2014-04-30 - An Orgy of Emotions

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Title: An Orgy of Emotions

Mai promised Mamoru an apology dinner. She said to bring a friend. He brings Usagi. Things get very complicated all over the place..


Mai Tokiha, Usagi Tsukino, Mamoru Chiba, Eri Shimanouchi


Ohtori, Mai and Mikoto's dorm

OOC - IC Date:

6 January 2014 - 4/30/14


Mai: I'm sorry. Thanks to Eri-chan, I realized what it was that I was saying to you at the end of the other night, and you didn't deserve that. Don't feel guilty for looking gorgeous or for how other people feel about you, those aren't your fault or responsibility. There's more about why I said all that, but I don't have time to write it now - just remember, not your fault. And I owe you some apology, so you get a home-cooked dinner between friends. Bring anyone along you care to. ;) - Mai
Mamoru: I will never say no to free cooking, apology-based or otherwise. I mean unless it's poison, then I would say no. Thank you! I'll bring my friend Tsukino-san, I think you two would enjoy each other anyway. --Chiba

An hour later,

Mai: Sorry about the delay, I just got my break. Um, great to hear you like food, I just hope you didn't tell Tsukino-san tonight because my shift doesn't end until 10. That said, pick any other day, all of my shifts until school starts again are mornings anyway. Any foods I should avoid?
MamoruI like absolutely everything. But I'll find out."
Mamoru to Usagi: someone who is a very good cook said they would make dinner for me and i should bring a friend! do you want to come


A day of agonizing and arguing with Luna later,

Usagi: yes
Mamoru: wow good thing it wasn't last night. i'll pass it on. it's at ohtori, i can give you a ride.
Mamoru: good thing i'm not hungry enough to eat ALL THE HOMECOOKED DINNER MYSELF
Mamoru: wait-- no-- stomach rumbling-- i might change my mind--
Usagi:teasing dinner guests you personally invited makes you a villain YOU'RE BEING VILLAINOUS RIGHT NOW
Mamoru: FINE btw she wants to know if there are any foods she should avoid
Usagi: carrots
Mamoru to Mai: no carrots
Mamoru to Usagi: ok should i pick you up or just meet you at ohtori?
Usagi: well you already know where I live but I don't want you to meet my family so I'll meet you there

Five minutes of spittake and cleanup later,

Mamoru: ok


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

"I'm Sailor Moon, you know!"

"I stayed on brightly lit streets! ...well, I ran really fast during the dark parts, anyway!"

"Why are you concerned about me, anyway? That's not very coolguy of you."

They met on the bridge. Usagi wasn't expecting Mamoru there. They agreed to meet at Mai's apartment. They bickered like that all the way there, and Usagi meant every word. It felt weird to have Mamoru Chiba going out of his way like that. Tuxedo Mask did it all the time, and she's certainly gotten used to the idea of them being one and the same, but when Mamoru looks at her like that...

thump thump

...it's weird.

Inside the dorm halls, Usagi has taken off her jacket and gloves and is now carrying them over her forearm. She's a little dressy, enough that strangers may see her as fashionable and friends will see her as trying hard. Her transformation brooch hangs from a fine silver chain, resting against her white blouse.

"So is she your girlfriend," she asks just outside the door, trotting out the old question with nearly zero enthusiasm.

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

A lot of the answers to the accusations were terrible questions like 'have you actually met a lot of Ohtori students' and 'how could I forget you're Sailor Moon, especially when you keep yelling it like that'--

--which means that not only did the bickering last the whole way, but by the time they get to the dorm building, Mamoru's shoulders are hunched and his expression's a scowl. By the time they get to Mai's door, he has to un-jam a hand from a pocket in order to knock.

It's not that his hand sticks. No. Unfortunately for him, he manages to get his hand all the way past rapping his knuckles against the wooden door before Usagi's question hits, and then he just freezes in place, looking down at her with this...


"I told you! Do you remember? I told you I don't have a girlfriend! You thought Mio was my girlfriend, too! And you thought I had some other girlfriend, at the arcade, when I was just talking about the princess! Are you trying to marry me off?!"

Incredulous and aggravated and hey yeah he's gritting his teeth at Usagi, and that does not at all take away from the fact that he dresses like he lives in Williamsburg during the week and London or Paris on alternating weekends.

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

The clunk of a knife on a cutting board. The sizzle of onion and garlic in a little bit of oil. The whistle of steam from a battered rice cooker. These are the sounds that fill Mai Tokiha's kitchen at the moment. No humming or whistling, just determination to get things underway - delays at the grocery store left her getting a late start on cooking the meal. Still, with Mikoto Minagi as her roommate, she's used to cooking in a hurry.

Mai sets the knife aside - it might not be perfect, but the pork cutlets she was working on are in reasonably sized pieces. She tips the board into the wok with the onions and seasonings, and inhales the resulting steam in satisfaction. There's a chaotic melange of smells filling the air - sizzling onions and meat from the wok, a tangy sweet sauce bubbling away in one pot, a vegetable medley steaming with just a hint of sesame.

