2014-07-02 - Admirable

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Title: Admirable

When misunderstandings arise, words are best chosen wisely. Sadly, teenagers do not always choose words wisely.


Mamoru Chiba, Usagi Tsukino, Mai Tokiha


A public park near Linden Baum

OOC - IC Date:

6 February 2014 - 7/2/2014

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

Middle of the afternoon, and school let out about forty-five minutes ago, maybe an hour. Walking from Ohtori to the Linden Baum and its surrounding area only takes twenty minutes or so, so it's really not surprising to see a couple of high schoolers from that beautiful and poisonous institution in the park across the street from the diner.

What might be surprising is how un-Ohtori-like they seem in general behavior.

Mamoru's got his glasses on and a book in one hand, and he's waving his other hand around in Mai's direction, because she's STILL fussing. "No I told you I'm fine!" he protests.

He picks himself up off the park bench on which he'd sprawled, spreading his arms, and turns around three hundred sixty degrees as if presenting himself for inspection. "I just needed to sleep it off!"

Okay, maybe somewhat Ohtori.

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

Mai is as un-Ohtori as it's possible to get while still wearing the uniform. She has a bag slung over her shoulder, containing her work uniform and a couple of books. (Tonight's shift is liable to be a slow one.) She's got time before her work begins, though, and what better use of her time than fussing over someone?

Takumi and Mikoto, sadly, were not available.

"You sleep off a cold, or a bump to the head - but a near-drowning? Two, for that matter..." She lets out an exasperated sigh as he does his spin, and finally drops the issue. "But fine, you're the one working on medical dioramas, you get to claim the expertise on this one. I'll try to stop worrying this time."

She seems ready to accuse, maybe even threaten Mamoru to stay safe - but her body language finally catches up to what she's saying. One end of the park bench is freed up, and she finally lays claim to it, sitting down at last. "I just got worried - hopefully the soup helped, even if I was a bit short on ginger root."

A quick glance to her watch - no, it's fine, today's shift starts a bit late and ends a lot later, anyway.

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

Usagi Tsukino isn't hiding in bushes.

She is definitely not hiding in bushes from Mamoru and Mai because she did that once already and it would be really, really bad to get caught doing it a second time.

The story involves a bicycle, a precocious dog, being exactly one 1000 yen bill away from ice cream. The dog won. Usagi was banished to the bushes. Her bike is somewhere in here.

"Agh--ack--" the blonde-haired girl rustles through, too quiet for people sitting on a nearby bench to hear. Not that they're listening. They're busy yelling, and soon Usagi has bumbled past a tree on the path of her ultra-crashed bike and sees exactly who it is that is making all this noise.


and that really pretty girl.

Usagi's expression freezes. Is it horror? Is it shock? Is it embarrassment?


She begins to slowly turn around to make her escape, but then her bike is somewhere in here! She can't leave without it! It's probably under that bush--yes, that's the tire alright. But, that's right at the edge of the grass. They'll definitely see her trying to pull it out.

Maybe... maybe...

...maybe she should just go out there and say hi.

A bold move. Mami would be proud. Usagi furrows her brow, puffs up her cheeks, and then steps out.


They're still arguing. Usagi slowly opens one eye. Neither of them are looking at her. By the time she walks all the way up to the bench, her expression is totally nonplussed.


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

Mamoru's phone buzzes in his pocket as he gives Mai the most dubious of looks, and he takes it out to glance at the display as tells her distractedly, "You're allowed to be worried, but really, I shake things off pretty quickly. It really shouldn't surprise you by now..."

Looking up away from the phone as he turns its display off, he starts to say something else, but a shadow falls across him. Mamoru turns his head up to see--

Usagi Tsukino. Looking at them like she's twelve kinds of unimpressed and a little flat-facedly put out. And he knows instantly that it's somehow his fault.

