Continuing Tales

First Truths

A Sailor Moon Story
by Lilac Summers

Part 14 of 15

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First Truths

Most people do not frequent dark, deserted alleys when the sky is darkening. Most teenage girls avoid such places at all cost. Thus, finding four fourteen-year-old girls in such an alley is close to impossible. However, that evening any lucky passerby would have been treated to the sight of said fourteen year-old girls wearing verrrrry short sailor suits and dancing what looked to be an Irish jig.

Well, two were dancing, anyway.

"This is soooo cool! Oh yeah. Go girl, go girl, go girl!" Makoto chanted this refrain as she grabbed Minako and whirled her around in a dizzy circle before linking arms and indulging in a short round of dozy-do.

Minako's laugh rang out, girlishly high. "Isn't it? All this time we've been searching and searching, and she's been in front of us all along! As a wise man once said, ask and thou shall conceive."

Ami managed to drop the silly grin that covered her face long enough to correct Minako's mistake. "That's 'ask and thou shall receive,' Minako. The other sounds like a...well, it's a completely different proposition." She slid down the wall to plunk down dreamily next to a nearly comatose Rei. "Wow, who would have ever expected?"

Rei blinked out of her stupor for an instant. "I've been calling the Princess a lazy meatball brains," she wailed. "I'll be the first to be beheaded when she comes into power!"

Ami patted her back consolingly as she watched Minako and Makoto sweep out of their version of a tango and try to dance a jitterbug. "Try" being the operative word.

"Now now, Rei-chan. Usagi wouldn't do that. At the most, she'll just sentence you to fifty lashes or something of that manner," she assured her friend.

Rei sniffled hopefully. "You think?"

Ami nodded, and Rei went back into shock.

A few minutes later, Makoto and Minako concluded their crazy little dance and collapsed in a fit of giggles to sit next to Ami and Rei.

"This is wild," breathed Makoto, pushing sweaty strands of hair off her forehead. "Usagi, of all people, a princess! Can you imagine her all royal and graceful? Minako-chan, if you weren't so sure about this, I'd claim you were high off something."

"High off looooove, my friends!" Minako grinned. "You guys shoulda seen it! It was amazing." She sighed dreamily, wrapping her arms around herself and wriggling giddily. "Lucky lucky lucky Usagi-chan. I hope I find a guy as gone on me as Mamoru is on her."

Rei's shock had worn off to a bearable level, and she nodded her agreement. "Amazing. Just incredible." Her own sigh seemed a mixture of joy, hope, and envy. "Finding out she's a princess and that she has a soul-mate, all in one fell swoop. Boy, are we ever gonna make her day." She smiled winsomely. "Think that we'll ever find our soul-mates?"

Minako jumped to her feet to pose in her trademark Sailor V stance. "Of course! Just you wait! We'll find them one day. And, until then, well...we're gonna have to go out with lots and lots of hot guys; leave no stone unturned!"

Ami blushed prettily as the others cheered Minako's inspirational speech. When the cheering died down, she decided to steer the conversation to slightly more important matters. "Okay, guys, what do we do now?"

Makoto seemed confused at this question. "What do you mean, 'what do we do now'? Simple: we tell Usagi she's the Princess, and that Mamoru's totally stupid-in-love with her. She tells Mamoru she's the Princess, he grovels nicely and buys her a big diamond. Presto! Instant happy ending with lots of little Usagis and Mamorus running around. We all live happily ever after, and die very old, rich, and lazy with a harem of gorgeous younger men at our feet!"

She fidgeted as the others stared. "Okay, so I improvised the ending just a bit."

Ami shook her head, dispelling the image Makoto had so skillfully painted. "We have to stop being silly for a second, guys."

Minako latched onto Ami's arm and shook vigorously. "No, Ami-chan, we're silly. You just...aren't. Be silly, Ami-chan! Be Silly!"

Rei wrenched Minako away from Ami, practically taking Ami's arm with her. "Give the girl some peace, Minako-chan! Ami's going to say something really smart, and complicate everything, and we've got to listen." She shot Ami a pessimistic look. "You are going to make this difficult, aren't you?"

"Sorry, guys, but it can't possibly be as simple as Makoto makes it sound."

Makoto threw her arms up in the air. "Well, why on earth not? Jeeze louise, you'd think this was rocket science and not a simple case of tuxedoed super-hero loves/hates girl who happens to be another super-hero and also happens to be a princess without knowing it."

Ami cast Makoto a pointed look and Makoto deflated, grumbling as she sulkily folded her arms across her chest. "Well, it could have been simple."

Rei shook her head, raven locks flying, and frowned in concentration. "So our problem here is what, exactly?"

