Disclaimer: I own Sailor Moon. In my dreams! Please read and feel free to review! Also, this is my first fanfic so be gentle :p
Author's Note: My last touch, I swear. I re-read it and couldn't help but nitpick on the minor errors, hence the updated. Nothing changed, nothing added though.
"Konnichiwa Motoki!" Usagi greeted brightly upon entering Crown Gaming Center, eyes zeroing on her long-time crush, the very cute blond and blue-eyed Motoki.
Motoki – who had been watching his friend, Mamoru, try his luck in one of the crane games – glanced up to see Usagi beaming up at him. A grin tugged his lips as he surveyed the blue-eyed pig-tail-wearing long blond girl who never failed to somehow brighten his day.
"Konnichiwa Usagi," He straightened as Usagi neared them, trying not to ignore how she faltered in her steps when she recognized whom he was with.
"Oh. Mamoru, you're here," Usagi commented lifelessly, not wanting to appear rude in front of Motoki, though how that was supposed to happen especially with – ugh – Mamoru, she didn't know.
The two friends were a study in opposites, with Motoki's light coloring contrasting sharply with Mamoru's dark hair and dark eyes. Likewise, Motoki always had a ready smile and laugh while Mamoru, well, didn't.
"Yo, odango atama," Mamoru replied absently, not even bothering to look up as he deftly maneuvered his crane in the game.
Here we go again. Usagi narrowed her eyes; the nickname was a hot button and he knew it. "How many times do I have to tell you that my name is Usagi Tsukino? Is it so hard for a baka like you to remember my name?"
Mamoru straightened, turning his back on his crane game since, as Usagi saw, he had won.
"Of course not, but 'dumpling head' suits you much more than your name, which means 'rabbit'." He smirked. "Although, with the way you look, I suppose you also embody your namesake." He slipped his hand inside the mechanism to get his prize, which was, ironically, a little stuffed rabbit.
Usagi looked at him, suspicious, for he was never nice to her. "Are you telling me you actually think I'm, er, cute, like a rabbit?" She has always had a thing for the furry creatures.
Using the toy for emphasis, he explained, "Of course not. I'm telling you that you look like a rabbit, what with your pigtails and long hair looking like rabbit's ears and your teeth, especially your front teeth, all – "
"Nani?!" Usagi shrieked, losing her temper, as she always did with him. "Say one more word, mister, and you're going to get it!"
He smirked. "Oh, really? And what, pray tell, can a little kid like you do ab –"
"Guys, guys, really," Motoki interrupted resignedly, diffusing the fireworks like he always did, looking at them with mixed expressions of affection and exasperation. "I'm friends with both of you and I know you're both nice people. I just can't understand why you both can't seem to have a single conversation without it ending up in a fight!"
"It's his/her fault!" came the indignant reply from both, each pointing to the other and when they realized they had done the same thing, both turned their backs on the other, seething with temper.
"If only you could see the way you both look." Motoki shook his head, resignedly amused. "Anyway, Usagi, what's up?"
Usagi faced him, smiling brightly, her anger at Mamoru forgotten for the moment. "I was just going to ask – that is, if it's all right – if we could meet instead at the front of the movie theatre tomorrow, about half an hour before the show, instead of at the ice cream parlor a block away? I'm afraid I won't be able to come any earlier and neither can the others."
"That's all right. I'll be coming straight from work anyway and probably won't be able to leave any earlier either. Will it just be the six of us?"
"Yes, one boy and five pretty girls. You are such a heartthrob," Usagi teased.
Motoki burst out laughing. "Um, yeah, right, sure."
Usagi glanced at her watch. "Well, okay, I have to go. I just passed by to tell you about the change in plans."
Motoki nodded. "All right then, thanks. I guess I'll be seeing you tomorrow."
"See ya!" Usagi waved and turned to leave.
"Usagi. Mamoru." Motoki's tone was enough to make both sigh and turn towards each other, resigned.
"Sayonara," they mumbled, trying to sound as inoffensive as possible.
Motoki turned to Mamoru after Usagi left. "I know I've asked this a million times already but really, Chiba, what is with the two of you?"
Mamoru shrugged, looking slightly perplexed himself as, in a rare moment, he seriously considered Motoki's question. "I honestly don't know. I always think to be nice to her – for your sake, if for anything else – but then she opens her mouth and I open mine." He shrugged. "And we just end up fighting."
Motoki raised an eyebrow. "If I didn't know better, I'd think the two of you liked each other."
"What! Are you crazy?!"
Motoki walked towards the back desk, where he usually stayed during his shift. "Well, why not? They say that the more often you fight the better friends you are, right? So why can't it be applied romantically?"
"Because! Because!" Mamoru sputtered, rendered speechless by his indignation. "Because she likes you! And besides, I don't like girls like her! She's not my type."
"Don't be silly, she doesn't like me. And what type of girls do you like, anyway? Because, according to Usagi, you sure dropped Rei in a hurry and she was a nice enough girl who was also pretty cute."
Mamoru inwardly cursed as blushed. Really, a man his age should not have to blush every time he's embarrassed! In an effort to save dignity, he turned on Motoki. "Are you blind? Of course Usagi likes you! Have you noticed how she looks at you? She's got a huge crush on you! Ask any of her friends."
"Aw, c'mon, that's not true."
"Are you totally dense?" Mamoru sighed. "And here I thought you liked her back."
