June 2005—The last chapter has been revised! For those that read the original version, I hope this is much better. For any new readers I might have, I hope you like the story so far! As always, I live for reviews/e-mails, so be sure to leave feedback when you've finished reading. Thanks!
Disclaimers: Sailor Moon and the others don't belong to me, but this story does.
The salty tears streamed uncontrollably down her cheeks as sobs racked her petite frame. In the darkness of the room and with tears blurring her vision, Usagi could hardly see anything save Mamoru's dark shadow hovering almost protectively above her. The sounds however...she heard them all. The screams...cries...even her own anguish added to the thick cloud of fear that encompassed the ship. She wrapped trembling arms around her shoulders in a futile attempt to calm herself down. The thought of never being able to see her family and friends again...her beloved parents, her aunt…Shingo even...it was unbearable. And she was only sixteen... Fresh tears sprang to her eyes.
Mamoru stayed silent. He knew that Usagi needed the time alone to fully comprehend the situation. He was frightened as well, to say the least, but...a part of him wanted...needed to protect Usagi. It was almost an instinctive measure on his part; rationally Mamoru had no real reason to help the girl except for his own guilty conscience at leaving her helpless and alone. The young man silently prayed that his father would be all right...
Exhaling a shaky breath of air, Mamoru absently ran a quick hand through his hair, a nervous habit that he'd never quite been able to shake. From outside, he could hear the wind roaring, the thunder rumbling, and the streaks of lightening brightening the pitch black sky. Mamoru let out another deep breath.
After a few more minutes, Usagi's sobs began to subside to occasional sniffles. The initial shock had passed. She tried to stand in a brave effort to compose herself. However, the ship suddenly tilted over when monstrous waves slammed against its left side, sending Usagi flying straight into Mamoru's arms. Shivering from fright and the cold, she stayed in that position, not daring to move a muscle. All their differences seemed to melt as they clung to the other, desperate to seek comfort in each other's embrace. For a mere second's time, Usagi registered the fact that she was with Mamoru, the man who, needless to say, was probably the last person she wanted to be with on the ship. The rude jerk who she hated. 'Well…maybe hated was too strong a word. Strongly disliked is more like it,' she mused. 'But it's likely that I won't make it off here alive, so why do I care?'
Frowning, she pushed the thought aside. Usagi had always been the most optimistic person in her family. 'I guess, in life or death situations, I'm not that hopeful after all...' An ironic smile crossed her lips, and she unconsciously clutched tighter onto his shirt. He felt warm, and the faint scent of soap reached her nostrils. 'What am I doing?' She groaned and slapped one hand to her forehead, pushing herself away from his arms. Usagi felt a blush stain her cheeks and was thankful for once for the darkness that concealed her embarrassment.
"Will it be quick, Mamoru?" She turned her back to him, mentally chiding herself for the quiver in her voice that betrayed her otherwise stoic tone.
"Usagi..." He placed a large hand upon her shoulder and gave it a reassuring squeeze. "We'll be fine. You'll be fine."
"You don't know that," she replied harshly.
Silence. It seemed like forever before she spoke again. She was well aware that her comment had stung, and how ungrateful she sounded. Mamoru was going out of his way to help her, she reminded herself. The least she could do was treat him decently. "Gomen...I'm just..."
"...scared." He nodded in understanding. "Me too. I doubt there's not a single person aboard who isn't. But do you know what we have to do?"
"What?" she whispered.
"Hope...it's all we have left...Usagi," he breathed, "we have to go."
"All right." She nodded, then reached up and shakily pressed her palm against his face. Her hand stayed there for a few lingering seconds before Usagi pulled away.
"To the deck." Usagi inhaled sharply, her eyes wide.
"Are you crazy? We'll die up there!"
Mamoru shook his head slowly. "No we won't, Usagi, listen to me." He forced her to make eye contact. "It's our only chance to survive, trust me. I have a plan."
