.moon by night

Silver and Steel by Nephthys Moon

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Don’t you think this has gone on long enough?

Usagi ignored the voice, turning over on her bed as she finished typing her lab report from the night before. One by one, her roommates had come in, trying to pry information out of her, but all she could tell them was the truth – well – a modified version of it. She knew they were getting desperate when they sent in Motoki.

“Usagi-chan, can I talk to you for a minute?” he asked, sitting down on Makoto’s bed. Usagi sighed and closed her laptop, sitting up on her bed with her legs crossed and resting her elbows on her knees.

“Sure, Motoki-onii-san,” she said in her most innocent voice. “What do you need to talk to me about?” He looked at her like she was crazy for a moment and continued.

“Mamoru, of course,” he stated. She smirked.

“What about Mamo-chan?” she asked, putting extra emphasis on the sickening nickname to see if she could get a rise out of the normally-calm boy. He flushed.

“This seems very sudden,” he began. “How did it happen? The night before last the two of you were yelling at one another in the hallway and then last night…” he trailed off. She rolled her eyes and told her story again.

“Mamo-chan joined me at the coffee shop and we spent some time studying together,” she recited. “He didn’t want to go to the party and I offered to let him come back home with me. We watched Godzilla and I tried to fix my hair, but it was too long and he offered to help me with it.” She paused, as if savoring a memory .

“One thing led to another and we ended up on the floor in the living room when the girls came in and interrupted us,” she said. So far, she hadn’t told a single lie and she was proud of the fact that she could manage the whole thing with a straight face. “When they left, we decided to move to the bedroom.”

Usagi noticed the way he turned pale at that and fought her smile. “Would you like the details from there or would you prefer me to skip over it and leave it to your imagination?” she asked sweetly, taking a perverted delight in the flush that crossed his face.

“Neither,” he groaned. “So why did you cut your hair?” he asked, clearly wanting to change the subject, but she wasn’t going to let him.

“Well, I’ve been thinking about it for a long time, and this morning it was so tangled…” she let the words hang for a moment, allowing him to think what he would. She could almost see the vision of she and Mamoru in her bed with her hair loose around them on his face. “Obviously, if I brush it before I go to bed now, it’s just going to get tangled again by morning, but I really don’t have time in the mornings to bother with the hassle of brushing it out – and, like I said earlier, Mamo-chan and I both have early classes. It would be a shame to get up so much earlier than usual to brush my hair when there are more interesting things we could be doing.”

“Stop!” Motoki muttered violently. “That’s more visual than I needed.”

“Sorry, Motoki-onii-san,” she said sweetly. He glared at her.

“At least tell me you were safe,” he groaned, clearly horrified at the idea that his ‘little sister’ might have done something so recklessly stupid.

“Absolutely,” she assured him in perfect honesty. In fact, she mused as he stood and walked towards the door, she hadn’t told him a single lie – she might have implicated things that weren’t true, but that wasn’t the same thing. “Oh, by the way,” she called when he reached the doorway. He turned and looked at her. “Would you mind terribly if I asked you not come home tonight?”

She waited as the full meaning of her words swept over him and struggled to contain her laughter. He shook his head, obviously not trusting himself to speak. “I’m sure Mako-chan will let you sleep in here,” she offered slyly. She’d been trying to set the two up for the past six months, and she figured this little ruse with Mamoru would be the perfect excuse to push their roommates at one another. He gulped visibly.

“In here, Usagi-chan?” he whispered, his eyes wide.

“In here, Motoki-onii-san,” she repeated firmly. “I’ll even change the sheets on my bed for you.” While she only meant to assure him that he wouldn’t be forced to share a bed with Makoto, or sleep on her pink sheets, she knew very well what he would infer from that sentence. He darted out of the room without another word and she picked up her cell phone and crossed to the door, closing it softly.

He picked up on the third ring. “Odango,” he said cheerfully. “How’s it going?”

“Beautifully,” she informed him. “Their faces – they all came in here to get the story out of me and Motoki’s face was the best,” she crowed. He laughed heartily, probably imagining how that conversation had gone.

