I thought it was strange because I knew there were parts that seemed missing when I read over this version. Maybe just got rid of it when I copy and pasted. Weird. Anyway, the longer version is here, if you're interested:

www . dotmoon . net / librarystoryview . php ? chapterid 425

Title: An ocean of ashes
Theme: sm-monthly LJ community: February (Usagi and Mamoru) 22nd - Graveyard
Genre: Drama/Angst
Version: Anime (Crystal Tokyo)
Rating: PG
She doesn't know what to say at the moment, so, for once, she just stood there and said nothing. Was it that long ago, when they had been special girls with special powers? Was it that long ago that being special was actually something special, a miracle? Now, all she could think of was that it must have been somewhat of a curse too. Someone must have said that to her once, right? Maybe it was Ami, when Ami still read other people's books instead of writing her own (since she has now read them all). Ami, it must have been Ami (not Sailor Mercury) who had sat by her side during a cherry-blossom viewing and read that little excerpt to her with a quiet and solemn voice, after Shingo had asked her what her favorite line in the book had been.

At the time, there had been a Shingo, and he had his first crush with Ami (who, quite frankly, had no idea how to deal with him or his feelings or her own on the subject). At that time she had been a girl and she did not understand the difference between sadness and sorrow. At that time, they were all a little naive, a little idealistic, and like all teenage heroines, a little short-sighted.

The scent of incense wafted to her nose, and she wondered, did her friends hate her now? Did all those times she had brought them back from the gates of death because she had been selfish, because she had been terrified of being alone... do they see that now as cowardice and not love and hate her for it? But hadn't Ami also read to her once about how Man always strove for immortality, always wanted and tried to covet the prize? But now that she had given them that gift...

Right now, Mercury (Ami) was crying as if her heart had died. She was crying as if she could cry the dead into living again or cry herself to death. She was crying because there was one small flaw in Tsukino Usagi's wish when she had wished on her silver crystal to create Crystal Tokyo...

So now they were in a cemetery and the miko, Hino Rei, better known to everyone as Super Sailor Senshi Mars (and sometimes she forgets it herself, that she was anyone but Mars, though not today), was standing a little weakly before the small gathered crowd. Those dark and familiar eyes are so tired, as if she had seen the world in all its acts (but then, haven't they all?) and she was saying a prayer and acting so brave, as if this blow did not hurt. If one didn't know Mars (Rei), didn't know her when she had been young and brash and filled with fire, one would have been fooled by her quiet soberness. No one but her closest friends recognized that wall of protectiveness called Alone that she only resurrected when it really hurts, that she only resurrected that time when her Ojii-san had died and then, surprising even herself, when her father had passed away (even though they never reconciled).

At the front of the congregation, Venus (Minako) was starting the eulogy. It was strangely ironic that the sun was sunny today, despite the dismal mood. But then again, in paradise, there are no grey days that she could recall. Even when it rained, the sky was bright blue, an optical illusion that they had created in reminiscence of the days of the Silver Millennium (similar technology, though not the same, as Mercury had informed her once). She thought, someone could have made it rain today, someone could have made it as dismal in the heavens as it was on Earth. But that someone obviously forgot.

Venus (Minako) was the most stoic of them all. Her voice was pitched perfectly, clear but with a soft kind of love, a terribly hurtful compassion. It was, actually, the Queen's speech, but she hadn't the courage to face her Senshi that day, before even such a small crowd. She couldn't say it with Mercury (Ami) looking up at her with those haunted eyes that asked, why? and how? as if because she was Queen and because she had given her friends the miracle of living forever, that she knew everything...

She didn't, and right now, she wasn't up to facing that disappointment so close and so personal.

Holding Mercury by the shoulders was Jupiter (Makoto) whose face was not so brave and whose grief was almost as deep. She was suffering similar pains as Mercury, because foolish Jupiter always wore her heart on her sleeve, though maybe she won't, not after this, not anymore. The brunette was also openly weeping, not bawling, not making any sounds like Mercury (Ami). From her place, she thought the look was very similar to the one Jupiter (Makoto) always wore when sent on missions, as if it was sacrilege to make a noise to voice her grief.

