Kintsugi: You Forgave and I Won't Forget

The world is new, and Kunzite isn't sure where he fits in it anymore. He and Mamoru have a lot to talk about, and they do. At great length. The buffer broke three times in total.

Date: 2016-04-07
Pose Count: 16
Kazuo Takeba 2016-04-26 01:40:25 39743
The four interlinked apartments are in a strange condition, right now. The one that should be furnished and frequented is ... well. Mostly furnished, if in a state of upheaval and partial unboxing; only partial, since occupancy and renovations are likely to collide headfirst several times before they're done. The three that hadn't previously been touched in years have footprints in the dust, occasional cleaned rooms, sometimes even pieces of furniture themselves. Signs of slow discovery. Also more boxes that will need to be moved out rather than in. (Kunzite managed, somehow, never to say a word about those. It worked. They got through it, and came out the other side alive. He'll save the commentary for another time; besides, when Venus is tied more closely in again, it won't be necessary anymore.)

(The conspiracy-theory board, though, almost drew a smile.)

Still. The rooms are the framework of what will be right, and isn't quite yet. An accurate reflection of both their owner and his most senior guardian.

That's probably one of the reasons they're out on the balcony after Naru's visit. But the better one is the sight of the city laid out around and below them.

Kunzite - Kazuo - leans on the rail with one foot resting on the lower bar. Looking outward, not at Mamoru, when he starts the conversation -

No. When he picks it up. They've been having this conversation for months, in bits and pieces. The night when he was still in the stone, when Mamoru spoke of forgiveness. The little pocket of hell that was Beryl's throne room after Walpurgisnacht. The other little pocket of hell that was the last place Mamoru saw, three months ago, before Beryl reshaped him.

"You're sure." It's not even a question. Kunzite knows Mamoru agreed with his call, after the fact. It's only Kunzite himself who doesn't, who still can't. But two words, and one more, will by now be enough to put that to rest.

Gray eyes stare outward. Roads, buildings, traffic. People. People he can conceive of now as more than numbers, more than units of energy. "It's going to be different. There's no call now for half of what we used to train for."

Well. There are still wars. But it's not Mamoru's business to fight most of them.
Mamoru Chiba 2016-04-26 01:40:39 39744
It probably isn't the word Kunzite was looking for. But it comes with a look so sidelong and disbelieving that it might work anyway. "Baka."

Mamoru shakes his head, himself bent to lean on the rail beside Kunzite, forearms resting on it. Then the word that's more likely, and what certainly sounds like a rhetorical question. "Yes. Will you stop asking?"

An evening in March, outdoors, is still chilly enough to justify outerwear; the dark reddish-brown hoodie is darker still in the night, but the underglow from the city lights up the prince's fine features from below, casting his face in muted shadows and dim colored brightness, glinting off his earring and the frames of the glasses hanging off the neck of his t-shirt.

He loves this balcony. Even if his rosebush is still at Makoto's, and all of his other things still at the apartment Homura rented for him, the telescope's set up again at the far end.

"It's a new life. New training. And even if what we're needed for looks different on the outside, comes in a different configuration-- you realize our ultimate purpose is still the same, don't you?"
Kazuo Takeba 2016-04-26 01:41:01 39745
That's the first moment at which Mamoru can put a finger on the difference between Kunzite as he was, and Kunzite influenced by this life, by Kazuo.

Because it must be Kazuo who bows his head at that first word, pale strands windblown across his face, and actually smiles. Almost grins.

By the time he's lifted his head again, his expression's settled into one of those real-for-Kunzite smiles, the one that lives almost entirely at the corner of his left eye. He's turned his head just enough toward Mamoru that he can see it.

There is no protest voiced at the question, nevermind that it's the first time he's asked. No more putting that one into words, that's all.

"Yes," he says to the words that come after, turning to look outward again. It's not exactly turning away from Mamoru. In some senses, it's almost impossible to turn away from him completely; even looking straight upward still means looking through, looking at, the Earth's atmosphere.

"Not even that different, for most of us. Jadeite can have a larger audience, but his arts are much the same. Zoisite's and Nephrite's specialties haven't changed even that much; it's just the context, for them. More of a change for you. But you're happier without the extra burdens. The way you can look at it now is an improvement." He shakes his head again, as if just to clear the stray hair from his eyes. "I'm the one who needs to change."
Mamoru Chiba 2016-04-26 01:44:59 39749
Endymion's silent a little longer, maybe, than Kunzite might expect him to be. He doesn't move, really; there's none of the fidgeting he'd resorted to in that space between the fight that freed his oldest guardian and the moment the clay broke, when the roses spilled onto the sandy tile. This quality of stillness isn't Endymion, though: it's the introverted boy from this life, the one who listens to the spaces between moments as well as the spaces between earth and stone.

rThe sounds of the city are muted by distance, some carried on breezes and draughts of warmer air, released from opening windows or active vents; the lights below them move and change. A light goes on in one apartment, off in another; someone working late hours finally turns off a floor of lights in an office building. The stars wheel above, and the moon hasn't risen yet; she'll leach the color from the balcony then, painting them both in a wash of silver.

It'll make Kazuo look like a ghost again, except for the shadows he casts.

A balcony door several floors down from them slams shut, and Mamoru straightens up, sidestepping to bump into the older boy's arm. Then he reaches up to put his hand on Kunzite's opposite shoulder, arm hanging behind him, and leans into him just a little. Solid. The reassurance is enough, for now. His voice is mild, serious but not grave.

"What do you need to change?"

Not 'what do you think you need to change'. There's no questioning of Kunzite's judgement of himself.
Kazuo Takeba 2016-04-26 01:45:33 39750
The shadows he casts. The way his hair gets in his eyes, now; five years when that never happened, was not capable of happening, has left him with a couple of habits to break. The almost inaudible hints of his breathing.

The physical presence of his arm when Mamoru bumps into it, sleeve over skin over muscle and blood-heat and bone, and the way he's already glancing over before Mamoru's hand can find his shoulder.

