Dreams in Pink

Captured Confessions – Chapter Four

captured

← Chapter 3

Chapter Four

The waking morning slowly peaked above the horizon, filtering through slatted windows to find Motoki adding the final touches to the third part of his plan. His eyes ached from staring at the monitor, and his muscles were stiff and tense from lack of movement. With one last click of the mouse he sat back in his chair, stretching his arms over his head as he waited. The progress bar crept across the screen, finally reaching one hundred percent, prompting he computer to spit out one, shiny DVD. Motoki rubbed his hands together, carefully picking up the disc and sliding it into a case for safe keeping.

____________________________________________________________________

 

That evening found Motoki sitting on the step to the foyer, foot tapping impatiently. He pulled his phone from his pocket to check the time – 6:54pm. The shrill ring of the doorbell made him leap from his seat, and he took a deep breath before opening the front door.

“Hi, Motoki!” Usagi smiled, clutching her purse in her hands.

“Hey, come on in.” Motoki held the door, allowing the girl to step inside. He helped her with her jacket, hanging it in a nearby closet.

“Am I the first one here?” she wondered, removing her shoes and neatly placing them side by side.

“You are,” he confirmed, checking the time once more. “Unazuki will be back around nine,” he added, answering her unasked question. “The family room is this way.” Usagi followed Motoki down the hallway, peeking into each room that they passed.

“Your TV is huge,” The blonde cooed upon entering the family room. She adored the cozy feeling the space emitted, from the golden lighting to the oversized couch, complete with fluffed up pillows and a blanket draped over the back.

“Yeah,” Motoki agreed, “my dad always wants the biggest and the best,” he laughed, glancing at the coffee table to ensure that the DVD was still in place. The chime of the doorbell echoed through the house, and Motoki’s anticipation swelled.

“Make yourself at home, and I’ll be right back,” he said, flashing the girl a charming smile as he trotted to the front door already knowing who was on the other side; Mamoru was always right on time.

The two men returned to find Usagi with her hands clasped behind her back, carefully inspecting a shelf filled with pictures. She grinned at the family’s memories, watching Motoki and Unazuki grow through the collection. A twinge of melancholy shot through Mamoru as he noticed her heart-warmed smile – he didn’t have that. He didn’t have family photos to proudly display on the walls of his home, nor had he kept any mementos from his earlier school days.

“You didn’t tell me Usagi would be here,”  Mamoru whispered, face paling as he began to panic. He hadn’t seen the girl since he drove her home, and after nearly two days of deliberating what he would do when he saw her next and coming up with no viable answer, he was caught off-guard.

Hearing his voice, Usagi spun around. “Well no one told me you would be here either,” she shot back, heart plummeting to the pit of her stomach. Apparently nothing between them had changed.

“That’s not –” Mamoru sighed, why were things always coming out not how they were intended? “Never mind.” He shook his head, rubbing his face in exasperation.

“Why don’t you two sit down,” Motoki motioned to the couch, playing the gracious host, “get comfortable, and I’ll go order the pizza,” he instructed, pausing briefly, unable to hide his smile. Mamoru eyed his friend carefully as he sat beside the blonde – what was Motoki planning?

“Here, I’ll just put this on,” Motoki mumbled, sliding the DVD into the player and fumbling with the remote. “Be right back!” he called over his shoulder, dimming the lights, and briskly fleeing the room, making sure to close the door.

The black screen gave way to colour, and the pair was soon met with Motoki’s bright smile and corny introduction; it was his first YouTube video. Mamoru groaned at the footage, while Usagi fixated on the television, ready to try anything that would make the disappointment subside. She managed to chuckle at a few of Motoki’s jokes, wondering if Mamoru could tell that her actions were forced.

“I hope we’re not stuck watching these all night,” Mamoru muttered, scowling at the concentration on Usagi’s face, still convinced that the girl had a crush on his best friend.

“They’re not that bad,” Usagi replied diplomatically, giggling softly at Motoki’s exaggerated expressions.

“Yeah, you wouldn’t think so,” Mamoru mumbled, snorting in annoyance.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” the girl asked heatedly, pursing her lips and raising her brow, waiting expectantly for his answer.

“It’s obvious that you like him,” he huffed, growing increasingly agitated.

“Oh my god, you are so stupid,” Usagi yelled, frustrated at Mamoru’s insistence that she had a thing for his best friend. Why couldn’t he see? “For the last time, Mamoru-baka, I don’t like Motoki!” Her vehement denial gave Mamoru hope. “I like y-” she stared at him fiercely, but choked on her confession, “someone else,” she finished, burying herself in the plump cushions.

Motoki’s bubbly video faded from the screen, quickly replaced by an awkward shot of Usagi sitting at a table in the arcade partially obstructed by a half-empty glass.

“What is this?” Usagi asked, her face draining of colour.

“You know, you’ve never actually denied liking him.”

Eyes wide with shock, Usagi wanted to do nothing more than disappear, yet she found herself unable to look away. Mamoru furrowed his brow; who were they talking about?

“You’re blushing.”

“What is this, an intervention?”

“Well you know what they say, boys always tease girls they like.”

Usagi could feel the embarrassment pricking her skin. Her focus flew frantically around the room, trying desperately to find some way to make it stop.

Mamoru watched her from the corner of his eye, and noticed her beeline gaze; Motoki had left the remote on the table. Usagi lunged forward to grab the controller, but Mamoru beat her to it, holding her back with his arm as he picked it up.

“Do you see Mamoru almost every day?”

“Yes.”

“Do you think he’s attractive?”

“I’m not answering that.”

“Turn it off,” she demanded, her heart pounding as she remained trapped on the couch.

“No, I want to see it. You’re talking about me,” Mamoru replied, tucking the remote under his leg.

“I didn’t say yes.”

Oh, so you’re saying he’s not.”

“I’m not saying that, everyone knows he’s hot.”

“Everyone knows I’m hot?” he repeated, chuckling at the blonde’s cherry stained face.

“Ugh, get over yourself,” Usagi grumbled, rolling her eyes and crossing her arms over her chest.

 “Sure, when you admit that you like Mamoru, we can talk about something else.”

“Mamoru,” she pleaded, “turn it off.” Her voice wavered and the dread rose in her throat. She was not ready for him to know. What would she say when he laughed at her? When he wouldn’t comply, Usagi dove for the remote, fighting to pry it from his iron grasp. Mamoru’s jaw clenched at their proximity, the sweet scent of her perfume wreaking havoc on his self-control, as she clambered over his lap to reach her target.

“Just give it to me,” she cried, grabbing wildly.

“He held my hand and I liked it.”

Quickly realizing that he would not relinquish the control, Usagi sprinted to the television in a frenzied search for the outlet. Mamoru was fast on his feet, straining to listen as grabbed her waist and dragged her away. Usagi struggled against his strength, arms flailing in an attempt to break free.

I wouldn’t say that I didn’t like him.”

“Are you saying that you like Mamoru?”

“A little. …Yes.”

She stopped moving, her lithe frame slumping in defeat. Mamoru slowly let go, and took a step back, trying to process what he had just heard. Usagi timidly turned to face him, unable to read the expression on his face. His heart pounded, and he licked his lips before opening his mouth to speak.

“Please don’t say anything,” Usagi begged, hot tears streaming silently down her face. “Mamoru, I –”

“Usagi,” he interrupted, grabbing her hand and leading her back to the couch. The girl wiped her tears, and gingerly sat beside him, anxiously twisting the ring on her finger. Mamoru leaned forward, elbows placed firmly on his knees as he released a controlled sigh. “Just watch.” He motioned to the screen, all too familiar with what was coming.

“Mamoru, I don’t want to – ”

“Trust me,” he said softly, praying with every fibre of his being that she would accept him.

“Maybe it’s because you have feelings for her?”

“It doesn’t matter if I do. I’ve ruined my chances with her.”

“You do know that this is Usagi we’re talking about, right? She doesn’t hold grudges, she’ll give you another chance. But maybe you should tell her how you feel.”

“Mamoru, what is going on?” Usagi asked, eyes narrowed in confusion. “Is this a joke?” she wondered, raising her brow warily.

“Would you just watch the damn video?” Mamoru snapped, his focus remaining straight ahead, his leg bouncing nervously.

“Okay, geez,” the blonde frowned, sinking back into the couch.

“So basically, you really like her, and don’t know how to tell her.”

“Yeah. She doesn’t get that I’m just messing around when I tease her.”

“What?” she choked, attention darting between Mamoru’s motionless form and the television.

“You’re going to make me say it, aren’t you.”

“It’s all part of my therapy style. Well?”

“Fine, I like Usagi.”

With both confessions out in the open, the screen went black. Overwhelmed, ecstatic, and mortified, the couple remained silent, neither quite knowing what to do next.

“Mamoru, I don’t–” She stopped when their eyes met. “I mean, I never –” She tried to articulate, yet her words would not cooperate. Feeling frustrated, Usagi punched his upper arm.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” she yelled, as Mamoru stared at her in shock, rubbing his freshly assaulted skin through the fabric of his shirt. Usagi jumped from her seat, hands balled into fists, unable to control the barrage of emotions. “Why didn’t you say anything?”

“Why didn’t you?” he growled, rising to his feet and towering over her. Usagi glared at him, nostrils flaring. His height advantage had never caused her to back down before, and it certainly wasn’t going to now.

“Because I thought that you hated me,” she spat, thrusting a pointed finger into his muscular chest. “All you ever do is tease me, calling me Odango all the time, making fun of my hair style and my grades, and you know, I do try really hard and it actually really hu–”

Unwilling to be trapped in another argument, Mamoru moved closer, his fingers roughly tilting her chin as his lips came crashing down on hers. She let out a faint gasp, as her palms flew to his chest in surprise. He trembled under her delicate touch, begging her lips to let him inside. Usagi succumbed to his tirade, her lashes tickling his cheek as her eyes fluttered closed.

The room melted around them, and in that moment they felt like nothing else in the world existed. He pressed his hand on the small of her back, pushing her tightly against him. His amber cologne her senses, and her arms snaked around his shoulders, fingertips softly caressing the silky hair at the nape of his neck. Their minds swam and hearts sang, as they wordlessly worked through months of pent up frustrations and uncertainties.

He pulled back, breaking their connection, and Usagi immediately missed the caress of his velvet lips. Breathing ragging and bodies tingling, the couple remained entangled in their embrace, neither one wanting to return to reality. Mamoru planted a soft kiss on Usagi’s forehead, smiling.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered, gently stroking her flushed cheeks.

“Me too.” She lifted her heavy lids, quickly drowning in his stormy eyes. “So what now?” she asked timidly, fearing the worst as she absentmindedly fiddled with a button on his shirt.

“Well, we could try this not fighting thing,” Mamoru suggested, relishing in the comfort and warmth that she radiated.

“I’d like that,” Usagi beamed.

“We could also try, you know, going out.” He raised his brow, intently watching for her reply.

“Why Mamoru, are you asking me out on a date?” She batted her lashes, smiling at him coyly.

“Are you saying yes?”

Standing on her tip toes, Usagi gave him a quick peck, “Yes.”

Upon hearing a thud and a clamouring of hushed voices on the other side of the door, the pair knew that their time was up.

“Think we should open the door and let them in?” Mamoru asked, shaking his head.

“Do we have to?” Usagi sighed, her lip protruding in an exaggerated pout.

“YES YOU HAVE TO,” Minako yelled from behind the door, turning the knob and pushing her way through. The four friends stumbled into the room, giddy and excited.

“Motoki told us everything,” Ami explained, adjusting her glasses and straightening her skirt.

“We are so happy for you guys,” Makoto grinned, as Minako stood to her side, fiercely nodding in agreement.

“It’s about time,” Rei added, unable to keep the smirk from pulling at her mouth.

“Does our new couple have any words to share with our viewers?” Motoki asked, stepping through the group to the front, camera up and pointed at the pair.

“Motoki.” Mamoru looked at the blond pointedly, “I’m still going to kill you.”

The blond swallowed nervously, and flashed a sheepish smile. “Ten second head start?” Mamoru glanced at his watch, and Motoki took off, sprinting down the hallway.

_____________________________________________________________________
“I love you,” Mamoru whispered in Usagi’s ear, his arms wrapped around her as they lay in bed, attention mildly focused on the movie that play on the television. She smiled, her hands over top his, holding them in place, as he planted soft kisses along the side of her neck.

“Mama?” A small voice echoed through the house. Two heads turned to see a small, pink haired girl stumble into the room, tiredly rubbing her eyes. Mamoru paused the movie, and Usagi reluctantly left his warm embrace.

“Chibi-usa? What’s wrong, sweetie?” She took hold of her daughter’s outstretched hand.

“I can’t sleep,” she mumbled, chewing on her bottom lip. “Can I stay with you and Daddy?” she asked, her large cinnamon eyes wavering.

“Of course.” She lifted the young girl onto to the bed, who scrambled to her father’s side.

“What are you watching?” she wondered, as Mamoru helped her get under the covers.

“Just an old movie,” he replied, glancing over at his wife as he hit play.

“The one from Uncle Motoki?” Chibi-Usa sighed disappointedly, nose crinkling at the shaky footage and muffled sound.

“That’s the one,” Usagi laughed, tenderly brushing the bangs from her daughter’s face.

The movie rolled on, passing through awkward confessions to a surprise proposal, and magnificent wedding. While he never did become a famous YouTube star, Motoki did end up being the unofficial videographer of the group, his camera always on hand during special occasions.

With the loves of his life soundly asleep, Mamoru turned off the television. He pulled up the blankets which they had both kicked to the foot of the bed, and placed a gentle kiss on each of their foreheads. He smiled, and released a contented sigh; life was perfect.

