A/N: — Hey again! Didn't expect to churn this out, but this whole story is a little headcanon of mine, so enjoy!

This can be a neat little prequel to The Partner In Disguise.. if you want.

Disclaimer: I don't own Sailor Moon.. although I wish Takeuchi owned this entire scenario.


After Hours


The game center was deserted.

The young man who worked the counter daily was most likely asleep at his own house.

She was alone, after hours.

Although there were dozens of game machines and not another soul in sight, the blonde blur weaved through them all to the one she desired, a lone machine off to the side that had been, given recent events, steadily showing signs of neglect.

Sailor V.

After hitting a seemingly random series of buttons on the control pad, the girl then tucked her body into a ball when the panels below her blue stilettos gave way, neatly somersaulting onto the level below the center.

The command center.

Fwoosh.

Instantly, the red goggles were gone, the stilettos replaced with Mary Janes and ankle-high socks.

She was Aino Minako now.

"Another day, another youma," she grumbled. Rubbing her eyes tiredly, Minako flopped onto a couch—the only sign of warmth in a room full of cold metal—off to the side and glanced at her watch.

12:38.

It was a new day now. Great.

"Well, that's that. Another Valentine's Day spent horribly alone."

Rolling to her side, she pulled a small heart-shaped chocolate out of her pocket that she had bought when the sun was still up. Still mumbling nonsense, she unwrapped it and popped the sweet into her mouth.

"Happy belated Valentine's Day to me."

Although Minako was unquestionably dedicated to her duty, there were still times when she did not want to be Sailor V.

There were even more times where she cursed her powers.

The sense of loneliness that it brought her was not something Minako took joy in.

Love may have had always been a constant in her life, but lovers were not.

Not even her life as Aino Minako could fully testify to that fact. Compared to what she could remember of the Silver Millenium, her little 'flings' at Shiba Junior High were but a drop in an entire ocean.

It was funny. Thinking about all her crushes, Minako could really only see silver hair.

Kunzite, Maiku, Saitou-san, Ace.

Or rather, they were all were fair-haired at the least.

Minako had never really given it much thought, but she figured it was a result of her element. She must have been attracted to the light.

Attracted to the wind, you mean. Why wouldn't at least one of them have stayed with me? Minako thought, although it was a stupid question.

She knew the answer, but recently she had felt the need to voice it.

Lately, Minako had been plagued with more dreams of the past. These were about another lover, someone whom she had never felt so passionately about before, but was someone she couldn't quite place physically.

Still, Minako loved to dream about this person, loved to feel a taste of what she had felt in the past life.

But who was Minako dreaming about?

"Mina."

So lost in thought was Minako that she had not noticed the white cat enter in through the ceiling.

She sat up and regarded him with curious eyes, choosing to remain silent.

"Jupiter has awakened. They are all assembled now."

Her friends.

All feelings of loneliness gave way as excitement coursed through her blood.

Her friends!

"Are you sure, Artemis? That seemed awfully fast."

The longest and saddest months of my life, she added in her mind.

"Would you like to see them?"

Instantly, the giant screen at the end of the room flickered on to reveal a series of clips that had been recorded.

First, there was a girl with rather strangely-dressed hair, of a color not unalike Minako's. The clips that played depicted her hurrying to school and sleeping in class. Minako smiled; she had seen this girl plenty of times before at the Crown Arcade, although the girl had never seemed to notice or connect her to the video game she seemed to be glued to.

Still, Usagi had been Minako's best friend in the other life, her twin.

"Our Princess," Artemis smiled.

The next girl to appear onscreen was closer to Minako in height, although her hair was vastly different, a blue bob. Minako made a disapproving noise as she appeared to be studying or taking tests in all parts of the footage: at school, cram school, with a book in bed. And where were her parents?

"Still has that IQ of 300. I hear Mercury's studying to be a doctor."

"Ami," Minako corrected, who had taken note of the name that appeared on all of the girl's books and print-outs. She didn't know why she had said that, but seeing Ami appear very much like a schoolgirl made Minako feel uncomfortable about referring to her using her senshi name. Almost ashamed of the fact that soon, these girls would be pulled from their ordinary lives into a life of fighting and duty. Still, it made her happy to see that from the videos, Ami often used the handle 'Mercury' on her mock exams and Minako took it as a good sign.

The series of clips that played next appeared to have been recorded the day before according to the timestamp. Minako watched as the next girl, whose back was turned to the camera, walked—floated down the street with impeccable grace. For hair as dark as night, it seemed to shrine with an unworldly quality. Although just as short as Usagi, she held an air of regality.

Instantly, Minako's mouth twitched. She was one of those girls.

"Hino-sama!"

A girl no older than Minako stopped in front of the senshi on screen, panting and holding a very large box of heart-shaped chocolates.

Minako's eyebrows flew into her bangs.

"I-I've, I've always wanted to let you kn-know th-that.."

She was instantly saved from her embarrassment as the other girl gently took the chocolates from her.

"Gomen! I don't feel the same way, but I'll definitely treasure these."

Minako didn't know why, but she felt immense relief at the girl's answer. Why...?

As the other girl ran off crying, the senshi finally turned her front to the camera.

At seeing the girl's face, a mental dam seemed to break and memories flooded into Minako's head. Memories of this girl—hair so dark—a heart-stopping smile—a ball—a red mask—a kiss that should never have happened, but—Kami-sama—something Minako had wanted to do over and over again—

Artemis' voice broke her out of her intense reverie. Apparently, he had not noticed Minako's reaction.

"She was always quite sought-after, what with that regal air she carries herself with. Luna almost mistook Mars for the Moon Princess."

Mars?

Instantly, things fell into place.

Minako hadn't been attracted to the light.

She been lost in the dark, a moth to the flame.

She barely paid attention as the last few clips of Kino Makoto—Jupiter—rolled by. Artemis shut off the screen and turned to Minako, yawning.

"It's late. We should just sleep in here until the morning."

Without reply, Minako rolled onto her side and closed her eyes, preparing for sleep to take her with open arms.

Mars.

Not Kunzite, Ace, Higashi or Saitou.

She had been dreaming of Mars.

And Aino Minako would enjoy doing so until the day they met again.


"Mars."

She took a good look into surprised violet as she grasped the other girl's hand.

This was it.

She was finally meeting the girl she had been in love with for centuries, would be in love with for millennia to come.

And this girl did not remember a thing.

The girl suddenly returned eye contact, eyes widening.

"Just now.. for an instant.. I thought I had a vision."

Minako took her hand away, closing it into a tight fist at her side.

Not the sort of vision she had hoped for. Not yet.

She took a good look at the senshi, even as she felt her heart begin to break.

Please..

"You must all hurry and remember your true selves." She didn't even bother to hide the fact that she was staring directly at Mars. Rei.

Please..

'You must hurry and remember me.'


END


A/N: So I saw in the Materials collection (on Sailor V's page) that the height order went as follows: Rei, shortly followed by Usagi, Ami, Minako, and then Makoto. Kind of takes the 'tall' out of 'tall, dark, and bishoujo', eh?

And yeah, Artemis and Boss put their cameras in the strangest places..