AN: Hello, everyone! This is my first attempt at a fanfic and I'd really appreciate reviews!
Disclaimer: I do not own Sailor Moon.
By Jessa Martin
Motoki stood gaping, mouth hanging wide open, at the young man sitting on the red vinyl stool in front of him. Mamoru simply raised an eyebrow in an amused manner before breaking out into soft laughter.
"Really, Motoki – you should probably close your mouth before a bug flies in there and you choke or something. Just because I'm training to be a doctor that doesn't mean I feel a need to practice the Heimlich maneuver."
"But, but…you…and the coffee…and…never…" Motoki was so distraught that he couldn't manage to sputter out a coherent sentence.
"All I said was that I don't want any coffee today." Motoki looked as though he had just been slapped; after all, coffee was Mamoru's life-blood! He continued to stare at Mamoru in silence, slowly shaking his head back and forth in disbelief. This continued for several moments until the sound of the arcade doors opening accompanied with the sound of bells seemed to snap Motoki out of his state of shock.
"Who are you and what have you done with my best friend!" Mamoru was surprised to find that he was no longer sitting across the counter from Motoki, but rather he found himself sprawled out on his stomach on the countertop with Motoki's hands around his neck shaking frantically. "Mamoru never refuses coffee – I don't even think he can survive without it!"
"Motoki, what are you doing! I mean, I know it's Mamoru-baka and all, but it can't be good policy to strangle customers!" Motoki looked up in shock at the sound of Usagi's voice, his jaw dropping as he realized that he was indeed strangling Mamoru. Unfortunately for Mamoru, Motoki's realization did not include the removal of his hands from around his friend's neck.
"Yes, Usagi?" Motoki sounded just a mite too calm for the situation. He continued to stare at the blond girl blankly.
"You're still kinda strangling Mamoru-baka."
"Oh, uhh, yeah," Motoki gave a half grimace as he pried his hands off of Mamoru. He gave him an apologetic look. "Sorry about that."
"No Wheeze problem, buddy." Mamoru took a moment straighten his clothing and run his hand through the ebony hair which he could never seem to keep out of his eyes before resuming his seat. Usagi watched his attempts to collect himself an amused expression on her face; it was not everyday that the cool, suave Chiba Mamoru became flustered. So of course Usagi had to take advantage of this golden opportunity.
"Honestly, Mamoru-baka, I don't know why you go through the pretense of fixing your appearance. With a jacket like that who do you have to worry about checking you out? Unless of course, you're attempting to catch the attention of the Jolly Green Giant?" Usagi smiled sweetly at her adversary, waiting for the inevitable retort. Unfortunately for Usagi, Mamoru, quite unused to feeling so disconcerted, snapped back with a ferocity that violated the normal, harmless bantering that usually transpired between the two.
"Well, Odango, even if my beloved jacket was as despicable as you describe, which it is not, at least I have the satisfaction of knowing that my good looks more than make up for it. Unfortunately, you don't have that same luxury, do you?" Mamoru's lip curled back into a cruel smile as his cold eyes looked Usagi up and down.
Usagi involuntarily sucked in a sharp breath as the weight of Mamoru's words crushed her. What was I thinking, beginning to enjoy these run-ins with, Mamoru? I was so foolish to think that we were actually become friends underneath all the teasing; it's obvious he still and will always see me as an ugly, klutzy, ditz just like everyone else does. Why did I ever hope that I could at least be special to him? Why did I ever believe that he could be my Mamo-chan? Large pools of tears quickly filled Usagi's eyes, overflowing before she was able to turn and sprint from the arcade.
Oh, Kami – Why did I say that? Mamoru regretted the words as they were coming out of his mouth, but had been powerless to stop them. I didn't mean it! It was just so instinctive to protect myself. You didn't do anything wrong, Odango! Why am I such an idiot! I was finally starting to gain your trust, but I had to ruin everything. Mamoru sighed dejectedly. Will I ever be able to call you Usako?
Motoki was on the brink of smacking Mamoru upside the head after what he had just witnessed, until Mamoru sighed, turned and looked him in the face. As Mamoru's best friend and only confidant, Motoki was privy to the pain of his childhood from growing up in an orphanage with no memory of his parents. He knew how hard it was for Mamoru to open up to people, and if he was pushed too hard, Mamoru would put up walls to protect himself feeling pain again. What Motoki saw in Mamoru's eyes immediately killed off the remainder of his rage.
"How about that coffee now?" Mamoru could only nod.