Motoki looked offended. "Of course I like her. I wouldn't hang out with her and her friends as much as I did if I didn't like her, or them."
"Then you do like her? Romantically?"
"Iie." Motoki chuckled. "They just all seem like little kid sisters I wish I had."
"As opposed to the kid sister you do have?" Mamoru raised an eyebrow.
"Don't be silly. You know I love my kid sister but sometimes, she's just so serious. Usagi and her friends are fun to hang out with and they act like such kids sometimes. They're fun."
"Then why are you leading her on by going out with her and stuff? You know she could get hurt." Not that I care, Mamoru told himself.
"How am I leading her on? Whenever we hang out, I always tell her to invite her friends and she does. I never told her I liked her or anything. Besides, she's really too young."
"She's only a few years younger than we are and age doesn't really matter when you like someone, does it? By the way, does she know about Reika?"
Motoki blushed and looked away. "What does she have to do with anything?"
"Because, last time I checked, the two of you were still together."
"Yeah, I know, but she'll be in Africa for a long while." Motoki grabbed a rag to wipe the counter then continued, "And do you know how hard it is to try and contact her via letters or phone? We both agreed that, because of the time and distance, it'd be better to date other people, just in case we wanted to. After all, if we're meant to be, we're meant to be, right? But I'm not dating anyone and neither am I interested. And, last I heard, she's not either. Somehow I just know everything will work out when she returns."
Mamoru apologized, noticing Motoki's sad look, as was the case whenever the topic of Reika came up. "Gomen for bringing her up. I guess it's really no business of mine. I'm just worried that you'll hurt Usagi, especially with her feeling the way she does about you."
"I didn't know you cared enough about her to worry about her." Motoki looked up in surprise.
Mamoru shrugged, suddenly uncomfortable. "Hey, just because I don't like her doesn't mean I want her to get hurt."
"Funny you should mention getting hurt. What about Rei?"
"What about her?" Mamoru asked defensively, hoping Motoki would drop it but knowing nothing can stop the inevitable.
"Usagi told me she seemed pretty hurt when you broke things off."
"You did break things off all nice and proper, didn't you?"
"Were we even together?" Mamoru wondered.
"Rei seemed to think so. And so did her friends. What did happen, Mamoru? It's not like you to be mean."
Mamoru fidgeted slightly. "Nothing happened. She was just… all over the place all of a sudden." He shot Motoki a wry look. "And I know I have you to thank for that. Every time we bumped into each other, she'd either site cosmic coincidence or you. I have my own reservations about that, though, and I really believe you told her each and every time where I'd be and when. Did you?"
Motoki scratched his head, looking sheepish. "Ah, well… maybe I might've mentioned you… and where you'd be… at one time or another…" He raised his hands defensively as Mamoru glared at him.
"Care to explain why?"
"Well, as your friend, I only had your best interests at heart."
"I'm sure you did, 'friend'."
"Mamoru, seriously, I just thought she was a nice girl and I hoped that things would work out between the two of you. You always seem so serious, so, well, solitary that I thought Rei would brighten things up a bit."
"Do I really look so solemn then?"
"Hai." Motoki laughed, knowing that they were good enough friends that Mamoru wouldn't take offense with his laughter. "Except maybe when you're fighting with Usagi; you both yell and fight but it sure seems like you both enjoy every minute of it when you do."
Startled, Mamoru studied Motoki, taken aback with his friend's observation.
Though he was probably aware of it in some small dark distant corner of his mind, he never really consciously acknowledged that he did derive some sort of perverse satisfaction whenever he and Usagi sparred. The knowledge somehow unsettled him and he briefly wondered if Usagi felt the same, but with the female species, one never really knew what they thought and felt.
Unwilling to talk about Usagi, Mamoru decided instead to answer to Motoki's unasked question. "Rei's fun to be with, I guess, but too clingy and aggressive for my taste. She was the one who was doing all the asking and inviting, all couched in a way that I thought she was just, er, asking for my company because nobody else wanted to go with her. I didn't really realize how she felt until… well, until later."
Thankful his face betrayed nothing, Mamoru recalled the moment he realized Rei felt something more than friendship for him – when she had maneuvered them in such a way that they had almost kissed. It was his instincts, more than anything, that had prevented that from happening but one look at Rei's face and he knew that she had planned everything. And a feeling that was somehow disgust and yet not grew in him and he left quickly in a slight panic and avoided her ever since.
"After which, you broke up with her, right?"
"How can I break up with her when I didn't even know we were together?" Mamoru asked, irritated.
"So what did you do?"
"I did what any man in my position would've done."
Motoki nodded wisely. "Ah, yes, the old acting-like-a-jerk-in-the-hopes-that-she'd-dump-you act; yes, we all know how that goes."
Mamoru flushed. "Granted, it wasn't the best way to handle things but I didn't know what else to do. She was being persistent and I really didn't want to hurt her feelings. I mean, I like her fine and all but I was afraid that if I was nice to her, even in a friendly manner, she'd take it the wrong way. After all, that's how I've always been to her and she took advantage of it."
Motoki shook his head. "Poor girl. She came in here one day, you know, looking ten times depressed, asking me how you were doing and if I had any idea why you acted the way you did."
"What did you tell her?"
Motoki backed away slightly from Mamoru. "Um… well… I might've hinted… ah… something… because… well… I didn't know what else to say… and I mean, really, Mamoru, she's a really nice girl! I really don't know why you don't like her. All that long black hair and big dark eyes with that fiery personality; really, what's not to like?"
