Disclaimer: I don't own Sailor Moon.
An uncomfortable feeling Usagi sat staring into the cup of tea in her hands. Aware that all eyes were on her, she felt extremely self-conscious. Not one word had been said since all the senshis along with Mamoru and the two cats had all crowded into Rei's room.
'Maybe I should have just left after all,' Usagi thought as the uneasy silence had built her doubts back up tenfold, ' I don't even know what to say.'
"Usagi-chan," Ami said finally breaking the silence, "How are you feeling right now? Did any of your injuries reopen?"
"Don't worry Ami-chan. My wounds are fine," Usagi said giving her friend a weak smile, "But truthfully I'm feeling kinda tired."
"That's what happens when you run all around Juban when you're still recovering," Rei scolded.
"What were you thinking? You could have collapsed from exhaustion," Haruka added in a harsh tone, "If you really wanted to visit everyone I could have driven you around."
"I'm sorry, but I knew you guys would have made me stay in bed for at least a few more days and...," Usagi trailed off as her gaze returned to her cup of tea.
"And you still feel uncomfortable around us right now," Mamoru finished in a hurt tone.
Afraid to meet any of their eyes, Usagi continued to stare into the cup of tea and gave a slight nod of her head.
"I've made you guys worried so much and said hurtful things. I even threatened and attacked all of you. And even now after everything is over I can't find the courage to face any of you. I wouldn't blame you guys if you hated me," Usagi said truthfully in a shaky voice.
"Baka," Rei yelled surprising Usagi, "We could never hate you no matter what you do."
"That's right Usagi-chan. You're our precious friend and nothing can change that," Makoto said.
"The kindness and hope you've gave us are things we would never forget. We treasure your friendship, so how could we ever bring ourselves to hate you," Minako said.
"Usagi," Michiru called in a tone that demanded the moon princess to turn to her and listen to her next words carefully, "You alone have brought each one of us here out of our walls. We trust you not because you were Princess Serenity in your past life, but because you have earned it. You proved time and time again how you're willing to put your very life at risk in order to protect others especially us. You want to protect us because we are important to you, but isn't it the same with us?"
Letting out a sigh, Usagi gave a slight shook of her head before saying, "It isn't the same. I understand when we're on the battlefield that we would all do our best to keep everyone else out of harms way, but it isn't that simple. There were so many times where each of you would not only risk your own life but the others as well just to protect me. No matter how you put it, we're never equals on the battlefield. My safety always came first. No matter how much stronger I get that never changes. In all of your eyes I will always be the helpless princess that needs protection!"
"No," Usagi quickly interrupted Mamoru knowing he was about to protest, "Don't even try to deny it! Countless times...countless times I've watched each of you get hurt...even die...it's just too much."
"Usagi," Rei whispered sadly as all of them were unable to produce any comforting words to their distraught princess.
"Ever since Galaxia I would have nightmares where I relive all the times I was left alone because all of you had sacrificed yourselves to protect me. I would hear your pained screams, see your lifeless bodies and be reminded of how useless I was...it was the same thing every night," Usagi finally admitted in a broken whisper as tears slid down her face.
Instinctively, Mamoru pulled her into his embrace as she began to sob uncontrollably. All the fears and guild Usagi had kept hidden for months released in that one instant. The senshis could only watch in silence as their princess cried. Not another word was said.
"Is she still asleep," Minako asked Rei who slide the screen door closed behind her.
"Yes. Mamoru-san's watching her," Rei replied as she took a sit next to Ami on the porch step.
"Months. I can't believe she kept all that in for months," Minako said sadly.
"If only I paid closer attention to her," Luna said with eyes full of guilt, "I knew she had nightmares a few times, but I didn't know she had them every night."
"Don't blame yourself Luna," Artemis said as he placed a paw on Luna's shoulder, "If she didn't want anyone to know, she would have found a way to hide it from you."
"You know how Usagi-chan is," Makoto added, "She never wants to have us worry about her. She's always been good at hiding her problems. Like that time when she hadn't heard from Mamoru-san for weeks. It took a long time before we found out and it was only after she broke down from worry...kinda like this time."
