Notes and Disclaimers: The characters used in this story are, as always, the property of Kodansha, Bandai, NHK and Takeuchi Naoko, not necessarily in that order. And I thank them for giving them to us, and letting us play with them.
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The sphere of energy carved its way through the ground, and the earth around it trembled. The tall, blonde woman spun in mid-jump, shouting. A figure in green leapt aside at the last minute, and the sphere exploded in a nova of light. When the light faded and the noise passed, three figures remained: The tall blonde, leaning heavily on a tree; the shorter woman with green hair, her hands crossed defiantly against her chest; and a girl lying unconscious on the grass.
“How many is that?” the blonde panted.
“Three today.” The green-haired woman answered, but her thoughts were obviously elsewhere.
“Damn it.” The blonde stood upright, but her first step left her hissing in pain. Immediately, the green-haired woman was at her side, providing support. The blonde looked down at her and smiled, but it came out as more of a grimace, her weight pressing the injured foot once again.
“We have to get you out of here,” the shorter woman commented, ignoring the protests that came from her companion. In a few moments, the only one left was the small, bewildered figure of a girl who, upon finding herself alone in the park, began to cry.
The shadows that covered the roof were deep enough to hide them from casual observers. Nonetheless, Sailor Uranus bit back a curse as hands prodded her ankle and foot.
“Should I transform back?”
Sailor Neptune looked up at her and smiled, a little consolingly. “Not yet…,” She returned to her task, trying to be as gentle as she could, but a few gasps told her that that wasn’t enough. “It’s not broken. I think you’ve got a bad sprain, though.”
“Now what?” Uranus’ voice was gruff with annoyance.
“Now?” Neptune shrugged. “R.I.C.E. I guess. When you detransform, it’s going to be worse than it is now. Let’s get you home.”
It had been one week. One week, and over a dozen of these occurrences that turned harmless children into ravening monsters. Haruka shuddered with the memories. One week since accepting her fate, becoming Sailor Uranus – and one week with her.
Haruka shifted her elevated leg slightly. An ice wrap was taped competently to the ankle, and the rest of her body tried hard to relax in the bath. But relaxation was long in coming.
Michiru. Kaioh Michiru. Her name spoke of a fate long prepared – as did Haruka’s own. But while Haruka seemed torn by doubt, Michiru seemed buoyed by something, something that Haruka lacked. Faith, perhaps? Or some kind of satori? Whatever it was, Haruka wished she had some of it.
But that’s not what’s really bothering you, is it? Her conscience was unremittingly arch. No, she admitted with an internal snarl. That wasn’t it at all. Whoever she was, whatever she was, Kaioh Michiru filled Haruka’s mind, asleep and awake, and was driving her crazy. The way she flipped her hair, the way she walked, even the way she talked. It was all Haruka could do to ignore it and focus on their mission. Twice now in a battle she had been distracted by something as silly as a flash of thigh…and the second time it had cost her. Haruka scowled at her ankle.
She could feel Michiru’s hands on her leg, prodding softly, looking for the extent of the damage. Soft, gentle, artist’s hands, Haruka had not been able to get her eyes off them. Michiru had helped her take off her shoes, and insisted she’d stay to help her that night. Haruka wasn’t sure she’d be able to take a night with Michiru.
“I’ve got to get myself under control. I can’t go on like this.” She mumbled. One week, and it was bound to get worse.
Michiru sat on the futon, head in her hands, praying for all she was worth. “Gods, please help me. I know I was glad when it turned out to be Haruka – I even told her as much. But you’ve got to help me. We have a mission, I can’t let this get to me…I can’t let her get to me.”
This week had been torturous. Watching Haruka, so close after all this time. She had been so stupid that first time, telling the girl how she had followed her, wanted a ride with her… Michiru blushed with the memory. The first time Haruka had used her power in a battle, Michiru thought she’d die; of pride, of sorrow, of desire. Haruka’s eyes had been burning with battle fire. Her face had been flushed, and she had grinned at Michiru with the look of an animal hunting. Michiru had gone weak the first time she had seen that, and had almost been lost as a monster rose up behind her. Only a last minute reaction had saved her. Stupid, stupid, stupid, she remonstrated with herself.
