Rendezvous on the Eve
The door creaked as she turned the knob. One look behind her shoulder assured her that the room's occupant remained asleep. She slipped onto the balcony before letting out the breath she was holding. Taking in the ten-story drop, she turned to peer one last time into the studio apartment. She could see his silhouetted form through the white curtains blocking out the early morning light. She simpered at his haphazard outline. He had only taken seconds to cover the bed once she vacated it. He curled around the area still dimpled and warm from her body. She turned from him to look into the morning light.
Usagi moved away from the girls as they began to mingle on the dance floor. Though even Ami was willing to twist her hips in incredible directions, the blonde opted out. Colored lights circled the dance floor, illuminating the dancers before highlighting the DJ. While the four looked to be having fun, Usagi felt curiosity pull at her. She scanned the bottom floor of the club and, finding a few tables and occupied booths the only things other than the dance floor, headed up the large, winding staircase. The iron was cold in the night and the heat from below disappeared as she ascended. She was grateful for the shawl running across her shoulders as she reached the higher level.
The loft sat high above the dance area. Looking down, she could make out Minako's swaying mass of blonde hair. She laughed as the normally serious girl pulled Ami in close for a lesson. Though she was a new addition to the squad, she seemed to fit right in. Usagi blew out a breath of relief watching the four of them. Their journey was nearly over now that they had the Princess. Usagi mused silently the irony that the Princess had found them after months of searching for her. Minako was the perfect vision of what Usagi expected from royalty. She had a regal bearing about her, her shoulders back and head always looking straight ahead. Minako was always serious and contemplative, even helping Luna and Artemis to strategize an attack on the Dark Kingdom once its location was known. Usagi nodded her head silently, agreeing that Minako was the princess that would make them all complete.
Then why do I feel as if the world is turned on its end?
Minako's appearance reassured the senshi and Usagi admitted to some excitement with a new member. Something stirred deep within Usagi as she stared into Minako's blue eyes for the first time. Like meeting an old acquaintance from years past, Usagi embraced the new soldier and felt a jolt of immeasurable strength coming from the orange warrior. A rush of familiarity flushed through her system and the glimmer of a memory sat at the corner of her eyes. Everything clicked, it seemed. Like cogwheels strung together, waiting for the last piece to be placed, and suddenly the whole circuit sets to turning. Everything fit. She finally felt whole; as if now they were what they should have been and were ready for whatever challenges lay ahead. Now they were capable. They were strong and unified. They were complete.
"Meet Sailor Venus," a white cat said appearing at the girl's feet. The new addition removed her tiara and a shining crescent blinded their vision momentarily. "Otherwise known as Princess Serenity."
Frosted lids closed over sparkling crystal blue eyes. The togetherness of her heart shattered at the revelation. The others rushed to embrace the princess whose memory sat at the edge of their consciousness though their love for her did not. They could all feel a bond with the princess they could not remember and so lover her without knowing her. Minako slid into the princess role perfectly. She accepted their love and cherished it, and for that Usagi kept her fears silent. The girls petted the Princess and Usagi stayed away, feeling wronged and slightly jealous. Minako was a strong warrior and cared for the soldiers in her service. She was a good person and for this Usagi could not understand the intense feeling of betrayal that flowed through her veins. The Princess was not a threat, she repeatedly told herself. But the feelings of resentment and wrongdoing continued to grow within her. She completely neglected the senshi meeting yesterday knowing that seeing Minako's smiling face would send her into emotional turmoil that she wasn't certain she could control. The smiling facade that always belied the sadness nestled within her eyes.
What sort of protector was she that she had to control herself from hurting her own Princess?
She swallowed and peered down at the four girls who chased away the loneliness in her soul. Certainly, she had other friends. But these girls shared her duty. Each one would lay down their lives for the other and everyone in their world. They would sacrifice themselves without question, without knowing the cause, without fail. And above all, they would sacrifice themselves for their princess. The blonde stared at her twirling charge, heart breaking. Will I protect her with my life? Can I give my life to someone who has unknowingly betrayed me?
Usagi turned from the railing and pressed back against it. Her slender neck stretched as she took in the stars in the dark night sky. The moon, home of their illustrious princess, loomed in the abyss of twinkling lights; an impenetrable force in the night sky. Even now, she reminds me of my duty. The blonde shook her head, ashamed of such a vengeful thought. The girl had been nothing but kind and loving. She had even attempted to divert the senshi's attention to their forgotten leader, as if she knew of Usagi's jealousy.
A tear slipped through closed lids as the blonde nurtured her tormented and confused heart. A faint wind whispered through her hair, carrying a familiar scent and the soft lilt of a name. Encompassed by her thoughts, she missed the first caress. In the second, the voice was much softer but firmer and rooted a few feet away from her.
