It is not death which divides us anymore. We are together, forever, as I had once desired. But Fate has a way of twisting our wishes to mock us and our desires.
"So, tell me, what was he like?" Idle talk, deceptively casual. He toys with a strand of yellow hair, the colour of the shore we walk along.
A stillness falls over me. "You said you wouldn't ask."
He shrugs, as if the question means nothing to him, but his mouth is set in a thin line; an expression too familiar to me. "Never mind. It doesn't matter." He is sulking, and he knows that I know.
The silence swells. I am irritated that he has chosen to bring this subject up, when it can only open wounds. But Zoisite has always been one to stir up the fire. He will never leave well enough alone.
"Endymion was just a tool," I say at last. "An unreliable tool at that. He was worse than even you were at following orders."
"You worked with him closely, didn't you?"
I reach out a hand, stroking Zoisite's fine hair. "He was Beryl's darling, not mine."
"So you say." His eyes are cat-slits, green and venomous.
"Jealousy doesn't suit you, Zoisite," I say. It's an old line, and I'm sure he realises it too. Like the trick with the conjured rose--he allows himself to be placated, tolerating in me what he would not endure from anyone else.
Usually, that is. Not this time.
He pulls away from my touch. "You didn't avenge me. Maybe you didn't miss me."
"Zoisite..." He knew the stakes, dammit. The choices we make exact their price, and the price of disobedience is high. Mortals may be willing to die for love. That is their folly. But Zoisite and I... what we shared was not even love, surely. It was a pairing of convenience, of mutual self-interest. We never said anything about eternal devotion.
But with his dying breath, he had whispered it: I have always loved you. The words had struggled past bloodless lips, but they were as clear as morning.
I never asked for this. I don't need to be fettered by the chains of affection. Why did the little fool pursue his forbidden vendetta against the Queen's own orders? Was he trying to impress me? Did he face death to win my favour?
My thoughts barely shadow my face, but he has learned to read me well. His smile would send lions fleeing. "Guilt doesn't suit you, Kunzite."
I'd lost him once, and that had been as near to death as I'd felt outside of dying. Now I'd died only to find I was losing him again.
"What do you want me to say?" I ask roughly. "I tried to protect you, but even I can only do so much. You chose to risk the Queen's wrath." Pain wells up as fury and despair. "As for that cursed prince--you were the one who left me behind!"
"Go to hell." He strikes me away, and runs down to the water's edge. I watch him go, a burning spot where he hit me.
Why do I bother? Temperamental and vain, he will never be satisfied with anything. Quick to anger, slow to forgive, and vicious in word and deed. Nephrite had a nickname for him--"little poison-claws". I would not have admitted it to anyone, but it fits perfectly. Why should I care about someone so self-centred?
But--he had protected me, that time we fought against the sailor senshi. The time when I was wounded by Sailor Venus' crescent beam. I still remember the golden fire knifing across my hands, slicing through nerve and tendon. My spells had crumbled with my shattered concentration; all my defences were down. But Zoisite had barred the way with his own body. He'd told me to make my escape while he stayed behind to hold back pursuit. In the end, we'd escaped together. But he had been willing to bleed for me.
I follow him to the water's edge.
He is staring out into the blackness, the sea so dark I cannot tell where it meets the starless sky. It is like a void, as terrible and empty as the desolate place in my heart the first night without him.
His face is damp from salt spray, and the wind has tangled his beautiful hair. His eyes are blindly fixed on an imaginary horizon. "What do you want now?"
I hesitate. Apology is weakness; it is an admission of failure. For those of the Dark Kingdom, failure means death. But there are worse things than death, I have discovered. Loneliness is one of them.
I lay a hand on his shoulder. He turns his head away. "Zoisite," I say softly. "Please forgive me. I need you. I need you like I need sunlight."
"Do you? Really? Or do you just need someone to warm your bed? To follow you around with adoring eyes? Hell, Kunzite, what did you do for fun before I came along?"
"Nothing." Suddenly bone-weary, I have no more masks. "I had nothing before you came along, and I had nothing after you went away. If you hate me now, I will have nothing for the rest of eternity. And I won't even be able to die."
He looks at me at last. The expression in his eyes cuts me. At first I think it is anger, but then I realise what I'm seeing is deep hurt--a pain that the callous exterior no longer hides.
"I thought you didn't love me," he whispers. His voice cracks.
"So did I." My own voice is none too steady as I trace a hand down his face. Salt spray, and salt tears. "But I was wrong." I draw him towards me, and this time he does not pull away from my embrace. We stand like that, holding each other, for a long time.
"Never leave me again," he says fiercely. "Never mention him again."
I refrain from mentioning that he was the one who did both of these things. His contradictions are a part of his perverse charm. Instead, I smile a tiger's smile and say, "I won't if you don't."
He seems content with that, for now. He leans against me as we continue to walk along the beach. Behind us, our footsteps stretch endlessly in the sand. Ahead of us, the shore is equally endless. I don't know whether we are condemned to wander here forever, or whether around the next bend is our final resting place.
But I know at least I won't be alone.