**** Yo, people! "Traffic Stats" tell me that some people have actually looked at these stories of mine! A review is nice. Anyway...

This story is set immediately following its precursor, "The Mew War." So the time is within the year after the last Sailor Moon animated series. Thus Sailor Moon and her companions are about 16 years old. The Mew Mews are about a year younger than Sailor Moon, except that Mew Pudding is about five years younger than the others, and Mew Zakuro is about five years older.

This story is a sequel to "The Mew War." It makes no sense standing by itself. If you want to read this story, I strongly recommend that you read "The Mew War" first.

You may notice that often the conversation in these stories is somewhat stilted. The reason is that I imagine this story to be an anime cartoon, and the characters are speaking Japanese, and I am reading English fansubs. And the conversation in English fansubs of Japanese animes is often rather stilted and strangely formal. So that is the way the characters speak.

A warning: if you read this story to the end, you might be disappointed - it is quite "dark." Just to warn you all...

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Sailor Moon and the Sailor Senshi

in

The Second Mew War

Usagi shivered. It was still summer, and the sun still shone. But she felt cold - cold, because she was afraid.

She should not have been afraid. She had won her war. The leader of the Mew Mews, Momomiya Ichigo, had knelt before her, and had pledged herself and the rest of the Mew Mews to her service. Once again, as she always had, she had won. There was no danger to her now. No one would attack her. But she was afraid.

She stood at the base of the steps up to the shrine, the shrine where Hino Rei served as Shrine Maiden. That should not have frightened her. She had spent countless hours here before, especially when they were studying for their high school entrance exams. Now THAT was something that was frightening; but Usagi had passed, and was in high school. But she was afraid now, more afraid than she had ever been before anything like an exam.

She was afraid that Rei still hated her.

Usagi was Sailor Moon, the top Magical Girl in Japan - that was true. She had defeated every enemy, from Queen Beryl up through the Mew Mews. But that was not the part of her that was most important to her. What mattered most to her was that she was everybody's friend. She could make friends with anyone, even when no one else could make such friends. She remembered Kino Makoto. Makoto was a lonely orphan, and poor. And she was too big, and had no social graces, and she was always getting into fights. She transferred into Usagi's school back during junior high when she got expelled from her old school for fighting. The others had shunned her, in loathing, or fear, or both; but Usagi had befriended her, and now Makoto was the most faithful of her friends, and of her Senshi, for she was now the mighty Sailor Jupiter. Usagi was everyone's friend.

Rei had been a true friend of hers, maybe the best she ever had, though all they had ever done was fight. But now Rei had turned on her, and had abandoned her when she had been defeated in that first fight with Mew Ichigo. There was always mystery about Rei. Usagi could not read her heart like she read the hearts of others, and she feared to face that heart now. For if Rei still hated her, then that defeat would wound her heart more than her defeat at the hands of Mew Ichigo.

But Usagi steeled her heart, and though she climbed those steps slowly, she kept climbing to the top. She walked down the path to approach the shrine, and then she saw her: Hino Rei, Sailor Mars. She was dressed as a shrine maiden, with that bulky red skirt and white top: so much more modest than the white short-shorts and red halter that Usagi wore. Rei was sweeping the path clean, as Shrine Maidens seemed to do so often. Usagi stopped, and swallowed, and steeled herself, and approached the dark-haired, mystical, mysterious girl.

Rei saw her coming and stopped sweeping with her broom, though her eyes swept over Usagi. What did Usagi see in those eyes? Not friendship, certainly, though not hatred, either. It was more like contempt. But that was Rei; she always held herself to be at least a bit better than Usagi.

And Rei spoke, formally: "Welcome to Hikawa Shrine."

And Usagi stopped. There was no friendship in those words. Rei was acting as if they had never met. She stammered, unable to speak.

So Rei spoke, again: "Is there something that you want?"

