My dad isn't going to like this, I thought as I pulled the strings on Mamoru's pajama pants tight around my waist. My clothes were still damp, but I didn't mind; I would've worn them anyway, but Mamoru said he minded before shoving a hooded sweatshirt into my arms along with the pants.

I did feel warmer and as I pulled the front of the sweatshirt to my nose, I felt fingers of comfort run the length of my spine. His clothes and the feeling threatened to swallow me whole, but I couldn't bring myself to mind. Something dull, achy, and heavy did make itself apparent very low in my stomach, though.

I avoided the mirror as I gathered my clothes from the toilet seat and left the bathroom.

His apartment was deathly silent as I walked back into the living room. He was sitting on the couch and as I looked down at him, he looked up at me with incredibly still eyes, shallow as a puddle, making that thing in my stomach get heavier and achier and I had to look away.

I moved to the door to slide on my shoes, giving him a sign that it was time to go. He followed, giving me a generous breath of space. A slight bitter smile grew on my lips, wondering if this was what it was going to be like from now on.

As we slid onto the seats of Mamoru's car, I couldn't help but shrink into this clothes, berrying myself deeply, feeling as though they could hide me from all the dark and cold. My eyes settled for looking out the passenger window, never daring to stray. Mamoru quietly told me to buckle up, but the rest of the ride was silent after that.

I watched as tall buildings gave way to row-houses and row-houses to trees and single homes, street lamps flicking past along the way. I frowned, thinking that the trip was going by far too quickly, but not knowing why I'd want it last longer. The air was stiff and the silence, bleak and consuming. I sighed, seeing my house come into sight.

His car slowed to a still and I stared at the front door sadly. I knew, if I left now, we'd never talk again. He'd avoid my routs, so we wouldn't run into each other. If our paths ever did cross (which was bound to happen with Andrew being his best friend and all) he'd never meet my eyes, never acknowledge my presence, never call me Odango Atama.

My eyes were gradually filling with tears, my gut wrenching, and for the life of me, I couldn't move my hand to the car door handle. I stayed, contemplating what being saved by Tuxedo Mask would do to me. Would I cry every time, feeling a bitter-sweet tear in my chest, agonizingly wonderful to be held by him.

After a long moment of still silence, I glance at Mamoru's hands which still hugged the steering wheel, his knuckles white. Was he mad? I didn't have the guts to find out. I sighed deeply, finally feeling prickles of cold scramble down my arms.

But I didn't want to leave and even if I wanted to try, I knew I wouldn't be able to move myself. This couldn't be over, I denied. Somewhere, somehow, along the way, even leaving out him being Tuxedo Mask, I'd formed a strong, peculiar attachment to Mamoru. One that I couldn't believe would be severed in a matter of four hours, two of which I wasn't even conscious. It was more important than that.

I looked at him from the corner of my eye as he finally gave sign of life. Sighing, he dropped his hands from the wheel and tilted his head to look at me. After a moment of staring, he grasped my hand loosely and I started, having not seen him reach for it. Gently, he examined my fingers and I turned my head a little to watch him, nothing in me intending to pull away.

He sighed again and met my eyes. His eyes were no longer shallow, but had gained fathoms of sadness. I held fast in my gaze, willing him to forgive and forget.

"You know," he started softly, a husk of stored emotion lacing his words, "even before all this," he paused to set his jaw and shift his eyes so that they pressed deeply into mine, "I'd always wanted you."

I hadn't been expecting that, but his words didn't need time to sink in. Like the heat of hot chocolate on a cold day, his words bloomed inside me, lighting a healing fire beneath my skin. Goose-bumps rose and fought against the prickly chill, valiantly.

His eyes dropped back to my fingers as they hung limply at the edge of his grip. After considering them for a moment he continued.

"You see, there's this wall," he slanted his body towards the passenger's side, "I've built," he paused, considering again. "Well, not consciously, but in the way I've reacted to people without really thinking. It's just," he paused again, demonstrating, not for the first time that night, how hard it was for him to explain himself. I was profoundly touched that he was trying anyway. "When I'm around people," he continued, "I get so tired," his words were heavy and slow, "I know what they expect from me, but if they really knew me," he looked back up into my eyes, completely open and boyish, "I'd disappoint them- and you." He watched my eyes for a moment, careful to let his last statement sink in. His gaze then dropped to my hand, following as one of his held mine in place while the other ran the length of my fingers.

Staring at the top of his head, I tried to ignore the tingling surging up my arm, stoking the fire he'd already lit. Clearing my throat, I withdrew my hand, finding it hard to think properly through his ministrations. He looked up at me as I looked away from him. At the moment, I felt very uncomfortable. So, I unbuckled myself and turn my body so that I was leaning against the cool door, my legs pulled up and crossed. Reflexively, I pulled the collar of Mamoru's sweatshirt to my nose as I set my brows, trying very hard to look like I was thinking while incapable of having a thought.

"So," I began, my eyes searching everything below waist height for inspiration, "you've been pushing everyone away to protect them from disappointment? That sounds more than just a little arrogant," I raised my eyes to his, lifting an eyebrow, figuring now wouldn't be a bad time to try and lighten the mood with teasing. He smiled faintly, shrugging. "I guess, I know what you mean, though. When you found me," heat started to bloom in my cheek as I couldn't believe I was about to tell him this, "at the bridge, I was avoiding my mom." I dropped my eyes from his to watch my fingers pick at each other before continuing. "She has a sixth sense that tells her when I have tests. I swear, it's freaky." I glanced at him. "I didn't want to tell her I'd failed it. She gets so disappointed," I allowed my voice to drop, feeling a renewed sense of guilt and dread.

"So, you stood out in the rain and got sick, instead?" he asked, incredulously.

"I didn't mean to," my eyes shot up at him with knitted brows, thinking he was insulting me, but his smile wasn't mean. Just happy.

His look changed in an instant, though. He was serious again and it took some willpower to keep from looking away. Sliding over his seat, towards me, he leaned in and paused inches from my face. My breath hitched, guessing why he'd gotten so close, hoping that he'd follow through. His eyes roamed my face for a brief moment, searching for I don't know what.

"May I?" He finally asked, soft and slightly unsure.

I gulped. "It doesn't matter that I'm not the Princess?" I asked, my voice squeaking.

He smirked. "That you're the Princess and Sailor Moon doesn't matter," he paused, watching my eyes widen, but my surprise faded rather quickly. A sheepish smile spread across my face. replacing my shocked expression. I felt embarrassed for thinking that the great Chiba Mamoru would miss such a blatant hint as the one I'd dropped earlier. "I just want you," he finally concluded, reaching a hand to stroke one of my blazing cheeks.

"Faults and all," I smirked back, "and even though I'm sick?"

Without answering, he latched his fingers behind my neck and pull my head toward him, pressing my lips to his. My smile faded as I, for the first time, kissed him back.



To my faithful, benevolently patient RTR'd (Readers That Review'd)

I am your most Humble Servant

The Author