Bleed (Just to Know You're Alive)

Written by: Spirit-hime and AngelAnne

Chapter 1

//anything between slashes are thoughts//


"In Freudian psychodynamics, a cathected memory can 'cause' a behavior, motivate it, so to speak. He hypothesized that there are sources of 'psycho...' wait ... 'psychic energy...'"

Chiba Mamoru decided that he had just made a very amusing Freudian Slip, and therefore he could conclude his reading for the night thusly.

"Time for some coffee," he decided, his caffeine-dulled brain screaming out that what it really wanted was sleep. Mamoru never listened to that part of his brain, especially late at night.

He reached for the thermo-mug that was propped perilously on a mountain of textbooks. The titles covered such interesting topics as "Structural Biology and Bioinformatics," "Practical Spectroscopy," "Combinatorial Mathematics," and "Freud and You." He shook the mug critically. Barely a drop left, and the very idea of walking all the way to the cafeteria this late at night only wearied him further. With a deep, mournful sigh, he took out his psychology notes. Caffinated or not, he did have a test tomorrow.

After barely five minutes, already his head began to nod forward. Despite a few half-hearted attempts at shaking himself awake, he was soon sprawled across his notes, his head resting against his arm.

"Mamochan, you're not going to die on the way this time, are you?"

Mamoru could remember Usagi's face, wet with tears, as she held his hands at the airport. "You have to promise me," she'd said. "Because I'm going to be very mad at you if you die again. I won't ever let you go back to college."

"I promise, Usako, I'm not going to die," he had said, and he'd meant it. One fatal plane trip was enough for his liking, even if Galaxia had been nice enough to resurrect him afterwards.

"You... you'll be back soon, right?"

"I'll be here for every holiday."

"And you'll write me every day?"

"Twice, if there's time."

She clung to him so tightly, desperate to hold on to him right to the last moment. Her goldenrod hair twisted into sweet little odango that, even in the clinical lighting of the airport, still shone brilliantly. Even after crying nearly the entire day, she was still the most beautiful creature he had ever seen. "At least California's a little closer, right?"

"Indeed it is." He smiled down at her, biting back the bitterness in the back of his mind.

Okay, so Harvard had given his spot away because he'd been dead for a semester. But it wasn't his fault he was attacked by an evil queen! He couldn't avoid it! He most certainly didn't have health insurance for it!

They told him he'd have to reapply. But Harvard was just too far away; he couldn't come home quickly, to protect Usako if something happened...

"Not that anything would happen!" he added aloud. No, nothing would happen to Usagi while he was here. Everything would be just fine. The Senshi could take care of it; that was their job, after all.

And considering his abilities, there would be little he could do to help anyway. Toss a couple roses, maybe make some virtuous speeches, the usual. Maybe between classes he could write a new speech.

Usagi, noting his silence, looked up at her fiance worriedly. "Are you alright, Mamochan?"

"Everything is fine, Usako. I was just wondering what kind of souvenir I could bring back for you."

"Bring me back ... a movie star!"

Mamoru had laughed then, for quite some time. Even after explaining that Stanford was not anywhere near Hollywood, Usagi was still not convinced. He promised to bring back a piece of Brad Pitt for her. She said she'd like it better if he came back with the whole thing, but a piece would do. They'd laughed quite loudly about it, which disturbed many of the other travelers.

"Mamochan, you know I love you, right?"

"Of course, Usako. Of course I know that. I love you, too..."

He leaned down, his arms trailing around her slight frame. His face was next to hers. Their mouths nearly touching. "I'll always love you..."

"Oh Mamochan, I--"

"GOOD MORNING STANFORD UNIVERSITY! It's time to rise and shine with your favorite campus radio station! I'm your host..."

Mamoru groaned, trying to bury his head further beneath the sleeve of his shirt. He'd hardly managed to get anything done last night, unless psychology can be learned through osmosis. And now, thanks to his brilliant idea of skipping dinner -again-, he had a headache the size of the entire state of California.

Damn that Freud and his brilliant ideas, Mamoru though bitterly, slowly pushing his chair away from his desk. He's going to ruin my sleeping habits yet.

"I need to take a shower," he announced to no one in particular. Unfortunately, he knew that quite a few people would be waiting in line for it; it was Monday morning, and it was likely that many people were trying to clear away their hangovers with either scalding hot or blinding cold water.

