2014-03-12 - Tuxedo Mask and the Dangers of Bad Judgement Calls
|Title: Tuxedo Mask and the Dangers of Bad Judgement Calls|
Sometimes, when desperate, even Tuxedo Mask decides to do things that are honestly kind of blindingly stupid. Like appear in Usagi's bedroom window. And then decide that her house is totally not the place to talk about the Star Shards. And then defy the Outers.
...places. Usagi's house, then an alley.
| OOC - IC Date:|
OOC 3/12/14 - IC i am so not sure how this works, now
"Usagi-chan, you need to go to bed in thirty minutes, alright?"
Luna sits by Usagi's bedroom door, tail twitching. She wants to leave. She has work to do. There's work to be done here as well, but Usagi is an ongoing project. The blonde girl is slumped over her desk, batting at her alarm clock with an open palm. It slides back and forth, her eyes following along.
"I'm serious. If you do poorly in school this week, it'll cause a lot of problems for us. The Dark Kingdom is becoming more aggressive. We can't have your mother interfering with your duties as a soldier."
Slide slide slide. "Ahuh."
"It'll be easy with Ami-chan tutoring you, right?"
"Mm." Usagi lays her hands flat and stares at the minute hand. Twenty nine minutes left.
Luna watches the her young charge's back, searching for some acceptance. Some steeling of the spine, maybe, or a slump of defeat. Today's Usagi does seem very defeated already. "I see. Remember what I said, alright?"
Usagi twists, looking over her shoulder, just in time to see Luna pick her tiny briefcase up in her mouth and pad silently out the door. She exhales, turning her gaze toward her bed. Maybe if she rocks back and forth to get enough momentum, she can just fall into it from here.
Her window is open. A set of white lace curtains dance in the gentle breeze.
A moment after the moon cat has wandered off with her tiny briefcase, there's red and black silk dancing in the gentle breeze with those white lace curtains. It's late, and the quiet is a lulling thing, and the pattern of white on black and red is almost dreamlike.
It may take a moment to register, and even then, it's still dreamlike and slow when it's not just silk in the breeze, but the glint of a brilliant white mask, the startling contrast of a white glove draped over a black clad knee, and something like starlight in the sheen of the black silk.
Tuxedo Mask could say something, but for the moment, he's just watching her, thinking.
Usagi leans. The chair rocks, and then thumps back into place. Lean, thump. Leeaan, thump. Leeeeaaaaa--
Usagi narrows her eyes. She's coming for you, bed.
A flash of silk in the window. She knows that shade. She sees it in her dreams.
For a tense, silent moment, Usagi Tsukino remains frozen in a jumble of limbs and chair. She is staring breathlessly up at Tuxedo Mask, yes, but there is another danger in her house. It is more familiar to her. The usual counting in her head suffices: ...eight, nine, ten.
The blonde girl cranes her neck to look at the door. No footsteps. No mom. Invigorated, she squirms out from underneath her crashed ship, drawing herself up against the side of her bed. With her knees and arms tucked against her chest, her pajamas form a shapeless pink blob.
In her room. A boy in her room. A boy that is not her little brother. Everything around her is suddenly childish and unbecoming. If only she could sink into her rabbit-print comforter and die.
Not quite in her room. That would be crossing a line he's pretty sure he hasn't crossed yet. There are a lot of after alls involved, even if--
He stays frozen while she waits for footsteps, chin tilted up and attention on the door to her room, himself-- and then since there's nothing, he leans in the window a little further, and reaches one of those white-gloved hands out to her, expression visible now, clearly serious. He looks to meet her eyes from behind his mask. "Take my hand," he tells her, not sounding like he expects an argument (he is so not looking at her pink fluffy PJs; maybe he can't see them); he sounds urgent.
Urgent enough that he gets a little impatient that she's pressed up against her bed, so he does actually take a step in, hanging onto the window frame as he offers his hand. The moment Usagi does?
There's a brief tug and a swirling of black and red silk around them both, and then the troubled soldier of love and justice in the adorable pajamas will find herself scooped up and carried in Tuxedo Mask's strong arms, already on the roof next door by the time the cape blows free and billows behind them.
There is, in fact, rather a lot of roof-to-roof ninja leaping going on, now, so Tuxedo Mask's not looking at Usagi's face, he's looking where he's going. On the way, he tells her, "I don't know what you know about these Star Shards, or how the Dark Kingdom's involved, but you have a much better chance of finding out than I do."
