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Moonlight Confessions

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“More blanket?”

“Uh, no. Thanks. I’m fine.”

It was only at Michiru’s disappointed look that Haruka realised she’d inadvertently turned down more than the offer of an extra share of blanket. She tapped a couple of fingers against the smooth wood of the surprisingly comfortable tree branch in which she was currently sitting with her senshi partner, but she couldn’t think of a way to remedy the mistake.

If she changed her mind and said yes after saying no, wouldn’t the reason be obvious? It wasn’t like it had gotten any colder in the last few seconds. Truthfully, in her senshi form, Haruka could have comfortably gone without a blanket altogether, but Michiru had produced it about an hour ago and offered its fluffy warmth, suddenly giving the dreary night watch a charged sense of intimacy that was almost like a…

…What, a date?

Inwardly, Haruka rolled her eyes. Why would Michiru try to turn senshi duty sessions into dates instead of just asking her out? Well, there had been that cruise-along-the-beach-in-your-car comment, which Haruka had yet to respond to, so…

Perhaps it made some kind of sense after all.

She awkwardly cleared her throat. “Neptune, I was thinking—”

Just feeling Michiru’s curious eyes on her was enough to bring her to a nervous, stumbling halt.

Haruka might flirt – she might do it more than most – but when she did, she never gave anything of herself away. She never let even a chink show in her emotional armour. Flirting was a distraction, a game, one she could only keep winning as long as she never actually fell for someone.

And here was Michiru, who had shielded her, bled for her, broken down in Haruka’s arms under the weight of the mammoth task she’d taken alone on her slender shoulders. In those moments of pain Michiru had bared herself completely, in a way she probably never intended, and that meant any response Haruka made had to be in kind.

If Michiru thought she was only playing with her heart, there’d be no faster way to lose her.

“What were you thinking?” asked Michiru softly.

The breeze rustled, carrying Michiru’s scent, and Haruka didn’t even know how it was possible for someone to smell so good. There was a nostalgic pain in her heart she barely understood that made her want to reach for Michiru and hold her and never let her go.

Clamping down on the strange emotion, Haruka tided away one of Michiru’s errant curls that was being teased by the wind.

“I was thinking…I misjudged you when I said you wouldn’t even be able to kill a bug. I’m sorry.”

Michiru gave her a tentative smile, but there was unhappiness in her eyes. “That’s what you admire about me? My ability to kill things?”

“What I meant, was that I thought you were weak. And you’re very far from being weak.”

“Well, thank you.” The response was polite rather than heartfelt. Michiru hardly needed Haruka to tell her something she already knew about herself.

I dreamed of you last night. Haruka watched Michiru from the corner of her eye, wandering if she dared to speak the words out loud. I dreamed of kissing you. I dreamed of touching you. I dreamed of your breath on my skin. I dreamed of your fingers—

Well, Haruka’s confession should probably stop before she got that far.

She turned her head to look at Michiru properly. She had the blanket over her knees, her hands visible and folded neatly in her lap. When Haruka had watched Michiru play, she’d been arrested by her fingers. Talented agile fingers that flew across the strings of her violin and could probably—

Yes. The confession should stop well before that point.

“I’m sorry, Uranus. Looks like the enemy isn’t going to show tonight. I dragged you out for nothing.”

“Mich—I mean…Neptune. Don’t be sorry. I’d never turn down spending a night with you.”

Despite knowing she shouldn’t do it, Haruka couldn’t help herself. She dropped her tone to an intimate husk and flashed hooded eyes at Michiru; gave her the burning edge of a smile. Flirting was easy when she didn’t mean it, when she had no investment in the outcome, and while neither of those things were true here, it was easier to retreat into her old form and pretend this was just like all the other times. Somehow it made the whole thing feel less dangerous.

Michiru didn’t take the bait. She gave Haruka a distant look that verged on being cold.

“Since we’re done here, perhaps I could take my blanket back?”

Haruka felt her cheeks heat at the rebuff, even though she knew it was no better than she deserved.

“Sure.”

Cold night air flowed around Haruka’s body as she handed her half of the blanket back. Michiru rolled it up neatly and leaped down to the ground, de-transforming once she got there, being sure to stay in the tree’s shadow.

Haruka followed her.

The walk back to the nearest road was completed in silence.

Haruka’s motorbike was parked where she’d left it. She wasn’t sure how Michiru had gotten here; she assumed a taxi or perhaps the local line. Unless she’d come here in her senshi form.

