Disclaimers: SM doesn’t belong to me. Rights reserved to Naoko Takeuchi. And…whatever else I need to put here…. =\
Ami kept busy at the kitchen, maneuvering around Usagi and Rei, rushing back and forth while doing a balancing act with a large bowl, dishes and utensils all at once. It was Makoto’s twenty-first birthday and they wanted to prepare something special for her. But they decided on something simple, like a dinner after a hard day’s of work. She sighed…remembering the thought of Usagi and the fact that they can always count on Usagi to make simple more complex in its simplicities, which all but ruined Ami’s plan for a late candle light dinner alone with Makoto in her apartment. Ami jumped at a sudden crash and rushed to the living room only to see Usagi sprawled on the floor with a bashful grin on her face, knowing she had pulled off a trick of clumsiness she had not performed since high school. Shaking her head as she smiled, Ami set down the objects in her hands and proffered a hand to help Usagi up.
“Usagi, you never cease to amaze me.”
In response, the blond grunted and smirked. “Only in some ways right?”
“More or less.” Ami’s face cracked into a smile as she followed Usagi back into the kitchen.
“This will be awesome, Ami. I can’t wait to see Mako-chan’s reaction to this!”
Ami nodded and let herself drift back into her own thoughts. A smile played secretly on her lips as she thought of the role Makoto had played in her life the past couple of months, from heartbreak to headaches over worries and to happiness from love. And truth be told, she would not change one moment, she would not have it any other way because each had made her stronger and better prepared…for anything. Ami found herself basking in her newly discovered feelings. Who would have known that love can make people feel so light, and content…and loved? Loved, not just by her mother and her friends, but also by Kino Makoto. She smiled.
Everything was perfect: the cake, the food, the tables, the setting, the music, the lighting, the night, the stars and the moon…everything. The air was chill with soft tendril of wind and the night was quiet, almost holding its breath in anticipation of Makoto’s return from work.
They were congregated in Makoto’s living room, chatting quietly with each other and of course with several sporadic outbursts from Usagi and Rei. The room fell to a silent hush when footsteps were heard approaching the door. Keys jingled as they quietly rushed to their positions behind the couch. The doorknob turned, achingly slow and tired, the door opened and there was a long pause before the lights flickered on. They provided a dim ambiance to the room with a low hum. At the same time, Usagi, Rei and Ami jumped up screaming, “Surprise!” and “Happy Birthday!” Rei snapped a picture of Makoto’s wordless, wide-eyed face as a smile formed and her bags dropped to the ground.
“And here I was hoping to have a quiet evening to myself.” She picked up her things and walked further into her apartment, setting her bags at their usual place near the couch. She glanced at Ami, who smiled back at her. “So…how’d you guys manage to break into my house?”
Ami glanced away and Makoto could have sworn seeing a blush crawl up Ami’s face. Usagi giggled nervously and looked at Rei expectantly. Rei turned sheepishly to Makoto. “Well…”
“Actually, guys, I don’t think I want to know.” She saw Rei exhale the breath she was holding and grinned, “I’ll let you guys off the hook this time. Next time, my dog is going to bite you.”
“You have a dog?” Usagi asked, wondering why she’s never seen sign of a dog in Makoto’s immaculate apartment.
Makoto shook her head wryly, “but I can get one.” Rei glanced back at Usagi and then at Ami and Makoto.
“Right…” she said, “we’ll keep that in mind.”
“Anyway,” Ami interjected, “we have dinner ready and waiting for you, and despite several fouled up attempts, I believe the victuals to be decent for your tasting.” Usagi looked at her with an upraised eyebrow, skeptically taking in Ami’s formality as an attempt for humor. She shook it off as she announced with her stomach her desire to eat.
Ami’s heart swelled with pride when she saw Makoto’s eyes light up as soon as she saw the table set up and the food. Ami went forward to pull out a seat for Makoto as everyone else took to their seats also. She leaned closer to Makoto and whispered “happy birthday, Mako-chan” warmly into her ear.
“Wow,” Makoto breathed. “This is awesome! Thank you, all of you! I’d never thought I’d come home to have dinner ready for me.” Her face flushed crimson from either embarrassment at the attention or joy from it, she didn’t know; what did it matter? “I bet you are all hungry. Itadakimasu! Let’s eat!” Makoto grabbed her chopsticks and picked some vegetables from a dish in the center as well as some various other items and placed it on the plate in front of her. She had never felt such a great appetite open up in her; she was convinced that it was the food and the company that she shared that made her feel so hungry.
As repulsive as it may sound, but indeed true, they engorged themselves with food, drink and cheer for the next two hours. Usagi couldn’t help but notice that Ami and Makoto kept glancing at each other throughout the meal. She was happy for them but, like Luna, she couldn’t help but be a tiny bit concerned about how their relationship would affect their duty, not only to her (as selfish as it may seem) but also to others on the team. However, she had no doubt in her mind that they would do what they felt was right when the time came for it to really matter. Ami has always been the voice of reason and nobody could question Makoto’s loyalty.
Hours had passed as they sat gathered in the kitchen just talking, savoring the few moments that they are able to just sit together and chat like the world’s problems weren’t of their concern…like old times, with the exception of Minako, moments that are rare for them now. Dirty dishes, pots, and pans were ignored, sitting by their lonesome on the dinner table and stove.
Rei with Usagi when Mamoru rang Makoto’s doorbell not too long after the midnight bell had struck. Mamoru, ever so chivalrous, offered Rei a ride home. Rei yawned, surprised at the growing lateness of the hour and congratulated Makoto on her birthday and surviving another year of boredom “without monsters between dates” so to speak. Makoto smiled after them and watched them until they disappeared down the corner of the street.
