Secondary Characters: Not the End
{Jon Carp}
address: jcarp@med.unc.edu










"What's going on?"

"Don't be confused. It's very simple. Only the good are
rewarded. Only the evil are punished."

"Why?"

A grin. "Love and justice, motherfucker."

"You're so naive."

"No, I'm a realist. The world is naive."

"But... but even then it's confusing. Where are the answers?
The ultimate answers, I mean. Where are they?"

"Maybe they're on the mothership that girl told us about."

"Yeah, maybe."

"Yeah."













Let's get this straight, once and for all.

Michiru loves Haruka, and Haruka loves Michiru.

Any questions?


Michiru had one. Just one, though, and the doubt conflicted
so greatly with what she knew in her heart to be true that when she
did finally bring it up to Haruka, it was with her familiar joking,
flirtymanner that meant, "Hey, nothing's really wrong here."

And the familiar joking, flirty manner was right. It just
took a little bit of encouragement to convince Michiru of that.

"Oh, phhlppt," she raspberried (in reaction to a Haruka jibe
about her leading on a handsome male admirer). "Kind of like you and
Setsuna, huh?"

Haruka blinked. Then she started to laugh, which ruined her
delivery for the next joke. "Me and Setsuna? Bleah, that's like
accusing me of trying to seduce my...ten year-old sister or
something."

Michiru raised an eyebrow. "No, it's like accusing you of
trying to seduce your incredibly beautiful ten year-old sister."

"Beautiful, huh? Maybe I should be worried about YOU and
Setsuna."

Michiru smacked her lover's arm playfully. Her message had
been conveyed, and now was the time for fun and romance and love.

And so from then on their conversation became much less goofy
and much more romantic. But, and here's the important part, they
were smiling the entire time.





Meiou Usagi rarely smiled, for the simple reason that she
rarely felt like it. Day in and day out she would go through her
normal duties with an expression of bland seriousness on her face.
She only varied it as an attempt to make the people around her feel
more comfortable. It never worked, and to tell the truth, she
half-assed it. She would try to say something to one of the inners,
Minako for example, but soon she would see how uneasy she was making
her. Then she would quickly finish her business, politely say
goodbye, drive home at exactly the speed limit, slowly walk upstairs
to her room, and collapse on her bed and sob for hours.

It wasn't fair. Of course it wasn't, she told herself. LIFE
isn't fair.

It had been, once.

The other outers had gotten used to her mood swings, but
couldn't doa thing about it, no matter how much they tried. They
didn't really care about her, anyway. She didn't love them enough for
that.

Once she had exhausted her tears, and just lay on her bed
breathing.

A light knock on the door, and Michiru slowly opened it and
walked in. She placed a steaming mug on the bedside table.

"I brought you some hot chocolate," she said softly, sitting
at the foot of the bed. "Do you want to talk about it?" The routine
question.

"No. Thank you, though." The routine answer.

Michiru nodded and stood up. "We're here if you need
anything," she said on the way out the door. She would never
understand.

Usagi was alone again. She picked up the mug and took a sip.
It was good as always.

"You're depressing me," a gruff male voice said.

"Sorry," she said sarcastically. "I wouldn't want to do
that."

Her god appeared in the corner of the room. "It's your own
fault, you know. You made the decision."

"I know."

Usagi stretched and looked around the room sullenly.
"Where's Hotaru?" she asked. "Doesn't she come visit me with you?"

Pluto raised an eyebrow. "You remember that? This is really
interesting. What do you remember?"

Usagi shrugged. "It's like I have two sets of memories," she
replied. "One from this life and one from... the other one."

"When you were Sailor Moon."

"Yes. When I was Sailor Moon."

Pluto sniggered. "Well, that never really happened, y'know.
Almost no one else remembers it."

Usagi looked up at him with cold eyes. "Does Setsuna
remember?"

"Nope."

Her eyes remained cold, and even became a little icy. "What
about... him?"

"Him? Him who? You mean Chiba?"

She nodded slowly.

"He doesn't remember a thing," Pluto said, a hard smile on
his face. "He's... close to love and justice, you see. That's
exactly the kind of person who could never understand your current
situation. It's too complex. Too bizarre."

She nodded slowly again. "I've tried to love him," she
murmured to the wall or window or bedpost, "but I can't. It's
strange."

"Sailor Pluto doesn't get any love," the god replied angrily.
"Or justice either. So stop even thinking about it."

"All right," she said, still looking away from his terrible
ugliness. There was a pause, and then she spoke again. "Where is
Hotaru, again?"

"Oh, right, she's with Sailor Jupiter today. She said she'd
visit tomorrow."

Usagi squinted in confusion. "Makoto? What're they doing
together?"

Pluto picked his teeth with a fingernail. "They're friends,"
he said, shrugging.

"That's odd. I could never imagine the two of them especially
being friends with each other."

Pluto grinned, a horrible sight. "To tell you the truth,
they're not supposed to be." He stopped grinning. "I'll see you
around. Don't go crazy, okay? I'm in the doghouse as it is."

He disappeared. Usagi slowly finished her hot chocolate, but
she didn't enjoy it at all.








In her current state of non-death, Hotaru never needed to
sleep, so it was a little strange that she owned so many pajamas. It
seemed that every time she visited Makoto's apartment, which she did
once or twice a week, she wore the damn things.

Makoto never complained, though. In fact, she enjoyed the
atmosphere it provided; she would slip on her old bathrobe and the two
of them would sit around talking and laughing well into the night,
like normal, living girls with living parents.

They shared secrets, too.

Hotaru scooped up a large chunk of her Cherry Garcia and
squinted at Makoto thoughtfully. "Well, if this lie is bothering you
so much, why don't you just tell everyone you're not gay?"

Makoto stirred her soft Chubby Hubby for a moment before
answering. "They wouldn't understand," she said finally, shrugging.
"And they'd be mad at me for lying to them for so long."

"Looks like you're stuck, then," Hotaru said blithely, spoon
sticking out of her mouth. "Though... you know what kind of people
they are. As long as you have love, they'll be happy for you,
regardless of what you did in the past."

Makoto offered a look that was midway between a grin and a
glower and did not reply.

"Is that the only reason you broke up with this guy?" Hotaru
asked, leaning closer. "Just because you couldn't introduce him to
your friends?"

"I told them he was a WOMAN, Hotaru-chan!" Makoto snapped.
"And no, that wasn't the only reason. We just didn't love each other.
Besides, he was too good a guy for me. He deserves better."

"You mean he deserves someone who doesn't lie?" Hotaru asked.
Makoto nodded sullenly. Hotaru smirked and twirled her spoon in the
air. "I know you," she said. "You're honorable. I'm not sure
you're even capable of consistantly sustaining a lie for this long."