That is probably the least romantic thing he could possibly have said.
Except the rooftops might not be as clear as one might think.
Sources had said that the latest shard had been ~stolen~ by a man in a tuxedo and a mask. A sense of need had drawn Michiru to this very spot, and - uncertain if there was anything to be gained by it at all, the woman waited, dressed as the elegant soldier in a sailor suit - Sailor Neptune. Neptune had learned to trust her intutions, and although the awkward feeling that came from waiting for something... that she was not sure was even coming, her eyes narrowing as she looks towards the horizon.
Minutes tick by... perhaps even an hour, and...
"There...!" cries Neptune, lifting her hand up to kinda point at the jumping Tuxedo Mask. "Does that not look like ~him~?" she says, voice lifting with a certain gratification.
Usagi hangs on those words, her gaze flitting from the mask to the glove. His hand.
She knows what Luna will say. She knows what her mom will say. She knows what Rei and Ami and Makoto will say. They're right. They will all be right, every one of them. It's a stupid thought she's having right now. No matter how courageous and gallant Tuxedo Mask is, no matter what he's said before, he is still a thief in a tuxedo.
The curtain billows around him. Usagi catches sight of the moon. She springs to her feet, clasping his glove with both hands.
It's different like this. Sailor Moon leaps from building to building with impetuous ease, springing lightly on her heels like her boots were made to do that. Usagi doesn't, except for now, except for in the arms of a boy who makes the same sort of speeches she does. She doesn't realize how much she's smiling.
Oh. Oh, that.
"Um," Usagi murmurs, grasping silk more tightly. "Star shards, huh? Yeah, I know... things. About them."
A pit opens inside her chest. Is she really the one who should be doing this?
She could ask Mami.
Uranus is used to rooftop patrols, long hours spend searching, waiting, posing dramatically. It's a lot more exciting and a lot less difficult than her previous life spent doing the same thing for the whole galaxy, and so it doesn't bother her. That previous experience, too, means that she never doubted Neptune's instincts, even if sometimes they didn't visibly pan out.
She takes her time walking over behind Neptune. She's more than confident in her running speed. "You were right. If I start admiring that perception of yours, though, I won't know where to stop." She casually strokes some hair behind Neptune's ear as she passes, not needing to look, but as she falls into place beside Neptune, her expression locks into something serious and dangerous. "After him," she barks efficiently, unnecessarily, and sets off bounding, not quite using her full speed, so that Neptune can keep up. At every joint between roofs, she sails into a gravity-defying leap, coming down on remarkably resilient heels to set off running again, not bothering to disguise her approach.
"Good," Tuxedo Mask tells Usagi, glancing down at her for a half-second-- but alas, it's after she stops smiling; it means only one of them is smiling at the other at a time, because it's with a crooked little grin he says it. "Because I--"
And there's someone barking 'AFTER HIM' behind him, and his expression suddenly goes grim. "Am apparently already being chased. Hang on tight."
And that's when the thief in the tuxedo jumps off a roof with Usagi in his arms, flips in the air with the cape blowing out and then trailing behind him, and a cloud passes the moon just as he disappears into the inky blackness of an alley. It almost looks like his cape turned into the shadow and swallowed him up.
He can hear those boots across the rooftops, and he has two fingers across Usagi's mouth as he lands them lightly on the ground, and then he sets her down in the lee of someone's chimney and whips his cape off, all in one improbably graceful gesture.
He doesn't know what the deal is. He's not asking. He doesn't know who's chasing him. He doesn't want anyone to see-- "Here," whispers Tuxedo Kamen to Usagi in the pink PJs, wrapping the cape around her, hoping she's quiet, hoping the cape keeps her as shadowed as it does him. "Stay put, if they're after this thing then they don't need to know you're here."
And then he moves across to the other side of the alley, just as the footsteps are finishing their approach; he takes off his jacket to make sure he's visible, with that white mask, white shirt, white waistcoat, and he stands there looking up expectantly.
And you know it takes a fair amount of skill to dash around in heels. A skill that most of the senshi possessed, but one that Neptune and Uranus - well - they did such things in absolute ~style~.
And there were certainly times where they did not pan out - where they would follow her senses to someplace entirely devoid of anything incorrect. But Neptune was often right more often than she was wrong. At the little compliment, there was a smile that lifts up the corner of her lips - Neptune not looking towards Uranus until the woman passes, a hand lifting up to touch the side of her head.
Only to see Uranus dash off, and it was everything that Neptune could do to keep up.
