Summary: It is customary for the Moon Kingdom to host extravagant balls, and nearly all the planets attend them, except for the solitary and desolate planet of Saturn. Serenity is determined to get the dark princess of the death planet to attend her daughter's 19th birthday bash… shoujo-ai… Chibi-Usa x Hotaru pairing.

Of Death and Laughter

"Mother?"

Serenity glanced up from where she was sitting idly behind her massive desk, doodling on a contract that her advisors wanted her to look through.

"Yes, dear?" A young woman stepped into the room shyly, closing the door behind her. Following her mother's gesture to sit, she slowly relaxed in a chair that nearly swallowed her frame up. Nervously tucking strands of pink hair behind her ear, her gaze flicked from her mother's warm face to the paperwork and back again.

Unable to draw upon the usual courage and boldness she possessed, the princess instead asked, "H-hey…what's that you're drawing on?" The queen looked quizzically down at the contract, and then her blue eyes widened. Frantically she went about erasing her pictures and squiggly lines, pieces of eraser flying through the air.

"Oh, this? Er, Luna and Artemis wanted me to look over this but quite frankly—" She paused, looking around the empty room suspiciously before leaning across the desk, beckoning her daughter forward. After complying, she continued, "—it's actually quite confusing."

The girl, known as Princess Usagi, or Chibi-usa to close friends, barely avoided a face plant in the desk by leaning back abruptly, opted to sweatdrop instead.

"Would you like me to take a look at it? I've been helping Miss Luna with her paperwork for some time now." Serenity gratefully shoved the work into her daughter's capable hands, leaning back with a heavy sigh.

"I don't know why your father wants me to do such things!" She murmured, closing her eyes and pouting prettily in mock distress. "They are so…so…"

"Confusing?"

"Yes."

"Annoying?"

"Definitely yes."

"A waste of your time?

"Oh, dear me, yes!!"

"…you call this thing here 'hard'?"

"Of cour—ehh?!?" Serenity cut her complaints short, curiously watching her daughter fly through her work with a practiced ease. "How…how do you do that?"

Princess Usagi rolled her eyes, flipping another page. "It's quite easy. This one here's a bill about something father destroyed while sword-fighting a soldier. This other one is a receipt from the dressmaker that makes your dresses. All you do is sign on the line and send it back."

"…Oh…" All Serenity could do is gape. Social skills were her forte, not political contracts and such. "Ahem…well, uh…ah, yes!! What was it that you wanted to ask me, dear?"

Usagi blanched, hoping that she wouldn't actually have to ask, but really too curious to run away. Looking at her hands, she fumbled around a bit before stuttering, "W-well, you know h-how you throw balls a-and things, right? Um…well…"

Serenity looked puzzled, before comprehension dawning on her. "Oh! Don't worry about it! Of course I will throw you a wonderful party for your birthday! You only turn 19 for the first time once, you know."

"It's not that…well, it kind of is, actually…" Usagi admitted. "I have been wondering for a long time…why hasn't the princess from Saturn ever attend any of your parties? Even Pluto comes, too, and she herself prefers to keep to herself."

The atmosphere became silent, and Usagi fidgeted in her seat. She hadn't seen her mother look this preoccupied for a long time. The distant, far-off look in her eyes—she surely must be reminiscing on some past memory.

'Why, the mere name of Saturn is considered a taboo in this kingdom,' Usagi mused; 'I wonder what must have happened.'

"It's not as if we do not like her, the princess," Serenity started softly, breaking through Usagi's thoughts. "It's just that ever since I first met her when I was but a young woman, a little younger than you are now, she was always so troubled and silent. She was a lovely lady, but it took a lot to draw her out of her protection shell that she created around her heart."

"She must be around your age, right?" Usagi asked, "I mean, since you knew her when you were my age and all…wait…what's wrong?" Her mother had a pained expression on her face.

"She should be. She should be older than me, older than Pluto." Serenity murmured, chin sinking into her palm.

"So why isn't she? What do you mean by 'she should be'? What happened?"

"In Luna's lessons, have you heard her mention what the Senshi of Saturn's powers are?" Serenity asked instead.

"Senshi…she doesn't really like to talk about Saturn, so no, she hasn't. I know the others, though. Mercury is well-known for her incredible brain, Venus controls the various emotions but mostly love, Mars wields fire, Jupiter is known for her strength and use of electricity, Uranus controls the winds, Neptune has the water elements, and Pluto guards the Gate of Time…did I get it right?"

