The first time he had heard it, he was so shocked he fell out of the tree he was hiding in. The second and third, he was disgusted and disbelieving and from thereon in, he was just exasperated.
Weren't they wearing disguises as a necessity?
At least, that was Tuxedo Kamen's firm belief. He wasn't entirely sure about keeping secret identities from each other, since they appeared to be temporary allies, but...to call out each other's real names during battle was just foolishness.
Chiba Mamoru, also known as the masked hero Tuxedo Kamen, a Juuban University student and best friend of Motoki, was not sure just what to do.
To say he'd been utterly flabbergasted to hear Sailor Moon referred to as Usagi was just putting it mildly. Though stunned, he reasoned that perhaps there was more than one air-headed blonde with that name going around Juuban.
As really reasonable assumption-until the Senshi had also referred to her as Odango Atama.
Now they were going into the realm of impossibility.
It took the Sailor Senshi shouting each other's names in either fear, of exhilaration, or anger to clue poor Mamoru in that YES, the super heroine he had growing feelings for was Tsukino Usagi. After all, how many groups of friends were running around with the names of Usagi, Ami, Rei and Makoto?
Absolutely none that he was aware of!
In complete disbelief and shell-shock, the upperclassman had closely questioned Motoki about their movements and found to his surprise that his best friend knew more than he had been letting on.
Who would have guessed that the mild-mannered guy who owned the local arcade and cafe was the resident expert on the Sailor Senshi and Tuxedo Kamen?
Motoki had even revealed that he'd known that Mamoru was Tuxedo Kamen for several months. And yes, the young girls that were suspected to be the Senshi by them both, had been displaying some very telling behavior.
They left suddenly, not always paying their bill-and Mamoru usually followed not far behind.
They all had the exact same names, said frequently in battle.
Usagi was the world's worst klutz and crybaby and Sailor Moon, by some very suspicious coincidence, was exactly alike.
The other Sailor Senshi just happened to have the same personalities as Rei, Makoto and Ami.
Mars seemed to have the same fiery temper and the nickname for Sailor Moon that both Rei and Mamoru called Usagi.
Jupiter was always ready for a fight and stuck up for Sailor Moon a lot.
Mercury was a brainy girl and frequently scolded Usagi/Sailor Moon for not studying or sleeping in late.
And during one of their conversations at the Arcade, each girl had shown a marked preference for their Senshi counterparts.
Then again, there was the damning evidence that had been staring everyone in Tokyo right in the eyes, but seemed to be masked by some powerful glamour. Had absolutely no one figured out that the Senshi looked exactly like Usagi and her friends?
There was much more connecting them, of course, but Mamoru couldn't be bothered listing them in his mind right then. He had them all typed onto a graph on his computer anyway.
As far as he was concerned, the universe had some sort of perverse pleasure by making the blonde ditz that was his nemesis into the girl he cared deeply for.
And she was also was protector of the Solar System and all life on earth. He thought that if the world knew that fact, they'd be shaking in their beds every time the Senshi clashed with the Dark Kingdom.
Of course, they were only fifteen years of age, but surely they had some sense of self-preservation. If Tuxedo Kamen was aware of their real names, then the Dark Kingdom had also been clued in. It was somewhat astonishing therefore, that the Senshi had not been accosted in their own homes, or denounced in public by a floating Dark Kingdom General bent on extinguishing their lives.
Mamoru shook his head, dispelling the thoughts from his mind. He was on his way to Motoki's place to try on a Halloween costume and he was going to have good time. He was, damn it! even if he did have a tiny bit of excitement floating around in region of his stomach at the thought of being near her.
Expression darkening, he tried desperately to put Usagi and the Sailor Senshi from his head, but came back to the very reason that they'd popped in their in the first place. The girls had all also been invited over to Motoki's apartment to try on their costumes.
The handsome upper-classman deftly moved through the crowded sidewalks, avoiding crashing into the shoppers by sheer instinct. It was exactly the type of situation he loathed. Happy, cheerful people, shopping and socializing, clogging up the sidewalks and blocking his path.
If there were four times a year Mamoru loathed, it was Christmas, Easter, Halloween and Valentines Day.
"Here we are." He said aloud, stopping before an apartment complex.
Motoki had an apartment a couple of blocks down from his own, chosen out by his fiancé, Reika. Once upon a time, his best friend had roomed with him, but when he met that woman, he'd fallen head over heels.
His nose wrinkled in disgust as he entered the lift and pressed the button for floor four. "Reika made him soft and...weak." Mamoru murmured, mingled feelings filling him. He was revolted at the thought of committing to a woman to such an extent that he wouldn't be thinking straight, walked around in a love-haze and spoke of nothing but her name in utterly revoltingly-sweet accents.
That would never, ever happen to him!
The lift doors swished open in time for the handsome man to see a familiar form dashing past. If he wasn't mistaken, it had been Ami in a professor's cape and hat.
"Ami! You can't wear such a dull thing on Halloween!" Makoto bellowed as she bolted past, dressed in a ninja uniform with her hair in a high ponytail. In her hands was a delicate, pink, fairy costume.
It didn't take much deduction to see that the tall girl wanted her friend to dress up a Titania....or just a plain fairy. Tinkerbelle perhaps?
Frowning at such behavior in a respectable hallway, Mamoru trailed the two girls into Motoki's apartment, which had the door wide open. From inside came cheerful music, belaying the more somber and even spooky mood for Halloween. Blue eyes rolled skyward and Mamoru shrugged his green jacket from his shoulders. He opened the closet door and put the jacket on a coat hanger.
"Mamoru? Is that you?" Reika's voice called down the hallway, echoing slightly.
Following her voice into the kitchen, he smiled at the sight of pure domesticality. The woman was up to her elbows in cookie dough, hands in the bowl and flour splashed liberally all down her front and some on her face.
To their right, Usagi, Makoto, Ami and Rei were in the lounge. Motoki was not to be seen.
"Cute, aren't they?" Reika noticed with a smile at Mamoru's disgruntled expression. She looked at him slyly. "You'll just have to bear with them for this afternoon."
"Do I have to?" Mamoru countered, fully prepared to leave if an escape were extended.
Usagi giggled at something and he took a moment to look her over. She really did look cute... He frowned. No, the Odango Atama looked very pretty. The upperclassman scowled heavily and deliberately looked away. But her appearance was burnt into his memory. Most probably only because he knew her to be Sailor Moon, at least, that's what he tried to tell himself.
The golden-haired girl was dressed as a princess, in a long pink gown with lace at sleeves, neckline and hem. On her head was a little dainty tiara of gold. She looked very delectable-as usual.
"She looks good, doesn't she?" Reika murmured, kneading the dough firmly in the bowl. She had followed his gaze and known who he'd been staring at. "Like a real princess."
"She's a brat." Mamoru said dismissively. He looked over her sensible jeans and red top. "You aren't trying on your costume?" He queried, somehow put out. The woman was only slightly older than them, yet he and Motoki would be wearing childish clothing and doing who knew what.
"It's in our room. I decided to come as an archaeologist." She revealed with a smirk.
He stared at her, and then laughed. "That's cheating you know. You're supposed to come as someone you don't do as a living."
"You're one to talk." She said pointedly, eyes looking him right in the face.
Mamoru's mouth fell open. "He didn't!" He gasped in astonishment and betrayal.
"Yes, he did." Reika's head cocked to the side curiously. "You really didn't think he was going to marry me with secrets between us?"
He didn't know how to respond to that one, since he had an aberrance to sharing anything remotely personal with a female. It had stemmed from being an orphan and ran deep. Mamoru sighed. Actually, it wasn't only females-anyone really. It had taken a very long time for his friendship with Motoki to reach a personal depth.
The fact that his best friend had shared Mamoru's secret identity with Reika just wouldn't sink in.
"He told me that you were determined to come as-" She lowered her voice and leant closer over the counter towards him. "A certain cloaked hero?"
"He talked me out of it." Mamoru nodded, voice dry. He went to lean against the counter also, then noticed what a mess it was and carefully, moved his black shirt and slacks out of range.
"And into a pirate garb!" The woman giggled at him.
"A pirate? No way!" A voice squealed from behind him.
Mamoru didn't even need to turn to know it was Usagi, and that annoyed the hell out of him. That his every nerve-ending came alive when she was near was even more disconcerting. It had to be because he knew her alternate form and had feelings for her, but the annoying klutz that he had been fighting with for months was growing on him. He had found, to his absolute horror, that he sometimes retorted insults in a decidedly tender manner.
"That's much too cool a costume for Mamoru-baka." Usagi went on, making his teeth grit together in an effort not to bite her head off.
