Time Passages

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 2 weeks after the end of Demon Hunter's Journal.



Queen Serenity looked into the shadows thoughtfully. This room was one she had set aside for private audiences, and she didn't remember having scheduled any for this time. The presence wasn't hostile, but it was unexpected. She extended a hand in invitation, and a young woman - no, not young, but ageless - stepped into the light. She had long dark hair and violet eyes, that looked as if she had seen into and beyond death, many times. She was wearing some form of strange uniform: a skin-tight white bodice, with an extremely short black skirt, and a black collar that spread over her shoulders and hung like a flattened hood across the top of her back, closed by a bow in a different shade of black, held in place by a garnet heart.

Cradled protectively in one arm was an infant; the child looked as if it were a newborn, yet it was sleeping peacefully. Serenity looked closer, and realized the child wasn't sleeping, it was held suspended in time, the same way she'd protected her followers when they'd traveled with her to the Moon. In her other hand, the woman held a staff, taller than she was, in the shape of a key with a talisman embedded in the end - a talisman that appeared to be a garnet larger than her own Silver Crystal.

"Queen Serenity, I come to ask your help," the woman said, bowing her head respectfully. "It is necessary, for the future of your kingdom and of all humanity, that this child be raised in this time and place."

Serenity looked thoughtfully at the child, then at the woman who wielded time so deftly. If she could see through time as well as she could wield it, her words were but a fraction of the truth she conveyed. She peered at the child, and considered what she saw the strangest life path she had ever seen; the child before her would not be born for many thousands of years, and would not die until several years before she was born, yet would live again after her death, for longer than Serenity could see. Looking at the stranger, she saw that the child and the woman were one.

"It shall be as you ask. What is her name?"

"Call her...Meiou Setsuna." The woman looked down at the child, her eyes glistening with tears as Serenity took the precious bundle. In her mind, Serenity heard the echo of words that sounded much like, "Mother, Father, I'm sorry."

When she looked up, the mysterious woman was gone, as silently as she had come.

"Yes, Meiou Setsuna, I will raise you and keep you safe until your destiny makes itself known," Serenity murmured, cradling the infant to her breast and moving to call for a nurse.


"She did raise me, as she'd promised. For centuries, she was the only mother I knew." Setsuna looked into Ami's eyes, holding her mother's hands as she searched for the words to ease her mind. "She loved me as if I were her own daughter, and when she had a daughter of her own, I was her big sister - until I learned that I couldn't protect her from her destiny, no matter how much I loved her. I think that's when I started to cut myself off from others; to become the cold and heartless Pluto you all knew for so long."

Ami gently tugged her daughter closer, wrapped her arms around her, and stroked her hair gently.

"You were never cold and heartless, Setsuna. You are too much like your father for that."

"He would say I'm too much like you," Setsuna answered, smiling as she rested her head against Ami's shoulder. The door opened just then, and the object of their commentary entered the hospital room.

"Ack! Gasp! Air! Air! Pedestal...too...high!" Ami exclaimed, posturing melodramatically. The man in the doorway looked stricken for a moment, then laughed and hurled a pillow in the direction of the women as he remembered that Ami knew how to tease, too.

"You are an imp!" he laughed, moving to gather Ami and Setsuna into his arms. "And you, daughter, are entirely too sneaky, underhanded, and manipulative for my peace of mind."

"Good," Setsuna purred, smiling happily in her parents' embrace. A lock of her father's hair, nearly three times longer than her mother's and several shades lighter, slipped out of his ponytail and tickled the tip of her nose, bringing forth a sneeze. His hazel eyes danced with amusement as she tried to look annoyed with him.

"Do I detect an oncoming cold?" he teased. "Or is that an attempt to trick us into doing something that needs doing, hmm?"

"You'll never know," she shot back, smiling happily in the love of her parents. It had been so long since she'd felt it safe to love anyone, and to have both her parents and Sarah in the same century - at the same time, even - made her feel as if she had found heaven.

"I think we'd better know," Dr. Mizuno said from the door of the room, "if you want my daughter going home today."

She stalked toward the trio with angrily flaring eyes. Setsuna felt her heart sink; her grandmother had refused to accept that she was who she said she was, even when Ami and Bill had made it clear that they did. She closed her eyes and bit her lip, shivering just a little as she held back her tears.

"Setsuna-chan," Dr. Mizuno's voice murmured gently, a hand touching Setsuna's shoulder, "I don't understand. I don't understand a lot of things I'd thought I did. But I've been watching the three of you for the last two weeks, and I can't deny that you love them as if you were their daughter - and they love you as if they were your parents. If what you say is true, I hope that the price you made them pay is justified. If you are their daughter...if you are my granddaughter...I can only pray that the world is worth what it's cost...all of us."

Setsuna looked into her mother's eyes, and they nodded. Bill stood, closed the door, and leaned against it so nobody could enter without getting through him. The women stood side-by-side and faced Dr. Mizuno.

"Mother, I'd hoped you'd understand without our having to do this...you've had enough shocks this year already. But it will help explain Setsuna, and I don't want to keep lying to you." Ami looked to Setsuna, who smiled and nodded. "Mercury Crystal Power, MAKE UP!"

As the bubbles cleared, Dr. Mizuno gasped and staggered, holding herself up by gripping the end of the bed. Sailor Mercury stepped forward and took her hands.

"I'm still me, Mother. I'll always be your Ami. I'm just a lot more than we ever expected."

"I should have realized...but I thought...Sailor Mercury...and Princess Mercury...had to be different people." Dr. Mizuno's voice was unsteady as she struggled to cope with this new surprise.

"It was that way, when I was young," Setsuna said. "The Senshi and the Princesses were different women. From the same family, but the Senshi were always the younger daughters. Except for one planet, but that was a special case. It was only in the last generation of the Silver Millenium that the Senshi were the Princesses. And those Princesses are the ones who were reborn in this time."

