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The Beginning of the End: Chapter Two
Published: May 2011

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Silver Millennium, Palace Gardens, The Moon
Flashback: Three Years Prior


Serenity had always been a romantic, though she had never had a feel of its substance. Her father was a ghost, a murmur on her mother's lips, and although she knew great love had once rested there – she had never witnessed it. No courters dared approach her, they were both alarmed by her smiles and hesitant to take any more steps towards her. She was a princess, the heir of the most powerful woman in the universe, and many wanted her crown. And yet no suitors came. For a number of reasons, they stayed back. Some feared her mother, some heard tales of a prophecy involving the little princess. Others still were too petrified. They knew if they looked too close, if they allowed themselves into her world – they would never escape the daydream or the starling lilac depths of innocent eyes. She was adored by far, by many men too afraid to face her rejection or fate's wrath.

What little she saw of romance when she was young was of ladies in ball gowns dancing with finely dressed men, with secretive smiles on painted lips and bated breaths at every flutter of a silk skirt. Dancing always fascinated her, the grace she did not believe she had always drew her in. She would sit dutifully beside her guardians and observe their moves with scientific interest, her eyes set on the most skillful dancers, and she would memorize their every step. Serenity would copy these moves in her mirror at night, after her mother had tucked her in and Luna had kissed her goodnight, and would spin pirouettes until she could perfectly copy every step to the waltzes she had never been allowed to dance.

She wanted to be graceful, to be a beautiful dancer, and at the age of eleven she was finally allowed to dance stiff, formal dances with Artemis or some pale-haired relative. She didn't like those dances, she didn't enjoy the passionless steps and rigid posture. She wanted to dance like the ladies, to dance with flowing arms and with laughter singing from her chest. So she sat once again beside Luna, bored with the balls and with the moves she already knew by heart. Her attention was only grabbed when her mother danced, usually with some Queen or King of another planet.

Her mother mystified her more than all others, her grace and eloquence surpassing any other mortal being. She had wanted her mother's beauty, her poise, her incontestable charm and indefatigable wisdom. Every movement of her hand was mesmerizing, every twirl and step was soft and enticing. Her voice was unforgettable, a sort of soothing melody that played in your head long after she had spoke the words. She was wise, her eyes alone told you so, and her every word held vast meaning. She had no temper, no hate, no prejudices. And her beauty, of course, was notable. She had the curves a Venusian, the agile height of a goddess of Jupiter, and the exotic beauty usually attributed to the outer planets. She was a vision of white, like a crystal personified, and something about her commanded respect. Queen Serenity was what a true queen looked like and, most importantly, her soul was of the purest quality. Long before their princess had captured the people's hearts, her mother had.

Perhaps, when she was young, she had also seen that childish romance between boys and girls. Mina and Lita always had a hand to hold, their frocks were always filled with the petals of weed flowers, picked by the blushing boys of court. But even as a child the males had stayed away from their princess. Something inexplicable told them she was unattainable, something in them told them that their blossoms were not right for her. They felt uneasy around her floating laughter and lithe dances. She was always too separated from them, always seeming far younger or far older, something too pure to be tainted by their sticky child's hands. She was in a different world, a world made up of magic and fairytales and powerful women, and there was no place for boys in such a world. And so Serenity had watched silently as Mina shared her favorite toy with a duke's son or while some white-haired child of the moon tugged on Lita's ponytail. Ami often stood beside her, immersed in a book and unaware of children's playful teasing. Raye frightened the boys away and drew them in at the same time, her harsh temper sending them running while the shine of her ebony locks always, always brought them back.

Sometimes Serenity would hear the maids giggling, whispering of great tales of love with stable boys or, sometimes, married ambassadors. She and Mina would press their ears against the door and listen, holding their breath as the women inside told of things that fascinated and terrified them. The tales of bold declarations and passionate kisses had some lasting effect on her, it made her eyes get glassy in lessons and drew her mind from astrology or history.

