Dedicated to SailorDonut. Happy Birthday! ;-)
Thank you so much for everything!

Act 35

"Zoisite!"

Zoisite startled.

"Venus?" he whispered.

Had he just imagined or had he really heard her screaming his name?

He shook his head. That was impossible. She would never do something like that. It wouldn't suit her. And after all, he knew that she didn't remember him. She'd demonstrated that very clearly to him. Zoisite smiled sadly and rubbed his chest. Well, he hadn't been all himself that day, either…

He started to play the melody again, but stopped in the middle of the piece.

No, he wasn't able to play it anymore. It hurt too much.

And if he went out to watch her once more? That hurt even more. To watch her while being unable to approach her.

"Damned… Beryl!" he cursed and slammed the piano keys.

That witch hadn't taken only his freedom, but also… his love.

"Is something wrong?"

Man, he'd really become inattentive. This was the second time Nephrite had caught him in a weak moment. "Why don't you mind your own business?" he yelled at him.

"I'm sorry," Nephrite answered, truly surprised, and turned around to leave. Zoisite sighed.

"Nephrite, wait."

Nephrite looked back at him. It was really incredible. All the harshness and bitterness had completely disappeared from his face. It was as if he'd become a new person. What a pity that it was this very change that put the red-haired Shitennou—and his love—in danger now.

And to make it worse, it would be Zoisite who would have to bring the harshness and bitterness back into Nephrite's face. He, who actually had advocated all… this.

"You have to stop," Zoisite said.

Nephrite frowned. "What do you mean?"

"Mercury. You must not see her again."

Nephrite winced and clenched his fists.

This was exactly the reaction Zoisite had expected, but he continued: "It has become too dangerous. Jadeite is suspecting something, and I'm afraid he's spying on you in Beryl's name."

"Damned Beryl!" Nephrite hissed, just the way Zoisite had.

Nephrite started to tremble in rage, and Zoisite expected the worst; but, suddenly, he managed to bring his feelings under control again. He sighed.

"I have to tell her," he finally said.

"You can't," Zoisite answered. "Every time you see her again is a risk. You have to stop immediately."

"I know you're right, Zoisite, but… I can't just stop seeing her and leave her hanging. She doesn't deserve that… after all she has done for me."

"Nephrite, be reasonable."

"What would you do in my place?"

Zoisite looked at Nephrite in shock. Did he know something? If he did, he'd become more inattentive than he thought.

Nephrite returned his gaze but said nothing.

"Just… be careful," Zoisite finally said, "Watch your back."

xxxxxxxxxxxxx

Ami yawned and stretched. "Tired?" Rei asked, looking at her attentively.

"I'm all right," Ami answered and continued with her homework.

They were sitting around the table - Rei, Makoto and Ami - in their hidden room at Crown. Since they had come together, Rei hadn't stopped observing Ami in a very suspicious way.

Even now.

"Ami-chan, could you explain this to me, please?" Makoto asked. Ami tried to ignore Rei's piercing gaze and leaned over to Makoto, stifling another yawn.

True, she hadn't slept much last night, but it had been worth it.

She and Nephrite had been talking and laughing the whole night, and all that time, he never let go of her hand. He'd held and caressed her the whole time.

Only when she'd started to doze off had Nephrite decided that it was time for him to leave.

"You need your sleep," he said. When she protested, he added, "I'll come back tomorrow. I promise."

Actually, Ami had planned to catch up some sleep this afternoon, but when Makoto had proposed to go to Crown, she hadn't been able to refuse. What excuse could she have given? However, now she was here and had to manage two things: not falling asleep on the desk, and avoiding Rei's piercing gaze.

"Hi everybody!" Luna, in her human form, stepped through the door and jumped down the stairs. The first thing she did was to stock up on sweets. Then she sat down and, while she was chewing her popcorn, she took out her make-up kit.

Ami had to smile. This was Luna's favorite activity when she was human: eating sweets and painting her nails or applying make-up.

"Ami-chan!"

Makoto's voice made her wince. "What?"

"Are you all right? You looked as if you were falling asleep."

Ami shook her head. "I'm fine. I just didn't sleep very well last night."

Again, Rei's suspicious gaze.

"Is that correct?" Makoto asked, and showed Ami the exercise she'd just finished.