This was too hard! All this time, all she had wanted was to meet the racer, to ride with her, to flirt the way girls her age did. But there wasn’t any way to do that now. They were partners – and each held within her hands the other’s life.
“Gods, please, help me.”
So intent was she on her mumbled prayer that she almost missed the sound of movement in the bathroom. She stood, and swallowed hard. Helping Haruka undress for the bath had been the most awkward thing she’d ever done. Haruka was pretty shy, for all her cool demeanor – it was obvious she had lived alone a long time. But she’d have never made it into the bath alone.
Michiru’s hands shook as they picked up a towel and slid the bathroom door aside. Focusing on the elevated ankle, she forced a smile onto her face. “How are you doing?”
Haruka’s voice hesitated. “I’m fine, thanks. Um, look, I can take care of myself, really. I’ve had bad ankles before – a side effect of riding motorcycles, you know…”
Babbling idiot! Haruka screamed at herself. Shut up!
Michiru shook her head. “No, you’re my partner now and I want to make sure you’ll be okay.” And I want to take care of you.
Blushing furiously, Haruka wrestled herself upright. Michiru offered a hand, and decorously held up the towel as Haruka rose from the bath. Michiru excused herself and fled the bathroom as soon as Haruka had both feet on the floor.
Michiru pressed her cheek against a cool wall and breathed heavily. I can’t do this. I’m too weak. Destiny or no destiny, I can’t do this, I’m not this strong. Calling out lightly, she pushed herself away from the wall. “I’m going out to get something for us to eat.”
Thank god. Haruka grunted an acknowledgement and rested her head against the door, as she listened to the apartment door open and close. If she wanted to help me dress…. She limped her way into the main room and found clothes neatly laid out for her. Dressing slowly and deliberately, she paused at each garment. She touched this one, and this one and…
One week. Oh my god.
Her fingers flew over the strings, while the bow cajoled the most amazing music from the instrument. Light and fast, then slow and deep, then sharp and biting. After too few seconds the impromptu concert ceased. There was a momentary quiet that was broken by spontaneous applause from the onlookers.
Michiru smiled at everyone, then handed the violin back to the storeowner. “It’s beautiful, thank you for letting me handle it.” He bowed deeply, insisting that the young lady must have something of its quality, but Michiru demurred and, at last, took her leave.
Haruka stood by the door and looked back into the store as she came out. “Why didn’t you get it?”
Michiru shook her head slightly as she walked away from the store. “It had been badly treated by its last owner. The tone was slightly flat and always would be.”
“But,” Haruka asked as she took two long steps to catch up to Michiru, “I thought this was just supposed to be a backup, to leave at school.” She tugged on her tie, the new green plaid lying stiffly around her throat.
“It is, but I can’t just play any old thing.”
Anyone else saying that would have sounded haughty, Haruka thought, but she was right. “Like me driving an inferior car.” Michiru nodded solemnly and the two continued on their way down the street.
Haruka thought that the new uniform colors were execrable, but they did make Michiru look glamorous and mature. The darker colors, she supposed, did that. They also complemented her hair.
“You know, the new uniform looks good on you,” Haruka said, almost off-handedly.
Michiru started, but then thanked her in a soft voice. “You too.”
“I wonder what is causing all these monsters to appear – and why at Mugen Gakuen?” Haruka was musing, but Michiru seemed to be thinking along the same lines.
“Do you think,” Michiru’s voice was hard, harder than a girl’s her age should have been, “that someone is experimenting on the students?”
“It’s possible.” Haruka answered grimly.
Two weeks. Haruka felt that her life was falling into a rhythm of a sort. It almost seemed normal now, to don the jacket and tie of this school. To greet the other students, to fend off their teasing and flirting, to act as if she were nothing more than an exceptional student in a school full of exceptional students. It almost felt normal.
Normal certainly, compared with her after-school activities. Sometimes she would visit the track, but more frequently, she and Michiru would meet, to transform and track down the creatures that took over the bodies of their fellow students. They were better now, acting in concert, fighting as a team. But with the exception of things that needed to be said, they had hardly spoken. The tension between them was long past snapping and was threatening to become an unbreachable barrier.
