Second Second Chances

Minako and Kunzite have a brief, glancing encounter. They're still both broken people who've spent too much time hurting each other. But maybe, finally, there's a chance they can find their way out of that pattern, and start to make something new.

Date: 2016-03-24
Pose Count: 16
Kazuo Takeba 2016-03-24 03:34:53 35561
As the secret haunts of lifelong introverts go, Mamoru Chiba's apartment was, until a few months ago, a surprisingly active place. He'd spent a good deal of time helping out or mediating for various of the city's magical girls, including but not limited to the Senshi; those who knew his identity came and went --

Even while he was in hiding.

Even while he was kidnapped by the Dark Kingdom, and turned against them. People would still turn up every few days, just to look at the place, or to remember him, or to think, or (in occasional cases that weren't necessarily well-thought-out) to hide.

The place is barren now; Homura Akemi pulled his possessions out to avoid the Dark Kingdom finding them. That revealed the doors formerly hidden, and showed that Mamoru didn't just own one apartment, he owned the floor -- three-quarters of it locked away and gathering dust, waiting for he-didn't-know-what.

Now all of it's gathering dust, except for the room that's housing boxes of salvage from the Tsukino family residence, and Usagi's woeful (but oddly cute) attempt at a conspiracy-theory-style bulletin board. It's been a few weeks since she's felt she had to work on it. Maybe that's a good sign.

Soon enough the place will be active again. Just not yet. Mamoru hasn't hauled himself or his rescuees back into it, yet. And that makes it a good place, quiet and dark, to go if someone wants to be alone.
Minako Aino 2016-03-24 03:58:17 35563
It had been well over a week since Usagi's text. And she hadn't had the courage to face anyone.

She could leap at an evil witch and stab her with a magical sword and be fried alive by dark energy backlash. That was easy. Facing her friends again after being so cold and distant... facing her Princess again... that was hard.

She wasn't sure if she was relieved or disappointed that the apartment was empty. It meant she didn't have to face her demons today. But it also meant that, once again, she was alone.

Second chances were a funny thing. Her first one hadn't gone so well. And now she had a second, second chance. It hadn't started so well. And fixing that would have to wait for another night.

She leapt across the skyline onto the balcony. It was always a beautiful place to watch the city and the sunset, and it was always best when shared with her friends. No, her family. But tonight, it was empty, and it gave her a chance to steal inside.
Kazuo Takeba 2016-03-24 04:18:34 35565
Dust and memories. Talking with Mamoru over cake. The night he worked himself halfway frantic trying to host a get-together -- one that, not coincidentally, involved the other Senshi's civilian identities. They hadn't met Minako as herself, then; that was the first time. (So of course, they were attacked; and they met Minako as all three of her.) Or the night, months more recently, that Jadeite came to ask for help, and Mars brought him there to let the others vet him; the hole that Venus put in one of the walls that night is still there.

Memories are almost like being around her family. Almost as warm, sometimes. Almost as awkward, others. But they don't ask her to say anything. And there's no-one but memories here, right now, in the dark.


(He made his way inside half an hour ago. He hasn't touched the lights; he doesn't need them, they'd only be glare. The room he's been in for the last ten minutes is an interior one, windowless, cutting out the city's distraction. The place still might as well be empty. He hasn't been doing anything but leaning against a wall, breathing, thinking. Considering parts of the past, and the shapes of possible futures. Memories, and what memories help to build.)
Minako Aino 2016-03-24 04:24:39 35566
The house is empty, and it helps her take stock of all the things she's missing. All the things she wants.

It's not right that she be someone else in this place. She needed to be herself.

In a flash, she reverted back to Minako. Not the soldier, not the princess, not the warrior who had fought and died, not the guardian whose duty kept her alone.

Just a girl, looking for her friends, hoping they might forgive her.

Every inch of this place spoke of memories, of friendship, of family. Even if no one was here, there was no place quite as much where she truly belonged.
Kazuo Takeba 2016-03-24 04:40:15 35572
The part of the place she's most familiar with is completely barren. She'd known that, known that even the furnishings were shifted elsewhere in case the Dark Kingdom came looking for something they might be able to use, to try to steal Endymion back again after his rescue. She hasn't seen it before.

She hasn't seen the rest of the place before at all. Mamoru's own apartment was ridiculous enough. Four is echoingly empty; and yet. And yet. Every inch, still. Waiting for people he'd never met, when he secured them. Speaking of family, of friends, that some part of him trusted blindly might someday come.

It's in one of those disused halls that she learns she's not alone.

He's silent by habit, in this life as others. Silent when he heard footsteps, and his head lifted, and he moved away from the wall. Silent as he crosses the room. Silent as he steps into the hall. It's dim at best; features are obscured. But the cityglow from windows in other rooms is enough to catch at the white of his hair, never suited for stealth, and that's enough to tell her who it has to be.
Minako Aino 2016-03-24 04:49:48 35577
She froze in her tracks when she saw the shock of white hair. It had haunted her dreams enough that she'd know it anywhere. But to think he'd be the first person she'd see, and that he'd be there when she transformed...

For all the horrible things she'd seen, she still believed in happily ever after and the red string of fate. Maybe it was drawing her somewhere. Maybe it was drawing her to someone.

Kazuo Takeba 2016-03-24 05:05:21 35586
Conditioned reflexes demand a specific response: 'who's there' is the traditional thing to say in these circumstances. But --

He hasn't seen her transform, not yet. He can see her, even in the dimness; he's worked with shadows too long to need much light. But it's not seeing her that makes the difference. It's her voice, more than anything else. He still can't, quite, be sure; but there's something. (Slivers of an old miracle; the old queen's magic trying to keep them safe. Keep her safe, with the rest of them. Shading perceptions, blurring minds.)

