The Professional: Chapter Ten
Alicia Blade

Aww, the END. I must admit, I'm kind of sad this one is over. Haha… I do sincerely hope you've enjoyed your stay here in the crazy world of fanfiction and I'm so grateful for all of the reviews. This story met with a better response than I could ever have hoped for. Thank you, thank you! Especially to Stormlight, my lovely reviewer (who's writing for SM again, b'wa ha ha).

Next up: I'm thinking Kiss Me and Beauty Is Only Skin Deep next, then probably Dorothy Smith, and then Love Potion #19. Whew! So much sap headed your way!

PhantasyDreamer: Haha, you deserve a gold star! You're the only one who pointed out the fact that Emily is not given a physical description and, even if it irritated you, I'm so happy to know someone noticed! My reason for this is because, if you recall, my goal with Emily was to create a character that every fanfiction writer could relate to, and hopefully even see themselves in her shoes. So, if it pleases you, Emily looks like you! (Man, I feel so geeky right now.)

Enjoy!

Chapter Ten
The Perfect Ending

Usagi sat down on the bench that stared out over the lake and let out a deep sigh. The world just felt so wrong! Mamoru was in love with someone else. Emily had left without saying goodbye. The Negaverse hadn't attacked since Ryo had been turned into a monster over a week ago, and she hadn't seen Tuxedo Kamen in over two. School was almost out for summer vacation and for the first time in her life, Usagi didn't care. And Mamoru—that idiotic, cruel, arrogant, gorgeous Chiba Mamoru—was in love with someone else! How could that be?

So the fortuneteller was a fake.

So Emily was the only person in the world who thought that she and Mamoru would be a good couple.

So he'd complimented her in the manner of a true gentleman when Haruka had hurt her.

None of it meant anything. He was not hers. Fate had chosen for him to be in love with someone else. And she shouldn't care. There were hundreds, thousands, of possible love interests in the world. What was it to her if Mamoru-baka wanted to waste his time on some other girl, who was probably beautiful and smart and charming and…

But she couldn't possibly love him the way he needed to be loved! Could she? Would she make him laugh? Would she bring him stuffed animals and soup when he was sick? Would she let him kiss her breathless in a secret broom closet? Would she ruffle that perfectly silky black hair when he was being especially cute or silly? Would she appreciate his brilliance and dedication? Would she tease him and call him on his stupid, arrogant ways when he needed to be put back into his place?

Because Usagi would!

But she wasn't in love with him, so what did it matter? What did it matter to her?

It was just Mamoru. Why did she care?

And why did it make the world feel so wrong? So very, very wrong?

"May I sit here?" a sweet voice with a hint of an accent said beside her. Usagi turned to see a pretty girl around her age, with long blonde hair in a bright red bow before her.

"Sure," she said and scooted over to make room.

The girl claimed the seat beside her and they sat in comfortable silence as the sky slowly filled with dark gray clouds. Usagi could feel a gentle warmth emanating from the girl and an inane sense of familiarity and adoration: much the same feeling that she'd had when first meeting any of the scouts. She shrugged it off and returned to her earlier ponderings. The fresh breeze chilled her skin and the park smelled like cut grass and the air right before it rains. It almost made her smile, except for she still felt the strong need to cry.

"Can I ask you a question?" the girl said quietly after minutes, maybe hours, had passed.

Without turning her head, Usagi answered, "Sure."

"Do you believe in destiny?"

Usagi thought about it for a moment. She often believed that she was destined to be Sailormoon. She was destined to fight for this world and its people the rest of her life. She was destined to do bad in school. She was destined to be constantly pestered by a talking cat and her mother.

"Sure, I guess."

After another moment of silence, Minako asked, "What about soul mates?"

The fortuneteller's words came back to Usagi. Despite the hurt and confusion and disappointment she had felt upon discovering that all of the fortuneteller's words had been false, the hope she had found in them had comforted her immensely. She couldn't let that go. "Yeah, I think so."

"So if two people are destined to be together, they'll end up together, right?"

Perhaps Usagi should have felt strange having such a profound conversation with a stranger, but the girl's voice was so full of concern and worry that she felt a need to console her. She thought about it. "Yes. If they're destined to be. Why?"

