2014-08-24 - Much Ado About Nothing

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Title: Much Ado About Nothing (or, Panic at the Planetarium)

Makoto and Mamoru go to the planetarium on a rainy evening because they both need a distraction and it was Mamoru's idea and he's a nerd. But... Nephrite's tracking Makoto. And Zoisite's tracking Nephrite. Things get really, really uncomfortable.

No, I mean REALLY uncomfortable.

It has an OP: http://soundcloud.com/ginadonahue/panic-at-the-planetarium


Makoto Kino, Mamoru Chiba, Nephrite, Zoisite


The Ohtori Academy Planetarium

OOC - IC Date:

3 March 2014 - 8/24/2014

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

"--been a while since I've been in here. Not since December, probably."

As the door to the planetarium opens, it lets in Mamoru Chiba's voice as well as light spilling from the hallway. "Usually I'm just on the roof or the balcony with my telescope. You can't see what the moon and stars are like right now in here, it's just a photo, basically."

As he closes the door, the place goes very dark again, and it'll be a couple seconds before their eyes adjust to the very dim light. It's in those seconds that he hangs his coat up next to the door and leans his umbrella against the wall. Then he heads for the giant metal eye in the middle and uses his phone's flashlight to find the controls.

"But if you want silence with your cosmos instead of the breathing of the city or the chorus of the countryside, then outside of going into space... well," he flicks the machine on, and the dome above them goes from black to the glittering and stately array of the night sky in its slow dance. "This is a reasonable substitute."

<Pose Tracker> Makoto Kino [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

"I kind of like the chorus of the countryside," Makoto comments, and her voice is rich with amusement at Mamoru's turn of phrase, but it's nothing but affectionate. She trails after him into the planetarium, moving carefully in the darkness, and as the projector lights up the dome with the sparkle of myriad stars, she laces her fingers behind her head and looks upward in admiration.

The still air of the indoors doesn't speak to her the way it might if they were truly out under the open sky, but still... "It's only a simulation," she says, pitching her voice a little softer without quite realizing that she's doing it, "but it's still beautiful."

<Pose Tracker> Nephrite [Infinity Institute (S)] has posed.

The definition of insanity is trying the same plan multiple times and expecting different results. Nephrite is many things -- but he is not insane. His interrogation tactics towards the Kino girl had yielded but little, and it is time for a change of tack.

Namely, one that does not involve physical violence, because that only seemed to give her strength. Better to manipulate her weakness instead: her trust in Masato Sanjouin.

He'd been confused, at first, when he saw the tracking dot approach Ohtori's planetarium. He'd always disliked the place, with its artificial sky that muted the stars and turned them into merely baubles to be observed. But it was a secluded enough location for a private talk, concerning one Tuxedo Mask.

Perhaps, while he was there, he could show her a more...complete vision of the stars as well.

It doesn't take long to arrive at Ohtori, thanks to his sports car's powerful engine and a few tweaked stoplights along the way. It would be easier to teleport -- much easier, in fact -- but in truth, Nephrite preferred to avoid using that power as Masato, lest he be spotted by an unsuspecting mortal and his reputation put in question. He does, however, bend reality the slightest bit to find a parking spot close to the planetarium itself, for fear that she would leave before he entered.

Fortunately, those fears are unfounded, for he hears the voice of Makoto even as he walks into the dimly lit theater. "Beautiful though it may be, a simulation will never match the true night sky," he remarks in response to the last words he heard from her. "It is a shame one must use a computer to view even a semblance of it here in Tokyo. When you have seen the night in its full beauty, returning to the washed-out urban atmosphere is...disheartening."

Saying this, he steps closer so as not to speak from the shadows any longer. "Do you have a love of the night sky, Kino-san?"

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

Invisible in the darkness, the corners of Mamoru's eyes crinkle up at Makoto's amusement, but he remains silent, straightening up and looking overhead. As he listens to her, he absently starts mapping out the constellations and working out whether the image of the sky they're seeing is exactly on time, from positioning, or if it's off from what's above the clouds outside.

Then the door opens and lets light in again, and for a second, Mamoru can't see anything at all. He stiffens as he hears a third voice and it's familiar -- this is the Student Council tower, it could be a Councilor -- but then he can make out the newcomer's build and see his face, and his shoulders relax. It's just the pompous guy from the poetry slam.

"Sanjouin-san," he greets the man, not quite pointedly, but with a firm establishment of his presence in the room.

His presence.

He's on his home turf; he is, as he's been called, one of Ohtori's kings. But it's not a warning of any kind, it's not the coldness or the aloof amiability he wears like armor around the school -- it's perfectly friendly, and there's almost a laugh behind it.

"The wilderness isn't that far away. It's just raining. But if you feel it's so subpar, why have you come?"

<Pose Tracker> Zoisite [Infinity Institute (S)] has posed.

It's a concern for Nephrite, but not for his troublesome brother-in-arms. One moment, Zoisite-as-Zoë Palissandre is studying in Ohtori's cavernous library; the next, he is ducking out and down an empty stairwell, stepping across the sprawling campus in a single stride as soon as the door closes behind him.

In his manicured hand, Zoë's mobile phone darkens over the word 'PLANETARIUM'.

---<--@ @-->---

Inexplicably, Nephrite will feel a slender arm slip between his side and his own arm, capturing it with the terrible strength only a besotted teenage girl can muster.

"Sanjouin-saaaaaaaan, you didn't wait for meeee! How /could/ you? And after I worked so hard to clear my social schedule for tonight's date!" a feminine voice trills, edged with the watery waver of a young girl's tears. "I know you're busy, but would it have killed you to send me a text message?" Sniffle.

If he looks down, poor Neph will catch a wicked gleam in Zoë's tearful eyes before they're squeezed shut and wiped on his sleeve.

"Ah...c'est Chiba-san," the faux French girl murmurs, looking up from her deathgrip on Masato's arm and blinking a few times to clear the totally manufactured tears from her vibrant green eyes. "Et...pardonnez-moi, but who is your friend?" Though the inquiry is directed at Mamoru, Zoë has let her gaze drift to Makoto. Who, for the record, Zoisite legitimately doesn't recognise.