Haruka slammed her hand into her locker. This was not what she was good at…she ran, she drove, she moved. She was the wind, and this inertia was choking her.
She cursed under her breath and was surprised to hear a laugh from behind her. Spinning, she looked down at a Michiru who was looking decidedly amused. Haruka’s eyebrow twitched but she said nothing.
The two women walked out of the school building together. The courtyard was empty and still. No wind brought messages, no news came from the sea. They moved towards the railing that looked out towards the city.
“It’s not enough.” Michiru’s voice was soft and sad.
“What isn’t?” Haruka asked, surprised.
“What we’re doing.”
“There’s something I have to tell you.”
“No. No. Forget it.”
They walked in silence until they reached the edge of the Delta. Michiru bowed to Haruka and said, “I think we shouldn’t work together any more.”
Haruka stood gaping, as the green-haired girl turned and walked away, leaving her alone.
It was the dream, again. Michiru awoke with a profound sense of loss and joy and anger. But the images slipped away as fast as they had come. Images of my past life. The same dreams, or similar ones had filled her childhood. She had told her mother about how she had been a Princess of a far-away place and had had powers over the ocean. Her mother and father had laughed, and told her that she *was* their Princess.
Before she met Haruka, they had changed and been filled with horror and sadness, with loss and endings. And now, they were complete, telling her whole story – if only she could remember.
Her partnership with Haruka had lasted two weeks. And now it was over, because she was too weak to stay focused in the presence of…she didn’t even want to admit it to herself. In the presence of the woman you love. Her mind forced her to think the words and she choked on the emotions that threatened to overwhelm her.
“Yes.” She spoke out loud to the darkness. “Yes – are you happy?” She pounded the bed beneath her. “Yes. I had everything I’d ever wanted and was too afraid to take it!” This whole thing was some kind of hateful joke, she was sure. The Silence was coming, but as far as Michiru was concerned, it could come and take them all. These years of life had been enough. She wasn’t sure she could take much more.
The knock on the door was loud and insistent. Michiru put her pillow over her head, but it wouldn’t go away. Slowly the realization that it was her door – and therefore her problem, filtered through the thickness in her tired head. Her eyes felt swollen, her mouth dry, and she remembered with a wave of self-pity that she had cried herself to sleep the night before.
She yanked the door open and turned away. She set water on to boil and at last turned to face the figure in the foyer.
“Good morning, Michiru.” Haruka looked more than a little ragged herself. As if she hadn’t slept at all.
Michiru opened her mouth then closed it, finally mumbling a polite “Good morning.”
“We need to talk.”
They sat, facing each other, each holding onto a cup of tea as if it were an anchor.
“I didn’t sleep at all last night.” Haruka said. “After what you said.”
Michiru looked at the blonde through red-rimmed eyes. “I’m sorry. I was a fool to think that I could be happy while the world comes closer every day to the Silence.”
Haruka stared at her own hands for a while then spoke. “It isn’t the Silence that’s the problem, is it?”
Michiru said nothing.
“Why did you tell me not to touch the henshin wand?”
Michiru looked up at the unexpected question. “I told you why.”
“Was it meant to be reverse psychology?” Haruka gave her a small, watery grin.
Michiru was puzzled now. “No. I was being honest.”
“And were you honest when you told me that you had been following me – that you wanted a ride in my car?”
Michiru looked away.
“Yes.” Michiru ground out the word. “Yes and now I’m paying for it.”
“Have I made you feel that way?”
“Then what’s changed?”
The silence between them filled the room. Michiru took a deep breath and looked closely at Haruka. Tousled hair, deep eyes full of concern, she was so beautiful…
“I’ve changed.” Michiru’s voice was hard again.
“You don’t want those things now?” Haruka sounded sad. “Because ever since we’ve worked together, it’s been as if you don’t want to be near me.”
“It’s not that!” Michiru couldn’t stop herself. “It’s not that – it’s exactly the opposite. I want to be near you, I want to be with you,” she could feel the tears slipping down her cheek, “I want to be with you,” she said, as the tears took over.
Haruka stood and walked over to Michiru, putting her arms around the smaller woman.
Sniffling, Michiru pushed herself out of Haruka’s embrace. “No, it’s no good. We really shouldn’t work together.”
