"..." dialogue
/.../ thoughts
//...// flashbacks
*...* emphasis
|...| Smartass Inner Voices (tm)
<...> Eerie Disembodied Voices (tm)

@)~~}~~~~

Soul's Winter
Prologue: Boy, Was *That* Some Bad Catnip!

"Are you nervous?" Usagi bubbled, as Makoto put the final touches on Ami's 
hair.

Ami smiled broadly and started to speak, but Minako hushed her.  "Don't 
move your face!" she commanded, applying with deft strokes the makeup that 
would complete the image.  "There," she announced, sounding deeply 
satisfied.

"I'm done," Makoto said at almost the same moment.

"I'm *not*," Rei said authoritatively.  "Ami, don't move your fingers one 
bit until I'm sure the polish is dry."

"Oooo, Ami, you look gorgeous!" Usagi exclaimed, jumping up and down in 
excitement.  "You're going to wow everyone today."

"Of course she is," Minako said briskly.  "It's her job for the day." 

"Um... can I see?" Ami asked shyly, barely daring to speak.

"Oh... right!" Makoto exclaimed, grabbing a mirror and holding it up for 
Ami's inspection.

Ami gasped in amazement.  "Oh, wow, you guys... You've done a great job."

Rei giggled.  "Actually, Ami, you've done most of the work 
yourself--You're so happy, you're glowing!" She inspected the manicure 
carefully.  "Okay, the polish is dry."

Dr. Mizuno entered the room.  "Are you ready, girls?" she asked.  "It's 
time."

Ami stood cautiously and smiled at her mother happily.  "I'm ready."

Rich, majestic music rolled out of the chapel doors as one by one her 
friends proceeded up the aisle, beaming at the men at their sides.  Minako 
and Kunzite... Makoto and Nephrite... Usagi and Mamoru... and last, 
(mostly by default), Rei and Zoisite...

"Ready, sweetheart?" her father asked her, as Rei and Zoisite took their 
places on either side of the altar.

"Yes," Ami sighed wholeheartedly, as the music stopped, and then began to 
play again.

The doors opened wide, and Ami began walking proudly down the aisle on her 
father's arm, hope and love shining in her eyes at the sight of the tall, 
blond man waiting for her at the altar.  A wide, joyous smile lit his 
handsome features, as if he couldn't quite believe his own good fortune...

Ami blinked, as the organist hit a sour note as she played the wedding 
march.  Suddenly the altar seemed so very far away.  There was another 
sour note, and another, and then a cascading cacophony as the aisle 
lengthened impossibly.  "No!" Ami protested, dropping her bouquet and 
beginning to run down the aisle, to the ever-retreating man waiting at the 
end of it.  She couldn't bear to lose him... "Jadeite!"

Ami sat up in bed, her breath coming in ragged sobs and her pajamas clammy 
with her own sweat.  The dark, familiar shapes of her own bedroom 
confronted her with their ordinariness.

"A dream," she whispered into the darkness, drawing her knees up to her 
chest and hugging them.  "Just a dream..." She buried her face in her arms 
and began to cry very softly.

"Ami?" Dr. Mizuno opened the door and peeked in.  "Are you all right?"

"I'm fine, Mom," Ami managed to reply, in a voice just above a whisper.

The doctor, knowing better, entered her daughter's bedroom and sat on the 
edge of the bed.  "Ami, I know there are parts of your life that I know 
nothing about, but I can tell when there's something bothering you... 
You've been like this for the past two weeks.  Please tell me what's going 
on."

Ami leaned into her mother's shoulder, wondering how she could explain the 
loss of her one true love and the loss of a good friend.

"Did something happen between you and Greg?" Dr. Mizuno probed.  "You 
never try to return his calls."

"It's not Greg," Ami said softly.

"Is it--" her mother paused, uncertain.  "Is there something wrong between 
you and Jadeite?"

At the choked whimper this elicited, her eyes grew wide.  "If he's hurt 
you--"

"He's dead."

"What?" Dr. Mizuno asked, stunned.  Jadeite, that vibrant, laughing young 
man, was dead?  "My God, Ami..."

