a Sailormoon fanfiction by Dejana Talis
-not to be used without permission-
A Tokyo street.
A cold wind swept through the area, ruffling the short skirts of the sailor-suited warriors and chilling their bare legs, but they paid it no mind. Their attention was fully focused on something else. Something pale, small, motionless, and clothed in violet.
The monster had long since been defeated, its ashes scattered by the wind. It had vanished completely, leaving almost no evidence of its presence. Despite the brief but furious battle there had been no impact to the surrounding area. It was the Sailor Senshi themselves that had sustained damage.
In the center of the street something was shining, something whose brightness shamed the light of the full moon that poured down on Tokyo from above. Several pairs of eyes were focused on the golden-haired woman in a multicolored uniform who was kneeling on the cold, hard pavement. In her arms lay the torn and broken body of Sailor Saturn.
Eternal Sailormoon's snowy white wings were spread wide, shielding the youngest soldier from the bitter wind. The locket on her chest was open and the brilliant light of the Ginzuishou was shining to its fullest intensity, coating both soldiers in a shimmering glow. The Sailor Senshi surrounding them were nearly blinded, but they could not bear to look away as their princess worked her ancient magic on Sailor Saturn's still and silent form. The miracle was nothing new; they had all witnessed it several times before. Even so, they watched quietly and prayed for its success, every one of them wishing with all their heart for the violet-suited soldier's return to the living world.
For a long moment of breathless silence they huddled frozen in time, the eyes of the watching soldiers wide and brimming with tears, those of Eternal Sailormoon and Saturn closed to the night as the pure white light surrounded them.
Then the light faded. It weakened, paled, and finally disappeared completely, drawn back into the crystal from whence it had come. The locket on the winged soldier's chest closed, and the moonlight flooded back into the desolate street. The other Sailor Senshi tensed with anticipation, clenching their fists in excitement as they waited for Saturn to stir.
Eternal Sailormoon opened her eyes. There was something strange in her expression then, something shocked and disbelieving. She lowered her head and gazed down at the small bloody form in her arms. She trembled, and Saturn's short dark hair shook against her pale cheeks. One gloved hand slipped from the lifeless soldier's abdomen and flopped to the pavement.
The princess shuddered violently and clutched the cold body to her chest.
The cry of anguish was like a slap across the face to the onlooking Sailor Senshi. They gasped, and gaped, and bit their balled fists in startled terror. It couldn't be. It wasn't supposed to happen this way! Eternal Sailormoon had always been able to revive her soldiers. She couldn't have failed. Sailor Saturn couldn't be...
Footsteps echoed down the empty street. Neptune and Uranus, late for the battle, came running toward the other soldiers at top speed, their pace in perfect harmony as always. By the time they reached the group of younger warriors they had already guessed that they had missed the fight, but they were unprepared for the scene that awaited them.
The Sailor Senshi standing motionless, frozen by shock. Their princess, kneeling in the street, rocking Sailor Saturn in her arms and sobbing. The girl they had raised as a daughter twisted and covered in blood, her eyelids not even fluttering on her cheeks, her chest stilled by the absence of living breath.
"Sailor Moon," Uranus gasped, her heart pounding as she tried to ignore the cold nausea settling in her stomach. "What...but..."
"You can save her," Sailor Neptune whispered as she clutched at her partner's arm, her eyes locked on the lifeless body on the ground. "Right?"
Eternal Sailormoon choked as she looked up at the aqua-haired woman, the older soldier's face stricken by desperation and aching for reassurance. Their princess was the light of everlasting hope, the miracle when there were no miracles left, the beginning after the ending...
"Not this time," the winged Sailor Senshi croaked in a strangled voice.
A hillside graveyard.
A cold wind swept through the area, fluttering the skirts and pants of the assembled mourners, but they paid it no mind. Their attention was fully focused on something else. Something gray, cold, upright, and carved with a name and a set of numbers.