It then occurred to him that he didn't have any reason to leash himself. She might be someone who'd he'd grown affectionate towards when they were in battle, but it didn't change the fact that she was his blonde nemesis, Usagi.
"Odango Atama." The handsome man swung around, a casual smile pasted to his face. He looked her up and down in scorn. "You look ridiculous."
Ridiculous was it? Usagi frowned at him for a long moment, and then smiled.
He looked so taken-aback, as the full force of the happy curve of her lips, that she could have laughed in his face.
And if he hadn't been Tuxedo Kamen, she would have handed his spleen to him on a spoon by then.
Usagi had known for some few months that the man she so admired and adore was actually Chiba Mamoru, the jerk of an upperclassman that she fought with regularly.
She had discovered his identity quite by mistake, although it should have occurred to her much earlier.
His white half-mask had fallen off during a battle. Tuxedo Kamen had caught it swiftly and replaced it over his face, but she had already seen.
Over the next few weeks, the blonde had gone by in a daze of utter shock and disbelief. But it had slowly sunk in that his habits were very much like Mamoru's.
The arrogant tilt of his chin, his voice, the deep blue eyes that she had gazed into so often in both his hero and civilian form. He was, now that the scales had dropped from her eyes, very much like the upperclassman. He was the same height, had the same eyes, the same dark hair and even his distant manner was the same.
Tuxedo Kamen had also displayed Chiba Mamoru's utter arrogance and pride when taunting a General.
Usagi had been dying to tell the other Senshi, but had seen how much they disliked and distrusted the man. He was after the Rainbow Crystals for his own reasons, but she just couldn't view him as an enemy. He had rescued her so often, held her tightly in his arms and guided her when she faltered.
In fact, Tuxedo Kamen had been even more supportive than her own Senshi.
Mercury was quietly-disapproving of her manner in battle and her inability to keep up her grades in School.
Mars had always wanted to be Leader and argued with Sailor Moon at every turn, even when the blonde had turned up to battle in time.
Jupiter had been more supportive, but had made it subtly-apparent that she thought the blonde incapable of protecting them or herself without help.
And Luna...well, the Guardian hadn't ever been supportive, now that Usagi thought about it. The cat had arrived and plunked a golden broach on the blonde's chest one night, declaring that she was to be the champion of justice and some sort of superhero. But right from the start, from Sailor Moon's first tripping over and fearful crying, she had considered the girl less than Leader material.
Usagi had tried her best to be better in battle, but nothing she seemed to do would please anyone. No one had even noticed when she made a concentrated effort not to trip or put herself into the line of fire. Nor had they noticed that her aim with the tiara had become more acute-due to intense private training late at night in Juuban Park.
One time, she had almost been mugged, till the man realized he had been trying to rob the super heroine of all Tokyo. She had stood there straight and proud, staring him down. The man had run off so fast, she had almost felt sorry for him.
Things had been looking mightily depressing and hopeless until that one little slip with Tuxedo Kamen.
Till then, she had been feeling all alone in her fight against the Dark Kingdom and even her civilian life. The only person who had supported her in any manner disappeared in seconds flat after any battle and she had never really had a proper talk with him.
Perhaps the time when he had given her the beautiful star locket was one instance, but that was all.
He had dashed her heart against the ground below with this callous conversation. She had been getting such mixed signals from his words and his present that it had almost made her go mad.
And then that fateful day dawned; his mask fell off and she discovered that the mysterious man was Chiba Mamoru. In an instant, everything had shifted in life like a kaleidoscope.
Usagi was no longer alone, because she knew who Tuxedo Kamen was. And even though he still argued with her, sometimes she fooled herself into thinking that his words didn't have their usual bite.
Every time they met, she could see a white half-mask and tuxedo superimposed over his form and it had brought a warm feeling to her chest.
Even as she smiled sweetly back at him in Motoki and Reika's kitchen, she couldn't find the energy to be angry with him. Mamoru had no idea, but he was her rock. The one thing that kept her afloat in a confusing and sometimes terrifying current.
Nevertheless, he couldn't find out what she knew and she had to go on as if they were still the two enemies in a dispute. "Mamoru, go to hell." She told him, lips twitching. "I know I look good, thank you."
And he, looked absolutely wonderful. It was the same clothing she'd seen a hundred times, but she could still admire how the black shirt clung to his lightly-muscled chest. He looked handsome and coolly-elegant.
He looked at her in pure amazement for a moment, before a smug look dropped into his deep blue eyes. "Odango, you astonish me sometimes." Mamoru murmured to her, expression softening.
The blonde was so taken-aback that she found herself gaping at him.
But that had been his intention. The upperclassman smiled at her superiorly. "You amaze me with your utter stupidity and klutzy ways." He went on heedlessly.
Usagi bit the inside of her mouth to keep from insulting him. He really was too much sometimes. She frowned, then her face cleared and she smiled back pleasantly. If she was to keep her secret knowledge of him from getting out, she had to start treating him like usual.
"And you surprise me with how dumb the words coming out of your mouth are!"
"What, no original retort?" He scoffed, crossing his arms and leaning against the bench top.
"How about you're a complete baka for leaning against a flour-covered bench top?" Usagi grinned in delight as he swore and straightened up, checking the back of his shirt.
She checked also and barely kept the gleeful look from her face. His shirt was caked in flour and dried cookie dough. That would teach the jerk a lesson.
"Damn it, Reika, you could have told me!" Mamoru exclaimed, throwing an annoyed look at the blonde. Clearly unhappy that he'd done something so silly in front of his nemesis.
"Oh, did it ruin your shirt? And here I thought you were having too much fun taunting Usagi." Reika laughed, flinging some flour at him.
Mamoru moved back so fast that he crashed into Usagi.
Before either of them could blink, he had turned swiftly and caught her in his arms, steadying them both.
The golden-haired girl found herself held protectively to his chest and her mouth went dry. It was such a familiar position, since Tuxedo Kamen regularly held her this way when he rescued her, but this time it was without the mask.
The two breathlessly stared into each other's eyes, so close, and said nothing for a long moment.
Usagi was wondering hazily if she should say something scalding and jump out of his arms, but it just felt so good to be in them.
For a second, Mamoru seemed to be in accord, but then his arms opened and let her fall flat onto her backside.
"I have to go wash-up." He said tightly to herself and Reika, and then walked off towards the bathroom.
The petite girl sighed wistfully and a sad look crossed her face as she got to her feet. If only Mamoru could look into her eyes and see that it was Sailor Moon there, she might have a chance.
But he would never see anyone but the slightly-younger girl who exchanged heated words occasionally.
"Oh please, can't he see the real me...just once?" She whispered longingly.
That Usagi was really too much sometimes. Mamoru mused over her behaviour as he carefully wiped away the flour and dried pastry from his black shirt with a cloth from Motoki's basin. He stood, half-naked in the cool room with the door partially open in case he was called...or overheard something about himself from the giggling bunch of girls down the hall.
The upperclassman sighed, then grinned reluctantly at the memory of the impish smile curing a certain blonde's mouth. And such a cute little pink mouth it was too.
"What am I saying? She does not have a cute mouth." His blue eyes narrowed. "And it's certainly not kissable."
Mamoru paused in thought, hand still moving over the stains on his shirt absently.
Usagi was an enigma really. On the outside, she appeared to be an awkward gawky girl, who hadn't seemed to have grown into her own body yet.
He could understand, having been through the same process at that age. Beanpole Mamoru they'd called him at the orphanage.
She appeared to be rather self-centered too, always thinking about what would please her. Food, Manga, video games. She was also rotten at school work and Mamoru highly suspected her grades were poor.
On the inside though, Odango Atama was very caring and warm and even sometimes betrayed an intelligence beyond her years. She was slightly different when she donned her fuku, becoming confident and protective.
The reason he rescued her was even more bewildering. From that very first moment he'd suddenly transformed into a tuxedo and white half-mask obscuring his face, he'd been her shadow. Even though it had taken the acquisition of a Rainbow Crystal for him to even realise why he'd been blacking out all the time, he did not hold her or his destiny against anyone.
It seemed to be his lot in life to rescue a pretty blonde girl, four years his junior, from the horrors of another dimension.
Mamoru's lips twisted derisively as he contemplated whether he would be so magnanimous regarding Sailor Moon if the Princess in his dreams had not come to him nightly to beg his aid. The Princess filled his nights and almost every waking thought, her form indistinct against a background that appeared to be a huge palace. And she asked for him to bring her the Mystical Silver Crystal.
