Title: Love Me Or Set Me Free
Summary: Neo-Queen Serenity has been a good girl. She followed her destiny just like she was supposed to. But now that the time has come to hand the reins down to her daughter, she has the chance to follow her heart instead. Future U/S
Dedication: This is for UsagiLovesDuochan, who gave me the idea after repeatedly hinting that she couldn't get the idea of Seiya, Yaten and Taiki as a female pop group out of her mind. I agreed to write her a one-shot, and I hope this will suffice.
A/N: I was hesitant at the thought of doing this story at first, but once I started, it completely took over me. I love how it turned out. I'm going to go so far as to say that this one-shot could be considered an AU to my multi-chapter S/U fic To Love You More. In my mind, this is what would have happened if Chibi-Chibi hadn't come to Earth and Usagi hadn't run away to Kinmoku, but had instead stayed and married Mamoru. Enjoy!
Momoirozuishou = Pink Crystal
Sailor Quartet = Amazoness Quartet. In the manga, they become Chibi Moon's senshi. I like that, so I decided to keep it.
The glorious crescent moon was slowly waning as morning grew steadily closer. As the sun finally showed its face over the horizon, the city below began to bustle. Beneath the gentle touch of the warm golden beams, children hurried to school, parents ran errands, and citizens reported for work until midday, when they would all be released from their everyday tasks to celebrate. From her perch on her favorite window seat, Neo-Queen Serenity smiled to herself as she watched the sun's rays catch the glistening, dew-covered crystal of her palace for the first time, sending dozens of rainbows rebounding back into the air. It was a sight that she would never tire of viewing, stunning as it was.
Behind her, her husband, King Endymion, sighed as he rolled over in their enormous bed and stretched an arm out. Noticing her absence, his head popped up and he looked over at her curiously. "Watching the sun rise again?" he asked through a yawn.
"I was just thinking back to when I was a teenager," the queen replied. "I was never awake long enough to see the sun rise."
He smiled and sat up, resting his arms on his knees. "If I recall, you were never awake long enough to see school begin, never mind the day," he teased. "My head still aches from hearing you wail about having detention and I've still got the bump from being hit in the back of the head with your shoes."
Serenity glared at him. "I may be wearing only slippers, but they're still a deadly weapon," she threatened.
Endymion laughed and pushed the covers away. He'd worn a simple pair of black dressing pants to bed the night before, and they hung low on his hips when he stood and stretched. Serenity glanced at him, running her eyes over the familiar sight of his well muscled chest and arms and the tight waist that tapered off into slender hips, all covered with sleek golden skin. At one time, the sight likely would have spiked desire, but now she felt nothing of the sort, and she could tell that when he looked at her in her nightgown, he felt the same way.
"Hard to believe, isn't it?" he said softly, approaching and wrapping an arm around her shoulders. He peered out the window with her. "That she's old enough, I mean. I still remember the day that she was born. I held her in my arms for the first time and thought that surely this day would never come."
"I still have trouble reconciling her with the little brat who used to drive me crazy," she admitted, savoring his warmth. She leaned back slightly, knowing that he would be there to stop her from falling.
"She was exactly like her mother."
"Was that an insult?"
"Perish the thought." He smirked and tugged lightly on one of her messy odango, which were nearly falling out after a night in bed. Annoyed, she jerked her head away.
"Isn't Setsuna-san waiting for you?" she asked, gently patting at her hair.
"We agreed not to see each other until after the Coronation Ceremony," he replied, releasing her and walking over to his closet. There was really no need for him to search for clothing, as they would both be wearing their official royal garments in honor of the occasion, but he felt chilled.
Nodding, she said nothing as she turned back to the view, pretending that she couldn't feel the weight of his gaze on her back. She loved Endymion very much; he would always be a part of her very soul, and there was nothing that could change that. But she couldn't, and didn't try to, deny that over the centuries, their love had changed from all-consuming passion into a quiet, temperate flame. They had become best friends who worked well together above anything else as they shared the joy of governing a kingdom and raising a child. By mutual agreement, they had maintained the front of being madly in love when around their subjects or guardians, while behind closed doors they acted more like siblings.
