A Sailor Moon Fanfiction
Chapter 5: So Close and yet So Far
By: Azurite - azurite AT seventh-star DOT net
a.k.a. The Artist Formerly Known as Andi (or Andromida)
Site: seventh-star DOT net
Written for Usagi Week on the SMRFF Mailing List
lunap DOT com SLASH smrff
Disclaimer: Sailor Moon does not belong to me. It is the property of Naoko Takeuchi and is licensed by Toei Animation, Kodansha Publishing, and probably a bunch of other companies that I'm not 100 percent sure or aware of. This is a not-for-profit entertainment venture only.
Author's Notes 06-30-03 & 08-31-09: Sorry if the first part of this chapter seems a little Mamo-centric. It'll get more Usa-focused, I promise.
Ah, heck. I noticed a few errors in previous chapters. Like how I said Usagi lectured Mamoru when they broke up, but when she broke up with him in the last chapter, she didn't. That's why this chapter fixes that. But I also made a screwy mistake in saying that Shingo's flight left the US at 5:30am, and arrived in Narita (Tokyo) at 3:05am.
While the flight might actually take 16 or so hours, the time difference is 13 hours (Tokyo ahead of Boston), so he arrives at 10 AM the day after he "left." In order to make this whole thing work, we're assuming Shingo had a layover in San Francisco. Boston to San Francisco would take about 4.5 hours (5:30 AM to 10 AM, 3 hour time difference, so it's actually 7 AM in San Francisco, and 11 PM in Tokyo). Either the second leg of Shingo's flight is much faster (6 hours, which is unrealistic), or he has a long layover. Since the remaining flight would, more realistically, take another 11.5 hours, in order to leave at 5:30 AM one day and arrive at 3:05 AM the next day, he would have to have a 9 hour layover! Long, yes, but not impossible. So please assume he hung out in San Francisco for 9 hours before departing at 4 PM local time to Tokyo for the second, longer leg of his flight.
The timeline in general works like this:
* Six years ago = Usagi is 15; Mamoru is 19. Usagi is just about to start high school in April, and she'll turn 16 in June. Mamoru has graduated high school and is starting at college, already knowing he wants to get into law school. She meets Mamoru at a party that Motoki invites them both to.
* Six months ago = Usagi is 22; Mamoru has just turned 26. Usagi's about to graduate university with a degree in architectural design, poised to get a great entry-level position thanks to her ability to power network and charm everyone she meets. Shingo has recently left Japan to attend college in the United States, and he's only recently been introduced to Mamoru as Usagi's boyfriend. He has no idea Usagi and Mamoru have been going out for years. Mamoru has graduated university and law school and is working at the same law firm he interned at.
* Present = Usagi is still 22, but will turn 23 in a little over 2 months. Mamoru is such a dedicated worker that he's already been asked to work on several cases with some of the firm's most high-powered lawyers, a surefire way to get noticed. Only problem is, he doesn't socialize with anyone at his job, which might be damaging him more than he's willing to admit.
The world around Chiba Mamoru was hazy, dizzying, and…ringing?
Indeed, there was a sharp, almost shrill ringing sound working its way into the recesses of his mind. Slowly he awoke from sleep, his head throbbing and his body numb.
What had happened?
His vision was blurry, his normally pristine room a shambles. Papers from his desk were all over the floor, being tossed under the desk and into the closet by a room fan turned on the max.
The clothes that he'd worn yesterday—it was yesterday, right?—were hanging off an overturned chair, while his end table was littered with twenty or so small paper cups—and each one of them reeked of alcohol.
It didn't take a forensic expert to figure out what had happened.
Unwanted memories crept back into Mamoru's head. Oh yes, yesterday. Yesterday he'd called Usagi to meet him at the park and go to dinner. He had been planning to…to…
With almost wild movements, Mamoru stumbled out of his bed, his ankles catching on the folds of his comforter, sending him careening to the floor. His headache only worsened his fall by increasing what had, only moments before, been a dull throb into a full-fledged stabbing sensation in the back of his skull.
Yet before him, just beyond his reach, nearly buried underneath those clothes hanging limply off the overturned desk chair…
The box. That little red-velvet box. With so much and so little inside.
