Every time I've seen her she always looked troubled. Even when she is smiling, she looks ill at ease. You wouldn't think that a priestess would experience that kind of unhappiness, that kind of dissatisfaction. When you think of a priest or priestess, you think of someone who is in touch with the world and themselves, at peace. I guess that must be a stereotype too, like assuming just because someone is on the volleyball team and sort of popular that their happy and have it good. Anyway, she is unhappy. I'm not sure if the others notice. She's a bit hard to read, maybe it's just the darkness of her eyes, but you can't tell immediately by looking in them like you can with Usagi-chan… that is unless you've been looking as long as I have. After all, she is my best friend.
When I'm supposed to be studying, I know Ami-chan would have my head for saying this (though with my grades it's not surprising), but I almost never really focus on what is in front of me. I tend to watch her. She doesn't pay that close attention to what she is reading either. I can tell because her eyes stay on the same page for way too long. She's always thinking and the longer she seems to chew over whatever is on her mind the deeper the frown on her face seems to get. Then when we get to a little chatting and gossip after, she only pretends to smile. She never smiles with her eyes, not like the others do. I think Ami notices a bit, not as much as I do, but sometimes I see her get this analyzing look that she has as Mercury when she sees her.
I guess I should probably get to the point. I, Aino Minako, have resolved to discover whatever it is that is bothering my best friend AND more importantly make her happy! I have a quest! A mission! Another way to avoid doing my homework! Have no fear Hino Rei, Sailor V is on the case.
So I've decided to help Rei, the only problem is that I have no idea where to begin. You know what they say… don't count your chickens before there's two in the bush. I think the best thing to do is to find out as much as I possibly can about Rei… that I don't already know. After all no one is better at finding out people's secrets than I am! It's not being nosey if it's for her own good… right?
I'm going to start a journal about any and all things Hino. Thank goodness for all the time I've spent spying and gathering information on all the idols come and gone. And they said nothing would ever come of it! Stealth is an absolute necessity and by now I'm an expert.
My first stop is going to be to Haruka and Michiru's place to have a chat with Setsuna. I'm going to be the queen of subtlety and squeeze as much info about the past and future from her as I can without so much as hinting at my motivations. I'm actually glad that Usagi's spending the weekend with her Mamo-chan because otherwise she'd want to come too. She loves visiting the outers.
I drop by around lunch time and Hotaru answers the door. She looks a bit depressed, but unlike another purple-haired girl I know there is no mystery there. She's been like that since Chibi-Usa went back to the 30th century. Makes a girl wonder just how close they were. She's polite and everything as calls for Haruka and Michiru, thinking I've come by to see them. I often do. They are great to talk to and totally perfect for each other, but today I have a very different agenda.
"Actually Hotaru, I was looking for Setsuna. Is she in?" She gives me this kind of curious look.
"She's upstairs. I'll go tell her you're here." A few minutes later and Setsuna is downstairs preparing tea for us.
"Good-afternoon Minako-san, what brings you here?" Formal as ever.
"Just wanted to see you. We never really get to hang-out that often." She only raises an eyebrow like she knows I have more in mind than that. Come to think of it she probably does.
"Ah, well what is it we don't do that constitutes hanging-out?" She hands me a cup of tea and sips carefully at her own, properly. The way Rei does.
"Talk. Just talk." Raising her eyebrow yet again, she smiles at me. It's strange when she smiles. To tell you the truth it's definitely much more of a smirk.
"What do you wish to talk about?" Rei and the past and the future…
"Not talk, really more like chatting."
She nods, a bit of playfulness in it, before clarifying. "Girl talk."
"Yeah! Girl talk." Setsuna does girl talk?
I have to stop her there. "Mina, you can call me Mina, all my friends do."
She's clearly a bit uncomfortable with it, but she obliges. "Mina-san…" sort of anyway. "Is there something more specific you came to ask me?"
Feeling much like a sheep who cried wolf, I give myself up. "I wanted to know about the past and the future actually…" I give a little bit of a helpless shrug at the end.
"You know I am not at liberty to reveal such information to you" Her tone is a bit regretful.
"What if I ask you questions, just a few. Do you think you could answer them?"
With a thoughtful tap to her cup, she answers. "I suppose I might be able to answer depending upon the question."
"GREAT!" My excited shout causes her to jump a bit. With my mental notepad ready I begin the first real session of information gathering.
I spent all last night cataloguing the juicy bits I got from Setsuna. It's like this: the Princess of Mars (Rei's former self) was an only child. Her mother died kind of mysteriously at a young age. From the way she talked around it, I guess it was a real touchy issue, much like Rei's immediate family in this life. When I asked if we all ended up pretty happy, she hesitated a beat before answering "for the most part" and then told me not to worry. I also asked her to describe our past and future selves as fully as she was allowed to. Her descriptions of Sailor Mars where a little strange… like she said, "Mars was Mars, she spent a lot of time to herself. Not that she was antisocial, quite the contrary. She was often to the moon kingdom and before her and…" She stopped herself there and I knew she wouldn't tell me anything else about that. "In any case, when we were younger she used to spend inordinate amounts of time at the Venutian palace." I wanted so badly to ask 'used to?' but I knew it would do me no good.