And somewhere along the line, Endymion had fallen in love with someone else. It had agonized and terrified him at first. She could well remember the day he had come to her, tears in his eyes and remorse filling his heart. He had done nothing, of course, but the mere act of loving another woman had nearly torn him apart. Serenity had listened to his tale with a kind smile, and when he was finished and waiting for her reaction, she had taken him into her arms and told him of the woman that she had once loved; a secret that she had kept from him for nearly a thousand years.
He hadn't been surprised by her admission, though he had been surprised that she had chosen to share it with him. It had sealed a bond between the two of them that nothing could break, and, secure in the knowledge that he would always love her very much, Serenity had actively encouraged him to speak to the woman he'd fallen in love with. She knew how difficult it was to live knowing that you couldn't be with the person you loved, and she enjoyed seeing the happiness in Endymion's and Setsuna's eyes when they were together. The strength of their love had helped to soothe an old wound that had been festering for many years.
"You're thinking about her, aren't you." His voice distracted her from her thoughts.
It wasn't a question, but she answered it anyway. "Yes, I am." There was no point in lying. After so many years, Endymion could see through her easily.
"Why don't you reach out to them?" he asked gently, running a hand through his hair. "I saw the way she looked at you right before they left. There's no way that she doesn't still love you."
"I turned her down." Serenity hunched her shoulders as old but never forgotten pain swept through her. Sometimes she had nightmares about that day. "I essentially told her to leave me because she had no chance. I'm sure she's moved on by now and even if she hasn't…" She trailed off, knowing that she didn't deserve that kind of devotion. It would be better if she had moved on. No one deserved to be second place.
"Usako," Endymion sighed with exasperation, already knowing that he wouldn't win. They'd had this argument several times now, and it always ended in the same way. "You're so stubborn."
"Takes one to know one," she said with an air of forced lightheartedness. "I told you that it's fine, Endymion. You and Setsuna-san will be free to become a couple after the Coronation and seeing you two so happy together is enough for me. And while you two are on your trip around the world, I'm perfectly happy staying here at the Palace in case Small Lady has need of me." Her daughter wouldn't, she knew. Chibi-Usa had grown up into a wonderful young lady who had more than enough grace and poise to rule with all of the elegance her parents had once possessed.
"You deserve more than that," he told her sadly. "Don't you want to be happy, too?"
Serenity winced. "I am happy," she said quietly. It was the truth, sort of. She had a loving husband, dear friends, and a daughter and son-in-law to be proud of. There was little more she could ask for, and if she told herself that enough times, perhaps someday she would come to believe it.
A frown crossed Endymion's face, but whatever he was about to say was cut off by a knock at the door. "Come in," he called, hastily pulling on a shirt. He began to button it up as the door flew open and Chibi-Usa rushed in. She wasn't yet dressed in the royal gown she would wear for the Coronation; instead, she was wearing a simple violet dress that clung to her every curve, and Serenity was reminded all over again of how much her baby had grown.
"Good morning, darling," she said, extending her arms for a hug. Chibi-Usa fairly flew into them, clinging to her mother tightly for a good minute. It was a ritual that they had never failed to complete since the fall of the Black Moon.
"Good morning, Mama," Chibi-Usa said, her voice muffled by her mother's shoulder. She pulled away at last and turned to throw herself at Endymion. "Good morning, Papa."
"Are you excited?" Endymion asked, looking down at his daughter with fond eyes.
Chibi-Usa nodded. "And nervous," she admitted, looking out the window. Thoughts of her husband brought a smile to the young woman's lips, but she still seemed anxious. "You and Mama have done such a good job of ruling over Crystal Tokyo. What if Helios and I aren't good enough?"
"Darling..." Serenity stood, torn between exasperation and amusement, and walked over to the two of them. "I've already told you, my little one, that you will be a wonderful Queen. You were a stern but loving princess and the people adore you already. With a strong, courageous and wise man like Helios at your side, I have every belief that the two of you will do things that your father and I could have only dreamed of." She truly believed those words, and that was obvious in her voice. Though she and Endymion had started Crystal Tokyo, she knew that Queen Lady Serenity and King Helios would be the rulers who would take Earth to heights that no one could have imagined.
