2014-04-06 - Starless
The climactic battle of Starfall hurt, and hurt badly. Mamoru, being kind of an idiot about this sort of thing, wants to help Usagi but doesn't know how. There's absolutely nothing weird about sneaking into the middle school lodge in the middle of the night to check on her.
Crane Lodge in Hokkaido
| OOC - IC Date:|
Late on Christmas Night - 4/06/14
The god of men and the maiden of dreams are gone.
With the help of Lux Corruere, Sailor Vega and Sailor Mercury made it back home. As a result, Asagao Uekawa and Ami Mizuno are fast asleep in their sleeping bags.
It is nighttime. The dreams have not stopped. Usagi is awake at strange hours.
She stops outside of the restroom door, picking up her pillow where she left it. Traveling the halls at this hour requires a friend, and this was the only one Usagi didn't mind waking up. Clutching it to her chest, she begins the journey back to her lodging room, where Asagao and Ami are just fine. Nothing happened to them.
Nothing, nothing, nothing. It's her mantra, intoned with each footstep.
Even later than everyone else--
The battle outside the cave, on the snowy slopes of the mountain, was as long and brutal as the one that waved within-- only it wasn't one that was won with words and love and reason, and 'winning' was, in essence, stalling Dark Fall long enough for those inside to finish.
A lot of people were hurt badly; a lot of people needed help afterwards.
He saw them leave. Lux Corruere and Usagi carrying Ami and Asagao. And he couldn't--
The feeling's not those moments of horror and grief from before; it's a dull and lingering ache, ragged from worry, echoed and intensified.
Mamoru's exhausted, but dreams are something he doesn't want to touch right now. Usagi's someone he doesn't want to face right now, because all he can think is that all he could do was watch, useless and powerless to stop her friend-- his friend, but so much more hers, so much more-- being taken from her.
But in the middle of the night, he finds himself in the middle school lodge, not even thinking about it how improper it is, how stupid he's being, how unlike anything reasonable he's acting. For a moment, he stands in front of the kitchen area, thinking about how gleeful Usagi is about hot cocoa, how maybe she might want some.
But-- she's probably asleep and definitely should be, and Mamoru Chiba is seventeen and standing in the hallway of the middle school lodge, and he hears a door open. Instantly he looks down the hall, and freezes in his tracks.
He stops, words caught on something and spinning around like the end of a reel-to-reel.
Abruptly, whispered, "Are they okay? Are you okay?"
Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.
The Usagi that turns the corner is despondent. She is so withdrawn into her imagination that there is no emotion left for her face. She walks with a shuffle, staring at the unseen horizon over the top of her moon-patterned pillow.
Her name does not get her attention. Neither does the question, not at first. Usagi continues on, haunting the halls for a few steps more. It gets her to a good stopping point in her mantra.
She lifts her head to find the noise, finding Mamoru and watching him watch her. She opens her mouth to speak, hesitates, and then withers away into a plaintive, sobbing wail. It's enough time for Mamoru to dramatically interpose himself before she wakes everyone up, at least.
Can't possibly be that far down the hall from him, otherwise two long-legged steps wouldn't propel Mamoru so rapidly to Point Usagi. As soon as that hesitation hits and her face starts crumpling, he's in motion; just as she's starting to wail he wraps his arms around her (and her pillow) and pulls her close (as close as he can with the pillow there).
He's so tall he's practically enveloping Usagi, his hand at the back of her head, his face pressed on top of it. It's like he thinks he can shield her from the entire world at once, just with himself.
Not thinking. Not thinking at all. It's just reflex, really. And it's the middle of the night--
There's nothing he can say, all he can do that he knows is the right thing is hang on to her.
It's not perfect. Mamoru can't muffle her entirely, especially when he isn't specifically trying to. Somehow, it still works out. Usagi's cry is a broken sob, a choking exclamation that does not have the strength to penetrate these walls. This close, he can feel the toll this suppression takes on her. She shakes and shivers, slumping against him with nothing left to keep her on her feet.
Though Usagi is not in a talking mood, she was receptive to being led to the kitchen. There, curled up in a chair with her knees tucked against her chest, she stares into the cup of tea on the table before her. Her hair is still in odangos. It's not like that other night, and presumably every night, where she took them down and fixed her hair with broad silk bows to protect it through the night.
From this angle, her face is hidden, but it's very easy to conjure to mind the wetness of her tear-slick cheeks and the redness of her desperate eyes.
"They're both okay," Usagi murmurs. "They're sleeping."
Every time he starts thinking, he has to shut it down; she doesn't need him being awkward. His shirt's damp from her face, and he wouldn't care even if he knew-- there's too much of an aching desperation he doesn't really understand, could never put words to. It's just that this isn't
supposed to look.
