In Her Burning Eyes

Epilogue

Many years later...

I stared out over the desolate battlefield and grimaced, rubbing at the bandage covering my left eye with the back of my hand. It had been an ugly battle, and in spite of the white flares glowing in the distance, I still felt like we'd lost. There were many that wouldn't be returning with us, I didn't even know how to begin to grieve the loss. I must have been lost in thought because after a time the unmistakable metallic clink of an armored fuku approaching rang in my ears, forcing me to quickly lower my hand.

"How many times do I have to scold you to stop picking at it?" Makoto asked with a quiet laugh. "You do want them to be able to fix it once we get back, don't you?"

"This is one war trophy I definitely don't want to keep."

"Then knock it off, the Queen did give me permission to bonk you on the head if you were doing something stupid, ya know!" We shared a quiet laugh before settling into a mournful silence. "It's sad... seeing that surrender flare should be the most wonderful thing we've laid eyes on in twenty years but I just feel empty inside..." Makoto trailed off, digging into a pouch to pull out an ancient photograph that modern preservation techniques had only done so much to keep intact.

"How does she look?" I asked with a chuckle, glancing over at the worn photo of Ami wearing a set of skimpy black lingerie.

"Better than ever! How about yours?" she shot back. I opened the locket around my neck to look over the pictures of my wife and daughter.

"I miss them so much..." I said, my voice wavering.

"Me too... so what do you say we get off of this rock and get back home to them, eh?" she asked with a broad grin.

"That sounds pretty damn good if you ask me! The message from last week says Chibi-chan just got back from her latest trip to the past and I'm just dying to hear all about it!"

"Oh and Rei... I just wanted to say thank you for... you know, not giving in to me. I never would have forgiven myself..."

"Hey, twenty years is a long time to avoid getting lonely, and I'm sure you'd have done the same for me."

"Actually..." she started with a dopey grin, I rolled my eye.

"Oh shut up and let's get home to our girls!"

I pushed my way through the throng of reporters, well wishers, guards, and anybody else that had the nerve to stand in my way. I could feel them, even after twenty years their presence was unmistakable. My only pause on my way to the throne room was to pay my respects at grandpa's shrine, the old man's smiling picture acting like a balm on my tired soul. Finished, I made my way past another flurry of maids and advisors and at last pushed open the door to the great hall... only to be sent flying backwards as seventy-five pounds of pink haired love dove into my arms.

"Papa-chan! I've missed you so dang much! I got to spend time with you in the past so it wasn't as bad but I was still so so sad to not have you around! Oh! I have so many things to tell you about! Just the other day I..." The girl launched into her story, barely pausing to take a breath as she told me about all the memorable things I'd missed. I listened with utter content as one of the two missing pieces of my heart wormed it's way back into place.

"I've missed you too, sweetie... more than words can say," I whispered, my hand reaching out on reflex to pinch her cheek and tousle her hair.

"Gah, you did that in the past too! Even before you knew you were my papa!" I laughed and pulled her close into a warm hug.

"How could I not? You're the cutest thing ever! Now... where's that mother of yours?" With a grin she took my hand and pulled me towards the council room, stopping just short to bring a finger to her lips.

"You have to be quiet, we didn't tell her you were coming in today so it could be a big surprise," she giggled, grinning mischievously. She opened the door a crack and peeked in, nodding to herself before she walked around behind me and shoved me through the door. Stumbling to catch my footing, I found myself standing right behind her, close enough to smell that glorious scent that could only belong to her. The throng of councilors she was addressing all froze in place and Usagi, slowly, began to turn...

"What is the meaning of... Rei-chan!" she shrieked, dropping all pretense as she, much like our daughter, dove into my arms. Before I'd even stumbled back against the door I'd practically been smothered with kisses. "All of you, thank you for your time but kindly get the hell out!" she called over her shoulder, returning to her attempts to kiss me half to death.

"But my lady, we still have..." she turned and shot them all a glare so foul that the room was empty within seconds.

