a Sailormoon fanfiction by Dejana Talis
-not to be used without permission-
That was all she could think about.
It was always the same; no matter how many different battles, how many different monsters, whatever the enemy was, this was always eerily familiar. The monster's cry as it released a burst of deadly energy. The automatic tensing of muscles, the spring toward safety even before the danger was clear. The fleeting moment of relief, then the dreadful realization as time slowed down to a crawl and it became obvious she wasn't going to make it. Close, so close, but not quite. If only she had jumped a second earlier. If only she had leapt upward instead of to the side.
Then the pain, a sudden searing explosion of agony as flesh was ripped open and burned, a sickening jolt to her stomach as the damage hit and the resulting spasm forced a startled cry out of her throat. No matter how many times it happened, no matter how prepared she was, no matter how hard she tried to remain strong, the pain was always, for a brief moment, blinding. It consumed all else in a flash of white, red, and black that at the same time seemed to last forever and finish in only an instant. There could be no reactions, no expressions, no thoughts, save one:
After that, the landing. It always came too soon after the burst of pain, an awkward and unprepared crash into the ground, usually on the injured side of her body if fate was being unkind. This time, she had been hit on the left side as she jumped right, so the tumble into the pavement was at least blessedly free of the second white-hot flash of agony that would have come from landing on the injury. Still, sliding across the rough blacktop with her right leg and upper arm bare was less than comfortable. It felt more like gravel than pavement as dirt and rocks ground into her skin.
The disoriented haze of the attack's aftermath immediately vanished, and her mind cleared. This was a voice that could reach her through anything, even the icy embrace of death itself. Usagi. Her duty. Her princess. Her friend.
The world came rushing back. Sailor Mars pushed herself up on one arm and forced herself to look at her wound before she had time to hesitate. She had been hit directly in the left thigh. Blood was already oozing from the wound, bubbling up from a gash that stretched nearly from her knee to the hem of her skirt. At its edges the skin was red, searing, burned. As Mars watched the bleeding grew worse, in mere seconds swelling from a slight trickle of red to a thickening river that flowed freely down the side of her leg and dripped onto the pavement. The gash began to throb and ache miserably.
Mars swallowed a groan of dismay and looked away, turning her attention back to the situation at hand. She had to get up and try to look like everything was okay before...
It was too late. Heading toward her at a dead run, blonde pigtails streaming in the wind, was Sailor Moon, her face filled with panic. All three of the others were still focused on fighting the monster, although Venus kept glancing over as if she wanted to run to Mars' aid as well. The injured Senshi sighed, shaking her head. Would Usagi never learn to keep her priorities straight? And they had originally thought Sailor Moon was supposed to be the leader! Thank the Kami they had Venus, who knew that defeating the enemy was always the first order of business.
Still...a tendril of warmth touched Sailor Mars' heart as her friend rushed to her side, concerned with her welfare over all else. At least this time Usagi hadn't left the Moon Scepter behind; she was learning, but she still couldn't go on without making sure Mars was all right. The injured soldier forced her face to remain stern, banishing the smile that threatened to glow there; she didn't want to encourage this sort of behavior. Deep down, she loved knowing Sailor Moon cared so much for her - but she would never let Usagi know that.
"Rei-chan! Are you all right?" As soon as the blonde soldier reached her friend's side she saw the thick red liquid pooling on the pavement, and her eyes grew wide with horror. "Oh no!"
"What are you doing, Sailor Moon!?" Mars snapped, glaring up at her princess. Even as the acid words flowed from her tongue she again had to fight the urge to smile. The mere presence of Sailor Moon, her bright blue eyes shining with genuine concern, was enough to make Mars feel like everything was all right. Despite the insistent throbbing in her leg that was beginning to make her feel nauseous, she forced herself to bend her knees in preparation to stand up again. "Baka! You have to fight!"