"Thank you, Mama. Helios told me the same thing this morning, but I guess I just needed to hear it from you."
"Anytime," the queen replied. She cast a quick glance at the time and gasped. "Oh my. It's already so late! You have to go, Chibi-Usa. You're going to be late to get dressed, and this is one time that all of us absolutely have to be on time."
"Sounds strange to hear you saying that," Chibi-Usa grinned with mischief as her mother swatted at her. Over the years, her parents had mellowed out to the point where she could Usagi and Mamoru in them again, and she loved that. It was like having the best of both worlds, and it meant that the longing for the past that she always felt had been somewhat subdued. "I'm on my way there now. Aunt Venus said she would come help me get dressed, and I think Taru-chan is going to be there, too."
Serenity nodded. "A wise decision," she said wryly. Even after centuries, Sailor Venus had not changed one bit. She was every bit as clothing conscious as she had been when they were teenagers, and if she was left alone to help Chibi-Usa get dressed, they would probably be hours late. "And your senshi? Are they ready for the ceremony to take place?"
"I think so." Chibi-Usa considered the question carefully before nodding. "Yes, they are. We all know that it's time your senshi stepped down as the guardians of Crystal Tokyo so that mine could take their place. We've been training for a long time, and I think they're ready to accept that level of responsibility. Don't worry, Mama, we won't let you down."
"I know you won't. Now, go on, get dressed!" She kissed Chibi-Usa's forehead one last time and sent the princess hurrying out of the room. It suddenly felt a lot quieter without her daughter and she sighed, realizing that this is how it would be from now on. Chibi-Usa was ready to take her place in the world as queen, and that meant she would no longer need her parents the way she did when she was a child. Their whole lives were about to change, and she wasn't sure she was ready for it. Her senshi all had dreams that they had been patiently waiting to follow, but her only dream had been to be a wife and mother. Now that she had achieved both, she found herself at a loose end, and it wasn't an appealing place to be.
"Usako?" Endymion's voice called her back from the gloomy place her thoughts had taken her to. She spun to face him, startled, as he said, "I wanted to let you know that I hired Chibi-Usa's favorite band to play at the party."
"You did? Oh, good. She'll be pleased." Serenity had left most of the details for the grand party that would take place after the Coronation Ceremony to the party planners, Sailor Venus and Endymion, who had taken a vested interest in planning the day. The guest list had taken all of her attention for several days, and she realized with some guilt that she didn't even know what Chibi-Usa's favorite band was anymore. It seemed like the older her daughter got, the less time they had for each other and the more they grew apart. "Have you heard them? I do hope they'll be ready to do their best."
Endymion smiled broadly, his dark eyes twinkling. "You'll love them, believe me," he said confidently. "Now go get dressed, my queen."
"I'm going, I'm going." As per protocol, this would be the last time she and Endymion saw each other until they walked down the carpet together. She turned to leave and felt his hand touch her arm. Startled, Serenity glanced up at him. "Endymion?"
He said nothing but cupped her cheek and drew her into a gentle kiss. Serenity willingly kissed him back, enjoying the familiar warmth that their closeness afforded, but pulled away a moment later. Her breathing a little heavier, she studied him, confused. It had been a long time since Endymion had kissed her in private, and she sensed that there was something behind the kiss that she hadn't understood. She searched his eyes for an answer, but for once, she was unable to get a grasp on what he was feeling.
"Endymion?" she repeated uncertainly.
"It's nothing. Go ahead."
Serenity frowned but, realizing that she wasn't going to get a proper response, left the room. Sailor Mars and several maids were waiting for her in her own private chambers to help her get ready. She submitted to their fussing without comment, allowing them to bathe her body and hair and help her to dress. The cool silk of her royal gown made her shiver as it slipped into place against her body. This was one of the last times she would ever wear this gown; now that Chibi-Usa was becoming queen, she and Endymion would rarely appear in public as royalty. Both of them had decided to step back as much as possible and allow Chibi-Usa and Helios to flourish, which made her wonder if staying at the palace was such a good idea. But where else could she go? Without thinking about it, she sighed.