“I’m sure he’ll be here soon, demanding to know what I was thinking,” he mused aloud.

“Probably. I stuck with the truth, for the most part,” she said quickly, wanting to make sure that he understood the story. “You joined me for coffee and we came back here. You brushed my hair and we ended up on the floor and when the girls ‘interrupted’ us, we moved to the bedroom. I let him draw his own conclusions on how all of that happened.”

“Whatever I may have said about your intelligence in the past, I formally revoke it,” he said admirably. “You’re a genius, Usagi-chan.”

“Well, as long as you stick to the story, we should be okay,” she said, brushing off the compliment without acknowledging it. “Come by to get me around six. They should all be here, getting ready to go out.”

“We might actually have to have a date or two for them to buy it,” he muttered as though just now thinking of it. “How does dinner sound?”

“Food!” she squealed happily and he laughed.

“I take it that meets with your approval?”

“Of course,” she said, laughing. “You know how I love food. I’ll see you at six.”

“See you at six – and, Odango – dress up.” He hung up before she could respond and she fell back on her bed, laughing a bit.

“This is so much fun it should be illegal,” she muttered to herself. A knock on the door startled her and she called out to the person. “Come in.”

Minako entered the room, looking at her curiously.

“Just the girl I wanted to see,” Usagi said happily. “Mamo-chan is taking me out for dinner tonight and he told me to dress up and I haven’t a clue what to wear.” Minako’s eyes, she was happy to note, went wide.

“You mean the guy that’s called you a human garbage disposal actually wants to buy you food?” she asked, astounded. The peculiar look slipped off her face to be replaced by a beaming smile. “I know just the thing!” Minako darted out of the room and returned a few moments later with a dress still in the plastic wrapping provided by the department store when it was purchased.

“I bought it two weeks ago and haven’t had a chance to wear it, yet,” she explained, hanging it over the door and pulling the plastic up dramatically. Usagi watched in amusement, her eyes taking in the simple black dress. It was appropriately low-cut, as anything she’d expect from Minako. The straps were thin, and the hem would hit her high on the thighs. She shook her head.

“Minako-chan, it is very you, but it certainly nothing I could wear out with Mamo-chan,” she said with a little laugh.

“Too sexy for him, you think?” Minako asked critically, standing back from the dress to admire it before nodding in answer to her own question. “You’re right. We need something more sophisticated. Less sex, more mature,” she muttered. She dashed from the room again, bringing back another plastic-wrapped creation.

Usagi waited for Minako to reveal the next dress, eyeing the vibrant red in distaste. If at all possible, the neckline on the second dress plunged even lower, and the hem was smaller. She shook her head. “No.” The word made Minako wince with its finality, but she just sighed and darted from the room for a third time, returning with another dress. Usagi was beginning to get annoyed.

Minako pulled the plastic off, revealing a simple silver silk sheath. The straps were metal-links the shape of flowers with small stones in the centers. The neckline was straight across and the hem would hit her only slightly above the knees. She nodded her approval.

“I don’t know why I bought it, really,” Minako muttered critically, looking at the simple dress. “It’s not really me at all. Too drab. Silver always reminds me of nuns,” she mused. “It’s definitely more you than me,” she declared finally .

“Thanks, Minako-chan,” Usagi muttered under her breath. The blonde nodded and smiled, pulling the two rejected dresses down and holding them up against her body in front of the mirror.

“Kunzite and I are planning on going dancing tonight,” she said. “I have the strangest feeling about him, Usagi-chan.” Her voice grew distant. “Do you remember how we all felt after the accident?” Usagi nodded. It was hard to forget something like that. “That’s how I felt when I met him last night. It seems so strange that he and the others disappeared to America like that right after we woke up and didn’t come back until this week.”

“So you think we knew them, too?” Usagi asked, sitting down on her bed and watching curiously as Minako continued her critical survey of herself in the mirror. Blue eyes met in the reflection and Minako nodded shyly. Usagi stared. In four years, she’d seen Minako go completely insane over one boy after another, but she’d never seen Minako shy. She was actually blushing!

