Disclaimer: I don't own these characters. They are the creations of Naoko Takeuchi, based entirely on her manga.

If you have time, please let me know: Was this too melodramatic? Too angsty? Too different? Too out-of-character? (Why the hell did you pick those corny/awkward names? - that type of thing) Thanks!

Khariton - Lord Jadeite

Beset - Lady Mars

the feel of her name

Couldn't save you from the start
Love you so it hurts my soul
Can you forgive me for trying again
Your silence makes me hold my breath
Time has passed you by

-Forgiven by Within Temptation

1. the forest

Beset woke up and immediately she knew something was wrong. Her dreams had been full of shadows these days but they had not been frightening, at least, not compared to the visions that visited her at the oddest hours in the day. Yet, with an acrimonious taste in her mouth and her head feeling off (when she had not part-taken in any drinks of revelry the night before) she wondered what it was that disturbed her enough to call her out of bed. It was too early, even for her.

A restless settled in her limbs and she rose reluctantly from the warmth of her bedding with jittery legs. She threw on some robes that were somewhat more decent than her nightgown before venturing breathlessly into the halls. Not many people were up at this time of morning, but the night-shift guards and a few servants still wondered the halls. The Earth was a detailed globe in the harsh light of the bright white sun, still not yet at the peak of its dance across the heavens. The shadow spells still spilled weak darkness onto the floors of the opened hallways and the servants in charge of dousing them when it was late enough out had not risen themselves to the task. It was warm but Beset shivered as her legs moved her towards a destination she wasn't quite sure the directions to herself.

And when she finally stopped, she was even more unsettled and slightly annoyed at herself. The pressure in her chest finally subsided a little, but the great doors did not invite her. Her eyes narrowed as she looked up the gold intricate details and tried to will herself to turn around and walk away from the Observations Room. Yet, disturbingly enough, despite her usual self composure, this morning she remained unmoved before the great doors. She was rooted there with indecision. A part of her wanted to turn right around and go back to her room, it swore colorfully about losing sleep for such ridiculous, childish, and womanly issues. Another part of her, the part that left her finger tips tingling with dread and anticipation was even stronger.

She knew something was wrong.

No amount of denial or bluster could deny the part of her that had always known these things that were to come to pass. Her hands, like an alien appendages, moved on their own and the door opened beneath her dry palms. Her lips thinned but she had made up her mind before she took her first steps into the room. Her eyes took in the empty chamber, the screens mounted on the walls were on, but the observatory table itself was black and sleeping (as she should still be). Here was where they had often caught their Princess sighing dreamily at images of the Earth Prince but days ago.

Beset suppressed an irritated sigh, this time it was aimed at herself. She had often scolded the Princess for such foolish behaviors. The child was longing for something that could - and probably would - tear their worlds apart, if the prophecies were correct in their warnings. If they could only cement this alliance, perhaps soon she could speak with gentler tones when those hurt eyes turned to her. Yet, now, now was not the time for kindness when kindness would betray her duties to her people, even if it won her favors with her Princess. The prophecy warned them of it, her disturbingly more frequent visions confirmed it, and the omens, the bloody shadows that hinted at a war without the same overwhelming images of disaster settled inside of her dreams where her visions couldn't always reach her.

Beset swallowed the bitterness still on her tongue. It almost tasted like blood. She strode over to the observation table and it came to life at her touch. When the Earthian ambassadors came, this was an off-limits room and, for those months, the Counselor Artemis would seal off their memories concerning this section of the palace. The precautions were expected for their guests were not ready to know just how easily it was to monitor the planet that stood so prominently in their Lunarian skies, not when they were already quite uncomfortable. Until peace talks were more solid, Luna had advised the Queen to cut off the meeting place entirely for all who could not protect their minds from eavesdropping. This was, of course, not the only place not to be mentioned, but it was certainly not something they needed knowledge about.

