And here is the second of the three fics I wrote for Rare Pair. The theme this year for me? Apparently girl-on-girl. ^_~ I'd never written a pinch hit before, but I saw the prompt for this one and I just knew I had to offer to write it. I mean... Rei and Minako? It makes SO MUCH SENSE and I was stunned I'd never thought of it before. Plus, I was deep in anime-love resurgence mode and I just couldn't resist. ^_^

Title: Loneliness of the Warrior
Fandom: Sailor Moon
Pairing: Minako/Rei
Rating: PG
Word Count: 2,559
Warnings: mild F/F - if that's not your cup of tea, there's no shame in it... but please don't read it. Thanks! ^_^

Disclaimer: Sailor Moon does not belong to me. It belongs to Naoko Takeuchi-sama. No harm was meant, I'm just playing in her sandbox. I promise I'll put them all back where they belong when I'm done. ^_^

Summary: "I have been the lone warrior at this gate since I was but a child. Aino Minako... Sailor V... You don't corner the market on feeling alone."

September 1, 2012: Rare Pair Fest 2012. All these ample, wonderful opportunities to play with characters in ways which we'd never contemplated before. I'll admit, I was excited by the challenge. I was even more excited when I realized that I was going to have an opportunity to play with Sailor Moon, again. I've been feeling very nostalgic for anime lately and have been digging out all my anime and manga to rewatch and re-read and remembering how much I once loved them all. I hope I did them justice and I hope you'll enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

Loneliness of the Warrior
by Renee-chan

It was hard, sometimes, being one who had aged beyond her years, one who had seen more than young eyes should ever see, one who knew more than a young girl should ever know. It made her uncomfortable around her classmates, a stranger in her own home, an oddity among her peer group. It was hard, but Minako had long ago accepted it as a fact of her life, as something that could not be changed, however much she might wish it so. The hardest part of all, though, was that it had even made her a stranger among her true kind – among her fellow senshi. Somehow, she had thought that they would be like her - lone warriors for justice, caretakers of a history and a trust that the world didn't even remember, much less acknowledge. It was lonely, but always she'd had faith that there were others out there like her, just as strange, just as lonely, wishing for her as she wished for them.

She'd been wrong.

The other senshi... they were innocent. They were children in ways that Minako wasn't sure she - Sailor V - had ever been. They were preoccupied with boys, with clubs, with idols, with school... When Minako professed such preoccupation, it was a cover, a way to make herself seem more normal, a way to fit in, to reassure the masses that she was just a regular girl, when in truth, she was anything but. The other senshi? To them... to them it was real. They truly were obsessed with boys, idols, clubs... they didn't know. They didn't understand what it was to stand apart, to be the lone warrior... the girl who knew too much.

So, though it killed a larger and larger piece of her every day, she kept herself hidden from the senshi, as well. She hid her scars, she hid her knowledge, she hid her world-weary eyes. She hid it from her exuberant and joyful princess, from the caring sensitivity of Ami, from the tenderhearted Makoto and from the keen otherworldly senses of Rei. They wouldn't understand. They couldn't understand... and Minako wasn't even sure she wanted them to. So she had been denied a childhood. The least she could do was protect what was left of her friends' for as long as she could.

The latest battle had been a hard one and they were all exhausted. Who knew to what purpose their enemy was bent this time? Minako had encountered Kunzite often enough as Sailor V to see that something had been off in his recent attacks. It was as though he was distracted, unfocused – it should have been good for them, having their enemy off his game, but her fellow senshi weren't skilled enough to take advantage of it. So, instead, this distraction merely made him unpredictable and the senshi weren't up to the change. When her friends immediately made to part ways after their after-battle meeting at Hikawa Shrine with barely a shrug for the oddity of the fight, it made her shorter with them than she otherwise would have been... and she snapped.

"We can't just go home. We have to get in some more training," she said. When Makoto raised her voice in protest, Minako's eyes narrowed, "Makoto, you need the practice, too! How could you not have seen that last blast coming? If I'd been a little slower catching what you didn't, Ami wouldn't be here!"

Makoto's eyes widened, confusion and embarrassment warring for control over her expression. And as was usual when two emotions fought for dominance inside the warrior of Jupiter, anger stepped in and trumped them both. Makoto jumped to her feet, fists clenched, "I was a little busy trying not to get sliced in half at the time!"

