Title: In the Dark
Author's Notes: Hello! After a lengthy hiatus, I'm back to present you with my newest angst-fic. This story was written during my "dark," more mature turn; I had grown tired of writing/reading pure fluff, and wanted to create a more serious story. This story's emphasis is on the emotions: inner turmoil, insecurity... It is in Mamoru's p.o.v. throughout. I hope you will enjoy this piece as much as my mindless fluff ones. As always, feedback is greatly appreciated. Thanks!
Dedication: This story is dedicated to my beloved pets, Anakin and "Baby," who passed away this past year.
Disclaimers: Sailor Moon and the others don't belong to me, but this story does. The title for this fanfic, "In the Dark," was borrowed from the television series "Angel" (season 1, episode 3), which belongs to its respective companies.
The alarm clock, with its red numbers faded from years of use, read exactly five in the morning when I received the call. Two rings passed before I registered the sound that had pierced through my dreamless slumber. My right eye opened a fraction and squinted from lack of light. I groaned and flipped to my left side, willing the incessant rings to cease. By its sixth ring, however, my silent protestation proved futile, and I surrendered to the determined caller. My fingers bumped the marble exterior of the cordless phone. I gripped it tightly before it skated from my grasp as a free hand went to restore my vision.
My voice was gruff and slurred with sleep. A hint of frustration could be detected upon close inspection. My throat felt as dry as a desert. I downed the half-empty glass of water resting on the bedside table with one quick gulp and, clearing my voice, tried again. "Hello?"
The somber silence persisted. I peered at my clock once more: five minutes past five, and sleep was steadily fleeing my somnolent eyes. Irritation, closely trailed by its companion, anger, formed swiftly and engulfed me. I ground my teeth and began drumming my fingers along the rim of the glass, allowing the rhythmic beat to placate my increasing temper. Patience had never been one of my virtues; I acknowledged the flaw openly nowadays.
"Look, if you're not speaking, don't bother calling again," I near-shouted into the receiver and shoved it forcefully from my ear in repulsion.
That voice…I started aghast and dropped the telephone like it'd burnt me. In a way, it inflicted something other than literal pain….worse even.
Time had caused her voice to undergo a small metamorphosis. It had become a touch deeper, more mature, transformed by age and experience. Those changes didn't keep me from recognizing the owner. Quite the opposite…I identified the speaker instantly, and no sooner was I driven into indecision. My mind instructed me to travel the uncomplicated road. I could refuse to respond, merely replace the phone to its stand, pretend she had never called, and continue with my life as if the past hadn't arrived to haunt me. Yet my heart…I couldn't comprehend the myriad of jumbled messages radiating inside. Could I face her, an embodiment of all I'd moved on from?
"Mamoru-san? Are—are you there?"
I unconsciously secured the grasp on the phone and ended the internal struggle for domination brewing within me. My mouth opened to speak, but nothing came out.
"Yeah…Hai…I'm here, Rei," I managed at length. The words that rolled off my tongue felt so foreign, so…forced. I hadn't spoken in Japanese for so long and my native tongue, it seemed, had grown foreign to me. She didn't notice my stumbles, or at least voiced no comment concerning the matter. I felt a strange sense of relief from that simple gesture.
"What…what time is it there?" Her voice was so distant, careful, as if I were a youma poised to strike without warning. The trust we had once shared was buried too far into the past to be salvaged. I smiled bitterly and accepted her need for space before satisfying her with an answer.
"A little past five."
Although the words slowly returned, I still couldn't speak with the innate grace of the native speaker that I was.
"In the morning?"
"Gomen," she apologized quickly, "for calling you so early…I forgot all about the time difference…" I cringed visibly.
"Don't be," I chided softly, perhaps dismissing the sincerity of her apology.
An unsettling, pregnant pause ensued. A full two minutes passed before I realized I had to start the conversation.
"Why did you call?" I demanded, spitefulness underlying my question. The caustic words were twined with affliction. I knew that she understood the subtle meaning, but the attack was hurtful nonetheless. Suddenly, I became clear about the reasons behind her reservations. Even though she had never once hurt me, I now purposely sought to inflict pain upon her. What conniving monstrosity had I become?
"I'm sorry," I amended hastily, desperately seeking even ground. The last thing we needed was to add more strain to the already uptight atmosphere. Now who was the one saying sorry? I would've laughed at the irony of it all if a stone lump hadn't abruptly formed in my throat. I never knew Rei to be so evasive.
