Chapter Four: Changes

Usagi and Makoto sat in the back of Rei's house's main room, giggling maniacally and throwing looks my way as we waited for the rest of the Senshi to arrive. Ami kept looking toward them as if they'd slipped their moorings. I knew why they were giggling: they had been with me when we'd gone to the jeweler's.

The jewelry shop was a small one, but the quality of its work more than made up for the lack of quantity. While I was searching the selection of rings, I came across one that called to me. It was a ring made of braided gold and silver, set with a yin-yang symbol. The yin half was sapphire the color of Ami's eyes, and the yang was garnet. Oddly enough, it seemed to fit. Sapphire is Ami's birthstone; even though mine is opal, garnet seemed more appropriate. To top it all off, the ring was in Ami's size.

The jeweler had explained that it was a special order, placed by an elegant lady who'd told him a gaijin would be by today to pay for it. The three of us had looked at each other, whispering one name in unison: Setsuna. She was definitely pulling out all the stops to make sure things worked out.

Minako arrived a few minutes before Rei, and once Rei was there, Usagi was ready to start the meeting. Then Hotaru came in and announced that Papa and Mama would be arriving as soon as Papa parked the car. Setsuna walked in behind Hotaru, smiling mysteriously as usual and giving the dark-haired girl a gentle hug. I glanced around and grinned as I noticed Mamoru slip in behind Usagi and draw her into his arms. Haruka and Michiru arrived not long after Mamoru. Michiru was murmuring soothingly to Haruka, who looked as if she'd just had an argument with one of the local uniformed assholes. Haruka leaned against a wall with her arms crossed while Michiru murmured to her. It took a couple minutes of convincing before Haruka finally relaxed enough to lean against Michiru with a small tired sigh. If she knew how easily I could see through her tough act, she'd probably be mortified....

With everyone there, Usagi stood and began to talk about the Moon Kingdom, the need for continuity and hope, and how the one thing more important than fighting against evil was fighting for love. As she spoke, something about her changed...she became more confident, more convincing, more regal - she became the Princess we all knew her to be in our hearts.

Then she looked at Michiru and Haruka and told them that she remembered Smis-Dw; that she had been the promised companion for that generation, but I was the promised companion for this generation. It was obvious this was old news to Setsuna, but Haruka and Michiru gasped as the memories came back, and held each other a little tighter. Having introduced me, she turned with that smile of hers that inspires love, trust, and devotion.

"Bill, you had some business you wanted to present before us?" I smiled and nodded to her, then stood, laying my walking stick on the floor beside Ami while digging in a pocket. Once I had what I wanted, I kneeled in front of her and looked into her eyes.

"Mizuno Ami, in your heart I've found my home. In your touch, I've found joy. In your presence, I've found love. If you allow it, I'd like to devote the rest of my life to giving you the love and joy you give me. Will you be my wife?"

Suddenly, Setsuna was behind her, catching her head and cradling it as Ami tipped over backwards in a dead faint. She looked up at me and smiled knowingly.

"Don't worry. She'll be awake in just a few seconds." As she spoke, Ami stirred and opened her eyes. With Setsuna's help, she unsteadily sat up again.

"Bill? I just had the most wonderful dream...."

"It wasn't a dream, sweetheart." I offered her the ring, and she squealed happily, caught between wanting to throw her arms around me and offering me her hand to put the ring on. I chuckled softly and slipped the ring on her finger, then braced myself as she grabbed me and covered my lips with rapid-fire kisses.

When she finally released me, I moved around to her side again and snuggled her as I looked at the others.

"I've already asked Rei's grandfather to perform the wedding, because I assumed Ami would want Rei to be one of her maidens. We've set the date for April 1. Now I must ask the rest of you: will you accept me as one of your family?"

Usagi laughed and walked over to stand before us.

"You're being silly, Bill. You're already a part of this family, and will be for as long as you live. And longer, if you choose and your God allows. Now stop feeling like a stranger and accept it." She smiled and drew us both to our feet so she could give us each a kiss. As if that was a signal, the others gathered around to congratulate us.

I noticed Michiru and Haruka hanging back, and quietly slipped toward them while the others were admiring Ami's ring.

