Usagi smiled kindly at the old woman. "It really does suit you! You should get it!"
The customer smiled uncertainly and turned her head. "Do you really think so? You don't think it makes me look too old?" She fingered the huge purple hat on her head, reading the price tag in the mirror. "Oh! Look at that price!"
Usagi clutched her hands. "What? Is it too high?"
"Oh, no just the opposite! I was expecting it to be much more!"
"Well then, you should be doubly happy. It really looks nice on you."
The woman's face firmed with determination. "That's it! I'm going to buy it!"
Usagi patted her on the back. "That's the spirit! Why else would you go shopping?"
"Why else indeed." As Usagi led the woman to the cash register, she reached out and patted Usagi on her shoulder. "You're such a sweet thing, my dear. Thank you so much for helping me out." She leaned in close and looked around to make sure no one else was listening. "Most store employees don't do that sort of thing anymore, but they should. I'm going to shop here from now on, because of you."
Usagi smiled gently. "That's very nice of you." She punched a few buttons on the cash register, being careful to check she pushed everything in correctly. Thank goodness she just had to push the buttons, and didn't have to deal with figuring out the tax and such by herself! The drawer opened and the old woman handed her some money. As she fished out the woman's change she looked up and smiled at her again. "You come back anytime you want, and I'll be happy to help you again." She held out a handful of coins. The woman took her change and her new hat and left the store with a small bounce in her step. Usagi smiled wistfully after her. It felt good to make someone happy. Her job may not be the most important in the world, but she was content with it. She couldn't help but feel a little out of her depth, though. After all, sometime in the future she was supposed to take over the duties of a queen. That thought was daunting! She stared out the door of the store and put her hands in her pockets. She sure didn't feel up to anything like that now.
"Tsukino-san!" She jumped and looked behind her. "What are doing? Just staring off into space?" Usagi bowed in apology to her supervisor, and peeked around her toward the cash register. She gulped. Oh no. There was a line! She hadn't been paying attention. With a quick bow and muttered apology she scurried forward to help the annoyed customers.
Usagi wiped her forehead and sighed. That was the last of them. The line had grown to ten people before she'd started serving them. She'd apologized profusely to each customer, and it seemed her friendly personality had won most of them over. Hopefully the front office wouldn't receive too many complaints about her. She looked around, but no one else appeared to need help, so she walked back to the center aisle and stared outside again. It was almost lunch time. Her stomach growled softly, warning her she couldn't put food off for much longer.
"Usagi?" That voice sounded familiar. She hadn't heard it in a while.
"Setsuna! What are you doing here?" She smiled. "You can't be buying clothes here. We're not that stylish a store."
Setsuna didn't smile at the gentle joke. Her eyes were hard and suspiciously bright. "Usagi-chan, it's time."
She tilted her head and tried not to become annoyed. She hated it when Setsuna got all cryptic like this. "Time for what?"
Setsuna looked out the window Usagi had been gazing through. "It's almost time for you to become queen."
"What? What are you saying, Setsuna?"
"Technically, I'm breaking the rules, giving you warning like this, Princess, but the attack will come soon, and with no warning."
"When? How soon? Let me know so I can stop them!"
Setsuna shook her head. "That, I cannot do. You can't stop them before the attack, or too many things will change." She looked down. "My time as Setsuna is over, just as your time as Tsukino Usagi is drawing to a close." She held her hands folded together. They looked serene and calm, but when Usagi grabbed ahold of them they were rigid and cold as stone. She looked into Usagi's eyes, and this time Usagi gasped as she actually saw tears. "I think we'll both look back on this time with longing, the rest of our lives. But it's over. I-I enjoyed my time here, living in the world, almost living a normal life. It gives me something to fight for. I wanted to give you some warning, Usagi. Go home. Spend time with your family and friends. Warn the inner senshi. I've already spoken to Michiru, Haruka, and Hotaru."
Usagi nodded sadly, too stunned for any other reaction. As Setsuna pulled away she revived and snatched at Setsuna's hands again. "Wait! Setsuna! You're my friend! Why don't you come with me too?"