The ringing shrilled again, and this time Mamoru recognized it for what it was. He moved his tongue around in his mouth in a vain attempt to rid himself of the dry mouth that hangover brought with it.
He tripped his way to the telephone just outside his bedroom, sitting on an end table next to the couch. He didn't look around much; his head hurt too much to really care or think straight at this point.
"Hello?" It was funny, it was his voice, he knew it was; it didn't SOUND like his though, and it felt strange coming from his throat.
"Mamoru? What happened? Motoki told me he saw you last—" Mamoru blinked, wondering if his memories had merely been a bad dream, something the result of drinking too much for whatever reason.
"Usako?" he murmured, his voice rising as he tried to clear his throat. Silence reigned for a moment.
"Yeah, Mamoru, it's me. But…"
"God, for a moment there I thought I'd lost you! Usa, I had the most terrifying nightmare last night…"
"Mamoru, I'm coming over."
And then there was a click, and Mamoru was left holding the receiver, wondering why Usagi had sounded so strange.
In the next twenty minutes, Mamoru did his best to clean the place up. He didn't really remember—or understand—why his place had suddenly become such a mess. All he remembered was Usagi's crystal voice calling him, filled with emotion, worried for him!
He had just managed to change into some fresher clothes and grab a cup of coffee with two aspirin when the doorbell buzzed.
He strode over to the doorbell and pressed the white square as a voice
"It's me." Usagi's voice. Clear and beautiful as always, but…? She sounded strange, too. Strained, for some reason. He couldn't think of any reason why.
He buzzed her in without a second thought, sweeping the living room and his own bedroom with a glance. Yes, clean. Not immaculate, but, Mamoru chuckled, thinking of Usagi's own bedroom, decorated still with posters of pop stars and filled with stuffed bunnies and bright, girly accessories.
Even though she was 21, her own apartment bedroom hadn't changed all that much from her room at her parents' house (her words, not his; he'd never seen her former bedroom at her parents' house) when she was in high school. Still the same cheery, brightness…
The doorbell just outside rang, and Mamoru walked—nearly ran, really—to the door, slip-sliding along the linoleum of the kitchen to the door. But he hadn't expected to see Usagi standing there…her eyes downcast, her hands gripping tightly onto the handles of a cardboard box.
A box of his things.
He stumbled backwards as she stepped inside, sliding off her own shoes and stepping into a pair that waited for her every time she came over.
"It… wasn't a nightmare, was it?" Mamoru managed, finally slumping down in his chair. Usagi set the box down beside the couch and then sat down, her eyes still trained to her feet.
"Mamoru, what did you do yesterday after I left the park?"
He swallowed hard, trying to recall. He'd been so insistent the past half hour that it was all just a terrible nightmare, and whatever had happened last night—his getting drunk, the apartment having been a total mess—it was because of something else. Not this, anything but this!
"I don't really remember," he stated, his voice deepening. His expression soured; suddenly the potential for a wonderful day disappeared completely from Mamoru's mind.
"Motoki…he said he saw you stumbling out of some bar near the park. After he closed the game center—that was at 10 p.m., Mamoru! I…I left the park at 5:30…" Usagi was twisting her fingers around, looking anywhere but directly at Mamoru.
She hated having to do this, but every fiber—okay, almost every fiber- insisted that what she was doing was right, what she had to do. She had to move on—move past him, past his…idiocy!
With a strengthened resolve, she marched her words onward.
"Look, there's nothing we can do to change the past. I'm…I was worried that you would go and do something stupid, and well…" She motioned around, noting that despite Mamoru's efforts, the place was still a bit untidy. She would notice something like that, especially after having come here for many afternoons and nights.
What she was trying to say to herself was 'Well, look where it got you.'
"Mamoru, I know I didn't give you a proper explanation yesterday, but…"
"WHY? Usako, WHY?" Mamoru's face was hardened now, his blue eyes darkening to an almost jet black. His own hands were clenched tightly, his knuckles almost white from the pressure.
Usagi flinched when he called her by the pet-name. For nearly a week, she'd been weaning herself off calling him "Mamo-chan." She'd hoped he would have gotten the clue, gotten a hint, made her life easier. But he was a stubborn sort, not prone to understanding these things.
