Summary: In some lives, she didn't meet Endymion's reincarnation at all. In some lives, she didn't even live long enough to learn her own name, much less to remember her past lives.
A/N: Began this because I was too tired to write humor (aka, STC) and thought angst would be easier.
The story explores the idea of what would happen if Serenity and Endymion were reincarnated as soon as they died, over and over, instead of only once a thousand years later. Be prepared disturbing images and probably some confusion. Scenes are not in chronological order. Observe the numbering.
Please leave reviews. I really want to know what you think of this.
A tremendous thanks as always, to Jade, who sacrifices her emotional well-being to edit these angsty writings of mine. Che!
Disclaimer: I do not own Sailor Moon. I would be arrested for abuse. Nor do I own the quotation at the end of the story. It comes from "The Testing-Tree" by Stanley Kunitz.
A Murderous Time
A creature snuffled through the darkness on all fours. White and glowing faintly, she seemed like a ghost. But ghosts didn't feel cold, and this creature's colorless skin was pebbled with goose bumps from the subterranean caves' subarctic temperatures.
Her shuffling front limbs encountered something hard and cold and wet. A stalagmite, rising from the cavern floor.
Sightless, milked-over eyes widened as she licked at it eagerly, finding ice frozen to the bitter stone. Her stomach moaned with longing for something more. The creature ignored it, lapping more eagerly, barely noticing the pain when her tongue caught at the dry ice.
A deafening crack. The creature skittered backward, whimpering, belly pressed to the cold ground.
Something seized her neck. Choked off her whimpers. She could smell something colder, darker than the caves, and then heard, before the ground disappeared beneath her, a voice.
"Come along, Princess Serenity."
A vacuum opens in her when she sees his black hair.
The breath suddenly gone from her lungs as though the air has frozen into a huge block of ice that she can't suck any oxygen from. Heavy and cold and trickling ice-water into her veins.
She scrambled backward, crab-like, along the sidewalk, as his eyes follow her. Then her back hits something, and she grabs it with clumsy, scrabbling hands, pulling herself up.
Then she runs.
The memories never came back in order. They were less of a waterfall and more of a downpour. Crashing down from everywhere at once. Accumulating and flooding until Serenity – or whatever her current incarnation has been named – feels that she might drown in them.
But one of the first memories – the one that she always seemed to find and cling to like a passenger from a sinking ship hanging onto a piece of debris – was always of the first time she saw him.
Slipping away from the throne room, she must have been upset by some embarrassment that would undoubtedly seem trivial now. She went in her long frilly princess dress to the balcony of her tower chamber and lay on her stomach in all her ruffles to put her cheek to the cold stone and cry.
But a patch of night sky, just between two of the stone pillars of the balcony rail, seemed darker than the rest. And she had realized when, for the first time, she reached out for the faint pinpricks of stars gleaming in that night sky and was able to reach them, that this blackness wasn't night sky.
Two hands had gripped the stone edge of the balcony. Then his face was inches from hers as he heaved himself up, climbing over the railing with a conspiring smile on his face and a teasing "shhh" on his lips.
And if his black hair was the starry sky, then his eyes were the blue earth, and she was a prisoner of gravity from that moment on.
His whisper, as the blade shuddered over their heads. "Does this seem familiar to you?"
Her shaking voice, trying to joke instead of sob. "How could death seem familiar?"
Yet it was true. It felt familiar. Not because they were inhaling each other's breaths again, their eyes locked and heads close together, hearts beating fast, the way they had only last night. That first and last night.
She would not let herself think about that. She would not let the splintery, blood-wet wood beneath their cheeks and the shouting mob around them and grinning Monsieur Jadeite behind them stain that memory.
"What is the word?" he asks, voice low and hot and hurried against her wet eyes. The rope, above them, groans. "Déjà–"
The blade cuts him off.
In some lives, she didn't meet Endymion's reincarnation at all. In some lives, she didn't live long enough even to learn her own name, much less to remember her past lives.
These lifetimes left the vaguest memories. Scraps, so short and blurry that they could all be from the same life, or all from different ones.
Memories of gentle hands buckling a seat belt around her, of a kitten blinking dark eyes up at her, of watching a woman stir a fire, of horses neighing, of a mushroom cloud billowing in the sky, of giggling in a playground tunnel as she played hide-and-seek.
