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The Interregnum

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Chapter 1: "The Farewell" by Desslok

[August 2002]

"So what's this all about, Mina-chan?" Makoto asked her friend as they met on the steps of the Hikawa Shrine.

"I don't know," the young blonde answered, "Usagi just said I needed to get over here right away."

"Well, after you, my lady," Makoto said, waving her friend forward with a sweeping bow.

With an amused giggle, Mina curtsied and then headed inside the emple. Even though they had long since graduated high school, the sailor senshi still met quite regularly at the shrine. It occurred to Mina that perhaps it was a bit strange that their lives were still so similar now as to how they had been back then. 'Well, our lives were never normal to begin with,' she mused.

In the sitting room that served as the unofficial "Sailor Headquarters", Mina and Mako found an annoyed Rei and an agitated Usagi waiting for them.

"Now will you tell us what this is all about, meatball head?" Rei exclaimed.

"What about Ami?" Mako asked, taking her traditional seat next to the place where Ami should have been.

"Ami's not coming," Usagi announced. "That's the problem." As Mina and Rei got settled, Usagi pulled a small box out of her backpack. "I found this in my mailbox this morning. It's from Ami. The note said that I shouldn't watch it until we were all together." Usagi tossed a piece of paper on the table, which Rei quickly grabbed and read aloud.

"Dearest Usagi-chan, I know that I have rarely asked many favors of you, so I hope you will please do as I ask now. Enclosed you will find a videotape. Though I know you are very curious, please do not watch it until you are with Minako, Rei, and Makoto. It is meant for them as much as you. I love you all very much. Ami."

"What the hell?" Makoto muttered, a look of annoyance forming on her face.

"And you actually listened and didn't watch it?" Minako asked Usagi incredulously.

"Yes! But I can't wait anymore!" Usagi quickly stuck the tape into the VCR and pushed the play button.

[The black screen suddenly comes to life. The scene is Ami's computer room at her home. Apparently, the camera rests on the desk, pointing at Ami who sits in her chair, her hands folded primly in her lap. After a deep breath, Ami speaks.]

"Hello. First, I hope you will forgive me. I don't usually like melodrama like this, but it was the only way I could conceive of to do what needed to be done. You all know how difficult goodbyes are for me. It was too hard to leave back in junior high and would only have been harder this time around. Fortunately, Chibi-Usa is not here this time to divulge my secrets and I can find my way to the airport without Mamoru's help.

"As you will have guessed by now, I have left. Knowing Usagi, you are watching this within an hour of when she found it, so as you sit, in the shrine most likely, I am on a jet bound for the United States. I have been accepted into a year-long exchange program at Stanford University in San Francisco.

"I hope you will all understand why I have decided to say my farewells in a video, instead of in person. You see, I've come to the conclusion that it is really important for me to have some time away from Tokyo, away from Sailor Mercury, and, truthfully, away from all of you.

"They say that you can't go home again, but I don't believe that. I think you can go home again, but that in order to do so, you must leave at some point. Our lives have become stagnant. We do the same things, have the same discussions, the same arguments, that we did a year ago, five years ago. In order to grow, to gain the experiences we will all need to fulfill our duties in the future, we need some time to ourselves. At least, I do. I suspect that what is true for me is true for all of us, but perhaps that is not fair."

[A long pause, another deep breath, Ami's hands begin fidgeting in her lap.]

"It was not easy to do this. It is hard to keep secrets from those who know you better than you know yourself. We are all so close. True, some of the bonds between us are stronger than others. However, even those ties which are not quite as strong as the others still go deeper than most people even realize is possible.

"Though I've placed my life in your hands more times than I can count, though I would gladly give my own to save yours, though I love you beyond words, I am sorry, Mina-chan, that we have not had more time to spend together, just the two of us. I hope to rectify that when I return.

"Rei-chan, Usagi-chan, we've been together since the very beginning and I don't know how I will manage without the two of you in my life. That is exactly the reason that I must go. I cannot be the person I will need to be if I am not confident in my ability to stand on my own. I know you'll both understand."

[Ami reaches forward and the screen blinks for a moment. After an apparent pause, Ami sits again in the same position, but her eyes are red and her face is flushed. Her hands rub her forearms as if she is suddenly cold. When she speaks, her voice trembles.]

"I thought I could do this. I really thought I could. I had a plan. I even wrote my little speech. But, wouldn't that have been going against the very point of what I'm doing? Something had to give. It took me a long time to realize what was going on with us. Once I did realize, it took even longer to understand that things would never change unless something happened. Right or wrong, I had to do something."

