Disclaimer: No own.
It's a fairly dull chapter. I kept ¾ of it on my computer for nearly four months because I hated it so much. xD; And I ended up not editing at all. xD; Oh well … hopefully the next one will be more enjoyable … nevertheless, please enjoy to the best of your ability. :D
Chapter 3: Silk Roses
"What did you come here for?" Usagi murmured, gazing down and sideways at the asphalt passing in a blur under Andrew's car. "This was the worst time…" she continued slowly, voice faint and low. "You and Artemis – all of Innocence – are ruining my life … I want you to go away. I don't care if the entire world is broken. As long as mine is intact." She closed her eyes and bowed her head.
"I've never imagined that such selfish words could come out in Tsukino Usagi's voice." Andrew's usually light voice sounded strangely solemn and loud. "Artemis apologizes for cutting your vacation time down and promises retribution. Other than saying that…" Andrew sighed and paused as they came to a stoplight. "…there's not much I can do." He let his hands fall from the steering wheel and onto his lap. "The world needs you, cheri. It demands for you to nurture it … all of Innocence. You can't turn your back to it, just like you can't turn away from a wounded kitten." The car moved forward again.
Usagi didn't move. Finally, she sighed. "I know that," voice still tenderly gentle, like that of a mother's toward her weeping, pleading child. "I know all of that."
Andrew thinned his lips grimly, eyes dimmed with pity. "Then act on it, cheri." He wondered if his words were as much for her as for himself.
Usagi glanced up at him and met equally mournful eyes of a brighter blue. They were both lamenting for the world. Or perhaps for themselves.
Only then did the sweet tears fall.
"What just happened here?" For a second, Quatre thought it was his own voice echoing so desolately in the cold foyer. "T-that…"
Duo's voice broke. He saw his hands shaking and clenched them, pressing bloodlessly cold fingertips into the warmness of his palms.
"Idiot," Wufei drawled, gazing blandly at the cold, white tiles. "That was obviously an act." He closed his eyes and let go of a small sigh. "But Barton's the shrewd one of us." He glanced to Trowa and inclined his head. "I'm sure you've noticed long before I did."
"Usagi Tsukino is superbly clumsy at hiding what she feels. When that Andrew showed up, she was surprised beyond words." Trowa cocked his head to the left and shrugged. "There is very little chance that the Usagi the world is acquainted with is able to deliberately pull off such a flawless act."
"Tsukino Usagi is above specious smiles and subtle shams," Quatre concluded.
Duo sighed heavily as if attempting to banish noxious dread from inside of him. "But on another level … even if he wasn't her fiancé … it must mean that Usagi is getting back in the action."
Wufei laughed softly, almost unpleasantly. "Yes, and good things don't happen when Tsukino has to be called back." He paused as if hesitating and choosing his words carefully. "People have a habit of dying when situations involve Tsukino Usagi."
Quatre started and smiled weakly. "Come now … surely that's just a stereotype…"
"No, no. I agree," Trowa murmured, eyes heavily lidded. "I wonder how she stands it. There are so many things to cry over."
Duo flashed him a small grin and shook his head adamantly. "No, if Usagi cried every time she had reason to, she'd have been bored of tears even before she met Hiiro."
Usagi heaved a sigh and leaned against the glass wall of the elevator.
"We will probably have to go through standard procedure. Artemis didn't want us to call attention to ourselves so we didn't hire a debugging team."
She started at the sound of his voice. "R-really."
He glanced at her and smiled, revealing a dimple. "Are you no longer comfortable with the procedure? We can think of another scenario."
Usagi blushed and looked away. "I don't know. I suppose I just can't act it out as dispassionately as before."
He shot her a mockingly wounded look and bowed his head dejectedly. "Don't tell me you never took me seriously! What about my charm, cheri?"
"I could fall for you," she teased, retying the unseemly knot of his tie, "but you might have to beat Hiiro up first."
Andrew laughed and shook his head. "Now, now. Let's not be impractical here. Surely you don't wish for my death."
Usagi smiled innocently. "If you died, would I be able to … say … go back to my vacation?"
He frowned at her and quirked an eyebrow. "Is that a threat, cheri?"
She laughed. "But seriously. Can we use scenario B?"
He grinned and nodded, sarcastically sweeping an elaborate bow. "If you're uncomfortable with acting as if we're making love, that's fine."
Usagi sighed. "Sometimes I really hate your bluntness, Drew."
The elevator signaled its arrival at the top and thick metallic doors slid open slowly. The teasing smile on her face fell away as Andrew stepped out first, leading her by the hand.
"Artemis sure likes things lavish," she sighed exasperatedly. "Really, any old motel would have been fine."