He settled for going over to his personal half-bathroom - complete with sink and toilet - and splashing cold water on his face, and runnign a comb through his hair. He now look marginally less like a zombie. He completed the look by changing into a relatively clean shirt, and was sure to use extensive amounts of deoderant. After his books had been stuffed into a backpack that was frayed at the seams from too many heavy loads, he quickly glanced at his alarm clock. If he didn't hurry, he'd miss breakfast too. Maybe he could get some studying in while he ate.

The hallways were bustling with students rushing to early classes and piling into the cafeteria. Nearly everyone was carrying coffee in some form, and to Mamoru it looked like the nectar of the gods right now. He side-stepped a tall guy in a leather jacket, but in his haste, nearly managed to knock over a little blonde girl.

"I'm sorry!" Mamoru blurted out, making sure she wouldn't collapse into a heap. When he looked at her face, he was startled by her eyes. They were so blue and clear, just like Usako's...

"It happens all the time in here," the girl said, smiling pleasantly. "Monday morning rush hour is a mess. Especially for those of us who slept over their alarm."

She brushed an errant strand of blonde hair from her face, and stuck out her hand. "Lunette. Major in Psychiatric Care."

Mamoru accepted Lunette's offered greeting, if a little warily. "Mamoru. Major in Medicine."

Lunette laughed, which sounded near musical to Mamoru's ears. "Oh, I've run into another doctor! What luck! The rest of the med students never seem to get out in the light of day."

Mamoru decided not to mention that he had barely seen any of the surrounding cities, or even much of the campus outside his classes. The less he was distracted, the less the Senshi would want to maim him when he returned home.

And this girl was most definitely distracting.

She curled a strand of golden hair behind her ear. Had Usagi been wearing her hair down, she would nearly pass for this girl--or maybe this girl would pass for her. She smiled sweetly. Usako's smile, he caught himself thinking. "I don't know about you, but I'm starving. Care to join me for breakfast?"

"Um... I..." What was that about maiming? Oh yes, eating a meal with a member of the opposite sex would likely fall under that category, even if he WAS hungry and had not eaten since yesterday afternoon. "Actually, I was just going to grab some coffee. I uh... have some stuff to do before class."

Lunette shrugged--a quick, fluid motion that somehow captured all the poetry of a ballet. "Oh well, maybe I'll catch you next time."

"I'm sure I'll see you around," Mamoru said, trying to sound friendly; not if I want to keep all my limbs, he thought sourly.

"Catch you later then, Mamoru-san," she said, waving to him pleasantly as she disappeared into the crowd.

"'Mamoru-san?'" he asked quietly. How could she have known?

Well, his mind snapped irritably, the shirt proclaiming "MOTO AZABU HIGH SCHOOL; TOKYO, JAPAN" may have been a dead giveaway.

His stomach gurgled impatiently. Darnit, it was bad enough that he'd lied to the girl, but now he would be forced to skip yet another meal. Maybe he could grab a muffin or something from the campus Starbucks. He made his way back down the hall, away from the cafeteria from which the sweet scent arteficial egg products drifted.

It's too bad, too. She was awfully cute.

No, no, NO, darnit, I refused to think of any woman in that way except Usako! The fact that she just happens to look exactly like Usako doesn't mean anything. My Usa is a thousand times prettier.

He was following this train of thought, weaving through the flow of traffic, when something seized up in his chest.

Mamoru stumbled, weighed down by the heavy load of textbooks, as he found himself unable to breathe properly. No oxygen was coming to him, try as he might to heave and wheeze painfully.

His vision dipped in and out of blackness as he collapsed in the middle of the unfeeling student mob scene. As he fell, he thought ran into someone; well, something soft, at least, before he blacked out completely.

"Hey buddy, you alright?"

A blurred object hovered in the center of Mamoru's vision. He blinked, attempting to bring it into focus, until it finally revealed itself to be a face. Deep green eyes looked at him with the lightest hint of concern. Fine white hair draped around the man's face as he bent down.

"Kunzite?" Mamoru had not meant to say it; the word just blurted out.

"No," the blur drawled, confused. "Malachi. Maybe we should get you to the nurse."

Mamoru cursed himself quietly; Kunzite? He'd been dead for years! Why would that name, if any, come to his lips?

"I'm fine," he said, breath labored. He'd just go to class, like always, forget that Lunette girl--

He nearly collapsed again, and only the blur's arm kept him from falling to the floor.

"That doesn't make me think you're fine," the blur said, brushing hair from his face in a long-suffering fashion.

