In the future, Michiru was always to wonder what drew her to the racetrack that day. She could have said she was responding to the call of destiny, but somehow, she didn't think that was it. She knew that even if this, the life she was living, was what others called destined, she was not merely some helpless pawn driven by fate. She had chosen this life as much as it had chosen her; she had made the choice a long time ago not to destroy those parts of herself that were extraordinary just so she could have an easy life, and she thought that this, as much as anything, had determined the person she became.
Michiru didn't regret it when she awakened as Sailor Neptune at the beginning of her fifteenth year. She was alone, and her mission was one of pain and sorrow, but she knew it wouldn't always be like that. One day she would come. The one who would fight at her side. The one to whom she would open her heart. The one who would become her partner. She knew this, like she knew that the sun would rise.
That day at the track, there was the smell of spring in the air. It was the sixth of March, and Michiru didn't know what she was doing there; a group of girls she knew from school had spotted her at the library and dragged her along, and somehow she couldn't muster up the energy to refuse. Perhaps she was feeling lonely. After all, she was fifteen today and nobody knew, nobody cared. Perhaps this uncharacteristic outing was Michiru's gift to herself, a chance to forget the weight of her choices, just for a little while.
They got to the racetrack early and easily found good seats. Michiru sat with the other girls, but did not feel a part of them, listening to their chatter as if they were children engaged in some immature game.
"I can't wait to start year nine," one of the girls gushed. "My father promised me I could finally start dating this year. Now if only I could meet a cute boy!"
"Yeah," another girl sighed. "A guy who's really good-looking and mature. Who knows how to dress and smells nice. Who can talk about the stuff in the business pages of the newspaper and impress your dad at dinner."
The others all nodded enthusiastically in agreement.
"How about you, Michiru?" asked Elsa, the one who had invited her to come.
"Hmm?" said Michiru distractedly.
"Is your father strict about boys? I guess he must be. I don't think I've ever even seen you talk to a boy before."
"I live alone," said Michiru quietly, "so I can do what I like."
"Huh?" said Elsa. "You live alone? But aren't your parents really rich?"
"They are," said Michiru. "Which is why we don't have to live together. They can afford to maintain me outside of home. Excuse me." She got up and walked away, ignoring the whispered conversation she could hear behind her.
"Why did you invite her, Elsa? She's such a weirdo."
"I just felt sorry for her, that's all," Michiru heard Elsa reply. "She always seems so alone…"
Already bored with her classmates, Michiru wandered away with no clear idea of where she was going. She began to compose a piece of violin music in her head, a strange and sad melody that sometimes flashed with an unexpected and recurring strain of joy. She would have said it was a reflection of her life, except that her life contained no happiness.
When she came to herself, she realised she had wandered far away from the viewing stands and was down in a maze of sheds behind one of the pits; probably somewhere she wasn't supposed to be. She was about to go when she was stopped by the sound of voices.
"Since this is your first race, just go easy okay Tenoh? There's no need to push yourself. No one expects you to win. Just go out there and get a feel for the competition. And don't take any risks you don't have to, otherwise I'll be wiping what's left of you off the tarmac."
A voice younger than Michiru expected replied, a husky and distant voice that, for some reason, set her heart beating and made her stomach clench.
"Huh. That's not the pep-talk I expected. I don't know what you think I'm doing here, but I came to win, and that is what I intend to do. I will use any means I can to accomplish my goal."
"For pity's sake Tenoh, everyone racing out there is older and more experienced than you are. If you're not careful—"
"If I was careful, I wouldn't be here. I don't want to be careful. I want to race. I want to win."
"Well," said the first speaker, sounding resigned and more than a little fond, "I know how stubborn you are. If that's what you want to do, then I wish you the best of luck…And the protection of every god who watches over this planet."
Intrigued, Michiru inched around the corner of the building she was standing next to, hoping to catch sight of the mysterious driver who sounded so determined, so unlike the conformist cowards she took most people for. She saw two people standing next to a race car, and as she watched, one of them, the younger of the two, smiled scornfully.
"I don't need the protection of gods when I have the wind on my side."
As Michiru watched the driver say those words, it was as if time slowed and froze, a single moment stretching out into forever. Burned into her mind was the image of a proud head tossed arrogantly, blue-green eyes flashing fearlessly, short, sandy coloured hair blowing in a sudden gust of wind that swept over them as if in response to the speaker's claim. Dressed in a race suit hid any indication of gender, there was nothing that should have led Michiru to assume the driver was not male, yet somehow, she knew she was looking at a girl. And though that should have surprised her, it didn't. She felt as though she had stepped into a vision or a dream, a place where events, no matter how strange, were accepted without question.
What she did wonder was what had happened in this girl's life to make her so extraordinary, to make her shine with honesty and courage the way she did, because Michiru knew from experience that extraordinary people rarely came from ordinary circumstances.
Putting on her helmet, the girl folded her long body into the cramped cabin of the race car, and the man she was with leaned down to her. "Look after yourself…Haruka," he said.
Michiru walked back to her classmates in a daze. The stands were considerably more crowded by this time, and though normally Michiru hated being hemmed in like this, today she hardly noticed, searching with her eyes for Haruka's car. She felt a flutter of excitement when she found it.
"Hey Michiru," said Elsa, "have you looked at the program yet? We've all chosen a driver to back. You should pick one too."
"I already have," said Michiru distantly, watching Haruka's car. "Tenoh Haruka."
"Tenoh Haruka?" Elsa frowned. "I don't remember seeing him mentioned anywhere."
Another girl, overhearing, snorted in derision. "That's because he only got accepted at the last minute. Technically, he's too young to be driving, but his trainer knows everyone in the racing world and managed it somehow. But Tenoh's a real amateur, with no idea of what he's doing. There's no way he's going to win."
"We'll see," Michiru said coolly.
By the time the race finished, not only Michiru's classmates, but the entire audience body watching from the stands, had been converted into dedicated Haruka fans, so spectacular had her driving been. Michiru's classmates yelled and screamed all they were worth as Haruka received her cup of victory from two scantily clad women, but she didn't even glance in their direction, for which Michiru was grateful.
"Wow Michiru," Elsa said enthusiastically as they were walking home, "you sure were right about Haruka. He was amazing. You've got incredible taste. It's so great to see you finally taking an interest in a guy."
"I'm not taking an interest in a guy," said Michiru, though she knew Elsa wouldn't understand what she meant.
"Look, Michiru, just because other people are interested in Haruka too now doesn't mean you have to stop. You don't have to be different all the time, do you?"
Michiru only smiled.
There was soon a devoted Haruka fan club at Michiru's school, but Michiru never joined. Nor did she participate in the many conversations that were always taking place around the subject of Haruka, though, somewhat to her shame, she often knew more than her classmates did. For one thing, she knew that Haruka was a girl, which – apparently – nobody else did. In the articles that Michiru read, she noted that the authors always went to great lengths to avoid gendered pronouns, neither confirming nor denying that Haruka was one gender or the other, and just allowing people to assume she was male because of the arena she was participating in.
Michiru liked this approach, more so than if Haruka had rejected her gender and called herself a man. After all, that would have constituted accepting a lesser identity than the one she possessed, and Michiru would not have respected her for it. This way, Haruka merely let people's stupidity guard her secret, and somehow, Michiru imagined Haruka would enjoy the irony of that.
When interviewed, Michiru also noted that Haruka never spoke of spoke of friends or family, and she wondered about that. As Haruka's racing career progressed with win after incredible win, she was often surrounded by crowds of adoring girls and envious boys. Yet her eyes were always distant and watching her, Michiru knew that even now Haruka was alone, just like her, and it made her heart ache with longing. But Haruka never asked for pity or sympathy from anyone, seeming to accept her isolation with a courage and grace that made Michiru envious.
The strength of her feelings for this unknown girl caused Michiru more than a little trepidation, and, after three months of observing Haruka's life, unseen and unremarked, Michiru felt it was time for a serious talk with herself. Am I falling in love with her? she asked silently. How can I be, when I don't even know her, when I've never even spoken to her? Clearly, the answer was that it couldn't be love. This feeling, Michiru decided, was nothing more than a schoolgirl crush, destined only to become a foolish memory of youth with all the faded sweetness of dried rose petals. Besides, how could Haruka become a part of her life when Michiru had chosen to be a soldier? She already had someone she was meant to be with. It would be better if Haruka never found out who she was, and Michiru forgot her.
Yet despite her resolve, Haruka continued to appear in Michiru's thoughts with alarming regularity.
And all this time, Michiru's lonely fight against the enemy continued, and as the city began to swelter through another hot, sticky summer, she began to wonder if she'd been mistaken, if there would be no one to fight beside her after all. Perhaps the one who was to become her partner had died in a freakish accident; perhaps something had gone wrong with the alignment of the stars and she had never been born. For evil was stirring in the earth, Michiru could feel it, and surely, if there was another senshi sleeping in the body of a human girl, she too should have felt that evil, and awakened. If this was how it was to be, if she was always to be so alone, Michiu didn't know how she could bear it, but she told herself she must.
"To save the world," she whispered to herself in the lonely night. "The world in which Haruka exists. To protect her, I can do it. I can bear this loneliness."
It was that night she had the dream. The dream where she finally saw the other soldier's face. It wasn't the first time Michiru had dreamed of her, the other soldier. But before, her face had always been in shadow, and no matter how hard she tried, Michiru could never make her out.
That night, it was as if the other soldier was bathed in moonlight – silver, beautiful, and Michiru, at last, could see every detail of her. And wished she couldn't. That sandy blonde hair, those fearless blue-green eyes, the way she moved, with a dancer's grace. All these things Michiru recognised, and before she knew what she had done, she drew in a breath and called.
