Time: manga act 24, also known as "Infinity 1." Usagi and Haruka have exchanged their first words, and Mamoru and Michiru have also met for the first time...
Scene: night. What light there is glows diffuse from the window, faint starlight made even fainter as it passes through the gauzy curtains that blow gently in the wind. The glow highlights two people clasped closely together in bed, breathing with the deep relaxation of long familiarity. Shadows pool in the folds of their blankets and sheets, and move softly as they breathe. The taller of the figures is lying in an untidy sprawl; her short white-blond hair catches the light and glows like a faint sun. A slender, shorter woman lies curled up beside her; the other has darker, wavy hair which fans gracefully across the pillow.
The second figure shifts fractionally. "So you've made a friend."
"Hmm? Oh, you mean odango atama. She's kind of cute, isn't she?"
"Are you interested in her?"
"She's just a kid."
Sudden seriousness. "She's Sailormoon. They won't work with us, her most of all. You mustn't let her touch you."
"So? She's fourteen, for crying out loud. Just a kid."
"What difference does that make?"
"You're just jealous 'cause she's so cute."
"Yes, dear. You can be the pot, and I'll be the kettle."
"That's uncalled for. I didn't bother you about that guy, did I? What's going on between you two anyway?"
Serenely. "Isn't he handsome? ...Our noble Prince. Tell me, do you intend to fight him for his odango atama?"
"Don't be ridiculous!"
"I feel you tensing, dear. What is it about this girl that draws you so?"
"What do you mean?"
"Let's not be facetious. I felt the attraction in you, just as you felt mine for our Prince. But while I'm practical, you are less so - and I fear for your heart."
Pause. "I won't fall in love with her, if that's what you're worried about."
Long silence. Finally, a whisper: "Don't lie to me."
"To yourself, then."
Another long silence, in which soft breathing is the only sound. Tension drains away. With quiet resignation, the other sighs. "How dare you know me so well."
Gently. "Where you leave off, I begin."
Sudden despair. "Can't you see it, Michiru? Can't you see the flame in her? I don't want to kill it! She's so full of hope and love..."
"Don't torture yourself. We have our duty, and there's no escape. Not any more. Not even if the price is the bright flame of a young girl's hope."
"Which makes her all the sweeter, you know. Nothing's more precious than that which is about to disappear."
"And nothing is more compelling than that which is forbidden."
"Do you forbid me her, then?"
"I could never forbid you anything. You've a will of your own."
"Now it's my turn to tell you not to lie."
"Don't 'oh' me. You've but to say the word and I'd jump, for all my rebellion. We're too closely linked, you and I."
"True. But... I won't forbid you this girl."
Pause. "What did you say?"
"She draws me too. Hope and optimism and complete, shining confidence that people are wonderful and that happy endings are inevitable - who could help but love her? You and I, full of our secrets and shadows, we who trust and love nobody - we revel in her light. So go and taste it, Haruka. Taste and treasure her light for both of us, before we
must extinguish it."
"Must we?" A cry from the heart.
"Can you honestly see her cooperating with us? To kill an innocent young child, whose only crime was to be born? Not even to save the world would she sanction such an act - and yet it must be done. And when we do it - her light may fail. Hope and love - they have too many weaknesses. There will be no happy ending."
"Not for little Hotaru," the other agrees. "And not for odango, either, whose heart will go out to her. But for the world..."
"For the world. The greater good. The ruin must not come."
"So we've always believed. A small price, really - one girl's life, another girl's hope... such small things, in the long run..."
"You don't believe that."
"I don't want to hurt her!"
"Nor do I, love. But we do what we must. So taste her, drink her in, while you can. Before it's too late."
"I will - for both of us."
A gentle laugh. "Everything you do, everything I do - it's for both of us. It's never been any other way."
"What if I fall in love with her?"
"What if you do? There are many kinds of love, dearheart. Yes, she is sweet, and kind - but she has her Prince, and you... have me."
"Think highly of yourself, don't you?"
"No more than you. We're performers, with all the ego and pride that comes along with the label. And I... am egotistical and proud enough to believe that you love me and need me as much as I love and need you..."
Sudden tenderness. "Never doubt it."
"Then what about this girl?"
"You're more jealous than you let on, aren't you? You tell me to taste her, to treasure her... but not to fall in love with her."
"She compels us both. Bright hope, glowing love... shouldn't I be worried that she'll take you away from me?"
"Never worry, lover." A long arm reaches out suddenly and pulls her closer, holding tightly. "I couldn't live without you."
"It's true that she glows. Bright flame, white hope, the light of love... But for all that, she's not you. Could never be you, could never balance and complete me the way you do. We knew from the beginning that we were meant to be. Endymion and Serenity aren't the only ones with a centuries-strong love, you know."
"If that's true, and if there's no danger of either of us losing you to her, then why are we having this conversation?"
Thoughtful pause. At last: "Because some things need to be said. Because leaving things unsaid causes wounds between people, and those wounds fester and bleed." A note of mischief enters the voice. "Speaking of leaving things unsaid - what about this handsome Prince of yours? Where's the attraction coming from?"
"Sheer nobility on his part, I believe." The smile is evident in her tones. "He's drawn to her in much the same way we are - as shadows to light - but I don't think that he could live without her."
"So why chase him?"
"I'm not chasing him, dear. I'm savoring him. In his own way, he's as compelling as she is - have you noticed?"
The other's tones are rather chilly. "Can't say that I have."
"He doesn't know what to make of us. He's very much driven by his instincts, but he can't make sense of them. Besides, he's been a little annoyed with his odango atama lately; she's been acting childish and unreliable. It's rather fun to show him what a more mature woman would be like - let him see what he's missing."
"What are you planning?" The jealousy is evident now.
"Relax, dearest. You know that I'm much more discreet than you are about these things."
The other laughs sheepishly. "You've got me there..."
"Mmm-hmm. However... one thing bothers me..."
"What is it?"
"I'm not sure that we should be wasting time and messing around.
The talismans... the coming of the ruin... We should be concentrating on our mission."
"We're not just senshi. We're people too," the other reminded softly. "I've my racing, and you've your music; neither of those should be given up just because we have a mission. Mix work with play, and you'll get the best of both."
"Play, is it?" Gentle laughter. "Well, now. This could be fun."
They turn towards one another, smiling tenderly, once more in perfect
accord. No more words are said - but then, none are needed.