Author's note: All of the characters in this fanfic are the property of Kodansha, Toei and Takeuchi Naoko. I am using them entirely without permission. Consider it a loan for the duration of the story. This story has situations that are of a sexual nature, although it has no explicit sex. If you are not of legal age for your home state/region/country, do us both a favor and don't read further.
I do enjoy positive feedback, and I do respond to almost all emails sent to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, unless they are truly heinous. I expect this story is self-explanatory, so I'll cut this short. :-)
The Distinction Between Strategy and Tactics
Ami welcomed Usagi warmly and invited her into her apartment. As always, Usagi commented on the beautiful furnishings. Ami smiled and thanked her politely, while leading the way to her bedroom. Usagi looked around the small room, smiling at Ami's muttered apology for the mess. There were, it was true, an inordinate number of books, but the room was hardly "a mess," as Usagi defined it.
Usagi sat at the low table and waited while Ami straightened the few books spread out in front of the laptop computer. As Ami carried an armful of books over to her desk, Usagi stared, mesmerized, at the picture that floated gracefully across the computer screen. The mountains were just a hint, a dreamy presence in the background, while a lake twinkled in the sunshine, dimpling with reflected light. The water looked refreshing, the air misty and clean, and Usagi found herself lost for a moment, wandering among alpine paths.
She started sheepishly as Ami sat down with her. The blue-haired young woman smiled at her friend, and gestured at the computer screen. "My father painted it." she said proudly. "He sent it to me for my birthday last year, so I scanned it in and use it as my screensaver."
Usagi nodded sagely, and Ami grinned, knowing full well that Usagi had no idea what a "screensaver" was.
"Usagi-chan, " Ami continued, using the diminutive from their childhood, "would you like to see something beautiful?"
Usagi clapped her hands with delight, and Ami busied herself at the keyboard for a moment. When she turned the computer back towards Usagi, the blonde's eyes widened and her mouth pursed in a little "oooooohhhh" of amazement. The mist that wreathed the mountains now moved slowly with an invisible wind and the lake really did sparkle, small waves lapping at the near shore, as the sun shone above.
"Ami, that's amazing! Did you do that?" Usagi couldn't take her eyes off the screen. Ami nodded, then hit a few keys and the animation stopped. She shut down the computer and moved it onto one of the book piles on the desk.
"Yes, that's what I was working on when you called." Her eyes sparkled with happiness. "I'm glad you like it."
"I did!" Usagi confirmed. "It makes the painting come alive..." Both women were lost in thought for a moment or two and a comfortable silence settled over them.
Usagi watched Ami, noticing that her face, which had always seemed so sad, had a radiance about it these days. Ami was wearing her glasses, and of course they made her look studious and serious, but there was a sparkle in her eye and a confidence that had not been there when they had met four years ago.
"Those glasses really suit you," Usagi said. "You look so fashionable...I bet the boys really think it's cute." Ami blushed slightly, but said nothing. Usagi didn't press the issue - Ami had never been the big lover of their crowd. Minako won that award. At eighteen years old, she was seeing a new boyfriend every week. Usagi personally thought she took her role as Senshi of Love waaaaay too seriously, but Minako deserved it. Always one of the best looking girls Usagi knew, Minako had grown into a stunningly beautiful woman.
Usagi dragged her mind back to her present company. "Have you chosen which University you're attending?" Usagi asked.
Ami nodded, "I've decided to stay right here in Tokyo. We actually have one of the best medical schools in the world - and after all, I can hardly leave...well, you know what I mean." She stood abruptly, an old habit that Usagi knew meant she was more emotional about the issue than she was admitting. Ami said something about tea, and turned to leave the room.
Usagi reached up and took her hand. "We're all very glad you're staying here, you know that, right?" Ami smiled quickly and walked out of the room, leaving Usagi alone with her thoughts. Usagi occupied herself by trying to read the titles on the various books on the shelves. Although she could make out the words, so few of them meant anything to her and she quickly got bored. She thought of Ami, her friend for just over four years now, and how much it would hurt if she had chosen to study overseas. On a variety of levels. Over the past years, Usagi and her friends had come to realize that, as a team, they were far more powerful than any of them separately. If any one of them left for any length of time, they could feel the pull, the drain of their energy, as it attempted to fill that void.
