It was an anachronism of the highest order. A tall building made entirely of crystal (as, indeed, most buildings in Crystal Tokyo were), with three gleaming spires reaching up to the heavens...and one spire made of metal, with a pulsing red light on top of it. Coming closer, one could see the inside of the tower, with its dilapidated offices and mess strewn everywhere. The mess, however, looked calculated. It was as if, had the owner not concentrated, he would have found it gone the next day.

From inside the tower came the blast of loud music, a guitar-driven melody totally at odds with the city around it. One corner was set up as a booth, within, a man was just setting up the next record for play. He was tall and thin, with a large black leather hat that obscured most of his face. Blond hair peeked out from under it.

The song finished, and he faded out while grabbing the microphone set up next to him. "That was My Bloody Valentine, with the song 'Only Shallow'. A couple of listeners have actually asked me where they can find these songs. Well, you could try some second-hand record stores, but...it's taken me the better part of twenty years and a few trips outside Crystal Tokyo to get this collection. And the chances of any of you wanting to leave this ivory tower we call home are nil to minus-five. So my advice would be to tape these shows of mine. I don't mind bootlegs...can you have bootlegs in Crystal Tokyo? It's not as if the artists will be demanding royalties anytime soon. Reminder to all of you that the millennium is coming up soon. Yes, I know most of you celebrated it last year, but that was only 3000. The _real_ millennium is this year, as I explain to people constantly. Let's hope these next hundred years are as eventful as the previous hundred. Anyway, this is the end of tonight's broadcast. If you have questions, comments, and _especially_ complaints, please don't hesitate to tell someone. Please, it'll remind me that you can still be offended. *sigh* Sorry, didn't mean that. You know that I appreciate you listeners, and hope that you can ignore me when I get like this. Anyway, as always, here's our closing theme, by the Who. Heaven and Hell. This is Sean Gaffney, as your temporary bogus disc jockey, signing off."

As the song thundered through the booth, Sean sighed and took off his headphones. Reaching for his guitar, he began to play along with the music.

~Why can't we have eternal life, and never die?~ John Entwistle sang.

Sean sighed, and turned down the pickup. "Because eternal life sucks, John, that's why." He then began to pick out a slow, careful guitar solo on the guitar.

Made of Stone by Sean Gaffney

Sailor Moon is (C) 1997 Naoko Takeuchi. The various authors I namecheck are (C) themselves. This fanfic is very bad for you and should not be taken internally.

1. Birth

As Sean left the station carrying his guitar case and a few CDs, he was only mildly surprised to see Sailor Mars waiting for him. She looked a little less than happy, but then that was the norm for her.

"Hi there, Rei, what can I do for you?" he said.

Her eyes narrowed. You can start by calling me Sailor Mars."

Sean sighed. "All right." The other senshi didn't care if he called them by their real names, but it was a sticking point with Rei. He guessed it was because she lived her job more than any of the others, even Makoto. Still, he hated all the formality. "My apologies, Sailor Mars. What did you want to speak to me about?"

Rei glared at him suspiciously. "Are you making fun of me?"

Sean snapped right back at her. "No! Look, Sailor Mars, it's late, I'm tired, and I'm not in a mood to talk. If you can tell me why you wanted to see me, then -- "

"You are still trying to incite people to harmful, violent acts in your broadcasts. What you tell them to do is against the law of Crystal Tokyo. We have told you time and again..."

"You have told me. Personally. The others never come to see me, only you."

"I am here on behalf of Queen Serenity." Rei replied coldly.

"Does she know that?" Sean asked.

"Shut up!"

Sean wilted. He wasn't in the mood for this. They had had the same argument many times, and he didn't want to repeat himself. "Sailor Mars, listen to me. Yeah, I occasionally urge people to do things. Buy bootleg tapes, whoopee. Have a nude orgy in the streets, go for it. But I have never incited my listeners to do anything that would harm another person. Moreover, none of my broadcasts have convinced anyone to do anything."

"That's not the point!" Rei snapped.

"What is the point? That I'm trying to get people to have fun? That's not a crime."

"The people are already happy." Rei was starting to get extremely frustrated.

"Yes, but they're not having fun. There is a difference. The happiness in Crystal Tokyo is the staid, pleasant happiness of people who live for a thousand years and don't see a point in taking chances."

"What's wrong with Crystal Tokyo?"

"Nothing! That is exactly my point. It is a perfect world, where the people live in peace and harmony. It's also dull as dirt. Serenity has given me permission to do these shows. Until I get a personal visit from her, I will continue to conduct my broadcasts the way I see fit. Good night, Sailor Mars." And with that, he went down the stairs.

Rei stood there for a moment, trying to calm herself. *What is _with_ that guy? Why can't he appreciate what he has? Does he want to be miserable?*

***

*I can't believe I just had that conversation. Why don't I just change my name to Magnesite and be done with it?*

Sean walked on down the street towards his apartment. The fact that the street was a gleaming crystal, as was the sidewalk and most of the surrounding area, just served to add to his depression. *I'm going to have to take another trip to the outside world soon, just to remind myself how bad it can get.* Sean shuddered, remembering his last trip to the North American continent. *Then again...*

His reverie was broken by a cry to the side. He turned, surprised. It was almost two in the morning. The only people out were night owls like himself and guardians of justice like Rei.

A woman was standing by the shops. She was very pregnant, and it looked as if she was going into labour. Sean went over to her, attempting not to slip into panic mode, which was what he tended to do in situations like this. "Um, can I get you to a hospital?"

She looked up at him as if he'd grown an extra head. "The contractions are only a minute apart. I couldn't make it to the hospital. Help me down."

"Right, of course, yeah." Sean helped her slide down the building, so that she was about three-quarters on the ground. "Um...you're going to have this baby here, aren't you?"

She gave him another long look before answering. "Yes."

*Why didn't she get to a hospital earlier*, Sean thought. "This seems very sudden..."

"The baby is very anxious to come out," said the mother, fixing him with a cold stare.

Sean decided then and there to stop saying stupid things around this woman. "Um...I'd better go get some towels and stuff. Um...newspapers, I think those are good. Do you need hot water? Everyone always gets hot water..."

"You don't need hot water," said the woman, now beginning to pant heavily.

"Right, no water." Sean looked around. Where the hell was he going to get this stuff at two in the morning? Then, with a snort, he remembered where he was. He quickly opened the door of the nearest store and walked in. The crime rate of Crystal Tokyo being zero, no one bothered to lock their doors in the evening. He quickly went to the back and found some tea towels and a few other "absorbables" and went back outside.

The woman was concentrating on trying not to scream in pain. Sean put down as many of the towels as he could where the baby would be coming out. "Um...I'll need to check on the baby now."

"Yes, you will," she moaned.

He quickly got her dress up and peered around. *Well, I can't see a head,* he thought, *so that's a plus.* "Um...what's your name?"

"Keiko."

"Well, I'm Sean, and I'll do my best to the baby's head is showing oh dammit." The baby had apparently decided to make its appearance. "Um... push, breathe, you're doing great. The head is coming out now...should I be doing anything else besides waiting here like Johnny Bench?"

Keiko was really not in the mood to be answering his questions. "The gasp baby will come out whether you are pant there or not. Aaaargh!"

"Um, OK, the head's out. It seems to be coming out rather fast now - hey, wait!" Sean grabbed the baby before it could fall to the ground. He almost dropped it. "This thing is really slippery...towels, right, that's why they're there." He quickly wrapped the baby in a couple of towels and wiped the fluids off of it.

"Now, what's next - cord, right, cord. Um, need something sharp." Sean quickly searched his pockets and found them empty, and he couldn't go back to the store and just leave them here.

"Ah-hah!" Suddenly Sean opened his guitar case and found a spare E- string. "Interesting use for it, I'll grant you...hey, this is really hard to cut!" Finally breaking through, Sean then proceeded to attempt to tie the cord off. This took a couple of tries, but he managed it. Then he decided to check on the baby's sex. Girl, apparently.

He turned to Keiko. "You have a beautiful baby daughter."

Suddenly a glowing mark appeared on her head. Sean's eyes widened as he recognized it. *That's Saturn's sigil. Oh, _shit_.* He sat there for a few moments, staring at the girl. The sigil faded after a while. *No wonder she was anxious to be born. The first reincarnation of Saturn in a thousand years...*

Sean heard a cry coming from Keiko. *Dammit, why am I sitting here like a duck?* He turned, and then gasped. She was bleeding. _Much_ more than she should have been. There was blood everywhere. Sean proceeded to go into full panic mode. He grabbed some more towels and attempted to stop the bleeding, but this accomplished nothing. He looked at Keiko, she was beginning to haemorrhage. *I've gotta get her to a hospital!*

He tried to grab her in his arms, but she was a dead weight, and he couldn't let go of the baby. Suddenly she grabbed him, pulling her down close to her.

"I'm dying," she said.

"No, you're not," Sean replied frantically. "I'll get you to a hospital. It'll be all right. Just -- "

She pulled him right next to her mouth. "Promise me. Promise me you'll take care of Hotaru-chan. Will you?"

Sean gazed at her, stunned. "Of course I will."

She smiled. "Thank you. She's a very special girl."

*You don't know the half of it,* Sean thought.

Suddenly she began coughing blood. Sean tried to get her up, moving, so they could get her to a hospital. This had the opposite effect, unfortunately, and she collapsed to the ground. "I...love you...Hotaru-chan...Saturn-chan..." she murmured. *She knows?* Sean thought.

It took Sean a few moments to realise that she was dead. Surprising himself, he began to cry. *Why the hell did this happen? What did I do wrong? This is Crystal Tokyo, things like this aren't supposed to happen! Oh, god, I killed her!*

Hotaru cried, interrupting Sean's reverie. He realised that he needed to get Keiko's body someplace where she could be taken care of, and then get Hotaru-chan some food...water, he guessed.

Suddenly, he felt a rustle behind him. He turned. Silhouetted in the street were two Sailor Senshi. *Haruka and Michiru? Gods, they haven't been seen for _years_.* Still, he was grateful for any help he could get.

"Great. Um...I could use some help here. I don't know how she died, but she did, and now I've got to get her body to a safe place, and then there's Hotaru to...are you listening to me?"

Haruka looked at him coldly. "Give her to us."

Sean blinked. "Well, I know she's Saturn, but isn't this a bit quick? She was only born five minutes ago, I don't think we're _quite_ ready to start her training..."

Michiru answered. "Sean, you misunderstand. She cannot be in this world. It would be a disaster. Please. Give her to us."

*Cannot be in this world?* Sean began to back away. "Tell you what. First thing in the morning, I'll go to Serenity and we'll arrange something there. But for the moment, this kid needs food and shelter, and somehow, I'm getting really negative vibes from the two of you, so if you don't mind, I'll just be toddling along now." Sean moved more quickly now, trying to put space between him and the senshi.

Haruka began to move towards him. Michiru stopped her. "Remember, we can't take the chance of hurting anyone else. Serenity would --"

"I won't hurt him," replied Haruka. "I just want to get her and go. I can do that without harming him at all." She turned to Sean. "You have no concept of what you are doing. That is no ordinary baby. She cannot be allowed to live. What she will become would destroy us all."

Sean began to get mad. "Right, just like it did in the twentieth century. How I remember when the Earth was destroyed...but wait, it wasn't? What went wrong there?"

Michiru tried playing good cop again. "Sean, please. We don't like it any more than you do, but it needs to happen."

Sean glared. "Well, that's a shame. I don't like it at all, and don't see a need. So I guess you do like it more than me. This child's mother knew she was Saturn, and asked me to protect her. I'm beginning to see why. So if you'll excuse me..." And with that, he ran down the street as fast as he could, turning into a side alley almost as quickly.

Michiru turned to her companion. "Did you see the look on his face?"

Haruka nodded. "Yes. I don't think we'd be able to get her away from him now without force, and we can't do that. Our only hope is to catch her when he's not looking."

Michiru turned towards her. A tear was running down her face. "You realise what we'll have to deal with tomorrow. What Hotaru will..."

"Yes," Haruka replied. "I do realise."

Michiru began to collapse, and Haruka quickly hugged her to her body.

"Oh God, Haruka, I don't know if I can do it. Killing a baby requires all of my willpower, and I still feel damned. But seeing her the way she used to be...will we be able to kill her?"

Haruka wanted to answer yes. She wanted to be the strong one. But she could never lie to Michiru. "I don't know...I hope so. The future depends on it."

***

Sean realised that they'd probably try his apartment first, so he took Hotaru back to the radio station. *They'll check here second,* he thought, *but I don't plan to be here long.*

He quickly went to the mini-apartment he'd set up here for those nights when he felt like staying on the air all night. He'd been rather surprised to find that his listeners looked forward to these broadcasts. In fact, he'd been surprised that he had listeners at all. This was, after all, the city that rolled up its sidewalks at 6pm. But for some reason, the denizens of Crystal Tokyo found the antics of a DJ playing music from the 20th century to be fascinating. Not that they had any musical taste. Once, he'd actually gotten a request for the Three Lights. After boggling for a few moments, he put on the New Kids on the Block. It seemed to work just as well.

He laid Hotaru down on his bed, despairing for a moment that the quilt would be ruined, then went to the sink and got some water. Unfortunately, he had no bottles or any other type of baby food device. Looking around, he saw his rubber gloves used for washing dishes. He grabbed one, filled it with water, then pricked a hole in one of the fingers. "Bingo!" he said, and went back to check on Hotaru.

She was crying at the top of her lungs. *Great, just what I needed,* thought Sean. Still, one look at her shut off those thoughts. She was the most beautiful child he'd ever seen, even managing to look cute when crying. She also looked very helpless, laying there on his bed staring up at the ceiling.

*This will never be a child that could destroy the universe. I don't care what those two say. I will not allow anything to happen to her. I owe that much to her mother.*

He sat down on the bed, soaking his pants in the process, and picked her up carefully. After adjusting himself, he raised the ersatz bottle to her lips and squeezed the fingers. As soon as she began to get water, she shut up and concentrated on eating.

He looked down at her suckling. "Hi there, kiddo. I guess I'll be taking care of you for a while. My name's Sean Gaffney, and...well, my life story would take a while. Suffice it to say it's been interesting..."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Twenty-five years ago...

Sean got up and threw away the remains of his lunch. He felt a little uncomfortable, but it could wait until he got back to SNET. He would do _anything_ rather than use the bathroom at the Chapel Square Mall, a truly evil place.

