A little note to my readers /(^_^)\


For those of you who have read the eight chapters of Mamoru's autobiography, "The Rose
Garden," you are, no doubt, saying at this point, how about Chapter 9 already! You don't
wanna hear my excuses, do you? But I do have 'em grin.

I don't want to release Chapter 9 until all of it's finished. The introductions of the five Senshi
into Tuxedo Kamen's life, his first encounters with the girl he calls his Odango Atama
["Dumpling Head" in Japanese, "Meatball Head" for us North Americans, who don't eat
dumplings very often], the Masquerade Ball, and the day he first calls Usagi "Usako" and she
calls him "Mamo-chan." All of those, together, constitute an arc in the relationship of
Mamoru and Usagi, and should be read together. And I WILL finish them, and I don't think
you'll be disappointed once you read them, OK? That's the best I can offer, for now.

In the meantime grin, Christmas comes early! For I have finished my version of the best
story to come out of the Sailor Moon anime series, in my not-so-humble opinion [a woman
who calls herself -sama does not suffer from humility : P ]. Yes, [Minako says on cue,
"TA-DA!!], it's the Sailor Moon "R" ["R" as in "Romance"] Movie.

I have entitled it, "Fiore: The Turning Point", because to me, it constitutes a turning point in
Mamoru's relationship with Usagi. His love for her, in this lifetime, anyway, is relatively new
to him, and he is still sorting out his feelings. He is still shy, unsure, and does not really know
how to express his feelings. He has been alone a very long time, and hasn't really gotten used
to being a "couple." That, I think, explains a lot right there. But by the end of the episode,
his love for his Princess is sure and strong, and needs no words to express. His eyes, his tears,
say it all. Ahhh, that anime Mamoru...he has the most expressive face in all animation.

But there are those [hi there, Jen-chan from onee-sama!] who disagree with me that Mamoru
needs no words to express his love for Usagi. So, here you are...a peek into Mamoru's psyche.
I think you will know the gentleman in the tuxedo much better after this. Or my name isn't
Pandora [and it IS, legally, unlike those other Net imposters...accept no substitutes /(^_-)\ ]

*Final note:* The titles "The Rose Garden" and "Fiore: The Turning Point" in relation to
Sailor Moon, and the fan fictions of these titles, are legally copywrite of Pandora Diane
Waldron. If you wish to quote from them on a web site, or otherwise publish them, please ask
permission of the author, by e-mailing pwaldron@idirect.com. If you use them on a web site
without the author's permission, that constitutes copywrite infringement. I have never said no
to anyone yet, OK? And yes, please e-mail me anyway with your comments. E-mail from our
fans, please don't forget, is the only *pay* we fanfic authors receive for our hours of effort. So
please e-mail me and tell me a little about yourself, what city you live in, and your interests.
All of you are roses in MY garden, and I like to *see* your colours.




Pandora Diane Waldron pwaldron@idirect.com


December 7, 1997 [Pearl Harbour, 56 years ago today...a prayer for peace between us, all over
the world, and love. Let us fill our gardens with roses, and not hate and distrust.]


Fiore: The Turning Point
====================@

A memoir by Chiba Mamoru, as re-told to Pandora Diane Waldron.
Please direct comments to pwaldron@idirect.com

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This memoir is based on the plot of the Sailor Moon "R" Movie




The Dictionary of Christian Art defines the rose as:

"A floral symbol sacred to Venus and signifying love, the quality and nature of which was
characterized by the colour of the rose. A symbol of purity, a white rose represented innocence
(nonsexual) love, while a pink rose represented first love, and a red rose true love. When held by a
martyr, the red rose signified 'red martyrdom' or the loss of life, and the white rose 'white
martyrdom' or celibacy."

@~~~~~~~
"If the word 'rose' is transposed it reveals 'eros' meaning, love."
---------------from "The Language of Flowers," published 1841.

Rose City Fukuyama:

"Roses are beautiful. The hearts of those who love and raise roses are also beautiful."
-- A City Developed Around Roses

@~~~~~~~

When I look back on it, it's hard for me to believe that that day started so innocently. It was just
supposed to be a fun trip for Usako and me, to a place that I'd always wanted to see, Rose Park, in
Fukuyama. I think you have gathered by now that I am very interested in formal gardens, and
especially in rose growing. So what better place to pursue that interest than Rose Park, with its
280 varieties of roses, not to mention many other flowers? And what better time to go than the
annual Fukuyama Rose Festival in May. Of course, it is something of a local tourist mecca;
Fukuyama now calls itself the Rose City (now you are not surprised why I decided to take this trip,
are you?)

Rose Park symbolizes much more than just a local horticultural showpiece to the people here,
though. For it was here on the site of Rose Park, which is not so very far away from Hiroshima
City, where the atom bomb was dropped, that the scars of war once also lay heavy on Fukuyama.
In 1945, that same dreadful year, an air raid in 1945 burned everything to the ground, destroying
the city. But in 1956, the people of Fukuyama decided not only to re-build their city, but to cover
the ugly scars of war with that symbol of life, love and hope, the rose. So here, where there was
once nothing but death, horror, now there are flowers. Hundreds and

hundreds of flowers. It's such a blaze of colours, it just takes your

breath away. Well, it takes MY breath away, anyway. I adore flowers.

And of course, you don't have to persuade most girls about coming to

see flower gardens. It was originally supposed to be just a trip for Usako

and me. But as soon as Minako got wind of the trip, she told Rei, Rei

told Makoto, Makoto told Ami, they all started telling Usako how much

they'd all like to see Rose Park, and all of a sudden it was a Senshi excursion. Nobody wanted to
be left out. Certainly not Chibi Usa, when she overheard Minako getting all excited about it.
Telling Minako something is like broadcasting it on Tokyo T.V. But please DON'T tell her I said
this.

Well, now this quiet little excursion that I'd planned, to get some ideas for my own gardening
projects had seemingly grown, without my being aware of it, into the main event of the spring.
None of the Senshi could stop talking about it, over tea and cookies at Rei's temple. I honestly
don't think Usako was too happy about them all coming along, though she didn't let on to anyone.
For one thing, it would mean she'd have to babysit Chibi Usa at least part of the time, and you
know how little kids can get restless on long bus trips. When I found out they would ALL be
coming, because they sort of invited themselves, I decided to go on ahead and be there a few hours
early, and just meet them all later at the park.

Do you seriously think that Mamoru will get ANY horticultural research done with five excited
Sailor Senshi and a Chibi Usa along? No WAY. Now maybe, if it had just been Usako and me,
that would have been different. On her own, Usako can be very quiet, and a great listener, and
though she makes out like she hates learning anything, when we're on our own together, it's a
whole different thing. I like to think I'm a good influence on her, in that way. All Usako needs to
be a good student is...motivation. If she hears me saying this, she's gonna hit me with a pillow. So
I better shut up now.

On a more serious note, yes, I've since realized, though I suppose I didn't really at that time, that
Usako was hoping we could spend some time in the park on our own. That must be why she kept
kind of wincing every time Minako or Makoto would get all enthusiastic about what they were
going to do, what they were going to see, planning their itinerary.

