Author's Notes: Written for the shitennou-dot-com forum Secret Santa ficathon. Set after Stars, before Usagi and Mamoru's marriage and any incarnation of Crystal Tokyo.


Sepia Memories


"Did you have any family, back before she found you?"

Four gemstones, somehow, managed to exchange glances. Parsing the question was easy, but the reason behind it — now, almost six years after their human identities had disappeared — wasn't. Mamoru had long since made the nightly habit of telling the Shitennou about his day, and asking a question for them to tag-team talking about, but said question was invariably about the Silver Millennium, before the fall. Their time on Earth, before and under Beryl, had been left untouched. But listening to their Prince's quiet voice, asking but not demanding, knowing that he'd also lost his own family in this second life, what retainer — what friend — could refuse?

"Yes."

The answer gave way to silence, no further information offered.

Okay, so Kunzite could reply with an almost completely non-answer and get away with it, solely by tone of voice, but what about the rest of them?

The silence stretched on for a few more long moments, and then Zoisite spoke.

"Maybe? None that we'd acknowledge each other."

Under the focus of his leader's gaze, the violet-blue stone shifted slightly on Mamoru's desk in an almost-shrug, before continuing in a scrupulously unconcerned tone.

"I was an only child of only children, who didn't care enough to visit family except for the holidays. My grandparents all had health problems, anyway, and died by the time I started high school. My parents were… mom was stage actress always looking for another role, and dad was your stereotypical New York businessman — sixty-hour workweeks and weekend business trips more often than not.

"It was just as well, really; whenever he was home they had screaming matches downstairs. You learned to ignore it after a while… good enough headphones can block just about anything. It didn't stop until I got home from a chess tournament when I was twelve and mom told me that dad had moved out for good, and some cellist guy was moving in to 'take care of us'. I never tried to contact dad afterwards… he thought I was half-idiot to spend all my time on the computer or playing chess, and probably queer to boot."

Zoisite's voice softened, the most emotion he'd shown in the entire monologue, as he continued. "He didn't leave because of me… I think… he just wanted things that weren't us. For all I know, he married another starlet and started again, or just worked himself to death. After he left, mom spent all her time with her parade of boyfriends. I forged her signature to be able to keep playing chess, used my winnings to take care of myself. She didn't care."

A moment's silence. "Two weeks after I'd turned sixteen and been emancipated, she found me at a tournament."

"…I'm sorry." Mamoru's soft apology probably meant more than Zoisite would ever admit: the youngest Shitennou had had more family than any of them, during the Silver Millennium, with four younger siblings and both parents alive and proud of him.

Another shift. "It's better this way… no one for me to miss, and no one to miss me."

"I've gotta agree with Zoi," Nephrite jumped in. To Mamoru's expectant silence he continued, "Mom was a con-woman who ran off with the family fortune when I was two… My old man stopped caring for the trash she left behind. All he cared about — all he would talk about — was the stars."

A wry tinge crept into the words. "I don't even think I was in his will; it was all left to science. The only legacy I got from him was knowing the sky. We stopped talking when I went to college… even though I was following his footsteps in astronomy, I wasn't going to an Ivy League school, so it wasn't good enough. Like always. We washed our hands of each other."

Some things never changed, either. Nephrite had never been close with his father.

"It's not much of a loss. Gran was the one who kept me sane… she died the summer before she found me. It was lucky, really…" he murmured. "Better for her to never have had to hear I was gone."

Jadeite found himself chuckling ruefully. "If that's how we're defining luck, I guess I wasn't so lucky."

"You had family?" Zoisite's stone nudged Jadeite lightly. "You never mentioned them before…"

"There didn't seem a point." While the Shitennou had talked some between themselves about their second lives on earth, it had primarily been Zoisite and Nephrite comparing stories. After hearing the sort of lives the others had had, to mention his own beginnings had seemed… unnecessary.

"What were they like?" Zoisite persisted.

Jadeite sighed and relented. "Well… Dad was fairly traditional Japanese, an officer in the Tokyo Metropolitan Police force. Mother was old money from England."

