For Want of a Button

Part One

© 1998 by Heather Fleming


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"Kunzite!"

The last of the kings moved towards Queen Beryl's throne and bowed. "I await your orders, your Majesty."

"I trust you are aware of our recent troubles."

Of course he knew. Everyone did. The surprise attack from the Kingdom of the Night had wiped out most of the youma army and all of the commanders - Kunzite was alive only because he had been out on a research mission. Beryl had had to invoke Metallia's power to drive out the enemy. "Yes, your Majesty," he said.

"Good," said Beryl. "Due to the current state of affairs, I have promoted our three most promising students to the rank of king. Nephrite, Jadeite, Zoisite, come forward."

Kunzite looked on as the three new kings approached. All three still wore their uniforms in the style of trainees: pants tucked into boots and no cape, although Nephrite sported the epaulettes that marked him as being in his final stage of training. That last, at least, was not surprising: Kunzite and Nephrite had started their training at the same time, though Kunzite had progressed much more quickly.

The other two, however, he knew only slightly, mostly by reputation. He had met Jadeite once last year and had been impressed by the knack with mechanics that the third-yearer (as he had been then) had. Other than that, he had heard from his colleagues that Jadeite was a steady, solitary worker, deeply loyal to the Queen. Not the type to do anything spectacular, perhaps, but one who would get his job done well and completely.

Zoisite, on the other hand... Kunzite had heard horror stories about Zoisite. From what he had heard, the second-yearer was a vindictive, ambitious, fiery-tempered, murderous little weasel, quickly gaining the enmity of everyone he met. "Don't be fooled by his size or his pretty face," he had been warned. Well, Kunzite hadn't risen to where he was now without learning long ago that physical prowess meant little, and that beauty could be a very effective weapon, in the Kingdom. The fact that the young man was still alive meant he had both power and intelligence in abundance. For that alone Kunzite had to give him a measure of respect. Looking at him, Kunzite felt a strange sense of recognition, but he had no idea why. He had only ever heard of the last of the new kings.

Beryl spoke again. "As Zoisite has had so little formal training, I am placing him directly under your tutelage. Do you understand?"

Kunzite was glad he was so good at hiding his reactions. "I understand, my Queen."

"Very well," she said. "You are dismissed."

Kunzite bowed to the Queen, then turned to Zoisite. "Follow me," he said, and teleported.

* * *

They arrived at the training grounds. Kunzite noted with approval that Zoisite had followed his flows easily, though Kunzite had made more than a token effort to conceal them. "So," he said, "you're Zoisite. I've heard about you."

Zoisite's lips curved upward. "I bet you have," he said. "I know the effect I have on people." His smile turned into a full-fledged grin. "Blind hatred makes people careless."

Very dangerous indeed, thought Kunzite. "I see," he said. "Well, I'm Kunzite. Pleased to meet you."

"No, you're not," said the young man. "You don't know what to make of me at all. You're intrigued by me, and you're impressed by my abilities, but you're also worried that I might use them against you." He grinned again when Kunzite was unable to conceal his shock. "I'm an empath," he said. "I can sense what others are feeling, and to some degree what they are thinking."

"I know what an empath is," said Kunzite, "but I was shielding."

"Not well enough," said Zoisite. "You're used to shielding from youma, not real people." He smiled, evidently sensing Kunzite strengthening his shields. "Well, I suppose you'd like to see what other tricks I have up my sleeve."

"I am supposed to be training you," Kunzite said, now fully recovered. "I can hardly do that without seeing what your current abilities are, can I?"

Zoisite let out a laugh and tossed a fireball from hand to hand. "Well, there's this," he said, and unleashed a torrent of fire. The target at the other end of the hall was completely immolated.

Kunzite nodded. "Overkill, perhaps," he said, "but that's better than underkill."

"And then there's this," said Zoisite, and looked up at a spot on the wall. He raised his hand, and a blast of pure energy knocked a huge hole in the wall around the spot. There was a brief cry of agony, then nothing.

"What was that?" Kunzite asked.

"Magnetite," said Zoisite. "An old classmate jealous of my new position. Figured he'd take me out while I was still off guard because of my promotion." He reached up and toyed with a strand of his hair. "He should have realized that I'm never off guard."

