by Dark Moon Ministry

Disclaimer: I do not own Sailor Moon or any of its characters.

Author's notes: My biggest thanks go out to my friend Luna Goddess of the Night, who made an extensive and exhausting proof reading of the story, really improving the flow and overall quality. Thank you so much! (Just FYI: A few single sentences in this story were suggestions made directly by Luna, and are used with permission.)

A blue haired girl walked down the road in the dusk of the day. The sun had begun to set, and the chill of the upcoming night was piercing her body as the autumn winds tugged at her hair and her jacket. She was alone. Her friends, who she usually was very happy to spend her time with, were not there with her. Not this time. After what had happened this afternoon, she just felt the need to isolate herself for a while.

They had had a party. A gathering for all the Sailor scouts, with lemonade, popcorn, and movies. A typical teenage girl party. Ami liked those parties. She liked them very much.


She sighed when she recalled the events that had passed. It was not their fault. It never was. Her friends could not help that they were like that. Nor could she. She was not angry, just a little bit irritated – and tired. She had simply not been in the mood for a party.

Yet, she had gone there. Despite having had a bad night's sleep the day before, despite having a long day in school, and despite having an intense cram school session right after the ordinary school work, she had gone to the party. As soon as Usagi had announced the plans for the evening with overwhelming excitement and had added her big, blue puppy dog eyes to the presentation, Ami had not had the heart to say no.

And it had gone just like she had feared it would. Her exhaustion had put her in a grumpy mood, and that was not a good starting point when you were faced with the tremendous energy from the tag team of Usagi, Minako and Chibi-Usa – spiced up with about ten liters of sugary drinks. She could not handle any craziness. Not tonight. The only thing she had wanted was to sit back and have a quiet and intellectual discussion with someone close.

Mamoru had not been there, as it was an all girls' party. Her safe link, the one who always understood her mood and offer her an intellectual escape way, was gone. She had tried to turn to the other girls to start something that had at least resembled a sophisticated conversation. But everyone she had turned to had disappointed her. Rei and Hotaru had quickly hopped into the whirlwind of blonde and pink – joining into the brawl of laughter and antics caused by Usagi, Minako and Chibi-Usa. Even though Rei spent most of the time nagging on Usagi's behavior, it was clear that she was enjoying the emotional chaos as much as the other girls. Makoto had been busy cooking and arranging all the food she had brought – seemingly enough to feed a whole platoon for a week, even with Usagi's huge appetite included – and had turned completely unreachable once she disappeared into her culinary world.

Ami had then turned to Michiru, and at first, things had seemed to go well. The goddess of the ocean was nearly as intellectual as Mamoru, and she was always happy to have a little conversation about academic matters. There was just one problem. Once the conversation had gone on for a few minutes, Haruka had appeared. The tall blonde had been tasked to bring the movies and the games to the party, and had been a bit late. And once she stepped inside the room, everything had fallen apart. After that, Ami's noble attempt at a discussion had gone out of the window, and Michiru had only had eyes for her girlfriend.

At that point, Ami had felt she could not take it anymore. She was too tired to cope with all the chaos, and more than mildly frustrated with getting the cold shoulder from everyone. Quietly, she had left the party. She had not screamed or slammed any doors. Ami never did such things. She had just told the guardians of wind and water that she needed some fresh air. Then she had walked out in the hallway, grabbed her jacket and purse, and left.

And now she was here, walking down the road towards the last one of those she considered to be her closest friends. The one who had never turned away. The one who had always given her all the intellectual stimulation she craved for. The one who – quite literally – would always have time.

She approached her final destination – a big and beautiful house in the outskirts of central Tokyo. The house was quiet and dark, but a light was shining from one single window on the upper floor. That's where her friend was. The front door was locked, but Ami quickly found the key hidden in a flower pot that stood next to the entrance. All the girls trusted each other enough to allow access to their homes if the need should arise.

She slowly put the key in the lock and turned it. She felt a small nervousness rising in her stomach. She knew that the host probably would not turn her away, but she also knew that she had no formal invitation for tonight, and that she had not told the host that she would be visiting, and that was clearly a bit impolite.

Once inside, she slowly closed the door behind her and started walking up the stairs to the upper floor. Once at the top, she walked through the dark hallway until she reached a door on the other side. Light shone through the door frame, creating a rectangle of light in the darkness. Ami closed her eyes and put her hand on the door handle. She took a breath and slowly opened the door, stepping inside the small room.

A warm, welcoming aura surrounded her body as she put her foot over the threshold, the sweet, earthy smell of herbal tea touching her nostrils. Her eyes absorbed the wooden tones of the walls and the furniture, and the organic, green luster of a few flowers and plants put in various places in the room. The place was gently lit by two lamps standing in the opposite corners. They let out a warm, yellow light over the whole scene, perfectly blending in with the wooden and grassy colors.