So Tuxedo Kamen had done everything in his power to find it, becoming a known burglar to the media, crashing parties and alienating the Senshi with his ruthless quest for the Rainbow Crystals.
All for a girl he dreamt of, but couldn't really see. He didn't even know her name, for gods sake!
It had occurred to him then, that he was going crazy and was perhaps dreaming up the perfect girl to fill his dismal life.
"I mean, what exactly am I here for?" Mamoru whispered to himself, placing the damp cloth on the side of the basin and gazing into his reflection. The mirror didn't seem to have any answers to his multitude of questions. Who was he really? Was Chiba even his last name?
And why on earth did he retain the clear memory of a little girl handing him a rose? His very first rose...that had never died.
It was his secret really-well, the important one in his life. A flower given to him in a time of need, when he felt as if he should have died with his family. The red rose had been from a bunch that was to be given to her mother for the birth of the little girl's baby brother. Could the girl have been his Princess or was it just wishful thinking?
Night after night, he had pulled the eternal rose from its hiding place and held it tightly, wishing with all his heart that he could find that child and thank her. It was the very same rose that he had first used to transform into Tuxedo Kamen, and continued to use whenever there was a battle. A magic rose filled with power and destiny.
Had that little girl been his Princess? Or was it someone that fate had thrown into his path for just one instant, handing over his birthright?
She had, essentially, saved his life. Although, Fiore had done a great deal also.
Yet another puzzle in his long nineteen years of life. Had an alien boy called Fiore truly visited and became a friend and confidante of Chiba Mamoru?
"Or am I completely nuts?" The dark-haired man wondered aloud.
"I would say you're as crazy as the rest of us, Mamoru. What did you have in mind?" Motoki said from the doorway, eyes dancing with amusement.
Mamoru laughed self-consciously and looked down at his cleaned shirt. It was still damp from the water, but he had no way to dry it. Unless- "Can I put this in your drier, Motoki?" He questioned, holding out the material.
His best friend nodded. "Of course you can." Motoki grinned wickedly. "And what a perfect time for you to try on your costume."
"Oh no, not that!" The upperclassman groaned and rolled his eyes. "I came to hang out, not dress like a freak."
"You agreed to try on the costume I hired for you," Motoki crossed his arms and looked stubborn. "Try it on or leave, buddy."
Mamoru looked at him with incredulity and suspicion. "Are you serious?"
"Absolutely." The blonde man wiggled his eyebrows and jerked his head in the direction of the hall. "And we have five lovely ladies waiting to judge how you look."
The dark-haired university student scowled. "Absolutely not!" He said vehemently, scrunching his shirt up into a ball and shoving it into Motoki's arms. "Dry this for me and I'll leave."
There was absolutely no way he was parading about like a circus freak before a mass of giggling girls. Especially the blonde one he had mixed feelings for.
Would she laugh or...look at him as if she wanted him?
Mamoru's expression became grim with knowledge. He really cared what Usagi thought of him. And that bothered him more than he could say.
The girl had practically blasted into his life like an out of control tornado, filling his days with amusing arguments and laughs. He had mixed feelings regarding Usagi.
Tuxedo Kamen had grown to care for Sailor Moon, but Mamoru had never thought of Usagi as anything more than a younger girl who rubbed against him the wrong way. They bashed into each other-sometimes literally-and then had words. She usually stormed off or yelled at him until her friends or Motoki broke them up. She was...fun. In a totally annoying way.
When she had fallen in the kitchen, he had caught her in his arms as if had been the most natural thing in the world. And as they had stared at each other, breath mingling, he had felt an almost overwhelming urge to kiss her. An urge had that been doomed at the start and was buried deeply into the back of his mind.
He hadn't exactly meant to drop her so callously, but it had been habit!
Fearing for life and limb when Usagi recovered from her bruising fall, and also apprehensive about the feelings she had raised in him, he had done the only manly thing he could think of.
And strode from the room like an uncaring bastard.
Frankly, he was no longer sure just what he was feeling for her. There was very thin line between the super heroine and the petite blonde girl now. The images and characteristics were blurring together in a confusing mess.
No one had ever had that sort of power over him-and he rather felt lost in the chaos of it all.
Usagi had no idea, but she was the only constant in his life. Something he had come to depend upon, whether in normal everyday life or in battle. He needed her.
Motoki was watching his friend closely, and saw the expressions chasing themselves over his face. Mamoru had issues in a big way. Everyone in Tokyo knew that Tuxedo Kamen had feelings for Sailor Moon and it was glaringly obvious that Mamoru was starting to have similar feelings for Usagi now that he'd discovered they were the same girl.
"You think too much." The man chided, taking Mamoru by the elbow and guiding him out of the room and further down the hall.
Mamoru found himself steered firmly into Motoki's room, where a pirate costume lay on the bed. He stared at it for a long moment, noting the garish red and gold colours. The sword was sort of cool though and he found himself looking at it fixedly.
Something flashed into his mind; himself lunging with a large sword in his arms, at an unseen opponent.
The upperclassman blinked, frowning. He had never held a sword in his life, so where the hell had that memory come from?
"Mamoru," Motoki said, releasing his friend and turning to face him. He couldn't help the concerned look in his eyes. "If you really don't want to do this, I'll understand. You've never been one to celebrate things like Halloween or Christmas and on Valentines Day you're positively morose."
"No." Mamoru murmured, coming out of his thoughts and giving Motoki a rather sheepish look. Motoki was right, he did think too much. And now really wasn't the time for all this. His best friend and his fiance had gone out of their way to give him a wonderful seasonal holiday surprise, in a very comfortable and fun atmosphere. "I'll try it on-but no promises." He warned.
"That's all I ask." The man nodded and backed away slightly. "Mamoru-" He began hesitantly. "Did you want to talk about...her?"
Mamoru's eyes flashed towards Motoki's. By 'her', he knew his friend was referring to Usagi. The bane of existence for heaven's sake. The Princess in his dreams was rapidly diminishing in his eyes and a small blonde was replacing her.
Sailor Moon...Tsukino Usagi. How confusing it all was. Life had been so much more simple before the Dark Kingdom invaded and he obtained a lot of responsibilities.
"Maybe later." He told Motoki in a rather distracted manner.
"Right. I'm always here to listen." The blonde man hesitated a moment longer, then seemed to come to some decision. "Hey, buddy? Try not to hold her faults against her. We all have them. And underneath is a very sweet, loving girl."
"Are you playing matchmaker, Motoki?" Mamoru asked dryly, chuckling. "Do I have your blessing then if I happen to ask Usagi out?"
Until that moment, that thought had never even crossed his mind! Ask Usagi out on a date? Be her boyfriend?
Was he completely insane?
"It will never happen." He went on curtly, turning his back on his friend.
He didn't need another problem complicating his life right then. He was Tuxedo Kamen, on a mission for a mysterious Princess. He was guardian to Sailor Moon. Nemesis to Tsukino Usagi. And university student.
Wasn't that enough?
"If you say so." Motoki grinned at him as if there was a big joke going on that Mamoru knew nothing about. "I think you'll find that destiny will catch up with you, my friend."
"What?" The upperclassman turned sharply, but found Motoki had left and closed the door behind him.
What on earth had Motoki been talking about?
Frowning over it, Mamoru began to take the rest of his clothes off.
In only his underpants, he looked over the costume intently, trying to figure what to put on first. Perhaps the scarlet pants, which looked rather too tight for his liking. He sighed deeply and shook his head. "How did I let him talk me into this?"
Usagi still couldn't believe that he had dropped her. As if she were a burning coal!
Her fingernails tapped on the glass she was holding, irritation in her expressive blue eyes. She stated into her cola drink, watching the multitude of bubbles rise and disperse on the surface. Rather like Mamoru and herself.
One moment, they were getting along, the next the connection was gone and they were strangers.
She was very bewildered by the way he had been treating her lately. As if he didn't quite know what to do around her.
"Could he know something?" Usagi whispered under her breath, eyes widening. No, it wasn't possible for him to have discovered that she was Sailor Moon. Mamoru wouldn't have held that one to himself.
She shook her head, silky blonde hair brushing against her cheeks. Her head tilted to the side curiously as she remembered the way he had held her in his arms in the kitchen. He had caught her automatically, Usagi was sure. He had very good reflexes, now that she thought about it. Sure, that first test had hit him in the face, and her shoe had found it's mark-but after a while, he seemed to sense when something was heading his way and he ducked or blocked it.
The man was frustrating the hell out of her!
Slender fingers curled about the icy glass till it threatened to break. As if her life wasn't hard enough already, he had to change it all! Mamoru had just been the guy she crashed into and argued with, but then she had discovered his secret and everything had changed.
