Disclaimer: Sailormoon is owned by Naoko Takeuchi.
A red sports car sped through the streets of Azabu district. It's destination Azabu General Hospital. The car was going so fast its tires screeched when it stopped at an intersection after the traffic light had just turned red.
"Come on!" Mamoru glared at the offending red light above. His sudden movements caused a searing pain to shoot into his head. He was starting to regret letting his best friend Motoki give him a homecoming party last night. The hangover and waking up late for his interview at the hospital was not worth the trouble of going even to his own party. He hated social gatherings.
A high pitched ring from his cell phone made him cringe at the sound. He felt for his phone in the inside pocket of his black blazer while checking the traffic light. It was still red.
"Hai. Chiba Mamoru desu." Trying to hide his discomfort by being polite was also a painful feat at the moment but he had to. He could not afford to be rude if it was the hospital calling him. He was already late for his 8 AM appointment with the Hospital Director.
"Yo Mamoru-kun!" He yanked the phone from his ear followed by a few choice words.
"Damn it Motoki! I haven't been back 48 hours and you're already starting to make me regret it. This had better be important." He checked the traffic light again and it had just turned yellow although there were still pedestrians crossing the street.
"Oh you love me just admit it. So how did the interview go?"
"I'm still on my way there no thanks to you."
"Too late to be a party poo…"
"Time's up. Bye." He pressed the END call button and tossed the phone on the seat beside him when the last pedestrian reached he safety of the sidewalk and he drove off.
Usagi glanced at the digital clock on the dashboard of her car. 8:15. She couldn't remove the big smile on her face when she caught sight of the carpark building of Azabu Hospital two blocks away. She was actually going to be on time for her final interview with Head Nurse Suzuki at 8:30. She grabbed her phone from her bag and dialed a number when she got into the queue of cars lined up to get inside the parking building.
"Hello Meatball Head. Calling to call off the bet already?" Usagi was able to let the name calling slip. She was in a cheerfully gloating mood, something that rarely happened when it came to Rei Hino in all of their 8 years of being best friends, 4 years as dorm mates, 1 month as housemates with their other best friend Makoto Kino.
"Time check 8:20 and I'm in the parking lot. Ha! You might want to buy an automatic dishwasher Rei. You doing the dishes for a whole week is gonna be quite tough. And I'm gonna be enjoying every minute of it."
"3 things Meatball Head. One, you haven't actually parked yet. Two, it's at least a 5-minute walk to your appointment." With a frown, Usagi made a quick check to see if Rei could actually see her or perhaps had a spy nearby. There were still 2 cars ahead of her lined up to get into the building. "Three, tardiness is part of your genetic makeup. You wouldn't be Usagi Meatball Head Tsukino if not for your tardiness and klutz attacks. But if you're feeling confident shall we raise the stakes higher to 2 weeks?"
"I… Ack!" Usagi put both feet on the brake pedal when a red sports car cut in front of her as she was entering the building almost hitting her car.
"Asshole!" She cried out.
"Usagi?! Are you okay? Hello?" Her friend's confident voice had turned into worry.
"I'm okay, talk to you later. And you're on." She placed the phone the seat beside her as she entered the building.
On the fourth level of the carpark building and still trying to find an available slot, Mamoru was thinking of possible excuses he could tell his future employer for his tardiness on a job interview.
Traffic? Helped an old lady cross the street. Yeah right. Got lost on the way? Jetlag. Oh thank God!
Mamoru spotted an SUV moving out of its space upon entering the 5th level of the building. He stopped a few meters ahead of the spot to park in reverse. But before he could move his car, his phone rang again. He put his foot on the brake before answering the phone replaying in his mind the Jetlag excuse.
"Hai. Chiba Mamoru desu."
"So how about lunch?" replied a cheerful male voice on the other end.
"Motoki! Stop calling me." I can't believe this guy. He switched off his phone and was about to start moving his car again when he spotted a white Toyota Corolla had just moved into the now occupied parking space. Furious, he pulled the handbrake and got out of his car.
"Hey!" Mamoru called as he approached the driver who had just gotten out of her car. "You…" Whatever is was he intended to say got stuck in his throat. Besides the fact that she was probably the most beautiful woman he had seen in … ever, he was struck with the feeling of nostalgia looking at her sky blue eyes through his dark sunglasses. Her golden blonde hair was tied in a ponytail behind her head and yet he felt as if it was out of place somehow. Like it should be in two pigtails on each side of her head… like odangos.
