Disclaimer: I do not own Sailor Moon, no matter how much I want to throw Minako and Setsuna together.
Author's Note: Here it is, the sequel to "In the Light". Dedicated to Jai-kun, who helped me trim the plotbunny down to an easier-to-manage size and encouraged me to no end.
Out of the Darkness
The biggest problem with memories, Setsuna often thought, was that they were never totally forgotten. They could fade away in time, and certain details could become fuzzy—and okay, yes, maybe small, miniscule things could be forgotten. But overall, in the grand scheme of things, the memory itself could not be completely forgotten or erased from one's mind.
Or then again, maybe it was just her.
(She still remembered every little detail. She remembered her smile, her laugh, the way she stood out like beams of light in the darkness. The way she tilted her head just so, the gleam in her eyes.)
Death certainly would have helped with her memories, had she been given the chance to die like the other senshi. Rebirth would have wiped her mind clean, and even to this day she wouldn't completely remember all that had occurred during the Silver Millennium. But she hadn't been so lucky.
And sometimes she didn't know what was worse:
Being haunted by memories of the Minako that had lived during the Silver Millennium, or interacting with her reincarnation, Aino Minako (they even had the same name!) on an almost day-to-day basis.
"Puu, why are you still single?"
Setsuna blinked, thrown off by the question; she'd been spacing out during one of the many balls that had been thrown during the Silver Millennium. She slowly lowered her gaze and met the sparkling blue eyes of the princess of Venus. Her lips twitched. "Hello."
"Hi." Minako grinned. "You didn't answer my question."
"What made you even think of that?"
"I dunno." The senshi of love shrugged, leaning back absently next to her taller companion. "I just got away from Kunzite and saw you, and you just looked really lonely. So I started wondering about it, I guess. It's not like you couldn't be with someone; you're really very pretty."
The fact that the compliment was innocent and genuine made Setsuna blink; everything Minako ever did seemed to catch her off-guard, and it charmed the younger woman greatly. She enjoyed knowing that she could put a hitch in the guardian's stride.
Setsuna coughed softly. "Perhaps I merely haven't found the right person yet," she muttered, glancing at Minako with narrow eyes. The blonde gave her an innocent smile.
"Well, when you do, introduce me to them. No one dates my Puu without my approval."
"When did I become 'your' Puu?"
Minako just smiled.
"I'm sensing the beginning of a very vicious cycle."
Huddled between the large bed and the ancient writing desk, looking impossibly small as her backpack slumped at her side, Aino Minako offered Setsuna a timid smile that didn't quite reach her eyes. "Is that one of your riddles?"
"Something you wouldn't remember," Setsuna murmured absently. "What are you doing here, Minako-san?"
She understood how Minako had snuck in during the Silver Millennium. She'd had access to the Gates of Time because of the talisman Serenity had given her, and back then Setsuna had preferred living on her own. How her reincarnation had managed to sneak into a house inhabited by three other senshi baffled the Guardian of Time. Oh, wait… Haruka and Michiru were out shopping, and wasn't Hotaru spending the day with Chibi-Usa…?
"Hotaru-chan gave me her key." Minako tossed it up and caught it, and the metal gleamed in the sunlight that spilled into the window. "I didn't feel like going home—things are kind of tense with Mom and Dad." She laughed softly. "I didn't want to be with the girls, either."
"You needed a place to hide."
Minako looked at Setsuna in surprise. "I… yes. How did you know that?"
"It… it isn't worth talking about."
It definitely seemed worth talking about, as Minako didn't miss the subtle flash of loss and grief as it passed on Setsuna's face. But she let the moment go; she knew when to push for details and when to leave things be. Maybe she could ask about it later, when Setsuna was more comfortable—if she ever managed to get into that position. "I can leave if you want, Sets-chan," she said hastily, snagging her book bag by its strap. "If you really don't want me here, I'll go."
"… Sets-chan?" What is it with her and giving me nicknames?
Minako paused, and Setsuna sighed. Every logical bone in her body screamed at her to send the younger girl away—allowing her to stay would indeed start the vicious cycle all over again, and she didn't know if she could handle it.
But those blue eyes did her in as completely as they had in the Silver Millennium.
"Don't worry. You can stay."
"Your boyfriend's looking for you."
At Setsuna's amused tone Minako let out a little 'eep' and quickly huddled against the older girl, desperately praying Kunzite wouldn't see her. It was her sixteenth birthday party and she'd practically begged Setsuna to come—up until the senshi of time had arrived she'd been fearful she wouldn't show. "I'm not here," she whispered into Setsuna's ear. "You never saw me, you don't know where I am, nothing."
