Title: "The Flower Vow"
Fandom: Sailor Moon
Genre: AU
Rating: K+

Chiba Mamoru could make flowers.

Roses were his speciality, but any bloom known to man had the potential to sprout from his fingertips with a simple flick of the wrist. All he ever required was the intent to create and a little magic- magic, he claimed teasingly, that was born of the tinkling laughter of his beloved. Every gentle smile, every brush of her lips against his, fueled the passion buried deep within Mamoru. He loved the way her golden hair seemed to shine like a personal halo under sunlight. He treasured the graceful dance of her feminine stride; the vibrant cerulean of her tender eyes that paid homage to the world she so altruistically protected. Tsukino Usagi was his power, but first and foremost, she was his soulmate.

The day Usagi proclaimed she was carrying his seed was the happiest of Mamoru's life. Tears streaming down his cheeks, the ebony-haired man tugged Usagi into his arms and promised a flower for every day she grew with the offshoot of their love. Usagi had teased him with the pink of her tongue, chuckling that he was only exaggerating. Midnight eyes twinkling, Mamoru merely pecked her cheek and summoned a sunflower. Pushing it into the blonde's hands and tapping her playfully crinkled nose, he crooned,

"Pure thoughts, Usako. Pure thoughts. Don't you believe your husband?"

"I believe my husband's going to turn into a pansy himself if he isn't careful," Usagi quipped wanly in reply, smirking mischievously as she floated away. Mamoru's laughter followed her into the kitchen.

oOo

Weeks upon weeks passed, and every morning Usagi woke up beaming to find a new breed resting on her burgeoning stomach. There were asters for the nights Usagi had spent whispering fears of inadequacy into Mamoru's ear, and bouvardias for the colorful dawns ignored in favor of anticipated dreaming. He gave her a gladiolus when she sniffled into the toilet bowl from morning sickness, and chrysanthemums when work kept him overtime. The first time Usagi felt their fetus kick, Mamoru had cried and pressed a violet lisianthus to his wife's bulging abdomen.

"So fiesty. So lively. Just like Mama."

Freesias, snapdragons, heathers, and orchids, Mamoru bedizened the woman until she swore their bedroom was going to become an indoor garden. But one evening, rocking in the silence of the partly renovated nursery, Usagi had frowned with the ghost of irritation and inquirance painted across her countenance.

"Why do you never give me roses anymore, Mamo-chan?" she pouted, carding her fingers through Mamoru's shaggy black locks as he leaned against her distended belly. The man did not say anything for a moment, simply listening to the sound of their baby- fast approaching its due date- stretch in Usagi's womb.

"I'm waiting," Mamoru said at last, rubbing Usagi's palm as he felt her tense in curiosity.

"For what?"

"Roses are the most passionate and romantic of all the flowers, Usako. They are the most common representation of love, and I wish to reserve such a sentimental gift for the culmination of these nine long months."

"You're going to save our special flower for the baby's birth," Usagi clarified happily, blue eyes glistening as she squeezed the hand caressing hers. "Oh Mamo-chan, that's so perfect! I can't think of a better moment. I'm so excited to share that symbol of love with the newest member of our family."

oOo

Summer arrived in a sudden and welcome burst of energy, lush green scenery seeming to erupt out of nowhere. It was on a particularly hot June afternoon that Mamoru received a frantic call from Usagi while at work, urging him to the hospital. In a mild panic, the man on the verge of fatherhood asked about her condition and location. The expectant blonde, no doubt barely restraining an annoyed eye roll, reassured Mamoru that she was fine; her friend Naru had been visiting when her water broke and graciously offered to drive. It was with only slight relief that Mamoru hung up, worry gnawing holes into his stomach as the ex-superhero ended his shift early and lunged for the car. Rose vow entirely forgotten, he sped off to meet his wife and child-to-be with the road rage of a madman, cursing all manner of wayward pedestrians and belligerent red lights during the hour-long trip.

He knew something wasn't right.

Mamoru was achingly acute of the off feeling in his gut, so familiar even after years of peace, and that premonition of danger served to galvanize him further. He *needed*, with a compulsion only rivalled by the intake of oxygen, to get to Usagi. He wondered if something had gone wrong with the baby, placing one or both of their lives in the balance.

'Usako!'

The red Ferrari screeched into the hospital's parking lot. Mamoru had barely set the clutch before he was out the door and racing up to the looming white building, heart beating a painful staccato. He skidded across the entrance and over to the desk, panting to a frightened secretary,

"Please... Tsukino Usagi, my wife... in labor... is she here yet? What room?"

The petite brunette with an attractive bun smiled at him sympathetically, no doubt used to frantic fathers demanding their pregnant wives' whereabouts. She scanned a list of names projected on her computer screen, clicking here and there. Suddenly the secretary paused, frowning, her hand poised upon the mouse. "*Tsukino* Usagi, you said?"

