ANs: This was originally written as a oneshot. Inspiration taken from Billy Joel's song, of the same title.
Recently revised and separated into smaller chapters for easier readability. These will be uploaded as I edit them.
Disclaimers: I do not own Sailormoon or any of the characters mentioned. I do own the story.
This story is set in the first season, during the time when Mamoru was controlled by the Dark Kingdom. This is, of course, an alternate universe and aside from the fact that he's brainwashed by the Dark Kingdom, doesn't really follow the original plot of the series at all.
A Matter of Trust
To say Tsukino Usagi was depressed was like announcing the sun was hot. Not only was it stating the obvious, it was understating it. Her friends worried over her constantly, especially when they saw how little she ate anymore; a sure sign that things were not good. Artemis, Aino Minako's guardian cat, couldn't seem to figure out why Usagi should be so downhearted. He stated his opinions quite bluntly, too. She was a reborn princess! Her life should have been perfect! And she had responsibilities to tend to, for Serenity's sake! Moping around as though she was dying or something was a waste of time. She had a world to protect.
It was Hino Rei, surprisingly, who calmly—or perhaps not so calmly—informed the white feline that he could take his opinions and shove them where the sun didn't shine. "She never liked being Sailormoon, and now all of a sudden she's this Moon Princess we've been spending months looking for, and the future of the entire world rests on her shoulders," the irate miko snapped, ignoring Kino Makoto's pleading for her to calm down. "And to top it all off, the love of her life has been kidnapped and brainwashed by the enemy and is now on their side and is probably out to kill her. What's there to be depressed about?"
Artemis looked as sheepish as a cat possibly could. "Well … when you put it like that ..."
"We have to do something," Minako put in. "She can't continue on like this! Losing Mamoru-san to the enemy is killing her. I don't know her all that well yet, but even I can see she's not normal."
"But what can we do?" Mizuno Ami asked worriedly. "Something like this has never happened before, and the chances of us succeeding in getting Mamoru-san back are very slim, indeed."
"I don't think all hope is lost though," Rei replied with quiet optimism. "Even though Tuxedo Kamen-sama claims to be our enemy now, he hasn't actually gone out of his way to hurt her. He only commands her to give him the Ginzuishou, and he promises that he won't hurt her if she does."
"But, he doesn't keep the youma from attempting to hurt her," Makoto pointed out. "And he never tries to save her anymore when she needs help. Well," she amended slowly, upon remembering his actions at the skating rink, "not all the time, anyway."
"Yes, but the point is, he's never actually hurt her," Rei exclaimed in frustration, ramming slender fingers through dark hair. "And I think it's because deep inside of him, there's a part of him that still remembers what they were, and that he loves her."
"I agree." This quiet statement came from Minako. "We all saw what happened when the Princess was revealed, the bond that grew between them. They're soulmates, and no evil in the world can completely sever that bond. Even though Beryl controls his mind, she cannot hold his heart. I believe that in time he'll break free of the spell, and if not, Usagi will certainly help him to do so."
"But when?" Ami pressed. "What if he actually tries to hurt or kill her? What good will it do if he only remembers after she's dead?"
"That's why we're here to protect her," Minako replied, with slight disapproval at her teammate's pessimistic attitude. "With us around, no one is gonna touch her!"
The other Senshi heartily agreed with her on that subject.
He stood staring out the window of the room he'd been given, gazing blindly upon the dark, foreboding landscape stretching for miles before him. The quarters were immense, lavishly decorated with rich velvet of the deepest red and black. But they were so … dark. Like everything else in this dreary world, this Dark Kingdom.
Prince Endymion sighed as he let the heavy curtain fall closed again, blocking out what little light managed to filter into the room. There was a small corner of his mind that seemed to remember a spacious apartment with large windows to let the light stream in, decorated in shades of green and cream and rich mahogany. But when he reached for the memory, trying to draw it closer, a blackness rose up to meet it, pushing it away until there was only the present to be had; the dark, stifling present that seemed to choke out every bit of life existing in this strange land.
Endymion suddenly felt as though he was suffocating. The air was stifling and dank and hot, and he felt like he could choke. He needed … he needed … to get away. He needed to leave this place, to collect his thoughts. His head was beginning to pound with the ache that seemed to constantly linger just behind his eyes, and with a growl of frustration, he tore the armor from his body until he stood clothed only in black pants and a tunic, then summoned a gate to take him into the other world. Into Sailormoon's world.
