2014-04-21 - Allies? Promises! A Cat's Worry

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Title: Allies? Promises! A Cat's Worry

So Mamoru's decided that his princess detector is broken -- after all, if he could mistake Sailor Moon for the Moon Princess, he obviously has no idea what he's doing -- and that the Senshi are far better equipped to deal with this task. He isn't giving up his quest, though, so he goes to ask Usagi if he can join forces with her and her crew after all. Problem is, he kissed her on New Year's and no conversation with her will ever be easy again. Bigger problem is, Luna overhears his question.


Usagi Tsukino, Mamoru Chiba


Game Center Crown, then drivin' around.

OOC - IC Date:

3 January 2014 - 4/21/14

<Pose Tracker> Mamoru Chiba [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Winter vacation is a glorious thing: no school, no deadlines! It's almost like being small, or it being summer, except in cases of youma attacks and nigh-apocalypses. It allows for things like-- during the times that kids aren't at home doing extended familial celebration stuff-- it being the middle of a weekday and Game Center Crown being full of customers.

Well. 'Full'. It's lunchtime, so at the moment the Fruits Parlor is more overloaded than the arcade, but...

Someone reaches past Usagi's shoulder from behind, just as the victory music for the level starts playing, and places a bento box to one side of the Sailor V console. It's not an adorable box on the outside; it's also clearly not homemade. It does have a rabbit head outline scribbled on it.


Someone who isn't saying anything, because he's standing behind Usagi, busily eating his own lunch, looking remarkably unruffled. God damned Mamoru Chiba.

<Pose Tracker> Usagi Tsukino [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

Youma attacks aren't so scary anymore. Okay, that is a complete lie. They are terrifying and Usagi is a scared little bunny in the face of their many-fanged threats. She is, however, a scared little bunny with a magic wand and an increasing amount of experience in successfully using it.

Playing the Sailor V game is fun for a different reason, now. She can see the parallels. It took several people pointing them out to her in different ways, but she can see them now. The levels are getting easier.

It's the third-furthest she's ever gotten in this game. Just a little longer, and Usagi will beat her own record. That's not the sort of thing you can skip lunch for. A bento box miraculously appears within her vision.

Okay, that is a complete lie. It is the sort of thing she can skip lunch for. She just forgot.

Usagi spins around, leaning back against the machine with her arms slightly spread, as if to hide it in its entirety from whomever may be looking over her shoulder. She is generically shocked at first, but her expression becomes much more personal when she realizes who exactly it is.

Mamoru. Chiba.

The next level starts behind her. Usagi begins to glance over her shoulder at the screen, but stops with a frown. She can get this far again, no problem.


I'm sorry I'm not honest.

<Pose Tracker> Mamoru Chiba [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

The older boy's eyebrows go up, and he pauses with onigiri halfway to mouth, looking down at her.

"What?" he asks, as if absolutely nothing were odd whatsoever, and puts the sticky rice back down in the box before licking his finger and thumb.

Mamoru's wearing what, for him, is dressing down for being out in public: designer jeans and a tailored black button-down shirt with a straight collar, slightly open. And his motorcycle jacket. It's hard to tell whether or not he has no idea or is altogether too aware of how good he looks.

He tilts his chin past Usagi toward the game machine. "That's farther than I've ever gotten," he allows. "If you'd rather keep playing, I can eat that. But if you'd rather eat, want to go for a walk? I want to talk to you about something you said a little while ago."

THEN he eats the delayed onigiri.

<Pose Tracker> Usagi Tsukino [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

Usagi's gaze flits down to Mamoru's mouth as he licks his fingers, then back up to his eyes. She presses her lips into a thin line and does not respond.

She focuses very intently on his eyes and not on the urge to glance down again. It's working. Total zen is being achieved. Thank you Rei.

Wait, wait. This was a terrible plan. Usagi's cheeks flush. Rei, why. Why did you forsake her with the advice that you never gave her in the first place?

The shorter girl glances away smoothing the front of her skirt down.


Behind her, the game over music plays. She studies the pattern of the carpet very intently. Then, without looking, she slides the bento box off the side of the machine and clutches it to her chest.


