[or what to do when one happens to fall for a man whose hair lies top priority]
_You know he needs a good lesson, right?
Ami winced. The especially strong emphasis Rei had placed on that poor adjective did imply her friend already had something in store to turn her verbal threat into physical injury. She just could not understand how she got herself in this situation.
The previous months were exhausted for peace talks, in which she was sure she had done her best. The four Terran generals accompanying Prince Endymion on his diplomatic trip to the Moon to smooth out the rest of the ongoing negotiation. As Selene would have it, some conservative aristocrats had voiced objection after objection to a more positive outcome, citing reason after reason to distract Queen Serenity from her initial peaceful goal in settling the conflict with Earth. Some of those excuses were so plainly pathetic she nearly lost her infamous calm demeanor.
It was one of the private meetings of the Lunar court, when Mercury had always sat to the right of their queen, jotting down notes on her little blue computer. This time however, she was selected to stand in defense of the Terran delegation. The first two weeks had not been going so well for them. Though the cool, unpolluted climate treated them well, they were ill-suited to any other features of the strange planet they were visiting, including the food – which they heard Nephrite complain endlessly about when he thought they were out of earshot; the beverage – Jadeite had accidentally gotten so drunk with the traditional liquor served at the welcoming banquet and later when coming to, had the audacity to flirtatiously exclaim a demand for more wine to Sailor Uranus, who in turn demanded a duel right then and there with the half-drunk general; the limitations placed on visitors – Zoicite could not hide his dissatisfaction at being denied access to the ancient books of the Moon. Even the well-composed Prince Endymion himself had commented negatively on those restrictions, mainly because the night patrol was so tight he could not sneak out to meet up with Princess Serenity any more as they used to do back on Earth, in the more peaceful days. And Kunzite, being the diligent lead general he was, had attended to his duties a bit more feverishly than he should have, and ended up bed-ridden with a common Lunarian cold, which struck pretty hard on any non-citizen of the Moon.
Even Mars had taken pity at their guests' repeated misfortunes and requested that Jupiter made some special Terran dishes to relieve their homesickness. Yet, their inability to adapt, even for a short period, to a foreign land had been brought up several times to point out why reconnecting an alliance with Earth would speak disaster. Personally, Mercury doubted anyone would seriously believe such nonsense. They were simply excuses to disguise the aristocrats' inner, gnawing fear: that their deep-rooted privileges would be lessened considerably if another court, renowned for its steel rules of justice, was to be connected in any way to the Moon Kingdom.
_Your Majesty, those Terrans had no table manners! Could you believe their lead general ate soup straight from our golden bowl instead of properly using the spoon? A lead general, at that – the woman almost shouted, her face horrified at the thought of such blasphemy – A LEAD General!
_I believe General Kunzite had personally written an apology to her Majesty, the chef, and the servant girl about his supposedly bad behavior – Venus spoke up, her eyes cold and dismissive – He was too tired to hold the spoon properly, he was afraid to spill anything onto the floor, and he did not want to bring us the trouble of cleaning things up, after having fallen sick on a diplomatic mission and had to resort to our care.
The woman huffed indignantly, but sat down.
_Never mind table manners, I disagree that those barbarians had any manner in general! - another woman took up the space – Your Majesty, I trust that you did not forget how General Jadeite completely trashed your ballroom by drunk-dancing and breaking everything in his vicinity?
_I suppose – Jupiter spoke up when she was certain Mars had no intention in jumping to the poor man's defense – he did not expect the liquor to be so strong. After all, I had personally brewed it based on an ancient recipe for three hundred years. And if I remember correctly, - her challengingly bugger-off posture was up at full effect – had your own husband not been escorted out before his drunk behavior could turn to aggressiveness?
The woman gritted her teeth, but managed to burst out a low blow:
_Why, Lady Jupiter, of course I had absolute faith in your skills, but isn't it strange when our senshi team so fiercely defended some two-week acquaintances? Don't you all think it had a personal touch to it here, your Majesty? Judging from what I had heard about so far on General Zoicite's... hmm, advances, I'm not surprised Lady Mercury was chosen to represent their case.
_Sailor Mercury was selected in a higher meeting that I believe you had no access to, Lady Ayumi, - this time Queen Serenity spoke up herself, and that alone quieted any rustling among the surrounding court. And I do not approve of judgments made based on palace rumors. You would be removed from decision if you do not put aside your own biases.
