A Sailor Moon fanfic
By Bill K.
Sailor Moon and all related characters are ©2004 by Naoko Takeuchi/Kodansha and Toei Animation and are used without permission, but with respect. Story is ©2004 by Bill K.
As always, for those only familiar with the English dub:
Finally, Haruka and Michiru are NOT cousins.
In the palace of Crystal Tokyo in the twelfth month of the year 2980, Queen Serenity sat in a hand-crafted cherry rocking chair. In her lap was her daughter, Chibi-Usa, quickly approaching six months old. As the queen slowly rocked back and forth, the infant princess sat sleeping, her head nestled against her mother's stomach and her mother's arms cradled around her tiny body. Occasionally Queen Serenity would move her hand to stroke the silky pink hair that adorned the infant's head. The queen's deep blue eyes peered down at the sleeping infant with such a look of utter contentment. All thoughts of colic, dirty diapers and three a.m. feedings were forgotten, washed away by the utter bliss she felt at this moment. The young princess sighed in her sleep and nuzzled closer to her mother's stomach. At that moment Serenity felt she was in danger of melting completely.
The door to the queen's inner chamber hissed open softly. Luna padded in, looking around for the queen. When she spotted the two slowly rocking in the chair, the cat's mouth curled into a warm smile.
"Oh, gracious," she whispered to herself as she watched Serenity rock Chibi-Usa. "What a lovely picture that would make. I must see if I can get Artemis to access the security cameras and make a duplicate of this scene."
"Hello, Luna," Queen Serenity whispered. Her long trails of blonde hair fell over the back of the rocker and dangled behind her to the floor.
"Forgive me for intruding, Your Majesty," the black cat began.
"Luna," Serenity interrupted, her tone one of warning.
"Go no further," Luna replied steadfastly. "We've been over this and over this - - YOUR MAJESTY."
Serenity glared, but the cat refused to budge.
"Oh, what is it?" Serenity scowled.
"Forgive me for intruding, YOUR MAJESTY," Luna began again, giving the queen a warning glance, "but the morning delivery has arrived."
"More?" whimpered the queen.
"I'm afraid so," Luna told her.
Serenity sighed helplessly. With great caution, so as not to wake her sleeping daughter, the queen got to her feet and carried the girl over to her crib. Gently laying the girl inside,Serenity bent down and lightly kissed her, then followed Luna out of the room.
"This is becoming a nightmare," Serenity sighed as they walked down the corridor. Luna looked up sympathetically. "Why is this happening?"
"The people of Crystal Tokyo greatly respect and admire you, Your Majesty," Luna told her. "And the birth of the princess was a great event for the people. Chibi-Usa is widely adored among them. They merely wish to show their appreciation for her."
"And I'm grateful that they love her so much. I want only the best for my baby and you can't get much better than being loved by an entire country of people." Serenity paused in front of the door long enough for the sensor beam to note her presence and open the door. "But this?"
Queen Serenity and Luna entered the palace ballroom. Stacked inside the spacious one hundred meter square ballroom with its cathedral-like twenty meter ceiling were thousands of gift-wrapped boxes in all shapes and sizes. They were from all over Crystal Tokyo, from all over Japan, some even from around the world. More arrived each day until the spacious ballroom threatened to burst.
And each and every gift was for a single little girl sleeping blissfully in her crib in her mother's chambers.
As Queen Serenity stared helplessly at the mounting stacks of universal adoration for her daughter, she heard the click of heels on the marble ballroom floors. Turning, she saw her husband, King Endymion, approach. As always her hand went out to him and as always he grasp it and drew her close.
"Endymion," Serenity whined, looking back up at the mountainous pile of gifts, "what are we going to do?"
"I don't know," Endymion replied, smirking. "If we wait until Christmas Day, our daughter will be all month opening them."
"You're not helping!"
"Well, we can't give them back."
"Of course not. I couldn't dream of insulting anyone like that. But Endymion, she's getting more gifts than the entire city combined is! I love that everyone loves her, but at this rate they're going to make her the most spoiled girl in the history of the planet!"
"Um hmm," Endymion nodded.
"And I wanted to be the one to do it," Serenity added.
