Stars Upon Thars

Date: 2018-08-08
Pose Count: 16
Mamoru Chiba 2018-08-08 04:03:35 93922
It's maybe an hour after the last of the other Shitennou went to bed or begged off drinking, which means at least that Mamoru waited until Neph had some time to himself before coming to check on him. That was some pretty multi-nuanced anger Neph was blast-furnacing, and jokes could only fix the very surface temporarily, and Neph's inhibitions are lowered and he's had time to brood. If ever there were a time that Neph might let Mamoru actually see that anger, it's probably now.

Again, his presence isn't any closer or further than it's been since it came back strong. Now Neph knows that that's because Mamoru is technically trapped at D-Point. Again. It's not like Neph can sense, even subconsciously, that Mamoru's on the approach, or behind a door, or literally standing behind him-- because Mamoru's soul's been stolen and is being held and misused. Not even his body this time-- his soul.

Mamoru is standing literally behind him, debating whether or not to pour this gasoline on that fire, for like thirty seconds before he finally says, "Yo."
Nephrite 2018-08-08 04:14:07 93923
When Kunzite was a ghost, there was grief. There was drinking to relieve the pain, to repair those raw, aching bonds between the brothers who remained. There was laughter with tears.

There was drinking this time, too. Bonds that were stronger, that needed no healing. Some laughter, but no tears. This is no time to mourn the body that sleeps in Kunzite's palace. This is a time for planning. For strategy. Or for, in one Shitennou's case, yelling at the stars.

Actually, Nephrite is not yelling anymore. That was reserved for his own palace, where the stars felt closer and the only ears his voice could reach were those of an ancient creature that would judge him no differently regardless of his words. Now he is just sitting in his usual chair on the roof, a half-empty glass of straight whisky in his hand, staring up at them. He tells himself that he is reading them, like always, but it has been nearly an hour since he's bothered to look at his charts, or paid any attention to which stars he was looking at. If Mamoru can sense his anger, then he can sense that it has not eased any.

At the sound of Mamoru's voice, he shrugs himself upright a little, sitting straighter in his seat. He glances back at the ghost of his prince, then resumes his upward gaze, taking a sip of his drink. "Hey. Back to black, I see. Didn't like the blond?" Jokes are an easy fall-back for Neil, even when his voice is devoid of humor.
Mamoru Chiba 2018-08-08 04:27:00 93924
"...oh no I really like the blonde," Mamoru answers, right on its heels; easy fall-back, easy banter. "Just if I ever say I don't like blond on me, I mean the color of my hair." He falls silent, but his words have been falling flat on the cement and tar and reinforced everything surface of the roof, haven't traveled through the air.

Neil -- or is he Nephrite right now? To some people it may not make a difference; to Neil himself it might not even make a difference -- but it does to Mamoru; there are nuances there, too. Neil can hear him, like it's with his ears, but it's obviously not. Maybe it's something he'll be able to figure out how to do while he's back in his body, too. He should get better at multitasking first.

"You're angry," comes his Prince's voice from the same place it's been: like when someone's falling asleep while on the phone wearing headphones, and then suddenly the person on the other end of the line speaks. Right in one's ears, in stereo, but nobody's there. "You need to talk to someone about it, and you didn't rise to Kunzite's bait, so you think you can't blow up at him. Will you tell me?"
Nephrite 2018-08-08 04:54:15 93925
It's not quite sound, but it's easier to think of it as sound. Just like it's easier to think of Mamoru as actually there on that rooftop, and not deep in the darkest depths of the North Pole. Nephrite -- maybe he is more Nephrite than Neil, right now, even in this old flannel shirt -- takes another sip of his whisky before he sets it down on the floor. "He was sloppy with the bait. For one thing, he knows better than to try that in front of so many people. If he's not even up for getting me pissed at him, he's not up for anything I have to say right now."