"Are you sure?" She couldn't see his eyes, or the determined look burning in them, yet something in her heart knew that it was the right thing to do. 'After all, we'll die if we stay down here anyway,' she rationalized. Unfortunately, her rationalization didn't make her feel any better.
"Do you trust me?"
She didn't want to lie to him. 'No,' her mind immediately replied, 'I don't.' After all, he was a stranger. But then again, he had gone through all this trouble...
The blond hesitated for a few seconds before answering. "I don't know..."
The answer appeared to satisfy Mamoru. He hadn't expected her to trust him, not after their previous encounters. He nodded even though he knew she couldn't see the gesture. She felt him grab hold of one of her smaller hands and took in a deep breath of the damp air. The feel of his hand encasing hers sent a shock down her spine. Usagi bit her lip and followed Mamoru out of the room.
The panic aboard the ship was almost tangible as the pair wound their way through the myriad of hysterical passengers. The ship's crew tried the best they could to calm them down, with no avail. Everyone was frightened at the prospect of death looming in the foreseeable future; thinking rationally was the last thing presently running through their minds. Mamoru lent Usagi a hand and pulled her up on deck. A strong rush of wind splattered rain on her flushed cheeks, temporarily knocking the breath out of the girl.
"Mamoru!" she cried against the roaring of the wind and waves, blindly grasping at his hand. She succeeded in her attempt and held onto it desperately, as if it was her only lifeline. Mamoru gritted his teeth at the searing pain of Usagi's iron grip but didn't comment. Usagi already had enough to be concerned about. Still, he silently wished for her grip to loosen. He wiped rain from his eyes and blinked several times to clear his vision. The waves churned endlessly before him. Mamoru felt a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach at the disastrous display but forcefully pushed it back. He had to think, and quickly, for both their sakes. Returning Usagi's grip, he bent toward her until his mouth rested by her ear. Even then, he had to shout.
He didn't have time to react as a wave swallowed the entire ship. Mamoru hardly heard Usagi's shrieks or his own anguished cries as they were thrown into the ocean. 'Father...'
"Mommy, come look at this seashell!"
The small voice beckoned before impatiently taking hold of her mother's hand. Tsukino Ikuko laughed, crouching down to be at eye level with her before planting a warm kiss upon her sun-kissed locks. She brushed tendrils of her own soft blue hair from shining eyes before taking the delicate shell into her palm.
"Yes, Usagi. It's quite beautiful, isn't it?"
"And this one!"
Ikuko was dragged to another spot upon the vast expanse of smooth, white sand. "It's moving!" The four-year-old jumped back in surprise, then clutched onto her mother's dress with chubby hands.
"Hai, it sure is. See the animal in the shell? The shell is its home."
"Oh..." Usagi's radiant face showed both curiosity and fascination at once as it scrunched up in thought.
"Don't try and grow up too fast, my daughter."
They began walking, listening to the delightful caws of the seabirds and indulging in the gentle, ever-present breeze beside the glimmering waters.
"Are you enjoying the beach, Usagi?"
"Oh yes! I wanna stay here forever!"
She kissed her daughter on the cheek. "Then we'll be sure to come here often. How's that?"
Usagi nodded vigorously, then let go of her mother's hand. She ran toward the shallow waves, letting the cool water stream beneath her feet and the gentle waves lap at her ankles. She loved the ocean dearly...
The pain seared throughout the length of her body, her veins pulsing, throbbing in anguish. Usagi groaned; every inch of her body burned with such an intensity that it took all her will not to scream. Darkness engulfed her. She blinked once, twice, three times until her vision returned, albeit blurred. She lifted her head a few inches from the sand ground and tried to make out her surroundings. Where was she? Usagi closed her eyes and tried to remember the events that had occurred. Her memory was hazy. A resounding wail, shrieks, a strong grip...shouts...terrible pain, then...emptiness.