Ami closed the door as slowly and gently as possible, as if she was afraid that the peaceful, meditative atmosphere could shatter with the slightest noise. "Hi, may I come in?" she said nervously. Then she blushed lightly and looked down. "I am... sorry to bother you if you are busy."

"Your presence will never bother me, Ami."

Ami felt a tingle in her heart when she heard the deep and majestic, but endlessly emotional voice. Regardless of how many times she had heard her speak, and regardless of how much time she had spent with her, she always felt shy and timid any time she put her eyes upon the other woman.

The Gatekeeper of Time, in her daily life known as Setsuna Meioh, sat in front of her desk, calmly typing at her workstation. Her long, black hair with small tints of green fell smoothly over the backrest of the chair, cascading like a dark waterfall, almost touching the floor. She wore large golden earrings, yin and yang symbols engraved on their surface, which created a beautiful unity with her dark eyes and hair. She was the whole essence of harmony and completeness, a cloudless mind and a hard working spirit, all in one. Ami knew she was probably imagining it, but even the quiet sounds coming from the keyboard sounded as they were part of a majestic and harmonic rhythm, ticking along with the beat of the universe.

"Have a seat if you want to, Ami," Setsuna said without taking her eyes of the screen, and pointed at a sofa standing at the end of the room.

"Thanks," Ami said quietly. She slowly took off her jacket and put it on the sofa, neatly folded. She then put her purse on floor and sat down, all so quietly as possible not to disturb the mighty Gatekeeper in her work.

She leaned back and felt the soft leather of the sofa against her hands and her legs. It made her feel more relaxed, looking around the room, admiring the design and the decoration. The room was sparingly furnished, but all parts were carefully planned out, and all the items seemed to be there for a reason. Setsuna's work desk had drawers and some shelves built in, all filled with documents and books. Next to the sofa, where Ami was now sitting, there was a table and a small cabinet containing tea cups. On the table was a tea pot, a thin but steady pillar of steam pouring out from the pipe.

Ami really appreciated the modest and earthy decoration of the room. It was a stark contrast to the rooms of her friends, which boiled over with bright colors, stuffed toys and posters of pop idols with skimpy outfits. Setsuna's room was so different; it felt mature and serious, but also relaxed and humble. She also had to admit that the colors and the lighting blended perfectly with the woman's copper skin and dark eyes. With a smile, she realized that she herself was the only thing that broke the organic harmony. With her brightly colored dress, blue hair and blue eyes, she looked like a paint blotch on a wooden artifact.

After sitting still for a while, Ami felt she had to say something to avoid being impolite.

"I guess you want to know the reason why I came over here all of a sudden," she said, coughing a little of the shyness that was still lingering inside of her. "To tell the truth, I am not really sure..."

"There is always a reason," Setsuna said, "even if one does not know it herself. But if I would make an evaluated guess, I would say that you came here because you wanted to spend some time with me."

Small fields of pink appeared on the younger girl's face.

"I guess you are right. I am..." She hesitated, slightly ashamed. "...I don't know. I just really wanted to see you again. I am very sorry if I bother you right in the middle of your work. I know I'm a bit selfish..."

"You never have to apologize for friendship, Ami. I am always honored to be the object of your love."

Ami felt a warm feeling inside. She did not know why, but it was something with the way Setsuna spoke. She always said everything as a factual statement, neither concealing nor exaggerating anything. Her utterances were always pure emotion. Some people would probably see it as being overly direct, verging on being rude, but Ami had always loved it. She loved how Setsuna was always honest with what she was saying, and never tried to mask her true feelings.

"I also figure your friends have something to do with your reasons for wanting to see me," Setsuna continued.

Ami opened her mouth and tensed slightly. By now, she was well aware that the dark haired woman had senses that reached further than normal human beings, but it was always a bit startling when she demonstrated these abilities.

Setsuna turned her head smoothly and watched the younger girl. Her warm eyes had no signs of anger.

"Don't look so surprised, Ami. I knew that you and the others were going to have a party tonight at this time. Haruka and Michiru told me about it, but I could unfortunately not attend since I have this report to finish. And the fact that they are all there, and you are here, makes me come to that conclusion."

Ami smiled again. She wondered if it was possible to hide anything from Setsuna.

"Well, I am ashamed to admit it, but..." She hesitated. "I sort of... grew a little tired of them tonight. I mean, I love them of course, and I like to see them being happy and having fun, but sometimes, they make me a little bit irritated."

"You do not need to feel ashamed. Irritation is a natural emotion. We all have different needs from time to time. I am happy I can fill one of those needs. And your friends are happy that they can fill the other."