He turns to eye the faintly glowing form of his prince. The anger flares up, hotter than ever, purer for the lack of stress at holding it back. "You really want to do this? Right now? You think I want to take out my frustrations on the guy who's on palace life support right now?"
Mamoru Chiba 2018-08-08 05:13:35 93926
"Yeah, because he's the one who can take it right now," the apparition says calmly, standing there in the darkness, providing the brightest light even if he's glowing only faintly. "And the one who always talks when he should be listening, even after promising myself I would never do that again. It's harder to hurt me with words than it usually is. I didn't understand how Kunzite couldn't really work himself up into real anger, or sorrow, or anything like that back when he didn't have a body at all. I accepted it, but didn't understand it, and it made me upset.

"Now? I get it. And I'll be upset that I get it-- and the belated implications all over again, and what it has to be doing to all of you-- once I'm back where I belong, but right now, it's a state of affairs that needs to be resolved, and what it has to be doing to all of you is a terrible thing I cannot let stand, but I can't actually get upset. I think it's kind of similar to dissociation, but it's not the awful kind that happens in the middle of my panic attacks.

"So yes: I want to do this now. I want you to be able to get it out, and I want to know all the details, and I want to help you right what's been wronged."

Mamoru's tone throughout is even, firm, and matter-of-fact. The feeling of him-- he's telling the truth, if Neph 'looks' in the same place he felt the irritation from Mamoru after his vanishing off the map for half a minute. There's deep concern and affection, there's an underlying annoyance with the situation-- but there's no impatience, and there's frustration for sure but it's not spawning anger... and the concern isn't turning to worry. There's zero anxiety.

"So I'm listening now."

Even if he just said like a million words.
Nephrite 2018-08-08 06:10:39 93927
Nephrite has had exactly one outburst today, and it freaked someone out, so he stopped. He stopped because not even Kunzite is in a stable place to stand up to his temper right now. He's had no outlet, nothing even useful to do, nowhere to direct all this rage. And Mamoru is telling him, in his careful way, that it's safe for him to take the filter off now. He's never yelled at Mamoru. Not really. Not in this life. He's rarely wanted to, and even when he's come close -- well, it's Mamoru. He can take the wind out of Neil's sails with a few words. Usually.

He leans forward in his chair, letting his face fall into his hands for a moment, and takes a breath. "Yeah, that's the problem. You haven't been listening. It's bad enough that we got here. It's bad enough that you've spent the past year suffering, and now we have to go back there all over again to fix everything. It's bad enough that this walking lie is causing so much pain to everyone we know." He lifts his head, turning to look at the apparition. "And now we find out that the guy behind it all is Takashi Fucking Agera." If Mamoru could see Nephrite's eyes with his own, he might see some of the fire behind them. He'll just have to look at the raw emotion instead. "How many times," his voice is starting to rise now, "have you given him one more chance? How many times has he shown us exactly what he was? I have had to sit by and listen to you explain why the guy who kidnapped my girlfriend," he has reached full shout now, "needs to be treated with kid gloves for years now! Only to have him try to destroy you and everything around you! So yeah, I'm mad! What else am I supposed to feel?!"
Mamoru Chiba 2018-08-08 06:41:50 93928
"Mad is a solid choice," says Mamoru, moving to sit crosslegged on the rooftop in front of Neph. Far enough away that he won't have to 'move' if Neph needs to get up and stalk-rant, but close enough and in-front enough that the sound of his voice's location isn't weird.

The anger is still white-hot, burning like the stars Nephrite consults with, but up close and personal instead of distant and giving the illusion of chill. But this time Mamoru's not flinching from it, not drawing back from it: this time there's no one else's emotions and reactions for him to have to deal with in addition to Neil. The weight of his regard, from whatever distance, is a full and heavy thing; Neph has his full attention.

"I haven't been listening. Or, I've once again only been listening selectively," he agrees. "And I know it's too little too late that a couple of months ago I finally pulled out the stops on going after Sailor Earth herself. Maybe I'm a coward on the Agera front. I listened to Ami, over and over. I talked to her. I tried to give her advice about Agera without condemning her relationship with him, because even when you're wrong, it's a terrible thing to feel that no one is in your court. And I waited to see-- I waited for the outcome of her and Makoto talking about it, and followed Makoto's lead on it without thinking-- without remembering that she feels as pressured as everyone else to keep the peace, to make sure Usagi doesn't have to mediate a fight between two of them--"

