(Edit 08/06/13: This is no longer a one-shot but a mini series)

Part I | Jadeite | 3261 words
Post-manga story. There will be spoilers to some degree. Unbeta-ed.
Theme song: FFVII Crosis Core - The Price of Freedom.

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heartbeat
(he looked for her, but she's the one who reaches out to him.)

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1.

"Sometimes...sometimes I dream."

"Dream?"

A haunting image. A girl. Woman. A backdrop of dark orange and yellow, dry canyons and a setting sun that colors long black hair a vibrant reddish hue. He doesn't know what she looks like, she's facing away from him, and then it's white white white

A hand on his shoulder.

"Hey."

He shudders out a breath, and looks up.

Green eyes, not quite dark, not quite pale, eyes him pensively.

"Are you okay?" his roommate asks.

He breathes in, and leans back against the leather sofa.

The dream rewinds and plays again in his mind.

"When I know the color of her eyes," he says to the companion that he doesn't know was a comrade for a thousand years and over, "I will be."

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2.

His memories returns, and it knocks him out for three week straight.

It's a good thing he's an orphan, because if the idea of his friends looking at him worriedly makes him sick to the bone, he thinks he might just throw up if his family – Kunzite Nephrite Zoisite Endy Endy Endy–is there to watch him lay unconscious, because fuck if he even deserves it –

He spends the next three weeks being dragged home from the bar by his roommate, all worried green eyes and curly blond hair and a shadow of his comrade and brother – traitor traitor traitor– because he's too drunk to move.

He spends a week contemplating slicing his own neck with the sword – Jadeite's sword – that he suddenly knows how to materialize without ever having done it before in this life.

On the seventh week, his roommate socks him on the face with a gangly fist and breaks his nose.

And by the end of those two months, he begins his search with a bandage taped to his swollen nose and curses thrown at his roommate.

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3.

He doesn't know why it feels so strange that the first person (that he knows from a millennium ago) he meets is a woman named Kino Makoto, or otherwise known as Sailor Jupiter, at a quaint little cafe that he later realizes is hers.

She eyes him with astonishment and wariness and curiosity. She also looks more than a little confused, and somewhat hostile.

He hasn't decided if she remembers most of her former life, or only some of it, because the conversation they are having is strangely civil, much to his own disbelief.

When she places a cup of coffee before him, with a pattern of a tree branch on its brown frothing, he stares at her in question even as she unceremoniously sits across him with crossed legs and chin resting on clasped hands.

She quirks a brow, and the expression in her eyes is a mix of wry amusement and challenge.

"It's not poisoned," she tells him, tone teasing.

Despite himself, he smiles, too, and reaches for the cup.

It's slightly sweet and mostly bitter, but the comforting warmth that pools in his stomach makes him feel a little lighter, even if he's still more than a little bewildered by how normal everything between them is. Is this really Jupiter he is talking to? The steely Jupiter, who felled foes with barely glancing blows, with electricity that crackled all over her, with eyes and expressions that promises death to those who hurt her princess and loved ones –

He thinks that she would have at least beat him half to death before deciding to hear what he has to say for himself.

Which is why he can't stop himself from asking.

"Why are you doing this, Kino-san?"

The hidden question – why aren't you condemning me? – lurks in the air.

Makoto's eyes grow shadowed, and her gaze this time is both dark and contemplative with memory.

He sees her clasped hands tighten, nails digging into white skin.

"I know how it feels like," she says quietly, "to have betrayed my princess, to hurt her, and to make her cry."

He's astounded, and it shows.

"How?" he asks, and it's almost a croak.

"Sailor Galaxia happened." She smiles a sad smile, and there's a play of guilt and darkness hidden beneath her words that reminds him of his own.

Questions bubbles at the back of his throat. Galaxia? Who? What happened? What do you mean? How

But he doesn't ask. Not yet, anyway.

"Oh," he says, and he feels as if something is stuck in his throat.

Makoto sighs, deliberately uncurls her fingers, and leans back against her own chair.

