Reflection

Reflection
By Aurora Eos Rose

Author’s Notes

Part 1 – Disclaimers and Legal

I do not own, nor claim to own, although I do wish to own, Sailor Moon in any incarnation. They belong to a bunch of people with way too much money. I do not wish to make any money off this, well I wish but since I don’t own the rights…well, that can be a long story. Anyway, the rights belong to whoever the heck owns them including Kodansha, Naoko Takeuchi, DIC, Cloverway, Teoi, et. al.

This story is not based on any previous story or movie except a twisted view of the Sailor Moon manga. This came out of my own slightly sick mind.

Part 2 – Story

This is rated R, like a Fatal Attraction R, a very big R for restricted for a reason. This story is not intended for young audiences, it’s not something I’d want a ten year old reading. This story deals with themes of rape, revenge, incest, murder, mobs and guns, and can be very bloody and graphic at times. If you like sappy, happy stories don’t continue. You’ve been warned, no letters about content please. If you don’t like it, don’t read it.

This puts sailor moon characters, the Inner Senshi and Shitennou (scouts and generals) into a modern day sailor moon setting, only asks the question what if it took a few years longer to get their powers. Pairings are traditional Senshi/Shitennou. Anime pairing fans may want to run away. Warning, although ostensibly set in Japan, I’m a dumb American so I’m sure there will be cultural faux pas.

This is a rewrite of the original; I had some plot and story issues to work out. There are name changes and major plot changes, although the overall theme and many scenes remain the same. Enjoy!

Part 3 – Names Chart

Japanese Senshi Royalty/SM
Usagi Tsukino Sailor MoonSerenity
Ami Mizuno Sailor MercuryAthena
Rei Hino Sailor MarsHestia
Minako Aino Sailor Venus, Sailor VAphrodite
Makoto Kino Sailor JupiterJuno
Yaten Kou Sailor Star HealerLucifer
Taiki Kou Sailor Star MakerVesper
Seiya Kou Sailor Star FighterAstraeus
Setsuna Meioh Sailor PlutoPersephone
Hotaru Tomoe Sailor SaturnJana
Michiru Kaioh Sailor NeptuneSalacia
Renjo Chikyuu Sailor EarthBeryl
Akatsuki Yasuraka Sailor KinmokuKakyuu
Haruka Tenoh Sailor Uranus, Tuxedo SoraAether
Kaji Hikaru – Tuxedo Nobara Kunzite
Mamoru Chiba Tuxedo KamenEndymion
Hisame Kasumi Tuxedo AisuZoisite
Raiu Ryujin Tuxedo SeitoNephrite
Ikusa Kaen Tuxedo AranamiJadeite
Ace Saijou Tuxedo KaitouAdonis
Naru Osaka Molly
Umino Gurio Melvin
Motoki Furuhata Andrew
Reika Furuhata Rita
Asanuma Itto Nicolas
Unazuki Furuhata Elizabeth
Shingo Tsukino Sam
Shiori Diana
Arinori Artemis
Raku Luna

Part 4 – Posting

This story is only to be posted at http://shitennou.com, http://elizabethmariesmith.com and http://fanfiction.net. I’ve had problems with other sites not taking down old and/or outdated stories, so please no requests to post the story elsewhere.

7/14/2003

Reflection – Chapter 01
By Aurora Eos Rose

Minako Aino

London, England-1996

Two thousand girls had auditioned for the part. It had taken more than three months and hundreds of employees. There were girls from agencies, and girls who walked in from the street. There were young girls, old girls, blondes, brunettes, and the occasional redhead. Some could act, some couldn’t, but they all wanted one thing. They wanted to star in their own TV series. The casting director looked down at the thick file in his hand. Two thousand girls, with packets of pictures and clips of them flipping around the room and shouting silly lines. He closed his eyes for a moment. This was the last clip he’d look at today. He had never seen this girl in person; someone else had done the actual audition. He popped the videocassette in the VCR and hit play. The TV flickered to life. The girl walked in front of the camera.

“Name.”

“Minako Aino.” The girl smiled broadly and flipped a handful of her sunny, waist-length blonde hair over her shoulder.

“Age.”

“I’m sixteen.” The girl continued giving the camera her million-dollar smile. Her sky blue eyes were clear and radiated warmth and energy.

“Please read the lines.”

The director sat in the chair staring at the girl’s fabulous performance. He glanced down at the script in his hand. Codename Sailor V, a story about a fourteen year-old girl named Minako Aino. The name had caught his attention, when searching through stacks of paperwork. What a coincidence that a girl who auditioned had the exact same name as the heroine in the story. Now he watched her on the video and almost had a heart attack. The director hit pause, Minako’s features frozen in a brilliant smile, her fingers raised in a wide V. He picked up the manga on his desk and opened it up slowly. The resemblance was uncanny. Same wide eyes, long hair, even the sides pulled back and topped with a red bow. She also had the fabulous figure, insanely long legs, an adult bosom, and the gorgeous smile. He stopped the video and rewound it. Coincidence or not, he had his Sailor V.

~~**~~

"I got it mom!" Mina practically danced down the street, the contract and pilot script dangling from one hand while she skipped and swung around in a circle. Only a small voice telling her that it wouldn't be very professional had kept her from jumping up and down in the director's office. "I got the part. I'm going to have my own TV show!" Mrs. Aino simply smiled; silently counting how much money they could get from the deal in her head. She rubbed her calloused hand over her dishwater blonde curls.

"Are we going to sign the contract today?" Mina was bubbling over, her arms swinging in wide arcs, her hair twirling around her in a curtain of sunshine. Mrs. Aino gave her exuberant daughter a dark glance.

"Not until your father checks it over. I'll have him look at it tonight." Mrs. Aino’s voice was slightly scratchy. Mina shrugged and handed the paper to her mother.

"You take it then, I don't want to lose it." Mina turned to attention to the script, her smile widening as the tale of a girl crime fighter unfolded in front of her eyes. Mrs. Aino sighed at her daughter’s flightiness. The woman pressed a hand against her sore lower back. Her slightly pudgy frame followed Mina’s lithe one slowly down the streets of London toward the bus stop.

The trip home seemed very short, because Mina was so absorbed in the story. The flat was fairly quiet. Mina immediately raced for her room and locked herself inside. Mrs. Aino just shook her head and headed for the kitchen. Mina always had been a strange girl, and her new obsession was just the last in a long list. Mina flopped onto her bed, the pilot clasped tightly in her hands. This was the break she had been dreaming of for years. This was her chance to be a star, to be the one idolized instead of chasing around others. Mina opened the first page of the script.

“Codename Sailor V, based on the manga by Akatsuki Yasuraka.” Mina ran her fingers over the name. It had been four years since her family had left Japan to start over in London. Four years without the language of her heart. “Tranquil Dawn. What a beautiful name.” Mina traced her fingers over the title of the script again. “Codename Sailor V.” She flipped open to the first scene, ignoring the thumping in her heart.

“Minako Aino, a fourteen year old girl living in London.” Mina swallowed loudly. A strange feeling swept over her at the coincidence, but it had to be only coincidence. She pushed the strange feeling aside and started reading. “It’s nothing, the name means nothing.”

Mina read all day, memorizing the characters introduced, the plot, everything. She felt herself drawn in to the story. She was becoming Sailor V. Becoming this Minako Aino, who had a happy home life and wasn’t afraid of anything. Mina smiled when she saw she'd be working with an animatronics operated cat.

"Well, I suppose there's no other way to get the thing to talk. Artemis. Why does that name seem so familiar?" Mina flopped onto her back and flipped back to the beginning of the script. She winced a bit when she saw the amount of physical fighting she would be required to do. "And I bet I don't get a stunt double either."

The day faded slowly, and the misty fog London was so famous for crept down the streets and alleyways, dampening the streetlights' glow. Mina looked up from the scene she was memorizing and realized it was very late. Her stomach growled loudly. Mina groaned. She probably missed dinner. She headed for the kitchen, but angry whispers stopped her just outside the door.

Low, harsh voices echoed through the room. Her father and mother were sitting at the table, looking over a document. Mina knew it was the contract. Her father’s black head was bent close to her mother’s dirty blonde one. The single light over the wooden table cast the room half in shadows. Her father leaned back and spoke a bit louder. Mina couldn't really make out the words, but it was something about money. Her mother snapped back an answer. Mina stepped back out of the kitchen. It was best not to be around when her mother got mad. Then her father stood up violently, raising his voice. Mina stepped back a bit farther. Her father never yelled, even when she skipped school or got bad grades. The words echoed in the two-bedroom flat.

"She's going to take this opportunity and that's that. Mina isn’t intelligent enough for anything but acting. In a few years when she's famous you can haggle for money all you want, but they're not going to waste time and money on an unknown little girl." He leaned over, flipped to the back of the document, and scribbled his name. Mina's breath caught in her throat. Her father’s low opinion stung, but Mina pushed it from her mind. She had the contract. Minako Aino was now Sailor V.

~~**~~

Mina swallowed loudly. Her first week of work, and already they were shipping her off for improvement. She resisted the urge to shout in frustration. Between the tutors, the acting coaches, and stylists she felt like a different person. Now they were trying to change her some more. For a moment Mina wondered if all the hassle was worth it. Then she remembered the way the rough cut of the pilot program had looked. She had loved watching herself on screen. Mina squared her shoulders. It had to be worth it. But she still really didn’t want to be here.

“It’s not my fault I can’t beat someone into the floor with my bare hands.” Mina pounded on the door and yanked on her lemon yellow dress one last time. “If they weren’t so cheap I’d just get a stunt double. But no, I get to do it all myself.” The dress was shorter than what she normally liked to wear, but it had been the only clean thing in her room that morning. She hadn’t had much time for laundry. Her tutors were riding her back, making her work harder than she ever had in real school. Mina sighed loudly. “I didn’t know they were going to ship me off to learn martial arts.” The words came out in a low mumble. The dojo was actually a very large brick building with old-fashioned wooden doors in a not so nice part of London. Mina glanced around her slowly, the hairs on the back of her neck stood on end. She could have sworn someone was watching her. “Just drop me in a cab and send me to an address.” Her voice was even softer than before, her blue eyes darting around the street, her heartbeat racing. Earlier she’d been too angry to pay attention to the danger. Now her gut was telling her that this was not a very intelligent place for a girl to be all alone. Then the large wooden doors swung open.

~~**~~

Kaji Hikaru opened the door slowly, a little uncertain of what to expect. He had many students, most sent by parents who thought their wayward children needed discipline. This was his first student sent by a TV company. He wasn’t sure what kind of creature they would deliver to him. His image of a typical TV star was probably incorrect; at least he hoped it was incorrect. He didn’t need some spoiled brat who was afraid of breaking a nail. He glanced into the narrow street. At first he didn’t see anyone, then his gaze slowly dropped and his breath caught in his throat.

The sun was setting behind the girl in front of him. The light danced across her golden hair. The gossamer strands rippled gently in the light breeze kicking up from the Thames. His eyes locked onto her gorgeous sky blue gaze. Her eyes were innocent but forthright, staring at him with no reservations, no hidden thoughts. His gaze broke away, dropping to her feet, hoping to find a safer place to look. She had on tiny white sandals with straps that wrapped up her calves. He admired her long legs, and slowly made his way up to her narrow waist and full chest. The dress whipped around her thighs in the slowly increasing wind. Kaji had never seen anything so beautiful in his life. He finally returned to her brilliant eyes.

“Kaji Hikaru?” Her voice trembled a bit.

“Minako Aino. Please come in.” He glanced around a moment, expecting to see a parent. “Did you come alone?” The girl swallowed and nodded. Kaji resisted the urge to growl. A pretty thing like her wouldn’t last long out on the streets alone. He briefly imagined strangling her parents. He took a step back but stayed partway in the entry, holding the heavy wooden door open. The girl brushed past him, and the scent of lemons drifted from her. Kaji closed his eyes tightly, forcing his emotions and his body back under control. He had a job to do. He stepped inside the darkened room and let the door fall shut behind him.

~~**~~

Mina turned around, finally able to see what her new sensei looked like. The sun had been at her back earlier, so all she had seen was a hazy outline. She felt her mouth drop open. He was gorgeous. Like something on the cover of one of her mother’s romance novels. All muscle-bound and unreal. He was dressed in white pants and no shirt. His skin was bronzed and he had muscles everywhere. Mina yanked her eyes away from their unhealthy fascination with the man’s bare chest. She forced them onto his face and forgot to breathe. His eyes were a steely gray, the intensity in them made her shiver a bit. His hair was long, straight, and white. Mina had the oddest feeling that she knew exactly what that hair would feel like. He raised an eyebrow slowly.

“Are you finished?” There was a definite smirk in the man’s tone, although his face remained impassive. Mina mentally smacked herself. He may have been the most perfect looking man in the world, but it was obvious from his pompous statement that he was rather full of himself. She forced her mouth shut and raised her chin high in the air.

“Yes, thank you. I’m Minako Aino.” Kaji restrained himself from laughing at the girl’s haughty tone. He was used to reactions like that from women; he just hadn’t expected it from the Venus who had arrived at his doorstep. His body had grown uncomfortably warm under her thorough inspection. Kaji suppressed a groan. She was sixteen, according to the studio information. Her body, however, didn’t look like a sixteen year old’s. She had lots of curves, in all the right places. Her face, however, showed her true age. Too young for him; too innocent as well. And she was a client. Kaji shoved his emotions back under the surface. This needed to be purely business, no matter how beautiful the student was.

“Well then, Ms. Aino. Shall we get started?”

~~**~~

London, England-1997

Mina went over the sequence again and again. Duck, jump, kick, punch, jump, duck. Over and over, round and round, moving quickly and silently. Her opponent matched her move for move, blocking every attack. The dance continued across the floor, punch, twist, drop, roll, punch, stand, jump, kick. Mina lost herself in the movements, her concentration total. Her sunny blonde hair was caught up in a ponytail, and it cracked like a whip with every sharp movement. Then her opponent made an unexpected motion, moving forward instead of away, and Mina was knocked on her back by a blow to the side.

"Dammit!" She lay there for a moment, the wind knocked out of her. She knew she'd have a bruise from that in the morning. Luckily it would be underneath her costume. Bastard never did let her use pads for sparring. He was convinced the pain made her better.

"Always expect the unexpected." Mina gave a death glare to her instructor. He stood above her, his face expressionless. His long white hair was swept back into a ponytail. Mina often wondered how he managed to get hair that color. Of course, she often wondered how he managed to look that good even after hours of practice. No man had the right to be that gorgeous.

"Asshole isn't even out of breath.” Mina mumbled to herself. She hauled herself up, knowing he'd never give her any assistance. He'd just stare at her, as though expecting complaint or excuse. Well he wouldn't get one this time. She rubbed her side gingerly, where a gorgeous purple bruise was probably blossoming.

"Once again, this time pay attention." Mina took up her fighting stance and the two began the dance. She let go of her mind, letting her body take over. She had been at this for a year now. Kaji Hikaru. Mina let the name roll over her mind. He was supposedly one of the best martial artists in the world, and one of the youngest masters. No one could place his style. It seemed to be a mix of everything ever practiced, from ninjitsu to karate and everything in between. But instead of teaching the rich and famous, he worked here in London with underprivileged kids for a pittance. And Mina knew for a fact the studio wasn’t paying him that well. Mina didn’t know whether to be offended or grateful for his interest in continuing her lessons. She felt a bit like a charity case. At the moment, though, she just wanted to smack his face into the ground. He never smiled, never frowned, never showed any emotion whatsoever. Except for raising one eyebrow. He drove Mina up a wall. She blocked a particularly quick attack and flipped backwards over Kaji’s head.

She had tried everything to crack his façade. Jokes, skimpy clothes, showing up late, showing up early, trying really hard, ignoring the man, Kaji just kept giving her that odd look. Mina groaned internally. She had plotted and planned, desperate to get him to notice her. This week she thought she had him. One of the boys from the studio had driven her over, and she had managed to get caught making out with him in the car. Kaji simply looked at her with those steel gray eyes. Of course, he had taken the boy out back and beaten him to a bloody pulp, but Kaji didn’t say a word to her.

Sometimes she wondered if he even had emotions, or if he was just a robot designed to torture her. Mina felt herself being driven back, and quickly focused her mind on her fighting. She refused to contemplate why it was so important to get the man to react. She pushed the little voice out of her mind, the one that asked her why she had researched everything about Kaji. It was just morbid curiosity. She could hardly stand him.

"Don't let your mind wander." Kaji watched the girl's attention snap back to the present. She was an amazing fighter, if a little flighty in personality. Kaji barely blocked an unexpected punch. She had learned amazingly fast, almost as if she had been taught from childhood. She didn't have any problems with the style either, although many others who tried to learn found it unnatural or odd. Kaji watched her eyes. They flashed in triumph, and her defense became a bit sloppy. Emotions were her weakness. They moved across her face, displaying most of her thoughts for the world to see. Kaji grimaced internally, hating it when he hurt her and hating himself for his weakness. He had one job, to teach this girl to be the best she could be. Emotions had no place in that equation. He would teach her, and then he would move on toward his goals. His discipline won and he struck a second hit. Mina went down again.

Kaji watched her silently. Her head was down on the mat, her golden hair spread like a fan over her face. He resisting the urge to haul her to her feet and apologize. Instead he closed his eyes, blocking her crumpled figure from his mind. Mina let out a small groan. Kaji forced his mind to remember her in the car with the boy. The vision of the two of them kissing passionately forced anger through his veins, drowning the protective urge in a haze of jealousy. Kaji didn't understand why she bothered with her acting or flirting, when she was so gifted at fighting. But he didn't understand a lot of things about the girl. He turned around, the vision of the two young people locked in and embrace still burned into his mind.

Why did she giggle over the handsome teenagers who showed up from time to time on her show? She needed someone stronger, older, and more mature. Like him. Kaji almost groaned at his wayward thoughts. Mina shook herself and stood. She always managed to always keep a smile on her face, even after a long workout and a dozen bruises. Other thoughts floated through his head. A direct look from her sky blue eyes could make his heart catch in his throat, and her hair always smelled like lemons. Kaji pushed the unruly string of thoughts away. She had just turned seventeen years old, he was twenty-two. They had laws against that kind of thing. And he had a mission to fulfill, his life was not his own. Mina was standing again, her breathing a bit labored.

"That hurt, dammit! Do you have to give me more bruises?" Kaji turned back around and lifted an eyebrow.

Mina absolutely hated that. It made him look even more arrogant than usual. And she couldn’t reciprocate. Her eyebrows simply didn’t move independently.

"If you had been more careful, you would not get bruises. Keep your mind on your fighting, not on those silly boys you chase." He silently cursed himself for that comment, but the vision of her in the car rose in front of his eyes once again, like a nightmare that refused to go away. Kaji rationalized his behavior. She fought better when angered, because she controlled it well, so it only gave her incentive to fight. That was why he egged her on, that was why he constantly harassed her. "You should pay more attention to what you're doing. If you did pay a little attention you'd be finished with school instead of a year behind. And maybe you’d keep a boyfriend a bit longer than a day. And they’d want you for more then groping in a car."

Mina felt anger rising inside her, real anger. He constantly told her that she was a quick learner, and talented at this fighting business. But he drove her, knocking her down again and again, yelling at her for letting her mind wander or displaying her emotions. He treated her like a child. She was seventeen now, not some idiot ten year old. Kami, he was twice her size, twice her weight, and he had been doing this for years. And the comment about the boys…Mina knew she was a bit flighty, falling in and out of love. But although lots of boys had touched her heart, none seemed to ever touch her soul. It wasn’t like he really cared anyway. Kaji was just trying to make her mad, and succeeding as usual. He knew all the right buttons to push. Mina rushed forward, and promptly ended up on her butt.

“What’s the matter? Did the latest boyfriend not meet your expectations? Didn’t he want to make out in the front seat on the first date? Wasn’t he ready to hop in the sack with you? Oh wait, I think he was ready. Perhaps you didn’t measure up to his expectations.” Mina rolled to her feet, narrowly avoiding Kaji’s fists. He advanced on her. Mina feinted, but ended up with both arms twisted brutally behind her back. Kaji leaned in close, his breath hissing in her ear. “Did he find out what a little slut you are?” Kaji let go with one hand, hating himself for what he was doing, yet at the same time he kept seeing that worthless boy’s hands roaming over Mina’s body. He brushed a hand down the side of her cheek. “Or were you just rotten in the sack?”

Mina felt tears threatening to rise. She had dreams of him touching her gently, stroking a hand down her cheek, treating her like a woman. They were always explained away in the morning, but she knew that all her excuses couldn’t hide the truth. But to have him touch her while whispering in that sarcastic tone was too much. Mina felt her fantasies shattering. He was an absolute bastard, and no matter what she felt towards him, he would never be anything more.

Mina felt something burning inside her, something powerful. This feeling had come before, but never this strongly. She closed her eyes for a moment, reaching within herself. She had tried to harness the power locked inside, felt it rise and ebb with her emotions, but today seemed different. The pain she felt in her heart seemed to throb in time with the energy locked in her soul. Then she touched it. For the first time she felt the curtain drop over her emotions. Kaji was always telling her she needed to block them off, hide them from an opponent’s view. Mina finally understood what he meant. She wrenched herself from his grasp and moved forward quickly. She felt him attack. They had spent weeks practicing with her blindfolded, but she had such a difficult time doing it that Kaji had finally given up. Now Mina kept her eyes closed, seeing him plainly in her mind, a misty aura of red-gold.

Kaji felt the change in her immediately. This is what he had been looking for, this intensity and power, this focus. Something had managed to wake the warrior inside the girl. Now Kaji was fighting her off for real, fighting to stay on his feet. Her eyes were still closed, and he felt a rush of pride at her skill. She got a blow to his midsection, but he was still much larger than her and one blow wouldn't drop him. She wasn't pulling any punches though. Her hits became faster, closer together, more unexpected. Kaji knew this had become more than just a training exercise.

The battle continued. Neither knew how long they fought. Kaji smiled sadly. She had reached her potential. She was now a match for him, if not more. This would be their last training session.

Mina began to land more and more blows, the anger still strong inside her. She felt like another person, like someone else was controlling her, but at the same time she knew that other person was a part of her. It was strange and exciting at the same time. She felt more ripple to the surface of her mind, as though forgotten memories were emerging.

Kaji recognized the moment her attack style changed. He had never seen the movements before, and yet he seemed to know how to counter them. She was doing completely unorthodox things, fighting, well, dirty. Blows that were designed to cripple or kill, not just incapacitate. Kaji knew he had to bring this battle to an end, quickly, before either of them got hurt. That meant pure brute strength. Mina landed a blow to his knees, knocking him to the ground. He lunged forward as he fell, and grabbed one of her legs, flipping her in the air. She tumbled to the ground beside him. Kaji rolled on top of her, pinning her to the floor with his weight, capturing both wrists in one of his large hands. Mina fought for a moment, trying to throw him off.

"Enough. Be still." His voice was harsh and low. Mina stopped moving, going limp underneath him. She opened her eyes. They blazed a golden color. Kaji stared down at her, oblivious to anything but the red haze of anger that coated his brain. Mina felt her own anger slowly drain, and the color left her eyes. Then she gasped. Kaji had lifted his emotional wall. His face was slightly flushed, the red barely noticeable beneath his dark skin. His brows were drawn together in a frown, and his eyes were blazing. They had taken a red-gold tint, oddly reminiscent of the aura that Mina had sensed earlier. She turned her face away, unable to meet the emotion she saw in that gaze. Anger, lots of anger, and something else, something that made a knot form in her stomach. Well, she had wanted emotion from him. She just wasn't sure what to do with it.

Kaji took several deep breaths, trying to bring his feelings back under control. No one had ever been able to break through his armor. He had managed to keep himself under control through almost every stunt Mina had pulled, through every problem with past students, through his entire childhood being teased about his large size, through the screaming and yelling from his father when he left home. But this little girl had always been the hardest to block out. He saw Mina turn her head away, her eyes tightly closed. Her smooth white throat had a small hickey on the side. Kaji reached down with one hand and brushed his thumb against the mark. He saw the scene again, as clearly as though it was happening again. Mina writhing in a handsome young man’s arms, her dress unzipped, her feet bare, and her hair tumbling around her shoulders.

Kaji felt the anger return, even darker than before. That scene had haunted his dreams as well. Dreams where he was the man holding her tightly while she moaned. Her soft curves pressed against him weren't helping matters. He felt desire surge, saturating every inch of his body. He let go of her hands and turned her face back towards him sharply. Mina kept her eyes shut tightly.

"What the hell did you think you were doing? Where did you learn to fight like that? You could have hurt yourself. You could have killed me, dammit." The words came out at a shout, making Mina flinch. They were accompanied by sharp jerks at her chin, making her head ache.

"I'm sorry." The words came out in a whisper. Mina opened her eyes, which were now their original brilliant blue. A single tear trickled down the side of her face, resting on her top lip. Kaji closed his eyes for a moment. Her body was pressed tightly against his; forcing blood into areas he really didn’t want. And her tearstained face made him regret his angry words. He opened his eyes again and Mina flicked her tongue out, capturing the wayward tear on the tip. Kaji couldn't help himself. He leaned over slowly, and pressed his lips against Mina's. For a moment Mina felt nothing but absolute shock. Then her lips softened and her eyes fluttered closed.

Kaji pulled her closer to him, pressing her body even tighter against his, and deepened the kiss. This was what he had wanted from the first day he saw her, standing at the door in a dress the color of lemons, her hair cascading over her shoulders in a waterfall of sunshine, topped with a brilliant red ribbon. This is what he fought against every time he touched her, every time he looked at her. This was what he had hoped to avoid by erecting a barrier of cold indifference, strictly teacher and student. Now he had lost that barrier. He floundered, wondering if he had any control without that wall between them.

Mina had been kissed many times before. By drunken old rich men at the required TV industry parties, by costars both onstage and off, by her first crush, by the boy in the car earlier that week.

Nothing had ever been like this. She felt like he was reaching into her soul, like he was a part of her. Mina threw her arms around his neck and kissed him back with all the pent up longings she'd ever had toward her handsome, indifferent sensei. She knew in her heart, that this was her last kiss, the one that stole not only her heart, but also her soul. She felt like she was burning under the sun, vibrant and alive and out of control.

