Fire Rekindled

Chapter One

© 2004 by EnsignZoi


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"Kaiou-sama is making a special visit to see us again this afternoon, so behave yourselves," said Kawada.

Twenty or so children cheered, with good reason. A week ago, the same lady had visited their orphanage with toys and candy, art supplies and clothing and all sorts of good things that they had only dreamed of before Kaiou Michiru's visit. Not only that, but she had also thrilled them with a remarkable violin performance and delighted them with her friendly company.

Perhaps only two children in the whole assembly greeted this announcement in silence. Unlike the older child, whose fair features were currently marred by a scowl, the younger one was smiling. That smile quickly faded, however, when he looked up at the older child. He assessed the older child's countenance, then spoke.

"Ne...Zoisaito-oniisama..."

Zoisite, the older boy, had wavy copper-blond hair that fell below his shoulders. His face, featuring two green eyes offset by pale, smooth skin, could only be described as pretty, and as a result, he had spent more time than he had ever wanted fighting with those children who teased him on that account.

As he looked down at the boy who addressed him, his scowl lessened into a frown. "What?" He wasn't really the younger boy's brother, but being called "oniisama" had long since ceased to bother him. In fact, he would have found it strange if the boy suddenly stopped addressing him as "oniisama."

"Ano...I heard some of the kids talking...What's Sailorneptune?"

Shiitake, the younger boy, was only five. In the past several months since they had met, Zoisite had gotten used to the boy's appalling lack of knowledge regarding the world. Zoisite was ten.

"Sailorneptune is one of the legendary Sailorsenshi who protect Neo-Queen Serenity and Crystal Tokyo, and the Earth in general. There was a big war about ten years ago with the Dark Moon, and the senshi protected the Earth then."

"Oh." Shiitake nodded. "And Kaiou-sama is Sailorneptune?"

"Yes."

"And so..." Shiitake paused, unsure of how long his oniisama's patience would last today. Sometimes Zoisite didn't like it when he asked too many questions. However, he forged ahead with the curiosity of any typical five-year old. "Does oniisama not like Sailorneptune? Or does he not like Kaiou-sama?"

Zoisite gave a start, and he found himself staring at the top of Shiitake's neatly combed dark brown hair curiously. Perhaps he had underestimated the boy's perceptiveness, he mused. The head he was staring at turned upwards and he found himself looking at two large brown eyes. He recovered himself.

"First of all, Sailorneptune and Kaiou-sama are the same person. Second of all, what makes you think that I don't like one or the other?" Zoisite said, his tone unintentionally growing defensive as he spoke.

Shiitake hung his head. "Gomen nasai, oniisama." He stole a quick glance at his oniisama. Zoisite didn't look mad, he realized.

Zoisite shook his head, trying to dispel Shiitake's misunderstanding. Actually, the child was a bit over perceptive when it came to him, he thought wryly. "What were you going to say?" he asked.

"Well...It's just that oniisama tried to stay far away from Kaiou-sama last time she came, and so...it seemed like oniisama didn't like her. But it seems like everyone else likes her, and the other kids say she's nice and everything...So I wondered if maybe oniisama didn't like her because she was Sailorneptune. But I guess that doesn't make sense either, if Sailorneptune helps protect the queen and the Earth..." Shiitake fell silent, but just as Zoisite was about to make some reply, the younger boy spoke again.

"Oniisama, did you notice that Kaiou-sama kept looking at you?"

"Looking at me?" Zoisite hadn't noticed.

Shiitake nodded. "One of the kids told me that she even asked about you."

"Why would she do that?"

"I think it's because Kaiou-sama...well...I mean, oniisama..." Shiitake trailed off, unable to bring himself to voice the idea that had entered his mind.

"Never mind," he said a moment later, and his voice trembled. He stared hard at the ground.

"What is it?"

"Nothing..." It came out as a whisper.

"Tell me." Zoisite felt like the boy had something important to say, and he was determined to have it out.

Shiitake took a quivering breath and spoke. "It's just that...I think...Kaiou-sama...wants..." The boy's shoulders shook, and his quiet voice was cut off by a sudden sob. He wiped his eyes furiously with his dirty sleeve, but it didn't stop his tears. "Gomen nasai, oniisama," Shiitake managed to whisper between silent sobs.

Zoisite sighed at the interruption. "Don't be silly," he said, and he led his crying companion from the fringes of the crowded playground to the now-deserted bedroom that all the boys shared.

It had been months since Zoisite had seen the boy cry. When Shiitake first arrived at the orphanage after being shuffled through a pack of relatives that didn't want or couldn't take care of him, he had cried all day and all night, to the misery of all his new roommates. The next day, however, he discovered Zoisite, and he clung to him as if he were his lifeline, following the older boy everywhere.

It had taken weeks for Zoisite to accept him. To Zoisite, who had always been alone, and whose attitude toward his peers ranged from indifference to hostility, the young boy was like a barnacle that had attached itself to his side. Zoisite had done everything he could think of to make the boy understand that he was not welcome, but Shiitake was tenacious, Shiitake was loyal. For one reason or another, he believed in Zoisite, and slowly, Zoisite came to like the boy, his shadow, his mushroom-headed follower.

Now Zoisite knelt to be at eye-level with his young companion. The boy's eyes had become red and puffy, and his cheeks were smeared with tears that flooded nonstop from his eyes. His breaths had become short and shaky, and his nose was in dire need of a tissue. In fact, his whole face was.

"Don't use your sleeve to wipe your face," Zoisite chided. He found some tissues and gave them to the crying boy. Then he waited.

Of course he could have done more—given the boy a hug, or said a comforting word—but he couldn't bring himself to do any of that. He was only Shiitake's pretend-older brother, not his mother, after all.

And so Zoisite waited, and eventually, the hiccupping sobs and sniffles subsided.

"Go-gomen nasai, oniisama." Shiitake wiped his face one more time on an already damp tissue.

"Idiot," Zoisite said. "What were you crying about?"

"I...I don't want oniisama to disappear."

Zoisite laughed. He couldn't help himself. Shiitake was being too ridiculous.

"Oniisama?" Zoisite heard the tremor in the boy's question, and he composed himself and replied seriously.

"Look here, Shiitake-kun. There's no way Kaiou-sama would adopt me. What would she want with me anyway? If anyone, she should adopt someone as nice and cute as you, ne?" Zoisite concentrated, and a moment later, he held a handful of sakura petals, which he sprinkled into the younger boy's hand.