It's not as diverse a meal as Mai might have liked, but it's hopefully tasty enough. The quantity is a bit larger than would be warranted, but Mai couldn't be sure just how many guests she would have and leftovers are always useful. She glances to the already-set table, where Mikoto's usual seat rests empty. Her roommate, staying out late in search of 'Ani-ue', was told there would be dinner later but who knows how late she'll be.

Mai checks the stove, assuring that things will be stable for at least a minute, then heads over to the window. She's cooked alone before, but it's always nicer to have someone around....and then there's a knock. Mai jumps, brushes at her apron, glances at the steaming stove, then heads toward the door. A moment to take a breath, then she opens it with a smile. "Hi! Thank you for coming - both of you! Come on in, supper will still be a few minutes."

Not looking directly at Mamoru's face, she fails to notice the awkwardness, and simply steps out of the way.

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

Usagi frowns with such exaggeration that it becomes a pout, looking down and away from Mamoru. She hides her other arm under her coat, clutching it to her chest. "You're always hanging around so many girls, how am I supposed to know if you haven't picked a girlfriend since I last saw you?"

The thought doesn't sit well with her. She wrinkles her nose, takes in a deep breath, and then centers herself toward the door with her chin up and a determined look on her face. This is Usagi Tsukino at her most fierce!

Mai opens the door and Usagi's eyes become very wide as the color drains from her face.

She hovers at the door, silent but not awkwardly so since Mamoru is obligated to answer first as the primary guest. The smell from the kitchen wafts toward her nose. Her eyes shimmer as she tries very hard not to become upset.

"I-it smells good."

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

It's like a full second before Mamoru can even say anything at all, which makes it a pretty good thing that Mai opens the door in the middle of his segfault. And yes, thankfully, Mai's not looking at him, so the fact that he's only just then lowering his hand from knocking shouldn't be terribly obvious.

He makes a concerted effort to gather himself, also straightening up, irritation flaring and writ large behind that smooth facade of politeness--

"Thanks, Tokiha-san--!" gets said award-winningly cheerfully, but it's at the same time as two other things.

First, oh my god that smells so good. So very-- Mamoru takes an involuntary half-step toward 'inside'.

Second, Usagi's hovering and her voice is wavering and he pauses and looks back and down toward her and sees her own expression.

Instantly he stops, half in and half out, with absolutely zero clue as to what the hell could possibly be wrong; he looks stricken. "Are you okay? Ahh--" Did he forget to do something? Did he step on her foot? He checks. He didn't step on her foot. Did he say something wrong? He goes back over everything he said; he can't possibly have said anything wrong and didn't notice, she already reacted to everything. She only said carrots! So it can't be anything she smells--

AHA he didn't make introductions!

Taking a half-step back, then putting both his hands on Usagi's shoulders, Mamoru gently pushes to steer her into the room. "Tokiha-san, this is Usagi Tsukino."

Place bets, ladies and gentlemen. Something annoying? Something overly familiar? Something comparatively cold? How is Mamoru going to address Usagi today~~?

"And this is Mai Tokiha."

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Mai isn't completely oblivious - and even if she's not looking directly at Mamoru's face, she can see Usagi's. The blond-haired girl speaks first, a compliment that keeps Mai smiling, and then Mamoru greets her rather cheerfully. And then the awkwardness.

Oh good, Chiba-san figured it out. Mai bows to both of them as they enter. "A pleasure to meet you, Tsukino-san. Hopefully Chiba-san here hasn't gone and given you trouble on your way over~" A lilting tone, and Mai looks up to Mamoru to make sure both guests see her teasing grin. This might be an apology dinner for certain comments, but the dork is still a dork.

"Sorry for any disarray, I was in a bit of a rush. My roommate might show up later-" The words 'who even knows' are muttered under her breath. "-but go ahead and have a seat. Would you li-" Mai's call for drinks is cut off by a loud pop from the stove, a piece of onion flipping into the air, and she rushes over to attend to the kitchen.

The room's a nice open design, though, so as long as one speaks over the sounds of cooking conversation can still happen. "Sorry, just need to deal with this - stove went to high heat again-"

Nothing's on fire. Yet.

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

Usagi wobbles on clumsy feet as Mamoru guides her into the room. She seems dazed, at least until Mamoru introduces the hostess. Then, the blonde girl looks sharply up and over her shoulder, narrowing her eyes as she scrutinizes the tall boy's expression.

Tokiha-san, eh. Tokiha-san. What game are you playing at, Mamoru Chiba?

The short girl takes another calming breath (technique cribbed from Rei Hino) and takes a few steps forward to get herself on her own feet and out of Mamoru's steering grip. She fixes her hair, glancing about the apartment as its owner is distracted. Never a better time to look nervous than when no one is watching!

She doesn't think to count Mamoru as someone to avoid looking nervous around.

"Thank you for inviting me, Tokiha-san," Usagi calls into the kitchen. She shoots Mamoru a dirty look. This time, it's because thinking about how nice this apartment looks made her think of how nice Mami's apartment and Madoka's house look, which made her think about all Ohtori students, which made her wonder what Mamoru's apartment looks like, which made her think unkindly about Mamoru having the gall to be glamorous and tasteful. She explains this thought process with the aforementioned dirty look.