This was not the first time he'd ventured on his own onto that forbidden planet when not sent after the Ginzuishou. No doubt Queen Beryl would be furious if she ever discovered his little excursions; she liked to keep her pets on a tight leash. Endymion smirked. He knew very well that even though he was her "favorite", she mistrusted him the same way she mistrusted all of her subjects. And she was right to do so, the dark prince thought smugly. His loyalty was not given lightly, after all, and he kept his own secrets, just like everyone else in this bizarre world. He did as he pleased. Was he not of royalty? Did that not entitle him to some freedom?
With a disparaging glance over his shoulder at the dim room, he stepped through the black, swirling vortex that appeared before him, and was gone.
Usagi walked slowly through the park, a warm, afternoon breeze flowing around her, teasing her long hair and playfully lifting the hem of her skirt. She barely noticed; her thoughts were turned elsewhere, to Chiba Mamoru, as always. It wasn't fair, she thought sadly. It just wasn't fair that, after everything she'd been through with him, after having gotten to know him well enough to fall in love with him, he should be taken away from her. She missed him with everything in her being. It felt as though her soul had been ripped apart, and maybe it had been. What made it worse was that he wasn't even dead. If he had been, maybe she could have gotten over it, moved on with her life, despite the pain his death would have brought her. But to have lost him to the Dark Kingdom—to know he was alive and yet now hated her, more than he'd ever had before—it was almost too much to bear.
Whenever there was a battle now, she faced it with a mixture of dread and excitement, because she knew he would be there. Although he was no longer on their side, to be able to see him and even to talk to him, if only to plead with him to return to her, was like a balm to her aching heart. But then he'd leave them again, vanishing as quickly as he'd come with the threat of retaliation the next time they met. So far, he had not yet carried out such a threat, and for that she was grateful … but she couldn't help fearing the time when he would make good on his promise, and what would she do then? How could she possibly defend herself against him? How could she lift a hand to harm him, even if only to protect herself, and how could she ever let anyone else harm him? If push came to shove, she feared she would sooner let him kill her than to let anyone else kill him.
With a shuddering sigh, Usagi paused in front of the lake and sank down on its grassy shore, tucking her knees to her chest and pressing her face against them. How could she go on living after all this? When had everything become so complicated? Her entire life had changed in the course of a single moment, and she felt as if the weight of the entire world rested on her shoulders. Which, she thought with grim humor, it actually sort of did. The irony of her situation was not lost on her. How often, as a little girl, had she dreamt of being a princess? How often had she wished for a prince to ride in on a gallant white steed and carry her away, like in Sleeping Beauty?
Well, she was a princess, all right, but she had yet to discover her fairy tale ending. The love affair with her prince had been ill-fated from the very beginning, and now just when things might have changed between them, he had been torn from her completely. The evil queen was winning. It was only a matter of time before the spindle stabbed the princess' heart, and there was no longer a knight in shining armor to sweep in and rescue her. There might be a Happily Ever After, all right … but it wasn't going to be hers.
Usagi once more rested her head on her knees, and let hot, bitter tears escape.
Endymion stood and gazed around the garden he had appeared in, breathing deeply of the scent of flowers and sunlight. It was so familiar to him … and yet so alien. The corrupted part of him rejected the sunlight and flowers as being frivolous and unnecessary, and yet some small, nearly forgotten part seemed to thrive on it. It was this part that rose up and pushed the shadows away, commanding the prince to enjoy the warmth on his cool skin and the light and color before eyes now used to nothing but shade and darkness.
People strolled past him, oblivious to his presence. To them, he was just another person enjoying the beauty of the day. He wondered with faint amusement how they'd react if they knew he served a deity intent on destroying their entire world. Humans were such fools sometimes. It made him wonder why he so often went out of his way to protect them from needless harm. It was just ... they were so helpless, and his sense of honor simply refused to allow those unable to defend themselves against the Dark Kingdom's power to be used in such a manner, especially Sailormoon.