Ami smiled again, not sure of what to answer. Setsuna stopped typing at her computer. She turned her office chair ninety degrees so that she was facing Ami.

"Would you like some tea? I put it on a while ago, and it should be ready by now."

"Yes, please. That would be lovely."

Setsuna rose from her desk and walked over to the sofa where Ami was sitting. She took out two ceramic cups from the cabinet, took the tea pot and slowly poured up the tea into the cups. Ami watched her with respectful silence. She had seen Rei serving tea many times, and the shrine maiden had the art polished to perfection, but there was just something special when Setsuna was doing it. Ami could not objectively argue that Rei was less smooth or majestic than the Gatekeeper when she poured up the tea. It was just that Setsuna's movements were so... natural, like she flowed along with the motions of time rather than using her muscles and bones.

Setsuna sat down on a chair by the table next to Ami and held out her hand with one of the ceramic cups.

"I am sorry I have nothing more exciting to offer. I guess that there are sweeter and more colorful drinks at the party."

Ami smiled as she took the warm cup with the steaming tea.

"It's perfect," she said. "Usagi would probably think I was out of my mind, but I actually prefer tea to all those sugared drinks."

"I do as well," Setsuna said. "Herbal tea makes me relaxed and more creative."

"Yes, same for me!" Ami blurted out, happy for some support on this topic. "I often drink a cup of tea when I study alone."

This was what she had been looking for the whole evening: spending time in a relaxing atmosphere with a close friend, drinking tea and quietly discussing intellectual matters. It had been just a small little wish, and now, Setsuna had made that wish come true.

Ami took a sip of the hot drink. It was very bitter, making the muscles around her tongue and cheeks contract themselves, but it gave her a lovely and refreshing feeling inside.

"Is there anything you wish to talk to me about, Ami?" Setsuna asked. "Anything about your friends or what they did at the party tonight?"

"No, I..." Ami paused. "To tell the truth, I am not angry at them or so. They did not do anything wrong. They were just being themselves. I just..." She paused again and searched for the right words. "...I guess I was just not in the mood for a party today. I feel like that sometimes. Some days I just want to curl up, relax and read a book."

Setsuna nodded and took another sip of tea, enjoying it with her eyes closed.

The blue haired girl and the older woman sat still in silence for a while, quietly drinking their tea. After a while, Ami put the cup down, holding it with both of her hands in her lap. She peeked up at the older woman, but quickly put her gaze down into her cup when she saw that the woman's dark eyes had been fixed right at her.

"Is something bothering you, Ami?" Setsuna asked.

"No, it's just..." Ami swallowed and looked up at Setsuna again. "I just want to... ask you something. If you don't mind..."

"Of course I do not mind, Ami. Feel free to ask the questions you have. I will try to answer them to my best effort."

Ami was unsure of whether Setsuna had foreseen that she had in fact several questions on her mind and not just one, or if she just used the plural form for no particular reason. She put her cup on the table and took a deep breath. She had wanted to ask for so long, but it somehow felt like she was stepping onto holy ground. It felt a bit like she was breaking a taboo. "Setsuna..." she began slowly, "You are here now, in this time and this world, sitting in front of me. But... you are also there, right?"

"There?" Setsuna raised an eyebrow so slightly that it was almost impossible to detect.

"By the Gates of Time," Ami continued. "Over there, in the realm between all the worlds. You're there too, aren't you?"

Setsuna put her cup down. "Well... it is not the easiest question to answer," she said. "I feel that the question is not stated correctly. You see, words like 'here', 'there' and 'between' are a little bit difficult to apply to my profession. They are much more suitable for describing a three dimensional space, like this room."

"Well, of course," Ami said with a small smile. She was thinking for a few moments on how to best phrase her question. Eventually, she continued: "Let me put it like this: You have existence in this plane and at the Gates of Time, don't you?"

"I suppose the answer to that question is yes."

"But how is that possible?" Ami said, making big eyes. "How can you exist at two places at the same time?"

Setsuna gave off one of her classic smiles – one that only touched the lips. "I can't. No physical object can exist at two places at the same time."

Ami put her face into a frown. "But you just confirmed you existed here—sorry, in this world, and at the Gates of Time."

Setsuna's smile still stayed, as she continued. "Yes, but those two locations do not exist at the same time. They exist in two separate timelines."

Ami let out a little laughter of her own clumsiness. Of course. "Oh, well... Alright then," she said with a smile. "But how can you even comprehend that form of existence? How does it feel to exist like that? Having two minds awake simultaneously must be... confusing."

Setsuna looked like she was contemplating the question for a little while, then she said: "I do not know how to answer that question. It is a bit difficult to explain to someone who does not experience it."