"You're looking for Endymion," she tells him, and it's not a question. "But you will not see him – not until we are sure you are not a threat."

She's answered the questions he didn't even ask without prompting. His liege's safe, alive and he's here

(but she's also not answering some questions that he knows she knows is written on his face.)

His throat feels very, very dry.

"We?" he asks instead. His head spins.

A flash of violet

She smiles again, and this time, her smile is kind and a mishmash of sadness and nostalgia, as if she knows what exactly is going on in his head and heart.

"We," she repeats. "But you won't see Rei today, for the same reason you won't see Endymion."

Rei. Rei. Rei. It's like a mantra chanting in his head.

A part of him is grateful she told him her name, and another part of him – the guardian in him – approves of how she chose not to disclose his prince's name.

"My friends will arrive soon," she says, settling back comfortably. "In the meanwhile, tell me what happened to you."

It's less of a question and more of a command, and reminds him of Sailor Jupiter more than the owner of the quaint cafe he is in right now.

They talk, and he learns that Makoto does have her memories from a past lifetime, and when Nephrite (whom he doesn't know is where) is mentioned at one point, her eyes darken.

Then he meets Aino Minako – Venus– when thirty minutes passes, and while she isn't openly hostile, she's completely unreadable and quiet, occasionally asking questions that Makoto didn't ask, with a tone that doesn't tell him what she's feeling, and a little more ruthlessly than how Makoto asked things that pierces him.

There is a moment when he nearly stumbles because he's surprised that Minako knows what he had said to Makoto earlier – the latter who looks briefly apologetic which at once told him what happened; Minako had been listening to their conversation through whatever means he isn't aware of.

Still, he tries to answer her questions as best as he could, in part because he does recognize the glint in her blue eyes.

It reminds him of the steel in Kunzite's gaze, and he knows it's not Minako he's speaking to. It's Venus.

Mizuno Ami (Mercury) comes in next. She looks almost as calm as Minako, though there are hints of apprehension in her gaze, and tension lining her shoulders. But she doesn't bother hiding the laptop, and continues working on it as their conversation begins anew.

It doesn't surprise him this time that Ami knows about the talk he had with Makoto and Minako.

When he talks about how his memory returns, there's a brief flash of surprise in Ami's gaze and a momentary pause in typing that causes Minako to glance at her.

The cobalt blue-haired woman hesitates, but eventually says, "The time he got his memories back seems to align with when the events with Sailor Galaxia came to an end."

That statement and how quietly she said it reminds him of the shadows in Makoto's gaze when Galaxia was mentioned earlier. It is also more than a little vague, and brings in more questions. It does also make something flicker in Minako's blue eyes. And while it's nondescript, for some reason or another – maybe it's a gut feeling in his stomach – he knows it's a vital point that will help the leader of the Senshi decide.

When he mentions his roommate and memories not remembered, it's Ami's gaze that darkens, but there is no noticeable pause in her typing this time.

The mention of Kunzite and the lack of knowledge on where he is bring no reaction from Minako.

And much, much later on, days after the questions and grilling that left him battered and exhausted, it's his prince who punches him in the face and breaks his nose again.

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4.

He isn't surprised that she sought him out.

He just wishes that it is not this soon, when he had just met his prince – king – and had all but prostrated himself before the person he had once sworn himself to, and held out his family's heirloom sword above his head – waiting for him to take the sword from his hand and strike him down

It's all still too raw, raw; the way he felt his heart shatter, the pain of betrayal and sadness and forgiveness and joy in those regal sapphire eyes –

The person in front of him now shifts a little.

And this pair of blue eyes is a few shades lighter than his liege, but just as regal.

The look that she gives him – it isn't happy. But it's not quite sad either.

There's also an edge of hardness in it, one he isn't familiar with – for there are very little things that could make her still and silent the way she is now.

(but then again, who is he to know? he knows the innocent girl from a thousand years ago, but not this woman who demands loyalty and love without even having to even ask )

All the same, he drops to a knee, and keeps his eyes trained on his feet. His fist, the one not palming his raised knee, is pressed tightly to the cold ground.