"But that means . . ." Dr. Mizuno raised her hand to her mouth, her eyes growing wide. "You've been fighting monsters ever since..."

"Ever since I was 14, Mother," Ami murmured softly. "It's my destiny. Just as it was my destiny to give birth to the Princess of Pluto."

"Princess...of...Pluto?" Dr. Mizuno looked toward Setsuna, extending a hand as she crushed Sailor Mercury to her with her other arm. "Granddaughter?"

Setsuna took the offered hand and moved in to rest her head on Dr. Mizuno's shoulder.

"Grandmother," she whispered, content in the knowledge that she had finally been accepted.


Setsuna crept toward where Princess Serenity was hiding in the rose bushes beneath her mother's balcony. She'd known that her little sister would be hiding there after finding the shattered pieces of the crystal statuette that King Endymion had sent as a gift to their mother. Serenity didn't like the King, and didn't like the way he was courting their mother after the death of her father in the battle to secure Titan. She'd liked Setsuna's assurances that their mother would marry him, and that it would be good for the Kingdom, even less.

"Serenity?" Setsuna knelt in the only path that led to Serenity's hiding place and closed her eyes to make it easier to see the paths that led to this time and place. She didn't understand what she was seeing, but it had started just a few months ago, not long after she'd turned 14, and it made it easier to take care of her little sister.

As she saw the path her little sister was following, she saw with horror that a moonquake was about to hit, breaking off one of the doors that opened onto the balcony. The door would tumble over the railing and fall, shattering Serenity's spine and instantly killing her.

Mindless of the roses, Setsuna leapt to her feet and ran - right into a body that blocked her path. She screamed and beat at the person blocking her way, trying to force her way past. Suddenly, she heard a crunching noise, like the sound made when she cracked the shell of a crab. The cloaked figure in front of her vanished, and she fell to her face in her haste to get to her sister.

The Palace Guard followed the wailing, trampling the roses in their haste to get to whoever was making such soul-rending cries. Setsuna was on the ground, cradling the broken body of her little sister in her lap, with the shattered frame of the Queen's balcony door embedded in the ground beside her. It was only when Queen Serenity came and gathered the broken-hearted Setsuna into her arms that they were able to collect the body of their Princess.


"Oh, Setsuna," Ami sobbed, holding her daughter close. "How did you stand it? And who was it who stopped you?"

Setsuna took the handkerchief her father offered with a weak - but grateful - smile. Her story had affected them all, more than she'd expected. Ami had always been so reserved, more so after she'd lost Urawa and before she'd met Bill. Bill had lived his entire life in terror, learning quickly as a child to conceal his true emotions or suffer painful consequences - and relearning the same lesson as an adult in his two previous marriages. It was a tribute to his ability to love - so much like Usagi's - that he'd opened himself to risk loving her mother. Setsuna had learned, not long after losing her little sister Serenity, just how painful her power could be, and had saved her sanity by deliberately shutting out all human contact...until this generation.

She waited until they were all more composed before continuing, and discovered she didn't want to go back to those memories - not just yet. The pain was, once again, too strong and too immediate for her to face.

"I didn't stand it, Mother," Setsuna whispered. "And...I'm not standing it too well right now. Can we talk about something else...for a little while, at least?"

"Of course we can," Bill murmured gently, hugging them both tightly for a moment. "Why don't you two think of something to talk about while I make tea? I always feel a little better with some tea, at least."

"Thank you, Father," Setsuna murmured, offering up a weak smile. "I'd like some tea very much."

Bill left Ami and Setsuna snuggled together, his jaw clenched as he tried to restrain his sadness enough to not add to his daughter's pain. He slid the kitchen door closed and started the water boiling, then slid down the wall in the corner farthest from the door and sobbed quietly, imagining the pain of being prevented from saving the life of someone you loved as much as Setsuna had loved her little sister. He'd never doubt his daughter's strength or ability to love, ever again. He knew if he were prevented from saving Ami's life the way she'd been prevented from saving Serenity's, it would break him.

It took a minute for the whistling of the teakettle to penetrate his thoughts, and he moved automatically through the process of making a pot of ocha. He usually preferred genmaicha or hojicha, but this pot was more for Setsuna than for himself, and ocha was her favorite.

He was fumbling with the kitchen door when the tea tray slipped. For a brief flash, he saw it falling against his legs, the entire contents of the teapot spilling out and burning him badly enough to require Hotaru's healing. Before it could happen, Setsuna's hands were there; she took the tray from him and gently guided him back to the living room. She set the tray on the table and gently pressed him down into Ami's arms.

"I'm sorry," he whispered sadly. "I was clumsy."

"It's all right," Ami assured him, gathering him into her arms and kissing him gently. "We all have our Usagi moments."

When the joke didn't produce the usual laughter, Ami shot a worried look at Setsuna. Setsuna reached out and touched his shoulder gently. He brought up one hand to cover hers, while holding Ami close with his other arm.

"Tell us, Father," Setsuna murmured softly, but with the firmness she knew he'd respond to.

"I'm sorry," he whispered. "I...you're so much stronger than me, Setsuna. I imagined how I'd react if it had been me and Ami in that situation...and I realized it would break me. I'm not strong enough for that."

"You're a lot stronger than you think, Father," Setsuna murmured, shaking her head with a sad smile. "Where do you think I get my stubbornness?"

"I thought I was the one to blame for your sneakiness," he replied, essaying a weak smile.

