Fire Rekindled

Chapter Two

© 2005 by EnsignZoi


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Zoisite woke to an early ray of sunlight streaming through the window, warming his face. One part of his mind struggled to understand why he was lying on such a soft bed, and why his blankets felt thick and plush instead of thin and scratchy.

Another part of his mind struggled to push all those sensations aside.

He was having a dream. He tried to sink back into the warmth that enveloped him. An image of a tall white haired teenager lingered in his mind—the older boy from yesterday. What had he been doing in his dream? They had been together, on an adventure traveling through a dark forest speckled with odd little lights, and the older boy had held his hand as they ran, promising to teach him to fly and soar through the trees and into the sky. He had been filled with a light-headed happiness, and he only wanted to continue on like that forever, hand in hand with the other boy, wind blowing through his hair, ground rushing beneath his feet. Then one of the lights had become too warm and too bright, and Zoisite had realized that he was in a strange bed with a familiar body curled near his own.

He groaned and stretched. Shiitake shifted next to him, and his eyes opened halfway, still full of sleep. "Onii...sama...?"

Zoisite searched the room with his eyes and found the clock that sat on the nightstand. It was only six a.m. He met Shiitake's barely comprehending eyes and murmured, "Go back to sleep." Shiitake nodded and closed his eyes again, and within seconds, he was breathing deeply and slowly again.

Zoisite closed his own eyes. He was still in the Crystal Palace, and gods knew what today would bring. He didn't want to deal with Michiru and Haruka. He didn't even want to be here, except he had to be here for Shiitake. Maybe he really should have run off with the white-haired teenager. The next time he saw him, if he ever saw him again, he should ask if it was okay for Shiitake to come along to wherever it was that the older boy wanted go. And if it was okay, then they would all leave the Crystal Palace together. If not...

Zoisite hoped that the other boy wouldn't mind Shiitake tagging along. He had an inkling that he was the one the older boy had wanted, and Shiitake didn't even fit into the picture. But hopefully, the other boy wouldn't mind.

The blankets were warm, and he felt relaxed, but he didn't fall back asleep. He lay on his side, staring at Shiitake's short brown hair, his fair-skinned, round face, still slightly chubby with baby fat despite years of meager rations, the line of drool that slipped out the corner of the small boy's mouth.

Time passed. He didn't know when it happened, but at some point in time, he realized that he was staring at a different face, one without a hint of baby fat. A high nose, aristocratic cheekbones, a sharp chin, fine snow-dusted eyebrows on a smooth plane of skin a shade or two darker than his own. White hair framed the sleeping face; white bangs hung over one of his closed eyes, and white locks lay haphazardly on the pillows, on his neck, over the blankets.

Zoisite sighed contently and reached out to touch the feathery bangs. He brushed his hand through them, then let his hand drop back to the bed. This was most certainly a dream, but he found that he didn't mind so much. The boy as an abstract, undefined entity in his thoughts was irritatingly distracting, but having him there in person, even though it was only a dream...Zoisite didn't mind so much.

The gray eyes had opened and were staring into Zoisite's eyes in an oddly relaxing, comfortable way. Zoisite stared back with all the ease of a dreamer. "I was wondering," he found himself asking, "what's your name?"

"Kunzaito," the other boy answered, his intent eyes not wavering.

"Kunzaito..." Zoisite tried the name out on his tongue, then said, "I want to see you again." The entire situation seemed surreal. He knew he was really in bed, and Shiitake was sleeping near him, but all he could see was this white-haired boy, Kunzite, lying next to him, staring into his soul.

"Do you?" The question was probing, with some amount of skepticism, but the strong gray eyes remained the same.

"That's what I said, wasn't it?"

A small smile inched its way onto Kunzite's face, and Zoisite's face broke into its own smile, a full, easy one.

"So it was." Kunzite's voice was light and playful, matching the glint in his eyes.

"I'm only ten," Zoisite whispered conspiratorially, still smiling. It felt like his heart had learned to fly. "Don't you dare try to kiss me again." Zoisite pulled the blanket up over his nose.

"I won't," Kunzite replied.

"I'll knock out your teeth if you do," Zoisite said, grinning beneath the blanket.

"I won't," Kunzite repeated, adding, "Not until you're ready."

