Disclaimer: I don't own Sailor Moon.
Happy New Years, everyone. This is the last fic in a series--it's a companion fic to Fabricated, Falling Apart to Halftime, and A History of Scars. Just to note--yes, I'm well aware that I mixed in a lot of references to different Native tribes. That was the point.
Nephrite never looks at the night's sky with just anyone. Communing with the stars is the closest he comes to a true spiritual experience—something beyond even his realm of understanding—and it makes him feel vulnerable, especially if he is around strangers. It ticks off some of his lovers that he refuses to do something as simple as stargaze with them, but he just ends up dumping those girls sooner anyway.
Even as Masato he doesn't like stargazing with just anyone, which got him in trouble in all his Astronomy classes, although he learns to ignore it. Part of the problem is as a child he could never understand why no one else could hear the stars as well. His siblings all look at him strangely and his friends all accuse him of pulling pranks.
So in the end, anyone who really knows him knows to consider themselves honored if he invited to watch the stars with him. He treasures these memories, the good and the bad, clutching at them as if he will lose him.
But then he does lose those memories when darkness creeps in and takes him from his prince, so in the end, no one can blame him for that at least.
The first person—he remembers—who he stargazes with is his mother. It is a warm summer night, a relief from the blistering heat even in their lodges, and his head is in her lap. There's still room there since his brother won't be born for a few more months, so he's trying to make the most of it. He is only three and he follows her hands as she points out the constellations and tells their stories. His favorite is of the great bear with the three warriors who chase after it.
"But they will never kill it," she explains, letting her hand rest against his chest. "Because she will make it back to her cave. They do, however, manage to spear her hind leg just before she enters her cave in the fall. When her blood falls down to earth, it paints all the leaves red."
"Father could bring it down, couldn't he, mother?" he asks, turning his head to look up at her.
She smiles, tapping his nose. "Your father would know better than to kill the great bear, Michi-gami."
He frowned. "Why's that?"
"Because if the bear were to die, how would we know when to plant our crops or how would we find our way at night? We need the bear, little one."
Brow furrowing, he turns back to the stars. "I didn't mean that father should kill the bear, mother, just that he could."
"Ah," she nods sagely.
"Besides it would be too quiet without them."
"Oh?" He can hear the teasing in her voice. "Does the bear talk to you?"
"Yes. It's very loud."
For a moment he fidgets when he feels her stiffen suddenly. Before he can ask what's wrong, she has him pulled up and is shaking his shoulders. "Michi-gami, say that again."
"Mother, that hurts!" he yelps. She lets go instantly, rubbing his shoulders gently and making soft noises in apology.
"Michi-gami, answer me. What do you mean about the voices?"
He shifts uncomfortably, trying to figure what he did to upset her. "The stars, mother, the stars' voices." He frowns. "Can't you hear them too?"
She ignores his question; instead her expression changes from worried anxiety to something uncomfortably like awe. "The gift. You have the gift as well," she smiles reassuringly. "Do not worry, little one, it is a great honor. Your father shall be proud!"
He isn't convinced, so when he looks up one last time to the heavenly bodies, he begs what will happen now?
The stars do not use actual words to answer him, but press their meaning upon him so that understands. You will regret having told her that, they say. But it will be for the best.
Your life is to be one of pain, Listener, Dahsani the porcupine adds.
You will make the best of it, K'aalongii the butterfly whispers.
Do not fret, the Great Bear and the Three Warriors boom, we will remain with you, Listener, for we shall be here long after the last Listener hears us. We shall not forget.
Michi-gami frowns, curling one fist into his mother's dress. It is nice to know that the stars would never abandon him, but he doesn't want his life to be one of pain.
Once word gets out that he can hear the voices of the stars, many people try and get him to divine their fates for them. At first it is fine, but then people come who are displeased with the stars' prophecies and he begs his father to make them leave him alone. His father agrees and Michi-gami finally gets a reprieve after weeks of their pestering.
The next person he stargazes with is his own father. He could not refuse his father when he asked if Michi-gami could see into his brother's future.
He sits on his father's lap, but he is ramrod straight, staring up at the stars.
"What do they say, son?"
He will be sickly.
He will die after his daughter's first winter.