She and Mina had learned to flirt when they turned thirteen. Serenity had felt the first butterflies in her stomach at the sight of Mina's cousin Adonis or the dignitaries of Pluto, eternally youthful and exotically handsome, but her interest always waned. There were always men for her and her friends to ogle and giggle over, but to Serenity the idea of acting upon those silly impulses and whims was absurd. They were crushes, an amusement to dream about, but they meant nothing. The guards she and Mina winked and waved at, they were nothing.

That was all she knew of romance.

The only man Serenity had ever had a real conversation with was Artemis. She had shared pleasantries with many dignitaries, useless greetings that ended any chance of conversation with their formalities. Never more than a greeting and a goodbye were shared between her and a man, even the handsome gentleman she batted her eyes at. But Artemis she knew. He taught her much, skillfully teaching her archery and humoring her every fancy. He was kind, as much as a father to her as Luna was a second mother, and it was he who she turned to when she was afraid. She loved him dearly for all the times he had comforted her, for reading her books when she was little, and for making her laugh. He had always been a friend to her, her protector and ally.

And he was all she really knew of men at that time. The rest she only observed, seeing the qualities of the diplomats at court but never paying them mind. Her crushes were never nursed to the point where she hoped for a confession of love, or even imagined one. She could have had any man she wanted if she would only say the word and stake a claim on one, but she had never wished to do more than giggle about those handsome men with Mina. She did not think about ideals, what her knight in shining armor would look like or what noble qualities he would posses.

But she recognized him immediately when she saw him. It was him. That was him.

Her first glimpse of him was under star-filled skies, when she had disentangled herself from Lita's arms and had carefully shifted her legs out from under Raye's head. She couldn't sleep, her mind was filled with thoughts of the night and of orchestral songs, and she had snuck out from her room to dance in the privacy of the palace gardens. Her gardens, the lush Eden occupied by wisps of wisteria and lily-vines and pastel moonflowers.

She had pulled on a cape of baby blue, not bothering to pull the hood over her head as she tip-toed down the marble halls into the summer night. She felt calm, safe, no demons would dare jump out at her from the shadows behind statues or pillars. This was her kingdom, her home, and she had never known what it was like to fear the sight of darkness. And so she had went out into the night, danced among the many dew-dropped flower buds, and fallen under the cover of a fruit tree. She knew Luna would find her in the morning, her eyelashes dotted with dew and her hair woven with closed blossoms. She would scold her, call her careless, and warn her of dangers she couldn't comprehend. Perhaps the next day Luna wouldn't let her meet the Terran dignitaries and their Prince, the Earthlings who had arrived that night after she had already slid into her nightgown. But she didn't mind, really, politics held no interest for her.

And so the young Moon Princess had drifted into a peaceful sleep under the fragrance of the fruit tree, her fingers and lips dyed red by the juices of the tree's produce and her blue hood draped over her eyes.

When she awoke to the sound of boots on soft earth, she found the scene of her haven had changed. The night was darker, the wind had picked up, and a distance away from her stood a tall figure. Was it Artemis, out to look for her? He didn't see her, she noticed, and she needed to call out to him. She hurriedly sat up, knocking the hood away with her palm as she rubbed the sleep from her eyes. Her eyes then focused on the man, who was half turned to her and half turned away, and she realized just as she was about to call out to him that he was not Artemis.

He was something else entirely.

He was young, but years older than her, already a man. His features were sharp, dignified, and angular. They were foreign, unlike the noses and facial shapes of any land she knew. His skin was tan, darker than she had seen on most in the Moon Kingdom, and she had at first thought he was the son of some Plutonian dignitary because of it. His hair was black as night, locks of it swept in front of his eyes from the slight gust in the night air, and he seemed to be quite tall. The slope of his nose, the curve of his jaw, the shade of his lips – they burned into her mind. She could only think that he was handsome, so very handsome, and she wished for nothing more than to see the color of his eyes. Were they green? Red? Perhaps they were dark, like his cape, or gold like the lining of his armor.

Her sleepy mind repeated that he was so handsome, so very, very handsome.