*Back to the grind,* he thought. *And tonight, I can go back home, stare at the screen, and not write any more of my Urusei Yatsura story. Boy, the life I lead.* He quoted Crow T. Robot in his head. "Boy, imagine what it'd be like if something were _happening_!"

As if to praise his sense of drama, the sky opened up in front of him. "Oh, _shit_!" was all Sean had time to get out before his world was lit by the brightest light imaginable.

***

"Serenity! Are you all right?"

The Queen rose to her feet. "I...I think so. For a moment there, I lost control of the Crystal."

"That's what we were trying to improve, your Highness," said Ami. "Your control of the Crystal is good, but not perfect. And we need it to be perfect for when..."

"Yes," Serenity interrupted. They tried not to talk about the future they all knew about, when Nemesis destroyed their lives. "Don't worry, I can still feel the Crystal. I know what I did wrong now. All I have to do is..." She closed her eyes and reached out.

There was a noise like an explosion. Makoto and Rei quickly went to defend Serenity, but she seemed to be fine. She was holding the Mystical Silver Crystal, and had a bewildered look on her face. "That shouldn't have happened..."

Minako was the first to notice it. "Look!"

In the middle of the throne room lay a young man. He looked to be about twenty-five, though that meant nothing in Crystal Tokyo, where most denizens live to be a thousand. He was dressed in casual business attire, which was totally contrasted by the large black leather hat that perched on his head. He was also unconscious.

This meant nothing to Rei, who merely noticed an intruder in the throne room. "BURNING -- " she began.

"Rei, stop!" Serenity shouted. The command in her tone was enough to prevent Rei from following through with the attack, but she still rounded angrily on the Queen. "Your Majesty, we don't know -- "

Serenity cut her off again. "Yes, I do. This was my fault. When I lost control of the Mystical Silver Crystal...somehow it brought this man here. All I can tell about him is he is not from here."

"Not from Crystal Tokyo?" asked Makoto.

"Far worse than that."

Minako's eyes widened. "Is he...from another time?"

Serenity looked up, and her eyes seemed slightly pained. "Yes, but that is not all. He comes from the twentieth century...from another universe."

The senshi gasped. "Another universe?!?!" exclaimed Rei.

"Serenity, how can you tell this?" Ami asked, intrigued.

"I think...yes, I think I can divine it from the Crystal. It would appear your experiment worked, Ami." She looked down at the young man sadly. "If only it did not come at such a cost."

***

Sean woke up to a rather interesting sight. He appeared to be in a room made entirely of glass...no, crystal. *Great,* he thought, *I've died and gone to Crystal Tokyo.*

"Excuse me," said a voice from behind him.

He sat up and looked at the source of the voice, a woman in a gorgeous white gown, with a tiara and what could only be described as a big-ass sceptre. "Hello," she said. "I'm sorry if this comes as a shock to you. My name is Neo-Queen Serenity. Welcome to Crystal Tokyo."

Sean looked at her incredulously, then got a look at the other occupants of the room. *Senshi,* he thought. *I _am_ in Crystal Tokyo.*

The others were somewhat baffled when he began to laugh his head off.

***

"I beg your pardon?"

Serenity had the decency to look embarrassed. "I'm afraid I can't see a way to send you back. I don't really know why the Crystal brought you here in the first place. Still, you seem to be relatively healthy. Are you normally that underweight?"

"Yes," Sean grumbled. It was a sore point. "Let me see if I've got this straight. I am in Crystal Tokyo, in the year 2975. Furthermore, it looks as if I won't be able to get back to my time, because it's in another universe. And you're also telling me that, due to this Crystal, I'll live to be a thousand?"

"No. I said that most denizens of Crystal Tokyo live to that age. You, on the other hand, were exposed to it for a lengthy period of time. To hazard a guess, I'd say your lifespan is approximately the same as myself and the other senshi."

"And how long is that?"

"From what Sailor Mercury can detect, virtual immortality."

Sean's eyes glazed over. *Immortality. I must be dreaming. I'm dreaming that I'm Twister, or something like that.* He began to pinch himself.

Serenity looked at him worriedly. He would need to accept what had happened to him. He looked as if he was about to crack. She needed to do something.

"I know. Let me take you to someone who understands all of this better than any of us."

Sean looked up. "What, Sailor Pluto?"

The others froze. Rei looked about ready to blast him again. "Just how the hell do you know about her, mister?"

Sean sighed. "I thought you were only like this in fanfics. Anyway, Serenity told you I'm from a different universe. Ever read Heinlein?"

Ami was the only one to respond in the affirmative.

"Good, a nice brushup of The Number of the Beast would help. In my universe, you are all stars of a popular manga, later an anime, called Sailor Moon. I won't explain it all to you, because you probably wouldn't believe me anyway. Suffice it to say...well, actually, I may not know as much as I thought. I liked Sailor Moon, but wasn't fanatic about it. Not to mention the different continuities." He frowned. "God, this sounds trite. I apologise, I'm sounding really strange. Suffice it to say, I am fairly familiar with your antics from the period where Luna discovered Usagi Tsukino up until the destruction of Galaxia. The rest of these past thousand years is a blank page, I'm sure you'll be relieved to hear. Stop me when I'm babbling, please."

Serenity gently touched his shoulder. "Pluto really would be able to explain it better. She might be able to help. You do seem to be taking this better than I thought, though."

"No, I'm not," Sean explained. "I'm just not thinking of it. Allow me my denial, it'll make us all feel better. I'm in a universe where no one thinks it's odd that the defenders of Earth wear Japanese school uniforms. Onward."

He started to walk out of the throne room, being stopped after a moment by a cough from Serenity.

"Sean?"

He turned back. "Yes?"

She smiled sweetly. "Who's Queen?"

He flushed. "My...um...my apologies, your Highness. I'm not used to royalty."

Serenity glided out of the room, followed by the rest of the senshi. Rei brought up the rear, watching Sean closely. "Mr. Gaffney?"

"Yes?"

Rei smiled thinly. "My recommendation: _get_ used to it."

***

Setsuna looked up. For a moment, as she saw the man walking towards her, several expressions played across her face. Relief, fury, and finally a cold anger. She knelt down. "My Queen. I suppose that Mr. Gaffney's appearance is the reason for your visit."

Serenity had long since stopped being surprised at Setsuna's knowing everything. She just accepted it and went on. "Sean is having a little difficulty getting used to his presence here."

Sean piped in. "I'm having no trouble at all. I'm just denying it. If you could whack me on the head with your garnet rod, then I'll head on back and we can all feel better."

"No," Setsuna responded.

"I beg your pardon? What happened to all of that 'the sanctity of the timestream must be preserved' and such. Think of the damage I could cause -- "

Setsuna cut him off with a voice that could have melted diamond. "I know _exactly_ what your presence will do here, Sean Gaffney. Believe me, it is only for the preservation of this timeline that I do not try to kill you right now."

"Geh," Sean managed. He'd expected her to be cold. This hatred and rage was disturbing. "Um...I don't have any plans to freak out, become an evil sorcerer, and destroy the universe, if that's your concern. Um...thanks, now I really feel great. You've taken my mind off my lifespan by trying to make me think of why you hate me."

"Not, you, Mr. Gaffney, but a possibility. A possibility that, with your arrival, becomes ever closer to becoming true." Setsuna looked at him with those eyes that had seen not only everything that had been, but everything that will come.

"So send me back. Get rid of me."

"I cannot," Setsuna responded. "Your presence in this timeline is ordained. You do not go back. The best I can do is arrange for you to say goodbye."

Serenity had been listening to this exchange with a growing confusion. She decided not to worry about it, temporal mechanics was something best left to Setsuna. "Sean, we can help you get settled in Crystal Tokyo. There's no better place in the world. No crime, no poverty, no murders..."

Sean interrupted her, screaming out. "No _army_ no _navy_, no _arms_, no _ammunition_, no _treasury_, no _friends_. But bless my soul, _spirit_."

Serenity and Setsuna both looked baffled. "What?"

Sean looked up. "It's from '1776'. Sorry, I do that a lot. But quite frankly, the thought of living in a utopia scares me almost as much as immortality. There's no chance?"

Setsuna looked at him. "None. Believe me, I've looked."

Sean sighed, and lowered his head into his hands. "AAAAAAAIGGGHH." He then looked up. "Well, how 'bout employment. What is Crystal Tokyo short of?"

Serenity laughed. "We have everything, Sean. I've told you, it's a paradise."

A light bulb lit up in Sean's' mind. "Got a radio station?"

"A what?"

Sean grinned, his first real smile since arriving. "Can't be paradise without radio. Tell you what I'm gonna do...with your Majesty's permission, of course."

***

Date: Fri, 16 Jan 2975 13:26:54 -0400

From: gaffney@serenity.gov

Message-Id: 199801161726.NAA19354@mailhost.serenity.gov

Received: from 207.171.128.161 (nh-ts03-01.serenity.gov [207.171.128.161])
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Fri, 16 Jan 1998 13:26:54 -0400

Subject: Sean's Final Daily Rant

To: Zen databank@mindspring.com, Richard Lawson sterman@sprynet.com,
Nicholas Leifker nwl9354@unix.tamu.edu, Sebastian Weinberg
bastian@enterprise.mathematik.uni-essen.de

Hi, guys, guess where I'm calling from. ;-)

Some sad news to report. This will be my final Daily Rant, and I'm off-line as of today. The details would...well, bore you. Not to mention you wouldn't believe thing one of them.

Sorry I couldn't C&C LAWR 3, Zen. The little I looked at was excellent, and I'm glad that Eiko got a romance as well.

Richard, great to see the latest instalment in the Ranma/Kodachi fics. I am especially happy that their child is *nothing* like Nouma, despite the similar teachings.

Sebbie, where's the next Ranko 1/2? Waaaaah!

Nick, beautifully done, as always. Have you considered *happiness* as a new overarching theme? Just a thought...

The artist of the day is "Moonlight Romance" from Sailor Moon R Movie, for the selfsame reasons as above.

Bye-bye! God bless! And if a green-haired woman with a large staff drops by and tells you to forget everything you read, just ignore her. I do.

--Sean Gaffney

--trapped in the future, can't escape the past

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sean woke hurriedly. *I must have dozed off*, he thought. Then he remembered what happened earlier that night. Quickly he looked around for Hotaru.

And was rather surprised to see a naked four-year-old girl laying next to him, still sound asleep. She had the remains of the soiled towels around her, and a hairstyle that reminded Sean immediately of drawings of 20th century Hotaru.

*Time for a quote, I think,* thought Sean, still somewhat in shock.

"Fuuuuuuuuccccckkkkk mmmmeeeeeeeeeeeee......"

2. Four

*OK, don't panic,* Sean thought. *You knew there was a possibility that she might do this. The 20th-century Saturn aged ten years in a few minutes, didn't she? It goes with the job. Besides, look at it this way: no more diaper changes.*

Sean quietly went into the kitchenette to gather his thoughts. He checked the clock: it was about 6am. He and Hotaru needed to get out of here before Haruka and Michiru came along and tried to kill her again.

The real problem was that he knew why they were doing it, or at least thought he did. Saturn was the senshi of death and destruction, and almost destroyed the world when she awoke in the 20th century. Serenity had told him about Hotaru's death, where the girl had wasted away in a hospital. At the end, her eyes were almost totally black, and Serenity said that she could feel Hotaru battling with her soul for possession of her mind and body. If Saturn were reincarnated again, the same thing might happen, and the world might not be so lucky.

The rational part of him was berating himself for getting involved like this. *I'm in enough trouble with the court already without this mess,* he thought. There was the question of whether Serenity might banish him for his crimes. Much as he hated Crystal Tokyo, it was the closest thing he had to home. He didn't think he could stand being outside in the real world.

Where could he go for now? There was the shelter, that was a possibility. Of course, it would be impossible to stay too long in any one place. Perhaps if he kept moving. It wasn't necessary for him and Hotaru to be in hiding, just to remain unnoticed by the Senshi. And Crystal Tokyo, for all its faults, was _huge_. They couldn't possibly be everywhere. Perhaps they could roam the city, laying low but not totally out of sight, while he tried to figure out just how serious everyone was about this. The Outers would be adamant, he was sure. The mission above all. But he couldn't imagine Makoto or Ami condoning this. Not in such a cold-blooded way, and especially now that she was growing up.

"Hello? Daddy?"

The voice came from the doorway. Hotaru stood there, leaning against the wall sleepily. She was also completely naked, a fact that didn't register with Sean at first.

*Daddy?* he thought. *Am I her father now? I don't want to be a father! Fathers, for one thing, are far more mature than I am. Fathers wouldn't have sat there unable to do anything while the mother died.* He then noticed Hotaru's unclothed state. *Fathers would have been a _bit_ better prepared.*

"Um...hello, Hotaru-chan. No, I'm not your father. My name's Sean, and...I guess I'll be taking care of you for a while. Let's find you some clothes, OK?" He smiled at her and went back into his room.

Two minutes later, Hotaru stood in a pair of men's swim trunks that had the string pulled taut, and a T-shirt that fit more like a dress, with the words I DON'T CARE WHAT ANYONE SAYS, I _LIKED_ ISHTAR printed on it.

She looked up at Sean cutely. *Gods, how does she do that,* he thought. *Every move she makes is utterly adorable. If I don't watch it, I'm going to get really attached to her.*

"You look fine, Hotaru-chan! Now, let's see what I can rustle up in terms of food. We're going to be running all over creation today, and..."

"Why?"

Sean turned. He'd been hoping she wouldn't ask this question. He truly had no idea what to say. How much of her memory was Saturn? She could speak and walk and all the other stuff that four-year-olds could do...but she was one day old.

*Well,* Sean thought, *I have a choice. Don't tell her and risk her finding out some other way...like having her powers come to life during a confrontation - ick - or tell her who she is and risk...her powers coming to life _now_. Either way, if things go wrong I'll be dead before you can say Death Reborn Revolution.*

He looked over at her. She was looking earnestly at him, eyes alight with curiosity. *So much for free will,* he mused.

"Well, Hotaru-chan, there are some people after you. You're a very special girl, and some people don't realise that. You're...*sigh*...you're a reincarnation of the Sailor Senshi Saturn. When you grow up, you'll be a protector of this city, Crystal Tokyo. In fact, you'll be the most powerful of any senshi except for the Queen."

Her eyes got really big. "Really?"

