Title: Burn Out

Author: Girl Who Writes

Feedback: If you feel so moved.

Characters: Setsuna

Theme: Outer Senshi – Optional

Word Count: 986

Rating: PG

Genre: Angst, Drama, Horror

Summary: She understands why people turn to religion, now. How could she not, with the Moon Queen's name on her lips as they slice the flesh of her body, peel it back and find humor in her agony?

Notes: Something that's been on my computer for awhile. I personally feel this is more manga-related than anime-related. I'd like to follow this up with a longer fic, because I have always had a fondness for dark fics. If you enjoy it, please review. I treasure every review I receive; knowing that someone enjoys something I've written is what keeps me going.

Disclaimer: Naoko Takeuchi owns the characters and scenarios of Sailor Moon. I am a humble fan and thus make no profit from this venture.

The dreams came easily.

Sleep did not.

(Sometimes, when she's tired and feeling old, she lets her old self slip back into place. The girl with the scars, who fought all those battles.)

It's hard to look at herself during those times. She looks at the others, reborn – beautiful, young, flawless – and she wants them to know that being a soldier isn't always a shower of bright light and pretty catch phrases. It's about burning flesh, and bleeding bodies and believing, above all, you are doing what is right.

(She understands why people turn to religion, now. How could she not, with the Moon Queen's name on her lips as they slice the flesh of her body, peel it back and find humor in her agony?)

She has old powers, powers they will one day recover. Powers that cover up scars and dull the pain. They are not a gift but a necessity. In her line of duty, she needs to fit in with the crowd, and her scars do not lend themselves to blending in; they bring stares, whispers, sympathy, horror.

(Flame licked her body black; ice made her limbs creak in pain. She is intimate with all of their elementals; morbidly looking forward to the day she can introduce them to the monsters they control with love in their eyes.)

Her fingers follow the lines of scars, up the back of her leg, twisting round to the front. Stretching her legs out, she is a road map of the fight from that very last day.

(She has trouble holding her staff in this state; the scar tissue has left her right hand deformed, unable to fully flex her fingers. She fights left-handed now, even when she is the flawless Setsuna Meioh, because she has always been one to keep fighting.)

There was a time in history when they spoke of her, the Daughter of Death that guarded the Doorway to the afterlife; a door she could never pass through and so she stood, a portrait of human suffering. This was a time when men tried to cross over and destroy the door, for want of immortality, and died for disrupting her solitude.

(She never reminded anyone of Saturn, because she now knows what it is liked to be looked upon with fear and she will not let it happen to another child.)

She paces the room, letting her scars melt away to smooth flesh; short hair tumbled down her back, soft. The ache remains in her joints; a memory and a warning. Another fight is racing to greet them, and she will be there with a grim smile and a steady gaze.

(This time, they will realize what pain is. Until the tender-hearted princess breaks and they are lost to the bliss of ignorance. She recoils from the pink and white light, cheapening all that she has done in the name of the White Moon.)

She curls in a ball, wrapping her bed clothes around her and closes her eyes. The delicate gold carriage clock seems to stop as she tries to find safety in sleep, but the dreams always come with a tint of red and a side of pain, because her memory has always been flawless.

(She stopped fighting the dreams a long time ago. What good is it to fight what has already come to pass? At least now, trapped in her own mind, she knows what is coming, her only conscience thoughts begging for ignorance, for rescue, for something unexpected.)

She wakes her skin icy with sweat, her face grey. There are pills tucked behind the mirror that ease stiffened limbs. But some mornings, it is not enough, and she must let the scars show to ease the pain. Today, it is her right arm, ugly against the rest of her smooth flesh, and she tucks it inside her robe, crossed against her chest as if in an invisible sling.

(A guilty, vain part of her waits desperately for the time of Crystal Tokyo, when the crystal's light will burn away the imperfections, turning them to perfect marble flesh. An older, tired part looks forward to the day she is not hindered by ghosts of pain.)

She goes downstairs, dully noticing it is later than anticipated. The kitchen is full – they are all here, eating, talking and laughing. Her smile is sickly and she reminds even herself of an old lady and busies herself making tea. She passes plates and glasses out and the old right hand slips out of it's cocoon to catch hold of a mug as best as it can. Violet eyes meet scarlet, her child's face recoiling in horror.

(She hates herself for letting the little white pills dull the pain and letting the ugliness slip through the cracks. Of all of them, she wanted to spare the violet eyes that sight. The Reaper has already seen too much.)

She smiles thinly, and embraces the pain as the skin smoothes over, picking up her own cup slowly. The violet eyes do not leave her, uncertainty in every one of the child's movements, but does not draw attention, does not vocalize what she has learned.

(Of course, for all she is protecting the child, the Reaper knows that their duty goes hand in hand with pain; that with the new-found beauty of battle, honour is lost. But she is tired to her bones and has long forgotten what true honour feels like.)

The others girls gather for training outside, all lean bodies and laughter as she stiffly slides into clothes, ties her hair off of her face and watches them from her window.

(She will never tell them. The time of true suffering has passed and she finds satisfaction in defeating everything in her path, in carrying her past with her silently and knowing that they will never have to endure the nightmares that never completely fade.)