.moon by night

For the Love of Venus by alizeP

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The next few weeks passed pleasantly for Minako. She found herself thinking about the tall silver haired general more and more during their time apart, which had fortunately had become a rarer occurrence. Every day he went about his duties and responsibilities like clockwork, although unlike before, he now made time to see her during the day when his schedule allowed and made every effort to make sure he had dinner with her at night. When it came time for them to retire, they would sleep in the same bed together with his arms around her. On the hottest of summer nights they would lie naked above the covers but nothing more would be shared between them other than some kisses and a few intimate touches. It left her feeling unsure of herself some days wondering if she had done something to upset him or if perhaps she was not fully to his liking, but she would never voice her concerns being content that he was at least by her side – borrowed time or no.

There had been precisely two nights during this time that he had been forced to be away from her because of his service to the prince, and she realized then how truly fond of him she had grown. He was never able to give her warning of his disappearance; she would realize that he would not be returning when she would finally fall asleep without him besides her.

Tonight, by all appearances seemed like it would be the third night that he would be gone. She cried softly, unsure of where the tears were coming from and wanting nothing more than for them to stop. This wasn’t the first time that she was left alone, and he always seemed apologetic when he did return the next day – there was no reason for her to carry on like this. Eventually she fell asleep from sheer exhaustion but was pleasantly awakened later in the night when he climbed into bed besides her. As he leaned over to place a kiss on her cheek, he noticed the singular teardrop that had somehow remained suspended on her cheek tucked away by the corner of her nose. His finger dabbed at the offending moisture and pulled her to him, his voice instantly full of concern for what might have happened to her while he was away. Once again she declined to voice her thoughts and so instead buried herself deeper into his embrace, inhaling his familiar scent until she once again drifted off to sleep. She never knew how many hours he stayed up watching her or that he was plagued with trepidation over the discovered tear. Instead she had pleasant dreams that lasted until the morning, only waking once she felt the loss of the warmth of his body against her own.

She opened her eyes slowly, her hand sliding over the spot next to her where the bed still felt warm. As she blinked away her tiredness, she caught sight of him sitting on the edge of the bed, his head resting in his hands. “Kunzite,” she mumbled groggily.

He turned back to look at her, his emotions fading away behind a mask of indifference. “Go back to sleep, Minako,” he told her. “It’s still early.”

“Are you leaving already?” She failed to hide the disappointment in her voice.

“I returned earlier than I should have last night, but I wanted to spend the night at home.”

She chewed her lip hoping that she fit into his statement. “I’m glad you were able to return,” she said, a small smile pulling at her lips. Her arm extended and she slipped her fingers underneath his cotton shirt to run her fingers up his back, stopping short when she heard a hiss escaping from his lips. “Are you hurt?” she asked, sitting up. Her hand held the sheet to her chest, the silky material the only item separating her nude form from sight.

“It’s fine,” he attempted to placate her.

“Let me see.” Despite the apprehension in her voice he knew that she meant it more as an order than a request. He suppressed his chuckle as he pulled off his shirt, her eyes opening wide as she noticed the deep red marks marring the normally smooth contours of his defined back. “What happened?” She leaned over and ran her hands gently over the agitated skin. From her closer look she noticed that there was some dried blood still caked on his skin.

“It’s nothing to be concerned about,” he insisted, turning to face her. She looked at him with sadness in her eyes as if she felt the same pain that he did. “I can assure you, Minako,” he said lightly as he leaned over to kiss her surprised lips, “that you did much worse to me our first time together.”

She blushed slightly at his comment, remembering the short marks that had been left all across his back from her nails breaking his skin. It had surprised her at first to see that she had done that to him and she felt horrible that she hurt him despite his protests that he didn’t even notice. “So where did these come from?”

Kunzite chuckled at the jealous expression that crossed her features making her pout further. She leaned back away from him, her fingers digging into the sheet wrapped around her. He rolled back into bed pulling her to him so that she laid under him, his elbows supporting his weight. “Can you keep a secret?” he smiled at her.

“A secret?” she asked, confused at how quickly his mood changed.

“Yes, a secret.” She slowly nodded her head. “I was with Endymion yesterday discussing a few things and as we were walking something startled him and let’s just say he had some issues holding his sword.” He paused to study her expression. “You don’t believe me?”

“All of those marks from one bad swing?” she questioned.

He sighed before continuing. “That was only the beginning of my bad luck. I moved quickly to step out of range of his sword and fell against a rose bush tearing the back of my uniform.” She bit her lip trying to suppress her laughter. “So was it the sword or the roses?”

