Title: SATURN WAS, IS, WILL BE

Summary: As the reborn Hotaru's powers re-awaken, so do memories of her tragic past at the hands of the Outer Senshi.

WAS

Hotaru was four when she first held the galaxy's heart in her hands. It was not the real heart, just an image of it, but even as a child she knew that to destroy the image was to destroy the thing itself. It bristled in the cup of her sandy palms, like it recognized her, like it understood that beneath her thin, new skin lay a void that hummed with hunger.

"A child does not understand destruction; a child only understands how to destroy."

That's what Michiru had said that day, at the edge of the playground, ignoring Hotaru's hot cheeks and snotty tears. Hotaru's hands still stung from where she'd been pushed down, but worse was the pain of Michiru's grip, heavy and irresistible, a whole undertow trapped in the narrow woman kneeling before her.

"It doesn't matter what anyone else does. Never reach for that power. Hotaru," her voice stank of the coffee she'd be sipping with the other mothers. "Do you understand me? Never. You don't understand—" Michiru hugged her then, whispering the rest into Hotaru's scalp. "I hope you never understand it. What you are. Now go, grab your coat. We're leaving."

Hotaru didn't understand it. What she was. She didn't understand why she couldn't go to school. Why she needed three mothers. Why none of them would touch her. All she knew was that the more she found she could not understand, the closer she felt to understanding it all at once.

IS

Hotaru's body is five years old. Her mind is beginning to remember that she is much older. She cannot remember the shape of her former body; she can only remember its pain. The scars and the burns and scrapes. They form a pinprick constellation through which she glimpses her former life. She knows she was killed, once. She begins to wonder about the people who killed her, and why she feels there were three of them. She is not surprised when, through tears of frustration, her only friend Chibiusa finally tells her the truth.

"They are my mothers." Hotaru protests automatically. She's five.

"They are your murderers."

Hotaru is sure Chibiusa will say no more. Hotaru is used to the amputation of silence, and the resulting half-truths. She is surprised when Chibiusa decides to give her the rest of it.

"You will never how hard Sailor Moon fought for your life. How hard I fought to save you from the witches, from Master Pharaoh, from them." Chibiusa glares at the house. "But it wasn't enough."

Hotaru is a child of five for a few more days after that, until the precise moment when she understands that Chibiusa has not lied to her. Her childhood ends in violent illumination. After that, Hotaru is something else. Something that sits in its room at night, summoning forth the heart of the galaxy, staring into its drifting and drowsy core, flexing against it. Testing it. Teasing it.

WILL BE

Hotaru will be this way for a few months longer – desolate, void-eyed and petulant – until finally one of her mothers comes to her room. She thought it would be Haruka, or Michiru, who are quick to punish. Instead, it will be Setsuna. Hotaru will realize that Setsuna, who knows every future, must know what Hotaru plans to do, and Hotaru will interpret this as confirmation that she can in fact do it. She will feel dark pride.

And dread. As Setsuna leads her out of the house in the early hours of the morning, Hotaru will think about plunging her power deep into the world, a scythe of oblivion aimed at the galaxy's heart. She will be so distracted by this that she will not notice the doors appearing in the yard – the double doors of time that Sailor Pluto spent an eternity guarding – until they open with a hiss.

Two women will stand in the luminous void of the future.

Hotaru will not recognize the taller one until she sees the elegant Glaive. Hotaru will recognize it as her own. Hotaru will also recognize Chibiusa too, though this version is older. It will feel terrible to Hotaru to realize she will end Chibiusa when she ends the world. It will be even worse to see the way the two women hold each other, to recognize their tender, graceful affection, and to know that this future will never come to be.

Hotaru will reach for her power then, and will find that the Glaive does not budge from Sailor Saturn's grip. Sailor Saturn, feeling the tug, will smile.

"Someday," Sailor Saturn will say to her, "You will understand the devastation you feel, and you will understand the grand beauty of the second chance you represent. You live within that second chance now. We all do."

Hotaru will not want to hear this. She will be stiff as Sailor Saturn kneels before her and takes her small hand.

"Someday you will understand how people come to change. How slow it can be, but also how complete. You will understand metamorphosis better than anyone. And you will forgive your mothers for what they did. You will forgive them, because you will find a reason to fight for this world as hard as they fought for theirs."

Behind Sailor Saturn, Chibiusa will be watching, her arms cradling herself. Her scout uniform will be pale pinks and creamy whites, like a sunrise refracted through hovering mist and birdsong. She will become Hotaru's world.

Here, Sailor Saturn will hand Hotaru the Glaive, and Hotaru will realize that for the duration of this conversation she has been clutching the heart of the galaxy. She will realize that Sailor Saturn is entrusting her with not just the power to destroy everything, but permission, and Hotaru will realize she wants neither. She will take the Glaive anyways.

Hotaru will watch Sailor Saturn take Chibiusa's hand and vanish through the doors. She will hear Setsuna return to the house. She will be alone as the sun rises, sliding its rosy light through the hovering mist and birdsong.

White hands cradling her black weapon, Hotaru will let go of the galaxy's heart for the last time.