I never noticed this before. It's so strange because we've all been remembering our former lives. I have lots of recovered memories. I tried to remember her, but almost none of them involve or even have any indication of Sailor Mars' existence whatsoever. I mean I have the group memories and logically she is there, but it's hard to explain. The best way I can describe it is like she's blurry, I can't remember anything my former self thought of her which isn't true of anyone else.
This is getting kind of complex, I better write it down in the notebook.
It's horrible to even think of as a possibility, but maybe something happened between me and Rei. Could I be the cause of Rei's unhappiness? That's impossible though isn't it? Rei's not shy, she would have told me if I was doing something that was annoying her. I think my next step in this operation should be to have a good old fashion slumber party with the girl in question. At least then I can tell if she's mad at me! Not to mention she has that TV in her bedroom all to herself. So I pick up the phone and call.
It's Rei.. "Rei-chan?"
"Mina-chan?" She sounds surprised.
"Hai! Do you wanna do something tonight?" It's Saturday after all.
"Um… I don't know Mina, I've got a lot to do around the Shrine. It's been a…" Maybe she is mad at me. I can hear her grandfather in the background telling her that she should be going out more, that she works too hard, and something about wild oats. I agree with all but maybe the last one, I never really liked Granola. I can almost hear her rolling her eyes. "What did you have in mind?" There is a hint of excitement in her voice.
"Just a good old fashioned girly slumber party."
"Slumber party." She repeats skeptically, sounding almost wary.
"Yup!" C'mon Rei don't be such a party pooper.
"So should I call Makoto and Ami?" She asks.
"What? Um…yeah sure if you want to." Why?
"You don't want them to come? It's not much of a party with only two people…" There she goes, taking things too seriously again.
"Ok, not so much a party as a slumber occasion. And I kind of wanted it just to be us. No offense to Mako and Ami, but we don't really get to hang out so much any more."
"We see each other all the time Mina. We study together everyday after school!" Ugh! Stop being difficult Rei, you make it so hard to help you.
"I mean just the two of us! You're my best friend and we hardly get to talk talk anymore" A little guilt trip never hut anyone.
She's quiet for a little bit almost like she's bothered by what I just said. "Your place or mine?"
"Well it's easier for me to get a bus over there than for you to."
"I have a car."
WHAT? When did Rei learn to drive? When did Rei get a car? "You can drive?"
"It's a required subject at TA." I can picture the smirk on her face. "Grandpa bought me a car for my 16th birthday."
"Why didn't you tell us?" I would have had a ride anywhere, no more bus for me.
"Because then you all would have made me your personal chauffer like Usa does with Mamo when we go out." So what if it's true, it was still an evil thing to do Hino Rei!
"Humph!" She laughs a bit at my response. She's clearly not upset enough to stop poking fun at me, maybe there's hope for her yet.
"We can have it here, Yuuchiru-san's away this week and I can come pick you up…in a half an hour?"
"Yeah!" That means I'll be the first of us to ride in Rei's new car.
Rei shows up exactly a half hour from our phone call in a very nice, very new car. Grandpa must have been saving up for quite a long time. It's black and sporty and if I had it, I wouldn't want to drive it much either. I'd probably have a heart attack if the windshield got dirty. Wow… leather interior. Certainly not the typical form of shrine maiden transportation, but I'm definitely not complaining. I open the door carefully and put my bag in the back. After I've climbed in I shut it just as carefully and Rei looks at me, amused. She looks good in this car, not quite so sad anymore. The radio is playing softly and she's humming and singing along. Maybe it was just a really long spell of normal depression. We all get that. I know I do, so why do I feel like it's much more than a passing thing?
We get to the shrine without incident and are soon in her bedroom. I put my bag in the far corner. We kind of just stand there and I can't think of a thing to do. This kind of stuff was so much easier when we were younger. I remember when we first met, that was three years ago. There wasn't any of this standing around wondering what to do. It didn't matter, because we could have fun doing anything. I guess that's just how life goes. Fun gets harder and harder to come by as you get older and wow I'm depressing myself and that won't do because I'm here to cheer someone else up.
That someone is sitting on her bed looking pretty deep in thought. She's very quiet, she didn't used to be this quiet. Seeing one of her pillows on the floor I get an idea. I pick it and take aim, hitting her square in the head.
She looks really shocked for a second like she doesn't understand what just happened, then she stares at me and I have to giggle. She only arches her eyebrow in response to that.
"You'd better be willing to finish what you start Aino Minako."
Smiling at her. "Is that supposed to scare me?"
