** The Enemy Within **, Chapter 4

by Lilian.

lilian413@yahoo.com
Disclaimer: Not mine. SM and all related characters belong to Naoko Takeuchi and companies
big enough to own *me*.
***********************
Many people deal with fear the simplest way they know:
denial.

That was why as I explained to the Senshi what the
Ginzuishou was doing, they were reluctant to believe. That, and
the fact that well, said Ginzuishou had saved their lives
countless of times before...

"No!! You're wrong! The Crystal is a weapon of good, it
would never hurt a living creature!".

I was tempted to smile, but I just didn't have the energy:
watching my beloved slip away from within my embrace was
too much for me and I only managed to grimace at Rei's
perfect choice of words.

"You've said it yourself, Rei-san. The Crystal is a
weapon. And as any weapon, it sometimes needs to be recharged".

Silence. Come to think of it, we should've expected this.
Nothing gives as gives as much as the Crystal has given us,
and doesn't ask something in return sooner or later. Okay,
so Serenity might be the exception to that rule, but...

"You mean-- my mother-- she--- she knew?".

Serenity is far more brilliant than people give her credit
for. I nod, slowly. Ami's letter was short and precise---
but she knew I could make up for all the things she did not
write. It's easy to fill in the gaps once you've seen the
bigger picture.

"Just think. If Queen Serenity could harness a power so
big to lock the Dark Kingdom away for a thousand years, why couldn't
she just revive you?".

I sometimes wonder if the burden of intelligence is a
curse or a blessing. They say ignorance is bliss.

I have yet to try the feeling.

My mind never lets me remain ignorant for long, and being
married to the smartest woman on the planet wasn't a big
help, either...

"Because she had used all the Crystal's power", I
continue, avoiding their horrified gazes and unbelieving eyes.
Maybe this things were *meant* to be known. It just took too
much of a sacrifice for things to get rolling. Sometimes,
humanity needs a shove into the right direction...

"Everything the legends say is wrong. The Crystal does not
focus the energy of the beholder to work its magic--- it
feeds from them. And when the feeding is too big, it simply
sucks life out of them. That's what happened to Queen
Serenity. She used it for too long, protecting the people first,
battling Metallia next, and sending you all to the future
last".

Even as I speak, a thousand and one little details return
to me and some new ones pop up.

"So, all these years--- all along--"

"Yes. For a thousand years, you, Serenity have been using
the life force of your mother as your weapon. Why do you
think she could appear to you in situations of distress?
Because a part of her was locked inside the Crystal".

My voice dies down at the end of the sentence, realizing
that even if I have learnt to emotionally detach myself from
the information, the girls do not have that luxury.

"Oh. My. God".

I don't know who spoke, the whisper so low and throaty
there's no way of identifying the voice. And I don't really
care, because it pretty much summarizes what we're all
feeling.

"You're saying--- do you realize what you are saying? For
the next millennia, we're gonna be defending ourselves with
Ami's energy?".

My Prince put two and two together rather quickly, and as
his words echo around us with the finality of truth, we all
turn as one to stare at the glowing Ginzuishou hovering
atop of my wife's delicate form.

For the first time in my life, I think I feel something
evil in the way it shines, almost as if enjoying the taste of
Ami's life.

"We know what the solution is, then". I don't have to look
to know that Serenity is wearing her resolve face. And you
don't want to mess with her when she's like that. It's
clear to me what she wishes to do. And it's something I've
wanted to do since I learned about this huge mess.

"Honey, you don't--- you can't--", tries Endimion, placing
a gloved hand on her shoulder.

"Let me tell you what I CAN'T do. I can't watch my friend
DIE, that's what
I CAN'T do!!".

Told you.

And I understand--- but I'm torn: one side of me, the one
who lived back in the Silver Millennium, the one who
experienced death and disaster refuses to demand such a
preposterous thing. Because the Silver Crystal is the ultimate
power, and we can't afford to loose it.

"Usagi, you can't destroy the Crystal!".

"I will if that's what it takes to save Ami".

The other side of me, the husband, the lover, the *friend*
wishes to grab the Ginzuishou and slam it against the wall,
to watch it shatter into a million pieces if that's what
it'll take for it to give me my wife back.

"But, Usagi, you have to think about the consequences---".

"Consequences? Let me tell you about consequences. My best
friend is lying there, *dying*, for God's sake. And you're
sitting here, telling me that you're gonna let her go, just
like that?".

"Yes".

That wasn't any of the girls---

"AMI!!!".

As they all rush towards the bed, I turn around, and the
world slows down.

In a hidden corner of my mind, I hope.

