"The Girl From The Past"
A Sailor Moon Fanfic
By Bill K.

e-mail billk57@earthlink.net

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Sailor Moon and all related characters are (c)2001 by Naoko Takeuchi/Kodansha
and Toei Animation, and are used without permission, but with respect. Story is
(c) 2001 by Bill Kropfhauser.

This story takes place just after the end of Sailor Moon R, episode #88, and
tries to address a continuity error in the original animated series.

As always, for those only familiar with the English dub:
Usagi/Serenity=Serena
Ami=Amy
Rei=Raye
Makoto=Lyta
Minako=Mina
Haruka=Amara
Michiru=Michelle
Setsuna=Trista
Mamoru/Endymion=Darien
Chibi-Usa=Rini
Momo=Melanie
Kenji=Usagi's father
Shingo=Sammy
Dimando=Prince Diamond
Esmerodo=Emerald
Juuban=10th street shopping and residential district

Finally, Haruka and Michiru are NOT cousins.
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"Mama!" Chibi-Usa cried.

She'd cried that phrase a lot in recent memory, often as an exclamation of
the terror or deep sorrow the five-year-old was feeling. But this time it
didn't reveal sorrow or terror; it revealed the utter joy the girl was
experiencing as she ran to the arms of her mother. For her mother, Queen
Serenity of Crystal Tokyo, was alive and awake and kneeling before her, her arms
outstretched and her beautiful face bubbling over with tears of joy.

The girl leaped into her mother's arms with the force of a launched
bowling ball. Serenity caught her effortlessly and squeezed the girl tightly to
her breast. Chibi-Usa didn't mind in the least. If her mother never let go, it
was all right with her.

"Oh, Small Lady," sobbed Serenity, "you're back and you're whole and you
freed me from the grip of the Black Crystal!"

"I would have done it a million times, Mama!" Chibi-Usa said, tears of her
own flying down her cheeks. "I'm so glad you're back!"

"I'm sorry you had to go through everything you did," Serenity said,
pulling away just enough to face her child. "That whole Black Lady business
must have been so horrible."

"It was," Chibi-Usa replied in a small voice. "But Sailor Moon saved me."
Her face brightened. "You saved me." She looked down, darkening again. "I'm
sorry I lost the Crystal."

"I forgive you," Serenity said, kissing her girl. "You're my best girl
and I love you. Never forget that, Small Lady."

Chibi-Usa hugged her mother. Over Serenity's shoulder, the little girl
saw her father approach. He was whole again, not the ghostly spirit that
impotently haunted the halls of the Crystal Palace during the Black Moon
invasion. She reached for him, but stopped. Chibi-Usa saw his face darken with
concern. She felt her mother tense next to her. She turned in the woman's arms
and caught sight of what Serenity was looking at out of the corner of her eye.

"Puu!" smiled Chibi-Usa. However, the look of disapproval in the ghostly
projection of Sailor Pluto's eyes silenced the little girl. At first she feared
she had offended the senshi. Quickly she realized that the look of disapproval,
now gone, was aimed at her mother.

"My Queen," Sailor Pluto bowed respectfully. "King Endymion."

"Is there more trouble, Sailor Pluto?" Endymion asked cautiously. Before,
they had known their future, having seen it through youthful eyes. From this
point on, the future was an unfolding mystery.

"Trouble, Your Majesty?" Pluto asked inscrutably. "That is a value
judgment based upon one's point of view. It is also been said that it is not
within my perview to make such a judgment." Chibi-Usa felt Serenity tense
again. "There is activity at the Door Of Time. Three have journeyed from the
past to the ruins of Crystal Tokyo."

"Who are they?" Serenity asked, cautious yet wanting to believe the best.

"One is familiar to you, my Queen," Pluto said, fading from view as clouds
of mist billowed up from out of nowhere, "but one whom you thought never to see
again."

From the mists stepped three people: A man and a woman, both adults, with
a small girl between them clutching a hand of each. The woman held a ruby time
key in her free hand. Shadows in the mist at first, they became more visible as
the unnatural fog dissipated. Endymion moved to a protective position in front
of his wife and child, vowing silently not to let them be threatened again. The
light of day struck the travelers for the first time.

"Momo!" gasped Chibi-Usa.

She wrenched from Serenity's grasp and ran up to the five-year-old girl
that was dressed in the violet silk dress, her dark hair gathered behind her
head in a knot with a white cotton cover. Momo recognized Chibi-Usa immediately
and tore from the grasp of the two adults. The two friends met midway on the
grassy hill overlooking the ruins of Crystal Tokyo and hugged enthusiastically.