She watched him as his steps faltered a short distance away from her, still not noticing the girl hidden behind the heavy branches laden with red fruit. His eyes – oh how she wished to see their color! – turned up to the brilliant mix of emerald and sapphire in the sky above them, the Earth Serenity had so often admired from her palace window. His brows furrowed in an odd expression. Serenity stepped forward from the dark shadows of the trees without thought, like a moth to a flame, entranced by this god in her garden.

And then he had turned, sharply, and had caught sight of her. A startled expression took shape on his features.

His eyes were blue.

Endymion had never laid eyes on a creature quite so beautiful. Her face was soft, her features kind and delicate. Her hair was pale, a silvery white with the softest highlights of spun gold, and held up by strange buns at both sides of her head which fell down in waving tresses almost to her knees. Her lips looked to be painted with red and blossoms clung to her skin, hair, and cape. Her skin seemed to give off a soft glow and the golden crescent emblem on her forehead looked like a golden jewel. She gave off an image of perfect purity, of untouchable goodness. She shined, he swore, like a bright star or a holy deity.

She was a goddess, some moonlight nymph. Something in his soul tugged him towards her and as he took a tentative step closer to the angelic beauty, her face became more detailed in the soft darkness fallen over them. He couldn't look away from the vision, couldn't shake the feeling that this was a mirage in his sleepless head. And the lady's eyes were what threw him into a state of delirium. They were framed by pale lashed, wide and innocent, and the color of indigo that he had only ever seen in flowers.

It was his new favorite color.

The depth of her eyes surprised him and the look resting in those lilac amethysts shook him to his very core. The pale goddess looked down tentatively, a pink flush adorning the apples of her cheeks, her eyes still locked on his through her eyelashes as he stared at her with that same expression of awed shock.

Immediately the wind was knocked out of him, his heart leaping into a drumming beat. Endymion knew he had just been drawn into something inescapable. He could feel the heavy weight of the moment, the finality of the ticking seconds where that lovely dream's endless eyes were on his. Something in him shifted, changed, and he knew with certainty that nothing, nothing at all, could ever be the same. His sharp mind could not process what she was, did not comprehend that the golden emblem on that goddesses forehead marked her as an enemy, that it was the same odd symbol he had seen on the Queen of the Moon's head hours before when his party arrived on this planet. He could not make the connection yet, no, he was too entranced by his shifted world.

She took a small step forward towards him, trying to find her voice. She was overwhelmed by this man, aware of his every move, and dying for something, anything, to happen. Their eyes stayed focused on each other, their mouths barely parted as the gaped at the temptation lay out in front of them. The feelings in their chest were foreign, their heart strings had never been tugged before and now they were yanked with full force, shooting shots of excited warmth through their bodies. They had never seen such beauty in another person, never felt the desire to touch, to kiss, to love.

The beat in Serenity's heart was an odd sort of flutter. Some palpitation she did and did not understand. Her breath was drawn out from her, sucked out of every molecule of her body. She felt tiny and frail and breakable.

The strangest thing was, it was the most marvelous emotion she had ever had a taste of. Her heart whispered to a feeble brain in quiet certainty, 'I love this creature'. She knew it was true, she knew her heart well enough to comprehend the startling truth. She had heard stories of soul mates, of love at first sight. Did she believe in it before? She could not remember. But she knew now, she knew so very well now what that type of strong attraction was. Something past lust, something in her that craved his very soul.

Love, though. They both knew it was that. An unexplainable, undeniable attraction that made it impossible for them to think or speak or breathe. The warmth, the drumming of not only their hearts, but their souls; all telltale signs of that curious affliction they had never before experienced themselves. They saw something in each other, saw right through each other, and peered into the depths of their hearts.

Love. It was love. Illogical and unexplainable. But love.

Endymion opened his mouth to speak, to say anything to get this illusion to stay, but was quieted as the pale beauty spoke aloud, her voice a soft tidal melody;

"Hello. I am Serenity."

He would never forget that name.

