I don't own Sailor Moon or the legends this story borrows from. It is just that, borrowing.
Rei jolted awake to the sound of her communicator going off before the usual sound of her alarm or, well, her grandfather. She reached beside her bed, where she always placed it before going to sleep, and pushed the button.
"Rei!" came Minako's frantic voice.
"What? Minako, What's wrong?" She answered sharply, both afraid and concerned.
"He's gone!" Rei looked down, suddenly not needing to ask whom. She felt Minako's panic herself.
"Jadeite too." She gripped her blanket.
"His stone is gone too! I just woke up because I felt something was off...and they were both gone." Rei jumped out of bed, crouching beside the open box, and grasping her bag. Empty.
"So is Jadeite's. I just checked. Come over. Call the other two."
"I will. Someone left a note Rei. It said, 'You are not done yet'. It incinerated in my hand." Rei shivered.
"Get the others."
Rei knelt at the table, absolutely still and quiet. Ami frowned, unsure whether she should just sit or if she should announce her presence to her absent friend. Rei looked up slowly, and Ami stiffened, locked for a moment in those cold eyes. She couldn't help but wonder for a moment, who was it that controlled ice? Then they softened, and Rei smiled at her warmly. Ami relaxed.
"Sorry. I was somewhere else. Come, sit." Ami obliged, sitting down across from her, but was still looking at her a little warily. "Don't look at me like that. You don't look so good yourself. You're so jumpy."
"It's just one thing after another right now. I can't help it." Rei patted her shoulder.
"I know, I was just teasing you." Ami smiled wanly.
"I know. I just, well, I let myself get hopeful last night. Hopeful that I would never have to spend another day without him. And..." She trailed off.
"And now, this."
"Exactly." Makoto came walking in with Minako in tow.
"Hi." Makoto said tersely. The expression on her face daring anyone to speak above a soothing whisper, which was exactly the tone a tired looking Minako used, taking the seat next to Ami, opposite Makoto.
"I won't waste any time. We don't have it. As I told you all, I was left a note this morning that said 'You are not done yet.' The script was vaguely familiar, but not definitively anyone I knew. Then it destroyed itself. What do we think?" She sat down, back perfectly straight. She needed the structure of a mission, craved it, and the detachment it allowed. The other senshi sat silent for a moment, jarred by the calm tone and businesslike manner. "Come on ladies, we need to move, we only have until midnight. How long is that?" Makoto looked at her watch.
"17 hours." Minako nodded sharply.
"We need to do something more, what else? What have we not done?"
"Well, let's think about the facts. What happened with the artifacts before?" Ami framed the situation, taking out her computer.
"We had to work together to find them, and figure out the clue to retrieve them." Makoto replied. Ami typed.
"But we always had to do more than that." Rei said, pursing her lips slightly in thought, "Like Minako and I having to lift the curse, or each of us having to make an offering."
"That's true." Minako answered, nodding. "There was always a second step."
"And the items glowed, both times we got it right. Mine hasn't, has yours?" Rei said, mostly to Minako. She shook her head. Rei looked to the others, both frowned and shook their heads.
"Let's take them out. Ami, can you scan them?" Minako asked, berating herself for not having asked her to do so when they first got the rings.
"Sure." Ami replied, removing her own plain gold ring and putting it on the table, where three more of the same joined hers. She executed a scan. "Nothing I can trace besides faint energy signatures, but anything that has been through as much as these rings have...it would be bound to have some signature. Nothing remarkable."
"Alright. Any other ideas?" The blond answered, feeling older every moment, like time was suddenly speeding up. Or an extra lifetime was finally catching up with her.
"I keep feeling like it is not a coincidence that the clue was ambiguous. That we felt like the clue was so likely to be with Usagi and Mamoru. Maybe we're supposed to go to them." Rei proposed, hands folded in front of her face, casting shadows on her face. Ami's fingers stilled.
"What if..." Her eyes sparkled, loving the puzzle, "What it we did the right things, but in the wrong order?"
"Come again?" Minako asked.
"What if we were right both times, that we were supposed to go to see Mamoru and Usagi and were supposed to go see Setsuna, but we just went to them in the wrong order?" Ami clarified. Minako felt a spark of hope.
