Disclaimer: Auuurgh! For the last time, I do not own Sailor Moon :-D
A/N: Thank you to last chapter's reviewers: tryntee13, Serandi82, catchastar101, mae-E, heartofblades, BiGgEsT. bOoKwOrM. iN. tHe. wOrLd, Kitkino86, angelsea, Lil' Miss Kagura, CharmedSerenity3, Rraz45, Kelevandras, mizqt, lunar-92-diamond, and PriestessHelene.
Saving Bonds of Love
Part 22: "Epilogue: Passage of the Crown"
"Usako, you are not fat," Mamoru crooned, one hand cradling Usagi's swollen belly and the other fingering at her sweaty bangs. June thirtieth, his soon-to-be-wife's birthday, had arrived sweltering hot. Rei already had every possible door and window open for their leader's party, and every Senshi present was currently fanning herself wildly in the middle of the priestess' room. It was nice having everyone back together again, minus Setsuna and ChibiUsa. Those two had journeyed home only days after the final battle with Sephrelenia- a perilous altercation that seemed lifetimes ago now. Mamoru had long since healed his wounds, and Usagi had long since sprouted a stomach ten times the size she used to have... which, as one can infer, was her most recent hormonal-induced source of angst.
"Yes I ammm," she whined, pouting down at her bulge. "Look at me! Not even six months pregnant and I already look like a whale!"
"Well, if it's any consolation, you already looked like a whale before you got pregnant," Rei teased, but quickly snapped her mouth shut when Usagi glared daggers her way. Then, to the raven-head's horror, her best friend's eyes began filling with tears. "I-it was a joke, Usagi! You look beautiful! I swear!"
"Who's got tact now?" Makoto grumbled, and Haruka laughed.
"You still remember that?" the Wind Senshi inquired interestedly, and Makoto chuckled,
"How could I forget? The ghost of my many kicks in the shin still lives on. I cringe in pain often."
Mamoru laughed along with everyone else, but then noticed his fiancee was still brooding. The chevalier took Usagi's chin and turned her melancholy countenance to face him.
"Usako, if you're worried, we do have another appointment next week. We can ask the doctor if this extra weight is normal; you do look very full for still having around four months left," he commented. "ChibiUsa must be doing very well to be developing so ahead of schedule..."
Usagi beamed at him. "Oh Mamo-chan, you always know what to say to make me feel better- oh!"
"Usako?" Mamoru suddenly looked worried, midnight orbs solicitous and cautious as he touched her cheek. Usagi had her teeth gritted and eyelids clenched, but the moment soon passed. She opened her ultramarine depths to observe everyone crouched around her.
"Okay, Usagi-chan?" Ami inquired.
"Yeah; ChibiUsa just took me by surprise is all. She's been doing that to me a lot lately; pains here, kicks there..."
"She must be so ebullient and lively... not to mention very anxious to get out!" Michiru chuckled. "If her future self is any indication... Oh, I'm so excited to greet her as an infant!"
"Oh, there she goes again, fluttering around!" Usagi giggled, stroking her stomach lovingly. "Here, feel. She's quite antsy today." Everyone coalesced tighter around the flaxen, chuckling and bantering while taking turns feeling the odd nudges coming from within their Princess. Mamoru moved back to let them all experience this little wonder; he'd had his share of "ChibiUsa-time". Every night, long after his fiancee had drifted off to sleep (yes, they had made the great move-in soon after his proposal, much to the disparagement of Usagi's parents), Mamoru would lie with his head on Usagi's swollen tummy. He just listened, sometimes for hours on end, to the almost inaudible little sounds coming from in his paramour's womb. Mostly it was just tiny throbs against his cheeks here and there, but once in a while the knightly paladin could have sworn that ChibiUsa made a soft cooing type sound. But, that occurrence always happened late into the night, and it could have simply been the ebony-head's sleep-deprived imagination, or wishful dreams of a father. He preferred the former, though. It was nice to believe your daughter was trying to speak to you, even from within their mother, to whisper love and other nonsenses.
"I'll get the cake," Rei said, breaking the excited group apart once all the girls had their fill.
"Want me to help-" Usagi began, but Rei looked a little affronted.
"Usagi, this is your birthday party... and you're pregnant! You'll not be lifting a finger today; not while I can help it! Ami-chan, Michiru-san, would you two help me please?"
