The strange thing is that this is one of the scenes that inspired me to right this fic, so why it should be so damn impossible to write confounds me to no end. Oh well, as always I'm sorry it took so long. Luckily my schedule in the upcomming weeks is really light so it shouldn't take all that long to update the next chapter...
A Spot of Exposition II: The Actual Exposition Part*
"Well this is it; home, sweet home!" Usagi led the four men into her apartment and turned on the light. "I mean it's not impressive or anything…" though her voice tried to downplay it, they could tell she was actually really proud of the admittedly small living space and was secretly anxious that they wouldn't like it. As it turns out, however, she needn't have worried. While it's true that it wasn't expensively decorated and that it lacked any sort of consistent theme, not to mention it wasn't particularly tidy, they loved it, perhaps all the more for what might have otherwise been seen as negatives. It was a credit to Usagi's talent of finding strays in need of home and, in loving them, gaining their love (a talent she normally displayed with people, but apparently also worked with inanimate objects). Each piece was infused with the same kind of warmth that so characterized its owner, making the whole place just as irresistible.
During the Silver Millennium, Serenity's chambers had been almost entirely white with an occasional pastel thrown in, but the rooms they could see were filled with rich, vibrant colors. There were a lot of strong pinks and happy oranges, cooler greens and blues and royal violets, with some whites and pastels thrown in to prove that the princess wasn't completely lost. Somehow it all managed to avoid being overpowering. What was most surprising was how unsurprising it was; how now that they had seen it, it seemed that this was how her apartment should be, the only way it could be. **
Realizing she was waiting for a response, Nephrite squeezed Usagi's hand, "I think it's great." The other three fervently nodded their heads. She smiled gratefully at them and left to go get some drinks. They waited in what could best be described as a living room, taking particular interest in a long sideboard placed up against the wall opposite from the door. It was covered in pictures which extended up the wall and almost all the way up to the ceiling. Some of them featured Usagi, but the vast majority did not, instead showing countless different people, most the Shitennou didn't recognize. That being said, on the occasion that they did see one with the image of one of their long-lost friends they couldn't pretend that the effect produced in them wasn't almost painfully strong.
"As it turns out all I have is water, I don't really host mu…" they were so focused on the pictures that they didn't hear what she was saying. Smiling she snuck up next to them and with no warning began telling them about all of the pictures that she deemed even remotely relevant to them. They jumped at the sudden introduction of her voice, but quickly recovered enough to listen to what she had to say: "that one," she pointed to a candid of most of the Senshi relaxing around the temple, "was taken on my last birthday and happens to be my favorite group picture… I'm not sure who took it… Oh and this," now it was a posed portrait showing just the inners, "is probably the only picture I have where all of us are looking at the camera at the right time. Of course, five seconds after it was taken Mina got the giggles and Rei and I ended up in one of our 'playful' fights…" she scanned the pictures, finally pointing to one showing Usagi with four women that they vaguely recognized, "I suppose you never really knew the Outer Scouts, at least not well. Even on the moon they were considered by some as a myth… I'm glad things have changed."
Though she only ever talked about the ones with Senshi or Mamoru connections, each time their eyes would skate past one of the ones with Usagi's "normal" friends there was often a faint sense of déjà vu that nearly prompted them to ask who so-and-so was; though, of course, they never actually did.*** The show and tell continued in this way for a good half hour, but they eventually realized that while they found all of this extremely interesting, it seemed to be having an increasingly negative effect on Usagi, whose voice lacked all of its previous joy.
Finally, when Usagi's voice was only a few octaves above a whisper, Nephrite finally asked the questions that had been running through their minds since they had found Usagi. "Usa, what happened? Why are you all alone here? Where has everyone gone?"
She laughed, though it lacked any real amusement, "It depends on who you're asking about. There are a lot of answers to those questions… Would you prefer it in chronological or alphabetical order?" It was strange because in their whole memory they could never remember the princess ever sounding so… bitter seemed a close enough word. But despite the vitriol, they also knew, almost instinctively, that the bitterness wasn't actually directed at the missing Scouts. In fact, if they had to guess, they'd say the majority of it seemed directed at Usagi herself.
With a sigh, she invited them to sit down on whatever piece of furniture seemed the most comfortable and, after running her hands over her face, began the explanation:
"First off, I think it's very important that you understand that it's not like they all abandoned me. They wouldn't have left if I told them not to. In fact, there were a few who really fought me to stay, but I just… I couldn't do that to them. I don't know how much you know about what the future is going to be like," she stopped to shoot them a questioning glance.
It was again Nephrite who spoke, "We have a fairly clear picture. Endymion came to us for advice from time to time and through that…"
She nodded in understanding, "Well then you know that we don't have as much power over our future as most."
