Notes: In the language of flowers, cinquefoil can stand for "beloved daughter" and forget-me-not for "true love." This is set during the last days of Sailor Moon S. The characters are not mine.
Serena ground her fist into her closed eyes, trying to rub away the pain throbbing behind her eyes in huge red-black pulsating globs. It had not been a good day.
As she lowered her hands, she caught site of her own reflection in the hall stand, and shuddered. At her best and prettiest, Serena glowed like a candle. Her vibrant sweetness and vitality would radiate through her skin itself, as if the warmth of the golden moon could seep through her pores, as it did through her huge lobelia-blue eyes and shimmering hair. At her best, you could almost guess that she was a true princess, not merely some spoiled inbred Sloane Ranger of an earthly royal but an angel stepped out of a fairytale.
The sad thing was that those moments were on the infrequent side. Most of the time, she was just… Serena.
Now… her eyes were dulled with crying, her skin pasty with exhaustion. She couldn't bear to look at herself. Just a diminutive, unbeautiful schoolgirl who looked like she had been skimping too much on sleep.
In her schoolbag was another paper stabbed with glaring red corrections and a fail mark. Serena was not entirely sure who she feared facing with it most. Her mother would be furious. Facing Amy, whose gentle eyes would widen with the worry that it was her own failure, would perhaps be worth. She knew Amy had really tried to help study, but there was so much else in her life going on. Did schoolwork really matter all that much in the wider scheme of things? It wasn't as though her own fate wasn't fully mapped out for her. The arguments against studying seemed rational enough, until she actually held the condemning paper in her hands.
Of course, she had been through all this with Luna earlier, resulting in a fight that had sent the talking cat flying to Amy's house for comfort. They were probably discussing her underachievement right now. Not that she cared what that stupid, bossy cat thought. Or that even though Luna was supposed to be her own special companion, she seemed to love Amy more.
The easy tears welled in Serena's eyes yet again. She knew the others thought of her as a cry-baby. Well - so what. Sometimes she deserved the refuge of tears.
She had already gone to Darien with her failed paper, fully expecting to sob in his arms and be consoled with heart meltingly sweet caresses and deep kisses. She had cherished high hopes that this would be one of the times he forgot his nobility in love for her, let his mouth open against hers and cradle her in his arms as if she was the most precious being in all the universe.
She had felt so… exhausted, so dirty, for what seemed liked endless ages. The battle against the heart snatchers, the defection of the outer scouts, her own guilt about the fact that a wide area of her city destroyed despite her, all the messy intertwined duty, fear and compassion that wound about her thoughts of Hotaru and left her unable to choose the correct path… It was all too much to bear alone.
It was all Serena's own fault, she knew. Amara was right about that. It seemed that no matter how hard she fought, no matter how much she tried to trust in her own heart, she still could not get things quite right. The sudden fierce, protective support of her own scouts couldn't cleanse her soul from the knowledge of the dead she had failed to save.
She was only fifteen years old. Not intellectually gifted, not very brave, not even particularly pretty. Why did it all come down to her, every single time? She neither understood nor wanted this burden of guilt. It was bad enough that she was expected to study all the time without adding the fate of the universe to her burdens.
But if Darien kissed her, treated her with desire and tenderness, it would be different. She would feel better, she knew. That mysterious being inside of her, the Moon Princess, never shone so brightly and purely than when Darien's tongue slipped against hers in heat and wetness, his breath in her lungs and his arms wrapped around her. Everything melted together, was right… She could taste her own eternity in his mouth.
She had gone to him full of longing and quiet desperation. And instead of kissing her, Darien had… made her a mug of hot chocolate and offered to go through the questions with her. He had all but patted her on her golden head.
He would have treated Rini's problems with more adult respect than he showed those of his own girlfriend and future bride. Sometimes Serena wondered if their past and future together were delusions. How could she be a princess, a queen, rule by the side of such an intelligent and strong man? Obviously, she was too airheaded for someone like Darien.
You should be careful, Serena. Raye's voice in her head, with the peculiar mixture of loving concern and acidic malice than only Raye could achieve. That tone of voice that tore Serena between wanting to embrace her and to take handfuls of that blackberry purple hair between her fists and yank until the shrine maiden screamed for mercy. Raye might conceivably only want to help, but she could shatter Serena's self-confidence into a million pieces without even trying. Darien's way out of your league intellectually. You don't want him to get bored, do you?
Serena kicked her door open and threw her schoolbag on her bed, the hateful paper still inside. She knew Darien was… careful with her, lately. She knew that in his mind her youth cancelled out the cloudy memories of being with her hundreds of years ago, and despite her frustration, she loved him for it. Sometimes it seemed like all the boys she knew were sluts or would-be sluts. Her own boyfriend, despite sharing the hazy memories of passion in another life that she found confusing her emotions, was willing to wait for her. Darien was determined to protect their virginity for them both until she was old enough, even as he'd saved himself for a girl who only appeared in his dreams. He had put his faith in forever.
