The Nightmare, Part II
===============@

Who Wants To Live Forever

There's no time for us,
There's no place for us,
What is this thing that builds our dreams, yet slips away from us.

Who wants to live forever,
Who wants to live forever.....?

There's no chance for us,
It's all decided for us,
This world has only one sweet moment set aside for us.....

But touch my tears with your lips,
Touch my world with your fingertips,
And we can have forever,
And we can love forever,
Forever is our today....

-----Brian May, from the
Queen album, "A Kind Of Magic"

I wonder how long I've been standing out here? I must have been out here a long time..... My
arms are numb from my head resting on them against the railing. And there's not a single part of
my body that's not shivering with cold.

I look at my watch, and it says 2:45 AM. It is as dark as it ever gets in Central Tokyo, and very
still. Hardly a car passes on the street. But though my arms ache, and I am tired, nothing is going
to make me go back to bed now.

I know what will happen if I do. I'll have that nightmare again, about being in the Moon Kingdom.
About Queen Beryl and her minions destroying everything and everyone we loved then. About
my being unable to protect my Princess, my Serenity. In my dream, I will once again be watching
Princess Serenity from above, in the twilight limbo between life and death. And then, once again,
I will see her bleak eyes filled with pain, as she cradles my lifeless head in her lap.

Then, she will do what generations of noble Princesses have done before, when all hope is lost. I
will see her unsheathe the sword from its scabbard, gleaming. Tears streaming down her face, I
will see, nevertheless, a look of awful determination in her eyes, as she raises the sword before her.
And I know what she will be reciting to herself, as she turns the point of the sword towards her
belly... "To die with honour, when one can no longer live with honour."

In dreadful fascination, I watch helplessly as her soft intake of breath tells me she is about to strike.
With both hands on the sword hilt, and the point against her body, she stabs quickly, ferociously.
The blade slides all too easily into her soft flesh. Dark red blood, slowly spreading outwards,
covers the shimmering white fabric of her gown.

I remember. I remember. But oh God, how I want to forget. She killed herself then, because I
failed. And how do I know I won't fail her again, in this life? I have no answers. Only endless
questions.

That dark red spreading stain fills my eyes and I feel myself shaking uncontrollably. For a long
time, before I fully recovered the memory of my last day in the Moon Kingdom, all I would see
would be the colour red in my dreams, and immediately, I would think of blood...without knowing
why.

It has taken even longer, after I had remembered every terrible detail of that day, for me to be able
to say the word to myself ... seppuku. She committed seppuku because I was gone, and no longer
there to protect her, because I failed her. Seppuku, which was the custom of royalty long, long
ago, is, in this life, now mostly just a word from the distant past. But not to me. I, who watched
her die, can never, never forget.

She is alive again, reincarnated 1000 years later, here on my planet, and so am I. But the life we
once knew, those carefree days we shared together in the Moon Kingdom, are gone forever.
Innocence taken, innocence shattered, and always, I will fear for her, it seems. Sometimes, I think
I will never know peace in my soul again.

So now I have these memories back again. I dream of that terrible last day in the Moon Kingdom
over and over. And never are there answers to my fears in the night, that somehow, it will happen
again. Never answers. Only questions. I am so tired ... so tired.

@~~~~~~~

Can that be my doorbell ringing? I'm so exhausted, I must be starting to hallucinate. Who could
be ringing the doorbell at 3:00 a.m.? Maybe it's time to start taking sleeping pills, or something,
instead of trying to tough this out. Who am I fooling? It's not working....

I can feel my shoulders sagging, my breath coming out in shuddering gasps. I know I can't go on
like this much longer, or I'm going to go stark, raving mad. If I sleep again though, that nightmare
is going to come again, I just know it. And every time I re-live it, it just gets harder for me. Time
has only made my Serenity, my Usako, more precious to me. Every time in my dream I watch her
again, it's as if I feel the knife piercing my own flesh.

Well, let me get another coffee in the kitchen. Might as well wake up completely. It's either that,
or exhaust myself to the point where I'll pass out, too exhausted to dream. And I'm so cold. At
least the coffee will warm me, if nothing else.

@~~~~~~~

Mamoru shuffled into his sitting room, en route to the apartment's tiny but neat kitchen. Then he
looked around, disbelievingly. Was his doorbell STILL ringing? O.K., then, I'm not hallucinating
after all, he thought.

He walked to the door, unbolted the deadlocks, and a very tired and angry-looking Usagi
practically fell into the room. He was startled at the look on her face: grim, weary, deep shadows
under her eyes, her face stamped with infinite sadness. I have seen her look like that only once
before, he remembered then; it was after we lost young Hotaru.