His other hand crosses over, weighs Mamoru's fingers down. His powers are as extraneous as words would be to interpreting the gesture. Nothing that will take anything away from you. Nothing that you will ever need to fear.

"Your mother chose me," he says, "for certain qualities. Loyalty, ruthlessness, a capacity to plan for and cope with possibilities that others found unthinkable. I strove to be your weapon; but we've seen too often how a weapon can be turned against its wielder. And even though Endymion and Mamoru Chiba are the same man, their circumstances require different skills. I need to be, and you need me to be, something new. Something more."

Gray eyes dart sidewise toward him, the glance as good as a laugh might have been. "I don't know what you'll need of me. But I'll learn."
Mamoru Chiba 2016-04-26 01:54:02 39752
"Weapons don't hold you when everything is wrong. They don't tell jokes no one else sees, or protect you or-- or anything else. They don't understand anything. They're things," Mamoru says immediately, the relief at the gesture, the weight of Kunzite's hand, almost instantly forgotten in the consternation caused by the words. "You're not a thing. You never were. Fiore thinks of-- and I-- she saw me as-- she made me into--"

He swallows, shutting his eyes for a second, willing his gorge not to rise, willing his mind to skip and gloss and move on, to leave that kettle of rotting fish undisturbed. He finishes, less strangled-sounding with every word, "Why would you try to be one? Why would you think I wanted anyone to be one, least of all you?"

The hand, weighed down by Kunzite's as is is, squeezes that shoulder; the emotion behind it floods through the contact, hand to hand.

Indignation on the young man's behalf, two lives' worth. Sorrow. Fierce protectiveness. Need. Hope. Restless, angry frustration. Boundless, encompassing love. Strangely, a frantic kind of hurt.

The boy's face is half hidden by shadow, half-lit, and he's not laughing back. "You strove to be my weapon, but you were always so much more than that. You still are. You're--"

Endymion makes a frustrated sound. He pulls his hand free and shakes them both out, almost shuddering and trying to quell it. Then he throws both his arms around Kunzite, around Kazuo, around the man who was his world as a child and the boy who, like himself, didn't find out what he was so desperately needed for-- only that he was. And he holds tight.

His voice is almost a growl, through his teeth, his clenched jaw. "You idiot. Why would I risk my life for a sword, no matter how beautiful or strong or sharp? Why would I spend everything I have to keep you with me, in two lifetimes?"

His voice is drops to a near whisper, and he presses his forehead into the taller man's arm. "Stupid. Why would I risk the world for you if you were just my weapon?"
Kazuo Takeba 2016-04-26 01:55:18 39754
"Never." The word is immediate, solid, sharp. "I never thought you wanted that." Protectiveness flares bright and hard in turn, as if he could shield the not-so-much younger boy from that idea itself -- not something he's likely ever to try again, but the wish is still there. Something else behind the protectiveness, hotter, brighter still. The thing that Endymion always knew, always accepted, was behind the calm and focus that Kunzite could lend him; that Kunzite himself never took for an emotion, but for a law of nature, an unquestioned part of the structure of the world.

In fourteen years of that life, Endymion never felt Kunzite's love for him as a separate emotion. In this life -- it isn't the first time. Stronger each time, from bare hints, now to something that half wants to take a page from Zoisite's book and burn away, not Mamoru's falterings, not the memories that produce them, but the events from which the memories were born.

He can't. But the intensity of the desire to might bolster Mamoru, and cannot harm him.

The connection's broken, and his hand drops to Endymion's shoulder -- tightens there, when Endymion flings both arms around him. Spreads flat over the shoulderblade when Mamoru tucks his head in; that's a gesture that's echoed, Kunzite leaning his own head over till long pale strands of hair mingle with short dark ones, till Mamoru can feel the indirect heat of the other man's breathing. No contact, not when his prince is the one who stopped it. Everything but.

"Endymion." His voice is lower, rougher. "I don't have the right words for this." He never did. Some things he's always been awkward about, stumbling, the right will but the wrong meaning. He gave up, for the most part. Found words to deflect with instead; made his apologies in gifts, in opportunities, in things. "But what you're saying -- is half of what I mean."
Mamoru Chiba 2016-04-26 02:01:43 39756
Mamoru's breathing is thick, labored; Kunzite's is hot against his head, his own is hot against Kunzite's shirt, and his eyes are shut tightly, keeping out the world; with cloth between them, there's only the muted awareness of emotion coming across their link, and in the air, with proximity. The psychometry is blocked, but sensations are not, and those of Kunzite's hand against his back and his voice rough and resonant in his ears, they're grounding. The words are, too.

It's still a moment before the prince, with a vulnerability precious few have seen, and a rawness and clumsy immaturity to his behavior that only the white-haired Shitennou, right now, has ever witnessed, can look up. Unsurprisingly, he's crying, and he hates it, he always hates it. Even now he has to fight anger and shame over it, over the hot, silent, damp mess of his face.

His eyes glitter in the dark, the blue dark itself; the glitter is the reflection of Kunzite in the light of the rising moon, unsteady. " me," he says, the words cracking and breaking the quiet night. It's a command, it's not a command. It's a request, it's an inevitability. Endymion's face, set and determined and apologetic and half-unreal; it's not just the brilliance of the moon behind him that limns his edges in a dim, pale glow--

--a glow the precise gold of clouds at sunrise. His hands, long-fingered scholar's hands that are warm despite the April nighttime's chill, move up to Kunzite's shoulders, then the sides of his neck; they settle at the sides of his face as Mamoru's high-tension, brittle emotional turmoil is suppressed to make room. He's not searching. He's not intruding. It's not force, it's not a command after all--

"If-- you don't have words-- just show me. Please?"
Kazuo Takeba 2016-04-26 02:05:56 39759
Show him.

The only outward sign of any of it is that, when Mamoru's hands settle at the sides of Kunzite's face, gray eyes close. Remain that way. Moving is ... unnecessary.

