After her third gomen kudasai, Ami quickly defeated the cheap lock on Makoto's door with her seldom used credit card. Like most residents in that area of town, Makoto didn't have anything worth stealing. The lock was simply there to give the resident enough time to call police so they would know where to pick up a body before it stunk up the rest of the complex...
"I'm inside," Ami said. She forced herself to keep an even tone, although she wanted to scream at someone after he discussion with Minako. With the trains stopped for the night, she was cruelly deprived of an opportunity to righteously assault the next touchy-feely drunk who came onto her. The trip was still fairly quick as Sailor Mercury jumping over rooftops and sprinting between ally ways.
After no answer, Ami sighed. "I know you're in here. I see your shoes." She picked up Makoto's shoes. "I am holding your shoes and..." she threw them. "... throwing them..." THUMP! THUMP! "... at your bedroom door."
Makoto's muffled response was not something one said in polite company, but it was exactly what Ami had wanted to say to Minako earlier.
"You can hit me if you want," she said as she kept walking towards the bedroom door. "But I won't leave under my own power until we talk."
Silence was the reply.
Centuries later in her palace on Mercury's magically terraformed surface, she would still ponder why she had done what she did that night. She went to pull out her credit card again, but raised her leg up and snap-kicked the door open. "Gomen kudasai!"
Makoto hunched down and looked over her shoulder. She was faced away from the door and sitting on the floor, leaning against the wall and cradling something in her arms. Ami took a quick look at the nightstand and everything pieced itself together in the supercomputer she called her brain. "It wasn't locked..." Makoto murmured.
Makoto looked away. "He must hate me."
Ami sat down on the floor at the entrance to the room. "Shinozaki or Tetsuya?"
"Shinozaki only wanted you to be happy."
"And that's why he must hate me for screwing it up again."
"You didn't screw anything up."
"Then it will be when Tetsuya finds out."
"He knows, and it's not a problem."
Makoto hit her head into the wall. "I should've been there for him."
"It was better this way."
Makoto gently placed Shinozaki's picture back on her nightstand and turned to face Ami. "How so?"
"He feels the same way about you. He had a fit, and I mean a fit, when he learned you were Sailor Jupiter. He's scared of losing you."
Makoto tried to muster a reply while ignoring the retaliatory wall banging from her neighbor. She simply curled up on her futon.
"It'll be okay, okay?"
"He fit so well as Slouch. Being The Journeyman screws up everything."
"That's how he feels, too. Us being the Sailor Senshi messed up everything with him as well."
Makoto remained motionless, staring at the opposite wall. "Now what do we do?"
"First, you get some sleep. Then, tomorrow..." Ami looked at her watch. "Then, later today, we move forward."
Makoto rolled over to face her, a slight smile trying to form on her face. "Thanks. How's your head?"
Ami knocked on the top of her head. "It's fine. Hitting a hollow cabinet just makes noise. It doesn't hurt."
She smiled slightly. "I guess I got a little carried away when I actually saw you kiss him..."
Ami winced and began to turn red. "It was the best I could come up with on the spot."
Makoto yawned and pulled up her blanket. "There's another futon in the closet. It's late."
Ami shook her head. "The others wouldn't shut up about it if I stayed the night with..."
Ami's words were cut off as she was knocked to the ground from her sitting position by a flying, misshaped pillow that was probably as old as Makoto's tenure at the place. "It was just a phase, and it was only with Haruka when I found out she wasn't a boy!"
"If you say so," Ami replied as she hopped to her feet and closed the door that was so misaligned that it hadn't even broken after being kicked open. She checked to make sure Makoto's less than adequate lock was still, for lack of a better word, locked, and hurried down ten flights of stairs. Ducking into the nearest ally way, she henshined and sped through Juuban towards her empty home. She smiled, knowing why it was empty. Because its other hero is also out and about, too.
