Continuing Tales

Destiny's Child

A Crossovers Story
by Fire

Part 19 of 26

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Destiny's Child

Chibi-Usa sat in her room, staring at the wall. For the last two hours, she had been sitting there, patting the black cat that she held in her lap. In the entire time she did not say one thing, just sitting and patting.

Like any cat, Luna was a complete hedonist when it came to being petted. There was nothing that she liked more than being fawned over and cared for. Given the slightest opportunity she would lie in the sunlight, or stretch across a warm lap. Warm laps like Chibi-Usa's were preferable because they often came with attentive arms, and those arms would have hands that were just perfect for stroking her back.

Chibi-Usa was so much better at this than Usagi. Although Usagi's heart was in the right place, she often had the unfortunate tendency to beat her pet when she was trying to be nice. Chibi-Usa on the other hand had the whole deal down pat. She stroked the right direction, firm without being rough, and she remembered to scratch just behind the head, on the back of the neck where it was often so hard to get the right sort of attention.

Luna purred. She could taker this sort of treatment for hours.

It was at that thought Luna realised that she had been receiving this treatment for hours. Not less than two hours had passed since Chibi-Usa had come home, picked her up without a word, and retreated to her room. While she would often give the cat a quick pat, it was entirely unusual for her to spend this much time just caring for her.

Craning her neck, Luna looked up at Chibi-Usa and studied the girls face. Although her hands made all the right motions, her face showed that her concentration was on something other than looking after a cat. The little girl's red eyes were unfocused and she stared into the middle distance. Watching her for a minute, Luna realised that she must have been like this the entire time. That indicated deep thought, and Chibi-Usa was a growing girl. She should be up and about, not brooding over difficult problems all afternoon.

Luna knew that when Neo-Queen Serenity had sent her daughter back in time, she must have expected Luna to be there to help look after her. Luna knew she was the most level headed of any of the people Chibi-Usa would be associating with. She was supposed to be the responsible and wise one. Luna was the one that was supposed to provide the guardianship for the girl, and she was in some sort of trouble or quandary, it was her job to sort it out.

"Chibi-Usa... Chibi-Usa... What's wrong, Chibi-Usa? What are you worried about?"

The girl looked down and her face fell. Chibi-Usa looked like she was about to cry. Standing on her rear paws, Luna leaned on the girl and tried to give her a hug. Soon she responded and hugged the cat back, cradling Luna to her chest.

"Oh, Luna. I don't know what to do. I've got all these problems, and there's no-one I can tell. I've been sitting here for so long, and I still don't know what to do."

"There, there. It's OK. You can tell me. I'm sure that whatever your problem is, we can get the rest of the Senshi to help, and it will be solved in no time."

"But we can't! That's the whole problem. It's about one of the Senshi. And I can't tell her because I don't the real truth. If I tell her something, or she finds out because of me, then it might just make matters worse. Oh, Luna. I don't know what to do."

"Chibi-Usa, you know what I do these days, do you? What I did in the Moon Kingdom, and what I'm still doing in the time that you come from. You know what my job is, don't you, Chibi-Usa?"

"Yes... You're the Queen's advisor. Or your Usagi's keeper I suppose."

A small chuckle. Things can't be too bad if she is making jokes.

"That's right. I'm the Queen's advisor. Do you know what that means? It means I help the Queen make her decisions. If she has a problem, then I'm here to help her. I can offer advice, and I can offer a ear to listen. Just talking about your problems can often make then so much smaller."

"I don't know, Luna. I mean... I've always been told it's bad to spread rumours. If I start telling you everything I know, then I'm going to be starting some pretty bad rumours."

"You don't have to worry about that, child. That's why I'm an advisor. The Queen - or you - could tell me anything, and it would never go any further. I can only offer advice if you tell me what's worrying you."

Sitting Luna on the bed, Chibi-Usa looked at the cat and put on a stern face. "OK, Luna. I need your advice on this, and you better not tell anyone else. "There's this boy Rei likes."

"Yes. Ranma."

"Well, what you probably did not know is I think he's Hotaru's brother. Rei know this, so far."

"What do you mean you think he's her brother? This could be very serious if he is."

"Oh, Luna! You've been listening to all those horrible things that Puu has been saying about Hotaru-chan, haven't you? Well they can't be true. She's the nicest, kindest and sweetest girl I know. There's no way that she's helping the bad guys. I just know it! I don't care what Sailor Pluto says!

"But I'm a bit unsure about something. Rei once asked Hotaru if Ranma was her brother, and she said 'We have the same parents...' Why wouldn't she say yes? Is there any way that she couldn't be his brother if that have the same parents?

"Anyway. Hotaru and Ranma are really close. I think they talk about everything. But the day there was that big explosion... you know the one... that day, when I was out walking with Hotaru we ran into some friends of Ranma and her.

"Before... Before... Before Ki-chan..."

Chibi-Usa sniffled a little, and Luna rubbed her head against her in sympathy. She had never met Kikyo but from what Chibi-Usa had said, Kikyo must have been a very nice girl. It was probably the first time that Chibi-Usa had seen a dead person. It is never pretty, and the first time is always the worst. Chibi-Usa was fortunate that she had so many caring and supportive friends.

