Continuing Tales

First Truths

A Sailor Moon Story
by Lilac Summers

Part 4 of 15

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First Truths

It was hard to tell who was more shocked, Mamoru or Usagi. Usagi stared at her fist as though it were something alien, some foreign object placed at the end of her wrist where her real hand usually resided. Because surely, surely she had not just punched Chiba Mamoru in the face.

It took a few more seconds for her to realize that her hand hurt like hell.

"OWWW! Ouch ouch ouch ouch ouch." She danced around slightly on one foot, clutching her abused fist to her chest. Yet another point against Chiba: he had a head as hard as a rock. Probably to shield the mush he had for brains, she thought angrily. But no matter how insulting he had been, she had totally crossed the line. She had no right to hurt him. She had never been violent and now was completely ashamed at herself.

She finally stopped dancing long enough to stand still and ignore the pain in her right hand. Mustering the courage, she looked up at his face.

Mamoru had blanked out for a second. Yes, he'd been completely out of bounds saying such things to her. If he had heard another man say the same, he would have no respect for him. But, in all fairness, they'd been exchanging insults freely...and Odango Atama had just smashed him royally. It was a novel experience being socked squarely in the jaw by a girl who barely came up to his shoulder. It also brought back, however, disturbing memories of earlier times when older kids and even adults had thought that violence was an easy way to get a lesson through to him.

He slowly reached up and wiped at the small trickle of blood that had dribbled from the side of his mouth. The inside of his bottom lip was pulsing painfully from where it had been ground against his teeth. He touched it lightly with his tongue and could feel where the skin had split. She sure did pack a punch, he reflected offhand. Should he give in to the pulsing anger that was clawing at his insides, or compliment her right arm? Since he feared he was much closer to giving in to the former, he decided it would be much safer to get the heck away from her. Fast.

He spun on his heel and walked away, not glancing back. Usagi stared with dismay at his retreating back. Oh, no no no, this was no good. Better that he scream at her, call her all sorts of stupid names, than just draw that cold shield back over his face. Though she could honestly say that she didn't much like the guy, the prospect of his truly hating her sent her into a panic.

"Sata-I mean, Mamoru-san...wait!" Usagi trotted quickly after him, managing to run around in front of him, where she promptly clasped her hands together and bowed low at the waist. "I'm sorry! Sorry, sorry, sorry. I'm awful, I'm despicable. I really didn't mean it!"

She chanced a peek at him. He stood tall, aloof, unforgiving. His frame tensed and jaw clenched, she saw the glimmer of blood by his mouth and gasped. My god, she'd actually drawn blood! She could see it would take more than an apology to get through to him again.

"Alright." Straightening, she took a few brave steps forward and lifted her chin in invitation. The cold silver in his eyes made her quake, but fair was fair.

Mamoru clenched his fists, doing his utmost to ignore her yet failing miserably. What was with this girl? Why was she taunting him when he had let it go so easily for her? "Go away," he said through clenched teeth.

"No, really, it's only fair. Though you WERE being particularly nasty, it wasn't right for me to hit you. Go for it." She stepped closer.

Mamoru decided she had simply lost her wits. That would explain why she had had the gall to hit him in the first place. He attempted to step around the crazy woman. She moved left and blocked his path. He moved the other way and she moved with him. Frustrated, he flung his hands outward and vented his anger at her. "WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?"

Usagi frowned, thinking she had made that perfectly obvious. Well, maybe the man was slower than she thought. Enunciating slowly for his benefit, she said, "I give you permission to hit me back. Right in the jaw. Tit for tat." She raised that stubborn chin, to his incredulous gaze, one more time. Then she paused and added quickly, "Just don't knock any of my teeth out." She braced her feet and closed her eyes.

In seconds he felt all his anger, disgust, and pain drain out of him.

It was simply . . . gone. To be replaced with, amazingly enough, amusement. If he allowed himself, he could actually learn to enjoy this wacky girl who could send his feelings roiling from rage to laughter with her antics. Only IF he allowed himself.

He placed one blunt-edged finger on that small, bold chin of hers and edged it down to a more comfortable height. Her eyes fluttered open. "Huh?"

She found herself looking once more into his eyes and the transformation she saw in them totally befuddled her. They were warm now, a hazy shade of gray-blue like the mist during a summer rain. Mist during a summer rain she thought dryly, Usagi, that's pretty cheesy. But she was sure she was right, as she'd witnessed firsthand how icy cold those eyes of his could become. Flustered, she could only wonder at the change. "Well, aren't you going to hit me?"

His finger dropped from her chin and his mouth edged upward slightly.

"Yeah, right. It'd probably kill you, runt that you are. And with my luck you'd come back to haunt me from the grave."