Her eyes glittered from the lights of the floating screens. Beset punched in the clearance code and only when wilderness filled the screen did she let go of her breath. No, nothing here, but why did it show at all? "The Lord Jadeite," she repeated herself, perplexed on whether or not the machine had misunderstood her. She never trusted technology, and though she considered Lady Mercury a sister, the Hermisian's toys always made her uneasy. She was just being paranoid, after all. The scene before her didn't change and Beset began to shake her head. Perhaps, I was wrong? She thought this with a bit of relief.

Even though she has never been wrong...

Beset stilled as she reached to tuck away a stray strand of red hair. She was almost ready to switch off the confounding Hermisian automaton but stopped to stare with growing dread as the sunlight on Earth reflected off of something unnatural. There, in the shadows, was that a glint of gold? Her hand trembled as she maneuvered the screen to zoom in on that speck of dust. It had to be dust... or those strange rocks that-

She frowned, annoyed at the rising panic inside of her. What was wrong with her? He was a grown man who could take care of himself. He was, in fact, far better at it than many men she'd met in her life, but...

It wasn't dust or rock or metal. It was hair. His hair.

Beset's breath shuddered to a stop in her throat and in that moment, in that heart stopping moment, she made a decision.

Lord Jadeite was having a very pleasant dream. In his dream, he was quite dead. This might not be some people's ideal dream, but all his pains had stopped aching and it was such a relief that he was rather apprehensive about death being over (and only a dream, for that matter). He had been having terrible luck lately, after all, and who's to say he won't go back to haunt some annoying person or other because of his rather violent death? He dreamt that he was in Elysion, which was apparently darker than he thought it would be but he couldn't complain too much as long as it continued to be absolutely peaceful for a little longer. After one's been tortured for what felt like years, dark Elysian was a rather nice change of scenery.

In fact, maybe it's dark because his eyes were closed?

Well, Lord Jadeite thought to himself, I could open them. He hesitated on this part and decided that perhaps, it was better to just keep them closed. Who's to say that Elysian wasn't as pretty as it was rumored to be? It would be a terrible waste to dash expectations when he could continue the pretense. After all, it was the resting place of warrior men, and as much as he longed for peace and could appreciate picturesque scenery, Warrior Men were not particularly known for their decorative tastes. Valor never chose a man due to his sense of the aesthetic, and the battlefield usually didn't help much in a sector that required more of an appreciation forfine living, and not so much just being alive in general. From what he experienced with his own men, even with the other Kings or Endymion for that matter, they tried to live very minimalistic lives for practical and cautionary reasons. Well, Lord Zoisite perhaps was the only one who had any sense at all, and he wasn't sure he always understood what was going on with the other, even when he could read the other's intentions clearly.

Then again, nothing quite made one as uncomfortable (aside from the usual hang-over) as waking up to orange, harry rugs and another warrior's idea of art.

In fact, one drunken night, Lord Nephrite and he had passed some very bad wine between themselves and speculated on what might wait for them in Elysion. Suffice to say that from what he remembered of the tawdry night contained images from Nephrite he wished he had been too drunk to even recall. Alcohol impaired his control and of all nights, that was not the night he wanted to recollect.

He almost got his palm read that night too, but he had enough wit not to extend his hand at least, which probably explained why he remembered what he did.

Why was he still feeling so fuzzy? Lord Jadeite wondered and sighed inwardly. He had tried sighing out loud earlier and that hadn't turned out very well for his ribs. Then again, he hadn't been in Elysian then and-

It was the presence. He felt suddenly alert. Well, this certainly must be Elysian. Why else would he feel her here? She would never set foot on Earth until the negotiations were packed down solid. She followed the rules almost as strictly as he did himself. And the Moon, what a strange place still after all these years...

"My Lord!" her voice reached his ear and then her hesitant fingers brushed against his hair. Ah, heaven. Lord Jadeite thought and began to grin. The grin turned into a wince when his lips felt like they were being split by the very action so he went back to not grinning. Well, so it was not quite heaven, he amended. And was it just him or did he feel a bit crusty? Did warriors feel crusty (or pain) in Elysion? And 'My Lord'? he wondered. Elysion needed to learn his preferences better before this whole death thing continued.

