DISCLAIMER: Relatively standard stuff. Existing characters are properties of the people who made them up. Mitsuki, and several other characters are mine, and so's the story, hence ownership and copyright of them belongs to me. Contact me at domino@linksnet.nu if you want permission to use anything I've written for whatnot purposes.

 

TRUTH

by

Raymond Cooper

Chapter 12

** No Need For Usagi! **

 

Nighttime, several hours later.

"Usagi..." And he sighed, trailing kisses up Usagi's clothed back.

"Mamoru - what are you - hehehe - doing - hehehe - ?" Usagi rolled over, still giggling. Her boyfriend was snuggled up against her, naked.

"Why are you dressed?"

"Well, you know," Usagi said, with a frown, "I didn't want to presume, you know? You're only here for a few days. I thought you might like to talk." Not that Usagi wanted Mamoru talking... she wanted him tearing off her clothes and throwing caution - and the non-soundproofed walls - to the wind. That'd show Rei that, unlike her, *someone* was getting the real thing in this place.

"You sure?"

Usagi shook her head. "Convince me otherwise."

"Sounds like too much hard work," Mamoru smiled easily, and propped himself up on his elbows. "So, let's talk. How's university going?"

"Hang on," Usagi frowned again. "Strip me off. Make mad passionate love to me. With me!"

Mamoru shook his head. "No... I just want to talk. That *was* what I came up here to do... Just think - three days in which to catch up on everything! And nothing physical at all to get in the way! It's gonna be great super neato fantastic -"

******

"AAAAAARRRRRRGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!"

Usagi sat bolt upright in bed. Mamoru, naked beside her own naked body, jerked into wakefulness. "What?" he mumbled. "Not again... you've already tired me out." He collapsed back to the futon, and started snoring again.

Usagi looked down at him, and yeah. Yeah, now she could remember. That had been a dream... they'd been at it for a couple of hours before exhaustion had claimed them both. So just a dream. She could sleep happy now. Usagi dropped back onto the bed, smiled, and fell asleep instantly.

******

The next morning saw Mamoru wake long before Usagi. He smiled down at her prone form, sprawled, shameless in her sleeping poses. He dressed in a robe, and took a quick shower down the corridor at the nearest of the communal bathrooms - weird that Usagi picked a room without a bathroom, he thought. But that was her. Weird. He smiled, as he walked back into the room, and picked out his clothes for the day while his girlfriend slept the sleep of the dead.

He donned the clothing, and headed downstairs. He could hear something from out the front of the dorm, and was interested in seeing what others were doing up just after dawn. Mamoru hadn't really thought either of the new people he'd met the night before were the kind of people to be up at dawn - and of the senshi he did know, maybe only Rei would be up, for meditating.

Mamoru opened the front door, and was greeted by the sight of Rei and Mitsuki battling with wooden bokken. He moved to step in between them, find out what was going on - then realised both were in martial arts-styled training gi's. Hmm. Training? He glanced over to a collection of rocks on the edge of the dorm's plateau, and nodded... training. Ranma and Hotaru were watching, also wearing training gi's. Ranma was asking Hotaru questions occasionally, nodding and pointing at the two women fighting back and forth. Hotaru was answering. So Ranma was the teacher? Mamoru's respect of him jumped up a notch - Usagi hadn't said anything about this, just that he liked to fight. Mamoru had been prepared for a violent drunken brute, from all he had been told.

Not that he expected Usagi to tell him anything different. Knowing her, she probably saw Ranma as competition for their own relationship.

Especially if any of the senshi had fallen for him. Usagi would really be jealous then. Mamoru suppressed a grin - Usagi's friends were only allowed to fall for her boyfriend - himself - so she could feel superior. Considering she was such a klutz, it was something people had long-since forgiven her for.

He stood back and watched as Ranma called time for the match, and the two women stopped, lowered their bokken, and bowed. Then they turned to Ranma, bowed again. Ranma stood up. "That's it for this morning, girls. You've got to get ready for classes."

"Yes, sensei," the three girls chimed, bowing again (Hotaru joining in this time, Mamoru noted) before Mitsuki and Rei headed inside. Hotaru stayed with Ranma, and they exchanged some quiet words and a smile. Then she turned and headed inside as well, very happy. Ranma walked around, picking up practise gear and holding it under an arm.

Mamoru pushed off from the wall and walked out towards the other young man. "Ranma!" he called on his way over.

Ranma looked up from the equipment. "Oh, hi. Mamoru, wasn't it?" Mamoru nodded. "Nice to see you don't share Usagi's habits. She'll be late for her classes this morning again, I bet."