"Well," the girl continued after a moment's hesitation, "I met this girl a couple days ago. And she told me about two people she knew who were completely in love, but refused to admit to it. They refused to be together. And I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. What if they're soul mates, but they never get together? What if they're so stupid and stubborn that they go off and marry someone else and are always miserable and lonely because they missed out on the one perfect opportunity?" She paused and looked at Usagi. "Fate wouldn't let that happen, would it?"

Usagi's frown had deepened and the girl's words burned into her thoughts. "I… I don't know. I guess… maybe not. But… but they can't just let fate do everything," she said with sudden conviction. "They have to work at it, too." She processed her ideas some more. The girl waited patiently for her to continue.

"It's like… destiny is there helping them along and providing the opportunities for them to be together, but they have to take them. What's the good in destiny doing all that work if the work goes completely ignored, or, even worse, taken for granted? They have to… to realize what it is that's right in front of them and they have to try to make it work. And if they really love each other, then they'll need each other. Like air and water. They'll need to confess it sooner or later. But… but they can't just stand by and let life pass them by. Because…" She paused and realized that her eyes were slowly filling with tears and her breath was shaky.

"Because love is too beautiful and perfect and when it's real, it's all that there is. It's all that matters. It's… it's life, in an emotional form. It's heaven in the heart.

"So no, they won't go off and marry other people and be lonely and miserable because at some point they'll realize how false it is. How wrong…" Tears were coming down her cheeks now. "How wrong the whole world is when they're not together." Covering her mouth with one hand, she sobbed and turned to see the girl watching her with sympathy and understanding in her eyes. "I'm sorry. I have to go."

The girl nodded, a gentle smile curling her lips as Usagi jumped to her feet and ran just as the clouds opened up and it began to rain.

"Are you sure about this?" Michiru asked, eyeing seven Rainbow Crystals warily.

Beside her, Haruka folded her arms nervously and nodded. "Really, Setsuna. I get the feeling this might not be one of your better ideas."

"If you have any better ones, I'd be happy to hear them."

"Isn't this dangerous, though? Really dangerous? I mean, releasing the Silver Millennium's strongest monster after a thousand year dormancy just sounds… risky."

Hotaru smiled. "I think it sounds like fun." At bewildered looks from the three older scouts, she took a nervous step back. "Just kidding!"

Setsuna sighed and removed the crystals from their velvet pillow, setting them into the sand of the lake's beach. The sound of gentle waves behind them and the first few drops of rain splashing into the water made the scene feel abnormally peaceful, calm, and morbidly ominous. The absence of people gave the place an eerie quality as a chilly breeze began to pick up and throw the abrasive sand roughly against the women's bare legs.

"It worked for Zoicite," Setsuna mumbled once the stones were set into a perfect circle. "And we need that crystal."

"But there has to be another way! What if we just left these in a place where Sailormoon would find them? They're bound to react to her, aren't they?"

"Probably, but there's no guarantee they would form the Imperial Crystal. And I'm not about to let these out of my sight on a whim."

"Oh, but there's no guarantee that attacking her with a youma will form the Imperial Crystal, either, and yet you're willing to do that on a whim?"

"What do you propose we do?" Setsuna growled. Her time orb flared in reaction to her temper and the other three scouts silenced. She shook her head. "I'm sorry. But I feel responsible for this whole mess. This is the best chance we have. Will you help me?"

The girls exchanged glances, and frowned down on the glittering gems as they gathered drops of rain on their surfaces.

Finally, Michiru mumbled, "Fine. How do we do this?"

Mamoru opened the door to a drenched Usagi standing in the hallway, shivering though she hardly seemed to notice. Her eyes were wide and nervous as she gazed up at him, her fingers clenched in front of her stomach.

"I need to talk to you," she whispered, not removing her gaze from his stunned expression.

"Of course, come in," he said, stepping aside and closing the door behind her. She slipped off her shoes and moved nervously into the room.

"You look freezing. Do you want to take a shower?"

"No."

"Can I get you a change of clothes?"

"No, that's okay."

He chuckled, guiding her gently to the couch by her elbow. "Well at least take your socks off before you get pneumonia."

She looked down at the couch suspiciously. "I'm soaking wet."

"The couch doesn't mind."

Smiling shyly up at his gently teasing grin, she sat on the sofa and complied with his request, taking her socks off and leaving them on the floor.

"Would you like some hot cocoa?"

"No."