"You know...when I told Kunzite we were going to go see the prince, the night before we went, he looked at me strangely. He covered it up quickly, but he definitely reacted to it. What if it was because he knew we were doing it wrong?" She interjected.
"Then do we just go see Mamoru and Usagi?" Makoto asked, "Or is there something more concrete we have to do?"
"I don't know." Ami typed a few more details into the computer, "All the other times, there was some specific action that had to happen."
"Would our promise before Pluto count?" Makoto followed.
"I don't know." Ami repeated, never one to give an answer she didn't have.
"I feel like there is something more." Rei answered firmly. "Usagi and Mamoru must be the key. Then we would have friends, not just a friend, timeless, and love."
"We need to go, then." Minako said standing, pocketing her ring, the other mimicking the action. "And we should probably bring doughnuts as a peace-offering, or Usagi will kill us for being there so early."
Makoto found herself first in the firing line, as the others voted to put the girl with the food in front of the door. She rang and flinched.
No answer. Rei elbowed her, and she pushed it again. Still nothing. She pushed it again, twice in quick succession.
An unearthly wail went up from inside the apartment. The girls stepped back. A few moments later, the unearthly sound reached the door, and a furious Lunarian princess stood in front of them, prepared to blast them back to the past.
"What are you doing here!? Do you know what time it is!?!" They shrank back from the tiny girl's enormous wrath. Makoto pushed the box of doughnuts at her.
"Two dozen!" Makoto's voice squeaked. Usagi's expression softened momentarily, then she looked up, glaring again.
"Sprinkles?" Makoto nodded. Usagi turned on her heel. "Fine. This had better be important. I thought you were Mamoru and that he'd lost his key. Oh, I was going to get him back for all the times he scolded me for losing mine. Every now and then, it starts to bother you when someone is that perfect. But then he is so sweet-"
"Where is he?" Rei interrupted, feeling strange.
"He should be out for his morning run, as usual." She said through a mouth of doughnut. Rei's nose wrinkled. She sat down and took a very dainty bite of a croissant.
"Usagi," Makoto's voice was strained, "Then why are his running shoes still by the door?"
Usagi sat up and glanced over at the foyer. And sure enough, there were a pair of large dirty running shoes.
"Oh. Huh...I don't know. He always goes for a long morning run on Sundays when he doesn't have to work." She went to get her phone. "Maybe he got called into the hospital for something."
She put her phone to her ear, and another phone rang in the apartment. Usagi's eyes got big. She walked over to the phone, and picked it up, along with his car keys.
"I don't understand. The house would have been unlocked if he had left without his keys. But it was locked; I had to unlock it. And he also could not have gone to hospital because his car is here." Her voice started to rise.
"The Shitennou were gone this morning when we woke up. Their stones were gone too." Minako answered, not wanting to increase the panic, but needing to give her leader the details. To her surprise, Usagi calmed visibly. "Usagi?"
"Hm?" Usagi looked up at her absently, then made an 'o' with her mouth, "I forgot you didn't know. Mamoru told me he was going to talk to Pluto this morning. You saying the others were gone reminded me. He probably used his communicator, I think, to tell Setsuna what he was up to. Then maybe he teleported, straight to the gate."
"He can do that?" Ami asked, slightly wary.
"His powers have been growing in the last few years. Ones that he had as Endymion have been coming back. Teleporting is just one example. He can also use the golden crystal to heal directly, as only I could do before. He has been using it at the hospital, not enough to be noticed but, yeah, he could have."
"This is part of the reason you've been getting anxious about Crystal Tokyo, isn't it?" Minako looked at Usagi tenderly. Usagi smiled a little.
"I just want us to be ready."
"We will be." Makoto put her arm around Usagi, who smiled up at her warmly.
"What was Mamoru seeing her about?" Rei asked.
"The Shitennou, of course. We talked, and he knows they deserve to come back. So he agreed to go see Pluto to ask if they could be brought back." The girls breathed a sigh of relief, except Rei.
"But why would the crystals be gone?" Rei pushed. She didn't ask how. With Pluto, it was better not to ask.
