Blue and Flowers
"I...lost my virginity to a jerk," Naru said softly. The numbers on her clock were flinking red towards something too late, and her white sheets were tangled and damp, and she was perched on the edge of her bed in nothing but a little camisole, with that hot, oozy feeling down there after making love. "We were drunk. And I woke up the next morning thinking, 'I'm horrible. I'm such a slut.' I'd always wanted it to mean something, you know? I'd wanted it to be with somebody I loved. But I'd thrown it away. And then I figured, why bother anymore? I'd already wasted my chance. So I started sleeping around with boys." She paused, looked down at the floor, shoulders hunched up to her ears. "I'm sorry. I don't usually say stuff like this. I just...thought you should know. I'm sorry."
She sneaked a peek over at him, sitting up all naked against her headboard, legs splayed, wound up in sheets that made his skin look like gold. He was wearing the confused expression, all cute bewilderment. He had one of three expressions most of the time, she'd noticed--the confused one, and smiling, which made him look warm and handsome, and a sort of solemn blank stare, which made him look hangdog and withdrawn and a little childish. Tonight she'd found a fourth, lust, and on him it was flushed and wide-eyed and startlingly pretty. But now he just looked puzzled.
"You're so nice," she whispered, feeling like an idiot even as the words fell from her lips, because it was why she'd wanted to tell him. Because he was the only guy who hadn't made her feel like a slut.
"Thanks," she heard him say. "And...it's okay. Really."
She looked slowly back over to him, and he was smiling now.
"I mean," he added, "I sleep around with boys too..."
Naru went bug-eyed and nearly fell off the bed.
That was the thing about Hanako, she'd noticed. Sometimes he said the strangest things.
When Usagi-chan and Mako-chan had first introduced them, at Mako-chan's wedding, it had taken her at least half an hour to get over his eyes.
His hair, she figured, was just bleached, though really well, and how he got those curls to stay in was a mystery, and one a lot of girls would kill for. And the equally golden tone to the little hairs on his arms was a trick of the afternoon light, and could be ignored because his eyebrows were dark. But she knew contacts, and those brilliant blue eyes were natural. And he was Japanese, she could tell. And that was...impossible.
It had taken her half an hour to get over his smile, too, and the muscles in his arms under his t-shirt, but that was just because the one warmed her heart and the other warmed...other things. And it's not like he talked any more than most boys, and he was pretty short and often silly, but he wasn't a jerk, and his hands were very warm, and because she'd turned into a slut, it was okay to reach for the zipper of his pants late one night without even being drunk, and he just grinned when she did.
By then she'd spent enough time with him to write him off as...just strange. Or special. Or something. He never talked about his past, at least not in any way that made sense, and said such odd things at times, and no matter the light, his eyes were always blue. Hanako was exempt from normality, some sweet magic boy from somewhere else entirely, and eventually she'd just given up, tried not to think too much about it, and leaned back in his inhumanly strong arms when he kissed her.
But the hair round his privates, curling as golden as the hair on his head, still scared her a little.
He wanted to make people happy, was what it came down to, it seemed. Naru felt that strange lifting feeling in her stomach, as she so often did around him, as he fumbled his way through trying to explain...sex, and why he did it, and with boys too, and there was no shame in his voice. If he had been a girl, or even a normal boy, she would have been scandalized, would have denounced him as a terrible dirty slut, but he wasn't, he was just Hanako, so everything was somehow okay.
Two nights later, they made love again, and this time he softly asked her to lie back and spread her legs and just relax, for pity's sake, Naru, and then stroked her all over, and licked and nuzzled until she was warm and squirmy and wet, and finally settled in for the first good oral sex she'd ever gotten, until she was floating and screaming unawares and coming again and again with his hands steadying her shaking hips against his face.
"There," he said after, wiping his mouth with a smugger version of the smile than she'd seen before. "That was fun. Oy, my jaw's sore, I'm out of practice..."
And it was Hanako, so he was entitled to his weirdness, and it had felt so good she couldn't possibly argue, and could only feel a little guilty about it.
"Have you ever," she asked him slowly, late another night, "loved somebody?"
There was another expression she hadn't seen on him: quiet and faraway and wistful, and his eyes went downcast.
"Once," he said quietly.
"What was she like? Or--or he, I suppose--"
"No, she." He shook his head with a little chuckle. "She was much older than me, and very lonely."
"How did you meet? What happened?" She pressed him without even meaning to; she wanted to know, not so she could be jealous, not so she could take notes, but just because she wondered who could capture the heart of a boy who slept with all his friends and didn't feel ashamed.
"It's..." He looked down at the mattress for a long while. "Complicated. Have you ever had a time in your life when everything was just...like you weren't yourself for a while, and everything was sort of one long nightmare, and you did horrible things and didn't care?"
