Warning: Sequel to The Lucky Ones
Theme: sm-monthly LJ community: February (OTPs Helios/Setsuna) 6th - Clandestine
"Follow me," he said to her. His firm hand gripped her own as if he did not trust her to follow. They walked through the soft green grass that was forever lush, passed the rough trunks of trees - species she knew and those she had never before seen - until they were once again at the edge of the lake they had been walking away from. Now, though, they were on the other side. His warm hand slipped away from hers as easily as he had reached to grasp onto it minutes ago. Those long, slender fingers dipped down along the edge of the water she knew was warm if one was cold and cool if one was hot, that enchanted lake where the chosen few could walk upon to enter the Temple of Prayers.
"A gateway," she guessed as she studied her surroundings, feeling a little uneased. The hand he had held clutched and unclutched, though she rarely allowed this much open display of her own emotions. Strangely, she felt a little chill at the sensation of having lost something she could not name - nor had the courage to discover.
"Of sorts," he answered as he turned to her. "I had wanted to ask you," he finally voiced, gaze shifting away as if guilty or hesitating, though she did not know if either was the right description for that look. "Did I... Did you know...?" he paused again but forged on with a fierceness in his gaze that she rarely ever seen him show anyone. "Would I have loved her otherwise if you had not... directed me then?"
It took several minutes for her to understand what he had meant. "Small lady, you mean?" She asked him.
"Usagi," he murmurred that name at last, eyes once again away from her own, but this time for a different reason. It had been over a decade now, but he still spoke of Lady Serenity as if it hurt to think of her, even if only in name. "I did not think of this place as a cage until I met her. Until I learned to want otherwise."
Pluto stood silently behind him, looking out at the gleaming white temple on the lake. It remained unmoved and unchanging, despite everything that had happened and changed. This land was a cycling reflection of that sacred place, the heart of Elysion itself standing before her now. Though he did not look it, perhaps there was conflict brewing within his breast, where once there were none. In that moment, she remembered a cold, grey day when Elysion snowed for the first and, perhaps, the last time since its creation.
"Was it destined," Pluto finally suggested as her distant gaze met the priest of Elysion's own. "Is that what you wanted to know?"
"Would it have changed anything if I had never known...?" he asked, finally, and this time there was guilt in his gaze, but also a smoldering anger.
That happiness, this grief... Would it have been better to live in ignorance of such things?
Pluto bent and touched his youthful, doubting face that held a soul both older and more inexperienced than her own. Her gloved hand lingered on his smooth cheek and watched him still against her touch. "Does it make a difference if you looked like a boy or a man?" she asked a little sadly at his subtle rejection.
"No," he answered without frustration or irritation, or any tone at all. He patiently waited for her to tell him whatever it was she wished to impart upon him, a controlled indifference. A practiced distance that most might mistaken for dignity or noblity or even kindness, but she knew better.
"So why wear the body of a boy? Why not a man? Or a child? Or a horse, even?" She let the last of her words sit in the silence between them, letting the small smile on her lips linger for him to see. It had been a long time ago, but only recently had he been able to once again joke a little of their past misfortunes.
His tensed shoulders relaxed slightly as he gently moved away from her hand then. His gaze was so full and yet, still so unreadable. "This was the form she remembered," he answered simply as he turned away from Pluto's steady gaze. "This was the one she loved."
"No," Pluto said with a shake of her head. "You were the one she loved." Sad eyes smiled at his startled back, and this time he forced himself to relax beneath her scrutiny. "Do you not think that all living things should know such wonder at least once in a life-time? I, too," she paused but then continued, "I too learned a little of love from her. But, my love was different than yours." But either way, it had hurt them both. The House of the Moon drew people, and because many could not help but love the descendants from that house, there was bound to be tragedy left in its wake.
For a long moment he did not answer her, and for a long moment she forgot who she was referring to.
"I know things now that I did not know then," he finally told her in the wake of her own confession, "that I would not have known if I had never loved at all." He confessed despairingly. "Is it selfish, how I feel about it now? There was a time when I had thought love invincible... but now, all I can remember is the fear when I discovered that it was not. It is a... strange and unfamiliar feeling."
"Would you have preferred to not have loved her at all, then?" Pluto asked him kindly as they shared that moment in quiet remembrance of things long lost forever.
In order to not regret, would unlearning such precious things be worth it?
Small Lady was not the first daughter she had lost. Undoubtably, the child who became a woman and died a Queen would not be the last. The cycle of joy and pain, it was tiring to think on it too much. Old wounds that did not need reopening for remembrance's sake.
He gazed out at the temple and looked up to the sky, as if they could provide him with the answers he did not yet know himself. He breathed deeply once, exhaling invisible breaths into the light of the unseen sun. "No," he finally answered, so softly that the breeze nearly stole his answer before it could reach her ears.
And because he was not looking, Helios never saw Pluto's nostalgic relief as she traced his shadow with her eyes. He saw only the sparkle of blue waters under sun-like light that reminded him of sad partings and unfinished goodbyes. In his eyes, the snow lingered long after it melted, forming deep banks of memory - secret meetings in a world no longer his alone. In the end, he would not have been able to have understood that naked expression on Pluto's face even if he had been looking directly at her.
Is that not answer enough?
"You shouldn't be here," he spoke up in their silence, but made no move to turn to face her again or act upon his words.
She did not ask him the question at the tip of her tongue or answer the words he spoke to her. Instead, they listened to the wind on the leaves and the rippling lake sigh at the unseen caresses. Beneath the blue skies, she watched him struggle to catch the crumbling pieces of the past full of regrets, ones that he had not the heart to reject.
Sequel to: The Lucky Ones