Sailor Moon Fan Fiction ❯ Absence ❯ A Better Tomorrow ( Chapter 48 )

[ X - Adult: No readers under 18. Contains Graphic Adult Themes/Extreme violence. ]
Absence - By Kirika


Chapter forty-eight. Well I knew I wouldn't please everyone with the Hotaru/Rei fight, especially the Hotaru fans. I *could* make some remarks about Saturn and her offensive capabilities, but that would most likely send her fans into defensive fits so I'll withhold the urge. ^_^ Just read Tenkaichi's and BenRG's reviews; they about summed it up. And anyway, this is a Rei fic for god's sake.

Someone mentioned that I made a mistake about the Japanese name conventions. That isn't a mistake. I'm writing this fic in English with only a bare amount of Romaji style Japanese for an English reading audience, so I conformed to English name standards.

Another person said it's really confusing about the whole Usagi, Rei and Mamoru thing. After forty-seven chapters you should know I give out only the barest information in this story. If I laid everything out on the table to begin with that would just suck. It's not too difficult to decipher things if you can read between the lines… but then I know what's going to happen obviously, so maybe it is hard for other people. Oh well. It was also mentioned that Rei is more powerful in this story than in the anime. Well of course. I made all the senshi more powerful, to a degree. I thought in BSSM the senshi were sort of weak at times, more than they should have been. I mean, if some youma got blasted with a fireball their flesh would burn, wouldn't it? You would think so. If you want more explanation for specifically Rei's power, I direct you to Tenkaichi's review again. As for Usagi, I disagree that I've made her underpowered. Though I probably should have mentioned this forty-seven chapters back (lol), this fic takes place before the Sailor Starlights show up, so Usagi is only Super (you should have been able to tell by her attacks). I thought Eternal Sailor Moon would be far too powerful and I'd have to make the new enemies have godlike abilities or else they would be slaughtered easily. I hope I haven't stuffed up the timeline on things… it's been an age since I last saw Sailor Moon.

And finally, Rei is supposed to be 'creepy'. I thought Rei's wavering sanity was already addressed several chapters back.

And Byakko Rei, glad to see you back. I'm sure you'll convert the shoujo-ai paranoid people over some day. ^_^

Sorry about the lateness to this chapter. I had project deadlines to meet. I even had to go to university on the weekend. Can you believe that? It goes against all the laws of nature! >_<


- Kirika


Chapter 48 - A Better Tomorrow

Rei finished gingerly wrapping strips of bandages around her rubbed raw knuckles, using her teeth to tie off the white bindings carefully but securely on her left hand. Her cuts and stab wounds stung painfully while she stood in front of Usagi's dresser --having been previously using the mirror attached to it to aid in her task-- and the raven-haired girl's battered forearms were a mass of dully aching purple bruises that constantly throbbed in rhythmic beats, creating very uncomfortable, but bearable, sensations. The paramedics that had rushed to Juuban High School had treated the Fire Senshi's beat up body as best they could with all the other casualties made up of surviving students and teachers desperately needing their assistance; but luckily, or unluckily depending on how one looked at it, Rei had been badly injured enough to warrant immediate medical attention. In all the chaos, the ambulance personal hadn't asked the miko how her body had sustained multiple lacerations without her school uniform being torn or even damaged in the slightest; in fact, they hadn't even noticed that she wore a different uniform to the other students. No, the paramedics had been occupied with far more serious and important matters.

The aftermath of the youma rampage in Juuban High School was burned forever in Rei's memories, and would haunt her for the rest of her days. The scenes that had played out in the sunlight had seemed so surreal to the Fire Senshi's mind-- weren't tragedies supposed to happen during dark and stormy nights, with the rain crashing down and lighting cracking in the gloomy skies above? Such heartbreak wasn't supposed to occur on a bright and sunny day. The cheerful weather had mocked the dire proceedings, not even having the courtesy to conform to the feelings of sorrow in the air.

The police had blockaded off the entire street in an attempt to keep the media out of the crime scene, but their efforts proved ultimately useless against the masses of hysterical families anxiously seeking news if their loved ones where among the fatalities. Mercifully, the numbers of the dead were not as high as Rei had first suspected; Usagi and Minako's lifesaving labours had apparently helped to keep the loss of life down, not to mention Rei's own retaliatory strike against the murdering youma which had devastated the creatures' ranks and routed the rest. But despite all the Sailors' toil, the miko surmised that nearly a third of the school's combined student and teacher population had met their grisly demise. So many dead… Rei didn't like to think about it, but the morbid images of scores of full black body bags lined up in Juuban High's school grounds kept cropping up insistently in her mind's eye. Thankfully, Usagi's two friends, Umino and Naru, were not amongst the fallen, most likely due to the fact the courageous blonde had left Venus' watchful sanctuary and selflessly returned to defend them. Rei wondered how her princess and Minako could have transformed into Sailor Senshi in front of their classmates and teachers without their alter egos being compromised, but the miko guessed that during the bedlam of the youma surprise attack, the bystanders were more concerned with fleeing the monsters. A more morose thought had also crossed the raven-haired girl's mind; that all the people who had seen the two Sailor Senshi transform were among the dead, but she had tried to pay no heed to it.

After the paramedics had attended to Rei, the Fire Senshi had returned to the Tsukino residence with Usagi to clean the grime off of her battle weary body. Minako and Hotaru had also made use of the on site medical personal, both girls having been wounded severely enough also to grant the paramedics' swift healing ministrations. The Senshi of Love had promptly gone home once she was able, hoping to forestall her parents going out of their minds with worry once they found out what had occurred at their daughter's school, while the battered Senshi of Rebirth had decided to return to the Mizuno's apartment, to Michiru. Rei was dreading the inevitable confrontation between herself and the three other Outer Senshi once they saw Hotaru's small, pounded body, and not to mention the black and blue bruises and the taped and reset nose marring the dark-haired girl's pale, and now swollen, face. Perhaps it was a good thing that Haruka, Michiru, and Setsuna were still recovering from prior injuries. Hopefully they would understand it had been self-defence on Rei's part and wouldn't seek retribution; the miko didn't want to fight against a fellow Sailor Senshi ever again.

