Let's get to it, shall we?

I do not own Sailor Moon.


Ch. 24

The ride back to the palace was a silent one. Many thoughts took flight that evening, as the sun dipped closer and closer to the horizon and a crisp chill briefly battled with the warmth superseding in the air. Princess Serenity's thoughts were elsewhere—on a Kingdom and people she had thought destroyed. They were not all gone, however. Her people—few though they may be—still lived on. Her heart filled until it overflowed with this bit of knowledge.

There was so much to be thankful for. So much to fight for.

And fight she would.

"You are rather quiet, Princess," A voice observed to her left. "Anything in particular on your mind?"

Reality settling over her, Serenity settled her thoughts until they were grounded back on earth, instead of so completely far away.

That's right. She was Usagi. Just Usagi here.

She tilted her head to one side, gazing at the dark-haired Prince seated upon a horse that easily matched her borrowed horse's stride. Outwardly, he seemed totally at ease with the goings on of the world. Looking closer, however, Usagi discovered the tightened edges of his lips leaning downward into a frown. There was a rigid manner to which he held himself upon his steed, and as he gazed off into the distance before them his eyes seemed hard and tired.

"It has been a wonderful day," Usagi murmured, turning her attention to the Palace that loomed before them as they neared their destination. She would put the unsettling feelings this Prince made her feel into the farthest reaches of her mind. After all—this day had been too fulfilling to add worries to it now.

Prince Mamoru hummed in his throat as if voicing his own accord and Usagi continued.

"I don't think I will ever forget this birthday." Emotion welled in her voice, and suddenly Usagi had to stave back the saddened uprising of tears. She sniffed, cleared her throat, and forced a smile when Mamoru turned to watch her with a concerned gaze. She laughed lightly at his expression and attempted to wave away his worry with her hand, but the concern never left his gaze, and so Usagi turned to look toward the Castle walls of Rose Court and attempted to gather her strength.

"Thank you. For treating my family and I so well, today," Usagi breathed out, throat choking on the words. Suddenly Mamoru nudged his horse closer to hers, and his large, warm hand covered hers where it rested over the pommel of her saddle. Breath catching at his touch, Usagi turned wide, inquisitive eyes her Prince's way, then nearly fell backwards off her horse at the heat and emotion of the warm smile he sent her way.

"It was my utmost pleasure, Princess. I would not wish to spend this day any other way."

Words abandoned her, so all Usagi could do was duck her blushing head and nod mutely as the horses finally came upon the Castle gates and were allowed through.

Prince Mamoru removed his hand.

Once inside Palace grounds, the trek to the stables would be short in coming. Usagi chewed along the inside of her lip, thoughts on Mamoru and the way he made her heart thunder in her chest. It was a surprise when her horse came to a halt without her say, and Usagi gasped at the unexpectedness of it before catching a glimpse of sapphire eyes silently laughing at her. Sulking, Usagi was completely taken by surprise again as Mamoru dismounted before the grand stairs leading to the entryway to the Palace, then reached for her. Two large hands tightened over Usagi's hips as he stood by her horse's side, ready to assist her. A thrill ran through her at his touch, and Usagi once again fought down a rising blush as their eyes locked, and suddenly Mamoru lifted, then carefully set her on her feet upon the ground. His hands never left her waist, and Usagi found her own hands clutching at his forearms as she stared up at the man she was beginning to think captured her heart.

Mamoru dipped his head slightly, lips parting as if there was something he might say. Pausing, he shook his head, took a step away from her, and effectively distanced himself as his hands dropped away from her sides.

"This is where I bid thee farewell, Princess, and good night."

Wondering at his demeanor, but not wishing to focus on it for the moment, Usagi twisted around to see the Prince's Generals were also on their feet, and so were her senshi. Confusion in her eyes, a slightly humored smile crossed her lips at his seemingly somber tone simply because the day was nearly over.

"What about our horses?" Usagi asked.

It was Nephrite who answered her.

"We'll groom your horseflesh for you."

Wondering at the way Mamoru and his men were watching her—expectantly and with no small amount of badly hidden suspense—Usagi finally managed a slow nod. What was it they were waiting for?