"Sure," the aforementioned aqua-heads replied, following Rei out of the room. Haruka leaned back against a cushion and tried to look cool, while Mamoru went back to his favorite spot next to Usagi. It was hard even letting her out of his sight now. Hotaru, meanwhile, observed a bluejay that hopped around on the windsill, twiddling her thumbs and giggling when the bird nearly toppled over in its vain antics. On the other side of the bedroom, Minako and Makoto dug up Rei's latest manga, threw Usagi a copy, and began perusing its pages. Only their laughter permeated the quiet, comfortable atmosphere.
Suddenly, all the lights went off and Usagi screamed. She really needn't have; late afternoon sunlight still streamed in from the open windows and sliding panel-door, making all occupants quite visible.
"Good God, girl! Be quiet and let us finish creating a mood!" Rei shouted from behind her, flicking on and off and on again her lights. "See? Just us."
"She even manages to ruin her own party," Minako whispered a little too loudly, and Usagi struggled over her rotund belly to badly aim a cushion the other blonde's way. The girl just chuckled when the plush went sailing past her.
"Anyways, could we all be silent for a moment and try this again? Now, Usagi, I'm about to plunge us into not-so-total-darkness again-" Lights killed once more, amidst stifled snickers - "... alright, awesome- no screaming this time. Now..."
"Happy birthday to you!
Happy birthday to you!
Happy birthday Usaaaaagiiii,
Happy birthday to you!"
"Are you one? Are you-"
"Okay, enough Mako-chan, I think we all know how old Usagi's turning," Rei sighed, placing the inflamed cake on the table in front of civilianed Moon. "Make a wish, Usagi!" Mamoru squeezed the palm of their birthday girl, freshly seventeen, while she thought.
What do I want? There's so much I wish for; how can I choose?
Mamoru noticed her indecision. "Delve into your heart, and you'll know your deepest desire, Usako."
Usagi smiled at him, nodding.
I know what I'll wish for...
I wish for peace at last, if even for only a few years while my daughter grows. I wish for the conquering power of love to remain true for us Senshi, and that I birth a healthy baby.
Usagi exhaled mightily onto the candles, extinguishing the dancing orange in one blow. The Senshi's voices rose up in a cheer, but then something strange happened. All the noise in the room went dim, as if the Moon Princess were listening to it from the other end of a tunnel. She swayed, instantly gaining the attention of her friends, but their concern meant little to Usagi right now. There was a voice; some nostalgic tenor from centuries yore. Who was this female? What sounded like jabbering grew louder, but the words were indistinct; it sounded like gibberish still.
"What?" Usagi whispered. She inched deeper into darkness; the abyss of her mind. The birthday room was fading... "What are you trying to say?"
More inaudible muttering. Then another voice, loud and worried. Usagi looked back, to the party and her Senshi. She could just barely make out Mamoru, yelling at her. Why was his face above hers now? Why was he asking what she meant; couldn't he too hear this woman talking?
"Mamo-chan," she moaned. "Mamo-chan, I can't hear her-"
"What's she going on about?" Mamoru was now saying to the others. Why did he sound so terrified? "She's babbling!"
" 'm not crazy," Usagi mumbled, just as a word- a name- resounded clearly in her brain.
"Yes?" Usagi answered immediately. The girls were now rushing around, exchanging theories and pleading with Ami for information. The pedantic was now scanning the Lunar Warrior, but why? Nothing was wrong, except someone was trying to relay a message to her! Why couldn't they all just shut up; the voice was so quiet-
"Princess Serenity, the time has come."
"Time? I- auuuuugh," Usagi's inquiry changed mid-way into a pitched groan. Pain like a sledgehammer being driven into her abdomen ensnared the blonde. She hunched up, suddenly aware that her body was resting on Mamoru's lap. When had she fainted?
"Oh God- Ami-san, what's going on?" Mamoru shouted, and from Usagi's position looking up at his features, he appeared scared. The same panic existed on every other countenance in the room.
Ami's fingers were fairly flying over the light blue computer. Her cheeks were white and her lips pinched when it seemed the answer was given.
"This... can't be... I-"
"Ami-chan, what!?" Rei yelled, trying to crane her head around to view the results. Ami gulped.
