Gundam Wing and all characters thereof are copyright Sunrise and Bandai. Sailor Moon is copyright Takeuchi Naoko, Toei Animation, DiC/Nelvana and Mixx Enterprises. I have no rights and make no claim to any. All C&C is welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org. Any flames will be met by the Shine Snowflake Illusion.
WARNING: This chapter and the rest of the fic will feature a married same-sex couple. If you will be upset or offended by this, please hit your 'back' key NOW.
Catherine Bloom watched the Arrivals gate at the spaceport anxiously. The flight had been 'delayed' for two hours. Ordinarily, she wouldn't suspect anything was wrong, more than a simple unforeseen tardiness on the part of the shuttle, but the Winner was on this flight.
As much as she mentally acknowledged that Triton *was* an ex-Gundam pilot and probably much better than she at defending himself against terrorists, hijackers and the like, he was still her baby brother. It didn't help that they had been separated for over ten years. It especially didn't help that he'd married one of the most powerful men in the system. She worried. She always worried.
The spaceport, set on the hills beyond Dijon, was not what one would call 'quiet', servicing as it did all of Western Europe and much of the Eastern Bloc, depending on who the Slavic Republics were talking to this week. People bustled hither, thither and yon, each intent on their own business, none having anything to do with her. Which did not relieve her mind.
/If there was a problem, he would have called, right?/ she thought, glancing at her silent mobile.
She spun to see her brother standing two metres behind her.
"Triton!" she smiled, pulling him into a hug. "How have you been? How's Quatre?"
"I'm fine," came a soft tenor from beside her. Catherine looked up to see her brother-in-law smiling - down at her.
"Come here and give me a hug," she ordered, releasing Triton. "I swear, you get taller every time I see you!"
"It has been six months since we last saw each other," her brother offered diffidently.
"And don't I know it! You, Triton, are a rotten correspondent!"
Quatre laughed. "So I'm not the only one whose letters go unanswered," he teased.
"Indeed no," the Frenchwoman retorted with a smile. She slipped her arm through her brother's, looped her other arm through Quatre's, and led the two men out of the terminal.
None of them noticed the dark-haired youth, disembarking from a commercial shuttle from L6. He glanced up and smiled at their departing backs, causing a handsome face to become a glorious one.
The customs attendant blushed. "Your passport, sir?" she managed to ask.
The young man presented it.
"Do you have anything to declare?"
He shook his head, remembering the pieces of plastic that he had secreted in his carryall, that would not make a pistol until he assembled them.
"Very well, Mr. Lowe," she replied. "Please have a plesant stay on Earth."
He nodded in acknowledgement, smiled again - which caused the attendant to blush again - and walked through the gate.
The girl watched him go, smiling wistfully. /Gorgeous eyes,/ she thought dreamily. /I've never seen anybody with cobalt-blue eyes before.../ Then she was caught up with the rest of the passengers on the flight.
The man who his passport declared to be Aiden Lowe walked out of the terminal, quietly and unnoticably. When the attendant looked for him again, he was gone.
The room was dim as Baratte entered.
/Gloom, gloom and doom. We need a little colour around here,/ she thought. Not, of course, that she could suggest anything of the kind. Yet.
She knelt at the foot of the stair she had seen as she entered. "Sire," she murmured softly. Somehow speaking loudly seemed out of place here. "You summoned me?"
"I have need of you, Baratte." The warm baritone rolled around the darkness. She could feel it in her bones, the lying warmth of His voice. The false sense of care He exuded. Yet she could feel herself yielding to the falsehood He presented, that He did care what happened to His followers. She always did, and never could the outright proof of His betrayals steel her against His commands. She would fight for Him, and she would die for Him, and He would not care... yet she would obey.
"This world," His voice asked. "What is your opinion?"
Involuntarily, she thrilled to His question. He was asking her opinion! Not, of course, that it would change His, but the honour!
"It is everything we need, Sire. The life-force we need to sustain ourselves is in abundance here."
"What of the power of this world?"
Barratte frowned. "It is... puzzling," she admitted. "It would appear to be one of those worlds where the life-force it generates is accessible and convertible by only one individual. Yet that individual has not appeared."
"You do not believe that this Sailor Moon is the individual able to access the power of this world?"
"No, Sire," Barratte replied flatly.
"You have reasons."
"Yes, Sire." She dared not elaborate, not without His permission. If He did not wish to hear her reasons, she could not permit herself to babble at Him. He had often been uninterested in the science which was her delight, only interested in whether or not it would give Him the answers He craved.
However, this time it seemed He was prepared to hear the whys and wherefores. "You may inform Me of them," He told her lazily.
"Firstly, the satellite orbiting this world affects the power of this world. It appears to draw a certain amount off and store it. I have been monitoring this store with the rest of the power flows of this world. When the girl calling herself 'Sailor Moon' attacked Yothe and Karotis, the power of the planet itself did not fluctuate - but the store the satellite had drawn off dropped. Clearly that was her source, not the planet itself."
"Is that your only reason?"
"No, Sire. My other reason is that Sailor Moon now has companions."
"Two other young women, referring to themselves as 'Sailors', specifically 'Sailor Mercury' and 'Sailor Pluto', have appeared. They too use attacks that draw on the power of the planet in the same fashion - reserves drawn from separate reservoirs the planet maintains. Logic dictates that as these two cannot use the main planetary reserve and they are overtly similar to Sailor Moon, Sailor Moon is limited in similar ways."
There was silence following Barratte's report.
"Discover for me the exact perameters required of the individual who is able to access the planet's main supply," He finally instructed Barrate. "In the meantime, send someone to deal with those... 'Senshi'. The energy they use... would be better used elsewhere."
Barratte stood. "As you decree, Sire," she bowed, and retreated from the room.
Closing the door behind her, she stepped - or, rather, staggered. He had drained her... even as He spoke to her!
With an effort of will, she firmed her steps. If He was getting that desperate, this planet would have to fall, soon.
Barratte smiled as she moved back towards her laboratory. She had not told Him, but this planet, this planet alone out of all they had encountered, was self-renewing. If He could mold Himself to fit the perameters to link to this Earth, then it might well serve all their needs, forever and aye. Their people would finally have a home once more.