“I suppose it was the almighty Kunzite falling victim to a bush of roses. Although I guess it could have always been worse.”

“And how so?” he asked her, arching one eyebrow.

“It could have been a batch of dandelions….”

Kunzite watched her with amusement as she continued to laugh at his expense. He tangled his fingers in her hair and brought his lips down on hers, stifling her remaining giggles. Her hands released the blanket to wrap around his neck, pulling his chest firmly against hers. His hand slid from her hair to caress her cheek before pulling away the thin sheet that separated them. His lips moved down to her neck while his fingers trailed tantalizingly slowly down her side, resting against her hip and eliciting a moan from her. “Minako,” he murmured against her neck before gently biting the soft skin.

“Kunzite,” she whispered his name in return, running her palms against the taut muscles of his arms, mindful to not touch the wounds gracing his back.

“I’ve been thinking about you, about us and I –.“ His words were interrupted by a loud rapping against the heavy door leading into his quarters. He growled against her, obviously annoyed by the interruption. “We should -.” He was cut off again by the continued knocking and angrily pulled himself away, striding out of the room with long brisk steps. Minako clutched the sheet, once again bringing it to cover herself as she stood from the bed. She walked towards the bedroom door and leaned slightly against the doorframe trying to keep herself mostly from view but from still within hearing range and watched as Kunzite pulled open the door to reveal a young man wearing the official messenger uniform of the palace.

The young man with dark hair held out a letter marked with the royal seal of the prince in his hand, waiting for Kunzite to accept it. “Master Kunzite, I have been personally asked by the prince to deliver this letter to you and to tell you that your presence has been requested at the royal Palace by noon today.”

Kunzite looked at the younger man with his eyebrow raised and jaw locked, watching as he delivered his message with an air of arrogance obviously forgetting his rank. The messenger finished speaking his message, his hand beginning to shake as he waited several moments for Kunzite to take the proffered letter. “Is there any other message?” Kunzite asked him coolly.

“Yes,” the messenger answered, now speaking his words with more humility. “I was told that the other Generals would be arriving soon as well.”

Kunzite sighed as his took the letter. “Tell Endymion that I will be there at noon as requested.”

“Very well, sir.” The young man bowed as Kunzite shut the door, the letter crumpling in his hand. As he turned back towards the bedroom he noticed the blonde standing in the doorway, the sheet draped around her like a Greek goddess. “I’m assuming you heard?” he asked, pausing mid-step.

“Yes,” she answered quietly.

“We’ll be departing shortly. You should start getting ready.”

“We?” her voice was surprised as was evident by her expression.

“If you would prefer to stay here for the day I suppose I could be back by dinnertime tonight.”

“No,” she smiled. “I would love to go to the palace.” She crossed the room and wrapped her arms around his chest. “Thank you.”

“We’ll need to leave within the hour if we’re going to make it there by noon.” He kissed her forehead and pulled away from her walking towards his office.

Once she finished dressing she peered out into the hallway but noticed the door to his office was still closed. She knocked softly and waited patiently until he opened the door, now fully dressed in his General’s uniform. “You’re ready?” he asked her. She nodded her head, noting the grim expression he wore along with the crumpled letter still grasped in his hands.

“Is something happening that has you so concerned?” she inquired.

“It’s nothing to distress yourself with.”

“You’ve been on edge as of late and I would assume that you probably have not put that letter down since you received it. Is the news that bad?”

“Minako, please -.”

“Don’t silence me,” she spoke harshly. “I’m not a naïve child. You make up stories and excuses for why you are gone and for injuries that you mysteriously incur. How long did you think you could keep me fooled?”

He locked his jaw trying to choose his words carefully before responding. “I don’t want you to know what happens out there. You’re safe here and that’s all you need to concern yourself with.”

“Then should I go outside these walls and find out for myself what it is that ‘happens out there’?”

“People are dying out there. Is that what you wish for yourself? Do you need to see their grief with your own eyes to understand it?”

“What does the letter say?”

“One of my men was killed last night and his head was sent to the Palace. Now it’s my responsibility to notify his family of his death.”

Minako paled as she envisioned his words and the horror of discovering something so gruesome. “Why?” she squeaked out.

“Because the face of the rebel army is too cowardly to show themselves to us.” He sighed, suddenly feeling angry with himself for the tone he used with her. The letter still felt heavy in his fingers, the guilt of the scripted words weighing on him. He folded the letter and placed it on a small table near the door to his office and placed his arm around Minako’s shoulders, leading her out of his quarters. “Things have been escalating lately and I don’t mean to insult you by not discussing this with you, I only want to spare you the more morbid details.”