A memory of the ice-blue eyes that appeared at the tunnel's end.
"I found you."
A memory of screaming.
At school, they filed into the auditorium to watch the middle schoolers' dress rehearsal of their A Christmas Carol play. Her communicator was in her bag, held tightly to her bandaged stomach so that she would feel it immediately if it vibrated with a youma alert.
The youma have been coming at regular intervals, two each week. She knows this means that Zoicite is the one in charge this time. The generals seem to take turns being the cat to her mouse, and by now, she can always tell which of them is in charge. Jadeite reveled in spontaneity and blood, following her himself instead of sending youma to do it. Nephrite avoided direct contact and preferred to use people as chess pieces instead of youma. It had taken her two lives before she realized he could possess humans. Zoicite always acted with obvious youma at obvious intervals, like now, gradually increasing them and wearing her down until she finally made a fatal mistake.
Her hand fisted over her stomach. That fatal mistake had nearly come yesterday.
Without seeing them, she watched the prepubescent Scrooge bluster across the stage to a figure in white makeup and paper chains. Only when the last ghost, of Christmas Yet to Come, hooded and silent, came onto the stage, did her eyes focus.
Silent. Deadly. Malachite was the only general whose methods were unfamiliar to her.
She was always dead before she even realized he was there.
At the play's end, to sounds of whistling and applause, the young actors gathered on the stage to bow. She watched the three ghosts, who clustered together at one side, and thought about the her own ghosts of Past, Present, and Yet to Come.
But the generals did not come to show her what could change. They only came to show her, over and over again, the chains of fate that she would never escape.
The communicator buzzed against her ribs.
It was a marriage of convenience made by their parents when they were but a few years old. His family had land but no social standing; hers had a young daughter and a new stepmother eager to get her out of the house to save dowries for her own children.
They grew up husband and wife but brother and sister, splashing through the rice paddies and crying snotty tears as Ma-Ma pulled the leeches from their legs afterward.
If she had remembered, then, she could have appreciated the miracle that brought them together so quickly. But there was no time for her to remember. There was only a handful of years spent running in the sun, making up stories to tell each other during monsoon seasons, feeling the secret spurt of proud joy as he went out to join his father in the paddy wearing the kimono that her own fingers had sewn, and the memory of one kiss, chapped lips, tanged with tea, sneaked in the hot sun, before her memory of that life suddenly ends, like a filmstrip cut off by a slash of scissors.
Beryl must have sent Malachite.
It was inevitable that someday, Beryl would tire of sending the generals to kill her. A thousand years is a long time. Long enough to get bored. Long enough to become creative.
It was during one of those periods of boredom that she had her longest life. She can't remember how it began, or even remember having any cognizance of it. Remembering that life is like watching a film. She remembers blackness, blackness, blackness. All she can think is that one of the generals must have found her young and teleported her to the deepest guts of Beryl's subarctic caves. Then left her there for years. Maybe centuries. There is no way of telling because the person she was in those caves was not a person. More of an animal. Wandering the caves on all fours, no sentience except what allowed her to realize she needed to drink and eat.
When Nephrite came for her years or centuries later, her eyes were milked over. She licked water from puddles in the rock floor and caught bats, biting into their flesh raw.
He put chains around her neck and took her back to Beryl. She can remember being led around like a dog, urged on with offers of little treats of food and kicked until she cowered against the floor, hiding her face in ratty hair.
But much more, she remembers padding timidly after the queen into a tremendous, echoing cold room and seeing two thrones and, through her hazed vision, a pale-black-haired man slumped in one of them, his shirt torn open and neck and chest scrawled with scratches.
She did not recognize him. Did not even register him, really. In her barely sentient mind, there was no thought except of fear and confusion about the cold shape pressing around her throat. She pawed at it, unaware of the living trophy Beryl had brought there to make Serenity's agony complete.
Beryl must have been furious. Serenity didn't know what she had done, but suddenly, she had remembered, had realized what and who she was, and who the man a few meters away from her was.
The realization had driven into her like a nail through flesh. She curled around it, memories gushing from the sudden awareness like blood. And she crouched flat to the ground, whining into the rock. Because it was as impossible to escape the animal that Beryl had turned her into as it was to escape the memories she had just torn open inside her.