"Home," she murmured aloud, remembering a long-gone husk of a planet in a solar system far, far way, that had once been beautiful.
Trowa Barton-Winner stood in front of the wardrobe, looking at the selection of clothing within. Ordinarily it wouldn't matter what he wore; it either wasn't important, or Quatre and Rashid would have selected an appropriate ensemble.
But tonight he was watching his sister's performance in a royal circus, escorting his niece, her mother and their friend, who happened to be a queen. If he dressed inappropriately, the results would be...
Well, they probably wouldn't be that dire, because if he came out in something truly horrible, Quatre would promptly frogmarch him back into the bedroom and re-dress him.
For a moment, he silently cursed the reputation of tasteful, fashionable dress certain Frenchmen had developed and bequeathed to their brethren throughout history. For the truth, if it was known, was that the vast majority of the men of France, like those of England, America and all the rest of the world, weren't terribly interested in fashion. Although Trowa did have a lingering fondness for the uniform-like jumpsuit that had become de rigeur on Peacemillion, that was mainly because Quatre had looked so good in it.
After a moment's thought, he discarded the pale-pink suit (that was one of Quatre's colours and Catherine, he felt, Would Not Approve) and he stepped past the emerald-green three-piece suit (which, for some reason, he felt would suit his sister very well), finally settling on a dark, almost navy blue dress suit.
He decided not to wear the ice-blue dress shirt that was hung with the suit. Instead Trowa selected a pale lemon one from its place with a dramatically matt-black suit. Given the putative informality of the occasion, he didn't put on a tie.
The blue and yellow together didn't clash, as he had feared. Now for the final test: What Quatre Thought.
Quatre Rabera Winner sat on the comfortable sofa in the morning room of his Parisian villa.
/The one good thing about this,/ the seventeen-year-old mused, /is that I don't have to worry about secure accommodations./
The blond man steepled his index fingers together as he thought and waited for his husband to finish dressing. /Poor Trowa,/ he thought with no little amusement. /Nothing can convince him he looks great in anything. Or nothing.../
He pulled up sharply from the decidedly amorous turn his thoughts had begun to take. /Enough time for that when we get home tonight,/ he decided. /Tonight is to convince the political commentators that I am here for a holiday, not to take over all their Terran conglomerates./
A deliberate rustle at the door told him Trowa was there. He looked up and immediately regretted his private resolve to behave himself. How Trowa managed to fill out the broad shoulders of the suit so perfectly, he would never know; and how he always managed to select the exact right shirts to skim that delicate ribcage down to that perfect waist would remain one of those deliciously unexplainable mysteries that was the hallmark of the well-dressed man.
"Acceptable?" Trowa asked. To anyone else, it would have been a simple, quiet inquiry, with no emotion behind it. But Quatre had spent the better part of three years studying Trowa, and knew the other man's body language too well not to see the nervousness behind the question.
Quatre smiled at him. "Perfect." Trowa relaxed. Quatre was, fortunately, not one of those husbands who are so besotted or so oblivious that their spouse could wear a gunnysack and be greeted with compliments.
"We had best be off," Trowa replied. "Catherine will not be happy if we're late."
Quatre shook his head, smiling. "I agree. I don't want another scold!"
His husband quirked an eyebrow at him as they walked to the garage. "She worries."
"Your sister is a mother hen. She would worry over Treize!"
"We seem to attract them," Trowa replied mournfully, eyeing their unexpected chauffeur. "Good evening, Rashid."
"Good evening Master Trowa, Master Quatre. I will be your chauffeur in the Griffon III this evening."
Trowa grimaced. "I thought it was your day off, Rashid." /There goes the Kawasaki,/ he thought sadly.
"It was," Rashid replied meaningfully, "but if I were not here, you would have to drive yourselves. You might even try to ride that motorcycle of Master Trowa's, and have an accident."
Quatre smiled, and if it was a forced smile, only Trowa seemed to notice. "Thank you, Rashid," was his only comment. "That was very... thoughtful of you." Internally, though, he was definitely not pleased. Riding pillion on Trowa's Kawasaki with the wind ripping past, his arms wrapped around Trowa's waist and his chin hooked over Trowa's shoulder was, to Quatre's mind, one of the more pleasurable aspects of Earth.
Rashid, however, was convinced that all motorbikes were deathtraps and took all steps possible, short of selling the Kawasaki, to ensure that Quatre never actually rode the machine.
Now he smiled broadly and opened the rear door of the Griffon III for them. The two young men glanced at each other, sighed, and climbed inside.
Qwerte stretched her hand, admiring the way her inch-long talons gleamed in the light.
"Will you stop fiddling with your claws and *listen* to me?" Baratte's voice pierced her reverie.
"I am to attack a large gathering of people, drawing as much energy as I can. I am to repeat my attacks until I encounter one or more of these... 'Sailor Senshi'. I am to use as much energy as I need to destroy the Senshi I encounter. Then I report back." Querte yawned. "Did I miss anything?"
"The powers of the Senshi -"
"- are not yet defined, so I must take care in my method of attack," Querte singsonged.
"And the mission objective -"
"- is to kill the Senshi, so I need not worry about the amount of energy I use," Querte repeated, closing her eyes.
"Since you have all the information, I will not waste any more of either of our time. Good luck, Querte. I wish you success." Baratte's voice, so snappish, suddenly lost most of its fire.
Querte did not notice the change in tone. She simply nodded, and left the room. As she did, her gloriously emerald hair darkened into a plain black and her eyes opened and widened into the oversized glazed marbles that served the inhabitants of Earth as eyes. Her beautifully purple skin paled into the sickly pinkish tones that was the nearest skin colour to her own that was common among these beings, and her garments, fine and flowing, slid down from their iridescently fine orange into an agonizingly simple black pantsuit.
Baratte sighed as she watched the change. Truly, how did these Earthlings stand being so ugly?
"Hurry up, hurry up, hurry up!" Sailor Mercury chanted, hopping up and down on one foot at the door of the apartment. "We're going to be late, we're going to be late!"