The problem is, he looks poleaxed. Not guilty, why would he feel guilty? REALLY WHY. Not guilty, but startled out of his reason for a second. How did he not notice her until she was standing in front of them? It'd be like failing to see the Moon Princess if he were looking her in the eyes! --not even his customary stomachache regarding Everything Princess Right Now is able to jolt him out of the complete incomprehension.

He puts his phone down on top of his book on the bench, and making himself move seems to have freed him of some of it. "Usagi-chan," he starts, then reaches toward her-- and past, a little, to pick a crumbly autumn leaf out of one of her twintails. "How did you manage to get a leaf in your hair? It's winter. Everything's frozen stuck to the ground."

He doesn't sound accusing or suspicious, only baffled.

It's covering his epic bafflement over not having noticed her approach. Mai will be able to tell, at this point, what 'Mamoru unsettled and trying to hide it' looks like. It's what he looks like right now, and he glances toward her, and then he drops the leaf from suddenly nerveless fingers.

"Why don't I get us all some coffee? From the machine."

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

In fairness, being focused on someone you care about and making sure they didn't get hypothermia winds up taking a lot of focus. Especially when they insist everything's fine - a description that applies to far too many people in Mai's live Still, whatever the reason, there's no excuse for Mai not even noticing Usagi until the girl is two meters from them, and greeting them with a rather stern expression. A moment's panic, a brief hot flush of embarrassment - though whether it's for being caught next to Mamoru Chiba or simply for not noticing Usagi's approach is anyone's guess.

"Tsukino-san! Sorry, I was, er-" Mai is saved from further immediate explanations by Mamoru's own...whatever that is toward Usagi. Teasing? Caring? What is his deal with her, anyway? Her confusion is reflected by Mamoru's unsettled expression, and she's tempted to press him for further details...

...but frankly, she's willing to give him an out here. She digs in her pocket, and tosses him a couple of hundred-yen coins. "Sounds good - my treat, yesterday's tips were good and you need to save some cash, Chiba-san." She grins, but it's not entirely teasing - there's a moment's seriousness in her eyes, along with warm cheer.

And then she turns to Usagi. "Tsukino-san, I hadn't expected to see you here. Are you on your way to Linden Baum? I think today's special is probably the hamburger platter again..." She can't help but glance to the leaf, dropped by Mamoru - then back to Usagi, and her expression has an unspoken question. Curiosity sparking in her eyes!

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

Usagi is a good actress.

Not, like, professionally. If she got up on stage (which is coming up, by the way, did you see the fliers?) she'd probably choke. In a moment like this, where theatricality really counts, she's marvelous. The expression is held with utmost sincerity as Mamoru runs through his own range of emotions--she'll catch on what Mai being with him really means in just a bit--and even when he plucks the leaf from her hair.

That part's a little easier to manage. It does sound like teasing, even if she knows it isn't. She is struck by a strange thought: it shouldn't be so easy for her to take things the wrong way. It's fleeting, because now the situation is catching up to her and her heart is racing.

Usagi lowers her eyes and looks away, cheeks flushing as Mamoru discards the leaf. "Um, sweet coffee for me, please," she murmurs. He already knows what kind she likes. Her cheeks redden further.

Mamoru and Mai exchange words. Usagi grips her skirt more tightly. Finally, in one barely coordinated burst of movement, she rushes around the bench and sits down with her arms across her chest and her legs crossed at the ankles. The anxiety is too much, and soon she turns to her phone for solace. There's always more texts for her to send.

"Mm?" the blonde girl replies when Mai addresses her. She smiles, but it's noticeably fragile. "Oh, um, I'm on a diet."

She decided that when she couldn't buy the ice cream.

Usagi taps something else out on her phone. It's new and uncharacteristic. She must not have had a chance to buy a new cover for it yet to add a little color. Mai's gaze can almost be felt, so, after a moment, Usagi sets her phone down on the bench and looks up to see what's up.

Her phone sits next to Mamoru's. They're identical.