Endymion pulled her closer. "I guess we'll just have to work harder to teach her manners and humility. I hope she won't be getting much more, though, or we'll have to store the excess in some of the guest rooms. I've got my computers working on mass producing thank you notes and addressing them."
"That's kind of impersonal," frowned Serenity.
"Perhaps," Endymion replied, "but it beats terminal writer's cramp. Unless you want to spend the next two weeks writing notes by hand?"
"The way I write?" Serenity queried.
"Indeed!" added Luna.
"You don't have to agree so fast," Serenity hissed, nudging the cat with her slipper.
The couple stared at the room filled with colorful gift packages. Endymion glanced down at his wife and noticed a familiar expression of child-like anticipation growing on her face.
"Do you suppose it would be all right if we did open a few now?" Serenity asked.
- - - -
The frantic wave of a hand caught Makoto Kino's attention. It took her a few moments to recognize the possessor of the hand, but once she caught the red ribbon holding back blonde tresses, her face lit up with warm surprise. Hauling the six bulging shopping bags into the café on the promenade, Crystal Tokyo's main shopping and entertainment district, Makoto waddled up to a table where her three surrogate sisters sat sipping drinks. Rei gave her a nod and a smile. Ami tossed her a knowing smirk while Minako pulled out a chair for her.
"Come on, sit down before you fall down, Old Lady," Minako quipped.
"What are you three doing out here?" Makoto asked as she eased the packed shopping bags to the floor and eased herself into the chair.
"The same as you, apparently," Rei said, holding up a shopping bag from under the table. Ami and Minako quickly followed suit.
"Yeah, I guess we're all last minute types," Minako grinned. "Except for Ami, of course. Little Miss Efficiency over there probably had her shopping done in June."
"October," Ami replied cooly. "I just had to pick up a couple of last minute gifts."
Makoto leaned over and peered into Ami's bag. "So who did you have to shop for at the last minute, Ames?"
"No peeking!" Ami gasped, grabbing the sack shut. Makoto broke out in a surprised grin. "I - - had to get Chibi-Usa something."
"Uh huh," Makoto smiled while Rei and Minako giggled.
"All right, the other one's yours," Ami admitted.
"What color is the sweater?" Makoto asked.
"What makes you think it's a sweater?"
"You always get me a sweater."
"Well it's not a sweater this year," Ami proclaimed.
"Only because we talked her out of it," Rei added devilishly. She got an impatient glare from Ami.
"And I had to get something for Hiroki," Minako said. "He's been a GOOD boy this year."
"I don't want to hear it," groused Rei.
"What have you got against true love?" Minako protested.
"What do you know about true love?" Rei shot back. "How many times were you divorced in your life, twelve? It's probably more like 'true lust'."
"OK, what have you got against true lust?"
"Minako, we've been over this," Rei began, "he's nineteen and you're almost a thousand. Do the math."
"No, I'm still deathly attractive and he's uber-cute. YOU do the math."
"You know, these last few centuries Minako has had the unique talent of making me feel incredibly ancient," Ami said to Makoto. Makoto smirked a reply.
"I can't help it if men still find me desirable. So, did you leave anything for anyone else to buy?" Minako asked, glancing over Makoto's bags.
"Hey, I've got a lot of living relatives to shop for," Makoto said. "Unlike you, Miss Deathly Desirable, I stopped to raise a family. And just how would it look if 'Grandma to the Tenth Power' didn't get the grandkids something?" The woman sighed. "And shopping for kids seems to get harder every year."
"Yes, we can sympathize now," Ami said. "Now we've got a little one to shop for, too."
"I'd to be there to see Chibi-Usa's little red eyes light up on Christmas morning," Minako grinned. "Your first Christmas is always your best."
"Yeah, it's up there," Makoto smiled wistfully. "I can still remember Akiko's first Christmas. That and Ichiro's are two of my most cherished memories." She glanced across the table. "How about you, Rei?"
"Um," Rei began uncomfortably. "We never - - celebrated Christmas."
"Really?" Ami asked.
"Why not?" echoed Minako.
"Well, Dad was too wrapped up in himself and Mom was the daughter of a Shinto Priest. And you don't celebrate Christian holidays in a Shinto household," Rei related.