"If she's such a nice girl, why don't you date her?" Mamoru muttered.
"I have Reika," Motoki promptly answered. "And besides, she's really too young."
"Too young for you but not too young for me? We are of the same age, aren't we?"
Motoki chuckled. "You know, it never quite occurred to me that way."
"So what did you say to finally get her off my back? I mean, she did stop calling and stuff."
Mamoru studied Motoki when the latter didn't reply and avoided his gaze – and Mamoru understood everything.
"Oh God, I don't believe you! You told her I was gay?"
Motoki answered defensively, "I didn't tell her anything like that! I might've… well… given her that impression… but it wasn't my fault that she jumped to conclusions!"
"And you, like the true friend I'm sure you are, didn't even bother to correct those conclusions?!" Mamuro asked sarcastically.
Motoki raised his hands in surrender. "Don't give me that. The girl was persistent, you said so yourself, so do you honestly think anything less than homosexuality would've turned her off of you?"
"You might've said that I didn't like girls like her or that I liked another girl," Mamoru muttered, still thoroughly put-out.
"If I told her she wasn't your type, she'd just have changed who she was to be the girl that you liked. And neither could I tell her that you liked another girl because, as far back as memory goes, I don't recall you ever really liking another girl."
"Are you telling me you think I'm gay?!"
Motoki protested, "Of course not! Mamoru, don't look at me like that. If we had a physical fight, I've no doubt I'd lose to you, so don't look at me like that. Of course I don't think you're gay. I've got eyes! I know you check out girls all the time! Well, maybe not all the time," he quickly amended. "But you do check them out. You've just… never shown that you liked anyone. And… well… you never made it past the 'checking out' stage."
"Just because I like the way a girl looks doesn't mean I'd automatically want to be with her." Mamoru was still not entirely sure he should forgive Motoki for questioning his masculinity.
"I'm sorry for giving her that impression but the poor kid was heartbroken and looking for any glimmer of hope whatsoever. I'm sure she would've latched on like a leech had I given her some. What was I to do? But on that topic, Mamoru, what kind of a girl do you like? We've got to get you nice and settled down." Motoki grinned wickedly. "It's the only way to get girls to stop chasing you."
Mamoru walked home deep in thought, mentally going over his conversation with Motoki.
While it was true that he didn't have a steady girlfriend like Motoki did nor did he ever have a relationship before, he also didn't like his peers' lifestyle of dating around. The truth was… he kind of liked someone. In fact, during the rare moments when he was completely honest with himself (since who was truly honest with themselves all the time?), he was pretty sure he loved someone. But how could he admit to anyone, least of all himself, that the girl he loved was someone he didn't even know? That she was someone he never really exchanged an honest conversation with other than to encourage her to use her power to defeat the enemy? His entire relationship with the woman he thought he loved pretty much consisted of hello-and-goodbye, with a little fight-the-enemy and you-can-do-it thrown in between.
And with that in mind, how could he date another girl when he knew that, as Tuxedo Mask, it was in his blood to help another woman, Sailor Moon, every time she was in trouble? What kind of woman would accept that in him? In addition, he also didn't date because he didn't think it was fair for the girl he dated to be with someone who'd leave without a moment's notice when Sailor Moon was in trouble. There was something inherent in him, in his blood that, try as he might to deny it – which he did on occasion – he never could. In fact, he might even go so far as to say it was not only in his blood but in his very soul, in his very essence, that he had to save the Sailor Soldier named Sailor Moon.
Every single time she was in trouble (which was, to be honest, quite often) he was off saving her before he could even think about it. And for some inexplicable reason, he always knew when she was in trouble and where she was. It was instinct with him, a part of the mystery he was trying his best to solve, one that enshrouded his past and his nightly dreams of – what he now believes is – his past life of being with a princess who looked a lot like Sailor Moon, since before he can remember. It seemed pointless to date when, deep in him, was the hope that one day he'd find the woman of his dreams, the one woman who called to his soul like no one else.
He walked in a slightly absentminded manner, just going where his feet took him, until very faint strings of a sound that stirred his soul caught his attention. It was a sound that seemed like the wind but wasn't quite that either.
He looked around, belatedly realizing that he was in the park across the street from his apartment. As he became aware of his surroundings, he also became aware of a familiar blond sitting on a bench nearby, looking at a fountain with a melancholy look on her face. She was holding something in her hands that caught the light of a nearby streetlight and reflected in Mamoru's eyes.
He walked over to Usagi, somehow hoping yet knowing it was hopeless that they wouldn't fight this time, when he was feeling so confused. Yet at the same time, his heart lightened, because he felt that a good all-out argument with her would get his mind off things, even for just a little while.
"Hey, odango, fancy meeting you here."
Oh, great. It wasn't that Mamoru consciously thinks of teasing Usagi by calling her that hated nickname but it just always slips out before he has a chance to stop himself.
Considering Usagi's reaction – whirling around in surprise and frantically stuffing something in her pocket – Mamoru knew he had surprised the heck out of her and knew, also, that she had sought her solitary time in the park. For that, he was sorry – almost. For some reason, it irked him that she looked so forlorn sitting there but mostly it grated on his nerves that she had a secret, a secret that was currently stuffed in the pocket of her skirt.
A secret from him.
It was irrational, that feeling (since when did he care about Usagi's secrets?), but there it was, try as he might to ignore it.
