A/N: Things in bold are memories.
Many thanks to those who have reviewed thus far. If there are Questions, comments, concerns, please review and I shall hear them.
Special Thanks to my beta, Midnight's Violet Haze.
Chapter Two: How It Feels Without
The ballroom was decorated in rich colors, making the dark shades that covered most of the planet seem like a pleasant backdrop rather than a dismal, barren landscape. Thick curtains of royal blue and deep purples hung on the walls and draped from the ceiling, and she was slightly astounded at the effect. Of all the ten planets that Serenity had visited, Nemesis was the most wonderous to her, turning what would be a sorrowful sight on Earth to a seductive scene.
"Neo Queen Serenity, it is an honor that you would grace my humble planet with your visit." The Prince of Nemesis bowed before her respectfully.
Serenity executed a curtsy of her own as she saw the dark prince. "I am the one that is honored to be allowed on your planet," she said. "I've only just become queen after all. I have to visit all the planets to try and keep up good relations with them." After a moment, Serenity placed her hand firmly over her mouth in embarrassment. "Oh, I probably shouldn't have said all that, should I?"
"The honesty is refreshing," Diamond told her. "All of the planets are trying to establish themselves now, but if you listen to a word they say, they'll have you believe nothing has changed from the days of old."
Serenity was too kind to acknowledge that he was right. It had been a tiresome process, and certainty not one that she'd gone through alone, but over the years she had helped to restore the other planets. It was one of the last things she'd done as a sailor senshi. Galaxia had been able to restore a numerous amount of star seeds within the solar system, and she'd found that not all life had been destroyed with the moon. Some had been preserved in a state of stasis, slumbering on the moons of the planet they once served. It was a slow and exhausting process to restore all the planets, and each senshi helped with the restoration of their own planets especially.
They were all princesses, after all, and all had a right to rule over their own planets if they desired. Or what was left of their planets. But they all had a duty as senshi and decided to uphold that duty. Her inner senshi had returned to Earth with her and the outer senshi had taken up their respective posts on the outskirts of the Solar system. It had only been a few years since then, a decade at most, and already they seemed to have forgotten their debt to the third planet. Serenity chose not to let it bother her, however.
Pulling her mind back to the present, she looked around the ballroom. She had been told that Nemesis was a poor planet, but she did not see any signs of poverty in this room. It looked like a normal party with proper dress and decorations. Nemesis was the only planet she had absolutely no involvement with prior to their establishing themselves. She knew little to nothing of their origins and even the other planets were unaware they had any reason to be grateful to her. As far they knew, the senshi of the moon had disappeared.
"Would you dance with me, Neo Queen Serenity?" Diamond asked, extending his hand. His smiled seemed earnest and genuine, prompting her to respond in kind.
"Of course," she smiled.
The two of them dazzled onlookers with their dance. Serenity had become quite a bit more graceful over the years, growing into a woman that queen Serenity would have been very proud of, and Diamond was light on his feet. They danced in silence only a few minutes before Diamond posed a question to her. "I hope it is not improper for me to ask, but why is the King of Earth not with you?"
"King Endymion stayed behind to maintain our kingdom," Serenity answered. "When I return, he will make his own rounds to the planets."
"I see then," Diamond replied. "Well then, I hope that you and I, as well our planets, will get along splendidly."
"That would be very nice," Serenity said. "I would be honored if our planets could be allied."
"Then honor you, I shall," he said, kissing her hand.
Serenity sat in private room with all her senshi, taking her place as queen at the head the rectangular table. Venus was on her left, Mercury to her right, Jupiter and Mars across from her. She saw all her senshi regularly, but it was not very often nowadays that they got to relax together, especially not all of them at once. In some ways, Serenity had taken advantage of this to avoid Mars as much as possible, but in other ways, she had missed them being together. 'Watch your tongue and your wishes,' she scolded herself, inwardly sighing. It was too easy sometimes to get caught up in what once was...
Thus far the conversation had remained pleasant. In such a peaceful time, they were all free to explore their options and nothing was off limits to the senshi. Mercury had become a recluse in her labs. She couldn't become a doctor, not with being a full time senshi and needing to be available to fight at a moments notice, but she had all the time in the world to research medicines and cure disease. It was her hard work that kept the people of Crystal Tokyo in such good health. The silver crystal may have given them vitality and slowed their aging, but they were not immune to infections. They were still only human and no exceptional planetary blood ran through the veins of her people.
Jupiter seemed to split her time between running a small bakery and training soldiers. Even if people don't have the extra force of a senshi, she still thought that enough practice could make the people of earth effective against a threat should youma return. With both the energies of the silver crystal and golden crystal strengthening them, it wasn't an impossible idea. And Jupiter seemed to take real pride in her work in both areas. Jupiter had worked hard to make the people strong and to keep a smile on their faces while doing so.
