Chapter Eight: Lavender
"I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you simply, without problems or pride: I love you in this way because I do not know any other way of loving but this, in which there is no I or you, so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand, so intimate that when I fall asleep your eyes close."
- from 100 Love Sonnets by Pablo Neruda
"You know things about me that I don't even know." She mused quietly, staring up at the ceiling of Darien's apartment rather than at him. Endymion's eyes remained on the girl whose head rested on his lap for a few seconds more, before tilting his own head back and inspecting the dull white, textureless expanse above them. She felt his agreement rather than hearing it, but her mind didn't alert her to the difference.
Serena's eyes flickered back to him, and she rose her head up from his lap by balancing on her elbows, "Tell me something about myself. Nothing spoiler-y, just something. It's only fair."
He smiled, fingers mindlessly weaving through a streamer of hair from her pigtails, "What would you like me to tell you?"
She thought about it, settling back and taking in slow breathes. Her mind shuffled through the possibilities. What was her favorite color? What did she do in her free time? Did Serenity still get along with the Scouts? Did she have new friends, other that the Scouts? What sort of queenly duties did she have? Was she very happy? Was she completely different? Would she recognize herself, would she still be Serena if she was Serenity? Or did this her die when Serenity became who she was. For once her mind wasn't cluttered with thoughts of him, her questions deriving solely from her curiosity about the person she would develop into over the years.
Endymion lightly tapped her on the nose, a gesture she found she quite liked, to draw her focus, "It would be best if you asked a question that pertains to the near future. Things get complicated when we delve into the far future. There is too much back story associated with an answer, and there are explanations that I simply cannot offer."
She nibbled on her bottom lip and she let out a sigh, "You're no fun, Endy."
"Endy." He mimicked proudly, pointing out her use of his nickname. She detected traces of his affection as the name repeated from his lips, and she knew he was pleased. She liked it too, it felt light and heavy at the same time. Like a hasty secret or a quick kiss.
Serena worked her fingers up to his collar and gently tugged. He complied naturally, swooping down for a flutter of a kiss. The angle was all wrong, what with his head bent low and her having to strain to meet him, both of them facing different ways on the couch. She kept his face close to hers and sat up, folding her legs beneath her and drawing him close so she could drape her arms over his shoulders.
They grinned at one another, and she stole another kiss. She felt incredibly happy and warm, drunk off his easy display of affection for her and how naturally they met each other half way. And she could still feel his presence strongly against her own, something that felt like golden light and gave her glimmers of what he was feeling if she paid enough attention.
She bit her lip - his eyes followed the movement - as she brought a question back to mind, "Fine, just near future. What's something I enjoy in a few years, that I don't enjoy now?"
Endymion recalled back to the years before everything changed, snorting as he remembered the early years of their marriage. His response intrigued her, "You are going to love blogging. And texting, and social networking."
"It is a... technology thing." He explained, laughing at the face she made in response. The little exposure she had was predominately a negative experience. She liked video games, and her communicator was easy enough to use, but computers were more Amy's realm. She didn't see what would draw her into boring computers, especially as something she loved. She imagined something more like figure skating or ballroom dancing or playing piano. Something elegant, something she could see herself at least having a slight interest in.
"I'm not really into technology and computers and stuff." She admitted, not believing or rejecting the idea, but unable to picture her sitting behind a regular computer and enjoying it fully.
"You will be, trust me." He pictured her, bent over her laptop, the blue glow of the screen making her skin look paler than normal, tapping the keys with two fingers as she gave her full attention to the monitor. Or the many, countless, ridiculous number of times she had shoved her smart phone in his face for him to watch a video of something like a cat playing a piano. Granted, he had done his fair share of chuckling over kitten videos and showing them to her, but he had been nowhere near as attached to his smart phone and computer as she was. And he hadn't run a blog, thank god.
Endymion continued, voice crisp and reminiscent, "I cannot count the number of times I had to drag you away from your laptop at night and hide your cell phone so that you would come to bed."
