I hope you guys enjoy this one. I know it's been awhile since I have posted anything. Let me know what couple you'd like to see next!

Featuring: Minako/Kunzite (with a few appearances by others)
Universe: Same universe that "Ghost", "Winter Wonderland" and "Rum Flavored Kisses" takes place. (This story takes place throughout them all)
Warnings/ratings: T. Does have a few curse words.


Winter

Minako tapped her coffee cup mindlessly, the gesture earning her a withering look from Rei. Minako rolled her eyes. They were all on edge, given the situation. Her anxiety felt like it was going to suffocate her, the feeling stemming from her diaphragm and running upwards to her frantic heart.

She knew the others weren't fairing much better. Makoto kept pacing since she could never sit still, her long legs making quick work of the small space they inhabited. Rei looked calm compared to Makoto, sitting at one of the chairs, but Minako knew her friend better than that. One look at the raven-haired girl and you could see the war raging in her violet eyes, her teeth making quick work of her mouth. The only one with a semblance of calm was Ami. Well, Ami and Usagi. The traitors.

Minako took a sip of her coffee mechanically, her mind racing. It'd been a week since Mamoru and Usagi had dropped their little bomb on them. They'd agreed to finally meet them. It hadn't been a unanimous vote though. Minako still wondered if it'd been the right call, voting with Usagi and Ami.

Minako glanced over at Makoto and Rei. She knew they'd be more problematic in the whole ordeal. She watched as Rei's body went rigid and her eyes moved to the door. Minako stood up, plastering on her diplomatic face as easily as one would change shoes. To the left of her, Makoto had stopped her flittering around and stood with her arms across her chest.

Mamoru came through the door first. Her eyes barely registered his form as it took in the next occupant. He looked almost as exactly as she remembered as he followed next. His tall stature dwarfed everyone currently in the room. His platinum blonde hair had been cropped short into a style she thought was called a pompadour. It suited him, just like his longer locks had.

His piercing gray eyes caught her staring and her heart gave a lurch. All her emotions seemed to crash into her all at once like a raging ocean. The pain, bitterness, and fury all mingled in with the yearning and heartbreak. One thing hadn't changed about him—his ability to unnerve her was still a thing. He stood silently next to Mamoru while the rest of the men shuffled in.


The actual meeting had gone by in a blur. Minako had gone through the motions effortlessly, the mask of leadership not once slipping. She'd been so accustomed to the role that it truly was second nature to her. There had been a few outbursts, mostly by Makoto and Rei, but it could've gone much worse.

With the meeting concluded, everyone made his or her way silently out. She turned to gather her things slowly, intending to speak with Rei once everyone had left. Her hand hovered over her beanie as she sensed a presence behind her. Her heart began to hammer against her chest as she steeled herself. She felt the easy smile slip onto her face as she turned around to face him.

"Did you need something, Kaiden?" She hoped he hadn't heard the quiver in her voice when his name escaped her lips.

"I hoped to have a word with you. In private." His cool disposition gave nothing away. Apparently that hadn't changed either.

Minako saw Rei shoot her a furtive look from the corner of her eye. If he had noticed, he feigned ignorance. But she knew he had noticed. He noticed everything. Minako wondered how much more of this she could handle. She felt like her nerves had fizzled out, leaving her with nothing but the raw emotions she'd first felt when she found out he'd returned.

"I didn't drive. I already scheduled an Uber." She was lying of course. She gave him a small, sympathetic smile, hoping he wouldn't catch on.

"That's alright, I did. I can give you a lift." He didn't miss a beat.

Minako heard Rei snort behind her. Rei threw her a look that could only mean she wouldn't be helping her out of this one.

Traitor, Minako thought. The lot of them are all traitors. She turned back to Kaiden, realizing she hadn't answered him yet.

"Oh, well, that's sweet of you, but you really don't have to." Her fingers had found their way to her hair, twisting the lemon-blonde strands as she tried not to fidget under his intense gaze.

"I insist." A ghost of a smile crossed his lips as his eyes darted to her fingers. Minako dropped her hand, hating that he knew he made her nervous.

With her chin tilted up, Minako grabbed her things and led the way out, ignoring Rei's smirking gaze.

Outside, the wind whipped against her skin, throwing her long hair around her face, the slight sting making her wince.

"I'm over there," he stated, pointing to a silver car.

Minako started walking over to it, trying to ignore the slight dread that bubbled at the pit of her stomach.

"Don't you have to cancel your ride?" He asked casually. Minako looked up at him, his piercing gray eyes pouring into her very core.

"No. I lied to you about the Uber. I needed an excuse to not have to accept the ride." Minako scrutinized his face, trying to see if she got a rise out of him. His eyes crinkled slightly, a sign that he found it humorous she had done that. He never did rise to her bait like other guys had.

They walked the rest of the way to his car in silence. Minako's mind raced with the possibilities of what he wanted to discuss. She could handle everything but the thought of having to discuss them.

"What's your address?"

A simple request, if it'd come from someone else. Minako hesitated, but knew it was futile. Regardless if she just told him how to get there or gave him the address to input in his GPS, it didn't matter. He was too observant to not have the route memorized. Another reason why she didn't want to accept this offer. She leaned over and inputted her address in his car's GPS, sighing at her predicament.

They drove in silence for a while, Minako squashing the need to fill in the void. She never much cared for silence. Finally, after feeling like her nerves were at their wits end, she caved.

"You must be doing okay for yourself, given this nice car." She mused out loud, running her hands along the meticulously clean car. Small talk she could do.

"I'm an architecture."

That didn't surprise Minako. It suited him. "A good one from the looks of it."

"I do alright. And you're an actress, right?"

Minako smiled slightly. "What, did you stalk me on the internet?" She joked.

"Yes," he said seriously.

Minako's smile slipped off her face. She shouldn't have been surprised, she knew. "Of course you did. 'Know thy enemy' crap, right?" She stated. She couldn't help the bitterness that rolled off her tongue. She watched as the space between his brows pinched slightly, the only evidence on his stoic face that she had hit a nerve. Good, she thought.

"Well, I wouldn't say that. I'm a budding actress, if that. Roles in indie films, mostly," she stated flippantly.

"You were good. In the movies. I saw some of them."

Minako let the compliment hang in the air. He had left her speechless and shocked at his honesty. She hadn't expected that from him.

"Look, Minako I know that we've had…" he paused, and Minako watched as pain flashed in his eyes for a brief second. "A complicated relationship in the past. The reason I wanted to speak with you is because, given our leadership roles, we need to set a precedent for the others. If we can't make this work-relationship work, how could we possibly ask the others to try? I know it's not fair of me to ask this of you, but it's our burden to bare, given our positions. I'm not asking for you to be my friend. Work acquaintances, if you want to call it that."