He wonders if his hand is trembling, but the guilt and darkness that encompasses him overrides everything else.

"My queen," he says, whispers.

It's a long moment before she speaks, voice soft. Unreadable.

"I know he has forgiven you."

His heart clenches. Unclenches. An invisible chain coils around it tightly, making it hard to breathe.

Something clogs at his throat.

If he's a lesser man than he already is, he would have broken down where he stood – why why why did he forgive me He should have struck me down where I stood! He should have

"But I can't forgive you the way he has."

He tells himself he should have expected it – he hasexpected it.

But it stings him, all the same, because this is Serenity – or is it Tsukino Usagi? – this is Serenity, the precious child of the Moon, the child and woman whom he knows, even a millennia ago, had a heart of gold and kindness and still does. It all but shows in her clear blue eyes and look alone, and for her to say this

He knows he's beyond redemption.

His eyes close, but he doesn't speak.

She's silent again.

"And I know you love her," she says after a brief moment.

Her.

Eyes of dark violet, a curl of lips so slight that the aristocratic smile is barely visible

"She loved you, too." It is wistful with memories, the way his queen speaks with heartbreakingly sorrowful and soulful words, but she doesn't tell him if the one he loves still loves him, or if she still thinks of him, or if she remembers

The chain tightens its grip on his heart.

"I watched her break once," and the edge of hardness returns, "I will not see that happen again." (this isn't Usagi speaking, he knows, it's the princess – the queen– who expects to see her words obeyed.)

Still, he remains silent. He can almost guess what her next words will be, and he's just waiting for the judgment to fall –

But when she speaks this time, his head jerks up to meet her bright blue eyes, almost certain that his hearing has failed him, and it's all he can do when he stares at her.

It's Tsukino Usagi who smiles a brilliant smile that reminds him of the warmth in Elysion.

(and she may never realize it, but this is also the moment that the guardian in him, battered and broken as he may be, recognizes her as his liege's queen, his kingdom's queen, and the person he would just as easily give his life for as he would his king )

"Okay?" she asks softly.

He bows his head again, something in his chest squeezing tightly, and feels his eyes blur and burn.

"As you wish," he whispers.

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5.

He stands in front of the stairs to the shrine.

It's the one place he avoided walking to even when he had regained his memories of a past lifetime and this lifetime, and even when he knew that coming here in the first place would have made searching easy.

But now he's here, again, because Usagi had all but shoved him to this place and squeezed his hands encouragingly before leaving.

The warmth of her hands still linger in his closed fists, and just for a little bit, he thinks he can see why his king had fallen head over heels for her, and why the one he loves would die for her in a heartbeat.

He breathes in.

Sakura leaves are falling all around him, and the soft autumn breeze that carries the scent of cherry blossom makes him close his eyes. He feels like he could just stand there forever and not care, if it is not for the person he wants (and dreads) to meet at the top.

Then he opens his eyes, and walks up the stairs with measured steps.

The two black crows perched by the entrance of the shrine watches him silently with wise, knowing eyes.

He reaches the top of the stairs, and what he finds there makes him stop dead in his tracks.

For a brief, mindless moment – he doesn't breathe.

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6.

She looks like she's been expecting him.

Has she been expecting him?

It is her who walks toward him with all the grace of a princess and the air of a royalty as he remains rooted where he stands.

The calm expression on her face gives away nothing; and her eyes, though burning with a kind of fire that she is never, ever without, does not give him any indication of what she feels. It almost rankles, because he, Jadeite, was a master of emotions and manipulation once upon a time. It had always been his duty to observe, and habits rarely ever change even after a millennium and a heart corrupted by darkness.

For a minute that feels like eternity, they just stand there, eye to eye. She's within his reach, and all he has to do is reach out, to touch her, hold her, to feel the silk black hair sliding between his fingers –

But it's her who moves first.

She reaches up with a hand, and presses a warm palm to his chest, middle, where his heart is.