Mamoru scratched his head and sat down beside her. She brought her feet up onto the couch before them, folding her arms over her knees. She wasn't making eye contact.

Seeing that her feet were red from the cold, Mamoru instinctively reached forward and took one into his palms, pulling it into his lap and cupping her toes with both hands. "They're like ice!" he said, laughing a little as he tried to warm them beneath his palms. "Why are you out in this weather?"

"I needed to talk to you," she breathed, watching his hands massaging warmth and feeling back into her foot.

Looking up, Mamoru caught her stare, seeing the fear evident in her eyes as she looked at him. For a moment he thought she was on the verge of tears and the importance of this visit became blatantly obvious in her expression.

Gulping, he nodded, easing the pressure of his hands. "Okay. I'm listening."

Usagi inhaled a shaky breath and slowly pulled her foot off of his lap, folding it beneath her. As Mamoru shifted his body to face her more directly, she reached forward and took both of his hands into hers, feeling the need of his warmth and touch on her, even if it did make her tremble.

He didn't hesitate to wrap her fingers up in his. "Usa?"

"I…"

She stared at him a long moment, analyzing his worried blue eyes, licking her lips and trying to place together the words she wanted to tell him. He waited patiently, afraid to try and rush her, the struggle evident on her face.

"Mamoru, I…" She looked away and closed her eyes long enough to regain her confidence. When he gently brushed a thumb over the back of her hand, she regained all that she needed. With tears in her eyes, she looked up at him again.

"I think I'm going crazy," she started. "But it's only around you. You make me crazy, Mamoru. And it hurts, but in a good way. And... And I can't get you out of my head. And every time I see you I want to scream and dance and cry and sing. You make me want to run away from you, but at the same time I... I want to be beside you and next to you and with you. And you don't make any sense. And these feelings don't make any sense. And yet, somehow… it feels like it's the only thing in the world that makes sense. And it's driving me crazy!" She paused, needing him to understand. Just feeling that it was so important that he understand. "You know?" she begged, squeezing his hands tighter, trying to calm her heart, trying to recapture her breath as the first few tears escaped from her lashes. But she couldn't tear her eyes away from him as he watched her.

Then, a look of softness, of comfort, overtook his face, the hint of a gentle smile curling the corners of his lips. "Yeah," he whispered, releasing one hand and gently rubbing away a tear with his thumb, "Yeah, I know."

Usagi exhaled a huge, trembling sigh at his words, feeling the weight of the world lift from her shoulders. And she believed him. The look in his eyes told her that he DID know, that he knew all too well, and that he didn't mind. He wasn't judging her. He wasn't laughing at her. He understood.

Cupping her cheek in his palm, Mamoru slowly drew closer, rubbing his nose tenderly against hers. She smiled and closed her eyes against the tears, clutching his other hand desperately between her fingers.

A sudden scream shocked the air and the two drew quickly apart. Startled, Mamoru pulled away from her and walked to the balcony window as more shrieks of terror filled the Tokyo streets. He stared silently a moment, before his eyes became wide. "Oh my god," he breathed against the glass.

"What? What is it?" Usagi asked, brushing her tears away with the back of her hand and joining him at the window. When her eyes landed on the sight, her jaw fell.

A youma with skin so black he looked like a thirty-foot-high shadow was rampaging through the street. Its presence seemed to drain the remaining light from the area. The heavy rain gravitated toward it, leaving a thin sheen on the ebony surface. Silver claws and eyes were the only color on the body. It roared as it paraded down the street in the direction of Mamoru's apartment, sending people running and screaming, dodging into stores and shops, only to have the glass broken around them, or hiding behind cars, only to have them picked up effortlessly and tossed away.

Usagi clamped a hand over her mouth and took a shaky step back. "I… I have to go," she whispered.

Mamoru whirled around to stare at her. "You can't be serious! There's no way you're going out there!"

"No, I do. I have to," she stuttered and, without bothering to take up her shoes and socks, headed quickly for the door. Mamoru was behind her in a second, his hands on her shoulders as he forced her to face him.

"You're crazy! That monster would crush you! I am not letting you leave this apartment!"

"Mamoru, please, you don't understand! I have to! Please, don't argue, just let me go!"

He moved between her and the door. "Usagi," he said sternly, watching her frightened eyes take on a hint of annoyance, "I'm sure your friends and family are fine. You can't help anyone by going out there. Whatever it is you think you need to do, it isn't important enough to risk your life. Do you understand?"