She was trying an experiment tonight. Marimeia could not walk, but Mercury could. So she'd transformed and then put on the blue dress she was wearing to the circus over her leotard-like uniform, stripping off her gloves and taking off her tiara. They were now hidden in the bottom of the little handbag Mama-Anne had given her for her birthday. She left the boots on too; the shoes she'd been planning to wear had been dark blue half-boots, so they matched well.
Bishoujo Senshi Sailormercury was ready to party. Or at least have a good time with her family at her aunt's circus. And, in the fashion of nine-year-olds since time began, she was anxious to get there and begin the fun.
Anne walked out of her room and Mercury stopped hopping, to better appreciate her mother's elegant fashion sense. She was wearing a black sleeveless silk blouse, embroidered with garnet-red silk flowers, over a pair of tight black jeans.
"You look lovely, Mama-Anne," Mercury told her.
"Thank you -" she paused, meaningfully. "Mercury."
She flushed. "I can't go to Aunt Catherine's circus in braces! Not if I don't have to, anyway," she added, sotto voce.
Anne shook her head. "Your powers aren't given to fritter away frivolously, you know."
"This isn't frivolous!" Marimeia replied. "I won't get in a wheelchair again. I want to walk! I want to run!"
"There's a difference between doing it this way and the other. In the other, you'll be earning your achievements."
Mercury frowned. "All I can see I'd be earning is a lot of pain. I'm Mercury, Mama-Anne! I'm me! When I'm Marimeia, I'm me too. But when I'm Marimeia, I can't walk, and when I'm Mercury, I can!" Seeing her mother frown, she quickly switched tactics. "I'll be Marimeia all day tomorrow, all right? If I'm Marimeia tomorrow, I can be Mercury tonight?"
Anne sighed. "All right," she conceded, "if you're Marimeia all day tomorrow."
"Hooray!" Mercury cheered. "Now let's go pick up Relena and Luna!"
He arrived early, much too early not to be conspicuous.
But it didn't matter anymore if he was, did it? He wasn't a covert operative anymore and he didn't need to worry about blending into the crowd. It simply meant more time to see the sideshows that accompanied the travellers.
He munched popcorn and peanuts bought from a vendor, with a small child's militant indifference to the joint notions that one should not eat one's refreshments before the performance one buys them for, and that popcorn and peanuts should not be eaten in the same mouthful. He peered into the tent to see if he could spot Trowa's lions. He bought two extra-large cola slurpees to counteract the salt on the nuts and popcorn. He rode the carnival rides, controlling his stomach despite the sugary confections he'd just consumed. He threw quoits and, like most other men before him, missed. Nobody noticed the way he deliberately aimed off the targets.
He did, however, avoid the mini-rifle range. The fairy-floss counter also did not enjoy his presence (he had enough trouble coping with the sugar hit from the slurpees).
Thus did the man now known as Aiden Lowe spend the hours before the tent opened for the circus performance in Paris that evening.
Relena was waiting when Mercury pressed the buzzer in her apartment building's lobby. Luna was literally sitting just inside the door.
A collar, in the cat's opinion, was an undignified but acceptable accoutrement. A ribbon was most definitely neither.
"Nice ribbon, Luna," Mercury greeted her as Relena and Luna left the lift. "You look good in pink!"
Luna settled for stalking past the girl with her best disgusted expression.
"She does, doesn't she?" Relena smiled. "Silly kitten was making a fuss about getting dressed up."
By this time they had left the lobby and were climbing into Anne's car.
"'Getting dressed up' is one thing," Luna grumbled. "But I'm a cat! I'm supposed to be dignified, and stylish, and -"
"You look very cute, Luna!" Anne commented as the kitten leapt up into the car.
"- and not 'cute'!"
"I don't think you can avoid 'cute', Luna," Relena told her, mock-seriously. "You're a kitten. You define 'cute'."
"Pot calling kettle, Miss 'I-Can't-Wear-Anything-Without-It- -Becoming-A-Fashion-Trend'," Anne murmured. "The SPCA will be after you now, for popularising kittens. That is, after the editors of Vogue get you for wearing pink after they declared it dead."
Relena glanced down at her neat white slacks and pink-and- white blouse. "Did they?" she asked, not very interested. "I don't read Vogue anymore."
Mercury began to giggle. The other two women looked at her.
"I'm sorry," she finally gasped. "It's just - just - we're the leaders of this planet, we're the Sailor Senshi, and we're talking - talking about a fashion magazine...." She trailed off into more giggles.
Anne and Relena looked at each other. Anne's lips twitched. Relena's nose wrinkled.
Then they, too, cracked up.
Meanwhile, in another country, Dorothea Catalonia stalked into her office.
"I - have - had - ENOUGH!" she announced.
Pargin lifted his eyebrow at her. "An unproductive day, Miss Catalonia?" he asked, pouring her a double scotch.
"Indeed, Pargin," she replied, taking the drink and knocking it straight back. Thank God, it was neat, unadulterated by soda or water or even ice. As the man said, a scotch and soda destroyed two perfectly good drinks.
/'An unproductive day'? Yes, if you call having to explain to the parents of three lovely young ninnyhammers that this isn't a finishing academy where all that matters is that one's parents are rich, to the parents of a young man that we will not tolerate someone who picks fights with 'those Colonial scum', and, on top of that, having to deal with a group of immigrants who don't - or rather, won't - get that 'no guns' means NO GUNS, 'unproductive'./
Dorothea shook her head as she accepted a second scotch, this one on the rocks. "Thank you, Pargin," she told the man as he left the room. /Why did Relena set me up as the Seneschal of Sanc Kingdom, anyway? That 'I may be busy' line, hah! She's at the circus tonight! She just wanted a holiday!/
Taking a sip, she thought, /Well, after a day like today, I can't say I blame her... but I don't even follow Absolute Pacifism! Why'd she choose me?/
"Aow?" a high voice mewed. Dorothea looked up from where she was working herself into a blue funk to see a small white kitten peeping in the door.
"And what do you want?" she asked the kitten. He came all the way into the room, walked to where she was sitting, and headbutted her ankle. "Mwow!" he commented.