Andrew smiled. "Come, surely you can't imagine a multi-billion dollar organization to stoop down to Motel 6's?" He fished out a key and pushed the door open. "They call it the Jardìn Suite. Artemis thought you'd like it."
She frowned at the elegant room, still standing at the doorway. "Why so much thought? Surely we're only staying for a few hours?"
He smiled apologetically. "I'm sorry, cheri. We're registered as Mr. Levoir and his fiancée Miss Lucian for the entire night and up until noon tomorrow. But we mustn't chat so much." Andrew arched an eyebrow at her as if asking Usagi if she was ready. Sighing defeatedly, the blonde woman nodded and gingerly stepped in, taking a deep breath, and letting out a burst of laughter, signaling the beginning of their debugging charade.
Still laughing, she strode to the dresser. "I can't believe that woman actually thought Mr. Calloway was staring at her." She opened the doors and felt each shelf. Nothing. "I mean … really. Why would a man of that prestige stoop down to a twit like her?" Usagi forced a derisive laugh out of her throat and headed for the nightstand.
"Yes, I suppose." Andrew, previously sifting through the cabinets of the bathroom, came back out, shook his head silently, and targeted the bed. "But if you consider her position … I don't suppose it's surprising that she would jump at even the slightest come-hither look from Calloway."
Usagi straightened and mouthed 'found it' to Andrew who nodded and reached for the phone. "Yes, but that still was perhaps the ultimate gaffe of the year," she argued in a deliberately loud voice as Andrew muttered into the phone. She reached over and slowly tore several sheets of paper out of the provided memo pad and crumpled each sheet, tossing them into the trash can before dropping the half-a-centimeter-in-diameter clip in as well.
There was a knock on the door and Andrew headed for it, not letting the act drop. "Oh but perhaps the other incident with Aurora Lynne transcended it, cheri."
The suited man at the door bowed slightly. "You called, sir?"
Usagi rushed over, smiling widely at him and carrying the trash can. "Yes. If you could dispose of this? I hate to have trash in the room."
The man nodded and received it, barely glancing down at the wadded up sheets of paper. "Will that be all?"
"Yes, thank you."
The door closed. Usagi let out a sigh of relief.
"That was awkward."
Andrew nodded in agreement, flopping down onto the king-sized bed. "Scenario B is nowhere as well-rehearsed as Scenario A."
Usagi sat down on the other side. "I still don't see why I have to stay the night here."
"Go look out the window."
She shot him a curious look but acquiesced. Evening was already surrendering to night and the pale glow of the moon didn't even come close to rivaling the streetlights. No cars drove by. It was frighteningly silent. Usagi squinted into the darkness.
"There's a car on the other side of the street," she noted quietly. "Are they watching us?"
"Attempting to, at least. They'll be gone by morning."
Usagi turned back to face him and folded her arms. "So? What're you waiting for? Start explaining."
Usagi grinned grimly as she stepped out of Andrew's car and turned back to glance at Quatre's mansion. At the moment, she couldn't decide what she was more afraid of – the new threat Chiba Mamoru posed or Hiiro's demand for an explanation the instant she would step through the doorway.
She hesitantly reached for the doorbell. The door swung open before she could press it.
She laughed nervously. "Hiiro … my, how quickly you recover." She didn't have to turn around to know that Andrew was approaching the house – Hiiro's gaze was focused on him.
"Mr. Yui," Andrew greeted cordially just as Quatre, Duo, Trowa, and Wufei appeared behind Hiiro, silent and watching.
Hiiro barely glanced at the hand the blonde man offered. Usagi sighed to herself. Apparently Hiiro was nowhere as polite as Andrew.
She cleared her throat carefully. Hiiro's burning gaze swung to her. "Mr. Yui." He started at the formality and shot a brief scowl at Andrew. "For the sake of Innocence, you will not contact me for the next three months. You will not mention my name. You will not attempt to meet me in any form or manner. And you will not track my whereabouts."
"You're saying … you're saying just when I realized you're still alive, you are going to disappear again?" His voice was cracked and hoarse and Usagi swallowed to keep the bitter lump of tears at her throat down.
"Hiiro," she whispered softly, "do it for me. Do it so that I can stay alive."
"Mr. Yui, it would be highly dangerous, possibly lethal, to contact Usagi at any moment in this time period," Andrew offered, equally quietly.
"Did I ask for your input?" he snapped back.
Andrew laughed at Hiiro's bark of a reply. "Love is powerful, Mr. Yui, but don't let jealousy overwhelm it."
Hiiro acted as if he hadn't heard. "I'm coming with you-"
"We're all coming with you," Duo added quickly.