"Mamoru! What are you doing here?" She stood up as he neared her.
"I could ask you the same thing."
"Well, I was walking by and I thought this park looked lovely and inviting and I wanted to – hey, wait a minute, why am I explaining myself to you? What are you doing here?!" She scowled at him.
"And why should I explain myself to you as well?" He raised an eyebrow.
For a moment she just gaped at him. Then, "Argh! You are so arrogant! You are such an egotistical, arrogant, obnoxious jerk! How you and Motoki ever became friends, I'll never know!"
"We're a lot alike," Mamoru suggested mildly.
"Of course not! He's nothing like you! He's nice and funny and smart and really, really cute."
Mamoru swore he could actually see stars in her eyes as she extolled on the many virtues of his friend.
"And he thinks you're a very nice kid sister-like person," Mamoru couldn't help adding. Since, really, there was only so much insult a man can take, especially from someone years his junior.
"What? Of course not!" she sputtered in indignation and Mamoru idly wondered if they often fought because she looked quite fetching when she glared at him in indignation – with her blue-as-the-skies eyes fiery passionate, fair face flushed red, chest heaving, and her entire body positively quivering with emotion.
"Of course yes, he just told me so."
"Well," she sputtered, momentarily stumped before rallying back. "It's just because he doesn't yet realize that he loves me!"
"Ah, yes, that must be it." Mamoru's tone indicated anything but.
"Of course he loves me! How can he not?"
"Do you honestly want me to answer that?" Mamoru indicated deliberately, "Because, off the top of my head, I can give you a hundred reasons."
"Hmph! Your opinion doesn't matter to me! Only Motoki's!" She crossed her arms across her chest then ruined the adult post by blowing him a raspberry. "You're just jealous because you can never be the man he is!"
"Good God, I should hope not. Especially if it means that girls like you will be chasing me all over the place." He chuckled.
She gasped, horrified, then her voice rose several octaves higher and several volumes louder as she shrieked, "I do not chase him all over the place!"
"You know if you keep telling yourself that, maybe one day it'll actually be true."
"How dare you! Motoki and I are meant to be together! He just doesn't know it yet! But I won't stop hoping! We will be together. We're meant to be together. Just like me and Tux – well, that doesn't matter. Why am I even talking to you? Especially about how I feel? I doubt you'd know what love was even if it bit you in the behind! I vow, here and now, that I will be with my soul mate one day!"
"And you're absolutely certain that Motoki is your soul mate?" he made sure his voice was as disbelieving as he could make it as he mentally assured himself, the twisting of my gut has absolutely nothing to do with what she just said.
"Of course!" She stuck out her tongue again. "And may lightning strike if it ain't true!"
The sudden crack of lighting and boom of thunder seemed to be the only thing the dark skies were waiting for before releasing the downpour they had been holding.
In stunned silence, both Mamoru and Usagi froze where they were – and with that second of hesitation, they were soaked to the bone.
"You know, I'm not sure how or why, but I somehow feel that this is entirely your fault." Usagi frowned at him accusingly.
Mamoru rolled his eyes, crouching inwards on himself (as if that would stop him from being any less wet than he already was) and replied, "Right. Like I am the prince of the Earth and the weather follows my every whim. Oh, please. Did it ever occur to you that, like you, I'm stuck here, getting wet as well?"
Usagi looked around the empty park, hoping to see some possible shelter, no matter how minimal. She didn't see any.
"Great. What'll we do now?" Usagi hugged herself and shivered. She was wearing her school uniform and the short skirt and thin blouse wasn't exactly conducive to maintaining body warmth during downpours.
Mamoru neared her, feeling oddly protective, as if by being near her he could somehow add some of his body warmth to hers. He glanced at the skies, determinedly turning his attention elsewhere before he did something crazy and incredibly stupid, like hug her or something.
"From the looks of it, I don't think the rain's going to let up anytime soon. Look, my apartment's just across the street. We can go there and wait out the storm, all right?" he suggested, looking back to stare at Usagi, who was hugging herself. Belatedly remembering that he was wearing a jacket, he shrugged out of it.
Usagi sputtered, "Are you nuts? No! Rei told me you live alone and it isn't at all proper for me to be in your apartment alone with you."
In spite of himself, Mamoru had to smile, though it was unlikely that Usagi could clearly see his face (the rain was that bad). "As if anybody who knows us would ever think that anything could happened between us. Come now, Usagi, be practical. Would you rather get further drenched on your way home? You might get sick. Not to mention that there are quite a number of trees in this park; you could get struck by lightning. Let's wait out the rain in my place. You can call your family and tell them you got stranded by the storm then I'll bring you back home after the rain lets up, okay? Not that it's needed, but if it will make you feel better then I promise to behave like the proper gentleman that I am."
He gently wrapped his jacket around her without informing her of what he intended, knowing very well that if he voiced his offer she'd probably say no out of sheer stubbornness. Then they'd end up spending a few minutes arguing about it while getting wetter than they already were – if that were even possible, seeing as how they could probably fill out a tub if they wrung out all the water from their clothes.
As he pulled the jacket close under her chin, they were near enough that he could almost see every single one of her ridiculously long eyelashes. And those blue eyes that were staring at him in wide-eyed surprise. He was somehow oddly satisfied with her bewildered expression at his gallant actions. If he was going to be confused with his sudden chivalry at this girl who always managed to prick his temper, she bloody well better be as confused as he was.
