Author's Note: Welcome! I wrote this story back in the 90s when I started out in the Sailor Moon Fandom. After ten years - maybe more - I've decided to come back and revamp it and post it - finally - on this site. Anyone who would like to read the original, please message or e-mail me and I will send you the link or the text file - which ever you prefer

There are three books to the "Secret Garden" series including a side story that takes place during the whole fiasco called "First Meeting" which is about the senshi and generals. Included are two hentai pieces that will also be re-vamped as per the project I've embarked on – a re-write of the entire story.

The sequel, "Family Secrets" is incomplete and never posted to the extent of what I have written. I hope to finish it once the revamp to this story series is completed as a way of re-awakening my muse. Not to mention, since it all ties back together, it will allow it to flow more seamlessly.

I hope you enjoy the new – and possibly improved – Secret Garden.

Thank you for reading.

Jade.

--

May 2008

Disclaimer: Sailor Moon is property of Naoko Takeuchi and this is her sandbox - I'm simply destroying the sandcastles

--

Secret Garden - Book One: Forbidden

Chapter 1

Princess Serenity was restless.

There was no other way to explain the way she was folding and smoothing the half-finished piece of embroidery in her lap. Bored fingers traced the outlines of flowers almost absently as a sign escaped her lips. Embroidery was her way of relaxing after tending to her duties as Princess of the Moon but tonight it wasn't enough to keep her mind, let alone her fingers, occupied.

Cupping her chin in one hand, she used the arm of her chair to support her elbow as she stared off - and upwards, her eyes drawn almost magnetically to the mysterious blue and green orb in the sky. White lines flitted about, even at this distance, swirling across the surface to peak her curiosity.

Earth. I wonder if it is as beautiful as mother says.

The Earth was waning in the sky, making it almost time for her to turn in. Unable to pull her gaze away, she watched for several long minutes, entranced by the white, blue and green by play. The way the colors and hues shifted, almost to blend, only to be brought out in stark contrast. A shake of her head brought her back to reality.

Serenity was on the Moon, and Earth was beyond her reach.

Unfolding herself from her seat, she dropped the half finished dress on the cushion before stepping back into her room. The balcony doors closed behind her with a touch and she leaned against them as her eyes drifted across the interior.

Larger and more spacious than most rooms in the palace, Serenity's bed room was actually a series of chambers. The largest, connected to the balcony where she'd been trying to embroider, was her bedroom.

The large double bed sat in one corner with the only window in the room directly above it. Her dresser sat a few feet away, her vanity directly on top, a chair set next to it so she could brush her hair and watch without having to stand. Her dresser only held her undergarments, stockings and the one pair of pants she owned - much to her mother's dismay. The wardrobe was on the opposite wall, encompassing the whole wall, and held her formal and un-formal gowns. It, in reality, was a room all to itself.

The main door connecting her to the outer chamber and her salon was on the same wall that her dresser was backed up against, directly across from the balcony doors. Everything in her room was white, the purest form of the color, silver or gold. Even her sheets were white satin and embroidered with golden crescent moons and stars.

Beyond the salon, her seating and entertaining room, were two doors. One led to a private bath, just for the Moon Princess, while the other led to the hallways and into the Palace proper.

Serenity walked to her dresser and pulled out her chair, taking a seat as she examined her reflection.

A sad, beautiful face looked back at her. Soft golden bangs fell over her forehead, brushing against the golden crescent moon in the center of it; the symbol of a member of royal family of the moon. Two crystal clear blue eyes, a small slightly upturned, but perfect nose and soft, rose colored lips. The golden silk of her hair was tied in two spherical buns on either side on top of her head, leaving two long ponytails trailing out behind her, reaching well past her knees. They pooled around the back legs of her chair on the floor, falling just shy of the ground when she stood. Her slender, cream colored neck attached to slim shoulders with smooth, unblemished skin that was visible until it disappeared beneath the bodice of her nightgown.

The nightgown itself was a simple shift in light rose, hanging down to her ankles for sake of decency if anyone should see the Princess of the Moon in her nightclothes. At 14 she was just beginning to blossom into a woman and her beauty was beyond compare. She had been labeled the angel of the moon by many; including her closest friends, the Princess of the other planets.