Serena clearly had a hard time containing a wicked grin, her lips trembling into a composed upturn, "I can't imagine you needed too much help getting me to come to bed."
"You are so bad, Serena." He said it like a reproach, but they both knew from the amusement radiating off one another that they found equal amusement in the sudden cheekiness she seem to have acquired, which slipped from her mouth so easily and so fluidly. Like she had said things like that before, when he knew she hadn't. His mind touched hers, and he caught onto thoughts telling him that she wasn't embarrassed, or even very surprised. Serena felt like it was something that came naturally, and it didn't press on her like a weight as many of their words had.
She tried to make sense of it, and found the most logical explanation would be that he felt so easy to be around now. The tension and confusion had died down. He was no longer King Endymion in her mind, or Serenity's Husband. He was just a natural extension of herself and the man she already had known for a long, long time. Perhaps Princess Serenity had talked to her own Prince Endymion this way. She didn't know, but she suspected. Things always seemed different between the love of their past selves and the one they had found again. Maybe the past Endymion has sparked this sort of playful response from her because of the comfort and acceptance she found from him, the same she found from Endymion.
Endymion, of course, knew her assumptions were predominately correct. But she would find that out soon enough; he didn't need to tell her himself that things had been easier then, when they were forbidden to one another but never felt there was any choice to be made. Easier than them falling together in the twentieth century, her an awkward middle schooler who was too young for the fate she acquired, and him the lonely orphan who didn't know how his heart worked because he had relied almost exclusively on the commandments of his brain.
Nonetheless, he felt an odd mix of pride, surprise, and horror at this Serena's flirtiness. Even after things had changed and their relationship had solidified into its purest form, when people still called him Darien but he didn't mind kissing her in front of her friends or repeatedly whispering to her how helplessly her loved her every chance he got, she hadn't been this cheeky. Not at first, and not for awhile.
Serena suddenly felt timid in the silence that surrounded them, which was so loud with their thoughts and feelings surrounding her like a heavy blanket. She looked down, placing her fingers on his shoulders, then up at him through the protection of her eyelashes, "You're married to me. You're hardly a blushing virgin."
Endymion stared at her, startled by the sudden memory of Serenity mirroring that sentence when he had been Darien. She had said something similar then, and he wondered if Serenity had said it the same way on purpose. She did, he knew, after a seconds thought. Serenity mirrored their past through her speech so often. Clumsy sentences he had strung together in the dark came back to haunt him as they fell from her tongue later, and inside jokes he had almost forgotten became fresh when she reawakened them years, even decades or centuries, later. And always the promises. The ones he or she had murmured at the end of their worlds, the ones he had made to her as sunlight tickled the bare skin of his back and he saw everything she was fully for the first time, ones they had exchanged as vows, and ones they had made for kingdom and kin.
He recovered from his reverie, grinning slyly at her, "Hardly a blushing virgin? You do not know how incredibly true that is, Princess."
Her fingers curled delicately around the fabric clothing his shoulders. She took in some of his confidence through their bond as she rested her head against his shoulder and replied softly but solidly, "Like I said, I can imagine."
He drew back from her to look at her face, "Very forward, aren't you?"
"It's fun. I've never spoken to you this way before, and I sorta like it."
"I can tell."
"You like it too. I can tell. Your...aura. It's like reading body language, except I feel it instead of seeing it. And I can feel your reactions to what I say. And you like it and are only vaguely surprised when I say these things I've never said before. So I guess this becomes a running trend, huh?"
He only raised his eyebrows and shrugged in response. Serena copied him dramatically, wiggling her eyebrows and giggling.
"You're too adorable." Serena insists.
"I was about to say the same to you."
"I know." She replied smugly.
"Serena, I have a proposition for you."
The petite blonde regarded him serenely, her fingers threading one of the two long strands of her hairstyle into a loose braid, "Does it involve more kissing?"