Usagi felt like pulling her hair out as screams from the street below continuously reached her ears. Clenching her fists, she desperately tried to shove Mamoru out of the way, to no avail. "Move, you baka! It's you who doesn't understand! I have to get down there, now!"

"Usagi!" he yelled back, roughly grasping onto her upper arms. "I am not going to lose the only person I've ever cared about because of some false sense of responsibility!" His chest began to rise, his breaths coming in shortened gasps, and he didn't know if he was angry or worried. He simply couldn't comprehend why she would so desperately want to run out into the middle of such danger.

Usagi's eyes widened, her own breathing heavy and uneven, and she stopped struggling. Looking into his face with stunned eyes, she saw his expression fixed on her, pleading and begging her not to leave him. She ran his words over in her head and they mixed with the sounds of broken glass and metal on concrete. Furious tears on her cheeks slowly turned sympathetic.

She licked her lips and felt his hands ease up on her arms. With the slightest quirk of her lips, she whispered, "Mamoru, I'm Sailormoon."

His face was emotionless for a moment as her declaration eased its way into his troubled thoughts, but then his back straightened and his arms fell from her completely. His lips parted in surprise and disbelief, but before he could speak, Usagi took advantage of his shock and slipped out the door.

Usagi clambered out of the apartment's stairwell, grateful that she hadn't fallen and broken her neck during her quick escape. Reaching into a pocket, she pulled out her communicator and paged the other scouts. They all already knew about the attack, though, and when she stumbled out onto the street, she saw Sailormercury and Sailorjupiter already on the scene. Ducking into an alleyway, Usagi transformed into the fuku-wearing heroine and emerged refreshed onto the sidewalk just as Sailormars appeared at the opposite end of the street.

She took a deep breath to calm her rapidly beating heart and trudged out onto the wet pavement, putting herself directly into the youma's line of sight.

"Hey, toad-breath!" she yelled and pointed up at the monster. Its curiosity piqued at the lack of hesitation in the small girl's stance, it turned its attention to her. She drew her brow down angrily. "For ruining what could possibly have been the most perfect and romantic moment in my entire life, I will punish you!"

The monster chortled, his silver eyes glinting from the dark orange streetlights. Rain continued to pour down, filling the streets with puddles and mud. Sailormoon ignored it.

"I'd like to see you try, little girl," the monster growled.

"Oh, you're about to. Moon Tiara Magic!" As the glowing disk careered toward the monster, it laughed and held up a palm. Immediately a black shadow—blacker than ebony, onyx, or a moonless night—grew above its raised hand. If it wasn't for the rain passing through, one would have believed it to be completely solid. The disk collided with it . . . and disappeared.

Sailormoon gasped and drew back her hand as the monster let out a loud laugh. "Have some of your own medicine!" he yelled as the shadow began to glow, dimly at first, but slowly brighter. Then, with a twist of the youma's fingers, it shattered into a dozen glowing tiaras, all hurtling toward Sailormoon. She screamed and fell backward, landing squarely in a freezing mud puddle, before slamming her eyes shut and bracing for the impact of her own weapon.

"Jupiter Thunder Crash!"

Sailormoon managed to open her eyes to see bolts of lightning come raining down onto the projectiles. They immediately lost their momentum and came falling not three feet from the heroine.

Sailormoon raised a grateful smile to Jupiter, who winked and returned her focus on the monster that had broken into hysterical laughter. A moment later, it calmed down and eyed each of the four scouts in turn.

"I am Malcristo, the most feared and evil creature from the Silver Millennium. I have been torn apart and sealed away all these hundreds of years and now I shall exact my revenge—by destroying this earth and those that imprisoned me!" He cackled, the awful sound bouncing off of the city buildings.

"You're going to have to get through us first. Mars Fire Ignite!"

"We will not let harm come to this world! Mercury Bubbles Spray!"

The attacks sped toward Malcristo, each aiming at one silver eye, but the youma laughed and again formed his shadow sphere. Just as it looked as though the elemental weapons would hit their target, they each diverted of their own accord and collided with the shadow sphere instead. It seemed to hesitate a moment, growing dim, before erupting in a mix of fire and ice that filled the sky and showered down upon the street, sending all four scouts running for cover.

