Continuing Tales

First Truths

A Sailor Moon Story
by Lilac Summers

Part 11 of 15

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First Truths

Tuxedo Mask was already several blocks away, preparing himself for a long leap to the next rooftop, when his lungs seemed to cease functioning. He stumbled to the ground, grasping his throat and wheezing painfully, wondering if he were having some sort of asthma attack and fearing he was going to die of asphyxiation. He fought the blind panic that came with loss of air and slowly forced his lungs to work against the irrational sense that he was drowning. It was as he lay on the rough surface of the roof for the next minute, still gasping gratefully for air, that he realized those intense sensations of fear and suffocation were not his own, and that they had not abated.

A rage-filled oath exploded from his lips as he scrambled up onto his feet and returned the way he had come.

"Shabon Spray!" cried Mercury for the third time. Again, the freezing bubbles revolved around the green structure that had encapsulated Sailor Moon. Again, they crystallized and dissolved, useless, and the structure stood resolute. Jupiter and Mars grit their teeth and attacked it with punches and kicks that bounced harmlessly off.

"Come on, dammit, come on..." muttered Venus as she painstakingly lasered through the gelatinous mass with her crescent beam. It was cutting through, millimeter by millimeter, but at a pace that would never free Sailor Moon before her oxygen ran out.

Inside the structure that had become her prison, Sailor Moon struggled feebly to move her limbs. They refused to work against the binding green gel, and she realized belatedly that her aborted movements only served to eat up her oxygen faster. She froze then, staring at her friends through an emerald-tinted field. She could see them fighting for her, trying everything they could think of to get her out.

They'll be too late. It didn't even seem to bother her so much now, knowing that. Her lungs were burning terribly and it might just be a blessing to finally let go, finally stop feeling like jagged fire was climbing up her throat and clamoring for her to take a breath. But she couldn't do that; she couldn't just give up without a fight. If not for her, at least for her friends. And . . . for a promise made that morning.

Promise me you won't die.

God, she didn't want to die. She gathered her failing energy and focused it past the pain in her lungs, past the burning in her throat and nose, the ringing in her ears, past all that and into the core of her heart that refused to stop beating in order to honor a promise given. It exploded from her in a burst of white light that threaded through her prison and emanated to the outside in the shape of a white aura.

The Senshi outside paused in their struggles to free their leader as the white glow exploded outward and then faded. They stood, certain in the power of their friend, waiting for the structure to crumble like so much dust. Then Sailor Moon would be standing there, indomitable as always, ready for her friends to fuss and cheer over her.

It didn't quite happen that way. The light faded and the mass of plasma shook as if from a slight breeze. Then nothing. The Senshi's gazes snapped up to the frozen face of their friend just in time to watch her eyes glaze over and then shut slowly and painfully against the weight of the gel.

Energy utterly spent, Sailor Moon could not fight against the overwhelming need to breathe. Without her consent, her control gave out and she inhaled deeply. Immediately, goo filled her nostrils, her throat, her lungs. Her body rebelled against the invasion and she tried to cough it up through lips that would not open. The agony, however, was blissfully short. Her vision clouded in instants and her body refused to work on the substance she had substituted for oxygen.

Promise me you won't die.

She would miss them. She had never anticipated that five unlikely girls would become such fast friends in a few short months. They had always seemed so much closer than friends, even since the beginning. Almost like sisters.

Her eyes closed of their own volition. She didn't notice, as her world had gone black already.

She wished she had kissed her little brother goodbye that day. Her parents, too.

I promise.

And, God help her, she would miss Mamoru most of all.

Shock held Mars immobile a second longer before a keening wail broke from her lips and she attacked the blob with unmatched ferocity. An instant later, the other three joined her, their sobbing breaths at counterpoint with the scrape of their feet and fists against the hard outer shell.

"Get back!" roared an agonized voice from somewhere above them and the sheer volume and pain in the tone caused the Senshi to step away. The instant they did, flashes of red struck the statue from every angle. The end result was a bizarre sculpture of lime-colored crystal and crimson roses.

The air still hummed with the vibration of the stems piercing the glass when Tuxedo Mask descended to the ground. He touched one red rose and it began to glow, then the one adjoining that one, and the next, and the next, until the roses glowed in symphony of red over green. He didn't quite know what he was doing. Something inside of him was telling him what he was doing was right, though, and it was the only part of him that was thinking with any semblance of logic at the moment, so he trusted it.

