Disclaimers: Sailor Moon belongs to Naoko Takeuchi, much to my regret. ;-)
The fight was not going well. Mercury and Venus were down and Mars and Jupiter were barely holding their own. "Where is she? We're getting creamed here!" Mars yelled while dodging one of the strange spikey things the droid kept spitting at them.
"I don't know. She wasn't in school today. Maybe she's sick," Jupiter hollered back before powering up her attack. "Jupiter Thunder Crash!" Unfortunately, it just seemed to make the droid mad and it sent a barrage of spikes her way.
Sailor Moon ran up just as Jupiter went down."It's about time you got here! We could really use your help, you know!" Mars shouted angrily.
Sailor Moon didn't respond, all her attention focused on the droid. Her breath was coming in painful gasps and the world kept tilting dangerously. 'I gotta focus. I don't think I could do another attack tonight if I miss.' Taking a deep breath and narrowing her whole world down to the droid in front of her, Sailor Moon raised her moon wand and called out her attack, "Moon Healing Activation!" She held on until the droid crumpled to dust and then let the blackness that had been threatening at the edges of her vision take over. Mars stared in shock as Sailor Moon collapsed and then ran over to her fallen leader.
"Sailor Moon! Usagi, are you all right?" Mars reached out to grab her shoulders and, at her touch Sailor Moon's transformation faded away, leaving Usagi in a white cotton nightgown. Her face was flushed and Mars was concerned by the amount of heat coming off the other girl. She placed her hand on Usagi's forehead and gasped when she noticed the crescent moon mark blazing angrily. It was even warmer to the touch than the rest of her. Mars looked around her and was relieved to see the other senshi making their way over to her.
"What's wrong, Mars? Is she okay?" Jupiter asked, concern evident in her eyes.
Mars shook her head. "I don't know. I think she's running a fever, but what worries me more is this..." she responded, pointing at the glowing crescent moon.
"What does this mean?" Venus whispered, as she limped up to see what Mars was pointing at.
Mercury activated her visor. "Well, she's definitely running a fever. I'm not sure why her crescent moon mark is glowing, but we had better get her inside and into bed."
"Yeah, but we can't exactly take her home with her forehead glowing like that. How would we explain it to her parents?" Mars asked, detransforming as she spoke. The others followed suit and they all stood there looking down at Usagi.
Makoto took off her coat and wrapped it around Usagi, pulling the hood down over her forehead to hide the tell-tale birthmark of the Moon Princess. "Well, we have to take her somewhere, she's shivering now."
Minako spoke up, "Can we take her to your place, Makoto? You're the only one who lives alone and wouldn't have to answer questions we can't answer."
Makoto shook her head. "No, I'm not allowed to have any visitors and I can't afford to get kicked out. My land lady watches me like a hawk."
"Then what are we going to do?" Minako wailed.
"We have to think of something fast. Lying here on the cold ground certainly isn't doing her any good," Ami interjected impatiently.
"Mamoru," Rei stated. The other three girls looked at her in disbelief.
"You've got to be kidding. After the way he's been treating her?" Makoto exclaimed angrily.
Rei whirled to look at her. "We don't have any choice. He's the only one we know who can do it. He lives alone, he already knows all about us, plus, he's studying to be a doctor."
"That's true," Ami conceded. "He is the only logical choice. But do you think he will do it? He's made it very clear that he wants nothing more to do with her."
"I think he will. There's something not right going on ..." Minako mused thoughtfully.
Makoto picked Usagi up in her arms. "I'll say there's something not right. Breaking the heart of our princess is definitely not right. And after she saved him from the Dark Kingdom, too!" she said indignantly.
Minako shook her head. "There's something else, I don't know what, but I know there is. I think he has his reasons for pushing her away..."
The girls were silent during the rest of the walk to Mamoru's apartment building. Fatigue from the frequent battles was catching up to all of them, and they really just wanted to go to bed. Rei knocked on Mamoru's door while the rest of the girls hung back in the hallway. It had been decided that she would be best suited to explain the situation to him. Makoto leaned wearily against the wall and Minako and Ami both sat at her feet, their eyes already starting to close.
Mamoru opened the door in surprise. "Rei, what are you doing here?" he asked.
Rei glared at him. She was absolutely furious over the way he had been treating Usagi, but she knew that they needed his help. Controlling her temper as best she could, she finally replied, "We need your help." She beckoned to Makoto and Mamoru paled as he realized that the still form in her arms was Usagi.
"What happened?" he asked, his eyes not leaving his beloved.
Rei sighed. "We're not exactly sure. We think she was sick today and then we had to battle a droid. Once she dusted it, she just collapsed."
Mamoru turned confused eyes to Rei. "Then why did you bring her here? Why didn't you take her home?" As an answer, Rei pulled the hood off Usagi's head to reveal the still-glowing crescent moon.
"Look, we're all tired and sore, so will you please take her for the night so we can go home and get some rest? We'll try to figure out something else tomorrow, but right now, we just can't think..." Rei stopped as she struggled to hold back the sob that was building in her throat.
Mamoru was about to protest when he finally stopped and took in the condition of the Senshi. They all appeared about ready to drop. "All right, I'll keep her for the night. But this doesn't change anything. You had better find another place for her tomorrow..." he trailed off as Makoto pressed Usagi to him. He looked down at her flushed face and his heart constricted painfully. It had been a month since he had held his Usako in his arms and it felt good, no matter the circumstances. Her shivering stopped as soon as he had accepted her and her breathing seemed to improve a bit, as well. Ami touched his arm to get his attention.
"She has a slight fever, so you might want to give her something to bring it down. We'll come back after school tomorrow and try to figure out what to do then."
Mamoru nodded his understanding and watched the Senshi turn away and stumble down the hall. Minako hung back from the rest, staring at him intently. "She needs you, you know, and not just as Tuxedo Mask. You can't protect her body while shattering her heart," she stated quietly before turning and continuing on her way.
Mamoru stared after her in shock, her words echoing in his mind. Finally shaking his head, he turned and went back inside his apartment. He carried Usagi into the bedroom and settled her in the bed. He was a bit concerned that she had not shown any signs of waking, but decided to wait until he had found the fever reducer before attempting to rouse her. Pulling the blankets up under her chin, Mamoru allowed himself to gently trace his finger down her cheek. She instinctively turned her head towards his touch and he hastily snatched his hand back as if he had been burned. She did not awaken, however, and he breathed out a quick sigh of relief before going in search of the medicine. 'What am I doing? I can't have her here. If she wakes up and finds out I'm taking care of her, she'll never believe I don't love her anymore. Especially since all I really want to do is hold her in my arms and kiss her until she melts.' Mamoru gave himself a mental shake. 'I can't think like that. She's sick and I'm doing a favor for the Senshi. That's all there is to it. If we're together, she'll die.' He rummaged through the medicine cabinet, trying not to think about Minako's parting words, "You can't protect her body while destroying her heart." He had finally located the small box of tablets when a terrified scream came from his bedroom. 'Usako!'
Serenity slowly regained consciousness. She felt like she was suffocating. She was too hot, her limbs felt like they were made of lead, and her head was pounding. She carefully opened her eyes, squinting against the pain in her head. Her breath was coming in short gasps and she tried to breathe deeply, but only succeeded in setting off a fit of coughing. Closing her eyes again, she called out to her mother. *Mother* She waited a few minutes and then frowned when there was no response. *Mother?* An icy trickle of fear ran down her back as she concentrated on the link that she and her mother had always shared. It was gone. There was nothing there. She couldn't feel her mother at all! Serenity screamed in terror and grief. Never in her life had she not felt her mother's comforting presence somewhere nearby. Tears were running down her cheeks as she finally looked around and discovered that she wasn't in her bedroom. Her eyes widened in panic and she instinctively called out for the Ginzuishou. She was surprised to find it in a brooch that was pinned to her nightgown. Not taking the time to wonder about how it came to be there, Serenity grasped it in her hand and willed it to take her home. Just as she felt the power wash over her, she thought she heard someone shout, but then she was gone.
When the bright, white light dissipated, Serenity found herself standing in the middle of an ancient ruin. She looked around her in confusion before it dawned on her that it looked familiar somehow. The longer she looked, the more her vision started to blur and she could see how it should look. She was standing in the remains of the palace of the Moon Kingdom. Her home had been completely destroyed. Serenity reached out with all of her empathic power trying to find her mother, the Senshi, anyone who might still be alive. Nothing. Silence. The moon was dead. The anguished cry of a wounded animal broke the stillness. Serenity covered her ears to block the sound, but the tortured sound continued. Falling to her knees in the rubble that was left of her home, Princess Serenity of the Moon Kingdom cried out her anguish over the loss of her home, her mother, her Senshi, her people, her very life. Flashes of a battle, a great dark demon, a young man dying in her ams, and a blood-covered sword flickered at the edges of her mind, but she couldn't grasp any of them. In her grief, she didn't hear the soft step of the person walking up beside her. When she felt a hand on her shoulder, Serenity whipped around in terror. Her large blue eyes were wide with fear and her cheeks were stained with the tracks of the tears she had shed. The crescent moon blazed upon her head like a brand. "Puu?" she whispered, not daring to believe that the person in front of her was real.
