Disclaimer: I do not own any part of Sailor Moon.
Rei blinked and then blinked once more. She shifted in her seat and put a hand to her temple, closing her eyes as she attempted to hang onto reality. Someone had to.
"Excuse me?" she asked, as politely as possible, opening her eyes to look at Rasmussen a little blearily. "You're intending to marry me and yet we've only met twice before this. From what little I've been told about you, I assumed you were a rational, thinking man."
Rasmussen's lips quirked and he placed a hand over his mouth. Still, Rei caught his almost silent huff of amusement. Now, she was getting angry. Rei ground her teeth together and fisted her hands in her lap.
"What part of this do you find amusing?" Rei fairly hissed. "This is my life that you've chosen to involve in whatever you're working towards. According to my father, that gives him free reign over controlling my family. My daughter. Mine." Rei paused and took a deep, shuddering breath, gathering her emotions to herself. Slightly more composed she fixed Rasmussen with the business end of one of her famed glares.
"I don't expect you to understand the relationship I have with my father, but I do know that you understand how my father does business." Rei watched as Rasmussen kept his grey eyes on her. His gaze was attentive, as was his body language. She took this as a good sign and continued. "You just said that you were going to try and keep this as honest as possible. My father met with me today, to discuss...us."
Rasmussen narrowed his eyes at Rei, who found herself slightly intimidated, and came to the only logical conclusion that he could regarding what he'd been told. His voice was carefully neutral when he spoke. "He threatened you?"
Rei dropped her gaze to her fisted hands, aware that she was digging grooves into the palms of her hands with her fingernails. The anger drained as quickly as it had come and all that was left was an aching in the vicinity of her chest as she thought of Shelby. Rei didn't respond to his inquiry and apparently didn't need to. She looked up when her eyes caught the movement of his head nodding slowly, his gaze somewhere over her shoulder, his eyes revealing nothing of what he was feeling.
She took a moment to study him, unabashedly. Rei ran her eyes over his face, deciding it was still a very attractive face, despite the fact that she'd just been considering doing it some bodily harm. His brow had furrowed while his gaze had grown contemplative. She'd unconsciously begun comparing his eyes to that of Kaidou's when he began speaking to her.
"I apologize. It was never my intention to make life difficult for you." His gaze implored her to believe him, to take him at his word. "Be assured that you do indeed have a choice, at all times, Ms. Hino. In all things regarding...us."
Rei took in a breath and released it slowly, thinking of the slight hesitation she'd just caught in his voice. She tried to ignore the fact that she'd just done the same before acknowledging that she and Rasmussen could possibly now constitute an 'us', several moments before. Rei took a second to sniff lightly at the warm, comforting smell of Lita's dinner rolls that was now pervading the kitchen. She must've popped them in the oven before Rei had arrived.
"On paper, you're a very suitable partner for me." Rasmussen must have noticed the sour look on her face at his admission but continued on without placating Rei. "Your father knew it and being the man Roger Hino is, he saw an opportunity to accomplish his ends." Rasmussen took a breath and looked at Rei. It took a lot from her to hold his gaze, it was so direct, so consuming.
"I can't claim to understand what your father's ends are," he admitted softly, finally breaking their locked gazes. "What I can tell you is that my current reality requires a wife and will eventually require a family. I find you suitable for me."
Suddenly the words, dripping with contempt, were coming out of her mouth before Rei could filter them. She wanted them to hurt him the way she was hurting for her little girl in this situation. The way Rei was hurting for herself. She wanted to see if he could hurt.
"Congratulations, Rasmussen. You must be thrilled. My daughter and I are a ready-made package you can wrap up and market to whomever you're trying to convince that you're human. My father made his start in marketing, you know. I can see why you're his latest pet, the both of you are very similar."
Rasmussen's eyes flashed with a slight glimpse of his anger and just as quickly, all emotions were drawn in behind the shutters of his mind. His expression grew closed and he tilted his head, silently observing Rei in her anger. Rei stared at him unwilling to lose any ground to him though something eased within her, oddly enough, at that tiny display of honest emotion.
Beep! Beep! Beep!
It was the oven timer. Lita's rolls must be ready. Rei shifted in her seat to watch the kitchen door that lead to the main hallway ease open so slowly, it was almost painful. Lita's auburn head of hair appeared from behind the door. Her expression was a mixture of protective concern and awkward embarrassment as she looked in on them both. Her warm green eyes finally settled on Rei in concern, after briefly looking over Rasmussen.
"I hate to interrupt but I set the timer for the dinner rolls before you started. I need to get cooking if we're going to be eating something before tomorrow," she explained apologetically, already stepping into her kitchen and towards her fridge. Lita continued speaking to them over her shoulder. "The fare won't be fancy tonight but it should fill everyone up. Malakai, Jay's in the living room watching something or other. You could join him if you like."
