Minako awakes in the throes of a fever, so harshly and so suddenly that she opens her mouth to scream and nothing escapes but a terrible wheeze. For a long moment, she opens and closes her mouth slowly, trying to force something, anything out. Eventually, she gives up and allows the weight that continues to grow in her chest to pull her back down to the futon.
"Holy shit," she whispers.
To say that Minako had just had a nightmare would be an understatement, and rather inaccurate besides. Though, in previous years, she may not have been inclined to believe in such things as premonitions or past lives, those very things have been a routine part of her role as Sailor Venus for a long time now. And while she is still, in secret, cynical about the fate that destroyed her last incarnation and took both her childhood and her first love from her, she really isn't in any position to deny supernatural occurrences anymore. Luckily, it is precisely this reluctant acceptance of the fact that her existence is doomed to be unordinary that confirms her suspicions about what she saw in her sleep last night.
Permeated with a sudden will to move but crippled by a lack of ability, Minako struggles to heave her body from her back to her side. Her head is fucking splitting; she literally feels as though someone has taken a hammer to her temples and, instead of knocking her down with one merciful blow, is chipping away at her sanity bit by bit. She's about to dedicate herself to the endeavour of getting up, until she catches sight of something on the ground beside her. She squints to force away the blurring of her vision, and eventually her eyesight clears fractionally enough for her to identify the object – objects, it appears – as a glass of water and a bottle of aspirin. She smiles.
Come to think of it, Minako wonders as she throws what is likely an overdose into her mouth and gulps it down with water, where is Rei? She looks around tiredly and finds the shrine maiden nowhere. Minako frowns, recalling the stuff of last night's dream – red, mostly, so much red – and wondering if perhaps Rei had seen the same thing. In any other circumstances, Minako wouldn't have been a believer in such a possibility, but she really doesn't have a choice in the matter. She never has.
Of course, the aspirin refuses to take immediate effect, but Minako is relatively patient, so she ignores her own agony and lifts herself to her feet. Her first priority right now is to look for Rei and confirm her suspicions. So she stumbles out of the shrine maiden's bedroom, and looks all over for her.
Finally, Minako finds Rei outside, sitting at the top of the shrine steps. A soft breeze ripples her hair, long and dark like a waterfall encased in shadow, and Minako finds herself smiling a lopsided smile. She seats herself beside her friend and, still a bit exhausted, leans back on her forearms. Rei knows that she's there, but doesn't turn to face her; she simply continues to sit, elbows on her knees and chin in her hands, gazing ahead blankly and yet with a violet ocean of emotion in her eyes. Minako can see something churning there, and her smile falls.
Rei doesn't assume any conventional form of acknowledgement here, but seems to tense up. Perhaps, even – and Minako feels her own face begin to flare up at this – blush, if only slightly. Well, of course, she thinks, of course she'd blush, when you consider. Of course – the heat of skin upon skin, the sound of breath upon breath, the flow of tongue upon tongue all flood her senses and make her shiver – of course. Before she even knows what she's doing, Minako is sitting up, closer to Rei.
"Please," Minako says, gathering herself, "say something."
But Rei says nothing. Of course, part of Minako was expecting this, but part of her still refuses to be anything but horribly, cripplingly heartbroken at it. Aren't they friends, at least? Don't they love each other enough to work this out? Well, Minako knows that she does, but – her head pounds again like someone is rattling her skull, memories of a red hot anger and terrible green jealousy moving dizzily before her gaze – does Rei?
At this thought – almost as though right on cue – Rei turns to face her.
"Of course I do!"
Minako can't help but be taken aback. Interestingly enough, Rei seems fairly surprised at her own words as well. Beyond that surprise, though (which quickly succumbs to the knowledge that what's done is done and what's said is said), is a sincerity so clean and so loud that it's blinding and deafening all at once. It's as though, in those four measly words, Rei has invested all the passion and all the emotion she has to invest; as though there's something very, very important she's trying to get across here. Something that, perhaps, she didn't realise she needed to before.