Sean grinned. "Yup! I told you that you were special!" He looked at the clock again. "But we really need to leave here now, so that you'll have a chance to prove to everyone just how special you can be. Now, Hotaru-chan, do you have any favourite foods?" He was testing the limitations of her memory, having no idea how it really worked.

She shook her head, and Sean smiled. "Then you'll be eating what I eat. Let's pack!"

The packing took longer than he thought, as Hotaru asked about every single thing they packed. He chose sandwiches, liverwurst on rye, and a few apples. *Have to get milk out there, I guess. Why do I have this vision of Hotaru's picture on the carton?*

He stuffed the food into a bag and, after a few moments thought, added both of his Walkmen and a few tapes. *Just because we're on the run doesn't mean we have to live like fugitives.*

He took her hand. "The first thing we're going to do is get you some real clothes, and then we're going to take in the sites. This is your city, Hotaru-chan, despite what I may feel about it, and I'm going to give you the grand tour." He flung open the door, looked around approvingly at the lack of senshi, and breathed a sigh of relief. Turning, he thought about picking Hotaru up and carrying her on his back. The thought quickly vanished, and he decided instead to just take a few more rest breaks than usual.

"Where are we?"

"Crystal Tokyo, Hotaru-chan."

They went down the stairs, Hotaru still asking questions.

"What's that?"

Inwardly, Sean groaned. *Yep, she's a four-year-old, all right. I don't know if I can take this for long.*

***

"Your Majesty, please."

"No," Queen Serenity replied. "I gave you permission to do this, even though I thought it was wrong. Through the years, every time Saturn has been born into the world, you two have killed her. Every time, it has become harder. This time, she's gotten away. I can only imagine she'll be growing soon?"

Michiru answered reluctantly. "She looks about four years old already. We saw her leave Sean's radio station. She...she looks just like she did when we were raising her. I -- " Michiru couldn't continue, and broke down quietly. Haruka slid her arms around the woman, and looked up at the Queen again.

"You saw her right at the end, Highness. She was one of the sweetest, most gentle people I have ever met, and yet the darkness had almost consumed her. What would she be like now?"

"Precisely," said Serenity. "Now that she has had a thousand years of rebirth and death, of frustration. Each killing has gotten harder. I don't think that's accidental. Saturn wants to live, and I'm not sure we're powerful enough to stop her this time. It almost devastated us when she was Mistress Nine."

She sighed, a deep sigh of frustration and pain. "I should have thought of this earlier. It was a decision made when I was still unsure about myself, when I didn't think I would be able to do this properly. It was the wrong decision."

Looking up at Haruka and the now recovered Michiru, she said, "Please find them and invite them to the palace. We will not kill her. But perhaps if we find her quickly enough...have you talked about this with Setsuna?"

Haruka and Michiru looked at each other guiltily. "Not this time. I mean, Setsuna's still getting into her position..."

Serenity smiled. "Meaning you don't want to deal with a 12-year-old."

"My Queen, she only became aware of her powers last year..." Haruka began.

Serenity kept smiling. "Setsuna was aware of who she was from the moment she could walk. She just chose to tell _us_ about it last year. I think she wanted to have a normal childhood. No Saturn or Pluto has ever been able to do that, you know."

"Haruka and Michiru stared at Serenity, stunned. "She _knew_?" Michiru exclaimed. "Why wouldn't she tell _us_, of all people?

"There are certain aspects of Pluto's psyche that are different this time, as there are between you and your Silver Millennium selves. When she told us that she knew of her senshi past, I had a long meeting with her. She is even more secretive than her predecessor. However, there is no malice in it. I informed her that, as long as there was no danger to the fabric of time, or to Crystal Tokyo, that she could behave however she wants. I think that upset her; she wanted me to be flustered. In many ways, Pluto is still a child, yes. Saturn is the only one of us who can grow at the rate she does. However, Setsuna is still Sailor Pluto. That means that in situations as serious as this, you will consult with her."

Serenity coughed. "I apologise; I don't like to reprimand."

Haruka and Michiru smiled. Serenity's reprimands were the politest they had ever heard. Moreover, they got the point. "Do you think the fact that Setsuna hasn't contacted us means that Hota...that Saturn doesn't have the blackness in her this time? That there is no danger in a thing like Mistress Nine emerging?"

Serenity's smile seemed to dim. "On the contrary, it is there. I can sense it, somewhere in the city. It's the same force that took her from us a millennium ago."

Haruka tensed. "Then why are you trying to stop us?!"

"Because, as you say, Setsuna has not said anything yet. Which makes me think that, perhaps, there could be a different answer this time." She turned away, walking over to the throne. "Have you ever wondered why Sean is still in Crystal Tokyo? Why he was brought here in the first place? Perhaps this is why. Of all the people to come across the baby, he was the one. The one person not of the senshi who would fully understand the consequences of what he is doing."

She turned back, and her eyes hardened. "Find them both. Please. And then bring them here."

***

Hotaru was having a ball. Sean had taken her all over the place, to buildings with food and clothes and toys. She kept asking about them all, even though it seemed as if he was getting tired of her doing so. That was what made it more fun, of course!

The problem was, they kept on having to stop every half hour or so because she was getting tired. Hotaru would insist that they go on, but then she'd start to feel woozy and Sean would force them to rest.

*Stupid body!* she thought. *I should be able to do whatever I want. Instead I've got this stupid body that makes me tired, and I can't see everything because I'm too short to see anything because of my _stupid_ body and I wish that I wasn't so tired...*

Even as she thought this, she was beginning to feel fatigued. Sean had brought her to a place he called a museum, with all sorts of big planes and cars, and even more boring pictures of people. She was so sick of looking at pictures she'd stopped asking questions, to see if he'd get the hint.

He hadn't. "See, Hotaru-chan? This is a shot from where Crystal Tokyo was first created, back in the early 21st century. You can see all of the senshi...well, except for you, but...anyway, this was a big day!"

Focusing on the picture, Hotaru noticed that three of the people weren't smiling. "Why aren't those people smiling, Sean?"

She could see Sean getting uncomfortable, which she knew meant that there was something that he didn't want her to know. She got more persistent. "WHY? WHY? WH-"

Three whys did the trick. Sean shushed her and sat down on a bench. "Well, Hotaru-chan, the girl who came before you as Saturn, who was also named Hotaru, had died that year. Those other three senshi had brought her up, so they felt as if their own child had died. They loved you very much." Sean seemed somewhat subdued as he said this. Hotaru could tell his thoughts weren't with her. She should draw attention to herself in some way.

But she was still looking at the picture. It stirred odd thoughts in her head, complicated ones that she hadn't had before. Memories of names...


#Haruka-papa, Michiru-mama, Setsuna-mama, don't worry. I'll always love you, and I'll always understand.#

#Usagi-chan...Serenity...promise me that you won't let it happen again. Promise me.#

#I'm sorry...I should have been stronger. Forgive me...#


Hotaru was aware of Sean clutching at her, screaming in her ear, but she could barely hear him. Instead, there was a fog that seemed to fill up her body, that invaded her mind, and it was telling her to wake, it wanted her awake for some reason...but she was already awake, wasn't she?

Hotaru collapsed screaming to the floor.

***

It was rising now, feeding on her pain and fear. Saturn was not yet fully in control, so it exerted as much of its force as it could. It told her that her real mother was dead, that Saturn had killed her. It said that she had her friends trying to kill her, that they all hated her and wanted her to die. It pounded in her head that Setsuna, Haruka, Michiru, all of them wanted her _DEAD_.

Suddenly there was a resistance. It could hear another voice, outside the girl's head, soothing her, stroking her hair, and whispering that everything would be all right. The girl tried to explain that everyone hated her and wanted her dead, but the other voice insisted that wasn't true, that they didn't hate her. The other voice also said that he loved her.

Suddenly it sensed a loss of control. The girl wasn't relying on it anymore, it couldn't feed on her. This had happened once before, a millennium ago, when her father had attempted to soothe her.

It decided to wait. If it bided its time, surely another opportunity would present itself. Saturn was still unsure, had still not taken control. It had to strike before she did.

But before it settled back, it left a bit of itself in the other, just as it had with her father so long ago. He wouldn't notice it at first, but it was enough for passive control.

Next time, it was sure. The next time, it would make its influence known. To all.

***

"No, that's all right. Thank you for the offer."

All Sean wanted to do was take Hotaru and get out of here. Unfortunately, the denizens of Crystal Tokyo were always polite and helpful, so as soon as they saw her collapse, they bombarded him with offers of help. After all, illness was incredibly rare here, and seeing someone collapse was unheard of.

Finally, after assuring everyone that he was taking her right to Queen Serenity to get her looked at (yaright), he made his way out of the museum. *I suppose it'd better be the shelter after all,* he thought, and wended his way down a side street.

Hotaru lay in his arms, and seemed to be sleeping normally. She looked a little more pale, but that was about it. Seeing her screaming in pain like that had scared the life out of him. He'd never felt so helpless before. All he could do was hold her as she convulsed...

*Stop it,* he yelled at himself, but that did not prevent the memories from churning up in his mind...

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Twelve years ago.

Serenity waited in her throne room. This was the time when she usually met with her subjects, but she hadn't been doing much of that lately. All of the senshi had been preparing for the Black Moon War as best they could.

Not that there was a whole lot they could do. They knew exactly what would happen to them. Serenity knew what would befall her people, her city, and it cut her heart open to think about it. She would have welcomed not knowing the future, not being aware for the past thousand years that this day would come.

However, Sean Gaffney had asked to see her today. At first, she was going to politely refuse, but then she realised. Sean must know exactly what was going to happen. For that reason, she let him in.

He was dressed in the outfit he wore on his 'arrival', which was the closest he ever came to formal attire.

Serenity turned to him. "Yes, Sean?"

Sean knelt in a bow. "Your Highness, I wanted to run something by you quickly if you don't mind."

Serenity smiled. Sean, even though he had picked up the motions of respect to the throne, had never really gotten the hang of talking to the Queen. It was fairly refreshing, actually. A number of her subjects tended to avert their eyes when talking to her and so forth. Sean was direct and to the point.

"Um...well, your Highness, I've no idea _exactly_ when it's going to happen, but I do know it's soon. You know. That which must not be mentioned?"

Serenity sighed. "The throne room is unlikely to be bugged, Sean. You may talk about the Black Moon Family."

Sean blinked. "Of course, my apologies. Um...well, I kind of know what's going to happen, and..."

Serenity began to get the drift of his conversation. "Sean, do you want permission to leave Crystal Tokyo again?"

Sean jerked up. "No, no! Um...I was out there a couple of years ago, and believe me, I've had my fill of outside for a while. Nothing like 30th century North America to remind you why Crystal Tokyo is still the most wonderful place on Earth. No, I'm planning on staying. But...well, I've found this place. It's underground, and fairly well hidden. I was thinking I could turn it into a shelter."

Serenity frowned. "You need my permission to build a bomb shelter? Sean, if you want to, just -- "

"That's not it either. God, I'm terrible at this. I want your permission to bring others in. I feel bad enough as it is that everyone will be dying soon - " Serenity flinched, and she saw Sean wince - "My apologies, your Highness. Um...I want to see if I can save some of them. I'm making it independent of outside air, so that the poison can't get in, and...well, as I said, it's pretty out of the way."

Now Serenity saw what he meant. Knowing the future was one thing, but he wanted to change it. He wanted to save some of the people. She should have seen this coming. Sean had been getting increasingly frustrated over the past few years. Setsuna had said that he'd been brought here for a purpose, but all he'd done was start a radio station, gather a few fans, and annoy Rei. He needed to do something to justify himself, and he thought this was it.

Perhaps it was. Setsuna had not told Serenity exactly what Sean's purpose in Crystal Tokyo was, only that there was a possibility that his presence would lead to Crystal Tokyo's destruction. Serenity could see that Setsuna was deliberately avoiding the other possibility, not even wanting to mention it. And so Serenity respected her silence.

She didn't want to think of Setsuna, not now, though. Knowing how little time she had left made it difficult for her not to cry. Instead, she turned back to Sean, who was staring at her uncertainly.

"I agree, with one condition. You must not reveal to _anyone_ else what will happen. You may not tell them of the Black Moon Family's invasion."

This seemed to upset Sean. "How am I supposed to get them to go into a shelter if I can't tell them why?"

Serenity merely smiled. "I will also let you know about half an hour before when the Family will invade. But that is all I can do. I cannot defy history. The rest...that is up to you."

***

Sean starred at his handiwork. Looked pretty stable, though he wasn't a great judge of architecture. He'd put enough food and supplies in it for two months. That should be enough time, the invasion was fairly quick.

*Assuming this _is_ the manga,* he thought. Knowing what was going to happen wasn't nearly as frustrating as thinking you did and then being proved wrong. He'd found a few inconsistencies with what he'd read. Chibi-Usa had been born only eight years ago, so that was different. And the Lights were still around, though Serenity had sent them, along with Haruka and Michiru, off on a mission to avoid messing up the timelines.

Sean sighed. *Ordinary 20th-century anime fan is zapped into one of the more popular titles. Let's face it, I'm only fooling myself. I'm in an authorfic. And when I find myself, I'm going to kill me for what I've done to me.*

That seemed to be it. He had one last thing to do, and he was all set. Luckily, while Crystal Tokyo citizens may be placid, and uncaring about the stasis they existed in, they still had curiosity. That was what Sean was counting on.

***

He'd just received the word from Serenity. Half an hour until the end. It was fairly depressing. Despite his problems with it, Crystal Tokyo was home. If it hadn't been, he'd probably have run off somewhere else when the invasion came. Instead, he was here, trying to save at least a few lives in a desperate attempt to be heroic.

*This is really stupid,* he thought one last time. Then he pulled the sheet off the large sign he'd attached to the front.

There weren't too many people around, this was a pretty out of the way place, as he'd told Serenity. Still, a few people were making their morning rounds, when they came across a large, flashy-looking sign above a nondescript building.

THIS WAY TO THE GREAT EGRESS!!! it read.

A few people wandered over, to find Sean dressed up like a carnival barker, waving a pointer around.

"Ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages, may I direct your attention to the door in question! At first, it seems to be merely an ordinary door. But inside lies a cavalcade of wonders merely dreamt of by fantasists! Why, we've got jugglers, we've got clowns! Short, dusky beauties will read you poetry while serving coffee, and barbershop quartets will terrorise you with their close-harmony singing! Why, if you enter now, I'll throw in, at no extra charge, a free set of continental luggage! You have no idea what this door can do for you if you enter! It slices, it dices, it lifts, it separates, it can turn you into a nine-year-old Hindu boy! Simply enter now, give half an hour of your time, and I guarantee you'll never regret it! And best of all, my friends, it's absolutely FREE!!!"