After a time, Chibi-Usa had calmed enough to resume her story. "Earlier we were talking, and Ucchan was saying that she was Ranma's fiancée. But Hotaru didn't know anything about it. But she did think that Ranma was going out with some other girl called Shampoo.

"Not only that, but he's always so nice to the other Senshi when they come over to the shrine to see Rei. If he's there, he's so nice and sweet, and...

"What if he's just playing with her? What if he doesn't care about Rei at all? Hotaru never said that he did, and he never seems to notice her. Ranma's a nice guy, but what if he doesn't care about Rei? Maybe he already has a fiancée.. or even two? Shouldn't Rei know?"

Luna nodded her head. "I certainly think she should. Why don't you ask Hotaru or Ranma? Maybe one of them could clear things up. Perhaps Rei should learn to let go of him. If he has a fiancée, she shouldn't be coming between them."

"Are you saying that because Ranma is Hotaru's brother? She is not a bad person, Luna. You've never met her, but just wait until you do. I'm sure you'll get on really well.

"And I've tried to speak to Ranma and Hotaru. No-one, not even Rei, knows where Ranma lives. None of the other girls do either. I think he must be a really private person.

"I also went over to Hotaru's place three times in the last two days. Kaori never lets me in, and she just says that Hotaru is out. Nothing else. I can't find either of them, and I need to ask them.

"Not only that, but Ki-chan was one of Hotaru's best friends before she came here to live with her father. She must be really sad, and she's all alone.

"How can I help my best friend if I can't even find her?"

Luna had no answer for that one. All she could do was suggest that Chibi-Usa was doing the right thing so far. Given the situation, Rei should know but they could afford to wait for a couple of days until they got the facts straight from the horses mouth.

On the subject of facts from the source, Luna had pursued the idea of asking Ukyo herself about her relationship with Ranma. She might not know Shampoo - a name like that was too hard to forget, and too much of a joke not to be mentioned to all her friends - but she would surely be able to say what her relationship was like with Ranma. If Ukyo was really engaged to him, it would put an end to Rei's romance very quickly.

Unfortunately for all of them, Chibi-Usa had already thought of that one. She had also visited "Ucchan's Okonomiyaki". Ukyo had opened a Okonomiyaki restaurant only days before Chibi-Usa and Hotaru had bumped into her. When the Senshi had left to change back into school girls, Chibi-Usa had gone with Ukyo and Hotaru when they went to put Ukyo to bed. The poor girl had been devastated by the loss of her life long friend, and Hotaru had been in a bad state as well.

After seeing Ukyo to sleep, Chibi-Usa had taken Hotaru home, only to then return and deal with her own concerned relatives. So far she was the only one that knew that Ukyo and Kikyo were much more than innocent bystanders. That state of affairs could not last long. As Usagi's friend Naru - or even Hotaru - could vouch, when things got crazy around here, it tended to drag the bystanders down with the people involved.

Blocks away, at the Hikawa Shrine, Rei sat and tried to study. Like the rest of the Senshi she had not been able to stay around the scene of Kikyo's death for long. The Senshi relied heavily on their anonymity, and it was too much of a risk to stay around Chibi-Usa and Hotaru at that point. Besides, by the time they had returned, there were police, ambulances, and a huge crowd of onlookers.

After Sailor Moon had seen that her daughter and her friend were all right, the girls retreated slightly and found somewhere to change. By the time they had managed to fight their way through the throng and reach the centre, the disturbance was beginning to dissipate. Chibi- Usa, Hotaru, and Ukyo had already left the scene, and Kikyo had been taken away somewhere.

Rei gave a slight shake and tried not to think about that too much. In the past the Senshi had always managed to save the people who were attacked. But not this time. This time, they had failed. This time someone innocent had been the victim. From what few facts Rei had heard, they were lucky that Hotaru was still alive.

Although she only had the news second hand from Usagi, she thought that Chibi-Usa had been almost out of her mind with worry about Hotaru. For over an hour, Hotaru had vanished. No-one knew where she was; just 'poof' and she disappeared into thin air. An hour when her best friends were tearing their hair out in fear. The only second hand information Rei had said that she simply appeared through the police line and had joined them crying over Kikyo's corpse as it was being loaded into the back of an ambulance.

Damn, back to Kikyo again.

She knew they stakes they were fighting for, they all did. They were all willing to give their lives for their Princess, and to protect the future of the earth. Actually, they all had sacrificed their lives, only to be resurrected by the Moon Princess and the Silver Imperium Crystal. They knew that the Negaverse, and all the others since then had been bent on world wide destruction or domination. No doubt their current adversary had similarly grand plans.

Even the fact that she was the reincarnation of the original Sailor Mars from the Moon Kingdom - and had memories of countless friends being slain during the Negaverse's attack - even that did not help harden her against the death of someone so innocent. The look of pure anguish on Ukyo's face, the frozen mask on Hotaru's, and that horrible look of adult realisation on Chibi-Usa's. All these things would stay with her till the day she died, and somehow she knew that the world had just become a colder and harder place for those three.