"I just don't know what's wrong with me, Motoki." Mamoru pulled at his hair with both hands and then rubbed his eyes tiredly. "Why did I lash out like that! I just needed to feel in control! I just…well, I, ahhh! I am so stupid!" Motoki reached out a hand to stop Mamoru from smacking his head on the countertop.
"I wouldn't worry too much, Mamoru. If you apologize to Usagi, I'm sure she'll forgive you." Mamoru looked as Motoki as though he had just announced his plans to become a sumo wrestler.
"Are you serious?" Mamoru asked incredulously. "Well of course she'll forgive me; Usagi has the world's biggest heart. The point is that I love her, you know that." Motoki smiled wryly, how could he have forgotten how hard it was to get that confession from Mamoru? "But if I keep messing up like this, I'll never get her to love me back. I can't even get her to admit that we're friends!"
"Mamoru, how would you know what Usagi has or has not admitted to?" Motoki asked raising an eyebrow in an attempt to be mysterious. Mamoru's coffee mug froze midair. Slowly setting the cup back on the counter, Mamoru narrowed his eyes as he struggled to remain calm. He knew just how much Usagi looked up to his best friend; she always confided in Motoki as though he was her older brother.
"And just what has Usagi admitted to you?"
"Oh, well, you know, nothing special." Motoki tried to sound nonchalant as he began wiping down the counter with a white rag.
"No, Motoki, I don't know," Mamoru said through gritted teeth, "Please, enlighten me." Motoki began to get uncomfortable as Mamoru's eyes bore into him.
"Well, I really can't say, 'cause you see, I was sort of sworn to secrecy…" Motoki, seeing the look on Mamoru's face, decided to chance the wrath of Usagi and continued, "But I will tell you one thing that she said. Usagi said that the day she would give you a chance would be the day that you get Sailor Moon's autograph." Motoki smiled triumphantly as Mamoru's jaw dropped.
"You have to be joking with me."
Motoki smiled sheepishly. "More coffee?"
Usagi ran as fast as she could, dodging people on the busy sidewalk, but no how matter how fast she ran she couldn't escape the overwhelming pain that threatened to tear her heart apart. Her legs became weak, and unable to go a step further, Usagi collapsed against a tree stump in the park. The tears continued to roll unchecked down her face, but Usagi barely noticed.
Oh, Mamo-chan, if only you knew how much I love you. No matter how hard you push me away, I can't stop needing you. You don't think anyone sees how lonely you are, how afraid you are to love, to be loved, but I do. Just one chance, Mamo-chan – let me show you that no one will ever love you like me. Let me have a chance to be beautiful in your eyes.
Usagi closed her eyes tightly and clasped her hands together just below her chin, praying with her face turned to the sky. "Let him love me, please?"
Her only response was the beeping of her communicator. Usagi sighed, wiped away the remainder of her tears, and answered the call.
Sailor Mercury's face came into view. "There's a youma attacking near the lake in the park. You're the one closest to it, but I've alerted the others. It may take some time before any of the others arrive. Be careful, Sailor Moon."
Usagi nodded to Sailor Mercury. After a day like today, none of the senshi needed to worry about her being able to handle a youma.
"Moon Prism Power, Make-up!" And in a flash of light and ribbons, Sailor Moon was off and running, ready to take out her pent-up emotions on an unsuspecting youma.
When did life get to be so complicated? Whatever happened to the good old "guy likes girl, girl likes guy back, they date, get married, and live happily ever after"? When did the guy ever have to convince a superhero to give him an autograph in order to get the girl to admit she likes him?
Mamoru sighed and leaned up against a tree. He tried to stop thinking for a moment as he watched the people in the park pass him by. Mamoru rubbed his hand over across his chest fighting to work out the dull ache that had set in since his fight with Usagi. It was strange, but Mamoru would almost swear that he could feel Usagi's pain and emotions sometimes. It was almost as if they were connected…
Snap out of it, Chiba! Geez, you and Usagi connected somehow? You better work on getting the girl to date you before you start imagining that you two are linked at the soul or something.
"Ugghh, even my inner voice is on my case!" Mamoru blushed bright red as a female jogger gave him a wary look and ran past him, widening her path so that she wouldn't have to come too close to the obviously crazy young man who was yelling at himself.
Mamoru dropped down to take a seat at the base of the tree. He pulled his knees up to his chest and rested his chin on them. He reached up his hands to work the tension out of the back of his neck. It was useless to try and forget his problems; Usagi was never far from his thoughts.