Why would his prince risk everything for him, for them, over and over again?

It's not a question that Kunzite has an answer to. Fragments of one, here and there. Because Endymion does not function as well without them. Because Mamoru has lived all his life in need of people he can trust, people he can let in without fear. Because some strange thing deep within the landsense knows there is something they will be needed for, somehow, and Mamoru feels what the land feels.

But he doesn't understand, not any more than he did in those terrible moments of silence in December, not any more than he did when he and Jadeite argued a lifetime and an aeon ago. There are things that Mamoru and Jadeite and Nephrite know by breathing, that Zoisite toys with bright-eyed and laughing, that Kunzite can only reason through carefully at best. Finds alien and incomprehensible at worst.

It never mattered, in the beginning. In the Golden Kingdom, Kunzite was rarely separated from the others for more than a few hours, or a few days -- and Endymion's power could bridge that gap as easily as breathing. The weakness masked itself in their strengths, showed itself as no more than a set of quirks of personality. Made itself a strength in some ways; undistracted, Kunzite could focus more easily on his prince, and then on his prince's other guardians.

No-one else mattered, except in tactical terms, Until the silvered princess made herself known, there was no-one else that Kunzite really let himself recognize as a person, other than those four. This was no insult to the others there; Kunzite disregarded himself just as readily. And there was no reason to notice. It did not hurt him, it did not cause him any pain or trouble, it did not matter; if he'd been asked, he would have said that it was his preference, or perhaps his duty. It did no harm. It was only the way his mind worked, the way it always had.

His life as Kazuo did not improve the matter. From all he can tell from the scattered handful of memories he had -- Kunzite had perceived perhaps half a dozen people as people. Kazuo had perceived one, and that one he never met. Had dismissed himself as unimportant to the extent that not one of those scattered memories included his own name.

He had always seen that quality in himself as neutral and unimportant at worst, useful at best. It made him a better weapon; it gave him a pragmatism Endymion should not have to have, an ability to act, if necessary, beyond the scope of Endymion's more open feelings and gentler desires. It was, after all, one of the reasons the Queen had chosen him to guard her son -- whether or not her son wished him to, when the moment came.

He does not remember, now, but he is almost certain. This pragmatism, this focus, this sharp division into the handful of people who mattered and the mass who did not, this lack of comprehension and this relying on the others to provide it -- this was the weakness that let Beryl take him, not once, but twice. This was what she used, later, to nearly destroy him -- when she separated him from the others, and that still more than her chains on his mind hollowed him out from the inside.

(He is not consciously aware of what Mamoru and Nephrite did in those days when he stood in the Dark Kingdom alone. But he is certain that they did something. And he suspects that whatever it was kept him from falling completely, kept him from becoming like Melanite, or like the one Makoto fought -- something no longer human, whatever it once had been.)

And when he took as his orders the priorities that Mamoru had set, when he worked under rules and laws he did not understand but could reason out the consequences of --

Somehow it worked. Somehow they reclaimed all of them, Endymion's four and Endyion himself, no matter how unlikely. Somehow they were able to bring Naru back, alive and unharmed, to keep that part of Serenity's -- Usagi's -- heart safe. Somehow Mercury was able to use the things he gave her to bring him back. Somehow Venus was able to bring herself home, to strike true. Somehow the little fox he'd been kind to helped to open a door for some of these things; somehow the sister he had no reason to have became the one to save him.

And what Mamoru and Usagi had done with the strength of their hearts was beyond understanding in a far better way.

This is what he needs to learn. This is what he needs to make himself ... not become, necessarily; there may still be times when the cold will be necessary. Surgeons use blades to save. But the blade should not be the only option. He needs to move beyond that. He needs to be able to understand his prince's priorities and choices, not only to accept and follow them -- needs to be able to choose in his prince's absence, and be certain the choice is correct, not doubting it for weeks or months, not uncertain even after seeing evidence. He needs to learn what he might become if he can develop even the a little of the strength that Mamoru and Usagi share, the strength that can save and remake worlds.

(He has its shadow already -- he knows that much. But a shadow is only substantial when there is something there to cast it. He needs to do better.)

And Endymion needs --

More than a weapon, always. More than the shadow of a man. His prince has always seen him as more.

If he could learn to see himself through Mamoru's eyes, to see the others who walk this world the way Mamoru sees them -- what might he become then?

Someone worth the risks his prince has taken, perhaps?

He doesn't understand how that could be possible. But the most important person in his world, in any life, told him he should have more faith. Even the semblance of an effort has worked out for them so far. He can do no less than honor that, and honor the way his prince sees him. Try to live up to them. Try to make them real.
Mamoru Chiba 2016-04-26 02:26:41 39767
With every detail that comes to light, every piece of perspective that's progressively less self-valuing, Kunzite's outlook on life looks more bleak to his prince-- and yet, to Kunzite, it's not bleak at all. It's only what is, and it's only in need of correction.

It's a humbling and horrifying thing; it's angering; it's a sorrowful thing that aches. It's part of what made Endymion lose his temper, it's part of what made Mamoru panic -- but it helps explain a little of the why and the how, and it helps show, also, how and why Kunzite wants to change himself.

The temptation is there to remain in this summary of reality, to clutch and argue and dig in his heels, but that isn't what this is about, isn't what this is for. 'Show me,' he'd told his best friend, his guardian; having been shown, he can't and won't reject what he sees. The temptation is brief; it's only the damage he's gained in this life that clouds his understanding, and with a step back, it clears in light of the merged perspectives the boy carries.

He already knows much of this, on some level. Endymion understood and accepted all of this when he first met his first guardian, but he was three: he had no context for it, had no way of knowing that his Kunzite was fundamentally broken and in need of healing. Set up by circumstance and by the tiny prince's mother -- with the cool and vast perspective of a Queen who would sacrifice anyone for the safety of her son and her planet -- the condition of the break was not meant to heal. In all of the years of his exposure, Endymion never understood that this wasn't 'just Kunzite's way', never understood--

And so it never changed. Kunzite did not heal, and Kazuo broke without knowing why, and Kazuo did not get the chance to heal, to become whole, either.