“You’re using that tone with me again, Kunzite,” she spoke warily.

“That tone?” he questioned her.

“The one that you use when you’re trying to placate people.”

“I can’t tell you more, Minako. No one outside of Endymion and the other generals know what is going on and it’s for the safety of everyone that it stays that way. Things will not change for some time either. I will try to remain here as much of the time as I can, but there will be days where I am gone and I won’t be able to guarantee when I’ll be returning. Then there’s always the risk that I won’t be able to return at all I suppose.”

“You’re not going to leave me here on my own,” she stated firmly. “I trust you to always return to me and I don’t expect that you would disappoint me by not doing so.”

“And for that reason alone I’ve managed to make it back in one piece, or at least close to,” he chuckled. “Minus some flesh of course.”

She looked up at him with solemn eyes. “Can you really tell me what happened to your back?”

“That was the truth,” he smiled down on her. “Endymion will deny it with his dying breath, but he has truly become lax in his abilities to wield a sword. I fear Serenity has made him soft.”

“We’ll just have to make sure that no one says the same about you,” she laughed. “Otherwise rose bushes everywhere beware.”

In one swift move he picked her up and put her over his shoulder, a surprised squeak escaping her lips as he continued his pace down the hall. “That is going to stay our secret.”

“Put me down!” she part yelled, part laughed trying to wiggle her way free of his grasp.

“And allow you to run off and tell everyone? That wouldn’t do for my image.”

“And what if I promise to tell anyone who asks that you were single handedly protecting a woman and her children from a band of thugs? Would that do for your image?”

“It would be a good start I suppose,” he said, allowing her to slide off his shoulder and back onto her feet. She slipped her arm through his as they made their way through the halls of his castle and out towards the stable. As always he helped her to mount her horse, except this time instead of walking away as he normally did, he lingered at her side to kiss her hand. Then he mounted his own horse and they rode off towards the Palace.

“Have you met the other Generals yet?” he asked her.

“No, I haven’t.”

“Second in command is General Jadeite of the Southern provinces and his wife’s name is Rei; third in Command is General Nephrite of the Western lands and his wife is Makoto; fourth in Command is General Zoicite of the Eastern territories and his wife is Ami.”

“And how is it that you came to be first in command over all the others?”

“Because I am the only one that Endymion will listen to.”

“I’m sure there has to be more to it than that,” she encouraged him to continue.

“Please, Minako, I don’t want to discuss war with you. I don’t want you to stop looking at me the way that you do now.”

“Could anything you have done really be that terrible?”

“I fought under Endymion’s father and he was not an honorable man, not like his son is. Loyalty carries a heavy price and I have paid it.”

Their path took them through a forest that would allow them to emerge at the gates of the Palace. Minako was glad to ride in the shade as it felt much cooler than when they were riding under the hot sun.

The form of two cloaked figures, invisible to the approaching riders were crouched high up in the tree branches trying not to be seen. “Here he comes. I told you that he would come this way.”

“It looks like he’s not alone this time.”

“Could that really be her?”

“Shh! Keep your voice down.” The other one whispered. “On the count of three, jump. Just be careful not to hurt her.”

They crouched down on the branch hiding in the shadows of the trees, covered by dark clothes. “One….two….” the figure prepared to jump. “Three!” he yelled, dropping down on Kunzite’s horse, trying to dismount the rider. Kunzite reached for his sword but was thrown off balance and pulled down with the cloaked man, both falling to the ground with a thud. Another figure dropped down in front of Minako’s horse and grabbed her reins as the horse attempted to buck, startled itself. She screamed as a hand grabbed for her and she could see Kunzite fighting with the other figure on the ground.

“I’m not going to hurt you,” the assailant reached out to grab her hand. She kicked at him and her sandaled foot struck him on his chest harder than he anticipated she could. He grunted from the impact but did not release her horse, the reins still grasped tightly in his hands. The jerking motion had thrown back his hood to reveal a tall man with long dark hair and piercing green eyes. Underneath his cloak she was able to recognize his familiar Generals’ uniform.

“What were you thinking?!” She could hear Kunzite yelling and looked over to see that Kunzite had pinned the smaller man under him, taking extra notice that he also wore the same Generals’ uniform under his cloak.

Kunzite glanced over her way to make sure that she was ok and saw that Nephrite was holding the reins of her horse. He could tell by her face that they had startled her.

