King Endymion paused to take in the scene surrounding him. The Silver Millenium palace was cloaked in earthlight all around him.
It was so, so, so long ago and yet it was burned into his soul. Princess Serenity, standing there with shimmering eyes and silver hair, her dress floating around her in the low gravity. "Endymion!" she called, and it made the king jump, but it wasn't him she was calling.
The earth prince appeared from the walkway, striding with purpose toward the princess. Serenity ran to him and they embraced.
"It's rare you come here to see me," Serenity said, searching his eyes. "What's wrong?"
"My Shitennou tell me the moon has spies," Endymion said, "infiltrating my planet. Is this true, Serenity?"
The princess blinked, shaking her head slowly while biting her lip. "I don't think so… we watch over the earth to protect it but…"
"We don't need your protection," the prince snapped.
"Endym-" She stepped forward, putting a hand to his arm.
King Endymion's heart sunk. His memories of the Silver Millenium were clearer than ever, and while this conversation happened, it hadn't been like this. The prince had come to warn his princess of the Shitennou's suspicions, and together they'd sworn to fight for their love to the bitter end.
"If only you weren't so beautiful," the Prince Endymion said, almost mournfully. "I would've never fallen in love."
The armies filled the skies with blood.
As the Silver Millennium faded away, Endymion clenched his fist. It was obvious that Wiseman had twisted her memories of them, from the very beginning!
He had to figure out a way to fix this, but how could he, when he couldn't reach her?
And suddenly, there they were again, in 20th-century Tokyo and so, so young. Sitting side-by-side for a painting by Yumemi Yumeno.
It was when he was watching Mamoru's fascinated, amused gaze on Usagi change to an irritated sneer that Endymion realized.
He could remember. He could show Usagi what had really happened, how Mamoru had seen her, really seen her, beneath the guarded looks and awkward posturing. He might not be able to change the past, but he could help Serenity remember how much he'd always loved her.
Shutting his eyes, he reached out in his mind and remembered. Remembered the smell of paint and cookies, of Usagi's shampoo. Her green windbreaker and rain-frizzed hair, Yumeno's soft spoken shyness and really good coffee. And then he opened his eyes and he was sitting on the sofa in a leather jacket in a body that was a bit skinnier, more lanky, younger than he was used to.
He was Mamoru. And he looked at Usagi - softly breathing next to him, cheeks flush and oh-so-touchable, hands curled on her knees, as she primly sat still at Yumeno's command. Feeling his gaze, she turned, a challenge in her eyes. He smiled. A small, secretive smile like the one he remembered making that day.
'You don't know how much I truly like you, Odango Atama,' Mamoru was thinking. Endymion threw that knowledge out into Usagi's memories, threw with all his might.
Usagi gave a small, hesitant smile back at him. And the memory faded.
Endymion had steeled himself for a barrage of the worst, most dramatic parts of their relationship: Rejecting her when he didn't remember who she was, leaving for America in an awkward rushed goodbye so he wouldn't break down in sobs, and worst of all: when he broke up with her to save her.
But that wasn't what appeared.
Instead he found himself in his old apartment, all alone. A textbook was sitting out on the coffee table, and his past self was nowhere to be seen.
"Mamo-chan!" the sweet, cheerful voice echoed down the hall, and Endymion watched with longing as Usagi skipped in, a gray mini-skirt swishing over long legs, a soft pink sweater bringing out the flush in her cheeks, the sparkle in her eyes. She held a cloth bag in her hand, tied with a ribbon. "I baked cookies!"
God, but she was beautiful. Endymion would eat a thousand burnt cookies if it meant he could hold her again.
"Mamo-chan?" She glanced around the empty place and then knelt on the floor, spinning the textbook toward her.
"The… something of…," she trailed off, confusion in her eyes. "I can't even read this kanji." She looked crestfallen, eyes filled with tears.
"It's okay!" Endymion said, his words evaporating into the air, not reaching her. "Usako, you are in middle school! You aren't expected to read college texts. You… you don't need to know all the kanji in the world, you ARE the world. Usako, please…"
But she was already crying, and still crying when Mamoru returned, holding a soda.
