For those of you keeping count, this is twenty-two of twenty-four chapters. Now that the voting has closed, I will be finishing up the finale! Thank you to all of you who voted! I will be getting that chapter to you soon!

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Chapter 22

"Your memory feels like home to me.
So whenever my mind wanders, it always finds it's way back to you."
― Ranata Suzuki

Waking to black hair in the bed with her had been startling until she remembered and realized it was just Rei, her back to her as she slept.

Rising carefully, she managed to remove herself from the bed without waking either black haired guardian within it. Tiptoeing to her dresser, she traded out her PJs for a pair of jeans and a thick sweater. As quietly as possible, she pushed her feet into her boots and pulled on her coat as she left the apartment, all occupants snoring softly inside.

The frozen ground crunched under her soles as she walked, the grass-covered in ice from the morning dew that froze in the cold. Even in the middle of winter and night, the park still looked beautiful, the trees glittering slightly from the frost that covered them. The moon was still up, high in the sky as it slowly made its way down to the other side of the world. It seemed to glitter as well.

Once in the park, it didn't take her long to find him, standing in front of the pond they shared a kiss at in one of their lives. Without a word or hesitation, they wrapped their arms around each other once she neared him. There was no explanation for it, the two of them just knowing to come to this exact spot and knowing the other would be there.

He planted a kiss on her forehead, still holding on to her tight. "I'm sorry I didn't keep my promise to protect you."

"Why didn't you? And why don't I remember any of that?"

He chuckled, "Usako, you were four years old. I'm surprised you remembered your name!"

"But you weren't. If I was four then you were seven. Why didn't you remember and tell me before?"

He stiffened and she felt it all as it rushed through him to her. Her arms around his waist, she pulled him in as tight as she could. "Oh Mamo, I'm so sorry."

Silence fell over them, or at least, they would appear silent to anyone who happened to pass by at such a late hour. The two of them consoling one another with all their might. Him for not being there for her as promised at no fault of his own and her for the loss of his family and memories. She desperately wished she had memories of them for him, to share with him. If only they had gone inside; if she and her mom had gone in just to say 'hi' or let his parents know what he had done….

"Stop, Usako, it's not your fault." She let it go, nodding in understanding. Not wanting to upset him any further. "I wanted to show you something."

Pulling herself from his chest, she found him with a grin and a twinkle in his eyes, reminding her very much of Endymion at that moment. "Really? Haven't you already shown me enough?"

His grin turned to a smirk but said nothing from his link or his mouth. It fell past her face so small and fast, she wasn't sure she really saw it. But then more began to fall, the small white flakes each perfect in their own way.

He released her and she stepped away, watching as the sky turned white. Her hand stuck up in the air, catching a few flakes as if to test if they were real. Then she let them both fly out, catching as many as she could in her palms. She giggled, spinning in the white fluff, it sticking and starting to pile up on the ground already.

Even though she already knew he was, she turned back, finding his eyes on her and her heart raced. "I know what you are doing by the way." He flinched slightly, not sure how he thought he could hide it from her. "But it doesn't matter now, whether I am like Serenity or not."

A smile slowly formed on his face. "And why is that?"

Her heart was beating erratically, barely containing it inside her chest. "You know why."

He made his way to her, the thick snow crunching under his feet and not another sound other than the snow softly hitting the Earth. "I still want to hear you say it."

Her arms across her chest, she did her best to protect herself, even though there was no point. "I don't need to be Serenity because you love me." He nodded, wrapping his arms around her again. "And I love you, Mamoru."

With her heart already pulsing, she actually needed the alarm from her communicator. Mamoru released her just enough for them to look at it together. "Usagi-chan, Youma. Downtown shopping district."

Luna sent the coordinates, even though she didn't need them, already feeling the pull. She pulled the rest of the way free from Mamoru, readying to transform. "What is with these bad guys? Why in the world would they attack that area in the middle of the night?"

"Usako." He grabbed her arm, stopping her from moving or transforming. "This isn't about other people, it's about you."

"What?"

"Think about it. That last attack, they set it up for you. They are targeting you."

A shiver ran through her, a combination of their fears and worries. "Do you think that's why they attacked me in the arcade?"