She saw Haruka's eyes widen as they met her own, and she knew this was not the product of her own imagination, that this dream was hers and Haruka's both. In the sleeping darkness their minds had sought one another out, and Michiru knew it was useless to hope her actions would have no impact on the world of day.
She awoke gasping, covered in sweat as if she had run for miles. "Oh god," she whispered, her hands clutching tightly at the sheets. "I called her. I—" she choked and swallowed. "Not her," she said desperately, not knowing with whom she was pleading. "Anyone but her – please. She doesn't deserve to be drawn into this world of darkness."
But she's the one you want, some part of her heart whispered. This is what you want, to be with her, always.
"No, not like this," Michiru whispered. "To be taken from the light and dragged into the darkness with me. No, I won't let it happen. I won't let her awaken."
But Michiru knew her own words were false. She knew she had already decided in her heart to do everything she could to ensure that Haruka awakened, because she just couldn't stand the loneliness any longer.
"I'm sorry," she whispered over and over, tears staining her pillow. "I'm so sorry, Haruka."
The next day, the news was all over the school – Tenoh Haruka was a girl!
The fans were devastated.
Mostly because of Elsa, who'd nabbed her at lunchtime, Michiru found herself, somewhat unwillingly, in the midst of some of Haruka's previously most dedicated fans, hearing how the great discovery had come about.
"She's joined the track team of her school," one of the girls explained, "and that's when everyone found out that he was a she. Apparently, she can run like the wind – there's no one who can beat her."
"I will," said Elsa confidently. "I'm going to be running against her in two week's time. I'll make sure I don't lose."
"It's so unfair," another girl moaned. "She's so attractive – why does she have to be a girl? All my dreams are ruined now, ruined!"
Elsa glanced at Michiru with a smile. "It looks like you were right after all not to pursue Haruka like we did. You'll be the only girl in the city who can hold her head up high."
"Actually," said Michiru, "I've known Haruka was a girl all along. It doesn't change how I feel about her; I still want to cruise along the beach in her car, even if only for one time."
The effect of Michiru's words was immediate, and almost humorously exaggerated. Mouths dropped open, eyes grew as big as saucers, and gasps of shock and horror accompanied terrified expressions as those closest to Michiru very deliberately stepped back.
All, that is, except for Elsa.
"Oh – my – god," one of the girls bit out. "Are you serious?"
"Why shouldn't I be?" said Michiru, tossing her hair in irritation.
"But she's a girl, and so are you!"
"So, are you saying you're a – you're a—"
"Maybe I am," said Michiru quietly. "But I don't see why you all care so much. You're not my friends."
She turned and walked away, leaving the dumbfounded girls behind her. She was surprised to hear footsteps behind her, running to catch up.
"Hey, Michiru, wait up!"
No one had ever run after Michiru before. It made her uncomfortable to be pursed as if she was someone who mattered, but she stopped and waited until Elsa caught up with her. "Aren't you afraid to be seen with me now?" she asked.
Elsa only laughed. "I don't care about their opinions. I think you're cool."
"Thank you," said Michiru, genuinely touched.
"Also, I was going to ask if you wanted me to introduce you to Haruka."
"W-what? You don't know her, do you?"
"No, but I'm going to be racing against her in two weeks time, remember? Perhaps it'll take the sting out of her defeat if I have a pretty girl handy."
Michiru smiled. She didn't think Elsa could win against Haruka, but didn't say so. Then her smile faded as she thought about what the repercussions would be if she and Haruka were to meet. She would be forcing Haruka onto the road that would lead to her inevitable awakening as a soldier, and, given that Haruka had not already awakened despite the growing threat of the Death Busters, Michiru could only assume it was because she didn't want to. The best thing she could do for Haruka was stay away from her, but she knew she wouldn't.
"You couldn't just say I wanted to meet her without a reason," said Michiru, still not really admitting she was actually going to go through with it.
"But that's easy," said Elsa. She indicated Michiru's ever present sketchbook. "Ask her to be a model for one of your drawings."
To Michiru's mortification, she blushed. "I – don't know if I could do that."
"Of course you can," Elsa encouraged her. "From what I hear, Haruka is a lot like you. People admire her, but she doesn't have many real friends – she keeps people at a distance."
Michiru smiled. "Doesn't that make it more likely she'll refuse me?"
"I don't know, maybe." Elsa frowned. "But when I think about the two of you, I get a funny feeling, like—"
"I don't know. Like the two of you would go well together. But it's up to you. Would you like me to introduce you?"
Michiru hung her head and clutched her sketchbook tightly. "Yes," she whispered. "I want to meet her. I want to meet…Haruka."
The sunlight was so bright on the morning of the track meet, shining down on Michiru's world so that all seemed to take on the unnatural Technicolor brightness of a dream. She watched from the stands as the athletes prepared, her eyes straying to Haruka of their own accord, and she wondered how many times she had sat like this now, a secret observer of Haruka's life, too afraid to approach her, letting the call of destiny go unheard.
But no more. Today she would meet her. Today would be the day both their lives changed forever.
She watched without surprise as Haruka won the race easily. Long limbs moving so effortlessly; it was like she was flying. The other athletes were slow and clumsy beside her, crude creatures fashioned heavily of clay. Even Elsa, straining every nerve in her body in a futile attempt to beat the wind.
Not for the first time, Michiru wondered what it would be like to fight beside her, beside Haruka; she who possessed so much grace and power. She imagined it would be like dancing, each perfectly in sync with the other, knowing each other's minds without a word ever having to be spoken. And somehow, with the heat and the sun beating down on her head, that image became something else in Michiru's mind; something that seemed like it was half memory, half fantasy. She felt soft lips against her skin, strong arms twining about her as she opened her legs to accommodate Haruka's lean, beautiful body, gentle fingers between her legs searching, searching…
Michiru couldn't repress a shudder as the wave of arousal crashed over her. Already Elsa was waving to her, asking her to come down, and it was too soon and Michiru wasn't ready for this. She could feel wetness beneath her skirt as she stood, clutching her sketchbook tightly with pounding heart. Her legs were unsteady beneath her as she walked down to the track and waited nervously while Elsa spoke to the seemingly indifferent Haruka, telling her there was someone she wanted her to meet.
"This is Kaioh Michiru," Elsa said, and as Michiru stepped forward, she didn't miss the way Haruka's eyes widened slightly as she looked at her. She smiled, feeling slightly more at ease. At least she knew Haruka wasn't indifferent to her attractions.
"Michiru is really intelligent," Elsa was continuing, "and she's said to be a prodigious painter. She says she's interested in you."
"You aren't sweating at all," Michiru commented to Haruka, keeping her voice light. "Perhaps you were holding back quite a bit?"
Haruka placed her hands defensively on her hips. "What do you mean?"
"Can't you hear the sound of the wind rustling?" Michiru said softly, and as she spoke, the world seemed to fall away, to consist of nothing but her and Haruka and a meeting written in the stars. She saw the surprise on Haruaka's face, the recognition in her eyes as she realised that Michiru was the one, the one in her dreams calling her to her destiny. It was as if the universe held its breath, and Michiru could feel her own pupils pulsing with the intensity of this moment as she waited, trembling, for Haruka to respond.
But it was no good. Even before she spoke, Michiru could see the rejection in Haruka's eyes.
"You're weird," she said carelessly, picking up her bag and turning away. "So, what do you want with me?"
"Will you be a model for one of my drawings?" Michiru already knew what Haruka's answer would be, but she asked anyway.
"Pass," said Haruka in a bored voice. "I don't like stuff like that." She walked away, and Michiru dropped her eyes, an overwhelming sadness drawing itself over her heart like a shroud. Two teardrops fell to the ground, but were soon evaporated by the heat. So much for destiny.
"It's okay, Michiru," said Elsa comfortingly.
Using her straw, Michiru poked miserably at the cream on top of her iced chocolate and didn't say anything. She didn't even like milk drinks like this, but after Haruka's rudeness, Elsa had insisted on taking her to a café to cheer her up, and ordered the drink without even asking what Michiru wanted, saying that chocolate was essential for situations such as this.
Seeing Michiru's dejection, Elsa tried again. "Look," she said hesitantly. "Even if you are…you know, into girls, I'm sure Haruka isn't the only other girl our age who is…that way inclined. You'll meet someone else. Someone way better than her."
"I don't want anyone else," said Michiru quietly.
"But she was so rude to you! If someone treated me like that, I certainly wouldn't want to keep trying to be their friend."
"But you're friends with me, aren't you?" Michiru pointed out. "I'm not an easy person to be friends with."
"You're not rude. You're just withdrawn, like you're always thinking about something terribly important that no one else would understand, but when you remember to be, you're kind and funny and you say interesting things, and I don't think Haruka is anything like that. I think she's just mean the whole way through. I can't see how she'd make you happy."
"I don't think Haruka is mean," said Michiru quietly. "Today, she was afraid. That's why she acted like that."
"Afraid? What did she have to be afraid of? A beautiful girl being interested in her? How terrible."
Michiru smiled slightly. "I can't really explain. But…I need to see her again. Only, not like this. Not a situation where she feels trapped. She has to feel that she can make the decision to come or not, as she wishes."
Elsa stared at her disbelievingly. "You're really determined to keep trying?"
Elsa shook her head. "I think you're mad."
"That's all right, I don't mind."
"Well." Elsa propped her chin in her hand as she thought. "Aren't you giving a violin recital in a few days time?"
"Yes, on a cruise ship."
"That's easy then. Invite Haruka to attend your recital. You can even throw in a free dinner as extra incentive."
"I guess it's worth a try. Thanks, Elsa."
