A Time to Heal
by Naia Zifu

A gentle rain fell like tears over the barren field below. Just a few years ago it would've glowed with the vibrant greens of grasses and trees, sprinkled with the warm reds and yellows of wildflowers, until Galaxia's forces turned it into a wasteland.
"It hardly even feels like home anymore," I said with a sigh.
"Sitting here watching won't make it grow any faster," Maker's voice said from behind me. "Come in out of the rain before you catch cold."
"I'll be there in a minute," I answered distractedly.
She waited silently a moment more before heading back inside, leaving me alone again.
I closed my eyes and just let the rain wash over me, hoping it would wash those wicked thoughts out of my mind. All we went through to find our princess; singing ourselves hoarse day after day, signing autographs until our hands were sore, press junkets, acting lessons to expand our career into television and film, even taking roles in a musical stage. . . Yet now that we have her back, now that we can finally start to rebuild our beautiful world, it's the concrete jungle of Earth I find myself longing for. And though I would still defend our princess with my life, as befits my duty as her Senshi, it's to another princess on the other end of the galaxy I've given my heart.

I returned, cold, wet, and shivering, to the one section of castle still left standing. With canvas tarp over the missing sections of wall and doorways that no longer lead anywhere, and the remains of once-grand vases catching the rain that dripped through holes in the ceiling, this had become our temporary base of operations. Here we planned the recovery of our ravaged world. . . or one of us did, anyway. Since our arrival it seemed all Fighter did was sit out in that field daydreaming, while Healer spent all her time trying on clothes she'd found in the shattered window of a shop downtown.
I sat down at the old dining table turned workstation and put on a pair of sophisticated-looking glasses. They were non-prescription; I don't need them in my Senshi form, but I've found wearing them helps me concentrate, as if placing frames around my field of vision keeps my mind focused on the task at hand. I find myself wearing them a lot lately; we can't all afford to live a life of daydreams if we're to have any hope of reviving our world.

What a nightmare! Even in this, the fluffiest, most elegant petal-pink ballgown in the store, it's still no use. Whenever I look in the mirror, it's him I see. He's not even real, yet he's stolen my identity, that idol, and I hate him for it.
I can't tell the others-- I just know they'd laugh. They're readjusting so well to being girls full-time again. How ironic that I, arguably the most feminine of us three, would be the only one to have trouble with this.
I sighed deeply, shaking my head, as I unzipped the gown, struggling out of it and the heavy crinoline slip I wore underneath. Soon only a satiny, yellow floral-printed bra and panties covered my slender yet well-endowed female form. A near-perfect body, I'd once thought-- not everyone could be blessed with such a chest at my weight! Now I can't even look at myself in the mirror without flashing back on that awful male form instead.
"Go away," I shouted at the mirror, "I don't wanna be you anymore!"
So was that a desperate cry for psychiatric help, or just a makeover?

I frowned as I emerged from my makeshift bedroom to find Maker alone, poring over blueprints. The others must still have been out.
Maker had been outside, too; the rain had washed the gel from her hair, so it hung in a charming shag style rather than her usual slick, conservative look. I rather liked it that way.
"Any progress?" I asked gently, putting a hand on her shoulder.
Maker took off her glasses to rub her tired eyes.
"Not much, I'm afraid. There's just so much to do, I don't know how I'll ever finish it alone."
"You're not alone, Maker," I said, stroking her still-damp hair. "You have the others."
"For all the help they are," she complained. "Perhaps if you'd revive some of our people to help. . ."
"But where would they stay, and what would they eat? No, we've barely got enough food and shelter for ourselves right now. I can't bring anyone else back until we've made at least some progress ourselves."
Maker sighed. "I understand."
Without another word of complaint, she put her glasses back on and got back to work.
I went to the door and stood peering out into the storm, looking for some sign of the others. Lightning flashed in the distance and I hoped, if they weren't coming back tonight, they'd at least found a safe place to wait out the storm.
A canvas tarp covering a hole in the wall rustled, alerting me to Healer's entrance.
Though she arrived in her fuku, there was no denying she'd been into town; her hairstyle was noticeably different, and though its exact colour was hard to tell while wet, it was definitely some deep shade of red.
"Feeling better now?" I asked.
"A little," Healer said with a shrug. "It's different."
"And I suppose looking 'different' was your goal?"
"Something like that."
She didn't elaborate, and I didn't press the issue. When she was ready to talk, she would come to me, I assumed.
"Well, now that you're here, I think Maker could use some help with those blueprints," I said.
Healer took her place at the table without argument, while I resumed my quiet vigil at the doorway.
"So what're we doing?" Healer asked.
"Well, I'm making out blueprints for a displaced persons' shelter," Maker retorted, "while you, as usual, have been wasting your day goofing off in town."
"Don't start with me, all right? I've had a rough day!"
"What's wrong, had a hard time deciding between red and blue?"
I frowned. My Starlights used to get along so well. They were almost like sisters! What could have happened back on Earth to set them so against one another?