Everyone turned expectant eyes to Ami, who shrunk under their gaze. "I don't know! I was just bringing it up. Goodness, I'm allergic to love letters. Love letters! How am I supposed to know about soul-bonds and all that?"

Everyone turned to look at Minako.

"Oh, so suddenly I'm very important. Suuuure, turn to Ami for everything, but the minute a little love trouble comes up, I'm supposed to fix it all nice and tidy. 'Minako, read the link; Minako, find out who the soulmate is; Minako, figure out what to do!' Well, lemme tell you guys that I expect some respect from now on! That's right. R-E-S-P-E-C-T. And-"

Rei's hands inched towards the blonde's throat.

Minako belatedly noticed the murderous intent in Rei's demeanor and cut off her diatribe. "Kidding! Okay, so here's the deal: we can't interfere."

Ami's hands began to mimic Rei's. "'We can't interfere'? We indulge in a little bit of delinquency by breaking into Mamoru's apartment, add on a little assault by tying him to a chair, delve into his soul, and you tell me 'we can't interfere'? What do you call all that, then?"

"I call that persuasion," stated Makoto. "Right, Minako?"

Minako nodded. "Right. Anyway, what I mean is that Mamoru has to figure his heart out by himself. He has to realize that he is in love with Usagi, and not only because she is the Princess. Do you understand?"

"Not really. Why does it matter? The Princess is Usagi," argued Makoto.

"No, Usagi is the Princess. There's a difference. The Princess is part of Usagi, but Usagi is much more than just the Princess. How would it be if Mamoru thought he only loved Usagi because she was the Princess? He'd feel as if he had no choice; as if he'd love anyone who happened to be the Princess. But that's not true. He fell in love with Usagi before he knew she was the Princess. The Princess is his past, Usagi is his present. He has to move on and understand that."

They nodded in agreement.

"What about Usagi?" asked Ami.

"That's different. She's come to grips with her feelings. I think Mamoru is having a hard time with it cuz he's not used to, well, feeling much. But Usagi...she's as open as sunshine. She accepted to love him for who he is, regardless of fate or soul-bonds or any such complications. I think we should tell her, to give her some hope to hold on to. We tell her that he loves her; he just doesn't know it yet," concluded Minako with a smug look on her face.

Rei leaned forward, peering at Minako suspiciously. "Minako?"


Rei squinted a little bit more, as if she were having trouble seeing. "Minako, when on earth did you get so darn smart?"

Minako grinned, right before she realized that that wasn't exactly a compliment. "Hey!"

Usagi was awoken by a repetitive tapping on her head. She opened bleary, tear-swollen eyes and looked around her darkened room for the source of the disturbance.

tap tap tap tap

Her eyes crossed in the darkness in an attempt to see what kept hitting her forehead. Realizing that was useless, she reached up and grabbed the "thing" in mid-descent. It was warm and skinny. She frowned, and found that the thing was attached to a bigger thing. She followed that with her other arm and turned her head to the side. There, her sleep-clouded vision collided with a pair of impossibly wide, glittering eyes.

"Usagi-chaaaaaan," the monster called.

With an unrepentant, undignified shriek, Usagi bolted upright and dove for the light by the bed, switching it on. The light illuminated a surprised Minako-chan kneeling by her bed, blue eyes on level with Usagi's pillow. Confused, Usagi opened her other hand. Where minutes before she was sure she was gripping some monstrous tentacle, she found what she had captured was Minako's finger, caught in the act of tapping her on the forehead.

Usagi let go of Minako's hand and collapsed back in bed with a relieved, watery sigh. "Lord, Minako-chan. You scared the life out of me. What were you doing?"

Minako was carefully rubbing her abused finger, frowning slightly at a chipped nail, a casualty to the brief struggle.

"You killed my nail," accused Minako, "the index one, who never hurt a soul in her brief, shining life. And there is just no way I can hide a chipped index nail." She sniffed, as if highly insulted. "And all I was trying to do was wake you up."

Usagi tried to scrub her eyes clear, knowing the proof of earlier tears was still on her face. The clock on her bedside read 9:30pm; she must have fallen asleep after she collapsed, fully dressed, on her bed. As a result, her school uniform was rumpled and twisted around her. She picked at the skirt with distaste. "Ha. Well, there's this handy-dandy new invention called a telephone. You pick it up and you can speak, actually speak to people without having to break into their bedrooms and scare ten years off their lives."

Minako rose from her kneeling position by the bed and flounced down next to Usagi, chipped nail forgotten. She flashed Usagi a smile that was way too cheery for Usagi's current mood. "Nuh uh. This is way too good for a phone call. Get up, Usagi-chan. The girls and I have a surprise for you. We gotta go to Rei's."