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

And Mamoru takes the out Mai offers him like he is drowning totally worse than yesterday. He leaves his glasses on, oh he does, and his own smile is very fleeting and unsteady, and when Usagi flushes just a little, and then more, that whole dimension of the situation is telegraphed to him as clear as day, and he suddenly really has to go collect himself, right now. Engage mysterious 2098 face and a breezily confident "Got it!" over his shoulder as he waves Mai's money in the air, long-leggedy walking off toward the vending machine.

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

Mai's burning curiosity is quenched by the mention of that dreaded word, and she winces. "I hear you. Smells delicious, but I can't risk Kazu's gravy. Easier if you cook for yourself, I find." A hundred lunches come to mind - Mikoto may still be growing, but that's what small portions can deal with. "Best of luck - and probably better to avoid temptation. I swear, that cake display..."

She tries to keep her attention on Usagi, rather than watching Mamoru. He seemed to need the escape, anyway, and she gives a quick wave as he departs. The phones' similarity is...interesting. Similar tastes, or is that just what a new plan gives you? Curious, but not really important.

"I was just wondering about the leaf, to be honest - but if you'd rather not talk about it, I'll hold off asking. How have you been? We haven't really gotten much chance to talk since last month's dinner." There were a couple of moments - a glimpse of the blonde-haired girl during that horribly hectic day at Linden Baum, but that wasn't exactly a good socialization moment. Still, this is finally a chance to get caught up, and maybe get to know this Tsukino girl a bit better.

A nice polite girl? Or a wielder of a hockey puck? Mai needs to know!

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

Usagi looks up sharply at the tone of Mai's voice when she reacts to the news of dieting. She can't hide the confusion on her face. Someone like Mai needed to worry about what she eats? But--she's so pretty!There's nothing about being pretty that protects you from that, except that pretty people remain pretty at a wide range of weights. It's mostly that someone like Mai, this Mai who goes to Ohtori and handles Mamoru so effortlessly, could have something in common with Usagi.

"Oh, um--" the blonde girl blusters, trying to buy time. She wrings her hands. "Has it already been that long? Wow, haha, I guess I'm kind of bad at keeping time--I mean, I'm normally bad at keeping time, so maybe I've just been really bad--badder?"

Her phone beeps. Usagi leaps to answer it, as it will provide a moment of not looking at Mai and thinking about how mature and beautiful she is and how she always seems to be hanging out with Mamoru.

She grabs the wrong phone. She should notice it right away since all the names in the text messages are wrong, but Usagi is sometimes slow on the uptake. This is doubly true when she's flustered. She taps the conversation thread at the top and reads.

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

The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, isn't it? Mai can't help but shrink a bit at the confusion. What did she say? Just talking about how to keep a meal appropriate, right? Usagi starts babbling, and Mai starts waving her own hands to ward off any blame for her companion. "No, no, I'm terrible at keeping in touch myself - I work a lot of shifts at Linden Baum, and sometimes I find I go weeks without talking to some friends."

Shiori comes to mind - hopefully they can keep in touch a bit better.

Usagi picks up her phone when it beeps, and Mai digs for her own. Just a quick check, to make sure there's no messages from Takumi...but it seems like everything is fine for now. Some old conversations from Mamoru, but storage for texts is cheap, and...

Maybe it's time to focus on something else. "Oh, did you want to trade numbers? It's easier to keep in touch that way - and then you can correct me on nicknames directly, instead of going through Chiba-san." Mai grins. "Any objection to 'Cute Wild Bunny'?"

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


Down the park path some, slowing his steps as soon as he rounds a corner out of sight of the two girls, Mamoru absently folds the bill in his hand over and over, his face blanking as he thinks. The only reason he wouldn't've noticed her approach is if he were that distracted--

"You have a healthy outlook on it: being friends is never settling."

Don't you have a heroine of love and justice to go protect?

"I think your goals are totally different from ours." -- "I told you once I'd give everything up."