"If I'm not mistaken... Usagi-chan is... going into premature labor. Very quickly."
Total silence grabbed the Senshi. Then, like a bomb exploding through quiescence, everyone began talking in little flurries of movement and gestures. The chaos pounded against Usagi's ears and she groaned again. Mamoru's fingers were raking through her hair aimlessly; he was distracted and trying to have his opines heard as loudly as all the others.
"Be quiet..." Usagi whispered, trying to seek counsel from the message bringer in her mind. No one could distinguish her order in all the din.
"Labor!? But she's barely six months-" Hotaru argued, but was cut off.
"This can't be true, Ami-san. Scan her again!" Michiru was saying with a head-shake, in denial with the rest of the warriors.
"The computer isn't lying! Now, we need some clean towels- Rei-chan, do you have any ice packs? And then some-"
"Ami-chan, have you lost your marbles? You can't possibly be implying a home delivery; Usagi already registered with a hospital, remember?" Rei cried over Ami's rambling directions.
"Rei-san's right. We have time yet; labor is a long and lengthy process. I'll get Usako into my ferrari; Rei-san, Ami-san, and Haruka-san could come with us..." Mamoru went off describing the route they'd take while trying to shift Usagi's dead weight. Pain had finally left but in its absence the girl felt drained and heavy. There was still a steady ache in her abdomen and lower back. Thankfully, hiatus from brooding on the harsh nature of labor- if that was what was happening to her- came to Usagi... in the form of two foreboding words.
"She says... she... no time. No time for hospital," Usagi gasped through clenched teeth. Mamoru froze in the act of lugging up his fiancee.
"No time!" Usagi howled, knees buckling and body arching when another contraction claimed her. ChibiUsa must really be desperate to escape the confines of her womb! This was all happening so different from what she'd read in books... Mamoru caught the Moon Princess just as she slid from his grip and back onto the floor. His eyes were pleading and concerned.
"Usako, who's 'she'? Is it ChibiUsa? Are you... communicating with her?"
Usagi just whined piteously through pursed lips, head rocking back and forth. Her future husband couldn't tell if it was from delirium or a negative reply.
"Usako, is it the baby?" Mamoru interrogated, drawing out each syllable. He grasped the blonde's shoulders. "Honey?"
"No," Usagi hissed. The agony was mounting to a crescendo and she writhed under it. Her eyes were squeezed shut, but they were forced open in intrigue a minute later. Why was the room suddenly so blindingly, brilliantly white?
Then the inscrutable tenor issued forth again, and this time it was not from within the dregs of the Moon Princess' brain. It was in this moment that Usagi realized who the owner was, and she cursed herself for not having had this epiphany earlier. How could she have forgotten her own mother?
"You have no time, Sailor Senshi. She is already too far along."
The luminescence faded, revealing a regal and very familiar woman adorned in white garb. Queen Serenity of the Silver Millennium crouched down next to her panting daughter, smiling gently; maternally upon her offspring. If it wasn't for the pearly, transparent sheen that made her specter-like, all occupants might have said the monarch had risen from the dead. No longer was she the tiny, fairy-like creature who spoke to them through a bubble in the ruins of the Moon Kingdom. Life sized, a soft glow encircled her body like a blanket. The overcome Senshi knelt down in awe of her presence and in subservience to her power. She chuckled.
"No need, dear friends. It is not I you pay obeisance to anymore. You see my soul only, for I have long since passed through the Valley of Death. This ghost before you is but reflection of the person I once was, and will only last until my final mission is fulfilled. Rise, and cease your reverent prostration. Now is not the time."
Slightly nonplussed, the girls stood up and awkwardly gathered around the three Royals of the throng. Mamoru was openly staring at Serenity, clutching Usagi protectively to him. Serenity touched his hand; he exhaled at how a cold shiver raced through his appendage.
"You do not need to protect her from me, Prince Endymion, though I appreciate your sentiment. I have seen how loyal and caring you have been; how you have shielded my daughter from harm so passionately. You have my eternal gratitude. But please- I am no threat- I only wish to cradle my child, if only for a few minutes. One last time, while I complete my ultimatum," the silvery female explained warmly. Mamoru seemed a little reluctant, but he layed Usagi in Queen Serenity's lap. The blonde was a little unaware as she fought off another wave of physical anguish.
