As has become my tradition, here is my Christmas gift to all of you, my precious readers, across the World. May this story and 'A Thousand Faces of Time' find you all safe and sound with your friends and family this Winter Solstice. I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a safe and Happy New Year. – Paul S.
"And make sure you get some extra chocolate in my shake!" came a voice from out of the bedroom.
"Yes love!" She called back, a pained expression on her face.
Sighing as she put on her coat and grabbed her gloves. The night watchman on duty that patrolled the palace halls wasn't surprised to see one of his Queens up and about at late hours because it had been happening a lot lately. What he was surprised to see though was Queen Celestia fully dressed for the winter weather. She gave him a tired smile and waived off his questions about her destination as well as an offer for an armed escort. By now most of the Royal Guard knew that their matrons did not like relying on escorts all the time however they relented when it was truly needed.
Soft Cruelty Side Stories
Celestia walked down to the underground parking garage below the palace and climbed into the Highlander. Starting the engine, she shivered a bit. Though the garage was heated, it was still barely forty degrees inside. Checking the dash and gauges, she shifted into gear and pulled out of the complex into the fresh falling snow. Down the lane, she stopped carefully at the gates to let the guard know that she wouldn't be gone for very long. He inquired if this was one of those 'night cravings' that pregnant women get, laughing slightly at the evil look Celestia shot him. He warmly informed her that his own wife too, had sent him out at 2 a.m. in the morning for a chocolate banana sundae with extra pickles and strawberry sauce. Celestia made a face at that and the guard laughed as he opened the gates.
"Drive safely, your Highness."
She nodded as she rolled up the window and pulled out into the snow covered roads of Crystal Tokyo. The night was calm, there was no wind, but the skies were completely dark as large, heavy snowflakes fell from the quite-possibly-still-dark-grey clouds that were part of a storm that had settled down right on top of Tokyo. Here and there a snowplow was seen, the city's maintenance workers waging a constant war against the frozen white. As she made her way through the mostly deserted streets, each and every store she saw was dark. They were closed on this Winter Solstice night, probably all safe and warm at home, snuggled under the covers of their beds.
'Where I wish I was at this moment. But if it's for Usagi-koi, I'll do it.' She thought, driving through the stoplights that had switched to night-mode.
The main roads flashed yellow, alternating with the crossing roads flashing red. Spying one store front with its lights still lit, she pulled over and stopped at the curb in front of it. Shutting off the engine, she climbed out. Locking the doors behind her, she pulled her overcoat tighter around herself as she walked up to the store, opened the door and walked in. The jingle of bells greeted her as the door shut behind her. Stamping the snow off her boots on the large rug, she passed by a large blower that hummed along, blowing a constant draft of air toward the door and over the rug.
"Hello? Anyone here?" Celestia called out
"Ah, I'm afraid we've just closed for the night! I was about to head home." Came a voice, followed by the shuffling of feet. A man came out from the room behind the counter. Seeing who his late-night customer was he instantly changed his mind, "Oh! Celestia-san, forgive me. Was there something you needed?"
"No, that's alright, if you're closing I can find somewhere else."
"Nonsense! For you and Serenity-san, my services are always ready, my inventory always available, my store always open." He waived it off, stepping up behind the register and leaning against the counter.
"Are you sure?"
"Absolutely. Even a royal order from you would not change my mind." He smiled.
"If you're sure…" Celestia hesitated. Something about this kindly young man was familiar, and it didn't sit well with her that she couldn't put her finger on why exactly he was familiar.
"Positively. Now, what can I do for you Celestia-san?"
"If it's not too much trouble, I need a double-cheeseburger with fries and a large chocolate milkshake, extra chocolate." She said.
"Ah. Say no more. Late night craving for your wife?" He smiled as he set to work, pulling various items out of the freezer and refrigerator behind the counter and firing up the stove.
"Yeah, she woke up in the middle of the night extremely hungry-"
"And a hungry Serenity is a restless Serenity." He finished, laughing.
"Yes! Exactly!" Celestia chirped back, sighing as she smiled and shook her head, thoughts of her blonde wife floating through her mind.
"I'm pretty sure our matron's appetite is quite renowned."