Minako felt like someone had thrown her in subzero waters and she couldn't tell which way was up. She knew he was right. Hell, she had even told the other girls as much when they had discussed this very thing. But coming from him, it just felt so final.

Not for the first time that year, Minako wished she could shirk her leadership role. Sometimes she pictured what life would have been like had Rei been chosen as lead and not second in command. She would be able to do whatever she wanted without having to consider the other girls and consequences. She craved that alternative reality at times. She knew it was selfish of her, but that didn't stop the thought from bubbling up at times. She also knew that she wouldn't be the person that she was, if things had been differently. She'd probably be dead, if she were honest.

Her heart gave a lurch as she glanced his way. Kaiden had been waiting patiently as she mulled over her response. "Yes," she finally said, "I think you're right. If we can be civil around each other, the others are obligated to be." She gave him a small smile, a ghost of the one she used to give him.

"Good. I'm glad we could agree on this. Thank you for letting me take you home so we could discuss this. Even if you put in a valiant effort to get out of it." His eyes crinkled again.

Minako couldn't help but let out a small laugh. At least some things seemed different about this iteration of him. As lame as his attempt at a joke had been, at least this version had tried at a joke.

When Minako glanced out the window, she noticed they had arrived at her apartment building. Kaiden easily parallel-parked by her unit. "Thank you for the ride." Minako gathered her things and had started to step out of the car when his voice uttering her name stopped her in her tracks.

"Before you go, would it be alright with you if we met up sometime this upcoming week to go over some things? Like patrol schedules, training sessions, that sort of thing? We could grab lunch, if you aren't busy? My treat."

Minako's traitorous thoughts flittered across her mind. The idea of shirking her responsibilities was hard to suppress. Minako smiled politely at him, her shoulders rigid from the strain of her responsibilities. "Of course. I'll clear my schedule to accommodate for it."

He nodded his head in affirmation and Minako watched as his car pulled away. She waited a beat before heading to her apartment. Minako made it all the way up the stairs and into her apartment before her body collapsed onto her couch, the strain of the day finally catching up to her.


Spring

Minako glanced at her T.V. absentmindedly. She flipped through her Netflix trying to find something to watch. It was her first day off in what seemed like an eternity. She had landed a main role in a small film and had been rarely home due to it. She would teleport back home to cover her shift when it was her turn to patrol and then teleport back to her hotel room. It had been exhausting since teleporting drained much of her energy. But she'd be damned if she didn't help pull her weight.

Minako knew she should be happy for the time off but she had never been one to enjoy idle time. She thrived in a chaotic lifestyle. Always going out, being the life of the party, having some odd job to do had helped her keep her demons at bay. Days like today made it hard not to dwell on them.

Feeling the anxious energy start clawing their way in, Minako turned off her T.V. with a frustrated sigh, getting up to pace around her apartment. She had already tidied up her place, which was a miracle since most days her place was unruly. The desperation to stay busy had a few perks. Minako snatched her phone and began scrolling through her contacts, hoping to find someone who would be down to go out on a random Wednesday night.

Halfway through her contacts she tossed her phone onto her couch, chiding herself. She needed to learn to be okay with being by herself and not constantly on the go. Her mind wandered to the last few months, which led her to think about him. Since that fateful day at Rei's, they'd all seen much more of each other. Kaiden had insisted on monthly meetings to go over training regimens and other necessary things. It had been unbearable at the beginning, being in close proximity to him so often. Some meetings had been better than others. By now, though, they'd gotten into a comfortable routine. One where she didn't have to drink to calm the bundle of nerves that would form in the pit of her stomach anytime she anticipated seeing him.

Unfortunately, with the nerves gone, old feelings had started seeping into crevices in her cracked heart. Feelings she'd been desperately squashing down every time her heart fluttered at the thought of him. Worse of all, he had made no indication that signaled any remote interest in pursuing anything romantic again.

Minako sighed. She needed to keep herself from thinking about him. It definitely wasn't healthy to dwell on old flames. Determined to do just that, Minako strode over to her fridge, opening the side with her freezer. She grabbed the tub of ice cream she had stashed there for emergencies. Next, she made her way to her little liquor cabinet and grabbed her Kahlua bottle.

When she'd concocted an alcoholic ice cream bowl, she made her way back to her couch and plopped down. She grabbed her phone and googled 'best scary shows and or movies on Netflix.' Finding a show that sounded promising, and that she vaguely remembered everyone mentioning had been good, she settled into her couch.

Five hours later, she had binged half the show and hadn't even noticed that it had started raining. She checked her phone and saw 1:17 flash back at her. She mused starting another episode and just staying up all night to finish the first season, since she didn't have anything else to do for the remainder of the week, when a hollow knock sounded on her door.

Minako jumped. She swore as she debated opening her door at such a late hour. Who the hell can it be? I didn't think I screamed that loud during those scary scenes for old cat lady Margie to complain.

Minako cautiously crept to her door, hoping to not alert anyone outside. She peeked through her peephole, shocked at who stood outside. She opened the door quickly.

"Kaiden, what are yo—" She stopped abruptly when she glanced up at Kaiden's eyes. Normally his eyes held such cool indifference, but tonight they were bloodshot and filled with such pain, she almost didn't recognize him.

She stepped away silently, beckoning him to enter her apartment. He made his way in, his shoes making a squishy noise every time he took a step. He stood there silently, water dripping off of him and pooling around his feet.

"Let me, uh, get you some towels," Minako said slowly, not really sure what to do with him in this state. She'd never seen him look so haunted and so bare before, she was a bit shell-shocked herself.

She made her way to her linen closet, her mind buzzing with the possibilities of what could lead him to such a state. She grabbed a few towels and walked back to him, handing them over gingerly.

He gave her a weak smile. It broke her heart. "Sorry, I've made a bit of a mess, haven't I?"

She shook her head. "It's just water. Not a big deal. But I don't think those towels are going to be much help to you. You're soaked through. What did you do, walk over here?" Minako laughed nervously, rubbing her arm.

"I actually stood outside your door for a while before knocking," he said so matter-of-factly that Minako didn't believe him at first.

"You're being serious. Holy shit Kaiden, what the hell happened? Is everyone okay?"

"Yes. I think you are right about the towels though." The two towels she had grabbed him hung limply from his hands, soaked through as he still dripped slowly onto her floor.

"I can put your clothes in my dryer, but I, uh…" Minako cleared her throat, her face heating up as her mind raced through her next thoughts. "Um, I don't have any clothes that would fit you."

"Do you have any more towels?" He suggested, like the thought of him half naked in her apartment was completely normal.

Minako just nodded her head, not trusting herself to say anything. She walked back to her closet, wondering why the idea of this was so absurd to her. It wasn't like she hadn't seen him naked before. Granted, she hadn't seen this iteration of him naked, but still.

