SUBURBAN SENSHI: DREAM CRISIS: INTERLUDE
"A Study of Venus"
AS THE MORNING LIGHT FILTERED into their bedroom, Sailor Venus stood in front of her bed with her back to Xadium, who was sitting on its edge. Pulling her long hair up close to her head, Venus revealed the back of her sailor fuku, parted as if unzipped, showing a generous expanse of her bare back. Her husband gasped slightly, as he was wont to do in her presence-- especially at these types of moments.
Xadium placed his finger on the fuku at the small of her back where the part began, pressing the fabric together. Applying slight pressure with his fingertip, he slowly traced his finger up Venus' back, going from just above the top of her skirt to the nape of her neck underneath the orange cape of the uniform, marveling as the flexible, plastic-silk-like body armour joined together under his touch, fusing to form a solid whole once again.
For her part, his wife exhaled slightly, enjoying the sensation immensely. Part of the benefit of having heightened senses whilst transformed, Xadium supposed, not oblivious to her reaction.
"Astonishing," Xadium said slowly. "You wouldn't even know there was a join in the material from looking at it now. Amazing construction." He slowly began doing up the light-gold back bow of the sailor uniform for his wife. Why there even *was* a back bow, he had no idea. It certainly served no practical purpose in a combat situation. But it did look nice, he supposed.
"It took you long enough to figure out how to get it off me the other night," Venus said playfully.
While this was a fact-- Venus had never had cause to remove her uniform before, and so had no earthly idea how to go about doing so, and sleeping with it on would have been quite uncomfortable for her-- it was also a slightly salacious joke meant to embarrass her easily flustered husband, who was still very shy when it came to the more delicate matters of love.
For once, however, Doctor Xadium wasn't blushing, turning red or nosebleeding as was his usual custom at such times. Had Venus been facing him, she surely would have been surprised.
The reason for Xadium's atypical behaviour was the fact that the normally cheerful Venus / Minako's voice was bereft of the usual sparkling warmth that had so charmed him from the very first time she had spoken to him so many years ago. This time-- even in the midst of telling a very private joke--it was cold and distant-- chilly, even. If one tended to the melodramatic, one could even characterize it as "dead."
Xadium knew this was partly due to stress-- for the past few days, sleep had been a rare commodity for them all. A malevolent psionic entity had been ravaging the dreams of everyone in the household, its deadly debut being the horrificly savage murder of Elios.
The Time Lord had seen the terror in his wife's eyes that resulted from some deep trauma laid bare, brought to the surface of her mind in the form of a dream by the entity-- a fear so deep she had not been willing to share it with him, despite his entreaties.
Worse yet, in her desire to be ready to fight this new enemy, Minako had transformed into her alter ego of Sailor Venus and stayed that way for days, something none of the sailor senshi had ever done. And, as Xadium was beginning to find out, a toll was being exacted upon her body for that--both mentally and physically.
Upon his wife's transformation, Xadium had taken the chance to indulge his scientific curiousity, borrowing parts of Venus' fuku and subjecting them to a battery of tests in order to determine the composition and relative strength of the material. He also did some examinations of Venus herself-- blood, DNA and the like, as well as other examinations not worth mentioning here. The results were incontrovertible. When transformed, Minako's body was distinctly *different* than usual.
Her cellular structure was more resilient. Wounds regenerated instead of scarred. Senses-- visual, tactile, olfactory and aural-- were all heightened. Strength, stamina and endurance were increased, and internal organ efficiency was more than quadrupled. She was even slightly taller.
The Time Lord worried, however, that the toll on her body from holding such a transformation, no matter how useful the benefits, might be too great. The power required to sustain such a transmogrification, he mused, must be enormous-- power which the body had to channel and control somehow. More than that, the psychological stress of maintaining a form in which ones' past-life memories more easily flowed into, intermingled with-- and even, to some extent controlled-- the thought processes of the conscious mind must be unimaginable.
