DISCLAIMER: I own Carol, her father, and the demons. Nothing else.
AN: This chapter is dedicated to small876 for sending a PM a couple weeks ago which praised this story and requested an update, which Carol and Usagi promptly translated to "Get off your lazy ass and write, Yami! People are waiting for the next chapter!" Thank you, small876, for bringing Usa out of hiding so I could write.
I used to make up stories when I was little. Stories about princes with dark hair and princesses who saved the day. I think I had the girls saving everyone because all the policemen or firefighters I ever saw were male. I wanted something different. My "invisible friend" played with me too. I called her "Princess Moons" because of the way she wore her hair. One time Kaa-san asked me why I called her that and that led to my current "Odango-Atama" hairstyle. If I've told Rei once, I've told her a hundred times: DON'T CALL ME THAT! IT'S MEAN!
I've spent most of the day babysitting Shingo. Ick. I guess I'm glad Okaa-san and Otou-san think I'm grownup enough to be able to watch him, but I kinda wish they didn't. He's discovered the foreign film section at the video store and is renting all the Walt Disney DVDs he can. "Snow White" was nice the first time, but not so much the tenth. WHY won't he pick another movie?!
Now back to this diary so he won't be nosy… In some of the stories, Princess Moons and I would pretend to be sisters who saved the day, usually from some evil overlord who was based off some bratty kid from the neighborhood or preschool. We did this every day for… a long time. I can't say in terms of months or years because you don't really keep track of those kinds of things when you're a little kid. I didn't, anyway. Ami might have.
I think I stopped playing with Princess Moons and focused on the "real world" about halfway through preschool. That was when I met Naru. Some of the boys were picking on me for my "moon hair" and she chased them away and told me she liked my hair. She's been taking care of me since then. If she isn't sharing her lunch, she's at least trying to help me with my homework or keeping me from spending every last yen at the arcade. She's been looking after me for almost ten years.
Naru's my best friend.
Usagi smiled as she read over the old entry. She had been fourteen and it was before the Senshi had found the Silver Crystal, but just after Makoto had joined their group. "I can't believe she took me back so fast," she whispered to herself. Naru truly was amazing: after being ignored for nearly five full years, she was still willing to take back a childhood friend.
"What was that, Usagi-chan?" The blonde jumped; she'd forgotten Naru was still in their bedroom, working on her biology homework while Usagi had been flipping back through her diary.
"I can't believe you took me back so fast," Usagi repeated, turning to look at her friend and grinning at the sight of her buried under textbooks. "I ignored you for five years and you still took care of me when I was smart enough to ask for help."
"Of course I did," Naru replied, puzzled. "You've been my best friend for as long as I can remember. You just got a bit sidetracked for a while and stuck me in the back of your mind. It wasn't like you'd decided we weren't gonna be friends anymore when Mizuno-san and the others showed up at Juuban."
"I'm still grateful," Usagi answered.
Naru, seeing how close her friend was to slipping into melancholy, reached over and gave her a tight hug. "You'd do the same for me and you know it," she said, trying not to wince and the textbooks shifted and wrapped around or dug into her lower half. "Best friends forever, remember? Even best friends need some time apart. We've had our time apart and now we're back together."
"Okay," the blonde agreed, glad she could understand Naru's selflessness a bit better now. She had once been as selfless, according to her friends… But those days were over. Friends were very important, but now she looked out for herself too. Just now, Naru was the only one she'd really risk absolutely everything for, the way she once would have for the Senshi.
Then she noticed Naru was still holding and leaning on her. "Are you gonna get off?" she asked.
"No," Naru giggled. "I'm stuck. My homework trapped me."
Usagi twisted to see that her friend's legs were trapped as she claimed and then joined in the giggles.
Carol sighed and sat up. She'd been daydreaming in the gardens of Elysion since the sun was low in the sky and now it was getting low toward the other side of the sky.
"Helios, I'm gonna go now," she called, feeling the angry eyes of the Shrine Maidens burning into her back though the two were nowhere in sight. They really don't like me, she thought in amusement. Then again, I'm half-demon and they love purity and sweetness and everything demons try to destroy. Guess I can't blame them. But it sure makes my visits suck. "I've been here almost a full twenty-four hours and I think I've spent enough time away from reality."
"Are you sure, Carol?" the priest asked, leaving the shrine and hurrying over to his friend. "I mean, you've been pretty unstable lately and if this is helping, then—" She stopped him with two fingers against his lips.
