Forsaken Heart

This is another part of the Crystal Kingdom Archives. It helps if you've read Demon Hunter's Journal first, but (hopefully) it's not necessary. It takes place around the last week of June and the first week of July, 2002.

General Yamazaki snapped to attention as Sailor Uranus entered the command center. Her expression as she scanned the latest reports was as displeased as his own. United Nations troops were landing near Sapporo and Kagoshima, and American and Chinese bombers were en route from bases on Guam and North Korea. When the Emperor had abdicated in favor of Neo-Queen Serenity, the United Nations had - at the urging of the United States - declared Japan to be an outlaw nation, and now the JSDF was forced to take up positions around the American military bases to prevent invasion from within.

"How are the interceptors doing?" Sailor Uranus asked as she studied a sheaf of reports on ship deployment.

"Much better than in training. I'd be surprised if any of the Chinese bombers made it through."

"So would I. It's the Americans we have to worry about. Their stealth aircraft will require our fighters to follow Sailor Pluto's directions exactly if we're to have a hope of stopping them."

"If they send them. The planes we're tracking now are B52s."

"Would you settle for your oldest bombers if you were attacking someone?" The smile on Sailor Uranus' face was particularly sour, as if she'd bitten into a green plum.

"I see your point. Our men will be ready."

"Thank you, General. I'll be monitoring my radio." Sailor Uranus stalked out, bringing a general murmur of relief from the command staff. Even the most experienced officer felt uncomfortable in her presence, as if in the presence of a coiled cobra.

"Are you sure you don't want us to evacuate you?" Bill looked worriedly at his friends and advisors. Gwen was still in the States; she'd used her position to get warning of the impending trouble when the reaction to Serenity's coronation had still been confined to right-wing ravings. With the son of an ex-CIA Director in the White House, those right-wing ravings had been able to force national policy into an anti-Japan mania that threatened to sweep up even Americans of Japanese ancestry the way it had during WWII.

"Not a chance," Rusty declared as he shook his head firmly. "There's nothing back there for me anymore."

"If the invasion you're worried about takes place, you're going to need all the medical people you can get," Sarah said. "I've renewed my certifications since coming here, so you're going to need me."

"No matter where we go, we won't be able to escape it," Becky said. "This whole situation is way out of control. All we can do is hope nobody decides to escalate it to nuclear weapons."

"Amen to that," Bill agreed. After a thoughtful pause, he continued, "All right, then. I want all of you in the Palace as much as possible. It's made of MacManusite, so you'll be safe there. Please."

The pleading look on his face forestalled their protests, despite the obvious disagreement in their expressions.

"We got bombers, Dad. The interceptors stopped the Buffs, but some of the B2s got through."

"Shit. Where?"

"They seem to be targeting the Palace."

"Don't they care about collateral damage?"

"Do they ever? Here come the first hits."

From a distance, the sounds of explosions could be heard as the first missiles struck their targets.

"Attention, rescue personnel. That salvo hit the neighborhood to the south of us. We'll need fire, medical, and HAZMAT teams."

"Hazmat? Why?" Bill was already on the move, with Sarah close behind.

"One of the businesses in the target area is-" Another explosion, louder than the first, shook the ground. "-make that, was, a compressed gasses supplier. Hopefully, their nitrogen tank was full."

"We'll need someone to move a lot of air - fast - if we don't want anyone to suffocate, if their tank was full," Sarah said.

"It's taken care of," Sailor Pluto announced. "Bill, you're needed on the east face. Our real enemy is starting to tip its hand."

"On my way." Bill spun and ran toward the east entrance.

"So that's a droid, huh?" Bill asked, resting against the Palace wall. "Definitely not as easy to kill as a demon."

"You are insane!" Sailor Mercury cried, clutching him in a death grip. "It took all of us to kill one of those before. Why did you take it on by yourself?"

"It was going through our soldiers like a cannonball through tissue paper. Someone had to fight it, and the rest of you were busy."

"But it could have killed you!"

"It could have killed any of us. And it did kill nearly two hundred of our soldiers." Bill hugged Sailor Mercury gently. "Angel, they're not equipped to face things like this. We're going to have to insist that they fall back and let those of us who are fight them when they show up."

"I've already given that order," Sailor Uranus said, looking angrily down at Bill. "And if you ever do that again...."

"It'll be because you're too busy elsewhere. I'm not going to let one of those get through to Serenity, just because I'm the only one left to fight it." He glared tiredly back up at Sailor Uranus. "Listen, sis, it's no more than any of you would do. And as long as I'm wearing my fighting gear, the only way it can hurt me is if it targets my head."

"Well, I wish you'd wear something over your head," Sailor Uranus grumbled.

"I wish you'd wear something that gives you more armor than your sailor fuku," he snapped, then sighed and tried again, realizing that hadn't come out the way he'd wanted it to. "I've tried wearing a cowl, a mask, a hood, all of that stuff, and anything more than a hat interferes too much for me to be effective. I'll take the risk of the enemy getting a lucky shot, if it means I'm able to get that extra 20% effectiveness."

"That much?" Sailor Uranus asked, surprised. "Are you that sensitive?"

"It seems that way. Between the interference with my hearing, the itching around my eyes, and the limitations anything puts on my ability to move my head, I'm in deep shit if I cover my head." He picked up his fedora and dropped it on his head. "This is MacManusite, too, so if the attack comes from above, I'm covered."

"All right, but be careful, dammit. I don't want you making Ami a widow, do you hear me?"

"I don't want to make her a widow, either," Bill answered, hugging Sailor Mercury to his chest. "I love you, Angel. I'm going to do everything I can to make sure I come through this war alive. As long as you promise to do the same."

"I will," Sailor Mercury murmured softly. "I promise, I'll make it."

**Everyone to the Throne Room. NOW!**

**Ami? What's wrong?**

**I'll explain there. Haruka, implement the civil defense plan.**

**Civil defense? They wouldn't!**

**They have. We have fifteen minutes. Maybe less, if there are any subs in firing position.**

**Those damned fools.**

Moments later, sirens and klaxons all over Japan began sounding; thousands died in the panic that ensued in the cities, while people in the rural areas gathered with their families, or in the local shrines, to pray for deliverance.

"Are you certain, Ami?" Serenity asked, staring in horror at her friend.

"I'm afraid so. We can stop the bombers, but the missiles will make it through. Only you can save Japan." Sailor Mercury looked up from her computer, into Serenity's eyes.

"How? The only thing I can think of is to use the Silver Crystal to make the weapons harmless, but I'd never be able to do it in time."

"There's another way," Sailor Pluto declared. "We can do it, together. We send the warheads into the past. I'd say sixty-five million years should be far enough."

"But what will it cost?" Sailor Mercury demanded.

"Neither Serenity nor myself will be able to help when Reverend Diamond convinces his droid president to launch an invasion. It will take us at least a week to recover enough to do more than watch what happens."

"That's better than doing nothing and letting everyone outside the Palace die," Serenity declared. "We'll do it. Mamo-chan?"

Endymion took Serenity's hand in his and kissed her lovingly, then stepped back when Sailor Pluto shook her head. The room filled with impossibly bright light as they joined the power of the Silver Crystal and Pluto's Talisman to defend Japan.

As the radar images of incoming weapons vanished, the air defense centers all across Japan were filled with rejoicing at their apparent reprieve.

Ami and Bill held Setsuna's hands as she lay on her bed in a sleep of total exhaustion. Their defense of Japan had drained both Serenity and Setsuna, bringing them so close to death that Ami wasn't sure a week would be enough time for recovery.

Russia and China were already taking advantage of America's weakened post-attack position, making threats that were certain to bring hostile response. Ami thought that if the world survived long enough for her daughter to wake, it would be a miracle.

**Ami, Bill, we need you in the Throne Room.**

**What is it, Michiru?**

**American officers under a flag of truce. Endymion is on his way.**

**We're on our way.**

With a loving glance at their daughter, Bill and Ami slipped out of the room, closing the door behind them as her trademark secretive smile slowly spread across Setsuna's face.

"Quite frankly, your Majesty, we don't know what the hell our country is doing. Uh, sorry about the language." The American Air Force brigadier general looked around at his fellow officers for confirmation.

"None of this makes any sense," the American vice admiral agreed. "And launching nuclear weapons without a prior attack against the US is just insanity."

"Unfortunately, it makes sense to us," Endymion said tiredly. "Your President is not who he appears to be. David, play back the news footage of yesterday's attack on the Palace."

One of the Throne Room walls lit up, revealing a built-in high definition television. On the screen, news footage of the attack on the east face of the Palace was running, including the droid that waded through the defending soldiers as if they were little more than toothless rats in front of a terrier.

"Your President is one of those. We suspect he has been for the last eight weeks, since around the time he appointed Reverend Diamond his Secretary of State."

"What is that?" the American Marine brigadier general asked. "It looks like one of those monsters that used to show up in Tokyo about ten years ago."

"That's because it is like one of those monsters we used to fight ten years ago. That one was disguised as this man," Endymion stated, as the image on the TV screen changed to show the face of a Marine major, then followed his transformation as the droid disposed of its disguise for the attack on the Palace.

The Marine's response to the revelation was a string of blistering profanity that flattened Luna's ears and rocked back every member of the Court who understood English, except one.

"Huh. I haven't heard language like that since Basic." Bill stepped forward and tilted his fedora back so he could study the general more closely. "I take it you knew the major?"

"He's been one of my men for over ten years. I've known him since he was a butterbar."

"So...has he been stationed away from your command recently? Training, detached duty, TDY, anything like that?"

"Nothing, except for some special training a month ago. That was in Quantico."

"David, where was Diamond last month?"