Mercury almost laughed out loud when Princess Serenity's mental groan shot through her own mind telepathically.
"Do I really have to rule such narrow-minded idiots in the future?"
_Did you hear Rei clear, Ami-chan? - Makoto asked while playing with her cufflinks. They were all gathered in Ami's palace quarter, a beautiful place covered in a visually cooling blue color. It was one of the rare breaks they got from work: the Terran delegation had been staying for nearly a year, and the peace talk had been dragged on and on because of silly excuses and unexpected sickness. It was all coming to an end: negotiation was announced successful yesterday evening, diplomatic relations was officially re-established between the two kingdoms, and their guests were leaving in a week. Inwardly, the bluenette knew her friends and comrades had been holding on to an odd hope of the talk itself never ending, because then the tangible geographical distance between Earth and the Moon would become all too real.
Lady Ayumi's snide remark had at least some grains of truth to it.
Venus had taken up the task of attending to the lead general while he was down with the cold and fever, initially planning to discuss each negotiation stage, seeing that they were both leaders of the strongest teams in the galaxy. The angel of love had not planned on getting a dose of her own medicine, gradually but unconsciously; until the stoic Kunzite finally confessed his silent feelings for her, opening her eyes to the truth of her own heart.
Jupiter, originally sympathetic with Nephrite over his food-related homesickness, had grown attached to him – and was reciprocated as fierce as thunder – over repeated night snacks she made, trying to imitate the missing Terran ingredients as best as she could. Mercury happened to be in the palace kitchen one late night only to run into a flustered second-in-command covered from head to toe in baking flour, who had hastily taken his leave after explaining to her he was trying to surprise Jupiter with a self-made cake and screwed up royally. She had helped him out with a cookbook she mistook for an ancient spell book from the library, and was rewarded properly when she saw the happy smile on Jupiter's face, one she had not seen ever since the Jovian king and queen was assassinated on an intergalaxy diplomatic trip.
Jadeite likely had the hardest task of his life when he realized he was hopelessly in love with the fiery and distant angel of fire. He had tried everything from flowers to cakes, from books to weaponry, and got physically burned every time, until he broke one night and screamed at her that he could not contain his feelings any more. To say the blond general simply exhausted his patience, or that Mars was just shocked would be an understatement. Mercury again happened to be nearby, and she had to cast the temporary silence spell she learned from Saturn to keep her friend's private life properly private. After too many heartbreaks and empty promises from men of the Lunar court looking for a trophy wife, Mars had simply closed her heart and deemed Jadeite a player like any other. Yet that night, Mercury knew her friend was finally touched when she formed two fireballs on her hands in rejection, unable to throw them at her intended target and threw herself into Jadeite's arms instead.
Mercury already turned to take her leave when she heard the general cried out in pain a few seconds later. Mars was simply too overwhelmed with emotions to remember to exhaust her fireballs before flying into Jadeite's embrace. And a recovered Kunzite could not decide between a grin and a scowl when he saw the two holes on the back of his comrade's uniform, which the blond general kept displaying like victorious marks of a hard-won battle.
_Hello, Moon to Mercury, Moon to Mercury, Moon to Mercury... - Minako's chanting was increasing in pitches until Rei snapped:
_Mina, we don't need a Serenity twin here; one annoys us enough!
_That's just mean Rei-chan, - the Moon princess began to wail, but Minako cut her off:
_Seems like – her blue eyes twinkled with mischief – our water angel either did not want to punish Zoicite for his openly fierce confession, or already struck a pact with the vain die-hard romantic?
Ami stumbled on her words. She could not deny that Zoicite's determined affection had moved her when he asked the entire senshi team and his own comrades to meet up after the peace declaration was over, on a bare hill idly laying south from the palace; then in a twirling display of sakura petals, was preparing to place in her trembling hands a pair of ocean blue ear-rings as token for his feelings, but ended up searching all pockets and screamed out in frustration:
_I left them in my bathroom when I was arranging my hair one last time!
He even had the vanity to toss his strawberry blonde curls around as demonstration for the remark, and his vain behavior certainly annoyed the living moonlight out of her comrades.
And that was the reason they gathered in her quarter so late at night: as Kunzite put it when he got wind of their plan, to performing the impossible task of dissolving Zoicite's vanity so he could properly care for his other object of affection. Beside his ponytail, that is.