The last Rei had seen of Sanjuro and Tsubasa was the two men being carted away in the rear of a police car, no doubt for questioning; the pair would probably have a hard time explaining their motivations behind why exactly they had crashed their car into the makeshift barricade made up of police vehicles during the earlier havoc. To Tsubasa and Sanjuro's credit, neither man had called out to the Fire Senshi for assistance when they noticed her while they were arguing with the authorities; both apparently, and surprisingly, having enough sense not to implicate that the girl had had any involvement with the bloodbath to the cops. Although it was a possibility that Rei's dishevelled appearance had had something to do with the men's reluctance.

Rei had lost sight of Mamoru in all the mayhem as the local authorities tried to administer some semblance of control on the milling, panicked crowds. The prince's final appearance in Rei's eyes was of him talking briefly to Usagi. She figured that he had then shuffled off home, which was not really a shock after Mamoru's revelation that his girlfriend was having an intimate liaison with her best friend in secret behind his back. He probably wanted to be alone to think about his future with Usagi… or lack thereof.

The Senshi of Fire let out a pleased breath, finally done re-bandaging her wounds. Rei's bra-clad upper body was covered in a mesh of reddish white material, the sanguine stains most prominent down her back where Sailor Saturn's Silence Glaive had scarred it with a vertical slice. Mercifully, the gash wasn't as deep as Rei had first feared, not even requiring stitches, but if she had been anything less than a Sailor Senshi the trauma of the blow would have most likely killed her outright. The Fire Senshi looked grimly into the mirror as she observed her torso, the collection of bandages that weaved around her injured form reminding the girl of her stint in Yokohama, where she had been thrown into furious clash after furious clash. Things had felt so bleak back then, so hopeless; the Senshi of Fire having nothing left to live for except the rush of battle and a glorious end protecting her princess's world. But now, here Rei was, on the verge of getting everything she had fought so hard for, everything she had strived so tirelessly for. The previous trials had merely been a test of her devotion to her true love. She couldn't help the small, victorious smile pull up the corners of her mouth as she stared at her reflection in the mirror, the twinges of pain from her aching jaw not deterring the satisfied grin in the slightest.

Rei heard the bathroom door open in the hall outside Usagi's virtually empty bedroom, Luna nowhere to be seen, and quickly grabbed her long sleeved black top from the chair by the dresser, hurriedly slipping on the garment over her head and onto her body, hiding the numerous bloody bandages from view, only her bound hands visible. She didn't want her true love to overly concern herself about her welfare, or become distracted from what she had to do now in regards to Mamoru.

Rei turned around towards the bedroom door as Usagi demurely entered the room, having just had a shower and re-treated her own wounds. Rei could see several parts of her love's towel-clad body were covered in clean white cloth, but she was nowhere near as hurt as her bodyguard were, Saturn healing the most grievous of the girl's injuries beforehand. Usagi wordlessly shut the door behind her and approached her wardrobe, opening it and pulling out some fresh clothes, the girl's mind appearing miles away. Rei let out a frustrated sigh. Her princess had been totally silent all the way to the house, not saying a word about what had happened at Juuban High School, or about Mamoru, the future, or anything whatsoever. Rei had gone along with her true love's mood, abiding by her princess's wishes for quiet and staying mute also, but now it was getting annoying… and a little disconcerting. The only time Usagi had uttered a word since leaving the school turned war zone was when her mother, Ikuko, had met the girl and Rei at the front door to her house, overcome with relief at seeing her daughter alive and relatively well, forcing the blonde to give reassurances to the sobbing woman that she was indeed alright. Seemingly, someone had leaked information about what had transpired at Juuban High School to the media, and now what was so far known about the nature of the events to the news stations were being plastered all over the television and broadcasted over radio. Usagi would probably have to go through the whole emotional experience again with her father, and perhaps even with Shingo and Chibi-Usa, when the rest of the house's occupants returned home.

Rei silently watched Usagi with appreciative but fretful eyes, scrutinising the beautiful girl's slender form for any serious damage that may have escaped her gaze previously as the blonde discarded the towel from her body and dressed, now completely comfortable being naked in front of her bodyguard. Usagi slowly and methodically put on her clothes, and then picked up a light pink scarf and wrapped it loosely around her neck, concealing not only the virtually faded old red love bites on her throat, but the additional fresh marks caused by last night's passionate activities with Rei as well.

"Usagi…?" Rei questioned tentatively. "Are you alright?" The Fire Senshi leaned back and placed her hands on the dresser behind her, relaxing her stance and ignoring the mild spasms of pain up her arms. Those unpleasant feelings were nothing new to the seasoned Sailor Senshi. "Today wasn't an easy one."

Usagi nodded wordlessly, her blue eyes affixed downwards to the carpet while she held her hands in front of her chest, appearing somewhat vulnerable and unsure of herself. Rei's brow creased in a frown at her princess's lack of a verbal response. But before the miko could say anything more, Usagi spoke.

"Today was a terrible day," she started in a subdued voice, her gaze still directed to the floor. "Countless innocent people lost their lives… people I know… people Minako, Ami, and Makoto know." The girl paused for a moment, and Rei thought she could see droplets of moisture trembling in her love's eyes. "People I *knew*," she emphasised, her tone betraying a great sorrow inside her. "Dozens of people I was meant to protect from harm, who didn't deserve to be…" Usagi trailed off and swallowed hard, before raising her head to meet her senshi's concerned lavender eyes with her own blue ones filled with regret and heartache. "But do you know what all I can think about is? Do you know what is first and foremost in my mind, instead of all the people who *died?*" Usagi then shook her head in disgust, dislodging the unshed tears in her eyes to roll languidly down her cheeks. "All I can think about is what's Mamoru going to say about you and me. Not about what happened to the innocent people who were remorselessly murdered, but my own self-centred problems. It's like I don't even care." The blonde closed her eyes and turned away from Rei, appearing very distressed. "God… I-I'm so selfish," she said, her voice breaking.