I pray.

{Let her be all right}

I should've known better. Life is not fair. There is no
such thing as miracles, not when Fate is hell bent on having
its way. My beautiful Ami... she's still as pale as the
dead, her pretty face colored with pain.

Pain I can't help her bear. And my heart is stricken with
pain of my own, as it hurts me to watch her fade away in
that bed, slipping right through my fingers like ethereal
dreams of a future that now will never be.

Her forehead is covered with a thin layer of sweat and her
breathing is ragged, as if she had been running for the
past hours. In a way, she has. She has ran from Destiny, my
dearest Ami, as she looked and looked until her eyes bled and
found no way out of the Feasting. If only it had been me...
damn it, why wasn't it me?

Her eyes hold my own for just a second, sending me her
unconditional love. The next, they're firmly set on
Serenity's.

I swear I almost saw my Queen cringe.

"You will *not* do such a foolish thing, do you hear me?".

As Serenity can only stare at her with wide eyes, and a
dumb look on her face, Ami struggles to sit on the bed. It
only takes one tiny whimper for me to be supporting her
weight on my arms. She raises her head at me, defiantly
demanding an explanation. Ami was never one to accept pity. But
pity is not what I'm offering you, my everything.

It's love.

She understands. Her eyes immediately soften, and for a
second, it's just the two of us, together, alone---

A soft moan leaves her lips and her face wrinkles in pain.
That's more than enough to shake us off our dream. I help
her sit up, and make her rest on my chest.

Gods, she's warm. Feverish. Her energy, her strength is
flowing through her in waves--- through her and straight into
the Crystal.

"I will not allow you to destroy the Ginzuishou".

The Senshi seemed to have reconsidered. Just a few minutes
ago, they strongly fought Serenity's idea. Now, the only
thing that seems to be holding them back is Ami herself.
Maybe they find strength in numbers, but I know this is not a
battle they can win. Ami did not say much in her letter, but
I know these Apocalypse-averting things are more often than
not irreversible and *always* deadly.

"Ami-chan, you know it's the only way---", tries Minako,
her blue eyes frantic as they fly from the hovering crystal
to my wife and back.

"No, Mina. No".

Ami's tone is firm though still laced with pain. I hold
her hand in my own, and squeeze it reassuringly. She squeezes
back, but does not look at me. Maybe she does not trust
herself to do so-- I know that if I looked into her azure eyes
and found but a smidgen of fear I'd do something irrational
to try and alleviate her suffering and probably end up
tipping the scales the exact opposite side we want them to tip
towards.

"The Crystal *must* go on".

"But, Ami, you-- you can't do this! You're dying!".

Makoto towers above the bed but she looks so very childish
as she lets tears run down her rosy cheeks. As she
struggles to convince Ami of something I know will never happen, I
pity the poor soul that decided this particular turn of
events was fun: should Makoto ever lay her hands on him or
her, slaughter and mayhem would follow.

"So? I always knew my death wouldn't be on the
battlefield. This is just as a good way of leaving as any other".

"Ami, we can make it! Our powers are strong, and the Neo
Senshi are to be called soon--- together we can defeat
whatever is coming!".

Ami's eyes move slowly, tiredly as her strength leaves her
heartbeat by heartbeat. I can tell even breathing hurts her
now, and I try not to hold her too tight. Difficult task,
considering I wish for nothing more but to hide her from the
outside world and rip the link that keeps the Ginzuishou
connected to her apart. But I remain still.

Magical forces are not to be tampered with, and should I
succeed in breaking the connection Ami and the crystal share
now (which I highly doubt: my logical mind understands the
implications of the Feasting more than I'd like to), I'd
probably also unleash the Silver Crystal's magic too. And
without an owner to control it, we'd go poof before we were
able to say 'cheers'.

"You think I didn't think about that? You think I didn't
check *every* possibility before doing this? There is *no*
other way. The Crystal must be preserved, and for that, I
must die".

"How can you be so sure?. I mean, only Pluto can tell
what's to come, and maybe, we won't have to fight ever again,
and the Crystal won't be needed ever again, and---"

Minako's babbling. She's scared to death.

Welcome to the club.

"Mina-chan. Let it go. I *know*. I'm *sure*. Look".

A thin hand raises from within the sheets {God, was she
ever this pale?} and points towards the floating Silver
Crystal. For a second, nothing happens. Then, it glows, faintly.
And suddenly, something begins to appear. A thin, pale,
glowing string. A string of energy. Starting from the center
of the Crystal itself, and ending right in Ami's heart.

