Title: I Stay In Love
Rating: T for language
Full Description: Sequel to "Tears Under My Pillow". Five years have passed, and Usagi and Mamoru are getting on with their lives. What happens when they meet again?
Author's Notes: Thank you's to Heraldo, Unwritten Dreams, rosebudjamie, EvaC, midnight blue08, raye85, acie913, Jianna, coastiewife465, Kana07, kireisnowtenshi, SmTwilight, Henna Ryans, SerentiyMoonGodness, endymionstar, S dot Serenity, SilverMyst, MoonPrincess568, Jingy5, hatami, rainbabie, killua, goddessofanime2003, Incomplete Melody, ShroudedMist, venus_goddess and Ceralyn for leaving feedback. You're inspiring. Love.
Again, I didn't have my beta reader, Rithien, look this over, because I wanted to send this out as my little present to everyone! Hope you are all having a great holiday; enjoy the chapter!
Disclaimer: I own nothing but the story.
"Love is a symbol of eternity. It wipes out all sense of time, destroying all memory of a beginning and all fear of an end." –Unknown
Part Five. Failing Intentions.
Mamoru quietly listened to Reika's dilemma and remained silent moments after she was done. He wasn't entirely sure what was going on. "So you want me to pick Emi-chan up from her bus drop off in fifteen minutes?"
"Yes. It's too far of a walking distance for Emi. Normally I would be able to meet her at the stop, but this meeting I just snuck out of is going on longer than I anticipated. I don't know how much longer my boss is going to ramble."
This was where Mamoru was stumped. "Why not try her father?"
Reika went straight into defense mode. "I don't want to ask Motoki for help! Do you know how that would make me look? Like the irresponsible parent, Mamoru! You don't know what it's been like, all these years being ganged up on and treated like shit by both of them. As soon as Motoki found out we were having a girl he let your ex-wife pick a name. He thinks Usagi's some sort of saint and Emi.. she thinks Usagi is her second mother!"
"So.." he trailed, trying to figure out what she was trying to say, "You're jealous of Usagi?"
There was an impregnable pause. "You fucking bastard."
Mamoru thought about what he just said a colored a little. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean for it to come out that way."
Something slammed in the background. "You know what? Fine. I'll pick her up. I'm sure she'll still be standing there at the bus stop--"
"No, no," Mamoru said before he could stop himself. "I can go and get her."
"Forget it," she spat. "I can do it. She's my daughter after all. I just thought that in a moment of weakness I could call you for help."
"Reika," he said, not understanding the guilt waving up inside him, "I said I'll do it."
There was a long, long pause. "You sure?"
"Yes," he said. "Where did you say the bus stop was?"
Once he got off the phone with her he began to pack up. He was almost out the door when his phone rang. He hesitated, not wanting to answer, but did anyway. "Hello?"
"Hello, Chiba-san. This is Naru from Doctor Grey's office."
"Hi--oh, no." Mamoru shook his head, not wanting to believe what the phone call meant.
"Yes," the woman said, confirming his need for concern, "I'm afraid your appointment was today."
He returned to his desk and dug out his planner. "10:15?" he asked as he flipped pages.
"11:35," she corrected.
"Oh, great." He really wanted to smack himself. This was the third time he forgot. "I'm sorry. I forgot to ask our receptionist to schedule around that time--"
"Not a problem, Chiba-san. We have an opening for next Tuesday, again at 11:35. Does that work for you?"
He flipped the page to the next week in his planner. "Yes, it does. I'll write that down." As he was scribbling, he figured he wasn't going to remember still. The best thing to do was ask for a reminder postcard. "Naru-san, could you--"
"Already filling one out," she replied smoothly. "See you next Tuesday."
Mamoru parked in front of Reika's house, got out and started speed walking west. The entire time, he kept kicking himself inside. 'What the hell am I doing?' Emi was Motoki's kid; Reika should have contacted him. Mamoru could understand where she was coming from, but he felt uneasy nonetheless. Especially since he ditched the little girl at her birthday party. Would she remember him? Would she remember that he bailed? Was she as incapable of forgiveness as her father?
He rounded the corner and stopped abruptly. Emi stood a few feet away from the corner, silent and content. As he neared her, she turned her head and gazed up at him. Recognition shone in her eyes.
"Hello," he said. 'Please don't hate me, too.'
She didn't reply, just enveloped his legs in a hug. "I thought I would never see you again," she said once she pulled away.
