Please read the notes before continuing!

Author's Notes: This fic was written for the prompt "Understanding, it's misunderstood" at celebrateidaho (LiveJournal) which is a community that celebrates the "International Day Against Homophobia" on May 17th. I chose to make a little fun of the dubbed version of Sailor Moon and the way the translation treated the Haruka/Michiru relationship. Throughout the fic you'll find several references to the dub's way of concealing the fact that Haruka and Michiru are in a lesbian relationship. Besides the obvious one (them being cousins), I have also used Michiru's English dub name for one of the OCs and the name of the first boy she kissed according to episode 94, Brad, as for one of the OCs. Humourous references to how some of the other countries who sent Sailor Moon dealt with the Haruka/Michiru relationship by making Haruka a male in her civilian form are there as well.

On Michiru's characterisation: This is my first time writing Haruka/Michiru from Michiru's PoV. I am aware that many people will find her OOC, simply because I have taken a different approach to her than many of the fics I've read. She's more aggressive and less passive than how I've seen most people write her. This is due to a comment I read in a Sailor Moon yuri discussion that had pretty much become Michiru-bashing, due to the fact that many preferred Haruka with all the other Senshi. A girl who liked Michiru as a character wrote: "Michiru is just as strong as Haruka, just in another way. She's steel, pretending to be silk." This inspired me a lot, because it's exactly how I see Michiru. Silk-wrapped steel. A perfect match for Haruka. However, if you do not agree with my characterisation, that's fine.

Disclaimer: I do not own Sailor Moon in any way or form. Naoko Takeuchi does. I am in no way related to the companies who have broadcastet or dubbed Sailor Moon, I'm simply making fun of them. I make no profit from this, it's simply a way to tell the world that homophobia is what's wrong, not homosexuality.


- Haruka, "cousin" means "oitokosan", ne?

A frown; ocean-blue eyes studying the pink letters underneath the heading of the pamphlet.

- Hai. Why? Suddenly nervous about your English vocabulary, Michiru?

A crooked smile; short, dirty blonde hair ruffled by a rather feminine hand.

- No, demo… I'm sure there's something I must have misunderstood… Look!

The brochure passes between them; fingertips brushing. A short, tense absence of reaction.


- Since when have we been related?

Exchanged looks of confusion with a hint of dawning realisation.



"Kissing Cousins – Why Making Haruka and Michiru Relatives

Doesn't Conceal their Relationship"

Part I: Steel

Michiru carefully bends down to correct the selvage of her dress – the delicate silver lace edging tending to get stuck on the buckle of her sandals – before straightening up, brushing some invisible dust of her shoulder and knocking three times on the door before her, politely waiting for someone to verbally consent to her entrance.

The corridor she is standing in is bustling with students hurrying back and forth between classrooms, the sound of the orchestra practicing for next week's performance leaking out as the door to the assembly hall falls shut behind first a tall, redheaded girl and then a young black boy. Among the hundred of different sounds, Michiru can clearly make out the fragile tune of a harp. The melody floating underneath the gentle notes is one of her own compositions. "Shojo no Koi" – the love of a maiden; an ensemble of harp, violin and piano.

Turning her head in the direction of the ceremonial hall fully, she is able to catch on to the refrain of the violin as well. The unknown artiste plays it a little more softly than she would have herself, but Michiru quite likes the outcome anyway. She clearly remembers arranging this particular piece of music; back when she was still watching Haruka trying to outrun her destiny from afar. Note after note weaving together as she had let her bow caress the violin strings freely – a musical replication of how she wanted to touch the tomboyish girl who had begun invading her dreams of the Kingdom they had once been part of…

As a sleek, male voice calls out to her from inside the office, however, the college hosting the concert that has brought Michiru to the capital of the United States of America seemingly falls silent; the song of her heart – played by anonymous musicians further down the hallway – drowning in the harsh command.


Reaching into the pocket of her white cardigan to make sure that she still has the leaflet with her, Michiru turns her attention back to the problem ahead, mentally bidding the beautiful music goodbye… for now. There is no music traceable in the voice she just heard, and – even without the foreboding roar of waves in her mind – the twinge of dislike she feels would have been enough of a warning. People without music in them are rare, but the few examples of such individuals Michiru has actually met in her life have never been very pleasant.

"Ah, Miss Kaioh" she is greeted as she steps into the large, dark room, closing the door silently after herself. At the desk in front of a long row of small windows, all with the curtains drawn to keep out the light of noon, a bulky man is sitting with a phone in one hand and a stack of papers in the other. Clad in a grey suit and a black tie, he is all business, even the phrase "what a pleasant surprise" that follows his initial welcome sounding as if she is only another pay check.

Perhaps I am, Michiru thinks – nevertheless smiling graciously in acknowledgement of his compliment. Civility is a universal factor when it comes to human interaction, and Michiru is a master at it. She discovered early on that it's the easiest way to keep foes at an arm's length and friends close in spirit.

"Reynolds-sensei," she replies respectfully, bowing to him in the customary Japanese manner. Out the corner of her eye, Michiru sees a small smirk grace the man's lips at this gesture; something that only increases her original distaste of him. When Michiru called her sponsor about the matter that has led her to the organizer of the upcoming concert, Inari-san had cautioned her to remember that Luke Reynolds is infamous for his lack of acceptance for opinions and traditions conflicting with his own.

With an attitude like that, though; Michiru imagines that advice shouldn't be too hard to bear in mind.

"Have you had a pleasant stay in America thus far, Michiru," Luke-san beckons to the uncomfortable-looking chair closest to her, lightening a cigar as she sits down wordlessly, his cat-like green eyes studying her every movement almost as if she were an unusual animal in a zoo, "– you don't mind me calling you Michiru, do you?"

A ring of smoke emphasizes the rhetorical quality of the question, because yes, Michiru does mind, but she knows just as well as him that it doesn't matter. He believes he has the right to call her exactly what he wants to, and she will not waste her energy on such a trivial battle.

"It has been very interesting," she answers, letting the mask of courteousness slip onto her face by instinct; its sweet, calm appearance the only defence she can let him sense at this point. Sarcasm will have to wait since secret weapons are most lethal with the element of surprise, and she is going to make use of that advantage later. After all, Michiru has not been living as a Senshi for the past two years without learning a thing or two about warfare.

"I especially enjoy your vast selection of museums," she adds after having looked around the room for something – anything – they could have in common, gaze coming to a halt on a beautiful copy of one of her favourite Rembrandt paintings.

"Yes, of course," Reynolds-sensei doesn't look up at her, too busy filing through a stack of papers, the phone that he has abandoned on top of a tower of books ringing without him bothering to answer it. Folding her hands neatly in her lap, Michiru watches him while he works; the small smile positively glued to her lips, but her eyes slightly narrowed. Around him is an air of nonchalance; he is a man so sure of himself that he thinks himself immortal – untouchable by other human beings. His kind is the most dangerous in combat, she knows. They attack with great force and without strategy; killing simply because they can.

With a long-suffering sigh Luke-san turns his attention back to her, her stillness apparently making him realise that she is not about to go away if he ignores the unwritten rules of pleasantries.