"Let me see," Ami said and took Makoto's booklet closer to her.

xxxxxxxxxxxxx

Minako was lying on the bed. The drops from the IV that flew into her vein had become an almost pleasant rhythm.

"You can't rely on the medicine forever."

She knew that Artemis was right, but as long as it helped…

"Minako, about last night..." Artemis started.

"I don't want to talk about it," she cut him off.

It had been bad enough that she had cried out Zoisite's name like a heart-broken teenager, but what had happened afterwards had been even worse.

She had started to sob and to cry. Just like a child, she had wrapped her arms around herself, rocking forward and backward, unable to stop her sobs and the tears that had been running down her cheeks.

At that moment, it felt as if the world was crashing down.

Zoisite. The man she'd loved so much in the past, whom she still loved, was part of the Dark Kingdom now. He had forgotten her and had become her enemy. He'd even tried to kill her. What other proof would she need to be sure about the fact that he didn't remember her?

But she remembered. Destiny could be so cruel sometimes.

The memories of him had come back the day the Naka-Naka contest had taken place. She was getting ready to get out of the car, when suddenly a familiar music had started to play on the radio.

And then she had seen him. First only in the rear view mirror, then through the window to her right—how he'd been reaching for her.

This had been the moment the memories of him had crumbled down on her, just as if somebody had pressed a button; but in his eyes she'd seen that he wasn't himself anymore.

From that day she'd started to dream of him, of him and his music, especially that one song. Not the song she had heard that day on the radio. No, it had been the one that no one else had ever heart before. Her song.

Minako forced back her tears when she heard the music in her mind again, when she saw the pictures before her inner eye.

He, sitting at the piano, playing just for her. His smile. The happiness she'd felt at those few but intense moments.

Zoisite had been the only one who gotten to know who she really was. The only one to whom she hadn't had to hold back. With him, she'd been completely herself.

Last night, when she'd dreamed of him, it hadn't been the same dream. She'd dreamed of that day he wanted to kill her. The determination with which he had approached her. And her certainty at that moment, when she had seen the emptiness in his eyes, that he had completely forgotten her. He was one of the Dark Kingdom, through and through.

Minako sighed. She remembered that at that moment, she hadn't been able to bear seeing him like this any longer; it had broken her heart. And so she did... what she did.

And then his last words.

"Master Endymion."

It hadn't been her he'd remembered at the end, but his Master. Just as in the past. His Master would always be in first place.

Minako closed her eyes.

Oh God, that deep, groundless emptiness in his eyes. This had been the reason why she'd screamed out his name, and hadn't been able to stop crying anymore.

Because her love had forgotten her and was forever lost to the Dark Kingdom.

And there was nothing that would bring him back to her again.

xxxxxxxxxxxxx

"If I had the Master... I'd finally have something on Queen Beryl."

"Kunzite!" Zoisite shouted in disbelief. He couldn't honestly plan to...

"Finally, I have found a way to oppose her," Kunzite said and left the room with a satisfied smile.

Zoisite looked after him. "I have to protect the Master," he said to himself, "but what can I accomplish... alone?"

He hesitated for a long time, but finally walked to the opposite side of his piano to take out the music box. "I guess I have no choice," he whispered, and carefully stroked the little box once. "Please forgive me... Venus."

He went back to his seat and sat down, putting the box next to him. Then he started to play. The music started to send out energy that flew directly into the little box. The object begun to glow stronger with every note Zoisite played.

xxxxxxxxxxxxx

"I'm leaving too," Ami announced, and started to pack her things. Luna was sleeping on the sofa, a plushie again. When Makoto had left in such a hurry, it had given Ami the chance to leave too. She really needed to sleep a few hours before Nephrite came back.

"But it isn't that late, Ami, and I thought your mother had gone away for a few days."

"That's right," Ami answered nervously, "but I have things to do at home."

"What kind of things?"

"Well... things." Ami grabbed her bag and started to climb the stairs.

"Who is he?" Rei suddenly asked.

Ami stopped in shock and dropped her bag. Slowly she turned around. "What do you mean?" she whispered.

"You know very well what I mean," Rei answered.

For a few seconds there was silence. "I... I don't know what you're talking about," Ami finally said and reached for her bag.

"I sensed him in your room the night after the Youma attacked you."