"I'm sorry, Princess. I have to get back to the Time Door before this all happens. Goodbye." She disengaged her hand from Usagi's grip and turned away, to walk slowly out the door. Usagi stood in the aisle for a minute, frozen into immobility. She couldn't believe it. She and Mamoru had only been married for a few years as normal people, and already they were supposed to become a king and queen?
"Tsukino-san! Why are you just standing there! You should get back to work!" Usagi jumped again and nearly tripped over her own feet. She turned, Setsuna's words still spinning in her head.
"I can't work. I have to go home," she began.
"You can't go home!" Her supervisor's face turned red with anger. "It's not even time for lunch yet!"
Usagi gave her a blank stare, then turned and walked out of the store.
"Usako! Why are you calling? Is everything okay at work?" Mamoru couldn't stifle faint stirrings of alarm at the worry in her voice. She called him at work all the time, but usually it was simply to chat during lunch. Her tone indicated that wasn't the case this time. He hoped it was something minor again, though to his Usako, forgetting her lunch was hardly a minor problem. "I'm not at work, Mamo-chan."
"You're not? What's wrong?" He felt his voice rising, and a few of the other people in the lab looked at him in surprise.
"Setsuna paid me a visit at the store. Mamo-chan, it-" she stopped speaking for a second, and suddenly Mamoru knew what she was going to say, "-it's almost time. She gave me warning so I could gather my family and...my family and my friends." She was crying, he could hear it over the line. His Usako was crying. "Oh, Mamo-chan, I don't think they're going to make it. She didn't say they wouldn't, but...but why tell me to go see them if they do?"
Mamoru didn't have to wait to hear any more. "I'll be right home, Usako."
She was crying so hard now that he could barely understand her. "Thank you, Mamo-chan. I know how important your research is to you..."
Not nearly as important as her...or the approaching tragedy. "I'll be right there. Don't worry." He dropped the phone and strode out of the research lab without a backward glance.
"Okaa-san? Is that you?"
"Usagi?" Ikuko heard devastating sadness in her daughter's voice and stifled panic. She knew it, she just knew it. Her daughter had married so young, right out of high school, and she'd known it couldn't last. Things had finally gone wrong with their marriage. She steadied herself for the storm of weeping to come. "What's wrong, mesume?"
"Kaa-san, would you come to dinner at our place tonight, with Otou-san and Shingo?"
"Honey, is everything all right with you and Mamoru?"
She heard a sniff, and could almost picture her daughter struggling for control. "Everything's fine. I just received some bad news about...a friend. That's all. Oh, and tell Shingo to bring Mika if he wants to."
"That's quite a crowd to cook for!"
"Don't worry, Kaa-san, Mako-chan will be cooking the dinner. You won't have to bring any food." Ikuko raised her eyebrows at that bit of news, then sighed. Her daughter must have a reason for this, but she'd probably have to wait until she got there tonight to talk to her.
"We'll be there, Usagi."
"I love you, okaa-san."
Now what had brought that on? What was happening to her daughter? "I love you too, musume."
Makoto was worried. Usagi hadn't sounded good over the phone. Something was seriously wrong. She rang the doorbell and fidgeted with her grocery bag in front of their apartment door, waiting for an answer. Mamoru opened the door and motioned for her to come in. He seemed subdued as well, and Mako-chan swallowed her worry down. If the mood was this somber, she'd have to do some amazing cooking to cheer things back up. Mamoru walked toward their little kitchenette, and Makoto followed. As she walked through the living room she found Usagi sitting on her couch, crying over a picture of her family, putting her hands up against the glass covering as if they were real behind it. She took a step toward her friend, but Mamoru touched her shoulder before she could get any closer and slowly shook his head.
"Why don't you bring the groceries into the kitchen first, Makoto, then talk to her. We have something to tell you."
She nodded, curious and frightened by their odd behavior, and began to get everything ready for dinner. Mamoru helped her silently while Usagi still wept in the living room. Finally she worked up the courage to ask, "What's going on, Mamoru?"
He looked up at her with mournful eyes. "Usagi's family's coming over for dinner, so you'll be cooking for six, maybe seven if Shingo brings Mika."
Makoto filed that important fact away, but didn't let herself be sidetracked. "What's going on, though, Mamoru? What's wrong?"
"Are you ready in here?"