The last fiber of strength having fled, the blond sank back into the shallow water, the salty currents clawing at her eyes and stinging her wounds. She coughed violently and felt the coppery taste of her blood in her mouth. She spat the blood out quickly, then took in several ragged breaths. The water was freezing. She shivered, but had no strength to push herself out of the water and onto the shore a mere foot away. The foot seemed more like a mile—more even—an impossible distance to reach. Her entire body would soon grow numb from the cold. Bleeding, every fiber of her being aching, she could do nothing except mingle her own salty tears with the ocean waves...
Mamoru felt the water slam into his body, knocking precious air from his lungs. Then, they were flying. Rain slapped onto his face, the sheer force creating numerous cuts there. A second later, they were submerged. He held onto Usagi's hand tighter, cringing as he felt several bones crack beneath his stone grip. But now wasn't the time to worry about her broken hand. They needed to reach the surface before they drowned. All the energy drained from his body as soon as the coldness set in. He felt as if he were frozen in a sea of ice; his legs grew heavy and before long, the young man could no longer feel them struggling to stay afloat. All he could feel was Usagi's shattered hand in his own. They surfaced after a minute, hands still intertwined, providing an odd sense of strength and determination.
Usagi tried calling to him but her voice came out a hoarse whisper, lost among the frantic screams of passengers. Their eyes met and held. She lifted a trembling hand to touch a cut on his forehead, yet he evaded her touch, shaking his head. The blond opened her mouth to speak. Her chest heaving and all feeling slowly leaving her body, she closed her eyes. She tried to remember a time when her biggest fear was getting up each morning in time for school. She made a sound halfway between a laugh and a sob, which was immediately engulfed by the nearby wails. Before the words could come, however, the water swelled before them, like a ravenous monster prepared to swallow its prey.
Their hands were forced apart as they were flung opposite directions.
'Goodbye...' she thought, before succumbing to unconsciousness' grasp.
Agonizing inch after inch, Usagi finally managed to push her beaten and beyond fatigued body onto the shoreline. She treated the soft sand like she a bed, giving no notice to the blood trickling from her wounds which stained the water's edge crimson. Nor the pain in her right hand; she was positive it was broken. Through her haze of sleep, Usagi was aware that if she let herself rest now, she might never wake to see tomorrow. She needed medical attention immediately. Groaning, she forced her eyes open and blinked to clear sleep from her eyes. 'I can't fall asleep here, not now...'
A minute later, sleep began to claim her. The girl fought as hard as her limited strength would allow, trying urgently to grasp onto any conscious thought that would help her stay awake. From what she could remember, she had been thrown from the ship and had miraculously washed ashore. Her eyes darted about the foreign land before her. Something was pulling at her memory. She blinked rapidly. A warm touch...
'Mamoru!' She recalled his stormy blue eyes, ebony hair, and seemingly perfect features, all mixed with an air of infuriating arrogance. The man to whom she undoubtedly owed her life. Without his strength and guidance, Usagi was sure she wouldn't have made it. Had he...? The blond hardly registered her sudden wakefulness. Partially lifting her body from the ground, she scanned the area hurriedly. 'How could I have forgotten about him?'
Usagi's gaze fell upon a large figure sprawled nearly fifty feet from her location. In the lone hours of night, the crescent moon provided the sole source of light. The person's head was faced toward her and she squinted and attempted to distinguish his features. She could only see the mop of hair that gleamed dully in the pale moonlight.
Usagi felt a wave of panic. She needn't see him up close. Somehow, she knew. It was him. Her eyes glanced downward to check for serious wounds beside the cuts that marred his face, and a cry choked in her throat. Mamoru was bathed in his own blood. Her stomach heaved at the gruesome display. She had always hated seeing blood. As a child, going to the doctor's to receive a shot had been Usagi's worst nightmare.
She had to get to him, to help him, but her body wouldn't move. Couldn't move. It remained frozen, half from exhaustion, the other half...from fear of what she might find if she did. Tears coursed silently down her blood-smeared cheeks, like an endless waterfall.
"He's all right," Usagi said to herself, "he has to be." The words, however, rang hollowly in her ears. All she saw was his mangled, still form. And there was so much blood...
This story was written and posted November 2003, revised June 2005.