“Are you alright?” he asked her.

“I’m fine.”

“I’m glad that you have the same level of compassion for your fellow comrades,” Jadeite said. Kunzite stood up and helped to pull the blonde haired man to his feet. Jadeite brought his hand to his eye, gingerly touching the area. “You don’t pull your punches do you, Kunz?”

Kunzite lifted an eyebrow as he said this. “You’re lucky that’s the worst that happened to you, Jadeite.” He walked over to Minako and helped her off her horse, afraid that the spooked mare might still try to throw her off. “One of you is missing,” he said to Nephrite.

Jadeite spoke up first. “Zoicite is with Endymion. Apparently he told Ami that we were going to meet you halfway and she didn’t find it amusing, so he stayed behind. And he wonders why we don’t bring him anywhere.”

“You don’t bring him anywhere because you still think he needs to be initiated into his rank,” Kunzite added dryly.

“Ah, but that is no longer true, my fearless leader,” he spoke with words of reverence but his tone suggested it was more of jab at the silver haired man. “Just the other day I invited him to come hunting with me.”

Nephrite snorted. “And what challenge did you issue him on this hunt?”

Jadeite grinned with his secret, although instead of answering his friend he opted to turn to the woman with golden colored hair who had been silent throughout most of this exchange. “You must be the Minako that our prince told us about and our illustrious leader has failed to previously introduce us to.” He crossed over to her and brought her hand to his lips, kissing the surface. She smiled at his gesture and with a gentle tug he pulled her away from Kunzite’s hold to interlock his arm with hers. “Kunzite is simply lacking in all etiquette yet he has discipline in abundance,” he spoke in mock annoyance. “I am Jadeite and this is Nephrite. So where has Kunzite been keeping you all of this time? Locked in a tower?”

Minako blushed. “Not quite.”

“So I hear that you are the cousin of our soon to be Queen,” he spoke to her as he glanced over to Nephrite and exchanged a knowing look with him as he started to lead her down the path towards the Palace.

Kunzite stepped forward to follow them but Nephrite put his hand on Kunzite’s arm. “Let them go ahead. We need to talk about a few things before we arrive at the Palace.” Kunzite went to his horse and mounted it, Nephrite mounting Minako’s. The horses walked slowly down the path, remaining outside of hearing distance of the couple walking ahead.

“Is it bad?” Kunzite asked.

“It is. There are rumors of open war but we don’t yet know who the key people are. We think that they have a spy among our ranks.”

“A spy?” he looked at him doubtfully. “Are you suggesting that perhaps they are spying on us from the moon when it is high in the sky?”

Nephrite sighed. “I had my reservations as well, but Zoicite has been looking into the attack on the North village that occurred a couple of months ago and found that the rebels attacked on a night when your troops were at their lowest guard. How would they know that on that particular night they would be met with the least resistance? You can write this off as pure coincidence if you choose, but once you hear the facts from Zoicite for yourself I think you will have a different opinion.”

“I thought that we already resolved the details of that attack.”

“It was a false trail. They were ready for us the whole time. My guess is that they are choosing to use guerilla-like tactics to keep us off guard. But if they are willing to sacrifice their men so easily they must have a sizable army laying in wait.”

“So the spy must be within my ranks.”

“There is a high probability of that being the case, but you share information with us so that it could just as easily be within any of our ranks.”

“I share the necessary information, but only what I consider to be pertinent. I can’t imagine that I would have told you that I pulled some of my men from the village earlier that evening, although that is something that the Captain would have known. Perhaps I should start my inquiry with him.”

“Endymion has asked that we all discuss this before we make any decisions.”

Kunzite sighed. “Perhaps I can convince Minako to stay at the Palace for a few days. I don’t feel comfortable leaving her at my estate when there is such a risk.” he said, shaking his head.

Nephrite hesitated for a moment. “Actually, Endymion wants us to keep this between the four of us – he’s been trying to keep this from Serenity. She’s been distracted planning the wedding and he wants to keep it that way. He’s concerned that you may be right about a planned an attack on their wedding day.”

“He’s too stubborn for his own good,” Kunzite chuckled. “Even when faced with a situation like this he still won’t admit that he may not be safe.”

“And speaking of stubborn,” Nephrite grinned, “perhaps you can explain why we haven’t met your fiancée before today?”

“There were some things that needed to be worked out between us first.”

“She seems like a nice girl, maybe a little naïve if she’s buying into any of the stories Jadeite is reciting to her.”

“I think I was the naïve one this time,” Kunzite spoke solemnly as he turned his eyes to watch the couple walking ahead of them.