A knock on her bedroom door made her eyes dash to the clock. Wow. She had come her straight from school, and now she had done absolutely no study in the past two hours. As soon as she had finished with this disturbance, she would really need to get some work done, or else she would never get into a decent college.

Turning to face the door, she called admittance and smiled in pleasant surprise as Makoto came in. The tall athletic girl was smiling as she brought some tea on a tray. Rei was always glad to see her. Not only was she the fearsome Sailor Jupiter, she was also a damn good cook. Whenever she came over, good food was sure to follow.

"Come on in Mako-chan. Have a seat."

Sitting on the bed, Makoto passed her a cup of tea and offered her a small plate of home cooked cookies. What did I say about good food? All she had to do now was hope that Usagi would not drop in and she might actually get to eat more that one biscuit.

"Mm, this is great! Say, aren't you training tonight?"

She shrugged. "Well, I was, but, well, the Sensei couldn't come. I, um, I think he has a personal problem tonight and he couldn't make it."

Rei nodded and sipped her tea again. Personal problems seemed to be the standard fare for the moment. Ranma had called her yesterday and begged off from their training, sighting 'a personal problem'. The pervert was probably out chasing girls, not hanging around with some dowdy temple maiden. At least, that was Usagi's suggestion.

"So how's this mystery Sensei you keep hinting at?"

The tall girl blushed deeply. A couple of weeks ago she had told them all that she was taking some martial arts classes at a dojo nearby. Even though she was the best in the class, she suspected that most of the people there had joined just to see the Sensei sweat; and watch the way his firmly muscled chest moved so well when the Gi opened slightly.

Makoto coughed to hide the flush of excitement. She knew she should not keep secrets from her friend, but the Sensei was always so nice to her that she did not want to give up her chances with him to anyone. Besides, Ranma obviously liked her: he had met her once before at Rei's shrine, but the very first time she turned up at the dojo he had waved and called her 'Mako-chan'. Besides, even Ranma's little sister, the girl Hotaru that was always hanging around Chibi-Usa, she seemed to like her too. At least Hotaru had never said anything against her and Ranma.

That was the real reason why Rei had not been told that she was taking classes from Ranma: when ever Rei was absent from the group, Hotaru tended to say the nastiest things. Hotaru would call her 'uncute' and a 'tomboy', saying that she was too slow, and weak and all sorts of things. It rarely came out as a direct attack on the girl, but Makoto realised the one place that a girl like Hotaru would learn to say such things. Obviously Ranma had been telling his sister what he really thought about the Shinto Priestess-to-be, and Hotaru was just parroting it.

Since Rei spoke about Ranma in the same uncomplimentary terms - terms usually reserved for talking about Usagi - some times, Makoto had decided that she deserved a shot at Ranma. Obviously there was no real love between him and Rei, so it was not as though she was stepping on anyone's toes.

Taking her mind of her constant boyfriend problems, Makoto started up a conversation with Rei. Implicitly, neither of them spoke about their Senshi problems. Even since that big blast, no-one had discussed it. Against that sort of magic, there did not seem to be much they could do differently from what they were doing. When they found out who cast it, they could defend themselves. Until that time, they just put it to a side, skirting around the issue.

They had been talking for fifteen minutes when another knock came at the door. "Don't worry, it's probably just Grandfather telling me to get back to my study and stop gossiping. Come in!"

The person that came through the door was about as far from Rei's grandfather as you could possibly get. He was tall and strong, handsome and of noble bearing, and the girls peeped at him, not the other way around.

"Ranma!" They both said simultaneously.

A small, crooked smile lit his face briefly, but it faded back into an iron mask of control, just like Rei had seen Hotaru wearing. They really were a close family, they looked so similar.

"Hey, Rei-san, Mako-chan. Sorry I had to cancel the class tonight Mako- chan. I... Something came up."

Rei turned a suspicious eye to her friend. "C-cancelled the class? Didn't you say your cute 'almost boyfriend' Sensei cancelled the class?"

"Um, yeah, well, you see, Rei. Um, it's like this..."

Rei tossed a book at Ranma, catching him squarely in the forehead. "Oh, so now you're trying to seduce all my friends are you?"

Ranma back peddled and waved his hands in front of him, almost as though he was expecting Rei to strike him with something much larger and heavier. "No, no! It's not like that at all!"

An evil gleam appeared in Rei's eyes. "Oh, really? So you've stopped trying to seduce my friends?"


"You admit to the fact that you've been seducing all the girls in the class?"

Bonk! A bedroom slipper bounced off his head. "No, I mean I never---"

"No? No? So you're still seducing them? Mako-chan, how can you say anything nice about a guy like this? He's chasing after every girl he sees."

Without waiting for a reply, Rei launched into another tirade, abusing the boy soundly. The whole time she yelled abuse at him and angrily shook her finger, but Ranma just stood there cringing and suffering whatever she offered. He was not completely passive, however. In the insults department he gave as good as he got, managing to insult her looks, her intelligence, and everything else about her that he could think of.

It was the first time Makoto had seen them together for almost a week. In that time, their relationship seemed to have gotten even worse. The 'cold shoulder' routine that they had initially evolved had degenerated into a full blown name-calling session.