Serenity reached up slender hands and pulled out the pins that held her buns in place. It fell to her shoulders, soft and silky, brushing against her neck in a familiar - yet strange - sensation. Idly, she fingered the pearl barrettes on her dresser before picking up her brush to begin the nightly grooming ritual.

Humming softly to herself, she let her mind wander as she counted the strokes. Midway through stroke 50, she stopped. Unable to help herself, her gaze was drawn to the window and the image of earth beyond it. Framed within the boundaries of the sill, it beckoned like a siren, seeming to call to her.

To draw her.

To tempt her.

I wonder why it is forbidden to go there, she mused. Anything that shines with such life and beauty cannot be all bad.

Her hands worked of their own accord, placing the brush back on the vanity as she stared out the window. Never losing sight of the colorful orb, Serenity crossed to her bed and crawled on her knees to the window. She crossed her arms on the sill and continued to stare at the forbidden orb with a soft sigh.

One day, I am going to go there just because I can, she promised herself silently. Just to see if the planet is really as beautiful of place as mother says - and the people as mean. How anyone can be mean living on such a planet I cannot understand! Perhaps she is mistaken...

Sitting up with a jerk, her eyes widened, the blue orbs lighting up with sudden excitement. I could go now and see for myself! Mother would never know I am gone as long as I am back before breakfast...

Recklessly, Serenity climbed off her bed and quickly went to her dresser, re-doing her buns rapidly. She'd put her hair up so many times that she was sure one day she wouldn't even need her mirror to know it was perfect. Once that task was complete, she turned to her wardrobe. I need to change. If I meet any earth people I cannot very well let them see me in my nightdress! Of course... they may simply think this is how people dress here.

A giggle escaped her lips as she opened the wardrobe door, imagining Earth people believing that she normally dressed in such a piece of clothing as her nightgown. The amusement lasted only until she focused on the mess within - and then her smile fell with a small cry of dismay.

Her Mother usually gave her an idea of what to wear depending on what was going on that day. As her gaze traveled down the lengths of white, soft pink, peach, light blue and various other colored dresses, she fought a sense of impending... something. Almost as if her choice of gown was critical this evening though not why.

Sighing, she moved towards where her blue dresses were hanging and reached out one hand tentatively. Closing her eyes, she made a decision. Whatever felt best was what she would wear. Her hands encountered soft blue velvet that seemed to melt around her fingers. Opening her eyes, she quickly pulled the dress off its hanger.

I hope mom does not find out, she suddenly though as she removed her night dress and pulled on the soft, semi-formal gown. I may be the Princess but I have no wish to be grounded.

Shaking off the thought, she reached behind her to button up the back of her dress.

So pale a blue it was almost white in color, the gown was made of supple velvet. It was a fabric and color that was only available to the royal families of the Silver Millennium and was produced solely on the moon.

Fastening the gown was simple; it had only three buttons and came only halfway up her back. It left her shoulders bare, the way she liked, and her hands and arms as well. The only adornment she choose wear was a golden bracelet she plucked from her jewelry box and settled on her right wrist.

Smoothing the white-blue fabric down over her small bust, Serenity bit her lip nervously. The dress was tight around her chest but she didn't mind - it would stay on better that way. She found herself absently thinking she'd soon need a new wardrobe as the soft fabric teased her sensitive fingertips. Indulging in a twirl, the skirt flared out revealing a multi-layered silk, velvet and satin creation, all of an even lighter blue than the dress. It settled about her in a cloud of soft fabric and she had to hold back a giggle.

The dress had no designs, save for a small, silver colored rose in the center of the bodice.

Perfect.

There were no hints except the moon rose design on the front as to her heritage and she had no intention of revealing it. If the stories her mother told were true, Earthlings were the nastiest, meanest most untrust-worthy people in their galaxy. As a precaution, she hid the crescent moon on her forehead with a thought, hoping the moon's magic would transfer with her to earth.