"Rei, the Japanese version of Christmas has never had very much to do with its Christian origins," Ami replied.
"Didn't matter. Grandpa always thought Christmas distracted people from New Year. The New Year festival was always more important to him." Rei's mood seemed to morph into a nostalgic one. "You know, the first Christmas present I ever got was the one Usagi gave me the first year we all met."
The four women basked for a few moments in the glow of the wonderful memory they all shared.
"She put more thought into those gifts than she did her math homework for the entire term," grinned Makoto. The others chuckled. "So what are you getting Chibi-Usa, Rei?"
"I don't know yet," Rei whispered, an edge of panic in her voice.
The others looked at her curiously.
"I mean, what do you get a six month old girl?" Rei continued. "Serenity, I know what to get her."
"Yeah," Minako nodded. "I've just never figured out how to gift wrap a pork bun."
"But what would a six month old girl like," Rei continued, "besides warm milk and a clean diaper?"
"Rei, you're putting too much thought into it," Makoto said, a sympathetic expression on her face. "As long as it's colorful and can be played with, a six month old doesn't care what the gift is."
"Believe me. I've spent almost a thousand years buying gifts for kids that age. They don't change."
"So what did you get her?" Rei asked.
"A doll," Makoto shrugged. She noticed Ami's raised eyebrow. "Hey, say what you want about the evolution of our gender, there's something about little girls and dolls that will always be eternal. And since she's only six months old, the doll I got is soft dura-plush fabric so she can't break it or hurt herself on it."
"You see, that's the sort of thing I'm talking about," Rei moaned. "I never would have thought of that."
"Well it isn't as difficult as you're making it out to be," Ami said, touching Rei's hand with hers. "The one thing you have to remember is that an infant Chibi-Usa's age is practically a blank slate. She's just beginning to form her interests, so just about anything can capture her attention. What you might want to consider, though, is giving her a gift that can both be played with and that can stimulate her forming cognitive and motor skills."
"I almost hate to ask," Minako grimaced. "So what did you get her?"
"A synthe-fiber abacus," Ami replied. Minako stared.
"A what?" the blonde goggled.
"An abacus," Ami repeated. "An ancient calculating device. It's a square with three rows of ten beads strung horizontally between the ends of the square. It was used in ancient times to make complex mathematical calculations."
"You got that for a six month old?" questioned Makoto.
"The beads and the frame are multi-colored," explained Ami. "That allows Chibi-Usa to develop her recognition skills. Pushing the beads back and forth along the wire strings helps her develop her physical dexterity and motor skills. I don't expect her to learn to count using it, although it's there if she's advanced enough." Ami smiled proudly. "And the frame is just the right shape and texture to let her teeth on it."
The others stared at Ami.
"It's a perfect blend of education and play," Ami protested.
"I bet you were a ball of laughs when you were six," Minako quipped. Ami scowled.
"So what did you get, blondie?" Makoto asked. "Holo-crystals of all of your movies?"
"Not until she's old enough to appreciate them, no," Minako replied, only partly joking. "I got her one of those mobiles for over her crib."
"Aw, that's beautiful!" gushed Makoto, while Rei and Ami nodded with reluctant admiration. "Did you get stars and planets? Or maybe cartoon characters?"
"Actually I had the dangling things custom made," Minako replied cryptically.
"So what did you get?" Makoto persisted.
Minako paused dramatically. "Well, I saw they already had a Pegasus silhouette, so I had them add a horn onto the forehead of each one."
The others smirked knowingly.
"Minako, she's six months old," Rei said. "Isn't it a little early to be matchmaking?"
"Hey, when it comes to true love, I say get 'em started as soon as possible," Minako replied. The four broke up in laughter.
"So, that give you any ideas, Rei?" Makoto asked at last.
"Not enough," Rei sighed.
"Rei, just buy her something!" fussed Minako.
"It's not that simple!" Rei protested, looking self-consciously at her hands.. "It has to be - - special."
Rei looked up and noticed Minako staring at her, chin on hand, with an all-knowing smirk on her face. Glancing at Ami and Makoto, she detected much the same expression on their faces as well. The priest felt her cheeks coloring.