Endymion was mystified by everything. After a moment, Serenity recognized
Momo. She was the girl who had befriended Chibi-Usa during her abortive attempt
to enter kindergarten in the twentieth century - - the girl she, as Sailor Moon,
had battled when Momo and the elementary school had fallen under the evil
influence of Esmerodo and her crystal droid, ten centuries past.

"What are you doing here?" Momo squealed.

"I live here!" Chibi-Usa replied happily. "This is where I'm from. When
we met before, I was only visiting. I didn't really belong there. So what are
you doing here?"

"I'm with my mom and dad," Momo said, gesturing to the adults behind
her. "I guess we're supposed to be living here now, wherever this is."

Everyone looked to the couple. The man was a stranger, but the woman,
though older, was instantly recognizable. She smiled at Chibi-Usa.

"Hello, Small Lady," the woman bowed. "It's nice to see you again." She
turned to Serenity and Endymion, bowing respectfully. "Hello, Your Majesty.
Hello, Queen Serenity."

"Natsumi," whispered Serenity.
* * * *
"Mama!" howled Chibi-Usa.

"Small Lady, please!" gasped Serenity, trying to contain her exasperation.
She loved the girl dearly, but Chibi-Usa could be such a brat. "I have
something very important to discuss with Natsumi. I can't play with you right
now. Can't you play with Luna-P?"

It was a scant few weeks before the reunion above what had once been
Crystal Tokyo. Natsumi had been summoned to the Queen's chambers for, she
thought, routine business. However, the Queen's anxious demeanor told her
otherwise.

"I want to play with you!" Chibi-Usa persisted.

"Serenity, I can come back . . ." her social secretary and close friend
offered.

"NO!" Serenity gasped, far too excitedly. She reined in her emotions
before speaking again. "No, it must be now. Small Lady, please go play with
Luna-P. I'll come get you later."

Chibi-Usa's lower lip stuck out. Her eyebrows knit and she made a huge
show of stomping off. Serenity sighed. She wondered if this incident would be
the one that Wise Man would use to pervert her into Black Lady. She already
felt guilty about missing her daughter's birthday.

"I apologize for her behavior," Serenity offered to Natsumi.

"I understand," Natsumi smiled. "Small Lady is still young. You handle
her as well as can be expected. Maybe someday, if I ever know the joy of having
a child, I can follow your example of how to raise that child. You've been a
wonderful mother to her."

"I try," Serenity sighed. "I'm just lucky I had a little previous
experience with her."

"What?" Natsumi asked, confused.

"Um," Serenity said quickly, her eyes wide, "baby-sitting . . . my cousin
. . . who was about Small Lady's age . . . when I was a teen . . . way back a
long, long time ago, LONG before Small Lady was ever born. Heh heh."

Natsumi stared at the flustered queen, then shrugged. "What did you wish
of me, Serenity?"

"I," Serenity began, with a heavy heart, "really wish you'd take the next
few days off."

"That again? Serenity, what's this all about," Natsumi probed, "if I may
ask? I hear the talk in the palace. You've practically cleared the palace of
everyone except the senshi and the royal family. What's happening?"

Serenity stared at Natsumi, torn. It was hard keeping things from her.
Natsumi was a small woman, with a petite, willowy frame. She had a quiet
beauty, with her shoulder length black hair and tiny mouth. But her eyes were
what drew you to her. Her eyes were so dark and penetrating. They had a
hypnotic quality. They seemed to be able to look right through you and examine
your deepest secret. Part of her immense value to Serenity was her amazing
ability to anticipate the Queen's needs, as well as efficiently manage her
schedule. She often wondered how natural a gift it was. For a wild moment
Serenity was afraid Natsumi was looking through her and knew what was coming.

"I can't say," Serenity said, looking away from those eyes. "Just please
believe me. You don't want to be here in the next few days. Please, as a favor
to me, please go."

Natsumi looked down. She took in a deep breath to summon her courage.

"Your Majesty," she began.

"Natsumi, you know I hate that name," Serenity reminded her.

"I know. But I don't know any other way to communicate the gravity of
what I'm about to say." She swallowed. "Your Majesty, I know I'm just a social
secretary. But in the time I've known you, I have come to understand why so
many people are so devoted to you. That's why I must defy your wishes."
Natsumi looked up into Serenity's stricken face. "I am devoted to you as well.
I don't know what's going on, but I can see it has you very scared. And you
expect me to abandon you at this terrible time? No, Your Majesty. I must stay
here."

"Natsumi . . ." pleaded Serenity.

"I will face what you must face," she said resolutely.

"Natsumi, you might . . . die."

"If it means my death," she whispered gravely, "let it be in preserving
your life."

"No," sobbed Serenity.

"You are so much more important than I am. Why should I seek safety and
leave you to face whatever deadly force comes?"

"Please," Serenity begged.

