AN. just another piece of fluff

Usagi shifted her champagne flute from one hand to the other, frowning at the table in corner, filled with well-dressed coeds deep in conversation with one another.

Most of them were strangers to her, although she vaguely recognized a sandy-haired man and his pretty brunette date, and of course she knew Mamoru's face almost better than her own. The woman who sat next to him she'd never seen before, but knew that was probably Akiko Takeshi from Mamoru's description and the way she was sitting so close to him and constantly touching his arm.

Usagi rolled her eyes and pondered the bubbles in her drink. She knew better than to have more than a few sips of the sweet drink - Usagi Tsukino and even a small amount of alcohol usually had semi-disastrous results. Besides, she needed to be on her game tonight, since no one here even knew who she was.

The disguise pen had really done a good job when Usagi asked to be changed into a college-aged exchange student. With chin-length black hair and striking green eyes, she didn't even recognize her own reflection in the ballroom's mirrored walls. She also had to give the pen props for her chic black cocktail dress - Usagi didn't own a lot of black but as she shimmied a little and watched the skirt flutter just above her knees in a classy swirl, she decided she should rectify that as soon as Minako was free to do some shopping with her.

The event was a closed one, a cocktail hour and then speech by an important alum of the university, who had recently done something with some sort of particle accelerator... or something. Ami had known what Mamoru was talking about when he told the girls, but Usagi only started paying attention when Mamoru mentioned that since he wasn't a chemistry major, he wasn't invited himself but his friend Akiko had given him her extra ticket.

Usagi's reaction to finding out that her boyfriend was attending a fancy event as someone else's de facto date was almost embarrassing, in hindsight, she reflected. Then again, Mamoru should know better than to drop news like that on her in public places. Also, it's not like there weren't other pizza places in Tokyo, so did it really matter that they were all banned from that one?

Back at the table Usagi was surreptitiously watching, Akiko said something to make everyone laugh. Her hand was back on Mamoru's arm. Usagi noticed Mamoru was slower to laugh than the rest of the table. He lifted the arm Akiko was holding to pick up his glass, effectively shaking her free. Usagi smirked. Mamoru wasn't left-handed.

A few minutes of crowd-watching later, a voice at her arm made Usagi jump and nearly spill her drink.

"Excuse me," A middle-aged couple had walked up to her. "I see you are standing here all alone," the man said, in a grandfatherly voice. "And I don't recognize you from my classes. Are you someone's guest?"

"My date... stood me up," Usagi improvised, inwardly fist-pumping at her own genius. That would explain being alone and her lack of invite.

"I'm an exchange student," Usagi continued, "I just came here a couple of weeks ago." Something about being in disguise made lying so much easier. She could get in places when she wasn't on the list, and convincingly make small talk with strangers, even get in high-secured areas when cloaked in the pen's magic aura of unrecognizablity.

"Oh, how interesting!" he went on, motioning with his hand for someone else to join him.

Suddenly a new voice came from behind her, respectfully greeting the professor and his wife. Usagi cringed inwardly as she turned around and faced her boyfriend, who had apparently vacated his table and come over to mingle.

Mamoru nodded at her politely, "So you are an exchange student? Where from?" he asked her.

All of a sudden, lying was difficult. Quickly, Usagi wracked her brain for a language Mamoru didn't know.

"France," she said, surprising even herself. "I'm from France."

"Oh, how interesting!" the woman cut in. "Where in France?"

"Paris," Usagi answered, "Paris, France." Phew.

The professor began introductions, it was strange to shake hands with Mamoru as if she didn't know him. He was polite but cool, a strange thing for Usagi to see. Even when she had first met him, he was anything but polite. Anything but reserved. This was the face he showed others, and it was the first time she was on the receiving end of his disinterested gaze.

"What did you say your name was young lady?" the professor was asking her and Usagi started and quickly scanned her mind for a French-sounding name.

"Jeanne," she said, hoping her pause didn't give her away.

"Jeanne," Mamoru repeated. Usagi smiled, avoiding his eyes and took an accidentally-much-too-big sip of her champagne. Luckily, the conversation turned and Usagi tuned out.