The headstone was average and plain, just like the hundreds of others that surrounded it. In a few weeks when the grass grew in over the plot the gravesite would vanish into the sea of identical resting places. To the casual onlooker, there was nothing particularly special about this grave. To the eight women currently surrounding it, however, it was the only one that mattered.
There had been a handful of others present during the burial; some of Hotaru's classmates and a few coworkers from the ice-cream parlor where she had had a part-time job, but one by one they had trickled away until only the eight were left. Eight women who had stood together against unimaginable terrors, now separated from one of their own by a rift they could never breach.
Even Setsuna was present, a rare occurrance these days. Her face was expressionless as she gazed down at the cold gray stone bearing Hotaru's name, her long hair and black dress rippling in the wind. The only sound was the rustling of the leaves in the trees overhead.
Usagi was kneeling in the grass beside the headstone, just staring at it numbly. While her friends cried around her, occasional sobs and sniffles punctuating the silence, Usagi's eyes were dry and empty. At one point, Minako sat down beside the silent woman and put her arms around her, but Usagi did not respond. It was like trying to comfort a statue.
At the foot of the grave Haruka and Michiru stood holding each other, each one clutching the other as if for warmth. Tears were rolling down both of their faces as the headstone bored the truth into them. The entity of Sailor Saturn would surely return someday, but the girl they knew and loved was gone. It still seemed unreal. Why Hotaru? And why, after everything the Sailor Senshi had been through, had this death been permanent?
Without a word or a tear, Setsuna lived up to her reputation by being the first to turn around and begin walking away from the gravesite. Haruka gritted her teeth. Someone had to break the silent vigil, but why did it always have to be the solitary soldier of time? She felt Michiru shudder in her arms and something flared in the blonde woman's blood.
"Setsuna!" she yelled sharply into the wind, turning around to glare at the departing figure who should have loved Hotaru as much as Haruka and Michiru had. She was Sailor Pluto, guardian of time; surely she could have done something, she could have prevented this! "Didn't you..."
Haruka trailed off as Setsuna turned around. The green-haired woman's face, so impassive a moment ago, was filled with anguish. Her deep burgundy eyes were swimming with sorrow, and even her lower lip was trembling. She looked so miserable that Haruka's fury ebbed away, and she found herself unable to finish her question.
When the blonde failed to continue, Setsuna turned away again and left them.
A Juuban apartment.
A cold wind swept through the area, rattling the windows and howling eerily, but Minako paid it no mind. Her attention was fully focused on something else. Something white, simple, square, and with a series of numbers written on it.
Minako took a deep breath, picked up the phone, and began to dial. Mamoru had given the leader of the Sailor Senshi his phone number at school in case of an emergency, and this was certainly starting to fit the bill. She tangled her fingers in the phone cord as the line started to ring, and tried not to think about how much this call was going to cost her.
Answer, please answer, be home...
As much as she dreaded explaining things to Mamoru, Minako didn't know what she'd say if she got an answering machine. To her relief, there was a click and a familiar voice said something in an unfamiliar language.
"Mamoru-san? Is that you?"
"Yes," the man replied, switching smoothly to his native Japanese. "Who is this, please?"
"It's Aino Minako," she replied heavily. "Mamoru-san...something's happened." A lump rose in her throat as she approached the reason for her call, and she swallowed it with difficulty. This was no time to fall apart.
"What? What is it?" Mamoru demanded, not quite keeping the panic from his voice. "Usako? Is she all right?"
"It's Hotaru-chan," Minako said with difficulty. Her hands shook, and she almost couldn't hold the phone to her ear. Tears were welling up in her eyes again, but she blinked them away. "She...she's dead, Mamoru-san."
She heard a dull thump as the man on the other end of the line sat down heavily.
"Hotaru-chan, she's dead," Minako repeated in a shaky voice.
"My God," Mamoru murmured after a moment of silence. "What happened?"
"An enemy," Minako explained weakly. "The rest of us are all right, but it got her."
