This is for all those who waited for this embarrassingly late chapter.


Title: Sand Beneath My Feet
Summary: Hiiro is seeking redemption. Usagi wants salvation. Meilan chases after justice. Nephrite is trying to deal with being alive for the first time in a thousand years. HiiroUsagi MeilanWufei NephriteNaru. Everything eventually returns to its origins.


The place she came to, rematerializing from incandescent light, was heartbreaking and familiar. There was a wide King size bed in the far wall, a large dresser to her left, a sizable vanity table to her right, and dozens of precious, sentimental trinkets allotted over the available flat surfaces.

It was their bedroom.

With a low whine the Eternal Pretty Sailor Soldier Sailor Moon slid to the floor, releasing her transformation, and Tsukino Usagi wrapped lonely, aching arms around herself. Shining eyes closed and trembling lips were pinched tight as she rocked back and forth.

We were supposed to be happy.

So many battles fought, and won, and lost, and endured; simply for that wish to be given a chance. So many sacrifices made again and again and again until it was hard to remember a time when she hadn't: when she had been simple and ignorant and didn't have to fight on because that was what she had to do, because that was what she had been created to do, because she was the last and she had to – had to win, and walk, and grin, and smile at the end even when she was broken and bleeding because everything will be okay. She had to believe that above all else. She gave everything for that.

We're going to be happy.

But so many battles fought and the war still raged on. There was no end to the battles and she was so, so tired of the constant fighting, constant wariness, constant need to live in the moment because in the next it would not only be stolen but ripped away by unknown, unnamable forces that whispered: it's all your fault, it's all your fault. They could have been happy; Rei, Mina, Ami, Makoto, everyone; they could have been happy if you were only stronger/faster/smarter. You were supposed to save them.

So why do you always fail?

She gasped, heart wrenching and ribs expanding painfully.

Why are you never enough?

She sobbed and immediately stopped herself with a hand holding tightly on the bottom half of her face.

Why do battles still exist, if you've already saved them all – if you deserve to be happy.

She cried, tears leaking from her eyes and sounds twisted from her throat.

I wish, I wish, I wish, "I wished," she whispered, "for everything to be right." At the beginning. The first time.

"Soon." A calloused roughened hand soothing stroked her soft locks. "Soon it will be."

This time she welcomed the peace that darkness brought.

. : - : .

"The Artic Contingent has returned from their trip, Sir." The officer reported, holding out a folder.

WuFei took it but did not bother to flip the cover open. "And?" He demanded.

No hesitation. "Read outs indicate the energy is gone."

"Gone." WuFei stared at the other man with hard eyes.

As you must have suspected, the officer was careful not to say, eyes staring away from his superior, calling the team in and sending them out in the middle of the night.

"Gone," the ex-gundam pilot repeated.

"Should I schedule a priority meeting first thing in the morning?" The officer asked.

Because the higher-ups would definitely be interested in how the volatile energy they had been tracking for the past months have suddenly disappeared. And how Preventer Chang knew or had enough of a warning to know to send out the specialist team.

WuFei sat back, refusing to show his strain. There was something happening with Yui, an unknown object with enough energy emissions to make it possible to do large damage has suddenly disappeared, apparently the Dorian was hiding some matter that dealt with a potential danger to national security from the Preventers, his inner peace and convictions were being questions, and he hadn't slept in the last 52 hours.

He had gotten soft, WuFei noted almost wry.

He hadn't had to deal with so many perilous unknowns since the war, when he stepped into a large gundamium suit and was shot into space, not knowing if he would land on the Earth to see a true sky for the first time or be burned up in the atmosphere like the Meteor the Operation was named for.

He didn't understand how so many things had apparently slipped under his notice, or why everything was happening now. The Artic, Yui, and now, Dorian as well according to Yui.

"You're dismissed." WuFei said.

His subordinate gave him an accessing look before nodding, "I'll notify the appropriate people about the debriefing," and walked out.

The problem with having good officers was that they knew how to think for themselves. WuFei didn't know if he should be pleased or annoyed about his subordinate Joel's presumptions, but neither the less, there was a reason why WuFei had chosen to promote the man as his Second in Command. Mostly to play niceties to the public and the bureaucrats that WuFei couldn't be bothered with.

When his door closed WuFei got up from his chair abruptly, fists opening and clenching repeatedly.

Une and the others would want to know how WuFei had known or suspected, and then they would want to know his informant, and then why Yui would have chosen to reveal himself after all this time.

MeiLan.

WuFei jerked around and started pacing. He had been trying not to think since the last encounter with Yui, after alerting the team that they were to have headed out yesterday and he wanted a new report on the Artic situation on his desk now. He tried not to consider impossibilities, refused to dwell on ifs, would not consider ludicrous claims.

The energy is gone.

Long MeiLan is alive.

His chest was tight, jaw clenched, knuckles white. He really wished Yui was there so he could plant him one, for giving one truth and a blatant lie, for dangling such temptation in front of him. For how much WuFei wanted to believe even when it would be utterly absurd to.

For offering the possibility that maybe, just maybe WuFei had redeemed himself after all. That there was, somewhere in the wretched universe, there was enough grace and benevolence, justice, in existence that WuFei had earned the opportunity to be happy.

WuFei almost laughed.

Absurd.