Makoto raised her eyebrow. "And what's THAT supposed to mean?"

Hotaru didn't answer right away. She stood and, whistling
lightly, made her way over to Makoto's CD collection, tucked in the
corner next to the television. She reached down and began shuffling
through it. "What's this?" she asked with mock surprise. "You
sure do seem to have a lot American music from the seventies!
That's a little odd. When did you pick all of these up?"

Makoto nearly blushed. "Um. Over the past couple of weeks."

"Hmm!" Hotaru was taking obvious pleasure in this game. "Now,
why did you do that? You didn't buy these just so you could play
them when a... certain person... comes to visit, did you?"

"Maybe."

"A certain... SPECIAL... person?"

"Now, stop that!" Makoto snapped. "I'm NOT gay, Hotaru-chan!
It's insulting; just because I'm tough and have a little muscle tone
I'm necessarily a lesbian? That's an offensive, insulting idea."

Hotaru shrugged. "We've entered an unconventional world since
Galaxia left. It's not an insult to assume that you'd be able to find
love anyway."

Makoto sighed. "Okay," she admitted. "It's not true, but it's
not so far-fetched, either. Now shut up."

Grinning, Hotaru shut up.

"She doesn't even exist," Makoto grumbled.

"Like I said, unconventional."

"REALLY unconventional."

"But cute."

Makoto rolled her eyes. "I'm supposed to just have a nice,
normal boyfriend, okay?"

"And I'm supposed to still be alive," Hotaru replied, shrugging.
"The world is strange."

Makoto nodded. "I guess it always was," she said. "Now it's
just strange in a different way."

Hotaru looked like she was about to say something, but took a
bite of her ice cream instead. They ate in silence for a while,
savoring both the flavor and the comfortable, benevolent air
between them. Even in awkward moments like these, they shared a kind
of friendship. There is love in friendship, and there is also
justice.

"Sometimes I miss being dead," Makoto said softly, almost to
herself.

Hotaru raised her eyebrow. "Do you really mean that?"

"No, not one bit."

Hotaru laughed and laughed. Makoto just grinned and placed
another wonderful, gooey spoonful into her mouth.









The inner senshi were happy. Very happy. Happy without question.
Happy happy happy.

Even Makoto, whose happiness was rather unconventional, still
truly, genuinely enjoyed her life, her role, herself.

The happy loving meeting had just broken up, and they had said
their joyful goodbyes and gone their contented ways from Rei's cheerful
temple. Usagi walked in.

Rei was sweeping the steps, humming some song she'd heard on the
radio that morning and couldn't get out of her head. It wasn't a very
good song, and she didn't like it, but she still hummed it happily.

"Hello, Rei," Usagi said. Rei almost dropped the broom.

"Usagi-san! What are you doing here?"

"Nothing. I..." she searched for words. "Um... is the meeting
over?"

"Yes."

"So..." Usagi said, slowly wandering around the room. "How's...
your grandfather doing?"

"He's fine," Rei said. "Um, yeah, he's fine."

Inside, Usagi was swearing up a storm. She was failing
miserably.

"You came here for a reason, right, Usagi-san?" Rei asked.

Shit. Well, a little more stalling couldn't hurt.

"Rei-san, tell me about Setsuna."

"What?"

"Tell me about Setsuna, please. How do you really feel about
her?"

Rei blinked. "I'm not sure what you mean."

"I mean, how do you feel about her? Is she your friend?"

Rei nodded.

"Your best friend?"

Rei stopped nodding. She thought about that for a minute. "Yes,"
she said eventually. "I think she is."

"Why?"

Rei folded her arms across her chest. "Why not?"

Usagi glared. "It's important, Rei."

Rei sighed. "I don't know," she said. "She just is."

Usagi shook her head. "That's not good enough. That's not a
reason."

"She's... kind to me, I guess. She's actually kind. Not many
people are."

Usagi nodded. "I understand," she whispered. "Setsuna is loving
and innocent no matter what, right?"

Rei nodded. "I guess so."

"She's not the only one, though," Usagi pointed out. "Minako is
loving and innocent."

"Minako-chan is my friend, too," Rei said.

"Yes, but why Setsuna?" Usagi asked, more loudly than she
intended. "What is it about HER?"

Rei blinked. Poor girl, Usagi thought. This situation was so
strange for her.

"Usagi-san?" Rei asked. "You're not... crying, are you?"

"No, of course not," Usagi said. "You were saying, about
Setsuna?"

Rei sighed. "I don't know," she said once again. "She's just
Setsuna. Nobody could ever be like she is."

"Are you sure?" Usagi asked.

Rei thought for a minute. "Yes," she said. "I'm sure."

"Are you in love with her?"

Rei dropped her broom. It clattered to the cold, hard steps
and slid down before stopping at Usagi's feet. "Excuse me?!" Rei
exclaimed.

"You heard what I asked."

Rei's face was an appropriately dark shade of red. She laughed
nervously, loudly. "Of course I don't! That would be... Of course
I don't!"

Usagi slowly picked up the broom and handed it to Rei. Rei
snatched it away and began sweeping violently.

After a moment, she glanced up at Usagi, who was still looking at
her with that eerie, dull expression. "Usagi-san!" she exclaimed, "I
don't! I'm not! I wouldn't! So stop it!"

Usagi nodded. "I believe you." Her expression did not change
at all, but she somehow looked sadder than before. Rei kept staring
down at the steps she was sweeping, hiding her still-red face behind
waves of soft, beautiful hair.

An uncomfortable moment passed that way.

"I apologize if I embarrassed you," Usagi said finally, managing
to sound both bored and heartbroken at the same time. "I just want to
understand you inner senshi more. Ever since Galaxia, you've been a
mystery to me. I can't understand wanting to die for someone you
don't love."

"I don't... WANT... to die for her," Rei replied softly. "But
I will, if I have to."

Usagi didn't answer. Rei looked up at her, with a strangely
piercing glare. "You died, too."

"I know."

"Well, why did you die? Why didn't you and Hotaru fight back?"

Usagi shrugged. "We did what we were supposed to do."

Rei squinted at her. "I don't understand you outers at all,"
she said.

Usagi suddenly felt very uncomfortable. She looked away and
nodded. "Well, thank you for your help, Rei-san." She turned her back
on Rei and walked out of the temple. She didn't start crying until she
got home.







Minako couldn't believe it. Here they were, the three of them,
sharing girl-talk and about to hear some juicy bit of Makoto's love
life (which she could live vacariously later that night, with that
part of Makoto's girlfriend played by one of a number of hunky high
schoolers) and Ami wouldn't even stop studying! With no small amount
of satisfaction she imagined herself grabbing that damn book out of
Ami's hands, throwing it down on the ground, and stomping on it.