"And Miss Tenoh has enjoyed herself as well?" The enquiry is forced, and Michiru can tell by the way the corner of his mouth twitches that he is asking merely out of convention. Granting him a polite nod of her head in return for his effort, she leans forward, feet elegantly crossed at the ankles. This is her game of choice… small-talk. In this aspect Michiru is so very much like the ocean she represents when in her Senshi form; hiding an enormous potency beneath a – at first sight – still surface.

"She has been here before to race," she comments, thoughts straying to Haruka's entertaining little remarks about this place and another that she visited with her team mates back when she was still the star child of the Japanese national junior racing team and had been invited to a friendly in a town just outside Washington D.C.

"Yes, I'd heard she is quite talented behind a steering wheel…"

The tone of Reynolds-sensei's voice is enough to inform Michiru that she has made a fatal mistake in letting her guard down, even for those two, short seconds she was inattentive. His voice is an unmistakable foreboding; silky and smooth like the revolting threads sea cucumbers produce. Oh, how Michiru hates sea cucumbers; she has never been able to stand them – they both frighten and disgust her.

Blinking as to shake herself out of the lovely, but treacherous daydreams of Haruka, she observes the impressive-looking man as he gets to his feet and walks to one of the bookshelves adorning the otherwise bleak walls. Caressed by the shadows of the room, his white hair adopts an almost lavender shine, bordering on violet.

Cigar still in hand, he picks out a random book, studying the cover, although Michiru can tell that he isn't focused on reading the – to her – exotic letters of the English alphabet, but rather on the words forming in his mind.

"You're quite a pair, aren't you?" he muses out loud, Michiru feeling the muscles in her jaw straining from the way her refined smile grows unnatural and strained. The realisation that he has known all along why she has come to his office shouldn't surprise her as much as it does, really, but it is not often she has met people like him; people with so smudgy auras that she can hardly tell the colours of it apart.

The scarcity of such an occurrence is, nonetheless, no excuse.

"One of you a world-renowned violinist and nationally acknowledged painter, the other a top race-car driver and capable pianist," Luke-san turns around to face her again, the grimace that she supposes should resemble an appraising grin looking more like a disdainful leer, "not every day two so talented girls get to share the spotlight…"

He won't say the words. Like a vulture in the desert, circling above the thirsting camel, she thinks. Not willing to go for a direct hit before someone else has killed his target for him.

"Hai, about that…" she says softly, making sure her tone doesn't betray the approaching attack, brushing a lock of curly, aqua hair away from her face while lowering her gaze to give him a false impression of mildness, "I believe there has been a mistake, Reynolds-sensei."

"Oh?" He raises both eyebrows in mock surprise. Giving him a look out the corner of her eye, Michiru wonders for a moment if he knows that she has seen right through his little act… and if that revelation is mutual, because she is trained in looking past pretending – but is he? Does he think her as harmless as she tries to convince him that she is?

For the first time since she sat down in the horrible, black leather chair whose back pains her spinal column to an extent she suspects is intentional, Michiru moves, reaching into her pocket for the booklet Haruka and she received the previous night about the concert she will be participating in come Friday. Holding it out for Luke-sensei to take, she raises her chin to let her own gaze meet his forest-green eyes, searching for some hint of him having rumbled her costume of innocence.

She finds none.

"Your catalogue," Michiru begins, waving the pamphlet to indicate what she's talking about, but Reynolds-san doesn't make any indication as to take it, instead simply staring at her with his unnerving eyes ripped of any kind of melodious harmony, making her think of two black holes in the galaxy of an emotionless face. Raising an eyebrow, she silently places the leaflet on the tabletop among newspapers and important letters. "It claims Haruka and I to be cousins. We're not. We are…"

The expression on his face changes in a matter of seconds from a blank, slightly disinterested look to one of smug victory. The responding break of the tides within her is so overwhelming that Michiru has to wring her hands tightly together as not to grab hold of her transformation pen and call to the ocean for help. She feels her eyes widen, but wills her mask of civility not to slip, her lips pressed together in a thin line as she remains seated – muscles trembling from the effort not to get to her feet.

"You're lovers, yes. So we found out after you'd accepted our request of bringing your 'partner' at the performance." His words fall in a slow drizzle like fog misting up as it comes in contact with warm skin. She shudders. "Very clever, young lady, not to inform us your partner was also a woman."

Smiling – a sharp, contrasting line of displeasure stretching along her carefully glossed lower lip – Michiru lets her gaze wander from the organizer who has (at last) put the book away in order to examine her for any kind of effect to the brochure on the table, it's its pink lettering announcing "Michiru Kaioh and her cousin Haruka Tenoh (Tokyo, Japan) in a loving duet " as one of the main events of the Valentine's Message Concert.

She knows by now that he doesn't find her harmless at all – but the danger he sees in her has nothing to do with any kind of power she might possess but is based solely on… on…

Uncrossing her ankles, she blinks twice before asking the question that she already knows the answer to, because it's the very reason she has engaged in this conversation in the first place, but her frankness will probably provoke someone like him more than anything else… Michiru rather likes that thought.

"Ara, is that a problem?" Her tone is sweet – innocent – but underneath lies the taunt, emphasized by the way she cocks her head and looks straight at him, blue eyes twinkling. It's about time she lets Luke-san catch a glimpse of her true defence. Sarcasm.

After all, Kaioh Michiru is not as vulnerable as one may falsely assume her to be at first sight.

Snorting, Reynolds-sensei walks to his desk, putting out his cigar in the expensive-looking crystal ashtray before leaning in, his enormous hands sprawled out atop paperwork and the offending booklet Michiru has brought with her. The smoke from the cigar moves like curling snakes through the air, dissolving little by little.

The silent war between them has just been confirmed, she senses – and finally acknowledged by both parties.

"Miss Kaioh," Luke-san says, his voice taking on the monotonousness of official declarations from the loudspeakers on a train station, ready to ship her off – except that the formal way he chooses to address her is a small victory on its own, "you must understand that this concert is a national show aimed at families all over the country – families with children."

Pursing her lips, Michiru gracefully crosses her legs and leans back in the chair again. "Are you saying Haruka and I aren't fitted for the drawing room?" she asks, half jokingly, not expecting any reply because she is well aware that it is exactly what he is insinuating. As predicted, Luke-san's unreadable face is the only response she receives, so Michiru allows her amusement to show in a small giggle, hand raised to her mouth to stifle it. Respectfully.

"What precisely do you expect us to be doing on stage except playing our music, Reynolds-sensei?" The laughter in her voice she doesn't try to hide.

Still, with this query she gives him the benefit of doubt. Despite the fact that Michiru feels a certain aversion towards Luke Reynolds, she is unwilling to believe that he is foolish enough to truly represent an opinion as irrational as the one he's just voiced.

Meeting his dark, impenitent gaze with her own softer one, Michiru awaits his answer with a silken smile curving on her lips that disguises the steel core she will reveal to him if she finds out he really is the source of this idiocy. She has never put up with any kind of patronization and will not begin tolerating it now – especially not if this man is going to stomp on something that is as important to her as love. The one thing in this world she would sacrifice everything (her own life included) to save.

"That is not the point," Luke-san answers after a long, pregnant silence, turning around to face the row of windows behind the desk. By his stance – rigid and self-assured, a dictatorial pride evident in the casual way he gesticulates with his hand – Michiru can tell that she isn't supposed to ask what the point is then. "If people are informed of Miss Tenoh's and your affair…" he says; Michiru watching the movement of the muscles in his jaw as he trails off once more. Suddenly he draws back one of the curtains, the late afternoon sunlight falling in a thick stripe over the floor, springing up the table and spreading over the tabletop like flowers blossoming in spring. It blinds her momentarily, but Michiru refuses to blink – instead letting her eyes get used to the intrusive whiteness.