"Ow!" he exclaimed then swore. "What did you do that for?" Well, at least he tried to say it, with great outrage, though it just came out very garbled, even to his own ears.

She raised a brow at him when he tried out his most intimidating frown on her with his bruised features and his closed eyes. An earlier flash of annoyance left no more evidence on her face than her concern had. Instead, she wore the mild look of amusement as she stilled his movements, this time with a better placed touched. For someone who had just poked at his bruised face, he felt that she was enjoying herself a bit too much! He winced at the throbbing pains making itself known after he had been so blissfully unaware of them before. He stopped only because wincing hurt and he didn't need any more pains, he decided disagreeably. This whole death thing was rather overrated too, like dungeons, he concluded. "Just didn't want you to break anything else with all that shifting," she told him artlessly.

"Bloody Mars," he swore again, or tried to. His lips felt like they were also sealed shut with wax, or just from a total lack of moisture, every time he closed them. The blood from my bleeding lips will certainly change that, he thought gloomily as he tested to see if he were missing any teeth with his tongue. Hey, I have a tongue! he realized belatedly and with all too much triumph for his own liking. Well, that's not very fair, he thought to himself ironically. The woman of my dreams comes after me in death and I still look (and feel) like Death had just picked me out of the gutters!

Jadeite winced more successfully this time and finally cracked open an eye to see her face, her beautiful face. Well, at least one of them is pretty, and it's not like I even have to look at myself! he added to soothe the slight smarting of his pride. She was certainly not at all gentle, not even when that was all he wanted from her, that's for sure, he grumped to get his mind off the previous topic. However, he was wise enough to keep that particular afterthought to himself so he wouldn't be killed a second time. In case he could be killed a second time, that is.

"Am I to haunt you now from the dead?" he finally croaked. He thought that wasn't so bad, he had a voice after all and he was no longer using it to swear at her or the gods or the ghostly body that wasn't quite so nerveless as he had hoped. It didn't sound any better than his previous attempts, but if he was the haunting type of ghost then maybe he wouldn't be supplied with a pleasant voice. If he was to haunt his lady, even if he looked bad, at least hewould be able to keep looking at her lovely face and listening to her lovelier voice, forever. He could peek into her baths too, and scare away future suitors who thought just because he was dead and she was heartbroken, they could save her or some such none sense! Perhaps it wasn't so bad he looked and sounded like he got dragged out of the gutters, after all. Protruding ribs and a rotting limb here or there tend to be more of a visual deterrent than his normal, put together self. Not that he wasn't intimidating when he wanted to be while he had been alive...

If he had competition in Elysian that is, or was forced out of it for some reason, he was prepared.

"Well," she finally said after a pause where she just stared at him in disbelief. "Apparently a near-death experience have left you with a sense of humor," she commented dryly and quite a bit of disapproval. Then her eyes turned sharp and he thought it wasn't very fair that he was dead and her first real words to him were all in jest or chastisement.

Where was her grief?

Lord Jadeite felt cheated. He wondered if he could keep his title even though he was technically dead. He thought, maybe he could convince Endymion to retain him at least as an advisor, if he was ever to get out of Elysian. Sure he may not be able to defend the lad anymore, but he could still watch over the other. Loyalty to the bloody end, and beyond! He was starting to like the sound of that.

"Bloody hell, I hurt," he finally groaned when he tried to shift to get up. No use lazing around when there was a whole slew of things he still needed to accomplish, dead or alive.

His lady's steady hands stopped him from squirming as she glared at him. "Stop that," she commanded him. Her eyes wondered their surroundings. "I don't know where we are, but I'll get us out of here."