"She always is," Mamoru agreed. "Although she was getting better before the end of school."

Ranma shook his head. "I wouldn't know. I've only seen her here." He paused, and started checking over the condition of the equipment that had been used that morning, running fingers lightly over them to check for defects, splinters, weaknesses. On one bokken, he found a small dent that had raised a couple of splintered pieces of wood, but he removed the sharp bits, and smoothed the dent out with a callus on his thumb. "But the others tell me she's doing well at her studies."

"You're not at university, Ranma? Usagi says you finished high school last year as well."

Nodding, Ranma looked a little rueful. "I, uh, have to work to pay off a debt. I'm not smart enough for university anyway... I missed out on a lot of school when I was growing up." That wasn't quite true; Ranma was very smart - and could likely have made it through several courses... if they focussed on things he knew about, like physical education, or anything relating to martial arts. The problem was, missing out on the school work he had meant his grasp of mathematics was a little limited. At least he could read, he consoled himself when he thought of missed opportunities. Rounding out these problems was the fact that Ranma had a limited attention span as he grew up - as he got older, his attention span lengthened, but even two years ago, he couldn't focus enough on things that weren't to do with martial arts - a legacy of ten years of a training trip.

"I'm sure you could find something." Mamoru nodded encouragingly. Ranma didn't seem to be particularly dull. And if Hotaru liked him, well, that *had* to mean something good. "But what's the debt? If you don't mind me asking."

So Ranma recounted the story of his father, attempting to teach Ranma some new tricks. How it had backfired dramatically. And how his father had blamed him for the damage caused. How Ranma had been told to earn the money for repairs, to take responsibility for his actions. How he had gotten the job in the first place, and how long it would take him to save the money up.

"Would you return to Nerima when you've got that money, though?" Mamoru pressed.

Ranma shook his head. "Not a chance. Not at the moment, anyway. Nabiki - my ex-fiance's middle sister - is probably stirring up trouble for me back there. I think I might be safe here," Mamoru noted Ranma didn't look like he believed that, "but Nerima is going to be hot. Too hot."

Ah. That made sense. Mamoru went to ask more, but the doors opened again, and Makoto poked her head out. "Breakfast, Ranma! Oh, hi, Mamoru." She smiled at both, then ducked back inside to supervise the kitchen.

Mamoru glanced at Ranma. "You let her cook?"

Ranma shrugged. "Hey, she's better than me. And remind me to dig you up some of the biscuits Akane sent with me before you go..."

******

The technogeek wandered the corridors of her school, monochrome VR glasses wrapped around her head, earphones over her ears, a dataglove on her right hand as she navigated both the halls of her high school and the caverns of the catacomb Tenketha. She bumped into someone, surprising her - no one else was supposed to be in school this early.

Natsumi raised the VR headset, and looked up... the bulk of her real life nemesis stood before her, arms crossed. He didn't look happy. In fact, he glared down at her. "Otohime. You're late with your... protection money." He slammed a meaty fist into his palm for emphasis.

Once upon a time, Natsumi Otohime was cowed by this teenage boy. But not now. She peered down one direction of the hall. Then peered down the other direction of the hall. Then she turned back to the bully. She was supposed to keep her power down for a few days... until she was stronger... but this would be no big threat, no big blast of power.

And smiled cruelly.

******

A scream echoed down the halls of the school, quickly cut off.

******

In a video game parlour, on the other side of town, some early-rising schoolkids were already pouring hard-earned yen into machines. Two were busy playing the new fighting game, Token Battle.

The first selected Anya, the succubus with the huge bare breasts, skimpy loincloth and huge wings. She scowled out of the screen. The second picked Vlad, a tall, thin vampire. He bowed politely at the screen and doffed a tophat. "All right! Finally!" the first kid yelled. The screen showed the arena they would be fighting in, and gave a quick voice over about each of the characters, with flashcards showing an image of them and their strengths and weaknesses.

Ryogi pulled a face. "Hurry up already!" And then the game went to the match screen. On the right-hand side of the screen was Vlad. But on the left...? There was a teenage boy, in the school uniform the two players wore. They vaguely recognised the face of someone in a higher year level than themselves, and that he was rather agressive, but nothing more than that. The first kid, Hiroshi, booed. "I want my Anya with the big," and he made appropriate hand motions. Two girls watching gave looks of digust, and left.