She was shamed, so shamed, to have him see her like this, leashed and feral. How could he love her after this?
It had been a small mercy that her clouded eyes couldn't see the look on his face as he turned away from her. Beryl had laughed merrily and swept from the room. Serenity cringed to the floor as she left, listening with quivering ears to her footsteps, fading in the echoing distance.
Then Endymion's reincarnation had lurched up from the throne.
She turned her head, still hunched between her shoulders. Watched through the unclouded edges of her eyes as he threw himself down beside a stalagmite and began to saw his wrists against the dully jagged stone.
She must have made a sound, for her began to talk in a low, hoarse stream, begging her not to make a sound, not to alert them to what he was doing, as though she was a guard dog, as though she was really Beryl's, he didn't remember, he didn't remember at all –
So she stayed silent, crouched there in her curtain of ratty hair and metal collar, too ashamed to go forth and nuzzle him like a puppy, to tell him it would be alright like a human. Too ashamed, and too angry, to tell him one kind thing as he died. Slowly.
Trickling minutes later, Beryl came back in. She saw the dead prince with his blood trickling toward Serenity, and she swiped a hand across Serenity's chained throat, and then their blood, at least, was together.
…and if his black hair was the starry sky, then his eyes were the blue earth, and she was a prisoner from that moment on.
She was a prisoner who would have done anything to be free.
Would have cut off her hands if it could pull her arms out of these chains, would have broken all her ribs if it meant being able to slither out of this hold, drag herself out of Fate's fist gripping her, because that thread of destiny that Venus always talked about was red for a reason.
The worst lives go like this:
She finds him. They remember everything. They each pretend they do not remember and avoid the other. Because they both thinking that they don't know if being together is worth the pain anymore, and they are both too ashamed to say it. So they dance around it, and then Beryl's generals find them, and they die.
The worst life went like this:
They met, they never remembered, they married, and they had a baby. Her beautiful little two year-old, whose name she can't remember anymore, washed away by the monsoon of memories. All she can remember are her big dark blue eyes, and the feel of her fat little hands around her fingers, sticky with the chocolate bar Serenity had just bought her in the store. And a man in the parking lot, hair long and light, eyes dark, killing her in broad daylight. She remembers being suddenly on the burning asphalt, only one of her eyes working, something wet filling her mouth.
On purpose, on purpose he'd killed her like that, killed her not quite dead, so that she could see her baby standing there, staring at her with horror and bits of Mommy's insides on her face. So that she could watch the way her baby's eyes went bigger and then blank, and feel her weight fall on her, and then just the man standing there, where her baby had been, flexing his blood-covered hand like he was testing the fit of a new glove.
Hard to love him after all this. She pants. The skin around her lips cracked and burning. No. Impossible. To love him. After this.
Nothing left for her mind to associate with him except the memories of a billion anguishes. Like an electroshock patient. Strapped to a chair with the voltage cranked all the way up.
The sizzling flares of agony burn away memories like chapped lips and shared pillows and starry hair until only the black remains. Just the white skeleton outlined in black with all the muscle and skin that held the bones together seared away.
"Vous," he said.
She blinked at him. There was warm liquid dribbling out of her numb lips and more surging against his fingers where he was trying to hold shut the slit that Nephrite's youma slashed across her throat.
She pushed out one word, and more blood. "What?"
"Vous," he said again. His eyes were the things that are warm and wet now, and his nose. They both dripped onto her. She would have told him to stop dripping snot on her if she hadn't been leaking blood onto him for the past minute–eternity–without him complaining. Unless calling her an idiot and threatening to kill her if she died was complaining. "You wanted me to tell you how to say you in French."
Ah. She remembered now. That was another life.
So he remembered now, too.
She wished he didn't. She hurt enough, already, without thinking of the pain he must feel at remembering all the ways they have lost each other.
But she could not stay silent. She could remember another life when she stayed silent, as they died. So she swallowed, trying to get rid of the blood in her mouth so she could talk. More blood heaved out between his trembling fingers.
She tried to smile as though she could not feel it. "J'aime vous."