You know, there was a time when Usako would have just gotten angry about everyone horning in
on her plans that way. But it was about then I noticed signs she was somewhat maturing in her
outlook, less likely to think of her own enjoyment, and more willing to give way a little so that her
friends, and little Chibi Usa, could have fun too.

When I think how often I saw her bite her tongue and look like she was going to burst, when
Minako would go on, and on, bubbling away, or Chibi Usa would announce what treats she
expected to be bought, and repeatedly ask whether she would be getting any souvenir gifts to take
home, it makes me feel all the more bad about what happened later that day.

They all thought it was funny at the time, but they really hurt her feelings. And I think in
retrospect, I could have handled this a lot better. I shouldn't just have ducked out because I felt
uncomfortable. But you must understand, I am NOT a demonstrative guy who likes to have an
audience when I'm with my girl. That's between us, OK? And frankly, I really don't like being
stared at, anyway, and never did. I just like to be left alone, I can think much better that way.

Oh, you want to know what I'm talking about, don't you? I'm sorry, I assumed Usako might have
told you already about this one. She's never let ME live it down.

We had gone into one of the greenhouses. I was studying some of the unusual hybrids on display,
feeling really relaxed and kinda mellow. And then Usako surprised me. She started telling me
about the traditional meanings behind the flower names. [Imagine Usako deciding on her own to
study something! If I'd been sitting down, I'd have fallen off my chair. But DON'T tell her I said
so.] The kind of books I had read gave the flowers' Latin names, preferred soil and sun
requirements, and the various breeds available. There was nothing in them about forget-me-nots
meaning true love, for instance. [Well, I should have known that something romantic like that
would appeal to her. There had to be SOME strong motivation for her to actually remember
something she'd learned.]

And the next thing I know, there's Usako, well, ummm, leaning up very close to me, and, do I
have to draw you a diagram? No, I didn't think so. That was so like her...so cute, and so
impulsively affectionate. But I got an attack of nerves, and before I bent down to kiss her, I took a
quick look around, to make sure we were alone. Now, if I had been thinking at ALL, and I
suppose I wasn't, when I saw someone playing voyeur just behind the plant shelves, I should have
whispered something in her ear to warn her, maybe just take her by the hand, and we could have
got the hell out of there. But I didn't, needless to say.

I decided to stage a retreat. But I didn't tell Usako. She still had her eyes closed, waiting for the
kiss, and didn't realize I had already gone outside. And apparently, when she finally looked up to
see where I had gone, the girls poked a caterpillar at her. Rei said later [and this WAS mean-
spirited, really] that she looked like a crab scooting backwards so fast. I AM guilty that she
scraped her legs on the concrete floor because she was so startled.

So I was just standing outside, thinking, SIGH it's going to be one of those days again, when
they tease Usako, and I really don't wanna be there when the inevitable explosion comes. Then
she'll be asking me to take her side in the argument, how mean they were, and, oh, how DO I get
myself into these situations? God, how I hate confrontations.

This nice relaxing outing at Rose Park was just not turning out at all like I planned. Feeling
depressed, I stared out across the thousands of multi-hued roses, as if those flowers would
somehow tell me the right thing to do.

And suddenly, there's a veritable blizzard of pink petals coming from above. And I feel--strange,
uneasy. A vague sense of doom. I get these flashes of premonition sometimes. Usako and Chibi
Usa apparently didn't sense anything. They were just sort of blissed out by the beauty of it all, and
they were dancing around as these petals whirled down.

All at once, someone is standing there. Something in the way he is standing is familiar to me,
something in the way he is looking at me, brings back a sensation of almost painful memory. Then
as he says my name, I realize it could only be one person--Fiore. Fiore, who I had thought was
just the dream of a very lonely boy, who had imagined he had had a friend with him in that awful,
sterile hospital. But here he was, not looking really all that different. I guess I hadn't changed
much either.

Fiore was reminding me of a day I am unlikely ever to forget--the day I had brought him the rose,
the day he'd had to leave forever how he was just getting more and more ill in the hospital
environment, and he just had to get away. But I wasn't really listening to him so much as I was
reacting to something in the atmosphere, which had suddenly become charged with tension. I
don't know if it was coming from Fiore, or maybe from a certain blonde odango atama, who had
just appeared at my elbow, and was clutching my arm very possessively. Now it's funny, I
usually hate girls grabbing my arm or touching me, but with Usako it's...different. Always has
been, even before I really realized how I felt about her.

I was realizing just then that Fiore was also reacting towards me...possessively. I became aware,
with a growing sensation of shock, that the handshake of greeting had been prolonged well beyond
politeness....that Fiore had still not let go of my hand. I heard Usako say indignantly, "He's MY
boyfriend!" And before I could figure out what on earth was going on between those two, Fiore
darted out a hand and knocked Usako to the ground. I was horrified, and I still find it difficult to
talk about. I made sure Usako was all right, and tried to comfort her, but I really was still too
numb with shock to react properly I felt as if I was in a living nightmare.

I just don't think I could have explained to her in a million years what Fiore had meant to me,
once. My only friend in the world. And now I was not a small boy any more, and yet for Fiore, I
could see that for him, no time had passed at all. He thought it was still him and me against the
world. Them and us. But I had long outgrown resenting the world for what had happened to me.

Somehow, though, I didn't realize at first consciously, what it was that had already changed inside
me, which had not changed in Fiore. I know what it was, now. I was...LOVED, something Fiore
had never really experienced. Fiore and I had been like two unhappy refugees, just trying to
survive. So unlike the warm, secure, good feelings I would feel whenever I was around my Usako.

God, why couldn't I tell her that, then? I don't know. I was still confused, sorting out my
feelings. And what I saw in Fiore saddened me, made me want to recoil. He was so full of anger,
in a way I had not remembered him to be. But how could I feel a sense of recoil from Fiore, who
had once been my only friend in the world? And not so long ago, I myself had also been angry
against the world, and lonely. Perhaps it was I who had influenced Fiore in the way he seemed to
feel towards the world...an unpleasant thought.

But if I WAS responsible for the kind of person Fiore had become, then I could not run away
from that responsibility. If he was not too set in his distrust of other people, then it was my
personal obligation to try to undo some of the damage that a small, unhappy boy, Chiba Mamoru
as he was, had inadvertently caused. I did not know how I was going to do this, but I had to try.
The seeds of distrust, planted so long ago in childhood, had taken root in Fiore. But not too deep,
I hoped. Not too deep to transplant them into better soil.

I decided I needed to get away by myself, to think about things. I didn't know what I was going to
do about Fiore. I didn't want to hurt him, but I had to somehow let him understand that Usako
was in my life now. Really, I just have the worst luck. How DO I get myself into these situations?

A Sticky Situation
============@

Kawara no Sadaijin

Michinoku no
Shinobu moji-zuri
Tare yue ni
Midare some ni shi
Ware naranaku ni

Minamoto no Toru

HAIKU TRANSLATION:

Like Michinoku prints
Of the tangled leaves of ferns,
It is because of you
That I have become confused;
But my love for you remains.