For one sparkling, fragile fragment of a moment, Mamoru is boundlessly grateful for everything that's happened. Everything. Without all of the loss and tragedy and the fall of kingdoms and planets, without all the agony and violence and loneliness, without all of the suffering and indignity, without the endings to it all -- be they quick and glorious or slow and subtle -- he would never have had the understanding he does now. Would never have had the comparative experiences of essentially three lives, the paradigm shifts, the awakenings and reorientations, the broad view and breadth of knowledge he has now. He would never have been able to see the pieces Kunzite was missing, the pieces Kazuo never had.

He is grateful that the world ended, grateful for the destruction Metalia wrought and the lives ruined, grateful for the injuries he and everyone he loves sustained in two lives, because one of the consequences is the ability to finally see what's needed to begin to heal this man who loves him with everything he is. This man he loves so much.

The prince calms, and there's finally a sense of methodical precision, ordered and crystalline, that is nonetheless warm. This isn't the too-bright pristine reflection of the sun on polished gold, the lost idylls of living dream, the ancient and pervasive perception, the notice that inspires and intimidates. This is Mamoru, matter-of-fact and human and seventeen, compassionate and empathic and determined, who spent his life alone and watching and absorbing with the intent to understand.

(He begins with the present, and his hands, at the sides of Kazuo's face and cupping his jaw, tilt the older boy's head down; he lifts his own, and leans forehead to forehead, his own eyes also closed.)

Alone with the dream-ghost of a princess and the dissatisfied knowledge that there should have been others but weren't, with the drive to become everything he was missing, with the determination to learn everything so he might someday know enough, be good enough, to recognise what he sought when he encountered it. Alone with the sensation of being incomplete; alone and separate and unreal, detached. Alone with the dream of connecting someday, when he was ready, when he had made himself and everything about his life ready.

Detached, aloof, observant, disconnected.

Dreams changing; tainted with memory and silver tears, pleading; filled with a driving quest to obtain something that would answer his questions, something that the princess who'd kept him company needed desperately; filled with a maddening lack of detail, of knowledge. More learning. Waking up in strange places in strange clothes, exhausted and without the memory of travel or action; waking up wondering if he was still dreaming; spending his waking life burning with the doubt of his own reality, his own existence-- with the sense of incompleteness ever more harsh and cutting.

Meeting a girl who caught his attention like no one but his dream princess ever had, forgetting everything he'd made himself learn about interaction in an instant, angering her just to make her notice and remember him. The feeling of being real, however temporary.

Making the decision to chase the object of his quest actively, and having made that decision, meeting another girl that very night who wasn't driven but who fought, terrified, regardless of what she ultimately wanted. The sense of transitory completion that helping her brought.

That selfsame night, on the way home, meeting another girl who reminded him so strongly of -- someone -- of something, of part of what he knew he sought; following her and her associates into a nightmare realm and fighting alongside them, lacking in power to fight as he was-- and immediately being told he had inherent value, immediately being shown he was needed, he was welcomed, he had a use.

The wakening sense of a star brighter than any of the others, one whose pain and fear he could sense, no matter how far. One whose aid he needed, with all of his soul, to come to. A connection that couldn't, wouldn't, be broken.

The gradual opening of his life to mystery and to connection; connections made that he cherished-- other people becoming individuals, becoming real, becoming truths and worlds unto themselves even as he sought that reality and that solidity himself, even as none of the cherished connections and bright stars his world woke to could complete him.

(Here and now, it's blended with his newly-gained knowledge from Kunzite, understanding the feeling that there were only a few real people, and that Kunzite had not counted himself in that number-- or only one person for Kazuo, and that person never having been met. Here and now, likening it to the feeling that there were others more important, others who needed to be protected and enabled, that there were others who were real and true-- and that he himself was not counted in that number, was only a means to an end. The same, he actively thinks, the same.)

Meeting the first of his that he'd run into: a man who didn't remind him of someone but felt as though he should be remembered, whose presence made him ache with the knowledge, reinvigorated, that he was missing something. But this time, the knowledge itself, the knowledge of the incompleteness, was a solid and real thing: this time, the lack thereof was a grounding influence. And still more connections, more complications, more involvement; still the world grew larger and more full of hearts and stars and brilliance, of joy and pain and humanity, of life and tension and love and strife-- and all of them precious, all of it real and cherished, so many of the lives seen and felt as though they were his own, however fleeting the sense.

Meeting the next two: a friendship fallen into so easily and a heart broken with closeness so quickly, and a tension that sang with fear and promise and safety and danger, of solidity and focus, of attention and, somehow, the idea of his own importance, the importance of Mamoru, that so many had already argued with him over; the importance he denied existed.

(Here and now, his thumbs brush against cheekbones; here and now, patience and meticulous care, a gentle thoroughness.)

A connection too real to deny, but denied out of danger too real to ignore. The ache that came with that, the reality that the
Mamoru Chiba 2016-04-26 02:28:16 39769
Meeting the next two: a friendship fallen into so easily and a heart broken with closeness so quickly, and a tension that sang with fear and promise and safety and danger, of solidity and focus, of attention and, somehow, the idea of his own importance, the importance of Mamoru, that so many had already argued with him over; the importance he denied existed.

(Here and now, his thumbs brush against cheekbones; here and now, patience and meticulous care, a gentle thoroughness.)

A connection too real to deny, but denied out of danger too real to ignore. The ache that came with that, the reality that the increased incompleteness emphasized. Finding everything, finding nothing and no-one. Growing desperation; desperation enough to ask for help; he who'd determined to become everything he was missing, to be ready to get it all back, asking for outside help to deal with the knowledge that people had been taken from him. His most precious and important people, taken from him. The acceptance his new connections granted, the honest acceptance from his bright stars; the promise of help to regain him his family, his lost pieces of soul, accepted with relief and joy and a humble, profound gratitude.

