He needs his freedom even if... even if it means I live ... without him ... for a while."
"You know what you are asking?"
"Yes. No. I don't know!" Usagi gulped her tea and cringed as the hot liquid scorched its way down her throat.
"And if I say no?"
Usagi's fingers traced along her brooch. "Then I'll figure out a way to do it without you," she said. "But it'll sure be easier with your help." The crystal was unwieldy and unpredictable. The last time she made a wish on it, it'd wiped all their memories clean and sent all of Juuban back a year in the timeline. Setsuna had a hell of a time cleaning that mess up.
Setsuna sighed, picked up her teacup. "Fine. You two..." she clicked her tongue. Muttered something under her breath that sounded a lot like, "Pair of idiots," as she sipped her tea, but that couldn't be right, Usagi thought.
Setsuna's teacup clinked back into the saucer and everything went white.
"-I meant you and me. Alone."
"Oh, like a date?" Mamoru's eyes widened slightly, then lowered to take in Namiko's figure appreciatively. Only someone who knew him well would see the blush that colored his cheeks, the small smile pulling on his lips. "I'd ... like that. A lot."
Both Ami and Minako looked at Usagi. "What did you do?" Ami hissed at her.
Namiko's face broke into a beautiful smile, one that should be gracing magazine covers or movie posters. "Fantastic. I better hurry or I'll be late for Professor Muriyama's office hours, but I'll text you the details." She touched his sleeve, lingering her long fingers on the fabric for a beat longer than she had to. "Looking forward to continuing our conversation on Soseki's western influences."
Minako looked at Usagi with a disgusted sigh. "I'm not sure what you did, but whatever it is, you are so stupid."
"I know," Usagi said, leaning back against the tree. "I know."
"So what exactly did Setsuna do?" Makoto asked Usagi over the back of her booth, as they both watched the door for Mamoru and his date.
"I don't know," Usagi said, exasperatedly. "I thought she'd explain or something, but nope, just 'click, boom,' one second I'm having tea with the senshi of time asking for a favor, the next minute Mamoru forgot me - but somehow remembered you - and is going on a date with some super model Nobel Prize winner or something."
"And it's not what you asked for?"
"Well, sort of but... I thought we'd go in with a plan or I'd at least have an idea of what was going to happen or I'd be in control in some way or-"
"Yeah, Sets doesn't really work like that does she?"
"I guess not. Are you gonna call me an idiot, now too?"
"Of course not." Makoto gave her a shoulder squeeze that was probably meant to be comforting but Usagi was sure would leave a bruise. "Who has been saying that?"
Wordlessly, Usagi took out her phone and flipped it open, showing a barrage of text messages from Rei and Minako basically saying "Idiot" over and over again. "Ah," Makoto said. "Well... I'm sure you two will end up together again after a certain amount of time."
"I hope so."
"I mean, there is Chibi-Usa to consider!"
"Setsuna would never risk that."
"But, like, what happens if this date goes well?"
"I don't know!"
"Usagi, he could have sex with this woman tonight!"
"Oh god, I'm gonna be sick."
"Usagi?!" Makoto put her arm around her friend. "Is there anything I can do?"
"Dessert," she managed. "I need lots and lots of dessert."
This was worse than she'd imagined.
Or at least as bad.
Not the food, though; Makoto's eclair was to die for (and meant to be shared, as the menu indicated, but Usagi was in no mood to be told what to do by a menu.)
But Mamoru was seated just a few tables away, directly in her line of sight, and Namiko was gorgeous in a low-cut top (and did he have to keep glancing down at her breasts? Another rage bite of the eclair) and a perfectly ironed pair of dress pants that probably didn't even have any chocolate stains, like was she even human? Gawd. (Rage bite.)
The two were deep in conversation, sharing a pastry (ONE pastry? Come on. Rage bite.) and then nursing fancy coffees for far too long. Mamoru smiled at something Namiko said and she reached across the table and took his hand.
Usagi flagged down the waitress. "Can I get a parfait? The largest one you have. And a hot chocolate! Extra whip cream!"
She sighed, resting her head on her hand, glancing again at the couples' table. To her shock, Mamoru glanced up at exactly that moment and their eyes met. She looked away first, flush and unsure of what to do with her hands. When she looked up again, he was talking to Namiko again, and her new desserts had arrived, which she attacked gratefully.
Makoto made sure to position herself at the register, even though it wasn't her usual job, when Mamoru paid the check. If he wondered why she gave him a very un-Makoto-like stink-eye he didn't comment on it.
"That girl, the one sitting alone in the corner," he said, while he handed over his credit card, "I saw you talking to her. Is she okay?"
"What girl?" Makoto rung the card without looking at him.
"The one with the ... odango in her hair," he made a vague gesture over his head. "Namiko and I were wondering if maybe she got stood up or something. She looks so sad."
Makoto looked up, meeting Mamoru's eyes curiously. "Do you know her?"
"No," he shook his head. "I've never seen her before."
"Are you sure?"