"Yes?" She stood there by her open door to look at him.
"I… You…" He stopped himself before continuing and making a complete fool out of himself. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Mamoru Chiba never lost his cool and the blonde before him who didn't even come up to his chin was able to do just that. The murderous intent was almost a pleasant feeling that came back to him.
"Could you please remove your car." He commanded.
"Huh?" It was all Usagi could manage to say as she was dumbfounded at the guy's words. She was getting even more annoyed for every second that she was losing for her appointment to the taller man. Any other day she might have been intimidated noting how angry he looked and seemingly directed at her but she was already late for her final interview for her job. The one time in her life when she was almost on time only to be stopped by him.
"I said if you could just remove…"
"I heard you the first time." Usagi put up a hand to stop him. "I just wasn't sure I heard them right."
"Well at least your ears are working."
"Just what the hell is your problem?!"
"My problem is your car in my parking slot!"
"Your slot?" She made a quick check at the wall her car faced to see if she had parked on a reserved slot. She didn't. "Really."
"I was just backing up and then you just come out of nowhere conveniently parking in my slot."
"I see." Usagi recognized the red car as the one that had almost hit her car earlier.
"Your eyes are working now too. We're making progress! Now if you could just get a move on because I'm already late…"
"Shoot!" Usagi exclaimed and went to her car.
"Glad you see my point." Mamoru felt a little bad for the way he told her off as he started back to his car. But at the moment, he couldn't afford niceties. Bedside manner was something doctors did when checking on patients not on dumb blondes who didn't know about road courtesies. Albeit a very beautiful dumb blonde. When he heard the sound of a car door slamming and shuffling feet he looked back to where the she was parked.
"What the?!" He got out of his car again and saw the girl running towards the entrance of the building with her bag and coat. "Hey!"
"Any other day I would have loved to stay and chat but thanks for reminding me of how much time I've wasted on you!" She called out not looking back at him.
Looking at her retreating figure sent another familiar feeling in him. One of amusement that he couldn't quite place. He wanted to run after her but knew it was futile.
The blaring sounds of car horns shook him out of his stupor. Three cars have lined up because they couldn't get through with his car blocking the road. With muttered curses he went back to his car to hopefully find another available slot.
"Welcome to Azabu General Hospital Nurse Tsukino." An older woman who seemed to be in her early forties and wearing a Nurse's uniform smiled and extended her hand to Usagi. "We've very happy to have you working with us. Finally."
"Thank you Suzuki-san. It's my pleasure. But please, call me Usagi." She smile as she took the offered hand.
"It seems only yesterday that you and Ami Mizuno would do volunteer work here during your free time in high school. What with young people these days wasting their time in arcades, gossiping, or shopping."
"Ahehe.. well you know, helpin' out people is just as fun." Usagi fought to not let her smile falter at the mention of what used to be her favorite pastimes with her friends when she was still in middle school. They still were actually except for the arcardes. Only occasionally.
"So how is Ami-chan doing?"
"She told me that she'll be starting her internship here next week. We're so excited that we get to work together here as well."
"Oh that's nice. Both of you were always the favorites among patients."
Usagi could only smile. She wasn't sure how the patients really felt about her then. Or if it was because of the things she was able to do to help without their knowledge.
"Well, I won't keep you here for long. I'm sure you have other important things to attend to. See you tomorrow at eight okay?"
"Hai. Until tomorrow then Suzuki-san." Usagi gave a light bow before turning to leave.
"Hi. I'm Chiba Mamoru. I have an appointment with Dr. Mizuno." The reception at the Information desk snapped her head to look up at him. He was prepared for a rude reply when she suddenly smiled brightly up at him and stopped typing in her keyboard.
"Hello. My name is Hayama Saori. You can call me Saori." She stood on her side of the desk to extend her hand to Mamoru.
He gingerly took the offered hand and tried to smile back. A second ago she could almost see a Do Not Disturb sign on her forehead as she typed furiously on her keyboard.
"So, Dr. Minuzo was it? Are you a patient?"
"No, I was supposed to have an interview at 8am for a position here at the hospital." Mamoru check the clock on the wall above her head. It was 8:55.
"Hmm.. That's too bad. Dr. Mizuno is usually very strict with her schedules. But I'll see what I can do." She winked at him and started dialing a number.
"Thank you." He had no doubt in his mind that the nice receptionist was clearly flirting with him now. As much as it annoyed him, he hand no choice at the moment to take advantage of the situation. As long as it gets me the job.
