A/N: Nothing to say but read and review, and that I don't own Sailor Moon... (I honestly think I should plaster that phrase onto my forehead since I have so many Sailor Moon based fan fictions... superglue anyone?)

Chapter 8: Learning.

One thing she wouldn't peg herself as was a trouble maker. She had always attempted to do the right thing. Hotaru feared to be reprimanded for stepping out of line. Still, that's what she was doing hiding on her rooftop. Someone, a time mage particularly, should know she was on the roof. She may have been a Senshi, but she was still a teen, and being in a high place wasn't safe, especially when she wasn't transformed. While it was true that there were times she was exempt from any normal rules, and even fully allowed to shatter them when Senshi situation came into play, now wasn't those times. Her papa would be flat out pissed if she knew Hotaru was on the roof, and her Michiru-mama wouldn't have been thrilled either. Still, Hotaru needed time on her own, and it seemed as if at least parent understood those facts. The roof was the only place she could hide, and during really bad times she did it often.

Sometimes Setsuna got her before the other two found out...other times, she left Hotaru alone. This was seemingly one of those times. Little did Hotaru know that her parents were not pleased. She hadn't been yelled at, or found, and so she had just assumed they either didn't know, or in the case of the resident mage, simply left the matter alone. She looked at the ground below her. If she was transformed she could land onto the pavement with out little more than an afterthought. Even if she landed head first, there was little room for worry. It would hurt, she knew that much. Basic reasoning told her that it wouldn't actually kill her. In fact, there would still be a decent chance of her being fit for battle. However, without her transformation jumping would be extremely dangerous. Easily, she could break a limb, or worse...

"It isn't safe. Letting her alone up there is far too lenient for this." Haruka ranted from the kitchen chair. She wanted nothing more than to fish out a ladder and retrieve her wayward teen. "I know you ignore things more often than not, but this is absolutely ridiculous!" Rattling the handcuff Haruka once again tried to break free, failing miserably. "At the very least, go up and sit with her." She growled as she tugged harder at the chain. "Stupid thing. Setsuna, let me go!" She kicked her foot, that chain didn't leave either.

"That's a chain from the gates itself. Fate will not have you interfering. The plans it has placed before Hotaru aren't for us to meddle in. This is her choice, and hers alone." She sipped her tea calmly, her eyes watching her staff, though it gave no clear answer. It blinked with light only Setsuna could see into, but she knew sooner or later it would flash images. "Sadly, I cannot remove it. Only fate can decide what I can and cannot do. Even if I attempted to unlock you from that shackle it would be worthless. I simply don't have the power to do so."

"Well then, go get Hotaru!" the blond yelled rather loudly. "Michiru...do something with your girlfriend..." Really, the infuriating mage was just as much in a relationship with her as Michiru was. They had always been open with each other. Her foot tapped the floor out of aggravation as she continued to attempt to chew off the one obstacle ensnaring her. "Stupid torture device."

"Relax Haruka." Michiru sighed gazing at the window. She didn't much like the idea of disobeying and also receiving a chain. "You're only going to make matters worse." She wanted to go up to that roof as well, but for a completely different reason. It was true she didn't much like Hotaru up there any more than she liked the youngest Senshi wandering off by herself, but she had come to a resolution long ago. She may have been deadly, but she was also only a child. Senshi though she was. They each had a level of danger that they placed themselves in, and while it was true her age wasn't an easy factor, it was a reality.

Hotaru's youth wasn't a gift, but rather a curse unrelenting. Hotaru was indeed their child, but, she also wasn't a minor needing protection. Much like Makoto, the girl was an adult all purely because of the trials she faced. It was something Michiru considered during the battle, back when Hotaru was an enemy. She wasn't fighting a defenseless little girl, she was fighting a killer. They all were in their own right, and as dark as it sounded, it also allowed light to pour into Hotaru's world. Michiru may have wanted to be a mother, and to some extent she was, but Hotaru also needed something deeper now. A lover, someone who could protect her beyond closed doors. "It doesn't make it easier though."

If it hadn't been for that realization, she wouldn't have deemed Hotaru old enough to even have a romantic life. No matter who it was with. Granted, because it was Ami, one of the most responsible Senshi, Michiru also took comfort. She was only in middle school after all, the age gap was quite large, and while it was true she trusted both girls, Ami was older, and the ideals of a relationship normally crossed boarders that Hotaru wouldn't be ready for. Sure, she herself hadn't been completely innocent in her younger years, and she didn't expect Hotaru to be either, but there were limits of just how far that went.