"I don't know. Maybe they needed them there. They're bound to the crystals, and to Beryl through them. They need to break that bond for them to be reincarnated safely. Setsuna probably took them. She can be anywhere instantly." Usagi thought aloud. Rei did not look satisfied.
"Or Maybe," Ami started, "If Mamoru has his powers returning, he could call them back." Rei shrugged.
"Well, we won't know till he gets back." Usagi said brightly. "How about we put on a movie? Yes? Something happy? Come on!" Ami followed Usagi first, and sat down on the couch. Rei gaped at her.
"What, Rei? We really can't do anything until Mamoru gets back. I need a good distraction, and short of a Youma, watching a movie with Usagi is going to be the most distracting thing I can think of." Ami said pleasantly. Rei started for a moment, before shutting her mouth and taking a seat next to Ami.
"That's true. Half of watching a movie with Usagi is watching Usagi react. I'm in. What are we watching?" She responded, feeling the need to explain her surrender. Makoto and Minako took a seat and watched Usagi animatedly extol the virtues of her various movies.
Minako snuggle to closest to Rei.
"I really hope this is all going better than I feel it is." Minako whispered to her.
"I know the feeling. I've felt weird since we got here." Rei whispered back.
"Well, all we can do is wait."
It wasn't until the end of an American film, at Rei's request, Lunch, at Usagi's, and the end of the now classic Hana Yori Dango Finale that Mamoru walked into the room. The girls turned to look at the lithe, bent figure materializing in the dying light by the window. The shadow in his eyes and the defensive stance made each girl stiffen, except Usagi, who was too busy crying and praising the movie to notice at first, not until the very air in the room changed with the tension.
"Mamo-chan" She breathed, taking in the stance and expression instantly. But unlike the other girls, who drew back from the intensity, she approached him without hesitation, brushed off her own tears. She held his hands. "Oh, Mamo-chan, what's wrong?"
"I can't do it." He said, his low voice cracking, "I can't do it!" Usagi rested her hands on his face trying to get him to focus on her.
"Mamo-chan, we talked about this. You can do this. You can trust them, let them come back."
"No, Usagi, you don't understand-" His voice getting lower and fainter.
"Of course I do! We've both seen people we loved be unable to cope with pure evil. But we have to forgi-"
"No." He stated firmly. "You don't understand what I mean. It is not that I don't want to, Usako, it's that I can't. I physically can't make it happen. Pluto and I tried, but I can't. The stones would just not break."
"What?" She barely managed to produce the faint sound, feeling the pain in the room multiply, emanating from her senshi.
"We tried to raise them. I asked her to help me call them back from the crystal, to break their bonds to the stone, but I couldn't do it. They would not break. I had to see my men watch me fail at calling them back. And you know what was the worst part?" Usagi focused on the love of all her lives, "They just looked at me, completely understanding, totally grateful, even as I failed. Then they asked me not to bring them back unless the stones broke. They didn't want to put us all in danger." Usagi pulled him down into her arms kissed his forehead.
"There has to be a way. Maybe there was something else we had to do. What about Helios?"
"No, we tried."
"But-" He pulled back from her.
"I tried everything. I really did, Usagi. And they just looked on, unable to say anything."
Minako felt something in her give way, as she remembered why she was supposed to be there, and Kunzite's warning that he could not tell her the answers. As she remembered that she was here to speak for him, because he could not, and to redeem him before his prince. Rei looked at her stance.
"I think I have an idea which might work. You said they looked on, unable to speak?" Ami nodded at her, smiling as she realized what Minako was suggesting. "That's exactly what they told us about the artifacts. Maybe there's a link."
"Possibly." Mamoru said, but his expression of loss did not alter.
"Mamoru. Here. Take this." She pulled her ring out of her pocket, and crossed the room, putting it in his hand. Instantly, the ring began to glow, and an inscription appeared. "The first half I can't read, but the second half is Venusian!"
"This is old Terrian. The ceremonial Language." Mamoru replied, turning it to get a better look. "Was this the last of the artifacts?"
"No!" Minako almost yelled, fully aware she sounded like an idiot. She could not have cared less. "Hurry, Rei, Makoto, Ami! Give him your rings!"