"Are you nervous?" Sailor Mars asked.
"No. I know she'll do well." Serenity closed her eyes as her favorite maid began the arduous task of brushing out her hair. She could feel the weight of Mars's skeptical look burning into the top of her head, and sure enough, it wasn't long before the raven-haired woman spoke again.
"That's not what I meant and you know it. We all know Small Lady will be an excellent queen. Have you decided what you're going to do when you leave?"
Silently, she shook her head minutely, knowing that she had to remain as still as possible so as not to mess up her odango. The hairstyle was more important now than it had ever been. "I don't know what to do. I've been thinking about staying here just in case."
Mars sighed. "I thought the plan was for you and the King to leave so that Helios and Chibi-Usa had to stand on their own two feet?"
"Plans change," she said shortly. Truthfully, there was no need for her to stay, and she couldn't ignore that no matter how much she wanted to. Chibi-Usa had been shadowing her for months, learning the ways of Crystal Tokyo and its people. But she was loath to admit to anyone aside from Endymion that she had nothing else to do. She had never thought to plan for the day when she would no longer be queen, and now that it was here, she was unprepared.
"Baka," Mars said affectionately with just a trace of her old fire. Their eyes met in the mirror and Serenity saw herself smile. That, at least, was one thing she was looking forward to. Over the years, her friends had become more guardian than anything else, and she longed for the day when they would be friends first again and she could be merely Usagi instead of Serenity. She wondered if she remembered how to be just Usagi.
"You are ready, my lady," the maid said, picking up Serenity's crown from the pillow. She held it out to Mars, who took the sacred object and place it gently on Serenity's head. The familiar weight was both comforting and suffocating.
"Then let us go." Serenity stood up and took several small steps in the direction of the door. Mars fell into step just behind her, a routine that Serenity secretly hated. She'd never gotten used to the fact that only Endymion and Chibi-Usa would walk beside her.
"Usagi-chan." The sudden use of her old name made Serenity stop. Mars stepped closer, beside her, and blue clashed with violet. "I… You…"
"What is it, Rei-chan?" Suddenly worried, Serenity touched the senshi's arm. "Have you seen that something will go wrong?"
The worried light cleared from Mars's violet eyes, and she smiled. "No, nothing will go wrong. In fact, I think that everything's going to go right," she said. "I just wanted to say good luck."
Impulsively, Serenity hugged her. "Thank you for being at my side all these years," she mumbled.
"Hey, what are friends for? Someone had to keep you from having a klutz attack in front of everyone," Mars joked, gently patting her queen's back. "I've got to go join the others. You go straight to the stairs and wait there, or you'll end up late. I know you."
"I'm a queen and you still boss me around," Serenity muttered, smiling. She watched as Sailor Mars walked down the hall and suppressed the longing to go with her. Mars would be joining up with the other seven of Serenity's senshi. During the ceremony, Saturn would officially be given to Chibi-Usa, and then Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, Venus, Uranus and Neptune would step down so that the Sailor Quartet - Sailor Vesta, Sailor Ceres, Sailor Juno and Sailor Pallas - could take their place. Sailor Pluto would be relieved of her duties as the lonely guardian of the Time Gates thanks to a combined effort from the ginzuishou and momoirozuishou, which would allow her to monitor the Gates from a distance and return swiftly if she felt something was wrong. Chibi-Usa had also decided to post guards near the entrance to the Gate as an additional precaution.
Alone, the queen turned and started walking towards the place where she and Endymion would make their entrance into the Throne Room. He was already waiting for her, dressed in the lavender tuxedo, white shirt and dark blue cape he wore at all royal functions. Even though for the most part he no longer needed it, he still carried his cane as a precaution, as it doubled as a weapon. Serenity admired the way his tousled black hair, just barely touched with the beginning of grey, fell over his eyes as she approached. Pluto was a lucky woman, she thought with a private smile.
"Are you ready?" he asked, extending an elbow to her. The orchestra swelled and Serenity took a deep breath. This was it.