Kaji felt her responding to him, and he deepened the kiss, thrusting his tongue inside her mouth. She felt like silk and sunshine. The voice in head that begged him to stop was ruthlessly silenced. Mina tried to pull away for a moment, but then lost herself in the moment. Her hands took on a life of their own, running down his back and over his muscled arms and chest. Her touch was light and made Kaji shiver in response. She felt an ache growing inside her stomach. She grew a little bolder, and began to respond to Kaji's strange kiss, touching his tongue with her own.

Kaji felt his control slipping even more at her response. He pulled away from the kiss, his breathing ragged. Mina opened her eyes, and he smiled at the glazed look in them. His gaze dropped to her swollen lips, and her top, which was now gaping open, showing a brilliant red bra and a good amount of cleavage. Kaji swallowed hard, and pulled his eyes away from the wonderful view. Mina's head cleared a bit. She couldn't bring herself to look into Kaji's eyes, so she dropped her gaze to his chest. She was rather amazed by the amount of muscle he had layered on his body. She reached a shaking hand forward. Kaji caught it.

"Mina, do not. Things have already gone too far. Get up and walk away."

His voice was soft, and it sounded like he was choking on the words. She looked up into his eyes, which were now gray like storm clouds.

"Please. Mina, leave." The request was no louder than a whisper. Kaji looked down at her questioning gaze, the innocent desire in her eyes, and knew he had lost the fight.

"Once you start this, Mina, there's no turning back." Kaji let go of her hand, which was shaking a bit. She pulled it back for a moment, indecision reflected on her face. He felt his heart drop into his stomach. He didn’t know if he could let her walk away. His emotions had totally taken control. Then Mina squared her chin and reached forward again, running her hand over the sculpted muscles of his chest and abdomen. Kaji let out the breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. He stood up, sweeping Mina into his arms in the same motion. Mina giggled and hung on for dear life.

"Where are we going?"

"To my place." Kaji carried her out the back door and across a wide vacant lot to a small house. He kicked open the door rather violently. Mina buried her face in his chest, more than a little afraid of what she'd gotten herself into.

Kaji practically threw her onto his bed. Mina giggled as she bounced up and down. She glanced over the small, sparsely furnished room. The bed, however, was quite large.

"Big enough bed?"

Kaji grinned at her teasing.

"Do you know you are the most beautiful woman I've ever seen?" He moved forward and leaned over her. Mina resisted the urge to sink back against the bed. He kissed her lips gently. "I've always thought you could be the goddess Aphrodite." He raised a hand to her face, brushing the back of his hand over her cheek. Their eyes locked. Mina felt like she could see into his soul. Kaji lowered his hand and leaned a bit closer. He pulled gently on her red satin ribbon. Her hair fell down in a shower of gold. Kaji dropped the ribbon and buried his hands in the silk. Mina wrapped her arms around him. He lowered his hands to the tie of her belt and kissed her again. Mina's head spun a bit. She felt his hand move over her body. She couldn't remember him taking off her bra, but at that moment she really didn't care. All that mattered was the feel of his skin pressed against hers, his lips on her mouth.

Kaji could feel his control slipping slowly away. She was so beautiful, so perfect. Her skin felt like satin. She was making little moans in the back of her throat, which turned him on even more. He knew he should slow down, but she was wild.

Mina had completely let go of herself. She ran her hands over every inch of Kaji's body, amazed again at just how much muscle there was on his frame. Kaji’s hands drifted from her bare breasts down to the drawstring of her pants.

“Tell me if I’m moving too fast, sweetheart.” Mina just moaned and scooted down so she was lying on the bed instead of sitting against the headboard. His hands moved lower, slowly pulling off her pants and underwear. He looked, resisting the urge to bury himself inside her at that moment. Mina was blonde, everywhere. Kaji's hands started to shake a bit as he gently stroked her inner thighs, his hands moving higher each time.

Mina gasped. It hurt a little, but her body responded to the gentle motions with warmth and an even stronger ache in her stomach. Kaji’s mouth moved downward over her. Mina squealed and arched against him.

Her breathing had become very ragged. Kaji moved back to her mouth, silencing her cries with his tongue. He kissed a trail down her neck. Mina gasped at the feeling.

Kaji had never seen a woman respond like this in bed, especially a virgin. Mina’s cries grew louder and she started arching up to meet his fingers. He saw her eyes closed and she screamed his name. She kept her eyes closed for a moment until her heartbeat returned to normal. She opened them again and smiled up at the handsome face above her.

Kaji stepped back for a moment. He untied his belt and pulled off his top, then untied the drawstrings on his pants; they too fell to the floor. Mina's heart stopped. He was a big man. He looked like a body builder, with muscles everywhere, and he was so damn handsome. Mina felt heat rush into her face. She had seen naked men before, but this one looked like a Greek god. Kaji moved onto the bed beside her, taking her face between his hands.

Kaji moved forward, crushing her lips under his in a searing kiss. He reached down and put his fingers inside her again. She whimpered a bit in pain. Kaji groaned. She was damp, and hot, and he was so wound up. "I'm sorry angel. I can't wait." Then he thrust himself inside her.

Mina screamed again, this time in pain. Then her eyes filled with tears as she tried to push him off of her. "Don't Mina, please, don't move." But it was too late. Mina shifted her hips, and Kaji lost control. He pushed himself inside her again and again, unable to stop his body or Mina's tears. Then he shuddered in pleasure, burying himself one last time.

Mina cried. She cried from the pain she had just experienced, and the realization that she hardly knew this man, and she cried in anger at her own lack of control. Most of all, she cried because her expectations hadn't been met. People talked about sex being some earth shattering, wonderful experience. It wasn't. Kaji rolled off her slowly. She grimaced at the movement. For an endless minute there was nothing but Mina's hysterical sobs.

"Mina?" The voice was whisper soft, filled with concern. "Are you all right?" She rolled on her side to face him, ready to tear him apart, but the emotion in his face stopped her cold. For the second time that day, she had made him drop the mask. "I'm so sorry Mina." Kaji reached forward, pulling her into his arms. Mina snuggled up against his chest and let the tears flow. Sex might suck, but this part, this holding and soft words, this was worth every moment. Then she fell asleep in his arms.

Kaji watched the girl sleep. Her eyes were slightly red and puffy from crying, but she still looked like an angel. "Sleep well my little goddess." He reached for the phone beside the bed and made a phone call to the studio and Mina's parents. Then he pulled the covers over the two of them, willing to shut out the world for a while. Mina rolled over in her sleep, muttering something, and rested her head on his chest. Kaji smiled and fell fast asleep.

He woke to afternoon sunlight shining across the bed. Mina was still curled up beside him, her breath warm on his bare skin. All the blankets had somehow gotten wrapped around her, leaving Kaji with a cold backside. He smiled down at the sleeping figure.
He would give his soul to wake up to that vision every morning.

"Time to fix what I've broken." Kaji reached down, drew the sleeping girl onto his lap, and woke her with a deep kiss. "Good morning angel." Mina blinked sleepily and smiled up at him. He slowly began to stroke her arms, and then moved to her shoulders, then down to her chest, while peppering kisses along her neck and face. Mina was surprised at how much she wanted him to touch her again. And this new gentleness, it made her feel so loved. She wrapped her arms around his neck again, and gave him a shy peck on the lips.

"What was that?" Kaji grinned at Mina's confused expression.

"Wasn't that a kiss?"

"No, this is a kiss." Kaji leaned over and kissed Mina, his lips at first soft and gentle. His hands continued their slow explorations. Mina opened her mouth in surprise when his thumb began to rub across a spot between her legs. Kaji's tongue quickly took advantage of the opening, and Mina found herself responding to his touch. He whispered words to her as his lips explored her mouth, her neck, and her breasts. He told her she was beautiful, and wonderful, and perfect. He talked about her smile and the way her eyes made him melt inside.

Mina felt him pressing his fingers inside her again, and it hurt a little, but his words and caresses had her feeling so wonderful she hardly noticed. Then he switched positions, and his mouth lowered over her wet warmth. The first flick of his tongue against her sent a shiver down her spine. Then she was screaming in pleasure, in a mixture of Japanese and English.

Mina was in heaven. She felt like she was flying, soaring in the clouds. Her eyes were closed tightly, and she could feel him inside her now. This time there wasn't that god-awful pain, just a little twinge. And this time, she felt more than just desire. She felt connected to him. She reached out with her mind. Suddenly it was as though she was inside him, feeling his emotions, his physical sensation. He was part of her, the two together. And then they were both crying out in pleasure. Kaji rolled over quickly, pulling Mina along with him. The two lay in silence for a while.

"Was that better?" Kaji looked down at the peaceful smile on Mina's face.

"That's a stupid question, you know that?" Kaji just laughed. Mina's smile turned into a funny frown. Kaji followed Mina's gaze down to her sticky thighs. "I need a shower." Kaji nodded in agreement. Then he picked her up and swung her through the air, smiling at her giggles. The two stepped into his shower for the longest, most enjoyable tub time of their lives.

~~**~~

Mina was asleep again. Her eyes had small circles underneath them. Kaji was propped up on one arm, simply watching her sleep. He had never imagined that his life could be this perfect. He had never imagined spending an entire day like this with Mina. She had called her parents and come up with some half-baked excuse about something for the studio. Kaji ran a finger over her soft lips. She was everything he had ever wanted in a woman.

“Was she any good?” The voice echoed from the shadows of the room. Kaji was immediately out of the bed, his senses alert.

“Who’s there?” His voice was loud and demanding. A woman stepped from the shadows, a single finger held to her lips. “Shh, you’ll wake your little concubine. Hello, Prince Kunzite.” Kaji took a step back, smashing his head against the wall. The name from his nightmares. The name strangers called him in foggy memories. He shook his head and took a step forward, trying to get a good look at the intruder. A shaft of moonlight fell through the window and across her features. Kaji gasped. This was a specter from his nightmares, from the dreams his psychologist had attributed to an overactive imagination.

The woman was strikingly beautiful. Her hair was long and fell in curls to the floor. Her wide eyes were almond shaped and intelligent. “Don’t look so surprised. I know you’ve had dreams of the past. I know who you are, Prince Kunzite.” Kaji shook his head again and pinched himself. The woman laughed lightly and sat down on the bed. She brushed a strand of hair off Mina’s face. “I must say, she is beautiful. She reminds me of someone…”

“Don’t you touch her.” Kaji’s voice came out at a low growl. The woman glanced back up, an amused expression on her face.

“Don’t tell me this one actually got to you. Isn’t she a bit young?” Kaji could feel his face turning red.

“What do you want?” His voice was a low growl. The woman frowned. She stood up, and took several steps toward Kaji.

“Always with you it’s all business. I’ve come to offer you what you want, Prince. Knowledge of your past, an explanation for your dreams.” The woman glanced at the girl, her face turning down in a confused frown. “I suppose now isn’t a good time to talk. However, I can lead you to the man in your dreams. And you were Prince Kunzite, a long time ago.” The woman backed into the shadows. “I’ll return in three days time. I suggest you find a nice way to get rid of your little concubine, prince. She’s not worthy of your blood. I know your destiny, your duty, and you know you can’t refuse me. Be ready to leave in three days.” Then she disappeared. Kaji stood for several long moments, his mind sucked into the dark dreams that continually plagued him. Finally he sunk back onto the bed and pulled Mina into his arms. The dreams, an answer to the dreams. He looked down at the girl. He should never have gotten involved, but for now he had three days.

~~**~~

Kaji was running through a maze, yelling a strange name. “Endy, where the hell are you. You’re late for practice.” He could smell the roses from a garden nearby. He ran, and ran, and then the roses grew into red-haired women with sharp tongues and powerful magic. The world went dark.

“Kunzite. What are you doing? Don’t you see? You’re being used. Where is the loyalty you pledged to me so long ago?” Kaji floated above the scene, watching his other self argue with a dark-haired man.

“My prince, you have a choice. Come with us or die.” Kaji watched the dark-haired man take several steps back and disappear. Darkness again.

He was inside his own body, holding a shadowy figure cloaked in blood. He could feel an injury in his gut, but he didn’t care, he only wanted to die with the one he was holding.

Kaji sat up quickly, soaked in sweat. Mina hadn’t moved from her original position. Kaji glanced down at the beautiful girl. He closed his eyes, but all he could see was a dark-haired figure yelling out for help. Kaji rested his aching head in his hand. Three days.

~~**~~

Mina watched Kaji from her perch on the bed. He was carefully stitching together a torn sleeve on her top. She rested her head on her knees, watching the way his muscles rippled under the evening sun. He had called and given some excuse about needing more practice time. There wasn't any filming scheduled, so the director had given his approval. So Mina had a free day, without her mother nagging, or the makeup people badgering. Kaji had offered to repair her clothes after laughing at her own attempt. Mina had been so angry. Kaji had simply kissed her, and smiled.

Kaji glanced up at the angel perched on his bed. He glanced at her repeatedly, as though to reassure himself that she was real. She was such an enjoyable mix of child and woman.

He hadn't felt this happy since the day he had left home. He could still hear his father railing at his quest, a quest for something he couldn't name. His eyes clouded over, recalling the harsh words and angry promises.

"Are you all right, Kaji?" He nodded slowly, finishing the last few stitches with a steady hand. "Are you sure?" Kaji cut the thread loose and put the needle away. Mina bounced off the bed and settled down beside him. He looked down at the girl. With her hair loose and flowing, wearing nothing but a black satin bra and panties, she was his fantasies come to life. She could sense his moods, and was so damn cheerful and loving. Kaji turned away for a moment. He couldn't keep her, and he knew it. There was still something he had to do. And she still had some growing up to accomplish. Three days had turned to two, and then to one, and now their time was almost up.

"Kaji?" Mina leaned closer to him, confused by emotions that seemed to emanate from his pores. "Tell me what's wrong, please?" Kaji fought for control, letting the curtain drop back over his feelings.

"Nothing's wrong angel." He forced a smile onto his features. Mina smiled back.

"I have a secret to tell you." She leaned forward, until her lips brushed against his ear. "I love you." The curtain fell with a crash. He despaired of losing her, but knew he had to let her go. But not yet, not tonight. He wrapped her in his arms and covered her mouth with another searing kiss.

~~**~~

Mina slept peacefully in the car, dressed in her slightly rumpled, but now fixed clothing. She'd probably sleep for quite a while, and that was a good thing. Kaji shook his head again, wishing he'd never let the precocious child into his heart. He knew she'd never leave. She'd haunt him to the grave, and probably beyond. The apartment was dark when he entered. He carried her into her bedroom, guided by sleepy commands from Mina. He laid her on the bed, and pulled the covers up over her.

"Good night, Kaji." The voice was husky with sleep. Kaji swallowed hard.

"Good night, Angel." He leaned over and placed a kiss on her forehead. "Sleep well, and remember something angel, no matter what, I love you too." Mina smiled and closed her eyes. Kaji left with a heavy heart, imprinting the scene in his mind. His angel, lying in a golden bed, bathed in moonlight. Somehow, the scene seemed familiar, as though he had done this before, left her before to chase something intangible…many times before. He brushed the thought from his mind and let himself outside.

~~**~~

The small house looked empty without her in it. Kaji threw the last of his possessions into the car. He checked over the house one last time. Then he noticed something red peeking out from behind the bed. He leaned over and picked it up. It was a red satin ribbon, Mina's hair ribbon. The memories of that day flooded over him in a rush. Her sweet smile, the way her skin felt. Kaji wrapped the ribbon around his hand, enjoying the smoothness of the satin. Then he tucked it into his pocket, and locked the door to the house. The keys went in a yellow envelope, and into the mailbox at the curb. He wiped his sweaty hands on his pants, and headed for the dark dojo. For a moment he almost wished the strange woman wouldn’t appear. But he needed to know.

"You're late." Kaji turned towards the dark figure that stood in the shadows.

"Why do I feel like I'm making a deal with the devil?" Kaji walked toward the voice slowly.

"A devil? Now I've been compared to a witch, but never a devil." The woman stepped into the light. Her hair curled wildly and swept the floor. Her dress was long and tight, giving the impression of dark flames. She gave a questioning gaze to the man standing in front of her. "I take it you're here to accept my offer?" Kaji nodded slowly.

"How can I not? I need to know who I am, what these strange feelings mean, why I can fight the way I do."

"I will help you. And now I will name my price, Prince. My price is complete loyalty, not to me, but to the man who we search for. Nothing will ever be more important than his life. Not your happiness, nor your life, nor even your own soul. Nothing. And you must work hard to convince me of your loyalty. I will not let you betray him in this life." The woman turned and started to walk away.

"Wait, what will we do?" Kaji strode forward, attempting to catch the woman's arm. She laughed lightly.

"You are the first. We have three more to find. I will need all of you to locate your master." The woman fixed her cold eyes on Kaji. "And you all need training." Then she disappeared in a flash of light. Left behind on the floor was a manila folder. Kaji opened it up. Inside were three photographs, three typed pieces of paper, and a plane ticket to Japan, dated for that evening.

~~**~~

Kaji looked out the window of the plane. The flight to Tokyo was mainly businessmen, so it was quiet and peaceful. London was calm from Heathrow as he took off. The back alleys and main streets all looked the same from the air. Kaji leaned back in his seat. Thirteen hours to think about her. He imagined her face when she saw the empty dojo. Kaji opened the box that was still in his pocket. The brilliant golden topaz winked up at him. It was shaped like half of a heart. The other half was violet-pink kunzite. Kaji snapped the box shut. He should have given it to her, or left it for her. He should have written a letter. But saying good bye would have made it so final. And she was only seventeen. What right did he have to steal what was left of her childhood for his own selfish desires?

A woman tapped him on the shoulder. “Would you like something to drink sir?” Kaji shook his head and turned to look at the stars now visible outside. The moon was full, its light bouncing off the wings of the plane. He closed his eyes and put the box back in his pocket. His fingers brushed against the satin ribbon. He pulled it out. The scent of lemons floated upwards, sending erotic images spiraling through Kaji’s mind. Mina lying on his bed asleep, her face when he splashed her with water in the tub, her tears as she struggled to comb through her hair. Kaji opened his eyes, but the ghosts still hovered around him. He was a fool. Chasing after something from a dream and leaving behind what was flesh and blood.

But he couldn’t stay, he couldn’t say goodbye. He didn’t want to think of not having her with him. “Some day, Mina. Someday I’ll be back. And I’ll give you this. And I’ll make you understand why I had to leave. And somehow I know you’ll forgive me.” Because if she couldn’t forgive him, Kaji knew he wouldn’t be able to go on. He leaned back against the rough seat. Thirteen hours to Tokyo and home.

~~**~~

Mina woke up with a smile on her face and a song in her heart. For once everything was going right. Then she looked at her watch and swore. She had thirty minutes before the first scene.

Makeup went all right, and the scene set up well. The live cat was being ornery again. He was new, only around for two weeks. The old one had died of a stomach ailment.

"Can't you get that cat to do what he's supposed to?" The director was marching around the set practically in tears. Mina sighed. The creature was being more and more obnoxious as the day progressed. After one particularly hard scene had to be refilmed for the tenth time, Mina lost her temper.

"Cat, get your butt over here right now." Mina’s voice rang through the soundstage, like a queen giving commands. Her face was slightly red with anger and exertion, but she still looked gorgeous. The cat looked at her for a moment. His face was so serious, as though he was debating whether to obey. Mina knew the thing was more intelligent than he let on. Then the animal moved to his mark. The trainer threw his hands up in defeat.

"That’s the sixth time today he won’t listen to me. I quit. You can have that beast." Mina glared down at the animal.

"Great, just what I wanted, home with a co-worker every night." The cat swiped at Mina's leg. Mina squealed and jumped. "I swear you understand every word I say." The cat merely tilted his head to the side and said Meow. Mina knew the animal had said the word, as clearly as if she would say the word. She couldn’t help but feel a strange foreboding. The creature was going to be trouble, she just knew it. “How am I going to explain you to mom?” The cat twitched its tail and sauntered off to where it had a cushion waiting. Mina sighed loudly. “Dumb cat.”

The filming went well after the cat incident. Mina was very impatient for the day to end. She wanted to see Kaji again. The last three days had been fabulous. He had picked her up at the studio and carried her right back to his home. And Mina had never felt more alive. The filming for the day ran a bit ahead of schedule. Mina was ecstatic. She could surprise Kaji. As soon as the last shot was finished, Mina took off. She skirted past her mother, yelling some excuse about extra training. Then she grabbed the nearest cab. Strangely enough the cat followed her.

The sun was just starting to set when she got out of the car. She had managed to let the cabbie take the cat along, although it had cost her an extra twenty dollars and a promise that the creature wouldn't pee on the seat. Mina was annoyed, but the cat showed no sign of leaving her side. And the director would be royally pissed if she managed to lose her co-star. The notorious fog of London had set in once again, and Mina felt that something wasn't right.

The alleyways near the dojo weren’t the nicest in the world, and Mina felt more than a little uncomfortable. She tried the doors, but the dojo was locked. She went back to the house, but that was locked too. She peered in through the windows but couldn't see anything. The cat followed her, copying her motions and looking so human Mina almost laughed. Then a sound came from the dojo. Mina tried the doors again, and this time they opened easily.

She walked into the darkened "Hello? Kaji? Are you in here? Hello?" She felt the bright glow in her heart slowly melting into a ball of ash and soot. The dojo was quiet. Mina had never seen it so quiet. Mina walked through the dark room slowly, unable to shake the feeling that something wasn't right. "Kaji? Where the hell are you?"

"Your boyfriend is quite gone, little girl." A voice hissed from the edges of the room. The cat curled up around Mina's ankles, almost making her trip.

"Who the hell are you?" Mina noticed a shadow moving. She closed her eyes, reaching for that skill she had discovered. She saw a hazy black shadow. Mina readied herself, and then pounced. The figure disappeared and reappeared on the opposite side of the room.

"Too slow, human child. He never belonged to you. You aren't worthy of a prince. Besides, there will always be someone more important in his life." The woman stepped from the shadows, her arm pointing straight at Mina. "You are not worthy to change his sheets, much less grace his bed." Mina felt a red haze rising. "Oh don't blame me, little girl, he left of his own free will. Go home, go home and play your little TV games." Then there was a flash of light, and the woman was gone.

"Kaji." Mina was silent for a moment. The lump in her chest rose to her throat. "He can't be gone, it's impossible." She dropped to her knees, refusing to let the tears come. “Kaji.” Images of his beautiful face floated through her mind. But a nasty little voice in the back of Mina’s head kept thinking. “He didn’t love you, you were just a nice girl to romp with. He was just looking for a last fling before he left.” Mina silenced the voice, but was unable to stop the pain the thoughts had caused. His last words floated through her mind, the words he spoke while she was drifting in that place between sleep and awake.

"Sleep well, and remember something angel, no matter what, I love you too."

Mina felt the tears finally break loose, spilling over in a torrent of sobs. If he loved her so much, than why had he left, without a goodbye, without an explanation? She felt a rough tongue licking at her tears. The cat was halfway in her lap, purring and gently swiping his tongue over her cheeks. Mina pulled the creature into her arms.

“I don’t know if he loved me cat. I don’t know if I know what love really is.” Mina buried her face against the animal’s white fur and cried.

~~**~~

Kaji stood in front of the office building. It had been four years since he had last entered Hikaru Inc. He could still hear his father’s angry voice.

“You will join the family business. You cannot turn your back on your family and your name. We will haunt you until you return.” Dishonor. That was what grandfather had proclaimed it. Kaji looked back up at the mirrored windows. Four years. He heard laughter down the street. Kaji found his body reacting, searching for the source. A little blonde girl was walking down the sidewalk with a brown haired friend. The blonde’s hair was the same sunny sheen as his Mina’s, but she was shorter, and a bit more childlike. The two pigtails topped with buns didn’t help. Kaji turned back toward the building. Mina was gone. Someday he’d see her again, but now. Kaji looked at the envelope in his hands. Three faces. He had three faces and three addresses. He’d find the meaning behind the dreams some day. Right now he needed to apologize to his father, and hope the effort didn’t kill them both.

~~**~~

Mina looked down at the test again. A plus. Three tests and always the same answer. It had been two months. Two months since the night Kaji disappeared. He had left a note with the studio, saying he was closing his business and thanking them for the generous payments. Mina felt the tears gathering, but quickly brushed them aside. She wouldn’t cry again, she would never cry, especially not over some guy. The cat had been locked out of her room so she could get the results in private. He may have been nothing more than a cat, but there were times when Mina could swear the creature was reading her mind.

There was a gentle scratching on the door. Mina blinked her eyes and opened it. The cat jumped on the bed. She looked down at the three tests in a row on the dresser. He leaped up and examined them, and then his eyes grew a little misty. The cat returned to the bed and curled up on Mina’s lap, purring loudly. Mina closed her eyes, trying not to burst into tears.

The cat stood and began rubbing his white head against Mina’s arms. “I’m seventeen kitty. Seventeen years old. I’m not ready to be a momma. But it’s my baby.” Mina laid a hand against her flat stomach. “It’s the only thing I’ll ever have of him.” The cat rubbed his head against Mina’s cheek, and slowly then licked away the tears that began to fall.

“I swore he wouldn’t make me cry again, but now listen to me, sobbing like a baby. I can’t do it, cat. And what am I going to do about the show? And my parents?” Mina’s sobs slowly quieted into hiccupping, and then into gentle snores. The cat curled up beside his mistress and silently drifted off to sleep, his blue eyes troubled.

~~**~~

Kaji looked out the window of his office. Tokyo seemed so different now. He looked back at the papers on his desk. The language even seemed strange, although it was his native tongue. A woman walked in and laid another pile of papers on his desk. She kept her head lowered and bowed politely before leaving.

Kaji had managed to reach an uneasy reconciliation with his family. His grandfather still refused to speak to him, but his father had given him a high level position in the company, and he was taking classes at night. The world of business just didn’t appeal very much.

Kaji looked down at the picture on his desk. Mina was in her Sailor V costume, trademark smile and hand gesture. He had bought the picture in the Heathrow Airport. Now she sat on his desk, her smile taunting him every day. Kaji closed his eyes. He reached into his pocket. The box was now on his dresser at home, but the ribbon still rested in his shirt pocket every day, beside his heart. He lifted it to his lips, the satin whispering against his skin. He could hear her laughter in his mind, taunting him. He could still hear her innocent voice.

