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Crown Me Nemesis

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Serenity pulled back, eyes accusing and shocked. 'How dare you?!' her look screamed at him. Then, in a flash, she grabbed his face in both hands and pulled him back toward her, pressing her lips against his - punishingly, hungrily. Her tongue chased his and her nails ran along his scalp and right when he succumbed to a full body shutter she pulled away.

For a moment something flashed in her eyes, then her expression turned to smug amusement, a small half-smile as she ran her thumb across her bottom lip, as if wiping it.

"It will not be that easy," she said, with a tsk-tsk shake of her head.

"I didn't think it would," he said.

But his power - the healing and grounding of the Golden Crystal - had done enough that her rage had subsided.

Wiseman would be calling her back now, to regroup and recharge the dark energy in her veins. But Endymion could only hope he'd left some sort of trace of an effect.

"You were lucky," she said, backing away slightly. "You won't be next time."

She vanished the way the Black Moon Clan always did, in a small vortex of black smoke. The weight of her presence vanished, leaving Endymion both relieved and bereft.

"That was stupid," Pluto said, flatly.

Endymion considered, leaning against the Time Gate, thoughtfully. The crystal rested against Pluto's waist; she'd looped it where the Time Key would've been. The most protected place in the galaxy.

"It probably was," he conceded, a thoughtful frown on his face. "Anyway, I'm going to do it again."

Pluto opened her mouth to argue, but he interrupted before she could.

"But! I promise I'll be better prepared this time."

She looked at him with an expression only the all-knowing senshi of time could make. The look that said, 'I may have Mysterious Knowledge about this, I may not, but if I'm not knocking you unconscious with my staff to prevent this, it must not be that terrible of an idea.'

So, he ventured forward. "Will… you help?"

If she was any less respectful of a person, she would've rolled her eyes, Endymion was sure of it. But instead she merely bowed her head. "Of course, My King."

He held the Silver Crystal in his gloved hand - making sure to avoid touching it with his skin. It would be too responsive to him, and he didn't want to do anything to aid Serenity in her plan to storm the palace and claim it for the Dark Moon.

The courtyard was cold - especially for the usual paradise temperature of the utopian city - and bleak. It fit the mood perfectly, no living green, no cheer - just cold stone and dead twigs. A statue of a maenad stared blankly out over a dry fountain with her eyes made of marble.

He sensed Serenity before he saw her, the wind changed and the temperature dropped even further.

"Hello, my love," he said, when she appeared before him.

"Darling," she greeted, coolly. Her eyes lighted on the Silver Crystal in his hand and narrowed slightly.

"I believe I have something you want," he said, raising an eyebrow. He kept his grip on the crystal tight, his stance wary.

Serenity gave him a disgusted, incredulous look. "You aren't giving up this easily, are you?"

"I was thinking about it and decided that I'd rather not die," he said. "So I thought perhaps a bargain?"

"Your life for the crystal," the Dark Queen guessed, crossing her pale arms. "I don't think so."

Endymion swallowed, shifting the crystal slightly in his hands. This was risky. So risky. But it was necessary.

She stepped forward, power crackling her hands. "I'll just kill you and take it."

"Then I'd settle for one last kiss."

For a moment - the shortest, quickest split second - she looked confused. It was barely a flash but he caught it, before the anger returned with a vengeance.

A black rope of dark energy lashed around his wrists, binding his hands together behind his back, the crystal dropping from his suddenly limp hands onto the dirt behind his feet. The pain in his side screamed and he almost cried out.

She stepped forward, until they were barely an inch apart, and then she bent slightly and tilted her head to look into his face. Oddly, she reminded him of a curious child, the way she dipped her head and looked at him writhing in pain in mild interest. "Deal," she said, and leaned in to kiss him. Despite himself, Endymion responded to her lips brushing his, shutting his eyes and leaning into her.

The Dead Scream attack didn't hit Serenity directly - it ricocheted off a stagnant reflecting pool, knocking the poor marble maenad's head clean off, and landed on Serenity with a blow that rendered her limp and unconscious, the dark energy releasing Endymion's arms just in time to catch her.

Serenity awoke in a room drenched with daylight - although the sky was gray, the mirrors and windows had been arranged in such a way to bring maximum light into the room. The bed she was on was soft and plush, and she sat up and swung her legs over the side with unrestrained ease.

Endymion stood a few feet away, Pluto at his side, and they were both watching her cautiously.

"This is a strange dungeon," Serenity said.

Endymion gave her a half-smile. "Welcome home," he said.