I can't just wander up to Sailor Moon and ask for her autograph – I'm Tuxedo Kamen for crying out loud! It's absolute ridiculous; I'll just have to think about another way to convince Usagi to admit she likes me.
Mamoru nodded firmly to himself. Yes, of course, there has to be another way. After a few moments of trying to come up with one, a sinking feeling took over Mamoru's stomach. There was no other way to prove to Usagi how much he loved and wanted her, not after what he had said today. But how exactly was he supposed to approach Sailor Moon? It was one thing to save her as Tuxedo Kamen, but to approach her as plain old Mamoru? He knew that in order to truly show Usagi how serious he was about her, and to leave no question about the authenticity of the autograph, he would have to have Sailor Moon sign a picture of the two of them together. Mamoru sighed loudly one more time before getting to his feet.
Just as Mamoru had finished paying for his new instant camera and marker, he felt the familiar sensation of Sailor Moon's call to him course through his body. Mamoru sucked in a deep breath; he hadn't expected to be seeing Sailor Moon so soon and wasn't entirely sure that he was ready for this encounter.
I am a medical student at the top of my class, an intern at one of Japan's most prestigious hospitals, and I fight deadly youma on a daily basis – I CAN DO THIS! Mamoru chanted encouragements in his mind over and over as he ran through an old side street preparing to transform, but the words felt hollow to him, and he was beginning to doubt himself. Mamoru took a deep breath, shook his head, and cleared his mind and then let only one thought course through it. This is for Usako. And with that a surge of power coursed through his body, and a moment later Tuxedo Kamen was leaping from rooftop to rooftop with his cape whipping about in the wind as he raced towards the one who held the power to grant him his love.
Not far away Sailor Moon had arrived at the park to find a youma with features similar to that of an eight foot octopus with legs terrorizing and draining the energy of anyone it could get one of its tentacles on. Not even bothering to give her usual entrance speech, Sailor Moon ran at the youma, whose back was turned, at full speed and flying tackled it to the ground. The youma was furious; it pulled itself up and whipped around only to be met with steely blue eyes that sent shivers through the tips of its tentacles. Sailor Moon raised her chin to look the youma even more firmly in the eye, and it ever so slowly began to slither away. Sailor Moon, never once breaking eye contact, just shook her head back and forth at the unfortunate creature.
Moments later Tuxedo Kamen arrived at a strangely silent park landing in a tree that gave him a fairly good view of what he supposed to be the now vacant battlefield. He was slightly puzzled; Tuxedo Kamen knew that the threat of a youma had not passed as he could still feel the power of Sailor Moon coursing through his body. His thoughts were interrupted as he lurched forward suddenly almost being knocked to the ground as a very large force was hurled into the trunk of his tree. After regaining his balance Tuxedo Kamen was shocked to see a very beat up youma apparently struggling to make an escape. He caught a movement in the corner of his eye and turned to see what was so terrifying to the youma, but had to squint as the light of the sun blinded him for a moment. A blurred silhouette seemed to materialize out of nowhere and Tuxedo Kamen struggled to identify the figure. When his vision cleared Tuxedo Kamen felt his jaw drop and he stared flabbergasted at none other than Sailor Moon, but not as she normally appeared. Gone was her childish awkwardness and vulnerability; instead a true warrior with a face of stone stood before him. The youma let out a distressed yelp and doubled its efforts to get away. Not missing a beat Sailor Moon whipped off her tiara, called out her incantation, and sent it flying with a dazzling speed and accuracy. Frustration with the day's events produced a power and force in her that she had not previously possessed and her tiara seemed to glow with hint of red as it whistled through the air and blasted the youma into a pile of dust. Tuxedo Kamen felt the hair on the back of his neck stand on end at this new display of power and he swore that he could feel the intensity of her attack as it demolished the youma only branches below him. But more unnerving than anything was the expression that remained on Sailor Moon's face, a look that dared anyone to mess with her. So transfixed was he by that intense gaze that Tuxedo Kamen almost didn't notice that Sailor Moon had turned to make her exit, and was on the brink of bounding away.
"Wait!" Tuxedo Kamen willed his transformation to fade and it was a very flustered looking Mamoru who haphazardly fell out of the tree and into the gaze of a surprised Sailor Moon. To Mamoru it seemed that something he could not recognize passed through her eyes while she looked him over as he attempted to scramble to his feet and dust himself off. For her part Sailor Moon was able to hold her composure even though the sight of Mamoru caused a sudden ache in her chest. Her but her curiosity to know why he had been up in the tree and what he wanted thwarted any of her desire to turn and take flight from the man who held so much power over her heart.