“Minako-chan, wait a minute!” Usagi said, suddenly realizing something. “You never came home last night!”

“Like you’re one to talk!” Minako teased back, giggling bashfully. “At least no one walked in on me – TWICE!”

“Ah, you heard about that, did you?” Usagi said, purposefully lowering her eyes so that Minako couldn’t see her laughter.

“You and Mamoru-san half-dressed in your bed?” Minako said, her voice indicating her astonishment. “Yeah, I heard about it. And then those little moments Makoto walked in on this morning, too.” Usagi laughed, hoping that Minako would take it as anything but what it was, hysterical laughter over her friends’ gullibility.

“I guess we’re the scarlet women of the group,” Usagi teased. Minako shook her head.

“Not just us,” she whispered, leaning closer. “Rei only came home because she and Jadeite had a rather nasty – and loud – argument over which side of the bed he was going to sleep on.” Usagi’s jaw dropped. The only downside that she could see to this practical joke she and Mamoru were playing on their friends was that she couldn’t chastise her friends for their loose behavior when she was pretending to engage in it, too. Besides, she wasn’t entirely sure she disapproved anyway. Any man who could make Minako blush like that was worthy of her approbation. And any man who could stand up to Rei was definitely interesting enough to not dismiss out of hand.

“I think I want to meet this Jadeite,” she muttered. Minako nodded understandingly. “I’ll wear the silver dress.”

“Wear your hair down, Usagi-chan,” Minako ordered. “Now that it’s so short, you definitely want to show it off a bit. I’ll help with your make-up when you’re ready.” Usagi smiled as Minako bubbled out of the room, the red and black dresses over her shoulder. She truly had the best friends in the world.


“This is getting out of hand, Artemis,” Luna said angrily. “Usagi-chan and Mamoru-san are taking their little stunt too far, and what about Minako and Kunzite! How did you let that happen?”

“I was out here, trying to comfort you because you were going to kill Mamoru-san for innocently sleeping next to your charge,” he snapped, more furious than he could recall having been before. “Do you think I don’t remember how he’s betrayed her in the past? Do you think I wasn’t doing everything in my power to keep her away from him? When he and the others left for America four years ago I rejoiced! He’s back in Japan for a week and she’s already fallen under his spell again.”

“Perhaps it is he who has fallen under hers; Minako-chan is Aphrodite incarnate, after all.” Luna’s tone was smug and he fought the urge to retaliate.

“I know that,” he snapped. “I just don’t want to see her get hurt again.” His voice was low, soft; defeated. “We have to jolt their memories somehow.”

“I can’t believe that intimacy didn’t reawaken those two at least,” Luna mused.

“We don’t know that Kunzite didn’t know already,” Artemis reminded her. Luna nodded. “We have to reawaken them.”

“It’s been too long, Artemis,” Luna said. “I don’t know what will happen to them if we try it. It could break their minds.”

“Can’t you examine Usagi-chan’s thoughts a little and see if there is anything you can expand on for her?” he demanded.

“I can try – but it might take a few days. I’ll need to wait until she’s asleep or she might feel me in there.” Artemis nodded. “I’ll start tonight.”


At six, Usagi heard Mamoru knock on the door. She knew Makoto would tell him that she was running behind – but he should already know that, after all. He’d known her for four years, and it wasn’t like this was a real date. So why was she so nervous? She’d showered and fixed her hair, smoothing it with a weightless crème and applying her blow-dryer on its lowest setting. When she was finished, her hair shone in blonde waves. She knew Mamoru would make fun of her for the care she was taking with her appearance, but she knew that the girls would never believe their ruse if she wasn’t just as careful as she had been in past years.

She allowed Minako to zip her into the silver dress and apply her make-up carefully, straining to listen in on Makoto’s conversation with Mamoru, but their voices were too soft for her to catch. Minako finished and stepped back to admire her handiwork, giving Usagi a soft, encouraging smile.

“Are you sure you want to do this, Usagi-chan?” she asked. “Two days ago you couldn’t stand him and now you’re sharing a bed with him?”