<Pose Tracker> Makoto Kino [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

Makoto does not have Mamoru's degree of self-possession. Even with the forewarning of the light that comes in when the observatory's door opens, she barely manages to keep from letting out an entirely undignified squeak of surprise when she realizes just who has joined them in the star-spangled darkness of the planetarium. "--Sanjouin-san!"

She drops her arms hastily back to her sides as she turns to face him. At least it's dark enough that (she hopes) neither of them can see her blushing. "Well--" she says, tripping a little over the words before she manages to answer, "--yes. Isn't everyone, at least a little?" Her eyes turn upwards again for a moment, once again catching the light of the simulated stars. "No matter how many times you see it, it doesn't get old."

A beat passes, and though it might well be too dark to tell that she's blushing but when she turns her eyes from the dome back toward Nephrite there's a look on her face that Mamoru will probably recognize. She opens her mouth to say something--

--and then there is a gorgeous person latched onto Nephrite's arm and Makoto's face suddenly freezes, her spine going stiff as inwardly her heart cracks just a little. She closes her mouth again, feeling very foolish.

Of course he has a girlfriend. Really, she should have expected it.

<Pose Tracker> Nephrite [Infinity Institute (S)] has posed.

"That depends on your definition of subpar, Chiba-san," Nephrite-as-Masato says without missing a beat, inclining his head towards the youth. He hadn't seen him when he walked in, and while his presence is a slight disappointment, it is hardly consequential in the grand scheme of things. Besides, after that bit of trickery on the bridge, the high schooler bears investigating on his own merits. "From here, we cannot see the Venus de Milo. We use photographs to rectify this. You do not see the statue when you see the photograph, but is it not worth seeing because of that?" It's a convoluted metaphor -- he can't simply tell these two that there is a *true* night sky that can only be seen from the observatory in his mansion. But he believes his point to be made. (Even if he doesn't mean it completely.)

"And you are right, Kino-san," the long-haired man says with a slight smile, focusing on her once again. "The night sky is a living thing, in some way. Ever-changing, ever in motion, and yet as regular as clockwork. In many ways, it resembles--"

A strong force grasps his left arm out of nowhere, and he cuts himself off mid-sentence, a bit of instinctive defense snapping his head to the side and tensing his muscles. He's half-expecting an attacker. Instead he gets


Nephrite can almost not contain his surprise, eyes widening almost unnaturally and taking a reflexive step backwards, though his arm remains firmly in the girl's (boy's?) grasp. /What in hell's name are you thinking??/ he wants to yell, his free fist clenched and trembling with sudden anger. /Is this your plan to have me killed? In Kunzite's jealous rage?/

But, alas, the presence of mortals stills his tongue. Though something akin to bile rises in the back of his throat, the man forces the suave and collected countenance of Masato back onto his face, straightening so as not to look like he's repulsed by the new arrival.

/You'll pay for this, Zoisite./

"Ah, my...apologies," he says through teeth only slightly gritted, "I did not mean to upset you." Manufacturing every gesture, he extends his hand towards the two students, noting bitterly the change in Makoto Kino's expression. Damn. It will take time to undo this *unfortunate* misunderstanding. "These are Mamoru Chiba and Makoto Kino. I happened upon them by happy coincidence."

He lowers his hand, then looks back towards the (no doubt gleeful) Zoisite. "This is...my. date."

(Damn Zoisite didn't even tell him the name of this mortal guise.)

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

The world stops and resets for Mamoru Chiba when Zoë Palissandre shows up out of nowhere and attaches herself to Sanjouin's arm. He'd noticed that look on Makoto's face, and started to look amused, but his face freezes as surely as does Mako's, as does Nephrite's. Then it rapidly closes off into distant amusement and faint annoyance.

He shifts a quick glance in Mako's direction, but the ponytailed middle-schooler's gotten that other look on her face, and the depth of the ramifications make a little bit of 'oh no' leak past his mask. Probably only enough for Zoisite to see.

Mamoru's hand snakes out quickly to grab Makoto's, and the charge she'll feel is familiar by now.

Calm. The stillness of stone, the quiet of deep caves. The peace of the sunny golden haze of a late August afternoon.

He keeps the distant amusement in his face and voice, which resonates in the dimness. "Zoë Palissandre-san, this is Makoto Kino-san. Sanjouin-san, I didn't know you two were seeing each other; it's such a small world sometimes."

His hand's gripping Makoto's tightly, but it's dark in here and the shadows favor them. His eyes, meanwhile, are desperately trying to read Zoisite's.

<Pose Tracker> Zoisite [Infinity Institute (S)] has posed.

Well, I take that back. Though Zoisite does not recognise Makoto herself, he /does/ pick up on the way tension galvanises her frame the moment her forest green eyes meet his. It's not the same as that which draws Mamoru's noble features taut; no, the disguised spymaster knows heartbreak when he sees it.


Zoisite's head bobs when Mamoru -- sounding more put-upon than ever -- effects the necessary introductions. Even as 'Makoto Kino' is filed away in the back of Zoisite's mind, he is chirping, "Non, non, mais non, I am sure it was just a misunderstanding!" in Zoë's French accent, all smiles now that her 'date' has proved sufficiently contrite.

Seeing each other? "Ahahahaha," Zoë laughs, the sound the tinkling of windchimes, and covers her lush mouth with exquisitely-manicured fingertips. Now fluttering her equally lush eyelashes in false modesty, she fatuously coos, "I would not say that, only that Sanjouin-san has been good enough to extend this poor exchange student a few hours of his valuable time." Masato's arm receives a new squeeze, and then--

--she is gone, crossing the short distance between the couples to clasp Makoto's hands in her own. Green eyes meet green eyes like overlapping leaves, the redheaded girl's sparkling as though with morning dew. "Oh! Mako-chan -- may I call you Mako-chan? -- it's so lovely to meet you! You may call me Zoë-chan -- in fact, I insist upon it~!" Zoisite gushes, breathless. "After all, any friend of Chiba-san's is a friend of mine~!"