"As I'll ever be," she replied, sliding her fingers around his arm. The doors swung open and they took a step forward at the same time.
It was done. She was, by all rights, no longer the Queen of Crystal Tokyo or Earth. Serenity stood at the front of the room, her smile frozen on her face as she watched the newly christened Queen Lady Serenity and King Helios walk back down the carpet together. Helios looked very handsome in his white tuxedo, a perfect match for Chibi-Usa, who was wearing a form-fitting gown based off of Serenity's. Their crowns were glistening in the light, and the momoirozuishou positively sparkled. But it was the happiness glowing in their faces that caused an ache to start somewhere deep in her heart.
Almost as though he knew what she was thinking, Endymion wrapped an arm around her shoulders and steered her over to her senshi. All of them were wearing the exact same dumbfounded expression, like none of them could believe that after centuries, their work was finally done. For the first time in years, they all had the right to walk out the front doors of the palace and never come back. The Sailor Quartet and Sailor Saturn now had the responsibility of keeping Earth safe, and the only time the older senshi would step in and help was if the threat was truly dire. They were free… and it was overwhelming.
"I guess that's it," Venus said unsteadily, her eyes lingering a moment too long on the Sailor Quartet. "We've officially been replaced."
"I thought you'd be happy," Endymion remarked, holding out his free arm for Sailor Pluto. The woman hesitated for a split second before she stepped forward. She was still nervous about being overly affectionate with him when Serenity was around, no matter how often the younger woman encouraged them.
"We are," said Jupiter. Personally, she intended to finally follow her dream of opening up her own restaurant. Her emerald eyes glazed over slightly as she imagined spending hours in a kitchen of her own, something she hadn't been able to do in years, and her hands itched with the urge to grab a spoon.
"It's just a shock," Neptune concluded, leaning into the solid warmth of her partner.
Uranus kissed the top of her head and added, "Sometimes I thought Crystal Tokyo would never actually happen. Now it feels like our time went by too fast."
There was nothing Endymion could say to that. He nodded thoughtfully. "Do you all have plans?"
"'Ruka and I are going to America," said Neptune. They had no specific plans aside from their destination, but personally, she was torn between never leaving the ocean and playing the violin for three days straight while Uranus wanted to just climb onto the nearest motorcycle and just drive.
"I'll be sticking around," said Mercury. "I'm not sure I fully trust any of the available options as my replacement yet." Her sapphire eyes narrowed slightly. None of the Quartet had been trained as a doctor, so someone else would be appointed in her place when - or if - she chose to step down. She hadn't found anyone that she felt would be appropriate for the palace doctor, so she planned to remain for a while.
Mars brushed a strand of her long raven hair out of her face. "I haven't decided yet, so I'll probably stay in the city for a while."
Venus just shrugged. "No clue."
Serenity squirmed when all eyes fell to her. "I'm still thinking about it," she said, which was technically true. She looked away from the sympathy in their gazes and caught sight of Venus exchanging a look with Endymion. Her eyes narrowed slightly as she wondered what that was about.
"Are you looking forward to the party?" Jupiter asked her quickly.
"Hmm? Oh, yes. It will be a good way for everyone to meet the new king and queen," she answered, brightening at the thought. Their party had been a night to remember. She vividly recalled staying up well into the early morning hours, only to be summoned to attend to her royal duties while everyone else got to go to bed. The memory made her smirk now, though at the time she had been one cranky Neo-Queen.
"Have you heard or seen the band yet?"
"No." Serenity wondered why so many people were concentrating on the band. Curious, she said, "Are they that good?"
Jupiter smiled. "I've never heard them play, but other people have told me that they're truly amazing," she answered. "They certainly have quite the following amongst the people of Earth, and if you ask me, they're exactly what you need."
"Your Highnesses, Queen Lady Serenity has requested your presence in the Ballroom." One of Serenity's personal maids cut smoothly into the conversation before Serenity had the chance to reply.
"We'll be right there," said Endymion, dropping his arm away from Pluto. The nine of them looked at each other for a long moment before Serenity finally moved, drifting away from her friends and husband to walk towards the doors. One by one, the others followed her down the hall.