Ami entered with a tray of tea and sweet dumplings. As she busied herself serving, Usagi complimented her politely on her tea. Ami noticed how Usagi's motions, once large and clumsy, had become so much more subtle, graceful. And her social skills seemed almost...natural. Ami surpressed a small grin at this thought.
"Do you remember," Usagi mused, "when Minako went back to Britain for two months?"
"Yes," Ami grimaced. She had been attacked at that time by a bizarre lake monster, and had been hurt fairly severely. "Why?"
"I was just thinking about how much we need each other..." Usagi's eyes misted over a bit.
Ami nodded. "Yes, if Minako hadn't come back, I wonder if we would have survived. It wasn't the most powerful enemy we ever fought, but physically it was the strongest. My arm still aches where it was broken."
"Does it?" Usagi asked, concerned.
"Only when its very cold." Ami smiled reassuringly. They sat and sipped tea, discussing plans for the future - primarily the immediate future.
Usagi put her cup down suddenly, as if she had made a decision. "Which brings me to why I've come."
"You said you needed advice?" Ami put her cup down as well.
Usagi nodded. "As you know," her voice took on the tenor of a prepared speech and Ami tilted her head as she watched her friend steel herself up for something. "Mamo-chan will be graduating this year. Very soon in fact. And..."
"And I want to give him a special present." To Ami's surprise, Usagi began to blush.
A creeping feeling came over Ami, as the nature of the present became plain. "Usagi, you haven't...I mean, the two of you have never...?" Ami felt herself blushing, and if she would admit it, cringing.
"No! We decided to wait until he graduated and I graduated and...well, you know I'm not going onto University. I'd never get in. And its almost graduation time and..."
"Usagi!" Ami interrupted frantically, "Why are you asking *me* this? Don't you usually talk to Rei, or Minako, or Makoto?" Her voice had more panic in it than she cared to admit, even to herself. She breathed deeply and calmed herself down. "I mean, I've never been really good at this kind of conversation."
"But Ami, you read the most, and you're going to be a doctor - and I need help..." Usagi's voice petered out at the look in Ami's eyes.
"Couldn't you talk to Rei?" Ami asked, a bit weakly.
Usagi's eyes wandered toward the window. "Well, she's never, either ...and it is Mamo-chan after all."
Ami looked confused. "You don't think she still likes him, do you?"
Usagi looked startled, then laughed, embarrassed. "No, no, nothing like that! I just thought it would be really, cruel, or I don't know, tacky to ask her for advice."
Ami had to agree that this was true. Usagi really was maturing and it showed in everything she did. It no longer surprised Ami when her friend showed a kind of noblesse oblige, even to complete strangers. Ami looked at her hands and sighed. "Maybe I can give you a book?"
Usagi reached out to grab Ami's sleeve, a desperate look on her face. "Ami! You know how I am with textbooks. Can't you just, you know, go over the basics?" she pulled back her hand and waved it in front of her face. "I don't mean the *basic* basics, you know, some of the details?"
Ami sighed again and let her head drop. "Usagi," she began one final effort, "I really think that I am not the right person to have this conversation with..." she stalled, while trying to think of some way to put this, without offending her friend.
For a third time, Ami sighed. She looked up at Usagi, her blue eyes big with such hope and kindness in them. Ami closed her eyes for a moment, leaned her head back, then looked at Usagi again and took off her glasses. "Because, Usagi...I'm gay." Ami waited calmly for the inevitable barrage of questions.
Usagi was silent for a moment. Her head tilted as she processed the news. "What about Uwara-kun?" she asked.
Ami nodded, she had had this one from Rei, Makoto and Minako too. "Ryou and I still keep in touch. He's a very close friend."
"But..." Usagi began.
All of a sudden, Ami became tired of this game. "Think Usagi, when was the last time you saw me with a man? Or interested in a man, or the last time I talked about a man?"
"You fell in love with Mercurius didn't you?" Usagi was still a few steps behind and Ami had to smile, just a little.