She whispered her thanks and pulled his jacket close to her, putting her hands through the sleeves. She glanced down and pretended to be consumed by fixing the jacket because she didn't want to look at him. Look at him and see how the falling rain somehow enhanced his features, making his black hair darker and his midnight-blue eyes more intense, and bringing to sharp relief his lean body that was wrapped in dark brown khakis and a green shirt. She tried to forget that they were alone in the middle of a park and, because they could only see five feet away in any direction, it made her feel like they were the only ones in the world.
Many of her friends thought that Mamoru was quite a catch but Usagi never really saw it, nor would she ever really admit to herself that she saw it, due to the fact that arguing with him probably concealed any redeeming qualities he might have. Not that she was blind or unaware of his good traits, really, it was just that… well, she concentrated more on his obnoxious personality than anything else.
Or so she told her herself.
Or so she tried to put into practice.
Whichever of the two.
But when he was being nice like he was now… it was hard to remember how the littlest thing that came out of his mouth could prick her temper like nothing else could. And, though she was rue to admit it, there was nothing quite like arguing with Mamoru – he heated her blood (must be due to temper, MUST be due to temper!) in a way no one in her life ever did or could.
There was a moment of silence where they both realized that, for a few seconds, they were actually civil to each other. Even… nice. Each surprised, slightly confused, and yet somehow feeling so right with the events unfolding, they stood there, in the rain, somehow feeling cozy and warm amidst the freezing downpour.
They stared at each other for a while, both smiling slightly, before Mamoru finally said, "My apartment's that way."
Almost side-by-side, but with Mamoru a half step ahead of Usagi, they walked quickly – since, really, what sane person wants to stay out in the pouring rain any more than they had to, regardless of whatever emotions? – to their destination.
As they were walking, Usagi suddenly slipped and Mamoru instinctively reached out and caught her around the waist before hauled her up and against him. For a while, they stood like that, Usagi wrapped in Mamoru's arms, both staring at each other's eyes, which were only inches away from each other.
Sounding disgruntled, Usagi broke the mood. "You're… being nice. How am I supposed to act now?"
Unwilling to give explanations for something he himself didn't fully understand, Mamoru ignored her question due to lack of a suitable response and instead, wrapped her hand in his. As if in answer to his unspoken prayers, the wind picked up and the rain doubled its efforts. "We'd better run," he suggested.
And so they did, with hands tightly entwined.
"Come on in." Mamoru pushed open the door to his room and waited for Usagi to precede him. In the front hall, they pulled off their shoes and, while Usagi took off his jacket, he went further inside, making sure he didn't drip any more than he had to.
"Wait there, I'll get a towel," he called back as he entered the kitchen and grabbed a handful of towels from one of the drawers. Putting one around his neck and using another to vigorously rub his head, he returned to Usagi and gave her the other two. They tried to dry themselves as best they could, but while they could dry their skin and make sure none of their clothes dripped, their clothes were still wet. And cold.
Mamoru stood to one side, frowning in thought, and it was Usagi's sneeze that pretty much decided things for him. "Wait here, I'll get some clothes." He padded back in.
"Er… are they yours?"
Mamoru chuckled. "Who else would they belong to?"
She scrunched up her face and, to stop whatever protests he was sure she'd raise, he hurriedly told her, "I'm being practical here, Usagi. I don't want you to get sick and the only way to avoid that is for you to get out of your drenched clothes. Unless you want to prance around naked, my clothes are the only available ones you're going to have to use. So really, your choice; what'll it be?"
In response, she stuck out her tongue.
It' so weird to be standing in Mamoru's apartment, thought Usagi as she dried herself as best she could while Mamoru went inside his apartment to look for clothes, I wonder if Rei has ever been here? Somehow she knew the answer to that was negative. As she began the arduous process of drying her hair – one of the few moments in her life when she was not exactly happy that her hair was thick and long – she looked around curiously and decided that she liked what she saw.
Mamoru's one bedroom apartment was neat and organized. It was also, perhaps, a little bit more than an average college student's apartment. She and Makoto have been to Motoki's apartment and it wasn't, well, very neat or clean until Makoto cleaned it up. His furniture was also mostly second hand, or at least, of the cheapest type but still of good quality. On the other hand, Mamoru's apartment's furniture was also of good quality, no doubt, but it also seemed… expensive.
Mamoru soon returned with a big towel, which she wrapped around herself, and some clothes. With a towel hanging around his shoulders, he led her to the bathroom to change.
"What about you?" she asked.
"What do you mean?"
"You also need to change out of your clothes. I don't want you to get sick."
Mamoru's smile was friendly but his voice had a mocking quality to it. "Why, Usagi, I didn't think you cared."
Usagi made a face, not wanting to admit anything and yet uncertain how to un-admit it, so she instead skirted the issue. "If you got sick, you'll probably find some way to blame me and I wouldn't want that on my conscience. Besides, good manners would dictate that I check up on you if that ever happened. And, really, we don't want that." Without meaning to, her last sentence sounded more like a question than a statement and Usagi inwardly winced, hoping Mamoru wouldn't notice.
Mamoru smiled slightly. "I'll change in my room while you're in there. We'll just each yell when we're done, okay?"
For some weird reason, she blushed. "Okay, if you say so." She hesitated then bowed her head slightly. "Arigato Mamoru."
To avoid seeing his reaction, she hurriedly closed the door to the bathroom before she was even fully standing up.
