Ami pulled the small car up outside the Outers' home and took a deep, steadying breath. 'I can do this,' she thought to herself seriously.
"What's wrong, Ami?" Chibi-Usa looked up at her innocently.
Ami smiled down at the pink haired little girl, "I think I'm going to come inside with you today, is that all right?"
"That'll make Hotaru happy," Chibi-Usa beamed.
Ami got out first, them went around to open up Chibi-Usa's door. She took the little girl's hand in hers and proceeded to walk up the sidewalk to the front door. They reached the front door, and Ami had to fight back a smile as the curtains ruffled. 'Guess someone was watching for us,' she thought as she reached for the bell.
*Ding dong!* the doorbell rang.
It took a few moments for it to be answered, and Ami could hear a whispered conversation going on just inside. The blue haired young woman looked down at Chibi-Usa, who just shrugged slightly. Ami felt nervous as the front door opened and Setsuna smiled slightly, "Hello, Ms. Mizuno. It's nice to see you again."
"Call me Ami," she smiled back at the elegant black haired woman. She hesitated before offering, "Chibi-Usa tells me that Hotaru mentioned that it might be nice if I visited sometime. So I thought I'd take you up on it."
Setsuna stepped aside to let her in, "We're glad to have you."
"Thank you, Ms. Meiou " Ami followed her in.
Setsuna smiled gently at the grave young woman, "I don't think anyone would object to the using of their first names."
Before Ami could say anything, Hotaru, Haruka and Michiru came into the living room together. "Chibi-Usa," she beamed, running to the pink haired girl's side. The taller dark haired girl hugged the smaller pink one, then looked up at Ami with a slight smile, "Hello Ami."
"Hello, Hotaru," Ami bent slightly to return her smile. It gave her a moment to collect herself, trying to deal with the unexpected smiles on the other two Outers' faces. 'I thought they'd be angry,' she mused, 'especially Haruka.'
"Ami," Michiru smiled at her happily, "welcome to our home."
"Hey," Haruka gave her a tentative smile, and the echoes of their last big fight hung in the air between them. One wrong word, a single angry gesture, and the fragile peace would be broken.
Ami firmly set those words behind her as she smiled at Michiru, "I'm glad I was invited." She offered her hand to Haruka, "Nice to see you, again."
Haruka took that offered hand, shaking it firmly. "Let's get you sat down," the sandy haired, boyish woman smiled as Chibi-Usa dragged Hotaru off so that they could go play together.
Setsuna felt a surge of relief at how well things were going. She paused in the kitchen doorway, "I'll go make some tea."
Ami smoothly took a seat on one of the couches, her eyes widening just slightly as the two other women snuggled together on the other couch, Haruka gentlemanly enfolding Michiru in the curve of her arm. Before now she had thought they might be a couple from how they worked together, but this seemed to confirm it.
Michiru smiled at her gently and broke the silence, "I understand you're taking advanced courses at the university?"
"In medicine, yes," Ami nodded. 'Talking about school, that I can handle,' she thought in relief. "I understand you're on a music scholarship, right?"
"Yes, I'm studying the violin," Michiru smiled.
"And her paintings are all over the campus," Haruka said proudly.
"I've seen a few," Ami agreed. "I heard you perform once with Haruka playing the piano," she mused softly after a moment, "I thought it was beautiful."
That seemed to startle both women, somehow. "Thank you," Haruka managed. She hesitated, then looking down at the fine carpet she softly said, "I wanted to apologize, Ami."
Ami looked up to meet eyes that were earnestly looking at her. 'It can't have been easy for her to say that,' Ami mused. "Considering some of the things that I said to Setsuna," Ami smiled at her wryly, "it's understandable."
Setsuna came in carrying the tea pot, setting it down on the coffee table and pouring out four cups. "What's understandable?" she asked.
Ami took a breath. One of the reasons she had avoided coming here for so long was because she knew she would have to do this. She looked up at the seemingly serene Setsuna, "I wanted to say how sorry I am for what I said to you."
"That's not necessary," Setsuna said quietly.
Michiru chuckled softly and the others looked up at her in surprise. "Haruka's trying to apologize to Ami, Ami wants to say sorry to Setsuna, and I'm sure that she and I have things we're both sorry for, too," she shrugged.
Ami's lips quirked just slightly, "It is mildly absurd, isn't it?"
Setsuna looked at both Ami and Haruka, and for a moment was struck by how similar they were in some ways. Strength, intensity, pride, they both had that. 'I wonder, was Ami like this before?' she thought sadly.
"So what do we do now?" Haruka asked softly.
"We move on," Setsuna said simply. She looked at the others, "We put the past behind us, forgive each other for what happened, and start over."
Ami picked up her cup of tea, swirling it around a bit before she took a drink. It was perfect. "All right," she said firmly, "we move forward from now, as senshi."
Setsuna was a bit surprised to hear herself say, "And as friends?"
Ami's face paled slightly, her scar darkening to a fierce red as she took a unsteady breath. After a moment she smiled weakly and quietly offered, "I'll try."
Michiru was giving Setsuna the oddest look, and Ami wasn't quite sure what to make of it. Then the green haired girl smiled at her, "I just have one question."
Ami blinked, "Yes?"
Michiru offered this to all present, "Who will be our leader?"
There was a very long silence when a voice said clearly, "Sailor Mercury." The four looked up to see Hotaru and Chibi-Usa standing there in the doorway. It was Hotaru who had spoken, looking at them with a maturity far beyond her years.
"Oh, no," Ami started to say.
Haruka didn't hesitate when she said, "I agree, Mercury should lead the senshi." At Ami's surprised glance she smiled slightly, "Despite my making an ass of myself, Ami handled herself with strength and maturity. And probably saved us all."
"Exactly," Hotaru said as she and Chibi-Usa took seats nearby.
"I am not ready for this," Ami said firmly.
"Were any of us ready when we gained our powers?' Chibi-Usa offered up surprisingly. "We learn as we go, and pick ourselves up after our mistakes," she finished.
"From the mouths of babes," Michiru murmured. She gave Ami a gentle smile, "From what I've seen of you, I'd tend to agree."
Ami had a almost panicked look on her face as she looked over at Setsuna, "Are you going to make it unanimous?"
Setsuna gave the boyish blue haired young woman a gentle smile, "I would tend to agree, yes, but I won't press you. If you truly do not feel ready for this, one of the others will fill the role."
Ami puffed out a breath, feeling their eyes on her. Chibi-Usa's trusting, Hotaru's piercing, Haruka's confident, Michiru clearly sympathetic and Setsuna's... She looked at her with an unreadable expression, leaving Ami wondering what was going on behind those eyes.
"All right," Ami said reluctantly, "I'll do it."
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