"Well," he said, trying to find the proper words to say, "your mom was running late, so she asked me to make sure you got home safely."
Her eyes turned inquisitive. "Did you want to see me?"
"Yes," he said, giving her a reassuring smile. "I did."
He finally saw the doll he'd bought for her birthday in her hand. She looked at it, too. "This is my favorite doll," she announced. "Thank you for giving her to me."
"You're welcome," he replied. He took her backpack and nodded in the direction that would lead them back to Reika's house. "Shall we?"
Emi smiled and nodded, and without warning she grabbed his free hand and started to lead the way. She talked a lot, about her friends at school and her teacher. "She's very, very nice and smiles a lot," she said, "Like Usagi-mama."
Mamoru tried not to let the name affect him. "That's good."
"I like Usagi-mama's smile," Emi said. "Do you?"
He tried not to wince. 'Wonderful.' Usagi seemed to be front and center of all things happening as of late. Then again, what did he expect? Usagi was a part of Emi's life. He couldn't have been able to only concentrate on that little, beautiful girl who didn't judge him, who didn't see him like the main people in her life did. He couldn't have been able to simply savor the smallest amount of contact, a human touch, that had become alien to him. In his case, good things came at a price. Trying to keep his tone light, he said, "Can't think of anyone who wouldn't."
When they reached the house, Mamoru turned to Emi. "You have a key, right?"
She shook her head. "I'm not old enough yet," she said as if it was a univerally known fact.
Great. 'Is anything about this favor supposed to be easy?' On cue, a car turned into the driveway. Mamoru squinted, trying to identify the driver. Once he registered who it was, he had to check again. Sure enough, it was Motoki stepping out of the car and walking to the front door. Angrily.
His stomach churned. 'What.. is going on?' Why was Motoki there? Wasn't he supposed to be at work? He felt like a frozen target, each step of Motoki's an inevitable death procession. Which didn't seem that far from the truth, since the blonde was tearing him to shreds with his eyes.
"Papa!" Emi exclaimed. She was only too happy to see him to notice how pissed he was.
Wordlessly Motoki grabbed her arm, pulling her out of Mamoru's hold, and unlocked the door with his set of keys. "Go inside and get ready for dinner," he ordered.
The girl was hurt, confused. "Papa?"
The girl did as she was told. Mamoru watched her go up the stairs like a fading oasis. His eyes went to Motoki. The blonde looked disgusted. So disgusted that he couldn't speak for a few moments. And when he did, it was with absolute hatred. "Don't you fucking come near my daughter again," he spat.
Mamoru let out a breath, glad that Motoki wasn't trying to take a swing at him--in a physical sense anyway. "I'm sorry. Reika--"
Right at that moment a car slid to a stop by the curb in front of Reika's house. Mamoru saw Reika, who was in the front passenger's seat, lean over and thoroughly kiss the driver before slowly getting out of the car. His eyes flickered to Motoki, who hadn't even moved to check if that was his ex-wife getting out of some stranger's vehicle.
"She what? Set you up?" Motoki snatched Emi's backpack from Mamoru's hands. "Go to hell, you moron." With that, he stomped into the house and slammed the door.
Mamoru stood there, kind of stunned, until Reika approached him. "Thanks for dealing with--"
"Don't, Reika," Mamoru seethed.
Her hair was slightly disheveled and her lipstick was rubbed around her mouth. His blood boiled. "Use me to get to Motoki."
Her eyes glittered, but she held her ground. "I'm not quite sure how you'd assume that."
Mamoru ignored her. "Think of your daughter," he said, passing her, "I'm not the only one being thrown in the middle of your campaign against Motoki."
She was unrepentent. "Trust me when I say I'm thinking only of her."
"Trust me," he said. "You're not."
Motoki wasn't far enough from the open window beside the front door to miss the exchange between Reika and Mamoru. Clearly, Mamoru had gotten to her. She was struggling not to slam the door after she came inside.
Despite the confusion Motoki gave her a smug look. "So much for him taking your side."
Mamoru shifted uncomfortably under the woman's scrutiny. He'd just finished telling her about his recent encounters with Usagi; how he'd had more contact with her in a few weeks after not seeing or hearing from her in five years. He also mentioned what happened with Reika, Emi and Motoki right before the weekend started. She let him talk and when he was finished, she simply stared at him. He didn't know exactly what she was thinking, but he could figure where her thoughts were going. Usagi. He wanted to tell her it wasn't his fault. He didn't intend on seeing Usagi there or anywhere else. He was invited to a birthday party, and everything spiraled after that.