In reality, she just waved her hands in the air and snapped at her
friend, "Stop that, Ami-chan! Now is not the time for study! Now is
the time for gossip!"

Ami blushed and did her best to hide her face completely behind
her book. "But I don't want to hear about Mako-chan's personal life,"
she said timidly. "It's her business, after all."

Makoto smiled warmly. "It's okay, Ami-chan, I'm used to it. Um,
I don't have much to say, anyway."

Minako nearly screeched. "What are you talking about? You're
the only one of us with a love life, you can't hold out on us now!"

"Um, actually, that's not true," Makoto said warily. "My
girlfriend and I... broke up."

Minako did screech then. "Aaaa! Mako-chan! Why?!"

"We just didn't love each other," Makoto replied, shrugging.

Ami touched Minako's arm timidly. "What are you so upset
about?" she asked. "You never even met her."

Minako hung her head in absolute misery. "I could FEEL it was
the real thing between you two!" she exclaimed. She crossed her arms
across her chest and humphed. "None of us are EVER gonna fall in
love," she muttered.

"Don't say that," Makoto said reassuringly. "We will. We
just have to be patient."

Minako grinned. "Thanks, Mako-chan. Y'know, I would never, ever,
ever be like you, but sometimes I wish I was, so I could date you."

There was a deeply awkward pause, during which Ami became red as
a beet and considered excusing herself from the room.

"But I'd never be like that," Minako clarified. "So, um, that
would never happen."

"So, Mako-chan," Ami said quickly, "when did you break up?"

"Oh, last week," Makoto replied, just as quickly. "It was a
mutual thing."

Minako smacked Makoto on the arm. "Last week?!" she snapped.
"What were you doing all day yesterday, then? You said you couldn't
come to the cafe!"

Makoto blinked. "Oh, I spent the day with Hotaru-chan."

"Hotaru?" Minako wailed, disappointed. "You spend too much
time with her!"

"Don't be rude, Minako-chan!" Ami admonished. "It's not polite
to say things like that." She looked at Makoto and tilted her head
sideways slightly. "But you DO spend a lot of time with her. Are
you... dating her?"

"Ami-chan!" In an evening full of blushes, Makoto was the
reddest anyone had been yet. "She's a GHOST! And she's, like, NINE!
Of course I'm not dating her!"

Ami looked down at her lap. "O-of course," she stammered.
"Sorry."

Makoto softened. "I'm sorry I backed out of our plans yesterday.
You guys are still my best friends. There are just some things I can
only talk about with an outer senshi. You understand?"

"Nope!" Minako replied cheerfully, "but we forgive you anyway,
don't we, Ami-chan?"

"Y-yes." Ami didn't sound very sure of herself, but she smiled
in a reassuring, unforced way a moment later.

Makoto smirked and shook her head. "You guys are the greatest.
Literally, the greatest."

Minako grinned and slapped her friend on the back really hard.
"Of course we are!" she shouted. "We're inner senshi!" She laughed
ridiculously, resplendently, and the others couldn't help but join in.

And meanwhile, far across town, Usagi ran out of tears and fell
asleep.






The next afternoon was dark and gloomy. With satisfaction, Usagi
slipped on her sunglasses and walked outside.

Haruka looked up from her half-waxed car and waved. "Hey, why
are you wearing those?" she asked, wiping sweat from her brow. "It's
overcast."

"Not for long," Usagi answered simply.

"You think so?" Michiru asked, looking up from the magazine she'd
been reading on the patio. "Good. We've needed some sun, don't you
think?"

"Planning on sunbathing today?" Haruka asked, raising an
eyebrow.

"Wouldn't you like to know," Michiru replied, grinning.

Haruka grinned too. "Why don't you show me lat..."

"Oh, shut UP, you two," Usagi snapped. "Why don't you just say
what you mean? 'I would like to see you wearing a provocative
outfit.' 'Really? Will it lead to sex?' 'Yes, probably. But first we
have to flirt for about FIVE HOURS!!'"

Michiru scowled. "Oh, you're just a cynic," she said.

"I'm much more than that," Usagi mumbled. "Have your fun, you
two. I'm fine by myself."

"You sure?"

"Of course," Usagi said. "I always am, right?" She grinned
fakely at them.

She started to walk away, but Haruka's throaty voice stopped
her. "Wait, Usagi... is something wrong?"

Usagi turned around, regarding her friends with hidden but
piercing eyes. "For the past few days, you've been acting strangely,"
Michiru added, standing beside her lover, touching her softly. "Like
you've lost something."

After a blandly cold moment, Usagi took off her sunglasses,
ennui on her face but desperation in her eyes. "Do you think I'm
cruel?"

Michiru blinked. "What?"

"Am I cruel? Am I a bad person?"

"That's a silly question, Usagi, why would you ask us that?"

"Because I don't have anyone else to ask," Usagi answered
bitterly. "I think I am. That's what it is, isn't it? That's what's
wrong with me."

"Usagi, there's nothing wrong with you." Haruka said forcefully.

"There's something more wrong with me than not," Usagi said blandly.

"There's no reason I shouldn't have everything that Setsuna has...
except, she's a good person who would never hurt hate anybody. That's
the difference."

"I don't understand," Michiru said softly. "Where did this come
from?"

"We live in a world that rewards the good, sweet, pure people.
It's impossible to be evil without eventually either dying or
spontaneously becoming good. Haven't you noticed that?"

Haruka nodded. "Yes, actually. But that's just because we're
so good at what we do, right?"

"No." Usagi sighed. "It's because that's the way the universe
is. Don't you see? We can't lose. We have the best, sweetest, purest
one on our side."

She smiled bitterly at them. "And it's not me."

She walked away. She had somewhere to be.






As the harsh, grey dusk began to cover the city streets, Usagi
pressed herself closer to the brick wall so that only the flickering
tip of her cigarette was visible in the murky shadows. Her eyes
remained fixed on the opposite sidewalk.

He would be walking by soon. He always walked the short distance
from his apartment to the nearby coffee shop; it was a few blocks, but
the exercise invigorated him.

She knew he would be going to the coffee shop, because that was
what he did every evening that was not taken up by monster-fighting or
girlfriend-dating. He would sip his coffee and read his complicated
books, fully enjoying the path to being a wise, knowledgable king. He
was brilliant, really.

She did not know exactly why she followed him like this. Her
love had been annuled. The sight of him inspired anger and nausea,
nothing more, and yet often, when she had nothing else to do, she would
just watch him walk. It was a mystery.

