dedication: to Les, and girlsbydaylight who I creepily stalk when she's not looking
notes: so here's what happened: I got upset and then I wrote ladies killing men, which always seems to cheer me up.
title: the only stars to lose are mine
summary: The Silver Imperium ends a million different times in a million different ways. This is just one more. — Venus, Serenity, Kunzite, Endymion.
"They're coming," said Mars.
She stood with her arms crossed over her chest in the high tower of Serenity's room in the moon's Silver's Palace, violet eyes hard as diamond and colder than empty space. It was an easy thing, to stand here away from the fighting and pretend that everything was alright—that this was not the end of the their lives, that this was just an ordinary day; that this was anything but what it actually was.
"Where is Serenity?" Mercury asked quietly.
"With her mother," was Jupiter's response. She, too, watched the enemy from the window.
Venus sat in the center of the room surrounded by quills and maps, and watched her sisters out of the corner of her eye. Mercury bent near double on her left, nose to parchment, her eyes nearly blurred with the speed at which she read. Jupiter with her hair loose, for once, leaning against the wall. Mars, furious and staring out into the farthest reaches of the universe, trying to divine their end fate.
Venus was not a seer.
She did not need to be a seer to know what Mars would find.
"What do we do, Irina?" Jupiter asked. Venus thought that perhaps her friend was only asking for want of something to do with her mouth—they all knew exactly what they would do. They would fight. They would keep Serenity alive.
"What we always do," she said. She didn't look at them. She didn't need to.
They all knew what was at stake.
"They're going to overwhelm us," Mars said again.
And Venus did not doubt that this was true. Her heart beat quiet in her chest, too soft to hear over her own breathing and the sound of cogs working in her mind. The Moon would be awash with youma.
She smiled a little cruelly.
And Kunzite had sworn that Beryl would never set foot on her princess' homeworld.
If only he could see them now.
But she had no doubt he was as dead as the rest of the Terran nobility. Beryl would have seen them all dead before she moved onto any other planet. She would not tolerate any disloyalty.
It was only what Venus would have done.
"We don't have a chance. Even if Selene pours her life out through the Crystal—" Mercury said.
"Which she will not," Venus cut across her, eyes flashing gold behind the blue—she was general in that moment, not a player with a chess set. But every novice knows that giving up one's queen is the quickest way to lose, and she was not one to ever give up. "We need Selene, no matter what."
"We need Serenity more," Mercury said, quietly, in reply.
There was silence.
"…We do," Jupiter said. She didn't catch Venus' gaze, but she didn't quail, either. The Jovian princess looked at the ground. "Selene… can hold her own. Serenity cannot. Jove, she can't—she can barely walk without falling on her face."
The Senshi all thought of their clumsy sweet golden princess, and they smiled.
Mercury was the first one to break the quiet. "Serenity must leave. If we want her to live, she has to leave."
"She won't go. I wouldn't."
"Not everyone is you, Mars," Mercury said delicately. Her eyes did not leave Venus. "But you are right. Serenity will not leave unless forced."
"And you want me to be the one to take her," Venus said.
"Logically, Irina, you are the only one. I am not strong enough to force her. We need Almathea here to trap the enemy with her lightning. And Cyrene—"
"Wouldn't go even if you drugged me," Mars cut her off.
"And Serenity would pout at you, and you'd fold like wet parchment," Jupiter snickered. At the sharp look Mars sent her, she only rolled her green eyes toward the ceiling. "Oh, don't give me that, Cyrene, you know it's true."
Mars scoffed, uncrossed her arms then crossed them again, and went back to staring out the window (they all noted that she didn't deny it for a second). Venus could see the fires burning in the enemy camps; she could tell Mars wanted to be down there, tearing into them with her bare hands.
Secretly, Venus thought she'd rather like it, too.
"So it must be you," Mercury said. "And you must go now, if we want to have any hope of keeping Serenity alive."
"She won't go, Mercury. Not as long as that boy lives."
Mercury's shoulders were cut sharply in the firelight. The shadows that dragged across her face were long, sad things, but she didn't look up from her parchment. She held out a small, silver cylinder. "Put this in whatever she eats next. It ought to knock her out, for a little while."
"Should we tell the queen?"