"And what is this mission you speak of?" Mamoru questioned, with an equal air of power and command to his tone. Serenity cocked her head, stroking Usagi's cheek while she responded.
"I am here for the Passage of the Crown; a coronation celebration as it were. As Lunarian Law dictates, Neither sickness nor exile nor death shall separate a Moon Queen and her Princess heir descendant at the time of the Crown's Passage. I am here, magnified for you all, merely through the volition of the Silver Crystal."
"So you're saying... Usagi-chan's about to become... Queen?" Minako elucidated, looking faint. She wasn't the only one.
"Yes. By Lunarian Royal Tradition, the title is passed on either when the heir comes of age on her eighteenth birthday, or upon the birth of her first child." The Queen's brows threatened to disappear into her bangs. "And by the looks of it, Serenity and Endymion decided to begin a family early. Quite early." Nobody missed the slight chastising and teasing hidden in her observation. Mamoru went beet red and if Usagi wasn't so out of it, she would have mimicked him.
"It was... an accident," he mumbled. Perhaps that was a bit of a prevarication... the night of passion was most definitely not a source of regret for the ebony-head, but what had been spawned from their love should have been years in coming. If only they'd used protection! Still, he and Usagi had discussed the topic in great detail. Both were a little frightened, but nothing if not ecstatic at becoming parents. They'd always known and looked forward to ChibiUsa's birth in the flesh... they just had never expected her so soon!
Serenity laughed out loud. "Do not fret, young Endymion! I am overjoyed that a granddaughter will join the ranks of the Serenity line, especially one so characteristic of her ancestors' bumbling yet pure-hearted traits!"
"So you know...?" Hotaru broached, and Serenity inclined her head again.
"Do not forget I am a spirit, Warrior of Saturn. I have been watching over Princess Serenity, guiding her along, since the time of her Earth birth. I have seen her trials and triumphs; her loves and losses. And quite often, the quarrelsome yet deep relationship she shares with the babe in her womb. ChibiUsa will grow to be a fine lady and valuable friend, I assure you."
Usagi seemed to revive herself from the throes of labor.
"Why's it happening so fast?" she choked out, gazing up at her mother worriedly. "Can't I be transferred to a hospital?"
"No, Serenity. Lunarian labor is not prolonged like that of a human's. This baby is of half-Moon, half-Earth descendance. On the Silver Millennium, pregnancy only lasts for about three months. Yours is doubled because of ChibiUsa's Terranian roots, but still shorter than a natural human's growth requirement. You may have noticed, Serenity, that your early pregnancy symptoms were quite accelerated; vomiting and light-headedness occurred only days after ChibiUsa's conception. Now, her birth will come quickly- perhaps in only an hour's time. That is why attempting to bring you to a hospital is so risky. It is safer for you to deliver here, among friends and allies. Besides, the Crown's Passage must happen regardless of circumstance. I think my presence might evoke less questions if we do the ceremony here, don't you agree?" Serenity said lightly.
"But- but the delivery... how will we...?" Usagi whimpered, and Queen Serenity shushed her.
"Calm down, darling! I will be here with you, to coach the Senshi along... obviously I've experienced the miracle of birth myself; you didn't just pop out of thin air, Serenity!" the elder Serenity reassured. "All will go well, I promise you."
Usagi seemed mollified, but then her features tensed up again. Her visage became constricted. "Oh God... oh God oh God oh God, I need to PUSH!"
"Not yet- Endymion, get her onto her back, please- that's right dear, deep breaths. In, out. Nice and slow... good girl. It helps the pain."
Usagi nodded frantically, half-sobbing and half-hyperventilating through fish-in-a-bowl puckered lips. If the situation wasn't so serious, her comical countenance would have elicited a few snickers.
"Right, now Endymion, you hold the upper half of her body and bend her slightly forward- that's right, perfect- and Mercury, you have the most experience in this area?"