Makoto sighed with annoyance and swept her gaze around the kitchen. "Yes, until it's closer to dinner time. I'm all set for now."
He took her hand and began to lead her back to the living room, back to the still sobbing Usagi. "Let's talk, then." He leaned down and planted a gentle kiss on Usagi's forehead. She sniffed and looked up at him. "Makoto needs to know, Usagi. You already told the others."
Makoto's friend nodded and moved to the middle of the couch. Mamoru and Makoto sat on either side of her. She turned to Mako-chan and grabbed her hands in an intense grip. "Setsuna came to visit me at work today."
Mako-chan stifled her annoyance and kept her voice calm. "That's nice, Usagi, but I don't see-"
"She told me it's almost time for the attack."
Mako-chan tensed. "Attack? What att-" She stopped as realization washed over her and stared at Usagi in horror. "You don't mean it's time..." Usagi sniffed again and nodded. "Kami-sama! That's why you're having your family over! But I don't understand, why didn't you invite the others here tonight too?"
Usagi threw her arms around Mako-chan's neck. "Gomen, but they all have families, Mako-chan. You don't have anyone, so I just invited you over here without telling you first. Minako's flown her parents here from Kyoto, Rei and Yuuichiro took her grandfather out of the nursing home for the next week, and Ami invited both of her parents over. Gomen nasai, Mako-chan."
Makoto felt herself shaking with shock and fear. She lifted trembling arms up to embrace Usagi back. "Don't apologize, Usagi-chan. You are my family. I'd rather be here than anyplace else. But shouldn't the others be here to protect you from the attack?"
"I couldn't ask them to leave their families, Mako-chan."
Makoto felt her icy self-control melt away, and she buried her face in Usagi's shoulder to sob. Who would survive? Who would die?
Kenji struggled to contain his anger. Ikuko had told him that Usagi had denied anything was wrong between his little girl and Mamoru, but he wasn't going to take his daughter's words at face value. Why else would Usagi have been crying? If that young man had done anything to Usagi...
Ikuko shot him a warning glance as she rang the apartment bell. He unclenched his fist with an embarrassed smile. Shingo and Mika were hanging back a few feet, whispering something to each other. Shingo hadn't wanted to come, but Ikuko had been so worried by her daughter's sudden call that she'd forced him to come. He'd been more willing when she'd told him that Mika was invited as well. Kenji couldn't help wondering what this was all about. Enticing aromas wafted his way as the door began to open. Mamoru looked at the four people arrayed before him in the hall silently for a second, the backed up to let them all in. Kenji let everyone go through before him, then, as his son-in-law closed the door he turned to face him.
"What's going on here, Mamoru? Why was Usagi crying when she called?"
Mamoru smiled faintly. "Why don't you ask her, sir. I'm helping Makoto with the cooking."
"Why isn't Usagi helping?" Kenji asked, not thinking. Mamoru shot him a shocked look and Kenji remembered some of his daughter's attempted meals when she'd still lived at home. "Oh, forget I asked that question." His son-in-law nodded and went back into the kitchen to chop vegetables while Makoto tended the myriad dishes on the stove. Kenji looked around and saw that his wife was already seated next to Usagi on the couch. He walked over and sat down next to them, placing an arm protectively over his two beautiful women.
"What's wrong, musume?" Ikuko asked softly.
Usagi looked up at both of them with a brittle, wet smile. "Nothing's wrong, okaa-san, otou-san. I just wanted to see you all. That's all."
Kenji considered asking about Mamoru, but decided Ikuko could probably get more out of his daughter. He decided to simply encourage her instead. "You can tell us, honey. Please? We're your parents. We care about you. We want to help you, if we can."
Usagi's eyes teared up again, and with a broken sob she flung herself into Kenji's arms. "I love you too, Papa. I'll never stop." Kenji looked over his daughter's head into his wife's eyes, pleading for a reason for his little girl to be acting this way. Ikuko shrugged, as confused as he was. He lowered his head to rest his chin on the top of his daughter's head and held her close, hoping she could tell them what was going on eventually.
At first the meal was a strained, silent affair. Shingo was confused by Makoto-san's presence...he knew she was Usagi's friend, but wasn't this a family affair? Makoto, Usagi, and Mamoru all knew something, and it hung over their heads like black clouds. After a few more minutes of impenetrable silence Mika nudged him in the ribs and shot him a sideways look.