"Uh-huh. Come on, get up!" urged Minako, pulling on Usagi's arm.

"Okay, okay," muttered Usagi. She wasn't in the mood to go out. She wanted to stay in her bed and huddle under the covers. Ever since that fateful day two weeks ago, she couldn't seem to stay warm. She couldn't seem to do a lot of things, actually. Something was just...missing. But Minako's face was too eager, and she didn't want to let her down. She knew her friends were worried about her. And if this foray meant she wouldn't have to worry about Minako sneaking back into her room, she'd grin and bear it.

She grabbed shoes from the closet to silently follow Minako out her bedroom window. With an ease born of long practice, they climbed from the roof beneath the window to the tree that stood sentinel beside the house, then shimmied down the trunk with little effort.

"Now what?" she asked, casting one cautious look at her house. The lights were burning in the family room, and she imagined her parents must be watching the nightly news.

"To the temple!" commanded Minako in pseudo-commando voice. Giggling, she grabbed Usagi's hand and cheerfully dragged her forward. "Trust me Usagi, this is gonna blow you away."

Usagi highly doubted that, but smiled at Minako anyway and followed when Minako broke into a quick run. As both were familiar with dashing madly down the streets whenever they were late, they made it to the Hikawa Temple in a matter of minutes.

Ami, Rei, and Makoto were chatting quietly in Rei's room, sprawled out comfortably on every available space. When Minako slid open the door with a noisy flourish, they quieted instantly, grinning hugely.

"All right," huffed and puffed Usagi, coming to a stop in front of them, "what are you four up to, and was it really necessary to drag me outside this late?"

The four looked back and forth between them. "You tell her," said Rei to Ami.

"I wouldn't do the story justice. You tell her, Minako-chan," responded Ami.

"I'm doing all the work! And I just don't even know where to begin..."

"I'll tell her. Sheesh, you ninnies!" announced Makoto, pushing Usagi down to sit on the bed. "Okay, Usagi-chan, now you're going to need to sit down for this."

"Yes," cut in Rei, "and we know it's going to take some time for you to understand what is going on, so feel free to ask questions. And," she added, eyes shimmering, "I bought you some of those cookies you like so much, the chocolate ones. You can have them all." Without waiting for a response, she shoved a cookie in Usagi's slack mouth.

Usagi sat there, cookie wedged in her mouth, staring dumbly at Rei. Rei decided further action was necessary and reached over, grabbed Usagi's lower jaw, and began to move it up and down, forcing Usagi to chew. "Yummy, aren't they? Ami wanted one, but I didn't let her have any. Because these cookies are only for super-special best friends. I have told you that you're my very bestest friend, right?" She handed a bemused Usagi the rest of the cookies, beaming with saccharine sweetness as she then proceeded to plump up the pillow Usagi was leaning against.

Usagi choked, sputtered, then finally swallowed the half-masticated cookie down. "Oh my I dying?" whispered Usagi, eyes suspiciously wet. "I'm dying, aren't I? Rei would never be so nice to me unless she knew I was dying." She started to sniffle.

Makoto smacked Rei upside the head. "Great going there, Rei-chan. Trying to get in some brownie points before she gets the honor of beheading you?"

Rei had the grace to blush as she batted Makoto's hand away from her head. "I have no clue what Makoto's talking about, Usagi-chan! She's lying. Talking crazy. Crazy!"

Usagi stared at Rei, frozen in terror. "She called me 'Usagi-chan'! She never calls me Usagi-chan!" She turned to Ami and asked in a tremulous voice, "What is it? Cancer? Leukemia? What?"

"No, no, Usagi-chan! You're not dying; you're not even sick. This is all a misunderstanding, I promise you," Ami rushed to reassure her.

"What's to misunderstand? Rei doesn't shout at me, then gives me food, then calls me 'Usagi-chan.' If I'm not dying, why is she...Oh god, is that not Rei? Is it a clone?" Before anyone could stop her, she grabbed a hunk of Rei's dark hair and pulled enthusiastically, testing to see if it was a wig.

"YEOWCH!" yelped Rei, grabbing at her hair in a tug-of-war with Usagi. "I'm not a clone, you clown! Usagi-chan, really, you need to-"

"Who are you, and what have you done with Rei-chan?" demanded Usagi hotly of the so-called Rei.

"I am Rei, you idiot!" yelled Rei.

"Prove it! Why were you so nice?"

"Can't a girl be nice every now and then, ungrateful little-" began Rei.

"I knew it! You can't possibly be Rei; she'd never even consider being nice!" crowed Usagi, pulling more on Rei's hair in her triumph.

"Would too!"

"Would not!"

