Continuing Tales

First Truths

A Sailor Moon Story
by Lilac Summers

Part 13 of 15

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First Truths

2 weeks later

No one could say that Usagi was sad. She wasn't, not really. She laughed and joked and klutzed out like she usually did. But somehow, she was...different. Her school-friends really didn't know what it was: maybe a certain shade to her eyes, or the way it took her a little longer to react to their teasing, as if she had to weigh whether answering back was worth the effort, or the fact that she never finished her lunch anymore. That was the biggest clue of all, of course, because never in the great history of Tsukino Usagi's life had she not finished her lunch. Had it been a one-time occurrence, it could be attributed to some freak chance...but two weeks straight? Inconceivable!

Sometimes her classmates would catch her looking down at her desk, doing nothing in particular. She didn't take notes, nor sleep through class, nor try to sneak her lunch out. She just sat. Silent. On one occasion, Miss Haruna had called her name three times with no reaction forthcoming. Irritated, she'd stepped up to Usagi's desk and demanded her attention. And Usagi had simply lifted her face and Miss Haruna stumbled back in surprise for surely that composed, quiet face could not be Usagi's. Her eyes were opaque, her gaze listless, and her voice...

"Yes, Miss Haruna?"

That's what Usagi had said, with no theatrics and no wailing and no "I wasn't doing anything, honest!" Just that quiet "Yes, Miss Haruna" as if she were asking the time to some stranger on the street. Miss Haruna had had nothing to say to that quiet voice. What could she demand, after all? Miracle of miracles, Usagi had been bringing in her homework all week! So whereas before she would have scolded her for not paying attention, this time she just shook her head slightly and mumbled an "excuse me, Usagi," as if she were the guilty student caught daydreaming. She'd stepped away and let Usagi be for the simple reason that that quiet girl who stared at her desk was not Usagi. It couldn't be.

If anyone had asked, she would have denied it vehemently but, truth was, Miss Haruna wanted the old Usagi back.

And the other Senshi knew, of course, though they didn't say anything. They knew she was simply going through the motions of living, but that, really, no one was home. A part of Usagi, the part that dazzled strangers and made friends out of enemies, had been left behind.

Usagi, deciding to give her love, had given it completely. And come hell or high water, she could not, would not take it back for herself. That kind of love, Minako had whispered to her silent friends, can never be's a once-in-a-lifetime kind of deal.

So the Senshi worried, and fretted, and cursed, because they knew exactly to whom Usagi had given that vital part of herself, and who had not had the tiniest bit of sense to accept it.

Chiba Mamoru, idiot extraordinaire.

It might have made them feel a bit better to know that that selfsame idiot extraordinaire had not been having an easy time of it, either. He haunted his apartment like a specter, restlessly moving from kitchen to couch to bedroom, never settling in one place.

His princess wouldn't come. Since Usagi had walked out the door, leaving him feeling as if a semi truck had gleefully driven over him, his dream princess had refused to make an appearance at night. He no longer dreamt and, so, he no longer slept. His sleep was even lonelier than his life, so why bother? And it hurt so very much, this betrayal from his princess.

On the fourth night of dreamlessness, he'd stormed out into his balcony, raised his head to the moon, and demanded an explanation.

"Why?" he'd screamed, uncaring of his neighbors. "Why won't you come? I gave up everything for you. I gave up...I gave her up for you. You can't leave me now, do you understand? DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?"

He'd damned her, and broken a pot of perfect sanguine-red rosebuds with his bare hands, raging until he'd finally dragged himself back inside with his bloody hands and wondered if he'd been cursing his princess or himself.

Ten days later, both princess and schoolgirl continued to avoid him. He never ran into Usagi on his way to classes anymore. She had either started getting to school earlier, or had taken another route. On the occasion when a youma had popped up, Sailor Moon thanked him politely for helping, inquired after his health, then slipped away like a shadow the moment he had looked away.

This very afternoon, she evaded him when he walked into the Crown Arcade. He stepped inside and caught sight of her at the Sailor V game. Her back was to him and, as he watched, her shoulders had tensed, sensing his gaze. She'd risen from her seat, picked up her satchel, and then turned to face him. He could read nothing from her face, could make out no differences in her demeanor other than that disquieting stillness. She'd nodded at him in greeting and wordlessly left the arcade through the far exit, leaving him with his fists and jaw clenched.