"I have a secret to tell you…I love you."

He could still see her sitting on the edge of his bed, her hair spilling around her.

“I love you too, Angel.”


Reflection – Chapter 02
By Aurora Eos Rose

Kaji Hikaru

Tokyo Japan- 1997

Kaji was tired. The flight from London had been hell. First, there had been golden hair and brilliant blue eyes dancing in his mind for thirteen hours. He had been trying to avoid thinking about her, but she was everywhere; from the golden sun glinting off clouds to the bubbling laughter of the flight attendant. Turbulence hadn't helped either. In fact, it had given him a nasty stomachache. And despite the passengers being mainly businessmen, there had been one family near the center of the plane with a little dark haired boy in a window seat that had done nothing but cry. Kaji needed several aspirin and a bottle of sake. He moved through the airport, attempting not to be knocked around by the crowd. Narita was jam packed, as usual. At least he wouldn't be having problems in customs: being a Japanese citizen did have some benefits. Kaji pulled out a pair of dark sunglasses and put them over his bloodshot eyes. He really didn't want to deal with his father tonight, or actually today, with the time change. After clearing all the metal detectors and gates and guards, he picked up his bags and headed for the nearest cab. What he needed right now was a clean room and sleep.

The cab driver took him to a small, but clean hotel. He paid for several days, and asked the housekeepers to ignore the room. He slept, dreamlessly, deeply, for two entire days. Kaji woke up feeling much better, and more ready to take on the world. He pulled a suit out of his garment bag. He hadn't worn one in four years. Actually, he only had this one left; the rest had been thrown out or sold. He almost growled at the thought of stuffing himself inside one again. He had never wanted to return to days of being trapped in a tiny cubicle with a too tight necktie and a suit that never seemed to fit across the shoulders. But fate seemed to have a sense of humor. Either that or the higher power controlling his destiny just liked to torture him. Kaji pulled on the old suit, not surprised at all at how tight it was, but secretly happy for the fact that it wasn't too wrinkled. He paid for another day's use of the hotel room on his way out the door.

Kaji exited the cab slowly, his eyes drawn skyward by the tower of metal and glass. Hikaru LLC looked exactly the same. The building was an old-fashioned skyscraper, complete with too many windows and a tendency to sway in heavy winds. Kaji doubted it would last through even a tiny earthquake. The front doors were the same. He smiled, fondly recalling a time when he'd spun around endlessly in the revolving door as a child. He walked through the lobby slowly, grimacing at the tacky furniture and the subservient female receptionist. The carpet was a bit worn, the chairs were dingy. In fact, the entire building seemed to have an air of despondency. The lobby was practically deserted even though it was almost ten o'clock; the building seemed deadly quiet. Kaji felt like he was in a tomb. He pressed the up button for the elevator, chuckling a bit when the light didn't change. The elevator dinged once and the doors slid open slowly with a loud creaking sound. Kaji looked at the dingy interior and headed for the stairs.

Sixty floors until he reached the top. Not a huge building by any means, just adequate. Kaji moved up the stairs swiftly, his breathing slowly speeding up. He had missed his morning exercises. The impromptu stair climb would have to work. He pushed all his nervousness out, attempting to clear his mind and soul. He concentrated completely on putting one foot in front of the other, lost in the physical action. And then the climb was over.

He opened the doorway and stepped into central office. Everyone immediately became silent. Kaji ignored the stares. He looked up at the wall on the right. There his picture hung, right beside his father's image. Probably still up by his grandfather's request. Kaji allowed a small smile. The old man had always been chained to the past. He was obsessed with honor and family tradition. Kaji didn't believe in tradition or family, not since the night his mother had been found dead in the bathroom, a bottle of pills in her hand. Kaji felt that path slam shut in his mind. He never thought of his mother...why had she suddenly come to mind? Maybe it was building pushing unpleasant memories to the surface. Kaji shook his head slowly, forcing his thoughts back on course. He headed for the executive office, past the rows of staring employees. His father wouldn't have changed much in four years. He'd still be at his desk at eight, and stay there until noon. And Kaji wasn't one to hesitate or wait patiently. The time had come to confront his demons.

He didn't knock. Kaji turned the knob, knowing it wouldn't be locked, and moved into the outer office. His father still had the same ancient secretary, pecking away at an antiquated typewriter. She looked up and her eyes went wide. Kaji put a finger to his lips. The woman's face remained white but she made no move to warn Kaji's father. Kaji opened the door quietly. His father's chair was turned toward the window. There was a moment of silence so dense Kaji could feel the tendrils of suspense creeping down his arms. He cleared his throat loudly.

"I knew you'd come back." The voice was soft, cultured. Kaji stood in front of the desk, his hands clasped behind his back. He had hoped to have his visit be a surprise, but Kaji had always known that despite his father's old-fashioned attitudes, the man was remarkably well informed. His father turned around slowly in the chair. The man's steel gray eyes were hidden behind gold-rimmed glasses. His hair was almost as long as Kaji's, but black. Kaji continued to stand, waiting silently. His father stood slowly. The older man took a step forward, head tilted back to meet Kaji's eyes.

"You've grown, I see." Kaji was now much taller than his father, a fact that seemed to surprise both of them. Steel gray eyes met gunmetal gray for a long moment. Kaji was the first to look away. His father grunted and began to stalk around Kaji, examining the prodigal son. The older man circled like a hawk. Kaji didn't falter. He hardly even breathed. Finally Kaji's father stopped. The two locked eyes again. Kaji's father blinked rapidly, as though something were caught in his eye. He spoke slowly.

"I hope you've grown as much in spirit as you have in body. I told you that one day you'd return." Kaji stared straight ahead. He felt a strange conflict of shame at having to return, and warmth from the familiar surroundings. Kaji had never intended to come back, and yet somewhere in his heart, he had missed this place. He had missed his cantankerous, old-fashioned grandfather and his stern, over-demanding father. Kaji's father smiled slowly, the man's body relaxing. He chuckled.

"Your grandfather isn't as forgiving as I am, and he won't be as easy to win over. I'm grateful to see you've come to your senses. I always knew you'd come back." Kaji winced a bit at the gloating in his father's voice. The old man dropped a heavy hand onto Kaji’s shoulder. "Welcome home. Here's the key to your old office. I'll expect you to get a suit that fits, and enroll in some classes to finish the degree you abandoned. Dinner is at seven. Don't be late." Kaji's father moved back behind his desk and sat down. "You're dismissed." Kaji's momentary burst of warmth faded under his father's cold mask.

“It’s nice to see you’re still the same cold bastard.” Kaji’s father turned bright red. But Kaji kept speaking, ignoring his father’s blustering. “I don’t need someone to tell me every little thing, I decide when I eat, what I wear. And last I checked I own half of this company, father.” Kaji spit the words out. “My share plus my mother’s. From what I have seen, you’ve let this place fall into antiquity. I intend to change all that. I have work to do. I may be home tonight; if I finish everything I need to.” Kaji turned on his heel and slammed the door, leaving a red-faced, gap-mouthed father behind. And he whistled on his way to accounting.

~~**~~

Kaji was being haunted. He rolled over on his old bed, the past still conspiring to defeat him. He could hear his father moving around in the early morning light. Kaji groaned. He really needed more sleep, but last night all Kaji could think about was a golden haired angel. This was the third night in a row he'd spent locked in erotic, sweaty dreams. He hadn't slept through the night since he had left the hotel. Kaji groaned and stood up. Exercise would help, he hoped. He pulled on a robe and moved through the quiet house and into the garden.

His grandfather was sitting on a bench, eyes closed tightly. The morning sun was filtering through the leaves of a cherry tree behind the old man. Kaji bowed politely to his grandfather.

"Good Morning, Grandfather." The man acted as though he hadn't been spoken to. Kaji sighed and move to an open grassy area, taking his opening stance. It wasn’t worth the effort to get the old man to acknowledge his existence. Kaji moved through his exercises, mind focusing inward, and outward. He felt the fatigue and lust slowly draining away. He sensed his grandfather's eyes, but Kaji ignored the careful scrutiny and concentrated on his form. He finished the exercises and bowed again to his grandfather; the old man averted his eyes. Kaji sighed loudly and headed for the kitchen. His grandfather took the idea of a grudge to new heights.

"Good morning, Father." The older man was reading the newspaper. He looked up and frowned.

"Have you gotten a new suit yet?" Kaji stifled a groan. His father was still trying to boss him around. Kaji resisted the urge to lash back and instead headed for the counter. Kaji had discovered the best way to handle the old man was to simply ignore his comments. He really needed to step into the modern world. Kaji grabbed a bag of coffee from the cupboard above the sink. He'd acquired a taste for the stuff in London. His father scowled. "You should drink tea." Kaji shrugged and continued brewing the thick black stuff.

"Coffee is stronger." He sat down at the western style table across from his father. This was the only room in the house western style. The chrome refrigerator and tacky cupboards looked like they stepped out of an old 50's TV show. Kaji felt a smile creep across his face. He could just imagine his angel in a yellow dress and apron, singing to herself as she tried to bake a cake, failing miserably and burning down the house in the process. A low chuckle escaped Kaji's lips. His father glanced over the paper.

"Something amusing? Besides your disrespectful attitude and your penchant for blue jeans?" The man's eyes narrowed at the faraway look on Kaji's face.

"No, just thinking about something." Kaji closed his eyes for a moment, choosing to ignore his father’s biting comments. Now she was haunting him while he was awake as well as asleep. Kaji leaned back and sipped at his hot liquid. He forced his mind back to reality. He glanced down at the wide lapels on his father's suit coat.

The house, the way his father and grandfather dressed, the Hikaru building. They were hopelessly trapped in the past. And from the papers he'd looked over for two days, the company was as well. Kaji gritted his teeth. There was not any way the two would simply let him change things. He would have to force them to face reality. Kaji clenched his fists. A ray of sunshine dropped across the table. Kaji closed his eyes, the sight bringing back the feelings he thought were locked away for the day.

He hadn't realized she'd bury herself so deeply in his heart. He reached into his pocket and rubbed his fingers over the red satin ribbon. Maybe she had been there from the moment he first saw her in the sunshine, or maybe she had always been there, even before she had waltzed into his life. The cat clock in the kitchen meowed. Kaji swore and stood up quickly. He still had to take a shower and get dressed. His father's admonition to not be late rang in his ears.

~~**~~

Kaji glanced at the picture on his desk and yanked at his new suit. At least this one fit properly. Kaji had paid the tailor a small fortune to finish in one day because he had an important meeting this afternoon concerning Hikaru’s future and had to be dressed for the part. Mina's face smiled from the metal frame, her fingers raised in the trademark V and her hair whipping in some unseen wind. She was with him every day. Kaji wished he had a picture of her special smile. The shy innocent one that made his heart race and his knees collapse. He turned to the papers on his desk. He resisted the urge to pound his fist on the table in frustration. Hikaru was in trouble, and his father and grandfather were too old-fashioned to see the problems. Kaji would have to fight tooth and nail to get anything changed. There was so much to be done, and tine was running out. Kaji was overwhelmed with the pressure of being the only way the company could survive. Maybe he needed a break, a distraction.

He opened the top drawer of his desk and pulled out a plain manila folder. He flipped it open and looked at the pictures. Three pictures, three men, three mysteries. How was he supposed to find these three with nothing more to go on than grainy black and white pictures? He needed help, and he needed it immediately. Kaji picked up the phone on his desk. There had to be someone he could call. Then he remembered an old friend from school. Motoki was now the owner of a chain of video arcades and ice cream shops. And he always had the latest gossip. Kaji smiled a bit and dialed the phone.

~~**~~

Ace Saijou was tempted to let the phone keep ringing. He looked at the stack of papers on his desk and sighed loudly. Running an investigative service didn't exactly thrill him, but it kept the bills paid while he worked on his dream. Some day he'd be able to leave behind the sneaking around and finding lost people and concentrate solely on his career. And then he'd use his stardom to attract people for his talent agency. But right now the phone was ringing and he had two appointments with unhappy spouses who wanted proof of their partner's infidelity.

"Ace Investigative Services. Can I help you?" Ace listened to the man on the phone with half an ear. Motoki had always been a good friend, but he sounded way too excited. Ace resisted the urge to groan. Friend or not, Motoki needed about a dozen tranquilizers. Then again, Motoki also gave away lots of free ice cream, which made him a great friend on weekends. Ace made affirmative noises every so often while he finished filing the latest batch of pictures.

"I'll wait until he calls me Motoki. He may not even take your advice. Yes I know he's rich...uh huh." Ace closed the drawer with a loud bang. "Yes Motoki. Thanks. I'll talk to you later." Ace hung up the phone with a sigh of relief. But he glared when it started ringing again.

"Ace Investigative Services. Can I help you?" Ace was surprised by the deep voice on the other end of the line. He silently went back to filing while listening with half an ear. "Why don't we make an appointment to discuss this in detail?" Ace finished the filing and moved on to the missing person case he had recently finished. That venture had landed him a nice bonus. And then the conversation was finished. Ace leaned back in his chair. Always work to do. He really needed a secretary or some help, but every penny went into his other ventures.

"Kaji Hikaru, 11:30 lunch date, tomorrow. Damn, Motoki, you keep sending me business and I'll never sleep."

~~**~~

Kaji sat quietly in the crowded restaurant, checking his watch every few moments. Mr. Ace Saijou was late, although that didn't surprise Kaji too much. The man had sounded distracted over the phone.

"Mr. Hikaru?" Kaji turned to the voice. A man stood beside the table. Kaji estimated the blonde was several years younger, but the eyes reflected a good deal of maturity. In fact, they seemed cold, cynical, a strange contrast to the youthful body and boyish smile. Saijou had a slightly wrinkled, stained suit on, but he was wearing a Rolex. Kaji felt a strange sense of foreboding.

"Mr. Saijou. So kind of you to join me." Kaji inclined his head slightly and waved a hand toward the seat beside him. "Shall we get started?" Kaji pulled the manila folder from his briefcase and handed it to the young man. Ace flopped down and took the folder. Ace flipped through the pictures, his forehead wrinkling slightly in concentration.

"You'd like me to find these three men?" Kaji nodded slowly. Something about this Ace seemed a bit phony, but he had come highly recommended.

"Yes, as soon as possible." Ace paused for a moment.

"It will be difficult with so little to go on." Kaji hesitated.

"Are you certain you can find them?" Ace smiled.

"Of course I can find them, it just might take a great deal of time and effort." Ace flipped the folder closed, laid it on the table, and leaned forward. His careless manner had been put aside, and his tone was all business. Kaji felt a strange admiration for the man. Ace could be one hell of a negotiator with a bit of practice and training.

"Then all that's left to discuss is my fee." Kaji stood impatiently. The predatory look in Ace's eyes did not escape notice.

"First, I’ll expect you do get a decent suit. Secondly, I want you at Hikaru to report every Friday afternoon at 3:00. I also expect some results within two weeks. I'll pay all your expenses that are properly documented, and ten thousand American dollars after each man has been successfully located. If you are as good as the rumors say there may be more work for you eventually." Kaji turned his back on the now speechless Ace and left the restaurant. He resisted the urge to smirk at the astonished look on Ace's face. The slippery devil was used to naming his price, not having orders dictated.

~~**~~

Ace left the restaurant slowly; rage bubbling just beneath the surface. He hated when anyone tried to order him around. Kaji Hikaru was an arrogant son of a bitch, but he was also very wealthy, and not the kind of man to double cross. Ace glanced down at the folder in his hand. Three grainy pictures weren't much to go on, but he'd found people with less information. It was simply a matter of knowing where to look, and who to ask.

The office was dark when he entered. Ace slid behind his desk, his mind moving quickly. Information was a precious commodity in his line of work. He laid the photos on the desk and picked up the phone. Ten thousand a person was great deal of money, and he'd be sure to rack up plenty of "expenses" for the arrogant Mr. Hikaru to cover. He chuckled under his breath.

“This job might be the key to getting out of investigation completely.”

~~**~~

Ace resisted the urge to laugh. It had only been three days. Three days and he had located the first of the three men. In fact, Ace had not only located the man, he'd finished an entire background investigation. Kaji flipped through the manila file stoically, but Ace knew that Kaji was pleased. There was something about the way he relaxed in the chair, and the way he sipped his drink. Ace was practically cackling with glee.

"Well, Mr. Hikaru? What do you think?" Kaji lifted his eyes. Ace felt a shudder rip through him. Those eyes were deadly. Kaji had not been pleased by the interruption.

"Impatience is not a virtue, Mr. Saijou, although I am happy enough with the results of your investigation and will let your rudeness slide." There was a chilling and taunt silence. Ace inclined his head slightly.

"I apologize..." Kaji waved his hand.

"Never mind. I'd like hire you for another chore in addition to finding the remaining two men. Your fee will be another ten thousand, cash." Kaji pulled a sheet of paper from his briefcase and scribbled some instructions. Ace took the paper, one eyebrow raised. "I'll expect you at eight sharp...and wear your new suit." Ace leaned back.

"Your wish is my command." Kaji merely slammed his briefcase shut, the new file inside, and left.

"You cold son of a bitch." Ace hissed the words at Kaji's retreating back. He glanced down at the paper again, and couldn't help but admire the tactical abilities of the new Vice President of Hikaru Inc. Ace chuckled a bit. At least this time he didn't have to work so hard for his money.

~~**~~

Hisame Kasumi looked at the information on his computer one last time. The formula seemed to be correct, but something was still missing. Somehow the final product was still a bit off. He turned back to the tiny Petri dish lying on the table. Nanotechnology was so difficult to experiment with. Just developing the procedure to create tiny machines had taken him almost four years. And now when it seemed to be coming together, something was standing in his way. Something called money. Hisame brushed a hand over his sweating forehead. He needed more money to complete his research. But this was Japan, not the United States. Grants for research were not as common or as easy to come back. For the thousandth time Hisame railed against the fates that had stuck him in Japan. A knock sounded at the door. Hisame swore loudly, resisting the urge to bang his hand on the table in frustration. Visitors always made him lose his train of thought.

"I'm coming." Hisame grumbled the entire way to the door. His grant would run out in three weeks. He needed uninterrupted time with his work, not people annoying him. Of course, he had no idea who would bother him here. The old basement rooms were usually the last choice for research areas, but Hisame had needed the solitude. And the insulating properties of the walls had been efficient in the poorly maintained building. The door swung open. The hallway was dark, and Hisame could see nothing except that there were two large bodies outside his door. He felt a shiver of foreboding run down his spine. He adjusted his glasses. "Can I help you?" One of the two strangers stepped forward. The florescent light gleamed over the man's blonde hair.

"I have a proposition for you, Mr. Kasumi."

Hisame felt a twinge of annoyance. He didn't have time for young pretty boys playing at science. But the second man changed Hisame's mind. This one was taller, and had a look that could only be described as serious. Hisame felt a strange pull toward the man. The younger of the two started poking at various items on the table just inside the door. Hisame grimaced.

"Ace." The single word elicited a pout from the blonde, but he stopped tampering with the experiments. Hisame stepped backward, motioning the two men through the lab and into his office. The taller of the two seemed vaguely familiar. The man's eyes were gunmetal gray and very cold. He sat down in the one chair in the room. The diminished position did nothing to dispel the aura of power around him.

"What kind of a proposition." Hisame leaned against an overflowing filing cabinet, his eyes wary. He was worried. These two seemed very confident, and both were dressed in clothing that would have fed Hisame for a month. Or maybe a year. The second man moved behind the first. The smirk on the blonde's face made Hisame's blood boil. There was a long moment of silence. Hisame simply waited. Finally the taller of the two leaned forward, his eyes boring into Hisame's.

"I'd like to hire you, Mr. Kasumi." Hisame's eyes narrowed.

"Why?" Hisame knew the two could tell he was obviously suspicious. It emanated from every pore, soaking the room in mistrust.

"Let's just say I have an interest in your work. You have some very interesting theories, and aren't afraid to push the boundaries of what people say should be science. You're also not afraid to push ethical and moral boundaries. Both are things that a company looks for in a head research scientist. I think that Hikaru LLC would do well with you in the lab, and I'll give you anything you ask." Hisame leaned forward, his eyes bright. This was the chance he'd been waiting for, a chance to really do his work. He smiled. With the bankroll of Hikaru he could do anything. He was cynical, but he wasn't stupid.

"All right, I'm listening."

~~**~~

Ace grinned at the stack of money on his desk. Mr. Hikaru had paid in cash. And he had been extremely happy with the speed of Ace's first discovery. He glanced down at the other two pictures in the folder. He picked up the paperwork and filed away the first picture.

"Why was Kaji Hikaru looking for a talented but slightly eccentric university student?" Ace glanced over the information on Hisame Kasumi again. Two older sisters, raised in Japan outside Kyoto, middle class parents, extraordinary mind, Hisame seemed like a strange risk to be taking. So far he hadn't finished any of his projects, but they were quite ambitious with the opportunity for great pay-offs. Ace shrugged again. Perhaps he'd understand Mr. Hikaru's search after the other two were found. Ace slammed the file drawer closed and turned to the second picture. Time to call in a few more favors. Ace glanced at the stack of money on his desk. He smiled. This would be his last case. He already had enough money to start on his dream. The Saijou Talent Agency would be up and running shortly. The phone rang. Ace sighed. And he'd hire a damn secretary.

~~**~~

Hisame was in heaven. The basement of the Hikaru building wasn't that much of an improvement from his last lab, but here he had stability. And money, lots of money. He stared around at the room. His equipment had been moved, along with his books and everything else he might need. He had also just finished a categorized list of all the items he'd like. Now all that was left to do was finish his projects. And first on the list from Kaji, organic computer components. Hisame rubbed his hands in anticipation.

~~**~~

Kaji felt dead inside. He stared at the picture in shock. There was his princess, her arms thrown around one of the infamous three lights, Yaten Kou. Kaji growled low in his throat. But it was the little baby cradled in Yaten's arms that had Kaji’s heart weeping. He might have tried to win her back from another. Kaji leaned back in his chair. It wouldn't be fair to the little boy, however. Kaji groaned in pain. How long...how long had he waited to contact his princess? How many times had he picked up the phone, and let it fall. Now it was too late. She hadn't waited. But then, why should she wait. He had abandoned her without even a goodbye. And he was no closer to discovering who he was than before. The strange woman had not reappeared since the night he'd left London.

Kaji swore and threw the picture on his desk against the wall. It shattered into a million shards of glass and twisted metal. He turned over the desk and filing cabinets as well. He let his anger loose in a wild, destructive rampage. Then he sunk down to the floor, the magazine article still clutched in his hand.

"Special Delivery. Minako Aino, star of the popular Sailor V children's series, has just given birth to a healthy baby boy." Kaji felt tears swimming in front of his eyes. He looked up at the picture. His smiling golden girl holding a tiny babe, and a handsome silver haired man at her side. Kaji felt a nasty sort of retribution. Mina's new lover looked like a toned down version of his white haired good looks. Kaji swore under his breath.

Yaten Kou. At least they weren't married. That had to give him some kind of hope. Kaji desperately wanted some kind of hope. Somehow he thought his golden girl would be waiting for him, always there for him. He had never imagined her with someone else, much less sleeping with someone else. The anger inside continued to burn. He reached into the splintered desk and took out the small box that had resided in the top drawer since he'd arrived. He opened the box slowly. The ring was still there, the topaz and kunzite entwined into a single heart. Kaji slammed the box shut. He would have her some day, if he had to kill a million men to get to her. And the tears began.

~~**~~

Hisame stared for a long moment at the remains of Kaji's once pristine office. It had been torn apart. Hisame could see Kaji still panting from the exertion. Hisame took a step into the office and crossed his arms over his chest. He knew that Kaji might rip his head off, but Hisame had no choice, he couldn't wait until Kaji calmed down.

"Long day?" Kaji was staring out the window, his hands clenched tightly into fists.

"What do you want, Hisame?" Kaji's voice cracked a bit on the words. Hisame resisted the urge to creep away. Kaji did have a temper, but he rarely let it out, and when it did run free Kaji was careful to direct it only at those who deserved it. Besides, Kaji was his best friend, his only friend. Kaji had taken the time to draw Hisame out of his shell, taken time to help find an apartment, taken time to listen to Hisame's ideas.

Hisame had never been anything but the outsider. Two sisters almost ten years older than him, who he was never close to, and parents who were too distracted with each other to notice Hisame's social missteps. Not that his family life had been bad, just lonely. Never one for sports, school had been his life. Being labeled a nerd and his infernal glasses hadn't helped. And spending more time with the chess team than girls had labeled him as something a little more repellant. Of course, Hisame couldn't even tell himself if the slurs were true. He did feel a strange attraction to Kaji. But then everyone felt that pull. Kaji was a leader, from his soul outward. He did ninety percent of the day to day of Hikaru's operations, even though the two elder Hikaru's still held the strings of power.

Hisame had a feeling though, a feeling that somewhere someone was waiting for him. Somewhere was a person who he could touch soul to soul. Hisame sighed. He had thought he knew every side of Kaji. But this was something entirely new. He'd never seen Kaji like this, positively radiating anger and emotion. Kaji was normally a brick wall. Today Hisame knew that Kaji could become an inferno if things weren't handled just right. But even Kaji's temper could be calmed by talk of business.

"The tests on the new chip just came back. It works. Your father wants it in production in two months." Kaji nodded slowly.

"And my grandfather?" Hisame laughed a bit.

"He insists that all this new technology is a fad and that nothing will come of it. Your father overruled him, however." Kaji let a grim smile spread over his face. Hisame felt a sense of triumph. He could see Kaji's shoulders relax, his fists unclench. Kaji's father was slowly coming around, and the company would soon be back on its feet. But Kaji's grandfather still refused to speak to him.

"Any news from Ace?" Hisame's grin faded, replaced by a sneer. He never understood why Kaji would use such a sneaky bastard, even if the man did get results. Ace had done several investigations for the company, and been successful in all but his original endeavor.

"Nothing yet. He swears he's getting closer though." Kaji ran a hand through his hair. It had been over a year and Ace still hadn't found the second person on the list.