"Ya know," Minako began, enjoying her friend's discomfort, "if I hadn't seen the birth with my own eyes, I'd begin to wonder whose daughter Chibi-Usa really is - - given the way you're acting."
"Oh, shut up," scowled Rei, her arms folded over her chest.
- - - -
In the chambers she shared with her husband, and now her daughter, Queen Serenity cradled the infant in her arms. The little girl looked up expectantly as her mother dipped a spoon into the pureed baby food. The food was a mixture of meat and vegetables calculated specifically by Ami to provide a proper nutritional quotient for a growing infant and prepared by Makoto with the right touch of flavor to make it enjoyable. Serenity brought the spoon over and her daughter took it eagerly.
"You like that, don't you?" beamed Serenity. The baby gurgled as she swallowed and clapped her hands. "Well, I guess I can't blame you. Mako-chan is the best cook ever. I'm just glad she was nice enough to prepare this for us."
Serenity dipped the spoon again and brought it back. However, this time she wavered part way between her and her baby.
"Mmm!" Serenity commented as she stuck the spoon in her own mouth. "My, this is good!"
"Kaaaa!" Chibi-Usa howled.
"Oh, all right!" Serenity huffed, dipping up another spoonful and putting it in her baby's mouth. "Brat."
The baby downed it with an expression that almost seemed smug, if you looked at her in the right way.
"But you're my brat," Serenity softened, cooing at the infant as she gave her the last spoonful of food. "And don't you ever, ever, ever forget it." She sighed as her daughter digested the last spoonful. "And you're going to grow up to be the most beautiful, wonderful, spoiled rotten little girl the world has ever known. And I'm going to be the one who spoils you the most - - although from the looks of all those presents in the ballroom, I've got a lot of competition."
"Gaa, gaa!" Chibi-Usa protested, bouncing her arms up and down in front of her.
"More?" gaped Queen Serenity. "Well if nothing else, you've certainly inherited my appetite."
Just then the queen paused and tilted her head ever so slightly.
"Come in, Setsuna," she smiled.
"My Queen," Sailor Pluto said, emerging from the shadows of the alcove just before the entrance. She bowed deferentially to Serenity and approached timidly. "Forgive this intrusion."
"Setsuna, your visits are never intrusions," Serenity told her. "You were just visiting, weren't you?"
"Yes, My Queen. I realize my leaving my post at the Door of Time would suggest otherwise, but nothing dire threatens the kingdom. I merely - - succumbed to a moment of weakness."
"And who is more entitled?" Serenity replied. "Come on over. Would you like to hold the baby?"
"M-My Queen, I . . ." Sailor Pluto gasped shyly.
"Oh, come on," Serenity grinned. "I have to get her more food anyway. And I'm sure she'd love to visit with you."
Before Pluto could protest further, Serenity got up. She walked over to the terror-stricken senshi and handed her child over. Left with no other alternative, Pluto took the child in her arms and cradled her. Chibi-Usa looked up at her and gurgled. Her red eyes grew large with wonder as she studied the silent woman's face. Then she reached out with her chubby little hand.
"You see," Serenity smiled. "You're the perfect babysitter for her. I'll be back shortly."
Pluto hardly noticed Serenity glide out, so encompassed by the infant in her arms was she. The woman bent her face down and kissed the palm of Chibi-Usa's hand. The baby cooed.
"Do you recognize me, Small Lady?" Pluto asked softly. "I cannot fathom how, since you only last saw me at the moment of your birth. And yet, you will be such a remarkable person in what is yet to come that I cannot fully put it past you. How my heart sings to be close to you. How I yearn for our times yet to come. It is torture to wait for our first true meeting, for you will be such a special part of my life - - as special as your mother."
Chibi-Usa looked at her, entranced and smiling.
"Do not fear, Small Lady," she whispered. "You have a great and glorious destiny and I vow to be there to shepherd you safely to it. You will know pain along your journey. None can hope to be spared from that. But that pain shall mold you as much as the pleasant times ahead for you, and I vow to be by your side to protect your journey. That is my gift to you this Christmas. That is my gift to the world."