He will be happy.
"They say he will be ill, father," he reports, frowning. This means he won't be able to play with him. "But happy."
His father sighs. "Perhaps they will be wrong," he murmurs, but Michi-gami knows that his father won't plan on it.
"But, father," he adds, smacking his father's arm for attention. "They say my other brother will be healthy. And so will the boys Nizhoni will give you."
His father stares. "Who is Nizhoni?"
Michi-gami shrugs. "I don't know. But they say you will marry her too and she will give us two brothers for me."
After a very long moment, his father smiles. "Michi-gami, you are a gift from our Creator."
Michi-gami has never been so honored.
The next person he stargazes with is Nizhoni who still wears her bridal costume. She is very young and nervous compared to his mother, so he is glad when the stars speak to him about her.
"Don't worry, they say you'll be happy—your sister will marry my uncle and will come join us in the spring, so you won't be lonely."
Instead of looking pleased, Nizhoni looks startled. She won't believe him, they stars explain, until her sister joins them. It does little to help Michi-gami who is stung by the rejection.
It is the last time he stargazes with Nizhoni.
He only stargazes with one of his brothers—Gitchigumi would never sit for long enough, Skanadario is too distrusting, and Erie is too little—but Karegnondi, Nizhoni's oldest, is his favorite brother and so Michi-gami knows he can trust him. Karegnondi is respectfully silent as he tells him of stars and their warnings.
He will have two sons.
He will excell in hunting.
He will nearly drown when he is twelve, but Skanadario will pull him out.
They remain out until dawn and they both come down with colds. Michi-gami decided not to warn him about that; he doesn't want to go back to being Nephrite just yet. The cold gives him an excuse to stay with his birth family for a little while longer.
The stars tell him before they go home that Erie will be dead before winter's end and that he won't have a chance to attend Gi-be wiikonge to honor his youngest brother. He just wishes he could have taken Erie stargazing too.
Nephrite stargazes with Kunzite on the first night they meet. Earlier in the day, King Aethlius granted him the new name Nephrite which he dislikes. He has been Michi-gami since he was smaller than Gitchigumi and Nephrite feels odd and foreign. He feels like the wild horses the plains tribes capture, like they are trying to tame him with this new name.
Kunzite, however, is like him the stars explain before he arrived at the Golden Kingdom.
"Should I call you Kunzite or Hakan?" he asks at dinner, trying to be quiet.
In a rare moment of shock, his superior drops his spoon into his bowl where it sinks. Kunzite frowns. "You should call me Kunzite."
"Oh." He returns to trying to figure out his fork and it is painfully awkward for a few moments as they sit in silence.
Nephrite glances up, curious and shy.
In another rare moment, Kunzite looks a little shy himself. "You can call me Hakan when we're alone."
The stars tell them that night that Kunzite will be destroyed by love. Nephrite only says that Kunzite will be a great leader and warrior.
Nephrite can't stargaze with Endymion until the prince is nearly four—it takes that long to convince Queen Kalyke that he can be trusted with Endymion for a night, and even then Kunzite has to go with them.
"Can you really hear them?" Endymion asks, straining his neck until Kunzite advises him to just lie back on the grass.
"Of course I can," Nephrite snorts. "I've been able to since I was younger than you."
"It's a rare gift, though," Kunzite adds. "Even among my people, I have only heard of four people having it, and three of those people are long since dead."
"And the other one?" Nephrite is always curious when Kunzite mentions people with powers like theirs.
Kunzite's smile quirks up lazily. "Even longer since dead."
"They look really far away," Endymion frowns.
"They are far away—much farther than you can even guess," Nephrite smirks.
"But how can you hear them if they're so far away?"
"Well—some of them are very faint. The really far away ones don't care to talk anyway."
"What are they telling you right now?" Kunzite asks to distract them.
Nephrite frowns and turns back to them.
Your charge will be good, kind, and a great warrior, the greatest swordsman in the world if he would apply himself.
A woman shall distract him.
A woman shall ruin this kingdom.
But keep faith.
It will return even greater afterward.
He will be a magnificent king.
Nephrite turned and grinned. "They said your gonna lose your head over a girl."