"It never gets easier." Setsuna sighed, already knowing the fact first hand. "We knew we would stop playing house one day. Soon she will decide on her own what path she must take, while I think in a small way she will always see us as parents, she has matured past what we can give her." Haruka only grunted in annoyance while Michiru nodded quietly. Setsuna's staff flashed and she quickly summoned it, only to place it into a space pocket. That earned her two very annoyed looks. "What? It isn't any of our concern. She'll come to us if she needs us."

When the staff had flickered to life, they had also felt a transformation come quickly forth, speeding towards their home. It wasn't a threat, it was a Sailor Senshi, they knew the power flow well. Of the inner group, it could have only been two people, one of whom would have had an entire army following her. Literally. That left one other, one of their fellow warriors set out to protect their future. She wasn't a threat, but they knew she wasn't an expected visitor either. Her transformation melted away like ice on the pavement during summer, the only hint anyone was still outside were the soft voices coming from above them. Michiru grimaced, she couldn't hear anything distinct.

The night was cool, but not overly so. Ami could feel the wind on her skin though, and pulled her jacket closer to her body. Hotaru didn't move, but she knew Ami was behind her. She only waited as her companion sat on the slanted surface. Only a few feet in front of them the gutters lay, clean as a bell besides a few stray leaves. Neither knew what to say, but as Ami glanced over, she knew Hotaru had to be freezing. Her clothing was far too light for this type of weather. "Keep that up and you're going to make yourself ill." She unfastened the buttons that kept her spring jacket closed, taking it off and placing it around Hotaru's shoulders.

Hotaru didn't have the heart to tell her that her Senshi powers prevented her from actually feeling cold weather. She and Ami were very much the same in that regard. Yes, it wasn't always pleasant, but they both held some level of immunity over the cool autumn night. Had it been snowing, the story would have been different, but such a mild chill wouldn't harm her at all. Still, she allowed the girl to do it without rebuke. What Ami said next however, left a question within her mind. "I didn't think I'd find you up here. I just assumed you wanted me to come through the window."

Hotaru raised a brow at that, she had wanted that, but there were issues with the idea. "Papa would hear us, and Michiru-mama tends to wander around in her room around this time of night." She wondered something then, a shadow of a smile only momentarily gracing her features. "Would you really have jumped through my bedroom window at the risk of being caught?" It seemed a simple question. Blunt, but simple. At least in Hotaru's mind. They didn't want to make a scene, but they needed to talk. Ami seemed like something was bothering her earlier, and it was clear a phone call wasn't in the stars. Communicators weren't exactly private, at any time someone else could open the line, so, that was also ruled out. Then, before giving Ami a chance to answer her, she posed a different question. "What are we doing anyway?"

"I...don't know." It was the best Ami could say. She truly didn't have a clue.
"Me either." The agreement was quiet, almost barely spoken.
"Do you regret it?" Ami had been wondering that.

Hotaru shook her head, but didn't say a word to deny the claim. She didn't see the point. Her mind filled with darker ideas, other realities besides taking a chance at life and love. She knew well what one misplaced step would do. As more wind pelted them, Hotaru almost wondered if it was Haruka kicking up this storm, but she knew that even her papa had limits. The weather was just being odd tonight. It gave her a different focus, and she needed that the most. Wordlessly she spoke more than anything her voice could say. If it was out of fear she was unsure, be she allowed herself to get closer than normally she would have liked. It was a simple gesture, resting her head on Ami's shoulder, but the older girl got the idea.

She wrapped her arm around Hotaru. She had noticed this quiet pattern. This manner of not saying a word when it was clear so much wanted to spill forth. It was as if Setsuna had trained the girl never to speak freely. Ami mentally chided herself. This trait was one taught out of life's more cruel and unusual punishments. One of them, while forbidden, had always captured an interest. One Ami never understood, almost considered twisted, but never could ignore. "Hotaru...what's the silence like?" It seemed an odd question for Ami to ask.