"And Satan returns," she muttered softly. "Oh, well then, you have missed your once-in-a-lifetime chance. Don't say I didn't offer to even the odds!" She shook her finger in his face, as if reprimanding him for not punching her. "Later, I don't want you whining about how I hit you."

He grabbed the offending finger and moved it away from where it dangerously hovered over his left eye. He glanced down at her small hand in his, the hand she had banged up when she'd used it to sledgehammer his mouth, and felt a curious sense of knowing click into place. He dismissed the déjà vu. "Don't give me that, Odango. You knew perfectly well that I'd never hurt you. I've yet to meet another person who is as unwary around me as you are. Most other girls have some sense in their heads."

Usagi took her finger back and pouted back at him, started to deny the accusation, but gave up. "So what if I did? It's not my fault you're a marshmallow at heart. Besides, there was still a chance that you might be mad enough to punch me, so the offer was still good. You're just upset because you couldn't take advantage of it."

Mamoru could only shake his head, highly entertained, as he began to walk away from her again. "Odango, I shudder to think that you have set to psychoanalyzing me. It's been, as usual, interesting talking to you. I hope it's at least another month before I have the pleasure again," he called over his shoulder.

Usagi stood, watching him walk away, equal parts laughter and annoyance in her eyes. That man...that man would be the death of her one of these days. Still, it'd been sweet of him to forgive her so easily. "Hey Chiba!" she shouted out. He paused briefly at the edge of the park and turned his head back a little. "I AM sorry! And by the way, what does psychoanomalize mean? Did you insult me again?"

Her only answer was his deep laughter, drifting back towards her.

"Well, did you? Hey, Satan, answer me!"

She had all of half an hour more to enjoy her day off before the musical beeping of her communicator intruded. She grumbled softly and rummaged in her backpack until she found the annoying machine. Makoto's face awaited her at the other end.

"Don't tell me, let me guess...I'm thinking, attack at the school, right?"

Makoto's weary face failed to smile. "You've got it. But it's worse than that, Usagi. Much worse."

Usagi paused in the act of gathering her things and stared fearfully at the small screen. "How worse?"

"Worse as in we're-stuck-in-school worse. The instant the first screams sounded, all the teachers were instructed to lock their classroom doors and not let students out for any reason. Not even bathroom breaks. The idiots are all waiting for the Sailor Senshi to show, not knowing they're keeping us locked up in this damn school. We can't possibly get out and remain anonymous, Usagi-chan. I think...I think you're going to handle this on your own," Makoto's subdued voice faltered, eyes apologetic.

Usagi sunk to her knees in the soft grass. "Alone? What about Rei? She doesn't go to our school!"

Makoto nodded slightly. "But it's across town, Usagi-chan. You have to get here NOW. I hope Rei can make it in time to help." Makoto chewed on her bottom lip nervously, disappeared for an instant when another student obviously tried to see what she was doing, reappearing after a second to continue whispering worriedly. "Hurry, Usagi-chan. The youma's got a whole gym period trapped out in the courtyard."

Usagi was already running towards the nearest secluded area to transform. She would be able to be at the school in less than three minutes if she were in Senshi form. "I'm on my way, Mako-chan. Don't do anything to call attention to yourselves." She turned off the link and transformed, then ran as fast as she could towards the school.

In the classroom, Makoto shut off the link and sent a fervent prayer out to her Creator for Usagi's safety. She was sure that Ami and Minako, in their own classes, were doing the same. Turning, she joined all the other students at the windows that lined the classroom walls, waiting for Sailor Moon, one of her best friends, to save the day. It was what every student in that school was waiting for.
Not even the surging power of the Moon could stop Usagi's knees from knocking together. They were trembling when she began the transformation and they were trembling when she stopped, yet now they were clad in red boots. They shook all the way from the park to the rooftop adjoining the school and shook still as she looked over the campus.

She did not want to fight this thing alone. Sure, she'd fought youmas on her own before, but she had always known that backup was on its way. Even if the backup had arrived a smidgen late to be of much help, the knowledge that her fellow Senshi were available was able to see her through. But this was a whole new case. Rei was FAR across town, and Sailor Moon didn't have the luxury to wait.

What she needed was a plan, Sailor moon thought as she studied the scene below her. A female youma dressed in a slinky black gown was throwing diamond pins at her victims and sucking their energy. She'd chosen as her target the entire soccer team, and the students lolled listlessly to the ground as their life force was depleted.

Well, it seemed that the number one priority was to get her to stop draining the students. Sailor Moon prepared to make a speech and draw the youma's attention, thought better of it and immediately hurled her tiara at the monster, hoping she'd get it then and there and the fight would be over before it had begun. Novel concept, right?

