Disclaimer: I do NOT own Sailor Moon/PGSM or any of the characters. It's all the property of Naoko Takeuchi and Bandai. But mostly Naoko-san.
This is a shojo-ai story, so if you're not a fan of girl/girl, turn back now!
Usagi, Ami, Makoto, and Minako sat around the table in their "specialized" chairs, located in their old room in Crown Karaoke. It'd stayed clean over the years only because Makoto broke the news to Motoki it'd been there the whole time, but he hadn't noticed. He was baffled for the most part, but he diligently made sure to keep the room clean, even though he technically didn't work at Crown anymore. He and Mamoru owned it together, but they'd long since hired a few employees to work there. Motoki had to make sure his wife, Makoto, had enough help at her own shop, only a few blocks away from Crown.
Minako remembered the few times she'd been there. For the most part, she was having screaming matches with Rei, disagreements with Rei, and of course, the going away party Rei herself arranged for Minako. Even though she hadn't really ever officially jumped into friendships with the senshi, she felt at home in that room. As if her being an idol didn't matter—well, except when it came to Usagi. Sometimes, Usagi would suddenly realize who she was sitting next to (usually happened every 10 minutes or so), and then scream, "MINAKO-CHAN!"
But as much as she wanted to deny it, it felt incredibly empty in that room as well. Perhaps the others didn't feel it as intensely as she did. But staring at the red chair, which had no occupant, she sure did.
"Mars," Minako muttered, catching the attention of her fellow and former senshi. Usagi, with her huge curious eyes, was the first to speak.
Minako snapped out of her thoughts and looked over at the odango-clad girl.
"Hai?" she replied simply. Makoto and Ami exchanged looks.
"You said 'Mars'," Ami spoke up, her voice characteristically soft. Minako gulped nervously, but kept her cool composure.
"Oh." Had she really been thinking out loud?
"I was just wondering," she began, letting her eyes wander down to a photograph, "where did this picture of she and I come from?"
"Oh, that one?" Usagi grinned and stood up, clasping her hands behind her back. She began pacing around the table, a dreamy look in her eyes.
"Manager-san gave it to Rei-chan after the game show. At first she refused to accept it, but after much convincing from he and I, she gladly took it! Well, sort of... You remember that day, right Minako-chan?"
Minako smiled fondly.
"To be honest," she thought to herself, "I think about the day all the time. It was probably one of the best—no, THE best day of my life... Or rather the life before my illness got the best of me. It was the first time I had real...friends."
"A best friend." Her conscience added.
She could see the day as clear as if she were looking through glasses. The image of Rei's rare, full grin flashed in front of her eyes. She'd never again found a feeling like that. That feeling of making Rei happy, and it seeming like she'd taken all the pain away from those dark, mysterious brown eyes. The way Rei, in turn, wiped away every doubt, every sense of loneliness away from Minako's chocolate brown ones.
"He gave her two pictures," Usagi's voice broke through and brought Minako back to reality. She turned her eyes back to Usagi.
"She donated one to the photo book here" Usagi pointed to the book. "And kept the other one for herself." She suddenly seemed confused. "He didn't give you one, Minako-chan?"
"Honestly," Makoto's voice chimed in. "I've never seen Rei look so happy in a picture. In all of our group photos, we had to tickle her or get Usagi to pull on her cheeks just to get her to smile. You can imagine the look we got for that one."
They all let out a small chuckle. Makoto sighed.
"She's disappeared to Kyoto once again. Constantly busying herself with shrine duties."
"In the last letter I received from her, she said she was searching for sponsorship," Ami said. "She's gone to Kyoto to ask the head priest there if he'd be able to do the job, or at least recommend willing and able donators."
"And we all know," Makoto said, leaning back into her chair. "Coming from Rei, who never asks for anything, most of all help, this must mean a lot."
Minako's eyes wandered down to the photo of she and Rei. An idea sprang to her mind.
"What if I sponsored her?"
Within a millisecond, all eyes were on her. Makoto sat forward in her chair, an unsure look on her face.
"Minako-chan..." Ami squeaked. Minako watched as the girls' eyes wandered to the photo book.
"Rei-chan wouldn't really be..." Ami trailed off.
"For that," Makoto finished.
"She's a very proud person. And if you ever offered that to her, she'd probably give you the worst glare you've ever gotten and then stomp off."
Minako raised an eyebrow at her.
"She's too proud to accept my help, but she'll run all the way to Kyoto to beg some priest for money? That doesn't make sense, Ami-chan."
"What Ami is trying to say is that Rei would rather drop dead and then burn in Hell before taking anything from you."
Makoto hadn't meant for that to come out so cold, but it was the truth. And the truth hurt. Minako herself knew that better than anyone.
The room was silent for a few moments before anyone said anything.
"I think," Usagi said, a smile spreading over her lips. "You're someone very special to Rei-chan. But she's not exactly sure how to act about it. She's constantly living in fear she'll find someone who she cares for and opens up to, just to have them leave. She trusts Mako-chan, Ami-chan, and myself, but we don't compare to you. She has so much care, trust, and-" Usagi paused. She raised her eyebrows and brought a finger to her lips. The other girls were practically falling off the edge of their seats, surprised by this new and wise Usagi. But then Usagi shrugged.
"Umm... I dunno! But you get the point!"
Ami shook her head while Makoto sighed.
"And here I thought she'd grown some brain cells."
"Hey!" Usagi pouted. "That's a very Rei-thing to say! Mako-chan, I thought you were nice!"
Makoto and Ami burst out into laughter while Minako just smiled. She never thought she'd be dwelling on something Usagi of all people said. Did Rei really think of her in that sort of way? Did Rei really trust her...that much?
"Minako-chan!" Usagi shouted through the stage microphone. Minako looked over at her.
"Would you mind doing some karaoke with your number 1 fan? No matter what Naru-chan says, I've been your number 1 fan longer! Eleven years! ELEVEN YEARS!" Usagi hopped up and down for emphasis.
Ami and Makoto giggled and sat back, ready to enjoy the show they were sure Minako wouldn't refuse.
Minako gave one of her charming smiles and nodded.
Rei slid the door to the rented room given to her by the head priestess closed. It'd been a long day, and now the only thing she desperately needed was a good 4 or 5 hours of sleep. She herself knew that wasn't nearly enough, but it was the best she could get.
As she began to unfold her cot, something caught her eyes. It was a letter on the small desk by the massive window. Usually she'd ignore it and read it over breakfast, but something just wouldn't and couldn't let it go.
She dropped the cot onto the floor and headed over to the old, wooden table. The envelope was a crisp beige color, signifying it was from Ami.