"No, Your Majesty. I must refuse your charity. My place is with you."

A sob escaped Serenity's mouth. She stood up, touched Natsumi's head,
then glided from the room, head bowed. Natsumi followed her out with her eyes.

"I'm sorry, Your Majesty," she whispered.

In their chambers, Endymion found Serenity at the window, weeping. As
ever stricken by the sight of tears in those blue eyes, he crossed over to her
and placed his hands on her arms.

"Natsumi won't leave," Serenity whispered.

"She's become very close to you over the years," Endymion replied.

"Endymion, this is serious!" Serenity said, turning to face him. "We know
what's going to happen tomorrow! Dimando and the Black Moon family attack
tomorrow! They're going to destroy everything we've built and anyone in the
palace who isn't a senshi is going to die!"

"I know," Endymion said calmly, trying to pacify his wife. "I know that's
why you've been dismissing all the help, to get them out of the palace. But
it's her choice. It's her life. If she chooses to expend it to save you . . ."

"I DON'T WANT HER TO!" cried Serenity. "I want her to live!"

"Serenity," Endymion sighed. "How many times have we been over this? A
life forced upon a person is no life at all. You must accept her choice. You
can't arrogantly take that choice from her."

Serenity looked up at him, eyes blazing. It was a disagreement they'd had
many times over a thousand years. Sometimes he'd capitulate. Occasionally she
would. Sometimes both would dig in and she'd retire in the end to their
chambers in tears.

But there wasn't time to argue now. Dimando was too close. So she turned
from him and walked away, though it broke her heart. And his. As she walked,
she pondered the problem. Time was short.

Time!

Focused on the problem, Serenity momentarily forgot Endymion and fled the
room. Her husband was left again wondering whether there really was such a
thing as eternal love. With a heavy heart, he retired to his inner monitor room
to put his suspicions to the test.

Through the mists Serenity walked purposefully until she came to the door.
Its guardian did not issue her usual challenge. Instead she knelt in reverence.

"The time of sorrows approaches, my Queen," Pluto replied. "I am aware of
what will be required of me. Rest assured, I will perform my mission and guide
Small Lady in her journey to the past."

"I know, Pluto," Serenity said. "I need something else from you."

"Command me, my Queen," Pluto said curiously, rising.

"I want you," Serenity began, "to send Natsumi back in time - - to the
twentieth century."

The shock was evident in Pluto's face.

"It's the only way I know she'll be safe. She won't leave and I will not
see her die."

"But my Queen," gasped Pluto. "It is forbidden . . ."

"AND I'M UNFORBIDDING IT!" snapped Serenity.

Pluto stared. The silence was palpable between them, but Serenity showed
no signs of backing down. Finally, after an eternity, Pluto cast her eyes down.

"As you say," she whispered. Not "my Queen", but "you". Serenity
detected the shift in respect, but let it pass. "There is a danger."

"What? Does she die in the past?"

"No. Natsumi will meet the man of her dreams, marry and bear a child. I
refer to her knowledge of the future."

"Oh," Serenity said. Her resolve seemed to drain out of her. Then she
squared her shoulders. "I'll just have to deal with it."

"Indeed?" Pluto asked pointedly, a challenge in her voice.

"Yes, and I don't care if you disagree with it, or if Endymion does, or
anyone else for that matter! I will not watch a friend die if I can prevent
it!"

Pluto looked down again, only slightly chastened.

"I do not question your heart, my Queen," Pluto offered. "Only the wisdom
of this course."

"Well, it won't be the first time anyone's questioned my wisdom," Serenity
replied more gently. "But for the record, I'm following my heart in this
instance, and it's never led me wrong yet."

"Bring her to the door," Pluto murmured. "I already know I will do as you
command."

"Thank you," whispered Serenity. "I apologize if I've stained your image
of me."

A scant time later Serenity returned, with Natsumi in tow. The secretary
was staring wide-eyed at all she saw. Her gaze suddenly locked on Sailor Pluto
and she let out a little gasp.

"Serenity," she whispered. "Isn't that. . .? What's going on?"

"I need you to accompany me on a little trip," Serenity said, her face a
mask of pleasantness. "Pluto?"

The senshi did not reply. Her staff passed over the door and the portal
opened.

"Come, Natsumi," Serenity said, taking her charge's hand.

In an eye-blink, they were in twentieth century Japan. It was evening and
they were at the gate of a private residence. Pluto recognized it as the
Tsukino residence. Serenity looked around and sighed wistfully.

"Serenity, where are we?" Natsumi asked.

"Home," Serenity replied.

She walked up to the front door and knocked. Had anyone else answered, it
would have been trouble. To her innocent good fortune, Kenji Tsukino answered.
For a moment, he stared at her, unwilling to believe his eyes.

