Title: Tears Under My Pillow
Rating: T, but I drop the "F" bomb a lot in this one
Full Description: Typical story about cheating. Chiba Mamoru and Usagi are envied by every one of their friends for what looks like a match made in heaven. Little do they know that behind their blissful marriage is a disloyal husband and a bitter wife, one who's decided she's had enough.
Disclaimer: I own nothing but the story.
I would like to thank: SmTwilight, svgurl410, rosebudjamie, kyil, SkylerKnight, Kana07, Serenity Komoshiro, neo dreamer, starangel07, raye85, serenity11287, PhantasyDreamer, Jingy5, MoonPrincess568, kireisnowtenshi, Krys7, Heraldo, Domyouji Love, Leni, Moonlight Usagi-chan, supersaiyanx, midnight blue08, Drianax, kittyqueen2, ironchefslady, Adent Ly, Glazya Yuy, RoyalLovers1418, jean, Peaceful Moon, LauraDrazen, TinGirl314, SolarWinds, silvermoon8573, SilverMyst, Spriteofice, rainbabie, irishlady18, GJMEGA, tonieboo0013, Princesakarlita411, sarahr85 and a.k.a ettie for the support and everyone else who reviewed and had to put up with my ADD replies! And thank you to all of those who added me on your Alert or Favorite lists. Knowing that that many people were curious enough to keep reading made me trudge on with this.
Author's Notes: Exactly one year ago I began writing this fic. I have no idea what kind of mood I was in, or what compelled me to write what I did, but I'm thankful that this has given me a chance to develop as a writer and hear (see, actually, if we're going to get technical here) from a lot of my readers. I could "blah, blah, blah" forever, but I just wanted to let everyone know that yes, this is the last chapter. For the sake of those who wanted more Mamoru POV, I hope this suffices. All I can ask now is for anyone to let me know if you'd like to read a sequel to this.
Part Thirteen. Good Heart.
Usagi could've hit herself over the head, if she didn't think she'd already been concussed enough to let Mamoru into her office. What was she thinking? She didn't send him on his merry little way, refusing to talk to him like a reasonable woman would've done. No, she invited him to step back into her sanctuary, the one place that hadn't been blackened by the things that had happened between them. She tried not to look unsettled as he closed the door behind him and took a seat on her leather couch, but.. 'Seriously.. Disconcerting.'
As jumbled up as she felt inside, she knew that they had to have this conversation. It was the one where she told him that she caved and called Rei. That no matter what was said today, he was her soon-to-be-ex-husband.
Mamoru was surprised that he was actually sitting in Usagi's office. He wasn't foolish enough to think she'd welcome the sight of him with open arms--especially given the fact that he probably looked shabbier than overused carpet. Neither was he thinking she'd put herself within arm's distance to him. She proved him wrong when she responded civilly to his request to speak to her, then led him here. He'd only been there twice, and neither of those times did he stay for long. The first time was when he'd come to whisk her away for a romantic evening at the beach. No special occasion, no other reason than the fact that he was so deeply in love with her and wanted to see the sun set on her face. The second time he was in her office was to drag her home because she'd spent a full twelve hours there, dealing with the water softener breaking just before her shift was almost done and then having to fill out all the paperwork. This was when he started sleeping with Reika.
He shook his head of the thought of Motoki's wife--his greatest mistake to date--and looked up at his own. She looked great. She didn't have bags under her eyes like him. Clearly, she wasn't losing sleep over their last conversation. His eyes kept roaming over her. Shiny golden hair, that natural flush of hers and a slimmer body that reminded him of when they first met. Granted, she was on the gangly side back then. Now, she possessed a dancer's body that had been enhance by womanly curves. That's when he noticed the arm she'd fractured was no longer on a sling.
"How's your arm?" he asked. 'Inane much?' There were so many other questions he wanted to ask, but he couldn't muster enough courage to ask. 'What's wrong with you? Scared?' At the heels of that thought came another. '..Hell yeah.' Of course he was scared. He didn't want to be the one bringing everything up. He didn't want to hurt her by talking about their floundering marriage and, consequently, his affairs.
She lifted her arm and shrugged with a nonchalance he didn't want to believe. "Better."
He met her eyes. The secret activity that was going on in her mind were sparkling like fireworks in those blue orbs. He had to wonder, then, if she was just talking about her arm or if she also meant her heart. Not looking away, he said, "Good."