Kunzite sits up and frowns as Endymion recoils in disgust. "We'll have to make sure you practice enough to make up for it then."
He hesitates to invite Jadeite for a long time to stargaze with him. Endymion whines constantly and Kunzite frowns thoughtfully but Nephrite can't find words to explain his unease. The stars say that Jadeite is a Listener as well, but not to them. They speak of a great serpent, bluer than the sky or seas and of still, still waters reflecting the future. Could he trust Jadeite with the stars' words when he was already Listening to another? Would he even want to hear?
In the end, it takes months for him to ask Jadeite to join them. It wasn't until Jadeite helps him switch all the salt shakers with sugar that he decides he could trust Jadeite.
He regrets waiting so long when Jadeite mentions that Seiryuu told him that there would be a someone at court like him and that he had been trying to find out who since he arrived. It's the first time he finds someone that truly understands the gift and its curse.
Nephrite only stargazes with Zoisite once. Zoisite might be able to make fires with a snap of his fingers, ice crystals with a hand gesture, and even hurricanes of blossoms with a thought, but he still manages to try and make the stars into something he can use and control. He can't make Zoisite understand that the stars don't speak because he commands them but quite the opposite.
The headache's not worth it. Zoisite pouts about it straight into his next two lives.
Serenity is the only person who Nephrite has never invited that ended up stargazing with him. She doesn't force him to make him let her come, she just accidently stumbles over him gazing. After he rubs his aching side and the pain eases—and she stops hopping around, cradling her foot, but she stops that quickly mainly because she falls hard onto her backside—he greets her wryly.
"Princess, if you're going to go around kicking people in the side, at least have the decency to not wear such pointed shoes," he advises her, both eyebrows raised.
Serenity blushes—she is admittedly adorable and it's easy for him to see why Endymion's already head over heels for her—and apologizes, and then dives into an explanation without him prompting her at all. "You see, I was going to see Endymion for awhile, but he and Kunzite are tied up in a meeting, and Zoisite swears they probably won't get out until after midnight, but I can't stay up that late—I never can, I always conk out, Mars says I'm a lightweight—so I was just going to go home, but there's people in all the gardens, so I was just to come out here to teleport but then I ran into you and-"
She pauses to breathe and Nephrite jumps in while he has a chance. "My lady! I don't need the whole story—I knew about the meeting. I could've guessed."
Serenity goes pink. "Oh. Well. Sorry. Nervous habit."
Nephrite gives her a wry grin and leans back on his elbow. "But, just so you know, that meeting's only supposed to go on for another half hour."
Serenity frowns. "But, Zoisite said-"
"Exactly. Zoisite said."
Serenity stares and then huffs. "He got me again, didn't he?"
Nephrite tries not to laugh too loudly. "Looks like."
"But Jadeite said-"
"Jadeite's just as bad. He just hides it better."
He barely contains his laughter at her flustered strangling motions and lies back on the long grass. "Don't worry, princess, you can see Endymion in a bit."
She gives up, frustration vanishing abruptly and rearranges her legs and dress so that she's more comfortable. "Until then, do you mind if I join you?"
Nephrite considers it then shrugs. "Do what you want."
She flops backward onto the grass to his amusement, kicking her heels up a bit until she had to sit up to fix her skirts before lying back down. "Endymion told me you like to stargaze."
Nephrite frowns. "Did he?"
"Yes. He says you do it most nights."
"That's an exaggeration," he insists, but smiles again. "I don't suppose he told you why though, did he?"
"No, he didn't." Nephrite smile grows until he sees that's she waiting now for an explanation. "I just guessed you liked it."
"Oh, something like that. I've done this since I was practically a baby. Me and my mother used to sit out at night when she wasn't busy."
She looks more excited than is technically called for. "Really? None of you have ever told me something about your families before!"
Nephrite pauses—depending how he answers, he could be in a world of trouble. Zoisite hardly knows his own parents; instead he looks to Kunzite as a father figure. Jadeite's father died shortly after his birth and his mother was crazy and got put to death when they discovered she was trying to murder King Aethlius. Kunzite's father is dead. Erie is dead, Skanadario will be dead before his daughter's birthday at midwinter, Nizhoni never stopped regarding him with suspicion. The past is hardly something they like to talk about.
