A/N To those of you who put this story on your favorites and story alert, many thanks and sorry for not updating the last few weeks! I think that the length of this chapter will hopefully make up for that. This chapter is centered around Act 2 in the manga and includes dialogue from Act 2. However, I don't want this story to be a simple retelling of the manga. The first few chapters will explore the chapters in which the senshi first appear and include some original/added scenes that fill the gap in-between chapters. These chapters will also explore the thoughts and emotions of the Usagi, Mamoru, and the other senshi. After the first few chapters the fic will be less manga-centered in plot. This chapter's title is a play on Ami's name as well as a reference to the theme of friendship. hanks for reading and please remember to R&R. ^^
"Who's brilliant idea was it to start school at such an indecent hour anyway?" Usagi mumbled as she dragged along the sidewalk on her way to school.
She'd awoken not to an alarm clock, but to a talking cat poking her in the cheek with her paw repeatedly until Usagi got up. After fighting a youma the night before, and thanks to Luna's waking her up early, Usagi had gotten all of five hours sleep. That was less than half the time she needed to even function through a school day. Luna had been so insistent that they get to school on time that the girl didn't have even one spare moment to try and hide the grey circles under her eyes with makeup.
"Why are you coming along again, Luna?" Usagi asked the black cat walking beside her, stifling a yawn.
"There's something I want to check out," Luna answered, scanning the streets as if in search of something.
"Well you can check out whatever you want, but did you have to wake me up early too?" the blonde grumbled.
"Usagi-chan, as a senshi you have to take on more responsibility. Getting to school on time and focusing more on your schoolwork is a good place to start…" Luna lectured Usagi further but all the blonde's foggy and fatigued mind processed was "blah blah blah."
"I wonder if I can sneak in a snack before first period," Usagi thought as her mind began to wander. "Maybe I'll skip the arcade today and just head home for a nap. I'm falling asleep on my feet right now-"
"Ooof!" Usagi exclaimed as she fell to the ground, landing on her bum.
"Can't you watch where you're going Odango-Atama?" a vaguely familiar voice taunted.
Usagi opened her eyes to see the same young man from a few weeks previous staring down at her through a pair of dark glasses. Her face turned red with embarrassment and indignation at the smug amusement on his arrogant face. The blonde quickly got up and dusted herself off, sparing what dignity she could.
"I'm not the one that looks like they should be walking around with a cane like a blind person!" Usagi fired back. "Who wears sunglasses on a cloudy day anyway?"
The older teen smirked, further enraging Usagi. Who did this jerk think he was anyway? The black-haired man's smirk faded slightly as he noted the girl's disheveled appearance.
"What happened to you, kid?" he asked lowering his glasses. "You look like you haven't slept in a week."
"Like I need to hear that from you!" Usagi snapped as she angrily snatched up her schoolbag from where it had fallen on the ground and shoved past the older teen.
Luna had disappeared during the two teens' exchange, probably to investigate whatever it was she wanted to "check out."
"Maybe I can at least enjoy some peace and quiet on the way to school now," Usagi thought. But no such luck. The black-haired teen caught up to her and silently walked alongside her for several minutes.
When Usagi couldn't stand it any longer she stopped walking and snapped, "What are you, some kind of stalker?"
Much to her annoyance, the older teen just laughed.
"Creep," she muttered and continued on her way. He caught up to her once more and tugged at her arm.
"Wait, Odango. I'm sorry, but it's so amusing to annoy you. And you make it so easy when you're already this ticked off."
He obviously wasn't sorry because he kept on laughing.
"Well, great. I'm so glad to have brightened your morning," Usagi said in a sarcastically sweet tone. "Now I'd appreciate it if you stopped following me. I've got to get to school."
Usagi continued on her way, hoping that jerk would do as she asked and go away. Again no luck. He continued walking right alongside her.
"You're kidding right? You going to school on time? Are you sure you're feeling alright, Odango-Atama?"
"My name is Usagi!" said-girl declared, stopping in her tracks again to glare at the older teen. "It's not Odango-Atama. Not Blondie. Not Kid. It's U-SA-GI. If you're going to follow me around all the time, at least learn my name!"