"Yes, Kunzite, I haven't seen Minako yet at her own birthday party. No, Kunzite, I'm not hiding something behind my back."
Setsuna chuckled as Minako aimed a sour look at her. "See if I visit you for awhile," she hissed, lightly whacking her shoulder.
"See if I come to anymore of your parties. Though I must admit," Setsuna mused as she watched Serenity drag a complaining Rei onto the dance floor, "I'm enjoying the spectacle."
"Don't tell me you don't know about Serenity and Rei." Minako scowled. "Those two are one step away from having a full-blown love affair. Endymion's the only thing stopping them."
"Doesn't Serenity love Endymion?"
"She does. She also loves Rei just a little bit more."
The dark-skinned girl shrugged, deciding against challenging the self-proclaimed 'Goddess of Love'. For all she knew, Minako's titles actually had some weight to them.
Feeling the subtle shift in Minako's mood, Setsuna sighed and gently ruffled her hair. "Don't get sad," she said quietly. "Sad doesn't suit you."
"It just isn't fair sometimes." Minako sighed. "I can see it, you know? I can see it so clearly, how much they love each other. And it hurts."
"You never know. Maybe they'll have a chance in another life."
"Think we'll get to see them?"
Setsuna sighed as Minako leaned against her, resting her head on her shoulder.
"Maybe we will."
"Hmm?" Minako glanced up from her homework, absently twirling her pencil between her fingers. The next instant her eyes lit up. "Hey! I finally got you to just call me Minako!"
"Yes." Setsuna watched, amused, as the younger girl did her V for victory sign and a little shimmy that she assumed was some kind of victory dance without standing up. "I wanted to ask you something."
"Huh? Oh, yeah, sure, Sets-chan. Go right ahead."
Baffled at how easily the blonde was capable of switching her moods and deciding it was something she needed to discuss with Artemis, Setsuna waved it aside. "Why do you always give me a nickname?"
Minako blinked; she frowned contemplatively and rested her chin in the palm of her hand, letting her pencil dangle limply from her fingers. After a few minutes of thinking it over, she shrugged. "I don't really know," she admitted. "Calling you Sailor Pluto is so formal. I like to think we're closer than that." She smiled slightly. "And no offense but, your name is kind of long. It's a pretty name, believe me, but it's long."
"Sailor Pluto sounds so official, don't you think? And Setsuna is such a long name. Pretty, but long."
The memory flashed through Setsuna's mind quickly, untouched by time and as clear as if it had happened yesterday. Feeling the familiar stab of pain in her chest that usually accompanied those memories, Setsuna closed her eyes and slowly blew out a pained breath.
A clatter told her that Minako was on the move, but she didn't have the strength or the will to open her eyes. Small, warm hands rested tentatively on her shoulders, as though the senshi of Venus feared the older woman would shatter; after a moment, her arms slid around her, and she quietly tucked her head beneath Setsuna's chin, resting her head against her chest. Setsuna inhaled quietly, finally opening her eyes. "Minako?"
"I don't know." Minako's grip on Setsuna tightened slightly. "You… seem like you're in pain, Sets-chan."
For a moment Setsuna sat quietly, not sure what to do; instinct gradually crept in and she cautiously hugged Minako, lightly rubbing her back in what she hoped was a soothing gesture.
In the back of her mind, she couldn't help but remember that in the Silver Millennium, Minako had never dared to touch her this way.
"So who was Serenity's first kiss?"
"Excuse me?" Minako blinked.
"Serenity. Kiss. Her first," Setsuna said patiently. "You mentioned that when you came through the Gates…?"
"Oh, right, right. Sorry, I zoned out for a moment. Um… it was Endymion."
Setsuna blinked. "Really?" she asked, genuinely surprised; somehow, she'd been hoping it would have been Rei.
"I know, shocker, isn't it?" Minako laughed softly. "But it's true. He just plants one right on her, you know, all casual about it, right in front of us."
"Have to give him credit, he's forward."
Setsuna said nothing to this, gazing ahead into the swirling mists in a thoughtful silence; she frowned slightly. "Hey, Minako."
"If you had to choose between getting your first kiss and getting a kiss from the person you love, what would you choose?"
Minako scratched the back of her neck. "There's a difference?"
"It depends, I suppose. But what would you do?"
Minako rubbed her chin thoughtfully, narrowing her eyes and tilting her head slightly as she gave the matter her full attention. After a few minutes of thought, she shook her head. "I want my first kiss," she admitted. "I really, really do. But if I had to choose, I'd have to go with kissing the person I love."