“Have you fallen for her?”

Kunzite looked over to the dark haired man next to him expecting to see a look of mockery but instead was greeted with anything but. “I don’t know anymore.” He frowned and quickly shook off the conversation. “We should hurry and get to the Palace. We’re late enough as it is.” His horse trotted up next to Minako and slowed to a walk. “We still have a bit of a walk to go. You can ride with me. These other two can use your horse.” He reached down and grabbed her arms, pulling her sideways onto the saddle in front of him. “Hold on tight.” She wrapped her arms around his chest and the horse took off at a gallop with a squeal emitting from her lips.

Nephrite looked down to Jadeite. “Do you want a ride or are you walking?”

“I’m seeing stars, I’ll take a ride.”

“I wouldn’t tell Rei that Minako had that effect on you. That wouldn’t help your situation at all.”

“That’s not what I meant. Rei is going to find out what we did if it leaves a mark – and I have a feeling she won’t find nearly as much humor in this as we did.”

Nephrite extended his hand to Jadeite noticing the swelling starting to appear near his eye. “I hate to break it to you,” he helped to pull Jadeite up behind him, “but she’s going to find out.” He led Minako’s horse off the path and towards where they had tied up their own horses. Jadeite dismounted from behind Nephrite and climbed onto his own horse, leading the extra horse along as they headed at a gallop towards the Palace.

They both slowed the gait of their horses as they neared the stables, handing the reins of the horses over to the stable boy waiting nearby. They could hear the sounds of voices coming from the direction of inside the stable and peered around the stable gates.

Kunzite helped Minako slid down off of the saddle before jumping off and looking her over. “Are you alright? They didn’t hurt you did they?”

“I’m fine. They just startled me is all. What about you? It looked like you took a pretty bad fall.”

“Better than Jadeite,” he laughed. “I’m glad you’re alright,” his tone sobering. “I was worried about you,” he spoke softly, leaning in to kiss her softly on the lips.

“Have you ever seen him act so ridiculous for a woman before? He is positively whipped.” Jadeite and Nephrite chuckled at the joke until Kunzite turned to look at them with his eyes in slits. “We’ll see you inside,” Nephrite said with a chuckle, pushing Jadeite along. They both walked out, leaving Kunzite and Minako alone. She chuckled at the two exiting Generals.

“Don’t laugh at them, Minako. They only get worse.” They walked into the palace together. A servant approached Minako and led her off to meet with Serenity. As she walked down the hall, she turned her head expecting him to be gone as he was the last time she visited the Palace. This time she was pleasantly surprised to find him still rooted to the same spot, watching her disappear down the hallway before proceeding in to his own meeting.

“Since I don’t see Kunzite with either of you is it safe to assume that you decided against your prank?” Endymion asked the two smirking Generals in front of him.

“Endymion,” Jadeite drawled, “It’s not a matter of playing pranks on each other, we’re simply helping to keep your top General in shape.”

“Then perhaps I should be working harder on keeping my Generals in better shape since we seem to have such a concern suddenly,” Kunzite spoke firmly as he entered the room. A glint of amusement could be seen in his eye as he grinned at the three men in question.

“I believe what you are speaking of is called sadism,” Jadeite muttered.

“No man has ever died from one of my training regiments,” Kunzite responded coolly.

“Of course not,” Jadeite countered. “If Zoicite was able to train under you for as long as he did than I suppose that anyone could.”

Zoicite smirked without bothering to look up at the two men. “Yes, that’s why you requested a transfer after only a few months of training, Jadeite. Although I suppose it could have just been a really hot summer that year….”

Nephrite let loose with a deep rumbling laugh as Jadeite glared at the younger man still busying himself with the parchment in front of him. Kunzite straightened himself out to his full height and looked at the prince, his commanding voice silencing the room. “You summoned us.”

“Yes, of course,” Endymion tried to cover his smile with a look of seriousness. “Nephrite said that he has briefed you on what Zoicite has recently learned. We need to find the source of this break in our security and weed it out. Just this morning I received word that some of the higher up members of this rebel faction have been seen lately in the neighboring villages and towns. The four of you will split up to find these men and question them until they tell us exactly what we need to know. I don’t care what you have to do - these rebels need to be stopped. The death toll of their carnage has grown to the point where my people are now afraid to leave their homes and trading between villages is starting to slow.” Endymion stopped for a moment to sigh. “I’m afraid that if things keep escalating as they are we will need to be prepared to go to battle. I’m sure the remnants of the last war are still fresh enough in all of your minds to know that it’s not an option.”

