Title: Something Akin to Atonement
Author: Girl Who Writes
Feedback: If you feel so moved.
Characters: Haruka, Michiru, Usagi
Word Count: 3490
Summary: There would be no redemption. Not for her. Haruka feels trapped after the events of Sailor Stars. Post Episode 200. Haruka/Michiru. Haruka/Usagi.
Author's Notes: This was written for LJ's Sailor Moon Fanswap, but the intended recipient dropped out of the swap, sadly - especially since I really struggled to write something they'd like! Never mind :) I didn't intend for this to turn out quite so angsty. It just evolved to this, and it became a challenge to me as a writer and I'm quite pleased with the result. I really hope you enjoy it.
Continuity: This takes place straight after the final episode – roughly 24 to 48 hours afterwards, but before the Starlights have left. I can justify why I feel that they didn't leave instantly, but I won't.
Disclaimer: The characters of Sailor Moon belong to Toei, Bandai and Naoko Takeuchi. I make no profit from this fan-based venture.
Why did she spend her life fighting so hard? Why, when the fight had proven so futile – nothing more than grief and hurt; her own stubborn ignorance exposed time and time again, only to be forgiven and forgotten. Had she learnt nothing?
But now... how could she have known any of this? How could something that she could never have imagined have become second nature, something that was always under her skin and fueling everything about her... was she Uranus or was Uranus herself? What had she lost being this person, wielding this power?
Was fighting against everything the last part of whom ever she had been before, whom she might have been in a different world?
It was too late now. The Messiahs both lived, the Talismans were shattered and useless, and the Solar System had been invaded so many times.
Had anything she'd done been worth anything? Was this Haruka's fault or Uranus' failure?
Did it even matter?
The heavy weight of the bracelets had gone now – chains she had taken upon herself and then used to cut down her family, to break her Princess's heart and cheapened herself and Michiru, the Guardian Senshi and their sacrifice, their entire mission in the eyes of the invaders.
In her own eyes.
And now there would be no redemption. Not for her.
She couldn't sleep.
She didn't understand how Michiru could.
She sat up, one long leg tucked under her and stared out, through the gap in the curtain, at the shining white moon and ran her hands through her hair. She doesn't want to recall any of it – her waking mind is stalked with images of a city destroyed, of cold bodies draped limply over streets and in gutters. Of wrong decisions and stupid mistakes, and Usagi's call to them, how lonely she was.
She shouldn't have been alone.
She stayed awake, and watched the moon.
She could feel the wind rushing past her on either side and wished, for just a moment, that she had the guts to ride, really let go, on her motorcycle without her helmet, the consequences be damned. At this speed, would she even know when she crashed, when she hit the concrete and there was nothing between the exquisite euphoria and nothing. Again.
That sounded pretty good right now.
But something stopped her every time.
Haruka revved the bike, as if she could go fast enough to blur it all – to forget Usagi's heartbroken cries, the look of revulsion on the Starlights' faces – the same faces that ran away from their own failures, that hid behind her princess's skirts when it got ugly. Damn them for judging her without dirtying their hands, without even trying.
Even before then! Seiya, damned Seiya Kou, smirking at Michiru and still meeting her eyes and shaking her hand. And then looking at Usagi like that, as if none of them knew what he was thinking when it was written all over his face.
Within her gloves, her hands tightened on the handle bars, her knuckles white.
And then there was Hotaru, innocent little Hotaru who had suffered enough for a dozen lifetimes, had seen and felt things that she couldn't – and did not particularly want to – think about, let alone feel. Hotaru, who had called her Haruka-papa, whom she had read stories to and played countless games of hide and seek with, and cuddled when she had nightmares.
Why had it been so easy for her to kill Hotaru? Did some part of her – or some part of Uranus – see the Glaive and those knowing violet eyes and justify it in an instant? Would she even be able to look at Saturn and see her girl, see past her fearsome power?
Would she ever be able to look at Hotaru again and see the little girl smile for her, her Haruka-papa, or would she forever remind the child of powerlessness, of the ugliest of betrayals?
She could see a group up ahead, crossing the street, as she revved her motorcycle again. They would be safely on the other side of the street by the time she roared past; no point slowing.
It was instinctual; she pressed down on the brake before she even realized she was doing it. One of the girls in the group had dropped something on the road, had turned back to pick it up.