"Mamoru, why is it that you're so attentive now? You never had much time for me. Six years…I know it's tough, and believe me, it's not easy doing this," Mamoru scowled—it was probably a lot easier for her than it was for him—"but I have to, because I can't keep lying to myself…or you."
'Or me? Sounds like an afterthought.'
He'd never imagined Usagi as the selfish type, but the wound in his heart was quickly growing, staining his thoughts of Usagi something else.
"Back in high school—that was the most wonderful time of my life, Mamoru, and I won't lie to you, I was very much in love with you. But here we are, at the beginnings of our lives, and we…we just never seem to have time for each other anymore."
Mamoru tuned Usagi's words out, closed his eyes against her tearful, pleading expression. No, this wasn't happening, this wasn't the way it was supposed to be.
He knew he didn't spend enough time with her—he regretted every
second he wasn't with Usagi, missed every moment that she wasn't
in his arms. Constant reminders told him to call her, to let her
know just how much he loved her. But somehow, things always came out
wrong, and it felt like he was the one back in high school
his mouth acting before his brain did.
Why hadn't he seen this coming, then? Why had he disillusioned himself into believing that the beautiful Usagi he was involved with was the same carefree, innocent girl she'd been so long ago? She'd grown up, become a woman. She was making her dreams a reality, while he…he was stuck.
He hadn't changed much. He was still interning at the same law firm that he'd been working at while he was in school: same position, same hours, same people, day after day. He might just end up spending the rest of his life as a nobody on the bottom rung of the firm's totem pole. And he was just as stoic and focused on working hard and hopefully working his way up as he had been on studying in high school. No time for romance, only success! Success meant that you were at least doing something right.
Usagi had changed something in him back then, he knew that much, but somehow meeting her at that party, and then all that teasing, the elevator…he couldn't forget those moments: they were engraved in very being.
"Mamoru, are you even listening to me?" Usagi's voice was catching, and when he looked up, she was indeed crying. He wanted to take her in his arms, to comfort her— but how could he, when he was breaking inside, too?
'This is how he is, Usagi! He'll never change!' Usagi thought, furiously wiping her tears away with her sleeve. She had just meant to make this simple and clean, an easy break. But Mamoru, in his own strange, frustrating way, wouldn't let her.
Perhaps it was his arrogance that demanded he be more important. That he had the right to break up with her, and talk about his reasons why, while she couldn't even speak.
She was angry now, she knew it, but her heart was pounding loudly in her chest, and a multitude of voices in her head started casting doubt on her resolve.
'Is this the right thing? After so long, what could break a relationship this strong?'
'Everyone thought we were the worst of enemies for so long, but I promised to prove them wrong. And we seemed like the perfect couple for so long, so why did that change?'
'Why does he look upset? He couldn't…he never really loved me!'
Her last thought, her loudest and strongest, kept her going. She stood up, her skin nearly sticking to the leather of his couch. She refused to be part of this charade any longer. In the beginning, Mamoru had been so stoic and reticent, so very much unlike her. But slowly, he'd opened up to her, and she found herself getting swept off her feet by his ways.
He didn't fit the profile of the standard Prince on a White Horse, but at times, he certainly HAD been charming. And then when she'd graduated high school and finally decided that it was architecture that was her dream…
'I have to stop thinking like this! I have to…'
"Mamoru, I wish I could just give you that old line that 'it's not you, it's me.' But it's not. I've given my all for this, and I get next to nothing back. There was a time when you seemed to care, and were…" She swallowed a lump in her throat, "were almost passionate about me. But now it looks like we've both got different priorities, different lifestyles, and…I can't take the way you always brush everything that's so important to me as meaningless. You're cold, callous, insensitive, and…and a-arrogant, and I'm not taking it anymore! Goodbye!"
Crying, Usagi stormed out of the house, walking out with her slippers in hand and her shoes on her feet, not bothering to get any of her other things left at Mamoru's house. If there was even anything at all.
No, her ties to him were broken. Once and for all.