She stared at him, baffled, and for the first time scared of him, not because of that hair or eyes, but because she couldn't possibly have imagined him doing anything bad. Really bad, not just dirty bad. Drugs, she thought vaguely? And then she thought of the night she'd tried to forget, and Usagi, spilling out her heart about crystals and soldiers and Princesses, and thought that there were things which were too strange to be but too true not to be, and maybe he was like Usagi, somehow, though she prayed he wasn't.
"She was there while I was like that," he went on. "It was mostly her fault. And she was doing horrible things too...but only because nobody loved her. She was so lonely, and everybody else hated her. I guess I was the only one who could see it. So I stayed with her when nobody else did, and loved her. I haven't seen her in a few years though, ever since...that time ended. I'm pretty sure she's dead, but I don't know."
Naru just sat in the long silence after that, as Hanako twisted his hands.
"I'm so sorry," she whispered at last, because he was Hanako, he was like nobody else, and however weird all that was, all that mattered was that he'd loved somebody and she was probably dead. "What was her name?"
"Funny sort of name," Naru murmured.
Hanako just laughed a short, peculiar laugh.
He always came to her place, the tiny tidy apartment her mother paid for. He lived in a big house far out by train with three of Mamoru's other friends, two of whom also had funny-colored hair, and Naru had long dismissed even the thought of asking. He usually left, alone, late in the morning after she'd obsessively showered and they'd quietly talked, and even if the trains weren't running, he'd say he'd be fine, and if there was no sign of him on the sidewalk outside after the door closed, well, he was Hanako, and he always came back.
One night she caught his arm as he rose and whispered, "please, stay," so he spooned up beside her and they slept together, his arm thrown over her and she holding it tight and a little afraid that she was starting to fall in love with him.
She had nightmares of fire and a star etched in midair with a blue sword, of crystal light and white lace and cold, cold eyes, and she woke sweaty and bewildered, throwing his arm off, reaching for the light. She hadn't had those dreams in years. He blinked up at her, bleary, curls falling into his eyes, asked her what had happened, stroked her back.
"Sorry," she whispered, sitting on the edge of the bed. "I had a friend once. Still do, I mean, but once she was...turning into somebody. Somebody else. She didn't even know who I was, she hurt me just because I was in her way..." She held her head. "Serenity, she called her, like she was somebody nice, but she wasn't, she was just a monster...I'm sorry, you must think I'm insane..." Why would he? she thought; he's Hanako. But she thought she was insane by now.
"You met Serenity?" she heard him whisper, shock in his voice.
She froze, then turned slowly to look at him, and his blue eyes were very wide in the lamplight.
"I didn't know you knew," he whispered. "Anything. You met Serenity?"
Her mind clicked. Just clicked. One misplaced memory back where it should be. And she knew, suddenly, where she'd seen him before. Normal hair growing out like magic into those yellow curls. Eyes changing color after a flash of serpent green. His clothing changing from lime jacket to military black and gold, just as Usagi's clothing had changed. The man at her mother's jewelry show, so many years ago. The monster. You did horrible things, and didn't care.
"Who are you?" she breathed, stiff with fear.
It took him hours to explain. The story unfolded, unraveled. He was from...billions, she thought, of years in the past. The past life; immortality; the Prince and Serenity, this and that, and so much she'd heard from Usagi. And Beryl, and the curse; and his old friends, and all their fighting, and they were the boys he slept around with. Everything fit together, everything made sense, and everything was so much pain, and death, and power.
She looked at him differently now. He was ancient. He could throw lightning from his fingers. He even transformed into his uniform, at her request; she fingered the filigree of the shoulderpiece, the silk of the cape, hesitant, because he looked both magnificently attractive and rather scary.
But he still had just the same smile, just the same puppydog stare.
"What's your real name?" she asked, after a while, because she'd forgotten to. One of the Shitennou; Kunzite, Zoisite, Nephrite, funny sorts of names; who was he?
"Jadeite," she echoed, and thought Hanako suited him better.
It took her a while to get used to it, but in the end it meant he didn't have to lie about himself, and she did have to call him Jadeite, and she could visit him at home. The other Shitennou trod light around her. Jadeite must have told them, she thought, that she'd met Serenity, knew everything, but they were still, he said, pretty nervous about humans. Kunzite made himself scarce, which she was silently happy for, as he terrified her, and Zoisite seemed to only exist in the parlor at the piano. Nephrite she saw more of, but he was still all silent and grumbly.
They were all as handsome as Jadeite--no, Kunzite more so, but in a way that made her weak in her knees and frightened, and Zoisite was just more beautiful than most girls she knew. They all radiated power. But Jadeite was the only one who smiled--because Kunzite didn't smile, he smirked, and Zoisite and Nephrite never seemed to smile at all--and Jadeite was the only one who laughed. She held his hand and was glad for him, and tried not to imagine him kissing them--because they, she knew, were the boys he slept around with.
She tip-toed off alone to the bathroom once, and through the parlor door she heard, "...foolish of the boy. Bad enough that Nephrite's dallying with a human. That girl's not even a senshi. I wish Master would let me put a stop to it."