Crystal blue eyes met those that would rival the night sky. The small lanterns lining the loft reflected in the night of his eyes like stars. Though she questioned it, a sudden peace fell about her and she expelled the breath she was apparently holding.
He smiled smoothly at her complete attention. She realized for once he looked completely relaxed as he slouched in the iron chair. He was wrapped in a gray tweed blazer, opened to expose the dark green vest and white, collarless shirt beneath. A familiar cross-like charm hung from a pocket in the vest. In the light it sparkled and winked at her in a playful manner not unlike its wearer. Similar gray tweed encased his legs. His hand was wrapped around a highball glass nearly empty of a golden-colored liquid. Before her eyebrow could lift at his possible inebriated state, he opened his lips and spoke softly.
Her breath hitched. The name was usually unwelcome and insulting. But here, in his relaxed though obviously coherent state, in the safety of the dark secluded loft, the name sounded like a caress. She tensed again, finding the sudden change from insult to endearment even more confusing than her issues with Minako. Surely, she had expected no other changes in her life. And in Mamoru she had always known what to expect. Anger, frustration, and even a primal pride at outsmarting him was the usual repertoire. Never was it this sudden silken caress without being within ten feet of her form. She watched as he carefully stood, backing herself against the railing as he walked toward her.
She squeaked as his hand rose out of his pocket and set upon the railing next to her. He stood next to her, the warm fabric of his blazer pressing to her exposed shoulder as he watched the festivities below them. She closed her mouth quickly and turned to join him not knowing what other action to take.
She wondered if when he watched the dancers his eyes always fell upon their Princess as well. Usagi was not immune to the stares Minako received everyday. In a large, outdoor club, on New Year's Eve, it was almost too easy for men's gazes to stray to the well-proportioned teenager. Even from the loft, she could see the tops of heads directed towards the dancing beauty. Usagi found her cheek between her teeth before she could stop it.
Mamoru turned to her and took his time looking at her attire, though she tried to ignore it. She fidgeted under his intense gaze and she could feel, without seeing, the small smile that etched across his lips. But in the darkness, the smile was not condescending but one of amusement. She sighed and turned to contest his wandering gaze. The smile only grew larger, as if he had expected such a response from her. Does he know me that well?
He gently touched her elbow and led her to his table, pulling out her seat and helping her move the red satin dress so that she could sit properly. She was quite proud of the festive red dress that wrapped around her forearms and across her chest. The dress was alluring in its poinsettia coloring and spoke of maturity that was beyond Usagi. For a moment, she wondered if this was the reason for Mamoru's sudden attention. Had she finally proven her maturity to him with only a simple dress?
He finished off his drink and turned to her, languid and slow as if time were simply waiting for his beckon to continue. His throne an iron chair and scepter an empty glass of liquor, he looked like the king of the world. He was a content panther, sunning itself without a care in the world, while hidden within the black fur was strength beyond the gods. Usagi didn't question the blush that rose upon her cheeks. There was no denying his complete and utter beauty in that moment. And she realized, in the darkness, she could admit to herself things she never would in the light of day or in her deepest dreams.
The staring contest between the two broke quickly as a waitress snuck away with the empty glass. The woman receded back into the shadows before Usagi understood what had come to pass. She peered into the darkness around them, but found she could only clearly see Mamoru. Even the lights seemed to have made a small niche just for the two of them.
Though he was content to continue the silence between them, Usagi started to wring her hands once again. She opened her mouth and realized that he was smiling again, as though he knew she could not be able to handle the calm between them. "It's New Year's Eve."
It was a lame attempt at conversation. They both knew it and he nearly did not answer.
"So it is."
Their mouths were on autopilot as their eyes held the other's gaze. Something in the darkness was changing them, making friends of enemies. Usagi felt her heart flutter in a way never before imaginable. She watched him carefully. There was no mask, no stoic reserve to cover his face tonight. Perhaps the alcohol had loosed him from his usual enclosed demeanor. Tonight he was different. He was without barriers, without boundaries.
"What is your resolution?"
He sat back, thinking it over. His bangs fell to the side, never able to stay in the gelled position he had spent hours to achieve. "I think I would not change anything in my life."
He looked away into the night and she searched his profile. His face was taunt once again before he relaxed and turned back to her. "I guess it's too late for a refund on your personality," she joked.
The insult whisked away on the wind as if it had not been uttered. The only evidence of it was the small smile on the man's face. Another golden drink dropped onto the table from a long, cream arm nestled in the shadows. Two glasses and a bottle of champagne followed.
"Less than an hour now," a disenchanted voice chimed before disappearing completely.
They both eyed the new additions to the table. Finally, Mamoru casually drank from his beverage. Usagi watched him intently as the liquid tipped slowly in the glass. Gold waves shifted languidly. He drank slowly, though a quarter of the drink had disappeared when it rested upon the table once again. She smiled slightly as his shoulders slouched.