Mamoru did not answer, preferring instead to concentrate on the painful effort of breathing. The guy who called himself Malachi had already lugged Mamoru's heavy backpack onto his own shoulder and was leading him back down the hallway, an arm slung around his back for support.

As they walked, his vision began to clear a bit. They were walking near a window when he spotted something in the shady branches of a tree. He peered at it a moment, trying to figure out what it was, when it revealed itself to be a blue-haired girl, perched in the boughs and staring right back at him. Okay, maybe seeing the nurse would be a good idea after all.

" going to?"

"Nnngh?" replied Mamoru eloquently.

"What class were you going to?" Malachi repeated, in a patient fashion.

"Freud 102," he managed to croak. He was guided carefully to a nearby bench, since he was obviously not going to get to the nurse under his own power. He slumped down, thankful for the rest. Malachi deposited both their backpacks on the floor and took a seat across from him.

"I suggest you email your instructor. There's no way you're going to make it all the way to the psychology department in your condition."

Mamoru nodded vaguely. Darnit, barely a few weeks into school and already he was missing a class. This was just not his day.

When he could breathe a little easier he muttered, "thanks for your help."

Malachi gave him a friendly, lopsided grin. "You practically fell into my arms. What was I supposed to do, drop you on the floor and move on?"

"Well, I hate to sound jaded," Mamoru said, smirking, "but I'd hardly expect anything different."

"Do you make those kind of assumptions for every person you don't know?"

"Not always." Mamoru rubbed his chest. "But I haven't made too many friends on this campus" mostly for lack of trying "and don't usually turn to strangers for help."

"I must not be so much of a stranger to you," Malachi said, never losing his quirky smile. "You seemed to think you knew my name."

Mamoru once again cursed his carelessness. Accidently call a guy by the name of a former enemy whose organization was bent on the sucking of energy and the general domination of Earth. Smooth, Mamochan. Very smooth. "Sorry about that. I guess you reminded me of someone else."

"Not someone who would have left you there, I hope?"

No. Someone more likely to try and fry me before I could get up again. "No. I don't think he would have."

"Well, I know the name of this friend, but I've yet to learn yours."

"Sorry about that. Guess I was a little preoccupied with the whole fainting deal. Mamoru. Major in Medicine."

They shook hands, Malachi nearly crushing his. "Malachi. Major in Geological Science."

Ah, what irony then, that he'd called this man the name of a mineral. Still, it wasn't his fault he looked like someone Mamoru would rather forget.

"So what year are you?" Mamoru asked, shaking his hand to recover some of the feeling in it.

"Fourth." Malachi opened his mouth, presumably to return the question, but then seemed to change his mind. "You're not from around here, are you?"

"Well gosh, does my Azabu shirt give it away?"

"I was more referring to your accent, but that shirt is a little blatant."

"My accent can't be that thick. You seem to understand me well enough."

"Naw, you're better than some of my professors. At least you've yet to butcher my name."

"Well, to answer your question: yes, I'm from Tokyo."

"That's odd."

"Hey, California is no basket of peaches, thank you very much."

"No, I mean it's odd that you've barely met anyone here. In my experience, you people usually travel in herds."

"Well contrary to popular belief, there are very few cows in Japan."

Malachi paused, apparently thinking about it, and then burst out laughing.

"What's so funny?" Mamoru inquired, trying to look serious.

"I just imagined Tokyo clogged with a bunch of cows."

He couldn't take it; he, too, had to laugh at that. He could imagine Motoki's face when the Crown Fruit Parlor was clogged to the brim with cows in schoolgirl uniforms...

Mamoru's laughter was cut short when he suddenly caught sight of the same girl who had been perched in the tree earlier. Her long light blue hair swirled around her pale features. He could not help but notice she had the same sad, liquid eyes as his own Ami. However, the dark, tight-fitting clothing was hardly something that little Ami-chan would dare put on, even if you paid her. She had on dark lipstick, heavy eyeshadow. And she was coming this way.

"Is...that a friend of yours?" Malachi asked, trying to mask his surprise. She didn't exactly look like someone Mamoru would hang out with.

"No," Mamoru said, uncertain. It looked like someone he knew, but not in any of the right ways.

"Are you Chiba Mamoru?" she asked huskily, her accent undiscernable.

Mamoru gulped. "Yes, I am. You are...?"

"You can call me A'Marie." She smiled dangerously. "Lunette told me you ran into her this morning."

"Literally," he said, hazarding the smallest of smiles himself. "How did you know I was the same guy?"

"Your Azabu shirt gave you away."

