Disclaimer: I do not own any part of Sailor Moon.
Rei smiled sleepily and her eyes stayed closed as she shamelessly cuddled with the little form pressed into her side. Before she could stop them, thoughts began whirring around and around in her mind.
It was a Monday morning, so she would have to get Shelby and herself ready for the day pretty soon. Grandpa had a doctor's appointment this morning as well, so she had to make sure he was ready to go in order for her to give him a ride.
Rei couldn't stop the sigh that escaped when reality sunk in. She hadn't wanted to think of the evening she'd had last night, especially when she couldn't make sense of what the reasoning was behind having the evening at all. Her father and Rasmussen had been sufficient entertainment for each other, talking business and possible future ventures. They'd brought her into the conversation when the subject matter was trivial and something they felt she could handle. While Rei couldn't figure out Rasmussen's angle she knew that her father was purposely trying to keep her off-kilter. Rei had gone along with the act, without a choice, desperately wanting to leave all evening. Desperately wanting to be spending a quiet Sunday evening home with her grandfather and daughter.
Her alarm clock went off somewhere behind her head and Rei startled. She gently rolled over to turn the alarm off and began to focus on waking up fully. Rei rolled back over to observe her daughter, Shelby, who hadn't been disturbed in the slightest by the alarm or her movements. She chuckled and shook her head, sitting up and getting out of bed to slip a robe on. Rei covered Shelby more fully with her blanket and left the room to head down to the kitchen. The sight that greeted her when she turned the corner into the kitchen of their townhome wasn't an unfamiliar one, but it was one she hadn't seen in a while. Grandpa was standing at the kitchen counter, his back towards her as he diligently worked on something. Rei had a faint idea what it was.
"Morning, Grandpa. Thanks for last night, I didn't expect to get home so late." Rei ran a hand through her hair, unsurprised at how dishevelled it was. She must've fallen asleep without putting it up.
Grandpa turned around and revealed what he'd been working on. Two lunchboxes sat on the counter packed to the full. One contained Rei's favourite types of sushi and the other contained Shelby's favourite sandwich with fruit and veggie sides. Rei couldn't hold back the silly smile that stole over her face. Grandpa took one look at her face and cleared his throat as gruffly as possible.
"I know they don't feed you enough at that mansion. Can't understand why. Figured you'd be up late and I've got an appointment to get to, so I can't be late waiting for you girls," he explained, sheepishly rubbing his head.
Rei stepped forward and kissed his forehead. "I think you're wonderful," she murmured. "I appreciate you making lunch today." Rei tried to smile but found she couldn't.
Grandpa reached up and chucked her under her chin, his brown eyes searching her face. "Last night was that bad?"
Rei sighed and shrugged her shoulders, stepping forward to place the covers over both containers. She took a moment to gather her thoughts and figure out what she wanted to share with her grandfather.
"Father wants something from me. He brought me over to the mansion to meet someone, a business colleague. I, then, spent the entire evening being ignored like some vacant-headed, trophy daughter." The frustration returned, as did the helplessness and that sense of not knowing which way she would go now.
"He brought you over to meet someone? As in one person? Must've been a man judging by the way you've still got your back up this morning. Was he good-looking at least?"
Rei rolled her eyes and then shook her head slowly as she watched her grandfather with a raised eyebrow. "That's what you took from what I just told you about last night?" she inquired incredulously.
It was his turn to shrug. "Your father would be doing you a favour by setting you up with a good man. You need a good man. You're still young, Rei. Shelby can't be your excuse forever."
Rei, having heard this before, didn't let it get under her skin. She merely gave as good as she got. "I'll take my time looking for the loveliness that you shared with Grandma, thank you. I'm worth it and so is my daughter's future." Rei pursed her lips and met her grandfather's gaze. "What would you have done if my father had introduced me to a not-so-good man?"
Grandpa sniffed and a smug grin appeared. "Between me and Lita, we'd teach him a thing or two about messing with my granddaughter."
Rei threw her hands up in the air. "What am I going to do with you? I'm going to get Shelby and myself ready. Behave!" Rei left the room, smiling to herself as she heard her grandfather grumbling to himself.