<Pose Tracker> Mamoru Chiba [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Roundabout the same time that Usagi's looking away to smooth her skirt, Mamoru's face is starting to redden slightly. But he, on the other hand, can't actually stop looking at her.

Looking at her blushing and not being able to look at him. Or even the game machine. Or even the bento box.

He swallows and makes himself tear his gaze away, then starts toward the doors, keeping his pace slow for people with short legs, and licks his fingers again and wipes them off on his jeans. Then he pushes the door open with his shoulder and holds it open for Usagi.

Chilly winter air! Blessed cool air is a relief--

--he has to look up at the sky, partly cloudy and pale blue, to let the chill fix the color of his face. Once the door's closed behind them, Mamoru finally says something.

"I'm very bad at looking for her," is how he decides to make things less awkward, because obviously something's wrong with him. "When you offered-- that I could be your ally--"

<Pose Tracker> Usagi Tsukino [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

Uncharacteristically mute, Usagi Tsukino follows He's-Really-Tuxedo-Mask into the street. This unspeaking weirdness lasts until the doors open.

When the cold air hits her, Usagi lets out a plaintive wail and flails in the direction of nearest safety. Her fingers scrabble over Mamoru's leather jacket as she attempts to find some sort of purchase to cling to.

"I forgot it was cold! I forgot--"

She becomes very still, and then very silent, and then erupts in a flurry of reverse movement so that she is a whirling conflagration of limbs that scampers several feet away from Mamoru. Her arms end up wrapped around her shoulders, eyes wide and lower lip jutted out.

Miraculously, the bento box remains clutched in her hand.

"Who's her?"

Usagi's expression turns sly. "Ahh, I see. Do you have a girlfriend?"

<Pose Tracker> Mamoru Chiba [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

For a long moment, Mamoru just stares at Usagi in startled incomprehension at the explosion of grapply movement and wailing, and is still staring at her when she stops in her tracks, and his gaze tracks her with that same complete lack of understanding when she backpedals like his jacket is a shark.

And then, unforgivably, his mouth twitches upward at the corners.

He's still standing motionless where he stopped when Usagi exploded. He's about to offer to wait while she goes back in to get her jacket when she asks first question one -- which nets her even further disbelief -- and then question two.

Question two makes Mamoru sort of implode. He flushes bright red and looks annoyed and offended and embarrassed all at once, and he holds his own bento box away from Usagi and shields it from her with his torso, like for some reason she's going to inhale it from over there and leave him with embarrassment and no lunch.

"NO," he says emphatically, jaw working, eyes first wide, and then narrowed at her and her sly expression. "What her would we be talking about when I mention allies? And I don't have a girlfriend! Come on, Odango, don't-- look, do you want my jacket? Or-- or go get yours, I'll wait, jeez. God. Why do you even-- hey, why do you care if I have a girlfriend, anyway?!"

<Pose Tracker> Usagi Tsukino [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

Usagi looks very smug. She has figured everything out. Pure emotion such as this can only come from true feelings!

This probably doesn't endear her to Mamoru in this very moment.

"Aren't we all allies in the game called life?!" she retorts, hands on her hips and leaning forward. She's not running from this battle. "You could be talking about anyone! Is it really unreasonable for me to assume the most obvious thing? I saw how all those other girls were looking at you at New Year's!"

She spins halfway away, crossing her arms over her chest and astutely shunning him while still carrying on the conversation. "I don't care. I don't care at all. And they're not odangos."

She would like his jacket.

"I'm fine. A sailor soldier can withstand cold up to negative ten thousand degrees Celsius, which is the temperature of the lunar surface at night time."

<Pose Tracker> Mamoru Chiba [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

There's silence from behind Usagi. Or at least, there's verbal silence. There's the sound of fuming, which isn't so much a sound as a feeling, and there's the sound of a bento box being placed firmly on a street bench, and then without any warning--

--there's a warm leather jacket that smells unconscionably of Tuxedo Mask and chocolate being placed around her shoulders. If she even looks at him, Mamoru's scowling with a deep and true emotion: complete aggravation.