 

 

← Chapter 3

Captured Confessions – Chapter Three

captured

← Chapter 2 Chapter 4 →

Chapter Three

By the following afternoon, the sun had chased the rain away, and the Tokyo streets were once again bright and busy. Mamoru made his usual trek to the arcade to find an impatient Motoki waiting for his arrival.

“So, did you catch up with her?” he asked as soon as Mamoru was within earshot. The man nodded as he took his seat, tiredly rubbing his eyes. “Well at least you didn’t kill each other.” He winked, soon catching on to Mamoru’s expectant glare. “You look like shit,” Motoki noted, turning to pour his friend a cup of coffee.

“I didn’t really sleep,” Mamoru replied, inhaling the coffee’s comforting aroma.

“The doctor is in, if you want to talk about it,” he offered, all too eager to forgo his arcade duties.

“Is that off?” Mamoru pointed to the video camera that had been sitting on the counter, eyeing it suspiciously.

“It is now,” Motoki lied, switching the button to record, and thanking the heavens for black, permanent markers. “So?” he asked intently, palms pressed against the counter in anticipation.

“So?” Mamoru raised his brow, still unsure whether sharing with Motoki was a good idea.

“You caught up with her and…” the blond started the story, barely able to contain his excitement; he knew they were meant to be together.

“She eventually let me take her home.” Mamoru’s succinct answer made Motoki’s lip twitch in annoyance – he needed more.

“Did you two fight the entire way to her house?” he prodded, hoping for a far more detailed story.

“No,” Mamoru shook his head. “No, it was… quiet,” he said, his mind flitting back to the awkward glances and brief dialogue. He should have said more. “I don’t know why I have such a hard time around her.” He sighed, and ran a strong hand through his uncharacteristically messy hair.

“Maybe it’s because you have feelings for her?” Motoki ventured, choosing his words cautiously and taking a small step backwards in preparation for the possible onslaught. However, this time, Mamoru didn’t deny it.

“It doesn’t matter if I do,” he snorted dejectedly, “I’ve ruined my chances with her.”

“You do know that this is Usagi we’re talking about, right?” Motoki cocked his brow. “She doesn’t hold grudges, she’ll give you another chance.” Despite his brilliant scheme, Motoki hoped that his pep talk would convince Mamoru to finally move forward. “But maybe you should tell her how you feel,” he suggested.

“How can I tell her how I feel when I don’t even know that myself?” Mamoru replied, beginning to grow exasperated. Motoki looked at him disapprovingly; he knew exactly how he felt about the girl.  “I’m so damn frustrated,” he mumbled, clenching his hand into a fist.

“Sexually?” the blond nodded sympathetically.

“Motoki,” Mamoru warned, his face stern and tone sharp. He was definitely not in any sort of mood to joke around.

“Just asking.” He raised his hands in surrender. “So basically, you really like her, and don’t know how to tell her,” he concluded, his face aching from holding back a giant grin.

“Yeah,” Mamoru conceded. “She doesn’t get that I’m just messing around when I tease her,” he said, heart wracked with guilt. He had never truly meant to hurt Usagi, but the sight of her riled up was too tempting to resist.

“And you tease her because…” Motoki urged, eyebrows raised as he waited for Mamoru to finish the sentence.

“You’re going to make me say it, aren’t you.” A lump rose in Mamoru’s throat as Motoki bobbed his head fervently.

“It’s all part of my therapy style,” he explained, causing Mamoru to roll his eyes. “Well?”

“Fine, I like Usagi,” he said, and although part of him felt like a weight had been lifted, he kept face and feigned indignation. “Are you happy now?” Motoki nodded.

“So, why don’t you just ask her out?” Motoki wondered as that seemed like the obvious solution.

“Because what we have now is better than her avoiding me,” Mamoru admitted, truly realizing for the first time that what he saw in Usagi was something worth holding onto.

“You just need to jump in there, and stop being so scared,” the blond advised, unable to clearly understand the reasoning behind Mamoru’s stubbornness.

“I can’t lose her,” he whispered, embarrassed at the confession. His jaw clenched, and he stared ahead, unwilling to make eye contact. Motoki’s features softened; at least everything made sense now – Mamoru was afraid of suffering the same feelings of loss that he had so many years ago.

“You really do like her.” Motoki felt his heart swell – he was going to make this work.  “Listen, I know your past hasn’t made it easy for you to-” Motoki stopped when he caught the panicked look on Mamoru’s face.

“Okay,” Mamoru said, releasing an uncomfortable sigh. He was definitely not ready to delve further into his sealed emotions, “that’s enough ‘therapy’ for today.”

“Suit yourself,” he shrugged, “I still think you should at least talk to her.” In an attempt to ease the mood, he slid Mamoru a fresh cup of coffee. The conversation between the pair died down, both reflecting on the secrets that had been shared. Motoki went back to work, catching up on the duties he had let fall behind.

As Motoki began grabbing the clean glasses to stack under the counter, the camera caught his attention. He knelt down, snaking his arm up and discretely flicking off the device. All feelings of guilt had subsided, and he knew he was doing the right thing – for both of them.

“Hey, why don’t you come over this weekend and we’ll watch movies or something?” Motoki asked, popping up from his kneeled position, and interrupting Mamoru’s silent train of thought. Relieved for the shift in subject, Mamoru smiled.

“Last time you said something along that line, we somehow ended up stuck in the middle of nowhere-” Motoki put up his finger, silencing his friend.

“Never again. We promised not to mention that ever again.” He shook his head solemnly. “So, are you game or not?”

“Sure,” Mamoru agreed, his stature relaxing as he took a sip of his coffee, then settled to read the newspaper.

“It’ll be great.” Motoki grinned, a mischievous glint sparkling in his baby blue eyes. “Just great,” he repeated under his breath, the anticipation building.

_________________________________________________________

With the weekend fast approaching, Motoki still had to complete phase two of his brilliant plan. He had been waiting for the perfect opportunity to confront Usagi, wondering if he could get her to admit anything at all. Realizing that he might need a little help, the perfect accomplice bounded up to the counter.

“Minako! Where are the other girls?” he asked, glancing behind her for the rest of her usual party.

“Makoto is just in the washroom, and Ami and Usagi are meeting Rei on their way here after they’re done at school.” Minako tapped her fingertips as she rattled off her friend’s whereabouts.

“Perfect,” Motoki cooed, an artful arch pulling at his brow.

“Why?” Minako replied warily; Motoki had that look on his face.

“Would you help me with something?” he asked sweetly, turning on his full charm.

“Sure, just name it,” Minako smiled, apprehension gone as she hopped onto a stool and tossed her golden hair over her shoulder.

“Do you think Usagi likes Mamoru?” Minako shot him a deadpanned expression, eyes straight and head dipped to the side – what a ridiculous question. “I’ll take that as a yes.” Motoki chuckled. “Do you think you could get her to admit to that?”

“I’ve been trying for weeks,” Minako admitted, “and have gotten nowhere.” She shook her head in defeat – Usagi was stubborn when she wanted to be.

“How about giving it one more shot, for me?” Motoki pleaded, batting his lashes and pouting. “And preferably with this on.” He placed the camera in front of Minako, who pursed her lips in thought. “I have a fool proof plan,” he insisted.

“She won’t even admit it to herself, what makes you think you’ll get her to confess in a video?” Minako mulled the idea over in her mind.

“Give it a try? It’s for their own good, I promise,” Motoki begged, clasping his hands together with hope.

“Okay,” Minako agreed, nodding her head slowly as her fingers inched towards the device. “But you can’t upload it,” she said sternly.

“I won’t, I swear,” he promised, holding up two fingers as his scout’s honour.

“What are you two talking about?” Makoto wondered, joining Minako at the counter. The blonde jumped, quickly pulling her hand away from the camera.

“Nothing, just talking about the weather,” Minako lied, absentmindedly fixing the bow in her hair.

“Right,” Makoto replied skeptically, raising her brow at the pair who smiled innocently. “The other girls will be here soon, let’s go grab a booth,” she suggested, choosing to ignore whatever harebrained scheme the two blondes were cooking.

“Sounds good,” Minako said, sliding off the stool and following Makoto to their favourite table.

Arms linked, Usagi, Ami, and Rei finally arrived at their destination, the petite blonde nearly dragging her partners inside. She glanced at the counter, noting that Mamoru was not in his usual place, and without a moment of hesitation, masked her disappointment with a bright smile.

“I’ll meet you guys there in a second,” Usagi said, freeing herself from the chain and skipping over to Motoki. Rei and Ami made their way to the booth, as both Minako and Makoto shuffled to one end of the red vinyl seat to make enough space.

“Sorry we’re late,” Ami said sheepishly, “I got a bit carried away in the library.” She leaned down to pat the heavily packed bag that had fallen with a thud to the floor.

“And you know how chatty my grandpa can be,” Rei added, smiling apologetically at her friends.

“Don’t worry about it,” Minako replied cheerfully, waving it off as nothing.

“Where’s Usagi?” Makoto asked, noting that the blonde was nowhere to be seen.

“She stopped to talk to Motoki.” Rei motioned her head in their general direction.

As soon as her friend’s backs were turned, Usagi slowed her pace. Her stomach had been swollen with a ball of anxiety ever since she returned home the night before. She had packed Mamoru’s jacket in a plastic bag, and hidden it in her backpack, leaving her textbooks behind and accepting yet another hour of detention. She knew she had to give it back to him, but the thought of her friends seeing the gesture and jumping to hear the story of how she got it in the first place made her heart pound. Her cheeks flushed rose every time she replayed the memory of his strong hand grasping hers. The entire thing had felt surreal, and if it weren’t for his jacket secretly packed away in her bag, she would have sworn she had dreamt the entire thing.

“Hey, Usagi!” Motoki called, waving as she reluctantly approached.

“Hi,” she replied, looking nervously over her shoulder to ensure her friends weren’t paying attention. The girl dug through her backpack. “Could you give this to Mamoru?” she asked, sliding the wrapped blazar across the counter towards the blond. Motoki opened the bag to see what was inside.

“I think you should give it to him.” He closed the opening, and pushed it back.

“You’ll probably see him first,” Usagi said forcefully, nudging it closer to the blond. The man shook his head, determined not to give in; she wasn’t getting off this easily.

“I’d probably end up losing it and then we’d both be in trouble.” Motoki smiled as he once again moved the package towards the girl. Usagi glowered at him, and frowned.

“Fine,” she sighed, shoving the bag into her backpack, and shuffling off to join her friends.

Once the girls had placed their orders, they settled into idle conversation. Motoki trotted over with their food and drinks and the group readily dug in. Before leaving, he pulled the camera out from the front of his apron.

“Here’s the camera like I promised,” he said, setting it front of Minako who had momentarily forgotten about her mission. “It’s all ready to go,” he stated pointedly, hoping she would catch on to the insinuation – the camera was already rolling.

“Thanks, Motoki!” the blonde grinned, picking it up to give it a once over, before placing it back on the table, lens facing Usagi.

“Why do you have Motoki’s camera?” Usagi wondered, picking a fry off her plate, and dragging it through a pile of ketchup.

“I… I wanted to try to make some of my own videos,” Minako stammered, finishing her lie with an awkward smile.

“About what?” Usagi asked, genuinely interested in her friend’s endeavour.

“Uh, well…” Minako took a large gulp of her milkshake, stalling as she formulated her answer.

“Yes, Minako, we’d love to hear about your video ideas.” Rei batted her long lashes – she instantly knew something was up.

“About… love.” She gritted her teeth, shooting Rei an irritated glare.

“Love?” Makoto repeated.

“I’m going to give love advice, online, to… lonely people,” she explained, feeling a sense of relief as Usagi nodded; at least one of her friends was completely convinced. “Speaking of love advice and lonely people…” Minako silently applauded herself on her segue.  “Have you given any more thought to the comments from that video Motoki posted?” Ami, Rei, and Makoto glanced at each other – what were the two blondes up to?

“What video?” Usagi played innocent, choosing to forget that that video and those comments ever existed.

“The one of you and Mamoru,” Minako replied flatly. Rei leaned in, curious to see where the confrontation would lead.

“What? No, why?” Usagi blushed, shaking her head vigorously.

“Because everyone can see it,” Minako crooned, stopping to take a sip of her thick, vanilla milkshake.

“See what?” Usagi prayed that if she feigned ignorance for long enough, the subject would be dropped.

“That you like him,” Rei answered slyly, and although she was completely reveling in making her friend uncomfortable, she also agreed that it was about time for Usagi to come to terms with her feelings.

“There is nothing between us,” the blonde grunted, staring down into her glass and refusing to make eye contact.

“You know, you’ve never actually denied liking him,” Ami said thoughtfully, watching the red creep up the tips of Usagi’s ears. The other girls momentarily paused as they considered Ami’s observation – she was right.

“You’re blushing,” Makoto noted, causing Usagi to scowl.

“What is this, an intervention?” she slumped back into the seat, crossing her arms over her chest. “We fight all the time and he teases me every day.”

“Well you know what they say, boys always tease girls they like,” Minako sang, and Ami, Rei, and Makoto bobbed their heads in agreement.

“Yeah, when you’re like, five.” Usagi sighed in annoyance. “Nothing will ever happen between us,” she reiterated.

“Why do you think that?” Makoto looked at Usagi with a newfound understanding. It wasn’t that Usagi wasn’t interested in Mamoru, it was that she figured she didn’t have a shot. The blonde shrugged, unwilling to answer.