She suddenly became accutely aware of a person leaning against
the wall beside her. She assumed it was just some bum, and turned to
give him a harsh look, but froze when she saw who it really was. A
former, never friend.

"Hi," Makoto said cheerfully, bowing her head slightly. She was
propped-up against the wall next to Usagi, in the same shadows.

"Good evening, Makoto-san," Usagi replied, dropping her cigarette
on the ground and stepping on it. "What brings you to this part of
town?"

"I could ask you the same question." Makoto remarked, looking
across the street vaguely. "Have you been up to see Mamoru-san? His
apartment is very nearby."

Usagi did not reply. Manners required that she did not light
another cigarette, but damn, she wanted one.

Makoto still would not look at her. "So, are you just people-
watching, or what?"

"Yes, I suppose I am," Usagi answered calmly. Inwardly, she
cursed. Makoto knew her secret somehow, she knew about her bizarre
obsession. She'd tell the other inner senshi, and then all chances of
reconciliation would be gone for good.

"Has he ever noticed you watching him?"

Usagi gave up and fished out her pack of cigarettes. She removed
one and lit it, taking a deep drag before answering. "No, never. I'm
good at being ignored."

Makoto finally looked at her, a blithe smile on her face. "Can I
bum one of those?" she asked.

Usagi blinked, then removed a single cigarette and handed it over
before offering her lighter. "How long have you smoked?"

Makoto puffed merrily. "Months. You?"

"Decades."

Makoto smirked. "Or days. It all depends on your point of view,
I guess."

Usagi froze.

Makoto's face became somber. "Usagi-san, I know everything," she
said suddenly. "I know everything that happened."

The cigarette fell from Usagi's fingers and gave off tiny sparks
when it hit the sidewalk. "What do you know?" she barely rasped.

"I know you used to be Sailor Moon, but then you and Setsuna-chan
went back to the past and switched places."

"How?" Usagi whispered. She could not muster the breath to say
any more.

"Hotaru-chan told me," Makoto answered. "I didn't remember,
myself. I guess there wasn't anything to remember, since it never
really happened. But, anyway, she told me."

Usagi did not move. On the other side of the street, Chiba
Mamoru walked past, but neither of them noticed.

"I just wanted to say I'm sorry," Makoto continued. "I was
supposed to protect you. I know it was your choice, but... it was my
responsibility to keep bad things from happening to you."

"Don't worry about it," Usagi said. "I couldn't stop your bad
thing from happening to you, remember? I never even knew about it."

"That's because I never told you."

"That's no excuse," Usagi snapped. "I should have known. I was
such a terrible friend to you guys. I just stood and watched while
Galaxia killed you.

"Do you remember when Nehelenia trapped the two of us together in
that field? You sacrificed yourself to save me, and all I could think
about was... him." She looked up at the opposite sidewalk, scanning it
blankly.

Makoto glanced at her watch. "I think you missed him."

"That's okay," Usagi grunted, "I don't care about him, anyway.
Our love never existed."

Makoto shrugged. "Don't discount nonexistant love," she
remarked, a strange look in her eyes. "Don't discount anything."

Usagi decided to not ask any questions. "It doesn't matter. I
deserved to lose it. I deserved to lose everything."

Makoto flicked her cigarette to the ground. "Normally, I'd be
freaking out right now," she said, grinning. "I'd yell and scream,
telling you how you were the best thing that ever happened to us and
how much we all loved you. I know that wouldn't do any good, though.
Besides, it's not even true anymore. Setsuna-chan is Sailor Moon now;
she's the focus of our lives."

Usagi nodded. "And I'm Sailor Pluto." She chuckled humorlessly
and lit another cigarette.

Makoto shifted uncomfortably; despite her forced cheerfulness,
this conversation was obviously difficult for her. "Listen...
Usagi-san, I'm not smart enough to understand anything about time travel
or alternate realities or anything like that, but no matter what
happened, you still have the same heart, right?"

"I suppose so."

"Then you can be happy. I mean, you probably won't ever be
Sailor Moon again, but that doesn't matter. You can change your role.
You just have to accept that everything will be different."

"Yeah?" Usagi muttered sarcastically, "and when did you get so
wise?"

"When I stopped being an inner senshi."

There was a deep pause. The sky grew darker. A star came out,
so dim against the city lights, struggling to be seen. Too weak to be
truly beautiful. Too weak to grant wishes.

The pause continued.

"You scared the hell out of poor Rei-chan yesterday, y'know,"
Makoto said finally.

"Oh?" Usagi did not even remove the cigarette from her mouth when
she spoke. "She told you about that?"

Makoto nodded. "She just had no idea what to make of it."

"What did she say?" Usagi asked, a barely hopeful tint to her
voice.

"Not much," Makoto replied, shrugging. "She just said it was
strange how you just showed up and started asking her all these
questions. And then she kind of went off on you in general."

Usagi's stomach lurched. "She did?"

"Yep. Nothing too serious, just how annoying it is that you won't
tell anybody anything, even when it's important. And how you look down
on us because we're not outer senshi. And, well, how weird it is that
you live in that house alone with Harukasanandmichirusan."

"Weird?"

"Yeah, well, it is kind of weird. The two of them are
practically married. Unless there's something going on with all THREE
of you..."

Usagi glared. Makoto chuckled. "Yeah, I figured there wasn't."

"Fine," Usagi said, annoyed. "If it's so 'weird,' I'll move out
and get my own apartment."

Makoto looked at Usagi with a sideways grin. "You really care
what she thinks, don't you?"

Usagi did not answer right away. She did not get a chance to
answer at all, because at that moment a familiar piercing voice filled
the shadows that surrounded them. "Mako-chan! What are you doing
here?"

And then Tsukino Setsuna was there, looking surprised, happy, and
suspicious all at the same time. "Who are you talking to?" she
continued, oblivious. "Oh! Usagi-san! What are you two doing in
this neighborhood?"

"We were just taking a walk," Usagi replied calmly. "I wanted to
speak with Makoto-san about Hotaru."

"Oh... there's nothing wrong, is there?"

"No, nothing at all," Makoto answered quickly. "Just a chat,
really. Usagi-san is trying to reach out to us inner senshi. Right,
Usagi-san?"

"Yes," Usagi answered, glancing at Makoto with the kind of look
Laurel is always giving to Hardy. "I wanted to speak with Mamoru-san as
well, but he wasn't home."

"Oh, so that's why you're here," Setsuna said. "He's probably at
the coffee shop down the street. I was gonna go surprise him since I
finished my work earlier than I thought."

"You finished already?!" Makoto blurted. "I haven't even started
on it yet!"

Setsuna shrugged. "Wasn't too hard. I'd help you with it, but I
haven't seen Mamo-chan in days!"

