Author's Notes: I was aiming for a bit of a tear-jerker with this story so I would greatly appreciate the feedback on how well I succeeded in that endeavor. Many thanks to LadyJessy for taking the time to beta read this.
Disclaimer: I do not own Sailor Moon or any of the characters from that series.
For five years, Sailor Star Fighter had managed to keep her mind focused on the rebuilding of her planet and the duties given to her by Princess Kakyuu. She had worked herself into exhaustion night after night so that she would not lie awake in her bed, staring out at the one star among thousands that was the home of a certain blonde Princess. A beautiful angel who always wore her hair tied up in two goofy looking buns with tails that fell past her knees. Fighter knew her friends were worried she was overworking herself, but it was the only way she knew to dull the pain of having left her heart behind on Earth. It kept her from having to face memories that she was not ready to deal with.
After the first year, the other Starlights had stopped trying to convince Fighter that working steadily from sun rise until long past sun down at the most demanding physical labor she could find was not good for her health. Instead, Healer had taken to ensuring that Fighter ate, whether she wanted to or not, allowing Fighter's already lean body to add more muscle from the intense physical labor instead of wasting away from neglect. Maker, on the other hand, had chosen to simply make sure that Fighter's duties were rotated so that she would be tired at the day's end, but not exhausted to the point of being useless the next day. Fighter was grateful for the silent support of the other Starlights, even if their mother hen routine did get on her nerves periodically.
As long as there was a steady stream of work to be done, Fighter had managed to keep the sense of loss at bay, but all of that changed when the work of rebuilding had finally finished. The people of Kinmoku had rejoiced in a spontaneous celebration that still echoed off the palace walls where Fighter sat alone in a rose garden that had yet to bloom. Somehow the deserted garden full of bushes with no flowers seemed to be a fitting tribute to her mood. The garden held a wistful promise of beauty yet to come, but Fighter knew that the promise was fleeting at best. Come winter, the flowers that made the garden beautiful would wither away. The loneliness of such a fleeting beauty seemed to resonate with the ache in Fighter's.
With a sigh, Fighter stared at the half empty wine bottle in her hand. There had been a slim hope that the alcohol would help blunt the memories she had tried to ignore for so long, but it was clear there would be no solace for her at the bottom of the bottle and it was not worth the headache in the morning to even try. Setting the bottle on the ground, the Starlight stretched out on the bench, ignoring the chill of the marble against the bare skin of her back as she stared up at the soft purple light of her own moon, only to find herself wishing for the gentle white light of Earth's moon.
Five years had not dulled the painful ache in her heart over the one-sided love she carried for the Moon Princess. With Kinmoku rebuilt, there would be no more escape for Fighter from the memories. The Starlight's only duties would be to train with her fellow senshi and act as a bodyguard for Princess Kakyuu when she traveled on diplomatic missions or hosted balls here in the palace. Fighter knew from previous experience that she would have a great deal more free time on her hands. Time that would only lead to more pain as she dreamed of the woman she loved with all her heart but could never have.
Apparently Fighter had been lying to herself when she had said it was all right that she was in a one-sided love. Things were most certainly not all right. Even though Fighter was galaxies away from the planet where she had met Sailor Moon, the Starlight had found herself being reminded of the blonde Princess at the oddest times. A beautiful sunset would have Fighter turning to share it with a companion who was not even there. Fighter's time on Earth had been so short, and yet that brief time of near constant companionship with Usagi had been enough that the Starlight felt completely lost without the blonde's presence nearby. In some ways Fighter felt as though she were missing a limb being so far away from the warmth of Usagi's presence.
The acoustics of the empty courtyard sent Fighter's sigh of regret echoing back to her ears as she forced herself to rise and head back to the party. Somebody would come looking for her sooner or later and there was no point in making the other Starlights worry when there was nothing they could do to help. Maker and Healer had worried enough over the last few years and the only person who could truly help lived in another galaxy. Fighter would have to learn to live with the emptiness because there was no way the others would let her go back to Earth. Maker would insist that even a visit would only make the separation worse and Healer would say that a Starlight's duty is first and foremost to her Princess so there was no need to be complicating things.