Sailor Pluto nodded. "Princess Serenity," she started, but couldn't finish as she suddenly had her arms full of a small, shivering body that was holding onto her as if she was a life line. She brought her arms around the shattered girl and tried to calm her. "Shh, Princess, I'm here. Tell me what happened."
Serenity clung to the Senshi of Time and tried to calm her breathing. She was a princess and princesses did not fall to pieces. Taking a shuddering breath, she brokenly started speaking. "I don't know what happened. I woke up and I felt really ill. I tried to call for Mother, but there wasn't a response. Then, when I reached out for her, she wasn't there. There was nothing." Serenity shuddered again and took a couple of breaths before continuing, "That's when I realized I wasn't in my bedroom. I called for the Ginzuishou, which was pinned to my nightgown for some reason, and willed it to take me home." She frowned, wondering how the Ginzuishou had come to be with her. Her mother always kept it in a secret chamber off the royal suite. "But it brought me here. This place looks like home, but it isn't, is it, Puu? This is all a horrible mistake? The Moon Kingdom is still there, the Ginzuishou just brought me to the wrong place, didn't it?" Serenity stared into Pluto's crimson eyes, her frightened blue gaze pleading the other woman to tell her it was all a terrible mistake and that she had come to take her home.
Pluto closed her eyes and pulled the princess closer to her. "I'm so sorry, Princess. I don't know how this happened, but you should not be here. You need to return to Earth."
"Earth? But, but that is forbidden!" Serenity protested.
Pluto looked at her sharply. "Princess, how old are you?"
"Fifteen cycles of the Earth's revolution around the sun, you know that, you were at my birthday celebration." Serenity answered, her brow crinkled in confusion. She didn't understand what her age had to do with anything.
Pluto cursed under her breath. This certainly was unexpected. Not only had Princess Serenity's personality completely taken over Usagi, but it was Serenity before she had ever met the Earth Prince. What was going on? She examined the princess closely. "You said you felt ill, can you tell me what your symptoms were?"
"Well, I was hot and I felt so heavy. It was hard to breathe and my head really hurt." Serenity gingerly brought her hand up to her head. "It's still throbbing a bit, but at least I can breathe now. And I'm just so tired." She closed her eyes and leaned against the taller woman.
Pluto paled as she realized what had happened. 'But that's not possible, Endymion should be countering this...' she paused and then her eyes widened in realization. She hadn't been paying enough attention. Mamoru had broken up with Usagi, forcing her away, if something happened to their link, she would be susceptible to... "Earth sickness," she whispered to herself. The princess couldn't stay on the moon, she didn't realize it yet, but the Ginzuishou was the only thing that was allowing her to breathe. The moon was no longer habitable. She couldn't continue to use the Ginzuishou indefinitely, though, the energy drain would kill her just as fast as the absence of atmosphere. That only left one alternative... Pluto sighed heavily. 'Damn Endymion and his stubborness. In trying to protect her, he's going to kill her!' She looked down at the girl in her arms. Already, the glow of the Ginzuishou was getting dimmer as Serenity weakened. She had to take her back. "Serenity," she called softly, giving her a little shake. The princess looked up, her eyes not focusing properly as she tried to fight off the fatigue that was plaguing her. "I need to return to the Time Gate." Serenity stiffened and her eyes once more held fear. Pluto understood that the Princess feared being left alone and she hurried to reassure her. "I will leave you in the protection of Prince Endymion."
"Prince Endymion?" Serenity repeated. For some reason, the sound of that name caused a deep ache in her heart and again she had a flash of blood, a young man dying in her arms, a sword, more blood... She shook her head to dispel the images. "He is the Prince of Earth, correct?"
"Yes. You need to stay with him, Princess, no matter what happens. Tomorrow, the Inner Senshi will come for you, but you must insist on staying with him, do you understand?"
"The Inner Senshi? They're alive!" Serenity exclaimed happily, but then she frowned in confusion. "But why can't I go with them? They are my friends."
"Yes, they are your friends and your guardians, but they can't protect you from what he can. It's all right. Mercury will understand and explain to the others. Now, we have to go. Are you ready?"
Serenity nodded uncertainly. She didn't understand what was going on, but she trusted Puu, and she was too tired to protest, anyway. Pluto raised her staff and, in a flash, they disappeared, leaving the moon silent once more.
Mamoru ran into the bedroom just as a brilliant white light washed over Usagi. "Usako!" he shouted, but it was too late. She was gone. He simply stared at the empty bed blankly for a few minutes, not sure what to do. There didn't appear to be anyone else in the room. It looked like she had used the Ginzuishou to teleport somewhere, but where? He walked slowly over to the bed and sat down, his head in his hands. He'd promised the Senshi he would look after her for one night and what happens? He loses her in fifteen minutes. Immediately, worries started to assail him. She was too weak to use the Ginzuishou; what if she arrived at wherever she was going too drained to live? She was sick; could her fevered brain have sent her somewhere dangerous? What if an enemy was controlling her? "Shimatta!" he swore. This was not helping. Should he call the Senshi? He thought back to how exhausted they had all looked and decided against it. 'In the shape they're in, I don't think they could help much, anyway.' He realized that he had not felt it tonight when Sailor Moon had transformed. Come to think of it, there had been many droid attacks reported lately, but he had not felt her transform once. What was going on? Had he lost his connection to her? He closed his eyes, laying back on the bed, and concentrated, searching for her light. Finally, after a good twenty minutes, he thought he could detect a slight flicker from a long distance away. It was so very faint, but it was there. He sighed in relief. At least she was alive, he knew that much. The exertion from searching had completely wiped him out, however, and he closed his eyes briefly in exhaustion. A bright flare of light against his eyelids caused him to immediately snap them back open and he sat up in anticipation. "Usako?" he called out hopefully as the light slowly dimmed. He was surprised to find a tall, green-haired woman in a Sailor fuku standing in his bedroom supporting Usagi, who looked ready to collapse. She looked somewhat worse than the last time he had seen her. Her white nightgown was dusty and stained with blood from some cuts on her legs. She was very pale, and the tracks of tears were still visible on her cheeks. He longed to take her in his arms and comfort her, but the dream flashed before his eyes. "Stay away from Princess Serenity or she will die," the menacing voice echoed in his mind. Hardening his eyes, he tried to look at her emotionlessly. "Usagi, are you all right?" he asked in as neutral a tone as he could manage.
Serenity heard a voice that sounded vaguely familiar, but he seemed to be talking to someone else. She tried to look behind Pluto to see if someone was standing there, but she didn't quite have the energy. Her limbs once again felt too heavy and breathing was a struggle. She looked up at Pluto, but the other girl's attention was centered on something else. Serenity turned her head to see what Pluto was staring at so intently.
"Princess Serenity, this is Prince Endymion of Earth," Pluto said softly.
Serenity turned in Pluto's arms but didn't have the strength to give the formal curtsy. She blushed in shame as she realized what a sight she must be, unable to even stand on her own legs. She lifted her head and straightened her spine before bowing her head gracefully. "I am pleased to meet you, Prince Endymion. I apologize for the inconvenience and my appearance." Tears were threatening again as she remembered the reason she was on Earth. The tightness around her lungs worsened and Serenity could hear a roaring in her ears. "Puu, I'm falling," she whispered as her legs buckled and then the blackness rose up and covered her like a shroud.
Mamoru had started in shock when the unknown Senshi had introduced him to Usagi as if she had never met him before. But the greater shock was when Usagi had looked at him with no recognition whatsoever. He was about to respond to her soft greeting when she had suddenly collapsed. He felt frozen in place at the sight in front of him. It was so much like his dream...
"Prince, you must help her!" Pluto's voice jolted Mamoru out of his daze. He was just standing there with a look of horror on his face while her princess was fighting for each breath. Finally, he slowly started forward, as if not quite believing anything was real. Pluto lost her remaining patience. She reached out, grabbed his wrist, and hauled him over to the princess' side, forcing his hand to rest on Serenity's chest.
Mamoru was amazed when the girl immediately took in a deep breath. "What? I don't understand..." he started, but was cut off by Pluto holding up her hand.
"I don't have time to explain. I must return to the Time Gates. They have been left unguarded for too long already. Just know this, if you leave her side, she will die. Mercury will explain. Just tell her that the princess has Earth Sickness. She will be able to access information about it with her computer. Right now, this is Princess Serenity of the Moon Kingdom. She just met the Prince of Earth for the first time a few minutes ago. She needs his presence and his protection. Do you understand?" Pluto's crimson eyes burned into the Prince's stormy blue ones. It was imperative that he accepted her words, or the princess and the future were lost.
Mamoru stared at the green-haired woman in shock. She was telling him the opposite of his dream, but he had already seen the truth in her words. Usagi had stopped breathing, but at his touch, she had started again. What was this "Earth Sickness" she mentioned? And how could Usagi, no, she was Serenity now--how could she not remember him? Finally, he spoke. "I don't understand, but I will take your word for it. For now."
