2018-09-27 - Cabbit Season?! I'm A Hunter Of Love!

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Title: Cabbit Season?! I'm A Hunter Of Love!

Usagi brings Mikoto Makoto's cookies to apologise for feeding her something spicy, and finds that Mikoto and Makoto are more alike than she knew. She helps Mikoto with something so much more important than studying -- matters of the heart.


Mikoto Minagi, Usagi Tsukino


Ohtori Academy - Dormitories

OOC - IC Date:

2018-09-27 - the day after Cooking Class: Pasta

.******************** Yamanote High City - Ohtori Academy *********************.
*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+* Dormitories +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*
 There is some variation between the dormitories to provide a range suitable
 to different tastes, but they are typically old-fashioned and elegant, with
 low stone walls guiding the walkways and ivy creeping up their white walls
 and columns. Their exterior is classically European, like sedate manor
 houses, and for the most part this style is maintained inside, with
 dignified old paintings in thick goldleaf frames. However, the dormitories
 do not lack for daring Ohtori touches, with whimsical art deco floor
 panelling here, fantastical geometric lamps there, and odd little secret
 panels and dead ends throughout.

 Dorm rooms are generally shared between two same-gender students, but
 singles are almost as common; Ohtori students were not generally raised to
 share. There are some triples and quads available as well. Some dorms permit
 a great deal of leeway in decoration, others require students to stick to
 the default antique furniture. Many dorms have at least a small balcony,
 which provides an escape route for particularly rebellious students when
 curfews are instated.
*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+* Players +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Life goes on, even with turmoil looming overhead. Despite Mikoto's distractions - not just her search, right now - Mai has proven insistent on one particular thing.


Mikoto has to study.

This is, naturally, a thing she has protested mightily, but a combination of bribes (food) and threats (no food) sees Mikoto in class during the day, and... well, at least studying a little after school. She has a lot of things to fit into the day. As always, she doesn't talk much about what those things are.

And so, Mikoto is exiled to their dorm, pouring over some worksheet or another. Frankly, it may as well be the same as any other worksheet on their desk. (Which Mikoto is, currently, alone at - Mai is out doing something or another. Much like Mikoto doesn't talk about what she does out in the world, she doesn't demand to know what Mai is doing.) It makes as much sense as a random worksheet. She checks to make sure it's not one of Mai's, but it is, in fact, one of Mikoto's English assignments.

"There is an... um... in... the... that... no... it... at a... when it is... up over the... and... it... no..." Mikoto echoes the words she can sort of recognise, only to thunk her face down right on the paper. She gives up trying to translate with a muttered, "... it's no use..."

Mikoto grumbles as she rolls her face to rest on a cheek, puffing out a breath. "Maiii," she whines, but Mai doesn't appear out of nowhere, despite the fact that Mikoto could really use some help. And maybe a snack.

<Pose Tracker> Usagi Tsukino [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

To be carrying around Makoto Kino cookies that are not for one's self is a huge responsibility. Mainly because the temptation to eat them is too strong.

Wrapped up in a lovely white box with pink ribbons over two of the corners, a striking white flower is tucked between on both sides. The main reason why the temptation is strong though is...

"These Ohtori dorms are like a maze!" Usagi declares, "... gorgeous ones though. I still can't believe people actually live here."

Usagi rubs her cheek with the hand holding a phone. "It's like something out of a fairy tale..."

And with no Luna, or Rei Hino here - noone can shoot this down by telling her how much responsibility she'd have to take on for herself, cleaning, and doing laundry, and making sure she got out of bed in the morning - cooking...

So wrapped up in her thoughts she passes by the dorm room whose number Mai texted back. However she then backtracks in a backwards walk. Checks the phone. Checks the door. "Alright. Here we go."

Usagi's knuckle stops near the door. "You think she'd mind if I even just..." Usagi thumbs the ribbon, then hurriedly shakes her head, "No-No-No. Even taking one apology cookie would make it less than a full apology. Okay. Okay."

The knuckle raps the door quickly.

When Mikoto opens the door she'll catch sight of a bowing Usagi in her Juuban high uniform, arms extended stock forward to present the box, "I'm so sorry for not realizing I'd put something so spicy in our group's pasta!"

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

"Maiii..iii..iii..." Mikoto stretches out the mora plaintively, having determined that her homework is, in fact, humanly impossible and there is only one girl who can possibly save her. Maybe Mai will be back soon and she can explain what all these words mean.

And perhaps her prayers are answered as footsteps ring down the hall!

... except that Mai would never knock at the door.

Mikoto blinks, straightening from her slump of scholastic despair. It's totally reasonable to abandon homework with someone at the door, right? Right. Having determined that her actions would be completely Mai-sanctioned, Mikoto slides out of her chair and heads over to open the door.

(It is such a flimsy little thing, the Ohtori door lock, and Mikoto tries not to let it bother her.)

She blinks in surprise as she opens the door to find a bowing Usagi, with a noise of confusion. The box, at least, smells delicious, and so Mikoto takes it immediately. And steps aside to let her in, because that's what you do when guests arrive. Mai did eventually manage to teach Mikoto that most guests weren't threats and she shouldn't attack them for trying to intrude on their territory.

Something so spicy... Mikoto cants her head. "Usagi gave me that?" She sounds confused as she tries to remember, but all she can recall is the pain of a thousand burning suns. A disquieted noise, now, as she looks down to the box. "... accident, right?"

After all, Usagi just said she hadn't realised she'd done it.

She shakes her head, finally, because the important thing is that Usagi is obviously feeling terrible about it, or else she wouldn't be bowing and apologising like this. "It's okay!" She assures her, smiling. "Just a mistake! I make mistakes lots too."

Sniff sniff, sniff sniff, Mikoto lifts the box to consider it. "... Usagi brought snacks?" She asks, and her eyes shine with a wide smile. "Usagi's saved me!!" Now she can eat snacks instead of translate!