"And it's...she's really..."
"Yes. The burial was last Monday." As she delivered the news the blonde woman was overcome by a wretched feeling of guilt. Someone should have called Mamoru much earlier to tell him about Hotaru, but with all that had happened it just hadn't occurred to anyone. At the same time, she knew what Mamoru was thinking now. They had all died before, couldn't Hotaru be brought back? If he were to ask that question, Minako would have no answer to give him. She rushed on before he could speak again.
"Listen, Mamoru-san," she burst out. "Usagi-chan isn't doing well. Of course, none of us are, but she...she's just shut down. She hasn't been to work, and I don't think she's been going to her classes either."
The past two weeks had been a horrible trial as the Sailor Senshi struggled to balance their own grief and their concern for their princess. They could've handled tears, or hysterics, but Usagi's numb silence rendered them helpless. Her behavior at Hotaru's burial had only been the beginning; Usagi still spoke only when absolutely necessary and hardly ever looked anyone in the eye, constantly lost in her own thoughts.
"I think she feels guilty, like it's her fault Hotaru's gone," Minako continued. "We've been trying to help her, but she won't respond to anyone, not for more than a few seconds. I'm very sorry to bother you at school, Mamoru-san, but...I don't know what to do!" she confessed, her voice finally breaking.
"No, you did the right thing," Mamoru reassured her. He was quiet for a moment, thinking. "I'll speak to my professors tomorrow," he said at last, "and then I'll be on the first available flight back to Tokyo."
A country house.
A cold wind swept through the area, setting several windchimes spinning, but the people inside the house paid it no mind. Their attention was fully focused on something else. Something blonde, blue-eyed, silent, and empty as a shell.
"Would you like some cookies, Usagi-chan?" Ami asked gently, picking up the plate from the table and leaning over to offer it to her.
"No, thank you," the woman replied quietly, without even looking up.
"Come on, Usako, you need to eat something." Mamoru reached out and took the plate from Ami, setting it in front of his fiancee's place. With his other arm he tenderly squeezed Usagi around the waist and smiled at her, but she didn't respond. His chair was pushed right up alongside hers so that he could hold her even while they sat at the table, in the hope that the contact would do her some good. Nothing else Mamoru had tried had seemed to help.
At the far end of the table the other couple present was seated just as closely, although in their case the effort was mutual. Since Hotaru's death, Haruka and Michiru spent most of their time furiously fighting or clinging to one another for dear life. There was a fragile balance between the bitterness that had settled over them during their grief and their desperation not to lose the only family member each had left.
Around the table were gathered the rest of their extended family. All of the surviving Sailor Senshi were present except for Setsuna, who had once again broken off all contact. Since Mamoru returned to Japan, Minako had pulled out all the stops to organize this gathering at Haruka and Michiru's house. It was the first time they had all been together since the burial, with the exception of Setsuna.
"So, Rei-chan, how are things at the shrine lately?" Minako asked brightly, entering the room with a fresh pitcher of lemonade.
"Fine," the violet-haired miko replied briefly. Her eyes were focused on the blonde seated beside Mamoru, and Rei was clearly more interested in worrying about Usagi than talking about herself.
"Come on, I'd like to hear the news too," Mamoru said politely. Again with the smile, again with the casual attitude, despite the alien statue cuddled against his side. "It's been so long since I've seen you all. Don't hold back on me."
"There's nothing really worth mentioning," Rei muttered, still watching Usagi over her folded arms. Next to her, Ami tried again to interest the princess in a chocolate chip cookie. Makoto, sitting on Usagi's other side, refilled the silent woman's glass. At the end of the table Haruka's eyes grew narrower and narrower. The bitterness inside her was growing harsher by the second, until she was glaring openly at the focus of all the attention.
"Come on, Rei-chan," Minako complained, growing irritated. "Can't you see what I'm trying to do here?"
