The Cruelty and Fairness of Fate
~ Chapter 11: The Things I Never Say, part 2 ~
Ken squinted in confusion at the voice on the other end of the phone. He was used to being pulled out of bed at three in the morning, but at least his messenger service knew better than to throw cryptic phrases at him right after he said hello.
Slowly sitting up, he reached for the light beside the bed. “Kaya, is that you?” he asked groggily.
“Yes, it’s me,” came a frazzled sounding response. “She’s pacing, Ken. Ami doesn’t pace. She isn’t that high strung.”
Ken brought a hand up and scrubbed at his face, the early morning stubble on his cheeks abrasive against his palm. “Kaya,” he said patiently, “stop moving.”
There was a pause on Kaya’s end as Ken imagined the sudden halt in her own pacing. He heard an annoyed grunt, and then, “I hate you.”
Ken smiled. “I know. Now take a deep breath.” When he heard Kaya exhale, he said, “Now sit down and tell me what’s wrong.”
Kaya did as she was told. When she began to speak, her voice held a weariness Ken wasn’t used to hearing from her. “I made Ami stay home tonight. After what happened at the hospital, I thought it would be best if Ami put some distance between herself and Makoto. She didn’t argue with me at all, only asked if she could say goodnight. But when I went back to get her, something was wrong. She said Makoto went to bed before she could say goodnight to her, and then all she did was wring her hands and fidget for the whole ride home. When we got back here, she went upstairs to go to bed, but she’s done nothing but pace back and forth for most of the night. She keeps stepping on the same loose board every sixth step.” Kaya sighed, sounding like she was on the verge of tears herself. “I just want to keep her from getting hurt, Ken, and now I think I’ve only made things worse.”
At that moment, Ken wished he was there to hold her. Putting as much comfort and strength into his voice as he could, he said, “You’re doing the best you know how to for her, Kaya. She’ll understand that someday, even if she doesn’t now. But you can’t protect her from everything,” he said gently. “No matter how hard we try, sometimes they’re still going to get hurt.”
“I know, but I have to try,” answered Kaya. “I saw all those girls in the waiting room this afternoon, and I was amazed. It’s rare that I get to see them all at once, and there they were because they were all concerned for Makoto. But in all of this, who’s worrying about Ami?”
“Have you tried talking to her about it?”
“I don’t know how to,” admitted Kaya, the frustration she felt creeping into her voice. “She hasn’t come to me about any of it, and until recently, I was perfectly willing to let her take it at her own pace. You have to understand, Ami was somewhat of a late bloomer. She was always so shy about things, and terribly embarrassed about anything that had to do with sexuality. When she was younger, I tried to have a talk with her about it. She was always getting into my medical journals and asking questions about the material, so I didn’t think it would be a problem. I was certain she already knew the basics, anyway. But as soon as I started speaking, her eyes hit the floor and she turned bright red. For days after that she avoided me. I finally pulled her into the kitchen and forced her to bake cookies. There’s a precision to it, mixed in with just a bit of experimentation, that appeals to her nature. She’s enjoyed doing it ever since she was old enough to stand at the counter and help mix the dough. Somehow, though, I don’t think baking cookies is going to help this time.”
* * *
Rei flipped over onto her stomach with a definite lack of grace. Her face burrowed into the pillow as one arm was flung over the back of the couch. She growled in annoyance as her legs tangled in the blankets Makoto had given her. Without lifting her head, Rei tried to reach behind her to pull at the blanket, but could only brush it with her fingers. With another annoyed growl, she started to roll to the side to see if she could get a better grip and…
“Son of a…” cursed Rei as her back encountered nothing but air. As she went over the edge of the couch, her arms flailed and her elbow impacted with the coffee table. Holding her arm against her, her eyes squeezed shut and watering, Rei let loose with a string of curses that did her title of Sailor proud.
After a few minutes, Rei took a deep breath, rubbed hard at the spot she was sure would have a bruise by morning, and then began to untangle the blankets from her trapped legs. “How does Ami do this every night?” she asked herself as she pulled at her makeshift bindings.