Michiru's eyes were sad that night as she played. Usually, there was no pain so deep she couldn't expel it through music, but this was different. No matter how lonely her life had been, Michiu had always taken comfort from the knowledge that someday she would no longer be alone. But now even that was lost to her and she saw a future stretching before her, grey and bleak, with no relief at all until a violent death claimed her. Not even her violin could take away the anguish of this cruel trick of fate. It should have given her hope that Haruka had come at all, but it didn't. Not with the way she sat alone at her table, refusing to order anything more than a soft drink, ignoring anyone who tried to speak to her, staring at Michiru with hard, resentful eyes.
Still, Michiru tried to talk to her afterwards. She knew that Elsa was wrong about Haruka; she wasn't mean or heartless or anything like that. She pushed people away because she was afraid, of getting hurt, of not being understood, of losing the strength and independence she was so proud of. Michiru knew she just had to find the right way to reach her.
It's stupid, she thought. Once I must have known her so well, but now…Now I wish I knew what to do.
"Thank you for coming here tonight," she tried. "Tenoh Haruka-san, the prodigious racer."
"You seem to know quite a bit about me," Haruka replied in that same bored voice. She didn't even bother to look at Michiru, her eyes focused on the painting that hung in the stairwell where they were talking. "This piece…did you paint it?"
Michiru didn't reply directly. Playfully, she said, "There are a lot of freakish fans of yours at my school. One of them is a girl, but she says she still wants to go cruising along the beach in your car."
Even this won nothing more than the ironic ghost of a smile. "The end of the world, huh?" Haruka said, still looking at the painting. "I'm surprised that a well-to-do girl who can't even kill one bug can draw such a tragic fantasy."
"It's not a fantasy!" said Michiru sharply, stung by Haruka's insult. She was no helpless damsel; in darkness and shadow she battled the monsters of this city alone, and it pained her more than she wanted to admit that Haruka could dismiss her strength like that. "I can see that scene clearly, just like you can."
At last, her eyes stormy, Haruka looked at Michiru. Michiru stood, but almost immediately Haruka broke the contact between them, turning her head away. "This is stupid!" she said angrily. "I'm Tenoh Haruka, the first junior racer in Japan. Memories of my previous life or the end of the world have nothing to do with me. If someone has to do it, then you can do it. I would like you to stop investigating me like that, though."
Michiru's hands, folded in front of her, tightened around each other in anger. She'd always thought of her soldier's life as a choice, something that set her free, not a burdensome destiny that caged her, yet, as all the frustration and fear and loneliness of this year came pouring out of her, every word that she spoke was the truth. "Don't say such selfish things like that," she said in a low, enraged voice. "I don't want to do it either. I also have a dream – to become a violinist. I can't do something stupid like saving the world from destruction."
But it was no good.
"I'm going home," said Haruka coldly. "I don't want to see you again."
Michiru cried for a long time that night.
As the sun rose, Michiru hadn't slept, and she stared at the hope of dawn with blank, uncomprehending eyes. Haruka didn't want to be a solider. She didn't want to be her partner. A vision had come to Michiru in the darkness, of Haruka being attacked by a daimon. Haruka's henshin stick had appeared, and not knowing what she was doing, she'd reached out and taken it, transforming into Sailor Uranus and fulfilling her destiny. It would happen soon, Michiru knew. All she had to do was stay away, and Haruka would awaken whether she wanted to or not. Then she would have no choice but to join Michiru, and how Michiru wished she was the sort of person who could let that happen.
"I can't," she whispered to herself. "She made it clear to me – this life isn't what she wants, and I can't blame her. I have to be there when it happens. I have to stop her awakening." She bowed her head and beat her fist against the mattress, clenching her teeth against the pain. "Then I will go on…alone."
It was appropriate, Michiru supposed, that this was to end at the same racetrack where it had all started. She sensed the growing darkness and followed it, knowing it would lead her to Haruka, knowing that the moment was approaching when Haruka's henshin stick would appear. She stayed hidden, watching as Haruka walked into the garage, as the boy in the Mugen Academy uniform transformed into a daimon, as Haruka picked up a crowbar ready to fight. The monster lunged towards Haruka, and that was when it happened; glowing with an inner light, the henshin stick was there, between Haruka and the monster, and, eyes wide and wondering, Haruka reached out her hand to take it. It took all Michiru's strength not to stay silent and allow destiny to take its course.
"Don't touch that!" she cried, stepping out of the shadows.
With a start, Haruka drew back her fingers and turned, the henshin stick falling to the ground with an undignified clatter.
"Once you grab a hold of it," said Michiru, "you will never again return to mundane life." She lifted her own henshin stick and transformed into Neptune, and inside she knew that she was glad she could show herself to Haruka like this, in her true form as a soldier, no longer hiding her strength, no longer hiding the difference that lived under her skin, keeping her apart from the rest of humanity.
She launched herself at the diamohn, hitting it squarely between the eyes and knocking it unconscious. She knew that wasn't enough to finish it, that she would need to perform her Deep Submerge attack to separate the monster from the boy. It was always difficult to balance the power, and Michiru knew that one day, if she used too much, she might kill, but she had no choice. She could not allow the daimons to multiply.
But before she could continue, Haruka stepped in front of her. "You can't!" she exclaimed. "He was human until a few minutes ago. Are you all right doing this? This is murder!"
Even though Haruka's concerns mirrored her own, Michiru forced herself to appear implacable. "The Silence is approaching. If I don't do this, there will be even more victims."
"Are you saying that's why you don't care how you accomplish it?"
"That's right. I don't care what means I use."
"Are you really satisfied—" Haruka got no further before the monster reawakened, roaring and towering over her.
Haruka's eyes were wide with terror, and without thinking, Michiru grabbed her and dragged her out of the way, shielding her with her own body as the monster attacked. She felt its claws ripping into her back and left arm, but didn't care. As long as Haruka was safe, as long as she could protect Haruka, her life as a soldier was not useless, and she had something to fight for.
Michiru gave herself no time to contemplate her injuries, immediately regaining her feet and performing Deep Submerge before the daimon could do any more damage. Already injured, the effort exhausted her, and she dropped to her knees as the monster was obliterated by a wall of water, and then her vision went black, and she knew no more.
When Michiru came to, she was in Haruka's arms. "Where's the monster?" she asked weakly.
"He turned back into a human," said Haruka, in a voice more gentle than any Michiru had heard her use before. "He's all right."
Perhaps it was the warmth of Haruka's arms, perhaps it was because the fight had weakened her defenses, but, as she thought about that boy, and what might have happened to him, Michiru found herself speaking of things that she'd never spoken of to anyone before, hardly even dared to acknowledge to herself. "I might have killed him," she said fearfully. "No, next time I'm sure I'll kill." She could feel Haruka's eyes on her, but couldn't look at her, not while she admitted that she was no better than a murderer. "It's not that I'm fine with it, but I am a soldier, because I chose to do this."
"Then why did you cover for me just now?" asked Haruka.
She took Michiru's injured arm, her fingers warm and firm, and how grateful Michiru was this had happened. Her back was a mass of pain, but she didn't mind, because if it hadn't been for that, Haruka wouldn't be holding her like this. It was transient, Michiru knew, because nothing had changed and Haruka didn't want to be a soldier, but at least now she would have this one memory to take with her into the dark. She would hold it to herself in the night, and with it, she would shield herself against the monsters and the madmen and the visions of destruction and she would make herself keep fighting.
"If you hurt your hand," said Haruka softly, "you won't be able to become a violinist."
"I…" said Michiru. Something in her was urging caution, but she knew she'd never get another chance to talk to Haruka like this, to explain to her how much she mattered, and once she started speaking, she found she couldn't stop. "I didn't investigate you because you were the other solider. It goes back much further than when I realised you were the one. I was watching you in your first race from close by. I wanted to cruise along the beach in your car, just once." She finally dared to look up at Haruka as she said this, and she knew all the longings she'd felt during those lonely months were in her eyes. Yet she didn't expect to see anything more than rejection on Haruka's face, and it startled her to see the gentle concentration with which she was being regarded. It gave Michiru the courage to tilt her head upwards, almost as if she was leaning in for a kiss. "You don't rely on anyone at all, and you are always honest to your feelings."
"I'm not honest at all," whispered Haruka. "I keep running away."
Despite her pain, Michiru smiled. "I know more about you than you do, because I've always been watching you. You are the one person I don't want to see walking the same path that I did, but when I realised that you were the one, I was happy." Remembering that moment, Michiru closed her eyes, feeling tears brimming and threatening to fall, and a blush that reddened her cheeks. Forcing the tears back, she unclosed her lids and looked into Haruka's beautiful blue-green eyes for what she knew would be the last time. "I'm sorry," she said. "I didn't mean to tell you all this. I'm sorry."
Pulling away from Haruka's arms, she stumbled to her feet, thinking that if Haruka hadn't wanted her before, she certainly wouldn't now; not when Michiru had nearly cried in front of her, not when she'd admitted to watching Haruka for months like some strange stalker. "I'm sorry," she repeated, and how inadequate those words sounded, but there were no others she could use. "I'll go now. Just remember, never touch that." Michiru pointed to the henshin stick with her uninjured arm. "As long as you don't you won't awaken as a soldier. Good luck with your racing. I'm sure your dream will come true." She turned to go, but Haruka's voice stopped her.
"Wait! You can't go like this. You need to go to a hospital or something. Those wounds are deep."
Michiru smiled again, but this time without happiness. "I don't need a hospital. These are just scratches to me, they'll be gone in a few days."
"Haruka," said Michiru angrily, looking up to meet blue-green eyes that, for the first time, were uncertain. "You've made your choice. You don't want to be a soldier, and I respect that. So just leave me alone, please. I have my destiny, and you have yours, and we can't – we can't have any sort of life like this, being on such different paths."
Haruka frowned at her, and there was something dangerously stubborn in her expression. She didn't say anything, but walked over to where the henshin stick still lay, discarded on the cement.