"Oh, but please try. I would really like to know," Ami pleaded. She was not aware of it, but her voice and her body language were not too different from the behavior that Usagi showed every time she was begging for something. This was one of the few things that could break Ami's usual shy demeanor, getting to learn something new.

"Hmm... I could try to explain how it feels, but..." Setsuna hesitated, frowning mildly. "You will not be very satisfied with the answer."

"I'll try," Ami said and nodded like she really wanted to convince Setsuna she was a good student.

"Okay. It feels maybe like... constantly having a splinter in your eye. It does not prevent you from doing what you normally do. You can do everything as usual, but... it itches quite a bit."

"That did not tell me anything." Ami did not look satisfied. As polite as she usually was, she couldn't manage to completely hide her disappointment, pouting just a bit.

"If I have offended you, I am sorry," Setsuna said. "I told you that you would not be satisfied with my answer."

"No, sorry, I meant no offence," Ami quickly replied, immediately removing all signs of irritation.

"None taken", Setsuna said.

Ami sighed and leaned back in the sofa. She picked up her cup of tea and looked down in the green water, seeing small, brown leaves floating on the surface. She took another sip of the still hot herbal drink, feeling the content pouring down her throat like a warm river, the taste nearly not as bitter as the first swallow.

Fidgeting with her cup, she looked up at Setsuna again. "Setsuna... is it true that you can see into the future?" she asked.

"If you have to put it that way, then yes. To some extent, I do."

"But you cannot tell anyone of what you see, can you?"

"By the rules that have been set for me, and in order to avoid risking bringing up dangerous events, I should not."

Setsuna's voice was like a warm spring breeze: mild and gentle, but impossible to grasp, impossible to get a hold of. Ami's eyes became curios again. "If you see into the future, it means that you know it all, doesn't it?" she said.

"I am not sure what to answer to that." Setsuna's face did not reveal anything.

"What I mean is... you know everything that happens. You see everything that happens, that has happened, and that will happen. Don't you?"

"I don't know how to answer that." Setsuna's face was still emotionless. Ami seemed to be a little provoked by this. Seemingly, she was becoming a little agitated.

"You are like an... omniscience, aren't you?" she kept on. "You are like an All-seeing-eye. An oracle."

"Those are very honorable titles, but I do not know if I deserve any of them."

"Please don't be so vague," Ami said, her voice signaling a little bit of irritation. "You are standing there at the Gates of Time right now... or in another dimension, timeline or whatever, and I bet that you are watching me at this very moment."

To her surprise, Ami saw a short tingle of confusion in Setsuna's eyes. That certainly did not happen very often. "Hmmm... what am I supposed to answer to that? I do not feel comfortable with the words 'right now' and 'at this very moment', but if you really have to, I guess you could say that is correct, at least in some aspects."

"Look," Ami said and made a quick gesture with her hand, signaling she was getting impatient. "You saw the fall of the Silver Millennium. You have seen thousands of worlds being born and destroyed. You have served Crystal Tokyo since its foundation. You must be able to see what is going to happen in the future. You know exactly how everything is going to happen, don't you?"

Setsuna shook her head again. "I can confirm that your first three statements are true. As for the fourth and fifth one, I am not sure."

Ami grabbed on to the sofa with her hands and pushed herself up. A clear irritation could now be heard in her voice. "Why can't you tell me?" she moaned. "You confirmed you can see into future, so that means you know what will happen, right?"

Setsuna gave a little helpless smile, like an adult trying to explain to a child why it could not stay up all night instead of going to bed. "Well, Ami, to some extent, we all know what will happen in the future."

"What do you mean?" Ami frowned. "I don't know what will happen. You can see into the future, I cannot. In other words, you know what will happen, I do not."

"I am not so sure about that. Let me tell you this: the concept of knowing is a bit difficult. More often than you might think, the feeling of knowing that something will happen is rooted more in our past experience and the predictions we make, rather than it being about us actually seeing what will happen."

"Stop that metaphysical babbling," Ami said. She was now more than irritated, which was indicated by the fact that she had made a rather rude remark towards the Gatekeeper – something very uncommon for Ami – and to top it off, she did not even notice it herself. "You're not giving me any answers," she continued. "It seems you're just avoiding my questions."

Ami's outburst had very little effect on Setsuna, who was still as serene as ever, but her voice now sounded a little bit more firm than usual. "I am trying my best to answer all your questions, Ami," she said, "but you must know that you are not exactly giving me the easiest ones." She put one leg over the other in a smooth motion and looked the frustrated girl deep in the eyes. The gesture made Ami tense up a bit, as if she had just become aware of her previous rude comment. She looked down in the floor and did not say anything. The Gatekeeper never raised her voice at her friends, but she could be intimidating if she really wanted to.