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

Another crisis averted. Sort of. Maybe. There's mild alarm on Mamoru's part as Mai's just straight up not looking at him at all, which, in light of their previous conversation and the reason for this dinner, makes him blush. He's not blushing when either Mai or Usagi looks at him the first time, he's too busy trying to figure out what's going on.

It's after the pop -- which is more alarming than Mai not looking at him -- and Usagi's stepped away to look around with variable levels of nervousness. THAT. That. Is when he starts turning red. Somehow he feels like he's walked into some kind of trap, but god knows whose, or to what purpose. /Danger/. Enemies. Some Dark Kingdom plot.

And then he's being given a dirty look.

Shrugging out of his jacket, Mamoru reaches out to pull Usagi's away from her, too, giving a red-faced return look that's half glare and half offended confusion. And before he's even done with that, he's looking around for-- "Sure no problem! Where should we put our coats? Just over on... the... on the thing over there?" Oh, no, there's no strain in his voice at all.

"What is your problem'? Do I have a sign on me or something that says 'this guy, everything is his fault forever'?" he hisses to Usagi.

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Okay, maybe a little bit of the onion's a bit toasty, but the sauce will make all things equal. There are techniques Mai saw the chefs use in Hokkaido, little tricks used to improve her own cooking skills. One thing she's been practicing is how to flip items in the pan without using any tools, just a flick of the wrist - and in moments, the pork cutlets in the wok have been flipped over, to begin cooking on the other side. She taps her chin, considers the recipe a moment - and looks up when Tsukino-san calls out.

"Happy to have you - say, do you prefer mushrooms or broccoli?" The dish really does need something else, and whatever she doesn't use today can be saved for another day. She checks on the medley - various greens, but no carrots - and turns off the heat to that burner.

When Mai looks up again, Mamoru's asking something - and with an armful of coats and normal lighting, he doesn't have that distracting profile. Though he's rather red, and Mai has to cover her mouth a moment to hide her amusement. "Wherever you like, just don't go digging through the couch cushions." Though at least there's no risk of someone stumbling across Miroku... She doesn't quite hear the hissed conversation, and she's torn between mocking Mamoru or helping...well, maybe a bit of both. "So, Tsukino-san, have you known Chiba-san here long?"

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

"Um, broccoli, I think?" Usagi replies. She doesn't seem sure about it, but maybe indecisiveness is just her way of speaking. There's also a lot of apartment to look at. That is, there would be if she wasn't being so rudely interrupted.

Usagi leans in to Mamoru, furrowing her brow as she hisses back: "Yes, you do! It's right here!" she waves her hand over his face. Then Mai is talking and Usagi rocks back on her heels, completely separated from Mamoru and not interacting with him at all! She smiles brightly to show that she has nothing to hide. Because she doesn't.

"Nope!" she answers, "I met him at the arcade and then he kept bothering me until I was forced to accept him as a part of my life. I'm still coming to terms with it."

The blonde girl takes a few steps to get a better look at the kitchen, where their hostess seems to be doing actual fancy cooking. She keeps getting more and more impressive. With the last flip, there is a small spark of flame, briefly casting Mai's face in an orange glow, just like--

"--Kagutsuchi," Usagi murmurs, the words catching in her throat. She scrambles back to Mamoru's side, pulling at his shirt to bring him down to her level for rapid-fire whispering. "Mamoru-san that's that girl with the fire and the dragon and how do you know her and why did you invite me here and what are you planning and she seems nice and what does she know about you and did you tell her anything she shouldn't know and if this gets weird I'm calling Mami-chan to rescue me!"

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

"I won't!" Mamoru calls back; Usagi's waving her hand in his face as he's putting the coats down, so he doesn't even get to react beyond a look of outrage before Mai's talking again and Usagi's way over there looking so fakely fake-innocent he can't even. That's almost a growling face!

"She keeps throwing things at my head!" he counters, in a mixture of sulkiness and righteous indignation. There is an invisible thundercloud over his head. He looks, for a second, arms crossed and brow furrowed, like he's fishing for any other complaint.

Just as he's given up on that and has started over toward the table to just damn well do as he's told and sit down, Usagi decides it's business time. In fact, she decides this to the tune of grabbing at him and oh man his shirt and he's dragged and--

Again, he looks incredulous. Also, he's prying at her comparatively tiny hand. He looks all too aware of the fact that were he wearing a tie, he'd be completely doomed. "She knows who I am but not who you are! Jeez, what kind of jerk do you think I--" Scowl, darkly. "Don't answer that," he hisses as he pulls free, stalking over to the table and pulling out a chair. He sits.

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Broccoli it is! Mai dashes to the fridge to remove a stalk of broccoli, sets it on the cutting board for vegetables, and starts chopping. Round slices of the stalk, separate the florets, it's something she's practiced a dozen times in this kitchen. In short order, it's ready to be thrown into the wok - and after a quick toss to mix the vegetables with the meat, she pours the cooked orange-soy sauce into the stir-fry - the heat difference making the citrus smell fill the air.

"Did he, now?" Mai smirks. While there are things Mamoru doesn't deserve to be needled over... oh, good, it sounds like Tsukino-san is a kindred spirit. "Sounds like good exercise, that head's a pretty high-up target. For my part, I ran into him at a grocery store on New Year's Day. He seemed like he didn't know what to do with himself, and he's kind of fun to taunt, so I wound up inviting him to the dorm's New Year's party."