Jupiter (Makoto) was the god-mother of Ami's son. Of all of them, she was the closest to the boy, the man, and now the corpse. Other than Mercury (Ami) herself, no one knew him as well. The brunette just stood there, trying so hard to be stronger than she was, letting the tears fall but not even reaching to wipe her face clean, not even caring about the red blotches blooming on her cheeks and around her eyes like red flowers on a pale canvas. Every once in awhile she would reach up and blow her nose very, very quietly, that was, until half-way through the ceremony when she just gave up and kept the handkerchief to her nose for the rest of the ceremony.

And she, herself, the Queen of this paradise - the coward that lived...? She was but empty-eyed and scared because of what she had and what her friends did not have. All she could do now was stand in the back with her husband and her daughter, wanting to be brave but not having the courage after having gotten so far already. She can't even count how many funerals she has attended. At first it had been terribly heart-wrenching every time someone in Crystal Tokyo died. In the beginning she would attend every single one. But after six years of deaths from accidents or old-age (though not anything else such as murder or disease - since they don't really exist anymore) she had stopped attending so many and the other Senshi, at least one of them, would take her place for the ones she missed. Eventually, they would send a representative from the palace.

Today was different though, today was the death of Mercury's - no, Ami's - son. He died in his sleep. It must have been painful for them, at least the last few years. When he had started to want to forget his mother's face, when he had grown old and she did not change at all. It must have hurt their relationship terribly. It must have been hard when they realized (as Sailor Mercury was the first of the Inner Court to bear a child other than her Queen) that though their children lived longer than the other citizens of Crystal Tokyo, they would still fail to live as long as the Senshi (the Mother). After all, they were not the originals touched by the Ginzuishou at the height of its powers.

And what could Neo-Queen Serenity say to her long time friend now that all of their hopes were dashed. What could she say to her Senshi, who had loved and lost and watched the ones they loved die, one by one? One day, not too long ago, Mars (Rei) had commented on battles, reminiscing, and Venus (Minako) had said, "Just corpses, all I see are the dead." And for a terrifying moment they had thought she actually quoted something right (a sign of her distress), because that was something Venus consciously kept as a trait she didn't want to let go, misquoting on purpose now to capture her lost self. Then, in another terrifying moment, they realized she was just saying how she saw things nowadays.

Venus (Minako) was never so morbid, was she?

She couldn't remember, so she wasn't sure what was worse: Having forgotten the old friends who were still her friends but not the selves she had befriended long ago, or failing them and making them into these strangers by never having thoroughly thought out her wish. Really, after that incident, she lost her footing. What could she say to them when she had a husband, a daughter, and their friendship and her kingdom? She too had lost her mother, her father, her brother, and her other friends (some who made it through the sleep but died later, and some who did not make it at all). But so had they. What do you say to them?

I'm sorry, I cannot bring them back. I'm sorry, but I cannot give them more than longevity. I'm sorry, we will just have to expand the cemetery again. And yes, Venus, let's make a plan (commercials? Bill-boards? Businesses?) to encourages cremation, instead of burial. Maybe add a bit of a romantic notion, like tossing loved ones into the sea. And, maybe one day, we will go to the ocean, visit that sea, and all we'll see are the ashes of the dead, instead of water. Wouldn't that be romantic?

She was getting pessimistic, again... Endymion, next to her, squeezed her hand gently, because he knew her and he was the only one who really knew her (and she was guiltily grateful that she was not alone like her friends were). Lady Serenity stood, back straight as a rod, a little closer to the stage than her mother. Lady had known Ami's son. She had taught him once his numbers when he came to play at the palace, and got him interested in politics when he was older. They had been friends, but like all people who befriended the Senshi or the royal court, they eventually drifted apart. It was because, well, the same reason that all the Senshi's relationships fell apart: They will live and everyone else will simply die, eventually.