"Yes?" Sailor Moon was proud that she had been able to keep her voice steady and even, but to Mamoru she seemed harsh and abrupt in comparison to the soft-spoken, cheerful Sailor Moon he was accustomed to dealing with. His discomfort increased tenfold as he struggled to express his wish to her.
"Er, well, it's just that…Well, I was kind of wondering…" Mamoru's voice trailed off as the four remaining senshi sprinted onto the scene.
"Sailor Moon, where's the youma?" a panting Sailor Jupiter cracked her knuckles and looking around eagerly in anticipation of a battle.
"That's funny, I don't sense any evil spirits present, just a lot of intense energy," Sailor Mars puzzled to herself aloud.
At that moment Mercury decided to add her input and enlighten the other senshi, "Actually, the youma has already been destroyed – by Sailor Moon." She nodded once more in confirmation of this fact at the stunned look of the other senshi. "And if I am interpreting this information correctly," Mercury pushed a few buttons on her computer as she continued to scan the park, "then you must have released an astronomical amount of power, Sailor Moon."
Everyone whipped their heads around again to look at Moon and Mars raised an eyebrow in question at her.
"Bad day," was the only response that Moon deemed necessary to supply, but as she said the words and bore her eyes into the nervous gaze of Mamoru, she felt a twisting in her heart. The girls immediately understood Moon's unspoken agony, all of them being aware of her feelings for the young man standing in front of them. But why was he here?
Mamoru took in a deep breath trying to calm his nerves which seemed to have skyrocketed as all the senshi had suddenly turned their attention to him with questioning looks on their faces. But more disconcerting than anything was the reserved manner in which Sailor Moon was behaving towards him. Even though Mamoru had never known her other than as Tuxedo Kamen, he knew that Sailor Moon was naturally open, loving, and trusting and to see her intentionally put this distance between them was both confusing and hurtful. It seemed to him that he was always destined to push away those that all he had ever wanted was to be close to.
During all of this time, Sailor Venus had been unusually quiet. Mars' comment about the air being filled with an intense energy had been with her since their arrival and she knew that there was more to it than just that. Venus carefully studied Mamoru as he stood before them, seemingly hesitating, holding himself back from something. Venus could sense a great deal of inner turmoil within him and she had never seen the ever suave and cool Mamoru in such a state before. His blue eyes were cloudy and something flickered within them when he gazed upon their leader, but before long he would return his gaze to the ground where he was drawing patterns in the dirt with his shoe, giving him the appearance of a little boy. Then suddenly Venus understood. Oh my gosh, he loves her! Mamoru loves Usagi, but wait a second…he doesn't even know that it's her! Okay, now I am really confused – what is going on! Knowing that if he waited a moment longer he would lose all of his courage and just leave, Mamoru forced himself to speak up.
"It's just that…well, I would like to know, Sailor Moon, if I could…you know…have your autograph?" Mamoru reached into his pockets and pulled out the camera and marker to show them to the stunned superhero. There was a long pause and then all hell broke loose with all the senshi talking and arguing at once.
"STOP!" Sailor Moon's shout shocked everyone into silence. Turning to Mamoru who looked anxious enough to pass out any second she asked, "Could we have a moment please?" gesturing to the other senshi. Mamoru just nodded silently wondering what they could possibly have to talk about. It was strange, but he would almost swear that from the looks they were giving him that they knew him.
Once assembled and out of hearing range Sailor Mars jumped right in. "I don't see why he doesn't want my autograph, too! In the most recent polls I was ranked as the most popular of senshi in the 18-22 age group."
"I don't even why you're considering this Moon. We all know how Mamoru treats when you're not a superhero and he must have done something pretty bad today," Makoto crossed her arms over her chest and glared in the general direction of Mamoru.
"I am concerned for Mamoru's ulterior motives here. He is obviously unaware of Sailor Moon's civilian identity and his profile is concurrent with that of known stalkers of famous celebrities." Mercury stepped back from the group for a moment, dropped down her visor and did a quick scan of Mamoru who standing much like a deer caught in the headlights. After typing into her computer for a moment Mercury looked up, "However, this scan seems to contradict that theory." The rest of the senshi just stood gaping at her with their mouths open.
Moon turned and looked at Venus, "I suppose you have your own opinion as well."
"Yeah, I do." Venus sighed, then looked back and forth between Moon and Mamoru a few times then said, "I think you should ask him why."