Rei hid the sudden urge to smile at the tone of Lita's voice. Rasmussen wasn't being given the chance to leave if he wished, he was being dismissed. Rei watched as Rasmussen took in Lita's stance as she turned to face them, her hands on her hips and her lips lightly pursed before she took a breath and relented, sending a soft, acquiescing smile his way. Rei's eyebrows rose incredulously when his gaze softened and his jaw softened and everything else seemed to soften at Lita's smile. Rasmussen slowly stood and made his way over to Lita, pausing in front of her before leaning over slightly to press a kiss to her temple.
"As you wish. I'll go keep Jay company." He turned towards the kitchen door and left without once acknowledging Rei.
Once the door swung shut behind him, Rei blew out a breath and then without any hesitation, rounded on Lita.
"So, you're on a first name basis with this man?" Rei inquired, deceptively calm. Lita winced and held up both hands placatingly.
"It's a long story that we don't have time to go into just now," Lita hedged. "But he is a friend of Jay's. A very good friend. As in, pretty much a brother from another mother!"
Just as Rei was about to press for more information, Ami stepped into the kitchen. "Do you know Rasmussen as well, Ami?" Rei asked, her voice slowly becoming more shrill the more she felt betrayed at the thought that he had some prior claim to her friends.
Ami shook her head in the negative. "I'd only just showed up at Lita's door for our dinner date when Jay and the other gentleman arrived as well. I have no idea who he is. I'm pretty sure Jay brought him along just to mooch some dinner from Lita, though."
Rei buried her head in her arms on Lita's table and took several calming breaths. She listened to the sound of footsteps coming towards her and tensed until she realized it was Lita's arms that were currently wrapped around her for a tight squeeze.
"Hon, you talk when you're ready to. We're going to get some dinner going because I had no idea you'd all be over tonight." Lita immediately left the conversation she'd just started, mumbling to herself about various dinner combinations and what she had in her cupboards.
The sound of a chair being dragged on the floor made Rei look up as Ami sat down beside her. Her placid, blue eyes bore into Rei's own eyes and immediately Rei felt slightly calmer. Ami had always had that calming effect about her. She wouldn't demand the story from Rei or even push her into unnecessary small talk. She would provide the supportive silence that Lita and/or Rei needed.
"He says he wants to marry me."
The silence that met that statement was immediate. Lita, with a bag of pasta in her hands turned to stare at Rei like a deer caught in headlights. Her mouth opened and closed as she searched for the words to say in this situation. Ami, for her part, looked as if Rasmussen had asked her to marry him instead. Rei went on.
"My father wants me to marry him because he wants to be able to control him, using me. He's threatened to take Shelby from me if I don't co-operate."
Lita whirled around and began opening and closing cupboards with much more force than was necessary, mumbling even louder to herself about absent fathers who figured they ran the world. Ami's brow was furrowed as she began considering the problem Rei had been presented with. Rei knew her methodical friend was running over possible complications and solutions regarding her current situation. She turned to Lita, who had now moved on to slicing and dicing various food items and placing them into a large pot. For now, Rei decided that she would go home. There was no way she was going to stay and spend more time with that man than was necessary. She also didn't relish the thought of ruining the mood during Lita's dinner. Rei cleared her throat.
"I'm going home, ladies." Lita whirled around a disappointed 'o' formed on her lips and Ami met her gaze with quiet understanding. Rei softened her gaze as she apologized to Lita. "I just can't – I can't stay and eat a meal with him. I need to figure this out. I need to get home to Shelby."
Without another word, Rei stood and left the kitchen leaving her friends exchanging a worried glance before they followed after her. She looked in on Jay and Rasmussen seated comfortably in Lita's living room and caught Jay's eye. Rei watched as his brow slowly furrowed as he took in her expression. He opened his mouth to say something. She beat him to it.
Rei didn't wait for a response and she didn't dare look over at Rasmussen, knowing those sharp, grey eyes were watching her. Taking in her emotional state. She hurried for the front door, now hearing Lita's sputtered protests behind her.
"You should at least stay for something to eat. I can pack it in a container for you or something," Lita sighed and came around to face Rei before taking a quick glance at her watch. "You didn't bring your car today. It'll be a little while before the bus comes and I would feel horrible knowing you were waiting out there in the cold."
"It hasn't been that cold lately," Jay began, only to stop immediately when Lita and Ami both fixed him with glares of disapproval. Lita began wiggling her eyebrows at him, gesturing at Rei by tilting her head in Rei's direction. "But, I'd be glad to give you a ride if you need."
Rei looked him over, already thinking of the conversation she didn't feel like having with him right at the moment.
"No, I'll be fine. Really. I'll see you all sometime soon."
Rasmussen, who'd kept silent during this entire exchange stood from where he'd been seated on Lita's couch.
"I'll take her home. You three need to eat and I can simply pick something up. I live outside of town anyways, it would be on my way."
His tone was that of someone who would take no argument. Her head snapped in his direction, but at his raised eyebrow, she realized she was the fool for thinking that he wouldn't know where she lived. She could see her friends exchanging glances and looking between her and Rasmussen, from the corner of her eye. They were probably gauging the level of her inevitable explosion and figuring out where the nearest fire extinguishers were.
