Disclaimer: I don't own Sailor Moon—never have, never will. I'm just borrowing the characters. All hail the wonderful Naoko Takeuchi for creating this fabulous series.

AN: Well, here it is. Revised Part 1. I'm actually rather pleased with the way this turned out, even though a couple of new scenes gave me fits for weeks. Enjoy!

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength."—Deuteronomy 6:5

For Love...or Duty

Part 1:

And So It Begins...

The reflection of the lovely Moon Palace glittered in the waters of the still lake beside it, towering above the peaceful, serene capital city sprawled at its feet. The afternoon was a tranquil gem—one in a long string of beautiful days. The weather on the Moon was always lovely and this day was no exception.

It was the peak of the afternoon siesta; quiet and still…until a blonde and orange hurricane swept through the silent Palace leaving chaos in its wake. The blur tore down the halls, startling servants and waking up sleeping guards until it finally reached the quarters of Queen Selenity. There it stopped, revealing a slim blonde girl in a flowing dress of deep orange. She smoothed her wind-blown hair and stood straight before rapping politely on the door.

Mina, heir to the throne of Venus, was one of eight princesses who had been discovered to hold the power of their individual planets. This power allowed them to transform into warriors who became known as the Sailor Senshi. Two years after Selenity's daughter was born, the young princesses were sent to live on the Moon to learn how to use their powers and they became Princess Serenity's court, friends, and hidden protectors.

The three Senshi from the outer worlds were older than the Inner Senshi, who were themselves two years Serenity's seniors. They eventually left the Moon to fulfill their destinies. Sailor Neptune and Sailor Uranus defended and protected the outer edges of the solar system, while Queen Selenity tasked the enigmatic Sailor Pluto with guarding the Gate of Time.

"Come in," said a muffled voice from inside.

The blonde swept into the room and curtseyed deeply. "You sent for me, Queen Selenity?"

The silver-haired ruler of the flourishing Moon Kingdom looked up from the papers she was studying. "Ah, Mina. Yes, I need to talk to you." The queen motioned to one of the elegant gold-rimmed chairs at her white marble desk. "Please, sit."

Mina complied and tucked a few strands of golden hair behind her ear before folding her hands neatly in her lap. Mentally, she ran over her list of duties. Everything was going as it should. Why was she here? Did it have something to do with Luna and the regular trips she had been making to Earth lately?

Queen Selenity laid her papers down and pushed them aside. Her usually bright blue eyes were clouded with a hint of worry and her face was grave. "Earth has petitioned to be allowed into the Silver Alliance," she said abruptly. "The High Council is considering the matter."

The princess from Venus looked startled but kept silent, sensing the Queen wasn't finished. Ironically, the Moon revolved around the only planet that did not belong to the Alliance: Earth. The blue-green orb had once belonged to the Alliance and had been a powerful ally, especially considering that they didn't need magic to survive on their world, but its people had terminated their involvement four centuries before. Mina suspected the Queen knew why, but she was sure no one else did, except perhaps Luna.

"While it is true that finally having the Golden Kingdom as an ally would be very much to our advantage," Selenity continued, "The Queen of Mars has informed me of several disturbing visions she's had lately which may mean there is something wrong on Earth." She shook her head slightly.

"Your Majesty," Mina interjected, "I was under the impression the Alliance wants Earth to return."

Something in Selenity's beautiful face tightened. "True. However, we are uncertain of their motives. Still," she raised a delicate hand, palm upward, "we have agreed to talk with them. To this end, an ambassadorial party is being sent here from Earth. They will arrive in a week."

"Oh, my." Mina couldn't think of anything else to say. The idea of Terrans actually coming to the Moon was….mind-boggling. Despite herself, visions of how stunned the others, particularly Princess Serenity, would be flashed through her mind and she had to fight a smile.

The Queen's voice softened. "Since you are the head of the Moon's security, I thought you should be the first to know."

Something in Selenity's voice and demeanor triggered Mina's internal alarms. Earth's motives were bothering the Queen more than she would admit. "Your Majesty," she asked, bowing her head respectfully, "Who exactly is comprising the ambassadorial party?" It was the first question that came to mind; the Terrans' choice of ambassadors was key to grasping their motives.

"I am told it will be Crown Prince Endymion and his Guard." The Queen looked down at her papers to hide a frown.

Mina couldn't restrain a gasp and leaned forward in her chair. "Endymion? Here? Why would the Terrans send their Crown Prince to the Moon instead of a normal ambassador?" Her blue eyes reflected her confusion.

Gossip on Earth's affairs was extremely rare; to Mina's knowledge, Luna was the only person who had visited Earth in centuries. Mina had pumped the Queen's advisor thoroughly after every visit (after swearing herself to secrecy, of course) and had gradually pieced together an account of Endymion.

He was the darling of the Golden Kingdom, loved by rich and poor alike, and the King had recently put him in charge of the Terran Army. Luna mentioned at one point he was rather handsome, which in Mina's experience meant it was not too much to conclude that he was probably something of a heartless playboy. It wouldn't surprise the Venusian Princess; rich, powerful, and handsome men were always the most dangerous.