Venus was having a much harder time with her dream, as she decided to go the route of anonymity. She still wanted to be famous, but to do so without relying on her identity as a senshi was very difficult. There were only a few people that wouldn't be intimidated or worshiping of her identity and Venus had asked for their help in releasing her albums. She did all her recording in secret and all her albums were released under a false name and image. The hush hush of it all had gotten publicity and people were all wondering who their mystery singer was, but the important thing to Venus was that her voice was out there, being heard and admired. Even after all this time, she had yet to become less loving of attention. None of the other senshi knew this, though. Serenity was the only one Venus had told and they shared their excitement each time she got to release a new album. Needless to say, Venus was very vague about what she had been up to, when the conversation turned to her.
Serenity wanted to avoid hearing about Mars, but there was no polite way to do so. Mars liked to talk about herself almost as much as Venus did and she had hopped on every opportunity she could. She finally had the chance to live out all of her many dreams and was not shy about trying new things. Serenity knew that for a fact.
"I'm glad all of you have been able to the things you've wanted to do. I know that must be hard being a senshi all the time," Serenity said.
"It really isn't so bad," said Mercury. "And I'm more worried about how you've been doing. Taking care of Crystal Tokyo is a big job and I hope that you know you can still count on us for anything."
"It's alright. I've learned how things work, by now," Serenity said. She hoped that the bitter edge in her voice couldn't be heard. "Neptune and Pluto were a big help in the beginning."
"So everything is okay with you?" Jupiter asked.
Serenity couldn't help but look to Mars as she answered. "I'm finding out that things are still much different than I though they'd be. Still it's... good to know that you guys will always fight for me."
Mars held her gaze without wavering for an instant. "We will always fight for you," She promised.
Serenity got the message loud and clear. Fighting and senshi business was a whole other world. As a soldier, Mars would always be loyal to her princess, her queen. Anything else was just too much to ask.
"Thank you," Serenity said to the assurances mumbled by her other friends. Her eyes were slow to move from from Mars, but she couldn't hold it either. Serenity was quieter when she repeated her words to the others, softer than she really meant to be. "Thank you."
Serenity was tired as she walked towards her bedroom door. Her visits to the other planets had exhausted her, but she managed to finish a few days earlier than expected and was excited to see her husband again. She pushed her door open and stood frozen in horror. Endymion was not alone in their bed. Exposed skin was covered by exposed skin as he fervently kissed the naked woman beneath them, and not even she could mistake what she was seeing.
Mars gasped when she looked up to see Serenity standing there, freezing in place. "Usagi!" she gasped, pulling the blanket up to cover herself.
Endymion looked over as well, also at a loss at what to do. He didn't have the chance to do anything, though. Serenity ran off, hoping that she had not seen what was just before her. It had to be some sort of dream, some sort of mistake. Endymion wouldn't do that to her. He wouldn't! He wouldn't!
Serenity did not return to her room that night. The next day was when she was formally announced at having returned to her kingdom. Endymion was to greet her before her people, the first they were to have seen of each other. She still didn't know what to do, what to say. It couldn't have been real or their must have been some sort of explanation. Some new enemy taking him over, some illusion that tricked her, anything that made what she'd just seen make sense.
"Welcome home, My Queen," Endymion greeted. He embraced her with a kiss, holding her close as he whispered to her, "For the people."
Serenity's eyes widened with shock as a cold stab of pain pierced her heart. 'For the people,' he said to her. 'For the people! No apology! No explanation! He just expects me to pretend that it didn't happen? He just expects me to pretend!'
Her eyes went to her senshi, landing on Mars without wanting to. The other senshi stood beside her, but Mars was the first to speak. "Welcome back, my queen."
Serenity tried to find words for this. There was no remorse in Mars' eyes. Nothing about her begged for forgiveness, she just looked resigned. Serenity tried to find some reason that this could not be happening. There were no words for her husband. No words for her 'friend.' All she think was, 'This can't be happening.' Over and over in her mind.
Serenity walked the halls of her palace after leaving her meeting with the girls. It was so large that one could get lost in it. She had in fact gotten lost here in the beginning. There was a place for everything in her large crystal palace. A place for a Queen. A place for a King. Even if it wasn't the place that she wanted.
"Neo Queen Serenity!" One of the servants called out to her. "We need you to look over some things."
"Of course," Serenity responded. "Could you tell me where my husband is at this moment?"
"I saw him with the new recruits earlier," the servant answered. "I think he was sparring with them."