“Okay,” Minako regrouped, shifting to sit on her knees. “Let’s try something different,” she said earnestly, “yes or no answers only.” She waited for Usagi to hesitantly agree. “Do you see Mamoru almost every day?”

“Yes.” She furrowed her brow; what did that have to do with anything?

“Do you talk to him every time you see him?” Minako asked. Usagi chewed the inside of her cheek, trying desperately to think of answer that couldn’t be twisted.

“Well, he –”

“Yes or no,” Rei interrupted, strictly adhering to the rules of the game.

Usagi growled, glaring at her friend. “… yes.”

“Do you think he is attractive?” Minako continued, four pairs of eyes started at Usagi, waiting in anticipation for her reply.

“I’m not answering that,” she snorted, pigtails swinging as she shook her head.

“So, yes.” The violet-eyed miko smiled, grabbing an edamame pod, and pushing the beans into her mouth.

“I didn’t say yes,” Usagi countered, her patience growing thin.

“Oh, so you’re saying he’s not.” Makoto glanced at Minako, who winked approvingly.

“I’m not saying that,” Usagi admitted, unable to deny the fact that Mamoru was, regardless of his attitude towards her, a very attractive man. “Everyone knows he’s hot,” she cried, exasperated.

“Do you ever think about him when he’s not around?” Minako wiggled her brows, which only served to redden the stain on Usagi’s fair skin.

“That’s not really a fair-” The words died in her throat upon seeing her friend’s unimpressed pursed lips and raised brows. “Yes.” She clenched her jaw, her hands fiddling with the ends of her hair.  “Can we talk about something else?” she begged.

“Sure, when you admit that you like Mamoru, we can talk about something else,” Minako flashed a saccharine smile.

“There’s nothing to be embarrassed about, he’s a good guy.” Ami laid a sympathetic hand on Usagi’s arm. It was unusual to see Usagi so secretive about her emotions, and Ami could only link that to one reason: fear. Fear of being mocked, fear of being rejected, fear of change. Ami completely empathized with what the blonde was struggling through, and began to feel guilty about harping on the subject. Usagi lifted her eyes to Ami’s, her lips pulling into a silent thank you.

With a bout of strength, Usagi turned back to Minako. “Why are you so convinced that I even like him?” She applauded herself on her diversion tactic – answer a question with a question.

“Because you’re not as good of an actress as you think you are,” Minako quipped, desperately trying to think of something to say to get Usagi to confess.

 

Pretending to be busy cleaning the table next to them, Motoki made sure he was out of Usagi’s line of sight. He caught Minako’s attention, and animatedly mouthed, ‘Ask about the car…’ while mimicking a steering wheel with his hands. Minako squinted her eyes, trying desperately to read his lips. Makoto choked back a laugh watching his spirited display.

“What about the car… drive?” she asked, watching as Motoki shook his head, mouthing the word again. “Raid,” she corrected, furrowing her brow – that couldn’t be correct. Slapping his forehead, Motoki tried again. “RIDE,” Minako yelled. “What about the car ride?”

“What car ride?” Usagi’s face blanched; how could they possibly know?

“Yesterday.” Minako said, understanding Motoki’s wild motions as he pointed behind him, his mouth silently exaggerating the answer. Motoki shot his partner in crime and enthusiastic thumbs up, and went back to wiping down the table.

“Mamoru took you for a car ride yesterday?” Makoto asked, surprised at the news.

“He just drove me home,” Usagi said, her stomach tied in knots. “It was raining and thundering and lightning,” she continued, trying in vain to play it off as if it had meant nothing to her. “And it was the most awkward car ride of my life.” She pushed her plate away, no longer wanting to finish the remaining bites of food. Her mind took her back to the events of the drive, and she felt the heat rise to her cheeks.

“Probably because you like each other and are both too stubborn to admit it,” Rei muttered, stabbing the melting ice cubes in her drink with her straw.

“He held my hand and I liked it,” Usagi blurted, unable to hold it. Her heart raced and she swallowed nervously. Why did this seem like such a big deal?

“That is not at all what I was expecting,” Minako said, eyes wide and lips curved.

“He was just trying to be nice,” she quickly added, poking at a fallen piece of lettuce on her plate. The thought of his gesture being meaningless made her heart ache.

As if reading her thoughts, Rei sighed.  “Usagi, if you can honestly tell us that you’re not interested in him at all, we’ll leave you alone.” She promised, as Minako narrowed her eyes – that was not part of the plan!

“I just –” Usagi licked her lips, as her four closest friends waited with bated breath. “I wouldn’t say that I didn’t like him,” she said carefully, shoulders hunched as she picked the nail polish off her fingers.

“Are you saying that you like Mamoru?” Makoto asked gently.

“A little.” Usagi bit her lip, and lifted her gaze. “…Yes,” she admitted.

“You should –” Minako stopped when Rei put a hand on her shoulder, and shook her head; Usagi had had enough pushing for today.

With Usagi’s confession finally pulled out, the girls returned to their light-hearted conversation. The nervous beating of her heart had slowed, and Usagi carefully looked over her shoulder, wondering if Mamoru had come in. Instead, she saw Motoki cheerfully making his way towards their booth.

“Do you ladies need anything else?” he asked, looking purposely at Minako.

“Nope, we’re good!” she beamed, as they all began to stack their plates.

“Thanks,” Motoki smiled, loading the dishes onto his tray. “Oh, before I forget, my folks are out of town, so I was wondering if you girls wanted to come over tomorrow for a movie night?”

“Sounds fun,” Usagi grinned, her face lighting up at the invitation. What could be better than spending a Saturday night with your best friends and some good movies?

“Definitely,” Minako nodded her head excitedly. “I’ll bring DVDs from my collection!” she volunteered, completely unaware of Motoki’s true intentions.

“I’m in,” Rei readily agreed, still convinced that Motoki was up to something.

“Me too,” Ami chimed, taking out her phone and adding the night to her schedule.

“Do you want us to bring anything?” Makoto offered, mentally shuffling through recipes, having already decided to bake some treats regardless of Motoki’s answer.

“No, just come around seven,” he said, mentally walking through the steps of his plan.

“We’ll be there,” Usagi cheered, clasping her hands in excitement.

With dishes cleared and orders paid for, the group of friends decided it was time to call it a day. They gathered their bags and backpacks, making their way towards the door. Clutching the camera in her hand, Minako stopped in her tracks.

“You guys go ahead, I just want to ask Motoki a few questions,” she explained, holding up the device. Buying the excuse, her friends bid her a brief farewell before heading out.

“Did you get it?” Motoki asked, eyes shifting suspiciously as Minako set the camera on the counter.

“I did,” she confirmed, hand resting on the device. “Will you tell me why now?”

Motoki leaned in, checking over his shoulder for any eavesdroppers. Minako licked her lips in anticipation, her shoulders shrinking in an attempt to appear discrete. “No,” he whispered, earning a large frown and smack on the shoulder from the blonde.

“Jerk,” she murmured, standing straight and crossing her arms over her chest.

“You’ll find out soon enough,” he promised.

“Fine,” Minako huffed, a dramatic pout forming on her lips. She looked at Motoki sternly, “just remember –”

“I know, no uploading,” he winked, and Minako shook her finger as a warning. Motoki chuckled to himself as the girl skipped away, taking the camera from the counter and running it to his bag for safe storing. With phase two finally completed, Motoki turned back to his work duties, whistling happily as he tended to customers. Tomorrow was the big day.

 

← Chapter 2 Chapter 4 →

Captured Confessions – Chapter Two

captured

← Chapter One

Chapter Two

The next couple of days flew by without a hitch and Motoki watched the stats of his videos climb. With his camera constantly at his side, he was always on the lookout for something new to film. Unfortunately, Mamoru had yet to make an appearance at the arcade, and Motoki wondered if he was busy with school or avoiding obligatory apologies. Usagi, on the other hand, had flounced in and out as always, only stopping for quick hellos and to “check if Mamoru was going to show up,” because as she had explained, she “most definitely did not want to run into him”. Motoki would nod understandingly, and grin at the flicker of disappointment when he told her it didn’t seem like he would be dropping by.

After three long days without his usual coffee, Mamoru’s resolution finally faded, and he found himself walking his routine route to the arcade. Part of him knew that he had overreacted, and he felt almost embarrassed about making such an effort to stay away from the Crown for so long – maybe he would just say school kept him busy. Confessing his feelings – regardless of the situation – was something that Mamoru had never become accustomed to. Growing up he never had to report to anyone, and rarely had to explain himself. Vulnerability made him extremely uncomfortable, so instead of confronting his issues, he pushed them as far away as possible.

“Hey, Mamoru!” Motoki greeted him, as he sat down at his regular place, peeling off his jacket and draping it over the stool beside him. Dropping his briefcase to the ground, he leaned a black umbrella against the counter. He smiled, grateful for his friend’s silent acceptance of his unspoken apology.

“Hey.” He replied bowed his head as Motoki slid a drink towards him. “Thanks.”

Mamoru pulled a small book from his bag, his shoulders relaxing as he melted into the words. Motoki chuckled at the few girls who attempted to get the man’s attention, but either went completely unnoticed or did nothing more than irritate him.

“Good afternoon, ladies,” Motoki said smoothly, “just the three of you today?”

“Yep, Rei has to work at the temple, and Mako-chan has her cooking class.” Mamoru’s head popped up, instantly recognizing the voice.

“Ami, Minako, Odango,” he greeted the girls, quickly moving his jacket from the stool it occupied.

“Usagi,” the blonde corrected, as she filled the seat, with Ami sitting beside her, and Minako leaning between them against the counter. “Where have you been?” she asked curiously, tilting her head to the side.

“I didn’t know you cared,” Mamoru replied, unwilling to explain his recent absence. “Why, did you miss me?”

“I don’t and I didn’t,” she quipped sticking out her tongue. Minako sighed at her best friend and shook her head.

“So, Motoki, how are your videos going?” Usagi turned her attention to the blond, her register changing and the brightness returning to her face.

“Pretty well,” he smiled, “I’m actually getting a lot of hits!” He reported, ignoring Mamoru’s skeptical headshake.

“Can we be in one of the videos?” Minako asked, resting her elbows on the counter as she twirled a strand of golden hair around her finger. The question caught Usagi’ss attention, and she waited eagerly for a reply.

“That would be great!” he exclaimed, glad to have the support of his friends. He leaned in on the counter, “Mamoru’s already been in one,” he whispered, glancing at his friend from the corner of his eye, “kind of.”

“What?” Mamoru’s steely eyes glowered at the man.

“I did a poll,” he replied nonchalantly, turning his back to the counter in an attempt to appear as if he were working.

“What kind of poll?” Usagi mirrored Minako’s stance, shifting to kneel on the stool.

“To see who the Internet would rather watch: me, Mamoru or a monkey,” Motoki said, taking his phone from the front pocket on his apron, and pulling up the voting results.

“What?” Mamoru snapped, brow crinkled with confusion; he had never agreed to be part of this.

“I won.” The blond grinned proudly, showing the group his screen.

“What the hell?” Mamoru grabbed the phone to inspect the page which featured a photo of each man, one monkey, and coloured bars representing how many users voted for each.

“See,” Motoki leaned over, pointing to the numbers.

“I lost to you and a monkey?” he said incredulously, ego deflated. “That is the worst possible photo you could have used of me,” he huffed, sliding the phone across the counter. Minako grabbed it, and the three girls huddled around the small device.

“It’s not so stupid when you lose, is it,” Motoki gloated, puffing out his chest in an exaggerated fashion for the sole purpose of further irking his friend.

“It’s stupid when the playing field isn’t even,” Mamoru snorted, taking an angry sip of his lukewarm coffee.

“That is a pretty unflattering photo,” Ami agreed, trying not to laugh at the awkward pose and scowling expression Motoki had chosen to represent his opponent.

“I felt that it was an accurate representation of Mamoru,” the blond interjected thoughtfully.

“I agree.” Usagi smirked, “see, there’s the face right there!” she exclaimed, pointing wildly. “Maybe you should try smiling more, ” Usagi advised, earning nothing but an eye roll for a reply.

Mamoru picked up the phone that now lay discarded on the counter, and looked at the numbers one last time, convinced that if Motoki had used a half decent photo, he would have had a fighting chance. He shook his head as he navigated back a page, interested in what Motoki had written. Finding the link to Motoki’s channel, he tapped at it, curiosity piqued.

“Motoki, what the hell is this?” he wondered, noticing a thumbnail with a very familiar face – his. Mamoru pressed play, and turned up the volume. Not wanting to miss out, Usagi jumped off her stool, leaning over to get a better look. Mamoru hold his breath at their proximity, feeling the warmth radiating off her.

 “I do not!” Usagi’s voice echoed from the speakers, and she felt the tips of her ears burn.

“Motoki!” The girl cried, seeing herself appear on screen, body tense and words lost.

 “You do too.” Mamoru watched the video in shock, mentally noting that despite his anger, Usagi did look adorable all riled up.

“I do not.”  Usagi peeked at Mamoru from the corner of her eye, watching the expressions play across his face.

 “You come in here all the time and fawn all over him.” Mamoru cringed at his words – he really did sound jealous, despite his efforts not to.

“It’s not you she’s fawning over.” Although there was no accompanying video, Usagi knew exactly who that voice belonged to.

“MAKO-CHAN,” the blonde seethed, face red and mortified.

“Now you guys can see what we put up with every day,” Motoki replied sheepishly, beginning to feel the guilt creep up the back of his neck.

“I can’t believe you put that on the Internet,” Mamoru fumed, glaring heatedly as Minako slipped the phone from his hand.

“It’s gotten tons of hits,”  Motoki muttered, secretly a little envious of the attention the video had been receiving.