"Virginia. He's spent a lot of time in Alexandria, Quantico, and Norfolk."

"That's probably where the major was replaced, then. I'm sorry, General, but I'm afraid your officer died a month ago. How many others were replaced, I wonder?"

"Too damned many, if that's the case." The general followed that with a snarled curse.

"Isn't Alexandria where the Pentagon is?" Endymion asked thoughtfully. "How much access does the Secretary of State have to military facilities?"

The three flag officers looked at each other with horrified expressions.

"Shit . . .," Bill whispered softly. "David, hack into the Pentagon and let us know when they activate the RDF."

"With the other threats, you think the US will press its attack against Japan?" The admiral stared at Bill in disbelief.

"Absolutely," he replied. "Diamond is the one in control, and he knows he has to destroy us in order to conquer the world. He intends to do that, even if he has to bomb the rest of the world back into the Stone Age to do it."

"In that case, it's more important than ever to protect Serenity," Sailor Uranus declared. "Venus, Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, don't let anything get near her. Your Majesty, we need you to stay near her, too. He can't field an unlimited supply of droids. Our regular troops can take care of his regulars. The four of us will just have to be enough for the droids." She looked at Sailors Neptune and Saturn and the Demon Hunter. "You three go get some rest. You'll need all your energy when the attack comes. David, report to me when you know when and where they're going to hit."

"We can help with that," the admiral said. "As far as the Pentagon knows, we're ready to join in any attack. Our forces are at your disposal."

"Pray we don't have to use them. I don't want to count on your men being willing to fire on their comrades. And we don't know how many have been replaced like that major was."

"No, but we can find out who may have been fairly quickly," the Air Force general said. "Unless our personnel staffs have been compromised, we should be able to get a report of every person who's been in Virginia or DC in the last six months."

"That will help. If you can isolate them, we can determine who is human and who isn't. In the meanwhile, make sure you're secured by guards you can trust. They'll kill you just as readily as they'll kill a civilian."

"Didn't I order you to rest?" Sailor Uranus glared at Bill, who was hunched over a work bench in his laboratory, making adjustments on something that looked like a cross between a BAR and an explosion in an electronics factory.

"I am resting." Bill plugged a cable into the butt of the rifle and pressed a switch on the side, watched a graph on the computer monitor next to it, and reached into the receiver area with a jeweler's screwdriver. "Michiru plays her violin, you break speed records, I tinker. The only one I'm worried about is Hotaru. She hasn't been the same since Chibi-Usa went home last week. What about you? Are you going to rest before they hit us?"

"I don't have time. I have to make sure our troops are ready."

"That's what you have generals for. Use them, sis." He looked up at her with a raised eyebrow. "Go home, Haruka. Make love to Michiru and get a good night's rest. We need you at your best."

"I don't need you telling me how to conduct my personal life," she growled, without the venom he'd expected. Either she was more tired than he'd thought, or she was finally ready to stop fighting their closeness.

"Saddle up and move 'em out! Ladies and gentlemen, we got droid sign." David sounded almost pleased at the announcement. Bill grabbed his trench coat and hat and started for the door, turning back at the last minute to grab the rifle.

"Where is it?"

"Sendai Hill. Grandfather's already stoking the fire. Yuuichiro is on the phone. Want to talk to him?"

"Just tell us where it is. We're on our way." Sailor Uranus grabbed Bill's arm and teleported to the clear area at the shrine's gate.

**Bottom of the hill, about a half block away.**

**Thanks. We can see the destruction.**

**I'll take the right. You take the left. Whoever hits it first, try to herd it to the other.**

**You got it, sis. Be careful.**

They leapt into the trees and vanished, using the branches as an elevated path to the rooftops below.

**This one's just a brute force droid. Stay out of its reach and you're safe.**

**Ranged attacks. No problem. How does it respond to World Shaking?**

**It knocks it down, but doesn't damage it.**

**I'm set up on the apartment building across from the west side of the hill. Can you get it between me and the hill?**

**It'll be there in about two minutes.**

**When you get it there, stay above it or to either side.**

As agreed, Sailor Uranus herded the droid toward the hill, using alternating World Shaking and Space Turbulence attacks. The droid, about fifteen feet tall and built like a sumo wrestler, stumbled in confusion as it was shaken again and again.

**If you're going to do something, do it now. I can't hold it in place forever.**

**OK. Back off...NOW!**

The Sendai Hill district rocked with a crack of thunder that shattered windows as far as six blocks from the apartment building the Demon Hunter was perched on. A beam of plasma extended from his position to the droid's; a microsecond later, it extended beyond where the droid had been, into the side of the hill. When her vision cleared, Sailor Uranus saw a glass-lined tunnel extending into the side of the hill until it vanished in the darkness.

**What the HELL was THAT?**

**Uh...too high a power setting.**

**Too high a power setting?**

**Yeah. Particle beam rifle. I guess the hyperspatial energy tap is more efficient than my old ones.**

**Don't use that in a populated area.**

**Not without modulating the power, that's for damned sure. Let's get back to the Palace. Something about this smells wrong.**

**I think that's ozone you're smelling.**

**Is that a joke I heard? There's hope for you yet, sis.**

**Get your butt down here so we can go home. I don't like the situation, either.**

Bill slung his rifle and leapt for the trees he'd used to reach the apartment building. A few moments later, he was swinging to a stop on the ground near Sailor Uranus. She glared at him for a moment, then flashed a brief smile as she grabbed his arm to teleport back to the Palace.

Bill groaned softly as he sank into bed, welcoming its luxurious comfort after a day of combat. Ami rolled over and snuggled against him, murmuring something in her sleep and smiling as she tucked herself under his arm. He looked down at the top of her head with a happy smile, thinking of how much he loved her. He closed his eyes and quickly slid into a deep sleep.

**Hello, Father.**

**Hello, Pumpkin. This isn't my dream. Is it yours?**

**It isn't a dream. I'm just taking advantage of your sleep to show you some things.**

**Things I can't show Ami, right?**

**That's right. Come this way.**

Setsuna led him through the mists to an enormous doorway; one that stood easily as high as the droid he'd vaporized a week earlier. The panels of the double doors were covered with images of the moon in its various phases, and there was no apparent handle. It looked to him like the Time Gate in her palace.

**Reach out to it, Father. Feel it in your mind, and open the Gate.**

He raised his hand, caressing the air as if it were Ami's hair. He'd found that little gestures like that helped his concentration when he wasn't using his Ravenfield representation. The Gate began to part under his touch, resisting as if it were a heavy doorway with rusted hinges. As it opened, the space beyond became visible, revealing a constantly shifting landscape, with cities appearing and crumbling in moments, people appearing and disappearing, possibilities and probabilities flashing by like leaves in a flood. He stepped toward it, to be stopped by Setsuna's hand on his shoulder.

"Not yet, Father. Soon, though. This is why it was so important for you to master your abilities outside of your body. On July 1, you will need to open the Gate and go through it."

"That's the day after tomorrow."

"That's right. Mother is going to be busy with Serenity tomorrow, when she gives birth to Usagi. You need to stay out of the fighting tomorrow, and record as much as you can remember of your time with Mother. It will help her while you're gone."

"How long will I be gone?"

"Until the day Chibi-Usa returns to Crystal Tokyo as you know her."

"Almost a thousand years? Ami will be heartbroken."

"Yes. But she'll be alive. As long as you don't tell her in advance."

"As long as I don't tell her in advance?"

"Yes. Look." Setsuna gestured through the Gate, and he saw Diamond's army attacking the Palace. Sailor Mercury was in the thick of the battle, instead of at her post by Serenity's side, trying to protect him from Diamond's forces. When he stumbled over the body of a fallen soldier, she leapt to shield him from an imagined attack, to be vaporized by a blast from a sneering red-haired man. Nothing was left of her; nothing but a memory.

"That's what will happen if you tell her."

"And if I don't?"

The image changed. It was the same attack, but Sailor Mercury wasn't there. Without her hovering to protect him, he avoided the soldier and was able to close with and destroy a droid that was working its way through the regiment of Marines that held the east entrance. As he was turning from the crumbling creature and scanning for another enemy, the red-haired man blasted him, neatly vaporizing his head where his clothing didn't protect it.

"Well, that's quick. I can live with that."

"Actually, you'll die." Setsuna joined him in a smile at the small joke. "But when you die, if you travel through the Gate to the day Chibi-Usa returns to Crystal Tokyo, your body will be waiting for you."

"No problem, then. Other than trying to ease Ami's pain. Isn't there any way to do that?"

"I wish there were. I've examined every alternative path, and in every case, when you warn her, she dies. And she doesn't come back. Serenity will be too busy trying to save the world to be able to bring her back before her spirit has gone too far to retrieve. And her rebirth will be too late to save Serenity when Nemesis attacks."

"Shit. We can't have that. I've only heard bits and pieces of what will happen. Do you think it's safe to tell me now?"

"Watch, Father." Setsuna pointed through the Gate, and Bill saw the final destruction of America, China, and Russia, with weapons so enhanced by magic that Serenity was forced to place the entire planet in suspended animation while searching for a way to restore the destroyed ecosystem. He saw her exile Diamond and his followers to Nemesis, where they fell under the spell of the Death Phantom, masquerading as an ancient mystic. He saw their initial attack on Crystal Tokyo, leaving Serenity protected only by the Inner Senshi as Chibi-Usa made her first journey into the past to find the Silver Crystal. He saw the Inner Senshi battle the Death Phantom in the past. He saw his daughter sacrifice her life to give Sailor Moon the opportunity to retrieve the Silver Crystal...two Silver Crystals? He saw Sailor Moon and Sailor Chibi-Moon sacrifice their lives to destroy the Death Phantom and Nemesis, and their restoration by the awakened Serenity.