"Well then U-SA-GI," he replied mimicking her. "I wouldn't want you to be late on my account. Given the pattern, I'm sure I'll run into you again soon. Or, more likely, you'll run into me."
He smiled as the young girl's face flushed in further embarrassment. She opened her mouth to retort, but fell silent as it crossed her mind how handsome he looked smiling like that. His change in demeanor shocked her further when he gently pushed some of her hair behind her ear, his smile fading as he observed the dark grey circles under her eyes.
"Take care of yourself, Usagi," he said with concern. His thumb lightly traced the grey crescent line under her right eye. Usagi's heart beat loudly in her chest as he studied her face as if searching for something. Their blue eyes locked for several moments, connected by an unspoken link.
"Why do I feel…like this has happened before?" Usagi wondered as she tried to decipher the look in his dark blue eyes. There was concern but…there was something more. "Why do I feel like I'm forgetting something? How can a stranger seem so familiar?"
The spell was broken by the sound of the Juuban Middle School warning bell. Usagi snapped back to reality, blushing at how close the two teens had unconsciously become.
"I-I have to ugh, head to class," Usagi stuttered, nodding toward the school building, but unable to break eye contact.
"Of course," he said smiling again, though, Usagi noted, with a hint of sadness this time. "Ja ne, Usagi."
He gave her cheek a gentle pat and returned his hands to his pockets, turning to walk in the opposite direction.
"He wasn't even walking this way? Then, why did he-" The shrill ringing of the bell interrupted Usagi's thoughts once more. She reluctantly walked backward towards the school, watching the form of the older teen vanish behind a corner.
"MATTE!" she called. "I never…learned… your name." Usagi's words faded to a mumble as she realized the black-haired stranger was already beyond hearing her. Deciding she'd rather her getting up early not go to waste, she turned and ran to class.
Chiba Mamoru leaned against the wall of a building as soon as he rounded the corner, pinching the bridge of his nose to ward off another splitting headache.
"Why is it when I see that girl- when I see Usagi-I feel as though there's something I'm forgetting?" Mamoru thought, his eyes closed tight against the pain of his migraine, closed tight as if trying to remember something…something important. "Something I'm supposed to remember. Something about her…and me."
He shook his head and tried to reason the strange feeling away. Why would he feel a connection to girl he had only run into a few times? He sighed in relief as the headache subsided, deciding to tuck these thoughts away for later.
"Right now I have to get to school myself. We'll meet again soon Usagi. I'm sure of that."
Mizuno Ami was used to eating lunch on her own, nose in a book and eyes absorbing every word. But even though her mouth was busy chewing rice and her mind was focused on studying, her ears picked up the sound of whispers and laughter behind her. Ami knew they were talking about her, as if she couldn't hear them. As if it didn't matter if she did.
"It doesn't matter," Ami told herself. "It doesn't matter what they say. I'm in school to learn, not to make friends. I like studying, and that's enough for me."
Ami was lying to herself and deep down she knew it. It shouldn't matter what they thought. But it did. She should be satisfied that her teachers and parents were proud of her accomplishments. But it wasn't enough.
When she walked down the hall with her eyes fixed straight ahead or looked at the ground when she crossed another's path, she didn't do it out of rudeness or coldness towards her classmates. She was just shy and didn't wish to see the stares others gave her when she passed. Most of them didn't even know her name, Mizuno Ami. To them she was just "that smart girl."
For some reason, everyone seemed especially interested in gossiping about the genius girl that day. It started that morning when students crowded around the latest exam scores. Ami was, of course, on top. The whispers and stares followed her all the way to class. She could handle the normal amount of attention she received, which usually consisted of a few whispers in the hall and the group of girls in her class laughing at lunch. But that day the attention seemed overwhelmingly magnified so, seeking solitude with her book, Ami left the classroom to eat her lunch on the roof. She sat down on the bench, relieved to be alone, away from the attention. But she still felt like someone was watching her. She looked around, but there was no one there.
"I'm just paranoid because people have been staring at me more than usual today," Ami reasoned, shaking off the strange feeling and returning her attention to the latest edition of the British Medical Journal.
But that strange feeling that someone was watching her persisted through the day. During her afternoon calculus class, Ami could have sworn she saw a pair of red eyes watching her from a tree outside. But then she blinked and it was gone. Maybe she had been staying up too late to study. Ami walked more quickly, hoping to get home sooner, maybe take a brief nap to refresh her brain, and get back to her books.
