The Cruelty and Fairness of Fate
~ Chapter 12: A Little Bit of Warmth ~
Stretching her arms out in front of her, Rei let out a long yawn. She could feel the bags under her eyes and knew this was going to be an early night. One, thankfully, she would be spending in her own bed.
The group had gone back to Makoto’s after school. Not much studying had been done, though. Ami was too tired to enforce proper study habits even after the hour nap she’d taken on Makoto’s couch this morning. The rest of them, save Usagi, were too tired to put any real effort into it anyway. As for Usagi, she wasn’t about to argue if no one wanted to do schoolwork. So their homework had been rushed through and was close to done when someone, Rei wasn’t sure who, had brought up the question of what they were going to name the baby.
Now, here they sat, names being tossed out as Minako kept track of them in her notebook.
Makoto shook her head at the latest suggestion. “No. That was my father’s name.”
“I’d think that would be a good reason to keep it,” said Minako.
“It’s bad luck to name babies after people who died young,” answered Makoto. “And we’ve got enough problems to deal with as it is without jinxing ourselves any more.”
Minako sighed. “Okay,” she said as she leaned over her notebook on the coffee table. “New column – Bad Luck Names. Though I’ve never heard that one before.”
Usagi and Ami, who were seated with her on the floor, said neither had they.
“I have,” chimed in Rei. “It’s an old superstition.” She propped her feet up on an empty packing box and sank further down into the chair. “What have we got so far, Minako?”
Minako picked up her notebook, cleared her throat, then read off, “Along with lots of bad luck, we’ve got Too Hard to Spell, Too Easy to Make Fun Of, Doesn’t Sound Right with Kino, and Miki, which somehow managed to stay out of the Too Easy to Make Fun Of column.”
“I kind of like that name,” said Ami. “Kino Miki.”
Usagi leaned over and put a hand to Ami’s mouth. Dramatically she shook her head in warning. “Don’t say that, Ami. If you do, that’s what she’ll name him.”
“Ha, ha, very funny,” said Makoto. Her voice tried to sound annoyed and insulted, but the smile she wore gave her away. Crooking a finger, she ordered, “Come here, Usagi.”
Usagi scooted over and hid behind Ami, using the girl as a shield. “Uhn uhn, I know your reputation,” she said, her eyes peeking over Ami’s shoulder.
“Don’t make me come after you, little girl,” said Makoto. She patted the spot beside her on the couch. “Come up here and I’ll give you a surprise.”
Usagi looked at her warily. “What kind of surprise?” she asked as she moved out from behind Ami.
“A good one,” answered Makoto. “Now come on, or I’ll give it to someone else.”
Not wanting to lose whatever she was going to be given, Usagi put a bit of haste into her movements. As an afterthought, just before getting up, she lifted the glasses from Ami’s face and put them on her own. Once on the couch, she smiled at Makoto. “You wouldn’t hit a girl with glasses, would you?”
Makoto chuckled. “I suppose not. I’ll just have to give you something else, then. Here, hold out your hand and close your eyes. But take these off first,” said Makoto as she reached for the glasses and carefully took them from Usagi’s face. “You’ll ruin your eyes if you keep them on for too long.”
A chorus of “Yes, mom,” accompanied by Ami’s giggle, greeted that statement. Makoto ignored them, only rolling her eyes at their silliness. She then had Usagi close her eyes and took the outstretched hand in hers.
When the hand was placed on Makoto’s stomach, Usagi opened her eyes. A second later, those eyes went wide as saucers, and Usagi pulled her hand back in surprise. “It moved!” she squealed in wonder. A huge smile formed on her face, and she put her hand back to its place on Makoto. “Make him do it again,” she said excitedly.
Makoto smiled at her. With a finger, she tickled just under the spot where Usagi’s hand rested. “Come on, Little Bug,” she said after a moment of no movement. “I know you like attention. Say ‘hi’ for your Aunt Usagi.”
Rei watched the two of them with a grin. Makoto had Usagi’s complete attention. The look of childish amazement and expectation on the blonde’s face was priceless. The grin that had formed on Makoto’s face was a bit different, though. Almost mischievous, Rei would have said. When Makoto turned and looked at Ami a second later, Rei found out why.
“Say something, Ami,” said Makoto. “Anything, cause it looks like you’re the only person whose attention he wants.”
Color rose immediately to Ami’s cheeks.
“Does he really move for Ami?” asked Usagi.
Makoto nodded. “Yep, no lie. I think he recognizes her voice already.”
“Wow!” answered Usagi. “You’re so lucky, Ami!” she exclaimed.
“Makoto’s just teasing you, Usagi,” said Ami as she reached for her glasses and put them back on.
Minako smiled and held back a giggle as Ami tried to hide behind her lenses. A second later, a toe tapping against her shoulder made Minako turn around. Rei looked back and forth between Ami and Makoto, then nodded towards the door. Understanding what Rei was saying, Minako nodded back in response.