"So..." he blurted, then hesitated, searching for something to say. "...how're you and Mamoru doin', Usagi?" He received a surreptitious pummeling from his mother's direction, along with a muttered command to steer clear of that subject. His sister looked up from her plate, almost clean already, to give him a watery and confused look.
"Fine," she said, then looked over at her husband. He looked back at her, and Shingo was forced to agree from the look in their eyes that everything was definitely fine in that quarter. He racked his brain for some other, safer subject to introduce. "Boy, Makoto-san, this meal sure tastes great! You'll have to cook for us more often from now on."
Makoto jerked her head up to pin him down with a startled stare. Her fork dropped from limp fingers to clatter down against her glass plate. Everyone winced at the loud clatter it made, and he heard Mika sigh with relief that the plate didn't shatter from the blow. Mika had always possessed a deep appreciation for ceramics because of her porcelain dolls. "...'from now on'..." Makoto mumbled to herself, staring down at her plate. After a silent second she looked up, almost expressionless, but Shingo saw strain on her face, as if she were holding some painful expression in. "Yes...I guess I should have done this more often..." She pushed herself away from the table without another word to walk over to a window. She stared outside in silence, but Shingo thought he saw her shoulders shake with sobs.
He looked over at Mika and shrugged. He didn't know what else to do. They were all acting so strange today. Usagi had stopped eating, and was staring over at her friend. "Mako-chan..." she whispered. Mamoru reached over and took her hand in his own. She clung to him for a second.
Shingo jumped as his father's fork banged against his plate as he crossed his arms over his chest. His eyebrows were pulled down low across his brow in frustration. "All right, what's going on here? You are all acting very strange. I'm not eating another bite until you tell me what's happening here." He leaned back in his chair with a huff. Shingo watched his mother try to calm Kenji, but he shook off her hand. "No, I'm not going to let them avoid the question any longer. I want to know what's going on."
Usagi looked at their father for a second in silence, and Shingo gasped at the pain in her eyes. Mamoru whispered in her ear, but all Shingo could hear was something about her having to decide what to say. His sister nodded and sat up straighter. Shingo leaned forward, eager to hear whatever it was his onee-chan was going to tell them.
"Tou-san, kaa-san-" Usagi cleared her throat. Shingo saw Mako-chan turn away from the window to watch them all with wide green eyes. "-I've been keeping a secret from you." She paused, looked at Mamoru again, then continued. "I-we-you're going to be grandparents," she blurted. Mamoru looked at her with surprise as Shingo felt his jaw drop. A quick glance at his parents proved that they, too, were completely taken aback at this news.
"You decided to tell them about that first?" Mamoru asked with surprise.
"But that's wonderful, dear! Why are you so sad if you just wanted to tell us you're pregnant?"
Usagi shook her head. "That's not why I called you here..."
Ikuko looked at Usagi in complete confusion. "Then what are you saying?"
Mako-chan strode back toward the table to put her hand on Usagi's head, between her odangos. "Baka. That's a stupid way to tell them, if that's what you want to do."
"I thought it'd be easier to start with Chibi Usa," Usagi muttered to herself. "It's surely a lot more cheerful than anything else..."
"Chibi Usa?" Shingo looked at Usagi with confusion. "What does our cousin have to do with tou-san and kaa-san being grandparents?"
Makoto, Usagi, and Mamoru ignored him as Makoto continued to speak to Usagi. "Do you really want them to know?" she asked softly. Usagi nodded, and Makoto straightened. "Well then, it's not really so difficult. Here." She reached into her pocket and pulled out a strange pen with a crystal globe in its top. Usagi looked up at her with wide eyes.
"You're not going to just..."
"It's fastest, and who knows how much time you have, Usagi-chan." Makoto smiled down at her and raised her hand and the pen into the air. Mika gave Shingo a confused look, and he couldn't do anything but shrug. He didn't know what was going on either.
"Jupiter Crystal Power...Make Up!" Shingo felt his mouth drop to the floor again as Makoto was obscured by a brief flare of bright light, and then Sailor Jupiter stood in front of him. Kenji jumped to his feet, knocking his chair over backward.
