"We're really going to have to stop meeting like this."
Ami raised an eyebrow. "What do you suggest we do?"
"Well, I could quit my job and you could quit school and we could just stay in our apartment all day long with the cats that we rescue."
Ami chuckled. "Mother, the building already has two Crazy Cat Ladies, I doubt they'd appreciate two more."
Dr. Mizuno laughed. "And we'd both be driven insane by the inactivity. I think that things will get back to normal once this new group of interns gets settled in." Dr. Mizuno stood up and kissed Ami's cheek. "I have to get back. Are you going to stay a little while longer?" Ami nodded. "Alright, but don't stay too long. I'm sure you still have studying to do. I'll take care of the bill. See you in the morning!"
Ami watched as her mother hurried off then turned her eyes to the busy street on the other side of the window. Periodically she sipped on her cup of tea.
"May I sit down?"
Ami looked up at the man standing next to the table. She smiled and gestured to the chair that her mother had been sitting in. "Please, join me."
The man placed his own cup of tea on the table before sitting down.
"Lunch with friends?" Ami asked.
"Co-workers. Something we try to do at least once a week. To bond and connect with each other." His voice was dry. "How is your mother?"
"She's well. The hospital is keeping her busy." The small talk was amusing Ami. "And how are you?"
"I'm quite well, thank you. No black eyes."
"He wouldn't dare."
"I take it he figured out that Nephrite saw me at the Observatory."
Kunzite sighed and shook his head. "Neph tried to tell me privately but Zoi has sharp ears. The fight was brief but ugly." He looked at Ami. "By the way, I'm Tsukino Kazuya."
Ami's jaw dropped. There couldn't be that many people with that particular last name. "Tsukino?" She asked weakly.
Kazuya smiled faintly. "Usagi's my cousin."
Ami felt like an idiot but she still was shocked. "How, in the name of Selene, have you managed to keep Usagi from telling us that?"
A rusty laugh came from his throat. "I cheated." He admitted. "When she first came into her powers, I was stronger so I bespelled her. Every time she opens her mouth to tell you, she starts talking about something else. She's angry with me because of that but if she thinks about it, she'd be able to break the spell. She's stronger now."
Ami laughed herself. "That explains why she suddenly starts talking about going shopping or some other nonsense when we're having a serious discussion about our enemies."
Kazuya shrugged. "Sorry about that. But I needed to protect us."
Ami tilted her head. "Why?"
He took a sip of his tea and placed the cup back in its saucer. "Because you weren't ready. None of you. And I really didn't feel like dealing with lightening strikes and third degree burns."
"You didn't mention Venus or myself."
Only because she was watching him closely did she notice the almost imperceptible flinch. "Drowning isn't that much fun." He took a deep breath and stared out the window. "I wouldn't be able to take the heartache either." He said softly.
"Her heart hurts too." Ami's voice was equally soft.
"And so I stayed away." Grey eyes met blue. "It's still going to be hard on her. She's fought longer than all of you. The scars left on her psyche are deep."
"You aren't giving her enough credit."
"No, you really aren't." Ami's voice was firm. Kazuya looked at her. It was obvious that he was surprised that the one he knew to be the quietest and shyest of the Senshi was speaking to him so firmly. "She is strong. Yes, she has been hurt a great deal. But if she doesn't have our love…YOUR love…I think she will become lost."
Kazuya eyed Ami cautiously. "You know about her family life."
"She doesn't talk about it much."
"My…source…tells me that it is…precarious. That woman pushes and pushes her. I don't want Minako to lose her temper and do something to a civilian that will cause her to have regrets for the rest of her life."
Ami, emboldened, laid her hand on his. "Then go to her. Let her know that you are there for her. That all of us are there for her." She frowned at him. "And don't tell me it's not that easy. It is."
Startled, Kazuya and Ami looked up. Mamoru smiled down at the two of them. He was holding Usagi's small hand in his much larger one. Usagi grinned at the grimace that Kazuya gave at the sight. She stuck her tongue out at her cousin. "I finally broke your stupid spell."
Kazuya leaned back in his chair, picked up his teacup and calmly took a sip. "Took you long enough."
It was Ami giggled at Usagi's growl at her cousin. It was as if a tiny kitten was threatening a Great Dane.