He sucks in a breath despite himself, half wanting to flinch and back away, and half wanting to envelop her in his arms, but he doesn't move.

For some reason, he doesn't move, because he senses that she needs this. She needs this.

He doesn't really know what she's looking for as she scrutinizes the palm she has on his chest, but that doesn't stop him from getting lost in those dark violet eyes that bordered on sapphire blue.

He's also simultaneously aware that one push from her will send him tumbling down the stairs, and one pull from her will bring him to her. Jadeite doesn't know what she will do, and half wishes that she will do the latter.

(he also wishes that she will do the former.)

Finally, she looks up, and into his eyes.

He wants to look away from that penetrating, searching gaze; and it's strange, because once upon a time, he wouldn't have backed down from a hidden challenge that is not a conscious effort from either of them.

But that was then, and this is now.

Her warm hand is still on his chest, and it both comforts and burns him.

He spies a cherry blossom landing silently on her left shoulder, and his finger twitches. He wants to pick it up, or slide it away, but he curls his hand into a fist instead.

"The first time you met me in this lifetime, near this shrine," she says, and it's a voice that's soft and familiar and reminds him of a love that wasn't battered and broken, "do you remember it?"

He wants to say no. "Yes."

Something flickers in her gaze, but she doesn't back away from their eye contact. "I killed you. I didn't remember you then, but I killed you."

She says it so casually, like it is nothing more than a simple statement of fact, and the expression on her face is indescribable – so why is it that he feels as if he's looking at the very image of steel and fragility?

I killed you.

It makes him want to reach out to her, but he holds himself still.

"I deserve it," he says instead.

He feels her fingers curl on the fabric of his shirt, just a little.

"You had no heartbeat, back then."

That, he didn't know. Or at least, he couldn't tell. He's not sure how she knew that either. Back then, the darkness and Beryl Beryl Beryl was all that mattered.

"I..." he stops, then he starts again. "No, " he whispers, somehow sounding young and old at the same time, and the feel of her hand on his chest is like a lifeline – "I don't think I did."

His eyes close.

There are gentle fingers on his face now, and a thumb that brushes against his cheek in a way that felt familiar and unfamiliar; it's all he can do when he stays still and tries not to lean into her touch.

"But you have one now. A heartbeat."

Its words filled with firm conviction, like there's no room for doubt.

"You disagree?" she whispers.

He wants to tell her he doesn't know. "Do I?" he asks instead, and he wonders if the desperation he feels has trickled into his voice. "Do I really have one?"

"Yes," she says simply, warm and sure with certainty, and it feels like salvation.

And it's her who curls her hands around his neck, bringing him down and touching her forehead to his.

"Forgive yourself, Jadeite," those soft words is his undoing.

He wonders if she is aware that what she just said is a ghost of what Usagi told him some days before.

Then he breathes in the scent of cherry blossom and something that reminds him of fire fire fire

"I love you," he whispers, and his words is raw, raw, so raw he can't even tell if he's croaking it out, but he holds her to him like she's all that stops him from breaking.

When he presses his lips to hers, it's as if he's drinking water for the first time in years – centuries, a millennia – after being lost in the desert for god knows how long.

And he feels like he can finally hear his own heartbeat again.

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A/N - I originally wondered if I should have made the senshi transform before cornering Jadeite rather than using their actual identities. But then I figured that since I've already maneuvered Jadeite to be able to recognize their alter egos, there's not much point in transforming if I'm going for the peaceful route rather than Kill-Jadeite-On-Sight route. Or at least, that would've been the conclusion the senshi come to.

You can also say that this is my first real foray into this fandom...though I'll admit I did write for this fandom before, yeaaaars ago, despite those stuff being deleted later on. Let's hope I didn't screw up characterization as much as I think I did, because it's been way too long, and my memory of the manga is vague at best.

Depending on how well or terrible this is, I may or may not go ahead with writing Rei's version of this story. I've some ideas, but it's nowhere near to being written. Thoughts?