Disclaimer: If I owned Sailor Moon, I wouldn't be writing fanfiction for it.

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Chapter 4

"—gi!"

Rei jerked awake with a gasp, her heart hammering against her ribs and her skin slick with sweat. The swift forward motion that had pushed her from slumber and the utter darkness of the room left her utterly disoriented, and she fell off the bed with a loud crash, completely tangled in her bed sheets. She lay on the ground for a moment, dazed, until it broke through the cloudy depths of her mind that the phone was ringing.

The dark-haired miko fought free from the sheets and bolted from the room, thankful that her grandfather was out overnight and Yuuichiro had left recently on vacation to visit his parents. The shrill ring cut off abruptly as she grabbed the phone and brought it to her ear. "Hello?"

"Rei-chan!"

She sounded near tears, but at that moment Rei had never been happier to hear Usagi's voice. "Usagi." She slowly sank to her knees, fighting the foolish grin of disbelief and relief. "You don't know how happy I am to hear your voice right now."

"Are you all right? You aren't hurt, are you? Nothing bad—"

"It was just a dream, Odango." A disturbingly vivid and detailed one, Rei thought with a scowl as she rubbed her eyes. "It was all just a dream. I'm fine." Despite knowing it, she felt a surge of fear. "What about Ami-chan and Mako-chan? Minako-chan? And Haruka-san, Michiru-san…?"

"Everyone's fine." Usagi bit back a sob. "Ami-chan just sent me a message from her computer. She checked up on Mako-chan. Chibi-Usa's talking to Hotaru-chan right now, and she said Michiru-san and Haruka-san are okay. She said Setsuna-san is calming down Minako-chan."

"Okay. Okay. That's good."

Feeling the fear slowly drain out of her body, Rei exhaled heavily. Everything was okay, she told herself. It had been a dream—a dark, horrible, twisted nightmare. But it was nothing more and they were all fine. "We need to meet tomorrow," she murmured, cradling the phone close. "Something really weird just happened tonight."

"Okay. Yeah, that's a good idea." Usagi swallowed. "I'll call the others and let them know that's the plan."

"Yeah. I'll hang up now. Try and get some sleep, Usagi."

"… Rei-chan?"

"Yeah?"

"I'm glad you're okay."

A moment of silence; Rei's eyes softened.

"I'm glad you're okay too, Usagi. Good night."

"G'night."

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"It could have been a new enemy." Luna waved her tail, narrowing her eyes thoughtfully. "You fought youma earlier this week, right? Perhaps whoever sent them out is trying to get revenge."

A quiet murmur followed this idea, but in general the girls weren't exactly discussing the cause of their shared nightmare the way they'd intended to. If anything, they were simply together to prove to themselves that what they had witnessed last night had been a dream, and nothing more. For the first time Usagi could clearly remember Haruka, Michiru, and Setsuna mingled happily with the younger girls, seeming humbled by what they had seen. Michiru sat quietly beside Ami, the small blue-haired girl wedged between Makoto and the senshi of the sea. Minako rested her cheek quietly against Setsuna's arm, her eyes closed. Haruka stood with one hand on Hotaru's shoulder as the dark-haired girl soothed Chibi-Usa.

"Not to shoot a hole in your theory, Luna, but if it was a new enemy, why do this?" Ami spoke up from her place between Michiru and Makoto. "Normally they threaten us themselves instead of… using other methods."

"There's… another possibility."

Setsuna's voice caused all eyes to turn to her; Minako opened her eyes and glanced up at the older woman. The senshi of time cleared her throat before continuing. "I'm sure you all know by now, at least to some extent, that alternate realities and timelines exist outside of our own."

"Alternate realities?" Haruka frowned.

"Yes. Very similar to our world, but also different. It's actually quite entertaining to watch." A weak smile curved Setsuna's lips. "In one world, Mako-chan, you travel with Haruka and Michiru as a third Outer. In another, Michiru and Usagi-chan meet at a club called the Ocean Mystic and fall in love."

An awkward moment of silence as the others tried to wrap their heads around the idea that other versions of themselves existed outside their world. "That's all very interesting," Makoto said slowly, "but what does that have to do with the dream we had last night?"

"I'm getting there. Usually I am the only one who has access to these worlds, seeing as I'm the Guardian of Time and need to monitor them. All worlds co-exist together, and if one is thrown even slightly off its course it could have dismal results for the surrounding worlds." Garnet eyes focused on Usagi. "Usagi-chan, you and Mamoru-san broke up recently, correct?"