"Usagi?" he gasped at last.

"No," she spoke wistfully, summoning the Silver Crystal, "just a dream of
what could be." She touched Kenji's forehead and his eyes glazed over. "You
need someone to replace Mrs. Nakajima as your secretary at the magazine, so you
hired Natsumi Fujihara. She reports tomorrow." Serenity seemed on the verge of
tears. "Good-bye, Daddy. I love you."

She glided back to the others, blinking back tears.

"Serenity, what's going on?" asked Natsumi.

"About five years before I became Sailor Moon, my dad needed a secretary
at the magazine," Serenity told her. "You know, I'm sitting in that house right
now - - and Shingo's probably pulling on my hair."

"Serenity . . ."

"I never met the woman he hired," Serenity grinned at her, "but I remember
him telling me her name was Natsumi."

Natsumi stared at her, the plan dawning on her.

In response, Serenity lifted the trio with the Crystal's power and flew
them to an apartment building nearby. Moments later Natsumi had an apartment, a
bank account and credentials courtesy of the Silver Crystal, much to her
growing concern. In the apartment, Serenity came up to her, a look of
melancholy on her face.

"Serenity, I know what you're trying to do," Natsumi said in exasperation.

Serenity produced a necklace of fine gold chain and placed it around
Natsumi's neck. A gold and ruby key hung from the chain.

"I never could fool you for long about anything," Serenity smiled. "I'm
sorry, Natsumi, but I have to save you, whether you want me to or not."

"Serenity," fumed Natsumi. Serenity touched the woman's forehead and she
went blank.

"You're now Natsumi Fujihara of the twentieth century and you know only of
twentieth century things. All your memories of the thirtieth century will be
locked away. Should you ever wish to return, grasp the key and say these
words," Serenity said and placed the phrase in the woman's mind. "The path will
be blocked until after the Black Moon has passed." Serenity grinned. "But I
don't think you'll want to come back when you meet who you're going to meet.
But should you ever remember and want to return, the path will be there."

She concentrated and Natsumi stood mesmerized, then collapsed when the
link was broken. Serenity eased her to the floor.

"You dare much, my Queen," Pluto told her.

"I know. You may think what I'm doing here is wrong. Personally, I think
allowing all the suffering that's about to come to just happen is the
crime." She knelt down and touched Natsumi. "Good-bye, my friend."

"You could summon her back after the time of sorrows has passed."

"And deprive her of falling in love with the man of her dreams?" Serenity
smiled. "You don't know me very well at all, do you?"

"Let us return, my Queen," Pluto said gently. She waved her staff and the
pair found themselves at the Door of Time.

"Well," Serenity said anxiously, her efforts showing on her, "better get
back . . . unless the Black Moon has attacked already. I did take the Silver
Crystal out of this time."

"And attack they would have," Pluto told her, "had I not brought us back
to one second after we left. Dimando will attack on schedule and not before."

"Thank you, Pluto," Serenity said, turning to leave. Pluto noticed that
the weight of the universe seemed to be on her shoulders.

"My Queen," Pluto spoke up. "It has been many centuries since I have had
the temerity to question your wisdom. If I have spoken from ignorance, please
forgive me, for I am a mere senshi and lack your vision."

"Of course, Pluto," smiled Serenity. "We're friends." Serenity
disappeared into the mists, leaving Pluto alone.
* * * *
"And that's the story," Serenity told everyone assembled. She glanced
over at Endymion and saw his stern look. "I'm sorry, Endymion. She wouldn't go
and I just couldn't let her die."

"Your intentions were noble," he told her. "But history is paved with the
disasters that have resulted from good intentions." Serenity glanced downward.
She didn't necessarily agree, but she didn't possess a convincing
counter-argument.

"So why did you come back?" Chibi-Usa asked pointedly. "Weren't you happy
in the past?"

"I could ask you the same question, Small Lady," smiled Natsumi. "Did you
like it in the past?"

"Well . . . it was kind of primitive - - but I made a lot of friends! And
there's so many fun things to do there! I wouldn't mind going back."

"Perhaps when you're older," Endymion said and winked at Serenity, who
giggled.

"Well, I was happy too," Natsumi said. "But it was mostly because I
didn't know I was from the future. Queen Serenity had buried my memories under
false memories. I didn't know."

"I'm sorry," whimpered Serenity. "We couldn't risk you saying something
you shouldn't."

"I understand." She smiled. "I should thank you. It allowed me to meet
Sho. I never would have met him otherwise."

"Mom," Momo said, peering up at Natsumi, "you're really from the future?"

"Yes, honey," Natsumi replied, ready for the worst.

