Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future
And time future contained in time past.
Panting slightly, Mamoru rounded the last corner and collapsed against the edge of the stone fountain. He checked his watch: 12:17. If she was here, she was going to be furious… But a quick glance around showed him that his girlfriend was nowhere in sight, a confirmation that made him smile. One of the best things about going places with Usagi was that no matter how late he was, she was always later. Well, he had time to relax, then. He slowly turned and sat on the cool stone edge, reflecting on the morning's events and how had nearly missed coming altogether.
It had been his idea to come to the art museum. Even without the recent newspaper article about the museum's curious new acquisitions, he had been meaning to take Usagi there for a while. She was always prattling on about how she wanted to do more cultural things with him, even though most of the time when they did he was the one excited while she feigned interest. But it didn't matter. It wasn't going to be like that today. These paintings, he had been told, were very special. So they had made a date to meet there at noon.
However, he had been quite surprised when he opened his eyes that morning to see the harsh, glowing red numbers on his clock that sent his heart flip-flopping. It was 11:25. He had done the unthinkable - something he never did - and slept in. With this horrible realization, Mamoru had just enough time to leap out of bed, throw on some clothes, demand to a bemused Nick why he hadn't waken him earlier, grab a bagel and run out the door. He had run nearly all the way, except for the brief ride on the subway, and now, resting in front of the museum, he found it oddly amusing that all his effort had been unnecessary. Of course Usagi was late. He should have known.
He had to wait an additional fifteen minutes for her to show up, also running with her long blonde hair streaming behind her. "I'm so sorry!" she squeaked when she noticed him sitting there. "You see, there was this thing, and I couldn't come because…"
"Relax," he interrupted with a welcome smile. "I'm not your teacher, don't bother." It would have been hypocritical to scold her when he had been late himself, after all. And Usagi, seeing that he wasn't angry, immediately dropped the issue, and they entered the museum together in silence.
"What did you want me to see?" Usagi asked in a small voice as they stood in line for tickets, a little ashamed for forgetting.
"The ancient paintings," Mamoru said, excitement entering his voice. "They're supposed to be very impressive."
From the look on her face, he knew she would rather be playing video games than looking at what she might consider old junk, but she said nothing as he spoke with the smiling lady at the desk, who handed him two tickets and pointed out a group of people waiting for the next tour to start. Mamoru nudged Usagi and she followed him obediently, her eyes looking from side to side with slight apprehension. He hoped she wouldn't be too bored, and vowed to make it up to her later with dinner.
The tour started, taking them through all the ages of the world. They saw rooms full of traditional Japanese and Chinese works, with large paintings, scrolls and beautiful vases. They passed a room full of classical sculptures and bead fragments from the Ancient Mediterranean. They listened politely to the tour guide's smiling accounts of the Italian Renaissance, the Impressionists and Van Gogh's infamous ear. They gaped and blushed at what some people considered Modern Art. And although Mamoru hung on the guide's every word, whenever he looked at Usagi, he saw her nodding absently, her mind clearly not focused on El Greco or Cubism.
"And now we approach our newest collection," the tour guide announced proudly an hour and a half later. They were standing before the final room, and Mamoru noticed many in the tour group perk up at her words. He himself straightened and watched her intently.
"These paintings were discovered deep underground in the Tokyo area only months ago, and have sparked one of the largest controversies of modern archaeology. You may have heard some of the debates. Carbon dating has allowed us to estimate their age to be around 10,000 years, but as you shall see, these paintings seem far too advanced for any known peoples of the time. One of the less scientific theories is that we've finally found proof of the fallen Atlantis."
She paused and smiled indulgently while several people chuckled, before clearing her throat and beginning again. "If the dating proves to be accurate, and there are many who claim it cannot possibly be, then we have discovered a civilization that predates even ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. It does seem questionable, for we do not know how these works of art were created. As you shall see, they are advanced beyond anything we have seen in the ancient world. Maybe their true origin will always remain a mystery."
Intrigued, Mamoru glanced at Usagi. She didn't appear to be listening and was examining a crack in the wooden floor. He sighed and looked back at the guide.
"We have the best part of the collection here in Tokyo, but some of these paintings have been shipped to museums all over the world, including the Louvre in Paris and the Met in New York. It's really very exciting. No photographs please. If you wish, you may purchase copies in the gift shop downstairs. Now, please follow me."
The guide pushed the double doors open and stepped aside with a grin while the crowd wandered inside. Mamoru looked at Usagi once more, finding her fairly unimpressed, and motioned gallantly for her to go ahead of him. He wished she would look a little more excited, for his sake if nothing else. But as she entered, he heard her astonished gasp and smiled, pleased that something had finally gotten under her uncultured skin. He didn't expect that he, too, would whiten and stare in disbelief as he entered the room. For the walls, far from all that was implied by the word 'ancient,' were plastered with lifelike paintings of them.