Minako rose to her feet, as well, hot frustration and fear spilling from her lips in words that she wished she could take back the second they were set free but couldn't have stopped if she'd tried, "Don't even get me started on how you got caught in that neat little pincer move to begin with – it's one of the oldest tricks in the book and you should have seen it coming a mile away! You act like you know everything there is to know about being a senshi because you've brawled with a few girl gangs, but in reality, you don't know any-"

"Minako, what the hell's gotten into you? We didn't do any better or worse than we ever do, so knock off picking on me or I'll give you an up close and personal view of the skills I got from all that brawling, OK?" Makoto shot back.

Ami intervened then, a strained but gentle smile smoothing the way as she said, "Minako, you know we all admire you for having been Sailor V. We've looked up to you for a very long time, but we're not as practiced as you are. You can't expect us to get there overnight, but we will get better. Besides, no one was seriously injured."

Normally, Minako was willing to be soothed, but not this time. She was too afraid. She ran right over Ami's gentle words, only pausing long enough to let them fan the flames, "What's gotten into me? What's gotten into me? Are you all blind?"

Before Minako could get any further in her latest scathing comment, another soft voice interrupted her, "Kunzite's attack was completely without control or order today. It was as though he was attacking blind, without reason... more like a beast in a trap than a master tactician. As a new development, that's a dangerous one." Rei finally looked up from her sweeping to meet Minako's eyes, "It makes him unpredictable and that makes our lack of experience that much more of a pressing issue. Ami, Makoto... Minako is right."

Minako sagged back onto her seat on the porch and waved a hand at Rei for emphasis as she said, "Exactly. We can't afford to be sloppy, not if we can no longer predict Kunzite's attacks and not with... not with Endymion still a wild card. We can't afford it." Quietly, she finished, "Someone will get hurt... really hurt. I don't want that to happen."

Usagi stepped up, then, and crouched down in front of Minako, "Minako-chan..." She didn't say more than that, but she didn't really need to. Minako looked down into the eyes of her Princess, into the blue barely a shade darker than her own and yet lighter in every way that mattered... and understood. Usagi, more than any of them, needed to be a normal girl. It was what she had always wanted, even then. And it was Usagi, more than any of them, who would be sacrificing that normalcy if Minako won this argument over what was necessary – practice, drills, tactics... war. Usagi didn't deserve that and Minako couldn't be the one to force it on her. She nodded once, "OK, Usagi. I understand. I'll let it go..." but as the others gathered to leave, Minako couldn't help adding quietly to herself, "...for now."

Only one other girl was standing close enough to Minako to hear that last utterance, however, and she kept her peace. Not until Usagi, Ami and Makoto had left did she make herself known with a quiet, "You have to be more patient with them, Minako."

Minako turned to face Rei, her temper, banked for now, ready to fan back into a blaze with the least provocation, "And what would you know about it? Rei... you're as ignorant as the lot of them most days and the way you used to feud with Usagi over Endymion was positively infantile. What would you know?"

Rei laid her broom down and turned to stare off into the sakura grove, away from Minako. It wasn't her usual explosive style. This was a side of the fire senshi that Minako rarely, if ever, saw... that none of them ever really saw. This was a girl just as world-weary as Minako and just as heartily tired of hiding it. She said, "What would I know of it, Minako? What would I know of what? What do I know of war? I am the maiden of this shrine and I practice onmyoujitsu as part of my duties... and there have been many battles fought in and around this city. The dead do not rest and they speak to me more easily than they do each other. What do I know of being different, of being older than my years? I know more than I care to and far more than you think." The dark-haired girl turned back to Minako and offered her a humorless smile as she held out her hand to one of the crows that often followed her around the Temple Grounds, "I'm the miko of Hikawa Shrine... and I have been the lone warrior at this gate since I was but a child. Aino Minako... Sailor V... I know plenty. You don't corner the market on feeling alone."

As Minako slowly rose to her feet and began to cross the courtyard Rei continued, almost as though to herself, "In our own ways, we're all alone. We've been alone our whole lives – Ami isolated by her intelligence, Makoto orphaned and left to fend for herself long before her time and you... Minako, I can't even imagine what it must have been like, doing what we do and all by yourself. How could you stand it?"