"Really?" Now Setsuna was a little confused. "How would you figure that out?"
"Because when I kiss the person I love, I won't try to push them away."
Minako awoke gradually, as she usually did with those kinds of dreams; as her vision slowly solidified and she made out the shapes and shadows of her room, she groaned softly. Glancing briefly at the clock, she noted that the letters red 2 a.m.; Artemis was curled at her shoulder, sound asleep and snoring softly by the sound of it.
Moving slowly so as not to wake him, Minako sat up and stared ahead blankly for a moment; moaning softly she rubbed her eyes. "What's wrong with me?" she wondered softly. "I've never had these dreams before."
They'd started after her visits with Setsuna. Seeing as the senshi of Pluto appeared in every one of them—younger and far more innocent than she was now—Minako had no doubt that the two were related. She figured she was dreaming of the Silver Millennium.
Sighing, she rubbed her eyes again and finally lay back down.
It was a long, long time before she slept again.
The shrill sound of the phone ringing jerked Setsuna awake as if someone had dumped a bucket of ice cold water on her as she slept. Stumbling hastily out of bed, wide awake now, she walked swiftly from her room and unhooked the telephone; Hotaru was spending the night with Chibi-Usa, but Haruka and Michiru were still home, and she didn't want to risk the chance that some poor innocent person would get cursed at for dialing the wrong number so late at night. "Hello, this is Meioh Setsuna speaking," she said, keeping her voice low.
Almost immediately Setsuna knew something was wrong. Minako's voice was soft, and anguished; barely above a whisper, and ragged. "Minako?" Her fingers tightened around the phone. "Have you been crying?"
"Can you come to the park?" Minako sniffled. "I know it's late, and this is sudden, so I won't be mad if you can't…"
"Hold on. Just hold on." Her thoughts were running a mile a minute. "I can come to the park. Just give me a few minutes."
"Okay." A pause. "Sets-chan?"
By the time Setsuna reached the park she'd imagined all sorts of danger, and was immensely relieved to find the park deserted, as was usual at this time of night, save for Minako sitting on a bench, gazing quietly at her hands, her shoulders slumped. She barely even stirred as Setsuna sat next to her, and after a few minutes of silence she spoke. "Minako?"
"Mom and Dad are getting divorced."
Minako's tone was flat, devoid of emotion; Setsuna's eyes widened. "They just told me tonight, after dinner," the senshi of Venus revealed. "Sat me down in the living room and talked to me. I knew it was going to happen." A hitch entered her breathing and she looked at Setsuna, tears shining. "I knew it was going to happen," she repeated hoarsely. "So why does it hurt so much?"
"Doesn't know. No one knows. He's out tonight with Luna, and I don't want to tell Usagi-chan or the others yet. It hurts," she whispered raggedly. "It hurts so much."
Setsuna rarely, if ever, depended on instinct. She was a logical person and liked to think things through before she carried them out. Something she'd learned long ago was that when it came to Minako, no matter what form, instinct tended to rule over logic.
Very gently, she slid an arm along Minako's shoulders and pulled the girl into a gentle hug, bringing the blonde's head down to her shoulder. "Don't be sad," she murmured. "Sad doesn't suit you."
Minako gave a watery laugh. "I don't know what I am right now." A few tears escaped, scorched Setsuna's skin as they fell. "I can't smile." She closed her eyes. "I've tried smiling, but it feels so fake."
There was a moment; Setsuna dipped her head and lightly brushed her lips against Minako's forehead. The senshi of love blinked in surprise and slowly tilted her head up to look at the older woman, who simply smiled quietly down at her. A small, timid smile curved in response before Minako giggled softly, burying her face into Setsuna's neck again. "Got you to smile," the senshi of time noted absently.
"Only you." Minako giggled again. "Only you, Sets-chan." She pulled away, and for a moment she simply gazed into Setsuna's eyes as though she was trying to solve some great mystery. She brought one hand up, lightly stroking Setsuna's cheek, and the green haired woman felt her breath hitch. "Minako?" she whispered.
After a moment, Minako pulled her hand away and rested her head on Setsuna's shoulder again. Not tonight, she thought. Soon, but not tonight.
It was Sailor Venus's only coherent thought as she dragged herself away from Kunzite's dead body, abandoning her Love Me chain at his side for the time being as she slowly rested back against the wall. Grimacing, she brought a hand to her right side to try and slow the blood flow, though she knew it was an empty action at this point; even if she did that, her life still bled away from the wound on her stomach.