Queen Selenity shook her head, sending her silver ponytails waving out gracefully from the two buns on her head. "I don't understand it either," she admitted. "It's a tremendous show of faith on their part; there must be an underlying reason." She drummed her fingers on the marble surface of the desk. "However, I have a feeling we will find out what their real motives are." She was silent for a long moment and Mina waited, wondering if the same idea was running through both their heads.

"Majesty," she ventured finally, "if there is something concerning Serenity that is bothering you, perhaps I may be of assistance." When the Queen glanced up to meet her gaze, the Venusian knew she'd hit the rock on the head. It did concern Serenity.

Selenity seemed to reach a decision. Her blue eyes narrowed. "No word of this is to be spoken to anyone."

Mina bowed her head. "I understand."

Selenity leaned back in her chair and rubbed her forehead. "Perhaps I'm merely being overprotective, or maybe I'm just being silly, but I have the strangest feeling that the fact Endymion is being sent here is no coincidence. They didn't need to send him; surely Edward has advisors more experienced in political intrigue." She laughed softly, but the sound had hollow undertones. "I think—I believe he is coming to meet Serenity." It was an inexplicable feeling, yet from the moment she had read the King's gracefully penned response and realized just who would be coming, she had been unable to shake it off.

The Queen's words resounded deep inside Mina, confirming what her intuition had already suspected. The only problem was that she didn't know how he could have learned of the Moon Princess. To her knowledge, Luna was Earth's only contact with the rest of the galaxy and she had never mentioned telling the King much about the Lunarian Royal Family. Also, there was no way she would have allowed Serenity to go with her. Mina's mind pushed the puzzle aside for later.

"Is there anything in particular you would like me to do?" Mina asked in concern, her blue eyes fastened on the Queen's suddenly tired face.

"Just do your duty, Mina. That's all I ask of you. Make sure everything is in order and stay close to Serenity. Don't let her out of your sight until we learn what their true intentions are." She sighed. It was probably nothing, she assured herself, but it didn't hurt to be prepared just the same.

Mina placed her hand over her heart. "The Sailor Senshi will allow nothing to happen to her, my Queen."

Selenity smiled at the serious blonde before her. "I know, Mina. I'm proud of all of you." Her expression smoothed itself back into tranquility. "I don't want the entire palace knowing about the Terrans' arrival yet." She held the Venusian's gaze for a moment and then glanced back down at her papers. "You are free to leave."

"As you wish. I'll keep it to myself." Mina curtseyed and rose from the chair. She paused in the doorway. "Oh, Your Majesty, will you be holding a ball for the Terrans?"

Queen Selenity looked startled for a moment, before smiling. "Of course we will. Royal protocol demands it."

"Thank you!" Mina smiled brightly and bounced out of the room. She had a legitimate excuse for her meeting with the Queen now. She flew towards the Moon Princess's quarters, startling the servants and guards—some of whom barely managed to hastily snap to attention as she passed—once more. The Senshi part of her relished the disturbance—they didn't need to be sleeping at their posts. She made a mental note to come back as Venus later and give them a sound scolding.

She had just reached the door to Serenity's sitting room when someone came up behind her and draped an arm around her shoulder. Princess Lita, of Jupiter, asked in a conversational voice, "What did the Queen want?" She looked at Mina expectantly out of laughing green eyes. Her brown hair, tinged faintly with red, was always pulled up in a ponytail on the top of her head and fastened with two emeralds, but even without it she stood half a head above any of the other girls.

Mina laughed excitedly. I can talk about the ball, can't I?" She wanted to tell me about a big ball that she's planning on having in a week or so. She…uh…also wanted to know if…if…" Mina racked her brain for something—anything—and her blue eyes lit up. Smoothly, she said, "She wanted to know if you'd make your famous Jupiter star cakes as a dessert." It was a well-known fact the Queen did indeed enjoy the cakes.

Lita's eyes sparkled. "I'd be glad to!" Cooking was one of the Jovian Princess's hobbies and for one of her dishes to be recognized by the Queen was a great honor.

By this time, the two of them had entered Serenity's lovely quarters. The other members of the Moon Princess's court were gathered in the sitting room as well, engaged in a variety of activities. Serenity herself seemed to be fast asleep on a couch.

Rei, the fiery princess and Senshi from Mars, caught the last part of the conversation and looked up from the ballad she was composing, tossing her raven hair out of her face. "She called you in just to say that?" Her voice was full of skepticism. "She could have sent a servant to tell Lita that."

Uh-oh, Mina thought. Rei was very quick on the uptake. Aloud, she giggled. "Not exactly, Rei. She wanted to discuss security and make sure I'm on top of things. We all know how much trouble Serenity gets into." She cast a mischievous look at the sleeping Princess. "She added the bit about Lita's cakes as an afterthought." She flashed her friends a bright smile. I hope they believe me. "Doesn't a ball sound like fun?"

"A ball?" The words penetrated Serenity's unconscious mind and she abruptly came back from dreamland. She sat up from her position draped over a pearly pink couch and rubbed the sleep out of her innocent blue eyes. "Did you say my mother is planning a ball?"

"Yes!" Mina exclaimed.