Shiitake-kun smiled weakly at the familiar display of magic (he'd never seen anyone but his oniisama do magic – that was one reason he knew his oniisama was special), but he remained gloomy and clung to Zoisite for the rest of the morning.

* * *

It was funny how children could be right about the most important things, Zoisite later reflected.

As expected, Kaiou Michiru visited the orphanage again that afternoon, bringing another sizeable donation of toys, food, clothing, and money. Today, however, she proceeded directly with business, only giving a short greeting to the children who had crowded together and were watching her with wide, wondering eyes. She followed the orphanage's director, Kawada, into the office, and behind the closed door, the two remained for about ten minutes.

"It's not usual for us to approve an adoption this quickly, Kaiou-sama, but as there's no doubt he'll be taken care of, you may have him as soon as today, if you wish," Kawada said.

* * *

Zoisite leaned against the dirty white wall of the hallway, just close enough to keep an eye on the office door. He wondered why he was bothering, but he recalled the conclusion of his conversation with Shiitake.


"So oniisama really doesn't like Kaiou-sama? Even though she brought presents for everyone?"

"No, I don't," Zoisite snapped, agitated by the subject of their conversation. "She's rich, she's powerful, she's Sailorneptune, and a person like her has no business here."

"Okay...but why not?"

Zoisite fidgeted. How was he supposed to explain that he just had this feeling that repelled him from her? And on top of that, she just acted too nice. It wasn't right. "We don't need her charity," he muttered. He eyed Shiitake, wondering if the boy would continue questioning him.

"But maybe it's not just charity. What if she wants to ad...a..."

"Adopt?"

Shiitake nodded. "Adopt. That's why most grown ups come here, isn't it? To take one of us away?"

Zoisite didn't answer. He had tried to dismiss the possibility, but if what Shiitake had said earlier about Kaiou Michiru was true...No, it wouldn't make sense if she chose him, he told himself.

"Zoisaito-oniisama...I don't want to be alone again," Shiitake said.

"You won't be," Zoisite told the younger boy. "As I said before, I'm the last person here that she would want to adopt. Don't worry."

"But-"

"Stop thinking about such things. Just wait until this afternoon and you'll see." And Zoisite ruffled the boy's hair.


So he had said. Really, there was no reason that he could think of as to why Kaiou Michiru would want to adopt him over any other child. Shiitake was imagining things. No one had wanted him from the time he was born. He had been at the orphanage as far back as he could remember, and while others had come and gone, he had stayed, unwanted. There was no reason to think that today would be any different. Besides, he didn't like Kaiou Michiru, and to abandon Shiitake for that woman was something he would never do.

That didn't explain why he felt so uneasy, and why he found himself worried enough to keep a watch on Kawada's office.

"Oniisama?"

Zoisite jumped. Shiitake had approached him from behind, and he hadn't noticed. "Why are you here?!" he hissed.

Shiitake shrugged and looked at his feet. "I didn't know where oniisama was. I was worried."

"Well, Kaiou-sama's in the office talking to Kawada-san, so I don't know anything yet."

The office door creaked open, and Zoisite hid himself around the corner, pulling Shiitake out of sight with him.

"Is that you, Shiitake-kun?" Kawada's voice drifted down the hallway.

"Shimatta, you were seen," Zoisite said, irked. "Well, go answer her."

Shiitake stepped back around the corner. "Hai."

"Please go find Zoisaito-kun and tell him to come to the office. Kaiou-sama wishes to see him."

"Okay," Shiitake answered, then returned around the corner to Zoisite, the question apparent in his worried eyes. "Oniisama...?"

So the unthinkable was going to happen, it seemed. Zoisite found himself smiling grimly, surprised, but at the same time, not. "Well, I hardly think she want to see me just to offer me cookies."

Zoisite gazed at an ant crawling along the wall, following its steady progress until it disappeared into a crack. For a moment longer, he remained lost in thought, but then he laughed shortly, startling the child next to him who awaited his answer. "You know, Shiitake-kun, I don't really care why Kaiou Michiru wishes to see me. It's about time I left this place anyway."

"Zoisaito-oniisama..." Shiitake stared at the older boy. "Are you going to see Kaiou-sama?"

"Of course not. I'm running away." Zoisite grinned, feeling more exhilarated than he had for a long time. "Make up some excuse to Kawada-san for me in the meantime."

"Will you come back?" Shiitake still didn't know if he should be glad or worried.

Zoisite's answer relieved him. "Of course I'll come back for you, mushroom head. See you." He waved farewell to the younger boy, then jogged down the hall toward the back door.

Shiitake waited for about ten minutes, then went to the office. "Ano...Kawada-san, Kaiou-sama...Zoisaito-oniisama said he can't come right now, but he'll come as soon as he can, because oniisama is, well, sweeping the bathroom."

"He's doing his chores early?" Kawada looked skeptical.

"What's wrong with that?" Shiitake defended. It had been the best excuse he could come up with that wouldn't make the orphanage's director immediately suspicious.

"You're Shiitake-kun?" Kaiou Michiru asked.

Shiitake nodded.

"Why do you call Zoisaito-kun your ‘oniisama'?" Kaiou Michiru was intrigued, and Shiitake, caught by her gentle eyes and soft smile, answered her question.

* * *

Zoisite ran from the orphanage through a hidden route that he had discovered a few years ago. Where he would go from there, he wasn't sure, but he kept running. The road he was on, while deserted, would soon lead to town, and although no one would recognize him, he didn't want to be seen. If people saw him, it would only be too easy for Kawada and Kaiou Michiru to track him down. He turned off the road and into the woods.

His pace soon slowed, and for the next fifteen minutes he half jogged, half stumbled through the wood. As he passed by a cave, he stopped to catch his breath. He could rest there, at least for a few minutes, couldn't he?

‘But it's too obvious,' Zoisite thought. He could be found if he didn't get farther away, and he didn't know how much time he had left before the others began searching for him. He was about to continue on when a deep voice stopped him.

"Why don't you come in?"

Zoisite turned and saw that a boy, probably at least five years older than himself, had emerged from the shadows of the cave. The older boy, who was now looking at him with sharp gray-silver-icy blue eyes (given their distance, Zoisite couldn't be sure what color they were), had long, white hair and wore a gray outfit that looked like a military uniform, complete with a white and lavender cape.

Immediately on guard, Zoisite asked, "Who are you?"

The other boy watched him for another moment, then frowned, saying, "You wouldn't know, I suppose..." He almost sounded...pitying, and perhaps sad.