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Silver Millennium, Palace of the Moon Kingdom, The Moon
Present Day: Approximately Three Years After Flashback


He had forgotten how his heart leapt when she entered a room. How his muscles tensed and his heart raced. How odd it felt to be in front of her and to try his hardest to pretend to hate her, because he feared someone would discover how much he loved her. And how sinfully beautiful she was. And how lovely she looked in a ball gown and how graceful she was and how tiny her little frame was and how bright her eyes were. He had forgotten it all.

Perhaps he hadn't forgotten, he reminded himself, he had just been unable to fully remember how truly extraordinary she was. He had never forgotten her, no. He had spent every day recalling her every detail, painting a picture of her as he had last seen her in his mind's eye. Creamy white skin, light waves of endless hair, lilac irises, fabric slipping off her shoulders, pale form glowing under the illumination of the moon. It seemed impossible to fully commit to memory all those little details about her, though he could remember her every curve, the exact shape of her smile, the sound of her laughter. But a memory was nothing compared to the reality of her, nothing.

Behind him stood his closest companions, the four men whom he had been in constant company with since childhood. Without turning around he knew what they would look like. To the court of the moon they probably looked just the same as any other men in the room. They wouldn't notice Zoisite's analytical, judging stare as he inspected the people. They wouldn't see Nephrite's or Jadeite's inattention to the formalities. Certainly, they wouldn't notice the calculating concern in Kunzite's eyes as he mulled over the consequences of his king's actions earlier on in the day. They would only see Prince Endymion's four generals and whisper endlessly about how the Earth's king had so rudely brushed past their beloved queen.

King Odysseus was a rather unpleasant man, prone to giving into glutinous whims rather than dealing with urgent matters at hand. He cared not for political affairs and did not bother himself with considering the thoughts of others. He was highly intelligent, but his blatant hedonism made his judgment lack. He liked women, wine, and shutting himself up in his room for long periods of time. As a king, he did nothing, and almost the entire political running of his country had been the responsibility of Endymion for the past ten or so years. Despite his faults, he was in fact fond of his son. He was indulgent to his friends, cruel to his enemies, and his favor was easily gained or lost. He was highly manipulative and cunningly deceitful.

He hadn't always been so. Of course, he had never been a truly great leader, but in his earlier days of ruling he had been a good enough king to his people. But Endymion had never known him as such, his father had gotten worse and worse since he was a child. They said he had stopped caring when Endymion's mother, the queen, died in childbirth; though Endymion did not know whether or not it was true. He only knew his father as a careless man who did only what he pleased, when he so chose. The king had not even been supposed to come to the moon, but at the last minute, literally, he had declared he would accompany his son on the diplomatic mission. Endymion, of course, knew that his father's appearance would only jeopardize his chances at gaining Queen Serenity's favor and support, but he could do nothing to stop him. The king had absolute power when he actually chose to do something.

But the Terrans were much accustomed to their King's bad manners and rapidly worsening attitude.

Upon arrival the king had made a bad impression, as his son had expected. Ignoring the customary greetings, he had brushed off Queen Serenity's good wishes and promptly departed on a bad note to the royal suites of the Terran kingdom, his mistress trailing after him. Endymion had winced, trying to sooth the situation as he greeted Serenity with the most cordial, pleasant greeting he could make. He had been surprised by Queen Serenity's likeness to her daughter, he hadn't remembered just how similar the two were. His princess was like a petite version of her mother; she was considerably shorter, but her features almost identical save for the mystifying color of her eyes and the hint of gold in her flaxen hair.

Things had gone rather well after that. After he had exchanged pleasantries to the queen upon arrival, they had made their way to the great hall were the formal greetings would occur. Where he would see Serenity, surely.

He only hoped to god his father would not choose an inopportune moment to trample into the hall and further embarrass the Terran royals.