For twenty seconds he struggled to find something else to say, but she saved him by saying, "So you haven't been to work in a while, huh?"
He shook his head. He couldn't bring himself to go back. He hadn't been ready. He still wasn't. His mind backtracked to three weeks ago and suddenly he was in his car again, pulling out of Motoki and Reika's house and making his way out to the highway.
He drove ninety-four miles, tired, spent, silent. He'd gone through every emotion known to human civilization, partially due to sleep-depravation and the fact that his tuxedo had been giving him itches in the most uncomfortable places since he'd been at his best friend's place. It was only when he was running low on gas the second time that he decided he couldn't bear to stop at another gas station lest he come into human contact. He took the next exit, checked himself into the first hotel he saw and tried to sleep the hunger and loneliness away.
Hours spent watching the red numbers of the digital clock on the nightstand change proved he couldn't sleep, not when he kept thinking about what he'd lost. Usagi. Motoki. Everything else in his life didn't seem to matter. He couldn't fathom a life without either of them in it. All because he was weak and selfish.
It was then that he finally admitted that he'd done this to himself. He'd lost Usagi because he chose not to go to her when he needed her anymore. He distanced himself from her, didn't bother to talk about things that were on his mind. Secrets were no longer shared between them; he held them against her. The worse he started to feel, the more he indulged in other women. And for so long he didn't have it in him to tell her, to confess and to end his affairs sooner. Suddenly, the tables had turned. He no longer felt like she was turning her back on him, he was practically abandoning her.
He mulled over Usagi's heated words and realized how true they were. He was selfish. He depended so much on her to be his inner strength, and he took her for granted. That she gave up work to support him when they married. She didn't even dance anymore, not until recently. And when she'd expressed the want to pick up dancing again--do something that was completely for herself--he threw a fit. Yes, he'd admit he was a full-blown ass. He took things that made her happy away from her and treated her like shit.
She wasn't the only one who he took for granted, though. His best friend, the very man who'd introduced him to his beautiful wife, had also been at the short end of the stick. Motoki was, from the beginning, the perfect best friend. As his former roommate, he'd kept the apartment stocked with coffee and made sure to keep quiet when he knew Mamoru had a big exam the next day. Motoki was loyal, understanding and supportive, always trying to work dinner dates in according to Mamoru's schedule. And what did he do? Slept with his wife, a woman he idolized and treasured with all his heart.
Usagi and Motoki were good people. They didn't deserve what he did to them. He was pretty sure that Motoki would never speak to him again and Usagi.. well, she surprised him this time, but he wasn't sure how much longer she could take his presence.
"How was the vacation?" she asked, mild curiosity on her face.
'It was hell.' He didn't sleep for two days while at that hotel. When he finally found a way to close his eyes and sleep, he had haunting dreams of Usagi's tear-streaked face. A face she wouldn't allow him to see. After he checked out of the hotel, he didn't go back home. The wounds were still too fresh. So he drove. He drove for nine days, wandering around aimlessly, stopping only to eat and buy spare clothes from the supermarket. On the tenth day, he passed by a familiar cemetery and walked to a grave with "Tsukino Kenji" on the tombstone.
At first, he didn't know what the hell he was doing, why he would go there when he was obviously perturbed. Usagi's father hated him. "You were right," he'd said. "You were right about me. I was full of shit. I promised Usagi I would take care of her, that she would be the only woman in my life. Maybe you knew it from the start." He glared at the name scraped in stone. "But I love her. I want to be with her. God knows how I can ever get her to see that. But even if I fail, even if I lose her, she'll know how much I love her and how much I need her love." Nine days later, he'd finally made it back into the city. He didn't bother stopping home first; he was consumed by the need to see Usagi, to keep his promise to her deceased father. That's how he'd wound up there.
But was he supposed to tell her all that? Last time he tried to pour his heart and soul out to her, she responded so coolly to his strangled cry with an "I don't care."
"It was okay," he murmured, just as mildly.
"The house must be a mess then."
He flinched. 'The house. Not our house. Not our home.' "Actually," he said, glad that he'd found his intelligence again, "I haven't been home yet." 'Did she go back to trash the place or something?"