"Yes," Mamoru bit out impatiently, knuckles pale and tight on the desk as he prepared to bolt for the delivery room... or surgery ward; he couldn't be too sure that Usagi wasn't currently having an emergency C-section, what with the foreboding terror curling in his stomach-

"Sir... Tsukino Usagi was checked in for massive hemorrhaging and extensive head injuries," the woman informed Mamoru timidly, sorrow tainting her expressive green eyes. "She and a friend were the victims of a severe three car pile-up. There were no survivors; Tsukino Usagi and Osako Naru... passed on... nearly half an hour ago."

Mamoru felt like someone had punched the wind out of him, and suddenly he knew what the pain in his chest was-

Severance.

The bond that connected him to Usagi, always so strong and virile, had been extinguished like a fragile flame after a violent gale. All that was left in the wake of tragedy were wisps of what once was; a smoke licking at his insides from the unexpected loss. Knees flagging, the man sunk wearily into a chair as the world pitched and swayed around him; an endless torrent of noise, confusion, and agony. This had to be a nightmare, a horrible nightmare...

"The- the baby?" he croaked, every limb trembling in shock. 'No, no, no, no no...'

"I'm so, so sorry. The infant died on impact. S-she... she couldn't survive the air bag's weight with no amniotic sac protecting her anymore. Maybe if your wife hadn't begun labor-"

But Mamoru was not listening anymore. 'She,' he thought, heart crumbling a second time. 'She. A daughter. A little Usagi I will never have the chance to raise. Oh God, they're *gone*.'

A howling scream of torment and grief rent Mamoru's throat apart. The last thing he registered was the piercing clap of footfalls and light rustling of starched suits before blessed darkness ensnared his hot, tortured vision.

oOo

Days fled in an unintelligible blur. Mamoru knew he received condolences and meatloaves abound, but every card and every homemade dish disappeared somewhere between the door and the counter. His only true comfort lay in two things:

Sleep, and the mutual commiseration shared between him and Usagi's equally distraught Senshi comrades. He realized he owed them eternal gratitude for taking it upon themselves to organize the funeral when Mamoru himself could not, but the man hadn't even the will to feed himself, let alone travel to any of their homes. Life had become a distant and hazy memory of what used to be and what could have been; every moment Mamoru spent awake found him wallowing over photographs showcasing a carefree couple, fingers twined and glowing smiles the staple of a time Mamoru could no longer remember. He missed the wake and he missed the funeral; he missed a lot of things, actually, but one chilly fall morning- entirely out of the blue- Mamoru's funk broke.

His heart had decided, and with that revelation came a rush of cogency and pure, utter peace. Usagi had been his reason for being and without her, there was simply nothing- only a gaping wound where she once resided. There was only one way Mamoru foresaw reuniting with his fallen princess, and it was not through whiling away the remnants of his future on earth.

Staggering, unshaven, and half-deranged, Mamoru wandered the streets of Tokyo. He knew his malnourished body evoked quite the wide berth from frightened citizens, but their stigmatization was so trivial it echoed risible in Mamoru's mind. He had one objective and one only- to fulfill his final promise to Usagi before the beginning of forever.

The cemetery was lonelier than Mamoru last recalled it, with more graves crooked and decrepit than ever. Sadly, the ebony-haired man realized the reasons were not unlike his own; the painful certitude that came from seeing a beloved's name scribed harshly into marble for all eternity. It did not take him long before Mamoru stumbled upon their graves, set together as closely as they had been in life. Mamoru collapsed against the fresh earth, throat burning as he performed the motions that had, over the past year, become second nature to him. He could just imagine the sparkling in Usagi's azure eyes as a stem formed slowly, winding up the tips of Mamoru's shaking fingers. Deep crimson blossomed at the head as a cavalcade of tears poured down Mamoru's face.

"A rose," he choked, "for the constant love and spontaneousness you brought this bland, undeserving orphan, Usako."

Mamoru laid the flawless creation at the foot of his wife's marker, already adorned in an abundance of flowers from friends and admirers. He recognized them all- alstroemerias for friendship, carnations for pride; amaryllises and stocks in memory of the blonde's angelic beauty; delphiniums symbolizing heavenly traits and statices for remembrance. His daughter's was much the same, with sweet peas, tulips, ranunculuses, and lilacs expressing how cherished her innocence and radiance were. Mamoru conjured another rose, this time a bud, and reverently placed it next to the emblazoned "Tsukino (Chibi-Usa) Usagi".

"Rose buds are for purity and love. Papa so wants to meet you and hold you in his arms, little princess," Mamoru crooned, rocking back onto the balls of his feet. "It's unfair, really, how Mama hoarded you all to herself. But she was always like that, I suppose."

An unbidden laugh ravaged Mamoru's sore vocal cords and he swiped at the obstinate moisture lingering on his cheeks. With a last kiss to the graves of the two most important people in his life, the raven-haired widower steeled his resolve and departed the cemetery, leaving behind the last two vestiges of his innate gift.

Chiba Mamoru never made flowers again.

~Fin~