He wanted to point out to her that people didn't really leave Elysion once they got there. After all, dead people just didn't come back to life. Unless, of course, there existed some secret Lunarian spell for just such things. He wouldn't put it past the Lady Queen, but he thought his own lady was just a bit too grim looking for someone who was about to bring him back to life, so most likely there was no return-to-life spell waiting to revive him. "Can you stand?" she asked him and then frowned. "Never mind, you don't look like you could sit up," she concluded without waiting for him to answer.

He was about to protest that dead people can handle these inconveniences, such as physical discomforts. They're not really supposed to have physical discomforts, after all. And he was a man, a dead one, but still a man, the last time he checked. However, all protests quickly became more of a groan of pain when he tried to utilize his neck to lift his head after her retreating fingers. His skull thudded against the soft ground for the effort and he was thankful no more pains made themselves known to him for the moment.

Death, apparently, was less forgiving than the ballads suggested. Though, come to think of it, what the hell did those bards know about death, anyway? They were quite alive when they sung about it and, from the few bards he knew personally, they had an uncanny knack for disappearing in the face of oncoming danger.

She was rising away from him. Despite the utter pain, he lifted his hand and grasped at her skirt. His hand burned, his fingers burned, and he was unsure whether or not he wanted to inspect the damage of his hand, but he didn't want her to go. "Don't go," he voiced his thought. His voice was getting hoarser and despite the sudden vulnerability he was exposing to her, he couldn't dredge up his earlier pride to care. He was far more afraid she would go and lose her way, or never come back. He didn't want her to disappear when he finally got her next to him, when her presence finally told him things her eyes and her face and her words never had and never could.

Or perhaps, it was his own feelings that he was truly confronting for the first time. Not Endymion, not Kunzite, not Nephrite nor Zoisite. Her. It was her face, framed by the black-green shadows of tall trees and the grey light of the cloudy skies that he had wanted to see. It was her surreal beauty and vivid, other-worldly colors that he had prayed to witness one last time before death took him from the world. It was her red, tempting lips, now thinned in displeasure as she reached down that had kept him alive through every vaguely remembered pain of the past few weeks or years or days. It was her hot and gentle touch, encircling his wrist as she tried to loosen his weakened grip that made him want to rise from the ground, despite his pains. "I must find you help, my Lord," she told him firmly. Then her eyes fell on his hand and there was an expression that came over her before the white, hot rage that lit her face and all the colors he felt that was her inside of his mind. The rage blanked everything out, but before that was a moment that could have made any hell heaven to him.

He had seen it at last, the look of horror and concern and grief. He had felt it, the utter, bone melting warmth of pain that was close to pleasure. It infused his battered body till he felt for a moment ready for the darkness once more. The exhilaration overrode any worries he might have had for his own appendage. A spark of her feelings for him on her face could light an answering fire inside of him. Then he watched, transfixed and fascinated as she lifted his hand to her lips and kissed his cracked knuckles with a tenderness he didn't know she could possess. It was so soft it felt like the caress of a breeze, something he had always thought would only ever happen in his dreams. "I'll get you out of here, Khariton," she promised him softly.

A twinge of forgotten worry came and went beneath the warmth settling over him at her touch. She had told him years ago that her people's gift was one of fire and it ran through their blood. She would have left him a cloak but she had never needed one, no matter how cold it had been for anyone else. "I am protected by the sacred fire of Mars," she had explained to him once when he had offered his jacket to her one cold evening. He had been surprised by the heated touch of her hand on his cold cheeks and her warm breath mingling with his. "I am fire, my Lord," she told him with a surprising spark of mischief in her eyes. He often thought it was the influence of Lady Venus that made her able to smile those surprising smiles he so rarely caught, the smiles that were so unlike her character.

She had wanted to build a camp fire but he had resisted her efforts while she quietly inspected any other his wounds he had, other than his hands. "It will draw attention," he warned her. "I do not remember how exactly I ended up here," he admitted. There had been a helplessness in her eyes, a surprising anguish as she had smoothed his hair and nodded with great difficulty before turning away slightly. Her rage had abated slightly. The fleeting expression earlier seemed to have been a catalyst, and a dam seemed to have broken inside her as the weariness settled in. He had never seen such honesty on her features for she had always been so reserved, too self-conscious at even the worst of times to let go of the tight control she had over her features.