"I'm about ready to kill the bastard. If he doesn't come up with some results very soon I think I'll beat the information out of him." Hisame resisted the urge to shiver at the coldness in Kaji's voice. Hisame knew it was time to change the subject fast. Kaji was far too single minded about some things.

"Are we still on for dinner?" Hisame perched on an overturned file cabinet, his mouth pulled into a mocking grin. Kaji slowly turned around. His features were once again twisted into the stone mask that Hisame was used to. Hisame didn't know whether to be relieved or saddened.

"I don't think so. I'll just head to my place." Kaji left the office slowly. Hisame watched the taller man leave with a curious expression. Something had really upset Kaji, if he was leaving work early. The door closed softly. Hisame glanced back at the window, noticing a crumpled magazine lying half underneath spilled papers. He picked it up slowly, his green eyes scanning the page. They opened wide, surprise lighting up his face. Hisame stared at the beautiful blonde for several long moments. Then he read the article, exhaling loudly at the birth announcement. He flipped through the pictures quickly, the pieces of the puzzle falling into place. She had to be why Kaji refused to speak much of his time in London. Hisame stared at a close up of the baby on a blanket. The little boy had his head tilted at an odd angle, and his blue eyes seemed to jump from the page. And Hisame had a rotten suspicion. He did the math quickly. And decided he'd better keep his suspicions to himself. Kaji wouldn't survive that kind of question burning in his soul.

"Minako Aino. Well, Kaji. I think you've been keeping some secrets. But I think your old flame has been keeping a few more."

~~**~~

Tokyo Japan- 1998

Ace handed the paper to Kaji Hikaru, feeling a great sense of relief. It had taken him almost a year. A year of scraping by while trying to run two businesses, a year of Kaji breathing down his neck. But the second man was found.

"Ikusa Kaen. Politician. Two older brothers, all raised in Tokyo, father active in politics as well. You'd think he'd be easier to find considering how visible he is." Ace stiffened at the censure in Kaji's voice.

"I probably would have found him faster, but he's been out of the country for four years now completing his education. He's been to dozens of countries, and now he's set on making it in Japanese politics." Kaji nodded and glanced at the paper again. Then he turned his icy gaze back to Ace.

"Well, I suppose I'll have to pay him a visit then. Try not to take another year with your next assignment." Ace swallowed loudly as Kaji stalked from the office. Then Ace collapsed into his chair and picked up the telephone. If he had learned anything about Kaji Hikaru, it was that the man was not someone you wanted upset.

~~**~~

The quarter flipped over his fingers, twisting and turning, never stopping. Ikusa watched it dispassionately, not really concentrating on what his hand was doing. He really didn't care. This meeting was just a favor for his father anyway. Ikusa scowled. Two older brothers and a father in politics didn't leave much left for him. He wanted more than just the leftovers. He wanted to be known as more than Representative Kaen’s brother, or Ambassador Kaen’s son. Ikusa slammed the coin onto the table. This could be his chance.

Three men began moving toward the table. Ikusa stared at them, trying to place them. They all wore expensive suits, and they walked with an aura that only came from power. Ikusa felt a shudder of jealousy. His father had that walk. Ikusa looked down at the ill-fitting suit on his own body. He knew he was at a disadvantage. He picked up the quarter and began to fiddle with it as the three moved to stand opposite him. Ikusa didn't stand.

"Ikusa Kaen?" The one who spoke stood on the far left. Ikusa nodded bluntly, almost laughing as the two on the sides looked to the one in the middle for permission to be seated. Ikusa grabbed the quarter in his fist, silently vowing that he'd never let someone push him around like that. The three sat quietly. The restaurant was almost deserted this time of day, only an old man behind the counter and a couple cooing in a corner booth.

Ikusa Kaen stared at the three men across the table with a small grin on his face. He'd heard all about the new Vice President of Hikaru LLC, and how the man had single-handedly turned the company around, while fighting his father and grandfather for every inch of ground. Ikusa appreciated strength, and he appreciated intelligence. And it was obvious that these men could be important for his goals. The money and experience he could get from Hikaru could put him on top. The silence stretched for a few moments longer. Finally Ikusa spoke.

"Good afternoon, gentleman. My name is Ikusa Kaen. What can I do for you?" The shorter man with long coppery-blonde hair leaned back in his seat a bit. He looked over at the tall white haired man in the middle. Ikusa knew only one man who would have that shade of hair. He had to be Kaji Hikaru. Only child of Elise Hikaru, ex-starlet, who died of an overdose at age twenty nine. She had the unusual, white-blonde, almost silver hair that flowed over Kaji's shoulders. Ikusa smirked a bit and leaned backwards in his own chair.

"I'm Kaji Hikaru, Vice President of Hikaru Inc. These are my assistants." Kaji turned to the man with short blonde hair and nodded once.

"Nice to meet you, Mr. Kaen." Ikusa smiled. The slightly sly tone, the breathtaking smile. The blonde had to be Ace Saijou. The man had once run a seedy investigative agency. But Kaji seemed to bring out the best in people. Now Ace owned a successful talent agency and worked part time as a negotiator and investigator for Hikaru. Ikusa moved his glass of brandy in a gentle circle, watching the liquid swirl. He knew that this was his ticket to the big time. Why Hikaru had chosen him, as opposed to a better known politician was anyone's guess, but Ikusa was not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. Kaji nodded to the other man.

"Pleased to meet you, Mr. Kaen." Ikusa leaned forward in his seat. The quiet one with long hair and glasses had to be the elusive Hisame Kasumi. Brilliant, quiet, and impossible to control, according to most. Ikusa addressed him next. "Well, now that the introductions are out of the way. I'm very glad to make your acquaintance, Mr. Kasumi. It's rumored that you're the one of the most intelligent scientists alive today." Hisame lapped up the praise, his smile growing. Ikusa was laughing inside. He moved in for the kill. "How is your latest experiment, Mr. Kasumi? Still trying to find a way around cloning laws? Or still forging results?" Hisame blinked like a fish behind his glasses, surprised by the attack, but he recovered quickly.

"My experiments are going well, Mr. Kaen. At least they're more productive than your current election campaign." There was a moment of silence. Ikusa smiled a bit. Then he continued on as if Kasumi hadn't spoken.

"I heard that your latest paper on organic components was rejected for faulty scientific methods. I hope all your work doesn't suffer that flaw. It would be a shame if Hikaru couldn't recoup their loss for your employment and equipment." Kaji rolled his eyes.

"Excuse me, Mr. Kaen..." Ace found himself cut off mid-sentence.

"Mr. Saijou, I understand you just lost a second bid for the famous Three Lights. That must be an awful blow to your agency. It must be quite a shock to find that some prefer not to jump on the latest bandwagon. It seems the rich and famous don't find your agency worth the time of day." Ace sputtered a bit.

"Now just a minute, Mr. Kaen...." Ikusa cut off the blonde again.

"And Mr. Hikaru. How nice to see you. You look just like your mother. Beautiful eyes, gorgeous hair, cold smile, empty soul. I hope you have more willpower, however." Kaji's eyes flashed. A light flush crept up his face. But he controlled his temper.

"And you, Mr. Kaen, are nothing like your father. You lack the most basic qualities of common sense, leadership skills, and honor." The quiet tone made Ikusa pause for a long moment, but he never backed down.

"Why would I want to be like my father? If every child were like his parent this world would be a boring place." Ikusa glanced out the window at the billboard displayed so prominently. "Take Ms. Aino for example. Gorgeous figure, a great future ahead of her. She just finished new movie and a spread in some nude magazine. If her new baby was a promiscuous bitch like his mother, what would the world come to?" Hisame's face went white. Ace snorted his drink. Kaji just stared. His eyes were flat now, and his voice was harsh. There was a tense silence. Then Ikusa noticed the red flush on Kaji's face. A hand shot across the table, gripping Ikusa around the throat. He struggled for breath. Kaji spoke, his voice even. The low tones rumbled over the empty restaurant.

"I see you consider yourself witty. That may be useful for politics, but in the world of business men like you are considered a liability." Ikusa began to claw at the hand at his throat. Kaji let go. Ikusa slumped back into his chair, rubbing his red throat with one hand, while reaching for his drink with the other. He took a long swallow and then croaked out a question.

"Then perhaps you can enlighten me, what do you want from me?" Kaji smiled then, but the smile could only be described as evil. It was the look a well fed cat had after devouring the family bird.

"We have an offer for you, Mr. Kaen. It's always good to have well placed friends, both in business and politics. We merely want your friendship." Ikusa laughed harshly.

"I'm always looking for more friends, Mr. Hikaru, as long as they have money. Of course, I don't let my friends dictate my actions, no matter how large their pocketbook." Kaji growled and stood, throwing a pile of bills on the table.

"I don't have time for your little games. You have a choice. You come with me, and I make you the next Prime Minister of Japan, or you stay here and stay an unknown trying to fight his way into power. Just remember, if you go, you do things my way, my timeline, my choices, or you'll suffer the consequences." Ikusa slammed his own glass on the table, his temper showing.

"You bastard. I'm sorry if you don't approve of the common custom of small talk. Men like you are why the world is so fucked up." Kaji merely stood, waiting. Ikusa took several deep breaths.

"Shall we go?" Ikusa could feel his temper boiling. But Kaji simply smiled and stalked from the room, entourage in tow. Ace turned just before they walked outside.

"I've heard rumors about you, Mr. Kaen. About your ruthlessness, your intelligence, and your pride. Well, I think you've just met your match. I have just one piece of advice. If you ever piss him off again, make sure you have a coffin picked out." Ikusa watched the stiff back of Kaji and silently agreed with Saijou's advice.

~~**~~

"The numbers for Hikaru Incorporated are looking great. I'm very pleased with the turnaround you've accomplished." Kaji stood silently, his father's approval seemed rather anticlimactic at this point. He glanced down at his watch. He had an appointment with Hisame and Ikusa in twenty minutes and didn't want to be late.

"I'm glad you approve, father." A soft shuffling sounded from the door behind Kaji.

"I think that you have finally matured enough to take your place, young man." Kaji turned in surprise. His grandfather stood in the doorway. Kaji bowed respectfully. The old man moved forward and sat down. "You have proven that even the most wayward son can take his proper place and bring honor to his family. Today I end my position as CEO." Kaji's eyes grew a bit wide. The old man cackled.

"Did you really think I'd let your father have that position? He makes an excellent president, but the final decisions have always been up to me. Now I give my power to you, young man. I have but one final stipulation." Kaji's eyes narrowed a bit. His grandfather leaned back in the chair, his silver eyes twinkling with mischief. "I want grandchildren. Within two years." Kaji's mouth opened a bit, and then snapped shut. He turned and left the office slowly, ignoring the sound of his father and grandfather's laughter.

~~**~~

Ace knew he was in trouble the minute Kaji entered the room. Kaji's entire body was tense, his eyes cold, his hands fisted. Ace shuddered a bit.

"I understand you and Ikusa have been getting into trouble again." The words were flat, emotionless. Ace groaned. He had been stupid to trust Ikusa with a confidence. He'd been even stupider to go alone with Ikusa's harebrained scheme.

"I didn't know my personal life was your problem." Ace suddenly found himself dangling by the throat, several inches above the floor. Kaji had moved so fast that Ace hadn't seen it coming at all.

"This isn't a game, little man. You and Ikusa are not supposed to be seen together, much less spending time out partying with the elite every night. Ikusa needs those people's influence." Ace shuddered and closed his eyes.

"I didn't think it was a big deal." Kaji let go. Ace collapsed in his chair. There was a moment of tense silence.

"That's because you never think." Kaji sighed again. "Sometimes I think Hisame is the only one of you three with a brain. And you have a job to do. You need to get the Three Lights and Ms. Aino into your agency come hell or high water, or you'll never see the controlling interest again. I'll sell it to your worst enemy. And if you don't finish the very first job I gave you, you'll wish you'd never been born." Kaji stalked from the room, his voice echoing through the door.

"I want him, Ace. I don't care what you have to do. You find him. Now." Ace watched Kaji leave the room.

"I'm trying".

~~**~~

Kaji could feel his blood boiling. The party swirled around him, but he was oblivious. He adjusted the fedora and absently patted the two handguns strapped under his suit coat.

"Really, Kaji. Eliot Ness? Isn't that asking for trouble?" Ace chuckled at Ikusa's snide comment. Kaji merely growled.

"At least he's not dressed like some wild west reject." Ikusa looked down at his chaps and adjusted his cowboy hat. Then he smiled, drawling his sentences with a horrendous fake accent.

"And who's the one wearing the dress, ‘lil lady?" Hisame blushed brightly. He hissed from between his teeth.

"I happen to be a samurai, you idiot." Ace laughed. Ikusa turned his venom once again.

"Well, samurai or not, at least you aren't dressed in the flapping robes like some monk." Ace's face grew cold.

"Watch what you say, or I'll draw my light saber and remove your head." Ikusa laughed.

"OK, Luke." Kaji ignored the banter of his friends. He was ignoring the party completely. Even the gorgeous women throwing him inviting glances and the liquor floating around the room failed to catch his attention. This party was purely business. And Kaji had been duped for the last time by the Ryujin Clan. No one tried to blackmail him. No one. And now he'd kill every last one of the members present. He smiled a bit at the thought.

"Remind me again what the hell we are doing here?" Kaji checked his gun for the third time in the past hour. He was about ready to smack Hisame upside the head. The man wouldn't stop whining.

"We are here on business. And since there's often more to business than paperwork and money, we're here." Hisame groaned loudly. Kaji laughed at the sound.

"Why couldn't we just bribe them? Or better yet, just call the police." Kaji snorted.

"Oh yes, Mr. Ryujin. We'd like your son and your gang to join us in our quest for power and money, but we'll be in command. And if you ever try to screw with us again we'll kill the rest of you. That'd go over real well." Hisame sighed.

"Well, it was a thought. A great party and I can't even go after a woman or get drunk. You know, I really hate this." Hisame shifted a bit.

"What's the matter, pansy? Afraid of your gun?" Ikusa pulled his guns and twirled then around expertly. Kaji sighed...with a pistol in each hand Ikusa looked like some twisted James Bond. And he was smiling broadly.

"This is serious Ikusa. No going off on one of your half-baked adventures. This isn't the war with words you're used to. Bullets can kill." Ikusa ignored the speech, preferring instead to flip his weapons in a few fancy circles. Ikusa's rakish smile did nothing to reassure Kaji.

"I don't know why you brought them along, Kaji. They haven't had enough training, and neither of them have any experience." Ace hunched behind a table, his eyes cold and his hands steady.

"We're not taking on the entire Ryujin gang by ourselves, Ace. Maybe you'd enjoy suicide, but I'd like to live another day. Besides, it's about time the two pansies get introduced to the realities of true business. All is fair in love and war, and business is war. And war means using every weapon at your disposal, including a pistol." The four men froze at the sound of voices. Kaji whispered the last instructions. "Remember, you each have your targets. Shoot to kill."

Kaji nodded and the four fanned out, smiling at the group of men approaching.

~~**~~

Raiu knew something was wrong. He tipped his head upward, meeting the gaze of the leader of the group standing directly ahead. Kaji Hikaru was a very rich, very powerful, very dangerous man. It had not been Raiu’s idea to double cross the man. But Raiu had no real power. He was nothing more than a servant for his father. The elder Ryujin stood with his inner circle.

"Good day, Mr. Hikaru. So sorry about your lost shipment. But it was a pleasure doing business with you." Kaji didn't move, didn't react to the old man's inflammatory statement. The other old men stood silently. The tension between the two groups could be felt. The partygoers spread out, leaving the two groups in a large circle of empty floor.

"I don't think, Mr. Ryujin, that you understand the true nature of business." The old man coughed a bit. Kaji's eyes had turned deadly cold. Raiu moved a bit forward, but one of the large thugs who were always with his father pushed him back.

"It is you, young Hikaru, who do not understand this business." There was another moment of silence. Then Kaji’s smile turned to ice.

The attack took Raiu completely by surprise. One moment he was staring at the ten leaders of the Ryujin gang and their body guards, the next moment five men were dead. Raiu reacted instinctively, pulling his gun and yanking whomever he could grab behind a hastily overturned table. The lights dimmed, the partygoers screamed and stampeded for the door, and there was chaos. Raiu tried to peer around his makeshift shelter, but was met with a hail of bullets.

Raiu almost laughed. Kaji was spraying the room with bullets from a Tommy gun, obliterating his opposition. Raiu should have known that a violin case was a bit too complete of a costume. But Hikaru had never been seen as a physical threat.

Ikusa moved through the maze of overturned tables and fallen decorations. He was humming under his breath, the song floating through the sound and smell of gunshots. He moved quickly around a table and quickly fired off a round. He watched the unarmed man slump over dead. Ikusa smiled. Another one of the fat bastards gone in a puff of smoke. They had tried to sink his campaign, now they were meeting their maker. He felt a surge of power move through his veins.
This was better than politics. Life and death were true power. He headed off, looking for more victims.

Hisame took careful aim and grunted when a loud scream echoed from the back of the room. He preferred the sharp shooting to Ikusa's gung-ho, blazing guns approach. It was more impersonal, requiring more skill. There was no sympathy, no need for seeing the victim. Just murder and power. A great sense of power. He squeezed the trigger again. That was at least seven of the inner circle dead, and most of the bodyguards. He ducked down behind the table he was using as a shield and reloaded.

Ace fired quickly and reloaded. That was three that had gone for Kaji's back now. Three bastards that had met a bitter end for betraying the Hikaru. Ace grinned wickedly. That was what Kaji was now. The Hikaru. Ace grunted softly and quickly reloaded. The tent like top had been a great place to stash rounds.

"Are you out of rounds yet?" Kaji grunted and threw the Tommy gun on the ground, yanking the guns from their spot under his suit.

"Yeah, let's finish this."

Raiu watched the two men approach, and quickly came up with a wild plan. He moved quickly, going for the first man, a smaller blonde man with cold eyes, but he stopped dead at the click and cold touch of steel.

"Do not move, anyone, or I'll blow this one's head off." Raiu couldn't tell who was holding the gun, but he could feel his temper bubbling under the surface. The voice spoke again. "Stand up, all of you." Raiu stood slowly.

"Good job, Ikusa." Raiu felt rather than saw Mr. Hikaru move directly behind his back and take the gun. The one Hikaru had called Ikusa moved in front of Raiu, a nasty grin on his face.

"Next time, little boy, look behind you." Raiu felt the gun push harder into his temple. He didn't move. His father began to speak.

"And what can we do for you, gentleman." There was a harsh cough. Kaji's deep voice rumbled through the room.

"I apologize for the strong-arm measures, Mr. Ryujin, but your little gang doesn't seem to respond to anything else." Raiu’s father laughed lightly.

"A very true statement, young man. And what do you want? Money? Power?" Kaji nodded to Hisame. The other man lifted his gun, resting it against the old man's head.

"I want your position as leader of the Ryujin gang. Unconditionally, immediately." There was a long silence, followed by rasping laughter that disintegrated into harsh coughing.

"That's a mighty request young man. What makes you think I'll comply with your wishes?" Raiu found himself spun around quickly. Kaji lifted his weapon.

"Because if you don't, you won't have a son to leave the business." The sound of the gun being cocked echoed in the room. Raiu didn't breath. His father's eyes dropped to the ground. Raiu could see the defeat in them. And his temper broke. He moved backward quickly, knocking the pistol in the same motion. Gunfire immediately erupted. It was chaos and there was no escape. Raiu saw the remaining leaders of the clan felled like wheat in front of careful aim and cool heads. Raiu turned just in time to see the one called Ikusa aiming for his skull. A body rammed into him. Raiu felt the bullet whiz by his head. He reacted instinctively to the attack, shoving the person off him and firing in the same motion. The body fell to the ground as if in slow motion.

"Dad." The shooting stopped, Raiu was the only Ryujin still standing. He lurched to his knees, gathering the still warm body against his chest. The old man lay in Raiu’s arms, a trail of blood running from the spot where the bullet had penetrated. The man opened his eyes.

"My son, it is far better to appear to concede, then to lose everything. That temper of yours will get you killed some day." And then there was silence. Raiu stood slowly, his eyes wild.

"You killed him!" There was a moment of silence. Raiu stood, staring at the blood on his hands. He dropped the gun. Tears came to his eyes. And he screamed. "You killed him, you bastards." Kaji’s deep voice echoed. He stared right into Raiu’s eyes.

"No, foolish one. You killed him." Kaji held out a hand. "Now come, we have a lot to discuss." Raiu hesitated for several moments, and then threw himself at the intruder. Suddenly Raiu was on the ground, his gut on fire. The man now had his hand on Raiu’s throat. He struggled for breath. "That was foolish as well. You are beaten. Now you have a choice, join the victors or die a pitiful death." Raiu was silent for a long time. He struggled to bring his emotions under control. And then he relaxed and lifted a hand. He was quickly released and hauled to his feet.

Raiu Ryujin and Kaji Hikaru stared at each other for several long moments. They stood almost eye to eye. Raiu hated these kinds of confrontations. Of course, he hated being backed into a corner at all. But confronting the tiger always took a lot of energy. Kaji was a little bit taller, but not enough to make that much of a difference. The man's eyes were steel, dead and flat, and Raiu was having trouble maintaining the contact. Raiu was the first to speak.

"How much hair bleach do you invest in a year? I think your roots are starting to show." Kaji's eyebrow lifted at the nasty crack. One of the almost identical blonde young men laughed. Raiu's eyes were drawn to the offending party. Kaji glared at the man, and the laughter was instantly silenced.

"What do you find so amusing, Ace?" The blonde man turned his head, a smirk visible on his face. Raiu felt his temper reaching the limit.

"It's just so nice to see that you two get along so well." Raiu snorted at the annoying blonde's comment.

"Considering the fact that you murdered my father, I'd say I'm being fairly cordial." Kaji smiled slightly.

"Very well, Mr. Ryujin. I see you're going to be difficult." There was a moment of tense silence. Raiu's eyes narrowed, anger on his face. Then a fist flew toward his face. Raiu ducked just in time.

"What the hell!" Kaji continued throwing punches.

"You are the reason your father is dead. Use your brain. Where was your father shot?" Raiu suddenly saw his father grasping the hole in his chest. The bullet had come from behind. But Raiu had been holding a gun, turning, panicking. The truth finally hit home. Raiu collapsed to the ground, tears flowing over his cheeks.

"I killed him." The stunned words were greeted by a gentle hand on the top of his head.

"Come, Raiu. We have much to do."

~~**~~

Kaji stared across the rooftops, his eyes dull. He had a letter clutched in his hand. A letter from his angel. He stared down at the words for the thousandth time.

"Kaji,

My psychologist told me that I needed to go back and put an end to the past, so it wouldn't keep haunting my present. I suppose I was too young to see what you really were, but I know I had a hand in our relationship as well. I accept the blame for throwing myself at you, for letting the violence spill over into lust. I know you never gave a damn about me, and that you never really cared. I just wanted you to know that I'm all right. I forgive you for breaking my heart. You couldn't help it; it's your nature.

Maybe I should have done this long ago, but now I have a reason to push you from my mind. I've had someone ask me to marry him, and I've accepted. I don't know why I even bothered to tell you, but I suppose you have a right to know. I waited, I really did. For a word, a letter, something. But you simply disappeared. So this is goodbye, a way for me to end years of uncertainty. I hope you live a good life. Wish me luck!
Minako Aino."

The words leapt from the page, tearing into his soul. She would belong to someone else. And she had waited for him. Kaji threw back his head, letting the wind whip over his skin. If only he had done something, said something. A letter, a phone call. If only...the if only's rolled into a huge rock on his heart, obscuring anything else. He had failed. He'd found the men from his dreams, he'd rescued his father's company, he had friends, money, power, and any woman he wanted in his bed.

He'd become the leader of a notorious gang, he'd avoided any investigation into almost twenty dead bodies. He'd had his revenge for those who had tried to kill him and ruin his company. But there were only two things he really desired in life, and he'd just lost one. The other might be nothing more than a fantasy of sleep, a figure in a tuxedo who called his name late at night...not even his name but a shadowy name from the hidden part of memory. He moved to the edge of the building, staring at the lights below. It would be so easy, so incredibly easy to simply end it all, throwing himself into oblivion. He had no reason to live anymore. He had accomplished it all, and now the top seemed, unfulfilling. Empty.

"But your life is mine, my friend. It has been since the day you were born. In every lifetime you are mine first, and right now, I need you." Kaji whirled around. There were two figures in the darkness. A husky laugh rippled over the wind. Kaji's eyes widened. He knew that laugh.

"I've finally returned, little prince. And you've exceeded my expectations. Then again, you always have done what was asked of you. And now, Kunzite. It is time. Time to take back what should have been ours a thousand years ago." Kaji dropped to his knees.

"My prince." Only the woman noticed the piece of paper slip from his fingers and flutter away on the breeze.


Reflection – Chapter 03
By Aurora Eos Rose

Yaten Kou

Somewhere over Nevada-1986

“Are we there yet, mom?” The boy snuggled up next to his mother, pea green eyes peering out the window. A soft laugh echoed from the woman beside him.

“No, we’re not there. It takes a long time to get from New York to Los Angeles. Just look out the window.”

“But there’s nothing to see, mom. Just …sand.” He leaned over so he could see farther out the window at the ground. It looked like a great big sandbox. The sun shone off the plane’s wing, almost blinding the boy. “Besides, it’s way too bright. How much longer until we get there?” His mother shrugged.

“I really don’t know, honey. Why don’t you get out your book and look at the pictures again.”

“But that’s boring mom. This whole flight is boring.”

“A boring flight is not necessarily a bad thing, sweetheart. Just sit back and relax. We’ll be there soon. And we’ll start a completely new life. You’ll get to sing all the time, and be with your friends, and we won’t have to worry about money again. So just be patient.” She brushed a strand of silver-gray hair from his forehead. The boy grumbled and picked up his discarded book. The rhythmic humming of the plane was a bit annoying, and he’d accidentally left the headphones for his walkman in the cab. He started humming lightly under his breath.

Slowly a tune began to form, following the rise and fall of the engine noise. A knocking sound made an elegant counterpoint, and he found himself slipping into sleep, pulled by a lullaby of his own making.