Gradually, the knowledge drummed into his head, and then abruptly shoved home like a knife to the heart, of his own worth and his own importance, as difficult to believe as it was. The understanding that the value he held for the happiness of others extended to valuing their wish for his safety. The understanding that in being important to other people, he himself was important. Gradually, the understanding that the comfort and acceptance he unhesitatingly offered those in need was in itself important, and far older than this life, as old as this Earth.

And still, all the love and the acceptance and the understanding-- the completion-- granted by the reality of the girl he wanted so badly to be his princess? Still he lived with the knowledge that he wasn't whole, the knowledge that the love he had for the other pieces of his soul was real and true. And now, the knowledge that he lacked those connections was killing him by inches as he kept trying to make up for their absence.

Tension that sang

Fear that stung, fear that wasn't right. Focus that twisted. Something that should have been the brightest of stars, the purest of connections, something that was supposed to sing with love and wholeness and shimmering, crystalline beauty, winter clarity and purity and affection and devotion and safety and

In hell, in panic, reaching for and grabbing that star, as dim and darkened and silenced as it was; holding on, and in turn, being held and being grounded, being made real in a corner of his mind screaming and sobbing with terror; the promise, with all of him burning and discarded, that he would not be alone. Relief even in despair. Love even in the icy darkness.

Hope, even then, that it would help. That it would somehow serve his purposes. Knowledge, in the background in the grounded corner that was walled off from that which might drive it insane, that it was already helping and serving his purposes, because he wouldn't be alone. Harmony endured and sought its center, and would find a way out; purity and affection would remain-- because he wouldn't be alone. Healing and purification brought close, embraced through flame, clung on to with the combined tenacity of love and panicked need. The slow regaining of understanding and awareness, breaking him in ways he never imagined it might-- and the driven, laughingly brittle and half-mad rescue of intelligence and comfort--

Intelligence which understood without being allowed to understand, which comforted without raising alarms, when he was without focus or continuity or solidity, when he was locked away and shattered, when he was most alone. But he still wasn't alone. Quantum entanglement, the tensile strength of love: he could hold on, and even in the lowest circle of hell, when nothing was real and everything hurt, when everything was taken from him again and again, something dim and distant and tenuous still held him close, still reassured.

The stinging, blinding loss of this man again, knowing he had no choice but to let Kunzite leave and succumb to the darkness again, knowing that this time he was pulling the trigger--

The fierce and half-mad throwing of himself into that connection, day after day, bathing in corruption and wasps -- and then helped because he was not the only one who loved so burningly brightly -- because everything had been taken from Kunzite and Mamoru would not suffer him to be alone. Would hang on as long as he had to, never mind 'could'. There was no sense of a need for reciprocity: there wasn't then, and isn't now in recollection. There was only that reflexive grip, iron and impossible, that would not -- will not -- let go.

The relief when Kunzite was no longer in pain himself, was still present-- and the cold clench of gradual realization that nightmares of unreality weren't just something he had for himself anymore. The knife-sharp absence of touch, the sense without sensation, the gut-level feeling of failure that intellect argued was irrational. The waiting.

The unutterable surprise, despite the intellectual foreknowledge of its approach, of his collapse. Fractures here and there along the way hadn't been enough after all-- and the release and relief were so great that he's reeling from it even now.

(Here and now, hands slide from the sides of Kazuo's face to brush his hair back from his temples; here and now, they slide through his white hair; here and now, fingers lace behind the taller boy's neck, palms warm against his skin.)

The feelings that Kazuo has for Mamoru, that Kunzite has for Endymion-- the things he would give to him, for him, for his benefit, for his safety and well-being--

They are the feelings that the black-haired and blue-eyed prince has for him. It's only that Kunzite is not alone in this love. It's only that Endymion has the same amount of love that Kunzite has for him...

...for Kunzite, for Usagi. Not just incomplete without, but a forgotten island without. His outgoing love isn't lessened by being shared with the Shitennou, with Makoto and Homura and Kyouko and Hannah and the Senshi and Runealy and Tadase and Suzuki and Mei and Luna-- his love isn't diminished, doesn't grow weaker with distance, has no loss of density when filling a greater area. He would do so very many things for the people he loves. He would do so many things to keep all those stars shining brightly in his awareness.

But for his Princess and his brothers, he would do almost anything.

For his Princess and his first guardian, he would risk the entire world. And he would believe hard enough, every time, that it would work-- that the risk would pay off.

The awareness grows; with the initial context given, Endymion presents the greater context. The knowledge and memory he had before it was stripped from him in this life, the pain of his loss of the Shitennou mitigated, as a child, by the faith he would meet them again. The feelings, nestled deep in his unconscious heart and in his dreaming, of his connections to the other boys-- young as they were, unknowing and desperate as they were, he held those links close and cherished them. Promises and assurances, knowing they'd know him, from the moment he was born. The joy he felt when she was born.

That wild joy and hope in the afternoon of his birthday-- then the panic and grief and terror and desperation of that final call between cliff edge and rocky shore, and that sense, however brief, of him there-- the waking to a life of absence and emptiness and lack of understanding, cycling back to the first context.

Another context: Endymion in the very beginning, sheltered and shielded and knowing so much and understanding so little, or understanding so much and knowing so little: a child with the ability to see the life of the planet and the hearts of people before being able to talk. A child who knew instinctively who was his, who loved him, who he loved;
Mamoru Chiba 2016-04-26 02:29:06 39770
Another context: Endymion in the very beginning, sheltered and shielded and knowing so much and understanding so little, or understanding so much and knowing so little: a child with the ability to see the life of the planet and the hearts of people before being able to talk. A child who knew instinctively who was his, who loved him, who he loved; who knew instinctively what his place and purpose were; who rejected the unfairness of placing the importance of one life above that of another, but understood the unfairness and the reason for it, and who was always torn by it even as he accepted elements of it without question.