His attention was drawn to the staircase in front of him as he caught sight of the tall brunette he recognized as Lady Jupiter, followed soon by the elegant Lady Mercury. He felt his heart race in excitement. These were Serenity's guardians, her four closest friends, the women who shared her every breath. He knew much about them and he watched with interest as Lady Venus descend down the stairs, her eyes carefully scanning the ballroom for what he could only assume was a examination of potential dangers to her princess. He knew her to be the head of Serenity's guard, and from what he had heard from Serenity he gathered her to be a skilled fighter with a sword and from the natural born abilities given to her by her home star, as well as fiercely loyal to the princess she was sworn to protect. He also knew of her other side, how she was a shameless flirt and that she had a bright cheerfulness and mischievousness that mirrored Serenity's. However, that side was not shown as her title was called, the only reminiscent trait of the cheerful, flirtatious woman Serenity swore she was being the soft smile on her richly painted lips.

Of course, he remembered, Serenity is supposed to despise me, as far as they know. He had forgotten he would be known to these powerful women, Serenity's very sisters, as an enemy rather than a friend. He would be treated as a tormentor of their precious princess, the man who had restlessly teased and fought with Serenity three years ago.

But if that was so, why did Lady Venus's mouth quirk up into a mysterious smirk as her calculating gaze landed on him?

Following her was Lady Mars, who met the other three women at the foot of the stairs, off to the right. The Queen in front of them. His own party was opposite theirs and the formality of this supposedly 'welcoming' ceremony only increased his apprehension. Queen Serenity made him peculiarly uneasy and the look in her silver gaze made him feel like she could see past his façade, could detect the love harbored and hidden in his soul. After all, how could such a powerful women, a descendent of a goddess and holder of the most powerful crystal in the universe, not see something like as basic as a soul bond? How did she not know, how did she not see how desperately he loved her daughter? How did she not detect how anxiously he awaited Serenity's descent down that staircase?

Yes, Queen Serenity made him very, very uneasy.

And then his breathe caught as he heard that same voice, which had announced the arrival of the four inner princesses, speak aloud his princess's title. His universe went quiet, his eyes were trained solely on those open doors she would surely emerge from. He hadn't seen her in what felt like ages. And the moment he caught sight of her, gracefully sweeping down the stairs with an unreadable expression on her delicate features, it took all of his strength to keep his feet planted, his face blank, and his hands from trembling.

She was so beautiful, he loved her so much. And he had no other thoughts, only emotions. He ached to greet her, to beam at her and embrace her. He longed to stake his claim in front of the whole court, longed for her mother to accept him as a son-in-law and his generals to accept her as his princess. The desire to reveal the truth, to confess, had never been so fervent in him. It took every ounce of his strength to keep him from giving up their ruse, right then and there, and ignoring protocol to sweep her into his arms.

And Serenity was just as overwrought.

Her heart threatened to beat out of her chest and the butterflies in her stomach seemed to have escaped confinement, wreaking havoc on her entire body as her nerves tingled. She could feel his presence, so strongly and so close, but she couldn't deign a glance his way in fear of something she couldn't quite place. But, oh how badly she wanted to meet his eyes. She could already feel his own eyes upon her, never mind the hundreds of other sets of eyes set on the Moon Princess descending down the staircase, and the thought made the faintest of blushes warm her cheeks.

Serenity's stare finally rose from the hem of her gown as she stepped onto the marble floor of the great hall, briefly glancing at her spirit sisters from the corner of her eyes as she approached her mother. She prayed silently to Selene to give her the strength to do this, to not trip, and to keep her emotions at bay as she stepped beside her mother. The court lightly clapped, as was customary, as she took her place beside her mother and avoided making eye contact with the head of the Terran party.

Queen Serenity watched her daughter carefully, eyes inspecting the oddly nervous demeanor of her only daughter. A smile found its way onto her lips as the queen placed a feather light hand on the small of her daughter's back. The girl looked up at her, surprising her mother with the intensity of the emotions behind them, but the emotion did not transfer onto her composed facial features. The princess smiled a small smile at her mother, calmed by her touch and the comforting warmth her presence sinking into her. For a moment, she forgot that Endymion was in front of her, she forgot the whole court's eyes were on her, and she forgot that she was hiding something so important from the women she loved the most. All that was there was her mother, who made her calm and who she loved so adamantly.

