Serenity did not know what to do with herself. Back home, every day had had an agenda. She would have lessons or meetings, or she’d be entertaining various guests. Even in the moments that were unplanned, she’d never had time to herself. The sailor soldiers had always been with her.
Here on Earth, King Alexander had told her, she was free to wander as she pleased. The idea was incredibly thrilling. When she woke that morning, she’d eagerly chosen a simple white gown with blue trim. One of her servants, Ethine, laced the back of the dress tightly and moved on to brush Serenity’s hair, muttering about its length. Serenity merely smiled and told Ethine to leave it down. She ignored the woman’s wide eyes and wandered out of the room.
It hadn’t taken her long to find her way outside. The sunlight that had woken her still shone beautifully, and she wanted to explore the garden below her balcony. She made her way there, asking a guard which way to go.
Finally, she was among splashes of reds and purples and endless greens. For a moment, she just inhaled the intoxicating scent of the flowers. Then, laughing, she lifted her skirts and ran along the garden path. She could hear a fountain bubbling in the distance, and she weaved her way around bends and turns, trying to find it.
The bubbling was close now. She rounded a corner, smiling with the knowledge that she had found the fountain, and was surprised to see the prince and his men sitting beside it. Her cheeks were flushed, her hair wild about her and glowing in the bright sunlight. Endymion watched as she curtsied.
“Good morning, my lords,” she greeted, slightly out of breath.
“Princess,” Jadeite greeted, standing and offering her his seat. Endymion was amazed; just a moment ago, the blond man had been whining about the dreadful headache that remained as a reminder of his overindulgence in last night’s wine. Now he was practically jumping to his feet to accommodate a woman he’d just met.
Serenity shook her head and sat on the stone-paved ground, spreading her skirts around her. She smiled softly at them.
“This garden is magnificent,” she said appreciatively. “The gardens on the Moon are beautiful, but they’re not like this.”
She looked around her, blue eyes absorbing every color. Endymion watched her for a moment, and then he watched his men. Their eyes were on her, watching her. Even Kunzite, stoic and unemotional Kunzite, seemed captivated by the princess. Endymion frowned.
“What are you plans for the day, my lady?” Nephrite asked.
“Oh, please, don’t call my ‘my lady,’” she begged. “Serenity is fine.”
They all smiled at that, except Endymion.
“I don’t really have a plan for the day,” Serenity admitted. “It’s a nice change, actually. I’m so used to having every day planned for me. I don’t really know what to do.”
Jadeite smiled. “Perhaps we could—“
“Jadeite,” Kunzite interrupted, “you forget that we are supposed to spend today training.”
“Oh, don’t let me interrupt your plans,” Serenity told them. “I’ll be perfectly fine. I imagine I’ll spend all day in the gardens.”
Endymion’s men stood. Suddenly, Endymion said, “I think I’ll join the princess.”
Kunzite turned around and said, “Are you sure?”
Endymion nodded. “Yes. My father wanted me to show the princess around.”
The white haired guard accepted his answer, and Endymion’s guards left the garden. Serenity watched them go before turning to Endymion. “Your guards will just leave you here?”
“Of course,” Endymion told her. “Why wouldn’t they? What could possibly happen in the garden?”
She shrugged slightly. “My guards would never leave me alone.” She looked him in the eyes. “Your father didn’t really tell you to show me around, did he?”
“No,” Endymion admitted.
She stood slowly and approached the fountain. Reaching her hand out, she touched the stream of cool water. “Well then, my lord, would you care to show me about your gardens?”
Endymion let his eyes take in the sight of her. Jadeite was right; she was beautiful. The white dress she wore was simple enough, but it showed off her figure spectacularly, and the blue trim brought out the blue in her eyes. When he stood, she was a full head shorter than he was.
He didn’t like her, but aesthetically, he could have had a far worse companion for a stroll through the gardens. He nodded and led her out along one of the paths.
It was at dinner a week later that Endymion finally decided that he really did not like the princess.
It was more than just her Lunar blood, and it was more than her pampered upbringing. Endymion supposed it was the way everyone seemed to dote on her and the way she acted as though she didn’t notice. All throughout the meal, all eyes had remained focused on her, and she simply blushed demurely and smiled. It was really rather annoying.
Especially since his own men were making fools of themselves. Jadeite had flirted shamelessly with her, and Nephrite, well into his fourth cup of wine, had been just as bad.
It had annoyed him how even the servants seemed to love her. Yes, she was the first woman of noble birth since his mother who had ever looked them in the eyes and thanked them for whatever it was they did, from bringing her food to fetching a fresh napkin. But did they really have to smile so broadly at her, as though she were an angel?
Endymion had excused himself early. He’d stormed into the kitchen, startling the cooks, and swiped a bottle of wine. From there, he went into the gardens and wandered. He’d been wandering for hours, and no one had come looking for him. On any other night, he’d have assumed that the men had realized he needed time alone; tonight, he suspected they were still inside, staring starry-eyed at the silver-haired princess of Luna.
The entire situation was ridiculous. She didn’t belong here. Terra had gotten along fine these past twenty years, even with the irrational taxes they struggled against. They’d done well; Endymion had been only two when ties between the Silver Alliance and Earth had been severed, but he could not remember a time when he or his people had wanted for anything. So why did his father feel the need to house some girl from an over-eager suitor?
