Farewell by Amethyst Serenity
Disclaimer: If I owned Sailor Moon, this epilogue would have been done much faster and I'd be sipping pina coladas on a beach.
AN: My deepest apologies for finishing this fic so late but I was caught up with other things. If I rewrite this chapter again, I'll go insane. This epilogue was originally meant to be a songfic, set to "What Can I Do?" by the Corrs. The song is all about what you can do to make someone love you, which I thought appropriate to end Farewell. Special thanks go to angelicmoondj, martdeny and ariannademarcus! Thanks to everyone for reading and reviewing!
As stated previously, there is no Shingo, pink spore aka Chibiusa or mention of Crystal Tokyo. Mamoru is 2 years older than Usagi and they are both in high school, because I have commanded it to be!
Without further ado, here's the sugar-laden epilogue.
Lying on the bed and staring listlessly at the ceiling, Mamoru thought over the last few days. When they returned from Nemesis, everything had been perfect. Despite the interference of the meddling Outer Senshi, Endymion's bond with Serenity was never stronger. They were completely, undeniably victorious over their newest, strongest enemy without suffering any casualties in their ranks. With the Moon Princess safely returned to Earth, the Earth King then slipped into dormancy (after swearing at the Outer Senshi in a few ancient Earth languages for several minutes), allowing Mamoru Chiba to resurface. However, Mamoru retained Endymion's memories and powers, claiming his royal birthright and gaining more than enough power to protect her and stand by her side as an equal. Even if his past self occasionally awoke to regally berate him at times, the world had quite literally been his oyster. How did it all go wrong? Mamoru turned onto his side to lay his head on his arm, and stared at the blinking, blue neon numbers on the alarm clock.
With Uranus carrying the sleeping Serenity, the Sailor Senshi quickly dispersed to their various homes, leaving Mamoru and the Knights to have an impromptu celebration at his apartment. It turned into a short video game tournament where the players, after eating enough junk food to feed a small army, passed out over their controls. He didn't find out much about the reunions of the Inner Senshi with their families, except Luna and Artemis had already dispensed long-winded explanations and smoothed everything over for the girls (with tact, diplomacy… and the judicious application of hard liquor). The next day, Mr. Kurawa, Serena's uncle, hosted a barbecue for all the involved parties at their house. Of course, he went to see his beloved, dragging Keith and the others for company.
When they arrived, the Inners and their families were already in the backyard. Casual but sophisticated in a loose cream silk blouse and beige khakis with touches of gold jewelry, Dr. Mizuno pleasantly chatted with Haruka and Michiru, while keeping a watchful eye on Ami, demurely pretty in an ice blue top and dark blue, knee-length skirt. Ami was helping Hotaru, deceptively innocent in a lilac t-shirt and white shorts, set the picnic table, while Serena and Rei (stunning in a magenta sleeveless, tight dress) sorted through music for the boom-box. As Makoto, comfortable in a cocoa tube top and cut off jeans, added the finishing touches to a dish in the kitchen, Mr. Kurawa manned the grill in a navy blue polo shirt and grey slacks under the "supervision" of Rei's grandfather (in Shinto priest garb, as always). Looking like a gypsy in a pumpkin-hued peasant blouse and flowing brown skirt with a glittery gold shawl around her waist, Minako suddenly latched onto Justin, also eye-catching in a bright red & blue Red Sox jersey and baggy cargo pants, and Zack, more subdued in a beige, short sleeved shirt and blue jeans. She immediately pulled them over to the other girls.
Like her daughter, Mrs. Aino, in a jonquil-yellow linen sundress with her sleek, straight chocolate-brown hair hanging to her waist and animation brightening her bright sky blue eyes, was dragging her husband toward the Outer Senshi. Dressed in a baggy checkered brown shirt, white wife-beater and tan shorts, Mr. Aino sighed and slid his horn-rimmed glasses closer to his coffee-colored eyes. His wavy, flaxen hair was gathered in a short ponytail at the nape of his neck. While his wife started a lively conversation with Dr. Mizuno, Mr. Aino grabbed a cold beer and inched over to Mr. Kurawa, where they alternated between a discussion of barbecue techniques and commiseration over raising insanely brave teenage superheroes in indecently short skirts. Occasionally, they glared at the boys who had the utter gall to come near their baby girls.
When Haruka and Michiru headed towards him, Mamoru felt a tremor of unease, even with Keith and Neil (both in jeans, although Neil wore a hooded, turquoise Old Navy sweatshirt and Keith wore a scruffy, black NASA t-shirt) next to him. The Outer Senshi made a striking couple with Haruka in a loose white, pinstriped shirt & faded blue jeans and Michiru in a lime-green, embroidered tunic & flowing, ruffled, ivory skirt. Makoto, Rei and Minako silently joined them, unconsciously forming a wall to block him from Serena. All conversation came to a dead stop as everyone focused their attention on Mamoru and the Senshi. Keith and Neil exchanged nervous looks.
"Make no mistake, Chiba. I don't like you. If you make her cry with another asinine stunt, I'll make your life a living hell, no matter how much power you have or where you hide from us," Haruka warned.
"And I'll use your spleen as a football," Michiru quietly stated, frost dripping from her every word. Somehow, the threats were even more ominous when delivered in her soft, elegantly lethal voice compared to Haruka's brash, violent tones.
"They'll get you if they reach you before we do," Makoto and Rei added with grins vicious enough to turn his blood cold. Mamoru felt a little betrayed when he caught his friends shrugging their shoulders or conveniently looking the other way.
"I would die before I hurt her again," Mamoru vowed, slowly looking each Senshi in the face.
"Keep her happy and you'll have no trouble from us," Minako replied with a decisive nod. The Senshi parted in the middle, allowing him to see her. In a coral halter-top and ruffled denim miniskirt, she stood uneasily by the table, her fingers toying with the CD assortment. He walked towards her, locking his intense sapphire gaze with her ocean blue orbs. But then, she turned away, unwilling to look into his eyes. Mamoru halted, frozen in shock. She turned away from him. He reached for their soul bond to find out what was wrong... but only the barest whisper connected them. She had nearly severed their bond. Mamoru felt as if someone sucker-punched him in the gut. Why was she rejecting him? What did he do wrong? For him, the rest of the barbecue passed in a haze of confusion.
Mamoru flipped onto his back, once again staring at the dark ceiling. Why wouldn't Usako talk to him? He just didn't know what he was doing wrong.
The next morning, Mamoru blearily opened his eyes to the sunlight shining on his face. Feeling like warmed over death, he nearly pulled the covers over his head and went back to sleep but he was made of stronger stuff than most people. Despite going through his morning routine in a zombie-like fashion, Mamoru eventually stood in front of the bubbling coffee pot, awaiting a much needed caffeine fix to wake him up. A knock gently sounded on his door. He groaned and stalked to the door, ready to curse at whoever had the nerve to be on his doorstep at an ungodly hour of the morning. Throwing the door open, he was about to yell when the identity of his visitor was revealed. Frozen in place with her hand raised to knock again, Serena was flustered by his abrupt appearance. Mamoru's mouth dropped slightly open and his heart started to pound, making him a little lightheaded. Her cerulean eyes dropped to his chest and quickly darted away. When she turned her head, her honey gold hair, braided and tied with a yellow ribbon, danced around her knees. As her hand dropped to her side, her pale cheeks flushed a lovely rose color. He stared at her, dimly noting her silky, embroidered burgundy camisole, tan suede tailored shirt-jacket and cream lace-trimmed chiffon skirt.