“Um.” With a wave of her hand, Haruka indicated her bike. “Can I give you a lift home?”

“No thank you,” said Michiru primly. She was angry or hurt or offended, or some combination of all three. It was difficult for Haruka to guess exactly which; she didn’t know Michiru well enough to read her finer emotional nuances.

Haruka frowned. “What are you going to do then? Walk?”

“I’m sure a taxi will come along sooner or later.”

They both stared at the deserted road. “There won’t be taxis around out here, it’s too far from where they’d be likely to get any work.”

Michiru lifted her shoulder in a half shrug and took a few steps along the pedestrian pavement, as if she really did plan to walk all the way back.

“Hey, wait,” said Haruka, catching her arm. “I have a spare helmet. Let me take you home. I can’t leave you like this.”

“You think I can’t defend myself?” Michiru’s eyes flashed icily at Haruka.

“It’s not people I’m worried about. What if something else came?”

That gave Michiru pause. Haruka pushed her advantage. “You said…You’d like to go driving in my car, right? And, okay, this isn’t my car, but it’s a start, isn’t it?”

She realised she was still holding onto Michiru’s arm and let go. Being rude wasn’t going to help.

Michiru let her eyes wander over the machine. “I’ve never been on a motorbike before,” she admitted.

“All you have to do is hold onto me.”

Haruka was careful not to allow her voice to slide into flirtation mode and kept the words as neutral as possible. Her voice shook imperceptibly though. She couldn’t help it, as she thought of having Michiru’s arms around her waist, Michiru’s warmth pressed against her.

She swallowed hard. Michiru was regarding her with a tilted head and guarded eyes. It was impossible for Haruka to tell what she was thinking. Breaking eye contact, Haruka looked at the ground, feeling like she was about to start trembling.

“Okay,” she heard Michiru say softly. The fluffy blanket was thrust into her line of vision. “But can you fit this somewhere?”

“Oh yeah,” said Haruka in relief. “That’s easy.”

Looking up again, Haruka gave Michiru a smile, a genuine smile that was light years away from the smile that had been all bluff and flirt. Her heart skipped a beat when Michiru smiled back at her.

This late, even Tokyo’s busy roads were practically deserted, and the trip was over too soon for Haruka’s liking. Haruka had given other girls rides before, but those had been nothing like this. Those girls screamed and laughed and pretended to be terrified, and Haruka played up everything they wanted. She was used to girls liking the idea of her, using her for a flirtation with rebellion. She was also always perfectly aware that none of it was real, that not one of those girls had the slightest intention or desire to step outside the safe bounds of conventional society.

The motorbike rides, the screaming, the giggling with their scandalized friends afterwards, that was all part of the game.

Playing with girls like that was a cheap way for Haruka to pretend she mattered to anyone. It was fake, she knew it was all fake, but it wasn’t like she’d ever expected to have the opportunity for anything else.

Riding with Michiru was different. She leaned into Haruka, trying to follow her body on the curves and turns, silent, yet alert, an electrifying presence at her back. Haruka felt like she and Michiru and the bike were all merging into one, flying with the wind through the quiet streets, sliding through alternating pools of darkness and florescent lights, Michiru’s arms around her highlighted every time they passed through the electric glare.

Haruka parked on the pavement outside Michiru’s apartment building and got off the bike to help her retrieve the fluffy blanket. Michiru removed the helmet and gave it back. Haruka smiled at the sight of Michiru’s flattened hair and wanted to ruffle it for her to bring back the spring in her curls but didn’t dare.

“Thank you,” said Michiru.

Her voice was still very proper, and it gave Haruka an unpleasant, anxious feeling in her chest. That bike ride had been…Erotically charged was what came to mind, at least that was how it had felt for Haruka, and she could hardly pretend she’d been completely unaffected by it. But maybe Michiru hadn’t felt that at all. Or maybe she had, and hated it.

Michiru nodded to Haruka. “Goodnight. Get home safely. I’m sure we’ll meet up again soon.”

“Michiru—” Haruka began, not sure what she intended to say.

Michiru whirled back around. “Haruka—Unless you’re going to give me something solid, I don’t want anything from you at all!”

The sharpness of her tone stunned Haruka into silence.

