Chapter 1: Number 48 (Rei & Minako)
The battle may be over, but Venus and Mars are just getting started.
For JetWolf, April 2014.
Sailor Mars looked on the remains of the monster's bisected, smoking corpse and felt nearly overwhelmed with pride. There was nothing quite like turning a three-legged lizard/donkey hybrid into a pile of ash to pick up her spirits. Sailor Mars, soldier of war and passion, had definitely earned herself a luxurious bubble bath after saving the world single-handedly once again.
"Uggh that thing smells like you lit a fart on fire."
Mars sighed. 'Almost single-handedly.'
Sailor Venus covered her nose with both hands and leaped between the monster's torso and lower limbs. It was anyone's guess which end was which at this point. Mars preferred not to speculate.
"Okay!" Venus chirped, throwing her hands out and producing a familiar, beaten up notebook from her space pocket. Mars glared at the familiar green daisy on the cover. But it kept grinning at her behind a pair of oversized sunglasses, mocking her. "So that puts Ami at 17, Mako-chan at 34, and you and me still tied, now at 48."
Mars's glare morphed into a scowl. "What do you mean 'still tied'? I killed that thing by myself. I'm at 48; you're at 47. I'm winning."
Venus paused in adding to her own tally, glancing up at Mars. "Uh, no, we killed it together, so we both get the point."
Mars could not believe that Venus had the nerve to-- no, wait. She did believe it. She absolutely believed that Minako would do this. That was the problem. "I'm sorry, do you have fire powers? No. You do not. That thing burned to death, and since I'm the one with fire powers, I killed the monster."
"Mars, darling, you are forgetting that I cut it in half with my Crescent Lovely Beam--"
"Stop calling it that."
"--while you used Fire Soul. Ergo, we killed it together."
"Except, Venus, cutting these in half doesn't do anything! If I hadn't used Fire Soul, we would have had two monsters to deal with. And then I would be at 49 and you would still be at 47."
Venus laughed lightly, but anyone who knew her would have recognized the edge in the sound, like sharpening a knife. "Just using Fire Soul wouldn't have done anything, Mars. If I'd just let you use Fire Soul, it would have been weakened, and then I would have finished it off with a Pretty Venus Love and Beauty Sexy Shock--"
"Stop adding words to your attacks!"
"--and then I would be at 48 with you at 47. I was going to do that, you know. But I was feeling extra generous so I decided to share it with you."
"You are so full of shit! You are cheating, and you're full of shit!"
Venus clutched her chest, staggering backwards as if Mars had dealt a physical blow. "I'm cheating? I'm cheating? You're the one who's acting like you could have done this without my help!"
"Because I could have, obviously."
"J'accuse! J'accuse mon petit cork screw!"
"What the--you just called me a cork screw in a French accent."
"Lies!" At this point Mars couldn't be 100% positive if Venus was referring to being a cheater or the cork screw thing. "Vicious lies you are telling viciously like the vicious liar you are!"
"You're the one cooking the books to make yourself look better!"
"That's not even a real saying."
"MINAKO AINO, IF YOU SIT THERE AND TRY TO TELL ME THAT I AM WRONG AND YOU ARE RIGHT ABOUT A SAYING, I SWEAR TO GOD--"
"What? You'll 'Burning Mandala' me?"
Venus narrowed her eyes, considering. Then she snapped the book closed.
"You realize there's only one way to settle this."
"...find another monster?"
"Find another monster."
Mars agreed with this plan whole-heartedly. Imagining monsters had Minako's face and then setting them on fire always made her feel better. "And whoever kills this one gets credit for BOTH monsters."
Venus nodded sharply. "And then we will know once and for all who is the best and greatest Sailor Senshi."
"That's settled then."
"Nice to be in the same book."
"That's on the same--you know what, I don't care. Let's just go."
"Oooooh, coming with me, are you? Can't take your eyes off me? I see how it is."
"There is nothing to see, and you damn well know it. It's just somebody has to keep you honest."
"As if I would lie about Number 49."
Mars was about to ask how exactly it would differ from Number 48, but Venus had already jumped to the nearest rooftop, scouting for the next monster. Before Mars joined her, she checked her internal clock. It was only 3 weeks into Usagi's second trimester, leaving a little over 4 months until Chibi-Usa was born.
She had a sinking feeling that bubble bath would have to wait a long time.
Chapter 2: The Proper Thing (Inners Steampunk-Zombie AU)
The dead have risen in Victorian England, and not even a good cuppa tea can solve the problem! Thankfully, the nation has the S.E.N.S.H.I (Soldiers of the English Nation against Supernatural Hazards and Innovations) to help.
Inspired in part by Gail Carriger's Soulless series. Not that she's ever worked with zombies (with the exception of the porcupine), but the tone and setting are similar. Also you should read her stuff because it is amazing.
Winner of Sailor Moon Land's What If? Challenge, where you were given various genres to choose from (including my selection, zombies and steampunk).
Here are the name swaps:
Honoria "Bunny" Phillips - Usagi
Lord Darien Shields - Mamoru
Amelia Waterson - Ami
Lucretia Ashdown - Rei
Rosetta Green - Makoto
Mina Kennedy - Minako
Written January, 2011.
Miss Honoria Phillips – known as “Bunny” (for her energetic manner and certainly not her somewhat unorthodox hairstyle) to her closest companions (of which these four women certainly were not) – felt very distressed. Very distressed indeed. Her brother, Samuel, often elaborated on the delicate natures of the fairer sex, but Honoria felt quite certain that he would forgive her hand-wringing just this once. That is, he would if he were not very dead. Yet still quite mobile. And apparently quite hungry for her brain matter. She would have been concerned he’d gone quite around the bend had half of London not been suffering from the same affliction.
Really, it was enough to make the Queen herself reach for the smelling salts. Although, according to the latest gossip, their dear Victoria would quite prefer a heap of cold cerebellum these days.
Honoria labored to breathe and fanned herself with her second-best handkerchief. She knew her reaction troubled her companions, but in her opinion, she was doing quite well. She’d only fainted the once. Twice, if you reckoned her initial encounter with her drooling, undead brother, but she felt that was too harsh.
Predictably, her social rival, Miss Lucretia Ashdown, turned her violet gaze – at once boiling hot and freezing cold – to her. “Miss Phillips, when will you cease these histrionics? We are in the midst of an epidemic!”
Honoria did her best to return a withering gaze, but any attempt when put up against Miss Lucretia’s could be deemed amateurish at best. Particularly when one considered how Honoria’s lower lip would not cease trembling despite her best efforts. “You have informed me of this no less than twelve times, Miss Ashdown, and yet not one of you has seen fit to explain why exactly this is of such great concern to you in particular.”
The four women shared a conspiratorial glance the likes of which Honoria had seen before and felt quite sick of. She was like as not to receive an answer anytime soon.
Honoria turned her thoughts to her attendants themselves. Of the four, Honoria was acquainted only with Lucretia. Even in times of distress, the other three had bowed to social decorum and introduced themselves without preamble.
Miss Amelia Waterson was a strange little creature the likes of which Honoria was utterly unfamiliar with. While Honoria’s hair fashions could be considered “eccentric,” Miss Amelia’s bordered dangerously on “nonexistent.” She had cropped her black-blue locks shorter even then a man’s, she said for her work. At first, Honoria had been quite perplexed: whyever should a woman be concerned with labor of any kind?
It had been explained to her that Miss Amelia needed to have her hands constantly free and at the ready because she was an inventor. The walls were lined with shelves, and each one of them brimmed with all kinds of strange, unnamable contraptions. Brass and copper glowed in the dim electric light. Occasionally, she espied something that resembled a pistol or rifle, but on the whole, Honoria was at a loss to identify well over half of the mechanisms that surrounded her.
Miss Rosetta Green remained even odder. Honoria considered herself at the top of London’s fashion trends, always searching for the latest hat or some such. However, she had never once heard of a woman donning trousers, and she would have preferred to be ignorant of the style. At the very least, her hair was not shorn like Miss Waterson’s, though Honoria was shocked to discover that Miss Green’s chestnut curls were entirely natural. If Honoria were not predisposed to taking all ladies and gentlemen at their word, she might have suspected the exceptionally tall woman of contriving a falsehood.
Then of course there was Mina Kennedy, the actress whose presence had caused the second fainting spell. Blond, vivacious in the extreme, and rather known for her plunging necklines in gowns of sumptuous fabric, Mina had greeted her with a positively lascivious wink. It was no wonder Honoria had quite lost her head.
“We might as well tell her,” the actress in question intoned brightly. She glanced towards Honoria again, but thankfully did not wink this time. However, there was something in her grin that set Honoria quite ill at ease.
“No,” Lucretia snapped.
Rosetta rolled her eyes at this, an action Honoria knew Lucretia would not stand. “Stubborn as always.”
“I prefer to think of it as decisiveness.”
Mina folded her arms against her dress, causing her already voluptuous bosom to swell. Honoria fanned herself with more vigor. “Lucy, you’re the one who brought her down her. Rosetta fetched her at your request—”
“Mina, I am not a puppy.”
“—so now it is up to you to reveal all.”
At this, Honoria froze. To begin with, Honoria had never known anyone to call Miss Ashdown by a derivative name. Honoria had suggested it once in their childhood and been scolded by Lucretia so thoroughly that Honoria had been subjected to nightmares. But the second and more surprising revelation was that Lucretia had apparently insisted on her being saved. Miss Green had indeed found Honoria fleeing from the shuffling horde several hours earlier, but she had credited it with her habitual good fortune.
“Why in the name of heaven would you do that? You can’t abide me!” Honoria asked, quite forgetting her manners.
Lucretia’s face colored beneath her perfectly pinned hat.
Miss Mina and Miss Rosetta both laughed at that: Mina’s a tittering soprano that reminded Honoria of sleigh bells; Rosetta’s loud and full like a man’s, but with a warmth Honoria could only describe as being feminine. This displeased Lucretia in excess.
As for Miss Amelia, she had taken it upon herself to come up beside Honoria and laid a hand upon her shoulder. Normally, Honoria would have considered this a gross breach of etiquette, but considering the circumstances, she felt it could be overlooked.
“Never mind Lucy, Miss Phillips,” Amelia said sweetly. “I am more than willing to inform you.”
Lucretia turned on her heel in a swirl of crimson and ebony skirts. She always had favored a somewhat macabre fashion sense, despite Honoria’s assurances that she would look positively divine in canary yellow. “Amelia, don’t you dare!”
Honoria felt certain that Miss Waterson would wilt beneath Lucretia’s fury; grown men did frequently. But instead, Amelia regarded her with a coldness that could make even a Scots shiver. “Lucy, last I checked, this was my laboratory financed by myself, despite offers of help from yourself and Mina, correct?”
“Well, yes, but—"
“I believe it was also my family who first founded our organization at the behest of Her Majesty. Would you also consider this correct?”
“Amelia, you are right, of course, but—"
“And finally, I believe that it is the Queen’s discretion who is and who is not informed of our existence. In consideration of the fact that we are out of contact with Her Majesty, who may or may not be a member of the undead as we speak, I believe we can consider the system wholly broken down and as such, keep other members of the public apprised on a need-to-know basis. Since you have brought Miss Phillips to my laboratory without my or the Queen’s permission, she needs to know.” Having said all of this in one breath, Amelia inhaled again and added, “So do stuff it.”
Mina giggled again. Rosetta tried to hide a snort with a cough. Lucretia had now turned a delightful shade of purple.
“Now then,” Amelia continued, “Miss Phillips – Honoria, if I may – what you are witnessing now is the culmination of several decades of work . We were commissioned at the beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign to prepare for any and all supernatural attacks on the nation. Despite our greatest efforts, one Lady Beryl Thornton has succeeded in mounting just such an assault. We and other members of S.E.N.S.H.I. – Soldiers of the English Nation against Supernatural Hazards and Innovations. At present, we have been in contact with few others. One of them is the Lord Darien Shields.”
Honoria nearly swooned. “Lord Shields! But… he’s been courting me for on three months now!”
“Yes,” Lucretia confirmed saucily. “Which is precisely why I brought her down here: on his orders.”
Amelia shared a secret smile with Honoria that went well over her head. “Yes, of course, Lucy. That’s the only reason.”
“Quite,” Lucretia snarled.
“You’re a lucky one to have snagged Lord Shields,” Mina sighed wistfully. “A fine catchk that one. I myself have been seeing Mister Asher Donnell – Ace, I called him – but I had to shoot him in the head with my wristgun.” She frowned. “Pity. He had such a nice arse.”
Honoria’s eyes rolled up in her head.
“Mina, try not to scandalize the poor girl,” Rosetta sighed.
“I may as well stop talking if that’s the new rule!”
“That was more or less my intention.”
“At any rate,” Amelia pressed loudly, “the four of us have just been devising a plan of attack to reach Lord Shields, and to offer him and others some assistance in the fight.” As if on cue, all of the women immediately advanced to the wall. They began to pull down vast amounts of weaponry. “I assure you, you’ll be quite safe down here. This particular creature is not especially clever. Their strength is in numbers, not genius. I am quite certain we will have this contained swiftly.”
Honoria watched as the ladies gathered their instruments of destruction. Several could be strapped to one’s arm or leg, which explained Mina’s ‘wristgun’ comment. Others seemed to be as unlike weapons as anything Honoria had ever seen. Why, Lucretia even grabbed a parasol with a particularly gleeful look on her face, though Honoria could not see what good that would do. It wasn’t even a nice looking parasol.
Honoria shook herself as if waking from a daydream. None of this mattered; only one thing did, and she was a fool to ignore it. “Wait!” she cried, leaping to her feet. “Are you saying that Dari—that Lord Shields is danger?”
The quartet exchanged another one of their maddening glances. It was answer enough.
“Do you honestly expect me to sit down here and sit on my hands while my… while he is in peril for his life?” she shouted, addressing Lucretia in particular.
At the very least, Miss Ashdown had the grace to look discomfited. “Well… yes.”
For once, when Honoria scowled, she did not feel inadequate. “You really don’t know me at all.” She turned to Amelia, who seemed to be more or less in charge. “I’m coming with you.”
They all protested – Lucretia loudest of all – but Honoria managed to shout above them. “No! If you must know, he’s more than a man courting me…. I love him. I love him more than I fear those… whatever they are, and I do not intend to sit by while he fights for me and for our country.” Honoria held out her hands, surprised to find how steady they were. “I’m coming with you. I’m going to save Darien. And I’ll hear no more arguments.”
Again, the four women seemed to silently confer on the matter, and each independently arrived at the same conclusion: Honoria was coming whether they liked it or not.
Rosetta handed her something she referred to a Discombobulator with the following advice: “don’t shoot me.”
As if Honoria would ever! Her intention was in fact not to shoot anyone. All she cared to do was make it to her love, Lord Darien Shields, ensure that he was safe, and then promptly collapse into his arms for a good, long faint.
Chapter 3: Rondo Adagio (Haruka/Michiru)
Michiru has a routine she indulges in before every concert. Just because this is probably her last does not mean that she's going to change that.
Written March 2010.
Michiru had certain rituals she indulged in on the day of a concert. Although she always played in her home (she had favored Barber’s Adagio for Strings lately), her stereos remained silent. It was important that her style remain free of the influence of other masters. She took pride in her accomplishments; she would not ride anyone’s coattails.
She began the day with a leisurely swim and a long shower. Water always grounded her, brought her a sense of peace and purpose. On these days, she needed that more than anything.
The rest of the day, she spent in direct preparation for her performance. Haruka knew to keep her distance. She carefully selected which of her favorite dresses to wear. For this evening, she chose a black lace ensemble, though to be frank, black was not an adequate description of the color. Ebony perhaps? Or midnight?
She supposed it wouldn’t do to quibble over the exact name. Her mother, who always attended these functions, would still scold her for such a funereal selection. She would brush Michiru’s hair away with long, tapered fingers and frown, a standard expression on that aging, elegant face. She would ask why Michiru hadn’t worn that green dress she had sent over the week before. She had designed it herself with Michiru in mind.
Michiru would make excuses, claiming she wanted to wait for a special occasion. She would not tell her mother that the frock was too celebratory, too cheerful. She would not say that she had chosen black to match her mood and her fate.
She did expect this to be her last concert, after all.
Michiru brushed that thought aside and put the finishing touches on her make-up. She had been tempted to select a dark, almost purplish red lipstick, but she had sensed this would verge on parody. Besides, with her hair, deviating from a neutral palette was often a recipe for disaster.
She took a deep breath, gently running her fingers along the hand mirror at her vanity. It was nothing like the mirror she had nearly died for just weeks before, but it was precious to her nonetheless. Her father had gotten it for her just before….
Well, there was no sense in pondering that. After all, it was likely that she would join him before long.
Outfit selected and make-up completed, Michiru turned to her most cherished possession: her violin. She resisted the temptation to pet the case, another fine gift from her mother. With careful, gentle fingers, Michiru lifted the lid and gazed down out the instrument inside. This, she could not help but caress.
This was hardly her first or her only violin, but it was her favorite. Every instrument she owned was hand-crafted, and this each produced its own unique sound. One these strings, she believed she played the most beautifully.
She couldn’t adequately describe to the uninitiated the difference in tonality. They would likely stave her off with compliments that she could make heavenly music with a broken bow. She would nod politely and try not to hate them for their ignorance, for pretending to love her without really knowing her.
She exhaled, shaking her head softly. Now was not the time for bitterness. Superstitiously, she thought it might leech into the wood of the violin and color her performance. She had no plans to rail against the unfairness of fate that night, though she had every right to.
Instead, she wanted to mourn. It was an indulgence in self pity she would not normally have tolerated, but for just a few hours, she wanted her audience to know her torment and to feel it with her. She had done that too with her series of apocalyptic paintings, but this would be different. Music and art affected people in different ways. A painting you could only look at; music you sometimes only heard, but the vibrations resonated in the blood. She wanted the notes to sink into their bones and shake them at their core. She wanted it to stay with them. And when her fate was known throughout the city, she wanted them to remember her performance and be haunted by it, if only for a little while.
If there was one dry eye in the house tonight, she would think herself a failure.
She lifted the violin out of the case, drawing a soft cloth with it. She dipped an edge into a jar of violin polish and began to move it methodically over every inch of her instrument. Her teacher would likely scold her for over-polishing again, but she couldn’t help but dote on a thing she loved.
And she did love the violin. It was not often that Michiru would admit she felt love. In truth, she was not capable of the all encompassing, depthless love she had seen those five strange girls she fought with and against.
She thought she loved her father, or at least the memory of him, though nostalgia and a sense of loss may have colored her affection. She certainly cared for her mother, but she was not willing to claim love. The woman did not make it easy with her distance and frequent criticisms.
The only two things Michiru felt prepared to say she loved without reservation or condition were Haruka and her violin.
She paused in her ministrations, wondering what would become of the instrument once she was gone. Her initial longing was for Haruka to take it, but she knew better than to expect this. If Michiru fell in the final battle, Haruka would not survive it either. That had been made perfectly clear at the cathedral when Haruka had….
Well, Michiru didn’t like to think about that.
Her mother was the next obvious choice, but she wouldn’t want it. After losing her husband, all of his possessions had been given away or put into storage, never to be seen again. She had not even been able to hold onto the house they had lived in for the length of their marriage. Michiru couldn’t bear to bequeath her violin to have it locked away somewhere, never touched, never looked upon, never played.
Then she remembered the day that Usagi, strange little girl with the brightest of hearts, had come to her wanting to be a lady. Usagi had played her violin that day – horribly, harshly – but Michiru had detected a certain reverence beneath the clumsiness. Michiru knew that Usagi would never put away the prized possession of a loved one. And Michiru did believe that in spite of everything, Usagi loved her. Maybe Michiru even loved the her a little; it was hard not to.
So it was decided: when Michiru fell, Usagi would get the violin.
Assuming the girl did not die herself.
Michiru surprised herself by genuinely hoping that this did not happen. She was prepared to cut the girl down if she got in the way, but she didn’t want to. She could not fool herself by saying that her regret was only for Haruka’s sake. She genuinely hoped that Usagi – all of them in fact – survived.
Was that love?
Michiru turned her head towards the doorway, unsurprised to see Haruka looking masculine and debonair in her favorite tuxedo. She smiled and placed the violin back in the case. “I can be. I’ll tune at the auditorium.
Haruka’s eyes fell upon the gown she wore. “Black. Appropriate.”
She nodded, rising. “I thought so.”
For a moment, Haruka’s lips quivered and a flash of grief passed over her face like the headlights of a passing car. It vanished a moment later. They had silently agreed not to dwell too much on the likelihood of what would come to pass within the next few days.
“You’re beautiful,” Haruka said softly, earnest as always. “You always are.”
Michiru wanted very much to kiss her then, but she feared it would give the moment a significance she’d like to avoid. So she merely reached for the other girl’s hand. “As are you.”
Haruka snorted. She hated being equated with feminine compliments, but she endured it for Michiru’s sake. She pulled Michiru gently as if to draw her forward, but then paused. “I was thinking.”
“Do you think Usagi would have any use for the Ferrari?”
Michiru stared, disbelieving but still unsurprised by the parallel of their thoughts. Then, significance be damned, she did kiss Haruka, languorous and slow. It smudged her lipstick.
Haruka arched an eyebrow, her cheeks colored. “Words fail you?”
“Actions have a music to them,” Michiru said, slipping her free arm in Haruka’s. They both stared at the open doorway, into the hallway, and beyond.
Chapter 4: I'm a Barbie Girl? (Inners)
The Sailor Senshi have a lot of regrets, but the biggest at the moment involves a certain Mattel franchise.
Written April 2011.
They were surrounded. Despite their best efforts to make it through enemy lines, they could not turn their heads without seeing their little faces with the ever present, clownish smiles. They were buried beneath them. All of the exits were blocked. All around them was pink, pink, pink.