Ami felt like she couldn't move. Of course, she thought, she'd been suspicious from the beginning. Of course she'd been there. Her knees started to tremble and she sank down on the stairs.

Rei leaned forward, her elbows on her knees. "Ami," she asked calmly, "what is going on?"

For a long time Ami said nothing. "Do you remember," she finally began, "the day I came back from the Dark Kingdom?" Rei nodded. "Well, then maybe you also remember the Shitennou who saved me from Kunzite's sword that day..."

xxxxxxxxxxxxx

Rei was looking at Ami in disbelief. Her mind, for maybe the first time in her life, was a jumbled mess. Ami's words were echoing in her head, and only bit by bit did she truly comprehend what she'd just told her.

The red-haired Shitennou, Nephrite.

He had saved her from the Youma that night. He'd been the one Rei had sensed in Ami's room, and he was the one who had caused that change in Ami. She was meeting him in secret. She had fallen in love with him.

"Have you gone mad?" she reproved her. Ami looked at her, appalled, as she continued, "He's from the Dark Kingdom! He's our enemy!"

"He's not. Not anymore!"

"Why are you so sure about that?"

"I just know it."

"Why? Because he's saved your life twice? How can you be so dewy-eyed? What if he had planned all this from the beginning? Maybe it was him who sent out that Youma. Maybe he did all this just to win you over to him. To approach us. To approach Usagi, to finally obtain the illusionary Ginzuishou. After all, he's been behind it from the beginning."

"You are wrong, Rei-chan. He would never do that. That's not his goal anymore."

Rei saw that Ami was near to tears now. Oh holy, she thought, Why didn't I take care of it that night? Now it's too late. "You must stop this immediately," she said harshly.

Ami looked at her in shock.

"What?"

"It's too dangerous. Have you even thought about what this could do to all of us?"

"But..."

"Even if he had become good, as you think, what if someone else in the Dark Kingdom finds out? That could not only put you in danger, but all of us. Finally they would have found our weak spot."

Ami was trembling, and for a brief moment Rei felt compassion. She remembered that night again, and how strongly Ami's and Nephrite's auras had been intertwined. What if Ami was right, and Nephrite really had turned his back on the Dark Kingdom?

No; he was a man, and men were all the same.

"Be reasonable, Ami," she said a little bit more calmly, "He just can't be trusted. He's the enemy."

"No, he has changed," Ami whispered, "You have no idea how caring he is. He suffers because he's part of the Dark Kingdom."

"Then why doesn't he just leave it?"

"Because he's cursed. Queen Beryl has got control over him."

"See!" Rei exclaimed, "That's the proof. Don't you think he makes things easy for himself? Why doesn't he make any effort to overcome that curse?" Ami stayed silent and bowed her head. Rei sighed and sat by her side to put an arm around her shoulders. "Face it, Ami, he's just using you."

Ami shook her off and stood up. "No," she said firmly, grabbed her bag and run up the stairs.

"Ami!" Rei shouted, but she had already slammed the door behind her.

.

"Ami!"

The slam of the door made Luna jump and fall down from the sofa. "Ouch!"

Rei stepped to her and lifted her up. "Are you all right?" she asked.

Luna nodded and rubbed her eyes. "Eh? Where is Ami-chan?"

Rei sighed, and a strange expression appeared on her face. "Don't ask," she simply said and put Luna back on the sofa.

xxxxxxxxxxxxx

Ami ran through the streets. Tears were running down her cheeks.

"You must stop this immediately." No.

"He just can't be trusted. He's the enemy." No.

"Face it, Ami, he's just using you."

No, no, no, Ami thought.

Finally she ran out of breath and stood still. She bent forward and leaned on a tree next to her.

"You must stop this immediately."

Rei's arguments echoed in Ami's head as if they were coming from a speaker.

"He's just using you."

She has no idea, Ami thought, she doesn't know him. She hasn't seen the loneliness, the sadness, he's been carrying with him.

With all her heart, Ami knew that Nephrite cared about her. He'd even shown her. Last night. His worry had been honest.

"Why doesn't he make any effort to overcome that curse?"

Ami shook her head. She was sure that it wasn't that easy to overcome a curse of the Dark Kingdom. Wasn't she the best example? When she had been evil, she hadn't even known that she had been cursed.

But Nephrite knew that he was cursed and had a chance to do something about it. Didn't he?

