The Prologue: Homecoming
"A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing."
- from Endymion by John Keats
Endymion had always been a light sleeper, accustomed to waking up every morning from the languid rousing movement of his wife, rather than on his own accord. Sometimes, it would be the light breathing of Serenity that would draw him from sleep or the rustle of her hair as she instinctively drew herself closer to him. Other times, he was woken up by the feeling of her lips on his skin and the beautiful sound of her calling him from his sleep. Her soft voice would call him from his dreams, the sweetest whisper of a sunrise peaking through the curtains of their window. But more often than not, he was awoken by the tiny footsteps of his early-rising daughter as she padded into their room, rubbing the sleep from her eyes as she crawled into the gap on the bed between her parents, right where she belonged.
And for almost a millennium he had enjoyed these quiet moments of peace. Of Serenity. Those moments between sleep and consciousness, of seeing his queen's eyes flutter open from sleep, or watching his daughter snuggle under the covers next to her mother for her warmth and affection. Those were the moments he regarded with a tender reminiscence, those brief moments before he had to attend to the tedious, daunting, and often insipid tasks that lay before him; the tasks that were required of him as King of Earth.
And so it was to his great puzzlement that he found himself awoken not by these things, in the gentle, safe environment his family had created, but to the sinking absence of movement. Not comprehending the still quiet of the cold atmosphere surrounding him, he roused from a dream he could not remember but which left a bad taste in his mouth. And, as his thoughts collected together, he sensed with keen awareness that something was very, very wrong. More than a few things, in fact.
"Serenity?" his voice choked out her name with wavering uncertainty. And the name echoed back coldly. He wondered if he was dead, because he was not with her.
He could not feel Serenity's presence beside him, and that fixed truth stood out more than anything else. He could hardly feel her at all, he realized, and a gripping dread set itself into him. From her side of their soul he could feel no emotions, nor could he trace her location. Once again, he wondered dejectedly if he had died. He could always strongly feel her presence, even if she were far away. They were connected, like an iron rope knotted their hearts together. When she entered a room, he knew, and when she was not at his side, he could still feel her energy drawing him to her like a magnet. Like she had a spell over him. Like they were two halves of a whole. Like his very soul was entwined with hers. And he could forever feel the tugging of her heart in his, feel her pulse in his own veins, and the vast absence of this sensation struck him hard. The weakness of this bond, the large distance he could feel was between him and her, sparked a fear he hadn't known in many, many years.
He jolted up, his eyes shooting open. Midnight blue orbs took in not pale sunlight flitting through white curtains or the gossamer cloth draped around his bed, but with the image of a plain room that housed no gentle memories. He inhaled the image of the quiet room he was in, his eyes not focusing clearly from the effects of the distressing tempest raging inside him. But there was a quality of familiarity in the room, he processed hazily.
The room was white. The furniture was unadorned. A frame or two sat upon the desk and a small vase of roses lightly perfumed the space. The room was horrifyingly clean, the exact way he liked his things. No satin fabrics, lace, worn stuffed animals, or crumbled dresses were carelessly tossed on the floor as remnants of an endless battle between spotlessness and untidiness. Small perfume bottles on a feminine vanity, photos of friends and family, and pink diamond crowns were missing. Her physical touch on the room was missing. She was missing. Everything that was hers was missing. Except him.
She was nowhere to be found. He was in a hauntingly familiar place he could not quite place and she was missing.
And with stunned horror, he realized he felt something inside him shift. His soul, so tightly bound to his absent wife's, hummed and searched for any lingering trace of her. And suddenly, he found himself tugged in a different direction, like his internal compass was adjusting itself to locate a new north. This new attraction suddenly pulled at him with great force and great urgency as the tight bond he knew seemed to stretch too tight, too thin. His Serenity was not at all in his eyesight, was too unimaginably far away, and he could sense the dark void filling in the distance. His heart seemed to pull now to this new direction and he barely heard the voice in his head telling him softly,all is not lost. And, despite all his panic, his mind told him with feigned certainty that Serenity was fine, just fine, and that he was only dreadfully, awfully far away. Because, he reasoned, this new presence he felt was very familiar. Very. Like an old memory he had nearly forgotten, coming back to the surface.
He was disoriented, baffled, stuttering before his brain fully processed what his heart had already told him – he was not in his own bed.
He was not in Crystal Tokyo.
He was not even, astoundingly, in his own time period.
But if he was not in his bed, or Crystal Tokyo, or, even, the thirtieth century –then where was he? He distinctly remembered falling asleep wrapped up in his queen's blonde curls, his fingers weaving through her tresses. So how had he ended up where he was? In a bed he had long since traded in, in an apartment he had abandoned for a castle.
He had only felt this startled, this disillusioned, once before in his life.