"So I was just on the phone with Dr. Mizuno's secretary. The doctor is unavailable at the moment but someone will be with you shortly."
"Thank you very much Saori." He gave her a quick smile and went to sit on the bench nearby. He pulled out his phone and dialed Motoki's number.
"Hey buddy! So how did it go?" Motoki answered on the other end after three rings.
"Nothing yet. But just so you know, if I don't get this job you will be paying for my return trip to America."
"Look man, they practically begged for you to come and work in that hospital. 15 minutes late ain't so big a deal."
"I'm an hour late."
"Yes. Really." Mamoru looked over at the receptionists' desk and saw Saori talking to a nurse and pointing at him.
"So can you meet me for lunch over at the Arcade? There's someone I want you to meet or rather re-meet.."
"I gotta go. I'll call you when I'm done here." Without another word, he closed his phone and stood up to meet the nurse headed towards him.
"Dr. Mamoru Chiba?"
"Yes, that's me."
"My name is Sakura Suzuki. I'm the Head Nurse here."
"Nice to meet you Suzuki-san." He quickly retracted his right hand and proceed to return the light bow that the older woman gave.
"I'm sorry. I…"
"That's quite alright. I understand you've been studying medicine in America these past few years?" She looked up at him with a light smile on her face.
"Yes. I received an invitation from this hospital over a month ago to work here and I just grabbed at the opportunity to practice my profession here in my hometown."
"And I'm terribly sorry for being late. I just arrived yesterday afternoon and what with the jetlag and all." The older woman's smile was making him uncomfortable by the second.
"Completely understandable, don't worry." She replied. Somehow though, he couldn't find comfort in her words and unchanged expression.
"Dr. Mizuno dropped by my office this morning to tell me that she couldn't wait for you any longer because she had an important board meeting to attend."
"I see." He'd prepared himself for this moment and kept a neutral expression.
"The final interview is just for formality as all your correspondences have been through e-mail and over the phone. And as I've heard, you came very highly recommended by your professors here before and those from America. The position is yours if you still want it."
Do I ever.
"Thank you Suzuki-san. Yes, it would be an honor for me to work here." He bowed low.
"And we are honored to have a fine young doctor such as yourself working with us." She replied bowing low as well. "Well, I will just go and get the documents left for you back at my office. Can you start tomorrow?"
"Yes, of course. Thanks." He replied trying not to sound too eager.
"I'll be back shortly." With that, she left him and he wanted to jump for joy but fought the urge to do so. He pulled out his phone from his pocked and dialed Motoki's number. He winked at Saori when he saw her looking at him.
"Hey Minako-chan! Motoki!" Usagi greeted her friends as she entered the Crown Arcade. Motoki had his arm draped on Minako's waist as they sat in adjacent stools in the counter.
"Usagi-chan! So how did it go?" Minako got off her stool to face Usagi clasping her hands in hers.
"I'm in! I got the job!" Both girls were jumping for joy causing some of the other patrons to look at them.
"You got in where?" Motoki was looking at them with an amused smile.
"Oh Motoki-niisan! Starting tomorrow I'm gonna be officially working as Azabu General Hospital's newest nurse." Usagi beamed.
"Wow Usagi-chan! Congratulations." They hugged each other briefly. Usagi's teenage crush on him had turned into brotherly affection. Especially now that he was dating one of her best friends.
"I'm really happy for you. Like you're all grown up and working. Seems only yesterday you used to come here everyday after school playing video games and drinking milkshakes."
"And you can actually pay for all those milkshakes now Odango Atama. Hi Motoki, Minako-chan."
Usagi shot daggers at Rei's back as she passed by them on her way to their usual booth where their other friends Makoto and Ami were talking.
"You're just jealous because I got free milkshakes every now and then!" She called to her. "Right Motoki-niisan?" She turned her attention back to Motoki.
"Free is free Usagi-chan."
"Come on Usagi, let's join the others. Motoki?" Minako held one of her friend's arms ready to drag her to their table.
"You go on ahead, I'll join you in a while. I'm just waiting for a friend."
"Say Usagi," Motoki called out when they had taken but two steps away. "did you say Azabu General Hospital?"
"Yup! The one and only."
"Oh nothing... yet." Motoki muttered the last word when they were out of earshot.
"Usagi congratulations!" Makoto beamed from where she sat in between Rei and Ami.
