Mamoru stirred the hot chocolate adding the mini marshmallows that he knew Usagi delighted in before taking the two steaming mugs back to his living room.
Usagi stood facing a now empty bookshelf at eye level. His textbooks had been relocated to a haphazard pile on the floor.
"What are you doing?" he asked placing the hot chocolates on the coffee table.
She whirled around guiltily, revealing a pink crystal in her hand.
He glanced at the stone in her hands and over her shoulder at the other three smooth rocks already placed prominently on the shelf.
"Why are you decorating my apartment with dead generals?" he asked, an amused smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.
"They are a part of your past Mamo-chan. And a huge part of making you the man that I love. You should honor the memory of who they used to be. Please don't be mad."
"Usako, I'm not mad. I just… I know that they all hurt you. Especially Kunzite. I don't want the stones out if they remind you of painful memories."
"I remember both Mamo-chan. I remember Kunzite sneaking you into my palace so we could be together even as I remember him torturing me in a cold dark room. But they are the not the same. And when I look of the stone, I remember your friend."
She held out the crystal to him.
"See? It's warm… caring even. Not corrupted."
He took the crystal willingly and gripped it carefully. It pulsed rhythmically almost as if it had a heartbeat of its own.
"You need to forgive your vassals."
He closed his eyes against the emotions that threatened to overwhelm him. He truly was grateful for Kunzite and was glad that the man had overcome his brainwashing at least partially, but…
"I can't do it Usako," he said. "I can't forgive him. Not for the pain he inflicted on you."
She took the crystal from his hand gently and placed it alongside the others.
"Actually, I think that he saved me."
"In the end, he had changed. It wasn't just about making me forget that I was Usagi. He made sure that I remembered you."
"What do you mean?"
"Mamo-chan. He told me that my power came from you. From our bond."
"I know," he said tightly.
"Usako, I… when I was trying everything in my power to find you, I somehow was able to use our connection to experience everything that you were experiencing.
"You really were there. You really visited me," she whispered in revelation. "I had thought… I thought I was imagining it."
"I would never leave you to face any of that alone!" he insisted.
She choked back a sob. "I'm sorry that you had to go through that," she said.
He stared at her incredulously. "You are sorry? Usako! You were the one being tortured! By my most trusted mentor and advisor!"
And he pulled the purplish pink crystal off the mantle. "No, this doesn't belong here," he said coldly.
"No wait!" she objected.
"Usako. I saw him use the fact that I loved you against you – to make you forget yourself. I don't need to be reminded of that."
"But see! I don't think that's what he was doing. He had to make me forget Usagi to satisfy Beryl, but he never let me forget you or our love. He made sure that our connection stayed strong."
"I don't understand."
"He left a door open Mamo-chan. One that only you could open. One that led me back to myself. Back to you."
He stared dumbfounded at her. She looked down and gently pried the crystal from his hand and put it back on display once again.
"You owe him much," she insisted. "I do as well."
"You are so amazing," he said in awe, losing himself in blue sapphire pools of light. Her capacity for love and forgiveness never ceased to amaze him.
"I couldn't do any of this without you," she insisted.
"You're wrong Usako," he disagreed, his voice serious. "You can do anything."
She turned a delightful shade of red. He took advantage of her self-conscious blush and pressed his lips to hers gently, savoring the softness of her skin and the scent of her fruity perfume.
He had taken her for granted, he had wasted so much time. He would not make that mistake again.
A/N: I finished a story! Never done that before. Feel very accomplished. Thank you so much for reading and sharing this journey with me (twice for some of you!). And for all the favorites, follows, and reviews. All were (and totally still are!) appreciated.
I will confess that I considered spacing out the posting of these last few revised chapters to gain extra hits, but seeing all the hits so immediately with the update, I just couldn't bring myself to make any of you wait! It just seems so unfair to hold back (especially since it all used to be there) what has already been completed. With that in mind feel more than free to show your appreciation through communities, favorites, and reviews!
The sequel is finished. It's called Nightmares. Hope to see you there!