Serenity beamed. "Yes, yes you did." She paused. "Have you ever met the Senshi before?" Usagi shook her head.

"They're always guarding this one place in the city; it's like they're in this trance. Why?"

"Before I became queen with your late father, Endymion, the prince from Earth, I was a Senshi. All of us were very close friends as well, but when I accepted the crown, they dispersed back to their planets to regain their crowns as well. They are all princesses of their own planets, you know."

"Really? They were actually Senshi? That's so cool!" Usagi grinned. "And…what about Saturn? She was a Senshi as well, correct?"

"Correct, except she never fought with us, like Pluto."

"Why? What was so much more important than fighting with you?" Usagi wanted to know, her indignation growing. Why did this warrior think she was above fighting side by side with her wonderful mother? Pluto had a plausible excuse—she had to guard the Gate.

Serenity chuckled. "It's not as simple as that, daughter. She also had an important task to do. To complete this task, she had to seal herself up in her planet."

"That's still no reason!" Usagi sputtered, still feeling slightly miffed. "What was her 'important' duty?"

Her mother hesitated, taking a deep breath. "Saturn is the Senshi of Death. She is far older than any other Senshi in this universe for a reason. Her duty is to sleep until the time comes for her to awaken. Only the Great Messiah can wake her up and bring her to her full potential."

They both settled into an amiable silence for a while, Usagi contemplating all the information her mother had fed her.

"But…but that still does not answer the questions I asked. What is her duty? Why isn't she as old as you say her to be?"

Serenity closed her eyes, rubbing her forehead wearily. All of the remembering was making her head hurt and her heart throb. When she opened her eyes again, Usagi was watching her attentively, thoroughly enraptured in this twisted tale.

"As the Senshi of Death, she awakened only when summoned to restart the cycle of life. In doing so, she dies, while peace is restored. When she is reborn, she is sealed back in her planet to begin the cycle again."

"You mean that she has died multiple times already?" She wanted to know. Serenity nodded. Usagi slammed her palms onto the desk, rising to her feet. "That's terrible!" She shouted. "Why does she have to die in doing so? It is not fair!"

"It is her duty, Usagi," Serenity said, lips compressed sorrowfully. "She cannot escape her duty, nor can we escape ours. Sometime or another, all of the Senshi have died, including me. With her powers, we have been able to live on. She is Eternity. The Princess of Saturn will live forever, as the rest of the Senshi as well."

"Why do they live forever? Do we as well?" Usagi demanded heatedly, crossing her arms, and tossing her long hair over her shoulder.

"It is tentative," Serenity muttered, "You and I are not for certain. Usually a Senshi does not become Queen, nor does a queen marry a person of a different race, such as Earthlings. Usually the royal line produces an heir to become queen, and that heir marries a person from the Moon. But the circumstances we are in are quite different than anything this kingdom has ever faced."

"Oh," Usagi said, and losing some of her steam, sank back into the chair.

The two fell into silence again.

Then: "Mother?"

"Yes, dear?"

"Is it possible to have Saturn come to my 19th birthday party?" Her eyes looked at her mother, beseechingly. "I want to meet her."

Feeling her lips curl up into a wide grin, Serenity said, "Let me contact Mercury and see what she thinks."

"Oh, thankyouthankyouthankyou THANK YOU MOTHER!!!" Usagi leaped over the desk and gave her mother a bone-crushing hug.

She laughed, patting her daughter's head fondly. "It's not for certain, but it's certainly not out of the question. Now go to sleep. You're going to have a busy week."

"Alright!" Usagi sang, waltzing out of the room. Poking her head back in, she said a quick 'Good night!' before zipping up to her room.

Serenity shook her head, smiling. "Quirky little kid."

"You used to be the exact same way, your Highness," Luna laughed, seemingly appearing out of nowhere. "Jumping from conversation topics like that—you two are very much alike!" Artemis, her husband and commander of the army, placed something on the desk.

"Yes, well, it's quite refreshing to be around her," Artemis agreed similarly. "But, your Highness, do you really think Lady Mercury will be able to find a way to awaken Saturn without any extra effects?"

"We'll just have to find out, won't we?" The queen laughed delightedly, content now that she got her dessert. "Oooh, ice cream!"

On the balcony above the silent gardens, the Princess of the Moon Kingdom gazed upon Earth, then strained a bit to see the other planets. She felt disappointed when she could not see the Outer Planets. She also felt strangely excited and hopeful to whether Mercury could revive this mysterious person.