The meal is just a couple of minutes from being done - Mai checks the medley with the tip of a knife to make sure they're done, then switches off that burner. The stove's getting old, there's a bright pop of flame, but it's nothing to worry about for her. The meal's almost ready, Chiba-san's friend seems nice so far, it's all going well-

...did she hear Tsukino-san say that name? She couldn't have, right? That would be silly, this is just a normal meal to be a normal apology for some normal crass comments. No HiME craziness, if Mikoto were here there'd be a no swords policy, just people having a meal...

There's a pop and a whistle from the rice cooker, and Mai turns to deal with that rather than dwell on what Tsukino and Chiba may or may not be whispering about. The device is...okay, it still works, but it really is giving up the ghost. She calls out from the kitchen as she fiddles with the dying appliance, face turned away from where anyone could see that brief panic. "Oh, I forgot to ask before - would you two like anything to drink?"

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

Usagi opens her mouth to answer that in defiance of Mamoru. She would have too, if not for activity from the kitchen. With a final glare, she joins him at the table.

"Do you have tea?" Usagi asks, now sugar and sunshine in a flash. Mami has taught her so much about drinking tea that the idea of sharing her knowledge with other people is so exciting! Then there's the associated glow of warm friendship memories to wrap her up like--like--a tea cozy.

She covers her mouth as she giggles under her breath. She does not explain this to Mamoru either.

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

Mamoru sits there glaring at the wall, ears red, and slouches in his chair and crosses his arms. He is still scowling.

He may or may not actually just have lightly kicked Usagi's chair, there.

"Tea would be wonderful," he says, the cheer a little too obviously forced. Then he scoots back his chair and stands up in a flurry of motion, already assuming the answer to his question is going to be yes because he doesn't dare think otherwise, "Why don't I give you a hand with that! The tea I mean, I wouldn't presume to touch the sacred instruments of your calling--"

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

What kind of kitchen in Japan doesn't have tea? Though, in honesty, most mornings it's the jar of instant coffee that sees more use. The hot water dispenser works for either, and it's at least in good working order - and still full, good. "I have some green tea, I'll make a pot - and don't you lift a finger, Chiba-san, the point of this is to be an apology dinner for you." A few spoonfuls of tea into the pot, pour in the water, start searching for the strainer - and there's a sizzle from the wok, and Mai has to turn her attention back to the stove.

...yeah, things are done. There's a nice dish for the vegetable medley to go into, the stir-fry can be served out of the wok directly, it's just a matter of serving bowlfuls of rice and putting the main dishes out with serving spoons. Waitress skills come into play - somehow, Mai's able to get everything but the tea to the table in one trip. "Right. Chiba-san said 'anything goes', but no carrots - so I made a carrot-free sesame vegetable medley, and an orange pork stir-fry. New recipes for both, hopefully they turned out all right." She gives both guests a smile - the tea still needs another minute.

Mai then looks at Mamoru's face - not flinching away, but showing earnest sincerity for the moment. "But yeah, apology dinner. I said a few things I shouldn't have to Mamoru the other day - accusations he really didn't deserve. It took me a few days to realize what I'd done, so I owe him this apology." She looks down, blushing.

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

For the record, Usagi is currently looking at Mai with starry eyes and hands clasped together. It is because of the magnificently-prepared meal being served, but by the angle seen from the door, it looks like the blonde girl is swooning over the moment that the blushing Mai and the flustered Mamoru are presumedly sharing.

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (8)] has posed.

It had been a strange day, but finally Eri's afternoon had calmed down enough that she could start working on her little Gardening project for a friend.

Step 1. Window boxes filled with compost that didn't have too powerful a scent.

Step 2. A birdcage. The birdcage had been adapted so said window boxes could be set inside.

Step 3. Signs. It took her a while to get them right but they ended up looking a little bit like: 'Mikoto-chan stay out, this means you! <^x_x^> It could only be complete with a picture of a dead cat.

For the seeds, she had a small cardboard box full of little packets so Mai could pick what she wanted, and a trowel.

It was all stacked up 'way' too high in front of her face, balanced precariously in a manner which made it look like it was going to topple over at any moment. This forced her to knock on Mai's door with her elbow, before trying to slowly turn the knob, and knock the door open. She called out in a manner akin to some person on a sitcom, "Hey Mai-chan! Sorry I know it's late but I just wanted to drop all of this off so we could work on it the next time you weren't on shift. Oh are you cooking?" She lays it all down with a grunt, before turning to actually take a look at what's going on. And then Eri pales, freezing with a deer in the headlights look.

There's a blonde girl with Odango, she's certain she's seen her before from the sleepover! There's Mamoru! And there's Mai. The gears and sprockets in her mind grind to a halt, and it makes some really really incorrect assumptions in the space of a heartbeat. One of these involves Mai's statements last night on sharing Mamoru-kun. She'd been teasing at the time, but what if she truly was? There was another girl here after all!!