Serenity wrapped her arms about her waist, excitement bubbling through the trepidation and almost erasing it completely. Even if Earthlings were the worst people ever, she wanted to see the colors her mother spoke of so regretfully when she could be encouraged to speak of the Earth.

Slanting a look at the door, Serenity tiptoed to it. She checked first the salon and then the hallway before locking the doors and retreating back to her bed chamber. She turned to face the balcony door and then ran, almost tripping on her dress until she grabbed the front and held it up. Foregoing slippers or shoes, she figured she wouldn't need them if her mother's tales were to be believed.

A bracing breath brought her to the balcony doors, which she then threw open. One more bracing breath to calm her racing heart and then she slipped out onto her balcony. Closing her eyes, she focused on her innate powers. As a child of the moon she could do many things, including go somewhere the moons rays were touching. She shimmered, feeling herself flow into the moon's beams as she projected her destination and headed towards earth.

--

Polished boots kicked at the twig on the pathway and sent it skittering off into the shadows. Prince Endymion shook his head at his childish actions and instead concentrated on his surroundings.

The sweet, musky scent of roses teased his nostrils and he inhaled deeply, closing his eyes as he lifted his head to the last rays of the fading sun. The warmth dwindled, taking with it the last of the light and he opened his eyes as the last of the sunbeams disappeared. In their place, the gentle beams of the rising moon swept through the area. The gardens were awash in moonlight after just a few moments and it became brighter as his eyes adjusted.

He continued to walk slowly through the garden, his mind on the events of the past day, most notably the discussion, if you could call it that, he'd had with his parents...

Earlier that day

"Mother, you wished to speak with me?" The Prince walked into the throne room with even strides, asking the question even before the doors had completed opened.

The Queen of Earth, Mindaya, regarded her son carefully. She sat regally on her throne, her soft brown hair falling in waves about her shoulders. Her brown eyes were the color of chocolate and just as warm.

Normally.

Today, looking at her errant son, they were simmering with repressed emotion, the most notable and recognizable being anger.

"Endymion, I cannot stand for this. You are 19 years old today; it is high time you found a suitable match! Your father and I are worried; you have been going through women like hot cakes since you turned 15. Surely you have found one you could marry and start a family with - as the crown Prince of Earth, you have responsibilities."

"Mother, I have told you before, and I tell you now. I have not found someone yet. Today is my birthday; you honestly think that in two short years I could find my soul mate? I have courted every woman you have asked me too; every noble woman from every court of earth has at least one suitable match and I have yet to find one that matches -me-." His words sang with resentment - he hated this topic and every time they broached it, he was that much more determined to remain a bachelor. "No, mother; I have not yet found the girl I have spent ten years searching for. If it takes another ten then so be it - but I will not marry a girl just to make you and father happy!"

The Queen's eyes flashed with intent. "If you are not engaged to the girl of your choice by your 21st birthday, Endymion, by God your father and I will decide for you. You will be wed to the girl of our choice if you do not choose on your own!"

Endymion stiffened with disbelief, staring at her incredulously. He'd expected to have weeks, months, and even years to find the woman he desired to spend his life with, not to have some hussy thrust at him for convenience! "You cannot do that!"

"We can and will if you continue to delay your decision."

He had no response, no come back, for his mother was right. Spinning on his heel, he stormed out of the throne room, his ocean blue eyes spitting fire. He knew what kind of wife he wanted. He knew what kind of woman suited him; his parents choice would saddle him with a woman he had no desire to wed and could never love. His mother just didn't understand - all he needed was time!

Present

He walked purposely through the garden to his favorite spot. Passing through many stone and crystal arches with vines climbing their surfaces, Endymion ducked under the hanging branches of the weeping willow trees, brushed aside the soft petals of the dangling ferns and slipped beneath a waterfall, careful not to let the water dampen or spray his armor. Walking through a small cavern, he slipped beneath a low overhang and ducked his head so his 6'2" frame could pass. Finally, he pushed aside the branches on the other end and slid out, avoiding the spray of a small waterfall on this end and stepped down into the a clearing.

Inhaling deeply, he stretched and then let his gaze roam the small area.