"May I present Her Royal Highness, Princess Serenity--"

It's in my dreams I find the right moment.

This isn't a dream; Mamoru, in this moment, gets to the coffee machine and leans his forehead against it, closing his eyes. The way she looks at him sometimes. Mai knows about his thing for Sailor Moon, but she's-- why can't everything be simple, like it was just that once?


MAI: Still alive?
MAMORU: yes, if you are skipping classes too, come by, i'm not coming to campus today and eri-chan could probably use a hand getting there
MAI: Just woke up. Will be over soon. Hope you two behaved yourselves!
MAMORU: i was a perfect gentleman and made sure she was as happy as i was
MAMORU: baka

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

Usagi normally doesn't snub people by being on the phone. She does it by accident sometimes, but that's because she's not great at paying attention to multiple things at once. That's not now. She hears Mai. She's just...


She realizes her mistake. Blushing--if she can blush anymore--Usagi slams Mamoru's phone down onto the bench and folds her hands in her lap. She stares straight ahead. There's trees there. Trees can't hurt her. Not willingly, anyway. She could bump into one but that would be her fault. Maybe this is her fault too. Maybe this is exactly the same. Trees can hurt her. They--

Her thoughts continue to spiral off, jumping from connection to connection, turning her attention to anything, anything except her heart. It's a losing game. Her heart always did win. It pulls her back.

Back to this being her fault.

It is. She felt it all this time. This want inside her, this need for him. It's just that things were always like this: Usagi getting distracted by these little, inconsequential things that stole her attention away from the bigger truth. Their fighting was the drawings in the margins of notebook. Now she sees the page is blank. What she chose to spend her time on is nothing more than a frame for what she never did.

This is where she should start crying. She doesn't. Usagi briefly wonders if that means she's broken.

"Huh?" the blonde girl turns to face Mai, looking mildly dazed. She looks at Mai's phone, and then back up to her face.

"Does Mamo-chan really talk about me?" she wonders, her tone airy.

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

Mai's bright, teasing grin slowly fades as Usagi stares at the smartphone. She winces as the other girl slams the phone back down on the bench - some terrible news? Some insult? What could have been on that phone?

The thought that Usagi had grabbed the wrong phone doesn't even cross Mai's mind.

"Chiba-san? Sometimes - and I've caught him texting you while we're talking, sometimes." She glances toward the coffee machine, then back to Usagi. Comments made during karaoke come to mind, and a slight smirk ignites at the corner of her mouth. "He can get kind of flustered, come to think of it."

...but the slam of the phone kind of resounds, and the smirk swiftly fades. "...are you all right? Did you just get texted some kind of bad news?" Or an insult, or just something about homework...

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


Mamoru's staring at the coffee vending machine, unable to read the labels in front of him. He has to sort out his heart with his head. He has to sort out his head with his heart. He has to admit to himself -- and finally does -- that Mai can so easily distract him from his downward spirals of brooding. So frequently has, lately. Even with karaoke. If she can distract him from brooding, if she can so skillfully take his mind off the things he can't change and will never have--

--but his sense of Usagi's heart shining so brightly with fear in the dark distance, which pulls him from whatever he's doing and sends his feet running toward her; of how brightly it shone for him when he needed it so desperately; his love and admiration for Sailor Moon that persist, along with his dreams, despite the Princess having been revealed to be Sailor V...

...the heartache that is Zoisite, that is Luna...

What if she'd actually needed him while he was helping Mai? He was trusting fate that she wouldn't. But what if she had?

Mamoru's breathing is shallow, clouding the plexiglass of the vending machine, and his fingers curl around the edge of it.

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


Usagi looks down at her lap.

She isn't crying.

"Haha, I'm okay!" the blonde girl replies, slightly manic. She turns to Mai as she speaks, waving her hands, palms out and fingers splayed, to show that there's no issues here! "I just thought of something really weird, that's all! Here, have my number!"

