Disclaimer: Sailormoon universe belongs to Naoko Takeuchi. But this story is mine, and I am not abandoning it :)
Usagi made her way to the fire exit when the elevator doors opened to the topmost floor. The seriousness in Mamoru's voice over the phone at her station left her nervous at the urgency that he had demanded that she meet with him at her secret place. Even though she had hesitated at first when he had flatly refused to tell her what it was over the phone, curiosity won her over. She couldn't think of a single reason that would call for such a meeting. Their last encounter had been when he had invited her to watch a play. She didn't think that he would've gone to such lengths to cancel. And she couldn't help but feel disappointed at the thought.
She didn't see him near the rails where they both had been leaning on last time they were here. She walked around the concrete walls of the fire exit and saw him leaning with his back to the wall. The sun was already setting and his face was partly covered by the shadow of the wall he was leaning on.
He made no indication that he heard her. She felt slight panic rising within her when she was able to see his face clearly. She had seen him frustrated, irritated, at her before but not quite like the expression he wore now.
"Hey Chiba," she stepped closer. "something wrong? Are you okay?"
She stopped in her approach when his head moved halfway in her direction. She was rooted to the spot waiting for him to say something. He straightened slowly, and strode towards her. When his deep blue eyes finally met hers, she almost stepped back at the intensity of his gaze. The calmness around him and the controlled breaths he took had opposite effect on her that she bit her lower lip as she tried to maintain eye contact. Standing less than two feet apart, he held up a piece of paper to her. Usagi's eyes went to what seemed to be a torn page of a magazine and then back at him. When it became apparent that she wouldn't be able to get a word out of him, she took the paper. With both hands, she smoothed out the edges to open it fully. Her eyes quickly found Seiya Kou and his brothers. She saw the date had been marked with an orange highlighter pen. Her eyes widened and she looked up at Mamoru whose expression remained unchanged as he looked at her. Her eyebrows furrowed as her eyes went back to the picture. The StarLights were in a press conference announcing the release of their latest album. Also marked out was Seiya's left hand holding one of the microphones in front of him. The picture had been taken almost a week ago.
"I.. I don't understand...How-"
"I believe the correct question is 'why?'" He finished for her, his tone even.
She looked up at him.
He took another controlled breath before answering. "Why go through all that trouble when in the end... you were just gonna do it anyway?"
"Do what?" A familiar feeling of anger was replacing the panic and nervousness that she'd felt earlier.
"This!" He pointed roughly at Seiya's picture. "And stop acting innocent because it's not gonna work this time."
"Look, I don't know what exactly you're accusing me of here. I'm just as surprised as you are-"
"Surprised?" He took a step back, smiling sardonically. "That's putting it a little too mildly, don't you think?"
"What did I ever do to you?" Usagi's voice rose.
"That's exactly what I want to know." He held her by the shoulders. "What happened that day in the park? What did you do to me? To Seiya? How?"
The fear and nervousness came back as he held her close, their faces less than a foot apart. She struggled in his grasp but his hands were firm.
"I didn't... I had nothing to do with Seiya's-"
The next thing she knew his lips had made contact with hers. She was too shocked to react, except to close her eyes. And at this Mamoru deepened the kiss. His hands went from her shoulders to her back, enveloping her. Usagi's mind went blank as her other non-thinking senses took over. She held on to him to keep steady as her mind registered that her knees would not be able to hold her up.
The high-pitched ring of his pager, however, pulled the rationality back like the snap of an elastic band effectively separating them. Or rather, her from him. Usagi looked at him with the same confusion in her eyes, and something else not quite anger, their breaths labored.
"Usagi," He swallowed and made a step towards her. "I..."
He was stopped in his tracks when Usagi's right palm made contact with his cheek. Not trusting herself to say or do anything else in front of him, she quickly turned and made her way back inside the building.
When the elevator doors opened to the lobby, he was surprised to find a large crowd a few meters away. His eyes blinked a few times when a camera flash went off, followed by a few more. Some of the other passengers inside the elevator went ahead of him to see what the commotion was all about. Taking advantage of his height, he looked on as well but not making a step towards the crowd. His eyes squinted at the familiar looking bald head that stood out. Recognition struck him soon after and he knew that it could only mean one thing. Not quite looking forward to the re-encounter, he quickly made his way to the main doors. Twenty steps that looked too far away with the number of people that were currently coming in and the security personnel that was trying to hold up against the influx of fans.
He heard his name called, but kept on.
"Dr. Chiba! Hey, Dr. Chiba!"
He stopped at the third mention of his name. He took a deep breath before turning towards the direction of the voice. Sure enough, it was Seiya Kou that had called out, and was currently walking towards him. Just a step behind him was Nomura, and Usagi. The latter was not looking at him, and looked very much like she didn't want to be there either. Two more of Seiya's bodyguards came in and shielded them from the crowd.
"Kou-san," he put on smile. "how are you?"
"Please," Seiya held out his left hand to him, his eyes as bright as his smile. "call me Seiya."
He felt it awkward to shake another person's hand using his left hand, but understood what Seiya wanted to do. He felt Seiya tighten his grip a bit and he was looking at Mamoru as if waiting on his approval.
"May I?" Mamoru asked.
Using his fingers from both of his hands, he felt for the area where there had been most supposedly permanent damage in Seiya's left hand. He wasn't sure what he expected to find. For one thing, the ones that were permanently damaged were the nerves. Bones and muscles would heal in time. But he was desperate. Anything would be good enough so that he would be wrong in his accusations of Usagi. Anything that would give him an excuse to talk to her and apologize.
"Wow," he said and let go of the hand. "Nothing... I mean.."
"That's exactly what my doctor said," Seiya said. "that there was nothing wrong with my hand."
"You've seen a doctor?"
"I had to. I wasn't sure if I should be scared or excited when my hand twitched when I got home about 3 weeks ago."
