lilian413 at yahoo dot com
Summary: When Mako and Rei arrive at Ami's for their monthly get together, they find themselves a big surprise.
Pairings: A/Z (sorta), R/J (kinda), M/N (maybe). Yeah, I like to be vague.
Thank You's: To akeyoftime , because without her help, this would be a lot harder to read. May your Red Pen of Doom continue, hon!! (oh, and I will try to keep the Phantom of Commas away from the fics in the future, 'k?)
Author's Note: Went to the beach, and this idea hit me out of the blue. You can blame it on this picture... I was just surfing through my SM picture collection and when I found it, it just screamed 'write me!' Which, of course, I did. :0)
"I'm telling you, Rei, he was totally checking you out."
Mako's voice rang loud and clear through the brisk morning air as they let themselves into the apartment. Ami had given each of them a key, and they came and went as if the place was their own. In a way, it was: ever since the Hikawa Jinja had become world famous courtesy of one well placed article in an international magazine it had gotten harder and harder to hold their meetings there. Usagi's and Mina's houses were out of the question, as little Chibi-Usa and Kenji had the annoying habit of interrupting their conversations every other half-hour. Mako's apartment was undergoing remodeling (because as Nate had put it, all the girlie wallpaper was making him nervous and by God he wasn't staying there unless it went away!), so that left Ami's loft as the obvious choice. They held most of their meetings at Ami's place, and as such had come to see it as their second home.
"I keep telling you, Mako: I don't care!" came the reply as Rei closed the door behind her, balancing a bag of groceries in one hand and the newspaper in the other. She let the roll of newspaper fall on the table, wondering how was it possible that Ami hadn't picked it up already. It was half past eleven on a Saturday morning, almost two hours after their friend's usual waking hour...
"Ami?" she called out into the seemingly empty apartment, avoiding the sofa as she made her way into the living room.
Nobody answered. She watched Makoto move past the living room and into the kitchen, disappearing around the corner: "I wonder if she slept in. She did say it was okay to come today, right?" The distance and the wall between them muffled Mako's voice.
Moving into the kitchen, Rei set her own bag down upon the table, wincing as a muscle in her upper arm protested. Brushing the leaves of the celery away from her face, she turned to look at Makoto as the brunette woman began piling up the ingredients for their meal. It was the first weekend of the month and it was customary among their little group to have a small get-together to keep in touch. After their battles had ended, they had each taken control of their own lives and that meant less time to spend with each other.
Makoto was the unspoken chef, after Usagi almost poisoned them with her rendition of steak stroganoff. This particular day, Rei had accompanied her to the grocery store, where she spent the better part of their morning brushing off the advances of one horny stacking boy. That was why she was a bit ticked off: unwanted attention usually had that effect on her.
She realized she hadn't answered Mako's question and searching the cabinets for a pot to cook the potatoes with, she spoke: "Yeah. Maybe she just went back to work to pick up something. You know how scatter-brained she can be when she wants to."
They both smiled that that. Mizuno Ami was usually the polar opposite of 'scatter-brained': focused and levelheaded, she could remember the exact number of times Usagi had changed clothes before a date with Mamoru if one only bothered to ask. There were times, however, when she would forget everything but her work. Those times usually meant she had discovered something: be it a novel type of ion channel or the workings of a specific cell-type, whenever a new fact popped into her microscope lens, Ami would loose track of time and become an effective workaholic.
They hadn't heard about such behavior in a while – Ami's secretary, knew to call them whenever Dr. Mizuno got that weird glint in her eyes—but they had heard other things: for the past three months, something else had become the new focus of Ami's conversation. It wasn't her latest experiments, and it wasn't her latest project: it was her latest co-worker that had her panties in a twist (as Minako had so aptly put it). Young, up-coming North American doctor Zachary Ward had just been hired by the University and his field of work just happened to overlap Ami's. The faculty had seen this as the perfect opportunity for international cooperation and had appointed them both as Project Chiefs. They had never expected the both of them to get on each other's nerves as they thoroughly did, though.