Endymion's lips quirked, "Unfortunately, no."
Serena sighed dramatically, dropping her hands to her lap and shrugging her shoulders, "Then I can't promise that I'll be interested."
Endymion half-pouted, leaning in closer to her. She responded by rolling her eyes, swatting away the hand he had on her calf. He tickled the skin behind her knee and she broke into giggles, squirming away from him as little darts of delight shot off of her. He followed her as she fell back against the couch, carefully edging over her as he leaned his forehead onto hers.
She sighed contentedly, and he felt the brush of her fingers across his own as her consciousness reached for his. He interlaced their fingers, momentarily distracted by the tiny hitch in her breath and the smell of her skin. He deliberately ignored their proximity, both physically and mentally, to regain his focus.
"It involves mischief." He whispered.
She squeezed his fingers tightly and then snuck them to his chest.
"I'm intrigued! Go on." Serena debated pushing him off or pulling him closer, fingertips pressing into his chest. She could feel his steady heartbeat under them, and quickly reformed their position to fidget with the warm fabric covering his chest.
Endymion leaned closer to her ear, his breath sensitizing the skin there and making her shiver beneath him. He paused for a moment, taking enjoyment in her reactions, and then whispered in a conspiring hint, "There is a certain article of clothing Darien owns. Or, perhaps more accurately, certain articles of clothing he owns."
Serena was, indeed, intrigued now. She pushed him back, almost relieved to shove him farther away when his physical presence was so incredibly overwhelming and slightly foreign.
"Yes?" she whispered back, trying to turn her mind away from the fluttering of her pulse and towards the truly curious suggestion.
He continued as if he had never paused for her, sitting up straightly a foot away from her. He shot her a serious look from the corner of his eye, "And we have to stop him from wearing these particular items ever again. It is absolutely imperative."
"I know exactly what you are talking about."
Serena, of course, had a clear picture of her boyfriend's lackluster clothing choices and highly questionable taste. It was an inconvenience and occasionally embarrassing, but she had never broached the subject with Darien. She didn't feel like she could. Odd, now, to think about.
There were many things she never felt alright talking to him about. The majority of words passing between them had been predominately meaningless. While she had always felt a deep connection to him, just as she had with her dearest friends, she had never been as open with him as she had been with Amy, Raye, Lita, and Mina. She shared everything with them. Felt comfortable discussing her opinion, sharing her thoughts, reflecting on anything that could possibly come up. They were always easy to talk to, and she felt complete acceptance from them.
Darien was different. She always tried to be on her best behavior with him and so, of course, always ended up at her worst. She often felt dissatisfied with their dates and time together. She nitpicked her actions, chided herself for how silly she acted. It never felt like she was being herself, actually, because she was always hyperaware of what she was doing. She wanted so badly to be perfect in front of him that she often got frustrated and acted impulsively in a manner that usually ended in at least a slight conflict, especially when Rini was involved. She felt like Darien always saw the bad side of her, and judged her for it.
Sure, her loved her, but he didn't really like her. And neither did she, not when she analyzed all that she had said and done in front of him. She fell short of both their expectations. And conversation wasn't the same because of it. Occasionally they had shared moments of intimacy, where her thoughts slipped past and they briefly talked about it – they weren't completely devoid of openness. But it wasn't like the girls. It wasn't fully comfortable and organic. Not like Endymion.
He sighed, standing up and grabbing her hand to physically pull her up from her seat and away from her ruminations on what was broken and needed to be fixed.
"No." he said solidly, tugging the dazed, pensive girl into a quick embrace. He tapped her on the nose several times, as if waking her from a stupor, "None of those thoughts right now, okay?"
She nodded dumbly, not fully back in the present.
"Clothes, Serena. Horrible, horrible clothes. Forget about the rest for now. There will be time later."
She didn't release the pull of her inner thoughts until he had dragged her into his bedroom, sat her down on his unmade bed, and thrown the first offensive shirt from Darien's closet onto her lap. She didn't get drawn fully into his antics until a bright, lime green shirt hit her on the head in a burst of criminal color and the sudden smell of Darien's laundry soap.