"AAAAHHH!" the blue-haired girl, who was already on edge, screamed in surprise as an unexpected weight suddenly landed on her head. A black cat with an odd, crescent-shaped mark on it's forehead climbed down her shoulder and settled in the crook of her arm.
"Oh," Ami laughed, sighing in relief. "You surprised me! A kitty?" The feline purred as Ami pet her under the chin. "If I didn't have an apartment, I could keep you. You're so soft." The cat purred in appreciation, suddenly freeing herself from Ami's arms and landing atop another girl's head.
"Oh, Luna," a blonde-haired girl in the same school uniform as Ami addressed the cat. "So that's where you went. I'm sorry, did she hurt you?"
"O-oh. No," Ami answered quietly, slightly surprised at being addressed. "That cat fell from the sky. I thought she might have been an angel." The genius immediately gasped and clamped a hand to her mouth.
"Did I just say that out loud?" Ami thought, blushing in embarrassment. "Oh, great. Now she probably thinks I'm nuts."
But rather than wrinkle her nose in confusion and walk off as Ami expected she would, the blonde smiled and continued to walk alongside her. As they turned a corner she asked, "You're Class 5's Mizuno Ami-san, right?" Ami nodded shyly. "I'm Class 1's Tsukino Usagi. And this kitty is Luna."
"It's nice to meet you, Tsukino-san," Ami said smiling and giving a slight nod. Luna suddenly jumped off Usagi's shoulder and raced down the street. "Should we go after her?" Ami asked in concern.
"No, no. It's fine," Usagi laughed, dismissing her classmate's worry with a wave of her hand. "Luna's always acting strange like that. I'm sure she's just heading home."
"Oh, alright then," Ami replied. The two walked on in silence for a minute before Usagi's eyes lit up at the sight of the Crown Arcade.
"Umm, have you ever gone to the arcade?" Usagi asked with a nervous laugh, breaking the awkward silence.
"Well, no," Ami answered shyly.
"What?" Usagi's mouth dropped in disbelief. "Well then, let's go!"
Before Ami could protest, the blonde had already seized her by the hand and pulled her into the building.
"This is the Sailor V game," Usagi explained, taking a seat in front of a monitor depicting a blonde-haired girl with a red-ribbon and mask blasting a demon with a gun. "It's really hard to beat!" Usagi's face was twisted in concentration, her tongue sticking out slightly from the corner of her mouth. Ami giggled at Usagi's enthusiasm, leaning against the wall to observe how the game was played.
"Hey, Mizuno-san, wanna try?" Usagi asked when she'd used up all her money.
"Oh, sure," Ami replied quietly. In a matter of minutes the entire arcade had gathered around the Sailor V game to watch the genius, eyes locked on the screen in concentration as her score climbed higher and higher, shattering previous records. Usagi's mouth hung open in disbelief. It had taken Usagi weeks to get a handle on the Sailor V game, and here Ami was ten minutes in and about to beat the final level! This girl was crazy smart.
"That's AMAZING! Mizuno-san you're so cool!" Usagi said in aw as her classmate beat the final level, securing the highest score in the game's history. Everyone in the arcade echoed Usagi's awe. The blue-haired genius blushed at the compliments and attention she received from the crowd around her.
"Thanks," she whispered shyly. "Huh? I got a prize?" Ami asked in surprise as the machine dispensed a shining pen into her hand.
"That's so neat!" Usagi exclaimed, racing toward the machine. "There-must-be-another-one-in-there!" she said between pounding on the Sailor V game. "For all the times I played!" A second pen fell into the prize slot.
"Oooo. I got one too!" Usagi said in awe, as if she hadn't just been demanding through physical force that the machine yield another prize. "Woah, so cool!" she said admiring the pen.
"Usagi-chaaaan, don't break it," Motoki, the arcade owner's son, moaned as he worriedly scanned the Sailor V game for any damage.
"You're so funny Tsukino-san," Ami said, giggling at her classmate's fascination with the pen.
"Call me Usagi," the blonde said, winking jokingly. "Is it ok if I call you Ami-chan?"
