Sailormoon = not mine.
Twilight Bastille: Chapter #14 – Beloved
The rain had started suddenly, falling in thick sheets from a rapidly clouding sky shot through with bolts of white sun. Now it was dark, but Rei could still hear the rhythmic dripping of the pipes outside, and her eyelids grew heavy.
"Your grandmother," Grandfather's soft voice filtered through her dim, sleepy consciousness, "she lived through a time of incredible hardship. With her standing, the daughter of a samurai family, she could have lived well. Circumstances dealt with her cruelly. She saw the end of the old ways. And she married me," he concluded with a laugh. "But Rei, listen to me. I can see you're getting sleepy."
Rei fought off her drowsiness. "No, Grandfather, please," she begged. "I want to hear more –"
"Her story is over, little one," he said quietly. "But listen."
"She was my whole world, and I thought that she always would be. But sometimes, when I looked into the fire, selfishly, of course, to see her face…" his voice trailed off. "I saw yours instead."
There was silence, punctuated only by the tapping of the rain on the roof.
"Good night, my child," Grandfather finally said, rising with some difficulty on his old knees.
For perhaps the first time, Rei didn't protest.
"Good night, Grandfather," she said, and her voice was oddly firm for that of a ten-year-old girl.
There was a rumble of thunder outside the window. The lights flickered.
Rei woke up.
She lay completely still for a moment, luxuriating in the absence of tears and sweat that had once accompanied so many of her dreams, before stretching out her arms, hearing the joints snap with sleepy satisfaction. The large bed was empty save for herself, and she thought of him with the faintest of smiles.
Rei splashed her face with water and soap as usual, her fluid motions practiced. Dreams of her grandfather no longer brought her pain. With death he'd found something better than momentary happiness; of that she was sure. The look on his face during his final moments was something consecrated, rendered invulnerable to the earthly. She could never forget it. Despite all her moody idiosyncrasies and small, selfish desires, she could not begrudge him that. And above all, Rei was eminently practical. Tears were not to be wasted. Looking into her small, fogged mirror, she saw the face of a woman beloved.
The way she walked through the large, airy house that smelled of pine, one would not have guessed that it belonged to her. Her steps still seemed unsure, her hands flying out to touch various surfaces, coming away with the faintest film of dust. Nonetheless, Rei found it difficult to conjure up any real bitterness toward her old and new home. Her father's ghost had been laid to rest; for him she felt nothing, neither guilt nor regret nor sorrow.
She had things to do today, anyway; there was no time to reminisce. Upon learning of Grandfather's death, many Japanese in the area had come by to leave various artifacts – beads, scrolls, and the like – at what they called his "shrine", which was in reality no more than a small stone bench hidden within the inner sanctum of the garden. Hikawa Jinja was long gone, completely refurbished in the wake of the war. Rei, however, with a rush of the old ambition that had made her infamous to her enemies at school, had started making plans and blueprints for the creation of an actual temple on her property. She certainly had enough space to do it, and once it was finished, she would run it. At least temporarily. It wouldn't need more than a few assistants, anyway; it would be perhaps half the size of the house. Grandfather had always wanted her to go on to college and pursue some sort of degree, and eventually she intended to, perhaps in art or literature. Rei knew she could never spend more than a few years in any place; she was a wanderer by nature. But somehow…this felt right for now.
The groundwork had already been laid and parts of the garden cleared; once she had made her decision, Rei moved quickly. Today, she had to meet with suppliers. Life had settled into a rhythm, true, but right now, she was content with stability. Perhaps I'm finally growing up, she mused wryly.
For all the peaceful hush of the morning, Rei's afternoon was hectic. She argued with the suppliers over their shipping prices for stone (Maybe I should think about going into business instead…) and managed to settle for at least a higher-quality granite. After that, she lunched with a few of the Manzanar internees who had arrived in the neighborhood with her, and with whom she had formed some tentative acquaintances. Part of Rei would always prefer solitude, particularly when they subtly snubbed her for her relationship with Jacen. Nonetheless, she recognized that without some form of social interaction, she would become unfit to manage a temple devoted to welcoming and comforting strangers.
Later in the afternoon, she picked up a welcome telephone call from Hotaru.
"Hello, Rei speaking," she said brusquely into the receiver.
"Miss Rei?" came the gentle voice over the tinny line.
"Hotaru," Rei smiled into the phone, her harried tone softening. "How is everything?"
"The children are doing well. I'm at the top of the class, Miss Rei," Hotaru's narrative took on a note of unmistakable pride, "and I'm getting a pay raise. I'm saving it, you know," and her voice was scarcely above a whisper as she confided in Rei, "because I'm thinking about…maybe…going to nursing school. Or something. But I'm not sure. How are –"
Rei cut her off. "Wait. And you, Hotaru? How are you?"
There was a pause.
"I'm really good. I'm happy."
"Good. You deserve it."
Their conversation lasted long into twilight; by the time Rei hung up the phone, the stars were emerging from their clouded veil. The warm breeze that wandered freely through the house smelled of Madonna lilies and chaparral. One of the many cats that hung around the garden bumped persistently into the front door, and rolling her eyes, Rei moved quickly down the stairs to deal with it.
She opened the door roughly, pulling her dressing gown tightly around her lithe shoulders, her eyes on the ground to find the offending feline.
There was a pair of boots there instead, connected to a pair of legs encased in informal trousers, and a muscular torso wrapped in a gray cashmere coat that fell cleanly to the knee. His golden curls were mussed, and his blue eyes bloodshot, but still Jacen couldn't help a chuckle at the sight of her startled face, before her elegant features shifted into their usual inscrutable calm, a fierce flash of joy in the violet eye. Rei stepped into the tightening circle of his arms, letting her gown sink loosely from her arms, the rounded curve of her belly that had grown in the last few months pressing insistently into him.
"Were you expecting someone else?" he murmured, his lips exploring the softened planes of her face.
Her words were almost lost against the nap of his coat as he half-pushed her into the house, kicking the door shut behind them. Rei's robe pooled at her feet, her hands slipping deftly beneath his shirt, making him groan.
Quick note: I chose to leave some ambiguity in the epilogue – how long it's been since they left Manzanar, whether this is Jacen returning to Rei for the first time, or whether he's just coming back from a routine day at work. I thought this tied things up nicely without needing to spell everything out. I hope you all enjoyed it – it's been an incredible pleasure to write this story, and I'm planning to maybe write more in this 1940s universe at some point! Stay tuned :D