"What do they know anyway?" Fighter muttered resentfully, scuffing her boot through the dirt in the courtyard.
Glancing up at the moon, Fighter wondered why she had not simply left for Earth since that was clearly where her heart wanted to be. For a time there had been her duties to consider, but with the rebuilding complete Maker and Healer would be able to handle anything that came up. If they really needed a third Starlight, Maker and Healer had more than enough experience to train a new partner. Fighter's place was on Earth, fighting to win the heart of the woman she loved. The thought made Fighter pause for a moment as a new idea occurred to her.
She had been sitting alone pining over the personal symbolism of an empty garden, but there was nothing stopping her from changing her own future. Fighter did not have to let her dreams vanish like the flowers in the garden. With the work of rebuilding complete, there was nothing stopping Fighter from pursuing her dreams of love. There was nothing to stop her from visiting, or even living on Earth permanently. With a new resolve, Fighter hastily made her way toward her room, knowing she had to be gone before she was missed from the party. The Starlight could feel the burden of sorrow that had weighed so heavily on her shoulders beginning to lift every time her boots touched the ground. With every item she tossed carelessly into her traveling satchel, it felt as though she could stand a little bit taller and jump just a bit higher.
A quick staccato tapping of boots on the polished marble of the hallway outside her room made Fighter freeze for a moment. She easily identified Maker's distinctive footsteps and hastily threw one leg over the window sill, ready to make a break for freedom when something made her pause for a moment. Fighter knew she should not be waiting for Maker to check on her since it would only make her escape that much more difficult, but somehow she just could not force herself to make the short jump to the garden below her window. Maker's footsteps continued down the hall without interruption, heading in the direction of the palace library. Fighter could not completely suppress her snicker when she realized her friend had snuck away from the celebrations in order to use the library when there would not be anybody around to disturb her.
Glancing around the room one last time for anything she had missed, a single photograph on her dresser caught her eye. It had been one of the few mementos from Earth that Fighter had been able to tolerate looking at. There was nothing particularly fancy about the plain silvery-gray frame with an image of three boys dressed in dark blue school uniforms in it. Climbing back into the room, Fighter picked up the frame. Running her finger lightly over the smiling faces in the picture, she realized that she had never been anywhere without Healer and Maker at her side. Clenching her fingers around the edges of the frame, Fighter knew that these two, who had been her dearest friends since infancy, deserved better than to have her simply vanish without a word.
Fighter crossed to her desk and scribbled a hasty note to her friends. She would probably end up regretting the note when Maker and Healer turned up to haul her back to Kinmoku, since both of the other Starlights knew her well enough to figure out where she had gone no matter how cryptic she tried to be. Fighter could only hope they would understand that she had to follow her heart and let her go. Carefully sealing the letter, Fighter scrawled the other Starlights' names across the front and propped it up where Healer would notice it when she barged into the room the next morning. After being woken up by Fighter every day for the last five years, it would definitely be Healer who would take the opportunity for revenge if she believed Fighter had simply slept in after the celebrations. Maker was far too dignified and reserved to do something so childish, though she certainly would not be above putting the notion into Healer's head if the silver-haired Starlight did not come up with the idea on her own.
Smiling fondly at the memories of her friends, Fighter hastily tucked the photograph into her satchel. It would be a reminder of the friends she was leaving behind and everything they had shared over the years. After all there was no telling how long it would be before Fighter saw her friends again.
Slinging the satchel over her shoulder, Fighter slipped out the window. She never looked back as she ghosted across the palace grounds, heading for the open field where the Starlight's sometimes trained. Most of the palace grounds had been co-opted for the impromptu celebrations, but for some reason the open ground of the practice field remained unpopulated. Clutching the satchel tightly in her arms, Fighter concentrated on her destination. In a flash of light, a red star streaked across the sky heading toward Earth, unnoticed by the celebrants on Kinmoku. A soft thump heralded the arrival of the same red star on the roof of a high school on Earth sometime later.