"You?" Setsuna put on her most horrified expression. "You couldn't manipulate your way out of a paper bag! And if you didn't have a weapon in your hand, you couldn't sneak any better. Father, you are just too basically honest to ever be sneaky, underhanded, or manipulative." She smiled as she saw him responding to her words. "And so is Mother. Between the two of you, you might be able to scrape together as much sneakiness in a year as I come up with before breakfast. So there!" She stuck her tongue out at him, hoping it would have the same effect it did when Chibi-Usa did it.

"Got it!" David announced gleefully as Bill and Ami stared at her in surprise. "I wonder how much the other Senshi would pay for this picture?"

"Try it, and die, you self-important pile of circuits!" Setsuna snarled, trying hard not to laugh.

"Did you see what I just saw?" Bill asked Ami, disbelieving.

"Only if you saw Setsuna impersonating Rei," Ami replied.

"I'll call Usagi, you get the thermometer," Bill announced, jumping to his feet.

"Don't even think it!" Setsuna laughed, falling over on her back. She'd managed to get through, now she was willing to take the consequences.

"Say...I know this girl who's really good at getting the best prices for candid photos like that. Her name's Tendo Nabiki. What do you think, Dad?" David said.

"Hmm...only if you can get a good deal on pictures of Ranko," Bill said, his eyes flashing as he watched Setsuna. She saw Ami open her mouth to object, then close it with a playful gleam in her eyes.

**All right, David, who is Tendo Nabiki?**

**I'll never tell....**

**How would you like me to mess up all your timestamps?**

**I think that would piss Dad off.**

"Arg! Computers!" Setsuna growled in frustration.

"Yeah. Don't you just love us?" David teased.

"What do you think, Angel? Should we tell her?" Bill smiled and winked at Ami.

"Mmm...I think so. I think David's probably teased her enough already." Ami giggled and rolled to her feet, walked over to Bill's otaku shelves, and came back with an art book for an anime called Ranma 1/2. She dropped it in Setsuna's lap and grinned, without saying anything.

"Are you telling me David is as much an otaku as Father?" Setsuna asked, looking down at the book suspiciously.

"Yup!" David announced smugly. "Maybe more! After all, I have a whole lot more processor time to keep busy than Dad does, so I've seen a lot of stuff he hasn't even heard of!"

Setsuna sighed heavily, doing her best to look and sound put-upon, as she opened the art book and skimmed through it.

"You know," Bill said thoughtfully, "I think we should make her watch it, instead of just reading about it. It might improve her personality."

"Oh, I don't know," Ami replied. "What if she decides to become a donbori-swinging Amazon?"

"I don't think we'd have to worry. After all, she's our kitten," Bill laughed.

"You don't want to know how Luna scratched up Usagi when she first met her, then," Ami said, grinning.

Setsuna smiled to herself, listening to her parents trying to tease her. She knew she'd have to let them see some reaction to their teasing soon, or they'd worry they'd hurt her.


Queen Serenity watched from the shadows as her daughter tormented her teachers with demands for more than any of them could offer. The magic Setsuna wanted to understand was of a kind none of her mages knew more than the most basic of things about. Even she, with the power of the Silver Crystal to help her, could not do with time as much as Setsuna did naturally.

She understood why Setsuna wanted so desperately to understand her magic: even after almost ten years, she still hoped to find a way to keep Princess Serenity from dying. As much as she wished Setsuna would succeed, Serenity felt that it was not meant to be; that the daughter now growing within her must be the one to carry on her name and lineage.

 

Setsuna stalked into her chambers, propelled by a mingling of rage and despair. Not one of the many teachers her mother had found for her knew any more about her powers than she had when her little sister had died. How could she save Serenity if she couldn't understand her own powers?

"You can't."

Setsuna whirled toward the voice, her hands raised to wither the intruder to dust. That was a trick she'd learned in a moment of panic, when attacked by a fanatic who'd believed her existence was what kept her mother from having another daughter to inherit the Kingdom.

The shadows thinned, and the source of the voice stepped into the light. Setsuna froze for a moment, then cut loose with her magic. Her target cocked her head and smiled thoughtfully as the power warped around her without effect.

"I'd forgotten I knew how to do that. It's been so long since I've had to, I'm afraid I'm a little out of practice." She looked as if she were looking within herself for a moment, then shook her head and stepped closer.

Setsuna tried another trick she'd reasoned out - one that would steal her target's age until she had reverted to nothingness. Again, the power warped around the enemy without effect.

"Who are you?" she demanded hopelessly, understanding how much more powerful this woman was than herself. "Why do you have my face?"

"I am Meiou Setsuna," the woman answered, offering her hand. "I have come to this time because you need a teacher, and there are no others who understand time as I do."

"But...that's my name," Setsuna whispered uncertainly. She stared at the woman before her, and shifted her perceptions to follow her path through time. With a squeak of surprise, she sat down suddenly, landing with a thud on a chair that hadn't been there a moment before.

"I recommend some wine," the elder Setsuna said gently, pouring a glass from a crystal decanter Setsuna kept on her desk. "The dizziness will pass soon enough. But you'll always feel it whenever you look at your own path."

Setsuna took the glass from her elder's hand and sipped slowly while trying to collect her thoughts. If what she had seen was right - if she really could travel in time the way her path showed - she could save Serenity! She looked up at her elder self and nodded, the hope within her bringing a glow to her eyes.

"Then it's time to begin," the elder Setsuna said, taking the glass from Setsuna's hand and setting it aside. "Take my hand, and we'll go to Pluto."

"Pluto? Isn't that the Earth Kingdom's God of Death?"

"In that sense, yes. He is the Death God of Endymion's kingdom. There are other kingdoms that will rise, that don't recognize those gods. Their gods are just as powerful, sometimes more, but they have little to do with us." The elder Setsuna shook her head. "The Pluto I speak of is the planet beyond Neptune. It is the planet of generations; of destiny and transformation. It is our planet. You are its Princess."

