The Watcher

© 1999 by E. Liddell

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Author's Notes:

Quick reminder: Sailor Moon and its characters are the property of Takeuchi Naoko and a bunch of other people. They don't belong to me. I've just borrowed them for a not-for-profit story. Please don't sue, not that you'd get any money from me anyway. Being a student, I'm perpetually broke.

Yes, this is a Crystal Weaver story. Happy now?

I cried while I was writing this. Especially the first part.

This story spans the time period from just before "All Darkness Met" to several years after "An Ill Fate Marshalling". I wanted to explore Jadeite's relationship with his brother, a topic which I only just touched upon in "Little Lies". This was the result.

I do love feedback, people! Email

Dark. It had been dark for so very long. Even the uppermost reaches of this place were empty of anything except those youma creatures, and the dead, and the great Darkness.

I hovered silently over the ice crystal prison. Inside it lay only a handful of dust. But it was the last place that I had seen him.

His spirit no longer rested here, in this dark place. If I'd had a body, I would have tried to follow him back into the world of light that I'd always loved so much, but when my spirit crystal had been destroyed, I'd lost my ability to reconnect with the real world. Without that tiny piece of my soul's substance made physical, I lacked the power to displace the soul of another from an already-occupied body, even with assistance. Killing one of the youma that infested this place would have caused me no pangs of conscience. But all I could do was hover over the heap of bones that had been me, once upon a time, and explore a limited area centered on this, my spirit's last physical anchor.

Perhaps it was time for me to let go, to separate myself and move on to whatever lies beyond. But somehow, I just couldn't. He still needs me. A heart-deep certainty, that, even for someone who no longer had a heart.

I brooded over that for... who can say how long? Hours, or days? Even years? The dead cannot tell time, and the Negaverse has no sun by which to keep even a crude calendar. And so I can't say how much time passed between that realization and his arrival.

He appeared in a gout of blue flame, still wearing the grey uniform of the evil ones. He knelt beside the pile of bones, and his hand reached out to rest on the rounded top of my skull, displacing one last wisp of dark hair that had clung there through the centuries. I hovered in front of him, knowing that he couldn't perceive me. His eyes were... dead. Still. I'd hoped that he would shake off the pain and the guilt, and in so doing, give up the need to hide from himself.

"Alex..." he whispered, and for a moment, his stone facade cracked. "I'm sorry." One huge, silent sob that made his shoulders heave. Two tears, one from each eye, that trickled down his cheeks and dripped from his chin.

How could I explain to him that that wasn't how I wanted to be remembered? His pain knifed through me, but I was spirit only. I couldn't speak to him, or touch his mind, or reach out to wipe the tears off his face. Jay... I'm the one who's sorry. If I'd had a little more courage, I could have been there for you, all of those long, dark years. You keep on thinking that you failed me, but it was the other way around. Dear, dear brother, don't mourn me this way. I'd almost prefer to be left alone in the dark again. *Would* prefer it, if I knew that, somewhere, somehow, you were happy.

He dashed the tears away angrily as he squared his shoulders again, muttering a condemnation of his moment of weakness. Then he took out a bag sewn from the finest silk, and began, one by one, to lift the tumbled bones inside.

I thought, for a moment, that he would break down again when he found the timeworn image nestled among the bones of my ribcage. I actually willed him to do so. Any healer would have known that, in a case like this, the first step toward cleansing him of his grief required him to let it out. But he only stared at it for a moment, dry-eyed, before slipping it inside his jacket. Well, perhaps that was a beginning. Perhaps, one day he'd feel secure enough in himself to allow it to happen.

I perched my awareness on the bag of bones as the blue flame swirled around him -- and it -- again. Gone from that place. At last. After a thousand years in darkness...

It was no lighter, really, in the place where we emerged, but the illumination here came from the honest moon and stars of the Earth Realm, not from a spray of greenish mushrooms scattered across the ceiling. In fact, as Jadeite knelt beside a hole that he had evidently dug in advance, the eastern sky was just beginning to lighten from black to pinkinsh grey. Somewhere in the distance, I heard the sleepy chirps of an early-rising bird.

It is a terrible thing, at times like that, not to have a body. It leaves you with no way to let emotions out. I could have wept when I realized that, from somewhere in the midst of the darkness, he had remembered how I loved the living world. Perhaps there really was hope for him.

His spirit crystal flashed as he bent down to gently place the bag and its burden in the hole in the earth. Then he made a sweeping gesture, and the soil that he had removed jumped back into the hole. Another wave of his hands tamped it down to a firmness resembling that of the ground around it, and created a small hole in the center. He bent down beside a... something... lying beside the raw brown area, and began to painstakingly unwrap it.

"I thought about a gravestone," he said aloud as he worked, "but that idea somehow didn't feel quite right. I think that maybe you'll like this better."

And then he had the roots free, and he carefully arranged the cherry sapling in the small opening he had left in the center of the grave.

"Rest in peace, Alex." He raised his right fist to his heart and saluted me as though I were the evil woman who had ruled him all those years. And then blue fire swirled, and he was gone again.