Barbies, Barbies everywhere.
Makoto released the kind of sigh you would expect someone to utter whilst drowning in rosy, plastic cheerfulness. "I give up."
Minako cackled in a superior way, as she had been doing since this whole trouble began several hours earlier. "I would say I will not say I told you so, but I TOTALLY told you so."
"Shut up, Minako," Rei grumbled, exhausted beyond the point of clever comebacks.
"It's certainly not as easy as it looks," Ami admitted.
"And to think, I was a little tickled to be made into a Barbie doll," Makoto mused, lifting hers up for inspection. "I mean, the detail is a lot better than some of the other brands... I'm even taller than the others!"
Minako grinned wickedly. "But?"
Makoto glared at the blonde on the off-chance that it would wipe that annoying look on her face. Unfortunately, it had the opposite effect. "I will hurt you," Makoto informed her solemnly.
Minako shrugged, unconcerned. She turned to Ami, who could always be counted on to see reason. "But?"
Ami gave Makoto a truly apologetic look. "Agreeing to let them use our image and sign 1,000 boxes each was a mistake."
Minako crowed triumphantly, holding her arms aloft. "Thank you, ladies and gentlemen! Aino Minako is proven right once again!"
Rei chucked one of the Sailor Mars dolls at Minako's head. Infuriatingly, the girl caught it expertly, and flashed her trademark peace sign with her free hand just to rub it in.
"I did try to warn you," Minako said, sobering. A little. "They caught me in the same trap during the Sailor V days... 'We'll give you an obnoxious percentage of the royalties and make sure the dolls aren't crap, and all you have to do is sign 1,000 boxes a month.' Fun, it was not. My hand cramps were so bad I could barely aim the crescent beam."
Makoto arched an eyebrow. "I'm suddenly wondering if this was part of the reason you faked your death."
Minako mimed zipping her lips shut and locking them up for good measure. The look in her eyes seemed to confirm their worst suspicions, however.
"All right," Rei snapped. "You're a genius for not getting in on the deal. Good for you! Want a cookie?"
"Yes, please," Minako chirped, fluffing her hair. "Chewy, not crunchy, preferably with chocolate."
Not for the first time, Makoto was glad Minako was so fast and adept at dodging. Rei would make her suffer once her hands stopped throbbing.
"Of course," Rei continued, shifting hostilities for the time being. "This could be going a lot faster if someone knew their kanji."
All four sets of eyes swiveled to the center of the room, where the smallest of them was surrounded by the tallest pile of dolls waiting to be signed.
Usagi looked at each of them in turn, eyes red-rimmed and beginning to twitch. She sniffled bravely.
"When I rule the world, I'm going to outlaw kanji."
"And Barbies?" Makoto asked hopefully.
Chapter 5: Awake (Inners & Mamoru)
Six people wake up after one thousand years of slumber.
Written November 2010.
For ten centuries, the Earth slept. Ice covered the landscape from pole to pole. Nothing stirred, every one of them safe the darkness that had ravaged the Earth in the beginning of their internment.
One day, the darkness died.
Six of them woke up.
Their arctic prisons cracked, releasing them into the unknown. After one thousand years of darkness, they were nearly blinded by it. They awoke as newborns, shrieking at the strangeness. None of it was familiar. After a millennium of slumber, they had known only oblivion.
It was all they remembered. They had forgotten everything.
The tallest one, the one intrinsically different from the rest, calmed first. He looked around at the rest crying in the face of this agonizing newness, and he felt a need to shield them. He did not yet know it for he did not know the words, but this was love. And so he learned the first lesson.
He gathered them, and they huddled for warmth. They were naked and unashamed, ignorant of embarrassment. They stayed there, frozen and freezing until the sun had begun to dip down below the glaciers.
Only then did it occur to one of them, the one with hair the color of the darkening sky, to observe their surroundings. She left them, and they followed her, longing to stay close to all that was familiar.
They were surrounded by shards of what had once been their homes. The leader of their movement reached out and grasped one. She drew back immediately with a feral cry. Her finger was different now, red and wet. And so she learned the second lesson: pain.
Suddenly, another one – the smallest of them who was the most afraid of this strange new world – saw a shard different from all the rest. It shined.
She knew immediately that this would not hurt her. She drew closer, ignoring the grunting and mewling of her companions. They were afraid of its glitter, but she knew this would not hurt her. In fact, she had a sense of longing for it. She learned desire, the most destructive lesson of all.
But she learned joy too, and perhaps that was the purest.
She sighed in ecstasy, and if they had known what music was, they would have likened the sound to it.
She reached out and caressed it with the tiniest, barest fingertip.
It flared. It exploded with light and power, and every last one of them howled. They were enveloped in silver and light. They were warmed; then they burned.
With an explosion of raw power, they remembered how to be human. They remembered who they were
The Ginzuishou’s light retreated, leaving the four Senshi, Tuxedo Kamen, and the new Queen Serenity standing and whole. They all stayed perfectly still and wept in silence, having lived a lifetime in an instant. Finally, Serenity took a deep breath and spoke the first words uttered on the planet Earth for a thousand years.
Chapter 6: The Same, Over and Over (Michiru)
Michiru longs for a different inspiration.
Written August 2010
Michiru is tired of painting the same thing over and over.
It used to be that she would feel sketchbook after sketchbook of varied ideas for paintings. Detailed portraits and sumptuous moonscapes, styles impressionistic and classical, palettes colorful and muted. And yes, there were seascapes. Yes, there were darker works.
But now all she can paint is the ocean swallowing the world.
She paints only in black and blue - the color of the bruises that litter her flesh. She paints the coming doom and its encroaching shadow. The sea roars in her ears all the time, warnings of disaster. She doesn't need them. She never forgets. She has the paintings - symptoms of the virus she cannot cure.
She tries to paint sunshine. Smiling children at play. Haruka.
Nothing. They are nothing. Uninspired and lifeless. Easily and readily burnt or painted over.
All she can paint is the ocean swallowing the world.
One day, she can't take another painting prophesying ruin. She throws the canvas to the ground, splatters the paints across her dress, and collapses. She cries. The tears dilute the colors on the palette. They are a black river. More destruction, more despair.
Michiru doesn't paint anymore.
Chapter 7: Exposure Therapy (Ami, Minako, and Makoto)
Minako has a brilliant idea to help Ami get over her fear of love letters. Spoiler alert: it is not a brilliant idea.
Written July 2010.
"But I don't want to go home!"
Minako and Makoto looked up, startled out of their very important conversation regarding the relative cuteness of science teachers. They were not so much surprised as exasperated to see their friend Ami once again being shoved out of the nurse's office, her face and hands covered in angry red blotches.
"I'm telling you, I'm fine!" Ami insisted, struggling against the school nurse. Even though Ami was a Sailor Senshi and stronger than the average bookworm, she had no chance of defeating a nurse who regularly participated in female body-building competitions.
"Ms. Mizuno, I'm sorry, but I simply can't let you stay in school in your condition," the nurse tutted in sympathy.
Ami's lower lip quivered, looking near tears. "But it's just an allergic reaction. I--"
"Well, dear, it's the third allergic reaction this month, and the seventh this term," the nurse pointed out. "Perhaps if you spent less time studying and more time figuring out just what it is you're allergic to--"
Ami cut her off with an undignified, uncharacteristic wail. "But I've told you! It's the love letters!"
The nurse didn't try to disguise rolling her eyes as she continued to shuttle Ami out the door. "Ms. Mizuno, I have brains as well as brawn, and I can conclusively state that there is no medical reason for you to have an allergic reaction to a piece of paper."
"Goodbye, Ms. Mizuno."
Minako and Makoto stared as Ami was unceremoniously pushed out the doors of the school. When the girl attempted to reenter, the nurse physically barred the door. Nothing short of transforming into Sailor Mercury would have caused the woman to budge. Finally, Ami turned and dejectedly made her way home, scratching at her neck.
Makoto clucked her tongue. "Unbelievable."
"No kidding!" Minako added.
"Poor Ami?!" Minako yelped, jaw agape. "How on Earth can you say that?"
Makoto arched an eyebrow. "Erm... Minako, hives are bad enough, but having to miss school so much? Ami must be devastated."
"Oh yeah, it's devastating to get seven love letters in just a few months," Minako snapped, slamming her palm against the wall. "Do you know how many I've gotten in the same amount of time?"
"TWO. Two! And that's after spending all of break campaigning for them."
Makoto narrowed her eyes. "You did what?"
"I went to all of the houses of the cute boys in school and gave them all a list of why I would make a good girlfriend."
Makoto took a long, steadying breath and marveled that dealing with this kind of thing hadn't given her an ulcer already. "What exactly did you tell them?"
Minako shrugged. "Oh, I can't remember everything now... I'm sure I told them how pretty I am - just in case they were near-sighted or something. And I said I'd go to all of their club functions, change my schedule to be in all of the classes - that sort of thing."
Makoto grinned. "So basically you promised to look good stalking them."
Minako stuck her tongue out and continued with her rant undeterred. "But seriously! I'm not saying I'm prettier than Ami or anything, but I don't get why she gets all of those love letters. And I don't understand why she can't just be happy about them!"
"I think it has something to do with the hives," Makoto deadpanned.
Minako snorted. "Please. It's so obviously psychosomatic."
Makoto stared. She and Rei occasionally made fun of Minako's ever-present flakiness, but then sometimes she said things that really made them wonder how much of Minako's blondeness was affected. "Psychowhat?"
"Psychosomatic," Minako reported. "You see, I've been obsessed with these reality shows about people with mental illnesses and stuff. Do you know there are people who can't bear to throw out phonebooks from 1987? It's so weird and so awesome!"
"Anyway, watching those shows has kind of made me an expert on this kind of thing," Minako said, nodding sagely. "And I can for sure say that Ami's 'allergic reactions' are all in her head."
Though Makoto didn't always put that much stock into Minako's ramblings, she couldn't help but think that - just this one time - the girl was making sense. "You think?"
"I know," Minako assured her. "See, I think Ami is so shy and reserved that the idea of a boy liking her totally messes with her head. Smart as she is, she can't process it mentally, so her body has a physical reaction. Hence, hives."
Makoto taped a finger against her chin. "Hmm... I guess that makes sense." She paused, looking back towards the doors Ami had exited through. Her face fell when she saw the girl standing at the end of the sidewalk, staring forlornly at the building and scratching her arms. "Those shows have anything that can help her?"
Minako pretended to ponder the question and then dramatically snapped her fingers. "I've got just the thing!"
"Two words: exposure therapy."
The next day, Ami was thrilled to be back at school. She'd spent nearly an hour loitering outside the building hoping that her hives would heal, but after that she'd given up and gone back home. She'd treated her sores with her prescription allergy cream and filled the next few hours with reading some of the medical texts Mamoru had recommended. Finally, Minako, Makoto, and Usagi had arrived with her homework. Ami had been touched by their concern, particularly Minako's. Usagi was always caring, and Makoto naturally had a tendency to mother everyone, but Ami had always suspected that Minako was less forgiving of her problems. Still, Minako had been kind and cheerful, and Ami had not detected the usual thread of jealousy.
When Ami reached her locker, she paused. Lately, she'd been feeling increased anxiety every time she went to open it. Would it contain a love letter? Would she get hives? Would she have to go home?
Ami took a deep breath. "Don't be ridiculous. It's astronomically improbable that you'd receive another love letter two days in a row."
Of course, Ami was of the opinion that it was astronomically improbable she received love letters full stop, but clearly her calculations there were not unbiased.
So, Ami took a deep breath, undid the combination lock, and swung the door open bravely.
Whereupon she was buried in a mountain of love letters.
Ami struggled underneath the paper, welts appearing on her body wherever they touched. The pain and itching were unbearable. Ami flailed, trying to free herself, but kept getting distracted by an overwhelming need to scratch. Ami thought it was entirely possible that she would die from ripping her skin off before anyone thought to help her.
Finally, a pair of hands pulled her out from underneath the rubble.
"Well, did it work?" someone chirped.
"Err..." her rescuer stammered. "I don't think so."
Ami's eyes had swollen shut, so she could see neither the severity of her skin reaction nor the speakers. However, she could certainly feel the former and was quite sure that it was probably the worst allergic reaction she had ever had.
And as for the latter...
"Aino. Minako," Ami growled. "What have you done?"
"We were just trying to help!" the girl insisted.
Makoto released Ami's burning skin, laughing nervously. "It seemed like a good idea at the time?"
Ami felt very tempted to scream. However, she could tell from the legion of whispering voices that they were being watched, so she swallowed the impulse. Instead, she took a very deep breath.
"Take me to the nurse's station," Ami hissed. "Then take me home. And as soon as I can see again, I will see to it that you are both sorely punished."
Makoto and Minako issued twin groans.
"Please, Ami, we didn't mean it!"
"Don't tell me you want us to do--"
"Oh yes," Ami insisted, stumbling towards the contrite voices.
Chapter 8: The Red Sea (Usagi & Michiru)
Only two of them are left. One drowned the world, and the other has to find the strength to save it.
Written February 2009. Major character deaths.
Sailor Moon awoke with the taste of copper in her mouth and red smeared across her knees. But the scream didn't erupt from her throat until she fully opened her eyes. It exploded from the depths of her, filling the air and resounding through every corner of the street. She could almost believe it replaced every oxygen molecule in the air with the sound of her anguish.
She knew it wasn't true, suspected it wasn't scientifically feasible, and mourned with the knowledge that it wouldn't matter much if it had happened. There was no one left to breathe.
Sailor Moon pushed herself to her feet, trembling and stumbling and longing for a pair of arms to wrap around her tiny frame. She hugged herself, wishing it were Rei or Mamoru or Haruka, who in a way had been the start of all this. She wished as hard as she could and looked straight ahead, refusing to look at the crumbled corpses and half-corpses and pieces of corpses that littered the walkway.
She tripped over a shoe. Her heart sank when she saw the gold color and the ankle strap. Her stomach lurched when she saw the ankle.
Eventually, Sailor Moon found her target. Covered in blood up to the waist, eyes frighteningly blank. Sea foam hair floating around her pale face like a storm cloud with lightning to vanquish them all.
"Michiru," Sailor Moon whispered, not even having the strength to cry. "Why?"
The soldier from the oceans just stared. The silence stretched out like flesh over bone, taught and tangible. The quiet felt solid in this city of screaming ghosts.
"Why?" Sailor Moon repeated with more force. "Why did you do this? Why did... Why did you have to take them all?"
Neptune tilted her head to the side. "Where's Haruka?"
Sailor Moon wished she could have stopped her face from crumbling. She thought it would have been better to lie, but she just couldn't. Or maybe she didn't want to. "She died. You know she died. You held her in your arms, she bled out, and she died." She took a deep, terrible breath. "But that's no excuse. That's no reason to destroy us all."
Neptune looked away. "I want Haruka."
She couldn't stop the rage that sprang from her throat. "She's dead! And if I'd known what would have happened, I would have seen you go with her!" She shoved her fingers into her scalp and pushed, almost wanting to breach her skin. At least that way her body might feel more pain, distract her from the fact that her heart had been torn to shreds. "You took them all... The sea rose up and you drowned the city. Then you ripped our friends apart." She moaned, her knees threatening to collapse. "Mamo-chan..."
"I want Haruka," Neptune repeated dreamily.
"I tried," Sailor Moon sobbed. "I tried but it didn't work. I tried so many times."
Neptune's response cut the air like a knife.
"Then you can die too."
Neptune raised her arms above her head, sea water swirling around her emaciated form like a spout. Red mixed with the murky blue. She was going to drown Sailor Moon in a blood sea, a red sea, and then she would be the only soul in Tokyo. She'd ask for Haruka and all she'd receive is an echo in response, her own question bouncing back to her. She'd have no answers.
And then who knows where she'd go.
Sailor Moon straightened, red-rimmed eyes sparkling with tears and a promise. She shook her head slowly, holding her hands out in front of her chest. "I won't let you."
Hot and cold light, shimmering with silver and booming stretched as far as Usagi's eyes could see. She felt it push through Neptune's body and her power, felt it dissolve and fizzle like smoke and vapor. Then it spread over the city.
She didn't stop it.
Her fuku fell away in ribbons and feathers and her hair turned silver-white. The crescent moon appeared on her forehead. Wings sprouted from her back.
Serenity breathed and her power engulfed the world.
She lulled each and every one of those innocent souls to sleep. She shielded them from the cold and wrapped them in her magic. Then she gathered her friends to her, and her lover as well, and she slipped into her own blissful black. She prayed to her mother that she would forget these end of days.
Out of vengeance, she left Neptune behind.
Out of mercy, she gave her Uranus again.
Chapter 9: The Green-Eyed Rabbit (Usagi/Mamoru)
Usagi isn't jealous; she just doesn't like to share her boyfriend.
Written April 2011.
It's not so much that Usagi is jealous. It's just that she doesn't want to share. Mamoru is her boyfriend, and she doesn't think it’s unreasonable of her to take this position.
On the other hand, she has long since accepted the fact that her Mamo-chan is an attractive hunk of manhood. She doesn't begrudge the sly looks he gets from passers-by, or the occasional schoolgirl giggling at him inside the arcade. She even understands why, sometimes, her friends give him an appreciative glance before continuing about their business. She loves and trusts them so much that she doesn't even consider them a danger to her relationship.
Frankly, Usagi thinks she's fairly reasonable when it comes to the issue of jealousy (especially since she is not, repeat, NOT jealous). Definitely not even a little bit jealous.
She just wishes the evil overladies would keep their hands to themselves already.
"Don't you think you're overreacting just a bit, Usako?" Mamo-chan asks her, an annoying but not unattractive smirk on his face.
Usagi glares. "No, I don't think I'm overreacting. I am sick and tired of you being the object of desire for every female bad guy we run into."
He frowns. "I think you're overstating the case just a--"
"Beryl destroyed an entire civilization because she was in love with you," Usagi snapped, counting down the villainesses. "Black Lady - your own daughter--"
"The brainwashed evil incarnation of my daughter," Mamoru interrupted.
A small voice in Usagi's head that sounded suspiciously like Minako said, "Same difference."
Usagi ignored it and pressed on. "Doesn't matter, she still wanted you. Nehellenia expressed her desire for you in her dying breath, and of all the horrors Galaxia subjected me to, watching her kiss you was easily in the top three."
Mamoru sighed. "All right. Fine. So there's a certain... similarity in the incidents."
"But don't you think me wearing a fake handlebar mustache as Tuxedo Kamen is taking it too far?" Mamoru asked, gesturing to the offending accessory gracing his lip like two kissing caterpillars.
Usagi pretended to consider the point.
Chapter 10: The Mermaid & the Hunter (Mermaid AU, Saffir & Ami)
The Black Moon Clan has one mission: to wipe out all things supernatural and take back the Earth for humanity.
Written April 2011; updated October 2017.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
He did not enjoy it as his brethren did. He did not care for the attention Emerald basked in. He did not lust for blood like the Crimson Ruby. And as for Diamond, his brother.... Well, he was never sure what motivated Diamond. He hunted as though it were an obsession, as though he looked for something in particular.
Sapphire hunted because had to. The purpose of the Black Moon Clan was simple: eliminate all non-mortal creatures that walked the Earth. The land of Terra belonged to the humans, who held dominion over the animals that crawled and flew and swam. There was no place in a world like this for the Elven, the Sirens, the beings who lived past what reason should dictate.
It was not that he didn't believe in the cause. The thought of any creature living beyond a normal life span made him ill. It wasn't... natural. An abomination that nature did not have the sense to stamp out. His family took on the responsibility, and thus far, they'd done a fair job. The unicorns were all dead, and the fairies had fled to where they could no longer be hunted.
Now Sapphire set his sights on the ocean-born, the women of the deep. The Mermaids.
He set sail with a small crew, leaving behind a confident brother and an erstwhile lover. Sapphire did not love the sea as his shipmates did, but he felt a kinship with it. He appreciated the silence. The dead calm. The darkness that extended past the depths of what his eyes could see.
One night, he walked the ship from bow to stern, unable to find restful sleep. That's when he saw her.
She had swum to the side of the ship and somehow climbed on to the railing. She'd anchored herself with her tail wrapped twice around the beam. She kept her hands braced at either side of her, unarmed and webbed to the first knuckle. Hair like water spelled into strands, cropped short over pointed ears trimmed in misshapen pearls. Scales like quicksilver, shimmering ice and diamonds in the dark. Eyes the color of crushing depths boring into him. An accusation. Damnation from the inhuman.
He had no sword with which to slay her being in his nightclothes. He ought to have sounded the alarm and roused the rest of the crew, but for whatever reason, he did not. Instead, he drifted closer to the railing, waiting for her to swim away. Perhaps she would try and lure him to his death, but the Black Moon had trained against such trickery. Sapphire was confident that he could resist her thrall if she chose to attack in such a manner.
But she just kept glaring in condemnation.
Finally, he spoke, slowly and over-enunciating. "Do you understand me?"
She scoffed, "Of course. You hunt us like animals. Does it make you feel better to suppose we have not the brains to understand your primitive tongue?"
Her speech was heavily accented, her consonants soft and her vowels fuller and richer than the norm. He found he liked it. "I do my duty to my family."
"Your duty is bathed in the blood of the innocent," she hissed. "I am a creature of the sea, and of all mankind, sailors are most liable to tell tales. I have heard of your kind, Sapphire of Black Moon. Brother to a tortured leader, lover to a scornful woman. An unhappy man with an unhappy... duty." The last she spat out like a curse.
She was not the first to try and trick him, though she was the most beautiful. "No creature should live forever."
"Perhaps not. But no creature should take it upon himself to slay another," she said, her voice taking on a strange, gurgling quality. "You do not possess the right."