Mamoru's eyes went to Usagi but she was looking up at Seiya, her expression unreadable.
"At first Dr. Kinoshita thought you'd made a grave mistake," Seiya went on. Usagi's eyes met his for a moment before turning back to Seiya. "then I showed her the x-rays, the medical records, and she was speechless."
His eyes made a sweep in Usagi's general direction before looking at Seiya again, and managed a small smile. "There are times Seiya-san," he said. "wherein doctors make mistakes. You don't know how much I wished that I was wrong with your case. I could've prevented..." his eyes went to Usagi again who refused to meet his gaze. "unnecessary hurt." His eyes returned to Seiya. "But I am happy for you."
"Don't sweat it, doc. If anything, it made me a better, stronger person," Seiya turned to Usagi. "You are the best thing that happened to me in this whole thing, Odango." He took one of her hands in both of his. "Believe me it was worth the trouble of getting run over by a bus."
"You'd be surprised at the statistics," Mamoru forced a smile as he looked at them.
"Nothing," he said with a wave of his hand. "just a silly joke that Nurse Tsukino and I share. If you'll excuse me," He held out his hand to Seiya. "I have an appointment to make. It was good to see again, Seiya-san."
Usagi was glad to find the apartment empty when she came home. She didn't have to prepare dinner because Rei was out on a date with Yuichirou and Makoto had already gone to work. Her dinner was in the oven where Makoto had left it for her. However, food was the farthest thing from her mind at the moment.
While putting up her keys near the coat rack in the foyer, her eyes caught a glimpse of the red mark around the number 23 in the calendar. In it was the first character of Yuichiriou's name and a heart beside it. It was Thursday and her mind went back to a particular Thursday afternoon many years ago.
She unfolded the test paper in her hand once again, easily side-stepping a kid on a skateboard going the opposite direction. Any other day, she might have gone after that kid bellowing road rules of safety and pedestrians. But not today.
'90% Good work!' She mouthed the words from her Math finals. She didn't care if anybody looked at her funny for the wide smile she wore. Not even that ego-centric, devil-spawn Mamoru-baka on his best day could throw an insult at her and make her flinch. Truth was, she was anxious to run into him. She felt the glow of gloating energy flowing around her. Albeit their usual encounter should have happened 2 blocks ago. Today was Thursday. Mamoru was always hanging at Crown Arcade with Motoki around this time after his classes at the university. She puffed her chest and with a determined pace headed for Crown Arcade. With a score like this, she was sure she'd be able to smooch a free milkshake from Motoki, and something to eat as well. But that came second to the anticipation of finally being able to see the dumbstruck expression on Mamoru Chiba's face when he sees her test paper.
"Hey-!" She was stopped when she didn't see the familiar figure with the green blazer hunched over on the bar stool. And instead of Motoki, she saw his younger sister Unazuki talking to one of the male customers. She heard someone mutter something behind her and she moved from the doorway.
"Usagi-san," Unazuki smiled and waved at her. "over here!" She smiled back and came over. She settled herself on _his_ stool.
"Unazuki-chan," Usagi put her testpaper back in her skirt's pocket. "what a surprise to see you here."
"Onii-san wanted me to cover for him while drives Mamoru-san to the airport. What can I get you today? Let me see, Onii-san said you'd want your usual chocolate milkshake with extra syrup..."
Usagi blinked. "Sorry, what?"
"You want marshmallows for toppings?"
"Uh... no. What... what did you say about Mamoru going to the airport?"
"Oh," Unazuki raised her eyebrows in mild surprise. "didn't they tell you?"
Usagi shook her head slowly.
Unazuki beamed. "Mamoru got a scholarship grant to study in America! Can you imagine? He gets to go to America, full scholarship, sponsorship, everything!" When Usagi didn't respond, she went on. "Onii-san says he probably won't be back for a while. Like, we'll be lucky if he even gets to visit once a year." She looked at Usage and noticed that the latter had kept silent, with a blank expression on her face, and slightly pale. "Usagi-san, are you okay?"
Usagi blinked, her mind going back to the present conversation and her eyes focused back to Unazuki. "Yeah," she forced a smile. "That's really great. For Mamoru. Something had to come out of him being a smart aleck, smartass, hunched over a book or other on this stool everyday, right? Even though he is the biggest jerk here in Juuban, he shouldn't get into much trouble over there. They're bigger there and he wouldn't be that much of a bully."
Unazuki smiled. "Yeah. So uh..."
"You know what," Usagi stood up. "I just remembered I had to meet the girls at Rei's after school today. You know, finals results and all."
"Sure." Unazuki smiled and watched Usagi head out of the Crown Arcade, shoulders slumped.
Eight years ago he left. And she felt cheated that he didn't even say goodbye. Didn't even give her the chance to show him her Math exam results, and gloat for at least the entire summer vacation. When she'd had hoped that maybe his teasing would stop and he wouldn't point out to her all the time how dumb she was. That maybe he'd realize that she could be good at something. That maybe she would be good enough for him. But he left and that was the end of that. Perhaps she would have been able to gloat about graduating college if she hadn't been trying to evade him for what had happened the day before their first day at work at Azabu General Hospital.
And now this. She groaned as she sat on her bed still wearing her nurse's uniform. One moment he would be teasing her, then bringing her treats, invite her to watch a play, and then he'd be angry, accusing her, and then kissing her. And she had kissed him back. She felt heat rise up in her neck and face as the incident from the roof filled her mind. She bit her thumb, her eyes unseeing as she pulled her legs close to her chest. She looked at her right palm as if she could still feel the sting when it made contact with his cheek. She found that ironic for someone with her abilities. She blushed when she remembered the other sensations of that afternoon as well. The beeping of his pager was the wake-up call she needed because she wasn't sure what might have happened if that hadn't separated them. Not that they would have gone beyond kissing, but it reminded her that she was supposed to be angry at him. She had followed that up reality check with a slap to his face. And just when she thought she had escaped him to keep a few moments to herself to think, Seiya showed up. There she saw for herself what Mamoru had been accusing her of.