Mamoru rolled his eyes at the burnt cookies while Usagi wailed that she could never be smart enough for him.
"Of course you aren't," Mamoru said. "But you're Serenity so I have to be with you. Luckily I have classmates to talk to when you don't understand things." He bit a cookie and made a face.
Endymion couldn't recall this exact instance, but he reached out to Usagi's memories and forced himself to remember. To become Mamoru.
The emotionally distant college student - overachieving, socially awkward and introverted, guarded and cold and so utterly, utterly in love with his bubbly girlfriend.
"It's okay, Usako," he said through Mamoru, and tugged her into his arms. She was warm and soft and sweet and he realized her memories were working through him - her real memories.
Mamoru comforted her, kissed her, told her he liked her just as she was. ('Liked', Endymion thought. 'What an understatement.' He still had so much growing to do.) Slowly, Wiseman's vision faded into the real thing, and the darkness faded even more.
It was hard to leave this memory, when his little bunny was snuggled into his arms, but there was still more to do.
The Tokyo street was bathed in pink and red from the sunset, and so nostalgic it took Endymion's breath away. This was Juuban of the 20th century and it'd been so long since he saw his hometown like this.
His past self was walking purposely toward a high rise, a bouquet of flowers in his hands.
"Mamoru!" Usagi's voice called, and it was odd hearing his full name from her lips. When was this that she called him neither Mamo-chan nor Mamoru-baka? "Please don't go in there! It's dangerous! Natsumi she's…. she's not human!"
"She's sick," Mamoru insisted. "And she's my friend."
Usagi looked like she'd been punched. "Those flowers are for her? Is she your girlfriend or..."
"Not yet," Mamoru said. "But she's gorgeous and into me so why not?" He smirked. "I could do a lot worse," he said pointedly, looking Usagi up and down with derision.
That's not what happened, but Endymion had a sinking feeling the real truth wasn't much better.
He shut his eyes and remembered. When he opened them, he was standing where Mamoru was, flowers and all.
"Listen, Usagi," Mamoru said. "She's my friend and she's sick so I'm visiting her. Don't read too much into it."
That wasn't good enough. 'Sorry, Chiba,' Endymion thought. 'I'm going to tell her everything.'
"I don't have many friends," he said, putting Mamoru's innermost thoughts into words, pushing the truth out into Usagi's mind because she had to know she had to know because his past self was too scared to ever tell her. "And Natsumi annoys me a lot, but she also seems kind of lonely and sad and I can commiserate with that. I am not interested in her romantically. I'm hardly ever interested in anyone romantically, because I can't imagine being worthy of anyone's love. Incidentally, you look absolutely gorgeous in the sunset."
Usagi's brows knitted, but the memory was already fading.
Then, Endymion found himself at a party, watching his past self hold a drink and a conversation with some old classmate he didn't even remember. Usagi was next to him, vibrating with nervousness, in the cutest pink dress he'd ever seen.
"Don't embarrass me in front of my peers," Mamoru hissed at her. "Try to be smart and accomplished for one night."
Edward's party, Endymion realized.
The room swirled and he saw his past self dancing with Michiru.
Mamoru would soon come to sincerely enjoy Michiru's company, but at the time of Edward's party he was frustrated with her secrecy and double-talk. He had danced with her to help the senshi solve the infuriating puzzle of the mysterious Mugen girls.
But in this tainted memory, Usagi wasn't dancing with Haruka as she should've been, but curled near the wall alone while her friends and the exchange students cruelly mocked her, and Mamoru held Michiru much too close.
No! Endymion shut his eyes and forced himself to remember.
Remember her slurred giggle and babble of 'relativity pudding', how jealous he was watching her grasp the exchange student's hands and beam up at him. Remember her saving the entire roomful of people when Eudial attacked.
And then he was Mamoru - politely leaving Michiru and heading to Usagi, taking her hand for a dance. She was flushed and sheepish, running a soft finger along his bruised cheek. He curled a hand around her silk-clad waist and spun her to the music.
He said what Mamoru really had said, while they danced the last song.