It was almost educational to watch them. Two grown teenagers (or even possibly an adult... no-one knew what Ranma's age actually was) insulting each other like a pair of eight year olds. After two minutes of senseless name calling, they started to repeat themselves, advancing tactics to see who could insult the other the loudest.

A couple of months ago when Rei had first told the Senshi about the new student at the shrine she fancied, Makoto would never have dreamed of trying to get him as a boyfriend, even if he was really cute. Now she felt completely vindicated. Not only was it obvious that Rei could barely tolerate him, he appeared to feel the same way about her.

Something else struck her as odd about his behaviour. First and foremost, Rei seemed to hit him in the head every time she threw something. Makoto had only trained with Ranma a few times but she knew from first hand experience just how good he was at dodging. To say that Ranma was good was an understatement. Makoto could not think of anyone in the dojo over about eight years old that could actually hit him.

In the dojo, Ranma was grease lightning, and as slippery as a fairy penguin near an oil tanker. Even when he was on his knees to even the height difference for young opponents, he seemed to be a master of not being where a punch would land. None of the teenage or adult students in the class had even come close to hitting him once. The little kids were another matter. Ranma seemed to take a positive delight in sparring with the youngest members of the class; he enjoyed it considerably more than fighting the odd black belt who turned up for his classes, and the black belts should be more in his league.

Ranma ran a free kids class immediately before the adults class he ran to support the dojo. The adults class was something he did out of duty to the dojo: a task needed to keep the dojo running. The children's class was different. All of the little kids liked training under Ranma, and he seemed to enjoy it more than they did. Every class he would spend some time sparing with the kids, and they would take delight in attacking him, or making him call out in pain as they applied some for of pain hold.

In the end though, it did not matter who Ranma was training, or who he was fighting, he was unfailingly friendly. Even when some hot headed challenger - with too much testosterone and too little brains - arrived, he would gently put them back in their place. Sure he might push a few of their buttons to make them angry and show them how it left them vulnerable, but he never insulted anyone like he was currently doing to Rei.

Listening to his shouts of 'Tomboy' and 'Uncute', Makoto wondered how they ever got any training done when Ranma came here to study Shinto. Maybe Rei had actually passed that job onto her grandfather since she hated his guts so much.

After waiting for a lull in the insults which never came, Makoto came to her feet and yelled at them both: "QUIET!"

Both of them were stunned. They were so completely immersed in their argument that they had forgotten about Makoto. Looking sheepish, they both apologised. After a moment of silence, Makoto asked Ranma if he could wait outside while she finished her conversation with Rei.

"Um, actually, I need to speak to Rei, it's really important..."

"Idiot! Don't be so rude. She asked you nicely. You can't just come in here and expect us to drop everything. Just wait outside for a couple of minutes and we'll be ready."

Ranma favoured them with one of his small, cocky smiles and walked out the door. Even as he turned and left, Makoto could see the smile fall from his face, and a mask take its place. It was a mask she recognised. It was the same sort of mask that she had seen Hotaru wearing the day that she had seen her friend killed. Somehow, Makoto knew that it was Ranma that taught the little girl to hide her feelings like that. It could not be a good way to live, and Makoto realised that both Ranma and Hotaru must be in some sort of pain at the moment.

Rei brushed some hair back from her eyes and calmed herself as she sat down again. Oh, that boy could be so irritating. It was amazing. No-one else in the world could get under her skin as quickly as he did and she could not understand what it was that got her mad so quickly.

"Rei-chan, you realise that Ramna's never tried anything at the dojo... don't you?"

She sighed. "Yes... Yes, I know. It's just... It's just he seems to go out of his way to try and make me feel bad. He's always telling me hour uncute I am, and how I'm such a tomboy... I'm not a tomboy, am I, Mako- chan?"

Makoto slid over and put an arm around her friend's shoulder. "Of course you're not, Rei-chan. Come on, everyone knows you're really pretty. I could get a dozen guys here tonight and you could have your pick of guys."

"Humph. That's what I told the insensitive idiot. But he just keeps calling me names."

Makoto stirred uneasily in her seat and looked down at her hands for a moment. "Listen, Rei-chan. I guess I might have been wrong for not telling you I was training with Ranma. It's just that you two seem to fight all the time. I thought... well.. I was wondering if you minded if I asked him out at some stage."


"But you two are always fighting. You keep insulting him, and he only makes you unhappy. I've seen you after he's been here. You just sit there staring at the wall and you snap at anyone that tries to talk to you."

"I do? I guess I do, now that you mention it. But it's like Usagi-chan. I... I think I feel the same way about both of them, but I different ways, I mean, somehow I really like them both. Trying to talk to either of them is an up hill battle. Usagi-chan's such a klutz and Ranma's such an... an annoying _boy_. Every time I try and say something nice to them, they managed to do something and it seems as though their trying to upset me."

Makoto blushed. "I... I never knew you felt like that about Usagi."

"Well, she's my Princess, and I guess I do love her, no matter what I say about her. If you tell her that, I'll deny every word of it! Besides, she would never believe you."