If he's trying to throw her off balance, it will take more than petty tricks such as this to succeed. Not letting her gaze drop, she gets to her feet. He is taller than her, of course, but height has never intimidated Michiru – she has learned long ago that being the typical Japanese lady in both appearance and stature has its advantages. When all comes down to it, strength isn't measured by build alone. If Haruka had been here, she would have had to agree, being the one in the world who knows Michiru better than anyone.

"It would naturally bring associations of… more intimate… situations…" Reynolds-san carries on, turning on his heel, appearing to be nothing but a silhouette against the bright orange light pouring in through the window behind him. With his hands behind his back and legs slightly apart, he reminds Michiru of a police officer, ready to bark out orders.

Startling slightly at his choice of wording, Michiru feels an unbidden laughter rise in her chest. It's not because she hasn't experienced homophobes before – unfortunately Tokyo isn't a homophobia-free zone – but at least in Japan public displays of intimacy is disapproved of no matter the sexuality of the couple.

No, this excuse is ridiculous. Plain discrimination. She knows from the manuscript she has been given that the couple performing before Haruka and she will end their show with a kiss – but apparently no parents will object to such antics as long as it is between a man and a woman.

"That's a little silly, ne?" she responds, the soft look in her eyes having disappeared, although her smile (a worldwide symbol of politeness) is still firmly in its place. Walking around the table, she comes to a halt in front of him, crossing her arms over her chest. She doesn't pose to threaten him – Michiru doesn't believe in solving disagreements through fear – but to corporally show him that she declines to be demeaned. If she says no to let him put her down, they will enter and leave this argument as equals.

Thinking herself intelligent enough to not find it naïve to believe in the power of reason, Michiru continues in a practical tone of voice: "I hardly think knowing of Vladimir-san and Beatrice-san being romantically involved makes people think of them in any –" She throws his own words back at him with a small laugh, as if the words in themselves contain the sole funniness, her eyes not betraying the uproar of the sea in her soul as she mentions the two kissing artists, "intimate situations."

Refraining to mention that whether it were the two Russian musicians or Haruka and herself who were known to be lovers, the music of their affection would be alike, Michiru searches for any trace of understanding in the colourless eyes examining her. Reynolds-sensei's eyes are as dim as his aura, and Michiru sees no choice but to accept the truth of this man. He would never be able to recognise that in the moment when two people love each other without demands, that love produces a melody – a melody that does not differ significantly depending on the factors that the human race tends to put so much importance in. Age, colour, religion, gender… No, the music of love never changes its rhythm.

One of the main reasons why Michiru would go through fire and water for her princess is that Usagi-chan knows this; the nature of love – and that knowledge was what enabled her to save the world from chaos.

But the organizer standing before her will never know… will never understand… it almost makes Michiru feel sorry for him.

Luke-san's only reaction is to bow to her in a disgraceful replication of the curtsy she showed him upon arriving. "I'm afraid that isn't the point either, Miss Kaioh…"


Narrowing her eyes, Michiru replies sharply: "Then I think I have missed the point, Reynolds-sensei." Even now she doesn't drop the honorific. Doing that would – by Michiru's standards – mean that she were trying to disgrace him in the same way he is apparently doing his best to humiliate her. To Michiru such behaviour would be unacceptable; it would eliminate her idea of fairness. She is not about to sink to his level.

In the end, the waves of the ocean don't attack by ripping apart and cutting open. Her element attacks by stealing away its opponent's breath, leaving him with no other options than to give in to the power of the deep waters.

"I came here under the impression that I was going to play an ensemble with my partner…"

As Michiru tells him this she takes a couple of steps forward to draw back the remaining curtains, letting the daylight outside finally conquer the shadows of the room, the displeasure at this move on her part not passing unnoticed over Luke-san's face. She has vented into his territory; unbidden and – in his opinion – unworthy. By the way he wrinkles his nose at her, she concludes that he doesn't share her intention of viewing the opponent as his equal. Not that it surprises her; Michiru has an inkling that he is used to being obeyed and perceived as the highest power at this school. With her comment – even though it doesn't bear any sign of reprimand or scolding; she is simply reminding him of the reason she came to Washington D.C. to play in his Valentine's concert – she challenges his view of himself. The view his surroundings have of him.

Nevertheless, seeing that Reynolds-san is not going to listen to emotions or reason, Michiru must speak in a tongue he understands. The language of business – and having played the violin professionally since age 9, she knows the vocabulary of his world very well. Inari-san would have set up conditions; conditions that he is most likely breaking with this cousin nonsense.

After having freed the last window in the row of its dark red, theatre-like curtain, Michiru turns around to face him again. Correcting her cardigan and subtly re-adjusting the edging of her dress – once more immaculate in appearance – she pushes some stray tresses of her aquamarine hair over her right shoulder and meets his cold smirk with a soft look of her own as counter-attack. At this point, she is not directly aggressive; instead she is awaiting his next move.

"Technically you are playing with your partner…" Luke-sensei says gloatingly, his voice smooth and loaded with a feel of triumph – as if this little word-bending loophole of his is the final blow in their battle of arguments.

"It is a Valentine's concert; that theme wouldn't be disturbed by two cousins suddenly appearing on stage to perform together?" Looking at him curiously, she lets the three full stops at the end of his sentence hang in the air between them; ignored and unanswered. Her question is perfectly logical. She knows for a fact that all the artists involved were politely requested to bring their partners with them as a part of their performance. Most probably, the guests are aware of this as well – if stated to be relatives, Haruka and she will fall outside the circle.

Reynolds-sensei has the nerve to laugh at her. Feeling the roar of her inner waves almost physically but deciding not to react on the uproar of the sea just yet, she raises an eyebrow at him and keeps silent, knowing that he will find her porcelain-like features and cool calmness unnerving. If there's something Michiru hates it is being coddled like this. Does he really think her so pathetic that he believes she can't handle a little laughter?

"An idealist such as yourself, Michiru…" Luke-san advances at her, the sound of his footsteps swallowed up by the thick, Persian rug making up a small isle underneath the desk. His white hair shines like copper in the afternoon sun as he places one, big paw of a hand on her shoulder in a simulated, fatherly gesture. Not reacting at the way he goes back to using her given name, Michiru meets his gaze which is shrewd and always calculating, "… should know that the love between cousins is also love."

Coming from him, love sounds like a swearword.

"And the love between two women isn't?" Michiru asks him softly (icily), shrugging his hand off her shoulder and stepping back, fingers following the edge of the tabletop, skilfully digging out the brochure on the concert from between letters and documents before she sits down. For Luke-san's sake, keeping his distance would be preferable right now. His double-standards could very well cause her to experience one of her rare slips of self-control.

No answer.

Luke-sensei remains silent, every trace of his mocking leer disappearing as she uses his own excuse as ammunition. In his eyes, Michiru can see a flame of deep irritation. She is a small stone – only a pebble – in his shoe, refusing to go away, no matter how many times he kicks out… and with her query she has just ripped a small hole in his sock; his justification. Sitting down in his own chair as well, resting his chin on his folded hands, he scrutinises her for any sign of surrender. She meets his intrusive assault unyieldingly, her smile not faltering.