A child who wouldn't let go, who trusted that his determination wouldn't be his death, who trusted that his guardian and best friend's shared and reciprocated faith, shared and reciprocated love, combined abilities and taking of turns, would mean neither of them would be alone. (Such a strange thing, to think that without Kunzite, the Crown Prince of the Earth would feel alone, not just there in the forest at the end of the world. Another feeling he never questioned, not then and not now.)

A boy who abstractly loved everyone, who loved everyone he met that wished him no ill and even some of those who did; a boy who saw people the way they connected to everyone else, everything else given live and sustained by the planet and its dreams; a boy who tried to heal, always, what was hurt and bleeding-- but who was so removed, on a daily basis, from the lives that he abstractly loved that he'd never really understand their internal scopes, not on his own. Not without what Kunzite brought him into, showed him, taught him.

This, versus a lifetime observing, detached, with the insatiable need to understand and nothing but books and analysis to teach him. That, and then now: finally true connections, on the daily basis at the individual level, involvements to the point of surfeit.

And there's the greatest context of perception: the golden threads of the living planet, entwined with every life, breathing and dreaming, solid and open. It aches with the pains inflicted upon it by a humanity predominantly numbed to its affection, but still it provides, still it dreams, still it stands as home to so many bright stars and so many dim or dark ones. It's strong and it shields, it renews and refreshes and regenerates; it stands and watches and holds; it keeps secrets and tells stories.

Every blade of grass, every stone, every building, every monument and cave and volcano and road, every ocean and every sleeping child, every starry night and cloud-scudded sky-- all of it is there, like the countless voices in a stadium crowd at a match, or the myriad tiny aches and impressions and weights and stresses of an old body, or the individual pixels in a large high-definition television screen. It's all in the background, and Endymion shows it to Kunzite, and Mamoru shows Kunzite the context of his own filters.

Bright stars in his awareness. The people he loves, the people who love him.

With all this immersion in Mamoru's worldview, those stars are easy to identify. The qualities of Usagi, or of Nephrite, or of Homura or Tadase-- the quirks of Kyouko or Zoisite, or Makoto or Suzuki-- the flavors, the sounds, the abstracted concepts that experience or whim has assigned them all-- without even seeing them, they're all identifiable. They're all locatable-- only Usagi and the Shitennou with no effort at all.

And then there's his perception of Kunzite's own heart, bright and fierce and steady and focused. Full of love and dedication and sacrifice, full of doubt and faith, full of striving for understanding, full of forcing himself to trust; solid and immutable, unbending. And having kept faith for so very, very long--

--and that awareness, all of it, from the outside, is contrasted with Kunzite's feeling that he needs to change to be worthy of love and sacrifice.

(Here and now...) Mamoru's tilted his head up further to meet Kazuo's lips with his own, closer and closest; motion is unnecessary, this is unnecessary, but all the same--

It's as the black-haired boy kisses Kunzite that the contrast is underlined and circled in red ink. The vast golden awareness of the dreaming heart of the planet laughs at him, affectionate and impatient; the fragile heart of a seventeen-year-old orphan laughs and stamps its foot, exasperated and loving. Yes, change, they agree. But love isn't something to be earned.
Kazuo Takeba 2016-04-26 02:31:05 39773
None of the earlier touches surprised him. Not forehead to forehead; that was known, of course that would come. Not thumbs to cheekbones -- that was not expected, but not a surprise, that Mamoru might turn to gentleness. Not hands smoothing hair, or lacing behind his neck. Not expected, again, but a way to keep him close was not a surprise, a way to be sure that he rode out memory after memory, revelation after revelation, the calm slow reshaping of the way he sees the world.

He knew what being without the others felt like to him, even with his capacity for connection dampened and fractured by the monstrosity Beryl had trapped him in. The visceral hollowness, the constant almost-physical sensation of absence, prompted by separation from Zoisite. The missing-limb sense while Nephrite was imprisoned in the labyrinth, as if the absence of someone he had not worked with in years, in lifetimes, nonetheless crippled him in that moment. The disconcerting vertigo that was existence without Jadeite's presence to hold him steady. The other absence, unthinkable and indescribable and pervasive, unable to be borne. He knew what it felt like. It had never occurred to him that there might be something parallel for Mamoru; that Endymion might feel a similar gulf around him, that need might be something stark and literal. He had always thought of him as complete in himself, as having the others as friends and aides but not as necessary.

He had, by nature, no way to see Endymion isolated from them. No way to gain contrast. Just as the child Endymion had had no way to know that Kunzite was damaged, when he had never seen him whole.

He was wrong. That is corrected. The real state of affairs, the real emptiness, the literal need, the slow failure by degrees ... those are inscribed where the misimpression was kept, and the changes in his evaluation of Mamoru and the world cascade outward from them. And the consequences he sees, the things made plain in an instant, are enough to take even his breath away.

There are a hundred ways in which Kunzite has been and is Endymion's shadow, is and is becoming Mamoru's. Mamoru has that greatest context of perception -- the golden threads of the living planet, ancient and solid, mystery-woven, deeper than even he sometimes can know. He is grounded forever in reality, in history. Kunzite holds the shadow of these things -- what Nephrite calls his tactical mind is an interwoven web of projection and speculation, anchored by detail, studying the interplay of energies and influence and likely strategies in more dimensions than most people would like to think of. (-- crystalline beauty, winter clarity and purity, a thousand potential shadows of reality linked and measured into a protective cloak all awareness of possibility --)

Mamoru knows by simple perception where people are. Who they are. How they are, often enough. Part of the landsense, focused down to the individual level.

Kunzite speculates on who people might have been, what they might have done or be planning to do. He is not Mamoru; his capacity for holding detail is vastly less than the planet's. But the shadows of his thoughts span this world and past it; they always have, they've always had to. And a change as fundamental to that web as understanding what Endymion actually needs --

The details are not forced on Mamoru. They're open to him, if he proves curious, or if he ever asks. Kunzite doesn't bring up every possibility with him, or every problem -- but there are no secrets from him, not anymore, not ever again. All the same. He can see that cascade of changes, the patterns reweaving itself. A certainty here, rooted in the past of this life, that there is something he at once does not yet understand and also understands better than he had. A change there, back in the battered memories of the Silver Millennium, another set of questions that he had not phrased before.