"Would too!"

"Would NOT!"

"Why, I've never been so insult-!"

"So why were you nice?" repeated Usagi, doggedly.


"Because why?"


"Because I'm..." Usagi released Rei's hair as her fingers went limp.

Ami closed her eyes in a prayer for patience. So much for tact. Sometimes I wonder why I even bother.

Usagi stared at her friends for a second, before her knees gave out and she collapsed once more on the bed. She gazed, unseeing, at her hands where they'd fisted on her lap. Ami, Minako, Makoto, and Rei stood watching her, breaths held.

After what seemed like hours, Usagi raised clouded, pain-filled eyes. "That wasn't very funny, Rei," she whispered, then wrapped her arms around herself to ease the chill. "It wasn't very funny at all. If you guys thought this would be a good joke, I don't get it."

Rei was instantly contrite. You've really blown it this time-she thought sourly.

Makoto gathered her wits and sat down next to her friend, putting a consoling hand on Usagi's back. "Usagi-chan, forget what Rei said. Let's start at the beginning... We know about Mamoru-san."

Usagi's breath hissed out in sharp note of shame, cutting through her misery. "W-what?"

"We found out about him almost at the same time you did, but we didn't want to force any confessions out of you," explained Ami quietly.

"Oh." Usagi began to pleat her skirt with nervous fingers, tears forgotten as she tried to read her friends' reactions. "Are...are you mad at me that I kept quiet so long?" She wouldn't be able to stand it if her friends deserted her, too. "I'm really sorry; really I am. I just didn't know how to bring it up without all of you getting more worried."

"We aren't mad at you, Usagi-chan," Makoto encouraged. "We just don't want you to handle this alone."

Usagi nodded, sniffling again against the effects of her sobbing. She'd begun to calm a little, realizing her friends couldn't have possibly known how their teasing of her "being the Princess" would hurt her. How could they know, after all, that Mamo-chan had chosen the Princess over Usagi?

"So I guess you guys just wanted to tease me," she managed through a watery smile. "I'm sorry I overreacted; I guess it was just bad timing."

The four other girls looked at each other nervously. After the grief their first admission had caused, they were scared to try again. When a few eternal seconds of pained silence passed, Ami could take it no longer.

"Okay, I'm gonna tell her all of it!" she announced.

Rei flushed, visions of bruised Mamorus and vengeful Princesses tap-dancing in her head. "All of it, Ami?" she gulped.

"All of it! And I expect you guys to help," Ami cast a reproving glance at them.

Stalling, Rei searched for anything to derail the conversation, finally spying the forgotten tin of cookie and pouncing on it like a lifesaver. "Are-are you sure you don't want to wait for Usagi to eat a few more scrumptious, just-for-her cookies first?"

"No, Rei, I'm pretty sure she doesn't need you shoving more cookies in her mouth just now."

Rei deflated and hugged the cookies to her chest, making sure to scoot a little further away from Usagi in case she took the news of Rei torturing her soulmate a tad badly.

"Usagi-chan, we know you are in love with Mamoru, and that something . . . horrible happened two weeks ago." Ami stumbled at Usagi's shocked protest, then forged on. "Minako was able to sense the strong emotions between the two of you and, well, we couldn't stand seeing you so sad."

Minako cut in just as Usagi's mouth was opening to deliver a scathing lecture on the rights of privacy. "Wait Usagi-chan, hear us out! You're our friend and we couldn't let this go on!"

Usagi struggled against her instinctive defensiveness, knowing it would be futile to deny what was so obvious to her friends. "What did you guys do?" she queried, almost afraid of the answer.

Rei sauntered forward. "Don't you worry, Usagi. We handled everything very discreetly. We went into his apartment and then invited him to join us for a friendly discussion."

Ami narrowed her eyes at a sweating Rei. "Or, more likely, we sneaked into his apartment, I cast some fog, Makoto knocked him out, tied him to a chair, and we forced him to talk."

Usagi's eyes were as wide as saucers in part disbelief, horror, and guilty amusement. "You didn't!" she squeaked.

Rei liked her version of the event better. "If you wanna put it that way," she admitted.

"Oh!" Usagi clapped her hands over her mouth, trying to stifle a stunned, hysterical giggle. The next instant, her shock dissolved as the ramifications sank in and doubt crept in like a stealthy shadow. Her hands climbed from her mouth to her hair, tugging a blonde strand apprehensively as she strove to look nonchalant. "Did he...what did he say about me?" she whispered.

"Well..." Minako did not fail to notice that the other three had shut up like clams. It was obvious they expected her to handle this part of the confession. "To tell you the truth, Usagi-chan, it wasn't so much what he said than what he didn't say."