When she leaned forward to pull at the fabric around her feet, Rei went far enough to see around the edge of the couch. She scooted forward onto her hands and knees and stared in confusion at the light coming from under the kitchen door. “I know that wasn’t on when I went to bed,” she said. Then she looked up at the clock and her expression changed. With a shrug, she muttered, “Guess I got some sleep after all. Oh, well. Might as well go see what’s going on. Beats sitting here talking to myself.”
When she entered the kitchen, Rei found Makoto at the table snacking on a jar of peanut butter. Rei wrinkled her nose at the sight.
Makoto smiled and held up the jar. “Want some?” she asked, knowing full well what Rei’s response would be. Then threw in for good measure, “It’s extra chunky.”
Rei grimaced. “Ugh. No thanks.” She took a seat on one of the stools by the breakfast counter. “You could at least make a sandwich out of that, you know.”
Makoto shook her head as she swallowed another spoonful. “Nope. It’s better straight.”
“If you say so,” replied Rei, not at all understanding Makoto’s fascination with the substance. Then, wondering why the other girl was up so late, asked, “Are you feeling okay?”
“Yeah,” answered Makoto. “I was just thinking about some things and couldn’t stop long enough to fall asleep.” She stuck the spoon in the jar and slowly stirred it around. “I’m sorry if I woke you up.”
“You didn’t,” said Rei with a shake of her head. She smirked when she remembered just what had woken her up. “I was having trouble sleeping myself. No offense, Mako-chan, but your couch isn’t the easiest place to sleep. I was just thinking before I came in here that I don’t know how Ami does it every night.”
Makoto frowned at the mention of Ami’s name. For a moment, her eyes dropped from Rei’s. When she raised them a second later, Rei could see a difference. A wall had dropped, and there was a sadness there that ran deeper than anything she’d sensed before in this girl. The sensation it caused in her own soul left her with a chill.
Makoto took in a slow breath. Upon releasing it, she said, “I was just sitting here thinking I don’t know why Ami does it.”
Rei hesitated. Then, very cautiously, she said. “She’s your friend. She does it because she cares about you.”
“Right. She cares,” replied Makoto. She turned away from Rei and rested her chin against her arms on the tabletop. “She cares about me, and I’ve done nothing but hurt her. Yet, she still cares, and she’s still here. And she hates us both for it,” finished Makoto with a sad sigh.
Rei fixed Makoto with a scrutinizing stare. “You heard what she said tonight, didn’t you?”
“I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop,” answered Makoto. “I just wanted to get a light bulb for Minako. Then I heard Ami’s voice, and she sounded so upset. I needed to know why, and I knew she wouldn’t tell me because she already thinks I’m too stressed out.” Makoto made a sound that under other circumstances would have been a laugh. “But I suppose that’s not why she wasn’t telling me, is it?”
Well, now she knew why Makoto had gone to bed without saying goodnight to them. Rei released a long sigh and ran a hand through her hair. “Just perfect,” she mumbled to herself. Then to Makoto she said, “Look, Mako-chan, what she said… She just needed to blow off some steam. Ami’s been holding it in for a long time. She can’t help how she feels, you know, and she’s always so careful about it. Today was just too much for her. But she’s still your friend. She always will be, no matter what. Her feelings won’t get in the way of that. They just sort of complicate things.”
Makoto shook her head. “That isn’t it, Rei. It doesn’t bother me that she has feelings for me. What bothers me is that I never knew. All I’ve ever wanted to do was protect her from this, and because I didn’t see it happening, she got hurt.” Makoto’s voice turned a bit wistful. “I care for her more than I’ve ever cared for anyone. I wish I had known.”
“Mako-chan,” said Rei hesitantly, “the way you’re talking, it almost sounds like…”
“Rei,” said Makoto, cutting off the other girl. She lifted her head from her arms, looked right into Rei’s eyes, and took one of the biggest steps of her life. “I’m gay.”