The clanging woke him. The boy opened his eyes and stared out the window at the smoking, sputtering jet engine. The humming whine that had almost overpowered the entire flight changed pitch, dropping an octave, and finally cutting out altogether. Flames began to spit from the rear of the engine as the whining sound ground to a halt. He felt the plane begin to pitch. And then he finally screamed.

There was falling, a feeling of being weightless. Then the sound of the other engine faded away. Then the cabin was filled with noise. He couldn’t hear his voice, couldn’t think. He just stared out the window as the plane rolled almost sideways and then headed for the ground at a terrific speed. The last thing he saw was the faint full moon hanging in the sky.

Yaten opened his eyes slowly. His head felt muzzy. He sat up slowly and looked around. He was lying alone in the middle of sand. There was nothing in sight. And it was cold. The sun was just beyond the horizon and the sky was painted with brilliant reds and oranges. Yaten could see the moon, now bright and high in the sky. He shivered in the cool wind, and glanced down. He was dressed in some strange black, tight leather outfit. He rubbed a hand over its body in surprise. Then Yaten attempted to keep from passing out. She had no idea how she'd acquired a female body or why she was alone in the middle of the desert at night. But she didn’t panic. She was too tired, too confused to panic. She brushed her silver bangs out of her eyes and took stock.

Her outfit barely covered her body and was vaguely uncomfortable. The wings sprouting from her back were a mystery as well. The desert was quiet, she didn’t know where the plane’s remains were, or if anyone had lived. Her mind and body started to shut down with shock. She didn’t feel the wind grow colder. All she knew was silence, and loneliness. She felt a sense of remembrance, as if she’d seen and felt a scene like this one, long ago. Huddling down into a ball of flesh, she shivered in the breeze. As she stared at a brilliant red-gold star that seemed to wink at her in the sky, the moon bathed her body in light.

~~**~~

London, England-1997

Sailor Star Healer was angry. And she wasn’t very nice when she was angry. She dug the heel of one pointed black boot into the thug’s neck. She could see the idiot was practically drooling over her leather hot pants, thigh high boots, and halter top. The uniform had not been her choice; it merely came with the job. And the heels on the boots were great for interrogations.

“You’re going to tell me exactly where you hid that money or I’m going to skewer you.” The man wriggled and tried to remove the offending footwear. Healer merely smiled and pushed harder. “Keep that up and you won’t have a throat left.” The heel twisted a bit more. A rhythmic tapping of high heels on cement announced Sailor Star Maker’s arrival.

“Healer, we need the witness alive. I see I’ll have to take over the questioning, again. Don’t you ever let your brain control your temper? Why don’t you go help Fighter clean up the rest of the building?” Healer turned quickly, flipping her silver-gray ponytail over one shoulder.

“Star Maker, you are no fun at all.”

“Now, Healer. There were at least twelve in the gang, you’ve killed two, Fighter has dispatched one and captured two, and I’ve captured one. Do the math and trot off like a good girl.” Healer scowled. She stepped on the man’s stomach, twisting the heel once more for good measure.

“I’ll be back shortly, this shouldn’t take too long.” Healer stalked through the old factory, mentally grimacing at the amount of filth on the floors. This had been a rather fun encounter. It was nice to know who the enemy was, and it was very nice to deal with incompetent stooges. They made great targets. Of course, if Sailor Star Maker weren’t so intent on justice and good, the nightly raids on crime houses would be a lot more fun.

“Fighter? Star Fighter? Where the hell are you?” There was a loud crash, and a body flew through the skylight. It thudded against the concrete at Healer’s feet. She smiled a bit at the crispy features; only one person could roast a person’s face that much. A dark head popped over the now jagged edge of the skylight.

“Looking for me? Come on, you’re missing all the fun.” Healer grinned at Fighter’s invitation and leapt upward, easily clearing the three or four stories to the roof. She landed on the metal in the middle of a raging battle. Two thugs rushed her immediately. She simply stepped aside, smiling snidely as they almost fell into the gaping hole that Sailor Star Fighter had created. Healer kicked one of the men squarely in the back, almost giggling as he fell down the hole. There was a horrible crack as he hit bottom.

“All right Fighter, that’s three for me, four for you, and one for Maker. Why doesn’t she ever pull her own weight?” Fighter cupped her hands gently.

“Star Serious Laser.” A burst of light flew from her fingertips and roasted two of the remaining thugs. “I believe that’s six for me. We’re just missing…” The rest of the sentence was abruptly cut off as Healer tackled Fighter. They both heard the bullet fly over their head. “Well damn, that bastard tried to shoot me. Don’t they know guns aren’t as effective as…?”

“Star Sensitive Inferno.” The attack shot toward the position where the gunfire had originated, and the entire roof burst into flames. Fighter shook her head.

“You won’t even let me finish the sentence! Overkill, always with you its overkill. Let’s find Star Maker before this place goes up in flames. What a way to spend our third night in London.” Healer merely shrugged.

“I don’t know, it was kind of fun. But we do have that party to go to tonight; it started like forty minutes ago.” Fighter swore and jumped down the broken skylight. Healer stared up at the sky, watching the silver white moon in the sky. Then she followed.

~~**~~

“Tell me again what we’re doing here?” Yaten resisted the urge to rip his bow tie off and ran one hand down the length of his tuxedo jacket. The blue color hadn’t been his choice. “And why the hell am I wearing a blue tuxedo? I mean, it’s just a regular tuxedo, but why blue. Hasn’t Taiki ever heard of black? Or charcoal? Has Taiki lost all his taste?” Yaten swallowed a large gulp of his brandy, grimacing as the liquid hit the back of his throat. A low chuckle drew his attention.

“If Taiki hears you insulting his latest scheme we’ll be singing scales for a week. Besides, this is a nice party. All the free liquor we can hold without passing out, music, if you can call that screeching music, and lots of gorgeous woman just waiting to molest us.” Seiya tilted his own drink backwards and flashed a brilliant smile at the crowd.

“This from a man in a red tuxedo who’s slept with half of London in less than two days.” Yaten mumbled the words under his breath and grabbed another drink from the tray sitting unattended on the table. Seiya growled.

“I heard that, you little bastard. And I will beat the shit out of you for it later. Personally, I’m finding great enjoyment in the fact that general Taiki stuck himself in yellow. He looks like a frigging daffodil.” A young woman wearing a scrap of green satin moved towards the group, her eyes screaming her excitement. Seiya smiled broadly, winking at Yaten when the girl sighed and breathlessly giggled.

“Oh look, another slut for you to screw. How many does that make this week? I think I lost count after the twins. They were twins, weren’t they?” Yaten grimaced at Seiya’s proud smile.

“Yes they were, Norwegian no less. And they had great tongues. You wouldn’t believe what those two could do with their tongues.” Seiya stepped forward to the new arrival, smoothly taking her outstretched hand and lifting the palm to his lips. He pressed a kiss against her wrist at the point where it met her hand, smirking at the girl’s gasp of surprise. Yaten rolled his eyes.

“I suspect that her very rich and powerful daddy wouldn’t be too happy if you broke his angel’s heart, Seiya.” Taiki had silently moved beside Yaten. The taller man in yellow frowned at Seiya’s continued flirting. Then he sighed and deftly moved between the two figures. “Go home, little girl. I don’t think you’re his type.” Taiki turned the now pouting girl around pushed her away. She returned to the group of elderly businessman that she’d elbowed her way through earlier. Seiya pouted, and Yaten felt a surge of satisfaction.

“Taiki, don’t you hate being a babysitter?” Taiki yanked on his bow tie and gracefully sat on the couch.

“It isn’t that much work. Seiya can usually filter his own bedmates, but I’ve been watching that one all evening. She’s been eyeing Seiya as though he were a steak since we walked in the door. Why aren’t you two out gossiping with the crowd?” Taiki lifted a glass from the tray and took a slow sip. “I would think that you’d be picking up every female in sight, Seiya. And Yaten, you rarely miss an opportunity to bitch. What was it that you said before coming here? Ah yes, that you looked like some kind of paid escort in your god damn tuxedo and that Seiya should charge by the orgasm.” Yaten choked on his drink.

“Actually, Taiki. I believe his exact words were that if I charged by the orgasm we could stop singing for our supper and spend our time on more important things. I won’t repeat his exact words describing his evening wear. I might remove your ears.” Seiya flashed a brilliant smile across the room. Taiki sighed loudly. Yaten just sulked. He didn’t want to be at this party. He didn’t want to witness Seiya’s womanizing or deal with rabid fans clawing at him. He wanted to stay in the hotel and work on the song that had been fermenting in his brain for the past week. Parties were not conducive to his creative nature.

“Oh look, here’s our good producer. Why don’t you two bugger off so we can talk business here by this nice couch?” Taiki waved the two off with a condescending tone. “Remember to behave yourselves.” Yaten sent an obscene gesture in Taiki’s direction, and Seiya mouthed a few words, but the two moved away from Taiki’s newly claimed corner.

“Why the bloody hell does he do that to us?” Seiya shrugged and headed for the nearest waiter.

“Because he can? Because he has more brains than the two of us, combined? Because he’s drinking ginger ale, and you’ve had three brandies and I’ve had more glasses of champagne than I can count? Because without him we wouldn’t have our careers?”

“Or these idiotic suits. ‘The fans will identify each of us with a color, it will make us distinctive and easy to recognize.’ I think it’s just Taiki’s way of torturing us. He wants us to look like freaking fags. Just because he happens to prefer men to women ninety percent of the time…” Seiya merely shrugged.

“I never have anyone accuse me of that vice.”

“Of course not, any man that can sleep with the entire cast of a Las Vegas show could possibly be gay. How did you accomplish that, anyway?”

“Let’s just say they managed to make each other happy when I gave out.”

“That was entirely more than I needed to know.” Seiya just laughed nastily. “By the way, have you decided on tonight’s target?” Seiya sloshed his drink around in his glass.

“I’ve been looking. Most of the women I already know, and yes I mean in the carnal sense. All the ones I’d like to screw are daughters of the rich and powerful who’d kill me if I didn’t marry what I sampled. And any women left in the room really don’t want me. Or I don’t want to hurt them. I know you think little of me, Yaten, but I only go after the ones who ask for it, or at least ask for it after I charm them.” Yaten snorted. “I’m serious, Yaten. If a woman says yes without a ring it’s her damn problem, not mine. All they have to do is say no. I’ve never met one that’s managed. And I always make sure they’re relatively sober. However, have you seen the blonde over in the corner?” There was a moment of silence as Yaten scanned the room. The music from the small band echoed slightly in the rafters of the cathedral ceiling. The evening stars twinkled, visible through the glass paneled roof. The noises of the crowd almost drown out the screeching music. Yaten peered through the haze of bodies, looking for someone new and out of place. Then he saw her.

She was leaning against the wall next to the exit to the patio facing the pool. A breeze swept through the door, sending her long blonde hair fluttering in the wind. Moonlight spilled through the ceiling above her, casting her in a white-silver aura. For a moment his heart stopped.

Her face was turned up to the sky, staring at the moon with a wistful look on her face. Her brilliant red dress clung to her like a second skin. A pair of earrings winked from behind a thin layer of hair that constantly shifted in the breeze. She had a half empty glass of coke clutched in one hand, and looked like a virgin in a brothel. Yaten found his heart beating faster.

“The picture of ripe innocence, eh? I’m rather looking forward to this one.” Seiya started forward, his eyes narrowed in determination. Yaten had a sudden and disturbing vision of the gorgeous girl wrapped in Seiya’s arms, screaming his name while she dripped with sweat and arched her back.

“Seiya, I think you’ve had enough women for a while. This one’s mine.” Yaten stepped forward, pressing his empty glass into Seiya’s hands. Seiya stopped dead in his tracks. His blue eyes grew hard.

“What the hell are you talking about? I thought you were the fucking complaining monk!” Yaten ran a hand through his hair, brushed invisible dirt off his tuxedo, and straightened his bow tie.

“Contrary to popular belief, I do desire companionship at times. I just prefer females, and only one at a time, for extended periods of time.” Yaten’s gaze fell on the girl by the door again. He felt a strange pull, as though he had seen someone like this, a long time ago.

“Well this is a really rotten time to suddenly desire a good screw. Especially since I saw her first.” Seiya moved closer; Yaten had to turn his neck upward to meet the taller man’s gaze. “What makes you think I’ll just walk away from this one?”

“Because she’s far too innocent for your tastes, she’d take too much time to train. She’s young, very young, and after almost being arrested for the last one you should be a bit more careful. And then there’s that sick voyeur in you who is desperate to see if I can actually pick up a date, because you’re quite convinced that I’m some sort of eunuch. Besides, I’d kill you if you tried to touch her. I want her; she’s mine, no touchy.” Yaten brushed by the now opened mouthed, silent Seiya, chuckling slightly at the fish like movements of Seiya’s mouth.

~~**~~

Mina sipped her coke and stared at the shifting waters of the pool. She hated these parties. Her parents were somewhere in the crowd, desperately trying to embarrass themselves. She was hiding from her mother. Mina leaned against the door frame a bit more, trying to keep from blocking the traffic on and off the patio. She glanced around the room at the people. Here the rich, powerful, and famous gathered to get drunk and find someone other than their spouses to sleep with. Mina was here because her television producer was desperately trying to pitch a Sailor V movie. Mina sighed loudly. Who would have thought that a silly little girl in a short skirt could get so popular? Of course, her idiot agent was drunk and not doing his job, as usual. But her producer was here talking. She fiddled with the gold band on her arm. If only her parents could refrain from doing something stupid, she just might have a chance at the big time. Except her agent was missing again. He had run off to chase after some supermodel. Leaving her parents to their own devices. She sighed loudly. Maybe it was just a dream. The thought of her name in lights made a smile flash across her face. That would show that jackass what she was really worth.

“I’m surprised you can see anything to be happy about here.” The voice was melodic, a rich tenor that made her toes curl. The words were just a whisper in her ear. Mina turned sideways sharply, almost upsetting her drink in the process. A young man had moved beside her. He was just a little taller than she was, and slender. He had long gray-silver hair in a ponytail, and pea green eyes. Mina felt a streak of pain in her chest. He looked like a younger version of Kaji. Well, not quite, his hair was a little darker, and his eyes were very different. She mentally smacked herself for even comparing the two. His face was turned up in a smirk and his arms were crossed insolently over his chest. He returned her perusal with one of his own, his eyes lingering on Mina’s low dress bodice. Mina felt her cheeks turn red. She wasn’t a piece of meat. The young man laughed.

“I don’t see what’s so funny.” She knew the words had come out haughty, but couldn’t help herself. Mina felt her hands straying to the band on her arm again. Yaten’s gaze followed. Mina blushed. The golden bracelet had been far too large so she’d pushed it up her arm until it had stayed put. The man’s hand strayed to the gaudy bracelet. Mina slapped his hand away instinctively. The man laughed again.

“A bit touchy are we? I just wanted to admire that lovely bracelet.” He sounded both amused and offended. Mina’s face turned a brighter shade of red.

“I…I’m sorry. But it’s just an ugly bracelet. My mother made me wear it.” Her voice was soft. A harsher breeze blew a hank of hair in front of her face. The man reached for the offending strands. Mina jerked away again.

“Shhh, it’s all right.” His hand gently brushed the strands back over one shoulder. Mina felt her heart pounding in her chest. His eyes were a lovely shade, unlike anything she’d ever seen before, at least on a human. She resisted the urge to run out the door. The man ran his hand down her cheek. His touch was gently, as though he were stroking something far more fragile than skin.

“I’m not used to being touched by people I hardly know.” Mina knew her voice sounded a bit breathy. But she couldn’t stop the hammering in her heart from the soft gesture. It had been almost three months since she’d spent time with a man…had one touch her face, stroke a hand down her cheek, over her stomach…Mina felt her face turning flaming red. The man chuckled. The soft sound sent a shiver down Mina’s spine.

“It’s just so rare to see someone blush in this business. A real blush, not the fake version. In fact, you seem very different from most of the people here.” Mina glanced down at her rather ugly, out of date, extremely revealing dress and felt the blush spreading over her exposed chest.

“Well, I know I’m dressed for the occasion.” She glared pointedly at the immense amount of flesh exposed in the room. The man smiled, this time a real smile that lit up his face and made his eyes shine. Mina took a sharp breath.

“You could make a paper sack look lovely. What is someone like you doing here? Most women would have invited me into the nearest closet by now. But instead you’re offended when I touch you and apologize for your dress.” Mina turned redder; she could feel the tips of her ears burning. She took a tentative step away from the handsome stranger. The young man turned his gaze back to the crowd. Mina was a bit disheartened by the cold, cynical gaze he leveled at the partygoers. She was also very nervous. Socializing with males felt awkward now. Kaji seemed to have stolen more than just her virginity, but also her confidence and spark. The man snorted. He waved a hand over the mass of people in the room.

“They make me rather sick, all the colorful butterflies desperate for their moment in the spotlight. They only come to these parties to get drunk and find new bedmates.” The young man brought a glass in his left hand to his lips. A star shaped ring flashed on his finger. Mina tilted her head to the side. He seemed very familiar, but she couldn’t remember having met the man before. It was like a tickling sensation in her head. She knew this man, she had to have seen him before, but her brained refused to divulge the information. She stared at his beautiful eyes. He was very lovely, in an almost pretty kind of way. His eyes strayed back to her face.

“What’s wrong, princess? You’ve been staring at me quite a while. Still haven’t seen enough? Maybe you’re just too shy to invite me to a romp in bed. I think you’re a pretty little thing.” He leaned forward and brushed his thumb over her lower lip. “I’m sure we’d have a great time.” He leaned closer with every word, his eyelids lowered and his gaze turned sultry. Mina felt for a moment as though she were drowning, then panic set in. She jerked away from his touch.

“Do I know you?” Her tone was as haughty and condescending as she could manage, but her hands were shaking. She took two steps backward, drawing herself up to her full height. Her blue eyes flashed. “I don’t think I do, because I’m certain I would remember someone as nasty and vulgar as you.” His smirk softened into a smile.

“So the kitten has fangs after all.” He bowed low, took Mina’s hand, and kissed it gently. Then he released it and stood up slowly. “I apologize; I’m just not sure how to act around a genuine lady after spending so much time in the presence of courtesans and whores. My name is Yaten Kou. I’m a member of the Three Lights.” Mina’s eyes lit up a bit. Suddenly everything fell into place. She did know Yaten Kou, well, she’d never met him, but she’d bought the latest album.

“Really? The Three Lights are here? Is Seiya here?” Yaten’s face fell back into a scowl.

“Why do the women always ask for him? Look for the biggest gathering of females in the room.” His voice was harsh and angry. “I suppose you’ll be chasing after him too. Why does every female in the world want Seiya? And if they can’t get him they want the distinction of sleeping with at least one of the Lights?” His tone was very bitter, enough to poison even the happiest thought. Mina grimaced at the tone. Then she leaned against the wall.

“Well I must not be every woman in the world. Why should I bother chasing after a man? I want one who won’t mind coming to me.” She took another sip of her drink and tried to act sophisticated, although she knew she was failing miserably. And the warm, flat coke left a foul taste in her mouth. Most everyone else was drinking alcohol. Yaten’s face was a cold mask. Mina sighed and gave up. She really wasn’t that great of an actress. She only excelled at Sailor V because the character was a perfect match for her personality. She coughed loudly. And she told the truth. “It would be nice to meet Seiya and Taiki, to shake all your hands and maybe get an autograph. But just because I want to meet someone famous doesn’t mean I want to hop in bed with them.” Yaten was quiet for a moment, a bit surprised by the sudden aura of complete truth radiating from the innocent beside him, but his nature just couldn’t believe a woman like that really existed.

“Oh really, little girl. And I don’t suppose you’d say yes if I asked you to come home with me, right now?” Mina resisted the urge to growl.

“That’s right. In fact, I’d tell you to go to hell. Although I will admit, like any fan, I’d do anything short of washing your underwear or sleeping with you to get an autograph.” Her exuberant grin astounded Yaten. For once, he found a woman he wanted in his bed…in his life. Yaten’s voice softened, and his eyes turned sultry again. Mina could feel a surge of desire pool in her belly. Yaten moved against her body, his voice low and sexy.

“Then consider this an offer, sweetheart. Why don’t we head down to my car and I’ll take you out to dinner. Then we can head to my place and I’ll give you an autograph anywhere you like. And then I’ll introduce you to the pleasures of the bedroom.” He longed to add that he’d keep her forever, but that was something he knew he could never do. He whispered the words against her ear, and pressed a soft kiss against her bare collarbone. Mina shuddered for a moment. Then her eyes turned cloudy. She pulled away from Yaten’s touch and blinked rapidly to keep the tears from falling. She stared down into her almost empty glass.

“I’ve already been introduced, thank you.” Her voice was whisper soft. She didn’t see Yaten’s eyes turn tender at the words. There was a long moment of silence.

“I think…I think I would never let you go if you’d been mine.” Yaten said the words almost reverently. Mina was silent. Her memories were crashing over her brain like waves battering a rock. She felt the layers of protection being stripped away. A high pitched giggle pulled her from self pity. She closed her eyes tightly, afraid of what she’d find. Then she looked up over the crowd and groaned. Her mother was tipsy drunk and hanging all over some annoyed man. A tall, dark haired man with a long ponytail, wearing a red tuxedo. And he looked very familiar. Mina shuddered.

“I see. Your family isn’t trained very well.” Mina shot a wry smile his way.

“That’s an understatement.” Yaten raised one eyebrow. Memories shot through Mina, painful memories, but she shoved them away. “Why is it every male I meet can do that but I can’t? Excuse, but I really have to save that man from my disgusting mother.” Yaten’s face broke into a smile again.

“Don’t worry about it. Seiya can handle anything with two X chromosomes. I’d rather spend the time with you.

“That’s Seiya Kou? Oh god, I’m going to die. My mother is groping one of the Three Lights in front of thousands of people.” Mina’s voice ended on a high pitched squeak. Yaten burst into laughter, drawing stares from the crowd.

“Actually, it’s more like hundreds. He deserves every bit of it, too. Come on sweetheart.” Yaten grasped Mina’s hand and dragged her outside toward a dark corner of the patio, under a tulip tree in bloom. The fragrance drifted over the lawn.

“I really have to get my parents out of here before they ruin the producer’s deal.” Mina stuck one bright red nail in her mouth and nibbled on the tip.

“Forget about them for a moment. You haven’t even told me your name.” Mina smiled and held up her signature V sign.

“Minako Aino, otherwise known as Sailor V.” She looked down at her tight red dress. “You probably didn’t recognize me without the sailor suit.” Yaten’s face clouded for a moment, and then he snapped his fingers.

“That’s right; you’re in that television show. Who would have thought that a silly girl in a short skirt would be so popular?” Mina tilted her head, a little distressed at the way his thoughts echoed her own. She finished off her drink and set the empty glass on a nearby table.

“I suspect the short skirt had an awful lot to do with it.” Yaten laughed a bit.

“Seiya is known to yell panty shot whenever you flash the viewer on your series.” Mina felt a giggle escape her lips.

“Ah, the eccentricities of the male mind. Give them a short skirt and they’re set for life.” Yaten grabbed a champagne flute off a passing waiter and pressed it into Mina’s hand.

“I think I’d need more than a short skirt.” Mina looked up into his eyes and felt a surge of desire. The feeling frightened her. She hadn’t even looked at another man since Kaji. But this Yaten, he seemed, different somehow. Mina took a sip of the champagne. She was only seventeen, but shrugged inside. A little bit more wouldn’t kill her.

“I suspect that nations could rise and fall over a pretty girl in a short skirt. What are you doing here all alone?” Mina moved slowly towards an empty chair. She sat down gracefully, noting the way Yaten’s eyes widened as she crossed her legs and the thigh high slit of her dress fell open.

“I’m hiding from the crowd. Actually, Taiki’s probably hiding as well, talking finance to the boring producer group. Seiya’s the lady’s man. I’ve never seen him without a woman.” Yaten sat down beside Mina.

“So you don’t like being fawned over by hundreds of adoring women?” Mina swirled the liquid around in her glass absently. Yaten groaned and leaned back against the chair.

“It’s hell. They don’t really know us. They see a pretty face and think that’s all that matters. They can’t possibly get to know us as people. We’re prizes, and they’re all competing for first place. Sometimes I feel like a lion in the savannah, trying to outrun a hunter.” Mina blinked several times.

“An entertainer with the soul of a romantic, how rare.” Her voice spat out the word romantic, making Yaten’s head pop up in surprise.

“I take it you don’t believe in romance?” Mina closed her eyes for a second, and then downed her champagne in one long gulp. She practically slammed the glass on the table.

“Love and romance are just excuses for men to release their physical needs.” Her voice was shaking slightly now, Yaten couldn’t tell if it was from pain or anger. He reached one hand towards her face. Mina jerked away sharply, but Yaten was more persistent. He turned her face, staring into her eyes.

“Who hurt you, sweetheart?” His voice was whisper soft, a balm on the wounds that had been unwittingly ripped open. Mina closed her eyes, unable to meet his gentle gaze.

“It’s all right. I’m better now.” Yaten’s brittle laugh shattered in the air.

“That’s a bunch of bullshit, little girl. You’re still torn up inside.” Yaten leaned forward and pressed a kiss against her forehead. “I’ll let it go for tonight, but somehow I’ll fix that heart of yours.” Mina’s eyes opened again. She felt more than a little lightheaded.

“You do realize that sounds a little creepy.” Yaten laughed lightly.

“I’m not a stalker or anything. In fact, I’ve had two stalkers arrested in the last year. I just feel this pull towards you, and it hurts me to see you in pain. And I’m a man; I like to try to fix things.” Mina tilted her head a bit.

“Why?” Her face was full of innocence, and Yaten resisted the urge to kiss her lips.

“I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I’ve found someone who hurts more than I do. Maybe because I don’t want to be the cold, hard man I’ve become. Smile pretty. Laugh. Tonight is for fun. I’ll introduce you to a few people. Besides, with you around the women will leave me alone for an hour or so.” Yaten stood and pulled Mina behind him, and the two moved through the crowds towards a laughing knot in the center of the room.