_I kinda have a plan, - Ami said in a low, uncertain voice; but the mischievous twinkle in Minako's eyes gave her courage.
Zoicite sensed a plan in motion when one by one, his comrades carefully evacuated the common room after the unexpected – and unannounced – visit from the five Moon belles. Nephrite had been the first one to leave, claiming he would like some fresh air and hopefully learn more about Lunar floral species, and Jupiter was more than happy to point out her herbal sources. Kunzite took his leave second, Venus, Endymion and Serenity in tow, declaring they had to double-check everything to ensure the safety of the newly formed, fragile alliance. Jadeite left almost instantly after Serenity's gown disappeared behind the corner, requesting from Mars a tour of the Lunar shrine, which the angel of fire was more than happy to comply.
Only Mercury was left behind.
After a full minute of awkward silence during which he mentally trashed himself for messing up his own confession, she had quietly asked to borrow the full-length mirror in the bathroom.
_I need a little retouch, if you don't mind, General, - she had said, her eyes avoiding his intensely questioning gaze.
Of course he minded. She had not given a definite answer, whether positive or negative, to his confession the other night. Declining or reciprocating, he just needed to know so he could get his life back on track, as it had been spiraling out of control since he met Lady Mercury.
Well, it certainly did not help that he just had to check on his hair before leaving and forgetting his token of love.
All of a sudden he heard a sharp cry behind closed doors.
Without thinking of appropriate manners – what if she's attacked by an assailant he had not known they had?, he pushed through the glass, panicking when all greeted him was a thick mist and the angel of water was nowhere in sight. A ridiculously large bathroom did have its credit, but was not much helpful when he needed to find someone, yet could not see beyond his own nose.
He heard an odd click! sound and did not even have time to react when literally a stream of cold water hit him, almost sweeping him off his feet. Simultaneously, the mist cleared, revealing Mercury in an equally wet gown, holding a dripping showerhead.
_Lady Mercury, what's the meaning of...?
She smiled gently at his shocked face.
_Now we're both wet... like each other.
He would not have caught her implication if she had not placed emphasis on the verb, and her slightly odd phrase, or if the slowly forming blush on her face was not just a dead giveaway.
_Could it be even possible that you mean what I thought you do?
She smiled, blushing furiously but prettily. He could almost sense reciprocity gradually filling the air, drying up his wet uniform, warming his heart.
He dashed to her side, picking her up and spinning her around in innocent joy.
She laughed in surprise and then delight, her silvery laughter reassured him she was not playing any games, and he did not misread the signals leading up to his confession night.
Sometimes, Selene had an odd sense of humor.
They were both reminded of the wet bathroom floor when Zoicite tripped, dragging Ami down with him, and tried his best not to let her hit the marble ground by throwing himself underneath.
He looked up at her still blushing face, and blushed himself when he realized their close positions. She did not look uncomfortable, though. He had seen how she shied away from any forced contact. Yet, tonight she seemed totally at ease.
She was still smiling at him when he put his arms around her and pulling himself up enough for the step he was risking to take.
He felt something pulling him back.
_Selene! - he alnost shrieked – I landed on my hair? I am sitting on my HAIR? My precious...
_Zoicite, - she called gently, titling her head to take a look at him and almost sighed another time. Tears were welling up in his eyes. She mentally took a note to upgrade her bathroom necessities to match his surely high demand.
Wait, where am I heading with those kinds of ideas?
She shook herself out of stray thoughts and focused on Zoicite, who was still holding her in his embrace and still fuming about his ruined ponytail
_Zoicite, - she called again. He looked up at her another time.
_Don't you forget something unfinished?
His eyes widened.
_Oh Selene, I was supposed to... I was planning to... I was...
_Screwing up like last time? - Ami supplied.
He answered by placing a gentle, almost hesitant kiss on her lips, fearing he might have come on too strong. But he was determined not to mess up another time, and miss another chance.
Joy filled him as she reciprocated his affection without being startled like she used to every time he popped up in her vicinity.
Disclaimer: All belongs to Naoko Takeuchi, I own nothing, just borrowing; you know the drill.
A/N: That went fairly well, my second attempt at humor *wiped sweat drop away grinning*
Looking forward to your review.