"I suppose we could accept the kind offer…" She stated, and when she saw pairs of eyes glance away, some of the hopeful light fading from their expressions, she felt she had said or done something wrong. "We really wouldn't want to trouble all of you, however," Usagi continued, wondering at her blunder and moving to take the reigns of her horse. "We can groom our own horses, after all…"

She tried to make a joke out of it, but she actually noticed Jedite wince. What in the universe was their behavior about?

Mamoru's hand closed over hers again, after she took her first steps toward the stables, and Usagi's steps halted. Her quickly beating heart ran rampant, hands trembling slightly. She really wished she knew what this was about. Something pricked and prodded at her. Something about the situation didn't seem right—but it didn't seem wrong either. It simply felt…



Endymion. His breath caressed her neck and ear, and Serenity stubbornly faced her mount so he might not see the bewildered and somewhat hurt expression on her face. She could feel the heat of his body against her back, despite the fact that only their hands touched.

"We will watch over your mounts for you. It is the least we can do." When she didn't give any indication she agreed, he continued. "Besides," His voice dropped in timbre, and Usagi shivered as her skin hummed as if touched with delightful electric currents. "A Princess should not have to do manual labor on her birthday, don't you agree?"

Chewing along the inside of her cheek, Usagi finally chanced a glance behind her to discern any hidden emotion or thought upon Mamoru's face. He must have caught something in her own expression, because he gave a breathy chuckle and smiled disarmingly, effectively taking her reigns and giving her a soft nudge toward the Palace entrance.

"Until… tomorrow then… Princess," He bid in what Usagi believed to be a falsely cheery voice if his breathy wording meant anything. She opened her mouth to question his behavior, but suddenly her senshi were ushering her inside, and Mamoru and his Generals were already bound toward the stables, each man leading two mounts away.

Five ladies sat scattered atop Usagi's large bed, happy banter depleting to create a quiet atmosphere of raw awe on each of their faces—in their movements and their tones.

"They're alive…" Minako kept repeating the words, as if her muddled brain had dealt with too much destruction to understand hope, and what living survivors might entail.

Makoto chuckled, half pained and half relieved. "I know. I can't believe it."

"The Queen must have had the strength to save them when she saved us," Ami voiced, her brow scrunching as she came up with probable scenarios. "Or… she transported them here while we were in our battle, and that's why she nearly didn't have the strength to—"

"To save us," Rei finished solemnly. "To send us here, to Rose Court, as she sent Minako and Usagi before us."

Heavy silence permeated the room. Four pairs of eyes hesitantly settled over Princess Usagi, who had remained painfully quiet this evening. They hadn't wanted to bring this up on the night of their Princess's birthday, but after today's events…

It seemed as though time was unwilling to stop—even for a single day. At least today's news had been uplifting—even if they brought back somber memories with them.

"She knew," Usagi whispered, throat tight and dry.

Startled expressions varied over her senshi's faces.

"Huh?" Makoto and Minako voiced in unison.

"Mother," Usagi explained, a new, unimaginable pain ripping through her. "She knew. She had to have known. The attack—even she does not have the power to send her people, then Minako and myself, and then you three to Earth. Her crystal is only strong enough for one major teleportation spell a day. The spell is… very taxing. She's told me before. It's why she…she rarely uses it. If any emergency was to take place, she would have the strength for such a spell only if she hadn't already used it that day." Tears began to blur her vision, but Usagi hardly seemed to notice them. She shook her head, staring at nothing as she remembered everything her mother told her about their magic.

Magic she had, but had yet to tap into.

"The only way she could have sent so many of our people to this planet is if she had been steadily sending them over time. She knew. They may have known." She swallowed, feeling Ami and Rei's hands on her shoulders as if the action alone would give her strength. "What I am beginning to realize," Usagi whispered, her senshi leaning towards her to better hear her words, "Is that an evacuation of that caliber is not something easily hidden. If mother knew…and sent her people here, then…"

It was Ami and Rei who caught on fastest. Rei gasped, and Ami's cerulean gaze widened comically.