“I’m positive Minako-chan,” she assured her friend. “We’re happy.” Minako nodded once and Usagi stood, smoothing imaginary wrinkles from the silk and stepped into the strappy sandals that Minako set at her feet.

“You’re beautiful, Usa-chan,” Minako breathed.

“Go get yourself ready,” Usagi said, ignoring the compliment. She was passable, but only someone who loved her as much as Minako would ever think she was beautiful. She followed Minako out of the room, taking a brief moment to look around the room, noting that Makoto and Mamoru had fallen into silence.

Instead of teasing laughter or even stunned approval, she read horror in Mamoru’s eyes and wondered if Minako had made her look like a clown, wishing that she’d looked in the mirror before she left her bedroom.

“Usa-ko,” he breathed softly, his eyes wide. “Your hair…” She sighed in relief and smiled.

“Mamo-chan,” she teased, watching his eyes carefully. “It means less work in the mornings before class and more time for sleep – or other things…” she let the words hang and his eyes darkened minutely, a smile crossing his face.

“Well, I suppose I could get used to it,” he said, his smile growing wider at the lengths she was willing to go to make this charade look real. “You look stunning – radiant.”

“Thank you,” she replied. “You look very well yourself.” Their interested audience watched the stilted exchange curiously. Usagi hadn’t lied; Mamoru looked very nice in plain black slacks and a pale blue shirt and tie. Her eyes darted to the others, noting the rapt expressions around the room and she offered him a small warning smile before she crossed to his side and wrapped her arms around his neck.

His hands slid across her waist lightly – there was none of the intensity of their kiss that morning, but she was surprised by the arousal that hit her at the chaste brush of his lips against hers. “Are you ready?” he asked against her lips and she nodded.

“Mako-chan,” she called over her shoulder as she walked out of the room, “Motoki will be staying in our room tonight.” Mamoru looked at her curiously, but she shook her head softly. When they got outside and closed the door, she smiled at him.

“I forgot to tell you on the phone,” she explained. “We’re staying in your room tonight and I arranged for Motoki to stay in mine.”

“Are you matchmaking, Odango?” he asked seriously and she nodded. “Good – I was wondering if he’d ever realize that he was attracted to her .”

They shared a quiet laugh, but his voice turned serious again. “Now, tell me seriously why you cut your hair.”

“I was wondering if you were going to ask about that,” she said playfully, realizing that they had gone nearly twenty-four hours without an argument. “I told you last night that I’ve been wanting to cut it – this morning’s debacle was the perfect excuse.”

“No offense, but I liked it better the other way,” he said. She just smiled. “You know, it’s been almost a whole day since we’ve had one of our arguments.”

“I was just thinking that,” she admitted. “I suppose being co-conspirators carries a risk with it – we might actually become friends after this.”

“Perish the thought, Odango Atama,” he sighed dramatically. They both laughed. “Back to business; I made certain to let Kunzite know where we were going tonight. I wouldn’t be surprised if he and Minako show up.”

“In other words, we keep up the act until we’re back in the privacy of your bedroom,” she clarified. He nodded. “Same as last night?”

They didn’t speak much on the ride to the restaurant. Usagi was noting the luxurious interior of the vehicle curiously, but she felt peculiar asking about it – especially given the fact that his hand was draped casually – and possessively – across her knee. Truth be told, she was finding it hard to breathe normally, and given the argument she’d had earlier, with her conscience, she didn’t particularly care to explore why that was. Better to ignore it, and the voice, and pretend to find the car fascinating. Over dinner, Usagi made sure to play up to Mamoru, her eyes constantly darting towards the door, waiting for Minako and her new lover to come through. She wondered if she should be more disappointed than she was when they walked towards the door of the restaurant without having encountered her roommate. Shouldn’t she be frustrated that she’d spent so much time flirting with Mamoru without an audience?