"I take no pleasure in it," Sapphire confessed, shocked by his own honesty.
The mermaid was not surprised by this. "I see your sadness. If I so chose, I could taste it on your skin as I devoured you." She smiled and though he could not clearly make out her features in the black, he remembered that Emerald had brought home the head of a mermaid once, many year ago. Rows upon rows of tiny, tearing teeth, too many for a mouth that seemed almost human. Those teeth had become a necklace that was not so much worn as displayed, left just sharp enough to draw blood from a careless caress.
Sapphire pulled himself from the memory of the dead sea monster's jaws. "I doubt that."
"Care to put it to the test?"
"If you planned to kill me, you would have tried by now," Sapphire reasoned. He was of an analytical mind, something he and the creature had in common, it seemed. "You revealed yourself for some other purpose. Speak and be gone."
The mermaid bristled like cold fire. "Do not presume to command me, mortal."
It had been arrogant of him; he didn't normally pretend to such confidence. He'd been with the Crimson Ruby too long.
The silence stretched, and she was able to let the insult pass. But only just. "I come to issue a warning."
He arched an eyebrow. "What of? And why?"
"I come to bear news of a movement rising in the depths of Fae. More than pixies have retreated to that realm, but do not mistake it for cowardice. Recognize what it is: a tactical advantage. They will regroup. The final battle will come. And you and your ilk will perish."
He shivered to hear the certainty in her voice. It was not a question of who would triumph for her. It was a foregone conclusion. He wondered if mermaids had the gift of sight like centaurs. "Why do you tell me this?"
Her dark eyes seemed to shift, no longer hard as ice caps, but soft, like a gentle wave. God, did she pity him?
"There are those among us who do not like bloodshed of any sort. Even if our enemies are ignorant, hateful, intolerant sycophants... we do not believe you should die unnecessarily. We wish to broker peace, and it is well known among our kind that you are in the best position to do so."
If Sapphire had not already been used to having the weight of the world on his shoulders, he might have buckled under this. "I am honor bound to my family. I am loyal to our cause."
"Are you really?"
"Then why am I still alive?"
Sapphire had no answer for her.
She smiled sadly, the expression softening the inhuman gaunt of her cheek. He had to fight the impulse to stroke her flesh. Intellectually, he knew it would be cold, and yet his longing demanded she would be warm. Pretty lie for a pretty creature designed to capture men's souls.
Yet she claimed to want peace. Another trick? Or a nuance of her culture he had never bothered to understand?
She began to extract herself from the side of the ship. Sapphire curled his hands into fists at his side. It was all he could do to not reach out and clutch her to him. "You'd best head back for land," she said. "You'll find none of my people in these waters. In two days' time, you'll reach the siren's territory, and they will happily rip you limb from limb.
"Heed the warnings of me and mind, Sapphire of Black Moon." Then she pushed off the rail, diving backwards and disappearing beneath the waves.
As much control as he had exhibited and prided himself on, he could not stop the cry her departure rent from his throat. It shamed and emboldened him in equal measure.
He waited for hours for her to return, to catch just a glimpse of white and silver scales beneath the blue. She did not return. He could see her again if he jumped in after her... but she would truly taste the regrets on his skin then. It might have been her aim all along. He knew not.
Hours later, a red dawn rose. He sought out the captain and advised him to turn around, heading for home. He would decide what to tell his brother in the time it took to return.
That night, and for every night thereafter, he dreamed of drowning eyes.
Admittedly, this is basically Ami's aesthetics with Rei's personality. I almost swapped out Ami with Rei while I tweaked some other things, but this was a request, so I'll go ahead and leave it as is.
I'm actually quite fond of this universe, but I'll almost certainly never continue it. If anyone else wants to use the idea (and maybe actually swap out Ami for Rei or someone else), go for it! And let me know because I'd love to read it.
Chapter 11: An Unhappy Wife Makes an Unhappy Life (Michiru/Haruka)
In which Michiru is not happy and Haruka is even less happy.
Written April 2011 under a different title. Still not thrilled with the title, but this is not a hill I want to die on.
"Erm. Y-yes, Michiru?"
"I'm not happy."
"...oh. You're not?"
"No. No, I'm not."
"You know I don't disapprove of gambling, Haruka."
"Yeah, I know."
"I don't disapprove of it considerably less when you win."
"I have noticed that."
"But you know when I do disapprove of it?"
"I disapprove of it when you cheat and beat our daughter and make her cry."
"I did not cheat!"
"Don't compound things by lying, Haruka."
"Well... Okay, fine. I cheated. But you know what? I don't regret it."
"Hotaru always wins!"
"So your competitive nature caused you to break a seven-year-old's heart. How lovely."
"You are blowing this completely out of proportion. Hotaru did not cry. She sniffled. Twice. And besides, I didn't do it because I'm competitive. She needs to learn how to lose gracefully."
"How exactly is she going to do that when she catches you cheating at poker?"
"Well, she wasn't supposed to catch me!"
"Ah. I see. Everything is clear now."
"I was going to give her the Pocky back. Or... well, I was going to buy her new Pocky."
"I'm not happy."
"...I'll take the couch."
Chapter 12: Adding to the Noise (Outers)
Hotaru is given the worst gift ever... at least for her parents.
Written June 2006, one little tweak added October 2017
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Michiru delicately tried to sip her tea as the ceiling caved in around her. Or a meteor shower was coming down outside. She wasn't certain which metaphor would be best in this situation, but she knew it had to be both very loud and very painful.
"It's like giant hail," Haruka put forth, her teeth clenched, the newspaper starting to rip as she pulled it apart.
"What was that about hell?" Setsuna muttered as she drank her second cup of cinnamon flavored coffee. She had yet to wake up.
"No, hail," Haruka corrected, snarling a bit.
"I think either interpretation is appropriate," Michiru said with cool diplomacy. "And really, Haruka, I don't think you have any reason to complain."
Haruka seemed quite insulted by this insinuation. "How was I to know she was never going to take the damn things off?!"
“The fact that she’s seven years old should have been some indication,” Setsuna groused, flinching as a particularly loud bang crashed from overhead.
Haruka covered her ears, screwing her eyes shut. “They’re TINY! How can they make so much NOISE?!”
“I feel as though I should make a joke about her being evil again, but that would be inappropriate all things considered,” Michiru said.
Setsuna groaned as they noises sped up. “Oh, God. She’s doing the times step again.”
Haruka looked at Michiru gravely. “Maybe you have a point about that evil thing.”
Michiru laughed, a vein beginning to bulge at her temple. “Really, Haruka. Don’t be ridiculous.” She paused, taking a sip of tea. “If anything, you’re the evil one. You’re the one who bought her the tap shoes, after all.
I basically just added that Setsuna's coffee is flavored with cinnamon because Jet Wolf's headcanon in this matter owns my soul.
Chapter 13: Friends in Ink and Paper (Hotaru, Viluy)
Hotaru's childhood friends are not made of flesh and bone, but of ink and paper.
Written August 2010; tweaked October 2017
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
For many years, Hotaru supposes she was a normal girl. She remembers riding on her father's shoulders in the park and squirming under her mother's hands while her hair was brushed. She colored in her father's books - she did not know then that books did not need pictures - and he scolded, though he never yelled. She danced and sang in her mother's sewing room, her mother humming accompaniment.
Hotaru also remembers having friends. They are nameless, nearly faceless to her now, but she remembers them. A girl with pigtails and scabby knees who was brave in the face of everything except for spiders. A boy with crooked glasses and sticky fingers who had the best ideas for make believe. Twins Hotaru could only sometimes tell apart. These and other transient playground companions came in and out of her life. She was happy.
Then Mama died and everything changed.
Her father didn't laugh like he used to. In fact, he never laughed in front of her again, though sometimes she heard the sounds echoing up from the cellar. They frightened her. Sometimes her father frightened her too.
As if to fill the void her mother left behind, her father filled the house with women. First, there is Kaorinite, the lab assistant Hotaru saw sneaking out of her father's bedroom more than once, and then five others. She hears one of them say they are witches. Hotaru is afraid of them.
Since the accident, she can't go outside and play like she used to. They say she's 'delicate' and 'fragile.' Hotaru remembers when she broke a piece of her mother's china and worries that she'll shatter into tiny pieces if she falls. As she gets older, she begins to understand what these words really mean. She can't run without becoming short of breath. Sometimes she faints for no reason. Even the sunlight hurts her exposed skin.
Her house is full of people, but she's never felt more alone.
One day, one of the witches comes into her room. Her eyes are like icicles. Hotaru feels colder just standing next to her. The witch is carrying a box.
"People are always giving me books," she explains matter-of-factly. "They assume because I'm a genius that I like to reach fiction." She giggles. It sounds cruel, but Hotaru has already realized this is the ice girl's version of kindness. "I thought you might like them." She leaves the box at the door.
It takes Hotaru almost an hour to get the courage to open the box.
Pride and Prejudice. Totto-chan: The Little Girl at the Window. Lord of the Rings. The Tale of Genji. All brand new, often with the price tag still on them.
She devours them.
Her books become her companions, their white pages glowing amber underneath the color of her ever-growing collection of lamps. She reads every one of them. It takes her only one month. Sometimes, she doesn't understand what the words mean. Sometimes she finds herself laughing or crying and has to remind herself why. Sometimes she understands the text so completely that she has to stop or she can't stop.
When she finishes, the ice witch seems to know psychically, and leaves another box at her door.
She reads and she becomes them. She's the one on the hero's journey. She's the girl from another world who can read impossible symbols. She's the one falling in love. She's living.
This process continues for years. She reads all of Shakespeare, favors the histories and dark lady sonnets. She reads of nine-tailed foxes and river dragons, possessed mirrors and heavenly swords, dead gods and lost princesses. She reads of the suki-onna, snow girls and thinks of Viluy. She reads so much she fears she may go blind.
One day, Viluy (it does not seem right to call her the ice witch anymore) delivers another box right on time. It is filled to the brim with Bronte. Jane Eyre is on top.
She reads of a girl alone in a home full of people. She reads of people too sick to go outside. She reads of children who miss their father.
But by the end of the book, she discovers she was not and never could be Jane.
She's the mad woman in the attic.
The next day she sneaks out and goes to the park.
She makes a friend of flesh and bone.
The Brontes go unread.
It occurred to me when I went to post this that there's zero reason why Viluy's books would all be from the Western canon, so that's where all the changes are.
Chapter 14: Pop Quiz (Rei & Mamoru)
Rei decides to save Mamoru's behind. Again.
Written August 2010
"Time for a pop quiz, Mamoru."
These are words that would strike fear into any student's heart, well-prepared or no. However, Mamoru has never been singled out in such a sentence before. Nor has he ever heard it uttered in the Crown Arcade before.
He looks up from his homework, surprised to see Rei setting across from him at the booth he has commandeered. To begin with, they haven't spoken much since their quasi-relationship ended, with good reason on her part and pure guilt on his. Second of all, she hates the arcade: the noises give her a headache. And finally, she looks downright pleasant. She never looks downright pleasant where he's concerned.
"I'm giving you a pop quiz," she confirms, gently pushing some of his books out of the way so she can rest her elbows on the table.
Mamoru wonders if he's fallen asleep and his subconscious is telling him to lay off the studying. He wonders if he should pinch himself.
Rei kicks him beneath the table before he can.
"You're awake," she says, her voice harsh but her face still smooth. "Ready for your quiz?"
Because Rei frightens him on the best of days, he nods. "Okay?"
"Good!" she chirps. He has never heard her chirp before. He doesn't care to again.
"Question number one: what month is it?"
Now he's really afraid of her. Crazy people magical powers are traditionally not to be trifled with. "Umm... June."
Rei smiles. He manages not to shudder. "Good! Question two: what is today's date?"
He frowns, hesitating. "The 27th."
Rei makes a buzzer noise. Mamoru decides she's been hanging around Minako too much. "Sorry, incorrect. Third and final question: when is Usagi's 16th birthday?"
"June thir--" He stops. He feels sick. He may die. Because Usagi may kill him. "Oh, my God."
"By george, he's got it," Rei drawls.
"It's her birthday? Seriously? You're not kidding?"
Rei snorts. "Mamoru, please try to remember this about me. I do not joke about Usagi's birthday. Contrary to popular belief, I do value her friendship."
Mamoru buries his hands in his hair. "Three days. How could I lose three days?! I was going to get her gift tomorrow after my paper was done, but now--"
Rei holds up her hand. "Slow down, cowboy. I don't know exactly how you lost three days, but I do have a solution to your other problem."
Mamoru gapes. "How?"
Rei smiles smugly. Now he realizes why she was being so nice to him: to relish this moment. "I have convinced Usagi that you haven't mentioned her upcoming birthday because you're stressed, but that you're still a loving enough boyfriend to have remembered it and planned something wonderful."
This makes Mamoru feel rather like an ass. Clearly, this was Rei's intention.
"To this end, I have planned the following romantic evening: you will pick Usagi up in two hours. This should give you enough time to not look like the walking dead. Minako has been at the Tsukinos for an hour already helping with dress, hair, makeup, etc. Makoto is at your apartment now cooking a fabulous French dinner. She will be gone by the time you arrive home with Usagi, and the dinner will be piping hot. I will take that essay from you - Usagi told me it's on its 4th draft, so don't try and tell me its unfinished. Ami will proofread and fact check. And finally, you will give her these." Rei holds out a Tiffany's box and flips it open to reveal a pair of pearl and diamond droplet earrings. "On a similar note, you owe me ¥10,000. I expect it by this weekend."
Mamoru stares at her in complete disbelief. He doesn't know what to say, but somehow, he manages, "Thank you."
She pushes the jewelry box into his hands. "I didn't do it for you."
He nods, avoiding her eyes. "I know."
Rei gets to her feet, and although he doesn't look, he feels her eyes on him, cold enough to burn. "I love her."
He nods again.
"More than anything."
He takes a deep breath and looks into her eyes. Underneath all her bluster, he knows there's some sorrow there. He hopes she sees his own.
"So do I."
She glares at him for awhile longer. Finally, she seems satisfied and turns to leave. Before she leaves the restaurant, she offers one final thought.
"Don't screw up."
She's out of earshot before he answers.
Chapter 15: Saving You (Usagi/Mamoru)
Zombies are in Tokyo, and Mamoru must face his worst fear.
Written January 2011.
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 his Usako: 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-chan and Mako-chan 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. But its okay, Mamo-chan. 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.
Chapter 16: the catastrophe and the cure (SilMil Vampire AU, Serenity/Endymion)
For centuries, the Earth Kingdom has been forbidden to Lunarians due to a curse placed upon them by the first Moon Queen. After thousands of years, one princess decides it is time to break the spell... no matter what the cost.
Written April 2011. Title from the song "Catastrophe and the Cure" by Explosions in the Sky.
The Kingdom of Earth had always been forbidden. There were legends in abundance and scientific theories where those failed, but no one really knew what had happened. Endless though Lunarians were, even they were too young to remember why no one had set foot on Earth for so many centuries. All anyone truly knew for sure that the first moon queen had - for reasons lost to history - laid a curse onto the royal family. The curse had spread like a disease until the entire planet had been stricken. It had been abandoned by the rest of the galaxy ever since.
Four moon queens had come and gone since then. The fifth had been on the throne for less than sixty years - the eye blink of a hummingbird. Her daughter, Serenity VI, was in so many ways different from her predecessors. Undoubtedly, she was the best loved of all the monarch's in the Moon Kingdom's history, especially by her mother. Therefore, she was also the most protected, guarded closely by four princesses from the Inner Planets. She received the best education from the Mercurian princess, spiritual guidance from the scion of Mars, hunting and horseback riding from the Jovian heir, and companionship and the best love advice from the girl some worshiped as Aphrodite's incarnate. Indeed, she had everything she could have ever asked for.
And so it was not enough.
No myth from Venus or calculation from Mercury could satisfy her curiosity about the mystical blue planet that seemed at her threshold, yet so far out of reach. She dreamed of it constantly, imagining long extinct flowers rumored to flourish on its verdant fields. Pages of discourse barred from them by rumor and prejudice. A thousand minds that would never be known, a thousand eyes not looked upon, a thousand hands not held.
If a Moon Queen had indeed cursed them, did it not stand to reason that a Moon Princess could heal them? And since not even her Great-Grandmother had known the Terrans' crime, was it not time to release them from it? Could she not embrace the Earth and its people as her forebears had once done?
And so it was that one day, Serenity VI ventured down to Earth to see what there was to see.
Her slipper touched down on stone washed smooth by a nearby river. She had arrived at nightfall, when the moon was out as it was always easier to travel between planets when your home was on the horizon of your destination. She looked out at a forest so green it looked black. She listened to the silence.
Until she heard a twig snap.
She spun around, hands raised to defend herself if necessary. After all, her lessons with Jupiter had not been entirely without regard to her safety. She faltered when she saw not a highway robber, but a noble. And judging by the ornamentation on his armor and the scarlet cape falling from his broad shoulders, perhaps a king. Or a prince.
The moment Serenity's eyes met his, her heart seemed to grow within her breast. Venus had often discussed her many lovers and her many other loves. Serenity had never understood what it was to fall, but now she could not imagine a time when she had been ignorant. It was just as terrifying, as sickening, and as painful as Venus had described it. And just as wonderful.
His eyes scowled at her from beneath a crown of ash black hair. He cheeks here slightly sunken despite his muscular frame, a cause of the disease no doubt. Perhaps that was also why he was so pale, paler even than her. But despite these imperfections, she thought he was the most beautiful thing she'd ever seen. Her eyes watered now that she had seen him, and she cursed her ancestor for her misguided cruelty.
"Who are you?" he asked, his voice rough as if from screaming. "Where did you come from?"
Serenity self-consciously touched the crescent that marked her brow. In the dark, she doubted he could see, and she did not want to reveal herself just yet. She had no idea how hostile Terrans would be towards her kind. "I... my name is Titania," she fumbled, pulling a name from one of her favorite fairy stories. "I'm lost."
"Very lost," he growled, almost like the wolves that roamed free on the field of Saturn. But she doubted that he would answer to the Saturn King if he were an animal. He seemed too... wild. "These woods are my domain."
"I beg your pardon, good sir," she said with a bow, making proper obeisance. "I wandered from the path and do not know where I am. Would you be kind enough to tell me who you are and where I find myself?"
He studied her with a hunter's eyes. She shivered despite the warm summer night. She had never been in danger before; she found she liked it. "Endymion. Prince Endymion."
She drank in his name like wine brewed from grapes plucked at twilight. He moved forward with a kind of liquid grace. A black unicorn whose territory had been breached. "You are in what was once Elysian."
The name sounded familiar. Something from legend? A hint at true history? "What once was?"
Endymion continued to glare; his caution would not abate, despite how harmless she appeared. After all, she carried no sword. But she had her own defenses. "Have your parents taught you nothing of manners or history, foolish girl?"
She bowed again; she had forgotten herself, unused to speaking to someone unfamiliar and at her station. With her bearing, she could not pretend to be a poor maid, but she could easily pretend at being a lower member of the aristocracy. She had seen enough of them scrape at her mother's feet to know how they acted. "My apologies, your majesty. I am all alone and frightened; it does make one lose one's head."
For some reason, he found this funny. His laugh was brusque, rough and almost churlish. She remembered Jupiter's stories about kissing her family's dragon tamer and how his stubble had felt against her cheek. Serenity wondered if this prince's jaw would smooth or not.
Endymion's chuckles subsided. "Alone in my woods, many are liable to... lose their heads."
For a moment, Serenity longed for Mars, if only to provide her with a piece of sharp wit. But it was only for a moment. Serenity would not have wanted to share this man with Mars's dark beauty, or with anyone else for that matter.
"Elysian was the Golden Kingdom of Earth, hundreds and thousands of years ago." For the first time, he softened, his eyes growing wistful. He spoke as if he had once lived there, so clear were the stories told about it. Serenity envied his people for their longer memories. "It was the most beautiful place you could imagine. The sun burned brighter for us there. Fields of gold and green. And roses... so many roses." He remembered himself, or to be more correct, he remembered her. "But that was before. Before the curse befell us."
"Yes, that is why I have come," Serenity said, her excitement betraying her. She regretted her haste and wished she could take it back. Venus had always told her she would be worthless at politics and subterfuge; here was proof that she was right.
To her surprise, Endymion did not bat an eyelash. In fact, he seemed more disinterested in her than before. "Yes, I had suspected."
Serenity's mouth fell open a little in her confusion. "You... you did? But how could--"
He moved faster than any human possibly could have done. He was faster than the wind, faster than her eyes could comprehend. He rushed her like the untamed wolf in her imagination. He slammed her back against the bark of a tree, pinning her arms at her sides. In her delirium, all she could think for a moment was that his hands were cold as snow.
"I could hear your heart beating from the other side of the forest," he snarled. "My men would have been upon you had you not landed in the heart of my territory. This is my land, and you are mine to dispose of." He laughed again. She cursed herself for the heat it sent searing between her legs. "I knew you must be from up there, but to think... a monarch from the moon." He brushed her bangs from her forehead. Her lips quivered at his touch. "And so young. A princess, if I'm not mistaken."
Serenity struggled to keep her head; it felt as though she was drowning in senselessness. She was clearly in danger, and all she could think of was kissing him until her lips were bloody and raw. "How... how could you have seen? It's so dark."
"Don't you know anything?" he taunted. "Thanks to you, we hear every sound uttered for miles. We see in the dark. We smell... blood."
Her mind raced. She had never cared for stories of terror, but Mercury of all people had a kind of morbid fascination with them. She remembered reading over her shoulder one day, a decade ago. A story of men who were not alive, but corpses that walked. They shunned the sun for it burned them. They were constantly hungry for the life that had been stolen from them, and they slaked that thirst with the blood of those that still drew blood.
