Familiar acts are beautiful through love.
-Percy Bysshe Shelley
"I can't believe the year is almost over," Jenny groaned. She sat up from where she had been lounging on the wooden steps of Rei's temple and stretched. Beside her, Usagi had to duck out of the way of Jenny's flailing arms as she readjusted her position. She scooted closer to Mamoru, who automatically put an arm around her shoulders. It was a beautiful Sunday morning in early June, and Jenny, Nick, Usagi, Mamoru, Kelly, Kai, Makoto, Adiel, and Rei were reclined on the steps of the temple, taking in the beauty of the late springtime.
"Hear hear," Kelly said darkly. "It has been one hell of a year."
"But a good one," Usagi insisted. Catching Nick's amused eyes, she added, "Well, most of it."
Jenny sighed. "I just can't believe I have to go back. Seriously, after meeting you all, I have to pack up and go back to San Mantego? That'll be a blast."
"Well, I know Dirk will be looking forward to that," Nick said gravely. He laughed and fell off his step as Jenny shoved him. Usagi watched them with interest as Jenny quickly withdrew her hand and fixed her eyes on Nick as he stood and started brushing dust off his jeans. Her gaze didn't last more than a few seconds, but Usagi recognized the look. It was the same look Jenny had every time Nick came into the room. The same look Nick wore now as he settled himself beside Jenny and glanced at her. They were sitting close together, but they did not touch. There was always an inch of safety space between them, as if they were opposite poles of a magnet that physically could not come into contact.
It really irritated Usagi. It was clear to her that her two friends were crazy about each other, and that it had grown every day for the last five months. Why they were still pretending to be just friends was beyond her. She could understand Jenny not wanting to insult the memory of Lord Ahriman by immediately jumping into the arms of the man he'd hated above all others, but surely even he would have wanted her to be happy in time. And five months was a long time to play the game. Usagi had seen Nick's fingers literally twitch when he was around Jenny, as if it was taking all of his strength to hold himself back from touching her. She had seen Jenny's eyes watch Nick resentfully at times because he wasn't making a move. And yet, neither of them ever said a word to each other about it.
It was beyond annoying. Mamoru had told Usagi to wait, that it was up to Jenny and Nick to decide when they were ready, but Usagi couldn't accept that. She had tried all kinds of things over the past few months, from creating situations that put them together or talking incessantly of one to the other. She and Mamoru had even taken them to see the paintings at the art museum of the four of them in the Silver Millennium. So far, Jenny and Nick had ignored her hints. It was like trying to get panda bears to mate. Usagi was about ready to give up. Soon Jenny would leave for California to complete her senior year of high school in her hometown, and Nick would continue on in Japan with his studies. If something didn't happen soon, it was possible nothing ever would.
"I can't claim that I'm exactly thrilled to leave either," Kelly was saying, her voice exceptionally dry.
"You'll visit," Makoto told her, leaving no option about it. "Or I'll have to fly to New York myself and drag you back."
"I'd like to see you try that," Kelly said, raising her eyebrows meaningfully. Makoto narrowed her eyes playfully. Their friendship had grown into a sort of friendly rivalry throughout the year that proved how close they had become.
"Well, I'm staying," Adiel said, briefly lifting her eyes from the book she had been reading. "For another year at least. Daddy hasn't been reassigned."
"That's great!" Rei cried, throwing her arm around the smaller girl's shoulders. "What would we do without you?"
"Oh, why are we talking about everyone leaving?" Usagi burst out irritably. "It's still a month off! Let's enjoy the time we spend together, not talk about goodbyes." She didn't like to think about the fact that Jenny would soon be gone from her life, at least for a time. They had grown closer over the year than she had ever suspected from their bickering at the beginning. It hurt her to think about the empty room she would have to face without her, where there would be no one to giggle with in the night, to confess her everyday worries and secrets. She had always loved Shingo, but there was something different about having a sister. Jenny was like a mirror of her own soul.
Before anyone could reply, there was a shriek from above. No one was able to move as they looked up and a pink blob fell from the sky, landing, unfortunately, on top of Kai's head. While Makoto leaned over her boyfriend with worry, the blob stood, brushed herself off, straightened her pink odangos, and looked at the group with a smile and a wave.
"Hi!" she cried cheerfully, hurrying to each member of the group and giving them big hugs. "You don't know me yet, but I love you!" she told a mystified Adiel as she threw her small arms around her neck. She went next to Usagi and Mamoru, and with a giggle she embraced them both at the same time. Usagi blinked with surprise at the sudden appearance, but she held her future daughter back with equal enthusiasm.
