"COMING OF AGE"
Chapter 12: "Our Weakest Moments"
A Sailor Moon fanfic
By Bill K.
In the freezing wastelands of the Arctic Circle, a princess wept over her fallen champion. The cold bit into her exposed flesh, threatening to drain her life away and at that moment she didn't care a lick. Even death would be preferable to the immense sorrow she felt.
"Not how you expected it to turn out, was it Princess?" Desdaemona said as she stood next to the kneeling, weeping girl. Though bereft of clothing, the frightful cold didn't seem to affect her.
"Go away," Usa sobbed pitifully. She didn't even look up.
"You expended precious energy to save your friends," Desdaemona observed, "risking the safety of all who inhabit this planet. And in the end, the millions were saved anyway - - and your friends still died. An interesting paradox, wouldn't you say?"
"Go away!" Usa cried, rising up from her place against the cold, dead chest of Helios to look up at her tormentor with anger and scorn. "Go away and leave me in peace! Haven't your stupid questions been answered yet? What more do you want from me?"
"I wish nothing of you, Princess," the red being replied calmly. "Indeed, I have learned a great deal from what has happened here." She leaned in slightly, giving Usa that almost mocking smirk of hers. "Have you?"
"I've learned the cruelty of some people knows no bounds," Usa answered. She closed her eyes because they stung her, and to shut out the countenance of Desdaemona before it drove her mad.
"You can save him, you know," Desdaemona offered neutrally.
"How?" Usa gasped desperately.
"You know how," was Desdaemona's reply.
Usa stopped, momentarily daunted by the prospect. To use her crystal to resurrect the dead? She didn't know if she had THAT much power. She did know, though, that succeed or fail it would mean her life. Then resolution filled her. Helios had faced the same question and done it for her without reservation. Could she look herself in the eye if she didn't do the same for him?
"But," Usa stammered, "how can my crystal work if Helios is dead? Doesn't he have to merge with me . . .?"
"Your exposure to Metallia's energy has removed the block on your crystal," Desdaemona explained. "You are free to use your natural born energy - - as you see fit."
Desdaemona watched the girl intently to see what she would do next. The pink crystal emerged from Usa's chest, cupped on either side by dainty hands.
"My Lady, hold," came a voice from behind. Surprised, Usa whirled and turned to the sound.
"PUU!" Usa gasped, seeing the silent senshi Sailor Pluto tower over her, much as she had long ago. The woman knelt down and the Princess dived for her, squeezing herself to the familiar frame.
"Forgive me for only now coming to you, My Lady," Pluto said, returning the hug with a degree of emotion rarely seen in the somber woman. "I was," and she glanced at Desdaemona, "prevented from coming to you sooner. And I have been occupied repairing the damage to the time stream done by this being."
Usa pulled back, horrified. "I-I thought this was some elaborate illusion. Some drama she dreamed up, just with real casualties. T-This is . . .?"
"Earth, 1994," Pluto nodded. "You have been placed in your mother's footsteps, and the natural differences in your actions and reactions from hers has sent the time stream into chaos." Usa looked down, the weight of consequence upon her. But Pluto forced her to look up. "It is not your fault, My Lady. You could not be expected to act as your mother acted. You are two different people. You are not a clone of your mother, but a synthesis of your mother and father, with different genes and different experiences from her." Pluto lightly stroked some pink hair from the girl's eyes. "And, if you recall, your mother, and your father and the senshi would have died beating Beryl, were if not for the simple last wish of a dying woman to return everything to what it had been."
"And that's what I have to do," Usa said, turning back to the body of Helios. She extended the pink crystal, but stopped when Pluto's free hand closed around her wrist.
"Your sacrifice is not necessary, My Lady," Pluto told her. "It is within my power to return everything to what it had been."
"Can you do that," Usa asked, "safely?"
Pluto's features clouded slightly. "It - - may - - tax me to my limits, My Lady. I admit that, for I do not wish to lie to one such as you. But that is, after all, my place and my mission in this world. Who better . . .?"
"LET ME HELP!" Usa begged, clutching desperately at Pluto. "Please, Puu, let me help! Use some of my energy! Use it all! I don't care! Puu, please! I have to be part of the solution! Please, Puu, after everything I screwed up, please!"
A steadying hand came up and grasped Usa's upper arm.
"As you command, My Lady," Pluto smiled, proud and heartened by Usa's reaction. She stood up and gently pulled the Princess to her feet. "Together we shall return that which has been undone. The gods willing, our power shall be enough. Grasp my staff, My Lady."