Zoisite knew he should have been offended that the other boy was even suggesting that he would want him to kiss him again, but he didn't care. He was happy. He liked this boy, though he didn't understand why someone, even a new friend, should be able to make him so happy.

They stared at each other for several moments.

"Come see me again," Zoisite told him.

Someone was knocking at the door. Zoisite woke, sitting up abruptly, causing Shiitake to whimper and open his eyes when the warm blankets came up with him. Had he been dreaming? He couldn't remember. There was something he had wanted to remember, but he couldn't think of what it could be. All he knew was that he had dreamed about running about in a forest with the white-haired boy before he had woken up at six a.m. After that, he had fallen back asleep, and now...Zoisite checked the clock. It was eight o'clock.

"We're awake," he called to the person who was knocking.

The knocking stopped, and an unfamiliar female voice said, "Zoisaito-san, Shiitake-san, please make yourselves ready for breakfast. I'll come by and pick you up in twenty minutes." Zoisite heard high heeled footsteps leave their door, fading as they distanced themselves from the bedroom.

Twenty minutes later, Zoisite found himself reminiscing about the heavenly shower he had just taken as he and Shitake followed the woman who had introduced herself to them as Tomoe Hotaru, Senshi of Saturn. He stared absently at the senshi's black leather shoes as they walked. There had been high water pressure and hot water. Tomorrow—or perhaps even tonight—he would have to take a longer shower. Normally he hated taking showers, but now he had found a shower that he never wanted to leave. There were good things about living in a palace.

They dined well that morning, on breakfast breads, on rice, on soup. Zoisite stopped eating before he was full—he didn't feel that hungry to begin with—but he still ate enough for what would have been considered a fair sized dinner at the orphanage. Through the meal, Zoisite observed how Hotaru's deep purple eyes flickered between her food and himself. She didn't look at him more than necessary; she was polite and didn't stare, she made small talk and treated him and Shiitake normally, but respectfully.

Zoisite appreciated the distance, and after breakfast, as the three were walking to Haruka and Michiru's apartments in the east wing of the palace, he decided he could talk to her. A little bit, at least.

"Tomoe-san?"

"Just Hotaru is fine."

"Then, Hotaru-san?" Zoisite said.

"Yes?"

"Why did—" Zoisite paused, finding the idea of referring to the senshi he distained by their surnames too respectful, and by their given names too familiar for his taste. "Those two senshi, why did they adopt us?" he asked.

"Haruka and Michiru? Well, they do like children," she mused.

"But that's—"

"That's not what you really want to know," Hotaru finished. "I know. It's a complicated answer, and I'm afraid I'm not at liberty to tell you, even if I was the best person to ask, which I'm not. But don't mind too much. You'll find out everything soon, I expect, from Serenity-sama herself."

"Neo-Queen Serenity-sama?"

Walking next to Zoisite, Shiitake's eyes widened.

Hotaru nodded. "You're scheduled to meet with her this morning, in about an hour. Both of you," she added for Shiitake's benefit.

Shiitake gaped, and Zoisite felt like doing the same. They were going to meet Neo-Queen Serenity-sama? The thought would take some time to sink in.

"So...you won't tell me anything, then?" Zoisite prodded after a short silence had lapsed.

"Only...The feelings you bear towards us are understandable, and despite how circumstances may seem to you now or even later, we brought you here because we think it's where you belong, more than anywhere else."

Zoisite searched her dark eyes for something more, but found no answers. He would have to be satisfied with this much until he met the Neo-Queen. Meeting the Neo-Queen. How unbelievable. Yesterday morning his main concern had been which of his mismatching clothes to wear, and in an hour, he would meet with Neo-Queen Serenity-sama, the sovereign-savior of the world. He felt quite out of his league.

* * *

An hour later, Zoisite found himself dressed up and looking like he belonged in the palace, with a starched, white collared shirt buttoned all the way to the top and black trousers. Hotaru had dropped him and Shiitake off at Haruka and Michiru's apartment, where the two senshi had received them with two sets of clothes. The senshi had even supplied them with new leather shoes, and after much fussing, they had had their way and now the hair he normally bound into a ponytail was left loose, insisting he looked nicer like that. He felt uncomfortable and stiff, and couldn't help but prefer his well worn, faded clothes from the orphanage. Accompanied by a similarly attired Shiitake, as well as Michiru and Haruka in their senshi forms, they stood just outside the doors of the Neo-Queen's audience chamber.