"Silly Seiya, you've misunderstood. There never was anything between Mamoru-san and me," Usagi said, stroking my face. "It was you I really wanted all along."
She was just leaning in to kiss me when I was startled awake by a huge thunderclap. I hurried back to what remained of the castle, grumbling the whole time about my ruined dream. Just when it was getting to the good part. . .
Kakyuu-princess was waiting for me, her gown a bit wet from standing in an open doorway in this driving rain.
"Fighter," she cried, embracing me, "thank the stars! I was worried about you, stuck out in the storm all alone."
"I'm fine, Highness," I assured her. "And the others?"
Kakyuu-princess gestured to the table, where Maker sat working feverishly as usual. I swear she could rebuild the whole world on her own if she had to! Just beside her, pretending to understand the blueprints she was reading upside down, I hardly recognised Healer in her new burgundy hair.
I knew right away something was troubling her; Healer was usually so proud of her shiny, silvery hair! Only at her lowest points had she even threatened to change it, and she'd always come around within a day or two. I never once thought she'd really go through with it!
"That's a very striking colour," I said, in hopes it would encourage her to talk, "really sets off your eyes."
She just shrugged in response, murmuring, "That wasn't the point."
"Then what was?"
"Getting attention?" Maker suggested.
"You're grumpy today."
"Shouldn't I be? I've only been rebuilding the world alone all day while you two goofed off," she retorted.
"Just shut up," Healer said, trembling with rage. "Just shut up. You don't know!"
Then she fled to our little makeshift bedroom in tears, and if it had a door I'm sure she would've slammed it.
I started to follow, but our princess shook her head, so I sat down at the table with a sigh.
"Look, Maker, do you think you could go a little easier on her from now on?" I asked. "I think she's really going through something."
"Unlikely," she said, pushing up her glasses. "I'm sure her most pressing concern is whether her favourite dress will still look good with her new red hair."
"I don't think this is just another of her little teen-aged crises," I said. "I've never seen her like this before."
"She thinks she's the only one with problems? We've all been through hell these past few years, but we deal with it, because duty comes first," Maker retorted. "You would think she, of all people, wouldn't have to be reminded of that."
"Well, maybe this is just her way of dealing."