"I think I understand now. I want you to know that I'll always be your friend, no matter what your preferences are. I think you'd realise that Usagi's pretty keen on Mamoru."

"What on earth are you talking about?"

"Well, you just told me that you love Usagi, and since Ranma and Hotaru are always calling you a tomboy and that gets you mad, I thought..."

"IDIOT! It's not like that at all, she our Princess, of course I love her... Hang on. What do you mean Hotaru calls me a tomboy? She's always such a perfect little girl when she's here. Hotaru-chan doesn't come here often but she is always nice and sweet and kind. Not like her idiot brother."

Outside the door Ranma heard the cry of 'idiot' and decided Rei-san was calling his name. Walking to the door he failed to hear any more entreaties to enter, so he stood there and listened for a moment. When he caught the rest of her sentence he considered just how right she was.

' Of course Hotaru is a perfect little girl. Girl's are supposed to be nice, and no-one cares if two girls like each other, it's not as though they can ever be anything more than friends. Besides, being a girl has it's uses. Girl's don't have to hide their feelings like guys do. A girl can be nice to Rei-san just because she likes her. If a guy was nice to an uncute tomboy like her... who knows where things might lead.'

'Don't go there, Ranma.' He told himself. 'Don't even think about that one. Not only is she an angry, uncute, uncaring, tomboy, who's legs are to thick and her chest is too flat; she's young enough to be your to be your... um... your great-great-great-great... Hang on, try that again. Great-great-great-great...'

He was still thinking about this deep and vexing question when Rei opened the door. She had expected to catch him eavesdropping, but instead she found him standing in the middle of the hall mumbling something about how great things were. Sighing heavily, as though it was actually a chore for her - rather than something she desired in a strange fashion - Rei gestured him into the room.

After poking his tongue out at Rei-san and giving Mako-chan a wink, Ranma sobered and clenched his hands in front of him. There was a reason he came here, a reason he came to Rei-san in particular. That very reason was making it so much harder to be able to do what needed to be done, and all because of that reason in the first place.

Ranma was old. Really old. No matter how he might try and pretend to be a normal kid, or act like the young man he was supposed to be, he had experienced things that no-one his age should possibly have experienced. Through the years he had seen people maimed or killed in wars, and had seen people die from anything between infant death, to old age; accidents to executions. Somehow, the pain was still there, but he had learned to live with it. Ucchan had not.

The days since Ki-chan's death, Ucchan had almost folded up upon herself. In the space of a few hours she had found a long lost friend, only to discover that she was terribly ill and receiving some sort of horrible treatment. Added to that, the man that was supposed to be her fiancée was apparently completely unaware of the situation and may well have his own love. This might have been enough to break most people, but Kuonji Ukyo was made of tougher stuff.

The sort of tragedy that it took to crush Ukyo's spirit was something along the lines of: meet your sickly best friend, find out that your fiancée is unaware of the arrangement, have a witch steal the physical embodiment of your soul only to be told that your soul is not good enough to be worth their while, toss in a monster attack, then spend a terrified hour as one friend is missing and another's life ebbs away as you cradle her in your arms.

Ukyo was strong enough to be able to cope with the fiancée thing, after all, she had three years to get used to the idea that the man of her dreams had run out on her. She might have come out of the torture of believing her best friend Tendo Ai had been carried off or worse; the pain of sitting the an endless, useless, futile hour waiting and wondering at her friend's fate.

All these things can be overcome. Kikyo was someone special however. The two of them had grown up together. They had gone to Elementary school, Junior School and High School together. They both had plans to go to university together. Every day of their lives, the pair had been inseparable. They were best friends in every sense of the words.

Ukyo had also been there for the last day of Kikyo's life. She had spent an agonised hour holding her friend. Kikyo had been rendered unconscious when her heart crystal was stolen, which spared her the pain. Ukyo had been the one that held her, had stared into her eyes as they closed that last time, and had felt it as he pulse slowed and stopped.

Now Ukyo was falling apart and despite all of his training and all of his experience, there was nothing that Ranma could do to put her back together. For too long Ranma had spent his days cloistered away in mountainous retreats, hidden from the world, knowing only other ageing monks. He could offer Ukyo the wisdom of the ages, but that would not bring back Ki-chan, nothing would. The only thing he really knew how to do was fight, and that was no use here.

Now her was in front of Rei-san, wanting to beg for help, and he could not even get that right. Rei-san was a temple maiden. This was her job: it was what she had been training her whole life for. She was the person supposed to be able to provide religious and spiritual guidance to those in need. She was supposed to be the one who had the experience and the knowledge to help the sick, the grieving and the suffering.

But how do you ask someone to do this? How can you so openly reveal a friend's weaknesses? How are you supposed to throw yourself on the mercies of someone you yell at every day? Before he met Akane and after she died, Ranma knew that there was only one person you could count on in this world: yourself. How do you admit your own failings and short comings to someone who you can hold in respect?

Before he realised what had happened, Ranma had been standing in Rei's doorway for almost five minutes, looking at his hands, out the window, or anywhere other than at Rei. The whole time he had been saying things like: "Um..." or perhaps: "Ah... you see" or even the highly descriptive: "Rei, you see it's like this... no..."