Sailor Moon's head jerked back as if she had been slapped. She stared at Mars, wounded by her cruel words, tears welling up in her now-saddened cerulean eyes. Here it came, the crushing wave of overwhelming guilt that rolled over the red-suited soldier every time she scolded her friend. Her arms ached to hug Sailor Moon, her lips longed to apologize for her insult, but she resisted, keeping her expression firm. This kind of behavior would only get her princess hurt if she kept focusing on her friends instead of her enemies.
"But you're hurt..."
"It's nothing." Grasping Sailor Moon's arm, which the blonde offered automatically, Mars tried to haul herself to her feet. The pain returned with a vengeance as the stream of blood trickled down over her knee. Her entire leg burst into flaming agony, and blackness encroached on the edges of her vision, but she refused to cry out. Sailor Moon had to see that she was all right.
A new voice this time. The violet-haired soldier looked over Sailor Moon's shoulder to where the battle raged on. Venus had managed to wrap a Love-Me Chain around the monster's waist, or what seemed to be its waist, and Jupiter was busily channeling another blast of lightning from the heavens. Sailor Mercury was standing off to the side, her computer open in her hand, but she had paused from her research of the monster to stare at Mars. Her eyes were wide with horror, her mouth gaping open, her gaze flickering from the gash on Mars' leg to the red stain on the ground.
"Don't move!" Mercury ordered, her words crisp and clear across the parking lot even over the roars of the monster. Never in the past year had Mars heard the mild-mannered Mizuno Ami speak so firmly, in such a commanding tone. Whether Mars wanted to admit it or not, her injury had to be serious. She sank back down to the ground.
"You guys had better blast that creep so I don't have to bail you out!" Mars called to the others, but her heart wasn't in it. The pain in her leg was fading away, replaced by a growing numbness that was more frightening than the gash itself. To make matters worse, the fuzzy blackness at the edges of her vision had not gone away even after she sat back down on the cold pavement. "It's all right, Sailor Moon," she muttered as sincerely as she could manage. "Go."
The crystal blue eyes that turned toward Mars now were focused, determined, the hurt buried away back in whatever wellspring of emotion fueled Sailor Moon's soul. Before another word was said, the blonde reached behind herself and in one decisive burst of strength ripped the red bow off the back of her skirt. A silken splitting sound rent the air as the fabric tore. Mars stared at her, mouth hanging open in shock, as her friend untied the bow and wrapped the long thick ribbon around the injured Senshi's thigh. It seemed her princess had grown more mature than she thought.
"Don't look at me like that," Sailor Moon said as she tied the ribbon tightly around Mars' leg. "It's only a uniform."
The blood began to seep through almost immediately. Sailor Mars' entire left side was now so numb that she barely felt the pressure of the knot against the long gash in her thigh, but she winced anyway.
"That hurts, baka," she scolded in a half-whisper. Sailor Moon looked up, and as their eyes met Mars allowed herself to give her friend a small smile.
"I'll be right back," the blonde promised. "Hang in there!" Snatching up the Moon Scepter from the ground, Sailor Moon sprang to her feet and ran back toward the battle. Sailor Mars slowly lay down on her back, the pavement chilly through her uniform, and turned her head to watch the four soldiers battle the monster through eyes that were rapidly becoming blurry. Her fingers were growing cold, but even trying to move them seemed an impossible task.
Mercury had set her computer aside and frozen the monster's legs in a block of ice; the time was ripe for the final attack. Sailor Moon raised the Moon Scepter in her hand, and the magic began to flow forth from her body. Mars looked on woozily as light and sparkling energy surrounded her princess until she shone like the midday sun, and now she allowed a full smile to come to her lips. Did Usagi know how beautiful she looked in the embrace of the Ginzuishou?
As she watched Sailor Moon wave her scepter through the air, gathering the energy and drawing it into a cleansing attack, Mars could not help but marvel at the blonde soldier's incurable habits. Even in the midst of a fight for her life, Usagi would always stop to help a friend. It was foolish. And yet...they always won. In the end, everything turned out all right. There had been so many battles, so many monsters, and despite it all they were all still here, alive, a unified team.
There were already four Sailor Senshi poised to concentrate always on the fight, the battle, the war. What harm could it do if just one of them was allowed to show a little compassion, even at the worst possible moment? With Sailor Moon, there was always hope, always faith that everything would be all right.