The blonde was losing sleep over him and it angered her as much as it excited her. She knew every single nuance of his face and body. The way his shirt grew taut over his chest, the amused sparkle in his blue eyes and even his little habits like studying while drinking coffee.
"I'm...I'm...no, I can't be." She whispered in horror. It slammed into her like a freight train. She was attracted to Mamoru! Longing for him in the same way she had for his alter-ego Tuxedo Kamen.
It all made sense now though. When he'd taken her into his arms in the kitchen and they'd looked into each others eyes, she had wanted him to kiss her.
Usagi pressed her face against the coolness of the glass and closed her eyes, blocking out the music and her friends talking. Everything had been so simple before she became Sailor Moon. She didn't care about her grades, she was happy to have a sole friend in Naru and enjoy Manga and cookies. But then Luna had appeared and she had made new friends, obtained responsibilities that no fifteen year old should ever had, and fought monsters that would give her nightmares for the rest of her life.
She wondered, not for the first time, if the cat had made some dreadful mistake. Could she and Rei and the others truly be the only hope of the entire planet against an invading force of aliens? Sailor Senshi against the Dark Kingdom. Young girls who gushed over cute guys, hung out and shopped and thought life was wonderful.
Why had they been made into warriors and given special powers? Luna would never explain anything to her, although Usagi had grilled her many times. The cat seemed to be having memory problems and couldn't even tell them why they had been picked out of all the girls and women in the world.
When her hands once again clenched on her drink, Usagi leant over the couch and carefully placed her glass on the tabletop next to it, knowing that she would probably break it in her stressed state. She didn't want to break something of Motoki's and Reika's.
She sat back and stared fixedly down at her slender hands, mind seething with anxiety and bewilderment.
"Usagi, are you alright?" Ami asked her in concern, sitting on the couch beside the blonde, their arms pressed together.
Rei sank onto the other side and Makoto hovered above them all.
The small girl didn't know what to tell them, but she was eternally grateful that they had even noticed she wasn't enjoying herself and was upset. They argued with her, bossed her around, protected her and cared for her as a friend. They didn't know what she had discovered about Chiba Mamoru and would be hurt if they found out she had kept something that important from them.
Looking around at their faces, Usagi felt a swelling of love in her chest. She really, truly cared deeply for Rei, Makoto and Ami. And she hoped that they knew it.
She gazed then, mutely into Ami's face, and found that she couldn't think of a word to comfort them. To let them know she was alright.
How could she possibly explain that her world was falling apart around her, shifting into something entirely unknown and a little frightening? That she had growing feelings for someone she had recently disliked intensely. That Usagi-Sailor Moon-was doubting her very existence and purpose?
"Odango Atama? Is something worrying you? I can feel something strange in your aura." Rei frowned at her and then leant forward to stare intently into her best friend's blue eyes. Usagi looked troubled. Deeply troubled about something.
The priestess-in-training looked about swiftly, but didn't see Reika, Mamoru or Motoki.
"Okay, Usagi-spill. What's going on?" She urged, placing a hand on the blonde's knee. The material under her hand was silky smooth and she felt a spurt of envy. Usagi's mother had gone all-out that year for her little girl. Rei was dressed as a Shinto Priestess in her red and white robes. Not very original, but it was something she was comfortable with.
"Is it the Dark Kingdom?" The raven-haired girl went on, sensing the most bizarre sensations from her Leader. Usagi's aura was swirling about her in confusion, blatantly displaying the conflict going on inside the body and mind.
"Rei." Usagi said quietly, astonished. Sometimes, Rei was very perceptive...but then again, she was training to become a Priestess. The power of Mars was strong inside her also.
"Nah, I don't think that's what's wrong. It's a guy, right?" Makoto said in a disturbingly loud voice. She grinned and bent over Usagi, touching the soft hair on the blonde's head behind the tiara. She patted her friend comfortingly, like a big sister. "I've seen that look before."
"Usagi? A boy?" Ami gasped, covering her mouth. She gawked at the blonde. "Are you dating someone?"
"What?!" Rei shot up straight, hand leaving Usagi's lap. She glared at the blonde, feeling somehow insulted. Here she had thought something was wrong....
Usagi smiled rather weakly at them all, avoiding Rei's blazing purple eyes. It was a guy-sort of. Well, not all of it. Oh damn, how was she supposed to explain this one? Their eyes were all so expectant as they gazed at her, though Ami seemed shocked, Makoto gleeful and Rei angry. Perhaps they would have preferred to her to be worried about the Dark Kingdom?
Very uncharitable thoughts flashed through her mind for them before they were stifled. Despite being rather childish in their responses, they did care for her.
"Makoto, have you ever been in love?" She asked slowly, contemplating what she would reveal to them. Maybe they should know that they had Tuxedo Kamen right there under their noses?
Makoto had opened her mouth to response, but then closed it and shook her head with a rueful little laugh. "No. I say I fall in love all the time and that I had this really cool boyfriend that I get reminded of constantly." Her green eyes became sad. "But I've never truly been in love."
The Senshi of Jupiter sighed and her green eyes went distant. "Sometimes I dream of a man. And another time and place. I think we were in love."
Rei's mouth dropped open. "You too?" She breathed, hands clenching on her lap. A blonde man often flitted into her dreams, face elusive, but attention to her adoring.
"Me too. I've seen his face in my sleep, but when I wake up I can't recall it." Ami murmured. Her blue eyes looked haunted. She looked at the other three. "Do you suppose that we are remembering our past? On the Moon Kingdom Luna spoke of?" His name...she had uttered it so many times in her sleep, but could never remember it.
"Are you serious, Ami?" Rei blurted out, stunned.
This thought had obviously never occurred to any of them, but for Ami. Men from their past lives who had loved them...and maybe been their husbands?
"My beloved wife." She whispered, the words dropping into her mind. She recalled the touch of his hands stroking through her long hair, the words lovingly on his lips. Her purple eyes filled with tears, but she blinked them away angrily, not knowing why it upset her so badly.
"It's possible, right?" Makoto said in excitement. "How romantic!" Her memories were hazy at best, but she could recall, at least, that he had long brown hair.
"What about you, Usagi?" The raven-haired girl demanded softly, staring at the silent blonde. "Is that who you've been thinking about?"
Thinking about a dream man from the Moon Kingdom? They had no idea just how complicated her world really was regarding her love life. Yes, she dreamed of a handsome Prince that had loved her, but she also never remembered his name. And then there were dreams with Tuxedo Kamen in them. And in waking thoughts, Chiba Mamoru.
"Guys," She said tentatively. "Is it possible to be in love with three people?"
"Three?" They all exclaimed, eyes goggling.
"Yeah." Usagi nodded, looking them in the eyes one by one. She ended up gazing into Rei's purple eyes, which were befuddled by the blonde's announcement. "A man in my dreams."
They all nodded.
"Oh, Usagi, no!" Ami said in dismay, her hand went to Usagi and she clutched at the fingers tightly. "You can't be-with him. He's an enemy."
"I thought you just had a crush on him." Makoto's tone were almost accusatory.
"Ami is right, but this really isn't the best place to be discussing this." Rei scolded, frowning at the three. Her eyes turned to Usagi's again. "I thought you meant someone realistic, Odango Atama." She looked exasperated.
"You didn't wait for number three." Usagi retorted, glaring back at the girl.
"Well?" Makoto demanded eagerly, sitting on the floor at Usagi's feet. She prodded a pink slippered-foot with a finger. "Who is he?"
"Please don't laugh." The golden-haired girl pleaded with them, grasping Ami's hand so tightly her friend winced.
"Is it someone we know?" Ami asked her, trying discreetly to detach Usagi's fingers from hers. Obviously, the blonde girl was upset by whoever she liked and didn't know how to tell them.
"Alright, spill!" Rei snapped when the silence grew too long. "It's not a Dark Kingdom General I hope?" She joked, trying to lighten the tense atmosphere in the lounge.
"Not...exactly." Usagi muttered awkwardly, looking down at her lap. "But he's someone I've realised I like a lot. Someone on my mind more often than I wish he would be. Someone who probably hates my guts."
"No way." The raven-haired Senshi said, staring at Usagi in shock and disbelief. "You're not talking about him-are you?"
"Who's 'him'?" Makoto looked from one face to another, trying to figure it out.
"Usagi, do you mean you've fallen in love with-" Ami began hesitantly, blushing.
"Not in love." The Senshi of the Moon blurted, flushing also. "I don't think." She let go of Ami's hand and fidgeted with the material of the pink dress. She clenched her hands into the silky material in her lap, uncaring of whether she put creases in it.