Usa was about to. Then she looked warily at Desdaemona.
"I shall do nothing to interfere, Princess," Desdaemona said. "I have seen all I wish to see." And with that, she faded away. Usa grasped the staff.
"Clear your mind, My Lady," Pluto instructed softly. "I will do what must be done. You need only let your crystal's energy flow into the staff."
Usa did as she was instructed. The world dropped away and the teen was aware of just her and the brilliant energy that glowed in her chest like a pink sun. A relaxation of her chest and shoulders gave her the mental picture of a damn opening and water flooding out. Fear was not in the equation. She trusted Sailor Pluto, believed in her and her ability to make this right. She would do it. She would . . .
"My Lady," Pluto said gently, touching her shoulder. Usa's eyes snapped open and she was back in the Royal Chambers in the palace.
"Is everything back?" Usa asked.
"All is well again. Thanks in no small part to you," Pluto smiled warmly, "My Lady."
Usa dived at the towering senshi and hugged her until she threatened to break bones. At last she pulled away, looking up gratefully at Pluto. The door opened. She turned and found Helios there.
"Helios!" she half-sobbed and lunged at him. The Dream Guardian caught her and returned her hug with as much passion as she gave him. "Oh, Helios, you are not going to believe what just happened!"
"But I shall, Maiden," he said. "For I remember every moment."
Usa pulled back from him in shock and dismay.
When Cere entered the hover car port in the back of the palace, she found her Aunt Pilar with one of the palace drivers, loading her bags into the vehicle. The teen had come straight here after hearing from Hino-Sensei that King Endymion had ruled her to be a citizen of Japan and not subject to Brasilian laws while she was in Japan.
Her eyes narrowed. Hino-Sensei had told her a lot of things.
"Cerese!" Pilar cried. "Don't you worry! I'll get this straightened out! I have friends in the government! They won't . . .!"
"Aunt Pilar, I'm not going back with you," Cere said. "If you can't respect the decision of the government, at least respect mine."
"Nonsense! You belong back in your native land!" Pilar maintained. "And I'm going to see to it . . .!"
"I know about the trust fund," Cere said coldly. Pilar was thrown off stride for a moment.
"That," she began, "has nothing to do with it."
Cere stared at her with contempt.
"Cerese, I'm trying to do what's best for you!" Pilar maintained.
The glare she got back was eerily reminiscent of the ones Pilar recalled getting from her sister, after past confrontations.
"Cerese, if you'll only believe me!" Pilar howled.
"If I give you the trust fund, will you leave me alone?" Cere scowled. Pilar didn't respond immediately and Cere could see she was torn. "I KNEW IT! It's just about the money!"
"Cerese!" Pilar pleaded. "OK, I admit I need the money! It's - - I'm - - not as young - - as I used to be - - and - - it's harder and harder to-to maintain a lifestyle . . ."
"I'm supposed to feel sorry for you when all I am to you is a winning lottery ticket?" Cere roared.
"That's not right at all!" Pilar maintained. "I had every intention of-of trying to connect with you! You're - - the closest thing I have to-to blood family. I've got some aunts and uncles that I've never had very much contact with. They - - don't think very much of me."
"Can't imagine why," Cere scowled.
"I know you don't think very much of me, either," Pilar mumbled, her lower lip quivering. "I know it's my fault. I just - - wasn't ready. That is the truth. It was never because of you. I couldn't do it." She bowed her head. "I let you down. I just knew I couldn't give you what you needed then. And now I just thought - - that I could give you - - try to give you what you need - - and you could give me - - what I need."
"Family love isn't a commodity," Cere replied.
"Yes it is, Chica," Pilar answered with a depth of pain unguessed by the teen. "It's just that very few people get face value for it."
Cere hardened. "Good-bye, Aunt Pilar."
Pilar turned to get into the hover car.
"I'm sorry, Cerese," Pilar said, lingering at the hatch.
"That's nice," Cere replied coldly.
She hesitated at the vehicle. "I don't suppose - - you could see your way fit . . .?"
"No," Cere replied and walked out.
Pilar sighed. "Another bridge burned," she whispered with regret. The driver waited as she hovered in the entrance to the vehicle. "Maybe I can try Conchata in Rio."
Pilar climbed into the hover car and closed the door. The vehicle sped away to the Crystal Tokyo Intercontinental Rocket Port.
Jun and Palla-Palla turned when Cere entered their quarters. They could see things hadn't gone well.
"Rough?" Jun asked. Cere walked over to a sofa and sat down.
"Nothing being with my family won't cure," Cere replied.