"Yeah," Ami said quietly, giggling and grinning. None of her classmates had ever addressed her in such a friendly way. It felt…nice. Ami's smile faded when she caught sight of the clock. "Oh no. It's already that time? I have to go to cram school." She didn't want to. She wanted to stay and hang out with Usagi.
"Oh, you have cram school today?" Usagi asked. "The Crystal Seminar's near here, isn't it?"
"Yeah, I go every day," Ami answered distractedly as she gathered her school bag.
"Every day?" Usagi exclaimed in disbelief, her jaw dropping. How could anyone possible go every day.
Ami nodded. "I study so much because I want to become a doctor like my mother."
"Woah," Usagi gasped. "A doctor? That's amazing," she said in quietly as Ami headed for the door. "Oh, um-Good luck studying Ami-chan! I'll see you tomorrow at school!" she called after the blue-haired girl.
Ami smiled and nodded. "See you tomorrow!" she said waving to Usagi and turning toward the seminar.
For several days after that Usagi would smile and wave when she saw Ami in the hall. Ami always returned the greeting, but her smile would fade upon catching sight of Usagi's group of friends shooting her wary looks. Several times Usagi tried to invite Ami to hang out with them after school, but Ami's answer was always the same.
"Gomen, Usagi-chan. I have to study."
"Again?" Usagi asked in disappointment. "But you're already so smart Ami-chan!"
Ami shook her head. "The cram school has been gaining a lot of new students in the last few weeks. I have to stay ahead of the competition to get into a good high school."
"Ok," the blonde relented sadly. "But, if you do change your mind, you're welcome to come join us."
Ami smiled and thanked Usagi for the invitation. She knew Usagi was sincere, but she doubted that Usagi's friends would "welcome" her.
Ami squinted her eyes at the computer, but it remained blurry. With or without her glasses, she just couldn't see the screen clearly whenever she put in that disk her teacher from the seminar gave her. It made her feel dizzy and tired.
She shook her head and ejected the disk from her computer. She didn't need some software to make her smarter. She learned much better taking notes of her own.
But even an hour after quitting the computer program, she still felt tired and unable to focus. Deciding to call it a night, Ami put her books aside for the morning. She tried to clear the fuzziness in her head by allowing her thoughts to wander as she drifted off to sleep.
"I really do hate having to turn Usagi down all the time," Ami thought wearily. "She probably thinks I don't like her…and she's the only one that's ever tried to be my friend at this school. But I have to study. I have to work harder. And besides…Usagi has other friends to hang out with. I would never fit in with the group…"
And with that thought, Ami fell asleep, unable to feel the single tear that fell from her eye and unable to convince herself of a lie. Because in truth, it would have been nice to have a friend.
Usagi wasn't deterred by Ami's excuses. And so the next day, when Naru suggested they go eat ice-cream after school (an idea Usagi whole-heartedly endorsed), she decided that she would ask Ami to join them despite the genius' previous refusal.
"She works too hard," Usagi thought. "She seems so stressed out lately. Not like the Ami that was laughing and having fun at the arcade last week. She needs to have some fun."
She decided to check the most likely place Ami would be, the library computer lab.
"Aaaami-chan!" Usagi greeted warmly, spotting her friend's blue-hair across the room. "I thought you might be here! Are you studying again?" The blonde's smile faded when Ami continued staring at the computer screen as if she hadn't heard her.
"Is she ignoring me?" Usagi thought. "That's not like Ami…"
"Ah, you're using the pen!" Usagi said in attempt to gain a response. "I do too! See?" she asked, pointing to her own pen in her shirt pocket. She prevented another awkward silence from following by pressing on. "Hey, want to go get some ice-cream on the way home today?"
Before Ami could answer, two students rudely shoved past Usagi.
"Heeeeey!" Usagi called after them, but the students continued on their way, as if they neither saw nor heard the blonde. They were talking about hurrying to the Crystal Seminar, but something was off about their voices. They sounded…almost robotic.
"I can't afford to get behind…" Ami thought as her tutor's words echoed in her mind about other students seeking to surpass her. Looking sadly at her book-bag, Ami gathered her things and left for the Seminar. She left hastily without a word or glance towards Usagi, afraid if she didn't go right then, she might lose her resolve and take Usagi up on her offer. Ice-cream certainly sounded more appealing than the Seminar. No brain-freeze from frozen dairy could compare to the headache Ami was sure to get after staring at that stupid computer program another few hours.