[Tears silently fall down Ami's cheeks as she talks, her words rushing out in a torrent, as if she is afraid that if she stops speaking, she'll never be able to start again.]

"You all know what I'm talking about! We all know each other too well not to know, but we all ignore it or pretend that we don't know or that no one else knows. It's not healthy!

"Haven't you all wondered why Luna and Artemis don't spend much time with us anymore, why they decided to move in with Haruka and Michiru. Watching it was killing them, just like it is killing us. I spoke with them. They know. They know other things too, but they wouldn't tell me. Things about the Silver Millennium that they remember or maybe things from Crystal Tokyo that Diana told them before she left. They said that we had to sort it out on our own. They wouldn't say whether they approved of my plan or not, but they didn't try to stop me, so I hope I'm doing the right thing."

[Finally, a break. Another deep breath, taken in gasps as the tears continue to fall. A pause to wipe eyes and sniffle into a tissue. Ami seems to gather courage and then continues quickly.]

"Mako-chan, I love you. I've loved you for a very long time now. Not the way that I love the rest. You know what I mean. You must. You all know. I'm not that good an actress to keep the single most important thing in my life over the last few years hidden from my dearest friends. It's funny, just admitting it makes it easier to go on. I wasn't sure up till this moment whether or not I'd have the courage to actually give you all this tape, but now I know I will. I think I've known on one level since the moment we first met, Mako-chan, but it took a long time for me to admit it to myself.

"So, that's the weight that borne me down over the years, but it isn't everything. It all has to come out, so we can move on. Don't any of you dare to stop this tape. I think you all know, deep inside, that it's time to clear the air.

"Mako-chan, I've never said anything to you of my feelings because I've always known that you did not return them. It isn't hard to see who holds your heart in her hands. Mina-chan, you cannot have missed it. You are the senshi of love, aren't you? Makoto loves you as much as you love Rei."

[A mirthless laugh]

"Ironic isn't it? Maybe that curse on Minako filtered into all of us on one of those Sailor Teleports. How better to ensure that none of us know love than to make us all love each other, but in the wrong order. I love Makoto, Makoto loves Minako, Minako loves Rei. We all know who Rei loves.

"Oh Usagi-chan, I know that you've always hoped Rei would grow out of it. Maybe on a deep level, you enjoy having her love. Maybe you return it to some degree, though I've never doubted that your truest love will always be Mamoru. Don't you see, though, nothing will change simply by waiting, because we all have centuries to wait. Rei pines for you, Mina pines for her and so on down the line to me. I guess it would be fitting if Mamoru had a crush on me, but I've never seen any evidence of that. I guess that makes me the low woman on the totem pole.

"I'm not trying to garner sympathy though. If there's one thing that's clear, it's that we've all suffered enough. Like I said before, something has to give. We all deserve love. Once, I asked Luna if all of Serenity's handmaidens were doomed to loveless lives, so they wouldn't be distracted from their duties. She told me I was being foolish, but wouldn't say anything more on the topic. That gives me some hope. Maybe we are allowed to have love, to be happy outside of our duties. I'm hoping that by doing this, I will enable that for at least some of us.

"For me, well, I will have my studies. I can't imagine anything that would ever turn my heart from Kino Makoto, but hopefully distance will dull the pain. I am used to losing myself in books and in work.

"I'm sorry to drop this on you and then leave. It's not very fair, but it's all I could think to do. I'm so sorry. I love you all so much. Please don't hate me. I will email you all with my new contact information. I hope to hear from you, but I guess I will understand if I do not."

[Ami falls silent. From time to time, it seems she has something more to say, but she never does. After 2 excruciating minutes, she simply stands and shuts off the recording. Black screen.]

The long silence in which the senshi had watched Ami's video lingered for some time after the video stopped. No one moved to shut off the VCR. No one commented. Finally, a loud click indicated that the tape had reached an end. It rang through the room like a gunshot and broke the spell.

"Fuck Ami!" Makoto growled, leaping to her feet. "Fuck her! Cowardly bitch!" As her friends stared at her aghast, Mako stormed out of the temple.

In the wake of Makoto's departure, Rei stood silently and strode from the room without a word to anyone. Minako and Usagi heard several doors sliding down the hallway. Apparently, Rei had left the building.

Minako and Usagi simply stared at each other, unsure of what to say or what to do next.