The blonde soldier swung her arm back, a trail of sparkling power following her scepter and gathering into the red orb at its top.
The ancient power of the Ginzuishou spilled from the depths of her soul and flowed into the growing maelstrom of energy.
With a decisive wave of the scepter, Sailor Moon released the magic she had gathered and it rushed at the monster in a wave of purifying energy. The creature howled as the power washed over it, eliminating any evil it touched, banishing the monster's very existence in the light of Sailor Moon's hope and desire for peace. When the storm of glittering energy cleared with a blast of cleansing wind, nothing of the creature remained.
Victory was theirs. The enemy was defeated, the peace was secured, the princess was safe, and that was all that mattered. Sailor Mars' eyes slowly slid shut as she finally gave in to the encroaching darkness, letting the heavy silence roll over her as she sank into oblivion.
It was warm.
The chill of the cold hard pavement had vanished, the wind had gone from the air, and she was lying on something soft and comfortable. Somewhere off to her right was a beeping sound, a steady beat that seemed to grow louder as consciousness returned. Opening her eyes, she found herself staring at a boring white ceiling of plain tiles. She felt weak, but that was definately air entering her lungs, and that was definately a pulse throbbing in her leg. She was alive.
It seemed a tremendous effort to lift her head and bend her neck so she could see the room around her, but she managed. From the look of the drab, sparsely-furnished room, she was in a hospital, lying in a bed wearing nothing but a thin gown. At least the blankets were warm. She was no longer Sailor Mars; the blood loss must have caused her to lose her transformation soon after she passed out. A monitor was beeping softly in the corner, and a needle had been stuck into her right hand, connected to a bag of clear liquid that hung overhead. Whatever was in the bag was apparently preventing her from feeling any pain. There was no sound filtering in from the hallway and no light beyond the closed curtains at the window; it was night.
With a sigh, Rei lay back against the pillows, blinking weighted eyelids that wanted to send her back into sleep. Something heavy was pressing on her left arm. With effort she rolled her head in that direction and looked down.
A head of soft blonde hair was lying there, a mound of sunshine against the dull white blankets. Its golden tresses were tied up into two neat balls. Usagi. She was fast asleep, her chair pulled up to the edge of the bed and her head resting on Rei's forearm. With her eyes closed, long lashes dark against her cheeks and rosy lips slightly pursed in sleep, she looked almost like the angelic princess she once had been.
Stupid Usagi. She had school in the morning; what was she doing at the hospital in the dead of the night? Even family members got sent home after visiting hours, and Rei did not want to think about what lengths the girl had gone to to sneak back into her room. The silly idiot.
Still, Rei could not prevent herself from smiling, just a little bit. It was nice not to wake up alone in the hospital. Usagi's head was terribly heavy on her arm, and Rei's fingers were completely numb, but she lay still, not wanting to disturb her visitor's sleep. Despite the weariness that was making her mind foggy Rei could not tear her eyes away from the pale face breathing softly against her skin.
Because of this girl, none of the Sailor Senshi would ever have to wake up alone.
Usagi could be so foolish, so reckless, so rash, so blind to the serious challenges that faced them as soldiers...but without her, would any of them find the strength to smile? The very same compassion that threatened to get Usagi into trouble had given her victory over her enemies time and time again. With that thought Rei had to wonder which one of them truly understood what it meant to be a Sailor Senshi.
Why did she do it? Why did Rei endure so much, fight so many endless battles, sacrifice everything she had to protect this flighty immature child?
The answer was so simple, so obvious.
For this. For this night, right here, lying in the hospital with Usagi asleep at her bedside, her cheek warm against her friend's arm. For the rare times when their usual roles were reversed and it seemed like Rei's own life actually mattered. For these precious rare moments when, just for a little while, Rei truly felt loved.
Surely that was worth all the pain in the world.
Bishoujo Senshi Sailormoon and its associated characters and canon are the property of Naoko Takeuchi and Kodansha.