"Only warn." She adds soberly. Smiling widely, I wait till she looks away to pelt her again and before I have a chance to really react, she's knocked me onto her bed, sat on my belly and pinned my hands above my head. I know what she is going to do and I'm suddenly wishing that I had listened to her. I forgot how quick she is.
"Rei-chan I was only kidding with you." I can tell by the look in her eyes, she's not feeling very merciful tonight and the tickle-attack she launches seconds later shows I'm right. Being extremely ticklish sucks because in no time I'm laughing so hard I can barely breathe. I try to buck her off, but her grip is pretty solid, so I start begging between laughs and gasping for breath. "Please…Re…Rei-chan…no…No…NO…I'm…oh…I'm sor…sorry!…please… please stop…" And she does with a definite smirk. She's so evil sometimes. She gets off me and sits next to me as I try and catch my breath.
"I warned you." She says quietly, but I can tell she's amused.
I have just enough energy to throw a raspberry her way. She just smiles. I take a few more moments to rest, before I notice something on her bedside table. There is a picture of a beautiful young woman. She looks like Rei only older. I've never seen it before. It's black and white and I recognize the cherry trees the woman is standing in front of as the ones at the shrine. The woman in the photo is looking downward with a smile and as I follow her eyes down I see a baby girl with dark hair gripping her left leg. I pick up the photograph to find there is another behind it, this one of the woman holding the same child asleep on her lap. That must be Rei's mom.
"That's my mother and me." She's closer than I thought she was. Rei moved and is now lying down next to me on her stomach with her chin resting on her folding arms.
"They're nice pictures, did your Dad take them?" I ask gently.
"Grandpa did." She says with a smile that quickly fades as she adds. "My Dad never came to the shrine."
Feeling like I need to change the subject, I put them back on the table and quietly close with "She was beautiful." Rei nods. "You look just like her."
She blushes a little bit and it's so cute. "Grandpa thinks so too."
We just lay there for a bit and I notice she's getting that same look she had earlier. It seems a bit too simple, but I think I'll give it a try. I'm just going to ask her what she is thinking about.
"You're being awfully quiet."
She looks at me for a second and I can't tell what she is feeling, then she turns away. "I'm sorry, I guess I am being a bit of a bad hostess." No, no, no that's not what I meant at all.
"That's not what I meant. I meant is there something you want to talk about?" C'mon Rei, you can tell me anything. I just want you to be happy again. She's not saying anything.
"If this is a slumber 'occasion' shouldn't we be doing each other's hair and playing truth or dare or something like that?" Way to change the subject Rei and I was getting so close. Although truth or dare does have its possibilities, it's not an especially good two-player game.
"Um, if you want to."
"What do you want to do?" She shoots back and turns on her side to look at me. "Did you have anything specific in mind when you called me Mina?"
Not really, just talking. Perhaps some more thinking ahead could have helped me now. "No, I just missed you." The way we were, when you were happier, when I was happier. Before we died the last time.
"You missed me?" She sounds genuinely curious.
"Yeah well, everyone else I get to see at school. We get to talk and gossip but you, it's just weird without you there." I think for a moment, before I whisper the next part. "I don't like it." This is turning into a revealing session about me and how I feel, rather than Rei. Why do my plans always go awry? I feel a pout coming on.
"I miss you too." She answers quietly with a sad smile. "I wish I went to school with you, especially now that all the senshi either go or work there."
Oh Rei… I remember you saying something like that on the rooftop when we confronted the three lights and what you said to save me from revealing our princess. I can feel my cheeks burning with the thought of it. It gets me thinking on a subject that is often on my mind. Another few moments of silence pass while we lay facing each other on our sides. As a side note, her bed is really comfortable.
"Do you have a boyfriend?"
She looks at me very strangely. "No." Seriously, she adds "I wouldn't hide something like that from you. I would tell you if I had someone." It's actually very comforting. "Do you?"
Huh? "Do I what?"
"Have a boyfriend baka." I kick her lightly for that. Unlike Usagi, I have no problem getting even with Rei for her teasing.
I wish. At least I think I wish, I've been trying to get one for so long I'm not even sure if I really want one anymore. I do, I just mean I wonder sometimes if it's the guy or just the idea of having a guy that I'm so crazy about. I've had a few now, none of them really worked out. The longest was about four months. I used to think that maybe I would feel whatever it was that made you want to be with someone forever after we… well, anyway I proved myself wrong. I don't think it helps that Usa and Mamo just got married, of course I'm happy for them but it just reminds me of what I don't have and can't seem to find.
"No," Turning on my back to look at her ceiling, I ask a question that I ask myself a lot of the time. "Do you think you ever will?"
She doesn't take offense, because she knows I don't mean it that way. "No." That's not the answer I expected and it makes me turn back on my side to look and make sure she's serious. She is! Rei is that why you're all depressed? Have you given up all hope on love?