The part of her that was still naïve, still a child, and still innocent soothed her mind, because, it told her, as long as her mother was there things would be in control. Her mother demanded peace, tranquility, and order. Nothing could go drastically wrong, not ever, so long as her mother was there to fix it. Princess Serenity adored her, idolized her, and loved her unconditionally. Unlike the tension that existed between herself and everyone else, she could truthfully say she had never had a single negative thought about her mother. She was an angel, her salvation, her everything. Not once had she gotten angry at her mother and even the deep-rooted desire of hers to be just like her mother did not translate into jealousy. The two did not fight or argue like the princess and Luna. Serenity was obedient, kind, and docile to her mother. Always. Her every action had been to please her mother, to make her proud. That is, all but one.

Sometimes, she loved her mother so much that she forgot about how fervently she loved Endymion. She forgot that she would have shattered her mother's faith and trust without the queen even knowing it, that her selfishness made her unworthy of that goddess' name. Her mother was her universe until he came along and she had never, ever thought it was possible to love someone more.

As a child, all Serenity ever wanted was to be like her mother. It was her dream, to someday equal her mother in beauty, grace, intelligence, and kindness. Never surpass, no, that was simply impossible. But she wanted only to equal her, to be worthy of her, to prove she was her daughter. It seemed like a perfect dream and it ruled Serenity's every action for the first fourteen years of her life, encouraging her to always behave her very best so she could grow up to be a true lady like her mother. Although her mind wandered in her lessons, although she sometimes disobeyed Luna, although she was often lazy and silly; she was the epitome of a true princess.

But when she had met Endymion, her dream had changed. Her mother no longer was the sole controller of her universe and Queen Serenity was no longer quite her daughter's definition of perfection. Endymion had spoiled her dream, because she loved him too much to hold onto her old one. Serenity learned she would never be like her mother; she was too selfish, too impulsive, she did not know how to sacrifice. She loved Endymion too much, too selfishly, more than she loved anything else. For his life, she would give up her very kingdom. Her mother was a better person than her, her mother would not have defied the laws of the world as she had. She was a treasonist, a sinner, no better than an adulteress, and not only an awful daughter, but a liar as well.

Because she loved Endymion with her whole soul, she would be forever imperfect. That realization had almost ended it all, her devotion to her mother and desire to be worthy of her name was almost enough to make her turn her back on the one thing that had made her feel truly, truly alive. But she could never leave Endymion. After all, hadn't her mother always taught her that she should obey her heart above all else? And her heart always, always beat for him. Even if her mother did occupy a large part of her heart, even if she was filled up with love for the people who had raised her, her heart belonged strictly to the Prince of Earth.

He had changed everything.

She had never felt caged, or sheltered, or naïve until she met him. Now she saw how her life was not under her control, saw how she made no real decisions and kept no secrets. She'd never noticed it, not until she had been forced to hide him from her life. She was the sole heir to the most powerful reign, the most glorious alliance in the universe. She was the daughter of a goddess, the only hope of a kingdom, and the future ruler of almost all planets in the solar system. She was destined to rule, to have power, to make decisions. But what had she ever been in control of? She had not been allowed to choose her own clothes or books or activities until she was fifteen. Even then, her every move was planned by someone else. She was a pawn, a slave to the schedule she was given. Her guardians, Luna, the court – they all had power over her. And she began to resent them for it, resent them for the fact that she had been robbed of her independence and now was so, so, so utterly dependent on the advice and approval of others. She resented ever thing she was told to do.

Her mother was a tangent. She never resented her mother's rules, though her mother did not prevent her from much, and she never held her mother's advice against her. She never felt like a prisoner to her mother, but always to the castle. Her mother was the only one who asked her opinion, who had the wisdom to know her daughter needed some semblance of control so that she didn't go mad. She knew her mother understood her, she understood her all too well, because she'd been a suppressed princess too. Her mother would say all the right words, her every action was perfect. She knew everything. She understood. She made her feel so, so special.

