The ebbing sun cast a rich splattering of color across the sky's darkening canvas, sinking behind a line of mountains to the west. A couple watched this descent in silence from the balcony of a high-rise apartment complex, fingers twined with a myriad of emotions- from contentment to sorrow- marring both countenances. The young woman sighed, laying her odangoed head against the firm chest of her male companion. He, in turn, began carding his fingers through her strange yet flattering coiffure of golden gossamer, admiring the silvery highlights born only under fading sunlight.
"Usako..." the ebony-haired man murmured with hungry, wistful inflection. The blonde frowned, blinking rapidly up at the vibrantly hued display in front of her. Any who ever knew the girl might have surmised the act disguised a burgeoning onslaught of tears; wails and whimpers had never been a stranger to Tsukino Usagi. Yet, even the most imperceptive observer could tell the girl's eyes were free of any moisture. The evolution had been subtle; when Tsukino Usagi proclaimed she was done with always being prone to flights of puerility, it had shocked everyone. Most betted the metamorphosis would only last a few days, but Usagi surprised her friends a second time when days turned to weeks, and weeks to months. Ever since the departure of Seiya and the Star Lights, she seemed to have grown in leaps and bounds. With Luna and her Senshi's lavishing praise as motivation, Usagi focused great effort into all aspects of her life, be it school or training sessions. Many often reflected with pride that Usagi was slowly shaping into the Neo-Queen destiny had proclaimed she would emerge as in Crystal Tokyo, but at times they worried over whether they were losing their innocently naive and carefree Odango Atama in the process. To their hidden fears, Usagi would just smile in that knowing way of hers, then proceed to complain of studying and sundae urges until all were assured everything was right in the world- Tsukino Usagi would always be Tsukino Usagi, no matter how many new titles she donned.
Today, however, it appeared Usagi was practicing her newfound maturity to the fullest extent, as she was refraining from her typical dissolution into sobs in favor of quietly stoic acceptance. Still, a modicum of grief seeped into the teen's mournful,
"Mamo-chan, is this really it? Our last night together?"
Mamoru placed his chin atop the crown of his freshly seventeen-year-old girlfriend's head.
"The new semester snuck up on us quickly, didn't it? I wish... Usako, I wish..."
"What, Mamo-chan?" Usagi prompted, pulling away from the safety of his warm grasp to gaze fervently up at him. She tried futilely to decipher the new expression on his face. Mamoru looked down at the small woman staring up at him interestedly, pain in his features.
"Sometimes... sometimes, I wish I wasn't following through with Harvard. America is so far, Usako. I already missed a year with you. I don't want to miss another. I'm not sure I want to do this anymore," he confessed, and suddenly the blonde before him came to life with righteous anger.
"Mamo-chan," Usagi said sternly, inserting her hands on her hips and bestowing an admonishing glare on him. "In the name of the moon, you will *not* slip out of an experience like Harvard on account of me!" Mamoru, taken aback, gaped. Usagi's azure eyes softened. "Besides, I'll always be here when you return. What's a year compared to eternity? This is a time for you to focus on your dream; on becoming a doctor! Who knows how much longer we have until Crystal Tokyo? Until then, I can wait. Until then, I'll study hard. I'll become the perfect wife for you, Mamo-chan. And one day, maybe I'll even be a perfect queen too."
Mamoru chuckled at the soft earnestness contained in his princess' conviction, but despite her uncommon wisdom, she truly did not understand...
"Usako," he whispered teasingly, bending down to kiss the feisty blonde, "you don't have to change. You *are* perfect."
Usagi supplied him with a quick lopsided grin, accompanied by thoroughly disbelieving eyes, just before she lost control of her lips to the raven-headed paladin. When the pair pulled back from their heated embrace, Mamoru grabbed up the seventeen-year-old's hand and plucked off the promise ring she always wore.
"Shh," he breathed, pressing a finger to Usagi's consternated mouth. "I'm a man of tradition. You'll get it back tomorrow."
Usagi pouted playfully. "Hey. I need that to hide my ring tan."
Mamoru gave a velvety laugh. "You can do without it for a day, can't you?"
"I'm going to be superficial and say 'no'," Usagi quipped, dodging his nimble hands as they shot out to tickle her, probably into submission. Unfortunately, grace was yet to manifest itself in the future monarch and the girl tripped over her own feet, tumbling precariously backward. As always, Mamoru was there to catch her.
"Oh, what am I going to do without you?" Usagi lamented, clutching the lapels of his jacket while Mamoru held her close.
"Learn the art of balance, no doubt. After all, you'll soon grow tired of acquiring bruise after bruise without a certain hot man in a tuxedo to race to your sudden fall." He meant it to be a gibe, but the prediction issued doleful and bitter. "God, I'll miss you, Usako."
Usagi made a little noise of concurrence, choking, "Don't let me go tonight. I want to spend every minute we have left in your arms."
"Your parents won't mind if you...?"
"Mama thinks I'm at Mako-chan's. It's the most convenient solution. If she tries calling, there's only Mako-chan to talk to; no equally ignorant and nosy parents who can't keep a secret to save their life."
"She'll cover for me. She knows," Usagi assured, implicit faith on her countenance. Her chest rose and fell in tempo to the desperate drumbeat within. Mamoru paused for a moment, dark midnight eyes latching onto her similarly deep oceans of cerulean. Each seemed to realize what the other was thinking, and during that instant's breath, the mood shifted and temperature escalated.
When Mamoru next moved in to claim Usagi's lips, it was with far different intentions. The blonde felt her body react in surprising ways to the change from mellow to needy, and she succumbed to the romance invited in his suddenly feral touch with open arms.
Tonight would be their farewell to trounce all farewells.
Tonight, they would seal their love with a union unsevered by any distance.
Tonight, Chiba Mamoru was going to hold Tsukino Usagi, refusing to relinquish his grip until dawn paraded in his final day in Tokyo.
To Be Continued...