The palace walls that encircled the area were overgrown with vines and weeds. Tall trees blocked out the view of the outside worlds, save for the view directly above. The moon was peaking over the trees as he stepped inside and the silver light illuminated the area, causing the little pond at the center to gleam silver. The grass underfoot was long but bent in the breeze but only grew around the base of the walls; the rest of the area was covered in moss. Beneath the moss was rock.

The waterfall where he'd emerged lent a very private air to the area and Endymion felt himself begin to relax. He reached up to remove his red cape and armor but hesitated, a strange feeling coming over him.

Something about this night felt different.

He smiled wryly, his lips twisting as he thought of his birthday. That is the only reason tonight is different, he thought sourly. Today was my birthday and instead of getting a present I got an ultimatum; find a bride or they will find one for me. Some birthday.

Shaking off the melancholy thoughts - it was easier here than anywhere else in the Palace, he walked further into the clearing and stopped next to his favorite tree; a tall birch with low branches. With a hop, he swung himself into it, resting his back against the ancient trunk.

One knee came up and he bent it, resting his arm on it as he closed his eyes, the positioning of his body lending him balance. He inhaled the scent of the pines and that of the fresh water as it burbled merrily through the pond at the center and out through a small brook.

A sigh escaped as the peaceful feeling didn't last and his head dropped back against the trunk in a dejected posture.

His birthday had not gone as he'd hoped. His generals, his only real friends, had been away at the request of the Queen. He'd been given a new sword and dagger, a few new items of clothing but nothing about his birthday had been really special. Unless you counted the ultimatum his mother had given him.

Not that he did.

How could she betray me so?

--

The Moon's silver light hit the small clearing silently, unknown to Endymion, and the wind blew, ruffling the leaves of the trees and the Prince's cape. The petals of the wild flowers that grew between the grasses and in the rocky ground shook slightly and then calmed.

Endymion swore he heard the breeze sigh as he opened his eyes to a slit. He nearly fell off the branch as his gaze collided with the most beautiful female he had ever laid eyes on. She was petite, dressed in what looked to be silver and blue moon beams. He closed his eyes, certain he was dreaming, and that she would be gone when he opened them.

"Oh!"

At the startled exclamation, his eyes snapped open to see the angelic creature had collapsed to the ground, a puddle of white-blue fabric, golden hair and bare feet. Only to collapse for no apparent reason.

His mouth felt dry and he finally noticed it was open and shut it as he jumped into action. Dropping to the ground softly, crushing the moss underfoot as his boots made contact, he had every intention of going to this lovely young woman's gaze. In fact, a part of him felt compelled to do so - and not because of his chivalric training!

A slight breeze caught his cape and swirled it out behind him. He froze as she suddenly looked up, directly at him, her attention drawn by the movement. Their eyes locked and he found himself drawn into the clearest, purest blue eyes he had ever seen. The strangest sensation struck him... like he was falling...

A burst of fear bloomed in her eyes and drew him back to reality. Tears moistened the delicate lashes under her eyes as they darted about, prey trapped by the fox. Endymion swore softly; if he didn't know any better, he'd swear she thought he was going to hurt her!

"Are you alright?" Carefully modulating his tone so that it was comforting and unthreatening, he stepped towards her slowly. Absently he wondered why he wasn't mad this woman - more of a slip of a girl really now that he got a good look at her - had invaded his private place.

The girl lifted shaky arms to the ground, as if moving to get up, but her arms were quaking too badly.

Swift strides brought him to her side, his hands folding about her gently and lifting her into a sitting position.

She pulled away from him as his hands contacted her and her eyes still held a note of fear. They darted about the clearing as if looking for an escape - or confirmation. "Where am I?"

To Endymion her words, her voice, were those of a soft-spoken angel. There was a purity - an innocence - to her that he found appealing and he suddenly realized that she was very lost, very alone and extremely disoriented. He wasn't sure how he knew, but something in her posture, her tone - even her accent - made him positively certain.

"You are in the... in my garden." Keeping tone gentle and reassuring as he tried to take the fear out of her eyes, he offered the most basic of explanations. He wasn't about to explain it was a part of the royal gardens.