Rei hesitated for a brief instant as she mulled over what to do, and then pushed off the dresser and swiftly moved to Usagi, giving in to her first instincts and gathering her troubled princess in a tender embrace, conscious of the girl's wounds. Usagi tensed as Rei's strong yet gentle arms enfolded her slim body, but then succumbed to her bodyguard's hug, relaxing against the raven-haired girl.

"Usagi… you're not selfish," Rei said patiently and soothingly, rubbing her lover's back in placating caresses. "You're the most selfless person I know." The Fire Senshi felt the blonde rest her head on her shoulder and then wrap her arms around her waist, squeezing her tightly while letting out a deep and tired sigh. Rei disregarded the minor stabs of pain around her midsection and returned Usagi's close hug with extra pressure from her own, sensing her princess needed the warm and comforting presence of human contact. "It's only natural you'll feel this way," the miko continued kindly. "It's a tragedy what happened today… but life goes on. There's nothing more you can do for the people who were slain." The Senshi of Fire halted for a moment, her muscles becoming taut. "…Nothing more except to seek out the ones responsible for ordering the attack and sending them to their graves," she added, her previous kind tone gaining a chill. "Mourn the dead, Usagi. But fight like Hell for the living."

Usagi was quiet as Rei spoke her words of reassuring wisdom, merely holding on to her lover firmly. Finally, as her senshi finished, the blonde lifted her head and looked up at Rei with glistening eyes. "I know, deep down, that you're right, Rei. But it doesn't make things any easier. It's like I'm betraying the memories of my departed teachers and classmates somehow by being more concerned with Mamoru," Usagi explained quietly.

"You feel that way because you're a good and compassionate person," Rei said with a faint smile, gazing adoringly into her only love's beautiful blue eyes.

Usagi said nothing and simply strained her head upwards slightly, placing a soft and grateful kiss on Rei's lips as her reply. She then once again cuddled into Rei, much to the Fire Senshi's delight.

"I can't stay long," the blonde said apologetically. "I promised Mamoru I would come to his apartment as soon as I could."

Rei nodded absently and made a sound of acceptance. The sooner her princess dealt with the prince the better. It was about time she and Usagi were free of the obstacle that was Mamoru.

"Shall I come with you?" Rei asked.

Usagi quickly shook her head. "No, I don't think that would be a good idea. Anyway, I'll be fine," she said with confidence, looking up at her senshi and flashing her an only moderately strained smile.

Rei remained quiet as her true love broke their embrace and walked towards the bedroom door. Usagi paused in her stride with a hand on the doorknob, and then turned back to her lover. "I'm not sure how long I'll be, okay?" she said hesitantly, appearing somewhat agitated.

"Alright," the Senshi of Fire said. "I was thinking of taking a walk in the park later, anyway. So if I'm not here when you get back, don't worry."

Usagi nodded and then gave Rei one last intent look, as if committing the girl's features to memory. "I'll see you later," she said finally, before leaving the room and her bodyguard.

Rei listened to her princess's footsteps as the girl trudged down the stairs, and then after a short period of time she heard the front door to the Tsukino house open and close, signalling to her that the blonde had left the building. Rei rushed out onto the bedroom balcony, and watched as Usagi departed her home, plodding down the path to the gate and then on to the street, before finally vanishing from view behind the neighbouring house's garden wall. The Fire Senshi internally debated with herself for several minutes, and then decided perhaps it was best if she did in fact follow Usagi, just in case Mamoru didn't take her rejection very well. Rei wasn't sure if the prince would ever raise his hand the blonde, but she couldn't risk putting it past him. Maybe he would fly into a jealous rage and deem that if he couldn't have Usagi, no one would. There was a stray thought running around in the very back of Rei's mind as she mulled over possible scenarios of Mamoru losing his temper and lashing out at her princess, but it was fleeting and quickly disappeared once more into the dark recesses of her subconscious. The Senshi of Fire shooed away the thoughts. Now was not the time to get distracted; Usagi might need her assistance.

Rei promptly left the balcony and jogged to the bedroom door, grabbing her long black coat swiftly on reflex from the arm of a chair as she passed by. It was late in the afternoon and the sun would be setting soon; she may have need of it. Besides, it complemented her entire black outfit perfectly. Rei donned the ebony duster quickly and exited the room, running down the stairs. The stench of burnt flesh and old dried blood still permeated the coat, but Rei was now hardly aware of the odours of violence and death. It was like the smells were a part of her; it felt… natural.

The raven-haired girl dashed to the front door and hurriedly put on a pair of boots, tying up the laces in record time, and then shouted a farewell to a surprised Ikuko, the woman having been taken aback by her lodger's abruptness. Rei left the Tsukino residence, stealthily tailing her true love to Mamoru's apartment, the Fire Senshi a dark shade in the surrounding still bright sunlight.


Mamoru Chiba stared at Usagi without expression as his girlfriend stood in his apartment docilely, her eyes lowered meekly down to the floor. Girlfriend… could he even call her by that title now? Mamoru shook his head at the absurdity of the situation. His girlfriend and her best friend, his ex-girlfriend no less, together, involved in a secret, intimate relationship. It would almost be funny if his life, his *future*, weren't involved. And not only his future, but his daughter's and possibly the Earth's as well. On second thought, it wasn't funny in the slightest. Rei and Usagi… who would have thought it? The two girls were always at each other's throats; they could hardly even stand one another's company, or so it had appeared to Mamoru. To think that the pair of Sailor Senshi were actually… actually… the man closed his eyes tightly, as if trying to block out the staggering realisation, even though it was far too late for such meagre efforts. It was simply unbelievable. But then, Usagi had always insisted that Rei and her were the best of friends, and it was true that they did spend a lot of time with one another, especially lately after the Fire Senshi's 'return from the dead'. They were even living together right now for crying out loud. Perhaps in the back of his mind somewhere Mamoru had suspected that Usagi and Rei were close, but he had certainly never suspected the pair of girls were *this* close.

But what galled Mamoru the most was the fact that his girlfriend had been seeing the miko romantically right in front of his eyes, for who knew how long. All those innocuous little meetings Usagi had had with Rei, going over to the Hikawa Jinja for 'study sessions'. It had seemed so innocent, containing without so much as a hint of suspicion to Mamoru when Usagi told him she had to leave to see Rei because they were going out shopping together, or out for lunch, or simply to hang out. But instead, she had been eager to see her lesbian lover and to probably escape her 'boring' boyfriend's 'stifling' company. It hurt… and it angered him.