The others rushed forward, handing their rings to him too. The glow grew. Inscriptions formed on the other rings, in Terrian and then in Martian, Mecurian, and Jovian respectively.
"Read it!" Usagi urged, looking at the rings in his hands. "Read it, Mamoru!" He looked too terrified to be hopeful.
"I am his servant." He read the Terrian phrase from Venus' ring. The phrases in Terrian on each ring glowed more brightly still. He reached out his hand. The senshi took back their rings. They each read back, in their native tongues,
"But my heart is yours."
Light filled the room, almost blinding, but still nothing happened.
"What's missing?" Makoto cried desperately, unable to see around her.
"I don't know" Ami shouted, trying to get out her visor, but the light was so intense she could barely read the screen. "I can't get a read on it."
"Well somebody try something already!" Rei shouted.
"What about the crystals, Mamo-chan?" Usagi pulled on his coat to get his attention.
He fumbled pulling them out, afraid he'd drop them and be unable to find them again in all the light. They were glowing too, colors in all the white.
"Try it now! Try realizing them now, Mamo-chan!" Usagi urged. He nodded. For the millionth time that day, he repeated the phrase he'd chosen,
"I understand what event sent you to this prison in your own element. And I have forgiven you for your role in it. Come back to me now, and pay for your crimes with your actions."
The light flared. The sound of shattering crystal was deafening. When they all looked up, the four long absent soldiers knelt before their monarchs and their loves.
The girls hung back, although their flesh screamed at them to move, recognizing that this was Mamoru's moment.
"You are returned to your lives. I give you the choice to serve me again or not. How do you answer?"
"We are yours." They answered simply in unison. Mamoru smiled, eyes brilliant.
"Then I welcome you back, my brothers. Rise." They stood, and each clasped hand to forearm with their prince, extended from the heart, the old greeting. Usagi could not stop beaming. Mamoru stood back, placing an arm around her, bringing her forward, "My wife, Princess Serenity, now Chiba Usagi, and one day, Neo-Queen Serenity of Crystal Tokyo."
"Hi!" Usagi said warmly, waving off the beginnings of their collective bow, "It's good to have you back. We've been feeling your loss. But not as much as some people." She smiled slyly, giving a conspicuous head nod back at her senshi who had not moved.
"Your Majesties." Kunzite said for the group, bowing with grace as his men followed. The senshi inclined their heads, following protocol with three men they had not seen in peace in a lifetime, but locking eyes with the one they claimed.
"Shitennou." Minako replied, warm and sultry, voice beckoning, "We welcome you home."
"Alright." Usagi said surprising them all. "I order you at ease this instant. The suspense is killing me!" The senshi willingly obliged, moving the embrace their lovers.
Rei and Jadeite locked eyes, holding one another close, but did not speak or exchange caresses. All that needed to be said, or that didn't, could wait for privacy.
Ami and Zoicite where a blur of cape and blond and blue hair and giggles as Zoicite spun her around, placing soft kisses all over her face.
Makoto was sobbing against Nephrite who kept answering her angry whispers with soothing promises to never leave her like that again. Ever. He held her as close and as tightly as he could, hoping somehow to make up for leaving her - in the last life, in this one, or last night specifically, he was not sure which. He tried because he understood how abandoned she must have felt for so long.
Minako was kissing Kunzite soundly, hands shaking as they held his face, as though it would shatter or disappear back into a dream if she moved wrong. She had never been so afraid in her life. He held her to him firmly. She didn't even notice the tears slipping from her eyes. He did.
Mamoru held the slightly weepy Usagi.
"Gentlemen I do have just one question I need answered before I allow you some much needed alone time, as I can well see." The men broke from their senshi and smiled at one another, bowing in gratitude to their prince. "Why now? Why this new years?"
"We came because others wanted us to come back, to teach the senshi lessons they needed before the onslaught of worries from Crystal Tokyo." Kunzite answered, still holding Minako.
"Who?!?" Usagi replied, hanging on his every word.
"I'm sure he was getting there, Usako." Mamoru spoke gently against her hair. She blushed.
"Oh, I'm sorry. Go on."