Baby blue irises clashed with midnight as she looked up at him and his breath caught. He felt as if she was looking into his soul.

"I... What planet am I on?" The fear eased, almost disappearing at this stranger's kindness. A strange yearning, pleading look came into her eyes. "Am I on Earth?"

He had enough presence of mind left not to laugh, but his bewilderment must have shown. "Of course, where else would you be?"

"I did it," she murmured to herself excitedly. "I really did it!"

Call him confused!

Endymion shook his head as if to clear it, staring at her completely take aback by the rapid mood swing. One minute she'd been sad and frightened and the next, like flicking a switch, she was elated.

And what exactly had she done?

As he watched her from his kneeling position, she tucked her legs under her and moved to get up. Automatically, he offered her his arm, his training kicking in, as he rose to his feet. A brilliant, dazzling smile lit her face as she accepted his arm with all the grace of a born noble woman.

Endymion was amazed at how light she was as she tried to get up, fell, and then tried to get up again. Her knees were shaking, as was the rest of her, and he knelt next to her. With a smile of his own, he fitted his hands easily around her tiny waist once more and lifted her up with care to set her on her feet. His hands remained loosely about her waist, lending her his strength as she fought to stay upright.

"Are you alright? Can you walk?"

"Usually." She gave him a shaky smile. "I... I am sorry. I am just not used to this gravity yet." She blushed becomingly, ducking her eyes away from his frankly admiring stare.

He raised an eyebrow. Not used to the gravity? "Where are you from?"

Removing one hand from her waist, he gently tilted her chin to meet his gaze.

"I..." Suddenly shadowed by the first stirrings of panic, her eyes were almost luminescent. "I cannot tell you."

Pulling away from him, she pushed away as if to run towards where she thought was an exit. No more than two steps away, gravity caught up with her again, making her legs wobble and she collapsed to the moss covered ground with a cry.

Her alarm was so unexpected, he didn't react quick enough to catch her. He hadn't expected his question to cause her to panic. Kneeling beside her, he offered a softly sincere apology. "My Lady, I am sorry. I did not mean to upset you." At least, he thought perversely, she can't run from me.

"You are forgiven." The angelic creature looked up at him, responding in the same soft tone. "Noble sir, would you lend me your arm again? I am afraid my legs do not wish to co-operate."

Endymion went one better. Not only did he offer her his arm, but slid his free arm about her waist and helped her to her feet. Their gazes locked once more and, impulsively, he lifted the hand still caught within his own and kissed the backs of her fingers.

She blushed prettily at the touch of his mouth, but didn't pull away like a shy maiden unused to such attentions. It indicated her breeding in a fashion that intrigued him.

"I am Endymion." Deliberately neglecting to include his title, he hoped she was unfamiliar with the name. If she wasn't of his planet there was a good chance that she wouldn't know his name or his station and something in him wanted her to accept him for who he was, not because of what he was supposed to be.

"I am-"

He placed a gentle finger on her lips, cutting off her response. "Do not tell me your name; not yet." His soft instruction was more of a plea, and one that caused her eyes to widen in surprised delight. "You are an angel in my eyes; a woman born of moonlight. For as long as you are with me you shall be an angel; my angel. Would you mind if I call you that?"

Mutely, she shook her head - and for the first time her noted the unusual hairstyle she wore. Her golden locks turned to pure, glittering streams in the moonlight. Surprised that he hadn't noticed them until now because of the uniqueness he wondered just what they symbolized.

The two buns on either side of her head left her hair free to cascade down, well past her knees. The desire to see what her hair would look like under the influence of the sun followed immediately on that thought. Her hair almost hit the ground and as the soft strands slid over his fingers he had to repress a shudder of pleasure. They were softer than silk.

"You may call me what you like," she replied shyly. "Angel is what my mother calls me."

"Appropriate, I assure you." His thumb brushed over the backs of her fingers. "Shall I show you the rest of my little garden?"

Her smile was answer enough, but she nodded anyway. "Would you? Please? I have never seen so many colors or flowers." She pointed at the tree he'd been sitting on, curiosity written all over her features. "And what are those? I have never seen one before!"