"This has to be Chibiusa," Nick said warmly. Chibiusa immediately pulled back from Usagi and Mamoru and leapt at Jenny and Nick much in the same way she had her parents.
"Aunt Jen! Uncle Nick!" she said cheerfully.
"Uncle Nick?" Usagi smirked at Mamoru. "If that isn't a sign about their destiny, then I don't know what is. When are they going to realize that they should be together?"
"Obviously they will, if our daughter is right," Mamoru whispered back with a smile.
Jenny was looking pleased as she pulled back from Chibiusa's embrace. "I was really looking forward to meeting you. Usagi has told us so much about you."
"I hope it's been good things." Chibiusa shot a suspicious look at Usagi who shrugged innocently. "Mama just sent me back to say 'hello.' And also to offer congratulations on defeating Lord What's-his-name. I wish I could have been there with you, but Mama wouldn't let me come. She said I'd be in the way, and I guess you managed well enough without me. It looks like you've recovered." Her red eyes swept over the group with admiration.
"Of course we have. That was months ago," Kai said as he rubbed the bump on his head where she had fallen.
"Was it?" Chibiusa looked at Usagi with narrowed eyes. "She's always forgetting dates. She thought she was sending me back to the day after the fight."
Rei burst out laughing. "That sounds like her."
"At least I didn't send her back before the battle," Usagi said defensively. "I probably just sent her far enough after the battle so she'd be…uh, safe."
"Yeah, sure you did," Jenny said, cracking up. Usagi glared at her.
"Laugh all you want. I knew what I was doing."
Chibiusa's eyes lit up again. "Oh, I almost forgot! Mama also wanted me to tell you something. Only you. Sorry," she apologized to the others. With that, she hopped off the steps and beckoned insistently at Usagi. Confused but intrigued, Usagi followed her down the path away from the temple until they were far enough from the others so they wouldn't be heard. Usagi looked at her with some apprehension.
"What is it?" she asked almost fearfully. "Is there a new Enemy coming?"
Chibiusa laughed and shook her head so hard that her hair whipped around her head. "No! The coast is clear from here until the future. You all deserve a rest. She only wanted me to tell you that it's okay. About Averill, I mean."
Usagi felt a chill as she watched her future daughter. "What do you mean?"
"What I said. She didn't say much, only to tell you that 'it' worked. Whatever 'it' is." Chibiusa glowered, obviously not happy about being left out of the secret.
"Oh." Usagi felt a wave of relief. "I'm glad. I'm so glad. Tell me about him."
"He's my brother and I love him," Chibiusa said, her eyes lighting up. "He's younger than me. He's gotten really close to Minako's daughter. I think there's something going on there, or will be. I guess it's okay to talk about him now, but Pluto warned me not to before. When I was sent here the first time, I was too scared about everything else to mention him, and then she warned me later to never talk about him, so I didn't." Her red eyes blinked up at Usagi. "I hope you aren't mad."
"No, you did the right thing. I wouldn't have understood." Usagi smiled at her. "And what about Jen-chan and Nick?"
"Oh! They're the best aunt and uncle ever. They love each other a lot."
Usagi looked back to the temple steps, where Jenny and Nick sat together, close enough to touch, yet they did not. "I know they do. I only wish they would realize that. Come on, let's go back."
Usagi led Chibiusa back with new determination. Her lips were firmly set. The pretending between Jenny and Nick had been going on for far too long. It was time someone did something about it. "All right, listen to me," she said so loudly that her friends jumped. "Jenny, Nick…up. Now. Go somewhere private. Talk."
"Up," Usagi commanded. With a strange look on his face, Nick reached down a hand and helped Jenny up. Slightly bemused, she followed him. After Usagi watched them disappear together in to the trees, she spun around and started to walk into the temple. Mamoru caught her hand and looked up at her, perplexed.
"Where are you going?"
"To pray. Those two need the help of all the gods combined to come together. I don't trust them to do it themselves."
0 0 0
"Sergeant Usagi," Jenny said as Nick stopped beneath a sakura tree that still had some clinging cherry blossoms. She tried to sound amused, but she could hear the wavering in her voice. Nick was still holding her hand, and she felt the flush from her fingertips all the way up to her throat. Rather than let him observe it, she released his hand and leaned back against the tree casually.
"Well, we're here. What do you think Usagi had in mind?"
"I have no idea," Nick said, even though he did. Jenny did too. She knew he had been silently laughing about Usagi's efforts the last few months to bring them together as much as she had. She turned to hide a smile. What he didn't know was how desperately Jenny wished that Usagi's plotting had worked. It had taken her little over a week after the final battle to recover from her guilt about Lord Ahriman and realize that she wanted to be with Nick, not at some vague time in the future but now. She had watched Nick, searching for some sign that he was as ready as she, but he had seemed perfectly content to give her the space she had requested. At least romantically. They had been together nearly every day. He had finally become the friend she had always needed him to be. Only for many months now it hadn't been enough. But Jenny had no idea how to tell him she wanted more.