Minako was almost at Rei's side now and she paused, shook her head, "I... I was never completely alone. I had Artemis. I had friends. I had the police. I had—"

Rei smiled, turned her outstretched hand to delicately place two fingers across Minako's lips to end the useless tide of words, "You had no one, Minako. I know the look in your eyes too well. We're both of us old before our time." She laughed as she let her fingers drop, "Do you want to know a secret?" When Minako made no response, Rei took that as ascent and said, "Part of why I feud so badly with Usagi-chan is because I want so desperately to protect her, to keep her happy and safe... even if it means keeping her safe from who I truly am. You see it, too - I know you do. Our Usagi wants a normal life and she'll never have that if she becomes like Sailor V, no matter how much she idolizes you. It's the only thing that's held you back from turning us into what we must once have been during the Silver Millennium – true warriors, right?"

"Rei... I don't want that for any of you, not really," Minako said as she dropped her gaze, "I want you all to be able to lead as normal lives as you can, but all the normalcy in the world won't matter worth a damn if it gets one of you killed!" She stood in the courtyard of Hikawa Shrine, fists clenched, eyes squeezed shut, willing away the sudden bombardment of images of the war that ended the Silver Millennium. She'd been one of the last to die that day and so had seen each and every one of her fellow senshi – her friends – die before her. It wasn't a vision she ever wished to relive and they were heading right for it if she didn't do something!

A gentle hand alighting on Minako's cheek dragged her back into the present and she opened her eyes to find Rei's face mere inches from her own. It was filled with soft sorrow as she said, "Minako... the things you've seen. The things you've done. The things you've endured... for all my own loneliness, I think I'd not have yours in trade for anything. I see it in your eyes every time we fumble during an attack. You look on us and don't see us, not really. You see all the various ways in which we might die."

Minako grabbed onto that hand like the lifeline it was, clutching it to her cheek with all the strength she could muster, "Because I have seen you all die, Rei. I've seen you all die as experienced warriors and fully powered senshi. The fact that you're out here fighting so unprepared..." She shuddered, "I have nightmares, Rei. I know full well what ends you'll face if I don't better prepare you, but none of the others even sees the need!"

Rei pulled Minako close, wrapped her arms tightly around her tense frame, "They see it. Minako... they see it. We all do, even Usagi. We see the need and I, for one, understand as well as you what fate will befall us if we don't start taking our fighting more seriously. But, we are ruled by our princess as we always ever were... and our princess wishes us to have normal, carefree lives. You're our living example that you can't be what we were and what she wants us to be at the same time. You can't be the lone guard at the gate and an innocent, carefree girl all at once. It isn't possible and we'd rip ourselves apart trying... like you have. Surely a chance at truly achieving all of those 'normal' things that you pretend to with such skill is worth a little risk?"

Rei turned her head, then, leaned back to look into Minako's eyes. Minako wanted to rail and scream and deny Rei's words until she ran out of breath. Nothing was worth the risk of losing yet more people she cared about. Nothing was worth that ultimate sacrifice... but Serenity had thought it was - both the Princess and the Queen. Both had died to preserve a chance at simple, 'normal' happiness. It was utter folly, this need for a quiet, normal non-extraordinary life at the cost of so much else... and it was the core of what made the princess who she was. It was why Minako loved her and why she'd wanted so desperately to keep her safe and happy that she had been willing to take up that lone guard post as Sailor V – to give her one more year, one more month, one more day of that simple, innocent happiness. And if she had it to do all over again, deep in her heart, Minako knew she would still chose the same. But maybe... just maybe she didn't have to carry her burden alone anymore.

As Minako's eyes met Rei's once more, Rei smiled, a smile of pure understanding and acceptance, and leaned in to gently press her lips to Minako's. When they parted, Rei said simply, "You're not alone, Sailor Venus... not ever, again." She smirked, a hint of her more volatile "normal" self peeking through as she added, "And don't you forget it."

The "or else" that Rei didn't say out loud hung in the air between them for one pulse, two... three... before Minako voiced it, "Or else... what?"

Rei smirked and dragged Minako back into another kiss. When they parted this time, Minako laughed, "I think I could get used to this kind of 'or else.' And I should warn you... I've got a notoriously faulty memory."

Rei just laughed and kissed her, again.


Questions, comments, coconuts?