"Idiot," he says, without a lot of force behind it. And then he goes and gets his lunch again, and he starts walking past her. "I want to help you find the princess and the silver crystal," he mutters just loud enough for Usagi to hear, refusing to look at her as he passes.

"And I don't care about that," he says, louder, half-turning his head to shoot the comment over his shoulder. "I wasn't paying attention to them."

<Pose Tracker> Usagi Tsukino [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.


Usagi leans forward under the weight, almost stumbling. Mamoru's jacket is huge on her, enveloping her slight figure like a cloak. She begins to make a noise of protest, but barely squeaks anything out.

She doesn't turn around. Usagi is too busy looking down at her bento box, with the little rabbit scrawled on the front. The jacket smells like him. She breathes in, slowly.

"Oh," the blonde girl replies, low and toneless. Of course it's the princess. Maybe she was just acting dumb this entire time, on purpose. It is easy for an uncharitable mind to seize upon that idea. "Um. I haven't--"

There is a pitter-patter of sneakers on pavement as she hurries to catch up to his stride. Her face is red when she reaches his side again. Exertion, a tiny bit. Clutching the jacket close so it doesn't slide off her shoulders, very much.

"I haven't told any of the others about you," she says. "Luna doesn't like you. Neither does Sailor Mars, or Jupiter. Even Mercury agrees with Luna."

<Pose Tracker> Mamoru Chiba [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

That one stings a little-- that Mercury agrees with Luna.

Mamoru knows who Mercury is.

Nevertheless, the tall older boy slows his stride somewhat, stirring rice for a second before putting his chopsticks in his mouth and clipping the lid of his bento box back on. Not hungry now. He puts both box and utensils in one hand, on the far side from Usagi; he walks between her and the street.

He can't really look at Usagi right now, there's too much of a miniature storm in his heart, too much emotion. Irritation and self-mockery and hurt which he's in the process of burying, wishes and hopes that were so clear at the first dawn of the new year, and which are already so frustrated and obscured.

Walking alongside him like that, Usagi'll be able to see something that was covered by his jacket before: a star-shaped pocketwatch, fob clipped to his belt, just visible above the top of his pocket. The metal is bright, the crystal over the face glitters in the winter sun.

"Maybe they would if they know I'm not competing with you anymore," he says, finally, voice low. He's still looking ahead. "And if I can-- if I can help you-- I'd like to talk to her. And I'd like to see it. And-- maybe you can help me get my memories back. Maybe you can ask her for me, if they won't let me near." His voice isn't just low, it's progressively quieter as he continues, resolute and firm, but echoing with something small and lost and old.

But then all of a sudden it's only the resolve, and Mamoru glances down at Usagi, eyes bright and searingly affectionate. It's the same look she saw behind a white mask every time she looked at him looking at her, during the last fight of the old year. "Even if they hate me, and won't help me, I trust you. And I want to keep helping you, no matter what. Even if I never remember anything."

His breath gets ever so slightly unsteady, and he looks ahead again, setting his jaw. "Even if our Princess hates me for not finding her, or the crystal. I don't think she could mean I have to do it alone. No one should be alone. What are dreams unless you make them yourself, anyway?"

<Pose Tracker> Usagi Tsukino [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

Things aren't so panicked anymore. Usagi has time to relax at a more comfortable pace, which means that she has time to let her mind wander.

Oh, something shining in the sun. She instinctively looks, and sees a familiar shape. Her eyes widen.

"I, um, I mean--"

His thoughts move from dire to worse. She tries to answer, but she won't speak the words. Her gaze keeps returning to the glittering star shape peeking out from Mamoru Chiba's pocket.


Usagi's reply is sharp, and so is her look upward. It's such an ugly word. It doesn't fit. Rei couldn't hate anyone--not hate hate. Dislike and distrust are different, right? Hate is something bad people do. Makoto couldn't hate anyone, how could someone like her really hate a person? Ami? Of course not. Not them. Not any of them.