"Okay, so that isn't working," Jupiter mumbled. "Let's try a little electric manipulation, shall we?"

"Jupiter, wait!" Mercury screamed, using her visor to analyze the youma and its black hole. "It won't work. Our attacks aren't strong enough by themselves. It seems that with enough power we could destroy that shadow, but we don't have enough, even with the four of us combined!"

"Perhaps I can be of service?" a determined voice asked from atop a toppled semi-truck. They turned to see Sailorvenus, her blonde hair cascading down her back and a proud smile on her lips.

Sailormoon's mouth fell open. "Sailor V?" she whispered, having a strange feeling that she'd seen the girl before, and not just in the manga. She shook it off and smiled brilliantly at the newcomer. "It's good to have you on the team, Sailor V-sama!"

The other blonde chuckled. "Please, I've been upgraded. Call me Sailorvenus."

"Alright, Sailorvenus, Sailormoon, let's cut the chitchat and kick this youma's butt—all the way back to the Silver Millenium!" Mars growled, feeling her internal fire itching at her fingertips to escape.

The scouts nodded in unison and turned back to Malcristo, just in time to see him pick up a car with one clawed hand and hurtle it at Sailorvenus. She gracefully dodged, rolling out of the way as the car and semi exploded with a thunderous crash and were overcome with flames. Coming to a stop in a crouch, Sailorvenus looked up at Mercury.

"What do you say? Do we have a chance?"

The blue-haired senshi smiled slightly. "We just might." Putting away her computer, she glanced around at her fellow soldiers and inhaled a deep breath. "But there's only one way to find out for sure. Mercury Bubbles…"

"Mars Fire…"

"Jupiter Thunder…"

"Venus Love…"

"Moon Tiara…"

"SPRAY!"

"IGNITE!"

"CRASH!"

"BEAM!"

"MAGIC!"

The power of the five girls collided together into one shimmering silver orb, racing toward Malcristo. He laughed maniacally and held up both hands, surrounding the black shadow. It expanded to nearly the size of the beast's head, casting a dark shadow over the street. The scouts held their breaths as their combined forces struck it and its iridescent, extraordinary light was immediately swallowed up.

Moon's shoulders sank. Jupiter cursed beneath her breath. Venus stared in shocked silence. Mars angrily clenched her fists.

"Wait," Mercury whispered, but no one heard her. She found herself standing alone on the sidewalk, chewing her lower lip with her eyes glued to the black hole. "Wait."

Malcristo was laughing again, the heinous sound echoing in all of their chests. "No one can defeat me!" he roared. "I will kill you all. Then I will destroy this…" He hesitated, feeling a change in his force field before it became visible to the scouts. Mercury sucked in her breath.

Then they all saw it. The tiniest pinprick of light in the center of the shadow, no brighter than a candle at first, but slowly growing, expanding, becoming more intense. Malcristo shrieked and pulled away from it, shielding his eyes as the silver orb grew steadily stronger, then all at once exploded. Everyone covered their eyes, shying away from the bright light. When the scouts turned back toward the monster, the black shadow was gone.

They all cheered and heaved relieved sighs, but their excitement was short-lived. Howling, Malcristo glared at the five scouts, his chest heaving in anger. "If you think you have defeated me," he growled, "you are sadly mistaken."

Sailormoon smirked. "Big talk from a sore loser."

His eyes narrowed. Then, letting out an infuriated scream that took the senshi by surprise, he pulled his arm back. The air around it materialized into a long javelin and with another loud holler, he threw it at Sailormoon.

Her eyes widened and again she found herself paralyzed, knowing in that split second that she didn't have time to move. This time, she didn't even have time to close her eyes.

Red streaked across her vision and the spear shattered right before her. She cried and stumbled backward, finding strength again in her legs, but she was already rescued. A single, blood-red rose jutted defiantly from the pavement at her feet.

Grinning, Sailormoon turned to see Tuxedo Kamen on a nearby rooftop, his black and red satin cape blowing out behind him. He was looking at her complacently, and as she returned the gaze, a tiny grin crossed his lips. The look stopped her heartbeat for a moment, before it tripped over itself to start up again. A blush crossed her cheeks and she forced herself to turn away.

Gee, you don't see the guy for a few weeks and you get all twitte-rpated, she thought mildly to herself. But deep down she knew it wasn't Tuxedo Kamen that had caused such a tumbling feeling in her chest. It had been his smile. It had been how much that smile in that moment had reminded her of Mamoru.

