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Obligation & Desire

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A soft sigh stirred him from his sleep. Reaching out blindly, he pulled her further into his embrace, luxuriating in the feel of her hair all around him. Long, flowing hair that smelled of strawberries and reminded him of the sun.

He smiled, still not ready to open his eyes or let the daunting light of day enter his chamber. With daylight came separation from his love, and a bond to duty he never asked for, let alone want. A curse of his birth he could not escape.

Except in these sweet, still moments between dusk and dawn, where the outside world ceased to exist. Moments where he could choose to be with whom he wanted. And she was what he wanted.

"Good morning, my love," a lilting voice flitted into his mind, and he blearily opened his eyes.

"How ever did you know that I was awake?" he asked, a teasing grin making its way onto his lips.

A soft giggle escaped her. "Because you had that blissful smile on your face that you only get in the mornings when you awaken, and I'm still here."

"And what usually happens after I awaken with that blissful smile you're speaking of?" he asked, voice husky near her ear, as his hand began soft touches against her thigh.

"You do your very best to put the same look on my face," she whispered, eyes locking onto his, before they fluttered closed, and she breached the distance between their lips.

It was some minutes later, after he had latched his mouth onto her breast, tongue swirling around a swollen nipple, while his hand rubbed tantalizing circles between her legs, that there was a loud knock on the door.

Before either occupant of the chamber could react to the noise, the door had swung open, allowing a striking man with long, silver-white hair to stride into the room. "Endymion, your father wishes to speak with…" General Kunzite began, trailing off when he noticed the two in the bed scrambling to cover their nudity.

Endymion quickly gathered the woman into his arms, sitting up briskly, and doing his best to shield her from Kunzite's gaze. "Kunzite…" he growled in obvious frustration, "Did it ever occur to you that the purpose of knocking was to give the person inside a chance to respond?"

Kunzite continued to look Endymion square in the eye, his stance unwavering. "I'm so sorry, Endymion," he drawled sarcastically. "But seeing as I keep your schedule managed to the minute, I didn't expect you to be…" Kunzite raised a skeptical eyebrow, and moved his gaze towards the woman in Endymion's bed. "...sticking your prick up Lady-"

"Kunzite!" the prince yelled, but the general simply kept on.

"-of course if you weren't, that would imply you were even the least bit responsible, which we both know is an area in which you are severely lacking."

Endymion's eyes narrowed into slits at Kunzite's words. "Are you quite finished?"

"As a matter of fact, yes," Kunzite replied, "but your father is expecting you shortly, Endymion. Surely you know better than to keep him waiting?"

And without another word, he turned and exited the room, his cape billowing behind him as he slammed the door shut.

With a sigh, and a frustrated run of his hands through his tousled hair, Endymion lay back against the pillows. "God, that man. I swear-"

He was interrupted when a calming hand was placed on his chest. "I understand where he's coming from, Endymion."

Endymion looked at her incredulously, mouth gaping open as he tried to find the words to respond, until she laughed at him, and continued on. "Please don't misunderstand me, love. It does bother me, because I so wish we could be married. And I know General Kunzite wouldn't be so against us if we were. His job is to protect the crown. To protect you. I can respect that."

Sighing deeply, once more, Endymion pulled her against him, burying his head into the endless strands of her hair, and breathing in its scent. "It is true. He would follow you to the ends of the Earth if you were his queen."

She smiled sadly against his chest. "I know, Endymion. But it is not to be."

The couple sat in silence for a few moments more, before Endymion gently deposited her back against the pillows. He kissed her lightly, enjoying the feel of her smile against his lips, as he rose to dress.

The prince would normally wear informal attire for his day to day activities, usually a richly adorned tunic of the deepest blue, but when his father was involved, Endymion knew he was expected to don his full royal regalia, armor and all.

He had always felt that he looked rather foolish in such a getup, but he had to commend whomever had designed his armor, as it was lightweight, and moved with him as if it were a part of him. None of the clunkiness his soldiers experienced with their uniforms was present, and he was incredibly grateful for it.

Finally fastening the last bit of cape to his shoulders, Endymion walked back towards the bed, bending to kiss her once more. "I love you," he told her, his voice thick with emotion.

She smiled brightly at him, and raised a comforting hand to stroke his cheek. "I love you, too. Hurry back?"

"The devil himself couldn't keep me away," Endymion said, unable to keep the grin from his face.

With one last kiss to her lips, the prince walked to the door, closing it behind him, as a sudden feeling of dread washed over him.

oOo

Endymion took a deep breath as he turned the handle to enter his father's study. The sight that greeted him was a familiar one. His father, the great King Aethlius, sitting behind a large desk, scribbling away at any number of official documents, with his spectacles sitting low on his nose, was an image that always brought a smile to the prince's face.

While a study often implied a small, personal space, the king had, instead, chosen a large room with nearly endless shelves full of books. In many aspects, the study more resembled a library than a study.

The study had once belonged to Endymion's mother, the Queen Calyce, and after her death, Aethlius had found much solace spending time in the place his beloved wife had loved most.

This particular place was also Endymion's favorite in the palace, both because of the memories it held of his mother, and the countless time he had spent in it with his father.

Aethlius glanced up at his son, for a brief moment, before turning back to his writing. "Sit, Endymion."

The prince had to suppress a chuckle at the way his father greeted him. Aethlius had always had a difficult time switching between his roles of king and father, but Endymion had long ago learned to recognize the warmth in his father's voice. A warmth he only ever heard when the king addressed him.

"You wanted to see me, father?" he asked, as he sat in the plush chair opposite Aethlius.

The king was silent, while he finished signing the parchment in front of him. After he was finished, he placed the large quill back into the bottle of ink, and sat back in his chair, sighing deeply.

"Yes, my son. There are urgent matters we must discuss, and they cannot wait. I'm afraid I have already waited too long."

A twinge of fear surged through Endymion, but his lifetime of training allowed him to mask it well. He and Aethlius often discussed matters of state, but he couldn't recall the last time his father had wanted to speak with him about urgent matters.

"Urgent matters, father? Surely it can't be anything too serious if it involves me," Endymion countered with a smirk, trying to lighten the mood in an attempt to quell his own fears.

Aethlius smiled at him sadly. His eyes reflecting something heavy Endymion could not explain. "Endymion," he began, appearing to search for the right words, "there comes a time in every king's life where he has to consider securing the future of the crown."

The prince sat in silence, looking at his father with concern and furrowed brows. "Father, are you ill?"

The sadness was temporarily wiped away from Aethlius' face, as he laughed softly at his son's conclusion. "Eager to get rid of me, are you, son?"

Endymion's eyes grew wide in horror. "No! No of course not-"

"I'm talking about marriage, Endymion," Aethlius interrupted. "It's time for you to be married."

A spark of hope lit itself in Endymion's chest. He'd been searching for an opportunity to propose marriage with her. She was of nobility. Surely the people and certainly his father wouldn't object to such a match?

He tried his best not to look too eager when he replied, "Married, you say? And have you picked out my lovely bride, or do I get some say in the matter?"

Aethlius' face fell instantly, as his eyes fell to the parchment in front of them. Without saying a word, the king pushed the document towards his son, allowing it to say the words he couldn't seem to muster himself.

Endymion took the parchment with shaking hands, dread washing over him at the look on his father's face. He scanned the words quickly picking out his own name, and the word, "betrothed", before his eyes fell on what he was searching for.

'Endymion, Prince of Earth, has been promised to...'

His eyes grew wide, and he was unable to hide the, now, violent shaking of his hands. "You can't be serious," he said without attempt to hide the malice in his voice.

Aethlius drew in a deep breath. "Now, Endymion, I know this might not seem like a good match, but-"

"Might not?! Father, you might as well have sold me into slavery!" the prince shouted, rising from his chair.

"Endymion, be reasonable-"

"You be reasonable, father! How could you possibly think this was a good idea?! You've worked your whole life to make us independent, to prove we don't need help. How does this not undo everything you've done?" Endymion said, trying to regain a sense of calm in his voice, and failing miserably.

Aethlius rose from his chair, face grave. "I was a fool, Endymion. A fool to think that we were capable of doing this on our own. We need this alliance. We must have this alliance. The future of our people depend on it."

Endymion had started pacing the room, intermittently running frustrated hands through his hair. HIs cape billowing in his wake.

But abruptly, he stopped.

Moving back over towards the desk, he placed his hands on the desk, and looked his father dead in the eye. "Father," he pleaded, "don't make me do this. Please. I beg of you."

But Aethlius' face remained unmoved. "Kings do not beg, Endymion."

Endymion's face grew sickly pale. "But father, I'm in love."

Aethlius looked towards the rows and rows of books, sighing. "I know."

Endymion couldn't help his sharp intake of breath. Had he somehow gotten through to his father? Was that all it would take? "Then why-"

At the sound of his son's voice, Aethlius looked back at Endymion with the all too familiar sadness, making him look years older than he actually was.

"Because it is your duty, Endymion."

oOo

Endymion couldn't remember how he'd managed to get back to his chambers. He couldn't even remember opening the door.

The only thing that registered in his brain, was her concerned voice calling out to him. "Endymion?! What's wrong?"

He turned unseeing eyes towards the voice, willing them to focus. Slowly, his head began to shake back and forth, anger rising in him, his fists clenching. "No. No, he can't make me do this!"

She took his face into her hands to still his movements. Slowly running her thumbs across his cheeks. "Make you do what, love?"

He opened his mouth once. Twice. Three times, before he was able to choke out the word.

"Marry."

Her hands fell to her sides, and her eyes cast down towards the floor.

When Endymion saw the defeat in her frame, he clasped her shoulders. "I won't do it. I won't. I don't care what it means. I'll give up the crown if I have to-"

She stopped him with a finger to his lips. "No, Endymion," she said, eyes brimming with unshed tears. "We knew this day would come. We knew it from the very beginning!"

"I don't care!" he shouted, uncaring about who might hear him on the other side of the door.

She smiled sadly. "Yes, you do, love. You were born to be king. It is your duty to marry for the good of the people."

Endymion's hands tightened their grip on her. "But an arranged marriage? What good will a queen I can never love do my people? Our people?"

"Your mother and father's marriage was arranged. Look at all the good they did for Earth," she tried to reason.

He let go of her shoulders, sighing in frustration while turning towards the window. "That was different. Everyone loved my mother. She was…" he trailed off, wishing for the comfort of his mother more, as if he were a little boy still clinging to her skirts. "...perfect."

Another sad smile lit her face, as she walked over to place a comforting hand on his shoulder. "You will come to love whoever you are promised to marry, Endymion."

He turned around, and she nearly gasped at the wild look in his eyes, before she found herself being crushed to his chest, locked in an embrace that seemed as if it were his last.

"No, Beryl. I will never love another. Do you understand me? Never."

Beryl looked up at him, auburn hair askew from being so tightly locked in Endymion's arms. "Don't make promises you can't keep, Endymion."

She was unable to hold back the tears, though she had tried so hard. Her sobs broke his heart all over again, as he clutched her to him, rocking her back and forth, and whispering, "I love you. Only you. Forever. I swear it."

When Beryl finally found her voice, again, only two questions were able to manifest on her lips. "When?" she breathed out.

"A fortnight."

Her sobbing stilled, and she pushed on his chest to move out of his embrace, moving swiftly towards her cloak resting on a chair.

Endymion moved after her, reeling from the sudden shock of the loss of her warmth. "Beryl!" he cried, grabbing her hand. "Please stay. Please. I-I can't bear this without you."

Beryl reached up to touch his cheek, once more, as if allowing herself one last touch. "And I can't bear it with you."

When she saw the tortured look in his eyes, she her face softened. Fresh, silent tears streaming down her cheeks. "I love you, Endymion."

A strangled cry left him. "And I love you."

She donned her cloak silently, not speaking again, until her hand reached the door handle. Without turning back to him, she asked. "Who is it?"

He sighed, utterly defeated.

"The Crown Princess Serenity of the Moon."

She gave one nod of her head, opened the door, and clicked it shut.

Endymion fell to his knees, and wept silent, agonized tears.

To be continued….

Chapter Text

"I'm so sorry, your grace!" the young seamstress cried apologetically, when she heard Princess Serenity's hiss of pain.

"You have nothing to apologize for, Laure," Queen Serenity chimed in with a softness many would never expect from a monarch of her stature. "My daughter only has herself to blame for any wounds she sustains at your hands."

The eighteen year old princess knew her mother was teasing, but she pouted and sighed dramatically in response.

Serenity was used to being asked to perform on demand. She was, after all, the heir to the entire Silver Millennium Alliance. It wasn't as if she hadn't been raised to be every bit the ruler her mother was. But none of her training, thus far, had included the hours of endless wedding dress fittings she was currently being subjected to.

And although the sitting still was tortuous at best, Serenity had to admit she loved her wedding dress. Dear Laure had truly outdone herself.

Layers upon layers of luxurious chiffon and taffeta enclosed her, making her feel every bit the princess she was. A beaded, off the shoulder bodice led to the fullest skirt Serenity had ever seen, and a cape of matching material draped from her shoulders, creating an enormous train behind her, all in a beautiful champagne gold, a nod to her newly cemented fiance's kingdom.

It had been the princess' idea to create a dress of gold, hoping it might please her future husband and be taken as a sign of goodwill to the Terrans. And Serenity had delighted at the pleased look her mother had given her at the suggestion. Practically beaming, as Queen Serenity proudly whispered into her ear, "You will make a fine queen one day, my love."

The look was the very same the elder Serenity had bestowed upon her daughter just a week prior, when the princess had taken the news of her engagement in stride. Simply asking her mother what needed to be done in order to prepare for the upcoming nuptials.

Princess Serenity had guessed her mother had been expecting any and all sort of dramatics at her news. The princess could tell in the way the queen seemed to brace herself after delicately informing her daughter that she'd be wed within a fortnight.

And while inside, Serenity had felt a nearly overwhelming sadness of the prospect of not marrying for love, she knew her mother had taken careful considerations in the match, and that her duty as the future queen far outweighed any personal desire to find and marry the love of her life.

Plus, Serenity reminded herself, perhaps Endymion would turn out to actually be the love she'd so long dreamed of having. Her mother had assured her that the High King Aethlius was a good and kind man who had raised his son well, and Serenity reasoned that she would surely be able to love the son of such a man.

The princess was beginning to get lost in daydreams of handsome princes and passionate kisses when a light knock came on the door.

"You may enter," Queen Serenity replied, never taking her eyes away from the progress of her daughter's dress.

Princess Serenity's eyes widen with joy when the leader of her guard, Venus, entered. "Venus!" she cried excitedly, nearly forgetting where she was, as she rushed to move towards her senshi, until another sharp needle entered her flesh, which was followed loudly by an, "Ow!"

Laure blushed an embarrassed red, and mumbled her apologies for what must have been the dozenth time that day, while the princess cringed, and mumbled apologies of her own.

"Serenity, you need to be careful!" Venus began with an obvious teasing in her voice. "We can't be sending you off to be married with all those holes poked in you!" she finished with a wink.

The princess responded with the rather unladylike gesture of sticking out her tongue, causing her mother to sigh and lightly roll her eyes at her daughter's antics.

"Laure, I think we've had enough for today, hm? Perhaps Venus could take Serenity for a walk in the gardens while you and I discuss the final details?" Queen Serenity suggested.

Princess Serenity squealed in delight at the news that she would finally be free from the confines of the fitting room. Hopping down off the pedestal, she hugged Laure tightly (who blushed and stuttered at such an open display of affection from her princess) thanking her profusely, before grabbing Venus' hand and dragging her behind the small screen to help her change.

Once she had shed her wedding dress, and donned her day dress with the help of Venus, the two re-entered the space the queen and Laure still occupied.

Serenity hurried over to her mother, standing on the tips of her toes to kiss her cheek, with a soft, "Thank you, mother."

The queen smiled softly at her. "Of course, dear. Just make sure you meet me on the west terrace in an hour. We need to make sure everything is place for when we depart for Earth in two days."

Serenity nodded her head vigorously, while Venus replied, "I'll have her there in plenty of time, your majesty," as the princess was already pulling them out the door.

The two companions slowly made their way through the palace's vast, marble hallways, having to stop nearly every twenty feet for Serenity to greet and speak with every servant, asking about their days, and families outside of the palace halls.

And although Serenity didn't miss Venus' carefully hidden annoyance at her, she couldn't just ignore the people who dedicated their lives to making her kingdom better.

It was one of the first things her mother had instilled in her. That every being was just as important as any other, and that their positions as royalty didn't offer them an excuse to look down upon those whose social stature was less than theirs. Instead, it was an opportunity to build up those who might not be as fortunate as they were.

Serenity also couldn't ignore the nagging feeling in her stomach that served as a reminder of the fact that she wasn't sure when she might see these lovely people again. And although she knew she and Endymion would be splitting their time between the Earth and the Moon, the vast majority of their time would be spent on Earth, at least for the foreseeable future.

Her eyes fluttered up to look at the blue planet, hanging high in the early evening sky. How many nights had she gazed at it in longing? Wishing she could simply run away to the blue oceans and lush forests forever? But now that her marriage to the planet's prince hung on the horizon, Serenity wasn't sure what to feel. She had always been a dreamer, but sacrificing everything she knew and loved to fulfill one of her dreams scared her more deeply than she was willing to admit.

But it did not do to dwell on such dark thoughts, so Serenity shook her head slightly, and lowered her gaze to the sprawling gardens in front of her.

Once the women had finally entered the gardens, Serenity breathed in the heavenly scent of flora, rushing over to a rose bush that bloomed buds of the deepest red.

It wasn't as if the moon didn't have roses, of course, but they were all pale and pastels, beautiful in their fragility. But when Serenity had heard visiting dignitaries speaking of the deep, red roses that grew on Earth, she had practically begged her mother to have one planted in their gardens.

And just two months prior, on her eighteenth birthday, Queen Serenity had lead the princess to the gardens and presented her with the bush. It was only a maze of green leaves and thorns at the time, but now. Now, it was blooming to life in the most extraordinary of fashions.

"Oh, Venus! Look!" Serenity exclaimed, taking one of the blooms into her tiny hand.

"Be careful, princess. You might get pricked by a thorn," Venus warned, knowing full well it wouldn't stop Serenity.

The princess sighed longingly. "I'll risk a few pricks for something this lovely."

Venus giggled at her charge. "Oh, Serenity. You are a romantic at heart, aren't you?"

Serenity straightened, putting obstinate hands on her hips with a frown firmly in place on her lips. "And what exactly is wrong with that?"

"Absolutely nothing, dear," Venus replied, laughing outright at the sight her princess made.

Happy with her senshi's answer, Serenity smiled brightly, and turned back towards the roses. "I suppose I'll be seeing a lot more of these soon."

A knowing smile made its way onto Venus' face. "Yes, I suppose you will," she answered. "But come now, Serenity! Don't fret! I hear Prince Endymion is mighty handy with his sword," she said, winking suggestively.

"Venus!" Serenity cried, blushing profusely. "Must you always be so crude?"

"Well, someone has to be the life of the party around here."

Serenity's face grew drawn and serious. "Venus?" she said so softly, the senshi almost believed she had imagined it.

Whipping her head towards the sound, Venus spoke. "Yes, Serenity?"

"I'm scared," the princess admitted, casting her eyes down towards the ground, as her hands wrung in front of her. "What if he never loves me?"

Venus smiled warmly in understanding. "Silly, Serenity," she said affectionately, "Find me one person who has ever not fallen completely in love with you?"

A small smile returned to the princess' lips.

"And besides," Venus continued, "The real question is not whether he will love you, but whether he will manage to prove himself worthy of you. And I, alone, will be the judge of that."

Serenity giggled at her guardian's antics. "I am so very glad you're coming with me, Venus."

"Well, of course I am!" Venus replied. "Someone has to make sure you stay out of trouble on that ungodly planet," she finished, winking at Serenity, once more. "Now, come. Since you wasted all our time inquiring about the lives of every single person that works in this palace, we need to hurry so your mother doesn't change her mind and call Uranus up from the outer reaches to go with you instead. And as much as I relish the thought of not having to spend the next five hundred years on Earth, I do so want to see you in that dress of yours."

Serenity nodded, pasting a smile on her face, trying her best to hide the uneasiness swirling inside her. With one last, longing look at her beloved rose bush, she lifted her skirts and sprinted to catch up with her already disappearing senshi.

oOo

Endymion lounged languidly on a bench in his gardens. He knew he was late in meeting his fiancé to 'show her her new home' as his father had put it. But he couldn't seem to bring himself to care.

Rolling his eyes, he took another bite out of the apple he'd managed to sneak from the kitchens earlier.

The prince was surprised how often he'd found himself in the kitchens, as of late. Beryl had always thought that particular habit of his was one he should stop. It was one thing to be kind to the palace workers. It was another entirely to fraternize with them, she'd said.

He shook his head, pounding his fist into the stone bench he sat upon, anger washing over him.

Endymion was still furious at his predicament, having only agreed to take part the day before. Not that he'd had any real choice, of course, but the prince had spent a good portion of the last few days trying to convince his father to end the engagement.

Aethlius had staunchly refused. Stubborn arse that he was. And Beryl had fled her life at court the day Endymion had been apprised of his engagement.

In short, the prince was miserable.

But as much as he ached for Beryl, he tried his best not to think of her. It only served to depress him and momentarily forget his anger. And his anger was what fueled him, now. He couldn't afford to let go of it.

Glancing over at the sundial, Endymion was pleased to see he was already half an hour late to his meeting. Perhaps it was time to grace them with his presence, he thought to himself with an arrogant smirk.

He arose from the bench, stretching lazily, and doing his best to plaster a nonchalance on his face that would convey nothing other than indifference. He had heard rumor of the god like beauty that was a trademark of Lunarian royalty. But the prince was prepared for such an occurrence, resolving to remain cold and aloof no matter what she looked like. He owed that much to himself and Beryl, and their relationship he was steadfastly set on clinging to, no matter the cost.

And once he was certain his emotions were firmly buried, Endymion made his way, slowly, to the great hall.

When he approached the small gathering of people some five minutes later, annoyance flooded his every pore.

Kunzite was there, glaring at him as if he had been the one to do something wrong. And on the other side of the general were two women. One was very obviously a member of the princess' royal guard, and the other, he found safe to assume, was his intended, Princess Serenity.

The girl was beautiful, certainly. Even he wasn't blind enough to miss that. But nothing about her particularly called to him.