Both Rei and Makoto were literally on the edge of their seats with anticipation. What on earth could it be that he wanted to say that was so important to him? Rei was entertaining thoughts that alternated between him deciding to declare his undying love for her, or the equally terrifying thought that he had come to declare his undying love for Makoto, an equally disturbing possibility. Makoto entertained exactly the same thoughts.

By the time he reached the seven minute mark, the girls' patience had worn thin, especially since both of them had personalities on the more aggressive and action oriented end of the spectrum. Sharing glances, Rei turned back to the dithering Ranma and gave him her best glare. The one she saved for Usagi, and all those times that she had burst into tears just when they needed her. "Ranma! Just spit it out!"

That seemed to do it. He stopped dithering. He looked at the floor and took a deep breath. Then he looked Rei in the eyes. Although his eyes were their same blue-grey they always were, there was something... different. Somehow, across the room, she could see the intensity of his emotions, feel the strength of his struggle as he forced out the words:

"Rei-san. I need your help with a girl I really like."

Hmm. Judging by their reactions that might not have been the right wording.

"No, no, no! What I mean to say is: one of my best friends from school was just killed, and _her_ best friend held her as she died. "Please, Rei-san, please. You have to help me. I'm... I'm no good with all this talking stuff. And... Ucchan's hurting. I need to help her and I just don't know what to do. Please, Rei-san. You're my only hope."

It was like the sun coming out from behind the clouds as realisation dawned on the girls. When they understood what he meant, understanding hit them like a slap in the face. Feeling guilty they both realised that while they had been thinking about themselves and how they felt about Ranma, he had been thinking about his suffering friend.

Although Ranma did not know it, both of these girls were Sailor Senshi, and they had been there when Kikyo had been attacked. In the days since, they had spoken to Chibi-Usa and received even more information. That was why their rudeness and preoccupation hit them so hard. Ranma hand no way of knowing that they knew about his problem, but they did. How could they say they were his friends if they concentrated on themselves when someone they knew was suffering.

Makoto was the first to respond. Blushing and feeling guilty, she walked up and laid a hand on his arm. "I'm sorry Ranma. Chibi-Usa had mentioned that something had happened to a friend of yours, I sorry, I just forgot for a while there. Is... is there anything I can do?"

Shaking his head, Ranma offered her a smile, but she could see the other emotion he kept bottled up. She had only known him a while but Makoto knew him well enough to understand the frustration he would be feeling at the moment. It was the same sort of frustration she had felt so often about the loss of her parents in the plane crash. Sometimes there is nothing you can do, but that does not make doing nothing any easier.

"Ranma... if you need me... anything... please, just call. I'll always be here for you."

With that she slipped past him and stepped out into the hallway. As much as she wanted to help, there was nothing she could do and it was not her place to do anything. Walking out of the house Makoto was thankful that Rei would be with him. Since trouble tended to hit the same target more than once having one of the Sailor Senshi with them should make Ranma and Ukyo as safe as they could be.

After Makoto left the room, Rei looked up at Ranma and the concerned look on his face.

"I'm sorry too, Ranma. Just let me get some things together and we can go and see Ukyo. Where is she at the moment?"

"Ucchan's got an Okonomiyaki restaurant not far from where we were attacked. We can be there in about five minutes on the bus."

Rei nodded and finished packing things into a small carry bag. It was her first time actually doing the sort of counselling work that sometimes came with being a Shinto Priestess. The truth be told, she was so nervous, she wanted to sit down and start drinking some of the relaxing herbal tea that she had just put in the bag. If she was tense or not, Ranma was right: he was basically an insensitive idiot who kept putting his foot in his mouth. OK, things might not be quite that bad. Often one of the best things for someone who was suffering was just to have something comforting and familiar; an anchor to stabilise themselves.

Religion was often about providing a security blanket or the assurances that people needed in the modern world. With her training, Rei may well be able to reach Ukyo when even her closest friend could not. The again, perhaps even Ukyo's friend needed help too.

"Bag's packed and we're ready to go! Umm, Ranma... rather than taking the bus, do you think we can walk instead? If you can give me a few details before we arrive, it might make things easier."

Ranma nodded and opened the door to Rei's room again, revealing her Grandfather standing next to the door. Giving the man a quick bow, Ranma stepped past him and waited for Rei to follow. He was surprise when Grandfather Hino stepped into the room and closed the door after himself. Shaking his head, Ranma leaned against the wall. Rei certainly was a popular girl: everyone wanted to talk to her. He wondered if they would actually get to Ucchan's tonight.

The withered and shrunken priest of the Hikawa Shrine looked up at his tall and beautiful granddaughter. Sometimes she looked so much like her mother it made him want to cry.

"Oh, Rei-chan. Going for a romantic evening walk with that handsome young man of yours. Have a pleasant time, remember your keys; there's no rush to get home early."

Rei blushed as red as the skirt she sometimes wore. "Graaaaamps! It not like that at all. Ranma's got a friend that needs some help, so I'm going over to talk to her. We should be back in plenty of time. Remember this is a school night."