Rei’s mouth fell open as she gaped at the other girl. Finally she blurted out, “Since when?”
Makoto smirked. “Since I was thirteen and realized I was having a better time watching the cheerleaders and their pompoms than I was watching the basketball team. The boys’ team, anyway. The girls’ team was another story. But there were never any cheerleaders at those games. Guess they thought there was enough fan service on the court,” concluded Makoto with a shrug.
Rei just sat there shaking her head. She brought a hand up over her eyes and rubbed at her temples. “I don’t believe this,” she said mostly to herself. “And after all this…” Then she moved her hand away and looked at Makoto. “Why didn’t you ever say anything?”
Makoto couldn’t stop the bitterness she felt rising in her, and it was evident in her voice as she spoke. “After everything the four of you said to me, how can you even ask that?”
“We never talked about any of this in front of you,” said Rei defensively, realizing belatedly that she was admitting to all their gossip.
Makoto’s chuckle was a less than pleasant sound. “No, I suppose you didn’t. Do you really not remember?”
Rei shook her head helplessly.
“’Don’t give up, Mako-chan,’” said Makoto, pulling up the old memory. “’There are still plenty of cute guys out there.’ The four of you falling all over each other and saying what a huge problem it was that I might have a crush on another girl. And Usagi. I can’t tell you how many times she told me I shouldn’t because Haruka was a girl.”
“Oh,” answered Rei, suddenly feeling very guilty, “that.”
“Yeah, that,” answered Makoto. “After all of that, do you really expect that I would have said anything to you about it?”
“I guess you wouldn’t,” replied Rei.
“And believe me, the irony in our situations isn’t lost on me, either,” added Makoto. “Seeing as how I’m not the one who gave up on boys.”
Rei blushed at that. Wanting to get the conversation away from herself, she leaned back against the counter and put her hands behind her head to stretch. “So,” she said almost absently, “you really did have a crush on Haruka, huh?”
“Maybe a little,” admitted Makoto. She sat up fully and reached for the peanut butter. Toying absently with the spoon, she added, “But that wasn’t all of it. Back then, and even now though not as much, Haruka seemed like the perfect person to me. She was beautiful, talented, and not only had she accepted who and what she was, she embraced it. She was everything I wanted to be, and I just wanted to be around her for a while. Like maybe if I could be near her, I’d figure things out for myself.”
“They did seem perfect, didn’t they?” said Rei. She chuckled lightly. “I remember when Ami finally said what we’d all been thinking. That maybe they really were together like that. It seemed so strange, yet they looked so right together. We just weren’t used to that sort of thing, I guess. Maybe that’s why we talked about it so much when you went off with her.”
Rei smiled ruefully at the look Makoto shot her, then said, “Yeah, we talked about you. I wouldn’t think you’d be surprised to find that out. But just so you know, Ami never had anything to do with it. She actually yelled at us for it once. Literally raised her voice and told us we didn’t have our priorities in order. Then the rest of the time she would hide behind a book and pretend she wasn’t listening. That was when I figured it out. Poor thing didn’t know what to deny harder. That she was in love with you or that she was actually interested in our gossip.”
Makoto watched her spoon as she drew figure eights in the peanut butter. “I’m glad she had you to talk to, at least.”
Rei moved off the stool and went to sit beside Makoto. She rested a hand on the other girl’s arm, hoping Makoto would accept what she was offering.
Makoto smiled at her friend. Folding her arms, she rested her chin on them once again. “It wasn’t just you guys, you know,” she said as she stared at some invisible spot on the wall. “I wasn’t comfortable feeling like that, never was. It went so against everything I was supposed to want. I mean, the princess is supposed to fall in love with a prince, not one of her ladies in waiting.”
Makoto laid her head so she was facing Rei, and the other girl imitated the position. Right then, they looked like nothing more than two children with their heads together and trading secrets.