"But I don't...."

"You are also its warrior. As the warrior of Pluto, it is your duty to ensure that destiny is not thwarted, and that future generations have their chance to exist."

"Destiny...." Setsuna felt a sinking in her heart, as fear began to well up within her. "All I want is to save her life. All I want is my little sister back. Is that so wrong?"

The elder Setsuna took her hands and lifted her to her feet.

"It's not wrong to want it." She took a heavy cloak from Setsuna's wardrobe and wrapped it about the younger figure's body. "We will be travelling a long way, and there's no harm in making a side trip en route."

 

Setsuna watched from the shadows beside the elder Setsuna as Serenity fled into the rosebushes to hide, sobbing miserably after destroying the crystal statuette sent by King Endymion as a gift for her mother. She wanted desperately to go to her, to gather her up and comfort her, to take her away from that place where she would soon die.

"Look at her life path," the elder Setsuna commanded. "Do you see the way it branches?"

"I...yes...I always saw things like that, but there was always one branch that was more...real...than the others."

"Look now. Do you see how both branches are equally real? Look along the path that she would take if she lives."

Setsuna nodded and looked, her heart sinking with horror as she saw that path turn dark with fear and hatred. She saw Serenity murder King Endymion in his sleep, causing a war between the Earth and Moon that destroyed both kingdoms and left the human race prey for creatures like those that had killed Serenity's father on Titan.

"But...I can guide her! I can keep her from doing that! Can't I?" Setsuna begged her elder self hopefully.

"Look at your own life path in this time," the elder Setsuna said, pointing to where her younger self was kneeling at the entrance to the path through the roses.

Setsuna looked, and staggered in shock, held up only by the elder Setsuna's arms around her as her knees grew weak. Her own path branched at this point. In one branch, she was stopped and Serenity died. In the other, she wasn't stopped, and was able to save Serenity's life - at the cost of her own. She saw now that it was her own death that would turn Serenity's fear of Endymion into hatred, leading to the death of the human race.

"Now you must make a choice, Setsuna," the elder said gently. "Will you stop yourself from rescuing Serenity, or will you allow the other paths to become the real ones?"

"Why does it have to be me? I love her! I can't do this!" Setsuna wailed miserably.

"Do you think Queen Serenity didn't love her husband when she sent him to Titan?" the elder asked gently.

"No! She loved him more than anything! If she could have gone herself, she would have...but . . .," Setsuna lifted her head and murmured miserably, "This is like that, isn't it? If I don't make the right choice, the world dies. No matter how much I love her...I can't allow that."

Setsuna felt herself silently screaming in anguish as she looked into her own eyes - older, wiser, and infinitely sorrowful.

"What must I do?"

"All you have to do is keep yourself back until it's too late to save Serenity. Nothing more."

Setsuna gathered her cloak around her and pulled the hood as far over her head as she could, to hide the tears as she stepped from the shadows into the path. When her younger self tried to beat her way through her, she stood, silently accepting every blow as just punishment for betraying the little sister she loved more than life. When she heard the crunch of the door crushing Serenity's spine, she fled, back into the shadows, where her elder self gathered her into her arms and carried her into the darkness.


Setsuna felt herself being carried, and looked out through puffy and tear-filled eyes to see her father's gaze upon her, his jaw clenched as he held back his own tears so he could carry her up the stairs. At the top of the stairs, she heard a door being opened, and a moment later Bill carried her past Ami and into her room.

Ami gathered her into her arms as Bill laid her on her bed, and cradled her against her breast, rocking her gently and cooing softly as she stroked her hair. He vanished, only to reappear a moment later, settling onto the bed opposite Ami, looking down at her with so much love it brought fresh tears to her eyes.

"Setsuna? Sweetie? I have something for you," he said gently, pressing something soft and fluffy into her arms.

Setsuna opened her eyes and looked, blinking a few times until her vision cleared enough to reassure her she wasn't imagining what she saw. It was a stuffed bunny, that looked as it had been white sometime in the past - but was now stained with years of tears and wear. Without thinking, she looked at the bunny's past, and saw it had been a gift from her father's mother, to help him hold his tears and fears at bay during his darkest days. She squeezed it tightly and sobbed, letting go of the last of her reserve and curling up between her mother and father, where she knew without a doubt that she belonged.

 

"I don't understand," Ami murmured to Bill, glancing toward the stairs up to where they'd left their daughter sleeping. "How could she do that to herself? And what did she mean when she said that it was her death that turned Serenity's fear of King Endymion into hatred?"

"I'm just guessing," Bill said, ignoring Ami's snort as he tried to downplay his intuition, "but I think there's a couple things going on there. First, she had to let Serenity die, no matter what else happened. She could have done it herself, but she forced her younger self to do it in order to harden her and make her realize just how painful it can be to do what must be done. Second, I think she's trying to prepare us for something that hasn't happened yet."

Ami hugged him tightly, feeling a spark of fear come to life as he named a fear that she had refused to consciously consider. One of them was going to have to choose between the other and the rest of humanity - and she was sure she didn't have the strength to make that choice. Bill cuddled her gently and kissed her forehead, murmuring softly until she relaxed, then brushed her lips with his own before speaking again.

"As for Serenity...how old do you think she was? How old can a child be and still be young enough to think that breaking a gift will make the bad man who's trying to steal her mother go away? Seven? Eight? Maybe nine, at the most? A kid that age...I think her thinking would have run something like...King Endymion brought the statuette that she'd broken, so she'd had to hide until Mommy wasn't mad anymore. Big sister found her when she was hiding and the door fell on her and she died, so it's all King Endymion's fault that her big sister is dead." He bit his lip and looked into his tea, his hands quivering against hers as he held in his sorrow. "No matter what Setsuna did, there would be one dead girl and one girl with a broken heart. The survival of the human race hinged on which one lived. That's a terrible choice to have to make."