"I found your number in Usagi-chan's room…a bookmark, if you can believe that…after all these years." A shaky laugh punctuated her sentence. I closed my eyes at the mention of her name and found myself walking toward the small rectangular window. I drew open the shades. The waning moon's pale glow offered streaks of light that combated the shadows dancing about my room. Though Rei continued, I hardly heard her, drowning in my own thoughts. "…but you had moved from your old place, and we…the girls and I…that is, had to track you down…it took forever…"
Usagi…the name belonged to a stranger. How long had it been since she crossed my mind? Two years—more even? I vaguely pictured her in my mind: her hair thoughtfully stacked upon her small head in two 'odangos,' as I'd called them, with streams of golden silk that flowed down to her ankles, sapphire eyes, and lips the color of full-bloom pink roses blessed by spring. My memory of her remained unchanged. I would forever see her as the fourteen-year-old girl who played video games at the arcade where Motoki worked…the girl who had attempted to save me from the darkness.
She had been almost fifteen when I left Tokyo…left her with bitter tears marring her flushed cheeks. How old was she now? Eighteen perhaps. No, I reasoned, not quite; her birthday was in the end of June, if I recalled correctly. Had she further blossomed into a remarkable beauty?
"Gomen…" That same apology. It delivered me from my musings, and I struggled to concentrate on Rei's voice. It was then I noticed the muffled sobs from the other end. I had never heard Rei break down until that instant. She had seemed imperturbable to me, with an uncanny ability to allow emotions not to get the better of her. Her broken composure revealed the gravity of her call. I couldn't suppress the memory of happier times from bombarding my mind, when she would joke and tease endlessly, spouting nonsense words and laughing heartily. Her personality had changed greatly since I left. Overwhelming grief radiated from her tone rather than the infectious joy Rei had acquired from...her. I knew the reason behind her call well before she spoke the words. Only one person could elicit such a reaction from the fiery senshi of Mars…
Usagi. Rei had tried to conceal her admiration for Usagi through outward dislike, but in the end the pair had become close friends. I had watched their friendship bloom as senshi sharing a common destiny and as normal girls teetering on the brink of adulthood. In my absence, their friendship had unquestionably grown stronger.
"It's Usagi-chan…" I pictured Usagi slammed against the unmerciful pavement, her lithe body twisted into unnatural angles, and streams of blood pooling and staining the ground crimson beneath her. A wave of nausea swept though me, leaving me dizzy and breathless. I pumped air greedily into my lungs, big gasping breaths to calm my drumming heart. Flashes of Usagi laughing, her eyes full of love and compassion as they caressed my own, and her bubbly, never-pessimistic attitude presented themselves like a slideshow in my brain. Numerous once-repressed memories flooded back and hurled me into a turbulence of emotions, threatening to submerge me into an abyss of despair.
I resisted and fought back with unparalleled intensity and determination. I couldn't allow myself to feel for her again, I just…I couldn't. I won in the end, and Usagi's predicament garnered little outward effect from me. It was the only way to make Rei see. I had to…I needed to show her that I'd moved on. Usagi was no longer my concern; she occupied neither my heart nor my dreams.
"Oh? What of her?" I asked dismissively, as if referring to a distant acquaintance whose affairs affected me little—if any.
She took note of my tone—the casual interest, a hint of arrogance and blatant disrespect for the person being discussed—and hesitated before answering.
She pronounced the name with such agonizing grief that could moisten anyone's eyes. But not mine. I held firm to my composure and squeezed my eyes shut.
"Was it a youma?" I heard myself ask softly before considering the repercussions, another recent flaw to my personality. The question was wrongfully asked on several levels. I needn't pry Rei for information, as this conversation was painful and awkward enough for her as it was. It would also lead her to think that I cared more for Usagi than I let on, and I couldn't allow her to believe that. Finally...I wanted to be spared the gruesome details. I regretted the question as soon as it slipped from my mouth.
"You don't have to tell me," I said quickly, secretly hoping that she wouldn't.
Rei did anyway. "She's been in a car accident…"
Car accident… My mind wandered two days back to Monday morning, when I was suddenly taken aback by a weird sensation in my stomach. The feeling compared to literal butterflies dancing inside me, their weightless, benign wings stirring to life a portion of myself that had long been dormant. The tickle disappeared a second later, and I had brushed the feeling off for hunger. After all, I hadn't eaten for eight hours. An English paper with a pressing due date had occupied my time. I hadn't experienced that fluttering for so long, that alluring and mysterious feeling.
Now, it called to me. I didn't want to answer, to even hear its plea. But I couldn't help wondering…did the feeling come because of our bond? Not that it mattered, for I was certain our connection had long been severed. My growing interest won in the end.