Her daughter, in halting words, told the story of Chibi Usa's mysterious 
arrival, of the Dark Moon family, of the trip to the future, and of the 
horrific battle against the Doom Phantom.

"Oh, sweetheart, I'm so sorry about your friends..."

"Jadeite was much more than a friend!" Anguished, Ami turned away.  "I 
love--*loved*--him."

"But you only knew him for a short time," the doctor protested, mystified 
by the passion in her young daughter's voice.

"I knew Jadeite in the Silver Millennium," Ami said hollowly, voice 
ancient.  "And I loved him then, too, even though I never admitted it to 
myself..." She looked back at her mother, the moonlight from the window 
shining silver on the wetness of her cheeks.  "At least this time I 
managed to tell him how I felt."

~*~

Sleep refused to come, not matter how hard she tried.  Giving it up as 
hopeless, Minako slid from bed and wrapped herself in a robe.  She padding 
over to her window, settling herself on the window sill and surveying the 
trees outside with pain-haunted blue eyes.  

She stared up at the nearly full Moon, lost in thought.  Had it really 
been a millennium since she had served as leader of the Inner Sailor 
Scouts, the protectors of Princess Serenity?  Had it really been only two 
weeks since *he* had died?

Minako sighed deeply and leaned her head back, resting it against the 
wall.  She knew her parents were worried about her recent change in 
behavior--The serious, thoughtful part of her that had lain dormant since 
her days on the Moon had come back with her memories of the period.  She 
tried, as best she could, to appear as cheerful and normal for their 
sakes, but sometimes... the mask slipped, and she wasn't able to fool 
them.

Of course, what was she supposed to tell them?  "Oh, yeah, Mom, Dad, I'm 
really Sailor Venus, and I lead the Sailor Scouts, and two weeks ago I 
watched the man I loved a thousand years ago die to save his lover.  
What's been on *your* minds lately?" It might take them all of five 
minutes to telephone the nearest mental institution.  No, it was better to 
let them think as they preferred and keep her secrets close to her heart.

"Minako?"

"Yeah, Artemis?" she asked, as the white cat uncurled himself from his 
spot on her pillow.  He and Luna had finally reappeared from their 
catnip-inspired adventure, only to find that the Scouts had all changed.  

The cat was silent for a long moment.  "Thinking about him again?"

/Poor Artemis... This must be such a strain for you and Luna,/ Minako 
thought sadly.  "Yeah, I'm thinking about him again."

"Is there anything I can do?" he asked hesitantly, leaping from the bed 
and springing into her lap.  

Minako smiled.  "No, not really.  I'll be all right... I guess." She 
stroked his fur, sparking a low purr from the feline.  

"I wish Luna and I could remember," he mumbled indistinctly.  "Then maybe 
I'd be able to understand..."

"Understand what?  How we can be so madly in love with former enemies?" 
Minako laughed bitterly.  

"Well, yes," the cat admitted.  "No matter how I look at it, it feels 
unnatural to me.  I just can't shake the feeling that this is all the 
fault of that catnip Luna slipped me."

Minako giggled and rubbed his ears.  "Poor, poor Artemis..."

~*~

Leaning her head on the windowsill, Usagi sighed heavily as she stared up 
at the Moon.  /Mother, can *you* tell me why it has to be so unfair?/ she 
asked silently, thinking of her friends, both living and dead.  /Why did 
they have to lose their second chances just as they got them?/

"Usagi, shouldn't you be studying?" Luna asked her mistress, more from the 
force of habit than anything else.  

"I've already taken care of it, Luna," Usagi replied absently.

The cat eyed the girl's back suspiciously, and then rifled through the 
stack of homework.  Amazingly, it was all completed.  Luna blinked, and 
then picked a homework problem at random.  "If you have a right triangle 
with hypotenuse of ten and a leg of eight-"

"The other leg is six units long," Usagi mumbled.  "Geez, Luna, don't you 
trust me to have done it?"

"You really *did* do your homework," Luna breathed.  "Usagi, are you  
feeling all right?"