"Because I don't want one." She says it with a little bit of nervousness in her voice. Why would someone want to be alone for the rest of their life? I certainly don't. Maybe Rei just likes the single life, her privacy, her solitude, but I don't really believe that either. I remember her saying similar things before, men are foolish, things like that.
"You like your space too much to share it?" I say it with a smirk and a gentle poke to her belly.
She takes the hand I poked her with in hers and looks into my eyes. "I didn't say that." I'm confused by the answer and by the way she is looking at me. There is kind of a staring contest between us and I feel sort of tense, not in a bad way, just the feeling you get when you think something important is going to happen. A large growl from my stomach interrupts whatever was just going on.
Rei turns her eyes down to my stomach and lets go of my hand. "Hungry?"
A little embarrassed, I nod.
"Let's get you something to eat then." And she's up and in the kitchen in seconds. She makes me something simple and I eat it almost as quickly as Usagi would. I had forgotten to eat diner. Rei only pecks at some of the left-over food. She seems a little different when it's just the two of us, a little calmer, a little happier, and the tiniest bit nicer. I can't help but wonder about it, I'm as curious as a kitten whose lost her mitten.
I smile at her, she smiles back looking like she thinks I'm planning something. "So no boyfriend, but is there any great development I should know?"
She pauses as if choosing her words. "Not really."
"Not really as in no, or not really as in I'm not sure if I want to tell anyone this yet?" I pry, so maybe I'm just a little nosey. She blushes and I sip at the tea she made me victoriously. "So the second one?"
I may appear a bit on the ditzy side, but for the most part I just pretend not to notice the obvious. I'm not sure if it's part of my sailor senshi powers, but I definitely know when there is something up and most the time I can guess what it is. Rei looks like she's about to die of embarrassment, so my guess would be something big and most likely love-related. I better save her before she faints. "I'll let it go this time." I thought she didn't want a boyfriend. Either I'm wrong or she is lying.
She nods her thank you and cleans the kitchen up.
A little later we are back in her room on her bed and we're watching TV, well actually I'm watching and Rei is reading something for her school and glancing up occasionally. She looks so cute in those reading glasses. I never knew she had them, she won't wear them to study sessions.
I've been thinking about what Setsuna said yesterday. I wonder if Rei remembers me, um Venus, um Rei remembers what Mars remembered about Venus, yeah that's right I think. I can't focus on the show with so much on my mind, so I shut it off.
"Tired?" She asks, looking up from her book.
"A little." It's true. I've been trying really hard to not fall asleep in classes and I'm exhausted actually. I sit up and cross my legs. "Rei?"
"Yes?" She takes her glasses off and puts her book back on the bedside table.
"Do you remember the past?" Rei looks a little wary.
She pauses and then answers. "Some of it. Why?"
"Do you remember me?" The room goes quiet, like it does when I misquote something. Ok…
She seems completely lost in thought, staring off in to space, I think she is remembering something. I can't possibly know what. After a minute she comes back.
"Do I remember what about you?"
"Anything" Cause I don't.
"Yes." I watch her, something is definitely out of the ordinary.
"Tell me." I need to know.
"Why?" She's being difficult again and I resist the urge to smack her. Instead I appeal to her sympathetic nature, however limited it is. In other words, I pout.
Rolling her eyes melodramatically, she turns away. "Mina-chan…" She seems really upset, which is not what I wanted.
"Rei…" I say it quietly as I scoot next to her.
"I remember the day we met… the day I… Mars came to the palace." I just listen quietly. "I don't know if you remember what the moon palace looked like, how amazing it was. Mars was awed by it and after she met the queen, she was introduced to the other scout who had arrived. It was you, or Venus. We spent a lot of time together, in the beginning it was just us. The others didn't come for awhile." I don't remember much of that. I have a basic outline of what happened, but I don't have a single memory of the time spent with Mars, like it never happened. "We were… friends, we were soldiers, we died together with the rest of the scouts during that last battle." She finishes by getting up off the couch and going into the kitchen. I can hear her getting a drink. Why do I feel like that's a painfully abbreviated version? There was a slight hesitation before she said friends, what could she possibly be hiding from me? I can feel myself chewing on my lip, as I think…nervous habit.
"I'm sorry about that Mina-chan. I've been feeling a bit tired and grumpy lately, my classes are difficult." I didn't even notice she had come back into the room, until she spoke. She's so stealthy. Maybe it's just because I'm used to sleeping over Usagi's, she's always tripping and falling and crying as a result. You can hear her coming from a mile away. "Though I'm sure if Usa-chan were here, she'd say I'm always that way."
"S'okay Rei-chan. I understand." And I do! Ami convinced me to take an advanced Math course this year. I don't know what I was thinking of. Again though I have this feeling that she just lied to me, that none of this has anything to do with school. "If you're tired you should get some sleep, don't let me keep you up."
She almost says something but then stops herself. "I thought you said you were tired?"
"Me?" I grin at her. "Nah, I'm a night owl, I live for the night." I make my infamous Sailor V sign.