"Gear!" Momo exclaimed. Natsumi and Serenity exchanged looks of amused
relief.

"But what brought back your memory?" Serenity asked. "Didn't I do it
right?"

"You did, I suppose. I lived very happily for seven years in old Tokyo,
working as a secretary to Kenji Tsukino and later raising my cute little Momo."
Endymion glanced curiously at Serenity.

"Aw, Mom," groused Momo.

"For months, every time I saw a report of Sailor Moon's exploits, I had
this strange feeling I knew her," Natsumi continued. "I got it again when
little Momo told me of her new friend with pink hair. But when the Black
Crystal blanketed Juuban with its dark energy, I suddenly remembered
everything."

Serenity stared in wonderment, recalling her distant memories of the Black
Moon Invasion of Tokyo and her more recent ones of their original invasion.

"Clearly your implants were canceled out by the energy of the Black
Crystal," mused Endymion.

"So you used the key to come back?" Serenity said.

"Not at first," Natsumi replied. "I couldn't bear the thought of leaving
my family. So I tried to hide my - - well, past - - and continue on as before.
But I just couldn't cope with such a primitive society - - I'm sorry, Sho. I
missed Crystal Tokyo. And I missed you, Serenity. I finally broke down and
told Sho." She smirked at him. "It took a little convincing, but he finally
accepted the fact that his wife was a refugee from the thirtieth century. And
when he agreed, we came back to the future." She lowered her eyes. "If I'm
still welcome."

"Natsumi!" cried Serenity. "Of course you are!" She lurched forward and
hugged the woman.

"You haven't filled my job yet?"

"Well, you've only been gone a few weeks!"

"R-Really?" Natsumi said, clearly confused.

"Don't worry about it," Serenity said, waving her hand dismissively.
"It's that whole time travel thing. As long as Ami or Setsuna understand, I
don't concern myself." She suddenly looked uncomfortable. "Um, things are a
little bit of a mess around here. We've got a lot of rebuilding to do."

"Then perhaps we've shown up at just the right time after all," Natsumi
smiled warmly.

"I'll make accommodations for you and your family here in the palace,"
Serenity beamed. Impulsively, she hugged Natsumi again. "Oh, I never thought I
was going to see you again! I'm so glad you're back!"

"Hey, Momo!" Chibi-Usa said to her friend. "Do you want to see my room?"

"Sure! I can't wait to hear what thirtieth century CD's sound like!"

"We don't use CD's here," giggled Chibi-Usa. "We use memory crystals.
I'll show you!"

"Gear!" Momo exclaimed. The two five-year-olds ran off.

"Well she's certainly adapting quickly," Endymion said to Sho.

"I'm glad," the man replied, unable to keep himself from staring in
wonderment at his surroundings. "I was worried. I hope I can adjust as
quickly. This is like stepping into a science fiction book."

"Well, we'll do everything we can to make your adjustment as easy as
possible," Endymion said, offering the man his hand. "You can call me Endymion.
We're glad to have you here."

"Thanks," Sho replied, shaking the king's hand. "Whatever makes my
Natsumi happy. I'll get used to things. And just let me know if there's
anything I can do to help around here. I was a pretty good carpenter way back
when."
* * * *
Busied with the task of rebuilding Crystal Tokyo, Natsumi and her family
settled in. For Natsumi, it was like settling into old habits and she quickly
reacquainted herself with life in the palace. Serenity easily resumed being
dependent on her for managing her scheduling and sorting her appointments and
requests for audience. The other senshi were just as glad to have her back and
they were all frequently seen trading gossip about the present or stories of the
past.

For Momo, the future was like living in an amusement park. There were so
many new and different things to be discovered and experienced. And with
Chibi-Usa as her steward, the girl threw herself headlong into discovering every
one of them. For Chibi-Usa, Momo was a dream come true. At last she had
someone her own age to play with, to trade secrets and ambitions with, and to
exchange companionship with. The pair grew close and for years seemed to
specialize in terrorizing the palace with some new mischief. Though both
Serenity and Natsumi were loath to admit it, they were each glad that the two
girls had found each other again and could let their friendship blossom.

For Sho, the transition was a little more difficult. Being adult and more
set in his ways, he was less adaptable than his daughter was. He did what he
could during the reconstruction, but once that was done found himself at odds
with the new world he found himself in. The royal family immediately set him up
with a tutoring program to try to bring him up to speed on the advanced
civilization he found himself in. Sho tried, but there was ten centuries of
progress to learn and he wasn't always the most eager of students. Finally he
contented himself with using his skills to create twentieth century style wooden
furniture, which were rare commodities in the Crystalline Age. It wasn't what
he had hoped for himself, but it was a popular niche and Sho contented himself
with it.