"I fell in love with an invisible, unattainable rival, yes. With an idea. I'm like that - remember "NT?"
"Your composer friend from the computer network?"
"Yes - I fell in love with his music, how it made me feel, too." Ami grinned a bit mischievously. "You know I met Mercurius last year, don't you?"
Usagi shook her head. And then blushed. She had set up a meeting with him through Umino, just to check out Ami's new love. He was such a geek, she never told Ami. Obviously, Ami knew.
"Thanks for not telling me at the time though." Ami laughed, reading the expression on Usagi's face. She poured more tea and sat back. "So, what next?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, what other questions are you going to ask me - "how do you know?" is always a good one."
Usagi drank her tea mechanically. She thought over what she knew of the woman sitting in front of her and what she had just heard. After a moment or two, her blue eyes lit up with a impish look. "So, tell me..." she grinned back at her friend.
"Tell you what?" Ami look startled - this was not the reaction she expected from the usually emotional Usagi.
"Have you kissed another girl? What did it feel like?" Usagi practically gushed.
Ami was taken aback, but she wasn't giving up any ground just yet. "I haven't yet, no."
"You haven't? Why not?" Now it was Usagi's turn to be startled.
"You really don't know?" Ami was speaking too quickly to think, which was just what she wanted to do. She had kept this inside of her for so long.... "Usagi, when you and I met, we were already in the middle of a great war with the Dark Kingdom. We had so many revelations, and losses and victories that we never had time to process who we were, as people, as teenagers, as Senshi. Then came the Death Phantom, the Death Busters, Neherenia and Galaxia. We never had time to rest - we barely had time to be kids. And through all this, we were focused on one thing, on one person, on one goal."
Ami paused to catch her breath. Usagi said nothing, but sat poised, as if waiting for a signal. "We focused on you. You are our Princess, our Messiah, our Queen. I have spent the last four years with my mind intent on the kindest, most loving, most giving woman the world will ever see. I, no, we, because I know that Rei and Makoto and Minako feel the same way, we have spent four, long, hard years protecting, fighting for and loving you. Who could I find in this imperfect world that can hold a candle to you?" Ami finished in a rush and sat, panting, trying not to watch the tears well up in Usagi's eyes, trying not to feel the heat that threatened in her own.
"Oh Ami..." Usagi reached out to hug her friend. They embraced for a moment, then Ami separated herself and sat back down, facing her friend. They sat, not speaking, for a time. Finally, eyes shining with unshed tears, Usagi smiled. "So, Ami. What kind of girls do you find attractive?"
Ami couldn't help it - she began to laugh. She reached out and grabbed one of Usagi's ponytails. "Blondes, with long hair in odangos, and blue eyes, of course." To Ami's surprise a flush crept up Usagi's neck, colored her cheeks and made it all the way up to her ears. "Usagi, you're blushing." Ami said, grinning.
"I'm sorry, "Usagi laughed, "I just had deja vu. I couldn't help remembering Haruka-san teasing me..."
"Does she still flirt with you?" Ami wondered.
"Sometimes." Usagi shrugged, "I never know whether she means it, or not."
Ami heaved a sigh. "No, you don't know, do you?" Usagi shot a quick look at Ami, but decided to not to pursue that topic. There was a pause, then Usagi perked up. "So, Ami - will you help me?" Usagi asked, indefatigably.
Ami slapped her forehead lightly. "Usagi!"
"Seriously, Ami - I need your help!" A sly look came over Usagi's face and Ami shrank back a bit, remembering the outcomes of so many of her friend's "clever" plans. "Maybe we can make a deal, since I can help *you* with something." Usagi continued. "I've kissed another girl - even if you haven't!"
"What?!" Ami put her hand to her mouth in mock horror. "Not Haruka-san, I hope?"
"Nope. Naru-chan." She spoke defensively, as Ami began to laugh, "A long time ago, now. Before Umino and Mamo-chan, of course."
"Of course." Ami choked out.
"Stop laughing at me!" Usagi waved her fists in the air melodramtically.
Ami stifled her giggles and looked at Usagi, her eyes shining with amusement. "So? What was it like?"