"Yeah Usagi. We knew you could do it." Ami added duplicating the tall brunette's expression.
"Thanks girls." Usagi smiled as she sat down in the both beside Rei and her back towards the arcade entrance. Minako sat across her beside Ami.
"Yeah, like I knew you'd be late for that interview."
"I wasn't..." She paused when the raven-haired girl raised an eyebrow to look at her. "Fine." Fine she sighed. "But for the record, I would've been actually early by 5 minutes if not more if it weren't for that jerk who..."
"Technicalities Usagi. Late is late. That's two weeks of dishwashing duty for you and you can start tonight. Makoto will be cooking a feast just for you."
"Really Mako-chan?" Usagi looked at her tall friend hopefully. Ignoring the sarcasm in Rei's voice.
"Of course. This is a reason for celebration after all." Makoto smiled and took a sip on her tea.
"Have I told you how much I love you Mako-chan?"
"As much as your next meal." Rei added.
"That would be a first for today." Makoto replied.
"But don't you have work tonight? Will the restaurant be okay without you"
"I told them that something important came up. I'm sure Hikaru can handle it." Makoto answered referring to the sous-chef at Chez Henri where she worked.
"By the way Rei, does your PR job let you have spies working for you? I swear it's just creepy how situationally-accurate you are sometimes." Usagi took a sip on the chocolate milkshake in front of her that her friends had ordered for her.
"If I told you I would have to kill you." Rei took a casual sip at her coffee before continuing. "And besides, I'm psychic."
"Yeah and I'm the princess of the moon."
"So Rei-chan, any big events coming up?" Minako asked.
"Well, there's been talk lately about the Three Lights doing a concert here. Final negotiations are still ongoing but it looks like we'll get the project if it comes through."
"Wow! The Three Lights?" Minako cried. "I can't wait to work with them again. Yaten Kou is so cute!" Minako had become known as a famous commercial and ramp model since their college days.
"Minako, don't you have Motoki-niisan already? What if he hears you?"
"Motoki is Motoki and Yaten is Yaten. He gets that. And could you please drop the niisan already? It's kinda creepy when he treats you like a sister and you're practically my sister too, like all of you are, so..."
"Only you would think that Minako-chan." Makoto cut in. "So Ami, you're gonna be at the same hospital as Usagi too right?"
"Yeah! I told Suzuki-san you're starting next week for your internship."
"Well, I'm not really all thrilled about the idea actually."
"Why not?" Makoto asked
"I'm the hospital Director's daughter. That in itself is something to be scared about. I'd always be known as Dr. Madoka Mizuno's daughter."
"Oh cheer up Ami-chan. You know as they say, the apple does not fall far from the tree."
"Wow Minako, you actually got the quote right but I fail to see how that applies to Ami right now."
Minako looked at Makoto and then at Ami and back to Makoto. "Well sure it does. Ami's mom is a well-known doctor and Ami is...well, you know, Ami."
"When I was young I've always dreamed of working with my mother. And I've always wanted to become a doctor. But the idea of her shadow always looming over me at the same hospital is just...well, daunting."
Usagi felt bad but couldn't offer comforting words at the moment to her short-haired friend. She knew that the primary reason Ami was doing her internship at the hospital was because of her. She once had the opportunity to further her studies in Germany but she stayed with her.
"Then why don't you just try other hospitals? I'm sure they'd be just as happy to have you, if not more." Minako asked.
"Well, its just two years at most until I finish my internship. And besides, Azabu General Hospital is one of the most famous hospitals in the country. I think I'll manage to endure those two years to get that much boost in my medical career."
Usagi met Ami's smile. It was a secret known only to both of them why they did volunteer work at the hospital then. And for those same reasons they stayed with the same hospital.
"Pardon the interruption ladies." Motoki announced behind Usagi. "Allow me to..."
"You!" Usagi exclaimed and stood up when she saw the ebony-haired man standing beside Motoki. He was wearing the same dark sunglasses since she last saw him earlier that morning in the parking lot. The same air of arrogance and confidence that infuriated her and somehow seemed eerily familiar.
Mamoru slowly removed his sunglasses to look at her. Her cerulean blue eyes were the same as he remembered them many years ago and this morning. The golden hair that shone in the sun missing the odangos he used to tease her about. He now understood what it was about her that felt so pleasantly familiar when he first saw her and how arguing with her felt so natural in the parking lot.
"Yo. Odango Atama." He grinned at her and at the recognition dawning on her face as she finally figured out who he really was.