His lips curved into a frown as he thought of his latest attempt to take the Ginzuishou from her, at the ice rink. Rather than doing what he was supposed to do, he'd ended up actually helping her win the battle. It was … instinctive, as though he'd had no choice. As soon as he had seen the danger she was in, he'd leaped to her defense. The look she'd given him was pathetically grateful, and mysteriously elated, and he couldn't begin to imagine why. He liked to think he'd done it just because he so enjoyed pissing Kunzite off. The general had it coming to him, what with all of his holier-than-thou airs, and against a prince, no less. But something deeper told him there was much more to it than that, although for the life of him he couldn't seem to figure out what it was.
Whatever the reason, Queen Beryl was less than pleased with his failure to do his job. To say the least. He was lucky he'd gotten away with nothing more than a good tongue-lashing. Kunzite, however, wasn't so lucky. Doubtless, he was still stinging from the thorough beating he'd gotten on the failure to do his job, and Endymion was certain the Dark Kingdom general definitely had it in for him now, if he hadn't before.
He was abruptly shaken out of his thoughts when he heard a soft, keening sob coming from somewhere off to his left, toward the lake. He paused, brow furrowing as he listened, and the sound reached him again, the cries of a soul in mortal pain. He stood there for a moment, torn in half. The darkness urged his feet to keep moving; the suffering of a mere human was beneath his notice, after all. But the rest of him was drawn to the sound, to the tortured soul behind the sobs, and despite himself, he found his feet taking him in the direction of the crying.
He reached the water's edge, and once there he beheld the sight of a small, hunched figure seated on the bank, two streamers of long, golden hair flowing down her back to pool on the ground beside her. He froze as uncertainty suddenly gripped him, wondering what in the world he was doing there, and started to turn away again to leave the girl alone when a sudden tinkling of music abruptly caught his attention. His breath caught and his eyes went wide with surprise as the hauntingly familiar melody drifted past his ears.
He wasn't the only one who was surprised. The sobbing girl abruptly raised her head, gasping a little as she shoved a hand into the pocket of her school uniform and withdrew a golden, star-shaped locket, which immediately clicked open to reveal a faint pulse of light, as pale as the moon. The music appeared to be coming from it, and the girl's head whipped around, her large, sapphire eyes frantically seeking … something. When they fell upon him, standing not six feet away, her already pale face instantly bleached to pure white. "M-Mamoru-san," she gasped, clutching the locket to her chest and hastily rising to her feet, wiping the tears from her eyes. "Y-you're here!" She sounded as if she couldn't quite believe it, but her glittering eyes were filled with a strange kind of hope.
Endymion felt frozen to the spot as he suddenly recognized the girl standing before him. At a lake, much like this one, in a mountain resort, she had been clutching that same locket, with the same, tinkling music hovering like a thick fog between them, almost mocking him with its elusive notes. He knew he'd heard that melody somewhere before, knew it held some great meaning in his life, but every time he thought he could grasp the memory, it slipped away again, almost mocking him for his efforts. Frankly, it was beginning to piss him off.
"I've seen you before," he told her, his voice a low growl as his hands tightened into fists at his sides. "You were at the resort, and you were holding that locket." He took a few steps toward her, and she hastily backed away, suddenly frightened. "Who are you?" he demanded harshly. "You seem very familiar to me, but I can't imagine why."
She blinked away her tears. "You really don't remember," she whispered. "D-do I mean so little to you as that?" She took a deep, shuddering breath, wiping away more tears with a shaking hand. "I'm Odango Atama. You gave me that name. You always torment me and call me names a-and now you … and now you don't remember me!" She turned away from him as her shoulders once more began to heave with the force of her sobs.
Endymion froze, his pupils dilating as some of her words suddenly struck home, bringing to the surface of his mind a memory, so faint and tattered it might not have even been real. But somehow, he knew it was. "Odango … Atama ..." he repeated in a nearly breathless whisper, dark eyes boring into her back with an intensity that made her shudder, even though she wasn't even looking at him. "Odango Atama," he repeated to himself. "Tsukino Usagi ..."
Her head whipped around and she stared right into his eyes, her own wide with shock and glittering with tears. "Y-you remember my name?" she breathed, unconsciously moving closer to him until she stood not one foot away, gazing up at him hopefully. "M-Mamoru-san?"