And then he knew. He knew exactly where he was.
He was, undoubtedly, in the apartment of Darien Shields. In twentieth century Tokyo, of course. He knew this for a fact. He was not marred by disbelief simply because he had been in this situation before. Because long ago, he had went to bed a forgotten prince and woken up to be greeted by a long-reigning queen. Long ago, he had went to bed as Darien Shields and woken up in the bed of his future self, next to his vibrant goddess. He had been astounded by the brilliantly pristine world he found himself in, was captivated by his Serena's future self. He had panicked, because it went against all reason for him to have somehow magically transported to the future without him realizing it. Like he had dreamed away a thousand years in one night.
Pluto, in all her wisdom, had never been able to explain the oddity in the timeline which had temporarily switched the lives of one soul. And she had been in a rage when she had learned of it, in a slip of tongue months after the fact, and had only one theory as to the origins of the mistake. Perhaps there had been a rift in time. A whim of destiny. An peculiar tangent. A quirk in the stream of the timeline.
The King remembered the incident with as much hilarity as his frenzied state would allow. He – Darien, that is – had woken up to the feeling of someone beside him, a radiant warmth that seemed to spread over him as he had sleepily opened his eyes to a beautiful goddess smiling beside him. He had been startled by the image. Too startled at seeing his little bunny lying beside him, her golden tresses of hair free of their unique hairstyle and fanned out all around him and her. Although he had clearly noted the maturity of her and noticed the striking differences between this woman and his girlfriend, he couldn't help but feel the same soothed countenance Serena always filled him with. And she had taken his breath away. It had taken him a long time to comprehend what had happened, and Neo-Queen Serenity had been alight with explanations and cheerful amusement once he had realized exactly what was going on.
And so his younger self had spent one day in the shoes of the man he would become, been subject for the first time to this new form of his Serena and the breathtaking world she had created. His past self had been bewitched by the image of Neo-Queen Serenity, and she had calmed his terror and replaced it with a fascinated bewilderment. The day he had spent with her had been the most mystifying, overwhelming twenty-four hours of his life. They would awaken him up to the truth of the future that destiny had in store for him and in his heart had begun the process of what would change him from Darien Shields to King Endymion. And when he had found himself back in his own time, back in his little apartment in the twentieth century, he was a changed man. He had grown and he had taken his first steps down the path that would lead him to that dazzling future he had seen firsthand, the future that he and his Serena would shape together.
He had always appreciated his experience in the thirtieth century. However, he had never actually taken much thought as to what had happened to King Endymion while Darien explored Crystal Tokyo. Serenity had been no help the times he had begun to ponder this little detail and had insisted on not telling him what little Serena Tsukino had witnessed of her future husband back all those centuries before. Why had he never considered, never given a thought, that he would undoubtedly and unquestionably spend a day in the past? Why had he never wondered when it would be that by some quirk, he would end up in the Tokyo he had experienced as a young man? Why had he never given even a minute of thought in the eight-hundred or so years of his current existence about what King Endymion had done for those twenty-four hours? It baffled him how could have been so naïve.
While Endymion now stared at the empty room he had spent countless hours in for several crucial years of his life, the logical side of him wondered what in the world he was to do. His heart, which so often seemed to leak its voice into his thoughts, was beating fast. He revolved solely around Serenity, his every action for her, caused by her, the effect of her. Without her there to guide his orbit, he felt at loss of what to do or feel or think or say. The uncommon solitary state of being without her made him edgy. He was no good without her, his happiness relied too heavily on her existence. He longed for her presence, already. Had it even been a whole minute since he had gained consciousness?
His mind worked hard to comprehend and dissect the situation, so that he could deal with it. He came to a decided acceptance of this new circumstance, though he was wary of what the day would bring. He didn't know what to expect, his head could not handle all his questions so soon. And so he pushed thoughts away, dealing with the past one second at a time.
King Endymion's hand went to his head, running it through his ink black hair as he slowly crept out of bed. He took in each aspect of the room with curiosity, inspecting the obsolete items he had once seen every day. The items that did not mean much. He noted that the vase of roses on his dresser were just beginning to wilt and that the clock on 'his' nightstand read 9:02 AM. Finally, a small framed photo fell under his blue-eyed scrutiny. His gaze softened. In the picture was an odd version of his family, a black-haired man with his arm around the young blonde dawning a petite strawberry-haired child on her shoulders. They all wore their own unbound grins, faces lit up in frozen joy. He chuckled softly and carefully picked up the crème colored frame, inspecting the picture more closely before gently setting it back down on the nightstand. He found that he remembered the day it had been taken. Mina had snapped the photo of them candidly, capturing the trio's natural pose on film before they even had time to realize she had pulled out her camera. He wondered which of the hundreds of albums which protected he and his wife's memories the picture now resided in.