Michiru will not be the first to fall.

Clearing his throat, Reynolds-san breaks their eye contact, finding a ballpoint pen in the disorder on his table and clicking it impatiently. "Letting you perform as an openly lesbian couple at a school like this – the very symbol of our future – would be unheard of, so I'm afraid we have limited opportunities of changing it…" Once again his voice is droning and disinterested, stating facts he is reluctant to change, because he thinks he's in his good right to let reality stay that way. It is a clear-cut dismissal, but Michiru will not accept being dismissed so easily.

"What would it take – to change it?"

"Ah," he says, a glimpse of future victory showing in his dark eyes, "I see you're not as stubborn as I'd thought, Miss Kaioh."

Michiru ignores the ill-disguised insult, not needing his approval in any way. Instead of reacting by verbally attacking, she cocks her head in anticipation. He may think that she will grab any opportunity he is offering, but she will have it her way or none at all. Haruka has dubbed this side of Michiru her "feminine pride and female strength", but she knows as well as Michiru does that is has nothing to do with her gender, but with her personality. Not until rocks and stones have bent to it, does the ocean give in.

The man in front of her has yet to realise that, though. Of course, he hasn't lived with her for the past two years like Haruka has, so if it weren't because she disliked him so greatly, Michiru would be able to forgive him for his ignorance.

Confident of her expression not giving away any of her thoughts, Michiru shifts elegantly to cross her legs at the ankles, putting the catalogue back in her pocket and making sure that her dress won't wrinkle before turning her attention back to Luke-san.

"There are two – to us – acceptable possibilities," he informs her after a short absence of words, tapping his chin with his index finger in mock consideration, continuing his proposal with an evil gleam in his eyes: "One: Miss Tenoh and you allow us to inform the public that she is a man…"

Standing up before really having taken in his words, Michiru feels her eyes widen in surprise, answering in Japanese out of sheer bewilderment. "Nani? Masaka!" Realising her mistake by the look on Reynolds-sensei's face – haughty and self-satisfied – she shakes her head to get a lock of hair out of her eyes and sits down quietly, forcing herself to calm down.

"That is out of the question, Reynolds-sensei," she tells him in a more level tone of voice, her despisal evident in her brevity alone. Who does he think he is? Changing Haruka's sex as if she was some kind of prop, only important in the moment she is on stage with Michiru…

"Think about it, Miss Kaioh," Luke-san dares her, "no one will be able to tell the difference." He clicks his ballpoint. "As far as I've been told, Miss Tenoh does make it a point to cross-dress –" click "and I've heard she sometimes deliberately –" click "misleads people – girls especially – into believing she is male…" click.

Every statement is dripping with scorn, and Michiru feels the waves inside her finally breaking against the shore, roaring in an uncontrolled rage.

Kaioh Michiru is a patient woman. She is not easily angered and does not react on impulse unless it concerns people for whom she deeply cares; she isn't bothered much by what people think of her – which is probably good, seeing that many consider her cold and snobby – but there is one thing she will not stand for. No one shall ridicule Haruka to her face, because Tenoh Haruka is the strongest person Michiru has ever met. Haruka has sacrificed everything in order to stay loyal to herself and her beliefs. No one, least of all Luke Reynolds, shall look down upon that because of something as insignificant as clothing.

Narrowing her eyes until they're nothing but ocean blue slits, allowing the man on the other side of the table to finally see a small flicker of the power her alter ego (Sailor Neptune) possesses, Michiru leans forward, the civility she has managed to uphold throughout most of the conversation fading away, replaced by sharp, steely frustration. Her patience has worn thin.

"How Haruka does and doesn't dress has nothing to do with her wanting to be a man," she says, pronouncing each word as if Reynolds-san is one of the children in her art class, needing the explanation fed with a spoon, because his understanding of the material he is working with is still at a beginner's stage. Her tone is chilly; detached.

Before her inner eye, Michiru sees Haruka, sprawled on their bed, naked and unashamed; confident in her own body as she laughs at something Michiru has said. How often has Michiru not observed Haruka's reflection like that in the big mirror in their room, pretending to be absorbed in brushing her hair. Haruka doesn't dress like she does because she is unwilling to admit to her gender, but because she hates when her surroundings associate her with the stereotypical attributes of the fair sex. After all, Michiru's tomboyish lover is no different when dressed as a man than when dressed as a woman – but Michiru knows how she highly prefers the way people treat her when they see her as Tenoh Haruka and not just the girl, Haruka.

"People believe what is most convenient to them, and Haruka simply chooses not to correct them," Michiru persists, noticing the flash of contempt in Luke-san's eyes as she points out the truth of the people who judge Haruka and herself – people like him. "That says more about the world than about her, I believe."

It isn't Haruka's fault that the world in general is sexist. It isn't their fault that the opinion Reynolds-sensei is demonstrating has been allowed to find expression in the legislation of an entire nation; the collective mind of the western world. No, Michiru will not take the responsibility in this regard, no matter how much Luke-san is trying to force her to do exactly that.

"Such a heroic little speech –" Reynolds-san replies sarcastically, Michiru knowing that she has been talking to deaf ears. With a sigh, she interrupts his rant before it has even begun.

"She would never claim to be a man and therefore I cannot allow you to do it for her, Luke-san." Closing her eyes for a moment to gain the calmness of the sea when the storm has passed, already convinced she will not like anything Reynolds-sensei has to say from the point onwards, she asks: "What's the other option?"

Lips pressed together in a thin line, Luke-san lets his eyes roam the tabletop, the ballpoint pen lying abandoned on top of a stack of papers. Michiru relaxes back into the chair, disregarding the pain in the small of her back from the uncomfortable position her body is forced to stay in, the back of the chair squashing her spine. With a hard, determined expression, the organizer pulls a thin folder from one of the drawers in his writing desk, pushing it towards her. Folding her hands atop her knees, Michiru looks from the portfolio to Luke-san's face, waiting for him to explain.

"We have a brilliant pianist who graduated with straight As last summer," he flips open the folder, revealing a small picture of a tall, handsome youth with hints of Asian features, dark purple hair and a beaming grin. The picture fills Michiru with sympathy. This boy understands the music of love, she's sure of it. "Brad Ryo Summers," Luke-san's voice is filled with a certain pride that Michiru hasn't heard him expressing before, "he's written his term paper on your compositions and would see it as a great honour to accompany you on stage."

Reynolds-sensei raises his gaze to meet hers, watching her as she contemplates the picture. Michiru knows what he wants her to do; he wants her to accept that they announce some kind of secret romance between her and "a fan" – who is very practically a male – and at the same time it will give the graduate his debut as a musician. With the feelings she detected in Luke-san's voice, he hosts certain warm opinion of this particular pupil…

The fact that the large man in front of her is capable of compassion… for this student of his, but not for Haruka or herself…

Lifting her chin defiantly, Michiru shakes her head. The boy who she feels an unconscious empathy towards is not going to play a part in this game of prejudice any more than Haruka is. She is not interested in having Brad Summers play the ensemble she has dedicated to the melody of her heart – the melody she originally composed with Haruka in mind. Because Haruka might not be a master pianist (she hasn't devoted her life to music in the same way Michiru has), but she has an instinctive feel for Michiru's music like no one else does. Haruka manages to do what Michiru has found nobody else able to – she captures the story written on the music sheets and expresses the original atmosphere of it. That in itself is enough for Michiru to not allow anyone else to accompany her when she performs her own pieces.