"It's not like babbling on about nothing is going to do any good!" Rei snapped in return. "We can't just pretend everything's normal, it's not normal, she's not normal, this isn't going to help her-"
"Stop it! All of you, stop it!" Haruka burst out, so suddenly that even Michiru looked up at her, startled. "Look at you all, doting on her like slaves, only focused on her feelings, trying to get her to forget, to make her believe she hasn't done anything wrong. It's pathetic."
The other women just stared, Mamoru's expression mirroring theirs as they gaped at Haruka in disbelief. Only Usagi remained as she was, still hanging her head, her eyes focused on the table.
"Even this," Haruka continued, indicating the gathering with a sweep of her arm. "This isn't about all of us, it's about her, only her! Why is her pain more important than yours, than mine?" she ranted on, the bitterness filling her up inside like a cold fury. "Even at the burial, we had to set aside our own grief to focus on hers! And why? Because she's the princess? She failed! She failed Hotaru! After everything we've sacrificed, she failed us! Why does she still deserve our-"
"That's enough!" Mamoru shot out of his chair, glaring down at the woman at the end of the table with a rage unlike any the Sailor Senshi had ever seen. "I won't have you speaking to her that way!"
"Want to make something of it?" Haruka shouted in return, jumping to her feet as well.
"Mamoru-san, don't, she's just upset-"
"Haruka, just back off, calm down, please-"
"Why? Why couldn't she bring Hotaru back!?"
"SHE SAID NO!"
They were all struck silent by the sudden outburst from the one person who, until now, had not said a word. Usagi had raised her head and was looking up at Haruka with a pained and lost expression, her blue eyes filled with tears for the first time since Hotaru's death.
"She said no," Usagi repeated, in a half-whisper. "It had never happened before." Her gaze grew distant as she recalled what had happened the night of the battle. "I went after her with the Ginzuishou, just like always, following her into the darkness. I reached out to bring her back, just like all the other times...but she wouldn't come with me. She looked at me, and smiled, and shook her head, and turned away. That other light...it was so much brighter than mine..."
Haruka sat down heavily, overwhelmed by this revelation. "She said no..."
"Then...you could have brought her back," Makoto reasoned. "You could have brought her back anyway!"
"How could I?" Usagi demanded, her eyes shining with grief. "It was her life, how could I take that choice away from her? But...did I do the right thing?" Her face crumpled in uncertainty, her eyes overcome by despair. "Should I have brought her back anyway? I'd done it before...all those times I've brought important people back to life, I've never asked them...what if they didn't want to come back? What if I brought them against their will, because I was selfish and didn't want to be without them? What if I brought you all-"
"None of that, Usagi-chan," Rei said sharply. "I believe I speak for us all when I say I want to be alive. Being alive, and being your friend, is far better than being dead." Several heads around the table nodded at this.
"But Hotaru-chan..." Usagi's voice broke, and she buried her face in her hands and trembled. "Why, why didn't she want to live?" she moaned, her voice muffled by her palms. "Was she that unhappy? Were things too much for her? Did she feel like an outcast? Did I...did I not love her enough?"
"Now that's just ridiculous, Usako," Mamoru said gently, putting his arms around the sobbing woman. "Nobody could ever love anyone as much as you."
"He's right," Haruka agreed, giving her distraught princess a soft smile. Now that the truth had come out, she felt oddly peaceful. Her daughter was still gone, but it had been by her own choice, not by Usagi's failure. Her faith in her princess was not misplaced. "Don't worry, Odango. Hotaru had never before felt as loved as she did these past few years, trust me."
"How could she do it?" Makoto wondered aloud. "How could she be so...how could she forsake her duty as a Sailor Senshi?"
"Hotaru was a soldier of an outer planet," Michiru reminded the younger women. "Our duties are different than yours. We have never been bound to protect the princess with our lives, as you are." At these words, Usagi shuddered in Mamoru's embrace.
"Bound to live, so you can die for me..."