"That will be nice," Serenity commented, before lying down again. Her eyes drifted shut and she started to slip away back into sleep. The afternoon was so peaceful that naps just had to be mandatory…perhaps she could reclaim the fragments of that lovely dream she'd been having…

"Serenity," Princess Ami, of Mercury, chided. "You're supposed to be studying the reigns of the past few Terran Kings, not sleeping." Her dark blue eyes were slightly reproachful as she looked up from her book. After all her curiosity two years ago, you'd think she'd show a little more interest, she thought tiredly.

Mina did a double-take, something sharpening inside her. "Did you say studying about Terran Kings?"

The blue-haired princess turned her gaze to her effervescent friend. "I did," she said calmly.

"Why is she studying that?" Rei interrupted curiously. "I was under the impression she wasn't supposed to have anything to do with Terran history since the last time she went around talking about how wonderful it would be to go there and scared the Queen half to death. Besides, Earth is off-limits." She shrugged and turned back to her half-finished ballad.

"Earth is still off-limits," Ami replied, setting her book down for the moment, "But Queen Selenity thinks that now Serenity is a little bit older and—ahem—more mature, it would be a good idea for her to become familiar with it. After all, Earth used to be part of the Silver Alliance and they may well be so again someday."

Mina barely managed to keep surprise from her face. She glanced at her blue-haired friend with keen eyes. Ami wouldn't know until later how perceptive she really was.

Rei dropped her pen in disgust and looked over at them with narrowed purple eyes. "Why the sudden interest?" she mused aloud. She shook her head, sending tendrils of black hair swaying. "I'm not entirely convinced it won't go to Sere's head again."

Ami considered that for a moment, before saying, "Apparently the Queen believes it won't."

Lita glanced over at their sleeping princess. "Besides," she said in a low voice. "We're here."

"Yes, we are." Ami pinched the bridge of her nose and looked from Mina to Serenity and back hopefully. "Could you possibly help me wake Sere up? She's got to finish this handwriting exercise before we continue our study of Earth."

Three days later, Queen Selenity called the five princesses together. She leaned back in her chair and smiled at them warmly. "I have something very important to tell you."

Mina's eyes flashed with excitement and more than a little relief. She hated keeping things from the others. Still, she had done her duty, and that was what really counted. The security of the Moon Palace was ready for their prestigious company.

"The High Council has been petitioned by the Golden Kingdom for the admission of Earth into the Silver Alliance," Selenity began. "Earth is sending ambassadors to visit the Moon and open negotiations."

Mina glanced over at Ami. Sure enough, the Mercurian's eyes were as wide as saucers. "This is a turning point in history!" she murmured to herself. Mina glanced away before Ami could catch her eye and realize she had known all along.

Princess Serenity was intrigued. "Terrans? Coming here?" Her blue gaze was locked on her mother's face as if to confirm she had actually heard what she thought she'd heard. A deep, deep joy was beginning to bubble up inside her, but she pushed it back down. Now was not the time to be ecstatic over finally meeting people from Earth.

The Queen nodded and then continued. "The ambassadorial party consists of Earth's Crown prince, Endymion, and his personal Guard—four Generals." She stopped and looked at each of the girls in turn. Her voice gained a steel edge. "Mina, Ami, Lita, Rei, the Senshi will of course be introduced to the Terrans at some point. However, you are not, under any circumstances, to reveal your civilian identities. Is that understood?"

They curtseyed. "It is."

"Very well. You are dismissed." Selenity waved her hands in a vaguely shooing gesture. "The Terrans will be arriving in a few days and I must see to the remaining preparations."

Princess Serenity led the way out of her mother's royal chambers and down the marble hall. Then she stopped short and threw her arms out, twirling wildly. Her beautiful layered white dress spread out around her and her long golden ponytails went with it. Blue eyes sparkling with excitement, she exclaimed, "Isn't it wonderful? We're finally going to meet people from Earth!"

"Hmm. Fascinating," Rei remarked sourly. "After centuries, now they want to join? I want to know what's really going on." Frowning, she posted her hands on her hips and watched Serenity dance around the hall.

Ami, the usually calm and unflappable one of the group, was also immensely excited. "This is an unprecedented event!" she declared, waving her hands in the air. "History is unfolding before our very eyes!" Her face was suffused with happiness.

Lita, however, was unimpressed. Her emerald eyes flashed briefly. "I just hope they'll be a good thing for the Alliance instead of a burden." She bit her lip. "And," she confessed with a blush, "I hope that they're a little bit taller than some of the men here. I hate dancing with a partner who's shorter than I am."

"What?" Serenity stopped spinning and stared dizzily at the princess from Jupiter. "Did you say dancing?"

Lita stared back in slight puzzlement. "Of course I said dancing. Why else would Queen Serenity be holding a ball next week?"

The other four girls just looked blankly at Lita and then at each other. Mina ignored the fact that she'd known about it the whole time and said in a bubbly voice, "Of course! That makes perfect sense! Why didn't I think of that?" Then she mock-glared at Rei, who had a strange look on her face, as if she'd just figured something out. "Let's just hope you don't scare all the gentlemen away with your temper, Rei."