@~~~~~~~

The next morning, there was a certain sense of distance between myself and Usako which had not
been there before. I just didn't know what to say, or what to do about it. I knew she was hurt by
what happened the day before, and that she did not what to make of Fiore--or my reaction to him.

I was actually afraid to touch her, to comfort her a way she would understand, without words.
Because I could sense Fiore somewhere nearby, seething with unreasoning jealousy. I did not
want her anywhere near Fiore, where he could harm her. I told myself that there would be a
better time to explain all this to Usako...much later, when the danger to her had passed. I needed
to talk to Fiore alone, to try to deal with this situation myself. And it had begun to dawn on me
that the presence of something malevolent was influencing Fiore. He was NOT as I remembered
him. This Kisenian flower, whispering messages of hate to him--horrible.

That malevolent flower had already sent her foot-soldiers, pink, sweet-smelling blooms, but which,
close up, were evil plants with spider legs, sucking energy from people, and making them mindless
zombies. While I lay on my bed that morning in my room, wracking my brain to find the right
words to say, not just to Fiore, but to Usako as well, the five Senshi had already tussled with the
sprouting seeds of the Kisenian. So now they knew her vicious plan...like a parasite, she and her
seeds would grow and invade every living thing on Earth, and destroy it. Distrust and hatred were
as bread and butter to her and her kind...she sought them out, and feasted on these weaknesses.

The Sailor Senshi managed to destroy the Kisenian's seedlings. But now Fiore was here, and he
was as angry as if it were his own children that had been mindlessly destroyed. "I didn't know
people like you existed on this planet," he said, shaking his head. "But it doesn't matter. Even
now, my meteor is coming closer to the Earth, with thousands of seedlings...you cannot destroy
them all. And this world will be a beautiful place of flowers, and we will be rid of you all."

"I won't let you do this!" Sailor Mars yelled. Fiore slammed her against the wall as if she was a
rag doll. The other Senshi challenged him, Mercury, Venus, Jupiter...and each of them he
viciously smashed into brickwork, windows. They lay limp, unmoving.

I arrived on the scene not a moment too soon. I felt my blood run cold as I heard the venom in his
voice as he turned on Usako...my God, how he hates her. "You...you who have had such a
dangerous influence on Mamoru-kun...I will deal with you more harshly. You will die, but you
will suffer first..you will die slowly and in pain. Treacherous female...die now!"

From my observation post, high on a billboard, I sent a steel-tipped rose whistling past him, and it
buried itself in the pavement between Fiore and Usako.

Not realizing my rose was meant as a warning, Fiore looked up at me with surprised recognition,
and with a strange childlike pleasure to see me. "Mamoru-kun, you remembered! I knew you
wouldn't forget our friendship!"

He is a child, I thought. He looks like a grown man, but there's only a child there inside. A small
child, who would unthinkingly push another child over in the sandbox to re-claim a favourite toy.
If he is a child, then I must try to talk to him as I would a child. Perhaps I can still reach him.

"Fiore, why are you doing this? I tell you, you must believe in Usagi, and these people with her.
Usagi and her friends, they are good, caring people. Please understand this," I smiled at him, the
same smile one lonely boy had once given another, when I told him I would find him a warm place
to sleep, and food to eat, that he could trust me. I who had no one to look after, to care for.

Taking care of Fiore for those few short weeks, was the first time, since I woke up in the hospital,
that I had felt good about myself. It was the first time I had felt wanted, useful. Not the problem
boy everyone seemed to wish would just go away, that everyone wished had conveniently died in
the accident which claimed his parents.

I know some of them wished I were dead. Sometimes, at times then, I had wished I were dead.
No wonder Fiore had felt some of my despair...no wonder he had become a man-child who
trusted no one...except, he still trusted me...or did he?

Surely Fiore would remember he could still trust me. Surely he would find a way to understand
that I was no longer alone, that I was among people who cared about me, about each other.
Surely Fiore would realize, he could still trust in me to tell him the truth.

And he did, just for a moment. I saw Fiore's shoulders slacken, his tight face muscles relax into a
smile...something, I noticed sadly, which was not an expression usual with him. He must have
been alone for a very long time after he left the Earth. His breath went out in a long sigh, "All
right," he said softly, in acceptance. Yes...that was the young, trusting Fiore I knew once...it was
there in his eyes.

And then the Kisenian flower's eyes flashed red with rage. I saw a shudder go through Fiore's
body, like a electric charge, a jolt that stiffened him again. I saw his fists clench and unclench and
then he looked through me as if I had suddenly become, not his trusted friend, but someone
pathetically naive. Fiore looked at me pityingly, with the eyes of a cynic.

"You are so blind, so foolish, Mamoru-kun! This woman is fooling you! Why do you stay with
her? She is deceiving you! She will just leave you in time. I am your only friend, the only one you
can trust...you told me so once...remember?"

I winced at the memory. Those were the words of a young Chiba Mamoru who nobody wanted.
They had nothing to do with the man I have become, with who I am now. Yes, I still remember,
with compassion, what it was like to believe in no one, in nothing. And so I cherish it all the more
that I know I can believe in my Usako with all my heart, with all my soul. When she holds out her
arms to me, I can feel all the bitterness of those empty years just melting away, and I feel like I
want to bury myself in her arms, just hold on and never let go. But how can I make Fiore
understand even a glimmering of what I feel now...he who does not even begin to know what love
is?

He is screaming at me, his voice filled with mindless rage, focused only on getting vengeance for
the empty vacuum of hate inside him.

"I will get rid of this evil Sailor Moon for you..stand aside!" Fiore shrieks. I hold up my cane as a
barrier.

I have to get Usako out of here, fast...he's out of control. God, why won't she move? Please,
please, Usako don't worry about me...just get out of here! My Usako, so sweet and trusting, not
sensing the danger to her that tingles through every fibre of my being. As she stays there, looking
at me, refusing to leave me, I see all the more sharply the contrast between her and my childhood
friend. How precious her love is to me. I will not lose her. I will not lose her.

But I still try to reason with him, even while physically holding him back, as he struggles to get past
my cane. Don't make me choose between you, Fiore. Don't make me choose between you, my
childhood friend, and my Usako, who means more to me than anyone else in the world. Please,
try to understand.

But he will not listen. He yells at me that I am fooled by her. Tsukino Usagi, deceitful? She who
could never hide her true feelings from me? Truly, the Kisenian lies to you, Fiore. This is not my
Usako.

With a howl of rage, Fiore slashes with razor edged fingers towards Usako. He's only seconds
away. Praying I'm in time, I leap into the air, hoping to land between the vicious knives which are
Fiore's hands, and Usako. Oh God, can I get there in time to stop.... and then the pain hits, and I
can't feel my legs any more. Inside, my heart pounds and with each beat, one thought keeps
repeating itself...she's all right, she's all right, he didn't harm her. I don't mind the pain, just so he
doesn't try to harm her any more.

As I feel myself start to fall, Fiore cries out, still not understanding, "Mamoru-kun? You cared
about her THAT much?"