Usagi nodded; at her side, Rei draped an arm along her shoulders and pulled the slim blonde closer to her protectively.

"We're all connected to our princess; incidentally, whenever she's in some form of emotional distress, we all feel it, too." Setsuna exhaled heavily. "It's possible that the pain Usagi-chan felt over her break-up with Mamoru-san spilled over into my born ability to see alternate worlds, and because of that connection we all… saw what we saw last night."

"So then… that dream was an alternate reality?"

"Yes." Setsuna's voice was soft. "In another world, our confrontation with Galaxia didn't go as well as it did here."

There was nothing anyone could think to say to that.

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Around late afternoon, the girls finally scattered. As she sat watching them disperse, Rei felt Usagi rest her head against her shoulder, sigh. "What's wrong?" she asked, keeping her voice soft.

"Nothing." The moon hime smiled weakly. "I should be asking you that, actually. You were quiet during the meeting."

For a moment Rei said nothing, gazing ahead into empty space; finally, she bowed her head.

"I watched you die once before, Usagi," she whispered. "Last night, I had to watch you die again. All because of me."

Usagi's eyes flashed, hardened. "I watched you die twice because of me, Rei-chan. It's fair."

"I failed you as a warrior—"

Her train of thought was cut off abruptly as Usagi reached up and gave her ear a hard twist; Rei yelped and jerked back, glaring at the blonde-haired girl as she covered her ear protectively. "Usagi! What was that for?!"

Usagi's eyes were blue steel. "You have never failed me," she said, and her voice was amazingly firm. "As a warrior, or as a friend. Never believe you have, Rei-chan."

"I was supposed to protect you—"

"I know that." The blonde laughed, and it nearly collapsed into a sob. "Don't you think I know that? Stupid Rei-chan, hasn't it ever occurred to you that I want to protect you as much as you protect me?"

Rei stared at her future queen for a moment, robbed of speech; with an anguished sigh she touched her forehead to Usagi's, closing her eyes as the other girl lifted a hand and gently stroked her hair.

"I accept the fact that you'd die for me," the moon hime murmured. "Please accept the fact that I'd die for you."

"I don't like it."

"I know."

"But you're not giving me much of a choice, are you?"

Usagi's eyes gleamed. "Nope."

Rei laughed softly, and she pulled Usagi close, hugging the girl tightly.

"That's my girl." She closed her eyes, felt Usagi snuggle into her embrace. "That's my Usagi."

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From her place sitting on the shrine steps, Minako watched the whole scene unfold with a sense of detached amusement. She wondered if Usagi had any idea what she was headed for in the future and decided against warning her about it; the former princess of the Moon Kingdom would discover where her heart truly laid, given the time.

Until then, Minako would enjoy watching the pair stumble their way through a courtship. It promised to be quite entertaining.

She became aware of Setsuna's presence internally, a subtle shift inside of her that signaled all was right with her world; she offered the older woman a quiet smile as Setsuna sat next to her, resting her cheek against her shoulder as an arm slid around her waist. Setsuna gazed over her head for a moment. "Enjoying the view?"

"Very much so." Minako smirked. "Though Rei-chan will see me any minute now. I intend to hide behind you once she does, just so you know."

"I appreciate the warning."

Minako giggled, and for a moment the pair sat in content silence. Gazing down the stairs at the busy city below, Setsuna took a moment to ponder the significance of the dream. She didn't think it was just coincidence: in that dream she'd had an established relationship with Minako that disturbingly paralleled what she had in this world. It had been devastating to watching her demise at Galaxia's hands—and, ultimately, soul-wrenching to watch Minako struggle on.

"What are you thinking about, Sets-chan?" Minako tilted her head slightly, looking up at Setsuna. For a moment the green-haired woman didn't reply; finally, she rested her cheek against Minako's hair, speaking softly so only the senshi of Venus could hear her.

"You're my world. I just thought you deserved to know that."

A stunned silence followed this quiet confession; Minako's eyes widened as the meaning of what Setsuna had said fully sunk in. Even as the tears pricked her eyes her lips curved, and she groped blindly for Setsuna's hand, linking their fingers and holding on tightly.

"I love you." Her voice was just as soft, and just as sure. "I just thought you deserved to know that."

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"Haruka-papa?"

Hotaru's voice instinctively made Haruka turn; the sight of the dark-haired girl hand-in-hand with Chibi-Usa made her chest clench painfully. "What's up, hime-chan?"

"Is it okay if I go with Chibi-Usa-chan for a little while? We won't be gone too long."