"Don't talk like that," Rei snapped, shooting a scolding glance in Michiru's direction. "We don't want to live only because we have to."
"You make life worth living, Usagi-chan," Ami added softly.
"Why, then?" Minako asked the world, her face pale from the shock of this conversation. "Why would Hotaru-chan choose to die? She was offered life, a resurrection. Why would anyone say no? Nobody ever has before."
"It never occurred to me that no was an option," Michiru said quietly, with a thoughtful expression.
Usagi's head shot up.
"You wouldn't!" she cried desperately, her eyes flickering between the aqua-haired woman and her blonde lover. "Tell me you wouldn't!"
Haruka and Michiru were silent.
A casual restaurant.
A cold wind swept through the area, tugging at the canvas canopy over the front door, but the blue-haired young woman seated at the counter paid it no mind. Her attention was fully focused on something else. Something moist, frosted, chocolate, and filled with more calories than a three-course meal.
"The mint frosting is a good compliment to the chocolate," Ami said thoughfully, "and the cake is a good consistency, I can tell you sifted the flour."
"Ami-chan!" Makoto sighed and threw her dustrag down beside the cash register. "That's not what I meant when I asked your opinion!" The other woman blushed delicately.
"It's very good," she amended, helping herself to another bite.
"Much better." Makoto smiled and returned to her task of wiping the counter and its stools with cleaning solution. It was past closing time, and the blustery day outside had turned into a windy night. Normally the brunette chef worked in the kitchen, but it had been a slow evening and the girl who worked the counter had a date she was anxious about, so Makoto had offered to cover so she could take off early. Just as she was about to lock the doors, Ami had showed up, and had swiftly become the test subject for her friend's latest creation.
Since the gathering at Haruka and Michiru's house, things had been going slightly better for the four guardian soldiers. There was still grief and mourning, but now that they knew what was really troubling Usagi, they were able to focus properly when it came to cheering her up. The princess was still disturbed by what had happened, but since the weight of the truth was no longer hers to bear alone, she was beginning to overcome the guilt and confusion that had held her silent.
"So, what brings you here?" Makoto finally asked, getting a broom and dustpan out of a closet. Ami hesitated, chewing her latest bite of chocolate cake far more slowly and deliberately than normal. At last she swallowed, and couldn't stall any longer.
"I was thinking about the other day," the blue-haired woman confessed, looking in the other direction as Makoto began sweeping the floor. "About Hotaru-chan, and the question you raised. Or, rather, the question you didn't raise."
Makoto froze. In the absence of the brushing sound the broom had been making against the tiled floor, a sudden silence descended over the two women. The quiet only made the unspoken question ring louder in their minds, the question everyone had known Makoto had been about to ask before she tactfully changed her words.
How could Hotaru be so selfish?
"It is hard being a Sailor Senshi, isn't it?" Ami mused aloud, still not looking at her brunette friend. She played with the crumbs on her plate, flattening the bits of moist chocolate beneath her fork, trying not to think about the words that were coming out of her mouth. "Average people would think the most anyone can do is give their life for the world, but we, we get to come back and do it again and again..."
"But not Hotaru-chan," Makoto finished, focusing on the handle of the broom, its unpolished wood rough against her palms.
"Not Hotaru-chan," Ami repeated. "Not anymore."
Hotaru was free.
"I would never leave Usagi-chan," the brunette burst out after a moment, her grip tightening on the broom handle. "Never! No matter how hard it was, I would never leave her, not by choice."
"None of us would," Ami assured her, turning around on the stool on which she was perched to give her friend a small smile to soften the tension in the air. There were a few heartbeats before the words the water soldier had really come to speak broke through her restraint.
"But...have you ever wanted to?"
"Have you?" Makoto challenged in return, a little too quickly.
This time the brief pause became a long silence. The two women stared at each other, both unable, or unwilling, to speak, as the wind howled against the walls outside.
A red convertible.
