"This is a lot to take in," said Minako.
"I can imagine," said Kunzite.
"I wanted to believe so badly," she said.
"Hope is dangerous that way," he said.
"I thought all my hopes had been crushed."
"Hope is stronger than we sometimes give it credit for."
"Was I wrong to hope?"
"Love is to powerful for any of us to do otherwise."
"There is so much still to say, and I… I'm just not sure I'm ready yet. I need more time."
"My lady, we have nothing but time now. That is the beauty of this second chance."
"I suppose. How long will you be gone for?"
"Several months at the least. We must be sure we have completely driven away the enemy. We will rout them wherever they go."
Minako was silent for a moment. "The last time you left me, you were a different man when you returned."
Kunzite stepped closer, putting a finger under her chin to raise her gaze to his.
"I am a man of my word my lady. I promised to find my way back to you no matter how far I had to go or how many lives I had to live. I hold myself to that promise."
Being locked in his gaze, Minako felt some of her doubt melt away. "If you are a man of your word General, then I ask that you keep the promise you made to me in this life. Please tell me," she begged, almost in tears. "Do you… do you still…"
Kunzite placed a finger over her lips as his face softened. Gently, he stroked her cheek. "Always," he said, his voice raw with passion. "My feelings for you have not changed my lady, and they never will."
She was quiet for a moment, as she wrestled with her own feelings. She brought her hands to his, holding it to her cheek, seemingly taking in strength from its presence. Finally she spoke.
"Kunzite… please… call me Minako…"
It was nothing new for Jadeite to have a conversation with Hino Rei begin after she had slapped him. He almost welcomed it, as it brought back memories of happier times.
"You lied to me," she accused.
"I'm sorry," he said, and he meant it. "I thought it was best to spare you."
"Why didn't you tell me the truth about the bond?"
"I didn't think you'd believe me. And, believe it or not, I never actually wanted to hurt you. It just seems like I'm incapable of doing otherwise."
She slapped him again as her eyes began to water. "You're leaving!"
Jadeite sighed. "I'm sorry."
She slapped him again, and then clutched at his shirt with both hands. "I don't want to lose you again!"
Jadeite brought his arms around her and hugged her close. "You've always had me. You won't ever lose me again."
"Don't say it unless you mean it!" she cried, burying her face in his chest.
He pulled her back for a moment, and tilted her head up to meet his gaze.
Her eyes widened as he spoke.
"You won't ever lose me again."
"Why are we at this board again my lady?" asked Zoisite as he made his move.
Ami's face, usually a mask of careful reasoning and flawless logic, was wistful, almost dreamy. "Because this board holds many memories," she countered
Zoisite smiled at the answer as he rose to meet her challenge. "What sort of memories does this board hold for you my lady?"
"Happy memories," she said as she moved.
"Strange," he countered. "I find most of the memories associated with this board to be rather frustrating."
She frowned as she moved. "Why would you think that?"
"Because," he said, pressing his initiative, "I never really wanted to be at this board."
"But the games were so wonderful!" she insisted.
"It was not a mere game to me," he countered.
She felt somewhat chastened by this. "It wasn't merely a game to me either."
Zoisite regarded her for a moment. "My lady, are we here for the same reasons as before?"
She was silent for many long moments before she moved. "Perhaps," she said quietly.
"This time need not be like before. Our parting may be long, but it will not be forever."
"And yet I'm still afraid," she confessed.
"So am I," he confessed.
Another moment of silence passed between them as the contemplated the board. Finally, in utter disregard for the rules, Zoisite took his king and moved it across the board, directly in front of Ami's queen.
She looked up at him in shock.
"This is only a game after all, Ami."
Very slowly, a shy smile spread across her lips. He reached for her hand.
"Come, let's go."
"You're not going!" she screeched.
"Makoto, please, calm down!" he pleaded.
"Calm down? Calm down!" she screamed. "You're leaving! In a ship!"
"I understand how you must feel Makoto-"
"Understand how I feel? If you understood how I felt, you wouldn't be going!"
"I'm sorry," he pleaded. "But my duty is clear."
"Why does your duty always have to come before me?" she accused.
"My duty puts you first! I can't sit idly by while a threat goes unchallenged. They'd only return to try and hurt you again. I won't let them," he vowed.
"But you're leaving me alone," she sobbed. "And you're flying away!"
"I'll come back."
He took her face in his hands. "I will come back."
She buried her face in his chest as she cried. Gently, he stroked her hair. When she calmed a little, he raised her face to meet his.
"You should smile more. Your face was meant to hold a smile."
"I can't smile, not until you come back."
"Then I will return. I have to." He held her close again. "I lost your smile once. I'm not ever going to lose it again."
It has been many months since the Shitennou had left on their mission. Peace continued to reign over Crystal Tokyo as the people rebuilt from the attacks. Slowly, happiness returned to the city as their queen recovered and grew strong in spirit again. Pure hearted and loving, her hope once again found its way into the hearts of all her subjects, even her closest friends who had so long lived without it, until an accident, and a message from the past had returned it to their souls.
Each passing day brought the Senshi a growing sense of peace and contentment at seeing their beloved queen healthy and happy again. Her joy was contagious, and her ever hopeful outlook on life brought back their own hopes and dreams for the future, a future they thought they had lost until Endymion had revived his Shitennou. They all had a second chance. They would be able to start over and do everything right this time. Still, in their hearts, they longed for the familiar voices and comforting touches. And so, they waited patiently.
One day, as they sat with their queen, a page entered the chamber.
"Pardon me your majesties, but I have messages to deliver."
"For whom?" asked Ami.
"There is one for each of the princesses. Each is marked as personal."
Serenity smiled and looked to her friends. "Go."
A blush seemed to find its way to each of the four girls as they collected their messages and made their way to their quarters.
I hope this message finds you well. I have missed you every day since we left. I wish that we could communicate more freely, but the mission requires our silence.
But though I have not been able to let you hear my voice, know that you are ever in my thoughts. Not an hour has gone by in which I have not longed to hold you in my arms and hear your voice.
Please know this. When I return home, I intend to make the most of our second chance. I swore to you that no matter how long it took, no matter how far I had to go and how many lives I had to live, I would find my way back to you.
It has taken me a millennia and three lifetimes to find you, and not even the distance between the stars can keep us apart any longer.
I will return home to you. This I promise. And when I return, we will never be parted again. This time, nothing will keep us from our happiness.
Until then, I will hold you in my thoughts.
You are in my heart.
I love you.