"Alright," she had finally agreed, unable to look at him with a shame that colored her brightness with shadows. "I will go get help," she promised and finally set his hand gently back to the ground.

Then she was gone, taking all the warmth and happiness of the world with her. His name from her lips had been as soft and as ephemeral as the kiss she had placed upon his hand. He ached after her. If he could, he would have crawled after her. Like the moths that lose their wings to the fire when they approached too close to the flame, only to crawl towards the warm brightness pathetically in the dirt when they were not able to fly.

A breeze rushed through the trees with the promise of a storm. He watched the grey clouds move across the sky like waves in a turbulent sea. Beset, Beset, he whispered her name in his mind, reaching for her familiar presence. He could still feel it faintly, further than he would like, but still close enough to sooth him. Every part of him searched out for her, worrying that she would lose her way or run into something unpleasant. He would not be able to help her and the helplessness he had seen in her eyes when she looked at him was worse than the physical discomforts he was having trouble ignoring.

"Pathetic," said the familiar voice when the breeze stilled. Purple silk silently settled beside him. It was warm despite the coldness of the voice that greeted him. The woman's perfume was pleasant though he regrettably discovered that he would always associate the smell of hyacinth with evil from now on, despite having liked the flower quite a bit in his youth. The woman leaned down. Her flowing, curling hair brushed against his skin as she skillfully unbuttoned his shirt. Red nails trailed along his cheek-bones as he tried to turn away but he had been unable to move since she had stopped beside his prone form. "The child promised to get help and come back for you, Khariton," the woman said with a mocking purr. "We must not keep her hopes up forever, must we?"

"That name is not for you to use," he hissed through clenched teeth and wished he could rise to strike her. He was so weak and the spell was so strong. Now that she knew his name, it bound him to her and to the ground. This villain had been there all along, searching for his Achilles heel. He wondered how he could have forgotten, but that was also the effect of such spells.

Her green eyes were not angry as she looked at him. "You wouldn't tell me, so I had to resort to such petty tricks," she admonished him instead. "You are a coy man, to have become such a tease! You were so honest and serious once, Lord Jadeite. But now, that child has reduced you to no more than a court jester. And like all the other failed heroes of your time, you can no longer seem to think outside of your breeches."

He gritted his teeth and would have fisted his hands if he could have moved.

The woman's warm hands were not the same as the small ones that had moments ago held his. These strange hands could have been called elegant for those fingers were even longer than Beset's, but he could only feel disgust when her flesh came into contact with his naked chest. He had always hated to be touched by others, flesh-to-flesh and the feel of a person came like smell or a sound or a color in his mind.

The Lady Beryl smiled down at him reassuringly while her red nails became like claws, but to him she had always been a smell that was too strong to be pleasant and a color that was too deep to not fear. Her thoughts were like poison in his mind and he could not get her out, for she was a tainted being that was at once too bright to be lovely and too black to be light.

She traced a teasing pattern on his skin that left him breaking out in a cold sweat of dread. "You managed very well, I must say. You had almost gotten away, but I have finally found your most precious thing," she said with a sigh of pleasure. The dark spell she had engraved into his skin once again revealed itself as she shifted the runes over to his left breast, just over his beating heart. "It is good I had waited for her arrival. For otherwise, how could I have known this wish? Ah, and what a foolish wish it is that your heart whispers so treacherously in our ears! Good thing the Prince would never know of it, hm?"

Beryl smiled up at him from where she had lain her ear, as if to listen to the organ that pounded beneath muscle and bones. Slowly then, with a cold and knowing smile, as if they were conspirators in a despicable crime, she lifted herself up and away. Yet, there could be no relief for now it was her hand over his exposed left breast.

Lord Jadeite could not move, could not answer anymore, and could not scream. However, even though he could have closed his eyes, he never looked away even as he watched Beryl take out his heart with slow, agonizing movements. Gracefully she parted his flesh, but it was too painful a process to acknowledge.