Although there was a thrill dancing in the back of her heart.
She so admired seeing Uranus on the hunt.
But it seems their quarry was going to ground. A little quirk of her head - Neptune allows Uranus to approach head-on, the woman leaping to a rooftop beside him, and sprinting forward - only then to circle around Tuxedo Mask and cut off an avenue of escape, leaving the only option that Neptune could see, as taking to the ground to escape without pushing past one of them. ...although one imagines that someone like Tuxedo Mask must be clever.
When Tuxedo Mask looks down, Usagi is not distressed. Bemused is the word. The distress only comes when she hears the second person.
"That voice!" she gasps, a little more realistically than she'd like. The drop steals the air from her. The world is momentarily whirling blackness and attempts to breathe, and then she is tucked neatly away with a gloved finger touching her lip. "It's--that's--"
Usagi fumbles, first near her collar and then where her pockets should be. It's impossible to tell how pale she grows thanks to the moonlight. Somewhere, back in her room, is her transformation brooch. Keep it with you always, Usagi-chan. Even when you sleep, Usagi-chan. You'll be glad one day, Usagi-chan.
Why are cats so clever?
And so she takes the cape with numb fingers, wrapping it around herself with the practiced ease of someone very experienced with swaddling themselves in blankets while huddling with manga. She is very nearly impossible to see from her hiding spot. The cape is very fancy.
Usagi watches silently as her knight rides out. She's familiar with this part of the story.
It's something they intuitively agree upon, that Neptune will generally take the subtler route and Uranus the more direct. Uranus doesn't pause at the edge of the building, but instead bounds directly off of it, and onto the iron bar holding up a neon sign. It judders under her with a rattle that only amplifies as she pounds a few paces into it in her heels, and then grasps its bare end to swing down, like a circus acrobat, the rest of the way to the ground, landing with a heavy woof.
She stands up with the fingers of one hand en pointe at her side, the other hand resting on her hip, elegant as an ice skater. "The man of the hour," she greets. "Relax. We're here to talk, for now. And you're not going anywhere either way." She quirks a brow, noticing he's divested himself of several clothing layers, one of which is over his shoulder. "But I guess I don't need to tell you to take it easy. You look like some rake chasing bridesmaids at a wedding," she observes, wry but not entirely unsympathetic. She ought to know.
She nods at his jacket. "Is that where the shard is?"
"No," the man answers, mildly annoyed, pushing back off the wall and casually moving to pull the jacket back on. He doesn't look like he's raring for a fight, after all. And this woman's dressed like the Sailor Senshi; carries herself like one; isn't immediately trying to kill him; isn't glowing with an evil aura or something. "You think I'd carry it on me?" At least he's not denying being in possession of the thing. He buttons his jacket and says, quite sternly, "That was a horrible situation. Many people were hurt, and all over a piece of metal."
He seems to have utterly glossed over her claiming he won't be going anywhere. It's true, separately from any reasons Sailor Uranus may think it, so he doesn't address it. Does she work with you, Sailor Moon? She and whoever she came with, he thinks, studying Haruka now that he's somewhat less dishevelled. Is she your ally, is she your friend? He can't even look toward the hidden corner; can't turn toward it, acknowledge it may hold interest for him. Is she your enemy?
But all these thoughts go through his head in the background; Tuxedo Mask is analyzing the strange Sailor Soldier's body language, taking her tone into account, and-- obviously-- her words, as he drops back against the wall again, crossing his arms. "So feel free to talk, but I won't be party to any more useless squabbling over it."
This is not the first time Usagi has seen this woman. Once before, fighting for the first of these very shards. The one conjured from Mio's heart.
Mio Kuroki, who screamed, Mio Kuroki, who thanked her afterward, Mio Kuroki, who knows--
The tall soldier said 'we.' Usagi doesn't even rustle, but her heart tries to tear itself from her chest. Sailor Neptune, the other water soldier. It must be her. Tuxedo Mask should know she's here somewhere--but maybe he does already. He has a plan.
He looks like a person who has a plan, anyway.
It was on the rooftops above that Neptune brings a shapely heel forward to brace against the edge of the roof, leaning down over the edge of it to peer down at Tuxedo Mask, her gaze watching him quietly. For the longest moment, she sits there and stares, her head quirking a bit to one side.
"I cannot tell," she says, her voice rich with a firmness, her eyes flicking to Uranus then.
