A/N: I can't believe the holidays are over already... and that means updates are starting. Enjoy.
After all the days of misery I'd spent, I'd honestly thought that I couldn't cry anymore. But Venus's words were enough to make the tears start all over again. I wanted to hug her, even started to move forward, but hesitated at the last second. I wasn't sure if she would be corporeal enough for me to do it, and then if she was I wasn't sure I wanted my last memory of my friend to be tangled up with her body, which would feel cold and insubstantial against me, like I was trying to embrace something that was just a little bit firmer than air. And like she knew what I was thinking, Venus gave me a sad smile and took a half-step back to dissuade me from trying to reach out.
"Don't make the same mistake I did," she repeated. "I didn't... For so long things were confusing between Yaten and me. I don't think either of us knew what we really wanted. And then, even after I knew she was a senshi I didn't say anything because I thought she was going to return home with Princess Kakyuu at the end of the war. But now that this has happened, I really wish I had. Even if things had ended badly between us, I wish I'd said something because now I don't know if I'll ever get the chance."
"Me too," Mercury said shyly. Her cheeks were flushed but she looked me in the eyes. "It's not... not quite the same between Taiki-san and I but I still wish I had clarified things between us. We deserved that much. I let myself be intimidated by the idea of love. I can understand how you feel, Usagi-chan. You always had Mamoru-san and the two of you just kind of fell into that love. You never had to experience having to move slowly with a... a relationship."
I stared at her, realizing that she was right. Even though I had been in a serious relationship for almost two years, Mamo-chan and I had just sort of picked up where Endymion and Serenity had left off. There had never been any need for nerves between us because I knew he loved me right from the very beginning. This was different. Seiya and I had no such history. How had that never occurred to me before, that it might be influencing my indecision? I had to wonder how regular people did this every day because honestly it was nerve wracking. The look on my face must have been pretty funny because Venus started giggling and even Mercury cracked a smile.
"It's not the end of the world," Venus said and I was glad to hear she sounded a little more light-hearted, even if it was at my expense. "I mean, Seiya loves you. She put her heart out there even though she knew there was a good chance you would reject her because of Mamoru-san. You're so lucky, Usagi-chan. You don't have to worry about that. I know that when you make it clear what you want, Seiya's going to be so happy. You wouldn't want to pass that up, would you?"
Somehow it sounded so easy and reasonable when Venus said it. "No," I admitted, because it was the truth. I hadn't allowed myself to think about what it would be like if anything happened between me and Seiya. I didn't want to get caught up in dreams that would never happen. But I knew if that nothing ever happened I would spend the rest of my life wondering what might have been. And if she ever met someone else I'd be happy for her but that wouldn't make it any easier to see her with someone else. All of that meant I had to step up and make the first move, something which was frankly terrifying. I'd been putting it off by telling myself I just wasn't ready and maybe that was true but how would I know if I was? I said as much and Venus smiled at me.
"Maybe you'll never know. Maybe that's the whole point," she said. "I'll admit that it's soon and in most cases I would say that it's too soon. But you and Seiya are a special case. The connection that you guys share, most people search their whole life to find that. You were lucky enough to just find it by luck. And I think that, even if you weren't ready to admit it, there was a part of you that has always been ready. You just couldn't face it because of Mamoru-san."
I took a deep breath. Their words were definitely giving me something to think seriously about. Before, I'd resigned myself to never having Seiya as anything other than a friend. I hadn't thought that it would ever be right for me to look at her as anything more. But Venus and Mercury were starting to make me see that maybe I did have a chance. I looked down at the ground, which was all fuzzy because my eyes were welling up with more tears. "I just don't know how I'm going to do this without you," I said in a quivery voice. My voice was breaking so bad that I doubted they could really understand what I was saying.
"Baka," Mars said for a second time. She'd drifted away when Venus and Mercury approached me and now I saw that her translucent body had become even more faded. I could barely see her now. "You're not alone, Usagi-chan. You never have been and you never will be. But even though we will always be with you, never doubt that you personally have strength to handle this and everything else on your own."
"You're much stronger than you give yourself credit for," Jupiter added. "Even though this might be unfamiliar territory to you, you've had plenty of dates with Mamoru-san and you've spent all kinds of time with Seiya. You don't have to be nervous."
"You're a good person," said Saturn. "Remember your promise." And she winked at me.