"Then she would have needed permission from the King and Queen," Ami squeaked, completely pale.

Rei and Makoto's eyes narrowed.

"I am starting to think the many Princesses arriving to the Palace was not simply a move to make the Prince chose a bride," Rei ground out, her fiery gaze snapping around to her companions'.

Makoto nodded firmly in accord, Minako's agreement coming somewhat slower.

"It… would make sense," Minako began, smoothing her fingers over her lips in thought. "It would have been a perfect way for your mother to safely teleport you here without suspicion."

Usagi's heart squeezed in horror. Did the King know she was here? The Queen? How did they know her mother? Why would they have agreed to such a plan when they were not a part of the Silver Alliance, and owed nothing to the Moon Kingdom? Fear and uncertainty gripped her. How many people knew she was here?

Did Endymion? Had he been aware this entire time? Was that the main reason for his distrust?

Closing her eyes, Usagi forced her breathing to calm as her hands clenched into fists.

No. He couldn't know. If the King and Queen were indeed aware, they left their son out of the loop, for whatever reason. His emotions were too raw and real on his face. His actions were not planned. He held nothing of himself back from her. He didn't know. Couldn't know.

However, if his parents knew her largest secret of all, then perhaps it was time they all came clean.

"I am beginning to think there was a reason none of the Princesses met the King and Queen during their arrival." Usagi opened determined eyes, set in a determined face. "Tomorrow, I will ask for a conference with the King and Queen. I will find out one way or the other."

Her senshi nodded slowly at their Princess's resolve in the matter.

"We'll also need to get in touch with Luna and Artemis. They may have more information for us," Ami logically pointed out. "If anyone can give us answers, they will."

Tired sighs and murmurs of agreement rent the air, and Rei smirked at the group. "I think the day has been long enough. We should retire so we can all get some rest."

Hugs and pleasant murmurs to dream sweetly lit the room as the senshi bid their last happy birthdays to their Princess, and left her to her peace. Usagi moved methodically to her bedside, slipped into her nightgown with a sigh, and blew out the last candle at her bedside after slipping under the covers. Her body was exhaustively tired, yet her mind kept playing images over and over in her head of the day's progression. Her eyes slipped closed as a small smile crossed her lips. She wondered if she would get any sleep after all.

… … …

The hour was late, but Usagi felt restless. Tossing and turning, she finally rose from bed, lit a candle, and wondered why her mind was so consumed sleep evaded her. Something didn't add up, and Usagi worried her lower lip between her teeth in aggravated thought. Lifting her small flame of light, Usagi soundlessly moved toward the small desk and lit another candle to see by, placing each candle on a far corner of her desk.

Perhaps birthday jitters kept her awake. Perhaps the uneasy feeling churning in her stomach would not allow her rest until she puzzled out what was truly bothering her subconscious. She had a wonderful birthday. Perfect, really, in more ways than the young Princess would ever have dared to hope. Tears swam to her eyes at the remembered image of her people—the Moon Kingdom's last survivors—interspersed with Earth-bound men, women, and children in a City so near to Rose Court.

Luna. Artemis. Alive.

Usagi's heart ached at the happy memory of it. A smile touched her lips, and a relieved sigh rose in her chest. She was not so alone. There was so much to fight for. To survive for.

Her mother's sacrifice had not been in vain. She, Serenity, would do everything in her power to keep it that way.


Heart and soul reached outward, and Usagi lifted her face to the heavens—toward the Moon—as her thoughts encompassed every strength Queen Selene signified.

I do not know how I could ever be as strong a Queen as you, or as noble and wise, but this is my oath to you: I will do everything within my power and ability to do. I will bring love and justice to all. I will be fair. I will be forgiving. I will try to be wise. Most of all… I will try to make you proud.

Her heart ached.