Ruffled, Rei stuck her tongue out in a very unladylike fashion. "At least I won't hang all over them like I've nothing better to do!"

Mina ignored the barb and winked; happy she'd managed to deter her friend. "I don't hang all over them, Rei; they just fall at my feet in awe at my beauty!"

Rei rolled her eyes expressively. "Oh, please."

Ami's rhapsodies over history having since died down, she produced the book on Terran history from somewhere and was engrossed in it again. Now she raised her head and said patiently, "Would you two please stop arguing? Mina, you sound like Serenity when she's arguing with Rei."

Mina laughed and gave Ami a sweeping bow. "Thank you for such a high compliment!"

Serenity pretended to pout and folded her arms. "It is not possible for her to sound the same way I do when Rei and I have a 'discussion.'"

Rei smiled, her purple eyes lighting with amusement. "For once, I agree."

Serenity smiled back and then chewed on her lower lip for a moment. She glanced at the book in Ami's hands and shuffled from foot to foot thoughtfully. "You know, as much as I dislike studying, I would like to make progress on Terran history before the ambassadors get here. Ami, would you help me?"

Ami was so startled that the book fell from her hands and clattered to the marble floor with a muffled thud. Serenity asking to study? Flushing red, she bent to scoop it up and held it close. "Are you in earnest? Do you really want me to help you study this intensely?"

Serenity nodded. Ami grabbed her arm and said, "Well, there's no time like the present. Let's go, Princess!"

Lita and Rei exchanged stunned glances while Mina burst out laughing. She wiped tears away from her eyes and motioned down the hall at the rapidly disappearing two. "Now she wants to learn. Maybe we can use that approach with the rest of her studies."

"I doubt it," Rei said dryly. As they turned to go their separate ways, the Martian princess leaned in close to Mina. "You knew about all this, didn't you?" Mina blinked in confusion, but she wasn't quite able to fool Rei, who nodded. "I thought as much." She vanished down another corridor and Mina stared after her, lost in thought. How did Rei always do that?

As far as the princesses were concerned, the next few days crawled by at a snail's pace. By the time the evening before the Terrans were to come rolled around, Serenity was so excited she could barely contain herself and the other princesses' attempts to calm her were fairly useless.

"Don't worry, princess," Mina said brightly, wondering if she could manage to slip her friend a sleeping draught. "Tomorrow will be here soon." She cast a look at Serenity's large, comfortable bed and a peculiar look stole over her face. The sleeping draught idea was discarded in favor of a plan to the Princess into her bed—sleep was sure to find her quickly. Fortunately, Rei distracted her before she could pounce.

"Serenity," she drawled casually, "They're just Terrans."

Behind her, curled up in one corner of the couch, Ami looked startled. "Just Terrans?" she mouthed in disbelief.

Serenity stopped dead and gave Rei a bemused look. "Just Terrans?" she repeated with a tinkling laugh. She bounced on her toes happily. "Rei, I've always wanted to meet people from Earth and this is like a dream come true!" She broke in a merry dance, swinging Lita along with her while Rei just shook her head. They couldn't understand why she was so excited.

Well, that was to be expected. If they knew her underlying reasons, her Senshi would never leave her alone again. Serenity stopped dancing and leaned against the doorframe leading to the balcony. As always, her blue eyes traveled to the softly glowing shape of Earth hanging in the starry sky.

Two years ago, at the height of her infatuation with Earth, she had slipped into her mother's chambers and "borrowed" the Imperial Silver Crystal. She hadn't had a specific destination in mind, merely a surging desire to see roses and perhaps talk to someone. The Crystal had taken her to a magnificent garden, but unfortunately, it had been the middle of the night and she hadn't had a chance to see what real Earth roses looked like. She had wandered around for a little while, but there was really nothing to see and no one to talk to.

Standing in the dark, deserted garden, Serenity had looked up at the silvery light of the Moon. A wave of guilt hit her as she remembered that her home was defenseless without the Crystal. A cold chill had run down her spine and she quickly teleported herself back the Moon. She had replaced the Crystal without anyone being the wiser and never breathed a word of her adventure to anyone. Some of her wild energy drained away. "I think I shall retire for the night now."

Mina, Ami, Lita, and Rei exchanged collective looks of relief and bid Serenity good night. Then they left her quarters and gratefully made their way to their own rooms. Mina leaned against her door for a long moment, letting go of all the day's tension. Then she slipped into her nightdress and tiredly climbed into bed.

Earlier that evening, in the midst of Serenity's excitement and Ami's incoherent ramblings about watching history in the making, a rather unpleasant thought had occurred to her. With the Terran prince and his companions at the Moon palace, she and the other Inner Princesses would have to juggle both their lives as princesses of Serenity's court and their duties as Sailor Senshi, guardians of the Princess and of the moon itself with even more care than usual. It wasn't going to be easy. Everyone was always more alert and observant when there were important guests in the Palace; the servants might put two and two together and realize the princesses were also the Senshi. If something happened, they might not be able to slip away from the Terrans without causing a scene.