"Let me give you a concrete example, if you feel more comfortable with that," Setsuna said, her voice now a bit softer. "Do you remember last time you, me and the others were at the ice cream shop? Do you remember that Usagi ate too much ice cream too quickly and got a violent headache as a result?"

"Well, yeah, but..." Ami looked a little confused.

"You knew that was going to happen already when we had decided to go to the ice cream shop, didn't you? Already from the first moment Usagi began drooling when she opened the menu, you knew what was going to happen."

"But that's not the same thing," Ami protested. "Usagi is always like that. It is in her nature, and she has done the same thing many times before."

"But there was no universal law saying that she would do it this time also, was it?" Setsuna said and held up a finger in front of Ami. "There existed a million possibilities for her in that very moment she stepped inside the restaurant. And yet, you knew exactly what scenario would play out. And why did you know that?"

Ami looked down, not able to counter the Gatekeeper's wise eyes. Frustration and some confusion showed in her face. Eventually, she spoke up with a low, hesitating voice: "...because that was the most likely outcome... based on what I already knew about Usagi..."

Setsuna gave a curt nod. "Exactly."

"But it's... it's still not the same thing! It can't be the same thing!" Ami persisted, now looking more helpless than irritated. "Fair enough that a lot of it is based on prediction and judgment, but you see the world in a different way. You have to!"

"Yes, that is correct. I am just trying to tell you that it is not like I watch a movie play out."

"Okay, fine. But at the Gates of Time, back when we fought Wiseman and Black Lady, you told us that we were not allowed to hear our own future, because it could be dangerous. That, I think, indicates that you have some knowledge that we don't have, and that you cannot pass on this knowledge to anyone."

"I did tell you that, yes," Setsuna said, "but I said what I said because it was the necessary thing to say in that moment. It was a very stressful situation, and I had to give you quick and precise instructions since we were just about out of time."

Despite her frustration, Ami could not help smiling in disbelief. The calm and rational Setsuna had just made a pun. The humorous moment helped her loosen up a bit and brought her out of her tensed state. The humble spark of interest and eagerness came back in her eyes. "So... it is not directly dangerous to tell others about their future, then?" she carefully asked.

"It might be, it might not. It depends on circumstance. But it should be avoided, and there is also a cardinal rule set by Queen Serenity that I shall not to tell anyone."

"But what could happen if you told somebody?" she said. "I mean technically. What would the consequences be?"

"Well..." Setsuna hesitated. "Hmm... let me give you an example that might be a little more creative than the previous ones I mentioned. Listen carefully now, Ami." Setsuna's dark eyes dug into Ami's blue irises, and her voice suddenly became deeper, almost slightly eerie. "In a matter of moments, you will accidently push the vase to your right, and it will fall to the floor and break."

"The vase?" Ami said. She looked to her right, then she tensed up when she saw that she was sitting dangerously close to a small vase full of flowers standing right next to the sofa on a small, low table. Ami knew that she was neither clumsy nor overly energetic, but she realized immediately that any quick, jerking movement with her right arm would have sent the beautiful artifact right into the floor with full force. Still, she was well aware that she had not made such a move, nor had she planned to. Her right arm had been still all the time. She took a breath, trying to grasp a situation that was completely new for her. With a slight tremble in her voice, she said: "Will I break this vase? Will I cause this vase to fall to the floor and break?"

Setsuna did not answer.

Ami fixated the vase with her blue eyes. The hairs on her neck rose. Slowly, she began arching herself away from the vase, moving slowly and carefully until she was at the very end of the other side of the sofa.

"Don't worry about the mess, Ami. I'll clean it up," Setsuna said.

"I will not break the vase," Ami said slowly, eyes still fixated on the vase. "It is logically impossible for me to break the vase. I am not even near the va..."

Something touched her left hand, and a loud crashing noise hit the air.

Ami sat still, completely frozen. Without moving the rest of the body, she slowly turned her head to the left.

The cup of tea had fallen off the table and down on the floor. The green liquid poured out on the wooden tiles.

Ami's face turned blood red. She went right into panic mode by instinct, forgetting everything else. "I-I'm sorry! I'm so sorry! I'll clean it up right now!"

"I told you: don't worry about the mess. I'll clean it up." Setsuna already had a piece of cloth in her hand. She smoothly crouched down on the floor and wiped up the tea with relaxed movements. Her hair flowed graciously over her back, with not a single strand falling down in the way. When she had finished wiping up the tea, and picked up the shards of the ceramic tea cup, she rose up again, ever so majestically as before, and sat down in her chair as if the meditative atmosphere in the room had never been disrupted.