"No... Luna, why do bad things have to happen to good people?" the 
princess asked disconsolately.  "Jadeite and Kunzite didn't deserve to 
die... Ami and Minako--and Zoisite--didn't deserve to have their 
boyfriends taken away like that."

The cat jumped to the windowsill in order to face Usagi fully.  /So that's 
what this is all about.../ "Usagi, don't you think that you and the girls 
are taking the deaths of a pair of Negacreeps awfully hard?"

"Luna!  Don't ever say anything like that again!" Usagi snapped, startling 
the cat with her vehemence.  "Jadeite and Kunzite were not Negacreeps, 
they were our friends.  Beryl may have 
warped them for her own evil plans, but in the end, they proved themselves 
to be loyal--and true..." She closed her eyes regretfully.  "Even Rei has 
managed to forgive them for the time they spent in the Negaverse, and you 
know how stubborn the princess of Mars can be."

Luna turned to look up at the Moon.  "I wish I remembered, too."

"It wouldn't do you any good.  You never knew Endymion's guardians.  
Somehow, we all managed to keep you and Artemis in the dark--right until 
the very end, when it all crumbled around our ears." Usagi shook her head. 
 "If only Endymion and I hadn't been so wrapped up in our own affair, 
maybe we could have prevented what happened."

"..." The cat couldn't think of any comforting words for her mistress.

~*~

"The Moon's almost full tonight."

"Mmmm." Makoto snuggled a little closer to Nephrite, reveling in the feel 
of having his arm wrapped tightly around her.  "'S pretty."

"You're prettier," Nephrite told her.  He glanced down at her blush and 
laughed.  "It's true."

"I love it when you tell me things like that," Makoto sighed happily. 

"I know you do." Nephrite pressed a gentle kiss to her forehead.  "How did 
I get so lucky?"

"I'd call it good karma, but..." Makoto laughed a little ruefully.  
"Somehow, I just don't think it fits your case too well."

"Probably not," he admitted.  "I've done some pretty impressively wicked 
things..." 

"It wasn't your fault," Makoto cut him off authoritatively.  "Beryl was 
the one to blame.  Always remember that."

"I just wish--" Nephrite shook his head.  "I just wish I could have kept 
it all from happening.  There are so many things that I regret doing..."

"Shh.  Don't torture yourself, Neph," Makoto soothed him.  "You've got a 
second chance to make it all right... Don't waste it on guilt.  You've got 
much more important things to worry about."

"Such as?" he inquired, lifting his eyebrows curiously.

"Me." Makoto grinned impishly and pulled his face down, pressing coaxing 
lips against his.  

The Moon shone serenely down on the two lovers.

~*~

/Why is it that I can't remember?/ Rei asked herself, staring blindly into 
the sacred flames of the temple.  /Why amI the only member of the Scouts 
who doesn't have a clue about what happened in the Silver Millennium?/

"Um, Rei?" Yuichiroi's tentative voice interrupted her brooding.  "It's 
getting kind of late... Shouldn't you be going to bed or something?"

"Yeah, in a little while, Yuichirou." Rei held as much of her frustration 
out of her voice as she was able.  It wouldn't be fair to lash out at 
Yuichirou because of her own shortcomings as a Scout.  Besides, he was 
only concerned about her well-being.

"Are you okay, Rei?" he asked.

"I'm fine." She couldn't keep all of the bite out of her voice.  

"Oh... Okay then, if you're sure.  Good night, Rei," he mumbled, his voice 
subdued.  