Pluto closed her eyes in relief. She was afraid he might argue with her. She re-opened her eyes and looked at him. "That will suffice. Thank you, my prince. I will return when I can, please reassure the princess. She has just lost her mother, her friends, and her kingdom. Be gentle with her. She is alone in this world. Farewell." She raised her staff and teleported away.
Mamoru stared at the spot that Sailor Pluto had just vacated. Finally, he shook his head and turned back to the girl before him on the floor. She was Usagi, yet she was not. The crescent moon symbol blazed brightly on her forehead and she was much too pale. Lifting her gently in his arms, he carried her back to the bed. He looked down at her uncertainly--she was a bit of a mess. Finally making a decision, Mamoru placed his hand on her forehead and concentrated. He'd never tried to focus his power in quite this way before, so he wasn't sure if it would work or not. A soft, golden glow began to travel from his hand to her head and, within a few minutes, Serenity's eyes fluttered open. Wide, cerulean eyes met stormy, midnight ones and time seemed to stop.
Serenity felt something deep within her stir as she gazed into the Prince of Earth's face. He looked hauntingly familiar, as if she had known him in another place or time. She almost felt as if she should be kissing him...Serenity blushed at the thought and hurriedly dropped her gaze. She'd only just met the man and she was thinking about kissing him?! What was wrong with her?
Mamoru stared into his princess' eyes. For a moment, he thought he saw recognition flicker, but then she blushed and averted her eyes. He removed his hand from her forehead and stood back to regard her thoughtfully. "Would you like me to draw you a bath, Princess?" he asked.
Serenity glanced down at herself and grimaced. Tears threatened again as she remembered the Moon, but she swallowed hard and refused to allow them. It would not do for her to show such weakness again in front of the Earth Prince. She was the Princess of the Moon and she must act like it. Nodding her head in agreement, she replied solemnly, "Yes, thank you. A bath would be most welcome." Suddenly remembering Puu, she looked up at him. "Has Sailor Pluto returned to the Time Gates?"
"I assume you mean the Senshi that brought you here? Yes, but she said to tell you that she will return," Mamoru answered. "I'll start your bath." He turned and left the room.
Serenity looked after him in puzzlement. 'Does not the royalty of Earth have servants?' She sat up and looked around her. 'This certainly does not look like a palace. Has the Earth kingdom also been damaged? Could my presence here be putting him in danger?' At the last thought, her heart started pounding in alarm and she suddenly felt very cold. She did not want to be the reason for any harm coming to Prince Endymion. Perhaps she should leave as soon as she had her bath? Serenity shook her head in despair. Her whole world had been destroyed overnight. She still didn't understand the feelings that the Prince had aroused in her, but the sadness over the fate of her kingdom and friends was overwhelming everything else. Taking deep breaths, she quelled the sob that tried to escape. 'I just need to hang on until I'm in the bath. Then, I will weep for all that has been lost.'
When Mamoru came back into the bedroom, he found her just sitting on the bed, staring into space. She didn't even seem to notice his approach. Concerned, he walked over to her and touched her gently on the shoulder. "Princess Serenity? Your bath is ready," he said softly, trying not to startle her. She jumped a bit at his touch, but then she focused on him easily.
"My apologies, Prince Endymion. I was elsewhere." She gave him a small smile as he held out his hand to help her up. Grasping it firmly, she allowed him to pull her to her feet. At his touch, she once more felt something within her respond, but she shrugged it off.
"Please, call me Mamoru," he said.
"Mamoru," Serenity repeated, rolling the word on her tongue. For some reason, a different, yet similar, name echoed faintly in her head. "Mamo-chan?" she whispered, frowning in puzzlement. 'Where did that come from?' she thought to herself. She felt Endymion give a start at her whisper, and she rushed to aplogize. "I am sorry, Prince. I don't know why I said that. It just popped into my head. I meant no disrespect," she looked at him nervously, horrified at her breach of etiquette.
Mamoru felt his heart jump when she uttered Usagi's name for him, but her fervant apology immediately after proved that she was not Usagi. At least, not completely. He shook his head in confusion, she was Usagi, but she was also Serenity, and right now Serenity seemed to be the one in charge. He looked down at her--she had begun to nibble on her bottom lip in anxiety, just as Usagi was wont to do. "It's all right, Princess, I don't mind." He gave her a reassuring grin. "Actually, while you are here, just Mamoru will do. There's no need for the honorary 'Prince.'"
"Then you must call me Serenity," Serenity proclaimed. "I noticed that there were no servants around and that this place looks nothing like the views of the Earth palace I've seen. Has the Dark Kingdom attacked Earth? Mother has been worried about them for the past couple of years. She feared that they would take over the Earth. They haven't have they?" Serenity's voice turned fearful at the last.
"No, no, it's not the Dark Kingdom. It is the Dark Moon Kingdom. So far, they have not taken over the Earth, but they have been attacking." Mamoru calmed her, unsure of what he should tell her.
"Dark Moon Kingdom? I have not heard of that. It must be a new enemy," Serenity said softly, stepping into the bathroom.
"Yes, it is a new enemy," Mamoru confirmed. "The towels are on the counter and you may use the robe that's on the door."
Serenity bowed her head gracefully, "Thank you, Mamoru, for your kindness." Then she shut the door and locked it. Leaning against it wearily, she finally allowed the tears to fall freely from her eyes. She unbuttoned the nightgown and let it fall from her body. Stepping into the bathtub, she closed her eyes as she slid into the comforting warmth of the water. The sobs she had been holding down by sheer will power finally overcame her and she cried into her hands, the salty tears mixing with the bath water. 'Oh Mother, what am I going to do? Why did I survive if the Moon Kingdom is no more? There is no need for me. I would rather be with you and my Senshi, than here by myself,' she thought to herself.
Mamoru sighed as he heard the sobs coming from the bathroom. For Usagi, the destruction of the Moon Kingdom had seemed like a tragic fairy tale, something that happened a long time ago to someone else. For Serenity, however, it was a grim reality. Everyone and everything she had known was gone. How could he hope to help her deal with such a loss? She didn't even know him! And that, he realized, is what bothered him the most. Yes, he had been pushing her away for a month, but that didn't mean that he had wanted her to forget about him. He shook his head at his own faulty reasoning. For a month, he had been telling her to stay away and himself to forget about her, but now that she didn't know him, he wanted nothing more than to take her into his arms and kiss her until she remembered her love for him. 'Damn dreams,' he thought to himself angrily. 'If not for them, I would have been with Usako and known when she was in trouble.'
Serenity was drying her hair with one of the fluffy, white towels the Prince had thoughtfully left for her when she realized that her head had started to pound again. 'What is wrong with me? I never get headaches! And I feel so heavy... Earth sickness? But, that should only happen if I stay on Earth for a month or so, and I've only been here a short time, haven't I?' She frowned, as she realized she didn't really have a clear memory of the time leading up to her awakening a few hours earlier. 'Could I have been on Earth longer?' She put on the robe and unlocked the door, leaning against it for support as a wave of dizziness swept through her. "Endymion," she cried out weakly.
"Serenity?" she heard his voice through the door. She could only whimper in response as she slowly slid down the door as her limbs refused to support her any longer. "Serenity?!" he cried out, louder this time. He turned the door handle and slowly started opening the door, but her body prevented it from opening very far. With the little amount of strength she had left, Serenity rolled away from the door, gasping for breath from the exertion just that small motion had taken. Seeing her condition, Mamoru hurriedly opened the door the rest of the way and carefully picked her up.
"Help me," Serenity begged him, as fear over her weakness washed through her. Her eyes were wide and regarded him anxiously. "How long have I been on Earth? This shouldn't happen yet."
Mamoru looked down at her in surprise. She knew what was wrong? "That's a bit hard to explain. Maybe you should wait until Ami gets here to explain it. Sailor Pluto said that she would know," he answered as he carried her back to the bedroom.
Serenity closed her eyes and nodded. Of course, Mercury would explain it. If anyone could, it would be her. She rested her head against Mamoru's chest and sighed in relief as the headache once again began to recede. "Endymion, I mean, Mamoru, I hate to bring this up, but this situation is going to require some, well, breach of protocol." Serenity blushed crimson as she spoke, horribly embarassed about the circumstances in which she found herself. She knew that if it was Earth Sickness and she was out of direct contact with the Earth Prince for any length of time, she would die. However, that didn't make the fact that she had to sleep with him any easier. Not that she didn't like the idea of being that close to him... Serenity's blush intensified at that thought, and she sneaked a quick peak up at Mamoru's face. His expression was bland, but she could swear there was a twinkle of amusement in his eyes.
"Ah, you must mean the sleeping arrangements," he said at last. Serenity nodded her head, grateful that she didn't have to find the words to explain. "Do not worry, Princess. I'm sure we will both survive the experience relatively unscathed. Why don't you find something to wear out of my closet and I'll return once you've dressed, alright? Will you be okay for a few minutes?"