"You're Sailor Jupiter? I don't under-" Kenji stopped as his daughter and son-in-law stood as well.
Mamoru said nothing, but Usagi pulled the crystal broach she often wore out of her pocket and cried out "Moon Eternal...Make Up!", and with two more flares of light, Eternal Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Kamen stood before them as well. Ikuko rose shakily to her feet to clutch at her husband.
"Are you saying...are you saying that you're the Sailor senshi?"
Eternal Sailor Moon/Usagi nodded sadly. "Yes. That's part of what I'm telling you."
"But how...we never knew!"
"Our magic protects our human identities-"
Shingo choked on that. "Human?!"
"-but this secret isn't my reason for asking you to dinner. Or for having Mako-chan here. Chibi Usa was-"
"Now we're back to Chibi Usa again," Shingo muttered grumpily, still not really believing his sister was Sailor Moon, "Kami-sama, she's just our little cousin." Mika nudged him into silence.
Sailor Moon shot him an annoyed look and he gulped as she continued. "-Chibi Usa was my daughter."
"What?!" Kenji bellowed. "She was seven years old when you were only fourteen! That's impossible!" The look he shot at Tuxedo Kamen could have melted stone.
"She was from the future, tou-san. She let us know a little bit about what will happen to us, and we found out that there will be a great catastrophe on the earth." Eternal Sailor Moon closed her eyes and shimmered back into simply Usagi. Tuxedo Kamen and Sailor Jupiter followed suit. "Many people will die, and I will be able to save the Earth, but at a great loss of life."
"So what does this have to do with dinner, Usagi?"
"Shingo...I was just told late this morning that the time's almost upon us. The other senshi are with their families, saying goodbye in case...in case-" Usagi broke down again, and collapsed to the floor in tears. Mamoru knelt next to her and hugged her tight, offering wordless comfort. Makoto looked down at them sadly and sat back down at the table.
"She doesn't know who will live, and who won't. Only one of us does, and she's not telling." Makoto was trying to be calm, but her voice still shook. Shingo looked over at Mika as she silently slipped her hand into his. He saw the fear on her face and understood. After seeing his sister and brother-in-law turn into mythical heroes, he was ready to believe just about anything he heard right now, and what they were hearing wasn't good. "The attack could come any minute, and since I don't have any family, it's right that I should be here to guard our princess and prince. I know this is all a terrible shock to you, but I'm sure Usagi is glad she doesn't have to keep such an important secret from you anymore. Whatever happens, we can't keep our identities secret much longer anyway, so...I guess it's best to tell all."
Shingo held tight to Mika, and saw his parents were doing the same, hopelessly clinging to the one thing in the world that hadn't changed in the last few minutes. Everything looked so different, now that he knew it might come to an end any moment. Instead of seeming gray or dingy in any way, every color stood out brighter than it had that morning, suffused with the light of a life that might be dead by tomorrow. Mako-chan left them alone with their frightened thoughts and began to clear the table.
Mako-chan couldn't help feeling that it was abysmally stupid to worry about things like clearing the table at a time like this, but when she was in distress it was always easier to work on auto-pilot, doing the things that felt comfortable and homey. She looked at the three couples arrayed around the dining room, all in various shades of shock. She supposed she'd gotten over it while she cooked, herself. The pain of losing her family was an old, familiar one. Something that was part of herself now. In a way, she supposed she and Mamoru were the luckiest in that. Usagi and the others were feeling the fresh pain of losing their loved ones before it had even happened. For someone like Usagi, this had to be devastating. As Mako-chan ran hot water into the sink a black cat jumped on the counter next to the dirty dishes.
"Luna!" She turned to the black cat. "I haven't seen you yet today."
"It's all so hard to believe, Mako-chan. I mean, this isn't something I was prepared for. I just hope Usagi can pull herself together in time when the enemy comes."
Mako-chan nodded as she scraped the scraps off one of the plates. "I know, but she's always come through before, and we know she saves us this time too. It's so frightening, though. I tell you, I feel sorry for Pluto right now, if this is what her life is always like."
Luna nodded in silent agreement. "One can see why she lives alone like she does, when she can see all the bad things that will happen to people." Luna sat down by the edge of the sink and sighed. "I know that Artemis and I both live, since we've seen Diana, but I can't help wishing I were with him right now."