I hear Usako cry out in horror as my knees buckle under me. Then I feel her sweet arms holding
my neck, my head pillowed against her shoulder. And all I can think, as my vision slowly fades
into blackness, is how much I wish I were back in that greenhouse, with her little face turned up to
mine so trustingly, wanting a kiss. And fool that I was, I didn't want to be embarrassed in front of
her friends. As if it mattered.

@~~~~~~~


Kiss Of The Kisenian
==============@

Mibu no Tadamine

Ariake no
Tsurenaku mieshi
Wakare yori
Akatsuki bakari
Uki mono wa nashi

Mibu no Tadamine

Like the morning moon,
Cold, unpitying was my love.
And since we parted,
I dislike nothing so much
As the breaking light of day.

@~~~~~~~

In the healing water crystal, Mamoru's veins burned with the venom of the Kisenian flower. A
venom flowing with hatred, jealousy, a selfish desire for possession that called itself love, and most
of all, bitter, bitter loneliness. It would take a very long time before the cooling balm of the water
crystal began to have any reaction on the fever wracking his body, and before it could cleanse
away the toxins within him that he had absorbed when Fiore had attacked him. Fiore watched
over him, anxious that he should recover. At least, thought Mamoru, there is some feeling left in
him that this evil flower has not poisoned.

@~~~~~~~

I am Chiba Mamoru, and I am Tuxedo Kamen. And both these aspects of me I accept now as
part of me. And I am still Prince Endymion, who died so long ago. I see my mission clearly now.
But it is too late for me, too late for us. Too late to say the things I should have said long ago to
my Usako, to my Serenity. I was brought here to this time line for one mission only; to love and
protect her. And how poorly I've fared, this time. Even worse than the last time. At least, the last
time, she believed in me, never doubted my love for her. Now in this life, by the time I realized
how much she meant to me, and how much I have hurt her, it may be too late to mend things.

The venom of the Kisenian flower intensifies every bitter memory, every loneliness, every mistake
I've made with Usako. I close my eyes and try to remember how she felt in my arms. But the
venom is too strong for me. The memory fades and withers like dying rose petals. All I see is the
look of sadness and gentle reproach in her eyes today. And I see she is unsure of me. And no
wonder. I have never explained to her, the relationship between Fiore and me. And I have never
told her why she must believe in me, believe in US, that we still do have a future together, despite
the senseless rage Fiore feels towards her. Will I ever have the chance to tell her so?

Another vision of despair is sent to me by the evil Kisenian flower. Usako, banging on my door,
screaming she does not want to live without me, not to shut her out. And I will not let her in,
because I am dangerous to her. As I am now, with Fiore and the Kisenian flower focusing their
hatred on her. But the agonizing pain of shutting her out is destroying me inside. How foolish I
was not to see this before. That it is her love that gives me strength. I can no more go on without
her, alone, than she can without me. That is the true meaning of the vision of the bleeding
shattering rose, the nightmare that haunted me so long ago, at the orphanage. That I must trust,
must let love in, to stay. Or wither away in loneliness, a dying rose that will never bloom again.

Have to shake the message this poisonous flower sends through my veins. That everything I do
will be futile. That you will always fail the people you love, and they will fail you too, so why try
at all? Take what you want, for it will never be given to you freely. No, I will NOT believe this.
No. She has not given up on me. She DOES know I care, even if I have not always shown it as I
should. If I can just reach her with my mind. Our souls are still linked, somehow. She MUST
hear me. She must KNOW. The thought of her is the only thing sustaining me from this venom
of hatred, trying to take over my body. I will keep thinking of her, good thoughts, happy thoughts.
The things I am going to say to her, the things I will do to prove to her how much I love her. I
must focus, focus on her with all my willpower. But the mistakes I know I have made, they are
the weakness the Kisenian flower has seized upon. I must NOT listen. Must NOT listen.

@~~~~~~~

The Kisenian flower whispered to Mamoru in his blood. He could see her now, white skinned,
bloodless, emerald scales glittering in ruthless coils around his mind, his soul, her body swelling
with mindless sensuality. Her green tendrils crawled around inside him, working their way through
his memories and savouring each moment of pain with sensual relish. "Ahh, I am glad it was you I
entered, not the female. I should have entered you long ago. Your pain and hurt is much greater
than Fiore's. YOU, from long ago, are his only memory of loneliness and despair and yearning for
love. But you, you have known many such memories and you care deeply for others. And so,
your pain is far more intense." The Kisenian ran her tongue over tiny scarlet lips. "Yes, the taste
of your pain is so....satisfying. You are a failure, aren't you Mamoru-kun? A failure. You have
nightmares every night, don't you? Well, don't worry, I can take away your pain."

I groan as the venom burns in me. How does she know, how does she know, about the
nightmares? About my dreams of despair, of hopelessness, of failure. How all my hopes die in
the night, that I have become afraid of the darkness. Let me run out into the night as Tuxedo
Kamen, and in defeating another enemy, defeat my inner demons, just for a while. Or let me try
reasoning with myself, using logic on my tired mind, arguing with myself out there on the balcony.
Let finally exhaustion block out my inner fears, let mindless sleep take me, before the nightmares
hunt me down and take my mind back to hell again.

I feel my body starting to tremble, as the Kisenian is beginning to activate one of my nightmares,
make me relive it again, now, when I am too tired to fight any more.

The Kisenian's eyes glittered, the dead eyes of a cobra on its prey, her sibilant voice whispered to
Mamoru. "You want her, don't you? The one they call the Rabbit on the Moon. You actually
think SHE is the Princess you seek? How foolish you are. She--could anything be less like a
graceful princess? She is an embarrassment to you. Besides, she will never really understand you.
No one can ever really understand you, inside, understand your pain. At last, we are each of us,
all alone. Yes, you are all alone with your pain and loneliness. And you will always be alone."

"So lose yourself, lose yourself, in the pleasures of the flesh. Take what you want, your needs are
the most important thing. Pleasure is the only thing that's real, anyway. The only thing that really
shuts out the pain. Why worry about whether other people are hurt? YOU have been hurt. Hurt
and loneliness, that's what life is. And death, the only peace any of us will ever know. Let me
give the people of the earth that peace, that freedom from loneliness. Stop resisting me, Mamoru-
kun."

No, it's lies! It's lies! I must fight her with every ounce of strength I have left. I have made
mistakes. But I am not a failure. And if I have failed, it is not too late to learn from my mistakes.
No, Usako is not the same as Princess Serenity was. How could she be? This is another
existence, and one without the same life experiences as before. And she is still so young. And
with so much love to give. I am so lucky. For all I care, she can stay a klutzy crybaby. Just as
long as she's never far away, from me.

Here she comes running, arms outstretched. She's going to barrel right into me, seize me in her
arms, with as much elegance and grace as a football tackle. And I will not change that, not for
anything. I can feel my heart beating faster, longing for the moment when she grabs me with all
the eager, innocent affection she expresses, without a hint of artfulness in her whole body. Maybe
I don't want her to grow up, and be graceful. The way she is just makes my heart turn over.