When Lady Beryl finished, she licked her hand clean of his blood with solemn gravity, like a cat savoring the last of a rare and delicious meal. She looked down to the glassy eyes on a slackened face at her feet with a small hint of disappointment. "Defiant to the end," she said with reluctant admiration. "Don't worry my brave general," she assured him with a gentle smile as she caressed the heart in her hands before her lovely face turned into a malevolent leer of triumph. "I will bring you back and wipe this filth from your pure desires, my Lord Khariton."

Beset stopped dead in her tracks. She had not left Khariton for long. The idiot would not listen to her and be still, despite his wounds and she only had enough time to check for the most obvious ones. She bit her lips the first chance she had, as soon as she was out of sight, and felt as if her lungs were collapsing. He had been tortured! Sure, she knew already he had been beaten to an inch of his life but... tortured? And though she had read about such things extensively, she had never beheld it, much less on someone she... cared about.

His hands...

Beset felt weak for wincing and had tried to hide the tremble in her own hands when she had held onto his, but she had been so angry. She felt the tears gather in her eyes at the utter helpless rage that filled her heart at the unknown beings that did this to him. For a moment, she thought she wouldn't have minded to see his world burn, but then came the dark, cold calm. It had been more terrifying than her anger, the hatred that came to her so easily and settled like a hard lump of stone in her gut.

So she had to do something because the thing she most wanted to do, to heal him and take him away, was something she had not the power to do on her own. She had to get away and gather herself up so that he would not see the blackness in her eyes that increased with every wound uncovered. She wanted to do more for him than just leaving him there, but she was afraid what she might do if she discovered anything else on him she had not already noticed.

At first she thought she would go and locate some sturdy materials, something she could fashion to carry him away on, straight out of this gods forsaken forest that is. She even entertained the thought of finding a good place for teleportation and waiting for the moon rise to take him off this gods forsaken planet! Yet, something drove her to search so she wouldn't start destroying things with her aimless rage, or worse, cry because of the utter uselessness she felt welling inside of her. She would even deal with the people of this horrible world if she had to, if it would secure his safety and comfort. If it would stop her from burning everything down in her path.

Ah, Earth! She had wondered at the world the Lunarians based their own world upon, but not a moment had she savored the arrival. The grey skies were too dim and foreboding, unlike the warmth of the rose skies of her home or the crystal blue that was supposed to be an Earth-like illusion on the Moon. The trees were too many, dense and still, they stood in her path and caused her to stumble, always unsure of her footing here, on unfamiliar grounds. It was too foreign for her, and she did not want Khariton to die here. Without the honor or the glory of battle how could he possibly fade so obscurely in this unknown place? It was what she had always imagined his end whenever she looked at him. He was like a golden sun, much like her friend and commander, and she had always thought he would blaze out suddenly from this world when he was at his brightest hour.

It was what drew her to him, until the shadows wrapped tighter and tighter arms around his form. Sometimes she was afraid to look at him, at the darkness that waited not only in his shadows but all around him. And with each passing tender look he gave her, with each longing glance he tried to hide and each touch that lingered longer along her arm or her back at the end of a dance, she saw the shadows grow around him and multiply.

Since then, she had started to pray, desiring for the first time that her eyes were lying, that it was no longer the truth she saw but the a fear of the future prophesied. It was the gravest sin to be committed by any Martian born who carried the sight. To deny one's ultimate gift from the very hands of the gods themselves was to live for all eternity for shame of such denials. It was to take the path of destruction, to ultimately lose the things that mattered most...

Her fists were clenched so tight she could have drawn blood at such thoughts, but she couldn't relax nor hope for anything else. She was going to save him. Whatever it cost her, she would protect him from the fate that awaited them all. The restlessness was upon her again as her resolve grew from her faithless decision, and then, suddenly, as if all the air around her had vanished, she was stopped. It had felt as if she was being suffocated. It had been a moment of pure panic and utter disorientation, and before she knew it she was on the ground. She couldn't even remember collapsing gracelessly or hitting the forest floor, but that was where she found herself.