His head swarmed with memories brought up by the objects, leaving a lingering nostalgia as he crossed the room to look out the window. And there was Tokyo, right through his window. Thoroughly urban, colorful, and different from his crystallized kingdom. A pang of homesickness collided with a pinch of melancholy – though he couldn't tell if it was for his home in Crystal Tokyo or just from the feeling of not belonging in the city that he had once helped protect. Tokyo was not Crystal Tokyo, and this made him feel like he was looking through the window as an outsider, someone who no longer fit into this world. He didn't belong at all. His mind wandered over all the events that had brought him from his confined world in the apartment to ruling an entire peaceful planet. He had come far since his days as a college student in Tokyo. He couldn't help pitying his past counterpart, who had yet to learn what life was like beyond the walls of the apartment and beyond the confines of the walls he had placed around his heart, which Serenity had gradually dissolved.
King Endymion took the time to take care of several details as a 'favor' to Darien. His first venture was to find the application papers in Darien's desk and burn them into nonexistence, so he wouldn't dare attempt to leave their little bunny for America again. From his memory, he remembered that the battle against Galaxia had only just ended for Serena and Darien a few days before. Things needed to be mended, still, for Darien and Serena; they had only just been reunited after a year of absence, after all. And Darien, obviously, needed to get his priorities straight and forget the silly notion.
His second action was to make coffee and scavenge for something unhealthy to eat because – Serena of all people – no longer let him eat anything which might somehow damage his immortal body. And so once he was satisfied with his victory over the Harvard application's ashes and cheap, bitter coffee – he had a decent amount of time to waste pretending to be Darien before he figured Serena would stumble into the picture.
And so he took a shower with soaps that didn't stink of flowers and which only had a clean scent, dressed in clothes pristinely ironed and long out of fashion, and decided he didn't like being a bachelor. He grudgingly admitted to himself that he didn't mind the flowery fragrant soap he complained to Serenity about and his wife's usually messy domestic habits. Thinking about her made him want to pick up the phone and call Serena, but he didn't remember her number and he knew she would surely still be asleep. He knew, of course, that he could simply go find her – but something told him to stay put and wait for her to come to him. So he sighed, restlessly, and impatiently waited for Serena to show up at Darien's door.
He had found it strange when he looked in the mirror and saw that he was actually in Darien's body. Just as Darien had been in King Endymion's. It was as if they had swapped minds, their physical bodies still clinging to their surroundings when their consciences got all jumbled. He noted that the face staring back at him in the mirror was basically the same as the one he always saw, though a few years younger, but his hair was distinctly black. Endymion frowned into the mirror, the young him frowning back. He missed this plain, constant shade of ebony; although his hair was still clearly black. But the king's hair had a violet sheen no one could explain, which's only purpose seemed to be to compliment his outfit. It was just one of the things he had long accepted, just like how Serenity's hair slowly turned lighter and how Rini's hair was unexplainably pink.
Growing weary of simply looking at his renewed face, he glared darkly at it, considering who Darien was when he had looked like this. This was the face of a man in denial, who had thought he could leave the love of his life for a silly college to study, when he could easily study in Tokyo. Never again. Giving one last look into the mirror, he told the face of Darien Shields unsympathetically before sweeping from the bathroom, "You are quite an idiot, you know."
Darien. Endymion didn't like thinking about him. He had taken too much for granted, had distanced himself from one half of his soul for far too long. Darien had been blind and stubborn and afraid. He had protected Serena from the monsters that plagued her while needlessly keeping her at an arm's length. He had been terrified of her. Terrified of losing her, of how much he loved her, of losing the future he worked so hard to protect. He had put on a mask to fight and to love, shielding Serena from himself. He had held back so much, said too little, and had never completely let his princess in – though his very being begged for him to. He had loved her as much as he always had and always would, but he had severely wasted his first few years with Serena. He had only loved her quietly and nobly. And like a coward. It had taken a glimpse at the future for the revelation that would undo the damage caused by years of solitude, pain, forgetfulness, and a childhood spent in an orphanage.
He knew she was coming before she got there, but he forced himself not to leap from his seat on 'his' couch when he felt her presence on the streets in front of Darien's apartment building. When she knocked, though, he was startled. When was the last time he had heard her knock before opening a door leading to him? He couldn't remember.
And so he tried not to run as he approached the entrance to Darien's apartment and tried very hard to suppress his grin as he heard a familiar string of girlish giggles muffled through the door. And he did, indeed, succeed in regaining his composure as he unlocked the door and pulled it open, greeting the wide-eyed divinity who always shook him to his very core. No matter what life they were in, no matter what time period.
"Come in, Serena."