"You can use the spare bathroom to change. The dryer is in there too," she stated as she handed him two new towels. He nodded and made his way to the bathroom, trying to avoid making more of a mess.

Minako grabbed her mop to clean up the puddle he'd made by her entrance. He hadn't really said why he came, but it didn't look like anyone had been hurt. Knowing that still didn't put Minako at ease, though. She had never seen him look so dejected before, that she couldn't even fathom what had happened.

When he emerged from her bathroom, one towel wrapped around his waist, the other he was using to dry off his hair, Minako avoided looking at him.

He sat down near her on the couch. Minako inched slowly away, trying to put as much space between them. She pointedly stared at his face only, noticing his mask of cool indifference had slipped back on. "I don't mean to pry," she started, "but you have me a little worried."

Kaiden stared at her, his gray eyes not giving anything away. Minako resisted the urge to squirm under his intense stare. "I am starting to think this may have been a mistake."

Minako frowned at him. "You mean coming to my place at one in the morning?" She joked.

"My men aren't handling this as well as I would have thought," he stated. "I am starting to think I shouldn't have pushed them."

Minako nodded her head. She knew what he meant. She wondered the same thing at times. Especially with Rei and Makoto, who hadn't been handling the transition as well as she had hoped either. "We aren't making it a smooth transition though," she cringed at her own words. That was the understatement of the year. Rei had been downright unbearable lately. "I'll talk to them. See if that'll help," she smiled, hoping he would buy the statement, knowing full well she didn't believe it herself. She was at her wits-end dealing with this whole mess and knew perfectly well that this sort of thing wouldn't be resolved so easily. Not when it came to two stubborn women like Rei and Makoto.

He gave her a pointed look and she laughed, enjoying the thought that they both knew better. She caught the small smile that flittered across his face and her heart fluttered, knowing she'd been the cause of it. "It's nice to know some things did change," she stated warmly. "Oh, where are my manners?" She suddenly jumped up, walking quickly to her kitchen and fretting around. "Do you want something to drink? Maybe tea or coffee to help warm you up? I've got alcohol too."

She hadn't noticed him stand up and make his way towards her, so busy she'd been trying to franticly gather anything he might want to drink. His warm hands enveloped hers, stopping her from grabbing anything else. "What did you mean by that?"

Minako's breath caught in her throat. She became acutely aware of how close he had gotten. "It's just that," she started, watching his face, "you usually only get bloodshot eyes when you've been drinking whiskey. But I don't have any of that here since I still find it gross." She scrunched up her nose in disgust.

His lips twitched. "I think I'm okay on booze, but thanks. I meant, what did you mean by some things changing?"

She hesitated, shifting uncomfortably from leg to leg. "Well, you used to never smile. It's nice to see." She glanced at him, wondering if she had offended him.

He stood there quietly, gray eyes focused on her. He stood so still that Minako really did think she had offended him and cursed internally to herself. "I mean, tha-"

She stopped abruptly as her eyes glanced back at his face, her eyes narrowing. A grin slowly broke over his face, even though she could see him trying to hold it back.

"Who are you and what have you done with Kaiden?" She asked suspiciously, poking him in the chest.

His lips twitched with mirth as he closed the distance between them. He leaned down and kissed her and Minako could feel the urgency in it. Minako eagerly kissed him back, standing on tiptoes so as to pull him closer to her. The need for him to be pressed closer to her urging her on.

Minako let out a surprised yelp as she felt his hands snake behand her, grabbing her butt and hoisting her up onto the kitchen counter. She wrapped her legs around his back, pulling him closer to her as her hands pulled his neck down, deepening the kiss. His hands found their way underneath her shirt, scorching her skin everywhere it touched.

Minako knew she should stop because it would only complicate their relationship, but she so desperately wanted him that she ignored the little voice in her head that screamed at her. The need for him had always outweighed anything else and she plunged headfirst into it, her body humming with anticipation.


Summer

Minako woke up from another restless sleep, her arm automatically reaching out for someone. Her arm hit cold sheets and she sighed sadly, picking up her phone to glance at the time. 2:28 flashed brightly at her. Minako looked sideways to the empty space in her bed.

Ever since they had slept together that first night, Kaiden would always sneak out after she had fallen asleep. He never spent the night. Her chest panged at the thought of that first night when she had woken up alone. The raging emotions she had felt that first night still clung to her, never quite leaving, but simply simmering below the surface.

When they were together in a group setting, he acted like nothing had changed between them. No secret glances or furtive touches from him, just stoic Kaiden acting as if they were just platonic friends. He acted much the same way during their monthly meetings. The cool indifference that seemed to flow from him irritated her to no end. At times she felt like yelling at him from the top of her voice, but she held back. If he could act apathetic, then so could she. Hell, she'd even be better at it than him. She may have taken it too far, practically ignoring him at times, but no one seemed to notice. He had made no comment about that either.

But like clockwork, he would show up at her apartment every night she was in town with that same vulnerable look in his eyes. He would never say much. He always seemed so desperate to take her, like his very being depended on it. It always surprised her how uncharacteristic he seemed during those moments.

She also knew she should've been resisting him. Every night she would brace herself but then as soon as his lips found her neck, her traitorous body would give in. All thoughts of talking to him escaping her mind as his hands made quick work of her clothes. He was her one weakness, always had been. She had committed treason in a past life for him and apparently she hadn't learned anything from that.

Minako had tried talking to Makoto about it. She had walked in on Makoto and Neven the other night. Well, had almost walked in on something she'd been glad she hadn't. For once in her life, being late had worked out in her favor. She had chatted amicably with them for a bit, but had left soon after.

Minako hadn't wanted to ruin their good mood with her sour feelings about Kaiden. She knew she couldn't talk to Ami. Zeph and her had been the first ones to rekindle a relationship, but they had been taking it slow. Painfully slow. Minako didn't know how they could stand it. Because of that, she knew Ami would tell her the same thing. She didn't really care to hear Ami berate her either.

She'd be insane to try to talk to Rei about it. Rei had gone from woefully ignoring them to practically murdering Julian any chance she got. She had privately talked to Julian about it, but he seemed to be in better spirits about it. He'd said his plan was slowly coming to fruition. Minako had scoffed at him, but secretly she hadn't doubted him. Julian was a patient man and he'd wait several lifetimes for stubborn Rei.

Minako sighed. She couldn't go to Rei because she knew her raven haired friend would call her an idiot for allowing herself to fall for Kaiden's charm again. She wouldn't have been wrong. She was a fool. And weak because she couldn't say no to a one-sided love, no matter how much it destroyed her.

Minako could feel the self-doubt creeping in like it always did, warping her thoughts to unpleasant things. It threatened to suffocate her. Minako jumped out of bed, trying to keep it at bay by busying herself. If she could get around quickly, she knew some places she could crash a party. She blasted some music as she sent a few texts, ignoring the small whispers in her mind.


