Dejana's Writing

Golden Afternoon
a Sailormoon fanfiction by Dejana Talis
-not to be used without permission-

What is time, if not a realm of possibility?

Always, there was the chance that they might awaken. The coming of evil that I had forseen had not come to pass, but the potential for another always existed. And yet...I stood alone for so long, watching, and they became adults without incident.

Shifting clouds and mist surrounded the solitary, shadowy figure as it stood alone in the dim light. Only a faint glow emanating from an unknown force lent the figure any form at all, any hint of its existence.

Possibilities always lean on the side of destiny, giving victory to aspects of fate that can not be denied. Those who are destined to be together will meet. And so they did, and became friends before my eyes. Friends, yes, but not warriors.

The figure moved in the darkness, and color flashed in the realm of pale mist. A shower of flower petals, of red rose blossoms, cascaded around its feet, disappearing into the ever-present fog.

As fate had decreed, they were reunited. Yet, one part of the whole was always missing, the unfilled vacancy present only as a vague emptiness in their hearts. I had feared it would remain so, but today, on this afternoon chosen by destiny for reasons of its own, there will be another opportunity to complete what is empty. I fear, however, that the time is not quite right, and this possibility will slip away into the endless darkness. If fate fails today, there may not be another chance.

"Endymion. Next time, we will be reborn on the same planet, and we will be happy. Silver Crystal entrusted to me, please, search for us together. Embrace me softly; protect us, and next time, make us happy."

-Princess Serenity, Act 12

To look at us, you'd never guess we're best friends. We're all so different. We each, all five of us, lead very different lives, and yet here we are, together. We are the kind of friends you would expect to be bound together by some kind of hardship, or tragedy, but there hasn't been anything like that. It is a strange kind of fate that has brought us here. When I met each of them, I felt as if I had known them a long time ago somewhere, even though I'd never seen them before in my life. It is as if we were destined to meet and become friends.


The young woman sighed and sat up, peering over the tops of the rose blooms surrounding her. A short distance away a blonde with a red bow in her hair was calling out to her from a hillside, jumping up and down and waving both arms. Usagi laughed to herself. Even as a college student, Minako could still act so childish sometimes.

"Just a moment, Minako-chan!" Usagi looked down at the journal lying on the grass and picked up her pen to add one last thought.

And yet, I feel like there is something missing from my life, something important...

She leaned forward on her hands and knees and breathed deeply of the sweet velvet scent of the red roses, letting the fragrance wrap her in its musky embrace. Of all the blossoms in the extensive public gardens, she loved the rosebushes the most.

"We were not reborn to live this moment again."

-Minako, Act 12

"I'm trying something new with this cake, so give me your honest opinions, okay?" Makoto placed the slices of red and white swirled sponge cake on plates and passed them around. It was a beautiful day, not too warm and not too cold, and there were birds singing in the trees that surrounded the group on the hillside.

"Another creativity test at the culinary school, Mako-chan?" Usagi asked as she eagerly took her helping.

"Nope, this one's just for fun," the chef-in-training replied with a smile. As she moved to give a plate to Minako, the violet-haired woman beside her snatched it out of Makoto's hand.

"Rei-chan! Don't be greedy!" the blonde scolded, reaching for the cake, but Rei held it out of Minako's reach.

"Say I'll be your maid of honor," she demanded with a smirk.

"What!?" Usagi exclaimed through a mouthful of cake, spraying crumbs across the picnic blanket. "That's a cruel trick, Rei-chan, using food like that!"

"Yeah, Rei-chan!" Makoto chimed in. "I made the cake, so if anyone gets to hold it hostage, it should be me!"

"Well, if Minako-chan won't let me give her a traditional Japanese wedding, the least she could do is make me her maid of honor," the dark-haired miko shot back, grinning.

"We'll see about that!" The tall brunette tackled her friend Rei, who barely managed to keep the piece of cake balanced on the plate. Usagi joined in, attempting to rescue the dessert from a fate worse than consumption. Through it all, the blonde bride-to-be sat a little higher at the other end of the picnic blanket, quietly enjoying the rivalry for her favor.

"Hey, watch it!" Ami scolded, snatching up her textbook as a glass of juice tumbled over on the blanket, kicked by a wayward foot. As red fruit juice spread across Makoto's green blanket, the women sobered and stopped their lighthearted struggle.

