Usagi blinked open sleepy eyes, reaching out in the bed and seeking the warmth of Mamoru. After the mayhem of yesterday's battle – a new shittenou appearing, the senshi narrowly avoiding being crushed in a bubble of darkness, Zoisite almost killing Mamoru – they'd clung to each other for comfort, for reassurance. She'd needed to know that he was safe, to feel the motion of his breaths with her own fingers until she faded into sleep.
She now found the sheets next to her empty and mock-pouted – Mamoru always seemed to wake before her, but at least her lack of morning cuddles meant that there would be breakfast ready. She could already smell the scent of dashi in the air, mingled with Mamoru's morning dark roast.
With a soft smile, she yawned and stretched, but before she could sit up in the bed she heard static coming from behind her, and the sound of a familiar mocking voice. Zoisite.
She sat up instantly, spinning under the covers to find Mamoru, breakfast in hand, standing in the middle of his apartment facing the TV set. His eyes slid over to her, then back to the screen, lit with an eerie glow.
"I suggest a battle between the two of us for the rainbow crystals, with the winner taking all," Zoisite's voice was saying, and Usagi stared at Mamoru, shaking her head vehemently.
"All right," Mamoru said, keeping his gaze trained on the television, "that sounds fair."
"Excellent. The Starlight Tower, then? Today at 5pm. See you then, Mamoru!"
The TV fizzed off, and Usagi leapt from the bed with a cry.
"How does he know who you are? How did he find you? Why are you going to fight him?" she exclaimed, and Mamoru wrapped one arm around her waist, balancing the bowl of rice in his other hand.
"Because we need the rest of the crystals," Mamoru said, voice low and soothing as he rubbed her back. "And because if he knows who I am, it's only a matter of time before he finds out who you are. Thank god I keep the TV angled away from the bed."
She tried to force a smile, but she could tell her mouth didn't turn up into anything remotely convincing. "It's a trap, it has to be. He would never give us those crystals."
"That's why we're going to bring backup," he said, smoothing his thumb over her cheek. "We have until 5pm. Let's get you fed, and then we'll go rally the girls and make our plan. This is the endgame, right? Once we find the Moon Princess, she'll defeat the Dark Kingdom and we can go back to just being Usagi and Mamoru again."
This time, her smile was real. "I dunno about that, I think I might miss Tuxedo Mask."
He snorted, leaning down to press a kiss to her forehead before setting the food on the coffee table. "Eat," he said, stepping back to his kitchenette to grab the rest of the side dishes. "I have a feeling today is going to be an important day, and we're both going to need strength to get through it."
She sank down next to the table, picking up the Sailor Moon chopsticks that Mamoru had insisted on buying for her, even though she'd told him she wanted the Tuxedo Mask ones.
"Hey, Mamo-chan," she said, her voice quiet and her heart a hummingbird in her ribcage.
"I love you."
His smile was serene, fingers tangling with hers as he sat down next to her and crossed his socked feet. "I love you, too. Now, eat! I never thought I'd see the day where it would be this hard to convince you to have breakfast."
She smiled softly and rolled her eyes, but followed his instructions, using the ends of her chopsticks to help herself to some natto. "Hey, I like you better than food, you should be flattered!"
"Oh, I am."
They shared a smile – hers weak and his unconvincing – and a moment of silence before she brushed a strand of hair behind her ear and tucked into the meal.
Mamo-chan was right, she told herself, ignoring the squirming of her stomach. They just had to make it through today, get the rainbow crystals, and find their princess. After that, everything would be fine. Better than fine, even. Normal.
Her days as a superhero had brought her the love of her life, and the best friends she could ever ask for – even with all the pulse-pounding terror, she would always be grateful for that. Once the Moon Princess appeared, she didn't think she'd be all that surprised to discover that she maybe even missed being Sailor Moon.
Just a little bit.
AN: And, it's done! Rogue, I really hoped you liked it! I tried to squeeze in as many tropes I could that I know you're a fan of, particularly friends-to-lovers mashed up with (inadvertent) fake-not-dating. Also, I'm glad you asked for snark and longing glances, because those are some of my favorite things to write LOL.
Writing this story was an absolute joy, and I'm so grateful that I got the chance to participate in this exchange. Big huge thanks to PurpleSuperSiren and By-Any-Other-Pen for their hard work in making the exchange happen!
Thank you always and forever to FloraOne, who betaed this whole story for me while also writing her own fic for the exchange (which ended up being for ME and is amazing)! She really is just the best.
This is my first completed multichapter (!) and so I wanted to take a moment and directly thank those of you who took the time to share your thoughts with me.
In no particular order, big hugs to:
jro_jro_jro, LinerRocks, FloraOne, ChibaUsagi, Auxcouleur, Amberg93, LitaKino, crescentcompact, magick33, tiltedvenus, A_Reptile_Dysfunction, Al Evans, jenna, SaphireShimmer, brownsugarheartattack, CottonKey, TropicalRemix, blueeyeddevil06, Sanda07, Lyra Terra, tryntee13, lunatheblackcat, moonwrite, hitomi21, James Birdsong, phillyNZ, mystlady, frenchfan78, selenita, Vereesa Windrunner, LeleCo04, ladyAlyafaelyn, and, of course, AllyUnabridged.
Thank y'all so much, you made sharing this fic so much more fun 3333
And thank you so much for reading! Even if you didn't comment, I still hope you enjoyed it!
If so, please check out some of the other awesome fics and art that were made for this exchange; you can find them all on Tumblr under the tag "Sailor Moon Gift Exchange 2020."
See you next time!