"Yes, I should be fine for that short amount of time. Just don't go too far?" she looked up at him anxiously.
"I'll be right outside. Just open the door when you're done." Mamoru placed Serenity gently on her feet and closed the door behind him.
Serenity stared at the closed door for a moment, suddenly aware that the thought of sleeping next to him seemed to create some interesting feelings inside her stomach. She wanted to be near him. When they were touching, she felt complete, like a missing part of herself had been found. Blowing out her breath in exasperation, she hurried to the closet. She had no desire to experience another one of those killer headaches. She was puzzled by the clothing she found. None of it looked like the styles she had previously seen from Earth. Finally choosing a white, long-sleeved tunic, she buttoned it up and walked over to the door.
Mamoru swallowed convulsively when the door opened and Serenity stood there in one of his shirts. It didn't quite come to her knees. Her Sailor Moon fuku was even shorter, but somehow, seeing her clad in only his shirt affected him more profoundly than the Sailor fuku ever had. Her long hair was down and fell appealingly around her ankles and he wanted nothing more than to feel its silky strands against his skin.
"Are you alright? Is this not appropriate?" Serenity asked, when he just stared at her for several minutes. She looked down at herself, the tunic seemed to be on correctly, although it was a bit short. She looked back at him with a questioning expression.
"No, no, it's fine," he reassured her, finally coming out of his trance and stepping toward her. He took her hand in his and gently tugged her towards the bed. He was definitely sleeping in all of his clothes tonight. "Tomorrow, we'll figure out how to resolve this situation, but now, I think we both need to get some sleep."
Serenity nodded agreement and silently climbed into the bed. They each scooted to the opposite sides of the bed, with only their fingers touching in the middle. "Good night, Mamoru," she said softly, closing her eyes.
"Good night, Serenity," he responded.
Mamoru awoke the next day feeling more rested and refreshed than he had in weeks. The first thing he noticed was that sometime in the night, he and Serenity had both gravitated toward the middle of the bed, and she was now snuggled securely within his arms. Looking down at her silvery-blonde head resting comfortably against his chest, he felt contentment wash over him. There had been no nightmares last night, and she was safe within his arms. He smiled to himself and simply enjoyed the feeling of being with his one true love once more. 'Even if she doesn't remember me,' he thought sardonically. Glancing at the clock, he was shocked to discover that it was already past noon. The Senshi would be arriving in a few hours, so he had better have Serenity up and dressed in something a bit less revealing by the time they arrived. 'And just how am I going to explain that this is Serenity, not Usagi?' Sighing softly at the thought of dealing with the Senshis' reaction, especially Rei's, Mamoru carefully began to ease himself away from the princess. She made a few small whimpers of protest at the loss of his warmth, but did not awaken. 'At least she still sleeps like Usagi!' he thought in amusement as he slipped quietly out of the bedroom.***************
Serenity was trapped in a prison of ice. Through the walls, she could see her Senshi fighting...and falling. She beat upon the ice walls until her fists were bloody, screaming their names, but they couldn't seem to hear her. Mars was the last to fall and Serenity allowed herself to fall with her. Her hands left bloody streaks on the crystal clear walls as she slowly slid down to her knees. The ice had chilled her to the bone and her tears had frozen as she wept. "Mars," she whispered brokenly as she stared sightlessly out of her prison. An evil laugh startled her and she slowly turned to look behind her. On the other side of her prison, a tall woman stood glaring at her with contempt. Flaming red hair fell around her shoulders, which were bare above the tight, purple dress that seemed molded to the woman's body. The woman might once have been beautiful, had her face not been permanently twisted into a sour expression. Serenity's eyes widened at the sight. "Who are you? Why are you doing this?" she asked the woman fearfully.
"Well, if it isn't pitiful little Princess Serenity. You're all alone now, brat, and soon you'll be dead. Kill her, my prince." She gestured toward the princess and, for the first time, Serenity noticed the man kneeling at the woman's side. He stood and unsheathed his sword, walking purposely toward Serenity's prison. At his touch, the walls melted away and Serenity could see his face clearly.
"Prince Endymion!" Serenity cried in horror as she backed away from him. "This can't be true, I won't accept it. Noooo!" Serenity screamed her denial as he raised his sword, his black eyes filled with hate...************
Mamoru was just about to pick up the breakfast tray he had prepared when he heard the scream from the bedroom. Leaving the tray, he raced down the hall, fearing what he might find. Serenity's crescent moon was blazing against her pale face and he could see that she had been crying. Her head was tossing from side to side and when he reached down to calm her, he discovered that her skin was like ice. "Serenity," he said, trying to wake her as he gathered her into his arms. "Serenity, wake up. It's just a dream. Come on, open your eyes."
Serenity woke up just as the sword was swinging down at her. She saw Mamoru's face looking down at her and, for a moment, she was overcome with terror; but the warmth and comfort radiating from him soothed her and she stared up at him in confusion. Something was different...his eyes! They were blue, not black! And they reflected concern, not murder. Sighing in relief, Serenity allowed herself to relax in his arms and she gave him a weak smile. Reaching up, she gently swept his bangs out of his eyes. The action seemed familiar somehow, as if she had done it a thousand times before and she frowned as she tried to figure out how that could be. "Why is it that I feel as if I have known you forever?" she asked quietly, still gazing into his eyes. She let her hand trail gently down his face and shivered at the delicious feelings that simple action invoked.
Mamoru was stunned by the touch of her hand on his skin. For over a month, he had denied himself the pleasure of feeling her skin next to his and now that she was here, with him, in his bed, he couldn't resist the urge to kiss her. He felt as though he was falling into her eyes as he leaned down closer to her face and had almost captured her lips with his own when the doorbell rang. It had the effect of a cold shower and Mamoru straightened hurriedly and started for the door, muttering, "I better get that."
Serenity's heart was beating rapidly as she watched him leave. She felt strangely bereft, as if she had come very close to a major revelation, but it had been snatched away. Shaking her head at her foolish thoughts, she sat up and dragged her fingers through her hair in a vain attempt to work some of the tangles out. She could hear voices coming from the other room and she paused, all senses alert, as she recognized the soft, female tones. 'Mars!' she thought joyfully and ran to greet her best friend and Senshi.
Mamoru was just about to explain the situation to the Senshi when a blur of white and gold burst into the room and threw itself at Rei.
"Mars! I thought you were dead! I thought you had all perished with everyone else!" Serenity exclaimed excitedly as she clung to the violet-haired girl as if she might disappear. "Mamoru said last night that Ami would explain everything and I was so tired that it didn't even register... I thought you had all died on the Moon! I'm so happy to see you!"
Rei was shocked by the greeting and struggled to free herself from Serenity's stranglehold. "What's the matter with you, Odango? We leave you here overnight and you fall to pieces!" she said in exasperation.
At the other girl's words, Serenity stiffened and stepped back, searching the other girl's face. Then she turned and looked carefully at the other three girls who were watching her. They looked like her Senshi, but they weren't. Not quite. They were different from the girls she had grown up with. They did not look at her with the same eyes. She backed away from them in confusion and fear until she bumped into Mamoru. Startled, she looked up at him, tears shining in her eyes. "Who are they? They look like my Senshi, but they are not. They do not feel the same. What has happened to my friends?"
Mamoru stared down at her helplessly. How could he explain that they had all died and been reincarnated? He wasn't sure if she could handle another nasty shock after the night she had had. "Serenity..." he began as he closed his arms around her comfortingly.
"Serenity!?" the Senshi exclaimed in disbelief, their eyes riveted on the pale figure in Mamoru's arms.
Mamoru ignored them and focused all of his attention on the princess. Her golden crescent moon stood out in stark relief against her pale face and dark shadows gave her eyes a bruised and haunted look. By her expression, he knew she was silently pleading him to tell her it was all a terrible nightmare from which she would soon awaken. Sighing heavily, he pulled himself a bit away from her and led her to the couch. She followed him willingly, but kept shooting fearful glances at the other girls.
"Mamoru, what's going on? Why does Usagi keep looking at us like we're ghosts or something?" Rei demanded.
At her words, Serenity paled even more and started trembling slightly. Again, she felt the cold of the ice and visions of her Senshi dying flashed through her mind. She clenched Mamoru's hand tightly and looked to him for an explanation.
Mamoru pushed his free hand through his hair and then tried again. "Alright, this is going to be a bit difficult to explain, but I want all of you to just listen until I'm done. Then, you can ask questions. I'm not sure if I'll have the answers, but I'll do my best, OK?"
Rei opened her mouth to protest, but Makoto nudged her with her elbow and she shut it again. All of the girls nodded their agreement, including Serenity.
Turning his attention back to the Princess, Mamoru gently wiped away the tears that had slid silently down her cheeks with his thumb. "Serenity, the life that you remember, the Moon Kingdom, was destroyed a thousand years ago by the Dark Kingdom. The entire Silver Millenium fell and the only habitable place left in the solar system is the Earth. With the last of her strength, your mother, Queen Serenity, sent you and your court to be reborn in the future here on Earth. These girls are the reincarnations of your Senshi."