I am imagining this, and the venomous fever is beginning to cool, slowly. It is as if Usako's arms
were wrapped around me in a bear hug, and I can almost hear her voice, eagerly bubbling away,
telling me what she did that day. Say anything you want, your voice in my ear, calling me Mamo-
chan, your special pet name for me, that makes me smile. Just keep talking to me, as if you were
hanging on my every word, wanting my opinion on everything. And looking disappointed when
sometimes I say I just don't know. How you make me laugh. You think I know everything. And
now you want to know how I think you look today. When I think you look wonderful, in
everything. And now you are worried you will not measure up to my standards, because of
something silly, like you can't cook to save your life. I don't want perfection, Usako, I don't even
need it. I just want you.

@~~~~~~~

Suddenly, something broke in on Mamoru's thoughts with blinding intensity. Though he could
hear nothing of the outside world in the hermetically-sealed crystal, still he sensed, through the
invisible thread that linked him to his Princess, an inexorable pull...something is very wrong. She
needs you...NOW. His heart racing, he sent a message back, praying she could hear him...hold on
Usako, hold on!

The crystal begins to crack. And break.

@~~~~~~~

Fiore's Vengeance
===========@

Etsujin.

HAIKU TRANSLATION:

Covered with the flowers,
Instantly I'd like to die
In this dream of ours!

@~~~~~~~

I should have known she would come after me. And I should have known that Mercury, Mars,
Jupiter and Venus, wouldn't let her go after me alone. They none of them realize what they're up
against, as I do now. First, the Kisenian flower, which holds the naked powers of loneliness,
distrust, hate and despair. And then Fiore, with the weak mind of a child, and the mindless
strength to destroy them all. He is here on this meteor, which is really a giant seed pod for the
Kisenian flower, thinking he is bringing something beautiful to the Earth. Thinking he is bringing
it new, beautiful life, millions of beautiful flowers, which do not feel pain, as people do.

Fiore does not know that in reality, he will be destroying my planet. And he does not understand
that when he destroys my Usako, when he destroys her, and the other Senshi, all the people I love,
all the people and other creatures living on my planet, that there will not be the happy dream of
just Mamoru and Fiore, friends forever, no more THEM. He does not understand that then I will
have nothing left to live for.

"She has fooled EVERYONE, this Sailor Moon!" cried Fiore. "She is EVIL! She must DIE!
What can she know of loneliness, the loneliness Mamoru and I experienced. I will punish her, I
will punish this uncaring world, for what he and I suffered, what we still suffer. For I know him, I
can see in his eyes he suffers still. And if you loved him, as you say you do, how could he still be
suffering so? No, you are evil, you do not bring him peace. Peace that only my Kisenian flower
can bring. The peace of oblivion, and forgetfulness. To remember is to feel pain. When you are
gone, Mamoru-kun will soon forget you. And he will be with me, where he belongs. I understand
him. You, sneaky girl, you never can."

Forget...forget. Thought Usagi. Is it true? Will he forget me so soon, when I am gone? And a
vision rose before her, a grouping of tiny blue flowers in a greenhouse. Forget-me-nots, she was
telling him. A sign of remembrance, and also of true love. And he was smiling back into her eyes,
and laughing.

"You know a lot about these flowers!" he chuckled, amusement curving his lips. Was that love in
his eyes, just then, that she saw? Or was he just laughing at her? I thought it was, I thought it was.
I thought I heard it just then, a sound of tenderness in his voice, even while he was laughing at me.
Or was he just laughing at me, thinking what a silly sentimental girl I am? Isn't that why he ran
away from me? Because I am silly? Because I embarrass him? Because he really doesn't want
me any more. Maybe he would LIKE to forget about me, find some girl who's more sophisticated.

Or maybe, now that Fiore is back in his life, I don't matter any more. He doesn't need me. He has
Fiore, who cares about him. I couldn't even protect him or help him, I couldn't even hold on to
him when Fiore took him away. Maybe that's a sign that we don't belong together. He belongs
with Fiore. And thinking this, Usagi's head began to sink, her shoulders to sag. She was off
guard. The Kisenian sensed this, and her eyes glittered.

"Take her now, Fiore! Take her now! While she is still thinking of him, and afraid she has lost
him! This is HER weakness. She does not believe in herself. Speak to her of this. Tell her she
has let down her friends too. Then she will have no faith in herself at all. And we can strike her
down. Because she is dangerous, a powerful enemy. She must not live to realize the full power
she wields within her heart." The Kisenian wove her coils more tightly around Fiore. She must
not let him feel...sorry...for Sailor Moon. She must keep him focused on his own pain. Or her
grip on him would weaken.

Fiore heard the Kisenian's voice through his own rage. He seized Sailor Moon in a strong grip,
expecting he would enjoy the sensation of hurting her. But it was not quite what he expected to
feel. She felt...so..warm...and...she was not fighting him. For a moment, his senses reeled, and he
wondered if this was the enchantment she had cast over Mamoru. All I'm doing is touching her,
and still, I feel...weak...as if I do not want to fight her any more. I want something else--what?

The Kisenian sensed the wavering inside Fiore, and acted quickly. "Ahh, you see, Fiore, the depth
of her power, of her evil! Only touch her, and see, she fools even you, you who know the truth
about her! Close your mind to her wiles. Destroy her now, take all this dangerous energy from
her, before it infects you further."

"Yes!" cried Fiore, "Yes! I must not forget how insidious she is! It must be when she is close to
you, that her power increases! But I will resist her--I will destroy her!"

Fiore hardened his heart, and concentrated all his anger and bitterness on her. He tightened his
grip on her, painfully. He heard her gasp, softly, and without meaning to, looked at her face...and
surprised a look of terrible bleak sadness in her eyes. Why, she does not WANT to live. She
WANTS me to take her life. That is why she is not struggling in my arms, why she is limp and
unresisting.

"Yes, she WANTS the peace that only oblivion can bring her," said the sibilant voice. "Give it to
her! Give it to her! Her pain will only last a little while longer and then, peace, wonderful peace.
The peace of the flowers, beautiful and fragrant, scattered on the grave."

Pink Kisenian blooms, row on row, appeared in the mirror of Fiore's mind. Rows of graves, for
the people of earth. All of them hurting no more. All of them at peace, at last.

He shut his eyes, and focused. And then melding his mind with the Kisenian, his body reached
with seeking tendrils into her weary soul. And began to feed.

There was a sound like a rushing, a roaring, a sound of a thousand voices raised in anguish, and a
blinding white light split the skies. A sound remembered from long ago when a civilization, that
had made the moon its home for millennia, was finally extinguished. And all their collective
energies, harnessed within the Silver Crystal. And Sailor Moon's cry of anguish and despair
mingled with these sounds. Sailor Moon's silver crystal brooch began to dim, pulsing slowly, and
she sank against Fiore, her last will gone. He tossed her to the ground like a discarded doll, her
limbs splayed on the ground. Her eyes looked up, dim and unseeing--I do not want to live without
him. It is all meaningless, if I am to be alone.

"Now die, Sailor Moon!" Fiore screamed. The venom tipped blades of his nails shot forth in all
directions; she could not escape. She lay there waiting for the end.