Jadeite found a certain irony in being the once General of the Far East, and now having half-Westerner blood.

"She had a whirlwind romance with dad while on a tour of the world, and decided to stay. Father's salary was supplemented by living with my grandfather, a famous research scientist, so we lived well… They were unconventional, but happy. My brother and I were happy, too."

"You had a brother?" Nephrite sounded incredulous. "I always pegged you as an only child, like us."

Jadeite smiled softly. "Not this time around. I was older by seven years. Saguru — as mother's heir, I had the English first name with a Japanese middle name, and no, Nephrite, I will not tell you what it was — Saguru always wanted to be a scientist… forensic science, to "catch the bad guys".

"He was a geek, but he was a genius… Smarter than I was, and could be a little brat about it, too," Jadeite continued, a hint of fondness softening the detachment he'd cultivated to think about Saguru with only a dull ache. "When we were kids, I taught him how to play chess — he could play at my level within the year. But he always looked at me like I could do anything, or fix anything, because I was Nii-san…"

His breath caught in his throat — a remarkable feat for a disembodied spirit bonded to a green stone. Quickly, he shoved all the memories down and away, regaining his composure.

"He was eleven when I disappeared. I haven't seen him since." After a pause, he added, "Why do you ask, Mamoru?"

Mamoru smiled, a bit wryly. "It only seemed fair to ask all four of you together, and I did want to know. Those memories are as much a part of you as the Silver Millennium was. But I did have alternative motive. From what Usako tells me, a teenager visited Rei at the shrine last week, inquiring about your cover identity as an assistant from back then. He introduced himself as Hakuba Saguru, detective… and he's looking for his missing brother."

"Detective?"

The words spilled out before he could stop them, memory rising to fill the present. "But… How… He was adamant that he'd never be a detective. I'd tease him about it because he loved Sherlock Holmes so much, but he'd always say that mother would disapprove of something so proletariat. His word, not mine," Jadeite clarified with a faint snort, "after he'd read The Communist Manifesto for fun when he was seven."

"Sheesh, smart kid. But you said your father was a cop," Nephrite commented.

Jadeite chuckled. "It became an old argument whether civil servants counted as working class or their own category. The rounds I was stubborn enough to win, he'd say he hated footwork and interviews. He solved puzzles, not people, because people made no sense but evidence never lied if you treated it right…"

Silence stretched again, and he had to fill it with something. "It's not a trap? An enemy looking for a weakness, and the name's just a coincidence?"

It sounded weak, even to his own incorporeal ears.

"Rei sensed nothing malevolent, the fire is quiet, and I did some internet research." Mamoru hesitated, then continued quietly, "Hakuba Saguru has been making a reputation overseas since he was fifteen. His parents are separated, and he moved from his mother's residence in England to rejoin his father in Japan almost a year ago. It all checks out as him."

"…Oh."

'Guru…

Tell me you didn't become a detective just to find me.


"This is a bad idea."

"He's your brother."

"I'm a ghost haunting a semi-precious gemstone."

"He's been wondering if you were alive or dead for seven years, and he's still looking."

"He was always bloody-minded stubborn. He's going to think you're insane."

"You're going to prove I'm not." Standing down the street from the Western-style manor house that Jadeite had reluctantly confirmed was his old home, Mamoru's hand closed around the four stones in his pocket. Behind him, invisible to human eyes, Jadeite eyed the once familiar building warily.

"He's your family," Mamoru reiterated. "You have the chance to talk to him, right now, even for just one more time. Are you going to refuse that chance? Just say so, and I'll go home and drop it until such time as he finds a lead pointing to me."

Which wasn't likely to happen, since no detectable trail connected Jadeite to Mamoru. But the way Mamoru said it… this was a chance Mamoru would give almost anything to have himself, with his parents, and Jadeite knew it.

No matter how little he wanted his baby brother to see him like this.

"…No. But I repeat, for the record, that my brother is a prince of science. He's going to think you're crazy."