Life continued on in Crystal Tokyo through seven years of ups and downs,
through crises and through peaceful times. Momo began to grow and blossom, her
squat frame showing signs of stretching out, hinting at the willowy beauty she
could become. By the time they were twelve, Momo stood a good five inches above
Chibi-Usa, who was often loudly puzzled by her own slower growth.

During the summer of that seventh year, Serenity received a request from
Sho. He asked for leave for Natsumi so the family could go on a private retreat
to an ancestral area of Japan together. Serenity sensed distress in Sho when he
made his request and was curious about the suddenness of this family decision.
However, Sho refused to discuss details and Serenity, eager to be polite, didn't
press him. She granted Natsumi leave from her job.

They were gone six full months. The separation was difficult on
Chibi-Usa. With puberty approaching, she seemed more than ever to need Momo as
her support and confidant. Serenity, too, felt the difficulty of being parted
from Natsumi, though she bore the strain with more quiet dignity than Chibi-Usa
could muster. Oddly enough, Ami seemed to be distressed by the woman's absence
as well. Serenity noticed this and questioned her, but her friend couldn't
provide any concrete explanation.

Then one day in her chambers, Serenity turned to the electronic chime of
the door. When the computer circuits identified the person at the door as Momo,
she quickly bade the girl in.

Seeing Momo was a shock. A cloud of depression swirled around the girl.
Her bright eyes and smile seemed dimmed by a deep tragedy and it set Serenity's
heart to breaking. Instantly she went to the girl and tried to find out what
troubled her. Momo resisted questioning and would only look down.

"My father asked me to give you this note," Momo said, presenting it to
Serenity. "May I go now? I really have something important to tell Chibi-Usa."

Serenity wanted to press her for an explanation, but could see the fragile
girl wasn't up to it. She nodded gently and Momo left while Serenity read the
note. It was a request from Natsumi to come to a specific dwelling in Crystal
Tokyo not far from the palace.

Instantly Serenity headed for the address, questions swirling around her.
When had Natsumi and her family returned? Why hadn't they returned to their
home in the palace? And what dark tragedy was swirling around them?

Sho met her at the door. He ushered her in solemnly and directed her to
the bedroom. His grave, depressed nature made Serenity wonder all the more
what had happened. When she asked him, he only directed her to an inner room.

Inside, Natsumi was in bed. She looked pale, drawn and withered, a shell
of her former self. Serenity gasped audibly, her hand flying to her mouth. Ami
stood next to the bed, monitoring life support equipment connected to it.
Serenity silently appealed to her friend.

"Serenity," Natsumi gasped weakly. Her broken, chapped lips pulled into a
weak smile. Then her face clouded over with sadness. "I apologize for what I
must tell you. I'm dying."

Serenity gaped in shock.

"She has a cancerous growth on her trachea that spread to her lungs and
stomach," Ami said quietly. "It was too far along to treat when I found it."

"Cancer?" gasped Serenity incredulously. "But that's so rare! How?"

"There's nothing in the current environment that would cause this type of
tumor. But it was very prevalent," and Ami hesitated, reluctant to continue,
"in the twentieth century."

Serenity momentarily forgot how to breathe. Her eyes darted back to
Natsumi and found the woman's lined, haggard face staring sympathetically back
at her.

"No, Ami, she can't die!" Serenity said desperately. "You can cure it!
Tell me you can cure it!"

"The disease was eliminated by eliminating the carcinogen in the
environment that produced it," Ami explained. "There's never been a cure. And
when we discovered it, the disease was too far along to even use the primitive
treatments like radiation or chemicals that were used back then. The treatment
would be just as deadly to her as the malignancy."

Serenity stared at Ami.

"I'm sorry, Serenity. There's nothing I can do."

"Ami," Serenity pleaded, almost sobbing. "How could something like this
get that far along?"

Ami looked down, frustrated. "I wasn't looking for it. This type of
cancer hasn't been seen on Earth for over two hundred years. And by the time
her symptoms became noticeable, it was just too late."

Serenity stared at her, silently pleading with Ami for some scrap of
news that would avert this death sentence for one of her friends.

"I've been able to keep her alive with the life support systems," Ami
told her, "but I can't cure her. And now Natsumi has requested that I turn
the life support off."

She turned away from Ami, to the bedridden Natsumi. It was an
unintentional slight that Ami, in her capacity as a doctor, was used to.
Serenity sat down next to Natsumi, gathering the woman's hand in hers. It was
so frail and cold that Serenity could scarcely believe it was a human hand.

"I'm sorry for all this," Natsumi whispered hoarsely. "It took me a while
to come to terms with the thought of dying. Then I had to get my family through
it. I still worry a little about Momo."

Serenity squeezed the hand gently.

