Sailor Moon Snippets Twenty

(Sailor Moon R - after ep 59, after Ail & Ann storyline)

 

Makoto and Rei headed out to the park together. Usagi was still sleeping, Ami was at a special Cram Session, and who really knew what Minako was doing? Ever since the year before when the park had almost been destroyed to make complexes, then saved through what seemed some miraculous interventions, Rei liked to come there as often as she could. It reminded her of what could be done if one tried. It also reminded her of Mamoru, and that was a bittersweet memory, but one she didnít mind remembering. That memory showed her how far she had to go yet. I tried to get him through guile, thought I had him, and was proved wrong. Usagi didnít try, but was a true friend, and look at how their love has grown. And now he has his memory back, and they can be together like they were meant to be.

"This is a beautiful park. I never knew there was one out here." Makoto looked around her with wide, admiring eyes. A butterfly settled on her nose and Mako almost went cross-eyed trying to see it. It flew off and landed on a flowering bush. Rei let out the laugh sheíd been holding back. "They like you, Mako-chan."

Mako looked around at her and grinned, "I like them."

They walked though the winding paths of the park, enjoying the quiet from the city, though there was enough sound with the birds and the other morning animals. On the outer fringes, the girls would meet other early morning park enthusiasts. Generally, smiles and nods were the only greetings exchanged, none wanting to disturb the peacefulness of nature. As they got further into the deep woods, they encountered fewer people, and were not sorry.

Rei stopped dead in her tracks. Mako looked where she was staring and also stopped. Then she went forward, "Mamoru-san?"

The dejected looking figure on the bench lifted his head. Dull eyes gazed at them, "Oh, hi, girls." He stood up and tried to look normal.

"Mamoru-san, whatís the matter?" Rei had never seen him so lifeless.

"Nothing." The answer was designed to defer any further inquiry.

The two girls looked at each other, then back at him. Makoto ran a finger along the bench next to him. She held it up, wet with dew. But the area where heíd been sitting was dry. "Mamoru-chan, have you been here all night?"

"Itís a nice park. Hope you enjoy it." Mamoru started walking the opposite direction from them. Rei gave an exasperated growl and ran after him, catching his arm, "Mamoru!" He looked at her and she quickly released her grip. "Mamoru, I donít know whatís happening, but right now youíre scaring me. You look like my dad did after Mother told him she never wanted to see him again in her life."

Mako gasped, "Did Usagi...?"

A short bark of laughter was Mamoruís answer, "Usagi? Of course not. Sheíll keep loving me no matter what, until the world ends, even if I hurt her to the core of her being."

Rei and Makoto looked at each other and made a decision. Rei pointed at the bench, "Mamoru -- sit down."

"I donít want to talk about it. Leave me alone." He started to walk away again. This time it was Makoto that caught him, and she didnít let him go.

"Mamoru."

He looked into her eyes for a long moment, then shook off her grip and turned back to the bench and sat down. "Sailor Jupiter has always been the Moonís main protector. You really were suspicious of me in the beginning, until Serenity the elder told you to lay off." He looked to Rei, "You and I were friends already, since youíd been dating my elder brother for a few years."

Reiís mouth dropped open, "I did what with who, when?"

A grin played across his mouth, but didnít change the tiredness of his eyes. "My oldest brother, Lachesis, was training with Dad to take over rulership of the Earth. He was twelve years older than I, and you were the youngest of the Sailor Senshi. It was natural that you two spent a lot of time together." A shadow crossed his face, "It was he who was supposed to have been Senshi, not I. I was never trained. Not like he was."

Rei sat down next to him, ignoring the dew. Mako sat down on his other side, "Senshi?"

Mamoru shrugged, "Iím the Earth Senshi." He grinned, "Just not a Sailor Senshi -- Earth stays on Earth." The bitterness he was feeling showed through again, "Lachesis would have done better. It should have been him who was saved, not me."

Makoto bit her tongue on a question about Senshi. "Mamoru -- this is very interesting, but what are you going on about? And what did you mean by that statement about Usagi?"

With a long sigh, Mamoru triangled his hands and bent his head over to rest against them. "There was a reason I created the Moonlight Knight, and itís no less valid now that weíre joined again."

The girls looked at each other over his head. Rei protested, "You created... But Moonlight Knight said--"

Mamoru interrupted her, "I lied. Or he did. Something like that. I had a choice in the matter, and I deliberately split myself, again." The last word was so low they barely heard it.

"Why would you want to do that?"

"Why?" Mamoru raised his head and looked from one to the other with amazement, "You have to ask why? Donít you remember what I did?" His head dropped back down again. "I failed her. I betrayed her. I promised to protect her and I turned against her instead. I donít even have any right to live, let alone be restored to her love."

His voice went from anguish to despair to failed longing. Rei listened to him, and to his words, and thought to herself, I was right. He is like my father. On his other side, Makoto snorted, "Is that all? Mamoru, you idiot, you were brainwashed. Nobody thinks you were responsible. It could have happened to any of us."