"But she made it," Ami murmured, nuzzling Bill until he gathered her into his arms and cradled her against his chest. "It's no wonder she's walled herself off from the world. If anyone ever got that close to her again, and she had to make another choice like that...."

"She let herself die," Haruka's voice said from the front door. She and Michiru had just stepped inside, and were hanging up their raincoats. After kicking off their shoes and retrieving their slippers, they stepped up onto the living room floor. "Usagi asked us to come by. It sounds as if she had reason."

Ami and Bill stood to greet Haruka and Michiru, sharing warm embraces and guiding them to the tea table. Once fresh cups had been poured for everyone, Ami looked expectantly at Haruka.

"Do you remember when we were fighting the Death Busters?" Haruka asked.

"And you thought we were just a bunch of little girls playing at being Senshi?" Ami asked with a small smile. When she saw Haruka tense up, she reached out and touched her hand, murmuring gently, "We all make mistakes, Haruka. We thought the three of you were arrogant, self-righteous snobs. We've all learned different since then, haven't we?"

"Are you sure we weren't arrogant, self-righteous snobs?" Michiru asked, throwing a teasing glance at Haruka.

"I don't have to listen to this," Haruka grumbled, turning away from Michiru. "We're here because Usagi asked us to come, and I want to know why that might be."

"Are you going to argue, imouto, or are you going to take some tea and relax?"

"This IS how she relaxes," Michiru slipped in dryly, while Haruka turned an interesting shade of red.

"Little? Little ? I've got your little right here!" Haruka snarled, only to be brought up short as Bill responded to her waving fist by falling over in hysterical laughter. "It's not funny! Don't you dare laugh at me!"

"Why not? I laugh at myself all the time," Bill laughed, reaching up to grab Haruka's fist and pull himself upright. Seeing the look in her eyes, he shook his head and glanced toward Michiru before continuing. "Look, sis, if you take yourself too seriously, you end up a fucked-up mess like I was. Do you really want that? You've got to see the humor in yourself and the things you do, or it'll drive you insane. And I really do not want my little sister doing that to herself."

"I'll live," Haruka grumbled, glaring at him.

"Of course you will, sis," he replied with a shrug and a half smile. "We've all died here at least once, so we know that can be fixed. But physical scars are a hell of a lot easier to heal than spiritual scars. Trust me on that. Laughter is...kind of like kata for the soul. It makes you stronger, and helps you heal from shit that would break your spirit otherwise. And ain't none of us here all that good at healing that kind of damage."

"Life's too serious to laugh at," Haruka insisted. "Our mission is too serious to laugh at. Our lives are too serious for laughter."

"That's exactly when you need it the most, sis. It's like when you're in the desert. No water for miles around - that's exactly when you need water the most. And if you don't know how to find it, or didn't bring it with you, you're screwed. Humor's like that. If you can't find the humor in the darkest situation, it'll break you. You'll end up doing something stupid, like killing yourself, because you can't see any other way out of the darkness."

"THERE WASN'T!" Haruka lashed out, catching Bill by surprise and knocking him onto his back. "THERE WASN'T ANY OTHER WAY!"

Haruka leapt, straddling Bill and swinging blindly at him; half her punches missed entirely, and the rest struck his chest. He looked up at her in surprise, raised his hands as if to catch her by the shoulders, then simply waited for her to exhaust herself.

**What in the world is going on? What button did I push?**

**She did kill herself. When I died while we were searching for the talismans.**

**Aw, shit...I knew she'd died then, but I didn't know she'd done it to herself.**

**You hit too close to her heart. It's not your fault, but you're right. She really is wound too tight.**

"Haruka-chan . . .," Bill murmured softly, catching her as she collapsed atop him and gently passing her into Michiru's arms. "It's all right, imouto. Any time you need to pound on someone, you just come to your big brother and whale away. Just stay away from the face, and we'll be fine." He grinned and added, "I'm ugly enough as it is. Don't need to make it any worse."

"You are not ugly!" Ami protested, swatting his arm. "Just you wait until I get you alone...."

"You're going to tickle me into submission?" he asked innocently.

"...not ugly," Haruka whispered, her voice barely audible in the quiet as Bill grinned playfully at Ami.

"And you are not alone," he said, reaching out to cup her chin and gently force her gaze up to his eyes. "You have Michiru, you have me, you have the Senshi, and we are not going to let you suffer by yourself. You got that, imouto?"

Haruka nodded, too exhausted to protest - despite the defiant look in her eyes.

**And if you really feel you need to be punished for something, just let me know and I'll ask Minako to clean your apartment or something. That's punishment enough for any sins.**

"Try it, and die," Haruka growled weakly.

"Is that the best you can come up with, sis?" Bill smiled and leaned over to kiss Haruka's forehead. "Some things just aren't much of a threat, you know?"

Michiru and Ami looked at each other questioningly, then at Bill and Haruka, waiting for an explanation. When none was forthcoming, Ami spoke up.

"What's going on? Would one of you explain?"

"I just offered to have Mina-chan go over and clean their apartment," Bill answered, flashing his most innocent expression.

"You do that, and I'll kill you," Michiru growled. "She's a nice girl, and she means well, but she makes Usagi look competent."

"Makes her look stable, too," Bill chuckled. "Minako's the flakiest girl I've ever called friend, let alone family. But her heart is...."

Ami picked up a pillow and began beating Bill over the head with it, while Michiru and Haruka groaned in unison. He chuckled, then laughed, aiming his fall when he collapsed so that his head ended up in Haruka's lap.

"So...should I do my hair in odango?" he teased, grinning wide enough to look as if it should hurt.