Of course, she hadn't really expected it to be that easy, and it wasn't. Youmas were hard to catch off-guard. Especially when you had to scream out your attack at them. The discus flew at the youma's head with alarming speed, but the monster swirled with gracefully and narrowly avoided being decapitated. "Diamante!" she screeched.

Oh well, speech it is. Sailor Moon leapt down from her high perch off the roof and landed in the middle of the student-strewn courtyard just in time to catch her returning tiara in her right hand. She felt trapped, surrounded on all sides by the tall walls of the school. General movement caught her eyes and she stared, unbelieving, at the hundreds of students who peered out at her from behind the windows. They were, she was further daunted to realize, cheering at her appearance.

Her fear increased a hundredfold.

So many people, so many possibilities for casualties. One wrong move and the youma could blast a school wall. Thousands of thoughts flitted like quicksilver through Sailor Moon's brain. This time she had to be careful; she had to think. It all depended on her and she hated it. She turned wary eyes to her adversary, dismayed to find that the elegant monster was simply waiting for her to do something.

So she did.

"School, though boring, is a place where students are supposed to feel safe! I will not allow you to wake up those who are trying to sleep through classes! I, Sailor Moon, will not forgive you. In the name of the Moon, I shall punish you!" She struck a pose and found comfort in the routine of it, then had it shattered when thunderous applause broke out from behind the school walls. Do they think this is some game? Don't they realize I'm the only one here? She had the dizzying sense that perhaps this was all some dream she was performing in, that the applause behind her was canned, prerecorded from some TV sitcom. She stood frozen in place.

"Diamante!" screamed the banshee, letting lose hundreds of tiny, cutting diamond chips. Sailor Moon's knees buckled beneath her and she fell to the ground in time to avoid most of the damage, thankful the other students were already on the ground and that the ones that had yet to be drained had sought shelter at the farthest corner of the courtyard.

Diamante screamed in fury and decided to get rid of the nuisance by more direct means. She withdrew one diamond earring and it transformed into a wicked-looking blade. Sailor Moon scurried to her feet and stumbled backward, drawing the fiend away from the unconscious bodies of her classmates.

Diamante continued to slash in furious motions at Sailor Moon, crowding her, shadowing her movements so that she had no place to run, jump, duck, anything. Sailor Moon knew it was only a matter of time before Diamante managed to hurt her with the sword. Had the other Senshi been here, they would have been able to distract her long enough for her to use her own attack, but now she didn't have a second to even raise her Moon Wand, using it mainly for parrying purposes at the moment.

Dammit, and she'd just about healed from all the other nights, too.

Sailor Moon swung up harshly to keep the sword from slicing her head open, managed to block with a resounding clang from the Moon Wand, and kicked out fiercely at her opponent's shins. The demon fell to one knee, screaming piercingly, while Sailor Moon had time to bop her smartly on the head with the butt of her wand before jumping back substantially.

She had no time to catch her breath, no time to think. She had only a second to swing the Moon Wand up and point it at her attacker, and try to begi-

"Diamante!" The youma, knowing the pretty pink moon-shaped thingy aimed at her was NOT a good thing, panicked and threw her arsenal of weapons at the Senshi wielding it.

Sailor Moon knew she'd made a tactical error. She should have sought shelter before beginning the attack, for now she was wide open, backed into a corner, with a flurry of razor diamond chips and daggers coming her way. Caught in mid twirl as she was, she could only stare at oncoming doom and hope against hope that this was not Tuxedo Mask's day off.

She heard students all around her draw in shocked breaths, heard a few screams resounding from the school behind her, and prayed for a miracle.

A miracle in the form of a rose.

She got a miracle in the form of a cape.

It swirled around her, protecting her from the chips that flew around her in a flurry. That cape was connected to a very warm, male body that took her down to the ground and shielded her from the rest of the debris. The rose, which she was blocked from seeing, had already done its job and cut the path of several larger projectiles short.

Sailor Moon turned breathless lips towards her savior. "You're late," she wheezed.

He smiled, she imagined it reached his eyes behind the mask, and she smiled with him.

"Sorry. I was-" he couldn't very well tell her he'd been in the shower when he'd felt her sense of urgency, "-detained."

"Are you ready?" he asked softly. She nodded and he pulled away from her, extending his hand. She gripped it, felt the heat of his hand through the fabric of both their gloves, and tried not to blush like a schoolgirl. Dammit, I am a schoolgirl!

He hauled her up with little effort, steadying her when she wobbled. She gave him a confirming nod and he bounded towards Diamante. Her thigh protested where a new cut was making itself known, but she'd have to deal with it for now.