The girls knew Dr. Ward only by word of mouth, although Usagi had gotten a glimpse of him when she had gone to pick Ami up at work once. In their princess' words, 'he was a total hottie', to which Ami had promptly argued that looks weren't everything. That those olive green eyes and strawberry blond hair were no reasons to loose one's head and that she had in no way noticed how nicely he filled those pants of his.
"Still, it's strange she didn't leave us a note", Mako continued, eyeing the empty fridge with a critical look. Honestly, couldn't Ami at least try to keep some simple supplies in her kitchen? It was a blessing she had thought about buying some essentials this morning, otherwise, another trip to the grocery store would've been in order. That would mean having to listen to Rei pretend she didn't care for Jason's advances. A sly smile danced across her lips: on the other hand, she could use another bulb of garlic...
Before Mako could put her devious plan to use (was she hanging out with Minako too much?), Rei had moved away from the fridge and towards the stove, where she began peeling the potatoes with expert fingers. It was amazing how easily the priestess picked up her cooking tips, Mako thought as she watched the knife move gracefully across the brown skin of the potatoes: at this pace, she could soon retire as the group's official chef and leave Rei to assume the title.
Shaking her head, Mako got to work as well: if she didn't start now, things wouldn't be ready by the time Usagi and Minako got there and that would mean a whining session. Besides, cleaning the vegetables and letting them fall on the salad bowl was soothing to her nerves, frayed by Nate's continuous complaints over the past few weeks.
Rei yelped suddenly and startled Makoto, who let the last tomato fall into the sink. "Rei? You all right?"
The black haired woman shook her head and sucked on her index finger where a fine slash of blood was blossoming. "I cut myself. Sorry", Rei said with a sheepish grin, wrapping her finger with a nearby paper towel. Mako smiled. Okay, so maybe her retirement wasn't around the corner, but at least it was an improvement: last time Minako had helped her with the cooking she had nearly cut off her pinky. Giggling at the carrots peeking from the edge of the brown paper bags on the table, she shook her head."Don't worry. I can finish up here. Go clean up and I'll get this thing going, 'k?" Rei nodded, putting her finger back in mouth. She disappeared through the door and Makoto turned back to the boiling pot beside her.
It seemed they'd make it on time, she mused, turning the heat up and checking the stew. Usagi (and Chibi-Usa: the baby was only five months old but already ate like her mother!) would have a feast today: now if she could find that green bowl she'd used last time they'd be just about ready. Fishing through the piles of cans and bags and vegetables loitering the table, she found the white chocolate bar and smiled. Yep. Her princess would certainly enjoy herself today.
Wondering if she should let the cake cool on the table (where she risked Minako getting a taste before it was done) or inside the oven (where it would take longer because it was still lukewarm), she missed Rei's shriek.
When her friend entered the room looking ghostly pale, Mako didn't register it at first. "Rei? What do you think? Should we risk Minako and leave the cake here or put it somewhere she can't reach? Because last time she got a stomachache after eating it while it was still warm and I'd hate to see her—Rei? Oh my God, Rei what is it?"
Rei sat, shaking her head. A blur of 'I don't believe it's' and 'oh my God's' fell from her lips and Mako noticed she hadn't bandaged up her cut and was making a mess of the kitchen floor. Wrapping Rei's hand with a fresh paper towel and cleaning as best she could, she wiped a few of Rei's dark bangs away from her face and was surprised to see the flush of her cheeks.
"Rei? Rei? REI!"
Her voice finally cut through the haze of Rei's shock and her friend turned wide, unbelieving eyes to her. And then she began laughing. Hard, rocking giggles that nearly made her fall off the chair. Makoto just stood there, blinking, wondering what had happened in the brief journey between the kitchen and Ami's bathroom that had stolen Rei's judgment
"What is it?" Makoto insisted, wondering if she should worry or join her friend in laughter. Rei said nothing, just kept on giggling. And then shushed Makoto, which was bizarre considering Rei was doing all the noise. She rose, taking Mako's hand and walked them both upstairs to Ami's bedroom. It was all very weird, Mako thought, watching Rei slither across corners and take baby steps as they approached Ami's door.
