Continuing Tales


A Sailor Moon Story
by LovelyLytton

Part 36 of 42

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Umino stumbled out of the flat less than a minute later, the laces of his trainers still untied, slamming the door excessively behind him. It was time for the two to wake up.

Naturally, Takeshi was nowhere to be seen. An elderly lady tutted at the young man who was standing in the middle of the pavement, and elbowed him while walking by. Already, this was a horrible day, Umino mused. Running around the next corner, he spotted his friend's tall retreating form and his careful and measured steps.

He jogged to catch up with him, and two men walked in silence. They cut a strange picture, what with one of them in perfectly smart attire and the other one in pyjama bottoms, trainers, a Burberry scarf, a hooded jumper and no jacket despite the rather chilly temperatures.

Speaking first would probably be the final nail in his coffin, Umino decided and stuck to silence.

Two blocks later, Takeshi spoke up ever so evenly.

"Did you know that she was there?"

Sighing, Umino answered.

"Yes. She arrived late yesterday afternoon, pounding on Ando's door. He was upset. Because of Rei, I think, and she went in to comfort him. I don't think you have anything to worry about, Minako obviously lov-"

Takeshi halted, turned towards him and cut across his friend harshly, but at least without raising his voice.

"Minako obviously loves to spend time with Ando."

"That's not what I was going to say."

"Umino, you have never seen her and I together, so tell me how exactly can you pass any judgement on her feelings for me? I'd appreciate it if you could stay out of this. It's what you did when she went into Ando's bedroom yesterday night, so I don't see how you have a right to speak about it today. And now please do excuse me, I have to get to the office and I am already late because I was actually worried that she might have been in some sort of trouble."

He strode away, leaving a floundering Umino in his untied trainers behind.

At about the same time, Ando woke up to the smell of a full ashtray on his bedside locker, and the comfortable weight of a girl in his arms. Some people needed a minute or two to remember where they were, what they had done the day before or what their plans for today were, but Ando's mind was functioning perfectly the second his eyes opened.

How could he forget?

The images had tormented him all night long, and it was only when Minako had stubbornly pulled him into a tight embrace that his mind stopped reeling. She had brought him comfort, she had brought him temporary peace. Smiling down on her messy blonde curls, he reached for the pack of cigarettes lying beside him and lit one.

A mumbled voice came from general area of his chest, where the waking girl was resting.

"Please tell me that you don't normally light a cigarette first thing in the morning."

He chuckled.

"No, normally I have a good wank, but what with you here, I don't think that's appropriate."

She laughed noiselessly and took the cigarette from his hand, bringing it to her lips and inhaling deeply.

"How are you feeling?", she asked him without lifting her head to see his eyes. Ando never hid anything from her, so there was no need to search his face for additional information.

"Like shit."

The statement hung in the smoke filled air, and just as she wanted to speak up again, utter soothing words of comfort, they heard the door slam and furious steps pounding down the hall.

Finally pushing herself up on her elbows and thus entangling herself from his embrace, she looked at the pale man questioningly. Colour had yet to return to his cheeks, ever since Rei's hand had touched his he looked like a ghost: white, scared, lonely. You could practically hear the chains rattle as he moved.

Without knocking, the door was opened and its frame filled by the lanky form of Ando's flatmate and fellow shitennou.

The younger man was seething. Also, he looked uncharacteristically messy for so vain a person. Minako's alert eyes travelled over the angry philosopher, but he didn't even notice the scan he was given. Normally, he would have been either smug at the attention or offended because it was given in so critical a manner.

"Ando, a word please."

"Not now, Umino."

"Right now, Ando! Move!"

Taking the cigarette from Minako's fingers, Ando inhaled and shot his flatmate a weary look. Umino stepped into the room and pulled up the blinds, bathing them in sunlight that was more than a little unwelcome to their sleep deprived selves. They had talked until the first birds had begun twittering, as if the sound of their voices could drown out to the image implemented in his mind. It was a vain effort, both knew it and yet it was all they could do at the given time. Words had no power here. But touch did, which was why Minako had insisted on hugging him and had stayed in his bed until now.

When the journalist just dropped back into the pillows and placed a hand on his eyes in order to shield them from the light, Umino knew that Ando was not in a reasonable mood, and thus turned to the girl.

"Takeshi was just here and saw you. Sleeping. In his arms!" He gestured rudely to his comrade, and fixed the senshi with a stern face.

"Takeshi knows that we are just fri-", Ando peeking out from between his fingers, tried to cut in, but he was interrupted by the lanky youth before he could finish his sentence.

"Takeshi knows that his girlfriend was not at her flat this night, Takeshi knows that you two spend a ridiculous amount of time together, Takeshi know that you and your sneering and your taunting broke them apart back then, BUT HE DOESN'T KNOW THAT YOU'RE JUST FRIENDS!"

Minako had immediately jumped off the bed once Umino started his tirade, squeezed Ando's hand in passing and then left the room with an unreadable expression on her face. Once again, their flat witnessed the slamming of a door and the two men remained alone in the merciless light that pierced through the windows.