"I meant the attack."

Zoisite shrugged. "I dunno. I just blasted him."

"Effective but crude," said Kunzite. "Raw power isn't usually my weapon of choice, however. It's tiring, and it lacks... polish. If you're going to be a king, you've got to have a certain style. The fireball was better, but it wasn't great."

"But huge, powerful weapons work better."

"Sometimes it's good to be discreet," said Kunzite. "Or you want to take out a single target among many. Or avoid hitting a certain one."

Zoisite frowned, considering this. "I suppose that's true," he said. "So that's what you're going to teach me? Subtlety?"

"It's a useful skill," said Kunzite. "Especially for a king. And it might keep you from making quite so many enemies."

Zoisite laughed. "Do you think I'm as irritating as I am by accident?" he asked.

"Well, doesn't being an empath make you uncomfortable having so much hatred directed at you?"

"Not at all," said Zoisite. "Being an empath means I can use the emotional energy I receive as a power source. The stronger the emotion, the more power I can get. Hatred is an easy enough emotion to invoke, and it's even easier to sense. Which is why Magnetite was so easy to pick off. He was too stupid to send a mindless youma to do the dirty work for him."

"Ah," said Kunzite. Noting Zoisite's slight pallor, he added, "I suppose that's enough of a lesson for now. Get some rest, and we'll start working on subtlety tomorrow."

"Certainly, lord Kunzite," Zoisite said.

Kunzite didn't miss the honorific. "So tomorrow morning, then, first thing," he said after a moment.

"Tomorrow it is," said Zoisite, and bowed. There was nothing of humility in the bow, of course. Kunzite felt that this was just one predator acknowledging another. But perhaps there was something more than that... maybe the beginning of real respect. Although how he had managed to evoke that in this extremely dangerous, extremely intriguing young man, he had no idea.

* * *

Kunzite stood in the training room the next morning, waiting for his student to arrive. There was something about the young man that really nagged at his memory, but he couldn't figure out exactly what...

Zoisite appeared. "Am I on time?" he asked. "You didn't tell me what time in the morning."

"I've only been waiting a few minutes," Kunzite said.

"Good," said Zoisite. "I certainly wouldn't want to make the wrong impression."

"Oh, I wouldn't worry about that," said Kunzite. "You already made quite the impression yesterday."

Zoisite flushed and smiled. "Not a bad one, I hope," he said.

Kunzite found himself smiling back despite his usual reserve. "No, I must admit you're quite talented--"

"Thank you," said Zoisite, blushing even further.

"--at least as far as sheer power is concerned. But brute force isn't everything, you know."

"Yeah, yeah," said Zoisite. "Subtlety."

"That and self-discipline," said Kunzite. "You're painfully transparent. You need to learn to hide your reactions better. A king has to appear to be made of stone."

"Or of ice," muttered Zoisite.

"What?" said Kunzite.

Zoisite flushed again, but recovered quickly. "They call you the Ice King," he said.

Kunzite smiled. "I suppose my hair does make me look a bit like a glacier," he said.

"Oh, no," said Zoisite. "Your hair is gorgeous." He went red again.

"Thank you," said Kunzite, feeling oddly pleased. "But you see what I mean? You blush every other sentence. I suppose it's natural to be nervous, this being only your second day on the job and everything, but that's a bad habit to get into. You won't last long if people can see through you like that."

Zoisite frowned. "I'll work at it, I promise," he said fervently. "I will not disappoint you."

"You'd better not," said Kunzite. "If you're any less bright than I think you are, you'll be dead within a week."

Zoisite laughed, once more changing moods with a quickness that startled Kunzite. "I've lasted this long, haven't I?" he said. "I've made it out of a few nasty situations already."

"Well, your luck may not carry you out of the next one."

"It wasn't luck," said Zoisite, his voice dropping. "It was you."

"What?"said Kunzite, not sure that he had heard correctly.

"Nothing," said Zoisite. "Let's get on with the lesson. You want style, Mister Ice King, you'll get it." He teleported across the room, leaving a flurry of cherry blossom petals to mark his place. "How was that?"

Cherry blossoms... Why did that nag at Kunzite's memory? He brushed the thought away. Zoisite's training would take all of his concentration. He couldn't afford to be distracted. "Passable," he said. "Try it again, and this time don't forget to cloak your passage."

