Gone Again
A Sailor Moon Monthly Fanfiction Challenge
by Kihin Ranno

Rei hated it when other people were late. It wasn't just how much of an inconvenience it was to her if people didn't show up on time. No, there was an entire pathology towards Rei's hatred of lateness. It could never be anything simple for her to loathe it so much.

For all her life, or at least as long as she'd been at the shrine (which, as far as Rei was concerned, was the beginning of her life), she had never once slept past five in the morning. Even when she didn't have school, she arose before the sun peeked its head over the horizon. By 5:15, Rei was hard at work at her chores for the shrine.

It was often backbreaking work. She had to clean the steps, wash the floors, sell charms, and perform fire readings for any of their rich patrons who had lost a wallet or wanted to know how the stock would favor them. It was exhausting in more ways than one. And her life as a Senshi hadn't made any of that easier.

Rei had always had to work hard, be on time, and do what she was told. So, she didn't see why people like Usagi, Minako, and worst of all, her father continually insisted on arriving after the time they'd said they'd arrive. It was maddening, infuriating... heartbreaking.

She'd been standing on the curb for what felt like ages, though her designer watch (from her father) told her that it had only been half an hour. Still, it was entirely too long for even a wealthy, busy politician to make his daughter wait for her annual birthday dinner.

Of course, it was July, months after her actual birthday. He'd canceled the last one. This was the first time in ten years that he'd ever had the courtesy to reschedule. And now he was late.

"As usual," Rei chastised.

It was a few more minutes before the limo actually appeared. She readjusted the strap on her smart shoulder bag and smoothed out the hem of her pristine white dress. Another gift from her father. The same every year. Every year, it almost fit.

When the limousine came to a stop, she went ahead and reached for the door handle. Naturally, her father would not be happy with this, saying that she should let the chauffer do his job. Rei thought that the chauffer had a degrading enough job without getting out to open the door for her. She wasn't an invalid after all.

However, she never managed to reach the door. The window rolled down before she had a chance, and she saw the top of a head of hair that was not her father's. It was Kaidou's. She knew it instantly.

Rei hated that she knew it instantly.

"Hello, Rei," he said coolly.

Rei frowned at his tone. He used to be such a warm man. Now he was cold and calculating, the perfect politician. Her father must have been proud.

"Hello," she intoned, mimicking his unfriendly manner. "Did my father send you in person to cancel? How kind of him."

Kaidou didn't seem to understand that she was sarcastic. "Your father regrets to inform you that he is unable to attend your dinner this evening. Surely you've heard that the sanitation workers are planning a strike and--"

"No, I hadn't heard," Rei interrupted testily. "If you remember, we don't have a television at the shrine, and my grandfather and I don't have the time to read the newspaper. We do, however, have a phone. Be sure to reiterate that to my father when you see him. He seems to forget."

He swallowed. She was making him uncomfortable. "Yes, well... Suffice it to say, he is too busy to have dinner with you this evening. However, if you'd like to reschedule--"

"I wouldn't." Rei offered no further explanation than that.

Kaidou's jaw tensed. He opened the limousine door for her and beckoned her to come inside. His gold wedding band flashed in the dimming sunlight. "Your father doesn't want the reservations to go to waste."

Rei arched an eyebrow. "He wants me to go to dinner? With you?"

"Yes," he answered brusquely.

"That seems a rather odd request for my father to make," Rei told him after pausing for a moment. "A married man dining with a pretty young girl who is of no relation to him? People would talk. A scandal could arise. That doesn't sound like something my father would suggest."

Kaidou swallowed. "We're old friends. How is that scandalous?"

"I was... friends with Kaidou." Rei reached forward and slammed the door roughly. "Not with you."

Rei turned on her heel and began to head back towards the stairs. "Say hello to your wife and child for me. Send them over some time. I'd love to meet them."

Kaidou stuck his head out the window and called out to her. "Rei, I made a mistake."

She turned when he said that. When she was looking at him again, Kaidou reached back into the limousine and pulled out a bouquet of flowers. Casablanca Lilies. Her favorite.

"Please," he said, not sounding at all like he should have been saying this. He sounded like her father many years ago, when he'd asked her mother to forgive him once again for missing some important event. She had every time, but Rei had always marveled at how her mother didn't seem to notice that he never sounded sorry.

"Come to dinner with me."

Rei considered it for a minute. But only for a minute. Then she shook her head and said, "I don't dine with strangers. Thank you anyway."

With that, Rei once again began to ascend the stairs. She heard Kaidou curse, throw the flowers to the ground, and order the driver to leave. She didn't hear the car drive off, but she knew when it was gone.

She always knew when he was gone.