2014-03-25 - Mamoru is Tuxedo Mask! Usagi's Confused Heart
|Title: Mamoru is Tuxedo Mask! Usagi's Confused Heart|
There are consequences to Usagi unmasking Tuxedo Kamen. One of them is chocolate ice cream. One of them is somewhat more serious.
Game Center Crown, then Fruits Parlor Crown
| OOC - IC Date:|
Dec 20, 2013, Part 2 (IC), 3/25/14 (RL)
It's after school, normally the hours when the arcade's business picks up massively -- but the crowd's only about a third of what it should be. The sister schools' trip to Hokkaido is coming up in short order, and parents are dragging the reluctant around shopping for new things to wear, and those more excited about the trip or more diligent are doing their own shopping or packing already.
There's a motorcycle parked outside the Game Center Crown.
Lately, Mamoru's been judging time by dead reckoning whenever he's out of sight of the giant Ohtori clock tower, but the flood of Juuban uniforms past the door is a pretty good indicator.
He is, in fact, at the Sailor V console, and he's far enough up in levels that he's not going to look up every time the door opens. He's also by himself; Motoki's over there chatting up someone's big sister or something.
Mamoru is, in fact, also scowling at the console as he plays. What's going through his mind is probably something like 'well I'm glad she didn't use that, it probably would have hurt a lot more'.
He's also wearing motorcycle leathers. He probably finished his exams early. He probably already went driving around exulting in being free. His jacket's hung over the back of his chair and apparently--
--glasses are for videogames as well as books.
What to wear is not a problem for Usagi Tsukino. That optional quest was totally fulfilled as soon as it became available. In this rare moment of foreplanning, Usagi is able to luxuriate in her legitimately earned free time.
Free time that she will spend now. At the arcade.
"Hey, Usagi-chan, look--a motorcycle."
Naru Osaka, best friend extraordinaire, warns Usagi of the danger. She actually seems mildly interested in the novelty of such a thing in what is a mundane location for her, but that's not how Usagi will remember it later tonight.
Usagi darts around the motorcycle, leaning forward to inspect it from multiple angles. "Huh. Must be someone really cool inside! Maybe it's--" bursting with the thought, she sprints to the front window and presses her face up against the glass. Nope. No Juri.
"Blehh. Do you want to play something, Naru-chan?"
Naru waves off the idea, though apologetically. "I'm going to get ready for the trip. Tell me who it is, okay?"
One set of farewells later, and Usagi accepts this mission. She stalks the aisles, playing it cool--so cool that she's got an ice cream backing her up. Motoki's too nice to rigorously enforce the no food policy. It's still mostly untouched when she reaches the last aisle. The anticipation of finding Mysterious Rider GCC is too distracting. Usagi turns, and--
--oh my. Those leathers. It's definitely him! Coolguy Bikepilot. He's so tall! And he's playing the best game! Thank you, miracles.
"Wow," Usagi says, affecting a Rei nonchalance, though the hairflip is totally out of the question. She sidles to the side to get a better view of both the screen and him, though that's hardly a Rei move. She'd know already. "You're doing really well! Do you play here often?"
He was playing well. Now he seems to be struggling a bit, and the light reflects off his glasses. As Usagi comes alongside and partway around--
--despite the rapidly deteriorating gameplay, there's a little smile curling up one side of Mamoru Chiba's mouth. "Sometimes," he says, and then even Crescent Beam Attack isn't enough to save Sailor V from the pixelated youma.
"Aaaa, crap!" Mamoru yells, desperately buttonmashing now to try and recover, and failing failing failing. The defeat music plays. He is scolded by the screen.
And then he swivels his seat around to look up -- for once, up -- at Usagi, and take his glasses off. His expression is mostly wry. Somewhat wary. A little bit something else entirely.
The siren call of videogames is too great. Usagi, focused on the screen, completely neglects to check out who the mystery guy actually is until there's nothing left to watch.
"Ahh, so close! I think what you have to do is--"
Her gaze catches on him. Usagi reels backward as if struck, clutching at her heart so tightly that her blouse may never get unwrinkled. Her voice drops two octaves. "YOU."
The wariness disappears, swallowed whole by the wry; the something else lingers in the back, but it's also suffused with amusement, so he probably just looks like a smug jerk. He swivels the chair the rest of the way around and leans back in it, hanging his glasses off his shirt collar and then stretching out, linking his hands behind his head.
Cocky. Stylish. Terrible. It's likely easy to miss the affection driving the amusement.