Suddenly, something whistled through the air and pierced Fiore to the heart. A steel-tipped rose.
And there was Tuxedo Kamen, still shaking, on his knees, his eyes filled with desperation and
pain. And love. He had been forced to choose between his friend and his love. And in the end,
there was no choice at all. She WAS his life.

But oh, how bitter was this moment for Mamoru. He, who would rather run away, than say or do
something to hurt someone. Now he must scar, maim, even kill Fiore, if necessary, with all the
power in Tuxedo Kamen, so seldom fully unleashed. It felt as if he was destroying his own past,
destroying the only thing that had been good in those first terrible days after waking from amnesia.
But if Fiore would not stop, then he must deliberately cause the ultimate hurt, death. So that she
might live.

The razor-sharp blades impaled the ground, surrounding Sailor Moon. But not one had touched
her. She could not move, but she was aware of what had just happened, though she hardly dared
to believe the evidence of her senses.

"He came back for me," she said to herself, wonderingly. "He came back. Was it just to make
sure I am not hurt, or was it...was it that he loves me, still?"

@~~~~~~~

An Evil Flower Withers
===============@

Fiore let out a moan of loss, of anguish. He sagged as if he had no will to live any more.

The Kisenian flower was puzzled by this reaction. Her symbiotic connection to Fiore meant that
she was fully aware of all his physical functions. There was no physical reason why he should no
longer be able to fight, at this moment. She was even more puzzled by the reactions of the man
Mamoru, who had just broken away from her tendrils. She knew the man Mamoru had chosen
not to kill Fiore, as the Kisenian knew it had been in his power to do. He had only wounded Fiore
just enough to stop him.

"I do not understand this man, Mamoru," thought the Kisenian. "There is much in his past which
would create anger in him. But always, he holds back. Always, he uses his powers just to stop
violence, and only wounds when he is forced to do so. It seems, that he has an absolute
abhorrence of killing any living creature, even when that creature has added to his own inner pain.
Had I been able to claim his mind, I could destroy many, many planets. His powers to destroy are
far greater than Fiore's, but he utterly refuses to use them."

"Even now, weakened by hours of our connection, he could have killed Fiore, and thus protected
this Sailor Moon, the one he calls Usako, and her friends, instantly, from any further harm from
us. But he will not kill, this man Mamoru. He just will not kill when he has the opportunity. He
does not even like to wound living creatures. No, I do not understand him at all. But I still have
control of Fiore, and I will take advantage of this strange and foolish man, Mamoru, who does not
like to kill things."

The Kisenian's eyes glowed red. "I can still win this planet for my children; I can still claim it from
the foolish humans who oppose me. I still have Fiore, and our connection has gone on too many
years for him to break free so easily. And he is not reluctant to kill. He will gladly destroy
anything that stands between him and the man Mamoru. His mind is a simple pendulum, which
swings between what he trusts, and what he does not....us and them, them and us. Mamoru is his
only understanding of "us" and all other creatures are "them." I have played on this pendulum of
his for years, and told him what he wanted to hear."

"Fiore has willingly helped me claim other planets for my children, but his spirit, it seems, grows
ever weaker with the years. He misses this man Mamoru, who cared for and sheltered him when
he was young. So I have brought him here to this planet, to seek the man Mamoru. For I know
his life force is weakening for some reason that I don't understand. If he is with the man
Mamoru, and these other humans are not there to intervene, perhaps his life force will begin to
thrive again, and we can take more planets."

"I have no choice but to try to sustain Fiore's life for as long as I can, for I am a symbiot, and
cannot reproduce without a host. I would have much preferred to find a new stronger, healthier
host; this man Mamoru, whose mind, I thought from Fiore's description of him, would think the
same way as Fiore's. But it seems Fiore was wrong about him, and my gamble has failed. But I
can still claim this planet for my children, even if there is, as yet, no host to take me to other
planets. Another host will arrive at this dead planet, in time. They always do. And they always
want to touch my lovely, pink flowers. So I will claim this planet, and wait."

The Kisenian smiled to herself. "Oh yes. I can deal with Fiore. He will carry out my will; he will
allow me to find a new home for my children. I know exactly what to say to him. His mind,
always on that same pendulum. Us and them. Them and us. Us, Fiore and Mamoru. Them, all
the people who do not care about us. Destroy them, Fiore. Destroy them, and we both shall have
what we are seeking. Of course, now that I have connected with the man Mamoru, I know that he
will not embrace the future you seek with him. He is very tiresome about his so-called Princess
whom he calls Usako, and the future he hopes for with her. But I will not tell you, Fiore, that all
your hopes are in vain. I need you to carry out my will blindly, as you have done all these years,
just one more time. And then you can die, since I will have this planet. There are always other
hosts."

"What is wrong, Fiore?" the Kisenian spoke aloud. "I am with you! Take strength from me.
Destroy this Sailor Moon, first of all, and I am sure that Mamoru will come back to you, and you
will be happy together."

"I can't!" cried Fiore, "I can't! It's Mamoru...he has struck me with this rose. Why? Why?
Mamoru-kun, would you leave me alone too?" His voice broke into almost a sob of despair, all
the years of futile loneliness like a dark weight on his soul.

The Kisenian shuddered, as she felt a massive disturbance in Fiore's life force. "Something has
broken inside him, I can feel it," she thought. "Why? Just because the man Mamoru wounded
him? Just because he believed this man would never, never hurt him? My flowers here...they're
starting to die. With so little of Fiore's life energy left, they have not enough to sustain them.
Soon, he will not have enough energy left to keep my seed pod in orbit above the planet. My only
chance now is to get the rest of my seedlings to the planet's surface quickly, to where life energy is
still abundant. My seedlings will survive a crash landing with no injury; they are virtually
indestructible. How can I persuade Fiore to help me in this? Ahhhh, yes. Revenge. Revenge is
a concept many species have as a motivator. He has lost Mamoru, it seems. But there is still,
always, revenge."

The Kisenian sent a volt of malevolent energy into Fiore. "If you can't have Mamoru, no one
should have him!" Her sibilant whispers entered Fiore's mind, which reeled with despair and
loneliness. "You are weak, but still you can divert this seed pod, so that it will crash-land on this
planet. I will still live, and I will avenge these Earth people for you, Fiore. I will punish the
people of this planet, who poisoned Mamoru's mind against you."

Fiore began to laugh, a terrible, mad sound. "None of you will get off this meteor alive! I will
divert its orbit, so it will crash into the Earth. You have defeated me, but you will not escape.
You will all die with me, and my Kisenian flowers will still take over your planet!"

The Sailor Senshi looked at Fiore, horrified. They knew what he said was true, and that they had
not enough strength left to stop his plans. Mamoru tried to get up, but found he was still too
weak. Never had he felt so weak, so useless. "Why couldn't I kill him? Why couldn't I? Now, I
haven't enough strength left even for one more steel-tipped rose. We're all going to die, because I
couldn't find it in my heart to kill Fiore." He looked over at Sailor Moon, who was still prone on
the ground. "I've failed you again, Usako. Forgive me. Forgive me." Then his eyes widened in
shock....Usako is getting up!