Before Zoisite could ask him what he meant by that, the other boy spoke again. "Watch. Do you know what this is?" He waved his hand, and in the blink of an eye, his military uniform had been replaced by more mundane clothing, black jeans and a white dress shirt.

"Magic..." Zoisite murmured. Doubly wary, he said, "You're not with Sailorneptune, are you?"

The older boy laughed. "Darkness forbid, no. But it is awkward having a conversation like this. Come in."

Zoisite had never known of anyone besides the Sailorsenshi and himself who could use magic, and now there was someone like him, not a senshi but able to use magic nonetheless. He found the older boy compelling in other ways too, in his authoritativeness, his self-confidence, and that odd little hint of sadness that hadn't seemed to fit at all. Zoisite had already taken a few steps toward the stranger before he realized what he was doing.

He stopped, now only a few paces away from the cave and the boy. The white-haired boy stood before him expectantly. Zoisite couldn't understand why he felt drawn to him, why his body seemed to be acting on its own, and so he was uneasy. He said, an apologetic tone involuntarily slipping into his words, "But...the people searching for me will find this cave all too easily. I have to keep going."

"Where will you go?" The strong gray eyes (in the shadows, they looked gray more than anything else, Zoisite decided) challenged Zoisite's deep green ones. "This place is hidden by illusion. To others, this cave is just another set of trees. No one will find you that easily."

"Then why was I...?"

"I meant for you to see the cave. Now come in before you're discovered standing there talking to thin air like an idiot."

Zoisite obeyed the command (he recognized it as such only after he began walking toward the cave again) and ignored the insult, something that would not have normally happened. However, he was anxious about being followed and intrigued by the boy with magic and a piercing gaze. He realized that if the stranger were to be believed and an illusion had indeed been placed over the cave, he would be safer there than anywhere else. Thus, he entered the cave and sat on a ledge next to the older boy. There didn't seem to be much inside the cave, which turned out to be fairly shallow. Still, he was glad for a chance to rest, and beyond that, to satisfy his curiosity.

"Won't we be heard from the outside?" he asked.

"No. I put up a ward for the sound so no one can hear us."

Zoisite was impressed. "You're pretty good at magic. All I can do is this." He created a handful of sakura petals and tossed them into the air, then watched them fall to the ground. The older boy caught a petal in his fingers and looked at it. A strange smile came to his lips; a miserable smile, perhaps. It disappeared in an instant, however, and Zoisite was never aware of it.

"Of course it's nothing compared to illusions and sound wards and large scale conjury..." Zoisite turned to the other boy. "What did you mean, you meant for me to see the cave? Why me?"

"I already knew you could use magic," the white-haired boy replied. "We're alike, I suppose you could say."

"But even though I can use a little magic, our magical abilities are still too far apart to be called similar."

"Perhaps I shouldn't have said similar. No, we were never terribly similar." Zoisite found the other boy staring at him with an unreadable expression, and he felt the slightest bit uncomfortable. He had a feeling that the last sentence hadn't been about their magical abilities at all. Long seconds passed in silence as they locked gazes.

"I meant that we have had, and still have, many things in common," the older boy amended, finally breaking the silence, and he abruptly shifted his gaze to the opposite wall.

Zoisite couldn't understand why the boy had stared at him like that, but for the time being, he was willing to ignore it in the face of greater questions. "Things in common? Like what? And how would you know?"

The older boy ignored his questions. "How old are you now?"

"Ten. Why? And how come you—"

"Why did you run away from Sailorneptune?"

"Why should I tell you?" Zoisite snapped back. Irritation from having his questions ignored, compounded by the confusion caused by the other boy's obvious knowledge of his entire situation and the strange, unsettling looks he kept giving him, flared into anger.

"Why don't you answer my questions for a change?" he continued, not quite shouting, but loud nonetheless. "Who are you, where are you from, how old are you? What do you want from me? How can you know about Sailorneptune and about me being able to use magic, but not know something as basic about me as how old I am? Who are you?"

The older boy's face was still unreadable. "What do you think?"

Zoisite glowered, but he accepted the challenge. "You've obviously been spying on me recently, God knows why. Maybe you want to use me, or my magic for some purpose of yours. I don't know who you are. I've never met you before; how could I know anything about you? All I know is that you're not with the Sailorsenshi, so for all I know, you could be an enemy of Neo-Queen Serenity-sama."

Zoisite laughed harshly at the absurdity of his final guess, at the frustration that was building within him. Agitated, he swung his foot back and kicked the stone wall behind him. His thinly padded shoes did nothing to soften the pain that shot through his heel.

He winced, feeling stupid and confused. As he looked back at the stranger's handsome face, which held a distant, melancholy expression, the anger abruptly drained out of him. "Can't you just tell me already?" he asked, almost plaintively. "I have no idea."

A slight smile curved the other boy's mouth upwards. "You're not as far off as you might think." Zoisite frowned, thinking he was being teased, but what the stranger said next drove all such thoughts away.

"You have the potential for much more than this—" the stranger held up the sakura petal, "—Zoisaito."

Zoisite's heart jumped. Somewhere, sometime, he was sure he had heard this very voice say his name before...He knew it had to be impossible though. He had never met the older boy before today. And yet, the voice rang familiarly in his mind.

Thoroughly disoriented, Zoisite's words stumbled from his tongue, uncertain and confused. "I...can't. I don't know magic. Only that. What do you mean?"

"You can learn."

"How?"

"You already know how to focus some of your energies to make sakura petals."

Zoisite nodded.

The other boy surveyed Zoisite critically. "Your magical strength is a joke right now. To perform larger scale magic or more powerful magic such as levitation or warding, you need to build up your magical strength. That will take time. But right now, I think you can manage something slightly more than a few sakura petals. Let me teach you. Close your eyes."

Zoisite had been trying to pay attention to the other boy's words, but he was preoccupied with trying to keep all his feelings from bursting out into the open. Just the very fact that this stranger was interested in helping him, interested in his flimsy powers...Warmth leapt from somewhere deep within him and spread throughout his body, into his fingers, his cheeks, the tips of his ears. And he had said that he had potential, potential for much more... It was as if he believed Zoisite had a future, as if he could become more than the mediocre, unremarkable, unwanted boy that he was. It was as if he actually cared about him.

Zoisite was glad to obey and close his eyes, for then he wouldn't have to make contact with the sharp eyes, the striking face that hid as much emotion as it betrayed. He didn't realize the older boy had scooted closer until the larger pair of hands cupped his own in the air before him.