Ami growled and swatted him a few more times with the pillow, while Michiru snickered and Haruka glared down at him, finally raising a hand to slap him, then letting it fall against his shoulder with a tired shake of her head.

"I don't know why I put up with you," she whispered. "You're irreverent, you're disrespectful, you're insolent...."

"And I love you, imouto," Bill interjected. "And I'm not going to stop loving you, no matter how hard you try to push me away. So you can either accept it, or you can keep fighting it and keep being miserable." He reached up and gently tapped the tip of her nose. "I hope you accept it. I don't like seeing you unhappy."

"Neither do I," Setsuna said, standing at the bottom of the stairs with her bunny held tightly under one arm. "Haruka, we're not your enemies. He's not your enemy. You know that, so why won't you let yourself feel it?"

Michiru and Haruka gaped at Setsuna, their eyes tracking from her face to the bunny and back again, as if finding it impossible to believe what they were seeing. Setsuna joined the others, settling on the floor between Ami and Michiru. Following the couple's gaze, she looked down at her bunny, then back at them and shrugged, with her usual secretive expression.

"You should try it sometime," she murmured. "It helps."

"If you're a child, maybe," Haruka growled.

"Or if you're adult enough to not care what other people think," Bill shot back. "I have enough stuffies that Ami's threatened to kick me out of bed a few times and sleep with my stuffies, instead."

"Why?" Michiru asked thoughtfully.

"Why do I have them? Or why have them at all?"

"Why do you have them?"

"When you're in pain, anything that eases it without doing you more harm is good. And in chronic pain conditions, hugging a stuffed toy can ease your pain as effectively as medication - sometimes more effectively, depending on the condition."

"Don't forget the other reason, Father," Setsuna murmured, gazing into his eyes so there was no mistaking her intent.

"I'd rather...but it'll never happen, will it?" When Setsuna shook her head, he took a deep breath and added, "It also works for emotional pain. When I was married to my demonic wife, the only way I could cope with the pain of her torture was with one of my stuffies. They gave me something to hold onto when every real person who loved me was a thousand miles away."

"So...you had two reasons to have them," Michiru mused. "Why do you still have them?"

"Partly because they're familiar and comfortable. Partly to pass on to our children, if we ever have any more. Partly to save Ami pain."

"What?" Ami demanded, looking worriedly at Bill. "You never mentioned that before."

"I'm sorry, Angel. I didn't want to worry you." He took a deep breath and sat up, so he could look into Ami's eyes more easily as he spoke. "You know the programming my ex-wife inflicted on me. Even with the therapy I've been through, and the destruction of her demonic power, I still have bits of that programming pop up from time to time. When it happens...."

"Hermes tells me about it," she stated flatly. "I've known every time it's happened since he's awakened, but I was waiting for you to tell me."

"Gomen nasai," Bill hung his head in shame and whispered. "I didn't want you to worry. I just took a stuffy and curled up in bed until the pain or depression or self-loathing went away. If I'd been with you...."

"I'd have held you and loved you myself," Ami said, extending a hand in invitation. "I'm not made of porcelain, Bill. I love you. That means all of you - your good times and your bad. That means when you're happy, when you're trying to make me smile - and when you want nothing more than to crawl into a hole and pull it in behind you. Don't you trust my love for you enough to let me decide whether I can take your pain?"

"It's not you I don't trust, Angel. It's me. How can I be sure that I won't hurt you when I'm in the middle of one of those episodes? A stuffy can be replaced. You...."

"I'm a lot tougher than you're willing to admit," Ami said, still waiting with hand extended for him to take. "I've been Sailor Mercury for over six years now. I've died. I've seen my friends die. I'm still here. And I love you, dammit! How much more do you need to know? How much more do you need, to let me help you?"

Michiru looked down on the back of Haruka's head, covering her lover's hand with her own and feeling the tension in it. This argument was one they'd had many times, and Haruka's stubborn refusal to risk exposing her darker side - for much the same reasons - meant it was likely to be an argument they'd continue to have for a long time.

"Your promise," Bill whispered, taking Ami's hand and looking at her pleadingly, "that when it gets too much for you to handle, you'll get away from me. Go to Setsuna, go to Usagi, go to Rei, go anywhere, as long as you get away where you can recover safely."

"I don't . . .," Ami started, then paused, looking deep into Bill's eyes and seeing the love and fear in them.

**Promise it, Mother. It's the only way he'll let you see his dark side.**

**Is it really that dark, Setsuna?**

**No. But he believes it is, and that's what matters right now.**

**I wish I could find that bitch he was married to and show her just how dangerous I can be when I'm mad.**

**The only way you could do that is with my help, Mother. He killed her that night in Hikawa Shrine.**

**So she really was a demon?**

**Yes, she was. She wasn't born that way, but she became one in exchange for the power to control others' lives.**

". . . believe I'll have to, but if it comes to that, I will. I promise, beloved."

"Thank you, Angel," Bill murmured, moving to lay his head in Ami's lap. "I hope you never have to, but...I'm afraid."

**Is that so horrible, my love?**

**He...how can he be so free with his feelings? I don't understand.**

**Do you understand that I love you?**

**That's the one thing I do understand.**

**Then the rest will come in its own time. Do you understand what he was trying to teach you?**

**Teach me?**

**Laughter, my love. The need to cleanse and strengthen your spirit with laughter.**

**I . . .can't.**

**That will come in time, too. He's right, even if his method of showing it is more demonstrative than you're comfortable with.**

**Does that mean I'm wrong?**

**No, it just means that you're too close to the waves to see the ocean.**

Haruka glared at Michiru, who looked calmly back at her for a moment, then drew her into a hug; her resistance lasted only a few moments before she relented and relaxed into her lover's arms.

