The last of the original chapters has also finished going through a bit of an edit. Except more new chapters to come soon(ish)!
It's Just Pretend
Mamoru walked home with a foolish smile plastered on his face. He had finally come to terms with the fact that he liked Usagi, and although their deal to carry out such a charade was not the most ideal arrangement, it was something and at least she was with someone who could be trusted – him. He wondered what tomorrow would bring, and he knew he'd be awake hours before he actually had to leave. It suddenly dawned on him that he had no idea where she lived. Fishing his phone from his pocket, he dialled furiously.
"Motoki?" He asked as soon as he heard the other end pick up.
"Do you know where Usagi lives?" He blurted out, scrambling to find a pen and paper.
"Yeah… why?" Motoki's voice was filled with hesitation; what exactly was Mamoru planning to do now?
"Long story, just tell me how to get there," he demanded, impatience evident in his voice.
"Okay, she lives about ten minutes from the Azabu Juuban station…" Motoki continued giving his friend surprisingly detailed directions.
"Thanks." He breathed a sigh of relief.
"So can I know why now?" Motoki pushed. After all, his friend would have to cave at some point.
"We're going out," Mamoru stated simply, making a point to not offer any further explanation.
"She asked you for help!?" It was the only logical explanation Motoki could muster.
"What the… how do you know?" Had he really expected to be the only one who knew her secret?
"She asked me if I could help her out the other day…. So… you're the 'boyfriend', eh?" Mamoru cringed at the way Motoki said 'boyfriend', it was if they were doing something completely wrong.
"Don't say it like that," he scolded.
"Mamoru, you do know this isn't for real right?" Motoki momentarily thought that maybe Mamoru was trying to convince himself otherwise.
"Of course I do. It was my idea," he spat, insulted at the insinuation.
"How did you get her to agree?"
"I told her she had to be my date for some fundraiser," as he replied, Mamoru searched the coffee table for the invitation. Usagi would have to know when it was, after all.
"You better not mess this up," Motoki warned, playing the role of the protective older brother.
"Thanks for the vote of confidence," he scoffed, rolling his eyes.
"Hey, what are friends for?" the blonde chuckled light-heartedly.
"Yeah yeah. Anyways, thanks again."
"Good luck," he replied knowing that Mamoru would need it for paternal inquisition he would be put through the next day.
Usagi laid sprawled on top of her pink duvet, contently reading the newest volume of her favourite romantic manga. She flipped through the pages, giggling at the actions of the characters, sighing longingly at each loving situation. I wish I had that… she mused, staring blankly at the drawings as thoughts churned in her mind. She was soon interrupted by the familiar ring of her cell phone, which she pulled from the side of her schoolbag.
"Hey Usagi!" Minako's chipper voice leapt through the receiver. "Couldn't make it today?"
"Sorry about that, I had to get home right after detention," she replied; why not just tell another lie, you're getting so good at it, she chided herself.
"Oh it's okay! So… about tomorrow…" she knew Usagi was tired of being asked about it, but she couldn't resist, "do we get to meet him?"
"Yeah, he can make it," she said nonchalantly, even though her heart was pounding with anxiety. "Is Rei coming?" Usagi wondered, knowing that Rei at one time had quite the crush on Mamoru and although her feelings for him had subsided, Usagi was unsure how she would react to the news.
"No, Rei and Ami can't make it," Minako heard Usagi sigh as if she were glad, "But she was pretty ticked you never told her about this boyfriend of yours," she added. A long pause passed between the two friends, "Well anyways, we're going at eleven now. Do you guys need a ride?"
"No, he's picking me up." It suddenly dawned on her that not only was Mamoru coming at nine in the morning, he probably had no idea where she lived and she had no way to contact him. He's smart, he'll figure it out… she concluded, deciding to make up a story just in case he never showed, and part of her almost hoped that he wouldn't.
"He can drive!? How old is he?" With eighteen being the driving age, Minako
now knew he had to be that or older. "Where did you meet this guy!?" Her curiosity continued to boil.
"I'm really tired," Usagi faked a yawn wanting nothing more than to end the conversation, "I'll fill you in tomorrow, okay?" She needed all the time she could get to figure out just how she was going to go about explaining the total shift in their relationship.