She swore, trying to turn the bike and force it to slide to a stop, and took note of the girl before her – the familiar golden buns and long ribbons of hair, today adorned with pink pom-poms that Haruka vaguely recognized as having once belonged to Chibiusa. Big blue eyes blinked at her, the dropped purse held in her hands – and a look that Haruka struggled to put into words, no matter how many times she saw it. It was the look of someone who realized they were in danger of being hurt, of being troublesome for someone else; mixed with confusion as she tried to understand exactly what she was seeing and surprise that it was happening so quickly. And then, there was that look that was completely and utterly Usagi – that of recognition and joy at seeing someone she knew, despite the fact that Haruka and her gross violations of the speed limits were about to plow her down.
Congratulations Haruka, she mentally chastised herself in the split-second all of this occurred. You betrayed her, master-minded taking down her final two protectors, failed at your big plan, were forgiven and then procede to kill her with reckless driving. No wonder Chibiusa doesn't remember you in Crystal Tokyo – there wasn't anything to remember.
She was almost pleased when she came off the motorcycle and ended up sprawled on her back next to Usagi, the motorcycle landing with a crunch of bitumen.
"Haruka!" Usagi was kneeling beside her, looking horrified as Haruka heaved off her helmet and tossed it aside. "Are you alright?"
She said nothing in reply, simply stared up at the sky – less than a day ago, this was a skeleton city, broken and shadowed. And now, not a single piece of physical wreckage remained.
"Haruka!" Usagi's concerned face filled her vision, and for a moment, she is in a different place, is a different person. Only a year ago, her Messiah...
"I'm okay, Usagi," she managed, gruffly, pulling herself into a sitting position. "You ought to be more careful."
"I wasn't watching," Usagi admits with a duck of her head, her hands tightening around her purse.
"Don't sit up too fast, Haruka." Mamoru was at Usagi's shoulder, looking concerned. People on the street were staring at her, and for a moment, Haruka wanted to bury her face in her hands and deal with all of this later. "Does it hurt anywhere?"
She's never wanted to punch Mamoru more than she does right at that second. Where was he for the last year? Did he know about any of it? Watching Usagi blot her tears off the letters she wrote him; the bewildered and lost look in her eyes when she realized there was going to be no masked prince coming to her rescue? That Usagi was alone in the end and not one of them could take away the fact that he was not by her side.
"No, nothing hurts." She would be black and blue tomorrow, stiff and sore.
"Stand up slowly. You were going way too fast, Haruka." Mamoru's words are kind and clinical, the reprimand hanging between them.
Usagi was at her side, and staring up at her with a frown on her face. Makoto and Minako have managed to hurl her bike back up, and against the side of the street. The crowd is turning away, uninterested now there will be no ambulances or blood-streaked scenes.
Haruka tucked her helmet underneath her arm and rubbed her eyes. She didn't like that look in Usagi's eyes, that of dawning understanding, gentle sympathy and grim determination.
"Mamo-chan," Usagi turned so fast, Haruka almost got a mouthful of pigtail. "Why don't you go in and wait for me with the others? Haruka and I are going to go for a walk."
Maybe the dark circles under her eyes and the stoop of her shoulders said more than she wanted them to, but Mamoru nodded in agreement and promised to order Usagi a milkshake before he studied her once again.
"Haruka, if you feel sick or dizzy, you need to get some medical attention. Don't get back on your bike for awhile." And he disappeared into the Crowne.
Usagi smiled at her again, and tucked her arm through Haruka's. It might have looked like Haruka was escorting Usagi down the street, but it was the other way around. For a second, she wondered what it would be like if she just let it be like this – let Usagi guide her along, take the first step forward, without any fear...
The park was full of people, but somehow they all seemed very far away; almost like something from of one of Michiru's watercolours.
Usagi guided her to a bench and she sat mechanically, as if she no longer had any power over her actions.
Usagi's voice was gentle, kind and sounded different to her ears all of a sudden. And then it was her same old Usagi, who was nothing but kindness and love and goodness, and after all Usagi had seen, how the hell can she not be spoilt and bitter?
"Why don't you hate me, Usagi?"
The words don't feel like hers at all, but as if someone has blurted out something shameful and vulgar, something that should be ignored but cannot because it is just the two of them. The words hang, weighted and ugly, between them. She looked at her gloved hands and waited for whatever platitudes Usagi has to spill forth, and soften the truth.
She looked up.
Usagi was looking at her, her head cocked to one side, biting her lip. It was not a look of hatred or pity but confusion.