"Yeah, that's okay," Makoto said, waving her hand dismissively.
"I'll get Ami-chan to help me."

"Good idea," Setsuna replied, nodding enthusiastically. "Call
me later if you have any questions, okay?"

"I will, thanks."

Setsuna turned to Usagi and grinned nervously. "Um, you said you
had to talk to Mamo-chan, so..."

"I'll do it later," Usagi interrupted, frighteningly reassuring.
"Some things are more important, right? Have fun on your date."

Setsuna brightened instantly, probably from the knowledge that she
would not have to talk to Usagi anymore. "Thanks! I'll see you both
later!" She then ran off, so happy.

When she was out of sight, Usagi fell back against the wall and
sighed. "It doesn't really work, does it?"

"What do you mean?"

"Her." Usagi shrugged. "She's so... beautiful and tall and
smart and everything."

Makoto regarded her with a raised eyebrow. "What are you talking
about? It works really well. She's the perfect hero."

Usagi did not reply for a moment, then she chuckled and ran her
hand through her stiff bangs. "You're right, of course she is. I don't
know what I was thinking."

Makoto did not know how to reply to that, so she stayed silent and
looked at her watch again.

"Are you late for something?" Usagi asked.

"I'm supposed to meet Harukasanandmichirusan for dinner in a half
hour," Makoto replied. "I can call and cancel, if you'd rather..."

"Don't bother," Usagi interrupted. "Why would I want to talk to
you any more? You can't do anything for me. It's too late."

Makoto visibly flinched, but when she spoke after a minimal pause,
her voice did not waver. "Rei-chan was very angry when she was talking
about you yesterday. I was surprised; usually Setsuna-chan is the only
one that can get her so upset."

Then she calmly, slowly walked away.

Usagi swore, dug herself deeper into the shadows, and lit another
cigarette.










Usagi had known it was a vile habit when she put the first
cigarette in her mouth, eighty-odd years ago. Still, it tasted so good
and felt so right she nearly fainted. The knowledge that she might
give herself cancer only heightened her enjoyment.

Hotaru, of course, was beyond that sort of thing, and hated
cigarettes. Her passion for cigars, however, seemed to annoy everybody
but herself.

"Why do you have to smoke those stupid things?" she asked,
appearing from nowhere.

Usagi raised an eyebrow. "Your FRIEND Makoto smokes them,
too," she said bitterly. "That doesn't bother you. You have just
great times with her."

"Don't be a grouch," Hotaru said, walking over to the window and
opening the blinds. "See? It's a beautiful day."

"No it's not," Usagi said, walking over to the window and closing
the blinds. "It's disgusting outside."

Hotaru frowned. "You need to wake up," she said. "Open those
big smooshy eyes of yours and take a good look around you." She
reopened the blinds and put her arm around Usagi, puffing on her cigar.
"It's a bright, colorful world out there," she said. "You just sit in
this big boring house all by yourself. That's not fair, you should be
enjoying yourself. Look. Outside, cherry blossoms sprinkle down on
schoolgirls with oddly-colored hair, attractive people roam the streets
with strange, interesting expressions on their faces, and bizarre
speech balloons and symbols appear in midair next to emotional people's
heads. And you're never a part of it.

"When's the last time a little picture or a symbol appeared next
to your head, Usagi? When's the last time your facial expression
extended beyond the physical boudaries of your head? You know what your
problem is, girl, you have no sense of fun."

The god Pluto appeared, puffing on a pipe. "Yeah," he agreed.
"We're worried about you, babe."

"Oh, just go away," Usagi said weakly.

"Nuh uh," Hotaru said. "You're not participating."

"Shut up."

"Nope." Hotaru grinned. "Not until you do something fun.
Like... I dunno...one of those big sweatdrop things. Make one of those
big sweatdrops appear on the back of your head, and we'll go."

"Why?"

"Because you can," Pluto said, grinning. "That's the only reason
you need to do anything in this wacky world."

"Just imagine how boring everything would be if people couldn't
do stuff like that," Hotaru added.

Usagi folded her arms across her chest. "I don't feel like it."

"Oh, of course not," Hotaru said. "You have no reason to, right
now. I'll give you one, though." She cleared her throat. "Ahem. 'I
am smoking a cigar... AGAIN." They both looked at her expectantly.
She scowled.

"Oh, hey," Pluto announced. "Now I am nagging you... AGAIN." He
smiled at Usagi hopefully.

Usagi lit another cigarette. "Listen to me," she said. "Listen
close, this is important. I do not want to make a big stupid sweatdrop
appear on the back of my head. No matter what you do, I never will
want to make a big stupid sweatdrop appear on the back of my head.
You're bothering me. Piss off."

Hotaru shook her head. "Sad," she remarked. "It's just sad."

"She's fallen far," Pluto agreed.

"Stop reminding me of that," Usagi said tensely. "This is hard
enough as it is."

"Just try," Hotaru pleaded. "You've always been perfect as you
are, but it's not working anymore to just be you. You have to change,
if you want to be happy."

"Change? What are you talking about?"

"You're not the hero anymore," Hotaru said. "You need to accept
it."

Usagi shoved her cigarette violently down into the ashtray. "I can
do better. I can make everybody see..."

"Think for once in your life, babe," Pluto said gruffly. "Look
inside yourself. Your heart is no longer gold, and you have to live
with it."

Usagi grimaced. "It's not fair," she said.

"It's not supposed to be," Pluto said. "Of course there's a bias
towards goodness. But you're BETTER than Setsuna was, babe. All you
have to do is try."

At that moment, Michiru knocked on the door, and Hotaru and Pluto
instantly disappeared. "Come in," Usagi called, rolling her eyes.

The door opened and Michiru stuck her head in, nose immediately
scrunching in disgust. "Ugh, I smell cigars. Was Hotaru-chan just
here?"

Usagi nodded.

Michiru frowned. "She visits you more than she does me or
Haruka."

"Does that bother you?"

"To be honest, it does."

Usagi shrugged. "I need her more," she said simply.

Michiru opened her mouth to say something, but Usagi cut her off.
"Don't worry about it. When there's danger, she'll come back to life
and you'll be a family again."

Michiru smiled gratefully. "The four of us are a very strange
family."

Usagi looked up at her beautiful friend with oddly soft eyes.
"Michiru-san, I'm going to move out of this house next week."

Michiru blinked in surprise. "What? Why? Do you have to go
back to the future or the time gate?"

"No, nothing like that," Usagi said, smiling gently. "I've
leased an apartment just in town. I don't want to be in your way
anymore."

Touched, Michiru walked in the room and placed her hand on
Usagi's arm in a sisterly but casually flirtatious manner. "Don't say
that, Usagi, of course you're not in our way."