It was a peculiar feeling, as if everything within him was pulsing at different times, and he was walking through quicksand to reach where she had stood. He stopped at her vacant seat at the Sailor V game just in time to watch her player die; the little digitized Sailor V seemed to glare up at him accusingly as the boss got the better of her. Only after the "GAME OVER" flahsed on the screen did he realize she'd left the arcade mid-game and, it seemed, with the highest score anyone had ever gotten. The "winner's score" box popped up then, cursor blinking rapidly in cadence with his thoughts, that ran along the lines of "idiot, idiot, idiot, idiot." He softly keyed in "Usa" in the three spaces, and walked out to his solitary apartment.

Her hands were shaking.

Usagi realized this when she finally reached her street after having run from the arcade. Her hands were trembling and her heart was thudding painfully. Every time she saw him, it hurt more. Whoever had said that time healed all wounds was a moron. They'd obviously never had the dubious honor of having their soul jerked out, ripped to shreds, and then unceremoniously shoved back into their bodies, as if they were supposed to continue living with it.

She had done what "fate" wanted of her. She had picked up the pen, hadn't she? She had gone out and fought night after night until her pathetic grades got even more pathetic, until she'd been grounded so the most she was allowed to do at home was sleep, eat, and do homework. Naru wondered why she never spent time with her anymore. And for what? So she could put her life on the line and have it all come to nothing when the one person she wanted, the one person she needed, threw her love back in her face? Fate couldn't be so cruel, could it?

Well, it turned out that it could.

God, he'd looked so gorgeous. She sighed, bringing cold hands to her face. She'd known the instant he'd stepped into the arcade. It didn't matter that she'd had her back to the door, she had felt him walk in. Every cell in her body had vibrated, an odd sort of resonance that informed her he was there and watching her. World and life forgotten, she'd turned to catch his gaze.

There he had stood, the exemplarary brooding hero. It seemed as though he hadn't slept, or lost some weight, or something that made his eyes so dark and intense, the chiseled planes and angles of his face more accentuated and only serving to highlight how handsome he was. And there was sadness and maybe...regret? he looked at her. She hadn't been able to stand it-had been unwilling to stay to figure it out-and had left before her feelings overwhelmed her. Her heart was beating in tandem with her thoughts, a beat for every word:

he's not yours he's not yours he's not yours he's not yours.

The apartment was silent and dark when Mamoru walked in, just as he'd left it. If he had been paying any sort of attention he might have noticed the gentle breeze of evening air that entered through open balcony doors. Of course, he had other, Odangoed things on his mind, so he paid no attention.

His first inkling that something was wrong came when he caught a whiff of perfume in his decidedly not-supposed-to-be perfumed apartment. He whirled around to face a shadowy corner, battle senses humming. He dropped into a defensive stance, wary to transform lest it be nothing more than burglars and he inadvertently reveal his identity.

Feminine-smelling burglars, but burglars nonetheless.

A faint sound alerted him to an attack, and he spun and lashed out with a lethal hit to strike...nothing. His mind was barely registering this impossible miss as a slew of freezing fog appeared out of nowhere. He was instantly blinded, his direction hopelessly scrambled, as he caught another tiny sound behind him and felt the rush of displaced air. He whirled once more, but it was too late.

His world went black.

"Is he awake yet?"

"No, not yet."

"Jeez, how hard did you hit him?"

"How was I supposed to know he wouldn't put up a fight with those roses of his? Just wham, down like a stone."

"Still, what if there's brain damage?"

"Who'll tell the difference? He can't be dumber than he already is."

Mamoru opened his eyes on that uncomplimentary note. He had expected thieves at the least, Negaverse generals at the worst. He did not expect two worried blue eyes peering back at him from behind a visor. He jerked his head back in surprise and winced when he made hard contact with the back of a chair.

"He's awake, thank the heavens."

"About damn time."

Now, at least, he was awake enough to recognize the voices as female. He cautiously opened his eyes again, working around the pounding in the back of his head, and concentrated.

Blue, red, green, and yellow. Or, more significantly, Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, and Venus. He groaned, and the sound had nothing to do with the pain in his head.