Serenity studied the girls in front of her. They still didn't feel quite right, but there was something familiar that shimmered just below the surface. She closed her eyes and concentrated, reaching for the links that had connected her with the Senshi for as long as she could remember. At her gentle probe, the girls felt a stirring deep inside. Something that they hadn't remembered, but suddenly realized had been missing--the soul of their princess making contact. The love and warmth of the touch overwhelmed them for a moment and they all stared at Serenity in shock. Then, slowly, as if in a dream, they reached out for her instinctively. Serenity gasped in surprise at the tentative, yet welcome, contact of her Senshi and then a smile brightened her face as she opened her eyes in joy.
"It is you!" she exclaimed happily and launched herself at the girls who sat looking at her in amazement. They opened their arms to receive her and all four Senshi attempted to hug her at once. Once they had settled down, Serenity remembered herself and quickly turned back to Mamoru. "My apologies, Mamoru, I was so happy to have found my friends that I quite forgot my manners. Please continue."
Mamoru had been sitting in stunned silence as all the girls had seemed to be listening to something that he couldn't hear and then the princess had rushed to hug them. His puzzlement cleared when he realized what must have happened--the link. The Senshi shared a link with the princess just as he shared a link with Sailor Moon. Or, used to share; it had become steadily weaker once he broke up with Usagi, until he didn't even know when she was in a battle. He frowned again at the thought. He had distanced himself from her in order to save her, but it seemed to have backfired. Serenity's words brought him back to the present and the explanation he had been giving. He was pleased to note that she had regained some of the color in her cheeks and she sat comfortably with the other girls surrounding her protectively. A sharp twinge of regret flickered through him that she no longer clung to him, but he ruthlessly squashed it. He wanted her to be happy. "As I was saying, you were all sent to the future on Earth. However, the Dark Kingdom was also sent into the future and you and the Senshi defeated it. About a month ago, however, we discovered that a new enemy was threatening the Earth. This new enemy is the Dark Moon family. Yesterday, you and the Senshi were in a battle, after which you collapsed. The Senshi brought you here, and when you woke up you were Princess Serenity."
Mamoru paused for a moment to allow her time to digest the information.
Serenity frowned in puzzlement. "I do not understand. I have never fought the Dark Kingdom. I have never fought anyone. Of course I was Princess Serenity when I woke up, who else would I be?"
"Tsukino Usagi, otherwise known as Sailor Moon!" Minako proclaimed happily.
Serenity blinked and looked to Mamoru for confirmation. "Sailor Moon? There isn't a Senshi of the Moon..."
"There is now," Makoto said proudly. "You kicked Queen Beryl's butt!"
"Beryl..." Serenity whispered softly and an image of the twisted red-haired woman flashed in her mind, followed by one of Prince Endymion dying in her arms. Unconciously, she brought her hand up to her breast as if to ease a pain and she felt tears pricking at her eyes again.
"In this incarnation, you are Sailor Moon, the champion of love and justice," Mamoru confirmed.
Serenity blinked back the tears, trying to concentrate on what the prince was telling her. "I'm a Senshi? But, how did this happen? If I am this Usagi, why do I not remember it? I am Serenity."
"I think it has something to do with Earth sickness." Mamoru turned to Ami. "Last night, Sailor Pluto said to tell you that the princess has Earth Sickness. She said that you would be able to find information about it with your computer."
Ami nodded and immediately began tapping on her ever-present computer.
"Earth Sickness? I wondered about that, but... How long have I been on Earth?" Serenity asked abruptly.
"All of your life," Rei replied absently, her attention elsewhere as she thought about what Mamoru had just said. Another Sailor Senshi? "Who is Sailor Pluto?" she demanded of Mamoru.
"The Senshi of Time and Guardian of the Time Gates," Serenity replied before turning the conversation back to her stay on Earth. "I could not possibly have been on Earth my whole life. Those from the Moon Kingdom can only survive on Earth for short periods of time. No longer than a month, I believe. That is why travel to the Earth is forbidden. If someone from the Moon Kingdom were to be trapped on Earth, he or she would die."
"What!? You can't be serious!" Rei exclaimed.
"I'm afraid she is correct, Rei," Ami confirmed, looking up from her computer screen. "Prolonged exposure to the increased gravity and denser atmosphere of the Earth is deadly to those of Lunarian descent." She frowned in concern as she read the symptoms of Earth Sickness silently to herself. "Oh no," she breathed and then she looked at Serenity in alarm.
"What is it?" Mamoru asked.
"The symptoms of Earth Sickness, these are the symptoms that Usagi has been exhibiting for the past few weeks. Sailor Pluto is correct, Usagi has Earth Sickness."
"But this does not make sense. If, as you say, I have lived on Earth my entire life, why would I suddenly begin showing the symptoms of Earth Sickness? I should have died long ago," Serenity said.
Minako looked from Mamoru to Serenity and back again and paled at the thought that had just occurred to her. "Did you say no longer than a month?" she asked, her voice tight with anxiety.
"Yes, that is the longest recorded time of any Lunarian having survived on the Earth. Why? Are you alright, Venus?" Serenity stood up and placed her hand on the other girl's arm. "You've become quite pale. Perhaps you should lie down."
Minako stared at Mamoru and he finally grasped what she was thinking. No longer than a month. He had broken up with Usagi a month ago... His eyes widened at the implication. "No, it can't be that, can it?" he said aloud.
Serenity looked from Venus to Mamoru and back again in confusion, her eyes narrowing. "What is it that I am missing? I have the distinct impression that there is more going on here than you have said."
Ami stared at Mamoru, her mind going a million miles a minute as she took in all of the data and processed it. "You weren't at the last few battles. You didn't even know we were fighting, did you? The link you had with Sailor Moon was broken..." she trailed off as the answers came to her.
"Link with Sailor Moon?" Serenity asked softly as she looked at Mamoru. He returned her gaze expressionlessly. Her gold crescent moon began to glow as images flashed through her mind--Endymion taking the blast meant for her when Beryl attacked, Endymion dying in her arms, Endymion in a Tuxedo protecting Sailor Moon from a crystal spear, Endymion attacking her with a sword, Endymion dying in her arms again when Beryl attacked her with another crystal shard, Mamoru telling her that he no longer loved her... Serenity screamed as the images came faster and faster bringing with them all the pain, grief, and despair that she had felt with each incident. She covered her eyes in a vain attempt to block out the visions as she screamed and screamed, the light from her crescent moon blazing brighter and blinding everyone in the room until the comforting darkness rose up to deliver her from the nightmare she had discovered lurking within her own mind.
Mamoru was the first to come out of the paralysis that had gripped him and the Senshi when Serenity started screaming. He blinked repeatedly, trying to dispel the spots that were still swimming before his eyes from the blinding light she had been giving off. Working his way carefully to Serenity's side, he breathed a sigh of relief when he felt a pulse at her neck. She had been so still and pale, that he had been almost afraid to check.
"What happened?" Makoto asked, looking dazed.
"I think she's starting to remember," Rei responded quietly as she moved to Serenity's side and placed her hand against the princess' forehead. "She's burning up. Ami, is that one of the symptoms?"
Ami nodded mutely, her blue eyes dark with concern as she scanned the Serenity with her computer. "Yes, it's definitely Earth Sickness. Mamoru, touch her, hold her hand or something."
Mamoru did as he was bid and Ami looked back down at the computer screen and then nodded in satisfaction. "That's what I suspected. If we hadn't brought Usagi here last night, she would have been dead by morning."
"What do you mean?" Makoto asked.
Ami snapped the computer shut and then looked up to find everyone staring at her. "Mamoru is the only thing keeping her alive."
"That doesn't make sense, Ami. She was fine for years before she even met Mamoru," Makoto protested. Minako and Rei nodded in agreement.
"Yes, but she was still human then. That night in the Starlight Tower, when Usagi transformed into Serenity, she started to change, to become more Lunarian than human. Then, when she had the final battle with Beryl and used the Ginzushou, she once more became full Lunarian."
"Then how has she survived this long?" Rei asked in confusion.
"Her link with Mamoru," Minako stated.
Ami nodded. "That is correct. The link she had with Mamoru has been sustaining her ever since that final battle. Do you remember how agitated she was when Mamoru didn't remember her and kept pushing her away? She was constantly tired and irritable. That is what happens in the first stages of Earth sickness. The link was there, but it was weak. When he remembered her and they started spending time together, the link was strengthened and Usagi became healthier and more vibrant."
"But a month ago," Minako picked up the explanation, "Mamoru did something that weakened, and then eventually severed, the link. That's why Usagi has been so exhausted and ill."
Four pairs of accusing eyes turned to glare at Mamoru, who looked down at his fallen princess in shame. "I didn't know. I never wanted to hurt her. I was trying to save her," he said brokenly.
"Save her from what?" Rei asked incredulously.