"Me," he agrees. "So: what do you think I have to do to get past that boss?"
There's a loaded pause, and he squints his blue eyes at Usagi. "Or am I not cool enough for that, either?"
There are a variety of blushes in play here. They are a secret way for Usagi's heart to speak truth.
1. A little on her cheeks, but mostly on her forehead. Consternation: Cocky. Stylish. Terrible.
2. Full flush of her cheeks. Her previous thoughts come flooding back. He's that guy with the motorcycle. He's maybe Tuxedo Mask. He's-
3. Total facial blush. Usagi feels it now, because she lowers her head to hide herself. He remembers what she said. He's Tuxedo Mask.
"Aha, um, well--you see--ahaha, umm--"
Her ice cream is melting a little bit.
"Why are you Tuxedo Mask?!"
In that terrible way that's-- not actually terrible, because Tuxedo Mask watched that way too, Mamoru watches Usagi blush, and again, the tiniest of smiles plays at the corner of his mouth. It's probably a good thing she's looking down to hide her face, because his so-blue eyes are considerably softer now, hair falling slightly into his face.
Mamoru sits up, then, and forward, elbows on his knees, and he continues to look up at Usagi's face. It's like he's trying to gauge something, trying to compare her various reactions to him.
"Why don't," he suggests gently, "we talk upstairs? And not so loudly?" He stands up, taller and taller and taller as he straightens, then hooks his thumbs in his pockets. "Your ice cream's going to drip."
A second before that inevitably gets parsed as criticism, he adds, "It's making me want some, too."
Usagi's heart has a secret way to speak truth to her, as well. Thump thump. Thump thump.
"Mm, yeah," she murmurs. She spares a look up at him, but it's too much. Instead, she starts for the stairs, finds that she's trying to go the wrong way around him, and then hurries in the other direction to get by. She's very nearly running by the time she gets down the aisle.
Above the arcade, in Fruits Parlor Crown, Usagi slips into a booth with her unaddressed ice cream. It is melting. Maybe it'll calm her down--and the second the spoon touches her lips, Unazuki the waitress slides up with her notebook clutched to her chest. "Usagi-chan, is that guy downstairs your daaaaate?"
"WHAT NO WHAT GUY I mean what guy no of course not." Usagi plays it cool.
Unazuki grins lopsidedly, disappearing on her further rounds. "Good job!"
Usagi devours the rest of the ice cream in one bite and numbs the scream away.
The tiny, tiny scream, numbed to death by melting ice cream. Mamoru, of course, didn't run up the stairs; he's not smug-walking, either, just walking; he glances around to see where Usagi's gone to sit, spots her unmissable hair, grins, and goes to the counter to order.
At least Usagi will have a chance to dither a little more before he comes over.
Comes over with a bowl of ice cream. Chocolate ice cream. With chocolate chips in it. And chocolate sprinkles. And chocolate sauce.
And then he puts it in front of Usagi, looking not at the big bowl of cold chocolate confection he could very easily accidentally put his hand into, but at her eyes.
He asks quietly, "You really want to know why? It might be disappointing."
There's time for Usagi to consider what to say. Mamoru is busy ordering something ridiculous (probably). She very carefully lines up her questions and deflections, running through things she's heard Luna say to control a conversation.
Then there's gift chocolate right in front of her and it all comes flooding out her mouth in a wordless exclamation of joy, trailing off into a choked whimper because it's almost the least tough thing Usagi can do in this situation.
She looks up from the sweet kindness, eyes wide, right into his waiting gaze.
How could she not have seen it before? He has the same eyes. They're so dark.
"I don't think it would be," she whispers, because she's forgotten that she's not on a rooftop under a starry sky.
The same dark blue as the ocean, as the dusky sky with the stars coming out-- it's not fair how easy it is to forget, when he's being so--
He slips into the booth across from Usagi with effortless grace, then passes his hand in front of his face for a second. Reassurance in the form of a brief, ghostly outline. "Usagi," he says, straight up.
"I don't know who I am."
Then his hands drop to the table, and he takes a napkin from the dispenser and starts idly folding it and unfolding it as he talks, voice low, resonant enough that Usagi won't have to strain to hear it in the chatter around them.
"My parents-- I've seen pictures of them. They died when I was six. The paramedics pulled me out of the wreck, but I didn't remember anything. I still don't. There are-- other things I almost remember, but they don't make any sense."
Fold, fold, fold. Unfold. Crease. The stiff brown paper napkin doesn't really hold his attention; for once this time he's neither looking at what he's doing or at Usagi's eyes. He's not really looking at anything at all.