"You must think I'm a total fool," Mamoru said levelly, opening his eyes so they could bore accusingly into the timid girl before him. "I bet you and Rei were laughing at me every time you got together, laughing at how stupid I am to trust you, that I fell for your 'sweet' and 'innocent' demeanour while you were betraying me."

"No! Of course not!" Usagi replied emphatically, quickly raising her head to look at her 'boyfriend'.

"Is it only Rei?" Mamoru demanded, completely ignoring the blonde's response as his temper took rein of him, all the bitter feelings he had been holding in since that horrible moment on the roof of Juuban High School now flooding out beyond his control. "Or do you have this 'friendship' with all the Inner Senshi? They are your 'personal' bodyguard. You have a right to take advantage of them as you see fit, correct?" he went on, sneering at Usagi. "So, who else? Makoto perhaps? Is she your type of girl? Or maybe Minako; I seem to remember you having some hero worship for Sailor V when you first met her. Was it more than just hero worship?" Mamoru shook his head once more, this time in disgust. "Who am I kidding? You probably have 'fun' with all four of them, just to be fair. You were always such a 'kind' soul," he said in a derisive tone laced with heavy sarcasm.

"Please Mamo…" Usagi sniffled, tears forming in her eyes. "It isn't like that; it's just Rei…"

"Thank goodness for small favours," Mamoru said mockingly. He was silent for a moment, his white-knuckled fists clenched tightly by his sides. "How long has this been going on? How long have you been lying to me? How long have you been involved with *her?!*" he yelled, shaking a balled fist furiously at Usagi.

"A w-week since she came back to To-Tokyo," the Moon Princess stammered out, her tears now trickling down her face steadily.

"Ah, I see," Mamoru said with exaggeration, as if everything was now clear to him, waving a pointed finger in the air for added effect. "After Rei 'died', you realised you couldn't live without her, am I right?"

"I-I d-don't--" Usagi stuttered helplessly, her eyes darting around the apartment, like she was seeking help of some kind.

"'D-D-D-Don't' what? Don't know?" Mamoru ridiculed piteously, cutting the blonde off. "I can't believe this. Rei," he scoffed in incomprehension. "So, what, are you a lesbian? Did you just stay with me to keep up appearances while you were pining away for one of your Sailor Senshi? Or do you swing both ways, and wanted to have it all? Well? Answer me! Don't just stand there!"

Usagi shook her head quickly from side to side, wrapping one arm around her own body in a protective gesture as she returned her gaze submissively to the floor, while fingering a pink scarf around her neck with her other hand. "I don't kn-know…" she whispered, uncertainty evident in her voice.

Mamoru merely glowered at his 'girlfriend' for a brief instant, noticing Usagi fiddle with the wrap around her throat. Suddenly, in a blur of motion, he snatched the scarf away from her neck on an impulse, revealing a collection of love bites that betrayed the princess's and her senshi's illicite affair. Usagi let out a shocked yelp as her scarf was torn from her, desperately reaching out after the piece of clothing as Mamoru pulled it away, displaying the girl's unfaithfulness out in the open.

"I see Rei really got her teeth into you," Mamoru said sardonically as the caught girl hung her head in shame, her cheeks turning scarlet. "Just how far have you two gone?" the man then asked without emotion, only the slightest quaver in his voice.

Usagi swallowed, resuming her staring contest with the carpet once more. "We-We've… made love," she admitted reluctantly after several seconds of nervous hesitation.

"You've…" Mamoru started, and then petered out, unable to form a conscious thought beyond what he had just learned. He snorted, as if about to laugh, but then turned away from Usagi and walked on unsteady legs towards an armchair, reaching out one hand to use the piece of furniture to support his stunned body. Rei and Usagi had… oh god. Mamoru hung his head and slumped his shoulders, all the righteous indignation leaking out of the man. He felt worn out all of sudden, his legs like jello, barely sustaining his weight. It was like he was in a bizarre alternate dimension dreamed up by some insane being where everything he thought was going great was in actual fact completely at rock bottom, spiralling out of his control. And he had hardly even noticed it.

"Mamo…" Usagi's shy and slightly fearful voice called out cautiously behind Mamoru's back, breaking the man out of his reverie.

"Do you… do you love her?" Mamoru asked haltingly, absolutely dreading the reply, but resigned in its impending arrival. He had never thought his future with his precious Usa-ko would end like this. "Do you love her more than me?"

There was silence behind the man as Usagi no doubt contemplated his question; so simple it was, and yet, holding the fate of a destiny in its answer. Fate of a destiny… that sounded strange to Mamoru, in more ways than one. After all he and Usagi had been through, he had never expected their destiny together to be jeopardised this much.

"I…" Usagi croaked out after a long pause. "I don't know…"

Mamoru exhaled heavily. She certainly didn't know much. "How could you do this, Usagi?" he sighed in disappointment. "We're destined to be together forever and rule Crystal Tokyo, side by side. We'll even have a daughter together." Mamoru turned back to the Moon Princess, staring at the tear-faced girl with a flat gaze. "Did you think about what will happen to Chibi-Usa? She won't even be born if we split up. Do you know what kind of repercussions that will have in the past? The Black Moon Family will of had a great advantage and probably take over the Earth without Chibi-Usa's actions," he explained evenly. "You're dooming not only the future of your own daughter, but the future of the Earth as well. We have to stay together, if not out of love, then out of duty to Chibi-Usa and the world."

"'Love'?" Usagi repeated in a whisper, looking at Mamoru with wide, hopeful eyes. "Do you still love me?" she then asked with bated breath.

Mamoru stared into the princess's pleading crystal blue eyes as the blonde girl waited expectantly for his answer. With one word he could crush her heart ruthlessly, returning the pain Usagi had made him suffer in one blow. That is, if she still loved him. And if Mamoru wasn't still hopelessly in love with her. Despite what Usagi had done, it didn't change how the man felt about her. They were destined to love each other, it had been preordained in the past, and it was their duty to, but Mamoru had genuine feelings for Usagi; it wasn't simply an arrangement out of obligation. He had tried to deny the love he felt for the blonde before, years ago, but even while he had declared emphatically to Usagi that he felt nothing for her, he always still did.