Usagi's expression became shuttered as she felt her insides freeze with dread. "Okay then, what didn't he say, and how would you know?"

"Ehem. Actually, there's a funny story connected to that," trailed Minako, nervously scratching the back of her head. At Usagi's dark look, she dropped the act and cleared her throat again. "Okay, okay. But you gotta promise not to interrupt, no matter what I say!" she demanded.

Usagi nodded her consent, and Minako continued. "It began when REI-chan. . .see, REI was the one to come up with the idea."

Rei burned red with betrayal and vowed bloody murder against Minako, but remained silent. Minako swallowed compulsively. "Uh, she decided she could pretty much 'read' Mamoru's soul. She jumped in to decipher his feelings once I realized that Mamoru was someone's soulmate."

Usagi's vision spun in nauseating circles before focusing, the explanation of the procedure and the immense breach of privacy lost to her as she latched on to one word: 'soulmate.' Mamoru had a soulmate. How stupid could she have been to ever think she could compete against that? Any last vestige of hope crumbled sadly, leaving her breathless and weak.

"Someone's soulmate? Wh-" she paused, not sure she could handle knowing. But she had to know, had to know who it was that would take the hope away from her forever. "Who is it? Th-the Princess? It's the Princess, isn't it."

Minako stalled, eyes brilliant with knowledge, before nodding slowly.

Usagi took one last shaky breath before shutting her eyes against the biting blast of sorrow in her chest. "I knew it."

She felt nothing after that first sting; the chill she'd constantly felt had expanded to finally make her body completely numb. She experienced the oddest moment of being entirely disconnected from all her senses, until she realized it was because she had simply stopped inside. There was just nothing left, nothing that mattered. When someone grabbed her hand fiercely, she forced aching, dry eyes open. Minako was kneeling before her, smiling, of all things. Numb Usagi could only vaguely wonder why her friend was happy.

"But that's not all, Usagi-chan," Minako said. "You know where else that link led? It led to Sailor Moon...and to you."

Usagi watched Minako dully, her brain in a state much like fragile china, ready to shatter at the slightest pressure. She couldn't seem to understand what Minako had said.

"Do you hear me, Usagi-chan?" Minako insisted, gripping Usagi's hand tight enough to cut off circulation. "A link to YOU! Because Rei wasn't teasing you earlier; you are the Princess!"

Her brain finally shattered. A wave of thoughts and emotions surged and crashed over her, sending her under. All at once feeling rushed back into her as she scurried to assimilate what Minako had said. It hurt, having the life forced back into you that way, so many emotions vying for attention. Foremost was that fleeting sense of hope, and she reached out and grasped it with trembling hands.

"I-I''re saying I'm the Princess? And that he's tied to me?" asked Usagi slowly, her mind still working on overdrive in an attempt to catch up with what all that signified. Her thoughts were barely starting to arrange themselves into some semblance of order. But the words actually sunk in and echoed through her. He's tied to the Princess. I'm the Princess. Shock overcame hope, then gave way to horrified comprehension. He's tied to me. He has no choice. She suddenly, fervently wished the numbness back.

"Baby, your blood's bluer than a drowned Smurf."

"Ewwww! Minako, that's gross! It doesn't even apply!" complained Makoto.

"Sure it does! See, when something drowns, it turns blue! And royalty has 'blue blood'! Soooooo, a drowned Smurf would be beyond blue, so Usagi is beyond royal. She's the friggin Princess!"

"We get it, Minako-chan, it's just that it's hardly suitable!" said Rei.

"Guys...GUYS!" Ami waved her arms to draw their attention, "it doesn't even matter. Usagi's gone."

The all turned to stare at the spot on the bed where Usagi should have been sitting. She'd used their distraction with the finer points of Minako's analogy as an opportunity to slip away.

"What a way to screw things up." Rei looked at Minako accusingly. "Drowned Smurfs, Minako?"


She stood outside his apartment building in the cooling night, her chest heaving from both emotion and exertion. She'd run the entire way, her feet following some preordained path. Now her heart beat a wild tattoo against her chest, and she clasped her hands over it to contain it.

Usagi still couldn't quite believe it. She, a princess? It was laughable. Usagi may have been many things, but a princess she was not.

Elegant. Royal. Wise. Demure. A princess, Usagi told herself, had to be all of those, and poor Usagi couldn't even be one. It's not that she doubted Minako's finding, she just couldn't understand how it could be that she was the Princess. THE Princess. Mamoru's Princess.