"Could it have? I doubt it. I was never whole to begin with." Mamoru didnít look up, "You donít understand, Mako-chan. I had a choice, I had several choices along the way, and I failed at every one. I didnít have to accept Zoicisiteís challenge. I should never have allowed Usagi to follow me. Zoicisite canít do a fair fight worth her soul. I shouldnít have accepted Serenityís healing. Then I--"

He was cut off as Rei asked, "What do you mean, Serenityís healing?"

Looking up, he glanced between the two of them, "I was dying. Again. In the Tower. When Sailor Moon changed to Princess Serenity, she used the power of the Crystal to heal me. Thatís why she didnít have enough energy in the battle to stand up against Malacite."

"But she did. She saved all of us." Reiís voice was soft with the reverence she accorded to Usagi when her friend wasnít actually around.

Mamoru bit his lip. "That was where I truly failed. At that point, I was in Metallicaís chamber. The Evil was all around me. I had three choices before me: to submit, to die, or to seal myself off totally. I was trying to make the seal when Sailor Moon called out to Tuxedo Mask." He closed his eyes, "The thread pattern was clear, and Tuxedo Mask stopped our efforts and gave the energy instead to her. And I was taken over by the Darkness."

"Well, I donít quite see how you could have helped that, either! You couldnít have let her die. None of us could. We all gave our lives for her, and would again." Mako was adamant.

"Exactly. I should have died instead of draining her energy to the point where she could not fight."

"Oh, now how were you suppose to know that? How were you suppose to prevent it? No, donít answer that," Rei added quickly as Mamoru started to be self-discriminatory again.

Mako added, "None of us knew, or even imagined at that point that the Enemy was going to try to use you. When Malacite raised his hand, we all rushed to the defense. We thought he was going to attack. It shocked the hell out of us when he took you and disappeared. If even one of us had stayed by your side, we might have prevented that. And when Sailor Moon used the Healing on you in the amusement park -- we didnít stop them from taking you then either. And that time we really should have been watching. We knew then what they were up to. But did I go to your side and prevent Beryl from her Evil plans? No. I stood there like an idiot and let her take you."

Mamoru put his hand on her knee, "Mako-chan, that wasnít your fault, and nobody expected any more of you. You were valiant and wonderful and you and the other two were able to break through the barrier, which I was hoping for but didnít really expect. You did all you could and you shouldnít reproach yourself."

The two Sailor Senshi were one in their exasperated feelings as they regarded their friend.

"Mamoru-chan. Were you listening to yourself?" Rei stood up and put her hands on her hips as she glared at him.

He stared at her in astonishment, then slowly he grinned, and finally laughed. "I hear you." The grin faded, and he looked out into the trees, obviously thinking.

Rei sat back down again.

After a time, Mamoru shook himself and glanced between the girls. "Itís easy to forgive others. Itís less easy to forgive yourself." He reached into his jacket with one hand and brought out a white rose. He touched the petals gently with his other hand. "After I was dead again, I was hovering around trying to figure out what to do. I saw you and the others help Serenity when she needed you. And then she used the ultimate power of the Silver Crystal. I donít know if you remember, but when the Crystal is used to the extent that it drains the life-force of its user, there is sortof a backlash effect and what ends up happening is that the user is able to use the backlash for one thing that would normally be impossible, even for the Queen of the Moon Kingdom."

"Drains the life-force? You mean, it kills the user?" Rei blinked in surprise.

"Not always. Thatís one thing the Moon Wand is used for Ė to balance the power and provide a block. A more experienced user can stop the drain in time Ė if they want to."

"Usagi wasnít experienced." Makoto thought of her friend, and wanted to do something to help, but what they were talking about had already happened, months ago.

"NoÖ But when she was absorbed by the Crystal, and her main desire was laid open, I could hear her voice, whispering across the ice fields, washing over your bodies, reaching out across the world."

Both Makoto and Rei leaned towards him, they remembered none of this after they had helped Serenity/Usagi defeat Metallica. "What did she say?"

"She remembered the days before Sailor Moon, when she was free of nightmares, and her tears were those of minor things, and had not seen her truest friends die; and she wanted her ordinary life back." Mamoru twirled the rose around in his hand. "Not all that unreasonable, really." As the rose turned, a thorn nicked his finger and it started to bleed. He watched it absently. "Being out of myself, so to speak, I could see the future lines clearly, and knew that the long sleep the world had been in was over. The battle had produced shockwaves that flowed over the ambiance, and the Outer Senshi were shaken loose from their guardposts where they had been holding back the forces beyond the Solar System. Sailor Moon would be needed again. And she would need to be guarded again, for she has not yet come into her own. But I was obviously not the person to do it."

"Mamoru Ė youíre exactly the person to do it. Why would you think otherwise?"