"No," Venus said. "It will only alarm her."
"We'll tell the queen once Serenity has gone," Mercury said.
She took the cylinder from the tips of Mercury's fingers, careful not to break it. There was never any telling what Mercury would come up with—while it might not be lethal to Serenity, it may have very well been deadly to the rest of them. Her hair hung thick and golden around her face.
"You're all going to die," she said quietly.
"We might," Mercury said briskly. "It is a risk we all run."
Mars tossed her hair. "What else is new? We're always dying, Irina, one way or another."
Jupiter's eyes were free of tears—there was nothing but steely determination in her gaze. She didn't say anything (didn't need to), and they did nothing but looked at each other for a long time.
"Fine," Venus said at last. "I'll go."
She didn't touch any of them as she left their last bastion of defense. She only held her head up, and prayed.
Venus injected whatever it was that was in the cylinder into the soft sweet flesh of a moon peach. They were Serenity's favourite, and they'd been on ration for a time longer than anyone liked to admit.
She would have no problem getting Serenity to bite into it.
None at all.
The air smelt of cinders and the strange sick perfume that always accompanied evil. Venus sauntered into Serenity's room, toying with the peach. Her princess turned at the sound of the door, a smile the size of the sun across her face.
"Venus! I—is that a moon peach?"
If Venus hadn't felt so sick with herself right then, she would have laughed. Leave it to Serenity to forget about a war in the face of moon peaches.
"Catch," she smiled.
Serenity's dexterity did, in fact, extend to food. She caught the peach before it hit the floor and bruised. She held it for a minute, and looked up at Venus.
"Thank you, Irina," Serenity said.
"Go on, then, I know how much you love them," Venus said. Her smile was frozen curiously on her face. She couldn't move her muscles at all. Perhaps it was for the better—because without further ado, the princess bit into the peach.
Venus caught her as she fell.
"I'm sorry, my lady. It had to be done," she murmured, and lifted the unconscious princess from the floor.
Venus' fingers did not shake over the controls of the tiny interstellar ship—this ship was not built for what she was about to put it through, but she had no choice. There was no other vessel that had the kind of evasive-stealth she needed to get the princess off the moon.
The take-off was near-silent.
The fires raged below them, and Venus did not look back. There was no sense in it—she already knew what she would see: Mars, hands flaming, Jupiter with her halberd sparkling, and Mercury, ice trailing at her heels as they tore the universe apart.
Her sisters were fighting, now.
And Serenity slept on.
Whether Venus ought to have been with them or not was no longer of any importance. Her duty was to her princess.
And so Venus did not look back.
There was nowhere safe in the galaxy. Perhaps Kakyuu, Venus thought. Kakyuu would give them asylum, and they were in a galaxy far, far away from Chaos' influence. Yes, Kakyuu was a possibility.
It was a long journey.
They would need fuel.
Venus cursed herself for not having thought of it sooner. Of course they couldn't stay in the reach of the Silver Alliance—it was far too dangerous for that—but she'd wanted to get Serenity away fast as she could. They'd left with a full tank, but it would only last 'til they reached the farthest edge of Pluto's oblong orbit.
They would have to stop on that cold, dark planet, if only for a little while.
Venus knew very little of the Senshi who guarded the Alliance's last, empty planet. It was said the Senshi of Time was a goddess—but the court whisperers were never really to be trusted, because there was never any telling where they got their information from.
For all Venus knew, they were walking into a trap.
She narrowed her eyes, and decided they would land anyway.
She could deal with traps.
Space was silent, dark, cold. Venus had always known that it was—she'd taken interstellar transport before, but never had to pilot on her own. She thought, grimly, that Selene had been right about for the need for lessons.
Aphrodite, when had it become like this?
Venus kept her eyes on the space in front of them to dodge through the asteroid belt. It would take all her concentration to deal with this.
That it kept her mind off the falling towers of the moon palace was something else entirely.
Venus' lips were a pale red line across her face.
She didn't think, anymore.
And time passed.
Time passed slow then fast like quicksand, and she couldn't hold it in her hands if she tried. The fuel gauge fluttered weakly near empty, but it had been hours (days?) since they'd left Neptune's borders behind.
