Chapter Twenty-Two

Venus fought with herself for days, trying to extinguish the anger, to find some understanding. But she couldn't. This situation and everything it involved was driving her insane. She'd never been one to run from a fight, so why was it that she couldn't go face her friends? Why did she lash out at Artemis, who was genuinely concerned? When did things get so complicated? And why hadn't enough days passed yet?! She could go see him in a few more days. She hadn't decided if she'd hide out here the entire time, or go try to mend things on the Moon. She wondered if Artemis had covered for her, or if they all knew she'd stormed off to Earth.

He probably had. She sighed.

A few hours later, she found herself at Earth's castle. Her impatient heart won. It really didn't surprise her. She was supposed to wait a few days more, and come back to see what had happened, to see if there was any good news she could take back with her. Something she could use to sway the council. Anything at all. Coming early meant leaving empty handed, but she could come again if needed.

Zoicite was there to greet her. Together they walked to the common room near their chambers, and joined Endymoin and Jadeite.

"Ah, Venus!" the Prince met her with a hug, and he showed her to a seat. "How are you? It's been a while."

She smiled and smoothed her dress. "It has."

"You wouldn't happen, to perhaps, have-" His eyes pleading.

She cut him off with a shake of her head. "Sorry. No letter. I actually, haven't been home for a while." He looked dejected. "I can," she started, hoping to lift his spirit, "take a letter to her, if you wish. I'm sure she'd love that. And with everything going on, it would probably be nice to hear from you."

He smiled warmly. "I'll do that. When do you leave? I'll make sure to have it ready."

"Oh, um," she looked around, unsure. "I didn't plan on staying long, but I can wait."

Endymoin stood from his chair and made his way to a small desk, looking for things to write with. "I'll write it now. Then, you won't have to wait on me."

"That'd be fine." She smiled and looked back to the other two generals, who were sitting across from her. "So."

Jadeite cleared his throat. "Yes, so. You are here early. We weren't expecting you for a few more days."

She frowned. "I know. I hope it's not a bother. Just anxious."

Zoicite offered her a cup of tea and then poured his own. "As are we. We have not heard any news from the front offensive yet."

"Oh?" she took a sip and set her cup down.

Zoicite shook his head. "Unfortunately. Soon, hopefully."

She nodded. A moment passed, and Jadeite shifted in his seat, leaning in. "Can I ask you something?"

Curious, she nodded. "Sure, what is it?"

He looked to Zoicite, who nodded back, then continued. "Have you, noticed anything strange about Kunzite lately? I mean, has anything seemed off?"

She arched a brow. "What do you mean?"

Zoicite cut in. "Changes in behavior, his mood? Anything?"

She sat back in her chair to think. There was the dreams, but she couldn't think of anything else. And that, she thought, was personal, and didn't want to disclose such a thing. These were his closest friends, but she couldn't help but think he'd like to keep such a thing private. If he wanted them to know, he would have said something already. "No."

The two men looked to each other and shrugged. "Maybe it is in my head?"

Zoicite took another sip of his tea. "I still think he's acting weird."

"Endymoin!" Jadeite called out, breaking the man's train of thought. "You'd know! Has Kunzite been acting strange lately?"

"Since when?"

"Since he came back from that last battle," Zoicite interrupted.

There was a short silence. "To be honest, I haven't seen much of him. He has been a bit distant."

"See? Not in our heads."

"You do realize," she started, "He was injured, and captured, and there was all sorts of things that happened. You don't think that could be affecting his mood? Or maybe just the stress of this entire situation?"

"This is different. I don't know what he's told you, but this isn't the first time he's seen battle. Nor the first time he's been stressed. I think something is going on. I just can't place a finger on it."

Jadeite nodded.

"What do you want me to do?"

"Oh! Nothing, nothing," Zoicite set the cup down. "We were just wondering if you had noticed it, too. You two have spent some time together recently. Just looking for more clues."

She smiled. They cared about their friend. They were like brothers. It reminded her of her and her senshi. Of her and her princess. She missed them. She needed to sort things out.

A few moments later, after they'd talked a bit more about the strategy, and how they hoped it would go, Endymoin handed her a letter. She thanked him and promised to deliver it right away. Before she left, she handed the Prince a sealed envelope and asked him to give it to Kunzite when he returned. Inside was a letter inviting him to come to her palace, with the date and time she'd meet him there. He promised to get it to her, and they all said their goodbyes.