She shook her head and forced herself to concentrate on the battle at hand. From the corner of her eye, she saw Tuxedo Kamen jump down to the pavement.

"I'm your opponent now!" he yelled up at the furious youma. "For threatening the only person I've ever cared about…" He paused and withdrew his silver-tipped cane. "…I'll punish you."

Sailormoon's eyebrows shot up and she turned to stare at the masked hero as he approached the monster and began a duel.

"The only person he's ever cared about?"

It was almost humorous watching Tuxedo Kamen attack the monster that towered over him at nearly four times his height, but he somehow managed it with poise and determination.

"That's what Mamoru said."

He jabbed at Malcristo's eye with his cane, drawing black blood as the monster screamed and shoved him roughly toward the pavement. He landed gracefully on his feet.

"But it couldn't be."

A barrage of roses sank into the monster's arms. He countered with a rain of darts that left a rip in Tuxedo Kamen's cape.

"Just hopeful thinking..."

His cane morphing into a sword, Tuxedo Kamen plunged it into the youma's shoulder, lodging it into the muscle tissue and hopping back down to the ground.

"But his voice. And his smile."

Livid, Malcristo reached up a hand and yanked the sword from his flesh, his claws tearing a chunk of skin out along with it, but he hardly felt it. His thoughts could focus only on the masked man, and on defeating him.

With all the strength he had, he lunged at Tuxedo Kamen, holding the sword like a dagger in his hand. The hero attempted to jump out of the way but Malcristo predicted the escape and reached forward his free hand, clamping his enemy to the ground as he plunged the sword through his stomach.

Sailormoon screamed.

Every thought, every feeling, left her and she sank powerlessly to her knees, watching as Tuxedo Kamen's warm, red blood began to soak into his white shirt. She watched speechlessly, unable to blink or tear her eyes away, as Malcristo drew the sword out and Tuxedo Kamen's body collapsed onto the pavement.

The world hesitated in that moment. It did not breathe. It did not turn. It did not live.

He was dying.

Then it came flooding back to life. The rain poured harder now and Sailormoon felt like she was drowning in the freezing cold drops. They stung her, bit her, pricked and taunted her. They washed over Tuxedo Kamen and created a translucent, pale red pool beneath his body.

Devoid of thought, she was on her feet again, sprinting to him. "Mamoru!" she screamed hysterically and collapsed beside him. She didn't know she was crying until she recognized the bitter taste of salt on her tongue. "Mamoru! Mamoru!" she cried over and over, cupping his face in her hands.

He groaned quietly, almost inaudibly. The sound sent her over the edge and she buried her face into the cold, wet material of his collar.

"How… did you know?" he whispered, managing to remove his mask with shaky fingers.

She looked up at him, the rain plastering her hair to her neck and forehead, and wished they were back on his couch, his warm hands clasped around her cold toes.

"How did you know it was me?" he repeated, the color draining from his lips.

She sobbed.

"Because I love you."

His lips tilted up and he ran a tender finger down her jaw, the white satin wet on her tear-streaked face. Then, the smile fell, the hand fell, and his eyes closed.

"Mamoru…" she whimpered, shaking her head. "Mamoru!" Removing his hat, she lifted his head and cradled it against her chest, sobbing into his hair.

The other scouts watched in awe, their hearts breaking along with their dearest friend's and tears on all of their faces.

Then a flicker in their gazes drew their rapt attention. Rei was the first to notice it, but thought it was a trick of the light or some leftover glow from the shop windows reflecting off Usagi's damp face. But the tiny glimmer didn't disappear, even as it slipped from Usagi's cheek and plummeted toward the pavement.

It stopped. Hovering mid-fall—a glowing, silver stone, no larger than a marble, but emanating a light that seemed to burn away all the darkness, the shadows, the rain around it. It was beautiful, so absurdly, incredibly beautiful that the four girls momentarily forgot the pain and sorrow they were witnessing.

Usagi, however, did not.

Lifting her blood-shot eyes, she recognized the brilliant crystal before her. Vaguely, at first, but then, more clearly, the memories—a whole other lifetime's worth of memories—came flooding back. The last of which was a man, her beloved prince, dying in her arms with a sword through his stomach.