~~**~~

Yaten stared at the woman beside him. Actually, she was still more girl than woman, but it was obvious what she could become, the woman she would be in time. He sipped at his glass, ignoring the gentle warning his mind was broadcasting. He was used to actresses, women who could pretend to be anything at all. He was certain every woman was an actress at her core. But the moment he had seen Mina standing alone against the wall he had been drawn to her.

She was refreshingly honest, and she’d shown him a glimpse of pain so deep it surpassed his own. She moved among the high players in the worlds of film and media with grace, as though she’d always belonged with them. Yaten felt a strange surge of pride in her poise and intelligence. Even the most jaded could be taken with her gentle smile and bubbling laughter. Yaten watched her flirt with Seiya. He felt a brief pang of jealousy but, the questioning gaze Seiya sent before taking Mina off to meet someone else made Yaten’s heart settle. Seiya only wanted to chase the obtainable.

“So how old is this one?” Taiki’s smooth voice broke through Yaten’s thoughts. He felt a strange clinging sensation on his arm. He looked down to find a woman smiling up at him, her rather exorbitant number of curves pressed against his body. Yaten thought she looked rather like a leech that had managed to wiggle her way into a place with warm bodies to feast on. Then he shook her off without even an acknowledgement of her presence.

“Let’s get out of this crowd first.” Taiki nodded and turned around. The press of bodies tended to limit movement, but Taiki wound his way through expertly. The two sat on a couch against the far wall, where the light hardly reached. The music was also quieter here, less screeching soprano. There was a long moment of silence.

“I’m not really sure, Taiki. I didn’t ask. She’s very young, I’m sure of that.” A flash of blonde hair whirled past them on Seiya’s arm. Mina stopped at a large group of businessmen, and Seiya made introductions. Yaten drank her beauty like water in the desert. Taiki looked Mina over with an assessing eye.

“I would place her between sixteen and twenty. Judging by the way she moves and the jokes she finds amusing, I’d estimate she’s just shy of eighteen.” Yaten shrugged slowly.

“And your point?” Taiki lifted his glasses from his face and placed them in his pocket. His violet eyes were troubled.

“Don’t get yourself into something you can’t control, Yaten. She’s very young, and you’re very famous, whether you want to be or not.” Taiki paused for a long moment, and smiled a bit. “Besides. I really don’t want to give you more fodder for your complaints.” Yaten scowled.

“Why don’t you mind your own business, Taiki? Go baby-sit Seiya. And I don’t whine that much.” Taiki laughed. A very discordant tone from the pianist and singer had Yaten flinching. “Although I could say more than a few words about that music.” Yaten stood and flipped his ponytail over his shoulder in one smooth motion. He stared at the crowd, his eyes fixed on the girl in red.

~~**~~

Mina was breathless. Seiya was a wonderful partner in the game of socializing. He whispered rumors in her ear while introducing her to the biggest names and money that London had to offer. He was very polite and extremely charming. Mina found herself laughing at his outrageous sense of humor. She had missed her mother being taken to a cab, and her father passing out in the back gardens. But Seiya had informed her of the events in a laughing tone, along with commentary on how the two deserved to fall in the pool dead drunk.

The room was absolutely packed, and Mina should have felt intimidated and alone, but instead she felt free for the first time in her life. These people treated her as equals, not as servants. They respected her for her acting career. They jostled with each other for introductions and chatted about roles in upcoming movies and television shows. And Seiya was always there keeping an eye on her.

Mina could feel the other pairs of eyes watching her as well. She could feel Taiki’s eyes. They were slightly cold and assessing, but Mina understood that Taiki had the weight of responsibility for the Three Lights, not only as a singing group, but also as friends and brothers. She tried to smile whenever she caught him glancing her way. The last pair of eyes didn’t make her feel protected or under scrutiny. They made her stomach flutter and her heart skip. She flitted around the room like a butterfly, wondering why the handsome Yaten had handed her over to Seiya.

He stood in the corner of the room now, eyes following her, while chatting with a sour-face Taiki. Seiya noticed where her attention had swayed.

“Taiki is extremely, condescending and cold. I guess you could say the brains. I’m all show, wine, women, and a great voice to boot. I’m THE body.” Mina giggled at Seiya’s little comment. “Yaten…he’s our soul. The true musician. Our composer. Taiki does the business and writes lyrics, I arrange and help with polishing the songs. But the soul of the music usually flows from Yaten.” Mina stared, her heart fluttering underneath the force of Yaten’s eyes.

~~**~~

“Why are you such an ass to most women?” Seiya sputtered on his drink.

“What do you mean?” Mina twirled a strand of hair around her finger and chewed her bottom lip.

“Well, you just treated that really pretty lady like she was nothing more than nice boobs to stare at. You totally ignored everything she said and then slapped her on the ass when she walked away. But all night long, you haven’t so much as put a hand on me. You’ve been nice, and a lot of fun to be around. Why do I get special treatment?” Seiya smiled a bit.

“I treat them the same way they treat me. They want me for a piece of meat, so that’s all I want from them. Someone to sleep with, someone to throw away in the morning. Maybe if someone didn’t look at me with those hungry eyes I’d act differently.” Mina stared at Seiya’s face for a long time.

“So why am I different?” Seiya looked pointedly over at Yaten, who was talking to Taiki in a far corner. Mina followed his gaze.

“Let’s just say you’ve already been claimed.” Mina huffed loudly.

“If you’re talking about your friend, he was a bit too…I don’t know. He almost scared me.” Seiya laughed loudly.

“That’s why he’s hiding in a corner while I’m escorting you around. He doesn’t want to frighten you to death or push you away.” Seiya maneuvered them around into the corner by the piano. The pianist hit a wrong note, causing Seiya to wince. Mina giggled.

“Don’t like the music?” Seiya just frowned. “Why don’t you go play instead?”

“I don’t do parties, especially parties where I’m the guest.”

“Well then, I suppose I could play.” Seiya started laughing. Mina planted both hands on her hips. “What’s the matter, don’t think I could do it?”

“I have no doubt that you THINK you could play. However, my ears and the ears of the audience may be shattered by your screeching and banging.” Mina’s eyes narrowed.

“How much are you willing to bet that I’m quite capable?” Seiya chuckled and flopped onto a chair near the piano.

“How much money do you have to lose?” Mina grinned.

“Not money. I’ll bet you that I can play and sing well. If I lose, you can take me home tonight and do whatever you like.” Seiya’s mouth dropped open. “If I win, however, you have to treat all women nicely for one month, and you’re not allowed to sleep with anyone either.” Seiya settled back in his chair, silently contemplating what he’d do with the offer. Yaten might kill him, but he couldn’t say no to a sure win. He couldn’t say no to the gorgeous blonde in his bed.

“All right. I’ll take that bet.”

~~**~~

Yaten watched Mina walk onto the stage. He glared at Seiya, who was sitting in a chair grinning like a Cheshire cat. Taiki stopped mid-sentence.

“What the hell does she think she’s doing?” Yaten glared at the still smirking Seiya.

“I don’t know, but I think dickhead had a hand in it.” Yaten took a step forward, his expression deadly. “I’ll be right back after I put a stop to it.” Mina whispered something in the pianist’s ear. The music stopped suddenly and the young man vacated his seat. Mina sat down with a flourish. Taiki grabbed a fistful of Yaten’s tuxedo and yanked him backwards.

“Just a moment, Yaten. Let’s see what she’ll do.” Yaten turned around to unleash a tirade, but the music stopped him. The notes floated over the room, gentle and well played. No wrong notes, no problems with rhythm or speed. Then her voice joined the melody, a lilting soprano that echoed even over the noise of the crowd. Yaten just turned around and stared. She was bent over the keys, her body moving with the song.

“My god.” Taiki pulled out a piece of paper and started scribbling. Yaten didn’t even notice. He was drawn, like a moth to a flame, towards the music. He pushed his way through the crowd, for the first time noticing how people’s voices had quieted. Suddenly he found himself in a headlock.

“You knew, didn’t you? You knew she was fabulous. You just wanted to torture me for a month.” Yaten gasped and managed to peel Seiya’s hands away.

“I had no idea Seiya. And what do you mean, torture you.” Seiya mumbled something under his breath. Yaten chuckled. “Let me guess, you did something stupid.” Seiya didn’t answer. Yaten shook his head and moved up behind Mina. Then he slid beside her and began to play along. His voice joined hers, the tenor and soprano blending perfectly. Seiya slumped back into his seat. A body sat down beside him.

“Where did you and Yaten find this girl?” Seiya ran his hands through his hair.

“It’s a party, Taiki, where do you think we found her? Against the wall sipping something. I don’t know what drew me.” Taiki grunted and muttered something about red dresses and blondes, but Seiya ignored him.

“I admit, she will sound fantastic on our new album, but why are you so morose? Usually you love to be around people who actually have talent?” Seiya sighed loudly.

“I made a bet with her that she couldn’t play. Now not only can’t I sleep with anyone for a month, I also have to be NICE to women.” Taiki started laughing. Seiya punched him in the shoulder. “Shut up.” They looked for a moment at the two at the piano.

“How come you’re not the one after her?” Seiya shrugged.

“Yaten decided he wanted her.”

“He just decided you wanted her? I thought Yaten didn’t like women. Hell, I thought Yaten didn’t like anybody.”

“So did I.” They both sat in silence.

“So what changed his mind?”

“I’m not exactly sure, Taiki. There’s something about her. Something fresh and innocent. She doesn’t hide who she is, and yet there’s a part of her that’s felt such pain. She needs love.” Seiya heard a scribbling noise. “Taiki, if you’re writing this down I’m going to kill you.”

“I’m sorry, Seiya. But your words will make an excellent song. Just ignore me.” The scribbling continued for a moment, then stopped. Seiya sighed.

“Don’t you ever think of anything but money?

“I must admit, Seiya that was very poetic. Sometimes I forget there’s more to you than just a dick.” Seiya stood slowly, his face turning red. Taiki laughed.

~~**~~

Yaten looked at the door to the flat in distaste. He was used to penthouses and mansions, not apartments. Even if it was nice, in a safe area of the city, it was still a regular apartment.

“No, my parents are home. Even if they’re sleeping, they might wake up and I’d get into so much trouble.” Yaten sighed.

“Can I see you again?” Mina stared into the young man’s eyes and felt her heart thudding against her chest. She felt a flutter. She laid a single hand against her stomach, eyes wide with surprise. It was probably nothing but gas, and yet she wasn’t ever sure. Then she looked back into his eyes and burst into tears.

“No, I’m sorry…I…I just can’t.” She burst into tears and ran inside, slamming the door behind her. Yaten stared at the door for a moment.

“You won’t get away so easily little one. Something, or probably someone, must have hurt you bad. And I intend to make sure you don’t turn out like me. I will be back. Until then, princess.” He walked down the stairs backward, his eyes on Mina’s door. “Sleep tight.” The door at the bottom of the stairs closed softly. Mina listened for the click of knob, sighed and leaned against the inside door where she’d been listening.

“Goodbye, my knight in shining armor.

~~**~~

Mina sat in the empty dojo. No one seemed to have bought the place. In fact, now it just stood empty, another old abandoned hulk in London. She didn’t do anything, just sat and stared. She could still hear his voice echoing in her mind, an old ghost. The cat rubbed up against her. Mina absently petted the animal, lost in her thoughts.

“Why did you leave me, Kaji? Wasn’t I good enough?” The words came out in a whisper. Mina looked down at her waist. No change yet. But there would be soon. She was three months along now. She’d been very careful during filming, but her luck would eventually run out.

“You left a piece behind. I suppose I should call it something to remember you by.” Mina continued her monologue, speaking to nothing. “I saw you in the paper the other day. You were made vice-president of your father’s company. I didn’t know you came from Japan.” Her voice was bitter now, a trace of emptiness lacing every word. “You wouldn’t tell me anything about you. I suppose this child is the only thing you could manage to give; your heart was locked up tight enough.” Mina stood up, her legs tingling from being in one position too long.

“I just stopped by to say I’m having your child. I suppose this is as close as I’ll ever get to actually telling you. As if you’d wonder about the little girl you rolled around with anyway. I thought I loved you, but I don’t think I know what love is. Life goes on.” Mina’s eyes were dry. She blinked in surprise, expecting her usual tears.

“I met someone last week. He’s been calling me every day, offering to take me out. In some ways he’s so much like you. He can be gentle and sweet, or vicious. He always gets what he wants and never quits. And I guess he wants me. He offered me a recording contract, and assistance in pitching a Sailor V movie. Just imagine, I could be both a movie and pop star. It would be everything I’ve ever dreamed. Since I was four years old I’ve wanted to be a star. To have people recognize me, chase me around shopping malls, beg for autographs. I think I’m going to take him up on his offer. How can I not? I need some money now. My parents don’t know about the baby, I don’t want to tell them. They hate me anyway. I have to survive. And how can I turn down not only survival, but fame…and maybe…and maybe love. I really didn’t expect ever to feel for a man ever again. But this one seems somehow… special.” Mina closed her eyes, remembering Yaten’s gentle smile.

“I guess I don’t have any more tears left for you.” She shrugged her shoulders lightly. “I guess it doesn’t matter. Goodbye Kaji. Forever.” She slowly walked out of the empty, cold space. The heavy oak doors swung shut behind her.

Outside it was cold. Winter had hit London a bit more heavily than normal. Mina huddled into her coat. The cat leaped to a perch on her shoulder.

“You know kitty, I thought that would hurt more.” The cat brushed a pink tongue against Mina’s cheek. “Yeah, I know, I know.” Mina turned down another alleyway. It would be a long walk home. But she needed the exercise, the chance to clear her mind.

“Going somewhere little girl?” The voice echoed from the alleyway behind her. Mina spun around quickly, her dead senses leaping to life.

“Shit.” There were three men behind her. Mina quickly calculated the time to the end of the alley.

“Such language from a pretty thing like you.” Mina turned towards the other end. Four more, all looking pissed off. Mina had the urge to scream, but kept her wits.

“I’m just headed home.” Her voice was light. She removed the cat from her shoulder, and the scarf, hat, and gloves she was wearing. It was just too cold to take off the coat. “Hey look, she’s getting all ready for us. Keep taking it off sweetheart.” Mina shivered a bit in the cold. Then she struck. The first guy went down under a single flying kick. Mina didn’t like to use them, for fear, she’d be flipped on her butt, but surprise was on her side. The cat launched himself at the second man, hissing and biting. Mina turned and punched the third square in the face. She followed with a knee to the gut, and slammed his head into the brick wall, hard. He crumpled to the ground. She didn’t feel anything, even though she knew she might have killed the man. She was cold, calculating. The white cat went flying across the alley and smacked into the brick wall, but landed on his feet. The animal shook its head as if a bit dazed.

“Leave him alone, you bastards.” Mina picked up a loose brick and smacked the man who’d thrown the cat square in the back of the head. “Three down.” She raced like crazy to her discarded items and took off through the alleys, the other four still in hot pursuit. The cat managed to keep up. Finally, she managed to reach the dojo again. She ran inside and slammed the oak bar across the door. There were threats hurled at the door, but the boarded up windows blocked any entrance. Finally the shouts faded away. Mina slumped to the floor, exhaling loudly.

“I just can’t seem to get away from this place…” She resisted the urge to look out the door.

“Well, after that not so impressive display of Terran fighting, I suppose we should begin your training. I think that fall managed to jar my speech ability and a great deal of my memory back. Boy do we have a lot of work to do." The voice was slightly sarcastic, and very arrogant. Mina turned around frantically looking for the source.

"Who was that?” She was scanning for another person in the room. The cat walked in front of her and sat down. He waited until she looked directly at him.

"It was I." Mina's jaw dropped to the floor.

"Oh lord, I knew there was something fishy about you." The cat laid his ears back.

"Very humorous.” Mina simply stared at the cat. "My name is…well…I have several, but you can call me …Arinori." Mina continued just staring. "You have a great destiny child, one you need to fulfill. I am here to lead you to that destiny." Mina didn't even blink. "I would have started earlier but my memory seemed to have been blocked by some method. Fortunately, that wonderful smack against the wall back there gave me more than a headache. For heaven's sake, stop staring at me." The cat walked in a circle, and then did a neat back flip, returning with a compact in his mouth. Mina screamed. The cat's ears twitched and he dropped the compact at her feet. "That wasn't what I had in mind. I like my hearing the way it is. Well, are you going to pick it up? I won't bite you, don't worry." Mina reached down and gingerly picked up the compact. Then she started giggling.

"Oh lord. Your name is Arinori, and this compact looks exactly like the one from the TV show. I think I’ve been filming too much. Next thing you'll be telling me I'm really Sailor V and I should hold this above my head and say Crescent Moon Power."

The transformation took Mina totally off guard. One minute she was making fun of the animal at her feet, the next minute she was wearing a version of her costume from the television show. The cat laughed. Mina’s face turned bright red.

"This isn't funny. Let's see if this works. Crescent Beam." The beam of light flared brightly and destroyed several posts before blasting through the far war. Mina stared at her finger for a long time. "This is really scaring me. I must be sleeping, that's it. This is all a weird dream. Kaji is still here, and I'm not Sailor V except on television, and…” Mina's words trailed off into nothingness. She sat down on the padded floor and let tears take over. A warm head rubbed itself up against her.

"It's all right, I'm here for you. We can accomplish anything together. But you need training to use those new magic skills you just acquired. I think tonight, you just need sleep. And I agree with you, Hollywood is a good decision. You need a fresh start, a new life. And no parents hovering." Mina nodded and wiped her tears away. She stared at the small compact in her hand. Sailor V, champion of justice. It had a nice ring to it. She could do this. She could do anything she put her mind to, anything. Then a single thought rumbled through her mind. What in the world would she tell Yaten? Could she tell Yaten?

~~**~~

Mina arranged the candles one more time. She’d been seeing Yaten for two weeks now. He was everything a woman could want in a man, thoughtful, considerate, rich, famous…the list stretched on for days. Mina ran a hand over her hair, and the silk negligee she wore. He wasn’t Kaji though. Mina pushed the thoughts away again. Kaji was gone, and no one could or would ever be him. She shouldn’t even bother thinking about him. Yaten was much better for her.

Besides, he still touched her heart. When he smiled that devilish smile, or his peridot colored eyes twinkled, she felt that tug in her soul. Mina checked on the take out one more time, to make sure it was warm. She was intelligent enough not to even consider cooking. There was a knock on the door.

Yaten opened the door hesitantly. Mina’s parents were on a trip, so she had the house to herself. He swallowed hard. The room was bathed in candlelight. The smell of something distinctly Asian floated from the kitchen, and Mina was wearing a pink scrap of fabric that could loosely be called a nightgown. Yaten knew he was staring. He couldn’t help himself. Her hair was loose, not tied back with the ribbon she seemed to perpetually wear. Yaten walked inside slowly, and took a long time closing the door. He took several deep breaths, hoping to clear his head.

Mina was nervous. Yaten hadn’t said a word since he’d come inside. In fact, right now he was staring at the door. She nibbled on her lower lip. Yaten turned around slowly, stepping into the light. Then she could see his eyes. They were dark with desire. Mina took a couple steps backwards.

“I have dinner in the kitchen. Do you want to eat in the dining room or…?” Yaten took another step forward, stripping off his jacket. He pulled her into his arms.

“I think I’ll eat in the bedroom.” He pressed his lips against hers. Mina felt her hear thumping wildly. “I can’t wait, sweetheart. I hope you’ll forgive me if the food gets cold.” Yaten pulled her toward the bedroom.

“That’s all right, it’s just takeout.” Yaten threw Mina on the bed, and she let herself fall into the moment.

Afterward Yaten held her tightly in his arms, unwilling to let her even go get some food. His long fingers stroked against her skin. Mina smiled at his protectiveness.

“We have to leave for Hollywood in two days, Mina. I don’t want to rush you, but have you made a decision.” Mina rolled over so they were inches apart. She felt her mind pulling every which way. The United States was so big, so far away. It was everything she wanted, and everything that made her afraid. Kaji’s face rose in her mind. Mina bit her lip. She had to leave, had to leave those memories behind. She kissed Yaten gently. This man was her future.

“Yes, I’ll come with you.” Yaten whooped in relief and rolled over on top of her, and they began again.

~~**~~

“I can’t believe you locked me in the closet.” Mina yawned loudly.

“Hey, at least I let you out, Ari.” The cat growled.

“Why do you insist on calling me that?” Mina smiled.

“It sounds less girly than Arinori.” The cat shook his head. Then he padded over to the bed.

“I also can’t believe you jumped into bed with him. After only two weeks. Especially after Kaji…” Mina turned to face him and her eyes were hard.

“Do not ever mention his name to me. He’s dead, in the past.” Arinori wrinkled his forehead.

“I think you’re doing this because Yaten reminds you of Kaji.” There was a long moment of silence. Blue eyes clashed with cat eyes. “Arinori noticed the tears gathering. “Perhaps I should phrase that…Kaji the way you wanted him to be?” Mina blinked rapidly.

“So?”

“And you’re lonely, and you want someone to take care of you.” Mina turned around and headed back toward the bedroom.

“There are lots of reasons, Arinori. But it was my decision to make. Besides, would never hurt me. He asked me to move to the United States with him, offered Taiki as my agent. He would never betray me. He loves me. I know what I’m doing.” Mina closed the bedroom door behind her. Arinori stared after her with a strange sense of déjà vu.

“I hope so. I have a strange feeling that the last time you said those words, something terrible happened.”

~~**~~

Yaten opened the door quietly, a big stupid grin on his face. He walked inside, adjusted his barely buttoned shirt and snapped his trousers.

“You’re back late.” Yaten started at the voice.

“Anything important news to tell us?”

“She’s finally said yes. She’ll come to Hollywood and take the deal, Taiki, if that’s what you’re asking. Don’t you have anything better to do than baby-sit?” Taiki frowned.

“Actually, you and I both have better things to do. You’ve missed three missions this week alone. Seiya and I are tired of picking up the slack.” Yaten snorted. Taiki frowned and adjusted his glasses. Seiya moved into the room, a bottle of beer in one hand and a porn movie in the other.

“I see you got what you were after. Or at least what I would have been after. How many dates is that now?” Seiya spit the words. Yaten shrugged. Taiki sat down in the dark room. “I believe you’ve been seeing her for almost two weeks now. Is that a world record for getting her in the sack?” Yaten smiled and moved toward the bathroom.

“Keeping track? Are you jealous or something?” Taiki snorted loudly.

“Of course he is, remember he still has two weeks on his bet. Of course, I’ll have to thank your little friend. He’s written a dozen songs in that time. But you do realize you can’t keep seeing her forever.”

“Why the hell not!” Yaten’s face was turning a mottled shade of red.

“What are you going to tell her about your extra curricular activities?” There was a moment of silence.

“Thanks for bringing that up Taiki, thanks a lot.” The door slammed shut. Taiki glanced at the ring glittering on his finger. Seiya started to stand, but a heavy hand on his shoulder stopped him.

“He needs time, Seiya, just let him go.”

~~**~~

Mina and Arinori stood in the park across the street from her flat. It was late, but no one was around, which was useful when talking to a cat. They only had one more day in London, but Arinori claimed she had to be prepared for the journey.

"You will have several methods of attack, Sailor V. One is your body itself, but I don't think you're ready to work on that yet. Besides, we don’t want to hurt your baby." Mina nodded. The animal continued his speech. "You'll also learn to use three weapons, a sword, a boomerang and a whip. In addition, you'll also have magical attacks. I think we'll start with the basic magic attack and work our way up from there." Mina nodded again, barely paying attention to anything the cat said. "Mina, are you listening to me? Transform."

"What?" The cat gave her a distinctly annoyed look. Mina yawned. "It is late cat, I've worked all day. I have all kinds of packing to do too. And I failed my final exams." The cat groaned.

"You have to study for tests. Besides, defenders of the earth don't get nights off, get used to it." Mina shot the creature a dirty look, but transformed on cue. "Now we're going to work on your most basic magic attack. Point your finger and yell Crescent Beam." Mina gave the animal another nasty look.

"Why in the world am I doing this in the first place. Before I follow your every command, I'd like a few answers." She crossed her arms, tapping her foot impatiently. Ari glared at the girl.

"You are a soldier, whose codename is Sailor V. For now, your mission is to train yourself until you're at the height of your powers. I'll tell you more when you've accomplished that." Mina sighed.

"All right, cat. But why do I have to yell what I'm going to do before I do it. Doesn't that kind of tell whatever I'm attacking what's coming?" The cat looked thoughtful for a moment.

"I suppose the words are there to help you focus your power. Why don't you try it with the words? Maybe some day you'll be skilled enough to try it without." Mina gritted her teeth and faced away from the pompous animal. He was so condescending, acting as though Mina couldn't accomplish anything.

"I'll show that cat." Mina closed her eyes tightly. Then she pointed her finger. Nothing happened.

"Just say the words, Mina."

"Shut up, cat." Mina concentrated harder, and chanted the words in her mind. Crescent Beam. Light shot from her outstretched hand, sending the poor bush she was aiming at to a blazing end.

"Very good, very good. I suspect you recited the words in your head, but I never realized it works just as well as shouting them aloud. Excellent. I'll remember that." Mina glared at the cat again. "Now, try to focus the beam more, and aim for just a leaf off the tree.” The Sailor Senshi let out a long sigh. It was going to be a long night.

~~**~~

Yaten stared at Mina’s features. She was snuggled up against him. He’d raised the armrest and she’d practically crawled onto his lap. The flight was long, and boring as hell, but she seemed to be sleeping right through it. He stared out the window, remembering a flight long ago, when he and his two childhood friends were flying out west to find their dream. Only the dream wasn’t what they expected.

Seiya had found Yaten first. The two had huddled together in the sand, wrapped in each other’s wings for warmth. Taiki had come with the dawn, eyes far away and determined. She’d spoken of the past, of things that Yaten had no memory of. Seiya seemed to leap with determination. This was his chance to save the world. But Yaten only wanted an explanation. A reason for the strange outfits and the different sex. No one had an explanation, an excuse. Only a story about a lost princess, and a three star system the humans called Centauri, with a single planet called Kinmoku by a long dead race.