Here he was a Scholar turned Terrorist turned Peace Keeper and he was thinking on wishes being granted when he was long past the age of such fanciful delusions.

Weak. Running away from reality. And he had thought that MeiLan had been the dreamer between them; living in denial of the world, believing only in her omniscient justice. He closed his eyes.

Perhaps it was something else she had left for him. If so, he would grab hold with both hands and pull it inside of him, into his heart and mind and soul so that it would never be forgotten even if it was denied to blossom. Another piece of her that he had never appreciated until too late.

There was a knock on the door.

"What?" WuFei barked.

Joel turned the knob, standing in the doorway. "I didn't get a chance to report, before you dismissed me," the tone almost flippant, "that we also, in addition to the analysis, brought back two unidentified persons from the ice country. They're currently in the infirmary."

The Chinese man stared at him. "And you didn't think to mention this?"

Joel shrugged, "didn't seem too important."

"Not important." WuFei repeated.

Joel made a nonchalant noise, "I thought you might have an emergency matter to attend to. You dismissed me pretty fast."

Obsidian eyes narrowed; annoyance at all Americans in his acquaintance coursing through him.

"I will deal with you later." WuFei told him, walking past him to head towards the infirmary.

"Don't forget your meeting with the European diplomat in the afternoon." Joel sang behind him.

. : - : .

Relena signed the paper in front of her and looked up to see another stack on her desk that she sworn hadn't been there earlier in the afternoon. When she took this job, no one warned her just how tedious and aggravating it was trying to get through all the political red tape. She remembered the mounds of paperwork that her father did, but somehow there had seemed to be less back then, maybe because he hadn't been trying to counsel the Colonies and Earth Sphere United Nations after an immediate war.

AC195. The war to end all wars.

Except in AC 197, barely two years later, there was an uprising. The problem was there were too many soldiers and not enough jobs available at home. Not enough occupations for the young generation spilling with vengeance and loss to be diverted to. The government need to take some responsibility, create the jobs. The Preventers were a great resource to direct the rigid career military type, but where does one send the disillusioned ones who no longer believed, in religion or country?

Relena sighed. ESUN and the Colonies were both depleted of resources, trying to recover from the damage and both still trying to play a cold war, blaming each other for as much as possible to save their own patriotic beliefs.

Handling two large super powers were enough, but now there were this. According to the space stations, apparently the signal had been sent from the direction of the Sun. Beyond their means of technology detection, there was a civilization sending a message.

The words were simple but the concept was hard to comprehend.

This is the Sol Kingdom sending a greeting to the people of the Earth. We request that you allow us to speak with our Princess. Further silence and blocked communication will be taken as a prelude to a declaration of war.

. : - : .

MeiLan remembered snow, a painful cutting cold breeze, and huddling down next to Nephrite's still but soft breathing body, thinking there was no way she was going to end like this. She wouldn't allow it. But staying there, in a cave she had been lucky to find close by, dragging Nephrite's taller and heavier body, waiting or hours on end for either Nephrite to wake up or for her other two friends to come back for her. Wondering why she wasn't frozen yet but not wanting to dwell on the fact, watching Nephrite's every exhalation puff into vapor, telling herself that Nephrite couldn't die from exposure to the cold, he had lived in the Artic before for the love of all that was sacred. Bending down and curling into herself, thinking she hadn't even changed the world yet, two chances at life and she hadn't achieved anything yet – she wasn't going to die!

White, endless white, blurring in front of her as the snow blew up and out and around the landscape. The exposed rock surface of the crater disappearing steadily under the downpour. It was hard to keep her eyes open and she knew she was falling asleep; falling asleep in the vast, white coldness hat would swallow her and everything she was, and everything she hadn't had the chance to do.

Two chances at life and she had never even been able to make her husband proud of her, proud of being with her. Tears brimmed under her eyelids, pain shuddering through her freezing body, exhaustion dragging her down into the darkness where she had been before, this time with no light at the end of the tunnel to bring her back.

Two lifetimes and neither time had she been enough; enough for her Clan, enough for herself, enough for her stupid Scholar who was probably so much happier without her stubbornness forcing an unproven justice on him. Two lives and neither time had she been able to tell him that she loved him, was proud of him, proud to be with him. The honor it had brought her, to have been with someone who even if he hadn't believed in her, as least he'd been a believer of himself. And how strong he was, the strength of his belief was, for changing the world. "Husband," she breathed.

Warm calloused hands took hers, gripping tightly onto her hand, trembling, but harsh enough to hurt if she wasn't past it all already. "I'm here Nataku." The words were fierce, "I'm right here MeiLan. Come back to me my strong, stubborn wife."

MeiLan almost let the tears go; this was the end, she knew it. She wasn't strong enough, she had never been, and WuFei would have never called her that. Those last words he had given her on the meadow were only because she was beyond help, and he had wanted to comfort her. Once again, his voice was with her at she died. She wondered what that said about her, how it was only as she lay dying she could hear his voice again. Her brain was shutting down, but at least in her last moments, her delusions would send her off in comfort.

"MeiLan." Her name was almost reverent, an intonation she had never heard before. "Come back to me my prideful warrior god." The voice was wavering, "I'll prove to you your justice exists." A soft kiss in the centre of her open palm. "Please."

This was a dream. WuFei had never wanted her. Even in her delusions, where she might hear the words, she could never make herself believe it.

. : your and mine conviction : .