"Rei…" I started, disguising my voice to one that echoed of little interest, "how long ago was it…the accident, I mean… When?"
She sniffled loudly. "I…it was a few days ago." Her reply was useless to me. A few was too vague. Two, three, even four days could be considered a 'few.' To my dismay, my heart raced. Was I that desperate to learn the answer? Her silence became unbearable as I consciously reminded myself to breathe, fearing for my sanity all the while.
"How long?" I persisted breathlessly.
"Does it matter?" Her voice betrayed her confusion, her peeking curiosity. I regained my composure and silently scolded myself for the small emotional outburst.
"I want to know. And no, I guess it…it doesn't really matter."
"All right," she sighed. "It was two nights ago...Monday night. I'll never forget when Ami-chan called me from the hospital." Another sob resounded like thunder in my ears. "She's been volunteering at the Tokyo General," Rei explained as an afterthought. A trace of a smile touched my lips. I had always figured that the shy, blue-haired girl would pursue her medical career. Then her answer hit me. Monday night…I had received the feeling that morning.
More proof that our bond had died throughout the years. I had always used to be curious about the workings of our mysterious link. Whenever evil or danger presented itself to Usagi, I would feel it…inside…an urgent stir that would push me to her aid. It would throw me, elicit a response in my core that nothing else could create or be equal to. Usagi had insisted that it was our "soul mate bond" and dared anyone to convince her otherwise. I would chuckle, brushing her heartfelt explanation aside by changing the topic of conversation or by offering to buy her a double-chocolate milkshake from the arcade while I secretly thrilled at being given the chance to share such intimacy with my love. I never relayed my joy to her back when I was young, foolish, and love-struck; Usagi always did. Her open affection warmed my cold heart more than anything else ever could.
I shook my head and gathered my racing thoughts. Over time, I suppose, it had faded, as our love had. Our bond had withered like a rose picked off the bush at the height of its flourish. It was all the closure I needed to confirm that I was indeed over Usagi. I hardly heard Rei's next words; I was too occupied with my own revelations.
"Mamoru-san, she…she needs to see you. Usagi-chan…she's slipping…I—I can feel it. And how I wish that I wasn't given the power to sense that… She's living one minute, physically fine… She's doing better in school, trying harder." She sounded so proud…
"And…her grades are slowly improving. She's long accepted her destiny…and she's strong, Mamoru-san, she's so strong."
I gave a pathetic imitation of a laugh and adopted an unconcerned air.
"And what do you want me to do about it, Rei? Rescue her? Be her prince in shining armor?"
"No, I…" She spoke after a few minutes of deliberation. I pictured Rei drawing her knees protectively against her chest, her frame curled into a helpless ball of uncontrollable agony. I only added salt to her wound. She didn't deserve this; neither did Usagi. But if Rei thought for a second that I would willingly go to Japan, she was sadly mistaken.
"How could this happen to her? She doesn't deserve to die, after all the good she's done, all the lives she's helped, everyone she's saved…"
"It's not fair," I finished her statement.
"Iie, it's not. But you know what Usagi-chan would say?" She didn't bother to await my response…I didn't have one for her if she did. "She would smile and tell us to not lose hope. To…to cherish the beautiful things in life and cope with the darkness…with death. Please, Mamoru-san…"
"Usagi doesn't need me. We fell out of love, Rei. It happens. I'm sorry that this happened to Usagi, but…do you really expect me to drop everything I've gained in this life and run to her? To plant lies in her head so she can…" I hesitated. Even now I couldn't say the word. "…can…leave happy? To tell her I love her?" I didn't mean to place so much ridicule in my tone; I really didn't. Rei drew in a sharp breath at the other end. "You can't ask me for this, Rei." My voice dropped to an almost inaudible volume. "You know better than that…"
"Rei…I left her, remember?"
"Hai, you did…under the pretense of several illogical excuses that Usagi-chan still doesn't understand to this day! Maybe you fell out of love, though I can assure you that Usagi-chan never did. Does that make your heart sing, to know that she suffers daily by your hand?" She sounded so remarkably composed, but there was something laced in her voice that made me freeze inside. I shivered and pulled the blanket up to cover my chest, drawing on its warmth and protection like a frightened child on a stormy night. "You left her," she scoffed. "Do you want to know how miserable Usagi-chan has been these past four years? Is that what you want to hear? Can you even imagine how much she's had to deal with?"