"FIGHT!" the machine announced. And both boys leapt to their joysticks and buttons. Vlad approached the player listed as Bully under his health bar, spread his arms, and jumped at Bully. Bully swung his briefcase up, smacking the vampire in the jaw. But Vlad ignored the hit - marginal health loss - and made an evisceration attack with both hands, depleting the health bar of Bully to zero. The screams from Bully sounded eerily realistic. Then, in a victory move, Vlad dropped down and fastened his fangs onto Bully's neck, and began to drink.

Ryogi cheered. Hiroshi grumped.

******

Breakfast time. Even Usagi was awake now, tying her hair back in its usual twin ponytails with one hand while eating toast with the other. Mamoru watched with amusement.

Rei had taken her time, but was finishing up now, and was already cleaned and dressed for her day. She looked tense. Ranma was taking his time, chatting with Hotaru and Makoto (both of whom were eating the last of their bowl of rice and vegetables) before they left. Mitsuki had long-since finished, and was staring off into space, sighing every so often. Ami ate toast without thought, gazing at her laptop's screen, smiling. Minako danced into the room happily, and picked up an apple.

"I'm in love!" she announced.

"You're always in love," Makoto returned.

"But this time it's special!" Minako continued. "This boy on the tv, he's so cuuuuute! The cuuuutest thing you've ever seen!"

Which let Ranma off the hook nicely, and he knew it. Thankfully, Minako had long ago stopped chasing him. Well, it seemed to be a while ago. Ranma wasn't really sure, as he hadn't been paying attention to that, and had been trying to work out his feelings for Akane while repressing his recent feelings for Hotaru.

Minako danced out of the room, and Hotaru looked up with sorrow at Ranma. "Sempai? I've got to leave now." Ranma nodded, and they both stood and walked out. Makoto followed, chatting away with both still as they walked out the door. Ranma poked his head back in a moment later.

"Leave everything out, I'll fix it up when I get back." And he was gone again.

Mamoru looked over at the door. "Where's he going?"

Usagi slurped down a drink and burped. "He carried Hotaru up and down the stairs."

"Want me to come with you today?"

Usagi shook her head. "Thanks, but not today. Tomorrow? I've got a stupid test today." Mamoru nodded, and Usagi kissed his forehead. He caught her, and gave her a decent goodbye kiss. "Wow. That's been a while."

Mamoru grinned, and nodded. "That's true. See you this afternoon, then." Usagi nodded as well, and was gone.

Rei finished, took her plates up to the sink, and rinsed them out, before turning and leaving herself, after saying goodbye to Mamoru.

That left Ami, who was still gazing intently at her laptop's screen.

"Good email?" Mamoru asked.

Ami nodded. "From my... boyfriend. He's talking about what we'll be doing this afternoon." Ami smiled. "He's so funny!"

"And he's making you late."

She looked up. "What? Late? Are you -" She caught sight of a clock. "Oh dear! I'd best be going now, bye Mamoru, see you tonight, maybe, or tomorrow night, or something!" Her hand rested briefly on his shoulder as she flew past him and out into the front lounge. The front door echoed with a slam, then all was silent.

Mamoru stood, and walked around the entire dorm. It was large, spacious, and had its own hot springs out the back. In addition to that, a number of the rooms had their own bathrooms. He couldn't figure out why Usagi's room didn't have one - or rather, why Usagi picked a room without one - and when Ranma arrived back, Mamoru asked him.

"We kept having problems with the plumping," Ranma explained. "So we moved her until I can rip everything out in her original room, and fix it right, then put it back. She'll be back in there in a week or two. I should be finished by then." He started on the dishes, and when Mamoru picked up a towel to dry them off, he shook his head. "Part of the service, my man. Although Makoto likes to cook more than I do."

Grinning, Mamoru refused to put the tea towel away, and began drying. "Least I can do for the guy who's currently supporting Usagi."

Ranma snorted, with a grin of his own. "Don't you mean, putting up with her?"

Mamoru's grin grew wider. "I'll have you know, she's actually a very sweet girl, who likes nothing but the best for her friends. She's kind, compassionate, gentle..."

"Didn't sound so gentle last night." Ranma shrugged. "But she is a nice girl. If a little opinionated."

"It's something one learns to live with," Mamoru replied. "Although I think it helps we were together in a past life..." Whoops. Too much there.

Ranma looked over. He looked surprised. "So, you believe in past lives and stuff?" he asked.

"Yeah, I do," Mamoru nodded. "Uh, I've got direct experience."

"Ahhh..."

"But I'm surprised you believe it. At least, it sounds like you do."

Ranma smirked. "I've been around. I've seen some weird things. Time-traveling mirrors. Phoenixes. You name it."

"How about women in fukus fighting evil?" Mamoru asked, only half-serious.

"Been there, done that," Ranma replied.