"At first, I wasn't going to tell you at all. I didn't want to cause you
the pain I can see in your eyes. But I realized that I didn't want to go
without saying 'good-bye' to you." Natsumi drew a labored breath.

"Natsumi, you can't die," cried Serenity, tears streaming down her cheeks.
"You're my friend!"

"You have many friends, Serenity," smiled Natsumi. "You have a whole
kingdom of friends."

"It's not enough," Serenity whimpered. "I'm greedy. I need you, too."

"I'm sorry, Your Majesty. I must disappoint you."

Serenity stared, motionless, at her friend wasting away before her eyes.

"Not if I use the Crystal."

"Serenity!" hissed Ami. "She's too far gone! If you try to revive her,
you could risk killing yourself!"

"I don't care . . .!" Serenity sobbed.

"No," gasped Natsumi.

"But . . ."

"No. You're too important to too many people, Serenity. Far more
important than I am."

"No, I'm not!"

The bony hand gripped hers weakly.

"Your Majesty," rasped Natsumi. "I know it offends you, but there are
times you must let death have its due. Fate can be postponed, but never
cheated. I thank you for your generous offer, Serenity. But I must reject it."

Helplessly Serenity stared at her. Endymion's words echoed through her
brain. "A life forced upon someone is no life at all." "History is paved with
the disasters that resulted from good intentions." New wellsprings of tears
sprouted from her eyes.

"I'm sorry," Serenity wept. "This is all my fault. If I hadn't sent you
back in time . . ."

"I would have died in the Black Moon attack. And I would never have met
Sho and Momo would never have been born."

She took another ragged breath and Serenity held hers.

"I don't want to die, given the choice. But I've had thirteen wonderful
years with my family. It's more than I was destined to have . . . thanks to
you. If it's all that I'm allowed to have, then I'm satisfied. Good-bye,
Serenity. Thank you for all the kindness you've shown me."

Serenity couldn't respond, save with a torrent of tears. Ami grasped her
by the shoulders and led her out. Sho was waiting outside and offered her a
sympathetic touch on her forearm. At the door, Rei was waiting. She took
charge of Serenity so Ami could return to her patient. Rei led Serenity to the
Queen's chambers and sat and held her until the Queen could cry no more.

"I should . . . 'hick' . . . should have done something," Serenity heaved.

"You did all you could," Rei whispered.

Just then Chibi-Usa burst in.

"Mama! Momo's mother is sick!" cried the young lady.

"We know, Small Lady," Rei said, holding Serenity protectively.

"Momo said she's going to die!"

A new round of sobs exploded from Serenity.

"Mama," Chibi-Usa prodded incredulously. "Aren't you going to do
anything?"

"There's nothing she can do," Rei told her.

"But," sputtered the girl, a look of betrayal growing on her face, "but
she can do anything!"

"No I can't!" wailed Serenity. "I'm just a fraud!"

"Shush now!" Rei whispered harshly to Serenity. She turned to Chibi-Usa.
"Small Lady, for the crystal to bring the dead back, it has to exact a terrible
price. You know that. If she tries to cure Natsumi, she could die herself. Do
you want that?"

Chibi-Usa's lip trembled. The anger in her red eyes made a subtle shift
and reflected the frustration the girl felt.

"IT'S NOT FAIR!" she bellowed impotently.

"No it's not, Small Lady," Rei replied, comforting Serenity. "No it's
not. Small Lady, Momo needs you now. Please go to her."

The young girl nodded silently, her own tears trickling down her cheeks,
and walked out.

"Thank you, Rei," whispered Serenity. "I should have dealt with her, but
I'm just not strong enough."

"You're the only one around here who expects you to be strong
twenty-four/seven," Rei said. "I'm here for you. I'll always be here for you."

Natsumi died five days after. Though she could not cure her friend,
Serenity returned the morning after saying good-bye and used the Crystal to make
her friend's last days comfortable and pain free.

It was a dark and somber palace for months after. Serenity managed to
shunt her own pain aside enough times during the day to help ease the burdens of
Sho, Momo and Chibi-Usa whenever she could. Endymion and the senshi did the
same, as well as attempt to ease each other's burdens and together ease
Serenity's.

Life, in spite of personal sorrows, inevitably goes on. Everyone involved
eventually resumed their lives. Sho and Momo didn't return to the palace,
preferring the nearby dwelling they had used during Natsumi's final months.
Chibi-Usa spent as much time there as she did at the palace.

Six months after Natsumi's death, Sho requested an audience with Serenity
and Endymion.

"You," sputtered Serenity, "want to go back?"

"Yes, Queen Serenity," Sho said humbly.

"May I ask why?" Endymion asked gently.

