Written in the Stars
by Sailor Doc
"Aino-san? We're here."
Nodding once in acknowledgement, Aino Minako leaned forward from her position in the back seat of the black SUV and looked out the window at the long, grey steps leading up through the trees to the shrine sequestered above. With a slight frown, her lips tightening into a straight line, she reached forward to grasp the door handle. Beside her, one of the two bodyguards in the sport utility vehicle moved to join her, but a look from her stopped him as she said in a soft, but firm voice, "It's a shrine, Hibiki. I think I'll be okay."
"Are you sure, Aino-san?" the other man asked. "You never know who may be buying charms or something up there."
Minako offered him a warm smile for his protectiveness and said, "No it's really okay, Souma. I'm actually here to see one of the priestess'."
"Will you be long, miss?" the chauffer asked. "Should we wait, or will you call us?"
The simple question actually gave her pause as her mind grappled with the possibilities, but then she remembered. This was Rei. She knew all too well the blunt nature of her former teammate.
"You can wait," she said briefly. "This shouldn't take more than an hour at most."
"Very good, miss," he answered respectfully, and Minako exited the vehicle without any further interruptions.
Taking a deep breath, she headed slowly up the shaded stone stairway, her thoughts again returning to the totally unexpected note she had received from the usually silent Senshi of Mars:
You have something that belongs to me.
I want it back.
The note was, for lack of a better word, cryptic. It wasn't as if they were close enough to exchange clothing or jewelry like normal 'friends' would do. She frowned. It really made no sense to her at all. But here she was, taking an afternoon out of her busy schedule, to climbing up this seemingly endless set of worn and ancient steps in mute acquiesce to Rei's presumptuous demand.
Her frown deepened. At least Rei could have had the common courtesy to tell her what this mysterious 'something' was!
Nearing the top, Minako could hear the steady sweeping sound of a stiff bristle broom as it moved rhythmically across the aged cobblestones in the open courtyard. As she topped the last stair, she was taken by an unexpected wave of disappointment as she realized that the young woman welding it was not Rei. Dressed in the traditional red and white robes of a temple maiden, the miko, her long hair pulled back in a loose ponytail, worked slowly and steadily at her task. The almost totally leafless area was a testament to her diligence. As Minako moved toward her, the young girl looked up at her, a welcoming smile on her lips.
"Hello, miss. May I help you?"
Inwardly, Minako shook her head in amused wonder. 'Where do they find them?' she thought as she realized that this girl, like Rei before her, had absolutely no idea who she was. Outwardly, she returned the miko's smile and said, "I'm here to see Hino Rei."
The girl’s expression changed to one of sincere regret. "I'm so sorry," she said, respectfully. "The priestess is unavailable at this time. May I tell her who called?"
Mildly surprised, Minako answered, "yes." Rei had called this meeting, after all! "My name is Aino Minako. I'm supposed to have an appointment to meet with her here at ."
"Ah," the girls face brightened significantly. "Miss Aino! You're early! My name is Chiyo," she added, belatedly introducing herself. "Hino-sensei did mention that she was expecting a guest this afternoon, but she is still at meditation in the fire room."
Minako smiled at the girl. "I am a bit early," she admitted. "I hope that's not a problem?"
"Oh, no Miss! Not at all,” the eager young woman replied. ”If you'll just come with me, I will take you to her quarters."
"Are you sure that's okay?" Minako asked, a bit apprehensively. She knew how zealously Rei guarded her privacy.
"Absolutely," the miko assured her. "The priestess herself asked me to bring you there when you arrived." She smiled shyly. "I really don't think she expected you to be this early though,” she amended. Indicating a walkway leading toward the rear of the shrine, the girl smiled as she said, "If you'll just come this way?"
Nodding her assent, Minako followed closely behind her guide and was led into what she knew had to be the private living area of the shrine itself. Ancient cobbled paths snaked subtly through beautiful, lush vegetation and the overall effect was timelessly peaceful. Minako sighed, and was taken in by the richly earthy scent. She smiled, easily seeing Rei's need and attraction for this place: a soothing balm for a raw and passionate soul.
Taking two steps up onto a shaded porch, Minako waited patiently as the young miko slid open a door and motioned for her to enter.
"You can wait for the priestess here," she said, smiling politely. "She shouldn't be too much longer."
"Thank you," Minako replied. With a slight bow, the young woman excused herself, leaving the door open as she left.
Finding herself alone in Rei's quarters, Minako hesitantly looked around, her curiosity getting the better of her. The faint orange light of a setting sun was streaming through the open bank of windows along the outside wall. In its dim light, Minako took in the room and its simple, yet elegantly practical furnishings. She smiled sadly. Even if she hadn't been told this was where Rei lived, she was sure she would have known. There was a certain strength to its lay out and decoration that had her indelible mark all over it.
"I see you made it."
Startled, Minako turned toward that unmistakable voice and could see the outline of the young priestess standing in the open doorway. Quickly regaining her composure, she frowned. "You really didn't give me much choice."
"That's not true, you know."
"How so?" Minako asked.
"You could have chosen not to come." Rei said, slowly taking a single step into the room. Minako could almost hear the cryptic smile in her voice. "We all have choices. Don't we... Venus?"
Minako refused to show her irritation. "If you say so...Mars," she allowed, throwing the Senshi title back at her. "But, I really don't see what that has to do with why you've called me here this evening."
Rei turned back toward the door. "It's simple, really," she answered as she slid it shut, the lock echoing in the stillness of the room with a loud snap. "I want it back."