Here, she turns her sparkle onto Mamoru -- and, just for him, it gleams briefly with a particular wildness. Almost as if all this chaos was planned.

<Pose Tracker> Makoto Kino [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

Makoto has never had a poker face to speak of.

The dim light of the planetarium's projected stars gives her some screen, but even so, everything that she feels is on display for all present to see. It's written across her face and in the way she carries herself, the way that she begins almost to deflate in a growing sense of dejection as Sanjouin-san confirms that he and this beautiful, elegant girl are in fact dating--

--and the way she goes absolutely still when Mamoru makes the introductions.

It's a good thing that Mamoru takes hold of her hand when he does; it reins her in, gives her a moment to think twice about taking any reckless action. But her eyes have gone hard, and though she's barely moved there's a stiffness in her posture now, the tension of violence carefully leashed. When Zoisite sweeps across the space between them to clasp her hands, just at the moment of contact there's the tiniest crackle of static electricity, not even enough to make a sound and barely enough to feel.

"Sure." Mako's hand stays slack and unresponsive in Zoë's grip, and her voice is utterly flat. "Zoë-chan."

<Pose Tracker> Nephrite [Infinity Institute (S)] has posed.

Nephrite is, shall we say, selectively observant. He's trained his eyes to search the stars and interpret their slightest movement, sensing the dying throes of stars millions of light years away and mapping the orbits of countless planets. When he's looking upward, he has eyes like a hawk.

This doesn't translate as well when he turns his gaze back down to Earth.

The General sees the minor twitches and reactions of the other three in the planetarium, but their more nuanced implications are all but lost on him. Perhaps he's too distracted by rage at being interrupted like this; perhaps the more delicate aspects of body language simply go over his head. Nevertheless, his eyes stay trained on Makoto for a bit, wondering how she'll react to this new development, though it is *patently* false.

"We're not--" the words jump out before he can stop them, but thankfully, it appears Zoisite -- well, Zoë -- had the same idea, and left his side with one final squeeze. There's a barely audible sigh of relief as he's released of his bonds, and he all but snaps his arms close to his body, leaving little room for an arm to sneak its way in again. "Yes. Zoë here is a fine..." what cursed instrument did he play, again? Ah, right, "pianist. She has accompanied me on the cello a few times, and I am showing her my *fondest* appreciation."

He shoots a smile to the mortal girl that has just the tiniest amount of poison in it, probably nothing that the mortals would pick up on in the dark. It doesn't really change anything, but it felt good to reduce Zoisite to the second (figurative) fiddle. An accompanist, nothing more.

A beat or two passes as the two girls hold hands with one another. He hadn't thought their interaction too suspicious originally, just more of the youngest Shitennou's meddling. But Makoto appears...quite angry, if that posture is any indication. The man furrows his brow a bit in confusion, eyes once again centered on the brunette of amazing strength. He's not entirely sure why she's so suddenly hostile, but if any harm is about to come Zoisite's way, he certainly doesn't want to stop it.

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

Calm blue ocean. Calm blue ocean. Mamoru hangs tightly onto Makoto's hand until it's obvious Zoi is coming over to clasp the brunette's in his, and then the best he can do is hope with all his heart that she keeps her temper and isn't too--

--that was a very flat voice, wasn't it.

All of his senses are on alert; he doesn't want Zoisite to know that Makoto's magical, though Nephrite will probably sort that out later, and he's pretty sure that Zoisite will just deliver him to Beryl with a ribbon if Makoto lets on she knows who 'Zoë Palissandre' is.

Diversion. He needs to divert Makoto's attention.

"Hah," he laughs after a second of watching the interaction, then leans to elbow Makoto lightly. "See? You don't have to be jealous!" he teases her, lifting his eyebrows. "It's all right, Palissandre-san. Don't let us keep you two from your dinner of fondest appreciation!"

<Pose Tracker> Zoisite [Infinity Institute (S)] has posed.

As plain as the secrets of the heavens are to Nephrite, so are the minutiae of human behaviour to Zoisite. It's enough for most people.

Makoto, though, is not most people. Her electric passions lend her body language an incandescence, lighting her from within. The Shitennou can feel the static that jumps between their hands, but dismisses it as mundane; what he focuses on instead is her indifferent grip, the two-dimensionality of her reply. She's lightning in a bottle. Is it because Zoë's trampled all over the blooming garden of her teenage love? Young girls /can/ become surprisingly hostile when their romantic aspirations are thwarted...

Wait. Since when has Nephrite played the cello?

"Ohohohoho," Zoë titters, dropping Makoto's hands and springing backward, "yes, such an honour to be given the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of such a promising career~" And, to twist the knife, the redhead throws her arms around Masato -- folded arms and all -- and gives his torso a squeeze. "I hope you'll remember me when you become famous, San~jou~in~san~!" Squeeze, squeeze.

And then Mamoru says the 'J' word, and time stops.

See, it's not that Zoisite didn't know his antics were making Makoto jealous -- far from it; it's that calling it out like this stands to explode them all. (A girl doesn't have to be magical to be dangerous, you know.) What is that idiot thinking?!

Immediately, Zoisite switches into self-preservation mode. "Ohhhh non, non, mais non, Chiba-san, aheheheh," she protests, laughing weakly now, "an- euh- /appreciation/ date needn't be just les deux! Linden Baum has les gateaux fantastiques..."

Nephrite will feel a pinch just above the waistband of his trousers. Think on your feet, stupid!!

<Pose Tracker> Makoto Kino [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

The various assurances that the connection between Sanjouin-san and Palissandre-san are, unfortunately, rather cold comfort to Makoto at the moment. What a minute ago would have come as a relief pales in comparison to the fact that the three of them - Mamoru, Sanjouin-san, and herself - are standing here in the company of a Dark General, one who knows who Mamoru is and seems to have some kind of an interest in Sanjouin-san besides.