On the bright side, they probably wouldn't have any major catastrophes demanding their attention. Life on the Moon was fairly tranquil and it wasn't like anyone had ever made the connection between their dual personas before. She was being silly. They didn't have anything to worry about. The Terrans wouldn't be staying on the Moon forever… eventually they'd have to go home and things would return to normal. She would just have to wait it out.

Mina awoke with a start the next morning, blinking at the golden sunlight that streamed through her windows and fell on her face. As she sat up and stretched, the light glinted off her hair, sending a scintillating reflection dancing around the room. She slid out of bed and went to the huge armoire on the far side of the room to choose her clothes for the day. Let's see...I'll need a nice gown for this morning and something to wear tonight at the ball...

She finally decided on a shimmering yellow gown with a rather daring neckline and short see-through sleeves that fell to her elbows to wear that day and a gold dress with a tightly fitted bodice, straps that artfully slipped off her shoulders, and a full skirt for the ball.. Perfect. Now, time for my training.

Mina stood in the center of her room and held her transformation pen high. "Venus Power!" A flurry of lights surrounded her and turned her into the white-and-orange-suited Sailor Venus. She slipped out of her room and made her way out of the silent palace, heading for the training grounds at the back.

Right now she was feeling tense and more than a little nervous; neither of which was good. She would need to be in complete control later. In her experience, the best way to accomplish that goal was to relieve her tensions by beating the heck out of the training simulations.

Rumor had it that the Senshi lived in hidden quarters somewhere inside the white marble coliseum connected to the Palace. Venus and the others had of course perpetuated that rumor. It was easier than trying to come up with another plausible story to explain their absence from the palace living quarters.

The towering marble walls surrounded a large open space in the heart of the coliseum that was used for sparring and various outside exercises. Rooms leading off from the center grounds housed equipment, a small medical facility (which had been installed at Mercury's request), and Venus's particular favorite: the simulation training room.

A shimmering shielded partition at one end of the room protected the simulation computer. It had been damaged a few times over the years when energy attacks crashed through the glass wall and the technicians on Mercury had developed a shield for it to save themselves the trouble of attempting to fix it. Venus found the door and passed through the shield. A moment later, she stepped out and took a deep calming breath.

Sometimes, despite her natural tendency to be cheerful, bouncing, and bubbly, it was hard to keep up the act all the time. There were so many occasions that she had to be the one to keep things light—to help her friends be cheerful—when all she wanted to do was be as gloomy and miserable as the rest of them. Oh, well, at least no one expects Sailor Venus to be that way. Feeling slightly better, she took an attack pose and counted the seconds until the simulation would begin. A group of black-clad ninjas flickered into view around her and she launched herself into the session.

Two hours later, Sailor Venus was tired, but was in much better spirits. She left the coliseum and headed back into the Palace to make her morning rounds. Everything was in tip-top condition; everyone wanted to present the Moon Palace to their visitors at its very best. Finally, as breakfast time neared, Venus checked to make sure none of the servants who had been frantically dashing around making last minute preparations were around and detransformed before slipping back to her own room to wash up.

Feeling quite refreshed, her stomach reminded her that it was time to visit the dining hall for breakfast. As she spun out of her room, she nearly collided with Lita, who had just emerged from her own room. "Good morning!" she said brightly.

"Good morning," Lita replied absently. She noticed Mina's slightly damp hair and lifted an eyebrow. "Been out already?"

"Yes. I needed to get rid of some unneeded energy."

Lita looked faintly rueful. "I'd have joined you, but I slept too late and now I have to get started on those star cakes Queen Selenity requested."

"Need any help?" Mina asked. After all, I was the one who came up with that idea, she reasoned.

Lita backed away quickly. "Um...thank you, Mina, but I don't think so. Remember what happened the last time you helped me?"

Mina frowned. "It wasn't my fault the bread dough rose too much. I put the right things into it, didn't I?"

The brunette rolled her eyes. "You put the right ingredients in, I'll give you that much, but you put entirely too much yeast in."

"All right, so I put six tablespoons into it instead of teaspoons. I fail to see what the problem is." Mina propped her hands on her hips.

"Mina, the bread ended up covering an entire counter!"

The blonde Venusian sighed loudly. "I never said cooking was my cup of milk."

Lita let out a long-suffering sigh and shook her head. "Cup of tea, Mina, cup of tea. Not cup of milk." Still shaking her head, she walked off to the royal kitchen.

Mina muttered something intelligible and stalked off to find something to eat. Lita ended up joining her again because in her opinion, it was never a good idea for a cook to create things on a completely empty stomach. Ami, Rei, and Serenity joined them soon after.

That morning, the princess' breakfast table was abuzz with chatter. Mina kept up a steady stream of light conversation, punctuating it every now and then with comments about how wonderful the ball would be and how she hoped the Terrans would be at least a little handsome. Whether or not they would be young was a hope that went without saying. While the princesses would be gracious and polite to please their Queen, none of them wanted to spend the length of the Terrans' visit with a bunch of old men.

The rest of the day dragged on rather slowly. Serenity was on pins and needles and had to be forcibly restrained from chewing on her fingernails. Lita set her on cookies instead, figuring one day of inhaling sweets couldn't hurt her. Mina wished there was a cure as simple as cookies for the rest of them. Even Ami couldn't concentrate—she'd had to put her books away because she might as well have been trying to read them upside down.