Usagi looked at the wall; it was finely striped and she could
almost see entire worlds in the confusing patterns. "I've been
selfish," she said, and then brought her gaze up to Michiru's gorgeous
eyes and understood vaguely how Haruka could love her so much. "The
two of you deserve a chance to enjoy your lives together."

"Usagi..."

"I won't be far away." Usagi could not believe she was on the
verge of crying. "You'll be with each other forever, you know. That's
what fate has in store for you."

Michiru's eyes, full of gratitude, began to involuntarily spill
tears as she nearly gaped at her friend. "Why are you so surprised?"
Usagi asked. "You're soulmates; you knew that."

Michiru threw her arms around Usagi, not even caring that she came
across as a giddy, inane schoolgirl. Usagi cautiously returned the
embrace. "Of course you're each other's happy ending," she said into
the mass of silky, seafoam hair. "Of course you'll be happy together
forever, even in this menacing, unfair world. Why is that so
shocking?"

Michiru just hugged her tighter and made a noise that was either
a laugh or a sob, and probably both together.



"Did she listen to a word we said?" Pluto asked.

"Of course she didn't, she's an idiot," Hotaru said. She puffed
her cigar.










The new apartment was large, but with Harukaandmichiru's help
Usagi had only needed an hour to unpack and settle in. Her two friends
had stayed for a late lunch, then left at Usagi's insistance. That had
been four hours previous, and they were by now almost definately having
sex.

Usagi sat in front of her mirror, a different one than she'd had
in her old room; the apartment was fully furnished. She felt the back
of her head. It was dry.

She sighed. "I can't believe this," she muttered. "I used to be
able to do it."

She tried again. Her head remained dry. She closed her eyes and
imagined in stark detail some oblivious schmoe loudly embarrassing
himself, but her head remained dry. She clenched her fist, gritted her
teeth, and punched the mirror.

But stopped just before she made contact. Her hand dropped
limply down to her side.

"I don't know who did this," she growled. "I don't know if it
was Setsuna or the gods or Kami-sama, but you really took every single
thing away from me. Whoever you are, I hate you."

No one heard her. Hotaru was playing Monopoly with Jesus (and
winning) and Pluto was looking at pornography in his throne room.
Nobody else really cared.

"My husband, my daughter, my best friends, my family... this is
what it all comes to. Love and Justice."

With that particularily bitter utterance, she stomped into her
kitchen to get that bottle of particularily bitter whiskey she had
picked up earlier, but before she even got halfway across the room,
there was a knock on the door and she froze.

Someone happy had made that knock, she could tell. Someone with
light, soft knuckles and cheerful demeanor to add that little flick of
the wrist that gave the knock such a merry little echo.

Suspiciously, she crept to the door and opened it slightly. Kind,
red eyes smiled back at her.

Setsuna and Mamoru stood in the hallway, both looking genuinely
happy to see her. He bowed while his girlfriend grinned and waved
cheerfully. "Hi, Usagi-san!" she nearly bellowed.

"Good afternoon," Usagi said politely, fighting the urge to break
drinking glasses over both of their heads. "Come in, please."

They stepped inside, and she noticed for the first time that
Mamoru held an expensive-looking bottle of wine with a ribbon tied
around the neck, and Setsuna carried a small pillow. "We heard you
just moved into your new place, and thought we'd drop by and say
hello."

"It was Haruka-san's idea," Mamoru explained. "We saw her last
week, and she suggested it."

Usagi blinked. "That's very nice of you," she said calmly,
though she was sure a hideous blush was now spreading across her pale
skin; that was another reason she envied Setsuna, no one could tell
when she was nervous. "I'm afraid I don't know much about wine, but
that looks lovely, Mamoru-san. And what do you have there,
Setsuna-san?"

Setsuna blushed, but it was barely noticeable. She thrust the
pillow into Usagi's hands. Embroidered on the front was an adorable,
abstract rabbit's head, just a circle with two ovoid ears. "See,
because of your name?" Setsuna explained hopefully. "Um... I know it's
not very good, I'm sorry. I spent a lot of time on it, though! It's
all right if you don't want to keep it."

Usagi regarded the pillow and couldn't help smiling. "Don't be
silly, it's beautiful." She walked across the room and placed it
prominantly on her love-seat. She turned around, and saw with some
chagrin that the two of them were still just standing there with "glad
to be here" expressions on their faces. "I'm sorry if I'm not a very
good host," she said quietly. "I wasn't expecting guests."

"That's okay," Setsuna replied with sincere cheerfulness. "I
just really like what you're trying to do by bringing the two teams
together. We wanted to return the gesture, that's all."

Mamoru nodded, placing his hand between his girlfriend's shoulder
blades. "But we can leave now, if you want," he said.

"No, no, of course not," Usagi said, confused but stable.
"Please, stay. I enjoy your company."

Setsuna smiled broadly. "That's great! The others should be up
any minute."

Usagi blinked. "The others?"



Three hours later.

Usagi stumbled onto her patio and rested her head against the
cool, ceramic railing. She had not expected having to host a party for
the inner senshi, and it was a taxing job indeed. Whispering a curse,
she tried to supress the thought that she'd be having the time of her
life if she'd only still been Sailor Moon.

Makoto had been giving her sympathetic glances all night long,
which only made everything worse. Mamoru kept trying to talk to her,
probably because they were the only two people there that could have
anything resembling an adult conversation, but that made everything
even worse. Ami and Minako did their best to ignore her, Ami out of
trepidation and Minako out of obliviousness, and Setsuna just kept
being so goddamn nice. And Rei...

Usagi closed her eyes and lit a cigarette, her excuse for escape.
"It's my damn apartment," she muttered, "I should be able to smoke in
it if I want to." The curling wisps rolled past her lips and up into
the sky, and she followed them with her eyes. The stars were so dim
against the city lights.

"Seiya," she found herself whispering, and then almost laughed
out loud. She hadn't even loved him in the other life, much less this
one, and besides, he was gone for good. She wished him well.

A sudden impulse struck her, and she reached into her pocket and
pulled out her cellular phone, dialed a familiar number, and waited.

After three rings, there was a rough click, and a throaty voice
barked, "Yes?!"

"Am I interrupting something?" Usagi asked, deadpan.

"Usagi!" Haruka sounded glad to hear her voice. "What's the
matter, miss us already?"

Michiru said something in the background that made Haruka laugh,
and Usagi just rolled her eyes. "Hardly. I'm just calling to thank
you for your lovely surprise tonight."

Haruka grinned verbally. "Oh, are they still over there? Hey,
you're the one that wanted to bring us all together."