"What are you talking about?" Minako demanded, a bit unnerved despite herself. "I can assure you, I've looked everywhere and gone through everything I own, and I have nothing in my possession that has ever belonged to you!"
"That's not true either..."
Minako watched as Rei moved out of the shadows of the darkening room. There was something about her. The way she moved, the slow but steady steps. The dark, mysterious eyes, barely visible behind the deep, rich brown of her hair. Her lips, those full, red lips. Quirked ever so slightly into a secret smile, as if enjoying a private joke she may, or may not decide to share.
Minako shivered, startled at the uncontrollable reaction she had to this woman... Was it fear? Anger? Hatred? She swallowed heavily. No, it was most definitely not that! Actually, to be quite honest, she knew exactly what it was.
Attraction. Want. Desire.
For Venus had never stopped loving her Mars.
'But that was millennia ago,' she reminded herself firmly.
She was confused. This Mars had never loved her. She had no knowledge or memory of their promises to each other so long ago.
So what was this?
Minako involuntarily moved back a step as Rei moved closer to her than she felt comfortable with. Turning away from her, Minako chose instead to direct her attention to the windows looking out over the formal garden.
"Really, Rei," she said firmly. "In all honesty, I have no idea what you could possibly be talking about."
Mildly amused, Rei moved slowly around Minako. Her eyes following the idol's every move, almost as if she were stalking her.
"Search yourself and you'll know that's not true, Mina," she said, her voice low, with just a touch of something Minako found herself afraid to identify.
Feeling a tightening in her stomach at the unexpected use of a name she hadn't heard in years, Minako found herself intensely aware of the dark priestess as she came to a stop behind her.
"Of... of course it is!" she stammered, instantly irritated with herself for showing any lose of self control. "So unless you intend to come out and tell me what this 'something' is, I see no further need of this... this..."
Minako's little tirade came to a screeching stop as Rei moved up behind her, and very much into her personal space.
"Mars? What... what are you...?"
Involuntarily, she shivered as she felt the priestess' arms come up around her waist. Closing her eyes in unexpected ecstasy, she pressed her body back against the delicious curves of her former lover and swallowed heavily.
The feel of Rei's cheek pressed against her own was exquisite, and she shivered again as she heard that beloved voice whisper:
"Your heart, Mina. Give me back your heart."
Minako shuttered as gentle lips pressed firmly against the side of her face. The whisper of a soft breath sent a momentary chill across her skin that was quickly replaced by the warm return of Rei's questing lips.
"I've missed you so much..."
Rei's hands came to rest on Minako's hips, and the idol gasped softly as she was pulled back against Rei's own warmth.
"Say you still love me..."
The palm of one hand moved up and softly over the bare flesh just under the edge of Minako's loose fitting blouse, its fingers caressing, teasing...
No longer able to stop herself, Minako spun in the circle of Rei's embrace and wrapped her arms around the priestess' neck. Clinging to her long lost love, Minako crushed her lips against Rei's desperately, her kisses hungry and wanting. Rei met her eagerly, and Minako could feel herself beginning to melt into an indescribable passion that enveloped them both in a sensual haze of desire.
With a sharp in take of breath, Minako sat straight up in bed. In desperation, her hopeful eyes searched her surroundings but could find only the familiarity of her own well known bedroom in the dim light from the balcony doors.
Closing her eyes, she raised an unsteady hand to cradle her aching head and waited for her breathing to return to normal.
'Not again,' she thought sadly.
As she felt the beads of sweat begin to trickle down the back of her neck, she wondered just how many times this had happened in the last two weeks? Four? Six? Eight?
She honestly couldn't remember.
All she knew was that sleeping was no longer the pleasant safe haven it had always been. Now, she never knew when the longing in her heart would creep out of the cage she'd kept it locked away in for too many years, and carry her away in a dream she knew could never be.
Why did Mars still haunt her after all these years?
Only the aching silence of her empty room offered any form of answer, and what it offered was too painful to contemplate.
Looking at the bedside clock, she felt her spirits sag even more.
Throwing the covers back, she rose on shaking legs and reached for her robe. Snuggling down into its impersonal warmth, she walked toward the balcony doors, picking up her notebook from the corner of the dresser along the way.
There would be no more sleep tonight.
Moving across the moonlit balcony, Minako stopped at the waist high brick wall and looked up into the unending expanse of stars spread out before her, the notebook clutched tightly to her chest. At times like these, the only solace, the only peace she could find was through her music. Her work.
So, work she would.
Turning toward the round patio table, Minako settled into her usual chair and opened the leather notebook. She wanted to be bitter. And if she were totally honest with herself, she could admit that a large part of her was.
But there was another part.
The part that told her the love she longed for so badly was still there. She just had to wait a bit longer for it. And so she still, despite all the long, lonely years of waiting and the many sleepless nights, clung to hope.
For that stubborn little part of her had never stopped believing in them...
...and somewhere, buried deep inside, neither had she.
Closing her eyes, she took a deep breath of the chilled air and held it, almost able to taste the metallic tang of the moisture on the back of her tongue. Finally releasing it, she opened her eyes and looked down at the blank page in front of her. Nodding, she took up her pen and began to write:
In The Stars;
Our love was written in the stars
so long ago.
Set into the skies above;
A testament to endless love
that would last through time.
though I can't see you
in the days' harsh light,
I see you shining every
And it reminds me of the love you gave.
How I miss you, babe!
For we were
Written In The Stars...
This would probably fit nicely between chapters two and three of “Echoes of a Distant Demon.” It kind of gives an explanation of what was going on with Minako and her sleepless nights.