"I don't think you've quite understood my point, Luke-san," she says quietly, her respectful smile back in play and her eyes shining like bottomless ponds in the last, remaining beams of the setting sun. Around her the lamps in the office are turned on automatically, one by one – the snapping sounds echoing in the stillness following Michiru's words. "I wish to perform with Haruka and no one else…"

"Then you'll have to stay cousins," Reynolds-san dismisses her, the sharp note of his announcement telling her that he is tired of this game – this battle of words. Getting to her feet, Michiru draws her cardigan closer around her shoulders. Luke-san stands up as well.

"I do hope you will still stay for the concert," he says without enthusiasm, looking bored. He doesn't care whether she stays or not, Michiru is certain – it's all a question of money and that he has enough of as it is. She will only be an absent pay check and perhaps one problem less.

"Oh, I'll play at your concert, Reynolds-sensei," Michiru responds coolly, squaring her shoulders and straightening up; at her full height she only has to move up her gaze a little to meet his eyes directly, "but only because I respect Inari-san for her effort in getting me this engagement." Stepping back and bowing to him once more in the way she has been raised to view as the standard greeting, she turns around, heading for the door. If he believes she is the losing party, he is wrong. Michiru just didn't win this round.

"Do you expect me to apologize?" The question – asked in a brusque, self-assured manner – makes her stop in front of the door. Turning around, she smiles softly, her eyes softening until they are the same colour as the small innocent waves nibbling at the beach on a warm summer's day.

"I could ask you the same thing," Michiru answers gently, without any traces of the shame it is so obvious that he wants her to feel.

For a split-second, Reynolds-san looks astonished; taken back by her mild attitude. Bowing once more, she exits just as wordlessly as she entered through the door to the hallway which has now been overtaken by the peace of curfew. He makes no attempt to prevent her from leaving; probably believing that her departure means she has accepted her shortcoming regarding this topic.

She hasn't. Why should she? No, Michiru hasn't lost yet, because not winning does not equal being defeated – only giving up does. That is the most important rule in war.

Interlude I

- I know you usually take hours in the bathroom, Michiru, but I was beginning to wonder if you'd drowned yourself in the tub.

Bare feet on the tiles of the bathroom floor, grey eyes that change colour depending on the mood of the holder running over a slim body half-hidden in sweet-scented bubbles.

- Even if I tried, I highly doubt the water would allow me to commit suicide. It knows me too well.

A gentle laugh, hands untouched by the long stay underwater gripping the edges of the bathtub to support a slim body as it rises from the water

- You've been quiet tonight. Uneasy about tomorrow?

A deep voice concealing the worry hidden behind the casualness of the question and the familiarity of the towel being wrapped around slender shoulders.

- No, I've… been thinking. I'm glad I don't live here, Haruka.

Hesitant words, the true meaning not to be found in what has actually been said, but what is being held back as fragile hands dry off waving locks of teal.

- I agree; it's a strange country. They make everything much more complicated than it ought to be.

Strong arms encircling a thin waist, two soft bodies resting against each other as smiling lips nuzzle into still damp hair, teasingly pressing a kiss to an earlobe.

- Maa, I wasn't referring to something as simple as that, Tenoh-san.

Hands leaving wet trails on a black shirt as the smaller woman turns around and takes hold of a pair of broad shoulders. A giggle stolen away as lips meet and explore.

- I'm terribly sorry! I'll come back later…

A stammering voice cut off as the door begins to fall shut, hindered by a pile of clean towels dropped on the threshold; hurried steps rushing over the floor of the living room as the intruder escapes.

- Ara, I guess kissing cousins is not something she walks in on every day.

A dry joke uttered in an amused voice, frail fingers unbuttoning her short-haired companion's wet shirt effortlessly.

- Well, as far as I know it's not exactly illegal…

A small smirk curving kiss-swollen lips as the blush in the tall woman's cheeks subsides, the following silence filled with a soft, reflective "hmm" from her lover's throat and a mirroring, mischievous smirk making ocean eyes glow.

A sceptically raised, blonde eyebrow is her partner's immediate reaction.

- Michiru…

Words dying out as one, elegant finger is pressed against a half-open mouth

- You're right, Haruka, it's not. Now… hush.

A smiling, flirtatious gaze and tenderly persuading hands leading the way to the bedroom.

- Yareyare – that was what I feared…

A clear indication of mirth evident in a husky voice as the heap of towels is kicked out of the way and the door closes once more, muffling the laughter of two girls.

Part II: Silk

The assembly hall of an American musical university is not the most luxurious or extravagant place to host a concert and – compared to doing a gig with Three Lights back in those days – it could seem like a rather trivial experience, but as Michiru, from her position backstage, lets her gaze roam over the many rows of chairs spreading out in half-circles like ripples of water in front of the orchestral pit, she thinks that this could very well be the most important performance she's done yet.

In the back of the room, half-hidden in the shadows, she can make out the camera crew and their enormous cameras, moving first to one side then to the other. It is an intimate concert – only 200 especially-invited guests having received tickets in addition to the 500 students attending the school – made into a public event in celebration of Valentine's Day and the love it represents.

Love. In selection. The thought alone makes Michiru smile ironically.

"And now, please welcome our next guests! The original composer of our next number "The Love of a Maiden"; world-famous violinist Miss Michiru Kaioh, accompanied by her cousin Miss Haruka Tenoh at the piano, sharing the spotlight with our very own Miss Michelle Corr who is playing the harp. Having come all the way from Tokyo, Japan…"

"World-famous, eh?" Haruka whispers in her ear while the male host continues his presentation of them, one of her hands resting against the small of Michiru's back, warm and comforting through the thin fabric of her white silk dress.

"Envious of my fame?" Michiru teases, reaching out to brush some invisible, non-existent dust of Haruka's tux-clad shoulder (an excuse to touch), the light grey colour of the material reminding her of her lover's eyes on early mornings, still caught in the state between being asleep and conscious of having woken up. The colour of the air when it rains.

"I prefer motor sports over music," is Haruka's answer, straightening up and pulling slightly at the lapels of her jacket to show Michiru that she doesn't need help in fixing herself up, "which is probably for the best, ne?" Smiling crookedly, she tugs at a wisp of aquamarine hair that has fallen into Michiru's face, their fingertips brushing as Michiru reaches up to push it behind one ear.

It wasn't until Haruka met Michiru that she began really expressing her talents on the piano. She has been playing since she was barely 5 years old, of course, but for some reason she had come to perceive the black and white keys as a war zone. Having never been told the entire story, Michiru does have a general idea of it being strongly related to a father-daughter issue, since Haruka's father had seemingly thought it would make his daughter act more like a typical girl to engage in an art as feminine as playing the piano. After Michiru re-introduced her to the concept of playing with the heart, though, Haruka has started to enjoy the possibilities of her instrument. Much to her girlfriend's delight.

"That's rather humble of you, isn't it?" Michiru asks in a chitchatting voice, her smile coy.