Mamoru sighed under his breath. This was just not his day. "What can I uh... do for you?"

A'Marie was adjusting her top in no discrete way. He was not sure whether she was trying to reveal more cleavage or not, though she was definitely getting results. Mamoru preoccupied himself with staring at the top of her head, while nervously trying to slide farther down the bench.

"I can think of a whole lot you can do for me." The way she was standing was probably meant to be seductive, though neither man was impressed.

"Excuse me?" Mamoru said, raising his eyebrows.

"But I'm not here to talk about me." Which was good, Mamoru thought, because he would rather like to get to the heart of the matter, such that this girl would go away.

"Lunette wanted me to invite you out to lunch with us. That is, if you've recovered from this morning."

Truth be told, Mamoru had been feeling much better for awile. Sitting with Malachi had somehow managed to calm his nerves, and his chest muscles. But as soon as Lunette was mentioned, he felt his lungs seize up again. He steeled himself in an effort to keep from coughing, an action that did not go unnoticed to his male companion's eyes.

Wait... this morning? How could they possibly know about that?

"Thanks, but I'm busy this afternoon. I've uh... got studying to do." And I don't want to come within fifty feet of you or your Usako lookalike.

"You aren't coming." The girl's voice had taken on a very soft, dangerous tone.

"Um, no. Sorry."

"Oh. I see." She was moving closer, her hips swaying with every step. He resisted the urge to run, writing such an action off as bad manners, and instead sat rooted on the spot.

"I'm afraid that might be a problem."

"Will it?" Malachi finally spoke, looking a lot more erect and aware than he had for most of the conversation.

But she ignored him. Her eyes were fixed on Mamoru only. "I'll give you another chance to change your mind." Her tone implied that it would be very, very wise to do so.

"No, no thank you. I really do need to study."

A'Marie strode over to Mamoru, leaning her barely covered bust right under his nose as she stared at him. "Is that your final answer?"

"I'm pretty sure it is, yes."

That was, apparently, not the answer she was looking for. She punched him.

Though the girl may have had Ami-chan's appearance, she by no means shared her strength. Mamoru was nearly knocked to the floor from the force of her knuckles, and only prevented himself from doing so by clinging to the bench. Malachi was already on his feet. He grabbed A'Marie by the shoulder and forcibly shoved her away from Mamoru. "The heck is your problem lady?"

"My -problem-? My friend, I think this is very much your problem! Mercury Crystal Power! Make Up!"

Had Mamoru been a surfer, his response to A'Marie's action would have been something to the effect of, "bummer." He swore under his breath, and turned to Malachi with his face set stone-hard. "Malachi, get out of here. Go get help; get the campus police, another student, anyone."

"But--" Malachi was not about to leave him with this mad woman. Especially when he looked like he was going to pass out again.

"Just go!" Mamoru barked, with all the authority he could muster. For a reason Malachi could not understand, the tone of Mamoru's voice sounded eerily familiar, and it made him snap to attention. With a sharp nod, he dashed off in the direction of the nearest building.

"That desperate to get me alone, huh?" A'Marie smirked. Her outfit barely resembled the real Sailor Mercury's, and could only be described as hideous. [1]

"Hardly," Mamoru sneered, trying to stand. Every time he got to his feet, the world began to spin and his vision went black. His breathing was strained, and seemed to consume all his energy. With one hand clinging to the back of the bench, he transformed into Tuxedo Kamen, figuring it could hardly make matters worse.

Indeed, as soon as the transformation had finished, he found himself a lot more steady.

"So I see your motive is hardly taking me out to lunch. What are you after?"

A'Marie giggled, and not in a nice way. "Silly, silly Prince. You know what I'm after."

"...I do?" he muttered. Well, she sure wasn't after the Ginzuishou, since that was hundreds of miles west of his current location.

So by default, that only left...

"I'm afraid I'm not available."

"That hardly matters to me. Mercury Aqua Rhapsody!"

Despite his best efforts to dodge, Mamoru was still engulfed in a mountain of icy water. He spluttered and shook droplets out of his hair, making a mental note to never make Ami-chan angry. Before she could blast him again, he flicked his hand, and a shimmering red rose appeared.

"Do you think that scares me?" A'Marie snarled. Mamoru didn't answer; he merely threw the rose at her and, with perfect aim, it drew a long, shallow cut along her bare arm.

"Bitch! Shine Aqua Illusion!"

Mamoru tried to roll away from the freezing water that hurled itself towards him, but he wasn't fast enough, and he cursed out of shock and pain when he found his legs frozen together.