Now was the time to explain it all to them. Even if the object of her thoughts was just down the hall. Reika and Motoki were in the kitchen cooking and Mamoru was drying his shirt.
China-blue eyes glanced up at the doorway leading to the hallway which had all the bedrooms and the bathroom. Mamoru had been gone a very long time. Motoki had returned a while back and passed them with a happy smile that always seemed to be on his face. Where on earth was the upperclassman? Had he left?
Concern filled her, along with apprehension. If Mamoru had left, then she would not enjoy the afternoon at Motoki's. Her heart clenched and she suddenly felt like crying. Had he gone home while they'd been dancing around the room to the music or examining each other's clothes?
She gasped and clutched at her chest, horror filling her. What if he'd heard them discussing him? "Oh no." She breathed, dismay in her eyes.
"What's wrong?" Rei insisted, taking Usagi's ashen face in her hands and turning her so that she could see the expression in the blue eyes. Usagi's aura was in absolute chaos! "What's happened?" She asked anxiously, trying to think what had upset her best friend so much. One minute they'd been talking and the next-
"Was he here?" She whispered, hands stroking Usagi's petal-soft cheeks in an unconsciously soothing manner. She really loved her friend, whether she knew it or not.
"I don't know!" Usagi answered, distressed. She tried to smile at Rei, but failed miserably. "Did he hear me?" She wondered aloud.
"Oh dear. He isn't around." Ami said, catching on quick. She put her arm about Usagi's shoulders. "Don't worry, I'm sure he didn't hear you."
"I still have no idea who we're talking-" Makoto's words broke off abruptly and her face changed comically. "Him? Oh crap." She swore, glancing about. "He didn't come back from the bathroom, did he?"
"Usagi, look-" Rei began urgently, but broke off when the brunette Senshi of Jupiter suddenly cracked up laughing and fell over.
Ami, Rei and Usagi looked in the direction Makoto had been looking before she'd fallen into hilarity.
"Good afternoon, Ladies. I will be your abductor today." Mamoru stood there in his pirate costume, plumed hat at a rakish angle. His chest was visible, because the white shirt he was wearing was open in a v line to his pants, where it was tucked in. A scarlet vest without sleeves was worn over that, unbuttoned. A black belt with a skull buckle adorned his waist, where a rapier was sheathed. He wore black boots up to his knees...and...
Were those pants painted on or something?
Absolutely every muscle in his well-toned body was showing and the temperature in the room had risen by several degrees.
Usagi felt her stomach plummet to her feet and her eyes went huge. Good, god, but did he look good enough to eat!
At that very moment, she decided that she wasn't going to let life interfere with her any more. No, there would be no more confusion where Chiba Mamoru and Tuxedo Kamen were concerned. They were the same man after all.
And she had never wanted anything more in her entire life!
As the four girls looked him over with mingled expressions, Mamoru mused over the fact that it was awfully disconcerting to be stared at in that manner.
Makoto looked at him as if he were a tasty treat thrown into her path. But then, the girl had a reputation as a virtual man-eater. Remarkable given her young age.
Ami's eyes were huge and she was blushing, but her gaze was certainly appreciative.
Rei's purple eyes moved over him and she seemed very impressed, but somewhat sad. He couldn't figure out what would have made her look at him that way.
The handsome upperclassman looked lastly at Usagi, heart clenching in apprehension. It mattered terribly to him that he met her approval. She was staring at him so strangely, blue eyes moving slowly over his body from head to toe and then back again. She blushed and then met his eyes.
"You look-good." She told him shyly, fingers clenching in her skirts. She couldn't believe she had just said that to him, but it had just come out. Usagi felt her flush deepen and had the worst time keeping her eyes on his.
The blonde expected Mamoru to tease and taunt her over her comment and tensed in readiness. But to her surprise, his eyes warmed and he smiled.
"Thank you, Odango Atama," Mamoru looked her over, using the same thoroughness that she had over his body. To his utter delight, her face turned red as a tomato and her eyes fled his. "You look-good, as well." He murmured, grinning wolfishly.
Why either of them was acting out of character, was anyone's guess!
Usagi fought desperately to keep down the tide of redness she knew to be staining her cheeks and down over her breasts. When she embarrassed, she went as red as a strawberry. It was humiliating to be doing it in front of Mamoru and yet-
She peeked up at him through her lashes to see him still gazing at her admirably. What was going on here?
"Er-maybe I should give Reika and Motoki a hand in the kitchen." Makoto said abruptly, breaking the awkward silence. She got hurriedly to her feet and left.
Ami was next, her face red also. "I have to fix my hem." She muttered, getting up from the couch and rushing past Mamoru towards the bathroom.
Rei frowned, staring from Mamoru and Usagi. She felt as if she should be some sort of chaperone, though who the hell knew why. It just seemed to be some sort of instinct within her where the blonde was concerned.
"Usagi, you do look very pretty." She added in her own compliment, hoping that her best friend would come out of her mortification. If Mamoru was any indication, the Usagi had a very good chance at dating him. The man had looked at her as if he'd like to eat her up!
"Are you sure we're talking about the same girl?" Mamoru drawled carelessly, desperately hoping to recover some of his pride. Good god, but he'd looked at the blonde as if he wanted nothing more than to drag her off to a bedroom. Had she noticed?
A look at her blue eyes told him that she was at least embarrassed by his words, but seemed too innocent to know what the look in his eyes had been.
He breathed a sigh of relief, then took a step back as Rei's eyes blazed wrath and Usagi's filled with tears. What the hell had be done now? Oh yes, the insult.
The dark-haired man winced and waited for the explosion. This was Usagi's cue to wail and cry and Rei to shriek at him like a banshee for insulting her beloved Leader.
Mamoru pondered whether the two even realised their very strange relationship. They were as close as sisters, but they fought as badly as himself and Odango Atama. Rei was allowed to shout at Usagi and insult her, apparently, but if anyone else did the same-watch out!
The raven-haired girl could be as protective as a mother with her cub.
"You're a jerk!" The Priestess-In-Training yelled at him, getting to her feet and placing herself squarely in front of Usagi. Sailor Mars protecting Sailor Moon.
If Mamoru hadn't already known who they were, he would have been getting a really good clue about then from the very familiar stance of the peeved Senshi.
"How dare you go around insulting her like that? I have half a mind to beat you black and blue." A disgusted look crossed her face. "I can't believe I liked you once."
"You did?" Mamoru said cluelessly. Rei had liked him? When exactly....oh.
His mind flashed back to when the raven-haired girl used to hang out with him. She had seemed to turn up everywhere and wanted to do things with him. They'd had a boat ride. He frowned. That time had been a date?
"Sorry, Rei." He shrugged and walked further into the room. "I thought we were just friends."
Rei seemed to deflate like a busted balloon at his words. He'd really thought that they were just doing things friends did? How terribly depressing.
Usagi blinked back her tears as she realised what was happening. Rei and Mamoru were arguing. It hurt her that the two people she considered the most cared for in her life were having words. Her best friend and the man she thought that she might be falling for.
"Rei, please." She whispered, turning agonised eyes towards her friend.
The Senshi of Mars turned and met that gaze, her anger and mortification fading. Damn Mamoru and his callous ways. Usagi had feelings for him-as good as loved him-and he was being such a bastard. Poor Usagi was pale and upset.
"Oh damn." Mamoru felt dismay fill him as he watched the scene. He had upset Usagi with his words, that had just come out as a defence mechanism. They had argued and insulted so often in the past that he did it without thought. And all because he'd been ashamed by revealing his attraction for her.
He was a real bastard!
"Look, Usagi," He began softly, "I didn't mean it. You look beautiful." The upperclassman admitted, eyes going over her body again.
The dress was exquisite, as was her lovely long hair that he liked to make fun of. The tiara looked charming...and frankly, that neckline was distracting him in a most disturbing manner. The bodice was low over her breasts, showing an enticing cleft. Her little pink slippers were peeking from beneath the hem, completing the alluring costume. Usagi really did look like a fairytale Princess.
The dark-haired man stared fixedly at her, the Princess in his dreams flashing into his mind. 'The Mystical Silver Crystal, please.'
Everyone, including Usagi, stared at Mamoru in a poleaxed manner.
Reika and Motoki, who had entered with drinks and food, gaped at their friend in amazement.
Ami had trailed them out, and had stopped dead at the words coming from Mamoru's mouth.
