AN: I know it's been awhile, but life gets in the way and inspiration has been somewhat lacking as of late. But here's another chapter at last. I really appreciate all you who have reivewed, and hope you'll continue to enjoy it. I'll do my best to get more out soon, but my muse can be picky, so patience please! The theme for this one is Dream.
Chapter 4: In Dreams He Came
"I don't appreciate being toyed with, Priest."
Her melodic voice did not startle him even though his back was to her, sun color eyes closed as he relaxed. He had sensed her dark presence when she had come down the hall outside of the gallery where he sat perched on a stone carving of a great horse rearing. Turning his head slowly and opening his eyes, he raised an elegantly arched brow as he gazed down at the young woman. Despite her civilian garb, dark blue jeans and a sky colored top, she still looked as much a Princess as she had the night before.
"Heaven forbid anyone should ever do such a thing to you, Princess."
Her depthless eyes flashed warningly, though her voice was as cool and even as ever, chin lifted as she stared up at him. "What game do you think to play with me?"
"I would never play games with you."
Helios's answer was honest; she sensed it immediately, but refused to let it show, not willing to let him off so easily. "Then why?" Hotaru fought to keep her icy demeanor, her face expressionless as she stared at him, waiting for a response.
He exhaled in a soft sigh, sliding off of his perch with catlike grace, making no sound as he landed lightly on his feet and began to move toward her. "You were avoiding me, and Small Lady noticed. She thinks we don't get along, and that saddens her."
Her brows gathered in a scowl, refusing to let the mention of her friend sway her. "And for that you trespassed where you were not invited?" she demanded, voice glacier.
"Ah, no, Lady," he whispered quietly, reaching out a hand to lightly caress her cheek, his fingertips soft and feathery on her silken skin. Her eyes widened, frozen in place, only able to stare into his golden eyes as his quiet voice spoke to her. "Though would that not be reason enough? I would not want to be the cause for the Moon Princess's sorrow, and I believe you would not either."
He had her there, and though she hated to admit it, the idea of Chibi-Usa being sorrowful made her stomach twist. She swallowed, blinking as she managed to find speech again, her voice much more subdued. "Then why?"
For several long moments he held her in his gaze, then let out a soft breath, looking away, his hand dropping away like a falling petal. "I don't know if I can explain. Is it not good enough that part of it is for Small Lady? I mean you no harm. Surely you know that."
"I know." It would be silly indeed for her to think he wanted to hurt her; Helios was a loyal member of the court, trusted by the Royal family. He would have no cause to wish harm on another member of the inner circle, least of all the best friend of his future bride. "I just want to understand why it is that. . ." Hotaru's voice trailed off and she shook her head, ink black hair swaying elegantly with the motion. "Never mind." It was too hard to put into words the stir of emotion he caused in her, and was reluctant to voice it until she understood better.
"I'll always be honest with you," Helios told her quietly. "Never doubt that. Anything I speak to you will be the truth. If you have something to ask, I will answer if I am able."
It was a strange thing to be told this by a young man, and to know she believed him completely, yet somehow she did. "I appreciate that," she responded. Too often in her lives had she been surrounded by lies and deception, and it was a refreshing change to know that this young man of gold and pearl would never try to deceive her.
He smiled at her, and she could feel her heart give an odd jerk in response, her body trembling as he took her hand and raised it to his lips, as he had done when they had first met. "Then does this mean we may try to become at least on good terms, if not friends?"
Hotaru inclined her head, her pink cheeks hidden by the curtain of her hair. "I believe so. We might even become friends, if you are lucky."
Laughter, warm and rich came from him, and she felt a rush of pleasure at being able to bring such a reaction from the solemn young man. "You are intriguing, Lady," he managed to say when he had recovered himself, honey-gold eyes sparkling with amusement. "And you wonder that I'm interested in you."
Crimson flared in her cheeks. "I'm not interesting," she protested weakly. "I'm just me, just. . ." She struggled for an explanation, shaking her head. "I'm nothing extraordinary," she finished quietly.