She was impossibly tiny. Her head only barely reaching his chin. And her skin was so pale, it was almost translucent, accented by endless, stringy blonde hair that seemed to almost shine silver in the dim light of the hall, and a dress of the purest white.

Typical, he thought to himself. Of course the moon brat would want to make herself seem like she was above reproach.

But what annoyed him most of all, was his near certainty that this slip of a girl in front of him, would almost certainly expect him to fall in love with her beauty in an instant.

A wicked smirk graced his lips.

Good luck with that, little princess.

"Endymion," Kunzite practically hissed at him, once he'd finally reached the group. "How kind of you to join us only thirty minutes past the agreed time." Sarcasm dripped from the general's every syllable.

"I am so, very sorry, Kunzite. But as you know, my time is incredibly valuable, and obviously in high demand," he shot back, a smirk still firmly planted on his face.

"Well, seeing as you could not manage to drag yourself away from your daily sword training to greet your fiance and her mother, Queen Serenity, upon their arrival, here, I would have thought you would understand just how very important this meeting was."

Endymion's face fell slightly, anger rising in him. "Well, seeing as you will never understand the importance it holds for a future king to be constantly prepared for whatever comes his way-"

He was interrupted by a rather loud, "ahem," that came from the one he had guessed was a senshi.

Both Endymion and Kunzite whipped their heads towards the women, who had been practically forgotten in their not so discreet spat.

"Pardon my interruption, your highness. But perhaps you would like to finally meet the woman who is to be your wife in a matter of days?" the senshi asked, as she looked at Endymion with narrowed eyes so intense, he felt an involuntary shiver run through him.

Kunzite bowed low briefly in apology. "I pray you will forgive our rudeness, your highness," he said towards Serenity once he had straightened.

The white-haired general then turned towards the senshi. "Sailor Venus, I apologize for lapsing on my duties."

Ah, Endymion thought, so this is the leader of the famed senshi. Of course they'd send her along to protect the tiny thing.

He was brought back to the conversation, when he heard Kunzite speak his name.

"Prince Endymion," he began, stepping back from his place between the prince and princess. "May I present to you, Her Royal Highness, Princess Serenity of the Moon, heir to the Silver Millennium."

The princess curtsied low, lingering with her head bowed for a moment, before slowly raising herself up to look at Endymion. "It is an honor to meet you, Prince Endymion. Thank you for welcoming me to your beautiful home," she spoke, her voice sickeningly sweet to his ears.

She offered her hand to him, next, and he took it, bowing to her, but not as low as he knew he should considering her station, and never removing his eyes from hers in an obvious challenge. "Of course, princess," he replied, voice deep with insincerity. "I do so hope you will find our lowly planet to your liking."

Her eyes grew wide, and her mouth hung open in obvious shock at his comment, much to Endymion's pleasure, and the prince could practically feel holes being burned into his head by Venus.

But before he could give either woman a chance to respond, the prince had turned on his heels, and begun to walk deeper into the palace, pausing only to briefly turn back and offer, "If you'd like to see the palace, your highness, I suggest you follow along."

He smiled in victory to himself when he heard the shuffling of skirts and feet behind him.

Endymion walked briskly in long, steady strides, making the small princess take two steps for every one of his. And while they walked around his home, he didn't bother to point out anything to his company, forcing Kunzite to explain the various rooms they visited, instead.

"Perhaps the princess would like to see the gardens, now, Endymion?" the general asked after a time, and the prince had to bite back a smile at Kunzite's clenched teeth. "I hear she is rather fond of the outdoors."

But Endymion's joy at Kunzite's fury was short lived, for as soon as the sentence was out of the general's mouth, Serenity's eyes lit up with excitement.

"Oh, yes, I do love gardens, and I've heard so much about the beauty of yours, Endymion," she said, in a sugary tone, once more. "Could we see them, please?"

He let out an audible sigh.

"Fine," he replied, turning his back on them and heading out of the room, and towards the gardens.

Endymion remained silent on their brief walk, continuing his long and steady strides. But once the exited the confines of the palace, and entered into the brilliant sunshine, he couldn't help but slow his pace just slightly.

This was his place of respite, after all. His mother's gardens that he had taken it upon himself to tend to after she had died.

But he grimaced when he realized it would forever be tainted by the pure whiteness of his future wife.

Nothing would ever be truly his ever again.

"Thank you for bringing me, here, Endymion," he heard the princess say from her place beside him. "It's truly beautiful."

"Yes, it is," he replied coldly, hoping she would understand his distaste for her company.

She didn't, however.

"Sailor Jupiter tends to the Moon's gardens," she prattled on. "She was kind enough to teach me a few things, but I certainly don't have a talent for growing such beautiful flowers like she does."

Endymion made no response.

"Do you know who it is that tends these gardens? I would so love to visit with them. I find the art of horticulture so interesting!"

He pursed his lips at her question. He didn't want to tell her that he was personally responsible for the gardens, but he was a proud man, and he took more pride in this little space than almost anything else. "I tend to them," he told her with a glare.

Her eyes lit up, again, as if she had completely missed his look of disdain.

"You do? Oh, of course! I should have known since they are your gardens."

Endymion rolled his eyes behind her back when she turned to smell a large, yellow bloom.

"Your entire planet is lovely," she continued. "I can't possibly tell you how many nights I used to stare at it and wish I could visit, even if just for a few moments."

"How interesting."

Endymion heard a small, delighted gasp come from the girl. Did she have to get so excited by every little thing?

"Oh! Endymion, look at how beautiful these are! Red roses are my absolute favorite."

His only reply was a brief, "Hm."

"They're not native to the Moon, you know. I had to beg mother to allow our gardens to have them, and she finally gave into me on my birthday just a few months ago. They were just starting to bloom when I left."

"It shouldn't have taken them that long to bloom," he said, annoyed. "Perhaps they find the Moon's soil a bit...stifling."

Serenity's lapis eyes flashed briefly with hurt, and he felt a twinge of guilt for reveling in it. But the feeling was gone, when she began to chatter away, once more.

"I had the pleasure of meeting your father, today," she commented, next. "He's such a kind man!"

"Were you expecting a barbarian of some sort?" he asked with an eyebrow raised.

She giggled nervously. "Oh, no, of course not! It was just so nice to be greeted in such a way. I liked him instantly."

"Indeed."

Good, god. She's insufferable, he found himself thinking when her topics flashed from one to another in rapid succession. Horses, food, back to flowers, and finally, "Does the sun always shine so brightly, here?"

He couldn't take anymore of this. Couldn't stand to try for even a minute longer.

"As lovely as this has been, I have other important duties to attend to," he said, turning from the group without so much as a bow, muttering a quick, "good day," and completely ignoring Kunzite's furious cries of his name, as he quickly escaped back into the confines of the palace.

Once he was inside, Endymion, breathed deeply, trying to steady the emotions coursing through him, and failing miserably.

He pounded the wall in frustration, as his father's words filtered into his brain. 'You agreed to this engagement Endymion. Now, do your part.'

Yes, he had acquiesced to participating in this ridiculous situation. But he had never said anything about doing it graciously.

Chapter Text

Serenity giggled as she ran through the hallways of the Earth palace, calling out many an, "I'm sorry!" to the numerous workers she almost collided with.

It was so rare for her to feel truly free these days. But as she sprinted through the corridor, her skirts billowing behind her, it was difficult to not feel as if she were some kind of rebel.

She was late to her first official event with her fiance. An official portrait was to be painted of her and Endymion. Which unfortunately translated into an entire day of sitting still in the presence of her soon to be husband.

The princess slowed to a walk when Endymion entered her mind, a frown marring her perfect features.

Her mind wandered back to their disastrous meeting just two days before, as thoughts began to swirl around in her head.

Why had the prince been so cold to her? Had she offended him in some way?

Serenity shook her head, clearing her thoughts, a soft smile forming on her face. There was no use worrying about such things. Her mother had always told her to simply let go of the things she could not control. And the attitude of a certain prince was certainly one of those things.

Of course, that didn't mean she wouldn't continue to kill him with kindness, she thought with a giggle.

And the entire situation had almost been completely worth it to see Venus' reaction to the prince's treatment of her. Serenity had never heard the senshi use quite so many colorful adjectives before, including the phrase, 'fucking bastard,' which was apparently some Terran term Venus had picked up since their arrival. The princess still hadn't the slightest idea what it meant, but she could at least guess it was less than flattering.

She paused when she arrived at the large wooden door that separated her and her future. Taking a deep breath and placing a confident smile on her face, the princess pulled on the handle.

"Ah! There she is! Come in, dear. We've been waiting for you," Aethlius said warmly, without a hint of frustration at her late arrival.

Serenity blushed deeply her eyes darting from the King's to her mother's, and refusing to venture towards the cold stare she knew belonged to Endymion.

"I'm so, very sorry about my tardiness, your grace," Serenity apologized, hoping with every fibre of her being that it came across as sincere. She had already grown so fond of her future father in law, that the thought of disappointing him filled her with dread.

But Aethlius only continued to smile warmly at her. "Nonsense, child. You're the reason we're here, after all. The party never starts without its guest of honor. The rest of us were simply early."

Serenity beamed back at him, the fear easing out of her body. Her attention was pulled elsewhere, however, when Endymion cleared his throat loudly.

"Father, can we please move this along. I have important matters to attend to, and I'm sure Kamoi does as well," the prince said, nodding towards a man on the other side of the room that Serenity hadn't noticed before.

When all eyes turned towards the man, who Serenity assumed was the painter, she was surprised to find him staring right back at them. Blushing at having been caught eavesdropping, the man hurried away from the large canvas and over towards the group of royals clustered near the door.

The young painter, dressed all in purple with scraggly brown hair, looked every bit the artist that he was, as he bowed low to Serenity. "Your Royal Highness, it is truly an honor to make your acquaintance."

With a soft and warm giggle, Serenity offered her hand to the man still bowed in front of her.. "You do flatter me so, sir…" she said, as he laid a quick kiss to her hand.

Appearing to catch onto the fact that the princess was waiting for his name, the painter straightened, and blushed brightly. "Kamoi, your highness. My name is Kamoi. And if I may be so bold, Prince Endymion did not do you justice when he was describing you to me earlier. You are Selene incarnate."

Out of the corner of her eye, Serenity saw both Aethlius' and her mother's heads turn towards where Endymion stood, but she kept her eyes focused on the sweet painter.

"Thank you, Kamoi. You are too kind. I am sure my fiance described me as best he could after only meeting me once," Serenity excused for Endymion without really knowing why.

The princess felt a warm hand on her shoulder. Turning slightly, she saw her mother standing behind her with warm eyes. "Darling, Aethlius and I still have many things to finalize before the ceremony, so I'm afraid we must leave you two. But we will see you later this evening at the banquet."

Serenity nodded, attempting to keep her smile bright and sure. "Yes, mother."

Queen Serenity patted her cheek lovingly, and then took Aethlius' waiting arm. The two monarchs had almost reached the door, when Aethlius stopped, turning towards his son.

"Behave, Endymion," he said lightly, but Serenity was startled to see the unmistakable warning in his eyes.

When they were gone Serenity turned back to Kamoi, who was already shuffling back towards his canvas. She glanced to Endymion, smiled warmly, and said, "I guess that would be our cue."

With one nod of his head in her direction, the prince walked away in long strides, leaving Serenity in the newly familiar action of running after him.

"Princess Serenity, if you would be so kind as to sit here," Kamoi gestured to the lone chair near him. "And Prince Endymion, you will stand behind the princess with your hand on her shoulder."

At the mention of Endymion touching her, Serenity stiffened. She wasn't afraid of a man's touch, certainly, having danced with countless men in her short lifetime, but Endymion had never made any move to even acknowledge her unless prompted by someone else, let alone extend his hand to touch her.

She nearly jumped when she felt his large, warm hand on her shoulder. Even with the fabric of her dress separating him, if felt as if his skin was burning her.

Serenity heard Endymion cough behind her, removing his hand to cover his mouth. She turned towards him, and their eyes clashed for the first time.

She was surprised to find such intensity in the dark blue depths that stared back at her with a challenge. Serenity tried to find any emotion in his gaze that might give her an inkling into what he was thinking, but instead, she only encountered icy, turbulent anger.

An involuntary shiver ran through her.

The sound of Kamoi clearing his throat had her spinning back around to face him, a bright blush painting her cheeks.

A heavy silence blanketed the room for long and tense moments. It was apparent to Serenity that Kamoi could feel it just as acutely as she did, when he tried to lighten the air.

"There is no need for you to pose as if you are statues, your highnesses. You may move a bit. Talk with each other if you like," he said brightly with a smile to match.

After a few more, tense minutes, Serenity decided she couldn't stand the silence any longer.

"It is such lovely weather we're having, today, isn't it, Endymion?"

"Indeed," he answered with no feeling. With her back pressed to him, Serenity could feel the vibration of his voice ring through him.

She bit her lip, attempting to think of a subject that might hold any interest to him, when inspiration finally struck. "How is your sword training coming along?" she asked excitedly, proud of herself for remembering that little detail from their first meeting.

"My what?" he responded, his tone giving an appearance as if he'd been caught off guard.

Serenity furrowed her brow at his tone. "Your sword training. You said the other day that you couldn't meet mother and I when we arrived because you had sword training."

"Oh," he said, voice shifting back to the unfeeling one he only seemed to reserve for her. "It's going as well as can be expected."

Serenity felt rather defeated, when Endymion shut down any hope of conversation, once again, and as she looked at Kamoi sketching away on his canvas, she couldn't help but let her mind recall the painter's earlier comment about how Endymion had described her.

Had he told the painter she was unfortunate looking? Serenity knew her beauty didn't compare to many women she was fortunate enough to be in the company of. Her mother, Venus and Mars had always stood out in her mind as the most beautiful women she'd ever seen. She certainly didn't have their curvaceous figures, but she had never considered herself to be plain by any means, and there were many things Serenity loved about herself.

Her hair, for instance, had always been something she refused to change. The queen had always told her it looked as if it had been spun from gold, and no matter what hairstyles the women at court were seen wearing, Serenity never wanted to deviate from the buns and streamers she and her mother wore.

She had also always loved her smile. Not to say that the princess spent an inordinate amount of time in front of mirrors, but Serenity had always taken note of what her smile could do for those around her. The palace workers and many foreign dignitaries had told her countless times that they felt captive to her warmth. And she felt she had managed to at least give some joy into the lives of others. No one that she knew of had openly tried to resist it being happy.

Until Endymion, that is.

Though she hadn't spent any time with him since their first meeting, Serenity had found her schedule to be relatively open during the short time she'd spent on Earth, and she had taken the time to get to know the palace, and in turn she had gotten a glimpse into the life of her fiance, as well.

She had seen him interacting with multiple people, most of them workers, while she hid behind pillars and shrubs, and the Endymion she witnessed in these moments, was not the same as the one whose hand rested currently on her shoulder.

This new Endymion was kind. He smiled. Beautifully.

The afternoon before, Serenity had been following the amazing smells wafting through the palace, and she soon found herself near the kitchens, where she had spied Endymion helping himself to any number of snacks the cooks seemed to have prepared just for him. Talking, laughing, joking with the cooks about any number of things. And she had found herself smiling along with him.

Serenity began to wonder if the prince had simply been having an off day when they had met, as she felt herself beginning those first, precarious steps towards love. She had just met him, yes, but the Endymion that she had seen during the two days since they met, was a man she could easily see herself spending the rest of her long life with comfortably.

And she found herself growing practically incapable of not admiring his looks, as well. He was handsome, beautiful even, with strong features, a lithe frame that was masculine, but not overly so. And the way his hair fell haphazardly into his eyes had her longing to reach out and brush it back.

Even Venus could admit how striking Endymion was. After she had flown into Serenity's chambers, slamming the door so hard and yelling so loudly that the walls shook, Serenity had reminded her that it was her duty and obligation to marry the prince, Venus' response had been a flippant, "Well, at least he's pretty."

Serenity let out an unconscious giggle at the memory.

"I'm not sure what you could find entertaining about this situation," Endymion snapped from behind her.

She whipped her head back towards him, her hair hitting him in the chest in the process, while a blush stained her cheeks. "Oh, I'm sorry, Endymion, I got lost in my own thoughts, I suppose."

She held his eyes for just a moment too long, not realizing she was openly staring at him, until he cleared his throat awkwardly, and looked away to anything else but her.

Turning back around in her chair, Serenity's mind began to race, searching for something, anything, to break the tension in the room. When her eyes fell on Kamoi, she decided to attempt to engage the other person in the room.

"So, Kamoi," she began in a quiet voice, "tell me, do you enjoy your work as a painter?"

The artist's hand stilled at her words, apparently startled at not only being addressed, but at being asked a genuine question about his work.

He smiled at Serenity, before turning back to the canvas, and answering, "Yes, princess. Very much so. Although, it is not without its frustrations."

Serenity frowned slightly at this, and she heard Endymion sigh behind her. "Frustrations, you say? Tell me about them."

Kamoi's eyes turned sad. "It is my job to paint what I see, your highness. And there are many times people do not wish to see the truth in my work."

The princess' brow furrowed even more at this. "But if it is the truth you give them, why would they not like it?"

Endymion snorted in derision at her question, but Serenity kept her eyes forward.

Kamoi paused briefly in his sketching, once more, appearing to search for an answer. But when he looked up towards Serenity, there was an unmistakable hint of defeat in his eyes. "I do not know, princess."

Serenity sat in silence for the next few moments, before curiosity got the better of her. "Would you mind if I looked at what you've done so far?"

The painter appeared pleased at her question. "Yes, of course, your grace!"

She rose quickly from the chair, a bright and excited smile on her face. When she came around to the other side of the canvas, she gasped in delight.

"Oh! It's absolutely lovely!" Serenity exclaimed genuinely. "Endymion, you must come see!"

"The only thing I must do, princess, is to kindly ask you to cease your incessant chattering," Endymion replied, not even attempting to mask his contempt. "It's giving me a headache."

Serenity couldn't stop her mouth from falling open at his response, as her mind raced for a reply, finding none.

She looked back at the painting, as the uncomfortable silence hung in the room, once more, and she noticed details she had missed on her first glance.

It was indeed a lovely portrait of them. But her usual cheeriness was subdued, and she couldn't help but notice how melancholy her eyes looked, void of their standard brightness.

And Endymion…

The prince looked almost pained standing behind her, his strong jaw set, and his stance completely rigid. There was no glimpse of the man she had been privy to see over the past days. The man who had laughed and smiled and…

A sickening wave of reality crashed into her.

She was the only thing missing from all those little encounters she had seen. She was the reason he was miserable, cold. Angry.

Endymion despised her.

Shaky legs took her back to her chair. And as she sat for the remaining hours that Kamoi needed to work, silence reigned.

oOo

Serenity stood alone in a small room just off the main banquet hall, absentmindedly smoothing the endless folds of her pale, pink dress over and over.

She could hear the sounds of the guests on the other side of the door, and her nervousness was mounting steadily, nearly jumping when she heard someone open the door behind her.

Endymion entered the room, and Serenity felt her breath hitch at the sight of him.

He was everything a prince should be, dressed in his regal attire. Poised, strong and steadfast.

This stunning man in front of her was to be her husband in a day's time.

And he hated her.

This was the first time they had been alone together, she realized, while gazing at him as he stared stoically ahead, unseeing. Their first time alone, and instead of basking in the presence of one another, he would spend the time awkwardly avoiding any contact with her, once again.

Serenity turned her back to him, knowing she would be unable to hide the swell of emotions she felt at the thought.

She was startled again, when Endymion spoke.

"Father says we'll be announced shortly," he said not offering up any platitudes for her obvious nervousness, and effectively cutting off the conversation.

He was apparently an expert at that.

And she couldn't blame him, really. If he disliked her as much as she was convinced he did, why would he have any want to talk with her? She certainly wouldn't wish to speak with someone she despised.

Not that she knew what that felt like.

Serenity had always firmly believed that a person had a right to feel however they wished. She could not force Endymion to love her, or even like her, and this was a fact she thought she could accept in time. But there would always be that nagging question in the back of her mind.

Why?

Why did he hate her so? What had she done to deserve such treatment from him?

And as these questions swirled in her head, as they had been for hours, now, anger began to creep its way through her. The need to know becoming much larger than the need for propriety that had been ingrained in her since she could speak.

Before she could stop herself, Serenity began to talk.

"Why do you feel the need to treat me as you do? As if I have done you some great wrong. As if I have committed a grave, personal slight against you. Pray, tell me, Endymion, what have I done to you in the three days I've had the displeasure of knowing you, that would cause you to act as if I were an insect that needed to be squashed?"

It came out much harsher than she had intended, but Serenity couldn't bring herself to regret the words. She was angry, angrier than she had ever been, and for the first time in her life, she felt she had every right to be so.

She also couldn't bring herself to regret the pleasure she felt at the complete shock that registered on his face at her outburst, and the stumble of words that came after.

"Serenity…" it was the first time he'd used her name, "I...I don't really know how to-"

"You don't know how to, 'what,' Endymion? Put into words why you so unjustly hate me?" she hissed at him, biting down the urge to shout, knowing the crowds on the other side of the door would likely hear them.

He looked at her with wild, almost pleading eyes, taking her by the shoulders, and moving her away from the door.

When he didn't speak, Serenity continued, "You owe me an explanation, Endymion. If I'm to spend the rest of my life with you, the very least you can do is to tell me why I have to live with the thought of my husband hating me."

Endymion ran a frustrated hand through his hair. "I don't hate you, Serenity-"

"Well, you certainly have an odd way of showing it," she snapped back, anger still coursing through her.

He opened his mouth, as if to say something, but shut it and she could see his entire body stiffening, his eyes growing increasingly petrified.

Serenity felt some of the anger fade at his look of terror. There was obviously something he needed to say.

She sighed, and spoke, again, her tone much warmer. "Endymion, I just need to know," she said, holding his gaze.

Endymion took a deep, ragged breath, running his hands through his hair, once more. "I don't hate you, Serenity. Truly. I just don't want to marry you."

She already knew he didn't want to marry her, but the sting of hearing the words come from his mouth was undeniable.

"I know this, Endymion. But we are royals. What we want will always come second to what our people need. You must know that by now."

"Of course I do!" he cried back. "But that doesn't change-"

"Change what, Endymion?" she prodded, frustration growing at his stalling.

He looked down towards the floor refusing to meet her eyes. For a few, long moments, it was dead silent in the room, the sounds of the crowd on the other side of the wall the only noise filtering in.