And then it starts up again, all at once, and her mouth rambles like a tape recorder in fast motion her nose, cheeks, and forehead all bright red,


Only a few more seconds tick along before she's fleeing for the door, which slammed shut a little more dramatically than she definitely intended.

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

DENIED. Mamoru, therefore, loiters in the space between the kitchen and the dining table, arms crossed, looking discomfited and occasionally eyeing Usagi while Mai cooks--

--and then Mai's all sheepish and shy and stuff, and, and... blushing. And. Mamoru glances back at Usagi, and sees her looking like she's watching mirakuru romansu in progress, and he actively grimaces as he turns back to Mai. It's this grimace that's like, half 'oh god what is she even doing' and half 'I knew it was a trap' and 'this is an honest apology dinner for something I don't entirely understand and it means a lot to Mai and no matter what's going on in anyone's head, that's really important' is trying to gnaw the aggravation out of sight.

Mamoru Chiba gives up and just looks completely lost. "I'm still not really sure what-- I mean you were upset--" he starts, one hand lifting to grasp at the back of his neck, posture all tense and uncertain.

And then Eri clatters and he freezes, and he watches the trainwreck turn into a dynamite-laden helicopter crashing into a train falling off a very high rail bridge onto a steamship towing a nuclear submarine.

The color of his face is the color of the blood of a fading sunset.

He can't move.

He stares at Usagi in a blind, frozen panic.

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Mai's a bit embarrassed, to tell the truth. Not only is she in proximity to the distractingly handsome hunk - and she's trying to apologize which isn't that common an occurrence - and the subject of the apology is that same handsomeness - it's rather flustering! She glances to the side, where Usagi is...practically sparkling. A moment's worry that she's getting the wrong impression, but that is actually a familiar expression.

Looks like it's a good thing Mai cooked the Mikoto Amount.

Mamoru doesn't understand - and with one last glance to Usagi, Mai turns her full attention. This is going to be hard to explain, but it's something that has to be said. She takes a deep breath-

-and then there's a knock on the door, and the door opens-

-and Eri-chan is a great friend but now's not the greatest time-

-and she has the completely wrong idea...

Mai whirls, bright red from her face down her neck who knows how far. "ERI-CHAN! It's not- this isn't a- you have the wrong idea!" But the door's already been slammed, the one to hear her protests is long gone.

Filled with dread, Mai slowly turns back around. Mamoru is bright red as well, and staring at Tsukino-san. Mai, too turns to see what her other guest's reaction to this might be...

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

Usagi looks up from her second bowl, unaware of the orange sauce on her face.

"Who was that?" she asks between bites. A swallow, and then: "She isn't staying for dinner? Her loss!"

They're both staring. Usagi slows, and then stops entirely, staring back. Her hand creeps over to a napkin, and then she dabs at the corner of her mouth. "Um. Sorry. I usually eat more ladylike, but I worked up an appetite walking here."

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

Sinking back against the wall, Mamoru exhales slowly, and his face goes back to its regular color. He reaches up to run his hand through his hair, which makes it stick up unevenly a little. All of a sudden he looks totally wiped.

And then he looks at Usagi again, and he starts laughing. The sound is pure, blessed relief, completely devoid of any of the horror or embarrassment or tension of less than fifteen seconds ago. For a moment his laugh's muffled as he holds his hands over his face, and then he rubs at his eyes with his wrists and pushes off the wall. "It's fine," he tells Mai, ruefully, "I think I have an idea, because of what you said I didn't need to worry about being my responsibility, but there's too much going on right now for me to really, I don't know, compile the routine and run it? I won't be able to parse it. I'm really hungry and that smells as good as if we don't sit down, she'll ladylike her way through the rest of it before we do."

That said, he bravely moves to take back his seat, and as he sits back down he informs Usagi, "You might not have worked up such an appetite if you hadn't been lecturing me the whole way. You can't expect not to get hungry when you give away all your food..."

He tucks his napkin in.

"...for thought."

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Mai flat out stares at Usagi's face, even as the blonde-haired girl dabs at a stray bit of sauce. All of that - Eri's misunderstanding the situation horribly, the situation getting so awkward even Mamoru Chiba is embarrassed - and she's just eating? Her stare is only broken - by baffled blinking - when Mamoru starts laughing. The good mood is contagious, and Mai herself starts giggling - one hand covering her mouth, helpless with amusement until Mamoru pushes off the wall.

Mamoru makes...a few good points there, and Mai simply nods. "I'll explain after supper - I still fully intend to insult your intelligence by explaining in detail." Mai bustles off to the kitchen as Mamoru takes his seat. A moment's rustling for the tea strainer, listening in on the man's teasing comments to Usagi as she pours the tea into waiting cups, and finally she returns to the table with drinks.

Just as Mamoru drops that pun.

The tray of tea is set on the table with a slam, the cups rattling but not quite spilling. Behold, the Art of the Peeved Waitress. Mai pinches the bridge of her nose with a wince, taking a moment before setting out each of the three cups. Once that's done, she points directly at Mamoru, the finger not quite jabbing into him but the threat is there. "You. That was terrible. That pun actually hurt."

And then she turns, and points an equally accusing finger at Usagi. "As for you, young lady - not even an 'itadakimasu'? I know you're hungry, but even Mikoto's managed to learn those manners!"