I love you…mother…

A warm, steady glow grew behind Usagi's form not a moment after her last thought. Slowly, methodically, Usagi turned to the golden glow coming from the table near her bedside and gasped at what she saw. The worn journal pulsed with a radiant light. The cover lifted, opened, and one—two—three pages turned and settled before the glow died down. Usagi moved carefully, one foot planted before the other, toward her bedside and the leather-bound journal, breath halted in her lungs and eyes wide in her face. She stared in awe and wonder, trepidation slowly trickling down her spine. The aura the book permeated didn't feel harmful or tainted in any way. On the contrary, the journal seemed to embody something familiar and soothing and wonderful.

It felt as though it was something she encountered before.

Glancing down at the open worn pages, Usagi's lips parted open in surprise. Two tentative fingers reached out to the browned pages, smoothing over now visible scrawled ink.

A magic journal?

Usagi carefully wrapped her hand around the spine of the journal, fingers splayed over the new script written there. Heart thundering in her chest, Usagi quickly maneuvered back to the candlelight, eyes drinking in the written words.

Dear journal,

I feel as though I finally have purpose. I finally have something I can give back to the Universe, which has seemingly kept us out for so long. Not any longer. There is someone I care for very deeply, but I dare not speak this individual's name, for fear of what may happen. Oh, I finally feel full! I understand now what I must do. After seeing so much strength and will, how could I not be all that I should be? All that I am?

I was never alone, but I can say with finality that I was blind. Ignorant. No longer. Never again shall I be who I once was.

Thank you, for bringing me this unconditional Friend.

Thank you for bringing us hope.

~Your servant

Usagi flipped the page, only to find it blank. She flipped another, and another, finally flipping through the whole book, then nearly growled in frustration. Apparently the book chose to only show her this for now. Closing the journal, and running a finger along the cover, Usagi's mind attempted to figure out who penned the book—how a magic journal would be able to find her on her birthday. Was it perhaps Chronos' doing? Someone else entirely?


More questions rose to the forefront of her mind. Questions she felt she would not find the answers to this night. Usagi turned toward her bed and began pacing. The journal was magic, someone told her to read it: 'When she was ready.' Who decided whether or not Usagi was 'ready,' though? The book? Usagi had certainly never heard of a magical book with that ability.

Still, there was nothing to be gleaned about the book this night, but now Usagi's mind was awake more than ever. Walking to her armoir, Usagi grabbed a night robe and slipped it on over her sleeping gown. Blowing out both candles Usagi quietly slipped from her room, hoping to put her mind on other matters.

Her feet seemed to guide her to their own destination: Prince Mamoru's personal study. The small room they shared tea in. The small room they shared a kiss in.

Blushing vibrantly, Usagi wondered why her body decided to take her here of all places—especially when she could see light seeping out from beneath the crack in the door.


Was he possibly awake at this hour, too?

Usagi hesitated at the door, shifting nervously from foot to foot. It would be horribly indecent to show up at his personal study in the dead of night. He was her friend now, however, wasn't he? Surely he would not think anything ill of her for it. Indecision tore through her, brow puckering in worried thought. He had seemed so… off today. Her tired mind simply couldn't comprehend any reason as to why. He almost seemed distant. Perhaps this was another reason she couldn't sleep.

She lifted a delicately boned hand to knock, then lost her nerve and sighed, leaning against the cool door in defeat. He had seemed perfectly friendly, though he was a bit overly attentive this evening. For some reason, Usagi felt it had nothing to do with her birthday. He hadn't been aware of the special day until it was almost over. Something had to have been bothering him. Something he had hidden in the depths of his eyes, and it had pained Usagi to see it. How could she understand what his odd behavior was about if he didn't communicate with her?

Sighing at her mounting frustration, Usagi lifted her head and slightly banged it against the door, hoping to get the memory of the haunted look in Mamoru's eyes out of her mind and—

She heard scuffling feet move toward the door and her eyes widened in panic. How utterly careless! He must have heard her when she—

She moved to push away from the door when it suddenly swung open and inwards. Her body pitched forward with the momentum of the door and Usagi frantically attempted to reach for the sides of the doorframe before she embarrassed herself completely and found herself sprawled on the floor. She found her face pressed to Mamoru's strong chest instead, his hands fumbling to catch her and pull her against him.