Sailor Moon rose on her knees, looking at Fiore with steel in her blue eyes, the Silver Crystal
beaming bright as liquid white fire. "I won't let you do that!" she told Fiore. "I won't let you
destroy the Earth!" As she said this, she cupped the Crystal in her hands to take it from its brooch,
thus releasing its full power.

But Fiore snatched at the brooch roughly, pulling on Sailor Moon's fuku. "You will try to stop
me, with this? No, you won't!" and through his hand, an energy bolt shot through her, and the
fuku began to dissolve into streamers. Tuxedo Kamen and the other Senshi looked on in horror,
too far away to reach and intervene. And everything was happening so fast, there was no time to
react.

Yet Sailor Moon was strangely focused, calm and gentle, the eye of the hurricane. She rested a
hand on Fiore's arm gently. "It's all right," she told him. "You're not alone any more." And as
she spoke, the Crystal began to pulse and glow, sending out white circles of flame, blinding Fiore.
He groaned as their connection through the Crystal allowed him to enter her mind, and see the
past, Mamoru's past, through the eyes of a little girl with bouncing blonde curls. Who was now
Tsukino Usagi, Sailor Moon. Fiore found himself an onlooker in the hospital room, on the day the
small Usagi had given the very first rose to Mamoru. The rose that was Mamoru's gift to Fiore.

His eyes widened in amazement. "The flower came from...Sailor Moon?" And he loosed his hold
on her fuku, as the Crystal energy filled his soul with healing power. His body was nearly beyond
sustaining him any more. But his soul, his soul was at last free of the poisoned influence of the
Kisenian flower.

@~~~~~~~

Now Usagi was very tired, from her mind-meld with Fiore. He had resisted her with all his
strength. It was only the touch of her hand that distracted him long enough for her to break
through his wall of resistance. Because he is not used to being touched, she thought. By anyone.
It is SO sad.

The meteor was hurtling ever closer to the Earth. Sailor Moon realized that if they were to live at
all, she must take the risk, and take it now. No time for fraidy-cat Usagi-chan to wish she were
somewhere else. It was as if she couldn't even remember what it was like to be afraid.

So she cupped the Crystal in her hands, cradling it, warming it with her thoughts. She did not
understand why, but by focusing positive thoughts on the Crystal, its power increased
exponentially. She closed her eyes. And focused her thoughts.

"I will protect you," she said softly. "I will protect all of you!"

"No, Usagi-chan! Don't use the Crystal! You'll die!" Her friends all called to her.

"Please don't!" Tuxedo Kamen cried out.

Suddenly, where Sailor Moon had been standing, was--Mamoru's Princess. There was the
shimmering iridescent white gown of his dreams, whirling in the wind as the meteor hurtled
downwards. Her tiara glowed with golden light, her golden hair gleamed; she looked radiant.
Mamoru caught his breath. Never before had she ever looked so beautiful. And never had he felt
so afraid for her. Because she had done what he had always encouraged her to do; found her
courage, and thus become the Princess she really was. And now, she might pay the ultimate price
for her bravery.

But Princess Serenity was as serene as her name. "Come, we can do it together! Let's go back
together! I won't die!"

@~~~~~~~

If this is the end, my Princess, this time, you won't be alone. I will be right next to you, and never
leave your side. With all my strength, I will protect you, and with all my love, I will support you,
though I am afraid for you. I am so weak now, from the effects of the Kisenian flower. If I can
just focus my thoughts long enough..

@~~~~~~~

Princess Serenity turned in amazement. There, approaching her, was her Prince Endymion, in his
black armour, and radiating such love and pride for her in his eyes, she thought her heart would
burst with joy.

There was not a word between them. There was no need for words, now. He simply slid his arm
behind her, pulling her tight against his side, while she held the Crystal aloft. The instant he
touched her, she felt the Crystal glow with scintillating, blinding intensity. The Senshi watched
Prince Endymion's example, and called on their own powers to support the Prince and Princess.
Perhaps, if they combined ALL their powers, they would be strong enough to stop the meteor.

Princess Serenity felt her arms trembling from the strain of focusing her powers with such
intensity. She was starting to feel her strength waning. He looked at her with concern, and
tightened his hold on her, staring into her eyes, willing her to hold on just a little longer. But he
was aware that her life force was flickering like a flame, even as he lent his strength to her own.

Sky blue eyes gazed at him with adoration, one last time. And then she was gone, falling into his
arms.

@~~~~~~~


Alone Again
======@

Minamoto no Shigeyuki

Kaze o itami
Iwa utsu nami no
Onore nomi
Kudakete mono o
Omou koro kana

Minamoto no Shigeyuki

[HAIKU TRANSLATION:]

Like a driven wave,
Dashed by fierce winds on a rock,
So am I: alone
And crushed upon the shore,
Remembering what has been.

@~~~~~~~

Usako. My Usako. All my nightmares, all my fears, that have haunted me in this life..somehow,
nothing has prepared me for this. For seeing your little face, so full of animation, so still. So cold.
Is this why I took you, a scared young girl, told you to believe in yourself, felt my love kindle for
you all over again, and watched you at last become the Princess you really are, was it just so you
could give your sweet young life away? At the moment you ceased to be, I felt your essence, like
a radiant beam of warmth and love, go inside me and fill me with a joy so close to pain. Never
have I felt such a wave of love for you, filling my being. I will never, never feel this way again, I
know it.

But now the arms that reached for me are limp, and your eyes will never look at me in that special
way again. Your hair like golden silk brushes against me, but you sleep the sleep from which there
is no awakening. Dimly, I am aware of Rei, in tears, calling "Usagi!", in despair, and trying to
shake your arms. I feel as if a vise were squeezing my chest and my throat is tight and painful.
So I can't speak, for the pain inside me. But I will not let go of you, Usako. I am going to hold
onto you until my arms drop. And I will never leave you. I will join you very soon. There is
nothing now left for me to live for. I failed you once more. And I will pay the price, oh so gladly.
To be with you again.

One by one, all the memories I have of you float to the surface, each memory burning your face
across my mind, each one a fresh pain. There you are fretting about failing a test again, and I hear
myself saying we shouldn't see each other so often, that you need to study more. And then I see
your little face droop sadly, and I think, "Idiot! Idiot! What did it matter?" I should have spent
every second, every moment with you. Life is too short, too short.

I see you fall to your knees running after me, that time when I was afraid that I would be the cause
of your death. I still don't know why I've been having those nightmares that something terrible will
happen to you if we are together. I've stopped listening to them, and thank God for that. Or we
wouldn't have even had today. But as I see you again, anguish in your voice, asking why I don't
care any more, I don't know how I can keep my body from trembling. It's only from years of
hiding my feelings, of rigid self-control, that I was able to stay still that time, and not let on.... Not
let on just how badly I wanted to seize you in my arms and kiss you over and over until every last
tear was gone. But I didn't.

What a big brave guy I was to listen to stupid nightmares like that, so clever of me not to show
how much I love you. I have hurt you, so many times, just as Mikata-chan* always predicted I
would. She said we always hurt the ones we love, even without meaning to. And I did it to you
again with Fiore. As if I haven't hurt you enough already, I had to make you worry that you don't
come first in my heart, first, last and always.