No expense had been spared when it came to the Coronation Party. The Ballroom had been carefully decorated in shades of pale pink, violet, and white. Four exquisitely designed thrones had been placed at the head of the room for the royal family, along with three enormous, luxury pillows for their three feline guardians. To the right of the room was a small stage for the band, and to the left were several long tables stacked high with every kind of imaginable food, including delectable desserts made by Sailor Jupiter herself. The back of the room had several smaller tables where people could sit down and eat, while the largest part of the room - the middle section - had been left bare to make room for dancing.
"Beautiful," Serenity sighed happily, admiring the décor. "Sailor Venus, you did a fantastic job."
The blond blushed with pleasure, but she looked happy as she eyed the room. "Sailor Mars helped to keep us on track," she admitted. "And I have to say, you have one talented team of designers at your disposal, Serenity. Everyone had tons of ideas. We all wanted to make it special for Small Lady."
"I think you succeeded." It wasn't hard for Serenity spot her daughter and son-in-law thanks to Chibi-Usa's long pink curls. They were swaying together in the middle of the room in a world all their own. Endymion and Pluto joined them, as did Uranus and Neptune, while the other senshi drifted away into the crowd. Serenity hung back by herself and watched them for a while, feeling her heart twisting again at the happiness that was so evident in their faces. Eventually, Venus came to stand next to her, hands linked loosely behind her back.
"Usagi-chan." The way she said it was exactly the way that Mars had. Serenity looked at her in bewilderment as Venus said tentatively, "You… you miss Seiya, don't you?"
It had been a long time since Serenity had heard that name spoken out loud. She and Endymion always used "her" or "she", as neither of them quite dared to cross that line. Hearing someone say it was like being punched in the stomach. Her face drained of color and she felt her breath catch in her throat. Venus's eyes widened in alarm and she quickly grabbed her queen's arm, hurrying the shorter woman over to the nearest refreshment table. One of the waiters hastily poured them a glass of the strawberry punch. Serenity drank from the glass with short sips until she felt steady enough to push Venus's hand away.
"I'm alright. You just caught me off guard," she said by way of explanation. "Stop hovering. I don't want you getting the others worried about me."
"Sorry." Venus backed off a step, though she still looked concerned. "Are you sure you feel well?"
"Yes, I'm fine. I just…" Serenity trailed off and took a deep breath. "Why would you ask me that?" Her voice was filled with pain and bitterness. Venus winced. "I'm at my daughter's Coronation Party. The daughter I had with my husband, the person I chose over her." She clenched her hand into a tight fist. "Why are you bringing up things from the past?"
"Because - " Whatever response Venus was about to give was cut off by the dimming of the lights and the strumming of a guitar. It was accompanied by a keyboard at first, and then gradually, a different guitar. Venus looked back at her queen with mingled fear and hope in her face. Serenity blinked at her in confusion, wondering what was going on. She was about to demand to know when she got her answer in the form of a very familiar voice ringing out through the room; a voice that haunted her dreams and nightmares alike throughout the years.
"In my dreams, how many times have we
Given each other tender kisses
When I look into your round eyes
I am drawn right into them
Dropping off to sleep held by you
Like that, I am wrapped in your warmth
Oh, if I could never wake up from this!"
Serenity stood up and turned slowly to face the stage, already knowing what she would see. Sure enough, three figures were standing there shrouded in darkness. It was like a flashback to the past, except that even through the shadows she could tell that she was watching women, not men, and all three of them were using instruments that were far more technologically advanced. Venus tried to say something to her, but her words were completely lost on Serenity. She couldn't take her eyes off of the stage, and eventually the blonde senshi backed off as the overhead lights burst into life, illuminating each of the musicians clearly. Her heart lurched even as her eyes hungrily drank in the sight.
Sailor Star Maker, also know as Kou Taiki, was dressed in tones of violet and blue that complimented her eyes. Her chestnut hair was drawn back in the traditional low ponytail and bound with a gold clasp. She was wearing a gown that draped over her body in waves, hiding more than it revealed, but in a very appealing manner, along with a simple pair of white sandals that complimented her tall form beautifully. The only jewelry she wore was a simple gold necklace with an amethyst drop hanging from the end.