"She's too kind and stubborn," Rei said with a frown as tears welled up in her eyes, "Always worrying about others more than herself. Why can't she put her own feelings first for once?"
"If she did, she wouldn't be Usagi now would she," Minako said with a weak smile.
"Right now the question is how do we calm her fears," Michiru said.
"Well we can't sit back and not fight any new enemies that may appear in the future like she wants us to," Haruka said gruffly with a frown, "I always said she was too soft. She's just not suited for the warrior's life. We may not like it, but people are bound to get hurt in battles."
"Yes, but I think I can understand a little of how Usagi-chan feels," Ami said catching everyone's attention, "It was only for a few minutes, but Usagi-chan had died protecting us on that asteroid where we defeated the Kisenian blossom."
"What? When did this happen," Haruka demanded loudly causing Michiru to remind her that Usagi was sleeping inside.
"This was before the Death Busters. We hadn't met you two yet," Minako explained, "But I get what you're saying Ami-chan. It was terrifying to see her lifeless body. I kept wishing it could have been me instead of her."
"And it was only one time," Makoto said with a grim look, "Not only that, but we had each other. All those times Usagi watched us fall, she was left by herself to burden all of the guilt and sorrow on her own."
The two outers watched silently at the four inners remembering the horrible feelings that arose that day. Having never witness the death of their princess in this life, the two could only guess the intensity of the pain the inners must have felt at failing their princess. Even just the thought was unbearable.
"So we can understand a little of her feelings, but that still doesn't solve anything," Rei said with a shake of her head, "All we've accomplished is confirming how much we want to protect her like she does us. That's more counterproductive than helpful."
Each let out a sigh before silence fell once more where each became wrapped up in their own thoughts.
Inside, Mamoru had listened to the girls' conversation in silence while watching the sleeping Usagi. The tears have long since dried, but the tear marks remained. The soft sound of her breathing along with the rhythmic rise and fall of her chest gave a peaceful feeling to Mamoru. It was almost as if she had not broken down crying just moments ago.
"Usako," he whispered as he brushed aside her bangs.
'What can I do to help you smile again?'
The bright shine of the morning sun shone through the screen doors and woke the sleeping Mamoru. Rubbing the sleepiness out of his eyes, he became completely awake when he noticed Usagi was missing.
"Usako," he yelled as he leapt up and pushed the screen door open.
To his relief, Mamoru found Usagi only a few feet away gazing into the clear blue sky. Letting out an inaudible sigh of relief, Mamoru slowly approached her. Aware of his presence, Usagi turned her gaze away from the sky and smiled at him.
"Good morning Mamo-chan," she said in a soft yet content sounding voice.
Surprised by this seemingly sudden change of mood, Mamoru wondered if perhaps he was still asleep and this was only a dream.
As if reading his thoughts, Usagi let out a giggle as she said, "You're not dreaming Mamo-chan."
To prove her point, Usagi walked up to him and pinched him on the cheek causing Mamoru to step back with an "ow."
"See," she said with an amused smile.
Immediately, Mamoru pulled her into his arms and held her tight as if afraid she might vanish at any moment.
"I've missed you Usako," he said as he buried his face between her neck and shoulder.
"I'm sorry for making you and others worry Mamo-chan, but I'm fine now," Usagi said as she returned his embrace.
Lifting his head back up, Mamoru looked searchingly into his princess's eyes asking, "You're not trying to hide your worries again are you Usako?"
Giving a shake of her head, Usagi replied, "Don't worry Mamo-chan. Letting it all out yesterday really helped me feel lighter. I guess a good cry can go a long way."
Then gently pushing out of her prince's embrace, Usagi returned her gaze to the clear sky for a moment before saying, "I also heard what the others were talking about yesterday. It felt like I was dreaming, but I know I wasn't."
