CULTURAL NOTES:

"masaka" and "uso" means "No way"/"impossible"/"it's a lie!"
"Boku" is a form of "I" that most boys, and some girls, use. It's hard to
explain exactly in which circumstances "boku" is used. So just know: in the
BSSM anime, Haruka, Artemis, Yaten, and Erios use "boku," to name a few.
"no" is a preposition indicating ownership. So "Boku no" = My, "Jen no
fanfic" = Jen's fanfic, etc.
"iie" means "no". "Un" and "Hai" are both ways of saying "yes".
"ne" (sometimes "na") can mean "eh?" or "hey..." or "don't you think?" It's
VERY commonly used.
"Makenai!" means "Don't give up!"
"Hora" is "Hey" or "look" or "Oh"
"Arigatou" means "thank you"
"Doshita" (shortened from Doshita no?) is an informal way of saying "What's
wrong?" or "What's going on with you?"
"Onegai" means "please"
And as I said before, "Shinsei" means "new star," and it's the name of the
Starlights' new planet. (established in Part I)
"Sumimasen" means "I'm sorry" or "excuse me."
"senpai" is the Japanese equivalent for Makoto's ex-boyfriend.
"Gomen ne" or "Gomen nasai" is "I'm sorry."

I used the Japanese phrases when an English phrase didn't really convey the
connotation I wanted, or where I associate a particular phrase with a
character... those VA's are wonderful!

There is a VERY small amount of swearing in this. Just "damn" and "hell."
There is also just a tiny bit of hentai teaser. But ladies and gentlemen, I
hereby declare that it does NOT have to be sex going on in that scene. Many
couples have had many experiences like that withOUT even coming close to
sexual intercourse. So just take it as romance, and relax.

Now, without further ado, on with the story!

*******

A glimmer of yellow light, tinted slightly blue. It slid along the
shiny surface and hovered near the edge, before the image winked out and a
woman's face came into focus.
"So it's true then," said Haruka, looking over her partner's shoulder.
"I wonder why," Michiru mused.
"Have you felt anything?" She shook her head. "Me neither. What
could be going on then?" Haruka's fist clenched reflexively. She hated being
out of control of situations, not having a clue which way things would turn.
Michiru turned, setting her mirror down. Her hands moved to cover
Haruka's. Concern hovered like a murky grey shadow in those blue-green eyes.
"We'll find out," she reassured.
"Don't worry, Haruka. We'll find out exactly what's going on."

*******

Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon Sailor Stars:
Yaten's Love Song

A Sailor Moon fanfic by Jennifer A. Wand

Part II

********

"And you can look for Hiroshi's new movie starting April fourth!"
The announcer grinned nervously as she waited just a tad too long for
the camera to cut back to the newsroom. A sigh echoed, but went unheard by
the lady on the screen. The scene was a typical one: five girls, a table,
and a bunch of homemade snacks... oh yeah, and some textbooks with,
presumably, some homework in them. Not that that mattered much to the girls,
who had long since forgotten they were supposed to be studying. Usagi and Rei
were in the midst of one of their infamous tongue wars, Makoto and Minako were
giggling and oohing by turns at the TV screen, and Ami was sighing, resigned
to the fact that this particular study session was over.
"Rei-chan, you just missed Hiroshi-kun!" Makoto called absently, but
shifted her attention back to the TV when Rei didn't answer. She batted her
eyelashes at the screen as if Hiroshi might just pop out and steal her away.
Minako laughed at her briefly, and was about to make a snide comment when she
heard something on the TV that caught her attention.
"Mystery in the music world!" the anchor had said enthusiastically.
"The hottest rumor since the Ginga TV scandals has just been confirmed by
Takeuchi Music. A mystery musician will make his solo debut at the Mitsuishi
Forum in a month. All we know about the star is that he was already a
celebrity, though we don't know how, and that he is, well, a he." Shuffling
papers, the anchor continued. "The agency refused to give any more details."
"Who's gonna buy tickets to a concert when they don't even know who's
playing?" Makoto said, though her words were swallowed by the TV and the
tongue war across the table.
"But speculation is buzzing fast and furious on the streets. The most
popular suggestion is that the mystery artist is one of the Three Lights..."
You could have heard a pin drop at the Hikawa Jinja temple.
Every eye turned toward the screen. Usagi didn't even bother to put
her tongue back in her mouth. Ami sat straight up like a soldier at
attention. Everyone else leaned forward onto the table and stared up at the
TV set, barely breathing or blinking, ready to take in whatever information
was thrown at them.
"..who vanished from the music scene completely several months ago.
Some theorists have linked them to the incident at Ginga TV, considering their
final concert turned somewhat violent, but an official explanation has yet to
be given for the trio's conspicuous absence. Fellow musicians have shed no
light on the subject, but even their silences have been quite revealing."
The scene shifted to a hallway, and Usagi finally let a "Masaka!" fall
from her mouth. More clamorous exclamations burst out when a familiar head of
aquamarine hair appeared at the other end of the hall.
"Kaiou-san!" the reporter shouted, running toward her just ahead of
the camera. "Do you have any clue who this mystery musician could be?"
She laughed, putting on her charmingly aloof camera face, and said
playfully, "If I knew, I certainly wouldn't tell."
"Any thoughts on the possibility that it might be one of the Three
Lights?"
Her smile vanished, as if a shadow had passed over her face,
distorting her features. After a moment of staring, she turned away from the
camera and began to walk briskly in the other direction. "You've played
concerts with the Three Lights!" insisted the reporter, pursuing her. "Do
you know the secret behind their disappearance?"
"Michiru-san was upset," commented Rei as the woman on the screen lost
the pesky reporter, and the TV cut back to the anchor. "Do you suppose?"
This time it was Minako who said, "Masaka..."
"...keep you posted," finished the anchor. "Oh, and one final piece
of information for you. According to the press release, the mystery man had
this to say: 'I'll be releasing my album the night of the concert. The title
will include my name, but for now you can call the album Boku no Love Song.'"

**

"...and he's calling it Boku no Love Song," enthused Usagi, much
later. "Isn't that romantic?" Cheeks flushed and eyelashes fluttering, she
looked up at her boyfriend.
"Yeah," said Mamoru absently. His nose was buried in a book,
seemingly oblivious to the feminine wiles being shoved in his face. As if
guided by some kind of radar, he turned the corner onto his street without
even looking up.
"And Mako-chan started in with the list of her ex-boyfriends who were
musicians. She went on and on! I asked Rei-chan if it was Yuuichirou, and
she turned bright red! I haven't seen her do that since, well, since the time
you stayed over there. Do you suppose something happened between them? Oh
well, she'll never tell." It didn't bother Usagi that she was apparently
talking to a wall. She just hung on his arm lightly, skipping back and forth
a few steps now and then, happily babbling away. They turned into the
apartment building in sync, and once in the elevator, Mamoru finally closed
his book.
"So who do you think it is, Usako?" he said seriously.
"Mmm... I don't know!" she said with the air of one who'd been
pondering the problem for years. "I suppose it's not Mamoru no Love Song, is
it, Mamo-chan? Not the way you sing..." He grinned guiltily at that, and
shrugged. "But what I want to know is, who's the love song for? Must be one
lucky girl, to have a guy that romantic. Almost as lucky as I am." She
giggled as the elevator stopped and they walked down the hall towards Mamoru's
apartment.
"In a way, I kind of hope it IS Yuuichirou," she frowned, her tone
suddenly more serious. Mamoru looked down at her questioningly. "Just for
Rei's sake. I mean, look at us! We've been so happy for so long, but none of
my friends have had real boyfriends... almost since I met them. And they
SHOULD. It would make them all so happy, just if one of them found the right
guy, or just any nice guy, that they could be with for a while. All their
happiness shouldn't be about me. They may be my guardians, but they're people
too." By this time, they'd reached the door, and Mamoru was staring at her in
amazement. She seemed genuinely distressed by the thought that her friends
hadn't found love, and Mamoru felt his heart leap, astonished at the extent of
her caring.
He unlocked the door and they went inside. "Now that it's been
peaceful for months, they don't have any Senshi-related excuse not to." Her
eyes brightened and she looked at him with a grin. "Hey, Mamo-chan, what do
you say we fix them up with some nice guys? You have friends at the
university! Let's do it! I'll find out if any really nice guys at school
have their eyes on any of them, and we'll fix them up!! All right!" She
cheered. "Sounds like a plan!"
Mamoru chuckled in a warm voice, and Usagi looked up at him, suddenly
blushing. He set his book down on the table and pushed the door closed with
his one free hand. The last of his warm words that drifted into the hall
were, "Okay, Usako, but right now, let's just..."

**

Sunlight slid from sweet golden hair and refocused on wrinkled sheets.
The first thing Minako was aware of was a dim fluttering, like a hummingbird's
heartbeat. Her eyelashes fluttered in sync, slowly letting in the radiant
rays for a moment, then a moment, then a longer moment still. The gears in
her mind began to turn jerkily, letting the old familiar assumptions fall into
place-- who she was, where she was, what was going on. And her mind's eye
rested softly on the enigma of the fluttering, a dim sense not quite in any
part of her chest, but tangible enough to linger on for long minutes on a
Saturday morning.
Whatever it was, it was like a caged bird, flapping madly to get out,
to fly free. But it threaded a merry tune through her heart as it beat its
wings, and Minako registered that the muscles in her face had moved, that she
was smiling. But now there was a new question. Was it a pushing from inside,
as she had thought, or had something else roped the tiny bird and was now
pulling at it? In any case, Minako felt a wave of restlessness vibrate
through her fingers and arms, and fall back into a pool of radiant feeling.
She was awake enough now to realize something was different--
something seemingly small, perhaps with her mattress, or the sidewalk outside,
or the angle of the sun in the sky. Some star was glittering with untold
brilliance, and it was calling to her, softly but steadily, like a low whistle
echoing through a valley on a dark night.
Minako sat up, blinking her eyes several times, and tried to suppress
the sparkling energy that seemed to be wrapped about her. This was a
sensation she hadn't felt in a long time... true happiness, hope, the feeling
that something was right about the world-- HER world. The glimmer on the
horizon of something special waiting for her-- not for her and her friends,
not for Sailor Venus, but for Aino Minako, and only Aino Minako. Almost the
way she'd felt when she went to idol auditions, when she was fighting crime as
Sailor V-- before Artemis told her it was time to join up with her team.
Not that she didn't love Usagi and the others with all her heart,
because she did. And not just because they were assigned to be a team. Her
friends gave her a sense of belonging, a safety net to fall into when life
dealt her a punch, something she never had on her own. Usagi was so much like
her, and they had so much fun, and she never failed to have a ball when
gabbing with Makoto, and so on. But the line between teamwork and
co-dependency is tricky, especially for a girl who'd been alone most of her
life. And in the past two years, Minako had often felt like she was only a
fifth of a unit, like she had no value on her own, that her only purpose was
to be part of the group. And that burned into her so painfully. She longed
to find a purpose of her own, a destiny meant for her and her alone, that she
could take first and foremost without waiting for the others to have their
share. And that longing swallowed her sometimes. So she'd strike out from
the belly of the beast, shouting assertions that she would be the greatest and
most beautiful superstar in the world, that millions would love her most of
all. She'd be the one, not the one-fourth or the one-fifth. So there.
And while Usagi-chan's reassurances that her dreams were important
helped, it was hard to believe such things coming from the person you'd given
your life to protect, over and over again. Sometimes Minako felt the tears
welling up in her eyes, and she just wanted to scream in Usagi's face, "Never
again! I'm not dying for you ever again! I'm never going to sacrifice my own
life, just to save yours. So forget it!" But it wasn't true-- she *would*
still die for her Princess-- but why did things always turn out so she
actually had to?
Minako brushed the tears from her eyes and giggled a little at
herself. Deep thoughts at eight thirty in the morning? Never. Not allowed.
The only thing I'm gonna think about, she decided, is how happy I am that it's
been peaceful. But a persistent hummingbird reminded her that this morning's
shining joy was the result of newfound independence-- and you can't have that
without the painful dependence of the past.