Sailor Star Healer, or Kou Yaten, was swaying back and forth in front of her keyboard, her lips moving silently. She wore a gown of pale green, like frosted ice on an early winter morning. It clung to her every curve and drew more than one appreciative eye her way, as well as a set of deep green high heels that gave extra height to her small frame. Stunning jade pieces set in silver winked at her ears, throat, and wrists. Like Taiki, her hair had been tied back in a ponytail, but the ends of her hair had been carefully curled, giving her an extra air of elegance that her companions didn't possess.
Sailor Star Fighter, Kou Seiya, stood at the front of their small group, a confident smirk on her face. Unlike the others, her hair was down around her shoulders, spilling freely around her body in a wave of deep blue silk. She was wearing a long red gown with a high slit that, while not as clingy as Yaten's, showed off just enough to keep interest. Her shoes were black with small heels, and she wore no jewelry except for a black choker around her neck that had a small, upside crescent moon fixed to it in gold.
The voices of three women came together in a soothing melody that captivated Serenity. She couldn't have taken her eyes away if she tried. Seiya's eyes scanned the room, but not once did they come anywhere near the queen, and for that, Serenity was grateful. Her gown suddenly seemed several sizes too small, even though she had worn it many times before, and she was having a hard time catching her breath. She leaned heavily against the nearest table, feeling faint as the music changed from fast to slow to fast. Time felt meaningless until, without warning, Seiya turned in her direction and looked straight at her as her lips moved with a new song.
"No matter what I do, inside my heart
there are only things about you
I miss you
More than just playing childishly back in those days
our deep love was always maturing…"
It was too much. Spinning on her heel, the queen fled, pushing past their guests in her haste. The doors were opened for her, but she didn't even stop long enough to thank the doormen. She flew down the hall, aiming for the nearest exit, and burst outside like a sea of youma were on her heels. Her breathing was heavy and her feet ached as she staggered over to one of the large sakura trees and leaned against it. Too soon, her panting turned into tears that began to slide silently down her cheeks. Now she understood what the questions, hints, and looks had been about, but she didn't understand why.
She had no idea how long she had been out there before she heard that voice saying a name she hadn't heard since she was sixteen. Serenity twisted, not bothering to dry her tears, and glanced back at Seiya, who had followed her outside. The Starlight's eyes went wide when she saw the queen's state, and then her expression softened into something Serenity couldn't place. Suddenly feeling embarrassed, she hastily wiped her tears away and straightened, knowing that it wouldn't look good for her to be seen collapsed against a tree.
"S-Seiya," she stuttered. "I… I wasn't expecting you."
"I could tell. I thought you were going to faint at first." Looking awkward, Seiya crossed her arms. "When you ran out, I thought… are you okay?"
"Yes. Thank you." Serenity bit her lip, a sign of anxiety that she hadn't succumbed to in ages. Being with Seiya made her feel like she was a teenager all over again. She didn't know if she liked it or not. "What are you doing here?"
"Endymion sent us an invitation to sing at the party," said Seiya. She studied Serenity for a moment before adding, "Actually, he invited us back to Earth a long time ago and made it a standing invite when we didn't take him up on it right away. We came back a few months ago and decided to try our hand at singing again. I didn't realize that you didn't know we were here. I thought maybe you didn't want to see me and that's why you never got into contact with us."
"No!" Her head snapped up. "I would… I will always want to see you."
Seiya relaxed slightly, and her arms fell to her sides. "That's good, because I've been wanting to tell you something."
Hope flooded through her, though she tried hard to ignore it. "And what would that be?"
Serenity blinked. Ok, that wasn't what she was expecting. "Excuse me?"
"I'm sorry," Seiya repeated, taking a step closer. There was no hint of amusement in her eyes; she was completely serious. "Back then, I thought that Mamoru-san was just a jackass who had dumped you and never looked back. You believed in him and your love, and I tried to make you lose confidence in him." She took a deep breath and grimaced. "I didn't know about the Silver Millennium or Crystal Tokyo or your daughter. If I had, I would have been more understanding. Or tried to be, anyway. I had no right to try to split you two up, and I'm sorry if I made that time even more difficult for you."