It'd been a long day at the office and though she loved working for the Colford Women's Shelter, pushing papers and dealing with more men that were just like her father was not her ultimate career goal. Which was irony at its finest, really. Although, she had no trouble 'handling' these men, when it came to her father, it seemed she would always be just a little off-kilter.
Rei really couldn't afford to complain. The hours and pay were steady and she was able to get off of work in time to pick up Shelby just before her daycare closed for the day. Speaking of which, Rei looked into her rearview mirror and caught Shelby's eyes as she grinned at Rei and happily told her about her day. Rei smiled and focussed on the moment, content to converse with her daughter.
"I wanna see the dog."
Rei nibbled on her lower lip for a moment before responding. "We're going home, sweetie. Grandpa will be waiting for us." She watched Shelby think that over in the rearview mirror. Shelby solemnly nodded, her big, brown eyes luminous as she moved on to the next interesting topic for her five-year-old mind.
The dog Shelby referred to was a golden retriever that belonged to someone who owned a beautiful property that was for sale just inside city limits. Rei had been driving by the property for some reason, that she couldn't now recall, when the house had caught her attention. It was a beautiful rancher with a half-acre lot, a true architectural beauty from the outside and she could only imagine what it must look like from the inside. The landscaping about the house was simple, modern and completely her style. Without realizing it, Rei had slowed to a stop right in front of the house and only the impatient honking of the vehicle behind her snapped her out of her trance.
She'd returned several days later, with Shelby in tow, only to find it was for sale and she'd arrived during open house hours. Without hesitation, she'd pulled into the property and after settling Shelby on her hip, she explored the property. On the way home, it was official. Rei had gone and foolishly fallen for a property she could never hope to afford. It had been the sight of Shelby happily running about the yard with the dog while she spoke to the realtor, that had been the final push.
Rei glanced at Shelby in the rearview mirror only to find her occupied with her doll. She sighed a little pathetically. Shelby deserved to have the best childhood Rei could give her. Not just for the sake of her love for the girl but also for the memory of her father, Chad. Rei didn't fight it any longer, she changed lanes and headed for the property.
Rei pulled into the property, upon spying the 'Open House' sign but didn't think that the vehicle that was in the driveway was the same one she'd seen last time. Perhaps there was more than one realtor? Despite the fact that there was no way she was a prospective client, maybe they'd indulge her by letting them look around again.
Her attention was taken by Shelby's loud squeal of delight. Rei couldn't help grinning. Apparently, her girl had the same taste when it came to properties.
"I wanted to come here, Mommy!"
"You did? Well, how about that!"
"I like the dog here, Mommy. I like dogs."
Rei smiled and turned off the engine. She got out and in no time Shelby was unbuckled and they were heading to the front door. There was no sign of the dog, though maybe the dog was inside with the realtor. Rei stepped up to the doorbell and pressed it. She waited an appropriate time, keeping an eye on her now restless daughter, but no one came to the door. Just as her finger was hovering over the button, the door swung open and Rei jumped back in surprise. She stared up into the wide-eyed gaze of Rasmussen.
"I-I, what are you doing here?" Rei demanded, slightly ashamed to admit the breathless quality in her voice was due to the surprise of seeing him at so random a venue.
Rasmussen's surprise faded behind his usual cool, collected demeanor. Rei watched as he looked her over before letting his gaze stay on the little girl that held Rei's hand and stared back at him curiously. She watched him carefully for his reaction. Rei had seen his surprise when he opened the door to find her on the other side, there was no surprise when he took in Shelby at Rei's side. Hmm. His gaze still lingered on Shelby but he answered her question and asked a question of his own.
"I live here. What are you doing here, Ms. Hino?"
Rei gulped. Of course the man lived here. Of course. She opened her mouth to answer when a squeal of delight from somewhere around her knees cut her off.
"Mommy! It's my friend, the dog!" Shelby was over-the-moon after having sighted her canine friend seated obediently behind his master in the house. Rei looked down at Shelby before meeting Rasmussen's gaze. She'd never been one to play with words. Rei gestured towards Shelby and his dog.
"My daughter is captivated by your dog and I think your house is beautiful." The silence following her admission was deafening. It took another moment for Rei to realize what those words might possibly sound like to a man, a wealthy, privileged man she'd only met the night before.