With those admonishments delivered, Mai takes a seat. A breath. And then smiles cheerfully. "Right! Now we can begin - itadakimasu!"

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

Usagi stares back at the two, uncomprehending. Then Mamoru starts laughing and Mai starts giggling and they're talking about something she has no idea what, and--

The blonde girl scrambles into a defensive position as Mamoru accuses her of calorie-torching levels of nagging. This means sitting up straight, slightly back from him, with hands ready for wild gesticulation.

"If talking is exercise, how are you so skinny? It's always--" she uses as deep a voice as she can manage "--'Odango, did you know... you have odango? Heh!' and then you walk off! Or, 'Odango, you sure are losing that game! Heh!' and then you walk off!"

Usagi rises up even further, wobbling from the exertion and general poor balance. "It doesn't count if you wait around until I get to a hard part!"

And then: Mai. Her tinier dinner guest deflates, sinking back down into her chair and offering a smiling grimace in apology. Usagi joins in the etiquette, and then stares into her bowl with haunted, far-away eyes.

"Traveling the endless roads... it is easy to forget... civilization..."

There is no forlorn breeze to blow behind her but Usagi intensely wishes that there was.

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

And... Mamoru... has to actively bite his lip to keep from laughing all over again. He's turning a little red again, too, but this time it is most definitely from trying not to laugh. His jaw works, and his mouth twitches, despite the bitten lip, and when Usagi gets that distant, haunted look of drama, he can't look at her anymore.

He wordlessly dishes food onto his plate, concentrating deeply. He wordlessly pulls his tea closer, all intense and studied.


And then his hand comes up to cover his face, so, so red, and his shoulders start shaking.

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Mai pauses in the middle of dishing a serving out for herself as Usagi makes that haunted proclamation. The orange-haired girl just has to stare for a moment as the breeze fails to materialize and Mamoru just starts giggling helplessly. Mai, however, isn't laughing just yet. Instead, she facepalms.

"...Chiba-san, did you bring me another Mikoto?" Now she starts giggling, even as she finishes getting her helping of both the main and side dishes. It's a little while before she's able to recover, and look Usagi in the eye.

"Sorry, just-" She giggles again. "My roommate. Appetite of a wild animal, had the manners of one, if you're also searching for some long-lost brother or something I'm not sure I could take it!" Mai's rapidly losing the battle against laughter, so she just puts the serving spoon back with the handle to Usagi's end of the table. Because, hey, if she was that hungry...

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

Spotting the bizarre Mamo-movement out of the corner of her eye, Usagi looks up and bemusedly watches him. She's happy to give Mai her attention when she starts talking, because Mamoru is acting weird.

"Mikoto?" Usagi murmurs, though she stays quiet otherwise to let the other girl explain. Afterward, though: "Wild animal?! Me?" The blonde girl lays a hand to her chest, looking stricken at the idea. "Even wild bunnies are very nice," she adds, her voice small and meek. Maidenly, you might say.

Or not. Madoka would probably disagree, Usagi briefly reflects.

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

Finally, FINALLY getting control of himself while Mai speaks, Mamoru digs in. Starts to dig in. Pauses with stir-fried vegetables halfway to his mouth, and then-- then he grins at Usagi, all crookedly, eyes utterly lost in affection for a second.

Then he blushes and stuffs food in his mouth, slouching into his chair a little and chewing, and-- goddammit, it's so good and despite everything, despite everything this past week, Mai's a way better cook than he is and food always tastes better when someone makes it for you and Mai's not mad at him or whatever that was, and Usagi's oblivious to Eri's outburst and is enjoying herself and something's working out right and it's possible to smile while chewing.

He picks up his tea and sips carefully, then eventually tells Mai, "No, not another Mikoto." His blue eyes shift to Usagi again and they're altogether too innocent. "You do have a brother, though, right?"

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Mai takes in Usagi's counterargument. The words 'wild bunny' are paired with the meaning of the name 'Usagi'. And Mai has to hold herself off of her plate lest she collapse into her food giggling. It takes her until Mamoru's clarifying comment to recover, and she has to wipe her eyes when she does. "Oh dear. Tsukino-san, you are welcome to come here any time. You're a much better-behaved 'wild bunny' than Mikoto is a 'stray cat'."

And with one last giggle, Mai digs into her own food. The vegetables with sesame aren't bad, at least a decent side dish, and hopefully there'll be leftovers of the orange-sauced pork stir-fry because that recipe might be a keeper.

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

Usagi's gaze turns sharp and guarded as it slides back to Mamoru. "Ye-e-es. Shingo. He's my younger brother." Where's the trap?

Wild bunny. Usagi puffs up her cheeks in miniature outrage. Well, this wild bunny will evade all hunters! She very determinedly serves herself another portion with the spoon Mai left for her.

But it's too much effort to keep up in such a relaxing atmosphere. With a sigh, she slumps down in comfort rather than shame, and takes a bite of her food.

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

"Cool," says Mamoru cheerfully, before digging in in earnest. No trap. Probably just setting up for one later. Somehow.

For a little while, even, there is nothing from the eleventh-grader but a whole lot of appreciative eating and scattered compliments on Mai's cooking.