How would she face him the next time they met in the hallway? With all of the doubts from Seiya's mysterious recovery, and his suspicions about her-though she would never admit to anything. And that kiss. And all the things she was starting to feel again. Feelings she'd thought she'd forgotten many years ago. Silly teenaged crush.
She wondered if she should just tell him everything and come clean with it. That would erase the doubts about her power but raise a whole lot of other questions. Questions she wasn't supposed to answer to protect Hotaru who was now back in Juuban. It was bigger than her and she wasn't sure she was ready to trust Mamoru with it, or if she should.
"Do you have Dr. Urawa's number?" Motoki asked Mamoru who sat on the stool beside him on the bar. "I want to give him a personal invitation for the opening.
"No. Why would I have his number? Ask Ami," Mamoru answered and took a sip of his coffee.
Motoki frowned. "That's very cold of you. I thought you were buddies."
"It just didn't occur to me to ask for his number, okay?" As eventful as the day had been for him, he found that he didn't want to be alone with his thoughts at the moment as would have been usual for him. He wanted to distract himself for much longer if he could help it, and not think of Usagi. For this reason, he went straight to Motoki's coffee shop that was in the same block as Azabu General Hospital.
"Argh!" Motoki groaned after pressing a few buttons on his cell phone. "I don't have Ami's number on this phone." He turned to his friend. "I don't suppose..."
"Yes, I have her number." He let out an exasperated sigh and reached for his phone in his jacket's side pocket. Motoki caught sight of something that fell on the floor.
"What's this?" Motoki asked as he picked up the piece of paper. "The Kiss of Selene... a play?" He turned to Mamoru. "You're watching a play? By yourself?"
Mamoru looked at the ticket for a moment and then took out the other one inside his pocket placing it on the counter before Motoki along with Ami Mizuno's number on a napkin. "Here. Take your girlfriend to a classy date."
"Just so you know," said Motoki taking the other ticket into his hand. "I do take her to these kinds of places. And not that I mind the generosity-'cause Kami knows that's a rarity with you, why would you have tickets to a play?" Motoki's eyes narrowed. "Unless..."
Instead of answering, Mamoru took another sip of his coffee.
Motoki's eye widened. "Wow. So you were gonna go on a date and someone actually dumped you?" Then his brows furrowed again. "But, what about Usagi then?"
He let out an exasperated sigh. "I was gonna go with Usagi."
Motoki could only blink and studied his friend's features for a few moments. "Perhaps," he said finally. "you were moving too fast…"
"She already said yes before I got the tickets."
"I don't understand..."
Mamoru turned his head towards the street outside, the siren coming from the ambulance getting his attention. So much for not wanting to think about Usagi. He thought to himself.
"I don't think she wants to go anymore," he said. "And... neither do I."
Motoki crossed his arms. "What did you fight about this time?"
"Hmm…. What did you do?"
"I... can't give you all the details. But suffice to say that she... she lied to me, okay?" His face hardened when his eyes landed on the flower shop across the street, in particular, the bouquet of white roses on display. "She kept something from me… Something that was just as important to me as it was to her. And then I kissed her. And then she slapped me."
"Okay." Motoki leaned back a bit, his left elbow leaning on the edge of the counter as he studied his friend's face for a few moments. "And it happened in that order, not the reverse?"
Mamoru nodded and took a sip of his coffee.
"Wow." Motoki turned so that his body was facing the bar and he put both of his elbows on the counter. "How do you get yourself into these situations?"
He chuckled. "You tell me. You've been around long enough."
Motoki sighed. "I wish. I really wish I could. I've always known Usagi to be sweet, gentle, and could never hurt a fly. But you always manage to prove me wrong. Just you."
Mamoru turned his head to face his best friend of nearly 10 years. "You really think that you know her that much, huh?"
Motoki frowned slightly. "What is that supposed to mean?"
"No, not nothing. Tell me." Motoki turned to face Mamoru again. "You're my friend and Usagi is like a little sister to me. I should be able to do something to clear out this misunderstanding."
"It's not a misunderstanding, Motoki. She chooses to show a different side to people, but I've seen her for what she really is. A hypocrite, and a liar. A very good one too. Had me fooled until I found her out."
"Right. So we, me and her best friends, who have known her for about 12 years-give or take, have all been fooled. And you, who's known for what, 3 years-cumulative, have unmasked her for who she really is?"
Mamoru shook his head. "I can't win this conversation with you." He got up to leave.
On his way to door, Mamoru saw the banner that was going up on the day of the official opening. Up until then, he hadn't bothered to ask his friend what the name of the coffee was going to be. "Crown Cafe," he read aloud and then turned back to his friend. "Seriously? You couldn't think of another name for your own first business venture. And I thought you were excited."
"It's called branding," Motoki replied grinning at his friend. "By the way, even though you and Usagi are at it again, I still expect you to be on your best behavior because she'll be here. And you can't-"
"Yes. You don't have to remind me that you're holding this opening party for my sake. Which, by the way, I still think is pretty dumb. You know I don't like parties."
"See?" Motoki stood up facing his friend. "That's how much I love you man. You and Usagi. And nothing would make me happier than-"
"Okay, stop." Mamoru held out a hand. "Let's not go there. I've had enough of your darling Usagi-chan for today."
Sunlight illuminated Usagi's room. By its brightness she guessed it was probably about 9:30. She lay wide awake in her bed staring at the bright ceiling. Before she went to bed last night she was relieved to remember that it was her day off today and tomorrow. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to let her sleep through most of the night. She would never admit it to anyone that Mamoru Chiba intimidated her. That next to thunderstorms, spiders, and snakes, the guy perturbed her. Now more than ever. Her thoughts were disturbed when her phone rang.