"That was not a come on," Rei stated, her eyes widening as she attempted to set boundaries. She glanced down at Shelby to check whether she was paying attention to the catastrophe that was occuring between the two adults, but her daughter was busy making faces at Rasmussen's dog. "I've come by your house before this," she added as an explanation. "I like to look at it."
One eyebrow rose on that sculpted face and Rei closed her eyes in horror. Rei heard Rasmussen clear his throat in a way that suspiciously sounded like he was disguising his amusement at her predicament. She took a deep breath figuring that she'd probably earned it. She opened her eyes expecting to find him laughing at her but met his gaze head-on and apologized, head held high. He wasn't outright laughing at her but that gleam in his eyes was suspicious.
"I'm sorry for intruding on your private time. You may want to take down the open house sign, though. We'll be leaving now."
She tried to turn and leave but Shelby clung to her legs in childish desperation. "Can I just play with the dog, Mommy? Just five minutes, pretty please?" Rei crouched down to Shelby's level in order to explain that the man standing behind them probably figured that she was a psycho-stalker and a horrible mother, all without scarring her poor child.
Rei turned with Shelby in time to see Edgar the dog come trotting forward at his Master's command. Malakai moved forward with his dog and crouched down in front of Rei and Shelby. He held out a hand towards Shelby, but his gaze sought permission from Rei.
In the several seconds that passed, Rei simply looked at the man before her weighing the wisdom of letting him into her life. She didn't know him, not at all. She'd only met him through her father. He was selling this gorgeous house. That was three strikes against the man. Rei was not the type of woman to extend more chances than necessary to men she wasn't interested in.
Still, something in his gaze resonated with her and because she couldn't explain it away, she went with it. "Go ahead, hon, go see Mr. Rasmussen."
Shelby shyly stepped forward and placed one small hand in Rasmussen's much larger palm.
"Hi Mr. Razzy," she greeted, her voice more subdued than usual. Rei watched with a fond amusement as Rasmussen quietly introduced Edgar to Shelby and vice versa. In no time, her girl was running all over Rasmussen's front yard with an enthusiastic canine playmate.
"Thank you," Rei murmured, her eyes on Shelby but her awareness focussed on the large man who stood beside her. "I appreciate you letting her play with your dog. We'll be out of your way soon."
Rasmussen didn't respond and Rei was learning not to expect him to do so. It was startling to find that his default setting was to not talk through awkward silences. That was one thing in his favour, in her opinion. They stood there watching Shelby and Edgar play for several minutes until Rei felt that it was time to go. She gathered Shelby up into her arms and nodded at Rasmussen, who had that strange glint in his eyes once again. Rei immediately felt on edge.
"Well, thank you and I'm sorry we disturbed you. Good night."
Rei turned without waiting for a response and called for Shelby to get in their car. Once Shelby was buckled in, Rei closed the rear door and straightened to find Rasmussen and Edgar had come to stand in front of her car. She stepped forward waiting to see what this was about. The man gazed steadily at her, almost beckoning her towards him, as he stared at her. Stupidly, Rei couldn't stop herself from heading towards him, responding to him. She came to a stop before him and crossed her arms over her chest. Her little act of defiance. She watched with hidden surprise as one corner of his lips twitched upward.
"I arranged for your father to have us meet last night. It would've been...difficult to have made your acquaintance otherwise."
Rei stood there nonplussed. What was this about? Why would a man like Rasmussen even want to meet her? Her brow furrowed. Wait - was he saying she was difficult to approach? Well, Rei would give him that, she supposed. A vague feeling of suspicion began growing at the edges of her mind.
"You must be confused. I'll explain in time." His tone wasn't arrogant but it was firm and confident. The tone of a man who knew what he wanted. "Have dinner with me? Some time this week? I'll be in touch."
Just like that she was dismissed. Wordlessly, Rei turned, got into her car and left his property. Her thoughts whirled about her head, but she managed to make it home with her daughter in one piece. Live to die another day, Rei thought to herself as she pulled into her parking space, her daughter chattering about something or other behind her.
Live to die another day.
AN: I have to admit. These two characters (as well as Serena and Darien) are the hardest to write for me. I suppose it's because they have a certain way that they're usually portrayed and I don't always want to take them that way. Hmm.
Talk to me!