"Uh… hello. I'm sorry to bother you but… I needed to talk to you… and… and could you please get dressed?" Serena blurted out, taking quick peeks at his muscled chest and six-pack while keeping an anxious watch for his neighbors. Mamoru suddenly realized he was only wearing the bottom half of his cotton drawstring, navy blue striped pajamas. Deep crimson flooded his tanned face. With a yelp, he shut the door in her face. A split second later, he threw open the door again, grabbed her arm and yanked her in the apartment before she had time to blink. Slamming the door with his foot, Mamoru practically shoved her into the living room.
"Just wait there!" he yelled, running into the bedroom. Stunned, Serena nearly fell forward onto the hardwood floor but stopped herself just in time. She looked up to see Mamoru's retreating bare back, until her view was blocked by his bedroom door. Sounds of muttered curses and drawers thudding on the ground soon filtered through the air. With a sigh, she took off her sandals and sat on the black leather couch. The apartment seemed so… empty. There wasn't much besides a few simple pieces of furniture, a sleek metallic coffee table and an entertainment center (including a stereo, video game system and television).
On a side table, a crystal vase was filled with blooming red roses, seemingly the only decorative piece in the room, but something else caught her eye. Scooting closer, Serena spotted a photograph in an antique frame, lovingly polished to a soft, gleaming shine. Her mouth parted in a gasp because she saw a very familiar, meatball-headed blonde. In the picture, she was looking very innocent and happy, in a white, fluffy cardigan and watermelon-pink dress, while holding a triple-scoop, fudge-topped ice cream cone. Tears came to her eyes but she hastily wiped them away when Mamoru ran into the living room, freshly dressed in a grey Yamaha t-shirt, black sweatpants and bare feet. He skidded to a halt in front of her.
"Hi, Usa- I mean, Serena. What can I do for you? Would you like something to eat or drink, like tea? Coffee? Juice? Cookies?" Mamoru breathlessly asked, hoping to keep her close as long as possible.
"No thank you. I needed to talk to you. About… about us," she quietly replied, looking down at her clasped hands. Mamoru took a seat on the couch but Serena was careful to keep some distance between them. He rested his elbows on his knees, silently worrying about her coolness towards him.
"What do you want to know?"
"How do you feel about me?"
"I love you, of course," he stated as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
"You say that so easily, so casually now. But what do you love about me?"
"I just… do. I love you," Mamoru repeated, baffled at her questions.
"Do you? Do you love because I'm pretty? My clothes? How I don't trip over things anymore?" she snapped, tilting her head up and fiercely glaring at him. "What do you love about me?"
"I… I've always loved you," he stammered.
"Why me? Why not some other girl?"
"We belong together, just like in Silver Millenium. We're destined to be."
"Those are only words, Mamoru, and they don't come true just because you say them. Endymion and Serenity belonged together. They couldn't live without each other. And she never doubted him or his love for a second," Serena blazed, leaping to her feet, storming around the room and making wild arm gestures.
"What? I don't understand. You are Serenity."
"No, I'm not. Not in this life. My name is Serena. I'm not a princess and I wasn't anything special when we were together. Were you only with me because I used to be Princess Serenity? I have to know, I need to know if you ever loved me, just me, plain Usagi Tsukino."
"Before we knew of our past, you could barely stand me. You'd insult me and make fun of everything from my hair to my grades. Then, you suddenly became my boyfriend but you could barely bring yourself to hold my hand or take your head out of a book to spend time with me. You were indulgent, exasperated, amused by me… but you never once said you liked me, much less loved me. Admit it- you love Serenity, not me. But now you can say you love me because I resemble her more," she relentlessly continued, protectively wrapping her arms around herself. Her eyes were dark and pained with old doubts. His heart twisted at the sight.
"NO! It's not like that, it was never like that!" Mamoru shouted, jumping up to grab her by the arms. She tried to pull away but he roughly embraced her, pressing his lips to her honey-gold hair. "Stop saying such things, Usako. It's not true. I love you but I'm not good at expressing it. I'm sorry, so sorry you ever doubted my love."
She pressed her forehead to his chest and gripped his shirt tightly with both hands but his hoarse voice echoed in her ears like thunder. His arms were warm steel bands holding her tightly against his body.
"I've waited my whole life for you but I still screwed it up anyway. You're not Serenity, just as I am not Endymion but they are still a part of us... and… and… I wish I was him because he knew how to show Serenity how much he loved her. I'm sorry I'm not the man I was, for your sake."
"I didn't want Endymion; I wanted you, Mamoru. But you still haven't answered my question. What do you love about me?" she whispered.
"I don't love you because of the Princess. But for a long time, she was all I had. She gave me purpose… and hope. And then I met you. You were so different… sunny-natured, lovable, sweet, innocent… always lighting the room with your smile and making the people around you happy… I couldn't take my eyes off you, you were so beautiful."
"But you were so nasty to me!"
"Teasing you was my way of getting your attention. Did you know I set my alarm clock every morning so I could bump into you? I was happy being with you. Even when you were angry with me, you were absolutely adorable, like a spitting mad kitten who wanted to scratch me but couldn't. And then, when I understood my feelings, I didn't know how to act differently."
"You understood your feelings when you knew about the Princess?" Serena murmured into his chest. Mamoru sighed and tilted her face up with one hand on her chin. When she was looking into his cobalt eyes, he tenderly traced the curve of her cheek with his index finger.
"Usako, how many times do I have to say it? The Princess had nothing to do with my feelings for you. I've loved you almost from the start. A month after we met, I was complaining to Motoki because a youma battle had made me late for my usual run-in with you. You bounced through the door, smiling and laughing with one of your friends. Looking at you instantly made me feel better. After yelling at me like always, you turned around and gave your ice cream to a little kid, just because he was crying. You were so gentle, so kind to him, even though you didn't know him... I fell for you in that very moment. Usako, your heart was and still is the most wonderful thing I've ever seen."
"Why didn't you ever tell me?" she sobbed, tears in her eyes. Her lower lip trembled and her delicate hands twisted his grey t-shirt into knots.
"It's ironic but I wanted to protect you from my life as Tuxedo Kamen… and I didn't understand how I could care about you and Sailor Moon. When I found out who you were, I didn't have to deny my feelings. You made me so happy, replacing the loneliness in my heart with your warmth. I didn't realize you needed me to say how much I love you. I'm selfish and I don't deserve you but I love you, more than anyone else ever could, more than my own life. I love everything about you, your smile, your laugh, your kindness, your strength, how you used to fall into my arms all the time… No matter what your name is or what you do, I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I'm yours forever, even if you don't want me."
"If you truly loved me, why couldn't you talk to me?" Serena spat, pushing away from him. He stumbled backwards but held out his arms pleadingly towards her.
"Usako, you know I'm not great at talking… or with my emotions."