Usagi watched Ami leave with a mix of sadness and confusion. A meow sounded behind her, redirecting the blonde's attention to a black cat.
"Oh, Luna," the blonde greeted in mild surprise. Usagi was growing used to Luna popping up out of nowhere. "Ami-chan just gave me the cold shoulder…" Usagi said quietly, unable to keep the hurt and confusion out of her voice. Usagi reached out to pet Luna, more to comfort herself than the cat. "She's working too hard!" the blonde reasoned aloud, trying to make sense of her friend's sudden coldness. "Oh, what's this?"
In her haste to leave, Ami had dropped her computer program.
"I guess we better return it to her," Usagi said to Luna, who nodded in agreement.
On the way to the Crystal Seminar, Usagi ran into a crowd of students, each holding a paper of some kind. A woman enthusiastically shoved what turned out to be a flyer for the Crystal Seminar into Usagi's hands.
"Your grades will steadily rise!" Luna read aloud. "Usagi, why don't you enter and study too?"
The blonde indignantly protested that there was no way she was going to a snobby cram school and crumbled the flyer up. Ignoring Luna's chiding not to liter the street, Usagi chucked the paper behind her without a second glance. Only it didn't land on the ground.
"Oi!" a far-too-familiar voice shouted from behind her. "You Odango-atama! I'm not a trashcan!"
Usagi turned instinctively to give the person a good telling-off for the use of that ridiculous nickname, but was too shocked and/or mortified at what she saw to make a sound.
"Eh?" she asked in surprise at the not-unfamiliar sight of a black-haired teenager in glasses and a suit. "Aaahhh!" she yelled in disbelief and frustration. "It's you!"
"No way…Haven't I been through enough today?" Usagi thought as she turned back around and squeezed her eyes shut in hopes that the infuriating man behind her turn out to be a cruel trick of the mind. She peaked over her shoulder a few seconds later. He was still there.
"Well I'm not exactly glad to see you either, Blondie," the older teen grumbled. "I'm starting to think you go out of your way to hit me in the head with wads of paper."
"You think I like running into you all the time!" Usagi screamed, opening her eyes to turn and glare at the man. "Far from it, buddy!"
"Just now…" the older teen said quietly, staring intently at Luna. "Did that cat talk?"
Usagi and Luna gasped simultaneously, the blood draining from Usagi's face.
"N-no way!" Usagi stuttered giving a nervous laugh. "A talking cat…that would be…there's no such thing…" The man's eyes narrowed suspiciously at the blonde the more she rambled. Usagi bit her lip to stop herself from making the situation worse. Out of ideas, she did what she did best in terrifying situations.
She ran away.
Usagi bolted around the corner, panting as she leaned against the wall.
"That was close," she and Luna thought at the same time.
A few hours later...
"So that's it!" Usagi panted as she and Luna raced down the streets toward the Crystal Seminar. "That CD brainwashes students! That's why Ami was acting so strange!"
After transforming with the Luna pen, Usagi broke into the main lecture hall. Students were face flat on the ground all around her, drained of energy.
"Ami!" Usagi shouted as she spotted her friend on the floor. "Wake up! Snap out of it!" she yelled worriedly. Ami's face was so cold and pale. Her eyes wouldn't open. Usagi tried to warn the other students to stay away from the computers, but they were in some sort of trance and couldn't hear her.
"Usagi-chan! Transform into Sailor Moon!" Luna yelled impatiently.
"Eeeh? Again?" the blonde asked in a panicked tone. Luna pounced on her head and warned the girl to hurry up.
"Ok, ok!" Usagi consented, pulling the cat out of her hair. "Moom Prism Power! Make up!"
A light surrounded the blonde and suddenly Sailor Moon stood where Usagi had stood a moment before. In the middle of Sailor Moon's introduction, a whirlwind of papers flew her way.
"Aaaah!" The senshi let out a high-pitched wail in her panic as the papers cut her skin like razors, swirling around her in an endless storm.
