dedication: happy Christmas, Les.
title: under a blood moon
summary: There's a storm coming. — Rei/Jadeite.
The bell tolls at the Catholic school that Rei used to attend. She watches the children file out, laughing, laughing, so young and laughing. She was never like that, not even when she was their age.
Rei was never a child.
And now she is a woman without a childhood and fire in her palms on good days. On bad days, she doesn't really know who she is, and she clings to Usagi and Minako and Ami and Makoto because they are the only things holding her down. Her friends are her sisters are her anchors. They keep her grounded when she's about to explode.
She waits patiently behind the tinted windows of her car. It's the end of the day, and her princess is still inside—Rei sits quietly with her hands folded in her lap and does not honk.
The fact that Usagi teaches at her old school is a source of never-ending amusement to the Senshi of Fire.
Another ten minutes pass.
Rei will give her another five before she locks the doors to the car and goes to find her herself. It's cold out, early December. Her breath comes out solid when she rolls the window down and cranes her neck out, long dark hair spilling over her shoulder and outside.
There is no sign of Usagi.
Rei leaves the car heels first, striking red leather heels first then black suit pants then suit jacket and red scarf and long black hair. Mars simmers under her skin, furious as ever, and desperate to find the once and future queen before something terrible happens to her. Usagi attracts trouble unlike anyone else Rei has ever known, and it would be a terrible pain to have to explain to Minako that she'd been slacking off on her duty.
Honestly, Rei doesn't even want to think about what she would have to say to Mamoru.
No, it's better that she just finds her silly princess and gets her home while the sun is still out—or at least there's still light in the sky, because Tokyo is always grey in winter.
Rei shivers, and draws her coat closer around her shoulders.
This school has so few good memories attached to it.
She thinks of the nuns in their black habits with their stony faces and dead hearts, and doesn't dare wonder how religion is dying. Usagi is life and light and she does not belong in this place.
But it is what she wants, and Rei will not question it.
They don't have much time left.
The freeze is coming. Rei can feel it in the Sacred Fire; she can feel it in her fingers, too. Even the air is more frigid than it should be, this time of year—it is unseasonably cold. Ami's working fast, she knows, to find something that will keep them all in a state of suspended animation. And though they all know that she will find it (one of the few benefits of time travel, she thinks grimly), it doesn't stop any of them from worrying.
They have a world to protect, and Mamoru is weakening by the day.
He'll live through the freeze, but that doesn't mean he'll be the same at the end of it.
Rei's heels click impressively against the asphalt.
She doesn't have time for this.
The doors open before she gets there, and Usagi tumbles out giggling, followed by a man with blond hair and eyes the colour of a kerosene fire. He looks amused, and everything about him sets Rei to bristling.
"Usagi-chan!" she calls, before the man can touch her princess and ruin everything.
Usagi turns, and her eyes are wider and bluer than the entire sky in summer. "Rei-chan! Rei-chan, you have to—c'mere! Look who I found!"
Rei catches her on the fly. Usagi's always been the type to launch herself at people whether they're ready or not. Everyone that cares for the princess has come to the simple conclusion that it is always best to be on guard when she's around.
The ring on Usagi's finger glints, and Rei breathes out relief.
"Hello," Rei says.
"You must be Hino-san," he says. His voice is accented, though Rei cannot pinpoint from where. He looks at her with those laughing blue eyes, impossibly bright, impossibly intelligent, impossibly knowing.
Fear rears its ugly head. Rei's arms close tight around Usagi's waist. It's been a near-decade since she's seen that face; from far away he doesn't look anything like the Jadeite she'd killed when she was fourteen, but up close the resemblance makes her want to vomit.
"He knows, Rei-chan, he knows! He's—Mamo-chan is going to be so happy," Usagi whispers in her ear, Christmas bulb-excited, lit up all the way with Makoto's electricity. She's so bright and this is totally normal, this is so normal that all Rei can do is sigh and acquiesce.
She looks at him over Usagi's shoulder, and thinks of him burning.