When she had her hand on the door knob, he ran a hand through his remaining hair. "I spoke to your father yesterday."

That stopped her mid-motion. Her father was to rich and busy to spend time with his daughter. That was why she was here at the Shrine with her grandfather. She loved him dearly but some days she wished she could have a normal life and life with her parents.

"That's very nice to here. Is Father well?"

"He is well. I told him you were well also. Actually, I told him you had a boyfriend. He asked me when the wedding was, you know. He trusts my judgement Rei-chan. You should too. This is not the 1600's. We don't do arranged marriages or anything like that anymore, but we can help our children to get off to a good start in life.

"It also means that you don't need to wait for the young man there to ask you, you can ask yourself. I could ask for you if you want."

If she kept blushing this much today she would probably burst a blood vessel. "Grandfather! Don't even say such things!"

"I just thought you ought to know. Your father and I both approve of the young man. He could help you take over the Shrine when I am too old. And your such a lovely couple. Remember, if you're interested, I can speak to Ranma about an engagement."

Fearing that the conversation would degenerate further, Rei pulled open the door and ran outside. Taking Ranma's hand she pulled him through the house, barely giving him time to put his shoes on before they ran down the road.

After a while she calmed down and walked beside Ranma. On the way to Ucchan's she alternately wondered whether Ranma had heard what her grandfather had been saying, and worried about Ranma's past.

Now that she was looking for it - since Ranma was confronting an emotional burden - Rei could begin to see the way that Ranma had cocooned his emotions. As they walked she tried to get him to open up, to tell her what he was feeling. All she wanted was to get a few of the details of what his life had been like before being reunited with his father Tomoe Souichi. From the little bits she had managed to gather from previous talks with Ranma and Hotaru-chan, the two of them had spent considerable amount of time travelling.

By the time the reached Ucchan's, Rei was sure of two things. Firstly, Ranma was quite aware of what she was trying to do, but he had no interest in trying to unburden his soul. Unless she asked a direct question, he quite carefully avoided giving her the sort of historical information that she wanted. Even when she asked a direct question he usually avoided giving a real answer. Secondly, he was really worried about his friend. Not once in the entire trip did he start an argument or do anything as insensitive as he usually did.

The one thing she was not sure about was even more important to her. She knew she liked Ranma but she could not understand why she wanted to help him so much. Why did she care like this? He was just an insensitive idiot... wasn't he?

Eventually Ranma pushed open the door to the restaurant and they stepped inside. It was quite nicely appointed, even if it looked like it was done on the cheap. A large grill in the corner and small table and chairs for diners. No-one was there now, as the grand opening had been delayed due to 'unforeseen circumstances'.

Up some stairs, and past the bathroom, Ranma did not even bother to knock before he pushed open the door to what turned out to be Ukyo's bedroom. The girl was wearing a dressing gown and was curled up in a foetal position, looking a framed photo of Ukyo, Kikyo and Ranma. Ukyo and Kikyo looked younger, but Ranma looked exactly the same as he did now.

The way the Ukyo was withdrawing Rei realised that Kikyo must have been her one real friend in a strange city. To see her die had hurt the girl badly. Fortunately for Rei, Ranma's first sentence seemed to bring life back into the girl, and a certain fire into her eyes. Sitting on the edge of the bed, Ranma pointed to Rei.

"Cute fiancée, meet my uncute fiancée."

Even as a competitive life returned to Ukyo, Rei cursed to herself. 'Damn! He heard!'

It was close to midnight; hours later and quite distant from the small restaurant when Kaiou Michiru awoke screaming. It was three days since the horrid experience and every night since she had woken at least once. Each nightmare was different, but they were all the same in some way.

Before she had even gathered her breaths from those gut wrenching screams she felt a pair of strong arms hold her close. Fighting back tears, Michiru held onto her friend, drawing strength from her closeness and her care.

Tonight and the previous evening Haruka had quietly but forcefully insisted on watching over Michiru as she slept. While she was the same calm and composed girl by day, Haruka knew her well enough to see how badly the nightmares were affecting her. After the first night, Michiru had spent her lunch break sequestered away with Haruka, pouring her heart out as she was consumed with guilt.

That was the key to Michiru's nightmares: imagined guilt, it was also the reason that Haruka had insisted on being with her this evening. Haruka and Michiru both knew that what they were doing as Senshi was the right thing but that did not make it any easier to deal with the anguish that arose when something went wrong, as it so obviously did with Hotaru and Chibi-Usa's friend.

Sailor Pluto had dropped around yesterday. She did not say how she knew that Michiru was having nightmares. Pluto had ignored the question entirely to spend time giving both of the younger girls a short lecture.

"I know you are having a hard time at the moment, especially you Michiru-chan. There is nothing that you or I can do to bring the girl back. All that I can do is offer you the consolation that you did the right thing.

"It may not seem correct now, and the decisions you made will cause you more pain before the price has been fully paid... but it was the correct decision. The necessary one.

"There is so much more that I wish I can tell you. So much more that, while it won't make the pain go away, it would make your suffering more meaningful.

"But I can't.