Mamoru's likely to find elbowing her something like the same experience as elbowing a tree. She scarcely moves. It's not that she can't tell what Mamoru is doing, playing things off as lightly as he is, and in her head Mako understands why it's absolutely vital that this situation not escalate - but when Mamoru suggests that they leave the other two to whatever Zoisite has planned, Makoto shoots him an incredulous sidelong look.

"Mamoru-san--!" She says it half in an undertone, part protest, part plea. Maybe the urgency in her voice is just the intense embarrassment of a girl who's just had her crush pointed out right in front of the object of it?

Then Palissandre-san (the Dark General) has her (his) arms around Sanjouin-san again and Makoto feels like she's inches from pulling her own hair and just screaming.

"Ah, that's--" She fumbles to reply to Zoe's suggestion, eyes flicking desperately between Mamoru and Masato for some clue as to what either one of them thinks about any of this. "--That's generous of you, Zoe-chan," somehow she manages not to choke on the name, "but we wouldn't want to intrude..."

<Pose Tracker> Nephrite [Infinity Institute (S)] has posed.

This entire situation is making his blood boil. Were it anybody but two high-priority targets in the room, Nephrite very likely would have blown his cover and given Zoisite the beating he deserved for this interference. Unfortunately, preserving the innocence of Masato Sanjouin in the eyes of the mortals is paramount, and he suspects that is the very reason the youngest Shitennou chose this moment to strike.

No, not strike. Nephrite would have preferred a straightforward attack. Zoisite is *meddling* -- and for what purpose? He can't fathom how this child's play advances the other General's plans in the slightest.

But he can't waste his efforts on figuring out Zoisite, for it is a truly impossible task. Salvaging his reputation with Makoto is far more important, as is keeping his secret identity intact. If his so-called comrade had come here just to expose him -- wait, what's that about jealousy?

And Mamoru Chiba is trying to abscond with Makoto Kino. Unacceptable.

"That's--" he begins, then is cut off for the umpteenth time this evening as Zoisite throws his arms around his chest, circumventing the defenses he'd set up but a minute ago. His face slowly morphs from surprise into barely disguised contempt, only smiling so that this ruse doesn't completely backfire. "Well. I focus more on my conducting career, naturally," he say, stilted. "But I find the cello much more relaxing -- tch!"

The man winces when Zoisite pinches him from behind, and it takes every ounce of self-control he has not to throw the disguised high schooler into the nearest wall. He turns his head and, shrouded by the dark of the planetarium, shoots his 'date' the iciest glare he can muster, Nephrite-the-Shitennou coming out for a split second. /Pinch me again and I swear on my *life* I will make you regret it. Cover or no./

But, after a deep breath, he looks back towards the other two. "It would be our absolute delight to have you along with us. If we are not the ones, in fact, intruding," he says, looking furtively at Makoto. He hadn't suspected it at first, but he supposes there's a possibility that Makoto and Mamoru are romantically involved, them having been together many of the times he appeared as a Shitennou. It isn't a disaster if it is true, but it's better to work out the truth now than to continue with an angle of infatuation blindly.

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

Mamoru's just giving Zoisite the widest eyes as Makoto hisses at him; he glances toward her and the wide-eyes turns into pleading - play along, PLAY ALONG, please - for a half second before he reasserts his emotional mask.

He grabs Makoto's hand again and squeezes it, half in reassurance and half in insistence. There's the static of them both, a split second of feedback--

The stars burn steadily in the sky; there's no flickering, from where they watch.

He just stands there under the arch, looking up at the blue and white marble in the sky. "Of course I stand with you," he finally says, voice like forgotten thing, lost and sorrowful and uncertain of the future.

But then he repeats it, turning around, and eyes that match the blue of the oceans overhead meet the forest green ones watching him, and they're not uncertain at all. "It's not even a choice. Maybe if we defeat her they'll come to their senses, but..." He shakes his head. "You know she'll always come first."

--but it's only that steadying calm and determined acceptance in the boy's grip running into Makoto's fury head-on. "You're very sweet, but we can't, I'm sorry," he says firmly. "It's a school night, and I need to finish helping Mako-chan with her assignment. I do, however, have tickets to a performance of Holst's Planets in a couple of days, and I had to cancel-- it would be such a shame if they went to waste!"

Letting go Mako's hand, he looks down at her with a bright smile on his mouth and apology in his eyes for how he's doing this, and claps his hand on the back of her shoulder. "It would make me very happy if you took Sanjouin-san--"

Quick checking-not-checking to see if Masato looks like he might think of objecting! and he looks back at Mako. "--seeing as I know the two of you would appreciate it."

It's like throwing spaghetti at the wall to see if it's done yet.

<Pose Tracker> Zoisite [Infinity Institute (S)] has posed.

Honestly, whatever claptrap Nephrite is spouting to get himself out of the latest hole Zoisite's pushed him into goes in one ear and out the other -- especially now that it's become vastly more important to keep this Makoto girl from coming unglued. That sentiment is what meets Nephrite's full Shitennou glare: marvelously expressive poison-green eyes burn like alchemical fire for him alone. /You are such an idiot!!/

Of course, politeness takes over even the ugliest personal feelings. Inwardly, Zoisite is cursing his lack of control over the situation -- one false move and he's steered this outing into a /double date/ that even he may not be able to salvage -- when Mamoru finally does something useful and provides a rather graceful out. The youngest Shitennou inhales sharply through his nose, relief writ plain upon his elfin features; a heartbeat later, he's wrested his mask back into place.

"Oh my goodness yes it is a school night isn't it," pours from Zo�'s rosebud lips in a breathless rush, the words barely escaping before she's covered her mouth with her delicate hands. "Pardonnez-moi, j'ai oubli�!"

(Never mind that that would mean as indifferent a student as Zo� Palissandre was in the library on not-a-school-night. Did she ever say she'd come from the library? Zoisite doesn't even know at this point.) "Mais oui- une bonne id�e, Chiba-san!"