She dropped down onto a low wall surrounding some shrubs, and craned her neck to look up at his darkened window. The insidious hope that had surged up in the moment when she realized Mamoru was tied to her, and not his faceless Princess, had instantly wilted as reality seeped in. The joy that had followed close on the heels of knowing he was hers had died, too. Because he wasn't hers. He was the Princess'. He was in love with what he thought the Princess to be, and what Usagi couldn't be, whether the title was hers or not.

She may not have understood what it meant to be the Princess. She may not have fathomed what that responsibility would mean. She may not have known how it was possible that she was the Princess. But...she knew what it would mean to Mamoru. It would mean that he would have to love her for what he thought she was.

And she would never be able to live with that.

She wished Minako had never found out. Usagi understood what her friends had tried to do, and was grateful to them for caring so much. How could they have known that their plan would backfire? How could they have known that she would have rather stayed ignorant? She wished she'd never known. She would have rather spent her entire life looking for a Princess that didn't exist, and believing that Mamoru would someday find this Princess, too. Now, neither she nor he had anything. She refused to bind Mamoru to herself with a tie that was based on a lie.

Mamoru would never be able to find his princess, because she had died long ago.

"I'm so sorry," she whispered into the sudden wind that swirled around her. "Now you'll never find her. I've lost you completely."

She pressed her hands against her eyes, trying to dispel his face, his voice, his kiss from her mind. If only you had loved me. If only you didn't care, like I don't care, about what form we take. If only you could have loved Usagi. If only...

"We've both lost," she muttered bitterly, then turned on her heel and walked away.

Some instinct called him from his slumber, interrupting the few moments of sleep he had succumbed to after he dragged his drained body to bed. He rose, tossing sheets aside, and his eyes were unerringly drawn to the window and the softly lit night outside.

Mamoru knew what he'd see when he looked outside. If the Princess drew him in his sleep, then Usagi drew him in his waking moments. And there she was, twin ponytails flashing like ribbons of gold as she looked up at his apartment. From this height he could not see her face, but he could imagine it much too clearly. Her eyes would look navy dark, her skin pallid and translucent. He didn't stop to ask himself how it was that he knew, to the exact shadow, how her face would look in the moonlight.

He let his forehead rest on the cool glass of the window and wistfully remembered a time when the only feelings he was regularly acquainted with were loneliness and emptiness. Clean emotions. Then he'd met Usagi and a floodgate had lifted. Without warning, his life was filled with messily intense passions. Anger, joy, frustration, attraction, Love? No, he must have already known love. After all, he'd been dreaming of the Princess since he was a young boy. And he loved it followed that he must have felt love before he met Usagi.

But...but I hadn't!

Confusion swamped him, and he stared fixedly out the window. Hell, he'd been confused since the vengeful four had left his apartment that afternoon. After they had left, he'd run and rerun their conversation over and over, trying to find out why his answers to their demands had left him hollow. Left him feeling as though he'd failed a very important test. Rei had asked him what had caused him to deny Odango, and he hadn't even had to pause to tell her: he loved the Princess. He knew he did. But...but...god, had he ever felt he did?

Had his heart ever clenched with fear at the thought that he'd lose her? Had his being rejoiced at the touch of her lips? Had he ever had frustration clench around him with an iron hand, demanding he give into laughter or rage, separately or at the same time? Had the Princess ever made him lose control as Usagi did?

His dreams always left him alone and unsatisfied, compelled to find what would ease the emptiness. Usagi always left him feeling too much, all at once...but never, ever empty. Was that love?

Good Lord, he didn't know! Why didn't he know what love felt like?

In the end, he may not know what it was he felt for Usagi, but it was more than he'd felt for the Princess...even if his brain knew what he was supposed to feel for the Princess.

He had to know what it was he was feeling, had to analyze what exactly it was that Usagi made him feel before he could put it aside and focus on the Princess. If he could focus on the Princess after this.

Below him, Usagi swung around in a shallow arc and began to walk away. In the eerie half-light of moon and stars she seemed to fade into the surrounding gloom, and an urgency gripped him roughly by that part in his soul that seemed to call out to her. He had watched his Princess disappear into the murkiness of his dreams countless times, and had barely survived the experience. He could not bear to watch Usagi leave him, too.

That, he would never endure.

He reached her just as she paused under a streetlight.

Usagi froze, one step in light and one in darkness. Fine tremors overtook her, sensing a presence nearby. But not in, never in fear of him. She turned back, watching him emerge from the night to stand before her, unapologetically sexy in black jeans and rumpled hair. Her breath caught, heart pumping double-time even as she told herself there was no hope.

"Funny meeting you here," she smiled when the silence had stretched too long. He said nothing.

"Yes, well...excuse me." She needed to leave. It wasn't fair to see him now, when the temptation to tie him to her, his feelings be damned, was so strong. She stepped out of the cocooning circle of light.