"Not at all princess." Kunzite replied, smiling on her softly. "Your mother, Queen Serenity, though Sailor Pluto, decided to make us an offer, to allow us to be reborn as long as we taught the senshi lessons from their past, and in this way we could pay for our crimes, for destroying your past, by securing your future. That is why this mission for the senshi was finally possible, because they agreed to it. Because of their wishes, this whole mission was not be just about us returning, but about the senshi understanding the importance of their bond. Your mother and Sailor Pluto wanted to make sure the senshi were ready to protect the princess even during the transition to Crystal Tokyo, where weaknesses will be exposed and tested."
"They wanted to make sure you could all work together under stress, even with those memories of your past lives. If you couldn't, we'd never make it to Crystal Tokyo." Nephrite summarized.
"It was a chance, and we took it without a second thought." Jadeite's smooth voice filled the room.
"So we could return to what mattered most." Zoicite closed looking into Ami's eyes.
"Then I thank you." Usagi replied with a grace that fit her mother. "Be happy." The senshi looked up, focusing on their princess with love. 'I will' Chorusing across her bond with them. She smiled.
"Welcome to redemption." Mamoru said solemnly. The Shitennou looked to him gratefully, then down to the women in front of them, with the same gratitude. "Now get out of here. You've kept them waiting long enough."
And in four flashes, they were all gone, leaving the two royals alone.
"We're complete, my only love. Everyone is back." Mamoru said, pulling Usagi against his chest firmly.
"But right now, we're alone, and the mood couldn't be more romantic." She said smiling up at him adoringly.
"Let's follow the pattern then." He replied, and they dematerialized into the bedroom. Usagi just laughed.
"I'm pretty sure that was less dramatic then for the other girls. This is down the hall."
"Yeah," He kissed the inside of her palm, "But they haven't been able to make love in a lifetime. Besides, we have had our share of drama. I think we can go without for the night." She again took his face in her hands.
"You're right. I can do without drama." She kissed him, feather-light, "Just not without you."
Minako sat in her chair by the window, wrapped up in her fleece blanket, looking out at a gray world. Gray days would always remind her of him. She smiled.
"Who gave you permission to get out of bed?" Came a deep, stern voice from the bed. Minako felt a rush of anticipation. She looked back at her general barking orders from a propped-up position in her bed. It pleased her, but she had to stifle a giggle at how much the pink and yellow striped sheets detracted from his attempt at intimidation.
"You did, by being too off guard to keep me there. Sleeping on duty. Who would have thought it would come to this, General? Such a shock."
His figure loomed large before her as he stepped out of bed, rising to his full height. Minako bit her lip, heart beat speeding up as she ran her eyes from top to bottom across the very nude man in front of her. How he had kept in that kind of shape inside of a stone, she'd never know. But goddess did he look good.
"I always correct my mistakes." He said coldly at the girl looking him up and down. Minako stared on, willing him to 'correct' her. She squealed as he lifted her into the air, pulling her to him, bridal style.
"Hi." She looked up at him smiling brightly. A small, satisfied smile started to form on his lips.
"I see you didn't bother to dress for your little escape." Minako had the grace to blush as he took this chance to survey her body, no longer protected by her blanket. She quickly regained her confidence.
"Maybe I wanted to be caught." She replied suggestively, running her teeth along his collar bone. He gripped her more tightly, shuddering slightly.
"Oh, I see. And why would that be?"
"To get to see you stand there naked and angry." She replied with a head tilt, her hair stroking his arm.
He threw her to the bed, pinning her with his weight.
"Then you will have to pay for that privilege." He said seriously. He began to kiss her neck, driving her from rational thought.
"Kunzite, wait." She said, suddenly serious, seeing the new band on her left hand ring finger. He pulled back to look at her, concerned.
"What's wrong, my angel?" Minako smiled at that shift from rough to tender.
"There was something I forgot to say." He looked at her, waiting. "Happy New Year."
He looked down at her and smiled fully.
"Thank you, Minako" He said intensely, leaning in to kiss her, "Happy New Year."
WOW! It's finally done, and just in time for Lunar New Year, which seems fitting based on the premise. Thank you to everyone for sticking with me, for all the support, and for pointing out little errors here and there. And most of all, thank you to VO1, for very kindly given (and often hilarious) criticism. I hope you enjoyed it. Happy Early New Year.