Setting her belongings down, Fighter took a deep breath, savoring the scents that were unique to Earth. In a strange way, the metallic tang in the air felt like home in a way that Kinmoku no longer did. Walking toward the edge of the roof, Fighter leaned on the railing for a moment, looking out over the city as the sunlight faded away to be replaced by the glimmer of electric lights. On the streets below, people hurried home to their families, pausing long enough to greet friends and neighbors before continuing on their way. Tokyo seemed peaceful despite the occasional honking of car horns and the general clamor of an industrialized city.
Fighter wondered briefly if the senshi would have noticed her arrival. The senshi from the outer planets probably would have, considering their duties were to guard this system from intruders, but that was not who Fighter wanted to visit. In fact, the farther she was from the temperamental senshi of the wind, the happier Fighter would be. It would not matter how many times Fighter protested that she was innocent or a friend. Haruka would still be more than happy to pummel her, especially after that misunderstanding in Michiru's dressing room. Fighter seriously doubted that even her part in protecting Sailor Moon during the fight with Galaxia would help mitigate Haruka's tendency for diplomacy through repeated application of her fists.
Shaking her head with a wry grin, Fighter closed her eyes and turned her mind inward. Despite the lack of recent practice, it seemed she had not forgotten what it was like to reshape her powers as a senshi to create her human body. The familiar prickle raced down her spine as her powers drained away to be replaced by the masculine form she had adopted on Earth. After five years spent only in her senshi form, it felt strange to be male again. It took several minutes of staggering around the roof trying not to trip over his own feet before he remembered how the center of balance differed between the male and female forms.
The time spent reacquainting himself with his human form made Seiya realize just how poorly thought out his plan had been. Seiya had no idea where any of the Earth senshi lived now and there was no guarantee that Usagi wasn't married already. Nor did Seiya have a place to live or a way to support himself since Taiki had taken care of all those details when the Starlights had been on Earth before. It would seem that Taiki's comment about Seiya's tendency to run into situations without thinking them through was far more apt then the black-haired Starlight cared for. Seiya decided that a walk might help him plan out his next move a little better so he scooped up his satchel and made his way down the stairs. If he was really lucky the popularity of the Three Lights would not have faded in the last few years and Seiya could borrow a little of his previous popularity to launch a solo career.
Lost in his thoughts, Seiya had not paid attention to where his feet were carrying him until he stopped outside a familiar balcony. Once before he had wandered past this particular balcony in the middle of the night and stopped to stare up at the room hidden by the pink curtains. It was unlikely that Usagi would come wandering out in her pajamas as she had the last time, but Seiya could not help hoping that the she would sense him. Seiya stared up at the balcony for several minutes before cursing himself for a fool and turning away. Usagi probably did not even live at her parent's house any more, not after five years of being promised to Mamoru.
Sighing, Seiya shoved his hands in his pockets and started down the street. No matter how much he might wish otherwise, it was too late in the evening to start searching for Usagi. A soft click from the glass door sliding open behind him made Seiya pause. Suddenly nervous, he could not make himself turn around as soft footsteps pattered up to the railing overhead. He could feel eyes on the back of his head, but still he was too afraid to turn around. Seiya knew he would be unable to bear it if he turned around only to find it was not Usagi standing on the balcony looking down at him.
"Seiya…" her voice whispered hopefully, as if she could not quite believe her eyes.
Seiya's heart soared at the sound of his name tumbling from her lips. The knowledge that she seemed happy to have him turn up unexpectedly after a five year absence was enough to give him the courage to turn around and face her.
"Yo!" Seiya said with a cocky grin and a wave as he looked up at her.