"Don't give me excuses, Mamoru. You say you didn't want to do it, that you thought you were protecting me. But the truth is you'd rather listen to dreams sent by a bad guy than talk to me. You weren't my father; you were supposed to be my boyfriend, my partner. We were in a relationship, as in two people making decisions together. But you made all the decisions without even asking me. What about what I thought or wanted? For Selene's sake, I've been risking my life as Sailor Moon on a nightly basis since I was fourteen! I don't need to be coddled or protected like some child."
"Usa, I'm sorry. I love-"
"Stop. I haven't finished talking," Serena harshly reprimanded, folding her arms against her chest. "We could have worked it out together! Instead, you broke my heart and you didn't even have the decency to tell me the real reason. How could you do that to us?"
"Please, Serena, what can I do to make you love me again?"
"It's not about loving you. Loving you is… it's like breathing to me. It's part of who I am. But you lied to me, with your words, with your actions. How can I trust you again? We can't be together if we don't trust each other."
Mamoru's heart splintered into a thousand pieces.
"We shouldn't be doing this."
"Trust me, honey."
"Don't try your sweet talk on me, Zachary Daniel Winslow! We can't use our powers for dates."
"It's just one little day trip to Colorado. We'll be really quick, I promise. The Outers won't even know we're gone, if that's what you're worried about," Zack grinned, using his most persuasive, oily car salesman voice. He casually slung his arm around her.
"Zack, that's not the point! Using our powers like that is wrong," Ami protested, pushing his arm off her petite shoulders. She stomped away a few steps and then turned to face him, her ankle-length, peach summer dress flaring into a bell with the movement. "And I am not afraid of the Outers, like you are."
"Ami, I just want to show you something," he responded, taking her hands into his own and gently pulling her closer. Zack closed his eyes and pressed a kiss on their clasped hands. "It's…. really important to me, baby. Please come."
Ami felt her iron resolve weaken, since he looked so serious but adorable in a charcoal gray polo shirt and blue jeans. "Well… um… if it's really important to you… I guess… we could…"
"You won't regret it, I swear!" he pledged, smiling sweetly at her. For a second, she was entranced by the brilliant, happy gleam in his sage-green eyes. He drew her closer and swung her around until her back was pressed to his chest.
"Zack!" Ami yelped in surprise, her porcelain cheeks tinted with a rosy glow. Her boyfriend hugged her and then covered her eyes with his hands.
"It'll be alright, sweetheart," Zack breathed into her ear. He placed a butterfly soft kiss on the seashell curve of her ear and murmured, "Imagine your power is like water… a river running through you and wrapping around us… let it flow and merge with me… trust me to guide us…"
A soft bluish glow slowly outlined their bodies and expanded into a globe of light, mingling the colors of ice, water and sea with sparkles of silver and gold. The tinkling sounds of falling rain surrounded them as the light grew stronger. Then, with the popping sound of a burst bubble, they disappeared.
Initially, Ami could feel nothing but the warmth of Zack's body at her back. Then, a cool breeze touched her face, bringing the fresh, clean, outdoors scent of pine trees and earth. So used to the background noises of people and cars, she was struck by the intense silence, broken only by the soft, gurgling sounds of a waterfall and the wind slipping through the trees. When Zack removed his hands, she gasped.
Ami took a few steps forward, her mouth dropping slightly open at the scenery. Before her, there was a crystal clear lake with a pretty waterfall on its far side, surrounded by tall, ancient pine trees and lush, untamed emerald grass dotted with wildflowers. Beyond the forest, snow-capped mountains boldly speared into the almost painfully pure, clear blue sky, where a lone eagle arrogantly soared. She closed her eyes and inhaled, taking a deep breath of air untainted by pollution.
"Where… where are we?" Ami murmured, stunned at the surrounding natural beauty.
"Um, we're in Colorado, about an hour's hike on foot from a town called Glenwood Springs. Did you know that Doc Holiday was buried there? We used to come here every summer. My family owns a place near the lake… actually, Grandda's leaving it to me... because he knows how much I love it. What do you think?" Zack nervously rambled.
"It's… different… it's indescribable," she whispered. A knot tightened in Zack's chest. "It feels… untouched… as if we're the only two people in the universe who've ever been here. I've never seen anyplace… so beautiful."
Ami spun around to face him with her hands clasped behind her back, beaming happily at him. "Thank you for showing it to me, Zoi-chan."
"You're welcome, sweetheart," he replied, with a gentle smile on his face as he walked forward to take one of her hands. Zack pulled her along a graveled pathway towards the lake. When they reached a stone bench by the water, Ami sat on it. Stepping backwards, he stuck his hands in his pockets and simply looked at her.
"Zack? Did you want to tell me anything?" Ami uncertainly asked.
"You fit," he announced with a wide grin. She stared at him as if he had two heads. Zack stepped forward and tucked a bright canary-yellow sunflower in her bluish-black hair. Sitting at her feet, he leaned against her legs and gazed towards the mountains. "This is my favorite place in the whole world. Whenever I feel sad or lonely, I imagine being here and I'm better. And the first time I saw you, I could see you with me, just like we are now, a mermaid princess sitting by the lake with a flower in her hair. It's like there was a hole in my heart I never knew about until you came along and filled it."
Bending forward, Ami draped her arms around his neck and dropped a kiss on the crown of his head. As Zack continued, she laid her cheek against his reddish-gold hair. He absentmindedly wrapped his hands around her arms.
"I brought you here because I needed to say something. And I thought it would be hard but, in this place, it's easy. I'm in love with you. There will never be… could never be anyone else for me but you, Ami. My lady of the lake."
Blinking away the tears shimmering in her silver-flecked, sapphire eyes, Ami tightened her hold on him and managed to whisper, "I love you, too."
The couple silently, lovingly watched the scenery until the sky was painted with the purplish-pink hues of twilight and the fiery orange-red sun set over the snow-capped mountains.
Sprawled comfortably over a coffee-colored leather couch, Justin rapidly flipped through the channels on the plasma screen television in his hotel suite. Occasionally, he tossed a buttered popcorn kernel into his mouth. The rooms were unnaturally quiet without the other guys but he didn't feel like going out, since there was a thunderstorm rumbling through the streets. Instead, he contemplated his latest obsession, the alluring raven-haired spitfire with the venomous tongue. Even when her malice was sharp enough to draw blood, he couldn't get her out of his mind. Heck, Rei had done the impossible, completely overwhelming his devotion to baseball (and comic books). If she demanded it, he, a fervent member of the Red Sox nation, would seriously consider rooting for the Yankees. Yet, why did she, a vixen who continually broadcasted her dislike for him, hold this power over him?
Shutting off the television, Justin dropped the remote control on the table and leaned his head back against the couch. It wasn't her looks- although Rei was unbelievably gorgeous and could reduce him to a drooling hormone in a nanosecond- she was… complicated, a mystery wrapped up in a spicy, stunning package. If he had any sense whatsoever, he would forget about her but there was just something indefinable about her, as if he knew her from long, long ago. Beneath the temper, confidence and the harsh words, he was sure the real Rei was someone he'd love to know. Every so often, he glimpsed her hidden, softer side: in her tenderness with her pet crows Phobos and Deimos, the passion in her arguments, her fierce loyalty to her friends and her Princess, her tranquil demeanor while meditating, her devotion to her grandfather (when he wasn't being a dirty old man) and her painstakingly loving care of the temple grounds. Yet, she kept everyone at a distance, especially him. He couldn't break through that barrier with his presents, sincerity, pleas or anything else he tried, unless she let him… which was about as likely as a snowball's chance in summer. Tired of his glum musings, Justin sighed and picked up the remote again.