"Then I'll be sure to make him promise beforehand to hear me out." Mamoru sighed. "You're not the one who has to actually tell him that his brother was kidnapped by an evil entity of chaos, died, and is currently possessing a rock."

"…I'm a semi-precious gemstone."

Nephrite snickered. "You're starting to sound like Zoisite."

"Hey!" came the simultaneous protest.

Mamoru sighed again and shook his head, walking through the front gates to the door and announcing his presence with the bell.

After a long interval, the door finally opened, revealing a blonde teenager wearing gray slacks, a long sleeve button-up shirt with the top button undone, and Oxford shoes that looked more expensive than Mamoru's best tuxedo. His smile and air of polite interest could have been stolen from a politician.

"Can I help you?"

Until now, Jadeite hadn't let himself think about how long seven years truly was in the real world, and the changes that would be wrought. Mamoru's appearance had altered little between his teens and early twenties, and as spirits the Shitennou were immune to aging. To see the child of his memories looking like he could be Jadeite's twin, down to the blue eyes and blond coiffure, felt like a punch in the gut.

Saguru…

"Ah… Hakuba Saguru-san?" It was mildly comforting, Jadeite decided, that Mamoru wasn't entirely at ease, either.

"Yes… and you are?"

"My name is Chiba Mamoru." Mamoru took a deep breath. "I need to talk to you. About your brother."

Jadeite had never seen blood draining out of someone's face before, at least not at a time when he'd been paying enough attention to notice. The fact that he was watching, trying to memorize the new details and the unfamiliar angles of his stranger-brother's face, meant he saw Saguru's skin pale several shades in a few moments.

"Please, come in." Saguru's expression, on the other hand, remained unchanged, and his tone could have been making idle conversation about the weather. Only the pallor and a faint new tension in his lean frame betrayed him as Mamoru entered.

Jadeite winced internally, remembering a child's openness long since lost. He ignored Nephrite's appreciative whistle, unheard by Saguru's ears, at the interior's size and décor.

"You actually lived here?" Zoisite demanded as Mamoru and Saguru toed off their shoes in the recessed genkan, the only apparent Japanese feature of the entire house. Fascination took any bite of jealousy or contempt out of the words. "It's like a museum!"

"Yes," Jadeite muttered, pathetically grateful that ghosts couldn't blush. "My grandfather collects Western antiques."

"Um…" Mamoru's voice quieted their side conversation. "Is there anywhere we can talk without being interrupted?"

A blond eyebrow quirked upwards. "Certainly. Please, come this way." He led Mamoru through an equally impressive hallway into a study/library. Walls of bookshelves filled with leather-bound tomes, broken only by a fireplace in one corner, surrounded an ancient mahogany desk and a pair of couches facing each other over a teak-inlaid coffee table.

Saguru closed the door behind them, still perfectly composed. "Please, take a seat. The housekeeper will provide tea shortly, but she's quite accustomed to my clients ceasing their stories at her knock."

As he moved towards the couches, the only word Jadeite could come up with to properly describe the action was 'stalk'.

"Should I take precautions against eavesdroppers as well?"

"No, I don't think so," Mamoru replied. He pulled Jadeite's stone out of his pocket and set it down on the coffee table as Saguru sat across from him. Saguru eyed the jade piece with wary interest as Mamoru continued, "I'm going to tell you a story. And you're going to think I'm insane, but please hear me out until the end, okay?"

"You would be surprised what I find plausible, Chiba-san," Saguru replied dryly.

Mamoru gave him a wry smile in return. "I'll remind you that you said that."

Taking another deep breath, he plunged into the full story, starting with the paradise of the solar system's Silver Millennium, and continuing on through Beryl's rise on Earth, the Shitennou's unwitting betrayal, the fall of planets, and the Moon Queen's sacrifice to seal Beryl and Metallia and reincarnate the court to defeat them. He gave a few extra details regarding the Shitennou's second fall to Beryl's influence in the present era and their subsequent defeat, given the immediate relevance it had to Saguru, then skimmed the last few years to Saguru's visit to Rei.