The sizzle of the grill filled the small corner shop and bistro as its owner and his queen let the scent of the food fill their senses. Why was he so comfortable to talk to and why was he so casual around her? As the man bustled about around the grill, Celestia finally voiced her questions to the shopkeeper.
"Forgive me for asking, and I mean no offense, but why are you so casual with me? No one is this informal around me or toward me due to me being royalty. And why does it feel so comfortable?" Celestia said cautiously. "You seem so familiar, but I cannot remember why."
The man's actions slowed to a halt as his spatula rested on the grill. She saw him bow his head, shaking it slightly. She caught sight of a small smile on his face. A face so familiar yet so unknown to her.
"Complete random chance? Fate? Destiny? Take your pick. It has always been like this. No matter how much I try to escape you and the Senshi, I inevitably find myself right back in your presence." His voice sounded.
He shut off the stove and finished up the order, moving to the blender and refrigerator to make the milkshake.
"I don't suppose you caught the name of my shop on your way in the door did you?" he asked.
"No I didn't, however that doesn't answer my questions." Celestia replied.
The man smiled, placing the cheeseburger and fries into a paper bag and finished the extra chocolate milkshake. Setting the bag on the counter between them, he looked at Celestia. Her questioning frown turned into a look of surprise as she noticed the emblem on the front of the paper bag:
"Ocean Mystic Market and Grill"
She looked back up into the face of the man. Light brown hair cut short, a beard and mustache on his chin and around his mouth, glasses resting on his nose, and green eyes staring back. She gasped, a hand covering her mouth as her eyes grew wide.
"Not exactly the reaction I wanted, but one close to what I expected. No, Michiru, you're not dreaming and no I'm not a ghost." He chuckled.
"The one and only." He smiled and nodded.
"But what? How? That's impossible! You disappeared over 90 years ago out at sea! You should be dead."
"What? I don't know. How? I'm not sure of that either. Impossible? We both know that nothing is impossible. As to having disappeared, I'm right here. And since I'm right here, breathing and with a pulse, I'm the most alive-looking dead man you've probably ever seen." He chuckled again, moving out from behind the counter.
Walking toward his now-in-tears Queen, he wrapped her up in a warm hug.
"It's good to see you again, Michiru-san."
"It's good to see you too, Jonathan-kun."
They held each other for a while before breaking apart. Jonathan handed Celestia a tissue, and stood by patiently while she blew her nose and wiped her eyes.
"Now that you know where my little shop is, I expect us to catch up on all that we've missed since I've been gone. But that will have to wait for another day, I'm afraid. Knowing Usagi-chan, if you don't get back soon you may wind up on the Royal Couch. And I need to get the Mystic closed up and get home." Jonathan said.
"I'll hold you to that, Jonathan. I'd also like to know how you've hardly aged a day in the past century."
"We'll save that for when we catch up." He smiled. "There are parts of it that are a mystery to me as well. Perhaps Ami-chan can help us get to the bottom of it."
"I'll talk to her about it first thing in the morning."
"You do that." He walked her to the door. "Now, be off with you! Lest you keep Serenity waiting!"
"Heaven forbid!" Celestia laughed she replied, taking the bag from her old friend. "Have a happy Solstice, Jonathan."
"You too, Celestia. Drive safe, the roads are slick."
Spirits lifted from her unexpected reunion with her and her wife's old friend who was mysteriously still alive after a century, Celestia headed back out into the falling snow. She climbed back into the Highlander, started the engine, and pulled slowly away. She made her way back down the streets she came, the Palace growing in front of her. The night watchman at the gates opened them again upon seeing his Queen return safely.
"Welcome home, Highness."
"Glad to be back." She replied.
She made her way into the parking complex, pulling back into the parking space reserved for the SUV. She cut the engine and climbed out, grabbing the food for her very pregnant wife and made her way back inside the Palace. Walking down the halls, she made her way back into their bedroom to find Serenity trying unsuccessfully to get out of bed. Laughing a little at her wife's plight earned her an angry look. She set the bag down on the table and moved over to help Serenity out of the bed.
"You'll never believe who I saw tonight, love…" Celestia began as she and Serenity made their way over to the table in the corner of their room.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own Sailor Moon. Jonathan Edrins is mine.