A sharp pain had shot through her chest as she laid there, panting, lacking the breath to scream. Then it was gone, and emptiness invaded her senses. Beset laid on the forest floor afraid to draw in air, afraid to think. Her eyes blinked at the black spots as she tried to absorb the pain that spread throughout her dully, starting from the palm of her left hand. She laid there and knew.

Khariton was gone.

She wanted to cry but no tears would come. She wanted to move but her limbs felt like they were made of lead. Minutes or hours or days passed before she could finally move again, but dread made her even clumsier. Her arms shook, but she started a slow crawl back, one arm before the other as she clawed at dirt and shoved her body forward. She turned towards the way she came and began the slow, torturous journey back. She had plenty of time already to try to assuage her fears and more than enough time to decide what needed to be done as she laid there in a daze. Mud and dirt clung to her hair, thorns from shrubs and sharp branches ripped at her dress and scratched at her skin. Beset ignored all of these things and she crawled, slowly rising a little higher each time till she was finally able to stumble drunkenly onto her feet.

He was gone. She could feel it. She could feel what wasn't there anymore. She just couldn't face that it was happening. He was alright when she had only been there so short a time ago. She shouldn't have gone. She should have taken him with her, she thought accusingly to herself. The anger and hatred was there again, but this time aimed at herself. Beneath all of these clamoring thoughts was pain. It was a feeling of loss so intense she staggered, now and again when it surfaced unexpectedly through the rage and the grief. She thought to herself then that she would rather feel anything else in all the worlds except this.

She shouldn't have left him.

But he was not gone. He cannot be gone! She repeated these thoughts like a mantra in her head. Her sanity felt a bit frayed around the edges and the world seemed a little hazy. Damn the man, he can't just up and go that easily. The gods knew how often she thought about strangling him herself when they got into an argument. When he first touched her hand, skin on skin, when he first brushed his mind intimately against her own, she had thought it strangely wonderful, at the same time, discomforting. She knew him from that touch. He was just too damn stubborn to... to...

She couldn't think it.

A tree root made itself very well acquainted with her foot when she stumbled over it and nearly twisted her ankle in the process. She also nearly impaled herself on another out-stretched limb but caught herself just in time. It felt like years, but with dread she finally broke through the low ferns and saw his boot sticking out innocently enough from the shrubs that obscured his body. "Lord Jadeite," she rasped, hating the desperate way she sounded as she stumbled to a stop beside his prone body, just the way she left him, except...

Except it wasn't so.

She expected, wanted, despaired for an arch reply. She searched desperately for that tilted chin and the mercurial smile that so rarely appeared on his lips. She wanted to see his eyes, for they always looked at her as if he was seeing her for the first and last time, as if he was drinking her in but was never fulfilled. It was that look he had tried so studiously hard for her not to see the first year and much of the next. Yet, one evening, in the midst of a grand celebration, their eyes had met across the ballroom and there had been no more hiding-

The first thing she smelled was hyacinth.

Beset stopped and swayed as she looked and found his perfect face among the greens and browns. His slightly golden skin was now ashen beneath the light tan. His eyes that had seemed so amused and so hungry when she had first found him lying there were now flat and empty. There was blood, but he had already been bloody and bruised and incredibly dirty when she had come upon him earlier. And then there it was, unable to be ignored and the one thing she didn't want to acknowledge, a ragged hole in his chest made her feel as if her own chest was being emptied as she stood there unmoving.

Beset didn't even remember turning but she was already stumbling into a tree when she had an inkling of what was to come afterwards. Then she vomited. She would have felt disgraced if she wasn't so occupied with trying to stop herself from the wrecking sobs that shook her while she was expelling the few contents of her stomach. And just a moment ago she couldn't summon the tears. Now they poured out of her like the blood pooling around his body. She would have felt utterly shamed if it wasn't so hard to breath, to stop the sight that made her see the empty future that no longer held the warm light that had been his life. To know that she would always see this whenever she looked back into the past, this very moment, of him lying in a forest with a hole where his heart had been...