Her reaction was to raise her eyebrows. Something crossed her features, and then she seemed.. nervous. She brought her hand to the back of her neck, trying to massage the tension away. And then he saw it..
"Where's," he said and paused, trying to calm his racing heart and grind the rest of the words out, "your ring?"
He caught a glimpse of momentary guilt mar her face, quickly erased with grim sadness. 'Calm down, calm down, Mamoru. There's a reason for this. She might have taken it off before she did inventory. Or it could be at the cleaner's.' He'd come up with eight possibilities during her silence.
"I," Usagi started, pausing to look at her hand, too, "I took it off."
'Took it off?' He stared in horror at her blank face. 'That's it? No emergency? It's not getting cleaned? Nothing?' He was trying to search for an answer in her words, any kind of way to explain why she wasn't wearing her wedding band. He couldn't understand the simplicity of her response. Couldn't take "I took it off" for its face value.
"I should've told you first," she said, her eyes taking on a strange glint. Was that sympathy surfacing from all that pain? She took a deep breath. "What I said.. Three weeks ago.. I was serious, Mamoru-san. I can't stay in this marriage."
He was anticipating those words to come out of her mouth, anticipated the pain he was going to feel, but hearing her actually say them hurt.
She continued to plow through her speech. "While you were gone, I went back to the house and moved my things out. I only took what was mine; everything you bought for me, I left there."
The news hit him like a sledgehammer to the forehead. 'WHAT?!' He forced himself to stay still while his mind ricocheted from thought to thought.
It was like she didn't want to give him time to think about what she was saying, because she added, "And today.. Today, I asked Rei-chan to start working on a divorce petition."
If there was any room left for surprise, it had been swept away by that announcement. Mamoru felt like he'd just been thrown into a pit of scalpels. Every nerve, every muscle was burning. He thought he was going to scream. 'She's already gone. She just wants me out of her life, as soon as she can make that possible.' Never in his wildest imagination would he have pictured her doing this, essentially ripping his heart out. And she didn't seem to care.
She stared at him. "Are you going to say anything?"
He swallowed thickly. He couldn't form any words, not until Usagi's pinched face made him nauseous enough to blurt, "What can I say? You didn't bother talking to me about moving out. You even asked Rei-san to.. What the hell would you have me say?" And just like that, his voice broke and he slumped back, shattered. He couldn't hold the tears in, the tears he'd been fighting since Usagi said it was over. The only thing he could do is hide his face with his hands so that she wouldn't see him like this.
'It's over.. It's over.. She wants us to be over..'
"How can you just stop loving me?" he asked helplessly into his hands, "How can you give up? You hate me.. you hate me this much?" All of his practiced words, his confessions and apologies--he wasn't prepared for heart aching despair.
"I don't hate--"
He shot up. "You do," he said. He watched her eyes stay the same--lifeless--before bending his head once more. "I love you, but you want to hurt me--punish me, for loving you."
Her eyes narrowed slightly. "You don't hurt someone you love." He took a breath to argue that point, because he'd learned that the only people that could hurt him were the ones that he loved and that loved him, but she cut him off. "Continuously. On purpose. You don't choose to hurt someone like that, Mamoru-san."
He wiped at his face. "I hurt you," he concluded.
His jaw clenched as he realized what she was trying to say about him. He looked up again, glaring at her. "Do you think--can you actually let yourself believe--that I never loved you?" God, what he had done to her!
She hesitated, making his heart clench. "I don't know anymore."
"I wouldn't be here, arguing with you if I've never, if I don't, love you. I wouldn't be here trying to save our marriage."
The look she gave him was at best skeptical. "Don't you think it's a little too late for last-minute epiphanies?"
"I didn't think that three weeks was all it would take for you to try and wipe me out of your life!"
Usagi crossed her arms, indignant. "You honestly didn't see this coming? Did you think that saying sorry was going to be our saving grace? Sorry can't move mountains, Mamoru-san. And I don't have enough energy, I don't have enough hope in us, to try to make things work."
The sight of her got blurry as more tears came to his eyes. He wanted to defend himself, but he didn't want to yell at her anymore. She didn't deserve to be yelled at, and he couldn't bring himself to hurt her by telling her how wrong he thought she was about them. So he did the next best thing and buried his head.
'This is a nightmare. This can't be real. It can't be.'