Her mouth open slightly, Serenity just stared for a few moments before she finally snapped out of it. "You don't have to apologize," she said, utterly bemused. "Seiya, you said it yourself. You didn't know. It's not your fault. If it had been anyone else, you would have been right."
Seiya frowned at her. "I still wanted to apologize. I've grown up a lot during the past few years, you know, and that's the adult thing to do."
"So basically, in other words, you come here to say that just because Taiki-san told you to?" Serenity said, mouth twitching.
"Yep." Seiya shrugged. The queen burst into laughter and was amazed at how good it felt. It had been a long time since she'd been able to feel any joy or happiness that was not tempered by grief, jealousy, or bitterness. Still smiling broadly, she wiped at the small tears that had formed in her eyes from her laughter and belatedly realized that Seiya had come much closer without her notice.
"Seiya?" she asked curiously, tilting her head.
"Your daughter looks like she'll make a good queen," said the taller girl, her eyes fixed on Serenity's face. "Everywhere I go, I hear people talking about what wonderful rulers Crystal Tokyo has. They're all excited about what the future will bring."
"We trained her well," Serenity agreed, unconsciously licking her lips. She felt a private thrill when Seiya's eyes dropped to her mouth briefly before rising to meet her gaze. Their eyes connected, pale blue against darker blue, and held.
"What will you do now?" Seiya asked softly.
"I don't know," she said, for the first time saying those words without the accompanying wave of sadness and grief. "See, a long time ago, when I was a young and stupid little girl, I made the choice to follow destiny instead of my heart. My life had been set up on a preordained path, and I was a willing pawn. Now my destiny is over." She gestured to the palace behind them. "Crystal Tokyo has a new king and queen and I'm not needed anymore. I could follow my dreams if I wanted to, but I don't have any. All I ever wanted was to be a wife and mother and I've done that." The words spilled out in a rush, taking a huge weight from her shoulders. She felt relieved to have shared that with someone.
"You still have your king, though," she pointed out.
"He's not really mine anymore." Serenity gave her a sad smile. "I love Endymion very much, but I'm not in love with him anymore. Our time together has come and gone, and he fell in love with someone else. I'm sure you saw him and Pluto dancing together?"
Seiya nodded. "It was hard to miss."
"I wish them all the happiness in the world. Lord knows poor Pluto has waited long enough." Serenity fell silent and sighed.
"What about you? Have you fallen in love with someone else?"
"No." Lifting her head, Serenity looked up into Seiya's dark blue eyes, hoping that Seiya would see that her words came from her heart. "I fell in love with someone a long time ago, and I foolishly let her leave believing I didn't care about her. Sometimes I wanted to give up on my destiny and find her, but I could never bring myself to do it. I was too scared that she wouldn't feel the same way about me after I broke her heart. I thought she might have moved on."
"Maybe she waited," Seiya murmured, lifting a hand to cup Serenity's cheek. "Maybe she's been waiting all this time."
Tears sparkled in Serenity's blue eyes. "Do we have to wait anymore?"
In response, Seiya leaned down and kissed her, drawing their bodies closer together. Serenity whimpered and fell into the embrace gladly as tears began to slip down her cheeks again, though this time, they were from joy. She had been waiting for this moment for so long that she hardly knew what to do with herself now that it had come. Seiya pulled back reluctantly at last and rested their foreheads together. Her eyes were misty with unshed tears, but there was a brilliant smile on her face that couldn't be denied.
"Odango," she whispered. "Am I good enough?"
Serenity's heart swelled with love and ecstasy and a thousand other emotions too numerous to name. "You always were," she replied, and kissed her lover again.
The first song is Todokanu Omoi from the Sailor Moon anime. The second song is I Miss You from the Sera Myu live action. Both were sung by the Three Lights. I Miss You is a duet between Usagi and Seiya, and technically the above part is sung by Usagi, but I gave it to Seiya in this instance.