He tossed another shirt onto her head as soon as she pulled the first one off.
"Problem, my dear little bunny?" he asked innocently, violently yanking another shirt off its hanger and throwing it at her. Only a mild irritation buzzed across to him from her, so he took that as a sign to throw a pair of sweatpants from the shelf at her next.
Serena shoved all the items onto his bed, noting it was unmade with a small bit of pride, and then crossing her arms.
"Get serious, King Endymion, this is a very serious matter." She inwardly winced at her repetition of the word 'serious' and then physically winced as a pair of socks soared through the air and hit her softly in the chest.
He grinned at her before nodding sagely and clearing his face of all emotion. With a well-practiced, diplomatic bow he answered smoothly, "Of course, Lady... Tsukino." He stumbled momentarily over the last name and how utterly wrong it sounded to call her by it, "With your permission, venerable one, may we begin the trial?"
His sudden stately appearance and composed demeanor demanded a lift of an eyebrow before she too composed herself, sitting primly as if trying to exude a royal air she wasn't quite sure she was capable of. With a feigned, proper, disinterested tone she nodded, "We may begin, Lord Endymion. You may present the first article."
She paused only momentarily, her posture melting back into a relaxed state, "Ugh, no, let's not play games. Just show me the most hideous ones and we'll give 'em a quick kick to the curb."
Endymion let out a peal of pure laughter, and she could feel the depth of his pleasure towards her. His eyes were bright and kind as he looked back at her, and Serena thought that was the most open and natural she had ever seen him.
"Stop being charming." She huffed in fake irritation, but her beam broke through and he could feel how dearly she loved him and wished to throw her arms around him in that moment. He felt a swirl of affection for her, a pulsating warmth in his throat, and was once again so glad he had found her. That she existed, just as she was in that moment, and that she didn't change at all. He had always loved her just like that, just as she was then, just as she always was in every second. He kept the feeling private, only letting her briefly encounter his adoration for her, not wanting to distract her or himself.
"I will attempt to desist, for the moment, but only if you reign in on your own charms, my dear." He flirted casually, picking up a group of hangers with the same black turtleneck and extending them out for her inspection, "These?"
"Throw 'em in the corner, it'll be our discard pile."
"Turtlenecks come in handy, though." he remarked to himself as he tugged them from their hangers and chucked them in the corner she indicated with the flick of her pale wrist.
"Handy for what?" she asked distractedly as she picked up all the shirts he had previously tossed at her and sent them flying towards the pile he had just created. Serena folded the sweatpants and set the socks he had hit her with on top of them, getting up to go put them back in their proper shelf in his closet. Her hip grazed him as she moved to put the items away, and he ignored the action dutifully as he took another hanger down.
She inspected his selection, made a move for him to keep it, and he didn't question it.
Together they discarded neatly pressed corduroy pants, too big t-shirts with ugly pockets on the chest, and a cheesy sweatshirt. Endymion was slightly appalled by the mix in Darien's closet. He hadn't remembered with complete clarity having such terrible taste. His alacrity to be rid of the fashion choices of the twentieth century had him frequently note his distaste for the fabrics he held up to her.
The next item he withdrew with a mocking grin, "Three colored pastel shirt?"
"No." she decided solidly, then thought further on the matter. It wasn't bad, per say, but it was not very attractive on him. It would look nice on her, however. "Can I have it?"
He eyed her skeptically.
"I dunno, I could sleep in it or something."
There was a silent pause between them.
Endymion pressed his head into his palm, shaking it quickly to rid his mind of colorful imagery, "Bad thoughts, bad thoughts."
She grinned triumphantly.
He sent her an exasperated stare and looked slightly pained.
"So I can have it?" she asked innocently.