"All these years and you're still such a lousy Queen," I said, smiling as she turned to stick her tongue out at me.

"You're one to talk, gallivanting around the universe on some pleasure cruise. Leaving your sweet, beautiful, and still in great shape after so many years, wife all alone." I put my hands on her slender waist and squeezed.

"True, round is a pretty great shape at times." She managed to grin and glare at me at the same time as she slapped me on the arm and turned around with a huff. I slipped my arms around her waist and rested my chin in the crook of her neck.

"You never told me about your eye..." she whispered.

"Didn't want you to worry, it's not permanent."

"How are things with Makoto?" she asked, I couldn't help but pick up on the hint of irritation lacing her voice.

"No hard feelings... and I don't want any from you either. It was hell out there... I really can't blame her."

"You're amazing Rei-chan... all that ways away and you could still make a girl feel special. You do know I wouldn't have been mad if you'd gone through with it though, right?"

"Liar."

"Okay I would have, but I would have forgiven you eventually!" she said, I could tell she was smiling.

"Really? I could call her up now if..."

"Rei-chan!" she shouted, pinching my forearm.

"Okay, okay, no sex with the others, got it." We shared a quiet laugh before she turned around in my arms and rested her cheek against my shoulder. We stood for several minutes, relishing in the contact we'd been denied for so long.

"I've missed you fire-hime..."

"I've missed you too bunny-chan..." She lifted her head from my shoulder and placed a tender kiss on my lips before pulling away and proceeding to drag me out the door and into the main corridor.

"Rei-chan... do you remember what we talked about right before you left?"

"Of course I do, Usa... I've thought about it every day since. It would be wonderful if we could..."

"So you still want to?" she asked, looking back over her shoulder with eyes brimming with hope.

"Of course, Usa, we'll try no matter how many times it takes!"

"Good! Then let's get you to medical, can't have you looking all scraggly if you're going to be a mother!" I froze in place, almost pulling her off balance.

"What do you..." she silenced me with a kiss.

"Well, Puu-chan... well, I guess it was future Puu-chan, managed to figure out the trick to it! That's what she left to figure out all those years ago! And there's already been a success!" she squealed happily.

"You don't mean... wow! So who's the lucky..." before I could ask, the unmistakable banter of Haruka and Michiru came from the other side of the door. "You're kidding me?!" Usagi giggled and nodded her head. "Ha! I guess Haruka didn't escape the horrors of living with a preggo after all!" I said, nearly doubling over with laughter.

"Um... not quite..." Usagi started, only to be cut off by someone shouting from inside.

"Onions?! You know onions make me sick! You're trying to make me sick, aren't you?! You hate me now that I'm all fat and gross!" An extremely frazzled looking Michiru stumbling out into the hall and leaned against the wall in exasperation.

"I'll make you another one... um... sweetums. I'm so sorry!" she shouted back into the room. She let out a long sigh before looking up and finally noticing us standing there. Eyes going wide she rose up quickly and tried to make herself look more presentable.

"Rei! It's so good to..." she was cut off by the doors being thrust open once more, a comically pregnant Haruka waddling through them.

"Michi-chan, I'm so sorry! I didn't mean to say those... Rei!" she squeaked, bustling over to wrap me up in a hug.

"Oh, you have got to be kidding me!"

"Feels so good to be home, seeing all the girls and this old palace is like a breath of fresh air! And pregnant Haruka... I never would have imagined!" I said once the doors of our bedroom had closed. Usagi merely laughed as she flitted off to the closet to change out of her dress. A hint of nostalgia managed to work it's way into my heart as I looked around the room. After twenty years in a combat tent the room was like paradise. Scratch that, the nude and stunningly beautiful Usagi approaching me was paradise. I leaned forward to kiss her but was stopped by a finger pressed to my lips.

"Let's take a bath first, you know I like to look you over when you get back," she said quietly, dragging her fingertip down my lips as she turned and made her way to the bathroom, swaying her hips the whole way. Grinning, I started undoing my top only to spin on reflex as the doors burst open, a pink haired missile firing itself right into my gut.