I'm a coward. Such a coward. Not afraid to climb a rooftop, but afraid to trust you with the truth,
my Usako. You deserved better than that from me, you who always trusted me with all your
feelings, you who gave me so much love without my even asking. I know that if I could talk to
you now, I would just hold you for a long time, and tell you, I will always be honest with you,
from now on. No more secrets between us.

But I was already given a second chance to make things right with you in this life. To rebuild your
confidence, so you could reach your true powers as Princess Serenity once more. And I will never
forget the sense of wonder and joy I felt when I saw you, my love, looking even more beautiful
than ever I had seen you, in this life or the one that came before. But it just wasn't enough. I am
weak in heart still. That is why I have lost you again.

Now I can feel your cheek, your hand, warm against my knee, your eyes looking into mine. You
are saying you will be my family now, that I will never be alone any more. Just the way a little
girl, long ago, put her cheek in my lap, and told me not to cry. And gave me a rose. That was
you, and I've only just realized it. But oh my Usako, you are gone. No one, no one, can ever take
your place. Fiore thought he could. He never could. No one is like my Usako. No one else
makes me feel the way you do. Not then. Not now. Not ever.

*AUTHOR'S NOTE: Suzuki Mikata, the orphanage director

@~~~~~~~

Fiore's Gift
=======@

Fujiwara no Yoshitaka

Kimi ga tame
Oshi karazarishi
Inochi sae
Nagaku mo gana to
Omoi keru kana

Fujiwara no Yoshitaka

HAIKU TRANSLATION:

For your precious sake,
Once my eager life itself
Was not dear to me.
But now it is my heart's desire
It may long, long years endure.

@~~~~~~~

Out of nowhere, I see Fiore, materializing before me. A strange aura hangs in the air around him,
a glow, the kind of glow you only see in one who has been touched by the power of the Illusion
Silver Crystal. His eyes are soft and full of sadness and understanding. It is a Fiore I have never
seen before. His voice speaks in my mind, saying that Sailor Moon and I have saved him, saved
his soul from forever being lost to the evil of the Kisenian flower. And he holds out a flower, a
shimmering white lily, pure as the first light of dawn. And tells me it is his essence, a nectar of
life, that I am to give to Sailor Moon. So this is the gift you waited so long to bring me, Fiore.
Not a flower of selfish desire and possession, but of unselfish sacrifice, giving your life, that she
might live.

This time, there is no hesitation in my mind, as there was when Queen Serenity gave her life for all
of us. Sometime, somehow, you have to learn to trust. To trust your instincts, and your heart,
that this feels right, and not to question it. Faith. A word that has taken me two lifetimes to learn.

I sip the nectar and hold her close to me. I can feel the nectar inside me now, and it is the very
opposite of the Kisenian flower, seeming to strengthen all the good feelings inside, love, courage,
faith, hope, joy. I can sense all these feelings intensifying in me, in the space of seconds. And
with everything I feel inside me, my heart, my soul, my mind, I kiss her. There is nothing else in
the world, just this incredible feeling. And gradually, I feel her body stirring under mine, warming,
her lips responding to mine. And then her eyes, like the pale blue of a summer sky, are looking up
at me, and I hear her say, in a voice of such tenderness, "Mamo-chan." A name I thought I would
never hear again.

"I told you," she says, looking at me with love in her eyes, "I told you..." she says, looking over at
all her friends, who are, like me, too overcome to speak, "I would protect you all." My sweet
Usako, always thinking of everyone else first. And then my tears are falling unchecked, and I don't
care who sees. Rei, Makoto, Minako, and Ami, all crowd around us, wanting to touch you, talk to
you, in tears like me. But I'm not letting go of you, Usako. I will never let you go. I don't think I
will ever care who's watching again.

@~~~~~~~

We are home now. Usako is still a little weak, and she is leaning on my shoulder. The girls are
bubbling over with enthusiasm, as usual. "So, where do you wanna go now? How about burgers
and a fudge sundae?" For Tsukino Usagi, these are usually the magic words. But Usako looks
over at me, pleading in her eyes. She, who lives to eat, this isn't quite what she needs right now.

And I tighten my arm around her. And looking them all right in the eyes, I clear my throat. It
takes a moment for them to notice this. Good grief, is Mamoru going to say something about this?

Then Usako's continuing silence has its own effect, and I have their full attention. "Actually, I
think Usako and I have some unfinished business to intend to...alone." There are murmurs, grins,
but then I give them the LOOK. The one that stopped numerous psychologists and social workers
in mid-sentence. The look that says, "Yes? You gotta problem with that?"

And then their eyes fall away from mine...THEY are embarrassed. "Uh, yes," says Ami, the first
to regain her composure. "I guess Usagi-chan must be tired, and we'd better be getting along.
Hadn't we?" she says, looking around at the others. "Anyway, I need to study a couple of hours
tonight. I've been slacking off." The others groan.

"Not me!" cries Makoto. "I hear those burgers and shakes calling me, how about you, Minako,
Rei? Wanna try out my new hibachi? I can fix some fruit shakes in the blender. And you guys
haven't seen my ice cream machine yet, have you? I'll teach you how to use it, it's easy!"

"Makoto, you are the best!" Minako grins. "Absolutely!" agrees Rei. Rei drops an arm around
Ami. "Oh, come on, Ami-chan! The studying can wait an hour or two, can't it? You gotta
FEED that brain of yours, don't you?" Ami giggles. And they leave. You'd never know there
had been that uncomfortable moment from their faces now.

@~~~~~~~

Usako looks up at me, her little face so weary that my heart turns over; I can see she wouldn't
have been up to arguing, or persuading anyone at this point. "Arigato," she says softly, burying
her face in my neck. I close my arms tight around her...you couldn't get a toothpick between us.
And I look down at her, grinning. "My pleasure. Any time."

There is a very long silence. All I can hear is our two hearts, beating, my eyes shut, my cheek
against hers. Finally, I whisper to her. "Usako?"

"Yes?" She answers softly, her breath warm against my neck.

I take a deep breath. "I am...so sorry...about what happened at Rose Park. I'll never let you down
again like that. Ummm...do you think maybe I could have that kiss now?"

Some time later..."Mamo-chan?"

"Yes?"

"I think they may be still watching us, somewhere."

Oh no...we're not starting THAT again. And pulling her against me more firmly, I reply, "Good!
Let's give them something to watch, then!"

@~~~~~~~

I have never felt anything remotely like this before. It feels as if she is melting against me. I
couldn't stop now, even if I wanted to. But I still have... a little bit of control yet. Enough to tilt
her chin up in my hand, so I can look into her eyes. "Usako? I've changed my mind. Let's go
somewhere...quieter...shall we?" A slow smile spreads across her face. All the answer I need.

"Oh, and, Usako?"

"Yes?"

"You'll always be my Princess. Don't ever forget it, will you?"

@~~~~~~~

The sun is setting. She is still in my arms. And that's all I'm going to tell you.

@~~~~~~~