She bent down and scooped up the small white furball, smiling in spite of herself. "You're cute. I think I'll keep you," she decided, already feeling much better. "Now what to call you...."
The kitten headbutted her hand again, drawing attention to his forehead. "You have a little crescent moon on your forehead," Dorothea wondered. "I'll have to remember that. Now what shall I call you? Isis? Luna? Diana? No, you're a boy. Selene is out. Artemis is a boy's name in English - would you like to be Artemis?"
He mewed in an affermative-sounding tone. "Very well, Artemis," Dorothea smiled. "Let's get you something to eat. I've always wanted a cat...."
"Thank you, Rashid," Quatre said as Trowa extricated himself from the back seat of the Griffon. The car was stylish, but not easy to enter or exit.
"I will accompany you as your bodyguard," Rashid said firmly.
Quatre sighed. "I'm quite sure that Trowa will be more than capable of that, Rashid. We will be meeting my sister-in-law and Lady Anne's family at the tent."
"And neither Miss Catherine nor Queen Relena will be accompanied by suitable guardians," Rashid replied. "It will be my honour to guard you all."
Trowa lifted an eloquent eyebrow at Quatre and stepped forward, allowing Rashid to fall into step three paces behind hem. Quatre glowered at his husband. Earlier, Trowa had been supportive of a night alone, without the Maganacs in attendance. Why was he supporting Rashid now?
"It is best to make a virtue of necessity," Trowa murmured in his ear as they began to move towards the small sideshow. "Here's Catherine, now," he added unnecessarily.
The brown-haired woman, already wearing her stage costume of cutouts of emerald satin sewn onto the same shade of netting, was standing in the shadow of the caravan that stood between the parking area and the main circus tent.
"Hello Quatre, Triton," she greeted them. "I'm so nervous, I'm sure I won't throw the daggers well! Triton, are you sure...."
"Even if he wasn't, I am!" Quatre interposed. "You're not throwing knives at my husband, especially not if you're nervous!"
"I was never nervous when he was my partner," Catherine replied. "He was always perfectly still. Nobody is any good when compared to him."
"I agree, but you're still not getting him back."
"Quatre!" Trowa snapped, blushing.
"Far too much information," Catherine agreed. "Well, if Triton isn't going to join me, you'd better get into the tent. We are about to start."
"We are supposed to meet Marimeia, Relena and Lady Anne," Trowa contributed.
"And we're here!" a childish soprano piped behind him.
They turned to see the three aforementioned ladies standing behind them. Marimeia was grinning from ear to ear, hopping from one foot to the other.
"Marimeia! You - you're walking!" Catherine gasped.
The nine year old girl beamed. "I know! It's a new treatment. I'll have to spend tomorrow in my chair, but for tonight -" she pirouetted gracefully, "- I'm just an ordinary girl!"
Relena coughed at this sally, for some reason. This drew attention to her, and to the little black kitten nestled on her shoulder.
"Oh, how pretty," Quatre said. "May I pat him?"
"Certainly," Relena replied, lifting Luna down and handing her to Quatre. "Her name is Luna. Be nice now, Luna!"
The kitten blinked at her owner, and then craned her head up to look at Quatre from the crook of his arm. "Mrow," she said, as Quatre gently stroked her head.
"The crescent moon on her head is such a pretty marking," Quatre finally said. "I like the ribbon, too."
At that, the kitten gave him a very dirty look, leapt down from his arm and stalked behind Trowa's ankles, where she plonked herself down and began to wash herself furiously.
Relena giggled. "I'm sorry," she apologised, "but Luna doesn't like the ribbon and she's not happy about wearing it at all."
Trowa bent down and brushed a finger over Luna's ears. /I agree with her,/ he thought. /Dressing up doesn't suit either of us at all./
Luna butted her head up under Trowa's hand. His sensitive fingers tickled her cheeks and scratched her eyebrow ridges. /Long, elegant fingers,/ she thought, distracted. /The hands of a musician./ For a moment, she saw another scene: a figure, dressed in the flowing lines of the Silver Millennium, seated at a harpischord, stroking the keys with long, elegant fingers....
Then Trowa lifted his hand, and the image dissolved.
"She likes you!" Marimeia chimed.
"Maybe we should get a kitten," Quatre said thoughtfully. "You certainly seem to like her." Trowa shrugged.
"It's time," Anne interjected. "We'd better all go in. Shall we see you after the performance, Catherine?"
"Of course," the Frenchwoman assured them. "It's been so long since the circus came home, I have to catch up with everyone!"
/I'm being paranoid,/ he told himself.
It had been over a year. He had changed. She had changed. She wasn't expecting to see him. She might not recognise him. He had yet to decide if that would be a good or a bad thing.
Two years before, she'd told him: 'Go and learn, to live in this world that you have created.'
A year before, she'd held him close against her, cradling his body as he sought refuge from all the pain in unconsciousness. It had been oddly comforting to wake in her presence. He had been in a bed in her residence and she'd been asleep in a comfortable armchair beside the bed, obviously watching over him before falling asleep herself. Somehow it was strangely difficult to slip out of that bed, and even harder to silently leave the house.
He'd come here because she was coming here. He told himself it was because she needed a guardian now. He did not acknowledge the pull he felt within - that something was about to happen.
He was only here for her. Which was why he had ducked into the main tent to take his seat as soon as he saw Lady Anne's car pull up in the grassy field that served as a parking lot.
/I'm being an idiot./
Querte hovered above the stripey tent.
The soft browny-green of the grass that grew and softened the dry ground was dotted with the small scurrying shapes of the dominant lifeform of this planet. Strange, uncomfortable harmonies were coming from the structures that the figures were clustered around.
Screams of some emotion she didn't recognise could be heard from them all, but the loudest came from what had to be the silliest construction she'd ever seen. It seemed to be some kind of giant wheel that had no outside rim, just spokes, with spokes coming off those spokes, which ended in tiny little carriages. The humans would climb into them, and shriek as the wheel spun, spinning the spokes on the ends with the carriages. Perhaps it made sense to them.
Now, though, as the sun fell gently beneath the rim of the world, most of the humans were abandoning their current insanity and gathering in the tent beneath her.