Their silence had gone on way too long. "So that's Usagi's daughter," she said quickly, shifting her position against the tree so that she was no longer leaning against a protruding knot.
"Yeah." Nick snorted. "'Little Usagi' indeed."
Jenny smiled at him but there seemed to be nothing left to say. Nick put his hands in his pockets and then looked at her with a mischievous grin.
"So, have you started to pack yet?"
Jenny narrowed her eyes. "Oh, yeah. I'm thrilled to be going back. Can't you tell? I haven't spoken to my best friend in months, and everyone will no doubt jump back on the 'Let's torment Jenny' wagon. Still, your fault, by the way." When he started to protest, she smiled to let him know that she wasn't really angry.
After meeting Nick's eyes for a few seconds, Jenny abruptly dropped her gaze to the ground. Her heart was fluttering nervously, but she swallowed and forced herself to say, "I don't want to go back. I'm terrified of it, actually. Not so much because I'm worried about what will happen at school. After facing Lord Ahriman, a bunch of teenagers will be nothing. It's just…I'm afraid of being away from you. I don't know if I can do it again."
Nick had gone oddly still. He didn't speak as he looked at her, his hands still in his pockets. Discouraged slightly by his silence, Jenny hesitantly added, "I could try to wrangle another year here. You know, there's no reason I really have to graduate in San Mantego."
"Don't do that," Nick said.
Jenny clamped her lips shut. She tried to keep the hurt out of her eyes. "Okay," she said slowly.
"I mean, you can do what you want. If you really want another year here, I wouldn't try to stop you. It's just that it would be a shame, especially since I'm planning to be at USC in the fall."
Jenny stared at him, not quite comprehending. "You mean…you're thinking about moving back to California? You'd do that?"
"Baby, it's done. I put in for a transfer last week. Apparently that football scholarship they offered me is still good." He smiled wryly. "Not my first choice, I admit, but if it gives me an excuse to be closer to you…"
Jenny threw her arms around him, laughing. "Oh, my God. You're only telling me this now?"
"I didn't want to say anything until it was a done deal. Although I have to admit that even if things didn't go through I was going to follow you back anyway and get a job sweeping floors at Joe's Pizza Shack. Somehow I was doubting my ability to survive another year here without you."
"I think you would survive just fine," Jenny teased. "There are a lot of cute girls in Tokyo. Dalila, too."
He looked wounded as he pulled back from her embrace. "Dalila? What is that supposed to mean?"
"Come on, Nick." Jenny gave him a look. "You don't have to pretend. I know you've been with a lot of girls, and I know she was one of them. I'm over it."
"Sure I have. I wouldn't try to lie about it. But Dalila?"
"Nick, I saw you that night on Halloween. You were kissing her. And Usagi said you used to live together. It doesn't take a genius to put together the pieces."
"Yeah, but apparently it does to understand them. We were roommates, but we were never together. The only reason I was kissing her on Halloween was because I'd been drinking and I was so messed up over seeing you that night. Obviously you didn't see the part where she shoved me away and tried to dump her drink over my head."
"But…" Jenny was confused. "Lord Ahriman said you were in love with her."
"Your faith in his words is astounding," Nick said dryly. "I love her, but I'm not in love with her. She's one of my best friends." Almost embarrassed, he continued, "I'm in love with you. You should know that."
Their gazes met, and Jenny felt throb of sweet emotion for him. "But I'm not going to push," he added quickly, just as Jenny started to lift her hand to reach for him. She brought it hastily back to her thigh. "You wanted space, and I respect that. I'm going to be a gentleman."
Screw being a gentlemen, Jenny thought wildly. I want you right now! Her fists clenched at her sides. She literally felt as if little sparks of electricity were shooting out from her body towards his, but she was unable to make the crucial move towards him.
"I probably shouldn't ask," Nick said, turning his head and looking embarrassed, "But since we're being so open here…how long was it going on with…with him?"
Jenny blinked. "How long was what going on with who?"
Nick didn't look at her. "You know what I mean."
"Wow, Nick, it's flattering that you think I'm psychic, but since I'm not, how about you give me a little help?"
Nick looked miserable. "Lord Ahr…Max. Not that I blame you, I just need to know. For myself." When Jenny still stared at him, he added, "You spent the night over there. I just…was it only that once? You know, forget it. I'm sorry I brought it up. It's none of my business."