“Oh my god Usa, did you see the comments?” Minako squealed,  “they’re calling you guys the heated hotties!” she grinned, wiggling her eyebrows at the pair. A pink hue stained Usagi’s cheeks, while Mamoru remained stone faced and steely eyed.

“One commenter wrote, there is so much sexual tension between these two,” Ami reported, peeking over Minako’s shoulder as she scrolled through the comments.

“This one is telling you two to get a room,” Minako giggled.

“Did you read the one about the person who thinks their children would be gorgeous?” Motoki asked excitedly, grinning wildly as Mamoru choked on his coffee.

“Some of these are rather inappropriate,” Ami remarked, cringing at the lewd language and suggestions.

“Read this one,” Minako instructed, holding the phone out for Usagi to see. Her expression lit up as and a wide smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. She grabbed the device and shoved it in front of Mamoru’s face.

“Look at this, Mamoru-baka, this girl wants to know how to do my hairstyle!” she beamed, “see, other people think my odangos are cool,” she sang, lightly patting one of the buns.

“I never said they were bad,” Mamoru said defensively, slightly taken aback by her comment; is that why she hated the nickname? Did she take it to mean something negative?

Figuring now was the perfect opportunity to get footage for a follow-up, Motoki whipped out his camera.

“So, Usagi, tell us what you think about the comments?” he said, pointing the camera in the girl’s direction. She eyed the device warily, but not only did she want to set the record straight, she figured she could win over the world with her charming personality.

Well, thank you for liking my hair,” she answered, still high from the compliment. Mamoru snorted at the ridiculousness of it all. “And this,” she motioned between herself and Mamoru, “there is nothing here,” she reiterated, trying to convince even herself.

“Those are lies. It’s pure lust,” Minako insisted, grabbing Motoki’s hand and turning the camera’s focus on her.

“Minako!” Usagi yelled, once again drowning in chagrin. Motoki backed up so that both girls were in the shot.

“The comments are right. You two have been at each other like this for months, it’s time to change it up a little,” she shrugged, winking at the ‘audience’. Usagi crinkled her brow, scowling at the suggestion.

“Ami? Any theories?” Motoki wondered, moving on to the blue-haired girl. Her cheeks flushed rose at the attention, she cleared her throat, and adjusted her glasses nervously.

“Well, they do seem to have a lot of chemistry,” she stated diplomatically. “You know, from a more scientific standpoint,” she added quickly, flashing Usagi a sympathetic smile.

“Ami!” she yelled, feeling slightly betrayed by the one friend she had always thought was on her side.

“Mamoru, let’s hear your thoughts on the matter,” Motoki announced, once again shifting direction. Mamoru looked at the camera with a deadpan expression.

“Let’s not. I’m sure they’re stupid,” Usagi scoffed, crossing her arms over her chest, unable to quash the anxiety that crawled up her neck; what if he rejected her?

“Now why would you go and say that, Odango?” Mamoru ignored the camera, once again turning to face the girl. He couldn’t help it; he wanted her attention – needed it, even.

“Stop calling me Odango, Mamoru-baka! I mean really! Couldn’t you come up with anything better?” she challenged, wanting all focus as far away from their sexual tension as possible.

“Because Mamoru-baka is so much better? Are you suggesting Odango-baka?” he answered childishly, quickly shaking his head in remorse. If it was one thing that infuriated him about Usagi, it was that she always brought out the child in him. She knew exactly what to say to egg on their frivolous fights.

“That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard! It’s so hard to believe you’re in university, you know!” Usagi snorted.

“Yes, and you’re a high school student standing here arguing with me like you’re some six year old!” he retaliated. Motoki grinned, the camera still rolling.

“You’re the one who started this!” Usagi said, pointing an accusing finger at him.

“Could you two move a little closer? It would make a better shot.” Motoki asked politely, but in return got a cold glare from two pairs of blue eyes.

“I’m warning you for the last time, get that damn thing out of my face,” Mamoru barked, “Motoki, you have three seconds,” he said, jaw clenched. “One…”

“Okay, okay.” Motoki put the camera down on the counter. “It’s off.” He stepped back, holding his hands up in surrender.

“I cannot stand you two right now,” Usagi said exasperated. “Can we please go play some games now?” she begged. Ami and Minako nodded, and gathered their belongings. The blonde looked at Motoki and shrugged; she was definitely on his side. It was about time their two feuding friends allowed their relationship to move forward.

“You are a jackass,” Mamoru yelled, falling back onto the stool, and running a hand through his hair. The entire thing was asinine, and yet he still felt disappointed at the fact Usagi had so blatantly denied that there could possibly be anything between them.

“I’m sorry,” Motoki said, shoulders dropping. “I actually thought I was helping,” he admitted, releasing a heavy sigh.

“How is uploading a video of us fighting on YouTube helping?” Mamoru stared at his friend incredulously. Just what on earth was Motoki thinking?

“I figured if you saw yourselves and saw what everyone else sees, then maybe you’d both realize what you mean to each other,” the blond explained, avoiding eye contact as he rubbed the back of his neck.

“What we mean to each other?” Mamoru cocked his brow. Did he mean something to Usagi?

“Mamoru, come on! I see it, her friends see it, even random people from the Internet see it.” His hands shook emphatically as he talked, trying desperately to get through to his thick headed friend.

Mamoru shrugged. “Maybe you’re all just seeing something that’s not there.”

“Did you know that four girls tried to sit down next to you today. Four. And you didn’t move your jacket for any of them,” Motoki emphasized the number by holding up four digits.

“I didn’t notice them,” Mamoru replied offhandedly, inwardly cringing at the lie; he had noticed them.

“You told two of them that the seat was saved,” Motoki recounted. “Who were you saving it for?” he continued determinedly, “because as soon as Usagi came in, the jacket was magically gone.” Motoki hit the counter as he finished, feeling like a lawyer trying to win a case.

“I was just trying to be nice,” Mamoru muttered. Was he really that obvious?

“She asks about your every time you’re not here,” Motoki said, watching how the man’s expression lit up at the newfound information. “Mamoru, I get it. You fight with her because that way you still get her attention, but you don’t have to face your own feelings.”

“Who are you, Dr. Phil?” Mamoru scoffed. Motoki was right, but there is no way he would ever let him know that.

“No, but I could be…” The blond’s eyes sparkled with an idea – he could be the Dr. Phil of YouTube. It was brilliant. Not allowing himself to become side tracked, Motoki shook his head. “I’ll stop meddling, if you promise to think about what I’ve said,” he offered, pouring Mamoru another cup of coffee as a peace offering. “It’s on the house.”

Mamoru released a heavy breath and raised his mug to Motoki as a sign of acceptance before downing a gulp. “You’re still a jackass,” he noted, a small smile tugging at his lips. Despite his unconventional methods, Mamoru knew that Motoki really had meant well.

An hour had passed, Mamoru had nearly finished his book and was now on his fourth cup of coffee. He really had no reason to be hanging around, but he enjoyed the activity that buzzed around him while he relaxed at the arcade. Part of him secretly hoped that Usagi would stop on her way out – even if it was just to pisck a fight.

Motoki watched his friend trying to discretely check whether or not the girl had left. Mamoru’s sudden return to his book meant that Usagi was fast approaching, and Motoki stealthily pulled his camera from its hiding place under the counter; he knew there would be more to come. Although he had promised not to interfere, he had devised a plan, a brilliant, fool-proof plan. Usagi stopped and sat down on the stool, her bag dropping to the floor as she slumped over the counter.

“Did Ami and Minako go home?” Motoki wondered, wiping clean glasses dry and stacking them on a shelf.

“Yeah,” she mumbled.

“What’s wrong, Usa? Usually you don’t usually drag your feet this bad unless – ” Her stoic expression was a dead giveaway. “Ooh,” Motoki said, with complete understanding. “How bad?”

The girl dug into her school bag, pulled out a piece of crinkled paper, and handed it to the blond man. He smiled at her sympathetically, “it’s just one test. You can make it up next time!” Usagi sighed, blowing the golden bangs from her forehead. Mamoru snatched the paper from Motoki’s hand, causing Usagi to shriek. She jumped up, trying frantically to frees the test from his grasp. He held it out of her reach, glancing at the score.

“Ouch, this is bad even for you, Odango.” He regretted it the moment it came out of his mouth.

“Shut up,” she spat, “it’s not my fault I’m not as smart as you or Ami.” She frowned, feeling the heat rise to her face.

“You could study more,” he suggested, intending to sound more helpful than it came out.

“Excuse me? I do study,” Usagi said, her frame beginning to tremble with frustration. “I’m sorry that I’m not perfect like you, and that I don’t have your perfect life, but I’m doing the best that I can, so just leave me the hell alone,” she yelled, tears welling in her eyes.

“Usagi,” his heart sank as he said her name, feelings of guilt swelling in the pit of his stomach.

Thunder cracked in the sky, shaking the ground as a warning of rain. The slender girl yelped, her eyes growing wide with surprise. Within moments sheets of water poured from the sky, and heavy droplets broke against the concrete sidewalk outside. Usagi whimpered, and rubbed her face with her hand.

“Why?” she groaned, looking out at the falling rain. “I don’t have an umbrella,” she whined. Lightning flashed and Usagi paled, she bit her cheek to stop herself from crying out.

“You’re welcome to stay here until it clears up,” Motoki offered sympathetically.

“Thanks Motoki, but my mom will kill me if I miss dinner again. Especially with this.” She grabbed the test paper from the counter, and shoved it into her bag as its punishment for existing.

“Come on, Odango,” Mamoru said, standing up and gathering his belongings. He picked up his umbrella, and dug his car keys from his pocket. “You’re scared of the thunder, you’re not going out there on your own,” he stated, making a mere observation. Usagi’s eyes narrowed, and she clenched her lips – why did he have to be so judgemental? Plenty of people were scared of the thunder.

“I’m not a child, and I’m definitely not going anywhere with you,” she spat, standing steadfast in her decision as she crossed her arms over her chest.

“Don’t be stubborn, I’ll take you home,” Mamoru pushed, knowing full well she was refusing to accept the ride on pride alone. “Let’s go.” He put his hand on her arm, trying to convince her to go with him.

“No,” she reiterated, pulling away and immediately missing the warmth of his hand on her skin.

“Usagi, it doesn’t look like the rain is going to be letting up anytime soon,” Motoki intervened, “you should probably just let him take you home.” He smiled, hoping that his trust in Mamoru would convince Usagi that this was a good idea. “He has a really nice car,” Motoki added.

“I’d rather walk,” she insisted, and to prove her point, she spun on her heel, marched out the door and into the rain, leaving two stunned men behind.

“I can’t believe she actually walked out,” Motoki whispered, gaping at Mamoru who wore the same shocked expression.

“This is ridiculous,” he muttered, taking a controlled breath in an attempt to ease his frustration. “I’ll see you later.” He waved to Motoki as he took off after the girl, popping open his umbrella before stepping into the storm.

 

Usagi began her trek home, carrying her briefcase over her head. The rain drops mixed with the salty tears that she had tried so valiantly to hold back, and her cheeks burned with embarrassment and exasperation. She knew she was being dramatic, and part of her regretted not taking Mamoru up on his offer, but it hurt. Sure, Usagi procrastinated, and studying definitely wasn’t her favourite pastime, but that didn’t mean that she didn’t try. Her friends teased her mercilessly about her grades, but she knew it was all in good fun. Mamoru, however, he was serious. That’s what he really saw her as; a stupid teenaged girl, who wasted all her time on video games and milkshakes.

The girl trembled as the wetness seeped through her uniform, and settled on her shoulders. Her vision blurred as the tears continued to fall, unable to escape her thoughts. Whether she wanted to admit it or not, Mamoru’s opinion of her mattered.

“Usagi!” She continued forward, convinced that she was hearing things. “Usagi, stop,” the voice demanded. She ignored it. “Usagi, please.” She halted and turned to face Mamoru sitting in his shiny, red sports car, window down and arm soaked.

“Go away,” she yelled, crossing her brow in confusion – why was he following her?

“Get in, you’re drenched,” he ordered. She looked at him warily, and made no effort to step forward. “Usagi, please just get in the car,” he pleaded, his growing irritation evident in his tone.

Usagi’s focus dropped to the ground as she contemplated his offer. She was wet and cold, and the thought of walking the rest of the way was definitely not appealing. After much internal debate, Usagi walked around to the passenger side of the car, wiping her eyes before she slid into the leather seats.

“Here,” Mamoru offered, unbuckling his belt and taking off his jacket.

“What are you doing?”

“Put this around your shoulders.” He handed her the blazar, and she did as she was instructed, relishing in the warmth of the dry garment. He flicked on the heat in the car, and Usagi could slowly feel her fingertips warming. “How do I get to your house?”

Usagi gave Mamoru directions, saying nothing more than she needed. She watched him from underneath hooded lashes as he navigated through the streets. His eyes flickered to her, almost to check if she were still there.  The thunder roared in the skies above, and Usagi’s breath caught in her throat. The hairs on her arms stood on end, and she swallowed nervously. Sensing her fear, Mamoru grabbed her hand and squeezed it lightly.

“They say the safest place to be in a thunderstorm is a car,” he stated, hoping to ease her nerves. Usagi felt her shoulders relax, and her stubborn exterior began to fade. She frowned when Mamoru removed his hand from hers, and secretly hoped for the thunder to return.

“Mamoru, I –” Usagi had no idea what she wanted to say, but the words died quickly in her throat. “That’s my house,” she squeaked, and Mamoru pulled up to the curb. Usagi began to peel his jacket from her wet clothes, but stopped when he gingerly touched her arm.