Actually, Ami had never asked him that...

She forced back the soft voice inside her that had started to bring up those questions. She wouldn't allow Rei to impose her doubts.

Ami was the only one who knew who Nephrite really was. She was sure that, if he knew how, he would do everything to overcome his curse.

He has never told you if he'd tried, the soft voice inside her started to whisper again.

"Why doesn't he make any effort to overcome that curse?"

"What the hell are you doing here?"

The familiar voice made Ami's heart beat faster. She turned around and, before he could say anything else, she ran towards Nephrite and put her arms around him.

"What's wrong?" he asked.

Ami frowned. Something was different about him. The sound of his voice was more guarded, and the way he held her felt somehow awkward. She looked up at him and flinched when she met his gaze. The coldness and harshness had returned to his face.

He avoided looking at her and stepped back, letting her go.

"Nephrite?" she asked worried, "what...?"

"We have to stop this," he said.

"What... what do you mean?" But Ami knew exactly what he meant.

"This. You and me. We can no longer go on like this."

"What are you saying?" she whispered.

"It's wrong."

Ami felt as if her heart stopped beating, and a deep chill overwhelmed her body. "Why… Why are you saying that?"

"It's better if we stop this now, before somebody gets hurt."

Ami looked at him in disbelief. "What?"

"Being with you is keeping me from winning back Queen Beryl's favor. If this goes on, I'll never be able to regain my place by her side."

His words cut her like a knife. "Queen Beryl?" she asked. He wasn't serious. This couldn't be true.

"Why doesn't he make any effort to overcome that curse?"

"Face it, Ami, he's just using you."

"I see," Ami said tonelessly. "So that's the reason you never tried to overcome your curse. It was never your intention to leave the Dark Kingdom, right? So what was this, then? A fun way to pass the time?"

She saw how he winced, and for a moment it looked like he was fighting against his desire to come to her and embrace her.

How Ami wished that he would lose that fight. But she hoped in vain.

"You… You don't know anything," he hissed, and teleported away.

Ami looked at the empty space Nephrite had left.

"Face it, Ami, he's just using you."

No, Ami thought, no, it can't be true. There has to be a reason for all this.

What if someone in the Dark Kingdom had found out about them? That would explain a lot.

But why this harshness?

Ami wrapped her arms around herself, forcing back the tears that were burning in her eyes.

"It's better if we stop this now, before somebody gets hurt."

"Being with you is keeping me from winning back Queen Beryl's favor."

"Miss, are you all right?"

Ami looked around. A young woman with a baby carriage was standing beside her. Only now did Ami realize that it was dark already. How long had she been standing here?

She forced a smile. "Everything is all right," she answered, "thank you." Slowly she walked the way back home.

.

It stepped out from its hidden place. Satisfaction awakened in it. Its Master would be very pleased.

"You'll just observe. Nothing else."

It had to force itself not to attack the young girl and obtain her energy, because it was high, very high.

Yes, grief was something that heightened every human's energy-level.

Overwhelmed by its desire it took a few steps following the girl.

"You'll just observe. Nothing else."

It paused, its Master's command echoing in its head. It fought between the desire to obtain that human energy and its Master's command.

"You'll just observe. Nothing else."

Finally it hissed in frustration and teleported away.

xxxxxxxxxxxxx

Makoto sighed in disappointment.

She would have killed to go to the Aino Minako concert. But, as expected, it had been already sold out when she had arrived at the sell point. Had Usagi been able to obtain some tickets for herself and Mamoru-kun? Maybe. She had gone to sleep early last night. At least she'd been prepared.

Although Minako fought as Sailor Venus with them, this hadn't given Makoto any benefits. And, after all, Venus still preferred to fight alone.

Makoto sighed once more and kept on walking.

When the shape suddenly appeared before her, it was already too late and she bumped into it. "I'm sorry," she apologized.

"Mako-chan, what a surprise! What are you doing here?"

Makoto looked up in shock. Of all the people in town, it had to be this one she had to bump into.

Motoki was standing before her and smiled as he always did.

"Motoki-kun... hi," she stumbled, and tried to ignore the growing beat of her heart.

"Hi. So, what are you doing here?"

"I... I was trying to get some tickets for the Aino Minako concert. But it's already sold out."

"That's too bad. I'm sorry," Motoki said.