Stretching her arms high over her head, Minako said, “Well, it doesn’t look like we’re going to get any more done here tonight, and my mom’s been getting on me about how much time I’ve been spending away from home lately. I better get going before she decides to adjust my curfew or something.”
“Yeah, me too,” added Rei. “There’s some chores I need to finish at the shrine before it gets too late.” She stood and stretched, her back cracking lightly as she did. “Come on, Usagi. We’ll walk you to Mamoru’s. You wanna spend as much time with him as you can before he has to leave next week,” she threw in, knowing Usagi wouldn’t say no if her Mamo-chan was mentioned.
Usagi sighed and leaned back, her head tilted against the back of the couch so she was looking at the ceiling. “I wish he wasn’t leaving again.”
Makoto gave the smaller girl’s hand a squeeze. “It’s just one more semester, Usagi. Then he’ll be home for good.”
Usagi rewarded her with a grateful smile. She then laughed as Rei and Minako each took one of her hands and tugged her up off the couch.
Makoto followed the three girls to the door and said her goodbyes. When she turned around, she saw Ami straightening the papers and books that had been left scattered on the coffee table. There was still some rosy color in her cheeks, and her hair fell softly around her glasses as she worked. For several minutes, Makoto stood and watched, enjoying the sight before her.
Eventually, Ami looked up and smiled at her. “That was a nice thing you did for Usagi.”
Makoto smiled back and shrugged. “It was her turn.” She then went over and sat in the chair Rei had vacated. Her gaze stayed level at Ami.
Ami put her elbows on the coffee table and propped her head in her hands. She stared back at Makoto, her eyes never wavering. “Something’s on your mind,” she said after several seconds. “What are you thinking?”
“I’m thinking,” started Makoto. “I’m thinking about the first time I met you and how cute I thought you were. And how I always wondered what you would have looked like at that moment if you’d been wearing your glasses.”
Ami’s head lifted in surprise, the expression on her face clearly showing it. She could feel the heat rising in her cheeks and knew they must be flaming red.
Makoto grinned widely. “Yeah. It would have been something like that.”
Ami’s eyes dropped to the table and she quickly removed her glasses. Her hands began to fuss nervously with the papers in front of her. “What a silly thing to say,” she said, her voice shaking just a bit. Ami put the papers inside her textbook and stood from the table, the textbook held tightly in front of her. “You shouldn’t tease like that, Mako-chan,” she chided as she began to turn away. “I’ll go put these away. Then maybe we can…”
Ami’s words cut off as Makoto’s arms wrapped around her from behind. The suddenness of it startled Ami, and she dropped the book. Papers scattered around their feet as they stood in silence.
“I’m sorry,” said Makoto finally. “I’m sorry I hurt you. I was only trying to protect you from this. At first it was just about keeping you and the others as friends and not making things weird for everyone. I didn’t want to force what I was or how I felt onto you, especially with our lives as complicated as they were becoming. I felt alone with it all and didn’t know how to handle it. I guess I was too busy dealing with my own stuff to realize how you felt, and I’m so sorry I never understood all the different ways you tried to tell me.”
Ami’s back was pulled uncomfortably close to Makoto’s front. She could feel both their heartbeats, each equally rapid. “Let me go, Mako-chan,” she said softly.
“No,” answered Makoto. Her grip tightened a fraction. “I heard what you said to Rei. It isn’t true, Ami. Since I met you, there hasn’t been a day when you weren’t wanted. Not one. I… I love you.”
Ami tensed, her eyes going wide. Not like this. She didn’t want it this way. With a shake of her head, she repeated, “Let me go. Please.”
Reluctantly, Makoto released her hold on the smaller girl. Ami moved several steps away, Makoto watching as Ami’s shoulders rose and fell as she took several deep breaths. When Ami turned around, she had her eyes cast down, unable to meet Makoto’s.
“You don’t have to say that to me, Mako-chan,” said Ami sadly. “I won’t leave.”
“Ami…” said Makoto as she took a step forward.
Ami backed up a step to match Makoto’s. “You weren’t supposed to hear what I said. No one was. But I won’t leave you,” she said again. “You don’t have to say those things to me to keep me here.”
“No, Ami, I wouldn’t,” said Makoto. She moved forward again before Ami could retreat any further. She put a hand under Ami’s chin and gently forced her to look up. “I would never say that to anyone unless I meant it, and especially not to you if it wasn’t true.” She let her hand drop. “And I wouldn’t say it just to keep someone with me. I don’t want to keep you here if this isn’t where you want to be.”
“Why are you telling me this now?”