"I've been having these dreams, nightmares--every night I have to watch her die, helpless to save her, and a voice tells me to stay away from Princess Serenity or she will die. At first, I ignored them, but they kept persisting until I became convinced that it was true. I couldn't bear to be the cause of her death, so I pushed her away..."
Minako walked over and hugged him reassuringly. "We understand, but you should have told us. Or, at least, you should have told her."
"If I had told her, she wouldn't have stayed away," Mamoru responded.
"That's true," Rei said ruefully.
"So, what do we do now?" Makoto asked.
"We can't do anything," Ami responded, "but he can. Mamoru, you need to find a way to mend the link between you two. Otherwise, you'll have to remain at her side at all times."
Mamoru picked Serenity up and carried her to the couch, settling himself comfortably under her body so that her head rested against his shoulder. Reaching behind him, he pulled the throw blanket down from the back of the couch and arranged it so that Serenity was completely covered except for her head. Once she was settled to his satisfaction, he turned his attention back to the Senshi. "I don't understand, Ami. How is it that our link was sustaining her? What is it about me that allows her to live on Earth?"
"Your connection to the Earth. Lunarians were different from the other people in the Silver Millenium. They could wield more power than anyone else, such as that of the Ginzuishou, but they also needed more energy in order to live. On the Moon, they received energy directly from the Moon itself, much as you receive energy from the Earth. Lunarians cannot receive energy directly from any planet, but as the Moon is so closely tied to the Earth, the energy will work if a Lunarian has a way to receive it. You act as the conduit of that energy for Usagi," Ami explained.
"So, Usagi has been feeding off of Mamoru's life energy? That's creepy!" Makoto exclaimed.
Ami shook her head. "No, that's not how it works. She isn't taking any of Mamoru's energy at all. He simply allows the Earth's energy to pass through him and into her. It's kind of like radio waves, without a radio, we can't hear the music. For Usagi, without Mamoru, she can't absorb the energy."
"That's still pretty strange," Minako said and the rest of the Senshi nodded in agreement.
Ami shrugged. "It's just a matter of physiology."
Mamoru looked down at the sleeping girl in his arms. It was scary to find out that his presence was the only thing keeping her alive.
"What are we going to tell her parents? She can't go home. Not only does she not remember her family, but she can't leave Mamoru's presence for any extended length of time," Rei said.
"Hey, I can't stay by her side all the time. I have work and classes!" Mamoru protested, reality suddenly sinking in.
"You'll just have to take her with you. We brought a change of clothes for her, so she can wear something besides your shirt. We'll stop by tomorrow with more clothes, once we figure out how to explain her absence to her parents," Minako told him.
"How am I going to explain her presence to my boss and my professors?!" he demanded.
"Tell them she's visiting from a foreign country. In a way, it's the truth," Ami suggested.
"Besides, I think that spending time together is the best way for you to regenerate the link between you. Let her get to know you all over again so she can remember why she fell in love with you to begin with," Minako said.
The conversation halted when the doorbell rang and everyone looked apprehensively at the door.
"Are you expecting someone, Mamoru?" Rei asked. She could feel the power emanating from the person on the other side of the door. Whoever was out there was very powerful indeed.
"No... I had better answer it." He gently lifted Serenity off of his lap and placed her back down on the couch. Her brow wrinkled a bit in displeasure, but soon smoothed again when he placed a soft kiss upon her forehead. The Senshi all smiled at his tenderness, pleased that he was once again treating their princess as he should. They moved into a protective line in front of the couch, blocking their princess from view.
Mamoru's eyes widened when he saw who was standing outside the door. She was not in her fuku, but he would recognize that burning crimson gaze anywhere. Her long, emerald-green hair was up in a bun and she looked coolly elegant in a business suit. He hurriedly opened the door to give her admittance. "This is a surprise, please come in. I did not expect to see you again so soon."
"I won't be staying long. I have brought some of Usagi's things." She placed the suitcase she had been carrying down on the floor and then continued, "Her parents believe that she is taking a semester long intensive study with a tutor in order to prepare her for the high school exams."
The Senshi stared at her in stunned amazement. "Who are you?" Rei demanded.
"Puu!" Serenity's delighted voice captured everyone's attention. Before anyone could blink, the green haired woman was at Serenity's side, hugging her.
"Princess, how are you feeling?"
Serenity looked down, refusing to meet the other woman's eyes. "I am alright."
"Wait just a minute! Who are you? How do you know our princess?" Rei asked again, her patience at an end.
"Haven't you guessed, Sailor Mars? I am Sailor Pluto, although you should call me Setsuna in my present form," Setsuna finally answered.
"Why haven't we heard of you before now? Where were you when we took on Beryl?" Makoto asked, taking a step forward.
Setsuna regarded the inners coolly. "There was no need for you to know of my existence before now. It was necessary that you defeat Beryl yourselves, my duty demanded it."
Serenity looked anxiously about her, the Inner and Outer Senshi had never been the best of friends, but there had never been out-right hostility before. "Please, do not fight. The Outer Senshi have always had different duties than the Inner Senshi. If they could have, they would have helped you, I'm sure," she pleaded.
"Outer Senshi? What do you mean?" Minako asked.
"Sailors Pluto, Uranus, Neptune, and Saturn, of course! Haven't you met them?" Serenity wrinkled her brow in confusion. "I know their duty often calls them away, but it seems that they would have made themselves known to you. Puu, where are the others?"
"I'm sorry, Princess, but the time is not yet right for them to appear. Do not be concerned. When they are needed, they will be here," Setsuna soothed her. Giving Serenity another quick hug, she stood up. "I must leave you now." She turned to the other Senshi, "I trust that you will guard the princess well?"
The other Senshi nodded, although Rei and Makoto had somewhat mutinous expressions on their faces. They really didn't like being told their duty by a complete stranger. Setsuna walked over to Mamoru, who had been standing a discreet distance away while the Senshi became accustomed to the new Senshi in their midst. "Prince, you should go to her now, she's starting to look a bit pale again. If you can keep her calm, her energy won't be depleted as quickly. I hope you will be able to resolve this problem soon. Should an enemy learn of her dependency upon you, you both will be in considerable danger."
Mamoru's eyes widened at her words. He hadn't even considered the ramifications of an enemy discovering Sailor Moon's weakness. The Dark Moon Kingdom could kill her simply by keeping her separated from him for a prolonged length of time. That would be much easier than trying to defeat her in battle. Another thought occurred to him. "Can she still transform into Sailor Moon? If there is another droid attack, Sailor Moon is going to be needed."
Setsuna shook her head. "I don't know. Once she's built up some strength, have her give it a try. Just don't expect her to know what to do. Serenity has always been shielded from fighting. She has no training what-so-ever."
Mamoru thought back to some of Sailor Moon's first battles and smiled slightly. "I remember."
Setsuna turned, gave Serenity one last concerned look, and then walked out the door. The other Senshi departed soon after, leaving Mamoru with strict instructions to alert them with Usagi's communicator if there was any hint of danger.
Mamoru closed the door behind them and leaned against it with an audible sigh. When he looked up, he noticed Serenity staring at him intently. Her eyes were troubled and he wondered what she was thinking about. He frowned in concern as he realized that Setsuna had been right--Serenity was much too pale.
"Are you alright?" he asked solicitously as he started walking toward her. She didn't answer, but her gaze never faltered as he approached. Disturbed by her lack of a response, he gently took one of her hands. "Serenity?"
Serenity shivered at his touch and closed her eyes so she wouldn't see the deep concern in his eyes. When he touched her, she just wanted to melt in his arms, but there was pain and sorrow there, as well. The images she had seen in her mind earlier seemed to underscore this, and she didn't know what to do. She wanted to trust him. He had saved her life; in fact, he was sustaining her life even now, but what did those images mean? More than anything, Serenity wished that her mother was there to comfort her and talk to her. She felt his strong arms slide under her as he gently picked her up. His glorious warmth once again surrounded her and she surrendered herself to the sleep that had been beckoning her.
Looking down at the sleeping princess in his arms, Mamoru furrowed his brow. He didn't like the fact that she had closed him out, withdrawn from him. Had she remembered about the break-up? She was still Serenity, however, not Usagi. He shook his head in frustration. Hopefully, in the morning she would open up to him again.*****
"Serenity, you need to get up now. We need to leave soon so that I'm not late to class." Mamoru gently shook the princess' shoulder. He felt a bit guilty about waking her up. She'd looked so drained the day before, but he couldn't afford to miss class. Although, how he was going to explain her presence to his professor, he had no idea. "Serenity, come on, you just have enough time to shower and eat before we go. I'll make you some breakfast while you're getting ready." At the mention of food, Mamoru was finally rewarded with Serenity's wide blue eyes slowly opening and peering at him.
"Will you make pancakes?" she asked him hopefully.
Mamoru's heart skipped as she spoke, her expression and voice sounding so much like his Usako that he could almost believe that her memory had returned. But no, the crescent moon was still brightly visible against her brow. Abruptly realizing that she was waiting for his answer, Mamoru cleared his throat. "Yes, I'll make pancakes."