"Keep her busy," she called to Tuxedo Mask. She shouldn't have bothered for that was exactly what he was doing, throwing a multitude of sharp roses at the youma. It seemed so absurdly easy now that she wasn't being hounded by the monster. Sailor Moon rotated lightly on her feet and focused her energy into the wand, stumbled lightly when her thigh throbbed angrily, but steeled herself against it and sent the attack hurtling towards Diamante. Tuxedo Mask avoided the ensuing light display adroitly, returning to her side just as Sailor Moon decided to let her thigh have its way. She collapsed towards the ground.

To him, it seemed that one minute she was standing firmly by his side, and the next she was weaving towards the floor. Tuxedo Mask, acting on instinct, hefted her up into his arms before she touched the razor-decorated floor. He cursed long and fluently when he saw the cut on her leg.

"I'm sorry, I didn't realize...are you alright?" he asked, feeling so out of ease since their last encounter. They had not parted on such amicable terms last time. It seemed every time he talked to her, she was wounded, or tired, or suffering. And every time he talked to her, she always ended back up in his arms.

Sailor Moon tried to force the heat rising to her face down, couldn't help but notice that the entire student body was ogling them through the windows, and busied herself patting at the cut with her skirt. "No worries. I'm fine."

His eyes darkened behind the mask. "I should have been here sooner. I'm sorry, I should have found you faster. Should have saved you faster."

He held her a little more tightly, though neither was aware of it.

Sailor Moon tilted her chin higher, sudden pride leaping into her bearing. "You didn't need to help me faster. I held up pretty well on my own," she said, and she realized she was right. She'd put up a pretty good fight all by herself. She couldn't help but preen a little, under the circumstances.

Tuxedo Mask felt that familiar surge of warmth begin in him once more, charmed by the sight of Sailor Moon's small chin raised proudly to him, much like Usagi's had been earlier.

Sailor Moon let her newfound sense of accomplishment fade into the background. There was something so...right, somehow, about that quirky grin of his. Right and yet misplaced, as if perhaps it was someone else's grin she had seen before. She wondered if he realized he was holding her in his arms with hundreds of student spectators surrounding him. She figured the teachers were loathe to end this little drama played out right before them, and she knew her classmates would rather die than miss seeing something juicy like this play out. The drained students sprawled around them in the courtyard were slowly coming to their senses, too.

It's unreal. It has to be. This was the kind of fantasy she dreamt up during math class. Tuxedo Mask and Sailor Moon saving the world for all to see. Then he'd take her in his arms-like so-and look deep into her eyes-like so-and kiss her mindless.

Sailor Moon continued looking up at him, praying he'd forget where they were and who they were, and just kiss her. But he seemed perfectly content to just stare at her, his face as close to hers as Mamoru's had been when he'd pillowed her head on his lap. And then, just as now, she'd almost wished that he'd kiss her... But that would have been outrageous! Chiba Mamoru, kissing HER?

No more outrageous than Tuxedo Mask, Usagi. No more outrageous. Perhaps, but Tuxedo Mask still didn't know the girl behind disguise. And that thought, ultimately, gave her courage. He'll never know who I am.

He was so close it only took a fraction of movement to seal his lips with her own. She felt him start beneath her, heard the gleeful gasps of their audience behind her, and feared that if he pulled away from her she would die.

But he didn't pull away. He remained frozen, their lips against each other's still and unmoving for the longest moment she dared, and then she began to release him. But he didn't let her. His lips followed hers as she drew back, and no longer was the kiss a chaste touching of skin. Her lips parted under the pressure of his mouth and she thought that now there really was no doubt that she was dreaming. Nothing in the real world could feel this good. Then HIS lips parted and she could taste him as surely as he could taste her, and she revised her opinion. She wasn't dreaming, she was dead. Surely now she had to be in heaven.

They both forgot where they were, the audience, the time, the world.

Only the far-off sound of sirens intruded enough to clear the haze. They both startled forward, jarring their lips a little roughly. Sailor Moon felt Tuxedo Mask's mouth jolt lightly, as though he were flinching, and heard his hiss of pain seconds before they both pulled away.

Instantly she was on her own two feet. They refused to look at one another, and in the next moment applause and cheering so thunderous startled them so completely, they could only gaze around the yard in horror at the amount of witnesses. The next moment he was gone, a mere flash of black leaping from rooftop to rooftop. She vaulted up a second later in the opposite direction, not stopping until she was blocks away and safely ensconced behind a chimney.

She could not believe what had just happened. She had kissed Tuxedo Mask. Tuxedo Mask had kissed her. It was like a mantra inside her head.

She could still taste him. She turned crab-red at the wayward thought, but couldn't contain herself from wetting her lower lip with her tongue in remembrance.

The slightly metallic taste of blood teased her tastebuds.

Baffled, Sailor Moon brought one gloved finger to her lips and inspected the subsequent red stain. Somehow she knew that it had come from his mouth...

"Oh my god."

First Truths

A Sailor Moon Story
by Lilac Summers

Part 4 of 15

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