Ami unceremoniously stripped, rinsed and collapsed onto her futon, unable to appreciate her dreamless sleep, as it was dreamless. She woke up later as the sun came up. She stopped putting on her school uniform when she remembered that Saturday classes had been cancelled that week due to scheduled maintenance on the pipes. She slipped into something a bit less figure fitting and a bit more conservative, as the last time she had seen Tetsuya as Ami Mizuno, she was in her underwear and pretending to be drunk while kissing him smack dab on the lips.
Minako had been snatched back into the waking world Rei begged her via communicator to help her to the bathroom. Tetsuya had remained in almost the same spot, sound asleep. Minako silently hoped he hadn't messed himself after all the food and water he had stuffed down his throat to aid his unusual healing process.
Rei looked as bad as she felt. Not only was she sore as all hell and barely able to move, but her eyes were bloodshot from the incessant retching. Due to the pain in her overworked abs that had gone above and beyond the call of duty expelling anything that was in her stomach, she resumed sleeping on the couch in the study room, knowing it wouldn't be long before the other Senshi began barging in for official business with the new guy. At least she was closer to the bathroom...
Makoto begrudgingly pulled herself away from her dreams at Ami's behest and got dressed for the day. She threw on something as unflattering as Ami's conservative get up and the two had matching make-up as they weren't wearing any. After a slight delay for Makoto to treat Ami to a fresh cooked breakfast, they two set off to the Hikawa Shrine, neither one of them too excited about having to confront the whole Tetsuya-Journeyman-headless Jorvist issue.
Usagi was once again yanked back into the real world by cold water and the ambient sound of a screaming alarm clock. Although Naru had come out of surgery, she was still recovering and not accepting visitors that morning. Since Juuban Junior High didn't have pipes that needed repairs, Shingo hurried off to half a day of class while Usagi stumbled downstairs and tripped over her own feet at the shock of seeing Mamoru sleeping on their couch.
Without any further theatrics, or at least none really worth mentioning, the two got ready for the day and headed to the Hikawa Shrine. Usagi and Mamoru helped themselves in while Minako and Rei argued over who was screwing up breakfast more as Tetsuya had devoured just about everything that didn't need to be prepared. Mamoru slid open the door and peeked in, giving Usagi a thumbs up to enter.
"That better not be Australian," she mused as she entered Tetsuya's room.
It was a soft whisper with a gentle shake.
Tetsuya opened his eyes and saw a blue-eyed blonde looking down at him. "Oh," he mumbled. "Hey, Minako-chan."
Tetsuya jumped at the sound she made, jerking his injured arm. It was sore as all hell, but the bones were healing nicely. Nice healing or not, it hurt. "Goddammit, Usagi!" He wiped his eyes with his good arm and sat up. He froze when saw that Mamoru was there as well. "Oh..." He took a moment to look back at Usagi, then Mamoru again, then remembered everything that had happened and what was likely about to happen. "Ohhh..."
"Yup," Mamoru replied. "It's like that."
"If you're feeling up to it," Usagi said as she sat across from Tetsuya, "we'd like to ask you just a few simple questions."
He looked at her, then at Mamoru who was keeping his expression neutral. Usagi, on the other hand, had the look of a kid about to ask about what kind of puppies she could hold at the pet store. "Sure."
Usagi pursed her lips in thought as she struggled with the words, yet another futile struggle. "So, um, like... who are you?"
Tetsuya tried to keep his expression neutral like Mamoru, but ended up flexing various facial muscles like Usagi had as he began to articulate his response. It was an equally futile effort. "That's really not a simple question."
"Well, what's your name? Like, your real name?"
Tetsuya shook his head and gave a silent huff of a laugh that was more out of frustration than humor. "It's not that simple..."
Usagi cocked an eyebrow. "How is your name not simple? Unless you're meeting someone famous, it's the most easiest thing to remember!"
Tetsuya shrugged. "I... I want to be Tetsuya Journey. That was all I ever wanted. To just fade into the background and live my own life. Even if it's another lie, it's my lie."
Usagi returned her head to a normal angle. "What about your past?"