She gagged.

Her legs shook and she slid to the ground. Slowly, very slowly, she turned. She didn't want to go but because she couldn't deny herself despite the sickness in her stomach and the acid in her mouth, she crawled back to him. She was a woman of Mars. They were women used to fighting on the deserts of their world against both men and dragons, used to the wide skies and the blood beneath their feet. Her foremothers and forefathers had let go of loved ones, had lived with the knowledge of a future without a beloved ever passing through the sight again, and survived it with only songs to remember them by. Yet, as she gathered him to her, hands slipping against his blood and the gore of his wounds, she could not summon the strength to be as strong or as untouched as those who had passed before her.

Her pale arms closed around him as she whispered her apologies, and then, she felt the tides of reality brush against her soul. She smelled hyacinth on his skin and she thought of the first time he traced the line of her palm. She thought of the warning she spoke to him as she placed her hand on his chest, right over the hole that now resides there-

"Don't ever speak your name to them. It gives your enemies Power."

She remembered the serious look in his eyes when he had closed his gloved fingers over her own and promised her he would take care of the advice she entrusted to him. He had spoken her name under the unerring blue lights of Earth, his home planet, and his eyes had silently vowed other things that they had not the right to promise with words to each other.

She remembered delicately tracing the characters of her name into his palm, the warm roughness beneath her finger when she touched the scars of his labors. She had laughingly corrected him many times on the pronunciations of her alien name on his foreign tongue, tracing the patterns again and again against his skin in emphasis. She remembered the feel of his name engraved into her own skin, warm and familiar, his breath ghosting her ear with syllables she had never heard of. She wished it didn't hurt so much now to remember the feeling of his warm, calloused hands encircling her own. She never imagined that she would be haunted by the memory of discovering how small her hands seemed in his. Her shoulders shook against the once happy past, as if she could shed them like the snakes Venus loved, those creatures that shed their skins when the seasons changed. She wished she were strong, but she could not even subdue the shudders that came with her sobs or dam the deluge of the intense and unfamiliar wreckage of the feeling called Loss.

Then, slowly, the noises that worked up her throat, passed her clenched teeth, loosened her jaw and finally her lips. Beset couldn't even recall when she started, but the low sound wrapped around her tighter and tighter. The slow, building echoes of pain in her throat gained volume as they tore through her. And once she started, she didn't know how to stop. But no matter how much the tears fell, no matter how loudly her voice rang, Khariton would only continue to stare out into the trees...

No longer would he be able to ever hear her thoughts again.

"Two birds with one stone," Lady Beryl gloated as she trailed one perfect nail down the cold heart in her hand. She was immensely satisfied by the screams she could hear from her place in the forest. She was surprised how fast the child got back, for the sounds were still fairly close, but such alien beings would probably have powers she couldn't imagine. Well, soon those powers would be hers, and that was all she was really concerned about.

Beneath her, even the youma was moved enough by what it heard to pause. In its utter stupidity, it dared to look behind it in wonder. She hit it over the head with her whip to teach it a lesson for such idiocy, her face no longer pleasant. "What are you stopping for? Did I tell you to stop?"

The youma cowered before hulking down on four legs and starting to run again.

When they were moving steadily once more, Lady Beryl sat back and allowed herself to smile again. Soon, she promised herself. Soon, I'll have the rest of the four, and the Prince Endymion's heart would be the final jewel to my lovely prize. Lady Beryl smiled to herself as she gently cradled her new companion's heart to her breast.

Next time you two meet, child, I wonder what your screams would sound like then?

To such thoughts, Beryl laughed a sweet, appealing laugh, as her shadows became one with the forest.


For sm-monthly LJ community challenge, concerning the song Forgiven by Within Temptation