The dark Senshi looked at Ami's nearly mortified expression. As if she could sense Ami's inward screaming at the question she asked, Hotaru merely sighed. She guessed many of the Senshi wondered that. She had already received the question from Haruka-papa on several occasions. Really, it wasn't a hard question, and it most assuredly wasn't one that warranted such inward distaste. "Like this." Hotaru reply came softly, calmly. It really was that simple. "Quiet, cold."

"Is it dark like the night, or..." She trailed off, unsure how to explain. Ami had always wondered that type of thing. "Rei saw visions...really spiteful visions. She said it was tainted a color so dark and unworldly she almost thought it to be the hell the nuns spoke of in her school." Her eyes looked carefully for any signs that she was upsetting Hotaru, in Ami's head, she thought would be a very touchy subject. "You don't have to tell me, if you don't want to."

Somehow, Hotaru continued as if they were discussing something simple. It was as if this place, this most hated area, wasn't something Hotaru felt any distaste for. In fact, Ami sensed a fondness normally carefully guarded. She became unsure. "Not all the time." Hotaru's eyes were closed, but she could tell Ami's questions went deeper than that. Quirking one eye open, she chanced a peek into icy blue eyes. Those almost dripping with pity, fearful if not depressed. Yet, the fear was not aimed at her, Hotaru found that part of it quite odd. "What is it?"

"Can you tell me about it?" She was almost pleading for answers. Things she didn't want to know, things she almost had to know. Forcing herself outside of an inward shell. She was a Senshi who fought it off, but what had she been fighting? She often wondered if it had been as bad as everyone stated. What she saw she feared, and even battled with deathly ferocity, may not have been so bad. She hated to admit that on any normal day, but she knew Hotaru, had deep feelings for the girl. Hadn't she been the bringer of such a deadly fear? If so, then why did they fear it so much? "Please?"

"Close your eyes." It seemed like a simple enough instruction and Ami did as she was told. "You don't sleep in noisy areas do you? The silence in and of itself isn't a bad thing, it's the nature of what it implies. People can't hear you scream, can't understand each other. It is nothing more than a wall, much like the one I can use to deflect attacks. It can be a good thing or a bad thing, bit it is neutrality at the base. I don't know if the one you're asking about is good or bad, since the silence comes in many forms. I don't govern it, so I can't really tell you. I can summon its power, but I don't know where it stems from. Perhaps my inner being, but I'm not sure."

"I've always wondered about it." Ami added while opening her eyes again.
"Why?" Hotaru thought her nature was a given.
"You seem so closed off in the world, even if life is a gift you love so much." Ami knew it was obvious, but never knew.
"Gifts should be protected." Hotaru nodded, Ami could feel it.
"Even love?" It sounded apprehensive, as if the older girl remained unsure.

Hotaru pulled away then, her eyes confused. "Love isn't what we have. Love is a word defined by the world around us, but in thinking on it, we do not embody the term." Her youth was almost freakish when her mouth spouted such insight. "I can state I feel love, yes. But it is not love that governs our emotions. Not yours and not mine. We are not Usagi, and thankfully not Minako. Still, the possibility of love is there." She wanted to kiss Ami again, like she had before, but she was fearful of the outcome. That kiss was an understanding. They agreed not to refuse each other, to accept the feelings given... but could they really call that love? Hotaru wasn't sure. "I am not like everyone else. I know that."

"Neither am I." Ami knew it wasn't in the same context. Hotaru was putting herself down again, thinking she was some dark beast no doubt. Still, each and every one of them had skeletons in their closets. Rei had been right about that. Hotaru's just happened to affect more people in more ways than she had wanted to admit outwardly. "The others aren't the same either, Hotaru." Ami didn't know why, she wanted to hold her, take care of those fears that she knew didn't exist past the powers they held. Senshi magic only went so deep, only took you so far. "I wish you could really be like everyone else. Like the rest of us, then, I think you wouldn't feel so afraid all the time." Ami knew Hotaru wanted that too, but wouldn't ever reach out for it, but maybe...

Ami stood up then grabbing her pen from thin air, ready to transform. "I wouldn't normally tell people like Minako, or Usagi to do this." If Ami were lucky, Hotaru would reach out for her. "But, you Hotaru, you need to take a chance. Take them, but only when you know that you can take the heat it may dish out. That's what I've learned from my powers. I couldn't be so fearful if I wanted to find my inner strength. You can't either." They were going to defy orders doing this, sneaking away like they were. Yet still, it was calculated, and this risk was them being what they were. Teenagers. Granted that Ami was older, but when had she last let go of her worries, her own restraints? She couldn't remember.