Minako squinted at her phone as she tried finding the correct person to tap on. The way the sun's rays splayed out, turning everything it touched into a golden glow, made Minako realize how late she'd stayed out. Or was it early? Minako's head buzzed with angry hornets, making her thoughts a muddled mess.

"Hello?" The voice on the other end sounded very much awake, albeit a bit irritated. Minako knew she would be – both awake and irritated.

"Rei, can you come pick me up?"

"Minako, are you drunk at 7:30 in the morning?"

Minako winced and pulled her phone away. Her head pounded as she tried to form a coherent reply. "Maybe?"

She heard Rei mutter obscenities as she shuffled around her bedroom. "Send me your location." The line went dead before she could even utter a response.

Twenty minutes later, she was stumbling inside Rei's car. Her raven haired friend tossed her a bag as she made herself comfortable in the passenger seat. Minako squealed happily as she pulled the contents out of the bag.

As she stuffed her mouth with the still hot breakfast sandwich, she turned to her friend. "Thanks, Rei." She managed to say in between bites.

Rei shrugged her right shoulder as she pulled away from the curb. "I figured you could use your favorite greasy food."

Minako felt extremely grateful for her friend just then. She knew she didn't have to tell her anything, Rei had already guessed as much. "Do you mind if I go back to your place? I don't want to go home just yet."

Minako couldn't bear to be alone. The thought of her empty apartment left her feeling hollow inside. Rei glanced her way before turning her focus back on the road.

"Sure thing. Make sure not to get crumbs inside my car, though. You know how I normally feel about people eating inside it."

"You know I'm a delicate eater," She stated as she took another bite out of her sandwich.

Rei snorted. "Delicate eater wouldn't be how I described the way you shovel food into your mouth."

She threw Rei a dirty look as she continued to scarf down her food. They sat in silence as they made their way back to Rei's place. It was times like this that Minako appreciated Rei. Her other friends would have taken one look at her and showered her with concerned questions. She knew they meant well, but sometimes she just wanted their company and not the bombardment of questions when she herself wasn't sure how to even process her emotions. Rei had always waited for her to start spilling her guts out.

By the time Minako had finished her second sandwich, Rei had parked her car. The long trek up the stairs to Rei's made Minako regret eating both sandwiches all at once. She felt her stomach give a lurch as she stumbled drunkenly up the last few set of stairs.

She saw Rei glance back at her as she opened the door. "If you're going to hurl, please make sure you do it inside when your head is hovering over a toilet. I just swept the porch and I'd rather not have to do it again."

Minako groaned. "You're supposed to feel bad for me!" She tumbled into Rei's place and headed to her friend's bedroom. She flopped on the bed and closed her eyes, as the room had started to spin slightly.

She heard Rei shuffling around. "You did this to yourself. I don't feel bad at all. You deserve it for going overboard again." Rei's tone held a sharpness that hadn't been there before.

Minako moaned and rolled over. "I don't need a lecture, mo-omfph!" A lump of clothes hit Minako in the face, muffling her words.

"Go take a shower, you smell like booze. The Ibuprofen is in the cupboard. I believe you received your clothes."

Minako huffed indignantly, grabbing the clothes off her face and heading to the bathroom.


Minako did feel better after her shower, as much as she hated to admit it. She drudged out of the bathroom, already dreading the look of superiority Rei would have. Instead, she found Rei propped against the bed's headboard in sweats, her eyes closed. She looked at ease, peaceful almost. Minako couldn't remember the last time her friend had looked like that. Lately, her expression had been guarded, almost hostile at times.

Minako made her way to the bed. Rei's head lifted up and her eyes met Minako's. Minako saw the peacefulness slip away from her friend's face to be replaced with the guarded expression. Minako's heart ached for her, knowing she'd partly caused the shift. She climbed into the bed and rested her head on her friends shoulder. She felt Rei stiffen slightly before relaxing a fraction.

Minako sighed. "Shit, aren't we a mess. At least you aren't an idiot like me." Minako could practically feel Rei's eyebrow quirk up in question. Rei remained silent though, waiting for her to continue.

A flash of her empty bed creeped into her mind, unbidden. The coiled ball near the apex of her stomach seemed to unwind, causing the sensation of not being able to breath properly stifling. She felt the prickling sensation in her eyes and looked up, trying to hold off the tears.

She felt Rei shift, her head coming to rest on hers. Minako let out a choked sob; her throat burning from holding back the tears. Rei quietly reached out and grabbed her hand and held it. Minako felt the hot tears slip past her hold, slowly crawling down her cheeks and landing on Rei. She sat like that for a while, silently crying as Rei held her. When the tears finally abated, she lifted her head and took a shuddering breath.

"Sorry for getting snot on you," she pathetically said as she wiped the tears with her sleeve.

"I've had worse," Rei stated as she shrugged. Minako snorted and Rei rolled her eyes. "Leave it to you to turn everything sexual."

Minako chuckled. "I can't help myself."

Rei looked at her then, her piercing gaze unwavering. Minako held it for a beat before dropping her eyes, ashamed of what Rei would find in them. Minako sighed. It was no use hiding anything from Rei, especially after she blubbered all over her.

"Kaiden and I," she began, choosing her words carefully, "we've been…sort of seeing each other."

Rei bit her lower lip but remained silent. Minako watched, waiting for Rei to start berating her for her stupidity, but Rei didn't budge. Minako looked at her friend curiously, not able to decipher anything from just observing her.

"Is that what you're calling it then? I knew something happened between you two as soon as you started blatantly ignoring him during our trainings. I'm assuming you're no longer okay with the arrangement you both have?"

Minako let out a frustrated growl and climbed out of the bed. She started to pace as she thought of Rei's question. "I don't know," she finally said, exasperated of thinking about the question and not having a concrete answer. She had stopped pacing and instead started twisting her hair around her fingers. "At first, I thought I could keep it platonic between us two."

"Ah, yes, because sex between two platonic people always works out," Rei interjected sarcastically. "Especially with the amount of history you both have. Have you talked to him about this?"

Minako gave Rei a pointed look. "We don't really talk outside of the monthly meetings and that sort of thing."

Rei looked at her knowingly. "And why's that?"

"I don't know. He's not much of a communicator outside of that stuff."

"Stop lying to yourself. You do know, you just don't want to admit it out loud."

Minako tried not to flinch at Rei's words, but knew she failed when Rei sighed and stood up, making her way towards her. Minako stared at Rei's feet, trying hard to keep her raging emotions in check.

Rei bent down, forcing Minako to look at her. "I'm sorry. That came out a bit…harsher than I intended."

Minako closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and stared at her friend squarely in the face. "Don't be, you're right. I'm….scared of what he might say. What if he doesn't feel the same way?"