And she was lucky. She was really lucky to have a boyfriend who cared about her welfare so much. How many boys his age were virgins by choice? She knew from listening to her friends that other boys would grope and promise and eternally push against their limits. Darien, on the other hand, was a paragon of nobility and virtue, who wouldn't even make out with his girlfriend alone in his room. Saint Darien.
Sometimes it frustrated her so much she wanted to scream. Sometimes, she wondered if it was something wrong with her, that she wasn't pretty enough, sexy enough, good enough at kissing and cuddling to make him want to go further. She was bitterly aware she couldn't seduce her own true love, despite all the wealth of history and future that surrounded them.
Sometimes, her need to feel loved and wanted over rode everything else.
She couldn't help being younger than him.
Serena sat down on her bed, gathered up an armful of fluffy toys, and burst into tears.
After rejecting her somewhat childish advances, Darien had wanted to talk about nothing but Rini. Was she doing okay, did she miss Hotaru and Trista very much? Was Serena taking proper care of her? Was his little angel happy? Serena had sat quiet for once in her life, her confusion and pain too much to handle. It wasn't that she didn't understand his concern. She worried about Rini too, she felt such guilt over her that she didn't know what to do to relieve it and make her future daughter smile… but what about her? Serena needed Darien's love as well. She needed comfort just as much as their child did. It sometimes seemed there was no space for her in Darien's heart.
In the end, it was always about Rini.
She hated herself for resenting the little girl. But sometimes, she just couldn't help it. It felt like her future daughter and future husband had a cosy little world of love all to themselves, and she was shut out as a shrill annoyance.
Serena had gone to Darien to be kissed and cuddled and made to feel better, and she had ended up running out of his flat in tears. It wasn't Rini's fault… Not really. But still…
Eventually, as her sobs receded, Serena became aware of another voice crying. Thin, high-pitched wails, pathetic in their loneliness. Serena put down her tear-soaked toys and hesitated a moment, orientating, then flung open her wardrobe door.
There was a pathetic bundle there, curled under fluffy pink pigtails. The little girl shook with the force of her wails.
Serena stood still, helpless before the force of the child's grief. Maybe she was Rini's mother in the future, but there didn't seem to be any helpful mothering instinct arising in her breast just yet. She could not even figure out how to be a good older sister. Sammy had never needed this kind of attention.
But then, neither yet had Rini, who was the most fiercely independent child Serena had ever met. Now, Serena was far too afraid for comfort of being rebuffed again, by her prickly future daughter. She was still stinging and vulnerable from her encounter with Darien.
"Rini?" she asked eventually, her voice shaking with her own tiredness and nervousness. "What's wrong?"
A stupid stupid question… Serena already knew what was wrong. Rini had been almost unnaturally bright and cheerful lately, that pathetically independent spirit of hers shimmering bright and clear. But there had been panic and loss behind those crimson eyes ever since Serena had lost Hotaru.
She still couldn't explain by what instinct, fainting with weakness after Pharoh 90 and… no, she wouldn't think about what had happened in the pit of the inferno, only nightmares lay that way - she had offered baby Hotaru to Uranus and Neptune. She had voluntarily handed over her precious burden to the couple who had challenged and betrayed her and tried to kill her precious burden. She had only known she couldn't hold Hotaru any longer, and dropping the baby loomed in her mind a terror as large and bloody as Pharoh 90 itself.
There had been no inner scouts, no Tuxedo Mask to toss a timely rose, no one else to whom to turn. Just Sailor Moon, Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune, standing together on the edge of hell. And in those confused moments, she had looked in their eyes and seen Michelle, who had gently teased and consoled her, and Amara, who had entranced and fascinated her and held her in her arms, showing equal tenderness over teaching her to dance or protecting her from Kaori Night… It was a bitter irony that Amara, who was someone else's true love, had the ability to make Serena feel more desirable than her own destined love sometimes did.
And there had been something else, too. Old half-erased memories or future shadows. Her mind was so confused… But she had been her other self, moon princess or queen, and these had been her knights. She had the right to ask them to protect herself and what was hers, with perfect faith. Uranus and Neptune had been hers to command in that moment. She had known it.
Of course, there had been plenty of time for doubts since then.
The guilt drew her anger away as she amended her sharp question to, "How long have you been in here, Rini?"
At least that got a response. "It's my wardrobe too! And you needn't be afraid that I'll mess up your ugly clothes. I have way too much fashion sense." She followed her speech by bursting into even louder tears.