"Yes. Definitely." He coughed, nodding enthusiastically as he recalled a memory of her tugging the garment in question over her bare form, her hair loose from its pins, before she crawled under matted sheets to curl up next to him. He inhaled sharply, quickly handing the shirt off the hanger to her. She quickly brought it to her nose, inhaling the scent she associated with him, before tucking it under her arm. The gesture was adorable and he choked out with further enthusiasm, "Yes, keep it. Please."
Serena was only amused, unaware of his wealth of memories regarding the future history of her wearing his shirts like a surprisingly tantalizing nightdress. She caught sight of a lavender dress shirt in his closet, sparking her own memories of the future.
"Isn't it a little ironic that you're judging Darien's wardrobe when you are a man who wears a purple suit?" she asked skeptically, questioning him with a quirk of her lips. He noted the slightest bit of pink shimmer still there, and wondered if his own lips had a hint of the surviving lipgloss. He licked his lips as if to check, more offended by the fact that her lips still maintained a trace of gloss after his lips had been there – as well as his hand, as he recalled swiftly shushing her with his palm in the park – than her insinuation about his own preference for lavender.
Serenity's eyes sometimes looked lavender. Especially when she wore that pale blue gown with the purple glass beads on the straps – the straps that so easily fell from her shoulders with just the briefest of touches.
He recalled that it was his turn to indignantly deny her accusations.
"Not every day!" he insisted half-heartedly.
"Whatever, you still wear a purple suit."
Lavender suit. She liked it. Serenity liked it, and he could tell Serena was veiling her own opinion. Her favorite color, despite what the Scouts and Small Lady would hold as their own belief, had always been purple. She painted the walls of the living room in their first house lilac. She had cried over the tear in her pale purple gown the week after she had cleansed the Earth and been named queen. She once dyed the ends of her hair violet for the festival of light and left amethyst lipstick stains on his neck that entire week. And in another life she had plucked a wisp of purple fragrant fruit that grew on a pale tree in her garden and held it out for him to bite into; it had gotten grayish, vaguely mauve stains on the sleeves of his shirt. Lavender roses stitched onto the brocade of the lacey lavender fabric worn under her wedding dress, lavender roses lovingly hand stitched onto the tiny dress she had made for Small Lady when she was so new to the world, lavender roses printed on the loose dress she had worn when they snuck away to the ocean to teach their daughter how soft the sand felt and how cold seawater was a nice reprieve from the heat of the sun.
Purple was the swirl of memories that they kept inside themselves, that twirled around them in perfumed whispers when they recalled what had passed in a haze of nostalgic, sleepy contentment.
Also, it was incredibly stylish. Even Mina abandoned the outrageous warm hues of her wardrobe for inky purple when she wanted to look slightly more trendsetting than usual.
"It is thirtieth century fashion." He replied defensively, trying to sound haughty and arrogant as he continued stiffly, "You could not possibly understand what Terran royals find elegant."
She rolled her eyes at him, her incredulity and satisfaction reflected off her aura.
Endymion turned back to the clothes hanging beside them, fingers touching the rough fabric of a jacket there, "You will look back on the 1990s and cringe, my love."
It was a very true statement. Even Serenity, who had always had a knack for picking out outfits that seemed to transcend current trends and stay forever classic, made fun of what she had worn when they looked through old pictures transferred into holograms. He knew he had been less astute fashion wise, and that was incredibly apparent as they had leafed through the closet.
"I look forward at the 2990s and cringe, dearest." She sung back cheerfully, teasing him as her index finger bopped his nose as he had repeatedly done to her.
"I think that we are quite stylish." He defended amusedly.
"Really? That suit?"
He remembered the suit she was referring to. As Darien he had also wondered at the colors. Endymion didn't actually own the outfit they had seen in the future yet. He wore suits of all colors, but lately he had tended towards dark navy and grey shirts under simple black suits. Purple showed up a few weeks before when he had met with a council of presidents and prime ministers in South America for a conference. As always the conference had been smooth, to the point, and had found a swift adjournment after all parties had compromised for the most mutually beneficial agreement.