Makoto was frozen behind the upperclassman with mouth open. But then she burst into laughter and broke the spell holding everyone. "I can't believe you just said that to Usagi!" She said gleefully, slapping him on the shoulder. "Go for it, Mamoru."
Usagi didn't know where to look. He had said he thought she was beautiful! She locked gazes with Mamoru, who looked uncomfortable, but didn't say anything to retract his statement. His eyes seemed to speak to her, but she didn't understand. Mamoru couldn't like her, it would be too dream-like to be true.
"Yes, well," Mamoru said after a long moment. He smiled at Usagi mischievously. "She's entitled to one night of being a Princess, right? I won't insult her tonight."
The golden-haired girl sighed softly, then smiled at him. "Thank you...I think." She frowned and turned her face towards Motoki and Reika, trying to distract herself from him.
For a moment there, they had seemed to connect. Was she just imaging the fact that he seemed to be attracted to her, or was he just being kind? A Princess for one night-no insults.
"I see. Well, it's better than nothing." She murmured under her breath, happiness deflating a little. But, if he could be nice, then so could she. Mamoru would see that he didn't affect her in any way, no matter what flattery he used! He was just pretending, after all.
Mamoru also looked at Motoki, trying to pretend that the words of the last minute had never happened. But had he been mistaken in thinking Usagi had been happy at his compliments, then unhappy when she found out he was just being nice?
His hand went to the hilt of his sword and rested there familiarly, without even realising it.
It was awfully complicated, this situation with Odango Atama. He didn't know how to act any more. And she seemed very confused.
Something strange was going on and he felt as if he were stumbling around with blinders. Had he been utterly mistaken in thinking that Usagi disliked him? IF he was interested in her, then maybe she wouldn't mind being with him. A satisfied smile curled his lips.
Motoki looked at his friend askance, not trusting that look on his face. Like a cat that had gotten into the cream. And he was very sure Usagi had something to do with it. Just exactly what had he missed while he was in the kitchen? "Drinks and cookies, anyone?" He asked, taking his tray or biscuits and other snacks to the table in the center of the room, between two couches.
Reika followed with punch, a smile on her face. Usagi and Mamoru were attracted to each other and were fighting it! It was all very amusing. "Have a drink, Usagi." She offered a glass of the red liquid to the blonde.
"That doesn't have alcohol, I hope." Mamoru said tightly, eyes on the drink Usagi had just been given. His expression was so grim that he realised he was giving himself away. "We wouldn't want a drunk blonde with her klutzy tendencies."
Usagi felt her mouth twitch and she glared mock-angrily at him. "Take that back, you jerk." Mamoru just couldn't seem to help himself, despite telling them all he wouldn't insult her, he just blurted out the first thing that came to his mind. She found that she couldn't be angry at him for it and resolved to go back to their usual banter. It was better than nothing.
Mamoru's breath whooshed out when he heard her retort. He had been so worried that she would cry again. He couldn't bear to see tears in her eyes.
The upperclassman frowned and sat down on the couch across the table from Usagi, mind going in circles. He was being nice to her! He was even complimenting her clothing and making sure that she wasn't given a spiked drink. What the hell?! Yes, he had feelings for her, that were growing more and more complicated every day, but letting her know about them was not part of the plan.
What the plan was, he really wasn't sure any more.
"It's plain punch. Raspberry flavoured." Reika told him in an amused tone, knowing he had been concerned.
She and Motoki exchanged a knowing look.
"Usagi is funny when she'd drunk." Makoto mused aloud, remembering the princess party they'd crashed. Usagi had drunk alcohol accidentally and Tuxedo Kamen had found her and taken her alone out onto the balcony. Luckily, they had intervened in time. The Senshi scowled ferociously. Tuxedo Kamen was bad news; Usagi was better off with Mamoru, for all his faults.
"Drunk?" The upperclassman said dangerously, looking at all the girls.
"Oh, er-it was a party. She drank it accidentally." Ami said hastily, frowning at Makoto's carelessness.
"I see." Mamoru eyed Usagi and then suddenly he realised what party it had been. That had been the first time he had kissed Usagi, thought she didn't know it was him. She had thought it was Tuxedo Kamen, someone else entirely.
A secret smile crossed his face. She had been so cute at the party, dressed in a frilly number that had been flattering, but a little childish. It had reminded him sharply that he had been escorting a fifteen year old out onto an empty balcony. Mamoru had thought that she was Sailor Moon, and he had been right. They had shared a sweet kiss and then he had left her to her Senshi.
Reika handed the man a drink, which he took absently. Mamoru sipped at it, grimacing at the sweetness. He much preferred the bitterness of coffee-but this was a celebration of sorts, even if it was days before Halloween. This was the very first time the girls and they had ever had a party together. And now that he thought of it, he couldn't understand why Motoki and Reika had invited such young girls to their place. They did know that they were the Senshi, but they couldn't possibly have been up to something.
He glanced quickly at Motoki and Reika and saw them deep in conversation, sharing the love seat near the window and drinking punch. Mamoru looked at them for a long moment. Only hours ago, he had scorned their relationship and now he felt almost jealous of it.
Usagi nodded and laughed along with her friends as they talked and enjoyed their treats, but her eyes kept a good look on Mamoru, who was sitting alone across from her. He looked so handsome in his pirate garb, and this she could now freely admit in her mind.
She was no longer going to let anything in her life get in the way; Chiba Mamoru had no idea what she could do for something she wanted. She was Sailor Moon too, and being a Senshi gave her a lot of advantages.
Mamoru watched the golden-haired girl bite into a cookie and then lick her lips. He almost groaned aloud at the sight.
Just when had his life gone completely out of his control? Not so long ago, he loathed the sight of her and now he loved it.
Usagi froze when she felt him staring and turned her eyes to meet his. The blue depths were burning into her with am indecipherable expression. Still, she felt a shiver go through her slender frame.
This was out of her comfort zone! She had no idea what was going on between them, but something major was changing. Had he heard her conversation with her friends? Usagi bit her lip and shifted uncomfortably.
"Mamoru?" Rei said suddenly, breaking the trance the two had fallen into. If she hadn't been much mistaken, Mamoru and Usagi had just realised that the other was attracted to them! She glanced from Usagi, who she was again sitting next to, to Mamoru.
"Yes?" The upperclassman said automatically, wrenching his gaze from Usagi. He had to get a hold of himself! The situation was becoming very apparent to everyone in the room. And he didn't want it that way. Usagi had to stay at a distance, such as Tuxedo Kamen kept Sailor Moon at. She might be attractive, but he had other priorities.
Frustration filled him, and he held the glass of punch tightly, wishing he could hurl it at the wall.
Rei swallowed when she saw a black look cross Mamoru's face. But she had grabbed his attention and had to think up something quick. She had only wanted to give Usagi a moment to think, without that gaze boring into her from across the table. "How are your studies going?" She babbled. "I hear you're trying to become a doctor?"
Ami turned her head towards Mamoru with keen interest in her eyes. "Really? That's so wonderful, Mamoru. So am I."
"He's quite brilliant." Motoki nodded proudly and toasted his friend with a drink. He smirked as he saw Mamoru's baffled expression. His best friend had obviously been thinking something far and away from his future occupation when Rei had sprung that one on him. He applauded her silently.
"Yes, that's right. I'm studying at Juuban University." Mamoru managed to get out after a moment. His thoughts had been so addled that he'd had problem grasping just what the raven-haired girl had been saying. But now that she had, he found his mind clearing.
Blue eyes shot a look at Usagi swiftly, before looking back at Rei. He would not fall into that trap that easily, with the blonde. Things had gone out of control and he was taking it back.
It was a pity that he couldn't swing the conversation towards the Senshi's mission and the Rainbow Crystals. That would have been all business and left no space for feelings between himself and a certain blonde girl.
"I have a test next Tuesday, actually." His voice was confident and he sank back onto his cushion, crossing his leg. He admired how his boots looked, and his legs encased in scarlet material. It had been very strange, but after the initial embarassment, Mamoru had grown quite at ease with his costume. He would have to thank Motoki later.
"How nice for you." Usagi's voice was faintly sarcastic. Now that the situation was turning towards boring things like education and jobs, she could block out the effect Mamoru was having on her. It was strange, but even though she had wanted him to see her properly, even as Sailor Moon, she had felt awkward and didn't know what to do or say. He made her uncomfortable with his looks and words.
Once again, he was confusing the heck out of her. Cold one minute, hot the next.
The blonde sighed deeply and rested her head against the back of the couch behind her. She listened vaguely to Mamoru and Rei's conversation, eyes flickering from one person to the other. Rei had wanted Mamoru once and had failed. Was it possible that her friend would try again? No, the girl would never do that to her best friend after finding out that Usagi had some sort of feelings for Mamoru.