"Fine," Minako sighed in defeat, "see you tomorrow. Night!" As soon as she hung up, Usagi made a mental list of everything she knew about Mamoru, which she soon realized was not very much at all. They had been bickering for about five months now, and while she knew the basics – what school he went to, who his best friend was, and what he drank every single day, she didn't really know much about Mamoru himself. What about his family? Where was he born? What was he like as a child? What does he like to do?
As she mulled the questions over, she caught her reflection in the mirror and immediately began to question why Mamoru had offered to help her. Even though he had explained it was for the return favour of being his date for an evening, she had to ask, why her. She didn't seem like his type and she was convinced he wouldn't have any problems finding someone else. After all, she wasn't anything special; not overly pretty or intelligent, she was immature and irresponsible, always running late, not graceful or elegant, hardly sophisticated… and wouldn't people wonder what a guy like Mamoru was doing with a girl like her? But amidst all her self-depreciating thoughts, something told her that despite all her faults and all her short comings, he had still offered. It was his idea, not hers, and that simple fact restored some of her confidence. With her newfound assurance, Usagi began rifling through her closet for the perfect outfit – not that she was doing it to impress Mamoru; she just wanted to be able to get up and go, looking fabulous.
Mamoru stood at front door of the Tsukino residence, hand poised to knock. He had been standing there for nearly three minutes now, and instead of doing what he figured any sane person would do, he remained motionless. What if she never intended for him to actually pick her up? He panicked; was he making a complete fool of himself?
Realizing that he was already there and there was little point in turning back, he allowed his knuckles to fall, rapping against the solid oak door. As it opened, he was greeted by a russet haired boy, which he could only assume was Usagi's younger brother, Shingo. The two stood staring at each other until Mamoru broke the silence, "Hi… I'm here to pick up Usagi."
"Seriously?" Shingo asked doubtfully, giving the tall, lean man before him a brotherly once over.
"Yes," Mamoru answered slowly.
"You look way too cool for her," he frowned, and his reaction caused Mamoru to chuckle.
He leaned in, as if to tell the young boy a secret, "You know, your sister isn't that bad."
"Yeah, right," he scoffed. "USAGI! THERE'S A GU– " Shingo's yelling was immediately put to a halt as his older sister flew down to the stairs and clamped her hand tightly over his mouth.
"Shut up!" She hissed, knowing that if he had heard, her father would be there in mere seconds, putting Mamoru through a series of delightfully horrifying questions. "Tell dad, and you're dead," she threatened, glaring at Shingo until he nodded in compliance. Turning to Mamoru, she apologized with a meek smile, "Sorry about that."
"It's okay," he grinned, finally witnessing Usagi with her brother, who she so often referred to as the 'devil's spawn'.
"I didn't think you'd make it," the blonde admitted, sitting on the bottom step of the stairs to fasten the buckle on her shoes.
"You didn't make it easy," Mamoru replied, watching as her nimble fingers threaded the leather strap through the metal. "I had to call Motoki." His eyes travelled from her ankle, along the contours of her shapely legs, reaching the hem of her skirt. He swallowed, needing a distraction. "Are you ready?"
"Yep!" Grabbing her purse, Usagi jumped to her feet.
"So where are we off to?"
"Well… we're supposed to meet some of my friends at the autumn festival at eleven," she said, waiting for some sort of reaction. Was he going to think that it was lame?
"I hear about that every year, but I've never been," he mused.
"You've never been!?" She gawjed, "We go every year. I always look forward to it." Mamoru couldn't help but smile at the genuine excitement that danced in her azure eyes.
Figuring they still had about two hours before they had to be there he asked, "Have you had breakfast yet?" Before Usagi could answer, her stomach growled loudly. "I guess that's a no." She smiled sheepishly. "Come on, let's get something to eat," he suggested, offering her his arm.
"Sounds like a plan!" She accepted, grinning inwardly at how real it all felt, and she couldn't help admitting, that maybe she liked him – just a little.