Why is he always smiling? Makoto thought. And why did it hurt so much to look at him?

"So then, see you," she said and turned around.

"Mako-chan, wait."

Makoto closed her eyes for a moment. Why couldn't she just turn off those feelings Motoki had awakened inside her? She sighed and looked back at him.

"Let's... lets have some tea somewhere," he proposed, "Just as friends?"

Makoto hesitated, but finally smiled back. "Okay," she answered.

Just as... friends. That wouldn't harm anyone, right?

xxxxxxxxxxxxx

Nephrite was standing, motionless, in the dark tunnel. Inside him he felt nothing but emptiness.

It was done. He had done the right thing, and it would be better this way. It would be easier for her... to forget him.

But that pain in her gaze...

"It's for her own good," he whispered and sat down on the ground.

Now he was at the same point he'd been before. Lost in a tunnel of the Dark Kingdom, alone.

"So what was this, then? A fun way to pass the time?"

He knew he shouldn't blame her for thinking like that. It's better if she thinks of me that way, he thought. But why did he feel such pain in his heart by thinking she might hate him? Why did his desperation grow more and more by realizing that he wouldn't ever see her again?

"Damn," he cursed.

If he wasn't able to manage even one day without her, how was he supposed to do it... forever?

xxxxxxxxxxxxx

The Youma's scream echoed from the walls and got lost in the void. Jadeite looked at the black, burnt point it had left.

"Stupid, useless Youma," he hissed.

These creatures might be good to collect energy and fight, but they couldn't be used for anything else. They were too imbecilic.

There hadn't been much the Youma, whom Jadeite had sent out to observe Nephrite, had been able to tell him. And what it had told him had been more than strange.

Well, mainly it had babbled something about the high energy-level of a human girl. A human girl? Was this the reason for Nephrite's disappearance? But Nephrite despised the humans. Why would he go out to meet a human girl?

"No way," Jadeite said to himself, "Nephrite and a human girl?"

But if it was true...

"Jadeite!" Mio's voice echoed in his head, "You must come immediately. Kunzite has interfered."

"Damn," Jadeite cursed and quickly teleported away.

xxxxxxxxxxxxx

Minako was sitting on her bed, looking at an uncertain point at the wall before her. Hot tears were running down her cheeks. In her hands she was holding the broken music box Zoisite had given her to erase the Princess' memories.

How could he? she asked herself and sobbed.

"Minako," a soft voice was heard, "I'm so sorry."

Minako didn't look at Artemis, who had appeared by her side. "Please, go," she whispered.

"Minako..."

"Go!" she shouted.

Artemis jumped down from the bed and left the room.

Minako still stayed motionless. Finally, she managed to look down at the broken object. The pain in her heart grew.

She could have handled anything, but this...

Now she wasn't able anymore to suppress this one last memory. Unstoppable, just like a waterfall, it crashed over her.

Venus was walking through the hallway of the Moon Palace. The clap of her shoes echoed from the walls and got lost in the void. In her hands she was holding something, enveloped in a white cloth. Light was shining through the windows, and bathed the floor in silver light. For a moment she paused at one of the windows and looked outside.

From here, it didn't seem like the earth had become a battlefield. It looked so quiet and peaceful. Just like this evening. Everything was in peaceful silence, as if there was no Dark Power, nothing bad at all that was approaching the moon.

But it was a false harmony. It was only the calm before the storm.

Venus stroked her white robe. The last days had been so full of battles and fights that she was almost unused to being in her normal form. Normally, the senshi dressed in long, white robes. They just transformed if the situation demanded it.

She sighed and continued walking. And though her heart was beating with nervousness, she continued her steps without hesitating anymore.

Just when she had almost reached the desired room, she hesitated a little; but she only stopped when she was finally standing in the entrance.

Zoisite was sitting at the piano, playing a quiet song. His gloves were lying on the instrument.

Venus smiled. Since the Shitennou had had to leave the destroyed earth with their Master for his own security, the music-room had almost become Zoisite's private room. And because of that, it had become Venus' favorite room, more than ever.

She looked at Zoisite, who didn't turn around; but she knew that he had at least noticed her. His playing had changed. He was playing her song now. The song nobody had ever heard, because it was only meant for her ears. Zoisite had written it just for her.