Mamoru looks ahead, and finds his wrist suddenly caught by a tiny hand. Usagi digs her feet in, trying to stop their walk as best she can. Sailor Moon is capable of amazing feats, sometimes.

"Mamo-chan," she urges, everything she's feeling put into the word: don't think like that, don't accept hate, don't let your dreams become joyless work.

"Mamo-chan?" another girl's voice asks. Usagi's expression runs cold. Her gaze darts to Mamoru's side. Following it, she is looking at a cat. It is black and most assuredly has been around her before. It's her cat.

It's... Luna.


That Luna.

Recognition inhibition.

Luna's tail swishes with agitation. Her little paws are set very closely together, and her back has a regal arch to it as she sits atop the bus stop bench. Her glowing, pale eyes narrow. "Tell me about your dreams, Tuxedo Mask."

<Pose Tracker> Mamoru Chiba [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

With that small hand wrapped around his wrist, Mamoru, surprised, comes to an uneven halt.

When she says his name-- well-- says his name in that manner--

He looks down at her in shock. Tiny Usagi in his giant leather motorcycle jacket, trying to communicate everything to him, all at once, with just his name and her eyes and the kind of insistent unselfish compassionate love she grants the whole world, grants everyone that's hurting.

Radiating out from where her hand's touching his wrist is warmth, warmer than the jacket, whole and golden like a lazy summer afternoon in August; that same warmth is in his eyes, blue like the oceans, and for a split second of time...

...only aware of her.

'Mamo-chan?' comes that echo, then, and that split second is shattered.

Abruptly, Mamoru's flushing hotly, neither of his hands currently free to hide his mouth; he looks straight at the moon-headed black cat on the bench

('yeah, why did you stop talking, Luna?')

('did that cat just say something?')

and he looks twelve kinds of embarrassed and defensive all at once. "Can you maybe not call me that when I'm not dressed for the occasion?" he huffs, trying to regain some semblance of dignity, but sort of desperately moving his hand around where Usagi's got him, so he's got her wrist too.

Awkward, but. He doesn't want her to let go. Not just this second, anyway. "And I'll tell you all about them but she's wearing my jacket so can we go somewhere it's not so cold first?"

<Pose Tracker> Usagi Tsukino [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

He understands.

Usagi tries to retreat back into Mamoru's jacket, which is only mostly successful. This involves hunching over with her shoulders shrugged up, leaving her twin tails streaming over the sides of the popped collar.

Luna's slitted gaze slides languidly from Mamoru, to Usagi, and then back to Mamoru. Her tail lashes again, and then curls around her feet.

"Lead the way," the cat replies, but offers no indication of which way she expects to be taken. It's all right on Mamoru. His choice. His move.

Internally, Usagi is almost finished screaming. How did Luna find out how did Luna find out.

<Pose Tracker> Mamoru Chiba [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

'Lead the way' the cat says, and all of a sudden all Mamoru can think of is his apartment and how awkwardly far it is, but then his brain goes from 'you will have to get them to get in your car' to 'hey the car has heat', and slowly, the small hairs on the back of Mamoru's neck lower.

"Okay," he says, with all the dignity that Luna herself could muster if she fell off of something without meaning to.

He still doesn't let go of Usagi, but to facilitate this without making her let go of holding the jacket up, he gently (and complicatedly, because he's still holding his own in that hand) takes her bento box so he can carry them both. And sort of shifts his hand a little, trying to get Usagi to stop potentially cutting off circulation to it, and maybe hold her hand properly. Maybe. If he's lucky.

It's not a long walk back to the red sportscar parked near the front of the Crown. For it, Mamoru is possessed of a strangled silence. He loves cats. He really loves cats. And somehow, he couldn't be more terrified of Luna. Youma are easier to face. Mio is easier to face.

When they get there, he says stumblingly as he glances down toward Usagi. "The keys, they're in-- the right pocket. Of my jacket. Can you, uh. Can you beep it open? And, um, here," he holds out the two lunch boxes, eyeing Luna warily.

<Pose Tracker> Usagi Tsukino [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

This is a very delicate operation.