Several months later, he came back. This time, he wasn't wearing the uniform. And he wasn't alone, either.

She was shorter than he was, and blonde, with clear, steel-grey eyes. A green spirit crystal dangled at her throat. He kept one arm wrapped posessively around her as he guided her toward the little cherry tree, which was dripping with spring blossoms.

She smiled at him. "It's very peaceful here."

Jay nodded, and smiled tremulously back. "It's... very like Alex was, really. He always seemed so happy to be alive, but he wasn't flashy about it, like Zoisite is. There was a kind of calm about him... I don't know how to describe it, except to say that he was fully at peace with himself. With everything he was, and with everything he became."

I wish I had been, I thought. Or had Jadeite, with his special skills, perhaps seen a part of me that I'd never known about?

"He must have been a remarkable person," she said softly. "I wish I could have met him."

"I wish... you could have... too..." And then he was sobbing too hard to speak aloud. Tears streamed from his eyes as a cleansing too long overdue finally came to pass.

The woman gathered him into her arms so that he could cry on her shoulder, and he clung to her as though she were his world and everything that he held dear. Distracted as he was, I don't think that he heard her murmur, "Thank you, gods. Thank you, Alexandrite, wherever you are. He's needed this for so long... Thank you."

You're welcome, I thought back.

After that, I was never left alone for more than a few months at a time, except during those years of ice which, even for me, passed in the blink of an eye. Jadeite came every year, on the anniversary of the day that he had buried me here, the actual date of my death having been lost in the darkness of the Negaverse. Amber came, never on a regular schedule but always at least once a year, to pray for her father's soul over the buried shards of his spirit crystal where they rested beside me. Sometimes, Demantoid came with her. Jasper came -- not often, for he had not been raised in the traditions of ancestor worship, but he seemed to savour the quiet of this place. Once, even Malachite came, but he only stood there and stared at my cherry tree before turning away again. And Aventurine came more and more often as she grew older. Alone of all of them, she spoke to me. About little things mostly -- her upbringing in the Negaverse, events there and in the Earth Realm. Her family. And, increasingly often as she matured from a girl into a woman, about love. She sometimes seemed to look right at me, and I came to wonder if she might not have a latent talent for spirit-speak.

Then there was a period of several months when no-one came, only the wild animals and the birds that came to perch in my tree. It wasn't until Aventurine returned that I understood why.

This time she, too, had come with another, a slender young man who steadied her as she walked slowly forward over the broken ground of the meadow. The slight swelling at her waist was evidently unbalancing her a bit. The stranger hung back, though, as she took the last two steps forward and seated herself at the foot of my tree. The breeze ruffled his short, dark hair and teased at the front flap of his red-violet-trimmed jacket. He was at least two inches shorter than she was, and his eyes were a flat, pupilless grey that made him seem blind. But as he scanned the area, he hesitated, facing me, and offered a tentative smile. As though he knew that I was there.

"What is it, Cuprite, love?" Avi asked from where she sat under my tree.

The young man smiled. "I don't know. Probably nothing. Even six years later, I don't quite have all of the ins and outs figured." His finger tapped lightly at his temple before he lowered himself to the grass and sat facing her.

"Uncle Alex?" Avi began. "I'm sorry that I've been away for so long, but a lot has happened. There was a war, and then I got married, and then there was the baby..."

It's all right, I thought. Of course, she couldn't hear me, but it made me feel like I was keeping up my end of the conversation. It was wonderful to see her so happy. Really, when you get right down to it, she doesn't need me all that much. None of them do. It's past time that I moved on. Maybe the Powers-that-Be will let me be reborn into the same family, and then I'll *really* get to be with them, instead of just watching and not being able to help when they do need me...

"Almandite says it's going to be a boy," Avi was saying. "We thought that maybe we'd name him after you..."

I found myself floating over to her, curious. I could tell that she was probably somewhere in the fourth month of her pregnancy, or maybe her fifth, and if I did decide to finally uproot myself from my bones and seek out my final reward, this might be the only chance I would get to get to know my great-nephew.

While she continued to talk, I sank my non-substance carefully through her skin, seeking the second soul that should now be nested inside her. Nothing. If I'd still been physical, my breath would have caught in my throat. No spirit had yet taken up residence inside the baby's body, although it had just reached the stage of development where that would be possible.

Had the gods meant for this to happen? Had they guided my niece here, on this particular day of all days, just so that I would have this chance? I couldn't prove it. But surely this couldn't be just coincidence. If this body had been meant to house a specific soul, surely they would have allocated it by now?

I edged a little farther into the as-yet uninhabited body and brain. No divine wrath struck me down. Perhaps it *is* meant, after all.

I pulled as much of myself as I could inside. It would take some time to wear away the ties that still held me to the skeleton of my old body. But I thought that the task could be accomplished before it became time for me to be born again.

Alive again! The strong surge of emotion made my as-yet-poorly-controlled body thrash and kick. There was just enough of me left on the outside to see Avi smile and lower her hand to her stomach.

Cuprite's eyes opened wide. "He moved?"