Rei considered the question, mulling it over before answering. "Then he doesn't deserve you. It's really that simple."

"It's not and you know it! I can't just shut my emotions and feelings away with a snap of a finger and then go off like a powder keg."

Minako regretted the words as soon as it left her mouth. She watched as Rei shrunk into herself a little, the wall she'd let slip down snapping back into place. Rei took a slight step away from her, the silence between them ticking away.

"I'm sorry, that wasn't fair of me." Minako stood her ground, knowing full well Rei didn't want her near her. She felt wretched. The toxicity in her seemed to seep out of her and touch everything she loved, no matter how hard she tried to contain it within herself.

"We're both being honest here. I can't fault you for that no matter how much the truth stings. But you can't keep doing this to yourself. You need to talk to him. You can't just brush this aside, it's destroying you. I also know for a fact that he wouldn't be very happy with you if he knew you were doing this to yourself, regardless of how he felt romantically towards you."

Minako knew Rei had a point. She just couldn't bring herself to admit that she wasn't sure she could handle another rejection by him. Just the thought of it already made her mind spiral down the darkest parts of her heart. The cold numbness of it all made her start pacing again.

"Minako, stop." Rei blocked her path midstride, her hands holding her shoulders in place. "Whatever happens between you two, I've got you. You're not alone in this. Now let's get you to bed. You look like shit and need it." Rei leaned her forehead against Minako's and smirked.

Minako half-heartedly smiled back. "You're not looking too hot yourself. Would you…would you lay down with me?" Minako asked quietly. "I don't want to be alone."

"Of course."

Minako followed Rei to her bed. She laid down and snuggled up to Rei, who sighed but didn't move. Minako felt her eyes getting heavier. "Thanks," she mumbled.

"Mmm. For what?"

"For being you. And putting up with me." Minako thought she heard Rei reply, but she had already felt the pull of darkness and welcomed it with open arms.


Fall

Minako woke up with a start, her heart beating frantically as the last remnants of the nightmare ebbed away. She must have made some noise when she awoke because she heard muffled noises to her right. The next thing she knew, a large arm snaked itself around her torso, pulling her closer to its owner. She squealed but didn't fight it.

"You okay, love?" Came the half sleepy voice. Minako squirmed out of his grasp and turned to face him, her face a few inches away from his.

"Just a bad dream," she whispered. Concerned brown eyes searched her face.

"Anything I can do?" He asked as he tucked a stray lock of her golden hair behind her ear.

Minako closed her eyes and leaned into his hand. "Actually, I'm so glad you asked." With a wicked smile Minako closed the distance between them, kissing him fervently. He obliged, pulling her closer to him and deepening the kiss. The shrill noise of her phone made Minako groan. She gave him one last kiss, tugging his bottom lip gently as she broke away to turn off her alarm.

She slapped his wandering hand playfully, laughing as he gave her a fake hurt look. "C'mon Henry, you know we can't be late."

She heard his muffled groan as she stood up, heading to the closet. "You know David will have our heads if we're both late again."

She heard him snort as she riffled through her closet, looking for something to wear. She felt his arms wrap around her midsection and pull her close to him. She let him, snuggling up to his back and leaning her head against his chest. He leaned down and captured her lips with his, and Minako resisted the urge to push him back to bed. She broke away first before the temptation became too hard to bear.

"Just think, it's the last two weeks before we wrap. Then you can be late to your heart's content," she stated as she tossed on a random oversized sweater.

She watched as Henry picked up his discarded hunter green sweater and slipped it over his head. The same sweater she had gifted him the week before and that she had quickly discarded last night when he showed up. It really did suit his dark skin tone.

He caught her ogling him and smiled cheekily. "Like what you see?" He teased as he slipped on his jeans.

"Yes. I have great taste in fashion. And men," Minako grinned back. Henry laughed and strode to her, giving her a quick kiss on the head.

"See you in a bit?"

"Yeah, I'll meet you there. Oh and before I forget, I can't do anything tonight. I've got my virtual girls night."

He smiled as he nodded, making his way out the door. "I'm excited to hear all about it."

"Are we still on for my friend's engagement party?" Her heart gave a lurch as the thought of going stag to Usagi and Mamoru's party and seeing Kaiden stirred up unwanted memories. She hoped she kept the desperation out of her voice as she asked.

Henry turned at the door, a smile on his face. "I wouldn't miss it. I can't wait to meet all your friends."

Minako smiled to herself as she watched him leave, the breath she didn't realize she'd been holding slipping through her lips. She had been seeing Henry for almost two months now. They had met on set of her latest indie movie and had hit it off as friends. After her disastrous talk with Kaiden a few months back, he'd been the first one on set to notice the change in her demeaner and its effect on her work. He'd tried to coax her out of her stupor by making her laugh every chance he got in between takes.

He was everything Kaiden wasn't. Quick to smile and laugh, and not afraid of being a complete goofball around others. He never took things too seriously and she had latched on to his easy smile. She knew she shouldn't have used him as a rebound to get over her heart break, but she had been honest with him when they first got together. He knew her history with Kaiden.

Minako would be lying to herself if she said she never thought about Kaiden. Sometimes she would even catch herself thinking about him when she was with Henry. The sting of his rejection still felt like a new wound on her heart. Every time she lingered on the memory it felt like someone had taken a knife and reopened the patched up hole she'd tried to stitch together haphazardly.

She had done what Rei had suggested and tried talking to him about how she had felt. It hadn't gone the way she had planned and she had tripped over her words. But then he had interrupted her, agreeing with her that what they were doing wasn't fair to her. His cool indifference had shattered her as he stated calmly that their relationship would continue forward, but strictly professional. Every word had felt like a slap to the face.

She hadn't heard much else as her blood had rushed to her ears, drowning the rest of his words out. She had sat their numbly as her heart crumbled, once again, from his rejection. She had felt hollow those next few weeks as she tended to her bruised ego, throwing herself at her job to keep busy. Always busy so she didn't have to think about how much it had hurt.

Then one faithful night, almost a month after he'd uttered those words, he'd shown up at her place. The knock had given him away. She'd stood stock still, like a deer caught in headlights, as her heart practically hammered away in her chest. She could feel her resolve slipping like sand between her fingers as she half moved to answer the door. She had stopped herself at the last second as she had reached out to grasp her door handle. Her vision clouded with unshed tears, she stood in front of her door lifelessly. She had heard him knock a few more times before leaving and that was when she had allowed herself to crumble to the floor, her tears falling freely.

After that night, she had stopped going to their monthly meetings and had only seen him in passing during the scheduled trainings and patrols. She knew he'd shown up at her place from time to time, but she'd been rarely home due to her new movie schedule.