/Damn it./ Rei bowed her head, ashamed of herself.  /Why can't I just be 
nice to him for once?  Why is it so hard for me to reciprocate his 
affection?/

|Because he wants something from you that you can't give him, dummy.  He 
loves you.|

/I wish he didn't care so much.  Then it would be easier.../

|To do what?  Crush his heart like a roach under your boot?| her inner 
voice taunted her.  |That's what you're going to end up doing, you know.  
One of these days, you'll snap and lash out at him one time too many...|

/Then what am I supposed to do?  Go on pretending that I feel more for him 
than I do?/ Rei argued with herself. 

|Maybe you should talk to him about how you feel.  It's a crazy idea, but 
it just might work, you know.|

/I would... It's just... Grandpa is so happy about the two of us... It's 
like his dream come true or something,/ Rei sighed unhappily.  /I don't 
want to disappoint him, too./

|You *are* an idiot.|

/I know.../

~*~

Zoisite sat hunched over his drink, morosely staring at the patterns of 
the wood grain of the table.  /How long have I been in this place?/ he 
wondered vaguely, tossing back the last of the alcohol in the glass.  
"Gimmee another," he ordered the barkeeper.   "Don't you think you've had 
enough?" came the reply.

Zoisite glared at the man fiercely.  "I'll tell you when I've had enough."

Impassive, the barkeeper shook his head.  "Look, pal, it's getting late.  
Do yourself a favor and go home to sleep it off."

The little sakura shot a dirty look at the barkeeper, but wasn't in the 
mood to contest the point.  Staggering out to the street, Zoisite began 
the arduous task of walking home.  

Home.  Now there was a painful thought.  He didn't have a home.  He just 
had a place to sleep at night because Nephrite had been generous in 
offering him a room in his drafty old house.  
No, that wasn't a home, not to Zoisite.

He blinked at the blurry double image of the Moon.  "It wasn't supposed to 
be like this," he mumbled.  "Damn it, Kunzite, what were you thinking?"

|Stupid.  He was thinking about you.|

"Nobody asked him to," Zoisite grumbled.

|Since when has that ever stopped Kunzite?|

"Good point." Zoisite had to agree with his snotty inner voice.  Kunzite 
never had let anyone's opinions stand in his way for long.  "Idiotic Ice 
King.  He had a real chance to be happy again with Minako."

|You're feeling generous tonight.|

"I'm drunk.  I can afford to be generous." Zoisite stared fiercely at a 
couple that had paused to give him odd looks as he walked down the street, 
talking to the think air.  "What're you looking at?"

|You, you idiot.|

"Shut up, I didn't ask you," Zoisite told himself.  He looked inquiringly 
at the couple.  "Well?"

"Nothing, ma'am," the guy said nervously.

Zoisite's emerald eyes went wide with indignation as his inner voice 
howled with laughter.  "Ma'am?!" he screeched.  "I'll show you ma'am, you 
little punk--"

It was too late.  The couple had fled the wrath of Zoisite.  Feeling 
petty, the lithe guardian summoned an ice crystal anyway and slammed it 
into an unoffending wall.

|Feel better now?|

"Yes," Zoisite answered decisively, dusting his hands off.  "'Ma'am'. 
Huh."

|Go home, before you get yourself into real trouble--Ma'am.|

"Oh, shut up."

~*~

Mamoru laid the pen down.  /Well... now what do I do?/ he wondered 
bleakly.  /That's all the homework I can think of to do... I'm caught up 
and ahead of all my classes...  I feel like Ami./

At the thought, he flinched.  Thinking of Ami brought up the memories that 
he had tried to sublimate through excessive work.  It was ironic that he 
could feel the loss of his two guardians so deeply despite having only 
known them in their present lives for a few days... Then again, maybe it 
wasn't.  Even before his complete memories of the Silver Millennium had 
returned, he had felt a spark of connection to Jadeite and Kunzite, the 
same sort of spark he had felt the first time Usagi had bonked him with a 
wadded-up test.  The two men had been a part of his soul, and their deaths 
left a gaping sore in his heart that would never be completely healed.   

In addition to his own pain, though, was the pain he felt from Zoisite.  
By far the most expressive of the group, the guardian left no doubts about 
how much he hurt due to Kunzite's self-sacrifice.  The little sakura was a 
walking heartache, and he didn't care who knew it.

Mamoru buried his head in his hands.  /God, Kunzite, I need your help,/ he 
thought tiredly.  /You were always the only one who could get through to 
Zoisite when he got into these moods... You're the only one he ever 
listened to on a regular basis./

@}~~}~~~~

  

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