The door lay open invitingly, and several people went inside. They were rather surprised by what they found. A large space blocked off by several curtains. There appeared to be a few corridors off to the side. But what dominated the room was a large clock, which was ticking at 19 minutes, and seemed to dazzle the eye. They sat down, willing to be entertained by the odd man. After all, with such an introduction, whatever was happening had to be _big_!

***

Sean sighed, put down the megaphone, and covered the sign over again. No sense attracting attention now, he thought. He'd gotten around 20 people or so in there. They would probably be a little annoyed with him when the shit hit the fan, but, in his opinion, it was infinitely preferable to being dead. He'd explain when he got back in there.

Looking up, he saw a cute blonde girl run up to him. "Am I too late?" she asked. "I went home to get my brother, but he wasn't there."

Sean smiled. "No, you're just in time. Lemme open the door again..."

Suddenly a shadow fell over them. Turning around, the girl saw a handsome young man with white hair, wearing an inverted black moon crescent on his forehead. It was the last thing she saw. He quickly picked up the screaming girl, and as Sean watched in horror, burned her alive using only his hands. She cried out one last time, then her charred corpse hit the ground.

Sean looked up. His mind wouldn't let him think about the little girl's death. *Fuck,* he thought. *They're about five minutes early. Doesn't the Black Moon Family believe in keeping a schedule?*

He quickly ran for his life. Taking off as far from the shelter as he could, he was relieved to note that the young man did not appear to be following him. *Any luck I can get,* he mused.

Suddenly, he smacked into someone else. Female, he noticed. She grabbed him and began to help him up. That was when he noticed that she also wore a Black Moon crescent.

He didn't even have time to think as the flesh was torn from his body.

Esmeraude dropped the corpse and moved to her brother. "The palace?" she asked.

Demand smiled. "The palace."

***

Suddenly, he was alive again. That was the only way to describe it. A force came and just _lifted_ him into the air, repaired his body, and then set it down. As he looked around, he could see the city repairing itself. It was over. Serenity had won.

He sank to the ground. He'd been killed. He remembered every little detail of his death, and it almost made him throw up. He began to shiver.

Slowly, he controlled himself and got up. He started to stumble back over towards the shelter. He felt fine now, stronger, but his mind was in no shape to deal with that, so he stumbled because he thought that he should.

The girl was laying on the ground. The one he hadn't been able to get to the shelter in time. She was crying with great shuddering sobs. He helped her to her feet, but as soon as she saw him she drew away.

*Of course, she probably associates me with her death.* He let go of her and tried to smile.

"Go find your family, little one. Let them know you're all right."

Looking back at him one more time, she ran off without a word.

Sean sighed, and then turned towards the shelter. The door was opening, and people were emerging. They had a haunted look about them. For Sean and the others, it was as if time had stopped after their deaths. These people had seen the entire war, however. They blinked at seeing the outside restored. Crystal Tokyo looked good as new. Serenity's magic at work.

Many of the people were crying, looking at the people recovering on the street and not being able to take it. They had never been prepared for this, not in the entire history of Crystal Tokyo.

Sean walked away, not even bothering to check on them. *Well, congratulations, Sean,* he thought. *You saved them. Do you feel like a hero now?*

No, he didn't. He still would have done the same thing. Anything was preferable to dying, even if it was only temporary. He'd done the right thing. That he was sure of.

He got home, but got no sleep that night. Whether it was the experience of dying or the faces of those coming out of the shelter, he couldn't say.

The nightmares began the next night.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Hotaru woke up. She was happy to see that the thing screaming in her head was gone. In fact, they weren't in the room with the pictures anymore. Instead, they seemed to be in a dimly lit room with no windows, shelves stacked with cans. Sean was standing near a wall, attempting to stick something into the light switch. It zapped him and he quickly backed away. Hotaru giggled. Sean always cheered her up.

He turned towards her. "Hi, Hotaru-chan. How are you feeling?"

She smiled. "I'm fine. Where are we going next?"

She saw Sean roll his eyes. "It's late, Hotaru-chan, and you need to sleep. We'll stay here for the night. I don't think anyone knows of it apart from Serenity, and I don't think she'd be searching for us. Besides, even if you aren't tired, _I'm_ exhausted, and I need to sleep just as much as you do."

She pouted a little, but then saw Sean start to droop, so she grinned. She remembered something from when...whatever it was had happened. That Sean had done something. Said something. What was it?

Suddenly she remembered. "Sean?"

He was laying out two sleeping bags. "What is it, Hotaru-chan?"

She looked up at him with a serious expression on her face. "Do you love me?"

He seemed very startled by the question. Then he smiled at her again. "Of course I love you, Hotaru-chan. Why do you ask?"

She grinned again. "Just checking."

"Well, don't worry. I'll _always_ love you, Hotaru-chan, no matter what."

"Even if I become Sailor Saturn?"

That made him jump, and he almost backed away from her. She wondered if she had said the wrong thing. She wasn't even sure what she had meant, just that it was something she needed to ask.

Finally he looked up, and he was smiling again. "Yes, Hotaru-chan. Even then."

He settled down and set aside some clothes. "Just in case you have another growth spurt," he said. She could see he was getting tired, he could barely keep his eyes open. He got out a weird earmuff thing, put it on his head, and said, "Goodnight, Hotaru-chan. Go to sleep now."

"What's that?" she asked.

"Hm?" he said, with his eyes still shut. "It's a Walkman. I can't go to sleep without listening to music. I've got one for you in here if you'd like..." He reached into their bag and pulled out another one of the devices, handing it to her. "There should be a tape in it. Jus' put the headphones on an' hit play. G'night...yawn... Hotaru-chan." He lay back down.

She put the earphones on and hit the start button. Immediately, her ears were assaulted with sound. After fiddling with the thing, she found a dial that reduced it.

She lay back down and listened to the music. She turned and looked at Sean. He was asleep, but he still had a serious expression on his face. She liked it better when he smiled.

*Maybe he'd smile more if I got bigger.* With this in mind, she slowly fell asleep, the music and her thoughts running together in her head.

***

Sean woke up, and slowly remembered where they were. He'd better get a move on. He had decided to take Hotaru-chan just outside the city. The homeless from around Japan all gathered around the edges of the city, and he knew there would be less of a chance of them being found.

He quickly turned back to Hotaru. He wondered if she'd grown during the night.

She wasn't there. Immediately, he began to panic. He quickly scanned the room, shouting out "HOTARU-CHAN?!"

"In here!" called a voice. He sighed with relief. The bathroom, of course. He began to gather up their belongings and pack for their next journey.

He could hear her come up beside her. "Is this OK?"

Turning, he looked at her in shock. She looked about sixteen now. She was dressed in an off-the-shoulder blouse and hot pants. The reason they were off the shoulder and so tight was that Sean had bought clothes through the age of twelve, but not older. She didn't have a bra, as he hadn't really thought that far ahead, so her breasts were very obvious to the eye. She looked up at him in amusement.

"Gah?" was all he got out.

She smiled. "You think you've got problems? I just went through puberty in one evening. Not recommended, unless you have the stamina of your average Grateful Dead fan."

That did it. Sean's eyes rolled up, and he fell back down to the floor with a not-so-graceful plop.

"Was it something I said?" Hotaru mused.

3. Sixteen

Sean looked on in amazement as Hotaru picked out outfits. They had stopped to do some shopping before they headed out. Sean had left his camping gear back at the apartment, and needed to get a tent and some sleeping bags. Furthermore, he insisted that Hotaru get some clothes on her that actually left something to the imagination.

Her choices surprised him. She'd gone with a simple T-shirt and jeans, with black slip-on shoes and a beige fedora. It looked wonderful on her, and more to the point...

It was exactly the sort of outfit he'd have chosen if he'd been in her position.

For some reason that he couldn't fathom, Hotaru had not only aged to sixteen overnight, but also seemed to get some of his own memories. They weren't personal experiences, they were just general twentieth-century trivia. She joked about Mystery Science Theater 3000, and namechecked Bill Hicks and Steven Wright.

Sean had the rather disturbing idea that Saturn was behind this. For some reason, Saturn wanted Hotaru to be linked to him. This wouldn't bother him normally; indeed, he'd definitely been drawn to the little girl he was leading around.

But that was totally different compared to what he was feeling now.

Hotaru had been treating him as her boyfriend from the moment they'd left. She'd hung on his arm, made little wisecracks at what he was saying. He'd reminded her that they were still supposed to be hiding, and she'd gone on about how romantic the whole thing was, just like Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant...

Did she really feel anything for him? She was certainly acting that way, but he didn't know if it was just a show. For that matter, he couldn't be sure that her feelings weren't being manipulated by Saturn.

He was also developing new feelings for her, something he definitely did _not_ want to think about. She was only two days old, fer Chrissakes! Admittedly, she looked especially cute and attractive, and she seemed to be attracted to him, but...

It was too soon. He couldn't go into those feelings now. He'd wait to see what happened. She looked to be about sixteen now, presumably Saturn wouldn't have her age much more. That gave him a little time to work out exactly what the relationship was between himself and Hotaru.

*And of course, we're still on the run, and we don't have a real concrete plan for getting away, and there's Hotaru's collapse yesterday to worry about. Just another red-letter day,* Sean thought.

"Sean, look!" Hotaru had dragged him to another shop window. This one featured...

A wedding cake.

Gently dragging her away, Sean said, "Hotaru, let me teach you about a marvellous concept called subtlety..."

***

They'd just left the gates. Sean felt a _lot_ better now. The senshi didn't go past the borders of Crystal Tokyo unless they had to. The other countries preferred that Serenity kept her magic well out of their affairs, and Serenity held to their wishes.

This did leave the problem of safety, though, as once outside Crystal Tokyo, all bets were off as to how long you'd last. Sean had taken a small gun with him when they left the station. He'd purchased it in North America during his first visit there, and smuggled it back in. He hated the thought of using it, and mainly wore it as a threat to others when out in the real world. Now, however, he wasn't just protecting himself. He was protecting Hotaru. If anyone tried anything with her, he'd have no qualms about using it.

Not that he expected _too_ many problems. The area immediately outside of Crystal Tokyo was generally acknowledged by all as neutral territory; no questions asked, no answers provided.

Hotaru was looking around curiously. "Where are we headed now?"

Sean smiled a bit. Growing up hadn't gotten rid of her intense curiosity; perhaps that was a Saturn trait.

"We're going to stay with some people I know for the night. They live out here, for the most part, and won't spread the alarm if we happen by. *Not that I'm going to tell them who she really is,* he added to himself. "There are a lot of people that live out here. They're not exactly homeless, they just...the peace of Crystal Tokyo can be an addictive thing to some people. If they can't get it directly, they try to be as near to it as possible."

Hotaru grinned. "You sound so philosophical." Suddenly she doubled over in pain. She didn't cry out, but Sean could tell it was a strain not to. Immediately he was holding her in his arms, stroking her hair and attempting to soothe her the way he had the day before.

"It's OK, Hotaru-chan, I'm here. It's all right. We'll -- mmmph!"

Hotaru had grabbed Sean and twisted him around, and was now kissing him passionately. His mind reeled. At first he wanted to stop her, then realised that if he did, she might get even worse. Then, after a moment or two, he didn't want to stop her. He let her deepen the kiss, wrapping his arms around her. It seemed to go on forever...

After a while, he realised that she had stopped trembling. In fact, he'd swear she was all right. He risked pulling away a little bit.

"Hotaru-chan?"

She smiled up at him. "Thank you, Sean. I feel all right now." There wasn't a hint of guile in her voice. Sean wondered, however, just how long she'd held that kiss after recovering.

She was looking at him in a come-hither way, and he coughed. "I'm glad you're better, Hotaru-chan. Do you know what's causing the problem?"

She frowned at this. "I...think I do, but it's not...my mind won't go near it. It's...the same thing happens when I try to think of Saturn, but I don't think they're connected..." Her face was confused.

Sean was shocked. *It's _not_ Saturn? Then what the hell is it? Oh, gods, she's not going to turn into Mistress Nine again, is she?* Suddenly he remembered Haruka and Michiru, the night of her birth. *She could destroy us all. What she could become could destroy us all.*

What if they weren't talking about Saturn?

Sean came out of his stupor to find Hotaru-chan tugging on his arm. "Sean, wake up! I thought you said that they're weren't any Senshi out here?"

Looking up, Sean noticed five figures in the distance, headed towards Crystal Tokyo. *What the hell?* he thought. They were wearing sailor suits, no mistaking that image. Looking around, he noticed a large tree nearby. He grabbed Hotaru and shoved her up into its branches. "I'll see what they want, and if they've been ordered to capture us. You are to stay here, unless they start to take me away. Do you understand?"

Hotaru looked down from the tree, a little uncertain. "Yes..."

"Good. Stay here." Sean turned, and began to casually wander over towards the senshi. As he got closer, he realised that there were a lot of them that he didn't recognise. *What, did they have a recruiting drive recently?* Then he noticed who was at the head of their party.

"Usagi? Is that you?"

Usagi Small Lady Serenity smiled at him. "Hello, Mr. Gaffney. I imagine it's been a few years since you've seen me, huh?"

Sean gaped. "You can say that again! You look...really grown-up! You should call me Sean now, speaking of that. I guess Sailor Chibi-Moon is no longer an option, huh?"

Usagi laughed. She had more of an alto voice now, sounding nothing like her mother. *Probably for the best,* Sean mused.

"Let's hope that I can convince the others as easily," she said.

Sean returned to the topic at hand. "So," he said, attempting to sound natural, "what are you doing out in the sticks?" Suddenly her remembered something from one of the mangas he'd read. "Are you trying to find that boyfriend of yours? Elric?"

She blushed. "Elios. No, not yet. Soon, though," and she smiled again. *One hell of a smile,* Sean thought. *Crystal Tokyo better duck when she gets back. Not as beautiful as Hotaru's but...* Sean immediately clamped down on that thought.

Then he noticed the other senshi around her. "Oh, right! The Amazoness Quartet!" The four girls frowned, and he could swear that he saw sparks fly from one of them. "Um...check that, the _former_ Amazoness Quartet. Currently the Asteroid Senshi, right? Sailor John, Paul, George, and Ringo?"