"Oh, Mako-chan, I'm sorry," Usagi muttered upon seeing the stain, although she wasn't sure who had caused the spill.

"It's all right," the brunette replied with a smile, brushing crumbs off her clothes as she moved back to her corner of the blanket. "I have plenty of others."

Ami's eyes were locked on her medical textbook, but she raised her voice clearly, her tone a bit too casual. "So, who *is* going to be your maid of honor, Minako-chan?"

"Come on, you know I haven't decided yet!" the blonde replied, dismissing the question with a wave of her hand. Her face became more serious as she looked around at her four best friends. "It's a tough decision, guys. Kaidou's trying to help, but..."

"Don't worry," Usagi said gently, handing Minako the long-awaited slice of cake. "Whatever you decide, you know we'll all be fine with it." As her fellow blonde grasped the edge of the white plate, however, Usagi clung to the dish a bit too long. "Remember, though, Minako-chan, who convinced you to go through with that first date in the first place?" she teased with a wink.

"Usagi!" the women chorused. Laughing, the odango-headed woman released the slice of cake, encouraged by a sharp poke in the side from Makoto.

"The reason I transferred schools was because I somehow got the feeling I had to. The wind brought me here. Instead of love, a much more important thing is waiting for me here."

-Makoto, Act 5

Makoto gathered up the used plates and utensils, packing them back into the picnic basket. Usagi had made short work of the rest of the cake. Apparently it was a good recipe; she'd have to file it in her "Dream Box" where she kept the plans for her future restaurant. With only a year of culinary school left, that dream was looking closer and closer.

The brunette cleaned up the picnic alone. Minako and Rei had wandered off to narrow down the list of possible flower choices for Minako's wedding. Ami was sitting nearby, but was completely engrossed in her textbook. Makoto had never imagined Ami could possibly study more than she had for her high-school exams until the blue-haired scholar entered medical school. At that point they had all learned what real studying truly was.

Straightening up on her knees, Makoto leaned back to stretch her cramped muscles. Scanning the expansive gardens sprawling out around her, she eventually located the top of a blonde head, crowned with two buns of hair. Usagi was lying in the rosebushes again. She never seemed to get enough of their scent. Makoto chuckled to herself; she had thought *she* was most fond of roses.

Usagi...such a strange woman, really. So full of light and life...but perhaps that was what most attracted Makoto to her. Before meeting Usagi, she hadn't had any real friends. After transferring to Juuban with a broken heart, Makoto had allowed the rumors of her being expelled from her previous school to spread, wanting to be left alone. At the time she didn't know why she had chosen that particular school, but after meeting Usagi, Makoto realized what she had really wanted was a friend.

Looking down the hillside at the golden balls of hair poking over the red roses, Makoto smiled fondly. It was amazing...after just a few kind words from Usagi when she had nobody else, Makoto felt she would be willing to sacrifice her life for the energetic blonde woman.

"Endymion. That is my name. I remember. I was reborn here as Chiba Mamoru. To meet you."

-Mamoru, Act 9

He didn't know what he was doing here. He was starting the night shifts of his rotation tomorrow, and the last thing he needed was to be wandering around the public gardens for no reason at all. Since the moment he woke up this morning, however, Mamoru had wanted nothing more than to visit this particular garden at this particular time.

Shaking his head in disbelief of his own actions, Mamoru wandered aimlessly around the gardens. This was crazy. There were a thousand better places where he could be right now. Well, at least he got some peaceful time alone to enjoy the scents of the flowers. Passing some red rosebushes, Mamoru leaned his head back and breathed deeply, closing his eyes as he walked.

And tripped over something.

"ITAI! Watch where you're going, you creep!"

Looking down, the tall man discovered a blonde young woman lying amongst the roses, her long legs stretched over the path. She was clearly furious, and gathered up a journal in her arms before standing up. Mamoru was on the verge of apologizing when the irate blonde stretched to her full height and he realized she was barely as tall as his shoulders. As if that weren't enough, her long hair was tied into the most childish style he had ever seen, and he had to stifle a giggle.

"How dare you!" Usagi fumed, her face turning beet red. "Stepping on a woman, and then laughing!" She forced herself to stay angry so she wouldn't have time for the dreadful embarrassment lurking behind her fury. Up on the hillside Makoto dropped her dishes, Ami dropped her book, and they both jumped up and hurried in their friend's direction.