With a sigh, Michiru visibly forced herself to relax, and went on in a more reasonable tone, “I’m sorry. This whole situation is my fault. I never should have told you everything I did at the garage. It wasn’t fair of me to put my feelings onto you like that. It’s been three weeks since then, and you haven’t said anything at all about it, until tonight.” She tensed again, probably not aware she was doing it. “And I’m guessing the only reason you finally said something was because you felt like you had to. You felt like you had to offer me something because I wanted it. But that’s the last thing I want, Haruka.” She gave Haruka an unflinching stare. “I can deal with it if you don’t like me, but I won’t be treated like one of your throwaway girls. Keep that behavior to yourself from now on.”

“Michiru wait.” Haruka grasped Michiru’s hand as she turned away, well aware she was far beyond proprietary and not caring, because there was no way she could let Michiru go right now and risk losing her forever. “Is this about the bike ride? You think that was me…Playing some kind of game? Don’t you understand that you’re the only person I’ve ever offered anything real to, and it terrifies me?”

She saw Michiru’s eyes go wide with shock.

Haruka ploughed on, not daring to stop in case she never had the courage to start again. “You’re right. With everyone else, I put up walls. I choose meaningless flirtations so I don’t get hurt. But I know I can’t do that with you. I know you wouldn’t accept so little from me, when you’ve given me so much.” Deliberately stepping into Michiru’s personal space, she looked down at her, willing every ounce of sincerity she had into her eyes. “I felt something with you just now, riding through the city, and I don’t want to be the only one who felt it. But maybe…It wasn’t enough for you, or you thought it was meaningless, or you didn’t like it, or—”

Michiru’s grip on her hand suddenly tightened. “You weren’t the only one who felt something, Haruka. I felt it too.”

They stared at each other for a moment in silence.

“I,” said Michiru. “I’m sorry. I didn’t trust what you were offering…”

“It’s fine,” said Haruka. “It’s not like I’ve been upfront with you. You had no reason to trust me.” She let go of Michiru’s hand and caressed her arm. “But I still…Need some time to finish adjusting to all this. I’ve only known you for a few weeks. I’ve only just accepted that I’m a senshi. I keep having all these feelings and memories that don’t even make sense. I don’t understand half the time why I respond to things the way I do. Sometimes I feel like I’m on the edge of remembering a million things I’ve forgotten, and then other times I’m not even sure if I want the memories back. No matter who I was before, this is my life now, and I’m not going to just let her take everything away from me.”

“Her?”

“Uranus. Isn’t that who I used to be?”

Considering all the things Haruka had to worry about now – monsters and talismans and making sure Michiru didn’t die – agonizing over how much Michiru remembered of this other her who had lived a long time ago, and whether it was really Haruka Michiru wanted, or the Uranus she used to be, took up an inordinate number of hours during Haruka’s many sleepless nights.

And then she would think it ridiculous that she was getting jealous of some other version of herself that had lived a thousand years ago in a past life she couldn’t remember.

Haruka hadn’t even meant to bring up this topic at all, however obliquely. She wasn’t sure she wanted to know the answers to any of these questions, and from the way Michiru was looking at her, Haruka thought she probably guessed too accurately for comfort just what Haruka’s grievance with Uranus was.

“I know it’s confusing,” Michiru whispered. “It was for me too. But you’re not going to disappear Haruka. You’re still you. What’s important is the present, the things in front of us now, not the past.”

Hearing Michiru say that lifted a weight off Haruka’s heart, and she smiled. “I’m glad to hear it, Michiru.” Briefly, she brushed her fingers over Michiru’s cheek, wanting the touch to last longer, but not brave enough to do that yet.

“I should really go home. Be sure to get some sleep tonight, okay?”

Michiru nodded. “You too.”

Reluctantly, Haruka moved away from Michiru and mounted her bike. She picked up her helmet but didn’t put it on. “Hey Michiru.” At Michiru’s enquiring look, Haruka gave her a grin, similar to all those other flirtatious grins she’d thoughtlessly tossed to her fans, but different because she meant it, because she’d never had this warm feeling in her heart before. “Let’s go to the beach next time in my car. That’s what you wanted to do, isn’t it?”

“As long as that’s what you want to do.”

“Mmm. It’ll be fun. And much more convenient with the car.”

“C-convenient? For what?”

From the way Michiru spoke, she clearly had trouble believing she’d heard right, that Haruka had put the inflection on the words that she did.

Haruka shrugged deliberately. “Whatever we want to do.”

She gave Michiru a final smile, soft, even shy, and then, before Michiru could see how hard she was blushing, Haruka snapped the helmet down over her head. With a wave she sped off, and watched Michiru in the rearview mirror, standing in a shaft of moonlight, still holding the blanket with a smile beginning to light up her eyes.