Helios looked surprised, his head tipping to the side, his voice reflecting the emotion. "I don't know how you cannot see it," he marveled quietly. "You carry an aura of mystery and elegance with you everywhere. It's a wonder you do not have a string of young men after you."
Embarrassed, she shook her head, raising her hand. "Please, Priest. I'm not. . ."
His expression had become serious, leaning closer to her and fingering a lock of her hair, soft as raven feathers. "You are," he told her quietly. "And your beautiful dark dreams only make you more fascinating to me."
Amethyst hued orbs widened, her mouth dropping open in confusion. "W-wha?" Hotaru stammered, what was left of her composure shattering as she stared up into those calm ocher eyes. "What do you-"
The pale fingers playing with the curling onyx lock moved to twin deeper in her hair, cradling her head at the nape of her neck. "I see dreams," was his quiet whisper, honey colored eyes seeming to smolder as he stared into hers. "I guard them, I walk in them. As Priest of Elysian, it's one of my powers. Yours are different than any I have ever encountered. Troubled and dark, but with a core of light unlike anything I have ever seen."
Her lips parted, shock and cold anger coursing through her slim frame once again and she tried to yank back, only to find a wall behind her back, preventing her escape. "How- how dare you!" she gasped out. "You invaded my dreams? How could you-" Once more a pale finger against her lips prevented her from continuing.
"Princess Hotaru," he whispered, shaking his head. "I did not come without permission."
"I never gave you leave!" she hissed, her body rigid as she pressed back against the wall.
"But you did." Helios blinked at her, his expression perfectly serious. "You called for help last night, and as a guardian I could not ignore a frightened plea when I was near enough to respond. It may have only been a dream, without any real malicious threat, but you were frightened and cried out. I responded to your call, my Lady." His gaze held her, fingers moving in soothing circles on the back of her neck that sent shivers through her body. "Do you not remember?"
Her heart clenched. Of course she did, and now, she remembered Small Lady telling her of how Helios had appeared to her in dreams as a beautiful mythical creature, the mighty Pegasus. . . "It was you." Her voice was suddenly quiet and uncertain, the tenseness leaving her body though she continued to shrink back. "But. . ."
He sighed softly, leaning forward to rest his head against the wall, just above her shoulder. Hotaru's eyes widened, her breathing coming short in her throat at the feel of his own soft breath on her skin, causing her hair to flutter. "The details of how I enter dreams are complex and I don't think you want the particulars at the moment. In simplest terms, when my consciousness requested permission, yours did not reject or fight me." His fingers at her neck had stopped moving, warm and soothing against her chilly flesh.
She suppressed a whimper at his touch, her heart pounding loudly in her ears as she struggled for coherency. "How can that be?"
He was quiet for several long moments before answering. "I don't know," he said simply. "That's something only you can answer."
Full lips parted to protest when the sound of her name brought her eyes to the two figures moving toward her, one tall and ash blond, the other slender with locks the color of an ocean wave.
Michiru's sea green eyes widened as she stared at her daughter, throwing out an arm to halt her companion with a warning glance. Haruka's face was thunderous, glaring at the Priest as he slowly straightened and stepped back from Hotaru. In contrast, Helios seemed perfectly composed, his gold eyes holding no trace of irritation or anger as he gazed back at the older senshi, facing Uranus' glacier stare head on.
"Mama. Papa." Though the voice was soft and quiet, Hotaru's words were enough to break the spell, and the duo turned their attention to their slender dark haired daughter, to her relief. She might not be entirely certain of Helios's motives, but she did not want Haruka to get it into her head that her precious baby girl was being threatened when that was not the case. Keeping her tone light, she inquired, "Did you need me?"
Michiru's deep aqua eyes searched her face for a long moment, and Hotaru had the sinking sensation that she was utterly transparent to her mother, that every confused, tangled emotion was open there for her to see. But then she blinked, and her voice was smooth and untroubled, as if this were a normal chat in their apartments. "Yes, darling. It's time for the monthly council meeting with the Queen, you must remember we scheduled it last month though I daresay you have. . . distractions that must have driven it clean out of your mind." Michiru's mouth twitched slightly, as if hiding a smile, and Hotaru flushed, seeing the glitter of curiosity in her mother's eyes as her gaze shifted to the ghostly young man beside her. "Small Lady has been searching for you, Priest," she added lightly. "She said you were going to take her shopping today."