"Only from what I've studied," Ami returned skeptically, a little dubious of her own knowledge now that the brunt of the burden was placed on her shoulders. She'd been ready to do this earlier, but now that the time had finally dawned... "I've never dreamed I'd deliver a baby, though-"
"There's a first for everything," Serenity encouraged briskly, "and you won't be alone. I may not be fully corporeal, but this spirit has palpability for a reason. I will aid you. Mercury, you help me unclothe Serenity's undergarments; ChibiUsa is going to crown any minute. Mars, go grab as many towels as you can. Venus and Saturn, I'll need some ice or cold packs, please. Jupiter, I'm certain you aren't inept when it comes to boiling water? We'll need to bathe the infant soon after she's born. I will deal with the umbilical cord and other afterbirth elements. Uranus, Neptune, could you two please phone for a medical visit once my time here concludes? Serenity and the baby will need extra care and a thorough examination; something nor Mercury or I can fully provide."
Usagi began jerking and screaming. "Ow, ow, ow! Mother, I have to push!"
"It's alright," Serenity crooned, eyes never leaving Usagi's lower regions. Her expression brightened, and Ami noticed immediately as well.
"Oh my," Ami breathed in awe. "Usagi-chan, I can see ChibiUsa-chan! Her head; she's coming!"
"Pink already," Rei giggled as she passed by, breaking the taut atmosphere as she ran back from her massive towel hunt. Senshi were racing and fumbling around, trying to fulfill their duties. Mamoru was embracing; supporting Usagi. He was whispering easements and nonsense into her ear.
"You can do it, Usako... I know you can; this is nothing compared to the evils we've encountered and conquered... just think about her face, sweetheart... You fought Sephrelenia to keep her alive, and now you're going to finish this..."
"Mama!" Usagi wailed, losing herself in the most agonizing contraction yet. It felt like her insides were on fire; cramping up and twisting into odd shapes. She could feel everything; every nerve, every expanding muscle... and her daughter, hastening to meet the world and already advancing out the threshold. The pain was so eclipsing, but she must press through; the birth would be brief, as her namesake had reassured. Must give it her all to ensure a healthy child... to give ChibiUsa that last ounce of life connected- no, dependent- on her mother's efforts...
Then suddenly, in all the anguish and the confusion and the exterior instructions, there was release. Usagi gasped greedily for air, head pounding and body throbbing, but mind strangely jubilant. Then revelation hit:
She'd done it. She'd given birth to ChibiUsa.
Cheering; pats; even Mamoru pecking her in excitement seemed unimportant and hazy. Now a desire to hold ChibiUsa thundered through Usagi's veins, more potent than the urge to push had been.
"Let me see her," the blonde demanded as firmly as Serenity had just commanded her friends, gripping Mamoru's hand. "I want to hold my baby."
Ami looked to Serenity for guidance, and the new grandmother giggled throatily. Moisture clogged up her cerulean pupils as she motioned for the blunette to pass over the squalling infant. It seemed the poised and dignified Queen was overcome by emotion, and she was not the only individual attempting to quell tears. Even mighty Haruka, who liked to pretend to be heartless as stone, had to step out of the room blabbering something about "allergies".
Usagi's breath caught when a most messy and wet child was placed into her waiting arms. But she did not care how bloody her baby was, or that ChibiUsa had a strange purple tinge to her, or even that the tiny one was covered in a cheesy vernix. She bent over and kissed the new Moon heir's forehead, relishing in the love that seemed to pour out of every fiber of her being. The moment felt so surreal- was she really a new mother now? And about to become a Queen to boot?
Speaking of Royal matters, Queen Serenity cleared her throat. "Serenity, I do not have much time left. First I must ask you, as part of the Crowning, what shall you name the new Princess?"
"ChibiUsa, of course," Usagi said, a little dazedly. She didn't even glance away from her daughter; the aforementioned cotton candy head had opened her ruby eyes and was now making small mewling noises. Usagi was still in disbelief mode. Serenity sighed and broached gently,
"Serenity, that is a nickname. Traditionally, a Royal name is a hat-tipping to the female line. And every Princess has had the inclusion of 'Serenity' since... well, the dawn of the Silver Millenium, I suppose. Let the official title have personal meaning for Endymion and you."
"Small Lady," said Mamoru suddenly. "Usagi, we call her 'Small Lady' in the future, remember? And she told us her full name, that day in the park when she first arrived..."
"That's right!" Usagi agreed breathlessly. "Usagi Small Lady Serenity... and then we nicknamed her ChibiUsa, to differentiate between us... my, it's been so long, I'd forgotten!"