While Minako's first instinct was to run to Takeshi's office and tell him that everything was alright and he had no reason to worry, she knew better than to corner him. Their last fight had taught her that. He needed time to calm down, and she needed time to think about how she could make him see that Ando was not a threat to whatever it was they had.

Because she was still not quite sure that it counted as a relationship.

While they had mind-blowing sex, enjoyed each other's company and often found themselves deep in conversation, they shared so little. The senshi had often thought that it must be very difficult to find two people who were more unsuited to be in a committed relationship with another then herself and Takeshi, love aside. And she had wondered more than once whether they would fallen for each other if they didn't have their memories, if they really were just Minako and Takeshi. The fact that she still didn't know the answer to that question made her sick to the stomach. She was certain that Umino and Ami would be head over heels, as they shared so much. Makoto and Hiromasa seemed made for each other, very much like Usagi and Mamoru. But what about herself?

So once again, she blew the lectures in the wind and went home instead of university. What with all the troubling thoughts in her mind, she wouldn't be able to focus on her studies anyway.

Throwing the keys on the sideboard in the hall, she walked into her living room. A few sheets of paper rested on her couch, and only when she picked them up and looked at the forceful, yet elegant strokes of the pencil did she realise what her comforting of Ando might have done to the fragile bond she shared with the impossibly stern man she had never been able to stop loving. Gently tracing over the drawn lines of the French Windows, she sighed. The palace on the Moon had been full of these, and more than once had Kunzite snuck through them to meet her for a forbidden rendezvous.

Not surprisingly, Minako felt that she needed advice and the sound of happy voices and thus went to the only person who was guaranteed to supply both.

"You look horrible. Didn't you get any sleep last night?"

"Thanks for the compliment, and no, I didn't. Not much anyway. So please make me one of those hellish espressos your boyfriend enjoys so much."

Brunette pony-tail swishing behind her, Makoto disappeared behind the counter.

"Do you want cake?"

"Not today, no."

Makoto cleaned the cake shovel with a wet sponge and just as she was about to carefully slide it under a pink frosted piece of strawberry short cake, did she notice that her friend had actually declined.

"Excuse me, but did you say you don't want one?"

"Yep, that's what I said."

Shaking her head, Makoto picked the whole pink wonder out of the counter and put it right in front of Minako, who was leaning against the counter. Several customers looked up at the pretty chef and the even prettier cake.

"Does your rejection of this beauty and your appearance during lecture time have anything to do with your lack of sleep?"

A grin flitted over Minako's face.

"You are a master detective." Greedy fingers grabbed the small cup holding the almost black liquid as soon as Makoto had set it down in front of her, but Minako had underestimated how hot the beverage was going to be and promptly burned her tongue. She cursed and sat it back down, eyeing it morosely.

"I have to. Do you want me to continue making educated guesses or will you just spill the beans?"

An elderly man waved over to them, ordering a piece of the rejected cake with a wide smile on his friendly face. As soon as Makoto had put it on a plate, Minako grabbed the china and brought it to the man, all charm and no worries. She really would have made a terrific actress, Makoto mused and waited for her friend to return and to resume the conversation.

"Actually, I need a little cheering up and I have always enjoyed quizzes, especially when I know the answers and others don't. So why don't you ask, I'll answer and we see how quickly you have me fixed."

Rolling her eyes, Makoto put the cake back in the counter.

"Does it have to do with Takeshi and him calling me at seven o'clock in the morning to ask where you are?"

"Yes. Wait, he did that? Oh shoot."

"Does it have to do with Ando?"

"You really are a master detective, aren't you? How did you know that?"

"Min, while I appreciate the compliment, it's not that hard to figure out that your boyfriend might find it difficult that you spend just as much time with another man. Another rather attractive man. With whom he – according to Hiromasa – has always had a strained relationship. They are rivals as much as friends. And naturally, you are completely oblivious to all of this, aren't you?"

Minako buried her head in her arms in a gesture of mock despair, one that might not have been on display for comic relief only. Her muffled words were hard to understand, but Makoto had years of training and peaked her ears just a little bit more, thus catching what the blonde was saying.

"I know that Takeshi has some difficulties with me and Ando hanging out. Especially since he sort of walked in on us this morning."

"Excuse me, Takeshi walked in on you and Ando? Minako, you silly thing! What have you done?"

Makoto's voice had taken on an edge; everyone knew how much she liked Takeshi and how highly she valued him as a person. She sounded appalled, and fixed her friend with a look that would one day scare her children into perfect obedience.

"It's not like that! I stayed over at Ando's last night. He and Rei had a huge argument, well not really an argument, but it was something major and it wasn't good and he just needed me there. I completely forgot that I was supposed to meet Takeshi, so he got worried and came looking for me at Ando's and Umino's flat this morning."

"And he found you."

"Yes, he found me."

Reaching in the counter, the pink cake was once again lifted, a large slice of it was put on one of the beautiful delicate plates and placed in front of Minako.

"Talk to him tonight, explain it, and please do stay calm while you do so. Fix this, Minako."

"Do you and Hiro stay calm when you talk about massively emotional and catchy stuff?"

"No, but we do not have a history of breaking up all the time."