Luna is an unblinking watcher that clinically observes Mamoru's uncomfortable contortions. Usagi is a numb bystander, having retreated into her own mind to fight a war against herself. The problem with always carrying your friends with you is that they're always there, even when you want to be left alone.

She doesn't protest the taking of her food+gift, which is another twinge of weirdness in this afternoon's events. No, Usagi follows Mamoru without complaint, having traded her internal struggle for the awkwardness of no one else speaking.

Luna immediately hopped up onto her shoulder and balanced there for the entire trip. If and when Mamoru looks over, Luna is always staring back. She knows when he's about to look.

The keys. "Mm," Usagi answers, reaching in and fumbling around for a painfully long three seconds. The car beeps, and is then unlocked. Usagi helpfully holds the keys up, because the jacket is staying on her.

Once inside, Luna bounces down from Usagi's shoulder and takes up a position on the center console. The two are separated by cat. Usagi shuffles back into her seat, sinking into the voluminous interior of Mamoru's coat. Her fingers trace the corners of the bento boxes, now safe in her lap because she's not the one driving.

"Oh!" she exclaims. "I forgot I have food."

Luna's tail thrashes.

<Pose Tracker> Mamoru Chiba [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

For a second before he starts the car, Mamoru eyes the cat sitting on the center console. He considers saying something about the car being manual and Luna having to move sometimes, but decides that discretion is the better part of not bleeding, and just says, "Well, buckle up before you start eating."

Then the car starts, and Mamoru can safely watch the road and speak without having to look at either of them. He pulls out into traffic carefully, noting absently, "And you can finish mine. I don't think I'll ever be able to eat again."

Once they're on the road, the older boy lets out a breath like a sigh, and begins the soul-jarring process of personal exposition given to an angry, judgemental talking cat that he really wants to scritch, while the girl who just called him 'Mamo-chan' is eating all of the lunch forever.

"Every night," he says, face and voice serious-- as serious as Tuxedo Mask is when he's not yelling out absurd things to demons and Americans, "for a very long time, I've had variations on the same dream. There's a princess, but I can never see her face."

Mamoru's voice goes a little distant; he's paying attention to the road, to traffic. He's not moderating his tone as he continues; it begins to sound-- caught. Ruled. Wistful. "Her hair is so long-- it shines like silver and streams like silk, and she's so graceful and so sad. Everything is hazy, there's mist and I can only see her, and then she calls me something, but I can never remember what it is when I wake."

Traffic merge; the boy's tone gets focused and serious again, concentrating on putting together pieces and details, reproducing them as accurately as he can. "She's standing on a balcony with light behind her, at the top of a wide staircase, and she always asks me for the same things. 'Find the Ginzuishou,' she says, 'find the Maboroshi no Ginzuishou. Find me. Bring me the Silver Crystal. If you find it, everything will be clear.' Sometimes," he spares a glance to Luna, "I ask her who she is. Who I am."

He looks back at the road, and stops for a light. The heat warms the car steadily, driving out the January chill.

"Sometimes she answers that I'll know when I find it, and sometimes I only wake up."

<Pose Tracker> Usagi Tsukino [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

Terrestrial vehicles are so quaint.

Luna, either sensing that she is out of place or just because of fateful luck, stalks into Usagi's lap. She picks her way down one paw at a time, giving the blonde girl enough time to make an "mm," of acknowledgment and slide the bentos to another resting spot.

The cat turns around, tucks its legs and paws up underneath itself, and stares up at Mamoru. This would be adorable to the point of diffusing the situation if it were not for the fact that Luna has strategically chosen to sit at the extreme edge of Usagi's knees, putting her gleaming eyes directly in the corner of Mamoru's field of view.

She doesn't blink.

Usagi dives into the food, which does not judge or argue. The rest of Mamoru's lunch is gone in very short order, because she has found an excuse for herself to eat quickly even if it isn't very ladylike: it isn't her food, so she has to hurry up so that she can get to her own before it goes bad.

