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Author's Note: I really need to thank the following people for their glowing reviews! edwardloverr, bunnie915, dainlord, StarryNight101, TropicalRemix, claireylee824, WinniUsagi, Bin82501, RoboMoon4, CharmedSerenity3, Chantell10, tryntee13, Jenbunny, Ashgeliton, and PriestessHelene. All my love for sticking with me SO long! You are a blessing!
Friday the Thirteenth
Chapter 15: "A Twisted Impasse"
Sunday afternoon saw Mamoru ambling the waterside in a secluded section of Juban Park, trying to clear his thoughts with help from Mother Nature. This in itself was nothing new- the college student often found refuge here, in the final hours before his harried juggling act of school and work began anew. What was out of the ordinary, however, was the small, familiar figure taking up residence on Mamoru's usual bench- the one nestled beneath a crooked dogwood. For a moment he just stopped and stared, unsure whether he should approach the pensive girl and break the spell of serenity she seemed to have attained.
Usagi's face was slack and peaceful, eyes shining as they reflected the sun dancing off the undulating surface of the lake. It struck Mamoru that she resembled an ethereal goddess, gazing off into nothing with such a wise disposition about her. He forgot she was a bubbly fourteen-year-old who enjoyed cake a little too much and had a penchant for annoying the hell out of people. Watching Usagi now, the eighteen-year-old only perceived innocence incarnate. It didn't fail to astound him that she seemed so normal, so lighthearted, for someone who had just endured a rather frightening ordeal.
He admired her.
Mamoru blinked, allowing himself a few uncertain steps in her direction. Usagi started as she picked up the sound of his footfalls, twisting on the bench to grace the man with a surprised smile.
"Oh, Mamoru-san! Hi. Sit down." The blonde patted the free space beside her. Mamoru quickly complied, sliding into the offered seat with a cordial,
"Thanks, Odango Atama."
"Beautiful day, isn't it?" Usagi seemed to pull it all in with a deep inhale, her brilliant blues sparkling at the simple joy of nice weather.
Mamoru chuckled. "It is," he agreed, amused by her easy delight. They sat in companionable quiescence for a while, until Mamoru asked timidly, "How... how are you?"
Usagi was quiet as she gathered her words. Then-
"I am... happy. But I'm also sad. Does that make sense?"
Mamoru nodded, but Usagi felt the need to explain herself, as if by sharing she could ease the burden that weighed on her heart.
"We're safe. The nightmare's over. But I still... I still can't help thinking about Enigma. About how tragic it is, that he chose to turn his pain into madness; that he convinced himself he could feel human again if he inflicted on others the horrors that had been done to him." Usagi peeked up at Mamoru through her bangs, at his furrowed brow and inquiring expression. She sighed, squeezing her hands that were folded tightly into her lap. "I went to see him, you know. Enigma. Only his real name is Uroi Yuroki."
"I couldn't spend my life hating a man when I did not even know his story. It was just something I had to do, because I wanted to understand. I wanted to help him," the girl whispered, and Mamoru swallowed his reprimanding "What the hell were you thinking?" for,
Usagi shrugged, smoothing the fabric of her yellow sundress while avoiding his eyes. "I'm not sure Enigma can be helped. Not anymore. That time has past; he's too far gone. I felt like I was talking to a shell. But he- he told me again that I was an angel, and that I was his favorite, even though I couldn't be his. Because- because I had spirit, and I wasn't like the others."
"If he hurt you..." Mamoru let the threat trail off into oblivion, still shocked that Usagi'd had the guts to face her captor... again. After all the terror Enigma caused...
He admired her courage.
Usagi looked kindly at her comrade's protectiveness, but she insisted, "No, no, he was behind bars- much more subdued, too. He told me his name wasn't really Enigma, even though he liked the air of mystery behind the moniker. And then he started rambling, sort of deliriously. About hate. How much he despised his parents for beating him, and his eighth grade teacher for raping him. About death, and the woman with cancer... the only person he ever loved. About the money troubles that followed, and drugs. The voices that tempted him with promises of happiness if he surrendered to their craving for blood, for justice..."
"That must have been horrible."
"It was disturbing, yes, but at the same time.. I feel sorry for him. Perhaps I shouldn't... I don't know." Usagi shook her head with frustration, beginning to gesture wildly with tears glistening in her expressive cobalt eyes. "I just don't think the world is split into black and white! We make good choices and bad choices, but underneath it all... Enigma was only human. A hurting human. Even if I cannot fathom the awful things he's done, I can at least make peace with the knowledge that he now has a chance- a chance to one day be redeemed, if he's willing to take it."