Makoto shrugged. “Because it wouldn’t be fair to let you go on loving someone and thinking they didn’t love you back.” Makoto sighed, her eyes closing for a moment. When she opened them, Ami was still standing there, watching her and waiting for something. “But I suppose,” Makoto continued, “that telling you isn’t completely fair, either. I know I messed up, Ami, and that this isn’t an ideal situation. I also know that I’m asking an awful lot from you by saying I want you as more than a friend. You’re going to do so much with your life. I mean, you can write your own ticket, go anywhere you want, do anything you want. I don’t want to be what holds you back or ties you down, but I want you with me. So maybe, if you want… Um, Ami, what are you doing?”
Slowly, Ami’s fingers traced a path from Makoto’s elbow to her shoulder and back down again. Ami’s eyes focused on the movement as she said, “I’m touching you. I’m allowed to do that now, right?”
Makoto swallowed hard, then shivered as Ami’s fingers moved back up her arm then softly along the side of her neck and further, eventually tracing around the contours of her ear. “Uh, yeah. If you want to.”
Ami nodded, her expression one of concentration as her fingers lightly stroked over Makoto’s cheek. A small smile graced her lips as her index finger ran the length of Makoto’s nose and moved away with a slight tap to the tip of it. That smile reflected on Makoto’s face, and Ami couldn’t resist. Her finger moved down and traced along Makoto’s top lip, then the bottom one, absolutely in love with the warmth and softness she felt.
Reaching up, Makoto took Ami’s hand in her own. Twining their fingers together, Makoto brought Ami’s hand to her lips and kissed the knuckles. “Are you sure this is what you want?”
Ami nodded. Her free hand moved to play with the bow on the front of Makoto’s uniform, and her eyes dropped to focus on that. “For a long time, all I’ve wanted was to be with you. Even when this happened,” and her fingers fell to rest on Makoto’s belly, “I still wanted to be here. I never expected to find myself as emotionally involved as I’ve become, but I’ve been here since the beginning, and I want to be a part of the rest of his life as well.” Ami smiled shyly as her finger drew a little heart. “And not just because he’s your son.”
Leaning in closely so her mouth was right beside Ami’s ear, Makoto whispered, “Wanna know a secret? He loves you, too. Almost as much as his mom does.” Then she pressed her lips gently against Ami’s ear.
A shiver ran down Ami’s spine at the contact, and she closed her eyes against the sensation. Another shiver accompanied an increase in her heartbeat as Makoto kissed her cheek and rested her hands on Ami’s hips, pulling the smaller girl just that much closer. When Makoto’s lips finally touched against hers, Ami thought she would melt from the sheer pleasure she felt humming through her body.
Relaxing into the gentle kiss, Ami allowed Makoto to lead her. After a moment, she found her own response, and with slightly more pressure, her lips moved easily against Makoto’s. When they finally broke apart, both were breathing hard and looking more than a little dazed.
“That was pretty good,” said Makoto through a grin.
“You have a gift for understatement,” replied Ami. She rested her head against Makoto’s chest and wrapped her arms around her as the other girl hugged her arms around Ami’s shoulders and rested her chin on top of Ami’s head. “Mako-chan?”
“Hmm?” Makoto looked down and saw the blush rising in Ami’s cheeks.
“Your couch is uncomfortable,” said Ami into Makoto’s blouse. “I don’t want to sleep there anymore.”
Makoto played with a stray piece of Ami’s hair, tucking it behind her ear even as she grinned at the girl’s embarrassment. “You know,” she teased, “my couch is going to get a complex if people keep saying that. I’m going to have to sleep there myself just so its feelings don’t get hurt.”
Ami’s hold around Makoto tightened slightly. “Mako-chan, I told you. Don’t tease like that.”
“I’m sorry,” answered Makoto with a light laugh. She reached down and tilted Ami’s head so she could look at her. “I’m not real comfortable sleeping on the couch anymore either. What say we both share the bed tonight?”
Ami nodded her agreement.
“Okay,” said Makoto. She released Ami and started leading her towards the hall. “I know it’s still early, but I don’t think either of us got much sleep last night. Want to play catch-up?”
Ami smiled and followed without argument.
* * *
Jumping up onto the windowsill, Luna edged out of the opening she’d come in through. Taking the small knob between her teeth, she closed the window behind her, then jumped down to the landing outside Makoto’s apartment. What she wanted now was simply to get home and out of the cold night air.
Luna had thought it would be a good idea to check up on Makoto tonight since Usagi hadn’t been sure whether or not Ami was staying over. She had done this before on the nights she knew Makoto was staying alone since all of this had begun. After all, even though Usagi was her main ward, all the girls were under her charge. So it had seemed like a good idea to check in on Makoto, even if it had turned out to be a pointless trip.
When Luna had looked in on her, Makoto was very obviously all right. And so was Ami, if the contented smile she wore as she snuggled against Makoto’s side was any indication. They were both asleep, and Luna had seen fit to leave it that way. She would give them both the obligatory lecture another time, after she’d had some time to think the situation through for herself.