"Artemis! Wake up!"
The white cat opened his eyes hesitantly, grumbling in a low monotone.
He saw Mina upside down, and closed his eyes again. It took another moment
for him to register this as an unusual sight, and when he did, his eyes popped
open once more. She was lying with her hips resting on the bed, but her upper
body twisted sideways like a funny barbershop pole. Her mess of blonde hair
was resting on the floor right in front of him, her eyes right at his eye
level, and a sinfully gleeful grin above that. "Mina..." he muttered.
"What..."
"Guess what?" she said from those inverted lips.
"I shudder to think," said Artemis in the same droning voice.
"It's Saturday!!" Minako giggled.
Artemis closed his eyes. "Oh. Brilliant."
"Guess what else?" Her glowing voice invaded his already scant
privacy. "I've got a yen... to go shopping!" Minako grabbed him by the fur
on his back, rousing him to full consciousness. He gave a yowl of shock. "So
get up get up get UP!"
At the first available moment, Artemis wrested himself from her grasp
and collapsed, bristling and panting, onto her bed. "Mina, it's still early
in the morning!" he whined. "Can't we go back to sleep?"
"Iie," she insisted, throwing a pretty green blouse over her
shoulders. "We're going shopping downtown."
"But..."
"Or, if you'd like," Minako said in her horror-movie voice, turning
toward him with a scowl that would make the bravest cat shudder, "I can tell
Luna who polished off the cat food before the study session at Rei's even
STARTED."
The tomcat gulped. "Erm... let's go."

In a happy haze, Minako bounded down the street, a wicker basket on
one swinging arm. Artemis clutched the sides as her purse slid back and forth
on the basket floor beneath him. After a few years as Minako's pet, he'd
gotten used to the occasional abuse by his sometimes clueless owner. But it
was still nauseating. Artemis wondered dimly if it was possible to get
seasick in a basket. He concluded that if it wasn't, this was a pretty good
imitation!
He tilted his head upwards. On the other hand, he conceded, it was
nice to hear Minako humming again. She'd been seriously distracted in these
last few months of peace-- not so much that he suspected anything dangerous
was going on, but enough to make him worry. He cared about her as if she was
his little sister, and no one, not even Usagi, knew her as well as he did.
Over the years, he'd watched melancholy eat her alive and frustration tear
away at her walls. And yet she'd been healing, slowly, this past year. He
fondly remembered the surge of hope in his heart as he watched her from
backstage at those idol auditions-- she'd been radiant, glittering. But then
Galaxia had descended, and their lives were shattered once more.
But today, she was on some kind of high, and it was more genuine than
the mania she often wore in front of her friends. She was joyful. And
although Artemis's stomach kept lurching, his heart was smiling.
They popped into a million stores, boutiques, cute little charm shops,
even a candy store (where she'd slipped the jelly beans into her basket for
Artemis to munch on). After leaving each store, the cat would pop out of his
little hiding place and survey her new purchases. A dress the same shade of
green as her blouse. A gold chain with a tiny purple sign of Venus on it.
Tacky earrings. She modeled each with pride for her appreciative audience of
one. A few people on the street did a double take when they saw the blonde
talking to no one, then caught a glimpse of white ears and fuzzy paws sticking
out of her basket. Artemis couldn't talk in public, but he gave appropriate
mews and approving nods. Minako would giggle, and they'd move on.
Sun bleached the tops of branches at noon, when Minako sat down on a
brick wall near Juuban park to take a rest. She brushed her hand over her
forehead and sighed happily, "Phew!" Artemis poked his head out, then leapt
from the basket when he saw that they were relatively secluded-- just down a
path from most of the passersby. Stretching, he meowed and grinned at her.
"Having a good time?" he said, pacing around a sunny spot. She
nodded. "Me too. Thanks for the jelly beans."
"And who said they were for you?" she scowled frighteningly.
Artemis jumped in shock and embarrassment. "Um... uh..." he fumbled,
looking guilty and staring at his front paws.
"Just kidding." Her face relaxed, and so did poor Artemis's tense
back. "Scared ya, huh? Naw, I wouldn't have put them in there if they
weren't for you. I know better than that!" She shook her finger at him.
"And what is that supposed to mean?" he teased back.
"It means," she began, assuming the position of lecturer and staring
out toward the street philosophically, "that you, sir, are a bottomless pit.
A Hoover. A black hole. A--" She stopped short.
"Sweet-toothed catburglar?" Artemis offered helpfully.
But Minako had turned pale. She was staring down the path toward the
crowd of people going to and returning from lunch. And her eyes were suddenly
hollow. Before Artemis could stutter more than a confused "Ah--," she had
taken off running, nearly tripping over herself in her frantic flight toward
the sidewalk. Paralyzed, he watched her go, her hair bouncing over and over
itself like frenetic threads of dying sunshine.
She nearly disappeared into the crowd, but then stopped short, turned,
and began to make her slow way back to their spot on the wall. Artemis stayed
as still as possible, not wanting to remind Minako that he was there. He
peered at her face as she approached, wanting to read the expression before
she changed it for his benefit.
"Sorry 'bout that," she said as she plastered on her huge Aino Minako
trademark grin.
Artemis knew all hope of reading her was lost. "What on earth got
into you, Mina?" he yawned critically.
"Oh, nothing, nothing." She waved her hand back and forth, as if to
dismiss the whole thing. "Thought I saw someone I knew. Wanna get going?"
The cat nodded, and steeled himself for the wicker ship of nightmares
to launch once more. As they walked down the street, he overheard a few of
her mumbles and took note of them. More than a few "Us-o!"s, and one "that
would explain it..."

**

"Well, Yaten-san, this mystery woman of yours is pretty lucky," came a
booming voice, and Yaten abruptly looked up, leaving a lonely note quivering
in the air.
Taishi was a big grizzly bear of a man, with a scratchy red beard and
arms that looked like they were about to pop out of his starched sleeves. He
knew what effect his appearance could have, and used it to his advantage when
doing business, playing Ivan the Terrible and Old King Cole by turns. As a
result, he was a shrewd and astute executive director, and a major reason why
Takeuchi Music had come so far in its first few years of existence. He took a
personal interest in all his acts, allowing them just as much artistic freedom
as was still marketable. He'd single-handedly lifted such artists as Yusuke
Amade and Nishio Toshiyuki to stardom.
"Are you aware that you've started a frenzy out there?" he said,
clapping Yaten on the back and gesturing toward the wide blue window. "This
may be the greatest marketing gimmick ever to hit the music business! Every
girl in Tokyo is imagining that she's the lucky lady. Doesn't matter who you
turn out to be, whether you're old, fat, and bald when you finally appear--
they're all in love with the mystery man behind the most romantic Love Song
they've never heard."
"Really?" Yaten turned a boyish grin toward the burly man, and
quickly suppressed it. "That's good," he said in a bored tone, but his eyes
were sparkling. "How are tickets selling?"
"Faster and more furious than you can imagine, my boy," smiled Taishi.
"I'm telling you, this idea of yours is a goldmine! Are you absolutely sure
you don't want to join my staff?"
"I'm a musician," said Yaten, turning up his nose. It was not the
first time he'd turned the offer down, and Taishi knew it wouldn't be the
last, but he felt it his duty to ask. It had become something of a joke
between the two. Continued Yaten, "I'm doing this for my own reasons. Now
make sure they sell as many tickets as they can. No one who wants to go to
this concert is going to get turned away, got it? There's no such thing as
Sold Out. Not for this. Right?"
Taishi chuckled. "Calm yourself," he said, and Yaten realized with
surprise that he had crossed the room during that speech, and was now glaring
up at the executive, one finger pointed accusingly at him. With a half-smile
and a strangulated noise, he shrunk back. "Everything's going according to
plan, Yaten-san," reassured Taishi. "Everything on my end, at least."
"What do you mean?" Yaten looked jarred by this throwaway statement.
The other man shrugged. "I just hope this venture is as successful
for you as it's going to be for us. But there's no way to tell if your lady
love is really going to show. She'd be a fool not to, but really... will
she?" He left, and Yaten trembled. Picking up his guitar, he strummed a
questioning chord at the empty room.

**

Artemis yawned loudly. It was twilight, and they had returned to
their favorite wall to munch on some sandwiches before heading home. Minako
was surrounded by happily rustling shopping bags, and looked like Cleopatra,
sprawled amongst her trappings of luxury. She smiled contentedly and popped
the last bit of dinner in her mouth.
"Thanks for hanging with me today, Artemis," she said in a gentle
voice, looking down at him with a smile.
"Mm, mm." Artemis shook his head and swallowed. "It was fun. I'm
glad you're feeling better." She sighed agreement, and there was a pause.
Artemis started again, hesitantly, "Ne, Mina-- any idea what changed?"
Her eyes clouded and became distant-- bright, but distant. "I'm not
sure," she said. "I just feel... good today." She stopped on the edge of the
next word, trying to find a more suitable way to explain it.
"Well, that's good enough for me," grinned Artemis. She abandoned her
almost-thought and smiled appreciatively. "Shall we?"
"Sure!" Artemis hopped into the basket, and they started on their way
home. Soon Minako was swinging her arms gaily and humming again, and Artemis
was hanging on tight, praying for his nine lives.
Soon the horizon was the smoky red of early night in the city, and a
few faint stars prickled past the fog. Minako turned a corner into a well-lit
but narrow alleyway that she often used as a shortcut. She continued her
joyful humming, practically skipping down the lane, her head angled up to the
sky.
Then Artemis felt everything go topsy-turvy, and he lost his footing
and tumbled from one end of the basket to the other. The purse lurched
sickeningly in the basket, purse strings making wheeling arcs above his head,
then tightening like a noose around one of the poor cat's limbs. He tried to
find his voice to yowl in alarm, but by then the basket had flown far from
Minako's arm and landed hard on the concrete. No... it was a puddle, for
Artemis shivered at the coldness seeping up through the wicker into his fur, a
moment before he blacked out completely.

"I'm sorry! Your bags..." stammered a tenor voice frantically.
Minako scrambled to her feet, looking behind her. She gasped, and ran
back a few steps to grab her basket and a few stray shopping bags. The person
she'd bumped into scrambled feverishly to gather up the rest. "I'm really
sorry!" Minako turned to take her things back, held out her free hand, and
stopped.
"It's you!" said Minako.
"It's you!" said the other.
Two blonde-haired figures stared at each other in the dimming
lamplight.

Of course! sang a small voice behind Minako's ear as she stared up
into Yaten Kou's pale face. The morning's fluttering increased to a pounding,
and she became suddenly aware of every drop of blood rushing through her body.
Arms, legs, alive with motion. Tiny capillaries dancing beneath her skin.
She instinctively touched her own arm, pinching it slightly, then reached over
to feel the cloth of his shirt. Was it real? Was it real?
"Have I ever told you that you're nuts? Hanging out in an alley like
this, late at night," quipped Yaten, after taking a gulp of chilly night air.
She smiled and lowered her eyes, but felt compelled to raise them
again almost immediately. As if he might disappear. "You have told me that,
once," she said. Her voice sounded low and surprisingly demure to her.
"What... what are you doing back here?"
Yaten started to speak several times, but each time he paused and fell
back, deciding each answer was insufficient. Finally, he stretched his arms
and placed his hands behind his head in a bored posture. "What, aren't you
glad to see me?" he said as slyly as he could.
"Yes, oh, yes I am!" she insisted, sounding rather more effusive than
she'd intended. Again the silence seemed too long. "Are-- are the others
with you?" Her voice choked, aware she was intruding on the sacred silence of
a dark night and a lonely alley.
"Nope," he answered. "I came alone."
This answer surprised her. "Why would you..." she began. Then a
shudder overtook her, and it was like a wash of golden light over everything.
Gone was her shyness, her stuttering. Suddenly, she was the smartest person
in the world. The enlightened one. Damn, was she brilliant! She cracked a
smile and winked. "So... you're it!"
Her sudden knowing, jubilant tone startled Yaten. "I'm what?"
"Of course!" she giggled, and went into a series of melodramatic
gestures. "All right! I, Aino Minako, now hold the answer to the universe's
greatest mystery! Only an ace detective like myself could figure it out. I
wonder who will pay me more to know this secret? The Emperor, or the
President of the United States? Maybe the Queen of England... I met her once,
you know..."
Yaten watched her bubble about with an array of emotions like a
rainbow sweeping through him. Finally, he deadpanned, "I really don't have a
clue what you're talking about."
"SURE you don't." Minako winked again, the grin on her face wobbling
as if it threatened to grow still larger and take over her chin entirely.
Yaten imagined her as a huge firefly, wings batting, in the alley-- the light
from the streetlamp was orange, but there was a yellow-green haze all about
her. He let her name escape his lips.
"?" She stopped.
"Please don't-- uh-- let anyone know I'm here, okay?" requested Yaten
in a shy voice.
Her face softened. "Sure." Then brighter, "My god, it is SO good to
see you again, Yaten-kun!" And she threw her arms around him.
There are some points in outer space where the energy from various
surrounding stars radiates so strongly that the vacuum is transformed: these
places cease to be simple space. Instead, they become energy vertices, living
hubs of heat and brilliance. Earth's scientists don't know about these nodes,
but the scientists of Shinsei do. And at that moment, Yaten felt he was right
in the center of such a nexus.
Somewhere among the spangles of red and gold, Minako released him,
chirped a cheerful goodbye, and ran off on her way. But it wasn't until the
last of her golden hairs disappeared at the other end of the alley that Yaten
felt the cool grays of night fall back into his life like a muslin drape. His
hands moved slightly, grabbing at air in the somehow suddenly moving darkness.