His head shook, "I don't know. But it didn't feel that way. They must be targeting Sailor Moon and Usagi."

She slumped, looking at the now white ground. "Great… just great."

"I won't let anything happen to you."

"I'm more worried about something happening to you." He tried to pull her back to him, but she twisted free. "We should go. Get there and end this before anything bad happens."

~*O*~

He really should be focusing more on the fight they were racing towards, but all he could do was watch the goddess next to him as they both raced. Leaping from one building to the next, her body arched across the skyline, snow dancing around her. He probably should stop the snow now, it only being an impediment for them in battle. But it made Usagi so happy…

This wasn't going to do, he was far too distracted. Pushing, he cleared his mind of thoughts that weren't helpful at the moment and focused on the throbbing pain in the back of his brain. A reaction to the Earth and the people on it getting wrecked in one way or another.

But none of it prepared him for what they found when they arrived at the scene of the crime. Because it truly was a crime scene. It took him too long to react, grabbing Sailor Moon and pulling her into him to hide her eyes, even though she had already seen it.

Bodies. Everywhere. At least 20 all completely drained of energy.

"Welcome to the party, Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Kamen!"

It was the same voice from before, the one that had taunted them last time. All they could tell for sure was that it was a male voice. Or at least, it sounded male to them as humans. Sailor Moon pulled away from his hold but he kept her close, a hand on the small of her back that was ready to grab and pull or toss if necessary. With their link and his touch on her, he could feel the tension she held in her body. It matched his.

"What have you done, you monsters!"

The heartache and tears Sailor Moon had were felt by him and heard by all in her voice. A high pitched and annoying giggle filled the air, a second creature taking the 'mic'.

"We took what we needed before but this time, for you Sailor Moon, we took it all!"

Rage growled from deep in his belly, the bodies around him that were killed for no reason amplifying his feelings. "How about you show yourselves you freaking cowards?"

"Hmmm… no I don't think we will. Not yet anyway."

He felt like he could spit fire at the both of them, the male in particular who continued to mock them from his hiding spot. But someone else did come out of hiding, a creature that looked like a tree with legs. Brown bark made up the skin of it and branches from the middle and bottom where its legs and arms. Its hair was twigs and leaves, twisting and shaking with every step it took closer to them.

On instinct, he threw Sailor Moon behind him. If the creature was any part of an Earth tree, this would be a short fight. Focusing, he watched as his golden cords fanned out and then wrapped around the monster. But they went no further, unable to penetrate the bark and dig into the Youma and take control. It wasn't from Earth at all.

The monster shrugged off his power, recoiling back to him with a snap and having him step back into Sailor Moon slightly. Then it started to shake, small at first but getting more and more violent until something burst out of its branches on the top of its head. Mixing with the falling snow, dark pink mixed with white, fat petals falling from the sky. Twisting, he wrapped his cape around Sailor Moon, even in her protests and shouts of fear for his safety. She was his priority.

But the petals didn't come near either of them, watching as they floated with a mind of their own only to land on the corpses around them. Attaching themselves to multiple parts and spots on their bodies, he watched in horror as the dead flesh began to twitch, tremor… then stand.

His arms still around her, they took several steps back but were quickly getting surrounded. "Tux…"

"I know, I know."

Pushing her behind him again, he punched a zombie that had gotten too close in the jaw. It hit the ground hard, a sick crunch from its bones, only to get right back up again. Laughter filled the air, his nausea burning his throat or his anger.

"I'm afraid you're going to have to do better than that, Tuxedo Kamen. Unless you want to just give us Sailor Moon?"

"Fuck you!"

Both voices erupted in laughter and his brain began to burn. Spinning on his heel, he found a wide-eyed Sailor Moon, tears brimming and making her blue pools sparkle. "Sailor Moon… they are already dead. Remember that."

Taking his staff, he pulled and unlocked the blade that hid inside it, the metal dull in the dark and early morning. The sharp intake of breath from Sailor Moon was deafening, only making what he had to do that much harder.

"Close your eyes, Usa." He whispered and prayed she obeyed.

But that wouldn't be Usako.

Grabbing it out of his hand, she flung the blade far, only getting a shocked glare shot at her before she ran from him. To make matters worse, the damn things followed her.