He is, in fact, while eating, as enthusiastic as Usagi-- but his manners are impeccable. Which is why he's not talking with his mouth full. It is one of the ways to get the inveterate talker to shut up.

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

The least voracious of the three is, in the end, Mai; she takes a couple of servings, but seems content to let Chiba-san and Tsukino-san dig in. Will there be leftovers at this rate? She made enough for a Mikoto-class appetite, but she wasn't expecting the wild bunny. Either way, the food-based apology seems to have been accepted.

"Right! So, I'm not sure if Chiba-kun told you, but I work at Linden Baum - they're a Western-style diner, and serve dessert at the end of meals." Mai rolls one shoulder. "I don't have much prepared, but if you want I can try making a few cookies while we chat."

She stands up, taking any cleared dishes to the kitchen in the process. "Anyway, hopefully this is an acceptable apology. The other night I...basically yelled at this guy for being so good-looking it could break girls' hearts." She glances at Mamoru. "Which wasn't a fair thing to blame you for - calling you out on your puns, yes, but not something that isn't your fault."

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

Chiba-kun. Chiba-kun. Should I call him Chiba-kun too?

The thought is enough to make Usagi miss the mention of cookies. Though she has recovered by the time Mai begins explaining the dinner, the mental battle still rages on.


Usagi really is fond of incredulous interjections. It's not her fault! When your mind wanders this much, it's very easy to get surprised over and over again! The blonde girl twists to gaze at Mai with--it's not shock, or worry, or even particularly intense, but instead a wistful, conflicted expression. She begins to sneak a look over her shoulder to steal a glance of Mamoru, but she lowers her eyes instead of risking it.

She got so wrapped up in who he had become to her that she forgot who he was to everyone else. Her cheeks flush.

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

The prospect of dessert has Mamoru, as stuffed as he is with dinner, brightening. "...chocolate dessert?" he blurts with pathetic hopefulness-- and then Mai admits she doesn't have anything prepared, and he looks slightly abashed. But pleased! Because he's not Chiba-san anymore. "It's all right," he starts to assure her as she stands up, but then she's continuing, and--

--and he's coughing embarrassedly into one hand. "Yes. Well. Um. All that aside. It's-- still, uh. I mean."

And Usagi interjects, and suddenly he looks defensive, and is sort of glaring and blushing hotly all at the same time, and it's all directed at Usagi. "YES. WELL," he says with decided force, then slouches further in his chair and crosses his arms, brow furrowed fiercely. "I MEAN. Tokiha-san. MAI-SAN. MAI-CHAN. Does that mean we're allowed to be friends and I can still come to the hot pot and maybe can-I-invite-Usa-gi-chan-even-though-she-doesn't-go-to-Ohtori."

This is all addressed to the table, which by all appearances has offended him greatly.

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Mai glances to Usagi at her outburst - takes in the expression, and looks back with a mix of...sympathy? Curiosity? Guilt? "Maybe I shouldn't have..." And then Mamoru is babbling and Mai brings her hands to cover up any laughter...okay, a snort can still be heard. When she lowers her hands again, the expression is best described as 'relief'.

"Yes! By all means. On the friends thing, anyway, and if I haven't offended Tsukino-san here she's welcome to come whenever I get that hot pot scheduled." She looks over to the pile of gardening supplies for a moment, then back to Mamoru and Usagi. "Right! Um, yes. We can still be friends, sorry for blowing up back then but I had a weird couple of days, you don't have to feel guilty about people having crushes on you, and..."

...she ducks behind the counter. "I could make chocolate cookies! Would that work for a dessert?"

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

It is impressive how much Usagi can pout. The full extent is revealed over the course of Mamoru's rambling, and it is awe inspiring. It involves crossing her arms.

She can't stay that pouty. Usagi closes her eyes, tapping her finger on her opposite elbow, considering the all the twists and turns the evening has had so far. Her expression softens. Hot pot. Chocolate cookies. Mai would like Makoto. They'd all probably like each other. And, they all have powers, so they all need a certain kind of support that only they understand, right? Maybe she should just mention who she really is now.

Out the window, the moonlight caresses the city. Usagi watches for a moment, a smile creeping onto her face. It freezes when she realizes that those two lights aren't stars. They're eyes.

Luna watches back. Her tail thrashes once, and then twice, and then she hops down from her branch and disappears into the night.

Usagi turns away from the window.

"I'd really like that," she says, hiding the fragility in her voice behind cheer. "Mai-chan."

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

There's decided relief when Mai starts laughing, when Mai says yes they can still be friends, when Mai says yes Usagi's welcome; Mamoru's shoulders de-tense all in a flood and he sprawls back in his chair, all deflated.

And then he glances to the blonde sitting so close, and she's not pouting anymore, and Mamoru's even more relieved.

He's watching as she looks away, out the window. He's not watching the window, he's watching her. So he sees the smile, and he sees it freeze, but when he looks at the window, Luna's already gone; when she turns back, looking toward where Mai's disappeared to, he's watching Usagi again, concern shifting his expression.