Minako felt the sting of tears as they threatened to spill. She blinked them away quickly, chiding herself for almost allowing them to fall. She could never blame Kaiden for wanting a life without her. A life where he wouldn't constantly be reminded about what he had done every time he looked at her. She knew as well as anyone how difficult it could be, always being reminded of one's short-comings, especially when she looked at Usagi. She knew the others had felt the same, to varying degrees. She just thought that maybe they could've moved past that in this life, forgiving each other for all the misery and heartache that they had caused.

Minako took a deep breath and held it until it felt like her lungs would burst. She gave herself that time to think about Kaiden before she shoved him and her memories of them into the deepest parts of her soul. She plastered on her carefree smile façade and finished getting ready for the day.


The last few weeks had flown by, giving Minako little time to think about the engagement party until now. As she sat quietly in the car with Henry, the familiar tightening of her chest and quickening of her pulse made her doubt her outfit again. The gold dress she had picked out accentuated her assets and curves, but it could be construed as too fancy for an engagement party. She had never felt so self-conscious as she did now.

"Is this dress too much?"

Henry gave her a wolfish grin. "You look perfect, love. He won't be able to keep his eyes off you."

It should've made Minako feel better, but she just felt hollow inside. "I'm not so sure I want that."

Henry's smile faded as he grabbed her hand and squeezed gently. "Any man would be lucky to have you. Hell, I still don't know how I snagged the great Minako Aino. Probably due to my amazing smile and great ass."

"Definitely the ass. Can't get enough of it." Minako gave him a half smile. Why couldn't her heart let her be happy with Henry? Her smile must not have convinced him because he gave her hand another gentle squeeze.

"Whatever happens in there, you have me." He gave her one of his crooked smiles, but she could see the sadness flickering across his brown eyes.

Minako felt wretched. She knew she never should've let this go on longer than it had. Henry deserved better. She could never give him what he wanted. But her heart ached for the love he offered, even as she selfishly couldn't do the same.

As Mamoru's house came into view, Minako mentally prepared herself for the onslaught of memories that promised to shake her resolve to not break down. Henry parked the car and exited, leaving Minako alone in the car in silence. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes, willing the nerves and unwelcome dread to escape her body like her breath had. She felt the car door open, the cool fall air rushing in to awaken her senses.

Henry helped her out of the car and held her hand as they made their way to the front door. As the door bell rung, she heard a familiar squeal and footsteps rushing to the door. The door swung open and a flurry of blonde hair and pink fabric snatched Minako through the door. Minako tripped along, letting go of Henry and bracing herself on her friend's shoulder.

"Woah, Usa. It's nice to see you too." Minako laughed as Usagi wrapped her in a hug, practically suffocating her as she squeezed tightly.

"You're late! I thought you weren't coming!" Usagi let her go long enough to pout up at her.

"Oh you know me, fashionably late as always. I wouldn't miss this for the world." Minako booped Usagi on the nose affectionately.

Usagi clasped Minako's hand happily, tilting her body to the right at a slight angle to look over Minako at Henry. "And who is this tall, dark, and handsome guy you brought?"

Minako spluttered as she felt her face heat up. She heard Henry laugh as he extended a greeting. "Usagi!"

"It's alright," he said in between chuckles. "I'm Henry. It's nice to finally meet you Usagi. Congratulations."

Usagi ignored his hand and gave him a hug instead. "Thanks! I know who you are by the way," she whispered, her blue eyes filled with mirth. "I just wanted to see Minako squirm a little." She let him go but held fast to his hand and Minako's as she dragged them further into the home.

"Kitchen's that way. There's plenty of food and drinks. Make yourselves a plate and come meet everyone!"

Henry grinned after her. "You never mentioned how fun she was."

Minako groaned, grabbing his hand and leading him to the kitchen. "Don't mention that to her, or I'll never hear the end of it."

Minako turned the corner to the kitchen and smiled when she saw Rei alone, nursing a cup in her hand.

"Hiding?" Minako teased as she made her way to her friend, throwing her arms around her.

Rei gave her a pointed look, ignoring the jab. "I needed a refill." After untangling herself from Minako, Rei made her way to Henry. "Since Minako forgot to introduce us, I'm Rei."

Henry smiled warmly at her. "Henry. It's great to finally put a face to a name."

"I didn't forget,' Minako interrupted, grabbing Rei's cup from out of her hand and sniffing it. "I knew your polite ass would dictate you do it. Is this water?" She asked, taking a small sip from Rei's cup.

Rei pointedly ignored Minako's question as she turned back to Henry, snatching her drink back from Minako in one fluid motion. "You should try the coxinhas. They're my favorite."

"That's because they're made by yours truly," came a boisterous voice, proceeded by two people walking into the kitchen. Henry had little time to prepare for the hug. "I'm Makoto. I hope you enjoy the food. I prepared most of it." She gave him a warm smile as she let go.

"Oh I'm very excited to try it all. Minako said your food was the best. Which one is the co…" Henry hesitated, looking around for Rei to help him pronounce the food properly. He hadn't noticed her slip out the kitchen.

"Way to go, Julian. You chased Rei out again," Minako joked, going over to him and giving him a big bear hug. Turning to Henry, she said. "This is Julian. Julian, Henry. And those are the things Rei mentioned." Minako pointed to a platter on the table.

"She sure knows how to make a man feel special," Julian ruffled Minako's hair playfully as she slapped his hand away. "It's nice to meet you, man." Julian slapped Henry's back in greeting before making his way to the food.

"Yeah, likewise." Henry followed Julian's lead and both men struck up a friendly conversation about the food, with Julian helping Henry out.

Makoto sidled up to her, a drink in hand. She accepted it gratefully, taking a quick sip of it.

"He seems nice," Makoto commented. "Of course Julian would strike up a friendship with him."

Minako laughed. "He is. Besides Rei, I think everyone Julian meets becomes his friend. How's that going by the way?" She took a bigger gulp of the drink, knowing that the conversation would switch to things she wasn't keen to discuss eventually.

"Better. She tolerates him more in smaller group settings. You know how she gets in larger crowds. Hates all the attention."

"And Neven?" Minako watched as her taller friend's cheeks turned pink at the mention of him.

"He's great. We're great."

"Oh I bet you are." Minako smirked over at Makoto, whose blush deepened. Makoto cleared her throat, sipping on her cocktail as a form of distraction.

"How are you?"

Minako put on an easy smile, anticipating the question. "I'm content. Movie finally wrapped and Henry's been good for me."

Minako watched as the man in question made his way over. "Have you tried these?" He asked excitedly.

Minako laughed and shook her head no. He grabbed the food in question and offered it to her. She grabbed it with her mouth, nibbling his finger as she did so.

"Hey, use your hands woman! Can't take you anywhere," he teased, his goofy smile marring his lips.