If possible, the ride back to their building was even more quiet than the ride over had been. Without really thinking about it, Usagi reached across the console of the car and slipped her hand into his, barely noticing when he shifted his fingers so that her hand was lying across his thigh, his hand pinning it down. Her eyes were heavy, and she allowed the hum of the engine to lull her into a peaceful doze, her head listing towards the shoulder of the man beside her. She opened her eyes briefly when she felt the two collide, but closed them again almost immediately. In her half-awake state, she saw nothing wrong with her position; it was comfortable and she was so sleepy – and there was some kind of buzzing in the back of mind, a strange noise she wasn’t sure she was entirely unfamiliar with. It seemed to be lulling her into a deeper slumber, and she happily complied, a smile drifting across her face.


Just breathe, he reminded himself for what felt like the millionth time. Just last night, he’d been settled on an uncomfortable reclining chair while she’d been a hand’s-breadth away on the sofa – and he’d still felt more comfortable then than he did now. Now she was the length of the room away from him, sleeping peacefully in her own bed while he was snuggled under a pink bunny blanket – and he was suddenly uncomfortable. It had been awkward enough, waiting for her to come back into the room after she finished changing into a pink nightshirt that looked incredibly soft. He’d itched to reach out and slide his hand over the material to see if it felt as soft as it looked. If he’d entertained similar thoughts about her skin, he’d pushed them resolutely to the side as she’d climbed under her covers.

It was odd, but he’d never figured Makoto for a pink girl. Usagi, definitely. That girl had been born to wear pink – her entire personality was built upon the color, but it seemed girly for the brusque Makoto. It wasn’t that she wasn’t feminine. Despite her exterior toughness, he knew that she was one hundred percent female under her tough-as-nails core. He’d just always assumed that her femininity was more of the vamp kind than the sweet and innocent. Though given what he now knew about Usagi – he shuddered at the thought – perhaps vamps wore pink, too. The bubbly, perky blonde had certainly vamped Mamoru.

Of course, none of this was getting him any closer to sleep. In fact, he’d wager, if he were a betting man, that the more he thought about Makoto’s pink nightshirt and Usagi and Mamoru’s bizarre new relationship, the further he’d get from slumber. To be sure, Makoto’s pink nightshirt was definitely more disturbing to his state of mind than the other was. The way it moved with her body as she’d walked towards the bed, delineating the curve of her waist and the proud jut of her breasts had nearly made his mouth water. He remembered the way they’d felt crushed against his chest the night before as she’d pressed herself against him in her drunkenness and groaned.

“Motoki-kun?” Her voice was soft, thick with the beginnings of sleep and he stifled another groan. “Are you okay?”

“Fine,” he mumbled, embarrassed. He had been so certain that she was already asleep.

“You sure?” she asked. “I know I always have trouble sleeping in a strange bed, especially alone.”

“I’m just being haunted by images of what might be happening in my bed,” he lied. He was rewarded by her giggles.

“Well, if I were you, I’d be more haunted by what happened in that bed just last night,” she teased, her voice sounding more alert, though still slightly husky, as though she were fighting to stay awake. He groaned, remembering the scene they’d walked in on the night before.

“Thanks, Mako-chan,” he said with a pretend growl. “Now I’ll really never get to sleep.”

“Oh, hush,” she muttered, and he opened his eyes to find that she was standing next to him, her arm held out – conveniently leaving the sleeve of her shirt gaping, offering him a tantalizing view of side of her bare breast. He closed his eyes again. He tensed as he felt her grasp his hand, pulling him into a sitting position.

“Come on, Motoki-kun,” she grumbled. “You can sleep with me tonight. I’ll keep the bad thoughts away.”

No! his mind screamed. If other body parts were screaming yes he was determined to ignore them. Makoto obviously hadn’t heard his mind’s protest and dragged him out of the bed, tugging him across the tiny room to her own.

I will not take advantage of Makoto, he told himself firmly, ignoring the way she slid into her bed, scooting across towards the wall to give him more room. I will not take advantage of Makoto. She turned over on her side, her back to him; her pink nightshirt rode up, giving him an excruciating view of the juncture of her thighs.