Jenny understood his meaning in a flood of comprehension. Red splotches filled her cheeks, not of embarrassment but anger. "You think I had sex with him just because I spent that one night? Ew. God, Nick, what do you think I am?"
"You don't have to pretend," Nick said, still not looking at her. "He showed me a video of the two of you together. I told you I understand. I have no right to judge."
"Well, I'm amazed at the faith you have in his words," Jenny said darkly. "The man has proven himself to be a liar on more than one occasion, and you're still taking his word over mine?"
Nick looked at her then, hope and wonder entering his eyes. "You mean…nothing happened? You never had any real feelings for him?"
"Duh," Jenny said. "And even if something had happened, it's in the past. I don't want to know about all of your, um, dalliances. I certainly don't want a head count."
"Probably wise," Nick said weakly. "Although, you should know that the only reason I went out with so many girls is that I was looking for someone to replace you in my head. None of them even came close."
If he was trying to pacify her, it worked like a charm. Jenny's scowl dropped. "There's never been anyone else for me either. Well, maybe Johnny Depp, but that's…"
Jenny broke off as Nick snorted and enfolded her again in his arms. He placed his chin on the top of her head as he said, "What are we doing? Usagi's right. We should just get this over with. We have to get together eventually."
"Oh, really? Why do you say that?"
"You missed it? That pink-haired daughter of hers called me 'Uncle Nick.' And the only way that's going to happen is if I marry her mother's sister."
"It could just be a title of affection," Jenny protested with a smile. "I call my Mom's best friend 'Aunt Tara' even though we're not related."
"That doesn't have to be the case with us." Now that the option was open, Nick's eyes were shining with anticipation of the future. Jenny smiled at his enthusiasm, feeling the same excitement well up in her chest as an irresistible throb of sweetness.
"Marry you? No, you're terrible," she teased.
"I'm not asking you to marry me. Not yet."
"What are you asking, then?"
"Are you going to make me beg? Okay, fine. I love you. I need you. I can't live without you another second. Can we skip the discussion and move on to the part where we make out?"
"What about being a gentlemen?"
"Fuck it." Nick gently reached for her chin and tilted it upwards. Before she knew what was happening, he was kissing her. Jenny didn't pull away. The possibility didn't even occur to her. Jenny lost herself completely in his arms. She was unable to think as the seconds passed, only feel. By the time he moved away, Jenny was very dizzy.
"I love nothing on this earth so well as you. Is not that strange?" Nick quoted. Jenny felt her lips twist into a smile.
"I love nothing in this world so well as you," she corrected. When he stared at her in dumbfounded silence, she laughed. "What? You think I can't throw around those fancy Shakespearean words like you? Much Ado About Nothing, right? Pretty good play. But if you insist on professing your love, please use your own words." She ended with an angry look, eyebrows drawn together in mock fury.
Nick looked at her for a moment before slowly letting out his breath. "I love you," he said wonderingly, as if realizing for the first time just how much.
Jenny choked back a laugh, a slight gurgle of happiness. "I love you, too. Oh, God, Nick, so much!" She leaned against him peacefully. It felt so natural, as if they had always been that way. She couldn't help thinking with relief that it was over. The long months of waiting, the years of not understanding each other, were at an end. They were together again, and Jenny knew that this time it would take a lot more than his father and peer pressure to break them apart. An Apocalypse, maybe, but nothing less.
For the first time in her life, Jenny felt complete bliss about her past, present and future. Life was good and she was determined to not waste a single minute of it. Not ever.
Hi everyone! Whew. Finally I can check that one off the list. Silver Twilight has been a kind of elephant in the room for me for the last couple years. I was determined to finish editing it, but had either not enough time or not enough motivation, despite it being my favorite thing I wrote as a teenager. The problem was that twenty-something me saw a lot of problems with it, and I had to pretty much massacre the original draft to make it make sense. There were all these weird subplots in the original that I ended up cutting out. At one point in the original draft Jenny even suspected Dalila and Nick of having a kid together. Don't ask. Secret Destiny I was able to leave pretty much as it was, but I'm glad I was able to tear Silver Twilight apart, even if it took, um, awhile.
Thanks to anyone who actually stayed patient with me and stuck through to the end. I have one more story that I wrote when I was 18-19 called Age of Innocence. It tells the story of the Silver Millenium, and how both the Usagi/Mamoru/Averill and Jenny/Nick/Lord Ahriman triangles got started. In it, I give equal time to both. My guess is that I can whip through it a lot more quickly, so I hope you stick around to check it out! My goal is to get it out within the next few months. There's good stuff in it. I promise. :)
Thanks for reading!