But finally, he said the words she had been dying to know, and, yet, was so unprepared to hear.

"It doesn't change the fact that I'm in love with someone else."

Serenity was stunned in silence at his admission, completely frozen to her current spot.

She had gone over countless scenarios in her mind what he would say when she asked him why, but none had come close to a declaration of love for someone else.

Serenity could feel his eyes on her, but she couldn't bring herself to move her gaze to meet his.

Endymion sighed deeply. "I don't hate you, Serenity. It's just...you're not her."

Before she could even begin to process his words, the door opened, and a man said something to Endymion she didn't hear.

"Serenity, we have to go, now," Endymion's words only vaguely registered in her mind.

She couldn't recall how she had managed to move from the spot she was rooted in on the floor. Couldn't remember when she had placed her arm under his to be lead into the hall.

Serenity didn't register anyone who spoke to her. Her eyes swam in a sea of colored dresses and chandeliers that were much too bright.

She felt nothing, until untold minutes had flown by, and her face hurt from the act of smiling so brightly. The swell of constant noise made her head spin, and she couldn't concentrate on anything until she felt Endymion at her side, again.

It was time for the dancing to begin, which of course called for her to dance in a torturous waltz with Endymion.

Serenity felt him take her hand, and place his arm around to set his other hand on the small of her back. They were soon moving to the soft swells of the orchestra.

She stumbled several times, unused to dancing with someone who was more than a foot taller than she. But Endymion was a strong lead, covering for her with effortless grace.

When the waltz was over, and the polite applause had died, she heard Endymion whisper to her, as they exited the floor, "I'm sorry."

His presence engulfed her, and she found herself finally able to look at him.

What she saw in his eyes made her sadness nearly overwhelming.

Pity. He pitied her.

"Serenity, dear, you don't look well. Are you feeling alright?" she heard her mother ask from somewhere nearby.

"N-no, mother. I feel rather faint, actually. May I please retire for the evening?"

Her mother's look of concern made Serenity wonder how truly awful she looked.

"Yes, of course, dear. Go rest. I'll have Naru meet you in your chambers to help you ready for bed. Try not to worry about anything, my love. Tomorrow will be perfect for you," the queen said softly, her words full of encouragement.

But Serenity felt anything but encouraged. She only managed a nod of her head in acknowledgement.

Yes, she would be married, tomorrow. But it seemed that love would remain always just out of her grasp.

Chapter Text

Vibrant, crimson eyes, and a gentle smile greeted Endymion, as he gazed longingly at the portrait of his parents.

His mother, the Queen Calyce, had been a truly remarkable person. Never placing her maternal responsibilities on the shoulders of others, as many nobles did. Instead, she had nurtured Endymion from the day he was born, feeding him from her own breast, putting him to bed each night, and teaching him the vast knowledge she had on any number of topics.

There hadn't been a day where he wasn't by her side, as a child. Even during her final days, weak with illness, the queen had insisted on being taken to where Endymion was, intent on soaking up her last few moments with him.

And now that he stood only a half hour away from his wedding, he wished for her sweet, and calming presence more than he ever dreamed possible.

"You know," he heard his father's voice behind him, only just managing to not jump at the king's sudden, and unannounced, entrance into the room, "they say no woman would ever match the beauty of your mother on our wedding day. But I think Serenity might just come close, yet."

An overwhelming sadness flowed through Endymion, as he continued to stare at his mother's beautiful face. "I doubt that very much, father."

"And why is that, Endymion?" Aethlius asked, coming to stand next to his son. "Are you still set on ruining your own happiness?"

Endymion tore his eyes from his mother's to finally look at his father. "My happiness has already been ruined," he replied, barely above a whisper.

The king's face softened. "You are so much like your mother in so many ways, Endymion. And yet, so like me in so many others."

The prince sighed, looking back at the portrait before them.

When he said nothing, Aethlius continued on. "On our wedding day, I was convinced I was being sentenced to an unhappy life. Completely afraid that I would never come to love this perfect stranger who stood with me at the altar. What a fool I was to think I could have ever escaped your mother's charm," he said, chuckling to himself quietly.

"I want you to use this, today, my son," the king said, holding out a heavy garment to Endymion.

Endymion reached out his hands, to take what his father offered out to him, realization dawning in his mind. "Father, no! This was mother's cloak. The one you placed on her shoulders the day you were married!"

Aethlius laughed, again, at his son's obvious pronouncements. "Yes, Endymion, I am well aware of what it is."

Endymion's face fell even more at his father's nonchalance. "I don't want to use this. I can't give this to someone I don't love. Please-"

His father's hand on his arm quieted Endymion's protests. "Endymion, I want you to use this. Your mother would be honored to have it draped over the shoulders of your wife."

"How can you say that? She's not-"

Endymion quieted, once more, when Aethlius interrupted him, some of his earlier patience appearing to be wearing thin. "I understand you're still hurt, son. I, too, have loved and lost. But you mustn't shut yourself off from Serenity. She is extraordinary, whether you have allowed yourself to see it, yet or not. You can be happy, Endymion. But unless you let go of the past, only misery awaits you."

The prince's eyes grew wide, at his father's prophetic statement. "Father, I-"

But any response he had, died at the sound of the many bells that began to ring through the air, proclaiming loud and clear that his wedding was about to begin.

"Come, Endymion," Aethlius said, once the ringing had quieted. "It is time."

He nodded, closing his eyes tightly against the rush of emotions, allowing himself one, final moment of reflection, before following his father out the door, and down the long hallway that led to his unwanted future.

Endymion and Aethlius entered the large sanctuary, to the sound of heralding trumpets. Together, they walked halfway down the, seemingly endless, aisle where they turned to face the doors they had just entered moments before.

He had only moments to take in his surroundings. The room was filled with warm, smiling faces, nearly all of which were strangers to him. Not that he was surprised at the fact. After all, these ceremonies were much more for the parents and representatives of the realm than that of the couple exchanging vows.

But there were a few of the strange faces he was able to deduce the identity of. Alongside that of Sailor Venus, stood three of the fiercest looking warriors he'd ever seen. The Senshi of Mercury, Mars and Jupiter, he assumed from their appearance, proximity to Venus, and the colors they were of their respective planets. And in that moment, Endymion found himself to be incredibly grateful that he was only up against the disdain of Venus on any given day, and that the others would be returning to the moon as soon as the ceremony was completed.

Endymion quickly scanned the crowd, once more, and was relieved when he caught the eye of his entire guard. Kunzite, his constant companion at court, and the other three generals, Jadeite, Zoisite and Nephrite who had been called from their posts to witness his marriage, gave Endymion some semblance of calm in the raging storm of his emotions.

At least he had a small faction of people here who he trusted. Even if three of them would be leaving, as soon as his fate was sealed, assigned to duties elsewhere within the realm during this time of relative peace.

The trumpets blared, again, and Endymion was forced to turn his gaze towards the large, slowly opening, wooden doors in front of him.

And suddenly, there she was. Princess Serenity. And she was…

Beautiful.

He felt himself blink a few times, trying to decide if she was real.

It was as if someone had pulled the curtains back to allow the sun to shine in, when he looked at her. Really looked at her for the first time.

She was clothed in a dress of the softest gold, while her hair shined under the light of the hundreds of flames that lit the space. Her flawless, creamy skin glowed in the dimness, and her blue eyes, (had he really not noticed how much deep and fathomless they were?), were the brightest blue he had ever seen. Her mother, next to her, as they walked toward him, paled in comparison to the younger Serenity.

Unwillingly, his breath caught at the sight of her.

Serenity was, in that moment, the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. And it both terrified and angered him.

He had to look away from her, lest he get completely caught up in her spell.

Endymion glanced towards his father, who, much to Endymion's annoyance, wore a knowing smirk on his lips.

When the queen and princess reached them, Queen Serenity bent to place a kiss on her daughter's cheek, and then took Serenity's hand, placing it in Endymion's.

He and Serenity would make the rest of the trip to the altar by themselves, symbolizing that they were leaving their families and past, and going forward together into whatever future was to come.

Endymion had expected his soon to be wife to be emotional. He'd always believed women so often were at these types of events. But when he looked into her eyes, he saw no unshed tears. Only a hardened, determined look, that startled him a bit.

Placing her hand on his arm, he looked towards her, again, his eyes begging the question, 'are you ready?'

Serenity nodded her head once, almost imperceptibly.

Her tiny hand was warm on his arm, as they began to walk towards the awaiting Elysian priest dressed in robes of the purest white, and he chanced another quick look at her, only to find her eyes focused steadfastly ahead of her.

Even as the reached the altar, the priest instructing them to kneel, so he could place an anointing oil on their foreheads, speaking words in an ancient tongue that had long been lost to the common man.

Most of the ceremony went by in a blur for Endymion, but he found himself watching Serenity with curious eyes more often than he was ready to admit to himself.

As she placed his father's signet ring onto his finger, and he place her mother's on her, he shivered slightly at the touch of her hands so delicately handling his. But her gaze remained unmoving, not allowing the smallest bit of weakness to show.

When it came time for them to take their final oath to each other, the blood oath, Endymion was certain her tears would finally come when the priest set the blade to her pure skin, slicing a deep cut into her wrist.

But the princess didn't so much as flinch, and after Endymion's identical cut was made, Serenity looked him squarely in the eye, as their hands were tied together, bonding them to each other for eternity.

The responsibility he know held towards the woman in front of him, caused his stomach to tie in knots. He was now forever bound to the tiny, beautiful princess. And as experienced as he was at masking what he felt, he was sure Serenity could see him trembling.

At long last, the final step in the ceremony came. Serenity knelt before him, as King Aethluis came forward, and handed Endymion his mother's cloak, once more.

It had long been tradition to adorn the bride in the colors of the groom's household, and as Endymion turned back to Serenity, knelt in front of him, head bent, as if in prayer, a striking finality hit him.

Once the cloak was placed on her shoulders, once the rich fabric that had once belonged to his mother touched her skin, there would be no turning back.

With shaking hands, he placed the cloak around her, bathing her in rich colors of gold and blue and green. The colors of his kingdom. The colors of the Earth.

Coming to stand in front of her, Endymion offered his hand to Serenity, and she rose with little difficulty considering the amount of clothing that clung to her small frame.

They turned towards the gathering of witnesses, and the priest loudly proclaimed them to be husband and wife.

The bells began to ring out deafeningly, as the entire crown knelt before their future king and queen.

And Endymion couldn't help but smile slightly when he noticed the bright blush on Serenity's face at the attention being bestowed upon them.

He couldn't help but think that Beryl would have lavished in such attention. She wouldn't have shied away from any of it. But as soon as the thought entered his mind, he forced it back into the deep reaches of his brain, knowing that if he thought about her too intently, the emotions would drown him.

HIs heart beat wildly in his chest, the room spinning slightly, as he tried to keep himself from collapsing under the weight of the day.

It was all a big much, really, and hours flashed by like seconds.

He and Serenity had sat unmoving, side by side during their feast, smiles plastered to their faces for so long his face began to ache with tiredness from it.

And before he could even remotely begin to process it all, Endymion found himself facing Serenity awkwardly, as each of them were handed a white, ceremonial, and extremely stuffy night dress.

The only light in the room stemmed from a few candles that were lit along the walls, and he noticed Serenity shiver at the chill in the air, as she began to pull her gown over her head.

Beside them stood a large bed, richly adorned in down pillows, and sheets made from the finest silk.

This was the place where every Earth monarch in written history had spent their wedding night. And it would be the place where he and Serenity would consummate their marriage.

A large screen had been placed across one side of the room. This was where various members of Earth's council, and other nobility would watch the true, final step in the joining of their houses. He couldn't be sure, but from the way Serenity kept nervously glancing towards the screen, he suspected that Venus was amongst those who would be viewing their consummation.

His mind wandered back to the brief parting he had witnessed between Serenity and her senshi after their wedding ceremony was completed. All the senshi had tears streaming down their faces, as Serenity did her best to console them with hugs and kisses to their cheeks.

"It's only for a short time!" she'd told them. "I'll be back on the moon before you even have a chance to miss me." But the quiver in her voice was unmistakeable, and Endymion knew she was trying to convince herself as much as she was her friends.

He felt for her in that moment. More deeply than he knew he could for someone who wasn't Beryl. Serenity was leaving everything she had ever known behind to begin her life with him, the comforts of her home stripped away from her, at least for the foreseeable future.

But she was strong. She had proven at least that much to him in their short time together. And for some reason he couldn't quite name, he had no doubt that she would continue to be as time went on.

Endymion's mind didn't have much time to wander, however, for as soon as he'd managed to poke his head through his nightdress, he heard Serenity whisper to him, "Have you ever done this before?"

He turned his head towards her, and a bright blush graced her cheeks. "Sex, I mean," she clarified, turning an even brighter shade of pink.

Endymion opened his mouth to respond, but shut it just as quickly, his mind searching for a kind and uncrude way to answer his 'wife'.

But thankfully, it wasn't needed. "Oh, what am I saying. Of course you have," she whispered, mostly to herself.

"I'm sorry," he mumbled without thinking, guilt flooding him. He immediately wondered why in the world he'd chosen to respond in such a way, as he looked quickly away from her.

"That's alright," she said almost soothingly, as he watched the maids pull back the bed's covers. "At least one of us ought to know what we're doing."

Endymion was stunned at her response, his head turning back towards her, where he saw a sweet smile on her face.

He remained silent, as he amusedly watched Serenity climb up onto the bed, burying herself under the covers almost immediately.

Following her lead, Endymion made his way onto the bed, and sat facing her on top of the layers of blankets.

When the maids bowed to them, exiting the room quickly, he took a moment to appraise her.

He could see her slim form underneath her nightgown, her full breasts pressing into the front of the fabric, nipples erect because of the cold, night air.

Reaching a hand out, he traced it down the length of her side, feeling her curves, his thumb tracing over her flat stomach. Her endless, golden hair brushed against his arm, and he had to bite back a sigh at how soft and silky it was.

As much as he tried to resist his body's reaction to her, he was losing, and quickly.

But something was holding him back. Namely, the dozen or so audience members standing just on the other side of the screen, half a room away.

Avoiding eye contact with Serenity, trying to block out everything in the room, Endymion let his fingers run through her hair, letting the sensation wash over him.

"It's ok," her whisper startled him out of his reverie, his eyes flying up to meet hers. "You can pretend I'm someone else."

Her words crashed into him like a giant wave, shame engulfing him, as he unconsciously snapped his hand away from her, as if he'd been burned.

Had he treated her so badly that she thought he would have to pretend as if she were another, just so he could lie with her?

His dark, ocean blue eyes, searched her lapis ones. The mask she had worn the entire day had finally slipped away, and her eyes reflected a deep, lingering hurt.

He had done this to her. This girl who had done nothing wrong, except having the misfortune of being married to him.

But oh, how he had wronged her.

Dismissing her at every turn. Coldly turning his back to her, as if she herself had forced Beryl from his arms.

But Serenity had done none of those things.

Even when he had pronounced his love for another, she had refused to turn her back on him. And he was completely unworthy of her kindness.

"Serenity, I-"

"It's going to hurt, isn't it?" she whispered, interrupting him.

"Yes," he breathed back, and she nodded her head in resolution, eyes turning a steely blue, as he saw her stiffen.

"You have to relax," he said, beginning to move slowly over her, his eyes never leaving hers.

Moving back the covers, he heard her breath catch as the sudden cold touched her skin. "Do you trust me?" he asked, before his brain had a chance to make him realize how ridiculous the question was.

But to his surprise, she nodded her head, and whispered, "Yes," with an unwavering gaze.

Endymion was stunned at her answer, and he knew, without a doubt, that although he'd done nothing to deserve this trust she had placed in him, she was telling the truth.

"Hold onto me," he said, and gathered her close when she placed her arms around his neck. "I've got you."

He could feel her thumbs moving in tender, comforting circles at the base of his neck, and he was, once again, amazed at her.

Here she was, in the most intimate position she'd ever been in, with a practical stranger, who was admittedly in love with someone else, and she only thought to bring comfort to him.

Any inhibition that remained in him, flew away at the soft touch of her hands.

Endymion hitched up her nightgown, running his hands along her thighs, never breaking eye contact with her. He was captivated by her gaze. Too much to look away. Too much to worry about what that fact could possibly mean.

He positioned himself right at her entrance, and he felt her stiffen, once more. "Relax," he breathed into her ear.

And she did. Endymion felt her muscles loosen in his arms, as he began to enter her slowly.

Serenity's eyes snapped shut, and she bit her lip to keep from crying out at the intrusion of him in her body, as he moved further into her.

She was tight around him, and to his surprise, there was slickness there, too, as he slid in with relative ease.

He held still once he had managed to bury his entire length in her, trying to allow her some time to get used to the feel of him. But when she started to move slightly to find a comfortable position, it was his turn to bite his lip in an attempt to not cry out. Albeit for a totally different reason.

Endymion began to move his hips, thrusting in and out of her as gently as he could manage. He felt Serenity bury her face into the crook of his shoulder, as her hands clutched at the fabric of his nightgown like a lifeline. He could tell her pain was lessening, as she remained relaxed, but he could feel the fear coming off of her in waves.

She wanted this to end, he could sense it, so the remaining, rational thought in his mind, drove him to speed up his movements, knowing it would bring an end for both of them.

It came quickly, and he couldn't stop the satisfied grunt that left his lungs at the release, as he collapsed on top of her.

Endymion rolled off of Serenity, when he felt her breaths struggle under the weight of him, his eyes closing as the stress of the day finally took its toll.

Struggling to find his own breath, he managed to turn his head towards the rustle of covers.

But as soon as he saw her, curling into a ball away from him, he snapped his eyes closed, again, trying, and failing, to keep his heart from clenching in pain at the sight of her.

A rustling from behind the screen brought reality back into his hazy mind, allowing him to remember that their every move was being watched.

He heard the door open softly, the maids returning to help them dress in robes and lead them to their own separate bedrooms.

Endymion watched the sheets being stripped from the bed, the tell tale sign of blood staining the center of them, as he slipped into the cloth the maid held out for him.

His eyes searched the room for Serenity, having lost sight of her is the constant movement in the room.

A shimmer of gold from her hair finally alerted him to her presence, just as she was being led out the door, and away from him.

He felt an almost overwhelming urge to go after her, needing to know that she was alright, at least for the moment. But before he could call after her, he was ushered out another door, losing sight of her completely.

Chapter Text

He growled in pleasure, as he felt her slowly slide his entire length into her.

This was heaven. There was simply no other explanation for how amazing it felt to be with her like this.

When she began to move on top of him, tantalizingly slow, as she rocked her hips with a satisfied smile on her face, Endymion knew there was no way he'd be able to last long.

He somehow found the strength to move his hand from the tense grip he had on her hips, and placed his thumb between them, teasing her clit mercilessly in an attempt to give her a taste of her own medicine.

And it worked liked a charm.

She nearly toppled over the second he touched her, gasping in surprised pleasure. But it didn't take her long to resume her position, hands on his chest, to allow more leverage in her movements.

Oh, he was sure he wouldn't last long, now.

But what Endymion wasn't sure of, was when the woman who was making him feel the most incredible things he'd ever felt in his life, had suddenly changed from the seductress he'd fallen in love with, to an ethereal nymph whose hair was spun from the purest of gold, skin as pure white as a fresh snowfall, and eyes bluer than any he had ever seen.

He knew this encounter had started out with Beryl entering his room, as she so often had in the past, and that she had been the one to kiss and lick and suck him in ways that had him begging for more.

But in the blink of an eye, the woman had changed into his wife, and he found himself more aroused than he had ever remembered being in his life.

Her soft mewls and cries, only drove him to give her more, more, more. And the way she bit her lip to keep herself from announcing her pleasure to the world, made Endymion want to gather her up in his arms, and never let her go.

And by god, she was beautiful.

Unfairly so, and he found himself wondering how in the world he could have possibly been chosen as the one who was worthy enough to marry her.

They continued their pattern, for an interminable amount of time, the need growing within both of them to a point where every touch, sent shivers of pleasure through them.

But his undoing came quickly, when her hands left his chest, and moved up to caress his face, as she leaned down towards his ear, whispering, "Endymion...I love you."

The sound of her name leaving his lips, caused him to awaken with a groan, and he knew instantly from the exhausted, yet blissful feeling, that his strong release hadn't only occurred in his dream.

He sat up, and ran frustrated hands through his hair, and accidentally pulling out a few with the force of his raking.

The few times he'd lain with her had been nothing like the dream he had just experienced. There was nothing sensual or romantic about their nightly encounters, and Serenity had never been vocal, nor had she acted as if she was particularly enjoying herself...

So, when exactly had his dreams begun to center around Serenity? Was he so fickle, that the princess had replaced Beryl in his fantasies in only a matter of days?

It angered him greatly. And the urge to lash out at someone, anyone really, became strong in him, once again.

But he knew he couldn't direct these feelings toward his wife. Serenity had been kind and warm and giving to him, even when he had been so ridiculously callous towards her.

She deserved better.

It was as simple as that. And he had vowed on their wedding night, just three days before that he would do better.

Not that he'd had much of a chance, mind you.

Their days had been filled with appearances and meetings, that only allowed for the most formal of interactions between them.

He had longed to seek her out, but he could never manage to get find her alone for more than a brief moment. And he was fairly certain, she was doing everything she could to avoid even making eye contact with him.

Endymion didn't even both to look up when he heard the knock on the door, nor did he bother with answering with an 'enter.'

At this hour of the day, it could only be one person, and that person never waited for an answer, anyway.

"Kunzite," he said, with a playful smirk on his face. "To what do I owe this pleasure?"

Endymion was incredibly grateful for Kunzite's presence. He provided a much needed distraction from thoughts of Serenity, even though Endymion would never dare to admit this to his general.

"How nice of you to join the world of the living, Endymion," Kunzite bit out snidely, completely ignoring Endymion's greeting. "I've come to run through your schedule for the day."

"I know, Kunz," Endymion answered, laughing. They'd done this everyday since he was fifteen after all.

Kunzite threw Endymion an overly annoyed look, but quickly went on as if it had never happened. "You don't have much going on, today."

Endymion rose from the bed, and began to dress, pulling a simple, white undershirt over his head before he responded. "What all don't I have going on, keeper of the schedule?" he asked teasingly.

Kunzite made a show of rolling his eyes. "There is a council meeting at noon. Lunch will be served."