"I was wondering when you were going to wake up."
"Where are we?" Serenity asked. Her voice was tiny in gaping maw of the universe; the soft shh-shh of fabric against skin the only signal of her movement as she crawled into the seat next to her guard. Her hair was loose, and she was sleepy-eyed lovely.
Venus' knuckles were tight around the helm. "Far from home. Go back to sleep."
"You drugged me," the princess murmured softly. A little accusing, she said "With moon peaches. Unfair, Irina, I'll never be able to look at them the same."
"It had to be done," Venus said. "The Alliance…"
"Is dying, isn't it? Mother said it might."
Venus looked at her liege out of the corner of her eye. Serenity was sitting with her head against the window, eyes a dreamy blue set on something that was far behind them—she still had the palace's sweeping white arches in her mind's eyes, a child with colourful ribbons tossed in the air.
But that time was long gone, now.
"I think I'm supposed to be mad at you," Serenity said distantly. Her hair was everywhere, long strands of pale gold in stark relief against the slick dark sheen of the window. "But I'm not. I don't know why."
Venus reached across the gulf between them to curve one hand around Serenity's wrist. "Maybe we don't have time to be mad, my lady."
"Maybe," Serenity said.
And Venus thought of all the times that she'd held this girl as she'd cried, rocked her 'til she found her peace of mind, brought her back from the brink of doing something that might have ruined them all. So she held on, and steered with one hand for a little while.
Then finally, Pluto came into sight.
It was a small planet, rocky and oddly backlit against the ink of the sky. Perhaps that was physical Time, that eerie misty green glow that curled in little eddies around the planet's surface.
Venus didn't trust it for a second.
"Serenity, when we land, stay onboard. No matter what you see, stay here," she ordered. Her sword near vibrated at her side, the metal thrumming with her worry and her fear. Serenity looked like she was about to protest, but the quelling stare Venus sent her was enough to keep her quiet.
They passed through Pluto's atmosphere without so much as a whisper. The Senshi of Love dropped the vessel to the landing pad, silent as a knife in the night—Venus thought wearily that when they finally had somewhere to rest, she was going to crash and sleep for a century.
But she didn't have the luxury of such a place, for now.
"Stay here, Serenity," Venus reiterated, before she slipped from the ship with all a shadow's ease. She closed the escape hatch behind her, just in case.
Venus was a beacon, glowing gold and tangerine-warm on the dead planet. If there was anything left alive in this place, it would come find her, and she would destroy it before it could lay its filthy hands on Serenity. That was how it had always been. How it would always be.
She kept her sword loose at her side, and went to find a fuel tanker.
She wasn't gone long.
The tanker was heavy in her hands, weighted full with enough fuel to get them long out of the galaxy and light-years away. There were six of them—Venus was going to take them all, and then they wouldn't need to stop again until they were far out of harm's way.
But nothing did ever work out the way she wanted it to.
As Venus lugged the first tanker back to the ship, something came hurtling out of the sky. It was a fiery burning ball of metal, flaring brightly against the false atmosphere, though it fell too fast for the tiny planet's gravity to be the culprit.
Venus bared her teeth.
That was a Terran ship.
She didn't know how they'd followed her out this far—there should have been no way. But Venus understood Fate (though perhaps not as well as Mars did—but Mars never bargained, she only saw. Venus would bargain with her life, if it would keep Serenity safe), and this may have been hers.
Well, it wouldn't be the first time she willingly defied something she shouldn't have.
She swung the sword up, and waited for the impact.
Venus closed her eyes.
Shrapnel and heat—the explosion scored along her cheek, and she stood in front of her tiny ship with her tiny princess inside it, and waited to see who she was going to kill that night.
The hiss of a hatch opening sounded. Two dark shapes—men, it looked like, tall, broad-shouldered men, who—
Venus' heart near stopped.
"Ah, you must be Lady Venus."
"Hello, Kunzite," she said flatly. Her knuckles were crackling and white beneath her gloves around the hilt of her sword, but she didn't move an inch. Hello, ex-lover, I thought you were dead, she thought.
He raised an eyebrow at her, turned just a little. He looked like he'd slept—Aphrodite, he probably had, and—what was he even doing here?
"Is the moon witch here?"