"Vampire," she breathed, realizing for the first time that he could not. "That was the curse in the story. She cursed you to... to a living death."
"Oh, so you've forgotten?" he spat. "How predictable. Ashamed of your sins, you bury them in memory. Disgusting."
She prayed he did not find her disgusting, though she hated herself for caring.
"What did you come for?" he demanded, his fingers tightening on her forearms. He bruised her, and all she wanted was him to be closer. "To make sure that the curse still held? Am I proof enough for you?"
"I came... I came..." Why couldn't she speak? Tear herself away? Fight back as she had been taught and with the powers of her birthright? Why had she left herself so helpless when she most needed help? And why did she suspect that she would have spurned it if it came?
"It doesn't matter," Endymion growled. "In your ignorance, you have done us a favor and done yourself in. Your ancestor cursed us with this... disease, but she also told us the cure."
He bared his fangs for the first time.
"The blood of her descendants."
He fell upon her with a predator's grace. He tore at her throat like a savage, and she felt her blood pour from the wound. Its heat filled his open, greedy mouth.
She gasped in pain and alarm, but her body continued to betray her. She buried her fingers in his hair and pulled his face closer to her flesh. She seemed to burn with desire, and she could not catch her breath. She arched her back into him, despite the agony he put her through. Her body jerked; her hips undulated; she cried out in ecstasy, knowing it was her death.
His hands grew warmer against her rapidly cooling skin. She felt his fangs change within her open cut. She knew that he was becoming human again. She wondered, when he was no longer a monster, if he would hate himself for what he had done. She wondered if her people would make war with his. She wondered if her mother would obliterate the planet or desecrate the first Serenity's grave.
But at least she had done what she'd come to do.
Chapter 17: Of Evil and Pringles (Aluminum Siren & Lead Crow)
Aluminum Siren and Lead Crow discuss the nature of evil and pringles.
Written April 2011
Aluminum Siren was truly an insufferable partner. Really, Lead Crow didn't know why she put up with her the way she did. Certainly, if Lead Crow hadn't followed Siren around all the time, the other animamate would be dead by now. Sometimes Lead Crow thought that wasn't a bad idea.
"I'm hungry," Siren sighed in a familiar wistful tone.
Lead Crow resisted the urge to slap the other girl outright. "You're always hungry. It's a wonder you fit into your fuku anymore."
Siren glanced down at her stomach, poking at it with one finger. Flat as always, Lead Crow noted. Really, it wasn't fair that the girl could literally eat anything under the sun and not gain a pound. "Maybe I'm always hungry because I'm not well nourished...."
"That doesn't make any sense."
"I meant my soul. Obviously."
Lead Crow failed to see how anything Siren said obviously alluded to anything. "Your soul isn't nourished?"
Siren shrugged. "We are technically evil."
Lead Crow scowled. "Technically?"
"Evil full stop. Does it matter?"
"I'm not so sure I'd say we're evil," Lead Crow argued, tossing her hair. "Galaxia-sama gave us a choice: fight for her or die. Is it evil to want to survive?"
"You're not listening!"
"I asked if it was evil to want to survive."
Siren pondered this for a moment, though Lead Crow doubted she was actually giving the question any real consideration. "No, but we're doing things now that are... well, certainly not good."
Crow scoffed. "We haven't done anything that bad! It's not like any of the starseeds we've taken have been real. We haven't killed anyone."
Siren nodded in agreement. "But we'll have to one day. Probably. If we ever find a true starseed."
Lead Crow shivered despite the warmth in the room. She crossed her arms and glanced away, muttering, "It's either that or die. What would you rather do?"
"Live," Siren answered, holding up her bracelets. "Obviously."
"Obviously," Crow echoed, looking down at her own bracelets. "And it's not wrong to want to live. No matter what the cost."
After a few moments of somber silence, Aluminum Siren leapt to her feet.
"I've got it!"
"What?" Lead Crow asked, jumping away in surprise.
"Pie! I want pie. I told you I was hungry, remember."
Crow clenched her teeth and counted to ten. It was either that or kill the other girl.
Aluminum Siren was truly an insufferable partner.
But she was the only one Crow had.
"Then let's get you pie," Crow muttered, ignoring Aluminum Siren's very polite gratitude.
"With ice cream?"
"Don't push it."
Chapter 18: the end. (Queen Serenity)
Queen Serenity at the fall of the Silver Millennium.
Written August 2010
When she came to this planet, it was nothing but a dead rock. Endless dust and stone, full of empty seas. She came alone to this place, nameless and with only a gem hanging from her neck and the power at her fingertips.
She gave this satellite the gift of life. She grew forests from barren ground and filled the empty seas with water. She saved the dying race of unicorns and set them free upon her land, never to be hunted again. She invited the persecuted from every planet to her kingdom to live in freedom. Centuries passed, and this people gave birth to sons and daughters, true Lunarians. More centuries passed. She ceased all wars and united a galaxy under peaceful rule. She created a palace so beautiful that faeries came from beyond the veil to see her majesty. They blessed her with a changeling child.
Her princess. Her Serenity.
She poured her soul into this planet. She wept over it, bled into it, loved it as her firstborn. And now what has become of it?
Blood and ashes.
Her daughter has been slain. Her kingdom destroyed. Her palace in shambles. Her soldiers slaughtered.
Former Queen Serenity came to this planet in the hopes of creating something beautiful.
The result of it all is ugly ruin.
When she came to this planet, it was nothing but a dead rock.
Now it's all she has left, and she does not have the strength to begin anew.
Blood and ashes.
Chapter 19: Boing Bang Boom (Eudial, Dr. Tomoe)
A phone call from Dr. Tomoe turns Eudial's whole day upside down.
Written March 2010; tweaked some awkward language October 2017.
Eudial was accustomed to thrice daily interruptions via phone calls from Dr. Tomoe, but no matter how many times the phone rang, she couldn't help but loose a tiny sigh of irritation. She took a moment to acclimate herself to typing with one hand and readjusted her glasses. Then with a swift, oft repeated gesture, she lifted the receiver from its cradle and held it to her ear.
Eudial barely suppressed a groan. It wasn't one of his good days. "Very frightening, Dr. Tomoe. I suppose you're calling about the progress on the daimon egg experiments?"
"Yes, it does get rather messy, but Cyprine has finally come up with a way to cut into them without too much leakage."
"Did you hurt yourself, Dr. Tomoe?"
Now she was getting annoyed. "Sir, are you actually getting irritated with me for showing concern? I realize that is more of Kaorinite's business, but seeing as Viluy is still working out the kinks in the regeneration process--"
"Well, I'm sure she's going as fast as she can!" Eudial snapped. She wasn't accustomed to sticking up for any of her fellows, but Dr. Tomoe was grating her last nerve. "It isn't every day that we bring someone back from the dead!"
"Bless you. Now what exactly did you call to talk about?"
Eudial hesitated, realizing that it was quite possible the doctor had finally lost it. "Dr. Tomoe, are you quite sure you're all right?"
"What 'yikes?' What are you talking about?." She paused. "And have you used a verb once in this conversation?"
"Well, could you?"
"...I'm hanging up now."
"Well, what?! What do you want?"
"I don't understand!"
"Don't laugh at me! You're not making sense!"
"Cuckoo? CUCKOO? Are you calling me cuckoo?!"
"Quack quack quack."
"You're the quack!" Eudial shouted, slamming the phone down. She sat there, bristling with fury. For the moment, she didn't care if her job was at stake; the doctor may have been brilliant and dangerous, but he was also insane and infuriating.
"Top 3% of my class. Scholarships and grants from across the globe. And where do I end up? In the sewers playing twister with an idiot!"
Meanwhile, in a different part of the Deathbusters' underground lair, the mad scientist in question smiled widely at the woman to his left.
"She hung up on me."
Mimete grinned back at him, fluffing her curls. "I'm surprised she lasted that long. Thank you, Dr. Tomoe. The results of that experiment will be... most helpful."
His clown-like smile grew ever wider.
Chapter 20: Midnight Oil and Snacks (Usagi/Mamoru)
Mamoru is up late studying. Usagi tries to be helpful.
Written August 2010; some edits October 2017.
"Good morning, Mamo-chan!"
Mamoru starts, nearly leaping from his computer chair and diving for the nearest rose. He is so bleary-eyed that it takes him a moment to realize a youma out to kill him is unlikely to call him "Mamo-chan" so cheerfully.
He forces himself to relax and turns to greet his girlfriend. "Usako. What are you doing here so late?"
"Or early, depending on how you look at it!" Usagi is often perky, bubbly even, but Mamoru isn't sure he's ever heard her quite so... chirpy.
Mamoru frowns. "You seem very, uh, alert."
"Minako-chan taught me how to make coffee. And you know what? If you put enough sugar it it, it tastes good!" Usagi's right eye twitches involuntarily.
Mamoru makes a mental note to mention this to Rei later. Hopefully she can stop Minako from teaching Usagi the magic of espresso. "That's nice. So, why are you here? Not that I'm not happy to see you, but it is late - or early - and I am working."
"I won't stay long," Usagi assures him. "I just knew you were up late working on this paper, and you usually forget to eat."
Before Mamoru can offer a token protest, his stomach rumbles. He laughs sheepishly at her chiding face. "Guess I did."
"Well, have no fear! Usagi-chan is here to save the day!" She strikes an appropriately heroic pose made only slightly less heroic by the large tote bag hanging off her arm.
Wait. A tote bag. Usagi brought him food.
All the blood drains from his face. "Usako, did you--"
"Yes!" she shouts, pulling some tupperware from her bag. "I brought you dinner!"
Mamoru stares at the containers, despair growing in his heart like a virulent weed. He loves Usagi. Really, he does. He would die for her. Hell, he has died for her several times now.
But eating her cooking on no sleep with a paper due in six hours is asking a bit much.
"You... shouldn't have."
"It was no trouble!" she insists. "You finish up your paragraph while I heat it up. We'll eat it right quick, and I'll let you get back to work. That sound good?"
"So good," he strains.
She smiles again and kisses him on the cheek. So now he really feels like a heel.
Nevertheless, he can't suppress the whimper that escapes his mouth after she exits the room.
"Oh, by the way," she adds, sticking her head back inside. "Mako-chan made this, so you don't have to worry about food poisoning." She winks.
He is torn between laughing and weeping in relief. He decides the former is more appropriate. "I love you rather a lot right now."
"Mako-chan's cooking has that affect on people," she says. "Now finish your paragraph, Mamo-chan."
"The paragraph can wait," Mamoru insists, following after her. "Makoto's food waits for no homework."
"Can't argue with you there."
Chapter 21: Nails on the Chalkboard (Esmeraude)
Esmeraude knows who - and what - she is.
Written August 2010.
Esmeraude knows she’s unlikeable and naturally off-putting – an acquired taste, if one is feeling kind, and people never are. She knows she’s too ambitious, too determined, too ruthless to be loved or even tolerated. She doesn’t mind. This is how one survives on Nemesis.
She’s the nails on the chalkboard that make you cringe. Then she’s the hand that cuts your throat in the dark. This is how one advances in the Black Moon Clan.
She doesn’t like herself, but that’s fine. She never wanted adoration, not even her own. All she desired was power.
It’s really her bad luck that she fell in love with the prince. Her ill fate that for all his cruelty, he lusts for kindness. Her downfall that she can never be that kind of woman.
She’s gone too far to change. All of Rubeus’s snarling, Saffir’s vocal disdain, and Demando’s public snubs cannot curtail her. There is no other person Esmeraude can be.
She the ambitious whore with the laugh that echoes too far.
She’s the soulless bitch who’ll kill you in your sleep.
She’s the nails on the chalkboard.
And one day, she’s going to be the woman who claws Serenity’s eyes out.
Chapter 22: The Last (Sailor Cosmos)
She is the last.
Written August 2010.
Once upon a time, she was called the strongest in all of the cosmos. It's why her name was changed. People came from far and wide to adore her, to bow at her feet. She never grew accustomed to it, could never even pretend to like it, but she did accept the reality of the situation. She was adored, though she knew she did not deserve it, and she accepted their praise with grace and humility.
And she always told them that she would be nothing without her friends, her allies, her husband, her child.
Now she is the only one left.
Now she truly is nothing.
She wanders the universe, forever running and always hiding. She shows her face to no one for fear of discovery. It makes her all the more lonely.
Huddled in the darkness of one dead moon or another, she remembers them. She remembers how they laughed at her silly mistakes, how they lifted her up at her larger ones. She remembers huddling in every one of their embraces, how each one was different but similar in the comfort they gave her. She remembers fighting alongside them, hating the violence but loving the knowledge that they could accomplish anything together.
She remembers her husband's voice in the dark.
She remembers her daughter's smile.
This is all she has left of them now.
Once upon a time, she was called the strongest in all of the cosmos. But no one says that anymore. Now they all know the truth: she was always weak, masquerading behind stronger people who loved her despite her failings. Now Chaos reigns and she is nothing more than a frightened child, trembling in the shadows, weeping for the things she has lost.
She has no guidance. No support. No one to help her. No one to laugh at her, cry with her, hold her, save her. No one to love her. No one to love.
Sailor Cosmos has let every living being down. The only reason she does not join her loved ones is out of the desperate hope that she can come up with a way to save them.
She is the last light of hope in a darkening universe.
But the last is better than none.
Chapter 23: Cheater, Cheater (Ami & Minako, Background Senshi/Shitennou)
"No matter what you put on this mythical sundae, the answer will continue to be no."
Written August 2010; minor revisions October 2017
"Pretty pretty please with a microscope on top?"
"No matter what you put on this mythical sundae, the answer will continue to be no."
This begging has been going on for close to an hour. Minako has wheedled and begged and prodded, ignoring or ignorant of the fact that Ami is trying to do her own homework. Ami reminds herself that Minako has tunnel vision when it comes to her wants, and that Ami loves her. Most of the time.
"Please, Ami?" she asks again. "I've never asked you to do this before."
"Yes, you have."
"Okay, fine," Minako concedes. "But I've never needed it as badly as I have this time!"
Ami exhales sharply. "Why do you need it so badly, Minako? Is it because you spend more time with your boyfriend than on your schoolwork?"
The guilty blush that colors Minako's cheeks is answer enough to that query.
Ami sniffs primly.
Minako groans. "I know it's wrong, Ami, or at least you think it is, but he's so... SO, you know?"
Ami hates trying to decipher Minako when she becomes inarticulate. "I know you love him a ridiculous amount, if that's what you mean."
"It is what I mean!" Minako chirps. "See, Ami? It wouldn't even really be cheating. It would just be you writing down my thoughts for me in a way that makes sense!"
"How is that not cheating?"
"It's just helping!"
"No, I'm pretty sure it's cheating."
Minako groans and falls forward onto Ami's desk. Her hair completely obscures Ami's homework, and probably smudges some of the work for good measure.
"I know I'm annoying you, Ami, but I'm really, really desperate this time! If I don't do well on this essay, I'll totally flunk, and Mama will totally ground me, and then I totally won't see Kunzite at all!"
Ami rubs Minako's back with very little sympathy. Mostly, she just wants to get on with this. "Can't you just sneak out? Not that I approve of that either, but greater and lesser evils being what they are, I'd rather you did that than cheat."
Minako sniffs and raises her head. To Ami's horror, she's actually crying. Ami now feels guilty for upsetting her, even if Minako is being completely unreasonable.
"I can't!" Minako wails. "If he finds out I flunked, he'll say we should take a break so I can catch up." She slams her hands on the desk, upsetting Ami's carefully organized pens "Why does he have to be so damned responsible?!"
Because Minako is bordering on hysterical, Ami hands her a hand box of tissues. Minako thanks her and immediately blows her nose loudly.
"Do you know how frustrating it is? I finally really fall for a guy, and he likes me back, and then he has to go and be all noble and dependable. Why can't he just be a scatter-brained screw up like all the other boys?"
Ami continues patting her friend's back. "Minako, if he were like all the other boys, you wouldn't like him. Or you'd be crying because he broke your heart."
Minako nods, wiping at her smearing mascara. "I know, but... this stupid essay. It just ruined everything!" She buries her face in the tissue. "I don't even want to be in school anyway."
Ami suppresses a shudder at this horrible sentiment. "Minako, I know you can do it. You're smarter than you give yourself credit for. I'll even proofread it when you're done, but I will not write it for you."
Minako peers up from above her tissue. "Not even if I set you up with Zoisite?"
The question is so out of left field that Ami cannot police her reaction. Her face turns beet red, her mouth goes dry, and some of her skin starts to break out in hives.
Minako suddenly snaps a picture of Ami's bewildered face. Ami has no idea where she pulled the camera from. Then the blonde leaps to her feet, crowing in triumph and dancing around Ami's bedroom. "Yes! I knew it, I knew it, I knew it, I knew it! Rei said I was crazy, but I proved her wrong, and Makoto totally owes me money."
Ami sputters, "Wh-wh-what? I--"
Minako leans in, her eyes glinting in a way that convinces Ami that Rei is not kidding about people being possessed by fox spirits. "I bet that I could get you to directly or indirectly admit that you have a crush on Zoisite, and I did it! You blushed! Ha!" She pauses. "I am sorry about the hives. I didn't know you liked him that much."
Ami knows she should not be in such shock at Minako's behavior, but she just can't help herself. "So, this was what? A game? A joke?"
"No, this is getting you to admit your feelings! Ami, it's not healthy to keep them bottled up like that. Really, I'm trying to help you!" She pauses. "I just happened to turn a profit at the same time."
Ami's embarrassment recedes like a shrinking tide. She jerks to her feet, grabs Minako's arm, and forcefully leads her from her room.
"I know you're mad now, Ami, but trust me, you'll feel better later," Minako assures her, oblivious and bubbling. "And don't worry, I won't tell Zoisite or even Kunzite. Your secret is safe with me. I won't even hint by telling them of how completely convincing my performance was. You totally believed me!"
Ami gently pushes her out and makes to close the door.
Minako stops it with her foot.
"By the way, is that offer to proofread the essay still available? Because I could really use the--"
Ami pushes her again, less gently, and slams the door in her face.
Chapter 24: Schadenfreude (Haruka/Michiru, Setsuna)
Setsuna does not feel particularly proud for indulging in such schadenfreude, but she cannot remember the last time she has been so entertained.
Written August 2010; minor edits October 2017
Setsuna does not feel particularly proud for indulging in such schadenfreude, but she cannot remember the last time she has been so entertained.
"I don't know what I did," Haruka laments. Strangely, even when Haruka is miserable, she sounds annoyed. "Please, I am begging you. Tell me what I did to upset Michiru."
Setsuna smiles over the rim of her coffee cup. "Now, Haruka. I'd be betraying a confidence. You wouldn't want me to do that, would you?"
Haruka trembles, suppressing the urge to explode. Setsuna suppresses a similar inappropriate urge and manages not to laugh in her face. "Setsuna, I know you get a rush from keeping secrets, but seriously, this one time, I need you to let it go."
Setsuna raises an eyebrow. She knows she can speak volumes with her eyebrows, but Haruka is not always quick on the uptake. "And why should I do that?"
"Mercy," Haruka snaps. "Out of mercy. You are familiar with the concept."
"Yes, though I was unaware you were," Setsuna teases. Then she pauses meaningfully. "After all, you won't let your own daughter win a card game."
Haruka looks like she may honestly rip her hair out. "Seriously? Is that what she's mad about?"
In reality, this is only about Setsuna's amusement, but she shrugs enigmatically. Let Haruka think what she will.
Her head falls forward onto the table. "But Hotaru wins everything!"
This time Setsuna cannot help but chuckle. "Haruka, really. You are an adult."
"But I like winning poker."
"And I like a day without insipid conversations," Setsuna remarks, languidly sliding from her seat. "But we don't always get what we want, do we?"
Haruka utters a particularly scandalous oath at her back. Setsuna smiles. It is shaping up to be an interesting afternoon.
Later that afternoon, Setsuna is sketching a dress for Ami's upcoming birthday. While debating the appropriateness of a sweetheart neckline, Haruka sits down across from her.
"I played poker with Hotaru."
Setsuna hides a secret smile. "Did you?"
"How wonderful for her. Did she tell Michiru?"
"She immediately told Michiru," Haruka hisses. "And guess what?"
"I couldn't possibly. Do tell."
"Michiru is still mad!"
Setsuna looks up, affecting boredom. "And?"
"And? AND?!" Haruka leans forward, her eyes dangerously dark; unfortunately Setsuna is not easily intimated. "You made me think it was about the poker, when Michiru doesn't give a rat's ass about the card game!"
"First of all, I doubt Michiru wants anything to do with rats," Setsuna responds coolly. "Second, I said no such thing. As I told you before, Michiru told me her grievance in confidence, and I see no reason to betray that trust because of your bluster."
Haruka glares, once again shaking with fury. "Setsuna, I am going insane. I have checked the date. Twice. It's not her birthday, Hotaru's birthday, or an anniversary. I have not flirted with anyone else more than she has. I am not perfect, but to my knowledge, I have done my best. So please. Just. Tell. Me."
Setsuna considers, idly shading in a corner of her sketch pad. Finally, she relents. "You did not hear this from me."
Haruka looks as though she may actually weep from relief. "Bless you."
"Now, now. Let's not go there," she chides. "Do you remember three days ago when you went out with Usagi and Mamoru, and Michiru admired Usagi's pearl necklace Mamoru gave her?"
Haruka blinks. "Umm... yes? So?"
"How many pearl necklaces does Michiru have, Haruka?"
"You know I have no idea."
"She has exactly one pearl necklace that she never wears because her mother gave it to her. And you do know that she never wears her mother's jewelry," Setsuna says. "Therefore, she does not have the option to wear pearls. Usagi does. How do you suppose Michiru likes that?"