And then Haruka, now Sailoruranus, pushed the doors wide open, and they entered.

Zoisite stared and Shiitake exclaimed his astonishment. Like the rest of the palace, the walls of the room were made of translucent polished crystal, but if Zoisite had thought what he had seen up to this point had been magnificent, the audience chamber was divine. The room was chestnut shaped, with three sets of double doors at the wide end for commoners and nobles alike to enter through. Closer to the tip of the room on either side were more doors, and it was through one of these that Zoisite and Shiitake and their escort entered.

The ceilings were majestically high, and it was as if they had entered a crystallized cloud. The entire room glimmered with thinly suppressed light, but at the tip of the room was the Neo-Queen, Serenity-sama herself, in her moon-white gown and the golden, ruby-embedded tiara upon her head. King Endymion sat next to her in his lavender tuxedo, but so riveted on the room and the queen, Zoisite barely registered him at first.

Serenity rose from her golden throne and took a few steps towards the party as they came forward. "Welcome," she said, her voice warm and pleasant. And although Zoisite had spent the last hour defrosting his numbed brain, acquainting it with the fact that he would indeed be meeting the queen, his mind froze over again. Here he was at the Crystal Palace, being personally greeted by Neo-Queen Serenity-sama, the most powerful and revered woman in the world. What-why-how, he simply didn't understand anything anymore.

"Serenity-sama," Haruka said, "may we present Zoisite and his brother Shiitake, as children of our own house and subjects to your throne from this day forward."

"I'm pleased to meet you," Serenity said, and with equal hints of eagerness and curiosity in her step, she made her graceful way towards them.

Zoisite felt a lurching, nauseating sensation. He hid the grimace behind an unnaturally wide smile and bowed his head.

As Serenity stood a mere three feet away, the living embodiment of innocence and love and acceptance that had captured the heart of the world itself, his mind did a sickening triple backflip and flashed white. Bile was caught in his throat, and he staggered, falling onto his hands and knees, trying to breathe and swallow at the same time.

He felt hands on his shoulders, hands patting his back, voices calling his name. He barely registered any of it though, as he stared down desperately at the clean translucent tiles. Some voices argued, and then a woman with long blond hair was kneeling beside him, a hand on his back. He stared at one of the blond locks that trailed to the ground. Serenity-sama. Serenity.

Something flared up within him, smoldering all rational thought and setting fire to his soul. Kill kill kill! He had to kill her, kill the queen of the world, or die trying. The thought blazed through his mind over and over again, a thousand times in a single second, and he knew nothing but that thought, felt nothing but raging hatred and resentment, wanted nothing but her blood and her death.

Zoisite's hand moved of its own volition and made a vicious swipe at Serenity's face, leaving a long red scratch mark running across her cheek. His other hand pulled back to send a flying punch at her face, and his legs tensed, ready to pounce on the queen and crush her windpipe. His punch never reached Serenity's face, however. Sailoruranus had grabbed his arm and was holding it back. Sailorneptune took the fraction of a second he was stupefied to grab his other arm.

"That's quite enough, Zoisaito," Sailorneptune chided, a chilling edge in her otherwise playful voice. "You've done enough."

"Serenity-sama, are you all right?" Sailoruranus asked.

A good ten feet away, safely enveloped in her quick-moving husband's arms, Serenity nodded. "I'm fine, it was just a scratch," she answered, her hand lightly touching her cheek.

Zoisite snarled and spat at Sailorneptune as he struggled against the two senshi's grip. He'd failed even to draw a drop of blood. If only he weren't so powerless...

Sailoruranus gave Zoisite a hard shake, and he stilled, glaring at the tall senshi. Uranus pointedly turned her face from him, ignoring him. "See, Serenity-sama, you're too trusting," she complained to her sovereign halfheartedly.

"Oniisama~!" wailed Shiitake, five feet away.

"Everything's going to be fine, Shiitake-kun," Neptune said. Shiitake remained unconvinced, and Zoisite disinterestedly registered the fact that the boy had started crying. It was as if he had stepped outside of his mundane existence and for the first time, Zoisite could see everything clearly.

