Usagi bit her lip, trying to relax - and failing miserably. She shook her head. "I can't do this," she stated softly.
Hotaru set down the brush she'd been using on Usagi's hair. "I'm sure you'll be fine, Usagi-san."
"But, Hotaru-chan, I came here to get away from them. It's only been two months, and now I'm seeking them out."
"It'll be all right, Usagi-san." The youngest Sailor Senshi sat on the dresser before her friend. "You know, you won't be going alone; Duo-san, Heero-san, and I will be going with you. I'd hate to think what Duo-san would do to them if they tried anything." Usagi chuckled lightly. "It'll be all right. Now, let's finish your hair, okay?" The blonde girl nodded. "I think this business of the braid looks good on you, Usagi-san."
"I'm meeting with the Inner Senshi, Hotaru-chan; do the odangos."
"Are you sure?"
"I'm certain. Just do it quickly, before I lose my courage." She sounded brave, but she was also shaking in terror as Hotaru twisted up the buns.
"I'm done," Hotaru declared. She held up a mirror before Usagi's face. "I'm not as good at it as you were, but what do you think?"
The pale Usagi in the mirror stared back at the real one, tears threatning in both their eyes. "You did a good job, Hotaru-chan, really, you did, but please, take it down. I can't pretend to be this girl."
Hotaru smiled and hugged her. "I'm glad to hear you say that, Usagi-san." She quickly undid her hair and pulled it back inot its braid. "I like this new you a great deal. Now, shall we go see what the boys are up to?
~ * ~ * ~
Okay, Usagi, she thought to herself, you can do this. You have Duo right here, Heero and Hotaru are right behind you, and the others are all outside the gates. Nothing's going to happen. She smiled at the young man beside her. He'd never allow it. I've never felt this safe with anyone ever before. Ai -
"Are those them?" Heero questioned, nodding toward the three woman standing beneath the huge oak tree. He and Duo had decided the park would be a good neutral place to meet; the Inner Senshi would have to be idiots to start something in such a public setting.
"Hai, that's them," answered Hotaru. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Heero slip his hand into the deep pockets of his trench coat. She couldn't even begin to imagine what he was up to, but it had to be something to make him actually wear a jacket besides his thin denim one - or really for him to wear one at all, even in the cold air of mid-December. Hotaru had whispered something to her about a gun. It had been a gun she'd felt under Duo's much shorter jacket on the way over here, but she wasn't going to say a word, not a single word.
It was the brunette who spotted them first. When Usagi last saw her, she'd worn her hair in a high ponytail; now, it trailed loose down her back. The other two seemed almost exactly the same as she remembered, right down to the red bow in Minako's hair. The only real difference between her memories and the people before her seemed to be the fact that when she last laid eyes on them, they'd all been sixteen; now the Inner Senshi looked to be in their mid-twenties.
The brunette nudged the blue-haired woman next to her, who in turn got the blonde's attention, as as one, they started walking toward the waiting couples. As if it were planned, when they stopped before them, all three of them bowed deeply from the waist. Usagi and Duo exchanged a confused look before they all rose and Minako began to sleep.
"I'm sorry for asking you out here. I know you don't know us, ojousan, but we used to know someone related to -" She paused as Hotaru, Duo, and Usagi started snickering; even Heero looked a bit amused. "What?"
"Minako no baka," pronounced Hotaru, who was having to hold onto Heero's jacket sleeve to keep from falling over in laughter.
"Hotaru-chan? What do you mean?"
Usagi drew herself up straight and stated, "I am Tsukino Usagi, the one and the same, who you drove away so long ago, my Senshi." The last word came out nearly snarled.
"But how is that possible?" asked Ami, regardless of Usagi's sudden temper. "You say you're our Usagi-chan, but she left us almost 1,500 years ago. We got older, but you don't look any older than sixteen."
"Because Setsuna-san and I came here through the Time Gate."
"Usagi-san?" Makoto began. "Between the three of us Inner Senshi, we always swore if we ever found you again, we'd right our mistake and be the best Senshi for you that we could. If you'll take us back, that is."
"Mako-chan," Usagi started to say.
"That does, of course," another voice cut in, a voice Usagi had only heard in her nightmares as of late, "only apply to those of us who actually wanted you back." Usagi's breath caught in her throat as she turned to the couple approaching from her left side. "Welcome back, odango atama," Rei snidely greeted.
~ * ~ * ~
Maiko watched the tension building in the part and giggled in wicked glee. This couldn't be better if she'd planned it herself. The White Moon Princess's opposers and defenders, all in one place. Her. . . defenders. . .
She frowned suddenly. This princess probably thought she was smarter than all the rest, depending on more than just the Sailor Senshi to protect her. Even Maiko herself had to admit that the Gundam pilots were a factor she had not been counting on when she started this again.
But no matter. She still had ways of dealing with them.
20 December 2000
Yay! Another Act done! Did I leave off in an evil spot? I'm just trying to keep my title, you know: the Queen of Cliffhangers! How am I doing? ^_~ Remember to read, review, and e-mail me, okay? Ja mata, ne!