**

"Done!"
Usagi grumbled. Once more Minako had challenged her to a math problem
race, and once more Minako had won. They'd done four problems this afternoon,
and Minako had not only beat her to the solution each time, but amazingly
enough, Ami had verified that all four answers were correct! In fact, the
blue-haired genius was surveying Minako's problem now, and after a few seconds
she looked up and nodded smilingly at the group. "Ohh, I give up!" wailed
Usagi, face contorted in a mix of frustration and despair.
Minako slung her arm around the other girl. "C'mon, Usagi-chan!" she
coached. "Makenai!" Usagi just whimpered into Minako's shoulder. As the
rather forceful pep talk continued, the spectators hung their heads and
sighed. Here they go again...
"Well, guys," Minako said, turning so abruptly that Usagi fell over
sideways and ended up face to the floor, "It has been a major blast as usual,
but I gotta run. Got some things to take care of at home, ya know. Ah, the
life of a goddess of love and justice in her first year of high school is sooo
complicated!" With a string of laughter that was more squeaks than giggles,
she floated to the screen door and slid it open. Each of the girls thought to
themselves that her feet barely touched the ground the whole way out. After
she was gone, a trail of giggles lingered in the air, then silence descended.
"WHAT was that," commented Rei flatly.
"A whirling dervish," offered Makoto.
"A Snow Dancer," suggested Luna.
"A mirror paredory," giggled Ami, blushing.
"Don't even go there," growled Usagi.
The girls laughed heartily, but without the one-woman cheering
section, the conversation died soon after. So the group parted for the
evening. After everyone had left, Rei let out a long, exhausted sigh.
Grumbling, she bent forward, and started to brush the cookie crumbs off the
table when she heard a few familiar padding footsteps behind her.
"Hora, Artemis!" she said, startled. "I thought you had gone home
with Minako-chan!"
The white cat shook his head. "You don't walk in the path of a
tornado."
"Say," grinned Rei with the wicked glint that she usually reserved for
Usagi. "Do you have any idea what's gotten into her? It's like Venus is
rising over the house of Psycho!"
Artemis shrugged, as much as a cat can shrug, that is. "Actually,
that was what I was going to ask you."
Rei stopped short. "Huh?" she gasped. "Why would I know anything?"
"I was just wondering," frowned Artemis, "if you'd felt anything
strange lately. Had any visions." He gave her a questioning look, but she
continued to stare wordlessly back. "Have you? ...Sensed anything different?"
Rei stared for a few more moments, then shook her head slowly.
"Nothing... evil," she started. "Not really anything to be worried about.
Why? Do you think something happened to her?" Concern rose in her voice.
"Do you want me to do a fire reading?"
"No," Artemis's brisk answer eliminated any such possibility. "It's
nothing like that. But listen, Rei-chan... don't tell the others I talked to
you, okay?"
"Ya know," she giggled. "I'm sure they're all thinking along the same
lines, Artemis. Wouldn't be surprised if someone else asked me the same
things tomorrow."
"I'm serious!" insisted Artemis.
"I know, I know." She flapped her hand dismissingly at him and
returned to her cleanup job. "Go home, Artemis. Minako's at the top of her
game right now. Enjoy it. She's the most fun when she's like this."
"The most FRUSTRATING, you mean," Artemis corrected.
Rei laughed. "Yeah, that too."
"Arigatou, Rei-chan," he said, and padded to the door. Sunlight
tinted his white fur orange as he hopped outside and ran home to his
mind-boggling mistress Minako. Rei paused to admire the lovely sunset,
shimmering and almost vibrating through the trees, before she finished her
work for the day.

**

"That's a wrap."

"Yess!" Yaten allowed himself one moment of excitement, pushing his
fist up to the sky and pulling hard against air, sweat flying from his matted
bangs. He got up from the piano bench and paced around the room several
times. Pulling at his collar to let some cooler air caress his skin, he
looked up at the control booth and winked. "Well done," he called, and the
fellows behind the glass mouthed the phrase back at him.
This album was going so well! Bent over a water fountain, Yaten
splashed the back of his neck before continuing on down the hall. That was
the third single he'd finished this week, and at this rate, he'd have nearly a
whole week to prepare for the concert after the CD was done. Yaten was
giddily happy, more than he ever remembered being. He and the others had
started their music career as a cover, but Yaten had discovered a deeper
thrill to it, a slow stirring in his soul that quickened to the pace of a
heartbeat when he began to perform. Even before, when he'd daily barked at
Seiya to keep his mind on their mission, he had dared to dream of music for
its own sake. Being a musician. As a career. Not just a facade for three
alien warriors seeking their Princess. He felt the fluttering eagerness of a
butterfly chaser, about to seize his elusive dream at long last. Please,
don't let it be frightened and flit away.
Mystery was the most important factor of the Love Song campaign, so
Yaten had gone to great lengths to ensure that no one knew he was back. It
may have been merely by chance that he'd run into Minako in that maze of
alleyways he used to get home, but he'd resolved to be more vigilant from now
on in his nightly routine. After a long day in the studio, he always went out
the back entrance, crossed over a few alleys and under a bridge, and then
followed a zigzag pattern of back roads until he came to the place he was
staying. It was a hollow, frigid studio in the basement of a dance school,
very similar to the room they'd inhabited during their career as the Three
Lights. The landlady knew of no music besides her beloved Tchaikovsky, and
was not likely to leak any information, but had still confusedly promised not
to talk to anyone about his stay there. Cold as it was there, he'd found the
atmosphere ideal. While students pounded above, Yaten pondered below.
Tonight, having finished his day's work, the ambitious Light walked
through the studio corridors toward the exit. Cool night air blasted in his
face as he flung the doors open, and he closed his eyes to accept it. How
good it felt after a day's worth of sweat! He walked a few more steps out
into the sweet night, and stopped when he felt a strange heat somewhere near
his face. Idly confused, he winked one eye open.
There was a Space Sword pointed right at his throat.

Yaten yelped and stumbled backwards, crashing into a pile of garbage
cans and sending a family of cats mewing off to find new shelter. Clutching
his throat protectively, he slowly got up and turned blazing eyes up to the
duo confronting him.
"What do you want here?" asked Sailor Uranus, steel glinting in her
eyes. She brandished the Space Sword not aggressively, but firmly, as a
warning. Half a pace behind her, Sailor Neptune turned a cool glance. Her
arms were crossed, and she leaned ever so slightly against her partner's back.
Yaten coughed hard. "And it's nice to see you, too," he wheezed,
still feeling as though he had a glowing blade at this throat. Uranus scowled
him into submission. He stumbled, met the soldier's gaze trepidatiously, then
more confidently, frowning. The old defenses slid jerkily into place. "Would
you put that thing away and tell me what's going on here?"
Uranus pulled the sword back, but was reluctant to sheathe it. "We
want some answers from you," she growled, glaring icicles in Yaten's
direction. Yaten matched her gaze. Finally, Neptune spoke up.
"As the Sailor Senshi of the Outer Planets we must be aware of any
threat from beyond the solar system. Kindly tell us why you have returned to
our planet." Her words were polite, but their edges bit sharply from those
thin lips.
Yaten stared, befuddled, at the sword, eyes fixed on the blade's
piercing yellow haze. "I'd hate to think how you greet your enemies," he
muttered.
The anger in Uranus's eyes was laced with a kind of dread, and that
made her all the more frightening. "Yaten Kou." She spoke the name
carefully. "The last time you were here, it was to fight a powerful enemy.
If our planet is in danger again," she thrust the sword forward another
half-inch, "you must tell us."
Yaten fought his way up, one hand clutching his throat as another
pressed hand against the brick wall. Those green eyes opened and glinted
upward, bringing with them a strange smile on the face of the former Light.
Uranus readied herself.
"Is everything a fight to you, Ten'ou-san?"
Uranus faltered, the grip on her blade loosening... As if the odd
question wasn't enough, the polite tone threw her completely. "Huh?"
Yaten's palms were open and turned toward the two Sailors; he tilted
his head slightly down so that his eyes were looking up at them. His face was
serious, but there was a slight smile in his eyes. "There is no threat," he
said levelly. "Not from me, nor from anything I am aware of." He paused.
"I'm here for a different reason."
As he spoke, Yaten's eyes grew distant. Uranus scowled intensely, and
Neptune stood still in the background, her head bowed, green hair falling over
her eyes and obscuring her expression. "We learned a lot here on your world,"
he began gently. "It became a kind of home to us when our first home was
destroyed. We came to truly love it, this world. And I... I think I'd like
this place to keep on-- being my home." The blonde warrior shifted
uncomfortably. "You see, I want to be a musician. For real. And there's a
certain song I want-- more than anything-- to sing. Boku no... Love Song."
Three figures stood, statues in a cool night, burning flames of stars
in quiet shells. A piece of paper freed itself from the toppled trash cans.
It did a series of somersaults across the alleyway, stuck fast to the opposite
wall for several moments, and then fell to earth silently. The Space Sword
glowed a slight shade of red.
Finally, the tableau was broken. Uranus turned her head slightly,
sending her partner a silent question. In response, Neptune cupped her hands.
A dim shade of green glowed like a firefly, and then a form took shape. The
Aqua Mirror. She held it gently, one hand gripping the handle, the other
cradling the back. And falling into a state of utter tranquillity, she willed
it to answer her call.
The surface fell into murky grayness, and then a tiny light twinkled
in the center. It grew slowly, from a pinprick to a yellow star, crystal and
warm. And Neptune restrained a small gasp as she saw another symbol, one she
recognized, rise in pink shades to join and enhance the star's brilliance.
She took this information into her cache of secrets, tucking it into a tiny
mental jewelbox to be treasured and kept. And she turned her mirror over. It
faded into the symbol of the her planet, then vanished. She turned to Uranus
with a placid face. Yaten watched her earnestly. After what seemed to be
hours of silence, she nodded. And smiled.
The Space Sword's blade flickered and went out, the jeweled handle
dispersing into stardust a moment later. "If you're lying," said Uranus
slowly, "you'll regret it." Then she met Yaten's gaze, and the relief and
acceptance he saw there made him release the breath he hadn't even known he'd
been holding in. "But for now... we believe you."
Uranus turned her back, but Neptune's gaze lingered. Smiling just
slightly, she breathed, "Good luck." She walked away, two silhouettes fading
into the night. And Yaten felt the heat of the day's work slide off his back
like a leaf from a rooftop in a rainstorm.