When she arrived on the moon, she first went to Serenity's chamber. She was greeted with an enormous hug that almost knocked her back. The Princess was so happy to see her friend that she set the letter aside, wanting to hear from her first, which shocked Venus. It had been such a long time since she'd gotten a correspondence from her lover, Venus was sure she would have ushered her away to read it immediately. But, she didn't.

"Sere, I'm so very sorry!"

The Princess merely smiled, kind eyes looking at the girl before her who'd hung her head in shame. She placed her hands on Venus' shoulders, and then tilted her head up. "You've no need to be sorry. There has been so much going on lately."

Venus wiped the tears from her face and shook her head "no." She grabbed Serenity by the hand and took her to sit on the bed. "Not just for the letters, Sere. For everything. I did not show much compassion toward you when I found out about your prince. And, then, I turn around and do the same thing you did. I'm a hypocrite. I took tasks that I didn't necessarily have to just to see him. Ignored my duties here." She stopped a moment to catch her thoughts, that were currently running away from her. "I haven't been a good friend. And I've been a terrible guardian lately. I'm so very sorry."

Serenity grinned mischievously. "So, it's true." Her grin grew wider as Venus looked up to her, puzzled. "You loooooove him."

"Serenity." Annoyed, Venus grabbed a pillow and hit the girl. "I'm trying to pour my heart out here, and you're going to tease me?"

"Yes!" followed a giggle.

She stood and grabbed another pillow to throw.

Things never really changed with Serenity. She couldn't stay mad, if she had ever been in the first place for that matter, and for that Venus was thankful. She didn't know if she could bear the thought of having her actually be mad at her. When the pillows stopped being tossed, they spoke of Venus' relationship, Serenity interjecting with "ah ha"s at points to say that she had thought so. Serenity then informed Venus of the happenings here at the palace that had recently taken place. How the girls had been training almost all the time, preparing for the worst. How it was never quiet, due to all the representatives arguing all day. Venus didn't reveal exactly what they were arguing about. Serenity didn't need to hear that.

She left Serenity's chamber, and went straight to the training grounds to face the others. When she arrived, they were sparring. Mars had her sword.

"What are you doing?"

The girls stopped and looked. Two of them smiled, giving pleasant greetings, but Mars sneered. Venus gestured to the sword in her hand. Mars looked it over once and shrugged. "You weren't here to wield it."

"It's not yours." The two other girls backed away, knowing that these two had some things to sort out.

"Why? Because you're the leader?" She smirked as Venus nodded. "What a leader you've been lately. Running off all the time. Not telling anyone where you're going. You can't even tell us," she gestured to the other two, "What's going on with you."

Venus stiffened. The other two wouldn't look at her. She looked away, so she wouldn't have to look at Mars, who was glaring at her defiantly.

"Is it true, then?" Jupiter's voice called out softly a few moments later.

Venus looked to her. "Is what true?"

"That you're seeing that general from Earth."

She bit her lip and nodded. She knew that they had known, there was no way after her last spat with Mars that Mars hadn't divulged the details. "It's true." They cast her unsure looks. "I didn't tell you. I'm sorry for that. I thought it was best to keep it a secret. It shouldn't have happened at all. I tried to break it off, to avoid him, to let the feelings die, but..." she trailed off. "I know that I told you all, once before, a long time ago, that there is no room for romance in our line of work. Since ancient times, that's how it has been. So long as you hold this title, as Serenity's personal guard, you are to give your heart to her, and no one else. I will face my punishment, when the time comes. I don't expect special treatment. But, right now, I need my friends. We are a team."

Jupiter and Mercury smiled and came to give their friend a hug, but Mars only glared and tossed the sword back to Venus before exiting the area. She frowned and spoke softly, as if thinking out loud to herself, "Why is she so angry?"

Jupiter rested her hand on Venus' shoulder. "She thinks you're going to be relived of your duties. Or banished. I think she doesn't know how to handle the possibility."

Mercury spoke next. "She cares. Maybe a little too much."

A/N: So. Much. Dialogue. x.x Sorry. The past few chapters are chalked full. Tying up lose ends. Trying to go through and see what I've alluded to, and figure out what I had originally planned—which is hard considering how long I've been working on this. . Bear with me!