The girl standing in front of them – the harpist, Michelle Corr-san, was it? Michiru has seen her before, but is unable to place her in any context – sends them a weird look over her shoulder and Michiru senses the slight blush creeping into Haruka's cheeks only because she is so used to being around the blonde. Coughing slightly in her typical show of embarrassment (the words she was about to utter forgotten), Haruka steps back, her expensive Italian shoes not as audible and loud against the floorboards as Michiru's high-heeled sandals.

It is not because Haruka feels ashamed by their relationship – as such her sexuality is no more of a problem to her than it is to Michiru – but Michiru has learned along the way that her partner is a highly private person, not much for sharing what she considers elements of her personal life with anybody outside the small circle of confidants that she has. In Haruka's mind, romantic issues are more often than not included in that category of information.

Allowing Haruka a moment to collect herself, Michiru turns her attention towards the stage.

"So, give them all a warm reception! Miss Kaioh, Miss Tenoh, and Miss Corr; if you ladies please?" the host laughs at the end of his opening speech, his voice echoing between the walls and making the many microphones screech faintly.

They are applauded by the audience as they walk on stage together, Corr-san two steps in front of them, already heading for her beautiful, golden harp whose colour becomes her thick, orange-red hair well. Coming to a halt next to the grand piano placed in the middle of the stage, Michiru catches a glimpse of Vladimir-san and Beatrice-san leaving the podium hand in hand. Looking at Haruka out the corner of her eye, waiting for her "cousin" to settle in at the grand piano, she lets her beloved violin come to a rest on her left shoulder and twirls the bow with her fingers a couple of times to loosen the muscles in her hand.

Placing the left side of her jaw on the chinrest and gripping the neck of her violin delicately, Michiru turns towards the piano and gives Haruka a small nod, signalling for her to start. She watches the tomboyish girl close her eyes, moving her fingers over the keys curiously, as if searching for the right sounds. The first time Michiru had heard Haruka play the piano, she had played it perfectly – not a single note gone wrong – but without any kind of feeling. Now she plays based on feeling alone. Flawless it's not; if one listens closely there are mistakes to pick up on, but the mood of Michiru's music has never been clearer or more pleasant to listen to. That's the charm that Haruka adds to it which makes Michiru love it so much.

Hearing the first, hesitant notes fluttering in the air, she gives a similar, short nod to Michelle-san. As the student sits with the harp between her legs, the frame resting along her shoulder, her long fingers already ready to pluck the strings, Michiru realises where she's seen her before. She was the girl, the tall redhead, rushing into the assembly hall just before Michiru had her clash with Reynolds-sensei.

Which reminds her of…

Calling the first long tones of her own instrument's part of "Shojo no Koi" – a feeble, dancing sound – out of her violin by drawing the bow gently over the strings, Michiru searches the rows of spectators before her for the features of Luke-san; features that have edged their way into her memory. And just as expected, she locates him on the front row, two boys that can no longer be described as teenagers on his right and a thin, ghastly woman clinging to him on his left.

Their gazes meet – Michiru the artist and he the judging audient – a cruel imitation of a polite smile crossing his face before disappearing again as he leans in to whisper something in the ear of the woman beside him. His wife, presumably.

Taking a deep breath, Michiru lets herself and the still upset waves inside her being calmed by the melody that has appeared underneath the soft notes, the three different voices of the three very different instruments merging together into one song. One single expression of an emotion, Michiru remembers from lonesome evenings in an empty apartment in Tokyo.

She closes her eyes and rides the wave of the music. Her music. The melody of her heart.

Haruka's piano is sighing from a subtle, suppressed yearning, Michiru easily imagining the elegant hands – long fingers – of her lover physically forming the passion that filled 16-year-old Kaioh Michiru in the moment she began working on this composition.

It was around the time when Uranus had sought her out in her dreams for the first time, confusing Michiru with her familiar eyes that never seemed to stay one permanent colour, but changed nuances varying from the light shine of fog to the dark foreboding teal of the ocean reflecting the late afternoon sky. Something about Sailor Uranus of the Silver Millennium had made Michiru think of Tenoh Haruka, but her understanding had yet to gain the swift speed of the Senshi of the Winds, heiress of her home planet. She hadn't seen the connection immediately, only followed its trail night after night.

In Haruka's rapid, almost stumbling play, Michiru recognises her own unwillingness to give up on the unity with her fate that she felt while asleep and hated to have to let go of when waking up – until the day she had seen Haruka on the circuit for the first time, recognising the pace of Uranus in every of her steps; the weightlessness and precision of her movements.

Feeling a small smile tug at the corner of her mouth, Michiru opens her ears to Corr-san's harp next. She has always been fascinated by the harp; its fragility and sweet, tinkling sounds that can seem almost indistinct amongst the hundreds of other overwhelming sounds of a symphony. Nonetheless, it is there with a certain sort of vigour in all its gentleness – an energy that reflects Michiru's own complexity.

Feather-soft on the outside, but just as unbreakable as the most precious diamond on the inside.

Yes, this is the characteristics of the being Michiru has become after she awakened as Sailor Neptune; whole at last as she was eventually reunited with her companion from the past. A destiny faithful to Princess Uranus' words about Michiru finding her again, but knowing her "by another name".

Turning to face the blonde woman seated in front of the piano, Michiru drags out the last light-hearted moments of the piece, the strings of her violin vibrating and making the tones break into glass-like pieces as they soar through the room supported by the invisible wings of atomic vibrations. Relaxing her shoulders, Haruka straightens up and meets Michiru's eyes with a satisfied half-smile revealed in her bluish grey gaze. Even though she has no possibility of knowing the journey through time that their ensemble has taken the cerulean blue-eyed Ocean Senshi on, she does seem to instinctively pick up on the strong affection the experience has raised within her undercover partner, currently cousin.

Michiru puts her violin down on top of the stylish, black piano. It is true that between the two of them, she is the one with the highest degree of inbred perceptiveness, but Haruka has been by her side in many situations where Michiru has allowed no one else close. Just like she has taught herself how to follow Sailor Uranus' – Haruka's – speed when running, adjusting her pace to that of her lover's, so has Haruka learned little by little to read Michiru's feelings and thoughts. There is very little that Michiru thinks she could successfully hide from Tenoh Haruka at this point in their relationship; their life – their mission.

She has stopped wanting to try a long time ago.

Relishing in the enthusiastic applause from the guests, Michiru bows gracefully and waits for Haruka to join her before turning her attention to the female host – a young, pretty woman with pink hair hanging in a waterfall of curls down her back – who is trying to make herself heard above the thunder of the many clapping hands.

"Amazing. Simply fantastic. Miss Kaioh; Miss Tenoh. Very touching," she praises them, the way she drags them closer to the edge of the podium (into the spotlight) and provides both of them with a mike making Michiru think of Minako-chan on one of her idol trips.

"Miss Kaioh, I have to ask," the female host, Lara-san, says after her male colleague who introduced them – a handsome man with a wine-red ponytail that bobs up and down as he speaks – has come to a halt next to her. Michiru gives her a refined smile, feeling the fabric of Haruka's tuxedo tickle her arm, making her fingers itch to reach out and follow the sleeve down to a slim wrist and soft skin of a well-known palm. But what is about to follow is all part of their script – and in the script Miss Michiru Kaioh complies with the fact that Miss Haruka Tenohis her cousin, not her girlfriend, so instead of acting on the urge she folds her hands carefully in front of her. "What inspired you to write such a poignant piece of music?"

