by Kihin Ranno
"Time for a pop quiz, Mamoru."
These are words that would strike fear into any student's heart, well-prepared or no. However, Mamoru has never been singled out in such a sentence before. Nor has he ever heard it uttered in the Crown Arcade before.
He looks up from his homework, surprised to see Rei setting across from him at the booth he has commandeered. To begin with, they haven't spoken much since their quasi-relationship ended, with good reason on her part and pure guilt on his. Second of all, she hates the arcade: the noises give her a headache. And finally, she looks downright pleasant. She never looks downright pleasant where he's concerned.
"I'm giving you a pop quiz," she confirms, gently pushing some of his books out of the way so she can rest her elbows on the table.
Mamoru wonders if he's fallen asleep and his subconscious is telling him to lay off the studying. He wonders if he should pinch himself.
Rei kicks him beneath the table before he can.
"You're awake," she says, her voice harsh but her face still smooth. "Ready for your quiz?"
Because Rei frightens him on the best of days, he nods. "Okay?"
"Good!" she chirps. He has never heard her chirp before. He doesn't care to again.
"Question number one: what month is it?"
Now he's really afraid of her. Crazy people with magical powers are traditionally not to be trifled with. "Umm... June."
Rei smiles. He manages not to shudder. "Good! Question two: what is today's date?"
He frowns, hesitating. "The 27th."
Rei makes a buzzer noise. Mamoru decides she's been hanging around Minako too much. "Sorry, incorrect. Third and final question: when is Usagi's 16th birthday?"
"June thir-" He stops. He feels sick. He may die. Because Usagi may kill him. "Oh, my God."
"By george, he's got it," Rei drawls.
"It's her birthday? Seriously? You're not kidding?"
Rei snorts. "Mamoru, please try to remember this about me. I do not joke about Usagi's birthday. Contrary to popular belief, I do value her friendship."
Mamoru buries his hands in his hair. "Three days. How could I lose three days? I was going to get her gift tomorrow after my paper was done, but now-"
Rei holds up her hand. "Slow down, cowboy. I don't know exactly how you lost three days, but I do have a solution to your other problem."
Mamoru gapes. "How?"
Rei smiles smugly. Now he realizes why she was being so nice to him: to relish this moment. "I have convinced Usagi that you haven't mentioned her upcoming birthday because you're stressed, but that you're still a loving enough boyfriend to have remembered it and planned something wonderful."
This makes Mamoru feel rather like an ass. Clearly, this was Rei's intention.
"To this end, I have planned the following romantic evening: you will pick Usagi up in two hours. This should give you enough time to not look like the walking dead. Minako has been at the Tsukinos for an hour already helping with dress, hair, makeup, etc. Makoto is at your apartment now cooking a fabulous French dinner. She will be gone by the time you arrive home with Usagi, and the dinner will be piping hot. I will take that essay from you - Usagi told me it's on its 4th draft, so don't try and tell me its unfinished. Ami will proofread and fact check. And finally, you will give her these." Rei holds out a Tiffany's box and flips it open to reveal a pair of pearl and diamond droplet earrings. "On a similar note, you owe me ¥10,000. I expect it by this weekend."
Mamoru stares at her in complete disbelief. He doesn't know what to say, but somehow, he manages, "Thank you."
She pushes the jewelry box into his hands. "I didn't do it for you."
He nods, avoiding her eyes. "I know."
Rei gets to her feet, and although he doesn't look, he feels her eyes on him, cold enough to burn. "I love her."
He nods again.
"More than anything."
He takes a deep breath and looks into her eyes. Underneath all her bluster, he knows there's some sorrow there. He hopes she sees his own.
"So do I."
She glares at him for awhile longer. Finally, she seems satisfied and turns to leave. Before she leaves the restaurant, she offers one final thought.
"Don't screw up."
She's out of earshot before he answers.