Zoisite became aware that his heart was pounding.

"Try to make light," the low voice murmured.

"...Light? How?" Zoisite kept his eyes tightly shut and forced himself not to think about the other boy's proximity. As he did whenever he conjured sakura petals, he concentrated on collecting his body's energies and directing it into a ball of light in his hands.

"Not like that. Like this." From where the older boy's hands held his own, a dizzying current of something traveled through his wrists, up his arms, through his chest, and then reversed course, flowing back down his arms and through his hands.

Zoisite felt nauseous, but he tried to ignore it. The pair of warm hands that had supported his own let go. His hands trembled, but he didn't let them fall.

"Open your eyes."

Zoisite opened his eyes. In his hands was a shining ball of light, so bright that he had to look away almost immediately. "You made this?" He squinted at the older boy sitting next to him.

"You made it. I only guided you. I trust you remember how it was done?"

Zoisite nodded, trying to fight back a wave of dizziness. "I think so..."

"Try adjusting the brightness, won't you? It's a bit too much. Just stop feeding it so much energy. You'll probably feel better too."

Zoisite tried to keep his energy from slipping away into the ball of light, but it felt like a game of tug-of-war. The light would dim for a few moments, but then grow even brighter.

For his part, Zoisite was beginning to feel ill. It was as if all his energy were being sucked away to feed the painfully bright light. After a few more futile tugs to reclaim his energy, he panicked and gave a powerful mental jerk directly at the shining ball. The light abruptly vanished. Zoisite slumped back against the wall, regrouping his energies and blinking to adjust to the sudden dimness of the cave. The weakness passed, and a moment later, he sat up.

"That wasn't the optimal solution, but given your lack of experience with control, it was well done." Zoisite saw that the other boy was actually smiling. He found himself returning it with a genuine smile of his own.

In his relief at having won the battle and kept his energy from altogether escaping him, he had barely spared a thought for what he had just done. Perhaps he did have some magical potential after all, although it wouldn't be easy to tap into or control. Still, learning another way to use his magic was exhilarating. He beamed at the white-haired boy, feeling warm all over. He had never felt so euphoric, so free. He even laughed.

The moment was ruined when the other boy's relaxed smile tightened into a guarded look. His eyes flickered toward the cave entrance, then trained themselves on an alarmed Zoisite.

"What's wrong?" Zoisite asked.

"Come with me, Zoisaito."

"To where?" Zoisite was bewildered. "I mean, just wait! I barely even know you—I don't even know your name."

"Come with me, and you'll have all the answers you wish." The other boy put a hand on Zoisite's shoulder.

Suddenly Zoisite felt uneasy, afraid, even. He barely understood what was happening. A moment ago, he had been happier than he could ever remember being. He had felt valued and carefree and capable. And now the older boy had become a stranger again, someone who had motives that he didn't understand, someone who he, in all probability, could not trust. It was as if his happiness had been a dream, and he had been rudely awakened.

Zoisite balked. "And if I don't go with you?"

The other boy removed his hand from Zoisite's shoulder. "I won't force you. But there will come a time when you regret it. I would much rather that you come with me."

Perhaps he had been wrong in calling the happiness from before a dream, Zoisite amended. In the other boy's tense, expectant gaze, he could still see the person who had encouraged him, the boy who had been proud of him. The older boy who cared about his future and his potential was still there, but now he was acting to fulfill some unknown agenda. Even so, the boy had given him no reason not to trust him.

The fact was, Zoisite had nothing to lose by going with the other boy – he had nothing here, and after all, he had intended to run away in the first place. And now the older boy was offering him a place to run to.

Distant voices called from outside. "Zoisaito-kun! Answer me if you hear me!"

"Zoisaito-kun!"

"That's Kawada-san and the others from the orphanage," Zoisite said. "They've caught up." He looked worriedly at the older boy.

"They won't find you. Will you come, Zoisaito?"

‘I want to go with him,' Zoisite realized. He grinned. "Promise you'll tell me everything and teach me magic if I come?"

"Of course." The gray eyes had softened.

"Then let's go."

"Stand close to me," the older boy instructed. Zoisite stepped closer and let an arm wrap around his shoulders. Just then, another familiar voice called from outside.

"Zoisaito-oniisamaaaa! Please come back!"

Zoisite jerked away from the older boy's arm and stood at the entrance of the cave. "Shiitake-kun..." He had forgotten.

Zoisite looked back at the enigmatic boy behind him, whose eyes had widened slightly. Then he stared outside, unable to see anyone but still listening to his young friend call for him, a note of worry, perhaps even panic, in his voice. Zoisite didn't want to go back to the orphanage. He didn't want to deal with Kaiou Michiru. He wanted to go with the older boy and create a new future for himself. He didn't want to disappoint the older boy. But...

He faced the boy again, staring at the ground as he spoke. "I can't go with you. I'm sorry. You don't have to tell me that I'll regret my decision one day because I already do. It's just that...I have to go back."

When he received no response, Zoisite looked up.

The older boy's eyes had narrowed, while the rest of his face had been drawn into an unreadable mask. "Is that boy so important to you?"

"I-I don't know. But I promised him, and I can't break that promise. He needs me."

"I see. How very selfless of you."

Zoisite flushed, ashamed, somehow feeling that the other boy's opinion of him had dropped several notches. He had very clearly disappointed him. "I'm sorry...I want to go with you. I do...If only Shiitake-kun...But I can't, not now." Zoisite became aware that he was blabbering. "I'm sorry."

"Very well." The other boy turned his back on Zoisite. While Zoisite had no idea where the boy was planning to go, as the back wall of the cave was directly in front of him, he had the distinct impression that the boy was leaving.

"Wait!" Zoisite cried. "Will I see you again?"

"I imagine so," the boy replied, not turning around.

"When?"

"That remains to be seen." Streaks of blue light began to surround the white-haired boy, but suddenly he turned and strode over to Zoisite. "Remember this," he said, and kissed Zoisite on the lips.

It was a brief touch that lasted only an instant, and before Zoisite could push the other boy away, the offending party had vanished. The streaks of blue light that occupied the space where he had been standing faded seconds later.

Zoisite sputtered. He had been kissed! How incredibly disgusting and revolting! Zoisite was outraged. To think that he had been on the verge of trusting that boy! He hadn't wanted a kiss! Had this been what the boy was after all along?