Even dressed in a plain black tank-top and pink shorts, she was as beautiful as he remembered, standing there bathed in the light of the rising moon. Her blonde hair was painted silver by the moonlight as it tumbled from her signature hairstyle. The way her eyes lit up with joy when she saw Seiya's face, made his heart skip a beat. He knew she was simply happy to see an old friend, but he could not help feeling a goofy sort of pride that he could bring such joy to her face. It made him wonder briefly why a girl who was meant only to know only happiness would love a man like Mamoru who had made her so sad.
"It really is you," Usagi said gleefully. Her smile was enough to melt Seiya's heart all over again. "Wait there, I'll be right down."
Without waiting to see if Seiya would protest, Usagi had already turned and slipped back inside. Suddenly Seiya found himself wondering what he could possibly say to Usagi when she asked why he was back. Telling her that he had come to try and win her away from Mamoru would be a bit much, especially if she was already married, though that was unlikely considering she still seemed to be living in her parent's home. His thoughts were interrupted as the door to house opened to reveal Usagi hoping on one foot in the entryway as she struggled to buckle her sandals with one hand and fumbled the door closed with the other. Seiya couldn't help smiling, even after five years she was still adorably energetic and clumsy. Finally getting her shoe on properly, Usagi quickly closed the door and hurried out to Seiya.
"How have you been?" Usagi asked eagerly as she led him toward the park. "Is everything okay on Kinmoku? Is there a new enemy?"
"Hey," Seiya said with a laugh, interrupting the blonde's torrent of questions, "one question at a time, Odango."
"How are you then?" Usagi said with a smile.
"I've been busy with the rebuilding," Seiya answered lightly. He could already feel the aching emptiness in his heart beginning to heal just by being in her presence, "but we finally finished so I thought I would come see you."
"Did Taiki and Yaten come with you?" Usagi asked eagerly, glancing around for the other Starlights.
Ignoring the painful reminder that she only considered him a friend, Seiya replied, "No, it's just me this time."
"That's too bad," Usagi said as she sat down on a bench overlooking the lake, "it would have been nice to see all of you."
Seiya sat down beside her, slipping his arm along the back of the bench. Usagi did not seem to notice the gesture, though Seiya could not bring himself to actually put his arm around her shoulders. Seiya could feel the warmth of her back against his arm as he told her about the time Healer had tried to bake a cake for Maker's birthday, but ended up creating a sticky paste that had glued itself to the counters in the kitchen for three weeks. Usagi spoke of how Minako had become an idol singer and Ami had finally gotten to go to Germany to study medicine.
In a way, it felt as though Seiya had never been gone. There was no stiltedness in their conversation even though he knew there were topics of conversation they were both avoiding. Seiya quickly found himself slipping back into old habits as he teased Usagi until her cheeks turned a charming shade of pink. Usagi, of course, fussed at him, but he could tell she was enjoying the attention by the way her eyes sparkled with laughter even as she scolded him.
After a while, they both lapsed into silence, content to enjoy the tranquility of the park and the moonlight glittering off the water of the lake. It was then that Seiya found his thoughts wandering to the words they had not spoken. He was finding it increasingly difficult not to at least attempt to tell her about his feelings, but there had been no mention of Mamoru during their conversation, leaving him reluctant to speak. Gathering his courage, Seiya opened his mouth, but Usagi beat him to it.
"I'm glad you came by tonight," Usagi said softly as she looked up at him, her expression strangely unreadable.
"It is good to see you again too," Seiya said with a grin, wishing he dared to reach out and caress her cheek.
"It's not just that I missed your company over the last few years," Usagi replied with a sad smile that seemed so out of place from her usually cheerful demeanor. "Today is the last time we could talk like this. I'm getting married tomorrow."
The words sent a jolt of pain straight through Seiya's chest. He could not believe that he had finally gathered the courage to pursue his dreams of love, only to find out he had arrived the night before she gave herself to another. Forcing himself to breathe normally, Seiya pasted a facsimile of his normal cocky grin on his face, but it felt horribly false, as if his skin did not remember how to smile any more.
"That's wonderful," Seiya managed to choke out, hoping Usagi would not sense the pain in his voice. "I'm happy for you."