Turning back to Mamoru, Usagi gently held his hand and said, "Their words got me thinking about what queen Serenity said to me in my dream while I was still recovering after sealing Chaos away, but I'll wait until the others come to tell you what I've figured out."
With that promise, Usagi smiled and began tugging Mamoru back toward the screen doors as she jokingly said she wanted some breakfast before she faint from starvation.
"Glad to see you back to your old self Usagi-chan," Makoto said.
The five girls sat around the table in Rei's room like they usually did in their study sessions with Mamoru sitting next to Usagi while the two outers sat by the screen doors. Luna and Artemis took their usual position on the table.
"I'll say she's back to her old self. She ate like a pig this morning," Rei said in her usual tone but with a smile on her face, "It wouldn't hurt to gain a little self-control Odango."
"Oh you're so mean Rei-chan. I'm still recovering so of course I'm going to eat a little more than usual," Usagi argued with crossed arms as he glared at her friend sitting next to her.
"Well if you keep eating like that there won't be enough food in the whole Juban to help you recover fully," Rei shot back causing their usual tongue war to ensue.
While the two outers chuckled at the two's antic since it was one of their few times seeing this, the others let out tired sighs.
Clearing her throat to catch the two girls' attention, Luna said, "I believe there are more important matters to discuss right now."
With a slight blush on each of their face, the two sat back down.
"Usagi why don't you tell us what you told Mamoru you've figured out this morning," Luna said.
"Well after I sealed away Chaos, Queen Serenity appeared in my dream," Usagi said as everyone gave her their undivided attention, "She knew I was confused and listened to my doubts. The words she said that stuck to me the most was, 'Love can give us strength, but it can also blind us from the truth.' At first I didn't really understand, but when I heard your conversation yesterday it made me realize something...no, realize isn't the right word. It was more like it made me face something I've known all along, but had refused to acknowledge."
Turning to face the two outers, Usagi smiled and said, "Haruka you're right about how there will be someone getting hurt in every battle. It's a simple fact that can never be changed. It's a fact that I've always refused to accept and because of that made me blind to the emotional pain of others. Because I couldn't accept the fact, I only focused on how much it hurt me to see any of you get hurt protecting me. I never considered how much pain you guys go through when you see me hurt trying to protect you guys. Because of that, I ended up causing us more grief than it would have been if I had accepted that simple fact. I'm sorry."
"You're not the only one at fault Usagi-chan," Makoto said, "The truth is non of us have really accepted that. You weren't wrong when you accused us of never giving a thought to your emotional pain since we've always focused on the physical damages."
"It'll be hard, but we just have to try to understand each other's desire to protect and accept their decision to do so," Minako said with an encouraging smile.
"We'll just have to trust each other completely," Usagi said remembering her mother's words.
"Well it would seem everything turned out for the better," Michiru said with a smile, "Chaos ended up helping us face what we had refused to face."
"Yeah," Haruka said with a smile of her own.
"Oh no," Luna suddenly exclaimed, "We forgot to retrieve that black crystal that Chaos was sealed in!"
Shouts of urgency arose as the senshis scrambled to get up.
"Calm down you guys," Usagi yelled over their cries and held out the black crystal catching all of their attention, "I already retrieved it yesterday. You think I would forget this after all the trouble I went through to seal it away?"
As Rei was about to reply, Usagi shot her a warning look before saying, "Don't say a word."
"What," Rei asked with an innocent look.
"You know full well you were planning to pick on me," Usagi replied.
"You insult me Usagi. I only speak truths," Rei said matter of factly with crossed arms.
"Why you...," Usagi began as the two resumed their earlier argument.
The others only laughed at the arguing pair. It felt nice to see things returned to normal. Doubts and fears were forgotten as everyone just enjoyed this moment of peace.
'Good to have you back Usako.'
A/N: Finally finished. This story is officially over. I was thinking of whether I could make an epilogue, but I decided against it. Don't think it would turn out well =\ Anyway thank you to those who had stuck with me through this whole story. It's been fun. Would appreciate it if you can drop me some comments on how you felt this story turn out or maybe just a comment on this chapter.