"Hey Chibi-chan," I grunted as air slowly returned to my lungs.

"Alright, Papa-chan, time for you to talk!" she said seriously, pulling a small recording device from her pocket.

"What's all this about?" I asked, quirking an eyebrow.

"I need your stories for the CT Tribune, silly!"

"Oh yeah, I'd forgotten about that! You still posting all the awesome mysteries you uncovered and... the... things... where..." Coherent thought ground to a halt as Usagi exited the bathroom wearing nothing but some conveniently placed bubbles. Chibi-chan turned and bolted to her feet, hands at her sides balling up into fists.

"Mama! You promised you wouldn't take her to do sex stuff until after I got my stories!" Usagi, seemingly forgetting her own nudity, put her hands on her hips and gave a haughty laugh.

"Sorry, short stuff, you were too late! You can do your little article thing tomorrow, she's all mine!"

"No way, you bimbo! I had dibs!" Chibi-Usa shouted back, sticking her tongue out at the woman with Usagi following suit.

"You two are totally mother and daughter!" I said, unable to keep from laughing.

"You stay out of this!" they shouted, turning in unison to glare daggers at me.

"Yes, girls..." I murmured obediently, sitting down on the edge of the bed to watch the ensuing argument. It was definitely good to be home...

"Okay, Usa, what's so important that I had to come to the Grand Hall at this ungodly hour?" I asked in a voice that implied no mystery, knowing full well what what I was walking into. Makoto, who had also been roped in by Usagi, merely giggled as we were led into the darkened room.

"SURPRISE!" all the girls shouted in unison as the lights flicked on, well, all except Haruka who was already wolfing down a piece of cake and Setsuna who hadn't yet arrived. Even without there being any real surprise I found myself wiping tears from my eyes as I looked around the heavily decorated room. The massive 'Welcome Home!' banner in particular got the emotions flowing because seeing all of their smiling faces... that's exactly how I felt...

For nearly twenty years I'd dreamed about this moment... and the sheer joy I felt from seeing all my favorite girls again certainly didn't disappoint.

Michiru and Haruka were positively glowing as they mingled with the others. The proud mom-to-be was even wearing a gown that only served to enhance the look of her pregnancy, making it obvious that no matter how much she complained about it, she was simply overjoyed to have the little one growing inside of her. The most heartwarming moment of the night was her and Michiru telling me that their only regret about the whole thing was that I hadn't been here to share in their miracle as they had been to share in ours. The two of them were the first to retire from the gathering, Haruka complaining that her feet hurt and we would all be here to adore her and nuzzle her belly tomorrow.

Ami and Makoto never left each others sides for a moment. Much like Usagi and I they seemed to have decided to make for lost time by never losing any more again. The blue haired genius's eyes were filled with tears as she embraced me and thanked me for taking care of her Mako-chan for all the years we were gone and bringing her back safe and sound. She also, much to my overwhelming joy, scheduled Usagi and I for an appointment to begin the process of safely impregnating me with Usagi's baby. For the rest of the night after that I could feel both my and Usagi's hands subconsciously finding their way to my belly, sheer joy coursing through us from what was soon to be. They were the second pair to leave in spite of the party being for Makoto as well. They didn't really give a reason for going so soon, but then again, we really didn't need one.

Minako and Hotaru, I have to say, had changed more than anyone in my absence. The normally flighty blonde, while still being the life of the party, had a sort of serious edge in her eyes whenever they found their way to her dark haired lover. When I managed to get her alone for a moment she confessed that she was considering asking Hotaru if she was ready to have a baby but had yet to work up the courage. I couldn't help but laugh as she described the times she'd hinted at the idea subtly to Haruka and Michiru only to get a swarm of 'We're too young to be grandmothers!' type comments. Hotaru herself was no longer the pale, introverted young girl from my memories. There was a dazzling new light in her eyes as she happily relayed to me and Usagi that she thought Minako would want a baby soon and had already secretly gotten the blessing of both of her mothers. The two of them were the third pair to go, Minako claiming in true Minako fashion that they were going to find some quiet corner of the castle and make it not-so-quiet, leaving only me, Usagi, and Chibi-Usa in the massive hall.