And it's that very terrible, ardent sincerity that reminds Minako what her previous incarnation – Minako 1.0, she jokes to herself – had fallen in love with Rei for in the first place. She remembers, and when she does, she can feel herself falling again. Oddly enough, it doesn't feel like the beginning of a fall to her – not like that horrible stomach-churning sensation when you start falling and you're confused and afraid and doomed – but like she's been falling for a while; long enough to be stripped bare of everything but the beauty of the fall.
When she realises this, her face seems infinitely closer to Rei's than it had been before. Their noses are probably less than an inch apart, but the two of them seem entranced just where they are, because they know what they want to do but don't fully understand how to do it. This time by no work but chance, Minako is the one to break this trance; with all the deliberateness and all the hesitance of the first stroke of a pen, her hand reaches for Rei's jaw, touching it first with her fingertips, then sliding her palm up to meet them. Her thumb moves to Rei's lips and lingers there a moment as the shrine maiden, with firmness and gentleness, takes hold of her other hand. Then, Minako presses her lips to Rei's and closes her eyes.
"I ruined you," Rei breathes. And in that moment, Minako understands what Rei has been trying to say – it was always you, only you – that Rei was only ever as consumed in wanting all of Minako to belong to her as Minako had been in being Rei's everything. Serenity, Endymion, duty, the war, the universe: it hadn't been their love that had clouded their judgement of those things, but rather... "I'll ruin you again."
Minako just smiles, and kisses her again.
"Do your worst."
A/N: I finally did it, guys. I finally finished this fic. /gross sobbing
It only took all of four months for me to actually start writing this chapter, but I assure you, the delay has a half-descent reason. Personal stuff - my life in general, you could say - has been treating me like shit. I've had a lack of time, yes, but the main reason for not writing is that I've been in the midst of deep, deep depression (for reasons I shall not bore you with) and thus my inspirations have been nothing but dreary and twisted. Seeing as I wanted this epilogue to be at least mildly hopeful, I wasn't feeling it. Honestly, I'm still not feeling it, but here is my honest best attempt in my current condition. I'm really sorry for having been that fanfic author who never updates ;_;
I don't foresee it happening in the near future, but I may or may not revisit this fic and make edits at a later date. If there are any specific changes you'd like to make, just pop me a review saying what and why and I'll give it my honest consideration. This story is actually really important to me, it's the first multi-chap I've ever completed, an experimentation with style that seemed to warrant overall success, and a snapshot of any improvement I may have made over time as a writer. Thanks to everyone who's supported me with reviews and faves, and to anyone who read this fic at all! I'll obviously reply to the rest of reviews here on out using PM, but here are the last replies to go with my last update.
reiko of mars: Yep, that's essentially what happened to Rei, although I made it a point not to describe her wounds in detail, partly because of the combination of Minako's own pain and shell shock, and partly to spare the reader haha. Well I hope this epilogue makes you feel a little better! Thanks for all the reviews throughout this story! ^_^
WolfPeaceMonster: Well here's the epilogue, finally! The chapter titles for this whole fic have been Florence + the Machine song titles, but the reason for the chapter 7 title in particular (What the Water Gave Me) is partly juxtaposition (water, the opposite of the motif of flame in that chapter) and partly due to the lyric "lay me down, let the only sound be the overflow, pockets full of stones." I felt like that imagery was fitting for the way I chose to kill them off. Thank you for staying with me throughout this fic!
Serenity I. Shields: Wow, thank you, I'm so glad you think so! I hope you enjoy the epilogue as much as you enjoyed the rest of it! ^_^
Kousagi Moon: Thank you! That really makes me feel like I've achieved my goal here! I hope you find the epilogue up to the same standard!
elle: Haha, I'm sorry! In the future I might write longer stuff, but I've never been that good at it. I'm not much of an action writer, y'know, I'm more into doing the weird abstract stuff and all the emotions, if that wasn't already obvious.
Again, I'm sorry, I can't tell you that! Hopefully the epilogue gives you more of an answer to that question, but part of what I had been trying to do up until this point was leave that particular aspect of the story open to interpretation. I hope this chapter gives you the confirmation you need!
Sereblu: Thanks! Unfortunately, this will be the end of this particular fic. If there's something else you'd like me to write, either Reinako in general or pertaining to this particular fic (a sequel or an add-on of some sort), then feel free to ask and I will give it my wholehearted consideration. I hope you like this conclusion, though!