Mamoru admired her unfailing hope.
"You're a good person, Usagi." The eighteen-year-old had never been so confident of anything. A more compassionate human being than the one perched beside him, he had never met. The girl with sun-kissed tresses turned to Mamoru, gaze searching out his with a strange sound that was half-sob, half-laugh.
"So are you. You saved my life!"
"What can I say? I'm a gentleman through and through," the ebony-haired college student teased. Usagi snorted, but it was with seriousness infused into her tone that she confessed,
"In all the confusion afterward... I never thanked you for that."
"Thank you for saving my life," Usagi said sincerely, wrapping Mamoru's hand in hers and giving it a squeeze. Mamoru had a moment to revel in how inexplicably right that felt, their fingers tangled together like matching pieces of the same cosmic puzzle, before the girl withdrew. Her warm smile continued even as she lamented,
"But I have to say... we're pretty abysmal babysitters."
Mamoru laughed. "Yeah, I don't think Fumara-san will be calling on us again anytime soon. Odango Atama, I should have known from the off that a partnership between us was doomed to have the worst luck imaginable!"
Usagi shared in his mirth, albeit a beat late. Mamoru caught the question lurking in the blonde's stormy azure eyes; one that seemed to be eating at her attention. "...Odango?"
"I... I was just... Mamoru-san, what are we? Sometimes you call me Odango Atama... and sometimes Usagi. Are we friends now? Or are we a pair of very different- perhaps too different- people, who can only just barely achieve a civil toleration of each other depending on our moods?"
Mamoru mulled over his words, selecting them carefully. "Our... relationship... is whatever you wish to define it as, I suppose."
He didn't understand why his heart chose now to start thrumming with wild, flip-flopping fervor.
Usagi considered this, long and hard. "I believe I will miss being 'Odango Atama' and the 'Jerk'. There's something comforting in being able to expect our daily argument."
Mamoru stared. He wasn't sure why he felt so let-down, but he did. "You seriously want to remain enemies? Usagi, I won't deny we got off to a fractious start, but Friday night... severely changed my perception of you. I'm not sure I can go back."
"What happened to this being under my terms?" Usagi pouted, but Mamoru realized the girl was just pulling his leg when she grinned. "Of course I want to be friends with you, silly! So long as you'll always be my Mamoru-baka, spawn of Satan and occasional knight-in-shining armor."
Mamoru rolled his midnight blues heavenward. Tsukino Usagi, the world's strangest conundrum. He was intrigued and perplexed in equal measure.
"Truce?" Usagi threw out her hand, and Mamoru shook the appendage with a chortle of affectionate exasperation.
"Truce. But it's the most damn twisted impasse I've ever encountered my whole life. So you want to keep fighting in the middle of street corners, Odango Atama?"
Usagi sent him a blinding beam, hopping up as a stiff breeze ruffled her sundress and toyed with her hair. Mamoru gazed upon the figure of beauty before him, his indigo-hued eyes drowning in her vibrant cerulean. Some combination of intense emotion passed between the pair, a look that contained gratitude; forgiveness; amity. Then Usagi winked, a sly intimation, and the connection broke. She gave Mamoru a wave before skipping away, sweet voice drifting back to the man still reeling from their crazy chemistry and frustrating detente-
"Until next time, Jerk!"
Mamoru found himself eagerly awaiting next time.
...Little did he know that their subsequent meeting of chance would occur only three days later, when a certain Dark Kingdom General with a proclivity for backstabbing and summoning fire would trap he and an unsuspecting Tsukino Usagi inside a faulty elevator at the Starlight Tower.
But that, dear readers, is another story for another day.
(Or you could just ask Minako. But who would honestly be in the mood for a longwinded, mostly embellished account of how the natural-born matchmaker got the ball rolling that fateful Friday the 13th, until destiny stepped in and revealed Usagi and Mamoru for who they really were?)
Author's Note: Well guys... here we are. What a thrill it's been. I've really enjoyed writing this story, hopefully as much as you've all enjoyed reading it! I apologize that there wasn't a more satisfying romantic resolution, but I wanted to keep this as open-ended and within canon as possible. Unfortunately, to do so meant leaving Usagi and Mamoru in a better place than where we first met them, albeit not as the couple everyone craved they become. Real Sailor Moon fans shouldn't fret, however... they'll know right away what is implied by the last few paragraphs :)
Keep in touch! I'll continue updating my other stories so feel free to check them out!