"I won't have time to finally create a working Ravenfield, will I?"

"Not before you die. have all the time in the world."

"Damn. That means you'll have to rely on the MacManusite to be strong enough on its own. And we already know that doesn't work against attacks that bypass it."

"It's what will happen, Father. Don't torment yourself over it. Just be prepared to make the jump when you die. I'll be waiting for you in the future."

"Will they really be foolish enough to use those weapons?"

"I'm afraid so. Diamond is already under the spell of the Death Phantom, and will use any means at his disposal to destroy his enemies."

"Isn't that just peachy. When should Ami see my journal?"

"The day you return."

"Not sooner?"

"I wish it could be. I don't want her to suffer the way she will, but if she knows you'll be coming back, she'll be distracted enough to die in their initial attack, and the outcome will be as if she had died in your place now. Like you, she becomes more focussed when she has no hope - and is distracted by hope when it's all she has."

"Shit. We just can't win. That means I'll have to keep David from knowing, too. He's a good kid, but he can't keep a secret from her."

"He can't even know the journal exists. Or the letter you'll write. You'll need to put it in a time lock that will keep it from his knowledge until the day it unlocks. You know what day that is, now."

"I'll just have to have Edgar keep it, then. He's even better at keeping a secret than you are."

"I know. That's an excellent choice."

"Setsuna, will you do me a favor?"

"If I can. What is it, Father?"

"Come and visit me tomorrow, so I can say good-bye properly?"

"You mean today, don't you?" Setsuna smiled and hugged him. "Of course I will, Father. It's time for you to return to your body now. Mother is about to be summoned to Usagi's side."

"It's time, already? At least now I know why the Sprout's still so young. Thanks, Pumpkin."

"You're welcome...Daddy." Setsuna smiled at the surprise in his face and faded, leaving him in his own head as David's voice rang out.

"Ami, your mother's calling. Serenity's water's broken."

"I'm coming," Ami grumbled, looking down at her sleeping husband. Why was it that babies never came at a reasonable hour? The light coming through the walls - or lack thereof - indicated it must be around 4am. Bill's eyes flickered open and he reached up to touch her cheek with his fingertips.

"Do you need my help, Angel?"

"Have you ever delivered a baby?" Ami grinned, knowing that the only birth he'd ever been present at was Setsuna's, and the job he'd done for that birth was a job only Endymion could perform. "Go back to sleep, beloved. You'll need your strength if they attack again today."

"Mmm...good point." He grinned up at her, letting his gaze travel appreciatively over her body. "The only bad part about you going to work is that you can't help me regain my strength."

"You, my love, are bad !" Ami laughed, leaning over him to brush his lips with her breasts before sliding down into his arms and kissing him thoroughly. "I love you, and don't you ever forget it. Not even in your dreams."

"I promise, Angel, that's one truth that's engraved on my heart. I love you. Now and forever." He closed his eyes, giving her one last squeeze before letting her slip away to do her duty to their Queen.

"Hello, Father," Setsuna squeezed Bill's shoulders, where they always tensed up when he was doing something he didn't like. And talking about himself was one of those things he had never liked.

"Hi, sugar," he answered, reaching up to cover her hands with his own and leaning back with a sigh. "I've been trying to start this damned journal for nearly two hours, and nothing I do sounds right."

"Of course not," she chuckled, moving to sit beside him. "You're trying to talk about yourself, and we all know how much that bothers you."

"Yeah, it does, doesn't it?" he agreed with a self-deprecating smile. "I've never been all that good at it."

"I know. That is something I inherited from you, you know." She smiled at the sorrowful expression her words evoked and hugged him. "Silly Daddy. Do you hear me complaining?"

"Sweetie . . ." he hugged her tightly, trying unsuccessfully to conceal the tears that came to his eyes. "Do you know how good it feels to hear you say that?"

"Say what, Daddy?" she smiled and rested her head on his shoulder, whispering "Daddy" in his ear several more times before raising her voice and murmuring, "As good as it feels to say it, I think."

He sighed happily and stroked her hair, slowly relaxing.

"How would you do it if it were Fred's journal?" she asked suddenly. He stiffened against her, then laughed as he released her so he could look into her eyes.

"You, my dear, are devious! That'd work just fine."

"Oh, pooh!" she pouted playfully. "I thought I was sneaky, underhanded, and manipulative."

"Keep that up and I'll have to spank you," he growled teasingly, breaking into laughter at the way her eyes widened in a mockery of fear. "So are you going to stay and keep me company while I do this, or do you need to be elsewhere?"

"I think I'll stay. I want to hear you spin this tale." She sighed happily and rested her head on his shoulder. "I love you, Daddy."

"I love you too, Pumpkin." He gave her a quick hug and left an arm around her shoulders as he kicked back and began.

"No shit, there I was, about to go up the Tokyo Tower...."

Sailor Uranus paced the balcony outside Serenity's bedchamber. She'd objected to its placement on defensive grounds, but Serenity had overruled her, insisting that she was not going to be locked up like a prisoner just because of a little danger. When Bill had demonstrated how quickly and securely David could close and lock the doors, she'd felt a little better about it, but worried that Serenity's insistence on leaving them open except when an attack was occurring could allow access to an assassin.

A loud wailing cut through the air, snapping Uranus out of her worries. She spun toward the sound, to see Ami moving to place a bundle on Serenity's chest while Dr. Mizuno worked between her legs.

**David, lock these doors if you detect so much as a single bullet coming this way.**

**Will do.**

Sailor Uranus stalked toward Serenity's bed, stopping ten feet away to watch without interfering. Ami was gently washing the baby's back, while Serenity brought her to a breast to nurse. Hotaru hovered near Dr. Mizuno, ready to offer her power if any complications arose.

"Wow...she really does have pink hair," Ami said softly. "I wonder how that happened."

"Uh-uh," Serenity chided, wagging a finger in Ami's face. "No experiments on my little lady. We'll just have to assume it's magic, since there's no question of who she is."

The baby chose that moment to lose her grip on Serenity's nipple, bringing forth a loud and demanding wail that sounded so much like Usagi's that they all broke into laughter as Serenity guided her back to her breast.

"Nope. No question at all, my love." Endymion reached out and gently stroked the baby's head. "With a voice like that, she could only be a miniature version of you."

"You! You! I ought to . . ." Serenity's voice trailed off as Endymion gently raised her chin for a loving kiss.

A pair of arms snaked around Sailor Uranus from behind, and Michiru's voice came gently to her ears.

"Remember when Hotaru was that small?"

"Mmm-hmm. And now, look at her. Watching her future love like that . . ." Sailor Uranus turned and hugged Michiru tightly, unable to speak.

"I know, my love. I wish there were some way to make the years go quickly for her."

"Setsuna could."

"But she won't . I spoke with her after Chibi-Usa went home, and she won't do to her what was done to her past lives."

"I...understand." Sailor Uranus bit her lip and squeezed Michiru, knowing she'd make the same choice if she had Setsuna's power. Hotaru deserved the chance to live - no matter how painful it was.

Hotaru watched as Chibi-Usa nursed, her own breasts aching with need as she watched the baby who would grow up to become her heart's light. She felt tears rising in her eyes, and stood to leave before Serenity could see her sorrow.

"Hotaru-chan?" Serenity's hand was extended toward her, beckoning. "Come here, please."

Hotaru stepped closer, her chin quivering as she fought to hold in her emptiness. All she wanted was her Usagi back, and that wouldn't be, for another 900 years.

Serenity took Hotaru's hand and placed it gently on her daughter's back.

"She's so you were when I took away your age. Are you sorry now that I did it, knowing that being younger allowed you to get to know and love her?" Serenity looked up into her eyes, pleading silently for understanding.

"I . . .," Hotaru collapsed against Serenity's bed, sobbing brokenly. "Please, Serenity...please put me to sleep now? I don't want to be alive without her. I feel as if the best part of me is gone. Please put me in the crystal sleep, the way they used to in the Moon Kingdom?"

"If I did that, how could you store up your love for her while she's gone?" Serenity gently stroked Hotaru's hair, somehow knowing the special places Usagi always touched when she was unhappy. "I need you, Hotaru. I need you to remind me of just how much love my daughter has within her, and how much she is loved. I need you to remember her every day, and to love her with all your heart, so that when she returns to us, she'll be overwhelmed by the love you have for her."

"But...900 years! How can I live that long without her?"

"Shh, little one . . ." Usagi shifted, drawing back her hand to sooth her wailing daughter. "Mommy's here, my little lady." Her caresses soon soothed the child enough to search for a nipple and settle contentedly.

"I'm sorry, Serenity," Hotaru whispered. "I'll try to be more quiet."

"There's nothing wrong with tears, Hotaru. They help cleanse your heart when nothing else will do." Serenity reached out and touched Hotaru's cheek, gently brushing aside a lock of hair that had stuck in place. "How would you like to do something that might help you cope with her absence - and show her how much you love her when she returns?"

Hotaru's eyes lit up and she nodded. Something that could help ease the pain in her heart? And show Usagi how much she loved her? Of course!

"You know how much she loves stuffed bunnies, and stuff with bunnies on it. Why not get her a new bunny every day while she's gone, and save them all up to present her when she returns?"

"That's an awful lot of bunnies," Hotaru mused, then began giggling as she thought of Usagi's reaction. "She'll be digging her way through them for months!" She threw her arms around Serenity happily. "Thank you!"

"You're welcome," Serenity murmured, gently hugging the smaller Senshi.