"Saturn…" She whispered, closing her eyes as the cold wind caressed her skin, "Who are you exactly?" Cupping her ears as if hoping for an answer, she listened and waited.

Finally, as she was about to turn away, dejected, she heard someone say:

I am but a shadow, Princess Usagi of the Moon. We may not meet in this lifetime.

"What do you mean 'we may not meet'? I want to meet you! Please!" Usagi whirled around frantically, looking for the location of the voice. In the silence, Usagi sank to her knees, thinking that the owner of the mysterious voice had left.

It is not possible for anyone to see me, the person finally said. The voice seemed saddened and full of pain and longing. No one has ever been able to see me because I have been sealed away for eternity. You cannot see me, Princess. It was miraculous that you can hear my voice.

"Where are you? I want to see you!"

You cannot see me, Princess. I am truly, truly sorry. I wish you could.

"So do I! Tell me where you are, please!" Usagi faintly heard a swish of fabric, and felt the breath of someone by her ear. She stood still, afraid that if she turned around she would not be able to see the person.

I am here.

"Can…can I look at you now?" Usagi whispered, her heart pounding. She did not understand the rush she felt when she listened to this voice. It was a curious feeling.

Yes.

Slowly, hopefully, Usagi turned to face the person who made her heart beat faster. Opening her eyes, her mouth fell open with the sight of the young woman in front of her.

Her hand unconsciously rose so as to touch the soft looking dark hair. It fell in waves down to the small of her back, and the girl had the appearance of being delicate and quiet. When she met her eyes, Usagi felt a shock run through her system. The intense violet, the uncertain twitch of her pink lips…

"Beautiful," Usagi breathed.

You…you can see me? The girl's mouth twisted into a delighted smile and let out a soft, tinkling laugh, and Usagi felt her breath being taken away. This…this was the so-called 'dangerous' Senshi of Death? How could one of such beauty kill as her duty?

Oh, I am so happy! She sighed, turning slightly to gaze up at the stars. It has been so long…

"What's your name?"

She turned to smile at the princess, radiating a sort of subdued happiness.

You may call me Hotaru, Princess of the Moon Kingdom.

"Hotaru…it's so pretty…oh! And please don't call me 'Princess'. I'd prefer it if you call me Usagi." Usagi paused, thinking back to her previous actions. Only her mother and the princesses of the Inner and Outer planets were allowed to call her by her first name… why did she allow a girl she did not know well to do so?

Usagi…Hotaru murmured, as if tasting the name. Usagi shuddered pleasantly, the way she said it sounded so…so…sensual and smooth. Usagi, it is a very, very big honor to meet you.

Suddenly, a fierce wind ripped about, making Hotaru's image distort slightly. The girl from Saturn narrowed her eyes, and then gave a saddened look to her.

"What's happening?" Usagi asked, looking around.

It is time for me to go. My planet is beckoning me once more…It tires me to venture from my palace. Hotaru smiled slightly, stepping up onto the balcony railing. Closing her eyes, she prepared to let herself fade into nothingness and back to her body, when she felt something warm and unmistakably solid encircle her wrist. Her eyes flew open, shocked, and flew to where Usagi's hand gripped hers.

(This girl,) Hotaru thought, (How can she touch me?)

"Wait!" Usagi cried tearfully, "Will I ever see you again?"

Hotaru set her lips in a straight line, forcing her detached mask to settle about her features.

I am but a shadow, Princess Usagi of the Moon. We may have met, but that is all.

And, with Usagi gazing helplessly at her disappearing acquaintance, both girls felt their eyes tear up. Although their meeting had been short, they both knew that the other was somebody special…a special friend that they could never know.

'No,' Usagi thought determinedly, swiping at the tears with her arm, 'I shall assist Mercury, and together we can bring Hotaru here. I want to meet her again.'

"So," Serenity carefully asked Mercury, who typed furiously at her small computer that she carried around, "Can you do it?"

Holding her breath, Serenity sat tense until Mercury looked up and smiled.

"Yes. Yes, we can wake her up."

((A/N: So, what do you think? I thought this was a great idea, 'cause I don't see enough of this pairing. They'd be so sweet together, don't you think?

You know the world-wide system of updating. If you want another chapter (which I would be more than happy to provide) then I'm going to have to request some reviews from anyone who made me happy enough to read this.

C'mon, please? It'll make me a very happy person….

Eh…any suggestions would be wonderful also.))