Before her inner eye, Michiru sees the long lines of English letters spelling out their conversation, not once leaving a hole for her to be the person she normally is when around Haruka. Not once leaving room for the truth of the love that they're here to celebrate.

Her mask still firmly in place, lips parting to form her awaiting line, she meets Reynolds-sensei's cold, arrogant gaze staring up at her from his seat in the anonymous crowd. Anyone who is just a little attentive will probably be able to distinguish the artificial quality of the interview – there's no spirit to detect, no real interaction. A scam, just as he wanted it to be. Patting the bony hand of his wife, Luke-san smugly inclines his head at Michiru as a signal of his appreciation; his success. Miss Kaioh from Tokyo, Japan, is the cousin of Miss Tenoh; they are close because they have grown up together – or so does most of America think, because that is what they've been told.

Hesitating in answering, Michiru feels the melody of her heart, her entire performance, wither and become nothing, veiled in this disguise that he's set up because he thinks them wrong. Unfit for the world he lives in; unworthy of being properly depicted.

Inside her, the sea roars in a way Michiru is too well-mannered to let her civilian form react on. Sailor Neptune would have found her mirror and revealed the true nature of her surroundings – of herself – without hesitation, but for now the Deep Aqua Mirror is safely hidden away, and there's only Michiru's honour being challenged by Reynolds-san's green eyes. That and the soft material of Haruka's sleeve against the naked skin on her arm – offering a kind of different comfort, a touch between soul mates, not DNA-matching relatives – are the only truths she has been given to work with.

About to turn back to the two hosts and deliver the long speech she is supposed to, a speech on the importance of family and the strong bonds between friends when times are rough, she catches sight of the two boys (men, rather) sitting next to Luke-san. The shortest of them, a green-haired, freckled boy, moves his hand subtly to interlace his fingers with his neighbour's. And his neighbour is… Michiru blinks twice. The dark purple hair and slightly slanted eyes… she has seen that face before. He's the boy from the picture she was shown back in Reynolds-san's office. Brad Summers, the musician who had specialised in her music; the one she had felt an automatic sympathy for because something told her he would be able to trace the story of "Shojo no Koi" back to its origin in a similar way to how Haruka does.

Pausing at the way Brad-kun sends Luke-sensei a nervous glance as if fearing that he will choose this moment to look to his right, quickly drawing back his hand from the other boy's, deliberately not turning his head to meet the questioning eyes of his companion, Michiru purses her lips. It seems that they have more than music in common, Brad Summers and she. They share a love.

The green-haired boy looks hurt at the way everything in Brad-kun's attitude screams "not here". Letting her gaze sweep from the two youths to the man who has apparently raised a glass wall between them with his sheer presence, Michiru can't help feeling sorry for them. Why do they let Luke-san dictate to them who to be? Nothing about them is shameful, least of all their relationship.

"Michiru?" Haruka says enquiringly, interrupting her frantic thoughts with one hand finding its rest on Michiru's shoulder, calling her back to reality; the true nature of reality that Michiru doesn't need any talisman to see.

Why should she let a man like Luke Reynolds tell her how to feel; who to be? Michiru is not willing to let him make her feel embarrassed and in the wrong about her relationship to Haruka. He has no idea of the strength she draws from her love; he knows nothing about Sailor Moon or how paradise is meant to be restored not with swords, but with understanding and respect. Not Ami-chan, not Rei-chan – none of the Senshi perceives themselves as Senshi of War, but Ai no Senshi. Soldiers of Love.

Michiru does as well.

"I'm terribly sorry," she apologises to Lara-san, smiling graciously. Michiru meets the worried eyes of first the pink-haired host and then her male counterpart for at last to catch Haruka's gaze, smile turning mischievous as her lover – not her cousin – presents her with a raised eyebrow at the way Michiru reaches up her own hand to grab hold of Haruka's, still resting on her shoulder. "I got so caught up in the story that I forgot about reality."

The two hosts exchange a worried look. Nothing of what Michiru has said can be found in the script. She is stepping out of line, breaking the terms they've set beforehand, leaving them unprepared for what is to come.

"So, what is the story behind the music?" the male host with his nodding ponytail – Michiru doesn't remember his name – asks, desperately trying to steer the discussion back on track.

"The truth is…" Facing Haruka, Michiru feels her own eyes adopting the gentleness of the still surface of the sea. The English words hang between them, translating automatically into the humming sounds of Japanese as they pass from Michiru's lips to Haruka's ear. Haruka's face doesn't betray any surprise, her gaze not wavering from Michiru's as they look at each other in the few seconds of silence following the fatal beginning of a revelation.

Onegai, Haruka, she thinks silently, the tenseness of her partner's shoulders and the way her fingers wrap around Michiru's a little more tightly giving away the uneasiness she doesn't want to show, don't make it a question of privacy. Don't let him have it his way. Don't let him win.

Staring into Haruka's captivating, dark eyes, she concentrates on these broken sentences over and over again, aware that no matter what Sailor Mars might think, Michiru doesn't have any telepathic abilities, but by now Haruka knows her so well that she can read her like an open book anyway.

Getting Haruka to agree is another thing entirely, though.

Please, she pleads mutely without any indignity or uncertainty. In front of Haruka – as one of the few people she has bestowed that particular honour upon, if not the only one – Michiru doesn't fear showing that she can come to short on her own. Without Haruka's permission, she can't lead the final battle against the prejudice they've encountered here, because she respects the taller, tomboyish woman's integrity too much to press her modesty simply to get at Reynolds-sensei. He's not worth it. But Haruka is.

An apprehension is visible in the corner of Haruka's mouth, running along the straight line of her lips. Confessions have always been her Achilles' heel, but this is no confession. What Michiru is asking of her has nothing to do with claiming colours or picking teams (announcing any kind of belonging). It's simply… love, and Michiru knows that Haruka believes in the power of love just as much as she does herself – if not more, because Usagi-chan's influence is more detectable in the short-haired Senshi of the Sky than Haruka would ever willingly admit to.

"The truth is," Michiru repeats, eyes begging Haruka not to draw back, "that 'Shojo no Koi' is a dedication to my partner."

All of a sudden – the internal fight of pros and cons visible in her grey eyes having come to a conclusion – Haruka's features soften in a way Michiru is normally only entitled to experience when they are alone in the confidentiality of their bedroom, just the two of them. Every time they've told each other "as long as you're with me" run through Michiru's mind, and she knows that Haruka remembers as well. She has never told her lover about the background of her first composition, even though they have performed it together on several occasions, because this special piece was a shared secret between Princess Uranus and Michiru's heart, but maybe it's about time…

Because the truth is… Haruka is Uranus by another name, and to Michiru there is no distinct border. She loves this girl in front of her in all her forms. Nothing and nobody should blemish that with stupid excuses or pointing fingers, because the melody of their love is just as vivid and beautiful as that of their prince and princess. At one point, it is that melody that will help grounding Crystal Tokyo.

"Oh, you have brought your partner here tonight, Miss Kaioh?" Lara-san requests curiously, looking over one shoulder to the exit backstage as if she expects some mysterious stranger to appear and reveal himself to be Michiru's boyfriend as a pep up surprise in the middle of their show. The other host gives her a mocking look, having seemingly figured out who Michiru is referring to by the way he shakes his head.

Laughing, Michiru answers: "I have."