Haruka looked distinctly annoyed. “Why the hell not? Didn’t you just say you wanted to be together?” She turned away angrily. “Am I missing something?”
Michiru wiped her eyes. “No, oh gods. Haruka.” Her tone of voice was sharp enough to make the blonde spin in place, to find Michiru standing directly behind her.
The green-haired woman reached up and slid her hands along Haruka’s jaw, until she cupped her head. Standing on her toes, and pulling Haruka down, Michiru let her lips linger lightly on Haruka’s, then pressed them together. Sadly, she released Haruka, and turned away.
“That’s why we can’t be together, Haruka. Because of that.”
Haruka closed her mouth with a snap. She felt the first giggle inside and managed to choke it down, but the second one was too strong. Her laughter was rough and a little hysterical, but it was laughter. Michiru turned to stare, while the blonde fell into convulsive fits of chuckles and snorts.
“And how is that funny?” Michiru asked coldly.
Haruka had herself under control now, with only the occasional snigger interrupting. “Michiru, look at me.”
Michiru did, but did not speak.
“When you said you wanted a ride in my car, I thought you were just another giggling girl fan. Even after we started to work together – I never thought you…” Haruka’s face became serious. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize that you were going through the same thing I was.”
Michiru’s mind raced. “The same thing? Then…”
Haruka laughed again. “I wear men’s clothing, I bike, I race cars and I sprained my ankle watching your legs in a fight.” Michiru looked startled at that last statement. “What kind of person did you think I was?” Haruka continued, smiling.
Michiru colored slightly. “I didn’t think that far into it. I just assumed…”
Haruka took Michiru’s hands in her own. “I’m sorry. I just assumed too.” They squeezed each other’s hands tightly.
“Really?” Haruka smiled down at Michiru. “You really never thought about it? Be honest.”
Michiru’s face flushed completely. “Of course I did. It’s just that – it’s not something you ask someone, is it?”
“No.” Haruka’s voice was soft. “No, it’s not.”
Michiru looked up at her, only to find Haruka leaning down. Almost shyly, Michiru touched Haruka’s face, then brought her lips to meet the other woman’s.
A sweet kiss, everything a kiss should be. They parted with a sigh.
Haruka slipped an arm around Michiru’s waist and pulled the shorter woman close.
“We have to stop the Silence.” The blonde’s voice was grim.
“Before today, I had a destiny. You know what I mean? It was bigger than I am – a *DESTINY*. But now it’s different, I don’t give a hoot about my destiny right now. I have a purpose.” Haruka squeezed Michiru, then pulled away. “I have to stop the Silence, so that one day we can be together.”
Michiru stepped back and nodded gravely. “Until we stop the Silence and find the Talismans, we don’t have time for love.” She sighed. “But, Haruka, one day, when this is all over – we will be together, right?”
“Yes. I promise.”
“Until then,” and Michiru smiled, brightly. “I get to tease, right?” She slipped her arm through Haruka’s and flipped her hair back.
“Hunh,” Haruka snorted. “Like I could stop you.”
“What utter fools we were.” Haruka said. The two women stood by the balcony railing. They could see Hotaru and Chibi-Usa playing in the yard beneath them. Laughter rose up from time to time, only to be carried away by the wind.
“We were young.” Michiru said simply.
“True.” The blonde shook her head. “But we were very silly to think that we could put love aside. It almost killed us.”
Michiru laid her hand over Haruka’s. “Then it’s a good thing that I’m weaker than you are.”
Blue eyes met green ones. “You’ve never been weak. You’re the strongest person I know.” They moved closer, kissed lightly, then separated, smiling.
Michiru leaned her head on Haruka’s arm with a small sound of contentment. Time passed, each alone with their thoughts on youth, foolishness…and love.
Michiru pushed herself upright. “Come on, I hear Setsuna calling Hotaru and Chibi-Usa in for tea. We should see if she needs any help.”
The two women turned and, hand in hand, entered the house.
Ah-un-no-kokyuu: The expression of perfect harmony between two people; two beings that are united as one
R.I.C.E.: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. The suggested course of treatment for a sprain.
Satori: Buddhist term than encompasses unfolding knowledge or enlightenment. It is often used to describe the moment of enlightenment.