Venus' head snapped to the side.
She damned every god she knew, swore furious oaths on the inside of her head, thought of all the ways she could kill the Terran prince without even moving. He stood there in his armour, but his eyes were empty, and she didn't recognize him at all.
She'd always told Serenity the Terrans were a bad idea.
(Not that she'd ever followed her own advice. Kunzite was as cold-eyed and still as stone. Now, she wished she had.)
"Of course she isn't, Your Highness," Venus said casually. "You think we didn't remove her long before you came? You make me laugh."
But she wasn't laughing.
"Of course," he said.
"I am going to kill you now," Venus said. It was a simple statement of fact. She swung the sword up, pointed it right at his heart, and didn't look at Kunzite at all. "So you can never hurt Serenity again."
"Tell me where the moon witch is, first," Endymion said.
"Say please," Venus said.
"You have 'til the count of ten," Venus said again.
"Where is she, witch?!"
"Six," said Venus.
"Nine," she said.
"Ten. You die," she said, and swung the sword up. She'd done this so many times in practise, she knew where the pierce that pretty, flimsy armour of his—
And all Venus could see, then, was a flash of gold hair and pale fabric dashing between her and her prey. The thud of sword through flesh, armour, flesh. There was pain, suddenly, throbbing in her abdomen. Oh, gods.
She didn't even know what had happened until she pulled away, and found her princess and her princess' prince both impaled on the end of her sword.
She staggered back, about to be sick with herself.
Gods, what had she done?
"Endymion…" Serenity was whispering. "It's you."
His eyes flickered when Serenity's hands found the sides of his face. Venus watched, horrified, as he came back to himself.
"Shh, it's me, I'm here, my love, I'm here," Serenity said.
The pool of red around them leaked larger.
"No, shh, don't talk—"
"Love you, Sere—"
"Shh, I know, shhh-shhh—"
Venus could feel the life bleeding away from Serenity. She could see it bleeding away. It was soaking into her princess' dress but not into the ground—too rocky, too cold, too something that no longer made any sense.
But Venus didn't make a sound, and she didn't move.
They were still whispering to each other, going cold and lifeless.
"Serenity—Serenity!" Venus managed to get out of her throat, a curious wetness down her cheeks as she lurched forward to drag the sword out Serenity's stomach. "Oh gods, oh gods, Serenity—!"
Serenity reached up and dragged Venus down to her level, grip weak.
"Silly," she murmured softly, almost. A dark bubble of blood popped at the corner of her mouth. "You okay?"
"Me? My lady—you're—Serenity, I—!"
"I didn't want to run away, anymore," Serenity murmured. She patted Venus' cheek, kept her close, and whispered, "It wouldn't be right without him, Irina."
"Oh Gods, Serenity…"
"Be happy," Serenity murmured. Her breathing was shallow and slow against Venus' throat. "Don't—don't be sad."
Serenity's pulse fluttered weakly.
And then it slowed.
It slowed 'til it stopped completely, and the colour had left her princess' cheeks. Venus held onto her princess, rocking back and forth, skirt soaking up precious blood and breathing in what was left of her spirit. For how long, she would never know.
It felt like an eon later when someone finally broke the silence.
"You killed my prince, witch."
He didn't sound very upset over it.
"You don't even remember me, do you," Venus said into the top of Serenity's head. Gods, her only duty—her only duty—and she'd failed. Failed.
There was something distinctly off with this. Venus was numb all over, and couldn't bring herself to care. Her heart was long past shattered, and there was nothing he could do to hurt her now.
"No, you don't," she said, before he could reply. "You don't remember me at all."
Venus set Serenity down. If she looked at the pair of them just a certain way, prince and princess, she could pretend they were asleep. She could pretend, and it would last until she finished what she needed to do.
Sword as a crutch, she stood.
She wiped the blood off on her skirt.
"Fight me," she said.
Kunzite just looked at her.
"Fight me, damn you!"
A muscle in his jaw twitched.
And Venus thought don't move slow.
But of course she did.
The blade carved through her torso.
Venus fell, blood caught on the air and the silver of his eyes burning in her mind. I'll kill you, she promised. I hate you, and I'll kill you, and—
She didn't even scream.