The words stung Usagi. Outright anger would have hurt less than this. Yet she had to do this, for she was the Moon Princess, and Rei was one of her guardian Senshi. So she swallowed hard, and said, "Rei, Rei-chan, can't you come back? We won the war, and Mew Ichigo knelt to me and abased herself. She has accepted me as Princess..."

Rei raised her hand, and Usagi stopped speaking. This was rare; almost no one could get Usagi to ever shut up. But she was so afraid, now. And then Rei said, "I know the story. Ami told me. And forget that -chan stuff. You are not dear to me." Rei walked up to Usagi, and her dark eyes stared into Usagi's blue ones. "You didn't win the war, not really. The cat-girl gave in to end the fighting, not because you defeated her. Once again she proved herself the better woman than you."

But Usagi said, as tears began flowing: "Rei-chan, you are dear to me. You are one of the Senshi. You must come back, or the Senshi will be incomplete. We need you to protect the world."

Rei just shook her head. "You are not worthy of the title of Princess. I will never serve you."

But Usagi begged, through her tears, "Then don't serve me! Just be my friend!"

But Rei said, "No, never again. And be sure of this: I will win Mamoru's heart." Usagi gasped, and Rei smirked. "As I said, you are not worthy to be Princess. Those that still serve you are fools."

She turned away, and spoke one more time, quietly, looking at the bare ground at her feet: "And I am not worthy to be Senshi, after what I did that day, down by that pond." She walked away.

"Rei!" Usagi wailed, but the dark-haired girl did not turn back. Usagi fell to her knees, and wept, the tears streaming down. Rei disappeared into the shrine; and Usagi did not see that tears dripped down her cheeks, also.

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Once again Usagi hesitated, this time with her finger over a doorbell button. Inside she could hear singing, and she knew the voice: Aino Minako sang to a karaoke machine. Minako had always dreamed of being a singer, and an idol. She kept practicing, but she never seemed to be able to get the break she needed. She should get that break, Usagi thought. She was talented, and she tried so hard. She was good at so many things: she was so good-looking, and so popular. She had been the original Sailor Senshi: before even Usagi became Sailor Moon, she had fought evil as Sailor V, now Sailor Venus.

But like Rei, she hated Usagi.

But Usagi forced herself to ring the bell. There was no answer, but the music was loud, so Usagi rang it again, and again. Then the music stopped, and finally, the door opened.

Usagi forced a smile. "Mina-chan!" she said, and she reached out her hands.

But Minako did not respond. Her blue eyes swept over Usagi, as Rei's dark eyes had done. But she did not invite Usagi in. "What do you want?" she said, in a bored tone.

Usagi gulped, hard. It was not like Minako to show bad manners and not invite her in. Usagi could barely mutter, "Minako, please come back! We won the war, you know, and Mew Ichigo knelt..."

"I know, I know," Minako said. "Rei called me." Then there was more awkward silence, and then Minako said, "No, Sailor Moon. You were a complete fool to get into that fight with that cat-eared freak, and you were a complete loser to let her beat you. I have no respect left for you."

But Usagi whispered, "No! You must come back! The Senshi need you!"

And Minako said, "Look, I've seen too much fighting. I've done that Senshi thing for too long. It's time for me to grow up and pursue a real career."

Growing up was something that Usagi never really considered much, other than the thought that one day she would marry Mamoru. Still, being Sailor Senshi was not childish. They had saved the world five times! So she begged, "We need you!"

But Minako said, "You have failed as Princess, and I failed as Senshi. It's time for us both to move on." And she closed the door.

Usagi stood there in the dim hallway, and wept. Yes, she had failed as Princess - once again.

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It was getting late when Usagi finally made it back to her home. She could have taken the bus, or the train. But there would be people on those, and she did not want them to watch her weep. And walking home meant being alone, alone for several hours, and she wanted that very badly. Over and over again in her mind she went over all she had said, all she had done, and every plan she could imagine to get her Senshi back. But it was all useless. She had thought that once the Mew Mews knelt before her, then her friends would come back. She thought that being a winner again would be all that it would take. But Rei and Minako still hated her. They hated Usagi, and they hated themselves. Usagi was no genius but she understood that last part. Rei and Minako had come within half a breath of murdering Mew Ichigo, and the guilt and shame they felt were more than they could bear.