"I'm as fine as I can get," the woman reassured him. "Part of the instability was my use of Moon magic. You ought to know by now that if I use one magic it makes my other inheritance act up." She gave her best friend a bitter smile. "I should've been born without magic instead of two that exist to try to destroy the other."
He sighed as she took her hand away, still worried. "It'll be dark when you get back and you'll probably be in a back alley. The moon's almost full so you'll have light, Moonlight Guardian."
Carol made a face. "Just because I'm protective of my sister, you don't have to call me names."
"But I thought you liked this one," Helios said, mock-surprised. "You didn't object last time." Carol growled and swiped at him, knowing her hand wouldn't connect. Sure enough, the young man stepped just out of range, playing a game they'd begun centuries before. "Can't catch me, blondie," he laughed, turning and running back up the path he'd just come down. "Blondie" quickly pursued, knowing he would either let her catch him or simply pull her from Elysion back onto Earth, signaling a pause in the game.
After a few seconds and Helios arriving at "base"—the bottom step of the shrine—, the world tilted and spun in Carol's vision, making her woozy. She stopped running and stood still, hoping it would help her vision. When she could see again, she was staring at the dreary brick walls of a back alley.
"That's cheating, you stupid Pegasus," she muttered before turning and heading out of the alley to find landmarks and then her way home.
The Moon shone bright in the sky above.
Minako frowned, lost in thought as she traversed the busy sidewalks. Something felt wrong, something that went beyond the simple loss of the Princess and Senshi leader. Was another enemy going to appear soon? She hoped not; Chaos had nearly broken everyone's spirits and that was with Usagi around to make them all feel better. Not only was it impossible for her to imagine an enemy worse than Chaos, it was impossible to believe the Senshi, who had done little more than nod in passing with each other for months, would be able to work together without getting in one another's way and creating worse rifts than already existed.
I'm supposed to be the leader, aren't I? Minako thought to herself. Sure, there hasn't been even a hint of a youma for months, but that doesn't mean we can let ourselves get so out of practice. It just means we'll be slaughtered when the next danger does come. Maybe one would never come, maybe the rest of her life would be peaceful, if lonely. But maybe there would come another enemy. What would they do then? The others could call her paranoid if they liked, but being ready and looking over her shoulder would save at least her own skin.
In the middle of the sidewalk, the blonde suddenly stopped dead, earning grumbles from those who nearly hit her and other passersby. Deaf to the physical world, the leader of the Inner Senshi coldly analyzed the situation and balance between the physical and metaphysical worlds. There was a horrible, gaping wound in the barrier between the two and something was pouring through. Not being a "true psychic"—she had just a drop of Other Sight—, the warrior was unable to See where these threats were landing in this world, but she knew where to get the answers.
Her decision to hunt down Rei and Ami was changed for her the millisecond the first, piercing scream of terror rang out.
Ami's head jerked up from her notebook, adrenaline pumping for no good reason. Without a second thought, she reached into the sub-space pocket where she kept her Mercury computer. As she flipped it open and set it to global scanning mode, she realized she had been half-expecting something like this to happen for months on a subconscious level. Sadly, she had not thought to keep up her former physical strength as a Senshi.
I'll just have to keep from getting hit, she swore to herself as her computer signaled that it had found a rip in the fabric of the world.
"Kuso, that's too close," she muttered to herself as she tore out of her room and nearly out of the apartment, shoving the tiny bit of otherworldly technology into her jeans pocket so she could stuff her feet into shoes. "Kaa-san, I'm going out!"
"Just a moment, Ami," an older woman demanded as her daughter tried to swallow a groan and her impatience to be out fighting. She couldn't just sit at home, getting a lecture, while there were innocent people being hurt, possibly dying. The stakes just got higher and higher with each new enemy and subsequent victim. "We need to have a talk about these odd hours of yours."
"Kaasan, can we do this later?" Ami begged, urgency rising within her as Sailor Mercury began to awaken, demanding the blissful release of combat. "There's something really important that I need to do now. I'm going to be too late if I stay here."
Her mother apparently couldn't hear the desperation in Ami's voice because she continued, implacable as ever. "We do have a whiteboard and calendar for daily schedules, remember, Ami?" The woman pointed to the whiteboard with its black marker that was accusatory in its blankness.
The one time I wish my mother had a meeting, Ami thought resentfully as she answered. "It's a last minute thing," she said honestly. "I only found out today—" it was getting dark out, the skyscrapers blocking the sun. Did that still technically count as "day"? "—and I forgot to write it on the board." Sure, I'm going to write "Senshi battles: finish time unknown" on the board. I can just see the padded white room now. "So may I go?"