“Keep it until you get inside. We couldn’t have you getting soaking wet and sick.” He stated, shooting her a cautionary glare, hoping that it wasn’t too late. “Who else would I tease while you’re away?” He smiled charmingly, which caused Usagi to roll her eyes. “Just give it back to me later.” Usagi nodded, clambering out of the car, unable to hide the blushed that stained her cheeks.

Holding the door open, she leaned down. “Thank you,” she said sincerely, her stomach tied in anxious knots – Mamoru wasn’t supposed to make her feel this way.

“Usagi –” He wracked his brain for something to say, knowing that he couldn’t let her leave like this. “Good luck in there. Like Motoki said, it’s just one test. There’s always next time,” he said encouragingly, basking in the radiance of her smile.  “I’ll see you around, Odango,” he winked, and Usagi did her best to put on an annoyed scowl.

With a simple wave, Usagi turned to trudge up walkway to her house. She frowned when she reached the door, taking a deep breath in preparation for the upcoming confrontation with her mother. She took one last look over her shoulder at Mamoru, who sat patiently, waiting for her to go in. She waved to him once more, and he returned her gesture with a simple nod. Shifting into drive, Mamoru sped down the street, and Usagi watched after him until he was out of sight. Unable to delay the inevitable any longer, she opened the door and marched inside.

← Chapter One

Captured Confessions – Chapter One

captured

Chapter Two →

Chapter One

The sun shone through heavy slate clouds, fighting to warm the crisp, spring air as Mamoru marched down the sidewalk of the bustling Tokyo streets, a stiff leather briefcase dangling from his hand. He dodged fellow pedestrians with expert agility, stopping only to wait for the crosswalk light to turn a brilliant green. With a contented sigh, he paused in front of a familiar set of sliding glass doors, before stepping forward into the chaos of his favourite retreat: the Crown Arcade.

“Hey, Mamoru!” a cheerful blond greeted him, waving from his station behind the counter. “The usual?”

“Please,” Mamoru smiled, as he slid onto his regular stool and pulled a pair of wire rimmed glasses from the front pocket of his blazer. As he waited for his order, he tapped away at his phone, scrolling through lists of recent news articles, and weather updates.

Motoki placed a steaming cup in front of his friend, a wide smile pulling at his lips. “Look what I got,” he beamed, reaching behind the counter and bringing out a small video camera.

“What do you need that for?” Mamoru wondered, giving the device a brief inspection before handing it back to its owner.

“So I can record everything I do, upload it to YouTube, and become a huge star,” he explained, baby blues sparkling with excitement. “I figured I should really give people some insight into who Motoki is, you know?” he said thoughtfully, stroking his chin. “What he does, where he works, where he goes after work, who his friends are…” he listed, his hands rolling with each idea.

“Who is going to watch you?” Mamoru asked skeptically.

“You’d be surprised,” the blond replied with a pout. Mamoru only shrugged in response, before returning to his coffee and news. “And I bet people would rather watch me than you,” he contested haughtily.

“Whatever,” his friend replied, only half-listening as he focused on his phone. “Anyone with a camera can become a star nowadays,” he jabbed, “it doesn’t take a lot of talent. I bet they’d just as soon watch me,” Mamoru paused, his attention now focused on the blond. “Or a monkey,” he added, his smug smile making Motoki frown at the lack of support. He’d show Mamoru.

Motoki returned to his café duties: taking orders, cleaning tables, and filling drinks. He helped a few young patrons with their games, and mopped up a milkshake that had been spilt on the floor. It wasn’t long before the stream of customers died down, and he felt his hand inching towards his new toy. In one steady motion, he scooped up the camera, flipped it open, and turned it on. With his arm outstretched and the device resting against his palm, he checked his reflection on the screen. Before pressing the large, red record button, Motoki plastered a giant grin on his boyishly handsome face.

“This is Motoki here at the Crown Arcade, where I work part time.” He panned around the room, capturing the colourful games and flashing lights. “Today, I’m going to introduce you all to my very good friend, Mamoru!” he announced, turning the lens to the man on the stool. “So, Mamoru, tell us a bit about yourself!”

“What are you doing?” Mamoru snorted, his brow creased in annoyance.

“Filming a video,” Motoki stated simply, gesturing to the machine in his hand. Using silence as a sign of protest, Mamoru shook his head and went back to his reading. “Come on Mamoru,” he pleaded, blocking Mamoru’s cell phone screen with his free hand, receiving an angry glare.

“No,” Mamoru stated resolutely, batting Motoki’s hand away.

“Oh come on, don’t you want to help me become a famous YouTube star?” Motoki begged, bringing out his best puppy dog eyes.

“No,” his friend replied flatly, his attention never leaving the small screen of his phone.

“Pfft,” the soon-to-be-star huffed, turning off the camera and putting it down. He grabbed a cloth from the sink, and began to vigorously scrub the counter as a display of irritation. “So did you run into Usagi this morning?” Motoki asked, stopping his work as a sly smile invaded his lips; he was aiming to inflict similar feelings of frustration onto his uncooperative interviewee.

Mamoru ignored the question, jaw twitching with a hint of discomfort. He was in no mood to defend the so-called ‘excessive attention’ that he gave to the blonde sprite.

“Is that a yes or a no?” the Motoki pushed, eyes narrowing as he watched the man take a quick sip of his drink. He drummed his fingers against the laminate surface, waiting for a reply. “Well…?”

Mamoru met Motoki’s wily gaze, and ran an aggravated hand through his ebony hair. “Can we not do this today?” he snapped, shooting a piercing glare. Motoki shrugged; some day he would make Mamoru admit everything.

“I guess that’s a no. Otherwise you wouldn’t be so cranky,” he murmured, purposely loud enough for Mamoru to hear, as he turned his back to make a fresh pot of coffee.

The arcade grew busier as high school students finished their daily lessons and activities, opting to relax with friends over milkshakes and video games. Each time the doors slid open and the bell chimed, Mamoru casually peered over to see the new arrivals. He slowly sipped away at his freshly filled cup, and divided his attention between watching the door and pretending to be engrossed in reading something interesting.

From the corner of his eye Mamoru watched Motoki fast at work, fulfilling orders and chatting happily with the customers. A touch of jealousy panged the back of his mind; interacting with others always came so easily to Motoki and it seemed like he could make friends with anyone. He had no problems with self-expression or sharing his feelings, two skills that Mamoru found himself lacking. Lost within his reflective thoughts, Mamoru failed to notice that the customer he had been waiting for had finally made her appearance.

“Hey Motoki,” two girls called, as they hopped up onto stools, the petite blonde making a valiant effort to ignore the man beside her.

“Usagi, Makoto!” Motoki greeted them, slinging a cloth over his shoulder. “Let me guess,” his eyes narrowed as he looked back and forth between the pair, “one strawberry and one cherry milkshake?”

“Sounds perfect,” Usagi grinned, clasping her hands in anticipation. Makoto glared at Usagi, gesturing with her head in Mamoru’s direction.

“Say hello,” she mouthed, which only caused Usagi to shake her head vehemently. Makoto looked askance at her friend – everyone could see that Usagi and Mamoru had feelings for one another, however, the couple seemed quite content to continue with their childish charade of petty arguments and hurtful banter.

“Hey, Mamoru,” Makoto said, smiling charmingly as her friend shot daggers in her direction.

“Makoto,” he replied, nodding politely and grinning at the fuming blonde. “Odango,” he addressed her, watching as pink crept up her cheeks.

“You know that’s not my name,” she stated, crossing her arms over her chest, “Mamoru-baka,” she snapped, sticking out her tongue.

“And you think Mamoru-baka is mine?” he countered, turning sideways on his stool, his knees lightly brushing the side of Usagi’s leg. The girl inhaled sharply, trying in vain to quash the fluttering in the pit of her stomach.

“It is,” the girl stated matter-of-factly before attending to the cold drink that had been placed in front of her. Mamoru shook his head with an amused smile.

“Hey, would you girls answer a question for me?” Motoki asked, cutting the tension. He leaned on the counter, palms flat against its smooth surface.

“Sure,” Makoto agreed.

“Would you watch my videos on YouTube?”

“Yeah, I’d watch you,” Usagi chirped, bright eyes big and excited. “Did you make some?”

“Of course you’d watch his stupid videos,” Mamoru scoffed. “You have a massive crush on him,” he muttered, trying desperately to mask any tones of jealousy.

Knowing what was coming, Motoki nonchalantly moved his camera to the side, angling it just right, and pressing record as he did. He needed footage to showcase his day, after all, and this was pretty much a daily occurrence.

“I do not,” Usagi retorted, brow furrowing and shoulders growing rigid.

“You do too,” he reiterated with a snort.

“I do not,” she yelled, face growing hot with anger and embarrassment; it had been months since she had had a crush on Motoki. He had become more like a big brother to her, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“You come in here all the time and fawn all over him,” Mamoru charged, waving in Motoki’s direction.

“It’s not you she’s fawning over,” Makoto whispered behind her hand to the blond, who chuckled knowingly.

“I do not come in here and fawn all over him,” Usagi leapt to her feet, tiny fists shaking in anger. Mamoru rose from his stool, using his height as an advantage over the petite girl.

“The second he asks you to do something, you’re all, OF COURSE, MOTOKI,”  he bit, mocking her by batting his lashes and raising his voice.

“We’re friends. It’s called being friendly,” she yelled, “something you clearly know nothing about!” she accused, sticking a pointed finger into his chest.

“Whatever you say, Odango,” he said, plopping down on the stool with a sigh.

“For the hundredth time, my name is Usagi,” she barked, unwilling to back down; Mamoru was not going to win this time. “You know what, I think that you’re just jealous,” she sang triumphantly, jumping back onto her seat as she playfully swiveled back and forth, her knee repeatedly bumping his.

“I’m jealous?” he echoed, the surprise catching in his throat. How could she possibly have known?

“You’re jealous that all the girls come in here to see Motoki and don’t pay any attention to you,” Usagi concluded, a wild grin curving her lips. While she knew the statement was untrue, her only goal was provoke the now heated man.

“Don’t kid yourself, Odango,” Mamoru scowled, huffing in contempt.

“Then why do I never see you with anyone?” she asked, eyebrow raised expectantly.

“Because when you’re around people leave to preserve their hearing,” he snarled, the self-satisfied expression now completely wiped from his chiseled face.

“You’re just as loud as I am,” Usagi grumbled, twirling her straw in her melting shake.

“Your voice is deafeningly shrill,” he said through gritted teeth, glaring at the girl, “and while we’re on the topic, why don’t I ever see you with anyone?”

“I’m always here with people,” Usagi exclaimed, spinning in her stool to face him head on.

“Yeah, your girl friends,” he goaded, “it’s because you can’t get a guy, right Odango?” He flashed a complacent smile, which only served to further provoke the seething blonde.

“Okay, we’re going to stop there for today,” Makoto stated, stepping between the fighting pair. “God I wish you two could see yourselves sometimes,” she sighed. The apron-clad man’s eyes went wide with an idea, and a mischievous grin spread across his face.

“Motoki, we would definitely watch your videos,” the brunette said sweetly, earning an enthusiastic smile. “Usagi, let’s go to the booth, we’ll wait for the girls there,” she suggested, gently grabbing the girl’s upper arm. Before they left, she turned to Mamoru, eyes squinting disapprovingly, “Mamoru, you should know better.”

“Why should I know better?” he wondered incredulously, watching as the two friends walked away. “She started it.” He frowned.

“Really? That’s what you’re going with?” Motoki challenged, knowing all too well that the opposite was true.

Without a word of reply, Mamoru took a handful of change from his pocket and counted it briefly before slamming it onto the counter. He glrared pointedly at Motoki before stuffing his phone into his pocket, and stalking angrily out the door. As soon as everyone had left, Motoki grabbed the camera and turned it off, sliding it under the counter for safe keeping.

_________________________________________________________

Motoki sat at his computer, illuminated by the glow of the screen. He played back footage of himself from earlier that day watching with a critical eye, deciding what to keep and what to throw away. He spliced the film and added special effects with ease, throwing in some catchy background music for good measure. A devilish grin spread across his lips as he posted his newest creation; he just couldn’t resist.

With another idea hanging in the back of his mind, Motoki navigated back to his files, opening and fast forwarding his way through one video in particular. He toyed with the thought of sharing it with the world, wavering back and forth on his decision.

Part of him knew that it might not be a good idea; what if they got angry? He pursed his lips; maybe it was best to keep this video on his hard drive. He leaned back in his chair, and stretched his arms over his head with a heavy sigh. Tapping foot anxiously against the floor, the blond weighed the pros and cons. Having finally reached a decision, he bent forward, logged back in to his YouTube account, and hit Upload Video. Within seconds his work was making its way onto the Internet and there was no turning back.

Chapter Two →

D’aimer et D’être Aimé – Detail-oriented, 291 Words

detailoriented

Usagi sighed in frustration, slamming her pen down on the paper and dramatically blowing the blonde bangs from her eyes. She glanced over at the man beside her, wondering if he had noticed.

“I offered to help you,” he said flatly, attention drowned in his newspaper.

“I don’t need your help, Mamoru,” she spat, throwing her nose in the air. “I’m going to the bathroom,” she announced, hopping from her stool, “don’t touch my stuff.”

“Don’t worry; your wrong answers are safe with me,” Mamoru assured her with a chuckle.

He watched her bounce off and the moment she was out of sight, he leaned over, peering shamelessly at her open notebook. Her writing was as he expected; filled with loops and curls. Every letter that had a tittle, whether it be an ‘i’ or a ‘j’, was instead decorated with a little heart.