"Don't!" cried Michiru, but it was too late. Haruka had already grasped the stick in her hand, and, before Michiru's eyes, transformed into Uranus, the Uranus Michiru had dreamed of all these months.
Tall and golden and magnificent, Haruka as Uranus gave Michiru a careless smile. "Problem solved. So, are you going to let me drive you home?"
"You idiot," Michiru spluttered weakly. "Now—"
"Now, I have stopped running. I have stopped being a coward. Thank you. If I hadn't met you, I might have kept denying my true identity forever."
Wavering between laughter and tears, Michiru hung her head. "You have no idea what you're getting yourself in for," she whispered.
Michiru jumped. Haruka was suddenly much closer.
"You—" Michiru began, but before she could get any further, a stab of pain shot through her back and she staggered, unable to stop a slight moan escaping.
"Hey." Strong arms steadied her, and Michiru looked up into concerned eyes. "Stop being so stubborn," Haruka said. "I'm sorry for how I treated you before. Let me help you now, please."
With a sigh, Michiru nodded, sagging in defeat. "All right. But…put a towel or something down in your car, or I'll bleed all over the upholstery."
The tender way Haruka looked at her took Michiru's breath away. "I'm a lot more worried about you than the upholstery in my car. Come on."
Still holding onto her, Haruka led Michiru to a yellow convertible. At Michiru's insistence, she did produce some clean towels from somewhere and placed them against Michiru's back and around her arm more, she insisted, for Michiru's sake than to protect her car.
There was little conversation as they drove to Michiru's flat. Halfway through the drive, they reverted to their mortal forms, causing Haruka some embarrassment due to the few seconds of nudity involved. Michiru politely looked away from Haruka and told her not to worry about it. Haruka said it would take some getting used to.
When they pulled up outside Michiru's apartment, Michiru prepared herself, mentally and physically, to part from Haruka even though it was the last thing she wanted. But she wasn't going to have Haruka think she was some weakling who couldn't look after herself and cried every time she fought a diamohn. "Thanks," she said. "You don't need to come up, I'll be fine."
Again, Haruka's expression became stubborn. "You can't look after yourself like that." She indicated Michiru's wounds. "Who's going to clean those out and bandage them for you? I still think I should take you to a hospital."
"I don't need a hospital," Michiru repeated. "But, I…" She trailed off as her voice cracked, nervousness and desire getting the better of her. Clearing her throat, she tried again. "I suppose I do need to explain things to you. About being a senshi. You could…come up if you wanted to."
Haruka's answer was in her eyes; Michiru didn't need to hear her say yes to know that Haruka would not abandon her like this, bruised and bloody. It made her deceitful heart want to sing with gladness.
When Michiru opened the door to her apartment, Haruka, suddenly looking wary, hung back. "Your family," she said. "Won't they want to know who I am? How you got hurt?"
"Don't worry," said Michiru, holding out her uninjured hand to Haruka in invitation. "I live by myself."
After a brief moment of hesitation, Haruka took Michiru's hand and allowed herself to be drawn over the threshold. "Really? Me too. Wow. This place is beautiful."
Michiru let go to close the door, and Haruka thrust her hands into her pockets, strolling into the middle of the living room and taking in the lavishness of her surroundings. Watching her, Michiru could tell that nothing escaped Haruka's observation; the ornate painted plaster ceilings, the expensive drapes framing the floor to ceiling windows, the antique furniture and decorations that were placed tastefully about the room, the open fireplace with the white marble mantelpiece, all were cataloged and filed away for further consideration. But what really surprised Michiru was that Haruka seemed to recognise the quality and rarity of all that she saw, and she wondered where Haruka had learned so much. She'd been able to discover very little about Haruka's past, but she knew she attended a public school, suggesting that she didn't come from a rich family.
"Actually," said Michiru, "I hate this place. It feels like a mausoleum. If I cared enough, I'd sell it and move somewhere else."
"Sell it? Then – you own this?" Haruka's surprise increased.
"My father bought it for me."
"Huh. He must really love you."
Michiru shook her head. "Don't misunderstand. This was just his way of washing his hands of me without bringing the disapproval of society down on his head." Haruka frowned slightly, an inquiring look on her face, but before she could ask any questions, Michiru continued, "Excuse me. I need to have a shower. Then – if it's not too much trouble, you could tend to these cuts for me. I have a good supply of first aid equipment."
A slight blush coloured Haruka's face. "Of course," she said. "I'm sorry. I forgot you were injured."
Accepting the apology with a smile, Michiru exited the lounge and headed into the bathroom. She was glad of the respite the shower offered her. Her emotions were in turmoil; part of her was singing with joy that Haruka was here; that she had awakened as Sailor Uranus, had chosen to become a soldier, like her. But another part of Michiru was filled still with pain, because Haruka did not yet know the sorrow of the mission she would have to fulfill. How would she react when she found out? Anger, resentment, sadness? However it went, Michiru was certain Haruka wouldn't keep looking at her with her beautiful eyes so gentle, speaking in a voice so soft. She would grow hard and distant again, and she would hate Michiru for taking her life away.
But as the hot water poured over her, cleansing her of the fight, it was another more primal feeling that came to dominate Michiru's senses. Over and over, she kept reliving those few precious moments of touch between them, longing to have Haruka's hands on her skin once more, shivering as she realised that soon, when Haruka bandaged her wounds, she would.
With a sigh of frustration and desire, Michiru turned the faucets off and dried herself carefully, looking into the foggy mirror and seeing a stranger staring back. This didn't feel like her life; Haruka couldn't be out there, waiting for her. She'd open the door and find that her apartment was empty, just as it had been after every other fight, and she'd curl in on herself, hugging her pain and loneliness like a cruel lover as she dreamed of a kinder, gentler touch.
There was a knock on the bathroom door. "Michiru?" said Haruka's worried voice. "Are you all right?"
Michiru jumped, and replied quickly. "Yes, I'll be out in a minute." She pulled on her pajama pants but left her top off, only draping her towel over her chest to cover her breasts. Then, picking up the first aid kit, she opened the door and came face to face with Haruka.
Taking in her topless state, Haruka blushed again. "Do you want me to ah…" She couldn't seem to get any further, and gestured helplessly at the first aid kit.
"Please," said Michiru, handing it to her. Her voice trembled as she spoke, and she hoped that Haruka hadn't noticed. Retreating into the bathroom once more, she turned and stood with her back to the other girl, sweeping her hair over her shoulder so that it wouldn't be in the way.
Every noise in the small room seemed suddenly very loud to Michiru as she waited; the sound of her own breathing, and Haruka's, the glugging of the rubbing alcohol as it was poured onto a sterile cloth to disinfect her wounds. Michiru gritted her teeth, not allowing herself to react to the pain as Haruka raised the cloth to her back and began to gently draw it over her skin, but she couldn't stifle a gasp when Haruka's fingers accidentally touched her, sending a bolt of lightning down her spine.
"I'm sorry," said Haruka softly. "Did I hurt you?"
"N-no," Michiru stammered, trying to control herself as Haruka continued.
"I don't believe this," Haruka's wondering voice said after a few more moments.
"Your wounds – they've already closed. You should have required stitches for cuts this deep."
"I did tell you. Fast healing ability is one of the characteristics of senshi biology. Now that you've awakened, you'll be able to do the same."
"That's good to know."
Too soon the experience was over, and, her work done, Haruka left the bathroom, allowing Michiru to finish dressing. When she walked out into the lounge room, she found Haruka in the kitchen, arranging a tea service.
"I hope you don't mind," she said in a voice that was slightly rough. "I thought we could both use some tea."
"No, of course not. It was very thoughtful of you." Michiru sat down on one of the sofas in the lounge and Haruka brought the tea over, pouring out for them both. She elected to sit opposite Michiru rather than beside her, which made Michiru feel rather lonely.
They drank their tea in silence for a few moments. Michiru glanced over at Haruka, hoping she'd be able to tell what she was thinking, but her expression gave nothing away.
"What did you mean before?" Haruka said suddenly.
"About this place. That it was your father's way of washing his hands of you."
Michiru couldn't stop her voice from becoming slightly bitter as she spoke. This wasn't something she told people normally, but with Haruka, it seemed so easy. As if they were merely resuming a conversation they'd started a long time ago. "My father is very traditional; as long as I can remember all he's ever talked about what a wonderful wife I will make someday, about how lucky it is that I'm so beautiful because it means I'll be able to choose from all the best boys in Japan. Last year, I got sick of it. I told him I was never going to get married, that, as long as I lived, I would never let any man touch me in that way. He told me I was insane. I told him I preferred girls. He told me I had the choice of accepting psychiatric counselling to help fix my 'problem', or moving out and never seeing my parents again until I 'came to my senses'. I chose this place."
"What about your mother?"
"She's not really happy with the situation, but she can't stand up to my father. She's never been able to." Michiru shrugged, pretending it didn't hurt as much as it did. "I prefer it this way anyway; my parents were so boring to live with. And now that I've awakened, I have the freedom to do whatever I need to without hindrance. My father still supports me financially; he'd never be able to bear the criticism he'd get if he rejected me completely, but we never have any contact. But of course he's not honest about why he threw me out. He tells people that I asked to be able to live alone and have my own space. I don't bother contradicting him; I don't care about all his stupid social maneuvering."
"You must be lonely, though. I overheard some people talking about you on the cruise ship. They said that you didn't have many friends – that you didn't like people much."
"I suppose I don't find most people very interesting. Besides, it's dangerous for me to have friends. I can't risk them being drawn into the world I live in. Even you." Michiru glanced at Haruka, and found her watching her with concerned, compassionate eyes. "When I tell you about our mission, you'll wish you hadn't awakened."
Haruka smiled. "I'll never wish that, Michiru."
Looking away from the intensity of her gaze, Michiru fiddled with her teacup. "What about you?" she asked.