That comment started off another round of arguments. From where Mamoru was standing he could see the group of superheroes with arms flailing about and frequently pointing in his direction. What on earth can they be talking about!
At that moment the senshi came to some sort of conclusion and made their way back to a very distraught Mamoru. Sailor Moon stepped forward and looked him right in the eye, "I will agree to an autograph on one condition."
Oh, no. Mamoru felt his mouth go completely dry and he struggled to breathe.
"You have to tell me why you want it."
Mamoru blinked. "What?"
"You have to tell me why." Sailor Moon looked at him expectantly.
Mamoru stared back before slowly breaking into a grin, visions of the senshi humiliating and torturing him before granting him the autograph quickly faded from his mind. "Well, it's a little bit of a story…"
"And we have all day," the senshi chimed in.
"Alright," Mamoru agreed. A dreamy expression came across his face and a little grin tugged at his lips. Sailor Moon was struggling not to melt into a hopeless puddle on the ground. "Where do I begin?"
"It was almost a year ago when we first met. She hit me in the head with a crumpled up test she had just failed. I wasn't very nice to her and called her stupid. To me she was just a kid who couldn't even scrape together the effort to do better than an F. But she was a real spitfire and wasn't afraid to tell me what she thought of me. I just laughed and to irritate her I called her 'Odango' because of her hairstyle. She stomped off and I didn't give her a second thought."
Mamoru paused and looked thoughtful for a moment, still off in his own world. "But it's funny how things can work out. I met her again a couple of days later. I was beginning to intern at the hospital and after work I started stopping for coffee at the arcade where my best friend Motoki works. Every day she would come in for milkshakes and to play video games, and every day I would tease her and ask how many tests she had failed. I didn't think anything of it because she never let anything keep her down. So she would whine and cry and was hopelessly lazy and I never gave her a break for anything because I never saw a reason to. Well, at least not until a few weeks later. She had come into the arcade but she wasn't her usual, cheery self. Motoki brought her a milkshake and talked with her for a little bit but I couldn't hear what they were saying. After a little while I moved over and started in on her, but something was very wrong. Instead of insulting me right back she just looked at me for a second before bursting into sobs and running out the door."
Mamoru stopped again for a moment, eyes cloudy at the memory. "Motoki yanked me off my stool and forced me into the back room and just started going off on me. 'Why can't you just leave her alone, Mamoru? Why do you always have to put her down, make her feel like nothing? I know you don't think anything of her, but maybe if you just stopped and really looked at her once you would see what the rest of the world sees in her! You were really out of line today; she came in to tell me that her grandmother just passed away and asked if I could let her friends know that was why she wouldn't be there to meet them.' Then he just walked off and I stayed in the back room thinking for awhile about what I had done."
Mamoru let out a ragged sigh and ran his hand through his hair. "So I did what Motoki said and really stopped and looked at Odango and I haven't been able to stop looking since. I've never known someone so kind-hearted, trusting, and beautiful in my life. No, she isn't best student or the hardest worker, but she is so much more than that, so much more than I could ever dream of being. But after all I've said and done to her, I never thought I would have a chance to tell her how special she has become to me, until Motoki told me something - She'd give me a chance the day I got Sailor Moon's autograph. I know she was probably just being sarcastic, but at the very least maybe I can get her to really see me now. Maybe I can change in her eyes, too."
Mamoru looked Sailor Moon in the eyes. "That's why."
"You never said her name. You just called her Odango." Sailor Moon tried to keep her voice from wavering.
"I didn't know it mattered."
"Tsukino Usagi. I love Tsukino Usagi."
Mamoru didn't understand the look that came across Sailor Moon's face or the beaming smile that she gave him a moment later, but it lifted his heart. He started as he felt something being tugged from his hand and turned to find Sailor Venus taking the instant camera from him.
"I'll take the picture."
A few moments later the photo came into focus and Mamoru offered a marker to Sailor Moon. She quickly took the cap off and scribbled a message.
"Thank you, Sailor Moon." Mamoru could barely stand still; all he was thinking of was running to the arcade as fast as he could to find Usagi.
"No, thank you." Sailor Moon handed the photo back and a moment later Mamoru was gone.
"Hey," Jupiter spoke up, "what did you end up writing on the photo?"
Sailor Moon grinned before responding, "This autograph can be exchanged for the love of Tsukino Usagi Made valid by Sailor Moon." And with that Sailor Moon took off running in the direction that Mamoru had gone.