Meanwhile, Rei had received a vision during her daily meditation before the Great Fire. Although there wasn't any hint of an enemy, she was too troubled to continue her daily routine. The Shinto priestess tried to relax by reading manga in her room but her mind was plagued by her vision. Was it from the distant past or the near future? Did she even want it to happen? She vastly preferred an evil enemy and a clear cut battle to fight over disturbing hints about her personal life. He was an idiot, full of silly banter, foolish pranks and superficial charm… but he had risked his life to save her, tackling the panther youma when it was about to attack her. If she was truly being honest, she was more than a little attracted to him (and she was in complete denial about his steamy appearances in her dreams).
In her vision, the couple, who bore an uncanny resemblance to a certain Knight and herself, practically glowed with love as they gazed deeply into each other's eyes before they passionately kissed. Stunned by the embrace, Rei wasn't able to notice anything else. She had never kissed anyone, not even Kaidou, with such desire or longing, or looked so… happy. Memories flitted through her mind: the moment they first met when she attempted to strangle him, his scorched clothes after he watched her transformation video, the first Casablanca lily bouquet, his mischievous smirk after a pulling a prank on Keith with Minako's cooperation, Phobos & Deimos pecking at his head, the drool on his innocently boyish face when she caught him sleeping on a textbook, her grandfather joking with him in the temple courtyard, and his happy smile when he caught sight of her, even if she was ready to rip his guts out with a dull spoon. A desperate longing to see him rose in her, strengthened by her determination to banish her confusion.
Hastily changing out of her temple robes, Rei slipped into a black tank-top and a gray track-suit with pink stripes to run outside into the thunderstorm. She forgot her umbrella but she hardly registered the rain soaking her clothes. Consumed by her own thoughts, the dark-haired girl almost flew through the streets at superhuman speed, a streaking gray and black blur in the gloom-filled city. She reached the boys' hotel in record time, a mere half-hour, and dashed into an elevator, nearly running over several people in her path. As soon as she reached the boys' suite, the priestess furiously pounded on the door until Justin, barefoot in a rumpled magenta t-shirt and olive green shorts, opened it.
"How did ya forget the key, stu-" he started to mock, until he realized it was Rei, wild-eyed, gasping as if she'd run a marathon… and wearing wet clothes plastered to her lithe form. The flaxen-haired Knight blinked in surprise and tried to close his gaping mouth. She shoved her way into the room and turned around to face him, hands clenched at her sides. Justin shut the door by leaning against it.
"Why did you do it?" she demanded.
"What? I haven't done anything lately!" he protested, projecting bewildered innocence (and repressing the memory of itching powder placed in a certain shampoo bottle) and crossing his fingers behind his back.
"Why did you save me from that youma?"
"Yes, that," Rei mimicked, "Why did you do it, you idiot?"
"Uh, maybe I wanted your undying gratitude and a lap dance?"
"Don't joke! I'm serious, damn you!" she snarled, jabbing a pointed, French-manicured fingernail at his chest.
"Sorry, sorry, just hold off on that knife you call a finger," he replied, wincing and rubbing his chest. "I saw you were in danger and my body moved before I could even think of anything else. I had to save you. It was the strangest feeling… like my world would have ended if you weren't in it. I know you hate me and all but… I couldn't let you die! When you aren't spouting fire and brimstone, you're a pretty great person. And a really hot babe!"
Rei lowered her eyes and wrapped her arms around herself. "I… don't hate you. You remind me of someone, someone I don't like, sometimes… but I don't hate you. I'm… sorry I was mean to you."
An awkward silence stretched between them, as Justin stared at her bowed head. Rei's magnolia-pale cheeks were flooded by a cherry-red blush and her ivory teeth nibbled at her dusky rose lips. A lopsided grin appeared on his face. Bolting into action, she pushed past him and swept into the hall, her long, silky ink-black tresses brushing his body. Justin gaped at her fleeing form for a few moments and then sprinted after her, reaching the elevator as the doors closed. Cursing under his breath, he rushed back to his room for a black windbreaker and sneakers. After haphazardly swiping at the flower arrangement by the door, he rushed down the hall and stairs like a man possessed.
The brunette Senshi raced through the streets, heedless of the rain matting her hair and clothes, her white tennis shoes splashing water everywhere. Her eyes stung but she wasn't aware of any tears. She vaguely heard her name being called but she dismissed it. When someone forcefully grabbed her, the ebony-haired warrior reacted with battle-trained reflexes, wheeling around to punch her assailant in the face and break various body parts.
"Couldn't you… wait… just… one… bloody… minute? I've been calling… and… chasing… you… for… blocks…," Justin wheezed, tightening his death-grip on her arm. Rei looked blankly back at him. He took a moment to catch his breath and admire her. "God, you're beautiful, even when you look like a drowned rat."
Her flinty amethyst eyes flashing like the storm, Rei gritted her teeth and tensed her arm to yank it out of his grasp. She parted her lips to unleash a verbal barrage but she was silenced by a gigantic flower fluttering in her face, a gorgeous, ivory-white peony blossom with a burst of pinkish-red tints in its heart and pearl-like raindrops on its petals. Its leaves and delicate green stem looked a little ragged, as if it was hastily ripped out of a bouquet.
"This isn't a Casablanca Lily but it's the best I can do on short notice. I'm sorry," he mumbled, letting go of her arm and handing it to her. After cupping the bloom in her hands like a precious treasure, she shut her suspiciously moist eyes and nuzzled the soft, snowy petals with her nose, breathing in the wholesome scent. The blonde boy tried to apologize again but she silenced him by covering his mouth with her hand.
"It's… perfect… and I love it… even more than lilies," she murmured with dreamy violet eyes and a gentle curve to her lips. He kissed her outstretched hand, provoking a startled gasp, and moved her hand to his chest, interlacing their fingers.
"Since I saved your life and all, I was hoping you'd put me out of my misery and go out with me," he smirked. Rei tilted her head to the side, contemplating his mischievous sky-blue gaze and cocky, irrepressible grin.
"Kiss me and I'll think about it," she huskily invited, her rosy mouth curving into a seductive half-smile. Entranced, Justin leaned forward and tenderly pressed his lips to hers, savoring the heated taste of herbal tea and cinnamon mingled with the exotic scent of smoky incense and cherry blossoms, as the rain gently dampened their joined heads. And if the thunder echoed and lightning flashed around the two, neither noticed.
In companionable silence, Makoto and Neil held hands and strolled barefoot on a deserted beach, feeling the sand beneath their toes. The waves softly brushed onto the shore, barely illuminated by the star-dusted, black velvet night sky. Makoto shot a sideways glance at Neil and smiled. Suddenly laughing and dropping her shoes, she let go of his hand and danced into the water. Her pale jade tunic, decorated with beaded golden butterflies, and ivory satin cropped pants almost glowed silver in the moonlight. She coyly looked over her shoulder and offered a teasing challenge. "You can't catch me!"