"Princess?" He asked, surprise evident in his voice. His heart was pounding rapidly in his chest, Usagi could feel it, and her own heartbeat sped up to match his as a blush burned brighter on her cheeks.

"I beg pardon. I did not realize—that is, I did realize, however I did not mean—"

A deep chuckle vibrated where the side of Usagi's face was pressed against the thin material covering Mamoru's chest. He was warm. Unbelievably so. She tried to press the knowledge away as she raised her hands to push away from him only to realize his arms trapped her around the waist, and now the flats of both her palms could feel the warm strength of his chest.

His eyes met hers, blue clashing with blue, and there were no shadows present in this moment—solely warmth and amusement.

"Do you do this often, or should I feel privileged, Princess?" His voice was deep, holding a teasing note he seemed to have reserved only for her.

Usagi attempted to duck and hide her burning face. "I—no—I—"

Chuckling again, Mamoru's large hands soothingly moved from Usagi's back to run along the length of her arms. He pulled the blonde into his private study before gently closing the door behind her, only then releasing her from his hold.

"Were you unable to sleep?" He asked, tone gentling to what suspiciously sounded like a serious inquisition, and Usagi slowly narrowed her eyes.

"How did you know?" She accused, and he chuckled again, his hand reaching for hers to squeeze it—he seemed unable to keep from touching her—then released her hand and walked back to the table he must have been sitting at.

"We've had a busy day. You should be sleeping soundly, so I can only assume you have something on your mind," he commented loftily.

Usagi's eyes slowly followed the Prince's retreat, trying to garner the expression in his deep blue eyes but the man now kept his gaze averted.

"How very astute of you," She grumbled, wondering why his behavior bothered her so much. She just wanted a simple answer—simple knowledge about something. Anything.If she couldn't know when Daidi would arrive, and she couldn't find answers about the Moon Kingdom, or Earth's new inhabitants, or what the royals of this planet knew concerning magic and her Kingdom and refugees, then shouldn't she at least be able to get some closure to her worries concerning a certain Prince of Earth?

She honestly didn't believe she was asking for too much.

Prince Mamoru turned back to her, glanced at her expression, and broke out into another laugh. "Oh, I certainly am going to miss our times together," He murmured softly, most likely to himself, but Usagi heard.

It felt as though someone case a spell of ice to swallow her form.

"Are you… going somewhere, then?"

Fear. Terror. Such terror Usagi could only briefly wonder why the feeling was so great when even Daidi couldn't bring this strong a feeling forth. And why?

Perhaps because Usagi might not be near enough to the Prince when Daidi arrived. She might not be able to protect him.

The fear hit her like nothing else ever had—ever could. The world tilted on its axis for a moment as her blood ran cold, and Mamoru's warm hand was suddenly placed on her pale, clammy cheek. Concerned eyes raked her form, but what startled Usagi most was the confusion apparent in the man's face.

"I? No. Not I," He breathed, and with his breath, Usagi finally found the ability to breathe in air for her once frozen lungs as warmth began to once again register in her mind.

She smiled, sagging with relief as her hand rose to cup Mamoru's along the side of her face. More confusion bubbled in Mamoru's dark eyes, but Usagi didn't fret. He wasn't leaving. He would be here. She would keep him safe.

Another bit of news that seemed to wholly alleviate her qualms and worries.

"Good," She breathed, turning to smile into Mamoru's hand, where she placed a light kiss upon his palm.

A hesitant silence followed. Usagi felt the tight rigidness in Mamoru's form, but she was so relieved she couldn't seem to focus on what it might mean. Finally Mamoru broke the quiet with a question of his own.

"Are you… leaving tomorrow, Princess? With your sister and your cousins?"

Brows kissed in confusion on Usagi's face, and when her searching gaze lifted to his she could read nothing of his thoughts behind the shadows once again apparent in his eyes.

"No… we are not…" She admitted lightly, wondering if he thought they were leaving all this time—and what that might mean for her senshi—what that might mean for her, and for Mamoru.

He backed away from her abruptly, his hand falling to his side like lead. Usagi shook her head slightly, once again wondering at the meaning behind his movements throughout the entire day.