When the time finally arrived for the Terran ambassadors' arrival, a large crowd assembled in the courtyard. Practically the entire population of the Moon had turned out to see the Prince of Earth. Princess Serenity stood with her court right behind the Queen, fidgeting nervously. Lita laid a calming hand on her shoulder.

Mina stood tall, coolly awaiting their visitors. She was to the right of the jittery Moon Princess and if anything should go amiss, both the Queen and her daughter would be protected. Still, she couldn't deny the fact that she was curious too.

The Queen raised her arms in the air and Mina knew she was holding up the Imperium Silver Crystal, a powerful gem whose origins were still unknown. Selenity had used the Crystal to create a livable atmosphere on the Moon when she founded the kingdom and it could also be used to teleport people from place to place in the absence of teleportation machines. Since Earth had not had teleporters since they left the Silver Alliance, using the Crystal was the only way the Terran Prince would be able to reach them. The blonde Princess's thoughts flashed to her ark, a giant space-capable ship that she hadn't really had a chance to use yet. Well, perhaps not the only way, she reflected, but certainly the least alarming.

A silvery haze slowly formed on the pearly marble floor before the Queen and her companions and indistinct forms appeared in its depths. Gradually, the silver-white cloud faded and the shapes resolved themselves into five tall young men. One was standing, the others kneeling behind him. They rose as their bodies solidified.

The first man, who stood in front of the others, wore black and gold armor and a long black, redlined cape. A gleaming sword hung at his side. Ebony hair curled around his finely chiseled features and his eyes were stormy blue. His entire aura screamed royalty and power under control. Even if he hadn't been in front, Mina would have known he was Endymion.

The second man was clad in a gray uniform with turquoise piping. The flap of his jacket bore no rank insignia to fasten the top button and it lay open in a casual manner. He was the only one of the four Generals who wore a cape. He had shoulder length silver hair, but since he couldn't have been old, Mina concluded he was very blond. She couldn't tell, from this distance, if his eyes were gray or lavender and then chided herself for wondering in the first place. Just be thankful they're not old men, she told herself happily.

The third General was also clad in a gray uniform, though his was trimmed in dark green. He had curly red-gold hair and sharp green eyes, and he stood a little shorter than his companions. The fourth had long, wavy dark-brown hair and dark blue eyes. His uniform was trimmed in golden yellow, while the last General's piping was dark red. He had short, slightly curly blonde hair and bright blue eyes.

The armor-clad man stepped forward and bowed, while the four men behind him knelt again. "I am Endymion, of Earth. These are my Guard: First General Malachite, Second General Zoicite, Third General Nephrite, and Fourth General Jadeite."

Queen Selenity also stepped forward. She held out her hand to the Terran prince. "Welcome to the Moon, Prince Endymion," she said warmly. Despite her reservations, there was something about this boy that she liked immediately. "Welcome, Generals," she said, looking past Endymion after he had politely kissed her hand.

Selenity then turned. "May I present my daughter, the Crown Princess Serenity?"

Serenity stepped forward, meeting Endymion's admiring gaze shyly. "How do you do, Your Highness?"

"I'm honored to finally meet the famed beauty of the Moon," he said, kissing her hand. Serenity blushed at the intensity in his blue eyes. For some reason, laughter sparkled in their depths, lurking beneath his serious demeanor.

Mina, who was watching them interestedly, noted the look in the Prince's eyes. Her own eyes narrowed suddenly before widening in surprise. Individually, she could sense Serenity's silvery aura and the golden aura that surrounded the Terran, but now, standing next to each other, the two auras seemed to blur and blend together in a seamless swirl of color. Her features froze as she realized the implications of this. I don't believe it. The two of them had just met, hadn't they? How could a bond like this already be forming? It was a very, very rare occurrence. She resolved to keep an eye on them.

Queen Selenity also saw the spark that seemed to pass between her daughter and the Terran and refrained from frowning. Her first impression of Earth's Crown Prince was good, but it suddenly occurred to her that she had underestimated Serenity's reaction to him. In the sudden silence, she motioned to the four girls standing silently behind the Moon Princess.

"And these are the members of Serenity's court. Princess Mina, of Venus; Princess Ami, of Mercury; Princess Lita, of Jupiter; and Princess Rei, of Mars." They all bowed their heads fractionally; Mina was still too busy examining Endymion and Serenity's auras to be anything more than polite.

The Queen looked at Endymion. "We hope you enjoy your stay on the Moon." She motioned to Luna, who stepped forward and curtsied slightly.

"Your Highness, if you will be so kind as to follow me, we will escort you to your quarters and see to it that you are comfortably settled."

Endymion inclined his head slightly, but his eyes never left Serenity.

Selenity moved towards the garden. "Serenity," she called, "Will you join me for a moment?"

Silently, the Princess walked towards the Queen, avoiding the Terran prince's sea-blue gaze and furiously fighting the blush that stained her cheeks. Why was he looking at her like that?

Luna began speaking again to fill a potential awkward silence as the Prince, his Generals, and the Princesses were left standing together amidst a sea of curious Lunarians, but Lita suddenly clapped a hand to her mouth. Her green eyes were wide with dread.