“When I was little,” went on Makoto, “my mom would tell me about how she and my dad met and fell in love. It was this incredible fairy tale to me, and I always wanted one just like it. Dad would call me his princess, and Mom would tell me about all the wonderful things that would happen when I was grown up and met a young man just like my daddy. My prince. Then, when I began to understand some of the things I was feeling, I could sense it all slipping away from me.” Makoto blew air out between her lips in remembered frustration.
“I didn’t want to lose my happily-ever-after,” she went on. “And I didn’t want to be any different than I already was. So I did everything I could to ignore it. I decided I wasn’t going to wait for my prince to come to me, I was going to go to him. When he told me I wasn’t feminine enough to appeal to any guys, I decided to become the perfect ideal of feminine. Or at least I tried to. I thought if I could do that, and if I was patient enough, one of those frogs I always seemed to be kissing would turn into my prince. Then he would kiss me back, say he loved me, and we would ride off into the sunset together amid cheers from all our friends and a bunch of little woodland creatures,” she finished with a self-depreciating smirk.
Rei, sensing she had permission, returned the smirk with one of her own. “Mako-chan, you do know that’s not how it really works? Not even in the fairy tales.”
Makoto thought briefly on her own princess and all the things she’d been through to be with her prince. “Yeah,” she answered, “I figured that out after a while. Didn’t stop me from trying to find it, though.”
Leaning in closer, Rei touched her forehead to Makoto’s. After a moment, she pulled back a bit, a grin on her face. “And you really have a thing for Ami?” she asked in a tell-me-a-secret tone.
Makoto mirrored Rei’s grin. “Since the first time I saw her,” she answered. “But Usagi was the only person at school who wasn’t afraid to talk to me. I wasn’t going to mess that up by hitting on one of her friends. It wasn’t easy, though, because when I saw Ami, she was just so…” Makoto trailed off into an appreciative sigh.
Rei looked just a bit confused at this. “I remember when we met, Mako-chan. It was that boy you went chasing after, not Ami.”
Makoto shook her head a bit. “He reminded me of my sempai and was a good distraction. Believe me, I was grateful for it at the time. Later, though, when it was all over and I was alone, I didn’t think there was going to be enough cold water in all of Tokyo to make the image I had of her go away. Because in that first moment when I saw her, Ami was just like this living, breathing schoolgirl fantasy.” Makoto’s eyes became unfocused and faraway as she called up that first impression. In her voice were hints of longing and awe. “I remember this adorable girl was standing there in her perfectly pressed uniform, holding her little black cat, and her mouth was formed into this perfect, tiny “o”. She had a light blush going across her cheeks, and her eyes… Kami, those eyes. If she’d have been wearing her glasses I don’t think I would have survived it. And then when Usagi told me Ami was the shy, genius type, it… just… Rei?”
Rei’s face was screwed up into an uncomfortable looking half grin. Her right eye had acquired a slow tick, and she was looking right through Makoto to something only she could see. Makoto waved her hand in front of Rei’s eyes and said her name several times before Rei finally snapped out of it.
With a jump that almost knocked her chair backwards, Rei refocused on the girl in front of her. She glared accusatorily at Makoto. “Okay, thanks to you I now have a mental image of Ami that I never ever wanted.”
“But it’s a nice image, isn’t it?” said Makoto mischievously.
“That is entirely beside the point!” returned Rei. She shuddered for emphasis, then took a deep breath and tried desperately to get this newest image out of her head. “Urrgg… I swear, the two of you are perfect for each other,” she said in annoyance. “When you talk to her, be sure and tell her that part about the schoolgirl thing. She’ll appreciate it.”
Makoto blanched. “I can’t tell her. Neither can you.”
Rei waved a hand dismissively at Makoto. “Trust me. And remember to ask her the part about you petting Luna,” she said with a laugh.
Makoto shook her head. “What? No, that’s not what I mean. You can’t tell her anything about what I just said. Any of it. And neither can I.”
“Why the hell not?” questioned Rei, more confused than ever now. “I though you were in love with her.”
“I am,” answered Makoto.
“So, then, what’s the problem?”