He blinked, and abruptly the memory faded into the back of his mind. "Mamoru? My name is Endymion. Prince Endymion," he informed her haughtily.
She blinked. "Oh," she stuttered. "I … uh … I-I'm sorry."
His eyes narrowed, and he opened his mouth to speak, but froze as someone's voice abruptly invaded his mind. It was Queen Beryl, demanding that he return … and she was not happy, judging by the volume of her mental shout. It was loud enough to make him physically wince. Without another word, he turned to stalk away, knowing he'd better get back right now if he wanted to live to see another day. This time, even he might not be lucky enough to escape a sound lashing.
"Wait!" Usagi suddenly cried, leaping forward in spite of herself to latch her hands around his wrist. To be so close to him, to be simply talking to him instead of duking it out over that stupid crystal, how could she just let him walk away? She had the awful, sinking feeling that if she let him go now, she'd never see him again. "Where are you going?" she demanded, hating the quiver in her voice but unable to help herself. The thought of him leaving her again was just too much to take. "Stay, please? I-I'll buy you a milkshake at the arcade."
Endymion hardly paid attention to the girl's words; he was too distracted by the soft little hands that, even though the fabric of his shirt, seemed to sear his icy skin with heat like the sun. A fiery shock raced up his arm and throughout his body to settle somewhere deep in his soul. He'd never experienced anything remotely like it, and he stared with stunned wonder down at Usagi's pleading expression. Lovely, a little corner of his mind whispered, making him blink at the realization. So beautiful … and so familiar … like something from a dream.
Slowly, carefully—hardly aware of what he was doing—he brought his hand up to touch her face, and she released a soft gasp at the contact, her eyes starting to brim again. He traced the soft lines of her face with gentle fingers, letting her tears trail over them as he brushed the shining drops away. His thumb grazed her eyelids, her cheeks, her lips, which parted slightly, and his heart was suddenly pounding.
As though reliving a memory, he slowly leaned in, his quickened breath dancing across her face to mingle with her sweet sigh. He suddenly wanted to taste those lips. Like a man dying of thirst seeks the smallest drop of water, so he sought the briefest touch of her soft mouth against his own ...
"Prince Endymion, you have been summoned to Beryl's court! Why have you not attended yet? The queen does not like to be kept waiting!" a harsh, demanding voice barked from behind him. The spell now broken, thoroughly shattered like a most fragile crystal, Endymion came abruptly to his senses and whirled with a snarl—half of grief for a moment lost, and half of helpless rage—to face the intruder. He was hardly surprised to see Kunzite standing there, smirking at him in all his arrogant glory.
From behind him, he heard Usagi give a little cry of dismay and half turned to her. She was staring at the general with horrified recognition dawning in her eyes, and he wondered vaguely where in the world she would have seen him before. Was she, perhaps, one of the humans who had been attacked by him in the past? The thought of her trembling, helpless and hopeless, before Kunzite's cruelty, suddenly filled the prince with a burning rage. "Run. Now," he commanded in a tone that left no room for argument. When she hesitated, obviously unwilling to let him face Kunzite alone, his eyes softened ever-so-slightly. "For your own safety, leave this place. Please," he added softly. "I don't want you to get hurt."
She seemed startled by those words, and her eyes met his once more, conveying emotions and feelings he could hardly put a name to. Unbeknownst to him, his own black-eyed gaze had begun to brighten ever-so-lightly. Abruptly, she turned and sprinted away, hair flowing behind her, and Endymion turned to face Kunzite coldly. The general was watching him with a mixture of surprise and loathing on his face. "Well, well, do my eyes deceive me?" he sneered. "Is it possible that the almighty Prince Endymion has fallen in love with a human?"
"Don't be absurd," Endymion sneered. "Whatever lies between you and I does not need to involve anyone else. This is our fight."
He sneered. "Is that so? Well, as much as I would love to take you on here and now, Beryl is expecting both of us in court, all on one piece. Even I'm not insane enough to break the cardinal rule of disobeying her orders! But I am watching you very closely, little prince, and if you make one false move, your head belongs to me. Traitors are not tolerated within the Dark Kingdom."
Endymion's eyes narrowed dangerously, and he gritted his teeth so hard that his jaw ached. But for some reason, he could bring himself to neither deny nor admit the open accusation.