He shakes his head and then continues, without putting on a show of the physical reactions, ordinary motions, that he would be having and doing if he were actually there. Here, he would normally be sighing, would usually be scrubbing tiredly at his face with the heels of his hands, would be slouching, would be fidgeting, would be looking away. But he's not doing any of those things. "Of course she would forgive Ami. Of course she would forgive me. Forgiving isn't the same as being healed, or unhurt-- and I couldn't see that because I was also still smarting from the things *her* impostor said. There's a lot of complicated thinking and reacting according to the balance of other people's emotions-- and sometimes, you're right, yes, sometimes I should just take a stand. And sometimes that stand has to be more than 'let's beat the crap out of x person for doing x thing, yes, okay'. We still can't just kill people who do us wrong-- they have to prove they're a danger to the world and can't be contained and can't be convinced or reasoned with or purified or reformed. The information I have available to me right now implies that he was not controlling her outright. I have no doubt Ami is either going to or has already gone to speak with him. Lacrima already has, and he gave her the information we need to find and take down the impostor. Voluntarily. Knowing it would come to us. What am I supposed to think? I have no idea what's going on in his head. So what I'm going to do is put it in your hands. Yours, and those of the other four. Come to a consensus on what should be done to Takashi Agera after the impostor's taken out, and even when I'm back in my body, I'll go along with it. It's not the same as me saying 'god yes kill him right now', but-- he's a human being. You know I can't do that. This is the best I can do."
Mamoru Chiba 2018-08-08 20:35:21 93975
-------------- EDIT LAST POSE: REMOVE AFTER 'what am I supposed to think?' ----------------
Nephrite 2018-08-09 03:36:41 93979
Nephrite is silent, staring not up at the calming stars as Mamoru speaks, but down at his clenched hands. But finally, suddenly, he jumps up, pitching the flimsy lawn chair onto its side with a crash. "What are you supposed to think? That he's a lying, manipulative monster who knows to cut and run every time somebody gets too close to directly challenging him on anything." He paces closer to Mamoru, or to the image of Mamoru. "Do you know what I told Makoto when she suspected I was part of the Dark Kingdom? Has she ever told you? I gave her this elaborate sob story about how I was just some low-level grunt who was in over my head. I played it up real good, made myself look all kinds of pathetic just for her, even ripped up a perfectly nice suit to make it look like I'd been kicked around a bit. That's what people like that do. They take every piece of truth you think you've caught them with and twist it around. I don't care if the guy personally carves your soul out of Earth's chest himself. That wouldn't even begin to wipe the slate clean."

He paces away again, restlessly using the space that Mamoru has given him, and this time he's following the direction that his hand is gesturing, off to the side of the building where the balcony of the main ECFH apartment would be just below. His booming voice easily carries across the length of the roof, though that likely makes no difference to the projection he's addressing. "Takashi Agera stood outside this building two years ago and called his fake Jupiter an experiment. An experiment! He kidnapped Mako, used everything about her against the people she loved, and he did it for fun! And what did we do about it?" He rounds on the glowing image, the single source of light on the dark rooftop. "What consequences did he face? A spat with his girlfriend, a warning not to do it again? Do you even hear the way you're still talking about him? Like he just made some kind of social faux pas? He's trying to kill you! Not even tried -- is actively trying, right now! He took his little experiment on Mako, and he escalated it to what he's doing to you -- to all of us. He's taken and exploited every weakness he can find! And we're supposed to wait for his girlfriend to give him a scolding before we decide what to do about it?"
Mamoru Chiba 2018-08-09 03:37:11 93980
Silence from the prince, just for a moment. He weighs his options. Finally, he spreads his hands and looks up at Nephrite. "You want to kill him behind the Senshi's backs?" He drops his hands to his lap, then, but keeps following Neph with his not-actual-gaze. "We don't even know what he was doing this for. What if he's not working alone? I'm not even going to begin to address the fact that you just compared him to you during the Dark Kingdom, because you know where I'd go with that. What I'm going to ask you is, what would have happened if the Senshi had killed Zoisite? Never mind that he was off god knows where, being kept away from Kunzite as collateral. What would have happened if they killed him? Before any of us knew anything?"
Nephrite 2018-08-09 04:16:52 93985
The question descends like a weight on the rooftop. Nephrite stills, his arms falling to his sides. "Yeah, I do." He says flatly. There is no emotion behind the statement. Just honesty. "Are those my only two options? Kill him, or stand back and do nothing at all while he continues to leech the life out of you? Because if that's it, if that's the scenario you're presenting here, then that's the choice I'd make."