The doctor frowned, but apparently her daughter's distress had become obvious. "This gathering is that important to you?"
"Hai, Kaasan, it is." I couldn't stress how important if I had to. I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I missed this and we lost everything we've worked for.
"All right," her mother sighed. "Remember to write it down next time," she warned. "I want to know where you are. Don't stay out too late."
"I won't," she promised, her voice drowning in gratitude. As she shoved on her shoes, an impulse seized her. Praying the few seconds wouldn't make too much of a difference, she raced over to her mother and hugged her tightly. "I love you, Okaasan. I love you so much."
Before her mother had a chance to respond or her mind to even accept this unfamiliar behavior, Ami was gone, racing down the hall and stairs for a back alley to find precious release.
Rei was sitting in a booth at the Crown, waiting for Mamoru, considering her speech very carefully. I can't just say "I'm breaking up with you" because he'll want a reason and he's one that will never believe me if I say "The Sacred Fire got mad at me." He'd think it's an excuse. So how am I going to go about this? If I sit through another date with him, he'll probably charm his way into us staying a couple. But I can't just dump him the second he walks in. I'd feel too guilty and he'd still want a reason.
A moment later, her planning was put off indefinitely by her communicator and sixth sense going off simultaneously.
"Rei here," she said automatically into the small device as she began to search for this new problem.
"One group middle of city, second in the subway, third in Juuban Park," the blonde said, all in one breath. Rei was shocked to see a thin trail of blood down the Senshi's cheek and the ice of her eyes. "All want blood. Which do you want?"
"Subway," she replied instantly, already moving out of the booth and towards the back room Motoki had set aside for the Senshi's quick exits years ago. "Everything's either fire-proof or extremely flammable. I'll be careful. Anyone else coming?"
"Mercury's on her way to the first group. Her computer can isolate the enemy and keep track of individual ones, she said," the Senshi answered after a moment of what Rei could only assume was fighting. "Mako's not answering her communicator and neither are the Outers."
Rei swore upon finding the door locked and Motoki nowhere in sight. "I'll get there as soon as I can," she promised, turning around to race out of the store and down the street to find a safe place if she had to. "See you when this is all over." Then she shoved the small device back in her pocket and swore again, seeing Mamoru heading her way and not looking happy.
"Were you trying to stand me up?" he demanded. "I thought—"
"No, baka, we have a problem," Rei interrupted. "I need to get to the subway and I need to be there now."
"Why?" Mamoru demanded belligerently. "If you wanted to cancel, you should have told me."
"This isn't about us!" the miko screeched. "It's about youma!"
The man just blinked, completely sideswiped. "Nani?"
"Your bond was entirely to her, wasn't it?" Rei realized. "Before there was Sailor Moon, Tuxedo Kamen just wandered around unless he found something, didn't he? You only came to the fights because she was there and in danger. You have no idea what's going on."
"I won't unless you tell me," he snapped, annoyed that his 'girlfriend' had to speak so cryptically and bring up something she had decreed to leave dead.
"Youmas are attacking, jackass," she retorted, voice dripping acid. "Something is attacking every human it can find and you are in my way. Find another girlfriend. I don't think even the ever-forgiving Usagi would date the person you've become." Then Rei quickly sidestepped her ex and raced out of sight, Sailor Mars heading for the subway.
Mamoru just stared ahead in shock. Had a few stupid words and an over-inflated sense of pride really created such a change in his personality?
Usako, please come back to me.
Makoto sat in her apartment, turning the glowing pen over and over in her hands, oblivious to everything around her for several hours running. Food was not important, neither was sleep. What she needed was the why her henshin pen was glowing with a pulsating green light. She had noticed than whenever she thought about being Sailor Jupiter, the aura of light grew brighter, as though the pen approved of her thought patterns. When she thought about rejecting being a Senshi, the light dulled until it was practically gone. She would quickly go back to thinking other things about being a Senshi; she knew she couldn't afford for the light to die.
She only knew the communicator had gone off when the brightness grew nigh unbearable; her winter clothes had been replaced by a familiar, if cold, outfit; and she could hear her leader shouting for her.
It only took moments for Sailor Jupiter to go back to her duty.
AN: And there lies the end! Sorry I took so long, Carol sorta took all the Senshi off to some sort of secret slumber party for the last year and a half. Glares at Carol No fight scene because I suck at those, though I can almost guarantee there will be one next chapter.
Minor preview: The brooch lay where she'd thrown it, all those months ago, a glowing and silent reproach. Guess who?