All of them.
Except one.

Mamoru tried to skip past it. He tried to finish reading her surprisingly accurate description of mitosis. He tried to stop his attention from going back to that one, undotted ‘i’.

Midnight eyes briefly surveyed the arcade, checking for any signs of the golden haired student. The coast was clear. He grasped her pink, rabbit pencil in his strong hand, holding it above the unfinished letter. He paused momentarily. Hearts. The rest were hearts, but he’d be dammed if he was going to dot anything with a heart. He pushed the lead into the crisp paper, making a quick, clean mark. Neatly placing the pencil back on the book, he returned to his newspaper.

Usagi bounded back to her seat, and as she glanced at her work, a Cheshire cat grin swept across her face.

“I knew you couldn’t leave it alone.”

Halo – IV –

halo

← III

IV – Acuity –

Friday morning found the girls dressed in white lab coats, and latex gloves. Usagi bit her lip nervously, mentally preparing for what was to come. Ms. Haruna stood at the front of the class, giving instructions on what they were to do. She had already handed back the homework, and noted at the top of Usagi’s paper that she was pleased with her effort.

It was time to begin, and the teacher made her way around the room placing the fetal pigs on silver pans that sat in front of each pair. Usagi glanced at their set of tools and frowned; this was not going to be a pleasant experience.

“Are you okay?” Ami asked, noticing the paling of her partner’s face. The blonde swallowed, as she flashed an unconvincing smile.

“Okay class, please pick up your scalpels and start with the first incision as shown on the overhead,” Ms. Haruna instructed, outlining the procedure on the diagram displayed at the front with a long, wooden ruler. Without hesitation, Ami picked up the utensil, studying the diagram carefully before making any cuts.

“Poor thing,” Usagi whispered sadly, as she anxiously held the tool in her hand.

“Do you mind if I start?” Ami asked, ready to begin. Usagi managed to nod mutely, unable to take her eyes off the tiny animal.

As the blue haired girl began the task, loud cries of agony reverberated through Usagi’s mind. She felt the heaviness in the pit of her stomach, dreading what was to come. ‘No, not now!’ she cringed.

“I… I really have to go to the bathroom!” She announced hurriedly, peeling off her lab coat and gloves, and dashing out the door. Ami watched after her in confused surprise.

“I guess it’s just you and me for now,” she said quietly to the pig. Concentrating on her actions, Ami adeptly cut into the animal, following the instructions to a T and making notes on her worksheet as she went along.

 

Usagi flew out the school doors, searching for her guardian. The screams grew louder, and she covered her ears in an attempt to stop the pain – she needed to transform.

“Here!” Luna called, peeking out from behind the dumpsters sitting in the school’s parking lot. Usagi sprinted over, taking a moment to catch her breath before chanting, “Moon Prism Power, Make Up!”. A burst of light enveloped her slender body, and within moments her transformation was complete. Heroine and guardian bounded through the back streets of the city, soon reaching a nearby beauty salon. Through the large glass doors Sailor Moon could see a lithe creature with pointed ears and sharp shoulders. The curlers that were tangled it its putrid green hair collected energy from the salon’s patrons and employees. The solider pushed through the doors, and upon hearing her entrance the youma’s head snapped up, and an eerie smile spread across its face.

“That’s enough!” Sailor Moon called, “return these people’s energy!” she demanded, staring down the ugly monster.

“Their energy is mine,” the youma hissed, its back raising in defense. “And once I’m done with them, I’ll take yours,” it promised, as a snake made of its hair darted towards the heroine. Sailor Moon aptly dodged the attack, retaliating by kicking the monster in its side.

“Oh no,” Sailor Moon whispered under her breath as the youma’s eyes flashed red with anger. From the apron on its waist it grabbed a handful of scissors, firing them at the girl. Sailor Moon moved agilely through the assault, but just when she thought she was through, the youma sent more. She moved left and right as the metal utensils came flying towards her, ducking and bending with more accuracy than she thought possible.

“Sailor Moon!” Luna yelled, “you have to attack!” she instructed, momentarily interrupting the girl’s concentration.

“Ouch!” the blonde cried, as a pair of razor sharp scissors cut into her forearm. The youma cackled victoriously, gathering the last of the citizens’ energy.

“You’re next,” it vowed, eyes narrowing on its target.

“Moon Frisbee!” Sailor Moon cried, hurling the radiant disc towards the enemy. Her weapon nicked the youma’s shoulder, drawing a black liquid from its skin. Its hair warped into serpents, which hissed and snapped at the heroine as the monster lunged forward, cornering the girl. Calling on her tiara once again, she held the now energized Frisbee in her hand, swinging wildly at the beasts. However, for every head she cut off, two more grew in its place.

“Keep fighting,” the youma jeered, as Sailor Moon’s energy slowly drained into the curlers. She began to grow tired, sweat dripping from her brow, her vision growing hazy.

Suddenly she heard the monster scream out in pain, and its attack immediately stopped. The snakes withdrew, their attention now focused on something behind them. With another bang, the monster recoiled, interrupting the collection of Sailor Moon’s energy.

“It’s him….” she whispered, gasping for air.

“Get up!” Luna screamed, rushing to the girl’s side.

As Sailor Moon struggled to her feet, her masked saviour battled the creature. Using his cane as a sword, he thrust the weapon at the monster, lopping off snakes and cutting through to its skin. He drew its focus away from the girl, allowing her to recover. Strong and aggressive, the man continued to fight, his cane cracking one of the curlers on the youma’s head.

“The curlers!” he called, noticing a stream of energy leaking from the break.

The duo worked together, one by one splitting the canisters, fending off the creature’s desperate attacks. The customers began to wake, feeling some of their life force return. When each of the curlers had been destroyed, the tuxedo clad hero finished the battle with a swift slash to the monster’s neck, its head falling lifelessly to the floor, turning to dust. The man paused, breathing heavily and rubbing his shoulder.

“Woah,” Sailor Moon breathed, staring at him glossy eyed.

“It’s deceptively sharp,” he explained, motioning to the cane. “We have to go,” he said, as more civilians came to. The heroic couple darted from the building, seeking refuge atop a nearby building.

“Thank you.” The girl said quietly, shoulders slumping.

“Don’t thank me,” the hero replied, “train harder, and be prepared next time,” he snapped, jaw tight and posture rigid.

“I’m sorry,” her voice cracked, and her lip trembled. The man sighed, closing his eyes and shaking his head. He took her small hand in his, squeezing it as a silent apology.

“Sailor Moon!” Luna called, the masked man dropping the girl’s hand. She turned around, searching for the whereabouts of her guardian. When she turned back to bid the man farewell, he was nowhere to be found.

“Luna, I – ” she started, joining the black cat on the ground.

“Not now,” the feline replied sharply. The two took off in silence, heading back to Juuban High School. The girl’s face burned, and the man’s curt words cycled endlessly through her mind.

Back in her school uniform, Usagi skidded around the corner, finally reaching the classroom. She smoothed her skirt at the door, and pushed a stray tendril of hair behind her ear before entering.

“I’m sorry Ami, I didn’t mean to flake out on you,” the blonde apologized, sliding back onto her stool, fighting to keep her emotions in check.

“Are you okay?” Ami asked. “You’ve been gone for more than half an hour,” she noted, eyes wide with concern.

That’s it?’ her mind screamed; it felt like she had been fighting for an eternity.

“Oh yeah, I… I guess the chemical smell just made me feel nauseous,” Usagi explained with a slight shrug. She pulled up her sleeves, and snapped on the latex gloves, ready to do her part. “So, what can I do?”

“Usagi, did you cut yourself?” Ami wondered, pointing at the gash on her friend’s arm.

“I must have just bumped into something on my way back,” she lied, furrowing her brow – her wounds should be concealed by the magic of her transformation.

“Okay…” she conceded, studying Usagi from the corner of her eye; she looked different, and that laceration certainly wasn’t from merely bumping into something. The blonde flashed a small smile, and Ami began to explain what she had missed.

The two girls worked side by side to finish the dissection, Usagi gasping at every cut that was made. Before long the school bell was ringing, and the students packed up their things, ready for the next class.

“Are we still working on the write up after school today?” Usagi wondered, hoping that she hadn’t made Ami upset – something didn’t feel right.

“Oh yeah, of course,” she replied, nodding her head for emphasis. “I’ll be a little late, but did you want to work at the arcade again?” Ami suggestd, knowing that was Usagi’s favourite place to be.

“I would love that,” the blonde answered emphatically, energy suddenly returning to her demeanor. “As long as you don’t mind?” she added. Ami shook her head, her glasses slightly sliding down the bridge of her nose. With a friendly wave, the girls parted ways until later that afternoon.

 

Arm in arm, Usagi and Naru entered the crown arcade, skipping merrily over to their favourite booth. With wide similes and rosy cheeks, they continued to natter away with any thought that crossed their mind. Feeling warm, Usagi rolled up her sleeves, her attention catching the wound on her arm

“Hey, Naru?”

“Yeah?”

“Can you see anything on my arm?” Usagi held it out in front of Naru’s face.

“Like what?” she asked.

“I don’t know, like a bruise or a cut?” she motioned to the area where the wound was.

“No, I don’t see a thing… why?” she shrugged, shaking her head.

“Oh, no reason, it’s just kind of sore…” the blonde pulled her sleeve down, wincing as the fabric rubbed against the laceration.

The girls chatted as they waited, Usagi placing an order for her usual milkshake. As Naru delved into a monologue about her secret crush, Usagi found herself only half listening. ‘Why could Ami see it…’ she wondered, absentmindedly drumming her fingers on the table. ‘I hope she’s not one of the bad guys…’ she sighed, resting her chin on clasped hands.

“So? What do you think?” Naru stared at the blonde, brows raised expectantly.

“What do I think?”

“Usagi, were you listening at all?”

“Sorry Naru, I just have a lot on my mind,” Usagi apologized.

“Like… Mamoru?” Naru wondered, a sly smile spread across her pink lips.

“Why? Is he here?” the blonde corrected her posture, glancing around the arcade.

“No,” her friend laughed, “but I heard that you spent some time with him yesterday!” she squealed, causing Usagi’s face to flush pink.

“He was helping us with homework,” she explained, “me and Ami.” Naru continued to grin at her with knowing eyes. “Get real Naru, he was just tutoring us,” Usagi grumbled.

“I bet you could get him to tutor you in other things,” she winked, and Usagi slid down into her seat, wishing she could disappear. “Oh come on, I’m just having fun,” she laughed, swatting playfully at Usagi’s arm. The blonde gave in and allowed a smirk to tug at the corner of her lips; sometimes it felt good to be a regular teenaged girl.

“Sorry I’m late,” Ami panted, as she rushed over to the booth.

“It’s okay,” Usagi smiled.

“Hey, you guys know that Sailor Moon girl?” Naru’s sudden change in subject caused Usagi’s grin to fade.

“She’s pretty amazing,” Ami replied, “I guess there was another attack this afternoon while we were at school.”

“Really? Look it up!” Naru said excitedly, as Ami pulled her laptop from her bag. Within a few short moments, the three girls were huddled around the glowing screen, watching a news report from earlier that day.

‘…and during today’s attack a man, who has been dubbed by the public as Tuxedo Kamen, aided Sailor Moon in defeating the threat. It seems that they are working together. We have received an overwhelming amount of footage from customers who say that the duo saved them.’

“Tuxedo Kamen, how original,” Usagi scoffed, leaning back into the cushion. His words boiled again to the surface of her mind, causing her to cringe.

As Ami watched the footage, something dawned on her; Usagi looked an awful lot like Sailor Moon. Her attention darted between the screen and her friend, forehead winkled, and eyes narrowed. Ami opened her mouth to speak, but words escaped her. She played the video again, noticing the wound on Sailor Moon’s arm.

“Wouldn’t you like to be rescued by Tuxedo Kamen?” Naru sighed dreamily, pressing her palm to her chest as if to still her heart. As Naru fawned over the hero, and Usagi sulked, Ami continued to examine the footage.

How could I have not seen it before…’ she wondered, completely convinced – Usagi was Sailor Moon.

The blonde glanced over at the computer screen, seeing a close up of her alter-ego’s face. Her eyes slowly moved up to meet Ami’s shocked expression. ‘Oh my god, she knows,’ Usagi panicked, swallowing nervously.

“Oh you know,” she started, speech faltering as she awkwardly gathered her belongings, “I told my mom that I would be go home straight after school,” she stammered, “I don’t want to get in trouble, so I better get going.”

“What about the lab report?” Ami asked, determined not to let her get away; she had to know if she was right.

“Um,” Usagi bit her lip, “how about you come over after dinner and we can do it at my place?” she offered, knowing then at the very least Luna would be there to help her.

“Okay,” Ami agreed.

“See you later, Usa!” Naru waved, utterly oblivious.

Usagi rushed from the arcade, face burning and heart racing, with a million questions buzzing through her mind. She made a beeline down the sidewalk, paying no attention to her fellow pedestrians. Making it home in record speed, she flew through the door, kicking her shoes off in the entrance, and sprinted upstairs to her bedroom.

“Luna,” she said, panting heavily as she flopped onto her bed.

“Usagi? Is everything okay?” the feline wondered, jumping up beside the girl.

“NO!” she shouted, “something’s wrong.” Luna waited for Usagi to continue, her cinnamon eyes imploring her to go on. “She could see it,” she whispered. “Ami, my friend from school, she could this,” she gestured to the cut. “Then she could see me, but as Sailor Moon.”

Luna inhaled slowly, “that’s wonderful news!” she beamed.