Usagi's hands were doubled into fists, shaking. Her voice, when she started to speak, had lost its
cheerful buoyancy and sounded harsh and edged with fatigue. "How long has this been going
on?" she demanded.

"How long has WHAT been going on?" Mamoru answered.

Usagi looked, if it were possible, still more resigned and weary at this answer. "Please don't play
games," she sighed. "You know perfectly well what. This nightmare....," and here she looked into
his eyes, her own brimming with tears, "how long?"

"But I never told you... I never told anyone. How do you know about it?" Mamoru looked
bewildered, and saddened. [Oh, Usako, I never meant to burden you with this.]

Usagi put a hand to his cheek. "I know you never meant me to know. But finally, you got too
tired to hold your thoughts in. This has happened to us before. There is a link between us, but
perhaps you don't remember that. This time, your thoughts, your dream... you sent it to me. And
it woke me up. And so I came."

Her eyes flashed angrily then. "Oh, Mamo-chan, why wouldn't you trust me with this? Damn
you, why do you still try to handle everything alone? I'm not a child anymore, whatever you may
think. I have a right to worry about YOU too."

She walked over to the couch, not even bothering to shed her coat, and he followed her, as if
pulled by an invisible string. She sat at one end of the couch and said softly, "Come here," and
patted her lap. With a sigh of infinite relief, he stretched out on the couch and rested his head in
her lap. She began to stroke his hair, slowly, gently, and gradually, feeling the warmth of her
touch, he felt his tense muscles begin to relax.

There was only one small lamp lighted in the room, and from where he was lying, Mamoru could
watch the shadows of the occasional passing car dance slowly across the ceiling. Blindly, he
reached out for her hand with his own, and, finding it, clutched it fiercely. The room grew so
quiet, all he could hear was the sound of their breathing, and now and then, the sound of a distant
train. And he was aware, drowsily and pleasurably, of the feel of her hand caressing his hair.

After a very long time, Usagi spoke in a whisper. "What happened, happened, Mamo-chan. I
have no regrets. I didn"t want to live any more, without you. I knew the Moon Kingdom was
finished. Don"t forget, I watched a great many of our people die. People you didn't know,
because you were from the Earth. But they were people I grew up with. All gone. Or claimed for
the Dark Kingdom, by Beryl. Knowing that we, that our very way of life was doomed, I chose to
end my life with dignity, as befitting a Moon Princess." In the soft lamp light, she looked down on
him, a Princess to her bones, very sad and proud. He squeezed her hand tightly.

Her sky-blue eyes were more serious than ever he could remember seeing her. She was an older
Usagi speaking to him, speaking to him with the thoughts and memories of Princess Serenity, a
soul within her, who had not spoken for a very long time. "Perhaps I should have had more hope,
perhaps I should have believed then that there was another way. Perhaps, as I have since learned,
there is always another way. But I chose, Mamo-chan, I chose. I chose to be with you, wherever
you are. And I think I would always make that same choice. Do not judge me, please."

Mamoru squeezed her hand again and then tipped his head up a little to look her fully in the eyes.
"I would never judge you, Usa....Serenity." Then, shuddering a little, and looking away from her,
he sighed, "It was just so hard, so hard for me to watch."

Usagi did not need to ask what he meant by that. Instead, she bent down to kiss him, and tired as
he was, still, he returned the kiss hungrily, desperately. She broke free at last. "Endymion, I never
meant you to see. Never, never. You were already dead when I picked up the sword. So how
could I know you would still see? I was never so alone as in that moment. How could I know you
were still aware of me?"

She was in tears then, but her voice, at first wobbly, became firm and strong, as she said to him,
"But let it go, Mamo-chan, let it go!" By calling him Mamo chan once more, she indicated that
she was speaking of the here and now, and not of their shared past in the Moon Kingdom. "Let
the past be the past. I am so glad to be with you now. I am so glad just for this moment. We
both of us need to let go of our regrets, of our guilt over the past. It's a road that goes nowhere. I
know why you keep having those nightmares, Mamo-chan. I know, because I get those feelings
myself, sometimes. You'd like to be sure, to be sure nothing bad would ever happen to me again.
I love you for that. I feel the same way about you. But we can only be sure of one thing. This
moment, now. And one other thing I'm sure of," She paused.

"What's that, Usa?"

"That I need you," Usagi replied, simply.