"Sailor Moon, cut it out!"

"I can't just let you… cut their heads off!"

He took off after her, kicking and punching as many of the walking dead out of his way as he followed. "They're already dead…"

"It doesn't matter! Think of what it will do to their families? What it will do to you!"

The idea of cutting someone's head off, dead or alive, did make his stomach turn. But it was better than the alternative, them getting Usagi. The nightmares would be nothing compared to the overwhelming pain he would feel if anything happened to her.

For a quick moment, he split from her, grabbing his blade back up and getting to her side. Sailor Moon reached for it to toss it again, but this time he was ready pulling back from her grasp to keep it in his hold. Now their backs were literally against the wall, the high brick wall that surrounded the parking lot they were in was behind them while zombies rounded on the two of them.

"Where the hell is everyone else?!"

Sailor Moon shivered from his tone and he pulled her closer to him, wrapping an arm around her waist.

"It will be okay. I promise I won't let anything happen to you."

"It's not me I'm worried about."

Her voice was shaking, the fear she had for him snaking through their connection. He couldn't stand it, her being so scared, all for him. The ground was quaking under them, his emotions taking control. But for once, he was thankful for it, the ground splitting open before them to create a deep barrier between them and the dead.

Just as they started to breathe easier, the dead began dropping into the hole. One after the other and Sailor Moon shrieked after them. It seemed pointless until they began to pile up. They were all reaching out for them, for Sailor Moon. It was enough to have his stomach turning again.

Not a moment too soon, fire filled the hole and he had to grab Sailor Moon again, covering her eyes. But nothing saved them from the smell. "Someone, kill the goddamn Yoma already!"

Now, ash-covered and charred arms reached for them, a few still on fire as they crawled out of the hole. Sailor Moon was sobbing while he was trying not to vomit. It would have been better if he had just cut their heads off after all.

"So much suffering for just one person…"

The bodies all went limp, the air shifting before them until a man stood before them. Well, not really a man, but he looked like one in a way. "You…"

"Oh? Have we met?"

Shit. This creature had attacked Mamoru not Tuxedo Kamen. He had almost fucked up royally.

"You are the cause of this? Ugly piece of shit like you?"

The creature fell for it, grimacing back at him. There had been two at the arcade the other day…

He felt it too late but still managed to throw Sailor Moon away and across the hole from them. The pink-haired bitch nearly sunk her claws into his blonde and he had to grab hold of her wrists to keep them from sinking into him.

"Tuxedo Kamen!"

"Just go!"

Sailor Moon was still on the ground, staring wide-eyed at the two of them. "Just go, Usako. I'll catch up!"

Their link was truly a blessing and a curse, her not believing him in the slightest and not moving from her spot on the ground save to get to her knees. Pain shot through his shoulder, having been distracted he now had long, pink knives sticking out of it. They appeared to be the monster's nails.

A roar erupted from his throat, now tossing the bitch at her lover who did not catch her correctly, both of them going down. Leaping across the void, he scooped up Sailor Moon and made for the others with her; Mars, Jed, Venus, and Kun going toe to toe with the tree creature. They weren't far and yet, no matter how hard he ran, it was as if they were going nowhere. It was then that Kun looked up at the two of them, his face going pale that he knew something was really wrong.

"Run all you want. Wear yourself out, it will make sucking you dry easier."

Setting Sailor Moon to her feet, he threw a rose, only to have it soar on endlessly as if time and space didn't exist. Or gravity, it hanging in the air as if it had none. "What did you do?!"

The girl shimmered before them, cackling. "Oh, not much. Just put you in a sort of...space vacuum. You're in what we like to call a time bubble, it doesn't really exist in here. And there is no exit."

"What do you want?"

He shoved Sailor Moon behind him but her words still made it out, the answer he knew he didn't want to hear. The male appeared next to his mate, looking Sailor Moon over like dinner. "Your energy was so… effective. And we are in need. So I'm going to have to ask you to give it to us. All of it."

"Will you let him go?"

Twisting, he growled back at her, but Sailor Moon didn't even flinch. "Sure. If you surrender to us!"