It stays visible for some seconds, before slowly fading
away. But the gut-wrenching image is already imprinted with
fire in my eyes. That's--- that's--- Gods that's what's
killing her!!

"As time goes by, my connection to the Crystal grows
stronger. As my energy sweeps into it, I'm slowly acquiring some
ability to harness its power. And for a split second, I was
given the gift of Sight. I saw. I *saw*".

Her voice chokes in a sob. I can't tell whether it's the
pain, or the future she saw...
I'm putting my bets on the second one, though. Ami is not
one to be easily overcome with pain. I've seen her sport
injuries that would render a man twice her size unconscious
like there were nothing like scratches,

After some moments of pregnant silence, she goes on.

"For what's coming, we will need the Crystal. Not us and
neither our children--- but their children's children. A
Great War is coming, and if the Crystal is not there to help,
it is a battle we won't win".

Friendship is the most beautiful thing in the world. It's
also the most terrible. Because it won't let you see beyond
it. It makes you stubborn.

"Who cares! We'll deal with it when the time comes!".

"NO!".

Ami has been angry very few times in her life. With did
today have to be one of them?

"I've told you. The Crystal *must* stay!".

And suddenly, it's as if all her energy has left her.
Tiredly, she slumps back, deeper into my embrace--- and I gasp.
God, was it just minutes ago that she was feverish? She's
freezing now. No, no, not now--- there's so much to say---
so much to do--- please, Ami---

"Besides, it's already too late. I'm still conscious only
because the Crystal wishes me to. The energy drain has gone
too far--- if you destroy it, I'll die anyway".

One of the things we learnt by experimenting with the
Crystal was that strangely, whenever it's being used, it
connects with the host. In a basic, almost animal way, it feels.
It knows what's going on around it.

Probably decided to give Ami a little more time--- which
is now running short.

I raise my eyes and look at the group gathered in the
room. And I see something I had never seen before.

Defeat. Hope vanished. Faith is gone.

All that's left, is the all-consuming feeling--- the
certainty of defeat. They have finally understood. There's no
hope left. No last-minute miracle. No magic can save Ami,
because it's magic itself that's taking her away from us.

For seconds, they all remain quiet. Then Serenity dares to
speak.

"But how, how do you expect me to even *touch* it again,
after this--- this insanity?"

Serenity's voice is pleading. She pleads for an answer
that will never come. Because there's no answer to be given.
And as far as the higher powers are concerned, there's no
question to be asked in the first place.

"I will remember this every time I even come near it!", she
continues, and she leans into my Prince's chest and hides
her tears from us.

"You won't", answers Ami, and suddenly she's so very pale
in my arms and so very cold I automatically check her
pulse. And it's not there. At a silent command from Ami, the
Crystal glows brightly. So bright, that my eyes hurt. And I
can't see. Yet I cling to her, hugging her tightly, refusing
to let her go. And so, I can feel as her body goes limp.

With a sigh, something tangible leaves Ami's body and
flows into the Crystal through the invisible link.

I'm too shocked to move. My body is paralyzed and all I
can do is keep on holding Ami's body, as if in doing so I'd
be keeping her with me. But I can no longer hear her
heartbeat; I can no longer feel her breath tickling my arms.

Somewhere, far away, I hear someone shriek, but it barely
registers.

{Ami}

Her name becomes a mantra and I repeat it an endless
number of times in my head until it looses its meaning and
becomes but a desperate move in hopes of retaining my sanity. I
suddenly realize I'm crying, and as the tears slide down
from my closed eyes, they hurt. They sting like insect bites,
because they are tears of heartbreak.

I force my eyes to open, and see--- an angel.

A beautiful angel.

With a sad smile, she flies towards me. For a second I
can't recognize her face, framed with light so bright I wonder
how come my pupils have not been seared away. A second
later, I do. I could never forget those eyes; those bottomless,
starry-night eyes that drew me in and made me fall in love
with her at a fountain all those lifetimes ago.

Ami.

My Ami.

Though as heavy as stone, my arm reaches out to her, my
heart pleading...

{Please, don't leave me}

Her shinning white wings flutter around me and stray
feathers blow past me, driven by some unseen wind. And I'm
surrounded by glory.

By hope.

By her.

Her slender, ethereal hands cup my face within them. And I
can feel her warmth and a pulse, but I know they're just
illusions conjured up by my weary brain as it ineffectively
tries to make sense of what's happening.

'sshhh, my love. Don't say anything. I know'

My hands cup her face too, and slowly, painfully slowly,
draw our faces together.

And we kiss.