The men looked at their leader and watched as he struggled to suppress the emotions tugging at him. As he said, they all remembered the last war where Endymion had built an army strong enough to over throw his father. It wasn’t something that he relished doing, but he could not allow the tyranny of his father’s reign to continue unchecked. He tried talking to the man and nearly pleaded with him even to change his policies with no success at all. The war had taken its toll on the people of the Kingdom, but they all found that as they fought, many of the old King’s soldiers willing surrendered themselves having no loyalty to their King other than the small pittance he paid them.

Memories still surfaced in Kunzite’s mind as he recalled the final encounter between Endymion and his father. The young Prince had been unable to reason with his father even when the King knew that he had been defeated. What angered Kunzite more than anything was when the King attempted to kill his own son. In Kunzite’s anger he ran the king through with his sword to save Endymion’s life. The satisfaction of killing the man had nearly made him sick and it took all that he had to remain composed for the sake of his prince who stood by watching his father die, who even as he lay dying, had nothing but spiteful words for his son rolling off his tongue. Endymion had taken the sword from Kunzite’s hands and later told the other Generals that it was he that had killed the King rather than risk retribution against Kunzite by any of the King’s remaining loyalist. It was a moment of weakness that Kunzite allowed for Endymion to take the blame for the king’s death and he vowed to protect his Prince from that day on with his life to make up for what he deemed to be his greatest failure.

“I want Minako to stay with you and Serenity at the Palace. I don’t want her staying by herself in case the spy is one of my own.”

“I think that maybe all of our wives should stay at the Palace lest they become victims of retribution while we are gone,” Nephrite added.

Zoicite cleared his throat before speaking. “Ami will stay with Rei, just in case there are any complications with the baby.” He looked sympathetically over to Jadeite who seemed to pale at the other man’s words.

“Then we’re all agreed.” Endymion said. “Just please don’t mention anything about this to Serenity. I don’t want her to panic,” he smiled before continuing, “and I especially don’t want to ruin her wedding plans.”

Minako walked into the study to find Serenity and Ami talking. The room was spacious with a high ceiling, lined with crown molding. Several tall bookshelves lined the far wall filled with an assortment of books and other valuable trinkets and collectibles. Another wall was lined with tall windows while the adjacent wall contained a fireplace accented by a large mantle. A deep maroon carpet was rolled out across the floor in front of the fireplace and topped with several high backed chairs and small decorative tables arranged in a semi circle around a short maple wood table. The room was decorated in warm colors and was used mostly by Serenity when entertaining guests.

Serenity looked up and gave her a huge smile. “Minako! I’m glad that you made it. Come sit with us.” She patted her hand on the armrest of the chair next to her. Minako walked over to and sat down in the chair, carefully crossing her legs at her ankles. “This is Ami, Zoicite’s wife. Ami, this is my cousin Minako that I’ve been telling you about.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Minako. I’ve heard so much about you that I feel like I already know you.”

“I apologize that Kunzite hasn’t told me very much about you, anyone for that matter really.”

Serenity sighed dramatically. “I’m the one who should be apologizing,” she said. “I really shouldn’t have trusted Kunzite to make proper introductions.”

The three girls laughed at Serenity’s comments, quickly breaking into easy conversation that mostly consisted of Serenity asking Minako questions about her growing relationship with the quiet General.

As dinnertime approached, Serenity and Ami excused themselves to get ready for the meal. Serenity went to her room to change and Ami went back to Zoicite’s room, showing Minako to Kunzite’s apartment on her way. Minako thanked Ami than walked into the room closing the door behind her. It was exactly as she imagined it. The room was simple and fairly empty, with only the personal effects that he needed. She wondered to herself how often he used this room and guessed it to not be very often.

There was still time before dinner so she decided to wander around through the halls of the Palace in order to more quickly pass the time. She walked into the dining room to find that no one had arrived yet and went out onto the balcony to wait.

“Can you see it from here?” A male voice asked from behind her. Startled she turned to see Jadeite approaching. He stood next to her on the balcony. “That’s my home out there. If you look out to the horizon you can make out the towers.”

“I see. Kunzite will have to bring me there someday so that I can see your home. I’d like to meet Rei as well. I don’t really have anyone to talk to here since my family’s home is so far away.”

“I would advise waiting until after she has the baby. She’s had a long and somewhat difficult pregnancy. You’ll like her though – and Makoto too.”

“Have they known each other long – Rei and Makoto?”