"Oh, thank goodness for that," Endymion replied, still teasing. "Heaven forbid we manage to accomplish anything without food in our stomachs."

The general ignored him and went on. "And besides that, you only have your nightly ritual with Princess Serenity."

Kunzite waited for Endymion's snide remark, but when it failed to come, he asked hesitantly, "Will she be coming to you this evening, or will you go to her chambers?"

Endymion sighed, shaking his head when the traitorous thought entered his mind that he wished he and Serenity shared one chamber, one bed. And he was, again, annoyed at how much he was beginning to think of her as anything other than what she was. A legal wife.

"I'll go to her, I suppose," he finally answered through slightly gritted teeth.

It was Kunzite's turn to be snide.

"How very noble of you, your highness," he said, "to make such an effort as to walk through that one door, to join your wife for sex."

After their wedding, Serenity had made her permanent home in the large chambers that adjoined his. Endymion hadn't originally planned for her to move there, but he found that the thought of her being so close wasn't nearly as unpleasant as he had hoped it would be.

"Is there anything else you need, Kunzite?" he bit back at the general's comment.

"Yes, as a matter of fact, there is," Kunzie went on, "I would greatly appreciate it if you could manage to conceive this heir sooner, rather than later. As much as I enjoy spending so much quality time with Sailor Venus, scheduling your nightly rendezvous, I'm not sure how much more my nerves can take. That woman is more demanding than any other I've ever encountered."

Anger coursed through Endymion at the implications of Kunzite's words.

"Pardon me, Kunzite, for being such an inconvenience to you. But it is not as if I can snap my fingers, and create a child whenever I please," he said, eyes dark and dangerous with warning.

The two glared at each other for a few moments, an uncomfortable staring contest stretching long seconds as Endymion finished lacing up his breeches.

"You know you're like a brother to me, but that doesn't give you the right to intrude in mine and my wife's affairs as you please."

Kunzite cast his eyes away from Endymion, and up towards the ceiling as he huffed out an apology in frustration. "I apologize, Endymion. I crossed a line. Sailor Venus...frustrates me, but that doesn't give me a right to act as I did."

But finally, Endymion sighed, and he let out an uneasy laugh. He walked towards the man, placing a hand on his shoulder, as they stood facing each other. "All is forgiven, Kunz."

A rare, hint of a smile turned up one corner of Kunzite's mouth, as he nodded in acceptance. He moved towards the door, turning back towards Endymion when he reached it. "Your wife is spending her morning in the garden, by the way."

Endymion looked at him curiously, but nodded in acknowledgement.

"Oh, and Endymion?" Kunzite asked, opening the door slightly. "The next time you have an erotic dream about your wife, could you try not to let the whole palace hear you?"

Endymion's mouth dropped open, and his eyes immediately flew to the door that separated his and Serenity's chambers.

Kunzite rolled his eyes, yet again, at Endymion's theatrics, before repeating, "As I said, Serenity is in the gardens."

Endymion let out a breath he'd unconsciously been holding in, his head whipping back towards the main door when he heard Kunzite speak again, this time in a breathy falsetto.

"Oh, Serenity!" he teased in an obvious imitation of his prince.

But before Endymion could voice his appalled rage, Kunzite was already out the door, the sound of his deep laugh echoing through the hallway beyond.

"The nerve of that man…" he muttered to himself, as he finished dressing.

He sat down on the bed, pulling on his boots, still shaking his head in disbelief at his general's behavior.

The sunlight filtering through the window, caught his attention, and he rose to pull back the heavy curtain, the world beyond suddenly filled with possibilities.

Endymion wasn't used to having such large stretches of free time, and none of his usual activities particularly called to him that morning.

His mind wandered back to what Kunzite had said about Serenity's whereabouts, and he quickly decided that there were certainly worse ways to spend a morning than in the gardens.

And before he knew it, his feet were leading him there, eyes scanning the horizon for his wife.

He spotted her sitting on the bench his mother would so often sit on. The bench that was surrounded by thousands of blooming roses.

Serenity looked angelic in her white dress, with its accents of gold. Tendrils of her hair swaying with the breeze.

She didn't look towards him as he approached, nor did she startle when he finally spoke.

"Good morning, Serenity," was the only thing he could manage to say, when he reached her.

Serenity turned her head towards him slightly, smiling softly. "Good morning, Endymion. I didn't expect to see you here so early."

He chuckled at her response. "Yes, well, I had hoped to sleep a while longer, but Kunzite had other plans for me, it seems."

She smiled at him, again, before turning her away towards the roses in front of her, but she let her smile fall too quickly, and Endymion caught the sadness etched into her features.

"I'll leave you to your gardens," Serenity said, as she bent down to pick up her parasol that laid closed at her feet.

Endymion hadn't been prepared for her to flee his presence so quickly.

"Would you like to take a walk with me?" he blurted out without thinking, the need to make her smile welling up in him fiercely. So fiercely, he chose to ignore it, not caring to know why he cared so much.

But her smile didn't return as he'd hoped it would.

"Thank you for the offer, Endymion, but I think we, at the very least, owe each other honesty," she said, her gaze hard and unyielding.

Endymion was taken aback by her words. "What do you mean?"

"You're a kind enough man that I know you may feel as if you must pretend to enjoy my company," she began, and Endymion could practically feel the pain in her voice. "But I know your time is very valuable, and that you have much better things to do than babysit me."

He looked away from her, the all too familiar rush of shame threatening to overtake him.

How could he possibly convince her that he genuinely wanted her company, after he'd made her feel as if she were a burden to him?

"Serenity, can we make a promise to each other?" he asked suddenly, sitting down next to her on the bench, and taking her hands into his.

The look of confusion on her face at his touch, made him fear she might flee from him, but she she stayed put, eyes meeting his, again.

"I...I guess so," she finally answered.

Endymion did his best to put a reassuring smile on his face.

"You said we owed each other honesty," he began, trying to keep his tone warm, "and I agree with you wholeheartedly. So much so, that I think we should promise to always be honest about our feelings."

He paused, and when she didn't respond, he asked, "Can we do that?"

Serenity visibly relaxed when he spoke, again, the small smile returned and a beautiful blush painted her cheeks. "Yes, I can do that," she said. "Can you?"

Endymion smiled back at her, and answered without hesitation, "Yes, I can. I promise."

She looked down at their hands, still touching, and her blush grew brighter.

"Now, I would very much like to take a walk with you," he said. "Would you join me?"

Serenity looked back up into his eyes, and nodded. "Yes, I would love to."

He rose from the bench, and offered her his hand instantly, while a nagging, irritating voice in the back of his head made him realize he simply wanted to touch her, again.

She took it, and stood, and Endymion enjoyed the shock on her face as he tucked her arm under his, placing her hand gently on him, and he covered it once more with his other hand.

They walked in silence for a few moments, before Endymion decided he ought to try his hand at conversation.

"So, princess," he began, "how are you liking your new quarters? Do you have everything you need?"

"Yes, thank you," she answered quietly.

"Good, I'm glad," he replied, mind searching for something else to say.

"Do you need any additional maids?" he asked eagerly, "If so I'd be happy to assign someone else for you."

"No, no. I'm fine. Naru does an excellent job."

"Are you getting used to the gravity, yet?" he questioned as she stumbled over her skirts a bit. Another non-messy, practical subject.

"Yes, I barely notice a difference, now."

Endymion couldn't help but notice how the tables had been turned on him, as they walked through the gardens, and memories of their first walk along the very same path filtered through his head.

It had been Serenity who had had to attempt to pry answers out of him that day. Desperately seeking some sort of engagement from him.

And now, he was trying to do the same with her, with little success.

Of course, one key difference remained. She was still kind. He had been anything but.

Endymion breathed in deeply. "Serenity, I-"

He was interrupted by the loud whinny of a horse in the fields just beyond the garden's edge.

Serenity stiffened next to him, and he glanced down at her in alarm, fearing she might have been startled.

But he saw the brightness in her eyes he had seen that first day, finally return as she looked towards the source of the sound.

"Horses!" she exclaimed. "Oh, Endymion aren't they beautiful?"

Her excitement was contagious, and he smiled widely. "They are," he answered. "You enjoy horses, princess?"

She nodded her head vigorously in affirmation. "Yes," she said wistfully, "I've always wanted to ride one. But we don't really have them on the moon. I've seen paintings of them, though, in my mother's study!"

"Would you like to learn to ride one?" he asked, curiosity piqued by her excitement.

"Oh, I'd love to!" she said turning her face towards him. "Do you think there's someone who could teach me?"

He was speechless for a moment, as he realized how easy it was to get lost in the water depths of her eyes.

"I could teach you," he said breathily, still unable to look away from her.

Serenity smiled at him brilliantly. "You're kind to offer, Endymion, but you don't have to do that. I know you're very busy and-"

"I want to," he interrupted. "Truly, I do."

And he did, though he wasn't entirely sure why.

The light stain of a blush was back on her face. "Alright," she said softly, "I would very much appreciate it."

And he smiled at her, feeling lighter than he had been in days, as her wall began to crumble slightly.

They sat in the soft grass, watching the new crop of horses being broken, as Endymion explained the various practices that were being performed, and the different breeds that were used for different jobs.

But nothing delighted him more than her reaction to one particular horse.

A pure white Pegasus had been lead out of the stables, it's powerful wings stretching and flapping in the open air.

"What is that?!" she cried, squeezing his arm in a mixture of fear and awe.

He laughed at her. "That, dear wife, is a Pegasus. Very rare, but extremely sought after for obvious reasons," he said as the creature spread its expansive wings, once again.

"A Pegasus…" she repeated quietly, never taking her eyes away from the giant, winged horse. "I had no idea such a creature existed!"

Endymion laughed, again. "The moon isn't the only place where magic exists, Serenity," he said, voice warm with mirth.

Serenity giggled at his words, and he decided he rather liked the sound. "I am very glad to hear that," she said, "We're far too boring to have all the magic."

It was impossible to miss the gleam in her eyes, and he smirked back at her, enjoying her self deprecating teasing.

But before he could continue their repartee, he heard Kunzite calling his name in the distance.

He sighed audibly. "Well, it appears I must take my leave," he said, standing and brushing at his trousers. "I will see you tonight?"

The light faded from her eyes instantly at his question.

"Yes," she said without emotion, "Tonight."

Chapter Text

Serenity sat contemplating her reflection, as Naru gently brushed through the mass that was her hair, a slight grimace upon her face as the sweet maid hit the occasional snag.

She was dressed in one of the most beautiful gowns she'd ever had the privilege of wearing. The fabric was a deep burgundy that highlighted her pale skin, giving it a luminous quality. The bodice, with its off the shoulder, cap sleeves, clung to her, accentuating her tiny waist, before giving way to the flare of the full skirt that, while large, didn't threaten to drown her as many of the gowns seen at court would. The entirety of the dress glittered with sequins and stones that made Serenity feel as if she were wearing the stars.

She felt beautiful. And despite knowing that anyone would look amazing in such a dress, Serenity took a moment to thank her luck that she had been the one chosen to wear this gorgeous creation.

"If Prince Endymion hasn't already fallen in love with you, he certainly will, tonight," Naru said softly, winking at the princess through the mirror.

Serenity smiled sadly back at her maid, knowing full well that such a thing was impossible. But her heart swelled in gratitude towards Naru. The brown-haired lass had become so much more than a maid in Serenity's short time on Earth, and she felt completely at ease with her. Something the princess so desperately needed with someone.

While Naru began to arrange her hair in its usual fashion, Serenity let her mind wander towards her husband.

They would soon be on their way to a dinner, held in their honor by one of the more seasoned dukes, at his manor in the nearby countryside, and she and Endymion were to ride in the same carriage.

To be alone in such close and confined quarters with her husband…

Not that they hadn't been alone before, under vastly different circumstances. Every night, in fact. And she was certain it would remain so, until she was with child.

A blush crept up her cheeks at the thought, and Serenity was grateful that Naru was currently too absorbed in making the perfect buns on her head to notice.

But this kind of contact was rare for them. Time completely alone, without Venus looming twenty feet behind them, or Kunzite suddenly popping up to call Endymion away. This would be a time without any agenda. And the ride inside the carriage would be far from short.

The thought both thrilled and terrified her.

Serenity had felt a sort of tentative truce bloom between her and Endymion over the previous week they had been walking together in the gardens.

Everyday, without fail, he would meet her there, mid-morning, and the two would spend, at least an hour each day, if not more, walking and speaking together easily.

Of course, the topics were never deep or remotely controversial.

They spoke of flowers, her favorites and his, and Endymion even showed her how he cared for a few of the more exotic species he'd planted. And though they hadn't yet had the opportunity to visit the horses, Endymion had promised to take her there that week, and begin her riding lessons the week after.

And despite the fact that Serenity knew her husband loved another, she couldn't help but look forward to her time with him.

He was a fascinating person to be around, his knowledge of almost any subject she could think of to ask about was incredibly vast. And since Endymion had begun to warm up towards her, Serenity had felt his guard begin to slip ever so slightly.

But she could still see the deeply buried hurt that he hid behind those gorgeous smiles of his, and Serenity would have given anything to take it away from him.

She had wept for him on more than one occasion, her heart clutching painfully in her chest when she thought of how much he must be hurting. And though his behavior towards her in the beginning had been less than ideal, Serenity had forgiven him the instant he'd confessed to her his love for another.

People lashed out when they were in pain, and Endymion was no different.

But his recent attitude shift towards her, had left Serenity somewhat confused. Especially, when the kind-hearted man she had seen so often with others, began to show himself to her.

Endymion had been so kind and caring to her since their wedding, and though she loved the attention he gave her, Serenity knew she was in serious danger of falling hard and fast for her husband.

Under normal circumstances, she would have been thrilled at such a notion, but the constant knowledge that Endymion was in love with another woman, weighed on her heavily.

She didn't blame him, of course. Endymion had simply had the misfortune of already having found someone he wished to spend his life with before their engagement was announced. But Serenity didn't like the feelings of jealousy that threatened to rear their ugly head at the thought of this, 'other,' woman.

The intensity of the feelings Endymion was causing in her, both good and bad, frightened her. Especially since she knew no good could come from them, should she allow her emotions to blossom.

Serenity was forced from her thoughts when a knock echoed through the room.

"Come in," she answered the visitor, as Naru put the finishing touches on her hair.

And as the door opened, and a man entered, Serenity felt her breath catch at the sight her husband made.

Endymion was dressed to the nines in an embroidered and perfectly tailored waistcoat. The deep blue of the garment caused his eyes even deeper blue eyes to shine, and the smile that lit his face when he saw her, caused a blush to return to her cheeks.

The prince walked up behind her, his eyes locked on hers through their reflections in the mirror.

When he reached her, Endymion placed a gloved hand on her shoulder, telling her with a tone that she could have sworn was sincerity, "You look beautiful, Serenity."

Equal feelings of confusion and giddiness flooded through her at his words, and she felt an involuntary shiver run down her spine at the intensity of his gaze.

Serenity tried her best to appear unaffected by him, but her heart was pounding so hard in her chest, she was sure he could hear it.

The complement he'd just bestowed upon her was more than welcome, but, Serenity rationalized, he must have simply offered it to her because that is what husbands do. Endymion probably felt it was his duty to flatter his wife, whether he carried any romantic feelings towards her or not.

But despite her conclusions about Endymion's intentions, Serenity couldn't bring herself to look away from his gaze.

The moments they spent staring at each other through the mirror seemed to drag on, and it wasn't until Naru gently cleared her throat, that the husband and wife came crashing back to reality.

"Your cloak, your grace," Naru said, offering Serenity her richly lined, wool cloak.

The princess rose from her chair, and walked over towards Naru, closing her eyes in relief as the warm fabric enveloped her in safety.

Once Naru had fastened the cloak around her, Serenity turned towards the maid, and grasped her hands tightly.

"Thank you, Naru," Serenity said quietly, and when the girl before her smiled, Serenity couldn't help but smile in return.

"Are you ready, Serenity?" she heard Endymion ask hesitantly, as if he was loathe to interrupt the quiet moment between the two friends.

She stilled briefly at his voice, but quickly realized how silly she was being. She would welcome this kind side of him, and although it couldn't possibly be caused by anything remotely akin to love, perhaps they could be friends. She could learn to live with that maybe.

Serenity whirled around gracefully, her skirts rustling beneath her, and she smiled as brightly as she could muster.

"Yes, I'm ready."

oOo

Serenity breathed a sigh of relief when the carriage door slammed shut, and the rocky movement of the wheels began to turn underneath them.

She sat back against the plush cushions, and closed her eyes in weariness.

"Tired?" a soft, deep voice asked her.

Her eyes fluttered open, and a small smile curled up the ends of her lips, as she looked over at Endymion.

"Yes," she replied, in an equally soft voice. "Exhausted."

Silence fell on the couple after the brief exchange, and if it weren't for the churning swell of emotions inside her, Serenity would have easily allowed the gentle swaying of the carriage to lull her to sleep.

But that was not meant to be, as Endymion had, once again, confused her beyond belief that night.

Their carriage ride to the dinner party had been pleasant enough.

They had spoken easily with each other about the sights that were passing by outside the carriage window, as Serenity had delighted in the rolling hills and the occasional animal that happened to be in their path.

She had so enjoyed the evening, having finally gotten the chance to escape the confines of the palace, and be around such vibrant and entertaining people. But even she had grown slightly weary after meeting nearly every important official in the region, and though she wracked her brain trying to remember even half their names, most evaded her.

And then, of course, there was the matter of her husband. After they had arrived at the duke's lavish manor, Endymion had kept close to her the entire time, as if he didn't want to leave her.

Serenity had expected him to stay close for a time. It was proper, after all, for a husband to at least appear as if he enjoyed the company of his wife. But he hadn't left her side at all, and had even rested his hand against the small of her back for most of that time, too.

She could still feel the warmth of it against her back, now, as if it had been burned there, and she mentally chided herself for the sweet, protected feeling it gave her.

How was she supposed to keep a clear head, when he kept touching her so tenderly, and looking at her with those endless, royal eyes of his?

And the worst part was, she knew it all meant nothing. Just a kind-hearted prince, trying to make everyone believe he was fond of his wife.

She sighed in defeat, perhaps a bit louder than she had intended.

"You know," that deep, velvet voice of his spoke, again. "We don't have to have our nightly meeting since you're so tired."

Serenity glanced back over at her husband, warmth filling her being at the boyish way he looked with his hair falling down into his eyes. She had to bite back the urge to reach up and brush it away.

"Oh, no, that's alright, Endymion," she tried sound convincing. "Of course we can't skip that."

"You don't sound very excited about the prospect," Endymion said, eyeing her with what appeared to be a mixture of concern and hurt.

Serenity's face fell at his response. "Oh, it's not that I'm not...excited," she managed to get out. "It's just that…" she paused, again. "Well, Endymion, may I be honest with you?"

He raised an eyebrow at her, before answering, "Always."

She smiled reassuringly at him. "It's just that..." she stopped and swallowed visibly. "Sex isn't exactly what I thought it would be."

Endymion looked thoroughly confused. "What do you mean?"

"Well, of course, you know I grew up at court, and women have loose tongues, you see. They were always bragging about their trysts with this man and that. And they made it seem as if sex was the most amazing thing they'd ever experienced, which I know now, they were simply trying to outdo the others," she finished with a bright blush that she knew Endymion could see even in the darkness of the carriage.

There was a long pause, and the silence drew her to look over at her husband, who was staring at her blankly. He opened his mouth a few times, as if to speak, but no sound came out.

Serenity saw Endymion shake his head, appearing to clear himself from the stupor he'd fallen into, and he finally spoke.

"You mean…" he began hesitantly, "you...don't enjoy our sex?"

When he was finished with his question, Serenity couldn't miss the hurt that was clearly written on his features.

Oh, dear…

"Oh, Endymion, I'm sorry," she blanched at how lamely the apology sounded, even to her ears. "It's not unenjoyable, persay."

Endymion just continued to stare at her, brows furrowed.

So, on Serenity went, trying her best to placate him. "And I'm sure it has nothing to do with you! I'm sure I just had unrealistic expectations!"

"But Serenity, it's supposed to feel good," he said quietly, the same, pained expression on his face.

"And it does, Endymion, I promise," she told him, taking his clenched hands into her own, trying to soothe him. "It's just not that...other-worldly experience that I had always heard it to be."

Endymion nodded his head once curtly, and turned his head to look out the window next to him. But he made no move to extricate his hands from hers, so Serenity continued to rub calming circles across his skin.

The couple remained silent for the rest of the ride, no sound passing between them, until the carriage had rolled to a stop, and Endymion held out his hand for her once he'd exited the space.

His gaze towards her was determined, when he spoke. "I'll see you shortly?"

Serenity smiled shakily back, feeling as if she had failed miserably to hide the extreme uncertainty she was feeling, especially at his sudden change of mood.

"I'll be waiting."

oOo

She sat on her bed, examining the intricate lace pattern on her nightgown with much more intensity than it required.

Serenity was always nervous when night fell, and the time for... sleeping was almost upon them.

Not because she was afraid or uncomfortable around Endymion. Far from it, really. She had grown up under the protection of Sailor Venus, after all. Nudity was nothing to her. But Serenity often felt incredibly exposed with her husband. Much more so than naked skin could explain. And she wasn't sure if this was simply the knowledge that she wasn't what he wanted looming over her head constantly, drowning out any thoughts that might lead her to believe her husband would ever love her, or if she simply wished he might think of her that way, as well.

She jumped when the knock came on the door that separated their two chambers.

"C-come in," Serenity managed to squeak out, once she had managed to somewhat slow her pounding heart.

Endymion opened the door, carrying a single candle to light his way, as he always did. But something about his appearance was very different than their previous encounters.

He was clothed, not in his usual nightly dress, of a simple, white gown, but instead, he was shirtless, with the breeches he'd been wearing that evening slung low across his hips.

Serenity's lips parted, as she sucked in a breath at the sight of him.

He was gorgeous.

Taut, well defined muscles made up his tanned chest. His hair fell haphazardly across his forehead, once more, and the sharp lines of his face, accented by his deep, blue eyes made her mouth run dry.

Truly, he was the most beautiful man she had ever seen.

Walking towards the bed, Endymion set his candle down on the nightstand next to her bed. Turning towards her, he smiled the cocky, arrogant smirk she'd grown so fond of in the few weeks she'd spent with him. The smirk that gave her those, not at all unpleasant, butterflies in the pit of her stomach.