Makoto dropped the dishes in the sink and picked up the sad black cat. "I know, Luna. I wish the others were here myself. They're the only family I've got. But-at least we have each other here right now."
Luna squirmed out of her hands and hung herself over Makoto's shoulder. Her front paws kneaded against Makoto's shirt. "Yes, at least we have that..." Makoto reached up and put the pan in the warm water to soak.
Usagi's eyes hurt from all her crying. She heaved in a couple more shaky breaths and sniffed. Her nose was running. She reached up to wipe at it, but a warm hand took hers, and placed something in it.
"Here, use this, Usako."
Mamo-chan. Usagi looked down at her hand and saw a monogrammed handkerchief-the one she'd dropped in his apartment over six years ago. She rubbed her thumb over the faded stitching. "I can't use this, Mamo-chan. It has too many memories for both of us." She began to struggle to stand up, and Mamo-chan quickly rose to his feet to assist her trip up. She gave him a waterlogged smile and walked to the linen closet to take out a newer handkerchief. She blew her nose.
It made a terrible noise, like ten ducks being run over by a semi-truck. She giggled as she saw her parents and her brother look up at the racket. Mamo-chan took a couple of steps up to her and embraced her, holding her close and kissing the top of her head. He was so strong! Everyone always seemed to think she was someone special, but without her friends, she was nothing. And without Mamo-chan... She knew where all her strength and bravery really came from. She wasn't special at all.
"And you think I'm going to be a queen. What kind of queen blows her nose like that?" she teased him. She knew her face was tear streaked, and her eyes and nose were red and puffed from her bouts of tears, but she also knew that despite that, despite everything, Mamo-chan loved her.
"My Usako..." Mamo-chan whispered to her. Usagi sighed happily and closed her eyes, allowing herself a few more moments of bliss before the storm.
Suddenly she felt Mamoru rock slightly, as though something had hit him. She opened her eyes, and found herself staring into deep blue eyes. Not Mamo-chan's eyes, though.
"Usagi! I feel something coming! Are you ready?"
"Did the cat just say something?"
"Yes," Mako-chan said, drying soapy hands on a dish towel. "She's the one who revealed our identities to us, and she's our trainer."
Mako-chan shot Usagi's father a quick, distracted smile, then dropped the towel on the floor as she approached Usagi and Mamoru. "Luna says it's time."
Mamoru drew back a few inches to look down at her. "We should get ready."
Usagi tightened her hold on Mamoru's shirt. "How? I don't even know what they're going to do, what they want! What am I supposed to do?"
Mako-chan laid a warm hand on her shoulder. "The same thing you always do, Usagi-chan. Fight." She reached up into the air, and her henshin rod appeared in her hand. "Jupiter Crystal Power! Make UP!"
Usagi sniffed again and nodded. "Moon Eternal! Make UP!"
As she was lifted into the air she heard her brother whisper loudly to Mika, "I don't think I'll ever believe I'm seeing this!"
Her toes touched the ground again and she reached out to take Jupiter and Tuxedo Kamen's hands. Luna bounded up onto her shoulder as she shouted "Sailor Teleport!"
"Where are they going?" Kenji asked Ikuko as the three shimmered into bright columns of white, purple, and green light.
Serenity wearily opened her eyes, and smiled as they met the most beautiful sight in the world. She raised a torn, bleeding hand up to caress it. "Endymion..." Her voice was ragged and weak.
Her hand left a red trail behind on his cheek as it fell away again. "Shhh...don't speak yet, my Queen..." He lowered his head and gave her a soft kiss, but even that hurt her. What sweet pain, though...to tell the truth, despite all she'd heard and seen in the future, she hadn't expected to live through the fight they'd just won, so even her pain was beautiful in a way. She tried to pull an arm up around him, but was too weak. He pulled away.
Her friends gathered around, and she summoned enough strength to smile for them. "Minna...arigato."
Mars knelt by her side. "Serenity! Are you going to be all right?"
"Of course I will." Her fingers clutched Ginzuishou tighter, and it flared briefly. She gasped as its pale light suffused her for a moment.