"You can't control him, Kunzite," came a voice so soft it had to be Zoisite's. "For all intents and purposes, we're human now as well. He has a right to what he wishes. And you know how he is."
"Yes--he sees something pretty, he has to play with it. Fine. But why does he have to take it home and keep it?"
She flinched, and ran the rest of the way down the hall, and stayed further from Kunzite after that.
"Is it...is it okay, for you to be dating a human?" she asked him quietly later that day.
He blinked at her. "Um, did Kunzite say something?"
She didn't answer, but with the way she looked away, she guessed she might as well have.
"He thinks we shouldn't be...well, he wouldn't say dating, but he thinks we shouldn't be dating outside the Shitennou. He's just being an ass. He does that sometimes."
"Oh." She swallowed. "I'm sorry, to cause trouble for you--"
"Don't be," he said, firmly, and touched her cheek. "It's my business."
One day, a cloudy gray day with cold light and no rain, she dropped by alone, and when she rang the bell, nobody answered. Perhaps they're out, she thought; where? Perhaps they're all playing with each other, she thought, and, well, Zoisite was beautiful enough that the thought isn't entirely unwelcome, and her mind did strange things when she imagined Jadeite kissing him, and the Jadeite in her mind smiled at her and brushed his hands through Zoisite's hair, and Naru blinked it away and decided he's been a bad influence.
Who is he? she thought. And who am I, to still be with him now? And do I love him? And will it ever rain and get it over with?
Another woman, older, was walking slowly down the street, counting houses, until she came to a stop next to Naru. She wore somber, well-tailored black, and her heels clicked on the pavement; she carried a large handbag and a bouquet of blue flowers, and her sleek black hair was swept up. She had soulful dark eyes and perfectly lined red lips, and wore a necklace of jade, and looked sad.
She rang the doorbell too, and there was still no answer.
"Excuse me," Naru said, hesitant. "I'm sorry. I've been here a while and nobody's answered."
"I see," the woman said softly. "Perhaps I have the wrong house. Do four strange men live here?"
"Very strange," Naru said, with a little bit of a smile. "You know them?"
The woman regarded her with a hint of disbelief and...disdain? "You know them?"
"The Shitennou," Naru said, after a moment.
"Yes," the woman echoed softly. "The Shitennou. But how would you know?"
"I...picked stuff up. I met Serenity." The woman's eyes went wide with a flash of dull anger and fear. "By accident, years ago. And then I started dating Jadeite. I thought he was human, for a while, until everything came out..."
She trailed off at the terrible, mournful cast that had come over the older woman's face, the way her perfectly manicured fingers loosened round the stems of the bouquet.
Her mind clicked.
"You're Beryl," she breathed. "You're the woman he loved."
Beryl just looked at her in silence for a long while, and her hand tightened again on the flowers. There was a wedding ring, expensive.
"Is that...really what he said?" she asked at last, softly.
"Yes," Naru said, because it was true, and because the one word warmed something deep in those sad, cold eyes. "I promise you."
"Then who are you?"
"I'm just a human girl. Because he's Jadeite, and he likes making girls happy...likes making people happy. He loves me as much as he loves everybody, I guess." She shrugged, then looked down, awkward. "I don't know whether you know that about him, because...because of the curse and all. He's just like that. But he said you were something special." She bit her lip. "He thinks you're dead."
Beryl closed her eyes for a moment, as if in pain, then laughed softly, bitterly. "I was, for a while. I came back to life as a human. That can happen, when people like us die. My powers were taken from me. I took a human husband, to support me." She stopped, as if catching herself. "No bother with that." She hesitated, and offered the bouquet to Naru. "Could you please give these to him?"
Naru floundered. "You--you could wait with me, until they come back..."
Beryl dropped her gaze. "No. I've lost my courage, I'm afraid. If Kunzite saw me, he'd probably kill me." She said it so matter-of-fact that Naru barely registered it for a moment, then shuddered suddenly. "Not that I'd mind," she went on, still terribly calm, "but I'm a coward, and I'd like to see Jadeite first."
She fumbled in her purse.
"Here. My husband's business card, if he chooses to contact me. Will you--would you mind telling him I was here?"
Naru just looked at her for a moment, the woman Jadeite loved, the woman who'd cursed him, who'd tried to take over the world, then took the card and smiled. "Of course. He'll be glad. That you're alive, I mean."
Beryl half-turned to leave, then stopped.
"May I ask your name?"
"Her friend. Of course. Thank you, Osaka-san." Beryl bowed slightly. "Take care of him."
"Of course," Naru said, and broke out into a smile in spite of herself, and Beryl left, and she was alone on the quiet street.
She sat on the curb as it began to rain, and turned the flowers over in her hands, and imagined what Jadeite might say when she told him, and realized that the sweet-smelling little blossoms were exactly the color of his eyes.