"MAMORU!" Usagi shrieked. Her cry echoed throughout the metal walls of the ventilation shaft, and she didn't have time to think before she unsteadily headed to where she'd seen Mamoru last—practically flying towards the port suction.
A gigantic fan with razor sharp blades, with no grate protecting it from the rest of the ventilation shaft and its many curving corridors.
Then again, why would it need one? After all, it wasn't everyday that geniuses like Usagi decided to crawl through bathroom air ducts in vain attempts to escape from airport toilet stalls.
It wasn't everyday that you ran into your ex-boyfriend, and then suddenly found yourself overwhelmed with old emotions, old memories, old everything, wondering if breaking up with him in the first place had been a complete and utter mistake or not!
Usagi was crying as she rounded the corner, hiccoughing as she expected to see a bloody and mangled Mamoru caught between the blades of the port suction fan.
She pinched her eyes shut until the last possible moment, using her hand to guide her along the wall. When she realized that the metal hadn't changed 'consistency' at all (meaning, in her mind, it wasn't covered in blood) she opened one eye…then another.
Instead of a body being caught between the blades (such a gory thought, Usagi told herself, shaking her head), there was a leather belt, the clasp wound around the motor in the center.
One of the blades had been yanked out and entirely and was lying on the ground at Usagi's feet— and Mamoru was not in sight. There seemed to be a slight drop, and then darkness.
"Mamo…Mamoru?" Usagi called out timidly. Her voice echoed, and she sniffled loudly, taking a step forward and squeezing through the opening between the fan-blades. It turned out that, while sharp, they weren't the sashimi-chopping blades she imagined them as, and she got through without much of a scrape.
Today had just been too much of a hazard to begin with.
"Usa? Usagi, is that you?"
Usagi could have burst into a fresh set of tears then and there, knowing Mamoru was alive— and he sounded well. But she couldn't see a thing in this pitch black, and wondered where Mamoru had gotten to.
"Mamoru! You're—!" Usagi gulped as she slid along the wall. Well, this was a new experience. She'd been caught in blackouts before, but only in familiar settings where she could feel her way around and figure things out. There were always candles and flashlights around somewhere…but here, it was only endless black.
She started to look around her despite the dark, feel the walls and floor surrounding her with an almost desperate fingers, hoping she wouldn't suddenly fall through the fl—
"Well, Usagi, I didn't know you wanted me that badly." Mamoru's
chuckle suddenly was a lot closer than Usagi remembered from moments before—and
she realized that it was no longer a metal floor
she was touching, but soft shirt fabric, and, as her fingers moved up,
slowly touching Mamoru's hand, then his neck, then his face, she
realized—it was indeed him, and he was in one piece!
"Mamoru!" Usagi flung herself into his arms, practically shoving him against the floor with the force of her 'hug.' Mamoru made an 'oomph' sound in surprise, slowly wrapping his arms around her slender frame. He'd been about to say 'Just kidding,' but when he heard he sniffling over his shoulder, her form trembling, he realized just how scared she had been.
And he thought he was the one that hated dark, cramped places.
"Ssh, Usagi, it's all right. We're both safe now. And look," Mamoru turned her slightly so she could see the light in the distance.
It was far away, but bright, like a gigantic spotlight—like…the lights on the runway? Was Mamoru right? Did this tunnel really lead to the runway?!
Usagi sniffled. After all this, they'd be able to get out? She looked up at Mamoru—or what she thought was Mamoru's face—and slowly moved her hand to his face, just to make sure she was looking in the right direction. Mamoru sucked in a breath when her fingers ran across his lips, and he resisted the temptations that flared within him in that split second.
"Come on," he murmured hoarsely, grabbing Usagi's free hand, "Let's go."
MWAHAHA! Okay, not so much a cliffhanger as last time! But yippies, I'm back! I'm still trying to correct some errors from past chapters, but all in all, there should only be two more chapters to this! The next one will be littered with more flashbacks (eh, this one had that ONE really LONG one!) about Usagi and Mamoru's meeting, the cramped elevator, and…Well, more. I might just shoot for 8 chapters to make it nice and even.
But I hoped you enjoyed this chapter, even if it wasn't super-Usa centric. Email me or review and tell me what you think!