"Serenity!" Her friends' voices were all sharp with worry.
"It's okay." She began to struggle to get upright. Mars and Jupiter assisted her up. "I just healed myself a little. That's all." She sat up straight, but waves of weakness still washed over her. Endymion clutched tight to her as she swayed; her support, as always.
"Oh, Serenity...Usagi-chan...I'm so sorry!" Venus' eyes were bright with tears. "The fight would have been easier if I hadn't been with my family! If only I hadn't been so selfish! You might not have been hurt! If only we'd all stayed with you, like Mako-chan did!"
Mercury didn't say anything, but the tears running down her face indicated she felt the same guilt, and Mars looked away as Serenity's eyes sought out her friends. Jupiter's mouth was wide open in shock at the others' guilt. "No! No, minna! Don't do this to yourselves! I wanted you to be with your families! I would never forgive myself if you had stayed with me."
"But Mako-chan stayed..." Mars mumbled, still staring at the ground, the sky, the smoking rubble, anything but Serenity.
"Only because I had no place else to go, minna! Don't make me into a self-sacrificing hero! If I'd been allowed one last moment with kaa-san and tou-san, I would have taken it!" Jupiter's distress was almost as great as the others'.
Serenity, with Endymion's help, leaned forward to wrap her arms around all her friends. "Minna! Stop it! As your queen, I order you to stop feeling guilty. It doesn't matter! We won! We're alive! We can build the future now. And someday...someday, I'll see Chibi Usa again..." As that happy thought suffused her mind, she turned to Endymion with a radiant smile. Someday...someday, she'd see her little girl again. They'd see their little girl. They'd start a family...Serenity raised her hands to her mouth as a sudden thought struck her. "Tou-san...kaa-san...Shin...go..." She clutched at Endymion's armor. "I'm too weak to go alone! Take me to my family, Endymion! They might still be alive!" She looked down and swallowed. "Iie! They have to be alive!" Similar expressions of worry washed over her senshis' expressions at her words. She gave them only a passing glance. "Go to your families, minna. Crystal Tokyo can wait a few more hours to be born." With that, she, Jupiter, and Endymion disappeared in a flash of light.
Serenity stumbled as exhaustion washed over her again, but she made sure she stumbled in the direction of their old apartment. "Kaa-san...minna..." she whispered, then collapsed into strong arms.
Her eyelids slowly fluttered open as she heard small crashes and dull thuds reverberate through the floor her head rested on. She raised herself to her feet and looked around. The apartment had collapsed in on itself, and Jupiter and Endymion were digging through the last of the rubble. Serenity almost fainted again at the thought of rising to her feet, but gritted her teeth. She was strong...she could do this.
She pulled herself upright just as Jupiter gave a little cry of triumph. "That's it! We've broken though!" Before Mako-chan or Endymion noticed her, she threw herself through the hole.
"Serenity!" Endymion called out, worried, but Serenity ignored him for a second. She had to find out if her family was alive.
"Tou-saaaaaan! Kaa-saaaaaan! Shingooooo!" Her voice cracked, but she put her hands to her mouth to call out again. "Tou-"
"Mesume?" Serenity turned her head at the weak cough, then walked as quickly as her tired legs could in the direction of the sound.
"Who is it?" Serenity asked, seeing no one through the clouds of dust. She took another step forward and tripped. "Oof!" She looked back over her shoulder toward her tangled feet, and gasped. "Tou-san!"
"Usagi...are you all right? I can't see you-I can't turn over..."
"Tou-san!" Serenity saw her father lying on his stomach, hunched over something. She began to cry. Rubble and rocks were piled onto his back and legs, and he couldn't move. Sobbing with relief that someone was alive, Serenity struggled to pull the rubble off her father. "Don't worry! I'll help you!" The more of her father she uncovered, the harder she sobbed. It didn't look good. "Hold on, tou-san!"
"Here." A warm hand touched her shoulder briefly, then reached down to help her remove the stone, rock, and plaster.
"Endymion, tou-san's alive, but..."
"Shhh...I see. Let's uncover him. Maybe Ginzuishou..."