"Yes." He pauses for a moment, one word his only overture. Then takes a step toward her, and a second, paced carefully to let him see and respond to any reaction. He's resigned to reaction, to be honest; even without certainty that it is her, he expects what he's earned from her (in this life, in the last) and he's ready to cut off the motion, perhaps to defend himself.

But if they both act as if they expect the worst, they'll never get anything else. He could stand that for himself. But not for her.
Minako Aino 2016-03-24 05:09:33 35588
She's not really ready for this meeting. But would she ever be?

"You're back," she says, stating the obvious.

By all rights, she should be preparing for battle. She's found an old enemy in the home of her Princess. But something in her says that's not what this is. That's not what he is.
% This was not an ambush. He was keeping watch. She knew because it's what she would do. It's what she should have been doing.

He was the traitor, but now he was the one fulfilling his oath while she skulked in the darkness.

Second chances were funny. Some people did better with theirs.

"It's... good to see you."
Kazuo Takeba 2016-03-24 05:23:17 35595
One of the homes of her Princess. She has a surprising number; she collects them like she collects friends. Usually at the same time.

He's back? True enough. "So are you." There are a bare handful of people in the world that would catch the faint shadings of intonation in those few words, would know that they came with the little shift at one corner of his eye that passed for what, in anyone else, would be gentleness and a smile. That colored the words with a hint of welcome home.

They weren't there, when she heard him speak before. Even when he claimed to be in control of his own mind, claimed to be trying to help her and her girls, those reactions were missing. Gone. Flattened out of existence. Now --

"Mercury's plan worked. I've been up and around for a couple of days." He doesn't risk more than those couple of steps; shifts, leans against the wall. Taking advantage of architecture's always been his first choice to de-escalate a situation, when he could get away with it. The next words are said as if they were part and parcel of the rest, nothing to take too much notice of. As if. "They miss you."
Minako Aino 2016-03-24 05:28:01 35598
It hurts more than she cares to admit to hear those words. To know that he's closer with her fellow senshi at the moment than she is.

Actions have consequences, and she'll have to reckon with hers sometime soon.

"I miss them too. I... I was planning on meeting up with everyone. Timing just hasn't been right."

She looks at him, moonlight making him seem like a ghost, even though she knows he's real and solid. She could reach out and touch him if she wanted... "Timing was never right for us either... maybe I'm cursed."
Kazuo Takeba 2016-03-24 05:36:54 35601
"If you're worried about that," he says, and this time the words are straightforward -- not solemn as the grave, no, but taking her maybe seriously -- "you could always ask Mars. I hear she can tell."

He does seem like a ghost, when she looks that closely. When eyes adjust. He's young. Younger than when she first met him, the last time around. Something happened, in bringing him back, that took him from his middle twenties to not far from Mamoru's age. It's still him: the hair, the eyes, the expressions or lack thereof. But the ghost of --

Well. Of second chances. And second second chances.

"The right timing's not worth waiting for, though. It has a way of never coming around."
Minako Aino 2016-03-24 05:40:49 35603
"Well... I've never been very patient anyway. So maybe things will be different this time."

She wants to stay. She wants to go. She wants to kiss him. She wants to hit him. She wants to hate herself. She wants to love him.

She wants so many things.

"Can we start over?"
Kazuo Takeba 2016-03-24 05:53:21 35608
The question is met, for a few seconds, with only a turn of his head an inch or so toward her, and silence.

Silence is usually an ominous answer to questions like that. But then, usually, the person being silent hasn't spent the last several years in a body that didn't actually need to breathe. There are some habits he's going to need to break.

This body reminds him of its requirements rather pointedly. A quick indrawing of air, and the words are a little quicker as well. "Yes. If that's what you want." A stupid qualifier, he tells himself; why would she have asked, otherwise? -- but he's still not entirely sure he heard her correctly. Not entirely sure she spoke the words at all, or that they hold the meaning he read in them, instead of something smaller, more casual, half meaningless.
Minako Aino 2016-03-24 05:58:52 35610
"Yes, I want that."

The promise of a fresh start seems so fragile, she doesn't want to risk it with clumsy words and feelings she's not sure she knows how to handle. An acknowledgement that perhaps this time, things might be different, well, it's enough to make her see things in a whole new light.

"I need to settle things with everyone, but when I do, maybe we can have our fresh start. Now that we know where to find each other."

She makes for the balcony, and stops just a step short, turning back and looking over her shoulder, holding her henshin in her hand. "I can trust you, right?"
Kazuo Takeba 2016-03-24 06:11:37 35616
He's not entirely sure how he manages to keep himself from moving. Except that he hurt her. Physically, once, in this life, before he knew who she was, before he found excuses over and over to find other targets. Worse than physically, over and over again. So. Let her set the pace, for a while, and let him be grateful for the chances she chooses to give him.

He follows her, not as quickly as she moves; and when she glances back, she can see him more clearly. He's lifted one hand, and the moonlight and cityglow glitter off a faintly reflective band about his wrist. It's not styled quite like the girls' communicators, though not that different; the quartered-circle symbol of Earth stands where the planetary sigil would.

He's almost smiling. Almost.

"I'm not an unbiased judge," he answers her. "But if you can't, you can always find me to deal with it."

There are only five words in those sentences that are really important.
Minako Aino 2016-03-24 06:23:37 35618
You can always find me.

Maybe that could be enough.

He didn't quite smile, and neither did she. It was really only their shadows that touched.

If only a kiss could be so tender and sweet.

And so she vanished into the night, on a mission to find her way back to him. There were a lot of people she had to meet along the way.