In the end, Nephrite decides to be vague. "Is that so?"
Serenity is admirably persistent. "Hey, c'mon. Why won't you guys tell me anything about yourselves?"
Nephrite is saved answering her question when Mars nearly smashes his nose as she marches over. She barely apologizes as she begins to drag her princess off. Nephrite can see Jadeite hanging back, looking torn, and staring at red clad guardian nearly as much as she looks at him. He doesn't need the stars to tell him that Jadeite has just put himself in for a world of pain.
"Goodbye, princess," he calls as Mars pulls Serenity away. "I'll tell Endymion you dropped in!"
She waves quickly but then they disappear. A wind rustles the grass for a moment and Nephrite looks up at the stars. Will Jadeite be okay?
Nephrite doesn't force them to explain. "Is Mei-mei still here?" he asks Jadeite, drawing the blond emperor back to reality.
"She's asleep in my quarters," Jadeite answers, stepping over to him. "What did the stars tell you, Nephrite?"
Nephrite looks up at him for a moment. "Help me up."
The stars are brutally honest, and usually he admires them for it. Tonight, they bring him only sadness.
He isn't going to invite any of Serenity's guards to stargaze with him, but Jupiter accidently discovers him during her search for her princess and Nephrite can't begrudge her. At least not while he tries looking up her skirt.
"Evening, Sailor Jupiter," he greets her just before she steps on him like Mars did. "Looking for someone?"
Jupiter smiles—and it is a wonderful smile, sweet like Serenity's is. There must be something about the Moon Kingdom to make them all so cheerful, barring Mars of course. "You wouldn't have seen Serenity sneaking around, would you?"
She shrugs. "Well then, I won't bother you any longer-"
He grabs her wrist before she can get far. "Wait. Let them have some fun for a bit. Endymion could use the reprieve."
She frowns, tugging gently. "But I really should find her before the queen notices she's gone…"
He tries to look serious. "Please. They could both use some time. Haven't you ever been in love before?" he adds as he lets her go to lie on his back.
She blushes prettily. "Well…just for a little bit then."
He grins. "Perfect. Why don't you sit down and join me for a bit? It's a beautiful night."
She sits and sighs dreamily. "It really is." They fall into silence for a moment, her flustered, him trying not to hear the stars' warnings.
It's too late now.
"Can you…" she begins and he turns to her. "Can you show me where Jupiter is?"
He grins. "You mean I'm not looking at her? Well, don't worry, sweetheart, you're just as pretty."
Her face goes adorably red. He loves making girls blush and she's surprisingly easy to make do so. "I meant the planet. If you're going to tease me, I'm finding Serenity now and leaving."
He holds up his hands in defense. "Sorry, just fooling. Here," he sits up and leans over to her, pointing to the bright planet hanging low in the sky. "That's it there. Can't miss it."
She shifts nervously next to him and he forces himself not to lean over more. "That bright one? Wow."
He lets his hand drop and turns her, trying to pretend to be nonchalant. "So, what's it really like?"
"Like?" she pulls her knees up to her chest to rest her arms on them. "Well, it's the biggest planet there is…"
"Is that why you're the tallest senshi?" he asks, tugging on a wayward curl.
"I'll leave, see if I won't!"
He smiles and goes back to laying on the ground, fighting the urge to play with the bow above her skirt. He's having more trouble than usual trying to keep his hands off her. He finally glances away, looking back to the stars, but then he notices she hasn't. She's looking at her arms folded across her knees, frowning. "Something wrong?"
"Serenity and Endymion…"
He looks away. "What about them?"
"They won't be able to stay together, will they?"
He looks to the stars.
In their next life.
It will be a long journey of pain and disaster, but they will find true happiness.
Danger clings to her fate, like pain clings to yours.
It is inevitable.
"One day, maybe," Nephrite answers after a long pause. Jupiter turns wide eyes to him and he wonders if she thinks he's crazy or a romantic. He shrugs. "Either way, I'm willing to let them have their fun for now."
"But they'll only-"
He sits up so fast he nearly smashes their heads together as he swings up. "Sailor Jupiter, instead of worrying, why don't you go have some fun yourself?" He cocks his head to the side, and tucks a tendril of hair behind her ear. "Or don't you know how to?"