Wasn't that nice of them? She wouldn't even have to move much. Just drop in and drain them.
Humans were such a weird species. It was almost a shame to annihilate them.
The third act - a set of trained little dogs - was just finishing up.
"Now, for your entertainment - the flower of all France, the fairest and most skilful mistress of the blades, the wondrous Catherine Deneuve!"
Mercury leaned forward. This was the first time she'd actually seen Catherine's show.
The tent darkened, and the opening bars of a delicate, romantic piece, carried on violin and flute, lifted on the air. Suddenly, like a stabbing knife, a single spotlight flashed down, illuminating a blue-and-green-clad clown standing towards the side of the ring. He did a series of forward somersaults, turned a cartwheel and then stood in front of the audience, scratching his head, as though he had forgotten what he was doing there.
The music rose, and another spotlight lit. This one was slightly pinkish, and it seemed to drift softly down, like a pale rose petal. On one of the trapeze swings, head down and ankles demurely crossed, sat Catherine. The light caressed her shoulders and sparkled in her hair.
She lifted her head, and the blue-clad clown reacted as if thunderstruck. He flung his arms and head back, carrying the motion through into a standing back somersault. This brought him back up against a baseboard that had appeared out of nowhere.
Catherine lifted her arm, displaying a handful of blood-red roses. Casually she selected one, twirling it in her fingers. The music drifted higher, somnolent in its sweet rhythm.
Almost casually, she lofted the rose into the air as the tune picked up once more. It arced through the spotlight, deceptively innocent, striking the backboard beside the clown's cheekbone.
He lifted a hand out, as if to express wonder, when she threw two more. The faux flowers thudded around the man's outstretched wrist.
Gracefully, Catherine began to swing back and forth on the trapeze bar, as if she were sitting on a child's playswing. She threw three more roses at various points of her swing. Unerringly they outlined the man's head.
Slipping from the swing, she caught the bar in her outstretched hands, swinging back and forth from it idly. At the end of the one arc, she flipped herself up, delicately landing on the bar of the swing. She smiled at the audience as they cheered this feat, her pixie feet braced on either end of the bar. Somehow she had managed not to lose a single rose.
Four more roses flew as Catherine stood upon the trapeze bar; and the clown found his waist delineated most neatly with the seemingly-delicate blossoms.
The music swelled as it slipped, delicately, into its coda. Setting the bar swinging once more, Catherine smiled once more and then leapt off the swing. She did a full forward somersault twist as she did. The remaining flowers flew from her hands as she twisted in mid-air, a glittering figure tossing largesse to the unworthy. They struck the backboard around the clown, outlining his figure completely.
Catherine landed lightly, with nothing more than bent knees to indicate that she had just leapt five full metres. She all- -but-floated to the clown at the backboard, and, gently taking his hand, led him away from it. Stepping away from it, the audience could clearly see his silhouette in roses on the white wood.
The two stood in the footlights and bowed to the audience. the music fell silent, and the lights went out.
A drop of silence held the audience, before their roar of delight broke the night.
Mercury let her breath go all in a rush as the lights came up. Talk about exciting! The trapeze had been - WOW. She knew that both Uncle Trowa and his sister had been trained trapeze artists, but she'd never seen a trapeze used quite like that before.
Trowa felt a tugging at his sleeve. He shook his head, to clear it after that performance (he would have to talk to Catherine later - there were children present, and besides, she was his sister), and looked down to see Marimeia on the other end of the hand on his shirtsleeve.
"Uncle Trowa," the little girl asked, big-eyed, "will you teach me to do that?"
Trowa was spared the necessity of answering by a scream.
Querte was bored. The little humans were all focussed on the sight of one of them trying to kill another. It wasn't successful. Pity.
The spectacle ended and all the humans were giving rein to their emotions. Now would be as good a time as any to attack.
Relena shivered as she caught a whiff of an uncomfortably familiar perfume.
"Anne," she whispered to her seatmate, "you don't think..."
Whatever Lady Anne did or did not think was rendered moot by a scream from a woman seated below them. She pointed up at the figure floating above the circus ring. "It's a ghost!" the woman shrieked before fainting.
Anne and Relena looked at the otherwise unremarkable woman with the black cross tattoo on her forehead floating in mid-air.
"I think," Anne said, with commendable calm, "that we need to go to the ladies' room. Now."
They began to shuffle along the row, several times having to mutter "Excuse me" or "Pardon me". Before they reached the end of the row, though, people began to collapse. From the fallen bodies drifted a faintly coloured fog.
"Your energy!" the strange woman exulted. "So much! Give it to me now!"
"I don't think so!" "Oh, no," Anne muttered. "And she's right over the other side...."
Mercury had sprung up onto the back of the row in front of her. "People were having fun here! You've got to stop this and let them keep enjoying themselves!"
"I think there's some god somewhere whose purpose in life is to write those cheesy speeches for us," Relena said reflectively. "I can't think of any other explanation."
"Marimeia doesn't need a god to come up with that sort of thing," said her mother distractedly. "Excuse me, excuse me, I've got to get to my little girl, excuse me...."
"And who are you to say such a thing to me?" demanded the enemy.
"I am the Bishoujo Senshi Sailormercury! The defender of justice and the right to have fun! In the name of Mercury, I command you to leave this place! And give back all that energy while you're at it!"
Relena sighed and began to follow Anne. /Our cover has been blown sky-high. Great going, Marimeia./
Querte smiled. "Oh, good," she purred. "I was waiting for one of you to show up." A sphere of white energy gathered in her right hand. Without any further warning, she flung it at Mercury.
Relena paused and gaped at the energy ball. /The destructive power in that ball must be incredible!/ she thought.
Anne tried to get through the slumped-over bodies faster. She would still not be in time, but she had to try.
Marimeia stared at the ball of white death that was rolling towards her. It filled her vision and she couldn't think of anything except the phrase /I don't want to die/....
Suddenly she felt an impact from the side, and her body began to hurt dreadfully as she hit the wooden bench beside and behind her.
The ball hit the row where she had been standing. It glowed for a second, then, with a rather hollow <WHOOMPH> the seat exploded.