**

Life was just not fair, decided Yaten as he stomped down the street.
Of course the old lady would be completely out of juice on the same morning
the pipes were spewing brown water. True, she had milk in the refrigerator,
but experience had taught the young singer that dairy products don't mix well
with a day's worth of voicework. And Yaten abhorred dry cereal, which was all
Mother Hubbard had to offer. So it was with a rumbling stomach and a scratchy
throat that Yaten set out for the recording studio at six o'clock on this gray
morning.
Why did the air have to be so dry? So cold this morning, too! It was
like inhaling concrete. Scowling, Yaten kicked a pebble in a patch of dirt,
hearing the refreshing clang as it hit an overturned garbage can. Alleyways
and no breakfast. This was quite a life. He was peeved. Fed up.
Frustrated. And so very, very happy to be here.
Grimacing to hide a sneaking smile, he looked up at the soupy clouds.
It really did feel so wonderful to be normal again. No longer constantly
looking over his shoulder, clutching his henshin star so hard that its spikes
nearly pierced the flesh of his palm. No longer playing at idols, playing the
game that had the dangerously annoying habit of feeling all too real. This
time, it was. No more pretense, no more secrets except the one he planned to
reveal soon. And he could get annoyed at little things, like the hovering of
heavy clouds or the steady grumbling of his stomach. It felt good to let
these nuisances grate on his nerves, without being dismissed in favor of
more-important-things. He could enjoy life or despise it, but no longer did
he have to turn up his nose at it all. It was a beautiful new freedom.
But his hunger and thirst themselves were not beautiful, he thought
with a groan, drawing a few stares from passersby in the hall of the building
he'd entered. He wondered if the guys in the booth would toss him a little
something. They always had the best food. Of course, the techies always had
the best of everything-- highest pay, elite society, looking down both
literally and figuratively on the performers. The teasing rivalry between
those on opposite sides of the glass amused Yaten to no end. His rebellious
image had earned him points with the techies during the era of the Three
Lights, and they still remembered him now. Surely he could draw on them to
get him some breakfast. He nodded and turned the doorknob of his practice
room.
"Morr-ning!"
Yaten found himself face to face with a bagel.
Of course, it wasn't the bagel that was speaking, although the bagel
did have an eye peeking through its hole... a blue, enthusiastically blinking
eye. And another eye blinked through the nearly-transparent glass at the neck
of a bottle of orange juice, though the liquid splashed up and obscured it
slightly. But no, the mouth that had spoken didn't seem to be attached to any
particular part of this floating buffet, and he finally reasoned that there
was a person holding the food and drink. And she frowned at him and said,
"You can come down off the ceiling now, Yaten-kun. It's just me."
Regaining his composure, Yaten coughed. "Minako?? How did you get in
here?"
"Never underestimate the resourcefulness of a girl on a mission," she
said briskly, placing the bagel on a napkin that was spread out on the back of
the grand piano. It was not the only thing she'd brought. Beneath a napkin,
Yaten glimpsed some huge muffins and at least one danish in a small basket.
And there were cups, little paper plates, and a thermos-- a veritable picnic
on the piano.
He blinked and scratched his head, puzzlement slowly brightening into
delight all through him. "What mission is that?"
"To surprise you with some breakfast, of course!" she giggled. "Boy,
are you dull. How you came up with this mystery singer thing is beyond me."
He started to protest, but she somehow appeared behind him and pushed him--
hard-- toward the "tabletop". "Now eat, eat, c'mon. Don't tell me you
already had breakfast!"
Her giddiness was punching through him, and he shook his head,
mustering his usual empathetic defenses so that her joy wouldn't knock him
over completely. "Why'd you bother to do this?" he said, voice conveying
annoyance but trembling on the verge of laughter.
"Why not?" she shrugged, grinning in the sudden stream of golden
light. Yaten caught his breath. The sun had risen just far enough to send a
single slender ray through the fourth floor window, and its edge caught on a
warp in the glass, reflecting blinding white brilliance up through Yaten's
line of sight. So what he saw of Minako, dimly visible in the golden corners
of his white world, was magical for that moment. Golden hair in golden light.
Still, it might have not affected him at all, if it wasn't for that persistent
grin. Not even dazzling sunlight could block its gleam from his vision. And
suddenly every annoyance of the morning was a rapidly fading memory.
A muffin later, Minako asked, "So how's the album coming?"
"Really well," said Yaten in between bites. "I wouldn't be surprised
if we wrapped this week. Can I have a little more orange juice? ...Ah, you
saved my life. How'd you know what I liked?"
"A hunch," she shrugged. "And a little common sense."
"Common sense?"
"I brought what I liked to eat before I went off to an audition.
Substantial, no milk, ya know..."
"Oh, that's right, you're a singer too," Yaten snapped his fingers at
the realization, sending a few caked crumbs into flight.
Minako blushed. "Well, I sing," she said.
Something about this new piece of knowledge had gotten Yaten very
excited. "That's right, you're good, too. Want to do a track for my album?"
Heat crawled in Minako's toes, and then shot up, prickling through her
entire body. Her fair skin glowed pink. "...Me...?" she stuttered, the queen
of bouncing boldness suddenly stiff and paralyzed. When Yaten nodded, she
lowered her eyes. "N... no thanks," she said in a muted voice.
"Doshita?" He stared at her through glassy eyes. Was this the same
girl who'd lectured him so thoroughly about her idol dreams? She'd folded
inward, like a frightened bird under the protective cover of its ruffled
feathers. And he couldn't reach out to touch her feelings anymore. This star
he'd once been able to read completely! Or maybe he'd never been able to read
it at all. He backed off. "O-- okay," he said, shrugging. "Just thought I'd
ask."
Almost immediately, she shook her head vigorously and grinned. "Iie.
I just decided... I think, right now, I'd rather hang with my friends for a
while. I mean, you told me, once, that I do have what it takes..." her eyes
were soft now, and he felt a strange, isolated desire to touch her hand--
"...and maybe that's all I need right now, to know that I could do it, if I
wanted to. You know?" He did.
A few clouds had parted, and shafts of light shifted in the room.
Silence persisted for a moment. "Uh..." Yaten drew a syllable to fill the
space, and finally formed a question. "So, speaking of friends, how is
everyone?"
"They're good, they're good!" The color was back in her star, and
Yaten floated on its carefree glitter. "Except, Rei-chan had a fight with
Yuuichirou-- oh, that's right, you never met him! Well, she's on a major boy
hunt now. Usagi-chan's totally ecstatic that Mamoru-san's staying around a
while, and she's working on her parents so that next year, they'll let her..."

Yaten smiled and drank in the gossip, touching Minako's bubble-like
feelings gently in one mental hand. He felt like he was caressing her,
softly, barely, without touching her. And he had a sense of being comfortable
and utterly content. Still listening, he meandered over to the keyboard and
let his fingers wander across the keys. A lingering melody accompanied
Minako's words. As it floated, her voice took on a sort of melody too,
lilting in an unconscious dance with the piano notes trickling, no, now
pouring forth. And as if choreographed, Yaten's hands came to rest on a
single chord as she leaned forward onto the piano, winked, and said, "So,
that's the scoop!"
"So you guys have been busy," he commented, the bored tone trickling
back into his voice, but not so much that she was concerned by it.
She nodded. "It's so good to have peace," she glowed. "We haven't
had to fight since, knock on wood," (and she did), "and we can concentrate on
all the little things."
"Like music," he finished her sentence without realizing it, and
looked down at the waiting keyboard.
"Or..." Minako stopped short. Yaten blinked up at her.
Her squeal could have brought down the building.
"...SCHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL!"
Never had so fast a whirlwind moved through the city of Tokyo. In a
flash, the piano was cleaned up, the remaining muffins were in the basket and
set on the windowsill, and Minako was putting on a jacket and rearranging her
hair while making her way to the door. "I'm so late, I totally forgot about
the time, I'll see you later Yaten-kun, byeee!" Another gust of wind, and she
was gone.
Yaten chuckled and stretched. The room was silent, but the strains of
the melody he'd improvised were still humming through his head. "Thanks for
the song," he said. And he sat down at the piano to play it.

**

She was back again after school, and he grinned at the sight of her
bouncing hair making its way down the hall. Turning his back and twisting his
face up, he said in English, "Do I know you?" To his great surprise, he
responded with a much better accent, "You don't fool me!" He deflated and
sighed, and she patted him on the back with words of encouragement delivered
in a tone halfway between a sermon and a military drill. It quickly
degenerated into a staring contest until one of the producers passed by and
scowled quite frighteningly. Minako and Yaten bristled like a pair of
alleycats.
Another day, he heard a twanging noise behind his door and discovered
her plucking at one of the guitars leaned up against the wall. She grinned,
reddened, and insisted, "Don't you think I could play this thing?" He ran a
hand through his silvery hair and gritted his teeth.
Minako brought him candy, newspapers with stories on the Musical
Mystery, and an array of smiles which he collected in a mental album. Every
so often he'd surprise her, having set up his room or rigged his door in a way
that when she came bounding through (never knocking), he'd get the upper hand.
Depending on the surprise, she'd scream or shriek, mouth turning into a giant
crescent of horror or joy, her eyes seeming to change shape with it. And
after the gigglefits had subsided in both of them, they'd talk about dreams
and friends, rays of fiery sun touching them in turn as specks of dust floated
in the afternoon air.
One day she popped in on him just as he was about to start a recording
session, and she begged him to let her sit and listen. "Nope," he shook his
head firmly, "not gonna happen." She alternately pleaded, demanded, and
batted her eyelashes furiously, but he stood there with his arms folded across
his chest and eyes pointed downwards, frowning. She pulled at his arm, and he
raised his eyes slightly to the rush of warmth. She blinked. He felt his
heart jump back about ten feet. Her hands remained pressed against his
sleeve.
Just then, a techie came by. "Are we going to start, or what,
Yaten-san?" he demanded. "We're recording the last song you know, r..."
"The title track," Yaten hastily cut in, the moment broken. "I know,
I know."
"The TITLE TRACK?" Minako squealed, eyes full of stars. "Oh, come on,
I want to know!"
Yaten turned away from her and walked a few paces as she followed him.
Even with his back to her, he knew the huge pathetic eyes she was giving him.
"Forget it," he said, smirking.
"Onegai?"
"Nope."
"O--ne-gai?"
"It's a SECRET, remember?" He turned back to her with a wink, and she
pouted.
As he walked into the recording studio, she shouted to his back, "Oh
yeah? Well I already know ONE secret. So I'll figure this one out! You bet!
Don't even TRY to keep it a secret from me. You'll see! I'll find out!"
Honestly. As if he thought he could keep anything from her! That man,
really! She knew him inside and out!
So when he turned back and scowled, saying "You better not" in a
somber voice, it stunned her.

**

"When I was a kid," Yaten said as they sprawled on the floor of the
studio one gray lunch hour, "we used to have races around the castle corridors
on rainy days. All the grownups hated it." He squinted into the harsh
fluorescent light and tilted his head back. Minako propped up her chin with
two hands, lying on her stomach, long flowery skirt spread out in wrinkled
pleats all over the floor. "Seiya always won. I was terrible."
"You were?" she said lazily, sucking on a grape.
"Hated that stuff. Still do," he snorted. "Hated getting sweaty.
Actually," and he cocked his head at this, "I used to run into people on
purpose, so we would get caught and sent to our rooms." He chuckled amusedly,
and she echoed with a small giggle. "If you ever see them again, don't tell
'em!" His voice dropped to a stage whisper.
"Hmmm." She let out a long sound. "Another one of your deep dark
secrets, I see."
He laughed. "Yeah. Loved rainy days, though. When I could get a
moment to myself, it was great to sit by a window and write."
"Write?" she echoed.
"Yeah. Thoughts, stories, memories. I kept a journal. Surprised?"
Minako shrugged. "A little. You don't surprise me much anymore,
though. I think I've got you down pretty well."
He sniffed snobbily. "Says you."
"Mm, hm!" All of a sudden she was sitting up straight, and he leaned
back as she drew her shoulders in close. "That's it," she teased, "I know
almost all your secrets, pretty boy, and I'm going to know them all before I'm
through. You can't hide from Detective Minako, no sir! So don't even try to
keep it from me!"
Laughing openly, he winked an eye. "And what, pray tell, am I keeping
from you?"
The answer came before his words had faded from the air. "Your Love
Song."
Stormclouds passed over his features. "Minako..." he began. "It's a
secret."
"So what?" Her pout was like that of an injured animal. "So is your
identity, Mister Mystery, and I figured that out!"
"Luck, luck." He waved his hand dismissingly, but his look was
nervous.
She frowned. "Was not. It was kismet, Yaten-chan," adding the
endearment teasingly, "fate, karma, destiny. And you shouldn't mess with
destiny."
He did not like the way this conversation was going. "Don't mess with
my project," he warned. A sudden bite to his words made her sit back, pause,
and then lean in toward him.
"...I am going to find out." She pressed emphasis on each word, and
Yaten shrunk from her gaze. Her eyes were blazing with a sudden intensity
that both scared and thrilled him. But...
His hands came down like vises on her wrists. "No, you're not," he
said in a voice like quiet steel. She drew back, wounded, and stared at him,
nursing her reddened wrists. The thundering in his ears was staggering, and
despite his best efforts, all he could do was sit and maintain his stern
expression as she slowly got up.
"Well," she said briskly, though her limbs were still shaking.
"You've got to get back to work now."
He started. "Minako--"
"Really!" She smiled, but Yaten was feeling such trembling from her
star, he wasn't fooled. "Can't keep all those fans waiting. Go and
practice!" She babbled her way to the door, yammering on so that he couldn't
interject a single phrase before she disappeared. He cursed and kicked a
chair. Something was going horribly wrong!