While she was listening she closed her eyes, and the notes, the melody, started to caress her softly.

Venus sighed. When Zoisite played the piano it wasn't like a usual player—it was magic.

Finally she entered the room and stepped to his side.

He looked at her and smiled, without interrupting his playing. Only when he had finished her song and the last tones had faded away did he lift his hands from the piano keys to reach for his gloves.

"Don't you dare," Venus said, "you know I hate those things."

He smiled and left the gloves where they were. Then he reached for her and pulled her beside him at the piano bench.

"Good evening, my senshi of beauty and love," he greeted her, "What's the reason for your anxiousness?"

"I'm not anxious," she said. Zoisite laughed.

"I could feel it even from the hallway. Don't try to hide it from me. You know you can't."

Venus felt how she blushed and bowed her head.

"Don't," Zoisite said and lifted up her face with his bare hand, "please, don't you ever hide from me, my love."

Venus knew that she'd become more red now, but she looked up to meet his gaze. He smiled again and caressed her cheek with his thumb. She shivered. This was the effect Zoisite had had on her from the beginning. With him, she hadn't been able anymore to maintain her toughness and remoteness. It was as if he had the key to activate her feelings. At the beginning it had worried her, but now…

"How is…?" Venus immediately regretted starting to ask that question.

Zoisite's look became reserved now, and he let go of her.

"He's alive," he answered, and started to play an indistinct melody, "but he will never be the same person again. Your Princess ensured that."

"She didn't do it maliciously," Venus asserted, "She only wanted to help. It wasn't her fault…"

"She has turned him into a puppet. She has stolen his soul."

"It wasn't her intention to cause this."

Zoisite didn't answer.

"He wanted it, Zoisite. He wanted it like that. It was his decision."

"Your Princess is dangerous," Zoisite said, "She's too weak, and this will make it end up in a disaster for all of us, sooner or later."

"Please, don't say that," Venus whispered, "Zoisite, please, I don't want to argue. Not tonight."

Zoisite sighed and took her hand. "I'm sorry, my love; me, neither."

For a moment there was silence. Finally Venus gathered her courage. "I… I came to give you this."

She handed Zoisite the said object. He took it and looked at Venus inquiringly. "What is it?"

"See for yourself."

He carefully unwrapped it. A small white box came to the fore, similar to a jewelry box. "This…"

"Open it."

Zoisite did as he'd been told, and a sweet melody started to play.

"It's wonderful," Zoisite said, "And you're really giving this to me?"

Venus nodded.

"It was a gift from Queen Serenity. She gave it to me when she appointed me the leader of the Senshi Soldiers. The glass that the box is made of is moon glass. It takes long to create it, because it has to remain over 200 years in a deep and hallowed place of the moon before it becomes like this. So it's really rare."

"Venus…"

"I've always kept it in my temple," Venus continued, and tried to ignore the pain in her heart, "Well, as you know, all the senshi-temples, even mine, have been destroyed. But not… this."

She caressed the box and finally looked at Zoisite, the man she loved so much.

"It's all that remains and I want you to have it. I want you to be the owner of the most important thing I have left."

Zoisite stroked the little box.

"I'll keep it in honor," he assured and put it beneath his gloves on the piano, "forever."

Then he took her face into his hands and placed his lips on hers. Venus intertwined her fingers around his neck and returned his kiss.

They held each other for a long time. Finally Zoisite sat up and started to play a melody that went along with the music that was still coming from the box.

Venus leaned her head on his shoulder; and so they rested, knowing very well that this would be their last night together.

Minako clenched her hands around the broken pieces of the little music box.

Yes, it was broken. The single most important thing she had had left from the Silver Millennium was ruined now too. Just like the Kingdom on the moon, just like her temple.

"I'll keep it in honor, forever."

Liar, Minako thought.

Zoisite had used her sign of love, that she had given to him, for the mission.

And she didn't know what hurt more. That he had broken his promise, or that not even her music box had been able to awaken his memories about her. Because it obviously hadn't. The way he had talked to her last night had been so restrained. There had been no sign that had given her hope. Though, that long gaze at that moment...

No, that didn't mean anything. And, after all, if Zoisite had really remembered, he would never had used…

"I think this belongs to me."

Minako turned around and looked at Zoisite, who was standing in the middle of the room, in shock. His gaze was calm and serious.