"We'll help." Repeated Mamoru as he helped Usagi into a chair then sat down himself. "We've figured out how to do it. Without anyone getting fried, toasted or otherwise killed."
"Dreams." Said Usagi. "Dreams that will show the girls what happened to the Shitennou and that they didn't betray Endymion or the rest of us."
"It's not going to be pretty, is it." Said Ami.
Usagi looked at her friend. The blonde's normally brilliant blue eyes were solemn. "No. It won't be pretty. It's going to hurt."
"I understand. Growing up always hurts." Ami took a deep breath. "I'm ready."
It had been three days since she'd seen Kunzite. Usagi and Mamoru hadn't been kidding when they said that the dreams were going to hurt. That didn't begin to describe the horror she'd been forced to watch. Her mother had heard her screams and came running into her room. She had held her until Ami had sobbed herself out and fell back asleep. She hated doing it but she'd lied to her mother and said that she couldn't remember what she had dreamed.
Makoto had spent the night with Rei and the two of them, after they had woken from the dream, stayed awake and talked for the rest of the night. They told everyone later that they had been afraid to go back to sleep in case the dream was waiting for them.
Usagi had convinced Minako to spend the night with her. When the dream had ensnared Minako in its horrors, Usagi called for Mamoru to come and the pair broke her free and held her close for the rest of the night.
Usagi had apologized for the way that she had shown them the Truth. But she and Mamoru carefully explained their reasoning behind it. What they had been shown still affected them. But they forgave their Princess and her Prince because they understood that was the only way they could have accepted the Truth. They wouldn't have listened if the Shitennou had just suddenly appeared in front of them trying to explain that they had never betrayed Endymion, Serenity, the Senshi and their respective kingdoms.
The girls were gathered at the Shrine. This was where they'd agreed to meet the Shitennou for the first time in centuries. Minako, Rei and Makoto had been upset with Ami that she hadn't told them about seeing the Shitennou but they understood about promises made.
The fiery priestess knelt calmly on the porch, her violet eyes stared unseeing out into the distance. Makoto sat on the steps, chewing on a thumbnail. Minako paced back and forth in front of the steps, her hands running through her blond hair dislodging her red bow. Ami sat next to Makoto, her hands nearly bloodless from being clenched together.
Mamoru leaned against a post. His casualness belied by the tense look around his eyes. His arms were around Usagi who leaned against him, her back against his chest. She was probably the calmest person there. Her head was tilted back against his shoulder and her eyes were closed.
If she's asleep, I just might actually smack her! Thought Ami.
That line of thought was derailed when Usagi opened her eyes, raised her head and looked towards the steps.
Minako stopped her pacing and the other three got to their feet.
Coming into sight were four men walking side by side up the steps.
Nothing was said as they reached the top and walked towards the group waiting for them.
Minako choked on a sob and her feet didn't even seem to touch the ground as she ran to Kazuya and leapt into his arms. Instantly one arm held her close while the other stroked the blonde's hair as she broke down and sobbed into his shoulder. Kazuya didn't say a word but strode away around the corner of the Shrine.
Rei stood as Jade approached. The pair didn't say a word as she took his hand and led him inside the Shrine. Ami glanced over her shoulder and saw the pair enter the room that housed the Sacred Fire.
Makoto walked forward and stood in front of Nobuyuki. His hand reached out and brushed her cheek. "Hello, Sparky." He said softly.
Makoto laughed. The sound echoed joyously around the courtyard, joined by Nobuyuki's. He grabbed her around the waist, picked her up and twirled her around. Makoto flung her arms wide as if she was trying to grasp the Sun then leaned forward and wrapped her arms around his neck. Nobuyuki held her close and strode into the trees.
Ami couldn't move. She could only stare at the man she had longed for. The man that she had yearned for. The man that she had spent a lifetime missing. Her other half.
Zoi's neat dark blonde ponytail bounced softly against his back as he walked closer to her. His bottle green eyes glowed as he took her in his arms.
His kiss broke her brain.
They didn't notice as Mamoru led Usagi off to give them privacy.
Eventually, they had to breathe. Green eyes gazed into dazed blue ones as they lightly panted. Ami smiled shyly at Zoi.
He smiled back.