Haruka understood why they wanted to be together; no doubt last night's dream still weighed heavily on their minds. It wouldn't harm either of them, but despite that she hesitated for a moment, remembering all too clearly the way her daughter had died in her arms.

"Sure, hime-chan." She smiled. "Just be careful, okay?"

Hotaru nodded, stepped forward, and hugged Haruka tightly; Haruka stiffened briefly in shock. Her eyes softened slightly and she relaxed, lightly returning the embrace. "Don't worry," the senshi of death whispered. "I'll be really careful."

And with that, she stepped away and was gone in a flurry of voices and skirts; Haruka watched her go, swallowing slightly as Michiru stepped to her side. "She's growing up so fast."

"I know."

"I don't think I can ever let her out of my sight again after last night."

"I feel the same way." Michiru slid her hand into Haruka's. "She'll be okay, Haruka."

Haruka nodded. She smirked.

"I wonder if today's the day she'll kiss Chibi-Usa-chan."

Michiru laughed. "We'll just have to wait and see when she gets back, won't we?"

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"Hey. Are you okay?"

Ami said nothing, merely leaned back against Makoto as the pair lounged around outside the arcade, watching life pass them by on the streets. She shivered a little as a stray wind nipped at her, and wordlessly Makoto pulled her closer, draping her jacket around both of them. "Thank you, Mako-chan."

"Yeah, no problem."

Silence fell between them again, but it wasn't an awkward, uncomfortable one. Ami tilted her head back and studied the sky for a few minutes before deciding to tread on territory she'd never crossed before. "Mako-chan?"

"Hmm?"

"What you said to me in that dream… is that possibly true for this world, too?"

Makoto didn't ask what she meant. She knew what Ami was referring to. "Yeah." She laughed softly. "I'm afraid I'm soft on you, Ami-chan. Seeing you hurt makes me hurt too, in this world as much as in the other one."

Amused, Ami glanced up at her. "Is that your way of telling me you like me?"

Makoto shrugged. "Take it or leave it."

Ami laughed softly, lowering her eyes to study the street again. "Take it or leave it, eh?" she murmured, amused and not offended in the least by Makoto's casual response. The brunette had been crushed too often in the past to be dramatic about confessions at this point in her life.

"Mako-chan?"

"Hmm?"

"I'll take it."

Makoto blinked; she slowly lowered her eyes, meeting Ami's gaze. "Well, then," she said, amused. "Does this make us a couple?"

"I suppose."

"Great. Now I don't feel guilty about doing this."

Makoto's arm snaked around Ami's waist, pulling the shorter girl closer so her chin rested comfortably on her shoulder; Ami squeaked softly and her face flushed, but she timidly leaned back into the half-embrace, noting she didn't feel cold anymore. "Did you learn this from Haruka-san?" she asked breathlessly.

"I might have asked her for a few pointers." Makoto grinned.

"Ami-chan!"

Michiru's call made the pair look up; the senshi of the sea waved at them, smiling happily as Haruka trailed her, led by the hand. "Michiru-san?" Ami called. "What is it?"

"How do you feel about having that rematch we discussed?" Michiru grinned.

A light came into Ami's eyes. "That sounds great, Michiru-san!"

Amused, Makoto and Haruka shared knowing looks over the heads of the other two. "I'll see you there, then," Haruka said.

"Yeah." Makoto pulled Ami closer and smiled as Ami leaned back into her shoulder. "I'll be there to cheer my girl on."

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In one world, ten lives were extinguished forever, the universe swallowed in a void of eternal darkness.

But in another world, ten lives were starting over again, their futures promising to be brighter than it had ever been before.

And so the cycle continued, as it had undoubtedly down for years, centuries, millenniums before the senshi and the Moon Kingdom had even come into existence.

The End

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... Forgive me. I'm truly a sucker for happy endings.

And no complaining about the whole thing being a dream, please. From the very beginning I intended to end it this way; I never thought about changing how it would end. I just got slowed down in the process of writing it.

Quick note:

1. Setsuna's first reference to an alternate world, where Makoto travels with Michiru and Haruka, is a call-out to my fic "Heaven Was Needing a Hero" and the short stories that came before it. Shameless, yes.

2. Setsuna's second reference to the world where Michiru and Usagi fall in love is a call-out to my favorite author LowFlyer1080, who writes the awesome Usagi/Michiru series "Soft Cruelty". If you haven't read it yet, do so now! He writes the pairing in a very believable way.

So... for the last time...

Read and review, please!