The priestess continued her rampage, growing evermore passionate in defense of her friend. "I can count the number of times she's gone on a date with one hand! She loved you with everything she had…even if she was still young, too young, some…no, most might say, to experience genuine love. Usagi-chan knew that she would love you all her life. When you left…a part of her…a significant part…you took that with you, and she…" She choked on the words, the fight leaving her body. "She's never gotten it back. She's miserable…inside…but she tries to hide it from us…she tries so hard."
"Rei, stop," I said faintly.
"Please…for the love I know you once had for her…for the love she still has for you…" She dared to venture into a territory where unknown dangers and a world of heartbreak lay hidden! Somewhere, in the deep recesses of my heart…part of me acknowledged her plea. An absurd notion intruded my brain. It reasoned that perhaps I needed to do this, to bid Usagi a final farewell so that she could rest peacefully.
The moment flashed by as rapidly as it had appeared; I stood firm with my decision to stay here. Where I belonged.
"Iie, I have so much…I've just started a relationship with a wonderful girl…"
"You've moved on." She sounded faintly shocked, as if she had expected me to spend my existence pining for Usagi as, according to Rei, Usagi did for me. Wasn't it obvious that I had moved on? Had we not spent the last quarter hour addressing that fact? It took her a few seconds to recover. "I'm not asking you to live in Japan again…only to spend a few hours here…talk to her again… She's hanging on for you…"
An unsettling tension clouded the room following my declaration. The thick blanket wound its way around and suffocated me. I felt as if my heart would burst inside my chest again.
"Right. Right, you can't." A bitter laugh followed suit. "Well, you just live your perfect life then," she spat venomously. "Mako-chan was right. She said you'd never agree. Even Minako-chan, hopeless romantic and true believer that she is, told me I was pursuing a fruitless cause. I…I can't believe I defended you…I told them that you once loved her enough to give her this…" She paused before delivering her last calculated blow. "You really have changed, Mamoru." She deliberately emphasized my name.
"Maybe you never knew me in the first place," I countered, matching her anger with shocking calm while my blood boiled in my veins.
"Maybe I didn't," she conceded, her icy tone lingering, "but Usagi-chan did. Don't dare try and argue with that." I didn't. What would be the use? "She loved…loves you with her very being…and you've forgotten her. You've forgotten the one girl who loves you more than anything."
The dial tone hummed an eternity in my ear before I crushed the used device until it almost cracked beneath my quivering hands. A roar ripped from my throat as I hurled it across the room. The phone crashed against the wall with a loud thud. My hands balled into fists, I bit my bottom lip until it bled and I tasted the blood, the coppery richness that overflowed my mouth and overwhelmed my senses. I dragged myself toward the bed with stiff legs and slipped beneath the covers, mechanical actions perfected by repetition.
Yet the mattress I'd slept upon a hundred times squeaked and groaned against my weight. It was too firm to my liking and the blanket too thin to barricade the cold from claiming my body. I shivered and lay there, staring blankly at the pastel ceiling: a vast sky of white, unmoving. The clock read half past five. Another hour and a half remained before class began. I bitterly calculated the time I had slept, which amounted to a tad over three hours.
The red letters changed to five thirty-one, then thirty-two. Each minute that passed seemed to last forever. It was then, as I lay awkwardly upon the wood-hard bed, that I remembered the day's worth of time difference, something around twelve hours, between my home and Japan. What did that mean? Did Usagi and I still share a connection? I shook my head in denial. No, that couldn't possibly be true. I pondered the matter before brushing it off as mere coincidence that Usagi's accident occurred around the same time as the fluttering in my stomach.
I groaned, wiped furiously at my now bloodshot eyes, and banished all coherent thought from my mind. My head began to ache, a dull throbbing that rapidly intensified to a sharp pain. I struggled to get comfortable: turning this way and that, securely tucking the blanket around my body, even rearranging my pillow. But there was no use trying to fall back asleep. I couldn't enter the realm of unconsciousness no matter the effort that I spent trying.
There ends a rather long chapter one. So…getting excited yet? If you think this is angsty…well, let's just say it's going to be one long ride until the end. Blame my turn to the "dark side" on all the angst I've been reading. Well, I hope you're all enjoying this story so far; I sure had fun working on this chapter…which took forever to write. The next chapter won't be as dark…but it's all setting up for the end, which, as implied by the title, won't be very happy. I can't promise you that the next chapter will be out soon, as school is starting again, but I'll try my best not to leave you waiting too long…I hope. Anyway, please tell me what you think so far! Good? Bad? Anything! Take a second to review at the bottom, or e-mail me, and I'll be sure to respond. Thank you for reading!
This story was written May 2004-July 2005 and posted July 2005.