"He moved," Avi confirmed. And they exchanged a kiss, while I curled up inside my warm, wet haven and went to sleep.

The cold air felt like an assault on skin that had, until now, been touched only by warm liquid. Shocked, I let a single wail escape me before I was bundled into the warm softness of a blanket.

Fingertips touched my forehead, and I heard a voice whispering, "Take..." in the instant before the familiar cold fire of crystal power flooded my body. Somehow, I managed to reach up and keep the hand there for a few seconds after it was finished, to probe it clumsily for its energy signature. Jadeite... Oh, brother... I could see him only as a blur, pale face and blonde hair above grey collar. All newborns are nearsighted.

Will I ever tell him? I wondered as other hands lifted me to Avi's breast and hunger made me instinctively begin to suck. If he knows... I don't know what will happen... How will he feel about me, returning after so long...

Well, I'm going to have to learn to talk again before I can tell him anything, I reminded myself. It's curious how little the mind really controls the body. Nor could I focus my powers enough for mindspeech. There was just enough difference between the energy Jadeite had given me and that I had received from Onyx so long ago to throw me off.

Perhaps it would have been easier if I hadn't chosen to do things this way, if I'd allowed myself to pass on to that place where souls are cleansed of their old memories before beginning their next incarnation. But then I wouldn't have understood why I felt such a desperate need to be close to a Negaverse General that I didn't even recognize. The ramifications could have been... embarassing, I suppose. For both of us. No, it's better this way.

This is the first time that I have returned here. Almost three years have passed, and my body is now that of a boy of twelve. I'll be passing through puberty again soon, I suppose. There are certain aspects of this reincarnation thing that aren't so wonderful.

Jadeite's been avoiding me lately. I'm sure that he sees in my face the same thing that I see when I look into the mirror. The spirit influences the flesh in some of the most unexpected ways. I have the same wide, smoky brown eyes that I did before, the same dark hair, the same shape of nose and cheek and chin, all of which is becoming more obvious as this body matures. Fortunately, Avi didn't know me in that past life, and isn't aware of what my power deformity was. If word of that should trickle back to my brother, I don't know what would happen.

My brother. Odd, that I still think of him that way. To this body, he's its grandfather, not a sibling. I have to be very careful how I talk to him, lest I slip and call him that, or address him by an old nickname, "Jay", or "Jaddo", the one that Nephrite always used.

I sit down under the cherry tree and pull my boots off, then part the grass so that I can plunge my toes down into the soil. I can't do this in the Negaverse. Gods only know what contaminants may lace the ground there, in that place where only mushrooms grow.

I lie down on my back and stare up at the clouds as I draw strength from the earth. A small bird flies overhead, and I hold out my finger and whistle. It settles there, moving its head from side to side to stare at me out of first one beady black eye, then the other. I can't do this in the Negaverse, either. There are few animals there, and none of them this trusting, or willing to enter into a peaceful communion with me. I didn't realize how much I miss it. I'd prefer to live here, in the Earth Realm, if I could, but then I wouldn't be able to be with him. He rarely comes to this side.

The bird flies away at last, and I slip into a doze, enjoying the warmth of the sun, waking again only when someone sits down beside me.

<<Is it time for lessons already, Jay?>> Disoriented, I fail to distort the voice of my mind as I have learned to do, so that it sounds like the child's voice of the body that I now occupy. I blink my eyes open to see Jadeite staring at me, expression speaking of disquiet. His eyes travel down my body, become riveted on my feet where they're driven into the soil, jump back up to my face again.

I swallow. Moment of truth. <<I'm not a ghost, Jay. You see?>> I grab his hand, press it to my chest, over my heart. <<Flesh and blood. I came back. I had to come back. I couldn't... just leave you...>> Now it's my turn to cry, as he did, all of those years ago. He hesitates, then gathers me to him. I pull one foot out of the earth so that I can turn and bury my face in his jacket.

<<I wanted -- I needed -- to apologize,>> I continued. <<I abandoned you, left you alone with Beryl when you needed me to help you. I tried to watch over you, but there was no way I could do anything but watch. I am so sorry!>>

My sobs finally trail off, and I look up at him again. The expression on his face has gone from shock and disquiet to wonder.

<<It really is you.>> And a smile I haven't seen in two thousand years lights his face. <<We were afraid that... when your spirit crystal was destroyed... you'd been destroyed along with it. Oh, gods, Alex. Don't apologize. Don't apologize for anything. Having you back here again is enough compensation for any wrong you think you may have done me.>>

And there is companionable silence.

<<Jay, will you do me a favour?>> I add after a few moments.

<<Anything,>> comes the instant response. Just like the old days.

<<Don't tell Avi, okay? I don't think she's ready to handle the idea that her son is also her uncle.>>

Jay snorts, amused. <<Well, when you put it that way, probably not. I'll have to tell Malachite, of course, but other than that, it can just be our little secret.>>

We sit there until the sun is low enough to send streamers of red and gold out along the horizon. When we finally get home, Amber scolds us both impartially for holding up supper, but we just laugh, because nothing can take what we have away from us.

The End

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