Deciding it was probably better to play along because you did not argue with a crazy woman, Mako let Rei lead her towards the room. But Rei did not enter. She stood on the hallway, a few feet to the right of the door, and waited. Mako raised an eyebrow, but Rei only pointed towards the slightly open door.
Curiosity got the best of her and Makoto moved towards the doorframe. She didn't know what she expected to see; perhaps a cat that had found its way into Ami's bedroom, or maybe a pigeon making its home on Ami's carefully made bed. What she did not expect to find, though, was Ami sleeping peacefully on the unmade mattress. That by itself was not strange. She had watched Ami sleep a number of times—especially in those days before their last big battle. They had camped out at the Hikawa Jinja, spending almost four nights in a row planning their strategy. It had all been like a big sleep over, in truth—so the sight was not new. But then something wasn't right... Makoto counted arms and legs and came up with the wrong number.
And then she noticed something else: Ami's hair was not blonde. It was a dark shade of black, so black that it sometimes looked blue. So whose head was lying so close to Ami's that it seemed they were sharing hair? And then her brain made sense of what she was looking at, and an intense blush colored her cheeks. She opened her mouth to shriek, but only got as far a meep: Rei's hand covered her mouth and jostled her back. They fell back against the wall, the blush burning Makoto's face.
She looked at Rei and: "Oh. My. God."
Rei just nodded.
Makoto slid against the wall and risked a second glance. The sleepers had not moved, remaining undisturbed in spite of her half-hearted yelp. She had to say they made a pretty nice sight: she could see Ami's left shoulder and the curve of a male arm carelessly draped across her friend's upper body. From her spot by the door, it was hard to make out the stranger's face, but she could see well-shaped cheekbones and pale skin. And the silkiest of hairs she had seen on any man. Except for Nathan, of course.
She felt Rei's long hair brushing her arms as her friend moved next to her. She was balancing on the balls of her feet, almost kneeling on the carpeted floor and she held onto Mako's thigh for support. "Who is he?"
Rei's voice was hushed and hurried, because damn it, if this creep had forced himself upon their friend he was in for some butt kicking. But then again, she continued, Ami looked incredibly peaceful... she didn't remember the last time she had seen Ami that relaxed.
"My guess? It's that Zachary guy."
As if in response to his name, the man on the men shifted, drawing Ami closer to his chest. The girls fell silent; suddenly feeling incredibly perverted and touched at the same time.
"Zachary?" Rei asked after the sleepers had quieted down, "But—I thought Ami hated him!"
A grin danced across Makoto's lips and she patted Rei's back: "You have much to learn, little grasshopper. It seems Minako has not rubbed off on you even after all these years."
The longhaired priestess just blinked in confusion. Makoto's smile grew even wider. Maybe her devious plan to fix up Rei with Jason might work after all...
The phone chose that moment to ring.
Startled, Rei toppled forward and drew Makoto down with her. They fell forward in a mess of arms, legs and shouts and they weren't sure if it was the noise they made or the shrill ringing of the phone that woke the sleepers.
The following minutes were filled with outraged yelling, sheet clutching and embarrassed apologies. They didn't know how, but somehow, Mako and Rei found themselves standing by the dresser, clutching at each other as Zachary, standing on the other side of the bed, tried to keep the sheet from falling from his hips. Ami had locked herself in the bathroom at some point, and the uncomfortable silence was stretching for far too long.
An embarrassed chuckle, and then: "Hi. I'm Zachary. Nice to meet you." He stretched out his hand across the bed and the sheet dangled precariously from one slim hipbone.
Makoto noticed the way Rei's eye lit up at the thought of the sheet falling down entirely and not that she was watching as well, thank you very much.
The sound of running water from the bathroom stopped either of them from answering him.
Zachary ran a hand through his sleep tousled hair and smile sheepishly: "Looks like we're gonna be here for a while."
Carrots: remember that Stars episode where the girls all went to Usagi's for a sleepover? They cook, and Minako supposedly chops her finger off. In the end, it's just the end piece of a carrot. It's all very dramatic. Not. :0)