"Why would I hate you, Haruka?"
The words were simple and honest; those of someone who does not comprehend the question. And Haruka wanted to list the reasons, the dozens upon dozens of reasons why Usagi should hate her, should cast her aside and move forward.
Usagi sighed and looked up at the bright, clear sky, swinging her legs back and forth.
"Galaxia didn't want to become evil, Haruka." Her words are mild and wise-sounding, and for a second Haruka can see the Queen she will one day become. "Galaxia wanted to protect all of us. She should have asked for help." Usagi looked back to Haruka. The message is unsaid, but clear.
"Galaxia stole the starseeds of every galaxy. I've never seen so many stars," Usagi continued. "You saw how frightened Seiya was. You saw Sailor Tin Nyanko." Usagi's eyes were sad again, as if she was back there again, hearing the confused, pained cries of the corrupted senshi.
"Don't hate yourself, Haruka." Usagi was suddenly latched onto her arm, staring up at her, blue eyes impossibly wide. "I trust you. I trust all of my friends."
She knew the words by heart now - there's nothing to forgive; you didn't truly mean it.
The wise, queenly look came back over her face and Usagi closed her hand over Haruka's. "If you need to hear it again, I forgive you." The words are quiet, a breath against her cheek as Usagi stood and pulled Haruka up with her.
"You and Michiru, you always... you see something that no one else ever does, maybe because I hate... I hate the fighting and violence, I don't know why it has to happen. But maybe there's going to be a time when we need you to see it that different way." She shrugged. "I hope it never happens, but I wouldn't change it, Haruka. I don't think I'd change anything that's happened."
The sunlight hit her hair at an angle that made it shine gold, and Haruka shook her head, the aching muscles of her neck protesting the movement.
She doesn't recall what she said next, but she took Usagi back to the Crowne and left her at the door to avoid the scrutiny of Mamoru and the girls.
Usagi's philosophy, her declaration of trust, was a comfort, she could admit that. But there were two sets of accusing eyes waiting for her at home, and one person who seemed so far away from her at that moment, that she felt very, very tired – so tired, that as she climbed back on her motorcycle, trying to ignore the fresh scratches on the paintwork, she doesnt't even try to outrace the wind.
The house wass cool and still when she walked inside, dropping her keys and exchanging her boots for slippers. She paused in the entry and could hear the little things – the ticking of the heavy antique clock behind her, the sound of footsteps above and – finally – the lamentation of a violin, of nervous hands dragging a bow across the strings, trying to focus on the notes, but failing; her thoughts wandering beyond the music.
Her feet felt heavy as she climbed the stairs, but she didn't make any noise – the sad violin music continued to play.
The door to Michiru's studio stood slightly ajar, and from where she was, she could see Michiru, her fingers almost dancing across the strings with impossible skill and grace. Grey light from the window spilt into the room behind Michiru, making her look even more fragile, as if she was going to look up and then disappear; for a second, Haruka could almost hear the sound of the violin smashing against the floor, the bow snapping angrily as Michiru disappeared again...
Her hand, hanging at her side, tightened into a fist, and her weight shifted, causing the door to creak. Michiru's head shot up and the bow stilled.
She could see her own fears reflected in Michiru's eyes, even as the smaller girl looked away and set her violin back in its case.
It is not regret; Michiru was not the type to regret decisions she has made – not a person who looked back on the past with anything but sad fondness.
Michiru sighed, and walked to her, pausing for a split-second, before she leant against Haruka, one hand interlacing with hers.
No, Michiru's fears were not so pedestrian.
What will they have to do next? To get Neo-Qeen Serenity onto her rightful throne?
They go back downstairs together.
Setsuna was sitting on the lounge, a magazine open on her lap, her hair twisted on top of her head.
Hotaru was sprawled out on the floor in front of her, with two dolls arranged next to her, and a colouring book.
So few words have been exchanged between them – a Cold War that no one would believe the Outer Senshi possible of.
Michiru turned to go into the kitchen, to prepare another meal that would be consumed in polite silence and Haruka cannot stand it a second longer. For a moment, all she could see was the vibrant gold of Usagi's hair, the noise and light of the park, the curious looks on the faces of the younger girls. Why was it that they were always stuck like this, devoid of sound? First, the Silence. Then Sailor Saturn. And now this.
Right at that second, Haruka almost wished she could be with Usagi and the girls, at the gathering they were having to farewell the Starlights. Noisy and happy, colourful and warm.