<Pose Tracker> Usagi Tsukino [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Straightening up, Usagi follows her inside. "Uh-huh." However then she nods way more vigorously, "Yeah, I thought they were sundried tomatoes which are definitely..."

She crosses her arms in an X, "... not spicy. So it was a total accident. Even so I'm really sorry - it obviously hurt and I didn't mean to hurt you. I was hoping to serve you something delicious."

However thankfully Mikoto writes it off as a mistake and Usagi takes a deep breath. "Oh it's such a relief that you understand. I mean - anyone can make a mistake right?" She rocks back on her heels, hands behind her back, "...or two."

After all she also mistook vinegar for oil and flour for baking soda in her prior attempt at pancakes.

"...saved you?" Usagi repeats in confusion then stands on her tip toes to look over Mikoto's shoulder to see. "...OOhhhh, I get it!" Smiling, "I totally get it. I get really hungry when I study too - which is why I always study with friends."

Who have stocked pantries! And actual cooking skills to make use of them. And don't withhold snacks because of her grade like her mother does.

Holding up a finger, "Luckily for you these are not just any snacks. These are one hundred percent bonafide Mako-chan cookies which are basically concentrated happiness in snack form. You'll be totally content afterwards or your money back-"

Her voice stops, then her mouth snaps shut, as she looks chagrined, "Not that you... paid for them or anything... but it doesn't matter because they're really good! Like the best cookies you'll find outside of any bakery!"

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Usagi explains and explains and explains, and Mikoto nods along. Finally, Usagi remembers to breathe, and Mikoto nods again. "Yup!" She confirms that anyone can make mistakes. She only knows one person who never has, and that's hardly a fair bar to judge everyone else by.

"Studying's hard," Mikoto says, that plaintive edge creeping into her voice again. "But Mai said I wouldn't get bento if I didn't..." And that is clearly a very serious thing.

She blinks as she looks down at the box as Usagi goes on to elaborate how they were very special cookies. She wonders if that means they're like Kimiko's cookies. She hopes there isn't a sad story behind these ones, too.

... then again, isn't the sad story that Mikoto ate something spicy?

That's a pretty sad story, but at least Michiru saved her.

"Okay!" She chirps, not mentioning that there are some bakeries she can't go into in good faith and so they might just be the best cookies for her anyway.

Mikoto closes the door behind them, and goes - past a coat-rack with a black case leant beside its claws - to perch on the lounge. For all that Mai and Mikoto's own contributions to their dorm are relatively simple, inexpensive things, the furniture came with the room, and it is as ostentatious as the rest of Ohtori. Its one saving grace is the fact that the two of them are in a relatively simple dorm, being scholarship students.

So, you know, it's just ornate rather than being completely unbelievable.

Once she's settled down, she unwraps the box, unfolds it, and her eyes glitter as she beholds what is inside. She takes one of the cookies and takes a big bite, evidently still trusting that surely Usagi would not betray her to spice.

This was, it turns out, completely the right decision, because this is quite possibly the best cookie Mikoto Minagi has ever tasted.

A broad grin spreads over her face, bright and sparkling eyes, and she tears through another three with all the ferocity of a lion before she pauses. These cookies are very good and Usagi brought them to her and yet Usagi hasn't tried to eat them.

Mai taught Mikoto what to do in situations like this!

Mikoto offers the box over to Usagi, so she can have a cookie too.

<Pose Tracker> Usagi Tsukino [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Usagi agrees, "The hardest." She'd rather face a Youma any day to a math test. Well maybe not every youma - or moral situation. However the math test would win as more horrible in most scenarios.

Usagi takes up the phone as she turns at an angle and enters into the common room, "Also Mako-chan said I should ask you a question first." She clears her throat as she checks her phone, "Do you have any nut aller-" She looks up to see Mikoto eating the cookie. "-gies. Oh. Well um."

Usagi lowers the phone, her forehead breaking out in a nervous sweat, "Eehihihi- I guess I should have asked that before handing it to you..." Unless Mikoto's tongue starts to swell in the next... few seconds. Instead she just looks delighted. Which makes Usagi's sweat-driven anxiety turn into complete and utter relief.

Then Mikoto hands her a cookie and, "For me? Oh I shouldn't... I mean they're your apology cookies and..." However before Mikoto can retract it she takes it between her fingers, "... well one absolutely wouldn't hurt if you're offering!"

And takes a big bite...

Chewing happily - she gives this long sigh, her other hand rubbing her cheek, "Ahhh... bliss~"

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Mikoto would rather fight youma than tests too, but she's not just going to say that. Usagi probably has enough frightening memories of the magical world from being kidnapped. Sure, maybe that means she knows and it's okay to talk about it, but it wouldn't be nice to talk about it, right..?

After all, it's not like Usagi is a warrior or anything.

Usagi starts to ask a question, but Mikoto is already eating. After all, she didn't smell anything about the cookies to give her pause. And her first taste didn't reveal anything bad about them, either! Mikoto is very good at figuring out when food is bad. This food is the opposite of bad. If only there were a word for that.

"Delicious--!!" It turns out there totally is a word for that.

She's a bit too distracted eating to answer Usagi's question, but she doesn't turn into a big red beachball, so the answer is presumably 'no.'

(Mikoto, as it turns out, is not allergic to anything. She's just so sensitive that some things hurt her for entirely different reasons. Like spicy food.)

<Pose Tracker> Usagi Tsukino [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Since Mikoto does not turn red or start itching or gasping for air - she assumes its safe.

Still polishing off her first cookie, she takes a seat, "So! Here's my expert evaluation of Mako-chan versus Mai-chan after having eaten over for dinner here with Mai-chan. Mako-chan is slightly better at baking - while Mai-chan is slightly better at home cooked comfort food. They're both equally good at making bentos." Usagi taps her chin. "Basically they're both a-ma-zing and there are no downsides to either of their cooking. The reason they're so good I think is because they both..."