"I actually had a really good time tonight," he told her, sincerely. "Better than I thought I would."
Usagi gave him a 'yeah right' look, and he loved her so much for it.
"Honestly!" he said. "These things are always a lot more fun with you."
She smiled, and the darkness lifted a bit more.
It was summer, and stiflingly hot, the type of heat Endymion wasn't used to after years in Crystal Tokyo's temperate climate.
The girls and Mamoru were standing outside Rei's temple, and he had a suitcase by his feet.
"It's only temporary," he was telling Rei's grandfather, and the old man practically exploded with joy.
"Usagi destroyed his apartment," Rei said, accusatorily. The others nodded in agreement.
'It hadn't been Usako's fault!' Endymion thought. In fact, Rei had taken at least partial responsibility if he remembered correctly.
Rei's grandfather danced around, exclaiming how happy he was his granddaughter was dating such an upstanding man.
"Mamoru-sama and Rei used to date?" Diana the kitten asked the girls - curiously, innocently.
At the time, Mamoru had been exhausted, stressed, overwhelmed. He had a final due, his landlord was pissed, he'd used a bunch of his savings to pay off the damages. He was barely listening to Rei's grandfather, thinking only of getting inside in the shade. He hadn't done a thing about Usagi seething in the corner. He hadn't said anything to Rei's grandfather about not being Rei's intended husband - not wanting the man to withdraw his welcome.
Rei was embarrassed and flustered, Usagi was livid, and he was oblivious.
"Stand up for her!" Endymion shouted at Mamoru, infuriated with his past self - and not for the first time. "Tell everyone it wasn't Usako's fault! Tell Rei's family that you have a girlfriend! Be- be aware! Look at Usako! Look at how upset she is!"
But he couldn't change the past, or Usagi's memory.
As the vision before him faded, he heard a soft, humorless laugh from behind him.
Whirling around, he saw the dark queen appear from the shadows as if materializing out of the darkness itself. She sashayed up to him, a bitter expression on her lovely face.
"Well, my dear?" Serenity said, raising a sarcastic eyebrow beneath the black moon insignia on her head. "Do you have something to tell me?"
She tilted her head, long hair slipping along her shoulder like liquid silk. She stepped closer, ran one long finger up his chest. "Aren't you going to tell me this didn't happen? That the 'real' memory is what matters?"
Endymion swallowed against the burning in his throat. "This is what happened," he admitted. "But- it wasn't …" He grabbed her hand, flatted it against his chest, searching her cold eyes desperately. "It doesn't mean I don't love you!"
It was the wrong thing to say. Her eyes flashed and she yanked her hand free. "I can stand a lot of things, Endymion, but not lies!"
"It's not a lie!" He insisted right back at her. "I've died for you, I'd kill for you, you can't stand there and doubt the depth of my feelings when I've traveled inside your very mind to save you!"
Serenity put a hand in his cheek, skimming her thumb over his lower lip.
"King of pretty words and grand gestures," Serenity said, her voice almost fond. She caressed her knuckles down the side of his face, shaking her head. "And to think I almost believed you."
He realized his hands had moved to her waist, unconsciously pulling her closer. "Serenity, please listen to me, -"
"No, you listen," she said, putting her lips right up against his ear. "He knows you're here, and you are no match for him."
"Maybe not," Endymion said. Keeping his voice steady while her fingers slid down his neck was a herculean effort, but he managed. He turned his head slightly so they were face to face, eye to eye. "But you are."
She didn't pull back so much as she was pulled back, and she vanished in a whirl of black smoke and angry, confused eyes.
"She's right, Your Majesty," the voice of Wiseman was like rancid oil in Endymion's ear, "I know you're here. And I'm glad to have you watch me unravel a thousand years of devotion with just a few… tweaks.
You see, I picked your beginning. Your foundations. The rocky start of a confused girl and broken boy, and it only took magnification of what was already there for it to crumble.
It's so easy to make her believe you never loved her. Too easy." His laugh was like dry leaves, his snort like rotting things. "Some miracle romance.
So, how does it feel, King of Crystal Tokyo, to know your castle was built on sand?"