“Oh yeah, for most of their lives actually. Makoto is the one who introduced me to Rei. But tell me about yourself, I’ve done so much of the talking already today.”

“There’s not much to say. Serenity was always like a sister to me, we spent almost every day together until she moved into the palace to marry her prince,” the smile slowly faded from her lips. “It’s like her own personal fairy tale come true.” Minako cleared her throat softly before continuing. “I’m happy to be reunited with her again.”

“May I ask you something?”

“Of course,” she smiled softly.

“Has Kunzite been good to you?”

“I’m happy with him.”

“He can be difficult at times, if you haven’t noticed already.”

She smiled. “Yes, he certainly can be when he wants to be.”

“But he is a good man and he will take care of you. We’ve never seen him this way around any of the other women he’s been involved with. You seem to have a calming effect on him.”

“We’ve had some bad times, but we’ve also had some good times. It’s all new for both of us, we hardly know each other.”

“Endymion knew that you were what he needed, that’s why he arranged for Kunzite to marry you.”

She paused – the prince arranged for their marriage – Kunzite did not want her? Then why had he let her think that?


“The Prince is a smart man,” she said quietly.

“You know, if he ever does anything to wrong you we’ll take care of him, the three of us I mean. We’re like brothers and we make sure to look out for one another.”

Minako laughed at the vision of them taking turns smacking him on the head. “I appreciate your concern and I won’t hesitate to let any of you know when he’s in need of a friendly reminder.”

Kunzite and Rei stood at the entrance to the dining hall, watching the blonde haired couple and their quiet exchange.

“Should I be surprised at all?” Rei asked.

“Surprised?” he questioned.

“Yet another blonde?” she smirked. “I think it’s time that you broke your pattern.”

“Don’t you think it’s a little soon to start making judgments?”

“They have all been the same, Kunzite. If no one else is brave enough to point this out to you, than I will be the first. You are not exactly known for selecting women based on their moral standing. If I had to guess I would imagine that this one would at least have enough intelligence to know that she’s being insulted, although I’m sure too dainty to speak out in front of you.”

Kunzite smiled at her bluntness. “I have had many mistresses, Rei, many that you have never known of. Just because none have chosen to indulge you with a battle of words does not mean that they are in anyway lacking. Although I will confess that many were chosen for other attributes that I should probably not be discussing with a lady.”

Rei snorted in response. “I’m surprised that you don’t have a whole army of children from your exploits by now.”

“You of all people should know not to buy much stock in any of Jadeite’s embellished stories.”

“There is always at least of hint of underlying truth beneath his fantastic amount of fanfare.” Rei absently started to rub her hands over her rounded belly, flinching as she felt a sharp jab as the baby kicked against her ribs.

Kunzite noticed the grimace of pain that quickly flashed over her features and put his hand on her shoulder. “Are you alright, Rei?”

“Yes, I’m fine,” she sighed. “This child is about as restless as his father,” she laughed, grimacing as she felt another sharp kick from within. “I’m going upstairs to sit with Makoto for a while before dinner. Please ask Jadeite to join me once he’s done spinning whatever far-fetched tale he’s in the process of weaving.”

“I hope you’re resting like the doctor has asked you to.”

She rolled her eyes at him as she started walking down the hallway. “I’m not sure who’s more protective of this child – you or his father.”

Kunzite chuckled at her retreating form as he entered into the dining hall and walked towards the balcony where the couple was still talking. He gently placed his hands on Minako’s shoulders and gave them a light squeeze. She turned her head and smiled brightly up at him. “Perhaps I can steal you away?” he asked her, glancing over at Jadeite.

“I don’t suppose there is any refusing my fearless leader when he comes a calling,” Jadeite chuckled. “I should probably see if my beautiful wife has arrived yet.”

“I just spoke with her and she said that she is going to wait with Makoto till dinner,” Kunzite responded.

“Then I will take my leave,” Jadeite bowed playfully to Minako and grinned at Kunzite as he made his way around them.

“Is everything ok?” Minako asked softly. One of his slim eyebrows arched gracefully as he glanced down at her. “Did your meeting go well? You seem as if you have something on your mind.”

He took her hand in his and started to lead her through the dining hall. “Dinner’s been delayed for a little while longer, why don’t we go for a walk until then.”

They walked through the halls of the Palace with no words being spoken between them. Minako could sense that something was happening, and that it probably wasn’t good based on his serious expression and the urgency of the Prince’s meeting. They walked out into the gardens and she was amazed by what she saw as she had never been to this part of the garden before. There was a winding path that led to a large assortment of flowers and other flora. In the center was a large flowing fountain with the form of a kneeling woman praying with the most peculiar hair style she had ever seen. Kunzite led her over to the fountain and they sat down on the edge, the breeze lightly sprayed a mist of water on their faces.