Usagi looks a little wistful for a moment, "They both put their feelings into their cooking. A precious desire to make people happy that they sometimes can't put into words."

For no matter how twisted up Mai Tokiha gets up in her emotions, she still desires the people she loves to be happy.

And the same goes for Makoto Kino.

"I wish I wasn't hopeless at it and could cook like them." Usagi has a protracted kind of sigh.

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Mikoto nods along with Usagi's assessment, entirely seriously, making affirmative noises here and there. "Yup!" She concludes, when she's done. And her expression fades to consideration, for a moment. "Mai expresses with food. But, I think Mai'd be embarrassed if I pointed it out... or, self-conscious... and Mai needs to be able to do that stuff."

Mai's bad at expressing herself, after all. She bottles things up a lot. She probably thinks no one notices, but Mikoto notices. That's why she keeps trying to get Mai to do fun things.

She shrugs a shoulder, "so I don't say anything about that. Just talk about how good it is instead!" Mikoto grins again. "Lots to say about that!"

As if struck by a bolt of inspiration, she tilts her head and hums consideration through her lips. "What if Mai and Mako... cooked together?" Would the world survive such an onslaught of delicious food?

Surely there would be no one left standing by the end.

But there's one other thing not left standing in the wake of Mako's cooking: Usagi's own confidence. And Mikoto makes another considering noise as she looks to her, remembering all the times Usagi has tripped and fallen, or made a fool of herself. Usagi doesn't really think she's hopeless, does she..?

And so there is a moment of silence as she tries to figure out what she's supposed to say, before she shakes her head. "I'm not good at cooking neither," she says. "I tried making ramen once. Thought it'd be easy, 'cause I'd seen Mai do it so much. But I left lid on, went to check something in other room, and it all exploded out... noodles everywhere." It's rare to hear her say so much, in the group situations where Usagi tends to run into Mikoto, so perhaps it's strange to hear her relate a story like this. "Was finding them for ages. Never got better at it. Doesn't mean I don't wanna make people happy. Usagi too, right? Maybe Usagi couldn't make cookies like this, but Usagi came all the way here to give me some. Probably had to ask Mako to make them. And then not eat them!" After all, Usagi hadn't needed much encouragement to take a cookie, but she'd been surprisingly hesitant about eating Mikoto's apology cookies.

"I'm good at -" beat - "other stuff, and I bet Usagi's good at other stuff, too." Maybe she has a secret talent for rabbit-keeping. She is named 'rabbit', after all.

<Pose Tracker> Usagi Tsukino [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Usagi nods with a grave expression as Mikoto mentions that Mai would be embarrassed, "Mai-chan isn't... good at talking about her feelings." Usagi says in agreement.

She's spoken to Mai about enough serious subjects, like Nephrite... or the dreams she had while they were on the Moon... or her brother... or when she lost her powers... that she knows it too well.

Usagi nods in agreement again, "That's important I think - that you're just there, accepting her precious feelings each and every day. That way when it is important for her to talk about them - she'll know you're there."

Of course, that could just be her making excuses to just be a total glutton about eating their food.

Usagi uses a hand to straighten her skirts as Mikoto talks about her own cooking incident. "Sounds like we've both had similar experiences with it..."

Her eyes drift down, her smile chagrined, "Yeah... of course I'd love to be able to do it and make people happy on my own... but it's never worked out that way for me. It's just... I'm not good at a lot of things. I'm not good at school, or cooking, or sports..."

However, there is one thing Usagi Tsukino is good at. It's also the one thing she can't really talk about. She's good at protecting people. She used to think of herself as being bad at being a magical girl too - but now it's the one gift she does have.

"... well I guess it's fine. I don't have to go to college or anything. I could always just get married."

Though even that brings a spike of pain as she considers another world that feels like a distant dream.

"...It's just I don't even feel like I'd even make a good housewife if I can't cook, and I'm no good at cleaning."

Why is she talking about this with Mikoto? Well it's strange but - part of her feels like she'd understand the idea of not being good at these traditionally feminine skills - but instead being good at protecting what she loves.

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

The precious feelings of a precious person...

Mikoto nods, with an affirmative noise. "Right! I'll be there, 'cause I love Mai!" She says it so plainly, with no hesitation or blush.

Mikoto would never want to leave Mai alone, because Mai was there for Mikoto when she was alone.

But they're glowing feelings which mute with the serious turn of the topic, and Mikoto frowns as she listens to Usagi talk about all the things she's not good at. She glances away, as Usagi mentions that perhaps she could just get married, but she soon returns her attention back to the other girl.

Usagi doesn't think she's good at anything...

It's sad, and that makes Mikoto sad, too.

With a disquieted grunt, Mikoto leans forward, to place the half-eaten box of cookies on the coffee table, and scoots over. If Usagi doesn't think fast, she is about to get hugged, because Mikoto can't think of any other way to make her feel better. And for once, she's not any shorter than the person she's hugging.

"Doesn't sound fine," Mikoto says. "Sounds like it bothers Usagi lots."

She might be perceptive in some things, but in other areas she might have a little too much perception and not enough social wisdom. She completely misses that Usagi might have been trying to brush those feelings aside.

"That sorta stuff..." Mikoto hesitates, for a moment, deliberating over what she can say. "... I'm not really worried about it. I'm good at -" another beat - "well, Usagi knows." Or maybe she doesn't. They weren't precisely hands-on in their rescue. It doesn't occur to Mikoto at all. Neither does it occur to her that Usagi might know about her competencies through any other means. "So, I..."

She trails off, shaking her head and straightening, the distance marking her recognition that she cannot say too much. "But, friends say I'm good at other stuff too. Sometimes it's hard to believe. But, maybe there's stuff Usagi's good at which Usagi doesn't know about, too. Stuff Usagi's friends keep saying." Surely her friends only say good things about her.