It was surely after supper time by the time she opened the front door of her home. Her mother would have something for her, she knew, but though she loved to eat, she would not eat this night. She needed to crawl up into her room and lock the door and cry all night alone. Even if Mamoru would come, she would not come down, she thought; then she shook her head. She could not resist Mamoru if he came. But she would not call him.

She stepped in, and her mother appeared from the kitchen. "Usagi, there's someone here to see you!" she said, smiling.

Usagi started. Who could that be? Was Mamoru here, or had Rei come, or Minako? For a second hope sprang up in her heart - but only for a second. She had thought that nothing could make this day worse than it was, but she was wrong.

For a pink-haired child bounded into the room, and she stopped before Usagi, and spoke arrogantly: "Baka Usagi! You've messed things up again, and I've come to set them right."

It was Chibi-usa, Usagi's daughter from the future, time-traveling again. In the future, maybe, Usagi would be a good mother, but she was too young to handle it now. And Chibi-usa was always far too friendly towards Mamoru. Mamoru was her father, or would be in the future, but in this period of time Chibi-usa always tried to monopolize his time, to keep Usagi away from him, and to make a fool of Usagi whenever he was around. The rest of the family had been convinced, by some rather nasty magic done by Sailor Pluto, that Chibi-usa was Usagi's cousin; but Usagi knew the truth. And the last thing she needed on this awful day was to see the little pink-haired brat.

And Usagi's father stuck his head in, and said, "Usagi, your mother and I are visiting some friends this evening, and we won't be back until it's late. I'm sure that you can take care of Chibi-usa." Then he disappeared, and in a few seconds they heard the door close as Usagi's parents left.

Chibi-usa looked over Usagi with contempt, and spoke: "Been putting on weight, I see! Well, that's to be expected for an old hag that eats junk food like a starving pig."

Usagi's anger exploded. "You loud-mouthed little brat!" she screamed, and she chased after Chibi-usa, who fled the room and ran up the stairs. Usagi pursued her, but Chibi-usa hid in the bathroom, and Usagi raced by the door, allowing the younger girl to flee back down the stairs. It was here that Usagi cornered her in the front room of the house, and closed in. "You won't sit for a week, after I'm done spanking your fat butt!" Usagi growled, and she seized the pink-haired child and threw her over her knee.

But after just one slap, the doorbell rang, and the door opened, and Chiba Mamoru stepped in: Usagi's beloved, the Prince of Earth as Usagi was Princess of the Moon, her future husband, and the future father of Chibi-usa. His eyes grew wide as he heard the screams of Chibi-usa and saw the wild-eyed rage in Usagi.

"Child abuse! Child abuse!" the pink-haired child was screeching. And Mamoru responded. He quickly stepped over and took Usagi's arm with his hand, and ended the spanking.

Usagi's huge eyes could hide nothing from anyone, and certainly not from her beloved Mamoru. He could see all the anger, all the hurt, and all the grief in her eyes, and he instantly knew that there was a lot more involved with this spanking than Chibi-usa's sassy mouth and Usagi's lack of patience. So he did not at all raise his voice, but just spoke as soothingly as he could. "Cool it, my love."

Chibi-usa now escaped Usagi's grip and ran to the kitchen door. "Come with me, Mamoru! I gotta show you something!" She smiled flirtatiously, less to attract Mamoru than to get farther under Usagi's skin. But Usagi could do nothing to her, since Mamoru still held her arm. And Mamoru said quietly to Usagi, "Yes, my love, she's doing it again, and the older she gets, the more ugly it becomes. But right now, you have to calm down. You were out of control, you could have hurt her. Wait just a few minutes to cool down, and then come in to wherever she's taking me." He brushed her tear-wet cheek with his left hand, and then released her with his right. And he whispered, "Yes, my love, our daughter is a brat-and-a-half. But right now you're behaving as badly as she is." And he left Usagi there and disappeared through the kitchen door.