Helios inclined his head graciously, placing his hand to his heart. "Thank you, Lady Neptune, I had forgotten the time." But despite his words, he hesitated, and Hotaru could feel him watching her, her eyes moving to meet his gaze through the curtain of her dark hair.
Haruka's eyes narrowed, darkening. "You should not keep her Highness waiting, Priest." Her voice came out harsh, not quite aggressive, but not friendly either.
If he sensed her hostility, he gave no outward sign, still polite, still controlled, though how he could remain so in light of Haruka's glacier stare was beyond Hotaru's comprehension. "Of course not, Lady Uranus. I'll be on my way." Then his burning ocher eyes were on Hotaru's own iris orbs, his voice a quiet murmur. "Princess, I hope we might now be able to spend time together, as friends?"
Once again her heart jumped in her chest, her mouth dry as she fumbled for words. "I would not object to that," she whispered, and was startled to find that it was indeed the truth. He unsettled her, confused her, but his company was not unwelcome.
A smile touched his lips and a hand reached out to push her hair back from her face, fingers brushing her cheek like the licking of flames. Before she could react he had slipped away as silently as a cat, off to meet the sugar-spun princess who awaited him. Her face twisting slightly, Haruka took a step after in the direction the Priest had gone but Michiru's hand shot out lightning fast to wrap around the other's arm, keeping her in place.
"No, Haruka," she said simply. "Let him be. This has nothing to do with us."
"Nothing to do with us?" the blond repeated incredulously, her slender hands balling into fists. "She's our daughter, Michiru! It certainly is my business! I won't have him-"
The flash in Michiru's eyes stopped Haruka's tirade in mid sentence, her voice low as she spoke. "It has nothing to do with us," she repeated. "Even Serenity would tell you the same."
"Would she?" was the retort, seeming not to see the way her adopted daughter's brow was creased with confusion and worry. "Especially when it concerns-" She broke off, her sapphire eyes at last focusing on Hotaru's face, seeming to realize she had perhaps said too much.
For a moment there was silence, then Haruka shook her head, storming off, her footsteps echoing loudly down the hall. Michiru's face was expressionless as she gazed in the direction the tall blond had gone, but when she turned toward Hotaru she was smiling gently, warmth and kindness in her eyes.
"Forgive your papa," she said cheerfully, reaching out to smooth the mussed strands of raven black back from Hotaru's pale face. "She's just being over protective, the way fathers usually are."
"But why?" Hotaru inquired, bewildered as she allowed Michiru to embrace her, chin resting on the tall slender woman's shoulder and briefly closing her eyes to enjoy the feeling of being a small child again. "The Priest is a friend, completely loyal to the King and Queen. Why should she. . ."
Michiru squeezed the girl tightly, a hand running down the smooth onyx strands of hair and sighed lightly. "Don't worry about it now, little Firefly. What will be, will be."
A shiver wound through her body, and she pulled back slightly to stare into her adopted mother's eyes. "That's what Setsuna-mama always says," she whispered quietly, her eyes darkening as she stared directly into Michiru's face. "What did she tell you?"
Her lips twitched slightly into a small half smile that didn't quite reach her eyes. "Not enough. You know she is, never telling us about the future. It was just a passing comment. Nothing more."
"Enough to make Haruka-papa very hostile towards the Priest," Hotaru murmured, then sighed, her dark mood draining away to leave only weariness in its wake. She was too tired now to pursue this, too confused to try and unravel the tangled web of her emotions. "Does Usagi-chan really want us now?" she asked, hoping that it had been a ruse only to diffuse a tense situation. She normally wouldn't have minded such a meeting, but she wasn't sure at this point if she could stay awake.
"Indeed she does," was her mother's answer, her eyes dancing with undisguised amusement. "Come, darling. We really should not keep her waiting longer."