In the privacy of Mamoru's bathroom, Usagi stripped down to her underwear and tried to dry herself as best she could. Hesitating, she debated for a second whether or not to completely strip because her underwear was soaked and wouldn't it look weird for her to walk around with dry cloths but with her underwear making wet marks? But then, if she was naked underneath Mamoru's clothes, then wouldn't it feel just plain weird? Not to mention, totally improper. After all, she would be returning his clothes back to him.
She finally decided to use the towel to try and dry herself, sans underwear, then wring out the water from her clothes as best as she could and hope that her damp underwear won't be too obvious underneath Mamoru's clothes.
After she was dry (relatively speaking), she folded her wet garments and as she did so, her hands brushed against something hard in the pocket of her skirt. Gently, almost reverently, she took out the musical locket that she picked up after a fight as Sailor Moon. She guessed that it came from Tuxedo Mask but wasn't too sure since she found it on the ground after one of their fights where Tuxedo Mask had helped them and it could probably have come from a variety of sources. Still, she felt a tug of emotion every time she saw it and dreaded having to give it back. Fortunately, nobody noticed her picking it up and she hasn't yet told anyone about it.
Maybe she should feel guilty about not doing anything to try and find its owner but she was loath to give it up. If felt… right, somehow, that it was with her. Holding it against her cheek, she closed her eyes and recalled the night she picked it up from the ground.
They had fought a youma and, as usual, Tuxedo Mask arrived just in time to save her. After the enemy was defeated and Tuxedo Mask disappeared to wherever it was that he usually disappeared to, she noticed something glinting on the ground and went over to check it out.
It was a star-shaped pendant as big as her palm that dangled on a delicate chain of gold. Before she could study it further, the other Sailor Soldiers reminded her that they had to go. Without really consciously deciding to, she slipped the necklace in her pocket then turned to followed them.
That night, in the privacy of her room, she realized that it wasn't a pendant but rather, it was a locket. A locket that, upon opening, played a distinctive melody that somehow felt nostalgic and tickled her memory. It was as if it was a song that she should have been so familiar with even though it was the first time she heard it. It was a song that brought a confusing welter of emotions, including an indescribable feeling of comfort, unconditional love, and loneliness so profound it was almost physical.
Since then, she has never been without it and often listened to it when feeling sad or lonely.
Unable to help herself, she gently opened the locket and listened; the song bringing tears to her eyes. She had been studying the locket in the park, trying very hard to make sense of her emotions and struggle to remember that vague memory that she felt was just beyond her reach, when Mamoru showed up.
After a while, she put the locket aside then wrung out her clothes as best she could before returning the locket to her skirt pocket. She slipped on the sweater and shorts that Mamoru lent her. The pair of shorts was slightly loose but at least it didn't fall off, while the sweatshirt was big and reached practically until her knees. At least the clothes fit and, more importantly, they were dry.
Maybe it should've felt weird to be wearing a man's set of clothing, but somehow, Usagi felt comforted. The shirt smelled like laundry soap and, somehow, Mamoru, which surprised Usagi since she didn't think she knew – or smelled – Mamoru enough to know 'his' scent. Since she was alone in the bathroom and no one would ever know anyway, she buried her face in the sweater, savoring its warm scent.
"Mamoru? Um… I'm all done," she called tentatively through the door.
"So am I. You can come out."
For some reason, Usagi took a deep breath before opening the bathroom door and going out.
Mamoru was puttering about the kitchen, dressed in a dark blue sweatshirt and black slacks. Unbidden and unwanted was Usagi's grudging admittance that Mamoru did look cute. And sexy. Definitely sexy. Especially dressed the way he was and moving with confident grace.
"Thank you for the clothes." Usagi addressed her words to the room at large.
For some reason, it irked her that she had to make nice with the guy she always fought with. And, really, why did he have to look the way he did? Couldn't he be ugly with no fashion sense whatsoever? Did he have to prance about looking the way he did, wreaking havoc with her emotions? Because, really, how was a naïve and innocent lady like her supposed to act when stuck alone in an apartment with a man like Mamoru?
"No problem. Here, take a seat and have some drinks." Mamoru glanced at her as she hesitantly stood in the middle of his room.
"I'm kind of surprise that you'd have clothes that would fit me," Usagi commented, trying hard not to stare at Mamoru's tall and lean frame. Trying hard to think about anything else, really, though she wasn't having much success. It was harder to ignore him when he wasn't riling her temper.
Mmm, very appealing… Wait, what am I thinking?! Really, the rain must've washed away whatever common sense I had. I must keep in mind his obnoxious personality! Yes, best to remind myself of that, to put it firmly in my mind. He is obnoxious and just because he shows his gallant side doesn't mean anything. Any minute now, I'm sure we'll fight again, Usagi told herself sternly.
"Yeah, I had a bit of a problem there. I had to look for clothes that would hopefully fit you, which means clothes that are a little small on me, and I'm glad I had some of my old clothes lying around. By the way, I just turned on the heater so the room should be warm in a while. I hope you'll be comfortable."
"Thank you." A moment of silence, then, "You're being awfully nice to me. Is something wrong?"
"It's very unusual, isn't it? Us, not fighting."
"Yeah, it is. I don't know how to act now." Usagi decided to be blunt since she had a feeling they were both thinking the same thing anyway.
Chuckling, he nodded towards the two glasses on top of the table. "I was hoping to have hot tea ready when you went out but the water's not that hot yet, so I'm afraid you'll have to settle for something else."