Grumbling, Minako viciously began to pick the cake apart with a silver fork, but didn't eat it.

"Also, we need to take care of Rei. She is not in a good place right now, and while she won't ask for help, she needs it. She needs us. I've been to visit her yesterday, and I will go over again in an hour or so, but it would be good if you could invite her over for dinner or something."

A heap of whipped cream was deftly dropped on the cake, before Makoto strode over to her old-fashioned telephone to let Hiromasa know that they would have a guest this evening.

Rei was not surprised to see Minako step through the doors. The blonde sat down beside her, giving her a troubled look. Rei's room was a mess, and this was unheard of. Rei was very much like Takeshi in that aspect, both kept their homes obsessively tidy and clean, and this deviance from the norm was worrisome to say the least. The priestess herself didn't look much better. Her hair was unkempt, her clothes wrinkly and the bags under her eyes told the story of a night full of tears.

"Did you go to him?", Rei asked, her voice shaking ever so lightly.

"I did. It was good that you sent me, he's very upset."

"Thank you, Minako. I owe you."

Shaking her head, the blonde reached for a comb lying on a nearby table and began ever so carefully to run it through the long black hair of her friend. Even though Rei herself had asked her to go to Ando, she had a guilty conscience. The priestess had needed her here just as much, but Minako had been stupid enough to trust her assurances that she would be okay and had allowed herself to be send over to the man her friend loved so much that she'd rather suffer herself than know that he was all alone and in pain.

It was two o'clock at night when the door was finally pushed open and Takeshi entered his penthouse. He had worked for hours to keep himself occupied, but only his stubbornness had kept him at the desk and in his office. His thoughts had long since been somewhere else.

So when he saw the sleeping girl on his black leather couch, he wasn't sure whether to be relieved or angry. She had come to him, but she had not been invited. She was sleeping on his couch just as she had been sleeping in Ando's bed. She was everything to him, but once again he had to wonder which role it was that he had assumed in her life.

The soft thunk his briefcase made when he put in on the cold floor woke her up. She rose to a sitting position, quickly rubbing the sleep from her eyes. She had stayed awake as long as she could, but the previous night with its lack of sleep had finally taken its toll and claimed her. The carefully applied make-up was now smeared, but Takeshi couldn't tell whether this was due to sleeping or due to crying. Remembering how proud Venus had always been, he would have guessed it was the former.

"Takeshi, I am sorry for not calling you yesterday."

He responded with a nod and loosened his tie, pulling one of chairs from the dining room table close and sitting down on it. There was plenty of space on the couch, or on the two armchairs that flanked each side of it, but he preferred to keep his distance. The city's lights glimmered in the velvet sky, and it seemed as if all of them were watching the lovers now.

He cloaked himself in silence and waited for her to resume.

"He visited Rei at the temple yesterday, and it didn't go well. Both of them were devastated, and I needed to go check on him. I had to. It was an act of friendship, please don't be angry with me."

Untangling herself from her sitting position, she made a move to get up and walk towards to him, but he stopped her with a motion of his hand.

"Shouldn't you have been at Rei's then?"

"Excuse me?"

"Shouldn't you make sure that Rei is fine instead of Ando? She is your fellow senshi, so shouldn't your first loyalty be towards her and not towards the man who has been causing her so much pain?"

The insinuation hit a little too close at home and the fact that it mirrored her own thoughts did nothing to alleviate her ever growing guilty conscience. She shouldn't have gone to Ando, no matter how hard Rei had insisted. She should have stayed put and sensed how bad her friend had felt, but she hadn't and the thought stung. Horribly so. Once more, Takeshi had pushed all the right buttons without even trying. So Minako slipped into a defensive mode in the blink of an eye, temper flaring and eyes blazing. She snapped.

"I don't think that you of all people should talk to me about loyalty, Kunz-"

She stopped herself before she finished the name none of them had uttered before, but the damage had been done. Her eyes were wide with shock and apologies that would never ever be good enough. The rage had disappeared as quickly as it had arrived, but it left a bitter taste in her mouth.

Bowing his head, he collected himself, neither willing nor able to let her in on the pain her words had caused him. So to her he still was Kunzite and Kunzite only. Murderer, traitor, monster. Suddenly, finding her in his mate's bed was no longer as big a problem as it had been a precious few hours ago. A part of him wished that this jealousy could still be all that consumed his mind and worry him, but a barren grey landscape full of something far more vile lay in front of him and he suddenly found himself at a loss as to how to navigate around it. He knew that if he looked up at her, he would see the image of her broken body, twisted terribly by his own magic. Some evil deeds were never forgotten, no matter how hard one tried.

Takeshi got up and moved towards his open kitchen, calling over his shoulder as he went.

"Leave a note next time."

He fixed himself a drink and moved into his small study, not bothering to close the door behind him. Minako would not follow him now.

On the couch, Minako Aino cursed her stupidity and buried her head in her hands, disappearing behind a curtain of gold.

While she did stay for the rest of the night, no touch passed between, and he refused to meet her eyes.

She had never felt like such a failure.


A Sailor Moon Story
by LovelyLytton

Part 36 of 42

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