"But surely it is a future that you wish to see?" Zoicite was wearing the expression he always did when he was facing a puzzle he couldn't immediately solve.
Usagi made a non-committal sort of sound and then continued, "Perhaps, but you forget that we were reincarnated. We had lives before we discovered our past; we had hopes and dreams. Do those not matter? My friends have sacrificed so much for me, there have been countless battles. They had an opportunity to escape their fate for a time, why should they not take it?" Though she did not know it, she was sounding more and more like the Princess with each word.
"But Sere," at Usagi's glare Nephrite immediately began backtracking, "Sorry, I forgot," he placed a pacifying hand over hers, "Why are you so convinced it's a fate they wish to escape, even for a little while? Perhaps, and I am only saying perhaps, during the Silver Millennium your guardians were only there out of a sense of duty, but in this life can you honestly say the same? Listening to the way you speak of them, there is clearly love in your voice, and not the love of a sovereign for her people, but of a friend speaking of other friends. Surely, such clear affection would not go unrequited."
"It doesn't matter, they are happy where they are and there is nothing I wish for more than their happiness." Seeing that it would do nothing to argue further, Jadeite decided it was best to shift the direction of the conversation a bit.
"So then where are our friends at the moment?" Usagi recognized his purposefully light tone and silently thanked him for it.
"The Outer Scouts, who in this life are known as Haruka, Michiru, Hotaru, and Setsuna, were the first to leave, but then they always are. Sometimes I envy their ability to live so unattached, to go where the wind or the waves take them. They check in frequently," she smiled and said in an almost conspiratorial voice, "They have a habit of being over protective. Most of the time, though, I have no clue where they are; or at least not an exact location. I think the last time I heard from them they were somewhere in Brazil and I think they were planning to stay through Carnival." At the quizzical looks she received she giggled, "It's a particularly lively festival that's going to be starting in a week or so.**** I don't know what their plans were beyond that, but it wouldn't surprise me if they're planning a visit soon.
"Her name is Rei now, right?" Usagi had to really struggle to prevent her laughter from bubbling out at the poorly hidden enthusiasm in Jadeite's voice.
She nodded and continued, "Rei has also been living a somewhat nomadic lifestyle. If you remember, Rei is a miko so she decided to take a year to travel the world and visit famous sacred spaces. It has taken her to some corners of the world that I don't thinkany of us would have expected, but she seems really happy about the whole trip. If it's possible, she's more enlightened than before," again the love in her eyes bellied her teasing tone, "Actually, I'm nearly positive she's currently in the United States visiting Ami…"
"Mercury?" now it was Zoicite's turn to sound desperate.
Another nod, "Yes, but I'm not a hundred percent. It's been almost a month since I talked to any of them, the inners I mean, but, if I'm remembering right, both Rei and Mina, Venus," she added before Malachite could beat her to it, "should be in New York by now. Ami has been studying medicine there for…" she paused in thought, "actually it's nearing two years now. Mina also went to the U.S. Hollywood, specifically, so she could pursue her dream of becoming an idol.
"As for Makoto," Nephrite knew better than to interrupt, "she's been studying under a chef in Paris. She's been working at a Bistro and I'm told it's really taking off. She's making quite the name for herself." After that she let the room fall silent. There was still one obvious person whose story had yet to be resolved, but Usagi seemed determined to not bring him up until they directly asked.
Having been met with such stony silence, which was actually very intimidating, the Shitennou nearly abandoned the question all together, but Malachite, who found that duty outweighed personal safety, was forced to voice it. "And what of Endymion."
"Mamoru," she said with clear emphasis, "is also in the U.S. He's in a place called Massachusetts. He studied medicine at one of the most prestigious universities in the world, a school called Harvard, and then stayed when he was offered a very impressive job for someone just out of school. He is quickly becoming the sort of doctor that hospitals call when they need the absolute best."
The Shitennou found that though this answered most of their questions about the wayward prince, it left out the one part that they were most interested in. Unfortunately, not even Malachite's sense of duty was enough to force him to ask Usagi what their current relationship was. He discovered some things were just too awkward, even when compared with the obligations of his post.
Usagi really hadn't planned on telling them. Like Malachite, she felt the whole thing was too painfully awkward, but one look at the faces of the Shitennou told her she really had no choice so, after breathing very loudly through her nose in an attempt to purge whatever dignity she had left, she put them out of their misery:
"Mamoru and I… We… He… this is way too difficult!" another loud breath through the nose, "We're not, not together. I mean it's not like we ever officially broke up and besides," she began pacing in frustration, "do you know how difficult it is to date when you already know who your soul mate is!? Seriously, it takes all the fun out of the whole experience. I mean, not that I've gone on many dates, like three at most, and only because Toki was threatening to fire me if I didn't make a sincere effort to have some fun, which, by the way is probably illegal," it was a full on rant now, "And no, don't bother asking! I have no idea what his dating life is like, nor do I particularly want to!"