Serenity gave him a brilliant smile and then she threw off the blankets and ran for the bathroom. Mamoru shook his head in amazement. In some ways, Serenity and Usako were exactly alike. Smiling, he headed to the kitchen to start breakfast.
Mamoru had just set the plate of pancakes on the table when Serenity came into the kitchen. She was wearing a softly pleated white skirt that flared slightly at the bottom and hovered just above her knees and a pale pink blouse with sleeves that puffed out at the shoulders. A plain gold tiara, similar to Sailor Moon's but without the jewel in the center, covered her crescent moon mark.
"This smells wonderful, Endy-, I mean, Mamoru. I had no idea that the Prince of Earth could cook!" Serenity exclaimed as she happily piled pancakes onto her plate. "I cannot wait to see more of Earth. I have always wanted to visit, but Mother always says that it is too dangerous..." her voice faded away as she remembered that her Mother was long-dead and she quickly looked down at her plate as she struggled to control her emotions. For a little while, she had forgotten why she was here and had simply been enjoying the visit with Mamoru. She felt a warm pressure on her hand that sent tingles throughout her body and she quickly looked up to see Mamoru regarding her sympathetically. She gave him a weak smile and then took a deep breath, determined not to let grief overwhelm her. As she looked into his eyes, she felt a warmth rise in her chest that banished the sorrow that had threatened. An image flashed again in her mind of Mamoru in a tuxedo turning away from her, petals of a crushed rose falling from his hand. Serenity gasped and jerked her hand away, knocking her glass of milk on the floor in the process. She stammered an apology and quickly got up to clean the mess she had created.
Mamoru also got up and silently bent down to help pick up the pieces of broken glass. She was withdrawing again, but why? For a moment there, she had looked at him just as she used to, with love glowing in her eyes, then she had jerked her hand away from his as if he had burned her.
Serenity kept her eyes averted as Mamoru knelt beside her and started picking up the jagged shards of glass. Her cheeks were burning with embarassment--she hadn't been this clumsy since her twelfth birthday! She bit her lip in frustration. She had always followed her heart before, why was she getting conflicting messages now? Her heart told her to trust the dark-haired prince, but her mind kept sending her warning flashes of hurt and betrayal. Suddenly, Serenity felt overwhelmingly lost and confused and the tears she had been keeping locked inside silently slipped free. Serenity tried to turn away before Mamoru could notice, but when she felt his warm arms come around her in a comforting embrace she knew she had failed.
Mamoru saw the small splash as a teardrop hit the puddle of milk just before Serenity hurriedly turned away from him. The misery she was feeling was so strong that he could almost see it and he moved instinctively to comfort his princess. At first, she stiffened at his touch, but after a few moments of murmuring to her softly and rubbing her back, she relaxed against him and let the tears fall against his chest. "Do you want to talk about it?" he asked her quietly.
Serenity shook her head in denial, but contradicted herself by speaking in a broken whisper. "I don't know what to do. Nothing makes sense anymore."
Mamoru momentarily tightened his embrace at her quiet confession, then he pulled back so he could look at her. Tilting her chin up, he gazed into her eyes, reading the bewilderment in their crystalline depths. "Why don't you just take it one day at a time, OK? Today, you can see what a typical college student's life on Earth is like. You don't need to think about what will happen tomorrow or the next day, just pretend you are taking a vacation on Earth with a friend. Think of it as an adventure. Can you do that?"
Serenity's gaze never wavered as he spoke and, as she listened to his voice, she searched his eyes and read the concern and...something else...that he felt for her. Not trusting her voice, she simply nodded in agreement, her heart speeding up at what she thought she had read in his eyes. She heard Mamoru's soft sigh of relief and he hugged her to him once again. Closing her eyes, Serenity allowed herself to simply enjoy the warmth of his arms around her. He made her feel safe, protected, loved... She shied away from that last thought. It was too soon to be thinking of that, but somehow it just seemed right. Could she love him? She had only just met him! Well, according to the Senshi, she did love him and had known him for a thousand years. Serenity took a deep breath. She would do as he suggested and take it one day at a time. No sense in worrying about a past she didn't remember and future she couldn't predict. With that decision made, she felt much better and realized that they had better leave or Mamoru would be late for his class. She stepped back and gifted Mamoru with a small smile. "I'll go wash my face and then we should depart for your class. I would not wish for you to be late." So saying, she turned and left the kitchen, leaving Mamoru staring after her in surprise.*****
Mamoru smiled as he watched Serenity take in the sights on the way to the university. Her eyes were wide with wonder and she exclaimed over each new thing with such joy and excitement that he found himself looking at things he had seen everyday with a new perspective. She clung tightly to his hand and occasionally she would tug on him so she could take a closer look at a sign, the hot dog vendor, the trees, and various other things. Reluctantly, he had had to curtail her explorations so that he could get to class on time. She had dimmed a bit, but had perked back up when he promised that she could explore to her heart's content once he was done with classes for the day. It wasn't until they reached the campus that Mamoru began to worry about how he was going to explain her presence to his professor. He had just decided to tell everyone that she was a cousin who was visiting from out of town when they reached the class room. He gave Serenity one last reassuring squeeze of the hand and then he released her and opened the door.
"Ah, Mamoru, Princess Serenity, I'm so pleased you are here!" Professor Green gushed as he rushed to greet them, bowing low to Serenity as he approached. "When Ms. Meioh contacted the Dean about your upcoming visit, we were very pleased to hear that you were considering attending our humble university. It is not often that we have royalty amongst our student body."
Serenity returned his exuberant greeting with a regal nod of the head and then she took his hand and gave him a brilliant smile. "Thank you, Professor, for the very warm welcome. I am sure that I will find Tokyo University to be a very fine institution. I do hope that my presence will not inconvenience you in any way."
"Oh no, no, you must not think that! I am delighted to have you. Mamoru, why don't you show the Princess to the seat next to yours? Ms. Meioh was very specific in her instructions. Should the Princess need to leave for any reason, you must accompany her and I will be sure to send any notes you may have missed to your apartment. All of your professors have been so advised and if the Princess needs anything, you have only to ask."
Mamoru simply nodded and led Serenity to the two open seats near the wall. Sailor Pluto certainly had been busy. He wondered just what exactly she had told the Dean, but then mentally shrugged--it really didn't matter as Serenity's presence by his side was now completely expected and approved. He glanced over at Serenity to see how she had taken the surprising welcome and she just smiled and winked at him. Evidently, she was accustomed to Sailor Pluto arranging things for her in advance.
In each of Mamoru's classes, the reaction was the same. His professors were falling all over themselves in an attempt to impress Serenity and make her feel welcome. She was gracious and regal with each one of them, every inch the princess. Mamoru was impressed at her composure. He wasn't sure he would have been as cool had he been in her position. In a way, however, her control disturbed him. Usagi would never have been able to mask her emotions so well. Or would she? If she were to have as much tragedy in her life, would she begin to hide her feelings from him? Would she no longer look to him for protection and comfort? He didn't like that idea at all. His Usako was bright and cheery. Well, at least she had been, until he'd broken her heart.
Mamoru was so deep into his thoughts that he didn't even notice when his last class had ended until someone waved a hand in front of his eyes. Glancing up, he saw Serenity standing in front of his desk, staring at him in puzzlement.
"Hello? Mamoru, are you alright? Everyone else has gone."
Mamoru blinked in confusion and then looked about him. She was right, they were the only ones left in the class room. The slight pink of embarassment stained his cheeks as it dawned on him that he had missed the entire lecture. He sighed with the realization that he'd have to ask someone for the notes. He certainly didn't relish that thought; he'd never live it down. Mamoru daydreaming in class. Shaking his head ruefully, he returned his gaze to Serenity, who was looking at him expectantly.
"Um, yeah, I'm fine. Thanks for asking."
"You seemed a bit preoccupied. Is it the enemy? Are you worried that they will attack soon?" Serenity asked, apprehension creeping into her gaze.
"No, no, it's nothing like that." Mamoru ran his hand through his hair. He couldn't very well tell her what had truly been in his thoughts, so he decided a change of subject was in order. "Looks like we'll have to make a stop in the dorms. I need to borrow someone's notes."
Serenity smiled at him and waved some papers in front of his face. "Do you mean these notes?" she asked with an elegantly arched brow.
Mamoru couldn't hide his astonishment. He grabbed the papers and studied them. The writing was very neat and precise, but somehow familiar. Serenity? The writing was what Usagi's might look like if she ever took the time to practice. "You took notes?" he asked in disbelief.
Serenity shrugged. "I was bored and it was pretty obvious that you weren't paying any attention. It was the least I could do, especially with how kind you have been to me. I know that I must be quite a burden to you." Serenity's eyes dropped to the desk as she finished. She was surprised when she felt his fingers under her chin and then he tilted her face up so that she was looking him in the eyes.
"Never believe that you are a burden. I want to help you. You're the best thing that's ever happened to me."