"Even though I don't know what the future will hold, I can tell that it will be a good one if you are with Seiya," said Pluto, which surprised me. I hadn't thought that she, of all people, would agree with this. She must have known what I was thinking because she continued, "Sometimes it's the future which we don't see coming that turns out to be the best one."
"We just want you to be happy," Neptune said quietly. "Believe me, Usagi-san. You will never know the change you made in our lives." She glanced at Uranus. "If Seiya is the person who can add that sort of light to your life…"
Uranus sighed loudly. "Then I guess it's alright," she muttered, and her expression, though a bit sulky, told me that it really was. I had to smile at her and she smiled back, adding grudgingly, "Koneko-chan, I guess if you have to be with someone, you could do a lot worse. At least we know that Seiya will protect you to the death."
"You guys..." I took a step towards them but it didn't really help. I could tell that they were truly fading away and as hard as that was to deal with, it also lightened my heart in a way. I knew that they were going to return to the Galaxy Cauldron so that they could be reborn, and the faster that happened the quicker they would be back on Earth and growing up. "Thank you for coming to see me one last time. I've missed you so much. What you did for me... I can never say thank you. Not just for helping me to protect Earth, but for being my friends. Everything you say I've done, you don't know what you've done for me."
"Good-bye," Saturn said softly and her voice was echoed by the words. One second they were there and then, in the next, they were gone and I was left alone.
Or so I thought.
I had dropped my head into my hands, weeping softly, when someone cleared their throat. I jumped, half thinking it might be Mamo-chan after all even though we had already said our good-byes, but it was Venus. I stared at her and Mercury. "What?"
"We... could we see Yaten and Taiki?" she asked.
I didn't know why I hadn't thought about that. I nodded so fast I gave myself a headache and spun around towards the door. I hated to leave them but I'd had my time to say my good-byes and now I had to do this, I had to honour their last request while they had the chance because I knew their time here was going to be short. I ran all the way back to the studio. The three of them were still singing and I didn't think they had even noticed that I was gone. I pressed my hands up against the glass wall for a second before I moved to the door and pushed it open. The sound rushed out at me in a wave.
"Seiya!" I cried loudly.
Her hand hit a discordant note and I winced. She pressed her fingers over the strings to stop the sound. "Odango?" she said, sounding surprised. "What's wrong?"
"Hey!" someone shouted behind me. It was one of the recording people. She put her hands on her hips and glared at me. "What's the matter with you? Don't you know better than to interrupt in the middle of a session?"
"Don't yell at her," Yaten ordered, taking her hands off of the keys and folding her arms.
"But she – "
"Alright, everyone calm down," Seiya said before the tech could finish her sentence. It was just as well, seeing as how I didn't think it would refer to me in very flattering terms. Seiya took a step closer to me, one hand reaching out. "Odango, what's the matter? Is it...?" She didn't have to finish her sentence for me to understand what she meant. The way she put one hand into her pocket said everything and I shook my head quickly.
"No, it's not that. It's... there are people here that need to talk to Yaten and Taiki," I said, looking at them. Obviously I wasn't able to go into very much detail and I hoped that they would be able to tell by my expression that it wasn't just a couple of fans. "But they haven't got a lot of time. I'm sorry for interrupting but you two need to go now. They're waiting for you in the storage room just down the hall."
"Who...?" Taiki started to ask as she took her guitar off and set it down on the floor, but I shook my head and gave her a very significant look. She frowned but took Yaten's hand and the two of them walked out of the room. I was tempted to follow, I wanted to see what was going to happen between them, but I knew it wasn't my place to do so. This was private. I took a couple of steps forward towards Seiya and she set her guitar down and opened her arms to me. I slipped into them easily and wrapped my arms around her back. It felt good to be with her again and I knew I'd have to do some serious thinking.
"What's going on?" Seiya whispered to me, her voice soft enough that only I would be able to hear her.
"The senshi came to visit me," I replied, my voice equally quiet. "Minako-chan and Ami-chan wanted to see Taiki and Yaten before they're reborn."
Seiya gasped at that and her arms tightened around me like she was afraid I was going to disappear. I had no such plans. I knew that their rehearsal would be over for the day and apparently Seiya was thinking the same thing because when she let go she told the tech that there had been an unexpected emergency and they would have to go. The tech didn't look very happy about it but, since it was written into their contract that they could leave without any warning, she had to let us go. Seiya led me outside and we waited there in the shadow of the building for Yaten and Taiki to come out.