"A beautiful name for a beautiful baby," Queen Serenity concurred, gazing with reverence and adoration at her wiggling only grandchild. She reached out a translucent hand, and rested a cold palm on ChibiUsa's forehead. A half-moon sigil began gleaming beneath her fingertips. "Princess Usagi Small Lady Serenity, first in the line of Princess Serenity Luna Rose and Prince Endymion Terran Knight, I dub thee the new heir to the Silver Millennium of the future Crystal Tokyo."
The mark burgeoned in white light, then disappeared. Everyone exhaled in surprise when the baby was suddenly adorned in a decadent white gown and her dermis cleaned itself. Queen Serenity moved to gently set her index finger on Usagi's forehead next. The blonde closed her eyes, feeling a sense of power and wisdom rush through her as Serenity passed over her mantle. She too could feel her garments changing. Already, the soft fabric of her Queenly dress was chafing the teen's skin as she shifted closer to the elder monarch. "Princess Serenity Luna Rose, I now dub thee Neo-Queen Serenity of the Silver Millennium and future city of Crystal Tokyo. You have matured from a flighty Princess to a fierce warrior, and now are preparing to become a responsible mother. You have experienced the ultimate power of the Silver Crystal and I now pass on my knowledge, my kingdom, and the rights to the Silver Crystal to you, daughter. May you be a wise, loving, and serene ruler. May your family be blessed with good fortune throughout all their days. May you yourself continue to grow as a monarch and may your Prince claim the title of King Endymion forevermore."
Mamoru bowed his head. He too felt his raiments become that of Prince Endymion, then the attire of the King. Black became lavender and his garb was suddenly more suited to that of a Royal than a knight. There was no longer any armor or a sword, but aegis still subsisted in the form of a staff that he felt wielded enormous power- no doubt that of the Golden Crystal.
Queen Serenity turned to the Senshi, who had transformed after seeing their leaders morph into their final forms. "Sailor Senshi, you are now henceforth the Sailor Guardians. It is your duty to continue to protect the Royal Family. May you be bound to their service and retain your strong friendships in the years- centuries, perhaps- to come. Be an asset to the growing Princess and aid her in her future status as a member of the Sailor Senshi. Always extend a hand of peace before reverting to battle tactics, and provide fellowship to aliens instead of creating enemies. Be agents of good will, and you will see far less conflicts. Submit to the Neo-Queen and King's decisions, but feel free to support them with your own suggestions. Remember, a kingdom always falls when it is headed by a cold dictator. Every opinion matters. Sailor Guardians, may you continue to uphold the ideals of your ancestors and fulfill your destinies with smarts, strength, and grace. Keep my daughter and her family safe."
Serenity smiled sadly; wistfully as she began fading away into oblivion. Her last words were not bitter, but a wishful, loving farewell.
"You have this Queen's benediction for a future unmarred by war and corruption. I know you will overcome any tribulations. Serenity, my darling daughter; beautiful Princess of my heart... we'll meet again someday, and I'll always be watching over you. Kiss that baby of yours goodnight for me everyday, and when you rock her, think of how I once did the same for you. Your memories of me may be few and far inbetween, but know this: I love you forever and into eternity."
And then the late Queen blinked out, like a frail burning candle being extinguished after the wind's mournful wisp. Usagi sniffed; she was unsure when the tears had begun escaping her lids, but they were a steady flow now. Mamoru brushed away the droplets with the pad of his thumb. He smiled wanly at her, and Usagi mirrored the friendly gesture back at him. The departure of her mother was a sorrowful ordeal, but suddenly the warm and living bundle in her arms took precedence.
After all, she was a mother now too.
And... oh dear God... a Queen as well!
Were all her birthdays going to be this eventful now too, or...?
:-D THE END
A/N: Well, that was the last chapter! Hopefully this was a nice little treat- it was the epilogue, but God was it long! It was slow in a few places; I felt it dragging once in a while, but hopefully you all enjoyed it! Thank you for reading, and putting up with the AU moments here and there (like... the full names of Serenity and Endymion :-D Cheesy, yes)... it was fun! Reviews are appreciated, but give yourself a round of applause first for sticking through to the end! My readers mean so much to me!
P.S. It's shameless self-promotion but... check out my other stories!