OLD WAYS AND NEW FEELINGS
Haruka was shaking that night. It was so unusual Michiru didn't quite know what to do. They'd both been lucky that day; even though Michiru had been tossed off a precipice into a pounding waterfall she'd gotten away with nothing more than a few scrapes and bruises, and Haruka's shoulder, once it was cleaned up, was not as bad as it first appeared.
It could so easily have been much worse.
Water was Michiru's element, and it would always be kind to her, but even so, if there'd been rocks at the bottom of that pool to tear a fragile human body to pieces, she would not be lying here right now with only scrapes and bruises. The impact as she'd hit the water, drowning under the hard rush of the falls, had been punishing, but at least the water had been deep enough to cushion her, pushing her down into depths she found calming rather than frightening. She'd stayed under for a long time, not wanting to come up again, afraid of facing Kaorinite, afraid of dying, and ashamed of it.
Michiru shifted, the soft skin of her partner giving and settling beneath her like a warm, breathing pillow. "Why did you come back for me?" she whispered.
"I told you," said Haruka gruffly. "It was Sailor Moon, not me. She's the one who rescued you."
"I don't buy that. She wouldn't have been able to make you come back if you didn't want to."
Michiru felt Haruka's hand find hers in the dark, clutching tightly.
"I think we made a mistake."
"This pact not to help each other when we're in trouble. I can't do it. I know it's what we agreed, I know it's sensible, but…"
"But, if Sailor Moon hadn't made me go back for you…No, I'm lying. If Sailor Moon hadn't given me an excuse to do what I wanted to do anyway, then right now I would be lying here alone not knowing if you were alive or dead. And I couldn't go on with our mission like that; just forget about you and carry on as if you didn't matter. Because you do matter to me Michiru, more than anything else in this life. Maybe even more than my duty as a soldier."
"Don't say that," said Michiru sharply. "You can't say that. We don't have the luxury of—"
"Of what?" said Haruka angrily. "Having feelings?"
"Of acting on the feelings that we have."
"But we've done that already. You did that the very first time you revealed yourself to me as Neptune. It was my destiny to be a soldier, but you tried to make me turn it aside. You risked your life to protect me even though there was no one to take your place. It's how we fight, Michiru. We're alone, apart from the other senshi, and that's never going to be any different, but…"
Michiru felt Haruka's hand tighten further.
"At least we have each other. That's worth fighting to protect, isn't it?"
"Yes, yes of course it is, but…I don't know if it's permitted."
"What are you talking about?"
"In the time before, we were bound to our planets. We protected the solar system from there, in isolation, rarely seeing each other and never seeing anyone else. This time, it's different. This time, we live in the world and…I can touch you. I don't know what that means. I don't know if we still have to behave as we did back then."
"Well I'm not going to," said Haruka. "I know what it is to be alone, and I don't want to return to that state. Not now I've found you. If I must sacrifice my dreams, I will. If I must get blood on my hands to protect this planet, I will. But I will not lose you, Michiru. If I do, there will be nothing left for me to fight for. There is no future I could want to have in this world, without you."
"So, that's how I feel. If you want to stick to the promise, that's all right, I don't mind. But I can't. I'm not that pure."
Michiru kissed Haruka, tasting warm lips and wind-scented skin. "Yes you are," she whispered. She sighed. "You're right. If you were in trouble, I couldn't just run away and forget about you. I'd do everything I could to save you, even if it meant sacrificing our mission. Even if it meant failing in my duty as a solider. I…can't pretend that you don't matter that much to me."
"Well." Haruka resettled her arm around Michiru's waist. "I'm glad that's sorted out. We should get some sleep. We have school tomorrow."
Michiru laughed. "We lead a strange life, Haruka."
"I wouldn't change it for any other. A life without you is unimaginable, Michiru."
"Mmm, kiss me," said Michiru.
Haruka didn't take much persuading.
The next morning, when Haruka and Michiru turned up late to school with shadows under their eyes, the teachers shook their heads knowingly and wrote yet another note next to their names on the school role book, but neither was very inclined to care.