And this was the legacy she would give to her daughter, Serenity realized. This was the world she would live in if her daughter's husband failed to be of his own powers. If Lady could not procreate a child who would produce a star-seed powerful enough to last, seeming to many, to what may as well be eternity. Then, Lady will have to watch her son die the same way Mercury (Ami) had watched her own son born, then grow, and then finally die with equal dread and hope, joy and pain. If that were so, then she, as a Grandmother, will watch her grandchild die and then, in a perverse way, maybe she would be even with her friends - though she did not want to pay that cost to be even with anyone.

Ami, with a young face, tearful and uncertain, stood before her now and looked to her for things she did not have to give, no matter how much she wished that she could give it. This was Ami, who had once vowed to never love someone that deeply again, but then had a son and immediately loved him more...

"In paradise, we live our lives in joy. We do not suffer. We live the time we are given because we know it will eventually end. Mortals, immortals, time will catch up with us eventually and we must concede to Death. It is not our enemy, it is the thing that allow us to never give up, to constantly live and love as if tomorrow will come and hence, no moment is wasted because of our fear of losing that moment or never having it at all," Venus (Minako) said, her voice no longer that chipper and bright and teasing voice that once soothed her and cheered her and supported her during all her trials in her teenage years. Those familiar blue eyes were so somber now, so old and so knowing, so achingly knowing.

But, Serenity reflected, it was a lot less painful to watch Venus (Minako) look so solemn than it was to watch her smile so painfully false. That expression had pierced her to the core, and Venus (Minako) had wore it not too long ago. It was eerie to come to face a smile with no emotions to support that pretended cheer. The expression was given to her but days ago, when they had met up about the ceremony and the speech that she hadn't the heart or the courage to give.

She looked at her guards and saw, for the first time, how her young looking friends, despite their youthful skins and youthful bodies, all looked as if their small physical forms housed something large, ancient, grave and sad. It was as if they were spilling with something, an unspoken history and too many old emotions that never quite died. They seemed like statues that echoed a past that was gone, statues that were strong but made of stone and said nothing of the sufferings they endured. They seemed... unmoving and nostalgic and grand and somehow, dead despite of its eternity. Serenity had not really acknowledged this, not until now, though she had always known, in the back of her mind, that they were all different than the girls they started out as, different than the citizens that lived and then died but giving birth to more life in that short span of life, never having to suffer again and again the same slight of hand dealt by Death to all but them.

A thousand years ago, Venus would not have had the ability to have written that speech. Now she gives it with confidence and brilliance, using her haunting, lilting voice that would have been better suited singing idol-songs and promoting tooth-pastes. Minako would not have been able to do this, but then Venus was not that Minako, so it was useless to think of them as the same person.

"We cannot give immortality and we cannot keep death away. It is our curse and it is our gift. To remember those who are gone, to treasure and remind those who live on. It is our duty to teach and to govern them. It is our duty to remind them that today is the most important day, because when it comes to the ones we love, that is all we have. Even if all that we have are lost tomorrow, even if we will shed tears and regret and miss no matter what will happen... if we are the ones left to go on, we have also lived in that moment. We have stood beside them, breathed their air and watched them do great things. We will remember them where they can no longer and prove their existence had happened. We will remember them passed the legends, as they had been. It was Life, even if it was only once, and even Death cannot take that away from us.

"I think, if Mizuno Ryuko could speak today, he would smile and say to us: Live again, love again, and it won't be a wasted life. My memory would live through you if you do not forget me. If you never forget to live life as if tomorrow will come, because it does. I will never die if you live. Not entirely. Because I will be remembered." Venus looked straight at Mercury when she said this, and despite the gurgling sounds close to wailing that the blue-haired woman made, their eyes did not break contact once. "And we will remember them, because we must, and because, in that," Venus finally closed her darkened, glassy eyes - haunted eyes - "they will live forever."

The city will remember this day as the day that even their worshipped gods, their ancient rulers, had moments of tears for their mortal lives. They will love them and hate them, a little more, for having what they did not have and for not being able to give them more. And the Senshi, in their despair, will each wonder for days and years and maybe even centuries to come (if not all of their lives), if it had all been worth it. If this Paradise had been worth it...

Even if only in memory.

Nominated for dotmoon's UFO awardsSee my profile page for links and voting under Nominations.