He didn't know how long he stayed that way, shaking like a drug addict in heavy withdrawal, but soon he felt his metaphorical drug wrapping her arms around him. Holding him.
"Look," she said, strangely gentle, "I don't want to fight about this, Mamoru-san. You were gone for three weeks. I had to do something. I've done enough waiting to last a lifetime. And frankly, I'm sick of waiting. I can't stand on the sidelines, holding out for you until you come to your senses."
He stopped sobbing, trying not to look so pathetic in front of his wife--or soon-to-be-ex-wife.
"If," he said, sniffing, "if I'd stayed, would you.. would you..?" He looked up at her expectantly, hoping she would know what he meant to ask. 'Would I have been able to win you back in three weeks?'
"I wouldn't have done anything differently," Usagi said, her eyes conflicted, sincere. "You've always run away. Not even that, you turned away from me. Me. Your wife. I was supposed to be the person you ran to, yet every time you ran from something that you couldn't handle, it was into someone else's arms. That says a lot. That meant a lot to me."
All of the past tense talk was getting to Mamoru's head. His head was spinning from the blows of Usagi's actions while he was gone, rediscovering the love and devotion he had for her. He wanted to tell her, convince her that he was worth another shot. Worth the wait. But she'd already made up her mind about him. The selfish part of him wanted to keep struggling with her, see if maybe she would give in. But he'd done enough damage. He'd brought enough pain and suffering to their marriage.
A knock interrupted them, and Makoto's head appeared past the open door crack. "Usagi-chan, the Commissioner-General wanted to thank you personally for hosting his birthday party."
Mamoru heard her clear her throat before saying, "I'll be right there." To him she gave a very simple smile. "Take as much time as you need." Then she left.
He stared after her, reiterating those last seven words. Time to gather himself up? Time to muster enough strength to leave her office? He wasn't sure what she meant, and had absolutely no clue how to do either.
Usagi's "take as much time as you need" came to Mamoru's mind a month later when a situation came in the form of Hino Rei showing up at his doorstep. He stared at her intently, remembering the exchange Usagi and he had mere weeks prior to this visit.
She raised a perfectly arched brow, looking as intimidating as the lawyer she was. "Expecting someone else?"
He didn't bother to deny it. "Yes."
"It's better this way." She stepped inside, handing him the papers at the same time.
Mamoru swallowed hard as he closed the door after her and looked down at what she'd given him. This form was meant to separate him from his wife. He had known, after that fateful day, that nothing was going to stop this divorce petition being drawn and served to him. In the four weeks that had past he'd tried to call Usagi, hoping to beg and reason with her so she would change her mind, but she ignored all his calls. She went on with her life. Without him.
It sucked how the world didn't stop. How everyone, everything could carry on when his heart was aching with pain and loneliness. Despair. He was just supposed to go back to work, try and heal people, when he couldn't figure out a way to heal his soul.
He fought the instinct telling him to rip the contract into shreds and looked at Rei, who was unabashedly sizing him up. "How is she?"
"Better than you," she noted, then thought better of that statement. "Better."
"Good," he said, feeling a wash of déjà vu.
"Isn't it?" Rei taunted. She stepped back and took a look at the living room. "She smiles and laughs more. That darkness you put there is almost gone."
"Rei-san," he ground out, trying to check his patience, "You don't know me--"
"But I know what you've done to Usagi," she interrupted. "Actions speak louder than words, Mamoru-san. But you couldn't just leave it at that. You had to rub it in. She'd smell them on you.. She'd wash their perfume out of your clothes. I'd slap you if I thought it would make you feel worse."
"Then you know that I can't feel any worse," he said, wincing at how weak he'd shown her he was. It seemed he couldn't keep how weak he was bottled up. He didn't want to pretend he wasn't anymore. He ran a hand through his tangled hair and gave a defeated sigh. "I can't eat. I can't sleep."
"Now you know what it feels like," she said, arms akimbo. "Usagi went on like that for months. Months, Mamoru-san. I was the one who was there for her, who listened. What you're feeling now isn't even half of what she'd felt, what she carried inside."
Mamoru cringed, realizing Usagi's rapid weight loss was because of him. Her falling down the stairs was because of him. "What.. what did she say?"