"Oh, Setsuna," Serenity sighed as she came in again. "You two just look so perfect together."
"It is entirely the doing of my good Small Lady, My Queen," Sailor Pluto smiled wistfully. "I am merely the beneficiary."
- - - -
As Christmas neared, those closest to her noticed Rei's growing frustration and irritability. Long familiar with the moodiness of the priest, both Ami and Makoto inquired about it hoping to help their longtime friend by talking it out. Minako knew better and kept her distance, knowing she'd get a polite as possible "none of your business" - - just like Ami and Makoto got. Only one person had both the bold naivete and the saintly persistence to wear down Rei Hino.
However, Queen Serenity was preoccupied with other things. She had a country to run, a world to try to influence, an infant to take care of and friends and family still to shop for. Though she'd had a thousand years to practice, multi-tasking still wasn't one of the kindly queen's best skills. At the moment Chibi-Usa was still occupying the majority of her time, but her other concerns hadn't gone away. That still bothered her. And whenever the queen was bothered or upset, Rei Hino knew it.
Without bothering to change from her robes, the priest walked down the hall of the palace toward the Royal Chambers. Rei peered into the chambers where Serenity was spending more and more of her time. The queen had all but ceded affairs of state to Endymion and not reluctantly, but motherhood was still taking up much of her time. At the moment Chibi-Usa was crying and Serenity was doing all she could to get her to stop.
"Please, Chibi-Usa!" Serenity whimpered. "I've fed you, I've changed you, I've rocked you! What do you want?"
"Well if you sang to her, that would explain why she's crying," Rei quipped.
"That's not funny, Rei!" Serenity snapped.
"Here," Rei said, peering over Serenity's shoulder at the child. "What's the matter, Muffin?"
As Chibi-Usa continued to cry, Rei stared intently at her.
"Serenity, she's bored," Rei announced at length. "She understands that you're trying to get her to go to sleep and she doesn't want to. She wants to play. That's why she's fussing."
"How do you know that?"
"I read her," Rei said, then smiled at Serenity's incredulous look. "She's a human being, Serenity, and I read human beings, remember. I can read infants. If anything, it's easier to read an infant because their thought process is a lot simpler - - sort of like when I read you."
Serenity said nothing, but her eyes narrowed.
"She's not tired and she wants to play," Rei reiterated.
"But Rei, I was hoping to get away for a few hours. I've got so much to do and she's demanding more and more of my time!"
"Well, nobody said raising children was easy."
"It'd be just like you to want that," Serenity scowled at her still crying daughter. "Oh, you're such a spoiled little brat!"
"Serenity, go do what you have to do," Rei told her. "I'll stay with her."
"You will? I'm not imposing on you, am I?"
"Serenity, letting me spend time with my adorable little muffin is never, ever an imposition. Your biggest worry is going to be how you're going to get me to give her back."
"I'll worry about that when the time comes!" Serenity beamed. The relief on her face made Rei feel good. She handed Chibi-Usa over to Rei and mentally changed her clothes from her royal gown to a conservative jacket and skirt acceptable for being outside. "I swear I'll only be a few hours, Rei."
"You take all the time you need," Rei told her. "And get me something nice."
"I will," Serenity replied, then winked. "I just hope he'll stay in the box until Christmas."
Rei turned her head to cover the giggle she couldn't contain. Chibi-Usa was still fussing and squirming in her arms, so she sat the girl on the floor, then knelt down before her.
"So what do you want to play, Muffin?" Rei asked. Chibi-Usa just cried petulantly. "How about this?"
Taking a ball about the size of her hand, Rei rolled it gently over to Chibi-Usa. As the ball rolled to a stop between her legs, the girl's crying dimmed. She stared at the ball through tear-stained eyes. Reaching down with pudgy hands, she pushed awkwardly across the top. The ball rolled slowly toward Rei, a fact that fascinated the young girl.
"That's it," Rei cooed. She reached for the ball when it stopped. "Now I'll roll it back to you."
She gently pushed the ball to Chibi-Usa.
"Now roll it back to me."
The girl quickly imitated her earlier motion and the ball sprang toward Rei.