Going from a fence top to the sidewalk, Luna stopped and waited for the traffic signal to change. She’d had firsthand experience with what happened when one crosses against the light, and she wasn’t taking any chances no matter how deserted the street seemed to be.
Looking up to watch the light, Luna bypassed it and stared at what she could see of the moon. The night was overcast, dark clouds obscuring all but a few thin strips of the full moon. The memory it called up for her was clear, however, as she remembered what her queen had said to her the day Luna met the girls she would be training.
On first impression, they had seemed so different from each other in personality. Luna wasn’t certain they’d get along with the princess, let alone each other. And if they couldn’t get along with each other, how were they supposed to fight together as a team?
“It’s your responsibility to see that they learn to respect and trust each other,” Serenity had said to her. “Remember, Luna, that these girls have given up everything to come here. They have only three things left to them now: Their destiny, their duty, and each other. While the first two can be great things on their own, they offer very little comfort on cold nights.”
With a sigh, Luna addressed the memory of her queen. “I know this isn’t exactly what you meant, but at least they’re getting along well. And it is a very cold night,” she added by way of complaint as the wind picked up and blew hard and icy against her.
The light changed, and Luna began to cross the empty intersection. She was halfway across when the first flake landed on her ear. She looked up at the sky only to have another one land squarely in her eye.
“Just perfect,” she muttered as she started running for home.
When Luna got back to Usagi’s fifteen minutes later, the snow was falling so heavily she could barely see through it. She jumped into the tree outside Usagi’s bedroom window, then onto the ledge beside it.
Inching around the drawn shade, then landing on the carpet with a light thud, Luna stood and shook the moisture from her coat. She was cold, tired, and cranky. All she wanted to do was lie by the heater and go to sleep.
“Luna, that you?” asked Usagi as she sat up and scrubbed at her eyes with a fist. She yawned hugely, then said, “I guess Ami stayed the night after all.”
“Yes, she did,” answered Luna, sounding more agitated than she intended.
Usagi crawled to the end of her bed. “What’s the matter?” she asked. Then she noticed the water dripping from Luna’s fur. “Aw, Luna, you got all wet. How’d that happen?”
Usagi got up off the bed and went over to her desk. From the back of the chair, she picked up the pink towel she had hung there earlier. “This is dry now,” she said as she walked over to Luna. “You can use it to dry off.”
Usagi sat on the floor in front of Luna and pulled the cat into her lap. She wrapped the towel around her and began to dry her off with a care Luna wouldn’t have ascribed to the girl a few years ago.
“It’s snowing,” answered Luna belatedly as Usagi rubbed at her head. “I got caught in it on the way home.”
“Maybe I’ll get lucky and school will get canceled,” grinned Usagi.
Luna only huffed in acknowledgement.
“Is the snow why you were so cross when I asked you about Ami?” asked Usagi as she concentrated on Luna’s front paws. “Or was there something else?”
Luna’s nose crinkled at the suggestion as well as the small smile that was tugging at Usagi’s lips. Without answering, she removed herself from Usagi’s lap and jumped up onto the bed.
“You caught them together, didn’t you?” laughed Usagi. “Like we caught Rei and Minako.”
Luna raised her head from her paws. “I don’t know what you’re talking about Usagi,” she said pointedly. “And even if they were doing anything, I wouldn’t have caught them anyway because I, unlike some other people, know enough to knock on someone’s door before entering.”
“They were asleep, huh?” said Usagi as she crawled back onto the bed.
Luna sighed. “How do you know about this? I’m certain they haven’t told anyone.”
“Minako and Rei,” answered Usagi with a grin. “They were in an awful hurry to get out of there tonight, and I could tell they were keeping secrets. I thought they were going to run off and do something together, so I was teasing them about it when Minako finally cracked and had to tell me. But Rei said it was okay because they might need my help. They were gonna ambush Mako-chan and Ami if they didn’t come clean with each other about how they felt.” Usagi giggled. “Guess they won’t have to do that now. But ya know, Luna, it all sort of surprised me,” said Usagi as she fell back against her pillows.
“I wasn’t expecting it either, Usagi,” replied Luna.
“Hmm? Oh, I don’t mean that,” answered Usagi. “I actually thought they got together months ago and just hadn’t told us yet. I was surprised because they hadn’t.”
Luna groaned. “Goodnight, Usagi. I’m going to bed now,” she said as she tried to ignore the girl on the bed and the headache forming behind her eyes.
Reaching out with her big toe, Usagi scratched just under Luna’s ear. Then, cuddling down into her own blankets, said, “Don’t worry about things so much, Luna. They’ll all be okay and everything will work out fine. It has to, because they need each other too much for it to not.”