"Usagi-chan, you're awake?" Ami asked from the other end.
"Yeah, Ami. What's up?"
"Just checking if we're still on for lunch."
Usagi groaned inwardly. She'd also forgotten that it was Ami's day off too today and that they were going to spend it together to check on the information that she'd gathered about the Tenous. "Yeah. Crown Arcade at 11:30."
"Alright. Um.. Usagi-chan, everything okay? Did something happen?"
'Where to begin?' she thought to herself. "I'm okay, Ami-chan. But there's something I need to tell you. See you at lunch."
"Wait wait," Usagi put her hand over Ami's hand on the keyboard. "Go back."
Ami hit the key to scroll back to the previous page, showing the picture of Michiru Kaioh and a tall blond, wearing a white tuxedo. The picture had been taken at a celebrity gala over 2 years ago.
"I know him," Usagi pointed at the screen. "That's the guy who helped me and Minako the other day at the parking lot when my car broke down."
"You mean her?"
"No, him," Usagi's index finger almost touched the screen. "Haruka Tenou."
"Yes, Usagi-chan," Ami said patiently. "her. She's woman."
Usagi looked at her friend and then inched nearer to the 10" monitor of her Ami's netbook. She leaned back, her mind going back to how Minako had swooned about her, and very obvious about it. "Huh. Minako's gonna be disappointed."
"Anyway," said Ami. "as I was saying, Haruka Tenou adopted Hotaru and gave her her last name even though Michiru Kaioh is Hotaru's aunt."
"Sounds suspicious doesn't it?" Usagi said, taking a sip of her iced tea. "I mean, it's as if they're purposely trying to hide her identity. Or her past."
"To people who are looking for her, yeah it would. But other than that, it would seem like just any other normal adoption process."
"And the Tenous got lucky Michiru's niece landed in their laps in an orphanage in Germany?"
"And now they're living in Dr. Tomoe's old mansion? I don't think so."
Usagi shrugged and took a bite of her chocolate mousse.
"Obviously, there's more to it than that. What I'm curious to know is why they brought her back here to Japan. If they are trying to protect Hotaru, why bring her back here?"
Both girls were silent each in their own thoughts until Ami closed her laptop. "I'll let you know when I find out more."
Usagi noted how her friend had said 'when' and not 'if'. She didn't know anyone else as diligent, or as persistent, as Ami Mizuno when it came to finding information. Almost the same as Minako's obsession for celebrity gossip.
"Your turn," Ami said turning her full attention to Usagi. "What was it that you said you needed to tell me that the others couldn't know. Is it about…."
Usagi nodded and took a deep breath. "Seiya's back."
"So I heard."
"And he can move his hand. The broken hand."
Ami's brows furrowed. "What are you saying?"
"His hand is fully recovered. He says it happened after he got discharged."
Ami was quiet for a few moments. "You didn't..."
"No," Usagi said firmly. "It wasn't me."
"You're 100% sure? Subconsciously-"
"Yes, I'm sure."
Ami leaned back and let out a breath. "Must be someone else then. Just as Hotaru had said before, there are others."
Noticing that her friend was still tense, Ami leaned closer. "Usagi?"
"Mamoru thinks I did it."
Usagi waited patiently as she waited for Ami to recover from her last statement. They had made a pact after Usagi first asked her to keep her secret between themselves, that everything related to Usagi's abilities was not to be kept from the other. Ami had made a set of rules for both of them, what to do and when. And she had broken the first and most important one.
"And why would he think that?" Ami said finally.
Usagi went on to relay what had happened in the park the day that Mamoru got back. "... until yesterday, the topic hadn't come up. Until he saw that magazine article."
Ami massaged the bridge of her nose. "Usagi, why didn't you tell me all of this sooner?"
"I thought I had it under control. I thought I was doing just fine brushing him off. And it worked. For a time."
"Obviously, it doesn't sound like he was convinced," Ami leaned back on her seat. "He was just taking his time until he could ask you again, or something like what happened to Seiya to come up."
Usagi sighed. "So what do I do?"
"How did your 'discussion' end? Where does he, and you, stand?"
"I wish I knew," Usagi shook her head. "I told him I had nothing to do with it... then his pager went off and I left him there."
"And he let you go just like that?"
"Yeah," Usagi took another sip of her drink that was now mostly water from the ice that had melted. "What was he gonna do? Push me off the roof if I didn't give him the answer he wanted?"
Ami shrugged. "Are you coming to Motoki's opening party? He's gonna be there for sure."
Usagi let out a sigh. "Yeah. It's too close to the hospital that I don't have a valid excuse for not dropping by even though I'm on night shift. And besides, I can't let him think that I'm trying to avoid him on purpose."
"That would make it a lot more suspicious," said Ami. "Just act like your usually-annoyed self when he's around. No one would think anything out of the ordinary."
They were both good actors. Although he had to admit she did a better performance than him. Nobody found their indifference to each other unusual, even when Usagi had come up to Motoki to greet him while she pretended that he didn't exist even as he stood next to his best friend. Motoki did good too. He thanked Usagi for dropping by, acting as though he didn't know what was going on between him and Usagi, but didn't force a conversation between the two of them either. He just stood there quietly as he watched the exchange, taking casual sips of his drink trying to look bored until she turned to go back to where her friends were seated. He should have made a snide remark, or teased her, as his role in the whole charade would have dictated. But he couldn't think of what to say, good or bad, to her. Sure, she stood out among the crowd as a beautiful angel with her golden odangos on each side of her head in a white nurse's uniform while the rest of the crowd were wearing their best party attires. He even noticed how quite a number of the men's eyes lit up when they saw her, if not at least for the way she was dressed. But what did it matter to him now, or to her, had he said or done anything? He thought to himself. Something bigger had come between them and he didn't know if he wanted to remove it, whatever it was.