**

"Ne, ne," came a musical voice. Tohru looked up from the control
board and beheld a goddess.
Blonde hair sparkling in a luminescent cloud, the girl approached him,
her figure swaying. Azure eyes peeked out from behind long lashes, blinking
just a little too often to be unconscious. She came up to him and leaned
forward, resting her elbows on the panel and giving him quite a view of...
well, he couldn't even think about it. Tohru tried desperately not to look at
the sight she offered him, but despite his modesty, the blood was already
rushing uncomfortably to his head. He wiped his nose defensively, relieved
that it wasn't bleeding quite yet.
Minako smiled inwardly. She'd considered a number of different
approaches. Impersonating a member of the staff was a good idea, but this was
a small project, and this guy might well know everyone working on it.
Briefly, she'd considered enlisting a friend go in for her, but thrown that
idea out almost immediately. She didn't want her friends in on this, her
beautiful little secret that kept her missing in action for afternoons at a
time. No, this method was definitely where her... talents... lay. It was
really a burden, being so beautiful! "What are you doing?" she asked in her
best ingenue voice, widening her eyes and pouting slightly.
Tohru stuttered. "Uh, I'm-- um-- working on the mix for the album."
"Ooooh," she sighed, leaning further forward and causing Tohru to gulp
and look away in embarrassment. "Is that Yaten-kun's album?"
"Er, yeah," he stammered. "You're his friend, uh, right?"
"Un," she nodded. "Can I listen?" She let doubt flicker across his
face, then delivered the lethal blow. "Pleeeeeease?" Against an attack like
that, Tohru had no hope of survival. Swallowing hard, he took the headphones
off his head and handed them over. Minako made a show of putting them on and
adjusting them over her own ears, closing her eyes and humming contentedly.
When her eyes slitted open again, Tohru flipped the switch.
She kept the smile on her face, but frowned inwardly. She knew this
song. It was one of the songs Yaten had sung on the original Three Lights
album. A nice song, and Yaten's voice had improved a great deal since his
days with the group, but definitely NOT the Love Song she was looking for.
She stared at the hapless sound technician again. "Will you do me a lit-t-tle
favor?" she drawled.
He just stared, having a vague feeling he was being jerked around but
not really caring.
"Will you play for me... the Love Song?"
Tohru reached for the track select button.
A slam sounded from below in the studio, and both Minako and Tohru
jumped. Looking through the glass, they saw a rather annoyed Yaten Kou
stomping in and examining his sheet music intently. "Now what's the matter
with him," Tohru wondered out loud, gazing down at the studio floor for a few
seconds. Then he looked up at his guest, or at least tried to.
She was gone.

**

"Tsukino resid... oh, hi, Minako-chan! Wow, you haven't come to
Rei-chan's in ages. Where have you been keeping yourself? ...What do you
mean, a secret?
"Huh? What would I do? Er, I'd just ask them, I guess. ...Well, I'd
ask them again the next day!
"Hmm... I don't know. I'd have to think about it... over a hot fudge
sundae and maybe an arcade game or two, yeah, that's what I'd do. In fact, I
think I'll make Mamo-chan treat me to some ice cream, and then I'll call you
back! ...Hello? Minako-chan? Are you there?"

"Hello, Hino residence. ...Where have you been!? Even Artemis still
comes to the study sessions, and he says he doesn't know where you disappear
to after school. ...Huh? That's a weird question, Minako-chan. Well, I'll
tell you if you tell me where you've been lately.
"Fall for what? ...Who, me? Try and trick you? Well, okay, maybe I
would. But that's your answer, I guess. If someone was keeping a secret from
me, I'd definitely try something sneaky to make them tell me. What is this
about, anyway? ...Hello?"

"Mizuno residence. Oh? What is it? ...Minako-chan, I don't believe
you! You haven't come to a single study session in the past week, and you're
asking me a favor? Studying should be your first priority, you know...
"WHAT!? I am not going to hack into someone else's computer system
for you!"

"Hello? ...Oh, hold on, Minako-chan, let me just get these brownies
out of the oven...
"Hi, sorry 'bout that. What's up? ...Advice? Does this have
something to do with a boy? What do you mean, maybe? Oh, forget it, just
tell me what's going on.
"A secret, hmm? Well, is this boy small enough that you can push him
around? ...Eep, don't shriek in my ear, Minako-chan. I didn't mean that it
HAD to be a boy. I was just making a generalization. No, really! Hmm, no, I
suppose you don't like to back people into corners. Want me to do it for you?
Sorry!
"Well, I don't know. I might try and bribe them with some goodies.
Oh, wait. Minako-chan, if you really want to get a secret out of someone, do
me a favor... DON'T bake for them. No, it's just that they might not live
long enough to tell you what you want to know...
"Augh! I'm sorry, I'm sorry!"

**

Furueru mune ni wa, ano hi no himitsu no kiss...
[Trembling in my heart is the secret kiss that day...]

Yaten paused, black ink slowly spreading across the page where his pen
was pressed a little too firmly against the paper. Those lyrics seemed
familiar, somehow-- he was reasonably sure he'd heard them somewhere before.
He crumpled the page in his left hand and tossed it aside. Frowning, he
turned back to his notebook.
Upstairs, he heard the flick of switches and he knew the dance school
was closing for the night. The janitor's heavy mop had provided a heavy,
plodding rhythm that had lulled Yaten into a kind of trance, but when it
stopped its shuffling, an uncomfortable silence descended. The flow of
creativity had stopped abruptly, bringing him back to full consciousness.
Cold, as always, he thought with a shiver. He pulled the blanket a
little tighter around his shoulders and blew on his cupped hands. As a
musician, he knew about silences. But this was not the relaxing quiet of that
time just before sleep, nor was it peaceful as moments of tranquility could
be. This was the kind of silence that heightened a song, leaving something
unresolved hanging in the air for just a little too long. A silence that
begged to move, that begged to be broken. And Yaten was its prisoner.
He stood up, paced, sat back down, drew tiny squares on the open page
of the notebook. It must have been after ten o'clock. His squares turned
into circles, which turned into eyes. He got up again. Pace, pace. The eyes
looked up. Down. He was aware of his head pounding, not hurting, just making
some noise in the dead air. He looked at the pile of crumpled papers on the
floor. The eyes looked at him. He flipped a few pages back, forcing those
probing stares behind their paper eyelids, and surveyed the song lyrics he'd
written. They were good. Good enough to use in the concert, even. He
resolved to add them if the crowd was receptive.
Something was wrong. Different. After a long and exhausting day, he
usually dropped off to sleep quickly, and awoke early. Did not matter whether
the day was good or bad, if it was busy-- and his days always were-- he'd be
asleep in minutes. But it had been an hour. Two? He tried to look at his
watch in the dim glare of the single naked bulb glowing in this basement room.
Everything was bluish in its light. His eyes failed to register the exact
time. Late o'clock, he noted disjointedly. Maybe two, because it was too
late o'clock.
He grabbed his jacket. There was no way he could stay here a minute
longer. It was dry, dry, and there were showers falling elsewhere. Sweet,
cool, green showers. Hardly registering anything he was doing, Yaten walked
up the dark steps and ventured out into the late night.
His world was surreal. It wouldn't be till later that he realized
he'd walked the complex route to the studio at Takeuchi Music. Now, he just
felt he was a man in a dark, cold desert, following the promise of water to an
oasis somewhere else in this giant laboratory maze. A thirsty mouse. He
clenched a fist and realized there was no longer a pen in his hand, but a key.
The key to the back entrance of the studio. He must have picked it up on his
way out. He inserted it into the lock that was suddenly right in front of
him.
Ah, now these walls reverberated with rhythm, even in the silence of
the night. He felt vaguely uneasy, as if something was amiss. But it was
warm, and he accelerated his footsteps toward the practice room he called his
own, where he kept all of his projects. The doorknob was warm to the touch.
He opened it.
And all the vague premonitions and vibrating warnings snapped into
immediate focus.

Yaten was now completely awake, gasping for breath but unable to fill
his lungs with air. He felt like a statue, and at the same time like he'd
been slammed against a brick wall. His eyes and lips quivered with horror,
and betrayal splashed the walls of the small room blood red. A single thought
yawned through the cavern of his mind.
No.
Panicking, Minako tried to blind him with the flashlight and run. But
her eyes were suddenly wet, and she couldn't see. She tripped over a chair
and crashed to the floor, the impact shaking some of the loose papers on the
bureau to the floor. Swearing, she tried to straighten up and escape the
evidence that was lying all around her. One black-gloved hand rose to her
face in shame and agony.
She'd been going through his papers. Yaten wheeled on the axis of
this realization like a broken record endlessly replaying a scratch that
warped the melody. She'd come here, dressed up like a catburglar, and gotten
into his room so she could go through his papers. His friend had done this.
Or the person he'd called a friend. "Why?" came the whisper from his pursed
lips, and even before the sound had escaped, he knew the answer.
Minako felt hot streams of tears on her cheeks. Her knee throbbed
painfully from the impact of the fall. Stinging eyes couldn't tear themselves
away from Yaten's face, even paler than it normally was, thin and quivering
with shock. She'd driven a knife straight through him. Her hands felt hot,
as if there was actually a dagger in her grasp, blood slipping to the ground
in sticky red lines. She wanted to hang her head, but the defiance in the
base of her chest kept her sitting up straight, burning into his frozen eyes.
"I thought... we were friends," he whispered, squeezing the words out
with painful pressure from his deflated chest. His jaw trembled.
She glared up at him. "I thought we were too," she said in a low,
heated voice.
"How..." the anger in her tone registering in his mind, "how could you
do this to me?"
Grasping the chair tightly, she fought her way up to a standing
position. No way was he going to look down on her during this battle.
"You're the one," she gritted her teeth, "who had to keep secrets from me."
The tears building up behind his eyes burst forth in a flood. "I
thought you understood!"
"How?" Her voice accused him. Him, who'd found her sneaking around
like a common thief! "How can I understand it when you refuse to tell me the
one thing I want most to know?"
"You know why!" he shouted. "I thought you respected me as an artist!
I had my reasons!"
"I thought you respected me, as a person!" Shouting escalated to
screeching, and then wobbled back down to the heated fire of low breaths. "I
really thought... that we were... that you were starting to share things with
me."
Breaths were hard to come by. "I was. I did..."
"You did."
"Just not that. Just not that."
"Why? Why that? Why couldn't you tell me? Was it just to drive me
crazy, so I could sleep at night wondering?"
"...No, no," he interrupted, his whole body trembling with his voice.
"It wasn't that..." Furueru mune ni wa, sang a sudden voice in his mind, and
he smashed it violently, howling. "Why couldn't you trust me?"
"That's what I want to know!" she wailed. Pain soared like a high
note on an electric guitar. "Why didn't you tell me? Why was it such a
secret?"
Ano hi no himitsu no...
He gnashed his teeth in an effort to make the song go away. Nails bit
into the flesh of his clenched fist.
"Well, fine!" she sobbed. "If you don't want me to know, then that's
just fine! But don't expect me to wait around to find out like the rest of
the world. I just don't care anymore!" She limped toward the door. Every
nerve in Yaten's body wanted to grab her as she shuffled past him with hurt
and anger in her eyes. But every paralyzed muscle protested. "Have a good
concert tomorrow night, Yaten," she said in a frigid voice. "Maybe I'll come
to your next one."
For what was not the first time in his life, Yaten Kou found himself
facing the door of an empty room.