"Good evening, princess," he said, and Serenity could have almost sworn his tone held the slightest hint of seduction in it.

Serenity opened her mouth to respond, but no sound would come out. She simply couldn't manage to speak with him standing there, looking like...that.

Endymion caught her gaze on his chest, and he laughed low and deep. "See something you like?"

Her eyes flew to his, and then quickly darted away when she realized she'd been caught in the act. She swallowed, feeling the bright blush painted on her cheeks.

"N-no, I just-" she started, but stopped when he climbed onto the bed with her, and put one, long finger to her lips.

"I want to try something different, tonight," he said, voice not wavering in the slightest. "Is that alright?"

She breathed in deeply, uncertainty clouding her thoughts. "I..uh...well…" she stuttered about, until he interrupted her gently.

"I won't hurt you, Serenity. I promise," he said with a sincerity that caused her doubts to fly out the window faster than they'd come.

The princess shook her head in the affirmative, suddenly knowing and trusting that his words were true. "Yes, that's alright."

The smirk that melted her insides was back on his face after she spoke. "Can you lie back?"

Serenity did as Endymion asked, laying back against the numerous pillows that adorned her bed.

He followed her movements with his eyes, and she was surprised to see that when he reached his hand out towards her, there was an almost imperceptible shake that trembled through him.

The thought that he was nervous, too, helped to calm her. And the way he was looking at her caused a rush of something unknown to travel between her legs.

Endymion's hand landed on the string that tied the top of her nightgown together. His eyes latched onto hers, and he held her gaze, as he slowly undid the simple knot she had tied not twenty minutes before.

With a timid, but sure hand, he gently pushed the fabric further down her chest, so her breasts were exposed to his view.

Serenity felt completely exposed, but the heat that was coursing through her from his gaze, made her forget the discomfort almost immediately.

And when he cupped her left breast in his hand, trailing his thumb back and forth over her nipple, she couldn't hold back the nearly guttural moan that left her.

Endymion continued the movements on her breast. His fingers tracing across her skin in the lightest of touches. He stroked her hardened nipple, over and over, until her moans grew needy, and he switched to the other, picking up right where he'd left off with the first.

She began to squirm, trying to bring him closer, and push him away all the same. But all too soon, his hand left her, and she whimpered at the loss of contact.

This was all certainly new, and Serenity had never felt anything as strongly as she was feeling in that moment. Her heart was pounding against her rib cage, and she could feel sweat starting to break out on her body, despite the cold of the room.

Her eyes opened slightly, and she was sure everything she felt would be reflected there for Endymion to read clear as day. But she couldn't bring herself to care, as the only thing she wanted in that moment was for him to keep going.

She didn't have to wait for long, as her eyes locked with his, and his hand was back tracing her curves with the slightest of touches.

Serenity almost missed when he began to hitch up the fabric of her gown, her focus too intent on how her husband was looking at her as if she were the only woman in his world. And for the moment, she could so easily believe she was.

But she started when she felt his fingers grazing the insides of her thighs, and he chuckled at her, a sensual smile on his face.

Endymion leaned forward slightly, causing Serenity to have to lie back, once more, and he whispered in her ear the same words he'd asked on their wedding night. "Do you trust me?"

When he pulled back, and looked at her so earnestly, she could have sworn her heart would leap out of her chest.

She did trust him. Even though he held the power to crush her in his hands, as if she were a tiny bird, she did trust him. Completely.

"I trust you," she whispered back, her breath right at his ear.

Endymion smiled at her, moving so he could position himself with her back against his chest.

Serenity closed her eyes, enjoying the feel of his strong arms wrapping around her waist, as he pulled her flesh against him. And before she could even blink, his fingers were back on her thighs, tracing tantalizing patterns all over her soft skin.

Her breathing quickened, and she moved her hips out of pure instinct, trying to bring him closer to something she knew she needed, but couldn't name.

There was a slickness between her legs that was becoming impossible to ignore. Serenity had been aroused before, but never to the heights Endymion's fingers were driving her to, now.

She felt something unfamiliar coil in her belly, as her breathing came fast and shallow. Her hips were rising off the bed, seeking more of his touch, as her muscles clenched and released of their own accord.

"Please…" she whimpered out of desperation, when the feelings became too much to bear.

She felt that infuriating smirk of his against her neck, but all thoughts of it were wiped away when she felt his fingers touch the soft curls that covered the core of her.

And then she felt what she'd been longing for without knowing it. His finger had dipped between her lips, stroking her long and slow, pausing at the top to rub her clit in a swirling movement that made her cry out.

Endymion continued these movements growing more sure with each stroke, as she called out his name repeatedly.

She had never experienced anything like this, this insane, all encompassing pleasure, that seemed to only grow, and never lessen. Serenity could tell she was dangling on the edge of something just out of reach.

Her breaths were coming in pants, now, and she wasn't entirely sure of the words that were coming out of her mouth. Serenity only knew that she wanted more. More of this exquisite pleasure, and more of the man who was giving it to her.

And in an instant, she fell over a ledge. A blinding white light flashed behind her eyes, and she called out Endymion's name louder than she ever would have, had she been able to form a coherent thought.

Serenity's whole body shook, as she tumbled into her very first orgasm. She was so overcome with the intensity of the feeling that she barely registered when Endymion moved away from her to take off his breeches.

But she soon couldn't ignore him, when she felt his hands on her face, and his body move over her. And he was moving in her, more desperate than she could ever remember before. And her treacherous mind whispered to her that it was as if he couldn't get enough of the soft, warm haven she offered him.

Serenity felt herself arching to meet him, something she had never done before. The need to give him even half the pleasure he'd given her, the only thought in her mind.

A sweet feeling of fulfillment and satisfaction swept over her, when Endymion cried out his release, and he collapsed against her, his breath quickly slowing into a deep rhythm that indicated sleep wasn't far away.

She prepared herself for him to move completely away from her. To quietly leave the bed, and move slowly back to his own chambers for the night.

But his exit didn't come, as it normally would.

Endymion rolled gently onto his side, and much to her surprise, he pulled her with him, nestling her against his chest, as he closed his eyes and breathed in the scent of her hair.

The familiar confusion she so often felt, returned tenfold as she laid her head on his bare chest. But she was too tired to question it then, especially when he was stroking her back so soothingly, as he was now.

"I'll take my apology, now," he mumbled against her hair.

She moved her head back to stare at him, surprised at his words, and slightly annoyed when she saw the teasing, half smile on his face. But despite her annoyance, she couldn't help the giddy feeling that coursed through her.

"An apology for what exactly?" she quipped back, mirth evident in her voice.

"Thinking our sex was bad, of course," he said, slightly hooded eyes gazing back at her.

Serenity blushed, and her eyes widened at his forwardness, but in spite of herself, she giggled at the sight he made. "You're something else, you know that?" she asked, finally allowing herself to reach up and brush the hair out of his eyes.

"Mmm," was his sleepy reply.

They were silent, then, and she took the opportunity to watch him for few moments.

He was completely unguarded, as sleep took him, and Serenity allowed the dangerous, blissful feeling to wash over her, as sleep beckoned.

oOo

"Serenity?"

The princess jerked her head away from where it had been staring at a particularly interesting patch of ground.

"I'm sorry, what?" she replied to the voice, who happened to belong to her husband.

Endymion smiled amusedly at her. "That's about the fifth time I've called your name, just now. Is everything alright?"

She blushed a deep pink. "Yes, I'm fine. I'm just in another world, today, I suppose," she replied, looking back towards her favorite bit of grass.

And it wasn't far from the truth, really.

From the moment she'd awakened that morning to an empty bed, Endymion apparently having left sometime during the night, Serenity had been trying to make sense of everything that had happened the evening before.

But the conclusions that her mind was drawing, that the actions of her husband were that of a man who was falling in love, simply couldn't be. She knew this all too well.

"Serenity, can I ask you something?" Endymion's voice filtered through her thoughts.

"Of course," she answered without looking at him, noticing that they'd, once again, fallen into step with each other automatically. The thought turned the edges of her mouth up slightly.

"Is it...tradition that all the heirs to the Moon Kingdom be named, 'Serenity'?" he asked.

She looked back at him with surprise, her feet unconsciously slowing as she thought. "You know, I'm honestly not sure," she answered honestly, "but I certainly hope not."

"And why is that?" he responded, genuine curiosity in his voice.

Serenity was silent for a moment, thinking how she could best answer such a question.

"Well," she answered finally, "I've always felt so...confined by the name." She finished with a shrug, not elaborating further.

"What, you don't feel like being serene all the time?" Endymion teased, poking her gently in the side with his elbow.

She couldn't help the giggle that escaped her. "No," she said smiling, "no, I don't really feel like being serene all the time. Especially since my mother exemplifies it so well."

"You don't do so bad of a job yourself, you know," he said, and she blushed, again.

"What about your name?" Serenity asked, turning the conversation away from herself. "Do you like it?"

His brows furrowed before he answered, "Oh, it's alright, I suppose, but it does feel a little...stuffy. And it's quite the mouthful."

Serenity giggled, again, when he winked down at her.

"You know," she began slyly, "we could give each other names that only we call each other by. Really stick it to the establishment, if you will."

"Oh?" he asked with a brow raised, and a grin on his face. "And what would you call me, then?"

"Hmm," she said, pretending to think. "I think I'll call you...Endy!"

"Endy, hmm?" Endymion said, rolling his eyes, though amusement was clear on his face. "I suppose I could live with that."

Serenity beamed at him, her insides rejoicing that he accepted the nickname she'd been calling him in her head for some time now, so easily.

"But what will you call me?" she asked. "Sere?"

His nose wrinkled at the notion. "No," he said, "No, I don't think so."

"Then what will you call me?"

"Ren," he answered with a resolution that surprised her. "You'll be Ren. It suits you," he added.

She felt the blood rush to her cheeks. God, the man was always making her blush!

"I hope that's acceptable?" Endymion asked, when she neglected to affirm his choice.

Serenity smiled softly. "Of course."

A bell tolled in the distance, signaling that noon had arrived.

"Oh, I must go, Endy, I'm sorry!" she said with sincere dismay. "I've got a dress fitting."

He chuckled at her sudden change of demeanor, "Go on, I'll somehow manage to survive without you for a while."

In a moment of boldness, Serenity leaned up and kissed him on the cheek. She lingered briefly, taking a moment to inhale his scent.

When she came down to rest firmly on her feet, again, her gaze held his, as she spoke with a bright smile. "I'll see you tonight, Endy?"

Endymion nodded, a brilliant smile lighting his face. "Til tonight, Ren."

Chapter Text

It was unbecoming of a prince to have his stomach make such loud and gurgly noises, especially when there was a vast and fully stocked kitchen available to him whenever he wanted.

And that was where Endymion was headed, exhausted and hungry from his rigorous sword training.

The head chefs, a husband and wife, Ichirou and Mayako, had become like surrogate parents to him in many ways. They had been at the palace for as long as he could remember. Always looking after him after the queen had died, or when his father was away. Always making sure they had his favorite foods ready for him, when he came by to visit on a near daily basis.

But he hadn't been able to visit nearly as often in recent years, as his schedule had become much less his own. And of course, there was the fact that Beryl hadn't been particularly fond of his open familiarity with the staff.

When he neared the door to the kitchens on this particular day, Endymion was surprised to hear three voices inside. All three of which were familiar to him, but the one, a woman, whose laugh sounded like a tinkle of bells, caught him completely off guard.

And when he slowly opened the heavy, wooden door, he was greeted with the sight of Ichirou, cooking over the hot fires of the stove, and Mayako cutting vegetables at the large island in the middle of the room. But his eyes soon found what they were looking for, when he saw Serenity, seated on a stool, her dress skirts falling fluidly around her, as she took bites of what appeared to be a large piece of chocolate.

"Endymion!" Mayako was the first to greet him. "Come in dear! We were just catching up with Serenity," she said warmly.

Endymion smiled at her, and then looked over towards his wife. "Catching up?"

Serenity blushed and gave him a shy smile. "Yes. I was wandering the castle some weeks ago, and I happened upon the kitchen. Ichirou and Mayako have been so kind to me, and have tolerated my frequent visits ever since then."

Ichirou scoffed at Serenity's self-deprecation. "Oh, nonsense, child! You're always welcome here," he said, turning around from his place at the stove.

The princess giggled, and took another bite of her treat, and Endymion found himself staring at her openly.

She looked beautiful in her sky blue dress that only served to highlight the blue in her eyes even more. Her cheeks were flushed from the warmth in the kitchen, and her expressions were so animated, Endymion couldn't help but feel drawn to her.

"Endymion?" Mayako's voice filtered into his mind.

He shook his head, tearing his gaze away from Serenity, and feeling a bright blush on his face from being caught openly staring. And then he remembered Mayako was speaking to him.

"I'm sorry, what?"

Mayako looked at him with a knowing smile, which made him blush an even brighter shade of red, and repeated the question he had apparently missed before. "Well, don't just stand around. You can make yourself useful to me and help knead that dough, won't you?"

Endymion chuckled at her forwardness. It was one of the things he loved about the middle-aged couple who kept the entire castle fed. They treated him as if he were anyone else. Loved him as if he were their own.

"You're going to make me work for my food, today, are you?" he teased back, winking at her.

Mayako narrowed her eyes playfully. "Don't try those charms on me, young man. They're no good in this kitchen."

Serenity giggled again, and Endymion turned his attention back to her, as he rolled up his sleeves, and moved towards the dough Mayako had pointed out to him.

He looked expectantly at his wife, raising an eyebrow at her.

"What? Why are you looking at me like that?" she questioned with mock indignation.

"Well, aren't you going to help me?" he asked gesturing towards the flour and dough.

Endymion expected her to turn her nose up at the notion of helping with such a menial task, but he was surprised when she hopped right down off her stool and came to stand by him, looking at him as if waiting for instructions.

"Ren, you really don't have to help. I was only teasing," he said, hoping to keep from upsetting her.

But instead, she smiled brightly at him. "No, I want to help!" she said with conviction. But her eyes fell slightly, before she quietly added, "But you'll have to show me, because I'm not sure what to do."

"Never spent much time in a kitchen, have you?"

She laughed nervously. "Oh, no, it's not that," she rushed out. "It's just that when I tried to help, it always seemed to end in a disaster of 'epic' proportions. At least that's what our cook on the moon said. I was banned from entering the kitchen years ago."

He couldn't help the laugh that escaped him at the thought of this beautiful, elegant creature ever causing such a raucous.

"Alright, come here, then," he said, reaching his hand out to her.

Serenity took the offering, and Endymion moved her gently to stand in front of him, so that her back was pressed against his chest.

He placed his head near the crook of her shoulder, so that his mouth was right next to her ear. Taking her hands into his, he reached them into the bowl of flour.

"First, you'll want to spread some flour out, so that the dough doesn't stick to the counter," he told her, enjoying the slight shiver that ran through her as his breath tickled her ear.

"And then, we'll work on the dough," Endymion continued, taking the mixture from its bowl, and lying it in front of them.

He laced their fingers together, and began to press them into the dough, using the heels of their hands to move and mold the gooey substance.

"We have to do this, you see, so that the bread will be able to rise," he breathed out, finding it difficult to not become completely caught up in the feel of their hands moving together, of her back pressed against him, or her soft hair brushing against his cheek.

Endymion felt her suck in a breath, as he leaned further forward seeking to feel more of her.

"And if the bread didn't rise...that would be bad?" Serenity asked, moving her head to the side to look back at him.

Their eyes locked together, blue crashing with blue, and it was his turn to take a deep breath, completely caught off guard by the intensity of the feelings flowing through him.

"Yes," he managed to choke out, "very...very bad."

Before he could even begin to complete a rational thought, his gaze fell to her lips. They were full and appeared to be so soft and smooth. And he felt himself being drawn towards them, his head inching closer.

And he was surprised to find that he wasn't the only one being drawn closer. Serenity herself was moving slowly towards him, her eyes fluttering closed in anticipation of the inevitable meeting of their lips.

But in a split second, reality came crashing in, as a noisy clanging of pots could be heard hitting the ground.

Serenity sprang away from him at the sound, as if she had somehow been burned by his touch. She stood, chest heaving up and down, as she took in deep breaths.

When her eyes fell on the door, her escape path obvious, she bolted before Endymion could even begin to process her movements.

"Ren! Wait!" he called after her, but the door slammed shut, and she was gone.

He looked around, a bewildered expression on his face, and he noticed Ichirou staring at the door, as well.

Ichirou looked at him, and slowly shrugged his shoulders, apparently just as confused by Serenity's actions as Endymion was. He came up behind the prince, clapping him on the back in understanding, and speaking in what Endymion supposed was meant to be a comforting tone.

"Women. Complicated things aren't they?"

oOo

Endymion laid in his large bed, listening to the pitter patter of the rain against the windows.

It was a soothing sound. One he'd come to love. Rain meant the Earth was alive. Meant that he was alive.

But this particular rain did little to comfort him.

The prince was restless. Had been for nearly two days now, all because of the enigma that was his wife.

He was certain Serenity had felt the electricity between them in the kitchen. Certain that her heart had been pounding just as fast and loudly as his.

But since that moment, the only thing Endymion was certain of, was the fact that she was most definitely avoiding him.

Serenity had missed their walk for the past two days, having scheduled meetings both days during that exact time slot. Before their encounter in the kitchen, she had always made sure that nothing would interrupt that time, as did he, but that silent truce between them was apparently gone.

She had even managed to miss their nightly rendezvous, that night, for when Endymion entered her room, as he so often did, she was already fast asleep.

Taking a moment to gaze at her, Endymion knew he'd never seen anything quite as adorable before. Serenity looked like a tiny cherub when she slept, all blonde, rosey cheeks and innocence, and he didn't have the heart to wake her, especially when it became apparent that she'd fallen asleep waiting for him, as she was asleep on top of the covers.

He sighed, turning onto his back, the door that connected his and Serenity's room loomed large only a few feet away.

Knowing that she was there, knowing just how close she was, and that still, she was always just out of reach, drove him to the edges of sanity on more than one occasion.

Coupled with the fact that he'd realized early that evening, whilst pacing the room, trying to clear his thoughts, that he hadn't thought of Beryl in days.

And that fact didn't anger him, like he knew it once would have, but instead, only served to confuse things even further.

Why wasn't he bothered about not thinking of Beryl? Why did it matter that Serenity was avoiding him? And what in heaven's name had happened between them in that damned kitchen?

He was completely lost in thought, when the room was illuminated in a bright light, followed by a nearly deafening crash of thunder.

This, in and of itself, wasn't unusual obviously. But an unearthly scream that hung in the air certainly was.

Endymion shot straight up at the sound. He thought that he'd, perhaps, imagined the scream, but as he strained his ears to hear above the rain, he could hear a distinct whimpering from the room adjacent to his.

Jumping up, he pulled on a pair of trousers, nearly falling in his haste to get to Serenity's chambers.

The prince paused briefly, when he reached the door, hand clutching the handle, but a shake of his head cleared the treacherous thoughts that Serenity wouldn't welcome his presence.

With a tank of the brass beneath his hand, the door had opened.

"Ren? Are you alright?"

Another, pitiful whimper was his answer.

In four, large strides he was at the bed, and her near violent shaking alarmed him more than her scream.

"Ren! Are you hurt? What's wrong?" he pleaded, reaching out to take her hands into his. They were clenched, and nails were digging into her delicate skin.

Nature decided to answer the question for him, as another flash of lightning lit the room, followed closely by thunder that seemed to shake the floor, and his arms were suddenly filled with the small, quivering form of his wife, as she launched herself at him.

He instinctively moved his arms around her, rubbing her back in soothing motions, and he was surprised when her tiny voice squeaked out, "W-what is that?"

Endymion looked down at his wife. Serenity's eyes were wide with fear, and he could sense the danger that was flowing through her, an almost desperate need to flee and to hide.

He reached a hand up to stroke her face gently, and his lips quirked at the edges when he felt her lean into his touch, her eyes fluttering closed. "Are you asking what thunder is?"

Serenity's eyes flashed open, her brow furrowing with question. "What's...thunder?"

Endymion felt a slight annoyance at her question, and stared blankly at her, waiting for his wife to give up the silly ruse, but when her face only continued to register confusion, he couldn't help the amused chuckle that left him. She was, apparently, genuinely unaware of what thunder was. "That loud booming noise you hear is thunder. And it can't hurt you, Ren."

She moved back from him slightly, a frown prevalent on her lips. "What do you mean it can't hurt me? It feels like the whole castle is going to come down!" And she was back, pressed tightly against his chest, as Mother Nature continued her fury just outside the castle walls.

A thought struck Endymion, as he did his best to comfort his whimpering wife. Something he had learned long ago at his mother's knee, when she was teaching him of the planets and their moons.

The moon had no natural atmosphere, it was created by the Silver Crystal. Which meant there could be no storms, no rain, and certainly no lightning or thunder.

"You don't have storms on the moon do you?" he asked, laying his head on the top of hers, luxuriating in the feel of her soft hair against his cheek.

Serenity shook her head against his chest, her shaking calmed slightly by his ministrations.

"I promise it won't hurt you, Ren."

"But…" she began, hesitance laced in her voice. "How?"

Endymion looked away from her, trying to gather his thoughts and decided how best to even begin to explain the phenomena that was weather to someone who came from the moon.

Turning back to her, he had to bite back a smile at the adorable confusion on her face. "Well, you see," he began, "when we have storms, the air becomes charged, which produces lightning, that bright flash you see. And that sound you hear afterwards, thunder, is actually the sound of the lightning discharging, but light travels faster than sound, so we see it first, and then hear it. So, really, there's no harm that can come to you from the sound."

As his explanation washed over her, Serenity pulled back, removing herself from his embrace, and the loss of contact caused a strong pang in his heart.

Lying back against her pillows, Serenity looked down at her clasped hands, her voice barely above a whisper. "Thank you for checking on me, Endy. I'm sorry to have woken you up for-" she flinched as lightning split the sky, "-something so silly."

Endymion frowned. She was pulling away from him, once again, and he didn't know why, nor did he want her to.

"Ren?"

Serenity startled slightly at the sound of his voice. "Yes?"

"Would you…" he struggled to ask the simple question that was on the tip of his tongue. He sighed, letting out a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding, and ran a nervous hand through his tousled hair.

"Would it be alright, if I stayed with you?"

He watched her eyes grow wide at the question, and she paused in thought, an apparent internal struggle raging in her. But the storm that was raging outside, seemed to make up her mind for her, as after a moment, she nodded her head vigorously in the affirmative, moving over to make room for him to join her.