"Setsuna, why do you have that toy?" Michiru asked gently, stroking Haruka's back and working out the knots of tension with firm pressure from her fingers. "Wouldn't Sarah be better for you?"

"She's not ready for this yet," Setsuna murmured. "My memories go far beyond what she knows. Even if she were ready for this, she's currently...about 600 kilometers northwest of Easter Island, doing research on the ocean in that area."

"I think you'd be amazed," Bill murmured. "Sarah's pretty tough."

"But she doesn't have our experiences. How can she understand what it's like to die, or to hate yourself - for whatever reason - when she hasn't experienced it herself?"

"She has a good heart. For as long as I've known her, she's had the ability to empathize - and to set aside her feelings and act when she feels it's needed. Give her a chance. She'll love you more for it."

"Even when I tell her I've killed myself - twice?" Setsuna's voice was soft enough that the others almost missed the addendum. As it processed, the three Senshi all stared at her in surprise, mouthing "twice?" silently.

"Twice, huh? I guess you're one up on me then, pumpkin. Gonna tell us about it?"

"You never killed yourself, Father," Setsuna insisted.

"What else do you call trying to fight something you know outclasses you by a ridiculous amount, when one of the people who's better suited to fighting it is laying at your feet, half dead?"

"Being a hero." Setsuna glared at her father, daring him to disagree.

"So convince me that your deaths weren't heroic," he shot back, smiling lovingly. "I'm willing to bet you can't."

"Well...."

"What you did isn't killing yourself any more than anything any of the rest of us have done," Ami declared firmly. "If you hadn't stopped time so Sailor Moon could recover the Crystals from Demando, the Death Phantom would have won. Earth would have been destroyed. If that's not heroic, I don't know what is."

"I agree," Michiru said. "If you had not stopped time outside Mugen Gakuen, we wouldn't have been able to defeat Tomoe-sensei, or the Death Busters. The price was too high, but it was not suicide."

Haruka simply glared at Setsuna, daring her to argue - with either statement.

"It seems to me that what we have here is a basic problem with perceptions," Bill said as Setsuna tried her best to appear inscrutable. "Does anybody here really think that what they personally do is heroic? I know I don't. It's just what I have to do. I couldn't not do it any more than I could stop breathing."

"We have to," Ami murmured. "The Princess - Usagi - needs us."

"That's part of why we do it," Bill said. "But I'll bet there's more personal reasons for each one of us individually. And each one of us thinks those personal reasons means she's not a hero, regardless of what the rest of us think. Am I right?"

A silent chorus of blushes and lowered eyes conveyed all the response he got - or was likely to get - to that.

"Setsuna, you still haven't told us why you're carrying a stuffed rabbit. That's something I'd more easily believe of our junior princess." Michiru sounded almost amused, but a little worried, as well.

"It's a gift from my father. It's the same bunny he used to rely on to help him when things hurt too much to bear."


Pluto walked through the wreckage of Queen Serenity's Palace, memories rising unbidden as familiar objects and places came into view. The Throne Room was the most terribly damaged, with bodies carpeting the floor like grass, the roof entirely torn away, and only one other living being in the space.

"Will they be happy, Lady Pluto? In the future I sent them to, will my daughter and her warriors be happy?" Queen Serenity cradled her daughter's body in her arms, the dead princess appearing only slightly more battered than her mother.

"They will, Serenity," Pluto said, with the same gentleness she'd used when this Serenity was a child. No need to tell her that her daughter would become a warrior like her friends, or that her path to happiness would be a rocky one. "She will be Queen, and Prince Endymion will be her King."

"Watch over her." Serenity coughed, bringing up a mouthful of pink foam.

"Watch over her...as you did over me."

Setsuna stepped forward and placed her hand on the Queen's head, gently stroking her hair as her breathing grew shallower.

"I will," she breathed softly, "little sister."

"Thank you, big sister," Serenity said, gathering her strength and lifting her head to look into Setsuna's surprised eyes. "I...remember. It was never your fault. Please...remember that?"

While Setsuna stared in surprise, Serenity raised her Silver Crystal one last time, using the last of her life to seal the path her daughter had taken to the future, so that none of Beryl's forces could follow.

"No," Setsuna whispered, falling to her knees to cradle Serenity's lifeless body. "Not now. Not when you've finally remembered! Don't leave me!"

She frantically reached for Serenity's life thread, only to have it slip away from her as easily and completely as it had during her life. The Queen - her little sister - was truly lost to her, and she could not see if she would ever find her again. She allowed herself one wail of emptiness and despair before walling away her grief in the place she had kept it through the centuries since her little sister had first died.

Her hands, expressing all the love she could not allow her heart to feel, gently laid Serenity on the only clear place in the room and she stood to face the two warriors who were arriving - just after the nick of time, as the future required.

"The Queen is dead. It is our duty to carry out her last command, so that the forces of Darkness do not win all." Her voice sounded - to her - tired and hollow, but the others nodded and called forth their Talismans.

She led the way to the chamber where Saturn's sleep crystal was, as she buried her guilt over what she must shortly do deep within, where no one could ever see. The last vestiges of the Silver Millenium must die this day, in order for humanity to survive. There would be - with a few shining exceptions - ten thousand years of barbarism, but the future would be secure.


"You see? She didn't blame you," Bill murmured, moving with Ami to gather Setsuna in their arms. "Won't you accept her judgement, sweetie?"

"If you really want punishment, why don't you let us handle it?" Haruka growled, moving with Michiru to help Ami and Bill gather Setsuna in. "After all, we're the ones you didn't call in time to save them - and we're the ones who died with Saturn when you threw the Silver Crystal into the mix after awakening her."