It was a diplomatic color. Nonetheless, fashion did change and he was not yet inclined to be so incredibly dedicated to lilac, as he had once seen a hologram of King Endymion doning.
Darien, of course, would pick up the purple suit to wear. Because he had thought he was supposed to. Looking back he realized that he had dressed in too formal of an outfit that day, and never even realized it. Serenity was probably highly amused that her husband was tottering around on a normal day in a suit meant for a formal ball.
Maybe he did feel slightly offended that she assumed he always wore the same suit in a color that her current society perceived as 'feminine'. A silly notion, as colors did not indicate sex or supposed personality traits.
He amended himself, feeling the need to defend his wife seriously if not himself, "Surely you do not believe Serenity is lacking in style. I distinctly remember you and your friends positively gushing about the gown you saw her wearing."
The gown was ceremonial. It was symbolic and representative of her. Just as he had his own ceremonial apparel that was a part of his public image, she had her lovely, infuriatingly hard to remove gown. By all accounts and across all time periods it was lovely, indisputably. It was only slightly different from Serena's 'princess dress', as Serenity had lovingly referred to it, and surely Serena couldn't find fault with Neo Queen Serenity's appearance.
"Oh, Serenity looks absolutely amazing, obviously. Might get sick of the dress after awhile, but it's just as lovely as my princess dresses have always been." She remarked flippantly, then smirked, "It's your sense of style I'm questioning. Everyone else is 'quite stylish' except you."
"Cruel!" he folded his arms over his chest, using his full height to look down at her in mock accusation, "You love my outfits."
"I'm probably too kind and regal to admit I hate them. It would break your fragile, delicate heart."
"Oh, you are such a little liar Serena. You love the purple!"
"It's definitely a step up from Darien's current attire." She admitted, and she could immediately sense his triumph at her admittance.
He meant to make a move to go through the clothes again, to make sure the things he remembered being inexplicably tossed away in his corner were all where he remembered them to be.
He returned his attention to the rack of clothes, finding an offending garment with its atrocious color and scratchy fabric. His most prized jacket. He had loved it. That jacket had been with him through thick and thin. It had been bled on, cried on, and rained on. He had fallen in love in that jacket, had broken his own heart in that jacket, had wrapped it around Rini when she got cold.
It was one of the only things he had left of his father.
But it was atrocious.
Darien was overly comfortable with it and used it as a security blanket of sorts. It wasn't comfortable and there were a few stains he just couldn't get out after it had so much use, but he was sentimental about it. It had been in the box of things the hospital had given him, in hopes of sparking his memory. It hadn't made him remember anything, but it had come to symbolize his father. As a teenager he had researched his parents, to find out more about them. There was a news article about his father that he found. In it, he wore the jacket. By all accounts his father had been a great man, and he felt connected to the past he had lost when he wore it. And then it had been habit, routine even, to wear it.
His mother had been a botanist. She specialized in genetically modifying roses into a greater array of colors. Like purple.
"I love that jacket." Serena murmured softly, carefully taking the hanger from him as if she was afraid he would throw it away. She hugged the jacket tightly to her chest, frowning at him lightly. She had misinterpreted his attention, thinking he meant to discard it.
He had never known that she loved it as much as he did.
"I know it's not that stylish, okay? But it's very...Darien. You wear it all the time. And there are so many memories we have with you wearing that jacket. It always smells like you. When Rini or I would get cold you would wrap it around us. I always thought that was really gallant, and it made me feel nice. Whenever you let me wear this jacket I feel like you must really love me, because you love it so much and you trust me with it."
She hadn't realized she had slipped into referring to him and Darien as the same person.
The girl blushed, turning her head away from him. "I don't care if it's silly. Keep it. Okay?"
She put it back in the closet, motioning for him to move so she could shut the doors. He stopped her halfway with a eager kiss, pulling her to him and letting his thoughts meld with hers so that she knew just how un-silly he thought she was.