**Haruka? Michiru? Watch Hotaru for me, ok? I've just made her smile, but she's going to be crying again when she thinks about the time before her. I'm not sure there's anything we can do except love her until Chibi-Usa returns to us.**

**I don't think there is. I know how much I'd hurt if Haruka were gone that long.**

**We'll be with her, Serenity. It isn't the same, but she'll never be alone as long as we're here.**

**Thank you. She'll be leaving my chambers in a minute. Catch her in the hallway when she does?**

**We'll be there. Thank you.**

**For what? Haven't you figured out yet that I love all of you?**

**For that. For your love.**

**You guys are embarrassing me.**

"Serenity? I think I'd better go now. You look tired, and I'm sure the King wants some time alone with you." Hotaru bit her lip, thinking of how much she wished she could be alone with Usagi. She looked down at the tiny body that would one day grow up to be Usagi, and pulled away to flee before her tears could overwhelm her self-control.

"Father? Mother's calling for you." Setsuna stood at the laboratory door and watched quietly as he finished his letter to Ami.

"Got that, Edgar?"

"It's saved. When do you want me to release the lock?"

"June 30, 2911," Setsuna said.

"Ami's a morning person, so unlock it around 8am. I'm going to tuck you into my tuxedo, so you won't have any distractions from the other project."

"I understand, Dad."

Bill slid Edgar off his wrist and looked thoughtfully into the watch's face. After a moment, he shook his head and stood. "Thanks, Pumpkin. Stay with Ami tomorrow? Please?"

"I'll be with her, Father." Setsuna swept into the lab and hugged him tightly. "I'm going to miss you, Daddy. Please don't get lost on your way back to us."

"I've never been lost, sweetie," Bill murmured gently, stroking Setsuna's hair until she stopped shuddering. "Sometimes I take unexpected routes to my destination, but I think being lost is more a state of mind than a location."

"Go to her, Daddy. Love her enough that she'll always remember your love, no matter how empty she feels." Setsuna looked up at her father with tear-filled eyes. "I'll be ok. I promise."

Bill hugged her and kissed her forehead gently, then looked into her eyes until he was reassured she would be ok.

"I love you, Setsuna. I'll be back. I promise." He slipped away, leaving Edgar in her hand.

"Mmm...that was quite wonderful," Ami purred, shifting to rest her head on Bill's chest and playfully nip at one of his nipples. "I haven't felt this good since...our first day together." She grinned teasingly up at him.

"Not since then, huh?" He growled lovingly, gently pushing her onto her back and sliding down her body with a hungry gleam in his eyes. "I guess I'm going to have to make up for lost time, then."

"Ooh . . .," Ami breathed as he nibbled his way down her throat. His hands were teasing the insides of her thighs as his lips and teeth tormented her on their path down her body, bringing explosion after explosion of pleasure as he attended to every single sensitive place he'd found in two years of marriage.

Ami had become comfortable with his silence when making love, and found peace and joy in knowing that he loved her so much he wanted to focus every bit of his attention on giving her pleasure, whether it was with gentle loving or savage animal coupling. He'd given her both tonight, and showed no signs of letting up as long as she was still capable of feeling. As he entered her, she wrapped her arms and legs around him and held him tightly, savoring the sensations of his body within and without.

"Beloved? Are you awake?" Ami snuggled close to Bill and sighed happily, savoring his presence as she prepared to face the day. His chest rose and fell slowly beneath her cheek, and his heart beat with a slow and steady pulse that had frightened her when he had come back after the tentacle demon had killed him, until she remembered that a slow and steady pulse is a sign of health. She felt his breath stirring her hair as he wrapped his arms around her drew her up so he could nuzzle her lovingly.

"Mmm...I am now." He tilted her head back and kissed her lovingly, bringing her own flavor to her lips along with his taste. "Ready to have your blood stirred, Angel?"

Ami giggled and swatted his chest, then blushed as she felt her body respond to his caresses.

"I am," she whispered hungrily. "Are you?"

In answer, he pushed her onto her back and began nibbling, growling hungrily as she surrendered once again to his touch.

"Endymion needs you in the command center, Ami. Things are getting hairy." David announced, waking both Ami and Bill from their contented doze. Bill drew Ami to his lips and kissed her thoroughly before letting her escape.

"Mercury Crystal Power, MAKE UP!" When the transformation ended, Sailor Mercury bent over the bed to kiss her husband before running toward the command center.

"I love you, Ami," Bill murmured softly as she left the room. Unable to freshen up as easily as her, he slid out of bed and staggered toward the bathroom for a long hot shower. "Give me the highlights, David."

"I just tried to, Dad. Why aren't you wearing Edgar?"

"He's working on a project for me, and I need him to devote all his processor time to it. He can't do that if he's sparing time for communications and monitoring my health."

Bill stood under the shower, letting its pulsating spray massage away his tiredness. Making love to Ami all night had been exhausting, but now he knew that she'd have one last set of happy memories to carry with her while he was gone. While he showered, David summarized the morning's situation.

"We've got the Nimitz, the Enterprise, and the Lincoln all within helicopter range. The Corpus Christi and the Los Angeles are running silent, but their last contacts with Washington indicated they were moving to launch range. Moscow and Beijing are both on pre-launch alert, and there's a lot of encrypted traffic out of Offut and Vandenberg about something called 'Project Omega'. A half-dozen C130 squadrons just left Korean airspace, headed this way. I'd say this is their big push."

"Sounds like it. Where does Haruka need me?" Bill stepped out of the shower and toweled himself off, then headed for his wardrobe and began donning his Demon Hunter gear.

"She wants you at the east entrance. She's covering the south, Michiru has the west, and Hotaru has the north."

"I'd have switched Michiru and Hotaru, but that works." He slipped his MacManusite trench coat on and checked its pockets, holsters, and built-in weapons. Finally, he settled his fedora on his head and headed for the door, donning a pair of Gargoyles before stepping into the hallway.

"Of course you would," David's voice grumbled behind Bill's back as he left the room. "You're Khemetic."

The Demon Hunter stalked down the hallway, clearing a path with his presence as he made his way to the east entrance. Unlike the Senshi, he didn't have the advantage of beauty to offset the aura of menace he wore like a cloak. Everyone in the Palace had seen him in action at one time or another, and none of them wanted to risk his attention when he was in his working clothes.

A regiment of US Marines were set up in defensive positions outside the east entrance, with nearly a hundred Yakuza patrolling outside the Marines' perimeter. The Demon Hunter chuckled as he watched them. Like the Mafia in World War II, they'd decided their patriotism meant more to them than their usual criminal activities. He knew they would die to the last man, rather than allow any invaders close to their Queen.

"Good morning, Captain. I'm afraid I have some bad news for you."

"I expected that when you came out. They haven't learned yet, have they?" The Marine captain stood beside the Demon Hunter as they talked, both of them using the elevated position of the doorway to improve their view as they scanned the eastern approaches.

"No, they haven't. And we can expect them to use droids in the attack. The Nimitz, the Lincoln, and the Enterprise are all within range. That's a whole buttload of Marines. And then there's the forces on their way from Korea."

"This morning's briefing says the Wisconsin and Iowa are almost in position, too. I don't like the idea of shooting at other Americans."

"Neither do I, Captain. But you've seen what we're really up against. They're using ordinary soldiers like us to try and destroy our resolve so that when the droids show up, they can kill us without resistance."

"Ordinary soldiers," the captain snorted. "There isn't an ordinary soldier in this place. Marines aren't ordinary soldiers, by anyone's definition. And with you and the Senshi backing us up, and the Yakuza breaking any attack before it gets to us, the only way they have any chance at all is with their droids."

"Just remember, even a droid breaks if you use a big enough gun."

"Yeah, but they don't issue us Godzilla guns."

The two men laughed, sharing a common complaint of soldiers everywhere. The Demon Hunter took an earbud out of a pocket and plugged it into his ear, grimacing at the volume of the voice that came out of it.

"WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU?" Sailor Uranus demanded.

"I'm in position, Sis. Everything's quiet so far."

"Why didn't you answer?"

"I just plugged in my radio. No, I'm not wearing Edgar. He's working on something for me that could make a big difference in the war."

"Do not get out of contact like that again. Understand? The naval invasion is under way."

"I understand." The Demon Hunter glanced at the captain and repeated for his benefit. "The naval invasion is under way. How are our air forces handling it?"

"They're busy keeping the American fighters and bombers off our backs."

"So we'll have Marines in the streets pretty soon. Shit. How about the Korean forces?"

"We got them all. Just relax and keep watch. Your side is the side they'll hit first"

"Yeah. As long as they don't get some smart commander who thinks we'll let him flank us."

"If he tries that, he'll be in more trouble than if he'd just come straight in. Be careful, Bill. I've got a bad feeling about today."

"I'll be ok, Sis. You just make sure to keep yourself safe, ok?"

"I'll keep Serenity safe," Sailor Uranus growled.

"What do your posts by the harbor say?" the Demon Hunter asked the captain. "That's the closest approach."

The captain ordered reports and listened as the harbor observation posts reported no contact with the enemy yet. The Demon Hunter shrugged and perched on a convenient ledge, where he could lean against the wall of the Palace without interfering with his view of the world outside.

"We'll just have to wait. That's the part I always hated, when I was in security."

"You don't strike me as being quite suited for security work."

"I'm not. But I was an idiot and let the recruiter talk me into it. If I hadn't, the Air Farce would have trained me as a linguist."

"That doesn't sound right, either. Then again, I can't see you in the Air Force. UDT, Special Forces, or Recon, yes. But Air Force?"

"I'm a lot different than I was then. I wouldn't have survived Marine Boot Camp then." The Demon Hunter shrugged, letting a small smile slip. "I'm definitely a lot more than I was then."