Usagi was devastated. She could not endure being lectured by Mamoru. Yes, he was older than she was; he was, by most ways of looking at things, still too old for her. But she loved him as a woman to a man, not as a child to a parent, and she wanted him to treat her as an equal, not as a child who needed to be lectured. There was a sofa there in the front room, and Usagi sat heavily upon it, and buried her face in her hands. This had been a truly horrible day, painful beyond belief.

And then the doorbell rang again. It seemed impossible, but Usagi's horrible day was about to become a whole lot worse.

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Usagi didn't want to face anyone, not then. But she was Japanese, and social graces were considered so important. And besides that, maybe it just could be Rei or Minako, coming back to her. Maybe her words and her tears had touched one or the other, and Usagi could not afford to let one of them come and not find her. So she rose from the sofa, wiped the tears from her eyes, and opened the door.

It was neither Rei nor Minako. Two people stood there. One was a dark-haired young man, of Usagi's age or a little younger, all neat and handsome and strong. He supported with his arms a girl of about the same age, a girl with red hair and violet-gray eyes. That girl had been crying; her cheeks were wet and streaked, and her eye make-up was all but destroyed. She looked with desperate sadness at Usagi.

Then the boy spoke: "May we come in?"

Usagi wanted to say no. The girl was her most recent enemy, Momomiya Ichigo, the leader of the Sailor Senshi's most recent rivals, the Mew Mews. She was a magical girl, and powerful; she had fought Usagi when the Mew War began, and crushed her. At the end, of course, she had abased herself before Usagi and surrendered, accepting Usagi as her Princess. And after that last confrontation, Usagi had got to know her a little bit, and had actually begun to admire her. But Usagi was in too much pain to face her now...

But protocol demanded that Usagi let them in, so she said, "Yes, please, come in." And they made their way to the sofa and sat upon it, the girl leaning on the guy's shoulder.

"Something's wrong," Usagi said. "I can see that. But I've had a really bad day, too." She sat on the sofa, next to the redhead.

Ichigo looked sadly at Usagi. "We're in trouble, Sailor..." her voice cut off, and she asked, "Are your parents here?"

Usagi said, "No," and before she could say more, Ichigo continued, "We're in trouble, Sailor Moon. The Mew Mews, they... they..." She choked on her tears. Then she stared straight into Usagi's huge blue eyes. "They threw me out."

"What?" Usagi demanded. "How could they do that? Weren't you the leader?"

"Well, sort of, I was," Ichigo half-whispered. "But not like you. You're a Princess, you lead by right. I was just the first to join the Mew Mews, and I have the most powerful attacks, so they followed me. But now they've thrown me out."

"What happened?" Usagi asked. One of the few things that could bring Usagi out of one of her self-pitying crying jags was her natural empathy toward others. It was one of those qualities that made her everyone's friend.

"I got to work late today, almost an hour late. I was with Aoyama-kun," the red-haired girl said, and looked at the boy. Then she went on, "When I got to the cafe, the others were all lined up, and they were mad. Well, they're often mad when I'm late, but not like that. Well, Zakuro..." - that was Mew Zakuro, part-time magical girl and part-time famous model, actress, and idol - "Zakuro called me aside for a private talk. She told me that they had met, and... they decided that I didn't have the right to pledge them to your service. I couldn't speak for them. They said that I was 'way out of line, that I had become far too self-important. They didn't want me around any more. They voted - they voted to expel me from the Mew Mews."

Usagi reached out and touched the arm of the weeping, gasping girl. Not long before they had been fighting to the finish, and all Usagi could feel for her was hatred. Now all she could feel for her was pity.

"I've lost everything!" the red-haired girl gasped. My job, my role as a magical girl superhero - and all my best friends in the world. All I've got left is Aoyama-kun." She clung to the boy more tightly.

Usagi reached up and brushed a tear from the girl's cheek. "Did they all turn on you? Did they all vote against you?"

