Striking Out

By Desslok


Author's Note: This story was inspired by an odd thing I noticed in a relatively early episode. I'm not sure which one and don't feel like researching it, but it takes place very soon after Sailor Jupiter is revealed. Usagi is late for a meeting and Makoto, Rei, Ami, and Luna are discussing her qualifications for leadership. While Luna is urging the others to give Usagi a chance, supported by Makoto, Ami begins to agree. Suddenly, Rei pinches her and Ami changes her tune, supporting Rei. Later, as Sailor Jupiter rushes to help Sailor Moon in a fight, she comments that 'Ami and Rei are on strike'. I think it is the only case in the series where one or more of the Inners actively refuses to help Sailor Moon when she's in trouble. Odd incident. Here's my take on what might have been going on that night. The characterization is not typical, but I'm trying to convey what these two were like right at the beginning, before all of the changes that being Sailor Senshi (and being close to Usagi) brought about in them.


"Striking Out"

Ami stood by the window staring out at the night. Purposely, she unclenched her fists, trying to release some of the tension that she felt building inside. Every part of her being quivered with the need to go, to help, to protect, but still she stood. Changing her focus, she peeked at the reflection in the glass. Behind her, Rei sat folding laundry and stacking it neatly. Her movements were quick and precise and Ami could see in them the same tension that she felt herself.

"There still might be time," Ami began to suggest.

"No!" Rei shouted, much more loudly than she'd intended. Ami flinched from the light blazing in her lover's eyes. Calming herself, Rei continued, "We've made our decision, Ami-chan. If Makoto-san and that cat think _she_ should lead, then she can prove it tonight."

"But, Rei-chan..."

"I said 'No', Ami-chan!" Rei insisted. Again, her temper flared and again, she controlled it. Standing primly, Rei moved to the window and took Ami in her arms. "Ami-chan, what we are doing is too important. We have to find the Moon Princess and protect her at all costs. What sort of protection can we provide with that meatball head in charge?"

Ami slumped into Rei's arms and nodded passively. Rei's words had some logic to them, but Ami couldn't shake the feeling that what they were doing was wrong. While she loved Rei, or thought she did, Ami didn't like the way those feelings more and more often led her to do or say things she didn't really believe. She could still feel the sting of Rei's pinch from earlier.

As Rei stroked her hair and whispered that everything would be all right, Ami tried to sort out exactly what had happened in her life over the past few months. Before she'd met Usagi, she'd been a lonely bookworm focused entirely on her schoolwork. Ami had never even realized how much she missed having friends until she had actually made some. Then, they'd met Rei. Rei was everything that Ami was not: beautiful, spiritual, expressive. Both she and Usagi had been fascinated by Rei from the moment they'd first spied her in her temple, even before she had been revealed as Sailor Mars. While Rei and Usagi seemed to fight more often than not, Ami and Rei had formed a quick bond. While Ami had always known that her feelings toward girls, and boys, were not 'normal', it had been Rei who had helped her come to terms with her feelings.

Ami could still recall the feel of Rei's lips on her own that afternoon in the temple. Rei had finally gotten her to admit to herself the truth about her sexuality, a revelation born in tears. As she'd sat, huddled in her own arms crying softly, Rei had approached her, embraced her, whispered comforts in her ear. And then, she'd kissed her. While she was in awe of Rei's beauty, she had never looked at her in that light, but at that moment, it had been impossible to resist her.

In the weeks since, they'd struggled to keep their new relationship a secret from Usagi. Ami was still unsure how her new friend would react to such an admission. Rei seemed almost pathologically determined to keep the secret as well. Truthfully, most of their relationship centered on the need to keep the secret. Well, that and the intensely passionate physical side of things. Ami blushed to think at some of the desires that Rei had awoken inside of her. Even now, Ami could sense the growing need in Rei's embrace as her caresses grew more forceful, more purposeful.

Even as Rei began kissing her neck, part of Ami remained detached, for once not letting herself get lost in the sensations aroused by soft lips and firm touch. How often had Ami allowed Rei to distract her from an important conversation with a swift embrace and passionate kiss? Ami felt Rei gently sliding her down to the floor, but as if from somewhere else. Strangely, an image of Makoto flashed in her mind. Ami prayed that Rei had not noticed the way she looked at Makoto, a girl who had seemingly stepped directly out of Ami's fantasies and into her reality.

"Rei-chan, stop," Ami whispered distantly.