"Well, you were lying right in the pathway, lumphead," Mamoru blurted out before he could stop himself. "What are you trying to do, kill someone?" What was he saying? If he were younger, it would be normal for him to tease a girl like this, but he thought he had outgrown such immature habits. Why did he feel so relaxed around this strange woman, as if she were an old friend?

"They're called 'odango'," Usagi seethed. "'Odango!' I think you're the one with lumps in your head! What were you doing? Walking with your eyes closed?" The last reaction she expected from the tall dark-haired man at this accusation was a blush, but that was what she got.

"You *were* walking with your eyes closed!" she exclaimed in surprise.

"Well...I..." Mamoru didn't have a ready response to this, and it was too late now. The blonde woman had the upper hand.

"Why don't you watch where you're going, you jerk!" she ranted, getting carried away but unable to surrender. "And it is customary to apologize when you-"

"Fine, lady! Sorry!" Mamoru cut in, getting angry himself. "Just stop, okay!?" He stormed off toward a grove of tulips. What kind of psycho was this woman?

"Usagi-chan, are you all right?" Ami asked as she and Makoto finally reached her.

"Need me to beat the bastard up a bit?" the brunette growled, grinding her fist into her other hand.

"No, no, I'm fine," Usagi muttered, staring after the tall man as he huffed away. Why had she gotten so angry? It had been a simple mistake, for both of them. She hadn't meant to be so mean.

"I have lots of people who love me. I want to love those people more. I want to protect them. For that purpose, I study."

-Ami, Act 35

After making sure Usagi was all right, Makoto hurried back up the hillside to finish gathering the picnic materials. She and Ami had hurried to their friend's aid so quickly that they had even abandoned their purses in the grass. Ami, however, stayed with Usagi for a while and they slowly walked down the path together.

"The nerve of that guy, calling me a lumphead!" Usagi muttered. "I was so angry...but I wasn't *that* angry. Why was I so cruel to him?"

"Well, he was teasing you," Ami said sympathetically. She had done this many times before when Usagi was upset about something. Usagi would fume and rant and blow off steam, and the blue-haired woman would listen quietly, throwing in a neutral comment here and there to keep her friend talking. Usagi always felt better after venting her frustrations, first about Haruna-sensei, then about high school, and then college. And now, this man.

"It's too bad, really," the blonde mumbled. "He seemed like a nice enough guy. Good looks, too, don't you think?"

"Um...I..." Romance was the only subject that Ami still became tongue-tied over. Her cheeks flushed a deep red.

"Ah, Ami-chan, you *do* think so!" Usagi teased, noticing her crimson friend. She grinned, but her face became distant again after only a moment. "It's strange...he seems familiar, somehow."

Although she loved to read and study, Ami was always happiest when Usagi was confiding in her. The odango-headed woman had done so much for Ami, and the blue-haired bookworm felt this was one of the few ways she could repay her.

Usagi proudly called Ami her greatest accomplishment; the young genius would never have emerged from her shell if it hadn't been for her bubbly, outgoing classmate. Whenever Ami got too serious, or too obsessed with her schoolwork, Usagi was always there to remind her to make time for fun and friends. Sometimes Ami would try to imagine what she would be like if she had spent her entire youth alone with her books, and she would shudder at the thought.

Early on in their friendship, Ami had noticed that Usagi was always happy for her when she succeeded in something. No matter how many times Ami earned the best score in the class, to Usagi it never got old. She was always there to cheer her friend on, even when it seemed she couldn't reach any higher. Ami liked to see Usagi happy like that...and so, no matter what, she always tried her best.

"Searching for our master, Prince Endymion, we were reincarnated."

-Kunzite, Act 9

"Roses are too cliche. I need something different," Minako grumbled. She and the others had been looking at flowers all day, but the only decision the bride-to-be had managed to make was that she didn't want roses in the wedding. They were beautiful flowers, yes, but it felt wrong, somehow, for Minako to use them. When she looked at the blossoms, their infinite spirals of soft petals opening to the sky, she felt as if they belonged to someone else.