“I will not take advantage of Makoto.” He slid into the bed beside her, unaware that he’d spoken aloud until she turned to face him.

“Why not?” she demanded, her eyes blazing brilliantly at him. “Is it because I’m not as pretty as Reika?”

“No, that’s not it at all,” he insisted, grasping her chin as she tried to turn away from him.

“Then why not?” she repeated, clearly hurt.

“I just – it wouldn’t be right,” he muttered, eyes downcast. He felt her hand wrap around his wrist, tugging it away from her face and waited for her to start shouting at him. Instead he felt her warm breath on his lips. He looked up, wondering why she was so close; another inch and he’d be kissing her.

“If you won’t, then you leave me no choice but to do it myself,” she whispered before she pressed her lips against his. He lost himself in that kiss, surprised when he realized that he’d forgotten to breathe at some point and was taking in panting gasps of air, one hand fisted in the loose brown curls at her nape and the other on her hip under that torturous pink nightshirt.

“Slow down, Mako-chan,” he whispered softly, pulling his hand from beneath her shirt and reaching up to cup her face instead. “Let’s just – slow down.”

“Why?” she asked, a sultry frown puckering her gorgeous lips. He groaned again, wondering why he was torturing himself this way.

“Why are you so upset with the developments between Usagi and Mamoru?” he asked instead, leading up to his answer.

“It just seems fast – one day they can’t stand each other and the next they’re cuddled in her bed together? Even if they didn’t do anything shouldn’t they have tried to explore their feelings a little bit before jumping into the same bed?”

“Exactly,” he muttered, satisfied that his point was clear when she nodded. “Now I’m going to go back to Usagi-chan’s bed and try to sleep, and tomorrow we’ll see about exploring our feelings a little bit.”

“Motoki-kun, there’s a flaw in your logic,” she said, grabbing his arm to prevent him from leaving. He looked at her curiously. “We’ve never hated each other,” she reminded him. “And I think that maybe we’ve liked one another for a long time now. If I promise to go to sleep, will you just stay here with me?” Her eyes were huge in the darkness, black and green and shining with what he could only term an inner light, and he knew he would deny her nothing, especially when she looked at him like that. He was going to be the most whipped man on the planet and he didn’t think he even cared.

“Only if you promise to go straight to sleep,” he agreed, pulling the covers over them both and allowing her to settle herself against his chest, her chestnut curls tickling his nose as she snuggled under his arm.

“G’night, Motoki-kun,” she whispered, her voice heavy with sleep.

“Goodnight, Makoto-chan,” he said, his own eyes drifting closed. “Sleep well, beautiful girl.” He felt her smile against his bare chest as he slipped into sleep.


A rocking motion was what woke her, she realized, blinking blearily at the bright lights of the lobby of her apartment building.

“Go back to sleep, Usa-ko,” a deep voice said in her ear. Her eyes closed obediently as her mind registered the voice and the sickeningly sweet nickname. The connections were drawn immediately; Mamoru was carrying her towards the elevators. She remembered closing her eyes in the car on the way back from the restaurant, but she didn’t think she’d been out for that long. The buzzing was back, however, and it was less comforting than before; more annoying and persistent. It was actually giving her a headache, she thought before she drifted back into slumber.

The last thing she heard before her mind completely shut off was that same rich voice telling her she was beautiful, which her mind immediately dismissed as pure fantasy in her final moments of wakefulness.

She woke to find herself in what seemed to be a cave of some sort. She was cold, she realized immediately. As she looked down, she was forced to acknowledge that her attire might have something to do with it. The skirt of her outfit was far shorter than even the red dress Minako had brought to her earlier, barely covering the bottom of the white bodysuit she was wearing under it. She stared in wonder at the sailor collar and the red bow adorning it, wondering where in the world she’d ever purchased such a bizarre outfit and chanced a quick look around her surroundings, shuddering in fear as a part of her mind whispered that she had been here before.

In the shadows towards the back of the cave was what she could only term a demon. The woman had brilliant red hair falling to the floor in large waves and her dress showed far more than Usagi could ever recall having seen another woman expose in public. A light shone suddenly to the demon’s right, and Usagi felt her heart contract painfully in her chest at the sight of the man kneeling with his lips pressed to the demon’s hand in a show of ultimate obedience.