Sailor Neptune stood before the western door to the Palace, smiling to herself as she noticed the gaijin soldiers stealing glances at her. They were lucky Haruka wasn't beside her; she'd have reacted rather strongly to the lingering glances of some of the bolder soldiers. She simply ignored them. They knew better than to approach too closely after one of them had made the mistake of assuming that a revealing costume meant she was available for his pleasure. She assumed he would be out of intensive care sometime within the next month or so.

**I swear, when I get my hands on him, I'm going to strangle him.**

**Who, beloved?**

**Bill. He's taken Edgar off. He gave me some story about Edgar doing some special project for him.**

**I don't like that. We don't have any other way to monitor him.**

**Neither do I. Be ready to move if I call for backup.**

**I always am. I'm worried about Hotaru.**

**So am I. I hope the fight today will keep her busy enough to not think about Chibi-Usa.**

**That'll only work as long as we're fighting.**

**We'll think about what to else to do after this is over.**

Sailor Neptune moved toward the north end of the building, where she could cover Sailor Saturn if she needed help. The gaijin would be able to do little more than warn her of a droid's presence, but they might be of help against normal enemies. Since the enemy was using gaijin soldiers, she didn't have much hope of their being much help. The Yakuza would be more useful for that, no matter how much she disliked them.

The sounds of gunfire suddenly began, originating on either the south or east side. She ran back to her position before the western door and prepared to receive the invaders. The sounds of combat grew louder toward the south, then faded as if the invaders were being driven back.


Haruka's mental cry of anguish caught her attention, but before she could reply, Sailor Neptune was hit by a wave of rage and hatred that staggered her with its intensity. She felt Sailor Uranus use her Space Sword Blaster several times, firing it as rapidly as Sailor Mars could use her Flame Sniper.

**Hotaru, come to me. Please. Michiru, can you cover her side of the Palace?** Haruka's thought felt hollow, dismal, and full of despair. Sailor Neptune restrained her instinctive need to be at Haruka's side and sent forth all the love she could offer.

**I can. What's wrong, beloved?**

**I never got to....** Haruka's thought trailed off into a wordless wail of loss that cut through the minds of every person wearing a MacManus.

How could he do that, today of all days? Sailor Uranus fumed as she stalked across the south face of the Palace. When we most need to be able to monitor every one of us, he leaves Edgar on some special project? Something doesn't smell right.

The sounds of gunfire to the southeast cut through her thoughts, snapping her focus back to the impending battle. The gunfire approached far too quickly to suit her. As the first of the invading gaijin came within range of the Yakuza's assassins, they were herded by selective attacks into pre-cleared avenues along which the defending gaijin had aimed their heaviest weapons.

Sailor Uranus stood atop one of their parked HMVs, where she was clearly visible to the invaders. She held her sword high, and when the attackers' bullets began to fall around her position, she brought it down and leapt into the sheltered space behind the vehicle while the gunners opened up. The sounds of .50 caliber machineguns firing from either side pounded like her head did the morning after sharing a jar of sake with Rei's grandfather.

The sounds of enemy fire diminished, then ceased altogether - but defending fire increased. Sailor Uranus leapt to the top of the HMV and found what she had expected, but hoped not to see. The defending gaijin were concentrating all their fire on one enemy: an eight-foot humanoid formed of black crystal. The bullets were chipping off pieces, but so slowly that it would be well within their ranks before they could hope to damage it enough to do any good.

"Space Sword Blaster!"

Sailor Uranus fired into the droid. Her attack combined with the impacts of the bullets to shatter its body. As it crumbled to dust, the gaijin defenders uttered a triumphant cheer. When the ringing in her ears stopped, she heard the sounds of battle on the east side.

**Do you need backup?**

**No, but we'll need medics. It's only one droid, but it got into the middle of the Marines before it transformed. I'll have it in a minute.**

Sailor Uranus waited tensely for 43 seconds.

**There. That did it. I'll-**

**Bill? Bill! Titania! Get me his signal!**

**I can't. The radio he was transmitting on doesn't exist any more.**

Sailor Uranus raced toward the east side, leaping from vehicle to vehicle for the speed advantage it gave her. She rounded the corner, and saw a red-haired man floating in mid-air above the gaijin, casually striking them dead with beams of black energy he projected from his hands. The gaijin were firing back, but their bullets bounced off an invisible shield that surrounded the attacker like an egg.

Sailor Uranus immediately fired off a Space Turbulence attack, rattling the attacker enough to stop his attacks and allow her to give her Space Sword Blaster the maximum power she could feed into it. The enemy's shield collapsed, after holding just long enough to allow him to teleport away.

Sailor Uranus moved toward the casualties, heedless of the bullets flying around her as the invaders attempted to press their attack. Among the uniformed bodies, she found what she had feared.

"NOOOOO!" Her heart failed her, and her anguish expressed itself without conscious thought.

The pain found its release in a storm of rage and hatred; she fired her Space Sword Blaster into the invading soldiers, again and again, as quickly as she could trigger it. Within a couple minutes, her energy was so drained she couldn't raise her sword anymore, and the defending gaijin took the fight to the enemy their own way.

Sailor Uranus fell to her knees and gathered the body into her arms, reaching out tiredly, doing her best to hold to a glimmer of hope

**Hotaru, come to me. Please. Michiru, can you cover her side of the Palace?**

**I can. What's wrong, beloved?**

**I never got to....** Haruka's thought trailed off into a wordless wail of loss that pierced the ears of those gaijin still living and cut through the minds of every person wearing a MacManus.

The Demon Hunter and the Marine captain were discussing Japanese cooking when the first sounds of combat reached them. The Yakuza had apparently engaged the enemy while they were still concealed by the surrounding buildings. The Demon Hunter leapt to the roof of a convenient HMV, while the captain and his men prepared to defend the Palace.

The first of the enemy came into view: squads of Marines, advancing behind their HMVs. Each vehicle had a machinegun on a ring mount, and was laying down a withering hail of lead ahead or into the buildings on either side. The defending Marines held their fire, silently watching from their positions as the invaders came closer. There didn't appear to be any droids in this bunch, but that could change any minute.

"Now," the Demon Hunter called to the captain as the last of the enemy cleared the buildings. A moment later, grenades fell from the roofs of the buildings behind the enemy, and the defenders began firing.

The shock of being fired on by their countrymen threw the invading Marines off just enough to give the defenders an additional advantage. When their vehicles had all been destroyed, eliminating their fire support and adding to the casualties with their explosions, the surviving attackers surrendered.

The captain had dispatched one company to escort the prisoners to a holding area when one of the prisoners threw off its disguise and began attacking every human around it. The Demon Hunter immediately launched himself toward the droid as the Marines all began firing at it.

Damned thing looks like a Boomer. I hope it has their weaknesses. Blades should do the trick.

A matched set of blades, about 12" long, slid out of the sleeves of his trench coat. Once they had locked into place, one began to glow as if radiating intense heat, while the other quickly acquired a layer of frost. With his face set in a snarl, he charged through the Marines, over the rapidly growing carpet of casualties, and up the droid's back.

"Do you need backup?" Haruka's voice was welcome, but a distraction.

"No, but we'll need medics. It's only one droid, but it got into the middle of the Marines before it transformed. I'll have it in a minute."

The Demon Hunter hacked at the droid, learning quickly that while he could penetrate it with thrusts, chopping or cutting movements just slid off its shell. When the opening came, he drove both blades into the creature, just a few inches apart. Cracks quickly appeared between the blades, and spread to encompass its entire body. It crumbled, forcing him to retract the blades and roll when he hit the ground.

Gotta love thermal stress. I wonder why these things aren't nearly as powerful as the Senshi described. Do they get more powerful over the next millenium?

"There. That did it. I'll-"

A black beam struck his head as he was crouching to pick up his fedora. As his headless body crumpled to the ground, a sneer grew on the face of a red-haired man who floated twenty feet above a second wave of invaders. The invaders opened fire, charging toward the Palace entrance as more black beams began cutting into the defenders.

Well, that transition was a lot more abrupt than I'm used to.

Bill looked back to where his body was and grimaced. Ami was going to be heartbroken. He had to find some way to ease her mind.

"I was afraid I'd find you still here, Father. If this is going to work, you have to go through the Gate." Setsuna sounded worried.


"If you stay, you'll have to go through that gate." Sailor Pluto pointed at a gate he was much more familiar with: the gate to the Duat.

"It's my time, huh? All right." He started toward the Time Gate, then turned to look back at his daughter. "What's this costing you, Setsuna?"

"Nothing. You're needed in the future, and if you don't take the way we arranged, we won't have you when we need you."

"She's right, my child. You've earned your rest, and if you choose to accept it, none will deny you." Ienpw stepped out of the shadows to stand beside Sailor Pluto.

Bill knelt at the feet of his Lord.

"But I'm still needed. How can I possibly say no, then?" He stood and looked between the two, smiling wistfully.

"Don't ever let her forget how much you love her, Setsuna. And don't let her despair. Please?"

"I won't, Father."

Father and daughter came together in a loving embrace, as Ienpw stepped back into the shadows and the gate to the Duat faded. With one last glance back toward the physical world, Bill opened the Time Gate and stepped through.

"Moon Eternal MAKE UP!" Sailor Moon charged through the middle of the Inner Senshi, leaving her daughter in Dr. Mizuno's hands. The pain in Haruka's cry had been too great for her to ignore, and nobody - not even her friends - was going to stop her.

The determined expression on Sailor Moon's face deterred even Sailor Mars from the objection that was on her lips. The Senshi quickly recovered and moved to surround their Queen as she followed Titania's directions to the east entrance.

The carnage outside the Palace was horrifying. In addition to those killed or injured by gunshot wounds, there were far too many gaijin bodies with parts missing, as if they'd been excised by giant cookie cutters. Sailor Uranus was kneeling, with a body in her lap, as the surviving defenders returned fire on the invaders.