"Oh, my! I forgot about that last batch of star cakes! If you'll excuse me?" she said to the Generals as she hurried off. She could have let the kitchen staff take care of it, but the cakes required special attention, and the pans were extremely heavy.

Endymion didn't appear to notice; his face now wore a thoughtful expression. His generals looked slightly amused, except for Malachite, whose eyes were fixed on his Prince.

"Princess Lita makes a special cake-cookie from Jupiter that Queen Selenity likes," Mina explained helpfully, before Luna could say anything. She gave the Generals a radiant smile. "She had to rush off to check on her last batch while the getting was hard."

Mina's misquotation did not produce the shockwave Rei and Ami were half-expecting. Nephrite smiled faintly, but he was actually thinking about the tall Jupiter princess and how strange it was that she cooked. Zoicite gave Ami a look that asked, Is she like this all the time? The blue-haired princess, though startled that he would single her out, nodded briefly.

In Rei's opinion, the one called Jadeite was either clearly stumped, or cleverly playing along. "I beg your pardon, Princess," he said politely, "but did you say 'while the getting was hard?' May I ask what that means?"

Rei refrained from rolling her eyes. It's hard to tell with this one, she thought.

Turning his attention back to them, Malachite raised his eyebrow sarcastically. "I think her Highness meant 'while the getting's good,'"

"That's what I said," Mina replied cheerfully. She glanced around and, not seeing the servants, who were fighting to get through the mass of people converged on the entryways to the palace, said, "Well, while we're still here, we might as well show you to your rooms and give you an impromptu tour." She gave Luna an impish smile, tucked her arm through Endymion's before he realized what she was doing and began to walk down the hall. Malachite matched their pace, barely noticing Luna was now hastening along beside him, fighting a frown at Mina's impetuousness.

Left behind, Ami and Rei exchanged startled looks. Rei leaned close to Ami and said quickly in a low voice, "What are we going to do with her? Tie her up? Gag her?"

"Threaten her with a book of space/time mathematical problems," Ami said through her teeth. "That should keep her quiet."

"For how long? I still say we ought to tie her up and gag her," Rei muttered. Her dark eyes were flashing purple. "I hope she doesn't talk them to death."

"The Prince looks out of it. It's the General with him I feel sorry for." She motioned slightly towards Malachite.

Rei's eyes narrowed. "I know why he's out of it," she growled. "And he'd better stay away from her if he knows what's good for him."

Ami resisted the urge to look behind her to see if the other two Terrans had moved closer to them. "Rei, calm down please," she said in a barely audible voice.

Behind the two princesses, Jadeite and Zoicite exchanged amused glances. They weren't listening on purpose, oh no, but they couldn't help overhearing this rather interesting conversation. The ladies were speaking very softly, but the two Generals had good hearing.

Clearing his throat firmly, Jadeite watched in amusement as the two princesses stopped their abrupt tête-à-tête and turned to face them. "Your Highnesses," he said smoothly, "May we have the pleasure of escorting you to our destination?"

Ami inclined her head politely. "Certainly, General."

Jadeite was mildly chagrined that Nephrite gallantly offered his arm to Rei before he could, but he quickly claimed Ami. Zoicite was left to catch up with Malachite and Luna, who were just behind their Prince and the chattering Venusian princess.

The servants, who arrived a few minutes later, were confused for the space of two seconds before they just shrugged their shoulders and followed Mina's lead. Everyone knew that Princess Mina was crazy; it was a fact of life. You learned to live with her oddities after a while. They picked up the luggage and fell in line behind the chattering Venusian princess, the silent princesses of Mercury and Mars, Luna, and the visiting Terrans.

Though Endymion clearly wasn't hearing a word she said, Malachite wasn't sure how much more of the blonde princess's non-stop talk he could take. She seemed to be discussing anything and everything. As they walked the halls of the Palace, she told them the stories behind certain paintings and sculptures, and rattled on about a dozen other things. She was gorgeous, that much was obvious, but he suspected that underneath all her cheerful brightness was a mind as empty as a debtor's pockets. He breathed a silent sigh of relief when they reached the elegant set of rooms they were to occupy.

Once the servants had deposited their luggage and the princesses had left, Malachite said irritably, "I hope she's not that talkative all the time. The other two didn't say a word." True, her voice was pleasant, but to have to listen to that from sunup to sundown? The thought made him shudder. To put her out of his mind, he roamed around the room examining it carefully.

"That's because they couldn't get a word in edgewise," Jadeite said with a laugh. He cast a quick, warning look to his friend not to mention what they'd overheard. It would be their little secret for the moment.

"Maybe she was just nervous," Zoicite commented. He winked one eye slowly at Jadeite to show he understood.

"No, I don't think she was nervous," Nephrite put in slowly, for once in his life missing the little exchange between his two friends. "That may be how she is naturally."

Their conversation moved on to their teleportation, but Malachite and Endymion did not participate. Malachite's mind was still fixed firmly on his task of casing their quarters, but Endymion….was clearly not paying attention.