He really did try to resist it, at least slightly, but more often than he should have he found his lips on hers. And she would peak up at him, shyer each time rather than more bold.
"Is this cheating?"
"No." he answered immediately. He grudgingly corrected himself, "Possibly. Maybe. Slightly. But it is okay."
He still didn't feel guilty about it, but he did feel slightly guilty at not feeling guilty, and she caught onto the feeling.
"If you feel bad about it then you shouldn't do it."
"I feel bad about not feeling bad about it."
"I don't feel like I'm cheating on Darien. Because you've already been him, and I feel like it's okay since it's like he's giving approval through you or something."
Darien would not approve, actually. He would be jealous of Endymion getting the first real taste of the thing he had seemed to be saving for himself. Endymion received kisses Darien had denied himself the pleasure of receiving.
"But I feel guilty because of Serenity." Serena quietly added.
"You should not, my dear. She will not be even the slightest bit upset." He kept to himself that Darien, at least for a little window of time, would be absolutely furious. But at himself. Both Endymion and himself as Darien, for being an absolute idiot. Never Serena.
"How can you know that? Certainly she will be upset."
"I simply know."
"Because of the time-swap-thingy or...?"
"I just know. I know her. I know you. You will not be upset."
She didn't believe him.
She couldn't see her future self being okay with her perfect, adorable, sexy husband charming an eager teenager version of herself. Sharing kisses with someone else, even if she had once been that someone. Serena didn't even like thinking that this Endymion belonged to someone else.
"In a thousand years you have a different view of our relationship than you do now. It is something very intricate, something that has evolved across decades. It is solid, unshakeable, and we have complete faith in one another. I would not deviate in a way which would hurt her. If I felt she would be wounded, I would not even remotely consider performing the action that would hurt her."
She felt young and stupid.
"No, no, no." he reached out with his mind to comfort her with a wave of love even as he brushed his hand across her cheek, "You misunderstand my convictions, and you misunderstand the situation. This is necessary and pure, a small miracle of healing and hope. Our time together, everything that has come to pass and will come to pass, is as it should be. I know this, as does Serenity. She looks back so fondly on the day you are currently experiencing, and sees all of the beauty that came out of this improbable, unexplainable window of time. She does not view it as a bad thing."
"Okay." Serena's voice squeaked, and she her fingers fluttered together, twirling the warm metal of her ring.
His fingers briefly brushed across the small curls of hair that always escaped from her hairdo, and she shivered at the sensation and the closeness, which felt suddenly oppressive. He backed away, not wanting heighten her discomfort, letting her mind whirl at his words.
"You give me such high expectations. I don't want to be let down. I always used to daydream about how beautiful the future would be. And it was never like that. And I feel a sick sense that you're exaggerating, and my mind wants to paint a vivid picture of how wonderful things will be – but it also rejects the idea that things will be so wonderful. They never are."
Her words flood out as a confession, one that was near to her heart, and which plagued her. She had been so inwardly unhappy for so long without Darien home. She had always seen nightmares, seen victories that always tasted like ashes and her own fantasies crumple under the weight of reality. She had been a dreamer, an optimist – and to an extent she still was. But it became harder and harder to ignore the fact that all her fantasies had been met with some horror. She had started to view the future in the same way she viewed their past – remarkable and beautiful for a moment, but ultimately fleeting. If there was one thing the past few years as Sailor Moon had taught her, it was that all happiness was followed by sadness.
Endymion frowned, turning his eyes to the window. It unsettled him. There were very few times he had come across her with this mindset. She was a romantic, inherently loving and hopeful, and the doubt edging further into her conscious was unfamiliar coming from her. He wasn't completely certain he could effectively contain and handle it. He had no doubt he could make it fade, but soft words of promise had brought her to this place, and he knew his own loving reflections on the nature of his own understanding would not win her mind over. Circumstance had planted the seeds of doubt, and vague, hopeful words were not as convincing as past experiences.