Endymion climbed onto the bed, and gathered her up in his embrace, nearly crushing her to him in his want for contact with her. She didn't seem to mind though, as she clutched at the bare skin of his chest, burying her head as best she could against him, soaking up the protection his arms brought her.

The feeling of being there, with her, holding her, comforting her as best he could, filled him to the brim, threatening to overflow. He settled them deep into the blankets and throws that adorned her bed, breathing in her scent, and gently cajoling her continued whimpers.

Every time another clap of thunder would resound throughout the space, she would jump a little in his arms, and burrow further into him, an action that pulled the corners of his mouth up as he reveled in her taking all the comfort he was giving.

After a few more moments of soothing, Endymion realized she would never truly calm down unless he was able to distract her. So, he began to talk.

"Hey, Ren? What's it like on the moon?" he asked, a question that had been on his mind for a time.

He felt her intake of breath, and let the silence hang for a short time, while she gathered her thoughts.

"Well, it's lovely of course," she started, her voice sounding much more sure than it had moments before. "It's all white marble and fountains and gardens, and everything is always perfectly as it should be."

"So, nothing like Earth, I take it?"

She sighed. "No, not at all. There's no wind or storms. The temperature is constant. Everything is...steady. Always."

"Do you enjoy the consistency?" he asked, running a hand through her endless tresses.

"No," she answered quietly, but without pause. "I used to look up at the sky and wish I was here."

"Here?" he asked, surprised. "On Earth?"

"Yes. Earth is full of color. It's living and breathing. The only thing consistent about it is the change," she answered with a wisdom that seemed beyond her years.

"But now, you miss it?" he asked, hearing the longing in her voice, and she simply nodded sadly. "What do you miss?"

"My friends mostly." Another sad response. "And mother, too. And the palace workers were like my family, as well."

He pulled her closer, imagining how difficult it must be to be so impossibly far away from home."

"Oh, and the balls. I do, so very much, miss those parties!" she sighed out, when he didn't speak.

A low laugh rumbled his chest at her enthusiasm. "You enjoy dancing I take it?"

"Oh, yes!" she said dreamily. "I'm not all that good at it. Not like mother is, but it's just so freeing."

He smiled down at her. "Well, perhaps, we'll have to find occasion to dance more often, then."

Serenity's face fell at his words, and worry swelled in him.

"Endy, can I ask you something?"

"Of course," came his instinctual response, fear still gripping him at her sudden change of mood.

"Can you...well, I was wondering…" she stuttered out, her eyes darting away from his, and he could see a bright blush on her cheeks even in the darkness of the room.

"What is it, Ren?" he gently prodded.

Serenity took a deep breath in to steady herself, looking at him square in the eye, once more. "What is she like? The woman you love?"

Endymion's breathing stopped at her words, his mouth falling open. When he finally found his voice, he only managed to choke out, "Wh-what?"

Her face remained unmoved, eyes still locked on his. "Can you tell me about her?"

His head shook slowly, back and forth, still trying to process what it was she was asking of him. "I don't think that's such a good idea-"

But Serenity kept going. "I know she's beautiful," she said wistfully.

Her words stopped his dismissal. What did she mean she knew Beryl was beautiful?

"Why...why do you say that?"

"Because you're beautiful," she breathed out, apparently without thinking, for she gasped at her own words and covered her mouth with her hand, the bright blush returning tenfold.

Endymion blinked slowly, her words finally registering in his mind, and he couldn't help the smirk that lifted his lips. He reached a hand up, taking her wrist gently in his grasp, and lowering her hand back to its rightful place on his chest.

"I have been called many things, princess, but I'm fairly certain, beautiful isn't one of them," he said, low and close to her ear.

Serenity pulled back from him slightly, an adorable pout on her face. "Endy, don't tease me so."

He couldn't help the laugh that escaped him, then, but her pout only grew as she started to turn away, and he reached up a hand to pull her face back to him. He soon found her lips tantalizingly close to his. So close, he could feel her breath on his face, as she nervously took him in.

When he felt himself drowning in the overwhelming emotions coursing through him, Endymion was surprised when he heard his own voice speak.

"Ren?" he breathed out, eyes never leaving hers.

"Yes?"

"May I...may I kiss you?"

While he waited for her reaction, the realization that if she consented, this would, indeed, be their very first kiss, made his fear of her possible rejection sting all the more.

Serenity's eyes widened, even as her face moved almost imperceptibly towards his. She paused just sort of touching him, gaze darting down to glance at his mouth, before she whispered, "yes," and closed the gap between them.

Her boldness startled him briefly, as her hands came up to curl around his neck, but soon, he was lost completely.

The kiss started off innocently enough. A repeated brushing of lips that only gave him a glimpse of what it was like to taste her. Endymion knew he needed to go slowly, let her take the reins, but the little nymph was making it nearly impossible with the way she pressed herself against him.

Serenity sighed into the kiss, and Endymion felt her mouth open slightly, her tongue moving softly across his bottom lip.

He couldn't help the moan that escaped him at the sensations she was sending through him. Knowing full well Serenity wasn't some seductress that simply wanted to claim they'd lain with him, made her actions more arousing than he deemed possible, and he returned her actions with equal fervor, pent up emotions that had threatened to drown him, emotions for her, flowed out, and she took it all.

It was the most pure and simultaneously erotic feeling he'd ever experienced. Lying her with her, kissing her, holding her. And he knew in that moment, that no one else could ever satisfy him in the way Serenity did.

Her small hands had left their place at the nape of his neck, and began to roam freely over his chest, as she continued to let her tongue dance with his. When she reached the plains of his stomach, Endymion felt himself tremble under her touch, aching for her in ways he never thought he would.

The storm outside had slowed to a gentle rain, but he was too wrapped up in the feeling of her mouth against his. But he soon found himself leaving her lips, unable to keep himself from feeling more of her, and enjoying the small whimper of protest from her, as his lips began to leave a trail down her neck.

Endymion reached the top of her night dress, placing a kiss on each hardened nipple poking against the fabric. He smiled when she let out a moan, instinctively raising her arms in order to assist in the removal of the clothing that blocked her from his touch.

Once the garment was free of her long, golden hair, Endymion continued to place feather soft kisses along her chest, enjoying her sighs and her hands in his hair, as her body raised in response to him, wanting more.

When he reached her breasts, he paused briefly, trying to savor the moment, but it was as if he was drawn to her by some invisible magnetism. And he took her into his mouth, alternating between suckling her and massaging the nipple with his tongue, waiting until she was practically squirming with need before he licked his way across to the other breast.

"Endy…" she would breathe out, whenever he managed to find a spot she particularly liked, and the sound caused him to grow harder, his arousal straining painfully against his trousers.

But he pushed it from his mind, simply wishing to draw out the experience for his wife.

He kissed down her stomach, marveling at the smoothness of her skin and how she tasted of vanilla. And when he reached the blonde curls that covered the center of her, he paused, looking back up to her face.

Endymion was taken aback by how stunningly beautiful she was like this. All flushed, her breasts heaving with uneven breath, and her eyes hooded with a deep desire that was unmistakeable.

"Is this alright?" he asked, moving down and pausing just above the wet folds that he so wanted to taste.

She nodded her head, reaching down to brush the wayward strands of hair from his eyes.

He smiled at her reassuringly, before turning his attention back to the place he knew could send her over the plateau and into ecstasy.

Placing his mouth over her, he reached his tongue out to take a tentative dip into the slick folds, and his efforts were responded with a throaty moan, eyes rolling back, and her hands curling themselves into his hair, he knew it wouldn't take long.

So, he drank from her, lavishing in the taste that touched his tongue, and loving that he had done this to her. He had caused her to moan, and arch her back, and whisper his name over and over, as he slid his tongue over her clit, long and slow.

And he repeated this movement, until she was crying out his name, unable to stop herself as pleasure took over every synapse in her brain.

When she began to dig her hands into his hair, clutching the black strands almost painfully, Endymion knew she was close, knew that it would take only a few more strokes until she came.

He focused his tongue on one particular spot on the right side of her clit that seemed to make her shake from need and want, and he swirled around it rapidly, causing her to seize up, as a powerful orgasm rocked her body.

She collapsed against the pillows, breathing hard, eyes drooping from the enormity of what she had just experienced.

Endymion moved back up her body, placing light kisses, along her skin, until he reached her lips.

He was surprised when she reached out, and brought his head down to hers, capturing his lips in a searing kiss, that was filled with something he could have sworn was akin to a deep longing.

And before he knew it, her hands were back wandering the muscles of his chest, slowly making their way down to gently stroke his arousal with her fingers through the fabric of his trousers.

He moaned into her mouth at the contact, knowing full well he wouldn't last long if she kept touching him.

Breaking away from the kiss, he moved away to stand up, placing a comforting kiss on her forehead when she looked at him with a mixture of confusion and fear.

Quickly removing his trousers, Endymion nearly hissed when his erection hit the cold air, finally free of its confines.

He crawled back onto the bed, placing himself over her, their foreheads touching.

Endymion was surprised at the intense hunger he saw in Serenity's eyes, and he nearly jumped when he felt her hands on him, positioning him right at her entrance.

He moved in her slowly, trying to savor every touch and sensation, but she was so warm, her walls gripping him so tightly, he knew it was a lost cause.

And when Serenity wrapped her endless legs around his waist, bringing him in closer, feeling every last bit of himself inside of her, he knew it was only a matter of moments before he too would lose himself in her.

One, strong, powerful thrust later, he came with a power he'd never known, his mouth falling open in a silent scream of pleasure, and his eyes closed, unable to see straight, as they were blinded by an exploding, white light.

Endymion fell to the side, completely spent, and Serenity immediately reached up to place light kisses on his face, as he cradled her to his chest.

Sleep was calling him, and he knew it was a battle he couldn't win. But a frightening thought flew through his mind, just before the beckoning blackness claimed him.

Just when exactly had he fallen in love with his wife?

Chapter Text

"You're thinking awfully hard, Endymion," Aethlius said with a chuckle, atop a glorious white stallion.

Endymion, riding next to his father at the front of a caravan of nearly fifty men, snapped his head to the side, startled at being addressed.

They were currently enroute to the deep forests that sat a days ride from the palace for their annual hunt. It was an event Endymion always looked forward to. An escape from the rigors of court life and a wonderful excuse to enjoy the beauty his planet offered.

But this particular trip couldn't have come at a less ideal time. Namely, one where he was trying to figure out how he'd managed to fall in love with his wife, especially when he'd devoted so much time to willing himself not to. And what about Beryl? What did he feel for her, now?

It was all immensely confusing.

"I'm sorry, father. I suppose, I'm just...distracted, today."

The king laughed deeply at Endymion's statement. "Distracted is an understatement, I believe. And there is only one thing that can cause a man to think as much as you have been for the past few hours. Is there trouble between you and Serenity?"

Endymion smiled wryly at how easily his father was able to guess what was on his mind. "I can't hide anything from you, can I?"

"And why should you?" Aethlius scoffed good-naturedly. "What is the trouble, Endymion?"

Endymion faced back towards the road before them, sighing deeply. "It's not so much trouble, as it is confusion."

"Explain."

"I'm just not sure what to make of Serenity," Endymion replied wistfully, and he was surprised when he heard his father's booming laugh in response.

"Did I not tell you on your wedding day, you'd come to love her?" he asked his son, a brilliant grin on his face.

Endymion furrowed his brow. "I didn't say I loved her, father. I do enjoy her, and she certainly isn't without her charms," he lied, unable to confess just how deeply he felt about Serenity.

"No, she isn't," Aethlius replied, "She's brought a life back to the palace, I wasn't sure we would ever experience again."

Endymion couldn't help but smile at the thought. In her short time on Earth, she had managed to become even more beloved by his people than he was, and the knowledge didn't fill him with jealousy as he knew it once would have, but instead, with an immense pride.

"Are you doing your best to make this marriage work, Endymion?"

The prince snapped his head towards his father, once more, taken aback by the bluntness of his father's question. "Father-" he began, but Aethlius quickly interrupted.

"I have no doubt you're kind to her, Endymion. You have too much of your mother in you to be otherwise. But are you really doing all you can to make this union fruitful?"

Endymion blushed brightly. "Father, you know Serenity and I are trying to-"

"I don't mean bearing children, son," Aethlius chuckled at his son's assumption. "Though I would be lying if I said I wasn't looking forward to having a little one running the halls, again."

Endymion rolled his eyes affectionately. "Then what did you mean, father?"

"You and Serenity have many, many years ahead of you. I know you're aware of how long the moon's people live. And I have no doubt that the Silver Crystal will take you under its protection, as well," the wise king began, "But you must realize, Endymion, that you both have a chance to do such good with your marriage, both for your people and each other."

Aethlius paused, looking towards his son, who was, once again, lost in thought, before continuing on, "Even if your union does not result in love, though I have never doubted it will, you must be as invested in Serenity as she is in you. Your marriage will reflect in the Earth, Endymion. If it does not prosper, our people will not either."

Endymion frowned, nodding to his father, and Aethlius smiled gently in return.

"Just think about it, son," he said low, so only Endymion could hear, before holding up his hand to halt the party behind him. "We'll camp here for the night."

And Endymion's thoughts were lost in the shuffle of horses and men.

oOo

Serenity stood at the large windows inside her bedchamber, enjoying the warmth from the last rays of sunlight.

Standing here, basking in the sunset, she could almost pretend that everything was alright. She could almost forget the near overwhelming sadness that ruled her days and overtook her nightly dreams.

But reality had a way of always crashing down around her, and when the knock came at her door, Serenity sighed heavily, before calling out a breathy, "Come in."

Her sweet Naru opened the door, bowing low, as she always did, though Serenity had insisted she cease to do so, they were friends. "Your grace, there's a visitor here for you. I've been told they're waiting for you in your study."

Serenity smiled sadly. "Thank you, Naru. I'll be along shortly."

Naru smiled brightly back, bowing again, and leaving the princess alone once more.

Serenity took one last, longing glance at the setting sun, before she turned and walked calmly out the door of her bedchamber and into the long corridor that stretched to her study.

She marveled at how heavy her limbs felt, at how difficult it could be to place one foot in front of the other, to keep walking. But she had to, it was her duty to keep going, even when the world felt as if it were falling apart.

Ever since that night where Endymion had come to her rescue for the storm outside, her thoughts had been consumed by finding this woman he loved. Who she was, where she went, what she looked like...they were all things Serenity needed to know.

And not only for her own morbid curiosity, but for Endymion, as well.

She had managed to wrestle some information out of Kunzite, but he was, first and foremost, loyal to Endymion, and the prince had sworn his general to secrecy. Endymion had actually taken the time to make Kunzite promise he wouldn't reveal who his lover was to Serenity. And the thought irritated her greatly.

But it simply wouldn't do to dwell on such minor things, and Kunzite had given her enough information to go on. To find out that the woman she sought was named Beryl, the daughter of a prominent Lord who lived nearly a days ride from the palace.

It was to that home Beryl had fled some two months prior. Shortly after Serenity and Endymion's engagement was announced from what she could deduce.

Serenity had thought of going there, of seeking out this Beryl, but of course that wouldn't do. She was a princess. The heir to the entire Silver Millenium. The most high born woman in the

entire galaxy. And seeking out the scorned lover of her husband was simply something she could not do.

But nothing seemed to squelch her desire to meet this woman, and it was an absurd notion, she knew.

When she reached the door that led to her study, Serenity took in a deep breath, brushed off her skirts and straightened herself as she had seen her mother do countless times before meeting with important officials, holding her head high. And with a gentle push, the wooden door opened.

Meeting Beryl was a silly notion, indeed, but one she just couldn't shy away from.

The sight of her in the room caused Serenity's eyes to widen, and her breath to catch. This woman was beautiful. With long auburn hair, and eyes of emerald green. Her curves were accentuated by the gown she wore, and Serenity felt like a child compared to the display before her. But she squared her shoulders and straightened her back, determined to not let her intimidation show.

For there she was, bowing deeply before Serenity. The Lady Beryl. The one who Endymion loved. The answer she'd been looking for.

And the answer was simple, really, she could not leave the situation alone. Endymion was hurting. Her husband was in pain, longing for the one he had rightly loved before Serenity had come along, and ruined it all.

And the princess knew she was the only one with power and means to fix it.

When Serenity cleared her throat, Beryl rose from the her bowed stance, and their eyes met for the first time. As much as Serenity had wanted to dislike the woman who was the cause of her sadness, she could not.

Beryl's eyes were nervous, but kind, and none of the contempt Serenity had feared would be there, was present. Instead, Beryl seemed genuinely curious about her presence there, and the princess couldn't help but notice how the striking woman's gaze kept darting to the door, as if she were expecting someone else to come through.

Serenity never dreamed she'd be grateful for Endymion's absence, but when he and Aethlius had left two days prior for their annual hunting excursion, Serenity was relieved for the time she'd been given to think, and plan, and act without word getting back to her husband.

Not that she relished the idea of keeping secrets from him, but she knew Endymion was a kind man, and although he didn't love her, Serenity knew he would try to stop her from bearing any more pain than she already had to.

When she noticed Beryl begin to wring her hands nervously, Serenity moved around the chair in front of her, sitting, and gesturing for Beryl to do the same.

Serenity spoke first.

"Do you know why you are here, Lady Beryl?" she asked, her voice sounding much more akin to her mother's than her own in that moment, but Serenity did her best to keep her face soft.

Beryl's eyes darted to hers. "No, your grace. I must admit I do not."

"Were you expecting someone else to meet you?"

Beryl sighed, and looked down at her lap. "You are aware of my relationship with Endymion."

Serenity couldn't help the wry smile that lifted the corners of her lips. "Indeed."

"I can assure you, I have not contacted him since he told me of the engagement, nor has he attempted to contact me" Beryl defended.

"You think me a jealous woman, Lady Beryl?" Serenity asked, a twinge of hurt edging into her tone. And when Beryl failed to answer, Serenity went on. "I can assure you this meeting is not about jealousy. I know my husband well enough to not question his fidelity."

Beryl looked at her with confusion. "If I may be so bold, your grace-"

"Of course, in the spirit of full disclosure, I would be lying if I said I wasn't jealous of you," Serenity interrupted. "You are the woman who holds my husband's love and affection, and for that I will always be deeply jealous of what you share. But that does not give me an excuse to ignore what is right."

"What is right?"

"Yes," it was Serenity's turn to look down at her lap, trying desperately to keep her emotions steady. "I am here to offer you what you and my husband want most. Each other."

The red-haired woman's brows furrowed, and her face reflected a fear Serenity had been expecting might show itself.

"I can assure you, this isn't a trap, Lady Beryl. I did not bring you here to ensnare you, or to bring about your ruin," Serenity did her best to soothe, "You are here because I wish for my husband's happiness. And as much as I wish I could give that to him, I cannot."

Beryl's demeanor changed then, her face softening into a look that Serenity knew all too well. Pity.

"How long have you known?" she asked Serenity.

"Known what?" the princess replied, the hair on the back of her neck bristled at the look Beryl was giving her.

"That you're in love with Endymion."

Serenity felt all the air escape from her. How had this woman she'd only known for a few moments been able to read her so easily? How had she known what Serenity had only been able to acknowledge to herself for a few days?

It was unnerving.

Serenity took a deep breath in to steady herself, and tried her best to rid her cheeks of their traitorous blush. When she finally found her voice again, she tried her best to speak with the same authority her mother always did.

"I've known long enough to realize that I am not, nor will I ever be, what he wants."

A heavy silence hung between them after her confession, and Serenity was surprised at her own ability to hold Beryl's gaze, especially when she felt as if the smallest thing could shatter her at any moment.

Serenity was relieved when Beryl spoke again. "Pardon my bluntness, your grace, but...what exactly are you saying?"

Although Serenity had been preparing herself to answer that exact question for days, hearing it spoken out loud, was like a strike to the gut, and when she felt tears beginning to well up in her eyes, she knew the words needed to be said, before the dam burst.

"I am offering for you to come back to the palace, to live at court and to become Endymion's mistress."

Beryl had little reaction, except for the tiniest intake of breath, that Serenity would have missed completely if she hadn't had her gaze glued to the woman in front of her.

Beryl was silent for a moment, before she asked, her face somber, "Why would you request such a thing of me?"

Serenity let out a small, bitter laugh. "I have asked myself the same thing numerous times in recent days, Lady Beryl. And while I wish it was more complicated, more complex, the answer comes down to one, single thing. Love."

She paused, watching as Beryl blinked slowly. "I love my husband. So much, I can't sleep at night. And I would give anything to make him happy. Even at the expense of my own happiness."

Beryl did not speak, and Serenity watched with mild amusement, as she opened her mouth several times, and yet no sound came.

Serenity smiled. "I have shocked you, and I am truly sorry for that. But before we go any further, I must inform you that becoming Endymion's mistress is not without personal cost to yourself."

"You have conditions, I presume?" Beryl asked quietly, meeting Serenity's eyes with a look Serenity was certain contained a hint of admiration mixed with fear.

"I do. But I promise you, Lady Beryl, I will not attempt to make your life miserable. This is for Endymion's sake only. I only wish to make him happy."

Beryl nodded her head in understanding, her hair moving in gentle waves with her. "May I hear your conditions?"

"Of course," Serenity replied, "They're very simple, but integral for this to work for all of us. First, you are never to come to his bed. If he wishes to lie with you, or you with him, Endymion must come to your chambers."

"That's more than fair," Beryl said, "I can certainly agree to that."

"Good," the princess offered with a small smile. "Secondly, you are under no circumstances to conceive a child. It matters not to me how you prevent it from happening, but I cannot and will not tolerate any bastard children possibly harming the peace we have fought so long and hard for."

At this, Beryl's eyes left Serenity's and the princess could almost feel the overwhelming sadness emanating from the woman before her.

"I know this must be difficult for you to hear, but I couldn't allow you to come and take on this role, without you fully understanding what you must sacrifice in return," Serenity went on, compassion flooding through her for Beryl and the beautiful children who would never be.

"I can completely understand if you wish to hate me for the rest of your days," Serenity continued, when Beryl did not speak, "But I also pray you will come to understand my position in all of this. My duty, first and foremost is to the people of our kingdoms, and if anything that threatens the peace comes from what will undoubtedly be your, strong and earned, influence over Endymion, our deal will be for naught."

"I understand."