The Silver Millennium is still foggy, and sometimes Rei's heart aches with it. She catches that place only in dim memories and sometime-dreams, and they slip through her fingers like sand.
His face, stretched out and screaming when she's fourteen blurs into now blurs into a million moons ago, hiding in the shadow of a pillar with his mouth on her throat.
Rei knows him.
And Rei knows he knows she knows, which only makes it worse. She's not sure she should look him in the eye, and Usagi babbles in her ear from far, far away.
"Let's take him home, Rei-chan, please?"
"You make him sound like a dog," Rei muttered grumpily in reply. "Get in the car, we have things to do."
"He's coming, though, right?"
"If he decides to tell me his name and his intentions, I'll think about it," Rei replies, loud enough for him to hear.
She watches the scalpel-smile that cuts across his face, and she thinks I have made stupid decisions before, but this one might actually be the stupidest.
"Jakob Pavlenko, at your service," he says, lips twitching. He stares between her and her princess. She thinks there's longing in his eyes, though Rei couldn't tell for whom. He's Russian, then, that would explain the accent. It's very slight, and she would be impressed if she wasn't feeling so sick.
"Pleased to meet you," she says.
The lie is ash on her tongue.
She doesn't want to hear his reply; there will be one, but she thinks that that is Jadeite all over. Rei herds Usagi to the car, instead, and sticks her into the passenger seat. It's not much, but for now it will do—this way, she can still send up a barrier of fire to scorch him to death if he tries anything.
Rei turns the keys in the ignition.
She carefully ignores the sinking in her stomach.
"I don't remember you," she says. "Not really."
She thinks Mars keeps the memories back because they hurt too much. Betrayal still doesn't sit right with the woman nor the senshi, and it's hard to think that he's standing here in front of her without any comeuppance.
Maybe living in the dark for a thousand-plus years was his penance.
Rei doesn't really know.
"I remember you," he says in reply.
The balcony of Mamoru's apartment is barely big enough for two people. Rei's hair spills over the railing in a single dark swing, uniformly perfect. "What was I like?"
"What kind of compliment is that?"
He chuckles. "It isn't."
"You're not funny," Rei says.
"What're you talking about, I'm hilarious."
The moon is red with the streetlamps on the horizon, a round bloody sphere hanging silent in the middle of the sky. There was a palace there, once, and an entire civilization. Her memories and the Fire tell her that much—who she is is not a lie.
Everything else is, though.
At night like this, the freeze is closer than ever. There is a storm coming.
It's either going to consume them, or it's going to consume everything else.
The Senshi of Fire revels in the thought of the destruction. Rei does, too, but not quite as much. The world's going to be a cold place for a very long time. Even the Sacred Fire might not last.
"I've seen it," she says. Looks at her hands clenched around the railing, coughs, looks at the sky. Anywhere but the man standing to her left. "The freeze. I've seen it in the Fire."
"Does that happen often? Seeing things."
There's a strange curiosity in his voice. Rei thinks he wants Mars, wants to know Mars, wants to talk to Mars, but Mars and Rei are one, so that point is moot. She is cool in her delivery. "All the time."
She wouldn't trade it for all the stars in the sky.
Though knowing the when and the how would be very much appreciated, thanks, she thinks, sardonic.
"So now you're seeing things. Sounds unhealthy, Rei," he laughs.
Her eyes flash at the mention of her first name without honorific and his mockery of what has been her entire life for a very long time. "And you're hanging out in some strangers apartment because you have memories that couldn't possibly be real, hm?"
"Hey, hey, I meant no disrespect," he said, hands raised.
"Of course you didn't," Rei replied. "Foreigner who wouldn't know manners if they hit him in the face."
He's about to bite back—this is how they were, she thinks suddenly, this is how Jadeite and Mars must have been all the time, all on fire and star-crossed—but she reaches for the door before the words leave his mouth.
"Goodnight, Jakob-san," she says quietly, tilting her head forward.
The door seems to ice over under her fingertips, and then it recedes.
Rei almost smiles into the glass.
She still closes the door behind her.