Palla-Palla walked over, sat down next to Cere and put her arms around her sister. Cere returned the gesture silently, but gratefully.
Princess Usagi sat alone in her room, in front of her computer station. The display was a historical biography of Sailor Galaxia, assembled from anecdotal testimony provided by Queen Kakyuu of a far distant star and from Usa's own mother. The picture and text remained, waiting for the user to scroll down.
But the young princess's thoughts were elsewhere. The picture and text were forgotten, lost amid brooding thoughts. Only when she heard the door to her room hiss open and shut did she stir. Usa turned around and found Diana looking at her. Behind the gray cat was Helios.
"I passed him through, My Lady," Diana said, anticipating the question. The cat seemed visibly upset and tread cautiously. "I felt he might be able to raise your spirits - - where I've been unable to."
Usa dangled her hand near the floor, wiggling her fingers. Diana walked up and received a head scratch in her favorite spot.
"Not for lack of trying, Diana," Usa whispered. Diana arched her back in response to the scratch.
"No one has seen you since we returned from D-Point, Maiden," Helios ventured. "The palace is quite concerned. And I am quite beyond that point."
"Sorry," Usa murmured. "I just - - didn't know how to face anyone - - after what happened . . ."
"None of them recall what happened, Maiden," Helios assured her. "Only you and I - - and Sailor Pluto, I imagine, retain our memories of what occurred."
"I can't decide if that's a break for them," Usa whispered solemnly, "or me."
"You must not begin to doubt your ability, Maiden."
"Helios, I failed," Usa replied. "I was put in a spot where everything and everyone depended on me - - and I failed."
"You stopped Metallia and saved the Earth," Helios said.
"No, YOU saved the Earth," Usa countered, "from me."
"Maiden," Helios sighed, "you were faced with a situation in which there was little chance of success. You made the choice you thought would best defend the Earth and your friends."
"And failed," Usa added pitifully. "I thought I could contain Metallia. I thought - - but she found that stain in me, that same taint that Wise Man found."
"Maiden, we are all weak in some manner," Helios told her. "You are no different, nor am I. Your father is a great, great man and you saw how easily Beryl corrupted him into her puppet."
"Mom would have been able to do it," Usa said distantly.
Helios lowered his head. "Your mother is," Helios conceded, "a truly unique individual."
"And I'll never be her," Usa whispered and Helios could sense her beautiful dream, the one that connected her to him for years, withering. "Maybe that's what Desdaemona was wondering. Maybe she was wondering if I could be trusted with power. Obviously I can't. I keep messing it up. I've messed it up all my life. It seems like the harder I try to be like her, the more I mess up!"
"Maiden," he said, his hand resting on her shoulder, "you will never be your mother. But to equate that with failure is incorrect."
"Is this where you tell me to be the best me I can be," Usa asked, touching the hand on her shoulder, "and I'll have the chance to surpass Mom? Haven't heard that before."
"It is true, Maiden. In that you may believe."
"Sometimes I wonder. Sometimes I wonder if I can truly be even a tenth of what she is. I wonder if it's worth it - - if it's worth all the effort, worth trying over and over again."
"It is," Helios whispered. "You do not see the potential others see within you. The seeds of greatness are planted within you. Desdaemona would not have come unto you if your destiny was solely one of failure and destruction."
"Then how do I get there? Everything I try seems to blow up!" The girl let out a huge breath of fatigue. "Maybe I just have to stop being a love-sick little girl and really apply myself. Maybe it's - - time to put frivolity away and grow up."
"Potentially a wise assessment, Maiden," Helios said. She could feel him against the back of her head. "I would, though, caution you on one thing. In your zeal to become serious and mature, I pray you do not lose that kind heart and loving spirit that I and so many others have fallen in love with. To exchange these for power and prowess would be a poor exchange indeed."
Without waiting for a response, Helios reached over and put her computer station into sleep mode. Usa looked up to him, hopeful that he could say some magical words of wisdom and guide her to the goal she sought, a goal that seemed at the moment to be light years away from her.
"Come, my love," he said, holding out his hand to her. "You have despaired long enough. There is a wonderful blanket of stars in the sky this night and I know of a place where they may be observed more closely than you think humanly possible."
"Where?" Usa asked.
"My back," Helios smiled and transformed into Pegasus.
"I really should get back to work," Usa demurred.
"Maiden," the equine thought to her, "once again you try too hard. Maturity will come, but it cannot be forced. If you grip too tightly . . ."
"I just," Usa began, "I just said I need to be more dedicated and less frivolous. Weren't you listening? And I don't think I'll be good company."