"Prince?" She asked at last, taking a small step toward him, then thinking better about it and retreating back a step. "Endymion?" She asked again, hurt by his sudden withdrawal.

"Was that all your words were then, in the dining hall? Just words?"

His eyes were shuttered, hiding all thought, though his tone sounded accusing. Usagi flinched, backing away half a step.

"What?" The question was a breath of a whisper across her lips. Hurt and betrayal gleamed in Usagi's expressive eyes.

Mamoru would have none of it.

"Did you want all those Princesses to leave? Are you a 'Crown Seeker?'" Now his narrowed gaze was just as accusatory, and the anger she saw in Mamoru created an answering anger in Usagi.

"How dare you ask that. How dare you even think it! After everything, do you truly believe this, or is this about something else? Why have you been acting so strangely this evening? Why do you seem so distant? I thought I finally had the right to call you my friend, but now you act like this!"

One side of Mamoru's jaw twitched, but Usagi didn't back down from their staring match. She heard his loud exhaled sigh, and wondered if he was angrier than she first imagined or if he was merely trying to control his temper.

"You said…" Mamoru's tone was so low and precise Usagi almost couldn't hear it. His voice whipped across the air despite its light candescence. "You said you were better than the other Princesses vying for my crown—for my protection. You said you would not seek protection from me and mine if it meant better chances at saving this planet." His eyes pierced her to her soul, and Usagi held her breath at his expression and his words. "Were those all lies, Princess?" He stepped toward her as if to intimidate, but Usagi held her ground. She understood now. She understood it all, and it hurt her heart to cause such a misunderstanding.

"You said you would grant me a chance to live, and yet you just now tell me you and yours are not leaving after all? Tell me. What am I to believe?"

He closed the distance between them, his broad well-muscled chest just barely brushing hers as he towered over her. He stared her down, eyes narrowed to slits as his nostrils flared with anger. Softly—calmly—Usagi lifted two fingers to his lips and placed a light pressure there, her eyes warm and understanding as she silently asked him to listen.

The fire went out of his gaze, and was replaced by raw need to hear her refute his statement. Her heart went out to him at the expression, and she lifted her other hand to smooth his long bangs away from his eyes.

"I said…" She began calmly, her tone warm and wording slow so he would be sure to understand, "That if they wished to do good not only by the Kingdom, but for the planet and heir, they would leave so you would not focus your efforts on so many."

More questions rose in his eyes and the puckering of his dark brows, but Usagi slowly shook her head, keeping her fingers lightly pressed to his lips.

"I said…" She began again, "That I would not ask for your protection, nor your Generals', because I feel all your concerns and efforts should be on protecting you, Mamoru. Endymion." His lips parted but again she silenced him with a shake of her head. "I will not endanger you or your men. I am not so important that my death would bring about the destruction of an entire Kingdom."

Not anymore.

"Therefore, I will stay, and I will ask that you do not think of me. You only think of yourself, and what it will take to protect this planet's future."

The shadows of suspicion in his gaze cleared.

Serenity, however, was still not done.

She knelt before him in only her night gown and dressing robe, then somberly took his hand in hers. "I do not leave, because there is something here I wish to fight for. There is something in Rose Court that I believe in. You," She breathed, and took pleasure in the way his eyes widened with shock and near-disbelieving awe.

"I swear, from this day forth, that I will do all I can to aid you in preserving not only your own future, but that of this planet's."

"Princess," He breathed haltingly, bending awkwardly a moment as if he might kneel next to her, then attempting to pull her to her feet. "No…"

"Yes," She reiterated strongly, determination clearly visible in every line of her body. "I am your humble servant," She murmured, suddenly feeling kin to the mysterious journal writer. She grasped a corner of his cape, and brought it to her lips in a kiss.

In a blessing.

"You have my strength, and my oath."

Mamoru shook his head in incredulity, finally managing to pull Usagi to her feet. "No. Please. You do not understand what this means, Princess, and you offer too much."