"Oh... this was so sweet..." I sniffed, feeling Usagi's arm wrap around my waist and her head fall on my shoulder.

"I wasn't the only one that missed you, ya know. They said they wanted to do this right after you got back but figured you'd want some quality time with me and Chibi-chan first." Usagi said with a little laugh.

"Our friends are the best!" I said happily, leaning my cheek against the top of Usagi's head.

"It's not fair..." I heard Chibi-Usa whisper. I turned to see her staring at the door Minako and Hotaru had just exited through and smiled sadly, realizing that the adorable little thing was jealous. With that realization came the surprise that I'd actually become old enough to really have to worry about such things.

"Well, I think it's way past the time I be getting to bed, you know, just fought a war and all that," I said, standing and helping Usagi to her feet before turning to the still-pouting little girl. "You wanna spend the night with us, Chibi-chan? It's been way too long since I had a sleepover with both my girls!" Despite the anxious look in her eyes she shook her head defiantly.

"I'm too old for sleepovers Papa-chan! But..." she lamented, standing up to take one of my hands, "I guess I could walk you and Mama to your room..."

"That's very mature of you sweetheart," I said quietly, leaning down to kiss the top of her head. I looked over to see Usagi watching with tears in her eyes and stood to place a quick kiss on her lips before taking one of her hands with my free one. "Lead the way, Chibi-chan...

"Puu-chan!" Chibi-Usa shouted upon opening the door to our room. I looked up in surprise to see the woman standing just inside the doorway, a wide grin on her face.

"Hello, Rei-chan, it's so good to see you back safe and sound."

"Well hello there stranger, too good to come to the party?" I asked, sticking my tongue out at the woman.

"You know I was never one for parties in the past," she said, a little hint of that all knowing smirk of hers finding its way to her lips.

"So what brings ya here, Puu-chan?" Chibi-Usa asked excitedly. The woman bent down to look at the girl with adoring eyes.

"I actually came here to ask you for a favor, Small Lady."

"Me?" I felt Usagi's hand tighten slightly in my own.

"You see, I was wondering if you could go back to the past and keep Hotaru company for a little while I'm busy. Do you think you could do that for me? I know you just got back and want to spend time with your papa but I'm sure Hotaru would really appreciate it." That last little bit got the girl's attention and she instantly spun to face Usagi and me with puppy dog eyes at maximum power.

"Of course you can go, sweetheart, like she said, it's only for a few days. I'll make sure we can spend tons of time together when you come back." The pink haired missile fired into my stomach once again as she attempted to squeeze all of her love into me.

"You're the best, Papa-chan! I love you so much and I'll miss you a bunch even with past you around!"

"I love you too, Chibi-chan..." I whispered, my eyes never leaving Setsuna as Chibi-Usa hugged Usagi goodbye as well and then stepped over to the woman. The Senshi of Time snapped her fingers to make a swirling portal appear and then bent down to bring herself to eye level.

"Now, just so you know, your mama and papa are going to be getting really close to each other at this time so be extra careful about what you say. Past me will also find you and explain something to you eventually so be sure to do as she says. Okay?"

"Okay, Puu-chan!" the girl said with a nod, then turned to wave goodbye to Usagi and me before stepping into the portal which closed behind her.

"Starting to get close to each other... you don't mean..." The woman laughed.

"She should be interrupting what would have been your first kiss right about now." I turned to Usagi who was blushing furiously.

"You were gonna kiss me after that little confession Chibi-Usa interrupted?!"

"Maybe..." Usagi said with a little grin. I turned to look at Setsuna suspiciously.

"Why..." The woman held up a hand to stop me.