The clock on the mantelpiece chimed then, startling them both. 4:00 a.m. Mamoru sat up
quickly, guiltily. "Won't your mom and dad wonder where you are now?" he asked anxiously.
"I'd better see you home. You shouldn't walk home alone at this hour."

Usagi chuckled and put a finger to his lips. "Don't you DARE try to walk me home after all the
sleep you've lost! Now listen. I left a note at home that I'm staying up to watch over a sick friend,
and that I'll be back in the morning."

"A sick friend, huh?" he grinned.

"Well, aren't you?" she looked at him mischievously.

"Very. Well, come here and give me my medicine then!" And with that, Mamoru pulled her into
his arms.

A few minutes later, he asked, "Hey, what are you wearing?"

Usagi giggled. "Listen, when you woke me up, I didn't stop to change. I just threw my coat on
over whatever I was wearing."

"So I see," Ocean blue eyes held a flicker of amusement. "But you won't be needing it for a
while."

Usagi giggled again. And then forgot everything else, as he drew her still closer.

@~~~~~~~

The dawn is grey, and it is damp and cold and misty out on my balcony, where I go out every
morning to test the weather. I go to the closet to yank one of my favourite sweaters over my head.
I don't know why, but a favourite sweater is like a hug. Maybe it's because its colour cheers you
and its warmth surrounds you, when you feel like you can't face the world. Of course, the tighter
the sweater hugs you, the more likely it is to muss your hair.

I am just attending to this minor problem, comb in hand, when Usa appears at my elbow. She's
wrapped like a cocoon in a blanket, and all that blonde hair of hers is loose and wavy over her
shoulders. My blanket looks different with little golden tendrils trailing over it. She is so, so
beautiful.

"Where are you going?" Usa looks glum and a little uneasy. I sigh. I hadn't meant to wake her.
But I need to go for a walk and look at the ocean. When my thoughts are all muddled, for some
reason, looking at that slow, rhythmic movement, one wave following another, helps me to see
clearly. Always, before, I wanted to walk alone when I felt like this.

But I look at Usa's sad little face, and for the first time in my life, I think I will take someone else
with me on my solitary walk. But first, I am going to kiss that sad little face. Thoroughly.

@~~~~~~~

"O.K., O.K., we've settled it that you're coming along. Usa, my dear, you don't need to persuade
me. But what are you wearing? Not what you showed up in last night!" Mamoru laughed.

"And what's wrong with what I showed up in last night? I was wearing a coat!" There was a
dangerous note in Usagi's voice.

"Yes, you were. Otherwise, I think you would have stopped traffic, even at 3:00 a.m.!" Mamoru
glanced at her appreciatively, his eyes still dancing with amusement.
"Mamo-chan!" Usagi squeaked, indignantly.

He held out his arms to her. "Come here, little silly. There must be one pair of my jeans and a
sweater that would fit you. THEN you can come. Unless of course, that is," he continued,
grinning, "you want me to explain to Papa Tsukino why I've come over to your place to get you
some clothes, little Miss Impulsive!"

Usagi coloured at that. "Uhhh, no, let's not do that. Dad's already mad at me for coming home
late last week. No, I don't think I need to make him livid again this week."

"O.K. then, so, model this outfit for me," Reaching into a drawer, Mamoru tossed a pair of jeans
and a sweater to Usagi, and she blushed, much to his amusement. "I'll help you roll up the
bottoms. Long as those legs of yours are, they're not as long as mine." Usagi, naturally, blushed
even more.

@~~~~~~~

In about ten minutes flat, Usa has scrambled into a sweater and jeans and combed her hair into
those odangos again. For a girl, she's a speed demon at getting ready. When she wants to go
somewhere with me, that is. Too bad she can't be like that about getting ready for school or
meeting her friends. I do believe Usa has an unbroken record for lateness in Ms. Haruna's class.

The wind is whipping through our hair as we walk next to the shore, and it is making white caps
on the ocean. I hold Usa's hand and remember a much warmer day, when we sat here once until
way after sundown. Luna and Artemis were there that day too.

For a few moments, I pitch stones into the water, watching them skim, something I'm very good
at. I have no idea why it matters to me that I can skim stones, or why Usa watches this silly
accomplishment of mine with such wonder in her eyes. Those blue eyes of hers are as big as
saucers.

"Wish I could do that!" she sighs.

"But I don't, Odango," I reply, kissing her nose. "Then you wouldn't watch me and I'd miss
that!"

Usa's eyes are dancing. "Show-off! You always were a show-off! Always centre stage on a lamp
post or roof top or something!"