But most of all here. With him. In his understanding of Mamoru, and of Endymion, and of how they relate with the world. In his understanding of what Endymion's Shitennou are, of what the creation of the palaces was designed to do -- of that there is, there must be, a relation there.

Endymion's hands and eyes, he said to Jupiter once. Truer than he knew. And far more than that. He understands now -- when Mamoru thinks of them as the other pieces of his soul, it is not poetic license. Not hyperbole.

And at the same time, they are not, will never be, subsumed in him. He needs them. Their perspectives, their hearts, their joys, their company, their interactions. Even their flaws, when those flaws feed each other. Not a single unit, but a complex, interdependent ecosystem --

-- two of them, linked at multiple points; the Senshi interlock in the same way. Far more than two, looking outward to the looser networks, to the rest of the world --

-- and this when they've barely begun. They have the chance for time ahead of them. If they can finally grow into their potential, what might they become? what might the world grow to be?

And all of that. All of that speculation. All of that thought and change, that bright disruption that tears open stasis and scars, that makes room for growth... all of that is background.

If he could learn to see himself through Mamoru's eyes, he'd thought. And he is being shown. It is not a self he recognizes. It's a problem common to them both: Mamoru sees the best of Kunzite, lets the failures and darknesses and day-to-day annoyances fall aside as aberration. Kunzite sees the failures first, and focuses so much, so deeply, on eliminating them; sees the brightnesses as barely passable, sees the faith that he keeps as no more than abiding by his word --

-- but it wasn't the oath that he gave in that life that kept him bound to Mamoru in this one.

Golden light. Hearth and home. Laughter behind blue eyes, that warmed all the world; sorrow in them, that he's learned so painfully not to promise everything to allay.

Love is always something to be earned, he counters, and it is not a real argument, not when so much in him is laughing in return. Not earned in the sense that it could possibly or ever should be paid for, no. Not in the sense that they're chiding him for, and they're right in that. Love must be a gift, given freely and without pressure, or it means nothing. But once given, and given in return ... love is something to be lived up to. Something to be inspired by. Something for whose sake one should strive to become better. His aim was wrong, was utterly and terribly misguided. But the impulse behind it was always true.

For a moment -- for one moment -- he can glimpse something of that better. Something that commingles Mamoru's understanding of him and his own, that builds on both. Something that shadows the Earth's gold and gives it rest when it needs, that can shield and at times be shielded in turn, that is whole in itself at need without ever failing to be part of its greater whole. The brightest of stars, the purest of connections, something that sings with love and wholeness and shimmering, crystalline beauty, winter clarity and purity and affection and devotion and safety and

(Something flickers into his awareness for a moment, something he does not remember reading; it was Kazuo, it must have been Kazuo; one of those rarest hints of something that struck true in him, that made him wake to himself for an instant, that for a moment made the weeks and months between them worth while --

    Even if you lose yourself in wrath
    for a hundred thousand years,
    at the end you will discover,
    it is me, who is the culmination of your dreams.)

For an instant he does not himself know why that glimpse of a potential self is imagined the way it is. With his arms around his golden prince, his prince's hands laced at the back of his neck, his prince's face lifted and his own head bent --

-- it is no more than is, in this instant, real.
Kazuo Takeba 2016-04-26 02:31:11 39774
Time nearly stops for him. Nearly. He can feel individual heartbeats; he is not certain which of the pair they belong to.

That web of his extrapolations, automatic and unthought, shivers with the potential for this to go wrong, with the dangers suddenly inherent in this moment. with the damage it could do to a still-fragile Usagi, or a still more fragile Minako. To Mamoru himself, reverberating back through them, or poorly handled --

Kunzite calls none of those cautions and warnings to Mamoru's attention. They are there. They are close enough that Mamoru knows them; they cannot be anything Mamoru has not thought through. And they all spring from only possible futures.

Whether it's the first kiss of thousands, or the only one they will ever share, does not matter. The mechanics of the kiss, the details of it, do not matter. What matters is that it is possible. Is now. Is happening. Is real.

Even he will not waste that on shadows.
Mamoru Chiba 2016-04-26 02:35:58 39776
A kiss to the forehead from this boy can be affectionate, or a benediction, or both; a kiss on the lips--

At the start, there is something of that in it: a blessing, but also 'yes you may', also 'yes this is for you'; an acceptance more full, even, than the treasured one in a previous life. But even at the start, there's more to it than that. It's a knowing thing, but it's not an echo or a reflection, it's a return, it's reciprocal. The channel remains open; everything Kunzite feels, so too does his prince. Likewise, everything his prince feels, so too does Kunzite. A bright and laughing delight, warm and full of golden sunshine and all the world's oceans of love; a hungry need for this contact, this moment, this sharing; a darker and more secret warmth, that of firelight and closeness against the outside, hidden and shared and smug.

(Behind it: confidence that came back and replaced the uncertainty that had grown in its place; a humbleness that wasn't there in the long ago, that's Mamoru's alone; an understanding of what are actual limitations and what were self-imposed. Safety, remembered and accepted, unashamedly sought in panic when things go wrong-- but the knowledge he can make do, he's made do before and he can do it again if he has to--)

He just needs time to recover. He won't get it. (Isn't it obvious? We're freeing you from it.) That's accepted too.

(Want is considerably less important than need.) This is most certainly want, but this is equally need. This moment is recovery, is healing.

It's real.

It's gentle and slow, and nearly breathless with the effort to keep it that way. Everything behind that effort is present and manifest: flaring wild brushfires of heady desire; a lifetime's starvation for contact, scrabbling selfishly to keep hold of what doesn't hurt; a compulsive desperation to be closer still; a heart-seizing protective possessiveness that's always been there, but isn't jealous, and doesn't limit; mine--

(Something to be inspired by. Something for whose sake one should strive to become better.)