"It was my guess that you wouldn't have wanted to wait another year for the two of you to work everything out and get together. Right?" she asked, the smirk reappearing in full force.

"I guess I should be grateful then that you're so nosy!" I said with a laugh, only to feel Usagi's hand tighten in mine once more.

"Um... not that it's not always good to see you Setsuna... but why are you here?" Usagi asked nervously.

"Usa! That's not very..."

"Oh don't worry, Rei-chan, I'm not offended. And you shouldn't worry either my Queen, I really did just stop in to say hello and welcome back." Usagi and I both looked at the woman skeptically, nothing Setsuna ever did was so spur of the moment. "Okay, you got me," she said with a laugh, snapping her fingers again to summon another portal, "I totally wanted to show off my beautiful wife!" I could hear Usagi let out a gasp that mirrored my own as a very tall, poised, and stunningly beautiful pink haired woman walked through the portal.

"Black Lady! But how..." the woman lifted a hand to her mouth and giggled.

"Oh Papa-chan, you're always such a goof! And mother, you look absolutely stunning as always!"

"Ch-Chibi-chan?" Usagi whispered, I didn't even need to look at her face to know there were tears in her eyes. The pink haired woman shared a giggle with Setsuna as the woman came up behind her and wrapped her arms around her waist.

"It's Usagi now where I come from... Usa to some," she said, interlacing her fingers with Setsuna's and squeezing gently. The smile and tears came all too easily as I took in the beautiful couple the two of them made.

"So this is why you always seemed so lonely..." Setsuna nodded somberly.

"Unlike the rest of you, I had to wait a long... long time for my special person to notice me," she said quietly as the two of them leaned their heads together for a tender moment.

"Oh... so beautiful!" Usagi wailed as she ran forward to wrap both of them up in her arms. I stood back and watched the spectacle as the tears began to flow. Seeing Setsuna so happy and content in addition to getting to see just how beautiful Chibi-chan would become being too much to keep inside.

"Easy mother, easy," the pink haired woman said with a laugh as she gently pushed away from the sobbing blonde. "I can't stay long, but something happened recently and since the two of you were really busy in our time... oh I just couldn't wait to tell you!" she shouted excitedly. Usagi made her way into my arms as the woman exchanged smiles and nods of approval with Setsuna before turning to us, her hands going to the slight swell in her belly that I'd been too stunned to notice before. "You're gonna be grandparents!" Usagi and I went still for a moment, both slowly turning to face each other, nodding, and then turning back to the happy couple.

"We're too young to be grandmas!" we shouted in unison.

"I just remembered something, Usa..." I whispered as we lay in bed, exhausted from all the happenings of the wonderful day.

"Hm?" she murmured.

"You once asked me what it was that had given me hope, and I never got the chance to answer you. It was her eyes... Every time I looked into her eyes I saw so much of myself reflected in them. It was our daughter's eyes that gave me hope..." Usagi pressed her head to my chest as she began to tremble with held in giggles. "What's so funny?"

"It's just funny you should say something like that because back then I always saw my hope for a happy future right there in front of me... deep down inside your beautiful... burning eyes..."

End Notes:

Awww, I feel kind of sad, this story was like my baby in the writing world. But I'm still relieved, it was a hell of a journey, frustrating at times, but I'm glad I chose to make it.

Special thanks to my lover for helping inspire so much of Rei and Usagi's sweet mannerisms and for supporting me through the writing process.

Special thanks to my lover and my little ones for being so sweet and adorable and cheering me on every time I finished a chapter or got a review (so cute!)

And super special thanks to all you readers for experiencing this wonderful story with me! Please drop me a review and tell me what you think, what it made you feel, or even what you think could be improved. I'd love to hear from you! Thanks in advance to any of you who choose to do so!

I've never felt closer to Kasumi's writing than I do as I post this... it's such an incredible feeling. Please, if you review only one of the stories I post, let it be this one. It would be really sweet if you'd share your experiences with this story or any of her writing. I'd love to hear them...