Mercury glanced down. Uncle Trowa had tackled her, knocking her out of the way of the enemy's blast. He looked up at her now, blinking his dark green eyes through the disorder of his bangs - which were truly disordered, because she could see both eyes. And his forehead, on which glowed a symbol she'd never seen - a wide H with a stroke drawn down the centre, extending below the endbars on the H and ending in a small circle.
/Uncle Trowa is one of us...?/
Trowa watched, slightly dazed, as Marimeia treated him to one of the sweetest, saddest smiles he'd ever seen. On her forehead, no longer hidden by her bangs, was a strange design, a circle topped with a small arc and with a small cross below it. With some difficulty, he recalled that it was the astrological symbol for Mercury. She began to unbutton her dress, revealing a white leotard with a dark blue sailor collar that tied into a bow on the front and a deep royal blue ruffle around the hips. Then she began to crawl away from him.
When she was about three metres away, she took a deep breath and stood up again. "Hey! Where were you aiming? I'm over here!"
Querte swung around. How had the brat...?
"Now it's my turn," the annoyance called. "Shine Snowflake ILLUSION!!"
Trowa blinked as a stream of snow sprang from Marimeia's fingertips, surrounding the woman who'd attacked her.
Marimeia, though, paid no more attention to the enemy. She began to quickly blow on her hands and rub them together instead. "OW! OW! OW! COLD! I am never doing this without my gloves ever again! OW!"
Anne looked around her. Seeing nothing but slumped bodies, she made a decision.
"Pluto Crescent Power, Make-UP!!"
The cabouchon garnet brooch pinned at her throat suddenly began to glow brightly. A blazing ribbon flew out of it, encircling her. When she was completely surrounded, it widened, forming a wall between Anne and the rest of the world. Then the encircling wall of dark red light contracted in, until it seemed as though it was lying directly over Anne's skin. It slid away like water over her limbs, down into a white pseudo-leotard, with a two-inch-long black ruffle around the hips, forearm-length gloves with black ribbing at the ends, knee-high black boots and a black sailor collar tied over her shoulders. The bow it tied into was not black but a rich dark red, a shade darker than the brooch that pinned bow, collar and bodysuit all together. The brooch itself matched the garnet set into the centre of the filigree tiara that now graced Sailor Pluto's forehead.
The enemy didn't see her, caught in Mercury's blizzard. Pluto grinned nastily. /Good./ She began to move towards the being.
Behind her, she heard Relena say "Moon Crescent Power, Make- UP!!" She didn't look back. The Princess didn't need an audience.
Querte, for her part, finally managed to scrub the snow out of her overstretched eyes. Forget disguise; it wasn't like she'd had any real intention of sticking to the mask anyway. She'd only assumed the stupid form so that prosy Baratte would let her go. Querte sighed with relief as she released the bond holding her true form at bay. Wriggling her toes at the pleasure as her eyes contracted down to their proper proportions, her blood finally began flowing back into the top layers of her skin, her hair leapt up from her neck, spreading back into its proper, magnificent emerald shade and she felt her clothing reassuming its proper, flowing form.
Quatre gaped at the horror that was floating in the middle of thin air. It seemed like it was about to attack little Marimeia, and Trowa was far too close for comfort....
It would be hard to tell who was the more startled as a yell came from the circus ring. "HEY!"
Everybody still conscious turned to see that Catherine had managed to climb up to the first stage of the trapeze set.
"Yes, I'm talking to you, you ugly thing! Your hair is horrible, you have no fashion sense and your eyes are the size of sultanas! You should've listened to Marimeia! LEAVE MY CIRCUS ALONE!!"
Behind a seat, Luna hung her head. /You can tell a Senshi by the speeches that she makes,/ she misquoted to herself.
The horror's neck swiveled a hundred and eighty degrees. "Why should I?" it enquired mildly.
Catherine was at a loss. 'Because I said so' very likely would hold no weight. 'Because you're not wanted' had already been answered, and 'Because I'll make you' promptly begged the further question 'How?'
|You can make her,| a voice whispered in the back of her head.
/How?/ Catherine demanded internally. /This is my circus - these are my people! How can I help them?/
|There is a price,| the strange voice whispered.
/I don't care! She's killing people! Tell me!/
The voice was coolly indifferent as it pressed on. |You would give up your life for those you have never seen before, who you will never see again? Who will never even thank you for the privilege of living?|
Catherine drew in a breath. Somehow she recognised she was on the verge of a momentous decision - one that would decide the rest of her life. What she said now would change history.
She breathed the words aloud. Somehow it seemed more appropriate. "Life is not a privilege. Once granted, it is a right. Everyone has the right to live; nobody has the right to take a life away. And nobody has the right to take a life away from those who love that life. No matter what a person has done with their life, if one person loves them, cares about them, they don't have the right to throw that life away. And no-one has the right to take it away. I'll pay the price. Give me the power to protect these lives."
Something was clenched in her right hand; it had curved edges and protuberances on one side, which were digging into her palm. |Then lift you up your hand and cry: Jupiter Crescent Power, MAKE-UP!| the voice urged.
Catherine closed her eyes, and lifted up the hand which held the unseen object. "Jupiter Crescent Power, MAKE-UP!" She screamed.
It felt as though she was suddenly struck by a thunderhead- full of lightning bolts. They coruscated along her nerves and blazed through her bones. Raging within her skin, they burnt away mere humanity, replacing her muscles with their own selves, spinning themselves into her lungs and heart. The pain flared once more, higher, into an electrifying pleasure that wrapped itself along her limbs, higher and better than anything she'd ever felt before. Really good sex was the closest she had ever come to this feeling, and it had never felt this good.
Bishoujo Senshi Sailorjupiter lifted her head, regarding the scene before her. The enemy hung in midair still; and she could see Mercury, Pluto and her brother staring at her.
"Because I am the Bishoujo Senshi Sailorjupiter," she said gently, in response to the question Querte had posed. "And I am now going to kick your butt."
Querte tilted her head. "And I suppose you're going to throw one of your little roses at me?" she asked mockingly.
"In a manner of speaking. FLOWER HURRICANE!!"