A'Marie grinned savagely. "Oh dear, looks like my target has stopped moving already. Things a little chilly there, luv?"

Mamoru growled a less than polite reply, and changed his tactics. If roses failed to have any effect, something a little stronger would be needed. "Tuxedo la Smoking Bomber!"

The explosion caught the false Sailor Senshi dead-on, momentarily wrapping her in a curtain of smoke. For a moment he was certain that had been enough. His hopes were dashed, however, when her laughter began to ring through the thickness. "My goodness, that was amusing. But I'm afraid I must put an end to these childish games. Mercury Aqua Mirage!"

Mamoru cried out as his entire body was locked beneath a sheet of solid ice, his neck and head barely escaping.

"Now, here's a question." A'Marie looked at her hand, as though examining her nails. "Do I leave you there to freeze, so you will suffer slowly, or do I cover your head in ice, so you will die immediately?"

She laughed; it sounded hollow to Mamoru's ears. "I've never been mistaken for merciful."

He could almost feel his body slowing down. //Usako, I'm sorry,// he thought, as he felt himself dip from consciousness. //How could I be so weak?//

A'Marie laughed at him again, watching in terrible amusement as he froze to death before her eyes.

That was when the glowing started.

It began at his chest, shining through the crystalline ice, but it spread rapidly, engulfing his entire body. It was golden. Like the sun. Like Usako's hair. He could feel himself growing warmer, stronger. With a tremendous snap, the ice shattered, freeing him from its prison. No longer hindered, the light shot out, seeming to flood all the world with its brilliance.

The moment it touched her, A'Marie began to scream. Like a vampire in the sunlight, she was being destroyed by the very presence of the golden aura, reduced to dust before Mamoru's eyes. Her screams, too, soon diminished, and all that remained of her were a few motes of dust that vanished in the breeze.

The glowing slowly began to fade, and Mamoru stood up shakily.

"That was...strange," he murmured, looking at the place where the false Senshi had been standing moments before. An enemy, here? What were the odds?

When he heard voices coming up behind him, he panicked. Explaining his sudden acquiring of a tuxedo would be difficult, at best. Fortunately for him, all of his energy seemed to drain out at once, and he pitched forward in exhaustion as his outfit faded into jeans and a t-shirt.

He lost consciousness before he even hit the ground.

"It's no wonder you're majoring in medicine. At the rate you're going, you need a personal doctor just to get by every day."

Mamoru made a sort of half-groan in reply. He was laying on one of the benches, his head propped against Malachi's jacket. Malachi himself was quite occupied with getting a couple bottles of water from the nearby Desani machine.

"I'm usually not this bad, I'll have you know," Mamoru grumbled, rubbing his head. //I don't usually have a Sailor crystal with a mind of its own,// he added silently.

"I should hope not," Malachi replied wryly, opening one of the bottles and handing it to Mamoru. His companion smiled in return. "Professors usually aren't keen on fainting spells in the middle of a lecture."

"They like it in the classes I take; it gives the future doctors a chance to show off their skills."

"Ah yes, I can see it now. 'Get this boy some goserelin acetate, stat!'"

Mamoru nearly choked on his water. "That's for breast cancer!"

He shrugged. "I blame ER."

"Well I don't think I've hit menopause yet, but thank you for your concern."

This time, it was Malachi's turn to choke on his water.

"Are we even now?" Mamoru asked, trying to conceal a smile.

"I suppose," Malachi relented. "But at least give me fair warning when it's your time of the month."

"You know, if I knew you any better, I would have to hit you for that remark."

"Good thing you don't know me any better."

Mamoru leaned against the back of the bench, feeling some small shred of his strength returning. Well, at least I'm not passing out at the moment, he thought bleakly. "Thanks for your help, Malachi. I'm feeling a bit better now."

"Do you need me to walk you to your dorm, or can you survive without me for ten minutes?"

"I think I'll be fine." With some amount of effort, he pushed himself upright and got to his feet.

And promptly collapsed.

"Which part of that was fine?" Malachi asked, pulling Mamoru to his feet again.

"The part where I was on my feet for five seconds."

"Oh yes, that screams 'healthy' to me." Malachi shook his head. "Look, it's not like I can just leave you here. Either we're going to sit here for awhile, make a visit to the nurse, or go to your dorm. The key word of that last sentence being 'we.'"