Standing at Mamoru's arm at a fancy party while ignoring a conversation that quite literally went over her head wasn't wholly unfamiliar to Usagi, although she usually wasn't pretending to be someone else at the time. She had to twine her fingers together to keep her hand from absentmindedly reaching for Mamoru's.

Usagi followed a tray-carrying waiter with her eyes. Passed hors d'oeuvres. Figures. All she'd been through tonight and not even a buffet table.

Soon, another young couple walked by and called the professor over for conversation, he excused himself. Before following her husband, the wife smiled and pointed between Usagi and Mamoru with a sneaky smile. "Why don't you ask the young lady to dance, Mr. Chiba? I think she could use it, what with her date not showing up and all." Then with a wave and a wink in Usagi's direction, she was gone too.

Usagi felt weird without a pigtail to pull on in her nervousness.

"Well, would you like to dance?" Mamoru asked, he placed his glass on a nearby table.

Usagi glanced at Akiko. "Won't your girlfriend be jealous?"

For a moment Mamoru seemed genuinely startled at the question, and then his eyes followed Usagi's and he blinked in understanding. "She's -" He raked a hand through his hair and looked uncomfortable. "We aren't together," he said, finally.

"Coulda fooled me." The words sounded biting, despite Usagi's best efforts.

"Yeah, well," Mamoru locked his jaw and glanced back at the table, "not for lack of trying on her part."

She and Chibi-Usa had told him Akiko probably invited him because she had the hots for him, and he said they were over-reacting.

Who's over-reacting now, Chiba? Usagi thought, hiding a glare under an innocent look. "If you say so." She took another sip of champagne.

"So, will you dance?" he extended his hand and she eyed it thoughtfully.

Oh well. What did she have to lose? She put her glass on the same table and took his hand in hers.


Even in heels, Usagi wasn't a terrible dancer. She found it was even easier without the weight of her hair.

"So..." Usagi said, imitating the awkward-but-polite conversation-with-strangers tone of voice she had never used in her life but heard many times. "Have you ever been to France?"

"Maybe someday," Mamoru answered, his eyes stopped drifting around the room and focused on her. "Anything you specifically recommend?"

Usagi cursed her idiocy for bring her supposed 'native country' into the conversation, she had no idea what was in France besides some really good pastries and the Eiffel Tower. Wait. The Eiffel Tower was France right? "All of my country is lovely," she said. "See everything. And be sure to eat lots of food." Pretty much her usual go-to advice for traveling anywhere, it worked in this situation too.

"So, your date didn't show?" Mamoru asked and Usagi tore her eyes away from the last of the puff pastries being handed out to people standing just where she and Mamoru had been a moment ago.

"Yes," she blinked a few times and tried to look sad. Actually, it wasn't too difficult to look disappointed. She'd really wanted a puff pastry.

"Strange he'd pass up an evening with such a pretty girl."

Usagi almost dropped stumbled in shock, and Mamoru tightened his grip on her hand to steady her. "I bet you say that to all the dumped girls at fancy parties," she forced herself to say. She felt more than heard him laugh.

From Mamoru's vacated table, Akiko glared.

Usagi couldn't even feel vindicated, she wished her boyfriend would leave her alone and go away. He was supposed to ignore all the girls at this party, proving her right and Chibi-Usa (who was certain that Mamoru would fall for one of the many sophisticated, worldly and intelligent woman at this gala) wrong. He was certainly not supposed to be flirting with a French exchange student in spaghetti straps. Even if that exchange student was her.

"Something wrong, Miss Jeanne?"

Usagi realized she'd stopped dancing. Luckily, the song was ending anyway.

"I think I need some air," she managed, pushing him away slightly. "Excuse me."

The balcony was cold, and empty. Usagi shivered, sliding her hands down her bare arms. Since she'd arrived at the party, the sun had set and the sky had erupted into a blanket of stars. The city lights seemed just as far away from the lights and music of the party as the stars did.

Usagi felt lonely.

"Are you okay?" A warm and familiar scented jacket fell over her shoulders and Usagi cringed and shut her eyes.

"I'm fine."

"I'm sorry about your date," Mamoru said, leaning his arms on the balcony edge and looking up at the sky.