Somehow, Zoi's hand has tangled itself in the third of his ponytail streaming over his shoulder. "Euh, Chiba-san," the willowy girl steps away from Nephrite (finally letting go her slackened grip on his torso) to take up a conspiratorial stance by his unoccupied elbow, "perhaps we should give Sanjouin-san et Mako-chan the chance to work out the details between themselves? And," there is a tug on that elbow now, "would you escort me to my dorm? So," in a stage whisper, "I may have a moment with you en priv�?"

The look in Zoisite's vivid eyes is strangely desperate.

<Pose Tracker> Makoto Kino [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

Feedback buzzes through Makoto for a split second when Mamoru grips her hand, like a flash of an image of another time and place, an instant of disorientation. In the next moment it's passed, but she brings her free hand up to press her fingers to her temple. There's almost too much to parse right now, even without strange sensations flashing through her and leaving her dizzy.

At least Mamoru's efforts at disarming the situation seem to be working - the rigid set of her shoulders has relaxed a little, and the sense of restrained violence that all but crackled in the air around her has faded. She's still on edge, but she manages to turn an apologetic smile towards Nephrite. "He's right... I'm sorry, I'd forgotten too. But--" She breaks off there, glancing sidelong at Mamoru as he claps her on the shoulder and then back to Sanjouin-san, and tries (and completely fails) not to look hopeful. "--I wouldn't mind, if..." She can't quite make herself finish the sentence.

And then Zoe's at Mamoru's elbow and her request has Mako's brows drawing together in concern. It's either a reasonably safe resolution to this whole mess or the worst suggestion yet, and Makoto can't decide which. Maybe Mamoru has a slightly better perspective on how much trouble he'd be in. "Mamoru-san, is that all right with you...?"

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

Like the presumptuously regal jerk he is sometimes, Mamoru doesn't even wait for Sanjouin to agree before he's beaming at Makoto's affirmative answer and Zoisite's enthusiastic encouragement. "Excellent. I'll give you the tickets when we get back," he says cheerfully. Then all of a sudden, Zoisite's relief is registering at the same time that Zoisite's person is approaching his at speed.

Blinking owlishly down at the youngest Shitennou, he leans down when his elbow's tugged, and his eyebrows go up--

Mamoru sees that desperate look and instantly glances over his shoulder at Makoto, who's looking concerned, and who... ah.

Abruptly, his dark blue eyes soften at the eighth-grader, and he gives her a real smile for the first time since Sanjouin got here. He looks so grateful, so terribly, purely grateful. The tiniest of nods at her, and he straightens, turning that smile toward Zoisite. "Sure." Then, businesslike as he pretty much reflexively offers 'Zoe' his arm and starts for the door, "Mako-chan, I'll be back in fifteen minutes, it's not far. Sanjouin-san, nice to see you again. I hope you enjoy the concert, if you've left by the time I'm back."

<Pose Tracker> Nephrite [Infinity Institute (S)] has posed.

Nephrite is, at the end of the day, a straightforward man. He uses only one mortal disguise, and lives it as honestly as he possibly can, nary a difference between himself and Masato Sanjouin besides name and magical strength. Subterfuge and politics are beyond him, by and large; not because he is unintelligent, mind. Merely because his mind is direct and his heart impatient.

Thus, the only strand of this complicated knot that he has any grasp on is Zoisite's identity. Something prickles his senses -- something tense and wrong -- but he cannot place his finger on its cause, so he attributes it to his rage at the younger man's interruption.

His expression hardens noticeably when Mamoru Chiba excuses both himself and Makoto. All his efforts to get information out of the Kino girl seemed fated to fail, though this time, it is thanks to someone who, at least theoretically, should have supported his goals. He's about to curtly leave the scene as well -- when Chiba mentions something about him going to a concert with Makoto in a few days.

And everything falls into place.

"I would be delighted to go -- if Kino-san would have me for an escort," he all but purrs, his smile becoming a touch more genuine now that his plans weren't about to be driven before him. "Your offer is quite generous, Chiba-san. You have my thanks."

In more ways than one, it would seem, as Zoisite/Zoe finally lets go of him and clings to the young man instead of him. Nephrite's shoulders relax at last; they had been hovering somewhere around his ears a moment prior. "Far be it from me to interrupt your private moment, Pelissandre-san," he says, glancing towards the disguised General with contempt. What sort of business Zoisite had with the mortal, he couldn't guess, but that line of questioning could wait until later, after he made his displeasure about his presence tonight *abundantly* clear. "Kino-san, would you like a ride home? We can discuss the details of our symphony outing without taking up your friend's time."

<Pose Tracker> Makoto Kino [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

In what seems like barely seconds, Zoe and Mamoru have swept out of the room on their way to the Ohtori dormitories. In their wake, the air inside the planetarium suddenly seems much less tense. Makoto lets out a breath, bringing her hand to the nape of her neck as she finishes processing everything that's transpired in the last few minutes and makes what is almost a visible downshift of mental gears. When she turns her gaze back toward Nephrite, it's with an apologetic smile.

"I'm sorry about that, Sanjouin-san," she says. "It was a bit awkward, wasn't it?" --right, he said something about a ride home, didn't he? Letting her hand drop, Makoto makes a polite little bow. "It's kind of you to offer me a ride, but I really should wait for Mamoru-san. He was doing me a favor bringing me here, after all, it'd be rude to just leave on my own."

Not to mention that if Mamoru isn't back in fifteen minutes, she's going to have to go after him, and that's going to be much more difficult if she leaves here without him.

<Pose Tracker> Nephrite [Infinity Institute (S)] has posed.

"It... was," Nephrite admits, a touch reluctantly. Perhaps he hadn't been as good at disguising his distate for Zoisite's antics as he thought, if the girl had picked up on it. Of course, her male friend had also just implied that she fancied Masato, so it's entirely possible she's referring to that instead. Either way, he's glad that he's finally managed a moment alone with Makoto Kino. "I apologize. Pelissandre-san read more into my invitation than I had truly meant." He returns his hands to the pockets of his jacket, finally resuming his relaxed posture. "But she seems to have recovered fine. And was awfully keen on spending time with your friend Chiba-san. Maybe he was her true goal all along."