Sailor Saturn joined them as they approached Sailor Uranus, their hearts sinking as they recognized the trenchcoat covering the body in her lap. Sailor Uranus looked up at them, her face set in the same mask Sailor Moon recognized from a previous death.

"Bill? Bill!" Sailor Mercury broke and knelt in front of Sailor Uranus, reaching to take the body from her arms. As she took it, they saw that its head was missing. "Noooo!"

**David, get me Fluorite.**

**He's fighting the invaders near the Emperor's Palace.**

**I don't care where he is. Get him here!**

**Right away, your Majesty.**

Sailor Saturn rushed forward to kneel beside Sailor Mercury, and the other Senshi took up positions around the kneeling figures, adding their firepower to the defenders as they protected their Queen and the others.

Violet light glowed around the body in Sailor Mercury's lap, as Sailor Saturn poured her power into it, regenerating the missing part. As the healing completed, she collapsed against Sailor Uranus, too exhausted to hold herself up.

"Ami?" Sailor Moon murmured gently, touching her friend's shoulder. "It's my turn now. I'll need the power of your love to reach him."

Sailor Mercury nodded silently, and Sailor Moon brought forth her Crystal. The light from it grew blindingly bright as Sailor Mercury and Sailor Moon poured all their strength into it. The light faded and Sailor Mercury collapsed, sobbing bitterly as their failure became obvious.

"I'm here, Serenity," Fluorite declared, fading into view. "What's the...problem. Oh." He crouched to examine Bill's body, then looked at his Queen. "He's no longer there. He's no longer anywhere within my reach. I've never encountered a situation like this before."

He fell silent, looking thoughtfully at his friend's body. With a shake of his head, he reached out and laid a hand on it. An image began to form in the air above the body, showing Bill's last moments. Freezing the image at the moment the black beam disintegrated his head, Fluorite shifted perspective until the source was visible.

"Rubeus," Sailor Moon hissed coldly. "I thought we'd killed him."

"I will kill him," Sailor Mercury said, her voice so cold it made Sailor Moon's sound like a loving croon by comparison. Her visor sprang into place and she scanned the surroundings. "Follow me. Or not."

Sailor Mercury leapt out of the circle of Senshi and began running toward the invaders. Sailor Moon followed close behind, forcing the other Senshi to join the charge. Icy shards cut through the gaijin like razor blades, leaving them crumpled and bleeding in her wake as she used her Mercury Hail Storm without hesitation or restraint.

The other Senshi, shocked by her ruthlessness, moved as if to restrain her. When Sailor Moon began using her Moon Spiral Heart Attack with equal ruthlessness, they opened up in support of their friends.

Following Sailor Mercury, the Senshi cut their way through the invading army, leaving a trail of dead and dying gaijin behind, and a spreading wave of fleeing gaijin before. As they moved, slaughtering gaijin with cold efficiency, Sailor Mercury brought them closer and closer to the airport, until they finally came to a stop atop the main terminal building.

"RUBEUS! SHOW YOURSELF!" Sailor Mercury screamed into the air. Hearing that name, the other Senshi felt their breath catch. He was dead...wasn't he?

"That's Deacon Ruby to you, whore." The voice came from the air above them, and a figure faded into view. He looked like Rubeus, but older, with a fanatical gleam in his eyes that Rubeus had never had.

"You killed my husband," Sailor Mercury hissed, quivering with rage as she stared up at the floating man.

"A pagan cannot have a husband," Ruby decreed, as if lecturing an ignorant child. "Only a marriage performed by a minister of the True Faith is valid. Renounce your whoredom and accept your punishment."

A black beam sprang from Ruby's hand, striking the roof where Sailor Mercury had been standing an instant before.

**He's Ami's. We just have to keep him distracted long enough for her to finish him.**

**Are you sure about that? It took your power to finish him before.**

**I'm certain. Trust me. Now start hitting him, and don't hold back!**

Sailor Moon leveled her scepter at the enemy and fired, forcing him to dodge to one side, right into one of Sailor Mars' flaming arrows. He grunted in pain, and Sailor Venus' Love-Me Chain looped around his waist. Sailor Venus and Sailor Jupiter combined their strength to pull him toward the roof, as Sailor Moon and Sailor Mars blasted him again and again with their attacks. When he was about six feet above the roof, the repeated battering finally broke his concentration; he fell the rest of the way, landing on his back with an impact that drove the air out of his lungs.

Sailor Mercury landed atop him, straddling his chest as she gripped his head in both hands and began slamming it against the roof.

"Go ahead...whore . . .," Ruby gasped out between impacts. "You...can...kill cannot...extinguish...the light...of Christ."


Ruby's head exploded in a spray of blood and flesh as the blast erupted from Sailor Mercury's hands where they gripped both sides of his head. The headless body went limp beneath her, then dissolved into black dust. She doubled over, pounding the roof as she screamed out the pain of her loss.

Sailor Moon knelt beside Sailor Mercury, drawing her into her arms and gently stroking her hair as Ami sobbed bitterly against her breast. Sailor Venus knelt to one side, gently placing a hand on her back, and Sailor Jupiter did the same on the other side. Sailor Mars stood behind Sailor Mercury, reaching out to touch her friend with one hand while scanning the surroundings for any signs of hostility.

"I'll live," Sailor Mercury murmured sadly. She looked into Sailor Moon's eyes, frightening her friend with the cold fire in her own. "But...they're going to pay. All of them."

**Get back to the Palace. Now.**

**What is it, Mamo-chan?**

**Just trust me, Dumpling, and move your butt.**

The urgency in Endymion's thought galvanized all of them, and they took each other's hands. The Throne Room appeared around them in an instant as they teleported back. The television screen was lit, displaying a world map with glowing spots scattered across Asia, North America, and Europe.

"The behavior of the American weapons is bizarre," David stated. "The Russian and Chinese weapons behave like normal nukes, but some of the American weapons are totally different."

"What do you mean?" Endymion asked as the Senshi gasped in horror.

A smaller image appeared in one corner of the world map. A city street, with dead bodies lying all around as a fire burned out of control around a wrecked truck, providing the only light.

"This is a web-cam in Moscow. Several of the American missiles detonated over the city five minutes ago."

Another image appeared in another corner, showing the same street, suddenly lit by a black glow. The few people on the street collapsed in place. A truck careened down the street, through the side of a building without slowing. Flames began to flicker around the front of the truck, lighting the scene, which had gone dark as the black glow faded.

More lights appeared on the map as they were watching the images from Moscow.

"We've got radiation warnings," David announced. "Fallout from Korea. It's pretty dirty."

"That's it," Sailor Moon growled. "No more! There will be no more deaths!"

In a flash, Sailor Moon's fuku vanished, to be replaced by Serenity's royal garb. She raised her Crystal above her head in both hands, and was joined by Sailors Pluto, Neptune, and Uranus, adding the power of their talismans.

"Holy shit, it gets worse!" David announced as the four staggered, caught by the other Senshi. "We've got a radar return that makes absolutely no sense at all."

"Let me see it," Sailor Mercury demanded, activating her visor and computer. " It's Nemesis."

"Nemesis?" Sailor Mars asked as Sailor Venus and Sailor Jupiter gasped in surprise. "But...."

"Nemesis is where Neo-Queen Serenity exiled the Black Moon family," Endymion finished for her. "To do that, we need to bring them here."

"We...can do that," Serenity murmured unsteadily. "Just...."

Endymion gently stroked her hair as her eyes closed and her voice faded into sleep. As if her unconsciousness were a signal, the Outer Senshi allowed themselves to collapse into the arms of the Inner Senshi.

"What did they do?" David asked. "There's not a single living thing moving outside the Palace."

"We...froze them in time," Sailor Pluto murmured. "They'll stay that Serenity awakens them."

"I recommend everyone get some sleep." Endymion lifted Serenity in his arms and carried her from the Throne Room. "We need to be at our best when we have Diamond's people here."

Dr. Mizuno followed the King and Queen, carrying their daughter, until Sailor Mars stopped her and gently took the princess from her arms.

"Your daughter needs you," she said, returning to her mortal appearance and nodding toward Sailor Mercury, "much more than the Queen does."

Dr. Mizuno looked toward Sailor Mercury and nodded. Sailor Mercury hadn't moved from where she had activated her visor and computer.

"Ami?" Dr. Mizuno placed her hand on Sailor Mercury's shoulder and stepped in front of her. "I'm here, sweetheart. Talk to me, Ami."

"Ami is dead." Sailor Mercury's voice was flat and emotionless as she pulled away from Dr. Mizuno and walked out of the Throne Room. Dr. Mizuno watched in shock as she departed.

"Ami?" Dr. Mizuno's voice wavered as she followed her daughter with her eyes. "What happened? Makoto? Minako? What happened?"

Sailors Venus and Jupiter transformed to their mundane appearances and moved to flank Dr. Mizuno. They took her arms and steered her toward the edge of the dais, then sat, drawing her down with them.

"I don't know what to do, Mizuno-sensei," Makoto said softly. "Ami is...Do you know what happened to Bill?"

"No. Where is he? He should be with her," Dr. Mizuno hissed angrily. "She needs him."

"He would be if he could," Minako said. "You know how much they loved each other."

"Loved?" Dr. Mizuno's gaze traveled to where Ami had vanished. "Kami-sama...what happened to him?"

"He's dead," Makoto murmured. "Ami killed the man who killed him, but...."

" doesn't help," Minako said. "It never does. I don't know what to do. We tried to bring him back, but he's gone. And can we reach Ami?"

"I don't know," Dr. Mizuno whispered. "I've never seen her like this before. We've...never been as close as we should have been. Now I don't know what to do. She's my daughter, but the five of you are closer than she and I have ever been."