Behind him, the Senshi shifted uncertainly. But they clung to each other in fearful hope as the energy began to thrum and resonate. Mercury chanced a glance at her computer and squeezed her eyes tightly at the time. Three minutes had passed since Sailor Moon had become trapped.

Three minutes that seemed to span an eternity.

It was a tiny, insignificant fissure. Thread-thin, it spread from point of contact inward. In and of itself, it posed no threat. However, a hundreds of those tiny cracks did matter. Not much, but enough to slightly imbalance the impermeability of the structure.

However, driving wave upon wave of raging crimson energy through those tiny cracks did make a difference. Clashing atoms fought a violent sub-particle battle as white magic fought against black.

But the clincher was the weakening from the inside. The last spectacular discharge of energy from the imprisoned girl had weakened the internal composition of the plasma. Now, the residual white energy bonded with the red energy like one welcomes an old lover, and the subsequent pink scattered the black as if the black were some impertinent child.

"Tuxedo-san...Tuxedo-san, stop! It's worked!"

Tuxedo Mask shrugged off the bothersome grip on his shoulder twice before the actual words broke through his concentration. His eyes snapped open to watch the roses, charred black from the sheer amount of energy, dissolve along with the green capsule. Already the Senshi were converging around it, waiting with bated breaths for their comrade to be freed.

Seconds later she was, and they set her on the ground immediately. Mercury moved closer without hesitation, only to be roughly pushed aside by a masculine form.

"Let me," commanded Tuxedo Mask, not noticing Mercury's shocked expression or Venus' restraining hand as Mercury moved to protest. Sailor Mercury subsided after Venus silently pointed to Tuxedo Mask's tormented expression.

"Let's give him some room," whispered Venus. For the first time, the girls noticed they were slowly being surrounded by curious and worried spectators. Children and adults alike fought to move closer and see what was happening to their favored superhero. With little else to do, the Senshi began to direct the milling people back.

Tuxedo Mask, for his part, was utterly focused on the still figure before him. Ignoring the slime that covered Sailor Moon from head to foot, he lifted one limp wrist and searched for a pulse. It was there, thready and indistinct, but there nonetheless, and he almost wept with the relief of it.

Moving on automatic now, with instructions that had been drilled into him by teachers and textbooks alike, he tilted her head back slightly. Nudging her blue-tinged lips open, he dipped his fingers into her mouth and cleared it of green goo before placing his mouth over hers. His other hand pinched her nose shut. His stomach rebelled slightly against the taste of the slime that had coated her lips and mouth, but he fought the nausea down and breathed deeply and steadily into her mouth. His free hand, placed securely over the upper swell of her chest, felt her chest expand in time with his breathing alone.

His life suddenly had one purpose: make her breathe. Minutes were no longer measured by seconds; they were measured by how many puffs of air he forced into her lungs. He became dimly aware of the Senshi standing behind him and Mercury counting off the seconds, and of the murmur of the crowd contained away from him.

One of the Senshi was crying openly. Someone in the crowd mentioned that an ambulance was on its way. Mercury muttered "four minutes" to herself, and still he breathed into the lips of a girl he'd met only weeks ago, because she would not breathe for herself.

Damn you...damn promised me. You promised me! Breathe!

His eyes stung with frustrated tears but her chest stubbornly refused to rise and fall on its own.

Tearing his mouth away from hers in a sudden rage of despair and loss of control, he cradled her slippery face in his hands and screamed at her what his mind had been chanting.

"BREATHE, damn you!" His tears fell unheeded, drawing clear tracks down her green-tinted skin. "You promised me, now keep it! BREATHE!"

He crushed her mouth once more, exhaling and inhaling for her. Once, twice, three times. When he felt himself being pushed away, he struggled, thinking the Senshi were trying to pull him back. But no, two desperate hands were pushing at his chest and then the mouth beneath him was being wrenched away so Sailor Moon could turn on her side to retch unbelievable quantities of green gook.

The Senshi began to rush towards Sailor Moon, until the sudden burgeoning of the cheering crowd forced them to turn back and fight to keep the people away. They contented themselves with throwing teary-eyed, grateful glances at her as she gulped lung-full after greedy lung-full of air.

Tuxedo Mask was cradling her in his arms after supporting her as she threw up the slime that had filled her lungs. He held her tightly, watching her face as he rocked her. Still enamored with the novelty of breathing, she had failed to open her eyes. When she did, they were brilliant and blue and clear. She pierced him with a look and her smile spread, slow and sure, piquant and wry.

"You know, you didn't have to shout."

First Truths

A Sailor Moon Story
by Lilac Summers

Part 11 of 15

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