He smiles conspiratorially. There's no way Zoisite would stray from Kunzite for one such as Mamoru Chiba, but of course, Masato Sanjouin wouldn't know that.

"That's all right," he replies when she turns down his offer, tilting his head upwards at the projection above them. "You must be considerate of your friends, of course. And we can certainly discuss logistics while we wait for the two of them to return." Here, Nephrite smiles almost mischievously, returning his gaze to ground level.

"But, first -- why don't I show you something?" His eyes almost seem to shine, even in the low light. "After all, you came here to see the stars, did you not?"

<Pose Tracker> Makoto Kino [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

"You might be right about that," Makoto agrees, and laughs a little - but it's an awkward, uncomfortable sound, a joke that isn't very funny. "I hope he'll be okay..." For a moment she glances through the darkness in the direction of the door. For the next fifteen minutes, at least, there's not much she can do about it either way, except to wait and put her faith in Mamoru's faith in Zoisite.

Not a very reassuring thought, that.

Mako lets her attention be pulled back to Sanjouin-san, grateful for the company, and seeing the smile on his face she can't help but smile back. She can feel herself start to blush again, but at least it's a welcome distraction from her worries.

"Yes, I did," she answers, brows lifting in clear curiosity at the question and the somewhat cryptic suggestion that it's attached to. "What did you have in mind...?"

<Pose Tracker> Nephrite [Infinity Institute (S)] has posed.

Nephrite raises his eyebrows a bit when Makoto makes a quiet comment about her friend's safety, looking at the door the two of them left through. He knows that Zoisite is always to be considered dangerous -- but her? Why did she think Mamoru Chiba was in danger around the pretentious, conniving piano student? Could she possibly--

No. Zoisite is not so loose with his true identity as to risk discovery from a mortal. Still, her concern means she is either desperately paranoid of women hanging around Chiba, or is possessed of an uncommonly sharp intuition. Both are worth considering, and so he doesn't say anything about the odd pairing one way or the other.

Instead, he smiles once again at Makoto, then deliberately makes his way towards the computer controlling the projection.

"I'm sad to say that most within Ohtori do no know how to operate the planetarium to its full capacity," he says as he walks, his voice managing to carry across the room despite the sound-dampening carpet. "Having spent a fair amount of time around telescopes and observatories, I have picked up a few tricks that will let us see the stars and planets in their true glory. Not this mere...projection."

Nephrite says no more as he reaches the computer, reaching down to glide his hands over the keyboard convincingly. In reality, he's doing nothing of the sort; rather, he reaches out with his mind (and a not insignificant amount of magic) to create an invisible viewing field, just the size of the planetarium, on which to project his own images of the cosmos. When he feels the mystical energy settle around the two of them, he smirks, then presses 'enter' with conviction -- just to keep in line with his cover story.

And immediately, the dome above them is alight with the majestic, hurricane-covered enormity that is the planet Jupiter, as though they were standing in front of it themselves, without the intermediary of a telescope.

He stiffens with displeasure when he sees the image; all too often, his power to view the skies centered on whatever was most pressing on his mind. That it is Jupiter before them and not the solar system at large suggests that he has not truly gotten over his failure to abduct Sailor Jupiter in her weakened state, and lingering so on one failure speaks of an uncharacteristic lack of confidence.

But he can sort that out later. Right now, his mission is to dazzle the mortal girl, and if his gut feeling his correct, this sort of magic is just the thing for it.

<Pose Tracker> Makoto Kino [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

"Really?" Folding her arms absently behind her, Makoto leans forward a little to watch as he begins to fiddle with the planetarium's controls - although really with only the light of the projection to see by she can scarcely see what the controls even consist of, let alone what he might be doing with them. "I guess I've never thought about it, but to be able to project the way the night sky changes--"

She doesn't manage to finish the thought, because just as she says 'changes' the simple projection of a starry sky is replaced by the sight of Jupiter looming vast before and above her in the spangled darkness of space, and Makoto's voice breaks off sharply as her throat closes and for a moment she forgets how to breathe.

It's a shock like a lightning strike, like a blow to the chest that takes the air out of her lungs. The sight of the gas giant in its full, enormous glory would be awe-inspiring even if it meant nothing to her personally... but it does, because she knows this view. It's familiar, on some deep gut level in s way that she can't begin to define, as familiar as her pretty little apartment or her own face in the mirror.

Her hand reaches up towards the oval of the great red storm that swirls perpetually in Jupiter's lower hemisphere, larger than the Earth. "...Incredible," she breathes, barely more than a whisper.

<Pose Tracker> Nephrite [Infinity Institute (S)] has posed.

"It is, isn't it?" Nephrite says, managing to catch Makoto's whisper from halfway across the room. "A beautiful subject for a symphony. All the planets in our system are."

Of course, the planets orbiting Sol are the least of what he could show her, if he wanted to. He could all but transport them to another galaxy, fly in close to a supernova or map out the constellations as seen from the surface of Nemesis, the dark planet. In focusing so much on their predictive power, it is easy for him to forget how awe-inspiring the stars could be, especially when viewed with his brand of astrological magic.

Such gifts had died out with the rest of the arcane arts, and he remains one of the few practicioners in this system. Makoto likely doesn't realize the rare gift he's giving her -- and it is better that she doesn't. Masato the talented astronomer is a more convincing disguise than Masato the celestial magician.

A *little* bit of mystique certainly couldn't go awry, though. Many mortals are drawn to what they do not understand.

With a few (perfunctory) taps on the keyboard, Nephrite pulls the viewing angle back to encompass the entire solar system as it is aligned this very moment, then walks back down the aisle of seats, back to where the girl is standing. "Have you ever been to the symphony, Kino-san?" he asks, figuring that they should get this worked out before Mamoru reenters with 'Zoe'. "We are fortunate to have a wonderful hall, here in Tokyo."