Usagi stopped yelling, holding a ridiculous pose for one moment, then letting her mouth close and hands drop. The sly look returned and she waved Ami a little closer, to confide in her. Ami leaned forward, still smiling, ear cocked to receive the transmission of this secret information. Ami was surprised to feel fingertips brush lightly at her chin, pulling her head up, then a soft, warm touch on her lips.
Instinctively, she returned the kiss, pressing deeply into the sensation. Arms drew her in close, and Ami's eyes closed, as she felt the warmth of Usagi's body against her own. Ami thought to pull away, but she couldn't, the sensation was too powerful. It unnerved her, overwhelmed her. Her arms reached up and pulled Usagi's face closer, stroking the long blonde hair, the cheeks, the chin, of her beloved Princess.
Usagi smiled, even as she continued to kiss Ami, opening her eyes, to watch her friend. Ami's mouth opened, and Usagi let her tongue just brush Ami's. Ami's dark blue eyes shot open, and she gasped, followed by a small moan. As Ami shut her eyes again, she drew her hands towards Usagi's mouth, pulling her deeper, drinking from her. Ami opened her mouth again, inviting Usagi in, and welcoming her. Ami felt breathless, as if she was drowning. One part of her argued that this was not right, this woman was her Princess and her friend, and above all, in love with Mamoru-san. But the other part, the part that was ruled by skin, and bone, hair and hands, called out for Usagi, for her touch.
At last Usagi pulled away from Ami, keeping her face in her hands, and their foreheads touching. So close, she could no longer even see her reflection in her friend's eyes, Usagi asked, "Well, is it a deal? Will you help me?"
Ami breathed softly, her chest heaving. With solemn dark eyes she gazed at Usagi. "I'll do anything you want. You have but to ask."
Usagi pulled away sharply. "No, Ami, it can't be like that. I'm not commanding you, binding you to me through a spell of sexual desire... Look what you've done! You're making me sound like a bad novel!" Usagi's voice changed from mock fierce to earnest. "Seriously, though, Ami. I want your help as a friend, not as a servant."
Ami sat back and watched Usagi through this little speech, trying to catch her breath, and regain her equilibrium. She shook her head. "I can't promise anything, Usagi. I can't promise I won't fall in love with you, or hate you, or desire you. I think we can't control what we feel - and we shouldn't try. But I will say that I'd never do anything for you that I didn't already want to do. I wouldn't be a Senshi, if it didn't resonate in my every bone - not even for you. I'll help you whatever way I can, but only because I want to."
She felt her cheeks become hot from her emotional outburst, while Usagi considered her gravely. "So, it's a deal?" Usagi's eyes twinkled with merriment.
"It's a deal. On one condition." It was Ami's turn to affect a fierce demeanor.
"What's that?" Usagi pretended to be suitably abashed, but they were both smiling now.
"You tell me if kissing me was like kissing Naru-chan."
"No way! Ami, we were 9 or 10 years old! You're much better than she was." Ami accepted the compliment quietly and began to turn away to look for a book on one of the shelves.
Usagi put out a hand to stop her. "Ami, it's not like kissing Mamo-chan either, but..." she took a moment to choose her words, "kissing you is just as nice, in its own way." Ami blushed deeply and turned away quickly, not quite hiding her pleased smile from Usagi.
She returned with a book, plopped it in front of the blonde woman and smiled warmly. "And now it's your turn."
"On one condition." Usagi announced.
"That I get to "pay" you once more."
Ami looked up at Usagi, then down at the book on the table. She thought of the conversation they were about to have, the subject matter and the inevitable outcome. She had a crooked smile on her face when she looked back at Usagi. "It's a deal." she looked at her friend's face, flushed and happy, her blues eyes shining with mischief.
"I have to admit Usagi, your negotiating skills are getting better."
Usagi looked a little puzzled, then laughed. "I think," she said happily, "that I finally understand what you were saying that day, about the difference between strategy and tactics." She smiled at her friend. "I'm better at tactics, right?"
Ami thought of all their adventures together, of Sailor Moon throwing herself into the center of the end of the world, and replied quietly. "You always have been, Usagi, you always have been."
Usagi reached over and squeezed Ami's hand, as they both leaned over the book on the table.
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