He laughed a little, "I'd remember that hairstyle."
Makoto shook her head, handing him a receipt with a sigh that sounded like, "She sure was thorough."
"Anyway, I was wondering if I could get her check, too? It might cheer her up."
Makoto raised both eyebrows. "You'd like me to tell her you bought her dessert for her?"
Glancing at his date, Mamoru shook his head. "No, I just..."
"It's fine." The register rang as Makoto closed it. "She's a friend of mine from school. I've already comp'ed her."
Mamoru looked surprised for a moment, then nodded. His eyes strayed back to Usagi. "Oh, good. Glad she's here as your friend."
"Mamoru?" Namiko called from the doorway and startled Mamoru out of his reverie. With a good-bye to Makoto, he exited the restaurant. Usagi watched them leave, Namiko with her arm threaded through Mamoru's, and he opened an umbrella as the first raindrops started to fall.
"Do you want something for the road?" Makoto asked, and Usagi shook her head miserably.
The sky opened up then, rain pounding on the roof and the glass of the cafe doors. "Do you have an umbrella at least?" Makoto said, cringing. Usagi's train station was a half hour walk away.
"I'll take the bus to the station," Usagi sighed, opening the door and not caring as the deluge soaked through her hair and shirt in a matter of seconds. Making a face at the sky, she moped her way to the bus station and ducked under it, curling up in herself and opening up her phone.
She wrote and erased a few texts, (wishing Setsuna would just get a cell phone already) and then found herself looking down the road at where Mamoru had disappeared with Namiko. She lived nearby, Usagi remembered her saying, so they'd probably gone back to her place.
Oh, god, Usagi what were you thinking?! she scolded herself, slamming a fist into her head. But it was true - everything she'd said to Setsuna. She'd wanted to release the hold she had on Mamoru because that sort of obligation wasn't fair. None of it was fair, but surely making her suffer like this wasn't fair either! Was this Setsuna's twisted way of teaching Usagi a lesson? Or was this really going to be her life for the next few years (or until Crystal Tokyo?), with Mamoru blissfully free of his soulbond and Usagi suffering in silence and honestly, isn't that was she'd tricked herself into thinking she wanted? Or thinking he wanted? And-
With a shriek she startled violently, hopping a bit in the air and dropping her phone. The pink, charm-adorned cell would've landed right in a puddle of water, had a deft hand not caught it in mid-air and handed it back to her.
"What did you call me?" Usagi said, looking up at Mamoru in shock.
He was standing just outside the bus stop, still holding his umbrella, but it hadn't stopped some stray rain drops from collecting in his bangs, and eyelashes. "It's your hair," he said, gesturing toward her head with a slight smirk. "I don't know your name."
"I was just wondering if you... needed a ride somewhere?"
Usagi's brows kit.
"Three busses have gone by since you left the cafe and I don't think you noticed any of them."
She still stared at him.
"Are you okay?"
"Um... I'm sorry," Usagi shook her head a bit, as if to clear it. "Are you offering me a ride?"
"My name is Chiba Mamoru, I'm Kino Makoto's friend - she can vouch for me. I promise I'm not just some weirdo off the street."
"What about your date?"
Now it was Mamoru's turn to look a bit confused. "I walked her home," he said, "she lives just a few blocks away."
"My name isn't Odango Atama," Usagi found herself saying, even as she stepped out from under the bus stop. Mamoru shifted the umbrella to cover both of them. "It's Tsukino Usagi. Can you just drop me at the train station?"
"I'm parked at the garage around the corner," Mamoru said. He glanced down at her and she realized then how wet her clothing was, and crossed her arms in front of her chest sheepishly. Definitely could be in a look-alike contest with a drowned rat right about now, she thought.
"Where do you put it?" Mamoru asked, smirking a little as he handed her the umbrella to hold.
"Huh?" She stopped in her tracks, attempting to lift the umbrella over Mamoru's tall frame while he shrugged off his jacket and slipped it over her shoulders, taking the umbrella back in one fluid movement.
"All that dessert," he laughed a little. "That was the biggest eclair I ever saw, plus I think a parfait came by, too, and if I'm not mistaken a hot chocolate, too? And yet, here you are, tiny as anything."
She shrugged his jacket on, her heart splintering at his familiar warmth and scent surrounding her. "What, were you watching me?" she muttered and he cleared his throat, running a hand through his hair in embarrassment.
"So bad date?" she asked, as they walked into the garage. Mamoru closed the umbrella and fished around in his pocket for the ticket.
"Huh?" he handed it off the valet and turned to Usagi.
"Well, I mean, you just walked her home and... left her?" Confirming, confirming, confirming.
"And picked up a strange girl at a bus stop, it would seem," he answered.
"Did you at least kiss her goodnight?" Usagi demanded as the valet drove the car up, and Mamoru took the keys with a bow.
"I don't kiss on the first date as a rule, Odango Atama," he said, and she rolled her eyes as he opened the passenger door for her. She knew from experience that he did, in fact, kiss on the first date, and secondly, she was used to clambering into his car all on her own and it felt odd for him to open the door for her like she was a stranger.