Noticing her mood dipping dangerously close to the "melancholy" line, Minako began twisting her diamond engagement ring around her finger. Thinking about Kaidou always cheered her up. It had been the most amazing coincidence, meeting him. If she hadn't forgotten her phone card that day, she would never have been in that cafe begging to use the telephone.

Minako remembered that first day as if it had only been this morning. Kaidou's long icy-white hair had instantly carved itself into her memory, never to leave again. She often teased him about his waist-length blue-tinted silver locks, telling him how much more handsome he would be with shorter hair, but in reality she wouldn't have it any other way. Kami-sama, he was beautiful.

After their first meeting, Minako and Kaidou seemed to run into each other everywhere. More details started to seal themselves into Minako's mind; his seductive eyes, the smirk that was always hiding at the corner of his mouth, the way he flipped his coat around as if it were a cloak... By the frequency of their meetings, one would think Tokyo was a small town rather than a sprawling overpopulated city. It was as if they were destined to meet each other again and again until their hearts caught up with fate. And now, very soon, they would be bonded to each other forever.

Usagi was right about one thing, though. Although her friends did some detective work behind her back and located Kaidou's phone number, Minako was too scared to death to call him, at first. She had been burned in the past, and didn't want to go through heartbreak again. Usagi had never let up until her fellow blonde agreed to call the older man, convincing her that there was no excuse to pass up a chance at love.

"It's the real meaning of life," Usagi had said, then. "If you don't have love, the world is a darker place. I think searching for love is almost as pleasurable as finding it." Even now, Minako still marveled at the wisdom of those words.

As a woman with an abundance of natural charisma, Minako had always seemed to be one of the most popular people in any group she found herself in. Along with popularity, however, came the knowledge of how lonely it truly was at the top. Plenty of girls looked up to her, and plenty of boys wanted to date her, but none of them truly loved her. Minako had always felt she had to keep up an illusion of being happy even when she was depressed, so she wouldn't disappoint them. Usagi had been the first to see through the idol act; somehow she had sensed it the moment she first laid eyes on Minako in the Crown Arcade, surrounded by admirers but loved by none of them. Out of all her peers, Usagi was the first to care about Minako as a person with hopes and dreams.

"There has always been just one person to whom we have devoted our lives."

-Minako, Act 45

"Minako-chan? Minako-chan!" Rei snapped her fingers in front of the blonde woman's face, finally getting her attention. "I'm talking to you, here!" As usual, Minako hid her embarrassment with teasing egoism.

"It's all right, Rei-chan, it's okay to be jealous of me," she said dismissively. "You'll have your own wedding day soon!"

"Oh, leave it," Rei scoffed. "Why would I want to get married? I'm much happier single!" Minako elbowed the violet-haired woman in the side.

"There's no need to lie to me, Rei-chan," she whispered with a grin. "I know you're just waiting for the perfect guy. I keep telling you all to let me introduce you to Kaidou's friends! He has four best friends, that can't be coincidence! There's this blond man, an American, his name's Justin," she continued. "I just know you two would hit it off!"

"What do you think you are? The goddess of love?" Rei laughed. "No thank you, Minako-chan. I'll find my own romance, when and if I want any." The two women headed down a stone staircase between rows of violets, on their way to rejoin the others. Romance, Rei had decided, was highly overrated. Women who fell in love tended to abandon their friends, and Rei certainly didn't want to end up like that. She knew what it was like to be without friends.

She never knew what had brought Usagi to Sendai Hill; the blonde wasn't a very religious person, and had never explained the circumstances to Rei. Yet there she was, standing in the shadows that day, a silent witness to yet another attack the miko had endured during her youth. A particularly cruel gang of older boys had come to the temple, seemingly for no reason but to torment the quietly strange and reserved young woman who lived and worked there. Normally, Rei's sharp tongue could get the best of any hecklers who thought she was a pushover, but on that particular day it was just too much. She had gotten a low score on a test, had tripped like a clumsy oaf in gym class, and had lost the wireless microphone that was needed for the school play. When the group of boys laid into her with stinging words, Rei couldn't take it anymore. She feebly threw her broom at the leader, and then she burst into tears.