Rei looked at him as though she didn't expect that question to come out of his mouth. Her own mouth in a thin line, she began. "There was a lot of crying. A lot of shock, like she couldn't believe this was happening to her. Like she was living someone else's life and couldn't wait to get back to her own. She always looked like she was physically crippled when everything was just on the inside."
A tear fell down his face, and Rei cleared her throat. Her next words were spoken in a shaky voice.
"She was in mourning. She was grieving over the love she had for you that was slowly dying. But she chose not to instantly walk away. You know why? She was thinking of your reputation. Even when you didn't deserve a second thought, she was thinking of you--stop crying!"
Mamoru couldn't help it. He was shaking with acute sorrow over what he'd done. No wonder she'd hardened from a happy-go-lucky woman in love to a cold stranger. No wonder she hated him so much. He hated himself!
He looked up at Rei and noticed that tears were glistening in her eyes as well. "You don't get to sympathize with Usagi. You put her through hell! Amoral bastard!"
"I know, I know!" he shouted. He ran a hand through his hair and stared at her. "It kills me to think that she kept silent for so long. That she knew and kept acting like she didn't." He lowered his head and shook it. "I can't take it back, Rei-san. I can't unhurt her. It kills to know this," he said, lfiting the papers in his hand, "is the only way I can help her now, by signing this damned contract saying I don't want to be in her life anymore."
"You have to let her go, Mamoru-san," Rei argued. "Usagi deserves to be happy."
No matter how much he wanted to resent her for saying that, he knew she was right. That's when he understood why Usagi told him to take as much time as he needed. She knew how hard it was going to be for him. To bring himself to sign away his marriage. He could only hope she really meant it, because he didn't know how long it would take.
Two months later, Mamoru stood in front of Usagi's apartment door, waiting for her to answer. When she did, she greeted him with expressionless eyes and a small smile. "Come in," she said, opening the door to him.
He stepped in and was startled to see how the place.. was alive with Usagi. The walls were decorated with her favorite Broadway posters. Her coffee table was covered with home crafts magazines. The shoe rack by the door was stocked full. He recognized two pairs of her old dancing shoes amongst the crazy-looking array.
Just everything.. was colorful, vibrant. Like the Usagi he'd met, known and loved. That she'd reverted back to that woman in his absence saddened him. 'I made her miserable.' He felt so out of place, his suit ruining the carefree feel to the room, but he'd decided to stop by on impulse on his way home from work.
"I.." He had to clear his throat of an imaginary lump in his throat at looking at her for the first time in twelve weeks. "I brought the papers," he finally said, handing the folded pages over to her.
She took them, opening them in shock. He wondered if she noticed how worn the pages were from his indecision. More than a couple times a day he would unfold them, telling himself he would sign that time.. It wasn't until the week before that he'd actually done so. When he did, he stared at the contract for a long time, thinking how his decision was so wrong. Yet there he was, a week later, handing the divorce petition away. It--the suffering, the anguish--was for Usagi. For the woman he loved.
She looked up after verifying that he did, in fact, sign the petition. "Thank you," she said, the relief in her voice practically choking him.
Before he could lose his wit, he spoke. "I just want you to know.. I loved, and still love, you." The way her eyes sparked should've discouraged him, but he went on. "It was always you. No matter who else will take my place in your heart, your place in mine will always be there."
Usagi looked baffled. "You say that now, but one day, you might run into someone you'll lose your heart to. And--"
"I could never love anyone else the way I love you. And.. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry that I broke your heart, ruined our marriage. I'm sorry that I wasn't there for you. I'm sorry that I broke my wedding vows to you. Maybe someday I'll understand just how much my choices have cost you and I both."
Usagi was so close to tears. 'Damn it, that came out all wrong didn't it? I said something wrong. I'm such an ass.' He recalled what Usagi had said to him the night she called him out on his affairs. She would never forgive him if he made her cry in front of him. "Sorry," he murmured, "I'll go."
He made it to the door, opening it, when he heard her call out, "Mamoru.."
He turned around, watching her, but she was careful not to let any stray emotions show. "I wish you all good things," she said.
It wasn't forgiveness. It wasn't a last-minute reprieve. It was letting go.
"Take care of yourself, Usagi," he replied before closing the door behind him.
No hugs. No tears. Only one wistful look, one that didn't say goodbye, but felt just as bittersweet.
End Part Thirteen.
( The end. )