"Are you alright, Usagi?" Reika asked her, tilting her head to the side and regarding the blonde. "You look tired." She glanced at the clock on the wall and her eyebrows went up. It was six O'Clock! The girls had arrived about two O'Clock and Mamoru about Four.
"Is it really that late?" Ami said in surprise, straightening. "I have to get home or mom will worry." She bounded to her feet and looked about apologetically. "I'm afraid I have to go home. Thank you for the wonderful time and I'll see you on Halloween."
"I should get home too. I have some Halloween cooking to do." Makoto grinned at them all. "And I know we'll have fun trick or treating."
"We're a little too old for that." Mamoru told her sardonically, glancing down at his costume. "Motoki had these in mind for a party after all good little girls are in bed." He looked sideways at Usagi.
"Hmm." Usagi muttered, glaring at him. Little girls indeed. The jerk had emerged again and the guy she was having growing affection for had gone into the background. Perhaps it was for the best anyway. What would an older man want with a fifteen year old?
She suddenly wondered if Mamoru already had a girlfriend and found herself staring at him aghast.
Mamoru blinked at her, turning fully to face her as her expression became apparent. Did she think him depraved for attending an after-hours party? He frowned her way, not liking the thought of her judging him. Then again, maybe that was for the best.
"I'm sure we'll have a lot of fun." He taunted her.
Usagi felt an urge to smack him over the back of the head and grinned at him openly. "Have fun, jerk. I'm sure you'll annoy everyone there and get kicked out."
"Is that so, Odango Atama?" He grinned back, enjoying their sudden sparing. Now this was something he could deal with. If only her friends weren't watching with protective expressions, he'd really let loose like he did when the blonde and he crashed into each other on the street.
"If I get kicked out, it means I had a lot of fun." He said silkily. Blue eyes watched with interest as color flooded soft cheeks once again. Mamoru had never noticed how easily the small girl blushed when embarrassed. Sailor Moon had gone red occasionally, when he was close.
The upperclassman eyed her with curiosity. How much would it take to make her flush so prettily when he did something to her? Hold her, caress her, kiss her. And did he want to put it to the test?
The golden-haired Senshi blushed, as pictures of his 'fun' filled her mind. She had been watching too much late night TV and that was for sure. Her parents would be furious if they knew how much exposure to the opposite sex their daughter had had through the television. So would Rei and the others.
Usagi looked at Ami, then Makoto. "Be careful on your way home." She told them warmly, totally ignoring Mamoru's retort. Let him think she didn't care what he got up to or with who.
"We will!" Makoto grabbed Ami's hand and propelled them towards the door. "We'll collect our clothes tomorrow, Reika. It'll be too fun to walk home this way with our costumes."
"That's what Halloween is for, Makoto." Ami was heard to protest as the went down the front hall.
Everyone listened as Ami and Makoto fell into whispering, then the door opened and closed.
Rei's purple eyes narrowed. Makoto had been up to something and she had a very good idea that it regarded Mamoru and Usagi. The Priestess-In-Training leapt to her feet. "Umm, I'd better be going too. I have Temple work in the morning and I want to catch up with Ami and Makoto."
Before anyone could blink, the raven-haired girl was bolting for the door and then was gone.
Usagi realised a moment later that she'd been left to walk home all alone. "Oh no!" She cried, standing up and looking down at the beautiful dress. "I can't go home alone." She looked at Motoki and Reika appealingly. "Can someone walk me home after I change, please?"
Reika and Motoki looked at each other, then at Mamoru. "Mamoru can walk you." They said simultaneously.
The blonde girl paled, then flushed. "I'd really rather not." She said weakly. There was no way that she wanted to be alone with Chiba Mamoru. What if she blurted out her feelings, or that she knew he was Tuxedo Kamen? No, she couldn't walk home with him.
But he wouldn't want to, would he? Chiba Mamoru had no idea that Sailor Moon was under his nose in the guise of his favorite sparing partner. Usagi wondered briefly if he would even care about that fact. Tuxedo Kamen had never exactly been warm towards her and he had his own reasons for fighting the Dark Kingdom.
What was she expecting of him anyway; to be swept romantically up into his arms and kissed just like how it played out in her dreams? No, more-like, he would recoil in horror and totally withdraw his protection in battle. Usagi had seen his icy manner all too often. Her lips pressed together stubbornly. The blonde was going absolutely no where with Mamoru. Things were complicated enough. She would make sure that she avoided him in the future-except at battles of course.
Hopefully, she gazed in Mamoru's direction, knowing he'd protest to Motoki and Reika's blatant attempt to thrust them together.
"I'm not walking her." Mamoru responded flatly, completely missing Usagi's relief.
If they thought he was going to be stuck with the Odango Atama, they had another thing coming.
He had decided, and quite firmly, that his personal and business life was going to stay separate. He would rescue Sailor Moon, in a totally platonic and impersonal way, and would avoid the blonde girl in her civilian form. It would be quite simple, because all he had to do was stay away from Motoki's arcade.
There was absolutely no way he was going to be alone with the golden-haired thorn in his side. The way he felt for her, he'd kiss her, or tell her he knew she was Sailor Moon.
And then the whole world would change before his eyes.
She would probably hate him for not telling her his alter-ego. Mamoru looked at the blonde consideringly. Would she loath him utterly for not telling him the truth? But what about herself and not telling him that she was Sailor Moon?
No! He did not care about those things. Chiba Mamoru was, from that moment on, merely an acquaintance to Tsukino Usagi. And as for Sailor Moon...well, he had never been very friendly towards her in any case, so she would think nothing of himself acting even more distant.
"This isn't a debate you two, it's an order." Motoki told them with a frown. "Usagi is too young to walk home alone."
"And Mamoru's place is on her way anyway." Reika nodded happily and took a drink of her punch. "Which works out quite well, I think."
"We pass my place on the way to her house, not the other way around." Mamoru retorted suspiciously. If he hadn't known better, he would have thought that Motoki and Reika were trying to set he and Usagi up. "You walk her, Motoki. Or Reika. I think I'll go home."
The dark-haired man threw Usagi a distant look and steeled himself to walk past without another word or look. It was a huge turning point in his life, even though he was not entirely sure it was the right one.
"I can go myself." The golden-haired girl said indignantly. They were all treating her like a little kid. She was Sailor Moon and didn't need an escort. She had been battling Youma's for half a year at least now and went out at all times of the night alone to get to a fight.
Usagi did not need Mamoru walking her home like she was five years old! Her shoulders went back and her nose went into the air proudly. Mamoru was obviously going to dismiss her as if she were nothing and that really rankled. She had wanted him to look into her eyes and see the real her, so very desperately, but they seemed doomed to never get along. The upperclassman was even more cold towards her than he had ever been.
He had acted like deigning to escort her home was some great insult to his dignity. Well, he could go to hell, because she had her own dignity.
Turning towards the front hall swiftly, she was stunned to feel Mamoru's fingers grasp her own and halt her flight. She knew that it was him because the moment their skin had touched, she had felt a spark that travelled through her whole body.
Mamoru cursed his quick action as he felt the spark of attraction flare between them. All he had been thinking as he leapt from the couch to stop her, was that she could not walk home all alone. Especially dressed that way. Every pervert in town would be coming onto her. "Wait a minute, Usagi. They're right, you can't go like that."
The Senshi of the Moon had not intended to go home dressed in that manner. In fact, she had intended to take the lift to the roof, transform and make her way home that way. It was absolutely no business of Mamoru's what she did and he told him so with her blue eyes as she looked up at him.
She was annoyed. Mamoru bit back a chuckle as he saw her stormy blue eyes. Usagi was a real spitfire when riled. He didn't, in fact, wish to walk her home at all, knowing that she was probably intending to go home as Sailor Moon at some point. It was before that point that concerned him and Motoki and Reika did not seem to be budging.
"It would be more suitable for you to take her home, Reika." The upperclassman said pointedly, looking at the woman while keeping a firm grasp on Usagi's warm hand. He had feeling that if he turned his back on her, she would flee.
It rankled with him that she no longer wished to be in his company...and more than he did. It was a perversity, to be sure, but he wasn't going to give her the immense satisfaction of walking out on him.
Reika lifted her drink glass in response and giggled. "Afraid not, Mamoru. Motoki and I have been naughty." She admitted with a mischievous look in her eyes.
"Vodka." Motoki nodded in satisfaction.