I guess we all have our own ways of dealing. Mine has always been to immerse myself in my work and suffer quietly, which is why I was still found at our makeshift workstation long after everyone else was in bed.
My heavy head dipped forward, snapping up just before my face would've collided with the table.
"Maybe it's time I was off to bed, too," I decided.
Fighter had chosen to sleep in our princess' room to give Healer time alone, and I considered doing the same, especially after how I'd treated her earlier. But sleeping in the same bed as our princess, though I knew nothing would happen, I just wouldn't feel right! So I decided to chance confrontation with Healer instead. With any luck, she'd be asleep by now.
I paused at the door to watch her for a moment before entering; she was curled up in the middle of our broken-down mattress on the floor, asleep in nothing but a floral bra and panties. Judging by the grimace on her face and quiet whimpers, she wasn't having very pleasant dreams at the moment. I sat down beside her and gently stroked her hair. It was still quite lovely, with her cute bob angled a bit shorter at the back and feathered softly about her face. Its rich burgundy colour brought out delicate pink hues in her skin. This was too pretty to have been done out of anger, I thought. But as I stroked her hair back from her face, I found a large cut on her cheek which couldn't have come from a mere slip of the shears.
Healer knew she was beautiful, and was quite proud of that. She'd once confided in me her biggest fear was that her face might be disfigured in battle. Why would she do anything deliberately to hurt it? The answer came when I saw her arms, which were covered to the elbow with cuts in various stages of healing, from fading scars to barely scabbed over.
"Oh, Healer," I whispered, stroking her cheek, "what have you been doing to yourself?"

That I awoke with Maker holding me like a teddy bear didn't alarm me at first-- she'd always been a snuggler-- until I remembered what I'd gone to sleep wearing. I looked down to find my arms heavily bandaged from wrists to elbows.
She knew.
"Healer?" she said drowsily, stirring a bit.
She'd always been a much lighter sleeper than me.
"It's early," I tried. "Go back to sleep."
"No, I think we really need to talk about this," Maker said, touching my arm. "You can't keep doing this to yourself, Healer-- it's not healthy."
I hung my head. "You weren't supposed to see that."
"You obviously wanted someone to, or you wouldn't be dressed like that," she said. "When you hurt your face, was that when you realised you'd taken it too far?"
I nodded, tears stinging my eyes.
"Do you think it'll scar? I don't know how I'd ever live with myself if it did."
"Well, it doesn't look very deep," she said. "I cleaned and dressed it as best I could, but maybe if we asked our princess. . ."
"No!" I protested. "She can't know about this. Promise me you won't tell her."
"I-if you insist," she said uncertainly, concern in her violet eyes, "but I think she'd have a better chance of healing it without scarring."
"I'd almost rather take the scars than face her," I said sadly.
"Healer, I know your face is important to you," she said. "Why would you ever want to hurt it?"
"Haven't you ever looked in the mirror and hated what you saw?"
Maker gave me a strange look, shaking her head slowly.
"Never mind," I said, pouting. "I should've known you wouldn't understand."
I stood and pulled on my fluffy pink robe as I left the room, wanting to be alone for a while. But as I looked up from tying my robe, I found I wasn't alone at all. Kakyuu-princess smiled politely from the table where she sat in her own red velvet robe, bareheaded and sans make-up, with her long red hair cascading freely over her shoulders.
"Sorry, Your Highness, I didn't know you were in here," I apologised, bowing.
I turned to make my hasty retreat, but she called me over.
I froze in my tracks. How much had she heard?