"Oh?" She lifts an eyebrow at me. "Well that explains your strange sleeping habits."
"What strange sleeping habits?" What is she talking about?
"Using text books as pillows during study sessions." She shrugs and puts her glasses back on, opening the book back to the page she was on.
"That only happened 5 or 6 times, max 8." She makes a sarcastic 'pardon me' gesture. I stick my tongue out at her in response. She only smirks. I take the remote control off her bed and turn the TV back on. I find something that doesn't require much attention, so I can think and because I lied, I'm actually not much of a night owl. I'm pretty sure I could doze off at any moment.
I wake up a little confused. First I'm not in my own bed, generally not a good sign. Second, I'm alone which could be either good or bad. I sit up and finally my eyes focus… Rei's room! Oh geez, I forgot about the slumber thing! When did I fall asleep?
Looking around, I notice that I'm in her bed and that the sandals and the jean jacket I was wearing over my shirt are on a chair across the room. I look at the clock realizing it's still pretty early, where is Rei? I better go find her, maybe today I can do a better job of getting to the bottom of her problems. Swinging my legs over the side of the bed, I hear soft breathing. I pull my feet back up and look over the edge, smiling at what I see. Rei's curled up on a mat with the extra set of covers. She looks peaceful…. and young. It is strange to see her that way, she's always been the mature one (except with Usa), the disciplined one, but she looks like a child when she sleeps. Her legs are bent up toward her body, her feet stick out below the covers, and her hands are tucked beneath her head. I must be heavy or something, because I just can't see Rei willingly giving up her bed.
"Rei-san I was wondering where you…" Yuuchiru stops when he sees she's sleeping. I thought he was away for the weekend? He looks confused, but then waves awkwardly. "Hey Aino-san, didn't mean to intrude."
"Hi Yuuchiru, you can call me Mina-chan, all my friends do." He nods, rubbing nervously at the back of his neck with the slightest of blushes on his cheeks. I'm not quite sure what he is embarrassed about actually. Boys are so strange sometimes…
"I was just wondering about the broom, you don't know where Rei-san put it do you?" He says it quietly, obviously trying not to wake her. I can see him watching her from under that massive mop of hair on his head.
I really don't want to wake her up. She looked so tired last night. If I stay in the room I'll try too hard to keep quiet and end up making more noise… that seems to be how it happens anyway. "No, but I'll help you look." He seems to understand that I want to let her sleep, so he doesn't refuse.
I climb off the other side of the bed and throw on my jean jacket. As I'm buttoning it, I see Yuuchiru walk over and pick Rei up. Trying not to be obvious, I watch him. He tucks her in and puts a bit of hair behind her ear and subtly kisses her forehead. Not a real kiss, no she'd kill him for that. It's like a big brother's reminder that he cares and will protect her. He still loves her…
Looking at my feet to disguise the fact that I was spying (so crafty) I wait for him to walk over before lifting my head up.
A few minutes later I'm in a tool shed, up to my knees in sand bags, gravel, and soil piles regretting my decision to lend a hand. "Rei-chan told me you were going away this weekend." I yell to Yuuchiro who is digging through a stack of rakes and shovels.
"I was, but I um…" He blows his hair away from his face. "I kind of accidentally knocked a ritual statue over at the shrine Grampa sent me to study at." He laughed nervously. "I was only there for an hour, I took the early morning train back." Laughing again, he wiped at the dirt on his face with the white sleeve of his priest uniform. "I can't believe Rei-san is still asleep."
I would be if I hadn't fallen asleep early last night. It's only noon. "Why?"
He looks at me, surprised. "She hasn't slept the night in weeks maybe even months." Hmm… weird. She never said anything. "Most nights she just ends up at the sacred fire." He's obviously concerned.
I stop my search, wiping the dirt from my hands. "She never said anything." I'm kind of hurt that she would tell him and not me.
Smiling a bit, Yuuchiru pushes his hair out of his eyes again. "She never does." As it falls into his eyes again he finally just gives up. "I see her whenever I stay the night."
"Has she always had trouble?"
"No. Maybe a little, I'm not sure. I told her Grandfather, he said that she never slept that well, not since her mom died."
I guess it could have something to do with her depression.
He picks up a sand bag and tosses it to the side. "I came back late one night from training at a shrine a few towns over. I was in the guest bedroom and I heard her screaming… I ran to see if she ok, she was having a nightmare, a vision from what her Grandfather said." I don't know what to say. "I don't think it's in here."
"Me neither…" He climbs out of the shed, but as soon as he got out of the doorway I heard him yell in pain.
"Take THAT!" I run outside to see Rei's Grampa wielding the broom dangerously and Yuuchiro flat on his face against the stone walkway. "Yuuchiru?" The old man dropped his fighting stance. "Goodness I thought you two were looters!" I couldn't help but laugh, as the poor guy slowly got up. Looks like Grampa still has some fight left in him.