"It's not so bad," Usagi said, leaning back against the railing.
"Some of them are really growing up."

"That's true. Makoto's got a good head on her shoulders. The
two of us are going to try to learn capoeira in the afternoons this
summer." There was a moment of muffled conversation on that end of
the line, then Haruka spoke clearly again. "And Michiru says Ami
wanted to learn to paint. She thinks it's to impress a boy, but she's
not sure."

"I'll bring it up during truth or dare," Usagi said dryly.

Haruka laughed. "Really, is it that bad?"

"No, it's not bad at all. They..." Usagi trailed off. The
balcony door opened and Hino Rei stood there, looking embarrassed at
interrupting her colleague's telephone conversation.

"Usagi?" Haruka asked.

"I'll call you back tomorrow," Usagi said. She turned the phone
off and swallowed hard, never losing the stony expression that formed
automatically at the sight of another human being. "Rei-san, do you
need something?"

Rei stepped closer, covering Usagi with her blood as the world
glowed purple and final rasping breaths sawed through the air. "Um, I
was looking for your bathroom," she replied.

"There's one off of the bedroom. It's at the end of the hallway
to the right."

Rei nodded uncomfortably. "Thank you."

Usagi raised an eyebrow. "Was that all you wanted?"

"Well, no. Everyone wanted to know what was taking you so long,
but I see you were on the phone."

"I see," Usagi said, nodding. "It was probably impolite of me to
come out here and neglect my guests, hmm?" She looked up at Rei, who
stared back blankly. "Rei-san, this probably isn't the best place to
mention it, but I apologize for being rude to you the other day."

Rei waved her hand in the air dismissively. "Don't worry about
that. It was just a little strange. I didn't expect you to say
anything like that."

Usagi shrugged. "Everything has changed since Galaxia left. We
can all relax now and concentrate on things like love."

Rei shifted her weight uncomfortably. "Um, yeah," she said,
looking into the night sky at nothing. "Usagi-san, why did you ask me
that question when you came to the temple? Is there going to be
trouble in the future? Will I have feelings that end up hurting her?"

Usagi wasn't sure whether she wanted to laugh trippingly or cry
for hours, but she held both urges tightly within herself. "You'll
never bring her anything but happiness, Rei-san."

Rei smiled gratefully, then hardened her features again. "I'm
not in love with her," she snapped.

Usagi laughed trippingly. "I know, I know."

Rei crossed her arms over her chest and regarded her colleague
with a sideways glance. "You've really been different recently."

"What do you mean, different?"

Rei shrugged. "Less like an outer senshi. More like an actual
human being."

"Hmm, an actual human being," Usagi mused, tilting her head in
mock-concentration. "Nope, I don't think anyone's ever called me that
before."

Rei giggled. "See, none of us would ever expect you to say
something like that. You're acting just like you did when we were in
Heaven."

Usagi shrugged. "Like I said, everything is different now."

Rei smiled, but there was something tantalizingly awkward in the
air that made the gesture seem phony. She could not think of anything
to say.

"Well, let's get back inside," Usagi said. "I've been a poor
enough host already."

Rei quickly agreed, and they both walked back into the apartment.
They did not speak again for the rest of the evening.





The next morning, Usagi was up early. She was not used to living
alone; her time with her adopted family was, from the beginning, a
self-imposed lesson on the virtues of love and cooperation, which she
had begun to devalue after several thousand years of loneliness and
despair.

Still, she noted with both frustration and joy, she deeply missed
Michiruandharuka, and hoped they wouldn't mind an invitation to dinner.

She did her best to avoid thinking about the inners, who had stayed
far too long. She despised enjoying her time with them. She loathed
loving them. That was Setsuna's game; Usagi was very uncomfortable
playing it.

Every time she blinked, she could see Rei bleeding.

She started her morning by cleaning the mess Minako had
inevitably made in the kitchen, though simply moving to another
apartment probably would have been easier. She moved to the living
room, sighing at the thought of having to vaccuum so soon after moving
in. Just as she was walking to her closet, though, a small finger
tapped her on the shoulder. She smirked and turned around.

Hotaru was there, holding a white, paper box and grinning. "Hi!"
she bellowed, "I just came to see the new place! Here, I brought you a
bundt cake." She handed the box to Usagi and looked around, curious.
"The new place is kind of a mess," she remarked. "I guess
Harukapapaandmichirumama really DID do all of the cleaning back at
home."

Usagi grunted and set the cake down on a nearby table. "It's not
my fault," she said. "The inners were here last night. You know how
they can be."

"No, not really, I just know how Makoto can be. Which is usually
very clean and responsible." Hotaru idly walked across the room,
examining every detail of the apartment like a health inspector. "Hey,
what's that?"

Usagi, who had been poking the cake and noting it was rather
stale, looked up. "Pardon me?"

Hotaru looked at her with a smirk and held up the bunny-bedecked
pillow that had been sitting on the love seat. "What's this cute little
rabbit thing doing here?"

"Oh, that. It's a gift from Setsuna."

"Really? It's just precious." Hotaru hugged the pillow half-
ironically and smiled up at Usagi. "And you're really keeping it?"

Usagi shrugged. "Of course, it's nice she gave it to me."

Hotaru pressed the pillow against her chest and rested her chin
on it. She smiled. "You really were listening to me and Pluto,
weren't you?" Usagi did not answer, but Hotaru tossed the pillow back
onto the love-seat and practically bounced across the room. "I gotcha
a real present, but I wasn't sure what you'd think of it."

She produced from nowhere a wrapped gift-box, which she handed to
her friend with the genuine zeal only a small, happy girl can pull off.
"Yeah, I'm sorry about that cake, I just picked it up on the way here.
It's practically older than YOU are."

Usagi raised an eyebrow. "Hotaru, I'm older than the concept of
baking." She indicated the package in her hands suspciously. "What is
this?"

"Open it and see! It's for your apartment."

Usagi held the box up to her ear and shook it gently, a rather
cute action which made Hotaru smile. Ignoring her, Usagi deftly
unwrapped the box, opened it, and looked inside.

"You have got to be kidding me," she said.

"Nope!" Hotaru bounded over and picked up Usagi's present: a
large, green, neon lava-lamp. "See? It's perfect for you, all
mysterious." She set it on a table in the middle of the room and
plugged it in, chortling. "Turn the lights out!"

Usagi did so, and immediately the entire room was covered in a
shadowy emerald haze. Hotaru kept smiling, her face literally glowing
in the darkness. "See, and instantly you have a romantic atmosphere
for when you bring men here." She paused meaningfully. "Or women."

Usagi nodded, bemused. "So, I'm a 'swinging single' now, am I?"
she asked, more than a touch of irony in her voice.