Ichigo stared at the floor. "Zakuro - that bitch - she said that the vote was three to one against me. I'm sure that Mint voted against me - she never liked me much - and Pudding would follow whatever Mint said. And I'm sure that Lettuce would never turn on me. So that means that Zakuro betrayed me. I never thought she would."

Usagi thought silently for a moment. She, too, had known betrayal by her friends. Then she said, "I suppose that Zakuro is now the leader of the Mew Mews. Maybe that's why she voted the way she did."

But Aoyama said, "No. They're bringing Mew Berry back to lead them."

"And who's that?" Usagi asked.

Aoyama continued, "After the Mew Mews defeated the aliens, Ichigo went out of the country for a short while. While she was gone, a new blonde girl was accidentally transformed into a Mew Mew - her name was Shirayuki Berry. It seems that she got DNA from more than one animal, and maybe that's why as soon as she joined, she became the leader. Mostly she seems to be rabbit - she's got rabbit ears." The young man shook his head. "Those ridiculous ears..."

Aoyama allowed himself a tiny bit of a smile before he continued, "Well, there were some bad guys around, something called the Saint Rose Crusaders. Nothing all that bad, but when Ichigo came back, she helped defeat them. Then after that, there was a big clash over who would lead the Mew Mews. My Ichigo, she's got a bit of a pride problem, you know, and she didn't want this Berry to lead. And Berry's got the same problem. Really, I think Ichigo's a whole lot better than Berry, and prettier, too - but then I'm a bit biased there. Anyway, for a while it looked as if the two rivals would fight. So eventually the Mew Mews voted, and the vote was tied, two to two. So the guys down there - Keiichiro and Ryou - they settled it, and chose Ichigo. Berry wouldn't follow Ichigo, so she left. But she's around, and they are going to bring her back."

Usagi thought silently for a while. Some of her own Senshi had turned on her, but they could not expel her - she was Moon Princess by right of birth. She could see how Ichigo had been so hurt by her friends' rejection of her. Still, she had her boy friend. Usagi asked, "Are you still magical? Can you transform?"

Ichigo turned her sad eyes on Usagi. "I turned in my waitress uniform, and my pendant, too. But Keiichiro said that no one else could ever use the pendant, because it was bound to my DNA, and to my soul. And he said that I might need it, to protect myself or my family if the aliens came back, or anyone else came after me. So I guess I'm still magical, but I'm not a Mew Mew any more." The tears began flowing once again.

And then Usagi asked, "You tell a very sad tale. But why tell it to me? Do you think that I can make them take you back, or something?"

Ichigo shook her head. "No. You couldn't, and if you tried, there might be more fighting. I just wanted to tell you to be careful. They rejected me, and they rejected the deal I made with you. They might start fighting you again. I thought that I should tell you, so you can play it safe..."

"Play it safe?" Usagi barked, her great eyes blazing. "I'm not the one who needs to play it safe. If those little kitties think they could beat me, I'll squash them like the bugs they are! I'll..." Then her eyes dropped, and she looked at the floor and lowered her voice. "Damn, there I go again. You know, Mew Ichigo, you can really bring out that stupid pride in me."

"I'm not Mew Ichigo any more," the red-haired girl said.

"To me, you are, and you always will be, and I'm Princess, so that's that!" Usagi said. And she embraced the sobbing girl. "Don't worry, my friend, I'll make sure that fighting does not break out again between my girls and the Mew Mews."

Then things grew silent, and Aoyama said, "I have to get her home now. Thank you so much for listening, and for committing yourself to keeping the peace." He helped Ichigo to the door, his arm around her waist.

But before they left, Usagi came up to say good-by; and Ichigo reached out and touched her cheek, and whispered, "Thank you, my friend." Then they went out into the night.

And just inside the kitchen door, Mamoru and Chibi-usa looked at each other, and sighed; and the pink-haired girl said, "Usagi is such a weakling."

But Mamoru, his eyes far away, only whispered softly: "That is why I love her so."