"Alcohol does wonders for you, Mamoru-san."
They both smiled, as though the loss of her usual name for him was a victory.
"It's not the alcohol, Usa," he answered softly. His eyes danced as she allowed the name to slip by without much fuss. She was more interested in the conversation, and with her probing gaze he continued. He looked over her shoulder. "The world is finally spinning the right direction."
At her troubled look, he leaned forward and touched her hand. Though his were cold from the beverage, she felt a sudden spark of recognition. Deeper than with Minako, her soul sang with a fervor so intense she touched her hand to her chest. She looked to Mamoru and was surprised to see a knowing look upon his face. He barely nodded, as if affirming his suspicions.
"What's going on, Mamoru-san?" she whispered in a voice hoarse and full of horror. Her soul's tinkling melody flowed through her mind, drowning out the din around them. The song turned melancholy and tears filled her eyes suddenly. She blinked, amazed at her own reaction. Wetness dripped down her face and she began to cry in earnest. Her body and soul were working in a strange harmony and her mind was left out. Something strange, but not altogether foreign, was overtaking her. She wrapped her arms around herself, whether to keep something in or out she did not know.
She hiccupped as his arms came around her. Her face buried in his neck, tears streaming down his collar and into his suit, did not deter him. He held her tightly, one hand wrapped around her neck, rubbing at the hairline there. His touch quelled the volume at which her soul was playing. The tune did not change, but with his touch, tenor and bass added to the arrangement. They were decidedly masculine, and when she placed her hand against his beating heart she knew. Knew the song that floated through her soul to the beating rhythm of her heart, that sounded with the same clarity and time against her palm placed above his own heart, was their souls uniting in harmony. She pulled away from his shoulder. His eyes held the glimmer of the lights around them, dancing gently to the slow music still humming in her ears.
"You knew." How had she never noticed the love that made his blue eyes sparkle so radiantly?
"Since the beginning."
Silence was his only answer.
"I was afraid you would not have me," he continued, his voice taking on a desperate lilt.
The melody grew as did his smile, and she suddenly realized the song took on his emotions. It was slowly building now, as if infused with hope. "I decided I wanted nothing more than to be with you. And I would risk the world to have you for only one moment."
She blushed at the serenade winging through her soul. He bent and the music slowed to a cautious beat, as he was centimeters from her lips. She smiled and her hands wrapped around his shoulders. She closed her eyes and he tilted forward. His lips barely grazed against hers. A spark of undeniable knowledge struck Usagi and she lay there, frozen in her surprise. Her blue eyes grew wide at his smile. "You knew?"
Chiba Mamoru, suddenly revealed as her caped protector who was quite aware of her own role as a superhero, smiled sheepishly. "Do you approve?"
Her mouth dropped. Here was her savior and obvious soul mate asking her if she approved of his disguised role. Once again, she was closing her open mouth. She smiled gloriously. "From the beginning, too?"
He nodded, watching for her reaction.
"You didn't have to be such a jerk about it," she joked softly. The blonde nuzzled his neck, hugging him tightly. She breathed in his scent as he chuckled and returned her embrace.
"You never listened to me." All those times he'd tried to frighten her away from eminent battles with his insults.
She smiled. "I probably never will." And she kissed him.
Looking at the rising sun, she fingered the Luna Pen in her palm. Her dress slung over another arm, she raised the pink pen above her head. Quiet words flowed and in the morning sun, the blonde's clothing evaporated into her school uniform. Gone was his dress shirt as a crisp white blouse and blue skirt materialized upon her body. Her hair untangled and the length of it quickly spun into her familiar odango. She opened her eyes and watched the birds flying away from the bay. The faint snoring of the man slung across the bed was the only thing to interrupt their calls.
The wind swept her hair around her and she smiled at the day that rose to greet her. Leaving him so quickly, it chided.
Her hand covered her broach. There is more to do. She thought of Minako masquerading as the princess, as herself. It was a daring act, but she could not allow her first in command to continue in such a position. Especially when things were clearer now.
Though her memories were only a patchwork, would be so until the ginzuishou was found and the memories sealed inside it released, she was determined to save her sisters. She would not allow the past to repeat itself. She grasped the broach tightly in her hand. They had promised each other that, at least. The fate of Endymion and Serenity would not be repeated. They would find the crystal, release its powers, and vanquish this evil. They would save their world from the Dark Kingdom and finally live in peace.
The wind chuckled around her as the birds cawed their own amusement. There will always be more to do.
She nodded, a smile lighting her face. I will never truly leave him, she assured his covetous Earth as she grasped the railing, jumping to the ground as the rays of dawn broke upon the bay.