"What about me?" Something guarded came into Haruka's voice. Evidently she was not keen to talk about herself, but Michiru didn't stop asking questions. She guessed that if she didn't draw the information out of Haruka, she was never going to volunteer it on her own.
"You said you lived alone too? Did your parents react in the same way mine did, and throw you out?"
"No," said Haruka. "They never got the chance to be ashamed of me, which I'm sure they would have been, if they'd lived. They died when I was a baby. I spent the first fourteen years of my life in an orphanage."
"I see," said Michiru softly.
"I hated it there. I never made any friends. The girls didn't like me because I wasn't like them, the boys didn't like me because I could beat them at everything. When I was fourteen, I started hanging around a racetrack. I loved the speed of the cars. I thought if I could just drive fast enough, I'd be able to leave my life behind – drive right through everything bad and come out on the other side, where things would be…different.
"One of the mechanics who worked there took pity on me, and started teaching me about cars. He used to be a driver, but then he developed a heart condition that meant they wouldn't let him race any more. The time he found me wasn't long after he'd told he'd never be able to race again. I didn't realise it at the time, but he was pretty depressed. Tutoring me was a way for him to take his mind off it.
"Eventually, earlier this year, he fixed it so I could compete in one of the races, and after that my career took off. I saved all of my winnings, intending to buy my own place, and I finally have an apartment now. I only moved there about a month ago. I can't tell you how glad I was to leave that orphanage." Haruka stopped suddenly, glancing over at Michiru with an apologetic expression. "Sorry. I'm babbling. I don't usually tell people this stuff."
"No, thank you for telling me," Michiru said quickly. "It sounds like you must have been pretty lonely too."
Haruka didn't reply to this. Instead, she looked outside. "It's getting dark," she commented. "Have you thought about what you're going to do for dinner?"
"Not really, but if you're hungry I can make us something."
"That wasn't really what I meant; I was thinking of you. You should eat something to recuperate your strength."
"Oh, then perhaps you'd like to cook?"
"You wouldn't want to eat whatever I made," said Haruka ruefully. "Believe me, cooking is not among my talents. I'll go out and buy us something."
"All right," Michiru agreed. "There's a good noodle bar on the corner. I should have a menu here somewhere. We can call and order." It was only after they'd both made their selections and placed the order that Michiru realised she hadn't actually formally invited Haruka to stay. She frowned, going over the conversation in her head, hoping she hadn't forced Haruka into it. But no, she didn't think so; they both seemed to just naturally assume that Haruka would stay. Strange. It wasn't usual for her to be so casual, and she didn't think it normal for Haruka either.
"Suppose I should go get our food," Haruka said, drawing Michiru out of her thoughts.
"They were quite busy. They said it wouldn't be ready for about twenty minutes, and it only takes five to walk there."
"Well, I was thinking…" As Haruka trailed off uncomfortably, Michiru looked over at her in surprise. She'd only seen Haruka uncertain once so far, earlier that day when she'd been trying to decide whether or not to become a soldier. Twice in one day was probably some sort of record for her. But then, Michiru supposed, this situation must be very alien for Haruka. She obviously wasn't used to looking after anyone but herself, and Michiru didn't know whether to be pleased or guilty that Haruka was trying so hard for her.
In a halting voice, Haruka began again, "if you like, I could…I mean, there's nothing at home needing my attention. I could swing by my apartment and pick up a few things and…come back and keep you company for the night."
Michiru's heart beat a little faster at Haruka's words, but she tried not to look as though she was taking that offer the way it sounded. Nevertheless, she couldn't stop a light blush staining her cheeks.
Haruka's own cheeks reddened in response. "I didn't…I mean, I didn't mean it like that," she stammered. "I just meant." She paused and took a calming breath before continuing, "You shouldn't be on your own when you're hurt. You should have someone nearby in case…Well, just to see you're all right. And you only got hurt in the first place because you were protecting me…Oh forget it, you probably don't want me invading your space." Looking away, Haruka ran a hand through her hair, making it stand on end. It made Michiru want to reach out and smooth it back into place, but she forced her hands to stay in her lap.
"I'd like you to stay," she said softly. "I just don't want to put you to any trouble."
Haruka replied with a smile that transformed her whole face. It wasn't the empty, careless smile she reserved for her fans; Michiru had seen that smile often enough, and knew it never reached her eyes. This smile was quieter, almost shy, but it made her eyes sparkle. "It's no trouble," said Haruka, almost bouncing to her feet. "I'll go now and get some things from my apartment, and stop by the noodle bar on the way back. And maybe after dinner you can explain to me about this being a senshi thing."
Michiru's happiness vanished immediately and her stomach tightened in fear. Once Haruka knew the truth about what it meant to be an Outer Senshi, Michiru very much doubted she'd want to have anything to do with her ever again.
If Haruka noticed that Michiru was uneasy at dinner she didn't say anything. Perhaps she thought it was only because Michiru's injuries were bothering her. Finally, they returned to the lounge room and settled down with a bottle of wine and Michiru turned off the overhead lights, leaving only dim lamps illuminating the room. Below them, the lights of the city twinkled like stars.
"So," said Haruka, sipping her wine, "what does it mean that we're sailor soldiers? What are we supposed to do? Fight monsters like the one you defeated earlier today?"
"That's part of it," said Michiru. "But there's more, and when I tell you…I don't know if you'll be glad you awakened."
Michiru sighed. "There are two different types of senshi. Inner and Outer. The Inners are Mercury, Mars, Venus, Jupiter and Sailor Moon. They are known well enough here in this city."
Haruka nodded. "I know them."
"Well – we are the Outer Senshi. Long ago, before our reincarnation in this world, it was our duty to protect the Moon Kingdom and the Silver Millennium from threats that came from outside the solar system. Because of the dangers we faced, we were given stronger powers than the Inner Senshi, but we were never permitted to leave our posts. We protected the world from a distance, living in isolation on our guardian planets of Neptune and Uranus."
"Okay. What's the Moon Kingdom?"
"Thousands of years ago, during a time called the Silver Millenium, there was a Kingdom on the Moon ruled over by Queen Serenity, our monarch. The Moon Kingdom was responsible for protecting Earth, but then…" Michiru shook her head. "I'm not sure what happened, exactly, but the people of Earth rose up against us, and there was a terrible war. Both societies were completely destroyed and everyone died. But now you and I have been reborn, awakened by a new threat to the Earth.
"A threat from outside the solar system?" asked Haruka, a little skeptically.
"I know it sounds crazy," said Michiru, "but it's real. And just like before, we're supposed to work alone. It would be best if the Inners never even found out about us, but we might not be able to keep out of their way. They'll feel this new threat too, and I think that sooner or later our paths will cross. Still, we can't worry about that now."
"Why can't we work with them?" said Haruka.
"They would not be able to do what we must," said Michiru simply.
"And what is that?"
"Save the world from Silence."
At this answer, Haruka looked a little frustrated. "But what is the Silence, and how do we stop it? You're not being very clear, Michiru."
"I'm sorry. I know I'm explaining things badly, but I don't know everything myself. This is only what I've pieced together through dreams and visions and my own investigations, and there's still a lot that doesn't make sense to me. You see, we were awakened too late. The enemy has already nested deep in the Earth and begun their invasion. I don't know much about them, only that they call themselves the Death Busters, and that they have something to do with that new school in the Delta District – Mugen Academy. That boy I fought today, he was a Mugen student. I've seen a lot of students from that school transformed into daimons, but I don't know why."
"That is what the monsters are called."
"Perhaps we should go to this Mugen Academy and find out what's going on," said Haruka.
Michiru smiled. "That is what I have been thinking of doing. Mugen Academy is a special school for gifted students. Earlier this year I received a letter offering me a scholarship placement because of my musical and painting abilities. Once I finish this term, I think I will transfer to Mugen and accept that place. I can investigate the school undercover that way."
Haruka frowned. "That could be dangerous."
"That is what it means to be a soldier." Michiru paused. "I thought – I mean, I wondered if you'd been offered a place at Mugen too, because of your success with motor sports."
"Now that you mention it, I did get a letter from them, but I didn't bother to open it. I was planning to quit school after this year and concentrate on my racing career.
"I see. Well, if you still want to do that—"
"No," said Haruka sharply. "I won't leave you to face danger by yourself. We're partners now. I'll go to Mugen with you, and we'll find out about these Death Busters and defeat them. That's what we have to do, right?"
Michiru looked out over the lights of the city, sadness in her eyes. "There is only one way to defeat the Death Busters. We must find the Holy Grail. Once we have the Grail, the Messiah of Light will appear, and she is the one who will save the world. But the enemy has their own Messiah, the Messiah of Silence, and if the Grail falls into her hands, all will be destroyed. We must find the Grail before they do."
"How do we do that?" asked Haruka.
"The three talismans need to be brought together. Once they are assembled in one place, the Grail will appear.
"Okay, so how do we find the talismans?"
Michiru remained silent, and felt tears in her eyes.
"Michiru, tell me."
"They are sealed inside human hearts," Michiru said finally, the words heavy on her tongue. "Inside pure heart crystals. The enemy has found a way to extract those pure hearts in order to find the talismans. They haven't started looking yet, but I know they will soon. I can feel it."
"So we have to beat the enemy to finding the pure hearts in which the talismans have been sealed?"
"Yes, but…In order to save the world, we must take those talismans. And humans cannot live without their heart crystals."
There was silence. Very gently, it started to rain outside.
"I see," said Haruka softly. "So, in order to save the world, we have to be willing to make three human sacrifices."
Michiru nodded, her throat tight.
"If that is our mission, we must complete it."
