It was rare, she thought, to find the Moon Palace so quiet. She shivered in the cold night air but did not move. It was not an unpleasant change, the silence almost matching the icy air. Her arms were wrapped around her knees, her arms exposed to the cold, as she stared up at the Earth, a shining blue and green orb in the middle of the night sky, humming tunelessly, quietly, to herself.
She could feel it, too – the darkness that was choking the Earth. If she closed her eyes, she could see it; the strands of evil, ugly black fingers with the rural planet almost in its grasp.
She wondered if they could see the evil spreading from Venus or Mercury, if they understood what was coming for them. She decided she didn't really care, and looked back up into the bottomless night sky.
Hotaru heard the French doors leading to the balcony swing open, and she wondered who had come to find her, escort her back to her suite. Nothing seemed to unnerve Queen Selenity so, as the idea of her being unsupervised within the Moon Palace. She twisted around, prepared for whichever poor, nervous soul had been ordered to her side.
The whole thing rather amused her. And – even thought she would never show it – the person before her surprised her.
General Jadeite stood before her in his pristine Terran uniform, looking startled. That wasn't unusual; people always looked startled when they laid eyes upon her. Even as a child, she had had an unnerving manner which she now attributed to the dormant Saturn power. Now, with her whole mind and power, she could shake people to their very core with a single glance.
"General." Her voice was soft and sweet, yet not welcoming, as she looked back up at the sky.
"Princess Saturn." He bowed stiffly. "I did not mean to disturb you – I had arranged to meet Lady Mars here, and I mistook yourself for her in the darkness." He stayed in the doorway, the door still open, as if he was planning an escape route.
"It's rather late to be arranging meetings, no?" Hotaru's fingers curled around her necklace; an orb of amethyst that had once been her mother's. She did not look back at him. She did not need to.
"It was at Lady Mars' request, and I am quite incapable of refusing her whim," Jadeite replied with an easy grin. "I apologize for the interruption and will leave you…"
"You may stay," she turned her head, blinking slowly. "Wait for the Lady Mars. Tonight is your final night, yes?"
"Yes." He closed the door gently, but did not relax.
"Returning to Earth," she mused, stretching her legs out in front of her. "By morning, only the royal city will remain untouched to the Dark Kingdom's forces."
"Unfortunately, yes. The refugees…" Jadeite ran his hand through his hair and moved to the railing of the balcony, leaning over. "Only a fraction of people will have survived the attacks on the outer-lying regions, and yet, where will those people go? The city is large, but not large enough."
Hotaru smiled to herself; amused and sad all at once. "General, should the survivors remain unscathed from the Dark Kingdom's attack, I will happily pledge assistance to the cause on behalf of my planet."
Jadeite looked at her, almost amused. "A very kind thought, Princess, but that's quite a bill you'd run up on behalf of your planet. Probably leave those sorts of declarations to your mama."
"My mother is dead."
"My mother's consort ended up being a rogue and a traitor." Her voice was matter-of-fact; she seemed so much younger now, without a mother or father, without the shadows in her eyes, in her bare feet and cheeks that had been flushed the lightest pink from the cold. Jadeite leant against the railing and studied the girl before him, with her black hair pinned off her face, the girlish dress that she wore, way her fingers twisted around the necklace she wore.
Shaking his head, he looked out over the balcony, at the gardens that seemed almost ghostly in the starlight. "There isn't a King or Queen of Saturn?" he asked.
A dark look fell over Hotaru's face. "I am the Queen of Saturn, and have been acknowledged as such by my own planet since I was sixteen," she said icily. "Queen Selenity refuses to accept my title, and will continue to do so for a long time."
"Why?" Jadeite was, despite himself, interested. No doubt the planet of Saturn acknowledged the girl before him out of fear for her power, for her potential, rather than honor or love of her. Here was the dark side of the Silver Millennium, a teenage girl with a crown and the power of death, with war in her eyes, and planets cowering in her wake.
Hotaru was watching him as if she could hear every one of his thoughts. "Because she is frightened; she sees too many of her own aspirations in me, perhaps. She sees words and titles along the same lines as power, control and order. As long as she can deal with me as my superior, she is safe. She fears facing me as her peer, her equal."
"Forgive me, but I do not believe you will ever be seen as an equal, Lady Saturn," Jadeite threw back at her. "You are not like the other Queens. They were never senshi."
"And you threaten them."
She glowered at him. "Pardon me, General?"
Jadeite turned around. "You are all dark words, dark looks. You do not smile or laugh. Everything you say sounds more like a riddle, like a threat."
Hotaru stood, sliding her shoes back on. "General Kunzite's large pet cat…"
"Bengal, who is a tiger," Jadeite corrected, amused at the sudden change of topic.
"Yes. I heard General Kunzite found him as a kitten-"
"Please stop interrupting me, General," Hotaru said testily. "Found him when he was very young and hand-reared him."
"I assume that General Kunzite was gentle with him, firm when training him, that he was never scared or hurt?" At Jadeite's look, Hotaru shook her head. "This is not about General Kunzite. Humor me."
"Kunzite trained him very carefully, so that he would defend us or the Prince if necessary, but be entirely safe to be around. Tigers are predators, well-known for their hunting skills."
Hotaru smiled, but it seemed almost bitter. "Bengal was potentially a dangerous animal, yes? It was all in how he was handled – if he had been found by someone else as an older cat, someone who was fearful of him and tried to beat him down, he would have attacked and possibly killed, yes?"
"Hypothetically? Yes," Jadeite said, now thoroughly confused.
The doors to the balcony opened, and the Princess of Mars stepped out, looking suspiciously in Hotaru's direction.
"General, I apologize for my lateness," Princess Rei said, curtsying. "I hope I wasn't interrupting anything?"
Hotaru shook her head. "Not at all, Rei. I was merely expressing my interested to General Jadeite that if General Kunzite ever decided to breed his delightful pet, that I would be very interested in one for myself." Hotaru walked away, slipping through the French doors without a good-bye, leaving the pair alone on the balcony.
"Princess Hotaru seemed lonely," Jadeite remarked to Rei as he pulled her into his arms. "I mistook her for you in the shadows. It was only polite to stay and wait for you to arrive."
Rei murmured her assent, and as he bent to kiss the Martian Princess, Jadeite thought he saw a pair of violet eyes staring at him through the glass doors, in the darkness of the room beyond.