Sho sighed heavily. "I don't belong here. I've never belonged here. The
last seven years have been like living on an alien world. The only thing that
kept me sane was Natsumi and Momo. And now that Natsumi's gone . . ."

"Have you discussed this with Momo?" Endymion asked.

"Yes. She's a bright girl - - very perceptive and very adaptable. She's
going to miss the Small Lady terribly, but she understands how hopeless her
father is and she's willing to go."

"Small Lady's going to miss her," mused Serenity. "We'll miss you both,
too. But I wouldn't dream of keeping you here if you didn't want to be here.
I'll talk to Pluto." She got up, glided over to him and clasped his hands in
hers. "Thank you for gracing our presence, however briefly. Thank you for
providing some joy for my daughter. And thank you for making Natsumi's last
years her happiest."

Struck mute with emotion, Sho only bowed his head.

In another part of the palace, Momo was breaking the news to Chibi-Usa.

"You're leaving?" Chibi-Usa asked, unable to hide the heartbreak.

"Yeah," Momo said sadly. "My Dad wants to go back to his time, now that
Mom's gone."

"That makes sense. It's a nice time," Chibi-Usa mumbled. Unbidden, tears
welled in spite of her efforts to quell them. "I'm sorry. I don't want to make
this harder for you. But I'm going to miss you, Momo."

"I'll miss you too, Chibi-Usa," Momo smiled sadly. "You're the best
friend I've ever had."

"You're the only friend I've ever had." She shrugged. "At least the only
one my age. I wish I could go with you."

"Maybe you can get Sailor Pluto to let you visit," Momo smiled.

Impulsively, Chibi-Usa pulled one of the rabbit shaped hair clips from her
pink hair.

"Here," she said, handing it to Momo. "So you'll remember me."

"Thank you," Momo said gratefully. She pulled out one of the pins in her
hair under the cloth cover, a dragon miniature molded on it. "So you'll
remember me. We'll trade them back if we ever see each other again."

"I'll remember," Chibi-Usa smiled.

Momo turned and in a moment was gone. Chibi-Usa eased herself onto her
bed and stared at the dragon hairpin with a heavy heart.
* * * *
Tokyo, 1995: Serenity recognized it from distant memories. Sho and Momo
recognized it from more recent ones, while Pluto kept her own counsel.

"My Queen," Pluto said, "we have returned only a year after they left. If
they are to stay here, you will have to use the Silver Crystal to alter reality
in this era so that no one will question their ages."

"Of course," nodded Serenity.

Her head fell back and her eyes closed. She cupped her hands in front of
her breast and concentrated. The Silver Crystal seemed to emerge from a warp in
space directly in front of her. It hovered inches from her hands. She raised
her hands above her head and the Crystal poured forth silver light, blanketing
the city. When it dissipated, Serenity seemed to falter against Pluto with
fatigue.

"It's done," she panted.

"Did you over-extend yourself?" Pluto asked.

"Probably," Serenity said, woozy. "Altering reality isn't easy."

"My Queen," prompted Pluto. "Their memories."

"No, I won't take their memories," she said, glancing over at the
surprised and grateful family. "They've lost so much as it is." She turned to
them. "Please remember, you must never tell anyone about the future." Noticing
Momo, she knelt before the melancholy girl. "Don't be sad, Momo. You'll see
Small Lady again one day."

"My Queen should strive to follow her own advice," Pluto advised.

"I've got to go," Serenity smirked impishly. "Pluto has to scold me."

Sailor Pluto lifted the garnet orb staff and they faded from view.

"You knew, didn't you," Serenity said at the Door of Time. "When I sent
Natsumi back in time, you knew how it would end."

"My Queen, I cannot predict the future. I may see it, but the future is a
swirl of contradictory images that are true one moment and false the next." She
breathed in. "But the past is an open book to me. I knew Natsumi spent seven
years in the past. I knew she and her family disappeared from the time line for
a year, then they returned without her. I did not know, but it was not hard to
guess that a tragedy occurred."

"Did I do the right thing?" Serenity asked.

"They are where they belong," Pluto replied. "As for Natsumi, she enjoyed
thirteen years of happiness. Though her fate eventually caught up with her, I
think your heart was right again."

Serenity smiled.

"A question, my Queen," Pluto continued. "Why was it necessary to bring
them back to the year after they left?"

"I don't know," Serenity shrugged. "You're the time expert."

"But," sputtered Pluto. "I knew . . . history told me that they returned
to that year. But I thought you had a reason."

"You were driving," Serenity huffed.

Pluto gaped at her incredulously, then tried to smother a smile.

"With your leave, my Queen," muttered Pluto, shaking her head. She raised
her staff and Serenity suddenly found herself in her chambers.

"Everything's always my fault," Serenity scowled.

THE END