"Don't really know much about housewives, but, gotta be more than cooking and cleaning, right?" Mikoto tilts her head as she asks a question which should be obvious. "Usagi cares lots, even about people Usagi don't know too good. Usagi's always making people smile. Usagi never gives up, even when it's hard." Mikoto, of course, is thinking of how she searched every Ohtori garden, though perhaps it might seem like she's calling to mind other things. "That not important too?"

<Pose Tracker> Usagi Tsukino [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

It hasn't been too long ago that Usagi incorporated the idea that girls could love girls that way into her mind. However she has... so when Mikoto says it, "Mmm?"

She sits up a touch straighter, having never heard Mikoto use the word herself. She's about to ask for clarification, however...

Mikoto delves into the subject on hand. And... Usagi uses her free hand to rub the back of her head, "Well I mean not as much as... it used to... I guess I was just always hoping I'd find something I'm good at..." However she doesn't deny that it bothers her a lot.

Instead she just nods quickly as Mikoto says that, "I remember." Though she leaves it at that.

Instead she presses her knees together and places her hands upon her knees as she looks down. "I guess... I guess that's right. There's more to being a housewife than that if... you want to make your family happy..."

And there's more to a person than simply... skills.

She can at least say she's good at making her friends happy, though that's not the kind of thing one can boast about...

Instead she peps up.

"I guess it is important..."

Though then she leans forward, replacing a hand on her knee to being one on her chin, "Mikoto-chan. When you say you love Mai-chan though do you mean like... you love her like a friend or family or... that you... you know..."

The hand drops and suddenly her pointer fingers are joined together as they turn in a nervous circle, "... love-love her?"

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> 2 Mello - More Than Words Can Say https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nezrt76U8Cs

Mikoto grunts, a noise of dissatisfaction, as Usagi talks in past tense about finding something she was good at. She can't just give up. Just because Usagi is bad at a lot of things, she can't be bad at everything.

That would be too sad.

But Usagi does, eventually, seem to accept that perhaps there's more to it than cooking and cleaning, even if she still seems downcast. At first, when she seems to brighten again, Mikoto smiles, visibly relieved. Except -

Usagi starts asking about her.

"Mai's not family," Mikoto answers, immediately. "Mai's the most important girl in the world." Those two statements follow logically, for someone who knows there were no girls on the mountain, and yet they might seem like a bizarre contrast to an outsider. She hesitates, for a moment, a pause to the words. "Mai's - my first friend..."

Mikoto glances aside, a hand curling at her chest as she tries not to think about so many confusing things. "... that's why Mai's different," she says, as if she is trying to convince herself as much as Usagi.

Is it even okay - for Mai to be different?

<Pose Tracker> Usagi Tsukino [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Mai's not family. Usagi nods.

Most important girl in the world. Usagi's lips form an 'o' which is prolonged in its silence.

Mai's my first friend... and she dials it back...

...that's why Mai is different.

Now Usagi just isn't certain.

Friends are important! They're just as important as love. First friends are a precious thing.

The motions of her fingers stop, as she considers this development for a moment.

Does Mikoto not know it's a thing? I mean she didn't know girls could love girls like that until recently. Is that what Mikoto means or is Mai just an extra precious kind of friend?

It's hard to get a sense of the specifics here.


Usagi puts her hands together in sudden decision.

"Okay. So Mai-chan is an extra special friend for you in a way that's different from all your other friends."

That's where she stops for a few seconds, "I think whatever that means is for you to decide. I guess it just depends on whether you think that means..."

Usagi looks sideways, suddenly a little flushed, "... you know... more special friend stuff or... whether it means..."

Her lips part, and then after a moment she says a word as if it were something both sacred and taboo, "... kissing..." And then more taboo, "... other stuff you might... like..."

And that's all she's got, her ears are steaming justttt... a little bit, as it feels like her brain is short circuiting when it comes to other stuff.

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Welcome to the club, Usagi Tsukino.

Mikoto knows some things - and doesn't know so many others. It's something so difficult for her to consider. How can love be different? She just doesn't understand.

Usagi sounds like she understands, though, and Mikoto's head cants to the side slightly as she listens. On the outset, she's making affirmative noises and nodding as she files away this new information.

Except, for some reason, Usagi seems bothered by what she's saying. And at first, Mikoto doesn't understand. She stills, leaning forward a little and peering at the other girl as she tries to figure it out. Usagi manages to say the word, finally, and Mikoto straightens, glancing away sharply.

Perhaps quickly enough to hide the way her eyes slit in alarm as her heart hammers.

She blinks, and it's gone, surely a trick of the light. That hand at her chest rises, absent-mindedly, a curled finger pressing at her bottom lip.

Now, here's the thing. In all the social functions Usagi has seen Mikoto at - Mikoto's never blushed at anything untoward or embarrassing.

But here, now, her cheeks flush a light pink as she thinks of kissing Mai Tokiha.

Her hand lowers to her chest again, and she can feel her heart pounding, for some reason. It doesn't make any sense, because she's not under any threat at all.

She takes a breath, opens her mouth, but she finds her lips can't shape any words at all. She sits agape for a moment, before they close again and she hums discontent through lips in a thin line.

<Pose Tracker> Usagi Tsukino [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Usagi takes stock of the sudden silence, the way Mikoto is looking away, blushing.

Is she embarrassed because she doesn't think of Mai that way or because she does?

Well. That's not for her to figure out. If Mikoto were speaking to her that'd be different. Since she's not, it means it isn't.

So instead Usagi stands up, walks over to Mikoto and-

Mikoto suddenly sees a Makoto Kino cookie being held up in front of her face.

"You know when things are heavy or complicated and I can't figure something out or its just real hard thinking about something - I just eat something delicious."

She hands it over into her palm, "Maybe it won't help you find the answers or figure it out - but it's a little easier when you have the happy feelings that come from eating good food inside you-"

And then she picks up another cookie of her own to munch a bite herself, as she says through the bites, "-right?"

