A/N: Thanks for the reviews! I imagine this chapter won't be a huge surprise to anyone, but enjoy.
I was leaning against the wall and Seiya was standing beside me, her eyes covered with sunglasses. To prevent from being mobbed, we'd moved off of the main street and now stood in the alley between the studio and a clothing store. Only about ten minutes had gone by since the two of us left the building and I knew it might be a while yet before Yaten and Taiki came out. I didn't mind, though. It gave me the chance to think, and that was fortunate because I had a lot of it to do. I watched Seiya from the corner of my eye, wondering if she would still be receptive to the idea of a relationship between us. It wasn't something she had brought up since the battle with Galaxia, but then even Seiya would have known better. We were all such messes before that I knew neither of us would have been ready for anything even if she had. But what about now?
I tried to think objectively, casting my mind back over the past few months to see whether or not there had ever been any evidence that Seiya was still in love with me. She had always treated me kindly, but then again that wasn't really any different from how she normally acted. Seiya was just a kind person when she wanted to be. She never seemed to mind touching me or letting me cling to her, but was that an indication of something more between us or was that just her being a good guardian? I wished that I'd had more of a chance to see the way she and Princess Kakyuu interacted. I knew it would have given me something to base things on. But I wasn't going to have that opportunity so I would just have to make do.
The easiest way to figure this out, of course, would be to come right out and ask her. But I was hesitant to do that. If there was a chance that she wasn't interested in me anymore, I didn't want to make things awkward. Our friendship had changed once I became aware of the fact that she was in love with me, even though I had denied having any knowledge of her feelings. As soon as that thought crossed my mind I was seized by a new horror. What if that was what Seiya was doing with me? Did she know that my feelings for her had changed since the battle? What if she was being polite by ignoring it? The thought made me feel sick to my stomach.
"Odango?" Something must have changed in my face because Seiya turned to look at me. She pulled her glasses down and looked at me more closely, her face set into a frown. "What's the matter?"
"Nothing," I said, realizing that Seiya asked me that question a lot. I knew that I was just being silly, letting my fears run away with me. Seiya had always been a lot more direct than me. If she knew, I was pretty sure that she would have just said something. Or at least, I hoped that was the case. Again, I couldn't be sure unless I actually asked her and I didn't think I was ready to take that step yet. I pushed myself off of the wall and rolled my shoulders in an effort to relax some of the tension. "I was just… I hope that Yaten and Taiki are doing alright."
She watched me for a few seconds longer before responding. "I'm sure they're fine. I think that both of them would relish the opportunity to get a few things off their chests. I think you did the right thing, if that's what you're wondering."
It wasn't but I smiled anyway. "You're right. It helped a lot to see the senshi and know that they were okay with what happened," I said. I'd known that, of course, but it still made it easier when I could talk to them and have confirmation of that as fact. "I just wish that you guys could see Princess Kakyuu, too." And as soon as I said that, even though I hadn't been consciously thinking about, I realized that it was the truth. It didn't seem fair that she was the only one who hadn't returned yet. Was she not strong enough for that? Or had her star seed already been taken into the Cauldron and been reborn?"
Seiya's face changed and softened, and she reached out and tucked a strand of hair behind my ear. "Your heart is so large sometimes," she said softly. In the light of the day her eyes seemed very big and very blue. I couldn't help looking briefly at her mouth, which was suddenly a lot closer. She said, "As much as I appreciate the thought, I don't think that's going to happen. Princess Kakyuu used the last of her magic to protect us from Galaxia. That took everything she had. I'm sure that her starseed has already disappeared, and I'm not going to waste my time hoping that she will show up."
"It's not a waste," I said, even though I knew what she meant. During those first few days after the battle I had been desperately praying that the senshi would come back to me. It wasn't until I'd given up on seeing them that they had shown up. And yet in some ways, that had made their appearance to me even more worthwhile. I wondered if Seiya would feel the same way, or even if she was telling me the truth. Was that really how she felt? I closed my eyes and looked away. "This situation is so unfair."
"You're right," she agreed, leaning against the wall again and folding her arms. "There is nothing about this that is fair, but I don't expect that to change any time soon. That's what it means to be a senshi."
"I'm so glad you feel that way."