Zoisite was distracted from his angry, indignant thoughts, however, for as he glared at the cave wall opposite him, it wavered, as if seen through a wave of heat, and a moment later, he found himself standing amidst a groove of trees. The illusion had actually been the cave, he realized. In any case, he wouldn't forgive the older boy, he thought crossly, and the next time they met, he would tell him so.

He heard the others still calling for him and returned his thoughts to his current predicament. It wasn't a predicament anymore though; it had ceased to be when he had heard Shiitake calling for him and had refused the other (horrible and insulting) boy's offer (thank the gods). He had already made his decision.

"The hell with Kaiou Michiru," Zoisite muttered. He could deal with her. Seeing that Shiitake and the others had passed his spot already, he ran after them. "Shiitake-kun! I'm here!"

* * *

On the way back to the orphanage, Shiitake said, "Gomen nasai, oniisama. I made up an excuse for you, and I talked to Michiru-sama for a while, but—"

"Michiru-sama?" Zoisite frowned. It shouldn't have bothered him that Shiitake suddenly seemed to be on more familiar terms with Kaiou Michiru than he had been an hour ago, but it did, and for that reason, he disliked the woman even more.

Shiitake nodded. "She said we could call her that instead of Kaiou-sama." He paused when he saw Zoisite's frown. "Is oniisama mad?"

Zoisite shrugged and tried to act like he didn't care. "Not at you. Although I would like to know why you helped them search."

Shiitake looked relieved. "Well, Kawada-san went to look for oniisama after a while, and when she couldn't find you, she didn't know where else to look. But then Michiru-sama said that we might find oniisama around there, in the woods, and so we went there and you came out."

"How would she have known? I didn't even know where I was going."

"Well...She said something about...a lot of dark energy in that area, I think. She said that oniisama would be in danger if oniisama went there, so I got worried...and that's why I helped them look for you. Gomen nasai."

"It's...it's okay. Stop apologizing." Zoisite couldn't blame the younger boy for looking for him, for being the one that made him choose to return. He watched the short five-year old walking next to him, who only managed to keep pace with him through quick, energetic strides. Zoisite didn't understand when the boy had become so important to him, only that back in the cave, he couldn't stand the thought of abandoning Shiitake.

"Is that boy so important to you?" the white-haired boy had asked him. Then, Zoisite hadn't known the answer, and even now, he didn't know how important Shiitake was to him, only that he was.

Suddenly he realized something else, completely unrelated: just because the area had a lot of dark energy, that didn't explain why Kaiou-sama had thought that he would be there. "Where is Kaiou-sama now?" he asked Shiitake.

Shiitake glanced behind them. "She was with us when we found you, but she said she wanted to stay behind for a little while and look around."

‘Investigating the dark energy like a good little senshi, probably,' Zoisite thought. He hadn't felt anything in that area, but then again, his magical sense had never been developed. Could the white-haired boy (how dared he do that to him?!) sense the dark energy, he wondered, then decided that with his powers, he probably could.

A sneaking suspicion connecting the white-haired boy to the dark energy crept into his mind, but he dismissed it before it had completely formed. It wasn't like he knew anything about magic, anyway.

* * *

When they returned to the orphanage, Kawada led Zoisite into the office. Surprisingly, the director of the orphanage didn't scold him for his short-lived escapade. She seemed a little nervous, and only said to him, "Kaiou-sama will be with us shortly, I expect." Then they sat in silence.

A few minutes later, Kaiou Michiru entered. Kawada sprang from her seat. "Kaiou-sama, I'm terribly sorry about—" She stopped short, partly because Michiru had held up a hand to stop her, and partly because she saw that Shiitake had entered the room behind the turquoise-haired lady.

"Kaiou-sama...What is he doing here?" Kawada asked, gesturing to Shiitake.

Michiru smiled. "Well, Shiitake-kun was just standing outside the office, so I thought I'd bring him in."

"With all due respect, Kaiou-sama, I told him to stay outside. This doesn't concern him."

"Well, I think it's much better to have him here because this does concern him. Ne, Shiitake-kun?"

The boy nodded after a moment's hesitation. If it concerned his oniisama, then it concerned him too, he rationalized.

"Then you're still going to...?" Kawada asked hopefully, leaving her question hanging unfinished.

"Yes." Michiru turned to Zoisite. "Zoisaito-kun, I know that you may not like me much right now, but you'll have to bear with me, because I'm adopting you."

Shiitake had long ago resigned himself to the possibility that one day, he might suddenly be deprived of his oniisama, that Zoisite would be taken from him. That he would be taken from him by a lady as wonderful as Kaiou Michiru, Shiitake had never imagined, but he knew he ought to have been glad for his oniisama. Even as he told himself this though, he found himself biting his lip to stop the tears from coming.

"No." The single word slipped from Zoisite's mouth quietly, but with all the weight of his refusal.

Shiitake blinked, hardly noticing when two tears escaped him.

Kawada angrily began to berate him. "How can you say such a thing to Kaiou-sama? She'll provide a more-than-perfect home for you, and whether you want to or not, you're going with her. She has the full support of Her Highness Neo-Queen Serenity on this—"

Michiru held up her hand. "That's enough, thank you, Kawada-san." She focused on Zoisite again. "Would you still say that if I adopted Shiitake-kun as well?"

Shiitake barely believed what he had heard. To think that he might be adopted together with his oniisama, that he wouldn't be separated from his oniisama...But his euphoria vanished in a flash as he took in Zoisite's mood.

Zoisite was angry. The woman had caught him in a trap, and he was powerless. "Why bother asking me?" he spat. "If the Neo-Queen says I'm going with you, then I don't have any choice, do I? Why bother trying to win my approval by being too nice, by using Shiitake-kun as your bargaining piece?"

Michiru's voice was strong and determined as she answered. "Neo-Queen Serenity never said you had to do anything, Zoisaito-kun. She only wishes that you come with me, as do I. I don't think you want to remain in this orphanage until you're of age, do you? But I genuinely like Shiitake-kun, and whether you come or not, I mean to adopt him."

"How dare you!" Zoisite shouted, leaping up from his seat in fury. "Manipulating the two of us like this! I never imagined Serenity's senshi would use such dirty tactics!"

Even though he didn't understand everything Zoisite and Michiru were arguing about, Shiitake had heard enough to alarm him. "Ano..." the boy interrupted. The argument changed into a tense silence. Shiitake felt the oppressive air, but he swallowed and found the words he wanted to say. "Gomen nasai, Michiru-sama...But if Zoisaito-oniisama doesn't want to go, then neither do I."