I whirl from my stance, in the midst of pitching another stone. "Oh, a show-off, am I?" But I am
speaking to the air. Usa has run off full-tilt down the beach, and she has a good head start on me.
I pelt after her at top speed. If she thinks she's getting away with making a crack like that about
me.... Just as I catch up to her, though, she comes to a screeching halt. She turns, her ponytails
flying in the wind, and holds out her arms to me.

"Come to take revenge, Tuxedo Kamen-sama?" she asks, teasingly. "Here I am, then."

There's only one thing to do when you get an invitation like that. Take it.

@~~~~~~~

Much later, my car is parked around the corner from the Tsukino house. Tuxedo Kamen has
agreed to undertake a surreptitious reconnaissance mission on behalf of his Usako, to make sure
Papa Tsukino's car is no longer in the driveway. Now, normally, I wouldn't be doing this, just to
keep Usa from getting into trouble. She gets into trouble like some people eat, sleep and breathe.
But I'm doing it just to prove a point to her. [That's what I tell myself, anyway...the truth is
probably that it's a good excuse to have her company just a little longer.]

Ahhh! There he goes. Papa Tsukino jumps into the car, starts the ignition, and off he drives. I
jump down from the rooftop to the lamp post, then down to the street, and behind a tree. Where
she is hiding.

Quickly, I transform back to "me." Then I sneak up on her from behind, something I am SO good
at. Seizing her in my arms from behind, I whisper in her ear, "Now, do you surrender?"

Usa lets out a little squeal, then giggles. "Never!" She squirms around to look at me. I still have
my arms around her, tightly. She's not going anywhere. Not until I'm ready.

I eye her, challengingly. "I could hold you here like this a long time, you know."

"And I'd like that!" she giggles.

I quirk an eyebrow up at her. "What, until after Papa Tsukino comes home? If he comes home
and finds you wearing clothes he doesn't recognize, what do you think he'll say?"

"So I'll tell him I fell in the ocean, and got them wet, so I had to borrow somebody's." Usagi
replies. "Hey , it could have happened! Weren't you going to dunk me a little while ago?" It's
not one of her better stories.

Looking her up and down, and grinning, I remark, "He'll know right away they aren't girl's jeans.
They fit on you differently than they do me ... especially with those six-inch cuffs."

"Oh, Mamo-chan, why do you have to spoil my best ideas?" Usagi moans.

"Cause they won't work, Usa, and you know they won't work," I answer, pointing a finger at her
nose. She pretends to bite my finger, and I move it out of range quickly.

"All right. I surrender, Tuxedo Kamen-sama," she giggles, with a playful emphasis on the word
"sama." "So, what are your terms?"

Ahhh. The moment I've been waiting for. "My terms? That you take it back."

Usagi is indignant. "I will NOT take it back. I come running to your rescue, cause you're having
terrible nightmares, and this is all the thanks I get?"

"In your peignoir?" I drawl. "I appreciated that gesture, totally. But do you think your father will?"
[I know. I'm mean, aren't I?]

She sighs, and rolls her eyes. "All right, all right. I take it back. I'll never make any more remarks
about you climbing lamp posts and roof tops. I take it all back. I could never have sneaked back
without you being able to do that."

"That's better," and I kiss her. She really does look better in those jeans than I do, I think, even if
they're way too long on her. I feel a moment of complete, utter happiness. Drawing back from
her slightly, I gently move one of those stray golden tendrils out of her eyes. "Usa, seriously..."

"Yes?" she asks softly, her eyes so wide and blue on me.

"Seriously, you know I'd anything for you. I'm not used to asking for help. I tend to think I can
do it all myself. When you came in my door last night, it was the last thing I was expecting . But I
was so happy, so happy you came just then. I've got to start sharing things with you more. I'm
just not used to it, I guess."

"And?" How does she always know when there's the "and"? But Usako knows, all right.

"And..." I draw in my breath, "I guess what I'm trying to say is....you mean so very much to me,
Usa. I want to be with you, always. And I worry about you whenever I'm not with you."

She smiles at me, that same smile of complete confidence she gave me, the first time I landed on
that window sill, and saw this golden girl in the sailor suit. "But Mamo-chan, you always know
when anything's wrong with me! And you always come flying to the rescue. So, you, of all
people, don't need to worry about me. Cause when I need you, you'll know." She kisses me one
more time, envelops me in one of her bear hugs, and then goes running for her front door.

I watch her from under the tree until she is just a golden blur. And for the first time, a sureness
settles into my soul, a sense that though she and I may, at times, be apart in time and space, still,
our souls are linked so deeply, that we will always be there...for each other.

@~~~~~~~