"And just as I have had to come to terms with the fact that Endymion's heart will never fully belong to me, can you come to terms with the fact that he will never be fully yours either? That you will have to share him with me for the remainder of your days with him?"

Beryl sighed, turning her head to look out the window of Serenity's study, staring at the moon rising steadily in the sky.

She was silent for a few, long moments, but when she turned back, Serenity was surprised by the sad, yet compassionate smile on her face.

"Even to have one more day with Endymion is more than I ever dared to dream, and it is certainly better than nothing."

Serenity felt something she could have sworn was affection at the woman before her surge through her veins. Yes, Beryl was the cause of her misery, but at the heart of the matter, they weren't so different from each other at all.

"Then it is here we find our common ground, Lady Beryl," Serenity said, feeling somewhat lighter in the strangest of ways, as she stood to move towards the door.

"I have just one more request of you," she said, turning back towards Beryl once she'd reached the door.

"Anything, your grace," Beryl replied, standing and bowing to Serenity, once more.

"Please do everything in your power to make sure I never see you and Endymion together," Serenity quietly pleaded. "I am certain I cannot bear it."

Beryl sighed, cocking her head to the side, and Serenity saw a deep sadness reflected in her eyes. Sadness not for Beryl's predicament, but for her.

"I promise you," she said, and Serenity nodded, turning back towards the door.

"And Princess Serenity?"

The future queen of the moon paused, and replied without facing her guest, "Yes?"

"Thank you."

oOo

Endymion gracefully dismounted his horse, in one, fluid movement, handing the reins to the stable hand who was waiting to lead the steed away.

His heart was lighter than it had been in months, and after the conversation he'd had with his father just days before, the prince was determined to find a way to explain to Serenity how he felt.

That he wanted to try and make their marriage work as best as it possibly could.

After all, they had promised to always be honest with one another, and this was certainly something that would not do to keep bottled up inside him.

Of course, there was a certain fear of rejection, but Endymion knew Serenity to be of the sweetest nature, and he also knew she would never turn him away completely.

The young royal walked briskly into the palace, past numerous workers, not even pausing when he greeted them all by name. And when his eyes fell upon the one person he knew would be aware of Serenity's whereabouts, Endymion called out, and nearly jogged in his haste to get to her.

"Naru! Do you know where she is? I desperately need to see her," he asked with an uncharacteristic excitedness.

Endymion was confused, when Naru looked at him with contempt, and her curt reply came as a dismissal. "She's in your sitting room," she said, bowing quickly and walking away in the direction from whence he'd come.

But he decided to put Naru's treatment of him out of his mind, for there were much greater things to worry about at the moment.

And he found himself breaking into a sprint in his eagerness to reach Serenity, grateful for the empty corridor that led to the large door containing his and Serenity's chambers.

Endymion stopped, his hand reaching out to rest on the door handle, as he let the gravity of what he was about to do wash over him.

He wanted this. Wanted her. And though he knew it might not be the easiest road, he was willing to walk it, together, with her.

Smiling to himself, and taking in a deep breath, Endymion pushed the door open.

"Ren, I-"

But the sight that greeted him was not that of endless blonde hair, pale skin and blue eyes.

Instead, a voice like honey met his ears, familiar and foreign all at once, and his vision blurred in a sea of red.

"Hello, Endymion."

Chapter Text

Serenity had hoped that bringing Beryl back into Endymion's life would better her relationship with him. She had given him back his heart, after all.

But oh, how very wrong she had been.

And as she sat across the table from him, setting eyes upon her husband for the first time in days, the sting of her naivete become nearly too much to bear.

The princess could feel Venus and Kunzite's uncomfortable gaze on them, as they met for a briefing of the week's events, the tension that filled the air impossible to ignore.

Kunzite was the first to brave speech. "Endymion, you remember that you and Serenity are meeting with the ambassadors from the Middle Eastern territories, today?"

Endymion rolled his eyes. "Yes, oh great schedule keeper. How could I possibly forget when you've already reminded me a dozen times in the past two days?"

Serenity, ever the peacemaker, did her best to diffuse the situation. "Endy, I'm sure Kunzite just wants to make sure I don't forget. You know how absentminded I can be," she said with a soft smile, reaching her small hand across the table, and placing it gently over his larger one.

But Endymion immediately snatched his hand back, icy cold eyes, that she hadn't seen since those very first days together, stared back at her. "Stop trying to placate me, Serenity. I'm not a child."

She took in a tiny gasp of air at the harshness of his words, the use of her full name cutting through her more deeply than it ever should have.

"Endy, I…"

"I'll see to the ambassadors by myself," he interrupted. "I have a feeling they'll not want an outsider intruding on the negotiations."

She felt Venus bristle beside her, the senshi's mouth opening in order to allow Endymion to hear exactly what she thought of his attitude, so Serenity continued on.

"Kunzite, what else is on the agenda for today?"

The general looked startled at the sound of his name, as he'd been glaring at Endymion for some moments. But when his eyes finally settled on Serenity, his wits returned. "It looks like you have tea with the duchess this afternoon. I have it down that Endymion will be joining you, as well."

At this pronouncement, Endymion laughed a short, derisive laugh. "I hardly think my presence is needed entertaining idle court gossip."

Serenity's eyes flew to her husband, frustration rising in her at his overly relaxed and cocky posture. "But Endymion, I specifically told the duchess you'd be joining us. How exactly would I manage to explain your absence?"

The prince was quiet for a moment, an arrogant smirk making its way onto his lips, as he leaned forward towards her.

"You seem rather adept in making decisions for me, princess. Surely you can figure something out."

And with those words, he rose from his chair, leaving the room and three stunned people behind him.

An uncomfortable silence settled over them, until Kuntize sighed deeply. He stood and bowed to Serenity. "I am very sorry, Princess Serenity. If you'll excuse me, I have a petulant child to attend to."

As soon as the door slammed shut behind the general, Serenity knew what would commence.

"What the hell was that?" Venus snarled, standing from her chair, as she began pacing the room.

Serenity sighed. "Venus-"

"You said things were better, Serenity! You said he wasn't acting like that anymore!"

"I know, it's just-"

"If this is better, Serenity, we need to have a serious discussion about how people are supposed to be treated."

"No, Venus, you don't-"

"That no good, lowlife, piece of-"

"Venus!" Serenity yelled at her senshi, finally having enough of being interrupted and ignored. "That's enough!"

Venus stopped her pacing abruptly, falling gracefully back into her chair. "I'm sorry, Serenity, but we can't just allow this to go on! Your mother wouldn't stand for it. I won't stand for it."

"Mother isn't here, Venus. And there's nothing that can be done that I haven't tried already."

Venus laughed bitterly. "Oh, I'm sure there a few things you haven't tried, that I'd be more than happy to show him."

"You'll do no such thing," Serenity replied in a commanding tone that still somehow managed to convey her affection for her senshi. "Besides, I have no one to blame but myself for this. Endymion isn't at fault."

Venus' face registered confusion and anger. "What do you mean it isn't Endymion's fault? Last I checked he was in full possession of his faculties. There's no excuse for him to treat you as such."

Serenity looked down at her hands that were wringing nervously in her lap, an embarrassed blush coloring her cheeks. "Venus...I...might have done something I didn't tell you about."

She heard Venus' intake of breath, shock apparent at her admission. "Go on," the senshi said, doing her best to mask her emotions.

"Well, you see, I…" Serenity began, wondering just how much she should reveal of her visit with Beryl, and finally decided that since the deed was done, there was no reason to withhold the information from Venus any longer. "I invited Endymion's former lover, here, to the palace, to become his mistress."

Serenity finally chanced a look at Venus, and immediately regretted it, when she saw the woman's eyes grow large with disbelief.

"You did...what?" Venus managed to get out after a few, long moments of silence.

"Venus, you must hear me out-"

"Serenity, why? Why would you do that?!"

"Because I love him, Venus," Serenity said with conviction, as if it explained every action she'd taken, and to her, it did.

Venus sat back, exhaling loudly, the fight leaving her almost instantly. She looked at Serenity with compassionate eyes, and a sad smile. "Of course you do."

Serenity couldn't help but giggle at this. "I'm surprised you hadn't noticed."

Venus raised an eyebrow at her princess, and wiggled her finger at Serenity in mock sternness. "Well, you, young lady, have made a habit of hiding your emotions from me."

Serenity smiled sweetly at her friend, knowing how angry Venus would be at herself for missing such a monumental thing in her life. "Venus, you musn't be so hard on yourself. I could have sought you out. I should have sought you out. But I think part of me knew you'd try to talk me out of what I'd decided, and I simply had to be that way."

Venus affectionately rolled her eyes at Serenity. "Only you would think the scenario where you end up heartbroken as being the only way."

"His happiness is everything to me," Serenity said sadly, "And I thought that things would at least stay the way they'd been, bringing her back here. But I guess he was only being kind to me because he was lonely, and now that Beryl is in his life once again, I revert to the annoyance I was before."

There was a brief silence before Venus spoke again. "Beryl's her name?"

Serenity nodded, doing her best to keep the flood of tears that threatened to spill out at bay.

"What a silly name," Venus said with a degree of disdain. "Who in their right mind would name someone after a container?"

Serenity looked at her friend with confusion, until the meaning of Venus' statement finally registered in her thoughts. She couldn't help the true laugh that escaped her then. "No, no, you misunderstand. Her name isn't barrel like the container. It's Beryl. A gemstone, I believe."

With a wave of her hand, Venus dismissed her error. "Well, that's rather presumptuous, don't you think? Naming your child after a precious stone?"

Serenity giggled again. "Oh, Venus. I do love you so."

Venus smiled at Serenity, reaching over to take her hand comfortingly. "Serenity, you can't live the rest of your life like this. You're in pain!"

"There's no other way," Serenity replied. "My heart will always belong to him, but I won't allow him to be punished because he loved someone else first."

"But what about you? What of your happiness?"

"I will find my happiness in his."

"Serenity…"

The princess patted her senshi's hand. "I'm not there, yet, Venus, but I do hope to be, someday."

She did her best to hide the pang of jealousy that went through her, knowing full well, Endymion might be with Beryl that very instant, having cleared his day of all things that even remotely involved his wife.

But Venus had known Serenity long enough to recognize the signs. "Well, can you just imagine what the sex would be like with a barrel? All stiff and wooden and boring like?" she said, a visible shudder running through her.

Serenity laughed and rolled her eyes. "Venus, do you ever think of anything else?"

And her giggling continued for quite some time after, when Venus answered with mock indignation, "Why should I?"

oOo

The moon hung high above her in the night sky, when Serenity found herself in Endymion's gardens.

She felt somewhat unwelcome here, now, after everything that had transpired with her husband, but this place was the only one where she still felt connected to him in some way.

Of course, there was her bed, but that connection seemed to leave a hole much bigger than any she wanted to deal with at the moment.

But no, this place, his garden, the one he poured life into. Where he'd first called her, 'Ren,' and everything felt perfect for a few moments…

This place she would love. Would always love.

Endymion hadn't come to her that evening. Not that she'd expected him to. But every night that passed with his absence only served as a reminder of everything she wanted, and would never have.

And so, her heart swelled with hope at the sound of heavy footsteps, and she jumped up from her place at the bench, twirling around to face the noise.

But the swell calmed to nothing when she recognized the person coming towards her as Kunzite.

"General Kunzite," she said warmly, refusing to allow her disappointment to show. "Forgive my reaction, I thought, perhaps, you were Endymion."

Kunzite bowed low, and when he raised himself, Serenity took the time to study his eyes for the first time in the bright moonlight.

There was a sadness there that she couldn't place.

"You need not apologize to me, your grace," he replied kindly. "I am afraid the prince is rather...indisposed at the moment."

Serenity's heart sunk again.

"Well, that's no matter, now is it? Would you like to join me?" Serenity asked, brilliant smile plastered on her face, as she gestured towards her recently abandoned bench.

Kunzite shifted nervously, obviously not expecting her invitation. "Uh...of course," he recovered quickly, coming around to sit next to her, as she settled onto the bench, once more.

They were silent for a few moments, an uneasy air surrounding them. But Serenity had never been one for silent spaces.

"I've been meaning to apologize to you for some time, Kunzite," Serenity began, and she smiled as he turned towards her with confusion. "I pestered you so about the identity of the woman Endymion loves, and I shouldn't have put you in such a position."

"Nor should he have put you in one where you felt the need to come to me, instead of him," he answered with a hint of anger, that Serenity somehow knew wasn't directed at her.

She blushed, and looked down, unsure of what to say, and she was grateful when Kunzite spoke again.

"Endymion is stubborn, your grace, as I'm sure you know," he said, a slight twitch of a smile on his lips. "And while that particular trait serves him well, on occasion, he is often incredibly hard headed, refusing to acknowledge that there could possibly be another answer or solution other than his."

Serenity smiled, reaching her hand out to pat his affectionately. "Indeed, I know this well, but it is one reason we love him so."

Kunzite didn't startle at her admission, as she feared he might. Instead, he took his other hand, placing it on top of Serenity's, squeezing it comfortingly, as he stared up at the night sky. "It is our burden to bear, yes."

Serenity giggled, while she pulled her hand back into her lap, before she turned back towards her companion, a serious question on her tongue. "How do you bear it, Kunzite?"

He smiled sadly at her. "Endymion is like a brother to me, and as in any relationship, platonic or otherwise, we hurt each other occasionally."

Kunzite turned his head towards her, as she sighed longingly. "But in the end, we love each other as brothers, and I know that underneath that stubborn, ridiculous, arrogant persona he's managed to cultivate for himself, there is a wonderful human being. One who I know would lay down his life for me in an instant, as I would for him."

Serenity smiled at him genuinely. "It does my soul good to know that you both have each other."

"And it does mine good to know that he has you," Kunzite answered with a sincerity that frightened her.

"Me?" she replied incredulously. "I mean no more to Endymion than I did on the day I arrived."

Kunzite chuckled at her softly, an amused look on his face. "Just don't give up on him, Princess Serenity. As I said, he's stubborn, but he's not stupid."

The princess felt the familiar rush of confusion flow through her at his words. But she didn't allow herself to dwell on them, for she knew Endymion had made his choice.

So, she simply smiled at him. "Thank you, Kunzite, I hope Endymion realizes how lucky he is to have you as a friend."

He smiled back warmly, lifting her hand to his lips, where he placed a gentle kiss. "I remind him of the fact everyday," Kunzite replied with a smirk, and he was rewarded with another laugh from Serenity.

"Goodnight, Kunzite," she said, as she rose from her seat, bending down to kiss his cheek in affection. "Sleep well."

But as she walked away, Serenity failed to notice the tall, handsome figure of her husband behind a nearby pillar, and the anger that radiated from the very core of him.

Chapter Text

"What are you doing here?" he choked out, frozen in place and grateful for the chair that separated the two of them, as the large sitting room they occupied seemed to close in around him.

Beryl smiled sheepishly at him. "Endymion, aren't you glad to see me?"

She moved one step forward, but stopped when he flinched at the movement.

"What are you doing here?" he asked again, allowing himself to look over her form fully, surprised when he felt nothing but a deep fondness towards the woman standing before him. There was not a trace of the love he'd fought so hard to keep.

He blinked slowly, and a sense of guilt rose in him at the realization that the love was gone.

It had seemed as if it had been years since he last saw Beryl, but in truth, it had only been a matter of weeks. He swallowed thickly, as more guilt overtook him.

The smile didn't fade from her face, but he knew her well enough to sense the fear that was beginning to creep in.

"I've come back to you. We can be together. Just like we always wanted," she told him softly.

Endymion looked away from her, finally feeling that their proximity was too much, and he moved swiftly towards the roaring fireplace, his hand reaching out to grip the mantle.

He took in a shaking breath trying to calm his spinning mind.

"Beryl…" he began, not sure at all of the words that would come after. "I'm...I'm married, now. You know this. That's why...why you left in the first place."

A rustle of skirts could be heard behind him, and he wasn't surprised when he felt her hand on his shoulder.

"But it doesn't matter, now, love," she cajoled, his eyes flying to hers nervously at the endearment that slipped from her lips. "Your wife brought me here."

His heart stopped at her words.

Serenity had….

"W-what?" he asked, and he knew there was no mistaking the pain in his voice.

Beryl's smile faltered slightly. "Serenity brought me here. To be your mistress. She's fine with this, with us. Blessed it, even."

He was frozen, again. Eyes staring past Beryl towards an unknown point in the room, unseeing, while his ears rung with the pounding of blood through his heart.

Endymion had long known Serenity wasn't in love with him. He had come to accept this, convincing himself that perhaps in time, she would come to love him as he did her.

But if what Beryl was saying was the truth, not only was Serenity not in love with him, she was casting him aside to his former lover, even going out of her way to find Beryl and bring her back to the palace.

He was surprised at the depth of pain he felt at the thought. It surged through him, clouding any and all sensations, almost causing him to forget where he was. Who he was with…

"Endymion? Are you alright?" a voice rang through his thoughts.

He shook his head, finding his voice again. "No. No, I'm not."

And he moved away from her, again, moving back towards the chairs seated in the middle of the room, and he collapsed in one, running shaking fingers through his hair.

He nearly jumped when he felt warm, soft hands on his, pulling them away from his head, to rest softly in his lap. Opening his eyes, Endymion saw Beryl kneeled before him, the endless pools of her green eyes pleading.

Those eyes...the very ones he used to become lost in daily. The eyes he used to think were the most beautiful he'd ever seen. But these eyes were the wrong color, belonged to the wrong person.

"Darling, I know you're a man of moral principles, it's one of the many reasons I love you so. But don't you see? We can be together now! Serenity has given us her blessing!"

"But I have not."

The words came without a second thought, and even when she gasped, and pulled her hands away from his, hurt apparent across her face, Endymion could not bring himself to regret them.

Beryl's eyes registered a realization, and he knew without a doubt that she had discovered his truth.

"You...love her?" Beryl whispered, after long moments of silence where only the crackling of the fire could be heard within the room.

A tortured expression took over his face. "I tried. I tried so hard not to, Beryl. I fought against it. I was horrible to her! I did everything I could to push her away. But she was too good. Too loving. And she found a way in. I couldn't stop it. Didn't want to stop it."

Endymion hung his head, hands threaded through the dark locks, once more. "I'm so sorry, Beryl."

The silence returned, hanging thick and heavy in the air between them, and he didn't dare to look at her, until he heard a little puff of air escape her.

HIs head shot up, and was shocked to see a knowing, half smile on her lips, even when her eyes betrayed her, revealing an intense pain.

He hated himself for putting it there.

"I told you, you would love her, did I not?"

The same sad smile graced his lips. "You always did know me better than I did myself."

Endymion watched her rise from her place on the floor, as she brushed off her skirts, straightening herself. She walked briskly towards the door, and he found himself jumping up after her, grabbing her hand and turning her gently back towards him.

"Beryl, I'm so sorry, but I just can't-"

She reached up, placing her hand to his lips to silence him.

"I know," she breathed. And she stood on her toes, placing the barest of kisses to his lips, before whispering. "Goodbye, Endymion."

oOo

The scene before him made his blood boil unlike anything he'd ever known.

He was willing to accept that Serenity felt nothing for him. At least, he was certain he eventually would. But this? This was beyond anything he'd believed her capable of.

There she was, right in front of his eyes, laughing, smiling at his general. His closest friend and confidant. The man who, up until this very moment, Endymion was sure would never betray him.

He tried to be rational. Perhaps it wasn't what it seemed! He knew he was prone to rash judgements. But the moment he saw Kunzite kiss Serenity's hand, as she stood to leave, and her cheeks blush so bright he could see it even in the darkness of night, when she bent to kiss his cheek, Endymion knew there was no mistaking it.

His wife was seeking to have an affair. And not just any affair. One that would cut him deeper than any blade could.

The rage that filled him was nearly uncontrollable.

Thoughts of physical violence towards Kunzite fluttered through his mind, but as quickly as they came, they were gone, for that was a line he refused to ever cross. Even for this. Ever.

And although the thought of Kunzite's nose cracking underneath his fist was an appealing one, Endymion knew it would only be a temporary fix to a much larger problem.

And so, his attention flew back to his wife, who by now, was halfway down the corridor back to her chambers. Their chambers.

Before he knew what was happening, he felt his feet moving swiftly, following closely behind her. There was simply no way he was going to let this go, tonight.

Yes, he was a husband, but he was no lap dog, and he knew, with a large amount of certainty, that his wife could more than hold her own in a verbal sparring match. She had no need for anyone to protect her or speak for her.

Endymion was beginning to wonder if this had been Serenity's plan all along. To bring Beryl back in order to justify her own tryst?

She had already wounded him by bringing Beryl to the palace, and though he knew he would hand her the knife to do it over and over again, he needed to try and make her understand….

Understand what, though, he wasn't sure.

How much he loved her? Certainly not.

Of course he did love her, more than anything he'd ever loved in his life. But he wasn't stupid enough to hand her his heart on a silver platter. Not when she had already proven to him how little she cared for him by casting him aside to Beryl.

He hadn't told Serenity he'd sent Beryl away. His pride had kept him from it. And perhaps, if he was completely honest with himself, the prince was also angry, not only at Serenity, but at himself.

How incredibly fickle he was to have loved one woman so deeply, and barely a month later, be even more deeply in love with another.

And it was this anger that fueled him forward, reaching the door to her chambers only moments after Serenity had shut it behind her.

He banged loudly on the door twice, and without waiting for an answer, Endymion barged inside, slamming the door behind him.

Serenity whirled around at the noise, her face registering surprise briefly before a mask of calm. But he knew her face better than his own, and he didn't miss any emotion that crossed it, now matter how adept she was at hiding them.

"Is something wrong, Endymion?" she asked nonchalantly, as if they were having a normal conversation on one of their garden walks.

A sardonic laugh escaped him. "Don't insult my intelligence by playing these games with me, Serenity. You know full well why I'm here."

Her brow furrowed, and he noticed her hands clenched into fists at her side. "No, I don't, and I don't appreciate you coming in here, the one place you promised me was mine alone, and accusing me of something I haven't the slightest idea about."

Endymion moved towards her, until he was standing right before her, causing the princess to have to lift her head up to make eye contact with her.

"You thought you'd go and have a little fun did you? Now that you've got me taken care of, you believed you could do anything you wanted?"

"Endymion, what are you talking about?" she demanded, and he could feel the anger starting to rise in her.

"You think you have everyone fooled, don't you, pretty princess?" he said calmly, an arrogant smirk on his face.