She gives him a hard look, but he reads her amusement clearly. "Actually," she leans closer, "I do." Their noses nearly brush but then she stands so fast a breeze rustles his hair. "And I think they've had enough time. Goodbye, Lord Nephrite." She turns and walks away, hips swaying. She glances back over her shoulder, part flirtatious, part caution, and it's the most goddamn sexy thing he's seen in his life.
He lets her go, looking at the grass waving in the late autumn breeze. In spring, this field will be set alight, and not for clearing it for crops. He looks back to the stars and prays.
The view from the moon is magnificent, but he can't enjoy with the others. They have their prince to find.
The stars have stopped talking to him—or maybe he's stopped Listening—but if he had asked, they would say that's it's already too late.
In his next life, his grandmother takes him out every night, even when he is a baby, and sits in a lawn chair, gazing up at the sky. Masato is his family's first son and their pride, but his grandmother is special to him. She was the one to decide to name him after her husband, to his grandfather's amusement.
He doesn't tell her until he is three that he can hear the stars but when he does she is not surprised, not in the least.
"It's from my side of the family," she murmurs. "We have old native blood in the family."
Smiling, he returns to the stars. Hello again, he calls.
We've been waiting.
After Crystal Tokyo is born, she is the only person besides his sister he can stand to stargaze with for nearly a year.
His parents don't believe him for a long, long time, not until years after Jean Luc is born, when he warns them that Marie will be blind in one eye by the time she is seven. They hadn't even had time to pick out her name yet and the announcement was supposed to be a Christmas surprise.
One night, when he is nearly ten, they join him arms looped around him. He knows they're frightened and he isn't sure what to say, but the stars promise that his parents still love him, so he's willing to settle for awkward acceptance.
He rarely agrees to letting his little brothers join him when he tries to stargaze; his parents mostly force them on him. Jean Luc is too fussy to enjoy it, and Shouta too restless, but Ferdinand and Henri at least try to be quiet. They enjoy him telling them the stars' predictions far more, but he quickly learns not to tell them just everything, because they only get upset and tattle on him to their parents.
Marie is a somber child, and she clings to him, but next to his grandmother, she's Masato's favorite to stargaze with. They'll huddle together on the lawn chair, Marie curled into his side, looking up at the stars with her good eye, and listens to him whisper. She accepts the stars' news, good and bad. She is his confidante.
For a long time, they are the only people he can bring himself to stargaze with.
The night before he leaves for Tokyo, Marie pulls her lawn chair over to his and their grandmother's. Instead of talking, they clasp his hands.
They know he won't be back for a long time. But at least they'll be waiting for him when he returns.
He can't even see the stars above Tokyo for all the lights. He wishes he could have talked to them for one more time before whatever happens to him tomorrow will happen.
He isn't certain, but at least he's pretty sure he never stargazed with anyone when he was Nephrite. It's probably for the best—the stars hated talking to him then anyway.
For one fractured moment during his attack on Tokyo while he is under another's sway—again; he'd laugh if it wasn't so tragic—he feels like himself again. He is whole for one blissful moment.
He is standing on a battlefield that was once a shopping mall. It's decimated—no doubt due to him—but Jupiter is before him, defiantly standing in front of a helpless boy despite some nasty wounds.
Something like a cheer or a song distracts him and he looks up. He's managed to take out the power and the lights are dead so he can finally see the stars over Tokyo. They glimmer and try and call him back to himself, to his real self, but even as he smiles wanly he can feel himself slipping.
When he looks back, Jupiter looks confused and uncertain.
"Christ, I finally get to see the stars with you again, and I don't get to enjoy it? Fucking typical."
Now she just looks befuddled, but he can't enjoy that either.
He slips back under his mistress's sway, and his body begins to attack once more.
The first people he gets to stargaze with is his sister and grandmother after his return. His family nearly mobs him when they first catch sight of him after years of them assuming the worst, so he doesn't get to look to his ancient patrons until his third night home. Marie is a grown woman but she still manages to make him let her crawl into his lap while his grandmother holds his hand. It's almost like the last night he was with them and his heart catches in his throat.
