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with the moon in hand

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*

Usagi’s fingers drift over the cool metal of the locket in her palm.

“Where did it come from?” she asks, her legs tucked under her as she sits on Mamoru’s couch. The apartment is quiet; for once, it is just the two of them. Chibi-Usa is with friends, the girls are occupied with family and school for the afternoon; there’s a breath and space here. There’s a strange future before them and a past still misted behind them, but she’s happy to stay in the here and now.

From the other end of the sofa, Mamoru looks up from his textbook – biology, today. His glasses settle near the end of his nose. “I don’t really know.”

“You just woke up with it one day,” she murmurs.

“Like most things,” he says, mouth curling.

A flush starts at her throat. “I mean – well –“

“Is it from before?”

She shrugs, dragging her nails over the ticking locket. “It feels familiar.”

“You’ve had it for a while now,” he teases.

Her teeth sink into her bottom lip and she shakes her head. “No, I mean – I know it. I knew it from the moment I first saw it,” she murmurs, wrinkling her nose at him. She weighs it in her palm, feeling his eyes on her.

“It’s lighter than it should be,” he says.

“Reading my mind, Mamo-chan?” she teases, her attention still focused on it.

“It’s a curiosity,” he murmurs.

Sighing, she sets it on the coffee table. “You could take it to the lab at school, do tests,” she drawls.

He sets his book aside and lays a hand on her bare ankle. “That would leave records,” he says, too seriously.

Abruptly she laughs, shaking her head. “I was kidding.”

Now he smiles, slight and special, just for her. It sends a shiver down her spine. “So was I.”

“Were not,” she mumbles as she unfurls her limbs and moves towards him across the couch, sliding across his lap. His hands move to her waist as she lifts her fingers to his glasses. “Were not,” she repeats, sliding his glasses off his face and setting them aside.

“Maybe,” he says, his fingertips dragging along the rise and fall of her ribs. His skin is warm through the thin cotton of her blouse.

She cups his face in her hands, sighing quietly. “You aren’t a little bit curious about it?”

He pulls her closer, tipping his head back. His eyes are very dark in the growing shadows of the afternoon. She feels something coming, in the air; a dark taste of foreboding on her tongue. In his touch and his gaze, she can tell he feels it too. In this hour and moment, she doesn’t care.

“It helped bring me to you. That’s all that matters to me,” he says at last.

Usagi smiles and leans in to kiss him. Her eyes fall shut as she curls her fingers into his jaw, his tongue sliding across her bottom lip. There is the slide of her blouse against her skin and his hands on bare skin, palming across her back. She bites at his lip and sighs as he murmurs her name against her mouth. It’s enough for now.

*

That should be the end of it, with quiet kisses and slides of hands and legs in the warm afternoon light.

But Usagi sees the locket every time she comes to his apartment, and she wonders. She wonders how it came to his life, how it found them through lifetimes and years, and she wonders how much of it ripples into them finding each other. She wonders because it is one of the many grey areas between them, and for him – waking up alone and battered with nothing but the story of a car accident and lost parents to motivate, the singular manipulation of a dream and a princess – she wonders because she cannot think of answers.

His life before her is distinctly shadowed, even to himself; she cannot bear to think of it, really. This locket is a hint, perhaps, a sign; she wants to give him the comfort she has herself, whenever she goes home and flips through Ikuko’s photo albums, when she sees herself as a baby, growing through the years. She has a stability and a tie to this life apart from him, where he does not; it’s all very strange to her, and it all connects back to this gold piece of something, a ticking reminder of everything they’ve lost and won.

What perhaps does not haunt him, haunts her.

*

There is a night, after she has stared straight into the face of death and destruction itself and come back with life reborn, after the Infinity school and the near-end of everything, where Usagi opens her eyes in her dreams, and is not herself.

She looks down and finds the light gown of lifetimes past, a fabric of silver and ivory and gold that exists no longer. Her hair, longer then and lighter, pulls at her scalp. There is a slip of a bag at her wrist, hanging with weight. She is barefoot and ankle-deep in the grasses of a land she has yet to remember the name of, but knows, just as she knows Endymion. Here she is Serenity, and here, she lives a memory.