“I only survived because of you,” she whispered to the Ami as she neared Makoto. “They don’t know half of it…” Makoto smirked. Ami blushed at Makoto’s confession. She suddenly smiled and took both of Makoto’s hands into hers and slowly pulled the puzzled birthday girl into the living room. A wide grin formed on Makoto’s face as she took in the cozy lighting and the small table set in the center of the room. Table for two, two glasses of sparkling apple cider, a bottle chilling in an iced bucket, and two plates of what seems to chocolate mousse cakes. Soft music was playing in the background.
Ami led Makoto to a chair and pulled it aside for her. While Makoto was left to wonder how Ami had managed to set this all up without her noticing… Ami took a seat directly across from her. Ami watched Makoto with a knowing look. Makoto would be thinking how? Makoto saw the bemused expression Ami had on her face and had to laugh at herself a little. What did it matter how Ami pulled it off! She was surprised that Ami’s rarely (never) seen romantic side had surfaced and in such an astonishing way, too!
Ami lit the floating candles that were on a dish of water sitting as the centerpiece.
“Kind of late for sweets isn’t it?” She held Ami’s gaze with her own, her smile never vanishing.
“I had this planned for us tonight…but Usagi decided on something bigger for you too…so I had well…”
“Ami,” Makoto interjected, “Thank you. You are amazing, you know that? So what do we have here tonight?” She asked while eying the desert, which look absolutely delicious…despite the late hour.
“We have two petits fondants au chocolat in a puddle of raspberry sauce, courtesy of my mother and myself, believe or not if you will, Kino-san. And sparkling apple cider, in lieu of wine.”
“Aw, no wine?”
“I don’t want you getting drunk…Even if you are old enough.”
Makoto twisted her face in mock annoyance and huffed, “Fine, fine, mother!” She crossed her arms and tried to pretend to be mad at Ami but she couldn’t hold her façade for long. It wasn’t easy getting mad at Ami, especially since her character was so genial to begin with. She could list many of Ami’s finer qualities that made it difficult for Makoto to be angry with her. She laughed. A smile formed on Ami’s face. It was one of those sights that Makoto could not forget. Ever.
Makoto sat on the edge of her window seat watch the dark, empty street below her apartment. Ami had gone home barely ten minutes ago not wanting to worry her mother but also wanting to cherish the moment alone with Makoto. Barely ten minutes and Makoto was already feeling just a bit lonely. The longer she sat there, the uneasier she became. A strange chill passed over her senses and her intuition gave off alarms in her mind. It felt like she was being watched, that invisible eyes were stripping her down to her soul and picking out intimate details of her life as she sat there, helpless to stop the feeling and unwilling to move from her spot. She would not kneel down to this paranoia, no matter how intimidated she was because of it. Her eyes carefully searched the surroundings, once in a while her heart pounded with fright at a shadow, but otherwise she found nothing.
She closed her eyes as she felt a headache beginning to pound its way through her head. Slowly, it was drilling right through her skull from all directions as movements suddenly brought sharp, radiating pain.
Makoto couldn’t tolerate it. It was pounding and pounding, a steady pounding from behind her eyes to the back of her head. And suddenly, it was gone; suddenly, she was asleep.
Red. All around, red. Deep, thick scarlet red. She was standing in a field of red. All she could see for miles was red. Why red? Blood. She could not breathe because she did not have to. But nonetheless, her chest felt tight and sharp pain seized her lungs and air tried to squeeze through. It hurt so much. Her eyes bore witness to a most gruesome sight. It was a painful sight to see. The landscape was barren, blackened, dead and bleeding. With every breath she was sucking away its life. She felt hers slipping slowly along with it…
‘Soldier of Protection…rise!’
Makoto awoke with a gasp. She shivered uncontrollably and her skin was layered with sweat. She greedily gulped in oxygen and looked around her, taking notice of familiar surroundings. She was still curled up on her window seat. Her neck was sore and her legs were numb from staying in one position for so long. Her thought processes ground to a halt as she realized something else. It was daylight. Her doorbell was ringing. Glancing at the clock, she realized that it was already mid-morning.
Makoto slowly made her way to the door. But before opening it, she warily glanced through the eyehole to see who was at the door. Seeing that it was Ami, she hurriedly opened the door. Ami had her hand raised and was just about to knock, or rather, pound on the door again. Relief evidently washed over Ami’s face as the door opened only to replaced by concern again when she saw Makoto’s pallor and overall haggard look.
“Makoto…” She took Makoto’s hand and led to her to the bedroom where she sat Makoto onto her bed. “What’s wrong?”
She shook her head. “Nothing…just a bad nightmare. Don’t worry about it, Ami.”
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“No, not really…”
“I’ve been ringing your doorbell for the past few minutes. I was getting worried, Mako-chan…Are you sure that you’re okay?” Makoto nodded.
“Ami, I’m fine. Don’t worry about it. It’s just a nightmare. Everybody gets nightmares, Ami…” Makoto glanced warily into Ami’s face and just as she was about to speak, Makoto interjected, “So why are you here?” The question came out more harshly than Makoto had intended.
“Nothing…I just wanted to see you. I brought lunch, just in case you were hungry.” Ami’s gestures and voice was timid and Makoto began to feel contrite and looked away, ducking her head.
“Sorry, Ami,” Makoto only managed a curt apology.
Ami was worried. Again. Makoto’s behavior continued to confuse her. She suddenly felt the need to get away for a moment. Maybe Makoto needed to be alone right now. “Mako-chan, you can always come to me if you need anything or if you would like to talk about something. My door is always open to you… so I guess I will see you later then.”
Ami walked away, disheartened and also angry.
Makoto felt guilty. She had wanted to call Ami back, but…
22 November 2003
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