This was not helping their mood, which was turning rather dark. Usagi came to his rescue. "You'll have to excuse Sean, he acts like this sometimes. He's from another dimension."

"Barcelona. In Spain." Sean added. He heard a faint giggling from the tree near him.

Usagi paused in confusion, and then went on as if Sean hadn't spoken. "Perhaps if you just introduced yourselves."

The four spoke up in turn. "Sailor Pallas."

"Sailor Juno."

"Sailor Vesta."

"Sailor Ceres."

Sean bowed low. "Delighted to meet all of you at last." He turned back to Usagi. "So this is why you haven't been around for the past year or so."

"That's right. My parents wanted me to practise with my powers, but there are very few threats in Crystal Tokyo. In addition, I wanted to look for my friends. It seemed about the right time, for some reason."

"Gut feeling," Sean said. "Believe me, we _all_ get those. Well, I guess congratulations are in order."

Usagi smiled. "Thank you."

Sean grinned. "I had assumed you were back in the past, trying to seduce your father again." Usagi glared at him, and Sean realised he'd gone a bit too far. "My apologies, your highness. I tend to speak without thinking. You have grown into a truly beautiful woman, and I can only assume your skills as a senshi are equally wonderful."

Usagi grimaced. "Thank you, empty flattery always takes the sting out of an insult."

Sean decided to change the subject. *We're really doing well here, dickweed. What's the matter with you?* he muttered to himself. "Heading back to the palace?"

Usagi nodded. "I want to formally swear them into the senshi proper. Then...I don't know. We might go back out there."

"They don't want you there," Sean sighed. "Most of the world sees Crystal Tokyo as an aberration. They certainly don't want five girls out righting wrongs."

Usagi looked at him. "Do you have any other suggestions?"

"Nope. Crystal Tokyo is an island unto itself. My advice would be to try and find a position in the Royal Court. Because monsters and the like are in short supply here."

He paused. "Sorry, I don't mean to get you down. Why not try the non-senshi life for a while? Go to college, date, whatever. You're a real heartbreaker, you could knock a few eyes out. All of you," he added, looking around. "Though the five-foot braids are...a bold fashion statement, to say the least."

Usagi looked like she was ready to wrap up the conversation; the others looked ready to kill him. "We'd best be going, Sean. Good luck on your travels."

"Hm? Oh, yes, just another trip, nothing out of the ordinary at all." Sean rubbed the back of his neck and tried to look innocent, a look that did not come easily to him. "Again, my congratulations to all of you."

Usagi smiled, though the others looked as if they weren't entirely convinced of his sincerity, and the five of them moved off back to the gates of the city.

*That could have gone better,* he thought. Sean frowned. Though he was never much of what you'd call a people person, he usually knew when to shut up. Evidently he was more tired than he thought.

(Inside him, a piece of darkness snickered.)

Sean waited a few minutes, then went up to the tree. "Coast is clear." He waited, then looked up. Hotaru was sitting in the tree with a blank look on her face.

*Uh-oh,* he thought. "Hotaru-chan? What's the matter?"

She finally looked at him. "I...knew her, didn't I? I think I can remember her...well, not me, but Saturn. She...she was one of my friends, wasn't she?"

Sean helped her out of the tree. "She was your best friend, Hotaru-chan. I think that's the real reason she stopped going back to the past. It hurt too much to see you gone."

He hugged her suddenly. "That's why we're doing this, Hotaru-chan. To give you another chance to live. And I'll bet the two of you will be best friends again."

He waited for her to draw out of the hug, but that wasn't about to happen, so he finally broke it. The two of them headed off towards a small hill, with Hotaru gripping Sean's arm like a vise.

Sean sighed, and attempted once more to sort out the conflicting feelings in his head.

***

After a few moments, another shape detached itself from the tree. The small grey cat stood quietly for a moment, looking at the couple that had just left.

"Diana?" Usagi came running back. "There you are! Why didn't you come with us?"

"Princess, we need to get back to the palace as soon as possible." Diana surprised Usagi by changing to her human form, a short young woman with grey hair. "I think there might be a problem."

***

Hotaru was surprised. She had assumed, despite what Sean had said, that they were essentially going to be sleeping with the homeless and dispossessed . But the people gathered at the edge of the city seemed to be from all walks of life.

"This is...well, the closest thing I can think of to compare it to is a Traveller's site. Or maybe a gypsy caravan. Lots of people here who just don't want to live in the city, but don't want to be killed out in the rest of the world, so they come here. I found them about three years ago. Put my mind at ease, I can tell you." They came up to one of the larger fires.

Sean was in full host mode. "Hotaru-chan, let me introduce you to a few acquaintances of mine. This is Mikado, he's probably the only one that's here every day."

"Evening, miss." A tall, charming man wearing an apron and tending the cooking fire grinned at her; his teeth seemed to sparkle. "A pleasure to meet you."

"Actually," Sean added, "you haven't met her at all."

Mikado looked askance at this. "Sean, are you in trouble?"

"Not enough to need help yet, but a little. Anyway, the rest of the group tonight. We have Kentaro over there, he's the quiet guy, and then we have - where is everyone, Mikado? The house is practically empty."

"Things have been quiet lately, Sean. Actually, Ron's been my only regular customer."

"Oh, yes. Ron." Sean turned to Hotaru. "This guy is very special, Hotaru-chan. It's never been proven, but it's suspected that he's lived almost four thousand years."

Hotaru's eyes bugged out. "You're kidding!"

"Nope." Sean walked over towards the ragged-looking man, stopping about ten feet short. "This is really as close as anyone wants to get to Ron. Ron! I want you to meet Hotaru-chan!"

The man looked up, and Hotaru could see his eyes. For a moment, she could truly imagine he'd lived for as long as they said.

"Buggrit! Buggrem millennium hand and shrimp!"

Sean didn't stop grinning. "That's wonderful, Ron! Thanks!" He turned back towards Hotaru. "Oh, I almost forgot to mention. He's completely barking mad. But he pays his bills, somehow, so no one really cares."

Hotaru looked up at Sean. "You really love it out here, don't you?"

Sean looked down at her. "For a while, yeah. I don't think I could ever live out here, though."

While Hotaru puzzled over that, Sean went to find them some seating. "What's the entertainment for the evening, Mikado?"

Mikado merely grinned, and held up a battered guitar.

Sean reacted oddly, in Hotaru's opinion. She could see his eyes light up, and yet at the same time he started protesting loudly. "Oh, no you don't. There is no way you're getting me to play that. I don't care what you do to me. Threats are useless. I will never pick up that guitar."

Mikado's grin got even wider, if that were possible. "Come on, Sean. One song."

"Well, all right. You talked me into it." Sean grabbed the guitar, and Hotaru suddenly realised that the whole thing had been a little joke between the two of them. She relaxed, and looked around. A lot of people seemed to be gathering around now, and even Ron looked up, though he continued to mutter.

Sean sat down and began to tune the guitar. "Any requests?"

No one spoke up, apparently waiting for Sean to make the first move. He grinned. "All right, then, how about something from the early 24th century?"

_That_ got a reaction. The audience resoundingly booed the idea. It didn't seem to faze Sean in the least.

"No soap, huh? OK, how 'bout the Stone Roses?"

This got a much better reaction. Hotaru couldn't take her eyes off of Sean. He seemed more relaxed than she'd ever seen him. She'd only known him for two days now, but still...

He began to pick out a melody on the guitar, and sang.

~ Your knuckles whiten on the wheel

The last thing that your hands will feel

Your final flight can't be delayed... ~


Hotaru sat back and let the music wash over her. She had woken up this morning incredibly confused, with all sorts of new knowledge in her head. For most of the morning, she'd just let it wash over her, and had acted more like Sean than anybody else. But now she seemed to be settling down, becoming herself once more.

What was herself? She knew, deep inside her, that she was Sailor Saturn. She was trying very hard not to think about it. If she became Sailor Saturn there would be obligations, and duties. If she became Saturn, she might have to give up being Hotaru.

Sean had said that he'd love her no matter what, but she had been younger then. Did he feel the same way now? She didn't know how to describe the feelings she had now. She'd memories of several movies that dealt with love, but they all seemed so shallow compared to the real thing.

Would he love her? The same way that she loved him? When he was comforting her, as the attack got very bad, she'd kissed him. At first because of the pain, then because of sheer need. He'd broken away, but looked regretful. Was he regretful they'd stopped, or was he regretful that they'd kissed?

She wished that she'd gotten useful memories this morning. Sean said that all the thoughts in her head were his. Then why didn't she understand him better?

Plus there were still some things that she hadn't told him. She winced as the pain in her head got worse. She wasn't about to fall over in another attack, but it hadn't gone away. It pressed on her head, and she worried. *Is that Saturn?* she wondered.

The pain in her head increased, and she knew that it wasn't. It was something else.

She had to concentrate. She couldn't let this happen to her. Not for herself, but for Sean. At times, it seemed as if she was the only thing holding him together.

She focused on the music even harder, ignoring the dull throb in her mind.

***

~ Sometimes I fantasise

When the streets are cold and lonely

And the cars they burn below me

Don't these times fill your eyes

When the streets are cold and lonely

And the cars they burn below me

Are you all alone?

Are you made of stone? ~


Sean finished the guitar outro and sat back. For some reason, playing depressing music always made him feel better. He saw Hotaru in the front of the group, staring at him. He grinned uncomfortably.

Mikado stood up. "Nicely done, Sean," he said. "Anyone else want to follow that?"

There were a few laughs, but nobody stepped forward. Then Hotaru raised her hand. "I'd like to try."

Sean was surprised. "Did you get any songs from the memories you got last night?"

"No," she said. "But I memorised that tape you played me, and there are a few songs there I could sing." She got up and came to the front. Mikado offered her the guitar, but she passed. "I don't play guitar, so I guess I'll just have to sing by myself."

Sean was trying to remember when he gave her a tape. *When - oh, last night. Gods, I was tired. Wonder what she'll sing?* He rummaged in his duffel, and found the Walkman he'd given her last night. Popping the tape, he read the label.

SOUNDTRACK - BITTER END - ZEN

*Oh, _great_,* he moaned.

Hotaru had quieted the audience down, and was beginning to sing.

~ Like a birthday card from a previous year

The weather in Chayco is sparkling and clear

The girl lies in bed, the boy sits in the yard

He wants to talk sleep, but he has to keep guard... ~


Sean was impressed. She had a lovely voice, a soprano rather than the alto he assumed she would have. And, if you were going to choose a song from that tape, you could do worse. He'd been afraid she'd try to sing 'Shitlist' or something.

Listening to Saint Etienne, particularly with Hotaru singing it, got him melancholy as always. What the hell were they going to do? If Serenity wanted Hotaru dead, there really wasn't going to be any way he could prevent it. These attacks also bothered him. Hotaru had told him that it wasn't Saturn, but something else. He had no answers, and he needed them. Hotaru was relying on him. And to top it all off, he was getting more and more tired. Certain things were coming out of his mouth before he could stop them, always a sign of fatigue.

~ She stirs from her sleep and she calls for a beer

He knows there are none and pretends not to hear

She hears his breath like she's heard it before

She cuddles his sheets as he slips out the door... ~


Hotaru may not have been the most precise singer in the world, but the emotion she was putting into the song captivated everyone, including Sean. He could see her eyes glistening as she sang the words. *Is she worried about me leaving? I told her that wouldn't ever happen...*

But he might have her taken from him. And he found that that thought terrified him more than any other.

He sighed. Suddenly, a memory came into his mind...

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Six years ago.

Sean closed up the station with a sigh. It was eight in the morning, and he'd just done another all-night shift. Nobody had called this time, making him think that he was alone out there. He had tried playing a few songs guaranteed to annoy, but it was no use. These people just didn't get upset at anything.

He'd had the nightmare again last night. Reliving the moment where he died, only this time it didn't end, he just lay there in agonising pain, feeling the flesh burn away from his body...

He'd complained to Serenity about the downside of immortality. But now that he'd actually experienced death, he found that he didn't want that option either. He didn't want to live forever, but he didn't want to die.

He was getting into difficult financial straits as well. The last journey to North America had cost him much more than he'd planned, and the salary from the station wasn't covering it. He certainly couldn't bring himself to ask Serenity for a loan. Besides, ever since the Black Moon War, there was a coolness in the palace when he was around. He'd stopped going there after a while. *Presumably Serenity didn't like what happened to the people in the shelter. Not that I liked it any more. I was an idiot.*

So now he was doing something he considered beneath the pale, but had to do anyway: he was entertaining. A young woman had heard about his occasional guitar shows. He tried to keep them quiet; playing the guitar was something he liked to do in front of a _small_ audience, and so he only did it once in a while.

But the woman had offered him an extraordinary amount of money. It would almost get him out of the hole he'd dug himself. All he needed to do was...

Was entertain at their daughter's birthday party.

Eeeeeergghh.

He arrived at the address, one of the nicer homes in the city. Not that all Crystal Tokyo homes didn't look lovely, as you'd expect, but this one had a lot of class to it. For one thing, it used _wood_, and thus achieved an effect that glass and crystal could not. Sean had no idea how they'd gotten permission. Maybe they had influence with the throne.

Knocking on the door, he was met by a woman dressed for a night on the town. Warning bells rang in his mind, but he introduced himself anyway.

"Hi, Sean Gaffney. I'm here about your daughter's party...?"

The woman seemed to be a fount of energy. "Yes, please, come in! This is my husband, Kyousuke," she pointed to a nondescript man who smiled shyly, "and Setsuna should be down shortly. She's really looking forward to meeting you!"

Sean had jumped slightly at the name. *Setsuna? Naaaahh...couldn't be. It's a common name, and we'd have heard if...*

Sean's train of thought was derailed by the entrance of a young girl down the stairs. She came down the banister, sliding to a halt in front of him. "Hiiiiiii!!" she yelled. "I'm Setsuna!"

That wasn't what had stopped Sean. What had stopped him was her dark skin and green hair. Now, neither of her parents possessed either of those traits. Either she was adopted or...

He looked at her again. She smiled up at him cutely. *Then again,* he thought, *it _could_ just be a coincidence. I can't imagine Pluto behaving like this...*

The parents had their coats on. "We'll leave you with her, then, and you can plan everything out. We should be back in a couple of hours!"

This finally penetrated Sean's fogged consciousness. "What?"

The mother blissfully ignored him. "Setsuna, behave yourself! Bye!" And then they were out the door.