"I'm sorry," Michiru whispered. "I'm sorry you were drawn into this. I never wanted you to know. I was fighting to protect you. Even if you never knew who I was, no matter what I had to do, I always thought it would be worth it as long as I could keep you safe. And now—"
She rose and went and stood by the windows, watching the city lights being slowly obscured by the mist of falling rain. Not expecting to be comforted, she jumped when a gentle hand touched her shoulder.
"Michiru," said Haruka softly, "don't be sorry. I'm not."
Haruka placed a finger to Michiru's lips. "Even if someone offered me the ability to go back and change my decision, I wouldn't. Not now I know you. I am where I'm supposed to be. I am where I want to be. Fighting at your side." She moved her hand, stroking Michiru's cheek, and Michiru closed her eyes, allowing a sigh to escape from her lips, a sigh that was relief and happiness and arousal and regret. Her blood was pounding in her ears, and how she wanted, wanted Haruka to kiss her.
"You're so beautiful," Haruka whispered. "I can't believe that you…That you don't like boys. They must be falling all over themselves to try and have you."
"I don't care if they are," said Michiru. "Why would I want to be with someone who treats me like a possession? If I was ever going to be with anyone, it would have to be someone who understood and respected me. Someone who had the courage to be extraordinary, and to help me become the same." Haruka was still so close to her, her fingertips resting lightly on her face, and even though Michiru was terrified, she didn't let herself look away from Haruka's eyes. "I want you," she whispered.
Haruka dropped her arms and expelled a breath in disbelief. "No one has ever wanted me, my whole life."
The sudden loss of contact between them was like an ache on Michiru's skin, and she took Haruka's hand, almost desperate to feel her again. Haruka flinched slightly, but Michiru didn't let her go. "Like I said, Haruka, you're extraordinary, and people are afraid of that which is different. But I'm not. I don't want a normal life. If I did, I wouldn't have chosen to do this. I would have given into my father's demands, settled down with a nice boy, relegated my music and my painting to middle-class hobbies, and never awoken as Sailor Neptune. But that isn't the life I want. I want this life, with you."
As Haruka continued to stand silently, Michiru began to feel a little stupid. She'd done it again, going and pouring her heart out to this girl she barely knew. Too fast, she chided herself. I've moved too fast for her.
But she touched me, some other, more impatient part of her mind insisted. She said she wants to fight at my side. She has feelings for me; why can't I tell her the same?
Because it was too soon, and Haruka was afraid. Michiru glanced up at her, and could almost see her withdrawing into herself, putting on protective layers like armour.
"This is…a little sudden isn't it?" said Haruka uncomfortably. "I mean, you don't even know me."
"I do know you," said Michiru. "At least, I feel as if I do. But perhaps you don't know me." She tried to smile. "It's all right, Haruka. I didn't mean to push. I'm just acting like this because I've been alone for so long, and I want you to know how much it means to me to have you here."
Haruka acknowledged this with a nod. "It's strange," she said. "Even though we've only just met, I do feel as if I know you well. I suppose it's because we knew each other, before. Do you have any memory of that?"
"Some," said Michiru cautiously. She didn't want to tell Haruka that the two of them had been lovers in their past life. If anything was to happen between them, she wanted it to be because of what developed between Haruka and Michiru, not because of remnants of feeling left over from thousands of years ago.
"Sometimes I dream of a palace," admitted Haruka. "It isn't like a fairytale castle; it's too cold and hard for that. It's beautiful, with its tall spires shining in the starlight, but somehow, not very warm. If that's where I lived before, I think…I think I'm glad I don't have to live there any more."
Michiru was about to reply, but before she could, a wave of tiredness passed over her and she staggered slightly. Quickly, Haruka put am arm out and steadied her.
"I'm sorry," she said. "I shouldn't be keeping you up like this. You need to go to bed and rest. Don't worry about me; I can sleep on the couch or wherever."
"There's a spare bedroom where you can sleep. You'll find sheets in the cupboard.
"That sounds fine."
With Haruka's arm still around her waist, Michiru paused outside her bedroom door. She knew she shouldn't ask, but she couldn't help herself. Looking into deep teal eyes and blushing, she stammered, "you don't have to sleep in the spare room. You could stay with me, if you wanted to."
Seeing that Haruka was unsure exactly what she was asking, Michiru clarified, "I just mean, your company would be welcome. I have bad dreams sometimes."
"If I stayed," said Haruka, with what Michiru could only think of as a flirtatious smile on her face, "I wouldn't let you get any sleep."
Michiru felt her blush deepen and her stomach tighten.
"I have too many questions I want to ask you; I'd keep you up all night."
"Oh – right – of course." Michiru gave a laugh that, to her own ears, sounded rather embarrassed. "Well then…goodnight."
Haruka leaned forward and kissed Michiru on the cheek, leaving her skin burning. "Goodnight," she whispered.
It took all Michiru's strength not to climb into bed with Haruka that night.
The next morning, Michiru woke up very late. Wandering out into the lounge room, she found Haruka looking at ease on one of the couches reading a book borrowed from Michiru's shelves. She smiled.
"Good morning. How are you feeling?"
"A lot better actually," said Michiru, returning Haruka's smile. "I was just going to go into the bathroom and see how my wounds are doing."
"Would you like some breakfast?"
"I thought you can't cook."
"I can manage breakfast."
Michiru laughed at the offended tone in Haruka's voice. "Okay. I usually have rice porridge and soup, if you can manage that."
"No problem," said Haruka, unfolding herself from the couch. Somehow, she looked far too attractive doing it. "Let me know if you need me to help you with fresh bandages."
"I doubt that will be necessary; I'm probably almost fully healed by now."
Examining herself in the bathroom mirror, Michiru found that this was indeed the case. The deep gashes were now only faint scars on her back and arm, and she knew that in a few more days, even those would be gone. Leaving her pajama top in the bathroom, she covered her front with a towel as she had the day before, and, picking up a bottle of vitamin E cream, went to find Haruka. Even if she didn't really need Haruka to do anything for her, there was no reason to waste an opportunity like this.
Haruka pronounced herself more than willing to rub the cream into Michiru's scars, and, feeling a little guilty to be enjoying the experience so much, Michiru sat and let Haruka touch her, shivering a little, first at the coldness of the cream, then at the feel of Haruka's fingers on her skin as she worked the cream in.
"I think you're enjoying this," Haruka said teasingly, her voice low.
"Perhaps I am," said Michiru, glad that Haruka couldn't see how much she was blushing. "But I hope…you are too."
She didn't expect the response this elicited; would not have guessed that Haruka, who seemed so distant, so cautious, could be so bold. There were soft lips against her skin, trailing kisses down the side of her neck and along the line of her shoulder, and one of Haruka's arms stole around her waist, her hand working its way beneath Michiru's towel to gently stroke her bare stomach. Until that moment, Michiru hadn't known she could feel such pleasure; her body was pounding with it, her skin crying out for more as her blood boiled within her.
"I love touching you," Haruka's husky voice whispered against Michiru's ear, and then – suddenly – she was gone, and Michiru almost collapsed onto the couch in frustration. Visionary abilities she may have, but her dreams hadn't warned her that Haruka was such a tease.
Beating a hasty retreat to her room, Michiru dressed and tried to calm down before going to join Haruka in the kitchen. No one had ever kissed her before, and she'd never imagined that the first kisses she received wouldn't be on the lips. Being kissed on the cheek last night hadn't been such a surprise, but being kissed on the neck…that was much more intimate, wasn't it? Yet Haruka hadn't even really said she liked her.
It's much easier for me to say it with actions than with words.
Unbidden, the sentence was in Michiru's head, spoken in a voice remarkably like Haruka's. An echo from the past? Something Haruka had said to her uncounted millennia ago? Michiru shook her head. She shouldn't even be thinking about this now. She should be concentrating on inducting Haruka into her role as Sailor Uranus and finding the talismans that would save the world.
But she's so attractive, part of her mind insisted. You can't look at her without wanting to—
Michiru very firmly cut off that line of thought and went out to join Haruka for breakfast.
"So," Haruka asked afterwards, "what is this drawing that you want to do of me?"
"Huh?" said Michiru in confusion, looking up from stacking the dishwasher.
"Remember? When we first met. You said you wanted to draw me. Or was that just an excuse so that you could be introduced?"
"No," said Michiru quickly. "I really do want to draw you. But I'm not sure if you'll like what I have in mind. It's very feminine."
Haruka put her hands on her hips. "I can be feminine."
Michiru laughed at her.
"Fine, if you don't believe me, go and get one of your dresses and I'll put it on. I just don't go out dressed like that because I hate having people – men – staring at me."
"And people don't stare at you when you go out dressed like that?" Michiru indicated the slacks and shirt Haruka was wearing that obscured the outline of her figure, making her appear to be a tall, lean boy.
"When people see me dressed like this, they think I'm a boy and they leave me alone."
"Unless they know that you're Tenoh Haruka."
Haruka shrugged. "Then I just have boys chasing me wanting my autograph, and confused straight girls asking me out on dates."
In the act of turning on the dishwasher, Michiru froze. "Is that what you think of me? Do you think I'm just some confused straight girl?"
"No. No, I'm sorry. I didn't mean it like that."
Michiru turned to Haruka with a seductive smile. "Maybe I'm the one who should be offering to dress up in your clothes. Maybe you'd like me better then."
"I like you fine the way you are now," said Haruka. Her reply was firm, but distant, and again, Michiru felt confused. How could Haruka want to keep her at arm's length when just an hour ago she'd told Michiru she loved to touch her? Clearly wanting to change the subject, Haruka went on, "it's Sunday today, isn't it?"
"So, I don't have anything planned for today. I could spend the day here and you can draw me if you like."
"I probably won't get it finished all in one day," Michiru warned.
Haruka smiled. "Then I suppose we'll have to spend more time together."
"We should…exchange numbers," suggested Michiru.
"I'd like that. Now, what is it you want me to wear?"