“Weren’t you listening when she was speaking to you?” asked Makoto as if the answer were obvious. “She hates me. And she hates herself for ever having loved me after everything I’ve put her through.” She frowned and looked down at her fidgeting fingers. “You know, I kind of thought she was happy about the baby. But then, I’ve spent four years completely misunderstanding everything she was trying to tell me. Why should this be any different?”
Rei made several noises that were a cross between annoyed and confused. “What are you talking about?” she asked. “I thought you said you were eavesdropping.”
Makoto looked back up at her. “I was. She said she hated herself, and then started crying, and I couldn’t take anymore. Then Minako came back into the room, and I had to deal with her.”
Rei threw her hands up, completely exasperated with this girl. “Ya know, Mako-chan, if you’re going to listen in on other people’s conversations, you really should stick around for the whole thing. Ami doesn’t hate you. For whatever reason, her idea of perfect is being here with you, changing diapers and getting up at with a screaming infant. That’s what she wants, even if she is a bit annoyed with you for not figuring it out on your own.”
“Really?” asked Makoto quietly, for the first time feeling some real hope.
Rei nodded. “Yes, really.”
Makoto’s mind ran down the list of doubts she still held. “I’d be asking her to accept an awful lot, even if it is what she thinks she wants. It wouldn’t be fair to do that to her.”
“I think it’s a lot more unfair of you not to tell her,” answered Rei. “Because by not telling her, you’re taking away her choices. And since you get one, she deserves one, too. Not to mention that it’s supremely unfair of you to let her go on loving you and thinking she’s not being loved in return.”
“She loves me,” said Makoto, a silly grin spreading across her face. “I never really thought…”
Rei smiled as the darkness lifted from around Makoto. “Yes, she loves you. And she never really thought either. You’re going to talk to her, right?” pressed Rei.
Makoto nodded. “Yeah. Tomorrow. She’s spending the night.”
* * *
Having completely given up on the couch, Rei was spread out on the floor, arms and legs akimbo. She blew at her bangs, their movement over her forehead the only amusement she could find at this hour. At least, she thought to herself, she wasn’t the only one not getting any sleep tonight. Rei was pretty sure that at least two of the others were suffering as well.
“But at least they get to suffer in their own beds,” she said as she gave one final, long exhale.
Turning onto her side, Rei propped her head up on her hand. She reached over to her bag with her other hand and fished around for several seconds until she encountered the object she was looking for. Pulling out her communicator, she played her fingers over it for several seconds before finally activating it.
As she waited for the call to be answered, Rei sat up and leaned against the couch. After a few minutes, the viewscreen activated and a sleepy, disheveled blonde head popped into view.
“I’m up, I’m up,” said Minako groggily. Her eyes were only half open, and her words were sleepy-slurred when she asked, “Who’s attacking now? It better not be that kid again. Ack!”
The viewscreen tumbled along with Minako as she tripped. In the background, Rei heard Artemis yelp in pain. When Minako’s head came back into view, the blonde was gingerly rubbing a spot on the top of her head. “Where do I need to meet you guys?” she asked.
Rei held back a laugh. “We’re not being attacked, Minako. You don’t need to meet us anywhere.”
Minako’s features went slack as she frowned in confusion. “Then why’d you call me?”
“I can’t sleep, and I’m bored,” answered Rei. Then she frowned. “And I have this image stuck in my head that I can’t make go away.”
“Rei,” whined Minako, “it’s in the morning. If the sun isn’t up yet, I don’t want to be either.”
With a smirk, Rei replied, “You’ve never complained about it before.”
“Only because you were right there next to me,” returned Minako, her scowl turning into a sleepy grin. She rubbed at her eyes and moved up onto the bed. Lying on her stomach with her head propped on her hands and her communicator upright in front of her, she asked, “So what’s this image? I assume that’s what you want to talk about.”
Rei shook her head violently. “Uhn uhn. I want to make it go away, not relive it. Talk to me. I don’t care about what, so long as it isn’t that.”