She grabbed the nearest thing she could reach - a hairbrush by the bed - and threw it at him as hard as she could. It bounced harmlessly off the invisible force field that separated them. The Dark Queen looked astonished.

"Guess we aren't quite as stupid as you thought?" Endymion said, unable to help a small smile. She was powerful and dangerous and pissed off, but the love of his life was here within the palace walls. She was home.

Now, he just had to heal her.

He'd been through it with Pluto dozens of times, his plan. What he hadn't told her was how much he was improvising.

Endymion knew he wasn't powerless: he could read objects, emotions and connect with people's psyches, their thoughts. Especially Serenity's. Their connection hadn't broken, not completely, even though Wiseman had taken up temporary residence in her mind.

It had sounded simple when spoken out loud in the safety and security of the Time Gate - connect with Serenity, go into her mind, and get Wiseman out. Just like when Pluto had sent Usako and the senshi into Small Lady's mind in the 20th century, he'd said. Only he was even better equipped to handle a situation like this, considering his strengths.

But now that he was face to face with her, now that so much rested on this, Endymion admitted he was nervous.

Serenity could make the braver choice, and had in the past, to protect the world at all costs. Endymion knew if he failed to bring her back to herself, he'd die at her hand before hurting her, or letting anyone else hurt her.

The world would fall to Dark Moon rule because of his devotion to the woman before him, his weakness for her.

But another thing he'd learned from her, in all their years together: what is mistaken for weakness is often, actually, strength.

At his nod, Pluto lowered the forcefield just long enough for Endymion to step inside and take both Serenity's hands in his.

And everything else disappeared.

He was moving upward. There was the sound of a mechanical swish of an elevator, and the musty, swampy smell of the Dark Kingdom which punched him in the gut with unwanted memories. And her - he oriented himself toward the glow of her light and in a spin found himself standing next to a fourteen-year-old schoolgirl with golden pigtails and frightened expression on her sweet baby face.

This was her memory.

"What are you doing here, Odango Atama?" Endymion turned to see his younger self, hunched over, blood seeping into the dark green of his jacket, looking at Usagi with annoyance in his eyes.

But there wasn't annoyance. At the time, he'd been scared for her, this bright happy-go-lucky girl who'd been a balm on his tortured soul this whole time. A reminder that even in a world with a secret identity and lost memories and haunted dreams, there was still simplicity. Still normalcy. Usagi had represented that to him, that at least she'd still be there, running late to school, giggling over Motoki, shoveling treats into her mouth - no matter what. It had terrified him when she'd followed him into danger like the idiot she was, threatening the most precious thing in his civilian life.

Usagi was telling Mamoru he'd moved up to "second worst" person in the world, and he'd tossed her a small, secret smile.

But, no. Then something wrong happened. It was like an orchestra playing in perfect tune and then the notes turned sour and jarring.

The smile on Mamoru's face disappeared and a scowl replaced it, the warmth in his eyes was gone. Instead of a precious, intimate moment between them the elevator filled with contention and dislike. "You are always a bother, Usagi," his past self said in a dismissive voice.

No! It hadn't happened that way.

Endymion reached for Usagi, that precious, precious girl, but his hand floated through her arm like he wasn't even there.

He felt the danger, and although it was a memory, although it was the past, he had to fight to urge to leap in front of her, protect her, at all costs.

The fire rushed toward them and Usagi raised her hand and screamed out the words that had sent a shockwave through the boy next to her.

"Moon Prism Power! Make Up!"

Endymion still remembered what it felt like when Usagi, his bastion of sweet normalcy, and Sailor Moon, the reluctant and kind hearted superhero whom he'd die for, merged into one.

He looked at Mamoru's shocked face and remembered the questions racing through his brain. How? How could that brave-hearted girl who hurled her tiara at monsters every night despite her obvious fear also be the happy and beautiful girl with all those friends and that laugh and that smile and…

How could one person be so… so many things? So beautifully and simply and perfectly and gorgeously and...

That was the moment he'd fallen so deeply in love there was no return.

But again, the jarring change, the shift in perspective. Everything got a bit darker and Mamoru's face changed, twisting into obvious disappointment and disgust. "You are Sailor Moon?" he spat out, recoiling.

"Usako, that's not what happened!" Endymion said, in vain, as Mamoru transformed into Tuxedo Kamen and told her to stay out of his way. That the Rainbow Crystals were all that mattered.

The memory melted away even as Endymion fought against it.

There was a moment of disorientation, of blackness. Then he was on the moon.