She closed her eyes, chuckling quietly. She wasn't afraid to die. Death had never scared her, odd as it was. In some ways, she wanted it to come. The sooner she died, the sooner the pain ended.
The sooner she got to see her friends again.
The sound of footsteps stirred her, and as wariness surged through her body she slowly opened her eyes, wincing in pain. Her vision was blurry and beginning to fade around the edges, but she saw clearly enough to recognize the tall figure, the long green hair, the black and white Sailor uniform.
Her heart skipped a beat.
And as Sailor Pluto gave an anguished cry and tore to her side, Venus suddenly hoped death could wait a little longer.
She needed to say goodbye.
Those two words made Setsuna pause before she slowly looked up, locking eyes with Minako. Cautiously she rose from her desk, noting that the younger girl was mimicking her movement to walk in front of her. Deciding to play it dumb, the senshi of time frowned. "Remember what?"
"Don't do that," Minako snapped, her eyes flaring. "You aren't dumb, Sets-chan. You know what I'm talking about." Frustrated, she ran a hand through her hair. "I remember," she repeated simply. "About me. You. The Silver Millennium."
Setsuna had known this day would eventually come. She'd already decided to take a neutral stand on the issue. It saved them both a great deal of pain. She slid her hands into her pockets. "I see," she said at last. She paused, but Minako didn't push. "Any questions?"
"Just one." Minako shifted from foot to foot, praying her confidence wouldn't fail her now. She blew out a long breath and met Setsuna's eyes again. "Sets-chan… were you in love with me?"
The taller woman cringed inwardly. Okay, I set myself up for that one.
At least she hadn't reverted back to Puu. That would have made this downright painful.
Setsuna saw no reason to lie. "Yes," she said softly. "I was in love with you. Unfortunately, by the time I realized this you were dead." She shrugged. "And then you came back, and I fell in love with you all over again."
Minako's whole body jerked and went stiff as a board, her eyes wide as she stared at Setsuna; the tension gradually drained out of her body, but the tortured look in her eyes did not. "I left you alone."
"No." Setsuna stepped forward now, caught her in her arms. "Minako, no."
"I did." Minako's arms came around her, held on. "I left you alone like that… and you had to live with it…"
"Don't cry. Please don't cry. I was horrible with your tears, if you even remember that."
Minako laughed and squeezed Setsuna gently before pulling back, and though the tears were in her eyes they didn't fall. "I don't know," she murmured. "You were pretty good with them the other night."
"I'm an older woman now. I've mastered some things. Don't you dare start crying on me." Undone, Setsuna buried her face into Minako's hair. "Just stand still a minute. Don't move."
"Wasn't planning to."
They stood that way for a moment that lasted too long and ended too soon; with great reluctance Setsuna pulled back. "I think it's only fair," she said at last, "that you tell me how you feel. Since I told you how I felt."
Minako smirked and tilted her head back, a mischievous gleam entering her eyes. "Remember what I said in the Silver Millennium? How if I was kissed by the person I loved, I wouldn't push them away?"
The understanding came into Setsuna's eyes even as she nodded.
"Notice how I'm not pushing you away." And with that, she gripped the collar of Setsuna's shirt and pulled her down into a kiss.
Setsuna's yelp of surprise was muffled against her mouth, and she opened willingly to Minako's tongue. If their first kiss had been gradual and tentative, brought about by death, their second kiss was different; it was deep and left no part of them untouched, with the promise of a new beginning that had only been dreamed of.
After a few minutes—or quite possibly a few hours—hell, several days could have passed and they wouldn't have known—Minako finally pulled away, the corners of her lips twitching even as she regained her breath. Setsuna smirked. "What?"
"You're a really good kisser, Sets-chan."
Laughing breathlessly, Setsuna dropped her forehead to Minako's shoulder. "Glad to hear it." She closed her eyes as Minako played with her hair.
"You know what would make this perfect? If we could set up Rei-chan and Usagi-chan now. It's a new life. They can get a new chance."
Laughing again, softly this time, Setsuna kissed Minako lightly on the neck before pulling away to rest her forehead against hers. "You never change," she murmured. Minako grinned up at her before tucking her head beneath the older woman's chin. "Sets-chan?"
"Sorry I took so long."
Setsuna smiled slightly and closed her eyes.
"It's all right. It was worth the wait."
I just had to give these two a happy ending after what happened. They deserved it.
And I do believe this is my longest one-shot to date.
Read and review, please!