It was not a complete lie. How could he not be happy that the woman he had given his heart to would have everything she ever dreamed of with the man she loved? At the same time, knowing that it was some one else who would stand beside her left a horrible, bitter taste in the back of his throat. He had known from the very beginning that she had promised herself to another, but it had not stopped him from falling in love with her, or apparently hoping that she would eventually come to love him.
A feather light touch on his cheek snapped Seiya out of his self-recriminations. The sympathy in Usagi's brilliant blue eyes made it clear that he had not managed to hide his feelings as well as he had hoped. Somehow the blonde who had been so oblivious to his feelings before, seemed to be able to read him like a book now.
"Seiya," Usagi said gently as her fingers trailed lightly down the Starlight's cheek. "I am sorry I couldn't give you what you wanted."
"It's okay," Seiya replied hastily, barely managing not to pull Usagi into a comforting hug. He could not stand to see her unhappy, but he did not trust himself to simply offer her what comfort he could.
For several long moments, the two stared into each other's eyes. Seiya wanted to believe that, in that instant, they were sharing a dream of what could have been if only they had met before she promised herself to another man. But like every other dream Seiya had where he might have a chance to be with the woman he loved, this one too was as ephemeral as mist in the sunlight.
Usagi suddenly stood up, holding her hand out to Seiya as she said, "Come, there is something I want you to understand."
Wondering if he was only prolonging the agony, Seiya took Usagi's hand. If he was honest with himself, Seiya knew that he would never be able to refuse Usagi anything, no matter how difficult or painful her request might be or how much it might hurt to watch her with another. It was moments like this, where he held her small hand in his that made Seiya realize he would never reclaim his heart.
"Pluto," Usagi called, her voice echoing with all the authority she carried as a princess.
In response to Usagi's call, the wind kicked up, blowing loose leaves and debris into Seiya's face, forcing him to shield his eyes with his arm. When he opened his eyes again, Sailor Pluto stood before him, her face an emotionless mask with her staff held loosely in one hand. She glanced briefly at where Usagi's hand was clasped in Seiya's before focusing exclusively on Usagi.
"Princess," Pluto said in acknowledgement, her voice stilted and formal even though she only spoke a single word.
"I want to show him Crystal Tokyo," Usagi said, ignoring the veiled displeasure in Pluto's voice.
"Is that wise?" Pluto asked, her red eyes sending a single, disdainful glance in Seiya's direction.
"He deserves to understand," Usagi replied firmly.
"I suspected you would say as much," Pluto said with an enigmatic smile that never touched her eyes.
Pluto's smile sent chills down Seiya's spine. It was as if the woman already knew what was going to happen here and had simply been waiting for the other players to show up and say their lines. In a way, it was down right disturbing, however, Seiya had no time to wonder about Pluto's strange behavior as Usagi dragged him after the tall senshi of time. Pluto led them to the top of a small rise nearby. Motioning for the other two to stay back, Pluto waved her staff through the empty air, which promptly shimmered like a heat mirage until a set of ornate double doors appeared before her. Pluto pushed open the heavy doors with practiced ease.
"You may watch, but do not try to cross through the Gates of Time," Pluto warned as she stepped aside to make room for the other two before the gates.
It took an insistent tugging from Usagi, to get Seiya to approach the Gates of Time. A part of him was screaming that if he looked through that door, the last shred of hope that he was clinging to would be destroyed. Seiya knew it was foolish to hope that he had any chance of convincing Usagi that she returned his love enough to run away with him the day before her wedding, but he was still reluctant to give up all hope. Unfortunately, he could not deny Usagi's wishes either and so he found himself standing beside her looking through the doorway.