**Where is she, Lord?**

**Alive. Doing the same work you're doing, but in a different part of the world.**

**Will they ever find each other again?**

**It's very likely. She's thinking about visiting Tokyo to investigate the demon appearances.**

**Thank you.**

"Haruka? Michiru?" I murmured so only they could hear. "I just asked, and learned she's thinking about visiting Tokyo right now. Since she's a demon hunter, I'm certain that when she comes, you'll be able to find her again."

The looks of gratitude from both of them lightened my heart considerably. I didn't want to leave any of them unhappy if I could do anything to fix it. Bringing them together with the woman they'd both loved before at least had the chance to add to their happiness. Rei picked that moment to grab my arm from behind and tug me back toward the crowd around Ami. I smiled apologetically to Michiru and Haruka, both of whom smiled in amusement.

Ami snuggled close to me while our friends offered their congratulations, good wishes, and playful teasing.

"Why so soon, my love?" Ami whispered in my ear. "I'd love it if it were tomorrow, but it's still kind of fast."

I kissed her gently and whispered back to her, holding her close in anticipation of her reaction.

"I wanted it soon enough so our daughter isn't obvious through your dress."

Ami's eyes rolled back in her head and she grew heavy in my arms. Without a second thought, I scooped her up and gently lowered her to the floor. When I looked up, Setsuna was the only one near us; Rei and Minako had pushed the others back.

"That was a little abrupt, wasn't it?" Setsuna sounded more amused than critical.

"No more abrupt than your visit this morning. She's doing what I wanted to do."

"She can get away with it." Setsuna winked and stroked Ami's forehead gently. "She's a lot tougher than even she realizes." She looked up at me and smiled wistfully. I'll admit, that's not an expression I'd expected from her. "Your daughter will be born on October 29."

"Daughter? Their daughter?" Usagi squeaked, her voice carrying through the room and drawing the attention of every other person in the place. The looks that came our way ranged from envious to angry, but all were surprised.

"Bill? Did you say...our daughter?" Ami's voice was small and unsteady. I gently lifted her to rest against my chest and stroked her hair as I nodded.

"Yes, Angel. We're going to have a daughter, and she's going to be born on October 29. I'd like Haruka and Michiru to be her godparents."

The couple started and stared at us - ok, they stared at me - in shock. Ami saw their expressions and smiled, nodding as she reached out a hand toward them. The others opened a path for them and they approached in response to her invitation.

"Please? I agree. It just seems right to have you two as her godparents. Will you do it?" Ami still looked stunned. I couldn't blame her; I'd had all day to get used to being a father. As if I had managed it even then.

Michiru spoke for both of them as they took Ami's hand.

"We'd be honored." That was all she managed to get out before throwing her arms around Ami and hugging her tightly. Haruka's expression displayed a flash of jealousy, bringing a smile to my face.

"What's wrong, sis?" I whispered teasingly. "Wish you were in Ami's place? Or maybe you wish you were in Michiru's?" She growled at me, then laughed as she realized I was trying to make her feel better.

"How about both?" she replied in the same whisper. Just then, Michiru and Ami both grabbed her and pulled her close, leaving any reply from me extraneous.

Mamoru touched my shoulder, and we retreated to another room, where Grandfather and Yuuichiro were drinking sake. I grimaced when I realized they'd want me to join them. I've had sake before. I don't like it any more than I like vodka. Sure enough, Grandfather handed cups to both of us. I glanced at Mamoru, and realized he wasn't any more thrilled than I was.

"Come on, come on, drink up! This is supposed to be a celebration!" Grandfather sounded - and smelled - as if he were already well celebrated. Yuuichiro picked that moment to slide to the floor with a drunken snore. Mamoru and I looked at each other, shrugged, and raised our cups. Yup. The stuff tasted just as nasty as I remembered. Almost before we could lower them, Grandfather was pouring refills.

"So what about you? When are you going to make that cute Sailor Moon an honest woman?" Grandfather asked as we looked at each other with identical expressions of distaste. Mamoru choked and dropped his cup. Grandfather laughed and poured another, waving dismissively at the pottery fragments on the floor.

"S...Sailor Moon?"

"Yup. You know, that cute little blonde with the funny hairstyle?" At Mamoru's shocked expression, Grandfather grumbled good-naturedly, "I tell you, after watching all of you for the last six years, you'd think at least some of you would have figured out that I knew. It's kind of hard to miss, especially when my granddaughter is Sailor Mars."