Yaten brushed a strand of hair from Mina’s cheek. For once he didn’t want to take a part in Seiya’s heroics, or Taiki’s machinations. He just wanted peace. A life with the woman beside him. Children, a dog, a house, two cars and a suburban dream. No midnight races with criminals through strange cities. No changing sex every night and dealing with the headaches and confusion it created, both in his personal identity and his relationships with his friends. He wanted freedom. He glanced over at Taiki’s piercing gaze and sighed. He wasn’t free. Not until he found the person who haunted his dreams. And unfortunately it wasn’t the woman sleeping beside him.

The plane shivered a bit in turbulence. Yaten gripped the seat a bit tighter. He glared at Seiya’s loud snoring. At least they were on a new jet. He noticed that Taiki’s fingers were white on his laptop. Yaten chuckled a bit, his perverse sense of humor finding great pleasure that Taiki wasn’t invincible.

And the plane crossed the earth, destined for the cesspit of the United States called Hollywood.

Reflection – Chapter 04
By Aurora Eos Rose

Usagi Tsukino
Tokyo, Japan -1998

"I can’t believe I’m going to a real party! I’ve never been to anything but boring sleepovers and an occasional get drunk at a friend’s house while the parents are gone. I can’t believe you’re letting me go along, Naru!” The blonde girl bounced up and down on her toes while she watched her friend comb a helmet of brown fluff. “But I don't know how you talked me into this dress." The girl fiddled with the very short skirt of her red velvet dress.

"You looked like a pink marshmallow in the other one, and you know it. You have to look older. They don’t usually let seventeen year olds in this kind of party. I mean, you’re not even out of high school." Naru struggled once more to get some of her brown curls to cooperate, but they simply bounced back into their former position. She sighed loudly and batted at the perfect dome of fuzz that passed for her hair. "And remember the rules, Usagi. No drinking, no talking to strangers, and don’t ever go anywhere alone with a guy.” Usagi nodded her head vigorously. Naru mumbled under her breath about blondes but Usagi was oblivious.

“Thank you so much Naru.” The brown haired girl found herself almost knocked over by the exuberant hug. “And I’m certain we’ll show that jerk Umino a think or two tonight.” Naru’s eyes misted.

“Yes we will, Usagi. That, that…” Naru struggled to find the right words, but her tongue couldn’t seem to utter the epitaphs she was thinking. She snorted. “He can't just dump me like that. I had that dinner all set up and he didn’t show and…" Naru's face had flushed a bright crimson, and her hands were fisted at her sides. Usagi hugged her tightly, pale eyes glimmering with tears.

"I’m so sorry he dumped you Naru. I thought you two were soul mates, meant to be. He’s such a pansy, sending you that stupid letter. I promise I’ll do anything you tell me to, just don’t cry. Besides, I just know you'll knock the socks off that stupid Umino, especially in that dress." Usagi was squeezing so tightly now that Naru could hardly breathe, but the sheer belief radiating from the girl was enough to give Naru the courage to make it through the night. Naru slowly disengaged herself. Usagi was the most loyal person she'd ever met, the only “popular” girl who hadn’t turned into a backstabbing bitch when Umino became available. Naru held Usagi’s shoulders for a moment and smiled.

"I'm all right. Tonight we’ll show that bastard what he’s missing. And remember, I need to you smile pretty at all the guys, they flock to you like flies on honey.” Usagi made a face, but Naru ignored it. Naru fluffed her hair one last time and grabbed Usagi’s hand. “Let's get going."

Naru’s limo glided to a stop in from of small, exclusive club where the party was being held. She opened the door and glided past the snapping cameras and annoying crush of people with ease, her head high. Usagi trailed behind, uncharacteristically graceful and demure, an image of elegance. Naru looked at her friend for several long moments. Usagi almost seemed like another person sometimes. The girls stopped at the end of the red carpet. Naru gave their names to the man at the door, who eyed them up and down, but let them in without incident. The followed the music through a narrow foyer into a huge room. Usagi stopped for a moment at the door, staring at the crowd. Her eyes widened, her mouth dropped.

“I’ve been waiting my entire life for this.” The words came out as a whispered prayer, and Naru smiled at the awestruck look on Usagi’s face. Naru threaded her arm through Usagi’s.

“Then I take it the party is worth wearing that dress?” Usagi nodded slowly and let Naru drag her into the group of people. The party was in full swing. They had arrived late; Naru’s father had an eleventh hour attack of the nerves about letting the girls go, but the fake letter from Usagi’s mother soothed his frazzled emotions. The limo had gotten stuck in traffic for ten minutes, but the driver had managed to find a different route. It was eleven thirty now, and the girls had come up with a plan. "Remember Naru, I'm at your house sleeping over. And never, ever let my mother see how well I can forge her handwriting.” Naru laughed and flashed a smile at the handsome young men who suddenly gathered around them.

“It’s all right, Usagi. Relax, flirt a little.” Naru muttered the words through a clenched smile when Usagi tried to pull away.

“I’m not used to this attention. And that guy just put his hand on my ass.” Naru giggled a bit.

“Men are men, Usagi. We’ll be fine. It’s just a party. And quit pulling at that skirt, it's supposed to be short." Usagi grimaced.

"A little too short if you ask me. I swear people can see my underwear."

“They can if you lean over.”

“Oh god, why did you have to tell me that?” Usagi gulped loudly and jerked one last time on her skirt. Naru moved through the army of mostly rich and some famous with a quick smile and polite conversation. Usagi followed at a sedate pace, trying not to make a fool of herself or stare at all the people pressed around her. She had never seen so many expensive dresses and fancy jewelry. She put a self-conscious hand over her bare throat. Then there were the men pressing in from every side. Usagi discovered that if she didn’t make eye contact, they didn’t try to grope her. She had never imagined anything like this in her life. Then her attention turned back to Naru who was engrossed in conversation.

"This is my friend, Ms. Tsukino.” The blonde haired young man she was talking to flashed a bright smile. His gaze quickly shifted over Usagi’s body, lingering on the short skirt and the low top. He managed to catch her gaze, and Usagi’s breath caught in her throat. His eyes were dangerous. She could feel something seem to seep from his soul, like a black cloud. She tried to turn her gaze away, but something seemed to hold her in place. The man’s smile turned feral. Naru continued on, oblivious the tension between the two. “Usagi, meet Mr. Ace Saijou. He’s a friend of my father and works at Terran Eclipse Corporation.”

“A pleasure to meet you, Ms. Tsukino.” Usagi took the offered hand with her fingertips and was surprised when the man lifted it to his lips and placed a warm kiss on her palm. His eyes grew heavy and his tone seductive. “A great pleasure. Where has a beauty like you been hiding?” He flicked his tongue over her wrist, ran his hand up her arm and brushed a strand of loose hair over her shoulder. “Your hair is the color of sunshine after the rain.” Usagi resisted the urge to wrench her head away. Instead she merely frowned and took several steps back. The man’s smile faded. Naru finally noticed the apprehension in Usagi’s eyes and hurried to defuse it.

“Well, I promised I’d say hello to a few people for my father and we’ve only started making the rounds. I’ll see you later tonight, Ace. It’s nice to talk you again.” Naru smoothly extracted them from the suddenly uncomfortable setting. Suddenly the man was behind Usagi, one arm wrapped around her waist, his mouth at her ear.

“We will meet again, pretty one. You can be sure of that.” Usagi turned a bright red and wrenched away from his grasp. She turned around and he laughed. “You can’t possibly be that innocent, not with a body like that.” He reached towards her again, only this time Usagi was ready. She smacked his hand like a naughty child, slugged him in the stomach with the other arm, and turned on her heel. Usagi resisted the urge to look over her shoulder to make sure the man wasn’t following. Finally she reached the edge of the room and leaned against the wall. An enraged Naru was not far behind. She finally managed to catch Usagi and unleashed a formidable temper tantrum.

“What the hell did you think you were doing, Usagi? You do not insult any of the top brass of Terran and live to tell about it. Their money and ties run deep and far, they can ruin anyone with a word. So you be nice, even to the jerks.”

"I don’t like the way he was looking at me. And I don’t like to be touched.” Usagi twisted the end of her ponytail in her hands, her face serious. Naru sighed.

“I wouldn’t let him do anything to you, Usagi. But you have to understand that some men are assholes. And parties are the place where assholes seem to thrive.” Usagi pouted, crossed her arms, and frowned. “I’m not real impressed with this party so far. I feel like an outsider. I hate the groping hands and the name dropping. I wish I never would have come.” She whined the words and yanked on her skirt again, but yelped as Naru swatted her hand.

“Knock it off, Usagi. You’re a fucking adult, act like it. It’s supposed to be a compliment when they treat you like that. It wouldn’t hurt you to flirt a little. Quit looking at the ground, they won’t bite. All you have to do is tell them to fuck off if you decide they’re a dick.” Usagi’s mouth flew open at Naru’s coarse words. Naru smirked. “I may look like a little girl, Usagi, but I’ve grown up around these vultures. You can have fun tonight, just don’t go anywhere alone with any guys and keep your hands to yourself. Remember the rules? Now let’s go dance.” Naru grabbed Usagi’s hand the two managed to make their way through the large room and out the doors towards the dance floor.

The two girls ducked past a group of loud men standing in front of an exit. Usagi stomped for the first few feet but the dance floor made Usagi catch her breath. It was dark, smoky, and the music was so loud she thought her head would explode. It was like something out of a dark dream. Flashing lights, pulsating music, bodies gyrating to the songs. It was a solid mass of vibrant humanity. The beat seemed to echo in her head. Her body responded to the sound, swaying in rhythm. Naru let go of Usagi’s hand and started down a narrow set of stairs that led to the dance floor. Usagi eyed the full glasses of drinks scattered around the room. She reached for one, only to have her hand slapped again. Naru’s voice yelled in her ear.

"Remember Usagi, do not drink anything. First of all you're underage and second I just know something bad would happen. You attract trouble." Usagi snorted but followed after Naru, her other hand fiddling with the end of one of her odango topped ponytails. Naru had begged and pleaded but the blonde wouldn't wear her hair in anything but the silly hairstyle.

The two girls moved through the throng onto the dance floor and began to move with the beat. Usagi closed her eyes, letting the music wash over her mind.

“See, Usagi. This is the fun part.” Naru had to yell to be heard over the music. Usagi smiled brightly and yelled back.

“Now all we have to do is catch that man of yours.” Naru’s face started to crumble. “Don’t you cry on me, brat. I’m here to keep you smiling, remember?” Naru’s eyes brightened a bit at Usagi’s saucy tone.

“Thanks, Usagi.” The crowd thickened like pudding on the stove and the girls were pressed inward by the masses. They were oblivious to the stares that followed them. It wasn't that they weren't dressed correctly, or even that they weren't acting correctly; they were just too innocent looking to be in that place. Most of the people were older, more jaded. The two girls radiated innocence, especially little Usagi. But the innocence drew men around them like insects infesting a rotting corpse. Usagi looked up and realized she was completely surrounded by men. For a moment she halted, dazed by the tall bodies. It felt like the walls were closing in. A voice drifted over the music, lifted in a near shout to be heard.

"Naru, is that you?" Both girls spun around. The voice belonged to a slender young man with large green-hazel eyes and sunny blonde hair. Usagi's mouth dropped open. She had often wondered what Umino looked like behind his bad hair and glasses, but she had never realized he was so cute. Of course, the other girls did mention his assets after the breakup. Usagi simply hadn’t paid attention. But she couldn’t get a clear view around the flesh that seemed intent on separating Usagi and Naru.

"Umino." Naru's reply came out a bit breathless. Umino's eyes traveled over Naru's new dress. The gown was a deep blue sheath, and showed off Naru's short, slender body. His eyes darkened for a moment.

"I thought I told you I didn't want to see you again." His voice was full of anger. Naru’s lip quivered a bit and she glanced over at Usagi. Usagi mouthed “be strong.” Naru nodded. She turned back and her chin came up a notch.

"What makes you think I came here to see you?" Her voice stayed surprisingly calm, but the tone was very defensive. Usagi smiled and tried to press through the crowd again, only to be pushed farther from the action. She strained her ears, desperate to hear the conversation. Umino ran a hand through his hair, his face a picture of exasperation.

"Why else would you be here?" Naru bit her bottom lip.

“Hey, why don’t you leave the lady alone?” The man Naru had been talking to earlier moved into the scene. He laid a hand possessively around Naru’s shoulders. He was a full head taller than Umino and almost twice as wide. Umino bristled. Usagi felt a surge of terror and resisted the urge to duck down in the crowd. Something about the man rubbed her the wrong way.

“Ace, please, you’re not helping.” The man grinned and leaned over, his lips brushed against Naru’s cheek.

“What do you mean, baby?” Umino’s entire body stiffened at the caress. Naru jerked from Ace’s grasp.

“Now just a minute, what do you think you’re…?” Her words cut off in a shriek. Umino had taken the initiative, grabbed Naru by the arm, and started dragging her through the crowd.

“We need to talk, right now."

Usagi yelped a bit at her friend’s departure. She was alone now. The room seemed to get a bit darker, and a bit smokier. Usagi felt a burst of terror. She started pressing through the crowd, heading for a corner. Hands seem to claw and grab at her, and there were voices all around. Finally she broke through the mass of bodies. It felt like all the blood in her head had pooled in her feet. She moved toward a back corner, away from the lights and people. She looked around frantically for Naru. She was starting to get scared. She had no idea how long she stood there, utterly terrified and alone.

~~**~~

Ace Saijou was in a good mood. First of all, Kaji had found someone even more powerful and nasty to take orders from. That alone could have put a smile on his face. They were all part of Terran Enterprises now. Then there was the sense of belonging, the good natured fighting among the five men who now ran the company. Mamoru was another story… But tonight was even better than usual. Tonight they were taking the first steps toward the great revival, beginning the master plan. Hisame and Kaji’s brilliant strategy was falling into place perfectly, as usual. All the players were on the chessboard, in position. In fact, for once there were actually all six members of Terran’s inner circle in the same building. It had made Kaji nervous at first, but a large security force roaming the party had kept him from vetoing the party.

Ace closed his eyes for a moment, trying to bring back the vision he’d had earlier that evening. He’d been having a lot of them lately, like old memories pressing to the surface. Usually he remembered things after talking to Raku. Then again, they all remembered things after talking to Raku, he just happened to be remembering more. The others saw visions, had feelings. But he saw scenes, faces, places.

And there was Mamoru. Ace felt a strange feeling in the pit of his stomach. Mamoru made him feel both invincible and terrified at the same time. It was like working for a fire breathing dragon, one false step could get you fried, but no one messed with you. It was both better and worse than Kaji. But tonight Ace had another vision, he had seen Mamoru’s obsession.

Mamoru had remembered only two things after meeting Raku. Two very important things. One had been a brilliant memory of the past, of the kingdom that should never have died, of power and beauty, which he intended to create again. The other memory had been of a woman, a whispy figure calling for help; that memory had become an obsession. Ace had been talking with one of the players in the drama about to occur, when out of the blue he had seen a gorgeous blonde in a red dress. For a moment the world seemed to spin, and he knew that it was the girl.

The memory had rushed to the surface, the girl and the prince sitting on a bench by a fountain, hands entwined. Ace had watched from a distance, eyes alert. He had felt jealousy, and sorrow bubble to the surface of his mind, as though emotions had entwined themselves with the vision. And then the image was gone again. Mamoru would reward him for tonight, he was certain of that. But first he had to wear down the girl’s resistance. She was obviously a bit nervous, young, and innocent. None of which would be an asset in a first meeting with a man like Chiba. Ace headed for the edges of the room and in no time had procured the small white pills that would make Mamoru’s night very interesting, and fortify Ace’s position as one of the chosen.

Because Ace knew that he hadn’t been one of Mamoru’s inner circle long ago, merely an underling, without the power to reach for what he wanted. This time he was determined that things would be different. This time he would be one of the guardians, this time the goddess would be his, and belong to no one else. He headed around the edges of the room, certain the girl would be off balance without her friend. He crept beside her, quietly, so he wouldn’t startle her, and waited for the right moment.

~~**~~

Usagi was embarrassed. Her stomach had started to grumble, loudly, drawing a few amused glances from people around her.

“Hungry?” The voice was on her left, sarcastic and snide. Usagi found Ace standing right next to her. How he’d managed to sneak up beside her boggled Usagi’s rather confused mind, but she pushed the fear away.

“What makes you think that?” Her stomach rumbled again, very loudly, and Ace stared at the offending organ. Usagi sighed. “Yes, I am hungry. What do you want?” Ace pushed himself away from the wall in one smooth motion. He held out his hand.

“I think I made a bad impression with you at first, princess. Allow me to apologize for my behavior. I was hoping that you might find me a bit dashing, instead of smacking my hand like a schoolboy.” Usagi stared at him for a long time, watching the shifting lights fall over his features. But she could tell he really was sincere. She slowly gripped his hand.

“All right, I’m sorry too. I’m not used to parties like this.” Ace laughed.

“I can tell. How about a peace offering. Come this way.” Ace started off through the door, Usagi’s hand held tightly in his own. At first she balked, but then a smell touched her nose. Food. Usagi followed the wonderful fragrance, through a side door. Here there were large couches, and in the back and enormous table covered in a banquet to satiate even the most gluttonous of appetites.

"How about this for that growling stomach of yours? All right then, I’ll leave you for a while. Enjoy.” Usagi eyed the food like a starving locust. But she did remember her manners.

“Are you sure you don’t want some too?” Ace shook his head.

“I don’t think my stomach has recovered yet.” Usagi blushed. Ace smiled wryly. “It’s all right; I’m not used to girls like you. Most of the women here are vultures. Why don’t you grab a plate and I’ll get you some punch.” Usagi nodded, thanked him, squared her shoulders and marched to the buffet. For the first time that evening, she was enjoying herself. She loaded a plate, found a small unoccupied chair in the corner, and proceeded to stuff everything in sight in her mouth. Ace brought her a glass of fizzing punch shortly afterward and said goodbye. Usagi visited the table several more times. Luckily it was dark so no one saw her acting like a pig.

Usagi finished off two plates and four glasses before she realized that the punch had been spiked. She giggled under her breath; at least it wasn’t too strong. And the food was wonderful. Still, sitting in a corner alone wasn’t exactly her idea of a fabulous evening. She almost wished Ace would return, at least then she could have someone to talk to, and he had turned out not to be so bad after all. She wondered for a long moment where Naru had disappeared. But her brain refused to focus on its objective and soon she was leaning back in the chair and twirling a long ponytail over one red finger while nibbling on a little sausage.

~~**~~

Ace leaned against the wall and watched Mamoru pace. The dark haired man was obviously troubled over something. Ace felt for a moment like he was watching a lion in a cage. Mamoru ran a hand through his hair slowly, disarranging the thick, dark locks. He growled under his breath. The noise made Ace’s heart pound. Mamoru was not in a good mood. This probably wasn’t a good time, but Ace knew that the window of opportunity might pass quickly. He had one chance, one instant where he could ingratiate himself to Mamoru. Ace moved quietly into the private room. Mamoru didn’t stop his motion. Ace stood motionless, waiting.

“Why are you disturbing me?” The words were harsh and cold, muttered in a voice that was usually reserved for blasphemies. Although his blood turned cold, Ace kept his face impassive and pretended not to notice.

“Great party, things seem to be going according to plan.” There was a long moment of silence. Then Ace smiled slowly. Mamoru stopped pacing for a moment and stared at the smile. “I think, in fact, that things are progressing far better than you realize.” Mamoru grumbled under his breath and resumed his pacing. Ace took a few steps forward.

“Mamoru, I wouldn’t disturb you if it wasn’t important. There’s someone here that you really have to meet.” Mamoru stopped suddenly, his eyes snapping to Ace’s open features.

“You interrupted me because someone wanted to meet me?” His voice was low and incredulous. Ace swallowed loudly.

“It’s more that you should meet her.” Mamoru clenched and unclenched his fists several times, as though stifling the urge to strangle Ace. Ace rushed along, terrified now.

“The princess, she’s here. At this party. I know it’s her.” Mamoru’s mouth dropped open. Ace gulped, uncertain of Mamoru’s reaction.

“You’re certain.” Ace nodded. Mamoru moved quickly and was out the door in an instant. Ace let out the breath he’d been holding and finally gave into the urge to smile.

“She’s in the dining room.” Ace chuckled after yelling the instructions at the back of Mamoru’s head.

~~**~~

A pair of dazzling blue eyes filled her vision. She was so surprised that the food was swallowed whole. Usagi started choking.

"Here, drink this." The girl took the offered glass and downed it quickly, ignoring the horrid taste and the way it stung her throat.

"You scared the shit out of me." Usagi turned to face her savior. And promptly forgot how to breathe.

~~**~~

"This isn't what you think, Naru." Umino paced across the floor of the small room, his hair becoming more and more messy from his habit of rubbing his hand through it every few minutes.

"I don't know what you're talking about, Umino." Naru sat in the high back chair, her legs crossed, and the thigh high slit in the dress falling open, displaying a good length of leg. She held her chin high and worried a bit about Usagi left out in the other room alone.

"You don't understand why I broke up with you." Naru's eyes misted a bit, but she kept her emotions under control.

"I really have no idea what you're talking about, and even if I did know, I don’t give a shit what you do." Umino stopped his pacing and leaned over Naru, tilting her head back with his hand.

"I broke up with you to protect you, silly girl." Then he pressed his lips to hers. Both lost track of time, absorbed in a world of touch and taste. Finally Umino pulled away. Naru took a deep breath, her voice shaking slightly.

"What do I need protection from?" Umino's eyes grew dark. He stared at the wall for a long time.

"I've made a deal. I think maybe it's a deal with the devil." His eyes closed for a moment. "I just got a job, Naru, a job in the upper echelon of the Terran Eclipse Corporation. They're going to pay for the remainder of my schooling, and I'll be their technology expert." Umino's face grew a bit pale for a moment. "I signed a …contract; I guess you’d call it. My absolute loyalty goes to Terran Eclipse now." Naru's eyes grew a bit wide.

"That doesn't seem like much to ask for all they're giving you." Naru's voice was soft.

"You haven't met them Naru, you don't know what they're like. If I had one word to describe them, it would be ruthless."

~~**~~

"Are you all right?" Mamoru Chiba mentally ordered his heart to stop pounding. He’d been watching the girl for only a few minutes now, his eyes never leaving her body. She’d downed an enormous amount of food. He’d recognized her immediately. The eyes were the same, pale blue, clear, and innocent as a baby’s. And she’d been adorable, leaning back in the chair like a little girl. She'd downed the glass of brandy as though it was water, and Mamoru couldn't tell if her coughing fit was from choking on the food or the alcohol. She finally gained her breath, swore, and then stared at him.

Mamoru was used to appraising glances from women, but for some reason this little girl made his blood run hot with lust. Her eyes were windows to her soul, every emotion so close to the surface that they threatened to boil over. They were the palest blue he’d ever seen, almost silver, even more beautiful than he’d remembered. Her hair was a rich lemon blonde. That he didn’t remember, but the color complemented her pale skin. He resisted the urge to run his hands through the thick mass. Her ridiculous hairstyle brought him up short. For a moment he could almost imagine that she had two fat meatballs on top of her head. He chuckled under his breath at the mental image.

"I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be so rude. Thank you." The girl's voice was soft and high pitched. She leaned forward politely, and the tiny red velvet dress displayed a very mature figure. She slowly stood up, and Mamoru's breath caught in his throat. If he had molded every fantasy he'd ever had into the perfect woman, it still wouldn't have equaled this girl's beauty. Her eyes stared into his. Neither one broke the gaze.

"Mamoru?" The voice jerked Mamoru from his hypnosis. It was Kaji, his face locked into its usual mask of indifference. "We have a problem." Mamoru glanced down at the girl in front of him.

"Then take care of it Kaji, I'm sure you're capable." Mamoru's voice was hard and clipped. The white haired man bowed and moved away quickly. The girl, however, seemed upset by his tone. Her eyes filled with tears and she tried to pull away.

"It's all right, little one. Just business. Come sit down." The tears stopped, and the girl followed him docilely to a couch that had miraculously cleared off in the back. Of course, the scowl and imperious wave of his hand had helped the current occupants on their way. The girl wobbled a bit on her heels and Mamoru wondered for a moment exactly how much she’d had to drink. He helped her sit down and joined her on the soft leather cushions. She slid in towards his body and giggled. He leaned his lips down toward her ear, brushing a soft caress against her skin. "What's your name?"

Usagi was feeling a bit lightheaded. She remembered the stern warning in Naru's admonition not to drink anything alcoholic ten seconds after accepting the awful liquid. But she’d already had the punch, which had made her head spin. And the drink had stopped her from choking. Now she felt like she was flying. She wasn't sure if the feeling came from the drink, or from the incredibly handsome man seated beside her. From the moment she looked into his eyes, she knew he was the only man for her.

"Usagi." She whispered the word shyly.

Mamoru felt a bit annoyed that the girl wouldn't give him her real name, but he'd go along with the game. "All right little bunny, what brings you here tonight?" Mamoru watched the girl's eyes glance up at him, and then turn back down to the table.

"I came with a friend." Mamoru felt jealousy gather in his gut. He had the urge to rip apart the person who had brought the beautiful girl as a date and left her alone in a corner. But he held his temper, leaning back and waving a waiter over. He ordered drinks for the two of them. It was quiet for a moment, until he mastered his emotions.

"What's his name?" Usagi giggled at the question.

"It's not a he, it's a she. She wanted to show up an old boyfriend." Mamoru let out a silent sigh of relief. He wouldn't have to kill anyone tonight after all. The waiter returned and set the two glasses on the table. Mamoru slid the fruity cocktail in front of Usagi.

"Try this, you'll like it." Usagi took a sip of the drink, and she did like it, a lot. She downed the whole thing in a long slurp. Mamoru found her enthusiasm refreshing.

"That was really good, what's it called?"

"A Fuzzy Navel." Usagi crinkled her brow.

"That's a stupid name for a drink. Sounds like a hygiene problem. What's your name?" She turned that gaze on him, and Mamoru felt the strange feeling return. He wanted to sweep the girl into his arms and take her home forever. And he always followed his instincts.

"My name’s Mamoru.” Usagi wrinkled her nose. Mamoru thought she looked just like the rabbit she was named for. “And is your name really Usagi?” The girl sighed loudly and flung an arm over the back of the couch. Then she leaned in close and fake whispered loudly, like a child.