On the other side was a crystal city, glittering in the sunlight. As a senshi, Seiya could sense the inner rhythms of a planet that would indicate when a dark power threatened to disturb the planet's tranquility and this one was completely peaceful and idyllic, a perfect utopia for the population. The scene blurred for a moment, racing toward the crystal spires that watched over the city. Diving through the walls of the palace, Seiya found himself looking into the room at the top of the tallest crystal. A woman dressed in a floor-length white gown with golden designs across the breast stood in the center of the room. The sunlight filtering through the windows reflected off the golden hair that was pinned up in two buns on either side of her head leaving the loose ends to spill down her back past a pair of nearly translucent butterfly wings until it nearly brushed the floor. Seiya felt his breath catch in his throat as he realized the vision before him could only be an older version of Usagi. He could see the wisdom and maturity in her eyes, though her face seemed to have remained eternally youthful.
"Neo-Queen Serenity," Usagi said softly confirming Seiya's thoughts. "That is my future, my destiny."
Before Seiya could speak, a man in a pale purple suit entered the room and walked up behind the woman. As the black haired man embraced Neo-Queen Serenity from behind, Seiya could not completely suppress the surge of jealously that choked off his breath. The man may have had black hair and blue eyes just like Seiya, but he knew instinctively that there was no way that man could be himself.
"Neo-King Endymion," whispered Usagi as she gently squeezed the Starlight's hand, "That is Mamoru's future."
Seiya watched the couple for a moment, his thoughts running in circles as he tried to find some way around this destiny Usagi was showing him.
"But the future can't be set in stone," Seiya protested hesitantly. Turning pleading eyes on Sailor Pluto, he continued, "Isn't this just one possible future?"
He knew he was grasping at straws, since the couple was clearly in love, but he could not give up hope that he might have a chance at winning Usagi's heart. Not when he had traveled so far just for the chance to try. After all, it had been Usagi who had showed him that if you follow your heart and never gave in, things would work out in the end. If Usagi's choice to stay with Mamoru was based purely on one possible future that she had some how seen, then maybe things did not have to continue the way they seemed to be going at the moment.
"It is only one possible future," Pluto agreed, her eyes softening slightly. "Every choice made by every individual creates a possible reality. This is simply the most common future in all those realities."
"So Usagi could choose a different future then," Seiya said, hope flickering faintly in his heart. Perhaps hearing that there were other possibilities from the Guardian of Time would be enough to allow Usagi to choose to be with him instead of Mamoru, or at least give him a chance.
"Seiya," Usagi said gently, drawing his attention back to the scene playing out on the other side of the time gate, there was clearly more she wanted him to see.
A little girl with pink hair done up similarly to Usagi's had joined the couple. She too wore a floor length white dress with the gold decorations on it, and while she bore the golden crescent moon on her forehead just like Usagi's future self did, the little girl did not have wings. The child ran up to Neo-Queen Serenity, who knelt down to allow the girl to climb into her arms. Endymion, with his arm loosely around Serenity's waist, reached out to tickle the girl's side, making her squirm and bring smiles to all three faces. Seiya did not have to be in the same room to feel the love flowing off the family. He could see it etched into their faces and the casual touches they shared as they exited the room.
"Small Lady Serenity," Usagi said, breaking Seiya out of his trance, "also known as Chibi-Usa, my daughter in that future."
"I don't understand," Seiya said, turning back to Usagi. "How does this change anything? It's still only one possible future."
"I love Chibi-Usa with all my heart," replied Usagi. "I have ever since she came back in time looking for help to save her mother. That love has only grown in the two years she spent with me training to become a senshi herself."
Seiya sat down abruptly, his knees suddenly weak. The idea that Usagi had actually met the daughter she might bear was too much. The idea that he had no chance at all to win Usagi's heart finally seemed to sink in. How could he possibly compete with a daughter and a destiny that she had already seen? He thought briefly about asking Pluto to show them other possible futures, but he did not have the heart to bring pain to either himself or Usagi if the future was not a happy one.
"I'm sorry, Seiya," Usagi said gently as she knelt beside him in the grass.
"It's not your fault," Seiya said, unable to bear the sight of Usagi being upset. "You told me you had a boyfriend from the very beginning and it still didn't stop me from falling in love with you."