Sean stood there in shock. *When did this become babysitting?* he thought.

Setsuna smiled happily up at him. "I thought we could talk about what I want you to play at my party!"

Sighing, Sean sat down on the couch. "All right, but keep in mind my repertoire doesn't include too much modern material."

"No problem," she chirped. "Can you play George Michael?"

Sean sat up in sheer terror. "EEEEHHHH???"

Setsuna grinned happily. "He's great! And Phil Collins, and Michael Bolton..."

Sean had locked into a rictus grin, while his mind screamed at him in the background. Suddenly, a thought struck him. *How the hell does a six-year-old know about those guys?*

There was only one obvious answer. Sean relaxed and leaned back on the couch. "And I suppose a bit of ELO? Or Rick Astley? Why not add Billy Ray Cyrus, that might make my head explode."

Setsuna sat on the other end of the couch. She was still grinning her wide grin, but there was a craftiness in her eyes. "Can we get down to business now?"

"I suppose." Sean felt uncomfortable. The palace had not mentioned Pluto being reincarnated lately, and that was something that was sure to make the papers. The fact that she was still 'in the closet', as it were, gave Sean reason to be wary. "What would you like to talk about?"

"Whatever's in your head, Sean. You haven't dropped by the palace lately. In fact, it seems all you do every day is go back and forth between your radio station and your apartment. I'm really impressed. Since you got here nineteen years ago, you've developed one of the poorest social lives I've ever seen."

"Ah," Sean mused. "Abuse."

"Yes." Setsuna sat up and looked directly into his eyes, and Sean now had no trouble believing that this was Sailor Pluto. "Sean, grow up. You're almost forty-five years old in chronological terms, yet you're still whining about the same things. I listen to your show, after my parents have gone to bed. The whole thing is one long moan. 'Immortality is awful, Crystal Tokyo is dull, why has this happened to me'. Quite frankly, Sean, I've no idea. When I first saw you all those years ago, I knew that you would either be the saviour or the death of this city. I can't imagine why I thought that. You couldn't save anything."

Sean was feeling really guilty about all this. It was basically the same argument he told himself every day, but hearing it from someone else made it more real. He got a little angry. "Hey, I'm trying to change this city, you know. It's not responding..."

Setsuna cut him off, on a roll now. "And who decided that Crystal Tokyo needed changing? God, I'm amazed Serenity hasn't thrown you out. You act as if this is an evil place. Sean, you're the only one who hates it! For almost the entire population, Crystal Tokyo is the utopia Serenity promised. And you're trying to change it!"

Sean snorted. "Utopias are overrated."

Setsuna leaned forward and slapped him hard. It wasn't all that painful, coming from a six-year-old, but it brought Sean to a halt. He rubbed his face and stared at her.

Her eyes were narrowed almost to points. "You are such a selfish bastard, you know that? If this world isn't to your liking, you'll just change it, is that it? Well, this isn't your world, Sean. It never was. It is _our_ world, and we all would appreciate it if you just left it alone! It's not fictional, and you can't rewrite it to suit yourself!"

She sat back, leaving Sean to think about what she had said.

Was he really that much of an egotist? That he would ruin the lives of thousands of others just so that he could see the world the way _he_ wanted it to be?

He looked at Setsuna, and felt the need to say something, to fill the void of silence that lay between them. "Maybe you're right. Maybe I am still seeing this as a fictional world. Sailor Moon, created by Naoko Takeuchi, heir to the Bandai legacy, made into a bad dub by DIC. Buy our stuff or we'll send ninjas to your house. It's difficult to reconcile that with the city around me, with the woman on the throne."

Setsuna didn't even blink. "I know. Even you, of all people, haven't been able to do it."

Sean grimaced. "Thanks a lot. I suppose you're right. I've got to stop thinking of this as fictional. I've got to...realise that I'm here to stay, that this is my home."

Setsuna's voice was quieter now, more like the child she was. "It's more than that, Sean. You've become convinced that you're living in some sort of story, and that if you just coast, the next plot point will whisk you away to a new adventure. But this isn't a story. It's just a man who got accidentally transported here one day, and still hasn't been able to deal with it. The end."

Sean grinned at her. "Whatever happened to that purpose I was brought here for?"

Setsuna leaned back. "Right now, Sean, the chances of that future happening are so remote as to be almost non-existent. Forget about it. You blew your chance. Now what you have to decide is do you want to continue to coast along, waiting for something that will never happen, or do you want to get on with your life, make something of it? You've certainly got all the time in the world. Why not use it?"

Sean sat back. For a few minutes he didn't move at all. Finally, he spoke.

"I'll try. That's all I can promise. It's...not easy for me to take charge. I'm very used to letting others make the hard choices for me. So at the moment, all I can say is that I'll try."

Setsuna gazed at him for a few moments. "I suppose that's all I can expect. At least you're telling me the truth."

Sean snorted. "Lying to you is like playing Ping-Pong with nitro. What would be the point? By the way, I take it no one should know of this conversation?"

Setsuna smiled. "At the moment, no one knows that I have awakened as Sailor Pluto. They come by, waiting to look for the telltale signs, but I've been able to fool them. No Pluto has ever been able to have a normal childhood. I want to. When the time is right, I'll reveal myself."

Sean nodded. "I'll respect your silence, then." Suddenly, he thought of something else. "By the way, just so you'll know, I will continue to try to get this city to loosen up."

Setsuna rolled her eyes. "Of course you will. Well, I should have expected as much."

Sean grinned. "Hey, I gotta be me." He began to sing. ~ I just gotta be meeeeee!!! ~

"Stop it!" Setsuna snapped.

"But I'm supposed to be arranging for your birthday songs! After all, your parents are paying me a lot to make sure you have a good time! Now, what would you _really_ like to hear?"

Setsuna realised that she wouldn't get any more introspection out of Sean today. *Well,* she mused, *at least I've put him on the right track. I hated to lie to him like that, but he's got to be in a better frame of mind if Hotaru is to come out of this safely.* For a moment, she looked almost wistful.

Then she he grinned, suddenly a six-year-old again. "Vanilla Ice!"

"No."

"Menudo!"

"No."

"Weird Al!"

"_Now_ we're getting somewhere!"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sean snapped out of his memories as Hotaru finished her song.

~ God had derailed the Lonestar train

That can take her away from sadness and pain

He acts like a saint, but the strain really shows

The boy scouts of America taught him all that he knows... ~


She was looking at him as the audience clapped, and he made sure to give her a big grin as well as a lot of applause. His mind was elsewhere. *Why the hell did that come back to me all of a sudden?* he thought.

Suddenly it came to him in a rush. Could Hotaru have been what Setsuna meant all those years ago? He'd pushed the idea aside, because she'd told him later that it wasn't going to happen. But it all made sense now. The behaviour of Haruka and Michiru, Hotaru's attacks. Was there something wrong with her? Something that could mean the end of the world?

He decided to ask her later. She tended to get uncomfortable when he mentioned Saturn, but they were running out of time. He'd wait till they were going to sleep.

***

"The caravan site?"

"That's where they were headed, your Majesty."

"Haruka, Michiru -- "

"We're on it."

"Please _hurry_!"

***

Hotaru unrolled her sleeping bag. Sean had been quiet ever since she'd finished singing, and he wasn't really paying attention. She was starting to get really worried. Did she do something wrong?

She started to strip out of her clothes, and noticed Sean blush. "Hotaru-chan, maybe we'd better sleep in our clothes. Um...we might have to leave quickly."

"Oh. All right." She put her shirt back on. She could see there was another reason he didn't want to mention. Did he not find her attractive? She'd looked in the mirror in the store before they got here. Maybe she was too short. Or perhaps he just didn't like her body. After all, it's not all that great...

Hotaru gasped as a pain went through her head. It was getting worse again. She found that it lessened when she stopped thinking of Sean, but she couldn't help herself. She was in a frenzy, wondering whether Sean really liked her, or if he was thinking about how to get rid of her, or...

She cried out again, and could feel Sean by her side, stroking her hair. But it wasn't enough this time. She could hear a voice within her. It was telling her that Sean just saw her as excess baggage, that she was ruining his life, making him a fugitive. All he really wanted to do was to get rid of her. It's not as if he cared about her, anyway...

**NO!!**

Another voice, even deeper inside her, screamed in rage. Suddenly she felt power coursing through her, power she hadn't been able to access until now. It was only a fraction of what she knew she could have, but it was enough. She identified the blackness that had lain within her for so long. It had gotten stronger, but so had she. She reached into herself and grabbed it, feeling a great resistance. But it was too late now, she knew what she had to do. With a mighty cry, she expelled the blackness from her body.

Immediately, she felt as if a pure white light had stabbed into the depths of her soul. She sighed, and then collapsed.

***

The blackness cried out in pain as it was forced from Saturn. It had dwelt with her spirit for nearly three millennia, and to finally be expelled was almost more than it could bear. It lashed, out, seeking the nearest receptacle it could --

And found the man, the one who had comforted her. The one which had made it possible for her to beat him. The one that gave her confidence and hope. Him!

There wasn't much it could do anymore. To survive, it needed power, and this man had none. But he did have something it could use. He may not have any powers as the senshi did, but his body had been touched by the Silver Crystal. It was not enough to survive, but it would serve for the purposes of revenge. The blackness could do one thing more. If it could not survive, no one could. When this body died, it would release all of itself in one moment, destroying not only this city but perhaps the entire planet as well...

It concentrated on the young man's confused thoughts.

*Know well, Sean Gaffney, that you will become the instrument of my vengeance. Through you, I will cry out my wrath to the heavens!*

The man began to run. It was useless. There was nowhere he could go.

***

"Can you see anything with the mirror?" Haruka scanned the tents, looking for any signs of the pair. "Remember, it's been almost three days now. Saturn could be adult in appearance now." She deliberately avoided using the name Hotaru, to try and keep her feelings inside.

Michiru shook her head. "There's too much interference! I can't get a good lock at all!"

Haruka had focused on a shadow in front of them. "Never mind, I think we've found at least Sean."

They raced up and grabbed the shape. It was indeed Sean, wearing his usual grey jacket and black fedora. Haruka spun him around. "Where is she?"

Suddenly, he opened his eyes, and the pair gasped. They were totally black.

He stared at them blankly. "Help..." he whimpered before collapsing.

Haruka grabbed him and began to head for the palace. "Come on! We'll see what Serenity has to say."

Michiru looked back towards the caravan site. "What about Saturn?"

Haruka glanced down at the darkness in Sean's eyes. It almost seemed to shine.

"Somehow, I get the feeling that Saturn is no longer our biggest problem."

4. Life

Hotaru awoke slowly. Her entire body felt different. It wasn't the same as her previous growth spurts, those had been painful and protracted. With this, she felt invigorated, as if she could take on the world.

She looked for one of the mirrors Sean had packed in their duffels and examined herself. She appeared to have gained only a few years this time, and most observers would say she looked to be in her early twenties. Her looks...well, she wasn't ugly. She wasn't that good a judge of herself. Standing up, she also noticed that she had gained about six inches of height. *Finally,* she thought. *I thought I'd always be short.*

It wasn't so much the appearance as the mood, though. All of the fatigue, the depression that had been plaguing her had vanished. She felt like a senshi, actually. For the first time, she could imagine that she truly was what Sean had told her. She knew that Saturn existed deep within herself, but now she truly felt ready to become her. A protector of Serenity and the city of Crystal Tokyo.

She went out to look for Sean. He must be fairly concerned for her after the last attack...

It was like an electric shock to the brain. Suddenly, what she had done last night ran clearly through her head. She had rid herself of her blackness, but the cost...

Beginning to panic, Hotaru quickly scanned the grounds where they had stayed. Most everyone else was still asleep. Looking up, she realised that it was still evening. He might not have gone far, though. Did anybody see him leave? She had to find him. If the blackness had entered his body, it would quickly destroy him. If that happened, she didn't think she would ever be able to forgive herself.

He must have gone to the palace. If the blackness was within him, it would be controlling him, whether he knew it or not. And it would therefore go after Serenity, as the closest source of power.

It had used up a lot in its fight with her last night. That gave her hope that she would be in time.

She ran off, heading instinctively towards the palace. Hotaru had never been there, but Saturn knew the way to her queen.

***

The senshi watched over Sean carefully. He hadn't moved since collapsing in Haruka's arms, but they weren't taking any chances. Usagi and the Asteroid senshi stood off to the side, unsure of their place in the court.

Serenity was surrounded by Rei, Makoto, and Minako. "If I could get near him, I might be able to help him."

"No!" all three said at once. Ami looked up from where she was getting readings on Sean's body. "Your Majesty, at the moment, the blackness is not especially dangerous as it is inside Sean, who does not possess any great power. If it found a way to get to you, however..." She left the thought unsaid. The thought of a force that evil possessing Serenity was too horrible to even imagine.

"Owwww..."

Haruka and Michiru stepped up their guard on Sean, not knowing what he would do in this condition. He slowly rose to his knees.

"This really hurts, y'know?" He looked up at his audience. "Oh, hi. Don't mind me, I'm just being possessed by a three thousand year-old entity, a force so evil it doesn't have a name...why doesn't it have a name? You'd think someone would have been able to come up with something. Did you all just call it 'the blackness'? I think I'll call it Tim. That'll make things a lot easier. So anyway, where was I?"

The senshi looked at Sean as if he'd gone completely mad. The exceptions were Ami, who was intent on her computer readings, and Serenity, who merely looked at Sean with an expression of pity and compassion.

"Oh, yeah. So Tim decides that since I can't actually Death Reborn Revolution or Silence Glaive Surprise or any other tricks like that, he'll just leave me to die slowly. Unfortunately, that means it'll explode in one big poof that'll wipe out everything, but you had to expect that, didn't you? I mean, I know I told Setsuna that I wasn't planning to go mad and destroy the world, and here I am doing it. Sucks to be me, huh?"

Rei was beginning to get very annoyed. "Can't we shut him up?"

Ami looked up. "I wouldn't. Look at his eyes. He's currently in agonising pain, and is trying not to think about it. If anything, the longer he talks, the better for us. If he's talking, he's not dying."

"That's the spirit! So, let's talk about me for a moment. Hey, aren't we two senshi short? Where's the others? Oh, right, Setsuna can't leave the gate of time, I forgot. She was a lot more fun in the twentieth century, I can tell you. Well, not that I have any actual experience. But I've read the manga. Not that that has any bearing on what's happening here. Am I rambling?"