The demon’s lips were moving, but the blood rushing suddenly to her ears made her deaf and the words drifted into nothingness as the man stood, pulling a sword – a sword - from its scabbard at his side and giving her a full view of his face. She stumbled, fell backwards, landing painfully on her knees as her eyes roved over the face she’d come to know quite intimately in the past four years – and even more intimately in the past two days: Mamoru. He was wearing a strange armor and he was – he was attacking her! Usagi shrieked as she felt his hands close around her neck and her hands flew up to his wrists, trying to pull him off. She couldn’t breathe, and she knew that she was slowly losing consciousness.

She did the only thing she could think to do; she screamed, tears pouring down her cheeks, and kicked at him viciously.

“Usagi-chan!” he shouted at her, and her eyes flew open. His hands were no longer around her neck; they were around her back, pulling her into his chest. She winced, waiting for the cold metal of his black armor to abrade her, but she found only bare skin and she blinked, wondering how he’d managed to change so quickly.

She pushed against him, breaking his loose hold and fell to the floor, staring up at Mamoru as he lay in the bed above her, his eyes wide with concern and a frightened look on his face. Her eyes darted around, taking in the bare white walls and simple furniture and she breathed noisily. She was not in a cave; nor was there a demon hiding in the shadows. Mamoru was not trying to kill her. It had been a dream.

Not a dream, Usagi-chan, the voice insisted. A memory. She ignored it. There was no way something like that had happened and she’d forgotten about it.

“Usa-ko,” he whispered, and she dragged her eyes from the gray carpet to his face.

“I’m sorry,” she mumbled. “I guess I must have had a bad dream.” He nodded, reaching for her; hurt clouding his eyes when she flinched, cowering from him.

He pulled his hand back and sat up slowly, watching her face carefully the whole time. “It must have been some dream, Usagi-chan,” he said softly. “Come back to bed?” He made it a question, and she nodded, taking in her attire as her head lowered. Her silver silk dress was missing, probably hanging carefully in Mamoru’s closet, she acknowledged. In its place was a simple white t-shit, and she flushed, remembering that she hadn’t been wearing much of anything beneath that dress. She tugged the shirt down as she stood, trying in vain to cover the pink silk thong she was wearing under it and wishing she’d not allowed Minako to convince her to go braless for the night.

She climbed into the bed, waiting for her body to flinch away from the arms that wound tentatively around her waist, pulling her carefully into his chest, but instead she seemed to sink tonelessly into him, shivering from cold and fear. His arms left her momentarily to pull the blanket over her, but returned instantly, one wrapping protectively around her hip, tugging her closer and the other running comfortingly through the strands of hair that brushed against her elbow.

“Tell me about your dream, Usa-ko,” he murmured into her ear, his lips brushing softly against the sensitive skin. Stammering a little, she did, the images playing in her mind as she recounted them. When she came to the identity of her attacker, Mamoru’s arms wrapped tightly around her.

“I would never hurt you,” he vowed softly. “No one will ever hurt you as long as I’m around, but especially not me.”

“I know,” she whispered, surprised to realize that despite her dream, she firmly believed it. Her eyes felt heavy as she lay there, her ear pressed against the reassuring rhythm of his heartbeat, her nose filled with the scent of his skin, a comforting mixture of his soap, cologne and a scent that she couldn’t define.

“Sleep,” he whispered, reminding her of the night before. “I’m here to protect you.” With that comforting thought, she closed her eyes and slipped into a peaceful sleep.

When she woke, the sun’s rays were warming the room and Mamoru’s soft breaths were fluttering her bangs gently. She smiled, remembering his promise of the night before and couldn’t find it in herself to get angry that he’d undressed her. She turned her head up slightly, surprised to see that his eyes were open and he was lying there, perfectly still so as not to disturb her.

“Good morning,” she whispered. He smiled.