Schroedinger's apology: Kunzite's golden prince thinks too much, and is sorry-not-sorry. Mine, but not the bad kind, he insists, and he knows it but he insists anyway, as if he needs to justify it. He knows, but things are too close, too soon. Even in their conversation, too recent and too real. He's not sorry at all, but he still can't help but be aware of his sense of entitlement, be somewhat ashamed of it, even though he watches himself closely. He knows he should do more than want to strive to become better, but Mamoru wants to keep his claim. He's not sorry. He's already shared; he already shares. There's guilt for being selfish; there's an acknowledgement that the guilt isn't real. Someday he'll let go of it, or he'll figure out if he's doing something wrong and fix it, but--

(He's one of mine, the explanation. Welcome to our home, the hospitality.)

It turns out Kunzite is surrounded by more cats than he thought he was. Casual contact, brushing against in passing, leaning proprietarily, settling against in comfort: all casual assertions of unworried claim and unhurried affection. It could have been desperate clawing; there exists in their shared history a time that it was, and its success was part of the salvation of all of them. It could have been frightened and lonely clinging: having been safe and in brilliant love with his most important person, and surrounded by friends and loved ones and most important people, and yet lacking his most important person and afraid part of that might be forever

--feel like a jerk for missing you this much when you're right here--

but it isn't, not now, not anymore.

It's gentle and slow because it can afford to be. The boy prince has will enough to have resisted the force that claimed his planet, but he's seventeen; he's a study in contradictions. Mamoru is impatient but tends toward self-control; Endymion is patient but insistent and reckless; Mamoru's heart is racing and he's burning and he's so seventeen; Endymion laughs, because he gets what he wants, because he doesn't want without consideration, doesn't want without giving, doesn't take. But right now he doesn't want to stop, he wants to--

Long and slender scholar's fingers slip up and knot in Kunzite's hair, a careful healer's hand locks at the back of Kazuo's neck and his heart is beating so fast and he's not thinking and he starts to lean, to push, to test, to give in...

The shadows are there, not forgotten.

Mamoru makes himself relax, pulling back a little with a rueful laugh, his breath briefly hot against the older boy's lips. His fingertips leave ghost trails of warmth as his hands slide to Kazuo's shoulders; his dark, too-blue eyes don't look away from silver-grey ones, and his smile is lopsided. His thumbs come back up to rest just above Kunzite's shirt collar, against skin, permission left open, left granted as a default.

"She was," he says, then laughs again and has to clear his throat a little because his voice is more unsteady and rough than he thought he could manage, "really, really okay with the idea. And she thinks-- Venus-- maybe she..."

He doesn't finish; he can't look away, and he's momentarily just warm and still, holding his breath and searching Kazuo's eyes instead of prying.
Kazuo Takeba 2016-04-26 02:39:31 39777
Time to recover is a precious thing, and rare. Kunzite has seldom had it; he learned how to layer it in with other things, how to draw it out from spare moments, to make instants sustain him for days and weeks if need be. Even with all that presses, all that rakes at Mamoru's heart and his awareness -- they are not quite so desperate now,

They have this moment, for instance. The minutes that have come before it. The minutes that may come after, if they are not interrupted.

They have all that the two of them can wind into it, that might under other circumstances have taken weeks, months, years to unravel. Lifetimes to reveal.

Against the speed and intensity of the revelations they've shared with one another so far, the slow gentleness that Mamoru is maintaining now is nearly maddening. And yet it's also necessary. The shift from their old configuration, stable but broken as it was, to a new one with greater potential -- that had to be quick, had to focus enough bright hot fire to force the change, to bring them down into something also stable before either of them could fall to pieces. But that new stability needs also to be less broken. And that means taking time, taking care -- being certain not to let starvation and compulsion and possessiveness go too far --

It could become a terrible temptation, to want to try to be everything to him. But that gentleness itself holds within it the hallmark of other hands, of others he's learned from; of one set of hands in particular, hands that have held the fate of the world. And that makes this temptation no more of one than power and ambition were, once -- no temptation at all.

Of course he is one of Mamoru's. Of course Endymion can lay claim to him. Of course it has always been that way. He understands why the insistence, why the shame; he understands the difference; he knows those contradictions, Endymion's side that he watched grow through the years, Mamoru's side that he saw in the patterns of black and white stones, in the patterns of fracture and holding together and collapse, in the stubborn way he holds to a piece of cloth that means nothing of itself, meant something Kunzite only half-understood a day ago, means (he understands now) so much more than he'd guessed.

And of course, even as fingers knot in pale hair, arms tighten around him. The lean in is answered, drawing him -- both of them -- away from the railing, further from the edge, toward --

Drawing back is still easily done. That's understood, too. The expression that Mamoru finds is again not one wholly Kunzite's, though the much of the emotion behind it is long and deeply familiar. Something almost a smile, not quite feral; something that hints at why parts of the court whispered about Endymion's pet monster behind their backs. Kazuo never grew up at court, never went through what shaped Kunzite even before that. He only had to conceal his reactions most of the time.

There are words. He even listens to them. And the startled bright spark they prompt in him, though it shows nowhere on the surface, is a reaction that he cannot put a name to.

The hand that's lifted, the finger that crosses Mamoru's lips lightly as if to hush him -- these things happen after the words have faltered to a stop. It doesn't need prying to know what that means: I understand and I trust you both and we'll take care with her. What he says aloud is as brief as that touch.

"My prince."

It had a dozen times as many meanings as the gesture did before today. Loyalty and homage, service and support, the right and duty to advise, the complicated web of obligations in both directions. Now that dozen multiplies itself; they'll be a long, long time sorting them all out.

But the important ones, as he leans down to kiss the dark-haired boy once more -- more lightly, to keep them both from being caught up entirely, but more than enough to make a silent promise -- the important ones are clear.