"Yes," Mamoru said plainly, feeling his heart flutter as Usagi's eyes lit up with joy and relief. Perhaps the girl did still feel something for him too. "But… things aren't okay between us, Usagi," he added, causing Usagi's elated expression to fall. "You--you slept with someone else. You've shattered the trust we used to have." Mamoru paused for a moment, letting the princess digest what he had just said. "…But I can't share you, Usagi. And frankly, I shouldn't have to," he went on as Usagi stared at him, stray tears still rolling down her pretty face. "Not with anyone, no matter who it is. I love you too much to do that; I have to have your whole heart." Mamoru looked firmly into his trembling love's eyes, seeing his own rather tired visage reflected off the glistening orbs. "Recently, I've been feeling like you've been… slipping away from me, Usa-ko… I can't explain it. I thought I was only imagining things at first, but the feeling wouldn't go away. I started to think that maybe you had met another man, and those flowers being delivered to you while we were at the hospital served to heighten my suspicions." Mamoru let out a light, humourless chuckle. "I suppose they were from Rei. Heh, all this time I had been on the look out from some guy, and it had been Rei all along, right before my eyes no less." He sighed and averted his gaze from Usagi for a second, before returning his eyes to hers once more. "But that feeling, Usa-ko. It… scared me. I don't want to lose you. But I can't share you with Rei. I need all of you, Usagi. Heart and soul." Mamoru's intent gaze seemed to increase in its intensity as he looked deeply into the Moon Princess's eyes.

"You have to decide, Usagi. It's either me, or Rei. You have to choose," he finished.


Rei leaned with her back against the wall next to Mamoru's apartment door, straining to hear the conversation going on inside the dwelling. There had been sounds of shouting coming through the door only minutes earlier, but the Fire Senshi had managed to resist the urge to kick it down and burst into the apartment. Some shouting was to be expected, considering the circumstances. However, it was quiet now inside the residence, and Rei couldn't hear anything but a low muffled sound that she assumed was speech. The miko tapped one finger impatiently on the wall behind her as she wondered what was going on the other side of the apartment door. A disturbing thought came to her that maybe Usagi and Mamoru were 'making up' or something, and what she was hearing wasn't speech at all, but actually passionate moans. The Senshi of Fire shook her head irritably, chasing away the dire notion. Perhaps Rei could just knock on the door to make sure everything was all right.

However, before the raven-haired girl could even move from the wall, the apartment door was thrown open and a distraught Usagi ran out, straight past Rei. Acting on reflex, the Fire Senshi swiftly reached out and grabbed her princess's wrist as she passed, ceasing her rapid flight.

"Usagi! It's me!" Rei yelled as the girl in question started to shake her arm wildly, trying to break the miko's grip on her. "What did that bastard do to you?!" the Senshi of Fire then snarled, seeing how upset her true love was.

"I-I can't do this!" Usagi cried, finally freeing herself from her bodyguard and stumbling backwards a few steps. "I just-- I JUST CAN'T!!" she screamed and then fled from Rei as fast as her legs could carry her, as if she could somehow outrun the problems plaguing her.

"Usagi, wait!!" Rei shouted at the sprinting girl, preparing to tear off after her. Damn Mamoru, what had he done now?

"So, you're here too," a familiar male voice said behind the miko, stopping the raven-haired girl in her tracks.

Rei turned to the now open apartment door and faced her rival, glaring at Mamoru coldly. "What did you do to her?" she asked fiercely, narrowing her eyes at the man.

"I gave her an ultimatum," Mamoru replied simply, returning Rei's cold look with one of his own. The Fire Senshi could guess what the ultimatum had consisted of.

Mamoru looked at his one time girlfriend for a brief instant, and then nodded towards the interior of his apartment. "I think we should talk," he stated, more of an order than a request.

"I think so too," Rei replied coolly. "But not here. I was planning on taking a walk in the park. Let's go."

The prince considered this for a second, and then nodded in acquiesce. He went back inside his apartment and then reappeared a second later with his patented green jacket on. Rei eyed Mamoru distastefully for a moment, and then whirled around and walked wordlessly down the hall, not checking to see if her rival were following or not.


Rei rested back against one upright metal bar of a blue climbing frame, her bandaged hands stuffed into her coat pockets. She glanced up at the sky, noting how close to the horizon the sun was; it would be setting soon. A light breeze was blowing, making the her long raven locks flutter gently, while the two tails of her black coat rippled along with the air currents, riding the invisible waves. Mamoru was about a foot away from Rei, also relaxing back against the climbing apparatus, appearing causal, at ease. But the Senshi of Fire could tell that the prince was in reality very tense… as he should be. It's not everyday you realise the relationship you thought was secure is ripped away from you.

The walk to Minato-ku's main public park had consisted of edgy silence, neither Rei nor Mamoru willing to engage in conversation. Finally, they had mutely and unanimously decided to stop by the sky blue painted climbing frame, both leaning up against the cold steel. Still neither of Usagi's suitors had bridged the topic at hand yet.

Rei gazed out across the large expanse of green lawn where a number of children were playing soccer, seeming to be having a lot of fun. She shifted the angle of her gaze slightly, looking at one fairly tall tree that grew at the outskirts of the lawn, remembering the night when she had returned to Tokyo for her princess's sake. It felt like that had happened a lifetime ago; even the scorched grass and tree branches had grown back.

"Was it me?"

Rei turned her head to Mamoru with puzzlement written all over her face as the prince broke the tense silence between them.

"Was it because of me? I was the last guy you dated, as far as I know," Mamoru reiterated, but only served to make Rei raise a confused eyebrow. "Did I have anything to do with you turning…" He trailed off and the miko could see a faint blush grace his features.

Rei rolled her eyes at the question. She considered confirming the prince's assumptions that he was responsible for her preference for a feminine touch, just to make him question his manhood, but decided against it. Mamoru would soon have enough tribulations to deal with.