I jumped and Seiya moved so fast that it shocked me, leaping in front of me and protecting my body with hers. "Where are you, you bastard?" she demanded, looking around the alley. I put a hand on my locket and looked around expecting to see Rubeus leering at us from somewhere, but there was no sign of him. Surely we hadn't both been hearing things? But no - my eye caught sight of a flash of light and I glanced up at the sky to see that he was standing on the roof of the clothing, smirking, arms folded in that way that had always annoyed me.
"Rubeus!" I shouted. "How dare you show your face around here!"
"Would you prefer I got rid of you without you knowing who it was?" he asked. "Because that could easily be arranged, little princess."
"If you touch her, I'll kill you," Seiya said.
"I'd like to see you try," he said softly, stepping off of the roof of the building. He vanished and reappeared right in front of us. Seiya jumped and swore and I swallowed a startled cry, not wanting to give him the satisfaction. He pointed his finger at me and leaned forward like he was going to strike. "Do you even realize what you've done? Crystal Tokyo is gone. The peaceful future this planet had planned has been destroyed because of your foolish actions."
I reeled back like he had slapped me. He couldn't have dealt a better blow. "That's not true!" I cried, even though a part of me had wondered that very thing several times over. If I had been stronger, more powerful, or even just more aware of what was going on, would the senshi have survived? Could I have saved Mamo-chan? I didn't want to even consider it, but I couldn't help it. I shook my head fiercely, not wanting Rubeus to know that he had struck a chord. "And anyway, what difference does it make? You came here with the intention of destroying that future anyway. So whether it was taken away by your hands or someone else's, it doesn't matter. We'll make a different future, one that's even better!"
"That's right," Seiya said, nodding and shooting me a smile over her shoulder. "And rest assured that is a future you will not be a part of. Fighter Midnight Power, Make-Up!"
The brilliant flash of light that went off right in front of my eyes made me cry out. I threw my hands over my face and shielded myself until I sensed that the light had died away, and only then did I look up. Sailor Star Fighter was standing in front of me but she looked different, and it took me a second or two before I realized that her transformation phrase had been different, too. There were a lot more tones of bluish gray in her fuku - for example, her shorts had it for trim and so did the tops of her boots and around her wrists, and even her collar had the two stripes on it - and there were even crescent moons here and there: the same gold moon that was the symbol of the White Moon Family appeared over every five-pointed star.
"F-Fighter?" I stuttered in disbelief.
"You want to fight with me?" Rubeus said at the same time, looking very amused. He leapt up into the air and held his hands up. Crimson power began to flare between his outstretched palms, and within the light several of those small black bombs formed. I knew I'd never have the time to transform before he attacked and I tried to tense myself in preparation. As it turned out, I didn't have to.
Fighter threw her hands up. I couldn't see what she was doing because her back was facing me but I could certainly see the results. She shouted, "Star Midnight Beam!" and an enormous ball of glittering blue power began to collect around her hands; it leapt free and raced towards Rubeus, one huge wave that wiped out Rubeus's bombs and swept over him, throwing him up into the sky until neither of us could see him anymore. I stared up at the blue expanse, half expecting to see Rubeus come charging back, but there was no sign of him. It was too much to hope that he could have been destroyed by that, but his disappearance told me he had definitely been shocked and wounded.
"Fighter," I said again, amazed, and she turned around to look at me. Right away I noticed her earrings - one was a gold star and the other was a gold crescent moon. And the tiara on her forehead now had a dark blue gem in the middle. I just stared, too speechless to be able to think of anything else to say, and she laughed a little, though it sounded weak and nervous.
"I think a result from the bond," she said, touching her hand to her broach a little uncomfortably. The white wings were threaded with blue and the star had another blue gem on it. "That's when we noticed the change. What I said when I transform just comes out automatically. I don't even know if I could do it the old way anymore." She paused and then added, "I didn't know if we should tell you or not. I suppose we really are your senshi now."
"You look…" I let my voice trail off because I wasn't sure I was ready to say those sorts of things out loud. Beautiful is what was on the tip of my tongue, and it was true. The changes were subtle but they looked right and seeing the White Moon Family symbol on her was a rush. I couldn't wait to see how Maker and Healer would look. "You look good," I said at last, realizing that she was still waiting for me to finish. I stepped closer and reached out, cupping her cheek with my hand, letting our eyes meet, smiling as I spoke with the honesty she deserved. "You're right, you are mine now, and I couldn't be happier."