"I didn't want you to worry, Grandfather." Rei's voice came from the door, surprisingly gentle. She moved into the room and knelt beside him with tears in her eyes. "No matter how mad I get with you, I love you. I didn't want to make it any harder on you than it already was, raising me."

Mamoru and I began slowly backing toward the door, looking for places to put our cups down without being noticed as Rei and her Grandfather began a talk that, in my opinion, was long overdue.

"Oh! There you are!" Usagi laughed and hugged me as we slid the door shut and let out stereo sighs of relief. "Ewww...you smell like sake!"

"Don't remind me." The look on my face must have been something, because Usagi threw back her head and let loose one of her room-clearing laughs, then laughed harder when she saw the expression on Mamoru's face. She moved to him and snuggled as close as she could get with clothes on.

"Oh, Bill...Ami's asking for you."

I moved toward the main room as fast as I could without running. There she was, the love of my life, lighting up my heart just by being. When she looked at me and her face lit up in a joyful smile, my heart took wing. I'm not sure I touched the floor as I made my way across the room to her side.

"They're as bad as Usagi and Mamoru," Rei stagewhispered as Ami and I embraced.

"Shh! They'll hear you!" Makoto replied in the same tone.

Ami looked into my eyes and giggled softly. We slipped away as our friends were arguing about whether or not we heard them.

 

"Gomen kudasai! Hello? Is anybody home?" Usagi's voice rang through the house from the front door. I set aside my work and went to let her in. My mind was still on the problem of forming MacManusite, but I remembered to put on a smile before opening the door.

"Hello, Princ...." My voice trailed off as Usagi pushed past me, followed by Minako, Rei, and Makoto. They were all carrying packages and chattering cheerfully.

"So you're Ami's boyfriend, huh?" I turned at the strange voice and looked into a pair of pink eyes that were staring at me suspiciously. My first thought was that she was an albino - until I noticed her hair was pink, too. Then I noticed she looked about ten years older than the photos Usagi had shown me. "Well, you'd better not make her sad, or I'll punish you!"

I glanced back into the house, then whispered, "Don't say that quite so loud, or your mom will hear. I didn't think you'd be arriving until closer to the wedding."

"Yeah, well Sailor Pluto said I should come now, so here I am!" Chibi-Usa grinned at me. "You're not bad. Not as good as Mamoru, but not bad."

"Yeah, well Mamoru's a pretty special guy. Even if he is your father, huh?" I looked up and waved at the cute face at the end of the sidewalk. "Come on, Hotaru. I don't know what the girls are doing, but since they've already invaded, you might as well join them." I grinned down at Chibi-Usa. "And that goes for you, too. I need to get keys made for all of you, so you can come here as freely as you go to the shrine."

Chibi-Usa curtseyed, then dashed past me into the house. Hotaru followed more quietly, watching her with an expression that revealed clearly just how much she loved the little - ok, not so little - rabbit. I scanned the view outside before closing the door and turning back to see how much damage was being done to my home.

It had only been a week since I'd asked Ami to marry me, but the demons hadn't given us any trouble, and we'd managed to find a house that was close enough to campus for Ami to walk to school. Since it was in the opposite direction from the shrine, it also expanded the area we could watch easily. I'd emailed the people back in the States who I most wanted to join us, all of whom had responded with surprised delight at the news. When I'd phoned my mother and the only sister who'd bothered to keep in touch with me, their reactions were, by turns, astonished, worried, and delighted that I'd finally found someone who loved me as much as I loved her.

I slipped through the crowd and slid my lab door closed, then watched as the girls opened their packages and deposited wrapped gifts in the center of the living room floor. Makoto vanished in the direction of the kitchen; I suddenly remembered I had dinner heating in the oven - and it wasn't nearly enough for this size crowd. The aroma of curry wafted through the house, and I knew Makoto had found dinner. Minako's eyes lit up at the scent, while the others glanced around curiously.

"OK, gang, we've got to finish decorating this place before Ami gets home, so let's get to it!" Usagi clapped her hands and dug more things out of her package. The others laughed and joined in, removing items from theirs, and the walls were quickly covered with a variety of decorations that clashed as badly as a college dorm room.