Ami did not say anything. She was pale in the face, sitting still in a seemingly paralyzed state. "How... how did you...?" she said. She swallowed a few times, trying to get the confusion out of her head. Finally, she said: "You knew that was going to happen. You knew that the cup of tea would fall down..."

"Did I?" Setsuna asked.

"You knew that it was going to happen, and you caused me to do it."

Setsuna slowly leaned forwards and looked Ami in the eyes. "But would the cup have fallen if I had not said anything? And what would have happened to the vase if I had made the choice to remain silent?"

Ami said nothing.

She tried to speak, but no words came out of her mouth. She looked around the room, not sure where to put her gaze. "I... I don't know," she said eventually. "It... It feels like I would have tripped the vase, and not the cup, but..." She looked down at her hands. She shook her head. "But I cannot be sure of that..."

She looked up at Setsuna with tensed eyes. "I can only see two possibilities... Either, you foresaw that I would trip the vase, but prevented me from doing so by telling it to me, and you did not have the slightest idea that I would trip the tea cup. The tea cup incident was just a pure coincidence, unrelated to the vase..." Quickly, she continued before the Guardian could say any more: "...but that cannot be possible. Your actions and your following statement seem to indicate that you did know about the tea cup all along... which leads me to the second possibility," she said. "I would have tripped the tea cup no matter what I would have done, no matter what you would have said to me. The vase would never fall; I would have moved to the left anyway – for whatever reason – and caused the cup to fall over, and... your statement about the vase would have been completely irrelevant to the outcome..."

Setsuna's eyes narrowed slightly. "Do you feel that my statement was irrelevant to the outcome?"

Ami took a long time before she answered.

"No..." she said. "It was most relevant. It was the actual statement that made me move over to the left. It was the actual statement that made me forget completely about the tea cup..."

She blinked a couple of times as a new thought entered her mind. "Or, there could be a third possibility. Having me breaking the tea cup could have been your goal all along. You could have foreseen how it would have played out and have said what was required to make me trip the cup, but..." She shook her head again. "...but there is no reason why you would do that. Why would you play such a thing on me? And as you mentioned earlier, you still had the choice to speak or to remain silent..."

She put her hands to her temples. Her eyes popped wide open, and rivers of panic started to flow into her blue irises. The dark mysteries of the universe clawed her mind. "How is this possible? How can this happen?" she said with a frightened voice. "I-I don't get it. I can't make any sense of this at all!"

Ami looked like she was about to hyperventilate. Setsuna placed her hand on Ami's arm and spoke to her in a deep, soothing voice: "Ami, try to put the logical reasoning aside for a minute. Consider this question instead: What do you believe happened?"

The blue haired girl looked up at the Gatekeeper. She looked into the dark eyes that had seen a thousand ages come and go. The endless wisdom resting there seemed to relax her a little bit. She collected her thoughts and took some time before she spoke. "It could of course be that everything is just cause and effect... That all the actions from the beginning of the universe lead up to me tripping the cup of tea. But..." Her voice faded away.

"Do you believe that the world is completely deterministic?" Setsuna asked. "Do you believe that everything that happens is the result of cause and effect? Do you believe that you came to me today just because of fate? Do you believe that you became Sailor Mercury only because fate told you so?"

"No..." Ami said weakly, trying to muster up some courage. "I don't believe that. I want to believe that I have a free will, that I make my choices. I want to believe that I made the choice to serve Sailor Moon, to use my powers for protecting this world and the ones I love."

Setsuna smiled and displayed a small hint of pride in her eyes. "That is fine, Ami. Remember, no one can force you to be Sailor Mercury if you do not want to. Usagi could not transform into Sailor Moon back then when she had a temporary loss of faith. In that sense, Ami Mizuno can only be Sailor Mercury if she chooses to be so."

Those words had good effect on the younger girl. Some of the angst in her eyes faded away. Ami sat still for a long moment. Then all of a sudden, something came over her. The wrinkles in her face smoothened out and her shoulders relaxed. She lifted her head and looked into Setsuna's eyes and said: "Maybe you knew I would trip the tea cup because... you predicted that it could happen."

Setsuna rose her eyebrows slightly again, but did not change her face otherwise. Ami's eyes began to glow and adrenaline slowly began sparking in her veins. "You predicted that the likelihood of me moving to the side and spilling the tea was a hundred percent – if, and only if, you would utter that statement to me in that specific second."

Setsuna did not show any response, but Ami's confidence started to build up for every word she uttered. "It all makes sense!" she said with a smile. "A person like you, who has seen so many people live and die, so many civilizations rise and fall, and so many eras come and go, would be the right person to make such exact and precise predictions. Only someone with all that acquired experience and wisdom could make such predictions."