The car ride was silent, neither knowing what to say. Usagi opened her mouth as if to start a conversation, yet the words always fell short. Instead, she watched Mamoru from the corner of her eye, taking note of the way his strong hands moved along the steering wheel, and how his sharp eyes kept track of every vehicle on the road. They soon reached a tiny café, and Mamoru opened the door for her as they went inside.
"Just the two of you?" The hostess asked, flashing a friendly smile to the attractive couple. Mamoru nodded, and the girl lead the pair to their table, handing them two large menus. Upon opening one, Usagi's eyes went wide with disbelief.
"There are so many things to choose from!" She exclaimed, scanning all of the options. "I'll never decide what I want." Mamoru smiled at her antics. After much debate, Usagi had decided, and they placed their order with the waitress. It wasn't long until they were drawn into an awkward silence.
"So… who's going today?" Mamoru wondered, wanting to know exactly what he would be going up against.
"Well, Minako and Makoto will be there, and Naru and Umino are coming," Usagi listed, counting each name on her fingers.
"Naru and Umino?" The names sounded familiar, but he couldn't place a face to them.
"They're my schoolmates. Naru and I go way back," the girl rattled on about her friend and Mamoru listened, watching the changes in her face as she relived stories of childhood mischief. Usagi soon realized that she had been talking non-stop. "I'm sorry," she apologized, "You probably didn't want to hear all that." A slight blush crept to her cheeks, and she laughed nervously.
"It's okay," he smiled reassuringly. He didn't mind at all.
"What about you?"
"What about me?"
"Well, don't you have any close friends?"
"Just Motoki," Mamoru said with a shrug. He had never been one to maintain any sort of intimate relationship, and had never thought anything of it, until now.
"How did you become friends?" Usagi pressed, trying to steer the conversation away from herself.
"At the arcade. Went in for coffee one day, and we just hit it off, I guess," he replied simply, unaware of Usagi's efforts.
"Oh…" She nodded slowly, racking her mind for other topics that they could discuss. Thinking back, she wondered if they had ever had a real conversation before. Sure, through their encounters in the past she had learned a little bit about him, but they had never had an actual discussion. Most of their interaction was plain, petty, bickering.
"This is kind of strange, isn't it," Mamoru noted suddenly, Usagi's shoulders dropping with relief – she was glad he felt it too. He wondered if he was trying too hard to not fall back into his usual pattern of teasing her, and was starting to almost miss what they had before.
"It is. I don't think we've ever been around each other this long without fighting." As if coming to rescue the uneasy pair, the waitress brought their meals. "Is that all you drink?" Usagi asked between bites, motioning towards the coffee cup that sat in front of him. He paused to consider her question. "No!" Usagi grimaced, interrupting his train of thoughts, her hand flying up to cover her face causing her fork to crash down on the china plate.
"What?" Mamoru asked, looking around the room.
"That's him," she griped, her eyes pointing in the direction of a boy her age.
"The guy from school," she panicked, hoping that Yuuji would not see her.
"So?" Mamoru suppressed a smile; Usagi definitely knew how to get worked up.
"So he'll see us!"
Giving it a reasonable amount of thought, she relaxed, "I don't know," her hand fell back to the table as she furrowed her brow. There was nothing wrong with what she was doing; as far as he knew, she was on a date – with her boyfriend.
"Usagi?" Yuuji called her name as he made his way over to their table. He had seen her from across the room and wanted nothing more than to measure up the man she was with.
"Hi," she greeted him meekly as Mamoru's fingers made their way to her hand, gently taking hold – a gesture that did not go unnoticed.
"Is this your boyfriend?" He asked, raising an eyebrow only to have his expression returned by an icy glare.
"Oh, yeah. This is Mamoru. Mamoru, Yuuji," she introduced the two, smiling awkwardly.
"So… Usagi was saying that you don't go to our school."
When Mamoru offered no further information, Yuuji pushed on, "Where do you go?"
"Keio University," he replied smugly, and the boy frowned in response. How did a high school girl like Usagi end up with him? Without hesitation, he answered Yuuji's unasked question. "Usagi is a friend of friend, and ever since the day we met, I can't keep my mind off her." As the words registered, he realized how true they were. Usagi blushed becomingly, wishing that his confession had been true.