"What do you think, Mamoru-kun?"
He looked at his best friend standing beside him and then at the rest of the men in their crowd of five, including Dr. Urawa. "Uh... yes," he said to Motoki. He wasn't sure if his friend had been asking for his opinion or his agreement at something. "I agree." He added just to be safe. He reached for his phone inside his jacket's pocket. "I just remembered I needed to make a phone call. Excuse me."
Motoki's coffee shop had four tables outside for those who would want to smoke while having their coffee, or simply enjoy the Azabu open air. Most of the guests were inside so there were 2 tables that were unoccupied. He took a seat from the farthest one and put his phone back inside his jacket's inside pocket. He knew that with whatever excuse he came up with, Motoki wouldn't let him go early without much trouble. So the least he could do for Usagi, and himself, was to keep from each others' line of sight.
"So this betrayal of trust that you and her fought about," Motoki said taking a seat in front of him. "It had something to do with Seiya Kou?"
Figures. He thought to himself. Motoki was not the type to let things slide just like that, or to leave him alone even if he shouted it to his face. "Yes."
"When you confronted her, did she deny it?"
"And it didn't occur to you to believe her?"
He looked at his friend for a moment before answering. "I'm not stupid." His eyes went to the window on the opposite side from where he sat. Usagi's back was to him. "She's lied to me before. Same situation, different person."
"You're so sure about that? Do you even know this other person? Or proof-"
"It was me," he said cutting of Motoki. "I know what she did, but she keeps on denying it."
"And this thing that she did, you can't tell me?"
Mamoru shook his head.
"Was it bad? Did it hurt you, or anyone?"
"Of course it does!" Motoki exclaimed, making Mamoru look at him. "It would only be logical that you would be angry if she did something wrong, though I would find that somewhat unbelievable on her part. So was it good or bad, this act of betrayal you're talking about?"
"Damn it Motoki!" Mamoru slammed his fist on the table, making some of the guests inside look out the window. "That's not the point."
"What is? That she didn't trust you enough to tell you that she did something for the good of someone else?"
His jaw clenched. "I had a right to know."
"And you don't trust her judgment to believe otherwise?" Motoki leaned forward. "If she didn't tell you when as you say she did it to you, what makes you think that she would do so if she did it for someone else? If she did it for the good of that someone else as she did for you? Even if it is your patient."
He looked at his best friend for a few moments and then his eyes went to the big glass window. Her back was to him and her head made nodding movements while Rei who sat in front of her talked.
A small smile appeared on Motoki's face as he noticed his best friend's expression slowly change as he continued to look at Usagi in silence. "Go on," he said finally shaking Mamoru from his thoughts. "take a walk. Clear your head."
Mamoru's eyes went to Motoki. He took a deep breath and stood up. Putting his hand in his pants pocket, he did as he was told taking one last glance at Usagi as he went.
Usagi's eyes went to the window as she watched his retreating figure. Not wanting to risk being alone with him even for a second, she stayed with her friends a little longer when Mamoru went outside. She had hoped that it was because he was leaving, but Rei who was sitting beside the window and across from her told her otherwise.
"Told you he was brooding more than usual," said Makoto as she too watched Mamoru leave.
"Maybe something's really bothering him this time," Minako said. "He didn't even say a word to Usagi."
"I really have to go," Usagi stood up, hoping to prevent the discussion from going further or be directed at her which was usually the case when her friends talked about him. "I'm supposed to be on a 15-minute break and it's close to 30 mins already."
"We'll walk you back," said Makoto standing up as well. "It's late and—"
"What am I twelve?" Usagi said indignantly. "I'll be fine."
"Call us when you get there, 'kay?" said Rei.
"Keisuke," Mamoru addressed the head lab technician. "I need an MRI. Stat." He gestured to his patient who was unconscious as he lay on the gurney and then passed a him a completed form for the urgent request.
Keisuke looked at the form, and then at the patient. "Okay. I'll put yours up next after this one." He gestured to the patient currently being examined behind the see-through glass window.
"Itou-san," Jiro Katashi, the lab assistant spoke up. He was the one currently behind the controls. "Dr. Ginga's patient is up next. He will be coming by shortly to check on her."
"This is urgent," Keisuke gestured to Mamoru's patient.
"But Dr. Ginga's patient-"
"Will have to wait," said Mamoru cutting off the lab assistant. "I didn't come here with an immediate request form to wait in line."
"What's going on here?" Seijurou Ginga said coming inside the control room. The nurse that Mamoru came with, along with Keisuke Itou were already inside the scanning room fitting in Mamoru's patient. "Chiba?"
"I told him that your patient was supposed to go next Dr. Ginga," Jiro replied. "But he came with a form so that his patient could go next."
"Thank you, Katashi-san," Mamoru cast a side glance at the lab assistant and then turned to Seijuurou. "Sorry Ginga. My patient couldn't wait. We have an operation-"
"And so you thought you could make my patient wait?" Seijuurou cut him off. "Do you have any idea who my patient is?"
"No. But I was under the assumption that everyone was treated equally when it came to medical attention."
"She's the wife of the Prime Minister!"
"And mine's a plumber whose next stroke would be twice as fatal if we don't find out where the blockage in the brain is."
"Take your patient to the West Wing. Now," Seijuurou commanded. "I will not be humiliated in front of a very important patient by someone who doesn't understand what courtesy means."
"Are you kidding me?" Mamoru pointed at his patient who was already going in to the machine. "Take your patient to the West Wing. I came here because it was the most accessible for my patient. Like I said, it was urgent." Mamoru grabbed the form he showed to Keisuke earlier and handed it to Seijuurou. "Here. Give it to them, or if you want, give it to management."
Seijuurou took the paper and crumpled it, locking eyes with Mamoru. "One of these days Chiba..." He threw the crumpled piece of paper aside and left the room.