Usagi had somehow managed to come up with posters from some of my favorite anime - everything from "Kimagure Orange Road" to "Bubblegum Crisis". Minako had brought some Sailor V merchandise - including a few things I knew were hard to get for anyone who wasn't herself Sailor V, like an autographed stuffed Sailor V doll. Rei had brought some charms and ink paintings. Chibi-Usa and Hotaru sat in the middle of the room and watched with big eyes as their older friends turned it upside down.

I crouched beside the younger Senshi and murmured for their ears only, "Boy, your mom can really whip up a party when she wants to, can't she?"

Chibi-Usa giggled and nodded, then whispered in Hotaru's ear while she hugged her. The dark-haired girl giggled and nodded, then leaned against her pink-haired friend comfortably.

"So the question is, would you two like a snack while they're working? I think I have a bowl of French vanilla pudding in the refrigerator. It's one of my favorites." Chibi-Usa's eyes lit up the way Usagi's do at the mention of ice cream. "I'll take that as a yes? Come on, and let's see if we can get it before Makoto takes over the kitchen completely."

The three of us crept out of the living room, doing our best to avoid notice from the whirlwind decorators. Makoto was just as devastating a whirlwind in the kitchen, her knives flying as she chopped food in preparation for cooking. As we snuck in, she looked up and grinned, pointing at the refrigerator.

"I didn't touch it." She winked at me and reached up to get some dessert bowls down. "It looks like French vanilla. Is it?"

"How'd you know that's what we were after?" I asked with a smile and a nod.

"I happen to know what our favorite spore likes." When Chibi-Usa stuck her tongue out at her, Makoto laughed, "No, no, you've got to learn to do it right, Sprout." Then she combined a redeye with a raspberry, a look that was so goofy I was glad I hadn't retrieved the pudding yet. Even Hotaru laughed - something I'd noticed she did far too rarely.

"Has anyone told you you're goofy, Mako-chan?" Chibi-Usa demanded as she tried to keep a straight face. She quickly lost that battle and joined the three of us in laughter.

"Bill, what was that mess in the oven? The only thing I could recognize in it was the curry." Makoto sounded faintly disapproving, and returned to her chopping as I fetched the pudding and dished it out.

"That was dinner."

"I could tell it was intended for that, but what was it?"

"Mackerel curry. Unlike Ami, I can't survive on sandwiches, but while I'm working on solving the MacManusite problem, I don't have the time or energy for anything fancy. So, I throw together whatever looks like it might work and let it cook while I'm working."

"What's this about my surviving on sandwiches?" Ami asked from the kitchen door. Chibi-Usa leapt to her feet and bowled her over in a Hurricane Usagi-style tackle.

"Ami-chan! I'm back!"

"I see that," Ami laughed from beneath the living embodiment of pink cuteness. "When did you get here?"

"Oh, just before a certain dumpling-haired fruitcake dragged all of us over here."

"Oooooh! You spore! I'll get you for that!" Usagi shrieked, and the two of them were off and running, laughing as Usagi chased her daughter - and friend.

"Like mother, like daughter, huh, Hotaru?" I smiled and slipped an arm around Ami as she came to me in a loving embrace.

"I guess," Hotaru murmured, looking down into her pudding. This was more like the Hotaru I'd seen over the last week.

"You've missed her, haven't you?" I sat beside the daughter of my two closest friends. "And you don't know how to tell her how you really feel about her. It sucks. I know."

"But I don't know how I really feel about her!" Hotaru wailed, getting Ami's and Makoto's attention. They both watched silently as Hotaru cried. "Do I feel this way just because of Mama and Papa? Do I even know what I feel? I'm not like the rest. I don't have two lifetimes of memories to help me. This is the first time I've ever been able to grow up and live without having to be shut up until it came time for me to destroy things. I don't know what to do!"

"Tell me what you feel?" Chibi-Usa asked, kneeling beside Hotaru and wrapping her arms around her gently. "You're my best friend in the whole world, and I'd do anything for you."

"But...but...I don't know what I feel! You're my best friend and I miss you so much and sometimes I want you to be more than a friend and-"

Chibi-Usa silenced Hotaru with a gentle kiss. There were gasps of surprise from the onlooking Senshi, all of whom had run to the kitchen in response to Hotaru's cries. Usagi quickly took charge and urged the others out, then closed the kitchen door and knelt beside Hotaru and Chibi-Usa.