What if they had killed Zoisite? Nephrite looks heavenward for a moment, takes a breath, and barks out a laugh. "He's not Zoi! He's not! I don't care if that makes me a hypocrite -- he has never shown remorse, never shown any desire for change! Two years ago -- okay, fine, maybe you should have been giving him the benefit of the doubt then. You, Ami, everyone was working on nudging him to be a better person, just like so many of you did for us. But look where it's gotten us. How many chances do you give a person? How many times do you let somebody stab you in the back before you believe that they mean it?"

He jerks sharply away from the place where he had frozen to pace again. "And they weren't doing nothing, either! They were planning, undoing our plans, searching for our weaknesses, monitoring us as much as they could. Would it sacrifice our precious moral high ground to at least monitor the guy? To plan for the worst he could throw at us? Because let me tell you about planning, Endy--" he veers sharply from the erratic pattern he had been walking and marches over to the small table beside his telescope, rifling through papers to dig out a notebook. It's exactly like all the other notebooks he keeps his charts in, but it is this one specifically that he carries over to Mamoru's projection -- to the only source of light -- and squats down beside him.

"Do you see this, through my eyes? Do you see what this is?" He flips through the pages one by one. They're star charts. Just like every star chart he has drawn, Neil's messy handwriting marking celestial bodies in smudged pencil. There is nothing particularly unique about them, other than the fact that they all feature the same star. Every chart. Page after page. There can be no mistaking what this notebook is reserved for. Years of nightly watching for every threat that might cross Mamoru's path had filled hundreds of pages that all said the same thing. Regulus, Regulus, Regulus. "I have been out here, almost every night, for a whole year, trying to figure out what was being done to you. And not once did I see this coming." He snaps the book shut and gestures it at the faint ghost of his prince. "So what good is it? If I couldn't predict this would happen?" His voice is low, deceptively controlled. His red-brown eyes burning in the golden light. "But the one thing I did predict? Is that that asshole would screw us over again. And I should have made you listen to me. But I didn't. And here we are. So tell me, what am I supposed to do? Stand back and do nothing? Because it's starting to look like that's all I'm good for."
Mamoru Chiba 2018-08-09 04:38:22 93988
Mamoru "looks", pointing his face at the notebook, taking in the details through Neph's gaze-- the details that Neph already knows so well. And by now, yes, of course he knows his star. When Neph looks away from it, shuts it, Endymion sits up straight again, turning his face toward Nephrite once more. "I wonder," he says absently, "if the jewel seed messed with the stars' knowledge of what would happen, since they're by nature so unpredictable."

Then he shakes his head and sighs. "The immediate threat is the impostor. Yes, he created her, but he's absolutely not controlling her right now, everything of his is gone from her now. She's going down. And I'm not being hurt any further while plans are put together to do just that. It's threat triage, Neph."

He doesn't get up, and he doesn't-- he's still distinct, he's still himself, but he's clearly Endymion in this moment just as much as he is Mamoru. Sometimes it's a background thing. Right now it's foreground-- but he's still Mamoru, too.

"Nobody's saying to stand around and do nothing. Yes, monitor him. No, those aren't your only two options. I'm all ears when it comes to more options. It's just that we work with the senshi, Neph. That's not a thing that's changing, and I really don't think you want it to."

