Disclaimer: I own nothing.
The new enemy started its attack at the beginning of Usagi's first year of high school, only a few months after Mamoru had gone to America and only a few weeks after he'd called her to admit that he'd met someone new. Had she been perhaps a little sharper, paid a little more attention, she would have seen what was to come.
But she didn't notice, of course; the poor girl had just had her heart broken. But at least the arrival of a new enemy distracted her and kept Haruka, Rei, and Makoto from marching over to America solely for the purpose of beating Mamoru into a bloody pulp.
Usagi didn't know what these 'star seeds' that the enemy wanted were or why they were so important, but she didn't think much of it.
She figured they'd learn in time.
After the incident with Nehelenia, Chibi-Usa and Diana could not return to the future.
It seemed odd and strange at first, and Setsuna worried over it constantly; without the shards of Nehelenia's mirror to mess things up, the young princess and her companion should have been able to return safely home.
But they couldn't.
It was more of a worry than a concern to the present time senshi, and secretly Hotaru was overjoyed that her best friend didn't have to go away yet. Haruka made teasing jibes at her and Chibi-Usa whenever the opportunity presented itself, but Michiru was always there to scold her and soothe the two embarrassed, blushing children.
And then the new enemy attacked, seeking pure star seeds, and the matter wasn't questioned anymore.
Usagi and Chibi-Usa were getting for bed that night when they saw the three shooting stars.
They rocketed across the sky, flared brilliantly when they reached the end of their paths.
And faded away into oblivion.
"It's an enemy from outside the solar system, so it's only natural that we fight it first."
That was exactly the words that left the sandy-haired tomboy's mouth when they gathered at Rei's shrine that day—Usagi, Rei, Ami, Makoto, and Minako were still in their school uniforms, and Chibi-Usa wore only a T-shirt and a pair of shorts. Diana, Luna, and Artemis sat at the base of the steps.
Standing before them were the Outer senshi in all their glory, Sailor Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, and Saturn.
Naturally, something within Usagi rebelled at the idea. She reached out, clasping Uranus's hands even as she felt the older girl stiffen. "Haruka-san, don't start that again," the moon hime pleaded. "The last time you tried to do something with just you and Michiru-san, no offense, but it didn't end well."
Uranus's eyes softened slightly and she eased out of Usagi's grasp but kept a gentle hold on her princess's wrists. "That was different, Usagi-chan, and you know it as well as I do," she soothed.
"Besides, we aren't actually going to fight," Neptune chimed in. "We're just studying the enemy, what we know of them."
Usagi didn't look convinced, but she let her hands fall away. Besides, she tried to remind herself, she wasn't the only one with something to lose—she clearly saw the anguish in Minako's eyes as the senshi of love gazed at Pluto.
While Usagi was having her inner battle of wills, Chibi-Usa took action and timidly stepped forward. "Are you going to be gone a long time, Hotaru-chan?"
The senshi of death and rebirth fidgeted uncomfortably. "I'm not really sure. However long it takes us to scout out the enemy. That's what Setsuna-mama said."
A long, awkward silence passed between the two younger girls; then, gathering up her courage, Chibi-Usa retrieved something from her pocket, stepped forward, and held it out to Saturn. "Can I have your hand for a moment?" the future princess asked, and Saturn complied. Quickly the pink-haired girl looped her offering around Saturn's wrist—a small, pale pink bracelet. Saturn stared. "Chibi-Usa-chan?"
"A good luck charm." Chibi-Usa's face flushed lightly. "We made them in class today."
A slow, dangerous grin was spreading across Uranus's face at the twin blushes shared by the two young friends, but Neptune saw the danger and elbowed her sharply in the ribs.
While the others had been distracted by the sweet (if not amusing) spectacle before them, Pluto had timidly made her way to stand before Minako, gripping the Time Staff as if her life depended on it. Despite her tight hold her hand was steady, and the young blonde met her gaze evenly.
Even a person who was blind and deaf would have felt the tension in the air between them and around them.
"Hurry it up, Pluto," Uranus drawled, turning her sights from Chibi-Usa and Saturn to her old friend. "We all know you're looking for an excuse to kiss her."
Pluto slanted the wind senshi a narrow-eyed look that made Minako giggle even as tears swam in her eyes. "I'm perfectly capable of kissing someone without you adding your own two cents, Uranus."
"Don't make us cause a scene. We're more than capable. Right, Michi?"
"Right." Neptune smiled, letting herself get caught up in the fun. "Setsuna. Setsuna. Setsuna." With each repetition she raised her voice a bit, her eyes gleaming as the girls around them collapsed into giggles.
"Okay, okay. Stop it before you embarrass yourself." But Pluto's lips twitched.
As Pluto leaned in, Neptune put her fingers between her lips and whistled.
"Control your woman, Uranus."
"Can't." Uranus grinned. "I love her when she's wild."
Tired of waiting for Pluto, Minako gave the older woman's sleeve a gentle tug and leaned up, closing the distance between them. Humor faded away and the others turned their eyes away as the two kissed.
She didn't mean to, but Usagi snuck a peek at the pair out of the corner of her eye.
The image of Pluto, her forehead resting against Minako's and her thumb gently brushing away tears as the younger girl's hands clasped her wrists and cried silently, would haunt her until the day she died.
Time passed, as it had undoubtedly down for years, centuries, millenniums before the senshi and the Moon Kingdom had even come into existence.
Together, as a unit, the Inners waited patiently for the Outers to return.
The seconds stretched into minutes, and the minutes stretched into hours, and the hours stretched into days, and the days stretched into weeks.
They never came back.