"Because I was hurt in that last battle." Mamoru pressed his bleeding finger to the white rose petals and watched the color leech through the rose. Makoto shifted uneasily, and Rei even put out a hand to stop him, but withdrew it. Mamoru didnít seem to notice either one. "None of us Ė me or Tuxedo Mask or Endymion, especially Endymion Ė could go back as if nothing had happened. We were stained. Blackened to the core of our being. Washed clean by the Moonís love, but then left hollow, empty. All our feelings for her had been used, betrayed, violated. We couldnít trust ourself. But she needed to be protected still. So I split myself. The part of me that could not ever be touched by Evil. Our Love. The Senshi part of myself. The being that would live outside of me and not be affected by my human failings. He took the form of the Moonlight Knight, and took my memories before he left me. I think he hoped I would recover my trust in myself if left without them." He crushed the rose in his hand and then let the petals fall. "He was wrong."

A tear slipped down the side of Reiís cheek. "MamoruÖ" She stood up and paced out to the trees, then back again. She stopped in front of Makoto and Mamoru and the look on her face prevented either one from saying anything. The tears were falling faster now, but when she spoke, her voice was clear and precise. "The power of the fire spirits cannot be handled by everybody. When I was seven, my mother was broken by them. She did not die, thanks to quick action by my grandfather and the love of my father, but her mind was shattered. My father tried to deal with her, but eventually could not, and had no choice but to put her in an institution. They took care of her there. Did all we could not. And eventually healed her. When she was released, three years later, she came back to the Shrine. She looked my dad in the eye, and told him she understood, but she never wanted to see him or grandfather ever again. And she left. She never even saw me." Rei took a deep breath, and the tears stopped. "My father blamed himself. He was torn up with grief and guilt. He never saw that he saved her life, and only saw that he had failed." Rei knelt down before Mamoru and looked up at him, "Mamoru, my father ended up killing himself."

Mako drew in a sharp breath, but Mamoru only nodded calmly. Makoís heart turned over, suddenly very, very worried for her friend.

Rei stayed on her knees, "My grandfather blamed himself more than my father, for he was the one who had trained her. He felt even more responsible. But he saw through his self-blame, and saw me. He took me in and comforted me. He dealt with my fears and my own mortification Ė for like all children, I thought it all had to do with me. He dried my tears, and held me close. He made me laugh and showed me the wonders of the flames. He showed me how to live." Rei paused for a moment, remembering. She looked at her friend with great seriousness, "Mamoru, my grandfather put away his guilt to see where he was truly needed. Self-guilt can be useful when it leads to correction, but left unchecked, it leads only to disaster. Mamoru, if you donít think Usagi needs you, youíre blind. You can be the stronger for what you have experienced, but only if you let yourself learn from it and go on."

The silence stretched out.

On Reiís face, the tears started falling again, "Mamoru-sama. You must live. For Usagi."

Mamoru reached out a hand, the hand that the thorn had scratched, and he touched her head gently. He stood up and walked over to a tree, reaching his hands up to the branches. Running his hands along the bark, over the twigs, touching the leaves, he was a portrait as his handsome face reflected nothing but stillness.

Rei stiffly got off her knees, and sat down next to Makoto. Mako reached out and took her hand, squeezing it gently.

The sun rose high enough to pierce through the trees. A ray of light shone down upon Mamoru and he looked up. He stood there for a long moment, bathed in the sunlight, then he turned back to the girls.

Simultaneous sighs of relief were released by Rei and Makoto as they saw his face. The taunt tiredness that had them so worried was gone. In its place was a sadness, but it was of a gentler variety. He reached into his jacket and pulled out two roses, balanced between his fingers. The petals were lilac purple, the roses half-open. He walked back to them and handed one each of the roses to them. He smiled at them, then strode out of the grove, his figure lost to their sight as he followed the path.

Several minutes passed by. Eventually, Makoto spoke, "This rose doesnít have any thorns."

"Mine neither." Rei held it up to her face and breathed in the scent. "I think heís going to be okay."

"How about you?"

"Me?" Startled, Rei lowered the rose.

Makoto shrugged, "Those were painful memories. And didnít you use to love him?"

"I used to go out with him. The memories are old Ė I make my peace with them daily." Rei sighed, and stretched her legs out before her. "I do love him still, but not as his girlfriend. I realized that just after we lost him the first time. Heís definitely not a brother. I donít know. Can I love him as a friend?"

Mako smiled, "I think so."

Rei also smiled, "Shinozaki."

"Yes."

Standing up, Rei held out a hand to Makoto. Makoto took it and also stood up. They walked out of the grove without a backward look. They walked along the paths, not yet ready to return to the city. Eventually, they reached the edge of the lake, and stopped there.

Rei smiled, "The first date I had with Mamoru was on this lake. And, of course, that was the day the Negaverse chose to attack this park. I didnít even feel the Evil at first. I think I was blinded by Mamoruís goodness."

Makoto laughed.

Annoyed, Rei turned to her, "I can sense good and evil, you know."

"I know Ė youíve warned me off the really nasty guys before. Even the ones I thought were so good lookingÖ But Rei, you silly Ė you just said you were on the lake."

"So?"

Mako grinned affectionately at her friend, "You get guidance from fire spirits. Your alternate form is the planet of fire. Rei, you are fire. Your powers donít work over water!"

"Oh." Rei looked out over the lake and blushed. Mentally, she tossed another treasured memory of her and Mamoru away. Then she retrieved it, and refiled it under, Ďfriendshipí.