"Wait," he commanded, voice hoarse. "Wait, please."

She immediately stilled, even as her hands clenched against the instinct to flee. She felt his hand before he even touched her, and she braced for it. He gently took hold of her sleeve, drawing her back under their own personal spotlight. When he let go, she remembered to breathe.

"What is it like?"

She rubbed the spot where he'd touched her sleeve. She could swear the heat of his hand still lingered. "What is what like?"

"L..." he stumbled over the word, feeling like a fool. But he needed to know and only she could answer him. "Love," he finished gruffly. "What does it feel like."

It wasn't so much a question as a demand. Before she knew it, she was crumbling, the strain of knowledge and heartbreak tremendously heavy on her shoulders. "No, please don't do this to me now!" She whirled away.

"What does it feel like!" he repeated, desperate hands reaching for her and twisting her around to face him. "Tell me!"

"Let me go!"


She growled deep in her throat like a cornered animal and lashed out. Her backhand caught him square in the face and turned his head. He stood, a tall, pale statue limned in light, blood rushing to the surface of the blow to mark the skin of his cheek an angry red.

"Love?" she screamed, half-hysterical. "How dare you ask me what love is like! Don't you know? Wasn't it you who told me you might care for me, but you loved the Princess? Don't ask me what love is!"

She stopped, ashamed, taken aback by her own fierceness, her own rage. The knuckles of her right hand throbbed; she stung with the humiliation she felt, that she could lose her control so completely. "I'm s..." But she wouldn't, couldn't apologize. "I have to go."

This time when she stepped away, she was sure he would let her go. Thus she was all the more surprised when he grabbed her shoulders and hauled her back.

"I'm asking you anyway," he told her calmly.

She fought against the surge of anger, but his unruffled manner only served to magnify her ire. How can he be so cold? Doesn't he care at all? She wanted to shake him free of his mildness, prove she mattered at least enough to make him lose control, too.

"Why?" she demanded, shrugging out of his hold. "What is it? Princess troubles? Need some little love counseling? Sure, let's ask the stupid little teenager with the crush. Oh, no, need to find the Princess before you-"

He flinched, and she should have rejoiced in it. But she couldn't.

"Don't, Usagi. I didn't come here to fight with you." His voice remained quiet, even as his eyes darkened.

"You won't be satisfied, you know, if you ever find her." Usagi fought to contain the bitterness, yet was unable to quell the trace of desperation in her voice. She looked away at some distant point. "What will you do when she's not the perfect princess you've imagined. What will you do when you find out she's human, and makes mistakes, and sometimes even purposely hurts the ones she..." her voice cracked, "loves."

"She wouldn't. And it wouldn't matter," he answered with perfect conviction.

"Wouldn't she?" Usagi whispered, turning searching eyes towards him. "And wouldn't it bother you, finding out she's not perfect, that she's not always a pretty little dream."

"I love her for who she is, not what she is."

Usagi snorted in patent disbelief. "Sure, whatever. They're the same to you. How else could you love someone you've met only in your dreams?"

Mamoru struggled with the anger and doubts she was stirring up. She'd turned him away from his point, and it was vital to his sanity that he return to it. "I've always known I've loved her," he began.

"Even if you've never known her," she insisted. "You are positive that she's going to be exactly as you expect a Princess to be."


Usagi didn't quite stifle in time the low sound of pain that escaped her throat. "And you've always known she loves you back."


Well, at least he was definitely half-right.

"So what," she asked quietly, "exactly do you need me here for?"

He ran a weary, confused hand through his hair, unable to meet her eyes. How could he tell her he loved the Princess in one breath, then admit he had no clue what love was in another? "You said you loved me."

Another broken sound from her, before she wrapped her arms around her in a futile move for comfort. It would be foolish to deny it. "Yes."

He finally found the courage to raise his gaze to hers. "And how does it feel?"

Perhaps for the first time she understood what he was asking, and why he wanted to know. To know the concept of love was one thing, but to experience it was a completely different matter. How safe was it for him to love an ideal he would never find? Never find in her, or anyone else.

Even if he never loved her, at least she knew what it was like to love. He'd never have that, it seemed. The insight filled her with sorrow.

"Mamoru-san," she whispered sadly, "if you have to ask, then you've never been in love. Not even with your Princess."

"That...that doesn't explain anything."

It was such a Mamoru-like think to say, so very logical, that she had to laugh, even if it was bittersweet. "What do you want, a list?"

He didn't answer her, but his gaze did not drop from hers. She thought perhaps that desperation swirled in the depths of his eyes, but could not be sure it wasn't a trick of the moonlight. But there was something . . . something in the tension in his shoulders, in the way that he strove to seem nonchalant when her answer was so obviously important to him, that undid her.