"I can't ask you to--"

"Then don't ask." For reasons Malachi could not fathom, he was feeling very protective of this man who, hours before, was a complete stranger. It was a bizarre feeling, but not altogether unfamiliar, which just made it more bizarre.

Mamoru could hardly argue with that. Mostly because the only thing keeping him standing was this man's arm. He never asked for help from anyone, not even his closest friends, which was a fact that Usako always complained about. "Mamochan, please tell me when something's wrong," she'd whine, her blue eyes sparkling up at him. "You always suffer alone. You never let anyone near you when you're hurting. Please, just let someone help you once in a while!"

Well she'd certainly be happy now, wouldn't she? For no reason he could think of other than sheer necessity, he was placing complete trust in someone who, for all intents and purposes, could easily be seen as a threat. The guy did look an awful lot like a former enemy, after all, and they'd only just met today. But nevertheless, he felt nothing but trust towards the guy who called himself Malachi, and knew he was in no position to question that trust.

"Alright," he sighed. "I'll let you walk me to my dorm. But I do owe you for this."

"No, you don't. But we'll argue about it later." Malachi helped Mamoru to his feet, being sure his strong arm was fully supporting the man's somewhat shivering frame.

Strangely, Mamoru couldn't help but notice that this position felt familiar; as though, in another time or place, this man had helped him out before. But that was impossible. The only person Malachi resembled was a sadistic bastard with no redeeming qualities, except for the fact that he was now long dead.

//Or perhaps not,// he thought, now feeling somewhat less reassured about the trust he was placing in his new-found acquiantence.

Of course, there was another person who looked exactly like Malachi, someone who did not make his blood run cold, and who would not decidedly gut Mamoru for the fun of it. But that person was in a circumstance much more permanant than death, and currently resided on Mamoru's bedside table. There was no question about whether Malachi was this person. Resurrection of a former enemy would be far more likely.

" it?"

Mamoru looked up. "What?"

"I said, which building is it?"

"Oh. That one."

"You know," Malachi said, smirking, "you're awfully distracted, for someone who wants to be a doctor. I expect you types to be focus and attentive, but that's the second time I've had to repeat myself."

"Hey, give a little slack to the sick," Mamoru grumbled. "I'm usually a little more aware than this."

//I usually don't get chest spasms when I see girls that look like Usako, as well,// he grumbled to himself. //What's with me today?//

" on?"


Malachi sighed in mock-exasperation. "'Usually a little more aware,' he says. I said, 'what floor are you on?'"


"We'll take the elevator, then. I'm not hauling you up five flights of stairs."

"You know, for someone so nice, you certainly pick on me a lot."

"Sorry about that," he said, not the least bit apologetically. "I live in a frat house with twenty-six other guys. Insults are generally the only accepted form of communication."

"Ah. That explains why your so patient, then."

"You don't have three drunk guys break down your door at three a.m. without learning patience."

"I see," Mamoru said, mildly disturbed by that. He was, at any rate, thankful he had not joined any of the fraternities he had been invited to. They never seemed conducive to any of the things he intended to do at Stanford like, say, learning.

The men climbed into the elevator, thankful that no one else was in it, because their situation would probably take a bit of explaining.

"Mamoru...That girl. Who was she?"

Oh yeah. That might need some explaining. But what could he possibly say, that she was a fake sailor senshi who apparently wanted him dead? Unlike the other senshi, who had parents and close friends to deal with, Mamoru barely ever had to explain away the demons, aliens, and various otherworldly enemies in his life. And for that matter, he hardly understood himself what she was, other than some psycho with bad taste in clothing and a few too many sparkly powers. Usually bad guys had a lot of fun proclaiming their missions and organizations. This one was simply hell-bent on freezing him to death.

Malachi was watching him questioningly. "I really don't know," Mamoru replied honestly.

Apparently satisfied with that answer, Malachi asked nothing more. The elevator ride was silent until they reached the fifth floor.

"Can you make it to your room, or should I walk you there?"

Mamoru gestured to the room 502, which was a mere six paces away. "I think I can manage."

"You said that before."

"...shut up. This time, I really can manage."

"Uh huh."

"I'll prove it!" Mamoru snapped, pulling away from Malachi's support. He took three steps, stumbled, but caught himself. He rummaged around in his pocket for his key, all the while looking sweaty and pale.

"See? I'm just fine," Mamoru said, smiling as his door unlocked.

He collapsed just as the door opened, finding himself with a faceful of carpet.