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Mikoto blinks at the sudden intrusion of a cookie in her line of sight, interrupting all manner of tumultuous thoughts. She makes a questioning noise, as she looks up to Usagi - which she can do, right now, given she's standing up.

Hesitantly, Mikoto takes the cookie. It doesn't take long for her not to be hesitant about eating it, though. It's a really good cookie.

And Usagi's advice is completely sound. It's just...

... Mai makes the most delicious food.

Untangling food from Mai - well...

At least it's a really good cookie, and it does make Mikoto smile, though it's a little more fragile than it was before. And when she's done, she looks to Usagi, and then back away. She swallows. Her throat must feel dry because of the cookie crumbs.

"Usagi..." Mikoto tests the mora, shakily, as she tries to remember how words work. "I, um..."

'You wanted Mai-chan there with you. You wanted her enough to come out there to see you on the mountain.'

Oh. So that's why.

"I think I - um - I think I'm sweet on Mai," she whispers, finally. "I think, that's why loving Mai is different to loving everyone else."

So why does she look so sad, brow drawn up in thin line and eyes downcast?

"... please don't tell no one," her hand grasps about itself as it presses into her chest. "Please?" Perhaps it's strange, to see her made so vulnerable by love. She has always been fierce, whether fiercely energetic or fiercely violent or fiercely devoted. And yet she's so unsteady, here.

In the end, despite all her differences, she is still a sixteen year old girl, struggling with the world of love.

"If Mai knew... Mai'd leave... and I can't..." Mikoto trails off, and she does not only mean that she could not handle Mai leaving.

Someone like her isn't supposed to feel things like this.

It's too complicated.

It complicates things.

It's for other people.

Mikoto squeezes her eyes shut, shakes her head. "... can I have another cookie?" She asks, uncertain.

<Pose Tracker> Usagi Tsukino [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Mikoto is smiling at least, and Usagi is smiling as she munches on the cookie. Until she realizes that crumbs are falling on the floor of their dorm, under which she puts a hand.

Then Mikoto tries to say something, and with her name, Usagi's eyes slowly focus on Mikoto. The two girls are alike in a lot of ways that might pass over the heads of other onlookers. For now one of the ways that puts her on even footing is the two are about the same height.

So she doesn't exactly loom, instead her eye contact seems to be more on Mikoto's level than most people that stand over her.

'Sweet on Mai.'

Usagi's cheeks pinken again as that settles in, "You are?" A long breath, as she says nothing else. Just takes in what Mikoto says, as if examining her insecurity. Her vulnerability. It's a kind of thing she can relate to completely.

Mikoto Minagi is a girl with a crush, and it's making her all mixed up in the head. Not knowing whether those feelings can be - will be returned... not knowing what to make of them.

And so after a moment, she sits down beside Mikoto... and puts her fingers gently over hers, her other hand picking up a cookie to hand it over to her at her request, "They're your precious feelings aren't they? I'll keep your secret Mikoto-chan, promise. It's your decision when those kind of feelings reach another person - not mine. So I won't tell anyone. Promise."

Her fingers lace over the back of that hand into her palm.

"You know Mai-chan better than I do. So if you think that - I won't try to convince you otherwise. I can understand what it'd be like to be scared... that she won't feel the same way. Or worse - that it changes everything. I just think... if you ever feel differently. If you feel there's even a chance that she won't... that she'd accept your feelings..."

Now with a hand bereft of any cookie, it folds over the other side of Mikoto's hand, taking one of her hands into two of Usagi's her blue eyes bright with this feeling of trying to be understanding. "Well, I think if that happens you should embrace that love you feel for her and confess. I think... I think those feelings of love are worth it..."

Something in her eyes changes, sparkling, as if she's remembering something sad. Not just from this life, but from her last too. A turn of the cycle... her world awash with blood. A confession from the same lips two times.

A kiss stolen from her lips - yet so willingly given up to the dashing thief.

"... whether it's for far too short a time... or an eternity. That's what I think about the feelings of a girl who's in love."

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Usagi asks, and Mikoto bows her head in a nod, with a small noise of affirmation.

There's no other reason why she'd think of Mai that way.

She's seen it with Kasagami and Setsuna - and Sapphire and Ruby - and even those two.

She seems to shrink in on herself with Usagi's examination, as if she ought to be ashamed. The reason why, of course...

Mikoto blinks as she feels a hand over hers, looking up to Usagi again, finally. She takes the cookie in her other hand as her eyes moisten, a hitched breath of relief. "Thanks," she says, the word wobbly from a tight throat.

She relaxes her grip enough for Usagi to be able to lace her fingers through, and perhaps Usagi can feel the rapid thud-tha-thud of her jagged heart beneath her chest. It is something which only quickens, as she speaks her piece, tells her not to hold her peace.

There is something fragile, in those golden eyes which are just a shade too bright, as if she might shatter at a touch. But Usagi is gentle, taking her hand, and Mikoto's fingers close over hers.

Gold meets blue and she can see something sad, there, something deep and ancient and sorrowful, and it is a strange, strange feeling.

She realises, at some point in Usagi's speech, she started to hold her breath, as if scared to move even that much. She takes a deep breath, and it shudders. "Usagi..."

Mikoto swallows at a lump in her throat, and glances away. Chomp, chomp, she eats the cookie, because Usagi said food would help. And it does, a little. Makoto is a very good cook. Her lips tug up in a smile. "It's good," she asides, gently. "It's really good."

Another breath - as she looks back to her. "Mai's good, too. Mai's really... a good person. But, I..."

It's something which hurts too much to admit to someone who could have been just one more normal person waltzing to their death.

So Mikoto just looks down, despair in her eyes.

"... I try really hard to be what Mai wants... but Mai's never..." Mikoto blinks, once, twice, three times, not quite able to admit that Mai has never said she loves her. "I gotta..." She shakes her head, biting down the words.

"But Mai's, always been there for me. If Mai - if Mai left, I... I don't know," and she can no longer quell the tears in her eyes. "It hurt too much, first time, and - that wasn't Mai's choice, neither. But I... but everyone I love always..."