"Yep! And, see, the people might think you're kind of weird,
because, let's face it, you are, but then you'll get them back here,
and they'll be so entranced by this lava lamp, you'll be able to do
whatever you want with them."

At this point, Usagi lost her ability to keep a straight face.
The first giggle erupted from her mouth with a sound like velcro coming
apart, and then, her mouth gaping, she fell on the floor in hoots of
laughter. Hotaru followed soon after, and together they practically
rolled around the green and black floor.

Minutes later, they quieted down, panting hard on the soft
carpet. Usagi pulled herself up so that her back was against the door
and grinned. "Thank you, Hotaru."

Hotaru leaned against the couch. "You're welcome. I'm glad to
see you laugh. You should do it more."

Usagi shrugged. "Sailor Pluto doesn't laugh much."

Hotaru glared at her. "That's not true anymore! It's an outer
senshi world these days! The unexpected and the unconventional are
happening all around us. That's how we outers thrive. It's when
things go right that we get into trouble."

Usagi sat silently for a few moments, then she stretched her back
and nodded solemnly. "You know, it's really not so bad, being one of
you." She stood up with sudden determination. The green shadows
across her face made her look mysterious and beautiful and exotic. "I
am going to get a haircut," she announced. "It's idiocy to resist the
inevitable."

With that bizarre non sequitor, she flicked the lights back on
and went to the kitchen to get her purse. When she returned, she
immediately wrapped Hotaru in a tight embrace. "Thank you for the
gift," she whispered into her pseudo-daughter's hair.

Halfway out the door, she turned and said, "Help yourself to
whatever's in the fridge."

Hotaru stood in the apartment for a few minutes, wondering if she
should be bewildered or happy. The god Pluto walked out of the kitchen,
holding an unidentifiable pastry with one bite taken out of it. "Did
she finally get the message?" he asked.

"Yeah."

"So she's not going to go crazy? It's my ass if she goes crazy."

Hotaru glared at him. "No, she's not going to go crazy. She's an
outer senshi, now, she's accepted it. The world's just wide open to her
now. She can do whatever she wants."

Pluto nodded grimly. "Good." He regarded the odd girl before
him with a raised eyebrow. "When did you get so wise, anyway? You're
just a kid."

Hotaru shrugged. "A few trips on the mothership will do that to
you."













The hairstylist blinked. "Indigo?" she asked.

Usagi smiled. "Definately."

"Are you sure? I mean, if it's what you want, I'm happy to do it
for you. But your hair is beautiful the way it is." The hairstylist
grinned, pointing to her beige curls. "I'd love to have mine blonde
like yours is."

"Indigo is nice," Usagi said. "Not many people have indigo
hair."

"Yeah, but blonde is so PRETTY. There's something so sweet about
it, you know?"

"I'm not paying you to make comments," Usagi said. "Now could
you get started, please?"






Rei was sweeping again. The floor seemed to be absolutely free
from debris, but she kept going, absent-mindedly pushing the broom back
and forth. She sometimes fell into a trance when she swept, the regular
movements and soothing sound sending her into a state that was half-
spiritual, half-hypnotized. Whenever this happened, it took quite a
bit of prodding to bring her back into the real world.

"Rei-san? Excuse me, Rei-san? Rei-san!"

Rei eventually looked up, vision hazy, and dropped the broom.
"Usagi-san!" she exclaimed to the blurry, indigo-topped blob before
her, "your... hair!"

Usagi smiled nervously. "Do you like it?"

Rei blinked a few times to clear her head and examined Usagi
closely. "Um...yes. Actually I do. It's different."

"I'm glad," Usagi said.

Rei picked up the broom. "Uh...what are you doing here?"

"No reason," Usagi said, her heart pounding. "I just wanted to
ask someone's opinion about the hair."

"Oh. All right. Yes, it's very nice."

There was a pause. Usagi nearly turned and ran away. She wished
so much that she was Setsuna, who was beautiful and who blushed
invisibly. The Sailor Pluto part of herself sneered and laughed inside
her head. "Actually... Rei-san... that was a lie. I didn't just come
to ask about my hair."

Rei looked confused and a bit alarmed, probably worried that
Setsuna was in danger. "You lied? Usagi-san... why are you here?"

Usagi looked up, but kept her gaze slightly to the left of Rei's
eyes, slightly into the distance. "I came to see you, Rei-san. I
wanted... to see you."

Rei squinted in confusion. "To see me? Why would you want to...
oh." There was a pause, and then Rei's eyes opened wider than two full
moons. "Oh!"

Usagi smiled wistfully. "Please don't misundersand me, Rei-san.
I just think you are a very special person. Your devotion." She
looked Rei deep in the eyes and shivered. She had not been this
excited in one of her entire lives. "I want to understand you. I want
to understand why and how you care for her so much." Why and how you
would bleed for her, hold her hand and slip away forever.

Rei opened her mouth, and then closed it again, and then opened
it again, and then said, "Usagi-san... I don't want you to get the wrong
idea..."

Usagi smiled warmly, maturely. "I don't want that either," she
said.

Her cheeks were bright red, and she realized that it was an
exagerrated, impossible blush. Her hands shook.

Rei noticed Usagi's cheeks, but not her hands. She smiled.

"Sure," she said. "I guess... there's something that makes me want to
know you better, too."

Usagi fell down. She had taken a breath of relief, but in so
doing had also stepped where there was no step. Rei rolled her eyes
and muttered something about the outer senshi and clumsy people in
general.

Usagi's hands had stopped shaking. She stuck an unnaturally
large tongue out at Rei, then began laughing, her mouth suddenly taking
up a good half of her face. "I'm sorry," she said when she had calmed
down.

Rei was going to respond, but noticed Ami and Minako standing at
the bottom of the stairs, looking up with expressions that would have
said, "What the hell?" if they hadn't been young, innocent, happy girls
whose expressions would never be vulgar.

"Um," Minako said.

"Usagi-san?" Ami asked, "why are you here? Is something wrong?"

Usagi stood up, grinning. "Nope," she replied, "I'm just
visiting."










It's a bright, colorful world, where even the villians have good
hearts and nobody would dream of hating and everybody knows that this
beauty will never end.

Mercury. Jupiter. Moon. Venus. Tuxedo Kamen.
Uranusandneptune. Mars and Pluto. And sometimes Saturn.

Untold years had passed since the founding of Crystal Tokyo, and
they were still alive and bright and shining. They would probably be
granted their divinity any day now.

Sailor Pluto, whose civilian name cannot be applied to the
languages used today, told a joke. Everybody laughed.








________
Special thanks to Vic Naqvi and Heles Macanemy