It was late. Over head, Luna hung bloated in the sky, its light dimming that of the stars. Endymion decided it was time to head back inside, if only because he had drained his bottle of wine to the dregs. As he headed towards the palace, Endymion heard a strange sound. Frowning, he headed towards it. He rounded a corner and came upon the princess.
She sat on the ground against a stone bench, face buried in her hands. Endymion could tell from the way her shoulders shook that she was crying. He took a step forward, and her head shot up. He could see the streams of tears on her cheeks in the silvery moonlight. Her eyes were big, her cheeks pink from crying. She stared at him, nether of them moving.
“Why are you crying?” he asked finally.
She shook her head, taking a deep breath, unable to speak.
He narrowed his eyes. “You’re homesick, aren’t you?”
The princess looked at him then, and her eyes narrowed as well. “Don’t you dare,” she whispered.
“Don’t you dare make me feel weak for wanting to go home,” she told him as she stood up. She wiped the tears from her face.
Endymion glared at her and sneered, “I won’t make you feel anything you aren’t already, your highness.”
Her eyes widened, filling with anger. “You are the rudest, most arrogant man I have ever met!”
She stormed past him, her chin up. Endymion watched her go.
The next morning, Serenity set out for a walk. She didn’t know where she was going, and she didn’t care. She was still angry. She realized that her mother would be horrified. The things she had said to Prince Endymion went against everything she had ever been taught, but it had felt good to tell him how she felt. She hadn’t even been there for more than a week, and already she found herself hating him. She couldn’t even put her finger on it; it was just something about the way he looked at her, as though he was searching for a reason to dislike her. She felt affronted, and she certainly didn’t deserve it.
She had wandered through the gardens and into a forest that grew on the palace grounds. There was a small path beaten through the trees, and she walked it, not caring where it led.
Suddenly, she heard a twig snap behind her. She froze and turned slowly.
“You!” she hissed at Endymion, who simply caught up with her. “Why are you following me?”
“My father wants me to spend the day with you,” he told her with disinterest.
“For real this time?” she asked.
“Yes,” he said simply.
“Well, I’d prefer to be alone,” she told him, lifting her chin and continuing along the path.
Endymion rolled his eyes and caught up to her easily. “Well, you’ll have to be alone some other time, Princess. Today I am your faithful companion.”
“You don’t strike me as the type of man who takes orders well,” she told him coldly, struggling to keep ahead of him. His strides were much larger than her own, and he was not walking slowly. She opened her mouth to continue when they came into a clearing and she forgot what she had been ready to say.
It was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. A huge waterfall stood before them, water pouring into a pool of water that tapered into a stream. Serenity was surprised that she hadn’t heard the rushing water before. The trees surrounding the clearing were lush and green, the sun lighting the grass and reflecting off the water.
Endymion watched as she took in the sight. He’d been here countless times since his childhood, and he had the entire thing memorized.
Serenity stepped toward the water. She could see small fish swimming about, their scales glistening in the sunlight. She bent down to touch the water, trailing her fingertips along the cool surface. A shadow fell over her, and Serenity realized that Endymion was standing just behind her. She whirled around to say something scathing to him, but suddenly she lost her footing, flailed her arms, and fell into the water.
The water was much deeper than it had looked, and it was actually very refreshing. Besides, she couldn’t very well face him until she had a good defense; surely he was standing there, waiting for her to resurface, already armed with some mocking taunt. Serenity held her breath and remained under water.
Endymion had laughed as she fell in. The sight of this prim, proper princess flailing her arms about. The look on her face as she realized she was falling in. It was all too perfect. He waited patiently for her to resurface so that he could mock her appropriately.
Minutes passed, and still Serenity did not resurface. The smile on Endymion’s face faded. He could see the shadowy outline of her body at the bottom of the pool, but she wasn’t coming up. He waited a moment longer.
Cursing, Endymion dove into the water. He swam for the bottom and grabbed the princess, throwing her over his shoulder. He kicked off the bottom and resurfaced. He swam to the shore and threw Serenity onto it, where she lay sputtering. He hoisted himself out of the pool and reeled on her.
“Can’t you swim?” he shouted. “Or is that too dangerous for a proper princess to do?”
Serenity got to her feet, coughing and glaring at him. Her dress clung to her skin like a second skin, her wet hair touching the ground. “I can swim just fine, thank you!”
“Yes, that’s why you’re coughing up water!”
Serenity was fuming. “I am coughing up water because you scared the living daylights out of me! What kind of idiot just startles a girl under water and throws her over his shoulder like a Neanderthal?”
“I was saving you from drowning!” Endymion yelled.
“I didn’t need saving,” she yelled, “especially not from you! I’m not some hopelessly delicate woman that needs some arrogant, rude, insensitive brute like you to—“
Endymion grabbed her and pulled her flush against him, slamming his mouth down upon hers. He kissed her roughly, harsher than he had intended, but then, he hadn’t intended this at all. She was stiff in his arms for a moment, rigid with shock, mouth opening in a gasp that he took advantage of, sliding his tongue into her mouth. She melted against him as he kissed her, her hands sliding up his chest.
Suddenly, she pushed him away. He stumbled back, watching as she touched her lips, blue eyes impossibly wide. Her cheeks and throat were pink with blush. Just as suddenly, she slapped him hard across the face, his head whipping to the side. She was stronger than she looked; his cheek stung.
“I… you… how dare you!” She turned on her heel and headed back towards the palace, leaving Endymion standing there, dripping.