"Usagi stop screaming!" Luna warned as Sailor Moon's cries shattered the windows and sent glass flying through the windy room. "That won't help! Be careful with Ami-chan and everyone else!"
"That's right! Ami-chan!" Distracted by the enemy's attack, Sailor Moon had failed to see where Ami had landed. The novice heroine scanned the room for her fallen friend, blanching when she found the genius in the arms of the enemy.
"I can't-breathe!" Ami chocked in the enemy's grasp.
"Ami-chan, the pen!" Luna shouted. "Throw it into the air!"
Now Ami, being a logical decision-maker, wouldn't normally take instructions from a talking cat. But given that her best friend was a senshi fighting a monster (that happened to be her tutor), and said monster was trying to suffocate her, it seemed a fairly reasonable thing to do in light of the situation.
Ami tossed the pen into the air, and suddenly it began to glow. Breaking free of the monster's hold, Ami vanished in a surge of light as the room became engulfed in cold fog.
"Ami! Luna!" Sailor Moon called in panic, unable to see a thing. Someone answered her call, but it wasn't Luna or Ami.
"There she is!" the monster called in its gravelly voice as its claws shot out of the fog. "I'm gonna chop you into tiny pieces!"
Before the blonde had time to react, a pair of strong arms encircled her waist and pulled her into the air and out of the creature's reach.
"Now, kick high!" a voice from behind her instructed. The senshi did just that, effectively knocking the monster to the ground.
"Be careful!" her rescuer warned, turning her around in his arms as they landed. "The enemy was right in front of you!"
"Tuxedo Kamen!" Sailor Moon gasped in surprise. She blushed as he still held her at the waist, her hands on his shoulders and her head a few inches above his own. Her heart beat loudly in her chest as their gazes remained locked for several moments.
"Something about him is so…familiar," the senshi thought as she looked into his sapphire-blue eyes. Her gaze and thoughts were broken as he set her down gently and removed his hands from her waist.
"Hurry and help your friend," the masked hero advised, replacing his top hat on his head and turning to leave.
"THERE YOU ARE!"
Usagi gasped as she turned to face the monster once again. She'd make sure the creature was really finished off this time.
"Moon Tiara Boomerang!" Sailor Moon's tiara sliced right through the enemy, reducing it to a pile of dust.
"Ariga-" the blonde halted mid-sentence as the person she meant to thank was nowhere to be found. She looked towards the broken windows, but all she saw was the night sky. "Tuxedo Kamen?" He was already gone.
"Usagi-chan." Luna addressed the girl holding the senshi's mask between her paws.
"Luna! Where's Ami-chan?" Sailor Moon asked looking around frantically for her friend.
She spotted Ami as the fog lifted, but the genius was no longer wearing her school uniform.
Usagi gasped in surprise at the sight of Ami dressed in senshi-garb. The outfit was identical to that of Sailor Moon's with the exception of Ami's blue boots and ribbon. Ami, too, gasped as she looked over her transformed state.
"Just as I thought," Luna said smiling at the two senshi. "You're also a senshi Ami-chan! Sailor Mercury, senshi of wisdom."
"Sailor Mercury?" the blue-haried girl repeated in awe. "I'm a senshi?"
"Ami's a comrade?" Usagi asked excitedly. "Yaaay!"
Ami blushed as the blonde engulfed her in an unexpected, but not unwelcome hug. Usagi laughed with excitement. She pulled back from her hug to look Ami in the eye and smiled.
"I'm so glad the other senshi turned out to be my friend," Usagi told the new sailor scout, sincere happiness in her tone. "Isn't this great Ami-chan? I'm not alone anymore!" Sailor Moon laughed with elation and relief and Ami, too, began to laugh, a smile breaking on her face. Usagi's happiness was contagious.
When they'd seen to it that all the other students were alright, the two senshi left the Seminar and resumed civilian form. Deciding studying could wait one more hour, Ami treated her friend to a hot-fudge sunday at the Crown Arcade. After all, defeating an alien monster deserves some kind of reward. Two empty-glasses, three rounds of the Sailor V game, and a lot of laughs later, Ami said goodbye to Usagi and Mitoki for the day.
For the first time in a long time, the genius smiled the whole way home.
"No, you're not alone anymore, Usagi-chan," Ami thought. "And neither am I."