“How would you feel about staying here for a couple of days?”

“Oh I would love to stay here and spend some time with Serenity. How long will we be staying?” she innocently asked him. He met her gaze for a moment than appeared to focus on a spot behind her. “Are you not staying?”

“I have to…” he struggled for the right word. “There are some things Endymion needs me to take care of. The other Generals will be riding out as well.”

“How long till you return?” She was met with silence. “Are you returning?”

“Yes, I just don’t know how long it will take.” He took her hands in his, her small delicate fingers wrapping around his own. “I don’t want to leave you here, but it’s not safe for you to be left alone at my estate and there is no safer place than here at the Palace.”

“I feel safe when I’m with you…”

“And that’s where you will be when I return.” He looked up to see the sun getting lower on the horizon. “They are probably wondering where we are.” Her sad eyes looked into his. She put on her brightest smile and stood from besides the fountain turning to walk away. He jumped up and pulled her into his arms. He held her as close as he could for fear of hurting her, and placed a kiss on her lips. She reached her hands up to his face and returned the kiss with equal passion. This was her time with him and she wanted to make sure he knew how much she awaited his return. He groaned into her kiss and pulled back looking lustfully into her eyes. “That’s a good reason for me to hurry back and return to you.”

“I have a few more reasons as well,” she purred seductively.

“Don’t start, Minako. Serenity would be angry with me if you missed dinner.”

“Then what about after?”

He hesitated. “There won’t be an after.”

“Oh.” That was the last that she said to him as she walked away, heading back inside. He was angry at himself for making her sad. She would just have to understand that this was his job and that nothing else could come first. He took several large steps and caught up with her, placing his arm around her. Silently, they entered the Palace.

“I think that he may be sincere about this one,” Makoto said looking down on the couple from the balcony of her and Nephrite’s room overlooking the gardens. “Normally he’s so indifferent to what anyone else thinks, but with her he seems – I don’t know how to describe it. Look at the way he follows her.”

Rei sat on a chair watching them exit from the gardens. “She’s not going to be good for him. There is a lot of trouble surrounding them.”

Makoto laughed at her friend. “You say that every time. Serenity seems wonderful enough; I can’t imagine that her cousin would be too different from her.”

“That’s not it, Makoto. I just get a feeling when the two of them are together. Being in lust with someone is different from being in love with them.”

“If they are both happy for now then does it really matter?”

“He’s going to marry her, Makoto. They need more than right now.”

“Technically it was Endymion who arranged this marriage.”

Rei slowly pulled herself from her seat with a little help from Makoto. “Do you honestly believe that Kunzite would allow himself to be forced into getting married? He is neither that loyal nor that dull.”

“Yes, and if you hadn’t fallen in love with Jadeite first, I’m sure you would have found yourself in love with Kunzite instead. Maybe you’re just afraid of letting go of your friendship with him.” Makoto slipped her arm through Rei’s and started leading her from the room. “You could at least give her a chance before we decide whether or not to like her.”

“I suppose,” Rei answered quietly. They walked in silence again before Rei finally spoke up. “I would not have fallen in love with Kunzite. We’re friends, we understand each other.”

“There’s nothing wrong with wondering what could have been. Just because in a twist of fate I could be marrying Endymion instead of Serenity doesn’t mean that I love Nephrite any less or love Endymion any more.” Makoto paused and gave Rei a wicked look. “With his stubborn streak, neither of you would have lasted more than a few minutes anyway I suppose!” Both girls laughed loudly at the comment before their laughter finally subsided into giggles.

Rei sighed and shook her head, absently rubbing her stomach with her free hand. “It’s hard knowing that I will soon be replaced. He and I have been close friends for so long, and now it will be her that he laughs with and tells stories to instead of me.”

“I don’t think that his loyalties are so shallow that he would cease to be your friend simply because he’s married.”

“And what if that’s what she asks him to do? Should he be forced to choose between his new wife and me?”

“By not giving her a chance isn’t that exactly what you are asking him to do?”

Rei stopped walking and looked up at the taller girl. “How is it that you are the one suddenly giving me advice when it has always been the other way around?”

Makoto chuckled as she gently tugged against the raven haired girl’s arm to continue leading her down the hallway. “One word for you,” she smiled. “Hormonal.”

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