Usagi shook her head and smiled. This felt right. In this moment, she felt whole. This is what she could do. This is what she was choosing to do.

My life for yours…

"This is something I can bring to this Kingdom," She said, completely content with the situation. "I am of no great importance here, Endymion, unlike you."

Not any longer.

"I can offer my assistance in any way I please. You are the one who must be protected at all cost. You are the future." She trailed her fingers along his face, admiring the planes she found there. He was very handsome. His future would be very handsome indeed. She would see to that.

"Princess…" It seemed to be the only word her Prince could say.

She smiled, eyes closing in delight.

"I have yet to gift you with your present…Princess."

Eyes drifting open, Usagi tilted her head at the abrupt change in topic. "But… you have gifted me with enough."

He smiled boyishly, then swept her an elegant bow, glancing up at her mysteriously before straightening and pulling a deep, red rose from somewhere beneath his cape.

Usagi gasped, eyes widening considerably as she took in the color and petal formation of the rose.

'Uncle Chronos…? Why isn't the rose red?'

A chuckle. A look full of endless knowledge. 'Because, Dear One. That rose is not within my power to give.'

"En…dymion…?" She breathed, eyes lifting to his as she stared for some sort of definitive answer.

He smirked. "This is a one of a kind rose. You probably never have, and probably never again will, ever see one exactly like it."

Except she had every birthday for as long as she could remember.

Ever since she turned six.

Reaching a hand tentatively forth, Usagi was almost afraid to touch the rose. She was almost afraid it might vanish.

"This is…" She didn't know what to say. She didn't understand the meaning of this. All she knew was that there was something amazing and important about the rose. She wanted to accept his gift.

Endymion smiled, his hand wrapping loosely around hers as she accepted the stem carefully. "Do you know what meaning is behind this red rose?" He asked her, his lips suddenly closer to hers—his breath fanning lightly across her ear as he leaned in to nuzzle the side of her face with his.

"N-no. What does it mean?"

His hands released hers and rose to cup her chin, directing her line of sight so she could see only him. "Forever," he whispered, voice straining with emotion. "It means forever, Princess."

His lips ghosted over hers before Usagi could respond. He kissed her lightly, then pulled away only to kiss her again—and again—before he swept her into his arms and pulled her feet off the floor, his mouth slanting over her as her arms rose to encircle his neck as she responded just as passionately.

He would protect her. He would protect this little slip of a woman who stole so completely into his life—into his every thought.

He would fight for her—because she was worth it. She was his future, and he wasn't about to give that up. Not when he thought all the day long that she would be leaving him for good.


When they finally parted to catch their breath Usagi was staring into his eyes speculatively. Finally she blurted, "You can't mean it."

Mamoru blinked before a slow grin stole across his face.

"Oh? Tell me, Princess, what does my namesake mean?"

She blinked. "Endymion?"

His eyes were full of some bit of knowledge she was unaware of. He looked too happy. As if he already won. But how could that be so?

"No…Mamoru. What does 'mamoru' mean?"

He waited patiently, and Usagi narrowed her eyes at him. She suddenly felt the urge to kick him, despite how deliciously soft and fulfilling his kiss had just been.

"Protector…" She finally whispered, knowing he would have waited all night for her response, and also acknowledging that if the knowing look didn't fade from his face soon enough he would be in trouble.

He gave one slow nod, dark eyes remaining fastened to hers.

Usagi shook her head, knowing neither of them would be able to win this battle tonight. She would protect him. She would protect this planet.

Only now it might be harder, because it seemed the one she most wanted and needed to protect felt he must protect her.

"I won't let you. Your Generals won't stand for it."

Mamoru openly scoffed. "Usagi," He breathed, and she shuddered at his use of her own namesake. "Only I can be in control of my own actions."

Usagi's gaze narrowed. "I won't let you get hurt because of me."

He shook his head. "That's not the way it works," he whispered. Then his lips were once again settled over hers, effectively stopping any further protests. Lids slipping closed, Usagi allowed herself this small moment of revelry. With a content sigh she sank into his kiss, a warm golden glow alighting deep within her heart for this Prince.