Haruka furrows her brow, obviously confused by all of this feminine nonsense. "Not... much?"
"Not much at all," Setsuna agrees.
"So... that was a hint?"
"No, that was a germination of an idea. Her going on about it at dinner for twenty solid minutes two days ago was a hint. Your grace period for procuring the necklace ended this morning."
Haruka scowls and mutters with extreme emotion, "God damn it."
"I'd get her a pair of earrings while you're at it," Setsuna advises.
Haruka continues cursing, reaching for her wallet and keys. She is almost out the door when Setsuna stops her again.
She glares over her shoulder, deciding this is entirely Setsuna's fault. "What?"
"Better make them black pearls in a platinum setting."
Haruka slams the door on her way out.
"Was that necessary?"
Setsuna glances over to Michiru's hiding place in the other room. "Haruka's theatrics? They're never necessary."
"That was not what I meant." She smirks. "I never asked for black."
Setsuna shrugs. "Consider it a gift for an entertaining day."
Chapter 25: Jealous Love (Haruka/Michiru)
Haruka discovers something very disturbing in Michiru's sketchbook.
Written March 2010; grammar edits November 2011.
"What the hell is this?"
Michiru stops playing the day's concerto at the sound of Haruka's voice. She opens her eyes and smiles coldly. Haruka knows she hates being interrupted at practice. "Lovely language as always, darling."
"Answer the question," Haruka says, turning a lovely shade of mauve. Michiru notes the piece of paper in her hands for the first time. "What. The hell. Is. This?"
Michiru leans forward, studying the parchment. "I believe it is a sketch of Elsa Grey."
"I can see that it's a sketch of Elsa Grey."
Michiru arches a perfectly sculpted eyebrow. "Then why did you ask me what it was?"
Haruka clenches her free hand into a fist. Despite her anger, she knows better than to mar any of Michiru's artwork; it's bad enough she tore it from the sketchpad. "I would like you to explain what it was doing in your book."
Michiru reluctantly sets aside her violin. Clearly, she is not getting back to rehearsal until she's satisfied Haruka in some capacity. "Well, I suppose I drew it, Haruka. That would be the logical conclusion."
"I know you drew it. I know your style, Michiru." Haruka is seething now. Michiru would be amused if it hadn't come at an inopportune time. "Why did you draw it?"
"Haruka, you must realize that's like asking a composer why he chose a particular set of notes," Michiru chides. "I drew it because Elsa inspired me."
"Oh. She inspired you?"
"I believe that is what I just said, yes."
"Exactly how did she inspire you to draw her in the nude?"
Michiru sometimes wishes she didn't think rolling her eyes was such a juvenile gesture. Haruka so makes her want to sometimes. "Honestly, Haruka, for an incorrigible flirt, you can be such a prude."
"Still waiting to hear why Elsa is naked in your sketchbook."
Michiru huffs, rising to her feet. "For pity's sake, Haruka. Would you just ask what you really want to ask?"
Haruka shuts her mouth so tightly Michiru's jaw aches in sympathy. She quivers from head to foot; Michiru wonders if volcanoes tremble before they explode. Then Haruka finally asks the question.
"Have you seen Elsa naked?"
Michiru smirks. Naturally Haruka reads the worst into the expression and loosens her grip on the sketch. Michiru takes the opportunity to snatch it back.
"No, I have not seen her naked," Michiru says. "As I'm sure you're aware, I have a rather intimate knowledge of the female form."
Haruka's complexion is bordering on purple. Michiru refrains from telling her it isn't her color. "Why did you draw her naked?"
Michiru shrugs. "Why not draw her naked? She has a nice body." She pauses. "And you won't let me draw you nude, and I can't in good conscience use one of the other Senshi, no matter how many times Minako offers. Anyway, you know perfectly well I prefer to draw people from life, and I don't have many options."
Haruka continues glaring. "You drew Elsa because you couldn't draw me?"
"Well, it's a bit more complicated than that, but fine. I did."
Alarmingly, Haruka begins to strip.
"You want me naked, that's what you get!" Haruka snarls. "Get your easel, your book, whatever. You get this one time, one time only. You show it to no one, and you do not sketch Elsa Grey again." By the end of this monologue, Haruka is completely naked. "Understand?"
Michiru takes a long moment to enjoy the view.
She shrugs elegantly. "Whatever you say, dear. Let me get my book."
"Well hurry up," Haruka mutters. "It's cold in here."
Michiru chuckles, lightly tapping Haruka's bottom as she passes. "Don't worry, love. I'll warm you up later."
"Well, maybe this won't be so bad."
Chapter 26: Bad Hair Day (Zoisite, Usagi, Minako/Kunzite)
“Honestly, I have no idea how she even got the gum.”
Written August 2010; some revisions November 2017.
“Can you get it out?”
Minako chews her lip, smearing her lipstick. She’s a good actress (if she does say so herself), and maybe an even better liar, but at some point, Zoisite is going to have to be told the truth. She's not looking forward to it. “Well… I mean, I’ve only been trying for twenty minutes.”
Zoisite’s lower lip begins to tremble. It’s essentially the most pitiful thing ever. “That’s not an answer.”
Minako looks over at Kunzite. He hesitates, but nods when it's clear that they can't draw this out any longer. “Sweetie, I think it may have to come out... the hard way.”
If their positions were reversed, Minako would undoubtedly break down into such hysterics that the neighbors would become concerned. Zoisite becomes so quietly devastated that it breaks her heart.
“I don’t understand why she did this to me,” he whispers.
“She’s three,” Kunzite reminds him sensibly but not without sympathy. “She doesn’t know any better.”
“Zoisite, I am so sorry,” Usagi says for the fourth time that day. “Honestly, I have no idea how she even got the gum.”
Kunzite very pointedly does not look at Minako, which is an accusation in and of itself.
She scowls over Zoisite's tangled, gum-filled curls. "Hey! Not every chaotic thing that happens around here is my fault."
Having been caught out, he shrugs. "Just considering the law of averages. Occam's razor. That sort of thing."
Usagi tilts her head in confusion. "You think a razor might get the gum out?"
"No, that's not... never mind."
Ignoring her boyfriend and best friend for the moment, Minako returns to consoling Zoisite while picking sticky hair out of the brush. “You never know, Zoisite… maybe you’ll look good with short hair.”
He gives her a withering look. “You can just bite your tongue right off.”
He wilts immediately. "I'm sorry, but you and I both know that I'll resemble a bleached out Ronald McDonald." He focuses somewhere in the middle distance. "No, a bleached out knock-off of Ronald McDonald. The clown doesn't have my cheekbones."
Usagi hugs him tightly, and now she appears to be the only thing holding him up.
“This has always been my worst cosmetic fear,” he whimpers. “Gum. In my hair.” He looks at Usagi balefully. “Will she be punished?”
“Don’t worry. Mamo-chan’s taking care of it right now.”
At last, Zoisite can’t take it anymore. He wails.
“That isn’t right! He can’t punish her at all!”
Usagi opens her mouth to disagree, but finds she can’t. The girl does have her husband wrapped around her little finger. Instead she says, “Would it make you feel better if I bought you a new outfit?”
Zoisite stops, but only just. “Do I get a jaunty hat?”
“Anything you want.”
Zoisite takes a deep breath, squares his shoulders, and hands Minako the scissors. “Do it.”
Minako clutches the scissors to her chest in awe. “You’re the bravest man I’ve ever known.”
Zoisite nods solemnly. “I know.”
Kunzite’s already in trouble, so he goes ahead and rolls his eyes.
“Watch it," Zoisite cautions. "Mine isn’t the only hair Chibi-Usa has access to.”
“Yes, but if I cut my hair, I won't resemble a Q-tip with a deranged bit of cotton fluff perched on my head."
Zoisite and Minako give the exact same affronted gasp, complete with twin expressions. Kunzite's willing to bet that they practiced somehow.
Zoisite looks over at Minako. “You have the meanest boyfriend ever.”
“I say that all the time!”
Kunzite shakes his head and leaves. “You’re both ridiculous.”
“Maybe so!” Zoisite shouts after him. “But our fashion sense is die for!”
Chapter 27: Genetics Fail (Inners & Mamoru)
"I don't know why everyone always assumes I'm going to be inappropriate."
"Would you like the list alphabetically, chronologically, or in order of importance?"
Written August 2010; some revisions November 2017
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The Senshi and Tuxedo Kamen have had a very bad day.
First, there was the whole time travel thing. Really, an evil genie in the time stream? That just seemed unnecessary.
The revelation that the Earth - or at least Tokyo - had been destroyed was not any better. Actually, it was decidedly worse. If they'd had time, they may have taken a few moments to mourn the ruined city and the hundreds or thousands of people who had likely perished in the devastation.
And apparently Mamoru was the future king of Earth, Usagi the queen, and both of their future selves are about two steps away from dead. Also, Chibi-Usa is their daughter.
So all in all, not an ideal day by any stretch. The transparent King has graciously given the group some time to recover. Chibi-Usa is still sound asleep in Mamoru's arms, quietly sucking her thumb. Everyone's staring in almost reverent silence.
It's no surprise that Venus shatters it with the grace of a drunken bull.
"I don't get it."
Mars pinches the bridge of her nose. Venus speaking in that particular tone of voice never fails to give her an instant migraine. "Minako, if you say you don't get the process, I will hurt you."
Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Kamen blush furiously once again. Mercury feels profoundly sorry for them.
"Mars, you were taught by the nuns. My mother talks a lot when she's drunk. I think its safe to say I should be explaining it to all of you."
Now Mercury is too busy blushing herself to feel sorry for anyone.
Jupiter clears her throat. "Let me speak for everyone: please don't."
Venus shrugs since this has nothing to do with her original point anyway; really, its Mars's fault for being such a prude. "I mean I don't get why Chibi-Usa looks like... you know. That."
Tuxedo Kamen, who has never said more than three words to Minako in his life, now looks like he will very happily throw down with her. "I'm going to need you to explain that immediately."
"So sensitive today! I'm talking about the pink hair."
Tuxedo Kamen pauses. He glances down at his future daughter. And her pink hair. "Oh."
Sailor Moon leans closer, as if the pigment will change under closer inspection. "That is kind of weird."
"Thank you!" Venus shouts, exasperated. She ignores Jupiter shushing her. "I don't know why everyone always assumes I'm going to be inappropriate."
"Would you like the list alphabetically, chronologically, or in order of importance?" Mars drawls.
Venus pinches her and then ducks the returning blow. "But seriously. Pink hair? I mean, purple I get, because of Usagi's mom--"
"Oh, she dyes it. She's a natural brunette."
Venus rolls her eyes dramatically. "Well, now I don't know what to think."
Because Venus does have at least one shred of tact, she does not go venturing into Mamoru's parentage.
"And wouldn't pink hair be... what's it... recessive?"
The subject being too close to Tuxedo Kamen for comfort, the girls all turn to the other resident medical expert. Mercury frowns. "You know... I'm not sure pink hair was really been documented genetically. It's not exactly common."
"And blue is?" Jupiter asks, unable to resist.
Mercury pats her gingerly. "Well, you certainly see it more often than pink."
"And there's also the red eyes," Venus adds. "Not reddish brown. Red. I'm not implying that she's inherently evil, so nobody bite my head off, but where the hell did that come from?"
"Maybe her coloring is... normal in the future?" Sailor Moon ventures.
Venus shrugs. "I still say its a major genetics fail." Then she turns on her heel and begins to skip out of the room, apparently ready to let the subject lie. She's nearly out the door before she adds one final thought.
"Either that or she's not Mamoru's."
The speed at which each of the Senshi places herself bodily between Tuxedo Kamen and Sailor Venus is nothing short of miraculous.
I know, I know their hair isn't LITERALLY pink, it's artistic licence to differentiate between characters. And this isn't a very original joke. Really, I just like the chapter summary exchange. Plus any time Minako decides to needle Mamoru brings me such joy.
Chapter 28: Tragedy and Comedy (Minako/Kunzite)
Written March 2010, some edits November 2017.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Minako releases a long, tragic sigh from the couch. Kunzite looks up over the edge of his book, quirking an eyebrow at her posture.
"You know, the homework might not be so torturous if you didn't read it upside down."
Minako sticks her tongue out at him. "You are mean."
"The meanest boyfriend in the history of all time and space."
"So you tell me."
"You are even meaner than my sadist of a professor who makes me read in Greek."
Realizing that he is not likely to return to his own book any time soon, he slips in his bookmark and sets it aside. "Is he really making you read in Greek?"
She gives him what she supposes is a withering look. She'd have a better chance if she were upright, and he has to bite the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing. "NO... but it might as well be."
Recognizing this for the request for help that it is, he silently holds out his hand. She grins and tosses it at him, a little more forceful from her precarious angle but still with good aim. He glances at the cover. "Aristotle's Poetics, hm?"
"You're read it, right?" she asks, pulling herself up effortlessly. Not for the first time, he is thankful for her core strength. "I mean, you're like Ami. You've basically read everything."
Kunzite pictures the face Ami must make when Minako tells her this. His imagination conjures something truly hysterical, and he resolves to measure it against reality as soon as possible. "Everything is an overstatement, but I have read this, yes."
She points at the offending tome and demands, "Explain."
"I'm sure you understand more than you think you do."
"I understand that it is boring and old."
She gives another tragic sigh, momentarily blowing her bangs skyward. "Have I mentioned that you are the meanest meanie who ever did mean?"
"Once or twice."
She flops forward on the couch, laying on her stomach and kicking her heels up. "Well, he puts tragedy above comedy. Which is stupid and wrong."
"Why is it stupid and wrong? And if you say, 'because,' I'm going back to my book."
Minako grins, smug and bright and beautiful. Then again, he's hard-pressed to recall a time when he hasn't thought her beautiful. "Well, I wasn't going to say that, so ha-ha, joke's on you. I was going to say that he's stupid and wrong because comedy is obviously better than tragedy."
Kunzite refrains from pointing out that this is not much better than 'because' by sheer strength of will.
Her eyes suddenly slide away from him, and she begins braiding the ends of her hair. It's an uncommon gesture from her, a habit that only seems to surface when she's wearing a certain shade of insecurity and self-consciousness. She's so rarely anything but outrageously confident that the posture always takes him aback. "I mean, I get what he means about catharsis: that sometimes people need to cry about bad things happening to fake people so that they can cry about stuff happening to them in real life. I just don't think that's really helpful.
"See, I think when people are sad, they'd rather laugh. Like, say my mother just died. No wait, bad example, I hate my mother. Say you're a random person whose dog just died. Do you really want to go see a play where EVERYBODY dies, and you cry about them dying, but really you're just crying about your dog? I think you'd much rather go see a comedy so you could just forget about it for awhile. You're happy during the play and maybe for a little while after. Heck, maybe its the first step towards you being okay with your dog being gone, I don't know."
She shrugs. "I'd just rather make people happy. It's part of the reason I want to become an actress in the first place. I don't want people to cry when they see me. I want them to smile. Is that wrong?"
One day, she's going to have those fans she craves. Kunzite can't say if she'll have a small, dedicated following, or if she'll be a household name. No one can predict the whimsies and fickle nature of the entertainment industry. But every inch of him is certain that if love could be quantified, placed on a set of scales and measured, they would tilt in his favor every time. And it's exactly because of moments like this.
"No. I don't think that's wrong."
She smiles, dazzling and painful like a star, nervous hair-twisting abandoned. "I take it back. You're the nicest, best boyfriend who ever lived." She leans forward and kisses him on the cheek. She's a tactile person, and even more tactile lover, but even after months of being together, he still leans into her touch like a flower starved of the sun. She lingers a moment longer than she might otherwise, because she knows.
"I appreciate the promotion," he says with convincing sincerity.
"Too bad Professor I-Wish-Aristotle-Was-My-Zombie-Husband-Because-He-Is-So-Perfect-And-Right-In-Every-Way will not agree. Tell me again why agreed to go to drama school?"
"It was the only way your mother would let you move out."
She rolls her eyes, and this time he does not miss the wicked glint. "No. Really. Remind me."
He smirks. "If you insist."
She giggles and launches herself at him, landing lightly astride his lap. Her fingers are splayed across his back, and she smells like lemons and sunshine. He kisses her, runs his hands through her hair until he's undone every braid. He allows himself to be happy.
"It could be worse, you know," he says after awhile, pulling away to nuzzle at her neck.
Her breath catches when he nips at her skin. "How?"
"You could have to read Cicero."
So for context: I majored in Writing and Literature at college, and one class required for both concentrations was Classical Rhetoric. This included reading Aristotle and Cicero, along with Plato and a few others. Aristotle was my favorite because I had the easiest time understanding it, and I was a wayward theatre kid who had heard some of that before. But Cicero? Fuck that unit right in the ear.
Anyway, my way of coping with this was forcing Minako to read some of what I had to read. And you know, I've killed her, beaten her up, made her kill people she loves, made her watch people she loves die, and a whole host of other terrible things in fanfiction. This may have been me at my cruelest.
Chapter 29: Beautiful (Kunzite/Zoisite)
Kunzite mourns his fallen beauty.
Written December 2006. Major (canon) character death.
The sakura trees flowered in the blush of spring, when everything was raw and young. The land was a complete reincarnation of itself, and the pink cherry blossoms were the brightest and most beautiful of all.
And now they littered his lover's grave; a mark of the dead.
Kunzite looked down at Zoisite's corpse, the overwhelming aroma of burnt hair filling the last Shitennou's nostrils. He reached forward and touched his skin. Zoisite had always been pale; they all were, living in the citadel closed out from the eternal winter of the Arctic. But now it was grey, just lighter than their uniforms, as all the blood settled to the bottom of his body. He bent down and kissed Zoisite's lips one final time, pretending that he tasted the bittersweet tang of his mouth even though there was nothing to dance across his taste buds but bile. And when he parted, he listened, suddenly filled with a child's hope that Zoisite might breathe again. Of course, he was disappointed.
But Kunzite would not remember those things. When he looked back on his final moments with his lover, he would remember only the sakura blossoms, the symbol of life, and that Zoisite had been beautiful even in death.
Chapter 30: Always the Quiet Ones (Ami)
Written August 2010, minor revisions November 2017
The first time, it wasn't that big of a deal. Ami was a little ahead in all of her classes for just such an emergency. So when Rei called saying there was a youma on the loose, Ami set aside her calculus with nary a longing glance. She suited up and went to fight a monster.
The second time was only mildly annoying. Ami was just finishing up a particularly verbose essay on the questionable validity of chaos theory when her communicator went off again. This time it was Minako telling her of yet another youma attack. Ami listened to her directions, signed off, and then called Makoto to find out how many wrong turns Minako would have sent her down. Once she had the correct route memorized, she saved her essay and left, hoping the essay would still flow well despite stopping in the middle of a crucial paragraph.
The third time, Ami started to get testy. She glared at the communicator when it beeped, waiting a moment before answering. Luna could tell Ami was beginning to get upset and apologized profusely, though Ami assured her it wasn't necessary. One all-nighter fighting evil and finishing the assigned reading wouldn't kill her, after all. She went and fought like always, though the other Senshi couldn't help but notice that Ami attacked with a little more vigor than usual.
The fourth, fifth, and sixth times were more of the same. Ami answered; Ami fought; Ami stayed up all night to do her homework. Minako kept her supplied with coffee, and Rei replaced it with tea. Makoto offered to run errands for her. Usagi told her she was worried.
Then came the seventh day. Ami was running on adrenaline and caffeine, and for the first time in recent memory, she was struggling to keep up with her classes. Worst of all, for the first time ever, Ami received a grade below 90. A 'B.'
Mizuno Ami did not get 'B's.
And on the seventh day, Usagi called. She was nervous; she was scared. Neither emotion was triggered by the youma. She did not know what to think when Ami calmly assented to meeting them at the correct location, her twitching eyes relaxing for the first time all day.
The Senshi fought hard before Sailor Mercury arrived. Venus's chain could not hold it, and it seemed impervious to both flame and thunder. They could not weaken it enough for Sailor Moon to deliver the final blow. They needed Mercury and her computer to formulate a winning strategy.
Instead, Sailor Mercury brought a chainsaw.
"This is for the 'B,'" she told it coolly, just before lopping its head off.
It's always the quiet ones.
Chapter 31: Not One, but Two (Lethe & Mnemosyne)
The tragic devotion of twins.
Written August 2010; small revisions November 2017
Regard the capture here, 0 Janus-faced,
As double as the hands that twist this glass.
Such eves at search or rest you cannot see;
Reciting pain or glee, how can you bear!
Twin shadowed halves: the breaking, second holds t,
In each the skin alone, and so it is
I crust a plate of vibrant mercury
Borne cleft to you…
--from Hart Crane's "Recitative"
You were not born two, but one. You were not destined to be separate, pulled from your mother's womb attached at the hip. No vital organs, just clinging skin easily sliced by a midwife who thought it a favor. They say neither of you cried until this. In fact, only your sister cried. You glared.
The midwife is forgotten now, by everyone but you. You made sure of that.
But though the wielder is forgotten, no one can forget the knife. The pink, smooth scars on your hips – mirror images – an enduring testament. You cannot-will not forget that your sister was once a part of you, and of course she remembers. So you both decide that you will not be parted from one another and damn the intentions of others.
You sleep together. Play and pray together. Learn to fight together. Learn to read and sing and laugh and love together. Everything is together.
They tell you it is a mistake. You are anathema to one another – she is memory, and you are oblivion. Perhaps your sister is not your opposite, but you are both twisted reflections of the other in a curved glass. You were never meant to be so close.
Your sister is afraid to lose you. You hate that they would tear you from her again.
One night, you hear whispering, snatches of word and conspiracies. “Separate training facilities… better off… maybe one day they’ll forget… or at least she will.”