Neil grinned, left his tan leather shoes on the sand and raced after her, heedless of the water staining his tailored, fawn-hued dress-shirt and cream linen trousers. Reverting to small children, they chased each other, splashing water whenever possible, until he caught her by the waist and swung her around to face him. She linked her arms around his neck with a joyful, delighted laugh. With a mischievous look in his tawny eyes, he twirled her in a circle until they were both a little dizzy and out of breath. Slightly off balance, the couple nearly landed facedown in the sand but they managed to stay upright.
"Now that I've got you, what will I do with you?" Neil mused aloud, gazing deep into her sparkling emerald eyes. "Oh, I know…"
Makoto's eyes widened with surprise as Neil moved his hands from her waist to the crown of her head. Unfastening her ponytail, he let her lustrous, silky chocolate-brown hair slide through his fingers until it hung in long, wavy curls down her back. "You should wear your hair down more often. It suits you."
"I… I…" she stammered, her peaches and cream complexion flushing a lovely shade of pink, much like her rose earrings. The auburn-haired boy tilted his head slightly down until his mouth nearly brushed her luscious lips, flirting on the verge of a kiss. Makoto half-closed her eyes and leaned against him as his warm breath teased her face, causing tingling sensations to run through her body.
"I have a surprise for you, angel-face," he huskily announced, stepping away from her embrace. Her eyes almost popping out of their sockets, the willowy girl growled under her breath and resisted the urge to throttle her companion. Somehow oblivious to the taut resistance of her body and her dark mutterings about "ruining the most romantic moment ever," he seized one of her hands and pulled her along the sandy beach. When Neil stopped, she walked into him, bumping her nose into his broad back. Puzzled, Makoto peered past him to see a table, covered by creamy, gold-embroidered linen and two chairs with matching cushions. Tapering ivory candles delicately illuminated a crystal vase centerpiece of lilac orchids and place settings for two. At the snap of his fingers, a hidden trio of musicians began to play. "You like?"
Makoto gasped and brought both hands to cover her mouth, her eyes wide and her face shining like a small sun with excitement. Neil placed his arm around her waist and strolled to the table, pulling out a chair for her. After he seated her, he pressed a soft kiss to the back of her hand. "Any special requests for dinner, milady?"
"Uh… no… yes… no… I mean… no special requests," Makoto breathlessly replied. Neil's eyes twinkled at her nervousness. He lightly traced the curve of her cheek with a fingertip before sauntering to the other chair. She looked down at the dainty china plates with pink rosebud borders, snow-white napkins and silverware. Seemingly appearing out of thin air, an excessively dignified waiter in a black tuxedo quietly filled their faceted crystal goblets with sparkling water.
"You haven't said if you liked my surprise, honey."
"It's… beautiful… and sweet…. No one's ever done anything this romantic for me… ever…"
"Baby, stick with me and you ain't seen nothing yet," he smirked.
"Really, you didn't… didn't have to go to so much trouble. I wasn't expecting this much, honest," she gravely stated, her slender hand plucking the napkin rosette into a crinkled mess.
"Angel-face, nothing's too much trouble if it's for you," was the glib rejoinder.
"I wish I could believe that," she mumbled under her breath, sliding her gaze away from the soft, earnest look in Neil's amber eyes. He reached across the table to clasp her hand.
"Believe it, sweetheart. You deserve more than I can give you."
"You make me feel like a fairy-tale princess."
"You are a princess and I'm not just talking about your past life."
"Do… do you ever think of the Silver Millenium? I mean… did we meet on the Moon? Were we in love? Did we even like each other?" Makoto asked in an oddly strained voice, her eyes darkening into murky, shadowed olive pools. Gripping her hand tightly, Neil smiled at her.
"If your past self was anything like you, I'd have been a fool not to worship you. But does it even matter? Here and now is all that counts. And now, I care about you. "
"Don't… don't say it if you don't mean it," she angrily muttered, yanking her hand away and making a fist. The brunette glared at the tablecloth with clenched teeth, as if it was a youma ready to suck the life out of her. "Just don't. I agreed to this date because I wanted some fun for once. A little flirting, a few compliments, some romance, maybe even a kiss or two. But don't lie like that. Not about your feelings."
"Why do you think I'm lying?" was his quiet response.
"Boys always start off so sweet but they lie about their feelings and break their promises. And then it comes, when you don't want to go all the way, the 'I like you but we're just friends' speech if they're being nice or they go on and on about how I'm too tall, too rough, too much of a tomboy, too violent… not a normal girl… not pretty enough… no sane boy could possibly want me… I've heard it all before and I just… don't want to hear it again. So stop… just stop," Makoto passionately declared, flushing a dark crimson. Her bright eyes darkened into murky olive pools as she was assailed by too many deliberately forgotten memories.
"You're right. You're not like other girls," Neil deadpanned. Makoto's head whipped up in shock, her face draining of all color. "And why would you want to be?"
Somehow managing to keep eye contact with her stunned countenance, the auburn-haired Knight strode to her chair. Pulling her to her feet, he ignored her toned body's instinctive readiness to fight him (and permanently damage his ability to father children) and wrapped his arms around her lithe waist. "I can't erase your past but I can tell you those boys were unbelievably stupid for letting you go. You're a remarkable girl, Makoto Kino, and I'm bloody lucky you're in my arms. God knows, I haven't the best track record. I've dated plenty of girls and forgotten them in five minutes or as soon as the next hottie crossed my path. But you, you're different. You've always been different."
"Why?" she whispered, her choked voice tinged slightly with hope. With thoughtful eyes and a half-smile, Neil loosened his hold and brushed mahogany curls off her forehead and cheek with his hand, leaving trails of fire on her face.
"It's so many things. Not only are you flat out supermodel gorgeous, you're sweet, funny, kind, loyal… brave. You won't back down for anyone or anything and you can kick butt better than any army in the galaxy. I've never had so much fun with anybody- talking with you, making you laugh, hearing your opinions makes me happy. And then, there's your smile. My God, your smile… it's glorious, it cuts me off at the knees. I'd do anything to keep that smile on your face."
"I'm not a dream girl or whatever you think I am," Makoto denied, tears shimmering in her emerald eyes. He touched his forehead to hers with a gentle smile.
"No, you're even better. You see me, plain old Neil, not Thomas Stanwyck Junior the walking ATM. Heck, you barely respect me sometimes, much less my money, Ms. Laxatives for Lunch. You have, you would fight beside me to protect our own, like a partner, an equal. Baby, I don't want just another pretty face and I don't know where this relationship will end up. But I swear I won't lie to you on my honor as a Knight. I care about you, much more than I ever thought I could. It's okay if you don't feel the same. Just don't ask me to deny my feelings."
"You make me feel safe… and cherished. I guess… I care about you too," she softly admitted, laying her head against his shoulder and encircling his waist with her arms. Gesturing to the hidden musicians, Neil rested his cheek against her silken tresses, wrapped his arms around her and closed his eyes with a contented smile. To the melodious harmony of waves lapping on the shore and a flute concerto by Mozart, the couple waltzed the night away.