Usagi reaches for her phone, freezes, reaches for her phone, and then picks it up. A few taps later, and she turns the screen to Mai to show her what her number is.

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

Okay? That didn't seem like okay, that seemed kind of-

Mai realizes, belatedly, that she still has her phone out, and dutifully enters Usagi's number before displaying her own. There's a ritual, after all. As she holds it out, her expression turns thoughtful - and grinning, just a bit. "Something weird? It can't be too bad. Unless-"

...the phone Usagi slammed down is still on the bench. Mai looks down to it, and back up to Usagi, face showing some worry. "...is it about you and Chiba-san sharing a style of phone? Because, you know..." Mai trails off, not sure where to take that train of thought.

Her phone, incidentally, is a years-old flip model. Nothing fancy.

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

Usagi taps in Mai's number.

"Huh? No!"

The blonde girl spins her phone around and hurriedly stuff it back into her skirt pocket. Then she pushes Mamoru's phone away from her. Other side of the bench. Almost hanging off. That bad.

"I just haven't found any bunny cases for mine yet! It's a total coincidence that we should all forget about right now!"

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

Almost - but Mai nudges it back on without picking it up. Dropping wouldn't be good for it, after all - even if Chiba-san's fancy phone is free of charms and probably under warranty. Usagi's reaction does, however, ignite an amused smile on Mai's face. "Total coincidence, I'm sure. Probably just what a new plan gets you, right?"

...it is interesting, to see Usagi on the defensive - thoughts of that dinner come to mind, and Mai elects to hold back on the teasing. Just a bit. Maybe just to be a bit less taunting about it. Her grin turns to...something warmer and friendlier, but still with that hint of amusement "So, you wanted to know what he says about you...what do you think of Chiba-san, Tsukino-san? I've only gotten bits and pieces of your story, so far..."

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

Usagi knows that look. She turns away briefly, bites her lower lip, and then looks sidelong back at Mai.

"Um. Mamoru-san? He's okay."

And that's all he'll ever be to her.

"We just happen to go to the same places a lot, so it's really a coincidence that we got a chance to know each other."

And that's all there is to that.

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


Slowly, Mamoru makes himself reengage autopilot so he can at least get the damn cans of coffee out. He has to get it together. He just has to be more careful in the future. He already willingly decided to value Sailor Moon over the dream that kept his lonely self company and gave him beauty and connection for so many years-- he can't do this. He can't be fair, and he can't be unfair, and he had the right of it all along: he shouldn't date. He shouldn't even think about it.

He's thinking too much and he knows it. Indecision is even more dangerous than hope, sometimes. And costs far more, always.

Three cans of coffee.


"It can't be wrong. Love can't be wrong. And she's made of love, Neph," Endymion says, fist curled against the stone archway as he looks out over the courtyard of his parents' palatial hunting lodge. He sounds like he doesn't know whether to be angry or pleading, though what he's asking for is something Nephrite can't give: the approval of other people. "I'm privileged enough to know her heart, and she loves everyone, and if I can deal with that, why can't they deal with me loving her?"

"It has nothing to do with you being, honestly, far less jealous than any sane man would be, sire," the Prince's seer and guardian says a little delicately, leaning on the railing next to Endymion. "--to the point of Jadeite taking bets on when you'll snap. It has to do with her being from the Moon."

"I know her heart, and she knows mine," the Prince of the Earth says of the Princess of the Moon, firmly and with ringing finality, as if his conviction were all that mattered in the face of public opinion. "That's the most important part. I feel like I've finally awakened from the longest of dreams when I'm with her. We can do anything together."

"You sound like a twelve year old apprentice bard and I'm going inside."


Mamoru sticks a can in his jacket pocket, and the other two and Mai's change, they stay in his hands. He starts to vaguely wander back, then straightens his shoulders; he walks now with the confidence of a boy who's told outside opinion to go take a long walk off a short pier. Being friends is never settling, but--

Asking is putting your neck on the line, he told Eri.