"I was helping him look for the broom." I answer for both of us, and he smiles at me in his normal lecherous way. It's become more funny than anything else by now…though Rei would disagree.
Suddenly it occurs to him. "Wait a second… why are you back so soon?" I giggle as Grampa chases poor Yuuchiru across the courtyard and out around the back smacking him with the broom.
I stand on the patio watching them, when a voice interrupts me. "Will those two ever grow up?"
"Rei-chan you're awake!" I smile at her. She smiles back looking slightly less unconvincing than usual.
"Sorry about that, I don't usually oversleep." She looks off into the cherry trees.
She looks at me strangely. "It's nearly noon Mina-chan."
"Doesn't matter! It's the weekend and that makes it impossible to oversleep. You have nothing to get up for." I declare. And it's true.
She laughs softly, it's nice to listen to. "I guess you're right."
"Of Course I am." I say confidently. She rolls her eyes and stretches lightly stifling a yawn. "Still tired lazy bones?" I guess that's a bit of the pot calling the kettle green with envy.
Rei looks slightly offended and crosses her arms defiantly. "Lazy bones?"
I just shrug and drag her inside and back to her room. She laughs a little when I let her go. She takes a moment and looks me over. I must look like I took a dirt bath. "What were you doing?"
"Yuuchiru couldn't find the broom. I was helping him look. You should be in bed Rei." I point to her bed with as stern a look as I can manage. I've never been good at looking angry when I'm not.
"I'm not that tired Mina-chan." Taking a seat on the bed she just looks at me. I wouldn't say that it's scary, but she has very intense eyes. They are so dark and rich, like looking into a forest at night or something. You know that there are things going on inside, you just can't make out what they are. I smile triumphantly as she tries to hide a yawn. I feel a bit of jealousy at the fact that she manages to look elegant even when yawning.
"Really, it's ok, you should go back to sleep if you are tired. Don't feel like you have to stay awake to amuse me." Smiling in a way that I hope reassures her, I finish. "I can play with myself for awhile."
Her eyebrow shoots up. "Not in my bed." Huh?
Ah! That's terrible Rei-chan! You must be spending more time with Haruka lately. "Ecchi!"
She only smirks at me clearly amused. Definitely hanging out with Haruka too much. Turning my sweet pure Rei-chan into a pervert. Maybe she always was, like a closet pervert or something. I wouldn't be surprised, it would explain that calm demeanor she forces on herself. She is trying to hide it! I knew that it wasn't just a product of her training as a priestess. I don't know why I didn't see it before. That juicy little bit is absolutely going in the notebook.
"Let's skip the nap and catch some lunch."
My tummy would be up for it, but my mind isn't made up. "Rei-chan I really think you should be in bed."
Smiling genuinely, which is rare, and she looks at me. "I'm ok, I promise."
I'm still a bit skeptical, but once again my tummy is siding with her. "Ok I guess. But tonight you are going to go to bed early! And don't wake your self up in the morning!"
Rolling her eyes, she answers with a light "Hai, mother."
A shower, a change of clothes, and a short car drive (I'm in love with her car) later we are at this nice little eatery downtown. I've never been here before, but I guess she has. Rei waves at a few people I don't recognize, must be from her school, and gets us a table in the corner. Back to business.
"So…" Not the best conversation starter, but I'm a little nervous.
She looks up from her menu and crosses her legs. A few of the guys nearby take notice, that skirt is distractingly tiny…"So…"
I need a few moments to collect myself. "What's good here?"
She gets this funny almost disappointed little frown, before pointing out a few things and critiquing them, the same way she does with everything. She tells me what she is getting, which sounds tasty. I only half listen, really I'm just trying to figure out someway to bring up the subject of what's bothering her subtly. I sometimes have a problem with that.
"Well, look who it is." I feel the voice like rich velvet on my ear and immediately know who it is.
"Haruka!" She winks at me and Michiru smiles a polite greeting. Rei looks up from her menu to welcome them with a polite nod. Haruka takes a seat next to me and Rei-chan scootches over for Michiru. She drapes her arms around me and I giggle. She is such a flirt.
"What are you two doing out this fine morning?" I ask.
Haruka laughs lightly. "Getting lunch." Rei stifles hers. So it was obvious, cut me a break! It's still early for me.
Michiru gives her girlfriend a playfully stern glare. "Don't mind her," Haruka smirks.
"Excuse me, I need to use the restroom" Getting up, Rei turns around and looks at me. "Mina-chan if it's not too much trouble would you order for me? Do you remember what I was going to get?"
"Of course!" Luckily I was paying enough attention. Haruka gets this little grin on her face, which earns her another glare from Michiru. I don't understand this one. The blonde only shrugs in response.
"Did I miss something?" I ask a bit confused.
Haruka laughs and Michiru shakes her head sighing lightly. "Again Mina-chan, don't mind her."
Ok…they are so strange sometimes. The waitress comes over and brings us coffee and a tea for Rei-chan (she doesn't like coffee, I know that much). We place our orders.