Indeed, there were times over the last few days when, in the midst of conversation with his wife, Xadium wondered if he was still talking to Aino Minako, the cheerful 26-year old born of two humans in Shiba Koen, Tokyo, or the formidable Sailor Venus-- a soul born thousands of years ago amidst the firey flames of a young, molten world. There were instants when Minako's voice and tone would shift and flow back and forth in a subtle tide he knew to detect only because of his closeness to her. To anyone else, save perhaps Artemis, she would have sounded perfectly normal, if tired. It was the telltale sign of a dangerous duality that was being sustained far longer than it ought.
In the past, in quiet moments late at night, Xadium had often marvelled at how the gentle young woman beside him was also, somewhere deep inside, a great warrior of legend-- not to mention a Princess. Running his fingers though her hair as she slept quietly, her head resting on his chest, he had mused that such a thing was truly a miracle. And he had always stood in awe of that miracle. In awe of her. In awe of the Princess Venus, Sailor Venus, and most of all Aino Minako. He had fallen in love with her in all her forms, and cherished them all equally. He had always been as happy to have Sailor or Princess Venus stand before him as he was Minako, even with their personality differences. But not now.
"Done," Xadium said, tying the bow for Venus even as he ran through these thoughts again.
Venus let go of her hair, causing her golden tresses to spill down almost to her feet. As she pulled up her hair to tie her trademark bow, Xadium exhaled "You truly are the Goddess of Beauty." He meant it as both a compliment and a statement of respectful recognition. He was always more formal with Sailor Venus, and on the rare occasions when Princess Venus made herself present, he was extremely polite, even at their most intimate moments. It wasn't something she demanded, or even expected, given their relationship, but it was something the Time Lord felt subconciously compelled to do.
"If you have time to gawk at my body, you have time to help us figure out what's going on," Venus said, turning to face her husband as she finished tying her hairbow. Her tone was deadly serious.
Xadium's blood chilled. Where there had been awe in his hearts, there was now fear. He was looking up at the stern visage of Sailor Venus, her crystal-blue eyes now dominated by an ethereal golden colouration. There was no happiness or love in it, just a matter-of-fact expression that betrayed the iron will which sat below the jovial surface of Minako in all her forms. Xadium found himself longing for the happy-go-lucky girl he had married. For once, he had to resist shrinking from the gaze of the person he loved most in the cosmos.
To his distress, he found herself *afraid* of her-- and it was not the usual fear born of awe and respect for her magnificent presence on the battlefield-- it was a fear born of visceral, dread terror.
Venus smiled slightly and kissed him on the cheek. "Sorry, koibito... I'm just a little tense."
"Minako--" Xadium started.
"Iie," Venus said, pressing her gloved fingers to his lips for a moment. "Remember what we talked about."
"--V-chan," Xadium continued, leaning down to look him in the eye. They had decided years ago that even in private, when she was transformed, Xadium was to refer to her as either "Sailor Venus" or "V-chan", to avoid accidental slips of the tongue when speaking in front of strangers. But this was one time Xadium desperately wanted to call her by her other name, to ground her-- to keep her from completely slipping into her alter ego. "You really ought to drop the transformation. It's not just a matter of stress as I've been saying before. I've been looking at the cell structure results and the data points to a singularly distressing conclusion--"
Venus cut him off with a soft kiss to the lips that lingered for a few seconds, just enough to break his train of thought. "It's almost time for breakfast," she said, smiling, turning and walking off. Xadium was stunned for a few seconds.
Xadium exhaled and inhaled, the taste of her orange-strawberry-esque lipstick still on his lips. "--Wait!" he said loudly after his thoughts had reset themselves, hoping Venus' senshi hearing would allow his words to reach her ears. "The data indicates that the longer you stay transformed, the more your DNA is altered!
If you stay transformed for much longer under these stressful conditions, your body won't be able to reverse the changes-- you may very well remain as Sailor Venus forever! And if that happens, it's only a matter of time before your normal persona submerges as well!" With a note of anguish in his voice, he concluded, "Aino Minako will be no more!"
If Venus did hear his words, she gave no indication.
Even if she had heard, she would not have cared.
For there was an enemy to defeat.
No matter the cost.