"No," the Fire Senshi said.

Mamoru merely nodded, but Rei could tell he was relieved. The Senshi of Fire turned away from the man, looking out across the grass once more.

"It was… because of Usagi, I guess," Rei explained further, though she didn't know exactly why she was telling the prince. Perhaps it was because she had never talked to anyone about it, and needed to tell somebody, no matter whom it was. "It's not like I was always attracted to girls. When I dated you, I had a genuine crush on you, or at least, I believe I did," Rei went on. "But I think the main reason I insisted on going out with you, despite how you treated me, is because I knew the odango atama liked you, and that me 'stealing' you away from her would really annoy her." She smirked and gave a small chuckle as she remembered Usagi's many amusing reactions to her 'potential boyfriend snatching' antics. "I always wanted to annoy her back then. I didn't know why, at first," Rei continued, her eyes glazing over as they took on a far away look. "But I do now. It was like some sort of defence to hide what I was beginning to feel for her. That maybe if I convinced myself I hated her, the feelings would go away. But of course, they didn't; the feelings just continued to grow stronger… until I knew it was love," the miko finished.

"Is that why you left?" Mamoru asked quietly, mildly surprising Rei that he was paying attention. "Why you faked your own death?"

The raven-haired nodded. "Yes. I had buried my love for Usagi for so long, but even I had my breaking point. It just seemed like an easy escape." Rei pulled her hands out of her pockets and brought one tightly bandaged fist up to her face. "It was horrible without her, almost unbearable. I had never been more alone back then. Funny, in a city as big as Yokohama." The Fire Senshi shook her head gently, examining her bound fist closely, reminiscing. "I thought that I could stop being a Sailor Senshi there too, but I was wrong. Destiny… had a hold on me," she said softly as several small thoughts floated around in the back of her mind, pushing against something. "I had to fight alone. It was… hard. But even there, she gave me strength. She gave me courage. Just the memory of her was enough to spur me onwards." Rei was quiet for a moment, and let her fist fall to her side. "And then she called me back here. And so I came. She needed me, and that was enough. It had been a mistake to leave my princess's side; I had forsaken my duty. I didn't come back to win her heart, to gain her love. Usagi just… just…" the miko blinked as she stared into space, thoughts starting to rise up from the dark, long enclosed parts of her subconscious. "…She just needed me. And I had to come."

There was pure silence between Rei and Mamoru, while the Fire Senshi still stared blankly into the distance.

"That… that is very noble," Mamoru said quietly. Rei swallowed a lump that had suddenly manifested in her throat and turned her head to the prince. Mamoru was looking out across the green lawn, watching the children play. The dwindling light from the falling sun reflected off his eyes, making them shine. "Rei," he said, a tremor in his voice, "if Usagi is happy being with you… I won't get in the way. If you are who Usagi wants to spend her life with, then so be it. She deserves to be happy." Mamoru turned to Rei, meeting the miko's uncertain and somewhat fearful gaze. He smiled compassionately down at the girl, and the Fire Senshi could see that tears were responsible for reflecting the sun's rays in his eyes. "You both do. There are other issues, sure, like Chibi-Usa and Crystal Tokyo. But in the face of love, I'm certain everything will turn out perfectly fine." Mamoru sighed deeply, closing his eyes briefly before opening them again and turning away from Rei. "As long as Usagi is happy, then I am happy."

Rei stared at the prince, her rival, with wide, disbelieving lavender eyes, shaking her head weakly. No. No, it couldn't be. This was a lie. It was wrong; it just wasn't possible!

"I should go back home," Mamoru said, unaware of his companion's mental response. "Usagi might come back, so I better be there." The prince then parted Rei's company, walking away with his head lowered and with his hands in his jacket pockets.

Rei continued to stare after him, in incredulity. It wasn't meant to be like this. Mamoru was supposed to be cold, horrible; an awful man who treated her princess badly. Her rival, her enemy. The thief of the Fire Senshi's love. Mamoru was supposed to be easy to hate. Rei had hated him for those reasons. How could this be? How could she be wrong about him?! Wrong… no… NO!

Rei suddenly whimpered and clutched her head with one hand, feeling long imprisoned thoughts free themselves finally from the deep recesses of her mind she had buried them in. The thoughts made themselves known unmercifully, driving home their points brutally in Rei's mind, again and again. She knew now what had come over her on the roof of Juuban High School, surrounded by the bodies of innocent people. A revelation, but the tiniest hint of one. A revelation that she was a fool. Rei had justified the slaughter as a necessary sacrifice to get what she wanted: Usagi's heart. How could she be so cold, so callous and selfish?! What had happened to her?! What had she become?!

Mamoru's words echoed in Rei's mind repeatedly, mixing with what Tsubasa had said only days earlier. 'As long as Usagi is happy, then I am happy.' The Senshi of Fire gasped and sank to her knees, feeling tears build in her eyes. How had it turned out like this? More words echoed in the raven-haired girl's mind, her own words. 'I had forsaken my duty. I didn't come back to win her heart, to gain her love.' No, she hadn't. Rei remembered. 'She just needed me. And I had to come.' Usagi had simply needed her. Rei had come out of love and… duty. Duty. Her duty to protect her princess from all forms of danger… and pain. The tears poured down Rei's face as she sobbed, terrible realisation hitting her brain with the force of a sledgehammer, smashing through the subconscious barriers she had built up. Gods, how could she have been so foolish? Hadn't Rei sworn long ago that she would never put Usagi into a position where she had to choose between her and Mamoru, the blonde girl's prince? That had been the very reason the Fire Senshi had disappeared from Tokyo to begin with, to flee her feelings and to protect her princess for making such a difficult choice! Rei grabbed her head with her other hand and bent forward, her forehead almost touching the ground as she tried to somehow block out the unbearable epiphany. No, instead she had lost sight of her duty and took up a new mission to win Usagi's heart and love. How could she have been so blind? The Fire Senshi had been obsessive, fanatical in her single-minded quest to defeat Fate and claim Usagi's love, so much so that she never once stopped to think about her actions. Selfish… she was so selfish. Rei shivered in a ball on the ground as the terrible epiphany continued to run its course, not letting up for an instant. Chibi-Usa. Oh, by the gods, how could she have willing gambled with the child's life like that? 'Time would find a way'. What self-deluding garbage. Time would find a way by eradicating Chibi-Usa completely from existence, leaving not even the slightest trace of Usagi's future daughter in anyone's memories. Hotaru had gone so far as to attack Rei for the gods' sakes; why hadn't she realised the colossal magnitude of the mistake in her logic?!