His laugh was like a snapped twig. Dangling. Limp. "That's not it," he said around laughs that are tears. "You messed up the order. It's je vous aime. Je vous aime."
She smiled again. "You'd better."
And then, not with that last breath, or with that last word, or even within the next hour, she died. It was not painless and quick. It was slow, and suffocating, and excruciating, and slow.
Her last thought was that next time, she would make sure it is quick.
Quick is not painless.
Quick is cowardly.
Quick is seeing Zoicite in her rear-view mirror and accelerating her car into a building before the general can catch her to take his time peeling her body apart tissue layer by tissue layer.
Quick is knowing as the concrete rushes forward to meet her windshield that her husband is still waiting at the restaurant thinking she's just being her usual late self.
Quick is knowing exactly the dead-corpse shade of white that his face will turn when he finds out why she hasn't shown up.
Quick is the longest two seconds of her lives.
"Well, well, well, if it isn't the Odango inhaling her daily milkshake."
"Well, well, well, if it isn't the jerkwad here to show off how ugly his jacket is again."
He rolled his eyes, she grinned, and they slid into a booth, sitting across from each other. Her Mary-Janed feet perched atop his school loafers, tapping energetically up and down as she told him how depressing her psychology class was becoming, they're discussing operant conditioning, and those poor mice! He grimaced in empathy, smiled at her indignation, and then frowned at the loss of her feet atop his as, in her enthusiasm, she rocked up onto her knees, leaning forward on the table to gesture.
But leaning forward made some of her hair spill onto the table, and he picked up a curl of it, twirling it around his pen as he listened. Her voice faltered as she saw the soft, distracted smile on his face, and a blush tinted her face. He leaned forward, and she flushed darker, the heat radiating to his skin.
They stayed like that, breaths apart, until the waitress came to take their order.
"Please!" he shouted. "I just want to see you!"
Behind the dumpster where she had taken shelter, she trembled. Eyes wide and sightless with terror, the way her baby's had been that day in the parking lot. Ice cubes in her lungs. Her fingers gripping a knife. She will use it if he comes closer. She will –
"Serenity!" His hand grabbed her.
She exploded at him in a burst of lathe-thin limbs, clawing and scratching. He stumbled backwards, and like a flash of lightning, she was gone, shooting out of the alley. Trembling from the warmth of his breath and the realization that she would have killed him.
Her lives had cured her of many naiveties, but one had remained constant throughout them. She believed that if she could just kill Beryl, this would all stop. And they could be together.
It was for this reason that when he disappeared and the High Senshi came to tell her where Beryl had taken him and to offer their help, she accepted. They went together to the south pole, she with the glowing silver sword they had given there, and they with armor and assurances, and he was there, sleeping like his namesake.
Beryl was there, too, clearly expecting her, hissing softly like a cobra, swaying above him, about to stroke.
But if Beryl was vicious, Serenity was livid, and tired, and sick of this. She jammed the sword down, determined that this be the end, and it was, Beryl's life bubbling out and dripping down Serenity's white arms to pool in the creases of her elbows.
Disbelief and amazement and elation filled her until she almost vomited with it. She swallowed it down, gagging and grinning together, and turned to go to Endymion, and if he was still sleeping, to wake him with a kiss –
He was glowing. Glowing in the silvery wash of light from the sword protruding from his chest.
The High Senshi were gone.
And Serenity was alone.
At that moment, she knew two things.
Beryl was dead.
And this would never stop.
She took the sword from Endymion's chest and thrust it into her own breast.
" – vu." His lips mouthed the end of the word.
Then his head rolled from the wooden platform to the cobbled street.
Her, leaning into his shoulder as another winter wind gusts through them. "Do you
think we're soul mates?"
Him, tilting his head to look down at her with a grin. "Odango, don't tell me you believe in that sort of thing."
"Jerk." A grumble, leaning away from his warm shoulder, arms crossing over her chest. "A simple yes or no would've been fine."
An arm, looping around her shoulders, pulling her back against him. "If I did believe in it, you'd be the proof."
A cock of his head. "You."
"Not just me." A snuggle against his chest. "Us."
In a future life, she will see him. He will see her.
Then they will avert their eyes and pretend not to have seen.
And, finally, they will live.
In a murderous time,
The heart breaks and breaks
And lives by breaking.