She lifted her gaze to Malcristo; her eyes were almost black with misery.

Malcristo was breathing heavy and on his knees with one hand clenched over his chest. Slowly, everyone managed to remove their attention from the tragic couple and glowing stone to the monster who had caused it all. Seven streams of pale-colored light were seeping out of him in steady streams and flowing gently into the crystal, which glowed brighter with every passing second. Strengthening the crystal, but weakening the monster.

Without taking her eyes from her enemy, Sailormoon lowered Mamoru's head to the pavement and rose to her feet. The crystal rose with her, hovering an arm's length away until she reached out and snatched it from the air. Stepping over the body of her love, her only love, she approached Malcristo with loathing in her stare. He continued to breathe heavily and ignored her, struggling to regain the strength to face his opponent. But as he finally met her stare with his remaining good eye, he shuddered from the abhorrence he found there. For the first time in one thousand years, he recognized fear crawling up from the base of his spine.

She steadily lifted the stone over her head and her sailor outfit melted away into a flowing white dress; her tiara was replaced with a gold, jewel-embedded crown. "You should have died a thousand years ago," she whispered. The wind picked up her words and amplified them, leaving the ghost-like sound of her voice hovering throughout the city. "It was a mistake that you have survived until now. That mistake will not be made again."

The scouts felt the power of the crystal stir deep inside of them, their own memories beginning to awaken as well, and they lent their princess strength, power, and compassion. Bowing their heads, they allowed her to do for them what they could not have done without her.

Four colored strings became visible, tying their hearts to those of their leader, their royalty, and their friend. Four strings that had always been present, tying their destinies together, now glowed with profound strength. Four strings that could not be broken. The powers of the senshi coursed along these strings and Usagi could feel the love of her friends enveloping her, filling the crystal with the strongest power the earth had ever seen.

"I fight for love. I fight for justice." She almost choked on a sob. "I fight for him."

The crystal exploded into a blinding light, filling Tokyo with one continuous, expanding dome, cleansing it of shadows and darkness. Without sound. Without heat. It covered the city, the island, the world, in only a moment. The next moment, it was gone.

The rain was gone. The clouds were gone. The moon smiled down on her child.

Malcristo was gone. Only a silver and black sword remained where it had stood, shining innocently in the moonlight, cleansed of the blood that had soaked it.

Usagi dropped the Imperial Crystal to the ground. The four colored strings connecting her to her four friends and guardians became invisible once more. She turned and returned to her rightful place, beside the cold, motionless body of her prince, her savior, her tormentor. Her Mamoru.

With a shaky breath, she lay down beside him with her head on his chest and closed her eyes. Her dress covered them both like a thin blanket and she tucked her arms underneath his jacket, hoping to take the chill off of his damp body with her own heat. After a long, silent moment, tears began to fall again, mixing with the blood that was already encrusted on his shirt.

Afraid to come too close, the other four scouts gathered around the fallen crystal, weeping silently and leaning on each other for emotional sympathy. After a moment, Sailorvenus bent down and picked up the jewel, still shimmering against the dark pavement, thinking to hold onto it for safekeeping, until the princess was ready to take back what was rightfully hers.

She wasn't sure that the princess would ever be ready, though, now that her prince was gone again.

"It just isn't right," Jupiter muttered, folding her arms because she didn't know what else to do with them.

"After all this time, they found each other. They loved each other," Mercury said to herself.

"And yet it happened all over again," Mars continued for her, shaking her head angrily as spiteful tears filled up her lashes.

Sailorvenus pressed her lips together and slowly opened her fingers, letting the crystal twinkle up from her palm. It glowed brighter. To it, she whispered, "If two people are destined to be together, they'll end up together." Removing her eyes from the mesmerizing stone, she looked at her new companions. "Right?"

They all turned away from her. With a hopeless sob, she let the crystal slip from her hand. But it did not clatter to the concrete. The scouts watched as it stopped and hovered waist-high between them, glowing as it had when it had first formed from one of the princess's tears: shimmering like an endless pool of liquid diamonds, making even the full moon dull in comparison. Then, a moment later, the light left it: all of the shine and sparkle faded away like a candle that has run out of wick. The new stone, looking like a tarnished silver marble, fell to the ground and rolled quietly away, vanishing into the shadows of a gutter.