Rei lifted her head from the nape of Ami's neck, her hands pausing on the buttons of her blouse. "What's wrong, Ami-chan? Are you uncomfortable? Should we move to the couch?"

Ami shifted out from under Rei so she could sit up against the wall. "No, Rei-chan, it's not that."

"It's not about Usagi again, is it?" Rei asked in an irritated tone.

"No, Rei-chan, it's about you and I. I..." Ami paused to gather herself. "I'm not sure this is right."

"You mean being gay?" Rei asked incredulously. "How could you think such a thing?"

"Not that, Rei-chan," Ami continued, clinging desperately to this line of thought before it was lost in another torrent. "You and I. It's not right. I love you, Rei-chan, but I don't think I love you like this."

Rei sat up rigidly, glaring at Ami with violet eyes clouded by a growing mist. "What do you mean? Because of tonight? If it means that much to you, go... go to her!"

"It's not about her, Rei-chan," Ami pleaded, "it's about you, and me. I just don't think I'm ready for this. I was barely ready to admit that I have these feelings for other girls. It's like I haven't been in control of myself ever since this all began."

Ami could see the emotions flashing across Rei's face: anger, hurt, confusion. She waited vainly for understanding, but it did not come so quickly.

"This is all about her, it's always about her," Rei accused. "First Luna, then Makoto, and now you. Why does everyone keep shoving her at me? Why can't I escape from her?

"She's a part of our lives, Rei-chan. She's one of us, the first one, and she's a good friend, to both of us," Ami replied. "She loves us both, Rei-chan, and we both love her."

Rei shot Ami a terrified glance. "I don't love her! She's a ditz and a klutz and I don't love her! I love you, Ami-chan, you!" The incoherent pain in Rei's shouts pained Ami to her core.

"I love you, too, Rei-chan, but I'm not in love with you, not in this way. It's not fair for me to pretend any more," Ami whispered, heartbroken. In the midst of this despair, however, the mists of the future parted briefly and a vision of one she could love like that shone through. It gave her the strength to cling to her resolve. "You deserve better."

"Get out!" Rei yelled. "Get out!"

Ami tried to hold her, even as Rei pummeled her with her fists. This time, it was Ami's turn to hold on while Rei ran the gamut of emotions. Rei's yells soon became muffled as she pressed herself against her friend. Ami could feel the tears through the thin material of her blouse, could sense the tremors in Rei's body as she quivered in her arms.

Slowly, a new sound arose and Ami could eventually make out what Rei was murmuring against her. "I'm sorry, Ami-chan, I'm so sorry," Rei whispered over and over again.

Ami pulled back and drew Rei's face up carefully, wiping the tears from her cheeks with gentle fingers. "Silly Rei-chan, why are you apologizing to me? I am the one who is sorry, who should be sorry. I've been misleading you." Ami's voice caught on her own tears, lodged deeply in her throat.

"No, Ami-chan, you're right. I think I've known, too." Rei took a deep breath and cuddled up against Ami's chest. "I'd been trying for so long to deal with my feelings and then when you admitted that you were gay too, it just seemed so natural that we should be together. It felt so right, Ami-chan, and also so wrong."

Ami smiled, blushing slightly at the memories of the parts that had indeed felt quite right. "Even a genius can be stupid sometimes, Rei-chan. Even a priestess can make a mistake."

"It's more than that," Rei continued, feeling the weight lifting off of her shoulders as she spoke. "Everyone is always so focused on Usagi, that I just wanted to feel special myself. Our little secret gave me that, but when you started to take her side today, I felt like I was being left with nothing."

"Oh Rei-chan, you know I think you'd be a wonderful leader," Ami admitted. "I think you both would be. And you will always be special, especially to me."

Rei smiled wanly up at Ami and nuzzled her a little closer. "I'm sorry I pinched you. Do you think they're all right?"

"If things were going poorly, I'm sure they would call us," Ami surmised.

"Is it ok if you just hold me a little while longer then," Rei asked softly, her voice trembling with uncertainty.

"Of course, Rei-chan," Ami murmured, "of course."

And as Ami held Rei close, stroking her long black hair lovingly, she realized how very lucky she was to have a friend like this, and how fortunate she was not to have lost her.

And as Rei lay in Ami's lap, she thought once again of the blonde girl who had turned her life upside down. The girl who, no matter how hard Rei tried, no matter what Rei did, lingered in her thoughts and haunted her dreams....

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