Mikoto looks up, brow creased with complicated emotions, and her eyes shine with tears. "I don't want Mai to go too!" And there is guilt, in the words, heavy with grief and fear.

<Pose Tracker> Usagi Tsukino [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Despite the strong hands, Usagi senses the fragility in those eyes. It's obvious. And while Mikoto Kino is a warrior - a magical girl - she's also a girl in love.

It's an overlapping venn diagram of roles which prove that no one thing is ever exclusive to the other. "Mako-chan's cookies are my favorite for times like this." She agrees.

Mai's good - Mikoto repeats it...

"Mmm." There's a light hum as she considers the statement of what Mai wants. Like she's thinking on it.

However then her eyes widen at what Mikoto says... "Oh no." There's a light whisper, she certainly remembers Mai - Mai dying the first time. She saw it too. She remembers when she didn't think Mai would come back... when she did.

How her friends died and came back.

"Oh... Mikoto-chan..."

How Mami Tomoe died and... just didn't.

A single hand reaches up to rub her cheek in a strangely intimate gesture for a girl she doesn't know too well, but she's trying to comfort her by not telling her not to cry - but simply for preventing the tears from welling up in a mess that makes her even more miserable.

"You're just so scared. I get it. I... I know what that's like to lose someone you really care about - then get them back and just be so... so very scared you're going to lose them again."

There's a light drop in her voice, "You just wish you could protect them in a way where you'd never have to risk losing them again - and knowing you can't because they have to live their lives too." That sounds especially close to home for her. How do you tell the Inner Senshi they don't have to risk everything? How do you tell them to go home and leave everything to her so she doesn't have to worry?

You can't.

Her eyes shimmer a little herself, though they're just welling up some from how emotional she feels.

"You just try your best - because you love them, and because you love them you have to risk losing them - and it hurts because you don't want to."

Chewing on her bottom lip for a moment, "I can tell you this though. It might be that Mai-chan... just doesn't know what she wants. Some girls fall in love really easily and put themselves out there. Some just don't because they have other priorities. Others are just scared of falling in love. And some just don't know what they're looking for. And it's not so simple either... I think some people are a lot of those things at once... or none of them. Maybe Mai-chan is several of those all at once and she just gets so mixed up."

The finger rubs at Mikoto's chin, squelching away the little spots of wet, "So - if you're not right now - that doesn't mean it couldn't change later. Because what a girl wants can change. You could tell her straight out how you love her, how much you love her, and she might decide then and there that you're what she wants after all..."

She speaks in a sotto voce, "... but you have to put yourself out there and that's scary. And that kind of fear just... it's not so simple facing it."

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Steve Conte - Words That We Couldn't Say https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0HldfubOT5o

Perhaps they don't know each other well - but there are striking parallels, between the girl named for a rabbit and the girl with all the mannerisms of a cat.

They have more common ground than either could possibly know.

Ah, but are connections always a good thing..?

Certainly, the connection Usagi recognises only serves to plunge the mood down further. Mikoto allows the gesture, despite its familiarity, still under her fingers but for the way her ragged breath makes her tremble. Perhaps it's no wonder that someone who refers to the world yobisute would not protest something so intimate.

She didn't want to admit she was frightened, but there it is, laid plain, and there is no denial in her eyes.

But Mai living her life means...

Usagi rubs at her chin, and Mikoto tries to stop crying, a shuddering breath as she blinks at the tears in her eyes. It's hard, because Mikoto knows Mai wants things so different to what Mikoto does.

"Usagi too," she murmurs. "... sorry Usagi understands." The words feel entirely insufficient for seeing the death of their loved ones, even if they came back later. She thinks it must be even worse, for it to happen to someone who can't fight. For someone who isn't beholden to that world, to have it take something so precious away from them... it isn't fair.

Her eyes cast down as Usagi keeps talking, only to look back up to to her as her tone changes. For a long moment she does not speak again. But Usagi does understand, and perhaps it is enough for her to find the words.

"... everything..." And when she does, the words are quiet. "... everything's been so Mai can live a normal life... and, be a good person..."

Breathe in, breathe out. "More than anything, Mai doesn't wanna fight. I think, it's too much, fighting for real and... being Takumi's sister. It's too much."

Mikoto glances aside, a frown creasing her brow. "I think that's why Mai looks down on me. 'Cause Mai's used to doing it."

Mikoto Kino, huh.

That gaze drops, from the side of the couch to the crease of her highschool-brown skirt. She is already in her eleventh year. The world seems to think she's still in her eighth. "Even though I'm only year younger, guess I'll always just be a kid..." She sniffs, shaking her head, and perhaps it might disturb any attempts to dry her tears. It is not the first time she's expressed the sentiment. It's the first time she's expressed it in despair rather than bitterness. "But Mai'd be sad, if Mai couldn't help. Don't think Mai knows how to help other ways. If Mai knew it bothered me, Mai would feel bad. And if I couldn't be close to Mai... I'd feel bad, too."

It is an analysis which betrays how deeply Mikoto Minagi's thoughts run on the topic of Mai Tokiha. How often does she think on her?

"Guess that's lying," she supposes, morose, as she raises those sad eyes again. "But I hate hurting Mai more than I hate lying." And it is so evident that Mai is not the only girl mixed up.

"I say I love Mai, all the time. But - but..." Mikoto's fingers tighten. "But Mai..." Mai came later, she does not say. Mai might be the most important girl in the world, but there is someone more important than that. Just as Mai has her priorities - so does Mikoto.

And yet.

Her breath hitches in her chest, and any hope she had of pausing to let Usagi get a word in edgewise is overwhelmed by the tsunami of her emotions. "I wish Mai would look at me and see a girl!" She chokes out the words, made louder by their exclamation. "I wish I knew if I could-!"

If she could muster the strength to share her feelings?