Querte jumped out of the way of the electricity blast that, true to its name, had a number of petals swirling through it. Something stung her cheek. Lifting her hand quickly, she managed to catch the stinger - it was one of the green annoyance's flower-daggers! The little bitch! Very well then; no more Ms. Nice Monster!
Querte flung her hands out towards Pluto and Mercury on one side and towards Jupiter on the other. The limbs suddenly came alive, stretching impossibly like rubber bands. None of the three reacted in time and found themselves bound up by what had been arms.
Trowa watched in horror. His niece had somehow spontaneously developed the ability to generate ice from her fingertips, and his sister was suddenly throwing lightning around like she was herself a thunderstorm... and now they were both in danger, and he didn't even have his gun....
"You could help," a soft voice said below him.
Trowa looked around him.
"Uranus has always been the protector of the worlds. Will you fail that duty now?"
"Protector?" Trowa asked, still looking around for the speaker. He glanced down to see Relena's new kitten staring at him.
"Yes," the kitten said, as Trowa's eyes widened. "You have ever been the strength that supports the Outer Guardians. You never lead, but you are the cornerstone. And you are needed once more. Without you, the other Senshi will fall. And the world will die with them."
Trowa blinked. "I do not understand," he ventured.
The kitten frowned - and he would not have believed the image possible, had he not seen it himself. "If you don't want to understand, then I can't make you!" she said crossly. "You will watch your family die, because you won't see that you're the guardian of the guardians!"
"If you can help me help Catherine and Marimeia, then help me!" Trowa snapped. "I don't know what you're talking about at all, but if you're talking about dealing with this thing, then tell me what to do!" Something inside Trowa wondered about the relative sanity of talking to a cat, but then the rest of him pointed out that he was facing an entity hanging in midair that could throw energy blasts and had shapeshifted twice, patted his sense of normalcy on the head and told it to go play for a few hours.
The kitten stared at him. "Do you accept the role of guardian of your own free will?" she asked him, in a formal tone of voice.
"I do," Trowa replied, as solemn as he had been at his wedding. Suddenly, there was something lying in his right hand. Probing it gently, he discovered it to be a pin, for a tie or a cravat, carved in the shape of a crescent.
"Then raise you up your hand and cry: Uranus Crescent Power, MAKE-UP!"
Trowa did so.
The first thing he was aware of was the wind. It had been brushing gently against him, carrying to his trained nose the scents of the circus; hay and feed and animal manure, mixed in with oil and sweat and a little bit of blood, with the scents of sugar and soft drink and the soft warm scent of popcorn. Now it began to whisper to him, in a language that he knew he knew, it was just below the edge of hearing....
Then, as the wind picked up, it was no longer below that edge. The breeze sang to him of the lands it had crossed, the sights it had seen, and how happy it was, now that he was finally listening to its song. It sang of how it was now a part of him, how it would never leave; how his bones, so long and elegant! Perfect for a child of Air! were part of it now, as strong and enduring as the wind; how his muscles were the muscles of Air, which can never be stopped, only endured and, possibly, survived.
It swept along his limbs and he could feel the cloth moving as the wind took control and changed his clothing to what it willed.
/I hope I don't end up in Marimeia's costume..../
Trowa opened his eyes as Quatre watched. So far he had been on the sidelines and content to remain there.
Less than five minutes had passed since this strange being had appeared. In that time he had seen more strange things than had occurred even during the One-Year War.
Part of him analysed the battle. Whatever this thing was, it had demonstrated excellent battle reflexes, dodging and withstanding all attacks made against it.
Part of him, a part he hated and no longer wished to acknowledge, hung back and dispassionately watched the energy drain.
<But protecting them is not my duty.> The voice that spoke was a woman's, rich and powerful as the ocean. It lay deep within him, in the way of the Space Heart, and somehow he knew it was his own.
/And what is?/ he asked his otherself.
<I protect the other Senshi, that they may do their duty.> His female self replied to his words. <These others are not my charge, and I can hold no responsibility for their lives. Or the ends of those lives. I know this. I have always known this.>
/Yes,/ he thought, remembering his actions under the influence of Wing Zero. /I have always known this. But now the other Senshi are in danger./
/Trowa is in danger!/
<Uranus... will not thank me for interfering in her fights.> Her voice was uncertain. The mention of Trowa had definitely made her waver, and Quatre pressed his advantage.
/I won't interfere - I'll just be here if I'm needed,/ Quatre assured her. For some reason, he felt certain that this was something he must do, that there was something here he had to be.
<Then remember, how to be there.>
It ripped through him, the tsunami of past memories. Growing up a pampered princess, nothing to do, becoming a Guardian, everything to do, meeting Uranus and knowing, knowing what all the poets and troubadours were singing about, working alongside her until duty became pleasure and life itself, until the day when battle was joined and they went into battle together, laughing and joyous, certain of victory - but victory was the enemy's and death their wages, cradling Uranus in her arms and watching those glorious green eyes film over into death, feeling her own life leave her limbs, swearing with her final breath, "I will come back, and I will be with you again...."
Quatre opened his eyes. No strange voice now - for the first time in this life, he was whole. Princess Neptune's memories lay in the back of his mind, where they should always have been, and Uranus was facing an enemy - but not alone. No, never alone again.
"Neptune Crescent Power - Make UP!!"
He had always loved the water - how silly to think it was simply his Arabian ancestry that had influenced such a profound awareness of it! It charged up over his limbs, along his bones, through his veins. The roar of the tsunami swirled over his heartbeat, somehow melding with it until he could not tell the difference between the two in his ears.
Uranus lifted his hand to the sky, grasping the wind in those long, beautiful fingers - /they're just the same as before/ - and Neptune lifted his, calling to his hands the waters of the earth.
The two blasts caught Querte off-guard. With a shriek, she dissolved under the force of the mini-cyclone that struck her body.
"My head hurts...."
Relena, who was wearing one of those leotard-things that Marimeia, Anne and Catherine had on, came up behind Quatre. "No speech?" she asked mildly.
Uranus lifted an eyebrow at her. "No," he replied.
Relena shook herself. "Well, anyway, we have to leave now, before anybody really wakes up."
"I agree," Neptune said. "Your car or ours?"