The heavy beat of the music echoed in Minako's ears and resonated through her body. Her flaxen hair swirled alluringly around her as she lost herself in the dance, feeling nothing but the pounding of her heart. Women envied her and men hungrily stared at her gyrations, captivated by the paradox of her youthful, dewy freshness coupled with her seductive, irresistible beauty. Glowing with the sheen of perspiration, her voluptuous form was clad in a gauzy, backless, thigh-length beige dress with a rounded gold-embroidered collar. With every sensual movement, her clothing shimmered with tawny sparkles, accentuating her curves. Minako was a golden siren, a modern-day Helen of Troy tempting men beyond reason. With a mere look, she could own them. Yet, as much as they desired her, she was wild and unattainable, slipping through them like quicksilver and never staying in one place long enough to be caught.
Sighing blissfully, Minako closed her eyes and let the multi-colored lights play over her face. This club was exactly what she needed. A few hours ago, she'd been trapped in her room, feeling like the walls were closing on her. She wanted, she needed to forget everything… her duties, her memories, her burden as leader of the Inner Senshi… and most of all, her utter aloneness. Unlike her best friends, she had no one. Serena, even if she was playing hard to get, still had a guy who desperately wanted to be with her. It was so ironic, the loveless Goddess of Love. Was she not good enough? Was she not pretty enough? Why couldn't she find someone special? Her thoughts were spiraling into self-pity and depression, until she was ready to scream. When Makoto had called for a night out, Minako practically leapt at the chance. Within minutes, she threw on an outfit and ran out the door, arriving at the dance club, Maniac Love, far earlier than the others. In the back of her mind, the blonde beauty sensed the others and knew they would be arriving soon. Somehow, she always knew where her allies were located, except for one particular exception, a curious pale-haired blind spot which she steadfastly refused to recognize.
Feeling a tingle at the back of her neck, Minako turned to meet an intense, all-too-familiar steel gaze. Lounging against the wall, Keith radiated danger in a loose, open-necked silvery gray shirt and black Dockers with his long silver-gilt hair tied back in a low ponytail and a silver & turquoise cross dangling from a black cord around his tanned neck. She felt a funny flutter at the pit of her stomach but she forced herself to ignore it. It was wrong, it had to be wrong… because she remembered almost everything, no matter how Serena explained the past.
Aphrodite, the vivacious Senshi of Light, had been madly, passionately, forever in love with Kunzite, the stoic Earthian Dragon Knight-Commander. She would have relinquished her duty to her Princess for him, even died for him, because she believed their love was blessed and meant to be. When he accepted her as an equal and only asked her to understand his own obligations, the Venusian warrior loved him all the more. They were betrothed and meant to marry once their lord and lady were safely wed. Yet, when she granted him access to her apartments one night long, long ago, the Knight had greeted her with a sword thrust into her belly. His beloved, despised eyes, once gentle dove-gray and filled with caring, were tainted by murderous ice blue hate. Though greatly weakened, she fought him until her blood coated their crossed swords and her last breath cursed him to eternity. And so, the Dark Kingdom gained passage into the Silver Millenium on its night of destruction, her burden and secret shame.
Disturbed by her ancient memories, Minako deliberately turned her back on him but she was completely off her rhythm. At that moment, someone chose to grab her waist. Startled, she whipped her head around to see a dark-haired Adonis smirking down at her. Her skin crawled at his touch.
"Hey babe," he drawled, his green eyes fixated on her chest. "If you're looking for a good time, I'm your man."
"I think not. Please let go," she stiffly retorted. He responded by tightening his arms around her.
"C'mon, you know you want me, sweetcheeks."
"Remove your arm or be removed," the Senshi sternly commanded, her sweet voice contradicting the implacable, angry glitter in her sky-blue eyes. As his hands started to roam where it shouldn't, Minako shoved his arms away. As she prepared to flip him over her shoulder, an iron hand gripped his shoulder. The guy yelped and loosened his grip when the pressure on his shoulder reached uncomfortable levels.
"If I may cut in?" a voice coldly interjected.
"Hey man, you don't want to be messing with me. I got first dibs on this honey," he blustered. Dismissing him with a contemptuous glance, Keith locked gazes with Minako, who was ready to spit nails and crucify her "admirer."
"Lucky for me, it's not up to you. A lady should choose her escort. Right, Mina-chan?" the pale-haired Knight mockingly replied, staking a claim by stressing her nickname. Silently, he challenged her by quirking a silver eyebrow. After an inner, split second debate, Minako grudgingly moved to Keith's side and allowed him to hold her hand. Outwardly expressionless but inwardly exulting, the Knight released the guy. After eyeing his rival's intimidating air and leanly muscled body, the stranger quietly melted into the crowd to nurse his sore ego. Capitalizing on the moment, Keith swung Minako into a fast-moving dance.
"I never said I'd dance with you," the golden Senshi ungraciously snapped.
"I didn't ask. We're pretending to be a couple, unless you want Mr. Hands to grope you again. So, shut up and dance, Goldilocks," he murmured in her ear, reveling in her wildflower and sun-kissed peach scent. As a thrill went down her spine when his warm breath brushed her shell-like ear, Minako blushed… and hated herself for her reaction.
"I could have handled myself," she sulkily declared.
Keith grunted in agreement, pulling her closer until she could feel his every movement. As his arms embraced her, Minako seemed petite, almost delicate, against his taller frame. Their dance became a battle, as he countered her attempts to escape him. The pair smoothly glided across the floor, twirling and dipping with exquisite flair. Even though their minds were in discord, their bodies were perfectly attuned to the music and to each other, meshing in a fluid symphony as if they had danced together for a lifetime… and they might have long, long ago. The surrounding crowd parted for them like magic, admiring the sight of her fairness against his darkness, like the sun and moon, day and night.
"Didn't know you could dance," was her subdued comment. She contemplated his somber, closemouthed expression through lowered tawny lashes.
"There are a lot of things you don't know about me, sunshine," Keith responded, mentally thanking Zack for blackmailing him into ballroom lessons. His stern dark eyes softened when they rested on her upturned face, clouded with a million thoughts. As if he could read her mind, he knew her questions. Why? Why do you put up with me? Why did you rescue me? Why do you want me? Why do you still try when I reject you?
"You're the one for me. Always have been, always will be," he murmured, answering her unspoken thoughts. Her azure eyes, wide and surprised, searched his face. In the shadows, his dark gray eyes were gentle and soft, lightening to almost silver. Only for you, all for you… his eyes promised so many wonderful things. They beckoned to her, tugging at sweet, long suppressed memories. As his face came closer to hers, she held her breath but he merely pressed a chaste kiss to her forehead and then tucked her head under his chin. Closing his eyes, Keith rested his cheek against her sweet-smelling hair and felt contentment wash over him.
Meanwhile, confusion assailed his partner, Minako. Could she trust him? Dare she trust him? She nibbled her bottom lip. And yet, was it fair to hold the sins of the past against him, when he obviously didn't remember anything? Was it fair to ignore these glorious feelings bubbling in her, when she might never feel them again? In her heart of hearts, she knew he could match her on the dance floor… and everywhere else. Could she love another? More importantly, did she want to? Surreptitiously, Minako inhaled his scent, leather, spice and pine forests, reminding her of the outdoors. Maybe, just maybe, she should give him a chance…
"I'll kill you!" Justin passionately shouted, frothing at the mouth and gesturing wildly with his chosen weapon. Completely focused on survival by eliminating everyone else, he stabbed furiously at his controls and unleashed all the firepower at his disposal.