Promises, he found, would also be the best mediator.
His eyes returned to her, his hands slipping over her fidgeting fingers. He turned her hands over, looking down to trace the lines of her palms. He willed his fingertips to transfer his own strength and conviction to her. His eyes met hers, unwavering blue irises insisting on her complete attention as his fingers interlocked with hers.
"Serena." He began, voice firm and low, "I have made many promises to you. Some you do not yet remember, others you perhaps doubt the seriousness of. I promised to protect you, to love you always, to bring you the happiness you deserved. In another life, I made promises to give you everything you wanted, to never truly leave you. I promised we would find each other again – it was one of the last things I ever spoke as Prince Endymion. We defied fate, and found one another again, even after death, did we not?"
"Yes, we did." She nodded, absorbed in his words, fully intent on understanding his seriousness.
"I keep my promises, always. I can promise you, my love, that the happiness you are so unwilling to let yourself imagine, pales in comparison to the complete joy you will experience in the future. Every bond with your friends will deepen, to something beyond friendship and more like that of a soul mate. Every moment of joy will be complete, untarnished by true pain. And hard times, of course, will come. But they are few and far between. I promise you will find every joy you seek, as well as joy you had never even imagined possible. I promise that I will be beside you, sharing your joy. You will find every happiness, and it will fill your entire soul, and not only that – you will bring happiness to everyone else. I do not make false promises, and I swear to you on every star that only absolute radiance exists in your future."
She removed her hands from his, his intensity making her draw back and stumble from him. She rushed to the kitchen, acting out of impulse or necessity as she quickly filled a glass of water and gulped it down. Serena believed him. She could feel the truth in her hands, like he had pressed it there, and it hurt to feel the utter certainty because it was so, so heavy to feel the truth. She felt tense and electrified, and she felt parched. He followed her, intently watching her from the doorway. With shakey hands she set the empty glass in his sink and turned away from him, hands pressed to the counter to hold herself up. Delight and fear bit at her, as well as a thousand other emotions, and it was simply a sensory overload.
She didn't feel well.
"You can't do that, Endymion." She choked out, still reeling from the intensity of his promise and the press of the truth radiating from his consciousness. She didn't look at him. She wasn't angry, almost the opposite, but she ached from the feelings in her chest and the desire flooding her senses. Desire for knowledge, for fulfilled promises. And knowledge that he would indeed give her everything, because she was sure of it now. But then everything else that came along with it.
She could still feel him sharply, his own intensity only making her own acute emotions too overwhelming. "Tone it down, back your mind off a little bit." She practically begged, shutting her eyes and breathing out an explanation, "Everything is too heavy."
Endymion withdrew immediately, his presence disappearing from her mind, and she could no longer fully sense him. He was surprised by her reaction, by her shock, and he stepped out of the kitchen. She needed space, needed air. He understood, and his own surprise made him impaired himself. He longed to comfort her, to bring calm to her. He remembered quiet moments, Serenity situated on his lap as they quietly meditated, seeping comfort and calm from one another in a loop. The gentle moments where they shared their own peace with one another.
Serenity was always brimming with emotion, but they were neat and tidy and well arranged within her. In contrast, Serena was a knotted mess of feelings and thoughts, and his presence and the calm he tried to send her only seemed to add to the chaos.
He had to remove himself from her presence. He was hurting her head, overwhelming her and confusing her. How long should he go? What should he do to ease her discomfort? She was withdrawing from him quickly, and it was causing the bond between them to palpably dwindle as she looked for distance from him. He could hardly feel her there for a moment as she desired him away, and it was distinctly unpleasant.
"I will go pick up some food for us to eat." He quickly offered, giving her a worried look before turning away and giving her the distance she inwardly demanded.
The door closed.
She felt only a vague relief, knowing he was gone.
Serena realized for the first time what it all meant. What he meant, what he meant to her, and what she meant to him.
She choked back a small sob.