"Hotaru? What do you feel inside? I mean, way down inside, where nothing makes any sense?" Usagi's voice was gentle and understanding, the kind of voice that could make you tell her your darkest secret.

"I..." Hotaru looked at Chibi-Usa and sobbed, hanging her head in shame.

"I love her," she whispered. "I want to love her the way Mama and Papa love each other."

The look of surprise on Usagi's face made it obvious she hadn't really looked at her daughter since she'd arrived. Chibi-Usa looked as if she were Hotaru's age; no longer was she the cute little sprout from the photographs.

"Why didn't you tell me, Hotaru?" Chibi-Usa asked, gently brushing the dark hair away from her friend's face. "I'd do anything for you. Anything at all."

"But I don't want that," Hotaru cried. "I don't want you to love me just because...."

Chibi-Usa turned her friend's gaze up to her and kissed her, firmly and lovingly. I took Ami's hand and slipped out of the kitchen, with Usagi following us, looking a little dazed.

"Your little girl isn't so little anymore, Usagi," I murmured as Ami and I hugged her gently and guided her to the living room.

"Hotaru's been sad for a long time," Usagi murmured. "I just thought it was because of what she's had to remember since becoming Sailor Saturn. I never realized...."

"That the two of them are old enough to start feeling more than the childish things you're used to expecting?"

"I don't know what to tell them," Usagi whispered, a sad look in her eyes. "I...I need to talk with Haruka and Michiru."

"Telephone's in the lab." I indicated the proper door. "Just...don't touch anything else? And don't let Minako touch anything?"

"Thanks." It was obvious as she moved away that Usagi was too wrapped up in her thoughts to respond with her usual airiness.

"They've always been close," Ami murmured, leaning against me. "I hope Hotaru can finally find happiness."

Minako and Rei looked expectantly at us, until Ami ducked her head and I shrugged.

"We decided they needed some privacy to work this out." I glanced back toward the kitchen. The sound of Makoto's knife was the only noise coming through the door. "I get the feeling Hotaru's the only one who noticed Chibi-Usa was growing up, eh?"

"Umm..." Minako looked as if she wanted to come up with something more constructive than that. Rei just blushed.

"Hotaru's what...sixteen or seventeen?"

"She's seventeen," Ami said quietly, glancing back toward the kitchen. "Old enough to know what she feels - if we'd bothered to listen and understand."

"Then we owe it to her to leave them to work it out with each other."

"That's exactly what we're going to do," Usagi said from the hall. "Haruka is on her way. Michiru is at a practice, but she'll come as soon as she gets Haruka's note." She laughed, her whole attitude shifting in a moment. "Do you have your stuff, Rei? We've got to give this house a proper warming."

I laughed and nodded when Rei turned a questioning glance to me. I'd gone through the house and purified it before I moved in, but I certainly wasn't going to reject her offer.

"You'd better not start the party without us!" Chibi-Usa yelled as she pulled Hotaru into the living room. Hotaru's smile was beautiful; the sprout had definitely made her happy.

"Ha! You think I want to listen to you complaining, spore?" Usagi shouted back, reaching out to her daughter with both hands. Chibi-Usa held back for just a moment, then ran to embrace our Princess, who murmured something in her ear that brought a flush to her cheeks to match the color of her hair.

Chibi-Usa turned to Hotaru and extended a hand. Usagi joined her, and Hotaru moved into a three-way embrace. I dug for a handkerchief and wiped my eyes, while Ami squeezed me in understanding. Over the last week, she'd seen several times how emotional I get over things like love and romance.

Makoto picked that time to come out of the kitchen carrying my tea service and some of her incredible cookies on a tray. Mother and daughter jumped excitedly and followed the aroma of food, while Hotaru just shook her head with a resigned smile as she followed them.

 


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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 "Demon Hunter's Journal", are copyrighted 2000 by Bill Hartwell.

Raven, Fred MacManus, David and Edgar MacManus, MacManusite, and the Ravenfield are copyrighted 1980 by Bill Hartwell.

Ben, Eve, Diana, Alex, and Lauren are Copyrighted 1992 by Bill Hartwell

Knights in Tarnished Armor is Copyrighted 1998 by Bill Hartwell