"But I have no need to cover my trail right now!" complained Zoisite.

"Better to do it and not need it than need it and not do it," said Kunzite. "Forethought, Zoisite. You must always think ahead."

Zoisite scowled and did as he was told.

"Much better," said Kunzite. "You do well when you think." Better than I did at his age, he thought, surprising himself with the touch of envy he felt.

Zoisite's eyebrows shot up. "No," he said. "Never as well as that."

A flash of confusion shot through Kunzite.

"The empathy, my lord," Zoisite said. "You're leaking again." He grinned. "Well, actually, I was prying."

I didn't feel anything... "Zoisite, I think you may be too damned good for your own good," he said, half in jest but half serious.

"Well, Queen Beryl certainly didn't choose me for my looks," he replied.

"Are you insinuating that she chose me for mine?"

Zoisite shrugged. "You are the hottest guy in the entire Kingdom, on top of being the most powerful."

Kunzite wasn't sure whether he should be amused, outraged, or flattered. Amusement won as Zoisite clapped his hand over his mouth and turned bright red. "You may have many talents, little one," he said almost affectionately, "but tact is not one of them. What did I say about subtlety and self-discipline?"

Zoisite recovered. "You think I'm cute," he said disgustedly. "Like a little kid."

Kunzite sobered. "Certainly not," he said. "To be perfectly honest, I do think you're cute. But I also think that you're one of the most dangerous people I've ever met."

Zoisite's grin returned. "Wow, cute and deadly," he said. "I think that's the biggest compliment anyone's ever paid me." He vanished in a flurry of petals and reappeared on the other side of Kunzite. "Well, let's work on some subtlety, shall we?"

* * *

"So how are you getting along with your new student?" Nephrite asked as they lounged in the newer king's sitting room a few weeks later.

"Surprisingly well," said Kunzite. "He's picked off would-be assassins with no more than a thought, but he doesn't seem to have any nasty plans in store for me."

"Don't count on that," said Nephrite. "You never know what that little snake has going on in his head. More wine?"

"No, thank you," said Kunzite.

"You know," said Nephrite, "I'd watch out for him if I were you. When I taught him, he had this thing about you. I don't know what it was, but when he found out that we started together, he seemed determined to pry every bit of information about you that he could from me. Everything, from your favourite attacks to what your uniform looked like."

"Hmm," said Kunzite. "Anyway, thanks, Neph. I'll be careful."

* * *

Kunzite fiddled with the top button of his uniform as Zoisite tossed tiny darts of power into a target. He'd have to see to fixing that button; it had been loose for over a week now, but he had been too busy to worry about it.

Zoisite brushed his hair out of his face. "How was that?" he asked, turning away from the target.

"Better," Kunzite said. "You're beginning to get the hang of weapons that aren't just sheer power. But I've noticed that when you're concentrating on attacking, you ignore your defenses."

Zoisite frowned. "I suppose so..." he said. "I will try harder, lord Kunzite. I will not fail you."

Kunzite found himself growing embarrassed, as was happening all too frequently when he was around the pretty man. "Whatever," he muttered. "Just think about it. Now that was enough with the energy-needles. How about trying out that idea you had of using those flower petals of yours as a weapon?"

Zoisite smiled. "You see, I am developing style," he said, and turned away to blast the next target into oblivion in a flurry of pink.

Kunzite sighed and shook his head. Once again, Zoisite's defenses had dropped dramatically. He was so talented in so many areas -- why couldn't he remember to maintain his shields properly? Annoyed, Kunzite decided to give him a reminder, and unleashed a full-strength power bolt at the young man's back. The headache he's going to have from coming up to block this in a hurry ought to teach him a lesson or two...

Zoisite didn't even strengthen his base shields.

Just as the young man would have been blown into a thousand pieces, Kunzite stopped the spell. For a moment he could only stand there, dizzy and aching with backlash, as Zoisite turned to face him.

Then he lost his temper, something he hadn't done in years. "What the hell was that?" he exploded. "Don't think I'll believe you didn't feel it coming, because you're too damn good to have missed it!"