When Mamoru finished, slightly wrung out, tea had been delivered and consumed over the course of the story, and Saguru was staring at him disbelief written all over his face.

Silence stretched into definite awkwardness before Saguru's face reverted back to the cool, masking smile and he declared, "You're right. I do think you're insane. I'll show you out."

Mamoru chuckled, the predicted response something of a relief. "Yeah, I thought you would. So… proof." He nudged Jadeite's stone, a transfer of power to allow Jadeite to appear as an audible, visual hologram to the rest of the world. "Come out and talk."

Knowing that Saguru couldn't hear him yet, Jadeite felt it worth muttering, "Also for the record, I'm going to get you for this someday, Mamoru."

With a twist of will, he shimmered into existence on the couch beside Mamoru in full regalia, white-suited with brown cape and sword disappearing into the couch cushions.

"…Hey, touto-chan."

Saguru's gaze locked on him, blue eyes huge for a moment before narrowing into dangerous calm. "You came well-prepared," he murmured.

Jadeite glanced at Mamoru. "I told you this was a bad idea."

Mamoru rolled his eyes. "You're not helping, Jadeite."

"Right, right…" Jadeite looked back at Saguru, expression softening. "I… When you turned eleven, I gave you a full Sherlock Holmes cosplay outfit and promised to come along as Watson on Halloween. I wasn't able to make good on that promise. I'm sorry."

All color that had returned to Saguru's face in the past hour vanished again. The wide eyes were back, counterpoint to a hushed, almost inaudible, "…Nii-san?"

Jadeite nodded, smile bittersweet. "What's left of me. You know what role in the fairytale I got stuck with."

Saguru sank back in his chair, one hand gripping the armrest and the other covering his face, fingers framing one eye. "Oh, God…"

"I'm sorry, Saguru. I never wanted to go." As apologies went, if felt pathetically inadequate.

"I spent seven years waiting and then looking, and you're a ghost. In a bloody ROCK."

"I'm a…" Jadeite caught Nephrite's eye and thought better of the protest. "…Yeah. Essentially."

"No, what were you going to say?" The question was more curious than demanding as Saguru shifted, apparently forcing past the initial shock into a sanguine equilibrium. The hand on his face curled into a loose fist to support his head as he let his eyes simply wander over Jadeite's form.

"He looks like you when he does that," Zoisite piped up, entirely unhelpfully.

"Er…" Jadeite coughed. "I'm tied to my namesake. Jade is a semi-precious gemstone."

Saguru chuckled, a mixture of ironic humor and amusement. "So you are. If he finds out, Kid is going to laugh his arse off."

Jadeite blinked. "Kid?"

"…Right. Five years in a gemstone. I take it you don't keep up much on news?" Despite the casual tone, Saguru's gaze flicked away from Jadeite's as he asked the question.

"No… Our powers are fairly limited without Mamoru." Before he could think better of it, Jadeite plunged on to answer the question Saguru had left implicit. "I didn't think I'd ever be able to come back — and despite your old commentary about me and sports, I'm not a masochist. Neither are the other Shitennou. We spend the large majority of our time in a state of semi-hibernation, rather than watch the world go by without us."

I tried to forget you. Poorly, but I tried. I'd hoped you would move on.

Saguru sighed softly. "Mmm. Well, since you haven't been keeping track, the Kaitou Kid is the primary reason why I returned to Japan. He's an internationally wanted thief, abhors violence though not property damage, and takes great delight in teasing the Task Force assigned to his capture, of which I'm a civilian consultant. His primary targets are precious gems, which he later returns."

"Like a search pattern?" Jadeite tilted his head thoughtfully.

Mamoru broke in, "In the last six months or so — large gems with associated rumors and legends. I've followed him loosely," he admitted, smiling at Saguru's raised eyebrow. "I didn't expect my Shitennou to catch his eye, but my fiancée's family heirloom is a fair-sized crystal. Despite the odds of him learning of it, no scenario where he tried to steal it could possibly end well."