"My friends know I'm already a lost cause," Minako stated as she stole another one off of his plate and popped it in her mouth.

"No need to steal, I made you a plate."

"A man after my own heart," Minako professed, grabbing the plate from Henry. She gave him a quick kiss. She heard Makoto clear her throat and threw her friend a quizzical look. Makoto gave her a funny look back, twitching her head slightly to the left. Minako's cornflower blue eyes opened wide in surprise when they landed on the silent man standing near the kitchen.

Kaiden hesitated a second too long before raising his empty cup. "Just needed a refill."

Minako never thought she'd see the day that Kaiden seemed uncomfortable in his own skin as he made his way to the drink table. Julian seemed to notice too as he glanced at Kaiden with narrowed eyes. Kaiden threw him an icy glare and Julian shrugged it off.

"Welp I'm going to go ahead and go before I piss someone else off this evening. It was nice to meet you, Henry. Come find me later."

"Yeah I think I hear Neven asking for his drink. Better get this to him," Makoto scrambled after Julian.

Minako internally groaned. They're all still traitors. Need to remember to never speak to them again. Minako polished off the drink in her hand, wishing she'd had another one.

"Hey Kaiden. This is Henry. Henry, this is Mamoru's best man." Minako held her breath.

"It's nice to meet you." Henry smiled pleasantly, extending his hand.

"It's nice to meet you too, Henry." The unease Minako had seen on Kaiden seemed to have slipped off him. She noticed his eyes held no mirth in them as he greeted Henry.

An awkward silence filled the kitchen as Kaiden went back to making his drink. Minako wished she could just melt into the floor.

"Would you like a drink, Henry?" Kaiden finally asked, his politeness finally winning out. He held the knife he'd used to cut his lime casually in his hand. Minako could practically feel the chill wafting off of him. If Henry noticed, he made no comment.

"Thanks, but I'm good. I'm D.D. tonight so she can have fun." Henry winked at Minako. From the corner of her eye, Minako noticed Kaiden's grip on the knife tighten imperceptibly.

"She's very lucky it seems." Kaiden looked straight at Minako as he responded.

"Naw, man. I'm the one who lucked out." Henry made his way over to Minako and kissed her on the top of the head affectionately, smiling happily at her as he did.

Minako caught Kaiden's eyes and her whole body seemed to flush. She noticed how Kaiden's lips thinned slightly before his face quickly shifted back to cool indifference. Minako had never seen Kaiden struggle to keep his emotions in check.

"Yes, I'd have to agree. Any man Minako chooses is a very lucky one indeed. It was a pleasure to meet you Henry. I'm glad you could make it, Minako." Kaiden gave Minako a small smile before leaving.

"Hey, you too man."

Minako's heart lurched as she watched him leave. She felt disoriented from the whole ordeal. She felt guilty but angry at herself for feeling that way. She hadn't done anything wrong in bringing Henry. Kaiden had made it very clear that he didn't want anything serious with her. Did he expect her to always keep the bed warm for him whenever he felt like it?

Stop it Minako! You've been through this before. Minako shook her head as if to clear it, grabbing the vodka bottle and pouring herself a healthy amount. She would not let him ruin her night.

"C'mon! I need to introduce you to everyone else!" She gave him a big smile, grabbing his hand and practically dragging him out the kitchen.


Minako felt like there were bees tickling her ears as the buzzing noise didn't dissipate as she reached up to rub them. She had wobbled over to the sliding glass door that led to the backyard. The room had felt stuffy and hot and so she had made up an excuse to step out.

Minako practically moaned as the cool air hit her skin, raising goose bumps on her entire body. It felt nice being out here and she plopped down on a chair with a small sigh. The cold metal bit the skin on her back and legs, but it seemed to sooth her feverish skin. Maybe she had drank a little too much. She was suddenly glad for Rei's insistence of shoving a water cup in her hand.

She gulped down the water hungrily, letting slip some tendrils that made its way down her mouth and chin to pool onto her dress. She smacked her lips happily, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand. Her mother would have chided her for being so unladylike. The thought made her giggle to herself. She definitely had too much to drink.

Minako closed her eyes as the vertigo hit, leaning her head back onto the cold chair. The chill seeped into her bones, helping clear her mind of the fog that threatened to settle.

"There you are. Henry is looking for you."

Minako startled, giving a small yelp as she turned her head towards the voice. Kaiden stood just outside the door, his presence demanding her attention.

"You scared the shit out of me!" Minako huffed, standing up quickly and regretting it instantly as the world slanted unevenly. She toppled sideways and would have fallen had Kaiden not swiftly moved to her side, his warm hands holding her shoulders steady. They felt nice, his hands on her shoulder, and she unconsciously leaned closer to him.

"I didn't mean to startle you. How long have you been out here? You're freezing."

She shrugged in answer, hating how disappointed she got as his hands lifted from her shoulders.

"Here," he stated, shrugging out of his jacket and throwing it over her frame. His scent exploded into her nose. Her traitorous mind, muddled with alcohol, decided now was a great time to replay some inappropriate memories. Her body flushed in anticipation.

"You look beautiful tonight," he expressed. She saw his gray eyes darken and her stomach fluttered in response. Her pulse quickened as he took a step closer to her. Minako panicked, knowing full well that in her current state, she'd easily give into temptation. She hated how easily he could break her resolve. She had never had this issue with anyone but him.

"Thanks," she hastily croaked, trying to sidestep around him as she made a beeline to the door. "I, uh, need to find Henry," she finished lamely.

"Minako, please wait," he asked gently. The softness in his voice made her hesitate. "I know this isn't exactly an ideal moment for this. Given your," he paused, eyeing her up and down, "current inebriated state. I wanted to better explain myself to you regarding the last time we spoke. I do-"

"Please, don't," Minako interrupted him. She wrapped her arms around herself as if to shield herself from his words. She could feel the chinks in her armor expanding the longer she stood there. She knew she couldn't handle another rejection from him. She would not cry in front of him. She couldn't give him that satisfaction. "I understood what you said the first time," she murmured. Her throat burned from the effort of stifling the choking sob that threatened to spill forth.

She saw the sadness in his eyes and wondered what caused it. "I don't think you did. It's true that I don't think what we were doing was fair to you. I wanted to give you more, to actually take you out and show the whole world how lucky I was to have you by my side. But at the time, I didn't think I could until I took care of a few things. I thought I had to choose between you and my duties.

"What do you mean?" Minako whispered.