Taking a sip of her coffee, Haruka speaks again. "So you and Rei?" The question earns her a, in my opinion unwarranted, kick from the girl across the table.
"Yup! I don't feel like we've been spending enough time together so we had a sleep over."
"A sleep over huh?" Why is she saying it like that?
"Ah." Maybe Sestsuna-san told her about our conversation…maybe she is suspicious.., maybe I should tell her.
"Can you keep a secret?"
She gets this huge grin and Michiru even looks interested. They both nod.
"I'm undercover." They both look completely surprised by the answer. I'm even more stealthy than I thought.
"Undercover?" Michiru asks, Haruka seems too taken aback to say anything.
"I'm on a mission, to discover exactly what Rei-chan is so upset about. Maybe you haven't seen it, but she is definitely depressed! And who better to help her than a close friend? That's why I've taken up the challenge. I'm still collecting information, but as soon as I discover what the problem is, I won't stop till she is as happy as an oyster." I make a covert V sign. "I'm even keeping a journal." Haruka looks more confused than before and Michiru isn't too far behind.
"…Oh! Good luck Minako. It certainly is a noble cause." Michiru says with her natural grace somewhat returned. Maybe Setsuna didn't say anything to them. It doesn't matter because Rei is back and I have to act natural.
She takes her seat. "Did you order?"
I smile a bit. "Yes"
"Don't worry! I remembered sauce on the side. You trained me well." I say with a wink.
Haruka laughs which earns her another glare from her girlfriend. Michiru shakes her head and puts down the sugar that she was about to add to her coffee. Somehow I think a certain blonde haired racer will be sleeping on the couch. I stick my tongue out at her.
However, Rei's reaction is definitely the most interesting. A blush of Ami proportions has appeared instead of the scowl or glare that I would have placed money on. I'm not sure that I've seen her blush like that before. It's kind of scary. Rei Hino doesn't blush… she makes people blush. I feel like I need to change the subject before she faints.
"So Michiru how is your new concert series coming?" I think I remember her mentioning something about a new concert series. I hope I do…
"Oh it's going well, we've gotten most of the opening acts and a few collaborators which I am very excited about." Well that's cool. Maybe I could score some free tickets? "I've also written three new songs which I think fit right in with the theme of the concert, though I'm starting to lean towards placing them in the second set."
God, it's not fair. How does a person get to be beautiful, talented, and find the love of their life in their teens? It is a gross injustice! At least with Usa there are flaws, though she is undeniably lovable. Michiru is perfect! It is so infuriating sometimes. I know it terrible, but I wish she would trip or burp in a public place or something to prove she is human. It is similar to how I used to feel about Rei until I saw how unhappy she is.
I'm pretty lost in my thoughts for most of the meal. Rei seems to be too. She hasn't said a word. We must be great company, the two of us. I can tell we are making Haruka uncomfortable, which I would normally enjoy, but I'm feeling a bit discouraged. I don't think I've really made any progress with Rei-chan. Every new thing I see just confuses me more.
Before I even realize it, we've finished everything and they've snatched up the bill. I guess I won't make a fuss, I don't have that much cash anyway. I feel like a bit of jerk. They came and sat down with us and we didn't talk at all. I wave an awkward goodbye and smile apologetically. Rei thanks them for lunch.
"What's wrong?" I'm through dancing around the issue, I've never been that tactful.
"Hmm?" She looks confused.
"What's wrong Rei-chan? You seem so down lately."
She doesn't seem to know what to say and her face kind of scrunches up then relaxes. "I told you…" She taps at a salt grain sitting on the table, is she seriously fidgeting? "My classes are difficult". I can barely hear her she is speaking so softly.
I'm not buying it! "No, I want the real reason now" I waggle my finger at her for dramatic effect.
"Mina…" It's like she's begging me not ask any more. "Please…" She looks so so sad, and I reach over and hug her. I want her to be okay. I want to help her, to make her feel as good as she deserves to. It looks like it might be working cuz she kinda sinks into me for like a second, eyes closed, but then she just flinches and gets up.
"Mina… I… I just can't." I kinda stare at my empty arms, totally confused.
"Can't what?" The question is to no one, because in those few seconds she booked it. I'm on my feet almost instantly and thanks to my speediness I get out the door just in time to see her climb in her car. She wouldn't leave without me would she? I run to the passenger side.
"Rei, hey! Wait up!" I am able to get the car open and throw myself in before she locks it. "WHAT is going on?" I am totally and completely out of explanations. She is looking down and her hair is covering her face, so on top of it all I can't even tell how she feels…until she looks at me a second later, and I am immediately wishing I hadn't gotten in the car. Apparently she has gone from upset to extremely angry, and nobody shoots a glare like Hino Rei. Her eyes feel like they are burning into my forehead and I can't help squirming in my seat.