"Really?"

Oh dear, Ranma thought. Only one of them knew that he had been involved in fights with them for certain. Well, there was that time in the restaurant Hotaru had told him about... so he told Mamoru about that.

******

Tokyo University.

The grounds stretched out around Ami and Keitaro as they sat and ate lunch. Both were fairly quiet, studying from textbooks hard as they could. Every so often, Keitaro would say something, and Ami would reply, laugh lightly, and go back to her studies. She felt Keitaro needed the help with his studying (apparently, his home life wasn't too quiet) and so lunch times became a study session for them both.

This morning, he had a bruise around an eye. He did his best to keep it turned away from Ami, but she still wondered how he got it. He'd gotten embarrassed and nervous when she originally asked, and had laughed it off as a bruise from walking into a door.

Ami had noted a number of bruises from time to time, but this was the most promiment one.

There were footsteps behind them, and then a shadow fell over them. "So, this is who you're sleeping with now," a woman's voice said.

Ami turned. "Excuse me?"

Keitaro froze up, and his head clicked around slowly and cranked back to look up. "N-N-N-Narusegawa!"

"*This* soon after we broke up! Disgusting!" And she hauled him to his feet. "What do you have to say for yourself? Eh? Why did we break up? Eh? Because *you* wanted someone else!" She belted him with a fist, then turned and stalked off.

Keitaro crashed to the ground a few metres away. Ami just gaped, turning her head from the departing woman to her new boyfriend. "Keitaro? Are you okay?"

He sat up, rubbing his jaw. "Yes. Yes, I think I'm okay. Ahh... that was my... ex-girlfriend."

"I noticed. What happened?"

"Um... well," he sagged, "You've seen how she is, just from that. I couldn't take that happening two, three times a day. Didn't trust me at all. There'd be accidents - what do you expect in a dormitory of six women, half of whom run around like madmen - and most would be real accidents... and she'd hit me. She just... I don't know." His eyes turned to follow Narusegawa as she stalked off the fields into the classes, and blinked slowly behind his glasses. "I still love her, Ami. I don't think I'll ever stop loving her. Which is unfair to tell you. But... I know, unless I can find a way to stop her hurting me... we could never be together. So I broke it off."

Ami nodded sympathetically. She'd heard similar things, from Ranma, and from Ranma via Hotaru. Violent spouses. Seemed to be going around in Tokyo and its outskirts these days. She drew Keitaro to her, and hugged him. He hugged back, then pulled away. "I'm sorry, Ami. I can never love you like that."

"I think you already have," Ami observed.

******

Mamoru and Ranma spent a quiet day at the Ai Sou. Ranma worked on the bathroom in Usagi's old room... and Mamoru helped out, by ferrying tools around and holding pipes for Ranma to tighten. With Mamoru, Ranma found the work went much faster.

Mamoru looked over at Ranma during one break, where they sat up against different walls with drinks of hot tea. "Is there anything between you and Hotaru?"

Ranma grew uncomfortable. "Uh... there might be. Why?"

Mamoru smiled. "She's a nice girl. You know, Usagi'll be thinking that your relationship will be competition for her. She'll start comparing you to me with Hotaru, most likely. Trying to prove she's got the best boyfriend." He chuckled.

Ranma did likewise. "Man... I could whip you in a fight. But that's about it," he conceeded.

"Maybe not," Mamoru returned with a sly grin. "But it would be fun finding out."

Ranma nodded. "So, why did you bring this up? Just as a warning?"

Mamoru shook his head. "No. Actually, I was wondering... if you and Hotaru would like to go on a double date with Usagi and I?"

The offer was tempting. Ranma stopped and thought about it, a frown on his face for a few moments while he did so. Then he smiled, and nodded to Mamoru. "That'd be great. I think Hotaru'll go for it. I'll ask her tonight."

"For tomorrow night? My last night here."

Ranma nodded. "Sounds fine." He gestured back at the bathroom. "C'mon, man, let's see if we can get this finished for Usagi before you leave." They drained their tea, placed the cups down, and went back to work, each wondering just how the double date would turn out.

 

 

SAILOR MOON SAYS:

Okay, I knew I'd stuff something up sooner or later. Hotaru is 16 in his fic, not 14 (thanks to Kpjam for pointing that out!).

The reason for Mamoru talking about Usagi the way he does? They've been going out for a while now. People do see these things after a time... and they do share, from time to time. This is just one of those times.

Next chapter: The double date. Natsumi Otohime some more, and Keitaro finds a way to defend himself against Naru... does this mean the end for Ami's newfound relationship?

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