Mamoru wasn't going to trust them as far as he could throw them and so stalked over to to grab Motoki's glass and raise it to his nose. It only occurred to him afterwards that he was still holding onto Usagi and had dragged her across the room like a piece of luggage.
A look into her fuming expression gave him all the clues he needed. Usagi was not happy with him. But obstinately, he chose not to let go of his hold on her small hand and brave her anger.
He had done it deliberately! Usagi stared hard at his profile as he sniffed suspiciously at Motoki's glass. The same glass was shoved under her nose, to her astonishment, a bare moment later.
"What do you think?" Mamoru asked her absently, peeved at his friends for pulling such a trick.
Usagi inhaled the drink fumes in automatic abeyance and wrinkled her nose at the smell. It did not smell anything like what she and her friends had been drinking. If that was alcohol, then it reeked. She opened her mouth to tell Mamoru it was indeed spiked, when the glass was jerked away from her and he gave a derisive laugh.
"Why am I asking you? You're a minor and have no idea what alcohol smells like." Mamoru rolled his eyes at his stupidity, but he couldn't fight the realisation that he'd treated Usagi like an adult or...his girlfriend?
The upperclassman dropped her hand, and took a step back from her. "I'll take her." He said ungraciously.
"I can take myself, you jerk!" Usagi informed him contemptuously, turning and walking swiftly away, skirts rustling around her. She could collect her clothes later with Ami, Makoto and Rei. All she wanted to do right then, was get away from Chiba Mamoru and his overbearing, egotistical manner.
How could she ever have thought she could like him, Tuxedo Kamen or not? He had the worst manners she'd ever met on a person and it made it even worse that he provoked that same sort of thing from herself whenever they were together.
"Odango, wait up." Mamoru called out, striding after her swiftly.
He heard the front door open, then slam and cursed. He had the foulest temper at that moment and hated being tricked. Motoki and Reika had absolutely no right to do that to him or her either.
The upperclassman opened the door and refused to answer when Motoki and Reika wished him happy. He didn't even bother to grab his jacket or clothing.
As the door slammed behind him, letting everyone who could hear it know that he was angry, he saw Usagi's trailing pink skirts disappearing into the lift.
Cursing roundly, he put on his speed that he used only as Tuxedo Kamen and shoved a hand between the lift doors just as they were sealing shut.
Usagi glared as a hand come between her freedom and the opposite door. Why couldn't Mamoru have just let her go? And from the look on his face, he was in a horrible mood. "Get lost, Mamoru. I'm not in the mood to deal with you." She informed him, crossing her arms.
Mamoru glared back balefully, unimpressed by her angry pose or the look on her face that promised revenge when the opportunity rose. He entered the lift and hit the already-glowing down button for the ground floor. He settled himself against the wall of the lift with his back to her.
"Like it or not, we've been shoved together, so just bear with it." He snapped, tempter rising. All he needed right now was a petulant blonde!
Usagi felt all her temper fade out of her and depression filled her heart. Mamoru really didn't want to be anywhere near her.
She looked at her feet, pressing her lips together to suppress the trembling. "I'm sorry." She whispered, feeling suddenly sad. Maybe she and Mamoru just weren't meant to be, like Tuxedo Kamen and Sailor Moon weren't. Tuxedo Kamen had made it abundantly clear that he would only be an allie when it suited him and that he was after the Rainbow Crystals for his own reasons.
And the Senshi needed the Crystals for their missing Princess.
Which really made them enemies, when she thought about it. Though he wasn't likely to kill the Senshi for acquisition, such as Jaedite, Nephlyte and Zoisite had been ready to do.
Mamoru barely heard her apology, but when he heard her woeful words, he turned. She was staring down at her slippers as if they were the most interesting thing in the world, her slender shoulders bowed in unhappiness. He had made her unhappy again.
But it had to be, because they were almost enemies, when he thought about it. He was finding the Crystals to aid his mysterious Princess and the Senshi wanted them for...
Why did the Senshi want the Rainbow Crystals?
The upperclassman barely kept his unwary tongue, which was dying to ask the girl in front of him that very question. As Leader of the Senshi, she would know their entire mission.
"Mamoru." Usagi said warily, looking about her. "What's happened to the lift?"
Mamoru suddenly came alert as he also realised that they should have reached the bottom floor long before then. He looked at the panel and saw that it was dead.
This was not a good situation. What if Usagi was afraid of small spaces? He certainly was, having been in a car crash. They had not been able to free him for several hours and he had been terrified with the roof and front seat crushed down to his face and head. He hadn't bee able to even turn his head, his stale breath being bounced back at him with every breath.
"Mamoru." Usagi said gently, going to his side and taking his arm in a tender grip. She had seen this sort of terror before-in herself.
She had not been claustrophobic in her life, till a battle with a Youma two months ago. The Youma had trapped them inside a negative space, where there had been thousands of floating clocks. During the battle with Jaedite, Sailor Moon had been flung backwards. The clock behind her opened it's front panel and had sucked her inside. She could view Mercury battling the Youma, through the glass over the clock face, but had her hands and legs pinned. As the battle had raged on, she had felt claustrophobia fill her.
Mercury had defeated the Youma and Sailor Moon had been let loose, but from that day on, spaces that were two small had scared her.
"Maybe we can call for help with the phone?" Usagi suggested, still clinging to his arm like a limpet. She reached around him for the phone and held it to her left ear.
The blonde girl got up on her tippy-toes and leant towards Mamoru so that he could hear, flushing a little as their cheeks brushed.
"Hello? We need help. We've been trapped." Usagi told the person on the phone anxiously.
"What is your location?" The voice asked them again, sounding very nasal and faint.
The blonde looked up at Mamoru, grimacing. "I'm sorry, Ami brought me here and she had the address."
His eyes had little silver starbursts when viewed up close; why had she never noticed that fact before? Their noses were practically brushing together as they looked at each other and held the phone to their ears.
"Odango, always write down where you're going if it's to a strange place." Mamoru told her with a slight glower. "If you get lost and need to have someone get you-"
For a girl who regularly rescued people from monsters, she was remarkably lacking in common sense. But then, Sailor Moon had never been the brightest girl, despite her big heart.
The upperclassman frowned, absently counting the freckles on her nose. Just how had Usagi been made the Leader of the Sailor Senshi? Sailor Mercury was the brains of the bunch and even Mars would have been a better choice. Sailor Moon also had the weakest of powers, though her Moon Wand appeared to have hidden powers.
"I'm not a little kid, though you delight throwing it in my face at every chance." Usagi retorted, shoving the phone at him and moving as far away from him as the wall would allow. How like Mamoru to insult her when she was just trying to help.
She wished she'd been stuck with his alter-ego, Tuxedo Kamen. At least he would have been polite, even recognising her as the girl he always argued with around the city. Mamoru had no such qualms.
She must have been in fairy-land all afternoon to have thought that she and Mamoru could ever have a relationship. They were nothing alike and always fought.
Tuxedo Kamen on the other hand, she might have a chance with. The irony of the situation hadn't escaped her; Tuxedo Kamen was a personality of Mamoru after all.
The upperclassman tuned the girl out for a moment, trying to keep his panic at bay. Having two of them in that state would just promote chaos. It was really hard to believe that two of the most powerful people in the world were stuck in a very common occurrence and didn't know how to handle it.
Even transformed, Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Kamen would have been utterly useless. Like that time they'd been dangling from the inside of a lift shaft. She had clung to him and he had refused to let her go.
Of course, her Senshi had rescued them that time, but they were not here now.
Mamoru relayed their position to the woman on the emergency phone then hung up. "Okay then. Now we just wait."
"Did they say how long?" Usagi asked anxiously, not wanting to be in the small space for too long. Mamoru would also be suffering.
The upperclassman walked over to her corner and bent down to meet her eyes. He had to be brave for them both. "Usagi, they could be hours. Or even all night. Because it's almost Halloween, a lot of pranks have been pulled around the city." Mamoru told her gently. The bad news made her pale. "You're afraid of the small spaces, aren't you?" He asked, having already figured it out for himself.
"So are you!" Usagi retorted, her nerves frazzled. "Mamoru, I can't be in here all night." She was already starting to panic, eyes going a little wild.
Mamoru took Usagi's shoulders in a firm grip and waited till she looked up at him. She had fear in the blue depths of her eyes. He never would have willingly let anyone put that expression on her face. "Damn. Come here." He soothed, taking her into his arms and wrapping them tightly about he shaking form. After a moment, her own arms wrapped about his waist and held on as if he were her lifeline.
By then, neither could say whom was comforting whom, but one thing was for sure.
As soon as they got out of there, Mamoru was going to track down the company and strangle a few necks!