"Shiitake-kun!" Kawada scolded. She would have said more, but Zoisite, his voice now quiet and so different in tone from what it was moments earlier, spoke first.

"Don't be a fool, mushroom head," Zoisite murmured. He never imagined a five year old could be so tenacious and self-sacrificial. "Of course you want to go."

"Oniisama, I don't—"

"I'll go."

The room fell completely silent.

Shiitake stared at his oniisama, his eyes wide and his mouth half open. He swallowed, then said, "...Really?" If the room hadn't been so quiet, no one would have heard his soft exclamation.

Zoisite answered, "Yes."

"Oniisama!" Shiitake cried gladly.

Zoisite felt tired...almost defeated, in a way. It was exhausting, trying to be a good older brother, even if it was only a pretend-older brother. Still, he wanted Shiitake to be happy, the more so now that he realized that Shiitake meant more to him than he had ever admitted. And surely there was some kind of life, some kind of future for Shiitake if the boy grew up under Kaiou Michiru's care. Thinking about his options like a responsible older sibling, with Shiitake's best interests in mind rather than his own, he couldn't have chosen otherwise.

Knowing that, however, didn't quash Zoisite's anger at being manipulated. He was certain that the woman had brought Shiitake into the room with her for the very purpose of eliciting his agreement.

"Gather your belongings," Kawada instructed. "Kaiou-sama plans to leave as soon as you two are ready."

Following Shiitake, Zoisite was leaving the office when he stopped in front of Michiru and said in an undertone, "I don't know what you think you've accomplished by adopting us, or what your motives are, but I can tell you that there's no chance in hell that you'll be a mother to me." He left.

As she signed the adoption papers, Michiru almost sighed, knowing that it was too soon to be relieved.

* * *

The two boys returned to their room, and in silence, began packing what few belongings they had. After a few minutes, Shiitake spoke.

"Oniisama, I'm done packing."

"Oh."

"Oniisama...?"

Zoisite turned from his bag and looked at him. "What?"

"Ano...I'm sorry I made you choose that way."

"Really." It could have been a question, but the tone was completely flat.

"But I'm really glad. Really...glad." Zoisite was surprised when the quiet boy burst into tears, and for the first time in his life, he found himself sitting on the ground with a crying child clinging to him. "Arigatou, oniisama, thank you so much! I love you forever and ever plus infinity."

Zoisite flushed. His ears and cheeks burned, as if Shiitake's happiness were a bubbling hot liquid that had overflowed onto him. To Shiitake, he said uncomfortably, "I didn't do anything."

Shiitake shook his head. "I know you don't want to go, that you didn't want to agree."

"It's okay, I'll be fine," Zoisite assured him, knowing that it wasn't true.

Shiitake smiled but shook his head again, as if he suspected the lie. He changed the subject. "Ne, oniisama, does this mean...now we're real brothers, aren't we? Because now we have the same mother, so you can be my real oniisama, right?"

Zoisite felt a sudden flame of anger at the reminder of Kaiou Michiru's new role in his life. And not only his, Shiitake's as well. He resented the ease with which the woman had entered their lives and won Shiitake's affection – that she had managed to win Shiitake's affection at all! Until she had come, Zoisite had been the only person Shiitake had seemed to like, and now, in a matter of a couple of hours, the younger boy felt comfortable enough with her to accept her without protest as his new mother.

But Shiitake was a mere five-year old child, Zoisite reminded himself. Of course he would be easily charmed by someone as pretty and charismatic as Kaiou Michiru without questioning her motives. It was only natural.

Just because Shiitake happened to like him first, there was no reason to think that he, Zoisite, could monopolize Shiitake's feelings forever. Besides, everyone except him, apparently, adored Kaiou Michiru. It was only natural that Shiitake had come to like her too.

Still, Zoisite thought, that didn't mean...

"Oniisama?" Shiitake had grown concerned at the long silence that followed his initial question.

"That's right, we're brothers." Zoisite found himself hugging the younger boy just a little tighter. Shiitake smiled at him, and Zoisite knew that at least something good had come from this arrangement.

...Still, that didn't mean that he would let Kaiou Michiru steal Shiitake's—his brother's—affection from him.

He detangled Shiitake's arms from around his neck. "Let me finish packing my things."

"Okay, Zoisaito-oniisama."

* * *

When Zoisite and Shiitake bid farewell to the orphanage and followed their new guardian outside, they found a yellow sports car waiting for them. Sitting in the driver's seat was a handsome person (a woman, Zoisite guessed, and soon found that he was right) with short, sandy blond hair. She looked up when they approached.

"Michiru," she greeted.

Michiru smiled, as much glad to see her partner as she was relieved that she would no longer have to deal with Zoisite alone. He had scowled at her on the way out.

"Zoisaito-kun, Shiitake-kun, this is Tenou Haruka, also known as Sailoruranus," Michiru introduced. "Haruka, meet our new children, Zoisaito-kun and Shiitake-kun."

"Hey," Haruka said, raising a hand in greeting.

Fantastic. Another Sailorsenshi. Zoisite frowned and pulled Shiitake a little closer. Shiitake looked at him questioningly but didn't resist.

Michiru sat in the passenger seat, while Zoisite and Shiitake, along with their belongings, went in the back seat. As Haruka drove, only the sound of the wind and the car racing over the road filled the silence.

Haruka caught glimpses of her back two passengers through the rearview mirror. The little boy had fallen asleep, his head pillowed against his companion's arm, while Zoisite only stared out the window without much expression.

Next to her, Michiru sat with a tired look on her face. It didn't suit her, Haruka decided, and she swerved the car—just a little, but enough to be noticed.

The tired face disappeared when Michiru smiled. "Do drive more carefully, Haruka," she chided teasingly, knowing full well that the swerve had been intentional.

"Hai, hai." Haruka grinned. A more content silence fell over the front of the car. Haruka listened to the wind as it blew past her ears.

* * *

Two hours later in the car, Shiitake woke up. First he looked for his oniisama, who was still sitting next to him. When he realized that he had accidentally used his oniisama as his pillow, Shiitake blushed, embarrassed, and was thankful that Zoisite seemed to be dozing. Then he saw was that night had fallen, but it wasn't as dark as it should have been. They were driving though a city, with more lights and people than he had ever seen.

"Wow..." He didn't even realize he had voiced his amazement until Michiru turned her head and said, "This is Crystal Tokyo, your new home."

"We're going to live here?!" Shiitake's exclamation woke Zoisite.