"You really haven't changed," he said. "The Princess always comes first for you."

It took a while for Minako to really understand what he had just said.

"You really haven't changed."

"You," she hissed and stood up, "how could you dare to use…this?"

She lunged out and threw the biggest of the piece at him. He ducked and it crashed against the wall, breaking into a thousand new pieces.

First Zoisite looked at her in surprise; and then... he smiled.

This increased Minako's anger, for which she was grateful because it displaced her grief. She lashed out once more and threw the rest at him. He jumped aside, and it broke into various pieces as well.

"You seem to be upset," he remarked.

"Oh, really?" she replied.

"It's just a box," he said calmly.

"Just a box?" Minako started to tremble. "You... bastard!"

"I think I have more reason to be irritated."

"Excuse me?"

"You killed me."

"Because you tried to kill me!"

"But I didn't. I couldn't. When I saw you..."

"Don't try to fool me. It was Prince Endymion you remembered, not me."

"That's almost the same."

"What?" Minako asked.

"Both of you are important to me. When I remembered my Master... I remembered you too."

"Do you really think I'm going to believe that?"

"You have to. You owe me that."

"What the hell are you talking about?"

Zoisite placed his hand on his chest.

"For killing me with your crescent beam."

"It didn't kill you. It had just turned you into a stone again."

"But it hurt anyway."

"Oh, please, don't be so sniveling."

And then suddenly he was standing before her. He grabbed her by her shoulders and pressed his lips on hers. First Minako was unable to do anything. But then she started to fidget. She pushed him away and gave him a resounding slap in the face.

Zoisite flinched a little, but his gaze did not waver; and suddenly, Minako saw him as he really was. There was no shadow in his eyes anymore; his gaze was all clear now. It was really him Zoisite. Her Zoisite.

She couldn't hold back. She stepped towards him, wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him intimately and intensely. He reciprocated, holding her tightly. They slammed against the wall behind Minako. Still embracing, still kissing. Trying to regain the thousands of years they had lost.

Finally Zoisite placed one last kiss on her lips.

"You really haven't changed," he whispered.

Minako felt how tears were running down her cheeks again, but she didn't care.

"I thought you had forgotten..." she sobbed.

Zoisite dried her tears away and smiled.

"You were the first thing I've remembered when I reawakened. You and... this."

He reached out his right hand, and in it there appeared the small music box she had given him long ago.

Minako looked at it in disbelief, and then gazed at the place where her supposed box was still lying on the ground, broken into pieces.

"Did you really think that I would use something so... precious for the mission?" Zoisite asked, and carefully placed it on the bedside table.

Minako started to sob again and burrowed her face in his shoulders.

Please, don't let it be another dream, she begged, and to convince herself once more she looked up again. Yes, it was him, and tears were glittering in those blue eyes that were so clear now.

"I've missed you like hell," he whispered.

She embedded her fingers in his hair and kissed him. "You have no idea how much I did," she finally answered.

He took her face in his hands and placed his forehead against hers.

"Take these stupid things off," Minako said, and poked at his gloves. "You know I hate them."

Zoisite laughed softly and did as she said. Then he started to caress her face. First her forehead, her lids, her cheeks, her chin; just as if he, too, had to convince himself that this wasn't a dream. His thumbs ran over her lips, followed by his mouth.

"It was you," Minako said between his kisses, "who'd been observing me, right?"

"I'm sorry," he answered, "I didn't want to scare you."

"You didn't scare me. You drove me crazy." They both laughed. After a long pause and various kisses, she finally asked: "Why didn't you come earlier?"

.

Zoisite sighed and hugged her again. Was this really true? Was he really holding his beloved finally in his arms again? Or would he soon open his eyes to realize that his mind had tricked him once more?

"Zoisite?"

Venus' soft voice reminded him that she had asked him something. He kissed her hair and leaned his cheek on it. "Because I thought... you had forgotten me."

Her grip became stronger. "Do you remember anything about what you did before I..."

He suddenly had to laugh. "Before you killed me? Yes, I do."

She looked up at him, her deep, brown eyes burning into his heart and soul just the way they had the day he saw her for the first time. "So you remember that day you reached for me in that car?"