If she is permitted to feel this way at all.

There were no girls on the mountain.

She fully fails to explain. She shakes her head again, instead, braids whipping about her face. "Admitting it, was too scary, Usagi. 'Cause... if I told Mai, Mai'd run away. And I'd be alone again..."

Her cheeks are lined with the tension which draws down her lips in delicate curve. There is a softness to her eyes, even in her sorrow. "But that's how I feel. It is!" Mikoto insists, shoulders squaring as if to brace against the words. "Mai's soft, and warm, and kind, and Mai's food is the best, and even though it's not good idea Mai looks really pretty with longer hair, and Mai's so talented, and I sleep easy with Mai, and I just want Mai to really smile..." In a small way, it's putting herself out there, to put voice to the words after so long, to make them known in their proper context. Even if she's saying them to the wrong person.

A deep breath. She does not comment on the scandalous revelation in her gushing. "But every time I try to make Mai understand..." Mikoto bows her head, not thinking to mention how tentative her attempts were. "... Mai don't listen. Mai cares about me, but... don't think Mai cares like I do." Mai has never said the words. Not once. It does not occur to her at all that perhaps Mai has not said them because of her own conflicts and indecision, not even so soon after Usagi points out she might be mixed up.

Perhaps it hurts too much.

Mikoto lifts a hand to scrub at her eyes, smiling a fragile, brave little smile to Usagi. "And that's okay, right? What Mai wants is what's most important. I get what I want all the time. Mai never lets herself get what Mai wants. I want Mai to get what Mai wants, too! If this makes Mai happy, then Mai will smile, and I'll be happy too."

<Pose Tracker> Usagi Tsukino [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Usagi Tsukino isn't known for her attention span. In class she's legendary for falling asleep. During study groups she'll do anything but study. It's different though when it's something like this. Mikoto holds her attention, and Usagi is active in her responses. With small nods and thoughtful looks. When Mikoto tells her sorry, there's a thin smile on her expression that looks a little sad, but accepting. She cannot say anything there. Saying anything would invoke those memories more vividly.

She listens as Mikoto discusses what she does so Mai can be a good person, why Mai isn't suited for this life. Why Mai looks down on her. Why Mai sees her as a little kid and yet not a girl. Mai... Mai... Mai... everything is about Mai, and yet she doesn't interrupt. She understands how someone's feelings can get twisted up in a kaleidoscopic tunnel vision on a person. How their whole being can feel giddy about being around someone.

That desire to give everything...

... and only expect them to run away if it gets to be bad.

She almost doesn't blush on the description of Mai as soft - yet it finally reaches her cheeks, a pink tinge, a small secretive smile like a kid who just realized something dirty. However then a smile comes on Mikoto's face.

Mikoto's smile is so fragile, so expectant of validation. And Usagi's eyes are locked with hers, but the eyes are in motion, as if they're trembling slightly. "You love her so much..." There's a quiet whisper, as if only now she's understanding the depths of it. That it's more than a simple crush. Is that alright though? Is that fine?

"... ... ... I think it's beautiful the way you think of her. Wonderful." Usagi says in a sotto voce, "But... I think your feelings matter too. I think your feelings should reach her. And if they're not... that's not your fault. Mai-chan gets really wrapped up in herself- on herself, on her ways sometimes. And that causes her to miss things that are truly important."

Usagi carefully cradles the back of Mikoto's other hand, her fingers rubbing it, "It's rough though. I've listened to girls as little kids having crushes on boys in high school... or teachers... and being seen as a child, but you're only a year younger than her. You shouldn't be seen as a child because of the way you look or talk."

Usagi says gently, "Maybe you're happy the way things are, but I think it's okay to be a little selfish to try to fix the things you aren't so happy about. I think... I think even if you're scared talking to her about your feelings, afraid she might leave. You should work up to it. Make your feelings about how she sees you as a little kid reach her. You don't have to be mad at her, just firm that you want to be seen as an equal - not some 'little kid' she takes care of - but as a girl her age."

After a moment's thought, she continues gently, sweetly, "That doesn't mean you don't tell Mai-chan she can't help. It just means that she has to let you help too. To let you do the things you can do for her too - and let you into her life. So that her feelings can reach you too... beyond the walls she puts up around herself."

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Mikoto is a creature of absolutes. She does not love half-way, and in this manner Mai is everything. Usagi can see the truth of it, and there is a little sound of affirmation from her as she whispers.

And she says her feelings matter, and Mikoto takes a shaky breath, confusion knotting her features. She thought this was how she could make things better. It's how Mai has always modelled the world. Mai isn't the only one.

Mai knows what's important to her, and Mikoto opens her mouth to defend her very first friend in all the world, but there's something to Usagi's words which makes her quiet. Her gaze drops, and her cheeks colour as she considers herself in the role of what's truly important to Mai.

And then - strangely enough - sadness, looking down at her hand and Usagi's, as she realises neither of them can ever be most important to the other. Mikoto has her family, and so does Mai.

Perhaps it might seem like she's sad because of the way Usagi spells out her feelings.

A plausible explanation, and a wrong one.

She nods, swallowing at a lump in her throat.

Usagi says it's fine to be selfish, and Mikoto looks up, unsure as she remembers the last time she tried - the way Mai hurt herself on the cupboard as she jerked in surprise. She is so often selfish, thoughtlessly and automatically, and yet to actively try... it rarely works the way she wanted it to.

"Work up to it," Mikoto echoes, thoughtfully, in the moment of silence.

She scrunches up a corner of her lip as she frowns in consideration, with an uncertain noise. But she nods, again, as Usagi speaks - and there's that sadness, back again.

How can she tell Usagi that the things Mikoto can do for Mai - are things Mai doesn't want at all?

That doing what she can for Mai is what has placed distance between them in the first place?

'It's...I don't like that you keep getting dragged into fights, but it feels like that's something harder and harder to stop. Even without those hunts, there's always going to be something like that sports festival, or the World Tree, or...it never stops.'