He looked around. "And Saturn's not here. Probably got tired of me. Unless..." Suddenly Sean stood up, eyes looking around wildly. "Did you kill her? You didn't kill her, did you?"

Haruka was quick to reassure him. They did not need Sean tense and jumpy. "No, we didn't. We don't know where she is."

"Good. Well, that makes me feel a little better. I hope she'll be all right. Oh, god, I don't know what to do with her." He sat down again, putting his head in his hands. "I mean, it was okay when she was a kid, y'know? But now that she's grown up, there's all this weird stuff going through my head, and she's kissing me, and saying she loves me. Can I believe her?"

The senshi stared in shock. First to find that Hotaru had grown still further, and then to hear of these feelings she apparently possessed for Sean. Ami continued looking for any answer to their problem, but wasn't coming up with one.

"Who knows how much of that stuff the blackness...sorry, Tim...was putting in her head? Not to mention Saturn. Not to mention the fact that the kid's only three days old, not to mention the fact that I'm not exactly Mister Wonderful, not to mention...AAAAAARRGHGHGH!!"

Sean bowed backwards, clutching his head in pain. The senshi braced themselves, reinforcing their cordon around Serenity.

Suddenly the door to the throne room slammed open, and Setsuna marched in. Minako spoke up, stunned. "Setsuna?! What are you doing here?"

"Diana is watching the gate. I need to be here now."

Serenity gazed at her unflinchingly. "Because this is the end?"

Setsuna returned her gaze. "Yes."

***

Hotaru moved swiftly through the streets of Crystal Tokyo. There wasn't much time left. She wasn't even sure whether she'd be able to do anything. But she had to try. Her Queen was in danger...as was the man she loved.

There was no more room for doubt or self-examination in Hotaru's thoughts. There was only the situation in hand.

She speeded up to a run.

***

Sean was gasping for breath now, but seemed to have recovered from the attack.

Ami closed her computer. "The only way it can be stopped is to go inside Sean's mind and destroy it. None of us are powerful enough to do that. And Serenity entering Sean's mind is just what the blackness wants." She sighed. "I wish I could come up with a better solution."

Serenity smiled. "You did your best." She turned to the assemblage. "I must do this."

"NO!" screamed Rei, Makoto, Minako, Haruka, and Michiru in unison.

Suddenly Sean spoke up again. "I'm having trouble concentrating. See, if I keep rambling, that means I'm not dying. But it's not easy to keep a flow going while your head's in traction. I'd really like not to be Sean Gaffney, Destroyer of Worlds. Does anyone mind if I sing? Thanks...~ I've had enough of living, I've had enough of dying...~ "

Serenity stared calmly at the others. "What kind of ruler would I be if I did not sacrifice myself for my people? If I can stop this so that the rest of Crystal Tokyo can survive, then I will do it. Even if it means my life."

Suddenly the doors of the throne room burst open again. Hotaru stood framed in the doorway, a look of determination on her face. "No, your Majesty. It is our job to protect you. Furthermore, it's my fault that this evil got out in the first place. This battle is personal."

Ami shook her head. "You don't understand. None of us has the power to stop it by ourselves."

Hotaru gazed at Ami's computer. "Your last recordings of my power levels were in the twentieth century, right?"

Ami started, as she realised what Hotaru meant. "Yes..."

Hotaru smiled. "I've gotten much more powerful since then. I was always the most powerful Senshi, with the exception of the Queen. That had nothing to do with the blackness. It is my calling. I am the senshi of Death and Destruction. Allow me to destroy that."

The only sound in the room was Sean's soft singing. Then Setsuna stepped forward and looked up into Hotaru's eyes. "Why are you doing this? It's an important question."

Hotaru paused for a moment, considering her response. "For myself, for what I have suffered these millennia. For all of you, because you have suffered even more. For this city, because it is truly a good place. For my Queen, whom I love." She paused, and looked down. "And for him. You know that."

Setsuna stared into her eyes for a moment longer. Then, to everyone's amazement, she smiled, a large, happy smile of pure joy. She reached into her costume and pulled out a henshin stick. "Thank you. That's what I needed to hear."

Hotaru took the stick, smiled briefly, and then thrust it over her head.

"SATURN ETERNAL POWER, MAKE UP!"

As her transformation took place, she felt the power within her. At the tent the night before, she had been powerful enough to drive the blackness from her mind. Now...

She strode quickly over to where Sean lay. He had finally stopped singing and collapsed. She touched her hand to his head.

***

Despite her confidence in front of the others, Hotaru was not sure if she could win this one. Not because of any doubts of her strength, but because the battleground was the mind of the one she loved.

She tried to enter Sean's mind as subtly as possible, hoping to catch the blackness off guard. Unfortunately, she hadn't reckoned on Sean looking for her as well.

The force of his pain hit her like a hammer. His thoughts were no longer focused, just vague impressions, and emotions, and agony. Despite all that, she left his mind almost lurch towards her, as if seeking her out.

This also had the unfortunate effect of alerting her opponent, who also flew towards her. She braced herself, wishing she had her glaive. She didn't know how prepared she was for a mental battle, especially considering what she had been through the past three days.

The blackness stopped just short, as if to gauge her readiness. It had no shape, but she could tell the tenor of its thoughts. It almost seemed to be sneering at her. She felt it brush against her mind, and stiffened her resolve.

*Leave this mind*, she thought. *Or else I will destroy you.*

It didn't seem fazed in the least. *Go right ahead. Destroy me.*

Saturn gathered her powers, then stopped. *I can't.*

The blackness began to roil around her. *Precisely. You cannot destroy me without destroying him. At first I cursed your feelings for this mortal, but they have become my trump card. You love him, so you will not see him harmed. Yet he is dying now. Eventually you will have to step in, lower your shields to attempt to save him. And when that happens, I will resume my rightful place in your mind.*

Hotaru tried desperately to think of a way around this. Sean was getting weaker by the moment, his mind barely functioning. The blackness was also weakening, but not nearly as fast. If she didn't think of something fast, she would lose him. More importantly, the world would be destroyed.

No. She had lived this once before, and eventually had to sacrifice herself to stop it. She would not allow it to happen again.

The blackness tried once again to get through her shields, undermine her confidence. *It amazes me how easy this one is to manipulate. Almost as easy as your father of a thousand years ago. Both of them feel the responsibility for you, so they voluntarily take up your sins. He long since stopped struggling. I imagine that he thinks he's saving you, allowing you to live for him. Does his naivete strike any chords in your heart, Saturn?*

It must realise its weakness as well, Hotaru thought to herself. She had not moved from her place in Sean's mind, for fear of making matters worse. Therefore it was going after her fears, trying to make her be impulsive.

How could she stop it? It needed to be destroyed, but that would kill Sean. The alternative was destroying the world. Eternal blackness, no matter what.

Blackness...

Suddenly a memory came to her, of meeting with Queen Serenity, when the Silver Millennium was just beginning...


#Hotaru,# she had said. #you are the senshi of death and destruction. It is a terrible burden to give to someone. Yet is is perfect for you. Every power has its opposite. And not only do you possess within you the power to destroy worlds, to cloak the earth in darkness, but you also have the power to heal, to bathe the world in light. Never forget that. It will be your own salvation one day.#


Suddenly she knew what to do. The blackness didn't need to be destroyed to be stopped. It could be converted.

She began to gather her powers, oblivious to the shadows outside her. She suddenly faltered, as she felt the blackness attack her. It knew that it was fighting for its existence.

Then there was another disturbance. Sean, whom both the blackness and Hotaru had thought to be out of the action, suddenly pushed what little mental force he had at the blackness. It wasn't enough to damage it in the least, but it enabled Hotaru to make her final preparations.

As she began to gether the darkness around her, Sean came with it. *I'll kill him!* The blackness sounded panicked now. *You'll never be able to sit there and watch him die!*

Hotaru smiled to herself. *He won't die,* she thought right back. *You will heal him yourself.*

The blackness howled as Hotaru manipulated it. She no longer had any doubts about her strength, or of her love, or of her own mind. She was Saturn, and she was also Hotaru. The two were not mutually exclusive after all.

The blackness was beginning to change. It grew thinner, and seemed to be lessening. Then it slowly began to shine. At first it glowed from within, a dark light of sorts. But as Hotaru continued to exert her powers, it slowly grew brighter and brighter, until it grew almost as bright as the sun.

Then, with a mental command, Hotaru threw the light into Sean's mind. It raced through, healing the neural pathways that had suffered at the hands of the blackness. The light grew brighter and brighter, until it finally expelled itself from Sean in a blaze. As it did so, Hotaru finally allowed her mind to relax. She carefully checked over Sean, to make sure that her love would fully recover. Then she followed the light back out into the world.

***

Sean's eyes suddenly flew open, and a cascade of white light flew out of them. He gasped, then fell back to the floor.

Saturn stood up. "It's done." Despite her new strength of powers, she was still fairly unsteady on her feet.

She turned to face the other senshi. "Hello, everyone."

The reactions were different. Serenity and Setsuna smiled broadly. The other four inner senshi stood with their mouths open, as if expecting Hotaru to vanish or attack them at any moment. Usagi and her compatriots looked confused. And Haruka and Michiru looked down, or at each other, or anywhere except for the young girl whose life they had ended almost fifty times over the course of the past millennium.

Serenity spoke for all of them. "How do you feel, Saturn?"

Hotaru realised that she was speaking to the senshi rather than the girl. "I feel better than I ever have, your Majesty. I feel as if I'm seeing everything for the first time."

Serenity looked at her carefully. "And where is the Saturn that wiped out the remains of the Silver Millennium? That felt that the world needed to be cleansed in order to survive? Is she still there?"

Hotaru sighed. "Of course, your Majesty. I am the senshi of Death and Destruction. However...it will not be as easy for me to call upon that kind of power anymore. When I first cleansed the world three thousand years ago, I shed no tears at its passing." She stopped for a moment. "If I ever had to do so again...I would mourn."

Serenity didn't have any response to that. She moved on. "And how are you, Hotaru?"

The young woman smiled. "About as well as can be expected. I'm just now three days old, in the body of a woman in her twenties. I've got all these memories in my head that aren't mine, I've got knowledge without understanding." She looked down at Sean's unconscious body. "And I have love. What type of love it is...that's up to him. But it is there, that I am sure of."

She looked back up. "We should get him somewhere where he can rest. He'll be fine, but he may be asleep for a few more days."

Serenity nodded. "We'll put him in one of the staterooms. Makoto, Minako...?"

The two senshi gathered Sean up (not easy, as he was practically a dead weight) and moved him out of the room.

As they did so, Hotaru's eyes moved towards her three fellow Outer Senshi. Only Setsuna's met hers. Hotaru knew this was going to be hard. She just hoped the damage wasn't irreparable.

"Haruka...Michiru..."

She got no further. Haruka raced from the room, Michiru not far behind. They didn't look back.

Hotaru began to go after them, but Setsuna stopped her. "Give them time. They think that you blame them for your suffering."

"I don't. I never blamed them. Do they think I'll try to get revenge or something?"

"I don't believe so. Their greatest fear is your hatred, not your vengeance. Hotaru Tomoe was their child, for the most part, in the twentieth century. After her father was killed, in essence by Pharaoh 90, the two of them raised her as one of their own."

Hotaru's eyes began to tear up. "The memories of Hotaru Tomoe are still in me, you know that. There is a part of me that will always be their daughter."

She turned to Setsuna. "How do you feel about all this?"

Setsuna smiled again. "I have always been able to cope with my duties better than those two. They say they value the mission above all, but their emotions do get involved."

Hotaru gave Setsuna a penetrating gaze. "But not yours?"

To Hotaru's disbelief, Setsuna blushed slightly. "It hurt a lot. What we had to do, what was necessary to save the future...it hurt a great deal. I had the knowledge of our success, and the bright future ahead. That made things a little better. But I also had the knowledge that it could fail, that you might give in to the blackness once more and destroy everything. There was almost an even chance of either event happening."

Hotaru looked back at the spot by the throne where Sean had lay. "And Sean was the difference?"

"He was present in both futures. What mattered was the way he treated you. Sean has treated all of us, everyone in Crystal Tokyo, as fictional characters. If he had been that way towards you...acted as if you weren't a real person...then you would not have had the confidence to win that first battle. The blackness would have engulfed you, and the world would have ended."

"But Sean treated you better than I'd hoped. Certainly better than he had ever treated anyone else here, including himself. Hotaru, if you do plan to make a future with this man, realise what you're undertaking. Sean has enough neuroses to keep analysts busy for centuries."

Hotaru smiled shyly. "I'll just have to see what happens then, won't I?"

***

Hotaru stepped into the room carefully, smiling shyly at the occupants.

Haruka and Michiru looked even worse now. It was obvious that Michiru had been crying. The expression of fear on their face tore at Hotaru's heart. She couldn't stand to see them like this.

She ran towards them and gathered them into a hug. "I've missed you both so much," she managed to choke out. "Even more than the others. I'm so happy to see you."

The women's faces wore identical stunned expressions. Haruka spoke up. "Saturn, how can you even talk to us? After all we did to you..."

Hotaru was having none of that. "You did what you had to. The mission was more important than personal involvement. I'm a senshi of the outer planets too, remember. And what you did was necessary. It would have been catastrophic for me to wake earlier than I did. I was gaining power, but slowly. It took me up until this time to be sure that I could defeat the blackness. I had to rely on the two of you to get me to that point."

Michiru was still crying. "But we _killed_ you! Over and over again, as a _baby_, for God's sake!"

Hotaru looked at her seriously. "Is that what's bothering you? Do you still see me as your own child?"

Michiru merely looked down. "I've always felt that way. Everytime we had to kill a child, I didn't think of her as Saturn. I thought of her as my little girl."

Haruka started, and turned Michiru towards her. "Michiru - "

"Why do you think I've never wanted any children? Don't you remember how that always used to be my dream? Well, that dream died the first time we killed Hotaru-chan."

Hotaru couldn't listen to this anymore. "You didn't kill Hotaru. Hotaru didn't exist. You killed Saturn. And, even though she was a baby, she was prepared. She knew what you had to do. But Hotaru died in the twentieth century, and has remained so until now. And you didn't kill me. You couldn't force yourself to do it. Do you understand, Michiru?"

Michiru looked up again. To her astonishment, not only were Hotaru's eyes full of tears, but Haruka's as well. "You're not our little girl anymore though, are you?"