The scouts looked at each other, curious and nervous at the stone's strange transformation, but their thoughts were interrupted by a startled gasp from their princess.

Usagi's tear-soaked eyes flew open, red and swollen. Amidst her endless cries of pain and the sickening feeling of her heart being ripped apart, sinew by vein by tissue by tendon, she could have sworn a faint heartbeat had sounded from her beloved's chest. She slammed her eyes shut, desperately seeking the sound again—and found it. A gentle thump-thump, barely recognizable, completely unbelievable. Burying her fingers into the material of his cape, she held her ear as tight to his body as she could and sucked in her breath and kept it. And the sound came again! Louder still. Stronger with every passing moment. She clamped her teeth down on her tongue to keep from crying in joy, so fearful that it would be some sick joke of the cosmos, and a moment later he would be silent yet again. But the heartbeat continued until it was resounding in her head, a steady thump-thump, thump-thump.

And then there was a hand on her lower back and a sharp intake of air above her. Her eyes opened again and she jerked away, sitting up to look down on the man that had been dead and cold only moments before. As she looked, color began to filter into his ashen skin and his lips parted for another deep breath. She was shaking spasmodically, her fingers desperately clutching his cape to calm herself.

His lashes fluttered. His eyes opened, stared, and focused. They were the most gorgeous, intense blue Usagi had ever remembered seeing.

All of her terror, happiness, hopelessness, passion, and disbelief escaped her mouth in one shuddering cry and she threw herself down on top of him again, wrapping her arms around his chest and sobbing hysterically against him, breathing his name over and over until the word became little more than sounds muffled into his clothes.

His arms surrounded her. He held her and stroked her hair and her back and her arms until the crying had settled into steady, delighted sniffles. Finally, he brushed back the bangs from her forehead and kissed the imprint of a golden crescent moon that he found there.

"I meant to say before," he murmured. She pulled away to look up at him, her eyes gleaming with more unshed tears. He smiled crookedly and cupped her face in his hands. "I love you, too, you know."

And she couldn't help but laugh, the happiness flooding through her almost too much to bear.

He pressed his lips gently against hers, this kiss infinitely more gentle and caressing and patient than the kiss in the arcade closet, his lips feeling like rose petals against her, the tip of his tongue barely skimming against her lower lip. She tightened her grip on the cape, surrendering completely to his love, holding him to her because he was the last thing in that world that could keep her sane, even if he was the cause of every last crazy feeling in her at that moment.

He was her compass and her map, and for the first time in her life, she was no longer lost.

He was the only thing keeping her weighted to the earth when she felt that she would fly up into the stars and disappear.

And Mamoru, for his part, couldn't think of a better reason to live.

Above them, the Outers watched the scene with tears in their eyes and silly grins on their faces.

"So the Imperial Crystal saved him." Hotaru sighed in awe, leaning her weight against her glaive.

Setsuna shook her head and her time orb began to glow. "No. It was only the utensil. Her love saved him; she would have found a way with or without the crystal."

Clapping her hands together as if to rid them of imaginary dirt, Haruka turned away from the scene. "Well, all in a day's work. Is everything back to normal now?"

"Is anything involving the prince and princess ever normal?" Michiru teased.

Pluto spun her staff through the air, opening a portal that would take them back to their own proper time in history. "There will be many more challenges that face them. But I have no doubt that they can make it. It is destiny, after all." With a proud nod, she disappeared into the time portal, Neptune and Uranus behind her.

But Hotaru shook her head and paused to take one last look at the prince and princess and their four protectors. "They're going to make their own destiny," she whispered to herself, before turning and following the women home.

Emily sighed deeply and sat back in her desk chair, a dazed and warm feeling in her stomach. The story, "The Professional," had been back on her computer when she had woken up that morning, an innocent-looking icon on her desktop. This time completed, and in reading the final chapter, it had suddenly occurred to Emily why she could not write the story before, regardless of how she tried.

It wasn't her story to write. The love between Mamoru and Usagi belonged to them and them alone—it could not be forced or made up or altered. Not by destiny. Not by a matchmaker. Not by a writer. The story had completed itself in the only way it ever could have ended: with the happy ending, the love confession, and one perfect kiss.

She smiled longingly and wished that she had written it, but content that she could at least post it for the fanfiction world to see.

Proof that true love conquers all.

She was, after all, a professional.

...

The end.

xoxo
Alicia