**

"Mako-chan! Mako-chan!" Pound, pound, pound. "C'mon, Mako-chan,
wake up. I know you're in there!"
Behind the door, muffled grumblings sounded, and then a series of
clicks near the keyhole. The face that appeared when the door finally cracked
open was haggard and confused. "What on earth, Minako-chan? Do you know what
time it is?" Then the green eyes widened at the sight of the girl's sorrowful
countenance. "...Come in."
Minako took a trembling step into the apartment, then another, and
Makoto watched her teeter like a china doll on the verge of falling from the
mantel and smashing on the bricks below. She caught the blonde in her strong
arms, and Minako drooped against her like a soggy leaf of paper.
"Mako-chan..." she wept, her wails coming long and loud and full of
heartbreak. Makoto led her to the table and sat her down, still holding her
in a supportive embrace.
"Let it out," she soothed as Minako's long sobs shook and bruised
against her shoulder. "That's it. Let it out, girl. It's all right." She
stroked the blonde yards of hair draped over Minako's back. "It's all right."
They sat there, Minako's head buried in the taller girl's shoulder,
for a long time. The clock ticked and tocked the minutes away, a metronome
maintaining the movement of time when all else stood frozen. A slight wind
blew against the door to the apartment, harshly breathing warnings of a
rainstorm to come. Makoto closed her eyes. All was still.
After some time, Minako's wailings softened to gentle sobs; sobs to
tremblings; and tremblings to brief sniffles that came every few seconds, as
she gulped for air. Finally, she straightened up, and Makoto released the
girl from her embrace, holding one of her hands as the other wiped away errant
tears and rubbed at splotchy skin. Minako heaved several tremulous sighs,
gave a final choking sob, and then swallowed hard, shutting her eyes tight.
As she opened them again, she gave a shaky smile. "Arigatou..."
"Are you okay, Minako-chan?" Makoto knew better than to ask more than
that.
"Un..." she nodded. The red flush to her cheeks made her beautiful in
the grayness. "Mako-chan, is it okay if I stay here tonight?"
"Of course, of course," Makoto said, soothingly, touching the blonde's
face gently. "Let me get some sheets for you, okay?"
Minako nodded, swallowing several times. Makoto's touch could be so
maternal, she already felt a warmth begin to thaw the freezing rain in her
heart. With a cup of herbal tea, the rest of the rain gave way to drowsy
heat, and she lay down on the couch, hugging the quilt Makoto had brought to
her chest, breathing regularly for the first time in hours.
Makoto kneeled by her side. "You just sleep. Call me if you need
anything, okay?" The girl nodded. "And in the morning..." she added in a
measured voice, "...if you want to... you can talk to me. Goodnight,
Minako-chan." She smiled and left the exhausted girl to doze.

**

Yaten's eyes crept open, much to his displeasure. The first thing he
noticed was that there was light, despite the grayness outside the window. It
seemed to be coming from above him, or behind him. Then, wrinkling his nose,
his face and mind started to come alive... with aching in his neck and
stinging behind his eyes, and a feeling of overall unpleasantness.
It was a few more moments before Yaten realized he had fallen asleep
in the studio, that he had never made it back to his room last night. Sitting
up in the chair he'd slept in, he stretched his arms painfully, rotated his
neck, and brought his fists down to rest on the desk in front of him. Ouch.
His shoulders cracked as he rolled them back.
The dull light was so painful to his throbbing head, and he staggered
to the wall to turn it off. The room fell immediately into shades of gray, a
dull patch of light from the window the only illumination. The room's corners
were black and ominous. After rubbing his eyes thoroughly to get the residue
of a bad night's sleep out, he sat in one of those corners and watched rain
pelt mutely against the windowpane.
What had happened here... had happened after all, he thought, and the
dryness of his eyes stung so hard that he had to rub them again. The place
seemed cursed, and he wanted to run away from it... if only his body would
agree. But as horrible as it was to think of it all, it was also draining...
the energy to escape just was not there.
He cleared his throat. His voice was so boyish, he thought with a
pang of disgust. Boyish and breathy and not a good singer's voice at all.
Throb, throb, went his head, and he dropped it into his hands. How had he
been doing this all this time? How could he think he'd succeed?
Now, at least, the scratching of his eyes began to give way to a thin
layer of liquid. Looking down, he sighed inwardly at the relief of having
them fill with tears that then slid down his cheeks and into his mouth. At
their wonderfully salty taste, his tongue curled, and his stomach rumbled in
answer. The prodding need of hunger brought him slowly prickling back into
the real world, and he got to his feet, lumbering like a dinosaur as he
straightened up. He opened the door hesitantly.
The world was swirling back and forth, and Yaten nearly fainted. The
bright lights of the halls were all on, and people were running back and forth
with clipboards and instruments and briefcases and masks of panic. Shouting
rang out. "Get me Hisakawa on the phone..." "..not going to..." "...We've got
to do something about this right away..." "...damn it! We can't..."
"Move it, come on, we don't have all day!" Like a blind man in a traffic jam,
Yaten stumbled forward a few paces, taking it all in but not understanding any
of it. Until a roaring voice rang through like a rumble of thunder.
"Yaten-san!"
Yaten looked up, bleary-eyed, and recognized the familiar red beard.
"Taishi-san...?"
"My god, man, where have you been?" The veins in Taishi's neck were
uncomfortably pronounced. Yaten stared at them with a kind of grotesque
fascination. "Have you been hiding in that damn room all day?"
"All... day?" Yaten echoed in disbelief.
"Never mind," said Taishi, slinging an arm around the confused boy.
"You've got to get down to the Forum, now!"

Somehow or other, Taishi managed to usher Yaten into a car, and it was
several slick streets before the batting of the rain on the windowpane woke
Yaten up. "Tai... shi-san," he yawned slowly, as the blood rushed to his
head. All at once, his eyes popped open. "Oh! What time is it? Where are
we going?"
"It's five-thirty," Taishi growled, looking slightly peeved but mostly
concerned. "And your concert starts at eight, remember? Now come on, we're
here, get out of the car." Yaten obeyed, shaking his head back and forth in
confusion and disbelief.
Crewmen walked by with ladders. A voice echoed lighting and sound
cues, and microphone feedback screeched through the auditorium as purple and
yellow spots flashed blindingly. Yaten moved in and out of the backstage
latticework, still shaking his head. Taishi followed a few steps behind,
occasionally barking an order at a passing lackey, but mostly gazing at his
charge with a worried expression on his round face. Around the scaffolding
Yaten went, trailing his hand over it, and then out to the stage, where he
paused at the edge, staring out into the endless rows of seats and even more
endless arenas where the audience would stand, packing as many people into one
space as possible. Huge TV screens hung from the ceiling on steel cables,
matched by a multitude of video cameras pointed at the stage. White light
flooded his eyes, and for a moment Yaten was sure he could hear the crowd
cheering. But this time, Seiya and Taiki were not beside him. And he felt an
intense pang of loneliness. How could he have done this, all by himself, with
no support from anybody?
That's not true, warned an inner voice. You had support. Don't you
remember?
("I shall pray for you and miss you daily, as will the others, and all
our people," said the Princess, smiling benevolently. "Know that we will
always be here for you if you need a home, and that you will never lose your
place in our hearts.")
The faraway Princess. His eyes filled with tears again... how could
there be so many tears in him? The last time he had been on this stage, they
were searching for her. And now he was alone again.
("Everything's going according to plan, Yaten-san," reassured Taishi.
"Everything on my end, at least... I just hope...")
A man whose star he felt dimly behind him, who had become a mentor and
almost friend. Yaten knew he was worrying him, and that he had a lot of
explaining to do.
("You guys are amazing, don't you know that!?")
The smile that had begun to light the crevices of Yaten's face faded
again. And the bitterness rose in his throat...

"I'm not going to do it," he scowled, turning around abruptly and
starting to walk off. Taishi started to call out, but the cry caught, choked
and strangled, in his throat. Yaten moved as fast as he could, hearing his
shoes slap against the wooden slats of the stage and echo through the
microphones into the empty auditorium. All of a sudden, all the bustling
technicians seemed silent. He didn't care. The bitterness in his chest was
wailing a song loud enough for him.
Then, his arms were trapped, and he was walking nowhere at an angry
pace. Taishi had overtaken him, and was holding him down with huge bear
hands. "Let me go!" Yaten struggled, but the vise-like grip just grew
tighter.
Taishi stared him down. "Where the hell do you think you're going?"
His voice was threatening in its low intensity.
"I told you!" Yaten rebelled. "I'm not going to do it! Now let me
go!"
The growling tone was steady and slow. "Not until you listen to
reason. Now calm down and tell me what on Earth is going on with you,
Yaten-san. I've invested millions of dollars in your concert here tonight,
and you're not backing out without giving me a damn good reason!"
After a moment or two of continued struggling, Yaten calmed and
relaxed in Taishi's grip. The bigger man let go, and Yaten hung his head and
sighed. "Sumimasen, Taishi-san," he said in a voice thick with regret. "But
I don't think I can do this concert."
Taishi leaned back. "What happened?"
"Something..." Yaten's gaze darted about suspiciously. "Something
happened."
"Oh," the executive sighed in sudden understanding. "It was her,
huh?"
Yaten nodded. Despite their sour taste, the words fought themselves
to his throat. And when they emerged, he was surprised to hear them.
"She's..." hearing himself say it made him shudder! "...not... coming."
Masaka. He'd expected to spit out a bitter tirade about her betrayal,
how she had violated his trust and his privacy. But when the syllables struck
his ears, he knew they couldn't be more true. That was the real betrayal.
That was the ruination of everything he'd worked so hard for. After all this,
she wasn't coming.
A long siren note of feedback swept across the microphones and shook
them both. Yaten was sure he felt a fist clenched in his heart, squeezing a
stone, bringing everything inside him to an abrupt tension. "I'm so angry,"
he said, his voice breaking. "I'm so angry!!" His shout set the mikes off
again, and Taishi winced. "I want to smash something so badly. I'm so
frustrated. I want to..."
"You want to..." echoed the red-haired man in a voice suddenly soft
and even.
"I want to scream! I want to pound! How could this happen to me?"
Without even realizing it, Yaten had started to punch and kick the air, in a
kata that became a kind of dance. Taishi watched as fist and foot flew
forward, as the singer's lithe body became a spectacular weapon. The sweep of
an arm. The stamp of a foot. It was merciless. It was pain personified.
But it was beauty.
"I feel like if I don't let it out, I'm going to explode!" cried
Yaten, rage giving way to endless folds of deep sadness. "God, it hurts so
much... I want to..."
Once more, Taishi said, "You want to..."
Yaten's body came to a standstill. Huge, pale green eyes opened wide.
"I want to..." He gulped at the realization, and gazed at Taishi in wonder.
The smile started to emerge again. "I want to... sing."