“My grandmother gave me that awful name, because she said my parents were fucking like bunnies as newlyweds, so they had a little rabbit. Well, she didn’t actually say it in those words…” Her voice trailed off. “You know what, Mamoru? You have really pretty eyes.” She reached a hand up and trailed it down his face. Mamoru was frozen for several long moments. Usagi leaned back against the couch again, her eyes slightly glazed. “You know what, Mamoru? Most guys don’t take a second look at me. You’re awfully nice to listen to me chatter.” He smiled.

“I think most guys must be blind. How about we go dance for a while?” He stood slowly, drawing Usagi to her feet and into his arms. She smiled blindingly.

“I thought you’d never ask.”

~~**~~

The door opened with a crash. Umino jumped a foot and Naru tumbled out of her chair onto the ground. A man walked into the room, his green eyes twinkling. Then he opened his mouth, his smooth voice oppressive in the small room.

"Someone you forgot to tell us about, Umino." The second man closed the door much more quietly than he'd opened it, and stood in front of the door. The first man took a seat in another chair. "I'm waiting for an answer." Naru simply looked confused.

“Who in the world are…?”

“Just be quiet Naru, this doesn’t concern you.” Umino snapped the words, and Naru’s eyes grew moist.

“So harsh, little Umino. You shouldn’t be so mean to the little girl, you might hurt her feelings.” The sarcastic laughed from the green eyed man made Naru stiffen like a scared kitten hissing at a large dog.

"Just leave her out of this, Hisame." Umino put himself in front of Naru, who had stood up, shaking slightly. "I told you, I broke up with her." Hisame grinned.

"Is that right? It didn't look like that a moment ago." Umino simply glared. Hisame put the folder clutched in his left hand on the table. He opened it up and pulled out a sheet of paper.

"Quite a girlfriend you have Umino. Parents own a chain of jewelry stores, top grades in school, and moves in upper levels of society. The perfect little rich princess. Oh, and look at this. Her grandfather owns a shipping empire; her uncle is involved in exports. Connections perfect for a rich little prince, not a geek with little money and lots of brain. Don’t you think she’s a little high-class for you?" Hisame snapped the folder shut with a snap. “Of course, she’s also been named the heir to her father’s gems, and her uncle’s business. And did you know she also is the only grandchild of that rich old bastard? She sees him just a few times a year, but he’s leaving her the shipyards. Life’s not quite fair is it? You work to get the best and it’s still not good enough.” Umino’s face turned bright red. Then man at the door laughed softly.

"You really don't think we recruited you just for your skills, do you? Although they are quite impressive. But you need more than a few programming skills to work for Terran Eclipse, however her contacts will do nicely.”

"You bastards." Umino launched himself at Hisame, but was skillfully intercepted by Kaji. He knocked the boy backwards, giving a black eye and bloody nose in the process. Then Kaji took his former place by the door. Naru rushed to Umino's side, pulling a handkerchief from her purse.

"Umino, please don't, just hold still." She held the cloth up to his bleeding face.

"We knew she'd show up sooner or later. And you don’t have a choice Umino. She joins us too, or you both disappear tonight." Naru gasped. Umino's face fell. He turned to face Naru.

"Naru, oh Naru. I'm sorry, I didn't mean for this to happen." Naru threw her arms around her best friend and lover.

"It's all right Umino, I'd do anything for you." Hisame pulled out a packet of papers.

"I'll need you to sign these before you leave this room. Umino, go buy her a nice ring." Hisame pulled a stack of bills from his pocket and tossed them at the angry young man. "She's a little young, but you can be engaged until she graduates from high school." Naru stood up and walked on shaking legs toward the table. She flipped through the papers, horrified for a moment at what they were. Naru took a deep breath and scribbled her name, signing her life away with a few strokes of a pen. Then she ran back to Umino and wrapped her arms around him. She cried as the two men left the room. Umino wrapped his arms around her, his hot eyes never leaving the two men. He ran a hand over Naru's soft hair.

"It's all right sweetheart, we'll always have each other. It'll be all right." He wasn't sure if he believed himself though. They now belonged, heart and soul, to a devil named Mamoru Chiba.

~~**~~

Usagi loved dancing, whirling around the room held safe in this man's arms. She felt like she'd always belonged here, with him. The drinks were having quite an effect on her. The lights in the room were spinning along with the music. It was like a dream, a dream from long ago. And it felt so good every time he touched her.

Mamoru pulled the tipsy girl closer to him, enjoying the feel of her pressed against his body. She put her head against his chest, sighing with happiness.

"Are you getting tired?" The girl looked up and giggled.

"Yeah, I'm pretty tired. You have nice hair, you know that?" She ran her hands through the dark locks. Mamoru smiled. Her constant change of subject was amusing.

"Why don't I take you home?" Usagi blinked rapidly.

“How do you know where I live? Won’t you get lost?" Mamoru smiled again. She was the funniest little thing. He swept her up into his arms, doubtful if she could make the trek to the door. Kaji intercepted him there.

"Did you get it taken care of?" Kaji nodded, and then glanced at the blonde giggling in Mamoru's arms, his mask hardening a bit more.

"Have a nice night, my lord, we'll finish up here." Kaji bowed again and headed back into the party.

Mamoru took the cloak the man at the door offered and threw it over Usagi's head, making a little cocoon. Usagi started singing a silly song about living in a tent forever. Mamoru hurried through the cold night to the limousine waiting outside.

~~**~~

Naru and Umino looked for Usagi for an hour before they realized she couldn't possibly be at the party anymore.

"I'm sure she just got bored and went home, Naru." Umino held the girl in his arms; unable to avoid the suspicion that something was very wrong. "Why don't I drive you home? It's late; she's probably in bed somewhere. Usagi can't live without sleep." Naru nodded, but she too knew that something had happened to Usagi, and it was her fault.

~~**~~

"Is that a fridge?" Usagi opened the door, squealing in glee at the bottles of wine, and containers of ice cream. "Do you think there's any chocolate?" Mamoru smiled at the girl's questions. He'd become use to having all the perks money could buy. This girl’s reactions were refreshing.

"I think there is, chocolate happens to be my favorite." Usagi opened one of the containers and spooned the cold stuff into her mouth as fast as she could.

"Ice cream is heaven. Without ice cream I think I'd die." She continued shoveling the food in at an alarming rate. Mamoru laughed.

"Keep that up and you'll have a headache. Why Usagi, I do believe you are a pig!" Usagi turned and stuck out a chocolate-coated tongue. Mamoru used every once of willpower he possessed not to crush her in his arms. He'd have her home soon, and then he could do whatever he wanted with that little tongue of hers.

"You look like a bunny with those odangoes on your head. Maybe I should call you odango atama." Usako's face turned bright red.

"Don't call me that! I don't even let my brother call me that." Then she launched herself at Mamoru, fists flailing. He laughed and grabbed her hands, pulling her into his lap.

"I won't call you that, sweetheart." She looked up at him.

"Are you sorry?"

"Very sorry." Usagi's face lit up again.

"Then I forgive you. Now let's kiss and make up." She put a hand on either side of his face and pressed her cold lips to his. She tasted like chocolate. Mamoru held the back of her head in place with one large hand and pressed his lips harder against hers. Usagi moaned. He wrapped his other arm around her waist, pulling her tighter against him. Mamoru pulled away for a moment.

"Open your mouth sweetheart." Usagi obeyed, and Mamoru's tongue swept inside. Her head spun, and her heart began beating loudly. Mamoru pulled back, just holding her against him.

"Limos are a bad idea; we'll be home in a minute." Usagi looked at him strangely.

"Then we'll have to say good bye, won't we?" Mamoru's smile returned.

"We're going to my house, Usagi."

"Why?" Mamoru just laughed. He’d never enjoyed women’s coy little games, but this one seemed so sincere and innocent. She’d obviously played this part often.

~~**~~

Mamoru carried Usagi inside the Terran Eclipse building. He headed straight for the elevator, while Usagi sang her tent song again. For a moment, he was a bit concerned with the alcohol she’d been drinking all evening. Once inside he set her down, draping the cloak over one arm.

"You look very handsome in a cape." Usagi was slumped against the elevator wall, and her words were slightly slurred. Mamoru frowned and turned his key in the elevator control. The car started moving swiftly. In a few moments the glass tube rose out of the lobby and the lights of the city sparkled through the walls. Usagi pressed her face against the cool glass.

"This is beautiful. It looks like a million fireflies sparkling.” Mamoru felt his smile return.

“You look very beautiful in that dress." She stood and twirled, almost falling on her face. Mamoru held out a hand to steady her.

"Do you like it? I didn't pick it out. I like pink better than red." She leaned up against him, laying her head against his chest. "But she said the dresses I liked were too frilly."

The elevator silently slid to a halt.

"Come on, we're here." He slid an arm around her shoulders, and led her into the apartment. The lights were out, and the drapes were open. The city stretched out in a haze of lights, with the moon hovering overhead.

"It's like you live in heaven." Usagi walked forward, surprisingly steady on her feet, and pressed her nose against the glass. "Look at all the lights, and the moon. I always wanted to know what the earth looks like from the moon."

Mamoru listened to her rambling with half an ear, more intent on removing his tuxedo and enjoying the view of her silhouette in the moonlight. He quickly stripped off the jacket, tie, and vest. Then he pulled off the suspenders and unbuttoned the shirt. Usagi was still staring out the window at the moon. He walked into the kitchen, and poured two glasses of champagne.

"It's beautiful tonight. Often the view is shrouded by fog, and soon taller buildings will probably block off everything." Usagi finally turned from the window. Mamoru stood behind her, a glass in each hand, his white shirt unbuttoned.

"That's a rather sad way to think of life." Her voice was soft, and sad, as though she expected more from him. Mamoru simply handed her the glass. Usagi took a sip.

"The bubbles tickle." She wrinkled her nose. Then she tilted the glass and quickly drank it all. Mamoru followed her example, and then dropped both the glasses on the floor. They shattered with a loud crash. Usagi jumped backwards, a touch of fear in her eyes. Mamoru swept the girl into his arms, the glass crunching underneath his feet. The trip to the bedroom was just a few steps. Usagi couldn't see much because Mamoru kept the lights off. He put her on the floor and leaned over to take his shoes off. Usagi stared at the top of his head, admiring the way his hair shone even in the small amount of moonlight that entered the windows.

"Mamoru, what are you doing?" Mamoru sighed loudly.

"The act is getting a little old, Usagi. It was real cute for the first hour or two, but it's time for the games to end." He stood up, pulling Usagi back to her feet. "No more games, no more." He leaned down, pressing his mouth against hers in a searing kiss.

Usagi was lost. Between the alcohol, the drugs Ace had slipped her, and the power of the kiss, she couldn't tell up from down. She knotted both hands into the sides of his shirt, trying to keep herself from crumpling to the ground. His tongue swept into her mouth, while his hands ran down her back and around to her hips. He lifted her up and set her back on the bed. He tore his lips away, ran his hands down each of her legs slowly, pulled off her heels one by one, and chucked them over his shoulder. Usagi closed her eyes and laid back on the bed, too tired to argue, too drunk to fight, giving over to the sensations his hands were sending through her body.

Mamoru watched the girl's face in the moonlight. Her hair spread out over the black satin comforter, golden against the darkness. He climbed onto the bed, lying beside her. He ran a hand along her cheek, and across her lips. He leaned over and kissed her gently. His hands swept over the red velvet of the dress, and around the back to the zipper. He eased it down slowly, and pulled the garment off.

Usagi was so tired. She vaguely felt Mamoru's hands on her body, and his lips on hers. His touch sent shivers down her back. He leaned over her, pressing her back into the covers. It felt so familiar, like this had happened sometime before. She moved her hands up to his neck, holding tightly.

Mamoru peeled off the nylons, and ran his hands over Usagi's satin undergarments. The only sounds were his ragged breathing and her quiet moans. The heater kicked on, quietly spilling warmth into the room. Mamoru moved off Usagi for a moment, removing his shirt, pants, and underwear. Then he moved on top of her again, kissing her wildly, pressing his hips against hers. Usagi struggled for a moment, the sensations overwhelming her. This was too fast, and she didn't think she could keep from drowning.

"It's all right, sweetheart, don't fight me." She relaxed against him, as his hands moved between them. Usagi felt a spark inside her, growing stronger with every stroke of his fingers.

"Mamoru, please." Usagi's breathing became faster. She writhed underneath him, thrusting hips forward to meet his fingers. Mamoru bent over and kissed her again, sweeping his tongue through her mouth. Then she stiffened underneath him, and let out a tiny scream. He showered kisses down her chin, to her full breasts. He slowly took off her satin bra, teasing one nipple while suckling on the other. Usagi had lost all sense of time. She could only feel what Mamoru's hands were doing to her body. His hands and mouth moved from her breasts to her thighs, and then between them. His tongue flicked against her. Usagi arched off the bed and screamed again, his name, loudly. He moved back over her, kissing her lips again.

"Do you want me to stop, sweetheart?" He looked down into the girl's eyes.

"No, Yes. I don’t know. Please, Mamoru, please." Usagi rubbed her hips against him. Mamoru smiled.

"Your wish is my command." He placed himself at her entrance, and slowly pushed inside. Then he stopped for a moment, feeling a barrier he wasn’t expecting.

"Usagi, is there something you want to tell me?" Usagi opened her eyes again. They were brimming with confusion.

"I've never had anything to drink before?" Her voice was full of sincerity. Mamoru simply groaned.

"I'm sorry baby." Then he pushed himself into her slowly, ignoring her tears and her pleas for him to stop hurting her.

"That hurts Mamoru, stop it."

"It was supposed to hurt sweetheart, you were a virgin."

"That's stupid." Mamoru stifled a laugh. He wiped her tears away and captured her lips in his again. Usagi felt the desire rising in her again. Then Mamoru began to move. She caught the rhythm quickly and met his motions. Then she felt something hovering on the edges of her mind, as though there was a presence there. The world collapsed. Usagi felt like she was exploding, and then the two lay in each other's arms.

"Good night, Usagi." He planted a kiss on her forehead, but she was already fast asleep. He lay beside her for a few moments, the enormity of what he had felt sweeping over him. For once in his life, he’d been given something pure, innocent. He glanced down at the girl beside him, almost laughing when she opened her mouth and started to snore. He felt something fluttering in his heart, something stronger than lust. And he lay in the dark, swiftly rewriting his life to include the angel sleeping beside him.

~~**~~

Mamoru woke to bright sunlight streaming in the windows of his penthouse. He rolled over; for a minute terrified that the night before had been just a dream, but the girl was still in his bed, nothing but her golden hair visible above the covers. He got out of bed slowly, grimacing a bit at the pain in his head. He really shouldn't have had that last glass of champagne. The shower beckoned him.

He sang in the shower, a loud rendition of the newest hit from the Starlights. He hoped in the back of his mind that the noise might wake his sleeping guest, but she didn't even stir. After the shower, he managed to eat a bowl of noodles and down some milk. He looked in on the girl one last time before leaving for work. She was still snuggled under the covers, only her head poking out. Mamoru planted a soft kiss on her forehead, and scribbled a note that he left on the nightstand.

"Sleep well, little bunny."

~~**~~

Usagi opened her eyes slowly. Her head was pounding, her stomach hurt like hell, and she couldn’t remember getting into bed. The ceiling in her bedroom looked very far away. She frowned. Not only was the ceiling far away, but it was ridged in a strange pattern. And it was black. She sat up slowly, one hand on her pounding head. Then she screamed. The sound hovered in the oppressive black and red opulence of the room for several long moments after her voice quieted.

She managed to get herself out of the strange bed very quickly, and almost had another heart attack. She was naked, and there was blood on her thighs. For a moment she was in shock, unaware of what might have happened. She closed her eyes tightly and tried to remember the night before, but it was a giant blank, as though an eraser had wiped everything from her mind after eating at the party.

"And I don't remember anything." Usagi sank to the floor and cried. She remembered Naru disappearing, and the blonde man…she frowned until his name came to mind. Ace, his name was Ace something. And she’d sat down to eat. And had too much fizzy punch. And she remembered choking, and a nasty drink, and a pair of eyes the color of a blue crayon. Her head started pounding fiercely. After a while her tears slowly dried up to sniffles and hiccups. She stood up slowly, wiping her nose on her arm, and wincing at the soreness between her legs and the ache in her head.

There was a note, on the pillow. A strong hand had scribbled the words ‘I’ll be home after six. Get some sleep’. She stared at the message for a long time as though she could somehow remember who the note was from merely by deciphering the characters. Then she crumpled the message into a ball. She had to get home. Her clothes were scattered around the room. She picked up each piece slowly and struggled to dress. “I promise I’ll always listen to Naru from now on.” Usagi said the words like a prayer, her fuzzy mind still trying to sort out details. She could remember bright blue eyes, and black hair, but no face went with the features. Usagi started to panic. "I'll call Naru, she'll know what to do." Usagi went to the phone sitting beside the bed. Then she stopped. "It's Monday, she'll be at school." Usagi choked back the tears again. Finally she had managed to dress herself.

The penthouse was huge, and done all in black and red. The opulence was oppressive, and it seemed almost, evil. Usagi shivered a bit. She found the main entrance quickly, and noticed a black cape lying by the door. For some reason a pair of brilliant blue eyes flashed through her mind again. She picked the cape up and wrapped it around her. Then she entered the elevator, pushing the button labeled parking garage. Nothing happened. Then Usagi noticed the lock, and for some reason remembered a large hand turning a key. She swore and left the elevator. It took her almost thirty minutes to find the staircase. It was hidden back out of the way, but luckily there was no fire alarm attached.

The whole way down she prayed no one would find her. It was a slow, arduous trip. She lost track of the floors after fifty. She was walking in her bare feet; her heels were a poor choice for exercise. She finally reached the bottom, huffing and puffing, and pushed aside to the door to reveal a well lit, but mainly empty parking garage. And to Usagi's eternal thanks, a taxi sat just a little bit in front of her, with a young black haired woman exiting. Usagi waited until the woman was out of sight, and then ran for the cab. She slid into the seat and directed the man to her house, grateful for the cab money still tucked in her purse.

~~**~~

The cab pulled up outside the Tsukino residence, and Usagi was glad the trip hadn't been any longer. She had just enough money to pay the meter. It was Monday, so her mom would be grocery shopping and then she’d go to work at the library, her dad would be at work, and her brother at school. So she ran to the front door and let herself inside quickly. They wouldn’t have missed her in the morning. She was supposed to get up and get to school on her own, her mom had probably checked her room at eight and finding it empty, assumed she’d actually gotten up and to school on time.

She raided the fridge first, eating everything in sight, and then spend two hours in the shower scrubbing every inch of skin she could reach. Finally, she took the undergarments she'd been wearing and burned them. The dress had to be returned to the rental shop, so Usagi carefully looked it over for stains or tears, and hid it in the back of her closet. Finally she curled up in her bed and cried herself to sleep.

~~**~~

Naru was worried. Usagi hadn't been at school all day. Classes went by very slowly without Usagi's constant antics. Finally the day was over and Naru made it home in record speed. Her first stop was the telephone. The phone rang several times. Finally a quiet voice answered.

"Hello?"

"Usagi! You're home. What happened last night? Where were you? Why didn't you come to school today?" The other end of the line burst into tears. Naru's premonition became worse. Something very bad had happened to Usagi. "I'll be over in two minutes." Naru slammed the phone down and ran out the door.

The trip to Usagi's house took Naru a bit longer than two minutes. She knocked on the front door. Shingo, Usagi's annoying brother answered.

"What are you doing here?"

"I'm here to see Usagi." Shingo shrugged and opened the door, returning to his video game. Naru raced up the stairs, hoping to avoid Mrs. Tsukino. She almost succeeded.

"Hello Naru. Usagi's locked in her room; I think she said she was doing homework. Ask her if she wants anything to eat." Naru nodded, grateful that Usagi's mom hadn't heard about her daughter missing school yet.

"Usagi?" Naru knocked lightly on the door. The only sound from inside was the occasional sniffle. "Usagi please let me in."

The door cracked open a bit, and Naru quickly entered, shutting the door and locking it behind her. Usagi was sitting on her bed, dressed in a pair of ratty bunny pajamas, and hugging a big stuffed animal her dad had bought for her long ago. Her eyes looked hollow, and her face was red from tears.

"Oh kami, what happened Usa?" Naru climbed on the bed beside her best friend.

"I don't even remember Naru. I don't remember anything. I don’t want to remember anything." Her voice started to shake a bit.

"It's OK Usa, start from the last thing you do remember." Usagi nodded her head slowly.

"We were at that party, and Umino took you off to talk about something, and I waited. I got hungry, so I got something to eat. And then I waited for really long time. And then I bumped into someone and choked on a sausage, and then…" Usagi stopped, her brow furrowed in concentration. That part of the night was a big blank spot. "I remember eyes, a pair of sapphire blue eyes." Naru didn’t speak, unable to break the silence that had fallen. Usagi finally took a deep breath and continued. "I woke up in this big apartment, in this bed with black sheets." Naru's face turned a bit white, Usagi's turned red. "I, I wasn't wearing any clothes, so I found my clothes and snuck outside and took a cab home…and then I slept." Usagi's tale broke into quiet sobs. Naru wrapped her arms around Usagi. Suddenly Naru's own problems seemed very small.

"I'm so sorry, this is all my fault. How can you ever forgive me?" Usagi just clung to Naru and cried.

~~**~~

At six o’clock exactly the elevators opened to Mamoru's penthouse. He was dressed in a tuxedo, with a dozen roses in one hand, a bottle of wine in the other, and a small box from Osa P Jewelers in his pocket. The place was dark.

"Usagi?" The silence was a bit oppressive. Mamoru noticed the glass was still covering the floor by the window. He walked through the apartment slowly, calling for her.

"Usagi? Where are you?" Doubts flooded his mind. Maybe he should have left a longer note, or woke her up that morning. He had been so sure she had enjoyed the night before. And most women wanted more than a one-night fling. He ended in the bedroom. The covers were half dropped on the floor. The bed was empty, and her clothes were gone. He dropped both the flowers and wine on the floor, frantically searching for anything she might have left behind. There was nothing. His bellow of denial could be heard in the streets below.

~~**~~

Usagi shifted slowly from foot to foot. She hated going to the doctors but her mother had insisted. She hadn't been able to keep food down for three weeks now. The doctor's office was sparsely furnished, and all the chairs were taken. So Usagi stood, waiting for her turn.

"Usagi Tsukino?" The nurse poked her head around the door. Usagi took a few steps forward. "Please follow me Miss Tsukino." The woman walked through the narrow corridors and led Usagi to a small room. "Please take your clothing off and put this on." The woman handed her a little paper dress. Usagi blushed a bit, but nodded her assent. The nurse returned a few moments later to take blood, vital signs, and give Usagi a cup to fill with urine. Usagi really hated doctor's visits. After all the poking and prodding, and answering questions about her eating habits, the doctor gave her a pat on the head and a promise that the test results would be back in a day. Another day of waiting.

~~**~~

Ikuko Tsukino held her daughters hand tightly while they waited for the doctor to speak.

"Mrs. Tsukino, it appears your daughter isn't ill at all." Ikuko let out the breath she'd been holding. "However, it does appear that your daughter is three weeks pregnant." The room was silent for several long moments. Then Usagi screamed.

Ikuko sat in silence, her mind unable to digest what she'd just heard. "Usagi's only seventeen, barely seventeen." The doctor smiled sadly. "She doesn't even have a boyfriend. She's never been on a date. She's never…"

Usagi's screams had turned to tears, the kind that shake the body and cause those listening to cringe. "This can't be happening to me. I don't even remember what happened. I don't know what he looks like; I don't even remember his name." She pulled her slender legs up by her chin, rested her head on them, and wrapped her arms around her legs. The sobs quieted to silent tears.

The doctor handed a pamphlet to Ikuko. "There are several options you can look at." Ikuko flipped through the booklet, her gaze becoming sadder with each page. Usagi slowly regained control, and looked over her mothers shoulder. Her eyes grew dark with anger. She ripped the booklet from her mother's hands and shredded it completely.

"This is my baby, and I'm not going to kill it." The doctor took a step back, a bit intimidated by the girl's commanding voice and blazing eyes. Ikuko stood and wrapped an arm around Usagi's shoulders.

"Let's go home sweetheart. We need to talk to your father. You need to tell us what happened. Thank you, Doctor."

The two women left the office, leaning on each other for support, as though a great weight was resting on their shoulders.

~~**~~

Mamoru paced across the boardroom. The six men and two women sitting at the table cringed every time he passed by them. Anger radiated off him, almost visible. In fact, it was visible to some seated there. A black mist seeping off his body, flooding the room and escaping into the world beyond. His eyes were almost black.

Kaji could feel the rumbling inside him. He had kept his anger bottled inside for six months now. Six months of dealing with a leader who was acting more like a spoiled brat. Six months of searching for someone who obviously didn't want to be found. Six months of hell. He noticed the defeated look on Hisame's face, and the questions echoing from Ikusa and Arashi. He closed his eyes for a moment, and then let the anger spill out.

He let his restraints go, the anger washing through his body. But even now he wouldn't chastise Mamoru in public. Mamoru's mouth opened in shock as Kaji stood and grabbed him by the arm, hauling him out the door and down the hallway to an empty office.

Kaji slammed the door shut, throwing Mamoru against the far wall in the same movement. He continued into the room, plowing a fist into Mamoru's gut.

"You selfish little brat. Do you realize what we've sacrificed to find you? We've been working night and day, trying to get back your kingdom. We train every night under that witch, we spent a year searching for you, and we have given up our families, our homes, and everything we've ever loved for you." Kaji continued pounding on Mamoru during the tirade, giving the young man a bloody lip, a black eye, and a massive headache in the process. Then Kaji grabbed Mamoru's hair, pulling his face up. The two men looked each other in the eyes. Mamoru shivered at the amount of emotion hidden there.

"I left the only woman who has ever been able to touch my soul for you, Prince. You have my complete loyalty, but you have yet to earn my respect." Then Kaji slammed Mamoru's face into the floor. "Grow up. The Prince of Earth can't afford to be a sniveling brat." Then Kaji left the room, leaving an almost unconscious Mamoru alone on the floor.

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