<Pose Tracker> Makoto Kino [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

Makoto is slow to answer, still staring wide-eyed at the vision of Jupiter, encircled by its moons and the gossamer arc of its rings. It's only when the view changes, shifting back from its focus on Jupiter to show the larger scope of the whole solar system, that she begins to recover her self-possession a little - the sight is still incredible, to be sure, but it no longer swamps her with that strange sense of familiarity, and she's able to drag her gaze downward to Nephrite again and reluctantly shake her head.

"I haven't," she admits. "The tickets are pretty expensive, so it's not really something I can just do on a whim... I wanted to see that free event that was going to happen recently, but - well, things came up."

Her head ducks in embarrassment, but only for a moment. In the next moment Makoto is looking up at Sanjouin-san again with an expression of earnest relief. "I didn't get the chance to say so before," she says, "but I'm glad that you're all right. I heard about what happened - the, um," what was the official story in the news again? "--gas leak."

<Pose Tracker> Nephrite [Infinity Institute (S)] has posed.

Nephrite isn't totally surprised when Makoto admits that she's never been to the symphony. Though there were cheap ways to get tickets if you knew the right people, more often than not, seats were quite expensive, often beyond the budget of a student. It would be easy, then, to woo her with the high-class spectacle of the grand hall, and the upper crust that made a habit of being seen at the symphony. In fact--

"Chiba-san's offer is most generous, then, if it gives you the chance to experience the symphony for the first time," he says, the ghost of a plan beginning to form behind his gentlemanly facade. "Being the conductor, I may be able to get the seats upgraded to a box, if I make a few calls. You'll like it much better, both the view and the acoustics are superb." He won't have to use magic for this goal, for once, because Masato Sanjouin's status is enough to get one of the best seats in the house. "There's a cafe close to the hall itself as well, if you'd like to eat beforehand. Symphonies are lengthy affairs, after all."

When she mentions a gas leak, Nephrite blinks slowly in confusion, trying to keep his face as neutral as possible while he figured out what she was referring to. Luckily, it doesn't take all that long: the mortals found some explanation or other for the disaster during the teenager-pandering concert, and seeing as he had been the conductor that night, it followed that she would be concerned for his wellbeing. He affects a grateful smile.

"Thank you -- it was quite the scare. A shame that it happened during an outreach performance, but it is fortunate no one was hurt."

<Pose Tracker> Makoto Kino [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

"It really is..." Makoto can't quite look at him while they're talking about this; she turns her gaze away, looking out across the illusionary starscape. If it hadn't been for the necessity of trying to stick convincingly to the official version of events, she might've already given into temptation and called him... but Mako knows as well as anyone that she's a terrible liar, and if she says anything else about that evening she's sure she won't be able to keep from giving away something that she shouldn't.

Fortunately, there's a much more immediate subject occupying her thoughts, because Mamoru's spur-of-the-moment suggestion is quickly turning from an unexpected stroke of fortune into actually too good to be true. "...I'm looking forward to getting to see a proper performance," Mako says, trying hard not to fluster and feeling like she must be turning several different shades of pink. "Ah, but you don't need to go to that much trouble on my account. After all, the whole thing is something that Mamoru-san kind of decided on his own..."

Or so Makoto says, but the look on her face when she glances back toward him tells a very different story. It's all faintly disbelieving hope and starstruck admiration; she's completely smitten, soaking up the gentlemanly attention like dry ground soaks up rainfall.


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

The rain outside's at least dropped off to a light drizzle, and as soon as they get down to the ground floor, Mamoru pauses -- doesn't bother trying to dislodge Zoisite if the Shitennou is still on his arm -- and one-handedly flips up and opens his umbrella. It is, of course, big enough to shield them both.

And then it's toward the dormitories, the soft evening dampening the sound around them. Mamoru seems to be chewing on something in the back of his head, but when isn't he?

Finally it comes out. "What in god's name were you doing?" he asks, letting out an incredulous laugh-- and then he shakes his head. "No, no. First, what's wrong?"

<Pose Tracker> Zoisite [Infinity Institute (S)] has posed.

Both of them under an umbrella. As if the Ohtori rumour mill needed any more grist!

But that's only a blip on Zoisite's mental radar just now, as he comes to a stop under a lightpole and steps away from Mamoru, folding his arms. Even explaining what he was /doing/ there would be stepping over a line he's not yet willing to cross.

There are a lot of lines here, at that. Has he finally lied himself into a corner?

"...You're sending your friend into a trap," the disguised Shitennou finally replies, still looking away. "Nephrite will be at that concert."

It's as much as he can say. What goes unsaid clings to his willowy frame like the drizzle beyond the umbrella.

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

The best way to deal with Ohtori's rumor mill, Mamoru has found, is to basically fail to care what it says, and, when bored, feed it disinformation. It's a blip on Zoi's radar, but it doesn't even occur to the black-haired boy that it could start talk.

Instead, he stands there, shaded from the lamplight by his big umbrella, looking at the redhead in the misting drizzle. His face is white in the shadow, and his mouth thin and pinched. "He's obsessed with her and I have no idea why," he says, voice halting and low, breath refusing to behave properly. "He came to her house. He tortured her. It was after you visited me. We were eating eclairs she made..."

He trails off. Does this count as giving information to the enemy? He's telling on Nephrite, not on Jupiter.

But-- is Luna right? Or are his goals the same and his methods different? Do his methods even have merit? Makoto backed him leaving with Zoisite. Makoto has his back. All these unspoken things, on both sides--

The shadow of the umbrella shifts, moving through Zoi's field of vision. He's offering the Dark General his umbrella; a gift, or a loan, not to share. "That looks like wool," he says, finally. "You'll be miserable if it gets too wet."

It's a sort of thanks. It's also a piece of the mundane to ground him, to ground the not-conversation.

<Pose Tracker> Zoisite [Infinity Institute (S)] has posed.