Hotaru smiled. "No, I guess I'm not. But I'd like to be your sister again. In the Silver Millennium the four of us were as close as sisters. Can it be like that again?"

Michiru didn't think she had any tears left in her. But as she gathered Hotaru close to her, she felt more coming. Haruka joined in the hug a moment later.

"Sisters. Until the end of time." Haruka whispered.

After a while, Hotaru got up. "I'm going to go wait for Sean to wake up."

Haruka raised an eyebrow. "I thought you said it'd be a few days before he woke up?"

"Good point. Better grab a book." And she was gone.

Hotaru paused, however, outside the door to listen for a moment more.

"Michiru, I'm sorry."

"For what?"

"I should have realised what you were feeling."

"I wasn't just keeping it hidden from you. I was keeping it from myself as well."

There was a pause.

"Michiru?"

"Yes, Haruka?"

"Do you want to have a child now?"

An even longer pause.

Then, almost sobbed: "Yes."

"Oh, Michiru..."

Hotaru grinned and left, knowing she wouldn't be hearing any more conversation for a while.

***

Sean awoke expecting to feel miserable.

After all, he'd just recovered from being possessed by an evil that had claimed one of the most powerful Sailor Senshi for three millennia. Surely that at least deserved a migraine.

But instead he felt better than he had in his entire life. There were no aches, pains, and for some really odd reason he wasn't depressed. Just an undefinable _goodness_ that spread throughout his body.

He decided to chance opening his eyes.

The first thing he saw was Hotaru asleep next to him. She was laying across his chest, and appeared to have been there for some time.

He didn't really want to wake her. Still...

"Ahem."

Her eyes fluttered, and she slowly awoke. She looked at Sean and smiled. "How do you feel?"

"I feel really incredible. Why is that? I haven't felt this good in my entire life." Sean wasn't _exactly_ complaining, but he was starting to miss his angst. Only a little bit, of course.

"That's my doing, I'm afraid." She looked down. "Sean, I'm sorry. If it hadn't been for me, you wouldn't have been possessed by the blackness in the first place."

"Hey, don't start with that. It wasn't your fault. You couldn't have known what would happen."

Hotaru blushed. "Well anyway, in order to kill it, I converted it into its opposite form."

Sean snorted. "What, light?"

"Exactly."

Sean sat bolt upright in bed. "Whoa, hold the phone! How were you able to do that?"

She looked away now, towards the window. "I've always been the most powerful senshi, except for the Queen. And I've had three millennia to learn all about my keeper. It is far easier to convert energy than it is to destroy it."

Sean remembered a story he'd once read. "Like love and pain."

Hotaru grinned. "Spider Robinson."

Grimacing, Sean favoured her with a glare. "That's going to take a _lot_ of getting used to."

Hotaru decided to plunge ahead. "Sean, we need to talk."

Sean sighed. He'd known this conversation was coming. "Yeah, I guess we do."

"I love you, Sean. I loved you as a child, and now I love you as an adult. I want to spend the rest of my life with you."

Sean sighed. "Hotaru, you're _not_ an adult. You may have some of my memories, and Saturn's experience, but in some ways you're still a baby."

"Do you love me, Sean? Not as you loved the little girl I was, but in an adult way?" Hotaru had tears in her eyes.

There was a long pause before Sean replied. "I don't know, Hotaru-chan. I know that I love you, but I've been...very confused over what kind of love it is. I'm not all that experienced in love to begin with."

"Neither am I."

"I know. That's why I think we should wait until we make any rash decisions. We both know we love each other. That's good enough for now. If we decide later we want to make it something more, then that's fine." Sean was beginning to babble. He wasn't scared, exactly. He was merely nervous talking about the subject at all. That was another reason he wanted to wait.

Hotaru looked up, her eyes still wet. "I suppose I can wait. But it's already been a week, Sean. A girl can't be an old maid forever..."

Sean snorted. "When can I get up?"

Hotaru began to look sad again. "Do you want to leave so soon?"

Sean noticed her concern. "It's nothing to do with you or anyone here. But I'm a creature of habit. I miss my radio station. I've been away for a week, it's sure to be clean by now."

Hotaru looked serious again. "Why do you want it messy?"

Sean thought about that for a while. "I guess I like a little bit of anarchy in my life. Not a lot, mind you, otherwise I wouldn't be living here. But it's the little touches, the pile of CDs on the floor, the half-eaten sandwich, that show me that utopia hasn't entirely taken this city."

Hotaru looked him straight in the eyes. "And who ever said that Crystal Tokyo is a utopia?"

The question took Sean by surprise. "Ummm...I did, I guess."

Hotaru laughed. She took Sean's hand, and led him to a window. "I don't think it's a utopia. It's merely a beautiful city. A city that you can walk around in and not fear for anything, where you can leave your door unlocked without worry. A city where you can count on your neighbours to help you in times of crisis. And it's a city ruled over by one of the most caring, compassionate people I've ever known. And I think, deep down, you know that as well. That's why you stay here. Not for a slice of anarchy, or even for me. For the city itself."

Sean looked out at Crystal Tokyo. The sun was just setting, and it made the spires glitter like a million snowdrops. He noticed the towers to the west, a contrast to the low-lying rural area in the south-east. There were even a few farms there, tucked in the best possible place to get light. The cars were just getting out of work, people heading back to their homes, their spouses and children. But there was no rush-hour bustle. Home would be there when they arrived, and for now they could just enjoy the ride.

It was the most beautiful sight Sean had ever seen. He wondered why he'd never noticed it before.

Perhaps he didn't want to.

He looked at Hotaru, who had nestled herself in his arms and was staring out at the city. She looked at it with pride, knowing that she was here to defend it, with her life if necessary. There was also an inner peace to her gaze, knowing that she no longer had to worry about hurting those around her with a force that she couldn't control.

Sean turned his gaze completely from the city to Hotaru, and mused to himself that it might not take as long as he thought to make up his mind about love.

***

Six months later.


"You'll pay for this, Gaffney."

"Oh, c'mon Rei, the chasuble looks great on you!"

Rei scowled again. Sean had asked her to conduct the ceremony, and she'd accepted, though not without some reservations. It turned out that the reservations were perfectly justified. Sean was having his wedding complete with an old-fashioned Latin Mass, with Rei as the priest.

In her considered opinion, she looked ridiculous.

"I thought you went to a Catholic school. You'd think this would be just like old times."

"Sean?" Mikado spoke up next to him.

"Yes?"

"Don't taunt the priest on your wedding day. Bad luck."

Sean sighed. "I suppose you're right."

It had taken a lot to get Mikado to be his best man. It was the bartender's first time in Crystal Tokyo in almost a hundred years, and it was only the fact that Sean had _no_ other friends to turn to that made him accept.

Sean was feeling incredibly nervous. He hated being a cliché, but nevertheless, there he was, bouncing from one foot to the other waiting for Hotaru to come down the aisle.

Instead, Michiru came in, very late and looking very flustered.

"What's with her?" asked Mikado.

"She's having a little trouble with the number I picked for our first dance."

"Not The Black Page?"

"Nope. BeBop Tango."

"You're cruel."

"I just want to see Serenity and Endymion doing the dance contest."

Michiru came to stand next to Haruka, currently transformed as Uranus. "Why's Michiru the only one not senshied up?" Mikado asked.

"The fuku is not a practical outfit for pregnant women."

"Ah."

More time passed. Sean guessed that Hotaru was deliberately holding things up so she could have a great entrance. This had the unfortunate side effect of driving him nuts. He started to fidget again, until Mikado grabbed his shoulder.

"You were the one who decided this, y'know."

Sean tried to relax. "I know."

The previous month, Serenity had pronounced Hotaru officially an adult, in body and in mind. She and Sean had taken the opportunity to announce their wedding, a fact that surprised no one.

Minako had jokingly mentioned that Hotaru should have avoided the responsibility and stayed a child forever. Hotaru had promptly answered that being an adult makes it more fun. For some odd reason, Sean, Haruka, and Michiru had coughed at that.

He did want to do this. He was in love with Hotaru. He wanted to spent the rest of his life with her. *I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.*

Then the doors opened and Hotaru came in, being escorted by Endymion and with Usagi as her maid of honor. All of Sean's self-affirmations went out of his head, along with any remaining doubts he may have had. All that remained was the image of his bride.

The other senshi had initially balked at Setsuna's choice of wedding gown, until she had forcibly demonstrated to them that white, while fine for almost all other brides, would look _horrible_ on Hotaru. Thus, she came up the aisle in a gorgeous, black wedding gown with a ten-foot train. On anyone else, it would have been the height of bad taste. For Hotaru, it just seemed right.

She came up to stand next to Sean, looked at him with amusement, and said, "Close your mouth, you're letting all the hot air out."

"Ah...right...um...geh."

Hotaru turned to Rei. "You'd better get this over with."

Rei actually smiled. "Right. Dearly beloved, we are gathered here..."

For Sean, the ceremony itself seemed to take about two seconds. The next thing he knew, he was saying "I do."

"Then by the power vested in me by Her Majesty Queen Serenity II of Crystal Tokyo, I now pronounce you husband and wife."

Hotaru lifted her veil, grabbed Sean, and pulled him in for a long kiss. In the background, he vaguely heard "You may kiss the bride."

The kiss had the added bonus of clearing his mind. This was why he noticed the evil gleam in Hotaru's eyes. She turned towards the congregation and flung up a hand.

"Now I can finally reveal myself! Bow down before me as I begin to rule the world!!" She cackled.

The reaction wasn't as impressive as it could have been. Most people looked terrified, including most of the Inners. Serenity and Setsuna, on the other hand, were laughing their heads off.

Hotaru seemed disappointed. "They don't look amused."

"I think your reputation is still holding you back."

"You'd think they'd at least bow down before me."

"Why don't we try kissing again, that'll snap them out of it."

Hotaru looked at them. "They'll probably just think I'm possessing your soul or something."

Sean smiled. "You had that almost from the moment you were born."

She blushed, and kissed him again.

***

It was an anachronism of the highest order. A tall building made entirely of crystal (as, indeed, most buildings in Crystal Tokyo were), with three gleaming spires reaching up to the heavens...and one spire made of metal, with a pulsing red light on top of it. Coming closer, one could see the inside of the tower, with its dilapidated offices and mess strewn everywhere. The mess, however, looked calculated. It was as if, had the owner not concentrated, he would have found it gone the next day.

Inside the tower, a young man in a grey jacket and black leather fedora was just setting up a turntable, getting ready for the morning drive. He snapped on the microphone and spoke to the denizens of Crystal Tokyo with a relaxed, calm tone to his voice.

"Hoopla, everyone. This is Sean Gaffney as your temporary bogus disc jockey. Welcome to the show, finally back on the air after my extended honeymoon. I know most of you were expecting Hotaru to be along here as well, but being a senshi and protector of the city does involve more work than you'd think, so she's not here at the moment."

He sighed. "As for me...I'm feeling great. At first, it really disturbed me, but it's doing so less and less as time goes by. You probably remember my little description of what happened to me a few months ago. Well, I went to Serenity and voiced my concerns, and she said that the light in my body should have dissipated after a day or two. In other words, I'm feeling great completely on my own, no magical means necessary."

"It's taking some getting used to, but I think I can deal with it. In the meantime, remember what I told you yesterday. Today's the day you all go into work with red and green socks. Alternating, please, one foot red, one foot green. If we all work on this, then together, we can throw just a little bit of chaos into this world of order."

"Normally this spot is reserved for my kvetching about the world in general, but I just don't feel like it. So instead, let's go right to the music. Here's the Boo Radleys."

And as he turned up the volume, he began dancing around the studio, a mad grin on his face singing at the top of his lungs.

~ Summer's gone, days spent with the grass and sun

I don't mind, to pretend I do seems really dumb

I rise as the morning comes

Crawling through the blinds

I shouldn't be up at this time,

But I can't sleep with you there by my side

Wake up it's a beautiful morning

Feel the sun shining for your eyes

Wake up it's so beautiful

For what could be the very last time

Twenty-five, I don't recall a time I felt this alive,

So WAKE UP BOO!

There's so many things for us to do,

It's early so take your time

Don't let me rush you please

I know I was up all night,

I can do anything, anything, anything

Wake up it's a beautiful morning

Feel the sun shining for your eyes

Wake up it's so beautiful

For what could be the very last time ~

THE END

Author's Notes:

Well, this one was a surprise. As far back as August 1996, I was stating to the FFML that I hated authorfics, and up until April of 1997 I thought that I hated Sailor Moon. Now here I am writing a Sailor Moon authorfic. I hope I passed the audition.

I haven't read all too many Sailor Moon authorfics. I have, however, read lots of authorfics, and lots of Sailor Moon. The following authors could be said to have an influence on this story:

(Sailor Moon) Tim Nolan, Chris Davies, Jackie Chiang, Greenbeans, "Haruka Ten'ou" (authoress of the MSTing of Sailor Moon A), Kevin Bruner, John Biles, Jeff Hosmer, Andy Combs, Mark Latus, Frank Barr, and *especially* Jon Carp, whose incredibly weird and surreal Secondary Characters made me want to write about Hotaru. Plus thanks to Zoe Tsukino and Jackie Chiang for their manga pages, which provided a ton of background for this thing.

(Authorfics) Ben Hutchins, Megazone, Rob Mandeville, Martin Rose, Chris Meadows, Kris Overstreet, Larry Mann, and everyone else in the loony bin that is Eyrie Productions. Brett Handy, the first person to convince me that authorfics didn't *have* to suck. Twister, Bert Van Vliet, Hitomi Ichinohei, Ed Becerra, and *that* crew. And Scott Jamison, for making the whole thing cool. Though I never got into it, I'd like to think that Sean was dragged to CT in the first place as a result of those wars.

And, of course, thanks to 'da guyz' for helping preread this monstrosity. Zen, Nick Leifker, Sebastian Weinberg. Extra special thanks to Richard Lawson, for prereading above and beyond the call of duty. And extra- special thanks to Chris Davies, guest prereader, for helping me out when I got the basic facts wrong.

There are so many in jokes and music refs in this I'm not going to list them here. I may do an appendix one day. If you're puzzled, e-mail me.

By the way, since _so_ many people have asked, Haruka is the 'father' of Michiru's child. It's the thirtieth century, and Serenity has a few tricks up her sleeve. I think we can manage one baby.

I do still feel vaguely guilty about writing this, but not much. Now I think I'll go gird my loins and prepare for the flames.

Till next time.

--Sean Gaffney, 8/11/97