The sky is different here, she thinks as she walks, towards a marble gazebo and a temple whose name and religion she cannot place. It feels ingrained in the rhythms of Earth, but it is not the blue skies she longed for from afar on the pale whitescape of the Moon. No, this is deeper, set apart but within; the name ghosts across her tongue but she cannot place it, not yet.

It feels like an Endymion place, though, she thinks as she pads up the marble steps. She smells the magic of his planet in the air, feels it in every crevice. There is the soft song of priestesses on the wind. This is a place of safety, she thinks.

“You took long enough.”

She turns to see him sitting, waiting, in loose tunic and breeches, relaxed and smiling. Endymion’s smile is contagious because of its rarity; she cannot help but smile too.

“It is trickier every day to get away,” she says as he rises to meet her halfway. His broad hands, callused from battle and practice and the everyday toils of ruling an unruly planet, frame her face. She rises up on her bare toes and his mouth is there to meet hers, as she knows it will be. “I came as quickly as I could.”

He smiles against her mouth and she curls into him, eyes falling shut. “I know. I tease, my lady,” he murmurs.

Her hands slide over his chest, the soft warm fall of his tunic. “You are very forward, sir,” she teases.

His hands slide over the curve of her throat to her shoulders, keeping her close. “I only want to see you as much as I can,” he says right at her mouth.

She opens her eyes and smiles. The air is richer here, fuller; she gathers strength from it, as does he. “As do I.”

They end up sitting on a marble bench under the gazebo, fingers intertwined and mouths close. The linen bag lingers at her side, and she knows he’s curious of it. But it is close to her heart and she cannot – she cannot part with it until she is ready.

Finally, because he is who he is, he slides his free hand through her hair and taps her cheek. “Do you come bearing gifts?” he asks, a dark glint to his eyes.

Flushing slightly, she leans back. “I may,” she says, pulling the bag into her lap.

“You should not tease a patient man,” he says with a laugh.

“And a prince should not beg,” she retorts, wrinkling her nose.

He leans into kiss her once more, mouth soft on hers. “I do not mean to press. I am curious, that’s all.”

Smiling, she slips the linen bag into his open hand. “It is a gift for you.”

Into his palm, the star locket falls, light and waiting. She wets her lips, watching as he turns it over in his hand. “It tracks the Moon’s phases, and how it affects the Earth. You will know when it is safe to sail your oceans,” she murmurs. “And – it has a bit of my magic within it. So you will always know when I am coming.”

He looks up at her then, eyes bright. His hand slips over to cover hers as it rests on her knee. “Serenity –“

“You will always be able to find me, Endymion. And it will always find you,” she says softly.

Endymion curls his fingers around the locket as he leans into kiss her, deep and warm and soft. She is breathless with it, eyes falling shut as her mouth opens to his.

I will always find you, is the unspoken promise between them both. It still holds true.

*

The next evening, Usagi lingers outside of Azubu High’s main entrance, waiting. He, like Ami, likes to participate in evening finals study sessions; there is one week left of school for all of them, but his finals are much more intensive than hers. So, she waits for him, and thinks. The moon hangs low, a crescent close to new; there is a battle just past them, and something waiting ahead, she’s sure.

But she has solved a mystery, she thinks. That leaves her content.

She thinks of the locket, lingering in his apartment. It is not a curse but a talisman, she is sure; there is more of her in it than she realized, and more of him. She likes knowing. There are few answers that come to her when she wants or demands them, especially now.

“Hey,” Mamoru says as he filters out of the gate, nodding to his fellow studious classmates.

She rises from her favorite bench under her favorite tree (she has a favorite bench near every park, it’s what she does), smiling. “You look tired,” she says, touching his chest.

He leans over and brushes a kiss to her cheek, sliding an arm around her waist. “I’m fine,” he says. “You don’t have to wait for me all the time, Usako.”

“I really don’t,” she says with a laugh. “But I wanted to see you tonight.”

“As opposed to every other night?” he drawls.

“Sometimes, you’re ridiculous,” she mutters as they walk towards his apartment building. The night is still warm with the day’s heat, summer coming strong and swiftly.