So many people wanted her to do this. Usagi wanted her to be happy, and it was clear she knew more about Hotaru's feelings than she had let on at first. The blond was insightful like that. Rei was right too, Ami couldn't hide behind the fire Senshi forever. Yes, she was very logical, but she had her own demons to contend with. Minako, well, she supported love, and knew the emotion. She wouldn't deny it, wouldn't force them to deny what ever...this was. Her mother wasn't thrilled about her sexuality, but she hadn't beat her down with spiteful insults. The only question was, what did she want? When was the last time she actually tested her limits? She never had, not past being a Senshi...

That was when she realized Usagi had been right. She and Hotaru were very much the same in the worst way they could be. Both of them refused normality with an iron fist. In different ways perhaps, but it still wasn't normal. It wasn't being honest or true. It was a shell, a mask, and she needed to rid herself of such a painful resistance against her emotions, she needed to throw caution into the wind past duty, beyond perfection. "Follow my lead." It was almost an excited request, something that was invigorating, and also not smart.

Ami's aura filled the sky, as Hotaru's soon followed, though, in all honesty, the smaller girl wasn't sure why she was doing this. "Let's go." Ami answered. They only did this when they ran drills, but this wasn't training. At least not something that thought them combat. Ami grabbed Hotaru's hand in hers as they jumped from the roof onto the ground, heading off past the subdivision and into the park where they had first talked. They needed some free time, time away everyone else. But that didn't mean that they had gotten away unnoticed. It was just the fact that they didn't seem to care.

Hotaru followed, her hand feeling the warmth the cold nature of the water Senshi normally didn't offer. Ami was an odd contrast like that. Warm and cold. Inviting and yet very aloof. Insightful, yet pleasantly ignorant. Quiet and shy outwardly, opinionated and rather boisterous inwardly. "Where are we going?" They had just passed the park bench, running at top speed across the empty intersection, jumping into another fence before roof hopping once again.

"It doesn't matter where." She spoke softly, her wintry voice wafting in the wind. "All that matters Hotaru, is that you take a chance." Past the crown's roof they ran hard and fast. They were two of the slowest Senshi, but their speeds weren't anything to laugh at. They could still out run any normal human without question. They were both frail compared to the others. Still, if one were to gaze upon them, you'd never know it to be true. Past the school gates, up and over the metal fence, barricading them in, and yet, protecting them from the world they stopped and rest. "I wasn't ever allowed to be free." Catching her breath was hard, it took a lot out of her running like that. "Not until I met Usagi and the others." She sighed then, trying to calm her breathing. "And then, it opened up an entire new world for me."

"Even in a place like this?" School, the one place considered hell for Hotaru. She detested it.
"That's why I came here with you." Ami smiled softly, her own little secret hidden within. "I come here a lot when I want to think."
"Transformed like this?" Hotaru laughed at that quietly. It seemed out of the ordinary for Ami to be so reckless.
"Yes." She blushed at the admission. "But, that's also because I know that we can't stay hidden. Our identities are known someplace."

Hotaru knew Ami had been right. She shook her head inwardly knowing well of that fact. She had also assumed the same long ago, and often stated as such. She looked at Ami, she wanted to open up, she really did. Affection wasn't something often given freely, not for her. She never had someone lavish her with the kindness the Sailor Senshi did. Even more than that though, Ami had given her something that she wanted again. She was shaky at first, unsure of herself as she stepped up to the taller girl, putting her arms around her waste. Her fears vanished after what seemed a lifetime of waiting, when Ami finally returned the embrace. They stood there like that for the longest while, neither really wanted to make a move.

After the drawn out silence, Ami spoke. "We need to tell our parents." Rei may have had a good idea, but Ami hated sneaking around. It wasn't in her nature to fib like that. She ran one gloved hand around Hotaru's cheek, drawing her hair away from her eyes, leaving it to rest behind her ear. "My mother has a right to know about us. The nature of what we are and what we may become later on. Your parents should also be told. It's only the right thing to do." Hotaru nodded, but didn't speak about how much she hated the idea.