"Mamoru-san," she said finally, "You look conflicted."
He nodded. "I am. I wasn't prepared for any of this to happen."
"That's usually how life goes," she mused. "How do you feel about seeing your ex-wife so much?"
'Just say it.' "I don't like it, but I do." He wish he could explain it, but he couldn't.
"Do you still feel guilt when you see her?"
He probably shouldn't have admitted it, but he did by nodding. He'd been seeing Elsa right around the time the divorce was finalized. Needless to say, he didn't want to start lying to her now. "She's just trying to be nice.. and help me." 'Just like she did when she first met me.'
She raised her eyebrow as if she'd heard that thought. "Isn't that counterproductive to your goal? To be able to help yourself?"
Mamoru looked away. "Usagi's Usagi. Her need to help others is essential to who she is. That's out of my control."
"Is it?" she asked.
He wished she would stop with the questions; he knew that was her job, but it was a cop out way of getting him to spill his guts or lead him to draw his own conclusions without having to actually tell him. "So seeing Usagi is the issue."
"You don't think so?" she asked.
'Ugh.. Fucking psychiatrists.' "I think that's what you think," he answered, on the defensive.
She paused, knowing she was pushing it. "I have to say, I was starting to get worried when you cancelled three sessions in a row. That's a quarter of the year taken from your therapy. And I can tell you haven't been taking your medication." There was no use in denying it. She'd seen him through almost every emotional stage. One quick glance and she could see straight to his soul. It was a move she used even now, right before saying, "I'm going to prescribe Demolox, full doses daily."
"You're kidding," he said in disbelief. That prescription was for severe depression, with a wide range of side effects. He tried all sorts of medication, but he wound up not liking how they made him feel. There were times when he would just take half the recommended dose so he wouldn't feel so out of control. Demolox could only be worse.
"You're nowhere near progressing at this point, Mamoru-san. You're lucky I'm not considering more serious options."
Psychiatric hospitalization? 'Hell no.' "There's no way I'm going there over a stupid knee-jerk reaction to Usagi," he spat.
She leaned forward from her perch. "Well then do us both a favor and try to keep your distance from Usagi. We've accomplished so much. I don't want you to slip back into that void." The self-abuse. Hating himself and hating what he'd done to the people he cared about. When he first met Elsa he was on the verge of seriously hurting himself. She contemplated hospitalization then, too. Only his strong protests kept her from sending him to the crazy house.
Back then, he saw her every other week. It took four sessions for her to get through to him; two more to get him to open up a little. A few more sessions later, he was able to talk about Usagi, his infidelity and the end of their marriage. Elsa understood him enough to understand that his sanity had been closely tied with Usagi being in his life. He used her as a lifesaver, a way to stay afloat and keep his head above water. When she walked out of his life, the water overwhelmed him, got to his lungs. He was drowning without her.
"Okay," he agreed, "okay." 'You don't have to tell me twice.' The less of Usagi he saw, the better.
Little tingles ran down Usagi's spine as she entered Tokyo Medical Clinic. She called in earlier and spoke with Souichi, who told her Mamoru would be done with work by six. That gave her enough time to dress up a little, put some makeup on, and drive over. It was a random, irrational thing to do, but she was going to ask him to come out with her for dinner.
That thought put her in a good mood until she walked into the waiting room and saw the last person she'd ever expect to see sitting there. Kaiou Michiru.
Both the aqua-haired woman and the blonde sitting next to her looked up. The blonde looked familiar, but she couldn't quite place her. Not wanting to think about it, she walked over to the receptionist. "Hi, is Chiba Mamoru still here?"
"Yes he is, miss," the green-haired woman said with a smile. "He's with a patient right now, but I can let him know you're here to see him."
"No, that's okay," Usagi replied. "I can wait."
Her feet turned into blocks of concrete as she took a seat. She did not want to be in the same room as the woman who slept with her ex-husband. What was she doing there anyway? Was she there to see Mamoru? Was Mamoru okay with that? Usagi wanted to fume, but she knew better. Souichi said Mamoru wasn't with anyone, and she believed him. There's no way Mamoru would actually--
"We have a daughter," a voice came out of nowhere and said.
Usagi looked across the room, her eyes meeting aqua ones.