"You can call me Usagi, you know."
"I'll take that under advisement." He smirked.
She wrinkled her nose at him.
Usagi twisted in her seat and watched him concentrate on driving, he was always very careful on turns and merging into traffic - even if he tended to speed on straightaways - there was no open highway between here and her station. "Why?"
"Why what?" Mamoru glanced at her.
"Why'd you offer me a ride?"
"Well, at the cafe you were obviously so sad, and Kino said she knew you from school and there you were soaking wet and -"
"So, I was so pathetic you felt sorry for me," she said, slouching back in her seat. "Gotcha."
He smiled again, shaking his head a bit. "Maybe. Or maybe..."
She looked at him as he pulled to a stop at a red light, swishing windshield wipers a background to their conversation. "What?"
The light turned green and he pressed the gas, one more traffic circle and the station would be on their right and Usagi wasn't ready to leave the familiar warmth of Mamoru's car, to return his jacket, to say good-bye...
He pulled behind the other cars stopped in the no-parking zone and put on his hazard lights, slipping the car into park with a jolt. Usagi unbuckled her seatbelt and started to wriggle out of his jacket. Her shirt was now merely damp, at least. Her hair had dried into curls.
"Listen, Odango Atama," Mamoru coughed a little, cheeks pink, "don't get into cars with strange guys okay?"
"I'm just saying, that was really a bad idea. I mean, I'm fine but for future reference..."
"I'm just saying, don't get in cars with strange guys that aren't me. In the future."
"You are infuriating!" she burst out, throwing his jacket at him and he laughed. Genuinely laughed, for the first time that whole night.
"You're welcome for the ride, Odango Atama."
"Okay, Usagi, if you ever need anything... let me know, okay?"
She looked at him for a while, almost unnervingly, as if she was sussing him out.
"Well, I guess, if you ever need another date ruined, you can let me know," she said, finally.
"I wouldn't say it was ruined," he said, almost thoughtfully.
"So you are going to see her again?" Usagi asked. Maybe he was going back to her right now. Maybe he'd just made a quick excuse at the door, that he had to help Makoto's drowned-rat friend at the bus stop, that he'd be right back to finish their romantic night...
"Namiko? Nah, probably not," Mamoru looked out the windshield, thumbs tapping on the steering wheel. "Anyway, have a good night, Usagi."
"Thanks for the ride, Chiba."
"You can call me Mamoru," he said.
She smiled, and reached for the door handle.
"Wait-" he said, and then seemed to cringe at himself, tapping the steering wheel again. "If I wanted to contact you or something...?"
"Waitaminute. Are you asking for my number?"
He didn't look at her, still watching his hands on the wheel.
"You were on a date! With someone else!" Usagi threw up her arms and looked at him in disbelief.
"And you were on a date with a eclair the size of Tokyo Tower, so we both had an interesting evening."
"She was a model! Who knew Soseki!"
He looked at her, finally, a smirk on his lips again. "Well, I don't think she knew him personally."
Usagi shook her head, a strange, but warm, look in her eyes. "I don't get you, Chiba Mamoru."
"I mean, you did just meet me."
"I-," she stopped. Sighed. Opened the glove compartment and pulled out the pen she knew was there. She pulled the pen cap off with her teeth and kept it in her mouth while she grabbed his hand and scribbled something on it.
He'd opened his mouth to protest - she could guess the myriad of things she just did that drove him nuts - the digging through his stuff, chewing the pen, writing on his skin - but as soon as her hand touched his, his voice died in his throat.
"There," she said, capping the pen and throwing it haphazardly in the cup holder (another thing he hated). "I'm a C-student if that, I don't read classic lit, I can't multiply in my head, I chew my pencils up to nothing and I'm a slob. Call me if you want, but just so you know what you are getting into."
Impulsively, she kissed his cheek and left the car, soon disappearing into the crowd of people in the station. It took the honk of someone behind him to startle Mamoru into maneuvering out of the spot his car was stopped in and driving away. On his hand was a phone number, scribbled in passable handwriting, without a name - only the doodle of a little bunny as a signature.
It was Sunday.
It was Sunday and Usagi's cell phone was ringing while she was trying to sleep off the nightmarish day she'd had before. She'd fallen asleep wondering if Setsuna had any answers on what she'd need to do now. Mamoru maybe had chosen her (chosen her?! or at least cut his date short...) and he didn't even KNOW her, and maybe somehow she'd cheated? Was she not supposed to go to the restaurant? Had he somehow remembered her? Maybe it was Setsuna on the phone right now, with answers. Or Minako, to cry to. Or tell her how dumb she was again (ugh).
"Hello?" her voice was groggy with sleep, and she was rubbing her eyes when a familiar voice echoed down the line.
"Usako, why the heck do I have your phone number on my hand?"
Why yes I have been watching a lot of The Good Place lately, why do you ask?