Suddenly there was a girl standing there beside her, shouting at Rei's attackers. The miko could never remember what exactly Usagi had said, but her bold and compassionate words had caught the boys off-guard for a moment. That brief instant, and the presence of another person standing next to Rei, on her side for once, had been all that was needed for the violet-haired girl to recover her strength. The boys were running in terror before they could squeak "ticked-off miko with a broom." Rei chuckled aloud just remembering it. Since then, Usagi had never ceased to lend her strength, even when Rei thought nobody could see her weakness.

"What's so funny?" Minako demanded, bringing Rei back to reality. "Love isn't funny! Love is a beautiful thing! You have to meet Justin! I won't give up until you do!"

"We were born here to bind together."

-Usagi, Act 13

"Usagi-chan, help me!" Rei practically ran to the odango-headed woman's side, trying to escape her other blonde friend. "Minako-chan just won't give up!" she complained, planting her hands on her hips.

"Rei-chan just won't give in," Minako argued, pointing at the violet-haired girl. "A perfect chance for romance, and she's passing it by! Come on, Usagi-chan, convince her to give it a shot!"

"I don't have *time* for romance right now," Rei tried, exasperated. "You know how busy I am with activities at the temple! Usagi-chan, you understand, don't you?"

"Yes, Rei-chan, I do," Usagi said quietly, but her face was sad. "My life doesn't allow a chance for romance either," she continued. "My writing and art classes take up most of my time. I'm lucky if I ever manage to meet someone, just once." Today was a rare day off to spend with her friends, and she had even met a handsome man, but what had she done? She'd chased him away with unnecessary anger. What was wrong with her? Usagi's eyes followed Minako's engagement ring as it sparkled and shone in the sunlight. She was happy for her friend, she really was, but...sometimes, she was so lonely...

"Well, I still have a chance with Ami-chan!" Minako declared, undaunted. Ignoring the shy blue-haired woman's protests, she grabbed Ami by the arm and pulled her away down the path. "One of Kaidou's friends, Xavier, would be perfect for you! You'd like him, Ami-chan, he has the most gorgeous blond hair, it's a little long but he always wears it neatly tied in a ponytail..."

As Minako's voice faded away with her footsteps, Rei sighed absently, left alone with Usagi. She didn't want to admit it, but the self-made Aphrodite's words had struck a sore spot in Rei's heart. She kept herself busy so she wouldn't feel lonely, but sometimes, Rei couldn't deny that she longed for someone to hold her in the darkness.

Looking up at Usagi, the violet-haired woman followed her friend's gaze across the gardens. Beside the blonde's favorite patch of roses, a man was standing, a tall man with short dark hair. Rei felt her heart skip a beat, but she glanced over at Usagi. Was her friend simply noticing someone disturbing her beloved roses, or was she interested in this man?

"Here's an easy chance for romance, perfect for busy people like us, ne?" Rei commented, elbowing Usagi in the side. "A handsome man, alone in the gardens..." She trailed off, waiting to hear what the blonde would say.

"I guess," Usagi sniffed, turning her gaze away from the man. "He seems kind of strange, if you ask me." And incredibly attractive. She knew she couldn't tear her eyes away for long. Watching the tall man made Usagi feel strangely warm inside, a tingling warmth that spread from her toes to her head and left her feeling dizzy.

"Oh, come on, Usagi-chan. I saw you looking at him. Aren't you interested?"

"Not in the least!" the blonde exclaimed, a bit too loudly to be sincere. Rei raised an eyebrow, studying her friend curiously, but Usagi crossed her arms stubbornly, showing no signs of changing her mind.

"Well," Rei said at last, "if you're not going to go for it, I will. Minako-chan will be proud of me." She took a step forward before glancing back at the odango-headed woman. Usagi was still standing motionless, arms folded, her face a mask of indifference. The miko knew her friend was probably just hiding her interest in the dark-haired man, but, well, she couldn't coddle Usagi forever. And Rei was definately not the kind of person who would let an opportunity of any kind slip by.

"I'll always be by your side, Serenity."

-Mamoru, Act 12

"Do you like roses?"

Mamoru turned his head from where he stood leaning over the blood-red blossoms, and noticed the woman with long violet hair standing there. He straightened up, giving the stranger a small smile.

"Yes, I do."

"I prefer lilies myself," the woman commented, gazing down at the rosebushes. She was rather attractive, Mamoru had to admit, and had an elegant air about her. "Roses are a bit too dark and mysterious for me." She looked up at him again, her indigo eyes twinkling. "I'm Hino Rei."