"That's it," Rei praised her. "Now I'll roll it back to you."
Rei rolled it back to Chibi-Usa and the infant returned the volley without encouragement.
"Hey, this is fun, isn't it?" Rei beamed.
Chibi-Usa responded with a cackle of laughter. The priest and the infant volleyed the ball back and forth a few more times. Chibi-Usa was fascinated by the rolling motion of the ball and how the ball never took quite the same path twice. When the ball came to Rei, she kept it and leaned forward. Chibi-Usa stared up at her expectantly.
"So tell me, Muffin," Rei began, her eyes misting. "What do you want for Christmas?"
"Ah, ah, ah!" Chibi-Usa replied, smacking her hands on the floor. Rei rolled the ball back to her and Chibi-Usa quickly returned fire. As she exchanged rolls with the girl a few more times, Rei studied her intently. Suddenly she smiled.
"Oh," Rei whispered. "Is that all?"
She caught the ball and instead of rolling it back, bounced it on the floor. Chibi-Usa's eyes widened with delight. Immediately she grabbed for the ball, which was clearly out of her reach. Rei smiled and rolled it back.
"I think I can do that, Muffin," Rei whispered.
She watched Chibi-Usa try again and again to lift the ball up with hands that still didn't
possess the strength and dexterity to do what she asked. Finally, frustrated, the child turned away
and tried to crawl over to a corner of the room that caught her attention. To Rei's surprise, she
proved better able to crawl than the priest expected and Rei had to scamper across the room and
retrieve her before she got away.
- - - -
On Christmas morning, Luna awoke first, as was her habit. Stretching, the black cat nuzzled the still sleeping Artemis, then went off on her daily rounds. Luna always felt better after giving the palace a morning inspection. Though the palace had a staff that ran the day to day functions of the place and a computerized network of security cameras and observation drones implemented by King Endymion, Luna still inspected everything with a critical eye. Once she was satisfied that the palace was functioning efficiently, she was off to the Royal Chambers.
Peering in the Royal Bedchambers, she found Endymion and Serenity nestled together in bed and Chibi-Usa sleeping peacefully in her crib. Normally the cat would have awakened the king, then spent the next twenty minutes trying to awaken the queen. Today, though, she hesitated.
"It's a holiday," Luna thought to herself. "Best to let them sleep in."
With that, she leaped up into the windowsill and peered out onto Crystal Tokyo draped in morning.
Endymion woke up about twenty minutes later. Serenity woke up nearly an hour and a half later and only because Chibi-Usa woke up and started crying. With Luna at her feet prodding her along, Serenity donned her robe, determined that her daughter was hungry and shuffled into the dining room, narrowly avoiding bumping into the door frame. By the time Serenity was awake enough to realize she was at breakfast, both her and Chibi-Usa's meals were half eaten.
"Well, Chibi-Usa, this is your first Christmas," Serenity said as Endymion spooned food into the child's mouth. "Are you excited?"
"Gaaa!" the child squealed, picking up on her mother's mood. She clapped her pudgy hands, nearly knocking the spoon away. Serenity stroked the girl's pink hair.
"Did we ever get a final count on the number of presents she got?" Serenity asked.
"Not counting ours or the ones from the inners?" Endymion asked. "Two thousand, seven-hundred and fifty-one."
"Gracious!" Luna gasped, looking up from her bowl of tuna.
"She can't possibly keep them all!" Serenity wailed.
"I've got an idea," Endymion replied calmly. "How does this sound: We use one of the empty rooms on the ground floor as a museum to display every gift. We'll let the tourists and well-wishers see the people's love for the princess."
"Really?" Serenity remarked doubtfully.
"That way the people see that we appreciate their gifts and at the same time our daughter has a more reasonable set of toys to play with, keeping her a little more grounded."
"I suppose it's the best, most workable solution," Luna commented. Serenity cast her doubtful gaze at the cat. "Well, come up with something better!"
"I suppose it's best," shrugged Serenity. "But what if she sees something she really likes?"
"She can have it," Endymion smiled. "I'm flexible."
"What if I see something I like?" Serenity teased.
"Eat your breakfast," Endymion replied. Serenity smirked and wrinkled her nose at him.