"Stop it," she said between clenched teeth.
"Haruka?" Michiru turned.
"Stop it," she repeated. She didn't know who she's even talking to.
"Stop what?" Setsuna's voice wass disinterested, her focus entirely on her magazine – and Haruka realized with disbelief, was taking notes. On skirts. "The complete silence?"
"You did that already," Hotaru replied in a dead-pan little-girl voice that made the whole thing surreal beyond belief.
She thought she saw a ghost of a smile on Michiru's face.
"Please," Haruka said again. "Just... look at us."
Two pairs of eyes were focused on them – one innocent violet, the other amused crimson.
"We can't stop what we're not doing, Haruka." Setsuna's voice was gentle and almost motherly. "I think you'll find..."
"You're doing it all by yourselves," Hotaru finished for her, and stood up, kneeling on the couch next to Setsuna to look at Haruka and Michiru. "You did it for the Princess."
Michiru took a step towards the pair, as if she was unsure of the welcome. "I don't think I can do it again," she said, looking Setsuna straight in the eye.
Setsuna shrugged, an almost foreign action for her. "You're a smart girl, Michiru. Find a different way."
One pale hand goes to her face, and Michiru was half laughing with something akin to relief, and Hotaru stood up on the lounge, reaching out for her Michiru-mama, wrapping her arms around her neck, but staring at Haruka with all-knowing child's eyes.
She wanted it to be this easy, she really did. But...
"Would you have done it?" she pressed. She has to know. "Would you have done the same thing in our place?"
Setsuna smiled at her, and got Hotaru to sit back down on the lounge before she lost her balance.
"We'll never know how it could have been different, Haruka. Would you change anything that's happened?"
They lie awake together that night, moonlight streaming through the open window. Michiru shivers and curls closer to her, a brush of lips against her collar bone; fingers tracing along her hip, against her thigh, curving around a breast. She kisses her again, and it feels like they've come in a full circle.
They've got everything they need – a Queen, the greatest Queen the universe will ever see; a King with eyes for no one else, and a future that stretches far ahead of them, like the winding roads she used to drive Michiru along when they first came to Tokyo.
She can almost see the smile on Michiru's face in the dark, and presses a kiss to her cold nose.
Usagi sent the Light of Hope back into the minds of everyone. Even if they don't feel it every second of every battle, it is there. And maybe she – maybe both of them – can put some faith in Usagi's words, that maybe there will come a time when their way will be the way that is needed.
"Haruka," Michiru's voice was quiet, husky, her hands dipping underneath the sheets. "Stop thinking."
Hotaru stared up at the sky, her eyes wide as the sun sank below the horizon, the pinks and golds of the sunset long since swallowed up by the darkening violets and blues of the evening sky. Every so often, the little girl's hand would drift up to the silk rose that held a familiar shawl around her shoulders .
"What are we looking for, Haruka-papa?" Hotaru was studying the sky with the sort of intensity that belied her age.
"Wait and see," Setsuna said to the little girl.
"But how will I know what I'm looking for?" Hotaru sighed.
"It wouldn't be a surprise if we told you," Michiru teased her, a hand coming out to stroke her dark hair. Hotaru pouted but continued to watch the sky, the companionable silence interrupted only by a gentle breeze and the sounds of the ocean below them.
And then the darkness of the sky lit up
Hotaru gasped. "A shooting star!"
Setsuna smiled at the little girl's amazement. "What did you wish for?"
Hotaru looked at her. "It's a secret! What was your wish?"
Setsuna looked back up at the sky, her amusement evident. "It's a secret."
"That's sneaky, Setsuna-mama!"
Michiru tried not to laugh at the look on Hotaru's face at Setsuna's response before turning to Haruka.
"They're going home," she said softly.
Haruka inclined her head slightly, her eyes fixed on the lights in the sky. "They aren't shooting stars, Hotaru, but great stars that shine brightly in the night sky." She looked back at Michiru, who nodded once in agreement.
Hotaru shrugged and jumped down from where she was perched on the side of Haruka's car. "What did you both wish for?" she asked.
Michiru smiled at the little girl and motioned for Setsuna to shuffle up, before resting her head on Haruka's shoulder.
"There's nothing I need to wish for. This is my – our - happiest moment." The little girl smiled brightly and turned to lean over the guard rail, to look down at the ocean.
Haruka looked down at Michiru and then back up at the sky – the stars had faded from sight.