This is the mistake they always make. You make others forget. You, like your sister, your twin, your heart are cursed to remember. Everything.
Your sister cries when you tell her. You resolve to drown anyone who will take her from you.
But before you can, a warrior clad in gold and bathed in fire comes to your planet. She lays waste to all. She kills your family. It's no great loss to you, but of course it's different for your sister. Oblivion never revels in destruction, but doesn't mind it. Memory cannot turn from the pyre and cannot help but mourn it.
Regardless, in the end, there is only you and your sister, the warrior woman, and the ashes.
She offers you a choice.
Your sister cries and pleads with you to say no.
But you know what she does not: this is the only way to stay together forever. If you say no, this woman - this Galaxia - will kill you both. You don't know what lies beyond the stars, at the ends of the rivers. But you imagine it is cold and dark. And lonely.
You hold out your hands.
After a moment, because although she is better than you by far, she does not want to lose you either, your sister does too.
The skin was cut, but you are not two.
You are one.
Until the end of time and freedom, you are one.
Chapter 32: She Believes (Makoto)
Kino Makoto believes in romance.
Written August 2010
Kino Makoto believes in romance.
She believes in love at first sight. She believes that you can know someone is perfect and wonderful after a glance across a crowded room. She believes it can take little more than a smile and a hello for the spark to ignite.
She believes in that love changes. What begins as infatuation becomes passion becomes dedication becomes quiet friendship. She believes that love can endure through a lifetime.
She believes that love can continue beyond death. How could she not?
Kino Makoto believes in romance.
But sometimes she wonders if it believes in her.
Chapter 33: Without Sound of Bells (Chibi-Usa & Helios)
He told you to ring the bell whenever you needed him.
Written August 2010; some revisions November 2017. Title taken from "At Melville's Tomb" by Hart Crane.
He told you to ring the bell whenever you needed him. Whenever you were in trouble, you could pray, hold the carillon aloft, and he would fly to you from nowhere. He would give you the power you needed to defeat the evil.
You are more grateful than you can say for his help. Each time he appears is an affirmation of how he cares for you, reassurance that he is safe. Without him, you'd be lost and beaten, dead in a town overrun by circus freaks.
You're grateful, but sometimes you still feel weak. A soldier needing saving. You wanted to be like the Sailor Moon from your father's bedtime stories - the girl warrior who could do anything. You never wanted to be like the Sailor Moon you've come to know, who needs help so often, who is strong but so often in need of saving.
You're grateful, you feel weak, and you're guilty of pride. Or shame. Or both at once. It's all muddled inside fear for yourself and for him.
Sometimes you want to call him just to see him. So that you can hold him in the light of day, not just the rainbow twilight of your dreams or the fevered pitch of battle. You want to see his eyes up close and without fear of losing him. Sometimes you just need a friend, and despite the fact that you have many, there are none like him.
But you don't call him. He wouldn't like you to.
So you settle for dreams and war - half forgetting one and trying to forget the other. You settle for praying, holding the carillon aloft, and sounding the bells that will carry him to your side.
And every time - every single time - you fear he will not come. You have loved and lost too much to simply have faith.
This is the one thing he asks of you.
This is the one thing you cannot give him.
Chapter 34: Negotiations (PGSM, Minako & Seiya)
Minako's manager has an idea to team up with an up-and-coming boy band.
Written June 2006; some revisions November 2017
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It wasn't that Minako didn't have full confidence in her manager. He might make more use of her manicurist than she did, but it didn't mean that he wasn't fully capable when it came to his job. He was a whiz at booking venues, keeping her as comfortable as possible in every anticipated circumstance (and a few unanticipated ones), looking out for her safety and reputation, and even making sure she had enough time set aside for her regular check ups with the doctor. In some ways, Saitou had taken better care of her than either of her parents. He'd even been good enough to turn a blind eye when she had mysteriously vanished to take of Mio's resurgence earlier that year.
But there were times when she wondered if he had inhaled a bit too much nail polish remover.
"A joint concert tour with the Three Lights?" Minako asked incredulously, frowning as her hairdresser ran a flat iron through her hair. "I'm not sure I like that idea."
Saitou plucked at his sleeves, waving his hands about in his usual fashion. "Oh, Minako. Don't be ridiculous. They're a very successful group right now!"
Minako continued frowning, not anywhere near convinced. She had heard of the up-and-coming idol group the year before, when they'd just begun to perform in Japan and just before they'd been signed to her own agency. The band was comprised of three boys about her age, maybe younger. They included the stoic, bookish Taiki, the pretty boy Yaten, and their front man, the “super cool” Seiya. She had heard some of their music and could concede it wasn't terrible, but hardly anything special. Their fame stemmed more from how they looked playing their music than anything they actually played. As far as she was concerned, they were just another cookie cutter boy band that would quickly fade into the background, and she wasn’t sure that she wanted their names linked with hers.
"That's taking a step back, don't you think?" Minako asked. Before she could continue her thoughts, the hairdresser announced Minako's hair was finished. Minako had worked with her before and found her work to be impeccable. She said so, thanked the woman for her hard work, and then proceeded to add a few finishing touches to her blush before the photo shoot.
Meanwhile, her manager sighed, dancing around to her side in an attempt to hold her eye contact and her interest. "Minako, they are as successful as you were when you first started! They could be big! Besides, if we went on a joint concert tour with them, you could build off of their fan base."
Minako stopped, her gaze narrowed. She turned back to her manager and said, in a voice that had only recently terrified youma into fleeing in terror, "Wouldn't they be building off of my fan base?"
Saitou waved her off as if it made no difference. "I know what this is about. The old competitive Aino Minako is refusing to share her spotlight. This is just like with that Kuroki Mio and Mars Reiko."
Minako snorted a bit, but managed to pass it off as a sneeze. She couldn't wait to see the look on Rei's face when she found out that she'd been compared with Mio. It had been awhile since she'd found new ways to tease the shrine maiden, and it would be good not to rehash old material when they met in a few weeks.
A moment later, Minako shook her head. "It isn't that. I just... think that if I'm going to embark on a joint tour, it would be better to team up with someone more on my level."
"I'm glad to hear you finally get to the point, Aino-san."
Minako spun in her chair again, surprised to hear a strange voice in her dressing room. Kou Seiya himself leaned against her doorway. He looked the same as he always did in magazines: good-looking and all too aware of it. His dark hair was pulled back in a ponytail at his neck, a few wavy bangs hanging down on his forehead. And he apparently wore sunglasses indoors. Minako resolved to dislike him for that alone.
"Kou-san," Minako greeted, her voice devoid of the expected civility. "I don't recall inviting you."
Seiya jerked his head in her manager's direction. "He invited me."
Minako glanced over at her manager, giving him a look that she had perfected against magical enemies and professional rivals, against princes and queens and death itself. Her eyes were flint and cold steel, promising unavoidable retribution and the punishment only a warrior like her could mete out.
Unfortunately, Saitou had inured himself to her dark moods long ago. He just backed out of the room, holding his hands in front of his face. "Oh, scary!"
Minako continued to glare after him for a few moments, before turning back to the unwanted wannabe in her midst. "If you heard something you didn't like, I apologize." Her tone wasn't the least bit conciliatory, and he knew that, but it was the words that mattered. "However, I didn't invite you, and you came here to listen."
Seiya glared. It might have been more effective without the obnoxious eyewear, but she doubted it. "Do you have some sort of problem with me, Aino-san? Because I'm a newcomer?"
"Not because you're a newcomer," Minako countered, resisting the urge to roll her eyes. Mio had been the one to start that rumor, and not even killing her had erased it. "I'm not that petty."
"Then what is it?" Seiya snapped. He tried to loom over in an attempt to intimidate her. At least that's what she took it to mean. Other people, usually men, had tried posturing like before to cow her. It never worked. Why word of that never got around, she couldn't say.
Minako stood up, forcing Seiya to move away from her or to crowd her in a way she doubted he'd be comfortable with. There was looming and there was menacing, after all. As predicted, he stepped back, allowing her to grab her large red leather bag. Artemis's fuzzy, frozen face peaked out over the edge, as always. She slung the bag over her shoulder and said, "In this business, you need to earn the right to tour with me. Convince me you're good enough, and I might change my position." She smirked, flicking his sunglasses. "But I warn you, I'm very stubborn."
That said, she turned and sauntered out of the room, hips swinging in concert with her heel strikes. She didn’t doubt that Seiya had taken a moment to enjoy the view before he went in search of Saitou to try and salvage the floundering deal.
Once she was out of earshot, she poked the stuffed animal in her bag. "Artemis?" she asked, keeping her voice low. "Did you get a weird feeling from that guy?"
Artemis blinked to life, nodding shortly. "Yes. What do you think it means?"
"I think it means that I need to reschedule my lunch with Rei."
This is one of those times when I really wish the live action had been able to continue past season one, because PGSM!Minako versus the Three Lights would be 8 different kinds of amazing, at least.
Chapter 35: One Last Ride (Eudial)
Eudial hates rollercoasters.
Written March 2010.
Eudial hates rollercoasters. In the climb to the top, the anticipation, she can attempt to convince herself that this time, it'll be all right. She won't scream or cry or wonder how Mimete talked her into going on it in the first place. But at the crest, when the cars coast to an almost-but-not-quite stop, she remembers the horror and the loss of control, and she screams long before the descent. Then it's all rushing to the ground and her stomach flying into her mouth and Mimete laughing at her because Mimete is always laughing at her.
So the fact that Mimete has chosen to kill her in a manner so very like a rollercoaster is an extra twist of the proverbial knife in her back that Eudial can't help but admire.
She's always known in the back of her mind that Mimete will be the instrument of her death. A tentative friendship turned to rivalry that turned bitter and then spawned into hatred before Eudial knew how to stop it. In many ways, their relationship has been like a rollercoaster, climbing and escalating before plummeting into oblivion.
Her one comfort is that one of the other Witches 5 will more than likely get rid of Mimete before long, if the Senshi don't take care of it first. She wonders if it will be Tellu or Viluy.
She also wonders what she has done to deserve Mimete's ire. Was is simply that she was called after Kaorinite's death? Or was it something else? Did she offend her, or were their personalities so explosively different that there was nothing for them to do but combust?
She doesn't know, not really, and she'll never get to ask.
Eudial's shriek cuts through the night as her van breaks through the barrier on the side of the mountain road. For a sick, horrible moment, she hangs there, suspended in the eternal moment between life and death. And for a moment, she thinks there is a chance she will survive this, her final rollercoaster ride.
But then the drop begins, and she knows it's hopeless. She's lost the Talismans. The Senshi have the grail. She's as good as dead. Mimete has beaten her.
Just before she hits the water, Eudial decides that she is going to haunt that bitch like it's her job.
Chapter 36: Soothing Properties (PGSM, Makoto/Motoki)
Motoki, Makoto, and a cup of chamomile.
Written December 2007; revised December 2017.
Motoki always woke up when he found himself alone in bed. Ever since he and Makoto had begun living together, he'd developed a kind of sixth sense for when the other side of the bed had been empty for too long. He stayed still for the count of one hundred to see if Makoto was on her way back. He listened for her feet creaking against the apartment floor or water rushing through the pipes. Instead, he heard a kitchen chair being pulled out. He frowned and went to find her.
He found Makoto in the kitchen, wrapped tightly in his bathrobe and a mug of steaming hot tea clenched between her hands. She gripped it so tightly that her knuckles paled against her flesh.
"Mako?" he called out, voice breaking. She jumped, and something about her posture made him think that she might have curled her hands into fists had she not been holding her tea. He smiled sheepishly, raising his hand to wave. Then he realized he was about to wave at his wife when they were alone in their kitchen at two in the morning. He brought it around to rub the back of his neck in a flimsy attempt to cover. "Sorry. I didn't mean to scare you. What are you doing up?"
Makoto took a moment to throw an unconvincing smile his way. “Couldn’t sleep. Thought I’d make some tea.”
“Ah,” Motoki answered, bouncing his weight from foot to foot. He gestured vaguely towards the chair opposite her. “Would it be all right if I joined you?”
This time, when Makoto smiled, it seemed more genuine, if sheepish. “I only made enough for one.”
Motoki shrugged. “That’s all right. Your tea blends are way too sophisticated for me anyway.” Although Makoto preferred to experiment with flavor combinations in her cooking and baking, she'd recently gotten interested in experimenting with homemade tea blends. He always sampled them, and even if they weren't to his taste, they were still good. Nevertheless, he tended to prefer plain green tea when he wanted a cup.
Makoto took a long sip, shaking her head as she swallowed. “It's just chamomile this time.”
Motoki raised his eyebrow and leaned forward, sniffing. Come to think if it, it didn't smell layered and complicated for once. If he'd been a bit more awake, he might have noticed. “Isn’t that a bit weak for you?”
Her eyes darkened. “It has soothing properties.”
The eyebrow that arched moved inward, meeting its twin. “Mako, is everything all right?”
Makoto sighed, glancing away. “No, I guess not.”
She sounded so sad and looked so small in the dark room. He didn't like her being quiet and distant like this. A lump formed in his throat. “Mako?”
“I didn’t mean to wake you. It’s all right if you go back to sleep. I don’t know if I’ll be able to, so don’t feel like you have to stay up with me.”
“I’m not going to be able to go back in there if I know you’re out here, unhappy.” After a moment’s consideration, he reached forward to hold one of her hands. His fingers resting over her wrist, thumb smoothing out the skin above the bone. “You don't have to tell me, but... if you want to, I'll listen. And if you really want me to go, I'll do that too. But don't think you have to be in here by yourself.”
Makoto looked up at him, her eyes a bit wider than they had been a moment before. Motoki wondered if maybe he should have just gone when she told him to, if pushing her when she was so clearly disturbed had been a mistake. Then, after a beat, she nodded and took a preparatory sip from her cup. “I… I had a nightmare.”
“Oh. I'm sorry.” Motoki paused. “Are you all right?”
“Just a little shaken up I think,” she answered, shifting in her seat. “I haven’t had one in awhile. It took me off guard.”
Motoki swallowed. "Was it about... before?"
Motoki had next to no memory of the time when she had been Sailor Jupiter. From what all the girls and Mamoru understood, after the final battle, a sort of reset button had been activated. Time had spun backwards, allowing a number of things to change. Minako had her surgery while there was still a better chance for survival, and she’d been free of tumors for the past five years. Ami had embarked on a medical fellowship before finishing high school and was still studying in Germany. And Makoto and Motoki hadn’t met in quite the same way as they had before.
He had vague images and impressions from that lost time. He remembered a green scarf and a karaoke pass that all of the girls had possessed. It still left him a bit off-kilter -- like he felt he’d known Makoto and the others before they were properly introduced. But it had all been explained to him by Mamoru, and, considering Motoki didn’t immediately run screaming, he believed them. He believed them even more when they’d had a short reactivation the year before, just before Usagi and Mamoru’s wedding. What little he witnessed had been scary, and he was usually glad that his memories of their real activities were so vague.
Now he wished that he remembered things more clearly, if only for Makoto's sake.
“Yes," she confirmed. "About before."
“Mostly, they’re just about things going differently. I think about… how everyone died and how we almost lost. It just haunts me.”
“But it’s all right now. You guys fixed everything in the end.” Not that they'd ever been very clear on how they'd managed it, at least not to him.
“We almost didn’t,” Makoto murmured. He felt her muscles begin to coil and tense beneath his touch. “The three of us - Ami, Rei, and me - were lying on the ground, begging her to stop. She wouldn't listen. We almost had to fight her, but… none of us were strong enough to stop Usagi. Even if Minako had been there, we wouldn't....” She shook her head despondently. “It doesn't matter. I wasn’t strong enough.”
Motoki knew there had to be a right thing to say, a perfect turn of phrase to make it all better, but he couldn’t for the life of him think of what it could be. He had no idea how to help her, his own wife. It made him feel like he’d never be useful, and some part of him wondered if she’d realize that marrying him had been a horrible mistake.
Motoki’s back went rigid at the thought, and before he knew it, he’d scooted his chair closer to hers, arms wrapping around her shoulders and pulling her to him. She leaned into him immediately, her cheek against his chest, her mussed hair scratching at his chin.
“It’s okay to make a mistake sometimes,” Motoki said. “Like me right now. I know its not the same thing, not at all, but I don't know how to help you. You know I don't really understand what you guys went through, so I don't know the right things to say. But maybe remembering it all wouldn't even really help. It doesn't matter. I'm still going to try.”
It wasn’t a cure-all, but it was the best that he could do. They stayed that way for a long time, not talking. It wasn’t the most comfortable position for him, but he didn’t want to move away from her. Particularly when she let go of the now cold tea and dozed off in his arms.
Chapter 37: Have You Heard? (Haruka/Michiru)
There's some gossip going around.
Written March 2010. Some edits December 2017.
"Have you heard?"
Haruka closes her locker and glances behind her. Michiru's standing there, carrying her sketchbook, violin case, and briefcase, ready to leave. Haruka reflexively Michiru's lips, painted soft pink and twisted in her one-sided, ironic smile.
"Heard what?" Haruka asks, slinging her bookbag over her shoulder. She wonders if she should offer to carry some of Michiru's things, or if that's too cheesy.
Michiru turns gracefully and starts walking down the hallway. She doesn't seem the slightest bit burdened by her load, so maybe its best if she doesn't offer after all. "It seems we are the subject of some gossip."
Haruka snorts, quickly falling into step beside her partner. "Are we now?"
"Indeed." Although her hands are already preoccupied, Michiru somehow produces a letter whose seal bares the tell-tale heart to hold it closed.
A love letter. Again.
Haruka manages not to snarl, but its a nearer thing than she'd like to admit. "Another one? What is that? Third one this month?"
"Fourth," Michiru corrects primly, as if one less letter would reflect poorly on herself.
Haruka mock-bows by way of apology. "Which poor bastard was it?"
"Kenji. The cello player in the orchestra."
It takes Haruka a moment to place him. She recalls that he's nearly as tall as her. His hair is curly, though he's always trying to get it to lay flat. It never works. He wears glasses and writes poetry. He has that brooding, tortured sort of beauty that so many girls fall for.
Haruka decides that she doesn't like Kenji very much.
"He doesn't seem like the type to write love letters," she says.
Michiru shrugs elegantly. Until meeting Michiru, Haruka hadn't realized that this was a thing people could actually do. "It was a very nice poem with some lovely imagery. It references the sea, naturally." She flips her hair over her shoulder, chuckling softly.
"What's this got to do with the gossip?"
"Well, when I explained to Kenji that I wasn't interested, he wasn't hurt. Merely perplexed."
Haruka scowls. "Egotistical little--"
"Hush," Michiru scolds lightly. "It wasn't like that. Not exactly. Actually, he was quite gracious. He said he appreciated my honesty, and he didn't whine like the last one. But then he asked about you."
Haruka arches an eyebrow. Her stomach flips in a way that's not unpleasant. Its almost thrilling in a way. "Did he now?"
"Apparently there has been some speculation that.... Oh, let me see, how did he put it? That you've corrupted me somehow."
For the first time in her life, Haruka actually guffaws. "What?"
"You heard me," Michiru says. "The gossip is that somehow you've tricked me into a... 'sordid' relationship with you. Since you dress like a boy and race cars and do all manner of things I couldn't possibly resist." She laughs quietly, tossing her hair again. "It seems you've bewitched me with your masculine wiles."
The whole thing is too absurd to laugh at or be insulted by. "What did you say?"
"Oh, I was very mysterious," Michiru assures her. "It's much more fun that way."
Haruka shakes her head as they step out into the sunshine, prepared to head back to the penthouse they share. "Ridiculous. Corrupted you. When you're the one--"
"Shh," Michiru teases. "You know how it is, darling. No one ever expects a lipstick lesbian."
Chapter 38: Shenanigans (Makoto & Minako)
Makoto always thought of people in the area of impending Shenanigans as innocent bystanders. This was, she felt, accuracy by way of hyperbole.
Friendship nonsense for Jet Wolf. <3
“Quick! Give me your phone!”
Makoto stopped scrolling through her third favorite baking blog’s archives with extreme reluctance. She recognized that tone in Minako’s voice. It generally preceded Shenanigans, and Makoto had no desire to participate in Shenanigans when she could be tracking down the perfect inspiration for her next baking project. But Makoto also knew that when Minako took that tone, Shenanigans were going to happen and nothing short of the apocalypse could stop them. Frankly, she doubted even that would work.
Makoto looked up and immediately eyed the cell phone in Minako’s hand. “Yours broken?”
“What? Oh, god no! Can you imagine? My entire life is on here.”
Her entire life in an orange-and-gold sequined cell phone with three tiny Sailor V figurines glued to it. That sounded about right. “So your phone is fine.”
“But you want my phone.”
“Duh, I just said that.”
As Makoto suspected: Shenanigans.
Minako clutched at her chest and gasped loud enough to draw the attention of three innocent bystanders. Makoto always thought of people in the area of impending Shenanigans as innocent bystanders. This was, she felt, accuracy by way of hyperbole.
“Why not?!” Minako demanded.
“Because you have a phone.”
“But I want your phone!”
“Because reasons, that’s why!”
“Oh, well in that case: no.”
Minako planted her hands on her hips in her best iteration of ‘stern commander upset with subordinate.’ Makoto thought it would have been a lot more convincing without the sunflower swing coat. “Aren’t you supposed to just hop to whenever I ask for things? I’m pretty sure that’s how the chain-of-command works.”
Makoto snorted. “Minako, last time you brought up the chain-of-command was when you got drunk at your birthday party and tried to seduce Rei with it. And I’m pretty sure you were talking about tying her up with your actual, physical chain. She dumped a punch bowl on your head, and then you fell asleep in the bathtub.”
“I’m still the leader!”
“And if this were about Usagi’s safety, the fate of the world, or something equally dire, I’d probably give you the phone. But that’s not what’s happening.”