Tetsuya looked away, scowling at the wall that had done nothing deserving of a scowl. "What about it?"
"Perhaps another time," Mamoru interjected as Usagi's facial expressions aided her brain's thought process.
"Another time sounds good," Tetsuya said.
Usagi frowned, mostly oblivious to how uncomfortable she was making him. "Well, why are you fighting with us?"
Tetsuya closed his eyes and slowly shook his head. "It's not like I have much choice. My friends just happen to be in their cross hairs."
"What do you mean?"
Tetsuya opened his eyes and looked at her. After a quick glance at Mamoru, he looked back at her again, not hiding the indignation of her follow-up question. "Isn't it obvious? I'm fighting for you! All of you! You're going to have his children! Ami's going to become a doctor. Makoto's going to become a famous chef. Rei's going to live forever once she learns to suck out people's life forces and Minako's going to be an entertainer." He glanced back at Mamoru again. "And I want to be there for it all. All of you are all that I have. Even before they came here and ruined everything, you all let me in to your little corner on this giant planet."
Mamoru kept his expression neutral but nodded in what seemed to be approval. Usagi smiled slightly. "Well, that's good to hear."
"What can you tell us about the Klijargans?"
"They're good people deep down."
Usagi smiled softly and put a hand on his shoulder. "You think?"
Tetsuya realized that the Japanese tended to cremate their dead while Aschothyilis buried theirs. "Deep in the ground."
Usagi looked off to the side as she tried to understand what he meant. "So they're better off underground? Like dwarves?"
"He means buried," Mamoru said softly as Usagi made one of her ridiculous 'I get it finally' expressions. "Maybe we should let him rest."
"That's a good idea," Tetsuya said, a bit of uneveness in his voice. "I'm sorry, but, everything's still so fresh in my mind. Whenever I talk about it, I have to think about it and relive it. It was hard enough the first time."
Usagi frowned and looked back at Mamoru. "Can we have a moment alone, please?"
Mamoru slid the door shut after giving a piecing 'don't try anything' glare at Tetsuya. Usagi shook her head.
"He's like that because he loves you," Tetsuya said.
Usagi sat down right next to Tetsuya on his futon.
"Please just let me speak," she said, looking straight ahead towards the door. She didn't have the time or the willpower to deal with personal space issues.
"I'm sorry about prying. I didn't mean to upset you. And obviously, thanks for saving our lives. Naru-chan's been my best friend ever since my first day of school. I understand why you stabbed him in the back..."
"I ran him through from the front."
Usagi looked at Tetsuya. "Ami-chan said the way the blood..."
"I yanked the blade back. That's what caused the spray. It looks like he was stabbed in the back at first glance."
"And did his head just happen to fall off on its own?"
Tetsuya opened his mouth to speak, but words failed him yet again.
"It wouldn't be so much of a problem if you weren't also our friend. We can't just look at you and not see you as a killer masquerading as a noble defender. The young man who showed Mako-chan how to love again, the courageous brawler who saved all of us, and the despicable coward who mutilated a fallen foe are all one and the same."
"He had it coming," Tetsuya snarled.
Usagi held the stare as she shook her head. "All you did was sink down to his level. What did it change? Did it bring back Omi-chan? Did it heal Naru-chan? Or did it just make you feel strong, dismembering a fallen opponent?"
Tetsuya looked away from her and said nothing.
"Jorvist made me lose one friend already. I don't want to lose you as well, but I won't tolerate that kind of conduct."
Tetsuya looked back at her again, but again said nothing.
"Right now, you're not even getting an invitation to my wedding. Minako-chan told me about that. It's a nice gesture, but it's empty."
Tetsuya breathed in a deep breath before speaking softly, but soft was only a quality that could be applied to the volume of speech. "It... is... not... empty!"
Usagi shook her head. "Then it is meaningless. I don't know what you've been through, or what happened to you before you came to Earth, but if you want to be a part of this family..."
Tetsuya stood up and leaned against the wall. "And who the hell are you to tell me what I can and can't do on this world?"