After breakfast was finished, the royal couple adjourned to the living room. Chibi-Usa sat in the middle of the floor, tended to by Luna, while the King and Queen got their gifts. Serenity knelt down next to her daughter and presented her with a small gift-wrapped box. The girl's eyes lit up with fascination and she pawed the gaudy paper with her hands, folding her fingers around it to gauge the shape and texture. After a few moments, Serenity gently pulled the box away and unwrapped it. As Luna and Endymion looked on, Serenity opened the long, thin box and displayed it for her daughter.
"Do you like it, Chibi-Usa?" Serenity asked. "It's your very own charm bracelet."
"Gaaa," the baby squealed. She reached out, shoving her hand into the box, and tried unsuccessfully to grip the thin silver chain in her hands.
"Y-Your Majesty!" Luna gasped in horror. "You gave a-a charm bracelet to a six month old child?"
"I thought it looked adorable," Serenity replied.
"She can't possibly wear it!"
"It's adjustable," Serenity maintained.
"The charms, Your Majesty! She'll swallow them! Possibly choke on them!"
"Oh," Serenity replied in a small voice. Luna realized she hadn't considered that possibility. The black cat gritted her teeth.
"Luna's right, dear," Endymion added softly.
"OK," the queen replied, dejected. Then she brightened. "I'll just have to keep it for her until she's old enough to wear it." She caressed the girl's pink hair. "I'm sorry, Honey."
Chibi-Usa looked up at her reverently.
"Guess it's my turn," Endymion said. He sat a large box down near Chibi-Usa, then knelt down to her. "Got you a present, Sweetie," he grinned. Chibi-Usa smiled and reached up to him.
Opening the box, Endymion reached in and pulled out the contents while Serenity and Luna looked on with anticipation.
"A teddy bear!" Serenity exclaimed happily. "Oh, Endymion, it's huge! It's bigger than she is!"
"She can think of it as her big brother," Endymion quipped.
Endymion set the huge teddy bear down next to his daughter. For her part, Chibi-Usa looked at it with a hint of suspicion, expecting it at any moment to engulf her. When it didn't, her attention drifted elsewhere.
"Well she's impressed," smirked Endymion.
"It's a wonderful gift, Endymion, but why so big?" Serenity asked.
Endymion shrugged. "I wanted to get the best. I always want what's best for her."
Touched, Serenity smiled. She leaned over, cupped her husband's cheek in her hand and kissed him tenderly.
"Ready for your present?" she asked.
"I thought that was my present," he replied. Her mouth screwed up into a naughty grin.
Serenity got up and glided over to a table. She returned with a small gift-wrapped package and handed it to him.
"Merry Christmas," she said, handing it to him. "I know it doesn't compare to the gift I've already given you this year. I hope you'll like it just the same."
Endymion leaned in and kissed his wife, then set about opening the package. Inside was a small hinged black box. At first Endymion thought it was a jewelry case. But when he opened the box, he found a surprise.
When the lid was fully extended from the box a holographic picture sprang up. It was Chibi-Usa, filmed from the looks of her about a month ago. The hologram Chibi-Usa looked up at him, extended her chubby arms and smiled at him, the light of love dancing in her eyes.
"Oh my goodness," Endymion choked out. Everyone could see he was struggling with his emotions. For a moment Serenity became concerned until a melancholy smile sprouted on the king's face. "This is," he began, "this is wonderful. I'll keep this always. That way, no matter how much she grows, I'll still have my little girl with me."
Serenity beamed. Luna nodded her approval.
"Here," Endymion said, handing his wife a flat box about a foot wide. "I'm sure it won't compare to what you got me, . . ."
"It's from you, Endymion," Serenity smiled. "That's all that's necessary." Eagerly the queen ripped open the paper and pulled off the lid. "Chocolates?"
"Well, I didn't know how to wrap a pork bun," Endymion said.
"Watch it," Serenity glared playfully. "Endymion, I love chocolates! But I'm just coming off of pregnancy! I have to watch my figure!"
"You be happy and eat the chocolates," Endymion said, then leered. "I'll watch your figure."
"I'll bet," Serenity smirked saucily.