"I've always had strange dreams. But a while ago, they started getting very specific. There's a-- a princess, or a goddess, or a queen. Her voice is so sad, and I can't see her face. And she asks me, over and over, to find something for her."
Now his hands still, now he looks at Usagi's eyes again. "To find the Maboroshi no Ginzuishou for her. And that if I find it, I'll understand, and I'll remember."
What Mamoru's been folding, he pushes across the table at her. It's a little brown paper cat. "When it started, I found myself sleepwalking across the city, searching. The longer I looked -- walking the streets like a thief in a tuxedo -- the more determined I became to spend every effort to find it. I must find it. Usako. For the sake of my memories, I must find the Silver Crystal."
While the napkin doesn't hold Mamoru's attention, it catches Usagi's interest.
She watches him fold and unfold and refold and crease, just fidgeting with it. This kind of nervous energy is unusual for him. Whether a thief or a student, he's always been so sure. So quick. Already decided while everyone else is still reading the question.
Today's Mamoru is different.
Usagi looks up sharply at her name, spoken with such warmth. "Tuxedo-sama," she breathes, because it is true. And then, she looks away shyly, because she cannot shoulder the weight of his problems.
"The princess of the moon." Sailor V? Or, Anthy Himemiya? Or someone else entirely? There's no use in theorizing out loud. Usagi hugs her arms tight. It's cold just now. "The princess of the moon and her Silver Crystal. Luna--"
No. Not just Luna. Not just because of her orders. Usagi returns Mamoru's gaze, strength now in here eyes where before there was only empathy. "I'm the leader of the princess' guardians. I'm sworn to find her and protect her, as well as her Silver Crystal. If we don't, the world as we know it will be destroyed!"
It's Luna's line, but that is now Usagi's belief.
"If you want to find the Silver Crystal to give it to the princess, then you should help us find her so we can make sure she's safe!"
It's cold, and he got her more ice cream. Mamoru finds it easier to pull his jacket out of the booth, slide out, and drape the jacket over Usagi's shoulders than to look at her face as she tells him he should help them.
No, not as she tells him that--
As she's telling him, Mamoru's gaze is held captive by Usagi's sudden fire, her strength and conviction.
It's when she expects an answer that he can't look directly at her, and so moves to fix what he can. She's cold. His jacket, her shoulders, her small arms. He leans in and says so softly, next to her head, "I can't. I have to find it first. She asked me to find it, and your allies-- they want nothing to do with me, they want me nowhere near the princess. I promised I'd find it, and I will."
Then the older boy straightens up again, comes back around to face Usagi, but leans with his fingertips on the tabletop, remaining standing and looking down at her. "But find the princess, and I'll bring it to -you-, and then I can help. For now, I can't risk your allies cutting me out. I need to know."
One long-fingered hand comes up absently as Mamoru gazes at Usagi's face, because, all abstracted again, there's that... feeling, that ache in the heart that feels like a dream.. And he almost, almost touches her face, but hesitates, and lets his hand fall and closes his eyes.
She's so puzzling, she's fire and strength and love, and she's cowardice and laziness and helplessness and lack of coordination, and she's a middle-schooler with silly hair. She's a soldier, she's mahou shoujo. She's brave and selfless to a fault when it really, really matters.
She makes him feel so much loss and so much hope. He knows when she's in trouble. He'll drop everything and go running to find her. But she's no princess. Anthy is the princess. And if he tells her, she'll tell the others, and they'll stop him, and Anthy won't get her miracle, and he won't get his memories.
LIFE IS SO COMPLICATED but it's not really that long of a pause before he opens his eyes and says, firmly, "But if you need me, I'll be there. In a heartbeat, I'll be there."
Even wrapping herself up against the cold, more slight than usual, Usagi's eyes are different. It is an expression that doesn't belong to her. What makes it more striking is that it is an expression that does belong to her.
Close to her, she's motionless. It's the wary stillness that comes before a rabbit bolts. Or maybe it's the stoic confidence of a guard facing challenge. Which is today's Usagi?
Today's Usagi smells faintly of strawberries.
There, on the other side of the table, Mamoru faces a softer expression. Though she may not be sad, an argument could be made from the look on her face. She reaches out, a pale slender hand emerging from the swallowing, voluminous darkness of Mamoru's armor, fingers brushing the silvered spoon.
"I know you will, Tuxedo-sama," she murmurs.
And then she takes a bite.