Nothing mattered more than killing Serenity, and to do that, he had to get away from the two senshi holding him. If only he had some kind of weapon...He lurched suddenly to his left, kicking Sailorneptune in the back of her knee before she could turn or do anything to defend herself. She buckled momentarily, pulling Zoisite towards her as she stumbled and unbalancing Uranus in the process. It was all Zoisite needed.

He jerked his hands free and brought them together. He remembered the white-haired boy's face, the feeling of his hands over his own, and the feeling of magic traveling though his hands, his arms, his body. The mad, thrilling hatred running through his veins made him confident and left no room for doubt or failure. Serenity was a light that had to be extinguished, by him if no one else.

This time, he held nothing back. Magic flowed instantaneously through him, flooded his very being as he ran towards Serenity. He threw his open hands at her as he ran, and the power overflowed, dizzying him even as it exhilarated him. "Die!" he cried, sending the overflowing power at Serenity. Then he fell, for Uranus had knocked him to the ground, and Neptune had her knee in the small of his back, keeping him down.

He managed to raise his head, however, and saw a swirling torrent of burning pink sakura petals flying in a deadly fast-forward pace towards the queen. These petals, he knew, weren't the normal harmless ones he produced to cheer up Shiitake; these were sharp and deadly, like a hurricane of metal shards, and they would kill the queen.

"Serenity-sama!" the senshi cried.

But they knew that Serenity would be safe with Endymion, and so they stayed where they were, keeping Zoisite on the ground. Standing protectively before Serenity and shielding her from the onslaught, Endymion raised what Zoisite had taken to be his walking stick and twirled it in a fast-moving rotation. The king easily dissipated the attack in seconds.

Zoisite watched and felt drained. Even if he weren't pinned to the floor by the senshi, he doubted he had the strength to attempt another attack. He'd given his magic everything, and now he felt nothing but weakness. Then the pain came.

It was as though every drop of blood and every cell within him was straining to move somewhere else, and nothing was where it was supposed to be. Marrow felt like it was seeping out from his bones, and everything inside him hurt, ached with intensity. He felt like the very essence of his life was being sucked out so forcefully he could do nothing but shrivel up into a dry, brittle shell. He half-curled himself (with Neptune holding him down, he couldn't move much), shut his eyes, and concentrated on breathing through the pain.

* * *

"Serenity-sama, he's not going to last long," Sailorneptune said, bringing the attention of the room from the queen's well-being to Zoisite's convulsing body.

Serenity regarded Zoisite with a mixture of compassion and pity. Not being used to channeling large amounts of magic, his body was of course not coping well with the aftereffects of his attack. "I understand," she replied. "You can stand aside for now. I'll take care of it." And as Sailorneptune left Zoisite, returning to stand at Sailoruranus's side, Serenity raised the ginzuishou, the legendary Silver Crystal passed down from mother to daughter through countless generations of the imperial moon family line. She held it high over her head, and released its healing power.

* * *

Zoisite opened his eyes just in time to see the world flash pink. Bright, gaudy, girl-color pink light.

He had only a moment to feel disgusted before a ripping pain tore his insides apart. He screamed, and then the pain was suddenly gone. He found himself staring wistfully at strands of long white hair as they sailed away from him in the wind.

With no time to ponder that, he then saw the strength and purity of Shiitake's devotion to him. He saw Michiru, he saw Haruka, he saw Neo-Queen Serenity, he saw King Endymion, he saw Hotaru. He saw that they had no ill will or craftiness where he was concerned. He saw love, forgiveness, and acceptance. He saw hope. He saw a future.

On the outskirts of his awareness, a pair of gray eyes faded, sinking into a blank white wall. He wondered at that, for he couldn't remember knowing anyone with gray eyes, though he thought he should have.

"Kunzaito..." His mouth formed the name silently on its own, and he didn't understand what that name meant to him. Twin tears fell from his eyes, and he didn't understand why they should fall.

Then he forgot the white hair, the gray eyes, the name Kunzite. The secret part of him that clung desperately to the boy named Kunzite gathered up all those things and hid them in the recesses of his heart, where not even the ginzuishou could reach.

The pink light abated, and hastily wiping the tears from his face, Zoisite got up, feeling oddly well. He saw Shiitake, the senshi, the queen and king. And then he promptly collapsed.

Goto Chapter Three


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