Angry at him, laughing, happy with her friends, stomping around or falling down, being ridiculous-- making Sailor V attacks on him-- this is wrong, it's awful, and it's very real pain he can't just heal. The ache he's feeling isn't entirely his, and that's different, too, and also something he doesn't have any experience in dealing with.
Making tea-- letting go of her to make tea, sitting her down-- it's a way of coping. Trying to find some kind of equilibrium for himself. It's the distance he's trusted his entire life.
They're both okay. They're sleeping.
"Ah so," he says, the partial relief in his voice something that's not entirely settled. He puts his own tea down, but doesn't sit. Instead, he just puts one of his big hands on her head, warm and solid; his thumb moves slightly, brushing against her hair. Letting it slide off, down to her shoulder, he adds in so quiet a voice, "You need a break. You never have any breaks."
A heartbeat's pause, and then, "It's almost time to go home. We're almost there, just a little longer."
Another day's Usagi would have said something as Mamoru put his hand on her head. She would have flailed and spluttered, likely with such vigor that she'd fall off her chair. Today's Usagi is mute. Her head bows under the added weight.
The tea steams. Usagi watches. The clock ticks.
"Mio-chan told me the same thing," she replies. There is no carefulness about the neutrality in her voice. It's an honestly toneless statement. "She said I should take a break because I never get to. Are you and Mio-chan seeing each other?"
Mamoru's hand is completely still, there on Usagi's shoulder, and he's silent-- it's just for a moment, but it's a moment in which any number of things could be imagined as going across his face or through his head.
Instead, he's just sort of paradigm-shifted without a clutch, and is mentally scrambling to catch up with Usagi, because...
Then both his hands are on her shoulders, and he carefully leans down and around to see if he can actually see her face, because what.
"No," he says, baffled and questioning, tired face totally uncomprehending. "Kuroki-san and I are not seeing each other. And I didn't say you should take a break," he adds, as if correcting her and displaying the distinction between the two would clear up her bizarre misunderstanding. "I said you need one. I know you can't take one."
Usagi is watching something beyond what is before her, with glassy eyes and frowning lips. Maybe that is why she asked a question like that. She's not really here.
"Mm," she agrees, to Mamoru's assessment. A moment later, she slowly nods. "I can't take a break until we find the princess. I wonder if she was hurt in all the confusion. That would be really bad."
The tea cools. It should be the perfect temperature to drink. Too much longer, and it will start to become unsatisfying. Usagi does not touch it. Maybe she doesn't know much about tea.
until we find the princess
The princess. Another vaguely awkward silence that Usagi probably doesn't notice commences, but it is also thankfully short.
Straightening up again, Mamoru says matter-of-factly, "I'm going to drink your tea. And mine."
He almost doesn't address what Usagi says at all, but then he draws away slowly and pulls a chair over to sit next to her, and props his head on his hand. "Do you think she would have been involved in the fighting?" He's watching her face for a moment, and then he moves to pick up her tea.
Mamoru threatens to drink her tea. Usagi remains silent.
She continues to be silent as Mamoru drags his chair over, and eventually takes her tea. She may be considering his question. She may not have heard it. She does not seem to mind the blatant theft of a treat given to her.
Today's Usagi is very one note.
"Princesses can fight people," Usagi confirms. "I don't know if the moon princess can. Maybe she can't, and that's why she needs guardians. Like me. That's what Luna says."
"I know," says Mamoru, his voice quiet. He holds Usagi's tea in both hands for a moment, then sips it contemplatively.
It's so hard. He doesn't know what he should do. It's so difficult. There's nothing to stop, nothing to defeat, and this time the battle's over but the success isn't enough to drown out the horror, and he doesn't know what to do.
Contemplatively is bullshit. Blankly is more like it.
"Luna picked some awesome guardians," he observes after a few seconds.
She can't take a break until they find the princess. --he has to find the Ginzuishou and give it to her, that's what she said, what she's said every time he dreams, for so long. He has to do it, and everything will be clear. They have their mission, he has his, and he's seen the same desperate protectiveness that Luna and the Senshi and Sailor V have for the princess that he feels toward Sailor Moon. They won't let him anywhere near. He has to know.
He can't tell her he's found her. Thinks he's found her. Is almost certain--
"And I hope our princess fights as well as you do."
Sailor Mercury's intelligence, Sailor Jupiter's courage, and Sailor Mars' passion. What chance would Tuxedo Mask have against them when they're united?
And I hope our princess fights as well as you do.
Sailor Moon, so full of love that it has left her paralyzed this night, raises her head after several moments of Mamoru's quiet tea sipping.
"Are you really drinking tea stolen from a pretty girl?"