When the shock finally wore off, Nephrite got enough courage to ask, "When was the last time you spoke to him?"
"It's been a while," she admitted, her voice losing some of its previous hysteria, "possibly over a year, but before you start blaming him, remember that I've been just as diligently not-calling him as he's been me. Look it's just a little complicated. I don't really know exactly where we stand, alright?" They nodded their assent, but they couldn't help how shocked they were by all that she had said, particularly the last part. Using every ounce of their imagination they tried to picture either the Prince or the Princess that they once known going over a year without talking to each other and their minds came up blank. *****
Before anything could be said however, Usagi was literally saved by the bell. Or at least she was saved by the ringing of the phone. She excused herself and left to answer it. While she was gone the four men simply blinked at each other, completely unable to form words. In fact they were so lost in these confusing thoughts that it didn't completely register when Usagi's cheerfully loud voice yelled "Rei!" into the receiver. It also didn't completely register when she came back, visibly distraught over whatever it was that she had just heard, and sat down in the seat she had vacated maybe five minutes prior.
It wasn't until they had been sitting there for almost three minutes that Nephrite had shaken himself enough out of his stupor to observe her distress. "Usagi, what's happened?"
"That was Rei," she squeaked, a noise they were certain the princess had never made in her lifetime. "She's coming back in four days."
"Isn't that a good thing?" Jadeite entire being, from tone to posture, made his confusion over Usagi's reaction known.
"I…" her voice was better than a squeak, but still lacked most of its usual strength, "she's coming back and she doesn't know."
"Know what?" both Malachite and Zoicite spoke out in alarm.
"None of them know…"
"Usagi," Nephrite seemed to be the only one who could mask his fear, so when he spoke her name and grabbed her hand to get her attention, his voice was comforting and strong, "what don't they know?"
"They don't know about the accident… They don't know that my mom and my dad… they don't know that Shingo," she forced her horrified eyes to look into Nephrite's, "they don't know that my family was killed in a car accident almost five months ago." For just a moment everything was still, but then Usagi was sobbing and was being pulled into a comforting hug by Nephrite, and the entire world started up again, but it's safe to say no one in Usagi's quaint apartment noticed.******
*This is a reference to an episode in the fifth season of Psych… It is a show I'm a hundred percent in love with and I just couldn't resist…
**In case I'm not being too heavy handed, the whole point is that Usagi's apartment represents who Usagi is as a person on the planet. Remember, the whole point of getting her own apartment is so that she could prove (especially to herself) that she could live on her own, but Usagi, above all else, is all about the people in her life. She's not crazy wealthy (so you will find out she has some money later), so yeah most of the furniture is used, but it's better that way. And for those of you who are wondering why the colors aren't mostly pink and white (which are her favorite colors), the colors in her apartment reflect her friends the Senshi. I think this is an attempt by subconscious-Usagi to connect herself to the friends that have been pushed away, but Usa is totally unaware she's doing it. Whew! This was a long one!
***This is kind of a reference to that whole idea that is often used in fics where the people of Earth are also reincarnations of people from the Silver Millennium, though just of lesser importance.
****Which I guess officially makes it really early February in the story…
*****So I should probably clarify at this moment that I'm totally for Usa and Mamoru as a couple (and all of their incarnation for that matter). This isn't supposed to be a comment on how bad a boyfriend Mamoru is. If it hasn't already been mentioned, the way I see it is that Usa and Mamoru share a soul-type-bond-thing so this whole silver crystal thing forcing everyone away hits him doubly hard and it is a constant barrage. With the scouts distance becomes an issue, which is why they would keep coming back from time to time and feel all this guilt when they're away, but Mamoru wouldn't because he is under the direct influence of Usagi's magic. Acceptable?
******So this isn't what you're thinking. I didn't just kill the Tsukinos for the sake of killing them. They aren't jsut dead because I have no clue what to do with them in the Silver Millennium (though I genuinely don't). I killed them in this story because them dying for Usagi confirms all of her worst fears. Usagi will always be wondering if it was her destiny that killed them. Remember, one of the main points of this story is to show some of the inevitble damage done to Usagi's psyche. Right now she's really angry that she's been trapped into a path without her say in the matter and even more, she's upset that other people have to go down with her. None of this is to say that she's right, but ever sense what happened to Galaxia, she's been messed up and though no one else sees it yet, she is not coping well.