dedication: new bookshelves, goddamn but do I need some.
notes: this is the kind of thing that happens the night before I have a psychiatrist appointment. god damn it.
title: a small and unfortunate murder
summary: Gratitude and forgiveness are not the same thing. — Venus, Mercury, Kunzite.
Venus will remember it like this:
The world is ending.
It is as simple as that.
Kunzite stands over her. Everything hurts. The steel in his hand shines slice and black in the pale luminesces that shines from the moon's surface, the sigil of his ownership carved elegantly into the wrist guard. There is nothing in his eyes as he looks down at her.
She is torn already, the palms of her gloves soaked through already with blood and sweat. Her hair spills around her thick as liquid gold, and Venus reaches for his face from the ground and croaks his name.
"Speak not my name, witch," he replies.
He is colder than anything in the entire solar system—he is colder than Neptune's deep dark oceans, colder than the farthest reaches of Pluto's oblong orbit, colder even than the highest peaks of Mercury's icy surface. He is so, so cold. Beautiful, too, but that is Kunzite—silver and gold, they were a matched pain in their own sick brand of leadership.
His face is leaden. Venus sees nothing of mornings spent in long spars while they waited for their charges to disengage from one another, when the clash of metal and the low ragged inhale of their own breathing were the only sounds. She sees not the conversations where every word was just another move on a much larger game of political chess, played across the entire Silver Alliance. She sees not the tactical genius who has matched with and strength with her every step of the way. She sees not the man she has come to know.
What she sees is nothing at all.
Venus stares up at him for what seems like a very long time but is really only half a second.
"Do it, then," she commands. Venus has never asked for anything in her life. It is not in her nature to ask—she has always been given what she wants or taken what she needs, and while that is truly very little, she has never regretted taking something; not the fruit from the kitchen nor the hearts from men.
She has always given in return.
It is not until now that she has regretted giving. It has cost her princess' life.
And there is nothing in the universe that is worth Serenity's life.
"I will haunt you," Venus snarls as she pushes herself up to sitting, wincing at every movement, and spits in his face. "Until the end of time, I will haunt you."
He wipes the spit away as calmly as he ever wiped dust off his uniform. It does not faze him at all, and Venus hates him more, in that moment, than she has ever hated anything including herself. It is a red-hot, frothy hatred that showers gold and tangerine along her bones, and what she would not give—what she would not give—to have this situation reversed.
She would tear him to shreds for this betrayal. She would open up his chest and crack his bones and take hot wet bites of his heart, eat him all the way up and then leave his corpse to rot on the floor behind her with his blood still dripping from her lips. She would not let him forget. She would not,
Venus stares him in the eyes as he raises his blade. Her eyes are blue as Terra's summer sky.
She waits for the blade to come down and end her life.
It never does.
His gaze goes duller than stone, and he slumps over, foaming at the mouth. It is disgusting and endearing all at once, and she is coolly, distantly surprised to see Mercury is standing there with her arm out, trembling as she breathes. There is an empty syringe in her bloodied glove that Venus knows Mercury kept on her body at all times in case of a suicide mission—it is fast-acting Mercurian poison that does not have a cure.
Solar wind rips through the Moon's atmosphere-bubble. The tattered hem of Mercury skirt blows with it, patches with something that Venus does not want to know about turned a blue so dark as to be nearly black.
The Senshi of Ice reaches down to pull Venus up. It is only the salt-rime of grief in her eyes that gives Venus pause enough not to kill the girl on the spot.
It is long enough for her to catch her head.
She will not kill Mercury.
"Thanks," Venus says shortly.
She is not thankful at all.
"We swore," Mercury says softly, gently, "to protect Serenity until we die. I am not yet no longer breathing, and neither are you."
Mercury speaks often in double negatives. Venus hates it, and this is not what she wants to hear, but it is what she needs to hear. She stuffs her emotions away to be dealt with later, when she is not half-mad with sorrow and shock and worry. The emotions ball up in her throat. She forces them down.
Mercury cuts a cold, beautiful figure in her ragged senshi uniform against the dark of the sky. There is crimson drying on her face, and she is blue and serene as her planet is.
Venus loves and hates her in equal measure.
The Senshi of Love locks her head away on the spot. She gathers her hair and her skirts and her courage (gold, orange, gold again), and allows the thought of Serenity's smile to take her anger away.
"Come along, Mercury," Sailor Venus says. "Let's go find our sisters. We fight to kill."
Mercury's nod is tight. "We always do."
As they go, Venus takes Kunzite's sword from the ground. She will stab it through Beryl—and whatever else gets in her way—to get to Serenity, even if it kills her.
The Silver Millennium does not end that night.
"You killed him."
"I had to," she says. She is calm. She is too calm. She does not even look up from her book, she is far too calm. "He was going to kill you."
"'So what'?" and this does make her look up. Blue eyes flash, lit darkly with a venom so fierce that the other girl flinches. "'So what?' Do you even hear yourself, Venus?!"
"I loved him! He was mine!"
Mercury finally sets the book aside. It is a thick tome, and the pages lie open as faded sunlight spills in through the window. She stands very slowly. The Medal of Honour that Selene bestowed upon them both hangs heavy around her neck, a near-living reminder of that night. She looks Venus in the face, and all traces of emotion are gone.
"Yes," she says simply, "he was. And Zoicite was mine. But who do you think I had to go through to get to you in time, Irina? Who do you think I had to kill?"
It is not often that anyone speaks Venus' given name. It is almost a taboo in court; only the other Senshi and the princess are allowed to speak it freely, and Mercury does it least of all because she understands what it means to want to allow one's past to be the past. But she stands there in front of Venus in a simple blue dress, hands folded neatly in front of her, and stares her down.
For the first time in her life, Venus is on the receiving end of one of Mercury's sneers. It is not something to be proud of, to be in this place, she thinks.
Mercury's eyes are dry. "Who do you think I had to kill? Voice it, Irina! Make it real!"
Venus says nothing.
Mercury's shoulder come up around her ears, and her face turns very somber. She seems to shrink in on herself, and Venus' every instinct is to protect, but then Mercury speaks.
Her voice is very quiet. "Killing Kunzite was the easiest thing I've ever done."
Venus' hands clenched involuntarily into impossibly tight fists. She could feel her nails through the fabric of her gloves.
"I can't ever forgive you," she says.
"You don't have to forgive me," Mercury says. Her voice has gone slack with exhaustion, weak, and Venus hates, hates, hates her for it. This is not the time to be weak; they do not have time to be weak.
"But you do have to thank me," she continues.
"Why?" Venus asks.
She is genuinely curious. Why? Thanks? Why?
"I saved you a lifetime of grief. I saved you from being unable to ever forgive yourself. I saved Serenity. I saved you," Mercury says, low. Her gaze is very far away. "You can blame me, Irina, but you can never not thank me."
This, Venus thinks, is very true.
There is no telling what might have happened, had Serenity died. Venus knows she sleeps safe and sound in Endymion's arms, now, but had she died… no, there was no telling. She did have Mercury to thank for avoiding that fate.
She does not voice those thanks.
"Gratitude and forgiveness are not the same thing," Venus says instead.
At this, Mercury finally laughs. It is bitter as unsweetened root tea. She laughs and laughs, until her lungs must hurt from the force of it. Venus pretends not to notice how pale she's gone.
"No," Mercury chuckles weakly. "No, they are not."