"Mine," said Pluto. "It's the only one with enough room."
He waited until all of the group had exited the tent, before beginning to move around and assist the civilians.
/Well,/ was all he could think. He'd wanted answers, but all he got were more questions.
At least 'it' hadn't happened this time.
"... so," said Trowa. They had all detransformed after getting into the car, the girls politely averting their eyes. Anne was driving and Marimeia was snoozing on the front seat beside her.
"So now we have to find out what this enemy wants." Catherine believed in the direct approach.
"We know what they want," Relena told her. "Somehow the enemy has the ability to suck all the energy out of your body. If we hadn't been there, I believe all of those people would have died of heart failure, because their bodies wouldn't have even the energy to make their hearts beat."
"Do we know anything else? Luna?" Quatre asked.
The kitten looked guilty. "No," she said. "I only know that you are the Sailor Senshi and that you have special abilities which you're supposed to use to defend humanity when it's in danger. I don't know anything about this enemy. We never encountered anything like them in the Silver Millenium!"
"How did the Silver Millenium end, Luna?" Relena asked.
"An enemy gained a lot of power and attacked. She blamed Princess Serenity of the Moon Kingdom for her rejection by the Prince of Earth. That wasn't true, both the Prince and Princess were in love with other people, but the Emperor of the Earth and the Queen of the Moon did want the connection, so... it all got very messy towards the end."
"It sounds like it would," Trowa commented.
"So this is not the same enemy?" Catherine asked.
"No, definitely not. Poor Lady Beryl, she wasn't a bad person before she fell into her obsession. Wherever her soul is, I hope she found peace."
Unseen by the others, Anne's eyes fell to the golden band around her left ring finger.
"So what can we do to stop this enemy?" Relena asked.
The kitten shrugged. "Ask them next time?" she replied helplessly.
"The stars are bright tonight," Zechs said quietly. He let the curtain at the window fall.
Lucrezia looked up from where she was setting the table. "They usually are, here on Mars," she commented. "Is there something happening out there?" She walked over to the window of their living unit, pulling aside the drapery and looking out through the window and the atmospheric dome.
"Nothing of consequence," her husband commented. "It's just that the stars aren't moving, and that usually means important things are about to happen."
Lucrezia looked at him, one hand curving in an unconsciously protective gesture over her lower abdomen.
"But I'm sure it's nothing to worry about," Zechs added, when he realized she was tensing up. "It's just -"
"I understand," Lucrezia said tautly. She moved back to the dining table and sat down. "Do you want to go back to Earth?"
Zechs cocked his head at her, then stretched his hand out over the table and took hers gently. "I think that, as soon as you can arrange a leave of absence, you and I ought to go visit Relena. It's been two years since we saw her. If the doctor says that's all right?"
Lucrezia's smile gave him all the answer he needed.
1. The name 'Triton Bloom' is canon, but drawn from the manga/novel. People who have only viewed the anime would be unaware of it, and also of the brother/sister relationship, also canon from the same source, used here between Trowa and Catherine.
The non-canon aspect in this story is the fact that Catherine is aware that Trowa is her long-lost brother. In canon, Trowa chose not to tell Catherine that he was the younger brother she believed had been killed as a child in one of the violent confrontations that marked the Federation/Colony conflict.
2. The name 'Aiden Lowe' also is not an arbitrary choice, although people who have only viewed the anime would very likely be unaware of it. It comes from the manga/novel and the story goes like this:
The pilot of Wing Gundam lived with and was raised by his parents until approximately the age of four. At that time, they were killed in a military/terrorist action (sources are unclear). The child, who had been with his parents at the time and survived, wandered the streets for a few days until, starving and disoriented, he encountered the professional assassin Aiden Lowe. He was adopted by/latched onto the man (again, sources are unclear). Lowe took the boy in and trained him as his apprentice. During this period, he referred to the boy as 'Junior' and in official papers (school records, medical files, etc.) he was listed as 'Aiden Lowe, Junior'.
When Aiden Junior was twelve, Lowe was killed in the performance of one of his contract killings. Although Aiden had been aware that this was a danger in the profession and had been warned of the possibility several times, Lowe's death was still a profound shock to him. While grieving, Aiden encountered Dr. J and accepted the scientist's offer to become a Gundam pilot.
As he spent at least eight years being referred to by the name, it is highly likely that the pilot of Wing Gundam considers 'Aiden Lowe', rather than 'Heero Yuy', to be his true name. When attempting to live as a civilian, he would *not* use the codename assigned to him by Dr. J on the eve of the mission, but his true name.
3. Artemis really is a boy's name in English. It was popular in the eighteenth century but isn't used very much anymore.
4. In canon Sailor Moon, Ten'oh Haruka is a pianist of at least international professional standard, as shown by the fact that she is Kai'oh Michiru's accompanist on Michiru's tours. In canon Gundam Wing, Trowa is an accomplished flautist, exact standard indeterminate. However, he was able to accompany Quatre who is known to be a violinist of professional standard, so it may be inferred that he is of similar quality.
The choice of a harpsichord as Princess Uranus' instrument was because it is easily recognisable to anyone who has more than a passing acquaintance with the history of music, it is a 'dead' instrument (just as nobody speaks Latin as their first language anymore, neither does anybody learn to play music on a harpsichord), and it is the only such instrument that has any similarity, in technique or sound, to a flute. With a similar physical configuration to its successor, the piano, a harpischord is nothing so much as a harp laid on its side with a mechanism to pluck the strings as the corresponding keys on its keyboard are pressed. The sound can vary due to the size and quality of the instrument, but as a rule, harpischords are high-pitched, have a range of three octaves and have a very sweet, silky tone that is very similar to a flute. Unlike pianos, harpsichords have a fixed volume and cannot be played softly or loudly, pitch cannot be adjusted and a note on a harpsichord cannot be sustained.
5. 'Space Heart' ('Kokoro no Uchuu') is Quatre's term for his sixth sense. Unlike other Newtypes in other incarnations of Gundam, Quatre's ability appears to be a mixture of very strong empathy (which he uses all the time) and computer sychronization (which, after Wing Zero, he doesn't *want* to use).