And I'm filled with light, with power, with love--- and
her lips under mine taste like strawberries and that cannot
be a phantom memory of my brain because I bought her that
lipstick just yesterday and she had yet to try it on and then
that means she's really there but then what is the weight
of her body I feel against me still doing there...

'Don't forget me', is what I hear, her harmonious voice
tingling with emotion and I watch her fly away from me, her
hands still outstretched trying to touch me.

And then, there's only darkness.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
"You think it was the right thing to do?", asked the voice
as they watched through the Doors of Time while the group they
were both not allowed to mingle with woke up from their
dormancy.

"There was no right or wrong in this case. It was either
leaving them with the bitter memories of the Ginzuishou or
help them alleviate the pain as much as we could. Either
way, the Crystal carried on, recharged".

The first voice shuddered at that particular choice of
words. The second voice seemed apologetic when it spoke again:
"Sorry. Still too fresh for you, isn't it? In here, Time
has no meaning and I guess it lost its meaning to me too".

Soft laughter echoed around them and the first voice
twinkled with mirth when it answered: "The day that happens,
Setsuna, is when the World will stop turning. And cows will
fly".

Setsuna was tempted to whack her companion over the head
with her Staff, but settled for sticking her tongue out at
her. "Bummer. You're too literal sometimes, you know that?".

A small span of silence followed in which the first person
to speak eyed with teary eyes a certain blonde haired
General as he sat up and rubbed the back of his head. Her brow
furrowed when he looked around for something on the bed he
lay.

There was nothing there.

"I thought you said they wouldn't remember", it said,
accusingly.

Setsuna shrugged, helpless: "They have this irking ability
to defy the very laws of Time and Space, so I wouldn't be
surprised if a figment of a memory makes its way into their
conscious".

When the anonymous voice spoke again, it was once again
laced with amusement: "Boy, for a Time Guardian you sure
don't know a lot, Setsuna".

This time, the taller woman did not spare the smaller one
the whack of her staff. The young woman simple fluttered
her wings twice and hovered out of the way of the key-shaped
weapon.

"Mind the wings, honey. It's expensive to keep them this
fluffy, you know?".

A sound that had not been heard for a span of centuries
echoed: the sound of one very serious Time Guardian laughing.
Soon, the other voice joined her, and the gales of laughter
brought new life to the lifeless corridors of Time.

"I'm glad you came, Ami. I wasn't sure the Crystal would
let you", Setsuna said when they had calmed down. The mood
changed unexplainably quick and Ami's soft features were
shadowed for a split second as she relived the last moment of
her mortal existence.

"So was I. Maybe it's more aware than we give it credit
for", she supplied, giving explanations when they really
weren't needed. After all, dead or alive, Mizuno Ami would
always be Mizuno Ami, startling genius extraordinaire.

When Setsuna's magenta eyes found Ami's azure ones, the
younger woman was surprised to see true, unveiled sadness
there. "I'm very sorry, Ami. I just--- there was no other
way". There were many things Setsuna was apologizing for:
forcing Fate upon Ami's shoulders pretty much summarized them
all. But they both knew a lot about Time Continuum and
Primordial Moments in Time, and Ami raised a hand to halt
Setsuna's words.

"Don't. I-- I know. It showed me and I knew. Besides,
maybe it was best this way", she finished, casting a sad glance
to the closing Doors of Time. In them, displayed with
heartbreaking accuracy, a close-up of Zoisite's face, worried
features and curious eyes wandering across the room as if
searching for something.

In his palm Ami noticed for the first time a single ivory
feather. Her soft gasp was loud amongst the silence of the
Corridors of Time but Setsuna did not turn to look; Ami
could've sworn she saw the stone-faced Senshi smile almost
imperceptibly.

The last thing Ami saw before the Doors closed with a
resounding 'slam', were Zoisite's green eyes widening in
recognition as he clasped the delicate feather in his palm.
Before she could ask Setsuna what it meant, the older woman was
turning on her heel and motioning for her to follow.

"Now, Ami, about that chess game you promised...".

The flutter of the blue haired woman's wings swallowed the
rest of her words and as they disappeared within the mists
of Time, Zoisite shed a single tear for the wife he did not
remember.

And the Ginzuishou shone on, empowered with the life force
of the Senshi who had selflessly died so that her friends
could live.

For that, my friends, is what true frienship means.
***************
The End.
AN: I know. I can hardly believe it myself. I killed my fav character! Oh well, I read somewhere that
you can only become a true author when you've killed a few characters, so here we go.
Hope you enjoyed this little journey of mine, and I thank all of those who reviewed: your words
mean the world to me, and keep me writing.
Thanks!