"Hiya. Happy to see us?" said the one in yellow.

A growled epithet was answer enough, as he surged to his feet to confront them. Or, tried to surge to his feet before he realized with baffled outrage that they had actually had the gall to TIE HIM TO A CHAIR! The following curses really weren't reserved for polite society.

"WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?" he roared, fully expecting them to quiver in fear.

There was no quivering in sight. Mars stepped up to him and pushed his head back against the chair, as Mercury winced at the rough treatment. "Simmer down, Tuxie! We don't want your neighbors barging in here, now do we?"

Mamoru tried to breathe evenly through clenched teeth. With careful movements he tested the strength of his bonds, stifling another curse when he found they were expertly tied, the rope made out of thickly-woven nylon and impossible to break. They'd also had the foresight to make sure his hands were bound at the wrist, with not enough leverage to allow him to use his roses.

Sailor Jupiter grinned at him, knowing full well what he was up to. "Don't even waste your time. I'm a woman of many talents, tying ropes being one of them."

Sailor Venus couldn't help but turn towards Mercury. "I don't even want to know why in the world she knows how to tie men up."

Mamoru ignored the comment, grinding his jaw so hard it was practically audible. "I'm quite sure you've mistaken me for someone else," he directed at his "captors."

Mars released his hair and stepped back impatiently. "Please, don't insult our intelligence. We know who you are, and you know why we're here."

"If that's the way you want it, Rei,Ami, Makoto, Minako." He pierced each with a look as he stated their names, gratified to see them shift nervously. Makoto acknowledged his statement with a curt nod, smiling grimly.

"So now that that is out in the open, why don't you tell me why you're here?"

It looked like Makoto wanted to hit him. She raised a fist, "You. don't. know. Why. We. Are. HERE?"

Ami moaned and latched on desperately to Makoto's arm. "Remember, Mako-chan! Lawsuit! Lawsuit!"

Minako intercepted and waved the group away. It seemed like the idiot had to have some things explained to him. She grabbed a neighboring chair and dragged it in front of the bound man, straddling it so she faced him over her chair's back.

"Lookie here, Tuxie-"

"Mamoru," growled Mamoru, "MA-MO-RU. Not Tuxie!"

He didn't know what was more insulting, the dismissing little way she waved her hand in his face, or the placating way she said his name. "Right, Mamoru-san. Anyway, we're here to help you out."

"With what? And who asked for your help?"

Makoto leaned in, grinning at him evilly. "It's obvious that you are very sick, Mamoru-san."

"I am not sick," he denied.

"Yes you are," she informed him smugly. "Because ONLY A SICK MAN WOULD MAKE USAGI CRY!"

Rei and Ami held her back just in time to keep her from "curing" Mamoru with her fists. "Let me at him! Let me at him!" screeched Makoto.

"We are sooooo going to get sued for this," wailed Ami.

Minako valiantly ignored the other girls, finding the way Mamoru's face had turned miserably pale much more interesting. "It bothers you, doesn't it?" she asked sweetly.

"The idea of getting pounded on by that violent psycho? Yes."

"No, not that. I bothers you thinking that you made Usagi cry." She leaned back with a satisfied smile as every last trace of color bled from his face, his lips becoming a thin, tensed white line. He said nothing.

Enjoying herself, she scooted forward and whispered conspirationally, "She cries buckets, Luna tells us. She doesn't sleep, either. Something's not the same about her, and it's your fault. You are making her miserable. She's lost weight. She's whiling away to nothing while you sit here in your comfy apartment knowing that you're killing her. Slowly draining the life out of her-"

"Minako, stop," cut Ami in gently. "Don't torture him like that." They both turned to look at a dazed Mamoru, his head hanging low so his bangs shielded his eyes, his shoulders hunched in upon himself as though he were trying to make himself as small as possible. Minako caught the telltale glimmer of moisture on his cheeks and humphed.

"He shouldn't have done it if he isn't man enough to handle the consequences," she sniffed, abandoning her position on the chair.

Rei agilely jumped in to take her place. "My turn!" she announced. "Come on, buck up Mamoru, we're just getting started."