Feeling quite unwelcome by Mamoru's steely gaze, Yuuji excused himself, "Well, I guess I'll see you Monday at school, Usagi." The girl nodded in reply.
"Thanks," she sighed in relief, pink still staining her cheeks.
"That's what I'm here for," he replied, bringing Usagi back to the disappointing world of reality. It was true; she knew he hadn't meant what he had said. It was just part of their charade. "So why don't you want to go out with him?" Mamoru had to ask, and Yuuji didn't seem like a bad kid. He was probably pretty popular, and he could only assume that Usagi was one of the most sought after girls at her school.
"He's not my type," she shrugged, causing Mamoru to laugh.
"He's not your type?" he repeated, amusement plastered across his face.
"Why do you find that so hard to believe?"
"You're what, fifteen? How do you have a type?" he asked, sitting back in his chair and crossing his arms.
"First of all, I'm sixteen," she corrected him, "and I just do. I know what kind of guys I like."
"So that would explain your long dating history," he bit sarcastically, knowing that his comment would strike a chord. He couldn't help it; he felt some sick sense of satisfaction when he provoked her and more so when she took the bait. He loved how her eyes flared in anger, how her breathing became shallow, and how she crinkled her nose in annoyance.
"What do you know about my dating history?" Usagi spat, taking an angry bite of her food, before pushing the plate away. She knew it was too good to be true. They could only be civil for so long, yet she couldn't deny the adrenaline that sped through her when she fought with him.
"Can I get you anything else?" The waitress interrupted, collecting their dishes.
"Just the cheque, please," Mamoru replied, never taking his eyes off the girl he was with. The waitress smiled, mistaking his stare for a loving gaze. "How many boyfriends have you had?" He questioned, as soon as the woman had left.
"That's none of your business," the blonde scoffed, her eyes narrowing.
"I'm your boyfriend. I'd say it was my business," Mamoru leaned in, roughly grabbing her hand as if to intimidate her. The waitress returned, sliding the cheque onto the table.
"You're not my real boyfriend, remember?" She sneered, pulling her hand from his grasp.
"You don't have to remind me!" He stood up, pulling money from his wallet, and slamming it down on the table.
"Oh and what's that supposed to mean?" She rose as well, hands on her hips. Taking her upper arm, he escorted her outside of the building.
"Do you really think that under normal circumstances I would willingly date you?" He towered over her, yet the petite girl did not stand down.
"This was your idea!" Usagi yelled, with an incredulous look of shock on her face.
"I just felt bad. I was trying to help you out!"
"We'll be breaking up much sooner than the Halloween dance." Tears pricked her eyes, and she willed herself not to cry.
"And you'll end up going alone, as usual," he added cruelly, instantly feeling his cheeks flush with guilt.
"That's better than going with you," her voice shook as her lip quivered. Mamoru's shoulders dropped – he hadn't truly meant a word of it. "Just forget about it," she mumbled coldly, turning her back to him and choking back tears.
"Usagi, wait. I'm sorry," he spoke softly, his apology warming her soured demeanour. She paused mid-step, knowing that if they continued, this would only happen again.
"Mamoru, I can't do this all the time," she stated, defeated. "I get tired of fighting," she admitted, facing him with a heavy sigh.
"I do too," he replied, his voice soothing her wounds. He took a step towards her, the corners of his lips tugging into a shy smile.
"Then why do you – "
"I don't know," he cut her off, placing his hands on her shoulders. "But I'm sorry." Usagi searched his cobalt eyes for a sign of honesty, and her face lit up, knowing that this time, he was truly sincere.
"Okay," she nodded in acceptance.
"I never want to make you cry," he whispered, using the pad of his thumb to wipe the tears that had begrudgingly spilled to her cheeks. He ached to lean in and kiss her perfectly pink lips, but knew it was best to resist. So instead they stood, momentarily basking in the tranquility of the moment. "Come on, don't you want to see the look on your friends faces when we show up together?" Mamoru's grin became infectious, and Usagi couldn't help but do the same.
"Yeah, I do." With a newfound truce, they took off towards the car. Usagi suddenly realized that they had never discussed any sort of story; they were going to have to do some explaining after all. But instead of interrupting the calm mood, she made the decision to let him take care of it.