“How do you know?”
“Because I’m 93% sure you seduced some roadie into giving you the phone number for your latest celebrity crush, you’ve already called them on your phone, and they’ve blocked your number.”
It was cliched to say the ensuing silence is deafening, but why mess with a good thing?
“Now I’m 99% sure.”
Minako glared her fiercest glare. She wore sunflower earrings to match the sunflower swing coat.
Makoto was unmoved.
“For your information,” Minako spat, “I didn’t seduce a roadie. I blackmailed their manager. Because I have standards.”
“Damn straight you do.”
Minako stomped her foot and flounced away in a huff. A cheerful, flowery, orange sequined huff.
Makoto nearly went back to the baking blog, then stopped. “Sunflower macarons,” she decided.
Chapter 39: Sometimes You Hear the Bullet (Rei/Minako)
There’s an old saying among soldiers: you never hear the bullet that kills you. Maybe that’s true and maybe it isn’t, but Minako hears the bullet that catches Rei in the chest.
Title taken from the M*A*S*H episode by the same name. Major character death, gun violence.
Because one of the best gifts you can give Jet Wolf is killing Rei Hino.
There’s an old saying among soldiers: you never hear the bullet that kills you.
Maybe that’s true and maybe it isn’t, but Minako hears the bullet that catches Rei in the chest.
It’s wrong that her immediate thought (one of her immediate thoughts - her mind has never been quiet, she never loses her train of thought, she just jumps tracks) is so far from the immediate. There are plenty of other thoughts that scatter across her mind, beyond the raging grief that swells in her gut, the bloom of red against Rei’s uniform as she falls. But she tastes copper in the air, feels something hot and acrid spray across her face, and at least part of her is amazed that she remembered that correctly, even if she can’t remember where she first heard it.
But she heard it somewhere. Just like she heard the gunshot, just like she heard metal punch through flesh and bone, just like she heard the kill order, just like she heard the senator - her father, Rei’s father - promise to rid Tokyo of the sailor-suited menace that’s brought so much trouble to its citizens. She heard a man kill his own daughter for political gain.
She hears her own voice, a raw shriek wrenched from her throat. She hears Rei’s body when she hits the ground.
She heard the bullet, and as she’s racing towards her best friend, her partner, her sometimes lover, and her heart, she thinks maybe she’ll be hearing it the rest of her life.
“No, Rei. Rei, no. Rei, baby, please. Stay with me, love. Come on, don’t do this to me, don’t leave me, Rei, please, please, don’t leave me.”
She’s babbling and clutching and trying to will Rei’s blood back into her body with her own two hands. Red bubbles at the corner of her mouth; her eyes are going glassy.
They have so little time.
“Please, just hold on,” Minako pleads. She’s never begged for anything before, not from Rei or anyone else, but for this, for Rei’s life, she’ll crawl across hot glass and into hell itself. “Ami will be here soon. Ami will help. Makoto and Haruka will keep them off us, just please wait for the others. Ami will help, or Usagi, or someone, but I can’t– Rei, I can’t– Rei, please–”
Rei coughs. Red spills down her chin. “…’nako.”
“I’m here. I’m here, Rei. Stay here. Stay with me.”
“…can’t see you. Can’t see….”
Minako holds Rei’s face between her palms and pushes their foreheads together. “I’m right here. I’m right here. I won’t leave you, so don’t you dare leave me.”
“Whatever you want, hear me? I will do literally whatever you want, but you have to stay here.”
Rei grips the back of her neck, and then she smiles, pink and feral and final. “My father…. Make. Him. Pay.”
Minako listens to the fight over the rattle in Rei’s lungs, to Makoto and Haruka forming a two-woman blockade, to distant, tinny shouts over communicators as the others fight to get closer, and to the bullets. Minako thinks she can hear every single shot. Or maybe it’s the same one, over and over.
Then she hears Rei’s last breath, and maybe that’s the loudest thing of all.
Chapter 40: Pain Free (Haruka & Minako)
“Nothing can hurt me now,” Haruka proclaims to the world at large. The fact that the world at large in fact consists solely of Minako sitting her in hospital room is irrelevant.
This story was written for docholligay, who originally came up with Minako referring to Michiru as "the sea witch." It's so perfect that I kind of consider it canon now.
“Nothing can hurt me now,” Haruka proclaims to the world at large. The fact that the world at large in fact consists solely of Minako sitting her in hospital room is irrelevant.
“I’m pretty sure that’s the morphine talking, buddy. Remember? You have a compound leg fracture? And it was very gross and the fact that I am still your friend after seeing that means I deserve a medal? Or at least candy? Or possibly some of that morphine?”
“No,” Haruka says, imbuing her voice with grim portent, like rumbling thunder and prophecy, doom and awe incarnate. “I am beyond pain.”
Minako looks up from her magazine, a three month-old issue with Seiya on the cover that Haruka suspects she brought from home just to torment her with. “What the fuck is up with your voice? Do you need to cough? Are you phlegmy?”
“I am being Significant.”
“A significant pain in my fabulous ass.”
Haruka sighs the sigh of the woefully misunderstood and underappreciated. “You wouldn’t understand.”
“That you deep throated your wife’s strap-on last night and now your throat hurts? Dude, we’ve all been there.”
Minako rolls her eyes. “Not Michiru’s, obviously. You know I wouldn’t touch your squid-wife or her strap-on. Plenty of other dildos in the sea.”
“My wife is not the sea witch.”
“I didn’t say she was the sea witch. I said she was a squid. Would you rather I call her a sea witch?”
Haruka winces. “Please don’t.”
“And here I thought you were beyond pain.”
Chapter 41: Catholic School Girls Do It Better (Rei & Minako)
Rei resisted the urge to immediately snap at her best friend. After all, as Usagi had pointed out to her, it wasn't the nicest thing to do. And while Rei wasn't overly concerned with being nice, she was concerned with the revenge Minako might decide to take if she felt wronged. She'd seen the results of that up close. Haruka still shuddered at the sight of pudding.
Written May 2010; a couple of edits January 2018.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
"Rei, can I ask you a question?"
Rei resisted the urge to immediately snap at her best friend. After all, as Usagi had pointed out to her, it wasn't the nicest thing to do. And while Rei wasn't overly concerned with being nice, she was concerned with the revenge Minako might decide to take if she felt wronged. She'd seen the results of that up close. Haruka still shuddered at the sight of pudding.
So instead she took a deep breath and asked, "Is it going to upset me?"
Minako scoffed. "Well, I can hardly be expected to know the answer to that. The weirdest things make you angry."
Rei decided not to question Minako on what she based that assessment on. "This is already giving me a headache. Just ask the question."
Minako reached over and tugged on the end of Rei's skirt. "Why the heck are your uniform skirts so short?"
Rei swatted Minako's offending hand. "Excuse me?
"Well, Catholics are all about not having fun and stuff, right?"
"What does that have to do with my skirt?"
"Short skirts are more fun. It's a scientific fact," Minako claimed, adjusting imaginary spectacles. "It would make sense for Catholic school uniforms to have skirts long enough to cover your ankles. So why is it that I get a great view of your underwear every time you bend over?"
Rei leapt away, covering her bottom protectively. "What?!"
"Oh, don't worry," Minako assured her. "It's only obvious if you're really looking."
"Why are you looking?"
Minako ignored this, bouncing alongside Rei. "But seriously, I don't get it. Explain."
Rei reminded herself that Minako was her friend and it was therefore not a good idea to throttle her then and there. "I didn't exactly design the uniform, did I?"
Minako leaned over and made a show of whispering. "Is it because Catholic school girls do it better?"
Rei had never choked on oxygen before. She couldn't say she was a fan.
"It is, isn't it?" Minako shook her head in mock disappointment. "So all those nuns preaching chastity are probably just getting it on with the priests in the sacristy, huh?"
Rei growled, "Minako--"
"Or each other! Nuns can be lesbians, obviously."
"I hate you," Rei informed her solemnly.
Minako laughed aloud. "Except when you love me."
"When was that again?"
Minako rolled her eyes and skipped ahead. She spun, completely ignoring the fact that they were on a busy sidewalk, and said, "By the way, I like today's. You look good in black." She winked lasciviously and twirled back around.
Rei ground to a halt, her jaw hanging open. Even though Minako's gall wasn't surprising, she still couldn't believe it. Did the girl have no limits?
Suddenly, Rei had a positively Minako-like idea. She wondered how the blonde would like her own methods being turned against her.
"Well, beloved friend of mine," Rei ground out, "looks like tomorrow, I go commando."
Rei, do not try to out-Minako Minako. This will not end well for you.
Chapter 42: In the Rain, The Pavement Shines Like Silver (Minako/Kunzite)
Les Miserables is just so sad.
Written May 2009; minor edits January 2018.
“It’s just so sad.”
“I know, Minako.”
“He was just a little kid! All he wanted to do was help. Why did they have to shoot a poor little boy?”
“Because Victor Hugo is a glorious bastard.”
“And Eponine! She is infinitely better suited to Marius, but does he bother to realize that? No. Because he’s too busy chasing the useless ingénue. And she dies in his arms and it’s all for him and he doesn’t even care.”
“Don’t you tend to get cast as the ingénue?”
“Yes, but I’m not so dithering and whiny about it. And infinitely better looking.”
They come out of the theater to find that it’s raining. The water comes down in sheets so thick that the world seems overlaid in speckled grey. Everything smells clean and fresh, and the weather provides a soundtrack made of tiny timpani (accompanied by the bass groans of various other patrons as they realize the weather forecast was wrong).
Luckily, he’s the sort of man that’s naturally distrustful of meteorologists. He holds up the black umbrella and flicks it open with the push of a button. Ignoring the envious rumblings of the other audience members, he glances down at his date.
She’s beautiful, but then, he’s never found her not to be. Her luxurious blonde hair is piled on top of her hair in a meticulous stack of golden curls pinned into place. Not for the first time that evening, he finds himself longing for a moment when he can pull them out and bury his hands in her hair once more. Topaz glitters at her throat and her ears, and normally, they are a perfect match for her eyes, but the normally radiant blue is ringed with red. Her mascara is smeared in a way that almost looks intentional.
He does not consider what she is wearing because it is a very long cab ride home.
“Off we go, then,” he says, moving forward and bringing her along since her elbow is hooked over his.
A palm on his chest stops him, and really, he doesn’t think it’s fair that she can touch him almost anywhere in public, but he’s relegated to her arms and nothing more.
Her eyes are still shining with the thin veil of tears, but there’s another spark hiding behind her theatrical grief. It’s the spark that makes Artemis dive behind couches and everyone else but him and Rei back away from her as though she is a bomb about to go off. As usual, he arches an eyebrow.
“I’m sensing that you have a plan.”
“Are your senses tingling?”
He rolls his eyes. “Well, so much for mourning Gavroche then.”
“It is tragic and horrible and if I ever meet Mr. Webber I will kick him for this show and for Phantom of the Opera – because Raoul is just as stupid and if there were any justice in the world he and Cosette would go off and be useless and whiny together. But little Gavroche and dear Eponine would not want me grieving forever.”
He decides not to point out that Phantom and Les Mis are both adaptations, so kicking Webber is pointless in the extreme. Although probably still quite satisfying. “Or even for ten minutes apparently.”
She pokes him with her nail. Judging by the look on her face and the way she shakes out her hand, she regrets the decision. He is tempted to make a comment about abs of steel (although it’s more like something Nephrite would say), when she pushes the umbrella away and starts to lead him out from underneath the awning. “Come on.”
He looks at the clouds meaningfully. “That’s not a special effect you know.”
She shrugs. “Suit yourself.”
She pulls back, her fingers ghosting over his flesh as she slips away. His skin aches for her when she’s gone. She does not simply walk but dances backwards, spinning into the downpour. She shrieks and laughs as the cold water hits her skin, but she never stops moving. She twirls and she giggles and she shines so brightly she hardly seems human anymore.
He watches her greedily, envying her spontaneity and vivacity. When he closes the umbrella and sets it down, following her, it is not a sudden decision but a calculated move. He doesn’t understand the psychology of surprises, and so he can do nothing but act with purpose for even the most minor occurrences.
She has no such qualms, and perhaps that is why she’s the only person alive who can catch him off guard.
She’s still laughing, open-mouthed and sparkling when she dances into him, throwing herself into his chest with her whole body. She offers him no warning when she twines her arms around his neck and kisses him with almost reckless abandon. Her lips are wet, and she tastes like water and the wine from dinner. Her body against his keeps him warm against the chill. Drops of rain slip down their faces like tears and slip into their mouths.
When they part, she exhales. He can see her breath. “I don’t take it lightly.”
He hates that he knows her so well and yet not at all, that half the time he has no idea what she’s talking about. “Hm?”
“Death.” She looks at him, and he wonders if she’s crying again. “Just because I like to be happy better… it doesn’t mean I’m not still sad.”
He runs his palms up her bare, slick arms, marveling at this confusing, amazing creature who stays with him when he knows he doesn’t deserve her. “You know I don’t think that.”
“I know. And I know it doesn’t even count because they didn’t really die.” Her teeth drag across her pink lips, turning them red. “But I need you to know, in case… something ever happens, I’ll need you to let me cry, and then I’ll need you to help me pretend everything’s okay. It’ll keep me sane, and it’ll help me… fix it as best as I can.”
It will help me get revenge.
He slips his hands into her quickly deteriorating hairstyle. “All right. I will.”
She smiles, a pearl flash in the gloom. “Good.”
“But you pick the strangest times for these conversations.”
“And that’s why you love me.”
When he answers, he doesn’t so much speak as growl. “I can think of a few other reasons.”
She shivers, and then she’s got that manic look in her eye again.
“Ever done it in the rain?”
Chapter 43: Red Tape (Neo Queen Serenity & Makoto)
For once, the world does not bend to the queen's will. And she's kind of irritated about it.
Written January 2010; minor edits January 2018.
Neo Queen Serenity was not pleased. Generally, when the queen of all known civilization was unhappy, everyone immediately worked to put the smile back on her face. Serenity was used to being catered to on a regular basis and had rather forgotten how frustrating it was to be denied.
For whatever reason, one Kino Makoto felt like reminding her of that.
"But Mako-chan," the queen said, resisting the temptation to whine as she once would have done. "It's a simple request."
Makoto looked up from her desk. It was covered in papers that as far as Serenity could tell either outlined various training procedures for the Palace Guard or how to make a scrumptious cherry crumb cake. "Serenity, I don't care how simple or complicated it is. You'll have to fill out the forms like everyone else."
"Am I or am I not the queen?"
Makoto snorted. "Are you seriously pulling that on me?"
Serenity deflated. "Sorry. I didn't mean that how it sounded. I just don't see why--"
"Because it's procedure."
"But why is it procedure?"
Makoto wiped her forearm across her brow, staining it with flour residue. "Serenity - Usagi - do you see all of these papers?"
Serenity made a face meant to intimate that they were rather hard to miss.
"Yes, well, most of these papers are requests. Guards filing for time off, requisitions for new equipment, suggestions for promotions. And that's just my duties with the guard, not to mention overseeing the kitchens and palace gardens. Now, not a single one of the filers has told me about their wants in person. Do you know why?"
Makoto held up two handfuls of paper. "Because there is no way I can remember everything! That's what the procedure is for! So I don't go crazy!"
Serenity exhaled slowly to collect herself. "Fine. I'll fill out the form."
"Wonderful," Makoto breathed, her face full of relief. She plucked it from the center of one of many stacks and held it out to her queen. "That'll take six weeks."
Serenity cried out in indignation, but Makoto was already shuffling her out of the office. Before the queen knew it, she was standing out in the hall, her mouth open and the paper beginning to tear in her hand.
"But I need a chocolate cake for Mamo-chan's birthday tomorrow!"
Chapter 44: Our Shangri-La (Usagi/Mamoru)
Usagi has doubts about Crystal Tokyo.
Written January 2010; minor edits January 2018.
"Hm?" He opens one eye cautiously, on the cusp of sleep.
"Do you think it was our Shangri-La?"
He wakes up fully now, started by the foreign word and sudden seriousness. He sits up in bed and looks at her lying on her stomach, the smooth plane of her back fully exposed in the half-light. Her face is turned the window, tilted toward the long dead satellite in the sky.
Mamoru sighs too quietly for her to hear and slides forward, wrapping her in his arms. Her skin is chilled. "What do you think?"
He hears the frown in her voice. "I remember more now, about how it was. Of parties and music lessons and... well, more parties. I don't know why we had so many."
Mamoru chuckles, nibbling her shoulder. "I guess your mother was a party animal."
She swats him away, but she giggles too. "Hush."
"As you wish, Princess."
Usagi rolls her eyes. "Silly, Mamo-chan." For the levity he's given her, the gravity returns, like the tide coming back in. "I remember horseback riding with Jupiter. We used to hunt unicorns - not to kill them of course. Just to see. They always came to me."
This does not surprise him in the slightest.
"Mars tried to teach me to meditate, but I wasn't good at it even then. Mercury handled all of the academic stuff, of course, but she took me swimming in the oceans too. The waters were silver and full of fish that shined. And Venus...."
He raises an eyebrow at her hesitation. "Do I want to know what she taught you?" He pauses. "Then again, maybe I do. Just don't tell me where you learned it."
She grins, a little wicked, but a blush stains her cheeks. "You're terrible."
"I'm barbaric, remember?"
There's a sudden sadness in her eyes. "That's what I mean. So much of it seemed perfect, but how could it be if we thought that of Earth? Of you? Even I said those things before I learned better."
Mamoru doesn't want to see her upset, but he doesn't understand where this is coming from. "We knew it wasn't Utopia - Shangri-La - no matter how much it tried to be. Why does it matter now?"
Usagi fiddles with the ends of her hair, dropping his gaze. "Because we're supposed to build Crystal Tokyo in its image."
The weight of her words takes a moment to sink in. In the end, it settles on his chest, and for a moment, his heart aches with the echoes of a poisoned Elysian. He tastes blood in his mouth.
"Mamo-chan?" Usagi asks, sensing his distress. "Are you--"
"Yes," he mutters, holding her tighter. "Yes, I am."
She's still frowning. "You see it too, don't you? That we shouldn't - we can't. The perfect worlds never work. What's the saying? Pride..."
"Pride cometh before a fall," he finishes.
They lay in silence, and for a moment, the light of the moon seems to weaken, and he remembers when the sun was blotted out by a great shadow. He remembers screams and crumbling marble. The betrayal of his four closest friends. The sword in his back and the knowledge that Serenity would not be far behind him.
How often he had heard those words from her mouth. They had never been more meaningful.
"So am I," he confessed.
"Do we have to?" she asks. "Do we have to build another paradise? I'll rule if I have to, I'll even take my mother's name... but to try and make it perfect... I don't want to do that. I want to do what I can to make people happy, but no more than that. No more glass castles."
He shouldn't make promises. Certainly, Setsuna will have something to say about this, and the other girls might want to weigh in as well. But really, it isn't their decision. Usagi is the one with the power of the Ginzuishou, and Earth is his domain. It all comes down to them.
"No more glass castles," he agrees.
Her eyes sparkle under the stars as she turns beneath him. Her arms wind around his neck, and she arches to pull him close. He breathes her skin and everything seems better. "Thank you, Mamo-chan."
They lay entwined listening to the street noises down below. Perhaps she is contemplating the consequences of this decision like he is. But right before she drifts off to sleep, she whispers in his ear.
"This is my Shangri-La."
She goes to sleep with a smile on her face, and after awhile, he does too.
Chapter 45: White Arrow (Greek Mythology AU, Usagi/Mamoru)
Written January 2010; minor edits January 2018. Major character death.
For the purposes of the AU, Usagi is going by Artemis.
The day Endymion died was the happiest of his life.
He was a hunter, and a simple man by consequence. He lived off the land, occasionally earning a living by selling game. He did not need much, and so he rarely wanted much. He had his beliefs like all men did; he paid tributes to the gods when it was expected of him. He was also not a man prone to love, to women or sex. He had little use for either. He visited brothels when it was needed, but he did not veer towards excess. Dionysus was not a god he had much use for, though he had the good sense to know better than to incur his wrath or any others.
Endymion was a simple man. He intended to stay that way. He had never meant to be anything else.
But as always complications came unexpectedly.
He had been in the forest hunting with his four dogs. He had only meant to stop by the pool for a moment to wash the blood and dirt from his hands and quench his thirst. It was one he had visited time and again in his life. Nothing unremarkable about it.
But that day, there was a goddess bathing in it.
He knew her for what she was in an instant; he was no fool. No mortal could look like that - skin like moonlight made flesh, silver hair like silk and stars.
Artemis. Goddess of the moon and the hunt.
He knew her in an instant and loved her in the very same breath.
He could not say what had driven him to this. Emotions were not something he had much use for. They provided no succor, no shelter, no sustenance. But seeing her was like nothing he could have expected.
She was beautiful, to be sure. But it was more than that. He'd seen other beautiful women, perhaps fairer than her. Yet Endymion had never been so drawn to one before. He had never longed to run his hands along that impossible opalescent skin, get lost in hair that could have served as a cloak, feel those soft lips against his own.
She moved through the water, seemingly unaware of his presence. He knew he should leave as quietly as possible. Artemis valued her privacy and would not appreciate a voyeur, but his brain could not convince his feet to move. How could he leave her now that he'd found her? How could he walk away?
So he watched as she ran her fingers through her air, sank beneath the surface of the water, and broke through it against with a magnificent splash. Her breasts gleamed under the light of the moon, her moon. A crescent moon glittered at her brow.
Oh, how he wanted her. He was not worthy, and he could not hope for her to love him. He knew this. But he knew that he could not just walk away. So although his dogs whined and tried to pull him back, he began to push through the trees. A twig cracked beneath his foot.