"You're a bloody awful liar," Malachi muttered, pulling his friend off the floor. Mamoru said nothing as he allowed himself to be led through the door into his apartment; he was having difficulty breathing again. It was a relatively small room, with little more than a bed, a desk, a dresser, and a mini-fridge. Malachi shut the door and maneuvered Mamoru over to the bed, where he slumped down, his chest heaving.

"I don't know if I should leave you alone like this. You look terrible."

"I'll be fine, really. I just need to… get some rest…"

The white-haired man looked unconvinced. "Look, I'll leave you my number. You can call me if you need help."

Mamoru thought to reply in thanks, but he was too exhausted to do anything of the sort. His head fell to the side as he slipped into unconsciousness.

Malachi grabbed a nearby piece of scratch paper and scribbled his number on it. With a defeated, worried sigh, he locked Mamoru's door, and exited.

When Mamoru woke again, he was shivering. His breathing seemed to come a little easier now, though it still felt a little more difficult than normal. Carefully, so as not to cause himself to black out again, he kicked his shoes off and slid under the covers. Despite his exhaustion, however, he found himself unable to go back to sleep. Too many questions plagued his mind, too many issues were running through his brain.

He turned to look at the table by his bed. Malachi's note rested there reassuringly, a small comfort to him right now when he could not even stand for more than five seconds. Four objects sat there, shining-almost glowing-in the dim light. He had carried them with him from Japan-possessions that were as prized to him as Usako's letters-and he always kept them nearby.

He took the four stones into his hand, and they clacked quietly as he cupped them all together. He closed his eyes-slowly, so as not to pass out again-and they started to glow.

"Prince?" The voice was quiet, but strong and reassuring.

"Kunzite." Mamoru let out a sigh, out of frustration and exhaustion.

"Is there something wrong?" Zoisite interjected, and his stone seemed to be nudged around by another.

"Shh, they're having a private moment," Jadeite said, and if he'd had a mouth, he certainly would have been smiling.

Kunzite ignored them both. "What is it?"

"I need to talk to you."

No sooner had Mamoru spoken than a ghostly figure appeared next to him, kneeling in midair just above his bed. An unseen wind gently shifted the long white hair that framed the man's face. He was dressed in a white uniform, trimmed in shining gold, with a dark brown cape that unfurled in the same mysterious wind. He was partially transparent, like a living hologram--though he would be the first to attest that he was very much not living right at the moment.

"Something's wrong." Kunzite didn't even need to ask a question. He knew. Aside from Mamoru's unhealty skin tone and general appearence, there was a look in his eyes that quickly betrayed his confusion.

Mamoru sighed. "I met a girl in the cafeteria this morning who looked just like Usako. Every time I think about her, I feel physically ill."

Kunzite nodded, anticipating that the story wasn't over yet.

"I was attacked by a Sailor Mercury lookalike," he continued, grabbing his pillow and punching it in frustration. "I managed to destroy her somehow, but it was incredibly draining, and not before she nearly froze me to death. The weirdest part is..."

Kunzitel looked at his prince expectantly, but Mamoru wasn't sure how to go on.

"All of those times, I was helped by a man who looks just like you."

The one word to describe Kunzite's expression was "nonplussed." "Just like me, Prince?"

It was impossible, Kunzite knew. He was a rock. A very small, solid, inanimate rock. He was not cavorting about the campus, helping his prince, though he desperately wanted to. The idea that there was a copy of him running around, befriending Mamoru for unknown motives, gave him serious concern.

"Yes, exactly like you. Supposing you walk around dressed as a university student, that is. And I know I should be careful of him, I mean there was a girl who looked like Ami, but all she wanted to do was turn me into a popsicle. But I keep finding myself putting my trust in him. And weirdly enough, he just keeps on helping me."

Kunzite could see why that in itself would distress his Prince. He knew very well that Mamoru had issues with depending on people, even those he knew well. But Kunzite was not so concerned about this as he was with the person's identity. Why would someone show up looking like one of the Prince's former guardians and conveniently help him out when he's distressed? Could it be some kind of trap?

"I didn't sense anything about him, though," Mamoru continued, seeming to read Kunzite's thoughts. "He was just like a normal person."

"Except that he looks like me."

"I suppose that eliminates the 'normal person' part," Mamoru said, smirking mildly. "But my point being, he didn't feel like you."

After a pause, he added, "Well, the more recent you."

The comment caused Kunzite to wince visibly. He knew the Prince had not intended it as an insult, but the memories of that part of his life were still troubling, and the less the thought about them, the more likely it was that he would stay sane.