"We'll do all we can, Mizuno-sensei," Minako said, laying her hand on Dr. Mizuno's arm. "Makoto and I will go to her now, and keep her from being alone. Hopefully, she'll open up and let us help her."

"Mother?" Setsuna called out, standing just inside the door to her parents' chambers. When no response came, she slipped into the shadows and moved to near where Sailor Mercury lay curled up on the bed.

"Mother?" Setsuna gathered her mother into her arms and rocked her gently. "Stay with me, Mother. Serenity needs you. I need you."

"Hurts...just...want to be with him," Sailor Mercury moaned unsteadily. "Let me...go...please?"

Setsuna clenched her jaw, holding back the angry response that came to mind. Anger would not help, no matter how she felt. When she shifted position to hold her mother more securely, she felt something hard beneath her. With a sinking heart, she felt under her and came up with an empty pill bottle. The label showed it was morphine, from her grandmother's clinical supplies.

**David! What effect does a fatal dose of morphine have?**

**Respiratory and cardiac failure. The muscles relax so much they can't contract again.**

**How do you counter it?**

**CPR and stimulants. Flush the morphine from the body.**

**How long would it take to break down naturally?**

**A fatal dose? Maybe two or three days, if you can keep the victim alive that long. Dialysis is faster and more certain.**

**Do we have a dialysis machine in the Palace?**

**No. The nearest one is at the university's hospital.**

**Tell Mizuno-sensei I'll meet her there.**

Dr. Mizuno joined the others in the waiting room and collapsed tiredly on the only available seat. Looking around at the expectant gazes of the Senshi and the Queen and King, she took a deep breath and closed her eyes with the effort of maintaining a calm demeanor.

"She'll live. Sarah and Setsuna are with her now. Thank goodness Sarah's an EMT - she'll be able to keep things going until I get back in there." She looked at Serenity and whispered softly, "Why? How could I have let my daughter be so alone that she felt she had to do that when he died?"

"How could anyone have?" Serenity asked softly, moving to lay her hands on Dr. Mizuno's shoulders. "She's our closest friend, and none of us foresaw this. I should have expected it. If I lost Mamo-chan that way, I'd be just as lost."

"All we can do is pray that there wasn't any permanent damage," Dr. Mizuno murmured softly. "And pray that Setsuna can give her a reason to live. When someone wants to die...they always manage to find a way, unless you can give them a reason to live."

"I can make sure there's no permanent damage, Mizuno-sensei," Hotaru offered. "At least, I can heal her body."

Sarah joined the others in the waiting room, shaking her head quietly as she found a seat.

"Setsuna asked me to leave them alone for a few minutes," she said. "She'll let us know when it's ok to go in."

"Mother," Setsuna began, pressing her fingers to Sailor Mercury's lips to keep her from speaking. "No, Mother. Just listen."

Sailor Mercury's eyes stared dully at Setsuna, then flicked toward where the dialysis machine was plugged into her arm.

"No, Mother. I'm not going to allow you to join him. If you try it again, I'll bring you back again. I'll keep doing it as long as it takes for you to stop trying to die. No matter how much I love you, I can't let you die.

"Do you remember what Father promised you before you married him? Didn't he promise you that he would always find his way back to you, no matter what happened to him? How can he do that if you're not here for him to find?"

Sailor Mercury closed her eyes and shuddered silently, allowing only a single tear to trickle out through her lashes. Setsuna squeezed her mother's hand and waited for her to speak, allowing a full minute to pass before she continued.

"Besides Father's promise, there's also your promise to Serenity to think about. She needs you, Mother. The Kingdom needs you. We need you to help give Small Lady the childhood she remembers. We need you to help defend Crystal Tokyo when Nemesis returns."

"If you know already that it's going to return, why let Serenity exile them there?" Ami's voice was flat and lifeless. Her eyes focussed on Setsuna with all the animation of a pair of marbles.

"That's the most likely future. Other possibilities include the possibility that they'll learn from their exile and become good. We need to give them that chance."

"I don't. I'll kill them. No matter how long I have to wait, I will kill every one of them." Ami's voice shifted from flat and lifeless to cold and menacing as she spoke. She looked into the distance like a cobra, her eyes slitted and glittering dangerously.

Setsuna clenched her jaw and raised her mother's hand to her lips. She kissed her knuckles gently, drawing her attention back to the present.

"I'm here, Mother. I'm here, now. I will be with you, no matter what happens; no matter how long it takes. I will always be here."

Ami looked into her daughter's eyes and whimpered like a whipped dog, clutching Setsuna's hand spasmodically and tugging in an attempt to bring her closer. Setsuna bent over the bed and wrapped her arms around her mother in a tight embrace, sheltering her in her heart as the emptiness washed over Ami, forcing out wracking sobs.

Ami's tears faded into hiccups as she fell into an exhausted sleep. Setsuna reached out with a foot, pulled a chair against the side of the bed and settled into it, letting her mother keep her grip on her hand.

**She's sleeping now, sweetheart. Tell Grandmother I'll stay with her, if she wants to get some rest.**

**Do you want me with you?**

**If it's not too much to ask.**

**I should spank you for that.**

**I'm too tired to argue, Sarah. And too worried.**

**If I were in your shoes, I think I'd be scared.**

**I am. It would be too easy for her to kill herself, and despite my threat to bring her back until she stops trying, I don't know if I'll be able to do it.**

Sarah closed the room door behind her and moved to slip her arms around Setsuna. She gently kissed her love and drew her head against her breast in a silent invitation to let her tears flow.

**I can't let the others see me like this, Angel. They feel more secure when they think of me as cold and inhumanly certain of myself.**

**I'm not the others, beloved. You know you don't have to hide yourself from me.**

**I know. I love you.**

**I love you, too. Her vitals are stable; you can sleep now.**

**Only if you'll sit in my lap. I'm not leaving her. Not until she asks me to.**

Sarah smiled and moved to settle into Setsuna's lap, slipping her arms around her and kissing her gently as she felt her lover relax in her embrace.

"Reverend Diamond, your actions have demonstrated that your allegiance is not to the Christ you claim to serve, or even to the Christ presented to us by those who have attempted to replace our faith with theirs." Neo-Queen Serenity stood, looking down at Reverend Diamond and his deacons, who were kept on their knees only by the pressure of Senshi hands on their shoulders. Her voice was regal, and as cold and implacable as a glacier.

"You have committed murder on a scale rarely conceived of in human history. Because of your actions, the Earth will not be habitable for the next thousand years - and will only become habitable then with much effort by those of us who remain.

"I would impose as punishment the requirement that you put forth the same effort into healing the world as you have into destroying it. However, the evil you have done - the evil you serve - shows me that you cannot be trusted to do so without repeating your crimes. Your actions have shown you are unfit to live in this world."

Diamond and his followers cringed at Serenity's pronouncement, while Sailor Mercury, Sailor Mars, and Sailor Uranus developed cold and menacing smiles.

"However," Serenity continued, after pausing long enough to allow the prisoners plenty of opportunity to see the desire for their deaths in her Senshi's eyes, "we, unlike you, do not murder. Since you are not fit to live in this world, we have found one for you; one that is suited to your evil hearts. If you use the same effort to make it habitable that you used to make this world unlivable, it will be your world. If you do not, it will be your grave. The choice is yours.

"You have until this time tomorrow to provide Sailor Mercury with a list of those things you will need in your new home. Every item she approves will be sent with you when we transport you to Nemesis. Perhaps, one day, your descendants will turn from your evil and earn the right to return to Earth."

Serenity turned her back on the prisoners and glided to her throne. One of the deacons, a man they called Emerald, leapt to his feet and pointed at Serenity's back.

"Whore! Jezebel! The Lord demands your-!"

His voice was drowned out by the cries of Sailors Mercury and Mars as they fired into him. Sailor Mercury's Mercury Hail Storm shredded his flesh, and Sailor Mars' Fire Soul charred what was left. As the man's body fell, it turned into the same black dust that Deacon Ruby's body had crumbled into.

Serenity sat on her throne and looked down at Diamond.

"You have 24 hours to make your requests. I suggest you make the most of them."

With a nod to Sailor Venus, Serenity indicated the court was over. The Senshi removed the prisoners, and Serenity slumped, drawing Endymion from his throne to gather her into his arms.

"I'll be ok," she whispered, looking up at him with a tired smile. "It's see so much evil in humans."

"I know. I'm proud of you, my love. I don't know if I could have been so restrained." Endymion gazed into Serenity's eyes, lost in his love for her. "Why did you inflict them on Ami?"

"She has to deal with her anger. If she lets it control her, it'll destroy her." Serenity murmured sadly. "I'm hoping that my trust will make her realize that there's more to her than her anger. I hope...."

"Yes. I understand. I'll talk with the others."

"Thank you, Mamo-chan. I...." Serenity held tightly to her husband for a moment, gaining strength from his love. She started laughing softly, and murmured, looking up with tears in her eyes, "Now I understand why Fred spends so much time angry in Bill's stories."

"I always thought it was because he felt he was trapped into being Prince," Endymion murmured gently, a small smile on his own face. "Of course, you could consider destiny a trap, if you really want."

"Only if you're the bait, my love." Serenity sighed softly and wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. "We have to hold a funeral for him. And we don't have a priest of his faith to do it."

"We could bring one," Endymion suggested. "Setsuna knows where they are."

"I wish we could, but it's taking all I have to make it safe for us to be active. I don't know what those American bombs had in them, but it feels as if they're trying to suck the life right out of the Earth. Where it's touching the energy we used yesterday, it you remember Snow Kaguya?"