After that, she's set herself a tempo, and it's always bad luck to break up a good pace when you've got one going. That's how Rei gets so much work done! Proper pacing. So what if Usagi's pace is currently fast? Eating is something she's good at. It just means she's an expert.

She's finished by the beginning of the traffic merge. With a hand over her lips, Usagi suppresses the urge to burp and is therefore the daintiest creature to ever walk the Earth. She is very proud.

But then: this story. Usagi has heard it before, of course, but each time--each time she hears it, she knows him better. It's different. Her fingers dig into the padding of the jacket as she watches for some sort of response from Luna. Come on. This has to mean something. He has more of a reason than she does.

Luna's reaction is swift and abrupt. She leaps onto the dash, balancing precariously against the motion of the car but without much visible effort. From here, it is impossible to ignore her stare. Her eyes, so wide and luminous, look like they're bright enough to bore into his dreams. They're flecked with something like stars. She is looking for something, and gives no clues as to what she eventually finds.

"Are you our enemy?"

<Pose Tracker> Mamoru Chiba [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

At the sudden leap, Mamoru very nearly swerves; for a second he's scowling in irritation over that, and then for a second more, he's practically livid with offense at Luna's question.

Then sanity kicks in because he remembers that up until the fateful minutes leading up to the New Year, he was, in fact, still in competition with the Senshi for the Silver Crystal. Then his mouth is a thin, angry line, and he carefully pulls the car over and parks in a metered spot, then turns off the car and glares back.

"For someone who's supposed to be careful and protecting your charges, you have a pretty bad idea of safe passenger practices," he snaps at the cat, and it doesn't even occur to him how ridiculous he probably looks doing so.

Then he puts the heels of his hands on the steering wheel, continuing to meet those piercing red eyes with the intense and incredibly weighty blue gaze of his own. His chin lifts, and his voice, when he answers the actual question, is fierce and defiant and comes straight from the heart.

"I could never be Usako's enemy."

He doesn't even blush, saying that to Usagi's terrifyingly savvy, determined and dangerous cat-guardian, right in front of Usagi.

In the same tone, Mamoru contines, his gaze never leaving the little black moon-cat, "And I could never be the enemy of anyone tasked with protecting the Princess. No matter what it costs me, even if I never remember who I am, even if you shut me out of the search, I cannot be your enemy."

The first break in his heartfelt, forceful series of declarations is a brief glance toward Usagi, and it's a glance filled to brimming with a tense well of suppressed and tangled emotions, and in that second of time, his expression softens.

Finally, he looks back at Luna, his tone shifting to something gentler but no less determined. "If you won't let me help, and I find her or the Silver Crystal before you do, I'll call you immediately. All of you together can protect her more effectively than I could ever hope to."

His last words on the subject are to Usagi more than Luna, as his gaze shifts back to the young girl sitting beside him. "The most use I can be in that task is helping you, lending you my strength. Making you stronger so you can do your job better. I was a fool to ever think otherwise."

<Pose Tracker> Usagi Tsukino [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

Luna's balance is excellent. Usagi is sunk back into her seat and firmly strapped in. She sways with the movement of the car, but not dangerously.

The cat glares back. It's very difficult to read her face, but not so difficult as one might imagine. Her eyes are very expressive, and currently her pupils are blade-thin. This is her answer to his first outburst, and then second, and then his third.

I could never be Usako's enemy.

Long ago,

Luna brushes her hair behind her ear. It is a tiny gesture that she will allow herself because she knows that it is graceful one. In truth, being in a human form for so long always annoyed her. The problems accrue and never really go away: her feet hurting, her posture constrained, her hair out of place. She won't let that show to a member of the Earth people. Not even their prince.

She wears white. It is a beautiful gown, but it looks matte and simple in comparison. Out on the veranda, behind where Luna sits with the tea and the prince, Princess Serenity dances with the songbirds. Her gown shines like nothing else, ethereal and pale, as silvery-white as her skin and hair and the moon above. This secret place out in the country has always been the home of such birds, but they have come in numbers for the moon princess.