**

Cookie after cookie disappeared off Makoto's tray as crumbs assembled
like the aftermath of war on the tabletop. After putting away a dozen or so,
Minako sat back. "Are you sure you don't mind?"
The chef smiled. "That's why I made them. Besides, a girl who sleeps
all day has got to be hungry when she finally wakes up. Let me know if
there's anything more I can get to."
"Thanks so much, Mako-chan. You're really being too nice to me."
Minako smiled gratefully.
Removing her apron and hanging it up on a nearby peg, Makoto sat down
across from her friend. "Now," she said, tilting her head to the side
slightly. "Are you sure you don't want to talk about what happened?"
Chocolate had loosened Minako's tongue a bit, and she shrugged. "I
don't know. I guess I... kind of need someone to share it with, but you've
got to promise not to tell the others. I mean it. Not even Usagi-chan."
"Of course not." That look of motherly concern was back, and Minako
relaxed under its glow. Sighing, she smiled.
"There's a guy..." she began slowly, and Makoto had enough presence of
mind not to grin. "A friend of mine, someone I've known for a while but have
just started to get close to. And he was sharing a lot with me... a lot of
memories, things he kept private, stuff like that. But there was one thing he
wouldn't tell me." She sighed. "And I couldn't get my mind off it. So I...
I went behind his back and tried to find out. I did a lot of really horrible
things, and he finally caught me at it. And I don't know what to do about it.
I feel absolutely awful, and I wonder if there's any way I'll ever get his
friendship back. I think I may have really blown it for good this time." Her
words were measured, even, but emotion trembled behind them and Makoto sensed
that there was something more at stake. What, however, was beyond her.
"It's not even a big deal!" insisted Minako-chan, smiling sadly.
"You'd think it was some really deep secret about his past or something, but
it's not. It's practically a joke, a gimmick!"
"Like that mystery singer," Makoto wondered out loud, letting the
words trail off just long enough that she couldn't hear Minako catch her
breath.
"Yeah," laughed Minako nervously, "something like that. I don't get
why he wouldn't tell me, though! Why wouldn't he want me to know?"
A quiet hovered in the room with the smell of home-baked cookies, as
the two girls contemplated. But when the cuckoo clock struck six, Minako
jumped, bringing Makoto, too, out of her reverie. "Oh! We gotta go!" she
said, suddenly panicked.
"Go? Where?"
Makoto winked at her. "Speak of the devil, Minako-chan! That mystery
concert is tonight!" She located her purse and waved five green tickets at
the blonde. "Remember, we're meeting the others at Crown so we can all go to
the concert together?"
Horror filled Minako's face, and she turned away from her friend so as
to not reveal the contorted expression. Her shoulders shook slightly. "Um,
Mako-chan, I'm... not so sure I'm up to going tonight."
"Huh? But you were the one who was so excited about this in the first
place!" Makoto protested. But staring at her friend's back, she had no
choice but to acquiesce. "Okay, Minako-chan. But I'm going to leave your
ticket right here--" she slapped it down on the table-- "just in case you want
to join us later."
"Thanks," Minako said in a muffled voice. "I hope you enjoy it,
Mako-chan."
Poised at the door, Makoto blew her friend a kiss. "Feel better,
Minako-chan. You know where to find me."

**

"Waa! I can't see!"
Rei grumbled. "That's because we're not in the auditorium yet,
Usagi," she scowled. In response, the girl stuck out her tongue.
Makoto laughed. "You two, cut it out. We've got to stay together in
this crowd. Ami-chan, you better not lose us with your nose buried in that
book."
"Huh?" said Ami, looking up and adjusting her glasses.
"For a megagenius, you sure can be clueless sometimes," Makoto ribbed
her, and the three girls laughed. Usagi grabbed Ami's sleeve and held
Makoto's arm tight, trying to keep their group together. Slowly, they made
their way through the turnstile.
"Hora..." said Rei suddenly, and the girls' heads turned. "Isn't
that... Michiru-san?"
"You're right!" called Usagi, and waved frantically, causing poor
Makoto's arm to wave along with her. "Michiru-saaan!"
The lovely young violinist turned and smiled at the group. "Good
evening, everyone," she said.
"What are you doing here?" teased Usagi. "Don't tell me Haruka-san
is the mystery musician!"
Michiru giggled. "If she is, Haruka hasn't told me about it."
"This isn't exactly your type of concert, though," shrugged Rei. "So
what brings you here tonight, Michiru-san?"
The woman closed her eyes briefly and gave a slight, secret smile.
"I've... been wondering about this concert," she murmured. "It has the
capacity to be... interesting."

**

The clock ticked. Minako clutched her ticket.
The softest of sighs sounded so loud when the swinging pendulum and
the lightly tapping rain were the only sounds. "Mako-chan," she said out loud
to the empty room, "I wish I could have told you everything."

**

The pavement glittered silver stars as dark water poured down from the
ominous clouds. An occasional car turned the puddles red or orange, but
mostly, just the dim streetlamps and the glow of white lights outside the
Mitsuishi Forum reflected their sparkle in the endless raindrops. It was
still and cold, and even the concrete seemed to shiver.
Then, all at once, an inferno split open the sky and a roar came forth
from the spine of the building and blasted forward into the dark night.
Clouds rumbled and the earth came alive. The identity of the man behind Boku
no Love Song had just been revealed.

**

A tiny, persistent bird chirped nine times, and Minako still sat
there, her fingers drawn tightly around the small, green slip of paper in her
hand.
Yaten would be over an hour into his act now, she realized. Soon he'd
come to the end of it, and then the world would know what she still didn't.
Her throat was parched, and she longed to become the rain outside the
apartment window. To satisfy her thirst by becoming that which could. To end
her quest for love by becoming a lover.
The strangeness of that analogy hit her sideways, and she frowned.
Her mind pored over her day's conversation with Makoto, ploddingly, again and
again, like the thud of drops of water hitting the pavement. "Why wouldn't he
want me to know?" nagged a horrible, teacher-like voice in the lower left
corner of her head. Meanwhile, a stooped-over grandmother in the opposite
corner screeched, "I couldn't get my mind off it!" But in the very front,
opening her arms out to the poor befuddled girl in the center, was a sweet
motherly Makoto, asking her again and again, "Don't you want to talk about
what happened?"
"I do," said Minako, out loud, surprised at the sound of her voice.
The mental Minako ran to the arms of her friend, and something bold and
tremulous grew inside her. The cuckoo clock shivered.
She swallowed and started to speak again to herself and her imaginary
audience. "The truth is..."
Why wouldn't he want me to know?
Building in the pit of her stomach, a horrified realization spread its
tentacles through her, filling her limbs with dread, polluting her blood.
Could it be..?
"The truth is... I'm in love."
The cuckoo mocked her, daring her to continue.
"I have been for a long time."
Oh God, if it was true, it was almost too late.
"I'm in love with Yaten Kou."

**

Pounding feet and flying hair, wet streams in sticky strands and
fogging breath that puffed and condensed against red cheeks before it even had
a chance to form. The cold air was awful, heavy and foul-tasting, but that
didn't stop the panting breaths from sucking it in painfully. Rain beat
against thick eyelashes already swimming in a wall of tears.
Oh, stupid, stupid, stupid Minako, her mental voice chided just as
breathlessly as her real voice would have. How could you have taken so long
to figure this out. How could you not have realized it till now. She
sniffled and choked on the rain. It explains everything, everything. And
still you didn't see.
A sheaf of darkness fell before her eyes, and with impatient hands she
threw the length of soggy hair back. She was a creature of strange colors
this dim and soaking night: blonde hair turned blackish green in the downpour,
pallid cheeks flushed red with exertion and desperation. Some sort of weird
nightmarish nymph, sprinting through the city streets.
And now the white lights of the Mitsuishi Forum were in sight, rain
falling through a hazy glowing sphere and returning to invisible darkness.
Please don't let me be too late, she prayed silently, clasping her wet hands
with a loud smacking sound. Please, Yaten, don't start your Love Song yet. I
want to be there for it. I want to be there for you.

The doors flew open as lightning glared frighteningly in the
background. In the empty lobby of the Forum, even the short slip of a girl
was an intimidating figure as she burst through, all flying hair and dark
scowls. Running up to the nearest usher with a determined expression, she
showed him her ticket silently as the pounding bass started to vibrate through
her feet into her suddenly shaking legs. He nodded, and she took flight,
vaulting over the turnstile with a grace born of desperation.
Through the halls she raced, heart keeping time with the music she
could just barely feel shaking the walls. Reaching a door, she clung to it,
drawing long shuddering breaths as she regained her center. Swallowing her
fatigue, she pulled on the handle.
Veiled music blasted forth at her, and she winced at its sudden
attack. She was facing a barrier of backs, packed tighter than she could have
imagined, and her heart smiled at the success of his campaign. Now she could
hear his voice above the wail of the saxophone and the deep strings of the
bass. She jumped up again and again, trying to catch a glimpse of his face,
so far away from where she stood, in the back of the back of the crowd.
What was this song? She moved in a little further, but couldn't
breach the brick wall of bodies, no matter how she pushed or pulled or slipped
from one side to the other. This wasn't a song she'd ever heard him sing, so
(dodging a wild flailing arm) how did she know it? She remembered it as being
a little faster, a little higher maybe. But she knew it.
A scream in her ear, and then "don't forget me, most of all..." An air
pocket! She slipped in to fill it. "From here, we'll watch..." How come she
was so sure the verse he was starting was actually the first verse, although
he was singing it second? Her eyes wandered frantically, and she considered
vaulting up and using the audience as a pit of stepping stones, leaping from
head to poor fan's head. Then she turned her head in another direction, and
all of a sudden she was staring straight into his eyes.
The Yaten on the screen seemed to be looking right at her, and she
stared breathlessly into those huge pixilated eyes, marveling at how beautiful
their pale green color was. He caressed the microphone, breathing each word
as if it were something tender and precious. This was his Love Song. And in
another half moment, she realized she was singing the words along with him,
melody just barely coating the breath of the lyrics in a shaking voice. "Open
your eyes and look straight ahead... kiss me for the last time..."

Wait.

That wasn't what he'd sung.
He'd sung "Kiss me for the first time..."
And suddenly she knew the song.

So many different kinds of tears had fallen from Minako's glittering
eyes today, but these were the first that rolled down her cheeks of their own
accord. Her lashes trembled. A slow, sweet breath whistled as her pursed
mouth pulled it in. All at once she was aware of every tear she'd cried,
every step she'd taken, every straining muscle and aching stretch of skin.
Fatigue trembled through her, nearly making her collapse, but at the same time
a new electricity was pulsing through her, white and blue currents. She
hugged herself tight, closing her eyes, and for a few blessed moments, she
sang in unison with the man she loved. "I won't forget you, for most of all,
I love you." Then she ran, nearly flew, out of the auditorium toward a
destination unknown, as the speakers resounded with the last few notes of...

"Route Venus," Yaten said into the microphone. "Ladies and
gentlemen... that's Yaten's Love Song."

**

"Let me in! Let me in!" screamed the girl. "I have to see Yaten!"
The security guards held her at bay, but the thrashing arms and legs dealt out
bruises by the barrelful. This one was seriously disturbed. Tears streaming
down her face, blonde hair slightly damp... she was beautiful, but definitely
as crazed a fan as they'd ever seen. Taishi chuckled and went back to
congratulate his star.

A million cameras clicked as Yaten emerged from his dressing room and
started to walk down the long, green-walled hall. Microphones in his face,
flashings and jabberings on every side. Smiling, he greeted the press in
between panting and wiping the sweat off his brow. His heart was hammering
away. "Thanks, thanks so much," he called to the clusters of reporters whose
praises were gushing through his ears like so much floodwater. Seeing Taishi
at the end of the hall, he raised a hand to his friend and manager.
"Well done, my boy, well done!" Taishi clapped Yaten on the back,
making him cough, and the reporters laughed. "Ladies and gentlemen of the
press," he announced, turning to the crowd, "I give you Yaten Kou!"
Applause broke out in the clustered corridor. "Think you have time to
sign some autographs?" Taishi asked. "There are some girls out there who are
just about killing themselves to get close to you."
Yaten gulped. "Uh, yeah, I guess so," he said, disappointment
flickering at the corner of his face for a brief moment.
Taishi responded by wrapping a burly arm around the lean boy's
shoulders, drawing him in close so the paparazzi couldn't hear. "Cheer up. I
know it's not much consolation now, but there are plenty of ladies on the
other side of that door who'd like to make you forget all about her." He
laughed. "I'd stay away from the blonde with the bow in her hair, though.
She's giving the security guards quite a workout. Definitely over the top,
that one." He grinned, then was shocked into silence by the sudden hollowness
in Yaten's eyes. The pupils were growing smaller and smaller, huge green
irises suddenly fading to yellow. Then Taishi's arm was clutching air.