Usagi sniffed and rubbed her nose. Oh yes. That was a good excuse for looking and feeling so sad. "Yeah... I'm disappointed."

"Like I said, I think he's crazy not be here with you."

Usagi's heart plummeted and she didn't look at him. "That's not what you said. You said it was strange."

"Well, I'm saying it now." His hand moved to her shoulder and Usagi shut her eyes. It felt so natural to be touched like this, to lean into his warmth. She put her head on his chest and he tightened an arm around her. His breath fluttered in her short hair, and his other hand touched her cheek. Usagi knew this. She knew it well enough that she purposely kept her face down, refused to look at him, refused to give him an opportunity because if he kissed her, her heart would surely break.

Suddenly, the lights behind them went out and bloodcurdling screams echoed from the ballroom. "Oh no!" Usagi turned and pulled at her small shoulder purse, where her brooch was. She felt Mamoru tightening his grip on her arm and spinning her toward the mayhem. It was his lips in her ear and his hand steady against her back.

"You go transform. I've got your back."

And he was gone. Usagi shook off her confusion and shock before raising her brooch into the air and shouting her familiar phrase.

The next fifteen minutes or so where a blur. There was Mimette after the alum's pure heart. The poor man had yet to even give his speech. Not to mention there was a daimon from an hors d'oeuvres tray with ridiculous pastry-shooting arms. Sailor Moon was the only inner senshi in the fight, the others stuck miles away in the city. But Tuxedo Kamen made a few moves that distracted the monster long enough to Sailor Moon to use her attack and Sailor Neptune and Sailor Uranus made an appearance, mostly to inspect and return the heart crystal after deciding it wasn't a talisman.

The whole thing left Sailor Moon exhausted.

And of course, her disguise wore off the minute she detransformed.

It took Mamoru a while to find her. In the chaos that erupted after the attack, the speech was cancelled and everyone was sent home due to what they were saying was a small explosion in the kitchen attached to the ballroom. Mamoru secured that Akiko and his other friends were okay, and finally found Usagi perched on the stone fence at the end of the event hall's long driveway. It was hard to make her out in the darkness, but her tell-tale hairstyle and pink sweatshirt were clear even in the dim light.

"So here you are." He jogged slightly to her and leaned his arm on the wall.

"I couldn't go back to the party," she explained, pulling on her denim skirt, "I'm a little bit under-dressed."

"Good point."

She leaned down and pushed his shoulder, roughly. "How long did you know, baka-Mamo-chan? The entire time?!"

Mamoru shook his head. "No, not the entire time."

In truth, Mamoru assumed he was imagining how familiar the dark-haired girl standing alone in the corner of the room was. He figured he was missing his girlfriend - without whom these fancy events were so much duller than he remembered - and thus had imagined the similarities between her and the girl he couldn't stop watching. The way she moved, held herself, and the way her little hands seemed to reach for a comforting swatch of hair off her shoulder that wasn't there. And, the way she watched the food with intense and hungry eyes...

"What you did was so mean!" Usagi wailed, crossing her arms and letting her eyes fill with tears. "Coming on to me like that -"

"Serves you right for following me here," he countered. Usagi punched his arm again, still wired and tired and confused.

"So you did that whole thing on purpose!"

"Obviously." He reached out a hand to her and she took it, hopping down off the fence with uncharacteristic grace.

"But Mamo-chan. How did you know?"

He glanced at her out of the corner of his eye. "Name a city in France besides Paris."

Usagi made a face. "You are a giant jerk!"

"Also, Jeanne? Main character in your favorite manga."

Usagi pouted. "Mamo-chaaaaan."

He laughed and wrapped his arm around her shoulders, putting his cheek to her hair, just for a moment. He didn't tell her the moment he knew for certain, the way she danced with him, her touch and her smell and the sweet look in her eyes. Let her believe his powers of deduction were just that amazing.

Usagi was still carrying on, shrill and wound-up and buzzing around him, wailing and shrieking and promising she'd get him back if it was the last thing she did.

Mamoru ignored her, walking along with his arm still slung around her shoulder. Despite everything, all in all it hadn't been that bad of a night.