Return of the Moon Princess

by Princess Nat

A big thank you to all those who reviewed my first story, "Trust in Your Love." Your kind words are greatly appreciated!

Disclaimers: Sailor Moon belongs to Naoko Takeuchi, much to my regret. ;-)

The fight was not going well. Mercury and Venus were down and Mars and Jupiter were barely holding their own. "Where is she? We're getting creamed here!" Mars yelled while dodging one of the strange spikey things the droid kept spitting at them. "I don't know. She wasn't in school today. Maybe she's sick." Jupiter hollered back before powering up her attack. "Jupiter Thunder Crash!" Unfortunately, it just seemed to make the droid mad and it sent a barrage of spikes her way.

Sailor Moon ran up just as Jupiter went down. "It's about time you got here! We could really use your help, you know!" Mars shouted angrily. Sailor Moon didn't respond, all her attention focused on the droid. Her breath was coming in painful gasps and the world kept tilting dangerously. 'I gotta focus. I don't think I could do another attack tonight if I miss.' Taking a deep breath and narrowing her whole world down to the droid in front of her, Sailor Moon raised her moon wand and called out her attack, "Moon Sceptre Elimination!" She held on until the droid crumpled to dust and then let the blackness that had been threatening at the edges of her vision take over. Mars stared in shock as Sailor Moon collapsed and then ran over to her fallen leader.

"Sailor Moon! Usagi, are you all right?" Mars reached out to grab her shoulders and at her touch Sailor Moon's transformation faded away, leaving Usagi in a white cotton nightgown. Her face was flushed and Mars was concerned by the amount of heat coming off the other girl. She placed her hand on Usagi's forehead and gasped when she noticed the crescent moon mark blazing angrily. It was even warmer to the touch than the rest of her. Mars looked around her and was relieved to see the other senshi making their way over to her.

"What's wrong, Mars? Is she okay?" Jupiter asked, concern evident in her eyes.

Mars shook her head. "I don't know. I think she's running a fever, but what worries me more is this..." she responded, pointing at the glowing crescent moon.

"What does this mean?" Venus whispered, as she limped up to see what Mars was pointing at.

Mercury activated her visor. "Well, she's definitely running a fever. I'm not sure why her crescent moon mark is glowing, but we had better get her inside and into bed." "Yeah, but we can't exactly take her home with her forehead glowing like that. How would we explain it to her parents?" Mars said, detransforming as she spoke. The others followed suit and they all stood there looking down at Usagi.

Makoto took off her coat and wrapped it around Usagi, pullling the hood down over her forehead to hide the tell-tale birthmark of the Moon Princess. "Well, we have to take her somewhere, she's shivering now."

Minako spoke up, "Can we take her to your place, Makoto? You're the only one who lives alone and wouldn't have to answer questions we can't answer."

Makoto shook her head, "No, I'm not allowed to have any visitors and I can't afford to get kicked out. My land lady watches me like a hawk."

"Then what are we going to do?" Minako wailed.

"We have to think of something fast. Laying here on the cold ground certainly isn't doing her any good." Ami interjected impatiently.

"Mamoru." Rei stated. The other three girls looked at her in disbelief.

"You've got to be kidding. After the way he's been treating her?" Makoto exclaimed angrily.

Rei whirled to look at her. "We don't have any choice. He's the only one we know who can do it. He lives alone, he already knows all about us, plus, he's studying to be a doctor."

"That's true." Ami conceded, "He is the only logical choice. But do you think he will do it? He's made it very clear that he wants nothing more to do with her."

"I think he will. There's something not right going on ..." Minako mused thoughtfully.

Makoto picked Usagi up in her arms, "I'll say there's something not right. Breaking the heart of our princess is definitely not right. And after she saved him from the Dark Kingdom, too!" she said indignantly.

Minako shook her head. "There's something else, I don't know what, but I know there is. I think he has his reasons for pushing her away..."

The girls were silent during the rest of the walk to Mamoru's apartment building. Fatigue from the frequent battles was catching up to all of them and they really just wanted to go to bed. Rei knocked on Mamoru's door while the rest of the girls hung back in the hallway. It had been decided that she would be best suited to explain the situation to him. Makoto leaned wearily against the wall and Minako and Ami both sat at her feet, their eyes already starting to close.

Mamoru opened the door in surprise. "Rei, what are you doing here?" he asked.

Rei glared at him. She was absolutely furious over the way he had been treating Usagi, but she knew that they needed his help. Controlling her temper as best she could, she finally replied "We need your help." She beckoned to Makoto and Mamoru paled as he realized that the still form in her arms was Usagi.

"What happened?" he asked, his eyes not leaving his beloved.

Rei sighed. "We're not exactly sure. We think she was sick today and then we had to battle a droid. Once she dusted it, she just collapsed."

Mamoru turned confused eyes to Rei. "Then why did you bring her here? Why didn't you take her home?" As an answer, Rei pulled the hood off Usagi's head to reveal the still-glowing crescent moon.

"Look, we're all tired and sore, so will you please take her for the night so we can go home and get some rest? We'll try to figure out something else tomorrow, but right now, we just can't think..." Rei stopped as she struggled to hold back the sob that was building in her throat.

Mamoru was about to protest when he finally stopped and took in the condition of the Senshi. They all appeared about ready to drop. "All right, I'll keep her for the night. But this doesn't change anything. You had better find another place for her tomorrow..." he trailed off as Makoto pressed Usagi to him. He looked down at her flushed face and his heart constricted painfully. It had been a month since he held his Usako in his arms and it felt good, no matter the circumstances. Her shivering stopped as soon as he had accepted her and her breathing seemed to improve a bit as well. Ami touched his arm to get his attention.

"She has a slight fever, so you might want to give her something to bring it down. We'll come back after school tomorrow and try to figure out what to do then."

Mamoru nodded his understanding and watched the Senshi turn away and stumble down the hall. Minako hung back from the rest, staring at him intently. "She needs you, you know, and not just as Tuxedo Mask. You can't protect her body while shattering her heart." she stated quietly before turning and continuing on her way.

Mamoru stared after her in shock, her words echoing in his mind. Finally shaking his head, he turned and went back inside his apartment. He carried Usagi into the bedroom and settled her in the bed. He was a bit concerned that she had not shown any signs of waking, but decided to wait until he had found the fever reducer before attempting to rouse her. Pulling the blankets up under her chin, Mamoru allowed himself to gently trace his finger down her cheek. She instinctively turned her head towards his touch and he hastily snatched his hand back as if he had been burned. She did not awaken, however, and he breathed out a quick sigh of relief before going in search of the medicine. 'What am I doing? I can't have her here. If she wakes up and finds out I'm taking care of her, she'll never believe I don't love her anymore. Especially since all I really want to do is hold her in my arms and kiss her until she melts.' Mamoru gave himself a mental shake. 'I can't think like that. She's sick and I'm doing a favor for the Senshi. That's all there is to it. If we're together, she'll die.' He rummaged through the medicine cabinet, trying not to think about Minako's parting words, "You can't protect her body while destroying her heart." He had finally located the small box of tablets when a terrified scream came from his bedroom. 'Usako!'