It made her think of being watched, something that already happened on a daily basis. "I knew we would sooner or later." The news headlines would have loved it...two Sailor Senshi embracing each other in such a manner. "I just would have rather it have been later. Much, much later." You could tell that they were not simply being platonic. Hotaru's standing even when not transformed provoked quite a large stir as it was. "You do realize that it's going to cause an uproar, right?" She didn't like that feeling.

"We're girls." Ami nodded, her words so soft Hotaru felt them more than heard them. "School alone is going to be difficult when they catch wind of it." Ami rather liked the idea of a closeted relationship purely for that reason alone. "I'd rather not shout it to the world either, if we can help it." At least they both agreed they didn't want this in the open, but... "As much as mother and I rarely open up about things, she knows enough about me that I won't ever be bringing home a male. She made that apparent after cornering me about it a few days back." She still didn't like it. Her friends knew, her mother knew, and somehow, she just wasn't ready for her sexuality to be a topic of discussion. It wasn't like she went out and told anyone. "I owe her an explanation."

"I know, but it doesn't mean I have to be fond of the idea." Hotaru could see Ami fully agreed with the sentiment. "This is one reason why the silence is a welcome thing, on very rare occasion." At least then she wouldn't have to explain things. She and Ami would attract attention akin to gold upon paper. She just knew it wouldn't be avoidable. Sooner or later, someone, someplace, would find out. It wasn't like they could live under a rock. Although, at that moment, it sounded like a good plan. Fame without fortune aside, there were others who would have loved to go searching for them. Even if it was only out of concern.

"Just what do they think they're doing?" Michiru sighed, about to go after them. It had already been two hours.
"Leave them be Michiru." Setsuna's order was soft, but calm.
"I don't sense any threat." Haruka seemed more confused than annoyed, still locked down.
"There isn't one...yet." She hadn't left her place at the kitchen table, there wasn't any need.
"Why don't I like the sound of that?" Michiru voiced what Haruka would have done in a manner unbecoming of any proper human being.

"I didn't say you would." Setsuna shrugged. It really wasn't her concern as of the moment. She couldn't stop fate. Only wait to pick of the pieces, which she fully intended to do. With, or without help. "Anyway, they aren't going to get hurt. I would be more fearful of what tomorrow brings." It was then the chain on Haruka's leg disappeared. "Either way, we are unable to stop the flow of fate and that path Hotaru has taken. Even if you chased them down, you'd do nothing to protect them from what lies ahead." She didn't know the future as well as she would like, but that tidbit was a given, the other two knew that information as well.

"I hate when your right, you know that?" Haruka's expression calmed then as she pulled Michiru onto her lap. Her head rested on her back, aqua tresses tickling her nose as she gazed over Michiru's shoulder to look at Setsuna. "we aren't going to have to bail them out of any place are we?"

"Perhaps." Setsuna's cryptic reply enough of a guarantee for them. "However it isn't out of jail or anything like that. Instead, I would think it would be the little matter of social conformity that plagues Hotaru so, and in Ami's case I would tend to think she's questioning the laws and future placed before her, something she hadn't always questioned with such irrational action. Of course, that's only my theory, nothing more."

"Sets, with you a theory becomes history." Michiru replied, it was mostly true.
"Is that so?" Playing the dumb stick in a large forest was rather fun. "It never occurred in my thoughts."
"Yeah, right." Haruka didn't believe that for a second.

"We'll deal with this in the morning. Now isn't the time." Setsuna stood then, going off to bed. There wasn't any use in stewing inside of possibilities. She had learned that long ago. Fate would do as fate would do. It didn't matter if she remained paranoid or not. "Haruka? Michiru? Are we going to bed, or not?" Setsuna called again. They threw each other a glance before following Setsuna's lead. They knew there wasn't anything they could do besides wait for the good or the bad. Either way, they knew Hotaru and Ami weren't going to have it easy, then again, when was love so simple? Never so much. Not even in story books.


I know many of you are waiting for the parental confrontation. I've received many a PM about various things you'd like to see or fear may happen. Don't worry, I've got what I want to happen in my head, as well as the final outcome for that. I just wanted to devote a chapter to Ami and Hotaru in a manner of showing that while yes, they are very quiet in how they do things, no they aren't pushovers. For this fiction I toned Hotaru down a lot, but I felt like for the pairing it had to be done. So, this was just placing them back into roles I may have taken away from them in subtle ways.