The next few weeks were something of a blur.

True to her word, Rei told her fellow Senshi all about the dream and her subsequent visit with Mamoru. Makoto had instantly accepted Rei's experience with the vision, saying that if it was good enough to convince Rei then it was good enough for her. Minako had raised the idea of them confronting Mamoru again as a group, but eventually agreed that given what they now knew, there was little to be gained, and they might further isolate him. For the moment, at least, he seemed cordial and somewhat approachable, which was the best path to change. Ami initially had difficulty accepting that all of this heartache was caused by a dream, of all things, but only for a moment; she'd had too many experiences with magic and monsters defying all rational thought and logic to dwell on it for long.

Their new priorities on this were clear: keep Usagi's spirits up, find out who was sending the vision and why, discover what threatened their princess, and kick its ass.

The first part was easy. The Senshi made plans to occupy as much of Usagi's free time as possible with shopping trips and movie nights and cookouts. Ami decided she was going to teach Usagi chess; Rei decided that Ami was insane.

The second through fourth parts were going to take a lot more work.

Unfortunately, nobody had bothered to tell Rubeus that they needed a timeout, and the situation with the Black Moon Clan rapidly began to escalate.

As it turned out, the Ayakashi sisters were a godsend. Helping others through their pain and purging them of corrupting darkness might very literally be what Usagi was born to do. She seemed to blossom as she worked alongside her friends to ease the Sisters into their new lives. Even her interactions with Mamoru improved, becoming, if not friendly, then at least civil.

Then Rubeus abducted the Senshi.

The details about what happened to them remained elusive. Each of the girls remembered combining their powers to try and buy time for Chibi-Usa to escape, then nothing until a battered and bruised Sailor Moon, a ship in flames, and a desperate teleport to save all their lives. The missing time was completely blank. Nearly blank. Blank, save for oppressive feelings of being trapped in cold and loneliness for all eternity.

They didn't tell Usagi. Usagi knew anyway. She always knew.

By the time they had returned to Earth, it was nearly dawn. Usagi refused to allow any of her friends to leave her, as if they might vanish again the moment they were out of her sight. And so it became an impromptu slumber party at Makoto's apartment. Usagi made her obligatory pancakes for Chibi-Usa (by which Usagi mostly watched as Mako made pancakes for Chibi-Usa), and then the girl was entrusted to Mamoru's care. Finally alone, the floodgates had opened, and for the five friends it became an affirming – if exhausting – morning of tears and confessions and, finally, sleep.

One thing Usagi had been sure to mention was how Mamoru had been such a source of strength for her. It was extremely encouraging, and her friends had shared a smile.

But wasn't long before things begun to break down again. As the tension between Mamoru and Usagi once more surged, the Senshi weren't much closer to answers. Neither research nor legwork was turning up anything, and despite repeated fire readings, Rei could only report that information about the dream's source was "blocked". Then Mako had an idea: send the dream to Usagi. It was one thing for Mamoru to justify it to Rei, Mako said, and another entirely to justify it to Usagi herself.

This had sparked debate about whether they should interfere, given the dire warning of the vision. Ultimately they decided that since the origin of the dream was suspect at best, they had to go on the one thing they knew for sure: that they, as a team, were far stronger united than divided.

When Mako and Ami has front-row seats to another heartbreaking episode of Usagi and Mamoru's Eternal Break-Up Theater, they knew it was time. They eagerly latched onto Usagi's new passing interest in promise rings, got her safely tucked into a classroom, and contacted Rei and Minako. It was well past time to give Usagi the missing piece of the puzzle.

It turned out the whole promise ring thing was yet another front for the bad guys, because of course it was, and the Senshi weren't even sure that their plan had worked.

Until the enemy had been defeated and, for the first time in far too long, Tuxedo Kamen was really with them.

"No matter what kind of hardships stand in our way," he said, "we must overcome them and keep going."

Mars' head snapped up in recognition.

His eyes swept the warriors before him, lingering on each in turn. "Sailor Senshi, let us continue to fight together."

With that, he was gone.

It was all they needed to hear.

"Sailor Moon, why are you just standing there?!" Mars demanded. "Hurry up and go after him!"

Then they were all showering Sailor Moon with encouragement. She didn't hesitate. Usagi ran after Mamoru, not knowing where he had gone, but trusting her heart to show her the way.

Her friends watched her run, each somehow certain that things were going to work out this time.

.


.

"I think we should order another."

"We've already had two, Mako-chan."

"Then a third won't really matter, will it?"

"Yeah, we're growing girls!"

"You better watch which direction you're growing."

"Don't make me hurt you, Rei-chan."

"Ignore Lady Grumpsalot. This is a party and I say we earned it!"

It was a crisp, gorgeous autumn day. The Senshi were tucked in their favourite booth and sharing a (meaning several) celebratory pizza. Usagi had giddily informed Minako that she and Mamo-chan would be spending the day "reconnecting". Minako had been sure to pass this message along with the single most disgusting delivery of the word "reconnecting" in the history of human speech.

Spirits were high. They'd beaten back the bad guys, and this new Esmeraude person seemed way too doofy to be much of a problem. After a ridiculous amount of time and effort, Chibi-Usa was trusting them, and it felt like they were finally making progress on helping the little girl. The few glimpses of the future they'd gotten had seemed pretty bleak, true, but were easily brushed aside in the light of the sun and in the company of friends.

And last, but certainly not least, the uncomfortably painful rift between Usagi and Mamoru was rapidly healing.

Today was pretty awesome.

"It's been too long since we've been able to come here," said Ami, picking at her pizza. "I've missed this."

"Yeah it's been forever," Minako agreed. "I think last time we were here, Usagi was showering Rei with her love juice."

Rei started choking on her soda. Ami could only let out a high-pitched noise as her hand flew to her mouth. A loud bawdy laugh escaped from Mako as she helpfully thumped Rei on her back.

Minako surveyed the chaos with an approving eye and an unrepentant grin.

"You," croaked Rei, pointing an accusing finger at Minako, "are filthy."

"Guilty as charged."

Mako grinned at Minako. "Girl you're terrible today."

"It's a great day!" replied Minako. "If I can't use it to embarrass my friends then I just don't even know why we bother."

Rei was still smoldering. "I like your optimistic use of the word 'friend'."

Minako blew her a kiss.

"This IS a great day," Mako agreed. "I think it deserves a toast."

Minako enthusiastically lifted her soda, sloshing a bit over the side. "To the success of Operation: Heart Angels, a mission accomplished with NO FLAWS WHATSOEVER."

Rei also raised her drink. "To friends looking out for each other."

"To the power of love," said Ami, a slight blush appearing on her cheeks.

"And thank fuck that's over," said Mako.

"I'll drink to that!" Minako cheered, and the chinking of glasses was drowned out by their laughter.