A cold wind swept through the area, ruffling the hair of the two women in the car and sending chills down their spines, but they paid it no mind. Their attention was fully focused on something else. Something young, violet-eyed, black-haired, and gone forever from this world.
Haruka was too preoccupied to even consider obeying the speed limit, and Michiru was too preoccupied to worry about it as her partner guided the sports car around each sharp curve of the seaside drive. For most of humanity, nothing significant was different, but for the Sailor Senshi, the world was forever changed. Days of thought had still not completely sorted things out in the minds of the elder soldiers.
"When the soldier of Saturn is reborn, do you think it will be Hotaru?" Haruka finally asked.
"The odds would seem to be against it," Michiru replied quietly. She plucked a speck of lint off her skirt and let it fly off into space, torn away by the breeze. Haruka sighed heavily; she had believed the same, but hearing it spoken aloud somehow made the truth more real. Only the Ginzuishou could bring a person back as they were, and Hotaru had chosen to reject its offer of salvation.
"The first time, it never occurred to me that I might come back," she said after a moment's pause. "I did what I had to, without hesitation, expecting my life to be over. After that, when I found out death did not have to be forever, it got easier to be brave. I was never reckless, but somewhere at the back of my mind I knew I had nothing to lose. The princess would always bring me back. Hardly the proper attitude for a soldier."
"Do you suppose," Michiru asked, her gaze tracing her beloved's sharp profile, "that's why Hotaru did it? To teach us that death is still a possibility, that resurrection is not a guarantee?"
"Why else?" Haruka countered, glancing away from the road ahead for a moment to look at her aqua-haired passenger. "Was she hiding her unhappiness? Was it all just too hard for her? Was it a necessary fate; did she know something we don't?"
"Hotaru was the soldier of death and rebirth," Michiru reminded her. "No matter how long we ponder it, we can never know for certain why she chose one over the other, but there is no reason to doubt that her decision was the correct one. No one could have understood the consequences of her choice better than she did."
They rode on for a while longer in silence, both minds turning the latest revelations over and over again, like the crashing of waves or the battering of winds. Just like all their previous thoughts, no amount of weathering could coax these to reveal their secrets.
"That enemy was only a scout," Haruka said as they passed through the shadow of a tree. "There will be others, many others, very soon. An army. A new war." Her partner nodded. The blonde was only speaking aloud what both of them had known for quite some time. Michiru had seen the approaching darkness in her mirror months ago.
"Crystal Tokyo is on the horizon," the aqua-haired woman said.
"The other soldiers have been there," her beloved mused. "They've been to that destined city and walked its streets. And yet, they've never told us much about it. Do you ever wonder about that, Michiru?"
There was another long silence. The car rounded a bend and the road rejoined the coast. Sunlight was flashing over the waters of the ocean. The two women did not have to speak the thoughts that followed aloud. They had both wondered about it, and both reached the same conclusion a long time ago, although they had never spoken about it openly. There had never been any mention of Sailor Uranus, or Neptune, or Saturn, being present in Crystal Tokyo. Now that Hotaru was gone, the inevitable seemed all too clear.
"Would you do it, when the time comes, now that we know what we know?" Haruka asked at last, staring straight ahead at the road that lay before them. "Would you say no?"
Michiru turned away, gazing out over the sparkling sea. The roar of the ocean filled her ears despite the wind in her hair, its voice singing about life, and of strength, and of duty. Her reply was a whisper, her words almost lost, but she spoke it into the rushing wind and Haruka heard.
"Yes, I would."
"So would I."
The lovers' hands found each other across the center of the convertible's front seat, their fingers winding automatically into the most comfortable and unshakeable grasp.
They would do their duty as best they could, as they had always done, for as long as fate had planned. And then they would be together, forever, and they would see their daughter again. That was a resolution no benevolent force could break.
Bishoujo Senshi Sailormoon and its associated characters and canon are the property of Naoko Takeuchi and Kodansha.