The smirk on the female's face told him it was all bull shit. They were going to drain Usagi dry and then him and whomever else they wanted. "Don't fall for it, Sailor Moon. They will never let either of us go."

"Tux…"

She was clawing at his back, pulling hard on his cape. He turned to her as much as he could without taking his eyes off the pair. "Sailor Moon, if you think for one second I'm going to just let you go then you are…."

She screamed, grabbing him and pushing him hard. He had been an idiot, taking his attention from them for a second to look Usagi in her eyes in hopes of bringing his words home. Instead, they had taken advantage and fucking up whatever he had hoped to tell her. His face hit the dirt but he didn't feel it, Usagi's screams making him numb all over in the worst way.

The male had her in his hold tight, pressing her against him, front to front that had him seething all the more. The female tried to stand between him and the two, putting on some sick pout on her face. There was no more control over himself at this point. Because they were touching Usagi, his Usako. So now they had to die.

His skin popped with electricity, it arching out and striking the female. She went sailing but he didn't watch to see where she landed. The male looked, watching the body of his lover go flying. But he held onto Sailor Moon still, now using her like a shield, the fucking coward.

"Let. Her. Go."

The creature shivered for a moment, but then smirked, twisting Sailor Moon around so that she was now facing him. "No. I don't think I will. Because you will never hurt her even if I do."

Sailor Moon whimpered, her arms locked in the creature's hold. She was being foolish, not wanting to strike the guy because he was similar to a human. But he wasn't human and he had killed several innocent people. She needed to snap out of it and take the fucker out!

It happened in slow motion, feeling so helpless as the creature held the woman he loved captive as a shield… and then leaned over to run his tongue over her neck and jaw.

His bones cracked from the pressure, his power surging but having nowhere to go. The creature had pissed him off so much, he wasn't sure he could contain himself and keep from hurting Usagi as well. The look on Sailor Moon's face was one of shock, having turned away from the assault to her skin. But it didn't last, her turning slowly to look at the beast as much as possible.

It was smirking, looking like he might do more to her. But then the monster started to shake, starting in his shoulders and chest and then all the way down to his toes. He could see it, the beautiful coils of Usagi's silver energy as it wrapped and twisted around her capture. The monster only felt the pain, soon losing his hold on Sailor Moon as the agony he had to feel took control of his limbs. Suddenly, his limbs snapped back, going up into the air and bending at an unnatural angle.

"ALI!"

The heart-wrenching scream woke up Sailor Moon, unfortunately, releasing the prick that had just held her for ransom. And she was still too close.

Time slowed again, him reaching for her while the female reached for her simultaneously. Her claws were out, planning on ripping Sailor Moon's heart out and he begged her through their link to move. But she was in shock, drained too, the energy she expended making her slow even though it wasn't much.

The night was just too much for her mind, making her sluggish. He wasn't slow though, grabbing her with just enough time to spin her out of the way and block the blow. Pain shot through his spine this time, the 'nails' digging in and going deep. It felt as if they touched his heart, it tripping over itself. But then he realized, it was the draining of his energy that caused the sensation, it getting siphoned off quickly.

Bright white light filled his vision, the nails getting ripped from him just before he hit the ground. "Mamo!"

She was whispering harshly in his ear, tears streaming down her face. He wiped them away with his gloved hand. "Shhh… it's okay. I'm fine."

He didn't feel fine, his accelerated healing not as quick as he needed it to be as he bled out. And shit, their link was a curse again, her hearing every thought in his weakened state. "Let me take a look…"

"No, Usa. Just get out of here. I'll be fine, I can take them myself."

"You can't even stand!"

She was right, half on the ground (and half in her lap) Usagi was holding him as he laid limp. It was as if his spine was broken.

Oh...it was.

Severed by the creature's claws. But his neck worked, looking around for the threat only to find them limping away. The two of them held onto one another, neither in good enough condition to help themselves let alone one another. They shimmered away so he looked for the other creature, catching it as it turned to dust thanks to a large blast of fire from Mars. Usagi was safe, he could rest now…

"Don't you dare close your eyes, Mamoru. I will NEVER forgive you if you die on me again!"

"I'm just going to… rest for a minute…"

"Mamoru?...Mamoru!...MAMORU!"