By Nasu Hasami
In memory of Isamu, because sometimes Love, does not know Age.
When they met again, he was frail, white haired and wispy. His bones had given in and his skin was sallow from age. His sight had nearly gone, and his voice was burdened and raspy. Yet, his wife could still make him smile.
She was less than half his age, much less. ChibiUsa was young, athletic and still very, very beautiful. She smiled and chatted as she supported him in his later years. There was always with an arm around his waist, her toes pointing his cane in the right direction. Her youth had enchanted her and she didn't see him as he truly was.
'Watch where you're going, old man,' she'd giggle, kissing his wrinkled hand or cheek.
'Heed your elders,' Helios would mutter with a quirk of a smile. 'I walked these halls a thousand times before you were born.'
'And I'll walk them ten thousand times after you're gone!' ChibiUsa would reply, her tones more solemn than sad.
Often, they wouldn't speak after those teasing jests.
Neither of them had expected their lives to have taken the paths they did. Neither of them expected and anticipated that they would have been so far removed from their dreams, as dreamers so often do.
She was only sixteen when he returned, he had been more than seven thousand years old, looking and feeling every day of his wizened age. Still, ChibiUsa's determination to overcome held her to him like the North Star.
'I could care less if you were twelve thousand years old!' She had said one morning, after spoon feeding him his breakfast. 'I made a promise to you and regardless, you're still the man I love!'
Helios had shakily grabbed her hand and kissed her knuckles. 'I could care less if it were the same for you,' he joked, imagining her as an old lady, all sagacious and silver haired. He would have thought her beautiful still, if fate had dealt them inverted cards.
Small Lady had been by his side almost constantly for some reason or another since his frailties began to show. She'd assist him in the library or throughout Court if he needed help. No one protested when she requested they be married.
'I don't mind being a young widow,' she had said to her father, after he had laid the bare truths of their reality to her.
'Please, Papa, just let me be by his side for what time he has left!'
So they were married quietly, and they both knew she would be a widow before her coronation day. Officially, no one knew of their nuptials outside of those in the Palace. Nothing was ever recorded or officially documented. Nothing for posterity was noted. If she were to marry again, on paper at least, she would not be a widow.
'Maybe we'll go together,' ChibiUsa would joke. 'Then, well come back together.'
Helios would pat her hand and smile. He knew, undoubtedly, that he was parting first.
'Maybe we'll be young together, at least once, I hope,' she'd pray at night, listening to his light warbling snoring.
It was a night much like that when he passed, quietly snoring then silent. ChibiUsa stared at his unmoving shape, studying the way the heavy blankets fell over his long body; how fragile and old he looked. It was a moment or two before she realised something was missing. Something that had been there wasn't there anymore. Her hand moved to his lips, and no air brushed against them. Her fingers prodded his neck; his soft skin sliding as she touched the spot she knew was his pulse point. Still. Nothing.
She kissed his cheek before she called for the guards.
'I love you,' six-year-old Helios blushed, kissing the aging Queen's hand. She smiled and nodded, that familiar glint sparkling in her cloudy ruby coloured eyes.
'You take far too many liberties,' she would smirk at the small boy, 'far too many!'
Yet, she was playful with the bashful child, not shy in the least about displaying her favouritism. After all, he was the same child she'd known as a man: the husband of her youth. How cruel fate had been was not lost on her. Her whimsical ways chose to see it as a blessing; at least he could finally have the childhood he had always wanted.
'Any school and university of your choosing,' she had promised his parents, both members of her Court. How he had looked like his father, Serenity had thought. 'Anything he ever needs, it shall be provided for.'
His parents weren't wealthy, and unless gifts were forced upon them they would refuse any such assistance. The man she had remembered had been fastened to traits such as those. He must have held sweet memories of them, his mama and papa.
Helios was only seven when she passed away; when their Queen had gone. She was more than a Queen to him though, more a beloved surrogate grandmother. He would miss her. And it was with a great love that he would remember her, and honour, cherish and adore those memories.
Spring and Summer
'I'm twenty eight,' he said, fussing with paper work, attempting to locate a lost item.
'Nineteen,' the princess blushed, looking around the small office. ChibiUsa couldn't explain why she felt the need to clarify something everybody knew; she just knew that this boy was different. That, and really, she wasn't certain how to start a conversation with her father's high priest. Polite queries seemed the safest option.
'Do you attend university?' Helios asked, remaining preoccupied.
'No,' she mumbled, flushing with embarrassment. 'I'm tutored at home.' She didn't want to admit that she hadn't been bright enough to be accepted to Crystal Tokyo U, and that going anywhere else would have been utterly humiliating.
'I might be able to help with that,' the priest offered, blushing as he looked at her. 'I'm well versed within most of the Arts,' he added. He didn't mention the three dissertations; he thought that might have unnerved her. Regardless, she smiled in acceptance of the offer.
Their study began innocently enough, with a slowly blossoming camaraderie, which, in time, developed into a friendship. Occasionally they would joke about each other's love lives, or lack thereof. For the most part, hers was questionable at best and his was non-existent. Then, somewhere, those jesting jabs turned into pats and brushes, and those brushings into caresses and petting, and that lead to a much more physical study than one that involved books.
It wasn't long before Helios told her he loved her. She didn't respond, not immediately. Something about that moment had struck a chord with her and frightened her. Something vaguely remembered and faintly familiar, yet, it was strange and new. It was almost like a ghost had whispered by her, or a past life had momentarily fluttered before her.
Three days of anxiety passed, and she went to him, offering him all of her being. She was sorry for the pain and the hurt she had caused, because she had loved him too, and she didn't know what had spooked her in that moment. She offered him more than she had ever offered anyone.
However, as his ethics dictated, his duties to the priesthood and his honour for her family declined him that offer. Helios told her it wouldn't change his love for her and that seemed to calm her wavering heart.
'I want to,' he had said, kneeling before her, taking her hands in his own. 'But I think it's important that we wait. I would like to share myself only with my wife, and I'd hope that she would feel the same about me.'
It wasn't intended to lead to a proposal. He was just being himself, being honest with her; being a man that the late Queen would have been proud of. ChibiUsa treasured him all the more for it, why, she couldn't say.
They grew together, sometimes in love, and sometimes not quite so. He was nearly thirty one when he married her, and she the blushing princess-bride, was glowing with something more than pride on that day. A secret they could only keep for so long; a promise broken and a new promise made.
Ghosts weren't remembered, but they were never completely forgotten, never completely forgotten.