Staying in Crystal Tokyo would have killed him, but here in the loving arms of his family, he finds safety, hope, and respite. It's enough that only after a year he decides he's ready to return.
Mars is furious, Mercury frigid, Venus cautiously accepting, but his king and queen are surprisingly (to him) happy to have him back. Even Kunzite manages to not resent him horribly—Zoisite and Jadeite are still out on their hunt, but at least he can help Kunzite now.
Jupiter, however, is perfectly polite and more distant than her namesake from the earth.
Nephrite thinks back to his grandmother's warm, wrinkled hand holding his and his sister's familiar presence at his side and forces himself to keep his head up.
During his stay in Crystal Tokyo, he stargazes with quite a few people. First is Kunzite, then Endymion, but wherever Endymion goes, Serenity likes to go too but Nephrite doesn't mind.
After a year, Serenity tells him that she wants to build an observatory using Mercury's technology. She asks him to put it together since he actually is an astronomer. He can't tell if she honestly wants an observatory or if she's got some scheme cooking.
When he sees that she's put Jupiter on the project as well, instead of the more sensible choices of Mercury or Zoisite, he knows she is planning something. He can't decide if he should be insulted or not, but he lets it pass—the stars already told him that she still won't accept even when the observatory is finished, but at least she doesn't flambé him for flirting.
He is surprised when one day Small Lady asked if she could join him at the observatory. It's Zoisite's idea and he was going to ask first but little Usagi was so excited she found him first to ask. Of all the people he's stargazed with, he knows her the least. It ends up being more of school lesson—which is fine; Usagi is an eager student—but before she leaves, he pats her shoulder.
"I know Zoisite by now has told you of my powers, so the stars wanted me to tell you: don't worry. You'll grow up to be a true lady one day."
She looks as though she just received a gift from God. But she gives him a clingy hug before she goes, so he doesn't mind. His lips quirk up in amusement when he sees Jupiter is the princess's guard for the night—he must give Serenity points for persistence—but she quickly hustles Usagi away.
Looking back to the stars, he asks when?
In time, they call back and if the stars could be affectionate, that's what he would call their tone.
Nephrite glances towards the retreating pair of princess and senshi, sees a history of betrayals and lies in their wake, and tries not to sigh.
It takes a few years after Jadeite and Mars get married before he finally stargazes with Jupiter again. The sad thing is that by then he looked at the stars with Venus, who never stopped talking, with Mars and her resentful silence so sharp he missed Venus's chatter; the demented part is that he actually stargazed with fucking Uranus, who probably would have tried to kill him if he and Saturn hadn't hit it off so well.
They aren't even in Crystal Tokyo; he is visiting his family again, and is laying down in a meadow not too far from Lake Michigan and his family's summer house when Jupiter appeared in a flash of light.
For a moment they don't speak, but then he raises his arm up out of the grass and gestures her over.
"There's not an emergency is there?" he asks as she takes her time walking over.
"No," she answers simply as she sits down next to him. She pulls her knees up to her chest, folds her arms over them, and Nephrite fights not to laugh as he nearly sees time repeating.
"Couldn't face another lonely night without me, huh?" he tries, and it's practically not a joke, too full of wishful thinking and self deprecation to be funny.
Still she huffs a laugh and leans back. "I have a question."
"The answer's 42," he quips without thinking about it. She gives him a strange look and he can only shrug. "Sorry. Force of habit. What's your question?"
She pauses for a moment. "Can you show me where Jupiter is?"
He gives her a long look before he finally sits up. Keeping his eyes locked on hers until he's nearly turned far enough, he finally turns to find her namesake. He lifts his arm to point. "That one. Above the tree line."
She doesn't even look. "Okay."
Looking back, he realizes he's been waiting for this kiss ever since the last time she asked him to point her planet out. Nephrite considers himself an accomplished kisser, but this one is definitely one of his best. Or one of his favorites. He can't decide; his brain shut off once she presses her mouth against his.
I had to wait a couple of decades more, but I think I got off easier than the others, he'll decide afterward.
After this, there's going to have be a couple long discussions about what they're going to do, but Nephrite's willing to accept that.
Above him, the stars shine on for eternity, ever watchful.