"I do. I remember thinking that what she did was a lot like what Crystal Tokyo looked like the first time we saw it."

"I think that's's happening now. The energy from those American bombs is mixing with the energy we used to save the planet to freeze everything, just like she tried to do. I can feel it happening."

"David? Is it happening the way Serenity feels it?"

"It is. Everywhere outside of a one mile radius of the Throne Room is at an average temperature of 50 Kelvin. I can only assume the temperature and air pressure we're experiencing here is because of Serenity's power. As it is, the only systems I'm able to communicate with outside the Palace are other MacManuses. And there's not very many of them. So the only places I can get direct readings from are in Missouri, New Mexico, and North Carolina. I have to rely on satellite data for the rest of the planet."

"Why those places?"

"Dad's sister, his mother, and Gwen. Speaking of which, you might want to talk to Becky, Sarah, and Rusty about the funeral, too. Especially Becky. I don't think anyone's even told her he's dead yet."

"Oh, shit," Serenity whispered. "And she hardly knows any Japanese. Maybe Setsuna? Or . . ." her eyes lit up hopefully. "Ami. Talking about him should help her cope. Do you think that'll work, Muffin?"

"It can't hurt, Dumpling. David, see to it as soon as Ami's processed Diamond's requests."

"Papa? Mama? May I join you?" Hotaru called out when the sounds of music paused, standing at the door to Michiru and Haruka's chambers.

"Come in, Hotaru," Michiru's voice answered from the darkness. "We're by the piano."

Hotaru joined the couple, finding her way across the room unerringly in the darkness. Haruka silently slid to one end of the bench so Hotaru could sit beside her. Michiru set her violin aside and joined the others on the bench. The trio sat quietly for a minute, simply taking comfort in each other's presence.

"It's not fair," Hotaru whispered sadly. "First Usagi left, now Bill's gone. Who else are we going to lose? I wish I could just go to sleep until she returns...."

Michiru stroked Hotaru's hair soothingly and looked over her head at Haruka, who was holding back tears of her own. It was one of the things that had made her and Bill so much alike: the fear that revealing their true feelings would somehow affect how their friends saw them - and their blindness to the truth that the revelation would only make them loved more.

"I know, sweetie, but if you go to sleep, how are you going to lead us? We need you as much as you need her. Our love for you isn't the same as your love for her, but it's just as strong." Michiru squeezed Hotaru gently as she spoke. The younger woman sobbed quietly against her breast.

**Say something to her, my love. She's your daughter, too.**

**What can I say? That I understand how she feels, and it doesn't get any better - not until you're with the one you love again?**

**I won't let her do what you did, Haruka. I'll do whatever I have to, to prevent it.**

**Do you think I'd let her? I don't think she will, but hearing her wish for the long sleep is scary.**

**I know. If Bill hadn't gotten himself killed, so soon after Small Lady went home, he could have helped.**

** Stupid . . .**

". . . stupid... stupid big brother!" Haruka yelled, bringing her fist crashing down against the keyboard cover. " Why did you have to get yourself killed? Damn you! We need you! Why didn't you wear better armor?"

Haruka lowered her head to the piano, joining Hotaru in tears. Hearing her words, Hotaru's sobs grew more intense. Michiru bit back her own tears and extended a hand to her lover, offering what comfort she could. Bill had been a friend to her, but like a big brother to both Hotaru and Haruka. She hoped that their love for each other would help both of them make it.

"Ami?" Becky knocked on the wall beside Bill and Ami's chambers and called into the room. "Serenity asked me to come give you a hand with some administrative stuff."

"Ami is dead." The flat, toneless voice that came from the darkness sounded like it could be Ami's, but its emptiness was so unlike her that Becky couldn't be sure. "If the Queen says I need help, you're welcome to assist."

Becky stepped into the room, looking around to try and make out who was there. The only illumination was the flickering light of Ami's computer screen.

"Ami? Why is it so dark in here? And what's this about you being dead?" Becky made her way carefully across the room, wondering why Ami was in her Sailor Mercury uniform.

"Mizuno Ami is dead. She died yesterday on the east steps of the Palace. I am Sailor Mercury. Nothing more." Sailor Mercury looked up from her computer, studying Becky with eyes as dead as her voice.

Becky moved around the table and placed her hands on Sailor Mercury's shoulders. When her friend didn't respond, she shook her gently, until her hands were gently and firmly removed.

"Don't do that. It interferes with my concentration."

"I'll do it if I have to. You are not dead. You are Mizuno Ami. You are married to my . . ." Becky's voice trailed off when Sailor Mercury reacted to her words as if she'd been kicked in the gut. Without another thought, she wrapped her arms around her friend and hugged her tightly. "What happened, Ami? Tell me? Please?"

"Ami is dead," Sailor Mercury whispered bitterly. "She died with her husband, on the east steps of the Palace. As long as the Queen needs Sailor Mercury, I will remain."

"Bill's dead? How did that happen?" Becky wavered between her need to know and her need to help her friend. The pain in Sailor Mercury's eyes made her choice an easy one. "It's ok, Ami. You don't have to talk about it."

"It was 11am. Sailor Uranus had assigned Sailor Mercury, Sailor Mars, Sailor Jupiter, and Sailor Venus to stay with Neo-Queen Serenity and guard her and Small Lady in case any of the enemy found a way past the Palace defenders. She had assigned the Demon Hunter to support the defenders at the east entrance. When the attack came, it included droids among the regular soldiers. The Demon Hunter destroyed the droid that had been among the attacking soldiers. Immediately after killing the droid, he was killed by Rubeus. I hunted down and killed Rubeus." Sailor Mercury made her report with less emotion than she'd use to report a change in temperature.

" . . .," Becky murmured, hugging Sailor Mercury tightly and crying for both of them. "You...listen to me, Ami." She gripped Sailor Mercury's shoulders and pushed her back so she could look into her eyes. "You can't do this to yourself. You're killing yourself, doing this."

"If I die, I'll be with him," Sailor Mercury said, as if it were a self-evident mathematical formula.

"Not if you kill everything about yourself that he loved. Not if you kill your spirit. Is the way you are right now the way you'd want him to see you?"

"My spirit is already dead. If there is such a thing. He's the only one who could bring it back, and he's gone. Even Fluorite couldn't find him."

"Even Fluorite? That's...gone." Becky winced as her comment brought a fresh flash of pain to Sailor Mercury's eyes. She grasped at a thread of an idea and spoke before she could think of any objections. "Ami? Tell me about how you met him. Please?"

"It was February 6, 2000. We were fighting with an oni, when Sailor Uranus was caught by one of its tentacles and thrown into one of the supports of the Tokyo Tower...."

"We all have our own memories of what he was like," Serenity said. "I didn't plan anything formal, so we could talk about whatever we remember the best. I don't think I'll ever forget the first time he told me my professors were wrong."

There was laughter from several points around the room, as people remembered the shouting match that had ensued. For a few minutes, it had sounded like one of the fights Usagi and Rei engaged in so frequently. When Usagi had stalked out of Ami and Bill's house, they'd placed bets on how long it would be before the two of them were talking again. What had surprised them all was how quickly she was back, firing questions at him that had made no sense to most of them - and had surprised them by explaining what she meant in ways that showed she'd actually been paying attention in her classes.

"If I remember right," Haruka called out, laughing, "he told you your professors were so full of shit their eyes were brown."

"Yeah, then he told you that you'd have to be an idiot to believe them," Rei said. "I thought you were going to blow your odango right off your head."

"I didn't get that steamed," Serenity laughed. "Well, all right, maybe I did get a little steamed. But he knew even less about politics and government than I did, and he still said that."

"That sounds like our sparring," Endymion said with a smile. "I don't know what style he practiced - or if he practiced any style at all - but even after I'd beat him, he'd come back for more. It was only in real combats that he never lost."

"That sounds like the time Ami took him to play tennis," Makoto laughed. "Every time she'd serve him, he'd knock the ball into orbit, like it was a grenade or something. He was so apologetic, it was comical, but I don't think she ever did get him to keep the ball within the court. Did you, Ami?"

"No," Sailor Mercury murmured. "I never did. I finally quit trying after he'd replaced over a dozen tubes of tennis balls. His instinctive reaction to a flying object was to treat it as an attack - and he never overcame that instinct."

Sailor Mercury looked around the room as her friends and family ate Makoto's cooking, drank, and talked about the man she loved. They're trying to make it better. Why can't I feel it? I feel like I'm just a mask; like there's nothing left inside me, now that he's gone. Minako stood beside her and said something. Sailor Mercury responded automatically, not caring all that much if what she said made sense. They're going to keep trying to "help" me get over this. Maybe if I pretend I'm ok, they'll stop trying. It'll save them some pain.

Sailor Mercury smiled weakly when Becky stopped to talk. The look of relief on her face when she moved on convinced her that it was the right thing to do. All she had to do was remember to not appear to recover too quickly, or they'd suspect - and start trying to "help" her again.

Setsuna touched her arm gently, reminding her that she was there. Her daughter was the only one of all of them who understood how empty she was - and who accepted it without trying to fix her. With a heavy sigh, Sailor Mercury leaned against her daughter and murmured a quiet thanks, secure in her knowledge that Setsuna would support her for as long as the wake lasted - and beyond, as long as she needed someone who would accept the emptiness in her heart without question.

Disclaimer: Sailor Moon, Sailor Senshi, and all terms, names, etc. associated with the series are copyrighted by Naoko Takeuchi and Kodansha. I make no claim to them and this work of fanfiction should not be seen as making a claim.

Those characters and concepts that are original, the Crystal Kingdom Archives, and the story "Forsaken Heart", are copyrighted 2000 by Bill Hartwell.Rated: PG-13

Back to the archives