It broke her heart most of all, more than anything else, that she kept her love of Endymion from her mother. And it hurt to know that her all knowing mother, who knew her so well, had no idea what she was hiding. In a way, part of her wanted her to find out. She wanted her to know. But more than that, she wanted her mother to love her. And how could she love her when she found out how truly selfish she was? How she had gone against her and betrayed her and done something completely prohibited? She would have no confidence in her, would be ashamed of her, would not speak to her, would not look at her.

That was the reason. The real reason. The reason that she had not told, could not tell, would not. In the end, that was the sole reason. Serenity was terrified of losing her mother's love. And that fear made her into an excellent liar, a perfect escape artist, an unseen criminal.

Endymion knew known of this.

The Prince of Earth only saw Serenity, he could not understand the depth of devotion Serenity had for her mother, though he could sense the calm that seeped into Serenity when her mother smiled at her. He swallowed, trying to remain inconspicuous and at ease to the generals behind him and the queen before him.

Queen Serenity motioned for her daughter to step forward, to present herself to the Earthen prince. As the princess of the moon, it was her duty to formally greet the royals, since her mother had greeted them upon their arrival. The princess gathered her breathe as she stepped forward, her eyes forced to the man in front of her. However, she could not quite bring herself to meet his eyes yet, instead focusing on the dark fabric and silver armor clothing his chest before she dipped into a graceful curtsy.

And then her eyes met his as her skirt swept back to place, her hands clasping in front of her and her back straightening out of the curtsey. Lilac met navy. She fought a blush at the look her was giving her, the corners of her mouth turning down in contrast to the dazzling beam that threatened to spill across her face. She lifted her chin, eyes now firmly locked with that familiar dancing blue.

Endymion. He heard her whisper to him silently, the gold and silver soul bound between them resolutely tugging at them. They both held their breath, hoping that the love they saw in each other's eyes was not as obvious to everyone else as it was to them.

"Welcome, Prince Endymion." Princess Serenity greeted cordially, her tone betraying nothing but royal courtesy. Only he noticed the gentle lull in her speech, the way her voice was softer. He inhaled a quiet breath, his heart quivering as he dropped into a bow. She continued with a gracious smile, repeating the lines she knew she was supposed to say, "I am pleased you have arrived safely. I truly hope during your time here our courts can come to a mutually satisfying arrangement in which both our kingdoms will benefit."

He fought the urge to laugh, taking a step forward to take her hand. Unable to resist himself, he did the only thing he could imagine getting away with under customary terms. He bowed his head to press the tenderest of kisses to her left ring finger, making sure not to let his lips linger there for too long. It was over too quickly and to the eyes of the carefully watching court it seemed a strict, albeit surprising, show of respect and good manners rather than the show of love it was meant to be. They both felt the tingling remnants of electricity on their skin as they stepped back from one another. Endymion reluctantly turned to Queen Serenity, "It is an honor to be received here at the court of the Silver Millennium, your highness. I share your daughter's hope that we can come to an arrangement that will please both our kingdoms."

"We are happy to receive the court of the Earth kingdom, Prince Endymion, under such peaceful terms." The queen returned simply, some unreadable smile on her lips, and then continued in a tone that hinted at good-natured amusement rather than spite, "Tonight there shall be a ball held in celebration of the full moon, and I would be pleased if you, as well as your party, could attend. The same invitation goes to King Odysseus, of course, if he feels fit to attend."

"I appreciate your kindness, Queen Serenity, and although I cannot speak for my father, you will be sure to see me in attendance."

"Very well. I shall have my daughter see you to your suites." The princess looked surprised by her mother's suggestion, but the look disappeared as she nodded in compliance and cast her eyes at the floor. Queen Serenity nodded at Endymion and the four men behind him as Luna and Artemis appeared at her side, pleasantly smiling as she bid farewell, "Good day, Prince Endymion, Generals."

. . .

AUTHOR'S NOTE: I'm sorry that it's been so long! I've been having a hard time starting this story out, but hopefully things will go a bit faster now that I've got the first part out of the way. I've got a lot planned for this story and I'm excited to really start on the plot. If you have any suggestions, feel free to send them, and reviews (of course!) would be appreciated greatly.

. . .