He'll just ask her. And if she says no, well... he knows she's at least his friend.

He doesn't know if he can take it if she says no, despite what he told Eri.

Nevertheless: he's still walking steadily; he can't hear them yet, but the bend in the path is just ahead.

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

"Well, that's how you start to get to know someone. Coincidence - striking up a conversation over shared dislike of a student council member, or colliding on a walkway, or..." Mai trails off, rather than bring up 'giving artificial respiration to a drowning victim'. Some of the people she knows, she's met in rather strange ways - and that's without even getting into Mamoru's situation.

"It's what you do with that - and you're keeping up texts with him, right?" Mai hasn't been shown too many, but certainly enough... "Plus you came with him to dinner, and to the diner the other day...you are at least friends, right?"

There's a pause in the conversation, and then Mai gives a wry smirk. "Or are you just interested in Chiba-san's handsomeness? He does have some fans at school, after all..."

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

What Mai says makes a lot of sense. It's too late, but it makes sense. Usagi's heart sinks into melancholy. I know, she thinks, I know that now. If only I knew it then.

"I guess we are friends," Usagi admits, resigned. Maybe it won't be so bad. Maybe even... something can come of that... sometime later... if she keeps dreaming--

Fans. Some fans. The way she said that. Her name in his phone. The smirk on her face. Usagi flushes hot, breathing deep and feeling unable to exhale.

"I--I don't--"

She's not crying.

Usagi closes her eyes.

"Mamoru-san's just a friend! I like Haruka-san, from Infinity!"

And that's the truth.

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

As that truth is spoken, Mamoru-san comes 'round the corner and into sight and earshot. He stops in his tracks, dropping a couple of Mai's coins on the pavement and only just managing not to drop the coffees. He's gone almost white, suddenly.

There's a watch in his pocket. It's in the shape of a six-pointed star, or sun, with the shifting day and the phases of the Earth from the Moon on its face, and it takes far less winding than any other watch that size should take, and its machinery and design are no technology from this world.

It stops.

The clearing and small patio in it are suddenly enshrouded in the feeling of stillness and silence, of held breath; the world outside the three of them is muffled outside their little bubble of reality.

"The racecar driver? Isn't he dating Kaioh-san?" Mamoru's voice comes with thin cheer across the decaying moment. "Here's your coffee. Mai-chan, here's coffee and change."

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

Friends. That's what Mai resolved, days after she met Mamoru Chiba. Because he was handsome, and nice, and she couldn't let that alone be a deciding factor. Not when his heart was so obviously elsewhere. But...it's been a month. She knows him better than the superficial perfection-in-moonlight, knows someone with a similar attitude towards loved ones. She's found someone she can, perhaps, rely on...but his heart's still elsewhere, right?

Usagi is flushing brightly, and Mai's teasing smirk fades. Has she pushed too far, here? Because if Usagi has her heart set on Mamoru, and Mamoru is devoted to Sailor Moon...how can Mai explain that? What way is there to tell someone, 'no, you don't have much of a chance, he's devoted to an elegant heroine of love and justice'?

The confession about Haruka-san - the name seems familiar but doesn't ring an immediate bell - honestly comes as a relief. Whatever else can be said about Usagi Tsukino - Mai still doesn't believe Eri's 'hockey puck' story - she's another friend for Mamoru. Not involved in the supernatural, just a normal person to rely on. "Just checking - so what does this Haruka-san have..."

The sudden stillness is palpable - and Mamoru's cheer interrupts Mai's ruminations. Startled, fumbling, she takes the coffee and coins with only a moment's difficulty. "Ah - thanks for getting them! ...wait, would this be Haruka Tenoh?"

Oh dear. That name, Mai has heard - and Chiba-san has basically summed up the issue there. What is there for Mai to say - other than to look to Usagi. That momentary hope is crumbling, and Mai's face is beginning to turn ashen.