Maybe… maybe, yes, this was just a trick by Fate, wasn't it? Another effort by her invisible nemesis to deter her from pursuing Usagi! Rei shook her head furiously, forcefully crushing the idea in her mind. No. This was no trick. She was wrong. Wrong about everything. The Fire Senshi had let her princess down; she hadn't been strong enough to keep her love for the girl hidden, and now look what had happened. She had failed; her own feelings for Usagi had been her downfall. Rei reached out and fumbled weakly for a metal bar on the climbing frame, seeking support. She pulled herself to her feet, wiping the tears away from her eyes. Someone was approaching.

"R-Rei…?" a sweet voice inquired carefully from nearby, a voice the Senshi of Fire recognised. "Are you okay?"

Rei quickly cleared the remaining moisture from her face and prayed she looked presentable, and not like she had been weeping beforehand. The Fire Senshi had caused Usagi enough suffering without adding to the girl's pain by having her become concerned about her wellbeing.

"Fine," Rei said, trying to inject some cheer into her tone as she turned around to face her beautiful princess.

As their eyes met, both girls could tell the other had been crying. And Rei could see something else in Usagi's gorgeous blue eyes. The miko swallowed and felt more tears return to fill her own lavender ones. She smiled sadly at her true and only love, knowing what was coming.

"Rei…" Usagi began, drawing out her bodyguard's name. "I've been thinking hard… about us. About you and Mamoru… a-and I-I…" Her small voice petered out as she started to sob uncontrollably, looking away from Rei.

Rei closed her eyes gently, feeling the tears squeeze out from underneath her eyelids and trickle slowly down her cheeks. She then opened them again and still with her faint, sad smile, stepped closer to Usagi, brushing the flowing teardrops away from her love's smooth face. Rei had failed in her duty, in her oath not to come between her princess and the prince. She had lacked the strength. But now, no longer. It wasn't too late. Rei would bear all the pain of heartbreak, of eternal loneliness, of seeing the one she loved in the arms of another, for the sake of Usagi's happiness. She would find the strength to endure it until the end of time because she loved Usagi… and her princess deserved to be happy.

"Shhh…" Rei whispered soothingly, placing her hands on her love's shoulders. "It's okay. It's all okay."

Usagi shook her head vehemently. "N-No, Rei, it's not! God, I'm so, so, sorry! But, Mamo--"

"Shhh…" Rei repeated, silencing her angel with one finger placed on the girl's soft lips. "You don't have to say anything. I understand," she said comfortingly, the effect only spoiled by the steady rivulets of tears that fell down her face.

"B-But, Rei--" Usagi argued through her heaving blubbers, moving her head away from the miko's pacifying finger.

"What we had together… I'll remember and treasure for the rest of my life," Rei said, talking gently over her lovely princess. "You gave me a glimpse of what it could have been like between us… I'll never forget it, and I'll always be grateful." The Senshi of Fire smiled melancholic at Usagi. "And it's enough to last me until I die. I'm content now just to bask in your divine light from afar… don't worry about me." Rei paused, feeling her resolve to stay steadfast weaken. "B-But please forgive me, Usagi… I… I can't stop loving you. I'm s-sorry if this makes it harder on you, but I-I j-just…" The dam broke, and the Fire Senshi started to weep openly, unable to control herself. She covered her sorrow-filled face with one hand. It took strength to continue her fight against Fate to win her princess's love, but it took even greater strength to give in and let Usagi go. Rei clenched her teeth, feeling as if her very spirit was being tortured.

The miko took a deep breath and took her hand away from her face, willing back the grief and tears. She gazed adoringly through slightly blurry lavender eyes at Usagi, the only person she would ever love, as the blonde girl looked back, taking shuddering breaths as she sobbed.

"Goodbye… my princess," Rei said with finality, looking lovingly into Usagi's blue eyes.

"W-Wait, Rei!" Usagi cried, holding on desperately to one of her senshi's arms. "Where are you going? You w-won't to do anything rash, will you? Will you be okay?"

Rei thought about Usagi's questions for a moment, and then smiled at the girl. "I just want to take a walk; I'll be alright," she replied. "And… I'll be… just fine," the miko added, slight surprise evident in her voice, "…in time." When she said the words, she knew them to be true. She would be fine, eventually. Rei had loved and lost, but what she had experienced with Usagi was enough for her to go on in life. She would suffer loneliness and longing forever, but she was confident she could endure such hardships. For her princess's happiness.

"When are you coming back h-home?" Usagi asked, wiping at her teary eyes.

Home. No, Usagi's house wasn't Rei's home anymore. "Later. Don't worry," the miko said reassuringly. She turned away from her true love, stepping across the grass where she had first reappeared in Tokyo to Usagi. Rei halted and looked over to her princess who was standing by the blue climbing frame, still crying miserably. "Be happy," the Fire Senshi said. "As long as you're happy, then I am happy."

As Rei walked away from Usagi, the love of her immortal life, she realised that she finally understood her parting words, the words of Mamoru and Tsubasa. She would be happy if her princess was happy. Rei felt the pain inside her heart lessen a small degree as she walked across the lawn, her silhouette haloed by the dying sunlight.


Rei opened Setsuna's hospital room door and entered the room without knocking, being greeted by the Guardian of Time sitting up in bed, waiting for her arrival as the miko had suspected. She closed the door behind her and walked into the room, stopping about a foot from the green-haired woman's bedside.

"I never had a chance, did I," Rei stated, looking at Setsuna for an explanation to confirm what she already knew.

The Senshi of Time sighed tiredly, the burden of her position weighing on her, and gazed at Rei with sadness and compassion in her crimson eyes. "I am very sorry, Rei. I wasn't aware that events would proceed so quickly," she apologised in a heartfelt voice, her features a picture of regret.