"But what you say has truth to it - there is senseless quibbling over the ownership of the shard. When we say that we need it - that it is no bauble for a petty thief, and instead has an importance beyond your imagining - you /will/ give it to us, won't you?" asks Neptune, her voice as velvet covering a steel fist.
"You shouldn't play with things you don't understand," Uranus agrees. "If you want jewels to sell, or keep in a trove, we can help you with that. If you hope to use its power..." She smiles, thumbing her chin. "Don't. It's of no use to you."
She walks a few paces horizontally. "If there's something else you're after, we're willing to listen. But we need those shards, and badly."
"I can't," Tuxedo Mask says calmly, shoulders straight, pushing off the wall again now that he knows where the other party is; his hands drop to his sides. "I was entrusted with its safekeeping, and I've already been told the fate of the world may well rest on it." A beat. "I rather like the world, and have no reason to trust either of you."
His posture's not aggressive, and neither is his tone. Matter-of-fact, respectful-- until Neptune's words register.
Then his hands ball up into fists at his sides, and he stands even straighter, but there's also something-- other. About his bearing. Something with agency and ownership, something old. "And you can /rest assured/ that I am no petty thief, and I want but one gem, and that my imagining is wider than you know. If you truly seek to be sure it's safe, then let me be so I may better guard it. Don't think to follow me that you might find it. It's hidden, and will remain so, protected, until I determine its proper place and those best able and willing to restore it."
A thief in a tuxedo-- a well-dressed and slender young man in a mask who's aided the Inner Senshi before, who keeps to himself, who has a habit of being at the right place at the right time-- and one that the youma knew by name. He stands undaunted, facing the might of two unknown Sailor Senshi, unafraid. Unafraid so long as they don't know Usagi is there. "You wear the colors of soldiers of love and justice, but your base assumptions and your threats and bribes are not the behavior of the Sailors. Who are you?"
It's her, it's her! Sailor Neptune. Usagi runs the name through her mind like a mantra. She doesn't dare move to get a look at the elegant soldier, but there's no need. Usagi wouldn't forget a friend's face.
Prospective friend. Ally, of course. Sailor Neptune.
They must know about the shards. They just don't know about Tuxedo Mask. If only she had brought her brooch, they could all talk, and she could explain--and then they'd gather the shards together, and if they really do grant wishes, then surely Mami deserves one.
They look so capable. It'd be easy to protect the shards together. Usagi etches the mysterious sailor's face into her mind.
She is interrupted by the urge to scream. It's just the urge. /Only Sailor Moon is the soldier of love and justice, Tuxedo Mask./
She wrinkles her nose. Maybe everyone can have a little love and justice. They're cool things. But then, their introduction sequence would have to be rewritten so that on Ami's cue, instead of saying...--
--Usagi tilts her head to the side and gets a faraway look in her eyes.
Sailor Neptune narrows her eyes as she watches Tuxedo Mask. The woman was perceptive - that shift to his demeanour was not unnoticed. "We do seek its safety, but certainly not with someone whom we cannot trust. We do not just desire that shard - we /need/ it. You cannot - /cannot/ determine where it should safely go - every moment you hold onto it is another moment that the forces of darkness may wrest it from you. By itself, it is no good in your hands..."
Neptune sniffs in a deragatory fashion. "Useless without the others, which we..." a flicker of her eyes towards Uranus. "...have. So your dallying only helps the darkness grow stronger."
As to the question of her identity, she simply tilts her head to the side. A secret little smile is smiled then, and Neptune gives no further clues as to her personage.
"Sailor Uranus," the taller of the two mysterious senshi answers, as Neptune leaves it to her. "But the one whose name you're really asking for is Sailor Neptune; she's standing behind you." Uranus seems rather proud of her partner's magnificent excess of beauty.
Uranus smiles to herself. She can respect his sense of dignity, as well as his sense of fashion. "So, you've at least found out that much," she remarks, when he recognizes them as senshi. The Inners have such poor memory. "If you know what this uniform is, you know what it stands for. And you know just as well that you will do nothing but sit on that shard, grope in the dark for answers."
She nods to Michiru, slipping into her conversation seamlessly. "Its safety, and so much more. If all you know to do with that is sit on it like a hen, and you recognize our outfits, then there's no reason left for you to hesitate. Call it a bribe if you want. But if you hand that over, we'll happily help you find that jewel of yours. If you don't, then you're standing between us and hard, merciless necessity."
She isn't smiling anymore. "Is that where you want to be, Tuxedo Mask?"