Usagi thanked him as she pulled up a chair to sit down, holding one of the glasses in her hand. Frowning, she warily studies the amber liquid.
"I'm afraid that's all I have. Hopefully it would help warm us up, even just a little, while we wait for the water to boil."
"What is it?"
"Brandy," he said, almost apologetically. "Like I said, the water hasn't heated sufficiently for hot tea so we'll have to make do with that for the time being."
Usagi, having absolutely no experience with any alcoholic drink of any kind, treated the drink like she would any other beverage of her experience, that is to say, drinking it straight. The result was instantaneous: she coughed, her eyes watered, her face flushed as she felt the alcohol burn its way past her throat and down to her stomach.
"Whoa, take it easy! You should've told me this was your first time. You're supposed to drink it slowly," Mamoru cautioned her as he pulled up a chair across from her and picked up his own glass.
After the initial shock passed, though, Usagi began to feel quite warm. Actually, maybe just a tad bit too warm.
She took a couple more sips.
Her toes and fingers tingled and her face and chest felt hot. She took a sip, this time a longer one, of the drink and concluded that brandy is quite good. In fact, it got better and better the more one drinks it. So one should drink and drink. The world is good.
"This is good." Usagi grinned at Mamoru, unaware that she was looking decidedly flushed and tipsy.
Mamoru, amused, leaned over and plucked the glass away from her now-nerveless fingers. "I think that's quite enough, young lady. I want you warm, not drunk."
"I'm not drunk," Usagi protested, hurt that he'd think that way of her, not that she cared what he thinks, really, after all, when were his opinions ever important to her? Other than now. Or a couple of times in past.
"I'm a grown up, I can handle a drink like that."
"I'm sure you can." Mamoru blandly agreed. After a few drinks of his own glass, he cleared both glasses.
"Hey, I wasn't done!"
Mamoru glanced at Usagi's near-empty glass and announced, shaking his head as he did so, "Actually, you are. If anything, there are only a few drops left here. I didn't know you had drunk that much already."
"Brandy's not too bad." She grinned at him while, under the table and away from Mamoru's eyes, she caressed the sweatshirt she now wore, loving the feel of it against her skin, telling herself that it was just nice to have something warm and dry against her skin. Nope, she's definitely not doing this because it's Mamoru's, definitely not. She barely even likes the guy! So what if he looks really hot right now? So what if they actually spent some time together without fighting and he's actually marginally quite a nice guy? It has absolutely nothing to do with anything. Nothing.
"So how do you feel?"
"Warm. Good."" Fiddling with the sweatshirt, she pulled it up to her face, inhaling its fragrance and closing her eyes to savor the scent.
"It's clean," Mamoru said defensively.
"I know. It smells so nice. So warm and comforting. Like you."
Nonplussed, Mamoru studied her. "I think you're drunk. Can you stand?"
Usagi looked hurt. "Of course I can! What kind of a question is that?" To prove him wrong, she abruptly got up on her feet. "Whoa, are we having an earthquake?" She blinked, flummoxed, watching Mamoru go to her side of the table as she unknowingly swayed.
Somehow amused, Mamoru stood behind Usagi, ready to catch her if she fell – which seemed to be any minute – and wondered what to do with her. A quick glance out the balcony windows told him that the storm hadn't abated and showed no sign of easing up soon. The only solution to his guest's inebriated state was for her to sleep it off, since she seemed close enough to doing just that.
"Usagi, can you make it to the bed?" Mamoru gently put his hands on her shoulders, ready to lead her to the bed if he must.
To his surprise, she leaned back and rested on him with complete trust, stirring an emotion in him that he refused to acknowledge.
"Usagi?" He twisted and moved her body in such a way that he could see her face even as he supported her weight.
Her eyes were closed and she was breathing deeply and evenly, giving every indication that she had passed out. He sighed, feeling guilty that he inadvertently got her in this state and unwilling to admit he liked the feel of her against him, pliant and trusting.
With no other choice, he bent, placed one arm behind her shoulders and the other behind her knees, and lifted her up in his arms to lay her down his bed. All the while refusing to acknowledge the satisfaction such an action brought.
In the hazy world where thought was impossibly yet sense flourished, Usagi vaguely felt herself being carried by strong, familiar arms. Snuggling closer to the familiar warmth and scent of the person carrying her, she thought, this feels so familiar and nice…
"Tuxedo Mask," she whispered against his chest as she listened to the beat of his heart.
Mamoru glanced quickly at the girl in his arms, uncertain if the whisper he heard came from her or his imagination. Gently, he laid her down his bed and covered her with his blankets. He stood there for a while, watching over her as she slept. In his bed. And somehow, the image she presented elicited faint stirrings of possessiveness in him. As if, in some weird way, he knew she belonged there.
He shook himself and bemusedly wondered what it was in the rain that got him and Usagi acting and feeling so weird that day.
He returned to the kitchen and grabbed her neatly folded clothes then returned to his bedroom. As he laid her clothes on the table beside her side of the bed, he felt something in the pockets of her skirt. Recalling that she was looking at something in the park earlier and that she shoved it into her pocket when she saw him, Mamoru hesitantly felt the object through the skirt, wondering if he should look at it or not and trying to figure out what it was based on feel along.
A thin sliver of gold slipped out, so dainty it could only be the chain of a necklace. And that was when curiosity finally won him over – besides, it's not like she would ever find out, right? And what kind of a secret does a girl like her keep, anyway? – and he slowly pulled out the golden chain, fearing as if any sound whatsoever would awaken Usagi.