A moment later, and there was nothing but blossoming pain. He looked down, surprised to see the white arrow through his chest, the blood that blossomed around it like blood. He stared, uncomprehending, and then fell to his knees.
He was surprised again by fingers against his jawline, cool and damp. He looked up and saw her, pity in those marvelous silver eyes.
"I would never..." Endymion croaked. "I would never hurt you. Never. I just--"
"Hush, young one," she soothed. He almost laughed at that; he'd forgotten her agelessness, absurd as that was. "I know you meant no harm, but harm you would have caused."
He shook his head. "Never. Never. I lo--"
She pressed those fingers against his lips. He kissed them almost by reflex.
"I know you do," she murmured. Her voice reminded him of a soft lyre. "And I know you are the man I could have loved; the one I would have consented to love. I would have given you my heart and my body."
Tears sparkled in Artemis's eyes. He had not known gods could cry.
"But I cannot do that, not for you or any man," she whispered. "If only you had turned around," she sighed, smoothing a hand against his cheek. She felt so cold. Or was that him? "I would have left you in peace. But if you had come upon me, I would have given in, and so you must perish." She wiped away a tear. "I am sorry, dear one."
Endymion should have hated her. Should have struck her or shot her himself, for all the good it would have done. But even now, he loved her. He knew it had not been an easy decision.
He held her hand, the one liberty he knew she would allow him. "At least... at least I met you. Talked with you."
She continued to weep. "I have known I would meet you for a thousand years and longer. I did not... I did not know it would be this hard."
He felt himself slipping away. "Maybe... maybe we'll meet in another life."
She shook her head. "Gods don't die."
His eyes fluttered before they closed forever. "Lovers do."
The day Endymion died was the happiest of his life.
It was the saddest for Artemis.
Chapter 46: Awake in Flames (Rei, Mamoru)
Rei confronts Mamoru after he gets Usagi's hopes up during the Sleeping Beauty episode.
Written August 2008; edits January 2018, particularly to Rei's last big monologue. I do love me some monologues.
Rei felt her knuckles crack and bruise as they rammed into the door. The wood shook in its frame, the apartment number threatening to fall off its screws. She glared, imagining she could see right through the number, through the wooden door, all the way into the apartment, her fury seeking out the man she'd come to find.
When he didn't immediately appear, she punched the door again. "Mamoru!" she shouted, heedless of his neighbors who were bound to see what she yelling about any moment. "I know you're in there! You don't have anywhere else to go."
She heard shuffling inside. This time she kicked the door. "I'll stand out here screaming all night," she said. "Or I could just burn it down."
Then and only then did the door fly open. He looked tired and thinner than she remembered, but not as tired and thin as Usagi was beginning to look. "I was wondering which of you would show up."
Rei snorted, pushing past him without benefit of an invitation. "You're just lucky it was me. I think Mako-chan was planning on just punching you, knocking you out, and leaving," Rei snapped, kicking her shoes off. "Minako argued with me for ten minutes about it. She was all for it, provided she could stay and yell when you woke up."
Mamoru stumbled forward, retreating into the darkness of his living room. "I'm just surprised you haven't come here sooner."
"Ami said it was none of our business. That we should be offering Usagi support instead," Rei explained, always two steps behind him. When he sank into his chair, she stayed standing, wanting the advantage of height. "But after tonight, even she couldn't stay out of it."
"What difference does tonight make?"
"You kissed her, Mamoru," Rei hissed, spitting. "It makes all the difference in the world."
"I did it to save her life," he said. "Just because I don't.... Just because we're not together anymore doesn't mean I want her to die."
"No, you just want her to suffer and waste away."
The chair creaked as though he were thinking of springing to his feet. "Don't tell me what I want! Especially when you have no idea what--"
"Well, all the evidence is pointing in that direction, Mamoru," Rei interrupted, hair and hands flying as she began to pace the length of the room. "You left her. You broke up with her for no reason any of us can figure out--"
"None of you are in my head."
"I don't need to be!" Rei countered, her knee crashing into an end table with only the moon and her rage to guide her path. "Say what you want, Mamoru, but the fact remains that you had no reason. She didn't do anything to drive you away, but you act like she betrayed you. She saved your life; she brought you back from the dead; she gave you your memory; she brought you back from Beryl. But you're the one ending things. You're the one acting like you have any right--"
"Maybe I just don't love her anymore!" Mamoru shouted, his voice trembling with its own force. "Did you ever think of that?"
Rei's hands fell upon the arms of the chair, trapping him in place. The room quickly filled with a fierce red glow, her power rising as quickly as paper could turn to ash. She could see him now. See the patches like bruises under his red-rimmed eyes and his hollowed cheeks. She saw tear tracks she hadn't thought to look for at the door. He was the very picture of anguish, she could see that now.
That didn't mean he deserved her mercy.
"You forget that I know you," Rei said, her voice dangerously steady. "You forget that I had you. You didn't love me, and I certainly didn't love you, and that's fine. I know what we were to each other. But I was there, and I saw you with her. You always looked for her in a room before anyone else. You always made an effort to seek her out. Then you acted like a jerk because you have the emotional maturity of a three-year-old, but still. You don't needle her anymore, that's true, but you can't even manage to ignore her without making a big show of it. And she's always the first one you look for. Every time. You haven't changed, and your feelings haven't changed. Do me the courtesy of having a little respect for my intelligence."
For the first time in weeks, he looked truly chastened. “I… I didn’t—"
“That’s because you’re an idiot.” The light receded and so did she. Her words were spent and her duty was done. “Anyway, I'm not bitter. It is what it is. We were what we were. And the best I can do for you now is to try and remind you who you are."
"I haven't forgotten."
"You tell yourself that."
Mamoru sighed and hung his head. It was the closest she'd get to him admitting defeat.
Rei said, "I can’t force you to go back to her. I wish I could, but I can’t. It would be better for both of you if you did, but you're going to finish whatever crusade you're on no matter what I say.”
“I can't do that, but I can do this. I can tell you that if you ever, ever get her hopes up like that again….”
Mamoru swallowed. “I won’t.”
“Good,” she said, walking to the door. “Good night, Mamoru.”
She opened the door. It creaked and light from the outside filled the foyer. The apartment number looked like it would fall soon.
“I wish Makoto had come,” he said.
Rei closed her eyes, her throat beginning to close. “I know you do.”
She shut the door and left him.
Chapter 47: Lemon Lime Remix (Fruit Stand AU, Minako/Yaten)
Aino Minako sold lemons. Kou Yaten sold limes.
Written February 2008; minor edits January 2018.
You did in fact read the title parenthetical correctly. Fruit stand AU. Ten years later, I still have zero clue where this came from.
Aino Minako sold lemons. Kou Yaten sold limes.
One would have thought that it might be beneficial for one person to sell both fruits at the old street market, but that wasn't the case. Perhaps once upon a time, they'd sold them together. Or maybe one had sold both until the other appeared and an arbitrary decision was made to split the difference. Or maybe one of them really liked lemonade while the other preferred tequila.
Whatever the case, Aino Minako sold lemons, and Yaten Kou sold limes. Their stands were right next to each other, Minako's covered in a bright orange and yellow awning with bright, flashy signs advertising her prices. She'd kept a potted plant at her side for awhile, but it kept dying. She switched to a life-size cut out of her celebrity crush of the month. This month, it was Chris Hemsworth.
Yaten had a chalkboard sign and a goldfish named Charlie.
"Limes are looking a bit sad there, Yaten."
"Did I ask for your commentary on my fruit?"
"No, no. No, no. Just making an observation."
"May I make an observation?"
"You know, I'd say no, but I just have this feeling that it wouldn't make the slightest bit of difference. Carry on."
"Your obsession with Thor is perhaps the most disgusting display I have ever seen. And also? That bow is not attractive."
"...You didn't get enough hugs as a child, did you?"
"Looks like I'm out-selling you this time, Aino."
"Well, it is Friday. You always out-sell me on Friday. And you always feel the need to point it out."
"I enjoy seeing you miserable."
"But you're not making me miserable. You're really just making an ass out of yourself. But hey, at least this way, you have some kind of ass instead of your usual flat, pancaked excuse for a butt."
"...Your mother never loved you."
"Tell me something I don't know. We done now?"
"Hey! Hey, Yaten!"
"No, I will not give you his number."
"...How do you know--"
"A very good-looking friend of mine just stopped by and flirted with you in passing before he had a serious conversation with me. What else could you possibly want?"
"No, I'm totally kidding. I want the phone number."
"Have you fed Charlie today?"
"I do not need you to remind me to feed my goldfish."
"Hey, I'm just trying to be helpful here."
"I do not need your help. I was just going to get the food now."
"No, I'm sure you were."
"At least I can keep a living thing alive."
"Hey, those plants were defective!"
"Yeah, they tend to do that when they don't get water."
"You could say the same for fish!"
"...Back away from the bowl."
"Buy me dinner."
"Do it or Goldy gets it!"
"Ha, you idiot. As if I'd hurt the poor little fishy. It's not his fault he has such a mean, nasty owner, is it?"
"Do not baby-talk my fish."
"Pick me up at a 8:00."
"Clearly, you are the anti-christ."
"I can't believe you took me to a place with bad citrus!"
"I can't believe you care."
"So, you know about Mamoru, the fish guy?"
"He knocked up Usagi from the apple stand."
"What? Isn't that what they're saying?"
"I was supposed to say it to you first!"
"What do you think it'll look like?"
"Well, how the hell should I know?"
"Pink hair, red eyes."
"...That is the stupidiest idea you've ever had."
"Would you ever have sex with a guy who smells like fish?"
"There are entirely too many ways to answer that question."
"What do you think our kids would look like?"
"Eww! I'm not offering!"
"That's not what you said last night."
"You were bowling with The Walking Forehead last night."
"You told me that's where you were going!"
"Ugh! You're impossible."
"...they'd probably have your eyes."
"Just so long as they don't have your hair."
It is a surprise to absolutely no one when they got married.
And even less of a surprise when they got divorced.
Chapter 48: Refusing to Exhale (Rei, Taiki)
She holds her breath, and she waits for Usagi to break.
Written March 2009; revised January 2018.
Every time Rei turns to look at Usagi, she feels like she's underwater, holding her breath. She watches her princess fall apart from afar, and she can do nothing but wait beneath the cold waves. She holds her breath, and she waits for Usagi to break. For once, she cannot save her.
She turns, and is both surprised and not surprised to see Taiki standing there. His eyes are trampled lilacs not-quite-glaring down at her behind scratched glasses. She stares at him for a moment, and her eyes are as hard as his. She wonders why she never realized that Taiki's gravity could mirror her own. Then again, set against Seiya's confidence and Yaten's arrogance, its little surprise she overlooked him.
Coincidentally, Mamoru, who directly or indirectly is crushing the heart out of her best friend in his absence, could possess all of these qualities in equal measure. She's not sure what that means, if it means anything at all.
"If you listen to Minako, I'm always tense," Rei finally answers, retreating to easier ground. She might admire Taiki for his music, for his fame and ambition, but admiration is not trust.
Taiki does not smile. "I find it best not to listen to Minako on anything of import."
Rei sours, and any admiration she felt is so much dust now. "You don't even know her."
"Of course not. She's too busy putting on a performance." His lilac eyes flick towards Usagi. "She's not the only one, but Minako is undoubtedly the better actress."
Rei's willing to concede both points but unwilling to revise her ill opinion. "She misses her boyfriend."
"That much is terribly obvious."
Rei grits her teeth. "Do you have a point? Because if you don't, I have better things to do."
He raises his eyebrow. She imagines burning it off. "What? Watching her?"
"Yes," Rei snaps before she can stop her mouth.
He raises the other eyebrow. If he had a third, she thinks it would be equally arched. "Why?"
She doesn't know him well, but in an instant, she knows he will not leave her unless she gives him a satisfactory answer. He's not earned it, and she doesn't owe him. It would almost be worth denying it for those reasons alone, but for once, she wants to be left alone more than she wants to win an argument. The cost of constantly holding her breath, waiting, knowing it could all be for nothing.
She cannot say anything less than the truth, but the truth is so complicated and so veiled and so desperately important that for a moment, she doesn't have the words. But she finds them anyway.
"I have to save her when she falls. I have to be there to put her back together."
Something in his gaze softens a fraction. "Because you can't keep her from going to pieces."
"No. I can't."
"You're too busy holding your breath."
Rei swallows her gasp. He can't know. She never said. But how?
He smiles, but its a joyless thing. "I wish you better luck than I had."
Then he's gone and left her there, refusing to exhale.
Chapter 49: Blood and Promises (Queen Serenity, Beryl)
Queen Serenity and Beryl have a war of words before blood is spilt.
Written January 2008; minor edits January 2018. This used to have a different title, but it didn't really make sense in context, so I changed it.
“Do you know who I am?”
Queen Serenity looked up from her correspondence, eyebrow carefully arched. She studied the woman before her, wearing the clothes of a palace servant but the eyes of something sinister. Black, matted hair trailed near her feet and skin like the rock of the dead seas stretched across sharp bones. Her eyes were striking, not in color, but in cold fury.
“You are a rebel,” Queen Serenity pronounced smoothly. She leaned back over her letter and quickly finished the last sentence, taking care that there was no visible difference in her handwriting. “From Earth if I place the accent correctly.”
“You do,” the woman assured her, unsurprised. She carried a tray with grapes and a wine glass, filled with a dark merlot.
Queen Serenity sniffed the air although she doubted there was anything. “If you’ve come to poison me, you should know I only drink white.”
“Then I’ll just throw this out.” The false servant grasped the goblet and splashed the contents on the floor. Some of it splashed on the queen’s dress. The fabric and stone began to dissolve, the floor left pitted and the dress shorn.
“Deadly,” the queen remarked, mildly impressed. “And very hard to come by.”
The other woman attempted to remain cool, but the fidget, slight as it was, could not be overlooked. “Aren’t you going to ask me why I didn’t let you drink that?”
The queen smiled. “I had assumed that it was because you’d been previously informed that I do not drink red, but found yourself at a loss after you’d used up your poison. Or perhaps you correctly assumed that I would not drink anything handed to me by a palace worker I did not recognize. But I think the most likely of my conjectures is that you know that we have been aware of your presence in the palace for the last three days. Perhaps you even know I have three palace guards and Sailor Jupiter waiting outside that door to fall upon you the second I give word.”
Queen Serenity had been expecting the revolutionary to now look less like a woman and more a thwarted child. Her esteem for her opponent rose a bit when she saw the woman take it in stride. She could not be shaken as easily as all that. “You’ve heard that there’s truth in wine?”
“I am familiar with the phrase, yes,” Queen Serenity responded.
“This is the truth I found when I crafted your death draught,” the woman announced, leaning forward. “Killing you first resolves nothing. You die, and your daughter ascends. She will be directed to act just as you did, and she’s too insipid to behave otherwise.”
Queen Serenity’s fingers plucked at the satin of her dress. “Insipid is not the word I would use.”
“Nevertheless, she would not think originally,” she continued. “The people would rally around her. Any chance at change would be halted in its tracks. Your death would stop the revolution it’s meant to fuel.”
Queen Serenity leaned back and smiled approvingly. “Very good.”
The rebel glared, resentful of being treated like an apprentice before her master, even if that was their roles in this. “So I’m going to have to kill you all at once.”
Queen Serenity ran her fingers through the freed parts of her hair, letting them rest across her shoulders like a silken shield. “There isn’t enough of that poison to go around.”
“You know what I mean.”
She scoffed. “You would risk war with us?”
“I would win a war with you.”
In the face of such a threat, there was naught to do but laugh. “Ah, the naiveté of the willful. Tell me, my dear, what forces will you use to wage this war? I am well aware of just how many able-bodied men and women you have converted to your cause, and it is not enough for an army to crush my own.”
“I have hell on my side.”
Queen Serenity paused, her mouth suddenly longing for wine, poisoned or no. “You found Metallia.”
Now the pupil took on the tone of teacher. “Perhaps She found me.”
“So your solution to my so-called tyranny is to raise a devil older than time and hope you can control Her,” Queen Serenity spat. “You're not strong enough to control Her malevolence. She'll swallow you whole.”
“I will succeed,” the woman assured her. “And She'll choke on me if She tries.”
Queen Serenity sighed. “You cannot win. You will fall, Beryl.”
She paused, momentarily put off by the use of her name. Then she shook her head, a dark cloud that seemed to grow larger with the movement. Metallia wasn't there; Serenity would know if She was. But the reminder, however oblique, left her suppressing a shudder. “Your blood will stain my fingernails before long. Yours and your foul daughter's."
“Metallia’s teeth will have yours long before then.”
Beryl glared and stepped away, her body suddenly fading and merging with the shadows. Queen Serenity rose as she left. “You will lose, Witch-Queen. You will lose, and you are the fool if you think you have a chance against Metallia and Her Legion.”
“And you are a fool if you think they will serve you,” Serenity answered as Beryl vanished.
Chapter 50: Really Quite Absurd (Makoto/Motoki, Michiru)
Motoki's left alone with a wounded Michiru. And he's pretty damn certain she's going to kill him.
Written December 2007; minor edits January 2018.
Motoki loved his wife. But being married to an ass-kicking, thunder-wielding, Amazonian warrior woman who knew as many ways to kill a man with a popsicle stick as she did to roast a chicken was not always awesome. Because sometimes that warrior woman found an occasion when she had to ride off into danger, leaving him to twiddle his thumbs and worry if she would come back all right. Sometimes, everyone went with her, and he worried about them too.
And sometimes, one of them broke their leg and had to stay behind. On those occasions, Motoki had to worry about himself.
"So," Motoki sighed.
"Yes," Neptune concurred, her voice smooth like blood spilling from a wound.
For most of his life, Motoki had prided himself on his ability to get along with everyone he met. Neptune was the glaring exception to his otherwise spotless record. He had no idea how to relate to her.
Mainly because she was terrifying.
"Here we are," Motoki said.
She nodded slowly. Too slowly. "Indeed."
Motoki shifted. "And they're not."
"That does seem to be the case."
He shifted again, fighting the urge to scratch his backside. He could leave, but. Well. Makoto hadn't ordered him to get over 'this ridiculous fear of Michiru' (her words, obviously, because his fear was not ridiculous it was well-founded and possibly instrumental to his continued survival) per se. But she had strongly suggested it. He felt he had to at least make an attempt. "Coming back though."
"One does hope."
Motoki exhaled until his lungs were completely depleted of oxygen. Then he tapped his foot for awhile. Then he gave up and scratched the itch, hoping she didn't notice.
"You do think they're coming back, right?"
She looked at him - directly at him for the first time possibly ever - and he felt about ready to piss himself. "You are a very nervous individual."
And you're an extremely pretty nightmare, but I don't go saying that out loud.
"I know," he admitted. She wasn't actually wrong. "Once I was stuck here with Rei - er, Mars - and... well, body parts had the potential to be flambéed."
"She tends to overreact."
You don't react at all. You're still waters and stone. You came from the bottom of the sea to devour us all.
"That she does." Rei hadn't scared him, even when she was pacing and snarling and threatening to set him on fire. He'd known her for years, and he knew it was all bluster born from frustration at being left behind. She was never actually going to set him on fire.
But Neptune would calmly slit his throat without staining her clothes if it suited her, and they both knew that.
There was a mirror on the table. Nervous and needing to hold something in his hands to fidget with (or to shield him from any oncoming knives), he reached for it. The moment his hand was about to touch the intricate carvings, Neptune halted him with a look.
"What do you think you're doing?"
Trying not to cry.
"Er," he said, the picture of eloquence. "Sorry. Is that yours? I just wanted to see--"
"There is nothing for you to see," she said. Her voice was like ocean currents rattling over the bones of drowned sailors.
He missed his wife so damn much.
He said, "But, it's a mirror, of course there's...."
Neptune passed her hand over the glass. There was no reflection.
You're the actual fucking sea witch, and I am going to die.
"Huh." He marveled at his calm.
"It doesn't show you reflections anymore," she explained, sounding a bit wistful, which he hoped boded well for his survival. Somehow. "It used to. Years ago, before the fall. But when we woke up, I looked into my mirror and I could not see myself anymore. Only hints and portents, dead whispers and the forgotten."
"Ah," Motoki said knowingly, as if he had the slightest clue what she meant. "Why do you think it stopped?"
Neptune shrugged. "It never told me. I think maybe it got lonely."
"I mean, there was nobody for it to reflect," she explained, as if he were a child. "We were all sleeping. Almost dead. Maybe a part of it died too, robbed it of the knowledge of bending light, turning it back. Perhaps with nothing to do it just... lost something." The corner of her mouth quirked in what Motoki hoped was a smile. "Or maybe it just didn't want to waste anymore time on me waiting for me to check my lipstick."
He practically brayed with laughter.
Neptune just looked at him. "It wasn't that funny."
"...I have no idea how to safely respond to that."
She rolled her eyes elegantly (which should have been an oxymoron, but then again, Literal Sea Witch). Then she struggled to her feet, balancing on silver crutches. "I do wish you would stop acting as though I'm liable to toss a knife into your chest at any given moment."
Funnily enough, that was one of the few ways he hadn't pictured her killing him. He did now. "Ah. Noticed that did you?"
"It's alarmingly evident."
"The idea is really quite absurd."
His entire body sagged in relief. "Really?"
"Of course." She flashed a cool smile, light glinting off her teeth. "If I were to kill you, I assure you that you'd never see it coming.
Then she hobbled away, leaving Motoki by himself. He sat there for a good long while, his stomach somewhere in the vicinity of the floor, the taste of thwarted bile in his mouth. And then Motoki, an actual grown up adult person, curled into a fetal position in his seat, shaking like a ramshackle in a tornado.
"I want my wife."