Endymion folded her hand into his, using it to help her maintain her balance as he walked her slowly around the secret garden, allowing her to adjust to the gravity. That it gave him an opportunity to hold her, to touch her, wasn't lost on him and he found himself hoping she would take a long time to adjust to the gravity. "That is a tree - more specifically a Birch tree."

"Birch tree." She echoed softly, as if to embed the name in her mind. Tugging on his hand, she pushed him along towards another marvel that caught her eye. "And these?"

"Roses. You have never seen one?"

"Not like this. What is that stuff they grow with?"

"Grass."

"May I have a rose? It is truly gorgeous!"

"Wait!" Endymion caught her before she left his embrace, pulling her back firmly before she could touch it. "Do not touch it. You might hurt yourself if it bites you."

"How can a flower bite someone? We have roses where I come from but they cannot hurt us."

He laughed, amused by her innocent question and drew her nearer the bush. Carefully, he slid his fingers under the bud and tilted it to reveal the stem. "It has thorns, see? These little spiky things are sharp and they make sure animals and birds cannot eat the rose. It allows it to grow in peace."

"Oh." Unable to avoid sounding disappointed as she was, she didn't even try. Such a treasure would have been cherished as a memento of this evening - and his company - but she wasn't about to tell him that. Instead she offered him a glimmer of possibility - of hope for a future meeting. "Perhaps one day I will show you our gardens and that we do not have flowers that can bite us."

"I would like that.

Turning the subject back to his garden, she eagerly asked questions as they walked around and as the minutes turned into hours her body adjusted to the Earth's gravity. She committed everything Endymion told her to memory, looking at the greens and blues and reds that never were anywhere on the moon.

Through the hours, she learned that there were many different flowers and that a waterfall made ponds, rivers and streams; that trees have all different names, that she was walking on moss, not grass and that the two were distinctly different. They talked for close to two hour before she finally exhausted all of her pressing questions about the garden.

They went back to study the roses many times at her request.

It was a night with no more than a puff of a breeze and so there were no bugs. Endymion was thankful for small mercies. This Angel had pulled knowledge from him that he hadn't needed in years - knowledge he'd never dreamed of needing again. The last time he'd had to learn about botany, he'd been closer to ten years old. It was staggering how little she knew and more than a little impressive that she seemed so interested in the garden.

Leading her to the tree he'd been sitting on when she'd first appeared, he grasped her around the waist and lifted her onto the lowest branch. Gasping, her small hands clutched his arms in surprise as her feet left the ground.

"Endymion! What-?"

"Easy, Angel," he told her with a soft laugh. "I would not let you fall." His lips tilted in a heart melting smile, "I do not believe you would fall anyway; you would probably fly away if I let go."

Blushing, she felt the branch under her bottom, but refused to let go of his hands. If her earlier experience with the gravity of this planet was any indication it would hurt a lot if she fell. "Are you certain it is safe?"

"As long I don't let you go."

The confidence in his words calmed her and she swung her legs cautiously - only to blush as one of her bare feet connected with the cold metal of the armor covering his thigh. She'd felt the creases while they'd been walking, but hadn't paid it much attention; there are been so many fascinating things to learn. Now, with nothing else to hold her attention, she turned it to her escort and asked the question she'd been wondering since she'd first seen him.

"Why do you wear armor like that?" Her eyes were wide and guileless even as the shyly ran her finger up his arm to trace the metallic surface that covered his shoulders.

Catching her hand, he tilted his head slightly to look her in the eye. "It's part of my station, little one." He answered her as honestly as he could, keeping his words soft.

The Angel teetered a little on the limb and he wrapped his other arm around her waist to give her added balance - and also gave him the opportunity to step closer. They were almost nose to nose, she only slightly higher when sitting on the branch. Her hands came up to rest lightly on his armor above his heart and he couldn't help but notice how her small fingers looked extremely pale next to the black polish of his breastplate.

Darkness and light.

"Do you ever take it off?"

He froze, caught so completely off guard by her innocent question he couldn't answer it - only to be taken further aback by her follow up comment.

"It looks very uncomfortable."