“HOW IS THAT WONDERFUL NEWS?” the blonde yelled, sitting up straight, her hands shaking with emphasis.

“She must be one of them.”

“One of who? Don’t tell me she’s a bad guy. I really like her,” Usagi groaned.

“She’s not a bad guy,” Luna said, giddy with excitement, “she’s an ally.”

“What?”
“Usagi, she’s like you,” she explained.

“She’s like me,” the girl repeated, letting the information sink in. “I don’t think we should tell her,” she stated resolutely. “I don’t want her going through what I have.” Usagi looked down, biting her lip. Ami was her friend, and if she was supposed to be the heroine, then wouldn’t she be doing the right thing by keeping her out of danger? By making sure that she wasn’t burdened with the same task?

“Usagi…”

“It’s not up for discussion,” she snapped, her face stern and lips pointed.

Luna yielded with a simple nod, knowing that a fight would get them nowhere.

Hearing her mother call her name, Usagi bolted downstairs, wanting nothing more than to leave her problems in her room, as she enjoyed a meal with her family. Yet her desired peace did not come, and she found herself trapped in an endless cycle of self-deprecation, confliction and doubt. ‘Maybe I do need her…’ she thought, knowing that she almost lost the battle against the youma earlier that day. However, the thought of dragging her friend into the same situation tied her stomach into knots; it was wrong. With her family finished their meal, all that remained was Usagi, who poked at her food with chopstick, sighing heavily.

“Usagi, sweetie, are you – ” her mother started, but was stopped mid-sentence, when Kenji put his hand on her arm, shaking his head.

“Later,” he mouthed, thinking that all his daughter needed was some time. She was a teenage girl, and if he had learned anything, he had learned that it was better not to ask.

The doorbell’s shrill ring broke Usagi’s daze, and she jumped from her seat. Taking a deep breath, she answered the door, finding Ami smiling nervously on the other side. ‘An ally…’.

          Ami stepped into the house, in awe of its warmth. It was much different from her home, which sat perched up high on the seventh floor of an expensive apartment building. The three other remaining members of the Tsukino family came to greet her.

“Mom, Dad, this is my friend from school, Ami,” Usagi said, both parties bowing politely. Ami was accustomed to being brought home for study groups and group projects. It was usually, “This is Ami, the smart girl” as if her intelligence was her one redeeming factor; the one thing that made it okay for her to hang around. She waited for it, but it never came. Ami looked at the blonde, her features softening. Sailor Moon or not, Usagi was her friend.

“It’s nice to meet you Ami!” Ikuko stepped forward, taking the girl’s hand in hers, and giving it a gentle squeeze.

The girls headed up to Usagi’s room, ready to write their report. Usagi closed the door behind her determined to keep Luna out. With no mention of the incident at the arcade, they got to work. As their homework progressed, the air of awkwardness vanished, and they were back normal; giggling and chatting. Within no time the report was complete, and Ami logged on to her school e-mail address to send it to their teacher.

“Okay, it’s all sent!” Ami rejoiced, stretching her arms above her head.

“I don’t think I like dissections,” Usagi declared, crinkling her nose.

Ami laughed, “I’m glad we were partnered together,” she said sincerely.

“Me too.” As Ami began to close the windows on her computer, Usagi saw a familiar face on the screen. “Ami, what’s that?”

“Oh, it’s nothing,” she stammered, her cheeks reddening as she tried to shut her laptop.

“Wait, let me see.” Usagi put her hand on the keyboard, preventing it from closing. Ami backed away, giving Usagi access. She chewed her lip as Usagi cycled through photos, videos and news articles of Sailor Moon. The blonde’s shoulders dropped, her hand falling into her lap.

“After I saw that video today with you and Naru at the arcade, I knew,” she began, “I knew it was you, so I thought maybe if I did some research I could prove myself wrong,” Ami continued, unwilling to allow herself to look at Usagi’s face. “But no one knows, Usagi,” she claimed, truly unable to find any information about Sailor Moon’s identity. “I don’t know why I know, or why no one else sees it.”

A silence passed between the two girls, both unsure what to say. Finally Ami lifted her head, adjusting her glasses . “I won’t tell anyone,” she promised. “How’s your arm?”

A slow smile spread across Usagi’s lips, relief washing over her. “It’s okay,” she said, rolling up her sleeve. “I heal fast.” Ami looked at the wound and blinked – it was nearly gone. Brows knit, she carefully touched the healing cut.

“This is amazing,” she whispered, truly in awe. Her friend was a medical mystery.

“You’re the only one who can see it,” Usagi affirmed, unwilling to share Luna’s theory.

“What can I do to help?” Ami asked, surprised at her own question.

The blonde’s face brightened, “you can cheer me on.”

“Usagi, I can do more than that! Let me help you,” Ami pleaded, a subconscious force pushing her into service.

“It’s too dangerous,” Usagi shook her head, “just be there for me. And maybe cover me at school sometimes?” she added sheepishly.

“I can do that.”

With their report finished, and dusk turning into night, Ami knew it was time to head home. She collected her things, slipping her computer into her bag, and waved her goodbyes.

“Usagi, be careful,” Ami said from the doorway, her friend nodding in reply. As soon as the bedroom opened, Luna slipped in, ears flat with annoyance. She watched as Ami left, swelling with disappointment.

Ami head down the hallway towards the stairs, but paused when she heard an unfamiliar voice coming from Usagi’s room. “You didn’t tell her,” the voice snapped.

“And I’m not going to,” Usagi exclaimed.

“She can help you. She’s a warrior like you,” the voice insisted, Ami struggling to place who it could belong to. ‘They can’t be talking about me…’ she thought, laughing at herself for even allowing the notion to cross her mind. After all, she wasn’t a warrior; she was just a regular high school genius.

 

A few days passed with no sign of the enemy. Now able to confide in Ami, Usagi felt like a weight had been lifted off of her shoulders. She told her friend all about the previous attacks, about the vile monsters, and her mysterious counterpart. She did not, however, tell Ami about her talking cat. That, Usagi felt, was too much. Ami enjoyed hearing Usagi’s tales, and her feelings of admiration grew. She could only imagine what her friend was going through, and was glad that she could relieve even a little of that burden. Still, Ami wanted to do more. Something in her had been ignited, and she knew that she couldn’t merely sit on the sidelines as she was so apt to do. As she listened, she racked her brain for ways she could help.

 

School had finished for the day, and Ami made her now routine trek to the Crown Arcade to meet Usagi. She looked forward to the afternoons now, despite her constant struggle of trying to convince her friend that studying was the best use of their time. She hadn’t laughed as much in all her years combined as she had since befriending the energetic blonde.

Ami’s thoughts were interrupted as she saw Usagi sprinting towards her, her cat Luna following closely behind. They rushed past without even a hello, completely focused on something in the distance. Curiosity overtaking her reservations, and outweighing her reasoning, Ami decided to follow. She saw a brilliant blast of light burst from a nearby alleyway, arriving just in time to see Sailor Moon take off down the street.

Hot on her trail, Ami soon caught up, glass crunching under her feet as she approached the scene. The front window of a bank had been completely destroyed, and limp bodies were scattered on the ground. Sailor Moon had caught the attention of a slimy monster, its rounded head dotted with eyes. Ami watched in horror as the creature attacked, teeth bared as it snapped at the heroine, yellow saliva dripping down its chin. Sailor Moon leapt towards the enemy, screaming a battle cry as she kicked one its legs out from under it. The youma fell, hissing loudly its tail whipping around its body to knock Sailor Moon in the back, sending forwards. She landed on the floor, glass cutting her palms and knees.

“Moon Twilight Flash!” She screamed, pure energy beaming from her tiara. The monster evaded the attack, barely grazed. The fight continued, with Sailor Moon struggling to get the upper hand. Ami began to panic; she needed to do something. She needed to create a diversion. She inspected her surroundings, trying to formulate a plan. A dark figure standing in the corner of bank caught her attention, and she squinted trying to make out his face. ‘Tuxedo Kamen,’ her mind screamed. She jumped, hoping to get his attention, when her foot landed on a blue stick, topped with a golden symbol lying at her feet. She picked it up, studying it cautiously. Luna watched with relief as the symbol for Mercury appeared on the girl’s forehead; it was time.

“You have to help her,” Luna said, stepping out from the shadows. “Hold the pen in your hand and say Mercury Power, Make Up,” she ordered. Barely phased by the talking cat, Ami did as she was instructed.

“Mercury Power, Make Up!” Water whirled around her, caressing her legs and encircling her arms. Within moments the water dissipated, leaving behind a white bodice and cobalt skirt with matching gloves, complete with a sky blue bow at the back. A gold tiara stretched across her forehead; a sparkling topaz in its center.

“This can’t be real,” she breathed, her heart pounding and mind clouded. Something about it felt right. Sailor Mercury ran to her friend’s aid, helping her to her feet.

“Ami?” She whispered, her face twisted with shock.

“Sailor Mercury,” she corrected. “I’ll distract it, and you finish it.”

The soldiers took off in opposite directions, yet the monster continued to pursue Sailor Moon. With its back turned, Sailor Mercury charged towards it digging her boot into its winding tail. The youma screeched, sharply turning its gangly head. Sailor Mercury ran backwards, drawing its attention away from her comrade.

“Mercury Aqua Mist!” she called, as blue flames of water surged from the palms of her outstretched hands, colliding above her head and covering the ground with a dense fog. “Now!” she screamed.

“Moon Frisbee!” Sailor Moon cried, aiming her weapon towards the hazy outline of the monster’s head. Unable to see through the thick fog, the youma was unprepared for the attack. The girls cheered in unison as the weapon sliced through its elongated neck. The beast tumbling to the ground, defeated.

“We did it!” Sailor Moon bounded over, the fog rising and victims waking.

“We did,” Sailor Mercury beamed, feeling like a piece of her puzzle had snapped into place.

Suddenly the blonde’s face dropped, her expression distant. “He didn’t come,” she said, disappointment laced in her voice.

“He was in – ” Sailor Mercury started, but stopped short when Luna shot her a piercing glare, slowly shaking her head. “He was probably just caught up with something.”

“You girls need to get out of here,” Luna instructed, as onlookers snapped photos and recorded video. With a quick nod, Sailor Moon and sailor Mercury fled the scene, unaware of the uniformed man hidden in the crowd paying them special interest.

 

← III

Halo – III –

halo

← II IV →

 

III – Classmates –

             Usagi’s gaze shifted warily around the room, her lip curling with disdain. The biology lab had to be the absolute worst place in the school. Jars preserving various creatures and plants lined the back wall, and mounted over the door was the head of a deer; its glass eyes watching her every move. The scent of formaldehyde hung in the air, making Usagi’s stomach churn. She sat straight and still on her stool, hands under her thighs, avoiding any contact with the black topped tables.

            “We’ll be choosing partners for the next project, so when I call your name, come choose a partner from the bag,” Ms. Haruna instructed, holding up a black velvet bag filled with slips of paper. “And then please go sit next to them,” she finished. Usagi sighed; all she wanted was a decent partner.

“Yumiko,” the girl jumped from her seat, pulling out a name.

“Kuri,” she read, her lips curving into a smile as her partner squealed in delight. Usagi glanced over at Naru, who looked back at her hopefully, showing crossed fingers for good luck.

“Settle down,” the teacher mumbled, checking their names from her master list. “Okay, next is Naru.” The red head took a deep breath before plunging her hand into the bag.

“… Umino.” She looked at Usagi and shrugged. Usagi scowled; they never got paired together. The class continued one by one to be partnered up and Usagi couldn’t help but allow her focus to dwindle. Her mind flashed back to the previous battle. How his gloved hand forcefully grasped her elbow as he pulled her up. How his clothed finger brushed her cheek. How he was so firm and demanding, yet showed the capacity to be gentle and kind. He was beautiful and regal, and she was determined to find out who he was. They had something to share, something in common. He was good. She could feel it.

“Usagi.” The blonde remained silent, her mind reeling in memories. “Usagi?” Her partner called again, but still no response.

“MS. TSUKINO!” Usagi’s attention jerked forward and she could feel the red spread over her cheeks.

“Sorry,” she muttered.

“You’re with Ami, please take the appropriate seat,” Ms. Haruna ordered, shaking her head. Wanting to sink into the ground, Usagi quickly and quietly gathered her belongings and shuffled over.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered to Ami, flashing an apologetic smile. The girl only nodded in reply, pushing her wire rimmed glasses up the bridge of her nose. Usagi swallowed nervously. She didn’t know much about Ami, except that she was the smartest girl in their class. Maybe even in their entire school. She seemed reserved, often sitting off to the side and only speaking when spoken to.

Usagi cocked her head, taking in Ami’s cobalt locks and noticing how every detail on her uniform was pressed and polished. Her backpack, which sat leaning against the table on the ground, was overloaded with books. Usagi frowned, wondering if she was disappointed with being her partner.

“Each group will need to label the following diagram before we begin the dissection on Friday.” A stack of papers began circulating the room.

“Before we begin what?” Usagi asked. She couldn’t have heard that correctly.

“The dissection,” Ami answered.

“What dissection?”

“That’s our next project; we’re dissecting a fetal pig,” Ami stated, furrowing her brow. Hadn’t she been listening?

“A fetal pig?” Usagi’s eyes went wide with horror.

“Yes, an unborn pig.”

“An unborn pig?” She repeated, looking at Ami with shock. The girl giggled at the blonde’s reaction.

“Don’t worry, I can dissect it and you can write down the notes,” Ami offered. Usagi momentarily agreed, but soon changed her mind and shook her head.