And then the slightest of smiles curls up on one side of Tuxedo Mask's face. "Make you a deal." There's absolutely no warmth to the smile, only the tiniest hint of bitter sadness.
And then even that's gone, and all that's left is cold fury. His own voice is like velvet, now, velvet rimed over with frost.
"I'm going to ask Sailor Moon. If she doesn't vouch for you, you'll have to hunt me down and make me tell you where it is, which, if your uniform is truly what it represents, I don't think you'd enjoy any more than I would. If she says you're all right, I'll meet you here tomorrow night and hand it over, in return for an apology. I don't want your help in finding the Silver Crystal."
"Or, we can avoid hunting you down. As we have you now," says Neptune, head still tilted as she looks down at Tuxedo Mask. There was something... something unusual going on down there. Now that she was thinking about it, there was something tingling at the back of her mind.
Even if she could not put a finger on it.
That manifests as a thoughtful pursing of her lips, her eyes flickering towards Uranus. Another quick little beat, and she nods her head once. Silver Crystal. Eyes flicker back towards Tuxedo Mask, lips pursing tighter.
Usagi's abandoned her choreography.
Her heart wouldn't let her look away.
Sailor Neptune, Sailor Uranus. They're really sailor soldiers.
They act like it. They act like Ami when she's analyzing a battle, or Rei when a youma reveals itself, or Makoto when her friends are in danger. There's this look in their eyes. All the student is gone from them. They're really soldiers.
Her heartbeat is so loud. How can anyone else not hear it? The fate of the Silver Crystal is being discussed right before her, the so-called leader of the princess' guardians, and all she can do is worry about making a sound.
Usagi squeezes the cape tight. There's still a little warmth left in it. That's all there is for girls who are not soldiers.
Uranus lets her lips soften, though she doesn't resume smiling. She nods, gravely, at Michiru, making eye contact as if passing information mentally. "All right," she agrees. "Ask Sailor Moon." Her eye twitches upon hearing Tuxedo Mask's goal. "And if she doesn't have good things to say, we can pick up where we left off."
She turns a shoulder, looking back over it. "Someday you should tell me where you got that hat," she tells him. Then, with a few steps' worth of running start, she grabs the horizontal bar holding up a restaurant's neon sign again, tucking her knees to swivel up onto its top edge. Planting her feet there, she bounds again, reaching out for Neptune's hand, regaining her side and the high ground in a scant few seconds, then dusting her skirt off with a brief motion.
"Tomorrow," she affirms sternly.
Neptune reaches out a hand to catch Uranus' own, a solid grip greeting it. A brief glance to Uranus' eyes, and the teal-haired senshi's secret little smile softens a bit. "And we will pick up where we left off, Tuxedo Mask. We readily found you once, and it will happen again if it becomes necessary," says she.
Waiting a handful of moments for Uranus to turn away, Neptune lets her eyes linger on the man below, a little shake of her head given as if in disapproval, before she herself turns, her shoulders squared as she starts to walk away - just a little forward and beside Uranus.
Although she does lower her voice to a whisper, "...if you get the hat, I would recommend getting the cape as well," she asks, a bit of a twinkle in her eyes as she looks back towards her.
"Tomorrow I might even tell you how it stays on," Tuxedo Mask calls upward with stunning good cheer, which is in all likelihood totally forced. Seeing as his hands are still clenched at his sides.
He can't even-- he still doesn't trust them. They could have caught him. Can, still. Not if he's really hiding, but he'll never hide if Usagi's in danger.
Once they're up there, he starts moving toward the other end of the alley, disappearing into the shadows-- then hugging the wall to double back toward the girl huddling in his cape. As soon as he's close enough he just pulls her into a warm-armed hug. "I'm sorry, I hope you're not freezing," he whispers. "Let me get you back home. Are they your allies?"
She's just like the wind.
Usagi remains locked in her silken tower, waiting, waiting even as both Uranus and Tuxedo Mask disappear from her sight. She closes her eyes. How long ago was she supposed to be asleep? Luna will be angry. For a lot of things.
The blonde girl is very nearly limp when Tuxedo Mask returns and takes her up into his arms. She remains that way for a moment, but soon squeezes him tight with a new sort of desperation.
There's no way to look over his shoulder, into the night and after the disappearing soldiers. That's okay. The dark of his cape is almost the night sky. It's just missing stars. It's seems lonely without them.
"I hope so," Usagi murmurs, and she really does.