"Knowledge of the future is a burden. It is an agony of knowing when something will go wrong, and never being able to fix it. I don't want to say this, but I need to: you have to believe Kikyo's death was necessary. I...

"I can't tell you any more. I wish to the Kami that I did not know what I do now, but I do. Remember you are not alone in your pain."

That was all she had said, then she had walked out again. Neither Michiru nor Haruka could understand what would make her say that a completely innocent girl's death is necessary, but Setsuna had never lied to them before.

What Setsuna had not revealed was how or why she knew this sort of information. Her job was to guard the Gates Of Time, to ensure that paradoxes did not occur, to ensure that the Moon Kingdom's future would again arrive. After hearing the girls' report, Setsuna had watched the event happen. She saw the Dragon Slave. She felt it evil power. She knew that without assistance an enemy that could do that sort of damage could defeat the Senshi and kill millions of innocent people.

So she cheated.

She already knew that Crystal Tokyo would exist some day. Some day, the Senshi would again be the glorious guardians of the solar system. It was her job to make sure that no-one used time travel to derail that goal. While she was supposed to aid the Outer Senshi, she had her own dominion to guard, and a foe that could cast the Dragon Slave could well be a traveller from the future, trying to destroy the Moon Kingdom while it was at its weakest.

She had travelled forwards at the Gates Of Time. Time travel was an activity she engaged in most cautiously, every instance and every reason was always carefully analysed. As with the last time she had done this, she arrived at the Gates only a century or so from the foundation of Crystal Tokyo. Sketching a short bow, she welcomed herself. Of course the Setsuna from the future was here. She always was when Setsuna needed to speak to her. After all, the person she was about to speak to was herself, and thus remembered the conversation they were about to have.

"I can't answer all your questions, you know that."

"Yes. The danger is too great... What was it? What happened that day? Is this someone trying to create a paradox?"

The Setsuna from the future gave an carefully shielded smile. "It was a spell called the 'Dragon Slave'. Although it was evil, you know who cast the spell: you saw her, and she is not the person to fear. Before you ask: yes, Kikyo's death was necessary. You cannot tell anyone else, but her death is a key event in making Sailor Saturn into the person we need."

"I... I don't understand."

"I remember."

"Is it time yet? Can you tell me why Chibi-Usa? She's just a girl. I don't care what Their Majesties may have said, what possible justification can there be for sending her through time?"

"I still cannot say. You will know some day."

Time. That was what this was about. Setsuna had not been able to tell Haruka and Michiru all of the facts because of the danger to the time stream. For that reason, Michiru needed time to recover from these nightmares that haunted her. The answer to one would solve the other, but fixing either of them would imperil the world through the introduction of paradoxes.

So Haruka held Michiru and helped her recover from the nightmare as best she could.

"Do you want to tell me about it?"

Michiru eased back slightly and looked around as she gathered her thoughts. A book was open, spilled on the floor in the small pool of light next to a chair. Poor Haruka must have fallen asleep watching her again.

"I was walking through the city. It was early evening, just like the other day. All around me were bodies. People were just lying in the streets, and their Heart Crystals were right next to them.

"As fast as I could, I was running through the city. I don't know why, I just had to get somewhere. But every step I'd take, I had to stop and check the Heart Crystals nearby.

"There were just so many of them. It went on and on.

"Eventually I pick up one particular Crystal, and the person sits up, even though she hasn't got her Crystal. Her head turns around, I mean right around, and she looks at me with these dead eyes.

"It was Kikyo, Haruka. She just looks at me with these dead eyes, and says 'You killed me. You killed me.' Over and over again. She just doesn't stop

"Now I'm just standing there, and I can't move. I want to run away, but I can't. All I can hear is Kikyo saying that I killed her.

"The next thing I know, there's a huge crowd around us. It's all the people in the city, all looking at me with their dead eyes. At the front of the crowd: it all the people who we've saved... and they're asking me 'Would you kill me like you killed Kikyo?'

"All this time I'm Sailor Neptune, OK? But then one small girl walks out of the crowd. It's Hotaru, and she's the only one that isn't dead. She's standing there, glaring at me, holding this big glowing ball in her hands.

"'You killed her Kaiou Michiru. You killed them all. I told you I'd get you if you hurt them Michiru.'

"She knows who I am, even though I'm a Sailor at the time. She hates me so much. Then she lets go of the ball and it explodes like a bomb.

"I'm in the middle of the blast, and I can see it destroying everything, and the people, they weren't dead, but they are now. I can see them burning up, and it's all my fault.

"It's my fault because I didn't help them.

"It's my fault because I let her die.


Haruka silenced her with a gentle kiss. Gripping her tightly, she rocked the other girl back and forwards, feeling the way Michiru's tears soaked through her shirt. "It's not your fault. Remember it's just a dream."

Michiru only had one more nightmare that night. At school the next day, she looked a little tired, but other than that there was no reflection of the torture she had suffered that night. Drawing from the deep well of inner strength that she possessed, Michiru soldiered on. No matter how much she disliked what needed to be done, she would do it. She would do it with Haruka by her side.

Always by her side.

Destiny's Child

A Crossovers Story
by Fire

Part 19 of 26

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