Pegasus bent in and nuzzled behind Usa's ear with his nose. The Princess giggled involuntarily.
"Maturity comes from more than work and discipline," Pegasus thought to her. "It comes from embracing the wonders around us. You can learn many things from many sources other than an information file on a computer. Come with me and I will show you a new perspective. Or perhaps one you have only forgotten in your desire to be perfect."
When she didn't respond, he nuzzled behind her ear again. That caused the teen to bolt to her feet.
"OK, OK!" she exclaimed, pointing at him with annoyance. "But STOP TICKLING ME!" Then she softened. "I know what you're trying to do, Helios. Thank you. And maybe you are right." She climbed up onto the equine's back. "OK, show me something. But Pop's going to want me back by ten."
"I shall try, Maiden," Pegasus thought to her as they passed through the walls of the palace and out into the night sky, Diana happily watching them from below. "But when I am with you, I fear I lose my sense of such things."
Usa leaned forward, draping her arms around the equine's neck as they climbed high above the evening lights of Crystal Tokyo. As she felt the muscles of Pegasus's back surging and knotting between her legs, Usa thought that as long as this magnificent being stayed by her side, perhaps she did have a chance to be something - - remotely - - like her mother.
Pluto walked the empty limbo that contained the Door Of Time. Returning the time line to what had been had taken a great deal out of her. Were it not for the assistance of the Princess, Pluto was fairly certain she would have died restoring things. Even with that assistance, she felt a fatigue that she rarely felt anymore. Her sentry post was a solitary one and right now that was a good thing: it would be good to use the solitude to rest and recover from her exertions. Pluto took three more steps, then stopped. Her hand tightened imperceptibly on her Time Staff.
"You come to me?" Pluto asked without turning around. "Here?"
"I was curious," Desdaemona replied calmly. Pluto turned to her, examining the being warily.
"Am I to be tested now?"
"And if you were," Desdaemona responded light-heartedly, "would you react differently?" Pluto eyed her suspiciously.
"What are you curious about?" Pluto asked.
"Your Princess Usagi."
"I thought you had learned all you wished," Pluto said, eyes narrowing.
"From her, yes," Desdaemona answered. "That is why I come to you."
"Speak, then, and I shall endeavor to sate your curiosity," Pluto told her.
"What is it about her that inspires such loyalty from beings such as yourself and from the Guardian of Dreams?" Desdaemona asked and Pluto could see a confusion in the entity that Desdaemona was not used to experiencing. "Why would you both willingly expend your very existence to perpetuate her? Perhaps Helios is ignorant of such things, but surely YOU have seen what she can become?"
"I have," Pluto replied with a hint of personal pain.
"And yet you defend her?"
"Yes," Pluto said, her chest swelling with pride. "For I have seen all that she can become. The difference between us, Desdaemona, is that I see the journey's conclusion, while you linger upon a fork along the path."
"Do I?" Desdaemona asked, again with that maddening smirk of hers. Nothing could be read from her pupil-less eyes, yet Pluto studied her.
"Another layer?" Pluto asked. "Beyond mere curiosity?"
"Everyone thinks I do not see the potential of lesser beings," Desdaemona began. "I do. I merely do not assign a personal value to it as others do. This being, your Princess Usagi, has the potential for greatness within her - - and the potential for great destructiveness as well. I have seen this, as have you. And now . . ."
"So has she," Pluto finished the thought with surprise. "A warning?"
"A lesson," Desdaemona demurred. "She is, of course, free to interpret the lesson as she sees fit. Perhaps she will choose to learn from it and take her path in one direction. Perhaps she will ignore it and take her path in another. The choice is hers. I have done this for other beings in similar situations as hers. Should I not give her the same opportunity?"
"But in doing this, have you not altered her path already?" Pluto remarked. "And in doing so, altered the future as well?"
"I have closed off a branch," Desdaemona replied. "The future you guide her to is still there, as is the future you hope to guide her away from. And now other branches exist, other paths for her to take if she chooses." Desdaemona turned to Pluto and said earnestly, "It should prove quite interesting." A smile sprouted upon the red being's face. "Come now. Do not be so aghast. Ultimately I care not the fate of this girl or her people. I have seen worlds come and go, and beings who both grow into their power and position and those corrupted and destroyed by them. This world is no different to me than a million others past and future. But I will leave you with advice I left another: Beware of emotional entanglements with lesser beings. At best, they cloud your vision, and at worst they will be your undoing."
And Desdaemona faded away. Sailor Pluto returned to her station and continued to plan for the future.