She held up a finger in the air as to announce the conclusion to her theory. "And that's why you cannot tell ordinary people – people like me and the others, who do not have that wisdom and understanding – of our own future, because then..." She paused. "...the prediction and calculation change, and a new prediction needs to be made. And that's why you must not tell people of any important events the future might potentially hold for them, because then they will be aware of it and might risk messing things up and creating a worse outcome, like I did with the tea cup!"

Ami slumped back into the sofa and let her back and arms dig into the soft leather. Her shoulders relaxed, and she got that satisfied look on her face that she always displayed after she had finished a test with highest marks. Then, a frown appeared between her eyes. "But... I cannot be sure of that," she said. "I can never prove that. I will never know if that is the ultimate truth or just my own thinking..." Her smile slowly faded. Insecurity spread over her face. "And it does not matter if you confirm that my hypothesis is correct or not, because I will never be able to comprehend such a system anyway."

Frustration showed in her eyes. "I will never know the whole essence of time, space, the universe, how it all works, no matter how much I try. All this studying, all this research... why should I even try finding answers when my own mind is surrounded by brick walls anyway!"

She stopped when she realized that her voice had risen in volume during the last sentence, effectively shattering the relaxed atmosphere in the room. "I'm sorry, Setsuna. I..." she mumbled. She made a noble attempt at being strong and holding back her emotions, but the bitterness in her eyes clearly indicated how frustrated she felt in that moment. She felt tired, lost and confused, and she was ashamed to let these childish, negative emotions insult the host.

As if a secret word had been spoken through the cosmos, Setsuna rose from her chair. She moved over to the sofa and sat down next to Ami. She put her arm around the girl's shoulders and held her close. "You put too much weight on your own shoulders, Ami," the Guardian said quietly to the younger girl.

Ami felt the scent of Setsuna's perfume. It was as exotic and enchanting as the woman herself. In some strange way, it made her feel more relaxed, as if the substance was some kind of sedative. "I wish I could be like you," she said quietly. She raised her head and looked the Plutonian into the eyes, their faces only a few inches apart. "You know so much. You are so mature, so wise. You know secrets and truths like no other person. I wish I could know as much as you do..."

Setsuna smiled warmly at the blue haired girl. This time her smile reached further than her lips. She gently stroked Ami's shoulder. "I feel flattered to hear that. But I would like you to appreciate yourself as much as you appreciate me. You are a wonderful person, Ami, and if you would be me, we would not have you."

"Thanks," Ami said, and smiled weakly. "It's just that..." She hesitated. "I'm sorry for saying this. I know it sounds silly, but... I feel so imperfect. I feel like I am a pawn being lead on the path of time with my eyes and ears shut. I feel I only see what my mind tells me to see..."

"You shouldn't feel like that, Ami," Setsuna said mildly. "You are not imperfect. You are important. Everybody is important, and everybody has their own place in the universe. Everybody has a skill that no one else possesses, and therefore, no one is replaceable."

"I understand that..." Ami said. "I just feel that my own mind... My own inability to see into the future like you... cause me a lot of discomfort. I want to know everything. I want to know exactly how the universe works. I want to know how the future will be. If I would learn this, I would be so happy."

"Is that so?" Setsuna asked. She gently removed her hand from the girl's shoulders. "Has it not crossed your mind that, maybe this inability of seeing what is to come, of knowing everything about the universe, is the actual reason for your happiness?"

Ami looked at Setsuna with surprised eyes. "What do you mean?"

"Look at it this way," Setsuna said and gracefully moved her hair behind shoulders. "When you do not know what will happen tomorrow, every day is a new day. And every new day holds something new for you to discover."

Ami did not say anything.

"Imagine if you would pick up a book, and already know everything that was in it. Imagine if you would go to see a movie, and already know how every scene would play out. And most of all..." Her dark eyes locked in on Ami's, almost burrowing down into her soul. "Imagine if you would meet a cute boy, already knowing how everything would play out between you and him. Does that seem like a happy life for you? A life completely without surprises, expectations, and dreams. Would that not be a life without hope? Is that a life you would want to live?"

Ami moved her gaze from Setsuna's penetrating stare. She looked out in the air for a while without saying anything.

"No..." she said eventually.

She turned her head and watched the older woman. That small glow of intelligence came back in her eyes. "No. I would not want to live like that. I want every day to be a new day. I want to be able to pick up a book and indulge in it, and to learn new things. That's... That's the joy of learning. That's the reason I study, the reason I make research, the reason I'm going to school every morning with a smile on my face."

"Exactly," Setsuna said.

"And that's the reason I always love to meet up with my friends, because I don't know what will happen. Every time I see them there is something new going on. Every new day with them is a surprise." Ami looked a little more relaxed once again. Then suddenly, a glimpse of fear struck her. She looked back at the Guardian of Time with worried look. "Setsuna... Those things you said about a life without surprises and dreams: is that the life you are living? Do you live a life without any true dreams and wishes?"