He raised his head and his eyes were furious behind the drying sheen of tears. "I don't need to hear any more of this! Do you think this is some game? Do you think this is funny? I don't need a bunch of teenage girls barging into my apartment and trying to drill into my brain when you don't have a clue what is going on! So get. the. hell. out."

The girls were completely silent, troubled expressions on their faces as they stared at the bitter, stony man before them.

"Mamoru-san..." Rei began.

"Leave me alone!"

"We can't!" shouted Makoto, frustrated. "Don't you see? You screwed it up! You had it all lined up, and you friggin' screwed it up!"

Rei scampered out of Makoto's way as she advanced on Mamoru, wrenching his head back by the hair. "So you better fix it! You make Usagi happy again or we'll hurt you!"

"What do you know about it?" sneered Mamoru coldly, ignoring her grip on his hair.

Makoto's eyes narrowed into fierce glimmers of emerald as she curled her hand into a fist, arm tensing.

"Makoto! Makoto, dear god, not the face! She'll kill us if she sees it! I knew I shouldn't have let you guys do this!" bemoaned Ami. She tugged Makoto's arm away, standing between Mamoru and Makoto. "You're going to break him!"

Mamoru was not pleased at hearing himself referred to as some expensive toy. "Why, Ami-chan, so nice to know you care."

She rounded on him and seeing her sweet face twist with grim displeasure alarmed him more than Makoto's fist ever could. "I'm not doing it for you, half-wit," she scoffed. "I'm here for Usagi, because if something happens to you, she's the one that's going to be upset. So be glad I'm here, or Makoto would have turned you into paste and the only one to mourn would be Usagi."

Cowed, but unwilling to show it, Mamoru responded, "She's welcome to try."

Pain exploded in his stomach and he bent over, gagging. Finally gaining his breath, he turned a murderous gaze towards Makoto, only to find her looking as shocked as the rest of them.

"Ami-chan!" she squeaked.

Eyes widening, Mamoru turned to see Ami-chan with one dainty fist still upraised. "That," she announced, "Usagi won't see. And it's enough; no more harm comes to him." With one last angry look his way, she retreated to the other side of the room, effectively dismissing them all.

"Blue wanted to hog all the fun herself," muttered Minako.

Rei threw her hands up in the air. "Okay, all right, this is getting us nowhere. Mamoru-san, look," she sighed, taking back her seat, "you just answer one question, and answer it honestly, and we'll think about leaving you alone."

He raised one dark eyebrow. "You'll think about leaving me alone," he repeated, unimpressed.

Rei shrugged her red-clad shoulders as if to say 'hey, what can ya do about it?'

"It's the best I can offer at this point," she said.

"You do realize that this is utterly insane? What would Usagi say if she found out you were doing this?" he pointed out reasonably.

He could have sworn little sparks flew from Rei's fingertips. "How would she possibly find out? We aren't going to tell her; you aren't going to tell her. What would you say, after all?" Here she stopped to drop her voice to a mimicking bass, bringing a hand to her chest dramatically. "Usagi, your four girlfriends tied me up to a chair and forced me to...forced about my feelings! I feel so cheap!"

He bared his teeth as they dissolved into giggles again at his expense.

"So," she continued, after the hilarity died down, "here's my question. What did you do to Usagi, and what part of your brain died on you that caused you to make such a stupid mistake?"

"That's two questions," he muttered.

"Gee, there goes my aspiring career as a mathematician! Just answer the questions, smartass."

"All right!" he growled, clenching his fists. Then, more quietly, "All right, if you four will leave me alone."

The girls leaned forward as one, breaths abated.

He flushed at the scrutiny, none-too-proud at himself to begin with. "When I brought her back to my apartment that day, we had a little bit of an argument, don't" he forestalled, "ask about what. Anyway, in the end, she...she told me that she loved me and I..." He shut his eyes, remembering that look of pained betrayal on her face. His voice became a whisper.

"You what? What did you do?" breathed Ami.

"I told her," he said haltingly, as if he didn't quite believe it himself, "I told her that I loved the Princess".

A stunned silence enveloped the room. He rushed to defend himself. "But it's true! I couldn't lie to her, could I? I mean, I've dreamt of the Princess for as long as I can remember! I know she's out there, waiting for me. I can't-I can't suddenly let go of that, no matter what I may have thought I felt for Odango Atama. I can't!"