Usagi thought for a moment. She probably wouldn't improve the situation any by boasting about her pending ascension to Queen of Crystal Tokyo. Maybe silence was the best course.
"Just remember that when the next fight comes, a Klijargan's dying words have the potential to be a killing spell. Until the life flows from their eyes, keep striking."
Usagi stood up and was face to face with him. "Was he trying to kill you after he was mortally wounded?"
Tetsuya hesitated for a moment before looking down. "No."
"Was it really necessary?"
"You don't know what..."
"Was it necessary, Tetsuya-kun?"
"I'm... sorry. It's the only way I've ever known to fight. Take what you can before someone else does, and run before they catch you."
Usagi placed her hand on his shoulder. "Are you willing to learn?"
Tetusya looked up and slightly lifted his head. "Yes."
"Alright." She tried to pull him in for a hug but he shrugged her off.
"It isn't just going to happen overnight. Believe it or not, but my mother was able to teach me the mainstream universal theory of right and wrong before she died. I know it, but I'm not used to living a life where I can actually live by those rules. I'm so used to having to lie and steal and hide. My time with the Klijargans only made it worse."
Usagi crossed her arms. "Tetsuya, we can be patient with the lies and the stealing for now. But I need a perfect one-eighty from you on the field of battle. If you have to deliver a killing blow because there is no way, then I understand. Both of our hands are already stained. But I can't just stand by idly if you allow yourself to become a monster!"
Tetsuya sneered at being called a monster. Apparently that term had some meaning to him. "I lost control. It wasn't a decision."
Usagi put her arms down, but after a moment of thought, crossed them again. Checked matey, my friend. "The decision was being fine with it after the fact. Losing yourself in battle is one thing, but shrugging the aftermath off is where you only empower the fury." She put her hands on Tetsuya's shoulder, grabbing on gently in case he tried to shrug her off again. She bored into him with her crystal blue eyes. "Hatred is a fire. It will consume you if you surrender to its madness. It will destroy you and leave a shell that won't even need a state of fury to turn on me and the others. Your soul will never heal unless you extinguish the fires, and you will never extinguish the fires if you don't even try."
The traces of anger and indignation melted away from his face, leaving a look of bewildered confusion.
Usagi released her soft grip and walked out. "I've given you a lot to think about. I'll see you at school on Monday." Without another word or glancing back, she slid the door shut. I've done everything I could. The rest is up to you, Slouch.
Mamoru nodded to her and walked with her. Half way down the steps, her watch beeped a once familiar beep. It's her! She grinned from ear to ear as she answered the communicator. Finally, news at last! "Setsuna-san!"
I am mentally gassed, and it's having a physical toll that sleep alone can't compensate for. I never got a breather between the accident, the deployment spin-up and CCNA training. The tripe I put up last night was barely even beta. This chapter isn't polished, but I am a bit more satisfied with some of the dialogue and a bit more of 'show, don't tell'.
It's hard to remember how people talk or approach things when there's six main canon characters to deal with, but it's a challenge and it forces me to make myself a better writer. Of course, last chapter is a good example of how it's an imperfect policy that all comes down to if I am willing to budget the time needed to continue this.
The chapter's name is a reference to Usagi thinking about how you could either get dragged kicking and screaming as life went on, or you could cry while keeping pace on your feet. When you fall off of a moving motorcycle, your momentum drags you like an invisible hand, and the scraping that can occur is sometimes known as road rash. Tetsuya claims to be moving on and wanting to move on, but his fears and doubts are keeping him on the ground as life moves forward and the time streams drag him along.
Also, shooting at a target two feet in front of you with a side draw is scary, and seeing what I'm doing to a target that's 2-10 feet away from me really gives a haunting perspective of what I potentially got myself into when I re-upped four years ago...
Ugh... PT then more CCNA study tomorrow. Don't expect another chapter until Wednesday night. Goodnight everyone, and as always, thanks for reading my stuff!