Haruka laughed. "Just wait until you see exactly where you're going to live."

"What do you think?" Michiru asked.

"It's..." Shiitake couldn't find the right word to finish his sentence. He'd never seen anything like it. He noticed Zoisite was awake and listening to the conversation. "Ne, oniisama?" he asked, seeking agreement.

Zoisite nodded, the last remnants of sleepiness falling away. Wariness and distrust fell back in place, and processing Haruka's comment, he said, "You're taking us to the Crystal Palace, I assume."

"Oh? That's right. Not bad, kid," Haruka replied, sounding duly impressed.

Zoisite bristled at her tone. "It didn't take a genius to figure that out."

"So what are you saying? You're not as smart as you look?"

"Just not as stupid as you."

Just as Haruka opened her mouth to retort, Michiru warned, "Haruka."

The blond-haired woman shut her mouth, then took a deep breath and said, "We'll be there soon. You can see the crystal towers from here."

"As if we couldn't see them five minutes ago," Zoisite commented snidely, loud enough for the front of the car to hear. Haruka concentrated on the road, and Michiru stared out the window. Shiitake, his excitement diminished, wished he knew why Zoisite was acting this way.

About fifteen minutes later, they arrived at the Crystal Palace. Shiitake craned his head upwards to see the top of the tall crystalline towers. "It's touching the moon," he said, staring upward in fascination.

Reluctant, but unable to ignore his curiosity, Zoisite also looked up at the towering glittering façade of the palace. The building was like a glimmering pillar of light reaching high into the night, with the tip of the highest tower indeed touching (though he knew it was only a matter of perspective) the moon.

"This way," Michiru said, and the four of them entered the palace, walking past uniformed guards and through a maze of brightly-lit hallways.

"This wing is where the Outer Senshi, such as Haruka and I, live. You'll meet the other two later." They came to a door. Michiru said, opening the door, "This will be your room. Haruka and I are in the room across from you if you need anything. For now, you two can freshen up and rest, and we'll take you to dinner in half an hour."

Zoisite and Shiitake were left in their new room. It was just as large as the room in the orphanage that they had shared with ten other boys, but it seemed to be furnished for one, or two at most. There was one large bed, a desk, two chairs, a dresser, a television, and a refrigerator.

It didn't take the younger boy long to appreciate the room. "Oniisama, look!" he cried ecstatically, jumping on the bed. "The bed's really really soft!"

Zoisite couldn't help smiling. He found an adjoining door that led to a closet, and another that led to the bathroom. "Stop jumping and comb your hair, Shiitake-kun. It's a mess."

Shiitake stuck out his tongue playfully, feeling uncharacteristically giddy and bold. "Comb it for me, oniisama."

Zoisite raised an eyebrow, then huffed in mock indignation and crossed his arms across his chest. "Fine, come here, you little brat."

Shiitake pouted and sat on the edge of the bed. He smiled when Zoisite came and sat behind him on the bed and began running a comb through his hair. "Arigatou, Zoisaito-oniisama."

"No problem." Zoisite found Shiitake's short, straight hair easy to comb, as it was thick and didn't tangle easily.

"Oniisama," the younger boy began, getting a weight off his mind, "why do you argue with Haruka-sama and Michiru-sama? They're nice people, aren't they?"

"Well...I suppose so," Zoisite admitted.

"They haven't done anything bad to us, have they?"

"Not exactly..."

"Then why—"

"Don't ask so many questions!" Zoisite snapped, suddenly agitated to the point that he had to remove his hands from Shiitake's head to avoid poking him with the comb.

Shiitake was silent for a moment, during which Zoisite berated himself for losing his temper so easily. Then Shiitake apologized. "Gomen nasai, oniisama."

Zoisite regained his composure. "No, I shouldn't have done that. You shouldn't apologize." He resumed combing the boy's hair.

"You can't trust people so easily," he explained to the younger child. "We don't know why we've been adopted by a person as important and powerful as Kaiou Michiru, but you can be sure that she has some reason for it that she's not telling us. A legendary senshi doesn't just up and travel two and a half hours to adopt a boy who can barely stand her. We're not here simply because she wants to take a break from her job and raise children."

Something else occurred to him. "And she even got Neo-Queen Serenity's approval in adopting me. What kind of sense does that make? What would Serenity know about me?"

"I never thought about that," Shiitake said, trying to absorb all the ideas Zoisite was introducing to him. "Does that mean...I shouldn't like Michiru-sama and Haruka-sama?"

"You can't trust them without knowing what they're up to," Zoisite said. He ran his hairbrush through Shiitake's hair one more time. "There, I'm done combing. Don't mess it up before dinner."

"Okay. Can I watch TV?"

"Go ahead."

Shiitake was already flipping though the channels when Zoisite, who was tying his own hair into a ponytail, realized that he hadn't told Shiitake the complete truth as to why he didn't like Michiru and Haruka.

As much as the intellectual reason that he had just explained to Shiitake was a factor, perhaps a greater part of it was instinctual and inexplicable. It was a gut feeling that made his most defensive side raise a wall, his most hostile side attack whenever they were near. It was just as well that he hadn't told Shiitake. The boy wouldn't understand.

What Shiitake saw as two friendly, likeable adults, Zoisite perceived as a pair of suspicious senshi with an unknown agenda.

And even more than that, some part of him kept screaming that they were the enemy.

* * *

Haruka rolled her shoulders, trying to loosen her muscles after all the driving she had done that day.

"Need help?"

Haruka sat down, and Michiru massaged her shoulders and back. Haruka sighed, relaxing under her partner's hands. "He's not going to be easy to deal with, it seems," she said.

"No," Michiru agreed. "He even tried to run away this afternoon."

Haruka chuckled. "He really doesn't like us. What did you do to him?"

"Nothing at all. Besides showing up out of nowhere and adopting him, I suppose. But seriously, I think Rei-chan must be right about him still being tainted by Metallia's power. I can't think of any other reason why he would hate us when he barely knows us."

Haruka nodded, listening.

"Did you know he can even use magic?" Michiru continued. "Though only on a small scale, it seems. The orphanage director said that she remembers a few years ago, some of the children talked about him conjuring sakura petals once, though she's never seen it herself or heard anything about it since."

"That doesn't sound terribly dangerous," Haruka said with a smile.

"He is only ten, and his powers are undeveloped due to a complete lack of training," Michiru said. "I don't think it's anything to worry about at this point, but the other thing was that a lot of dark energy appeared this afternoon when he ran away, some distance away from the orphanage."