"Yaten-kun!!"
"I think I hear footsteps, guys!"
"Ohmygod, he's coming!"
"I can't believe this, I'm gonna faint..."
"...The door!"
Screams erupted as the silver-haired singer threw open the stage door
and looked around impatiently. The security personnel braced themselves for
the onslaught of eager female bodies and skyrocketing shrieks. Some of the
girls had broken through the first line of guards and were now squealing from
behind the strong arms of a second blue-jacketed row. "Yaten-kun! I love
you!" "Yaten-kun!" A multitude of reaching arms and thrashing legs, some
grabbing a handful of blazer despite the guards, some pulling at the whipping
silver ponytail.
Yaten winced but didn't register the grabs and touches and shrieks.
His eyes pored over the crowd, further and further from his position just
outside the stage door, and then darkened in disappointment. Guess not.
Sighing, he forced a smile onto his face and said, "Hi, everyone!" Happy
squeals pervaded the crowd, and Yaten shrugged to himself. Still, this was
the good life, he thought, as he started to accept pens and programs being
pushed forth from the swelling crowd. "With love," he said out loud as he
wrote, "Yaten Kou. There you go!" He took up a second, then a third, pen and
paper, all the time enduring the shouts and squeaks of thrilled teenage girls,
attempting to quell the disappointment that swam like a murky red soup in the
bottom of his soul.
And then, he heard a shriek different in tone from all the others.
This one was desperate. This one was crying. "Yaten! Yaten!" He dropped
the pen and looked up. A hush fell over the crowd, and they followed his gaze
to the back of the packed alleyway. Struggling and sobbing, being held at bay
by two battered and beaten security guards, was the girl Taishi had talked
about...
He walked toward her. The abusive throng had somehow transformed into
a quiet mass, as though they were allowing a funeral procession to pass. The
guards, who had turned to Yaten with apologetic looks, were stunned by his
gaze and let go of the struggling girl. Amazingly, when she was released, the
hysterics disappeared. She stood still for a long moment. He took a step
forward. And then she started walking, boldly through the surreal Red Sea of
people, her face still and confident and tranquil. Yaten felt his hands reach
forward.
She came right up to him and buried her head in the hollow of his
shoulder.
The silence gave way to a low buzzing, the crowd pressing and swelling
from side to side, but not closing the wide gap. Was Yaten Kou giving out
hugs to fans tonight? How he had changed from his obnoxious days with the
Lights! So much more romantic now and everything, and don't you want to be
next in line? Yet something kept the excitement from overflowing, the mob
from approaching the sacred circle which had formed around Yaten and the
blonde girl he was holding so tenderly. Perhaps it was the desire to see what
would happen next.
Minako lifted her head at the insistent tugs of Yaten's fingers
against her cheek. He cradled her face, touching her hair one small strand at
a time, his fingers drawing lines between her ears and the edges of her lips
and back again. Minako heard the labored rasping of his breaths. "Gomen ne,
Yaten," she said seriously, her voice a sweet, low note. Her eyes glittered
with a sparkle too warm for Yaten's still-awestruck gaze; he gasped audibly
and shivered. His mouth, slightly open, invited Minako's fingers. She moved
her hand up his spine and across his shoulders, drawing a path to his pale
face.
She seemed dimly aware of flashbulbs popping in the distance, maybe
the confused voice of a faraway admirer or two. But mostly, she wanted to
trace the outline of his mouth with her fingers. So she did, avoiding the
kisses he vainly attempted to press on her hand. The insistence of his mouth,
pursing under her touch, made her giggle, and the silence was thus broken.
"Mi... Minako..." His voice broke as the tears came again, and she
dried them with her soft fingers. A sad smile lit her face.
"I know, Yaten," she said in a dim, low voice. "I understand, now."
The glissando of emotion broke around Yaten like a wave. If he could
have wrapped his arms three, four times about her, he would have. But as it
was, he just gathered her form up and pulled her in so close that his fingers
brushed the elbow of his other arm. Closing his eyes, he inhaled the scent of
her so close, so delicate but so confident next to him. Then she brought his
face to hers again. Trembling, they kissed briefly. Then longer, surer,
shades of light hair sifting together. Minako felt or heard a swelling, an
exploding. Only later did she realize it was the crowd erupting in cheers.

**

Shivering white limbs and golden hair against white sheets. Intense
blue eyes wide, staring upward at a paler pair of eyes, focused a little
lower. She slid one white hand onto his cheek, feeling his skin. She
imagined powdered sugar and snow, so light and hovering and ready to fall at
any moment.
He blinked briefly at the sudden touch of sugar against his cheek, and
looked down smilingly -- hair, gold and silver, loose and endless-- simple
curve of a waist, long arms and legs and a face, pale, calm, inviting,
needing.
She smiled tremulously, then pressed her dry lips together. Yaten
closed his eyes for a moment at this gesture, moaning very softly. It hurt to
look at her sometimes. But his own very beautiful Minako-- breathtaking and
all his and waiting, asking to be loved. And by him. The ache was a sweet
one. She was so beautiful. He tried hard to swallow, the green eyes blinking
again.
For minutes he just stared. White on white. So cool and pristine and
untouchable, like a fresh snowfall, but begging to be touched, to be ruined,
forever changed, completed. And golden and silver strands like the strings of
an angel's harp. Pale lovers on ivory sheets in an airy room. Pure white.
But like the beginning of a storm, rumbling somehow, aquamarine eyes
oozed a silent question, mysterious liquid swelling like laps of the ocean
against fine sands of a white beach. And her cheeks flushed pink, darkening
the color of her skin from purity toward passion. Yaten could feel his own
skin responding, red rushing to his face too. She was so lovely and he was so
afraid, but he belonged here with her. And just before the tide overtook
these sandy shores, he leaned down to whisper in her small ear, "I love you."

**

"Hora!! Minako-chan!!"
Rei stomped toward her friend, brandishing a book. "Is this kind of
thing LEGAL!?"
Minako grinned wickedly. "I'm glad you enjoyed it, Rei-chan," she
said, taking another bite of ice cream.
"I'm serious!" She frowned, slamming on the table and causing the
whipped cream to jump a half-inch off the sundae and come splashing down on
the dish right beside it. "You can go to JAIL for this kind of thing, can't
you?"
"It's called a ROMANCE novel, Rei-chan," Minako admonished, peeved at
the loss of her ice cream. "People write them all the time. Not only that,
people read them all the time, or should I start listing the titles of the
collection under your bed?" Reddening, Rei shushed her and sat down.
"Forgive Rei-chan," said Makoto with a self-deprecating smile. "It is
different when it's your friend behind those scantily clad people on the
cover."
"You make it sound so crass!" pouted Minako. "What's the matter with
two people in love expressing their love for each other?" Usagi nodded firmly
in agreement, making a number of silly noises.
"She's just jealous," theorized Rei, raising her spoon like a
lecturer's pointer. "Cause unlike SOME of us, Mako-chan hasn't had a
boyfriend yet this year."
"Oh, come off it!" Makoto retorted. "Yeesh, the minute you make up
with Yuuichirou, you're busy rubbing it in the rest of our faces. I'll find
another guy when the time is right!"
"Or when you see someone..." started Rei, and the rest of the girls
filled in the blank. "...who looks like senpai!" Makoto hung her head,
sighing in annoyance. "Aw, c'mon," Rei nudged her, "we wouldn't say it if we
didn't love you. 'Course, we also wouldn't say it if it weren't true..."
Makoto's fists clenched, and she began to roar at Rei when something
poked her in the back. Her face contorted into a series of funny expressions
before she finally wheeled and shouted, "Ami-chan, if you want to read
Minako's book, then just take it, already!!"
A red face behind a set of fogged-up glasses peeked upwards. "Gomen
nasai!"

Minako leaned back, licking hot fudge off her spoon. "Don't worry,
Mako-chan. I'm sure you'll find someone special," she said in a calm tone
that had only emerged in the past few months. "It's the same reason I write
romance novels, now. When Yaten took me on tour with him, I got to meet a lot
of people from a lot of different walks of life, and as unique as they all
were, there was one thing that was always the same. They loved Yaten because
his music is about searching for love." A contented sigh escaped her lips.
"Everyone has a love story waiting out there for them. I did, and you do too.
It's just a matter of following your own star."
She looked out the window. Only a few more days before he came back,
smiled her heart. And in the meantime, lovers and dreamers laid in wait in
her imagination, ready to spring to passionate life on paper. Love was her
life now-- it was her destiny. Hers alone. She was Aino Minako, known as the
Goddess of Love to fans of her book-- her very first published book! A
chronicler of loves past, present, and future... and a lover herself.
Finally, she was embracing her very own destiny. "Thank you, Yaten," she said
silently, "for helping me reach my star."

THE END

************************************************************************

Allllllllllllll RIGHTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT!

I really didn't expect her to start writing romance novels. It just happened.
But it sounds like a pretty good occupation for her, ne?

The point of this fic was not only to bring Minako and Yaten together, but to
prove WHY they belonged together. Too many fanfics stick two characters in a
romantic relationship without giving us a single reason why they are good for
each other. I saw the vulnerability of Minako and Yaten, the similarity of
the facades they put up for the world, and it occurred to me that I could help
them along, that with the right guidance they could find each other and be
happy.
I considered begging the forgiveness of all the people who might not see these
two very special characters this way. But I don't think I will. I built on
what I was shown, and I matured them in a way that brought them closer to each
other. If you were expecting more crazy-Minako and annoying-Yaten in this
story, then you are probably disappointed. But with any luck, I presented a
good enough case that you could believe the maturing of these characters.

Who to thank, who to thank? Well, there's become a tradition among the Sappy
Romance Fanfic Authors that you have to thank all of the other Sappy Romance
Fanfic Authors. So to all the sweet girls who have kept my appetite for
romance appeased and who have mentioned me in their credits sections, Razzz,
Crystal Heart, Rain Ayo, Sue Mei, Corina Borsuk, and a wink to Sailor Mac for
private reasons (say hi to Marla for me, love, I.) Read these people's
stories. They're good. Nyah. :P

And to all the people who have e-mailed me saying "I loved Darien's View, are
you going to write anything else?" It's not a Tuxfic, but I hope this
suffices!! I'm certainly damn proud of it. You have really been my
inspiration and forced me to keep slaving at this thing no matter HOW
ponderous it seemed. Arigatou.

A special thanks to my parents for getting me sufficiently ticked off at them
that I could come downstairs and write the last several pages of this in one
fell swoop, after two weeks of writer's block. And for giving birth to me and
letting my star grow in its own time, and develop its own glitter. And a
special thanks to someone whose initials are JW (not me OR my brother!) who
talked out the problems of my fic with me and helped me through the nasty knot
of writer's block. I truly appreciate it. A super special thanks to
oneechan-tachi: Pandora, Brian, and Myrna... all three of you deserve endless
happiness and joy, and I care very deeply about you all. Ganbatte.

More thanks to Latonya for encouragement and Ranmathons, to P-chan ^_^ for a
certain kind of inspiration, and to Ilana Tavan, my official Uranus/Neptune
consultant, for endless support and giggles and friendship. I love you all.
(Everyone, if you like Harukafics, go read Ilana's fics. They're worth your
time. Keep writing, Ilana-chan!)

And the biggest thank you of all for this story goes to a fellow writer whom I
met the day before I completed this story. She's inspired me with so many
wonderful stories and has been such a sweet and fun friend to me. She was the
first person to read any part of this story, and her encouragement was so
extraordinary... so all I can say is Domo Arigatou, Lianne-chan.

All right! I'm outie!

**

"Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon Sailor Stars: Yaten's Love Song" is a Sailor Moon
fanfic by Jennifer A. Wand, completed February 15, 1998. Sailor Moon and all
related items are property of Miss Takeuchi Naoko, Kodansha, Bandai, Toei, TV
Asahi, DIC, and anyone else whose name I will put up here if they sue me. Any
disclaimers I forgot? No? Then goodnight, everybody!