Mamoru looked at the crumpled form on the floor and then at Jiro who was still looking in the direction where Seijuurou Ginga had gone. "Aren't you gonna need that?" Mamoru pointed to the crumpled piece of paper. Silently, Jiro picked up the paper tried to smoothen the edges.
"Good work Dr. Chiba," an older doctor shook Mamoru's hand when they were out of the operating room. Both men were still wearing their blue scrubs. "Perhaps you'd like to consider neurosurgery? I could sure use someone like you in my team."
"Thank you, Dr. Kanzaki. However, I still have 2 years of residency for general surgery left."
"The same two years that you'll spend as resident in neurosurgery if you decide now," the older man smiled knowingly at him.
"Thank you," Mamoru tried to contain his smile to a minimum as he shook the man's hand again with two hands. "I-I can't give you a definite answer yet because I'll still need to talk to-"
"Yes, yes," Dr. Kanzaki replied. "your Chief Resident. Let me know when you do."
"I sure will..." his attention however was caught by the sight of a short-haired intern carrying several charts in her hands walking past them. "Um, thanks again Dr. Kanzaki. If you'll excuse me..."
"Of course." The older doctor let him go.
"Ami!" Mamoru made a short run to catch up. "Ami, wait up."
"Mamoru-san, how are you?" Ami greeted him, but didn't stop in her tracks. Her eyes back to the charts in her hands after greeting him.
"Good," he replied matching her pace. "Just came out of surgery. Blood clot in the brain." He added the last part unable to contain his excitement which was rare for those who weren't in the neurology program.
"Wow," Ami turned to smile at him. "That's really nice."
"Yeah." He saw that her eyes were back to the charts again, her pace not slowing. He understood that she wasn't up for small talk and knew he had to make his point soon. "So uh, is everything okay with Usagi?"
She stopped at this, and turned to give him her full attention. "Usagi?"
"Uh.. well.. it's just that I haven't seen her lately. Is she sick or something?"
"No," Ami replied her brows furrowed slightly. "Not that I know of anyway. Why do you think she's ill?"
"I haven't seen her around. I tried calling her, several times, but she wouldn't answer the phone. Not a single reply to my text messages."
"She's on the night shift."
"Oh." Mamoru then remembered Usagi dropping by at Motoki's party wearing her uniform. "Yeah. I forgot."
"Is it something important or urgent? I could try and reach out to her for you."
"Um... no. Not really."
"Did you guys have a fight again?"
"Yeah. Something like that." He let out a sigh. "I guess I uh... just wanted to apologize to her. If she would answer the damn phone." He added the last statement under his breath.
Ami smiled. "I'll tell her."
Both turned to see Saori walking up to them.
"Hello Saori-san. What's up?"
"I just got a message from the Director's secretary. Dr. Ginga would like to see you in his office if you have a moment."
"I'll tell Usagi, Mamoru-san," Ami smiled at him and went on ahead of them.
"Thanks," Mamoru called out to her and then faced Saori. "Did she give a time as to when he wanted to see me?"
Saori shrugged. "As soon as you're free, I was told."
When he got to the director's office, it didn't surprise him to find Seijuurou Ginga standing beside his father. The latter was sitting behind the large wooden desk, acting as the director of the hospital while Dr. Mizuno was away on an international medical conference. Dr. Fukuoka was there too, sitting on the couch with his ever present smile as he looked at him.
"Good afternoon Dr. Chiba," said Dr. Ginga. "we appreciate you coming over to meet with us. Please, have a seat."
"Thank you." Mamoru walked over to the chair facing the large desk.
"I'm sure you must be wondering why we've called you here," Dr. Fukuoka spoke up.
"Yes," Mamoru replied. "Is there a problem?"
"That depends on your answer," Seijuurou replied. Mamoru turned to look at him, unfazed by the statement. He was slightly amused he had carried on his threat a lot sooner than he expected.
"We wanted to talk to you about Seiya Kou," said Dr. Ginga. "I was informed that he dropped by for a visit a few days ago."
"Yes sir, he did."
"We checked his records," Seijuurou lay on the table in front of Mamoru a brown envelope with the mark of Azabu General Hospital and Seiya Kou's name. "And it seems that his current state is contrary to what's written there when he was released from his hospital. When you discharged him."
"Yes, that's correct. I had a chance to examine his left hand and it's true. It's fully recovered."
"So what do you think happened?" Seijuurou asked. "What do you think went wrong?"
"Wrong?" Mamoru repeated. "Are you asking if I made a misdiagnosis?"
"It is a possibility. You have to understand that Seiya Kou is very famous and people will be, or already are rather, curious about his miraculous recovery." Mamoru fought to keep his cool, his eyes level seeing where Seijuurou Ginga was headed with his questions. "We just want to be sure that the credibility of... the hospital remains intact through all of this."
"Relax Dr. Chiba," said Dr. Fukuoka. "This isn't an inquisition or anything like that. We trust your judgment and most importantly your capacity as a doctor of this hospital. We just want to hear both sides to be sure what we'll want to say to the Press, just in case."
He found himself relaxing at the older doctor's words. He didn't doubt for one bit that Seijuurou Ginga didn't exactly feel the same way.
"So tell us, Dr. Chiba," Dr. Ginga spoke up. "were you able to ask Kou-san about it?"
"Yes sir, I have." He went on to relay to them what Seiya had told him during his visit.
"Would it be possible for you to get in touch with this doctor of his?" Seijuurou asked when he finished.
"That won't be necessary," Dr. Fukuoka said before Mamoru could reply. "really Seijuurou, I don't think we need to go such lengths."
"But as doctors-"
"That's enough Seijuurou." The sternness in his father's voice made everyone in the room look to the older Ginga. "I believe that we have enough information to tell the media." He then turned to Mamoru. "What do you think Dr. Chiba? From your point of view, what do you believe happened here?" The rest of the occupants in the room turned their attention back to Mamoru.