Usagi gripped his hand as they went farther inside. 'Paintings' was hardly the word to describe them. They looked more like snapshots of friends taken on a hot summer day. The figures peering down at them were so alive-looking that they seemed ready to step off the canvases into the room.
"Wow," Usagi breathed in amazement, and Mamoru agreed. Before them was a forbidden window into their past. The scenery was a beautiful garden, full of roses and lilies in every color imaginable, with a blue, cloudless sky hanging overhead. Prince Endymion and Princess Serenity were posing in many of them, in both silly and serious shots, along with a girl they didn't recognize and, even more incredibly…
"Nick," Mamoru breathed in disbelief. He and Usagi exchanged a glance.
"That settles it," Usagi said in a tight voice. She was frowning at one that featured Nick alone, kneeling and laughing, the sun reflecting off his dark hair. "He was part of our past. Remember how Averill and Kai both hinted about that? I wonder what happened to him. It must have been awful, otherwise they wouldn't have tried so hard to keep it from us."
Mamoru looked at her with surprise. That had been a good observation. Usagi was surprising him more and more lately, as if her ditzy childhood phase was finally wearing off. She wasn't at all what she seemed on the surface. Certainly the events of that spring had had a lot to do with her growing up.
He turned his mind back to the images. They were all of excellent quality, as clear as any modern photograph. There was one of Princess Serenity leaning against an ivy-covered wall, looking very pretty; another with her perched on Nick's lap, the two of them laughing together with an unhappy Prince Endymion in the background ("That hasn't changed," Mamoru muttered darkly); a couple with Princess Serenity and the mysterious girl holding hands; one with Prince Endymion and Nick leaning against each other ("I should be screaming, not smiling," Mamoru said); more with all four and several with Princess Serenity and Prince Endymion, each looking distinctly uncomfortable.
"This must have been before… you know," Mamoru mused as they stared at a painting showing the two of them standing under a tree, the feet between them looking like miles. Usagi winced. Neither of them liked to talk about what they had recently learned of the past, how Usagi had been engaged to marry Mamoru's brother, but had betrayed him. She and Mamoru had driven Averill to near madness, and in essence, destroyed all they knew because of their love. That kind of thing did give one a heavy conscience, but at least they had earned his forgiveness in the end.
"Well, well," Usagi said in an dry voice as they moved on to the next group of paintings. Mamoru blinked. Well, well indeed.
They all showed Nick and the nameless girl, always standing as close together as possible, holding each other and grinning. The atmosphere surrounding them was very sweet and playful, and Mamoru found himself inspired to place an arm around Usagi's shoulders as they looked. The two they saw reflected through time were obviously very much in love.
"I hope Nick doesn't see these. I don't know how he'd react," Mamoru murmured after a long moment and felt Usagi snuggle against him.
"Yes," she agreed, blinking up at the pictures. "But who is she? And what were they to us?" The couple above them were dressed as well as Princess Serenity and Prince Endymion, but that told them little.
"I don't know," Mamoru answered regretfully. "The easy thing would be to ask Kai, but somehow I don't think he'd tell us." He remembered Kai a few months ago urging Averill to tell them only what they "needed to know." They had both looked at Nick then, but at the time Mamoru had assumed it was because they didn't want to tell their story in front of a stranger. Obviously, that wasn't the case.
"Do we tell Nick?" Usagi breathed. "He knows about our past, but not that he was a part of it."
Mamoru gazed at a picture of Nick whispering something into the girl's ear, smiling much as he did every day. "Tell him what?" he asked, his voice odd. "That he had some great love in the past he's without now? Just because it worked out for you and I doesn't mean he'll find her. If she's been reincarnated at all, that is. No. I really don't think we should."
Mamoru almost laughed at that. It was amazing how often he thought about strangling his roommate, but honestly he really cared about Nick and wanted to protect him from harm, emotional or otherwise. Usagi didn't reply, but from the way she set her small jaw, he knew that she agreed. Together, they looked at a picture of the nameless girl sitting on a rose-covered gate, her lips curved into a Mona Lisa smile.
Her pale eyes seemed to be laughing at them.
Hi again (maybe)! This little story is the sequel to Secret Destiny, which if you haven't read, you may want to, because Silver Twilight is concerned heavily with themes and characters introduced in it, most notably Nick Kestrel and Lord Ahriman (called 'Boss' in Secret Destiny). It may make much less sense without knowing the background story, but if you'd rather not, more power to you - read on! I hope you like this. Beware of many original characters, some hopefully I'll eliminate along the way in editing. I wrote this in my juinor year in high school, in much less time than it took to write Secret Destiny. Not sure what that means, but I've always liked it and had a lot of fun writing it. I'll try to be much better about updating than I did SD. Anyway, thanks for reading, and let me know what you think!
-Princess of Wands