He nodded. How could he forget that? Those days, he had been almost obsessed by her without knowing the reason. Beryl's curse had imposed upon him the desire to kill her because Venus - Sailor V at that time - was the supposed Princess. But deep inside him, he had felt that there was another reason for his obsession.

"On that day, I remembered."

Zoisite closed his eyes in pain. She remembered so long ago? "I'm sorry," he said sadly, "Beryl's curse was very strong. I never wanted..."

She placed her fingers on his lips and smiled. "I'm not blaming you. Not anymore."

He leaned forward to kiss her soft lips again.

"And the fake box?"

He couldn't help but laugh out loud. "I hoped it would bring back your memories," he explained.

She laughed too now. It was like music to his ears. How he had missed that. Was this real?

"Please," she whispered, "say that this is no dream. Say that this is true."

"I wish I could," he answered honestly, "but it seems too good to be true."

"Well then... let's never wake up."

Zoisite smiled and tightened his embrace. "Agreed." Then they kissed each other again.

A loud knock at the door interrupted them.

"Minako," a voice came from the other side, "the car has just arrived. Are you ready?"

"Oh my god," she whispered, "I'd almost forgotten that I have a show." And then she called: "Just give me five minutes!"

The other person's steps retreated. Venus grew serious now. Her fingers dug into his shoulders. "Zoisite..."

"How long is this going to take?" he asked.

She paused, finally she answered, "Well, the performance lasts about one hour. But I usually make one or two encores, and then afterwards the autographs... I think two hours."

"I'll be here."

"Really?"

"I swear."

He kissed her one last time, long and deep.

Again there was a knock at the door. "Minako, it's time," the same person said, now a little bit impatient.

"I'll be right there," Venus said and kissed Zoisite once more.

"I'll hurry up," she whispered.

"I'll be here," he reassured. It cost all his willpower to let her go.

She walked to the bed and grabbed her bag. Then she paused and looked at the small music box with a smile. "It looks just like the day I gave it to you," she said, and ran her fingertips over it.

"If you want to have it back... I know it means a lot to you."

She looked at him, still smiling. "And that's why I gave it to you." She took it and placed it in his hands. "The two most important things in my life shall be together."

Then she placed one last soft kiss on his lips and walked towards the door. She had already opened it when she looked back at him. "See you later," she said.

Zoisite smiled, pressing the precious little box against his chest. "Definitely," he answered.

She waved, and finally stepped through the door and closed it behind her.

xxxxxxxxxxxxx

Kanami fidgeted in her chair.

"Isn't that exciting, Momoko?" she asked, "Soon we'll see Aino Minako live on stage!"

Momoko nodded and looked around. All seats had been taken now, and an expectant mood hovered over the crowd. Suddenly somebody shouted: "Minako!"

Other persons from the audience went with the mood until there was a loud cheer. The people started to stand up and clap their hands. Kanami and Momoko followed their lead.

"Minako, Minako, Minako!" they called.

Suddenly the lights turned off and music resounded from the speakers. Kanami recognized the song "Romance" from its first tone. The lights went on again and flooded the stage, where the musicians were playing.

Aino Minako was standing in the front, flanked by her dancers.

"I love you Baby Baby – Turn off the lights

Baby Baby – Kiss me now

Baby Baby – notice our romance."

Kanami screamed in excitement. She jumped to the rhythm of the song and sang with Minako. In her mind she was on the stage too, beside Minako, singing with her, dancing with her.

The change in Minako's voice awakened Kanami from her daydream. The music was still playing, but Minako didn't sing anymore. Kanami frowned. She hadn't forgotten the lyrics, did she?

Then she saw how Minako paused and suddenly fell to the ground, where she rested motionlessly.

"What is going on?" Kanami asked Momoko in shock.

"I... don't know," her friend answered, growing pale now.

The audience was upset too, screaming Minako's name around. Then the curtain fell down and a voice was heard from the speakers: "Dear audience. Due to an unexpected circumstance Aino Minako won't be able to continue her concert. We apologize. Please keep your tickets to obtain a refund. Thank you."

Kanami sat down and sulked.

"Man," she groused, "I was finally able to get a ticket for an Aino Minako concert, and now this."

"I wonder if she's all right," Momoko said worriedly.

"What the heck," Kanami answered and stood up to follow the leaving crowd. The hall emptied more and more. Finally, when the last person had left, the lights were turned off.

All that remained was silence and darkness.