He saw the anticipation and curiosity on the faces of the two older doctors as they waited on his reply, while Seijurou did not even bother to hide his skepticism as he crossed his arms.
"I believe him."
"A miracle?" Dr. Fukuoka asked. He stood up from where he sat on the couch, walking over to lean on the edge of Dr. Ginga's desk.
"Would this conclusion have something to do with a personal experience?" Dr. Fukuoka went on.
Mamoru took a few moments to ponder on what he was going to say. "I am a doctor. Being a man of science, I believe that there are things that can be proved by science. However, I also believe that there are things in this world that we are still unable to explain."
"So you're saying that you haven't had an experience, shall we say, closer to home before this?" He sensed that Dr. Fukuoka was not content with his reply and was looking and waiting for a different answer. His mind went back to time when the the older doctor had asked him about the accident in the park which he had been witness to.
"I... might have," he said finally. "I can't say for certain-"
"The park!" Dr. Fukuoka jumped from where he sat at the edge of Dr. Ginga's desk. "That accident in the park, right?"
"I knew it!"
"Like I said, sir, I'm not 100% certain if it really was that. I did hit my head pretty hard..."
"You should have seen it Ginga," Dr. Fukuoka referred to the senior Ginga as he went on. "He leaped 10 meters and hit the pavement directly. And not a scratch!"
"More like 5 or 6, actually." Mamoru corrected although he knew that the older doctor wasn't listening.
"That could be the only explanation for it. It was that girl. Did you ever find out who she was?"
"What girl?" Seijuurou was finally drawn back into the conversation.
"The girl that our young hero here saved from getting hit by a speeding car. Or was it a bus?"
"No... no sir, I didn't. When I came to, she was gone."
"Shame. Didn't get to see her clearly either because her back was to us and I was behind 2 rows of onlookers. The most she could have done was thank you for her saving her life..."
"But come to think of it, she did save yours afterwards," Dr. Fukuoka went on. "although that doesn't really make things even..."
"For my part," Mamoru said wanting to divert the focus of the topic to himself. "Dr. Fukuoka, I'm just glad she's safe." He believed that it was one thing for him to know about Usagi's secret because he had been involved directly and indirectly on two separate occasions. But it would be another thing entirely for the whole medical and scientific community to find out about it. And he understood now that Usagi didn't see the two situations to be any different from the other.
"Hey Odango Atama, isn't that your phone ringing?" Rei said as she sat down on the sofa with the bowl full of popcorn on her lap.
"Uhuh," Usagi replied and took a handful of popcorn, some of it falling on the sofa. With her other hand she picked up the fallen pieces and resumed her position facing the television. It was her day off as well as Makoto's. Whenever she and Makoto had the same days off from work, the rest of their friends came together to do their girl-bonding time due to the fact that out of the five of them, only she and Makoto didn't have regular rest days. Rei had brought with her home a chick flick to watch that night and they were still waiting on Minako and Ami to arrive.
"Well, aren't you going to answer it?" Rei asked, not bothering to hide her irritation at the incessant ringing.
"Just ignore it," said Makoto sitting on a single-seater couch. "At least try to anyway."
"If you aren't going to answer it just reject the call or turn it off."
"I can't turn it off," Usagi replied. "I'm on call."
"Then answer the phone or reject it. We're watching a movie."
"I can't. He might think I'm evading him on purpose."
"He?" Rei looked at her and then at Makoto.
"Chiba," the brunette replied. "It seems they've been at it again. And this time it seems he's actually calling her to apologize."
Rei's eyebrows furrowed and she lay down the popcorn bowl on the table and turned in the direction of Makoto. "When did this happen?"
"The other day."
"No, the part where Mamoru actually calls Odango Atama to apologize."
"The other day," Makoto repeated. "Guess the offense was that big."
"What did he do?" Rei turned to Usagi. "And was it actually his fault?"
"Yes. And I don't want to talk about it," Usagi replied with a finality in her voice.
The three girls faced the TV when the opening credits rolled in. And then Usagi's phone rang again.
"Oh for Kami's sake." Rei stood up and started towards Usagi's room.
"Where are you going?" Usagi sat up.
"If you want him to suffer, fine. But spare us the insanity."
"What are you gonna do?" Usagi stood up.
"Tell him not to call or just wait for you at the hospital to do his groveling. Either way, I'm gonna stop this nonsense."
"Okay fine," said Usagi walking towards her room. "I'll put it on silent vibrate."
"That wasn't too hard, was it?" said Rei going back to the sofa.
Usagi watched the small LCD screen on her phone where it flashed 'Chiba Mamoru calling...' Just like the other times he had called after Motoki's opening party, she let it go to voice mail. He didn't seem to be too keen to talk at Motoki's party, so why would he be calling now? She thought to herself. It was one thing when she would put up with his teasing, quite another when he would accuse her of supposedly having committed a crime. And even if it were true, she didn't understand why he would get mad at her like that and worse... She shook her head to shake away the thought.
She hated herself for her cowardice. If he was calling to insist about her hand in Seiya Kou's miraculous healing, she had no problem standing up to him on that. She had nothing to hide. But if he wanted to talk about something else, her mind couldn't process the possibility of the outcome. She didn't think she was ready to come to terms with what he would say, or her reaction. In the same way that she still couldn't come to terms with her reaction when he kissed her. Her mind was filled with dread at what he was probably thinking about her reaction.
"Dear god I actually kissed him," she muttered to herself in resignation and let out a sigh.
Usagi yelped as she turned to face a smirking Minako
"Do tell." Minako leaned on the door frame crossing her arms as she raised an amused eyebrow at Usagi.
"Minako!" Usagi put a hand to her chest. "Where'd you come from?"