"And he ran there?" Haruka surmised.

"Yes. At first I thought it might have been his magic, but his aura isn't that strong or developed, and I doubt he's capable of handling magic on that scale. We did find him there though, so I'm guessing that he must have been drawn to that sort of power instinctively."

"Makes sense. But you have no idea what the source of the dark energy was?"

Michiru shook her head. "No. It completely disappeared right before we found Zoisaito. It could have been anything."

"Why not ask him? Even if he refuses to tell us, it should still tell us something."

Michiru stopped massaging and leaned her head against her lover's back. "Besides the fact that he hates us?" She sighed. "You're right, of course. I'm just...He's always so difficult with us. He even accused me of using dirty tactics to manipulate him into coming with us....I can't say that he's wrong about that. I did use Shiitake-kun specifically to persuade him to come with us." She sighed.

Haruka turned and wrapped an arm around her partner's shoulders in an affectionately supportive manner. Michiru reflexively leaned against her.

"When did we ever have time to worry about what tactics we used?" Haruka said. "The result is what matters." She smiled and held her partner's hands before her, palms up. "Look, Michiru. Your hands are still beautiful. They're still clean. And even if somehow, they become dirtied, I'll still love you, Michiru."

"Haruka..." Michiru entwined her fingers with Haruka's, then whispered conspiratorially, "That's because your hands will always be just a little dirtier than mine, right, Haruka?"

"Of course," Haruka replied, also in a conspiratorial whisper. "If you kill one innocent person, I'll kill two."

Michiru played along. "If I bring disaster upon Crystal Tokyo, you'll bring ruin to the rest of the world."

"And if you use Shiitake as your pawn to bring Zoisaito home..." Haruka let that thought hang in the air for a second, then finished, "I'll use Shiitake to make Zoisaito fall desperately in love with you."

"That's ridiculous!"

The two dissolved into giggles.

"At least the little one is cute," Haruka said after they had calmed down. "Aren't you glad you brought him along?"

"Yes." Michiru smiled.

"Come on. Let's go see if Hotaru-chan wants to have dinner with us." Haruka stood up and stretched. The kinks were gone from her shoulders. "Thanks, Michiru."

* * *

As it turned out, Tomoe Hotaru, also known as Sailorsaturn, declined the dinner invitation, saying that surely it would be too much of a strain on Zoisite to deal with yet another Sailorsenshi that day when it was unnecessary. Thus, Haruka and Michiru had a strained but uneventful dinner with their newly adopted children, after which each pair retired to their own rooms.

Hotaru dropped by Haruka and Michiru's room soon after, bearing a message. She was a grown woman now, but her voice still resonated with an oddly childish quality as she addressed her surrogate parents, her fellow senshi, the same way she had since she was a child. "Haruka-papa, Michiru-mama," she greeted, "Serenity-sama wishes to speak to you tonight in the conference room. ‘Please come at your convenience,' she said."

"Very well," Michiru said, then yawned. It had been a long day, and she wanted to get to sleep as early as possible. "Haruka, let's go now."

Also tired, Haruka grumbled a little, but followed Michiru's lead.

Hotaru followed them from their room and through the hallways toward the main tower of the palace where the royal family resided, and where, on the lower levels, business took place. "I heard you had to bring two of them home instead of just the one," Hotaru said. "How are they?"

Haruka and Michiru gave her identical wry smiles. "Let's just say that even when you were giving doomsday prophecies and aging unnaturally, you were a heck of a lot more pleasant to have around the house," Haruka said.

Michiru elbowed Haruka in the ribs. "I don't think it even bears comparison. Hotaru-chan never acted like she was a prisoner and we, her captors."

"I know, I know," Haruka said, holding up her hands to ward off any more of Michiru's surprise attacks. "I was just trying to put it in terms that we could all relate to."

Hotaru smiled a quiet sort of smile at the friendly bickering, reminded of her own childhood. "They'll get used to you soon," she said reassuringly.

"I hope so. Just be sure to come by tomorrow, Hotaru-chan," Michiru said.

"I will. Serenity-sama might call Setsuna-mama back from the Gates of Time tomorrow too."

"How come?"

Hotaru shrugged. "I don't know." Then she noticed that they had reached their destination.

* * *

Zoisite turned restlessly on the bed. Shiitake mumbled something in his sleep, but remained otherwise undisturbed.

It wasn't that Zoisite wasn't tired – he was. How could he not be, after all the things that had happened to him that day? But his mind felt like it was running on caffeine, not only refusing to relax enough to let him fall asleep, but working hyperactively, jumping from one train of thought to another before he could organize his thoughts into any kind of conclusion.

For one thing, he couldn't figure out how he felt about Michiru and Haruka. Instinctively, he hated them. Logically, he knew he didn't have much reason to act so antagonistic toward them. True, Michiru had used Shiitake against him, but didn't it turn out for the better that both he and his...brother were out of the run-down orphanage?

It was still weird, thinking of Shiitake as his actual brother. He had no objection, of course, and Shiitake had already been regarding him as his older brother for a while now. But still. He had a family now, in Shiitake if no one else (because he was not about to accept Michiru and Haruka as his adoptive parents, however nice they might act).

And what would have happened if he had gone with that white-haired boy? Certainly, he wouldn't be here now. Zoisite wiped his lips on the blanket as he thought of him. What did the other boy think he had been doing, kissing him? Zoisite wasn't interested in romance, be it with a boy or a girl. Still...the older boy had been...kind, he supposed, treating him like he was worth something and giving him the freedom to make his own decision. And he had said they had things in common. Zoisite had wanted to connect with him, understand more about him and find out who he was and where he came from. It was strange. He'd never cared for anyone but himself, until Shiitake found a way through his barrier, but now... For the few moments after Zoisite had conjured the light and before the search party had come, he had truly been happy. Happy. He wondered when they would meet again. Then he wondered why he should care, and why he should waste so much thought on such a scoundrel, one who had actually dared to...He wiped his lips on the blanket again and forced his mind to focus on a different subject.

He wondered if he would really stay in the Crystal Palace for years, if he would grow up here, if it would become his home. He wondered why he had been adopted by Sailorsenshi, why Sailorsenshi made him feel vulnerable and upset and queasy, and what he should do. He wondered what would happen tomorrow.

Shiitake tossed in his sleep, inadvertently pulling the blanket from Zoisite's side of the bed towards him. Zoisite wondered if he would get any sleep that night.

Goto Chapter Two


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