“Good morning,” he said softly, bending his head to drop a kiss on her hair. She wondered if he heard someone coming with his supersensitive hearing, but when no one entered the room after a few moments, she was forced to reevaluate her opinion. “How are you feeling?” he asked.

“I’m okay,” she answered truthfully. “Thank you.”

“Nothing to thank me for,” he said smiling. “I get horrible dreams from time to time, too. You can return the favor one night.”

“What if I’m not here?” she teased, watching curiously as a flicker of something like pain went through his eyes.

“I’ll come get you,” he answered quickly. She couldn’t figure out why she was disappointed with that answer.

“I guess we should get up.” Usagi pulled herself out of his embrace, scooting towards the edge of the bed when a tug on her scalp drew her attention back towards her bedmate.

“Your hair,” he breathed. Usagi looked down, wondering what it was that grasped Mamoru’s attention so fully, taking in the silver-blonde locks pooling on the bed with disinterest.

“You’ll have to brush it for me,” she muttered, groaning at the sheer number of tangles before she realized why he was staring. “This isn’t possible,” she gasped, standing in alarm.

“It’s even longer than it was,” he said quietly, staring at her feet, where her hair continued to pool despite the fact that she was standing. She nodded, unable to find her voice. “I guess I’ll get my brush.”

Usagi sat on the bed, her back to Mamoru, her hair falling heavily to the carpet, wondering how it was possible that her hair had grown overnight to such astonishing lengths. “I don’t understand,” she whispered, close to tears.

“I don’t either, but I’ve learned that some things are beyond explanation,” he murmured soothingly. “All we can do is cope with them as they happen.”

They didn’t speak as Mamoru pulled his brush slowly through her hair. Though it took nearly half an hour to detangle it, when he was finished, there was a smile on his face. “I missed your hair last night,” he admitted. Usagi rolled her eyes.

“Well, you’re going to be the one stuck brushing it every morning until our little game is up,” she reminded him. “By then, I’m sure even you will be sick of it.”

“I doubt it,” he teased, dropping another kiss on the top of her head. “Let me get you some shorts to wear upstairs and I’ll walk you home.”

As Mamoru shuffled in his drawer for a pair of shorts, Usagi watched him quietly, her mind turning over their changed relationship. While their practical joke had really only begun when they’d both climbed, half-naked, into her bed two nights before, they’d actually crossed some kind of line before that, one she hadn’t realized was there. They’d become friends sometime between the coffee and the popcorn, and she couldn’t figure out where. And now, she acknowledged, they were something else.

The night before; it hadn’t been a game then. There was no one around to witness what had happened, no benefit to pretending to care about her nightmare. Mamoru had comforted her because he’d wanted to, and she had drawn warmth from that comfort. She took the offered shorts in silence, her mind turning over what this could possibly mean as she slipped them on. Absently, she reached around and began braiding her hair, trying to get it out of her face. When she finished, she offered him a weak half-smile.

“Come on, Odango,” he said, smiling at her in return. “Let’s go see the results of your matchmaking attempts.”


“She remembered?” Artemis asked curiously, watching as the famed enemies walked through the living room of the apartment, arms around one another.

“She remembered something,” Luna admitted, shuddering. She hadn’t wanted Usagi’s first recollection to be something so brutal. She hadn’t even known that such a thing had happened; it had taken all of her willpower not to break into his bedroom the night before and claw his face for what he’d done to Usagi. “It was horrible.”

“What do you mean?” the white cat asked, starting at her intently.

“Her first memory was one of Mamoru when he was under Beryl’s influence,” she whispered. “He tried to kill her, Artemis. He was brutal and he hurt her.”

“So you stopped?” he asked. She nodded.

“She woke up, thinking it was a nightmare, and he was there, holding on to her. She panicked.” Luna’s voice was tight. “I don’t know what he said, but he convinced her to climb back into bed and held her until she fell asleep. Even then, he didn’t sleep, Artemis. I’m not sure he went back to sleep all night. He just lay there, holding her and watching her sleep, like he was afraid if he closed his eyes her nightmare would come back.”

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