His midnight blue eyes bore into her own until she was certain he could see her very soul. His face was so close to hers that they seemed to be sharing the same breath. Time ceased to exist. Serenity could see such longing, pain, and need in his eyes that she could no longer bear it. Compelled to answer that need, Serenity leaned closer, bringing her lips towards his...
BANG. Serenity and Mamoru both jumped and looked toward the sound.
"Oops. Sorry," a young freshman girl stammered out as she bent down to retrieve the book she had dropped on the floor. Her cheeks were slightly red and she quickly averted her eyes from the gorgeous couple who were just about to make out in front of her.
Serenity and Mamoru jumped away from each other and gathered up their belongings. Neither was willing to meet the other's eyes as they hurriedly exited the room, but their hands met and clung together as they raced down the hall.
They didn't stop running until they reached the park. Collapsing on a bench next to the fountain, they tried to catch their breath. Serenity immediately started giggling as she remembered the expression on Mamoru's face when he noticed the girl in the room with them. She didn't think it was possible for someone's face to become quite that deep a shade of red. Mamoru tried to scowl at her in mock anger, but he couldn't keep a straight face and he joined in with his own laughter. When they finally managed to regain control of themselves, they simply sat on the bench in companionable silence--Serenity leaning against Mamoru with his arm around her shoulders.
Serenity closed her eyes in contentment. This was what she wanted. Just to be with him. It didn't matter what the visions showed her. In her heart, she knew that he could never hurt her. He was a part of her. She loved him. A pleasant warmth began to build within her and Serenity smiled as she opened her eyes. She wanted to share her new-found knowledge with Mamoru.
An irritating beeping noise jerked Mamoru out of the pleasant languor he had been experiencing. It took him a moment to realize that it was Usagi's communicator.
"What is it?" Serenity asked, lifting her head up to look at him.
"The communicator. The Senshi must be in trouble," he answered as he activated the small device. "I'm here."
"Mamoru! There's a droid attack at the mall! We could really use some help," Sailor Mars spoke quickly and Mamoru could hear the battle going on in the background.
"We're on our way." Mamoru broke the connection and stood up, grabbing Serenity's hand. "Come on, we have to get to the mall."*******
As they approached the mall, Serenity and Mamoru had to struggle against the mob fleeing the building. As the the sounds of battle got louder, however, the crowd had thinned out and Mamoru took the time to find a secluded corner and transform into Tuxedo Mask.
Serenity stared in amazement as Mamoru transformed in front of her eyes. Gone were his brown slacks and black turtle neck. He now stood in front of her in an elegant tuxedo, complete with red-lined cape and top-hat. A white mask covered his eyes, and she wasn't sure she liked that. He gave her a reassuring smile, however, before taking her hand and working their way closer to the battle. Finally, they could see what was going on. The Senshi surrounded a two-story tall dragon that was constructed completely of mirrors. Every time it opened its mouth, shards of mirrored glass shot at a Sailor Senshi. Jupiter and Mercury both had bleeding cuts on their arms and legs where they had failed to dodge the flying glass.
"Serenity, stay here and try to stay out of sight," Mamoru told her as he sprinted off to help the tiring Senshi. He sent a barrage of roses at the dragon's head as he ran. Unfortunately, the mirror plating simply deflected them back at him and he had to cover himself with his cape to avoid being pricked by his own attack.
"It's no good. It just reflects all of our attacks back at us!" Jupiter yelled, barely dodging the next barrage of glass that came her way.
"Mercury, have you discovered a weakness?" Tuxedo Mask asked as he pushed Mars out of the way of the dragon's tail.
"Sorry. It's hard to get a reading on it. All the mirrors make it difficult to scan," she answered, still typing furiously on her computer even as she ducked behind a trash bin to avoid the glass coming her way.
Serenity watched the battle with growing unease. It wasn't going well. If they couldn't use their powers, how were they to defeat the beast? She felt like she should be doing something to help them. They told her that she now fought beside them. She should be helping! But how? She didn't know how to fight. Then all thought left her as she saw the dragon breathe its deadly glass shards at Tuxedo Mask's unprotected back. He had bent down to help Venus to her feet after the dragon had swiped her with its tail.
"Behind you!" Serenity screamed.
Tuxedo Mask turned at her warning and managed to avoid most of the glass, but some of the shards embedded themselves in his shoulder. Without conscious thought, Serenity invoked the Ginzuishou. The tiara on her forehead cracked and fell away as light blazed forth from her crescent moon. Raising the Ginzuishou, Serenity screamed out with all of her strength, "Cosmic Moon Power!" Her eyes were wide and shining with power and wind whipped her hair about her as bright white light streaked toward the dragon.
All of the Senshi had turned at her scream and were paralyzed with shock and fear as they saw her use the awesome power of the Ginzuishou. A loud cracking noise turned their attention back to the dragon. Each mirrored plate of its hulking body fractured and, just for a moment, the creature was perfectly still. In the next instant, it shattered into glistening dust.
As soon as he had heard her call upon the power of the Ginzuishou, Tuxedo Mask had started running towards Serenity. The dragon, the Senshi, the pain in his shoulder, everything was forgotten as he rushed to her side. She had started to crumple as he reached her and he managed to catch her just before she hit the ground.
"Serenity! Serenity, come on, stay with me!" he cried as he frantically searched her face. Her skin had paled to an almost translucent hue and the crescent moon barely flickered upon her forehead. Taking her hand in his, he was chilled by its coldness. "Mercury!"
The Senshi, finally jogged out of their shock by his voice, ran to join him. Mercury scanned her princess as she approached.
"Oh no," she gasped.
"What is it?" Jupiter asked.
"She... she's dying. The Ginzuishou drained all of her strength," Mercury choked out as she burst into tears.
"No," Mars whispered as she tearfully gazed down upon her fallen princess.
Tuxedo Mask looked at the Senshi with stricken eyes. He couldn't lose her now. Not like this. "No, Mercury, there must be a mistake. There must be something we can do. I'll give her more of my energy..." he argued, but Mercury shook her head.
"It's too late. Her lifeforce is too low to absorb the energy," she whispered.
"Mamoru?" a soft voice interrupted them and Mamoru looked down into crystalline blue eyes.
"Yes love, I'm here," he answered just as softly.
Serenity smiled weakly. "Did I get it?"
"Yes, you got it." Mamoru nodded, tears falling silenty down his cheeks.
"Is everyone all right?" Serenity frowned, noticing his tears. "Why is it so cold?"
"Everyone's fine, Serenity. Just rest and I'll try to warm you," Mamoru soothed her as he unhooked his cape and gently wrapped it around her shivering body.
"There was something I wanted to tell you, earlier, in the park," Serenity whispered, struggling against the darkness that was hovering around the edges of her vision.
"Tell me," Mamoru pleaded, as he leaned closer in order to hear her.
"I wanted you to know that... that I love you," Serenity breathed as her eyes fluttered shut.
"Serenity! Usako! Usako, you can't leave me. I love you too much. Please, stay with me," Mamoru begged. "I love you, my princess," he whispered as his lips touched hers with a gentle kiss.
Serenity again felt the warmth building within her just as it had when they were in the park. But this time, when she felt his lips upon hers, it burst forth and spread throughout her body. Suddenly, all of her memories came flooding back and Usagi found herself right where she always wanted to be--in Mamoru's arms.
Mamoru felt Serenity's love wash over him in a golden wave of emotion. In its wake, he felt the comforting presence of his Usako within him once again. Hardly daring to hope that it was true, he slowly pulled away so he could look at her.
"Mamo-chan?" Usagi asked, reaching up to wipe away his tears. "Why are you crying?"
He didn't answer her immediately, he just stared at her face as if he were trying to imprint the image in his mind. The crescent moon had disappeared and her wide blue eyes regarded him with concern. At his continued silence, Usagi looked about her and saw the Senshi standing around them staring at her in awe. She offered them a weak smile. "Hey."
"Hey, yourself," Mars answered with a shaky smile of her own.
The other Senshi were about to approach her when Mamoru suddenly crushed her to him in a fierce hug.
"Usako," he whispered as he clung to her. "Don't ever leave me again."
"I'm alright, Mamo-chan, really," Usagi assured him as she returned his embrace. "I'm just a little tired, nothing a good night's sleep won't fix."
"Mercury?" Jupiter asked.
Mercury smiled as she studied her computer. "She's right. She should rest for a day or so to build her strength back up, but she's going to be fine. All traces of Earth Sickness are gone."
"The link between them has been restored!" Venus exclaimed as she beamed at the two lovers. As the Senshi of Love, she could see the golden aura of love that surrounded them once again and she couldn't be happier.
"Not only that, but Tuxedo Mask's shoulder has been completely healed, as well," Mercury said in surprise.
"I guess that's just the power of love!" Jupiter said with a grin.
Mamoru stood up with Usagi still in his arms. "If rest is what you need, then rest is what you're going to get. You're staying in bed for the next two days and I want to see some color in those cheeks."
Usagi giggled in delight. "Will you make me pancakes?" she asked hopefully.