Gently, Usagi pulled Seiya into her arms until his head rested against her shoulder. Seiya knew he shouldn't allow himself to take comfort in the feel of her hand running through his hair as she tried to sooth him, but it was the last moment he would have to spend like this. Tomorrow, Usagi would wed and start down the path to her destiny and Seiya would return to Kinmoku because there was no place for him in her future.
Pluto cleared her throat, breaking the moment between Seiya and Usagi. Hastily, Seiya scrambled back to his feet and offered Usagi a hand up. In a way, Seiya was both grateful to her and annoyed with her timing. Pluto's presence kept Seiya from making a complete fool of himself, but it also served as a reminder to Usagi of everything her duty and her destiny demanded of her.
"When the stars shine brighter than the moon, secrets hidden in the darkest depths will set you free," Pluto whispered gently, her eyes seeming to send a silent message to her Princess. "But when the moon shines brighter than the stars, the secrets again shall be hidden."
Seiya glanced at Usagi to see if she had understood Pluto's cryptic message any better than he had. When he glanced at the senshi of time again, her body had already begun to fade as she returned to whatever duties Usagi had summoned her from. Before she vanished completely, Pluto's lips curved up into what could only be called a fond smile.
"You will have fifteen minutes, after that I will not be able to mask your presence from Uranus any longer," Pluto said so quietly Seiya was not quite certain he heard her words. "Consider it a gift for watching over my Princess when I could not."
"Uh, thanks?" Seiya offered uncertainly.
Turning to Usagi to ask what Pluto's last remarks had been about, Seiya found himself silenced by a slender finger pressing against his lips.
"Shh," Usagi whispered, her face unreadable, "I think I know what Pluto meant, but we have to wait just a bit longer."
Hesitantly, Seiya nodded and she removed her hand. His lips felt suddenly cold where the warmth of her skin had rested for only a moment. Turning to look at the woman beside him, Seiya could see a pensive look on her face as she looked up at the moon, watching for some mysterious sign.
"It begins," Usagi whispered as a shadow bit into the lower edge of the moon.
Seiya watched in awe as the moon's light was slowly eclipsed and the stars sprang out in stark relief, glittering like diamonds. He had seen eclipses of his own moon before, but this one seemed to hold some greater significance.
"When the stars shine brighter than the moon, secrets hidden in the darkest depths will set you free," Usagi whispered, echoing Pluto's words. "Luna did say the eclipse would be important, I just never understood how before."
Surprised at the strangely wistful tone in Usagi's voice, Seiya looked more closely at the woman beside him. She seemed different without the light of the moon illuminating her features. Usagi still seemed to glow with a light that would brighten even the darkest souls, but it was no longer a light that reflected everything that was good and beautiful in the world. This was her own personal strength and courage shining through. In that moment of darkness, it was simply Usagi, without the guises of Sailor Moon or Princess Serenity to over shadow her, standing in the park looking strangely vulnerable as she waited for his reaction. Hesitantly, Seiya reached out a hand and brushed it along her cheek. Surprisingly, Usagi turned into the caress, here eyes full of sorrow though she shed no tears.
"I had not realized how heavily your roles weighed on you," Seiya whispered, drawing the blonde into his arms.
Usagi came willingly, until her head was tucked under Seiya's chin.
"Do not be sorry for me," Usagi whispered, her hand resting on Seiya's chest, just over his heart. "My life is filled with joy, laughter and the love of my dearest friends."
"But it is all a mask isn't it?" Seiya asked, unconsciously tightening his arms around Usagi's shoulders.
"I am both Serenity and Usagi," the girl replied. "We are one and the same."
"But I can see the difference in you right now," protested Seiya as he pushed Usagi back enough to tilt her chin up and force her to look into his eyes. "I can see how much your life and duties as Serenity weigh on you. Let me take you away from that."
"Seiya," Usagi whispered, sending shivers down his spine. Slowly she reached up, pulling his hands away from her face until she held them clasped between her own. "You asked me once if you were not good enough."