"Chiba Mamoru. A pleasure to meet you," he replied politely, the smile continuing to tug at the corners of his mouth. "Strange that you would not like roses, Hino-san. You seem a bit dark and mysterious yourself." The woman laughed gaily, flipping a stray strand of hair over her shoulder.

"Perhaps that's why I prefer lighter flowers," she replied. She stepped forward, and they began to walk down the path together, heading toward a marble fountain.

"What brings you here today, Hino-san?" Mamoru asked, studying Rei out of the corner of his eye. Perhaps this woman...was she the reason he was here?

"My friends," Rei answered lightly, waving vaguely in their direction. Mamoru glanced back - and stared. The blonde-haired woman he had argued with earlier was among the women his companion was indicating. Now that she was calmer, and not yelling at him, Mamoru had to admit the once-volatile woman was rather beautiful. Quite beautiful, in fact, with her long hair like spun gold swaying gently in the breeze. Her friends were chatting and laughing, but the one with her hair in buns was standing just slightly apart from them, gazing off into - was she looking at him? Just as Mamoru realized it, the blonde looked away. Beside him, Rei narrowed her eyes.

"Do you know them?" she asked. Why was he looking at the others for so long?

Embarrassed, Mamoru scanned the group of friends. Fortunately for him, he did see a familiar face, and his eyes widened in surprise.

"Aino-san!" he exclaimed. "She's engaged to a friend of mine." Now it was Rei's turn to be surprised.

"You know Kaidou?"

"Yes, he's one of my closest friends," Mamoru replied, forcing his eyes away from the odango-headed one - how had he ended up looking at her again? - and back to the violet-haired woman. "The five of us usually go everywhere together."

"Oh, you're one of *them*!" Rei burst out, following with a peal of laughter. The tall man looked confused.

"What's so funny?"

Still giggling, the young woman steadied herself by leaning against her companion's arm. Mamoru stiffened slightly, and then forced himself to relax. A moment ago he had found Rei attractive and alluring, and now he found himself wishing she would go away. What had changed? He cleared his throat, and Rei separated herself from him.

"Well, Minako-chan keeps trying to hook us up with you guys," she explained, sobering up in a flash. She had been getting good signals from Mamoru, but something seemed to be going wrong; maybe she was coming on too strong. "When she sees us together, she'll probably be thrilled," she joked. Mamoru laughed at this, but his eyes were wandering away from Rei. As they walked, he kept looking around. Somehow, his gaze always seemed to end up on her four friends. He was paying much less attention to Rei than was fair.

"Well," she said brusquely, deciding to tease the man with a haughty tone, "if I'm not good enough for you..."

"Oh, don't think like that!" Mamoru said quickly, instantly turning back toward his companion, a guilty look tugging at his features. Yes, it was clear to Rei now, she could read it in his eyes. He was interested in one of the others. "It's just that...well..." He trailed off.

"What is it?" Rei sighed, wondering which of her friends had caught Mamoru's eye.

"That woman, the blonde," the man muttered, running a hand through his short hair awkwardly. "What is her name?"

"I thought you knew Minako-chan?"

"Not her, the other one," Mamoru clarified. He felt uncomfortably warm. Was he blushing? "I sort of...tripped over her, earlier," he mumbled. Despite her mixed disappointment and surprise, Rei could not stop herself from being amused by this.

"Well, that would be Usagi-chan, naturally," she laughed. "Yes, that's Usagi-chan all over." Usagi!? This serious, mature, unbelievably handsome man was interested in Usagi!?

"Usagi..." Mamoru said softly, turning the name over and over in his mind. He was looking at the odango-haired woman again, ignoring the friendly woman standing beside him. He knew it was rude of him, but he could not tear his eyes away. She looked so gentle, so peaceful, and yet Mamoru knew there was a firey spirt underneath; he had experienced that firsthand. He sighed, knowing that the blonde probably hated him, and it would be improper for Mamoru to approach her after entertaining the advances of her friend. Rei was all fire, and that excited him, but even from this distance he could tell this blonde woman - Usagi - had a love and tenderness that surpassed any he had ever known. He could not explain how he knew this after only a glance, but he felt it as deeply as if they were close friends.

And she was looking back at him.