"Moon to Endymion," Jadeite called in a singsong voice. He waved a hand in front of the Prince's eyes. "Come in, Endy."

Endymion jerked and looked startled. "What?"

"What are you thinking about?" Zoicite asked, leaning up against the wall with his arms folded across his chest. "You look like your mind is a million miles away."

"I know what he's thinking about," Jadeite said with a smirk, "and she's not a million miles away." It didn't take a genius to figure that one out. Judging by the tone of Princess Rei's voice, he wasn't the only one who'd noticed the instant attraction between the Terran Prince and the Moon Princess. Odd, that.

"What?" Endymion tried to look innocent. "What are you talking about, Jade?"

The blonde general folded his arms and glanced over at his brown-haired companion. "I think that confirms it, don't you, Neph?"

"Certainly," Nephrite replied smoothly. "He's thinking about a certain Moon Princess with two golden ponytails, two strange looking buns on her head, big baby blue eyes and—"

"All right!" Endymion cut him off. While he was rather annoyed that his Generals noticed everything about her immediately, they knew why he'd volunteered to head negotiations in the first place and were sure to have been on the lookout. "Yes! I was thinking about her! Are you happy now!" He raked a hand through his black hair, turning it into more of a disheveled mess than it already was.

"No." Jadeite flashed a brilliant smile at him.

Nephrite chuckled. "We want to know why."

"Leave him alone," Malachite admonished sternly, from the corner. "Of course you know why."

"Was it her?" Zoicite asked in a quiet voice.

Endymion was silent for a moment. Then he sighed and nodded. "She's even more beautiful than I remember." His memory had attributed incandescent, goddess-like beauty to the Moon Princess and he was convinced he'd fallen short of the mark. His mind took him back two years previous, to a night he was sure he would remember forever.

A warm, gentle breeze blew through the leaves of the trees lining the garden entrance. Silver moonlight shone over the Terran palace, the patches of light standing in stark contrast to the deep black shadows the moon created. Endymion crept from shadow to shadow, exhilarated with the thrill of sneaking out of the palace and avoiding guards, servants, and his generals alike.

It had been a long day and he needed a place to sit quietly and think for a while; a place where he could forget for a few moments he was the Crown Prince of Earth. His feet took him down a familiar path to the rose gardens. Their blooms were closed for the night, more was the pity, but their sweet fragrance still filled the air.

He slipped inside and began to wander around, enjoying being out in the moonlight. A burst of silver light, brighter than the soft glow around him, caught his attention and he crept forward slowly, using the rose bushes as cover. What he found made his blue eyes widen in complete surprise and he barely managed to remember to keep himself concealed.

There was a girl standing in the middle of the rose garden, one he was quite sure he had never laid eyes on before. Her golden hair was fastened in the strangest style he had ever seen and it seemed to trail all the way to her feet. She was dressed in a flowing white gown and was bending over the rose bushes with something akin to awe.

He watched wordlessly as she gently stroked one of the closed roses, as if trying to entice it to bloom for her. Nothing she could do would make it open, however, and she stared at it wistfully. Then she shook her head slightly and straightened. Her eyes darted everywhere, drinking everything in as if she'd never seen it before. She turned around slowly and Endymion barely managed to keep his jaw from dropping.

She was without a doubt the most beautiful creature he had ever seen. It was more than mere beauty, however. There was a grace and innocence around her that he found most alluring. He almost stepped out to greet her, but then he caught sight of something on her forehead. If it was possible, Endymion's eyes widened further. In the middle of her forehead, gleaming in the silvery moonlight, was a crescent moon sigil.

In that instant, the prince knew why he'd never seen her before. She didn't live on Earth. Prudence and wonder warred inside him. He wanted to talk to her, to make sure his tired mind wasn't conjuring up delightful illusions, but at the same time, he couldn't help wondering what a princess from the Moon was doing in the middle of his mother's rose garden. She had to be a princess—her clothes were too richly simplistic to make her anything short of royalty.

He didn't know how long he knelt there, staring at her. At last, she looked up at the Moon with a startled, almost guilty expression on her face and vanished in a silvery haze. Endymion looked at the spot where she had stood, wishing he had spoken to her. He made up his mind then, that he would find her somehow.

The petition for Earth's admittance to the Silver Alliance came along two years later, and Endymion jumped at the chance. He'd had to explain to his suspicious guardians why he was so eager to go to the Moon, and while they couldn't believe he had managed to keep something like this from them for so long, he had eventually convinced them. So here they were, on the Moon, and he had found the mysterious beauty. A soft smile graced his lips.

The conversation continued, but Malachite tuned it out. He was wondering about the Moon's security measures and trying to figure out how he could best avoid the Princess of Venus without causing an interplanetary crisis. He didn't know if they'd each be paired with one of the Princesses as an escort for the duration of their stay or not, but he hoped he wouldn't be saddled with her. She might have been one of the most beautiful women he'd ever seen, but her inane chattering was enough to make a man lose his mind—and he had no intentions of losing his mind. Women weren't worth it.

:chuckles: Are ya'll seeing anything different yet? Anyway, please review and let me know what you think. After disappearing for so long, I'd really like to know if anybody is still interested in this story. Cheers!