He smiled sadly at her. "I did not think I could be with you and still be able to perform my duties to Mamoru. I didn't think I could have both, deserved both. I thought if I broke it off with you, I could better concentrate on those duties. I don't think I've ever underperformed my entire life until I did that. No matter how hard I tried, I could not get rid of you." He smiled ruefully at her. "It took me a week to decide what I had already known. So I went to Mamoru to tell him that I could no longer serve under him faithfully. That my loyalty and heart belonged to another and therefore I could no longer protect him to my fullest. I was fully expecting him to discharge me from his ranks, but he didn't. He told me that all he ever wanted for his men was the same love and happiness that he had found with Usagi. He told me that he would not allow me to abandon my post. I even asked him for a few tips on how to," he cleared his throat, the only sign that he was uncomfortable, "woo you."

The world seemed to slow down around her as her intoxicated brain tried to process his words. Her thoughts flitted around, unable to grasp at a single notion for too long. His words seemed to float around her mind like a leaf dancing in the wind. She opened her mouth to reply but her words caught in her throat. Her tongue felt like sand paper as she closed her mouth shut. She stood there, staring at him with surprised eyes.

Kaiden waited a beat longer, but when she made no attempt to respond, he straightened his back. "Well, let's get you back inside to Henry before you freeze to death." He started for the door, but glanced back as she made no move towards it.

"If it's any consolation, I'm truly happy for you and Henry." Kaiden gave her a genuine smile.

"That's not fair," Minako felt her body move of its own volition. "You can't just say all that and…and expect me to just drop everything. You fucked me up, Kaiden! I had to pick up the damn pieces you left behind, learn to put it back together, and be okay with some of the sharp edges. And just when I thought I—" she stopped abruptly as her voice cracked with the strain of keeping her emotions in check. She felt her chest constrict as her throat burned. She needed to get out of here. She walked quickly past him, unshouldering his jacket and tossing it at him in one fluid motion, making sure to avoid eye contact. She would not break in front of him.

The hot air rushed into her face as she opened the sliding glass door to escape him. She spotted Henry by the door talking to Julian.

"I'll be outside," she stated as her voice quivered. She noticed the worried look that both men exchanged. She ignored it as she stepped back outside. This time, the cold air did nothing to sooth her.


Winter

Minako sipped her coffee gingerly as she found a place to sit. On one of her rare days off, she had decided to come home for a few days. Besides her obligated patrols, she hadn't been home for more than 24 hours since Usagi and Mamoru's party. Rei had texted her as soon as she had arrived back at her apartment and they had made plans to meet up. She glanced at her phone screen, debating on texting Rei when she arrived and plopped down on the opposite seat.

"Sorry I'm late," Rei huffed as she took off her coat.

"Let this day be remembered as the day I actually arrived earlier than you," She teased back.

Rei rolled her eyes but smiled all the same. "I'm going to place my order. Do you need anything else?"

"Want to share a muffin?" She waggled her eyebrows.

"Fine, but I'm picking the flavor."

Minako nodded her head in approval and picked up her phone, absentmindedly scrolling through it.

"Good morning, Minako."

Minako glanced upwards, the smile that had formed on her lips slipping away as her mind registered the person.

Her heart seemed to skip a beat as she glanced around looking for Rei. "Oh, um, hi Kaiden. Fancy seeing you here." She avoided looking right at him.

"Oh I invited him," Rei stated as she placed half a chocolate muffin down in front of Minako. Minako's eyebrows shot up her forehead.

"Clearly you didn't tell her I was coming," Kaiden stated as he sat down.

"Nope. I was tired of both of you moping around and not doing anything about it so I decided to. I'll be over there," Rei pointed to an empty table. "Enjoying my muffin and tea. I expect both of you to play nice."

"Rei, you ca—"

"Sure I can," Rei cut Minako's protest off. Minako watched as she gathered her muffin and tea and headed to the table she had pointed out She sat down facing them and slipped on her earbuds. Minako barely restrained herself from childishly sticking her tongue out at Rei. She settled for a quick, scathing glare. She finally glanced at Kaiden after she noticed Rei rolling her eyes at her antics.

"I'm sorry, she told me you agreed to meet me here. If you'd like, I can leave." He made to get up, but Minako reached out and stopped him. She glanced at her hand eclipsing his and quickly withdrew it.

Minako sighed. "No, it's alright. You just caught me off guard. How are you?"

"I'm well. Work's been a bit slow due to the holidays, so Julian's made me pick up new hobbies to 'help me relax' as he puts it."

Minako studied Kaiden as he spoke. He seemed easier to read, more open. The smile that played on his lips seemed so foreign to her.

"What activities has he made you do?" She genuinely asked, smiling along with him.

"You mean what hasn't he made me do? Soccer, basketball, some shooter video games, a thing called pickle ball. The list goes on." He chuckled, as if remembering something that amused him. "But enough about me, how are you?" His piercing gray eyes remained the same, and even now they seemed to unravel her.

"I'm good. Wrapped up a smaller role and now taking a few days off for the holidays. I have a few things lined up already, so that will be nice."

"Sounds like you're staying busy then, I'm happy for you. How's Henry?"

His expression gave nothing away as he waited for her response. "Good, good. I think he's still somewhere in Canada for his latest role. We, uh, we broke up a few months ago." She watched Kaiden for any signs but his face remained impassive as she continued. "He deserved better than what I could give him. He understood, of course," she gave a small, sad smile at the thought.

"I'm sorry to hear that. Julian kept raving about him most days. I think they really hit it off." Kaiden gave her a bemused look, shaking his head.

Minako laughed. "Yeah I think they text more than Henry and I do. I think Julian could befriend a rat if he wanted to." She paused, taking a bite of her muffin as she debated her next question. "How about you? Are you seeing anyone?" She casually asked, hoping she didn't sound too interested.

She watched as Kaiden's lips twitched as his mouth tried not to twist upwards. "No. As you stated, Henry deserved better than what you could give him, so too would anyone I tried pursuing. I could not give them my heart, as it belongs to you. It has," he stated, looking firmly at her, "since the first day I met you. I've just been too stubborn to tell you."

Minako felt her breath hitch in her throat. She could feel her heart beating frantically in her chest as his words repeated in her head. He stared at her expectantly but all she could muster was a jumbled mess of words, none of which made sense to her ears.

"You don't have to say anything back. I just wanted to apolo—" He stopped abruptly as her hand shot out and grasped his.

"You don't have to apologize," she murmured. She gave his hand a squeeze but didn't let go. She watched as his eyes drifted to their clasped hands and then back to her face. His shoulders seemed to stiffen a bit.

"Minako, this might be too brazen of me to ask given that you just recently broke up with Henry, but would you do me the honor of allowing me to take you out on a proper date?"

Minako wondered if he could hear her heart thumping wildly because the sound of it seemed to drown out all other noise around her. She knew they had a long way to go, but this was a start. She smiled and he seemed to visibly relax, his shoulders losing their rigidness as she did so.

"I'd like that."


Not sure how I feel about the ending, but this turned out way longer than I initially envisoned it. I hope you guys liked it! Please comment and let me know what you think.