"Chocolate cookies sound absolutely amazing," he calls after Mai, but he's sitting back up; he reaches across the corner of the table for Usagi's hand. And there's encouragement in his face now, and if she doesn't pull her hand away, it's not just in his face, or in his eyes, or in his voice. "I don't know what's troubling you, but-- everything'll be all right." The words are quick and firm, and so quiet they're breathed out, barely audible even to the tiny blonde. "I really believe it. You can feel it too, can't you? If you really look? Don't worry so."

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Mai hides below the merciful cover of the counter a little while longer - gathering ingredients, yes, and also hiding in a bit of embarrassment. When Usagi calls her Mai-chan, though, she can't help but poke her head above the counter again. She starts to reply-

-oh my. Um. That's quite the moment between the two of them, and Mai isn't sure if she should say something. Mamoru's whispering sweet nothings, and Usagi's being comforted, and...maybe she should just turn on the oven for those cookies.

Click. Click click. The heating element must be on the fritz again, it has been acting up...well, there's always one cheat she can use, right?

Mai fully stands up again, because if nothing else Chiba-san might need a chaperone, and she's smiling as she mixes up a quick batch of chocolate cookie dough. It's the scaled down recipe, enough for less than a dozen cookies, but they don't need a lot. "Good to hear it, Tsu- Usagi-chan. Chiba-kun. I'll let you know once I have a better idea of what day might work for the hot pot."

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

There's no time to stop Mamoru. He never gets to find out if she would have pulled away. Her hand in his, as close as they have been since that night, it seems like they are isolated.

There is something troubling her. With her brave front blown away by the surprising nearness, Usagi's heart is laid bare. Breathing is difficult.

She leans in a little more closely, unaware she is doing so, her voice so quiet: "Mamoru-san, I'm not sure... what I feel--"

Mai calls in and Usagi turns away, folding her hands in her lap and hiding her red face behind her bangs. She'll have to say what she's really feeling another time. Maybe later tonight, when there's no one to hear her.

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

Encouragement. Belief. He's not even thinking about the kiss-- he's not even thinking about the perfect moment. He's thinking about the fact that Usagi seems unhappy. And then she's so uncertain, and the fragility's there and all he wants to do is help her be stronger--

--and Mai calls in and Usagi turns away and retreats with distance and the shadow of her hair, and Mamoru's left feeling frustrated and strangely bereft. And he can't even tease her. Not right now. It wouldn't work.

Instead, he calls back to Mai, "Let me at least help with the groceries for it, I mean-- given the success I heard about the last one, there'll probably be even more people at this one, and if they all love food as much as I do..." He practically sings out the last, "You'll need enough for two armies~~"

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

...Mai really did interrupt there, didn't she? She's...honestly not sure if that's a good thing to have done or not. It's not much longer before she has a small baking sheet of little chocolate cookies, being put into a cold oven. She doesn't close the oven door, and with the counter between her and her guests, she can keep her hands hidden.

...she needs to keep some attention on setting those flames to 'cook' instead of 'incinerate', but she can still try to keep up a conversation. "Yeah, I'm thinking we might need two pots - Eri-chan doesn't eat meat, so it'd be good to keep things a little separate. And that might cover Mikoto - how much do 'wild bunnies' eat, Usagi-chan?" She grins to the girl - and decides to be even-handed in the teasing. "No need to hold back, it's only Chiba-kun's wallet at risk~"

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

Usagi is left alone with her feelings. They are a constant companion. She studies her legs very intently.

She is the expert on bunnies, however. Mai deserves an answer.

"More than you'd expect but not enough to be off-putting."

Usagi lifts her chin. There's other times to think about this.

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

"Three armies, then, to be on the safe side. I might forget to eat before I arrive, after all," Mamoru says, not really listening to what he's saying. Sometimes it's safer when his mouth's on autopilot, actually, because years of getting by with many friendly acquaintences is very good for developing autopilot conversational skills.

A quick glance at Usagi, and his mouth turns down tightly at the corners. He puts his hands on the table, flat, and looks at them instead. There's no paper he can fold, no pen he can click, no book. His glasses are burning a hole in his pocket.

"Mai-chan," he finally says, "I think I ate too fast. I'm gonna just steal a cookie for the road. You and Odango-atama here can have the rest, I-- I think I'm gonna go back to my dorm room tonight."

He gets up awkwardly, pulling his chair out without making it scrape terribly.

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

...yeah, Tsukino-san's a bit too down to tease. Mai just nods to both suggestions. "I'll figure out how much we'll need, then. Hot pot party at...some point, and anyone who's a friend or with a friend of mine is welcome." This honestly involves less cooking than one would think.

High temperature flame equals fast baking - it's not long before Mai takes the cookie sheet out, sliding them onto a plate with practiced ease. It's like she's made them before!...and if you really pay attention you -might- see a glimpse of a golden ring, but only for a second. A couple of cookies break, but the rest seem intact. And chocolatey.

Mai walks around the counter to set the plate on the table. "All right, Chiba-kun. I'm glad you're willing to be friends, still." A pause. And then she pokes him in the chest - not hard, but noticable. "And just remember, not your fault. But watch out all the same, okay? You're a clueless dork sometimes."

Then, she turns to give Usagi a smile. "And thank you for coming - it was a pleasure to meet you! And let me know if you need backup on stopping this guy's puns."