Lara-san looks excited, turning around fully as if to welcome a newcomer unto the stage. At this, Haruka rolls her eyes good-naturedly, sighing.

"I choose to believe that you know what you're doing," she whispers as Michiru lets go of her hand to instead grip the lapels of her jacket, leaning up to press the re-defining kiss to lips that no one would ever think belonging to a man, no matter what clothes Haruka wears. Her dark grey eyes – streaked with dusty green in the scorching light fixed on them – flash with the intensity that Michiru fell in love with before anything else; the refusal of letting anyone pigeonhole her. Her strength is of another kind than Michiru's, they both know; yet they match. Perfectly.

"Ara, don't you have faith in me?" Michiru asks playfully, still having to stand on tiptoe to reach Haruka's mouth even though her high heels level out the difference in height somewhat. Their lips are mere inches apart, Michiru's hands flattened against the soft curve of Haruka's breasts, and Haruka's fingers brushing along the line of her jaw. Around them a hush has fallen, buzzing with a mix of shock and disbelief.

"Always…" says Haruka in a low voice before disregarding the last distance between them, hand cupping Michiru's face gently as their lips meet, sharing a slow inhale of the feeling of the other.

"Miss Michiru, should I call for him or will he get…" Lara-san calls out, her exclamation coming to an abrupt halt as her attention – Michiru pictures – is led to Haruka and herself. "Oh…" Obviously, she – like the maid from the previous night – is not used to being faced with two kissing "cousins" either.

Their kiss is neither very long nor very erotic. It's not the kind of kiss that would have made them stumble to the bedroom had they been at home by themselves. Actually, it's hardly anything but two pair of lips moving tentatively and a short, but never-ending second in which they breathe through each other; breathe in each other. Most of all, it's a statement. A point made clear.

They part, Michiru stepping back and running a hand through her hair as she turns to the audience, catching the eyes of Reynolds-sensei who looks suspiciously pale and – if Michiru isn't mistaken – very shaken. The smile she awards him with is sharp and sweet at the same time, her gaze flaring with a fierce pride of having shown him her true power. Kaioh Michiru doesn't accept defeat just like that; she fights until she has obtained the closest thing to victory that she can get.

Getting to his feet, Luke-san walks stiffly towards the nearest door, the slam of it as it falls closed behind him interrupting the uncomfortable silence in the room. Looking back towards the organizers seat, she only barely catches sight of the movement of bright green hair before the lone sound of clapping hands take over where the bang left off. The partner of Brad Summers has stood up, his applause slowly followed up by Brad-kun himself. Meeting his wide, dark eyes, Michiru smiles warmly at him and in that moment an unspoken understanding connects them. The original tune of love.

Slowly others among the audience stand up to join into the clapping and the understanding it symbolises.

Next to her, Michiru feels Haruka's fingertips caress the back of her hand soothingly as she states in a stage whisper: "Maybe we should take a bow?"

With a giggle, Michiru performs the traditional Japanese curtsy, hands against her knees and her aquamarine hair falling around her shoulders in waves of ocean-scented strands.

"Arigato, everybody," she says, her voice not withholding her amusement as her show of appreciation mingles with Haruka's "thank you" uttered in a huskier, deeper tone. Straightening up, Michiru – for some reason – finds it easy to imagine that Usagi-chan's face would have beamed with happiness if she'd been there… it's the feeling in the room, she realises; it's been altered…

No one speaks; the applauding continuing unaffected as Michiru walks back to the piano to get her violin. Nodding respectfully to the two flabbergasted hosts as Haruka and she pass them on their way out, she interlaces her fingers with the blonde Senshi's. Side by side, they make their way down from the podium. Just like Vladimir-san and Beatrice-san did. No difference at all.

The way it should be, she can't help thinking.

Looking back over her shoulder, trusting Haruka to lead her steps, Michiru finally grasps what it is that has changed from she got here to this moment when she's leaving. The colour of the atmosphere is different, now glowing brightly in the exact nuance of their princess' Star Seed.

A warm light; shiningly golden from a love that embraces all.

Interlude II

- That was an outrageous display, Miss Kaioh! I will have you know that you'll receive no payment whatsoever for this performance and consider yourself luckyif we don't sue you and your despicable partner!

A loud, heated voice echoing between the walls as heavy feet drum over the floor, trying to catch up with an elegant pair of high heels.

- Oh, that's perfectly alright, Reynolds-sensei. Fortunately, I didn't come here for the money; the payment was quite insignificant as it was.

A white silk dress shining in the artificial yellow light of the hallway as the sharp turn of the bearer makes her aquamarine hair bounce around her face. A softness in expression and voice that does not conceal the sarcasm of the reply.

- I'll press charges!

A threatening, self-justified murmur as a fat finger jabs angrily at the woman's shoulder, unsuccessfully trying to make her lose her poise.

- But we didn't do anything illegal, now, did we?

A truly concerned question asked in great earnestness, dark blue eyes shining with the flame of victory, not dimmed by any kind of intimidation.

- You must understand that the moral codex of America and Japan respectively are vastly different…

An excuse; half regretting, half accusing but bitter all the same.

- Maybe it's not the Japanese one that is wrong?

The sound of heels against the floor; a slow pace at first as a thoughtful glance is aimed at the enormous silhouette visible over one slender, bare shoulder followed by a smile bordering on friendly; coloured serene by an inborn compassion.

- Michiru, there's a Brad Summers who wants to meet you and properly congratulate you on the "awesome show" as he called it.

Dark grey eyes intentionally ignoring the bulky shadow of the man left a couple of steps behind as long legs clad in light silk trousers come to a halt next to the shorter woman. Attention fixed on her partner, the owner of the somewhat hoarse voice smirks around the American words of her message.

- Can you follow him to my dressing room in ten minutes time? Ara, and please bring these flowers as well, would you?

A couple of beautiful bouquets change hands, the warmth of the answering enquiry reflected in a caring gaze passing between the blonde, tomboyish woman and the smiling, aqua-haired violinist. A frail melody not unlike "Shojo no Koi" is traceable in the air between them, audible to those who listen carefully.

- Hai. You… don't need help with anything?

A suspicious, teal gaze moves to the still present form of the offending organizer further down the corridor.

- Daijoobu-yo. I can take care of this myself.

A teasing joke, softened by impeccably manicured fingers brushing short locks of dark blonde hair out of the way before her partner disappears around the nearest corner.

- Freaks! That's what you are… FREAKS!

A livid whisper, the last word screamed in a furious manner, emphasized by a vein bulging underneath the flushed skin stretching out over the white-haired man's temple.

- Maybe we are, but then again… normality is such a vague concept, ne?

A look of silk-wrapped steel flashes in eyes with the strength of the ocean, a smiling mouth delivering the final hit to the wall of intolerance between them, leaving Luke Reynolds to gape at Kaioh Michiru, dumbfounded

A polite farewell slices the quiet open like a sword…

- For this opportunity to participate in your concert, domo arigato gozaimasu. And now I bid you goodnight, Reynolds-sensei.

In front of a small dressing room, the Senshi of the Sea stops, bowing respectfully. Without her waiting for a response, the door is closed softly in a sweaty face, red from seething anger.


Once safely inside, Michiru leans her head back against the doorframe and laughs, one bent finger pressed to her lips; unregretful and unapologetic.