Serenity's cheeks were flushed, her eyes wide and dark, and she straightened herself to her full height. Even though she only came to his chest, Endymion did take a step back from her intimidating form.

She was most certainly meant to be a queen.

"And why on Earth would it matter to you? You have what you want, now. You don't have any right to care about me!" she shouted back at him.

Serenity moved to walk away from him, but her foot caught on the edge of the rug causing her to fly towards the floor.

Endymion reached for her without thinking, his quick reflexes catching her, as he fell with her, twisting them so that he took the impact of the fall.

When he opened his eyes, she was hovering over him, eyes wide.

"Are you alright?" she asked, voice filled with genuine concern.

He'd nearly forgotten how intoxicating it was to have her this close to him. She overwhelmed his senses, and he found himself drowning in the sight and smell and feel of her.

If she had shown even the slightest indication of wanting to get away from him, he wouldn't have stopped her, no matter how badly he wanted to kiss her or bury himself so deep inside her, it would be impossible to tell where she ended, and he began.

But she didn't move away.

Instead, she reached her hand up, and gently traced her thumb over his bottom lip.

Every synapse in his brain was firing at her touch, his mouth running dry. "Ren, I-"

She crushed her lips to his, whatever thought that had been in his head flew away instantly at the feel of her.

Both desperate in their touches, giving and taking from each other with equal fervor with their tongues, teeth and hands, and they undressed each other with a swiftness born only from the most basic of needs, not even bothering to move from the floor.

Their clothes were gone, and any remaining barrier between them disappeared, and Serenity lowered herself onto him in one long stroke.

oOo

She awoke as the first light of dawn, trickled in through the window, an awful dream she couldn't quite remember still danced in her mind, taunting her.

Blinking a few times so her eyes could adjust to the day, Serenity realized she was not where she should have been, and worse, she was alone.

Sometime in the night, Endymion must have moved her to the bed from their spot on the floor, only covering her with a thin blanket, just before he had fled her chambers.

Surely, he was with Beryl, now. The one he wanted. The one she would never live up to.

It didn't take long for the sobs to come. Heaving, heartbroken cries wretched from her throat, and there was nothing the princess could do to stop them.

She had held them in for far too long, convincing herself she could be happy, as long as he was. But she hadn't counted on what his angry stares and cold demeanor would do to her. How badly his attitude would wreak havoc in her life.

Serenity had tried to be strong. Tried to put on a brave face. But the hurt was too much.

She found herself wishing for the days where she would cry at her mother's knee, and the beautiful, kind woman would brush away the tears, and whisper reassurances in her ear.

But her mother wasn't here, now. No one was.

Princess Serenity of the Moon was very much alone.

And the tears continued to fall.

Chapter Text

She couldn't recall the last time she'd felt so nervous. Being a princess had prepared her for nearly any situation life could possibly throw at her.

But being summoned by her father-in-law was not one of them.

Serenity hadn't seen Aethlius in a number of days, and since the wedding, any time she'd had the honor of spending in his presence was formal at the very least.

So, when she'd received his summons only minutes ago, dread bubbled up in her.

Had he learned of her troubles with Endymion? Did he know that Endymion was in love with Beryl? Was he, perhaps, going to send her back home to the moon?

Any number of possibilities swirled in her head as she listened to her heels clack on the stone floors. And when she reached the door to the king's meeting chambers, Serenity could feel her hands shaking.

She took a steadying breath before knocking lightly on the door, and held her breath while she waited for an answer.

"Come in," came the muffled reply.

Serenity opened the door quietly, and stepped inside where Aethlius was waiting for her.

He sat in a chair by the fire, his reading spectacles hung low on his nose, as he poured over a thick book. When she entered he closed the book, placing it down on the end table next to him, and smiled warmly at her.

She stepped further into the room, and curtsied low. "Your grace, you wanted to see me?"

Aethlius didn't move from his chair, nor did the smile leave his face, as he chuckled low. "None of that now, dear. We both know if anyone should be bowing in this room, it's me to you."

Serenity blushed and smiled.

"Come. Sit here with me," the king continued, patting the arm of the chair next to him.

Moving swiftly to comply with his demands, Serenity briefly stumbled on her skirts, but righted herself without a flinch. She had become used to her frequent tumbles by now.

Once she was seated, she turned towards Aethlius, already feeling more at ease in his presence.

"Is there something I can do for you, your grace?" she asked, her curiosity still getting the better of her.

"Perhaps it is more of what I can do for you, child," he replied, dark blue eyes twinkling with the light from the fire.

Serenity, raised her eyebrows in confusion. "What do you mean?"

Aethlius reached over, and took her hands into his. "Are you happy, here, Serenity?"

She sucked in a breath at his query. How could she possibly answer a question full of such complexities?

"Well…" she started, turning her eyes away from him, afraid he would see her every thought and feeling reflected there. "I certainly do miss home, from time to time, but it is so very lovely here."

He laughed lightly at her response. "Ever the diplomat, aren't you? Your mother taught you well, my dear."

Serenity blushed furiously, eyes darting nervously back to the king's. "But I truly have had some wonderful times, here!" she protested, only causing him to chuckle harder.

"But that's not the question at hand, now is it?" he said, before his face turned serious. "Are you happy, here, Serenity?"

She found herself unable to look away from him, his eyes capturing hers just like his son's did, and she found it was useless to continue the ruse, for it seemed as if Aethlius already knew the answer.

"No, your grace. I'm not."

Aethlius patted her hand gently, before moving away to sit back in his seat. "And why is that? Is someone in particular causing you trouble?"

A sad smile claimed her lips.

"It seems as if you already know the answer to that, my lord," she said quietly.

He sighed deeply. "My son seems to be rather adept at making a mess of things."

Serenity shook her head, jumping to Endymion's defense instinctually, words spilling out before she could stop them. "Oh, no, it's not Endymion's fault, you see. He was already in love with someone else before we were married, and-"

"Serenity," Aethlius cut her off with a stern tone, as if he were her father, scolding her for speaking out of turn.

But when he spoke again, his voice was kind and his eyes soft. "Whether or not Endymion was in love with another, is immaterial. His duty is to you, and you alone."

It was Serenity's turn to sigh, defeated.

"He has much of his mother in him," he went on, "all passion and love with a stubborn streak that would rival that of any mule."

"He certainly is all of those things," she giggled at the example.

"Does he know?" Aethlius asked quietly.

"W-what?" she breathed, taken aback by the sudden change of subject.

"Does he know that you're in love with him?"

She cast her eyes down, again, a brief silence hanging in the air between them, before she whispered, "No."

Serenity heard the creaking of the chair next to her, as the king stood up. She raised her head in alarm, as it appeared he was going to be taking his leave of her.

But when he reached the door, he paused, turning back to her, as he leaned against the frame. "There is something you should know, Serenity."

Her mouth opened, but her voice refused to speak, while her eyes grew large at the fear that began to spread through her veins.

"Endymion sent Beryl away the instant he found her in his sitting room," he said, the weight of his words crashing into Serenity like a giant boulder. "There was no hesitation in his order, from what I am to understand."

Blood was pounding in her ears, and her breath came up short. "H-how did you…?"

Aethlius smiled warmly at her. "My dear, there is nothing that goes on in this palace that I'm not aware of," he said, winking mischievously. "It's my job, you know."

oOo

Endymion had tried to keep Serenity out of his mind. Really, he had. But his wife had a way of creeping into his thoughts no matter where or what he did.

His favorite places and pastimes were now haunted with his wife. The gardens, the kitchens, the stables. Even his bedroom only served as a reminder of her. A reminder that she didn't want him.

And logically he knew that Kunzite wasn't really at fault for the state of his and Serenity's relationship. But when the general had him sulking in the atrium that morning, berading the prince about how he hadn't shown his face at the breakfast meeting they'd had scheduled, it was all too convenient.

"I'm warning you, Kunzite," he snarled, trying to walk away from his friend, but Kunzite persisted.

"Warning me of what? Your ridiculous attitude?" Kunzite countered, matching Endymion's pace, step for step.

Endymion stopped dead in his tracks. "My ridiculous attitude? My ridiculous attitude?!"

Kunzite stopped, as well, turning back towards his prince, annoyance and frustration lacing every word. "I don't believe there was any mistaking what I said."

"You've got some fucking nerve, you know that, Kunzite? Coming here, acting like I owe you the world, when you know good and well just how much damage you've done to my life," he sneered, unable to hold back the jealousy that had been coursing through his blood since he'd seen his wife with his general a few days prior.

"What the hell are you talking about, Endymion?"

"I saw you with her."

Kunzite's brow creased as if his head were hurting. "You saw me with whom?"

Endymion laughed derisively. "As if there's any other woman I would be referring to."

The general glared. "Well, from the way you treat your wife, I'm almost certain you couldn't be talking about her."

If there was a line, both men had apparently agreed to cross it.

Endymion smiled sardonically, as ice creeped into his veins. "And to think I considered you my brother."

Before Kunzite could react, the sound of applause filled the large, open space they occupied. Their heads flew towards a low wall, where both had missed the presence of Venus.

She hopped down from her vantage point in one, fluid movement. "Oh, please, don't let me stop you. It's been very entertaining."

Kunzite smirked at her, but Endymion continued to snarl. "You have no business here, Venus."

She smiled, but the gesture didn't quite reach her eyes, and Endymion couldn't help the shiver that ran down his spine. "Like hell I don't."

Endymion sighed exasperatedly, running a frustrated hand through his hair. "Listen, Venus-"

"No," she said, almost as if she were commanding him. "It's time for you to listen, prince."

Venus walked up to him, and though she was at least a head shorter, Endymion felt like a mouse that had been cornered by a cat.

"Do you have any idea just how much damage you've done?" she accused, blue eyes piercing through him.

And though the slight but fierce woman frightened him, it wasn't in his nature to back down. "What damage I've done? Damage to whom?!"

She raised an almost amused eyebrow at him. "Are you honestly that dense, Endymion? And to think I believed you were actually capable of intelligence."

"Venus-" he growled threateningly.

She held up her hand to silence him, as if she were his superior, as if she were allowed to speak over him. "Uh uh. It's your turn to listen, remember?"

Endymion glared at her, crossing his arms, but remaining silent.

"You stand there, accusing your general, your friend of having, 'some nerve,' but you…" she broke off, shaking her head, and moving her eyes up and down his form. "...you, Endymion, have more nerve than any idiot I've ever met."

He rolled his eyes, not even bothering to hide his distaste for the woman in front of him.

"From day one, you treated Serenity as if she weren't worthy of your time. As if she were some nuisance you had to tolerate."

"I apologized for-"

"Did you, Endymion? Did you really?"

Endymion looked down at his feet, which Venus apparently took as a concession.

"Just one, short month ago, you told her you loved someone else. That, I guess, I can forgive, since it was through no fault of your own, but she never deserved your behavior."

A defeated sigh left him. "I know she didn't."

"And then, by some miracle, you start to act like a human being. Which caused Serenity to fall for you, because of course she did! I'm not sure if you'd noticed or not, since you're so busy being wrapped up in yourself, but you happen to be married to one of the most kind and good creatures I've ever met."

He was suddenly confused at Venus' words. "What? Serenity didn't fall for me-"

But the senshi kept going, her list of accusations only seeming to grow as her speech went on. "But by the time I'd realized what was going on, it was too late. She was already in love with you."

"She was in love-"

"Not only that, but she wanted you to be happy. So much so that she went and brought your former lover back to be your fucking mistress." Venus shook her head, almost as if she was having a hard time believing what she was saying.

"She loves you so much, she brought your lover back to be your fucking mistress. And what did you do to repay her?! You reverted back to being a two year old, because of course you did! That's who you really are, it would seem.

"You don't deserve to even kiss the ground she walks on, you stupid, idiot boy."

Endymion was frozen, not even his eyes blinked, and his vision swam because of it.

"How the hell you manage to live with yourself, I'll never know. You treated the most precious thing that ever walked into your life as if she were completely expendable. Does it feel good, Endymion? Does it feel good to know you treated someone who loves you like that? You're despicable."

She leveled Endymion with one last, terrorizing glare, before she flipped her hair over her shoulder, and stormed away from them, the sound of her shoes on the floor echoing after her.

Endymion still hadn't moved, unable to process the myriad of feelings Venus had left in her wake.

The silence around him was deafening, and when Kunzite cleared his throat awkwardly, the prince jumped, startled from the sound.

His eyes flew to Kunzite's, an unmistakable urge growing in him. "I…" he started, eyes wide, "I have to go."

And he turned, running, his feet taking him in the direction of his gardens.

Chapter Text

He was running faster than he could ever remember running in his life, and yet, everything around him seemed to be moving in slow motion. As if his entire life had led him to this very moment.

Endymion ran past numerous workers, many calling out out to him in concern, but he just kept running, his brain unable to form responses, due to the fact that it was solely focused on one thing, one person, in particular.

Serenity.

She loved him. She didn't want to push him to the side. She didn't want to have an affair with another man. She loved him.

How could he have missed it? How was it possible for him to have been so, incredibly blind? All those moments. Her hands trembling under his in the kitchen. How she'd clung to him so desperately during the thunderstorm. Her eyes lighting up everytime she saw him.

And god, how he'd treated her! There was so much he needed to apologize for! So much he needed to say…

When he entered his gardens, and she came into view, his feet stopped, and his heart along with them.

She was sitting on a stone bench, her back to him, bathed in sunlight, and Endymion smiled to himself when she leaned her head back slightly, eyes closed, basking in the warmth of the sun.

He wasn't sure how long he stood there, staring at her, the feelings coursing through him refusing to allow his body to move. But the need to talk to her, to tell her he loved her, grew so strong, his heart told his feet to move before his brain could even think to stop himself.

His footsteps were soft on the lush grass, making almost no noise, until a twig snapped and lay broken beneath his feet.

Serenity turned her head at the sound, alarm registering on her face, for the briefest of moments. But her startled expression soon led to the sweetest smile Endymion had ever seen.

His chest heaved with deep breaths in and out. "Ren, there's so much I need-"

"Come sit with me, Endy," she said quietly, patting the empty space on the bench next to her.

Endymion swallowed nervously, opening his mouth to ask her why, but the dryness there kept him from speaking. After another long, silent moment stretched between them, his feet were moving again, and in ten strides, he was standing before her.

Serenity looked up at him, the same, sweet smile on her lips, as he battled with himself internally. He was afraid of her rejection, and he'd pushed it down when the urge to see her overwhelmed him. But now, here he was. There was no escaping what was before him.

Should he sit? Should he stay or run? Was there any possible hope of atonement?

She loves you.

The words rang through his head, his decision made crystal clear, and he sat next to her, hands shaking. He placed them on his thighs, hoping it might do something to hide just how frightened he was.

He turned towards her, meeting her eyes for the first time in days. Sucking in a breath, he suddenly became very aware of just how much the princess before him had claimed his heart. In that moment she was everything, and he knew she would remain so, until the last breath was drawn from his lungs.

Endymion smiled at her then, a peace spreading through him like he hadn't felt in such a long time. "Ren, I don't even know where to start," he said with the slightest hint of a laugh, his hand raising to thread through his hair.

Serenity didn't speak, her only response was a slight widening of her smile, and she reached over, taking one of his shaking hands from its place on his leg, holding it gently in hers.

He watched as she gently rubbed his skin with her thumb, her eyes closing while she drew in a deep breath of her own. And when she opened her eyes, once more, Endymion felt that same peace that welled up in himself, radiating from her in waves.

"It's alright, Endy. Everything is alright."

The prince's smile fell slightly. He knew everything would be alright, but there was still so much he needed to tell her. "Serenity, I lov-"

But she raised her other hand, placing a finger to his lips to stop the inevitable rush of words they both knew were about to start flooding the space around them.

Serenity shook her head, a knowing look on her face. "I know, Endymion."

He barely had time to react to her words, before she threw herself forward, her small arms barely encircling him in the tightest and sweetest embrace he'd ever felt.

And he heard her whisper softly, "Me too."

oOo

"Endy, can I ask you something?" Serenity said, looking up at him from her place on his bare chest, as the couple lounged in her bed that now belonged to the both of them.

He smiled at her, tracing invisible patterns along her back and arms. "The last time you said those words, we ended up talking about unpleasant things."

She giggled lightly, recalling the exact time he was speaking of, when she had first brought up the subject of Beryl.

"Well, this is about Beryl…" she trailed off, a nervous air in her voice.

Endymion sat up slightly, concern written on his features. "You're not worried that I'm still in love with her, are you?" he asked, mind racing to come up with ways he could prove himself to her.

Serenity's entire body felt flushed at the question. "No, of course not," she replied sheepishly. After all, he'd just spent the last few hours showing her just how much he loved and wanted and needed her. "I just…" she faltered, trying to find the right words. "I suppose I was just wondering why you chose me over her?"

And when she finished her question, she buried her face into his chest, trying to hide from whatever consequences her curiosity might bring.

But she was surprised when she felt Endymion laugh underneath her. "You always were the curious one, weren't you?" He tightened his arms around her, rubbing his cheek against her head briefly, luxuriating in the feel of her silky hair against his skin. "You know, one of these days, that's going to get you into trouble," he teased lightly.

She responded with a playful swat to his chest, as she raised her head to look at him. "You're avoiding the question!"

The rumble of his laugh was felt against her cheek, again, but she whimpered slightly at the loss of contact when he sat up and placed her where they were facing each other.

His face turned thoughtful and serious as he spoke. "It wasn't a choice, really. When I found her that day, I knew instantly that she would be gone as soon as our conversation was over," he said, and Serenity's brow wrinkled at his words in confusion.

"I did love Beryl. Very much. I won't deny it," he confessed, delving into emotions he would have rather forgot existed.

"I struggled. Deeply. I had promised her I would never love another, and I was angry at myself for betraying that so easily. She's a part of my past, and always will be. But you, Ren…" he paused, shaking his head at the impossibility of it all. "You changed everything for me. I fought so hard to keep you away, but you found your way in without even trying. You were just...you. This extraordinary, beautiful, kind woman."

Endymion brought his hand up to her cheek, and he smiled when she leaned into his touch, her eyes closing at the gentle stroke of his thumb. "There was no choice for me, Ren, and I'm glad there wasn't. I can't compare the two of you, because by the time you brought Beryl back, I had fallen so deeply in love with you, there was no way out. There was no comparison."

Serenity smiled sadly at him, launching herself into his arms, a move he was quickly becoming accustomed to. "I'm so sorry," she whispered into his neck, tears making their way down her cheeks.

Endymion tucked her head beneath his chin, stroking her hair and back in comforting movements. "What are you sorry for, love?" he asked, somewhat incredulously.

She sniffled and rubbed her nose with the back of her hand. "Because...because you had to lose so much for us to be happy."

What he had done to deserve to even breathe the same air as the woman in his arms, he would never understand.

"Ren, look at me," he said gently, moving back from her and placing a hand under her chin to raise her head. He smiled fondly at the watery, ocean blue depths that stared back at him.

"Yes, I did lose something when we married. But look at all I've gained. It's immeasurable," he told her, as her tears continued to flow, but they seemed happier now, more joyous. "You are everything to me, princess. And if anyone should be apologizing it's me."

"Oh, Endy, you have nothing to apolog-"

"No, I do," he interrupted with more force than he intended. "I was hurt and angry and confused, and I lashed out at you, the one who was least deserving of it. And I'm so, so sorry."

Serenity was, once again, in his arms before he had the chance to blink. "I'm sorry, too. So much of this could have been avoided if I'd just been honest with you about how I felt."

Endymion laughed, then, and she looked up at him in surprise. "I'm sorry, Ren, I'm not laughing at you. I just can't believe we were naive enough to promise each other complete honesty after we were married."

She giggled with him, his laughter infectious, leaning up to place a soft kiss on his lips. "Well, can we make a new promise, then?"

He leaned forward and pressed his forehead to hers, grinning happily. "Anything."

"No more completely unattainable promises? Let's just love each other, and take life as it comes?"

Endymion flipped Serenity onto her back in one, fluid movement, his spirit freer than it had been in his life, as he kissed her fully, and when he came up for air, he smiled. "Deal."

oOo

Some months later….

King Aethlius walked briskly down the corridor towards his son's chambers. He resisted the strong urge to run, for kings did nothing with undue haste. His pageboy struggled to keep up the pace, being a good head shorter than his king, and having to take two steps for every one of Aethlius'.

"Is she here, yet?" he asked, a nervous edge in his voice.

The page shook his head. "I'm not sure your grace. I was only told to summon you at once."

The king huffed in annoyance. He was supposed to be the first to know every occurence in his palace, and he was being kept in the dark about something as vitally important as this?

It was simply unacceptable.

When he reached the door, Athelius didn't bother waiting for the page to announce his presence. There was no time for such ridiculous practices, now.

He did, however, have the sense to knock once, instead of barging in, as every ounce of him screamed to do.

The door opened quietly, revealing the calm face of Venus. She stepped out of the way, bowing low to him, as he entered the room.

The sight that greeted the king was one that made his heart stop.

Serenity was laid back on the large bed, propped up by numerous, down pillows. She laid on top of what were obviously new and cleaned sheets, her hair damp, and curled around her face from perspiration.

The princess was obviously exhausted, but her face was blissfully calm and serene, as she struggled to keep her eyes open.

But the sight by the window was what made his breath catch in his throat.

Endymion stood in the sunlight, his large form huddled over the small bundle he held in his arms. He turned and smiled at Aethlius, speaking softly, "Why don't you come meet your new granddaughter?"

Aethlius moved slowly, afraid that any sudden movement would shatter the immeasurable peace in the room. And when he reached Endymion, his eyes falling for the first time on the baby that his son held, he nearly forgot how to breathe.

For there, nestled amongst soft, white blankets was the most perfect sight he'd ever seen. The baby's eyes blinked in the light, revealing bright, crimson irises, and a soft, strawberry blonde patch of hair sat upon her head. She gripped Endymion's finger in her tiny hand, as she, like her mother, fought back the urge to sleep.

The sight of her alone was enough to make the seasoned king weep, but when he saw her eyes, the same brilliant red as his wife's had been, he let joyous tears fall from his eyes without embarrassment. This perfect child had already brought hope into the world simply by existing. Her birth bringing assured peace to two kingdoms.

"What's her name?" he choked out, the only thing his emotion filled mind would allow him to ask.

Endymion smiled fondly, leaning down to place a kiss on the crown of the baby's head, before he answered proudly, "Small Lady."

The end