Michiru shifted, holding on to her companion's hand like a lifeline. "We adopted a little girl two years ago. We all thought she was healthy, until she started weakening and blacking out all the time--"
"Why are you telling me this?" Usagi burst, irritated.
Michiru looked at her as if the truth should've been obvious. "Because he can't."
Usagi blinked twice before understanding what she meant. Doctor-patient confidentiality. If she were to confront Mamoru about why Michiru was there to see him, he wouldn't be able to tell her. That's when the entire picture hit her. A little girl had some sort of neurological disorder. Michiru must have been panicked, desperate, trying to figure out what was wrong. Mamoru was good at what he did. He would've found out. Which meant he was giving her the treatment she needed. Ignoring the part of her that was begging her to be cruel, Usagi asked, "Is she going to be okay?"
Just then, the door next to the receptionist window opened, and out came Mamoru, holding a frail girl's hand. It was strange. She had dark hair like his, a similar body frame, and intelligent eyes that resembled his serious ones. If she hadn't looked about ten years old, Usagi could've sworn the girl was his child.
Michiru and her lover stood up, and the little girl ran into the blonde's arms. Usagi watched Michiru look at Mamoru with hope, but when she glanced at her ex-husband she recognized that face. There was no hope to give. He handed Michiru a slip of paper. "It should help with the seizures," he murmured.
The partner, who caught on to the nonverbal exchange added, "For now."
Mamoru nodded. "If she starts to slip again.."
This time, Michiru nodded. "We'll call," she finished for him. "Thank you."
After they left Usagi waited for the dust to settle. When Mamoru stopped processing his thoughts, he blinked and his eyes traveled the room and landed on her.
Mamoru had been so focused on trying to detach himself from what happened with Hotaru, Michiru's little girl, that he didn't notice he wasn't alone in the room for a while. Then, like a lighthouse in the midst of a fog, there she was.
"Usagi," he said, not bothering to conceal his surprise. "W-What are you doing here?" He had no idea what she could be doing at the clinic when she looked as beautiful as she did.
She smiled, making him flush a little. "I was wondering if I could cash in that rain check. Mako-chan says there's this little place two districts over that's got food that rivals hers. And get this, the competition of such astute culinary skills is a blind old woman who can cut the thinnest slices of sashimi you've ever seen."
Her excitement was almost contagious. Mamoru smiled weakly, wanting so badly to say yes, he'd go check out a blind cook who could slice sashimi with Usagi, but he kept remembering what he and his psychiatrist discussed the other day. Usagi was part of the problem. His dependence on her had fueled his depression and eventually led to his mental breakdown. He didn't want to go through that again, didn't want to feed into that hope that she still cared about him. It might have saved him once, but it was still a mistake.
Usagi saw Mamoru's face fall behind his small smile and knew he wasn't going for her offer. "Let me guess. You can't."
That fake smile stayed on his face as he nodded. "It's just that I've got some patient files waiting for me at home--"
"What is with you?" she blurted.
The smile finally disappeared as confusion took over his face. "I don't know what you're--"
"Save it, Mamoru," she said, not knowing why she was so angry and why she couldn't stop being so ruthless. "I'm making an effort to stay in contact with you, and you're acting coy. It this some sort of game to you?"
He shook his head with adamant force. "No!"
"Then what? You want me to chase after you," she guessed, crossing her arms.
Shock completely took over his face. "No," he said softly, "It's just.."
"What? What could be so wrong with grabbing some food with me?"
'Nothing. Nothing is wrong with grabbing food with you.' He wished he could've said that but he knew better. So he spent a few seconds trying to come up with a decent answer. "I don't think spending time with each other is a good idea."
"That's the first honest answer you've given me since this conversation started."
He paused. 'Is she fucking accusing me of lying to her?' His hand clenched and unclenched, signifying the short length of time it took for his anger to build and then dissipate. 'Can I blame her?'
Usagi bit back the urge to take the comment back. It was hard, especially when she was looking into his eyes. Eyes that begged her to stop punishing him. Eyes that were sunken on a pale, thin face. "Fine," she said in a frustrated voice, more at herself for snapping at him than at him for saying no, "Sorry I wasted your time."
Mamoru was ready to watch her walk out of that office, but after eight steps he couldn't restrain himself. "Usagi?"
She turned around.
"I.. I am kind of hungry," he finally said. 'It's just food. A couple hours, tops.'
Expressionless, even though she wanted to smile, she nodded. "Okay."
End Part Five.
( Mixed feelings. )