Usagi glanced around at all the people staring at her, her face growing steadily paler with each less than receptive pair of eyes she met. For a a split second, her face winced tight as if in pain, then it abruptly cleared. "Why don't I let you guys discuss this among yourselves?" she asked too calmly. "I'll be waiting at the apartment." With that, she took off running.
"Bunny!" Duo called.
"Usagi-san!" Hotaru yelled only a second later. Both started after her, Hotaru detransforming as she went.
Setsuna frowned, staring after them. "I'd hoped she'd was better recovered than this. She -" The green-haired woman paused. "She. . . went back to the apartment. . . Duo and Hotaru are going to be locked out."
"Do you have another key?" Haruka asked.
"Hai, but I'd never be able to catch up. She's -"
"I'll take it," Heero stated briefly, interrupting her. It wasn't quite an order, but it also wasn't quite an offer either.
"Arigatoo, Heero-san," she replied, tossing the small piece of metal to him. Wordlessly, he turned and headed in the direction the other three had gone. With a sigh, she turned back to the others and as pleasantly as she could, said, "Well, let's get back on our way, shall we?"
~ * ~ * ~
When Heero caught up, it was in the hallway outside the apartment. Duo and the dark-haired girl, Hotaru, were outside the door along with a much older man, who was apparently one of the neighbors. The noise could be heard from where he stood at the other end of the hall: both a television and a radio blaring from inside the apartment.
As he got closer, he was able to pick apart what the old man was saying, that Duo was apparently ignoring as he tried to pick the lock. "Please, Maxwell-kun, get her to turn that television off! It's too loud!" The girl rolled her eyes. "And now it's on fire too!"
In alarm, Heero glanced to the door and surely enough, smoke was starting to slip out from under it. "Duo," he stated. The long-haired young man looked up at him. "Key." He tossed it to him.
Duo caught it and quickly unlocked and opened the door, rushing in it, right past the still-blaring TV, and into the kitchen.. Hotaru was hot on his heels, but she stopped at the television, cutting it back down to tolerable levels. Heero entered last, shutting the door in the old man's face and taking a seat beside Hotaru on the small sofa.
It was a sad sight that greeted Duo in the kitchen. True enough, that was where Usagi was, though. The small, antique radio she'd acquired who knew where was loudly playing a CD she'd borrowed from him; the song playing was "Girl" . Usagi sat on the floor, looking as though she'd just collapsed there. She wasn't crying, but she did appear rather grief-stricken. The smoke was coming from a pot boiling over on the stove.
He cut the stove off and turned the stereo off then knelt beside his. . . girlfriend seemed to be the best word. She didn't even seem to notice him there. With gentle fingers, he turned her face towards his, just inches between them, and he just stared at her for a moment before finally kissing her. Her eyes blinked sharply back into focus, and she looked startled before she relaxed. "I don't give up on people that easily, Bunny," he stated.
"I. . . know. Gom-"
He put a finger to her lips. "Don't start apologizing either. Neither of us were completely honest."
"So let's be honest from here on?" she completed, a smile on her face again at last. He grinned back. "Why don't we start with your idea of 'all right' then?"
He laughed shortly and kissed her again.
~ * ~ * ~
Hotaru strained to hear what was going in the next room, without being too obvious about what she was doing, of course. The young man beside her, with the dark mop of hair, didn't even seem to care, instead settling deeper into the couch and seemingly ignoring everything but the TV, but she was curious. She'd seen Usagi with this Duo person, and she'd seen how much better she'd seemed with him than with Mamoru. She thought she could hear them speaking and leaned a bit in that direction to se if she could pick it up easier.
"They aren't talking, you know," the guy beside her said suddenly, and she nearly jumped out of her skin at the unexpectedness of it.
"You can hear in there?" He shrugged, eyes never leaving the TV. She shook her head, smiling. "I think we got off on the wrong foot. I'm Tomoe Hotaru."
A special report bulletin flashed across the screen, then a stern-faced reporter appeared. "Pop singer icon Aiko announced her retirement at a press conference in Tokyo a few moments ago, citing as her reason the sudden reappearance of an old friend."
The picture of a woman with blonde hair styled with a bow appeared on the screen as the reporter droned on; Hotaru tuned him out, whispering the name of the woman's true identity: "Aino Minako." Her companion stared at her.
"And in a related story, the famous Tokyo-based chef Kino Makoto also announced her early retirement, noting the same reason. . ."
"Both of them?" she thought aloud.
"Usagi-san's so-called friends from Tokyo?"
"Hai, Heero-san. If they've found her here, it won't be good." She paused. "It won't be pretty either."
3 December 2000
Yay! Another Act done! Okay, I think I've gotten this out of my system; maybe now I can get back to work on Gods and Other Creatures.
 Tell me if you think this isn't how the Inners
treated Usagi (for the purposes of this story):
"She's been everybody else's girl
Maybe one day she'll be her own
Everybody else's girl
Maybe one days she'll be her own"
-from "Girl", by Tori Amos