The soft fabric of her skirt brush against his hand as he tightened his grip on her waist and the fabric pooled about her feet to enveloping his legs. Her hair was dangling behind her, golden streamers blowing in the faint breeze. Her innocent words had affected him in an unexpected fashion - he hadn't been able to avoid thinking about what her innocent words had implied - and he swallowed hard. Clearing his throat, he answered her guardedly.

"Uncomfortable or not, it is a necessary evil."

"Why?"

Why indeed. "I train daily with the guard and at unexpected hours."

"Then you never remove it?"

"Only to sleep."

Tilting her head, she looked down at him, her eyes turning the color of a robin's egg as she shyly traced a small design on his breastplate. "Would you... take it off for me?"

He swore his heart stopped and nearly fell to his knees at her words - until she finished.

"It hurts to stand next to you with that digging into my ribs."

Laughter erupted from between his lips at his presumption. The swift change in her expression happened in the blink of an eye and the hurt that shadowed her gaze took him by surprise.

"Do you think that hurting me is funny?" After all the nice things he'd done, she's hoped she wasn't wrong about him. She'd hoped he was indeed the nice, caring man she'd just seen and not someone who would take advantage of her like her mother had warned.

"No!" Endymion modulated his tone after the first swift denial. "No. I do not think it is funny at all. In fact, I never want to hurt you, or to see you hurt."

"Really?"

"I was laughing at myself, not you - never you. Forgive me?"

A soft smile split her lips and she leaned in close. Color stained her cheeks as she tilted her head to plant a soft, shy kiss on his cheek. "I forgive you."

Endymion lifted her down from the branch so she could stand as he stepped back. Her fingers reluctantly let him go, reaching to the tree she'd been seated on for support. "Endymion?"

"Patience, Angel."

The Angel's eyes widened as, instead of reaching for her once more, he lifted his hands to the fasteners holding his cape to his breastplate. It slid to the ground and he paid it little heed as he began to work on his shoulder guards and breastplate. Snaps and buckles undid quickly, sliding free with such speed that he barely caught the heavy armor as it loosened. Hauling it over his head, he placed it aside.

Un-strapping his sword, he placed it next to the breastplate before working on the lower body protection. The Cuisses came off first, along with his lower mid-section protection that included his codpiece. Kneeling, he unfastened first one greave and then the other. They easily came off over his boots, and he placed them next to the rest of his armor.

He turned to look at her and found she was watching him intently, only to glance away modestly when she saw she'd been caught. A smile spread across his lips once more - one that couldn't hide his self-satisfaction, or awareness.

Endymion was tall by anyone's standards, standing at just over six feet. His midnight blue eyes and hair the color of a night sky lent him an air of mystery and power that he'd often used to his advantage. His movements were fluid as he turned towards her, the easy way he held himself betraying a confident, even arrogant, personality. Fortunately, he had yet to pull anything remotely arrogant with her and for that she was grateful.

It was a nice switch from the treatment she usually received from the males of court. In her experience, they all believed they were Selene's gift and that she - and every other female - should actually be flattered by any attention they wished to bestow. When she didn't swoon at their feet, they found it rather ego breaking - to say the least.

Releasing the tree, she took a hesitant step towards Endymion, extending her hand towards him. "Endymion..."

There was no need to finish whatever the half formed thought as he closed the distance and took her hand in his.

With a gentle tug, he pulled her into his arms. Enfolding her tightly in his embrace, he realized as soon as she was flush against him, what a bad idea it was to have removed all of that armor. Her every curve was suddenly, but softly, molded to his body. With a soft groan, he bowed his head to her shoulder. With his armor on there had at least been a barrier between them, one that would be difficult to remove with her in his arms. Not to mention the remote chance of keep his self-control.

Sensing the new tension in his frame, she froze with her arms against his chest and her ear over his heart. She heard it beating rapidly, in time with her own. "Endymion?"

"Yes, Angel?"

"Is something wrong?"

"No."

"Oh."

Exhaling raggedly, he closed his eyes as he exerted an enormous amount of will to keep from kissing this woman-child in his arms. He was amazed to find that he, the master of self control, could be brought to his knees by this girl. It was a frightening revelation. Unleashing a fraction of his restraint, he turned his head and planted a feather soft kiss against her cheek.