“No, it’s fine. I’ll help,” she said, figuring that if she could battle a youma, she could dissect a pig.

“When do you want to get together to work on the diagram?”

“I guess we could work on it after school today,” Usagi suggested half hoping that Ami already had plans.

“Okay,” she nodded.

“I can meet you at the gates after classes, and we can go to the Crown?” Usagi figured if she was going to be stuck doing the gross diagram, she might as well be in the comfort of her favourite hangout.

“Sure…” Ami agreed, with a reluctant smile. She would have preferred the peaceful sanctity that the library had to offer. “I’ll see you at the gates then,” she confirmed, gathering her belongings to head back to homeroom as the school bell rang.

 

Ami stood with her back pressed against the brick column that was nestled between the iron gates, waiting patiently for her partner to arrive. Although they had been classmates for years, Ami couldn’t remember ever really talking to, let alone working with Usagi. She quickly made a mental list of the things that she knew about the blonde:

Her last name is Tsukino.

          We’ve been at the same school for six years.

          She always wears her hair in two buns.’

Ami paused, tapping a finger against her lips as she thought.    

          ‘She’s always late.

          She frequently earns time in detention.

          All of her accessories are pink.

          She’s best friends with Naru Osaka.’

The girl also knew that her partner was never at the top of the class when it came to grades, and questioned if Usagi would pull her weight for the project. School was important to Ami, and she worked hard to excel.

“I’m sorry!” A breathless Usagi panted, running towards her, “I hope you weren’t waiting too long!”

“Oh, no. It’s fine!” Ami smiled.

“Off to the arcade!” Usagi proclaimed, pointing forward. The pair took off, with the blonde nattering along the way. The cobalt haired girl couldn’t help but grin at Usagi’s bubbly antics, as she ranted about assignments, and did impressions of their homeroom teacher. For the first time in a long time, Ami felt herself relaxing in the presence of one of her peers.

From the tender age of three Ami had been labeled as ‘gifted’. She had spent a great deal of her childhood with her nose stuck in a book, reading fascinating theories and living her somewhat sheltered life through heroes from history and characters in stories. She found herself frequently in the company of adults, rarely taking time to make friends her own age. Eventually she had evolved into ‘that quiet, smart girl’ that everyone talked about, but few took the time to know; that quiet, smart girl who was always alone.

 

            When they reached the arcade Ami was bombarded with the whirring of games, and chattering of patrons. She followed Usagi, who bee-lined the back of the café.

“Is here okay?” She paused in front of an empty booth. Ami nodded in agreement, allowing herself to adjust to the surroundings; the arcade was not a place she frequented.

“Are you getting anything?” Usagi asked, having already decided what her order would be. “Their milkshakes are really good!” She recommended.

Picking up a menu, Ami adjusted her glasses, and focused on the drinks. ‘When it Rome…’ she thought, wondering if this is what normal teenagers did after school.

“Hey Usagi,” Motoki greeted her. “Who’s your new friend?”

“This is Ami,” Usagi replied, gesturing towards the girl who looked up from the menu and blushed. “Ami, this is Motoki. His family owns the arcade,” she explained.

“It’s nice to meet you! Any friend of Usagi’s is a friend of mine!” Motoki said, warranting a smile from the blue haired girl. Somehow, being there with Usagi made her feel like she belonged, like she was accepted.

“Thank you.”

“So are you girls ready to order?” The man flipped to a new page on his notepad, and pulled the pencil out from behind his ear.

“I’ll have a strawberry milkshake, like always!” Motoki shook his head; why did he even bother asking?

“And I’ll try the vanilla milkshake, please.”

“Coming right up!”

As soon as the sandy haired man was out of earshot, Usagi turned to her partner, “Isn’t he cute?” She giggled, a question that made Ami’s cheeks flush pink. The topic of boys was almost alien to her – she had school and homework to worry about!

“Maybe we should get started so we don’t have to worry about the diagram later,” Ami suggested, happily avoiding the question.

“Yeah, you’re right,” Usagi sighed. What was that saying about all work and no play? The blonde began dumping her book bag out on the seat, searching for the diagram. Ami carefully pulled out a turquoise binder from her backpack, and flipped to the tab marked homework. “I know it’s here somewhere”, Usagi mumbled, shuffling through handfuls of loose paper. Her partner then took out a highlighter, two pencils, and an eraser, lining them neatly in front of her.

“Ah-ha!” Usagi cheered triumphantly, holding up a crinkled sheet. She shoved the unwanted papers back into her bag, in exchange for her pencil case.

“Okay, so we have to take these eighteen terms from the box, and label them on the diagram,” Ami instructed, picking up a pencil. Usagi stared blankly at the paper; not only could she hardly pronounce the words, the picture was just gross. “How about we start with the ones we know, and go from there?” Ami suggested.

“The ones we know….” the blonde repeated thoughtfully, scanning the terms in hopes that she would recognize even one. “Okay, this has got to be the umbilical cord,” she said, tapping her pencil on the page.

“Usagi… I don’t think that’s where the umbilical cord is.”

“No?”

“No,” Ami shook her head, biting her lip to keep herself from laughing. “The parts we’re supposed to label are all inside the pig’s body.”

“Oooh.” While she appreciated Ami’s tactful response, she felt like an idiot. “…this is the tail, isn’t it.” She said quietly, an embarrassed grin taking hold of her face.

“It is,” Ami confirmed. Usagi burst into a fit of giggles.

“I’m so sorry Ami,” she managed, her laughter becoming infectious. Eventually the two girls had settled down, and were back to the task at hand, successfully labelling the parts they could remember from the brief introduction in class.

“Your milkshakes, ladies!” Motoki interrupted the intense studying session, placing the cool beverages on the table. “What’s this you’re doing?” He asked, peering down at the black and white diagrams. “Biology?”

“Yeah,” Usagi frowned, “we have to label this diagram for homework. How are people supposed to remember any of this, I mean really.” She shook her head.

“Well, if you do need help, I have a friend who probably knows all the answers,” he smiled, knowingly. Usagi knew that the offer sounded too good to be true.

“Mamoru?” The girl asked flatly.

“Yeah, he’s working his way through school to become a doctor. So I’m pretty sure he knows all that biology…y… stuff!” Motoki finished, raising an eyebrow. Usagi scowled; he was like a used car salesman trying to sell her a horrible car.

“We’ll be fine on our own, right Ami?”

“Well it couldn’t hurt to – ” she started.

“Fine. On. Our. Own.” Usagi stated through gritted teeth.

“Okay,” Motoki laughed, “I’ll leave you girls to it!” He raised his hands as a sign of surrender, and headed back to his carry on with his duties.

Ami looked at Usagi curiously, what was so bad about this friend? Motoki seemed like a nice person, so it would make logical sense that his friends would be similar, wouldn’t it? She felt uncomfortable pressing the issue, so with a slight shrug, Ami decided to leave it be.

Motoki was behind the counter drying some freshly washed glasses, when Mamoru slid into his regular seat.

“Are you okay?” Motoki asked, stopping the task at hand and staring intently at his friend’s face.

“What?” Bewildered, Mamoru double checked his surroundings to ensure that Motoki was indeed talking to him.

“You kind of look like you’ve had a rough night…” the blond noted, pointing to the darken circles under Mamoru’s eyes. “Not to mention the way you just took off yesterday.”

“What are you talking about?” Mamoru wondered, completely baffled by the conversation.

“You took off like a bat out of hell,” the Motoki remembered . “You didn’t even pay.”

“What?” His face twisted with confusion. “I’m sorry.” Digging into his pocket, he placed some money on the counter.

“No, it’s not a big deal,” Motoki said, pushing the change back. “It’s just really unlike you,” he explained. He watched Mamoru struggle with the information “Don’t you remember? It seemed like you were in a lot of pain or something, you were holding your head.”

“I… I don’t know. I’ve been getting a lot of headaches lately,” Mamoru confessed, looking down at his hands, puzzled.

“Maybe you should get that checked out,” he suggested, grabbing a mug and pouring a cup of coffee.

“Yeah, I guess I should.” The raven haired man agreed, picking up the cup and taking a much needed sip. Turning his attention elsewhere, Mamoru’s gaze fell on a familiar golden hairdo, that peaked over a booth in the back. “Who’s Usagi with?” He wondered, looking back at Motoki for an answer.

“A new friend from school. They’re working on some biology homework together.”

“Odango’s doing homework?” He nearly leapt out of his seat – this he had to see.

“Mamoru –” Motoki warned, “if you can’t stop yourself from going over there, at least be nice.”

“I’m always nice,” Mamoru replied, plastering on a fake grin. The blond shook his head, narrowing his eyes knowingly.  “Fine,” Mamoru ceded.

 

“Odango,” he whispered from above her. Usagi’s face tightened, her mouth turning into a frown. I guess things were back to normal after all.

“Baka.”

“Hi,” he flashed a charming smile at Ami, only causing Usagi’s scowl to deepen.  “Aren’t you going to introduce me to your friend?” he walked around the booth to the opening, placing steady hands on the table.

“Wasn’t planning on it,” Usagi glanced up at him and smiled sweetly.

“And here I thought we were becoming friends…” The girl furrowed her brow; something about his response made him seem almost sad. The man was impossible to read.

“Ami, this is Mamoru. Mamoru, Ami,” she sighed, waving her hand between the two.

“Mamoru Chiba, it’s nice to meet you,” he stuck his hand out for Ami to shake.

“I’m Ami Mizuno,” she accepted. As they shook hands, an unwarranted feeling of uneasiness came over her. She pulled back her hand, her lips turning upwards in an awkward smile. Shyness. It must just be her shyness. But Chiba… why did that name sound so familiar?

“So you’re stuck with Usagi, eh?” Mamoru joked, the blonde shooting daggers through her eyes in his direction.

“Or she’s stuck with me,” Ami replied. “Chiba… ” now she knew where she had heard that name before, “are you of any relation to the family that made the donation for the Chiba Pediatrics Wing at the hospital?” she wondered, having spent a great deal of time there waiting for her mother who was a doctor.

“They were my parents,” he answered, a hint of sorrow in his voice. “They’re the reason I want to be a doctor,” he explained. Usagi’s features softened; what happened to them? Where were they now? Hundreds of questions popped into her mind, but she held them back.

“I hope to be a doctor too, someday.” Ami’s response started a discussion between the two, and Mamoru sat down in the booth next to Usagi, pushing her further inside. His leg brushed hers, and she scooted over, pulling her belongings with her. As happy as Usagi was that they shared a common interest, their conversation of which schools are the best to attend hardly piqued her curiosity. Utterly bored, the blonde dug a few markers from her pencil case.

“Usagi?” Ami addressed her, but received no response.

“Odango?” Mamoru called, her head shot up.

“It’s USAGI.” She growled.

“What are you doing?” Ami wondered, seeing her partner scribbling furiously on their homework assignment.

“She was ugly, so I made her pretty!” Usagi beamed, turning her paper around to show off her hard work. She had taken the black and white diagram, and not only coloured the pig’s outer skin, but added earrings and a pink bow. “It’s way easier to look at now.” Mamoru and Ami groaned in unison, secretly admiring her childlike innocence.

“You have the pulmonary and coronary arties backwards there,” Mamoru stated, pointing at the two errors. Both girls hurried to grab their erasers.

“So what’s this?” She asked. Mamoru moved closer to get a better look at the diagram. He was so close; Usagi held her breath.

“Is it the umbilical vein?” Ami questioned, eyes moving between her assignment and her friend’s, making sure she was trying to identify the same thing.

“Very good,” the man praised. Usagi frowned; smart girls must be his type. Not that she cared.

Together the three finished the assignment, Mamoru stepping in as a tutor, explaining the organ functions and sharing mnemonic devices to remember each part. When they were finished Mamoru got up to go, saying his goodbyes, ready to head home for the day.

“Hey, Mamoru?” Usagi grabbed his arm before he got away.

“Yeah?”

“Thanks for your help,” she smiled shyly, peering up from underneath her thick lashes.

“Yes, we really learned a lot!” Ami added.

“Anytime.” Mamoru took his leave, as Usagi watched his retreating form until it was out of sight.

“He seems like a nice young man,” the blue-haired girl stated, studying her friend’s face for a reaction.

“I guess,” Usagi shrugged. She wasn’t admitting anything. “Sorry Ami, but I get home soon. It’s almost dinner time!”

“Okay. Thanks for today,” Ami said, genuinely grateful for being paired with Usagi. She may have not been the most knowledgeable about science, but the short time they spent together made Ami realize what it just might feel like to have a friend.

The girls tidied up their table, packing their belongings back into their bags. Unable to make everything fit, Ami began to pull items out in an attempt to reorganize. Usagi’s eyes went wide with excitement when a familiar book tumbled out of Ami’s bag.

“You read ‘Kimi ni Todoke’?” The blonde asked, surprised that Ami would be reading manga at all.

“It’s one of my favourites,” Ami admitted apprehensively.

“It’s my favourite, too! Isn’t it good?” Usagi glowed, thrilled to find a comrade who was just as enthralled with the manga as she was. The chattered continued, covering every topic related to the manga that they could think of. Ami found herself laughing more than she had in years, truly enjoying their conversation. Usagi’s phone vibrated against the table, interrupting the their discussion.

“Hello?” she answered. Ami watched with mute interest as her friend’s cheeks grew red, and her expression turned to panic. “I have to go, that was my mom,” the girl explained, “and she is not happy.”

The science partners left the arcade together, parting ways at the next intersection. Usagi waved her goodbyes, then turned on her heel and began her sprint home. Ami watched after her with a contented smile; today had been a good day.

 

← II IV →