Usagi looked from one face to another and took a deep breath, subduing as much of her sentimentality as possible. "Gentlemen, I order you to not follow me. This isn't a slumber party we're talking about. This is a war of wits and strategies against modern-day ESUN's most notorious gang, only subsidiary to Innocence."
"We're won't encumber you if we come. We're not liabilities," Quatre argued softly.
"No one knows that as well as I do," she replied, equally softly.
The blonde man frowned. "Stay for one night. Surely we can sort this out."
Usagi shook her head. "I can't. Dozens are dying now because of Chiba Mamoru. If I linger any longer, dozens more will d-"
She gasped as Hiiro swept her up in a fierce hug.
"For the last few weeks I've had nightmares … of your dying, of your death. And when I wake up, the pillow is wet and my eyes burn," he whispered roughly into her ear. Her heart thumped, its beat quick enough to make her tremble. He released her. "I'll let you go because I know you will come back."
She smiled. "Just like before."
"Just like before," he echoed forlornly.
"Just because Hiiro said he wouldn't meddle doesn't mean I won't," Duo argued loudly. Usagi had left half an hour ago, disappearing with a small wave before sliding on her shades and leaving in anonymity.
Trowa stirred from his position opposite the braided man. "I don't think that is wise, Duo. You'll only endanger her."
Quatre nodded. "And I can only save Usagi so many times. Even my influence has its limits."
Wufei shook his head almost admiringly, his hair out of the usual ponytail, smooth strands of ebony dangling in front of his face. He looked forbidding even in the soft, casual light of Quatre's living room. "That woman faces death every few hours."
"Usagi knows that better than anybody." Hiiro paused and ignored the four pairs of eyes on him. "And Duo is wrong. I said I would let her go. I never promised not to follow."
It makes me cringe and gives me stomach pains. xD; Kidding. But something like that. Exams are almost here for us. Next week, I will update My Paper Heart and hopefully the last week I'll update Cross My Heart … if I'm lucky. xD; After that, I'll be gone for about three weeks on vacation … I'm not sure I can access a computer/the internet where I'll be … but we'll see. Hopefully there will be more updates in the summer. Again, we'll see. xD; Thank you all for being patient for this chapter. :D And thank you all for reading. :D Yours, Angel.
ChibiKai02: Lol … does your opinion remain unchanged? xD; I hope so … thank you very much though. :D
Bunni: Hiiro and Usagi together … lol. I'm sadistic enough to laugh. xD; It's not happening anytime soon. If it's happening at all. :D Now … have a nice day. xD; Kidding, kidding. There will be many H/U moment in this fic … even if it doesn't quite seem like it now. xD;
Silly Smiles: LOL … poor Andrew. ::pets:: He's actually a quite likeable character. xD; Hiiro on the other hand … xDxD;;
Crazygurl70: o.o;; I read that book … The Once and Future King? Wart … heh heh. xD; And yes, I have quite a penchant for "thwarted love" too. xD;; Maybe not to your extreme…lol.
Kylarachan: This chapter isn't a cliffhanger! :D But I can't guarantee it for the rest of them. xD;; Cliffhangers a bit hard to plan … xD;; And I'm lazy … soooo. :D
Firefly Princess: Lol. xD; I wrote … and then I hated it … so I waited. Lol. xD; Are you still here? O.o;; So many people seem to be leaving … ;-; Come baaaaaaack!!! xD
Angel313: Thank you! ; But I'm sorry about the updating soon bit … xD;
Heero's Bunny: I think I've heard that the day after Thanksgiving was the best day to shop. xD;; Is it true? :D
Sunshine Fia: Lol … those two words together … "great cliffhanger" xD; Seems oxymoronic. :D But yes, you were very correct in your presumption about Andrew's acting … xD; And … Usagi is a very popular girl. Lol.
The Desert Fox: I think, from rumors, that I like the manga a whole lot more than the anime. Well…considering I haven't read the manga. xD; And with the name "Artemis" … I think with "rarer" names, there's more leeway to go either way. Like … the name Aubrey … is it masculine or feminine? I've seen it used for both. xD;;
Serenity Angel: I think I'm just out to kill Hiiro too. xD;;; …Or at least hurt him immensely. xD;;
OtAkU: Lol … I hope you're still patiently waiting. xD; Sorry for taking so long … --; But I really do despise this chapter. xD; And the complications … oh the complications. xD;
Pyro-Girl: Lol … thank you. xD;
Moon Mage Goddess: xD; Well, they're not technically engaged. xD; And … Hiiro technically still hasn't eaten yet … --; Poor Hiiro. xD; But my mouth remains closed. :D