Luna smiles thinly at the prince. It looks like a smile for him, but she is thinking of how the princess will ask her mother why there are no birds like this in the artificial world of the palace. It will tip off that she has been to Earth again. Not that the queen doesn't know. She knows everything. As far as the people down here know, she is a goddess.

"Prince Endymion, I have your word. I know you have much power, but it is only a human power. How can you promise me, truly promise me, that you will not put our princess in danger? Even your closest allies may secretly be her enemy. Even you may become her enemy, unknown to you."

<Pose Tracker> Mamoru Chiba [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Silently placing his tea back on the table, the young prince sits back on his heels, expression grave as he regards Luna. He'd rather be watching Serenity, but that's a given, and this conversation is necessary--

--the fact that he clearly understands its necessity, despite his youth and the youth of his planet and his people, speaks to a remarkable lack of arrogance for what he is--

--so he gives the Mauan advisor his full attention as she speaks.

even the birds of the air

share their song

with her

All of the colors around them are so bright and vibrant. The green of the grass and the trees, the endless blue of the sky above them, the kaleidoscope of hues scattered across the gardens-- the deep, insistent red of the roses that spill from the garden onto the patio, that climb the columns and creep onto the veranda with them...

Even the prince himself. Skin burnished by the sun until it's almost the gold of his kingdom's name, clear and calm eyes the color of his planet's oceans, clothes dyed brightly and embroidered, glittering, with loving craftsmanship-- like his planet, he's almost too much.

Instead of objecting with anger to the audacity of Luna's question, Endymion only puts his hands on his knees and watches her for a moment before answering, sorrow and humor mixing in equal parts behind his voice. "I can only truly promise that if I become her enemy, I am no longer myself. And since what power I have is only of Earth, your soldiers should be able to make quick work of what's left."

It's not rue, it's not bitterness, it's not even self-deprecation-- and it's not over. Endymion gestures widely over the expanse of scenery available to their view. "Living and feeling are always a danger, Luna. Love is always a danger. The brighter the possible joy, the darker the possible sorrow." He places his hands back on his knees, closing his eyes for a second to keep his gaze from straying to Serenity again.

He can hear her laughter, and-- despite the gravity of his demeanor, of the subject matter, of the situation-- he can't keep the smile from tugging at his face. But he tries.

He tries, and finally, Prince Endymion looks back up to the lovely black-haired cat-girl and reaches for his tea once more, face again serious. "I can't promise what I can't predict. And I know that saying how much I love her, or how empty my life would be without her, or how much her love has changed the way I see everything-- I know none of that matters, because she's the kind of person that makes that true for everyone she meets. But I can promise you that I understand that."

<Pose Tracker> Usagi Tsukino [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

Endymion looks beyond Luna. Luna's gaze fixates on Endymion. She is very good at what she does. Maybe the best in universe.

For his answer, the prince receives a genuine smile. It is a cat's smile, mild for any other animal but intense here because it is so rare. She scoops her cup into her hands, enjoying the warmth but not tasting the tea.

"You are well-spoken. I know you are not lying."

Beyond her, the princess pauses in her frolicking to observe a pair of large, dark birds that have taken one of her diaphanous veils. They work in unison to carry it off, but it continues to become more and more transparent as it goes until it doesn't exist at all. The birds squawk in surprise and swoop away, together.

Somewhere during the exchange, Luna turned to stare, lightning-fast and then unmoving. The princess does not notice. She is too busy laughing in delight at the antics. Slowly, lingering on her young charge, Luna turns back to Endymion.

Her pupils have become blade-thin.

"Never speak of enemies where she can hear. Never speak of danger. Those are our terms."

Above, on a very different veranda where the air is still and the night is silent, Queen Serenity looks down upon the Earth and feels anxiety for the first time in many, many years.


"I know you are not lying," Luna murmurs, her voice far-away. She studies Mamoru's face for a little longer, and then hops down onto her young charge's lap.

Usagi unthinkingly strokes her fur, running her hand down from her head and along her back. It isn't very dignified, especially in front of Mamoru, but she allows it because she knows that Usagi is worried about her.

She'll let that show to a member of the Earth people. He is, after all, their prince.