Surprised at the sudden change in conversation, Seiya could only nod as he remembered the rainy day on the rooftop five years ago. For one shining moment, Seiya had been the focus of Usagi's hopes and love. It had been a painfully bitter sweet moment for Seiya, knowing for one brief instant what it was like to be the one that Usagi loved only to have it snatched away when he realized that love belonged to another.
"I want you to know, that you are good enough," Usagi said gently as she lifted one hand to touch Seiya's cheek.
For a moment, Seiya could not believe what he had just heard. It could not be possible that after all these years of misery and believing that there was no way she could love him, that he might have a chance. As her words sank in, Seiya's heart soared. He could not help the goofy grin that he knew was plastered on his face at the moment as he captured Usagi's hand and turned it so he could place a kiss in the palm of her hand.
"You are good enough," whispered Usagi before she pulled her hand away from Seiya's grasp, closing her fist and holding it against her chest, "but I am duty bound to another whom I love."
Seiya felt his world crashing down around him again. For the second time, he felt as though the carpet had been ripped out from under his feet. Usagi had basically said that she returned his feelings, only to tell him that it could never be.
"Destiny and duty be damned!" cried Seiya, his frustration momentarily leaking in his voice as he pounded his fist against his thigh.
"No, Seiya," Usagi said gently her touch against his cheeks and chest soothing away his anger as if it had never been. "This is one destiny I won't change."
"Did I ever really have a chance?" Seiya asked sadly, as he leaned forward so that he could rest his forehead against Usagi's, one hand resting lightly against her hip, reveling in the feel of the momentary closeness between them.
"Maybe in another lifetime, but not in this one," answered the blonde as she twined her fingers through his free hand. "Please remember, that whatever happens, you will always have a place in my heart for the strength you gave me when I needed it most. I will always consider you a dear friend."
"Friends it is then," Seiya said sadly as he forced himself to pull always from the blonde though he did not let go of her hand, "Know that you will always hold my heart, but I don't think I can stay here and watch the future you have chosen for yourself."
"Taiki and Yaten would miss you if I kept you anyway," Usagi said brightly, trying to lighten the mood.
Seiya gave her a lopsided smile. She was right, of course, Taiki and Yaten would miss Seiya just as much as he would miss them. He had known this when he left Kinmoku in the first place, but Usagi's words made him realize that he had a duty to his friends. Usagi had made her choice to follow a destiny that would bring happiness to as many people as possible. Now it was Seiya's turn to follow his duty and return the love his friends had given him. He was one of three Starlights and even if he could not be with the woman who held his heart, Seiya still had the love of his friends to carry him through.
For a moment, the pair stood quietly under the light of the stars their hands clasped between them, the last reminder of a tragic love. Under the watchful light of the stars, there were finally no more secrets between them. It was one perfect moment that Seiya knew he would treasure forever. The one moment where he lived his dreams, content in knowing that the woman who held his heart did love him in her own way. Wishing the dream could last just a little bit longer, Seiya forced himself to let go of Usagi's hand and step away from her. Closing his eyes, he reached for the transformation magic that would turn him back into Sailor Star Fighter. Once the whirlwind of magic had washed away from her body, Fighter opened her eyes and took one last look at Usagi, wanting one last memory of the blonde burned into her memories. Fighter was surprised to find that there were unshed tears glittering in Usagi's eyes.
"Don't cry for me," Fighter whispered gently as she touched one gloved hand to the other woman's cheek, brushing away the tears before they could fall. "I can't bear to see you sad."
"Then you better go before I can't stop the tears anymore," Usagi said sadly as she caressed Fighter's cheek once before stepping away.
Fighter nodded as the shadow across the moon began to slip away, letting the silvery light wash over the land again. Turning away from the tearful blonde, Fighter looked to the stars, finding Kinmoku among them as she prepared to return to her duty. Just as the last shadow fell away from the moon, Fighter's body shimmered away into red stardust before streaking across the sky with Usagi's last whispered words ringing in her ears.
"For those fifteen minutes, when the moon is eclipsed and only the stars are left to light the way, my heart will belong to you."