"But-but," cut in Minako, unbelieving and confused. "That can't be right! No-how is that possible? I felt it. I..." she looked at her friends beseechingly. "I couldn't have been wrong, could I?"

Makoto and Ami looked down at the floor, fearful that they had been wrong all along and scared that this wouldn't work out for Usagi, after all.

Rei looked as shell-shocked as the rest, until determination burned through her, fixing her face into a stoic mask. "No," she growled, "I refuse to believe this is how it ends for Usagi! It's not fair!"

She paced the carpet, knocking her fists on her temples as if to stimulate thought. There had to be a way to get to the bottom of it, to find out whom he was truly tied to. If only she could see what was truly inside him, what drove him. Dissect him and find where that muddled brain and even more muddled heart were leading.

She stopped in mid-step, a bewildered expression on her face. It will be risky, but well worth it if it works.

She advanced on a slumped Mamoru, who was too emotionally drained to care very much about what she had planned next. With little preamble she grabbed his head in her hands and forced him to meet her gaze. "This might hurt, Tuxie. Don't know; never done it before. If your brain starts to fry...well, it'll be too late for me to do anything about that, so...sorry."

And she gathered every drop of psychic power within her to dive into his psyche with as much grace as a four hundred-pound sumo wrestler performing a belly flop into a kiddy pool.

Mamoru's mouth opened in a silent scream as his eyes clenched shut, the tendons in his neck standing out as he strained against the intrusion.

Rei found herself falling through a dark tunnel and realized, a moment too late, that she did not yet have the power necessary to try this dangerous maneuver. She cried silently for help, and was rewarded with the feeling of a warm hand reaching out to her corporeal body. Suddenly, Minako's presence was there with her, gently nudging her with her knowledge of love and its secrets. In her mind she heard could hear Minako's wry voice, "I figured I could help you out with this one, you dumb blockhead. Don't mess with him too much; it's not nice."

Rei grimaced at the reprimand. With Minako's power aiding her, she had a little more control. She carefully avoided his memories, dreams, and secrets, guiltily aware she had no right to be here. Instead, she followed Minako's counsel and natural connection to love, and found herself clinging to a red thread that was interwoven into every part of his soul and beyond, casting the inky darkness around her into crimson. It was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. Instantly she felt engulfed in peace and pain, joy and heartbreak, loss and gain, life and death, for millennia upon millennia upon millennia. It was immense. She knew that never, in all her lives, would she be able to understand the true scope of this connection.

She felt Minako's presence become buoyed with delight, and could only wonder at how the Senshi of Love must be experiencing this sight.

"Minako," she communicated, "can such a link be a love triangle? Can he love two people at once with this intensity?"

Minako's denial sounded loud and clear. "No way, Rei. This kind of link is...well, just short of a miracle. It goes beyond love to true and utter devotion. Unrequited love is a sickly, starving thing. Love divided is not true. Neither kind would forge a connection that transcends death."

Rei gulped, more than a little awed. "What do you mean?"

"She dies, he dies. She lives, he lives. Always the same, always together. They share a soul, Rei. You can't go deeper than that."

"Oh." After all, what else was there to say to a revelation like that? "Um, can you tell where it goes?"

Rei could just imagine Minako sighing through her teeth. "You want me to touch that? Are you trying to kill me?"

"Can you are can't you? I'm running out of time here, blondie."

"Sheesh, all right, all right. Gimme a minute." As the quiet settled around her, Rei got the foreboding sense that she knew what Minako was going to say next. "You're gonna have to touch it, Rei. I'm not actually 'there' in the sense that you are."

Well, damn. Rei had been afraid of that one. She approached the cord warily and gently placed a hand on it, muttering "the things I do for that meatball brains."

Rei's entire being went numb at contact, and she sensed Minako move through her to read the bond.

"My god, so much power, Rei! I-my god," Minako's voice was reverent. She was silent for what seemed like eons, then an invisible, psychic wind began to circulate around Rei, almost making her lose her grip on the link. She tightened her grip on the "string" reflexively, mentally gritting her teeth as power singed up her arms. Suddenly Minako's presence was very strong, hurtfully so, as she felt Minako's psyche take firm control of Rei's link.

Minako's voice returned, with a strange, lilting, singsong quality to it, as though she were reading a fairy tale.