"For us, it is always the same. Save our friends! Defeat the enemies! Protect those important to us!"

-Minako, Act 45

"Rei-chan? What's wrong?"

"Nothing, Ami-chan. I'm fine," Rei replied firmly, but she continued blankly staring up at the clouds, lying on her back in the grass. Nearby, Usagi was also gazing distantly at something, but her target was on the ground sitting beside a fountain, and studying a cluster of lilies. Sitting beside Rei, Minako breathed deeply, twisting her engagement ring around and around her finger.

"Do you guys ever wonder about what our lives would be like if things had been...different?" the bride-to-be asked.

"What do you mean?" Makoto countered, folding up the red-stained picnic blanket. "Lots of things could've changed our lives. That's how fate works."

"Well, if none of us had ever met, for example," Minako replied, without noticing Ami shudder over her textbook.

"Lonely," the blue-haired woman said in a small voice, not looking up. Makoto, however, beamed at her four best friends.

"There's no way that would ever have happened," she said brightly. "In my heart, I know we were always meant to be together. No matter what our lives were like, we would've always found our way to each other. That's how true friends are." Now Ami raised her head, a warm smile lighting up her face.

"You're right, Mako-chan," she said, her voice full of more energy than the others had heard from Ami in a long time. "Even if our lives had been full of hardship and struggle, even if death itself threatened us, we would've always been there, together, to help each other through."

"To make sure we all made the most of our opportunities," Minako chimed in, hugging her knees.

"To give each other the happiest lives possible," Makoto concluded. "That's what friends do."

"That's what friends do..." Rei echoed in a soft whisper, watching the fluffy white clouds drift by overhead.

"I don't need love now. I have kindred spirits with the same goal. I have you all."

-Rei, "Casablanca Memory"

Makoto raised her head and looked up at the sky. "There's a storm coming."

The sky was still a perfect, clear blue, with only a few clouds scattered across its expanse, but the other women didn't laugh or ask her why she suspected rain. She knew. Makoto always knew. With a few groans of disappointment, the five of them gathered their possessions and prepared to leave.

"Just a moment," Rei said suddenly. Snatching up her purse, she jogged over to the distant form of Mamoru, who was wandering back toward the rosebushes again. "Chiba-san! Wait!"

"She's so shameless," Ami muttered, a blush rising in her cheeks.

Mamoru sighed and slowed to a stop when he heard the miko calling out to him. As he turned around, he found Rei pulling a piece of paper and a pen out of her purse. Great. Just great. Now she was going to give him her phone number, and he would have to go through all the discomfort of making her understand he just wasn't interested.

After a moment of scribbling, Rei handed the paper over.

"Look, Hino-san," Mamoru said carefully, "I'm very busy, and-"

"Don't be silly," Rei snapped, cutting him off. "It's not mine."

"Hu - what?" Unfolding the paper, Mamoru looked at it carefully. Beside the string of numbers, a set of neat, clear characters had been written. A name. Tsukino Usagi.

"You'd better call her, or the spirits of romance will curse you for all eternity," Rei teased with a grin. Shooting him a sly wink, the miko turned and hurried back toward the other women, leaving Mamoru with a bemused expression on his face.

"The things I do for my friends," Rei muttered, shaking her head as she smiled to herself.

"Endymion, I love you. You are the first and only one I've fallen in love with. Even if we are reborn, I will surely meet you again. We will surely fall in love again."

-Usagi, Act 12

Hidden in a place engulfed in darkness and mystery, unknown and unseen for all time, Sailor Pluto smiled through her tears as the rose petals she had scattered swirled away into the mists of time.

At last, I have seen the new beginning, and this time the story will have a pleasant ending. I will not be involved in this destiny...but that is as it should be; at least some of the Sailor Soldiers will find peace and happiness.

The lovers were reunited. Born on the same planet, the two of them could finally find happiness in one another's arms. Alone in the ruins of an ancient kingdom, the lonely spirit of Queen Serenity breathed its final ethereal sigh. Her duty was finished at last, her penance completed. Without a word or a witness, the soul of a monarch that had long wandered over the ashes of her kingdom was finally free to travel to the shining lands that awaited her.

The End
Bishoujo Senshi Sailormoon and its associated characters and canon are the property of Naoko Takeuchi and Kodansha.
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