"Yes! Maybe Ginzuishou!" Renewed with hope, Serenity and Endymion freed her father. As the last heavy rock fell from off him, Endymion helped him turn over, the looked away with a muttered curse. Serenity's hands came up to cover her mouth and hold in her scream of despair. Kenji looked at both of them, tears in his eyes.
"I tried to push her out of the way when I saw the ceiling cracking, but a piece hit her in the head before I could reach her. At first it didn't look to serious, but..." Kenji stopped, to weak to go on, tears still falling down his face. Serenity took one hand away from her lips, and reached out toward the huddled, still figure on the floor. "Kaa-san? Kaa-san?" The body was cold. More tears began to fall down her face, but she turned away from her mother, and reached out with Ginzuishou toward her father.
He looked at her with bemused eyes. "What happened to you, Usagi-chan? You look so different." She looked down at him sadly. What could she say? That she was no longer really his daughter...that she wasn't human anymore? Rather than say anything, she looked down at the sparkling crystal in her hands. "What is that, musume?"
"This is...Ginzuishou. This is...life..." She reached down to the depths of her shaken soul for enough strength to heal her failing father, but as she reached out, she despaired. He was too close to the brink of death. If she tried to pull him out now, he might pull her in with him instead. For a second she quailed in fear, but then she strengthened her determination. She wouldn't lose him too. She reached out with Ginzuishou and began to pull her father back, but he was too heavy, and she felt herself begin to fall into death with him...she felt nothing but the encroaching darkness and suffocating silence...
"Usako! Usako! You can't leave me! What about our future? What about Chibi Usa? What about me?!?"
Endymion? With superhuman will she pulled away from her effort, from her last chance to save her father. Her eyes fluttered open, and Kenji looked at her from already dull eyes.
"Usagi-chan...I'm so proud of you..."
"Tou-san...I love you, tou-san..." but his eyes were already closed, his heart already still.
Endymion looked down at her, and handed her father's body to her. She sat in a froth of satin and lace on the ruined apartment floor, between the battered bodies of her parents. He firmed his mouth. He would at least find her brother for her. As he walked toward what used to be the kitchen he caught sight of Jupiter. She was cradling someone. As he approached she looked back at him over her shoulder and silently shook her head. A head of brown hair raised over the counter, and for a second a last blaze of hope flared in Endymion's breast, but he stopped as he saw that it wasn't Shingo-it was Mika. Mika's eyes widened as she saw him.
He shook his head with a sad smile. "Iie. Endymion."
Jupiter looked at the young girl, still holding Shingo. "Endymion-sama," she said gently. "This is your new king." Mika collapsed back to the ground without another word, her eyes widening. Endymion turned his head. Serenity was leaning weakly against the doorjamb, staring with infinite sadness at her younger brother, still cradled in Jupiter's arms. "And that is Serenity-sama, the Queen of Crystal Tokyo." The worry on Jupiter's face spoke volumes as she watched her queen and friend look down on the body of her brother. Serenity looked back up after a silent minute, and stumbled over to Mika. She looked into the younger woman's wide, uncomprehending eyes.
"I-I know you were planning on marrying my brother, Mika, but it looks like that will never happen. However, I'd-I'd be honored if you allowed me to consider you a sister anyway."
Mika nodded, the tear streaks on her face matching those on Serenity's cheeks. "He-he saved me, you know. I'd give anything to have him back."
Serenity pulled her close with a sob. "So would I. So would I." She looked over at her husband. "If only I'd been able to stay conscious-if only I'd been able to stay awake after the battle, I might have got here in time to save tou-san, and maybe even kaa-san or Shingo..." Endymion raised his hand and opened his mouth to protest her self-vilification, but she pinned him down with a glare so despairing that he knew it would take years to wipe the stain of guilt and grief from her soul. She looked away again, as if too ashamed of her weakness to meet his eyes. "If only I hadn't been so weak, my family could still be alive right now..."
Endymion felt tears prick at his eyes, and he rushed to her side to embrace her again, hoping his love could save her from some of this pain. "Shh...don't feel guilty, Serenity. You saved world. You can't do everything. Just rest, Serenity. Just close your eyes, and think of Chibi Usa, think of the future we'll build together."
Serenity's fingers dug into his back as she looked over her shoulder at Jupiter, and her little brother's pale, pale face. "I won't close my eyes...not ever again..."