Setsuna looked down on the floor. For the first time this evening, she took time before she answered: "We all do what we are meant to do..."

Her voice was not the deep gust of intelligence that Ami was used to. It was quiet, and there was a hint of something there. A hint of tiredness. Ami moved closer to the Gatekeeper again. "Setsuna..." she said quietly, "do you suffer?"

"'Suffering' is a very strong word," Setsuna mumbled.

Ami felt a growing emptiness inside of her. She wanted to help the guardian. She wanted to comfort her just like she had been comforted herself. But what does one say to someone who has been alive since the beginning of the time? "Do you ever feel... lonely?" she eventually uttered, clearly feeling how bland it sounded.

Setsuna slowly turned her head to look into the younger girl's eyes. "Sometimes..."

For a split second, Ami thought she saw a glimpse of another person in Setsuna's eyes. A much younger person. Someone weaker, someone unprotected. And then it all faded away, and the warm and serene wisdom came back. "Don't look so devastated, Ami," she said and touched the girl's cheek in a playful manner. "Regardless of the burdens of my duty, my life always fills with happiness whenever I see that you and the others are happy. My work is hard, but love and happiness transcends all dimensions and borders."

"Is there anything I can do to make you feel better?" Ami asked shyly.

Setsuna shook her head once. "You do not have to do anything except living an as happy life as possible. Whenever you are happy, I feel that happiness. But whenever you are sad, I am too, and that means you feeling sad just because of me will not do me any good."

Ami let Setsuna's words sink into her mind. And at last, she felt she finally understood what Setsuna wanted to tell her. To isolate herself from her friends and feeling sorry for herself or for Setsuna would not help anyone. Her friends were just themselves. They loved her and would never hurt her intentionally. She would always find the time for intellectual matters. She had no right to feel sorry for herself, not when she was blessed with such a happy life and such good friends.

Ami seemed to ponder something for a few seconds, then her face smoothened again and she smiled. "You know what? Even though I cannot know if my little hypothesis about your time-seeing ability is true or not, I don't care."

"Is that so?" Setsuna said.

Ami gave a small chuckle. "Yes. I... I believe that my hypothesis is correct. I want to think it is correct. And that gives me peace of mind. That makes me feel I achieved something."

"If you are convinced of that, then you really have," Setsuna said with a smile.

Ami let out a sigh and relaxed. She finally felt the strength and comfort fill the inside of her body. She looked at the Guardian of Time with proud eyes, not shying away anymore. No matter where and when Setsuna was, she would always be close to the other girls. The only thing Ami had to do to make her feel happy was to be happy herself. "I should go back to the others. I'm beginning to miss them," she said.

"I understand," Setsuna answered.

"I wonder if they miss me. I wonder if they wish that I would come back," Ami mumbled to herself. Then she smiled again. "No. I do not wonder that. I know. I know that they miss me, and I know that they want me to come back."

Setsuna said nothing. She just looked at Ami with her dark, warm eyes. Ami hopped up from the sofa, followed shortly by Setsuna, who stood up in a more smooth and elegant manner. Ami gave the older woman a final embrace. "Thank you for tonight, Setsuna. Thank you for being there for me."

"I will always be there when you need me," Setsuna said.

"I know you will."

She gathered her things, and with a cheerful 'goodbye', she opened the door and got ready to leave. Setsuna went back to her computer and booted it up from sleep mode, still as gracefully as always.

Ami was just about to step over the threshold. Then she stopped. She stood still for a while, then she slowly turned around. She stared over at Setsuna. "You knew, didn't you?"

Setsuna stared at the computer screen, not saying a word. Ami let out a little giggle. "You didn't have any report to finish. You stayed here at home because you foresaw I would be tired at the party, and that I would be in desperate need to talk to you alone in a relaxed environment." She gave a triumphant, but friendly smile. "You don't have to answer that," she continued. "I know that is how it went. What matters is you were there to give me comfort when I needed it."

The mermaid winked her eye teasingly and then closed the door – with more power than when she had arrived.

The Guardian of Time sat still, quietly staring at the computer screen in front of her. After a few moments, she started typing again, her face still unchanged, but once the footsteps of the other girl had died out, she whispered something to herself. Something so barely audible that only someone with the most delicate senses could hear it:

"We all do what we are meant to do."

And if someone would have looked at her face in that specific moment, they would have noticed a faint smile.

AUTHOR'S NOTES: I hope you enjoyed the story. Big thanks go out to all my friends here who have reviewed/commented my stories and with whom I have had some great chats with. You know who you are! And finally, thanks again to Luna Goddess of the Night for the lovely proof reading!