Rei pressed her thumb and forefinger against the bridge of her nose, fighting her emotional and physical exhaustion. It would be nice to get home She merely settled for nodding curtly at Rasmussen, then waved goodbye to the girls. She pointed at Jay, making the motion for him to call her, punctuating it with an eyebrow raise. Jay ducked his head, giving her a rueful grin, at which she shook her head.
She waited for Rasmussen to gather his things, which didn't take much time and then followed him out of Lita's house, and down the drive to his...genuinely beat up pick-up truck? He was parked behind Jay's SUV. Rasmussen, without hesitation opened her door first. Rei accepted the hand he held out and the one at the small of her back, helping her into his rather large truck. She ignored how large his hands were, or the feel of unexpectedly rough, work-worn palms, or how warm his hand was at her back. Rei couldn't make time for attraction to this man. She wouldn't.
Rei pretended that she wasn't aware of his every move despite the fact that she was. He climbed into the driver's side and started up the truck. Winter was in it's final days but the air was still nippy in the evenings, and Rei shivered, getting used to the cooler air in the truck. Rasmussen must've noticed because he immediately began adjusting dials to turn up the heat and though it took several moments, she was soon sitting cozy in Rasmussen's truck.
Once the truck had warmed sufficiently, Rasmussen was off and on his way, moving through Colford's streets with ease. Rei's conscience began niggling at her as the silence spread between them, almost as tangible as a brick wall.
"I'm sorry you had to miss dinner. Lita's an excellent cook, but I gather you knew that."
"I did." His tone wasn't rude, yet it wasn't inviting either.
"Thank you, for taking me home."
She inhaled slowly and let it out just as slowly. Rei sat as stiffly as possible in her seat, clutching her seatbelt with both hands for the sake of tension rather than Rasmussen's driving. He was a safe driver, she noted. She brought her attention to the familiar landscape whizzing by outside her window. The home, the haven she'd built for herself under her grandfather's roof with Chad and later, Shelby, was crumbling and no matter how she fought the tickle in her throat, the though of it brought tears to her eyes.
Her hand moved to quickly swipe at the tears that escaped, running down her cheek. To her horror, when she tried to take in a deep breath, she let out a strangled sob. Rei could almost feel his gaze running over her, and so she shifted so that she was facing her door more than facing the dashboard.
He didn't comment. Rasmussen merely reached for the tissue box that sat in between them and passed her the entire box. Rei would've found that little action amusing normally, except she was currently trying to prevent having a mental breakdown in front of this man. So she kept to her window and let him keep to his driving.
When they arrived at the townhome complex she lived in, he put the truck into park and let it idle just outside the gate. Rei swiped at her eyes and dabbed at her nose, all the while avoiding his gaze.
"Good night and thank you." She opened the door to slide out. Rei was ready to close the door and walk away towards home, where she could work on forgetting the night and forget ever meeting Rasmussen. She'd find a way to deal with the fallout from her father, somehow.
"Wait, Ms. Hino."
Rei paused but didn't turn around.
"You're a single mother who works for the Colford Women's shelter. You live with your grandfather and have a strained relationship with your father. Your mother died when you were quite young and your daughter isn't yours biologically. Her mother gave up all rights to her at birth and is nowhere that you know of. You were her chosen guardian in the event that her firefighter father should pass. Which he did," Here Malakai's voice slightly softened. "Three years ago. Should I continue?"
Her hands clenched and unclenched as she stood so straight that the muscles in her lower back began protesting. There was no anger or sadness or any other dominant emotion that she could name. Rei was simply vulnerable, standing bare before this stranger in the things that really mattered to her. She hated it.
"Is this summary of my life supposed to impress me? I don't have time for this."
The truck stayed idling but Rei heard his car door open and shut. She listened to his footsteps making their way towards her. When he stood in front of her, Rei resisted looking up at his face, not sure what she would see. Not sure what she wanted to see.
"Jay was sending you to me for a reason."
"He and I will have a conversation of our own, thank you. You don't need to say anything on his behalf."
Rasmussen let out a short breath.
"I can help you have that life you want. The life apart from your father. That's why you were coming to me. To protect your daughter and grandfather. I can do that. Simply consider accepting my proposal."
Rei looked up at him then, eyes flashing and strong words at the ready. Yet, when she met his gaze, the words melted away. He was measuring her, she realized. Measuring her as he let her measure him. The words were out before she could stop them.
"You aren't an easy man, are you?"
Rasmussen inclined his head towards her, one corner of his mouth quirking.
Rei pursed her lips and stared at him some more weighing out the consequences, good and bad, that would come from involving herself with him.
"You know all about me but I don't know a thing about you. I'll let you know now, I'm not an easy woman."
It was getting cold and late and she needed to get inside and he needed to leave.
"You're at an advantage, Rasmussen. In a lot of ways. I'm not comfortable with that." She looked away and up through the gates, towards home. "So, good night. Drive safely."
Rei nodded at him and walked away, leaving him to the night.
AN: I am trying to get these chapters out as soon as possible but they're taking their sweet time being written. How am I doing with these two?
Talk to me!