"I had to," Setsuna said, her voice quavering as she tried to regain her composure. "It was the only way to ensure that you'd be here now, not captured and subverted by Beryl. That's what would have happened if you'd tried to continue the fight. And with your powers added to her own, Beryl would have conquered the Earth, and the human race would have outlived the Silver Millenium by only another thousand years or so."

"That justifies what you did," Michiru purred, her eyes flashing dangerously. "But it doesn't get you out of your punishment." She looked at Haruka, and they nodded in unison before she continued. "Your punishment for what you did to us is twofold. First, you will adopt us as your sisters, and allow us to love you the way you loved Serenity."

Setsuna opened her mouth to protest, only to have it covered by Haruka's hand as she spoke.

"Second, you will devote more of your attention to finding your little sister, and give her the love and protection you believe you failed in before." Haruka leaned close and growled meaningfully, "Unless, of course, she is who I think she is, in which case you can forget the part about finding her. Do you understand, or do I have to punctuate it a little?"

Setsuna's eyes widened above Haruka's hand and she nodded, squeezing her bunny tightly against her chest.

"Good," Haruka growled, much more gently, as she removed her hand. "Now... is she who I think she is?"

"I'm not . . .," Setsuna began, then blushed and lowered her eyes as she saw that all four were watching her intently and three of them were unwilling to accept what she was about to say. "I think so. I hope she is." Her voice fell to a whisper, "I hope she is...with all my heart. But...how did you know?"

"Well, how many girls do we know who are willing to do anything for their mother," Ami laughed, "even if it means doing things and going places that are far too scary for little girls?"

"And how many girls do we know who can make the cold and mysterious Sailor Pluto behave as if she were their big sister - and who return the love just as freely?" Michiru added, gently laying a hand on Setsuna's shoulder.

"Sounds like you're talking about . . .," Bill began, then smiled warmly and nodded. "It fits."

The front door slammed open and two voices carried into the house.

"Why did Serenity say you'd know the reason for being here, Usagi?" Hotaru asked.

"I don't know, Cupcake," Chibi-Usa answered. "She's always doing stuff like that. She's almost as bad as Puu that way. I wish she were as flaky as she was when I was younger. She was a lot more fun, then."

"Now, she's too much like your mother, huh?" Hotaru teased. "Maybe you need to remind her how much fun it was?"

"Maybe I do," Chibi-Usa declared. Seeing the crowd around the tea table, she laughed happily and bounded across the room. "Hihihi! Is this a private group hug, or can anyone join in?"

In a matter of moments, Setsuna was being pushed gently toward the pink-haired girl. Seeing the bunny in Setsuna's arms, Chibi-Usa squealed with delight.

"You got one of your own? Cool! So what's his name, oneechan?" Chibi-Usa grinned with irresistible good humor and cuteness.

"Father?" Setsuna asked, glancing toward Bill uncertainly.

"My mother named him 'Fu-Fu' when he was hers. Like the nursery rhyme."

"Little bunny Fu-Fu?" Chibi-Usa giggled. "Well, I'm not a field mouse, so don't you dare bop me on the head, oneechan!" She hugged Setsuna happily and plopped down on the floor, while Hotaru made her way across the room to embrace Haruka and Michiru.

"I'm glad to see you," Setsuna said softly, watching Chibi-Usa with glistening eyes. "Have you decided how much longer you'll stay with us?"

"Well, Usagi says I have to leave before I'm born, so that means I don't have to go for another year and a half, at least." Chibi-Usa grinned at Hotaru and added, "That means I'm going to have a very busy year ahead of me."

Hotaru blushed and ducked her head, bringing a happy giggle from Chibi-Usa as she gathered her close. Michiru chuckled softly and whispered to Haruka, eliciting a gentle swat as the blonde snuggled closer.

"Yes . . .," Setsuna agreed in a soft murmur. "The more love you give her now, the more she'll have to sustain her while waiting for your return."

"All right, 'neechan, what's wrong?" Chibi-Usa demanded, reaching out to tug at Setsuna's arm. "I've never seen you like this before. You'd think you were feeling guilty about something. Well don't ! You're my big sister, and I don't like it when you're sad. Got it?"

"Yes, imouto, I 'got it'," Setsuna whispered, smiling weakly at Chibi-Usa. "I've just been thinking about things in the past...things that still bother me."

"Like . . .?" Chibi-Usa started, then paused and took a surprised breath as her eyes shifted into the distance. She reached out to tug Setsuna into her arms. "Like how you still feel guilty for something that happened twenty thousand years ago, maybe? Am I going to have to spank you before you'll stop feeling guilty about that?"

"Don't you think I'm a little old for that?" Setsuna protested weakly.

"I don't know...Mom doesn't think I'm too old for it. And...Dad doesn't think Mom's too old for it, either. Or too dignified." Chibi-Usa blushed, glancing at Hotaru as another thought crossed her mind.

"Hmm . . ." Bill murmured softly, smiling playfully at Ami.

"Try it, and you're in big trouble, buster," she growled softly as the intent of his gaze became clear.

"That kind of trouble, I think I can handle," he teased, pulling her into his lap. He nodded toward Chibi-Usa and Setsuna and whispered softly, "I think we should leave them in peace, don't you?"

Ami nodded and glanced toward Michiru and Haruka.

**Let's go to the lab, ok?**

**I'm a racer, not a scientist.**

**In that case, you can help me with my latest project.**

**They're right, my love. Shouldn't we bring Hotaru with us?**

**I think having her around will help both of them. They have a lot of memories to work through.**

The two older couples stood and slipped quietly out of the room, leaving Chibi-Usa and Setsuna to renew their relationship as Hotaru quietly lent them her strength.


Back to the archives

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 that are original, the Crystal Kingdom Archives, and the story "Time Passages", are copyrighted 2000 by Bill Hartwell.

Rated: PG-13