"Healer," I called, "could you come over here for a minute?"
She hesitated at first, but finally sat down beside me, looking terribly nervous.
"Y-you needed to see me for something, Your Highness?" she asked.
"It's come to my attention you're not pulling your weight around here, sneaking off into town to play in the shops instead."
"Yes, ma'am, but only a couple times a week," she protested.
"All the same, I think it's interfering with your work," I said. "I'm afraid I'll have to forbid you from going there alone until further notice, and then only with my express permission. Do you understand?"
"Yes, ma'am."
She got up to leave, but I called her back.
"And, Healer?"
She swallowed nervously. "Y-yes?"
"What happened to your arms?"
Healer tugged at the sleeves of her robe to cover the bandages, a guilty look in her eyes.
"I'm fine," she said with a false smile. "Maker took care of it."
"Did you slit your wrists, Healer?" I had to ask. "Were you trying to kill yourself?"
"Of course not!" she said, sounding shocked I'd even suggest it. "I wouldn't do that."
"Then show me your arms."
She hesitated, tears shining at the rims of her big green eyes, before finally holding her bandaged arms out for inspection.
I began unwrapping at her right wrist-- prepared, I thought, for the worst-- but the reality was worse than I could ever imagine! Her arm was so covered in cuts and scars there was barely an inch of healthy flesh left. Each twist of the gauze revealed larger and deeper wounds, some fresh enough to have oozed a bit on the bandages, all the way to her elbow. Her left arm was even worse, with more and deeper wounds spaced more closely in what almost looked like a planned pattern.
"How could you do this?" I asked, tears streaming down my face.
Her mouth opened as if to speak, but no words came out. She just shook her head silently, the pain in her eyes cutting more deeply than any words could.
I was shaking all over.
"This body is sacred to me," I sobbed. "I won't let you continue to desecrate it like this. I'll personally inspect you every day, if I have to, to make sure you don't!"
I fled the room without waiting for her response, tears blurring my vision as I stumbled through the barren fields. Suddenly my left foot landed in a hole, and I went down. I'd lost my slipper to the hole and skint up my hands and knees, but I made no attempt to get up. I just lay there, body racked with sobs.
There was something so bad in Healer's life, it made her want to slice herself up, and I'd been oblivious to it the whole time. How could I have been so blind?

"Healer?" I called drowsily from the doorway, pulling my robe over my boxy blue pjs. "Are you all right? I thought I heard an argument."
"Go away," she muttered, face in her hands.
I noticed the pile of gauze on the table first, and was about to ask who was hurt, when I saw Healer's mutilated arms. It almost looked like she'd fallen through a window, but the cuts were far too straight and regular for that.
Whatever was bothering her, it went a lot deeper than just a little red hair dye.
I wanted to yell at her for what she'd done, to demand to know why, but I knew reacting in anger would only push her farther away. I took her in my arms and held her close instead, letting her cry on my shoulder. Neither of us spoke for a long time, until. . .
"How do you and Maker put up with it?" she sobbed.
"Put up with what?" I asked gently.
"Knowing we used to be guys back on Earth. I just can't do it anymore. Every time I look in the mirror, there he is. It's like torture!"
I didn't know how to answer that. I'd actually enjoyed being a boy while we were on Earth. Part of me even kind of missed it.
"I never thought you were a very convincing boy, anyway," I said, the safest answer I could come up with.
Healer raised her head slightly.
"You think so?" she asked cautiously. "I really don't look like a guy to you?"
"A delicate, pixie-faced girl like yourself? It's a wonder you weren't found out right away!"
She giggled a bit through her tears. "Thanks, Fighter."
"I think you're gonna be just fine," I said, hugging her tightly, "once we figure out what to do with this red mane of yours."
"It'll wash out in a few weeks," she confessed, blushing. "I like my real shade too much to ever dye it permanently."
"Good, 'cause I just happen to find redheads irresistible," I joked. "So if you stay like that too long, I might lose control and jump your skinny bones!"