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

It doesn't feel good to say. It does, but it doesn't.

It mostly doesn't.

Haruka is with Michiru. No matter what happened between them, no matter what Haruka said, it can't happen. Usagi can't hurt someone like Michiru. She'd die before doing that. Those feelings have to remain locked away inside her, even if letting them out just this once made them real in a way Usagi needed.

Mamoru's voice. Her world stops. Breathing after healing the entire city wasn't this hard.

Usagi is silent as Mamoru hands the coffee and change to Mai. In those moments, Usagi is completely still. It's the time before she decides to bolt into the underbrush. No, she's not a rabbit. Not really. Just like she's not in love.

It really hurts to think that. It really, really hurts, but she needs that to be real, too.

"I-I think so," Usagi murmurs, gaze cast downward. "I just like him. That's all. He's nice to me."

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

One can't be bitter and resentful, but one can grieve for a little while. There's a different kind of real going on, a different strain of truth, in Mamoru Chiba's heart. Usagi is silent and still, Mai is grey in the face, and Mamoru has put on the mask that's got nothing to do with fashionable magical eyewear.

Pleasant and remote, incredibly mannerly, the seventeen-year-old's gone into shutdown. He gives Mai a barely-discernable smile, then pops open his own coffee can and regards Usagi.

He methodically shakes and pops open her coffee, too, and more firmly puts it in her hands, his own brushing against hers in the process.

The expression he's famous at Ohtori for is still in place, but -- there's the sparkle, as he's leaning down, of the watch in his pocket. And his hands-- they haven't stopped being warm.

Straightening up, Mamoru scoops up his phone and his book in his free hand. "You like everyone," he says with something resembling affection, smallest of smiles turning up the corner of his mouth. "That's extremely admirable. Listen, I'd love to stick around longer, but my phone went off earlier to remind me I have an appointment."

Punctuating the statement, his pocket chimes to announce the turn of the hour: so hard to tell what is now and here.

"I'll see you both later! Study group, remember!"

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

A thought crosses Mai's mind - a conversation on a bench that turned bitter and filled with blame. Because she'd started to get her hopes up over nothing, based on nothing, and had them collapse before they were fully formed. Usagi has gone as still as a rabbit at the revelation that her own hopes might have been dashed, and Mai can only wait for whatever the blond-haired girl will say next-

-and guilt strikes Mai, that this girl several years her junior handled such a revelation so well. Better than Mai had a month before, at any rate. She needs to say something, anything, and blurts out the first thing she can think of. "That's...a good way to handle it. At least you have him as a friend, right?"

And then Mamoru Chiba swings into action - handing Usagi a drink, interrupting Mai's panic long enough for her to glance up. An awkward time to come back, but a friend not being interested in that sort of thing shouldn't be a problem, not given the issues Mai knows about...so why is he suddenly distant, abruptly beginning to shut down?

Something's up. And he's fleeing - after making Mai's point better than she could, but still, he's fleeing. She wants to get up, go after him, get some answers...but work beckons. She can't go after him now.

"-admirable, yes. Chiba-san, we'll catch up-" And she just waves as he goes, before looking back to Usagi.

"...are you going to be okay?" Mai might not have long before she needs to be at work, but she can at least take this moment, right?

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

That's not Mamo-chan.

That's not his face.

That's not his voice.

Usagi looks up at Mamoru in mute, expressionless horror. He has to force it into her hands because she's not reacting. Not to that. What she wants to react to, she can't. There's no magic spell that she knows of to heal this kind of hurt.

Is there?

The blonde girl sits there as Mamoru leaves, the weight of all her inaction bearing down on her. How can she say something now with all of that on her shoulders? No matter how much she wants to see him, the real him--

It's too late to call.

He is gone. Mai is here. Usagi wishes she was home, in bed, and able to cry.

"I'll be better tomorrow," she finally answers.