What fell into his hands surprised the heck out of him.
A gold star-shaped curved pendant hung suspended by a finely wrought gold chain, so fine that it looked like it would break if the slightest pressure were applied. The excellent workmanship didn't surprise him so much as the fact that the object, well… his. The only link to his past that he had since before he could remember, he never went anywhere without it, except that, one time, after fighting as Tuxedo Mask, he realized that he had lost it. After the fight, he came back as Mamoru and frantically tried to search for it only to realize that it was nowhere to be found.
How did it come to be in Usagi's possession?
Back then, he thought that maybe Sailor Moon or one of the Sailor Soldier's might've picked it up but he couldn't be too sure since they only met when fighting an enemy, and only if Sailor Moon was in trouble. Which, come to think of it, was practically all the time, but that wasn't the point here.
In shock, he sat down on the bed, beside Usagi, and she instinctively cuddled closer to his warmth. He stared at her, hard, as if her sleeping countenance would give answers to the millions of questions in his mind.
Could she be…? But no, it's impossible that she is… Then again, he could be blowing this out of proportion. It's possible that she was just nearby and saw the pendant and picked it up. After all, quite some time passed between Tuxedo Mask leaving the fight scene and Mamoru Chiba returning to look for the necklace.
He stared at Usagi, minutely examining each feature of her face – realizing with some surprise that much of her features were already emblazoned in his memory – as he tried to figure out if she could be… No, he wouldn't even think it.
It was preposterous.
They both had the same blond hair, yes, but they seemed as different from each other as night and day: his Usagi and Sailormoon. Wait, when did Usagi become his?
After only a moment's hesitation, Mamoru slowly opened the pendant, letting the familiar poignant song wash over him, filling him with indescribable comfort and overwhelming love, telling him without words that he had found the love that was his home.
Beside him, he felt Usagi stir in her sleep and he turned to look at her to find her smiling slightly in her sleep. She blinked her eyes slowly, as if arising from a deep sleep, and, upon seeing his face, smiled wider and yet, somehow, in such a soft manner. As if he were someone she cared about deeply and seeing him first thing upon waking was the best thing that could ever happen.
Without conscious thought, Mamoru smiled softly back at her.
That song… Usagi sleepily thought, feeling warm and comfortable in a way that was almost nostalgic, though she could swear that she had never felt that way before in her life. That beautiful song… At the edges of her subconscious, she was aware of vague memories that were stirring, close enough for her to remember yet somehow remaining just beyond her reach. There… almost… suddenly… a vision of a man… an overflow of love… hands that held hers, arms that wrapped around her, lips that kissed her… love that would hold and last… carefree lovers, the necklace, jewels, promises… pain, fear, worry… the vow made on a star-studded night… unwavering faith… dancing, the feeling of rightness in being in his arms yet fearful of the news he shared… pain of separation yet understanding that it must be so… an exchange of parting words, an orchestra playing… and remembering… of knowing that she loved and was loved… of being with the person that completed her… her soul mate… Endymion…
That face… Mamoru stared at Usagi's face, into her eyes, which somehow steadied him as a confusing welter of thoughts and feelings washed over him. Memories of a past he was only now seeing… sinking deep into Usagi's eyes, drowning in them… another pair of eyes, the same and yet not… an overwhelming love for a woman… the feel of soft lips against his own… his will to protect her at all costs… an ugly battle, a war between two peoples that should've have never begun in the first place… knowing that he could face anything with her by his side… a feeling of rightness as he held the woman he loved in his arms… responsibility, empathy, over a people… looking into eyes that saw through his very soul and loved him for everything he was… raging fury that the one who hated him would dare to hurt the one he loved… indescribable pain yet profound bliss of dying alongside the one he loved… of being with her, alive or dead, and knowing there wasn't any other place in the world he'd rather be… the woman he loved, the woman of his dreams… Serenity…
When Mamoru came to his senses, he realized that he was only a few inches from her face, that his hand held hers and that, between their palms, the golden locket's song drifted up to them.
Mamoru blinked, staring at Usagi, a face he had always seen, always remembered, a face as familiar to him as his own but one he never really learned as he was learning now. Her eyelids fluttered and he found himself looking into deep blue eyes that pierced his very soul. Solemnly, he stared back, never once thinking that this was strange, that it was wrong. Instead, everything in him was saying that this is right, that this… is his home.
Usagi surfaced to a state that washed away all thought and left only feelings, brought about by the hauntingly familiar music of the locket. She looked up into Mamoru's face, a face that always looked at her with a handsome arrogant smirk that somehow belied the affection seen in his eyes, a face that now filled her with inexplicable love. She looked up into his eyes, into their dark blue depths that was somehow both mysterious and assuring, eyes that pulled at her and tugged her heart.
"Tuxedo Mask…" Usagi whispered as Mamoru's fingers tenderly brushed back tendrils of her hair. On their other hand, she felt their fingers entwining, tangling, tightening, as they held each other's hand with the pendant in between.
"Sailor… Moon…?" he hesitated, knowing within himself who she was yet needing that one final confirmation.
She smiled in understanding as his hand traced her jaw, brushed her cheek. She reached out to brush his hair back, trace his jaw, his ear and whispered, "Endymion."
Lingering traces of doubt clearing, Mamoru moved, closing the space between them, as he whispered, "Serenity."