"Rei-chan, please, you need to rest. Eat something, drink some water. Close your eyes for a little bit." Usagi gently tugged on the miko's sleeve, refusing to leave her alone. "You look exhausted. You've been peering into the fire for three days now."
At the door Luna sat, her tail wrapped around her paws and her eyes shadowed with worry. No longer content with just waiting for the return of the Outers when Chibi-Usa regularly checked their home to see if they had returned and Minako suffered from nightmares (as reported by a worried, anxious Artemis), the senshi of fire had taken to looking into the holy flames to see if she could find at least a trace of their friends.
So far, she hadn't seen anything.
"I just need more time, Usagi." Frustrated, the dark-haired miko attempted to pull free from her princess's grasp and failed. "If I spend a few more minutes, I'm sure I'll find something."
That's what you said three days ago, Usagi thought with a scowl, taking in the red-rimmed eyes, the tangled black hair, the wrinkled clothes. She admired her friend's determination, but Rei was quickly reaching her breaking point. Any longer and she'd get herself sick. "Just a few minutes, Rei-chan," the shorter girl pleaded. "We don't even have to leave the room if you don't want to. Just close you eyes for awhile."
Rei wisely cut herself off before she finished her thought; beneath the worry gleaming in those blue eyes she saw steel. It was only a matter of time until they started arguing, and Usagi had an uncanny knack for coming out on top sometimes, especially when she was worried about her friends. She cast one last look at the fire before closing her eyes and giving up.
"All right, Odango. All right. You win."
Usagi's lips quirked, but before she could say or do anything Rei scooted closer to her and lay down, resting her head in Usagi's lap with a tired sigh. The moon hime froze for a moment, color flooding her cheeks. "Rei-chan?"
"You said we don't have to leave the room. I'm too tired to walk, and I doubt you're strong enough to carry me."
Rei's soft laugh cooled the instant flash of temper, and as her breathing evened out and deepened Usagi cautiously shifted, lifting one hand to tentatively run her fingers through the long midnight strands. Without thinking, her other hand reached out and gently clasped with Rei's, giving a comforting squeeze as the miko finally succumbed to sleep.
Luna's eyes softened slightly; with a flick of her tail she turned, nudged the door open with her paw, and quietly slipped out, sliding the door shut behind her.
"You've gotten faster."
The soft, slightly proud tone nearly made Ami jump out of her skin, as she heard it clearly despite being submerged in water; she shot to the surface and sucked in a ragged breath, ignoring her burning lungs. Brushing wet strands of blue hair out of her eyes she saw Makoto, sitting at the pool's edge; she'd taken her shoes off and dipped her feet in, and was watching Ami with amused green eyes.
"Um, thank you." Flustered, Ami swam a little closer. "I didn't… I mean… how'd you know I was here?"
Makoto raised a brow and chuckled. "Study date, remember?" She shrugged, waving a hand as Ami began to babble. "Look, it's no big deal. I just got worried and it's no secret you love to swim, so I thought I'd check up on you."
The embarrassment faded away to a warm glow; Makoto had been worried about her? Swallowing against an unexpected lump in her throat, Ami cleared her throat. "I'm sorry. I lost track of time. I didn't mean to worry you."
Makoto noted idly that Ami's eyes were glowing and resisted the urge to smile; she had a weakness for Ami's eyes, especially when they glowed like they were right now. Like everything was right in her world and she was the happiest she could ever be. It felt nice to know she'd put it there. She leaned back, bracing her hands behind her. "Why are you here anyway, Ami-chan? Aren't you part of the computer club or something?"
And just like that, the glow left Ami's eyes.
"I am." Disheartened now, the blue-haired girl dared to swim closer to Makoto, resting her arms on the tile floor. "I skipped today to practice a bit."
"Thinking of going out for the swim team?"
"No… nothing like that. It's just…" The emotion came fast and hard, slamming through Ami like a train, and she fought to keep her voice even. "A long time ago, Michiru-san told me she'd like to have a rematch sometime. So I've been practicing." Her breathing hitched, and she pressed a hand to her mouth, closing her eyes. "I thought we could have that rematch after she gets back. I've gotten faster… I thought maybe I could beat her."
Tears slipped silently down Ami's cheeks to the floor below; the young genius didn't even seem to be aware of the fact she was crying. Wordlessly, Makoto covered Ami's hand with her own and squeezed, but her eyes were hard and her voice was rough when she spoke.
"Don't worry about it, Ami-chan. She'll come back, and you'll get your rematch." Humor lit her eyes. "If you want, I can even cheer for you."
The tears hadn't completely dried, but Ami still managed a weak, shaky laugh; she gave Makoto's hand a quick squeeze.
In the darkness of her chambers, the woman clad in gold laughed softly, a cruel laugh that rattled like autumn leaves in the wind. Something in her hand clinked as she rubbed it absently between her fingers, and her lips curved coldly.
"Soon," she murmured. "This is the last planet standing in my way. Once I have claimed its star seeds, the galaxy will be mine."
She laughed again and leaned back in her throne, observing her collection of star seeds with a sick, twisted sense of pride. She liked the gold one best, though it didn't shine very brightly; no, her four newest star seeds shone the brightest of them all, even if their colors were a little dull and boring.
In the dull, muted light of the room, the object in her hand—her new favorite toy and pastime—gleamed pale pink.
None of my other stories are cooperating with me, so... (shrugs)
This is short... only 4 chapters long. So yeah. With Rei/Usagi, Ami/Makoto, Setsuna/Minako, Hotaru/Chibi-Usa, and Haruka/Michiru sprinkled throughout.
Read and review, please!