His face turns toward the stars, and he says quietly, "I'm not saying he's Zoi. I'm saying what if he has a Kunzite? Someone in the shadows we don't know about, who'll go to the ends of the earth to make us pay if we take Agera out? Or how about this? So many times we've nudged, and we've seen progress, and then it's back to square one-- how many times did Jadeite almost get free of Beryl and Metalia's influence? How many chances should I have given him? We knew there was another influence. We don't know nearly enough about Takashi Agera. We do know that Sailor Earth is a construct who was never human, and whose only attempts at humanity have been borrowed or stolen, so that's fine, we kill her and we're not killing a person. So right now, that's the focus. Rescue the idiot prince again by killing the monster who stole him. Again. Then we deal with the person who made the monster-- and I'm open to suggestions on how, exactly, to do that."
Nephrite 2018-08-09 05:12:21 93992
Neil remains where he is, squatting with his elbows on his knees, book in hand, as he listens to Mamoru's words. After a moment, he sighs, lifting his head to look at the glowing image. "Not an idiot prince. Just a stubborn one, sometimes." He runs his hand through his hair, pushing his bangs out of his eyes. "We work with the senshi. I know. We have to. For one thing, I already promised Mako that if we actually do get to fight Agera, she gets dibs on the first punch." It's not quite the usual smile that he manages to give him, but a start. He sighs, standing upright. "D-Point first. Then you can be here to decide the rest."
Mamoru Chiba 2018-08-09 05:31:38 93993
Endymion gives an almost-smile back to Neph, apologetic and sincere, and then he stands up, too. "You have a really good point, though, in that I'm super biased in favor of giving anyone a chance who even remotely seems like they might be okay someday. So I don't think I should be the one to decide the rest." He's making the effort to pretend to be there again, doing things like shifting his weight, moving-- that sigh earlier-- and now he almost lifts a hand to reach for Neph, but the motion's abortive.

"The five of you-- come to a consensus on what should be done about Takashi Agera, and I'll back it. I'll participate. Whatever it is, it'll be on my hands too, because I'm leaving the decision to you -- because I can't tell what the right thing to do is, but if you guys can all agree on a course of action, then it'll be balanced. I'm hoping," he says with an even smaller partial smile, "that it's a group decision with the Senshi, but I also think you guys need to talk about it without me."

Now he does reach his hand up, with a face of concentration, and there's a brighter glow than the rest of him in the palm of it. He moves to try to take Neph's hand. "Because I trust you and my judgement is decidedly skewed, and I keep saying I'm trying to make it easier for you guys to do your job, and I keep thinking I am, but then there's shit like this."

If Neil actually tries to take Endymion's offered hand-- it's not quite like touching a person, it's not quite like touching a solid object, but there's enough resistance there that if they're both careful, there can be an actual handclasp. And the more important thing is-- even if it's not like touching a person's hand, it's like any other time there's skin contact with Mamoru, with Endy. That sense of bedrock solidity, of warm golden stillness, of a connection with everything immense and ageless and the ground below and the seas around, of a light in the window of a warm cabin across a snowy expanse, of hearth and home. Of home.

"Stubborn is a nice way to put it," he says with quiet ruefulness. "I'm glad you're still willing to put up with me."
Nephrite 2018-08-09 05:55:24 93995
Neil hesitates -- because a projection is just a projection, and reaching his hand through Mamoru's would be so much worse than just continuing to pretend that he is really standing here. But Mamoru has never offered a hand with anything but good intent. There has always been trust there. That trust has not waned now.

As his hand clasps the ghostly one, he takes a steadying breath, soaking in that warmth and stillness, letting it ground him. He nods gratefully at the faint outline that is left of his prince, knowing what this small gesture must have cost him. "Only because you somehow put up with me."
Mamoru Chiba 2018-08-09 06:10:47 93996
"I'll *never* cut you out, I'll *always* try to make things right again," the ghost of Nephrite's prince says, fierce and low, the words ringing even if there's nothing for them to ring off of. There's the faintest squeeze of the ephemeral hand as he says this, and then he lets go, and the glow from him dims further.

And then there's the sense of absolutely smug-ass cleverness he'd felt from Mamoru a couple of days ago, not terribly long after The Event, when Mamoru'd just figured out how to project himself and cut Sailor Earth out of the loop. In fact, his mouth curls up into an unmistakeable smirk, lack of fuss or not. "Ooh, she's mad. Okay, I can't concentrate anymore. See you soon."

Legiterally just for Neph, Mamoru sweeps his cape up like Batman or Kunzite or something and whirls on his heel to stride-and-fade into the darkness of the rooftop.