Minako thought for a moment, blowing little puffs of air between her lips as she did. Finally, she said, “I think Mako-chan heard you and Ami talking earlier.”
Rei nearly glared at her. “Why didn’t you tell me that before you left?”
Unperturbed, Minako shrugged. “I wasn’t sure. I mean, this is Ami we’re talking about. She’s never said a bad thing about anyone in her life. But Mako-chan seemed upset about it. Did she say anything to you about it?”
“Mako-chan said a lot of things to me,” answered Rei with a sigh.
When she realized Rei wasn’t going to elaborate any further, Minako said, “You’re not going to tell me anything, are you?”
Rei shook her head.
“Fine,” answered Minako. She turned over onto her back so all Rei could see on her communicator was the top of Minako’s head, while her hands played with the pink ribbon on the front of her nightgown. “Then I won’t tell you any of what I know either. I won’t say anything about how Mako-chan got all quiet after she heard you, or how strange it was that she didn’t want to see Ami anymore. Because Mako-chan always wants to see Ami.” Minako tilted her head back so her smiling face was upside down on Rei’s viewscreen. “She cares about her, you know. Really cares.”
At this point, Rei was too tired to be anything other than amused. “What makes you say that?”
“Well,” answered Minako as she turned back onto her stomach, “I wasn’t sure at first. But then there was all that stuff with Haruka, and I started to wonder about the way she was always hanging around Ami. But she always went boy watching with us.” Minako frowned in a way that Rei found absolutely adorable. “Then she went and got pregnant, and that pretty much killed my whole Ami theory. Until recently anyway. See, Mako-chan can barely handle a few hours of us fussing over her, but Ami does it more than any of us, and she let her move in.”
Rei laughed. “Ami doesn’t live here, Mina. If she did, I would be asleep in my own bed right now.”
“Look around you, Rei,” said Minako. “Those are Ami’s books on the shelf over by the TV. Ami’s slippers over there by the door. Her toothbrush is hanging in the bathroom, her clothes are hanging in the closet, and she even has her own underwear drawer. Now if that doesn’t say ‘I live here’ I don’t know what does.”
“How do you know about that?” questioned Rei.
Minako grinned innocently. “I was looking for a light bulb. Anyway, what are we going to do about it?”
Rei shook her head. “We aren’t going to do anything. Mako-chan said she’s going to handle it. We’re going to give her a little time to get things straight in her own head. But if she doesn’t by the end of the week, a little gentle persuasion from her friends might be in order.”
“We could always lock them in a closet together,” suggested Minako with a giggle.
“Yeah,” smiled Rei. She sighed. “You know, I think the five of us have had a serious breakdown in communication lately. We all need to get together and have an all-out, no holds barred gossip fest.”
Over the music of Minako’s laughter, Rei heard another sound. The metallic clink of a key sliding into a lock gave way to the front door opening slowly.
“I’ve got company, Mina,” said Rei quickly and quietly. “Gotta go. Love you.” She deactivated her communicator and shoved it under her pillow just as Ami noticed her on the floor.
“Rei, why are you on the floor?” asked Ami quietly as she moved into the living room.
“It’s more comfortable than the couch,” answered Rei. “Why are you here so early? It’s barely .”
Ami shrugged as she sat in the chair across from Rei. “I just couldn’t sleep.”
Rei smirked. “Join the club.”
Ami nodded absently, then moved over onto the couch. As Rei continued talking, she reached down between the couch and end table and pulled out the pillow she always slept with. “Mom was still asleep when I left,” answered Ami as she laid down and tucked the pillow under her head. “I didn’t see a point in waking her up.”
“You snuck out?”
“No, I left early for school,” replied Ami. She yawned and closed her eyes as her head snuggled down into the pillow. “I always leave early for school.”
Rei raised an eyebrow in disbelief. She would have commented on Ami’s ‘leaving early for school’, but it was pointless. Ami wouldn’t have heard her. Rei glared at the form curled up and sleeping peacefully on the couch. I swear the two of you are going to be the death of me.