"You knew it would end like this from the very start, didn't you?" the Fire Senshi said, but with no accusation in her tone.

Setsuna simply inclined her head, verifying Rei's words. Rei shook her head feebly and closed her eyes. "Why did it have to turn out this way?" she asked, but not really expecting an answer. The miko opened her eyes, staring at the Senshi of Time. "Why, Setsuna? I shouldn't have even tried… it would have been better for everyone's sakes. I've damaged Mamoru and Usagi's relationship. Hotaru hates me; Chibi-Usa probably does as well. All the Outer Senshi will end up hating me too… even you."

"Rei, I could never hate you. I don't blame you for what happened with Hotaru," Setsuna said kindly.

"I-It's just," Rei started, feeling the pain of leaving Usagi return. She could feel the tears building along the bottom of her eyelids. "I've ruined everything. You should have told me to stop, you should have told me what I was doing was wrong. I should never have tried to challenge Fate. Gods, I was so arrogant, so stupid."

Setsuna hesitated for a moment, and then outstretched her arms to the softly crying Rei, motioning for the girl to come to her. The Senshi of Fire readily entered Setsuna's embrace, feeling the older woman's arms envelop her body in a consoling hug, desperate for anyone's comfort. The Senshi of Time pulled Rei close to her chest, holding the miko gently but firmly to her body as she whispered kind words of reassurance and stroked the back of the raven-haired girl's head, combing her fingers through the silky locks. Rei let out a small content breath as she was lulled by the warmth of Setsuna's body, and by the steady beat of the woman's heart. Once Rei's tears had ceased, the Guardian of Time carefully lifted the girl's head with one tender hand to look at her. She lovingly caressed one cold and wet cheek of the miko's, trailing her soft and smooth fingertips over her skin. Rei blinked at Setsuna in confusion, but before she could say anything about the woman's strange behaviour, the Outer Senshi had suddenly captured the girl's lips with her own, initiating a warm and gentle kiss. The Senshi of Fire's eyes widened in shock as Setsuna's mouth was suddenly on hers, the older Sailor's wet tongue delicately but insistently probing in between her lips, wishing access. Rei found herself giving in to the pleasant sensations, parting her lips and allowing the Guardian of Time entry.

Rei noted that Setsuna had a different taste from Usagi, but not at all un-likable one. It was all different however. The older woman kissed differently from Usagi, did different things with her hands, and felt differently. It wasn't the same. But then, it never would be. It would be so easy for Rei to give in utterly to the kiss, and to Setsuna, letting the older, wiser, Sailor Senshi take her pain away… or at least make her forget for a time. But… Setsuna wasn't Usagi.

"No," Rei gasped, breaking the kiss and angling her mouth away from the Guardian of Time's. "I can't. I'm sorry."

Setsuna licked her lips elegantly and sighed in resignation. "I know," she said quietly, the sadness easily noticeable in her voice. "But even when one knows they don't have the slightest chance, it doesn't stop one from trying." The Senshi of Time stroked her fingers down Rei's cheek, and then to the girl's full lips she had just been kissing, tracing them delicately with her fingertips. "No matter how hopeless the situation is," she exhaled deeply.

"I-I'm sorry," Rei apologised again, looking at Setsuna with a pang of guilt. "I didn't realise… you felt that way about me. It must have been hard for you to hide your feelings." She lowered her gaze, slumping her shoulders. "And I know what that's like." The miko shook her head slightly, keeping her gaze downwards. "It seems other people can have affection, love, for me. Good people; like you. But I just can't… Usagi… I…" She stopped, unable to find the words, but the Guardian of Time understood. "Maybe I should leave," Rei said, beginning to move out of Setsuna's embrace.

The Senshi of Time looked at the raven-haired girl with profound sadness in her crimson eyes. "Please don't go," she said, tightening her arms around the miko. "You can stay, if you'd like…" she added, blushing faintly.

Rei found herself smiling a little at Setsuna's out of character display, and then settled back in the woman's arms, relaxing against her chest while she sat on the side of the bed. However, the Guardian of Time carefully eased the Fire Senshi further towards her, pulling the slender girl onto her lap. Rei didn't resist. It felt… nice and… safe.

"No one can escape their fate, Rei," Setsuna confessed, caressing the girl's long raven longs soothingly. "You can try, of course, but in the end, the outcome is always the same. I told you the future is not set in stone, and that is true; there are many variations of the future. But essentially, the core of the future, its primary essence is the same. The main events that are to take place are assured. For example, if someone were meant to meet the love of their life tomorrow but ended up missing them somehow, then Fate would make them meet another day. They would definitely meet eventually; there is no avoiding it, no escape."

"Why didn't you tell me this before?" Rei asked drowsily, Setsuna's caring attentions starting to lull her to sleep, drawing her heavy eyelids closed.

"Hope," the Guardian of Time explained simply. "I wanted to give you hope for the future." She smiled faintly and gazed off into space, remembering. "I had hoped that you would be successful in breaking Fate's hold. But as I had originally suspected, we are both destined for lives filled with lonely hardship."

"So what do we do?" Rei mumbled, snuggling into Setsuna's chest as she felt sleep come to claim her, granting her blissful oblivion from the pain of the harsh waking world.

"We carry on," the Guardian of Time said resignedly. "We live our lives, we do our duties." Setsuna looked down and noticed that the Fire Senshi's breathing had become rhythmic, indicating that the girl was sleeping, or very near it. The woman bent down and planted a tender kiss on Rei's forehead. She then rearranged the blankets on the bed to cover the slumbering girl, being careful not to disturb her. "But even if it is futile, we still hope and pray…" Setsuna went on softly, settling back against the bed and closing her eyes, enjoying the comforting weight on top of her body, signalling to her that she wasn't alone for once. "…For a better tomorrow."


to be continued…

Author's ramblings:

This had to be the longest chapter ever that didn't consist of blood being spilt. It's 4.30am right now. God I'm so tired.

Oh well, say bye-bye to psycho arrogant Rei. It's time for resigned, depressed, kinda normal Rei.

Exams are happening very soon. Updates will be sporadic at best. Probably.