Despite her bragging, Michiru could tell Haruka was a little uncomfortable when she saw the blue gauzy material Michiru had in mind for her picture."
"You want me to wear this," said Haruka doubtfully. "Just this, and nothing else?"
"I want to draw you as the wind," Michiru explained, "free and unrestrained. But, if it makes you feel more comfortable, you can leave your underwear on."
Haruka scowled. "I'm not afraid. I'll do it, but only on the condition that, once the picture is finished, you never show it to anyone. And if you try to put it in an exhibition, I'll tear it up."
"All right," said Michiru, unable to resist teasing, "once it's finished, I won't show it to anyone, not even you."
"Hey! I didn't mean me. I meant anyone else!"
Michiru laughed. She was starting to realise that there was more than one way of being a tease, and that her method could be just as effective as Haruka's.
"So." Haruka grabbed a fistful of gauze. "How am I supposed to put this stuff on?"
"Well, I can pin it onto you in the way that I want it to look," said Michiru. "But…you'll have to take your clothes off first."
This was met with a careless shrug. "Since we're going to be working together as Sailor Soldiers, you'll be seeing me like that anyway, so I suppose it doesn't matter."
Haruka moved her hands to the buttons of her shirt, but Michiru stopped her. "We should go to my studio," she said. "Then afterwards, you can put your clothes back on right away."
Michiru found that seeing Haruka in a state of undress and draping the gauzy material around her was not as difficult as she feared it would be. The artist in her took over, intent on creating the best picture possible and leaving her raging hormones far behind, for which she was grateful.
Haruka, it seemed, hadn't been lying about her ability to be feminine if she so desired. Once she'd gotten used to the flimsy outfit Michiru fashioned out of the gauze, she seemed perfectly at ease and posed exactly as Michiru wished.
Last night's rain shower had cleared, and the studio was full of light. Picking up her pencil, Michiru began to sketch, and the hours passed without her noticing. She progressed far faster than she thought she would, and, by the end of the day, was happy that she'd gotten the picture exactly as she wanted it. She still needed to add colour, but that would be easy enough to do at a later date; she already knew exactly which shades she would use to capture the freedom and vibrancy Haruka represented.
Shyly, she let Haruka, once more dressed in her ordinary clothes, see what she'd done. "Wow," said Haruka, "I don't think anyone has ever seen me like that before."
"It's how I see you," Michiru said quietly. "One of the ways, anyway. If I could, I'd do a whole series of sketches of you, as the wind, as a sailor soldier, as princess Uranus, as Tenoh Haruka, the motor sports champion."
Haruka, she noticed, was blushing. "Thanks," she said gruffly, handing the picture back. "I should probably be going home soon. We both have school tomorrow."
"Yes." Michiru sighed. She was slightly disappointed, but accepted Haruka's need for space and eased off. "We've been lucky; it's been a quiet weekend, but don't expect it to stay that way."
"How will I know when I'm needed?" Haruka asked.
"You'll know. You'll feel it. Just follow your feelings, and that's where you'll find me, and the monsters."
Haruka nodded. "All right. I've…enjoying spending time with you, Michiru."
Michiru smiled, and saw Haruka to the door. Once she was alone, she touched herself for hours.
The next three weeks turned out to be exhausting. Almost every day they had to fight, and though Michiru had been hoping she would be able to give Haruka some training before they faced the enemy, there simply wasn't time. She found that she needn't have worried, however, since Haruka turned out to be as talented a fighter as Michiru thought she would be.
They both sent off their acceptances to Mugen Academy for the next term, and with not long until the summer break, any time not fighting was spent studying for exams. Michiru had never had anyone to study with before, and she was surprised at how much more fun it was. Most of the time they spent at Haruka's apartment, a sleek and modern minimalist one bedroom as different from Michiru's mausoleum as could be imagined.
A few times Michiru spent the night, and slept in Haruka's bed, but, other than waking up in the morning to find that Haruka had put her arms around her in her sleep, nothing happened. They hadn't kissed again.
The memory of the kisses that they had shared Michiru hoarded like a miser, replaying them when she was alone as if they were her own personal promise of heaven. Yet she found it bothered her that she had no remembrance to recollect of Haruka's lips pressed against her own, and wished she did. She wondered if Haruka had ever kissed anyone else before and thought she probably had. Even if she was dismissive of her fans, she still liked to flirt with them. That seemed to bother her more than it should too.
Whether it was the stress of her newly complicated life or what, Michiru also found she was sleeping less and less. The only thing that seemed to calm her was the ocean, and she'd taken to ringing Haruka at unreasonable hours, asking to be driven to the beach.
At least Haruka didn't seem to mind.
They would walk hand in hand along moon silvered sands with the balmy salt air warm on their skin and just talk, about the past and the future and their dreams and their fears, and if Michiru had been in love with Haruka before, it was nothing to how she felt about her now.
She knew she would have to tell her soon.
The end of term celebration that Haruka was organising for them would be her moment, Michiru decided. They were celebrating at Haruka's place, since, even though Haruka insisted that Michiru's apartment was nicer, not to mention bigger, Michiru's still liked Haruka's best. Besides which, whenever Haruka stayed over at Michiru's, she always slept in the spare room, which Michiru found very upsetting.
One thing Michiru did like about her apartment was the well-stocked cellar, however, and she'd made sure to select several choice bottles of wine before heading over to Haruka's. She'd decided to make her declaration sometime during the second glass, but the wine – a vintage red – was stronger than she anticipated, and instead, she found herself curled up on the sofa in Haruka's arms, not particularly inclined to do anything, especially something that was going to disrupt the lovely warm sleepy feeling stealing over her.
"Michiru, are you asleep?"
"No," Michiru replied, rubbing her head lightly against Haruka's shoulder. "I'm still awake."
"Do you remember that first night I spent at your house when you were hurt?"
"You said…You said you wanted me, and I pulled away because…I was afraid. I was just wondering if you still felt like that…about me."
Michiru started slightly as she felt Haruka's hand slide into her own. The gesture took her by surprise, not because Haruka didn't touch her, but because she normally only did so when she wasn't conscious of it. For Haruka to deliberately initiate contact between them was a rare thing.
"I do still want to be with you," Michiru said softly, squeezing Haruka's hand, "but I thought…Well, I don't know. Sometimes you seem interested, but other times you pull away. I thought maybe you weren't sure how you felt about me. Either that, or you wanted someone else."
"Who else would I want?" Haruka sounded amused.
"I don't know. I thought perhaps one of your fangirls. You seem fond of them."
"Them? They don't matter. Besides, it's just the idea of me that they like. None of them would ever actually want to do anything with me."
Michiru smiled. "Well, I do. I still remember how it felt when you kissed me. I thought my whole body was going to explode. Anytime you want to do that again, you just let me know."
"It's just that…I thought once you got to know me a bit better, you wouldn't want me any more. That's why I've been holding back – to give you time to change your mind."
At this, Michiru raised herself from Haruka's arms, turning to look at her in disbelief. "Why would I change my mind?"
Haruka wouldn't meet her eyes. "I don't know. Because I'm not…"
"Not worthy of being loved," Haruka whispered.
Michiru was shocked. "Haruka, why would you think that?"
It was some time before Haruka answered. "I suppose it's because that's all I ever heard growing up; from other kids, from the matrons of the orphanage, from the couples who sometimes came wanting to adopt a cute little girl and found a mud-spattered tomboy instead. And so I decided I didn't need it; if love didn't want to have anything to do with me, then I didn't want to have anything to do with it either. But then – I met you, and—"
"And?" prompted Michiru, her heart beating fast.
"And for the first time in my life, I felt close to someone. For the first time, someone else's opinion mattered to me. But viewing myself through your eyes, I knew I couldn't amount to much. So—" Haruka shrugged. She didn't say any more, but the implication was obvious. So I waited for you to leave me.
It saddened and angered Michiru in ways she couldn't even describe to hear what Haruka had endured, shunned and taunted by those who could never hope to equal her. But looking at the sternness of Haruka's expression, Michiru knew she didn't pity herself for her past, and that outright sympathy wouldn't be welcome. There was one thing she could do though, that was perhaps more important; say to Haruka what no one had ever said before.
Reaching out, Michiru touched her fingertips to Haruka's face and stroked her cheek gently. "Let me tell you what I see when I look at you, Haruka," she whispered. "I see a woman who is strong and beautiful and pursues her goals with courage and determination no matter what. A woman who will never betray what she believes in because others don't agree with her. A woman who will take care of me when I need it, but who trusts me enough to let me take care of myself when I say I can. The only way my feelings have altered now that I know you better is that I'm even more in love with you than I was before. Sorry." Michiru broke off with an embarrassed laugh. "I'm making a fool of myself. Blame the wine. I don't expect anything from you; I was planning to tell you tonight anyway. I just wanted you to know."
Never before had Michiru seen Haruka's eyes like this, burning with some intense emotion like the fire in the heart of a star, and she shivered as Haruka touched her, sliding her hand around to the nape of Michiru's neck and drawing her closer, until their lips were almost touching.
"I'm sorry," Haruka said. "I've been acting like a coward, again."
She crossed the last hair's breadth between them and Michiru closed her eyes, a small, hitched moan escaping as she finally felt Haruka's lips against her own, soft and warm and sweet. It was a gentle kiss, almost tentative, but it was still enough to send heat coursing through Michiru's body, right into the marrow of her bones.
"H-Haruka," she gasped when they parted.
Haruka grinned. "Did I forget to mention? I love you too."
Already she was leaning in to kiss Michiru again, but Michiru stopped her, uncertainty suddenly chilling her heart. Perhaps it was the flippant way Haruka spoke, flirting and teasing and not sounding in the least bit serious. Exactly the way she treated her fangirls.