"Okay, I'll tell you," she breathed. Then she closed her eyes and titled her head back, tasting the depths of her emotions. "It's everything. It's never being empty, even if it hurts being too full. It's knowing there's no hope for you, no matter what, there's not a second chance. It's never forgetting a single detail about them. You carry them around with you, because they've become part of you. It brings out the very best, and the very worst in you. You're selfish and selfless because you'll give them anything but, dammit, you deserve everything in return. And every moment you have with them feels like the first, and the last, and it's so much I can't stand it!"

She was gasping now, but couldn't seem to stop. "It's hating an illusion because he's chosen it over you, but wishing the illusion were real so he could be happy. And you know that if you lost them," she sobbed, "if you lost them you'd follow them to hell to bring them back because without them...without them..."

"You'd be lost yourself," he finished softly, hands clenched into fists as he watched her battle back tears. "And sometimes you can't decide if you want to laugh or be angry, or hit something or kiss someone, or maybe do it all at once. And you're alive, for the first time in your life, and you're complete."

"Yes," she wept. "Yes, that's exactly right. So now you know, for future reference." For the last and final time, she attempted to leave him.

And he was poleaxed, finally finding a name for what he felt, what he'd struggled with, all along. He'd been a fool, thinking love was a rational thing. Why had he cared what his mind had demanded, when all along the cadence of his heart had been matching Usagi's, beat for beat? The weight that lifted off his shoulders was immense, and he couldn't for the life of him figure out why he had had such a difficult time making a choice. There'd never been a choice. He was wrong in thinking he'd never felt love. He'd felt it since he'd met Usagi. If he'd only listened, truly listened to his heart, how many tears would have been avoided? How much joy had he missed in his dithering?

It seemed so easy now to let the Princess go.

She was half a dozen long strides away when his voice, surprised and thoughtful, reached her. "I finally understand. I see now why nothing has been..right...since I met you. Why I couldn't seem to find the right answers. I never used to feel much, you know, before I met you. That's why it's always so hard for me to understand what exactly it is that I'm feeling."

Her feet betrayed her and refused to go further.

"I never quite know what you'll make me feel next. I don't know anyone who has ever made me feel this way. To just...feel. Happiness, fear, rage, amusement...anything."

Everything before her was a wet, inky blur.

"That's why it was so easy for me to cling to her, I imagine. Something inside of me always told me that I loved her, whether I felt it or not. I've never thought to question what I knew, and I never knew to question what I felt. So I knew what love was, but not how it would feel. And I do."

"How great for you," she exhaled, tilting her head back to stare at a watery moon. And now that you know what love is like, you'll never even have the chance to find your Princess. I don't know how to be that for you.

She was absorbed in the shifting rainbows her tears cast on the image of the moon, and the various flavors of poignant pain that flowed through her veins; she did not sense him come up behind her. When he stepped around her and blocked her vision of the moon, she did not have time to wipe the evidence off her cheeks.

That was quite all right. He did it for her, cupping her face gently in warm hands and drying her tears with his thumbs. She looked exactly as he knew she would, eyes dark navy and skin beautifully translucent. He opened himself to wonderfully new emotions, reveling in each as salty tears painted his fingertips.

"What I'm trying to say is that you were the one who made me feel love, Usag-Usako. Whether or not my brain continues to tell me I have to love the heart seems to have ideas of its own. And I," he swallowed audibly, "I could, I have been able to, live without the Princess for a long time. But without you I'd just go back to feeling incomplete."

She could not understand. It made no sense. "But...but you said..."

Those salty fingertips tapped her lips closed. "I was wrong. I was a fool to not accept what I so obviously needed."

Usagi's hands came up to clasp tightly around his wrists, trying to convince herself this was real, this was actually happening.

"For future reference...I love you, Usako."

He drew a star-shaped locket from his pocket, winding it lovingly around her wrist. "A superhero told me to give this to the woman I loved. I think I had it right the first time."

Everything within her shifted, expanded, opened, and for the first time in weeks she felt she could take a deep breath. "Mamo-chan, the Princess, I-"

He shushed her once more. "She, wherever, whoever she is just...doesn't really matter anymore. For the first time, my mind and my heart seem to be telling me the same thing. She may have taken over my dreams, but you've taken everything else. I'm not going to make the same mistake twice."

She kissed his fingertip, letting the sweet sense of reality finally settled around her like a blanket. She would tell him soon enough the whereabouts of his Princess, but for now this was exactly what she wanted.

And then she kissed him under the moonlight to seal the promise.

First Truths

A Sailor Moon Story
by Lilac Summers

Part 14 of 15

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