His opponent laconically snorted, dodging his attacks with virtuoso agility and taking cover behind a wooden crate. While he peppered the crate with a volley of bullets, she cannily retreated, luring him down a deserted passageway until she had a better vantage point. When he fired upon her again, she aimed with cool calculation and responded with one single, perfect gunshot… through Justin's forehead.
"NOOOOOOO!" he wailed, throwing down his game controller in despair. The blonde Knight's head drooped in self-pity. On the 50 inch Sony plasma television screen, his Halo character died… for the third time. To add insult to injury, his opponent came out of hiding to dance on his broken body and gratuitously shoot lead into any previously missed body part.
"In your FACE, loser-boy!" Haruka crowed, pumping her arm in the air to celebrate her victory. She turned towards Justin and condescendingly patted him on the head. "Maybe next time you'll be able to scratch me."
"I don't understand… how could this happen… I'm King of the Xbox… don't understand…" he mumbled, slumping into a posture of total defeat.
"You may have a small bit of skill but I'm the Emperor of games. Bow before my magnificence, lowly peasant," the wind Senshi gloated, lounging on the floor in a loose, faded yellow tank-top, gray sweats and bare feet.
"Haruka, you're not being a good winner. Don't set a bad example for the children," Michiru softly chided, keeping her eyes on a sheaf of music sheets. Elegant as always in a pale green sundress, she occasionally made notations on her papers while reclining on the settee with her feet curled under her. A pair of beige slippers was precisely positioned in front of her seat.
"Michi! Don't spoil my fun," Haruka pouted, uneasily glancing at Hotaru. Engrossed in a new romance novel (most likely borrowed from Minako), the petite brunette, in a lavender spaghetti top and light blue star-sprinkled cotton pajamas, was sprawled bonelessly over an overstuffed chair and turning a deaf ear to her companions.
"First, it was Need for Speed and now she beat me in Halo. Halo! That's my game! This means only one thing…" Justin rambled, hunched over the Xbox console like some mad, drooling thing. As a fanatical glint sparked in his eyes, he straightened and knelt next to Haruka. "You must teach me, master!"
Haruka favored him with a lofty, disbelieving stare.
"I'll polish your car! Your motorcycle!"
"As if I would let you touch my precious babies," she sniffed, pointing her nose up in the air and crossing her arms in front of her chest.
"Pleeeeeeeease, oh great one?" Justin groveled, practically genuflecting and kissing her feet. Haruka arched a golden brow and gleefully reviewed the possibilities.
"Haruka," Michiru sharply pronounced, her melodic voice cutting through her partner's mischievous thoughts. The blonde tomboy shot a pleading look at her but she remained implacably firm.
"Maybe," Haruka mumbled, warily eying the aqua-haired woman. When Michiru's coral lips clearly shaped the word "couch," the wind Senshi cringed. "Okay, okay, I'll point you in the right direction."
"Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!" Justin happily babbled.
"Yeah, whatever," she glumly sighed, falling backwards to lie on the plush, beige rug. A torrent of curses, culled from almost every known (and some unknown) language, suddenly burst into the room. Showcasing an unsurpassed mastery of invective, the swearing harmoniously dipped and soared through the musical scales without pause for breath, much like an aria performed by a first-tier soprano singer. Michiru blanched and jerked out of her seat to silence her blonde partner by suffocation, only to find a perplexed Haruka glancing around for the potty-mouth. Justin, unable to catch more than a few disjointed phrases, was scratching his head and idly wondering if the speaker would pass out soon from lack of oxygen. Not even batting an eyelash, Hotaru turned a page and continued her reading. The insults creatively explored a wide number of topics, including a certain person's genealogy, mental capabilities, personal hygiene, bed partners,…
Oblivious to its occupants, Pluto stormed into the room, resplendent in full Senshi regalia. Her bronzed complexion was indignantly crimson, much like her blazing garnet eyes, flared lips… and the steam coming out of her ears. Streamers of greenish-black hair floated on a crackling cloud of static electricity, nearly perpendicular to her statuesque body. The Garnet Rod pounded ominously on the floor with her every movement. The observers fell silent in awe, as they realized the ageless, enigmatic, unflappable Senshi of Time was having her first hissy fit in uncounted millennia.
"When I find that green-haired hussy, I'll dead scream her butt!" she ranted. Michiru shrank back, instinctively shielding her blue-green tresses with her hands. Haruka, thoroughly impressed, was torn between applauding and laughing her butt off. Briefly taking her eyes off her book, Hotaru idly thought Pluto was on a wicked PMS streak. Recognizing his token Y chromosome status, Justin inched toward the beckoning shelter of the coffee table. When Pluto's rage-filled eyes landed on Michiru, he dived underneath it, barely avoiding a concussion.
"YOU!" Pluto spat, trembling in fury and pointing an accusatory finger at the cool beauty. "It must be YOU!"
"Pa-pardon?" Michiru stammered, privately thinking a pissed off Pluto could have eaten Beryl for a midday snack.
"Hey! Don't talk to Michi like that!" Haruka shouted, jumping to her feet.
"He loves green hair, does he? I'll bloody shove green hair down that idiot's throat!"
"Er… who's he? What are you talking about?" the blonde Senshi blurted.
"I suspect Saffir might have something to do with this… outburst," Hotaru coolly inserted.
"Eh?" Haruka and Michiru echoed, exchanging astonished looks.
"How dare he not like me? ME! I ought to kick his sorry butt into the next dimension! After all I've done for him, he still won't shut up about his green-haired wench! And the cretin won't even name her so I can't erase her from existence!"
"Um, no offense, Pluto, but your hair's kinda green. I mean, with the highlights and all," Justin squeaked, safely tucked away in his hiding place. In the midst of quivering with white-hot rage, Pluto abruptly stopped and clutched her hair. She blankly looked at the silky strands, as if recognizing the emerald tint for the first time.
"An apology might be in order," the teen Senshi dryly suggested.
"Goddess! I left him unconscious at the Gates… I conked him on the head for no reason!" Pluto wailed, covering her now-pale face with a gloved hand. Hotaru sighed, ostentatiously cleared her throat and, capturing her fellow Senshi's guilt-ridden gaze, tilted her head at a slack-jawed Haruka and almost comatose Michiru.
"Uh… er… I'm… really truly very sorry at this little… um, episode and I, uh, must be going now… to… to correct matters at the Gates. Yes, that's it, something at the Gates," she rambled before fleeing the room in a total panic. A sun-bright head poked out from beneath the table.
"All clear?" he whispered. Upon hearing Hotaru's affirmative answer, the boy gingerly crawled out and threw himself onto a couch. "Boy, I can't believe she's guarding the Gates of Time and Space."
"Makes you wonder why we aren't invaded by time-crossing, dimensional hopping aliens every day," Haruka snickered, snapping out of her daze. She comfortably settled next to her shell-shocked partner.
"We are so doomed," Justin agreed.
"I HEARD THAT!"
The blondes looked at each other in horror before they hit the floor running. Chaos (and massively damaged furniture) ensued, as Pluto pursued them, hell-bent on braining someone with her staff. Meanwhile, Hotaru rolled her eyes and wondered why she possessed all the sanity in the house. Glancing over to the prostrate Senshi, she felt a tiny urge to fetch some smelling salts, but not enough to make her get out of her comfortable seat.