Unconsciously, she seemed to lean into his kiss and he pulled back, turning his face away so they were cheek to cheek. To compensate, and let her know it wasn't anything she had done, his ran his hands from her waist up to her shoulders, the backs of his hands brushing against the underside of her hair.

They stood in silence, her hands slowly sliding from his chest, upwards over his shoulders until they were around his neck. He ducked unconsciously to help her as she leaned in closer, throwing her slight weight against him. She stepped onto the tops of his boots as she straightened, hugging her to him tightly. She was soft... yielding under his touch... and yet... he sensed that she also had awesome power should her need to use it arise.

Silent minutes passed before he felt more than heard her regretful sigh. "I have to go back home now; the moon is starting to set. I did not realize how late it was."

He pulled back sharply, stung. "You are leaving? Must you?" His disbelieving eyes flew to her own remorseful ones.

"I have too. If I am caught..." The words seemed to stick in her throat.

"Will I ever see you again?"

Tears filled her eyes she shook her head. "I can never come back." A broken sob hug in the air between them as she tore herself from his embrace. "I am not supposed to be here in the first place."

Their eyes locked and his heart jumped painfully in his chest, as if it were being torn from his chest. He had to see her again - he just had to!

Without a backwards glance, she ran to the brightest moonbeam in the garden and stopped. Her hands clenched for a charged moment and then, as if losing some inner battle, she turned to face him, her eyes and hair glittering in the moonlight. Tears sparkled like silver rain drops on her lashes. She stood no more than ten feet from him but it felt as if a chasm had opened between them.

An insurmountable distance he was powerless to cross.

Endymion watched her go, unable to move, the tearing, aching sensation in his chest something he didn't quite understand - and understood all too well. He'd never been on the receiving end of a broken heart, but he'd broken enough of them to know the feeling now. The thought of never seeing her again was unbearable. "Never?"

"Maybe one day... my Endymion," her voice shook, betraying how close to verge of break down she was. Folding her hands together, her voice broke on the next plea. "Never forget me?"

"It would be impossible to forget you, Angel. I shall wait for you here every night should it take a thousand years before I see you again."

His promise was heartfelt and, as if drawn by an invisible force, he moved towards her. One trembling hand stretched towards him as he reached for her, seeming to need the comfort as much as he was compelled to give it. He tears were doing things to his insides, pulling at his heartstrings, and he didn't realize that he, too, had tears in his eyes.

Sobbing softly, she let him pull her close, tilting her head towards him. His head descended slowly, pausing for a fraction of a second as he let her see his intent, and then he deliberately brushed a chaste kiss over her lips. He gave her no time to react, but let her go immediately. The tracks of her tears were plainly visible on her cheeks, her eyes shining with misery.

Impulsively, he chose that moment to produce something for her. A trick of his, a power that had always been with him, allowed him to pull it from midair, an action that shocked her almost as much as his kiss. It was a gift that would always keep him in her mind.

A red rose.

Their fingers gently caressed as she took it, her finger tips lingering against his. Careful of the thorns, she put it over her heart and folded her hands over top. She looked at him one more time and then closed her eyes as the rays of the moon shone down on her, her tears shining silver in the moonlight. As she disappeared, Endymion heard her whisper as surely as if she were in the clearing, the words wrapping around his heart and filling his soul.

"When you see the moon shine, know that someone is looking back at you. And thinking of you..."

Endymion looked at the moon abruptly, his eyes widening in dismay. "She is from the moon? My Angel is from the moon?"

A tear tracked down one cheek as he sent his thoughts heavenward. I'll think of you, Angel.

Something glinting on the ground where the angel had appeared earlier caught his eye - somewhere from where she'd first fallen. He stepped towards it, going down on one knee. It was in the shape of a star; golden and glinting in the fading moonlight. He scooped it up. The moment he touched it a song began to play. His eyes went heavenward as he held the locket in his hand. Long after the moon had set he remained standing in his secret garden staring after it... and wondering.