"That's not important now. What matters is that I got here just in time. Now then," Minako stepped forward, clasped her hands in front of her and put on a mocking show of distress. "who's this lucky frog prince that fills you with such dread that you kissed him?"
"I don't know what you're talking about." She knew it was futile to deny what Minako heard, but she would try anyway. She knew they would never let her live this down.
"Usagi Tsukino," changed her expression to that of a reprimanding mother. "You do not go kissing around and not tell us."
"That's right," Makoto seconded, suddenly appearing on the doorway and behind her were Rei and Ami.
"What about Ami then?" said Usagi attempting to divert their attention and yet knowing that she was fighting a losing battle. "Did she tell you when she kissed Urawa?"
All of them turned to Ami who had just squeezed herself through the doorway with Rei and quickly regretting it.
"I did not!" Ami blushed furiously. "I did not kiss Urawa.. I mean-"
"Oh come on Ami-chan," Minako put an arm around the short-haired girl. "You don't have to sound like you're eight about this subject. Even if it is you."
Ami took a deep breath to calm herself. "I mean h-he... we haven't yet. And we're talking about Usagi, not me."
"Poor guy," said Rei.
Minako put both of her hands on her Ami's shoulders. "Or he's terribly shy," she said. "Maybe he needs a little encouragement. It wouldn't hurt to-"
Ami shrugged her shoulders to get away from Minako's grasp. "We're talking about Usagi here. Focus people."
"Actually, we're talking about kissing and not telling," Rei corrected. "At the moment, you're safe. Usagi isn't."
"So quit the whining and start name dropping," said Makoto. "Who is it and why are you hiding from him?"
"Was it that bad?" Rei asked.
"It..." Usagi let out an exasperated sigh. "I can't give you details. It's personal."
"Oh please," Minako chuckled. "you'll need a better reason than that."
"Maybe it's because it's someone we know," said Ami. "We all know."
Usagi tried not to show her panic at Ami's remark and noticed as the gears started rolling in the heads of her 3 other friends.
"It's not Ginga, is it?" said Makoto.
The tall brunette shrugged. "That would explain why you'd be in hiding."
"After all this time Mako-chan," said Rei. "why would she suddenly be kissing him?"
"I want it to be clear," Usagi raised her index finger. "that I was not the one who did the kissing. I was the kissee."
"Unless this was a kiss close to a sexual harassment kind of thing..." Minako trailed off looking at Usagi who shook her head. "why would you be hiding from your kisser?"
"Because… you kissed him back!" Makoto pointed an accusing finger at Usagi, who felt her face grow hot. She wished then, of all the times she wished it before, that the ground would open up and swallow her.
"So who is this guy," Rei began. "that kissed Odango here, who kissed him back, and now she's too embarrassed to talk about it..."
"Not taking his calls…" Ami looked from Rei to Usagi. "It's not-"
Ami was cut off by the warning look in Usagi's eyes, but the damage had been done.
"Go on, Ami-chan," Rei prodded. "don't be afraid. Speak up."
Ami was torn between the pleading look from Usagi and the no-nonsense expression on the raven-haired girl's face. Instinct of survival kicked in, and she just gave an apologetic look at Usagi. "Well, Mamoru-san... he was asking me about Usagi. That she wasn't taking his calls and... and.."
Ami was cut off again, but this time by Minako's squeal. "Ohmygod! Ohmygod! Ohmygod!" She said as she shook Makoto's arm. "I knew it! I knew it! I knew it!"
"Mamoru-san?" Makoto looked at Usagi and then back at Ami while trying to pry off Minako's fingers from her forearm. "Usagi's Mamoru-baka-san?"
Ami nodded and mouthed a 'sorry' to Usagi who had her hand covering her eyes in a defeated gesture.
"Calling to apologize huh?" said Makoto crossing her arms after finally being able to free her abused arm from Minako's clutches.
"I never said that," Usagi retorted. "You just assumed it was because he wanted to apologize."
"So why do you think he's calling you? And why are you hiding?"
"How should I know what goes on in that baka's brain? And I'm not hiding. I'm just too mad to face him right now. Or talk to him."
"Actually," Ami spoke up. "He did say something about wanting to apologize to you. For an argument you had a few days ago."
"But you did kiss him back though, right?" asked Minako. "I can see it in your face." She grinned.
"I was taken by surprise, and... and. Fine! I kissed him back, okay? And I slapped him afterwards. There."
There was a moment of silence as they stared at her, muted shock on their faces.
"Well," Makoto cleared her throat. "it is Mamoru after all."
"We were arguing, as always. A-and then..."
"In the middle of the argument, he just kisses you?" Rei asked.
"More like in the heat of their argument." Minako wiggled her eyebrows.
"What was it about this time that made him-"
"No more," Usagi raised her hands to them, cutting off Rei. "I'm not-I can't tell you more." Usagi turned her back to them. "This is between him and me. If it was about someone you didn't know, or didn't know you, I guess I could tell you. But not this time."
Minako shrugged her shoulders. "As for me, I've heard all I needed to know." She put an arm around Usagi. "Hang in there Usagi-chan. And don't worry. We won't act weird when he's around. It'll be like we're just plain clueless. Right girls?"
There was a general nod of agreement with the rest of her friends. She knew that that wouldn't last long. That they would be dying to know what happened on her next encounter with Mamoru Chiba once she got back to work. And she hoped that by then she'd have found clarity on her situation, and her thoughts.
AN: Okay. I didn't post for... who's counting? I've lost count on the number of revisions I've had to do on this chapter because I couldn't decide on the direction it should take. I'm still not 100% sure on that as of this posting but I want to assure the readers that I will finish this story. Reviews appreciated, flames welcome (I guess I deserve it for being a slacker).
Also, I still haven't figured out how to do correct spacing here so I've put in lines where 2 line breaks would have been enough.
Thanks all! ^_^