... doing what she can for Mai only makes Mai angry.

But it's not something someone like Usagi could understand. Usagi isn't a warrior. So Mikoto's gaze just drops, again, with a frustrated noise. "Mai's feelings... can't reach me?" She focuses on that, instead.

"... maybe... maybe," Mikoto repeats the word, uncertain. "Mai... did ask for help when Mai was hurt. That's hard, for Mai. So, if I tell Mai..." She hums through closed lips, looking back up at Usagi, a shred of hope in sad eyes. "... maybe Mai will let me help again?"

It feels like such a pointless little thing, helping with dinner. But all the important things Mikoto can do just make Mai sad. She can't talk about them to Mai.

<Pose Tracker> Usagi Tsukino [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Usagi nods as Mikoto say she'll work up to it, without saying anything in addition. Just allowing Mikoto to think about it. Why does she seem so sad though?

Instead her eyes grow a little more focused again as Mikoto makes that frustrated noise and she adds, "That's right. And... it's not your fault either. Mai-chan just... keeps her feelings distant from most people because I think... she's scared too."

Will - it help though if she tells Mai? Usagi doesn't even think about it. She just gets this smile, and instead says almost immediately, "Well I don't think it could hurt. I mean what's the worst that could happen? That she finds out you're willing to be there for her, that you want to be?"

Her smile at that is a little more cheerful at that point, as if she's hoping to wipe away some of that sadness from Mikoto, "It feels like only good things could come from that - for the both of you."

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Mai is scared, too...

Mikoto frowns as she realises it. She hadn't thought of it that way. For all Mai was distant, or angry, or sad - could she be frightened, too? Mikoto resolves to try and keep her informed. She might not be able to involve her, but she can at least write a note, so Mai won't be scared and not knowing what's going on at all.

Usagi smiles, and immediately backs Mikoto's plan, and Mikoto blinks in surprise. "That's not worst," she points out, because that actually sounds like a very good outcome. It is, as Usagi says, something which could only bring good things for them.

There's a lot Mikoto can't do. A lot she doesn't know if she can.

But hers is a heart which wants to hope so badly, and Usagi smiles so cheerfully, and one spreads over Mikoto's face, too. "Right!" She nods, taking a shaky breath and following it with one which manages to be deeper. "It's good!"

It is such a relieving thing to smile, and there is gratitude on her voice and in her eyes. "Thanks, Usagi. Thanks for listening." At least one person knows the truth. At least she has finally been able to say it out loud.

<Pose Tracker> Usagi Tsukino [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

"It's not!?" Usagi seems taken aback, before she realizes, "O-Oh well it just seems like such a good thing that... it doesn't feel like it could go wrong!"

Though that's distinctive in 'seems' and doesn't 'feel like' rather than definitely can't.

"You're welcome and... thanks for being nice about what happened in the kitchen."

Because in the end, that's what she came for - to try to make things better after hurting Mikoto.

And it does feel good to try to make things better in this way too.

"Mmm." Usagi considers, "Maybe you should keep a cookie or two for Mai-chan. Use them as like your secret weapon. That way it's like... you're already doing something for her too..."

Something then occurs to her and she gets momentarily awkward, "U-Uh - even if you totally couldn't repeat it and... make more cookies yourself."

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Usagi is helping!

... there's no way Usagi's advice could go awry, after all.

Mikoto is completely unaware of the iceburg she's steering towards as she smiles to her. "It's okay," she assures her, on the topic of their erstwhile pasta class. "Usagi was trying to be nice!"

Just, sometimes when people try to be nice, it doesn't turn out like they hoped it would.

Thankfully, unfortunately, Mikoto is not the sort of person to think about it and make the connection.

Reminded of the cookies, she looks over to them, canting her head with a curious noise. She fixes Usagi with a skeptical look at her choice of words. "Usagi, don't use weapons on people you love." It's advice she delivers with confidence, because Usagi has probably never had to think about it, and Mikoto feels obligated to inform her how weapon etiquette works.

Don't point weapons at people you don't want to kill.

But it seems like it was just an unfortunate turn of phrase, and perhaps it is more unfortunate the way Mikoto's gaze turns to the kitchen. "How hard's baking cookies..?" She wonders, in the face of Usagi's awkwardness. Oh no.

<Pose Tracker> Usagi Tsukino [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

"I didn't mean them like... that kind of weapon." Usagi clarifies quickly, "More like an emotional kind, since love can be like a battlefield sometimes... though not a scary one!" And then drawing herself up in thought, "Er... well maybe it is scary, just not scary in the life or death kind of way just 'I hope they return my feelings or I might just...'" Usagi clamps her mouth shut then starts to motor mouth clarify, "Uh! Just don't worry about it! I'd never point a real weapon at someone I love!"

However then comes the baking cookies... thing... "How... hard...?"

Usagi considers this as if it were some deep existential question. "Well it's hard for me..." She finally leans over and confides, "My cookies always come out a little burned."

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

"Love's... like battlefield?" Mikoto scrunches up her face, the possibility clearly bothering her. She shakes her head, a moment later. "Fighting's nothing like love, Usagi," she corrects her, firmly but gently. "Really different."

Usagi doesn't know, so she can't really be frustrated at her for making bad comparisons. But Mikoto knows that love and war are totally different things. It is impossible to fight people you care about.

Because one should not care for their enemies, after all.

It's fine. Mikoto is happy to help educate her.

And as Usagi confides that it's difficult, Mikoto tilts her head. "Burned..?" Well, Usagi did say she wasn't very good at cooking. "Never tried making cookies." She tried to make a cake once. It was a whole thing.

She's very good at cracking eggs.

"Let's try, Usagi!" Mikoto chirps, brightly, because she has never once been scared away from tasks by 'logic' or 'common sense' or even 'availability of ingredients'.

... well, at least Mai will have some edible cookies when she comes home. Thanks, Makoto.