'Ignoring rumours' is probably a skill that comes more easily to Mamoru, honestly.

Zoisite saw the condition the blue-eyed boy was in after Nephrite's attack, yet it pales in comparison to what meets his eyes when he turns around. Unlike that time, though, Zoisite's own expression simply tightens into a frown. "He does that," the redhead remarks, exhaling. "Obsesses over things, I mean. He's driven to fixate on anything that eludes his understanding, and he'll beat his fool head against it until it yields up its secrets to him." Viridian eyes roll. "So I suspect she confounds him in some way."

It certainly explains why he's trying to get close to her, Zoisite thinks to himself. Lucky for him she isn't impervious to his...charms.

He taps his chin with his fingertip, mulling over how much to disclose. Caught thus in his thoughts, Mamoru's gesture takes Zoisite by surprise. Wool? "Oh, uh," he shoots a look down to his sweater, "yes. But I can protect myself with magic- I mean, you don't..."

Gingerly, without meeting Mamoru's oceanic eyes, Zoisite reaches out to accept the umbrella.

"...Er. Ahem." Eclairs. How ironic, that she should make eclairs for the man who's attacked her more than once? (Yes, the fact that Zoisite is making this observation is, itself, ironic. Shut up.) "That man, Sanjouin..."

How far can he go before he endangers himself?

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

Somehow -- that mundanity's brought color back to the eleventh-grader's face. He's remembered how to breathe. He gives Zoisite a small half-smile that doesn't really reach the oceanic eyes Zoi won't meet, then sticks his hands in his pockets. His own jacket's leather, it'll stand the rain, even without magic or an umbrella.

Nephrite obsesses. He fixates on things that he doesn't understand. Then, Sanjouin. Mamoru's expression, for just a split second, is priceless. "He's a pompous ass," he supplies, almost interrupting. "I have no idea what she sees in him."

Talk about irony.

"But I guess I'll be babysitting that date," says the ridiculously tall boy, glancing away, himself. His shoulders hunch in a little bit. And then, still looking away, he says without changing anything in his tone, "Zoe should probably transfer back home."

<Pose Tracker> Zoisite [Infinity Institute (S)] has posed.

Mamoru's just-barely-not-an-interruption elicits a peal of abrupt laughter from Zoisite, who very nearly drops the umbrella when his hand flies to his mouth midway through. By the time he's reined in his outburst, Mamo's gone all hangdog again. Good grief.

"And why should Zoë do anything of the sort?" the redhead demands, hand on hip. "I'm not discarding a mortal cover just because you don't want me complicating your babysitting detail." Though it might actually be...wise...for Zoë to accompany Mamoru, from a certain perspective.

This realisation dawns slowly across Zoisite's face, culminating in a brief mask of horror before the Shitennou vigorously shakes his head, returning it to a simple frown.

After a moment, though, he sighs. "Just..." He hates Nephrite and his loyalties lie with Kunzite, not Beryl or any other authority in the Dark Kingdom, so why is this so hard? "Keep her away from Sanjouin, if you care for her. Not for my sake," Zoi clarifies, remembering his ruse, "but for her own. And yours, I suppose, if you're dumb enough to try rescuing her."

This is stupid. Darkness take all of them for putting him in these stupid situations!!

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

Not so much hangdog as--

Well. It is difficult.

"That's not why you should discard a mortal cover, no," Mamoru says, glancing back over toward Zoisite at the indignation. He listens to the rest, of course; he very much listens to 'keep her away from Sanjouin' -- that'll be some interesting juggling -- and stows it someplace to analyze for practical methodolgy in the background.

But it's clear in those eyes, the presence in his voice and posture reflected behind them and given weight, that he wants Zoisite to understand something. He's also a little astonished that he was actually too oblique, so his eyebrows are up a little, too.

"If you want to popcorn, you can. But please take care. I wouldn't suggest it unless I thought you might end up with the impression that I'd set a trap. Who I'm with is watched."

<Pose Tracker> Zoisite [Infinity Institute (S)] has posed.

Zoisite may be the sharpest of the Heavenly Four, but even he has his off nights.

Of course, when his companion remarks on potential traps, the Shitennou's consternation evaporates in favour of laughter. "You? Set a trap? Please. You don't have a deceitful bone in your body, Mamoru Chiba." With a chuckle, "If you could bring yourself to set one, you'd probably warn me before it sprung so I wouldn't get hurt as I were captured."

More importantly, Mamoru's being watched. "Well of course you are," Zoisite airily replies, twirling one hand. "How do you think I knew where to find you tonight?" Never mind that the message came from /Nephrite's/ surveillance detail. "Though...I hadn't thought /your/ side would keep as close an eye on your activities as mine do ours. But, well," he shrugs, "your feline friends /are/ dreadfully untrusting, aren't they?"

Eyes that had closed for drama's sake open slightly then, staying slyly heavy-lidded as Zoisite trains their emerald gaze on Mamoru.

"Anyway. What does it matter? You've already told your friends all about me, I'm sure." Zoi's mouth twists, as though he's trying and failing not to smile. "Unless your association with me renders your loyalty suspect."

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

"You're only saying that because you know me," Mamoru says wryly of the aspersions Zoisite's cast on his potential for duplicity, and then he shrugs lightly. "I'm just still a bit nervous of my 'fragile human body being introduced to as many crystal knives as possible'."

A glance cast back up toward the tower, and then Mamoru smiles a little and looks back down at the redheaded General. The casual assumption that he's already told his friends all about Zoisite-- finally his hands come out of his pockets, and he spreads them grandly. "You do know me."

The fact that he doesn't explicitly address questions about his loyalty probably answers them fairly effectively. He chuffs out a little breath, misting in the humid air. "Anyway, I'd-- better get back up there, or Sanjouin's going to think I'm not coming back and make some kind of move on Mako-chan."

Awkwardly, the tall boy hesitates a second. "If it comes down to it, Nephrite's not dumb enough to fall for the covered-in-flour ghost-hero trick, is he?"