'An alibi,' she thought. Endymion did not train in public settings, never had, even if he had once fooled her into thinking otherwise. "I see," Serenity answered aloud. The servant carried the folders of paperwork to Serenity's study and then dismissed herself without complaint. With all the paperwork she did, Serenity sometimes wondered if she ran this kingdom alone, but she knew this was not true. King Endymion, she learned, was a great ruler. Even if he was a poor husband.
Serenity looked around the ballroom of Nemesis with a different eye than she'd had on her first visit. It was still just as lovely, but everything had become melancholy to her. Things seemed to lose color and vibrancy and joy recently and her spirits refused to be lifted.
"Neo Queen Serenity," Diamond said. "I was hoping you'd join me in a dance, if it is not a bother."
"Prince Diamond," she said. "It is no bother at all." She took his hand and he lead her to the floor, but there was no lightness to her steps as there once had been.
"You seem less joyous than your last visit, Neo Queen," he said gently.
"Things are different than I would have thought they'd be," Serenity replied, her eyes watering as she spoke.
"How much has changed in the year since I've seen you last? he questioned.
"Just Diamond, I insist."
"Diamond," she amended, easily accepting the lack of formality. "I am at a loss of what to do. The most important thing to me is falling apart and I don't know how to fix it."
"Come with me," Diamond said softly, taking her by the hand and leading her to a private room. He closed the door behind them and looked her in the eyes. "Is this about your kingdom?"
She shook her head slowly. "King Endymion... he has... he..." She began to sob and couldn't bring herself to say anything more.
He pulled her close, trying to comfort her with his embrace. "Whatever it is Serenity, I promise to try and help you. I am more than just your ally. I'm your friend."
Serenity was brought out of her thoughts by a soft purple glow that sat upon her desk. The glow came from a small black crystal that sat upon her desk, a trinket that Diamond had given to her so that they could easily speak to one another. The glow meant that he was calling to her, something that only slightly surprised her. She lifted the tiny crystal and a small hologram of the prince projected above the point of the black crystal.
"Serenity," Diamond greeted her. "I waited to hear from you."
"Forgive me," she said to him. "Time got away from me."
"You look... uneasy, Serenity. Talk to me," he said imploringly.
"There has just been a great deal of things on my mind," she answered. Her eyes were downcast, unable to hold even his illusory gaze with the sorrow that played so heavily on her mind.
"Serenity… I won't tell you what to do, but perhaps it's time that things… change. If your mind is only becoming more burdened with how things are, then you may want to change them."
"Change them how? Though a horrible husband, Endymion is still a great King. And even if I was failed by a friend, I have not lost the loyalty of a soldier. What am I to do? What am I to change? My people—"
"Do something for your own happiness, Serenity," Diamond interrupted her with his insistence, something that he very rarely did. "You will not be abandoning your people if you try to be happy. As long as you rule, it need not matter what you do. Endymion has already taken this mindset and you attest to his good ruler ship."
"I don't know, Diamond. I just… I'm just conflicted. The senshi have all begun to reach for their dreams and I… my dreams are all broken. My Utopia is broken."
"Build yourself a new dream," he told her. "My clan… my people… we all dreamed of a planet like Earth. A place that was rich and vibrant and warm, but we don't have that. We have Nemesis and we do the best that we can with it. We embrace the darkness that comes from being so far from the sun, we find ways to enjoy the solitude that our position brings, we don't cling to what we do not have, but embrace everything that we do. When I met you, Serenity, you were able to do all those things. You were able to build dreams. Have you fallen so deeply into misery that you do not even remember yourself?"
Serenity took a deep breath, closing her eyes. "Maybe I have forgotten. Maybe I don't remember what it's like to have unbroken dreams…"
"Just because you lost one dream doesn't mean you have to do without."
Serenity just nodded, not certain if she did have another dream within her. Part of her still hadn't given up on thoughts of her Utopia. Part of her still hadn't given up on her love with Endymion. She was so angry at him, but part of her just wanted to forgive him. Wanted him to ask forgiveness so that she could run back into his arms. That wasn't going to happen, though. He was… happy… without her. He and Mars were unrepentantly happy. Her senshi were happy. She was the only one who was without something to hold on to. She was the only one… without.
"May we speak later, Diamond? I think I wish to be alone."
"Of course, Serenity. Don't hesitate to call upon me if you must."
"I will not," Serenity answered. The hologram disappeared and she set the small crystal back onto her desk. Then, as she so often found herself doing, she retreated to the sanctuary of her crystal garden. Among all the frozen flowers, she could still feel like things were as they should be. It was as if her world were frozen as well. Her Utopia had finally come into its own, had finally burst into full bloom. But she had come to realize that some flowers were more beautiful in budding. "So what will I do?" she asked herself out loud. "What will I do?"