Zoisite's cocky grin was absent, but he still looked up at Kunzite with no trace of fear. "Of course I felt it coming."

"Are you trying to kill yourself? Why didn't you try to stop it?"

"I didn't need to," said Zoisite. "I knew you'd pull it."

"The hell you did!" Kunzite screamed, not even sure why he was so upset. "I had my strongest shields up against you reading me, and besides, I didn't even know it myself until I did it!"

Zoisite looked at the floor. "I didn't read you," he said quietly. "I guessed."

"You what?!"

"I guessed."

"That attack was enough to take out a dozen of you, and you guessed? I could have killed you!"

"I know."

"Then what the hell were you thinking?"

Kunzite's rage drained away as Zoisite looked back up at him, his eyes bright with tears. "If you really would have killed me, just like that," he said, "I would rather die anyway."

"What?"

But Zoisite had vanished.

* * *

Zoisite's first reaction was to flee to his room as he choked back sobs brought on by emotion mixed with adrenalin. But after a moment he realized that Kunzite was sure to come after him. He couldn't bear to face his instructor right now. His feelings were to raw, too close to the surface, too uncontrollable.

He brought himself under some semblance of control and contemplated where he could go. Nothing sprang to mind. So he closed his eyes and made a heavily-disguised random jump.

He found himself in the area of the Kingdom that had until recently made up his home. Well, at least the student wing was familiar ground. He walked down the deserted corridor, grateful for he unusual quiet, and was so wrapped up him his own feelings that he didn't even feel the approach of a dozen hostile presences.

* * *

Kunzite traced Zoisite's jump and followed it, determined to find out what the young man had meant. He found himself in what looked like a bedroom - Zoisite's, presumably - but Zoisite himself was gone, and there was no trace of where he had disappeared to.

No, wait... There was a faint but recent trace of magic. When Kunzite probed it, he found a teleportation trail so jumbled and full of misdirection that even he could barely recognize it. God, the kid was talented...

As he picked the mess apart, he went over the exchange. Zoisite had been right, he realized: he would not have let himself kill his trainee. He probably would have pulled the attack even if Zoisite had put a proper shield up in time. He would never have forgiven himself had he actually harmed the small man.

But why? Did it have to do with that nagging sense of recognition? And why did it mean so much to Zoisite? If the young man preferred to die rather than to live without Kunzite's regard...

Finally he unravelled the last of Zoisite's misdirections and followed the jump. The corridor he arrived in was empty, but he could hear and sense something happening just around the corner. And it had to do with his pupil... He began to run.

Zoisite had managed to take out three of them before five more together had blocked his magic; a charred corpse was all that was left of him or her. The half dozen that weren't devoting their efforts to keeping Zoisite helpless had overwhelmed him physically - the only kind of attack that the small man could not protect himself from.

A blast of pure power took care of the five stopping Zoisite's magic, but Kunzite didn't dare try to get the others that way, no matter how carefully he aimed, for fear of catching Zoisite with it. So he fashioned himself a sword from the air and charged into the fray with a single roar of fury.

It was a short, fierce, ugly, and entirely one-sided battle. In a few minutes Kunzite stood panting over Zoisite in the middle of a circle of dead and dying. He bled from a few scratches on his hands and face, but he was fine. Zoisite, on the other hand...

Kunzite gathered the badly injured young man into his arms, making sure not to cause any more harm by jarring broken bones or hurt nerves. "Zoisite," he said. "Zoisite, it's all right now."

Zoisite stopped struggling and wrapped his arms around Kunzite's neck, crying weakly. He looked very small and very young. "K--Kunz-sama?" he mumbled.

Seeing him like that and hearing him pronounce his name that way made Kunzite almost drop his patient, as a memory finally clicked into place and he realized why Zoisite had seemed so hauntingly familiar. "Zoey?"

Zoisite calmed even further, his tears stopping. "I wondered how long it would take you to remember," he managed. "It seems I still can't look after myself." And with that, he smiled sweetly, and fainted.

The End of Part 1 - Goto Part 2


Disclaimer: Sailormoon and all related characters are property of Takeuchi Naoko, Kodansha, and Toei Animation. This is a work of fan fiction, and I'm certainly not making any money off of it.

This story is property of Heather Fleming. Please don't steal it!


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