His palm flattens against the small of her back. “No one would ever believe you if you told them.”

She snorts. “Please. Don’t think Luna didn’t tell us all about the puppet.”

“Oh damnit,” he mutters, and she laughs and laughs, choking on it nearly, until he claps her on the back and she giggles through her nose.

“So, what’s so special about tonight?” he asks as they move through the lobby of his apartment, and settle in the elevator.

She turns and smiles brightly, linking her fingers in front of her. “The locket. I figured it out.”

Mamoru settles his briefcase over his shoulder, raising an eyebrow. “Did you now?”

“Yes,” she says, beaming.

The elevator stops, and they move out into the hallway towards his apartment. “So? Where is it from?” he asks as he reaches into his trousers pocket for his keys.

“That’s the best part,” she says, leaning against the wall as he unlocks his front door. “It’s from me.”

He opens the door and she slips in under his arm, walking backwards into his dark apartment. His brow furrows as he follows her in, flicking on the light as he shuts and locks the door behind them. “From you?”

“Well, from Serenity. I suppose that’s me, but not me,” she says, shrugging. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell the difference. She is her own person, just as he is; but there are moments when she feels absolutely like someone else, and she knows he feels the same.

“How?” he asks, setting his briefcase down.

She watches openly as he shrugs off his jacket, leaning against the living room wall next to the bookcase. Her fingers curl into her palms, itching to touch. “I had it made for you, so it would always find you,” she says softly.

Kicking off his shoes, his eyes darken. He walks towards her then, bracketing his arms at her waist. “Thoughtful of you,” he says, voice low.

She tips her head back, watching him. He is thinking of the most recent battle now, she knows; since the Infinity battle, he has been loath to let her from his sight, sweetly so. “It always tracks the Moon’s phases as it affects Earth,” she chirps.

“Serenity was very thorough,” he drawls.

Her hands rise and settle at his chest, fingers curling into his tie. She breathes in deeply, smiling slightly. “We worry for you,” she says softly.

Mamoru’s gaze darkens; his fingers bite into her waist, hauling her close. “We worry for you, too,” he says, too seriously.

“Mamo-chan, stop – “ she says before she leans up to kiss him. His mouth is hot and hard against hers, with hers – she can’t breathe and she doesn’t want to, swallowing the sound of her name on his lips. She thinks of death, of life, of lives lost and past, and how a locket found him, in the midst of amnesia and nothingness.

Her fingers loosen his tie and pluck at the buttons of his shirt and suddenly she is lifted in his arms, and they walk. He is a proper sort, even in the headiest of moments; she laughs against his skin, kissing down his throat and his bared collarbones as she pushes his shirt off his shoulders. They walk-stumble into the bedroom, the quiet space where she woke up once in the middle of a sunset and found him waiting, watching, worrying.

“I love you,” she breathes against the pulse in his throat, as he stretches her out on his bed and slides his hands over her waist and her hips. She pulls at him, pulls him half-clothed over her and under her. “Mamoru, I – “

He kisses her then, lets her push him into the bed and straddle him. She is insistent as she tugs the clothes from her limbs and curls around him, bowed over him, lips to lips. There is no breath or space or air between their bodies, and she knows somewhere, Endymion and Serenity are smiling.

Later, she watches as he takes the locket in his palm. Curled up to his chest, she watches as he opens it, drags his fingers over the ticking face of it. In the dark shadows of night he is all sharp angles and bright eyes, mystery and strength.

“I love you,” he says quietly. She feels it reverberate in his chest. It feels content, full; she thinks he has the life he wants, regardless of a past full of nothing. “As long as I have you – “

Smiling, she presses a kiss to the hollow of his bare shoulder. Her hair, loose and tangled by his fingers, spreads out around them like gold silk. “I know.”

His arms curl around her and he kisses the top of her head. Their ankles turn and slip together under the sheets. His breath is warm against her temple. She sighs, and shuts her eyes as his fingers skim a path up and down her bare spine. Later, she will don his abandoned shirt and he will bring her ice cream, but for now, they close their eyes and lay skin to skin.

Between them, the locket rests, ticking its way to a new moon.

*