"How many girls besides me have you kissed?" asked Michiru, turning her lips away from Haruka's.
"What? What a strange question."
"Maybe. But I'd still like you to tell me."
"How many people have you kissed, other than me?"
"None. That's why I'm asking."
"Well," said Haruka, "my answer is the same as yours. I'm surprised you would think otherwise."
"But your fangirls…"
Haruka ran her fingers through Michiru's hair. "I think you're more obsessed with my fangirls than I am. I wasn't interested in them before, and I'm certainly not now that I've met you. Not one of them could ever compare to you. But I suppose, if I'm going to be perfectly honest, it comforts me that you worry too. Is that a selfish thing to say?"
"No," said Michiru softly. "I think it's normal to have those feelings in a situation like this."
"This is normal?" Haruka laughed a little wildly. "Look at my hand Michiru; it's shaking. My hands never shake. Even before a race. If this is normal, I'm not sure how much I'll be able to take."
All Michiru could think was that the hand Haruka held out between them was uncommonly attractive, strong and capable with long, tapering fingers that were equally at home tinkering in the heart of a motor engine or picking out a delicate melody on the piano. She brushed her own fingers over Haruka's palm, slowly raising Haruka's hand to her lips and kissing the backs of her fingers, the back of her hand, the inside of her wrist, only pausing at the sound of Haruka's increasingly ragged breathing.
Glancing up at Haruka, Michiru saw flushed cheeks and reddened lips and eyes darkened to the colour of indigo, and it made her feel both powerful and frightened to realise she could reduce her lover to this helpless state. "Do you want to stop?" she asked, only half teasing.
"No." Haruka's reply was almost inaudible. "I want to…If you'll let me, I would like to…" She couldn't seem to get any further, but she didn't need to. What she wanted was in her eyes, and it was almost too much for Michiru to have Haruka look at her like that, with such desire.
Somehow they were on their feet; Michiru finding that her legs were as unsteady as Haruka's hands, but she tried to maintain at least a semblance of control as she reached up to Haruka and kissed her again. "I've been waiting for you to ask," Michiru said breathlessly, and led the way to Haruka's bedroom.
Warm. Michiru was so warm. She cracked an eye open carefully, bringing into focus a room that was dim and grey. With a slight frown, she glanced outside the window. It was raining. Pouring more accurately, so fast and heavy that everything outside was almost completely obscured, only vague shapes looming out of the murk. The temperature seemed remarkably cool for midsummer, and under other circumstances, Michiru might have felt chilled.
Under other circumstances.
Michiru smiled, and glanced at the woman sleeping beside her, blonde hair tumbled into her eyes. Haruka's arms were around her, holding her close, palms flat against her naked skin, and slowly, almost absently, Michiru began to trace patterns with her fingertips across Haruka's back, bemused and wondering that this could be.
Since Haruka's awakening as Uranus, Michiru had dreamed of her sometimes; dreams of a silver palace beneath a starlit sky and a vast echoing bedroom that they filled with their cries, but she was never sure if these were memories or only fantasies woven of her own feverish longings.
But either way, as intense as those dreams were, they hadn't prepared her for the reality; the reality of Haruka's hands and lips on her body, the gentle surety of her touch, the warm weight of her as they kissed and Michiru opened her legs just like in her sunlit vision on the day they'd met and she felt Haruka's fingers between her legs for the first time.
At that moment, pleasure had taken on a whole new meaning in Michiru's world, and when Haruka…When Haruka put her tongue to uses that Michiru had hardly even dared to imagine, her definition of pleasure had moved right into a whole different dimension.
And when it had been her turn to taste Haruka, to make her cry out like that, all distance, all caution forgotten, nothing but unrestrained passion between them…Michiru knew she would never tire of touching Haruka in that way, no matter how often they did this.
Haruka stirred, and opened dark teal eyes that lighted on Michiru still sleep-befuddled.
"Hey," she said in a husky voice. A stretch. "What time is it?"
"Don't know," said Michiru. "Look out the window."
Since Haruka was lying with her back to the window, she wasn't impressed with this suggestion. "Do I have to?" she asked grumpily. "It sounds like too much effort." At Michiru's insistence, however, she complied, turning over and looking out the window. "Huh," she said in surprise. "It's raining. That wasn't in the forecast."
"I think it's a message from the universe," Michiru whispered, sliding close behind Haruka and placing small, teasing kisses down the graceful line of her neck, sinking her teeth in lightly to the fleshy meeting of neck and shoulder as she moved her hand over Haruka's hip and down, to the sweet, secret place between her legs.
She felt more than heard Haruka's gasp; smiled as Haruka turned onto her back, reaching up to place her arms around Michiru and opening her legs further.
"Ahh, Michiru, that…Mmm."
Michiru leaned down and kissed her, open-mouthed and wanting, and tried not to show her disappointment when Haruka gently pushed her away after a few moments.
"Sorry," she said ruefully. "It's not that I don't want to, it's just that I really need to use the bathroom."
"Mmm, me too, now that you mention it," Michiru admitted. "But you're so distracting…"
"I'll be back in a bit," said Haruka, a smile in her voice.
Michiru used the bathroom after Haruka, and then quite happily resumed being distracted, finding that she hadn't explored Haruka's body nearly as thoroughly as she should have the night before. Haruka placed herself in Michiru's care with something more than willingness, soon reduced to monosyllabic words and inarticulate noises as Michiru touched her, afterwards repaying Michiru with a pleasuring that was just as intense.
It was nearly noon before they finally rose and showered and cobbled together a meal that was somewhere between lunch and breakfast. The rain was still coming down hard, and Michiru commented that she hoped Haruka wouldn't mind if she stayed a little longer, because she didn't want to have to go out in such filthy weather.
"You can stay as long as you like," Haruka replied, and there was a strange catch in her voice that made Michiru glance at her curiously.
"Oh?" she inquired.
"Well." Haruka shrugged. "We'll be starting at Mugen soon, and it will probably be dangerous. We're more vulnerable when we're not together."
Going over this cryptic comment in her head, Michiru's eyes widened slightly as she guessed Haruka's meaning. "Are you asking me to move in?" she said, slightly disbelieving.
"You don't have to move in here," said Haruka. "I wouldn't mind moving into your place, or we could look for somewhere new. I don't really mind, as long as I'm with you."
"And you want to do this for the sake of our mission?"
"No, for the sake of our relationship. But…it is true that I'll feel better if I know where you are. If the enemy were ever to discover your identity, or mine, we'd be more easily targeted alone. But if we're together, we can protect each other."
"You know, though," said Michiru, "that the mission has to come first, before either of our lives."
"I know," said Haruka softly, "but that's no reason not to enjoy what we have now, for as long as we can."
Michiru smiled. She'd always found it difficult to live for the moment, perhaps because of a mind that was forever catching glimpses of the past and the future and trying to puzzle them out. But it was something she was starting to get better at, since she'd met Haruka. Haruka, who, until recently, had been running from past and future both, living only for those few brief glorious moments of present when she became the wind and could forget about everything, even her own existence.
"You're right," Michiru said. "As soon as the rain stops, you can drive me over to my place and I'll get what I need."
Haruka looked doubtful. "Then, you want to move in here?"
"Yes, why not?"
"But you'll lose your studio, and where will you practice your violin?"
"I can rent a studio space easily enough, and whenever I stay here I practice my violin in the lounge room and you don't seem to mind."
"What about all your beautiful things?"
"I don't want them. My father bought them to go with the apartment; I had no say in it. The first time you came to my home I told you I hated it there, and I still do. It is static and dead and I wouldn't trust whatever future we might have there together."
"You're very superstitious, aren't you?" said Haruka.
"Maybe," Michiru replied. "Or maybe I can just sense things that others can't."
Seeing that Michiru was determined, Haruka didn't try to argue further. She reached across the table and took Michiru's hand, her eyes shining suspiciously. "Well, why don't we see how it goes, with the two of us living here. If we find we don't have enough space, we can always look for somewhere bigger."
"A sensible plan," Michiru agreed, and poured them both another cup of tea.
Several weeks later with the tang of autumn in the air, Haruka and Michiru cruised down the highway in Haruka's car, the setting sun huge and orange on the western horizon as it slowly sank into the sea. They'd just finished their first week at Mugen Academy, and earlier that day, Michiru had also finally concluded the sale of her apartment, complete with all its furnishings.
It was an ending, and a beginning, and to celebrate Haruka insisted they get out of the city for a while and go for a drive. Michiru didn't think it was an accident that Haruka had chosen this route; this was where Haruka had brought her on their very first drive together, wordlessly answering the wish Michiru had expressed before Haruka's awakening. Michiru's sketchbook was on the back seat, and there was a change of clothes in the boot, just in case. Once Haruka started driving, it was difficult to get her to stop, and on several occasions they'd found themselves so far from the city that it was necessary to spend the night somewhere before heading back the next day.
Out of the corner of her eye, Michiru saw Haruka glance across at her, a gentle smile on her face.
"I'm glad I was able to meet you," she said, her voice uncharacteristically quiet.
Michiru pushed her wild hair back from her face, not quite sure she'd heard correctly. "Pardon?" she asked.
"Let's cruise together like this forever," Haruka said. "I won't let you go home tonight."
"My!" Michiru laughed, feeling herself full of light, and Haruka joined her, their voices merging with the restless sound of the sea, and Michiru knew that her hunch had been right and that Haruka planned to take her far from the city and all it represented, at least for one night. Tomorrow, they would be soldiers again with a mission to fulfill, and perhaps that was destiny and perhaps it was choice, but as long as Haruka was with her, Michiru didn't really care, either way.
Author's Note: If you enjoyed "Destiny", you might like to read my related story "Dreams". Set in the same universe, "Dreams" is a short vignette that explores Haruka's feelings after meeting Michiru for the first time.