"I'm sor--" Mamoru started to apologize, seeing his friend's discomfort, but Kunzite held up a hand to interrupt him.

"Don't worry about it, Prince. I understand what you mean. He reminded you more of myself, not that abomination that served Beryl."

Mamoru sighed, inwardly cursing his stupidity. He tried to avoid the subject of the Dark Kingdom when talking with his guardians, especially Kunzite, but it was a difficult thing to simply forget about, and somehow it seemed to come up between them time and again. He knew how hard it must be to move on from a time like that, especially when one spent the majority of his time sealed in isolation, locked away with little more than his own thoughts to keep him company. "Exactly," he continued, trying to cover his tracks. "He looked like you, Kunzite. His eyes were just like yours."

Kunzite shook his head. "I just don't see how that can be possible."

"I don't see it, either," Mamoru said, punching his pillow again. He didn't understand this, and it made him frustrated. Not knowing the full story always made him edgy. He felt like he wasn't in control of anything.

"I'm sorry, Prince. If I come up with anything..." Kunzite trailed off. He didn't know what he could possibly come up with, but perhaps the others would have some ideas.

"I just get the distinct impression that if he'd wanted to kill me, he would have done it one of the first six times I collapsed," Mamoru said, not sure who he was trying to convince.

A look of concern crossed Kunzite's face. "What's this about you collapsing?"

Oops. "I said..."

"You said 'physically ill'; you never said anything about collapsing. Why didn't you tell me?"

"...I didn't want you to worry?"

"Well that's very noble of you, Prince, but I think your health is just a tad more important at this point."

"Well..." Mamoru couldn't really argue with that. "Okay. So 'physically ill' was somewhat of an understatement. My point being: if he wasn't to be trusted, I think he would have proven it by now."

Kunzite looked dubious, and not without good reason. He said nothing, but it was obvious there was something he wanted to say.

"Kunzite? Cat got your tongue?"

"I just..." Kunzite paused. "I just don't want you getting hurt. Especially by my apparent long-lost twin, or whoever this guy turns out to be."

Mamoru smiled. "Stop worrying so much, alright? I'm sure this'll turn out to be nothing. I can take care of myself, you know."

"I know, I know. I just... wish I could be there to help you, is all." His eyes refused to meet Mamoru's, preferring instead to study the carpet.

"I..." He choked on the word as pain suddenly twisted in his chest. He fell back on the bed, gasping and shaking.

"Prince!" Kunzite rushed to his side, but could do little more than hover over him frantically.

"I'll be fine," he wheezed, trying to steady his breathing. "I...I just need to get some sleep. I'm thinking too hard."

Kunzite wanted to respond, but bit his tongue and relaxed a bit. "Prince, please, take it easy. It won't benefit anyone if you have to face a new enemy if you aren't to your full capacity."

"I know." Mamoru sighed. "Thank you, Kunzite."

"Of course, Prince." Slowly, reluctantly, the hologram faded, and was nothing more than a small pink stone on the carpet. Mamoru reached over slowly and picked up the stone, placing it with the others back on his bedside table. He looked at Malachi's note and sighed. This was all far too complicated.

Mamoru knew he should email his professors to apologize for failing to appear in class. But he felt so tired, he couldn't even work up the energy to walk all the way to his computer. And it was only 1 PM.

With a hearty sigh, Mamoru leaned back on his bed, hoping he could get in a nap and wake up refreshed. Not ten minutes later, the man had drifted into a dreamless sleep. He was not awake long enough to hear shoes clicking sharply down the hallway, pausing briefly, and then continuing on their way until they faded entirely.

In his sleep, he could not see the single, blood-red rose that lay on his doorstep, along with a book of matches.


[1] Really. It can only be described as hideous. Our inspiration was Naoko-sama's first concept sketches for the Inner Senshi costumes.

Ami is the one on the far right. I hope this explains our decidedly lacking description. Thanks to Manga Style for the scan!

Lots of Mamochan torture ahead; get out your tissues. (Believe it or not, we really do love him. He just needs some angst to get the fanfic justice he deserves.)

...we also just like torturing characters.

Disclaimer: Chiba Mamoru, and all Sailor Moon related themes belong to Takeuchi Naoko, Toei, Bandai, etc etc etc. This is a work of fanfiction; we are not making any profit from it. A'Marie and Lunette are ours, but why you'd want them, we have no idea. The titled, Bleed (Just to Know You're Alive) has been derived from Goo Goo Dolls' "Iris;" we don't claim to own that, either.