"Rini, please don't cry." She dropped to her knees and extended a hand to the little girl. Her shoulder was so small and plump under her hand, little-girl chubbiness insufficiently masking the sharp bone of her shoulder, that Serena had an impulse to pick her up and squeeze her tight. If she had been Darien, maybe she would have. But the sad truth was that Rini was never as open and trusting with her future mother as she was with her future father, and that some reserve between them still stilled Serena's affection. She could feel her helplessness growing, and she hated feeling helpless. Give her a heart snatcher to fight any day.
She wished, more than anything, that Rini would turn to her and hold out her arms, so that she would be free to hold her and soothe away her sobs. Play at being a real mother, for once. But Rini remained still and proud. All Serena could do was crouch there and stroke her shoulder.
"You can talk, meatball head, you were crying too!" Rini sniffled. But her sobs were slowing and calming. Serena wanted, with all her heart, to believe her presence was calming the child. "But then you're always howling - crybaby."
"I do not, you little pipsqueak!" Serena paused and bit her lip. She didn't mean to fight with the poor kid. She wanted to comfort her. Why did she always mess things up? Tears began to tremble above her lower lashes again.
"See? You're crying again." Rini uncurled, looking scornfully at Serena. The whites of her eyes were reddened with weeping almost to the point of matching her irises. Serena, with unusual tact, decided against pointing it out. "Hey, Serena?"
"Yes, Rini?" She carefully gentled her voice.
Rini's own voice was softer, perhaps in response, perhaps in hopelessness. "You didn't find Hotaru yet, did you?"
"No." She closed her eyes and rocked back on her heels, resting her aching head against the wardrobe door. "We looked everywhere, Rini... But we'll find her soon, I promise."
"Why did you let them have her?" Rini's little hands closed into fists. "They hated her, they wanted her dead… And Pluto's not there to stop them anymore! I'm so scared for her. I'm all alone now." She began to cry again, piteously. "I have nobody left."
"Rini, that's not true! You still have me," Serena said brightly, though her own tears. "After all, I guess I'm your mother, right?"
She didn't quite know what she expected in return- a smile, a hug. Not for red eyes to narrow with what almost looked like hatred.
"You're not my mother! I don't believe it anymore. My mother is nothing like you!" She was crying so hard her little breath heaved painfully, every breath half-choking. "My mother is graceful and kind and wise and beautiful and everyone adores her. My mother would never have given up Hotaru!" She sprang to her feet and pushed past the older girl in a flurry of whirling arms. Serena, never in full control of her arms and legs at the best of times, was sent sprawling. She lay on the carpet, looking up at a tiny girl who suddenly loomed large in the doorway.
"If Hotaru dies, I'll never forgive you, never ever. My mother… my m-mother," She swallowed her sobs. "My mother understands me!" Rini finished with childish passion, and slammed the door.
Serena remained lying in a heap for a moment, dazed and in tears, feeling self-hatred roll over her in a dark wave. The Moon Princess seemed farther way from her than ever. It was inconceivable that she had ever been that lovely, beloved creature. She was a lazy klutz who couldn't pass a stupid school test or carry through a pass on her own boyfriend, a cowardly traitor who handed her daughter's best friend over to the enemy. It was inconceivable that one day she would be that ethereal, powerful woman, the Queen of Crystal Tokyo, Darien's wife, ruler of the new heaven on the earthly plane…
She was so lost in her self-pity that it took a while for her to realise that Rini had, being the thoughtful little girl she was, pushed a chair under the wardrobe doorknob to hold it closed.
"Rini?" she called softly. "Rini? Rini sweetie, come let Serena out. Please, honey… come let me out of here. GET BACK HERE YOU LITTLE MONSTER!"
She detected a giggle from the room, and shrieked with rage, flinging herself bodily at the door. It crashed unexpectedly open, and she was in a tangled heap again, Rini too convulsed in laughter to flee in time. That was her fatal mistake. Serena dove for her legs, gripping her firmly about the calves and pulling her down on top of her.
"I'll get you, you brat!" Her fingers found Rini's armpits, and tickled for all she was worth, roaming over her ribs and tummy until she was helpless. Rini shrilled loudly and kicked, and Serena finally relented and carried her to the bed.
She held the little girl tight for a moment, her reluctance to offer affection to her dissolved in the tickling fight. In the mirror on her bedside table she could see them together, two pigtailed girls with tear-stained, laughing faces, startlingly similar in the glass.
Mother and daughter.
Rini turned her face and kissed Serena's cheek. Serena was too astonished to react.
"You do okay, Serena," Rini said softly.
Serena hugged her hard. "Yeah. I guess I do, after all." For the moment, it was enough. And after all, the moment was what she had to live in.