"Are you okay, Rei?" I ask it quietly, trying not to sound too scared. She glares harder. "Okay, okay, so you're upset, it's obvious" She turns her eyes forward and flops back against the driver's seat. She closes her eyes and I watch her take in a deep breath, feeling a little less like she might kill me.
"Do you really not get it Mina?"
"Get what?" I am almost afraid to ask. "So you HAVE given up on love." Hmm… first instinct … I am the Goddess of love after all.
"No." She shakes her head. "You really don't understand, do you?" She sighs again.
"I'm trying to!" I protest, and I wish it hadn't come out so whiny, the crossed arms probably don't help either… but damn it! I tried all weekend! "That's what this whole thing was supposed to be!"
"What whole thing?" She looks at me confused.
"You seemed so sad Rei, I wanted to figure out how to make you happy. I was trying to figure out why you were unhappy to begin with. It was an undercover operation." She just raised an eyebrow at me.
"You were doing reconnaissance on me?"
"Uh…maybe? But it was fun, I really did miss you." Is she gonna be pissed about that?
"What did you learn?" She almost seems genuinely curious…
I have to sigh. That is the point! I didn't learn anything… "Nothing yet."
She looks down, almost shy now. "I thought it was obvious, no boyfriend, telling you I didn't want one… all of it."
"You said you hadn't given up on love though…." I have to point it out, because that is the only obvious answer. She seems to think there is another, but I'm pretty quick myself.
"I haven't." She looks at me, very intensely, and it is hard for me not to look away. "And THAT is why we're still having this stupid conversation."
"Huh?" I just have no idea where she is going with that statement. Nothing is any clearer to me.
"Mina I don't know how else to say it to you…" She seems to be leaning more toward upset again, and I feel the need to try and comfort her again so I take her hand in mine and give it a little squeeze.
"Try. I wanna get it." I look her in the eye because I want her to know I am serious, I want her to tell me whatever it is. She looks like she is thinking hard about something and then she slowly, almost scared, touches my face. I smile at her and then she does the absolute craziest thing. She leans forward and kisses me. Not like a peck, like a full-blown kiss, on my lips, her hand sliding across my cheek, and I have absolutely no idea what to do, but my lips seem to respond. It is like they are moving without me.
She pulls away, and I touch my lips to make sure they didn't follow hers right off my face after the way Rei kissed them. I am… I don't even know. I just look at her and she seems as surprised as I am.
Then she softly asks "Do you get it now?" Do I get what now? Was that supposed to be an explanation? She seems to understand that I have no idea what she is talking about, and her eyes nearly roll out of her head.
"What?" Why is she angry now?
"I can't believe you're the Goddess of love…" She mumbles and I am slightly offended. "I like you ." She says it like it some great revelation.
"I like you too Rei…" I don't want her to think I don't.
"Minako!" She pulls me by my shirt toward her faster than I can even understand and gives me another one of those amazing kisses, longer, pulling my bottom lip with her teeth. Then she stares at me, while I try to get my brain to function. "baka…I like you." I heard the first time, and…. Oh…. OH! She likes me, like that likes me….
Hino Rei, the most beautiful girl I know has been miserable for months because she has a crush on me? I feel like she thinks that should make sense to me, but… wow. No one has ever kissed me like that before, made me whole body get all tingly. To think all of this could have been avoided, all she needed was a little Mina lovin'. I realize at some point she let go of me, but I am still half over the seat, almost like I froze in midair.
Like a flood, all the memories from our past lives, my memories of Rei, fill my head. I'm nearly dizzy from the rush. But pictures, of Mars, of Venus, kisses, quiet times, and some… woah. My cheeks are burning so hard they feel like they are on fire. It is must be ten minutes at least before I even blink and remember where I am. She is looking down, so I can't see her face.
"Are you disgusted?" How could she even…
"WHAT? Would I still be sitting in your car if I was… baka?" I mimic her own taunt back to her and I see her head whip toward me, the word affecting her just like I knew it would.
"True." She looks at me, forehead all scrunched up. "So what does this mean?"
I don't know, but I do know I want to find out especially after those memories. I can't say I didn't enjoy the kisses. I am questioning if I would have been so excited about making any of the others so happy, and I know it is different with her. I think she should know one thing though. "I've never been with…" She nods, trying to let me make up my mind. "But I'm a quick learner." I add with a grin, and I make her blush again… It's true though.
"I um…" She is suddenly all nervous and it too cute. She clears her throat obviously angry with herself for stuttering.
I take her hand in mine again. "One thing though."
She looks a little scared, but is trying to hide it. "Okay."
"I wanna take you out on a date."
"What…Really?" She is doing that eyebrow raising thing.
"Yeah!" I say, somewhat offended. "If we are gonna try it, I wanna do it right!"
She nods, smiling, a sweet, happy, smile. "I'd like that Mina." I would too. I keep that to myself. Looks like I actually succeeded. I made Rei happy, and I plan to keep her that way. Aino Minako is on the case.