I heard laughter from the next room; surely a good sign. I pulled my butterfly-print lavender robe over its matching nightgown and put on a more functional pair of glasses before peering out to make sure it was safe.
To judge by the pile of soiled gauze on the table, Healer's secret was out. That would certainly explain the argument I'd heard! But now Kakyuu-princess was nowhere to be found, and it was Fighter, instead, I saw comforting Healer.
"Is everything all right in here?" I asked cautiously from the doorway.
"I-I guess so," Healer said, sniffling.
"Come on in. We were just discussing the tremendous sex appeal of redheads," Fighter said with a wink.
Healer giggled and shoved her playfully away.
"Well, I'm glad to see you both in such a good mood," I said.
"Hey, have you tried asking her yet?" Fighter asked, nudging Healer.
"Asking me what?"
"How you live with the fact we were guys for a while," Fighter said. "That's what's troubling Healer; she's been having boy flashbacks."
"Fighter!" Healer scolded, punching her arm.
"It's all right," I said, taking a seat near them at the table, "I don't mind answering. I actually have them myself, sometimes. I swear some mornings I almost have to check myself to make sure I'm still female."
"But I thought you didn't mind being a guy."
"I didn't," I said, "which is part of the problem. If I feel equally comfortable as either gender, what does that say about me?"
"Only that time on Earth hasn't sold you on their whole 'fixed gender' concept," Fighter said, "which puts you one up on me, I'm afraid."
"Me, too, I guess," Healer grudgingly admitted.
She always hated letting on she'd picked up anything from Earth.
"But, no matter how bad things get, I'd never harm myself over it," I said, taking both Healer's hands. "That's never the answer."
"Just promise me next time you have a problem you'll come to us, all right?" Fighter said. "You don't have to go through it alone."
Her words reminded me of what Kakyuu-princess said just yesterday, and gave them new meaning. We were all facing the same challenges here, after all, and not just with the rebuilding.
"Kakyuu-princess," I said, suddenly remembering her gone, "where is she?"
"She ran out after our argument," Healer said. "She seemed pretty upset."
Though there were no other people or animals on our dead world to threaten her, I couldn't help worrying, especially hearing she'd left all upset.
"We should look for her."

I heard my name being called, but didn't answer. I didn't want them to see me like this; a broken-down wreck in a soiled robe and nightgown, lying in the dirt with one slipper off. So I dried my eyes, and had just replaced my lost slipper to stand, when Fighter's voice called from the top of the hill, "She's over here!"
Fighter rushed to my side, still in her masculine, boxy pajamas and robe, with her short, dark curls standing up at all angles from sleep. At least I wasn't the only indecent one!
"Are you all right, Princess?" she asked, blue eyes full of concern. "Do you think you can stand?"
"I'm fine, Fighter," I insisted.
To prove as much, tried to stand, leaning heavily on her for support, but my throbbing ankle wouldn't allow it.
"Do you need me to carry you?"
"I'm fine," I repeated. "I think I just need to rest a while."
"As you wish," she said, and sat down beside me.
The others came over the hill a moment later.
"What happened?" Maker asked urgently. "Is she all right?"
"I'm fine," I said yet again, forcing a smile for their benefit. "I just wasn't looking where I was going, and tripped on a hole. I'll be fine."
"Sorry I upset you," Healer said. "I'll try not to-- I mean, I'm not gonna do those things to myself anymore, I promise."
"You really mean that?" I asked hopefully.
Healer shrugged, eyes downcast.
"I was getting tired of the pain, anyway."
"I'll still have to check you every day for a while to make sure," I said. "No offence."
"Fair enough."
"Come on," Fighter said, "let's get you inside and see what we can do for that ankle."
"I'll make us some breakfast," Maker offered. "We've got a long day of work ahead, towards rebuilding our world."
"We?" I repeated, pleasantly surprised at her sudden change in attitude.
"Well, you can't expect her to fix everything herself, can you?" Healer said with a wink.
"Hey, guys," Fighter said, pointing, "looks like we've got some help in our restoration efforts."
The others knelt down for a better look. There, barely visible, on the ground, a few small grass shoots had forced their way up through the barren, rocky soil.
"But we haven't reseeded this field yet," Healer said. "How could this happen?"
Maker smiled. "Looks like Mother Nature's got her own recovery program."
"And between the five of us," Fighter said, "I'm sure we'll have our world back, good as new, in no time."

©2002/2006 (revised HTML version) Naia Zifu all rights reserved.
Starlights and Kakyuu are SM characters I don't own rights to, but as always, I'm not trying to make money off anyone else's ideas.
Gomen, I never write MPOV fics-- don't even like them, usually-- but this one turned out this way on its own. Hopefully each character's viewpoint is distinctive enough not to confuse anyone.
Healer's ways of dealing with problems in this fic are based on things I've done, to a lesser extent, in the past. . . still sometimes get urges, but try to resist. If any readers share similar experiences and need support, feel free to write and we'll talk about it.