"A Prince and his Princess, separated. Death, then lost for so long. She was with him, through the darkness. He feels her cry sometimes. But he can't, won't remember. She tried to tell him so many times, but it hurts. The fear is so strong. She's there... but he finally found her! He found her and he doesn't see! Why doesn't he see? He is clinging to the past...has not found his future. Oh, it hurts!"

Rei could feel Mianoko withdraw for a moment, weakened. "Minako?" There was silence. "Minako!"

Frightened, Rei prepared to let go, only to have Minako suddenly surge forward again. All the cells on Rei's body prickled with uncomfortable electricity. "Minako—"

"He lost her once before. And now he's so alone-so much death in the end and he's afraid that . . . she could leave him again. He loves—he loves so strongly but he—- He loved the Princess. He loves Sailor Moon. He loves...oh." Minako's voice was suddenly jolted into normalcy. "OH! God, god god god. Rei, get out. For grief's sake, get out!"

Rei's hand slipped away, stunned by Minako's fervor. Without questions she scurried back into her body by concentrating on the violent, almost hurtful grip Minako had on her real hand. She snapped out of her trance with a gasp for air, like a swimmer after the last lap, and heard Minako and Mamoru echo her as they snapped awake with her. Immediately she dropped her other hand from Mamoru's head as though he'd scalded her.

"Minako, wha-"

"How dare you," hissed Mamoru, nearly whispering, and was all the more dangerous in his quiet rage. The girls all flinched as if he'd screamed at them. "What made you think you have the right to barge into other people's psyches? I told you what you wanted. What else could you possibly find?"

"He doesn't know," whispered Minako.

"Get out." His stillness was unnatural, and the temperature in the room seemed to drop. Slowly, fine tremors began to run up and down his body, until he was fairly vibrating with fury. "Get out!" he repeated, and the "out" seemed to resonate. The girls' finely-tuned sense of danger was shrieking at them to run fast and long.

The Senshi cowered away. Rei had gone too far, and they knew it. Worse, Minako seemed as though she'd seen a ghost, and was dangerously close to hyperventilating.

"What do we do?" murmured Makoto.

"Let's go. Please guys, let's go," urged Ami.

Minako stared at a seething Mamoru a few more seconds before slowly nodding her head. "Yes. He can't be told this. He needs to find his way. Let's go."

Makoto carefully edged behind Mamoru and began to work on the knots tying his hands. The other girls waited cautiously by the open balcony. When the last knot came lose she immediately turned and sprinted for the balcony, reaching the door none-too-soon as a rose pierced the wall by the door. With an "eep!" she jumped after her friends and disappeared from sight.

Makoto found the three others waiting for her in a nearby alley. Minako's somber expression kept them all quiet.

"Rei, we went too far," said Ami quietly.

Rei nodded, not quite repentant. "I know, but we had to find out. We had to settle it once and for all. Now we can tell Usagi that it truly isn't meant to be. Maybe she can move on."

"No," cut Minako in gently. "No, she can't."

"But he's soul-bonded, right? Just like you said before. I assume to the Princess?" argued Rei, confused with what she'd seen and heard.

"Yes, he loves the Princess with all his soul. But...but he loves Usagi too."

"But you said that type of bond couldn't be divided!" Rei accused, frustrated.

"It can't, Rei."

"But-" persisted Rei.

"Oh! Oh my god," Ami stared at Minako, almost hoping for a denial. Rei and Makoto just looked confused.

But no denial was forthcoming. "Rei," sighed Minako, "what did you see?"

"I saw a red cord. It was beautiful. And it led somewhere else."

"What did you feel?"

"Feel? I can't describe it! It was every intense emotion one person can have, all at once. Incredible. It was..." she shrugged her shoulders, "love?"

Minako nodded. "So I'm telling you again: he has always loved the Princess, but he will always love Usagi because..."

It was beginning to dawn on Makoto and Rei.

"Because," Makoto finished, "Usagi is the Princess."

Minako smiled.

In a dark apartment two streets down, a figure kneeled on the floor. His arms were wrapped around his body as he bent almost to the floor in his misery, a rose clenched in one hand.

First Truths

A Sailor Moon Story
by Lilac Summers

Part 13 of 15

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