"Oh dear, I don't know what came over me," Michiru hazily muttered, blinking owlishly a few minutes later. A loud crash echoed through the house, followed by a yelped "I'm not paying for that!" She cringed as full remembrance returned to her. "They're going to give me a tension headache, aren't they?"
"Probably. Want some aspirin?" Hotaru casually offered.
"No, no, I might be able to nip this one in the bud by ignoring them. Hmmm, there was something I needed to tell you," the teal-haired woman mused, recovering her sang-froid. The brunette shrugged indifferently and turned yet another page. "Ah, I remember now. Justin's brothers are coming tomorrow. Accompanying their parents on a business trip, I believe."
"Brendan's coming HERE!?!?" the raven-haired girl shrieked, nearly ripping her book in two as she leaped to her feet. Michiru sighed and mentally steeled herself for more insanity. "How could you wait until NOW to tell me?!?! I'm a MESS!"
"Hotaru dear, they're coming tomorrow. You'll look lovely as you always do, when you see them."
"NO! NO! NO! My clothes aren't good enough! Brendan can't see me like this! This can't be happening to me!" she moaned, almost tearing her hair out by the roots and pacing the room like a crazed panther. Her cousin blinked, dumbfounded by this dramatic display of teenage angst in a girl who slaughtered battalions of youma without the slightest flicker of emotion. "I need… I need… I NEED TO SHOP!"
As Michiru finally succumbed to the lure of extra-strength aspirin and collapsed onto the settee, Hotaru raced upstairs and haphazardly donned a t-shirt and jeans. Launching out of her room like a heat-seeking missile, she fearlessly plunged into the mayhem raging through the house. With the unerring instinct of a predator honing in on its hapless prey, the petite Senshi raced toward a particular linen closet and proceeded to yank Justin out of his chosen hiding place. Flailing his arms (and looking utterly ridiculous since he was being manhandled by a girl almost a foot and a half shorter than him), he tried to loosen her death-grip on his collar with little success.
"What the h- let go, Hotaru!"
"I need a new outfit for Brendan. We're going shopping."
"B- but- you're risking my life here! Judgment Day! Death! Apocalypse! Pluto!"
"Shopping. Now," the frail-looking girl decreed, turning on her patented "I'm the Senshi of Death and my glaive is a good torture instrument" glare. Justin folded faster than a house of cards.
"Yes, ma'am. Er, we don't have a car," he meekly submitted.
"Rent one. Buy one. Whatever, I don't care. But. We. Are. Going. Now. And you!" Hotaru snapped, turning a frigid gaze on the fuming Time Guardian. "You have better things to do than wreck the Princess' house."
After favoring the blondes with wine-red eyes promising future dismemberment, Pluto snorted and vanished in a halo of garnet light. Hotaru smugly marched out of the house, dragging Justin by his much abused shirt-collar. Meanwhile, Haruka slunk back into the living room, torn between wanting to kill Brendan and relief that Pluto hadn't decapitated her.
"They all have to grow up sometimes, dear," Michiru sleepily stated. Her partner grunted, as she slumped next to her. The water Senshi gently smiled and linked their hands by lacing their fingers together. "You must admit it's good to see everyone so happy. And whatever comes, we'll face it together."
Haruka only frowned.
"Don't sulk because I put a stop to your harassment of Justin. Honestly, he gets more than enough from Rei. Sometimes, you ought to act your age."
The blonde slouched further into her seat, her frown turning into something suspiciously resembling a pout. Michiru sighed, as Haruka continued her silence.
"Remember that bet about Ami? I have plans for the money," she hinted. The wind Senshi averted her eyes and shrugged. The teal-haired woman leaned closer and whispered her plans into her partner's ear, causing Haruka's eyes to widen appreciatively.
"Darling Michiru, have I told you how much I love you lately?" the blonde cooed, pulling the teal-haired woman closer.
"We can't be together if we don't trust each other."
"Please… you can't mean… Sere… " Mamoru incoherently mumbled, reaching out to hold her. She backed away from him, slipping through his fingers like water.
"I don't know if I can trust you."
"One chance, just one chance. Please, baby. I'll never let you down again," he numbly pleaded.
"Never say never," she sighed, averting her eyes and nervously playing with a lock of honey gold hair with her fingers. "I thought I could never forgive you, but..."
"But then I was kidnapped… and Demando… he…." the princess murmured with soft, sad eyes, her slender body trembling from the dark memories. Waiting for the axe to fall, the king tautly vibrated with anxiety and swore on his soul to never disappoint her again, no matter what.
"I was a prize… a possession… something he owned… my thoughts, my feelings didn't count at all… it… he was terrifying…" she whispered, raising her cerulean eyes to meet his anxious cobalt gaze. "Every moment I was with him, all I wanted was to see you again. For you to hold me and say everything would be okay… I wanted you to say you cared… that I mattered."
His heart nearly stopped as she approached him.
"No one makes me feel the way you do. You make me feel so safe, so loved… like I'm the most important person in your world and you really need me… but you can also hurt me like no one else can. And you have."
"What can I do? What can I do to make you love me again?" he nearly begged. She tilted her head up to search his face.
"There's nothing you can do because love isn't the problem. I don't know if I can trust you again, but…" she replied, delicately placing a pale hand on his cheek. "But I want to try."
His arms convulsively wrapped around her, yanking her into his embrace as if he would never release her. With a breathy sigh, she laid her head against his chest and looped her arms around his waist. Lightheaded with relief, he savored the feel of her body on his.
"My lady, my love," the dark-haired man mumbled into her silky, jasmine-scented tresses.
"I could live without you… but I don't want to. My heart feels so empty when we're apart," she confessed. He brushed a kiss against the crown of her head.
"So does mine, baby. I need you, like I need air. Like water. You're my life."
"Wait. There'll be some ground rules," Serena cautioned, tilting her head to meet his eyes.
"Whatever you want, whatever you need," he fervently promised, pressing their foreheads together.
"Never lie to me again."
"On my sacred honor, I'll never lie to you again."
"You will not treat me like some brain-damaged child. We will make the decisions in our relationship. Together."
"I'll do my best, I swear. And I know you're not a child. You're my girl. My wonderful, beautiful girl."
"Call me Usako."
"Usako, my love."
"And one more thing…"
"As long as it's me and you, I'll do anything," Mamoru vowed. Hiding an impish smile, Serena whispered in his ear. His facial expression could best be described as pole-axed. "NOT MY GREEN JACKET!"
The petite girl burst into tinkling laughter, her porcelain face alight with joy. Her lover smiled and rested his cheek against hair.
"Would you stay with me, sweetheart? We won't do anything, I promise… I just want to know you aren't a mirage."
That night, he slept with his lady in his arms. And his dreams were sweet.
AN2: Whew! And there's my first finished epic! I started Farewell when my life was in a very dark place and I'd like to thank you all for the reviews and e-mails which brightened my days. Personally, I think it needs a rewrite, especially the earlier chapters but I'd much rather write other stuff. If anyone wants to see the epilogue as the original songfic, I'll probably post it on my very new livejournal account (userid amethystserena).
There might be a sequel (also without the Pink Spore Plague), more Ice King, a Sailor Moon-Gundam Wing crossover or more Millenium Rebirth. Well, I'm off to decide (and read many, many fanfics…). Take care and please review!