When you're in the superheroing business, you spend a lot more time than the average human being pondering your fears and weaknesses. After all, these are the things that the enemy will use against you should they get the chance. Mamoru has some rather obvious weaknesses: Usako, Chibi-Usa, and his rather worrisome susceptibility to brainwashing. But as far as fears go, he has only ever owned up to being afraid of shots.
Or so he had everyone believe. Because if he had ever admitted his true fear, his deepest, darkest one, he is quite certain that he would have been laughed at by some of his so-called allies, found it used against him by others, and coddled by an overly sympathetic girlfriend. Since he had absolutely no interest in dealing with any of those options, he chose instead to keep mum about it altogether.
After all, what were the odds of zombies actually rising from the dead, anyway?
"Idiot," Mamoru growled, shouldering his entertainment center in front of his door. "God damn aliens every other week, ice queens hellbent on turning the Earth into a giant snowball, and you think you're immune from zombies. Idiot."
Indeed, the dead were walking. Or really, the dead were running. Sadly, these were not the slow, shuffling George Romero zombies, but the super-fast/super-pissed Resident Evil zombies. He just hoped the similarities ended there. He did not feel like being trussed up by a Licker's tongue, thanks ever so.
Mamoru knew the responsible thing to do was to don his mask and cape, leap from his window, and begin to beat back the zombies, which naturally seemed to be congregating at his apartment complex. He always advocated the responsible thing when Usako had to fight during a thunderstorm, but this was different. Short of being struck by lightning, a thunderstorm could not hurt you. But zombies? Zombies could definitely hurt you.
Mamoru jumped as another of the monsters threw itself at his front door in an attempt to get in. He reassured himself the door would hold and then sank to the floor. He pulled his coat over his head to block out the sound of the snarling creatures, but he knew if he survived this, it'd be in his nightmares for weeks.
He couldn't bring himself to stand and fight. He'd never felt so paralyzed, never felt so sympathetic to Usako's histrionics of old. At times he had found it exasperating to see her so constantly afraid, but if this was how she had felt every time she stepped up to fight (and he realized now that she did), he wished he could take back every unkind thought. He'd been sick already hours before, and would have still been dry heaving if he hadn't medicated the symptom. His body was drenched in drying sweat, and his whole body convulsed in an attempt to warm up again. He felt on the verge of losing it, and of course he was all alone. Of course the girls had no idea that he wouldn't be able to take care of himself.
He cursed himself for his strange and private fears. Once, Usagi had asked him why he was so afraid of needles when he was going to become a doctor. It had been easy to explain that when your first memory was waking up in a hospital with more needles in you than fingers on her hands, and then having to be subjected to still more tests and blood draws where you couldn't remember your name or even what you looked like, you developed a certain negative association.
She'd held him that night for hours and never asked about it again. He didn't realize until now how grateful he had been.
Why hadn't he just told her? A fear of sounding ridiculous? Their lives were this ridiculous. Always. And she would have understood, wouldn't she? That was what he loved about her: no matter what, she always understood.
When he looked into the eyes of zombies in film and now walking the streets of Tokyo, there was something too familiar there. An animation without desire. A passionless obsession for human flesh and destruction. A body that walked but did not breathe and a voice that howled for its lost soul.
Mamoru knew all too well what it was like to thirst for blood and have no control over his actions. He couldn't do it again. Not ever again.
Suddenly, he heard the window in the living room shatter. He tried to remind himself that he was strong, he could fight back, but all he did was scream. He shoved himself far into the corner as if the shadows would protect him and tried to convince himself that his eyes did not burn with tears.
He didn't want to die. Why did he always have to die?
Soft hands enveloped his face and he felt himself drawn in to a familiar curved neck. He felt he ought to have been ashamed at how he wept with relief, but he didn't.
"It's okay; it's okay. We're here." He felt her turn away from a moment and whisper quick instructions to someone. He heard the entertainment center shift. He cried out in alarm, but Usagi - Sailor Moon, really - led him away from the foyer, her touch firm and steady.
"You're okay," she told him again, reassuring herself as much as him, he knew.
He sagged against her, trying not to think of how comical he must look with his six foot frame being supported by her petite body. "How did you know?" he groaned.
"When Minako and Mako made us watch 28 Days Later for Cillian Murphy last year, you kept your eyes closed," she murmured. "You held my hand the whole time. You never do that."
Mamoru wished he did that more. He wished he could grab her hand and never let go, but he settled with clinging to her like a lost child. He jumped when he heard the grinding shrieks of the undead, and even the sounds of the Senshi's attacks annihilating them could not abate his fear.
But having someone to hold on to helped.
"You saved me," he whispered. "You saved me, and I can't even--"
"Hush," she insisted, pressing a kiss against his closed eyes. "It's what we do. We save each other. We'll be all right. We can make you safe and then meet you after."
She said it so nonchalantly, as if the girls were merely going on a shopping trip and not another world-saving mission. Mamoru tasted his shame, sour and sick in the back of his throat. He would have left her to this madness? And she would let him?
He was afraid; desperately so. But he'd forgotten for a moment.
He wasn't alone.
When he opened his eyes, Chiba Mamoru was no more, having been replaced by Prince Endymion of the fallen Earth Kingdom. His sword was in his hand, but the true steel was in his eyes.
Eternal Sailor Moon looked up at him, and she smiled with such pride and affection that he felt his heart would burst.
"My hero," she complimented.
"No," he insisted, pressing a kiss against the moon on her brow. "You're mine."
And when he turned to defeat the horde, he kept one hand in hers. He never let go.