"I don't know about her crystal, but it would be entirely like Kid to take and return Nii-san simply to make a point, or because he could." Saguru paused, and shook his head. "I cannot believe I said those words without sarcasm."

Jadeite turned his head to glare at Nephrite and Zoisite as they snickered cheerfully. "Shut up, you pair of idiots. I am not a robbery target."

"Ah… you four can see each other?" The cool ice of Saguru's eyes broke to allow a glow of pure curiosity through, and for a brief moment Jadeite caught a glimpse of his old baby brother in the teenager's face. "Fascinating."

Jadeite couldn't help but laugh a little, a small knot in his chest loosening. "Still the scientist."

Saguru's lips quirked, subsiding to a middle ground of genuine emotion, if not open expression. "Of course. I follow the way of Holmes."

"You make it sound like Zen."

"It isn't?"

"I like this kid," Nephrite declared, sounding far too gleeful for Jadeite's peace of mind.

"…Nephrite likes you. I think I may have to go commit harakiri now."

"Oi!"

Now even Mamoru was snickering. Jadeite was doomed.

He said as much.

"I'll take your word for it," Saguru allowed dryly.

Before Saguru could add anything else, Mamoru's phone rang. He'd definitely been spending time with Usagi lately, because unless Mamoru kept a hawk's eye on his phone in her company, the ring tone inevitably became changed to the first thirty seconds of Usagi's favorite song, Moonlight Densetsu. It was not an appropriately masculine ring tone.

Mamoru gave Saguru a mildly embarrassed smile. "Excuse me, that's my fiancée. I need to take this."

All embarrassment vanished the moment he answered the call, of course. Jadeite was still somewhat amazed by how Mamoru never failed to light up whenever he heard Usagi's voice. The conversation went quickly, with many affirmatives on Mamoru's end, and when he hung up his smile held a shade of regret.

"I'm sorry, I'm afraid I need to go. Usako decided she needs my input regarding her bridesmaids' flower bouquets after all."

"Yes, of course. Don't let me detain you… and congratulations on your upcoming nuptials." Saguru hesitated. "I… Could I come visit? Occasionally?" His eyes found Jadeite's. "You have no idea how much I missed you…"

Jadeite could only muster a crooked half-smile as he quietly answered, "I might."

"I was hoping you would," Mamoru affirmed with another smile. "Just call ahead."

He gave his number and Saguru nodded, repeating it back once as he committed it to memory and stood.

"I'll show you out." He looked back at Jadeite again, smile soft. "I'm glad to have found you again, even if it's like this."

"…Me too." Jadeite moved and tentatively, concentrating Mamoru's loaned power into a feather-light tangibility of his hand, reached out and ruffled Saguru's hair.

It would have felt like little more than static electricity, but Saguru's face lit up almost like Mamoru's had with an answering smile.

…Coming had been a good idea after all.

"I'll see you soon, touto-chan."

"Count on it, Cam-niisan."

"Cam?" Nephrite and Zoisite chorused, as Jadeite used up the last of Mamoru's power and reverted to his usual state.

"Cameron — Dammit, you two, stop sniggering!"

~End


Terms:
Genkan: Recessed entrance to a Japanese-style house where shoes are removed.
Harakiri: Historically, ritual suicide, generally to avoid dishonor or torture.

End notes: As with Comparing Notes II, I'd like my audience to tell me whether or not they want to read more of this – is it worth the time and energy to explore further in this world, or should it be left as it is?

The songs that inspired this fic are as follows:
1. Thanks for the Memories – The Hollies, Russian Roulette: Title
2. Words That We Couldn't Say – Yoko Kanno, Cowboy Bebop Blue: Kunzite's Past
3. Pity the Child – Andersson Rice Ulvaeus, Chess: Zoisite's past
4. Still Standing – The Rasmus, Dead Letters: Nephrite's past
5. Call Me, Call Me – Yoko Kanno, Cowboy Bebop Blue: Jadeite's past