"There are others in the room," Luna announced loudly.
"You haven't looked at the second tier yet," prodded Endymion.
"There's two tiers?" squealed Serenity. She pulled the first tray up, then gasped in shock, her face almost going white. Luna looked on in alarm. "Oh, Endymion, where did you find this?"
Under the first tray of chocolates was a photo framed in gold. In the photo were Kenji, Ikuko, Usagi and Shingo Tsukino posed by a Christmas tree. Luna sprang up and perched on a table, craning her neck to see. Serenity moved to let her get a better look.
"Why, that has to be Christmas 1994!" Luna gasped. "Yes, there's that Three Lights CD that your father bought you for Christmas that year. Gracious, I thought this photo was lost forever. How did you manage to obtain it, Your Majesty?"
"I found it in an old photo archive on my computer system," Endymion explained. "I must have made that archive five hundred or six hundred years ago. It probably got misplaced in the data transfers from all the upgrades I've made. I thought you might like a print, since you're always sorry no pictures of your family ever survived."
Serenity was staring at the picture. Tears streamed down her face and her lower lip quivered.
"Serenity?" Endymion asked.
The queen folded into Endymion. One arm draped around his neck while the other held the framed photo between them and her face pressed to his chest. She squeezed him as tightly as she could, clinging to him.
"I guess you like it," he whispered.
"Thank you," she whimpered with as much voice as she could muster.
Just then a rustling of paper could be heard from the far end of the room. The King, the
Queen and Luna looked up and over to the spot. Chibi-Usa was gleefully flailing discarded
wrapping paper up and down, her more expensive gifts ignored. Serenity snorted out a rude-
"Figures," the Queen giggled. "We go to all the trouble of giving her expensive gifts and she likes the wrapping best. Oh Endymion, we've given birth to a hopeless brat."
"Did you keep the receipt?" Endymion chuckled. "Maybe there's still time to exchange her."
Just then Artemis poked his head in the door. "What did I miss?" the cat asked in the middle of a huge yawn.
Luna rolled her eyes. "Slothful wretch," she muttered.
- - - -
Later Christmas day the inner senshi dropped by. It had been agreed upon that they wouldn't show up until after one, to allow the Royal Family some time to themselves - - and to allow Makoto to spend Christmas morning with her extended family of distant grandchildren. Each friend arrived, examined some of the unwrapped gifts from the people with varying degrees of surprise, amusement and alarm, gave gifts to the King and Queen, then presented their gifts to Chibi-Usa. By now the child was clearly reeling from all the unusual events of the day.
Serenity cooed over the mobile from Minako. She beamed with sympathetic delight over Makoto's doll, recalling her own first doll so many centuries ago. She puzzled over the abacus Ami gave the child, though to Ami's relief Endymion nodded his approval. Then, to everybody's surprise, Rei scooped Chibi-Usa up and sat down in the rocking chair with the child in her lap and her gift, a flat shape that measured twelve inches by nine by one.
"What did you get her, Rei?" Serenity asked. "A box of candy?"
Rei glared daggers at the Queen.
"Look at what I got you, Muffin," Rei whispered. She pulled the wrapper off the gift as Chibi-Usa watched, revealing a story book inside.
When Rei opened the book to the first page, a hologram of a princess, the story's lead character, sprang up. The princess turned and curtsied to Chibi-Usa. The tot stared at the hologram, enchanted.
"A holographic pop-up book!" Makoto exclaimed. "What a great choice, Rei!"
"Yes, an excellent idea," Ami concurred.
"See, and you thought this would be hard," Minako chided playfully.
"Oh, Rei, it's wonderful! Thank you!" gushed Serenity.
"You guys don't understand," Rei said with a knowing smile. "The book isn't the present."
And she proceeded to read to Chibi-Usa, sharing the child's wonder and joy at each new hologram that came up and enchanting her with a gentle voice telling her the story behind the pictures as if no one else existed. And by story's end, the little princess with the pink hair and red eyes slept contentedly nestled against Rei. Rei moved the arm she had around Chibi-Usa's waist and stroked the girl's hair.
"Merry Christmas, Muffin," she whispered.