Title: Memorias de la juventud
Theme: Velvet (Setsuna)
Sometimes, when she was tying Hotaru's hair back, Setsuna remembered. She remembered her abuela's hands, carefully brushing and combing her hair, then pulling it back and, finally, tying it up with velvet ribbons. The velvet would be cerise to go with her eyes, or silver-green for a nice contrast with her hair and she would take one of the tails between her fingers and stroke it as she swayed to the music. The ribbons would fly around as she danced and she would see them out of the corner of her eye, the softness of the velvet brushing against her cheeks and shoulders.
When she was older, they threaded the ribbons around the hem of her dress, tied them around her wrists. The velvet was a friend and a lover at the same time, stroking her skin, reassuring her no matter how embarrassing the situation, no matter how awkward she felt. It was no wonder that velvet became her favourite fabric, above silk or satin or any of those slippery materials that slid over the skin like water and left no impression whatsoever. Velvet was solid and retained perfume; it glowed with rich colours and it was perfect for a curvaceous figure.
Now Setsuna picked some purple ribbons and tied Hotaru's hair back. The velvet whispered against her fingertips and she smiled a little. When she had finished, Hotaru turned her head from side to side, then took one of the tails through her fingers. "Soft," she said, and she turned around and smiled at her mother.
Title: Memories of Youth
Cut text: Ribbons of velvet
Title: Chocolate amargo
Theme: Bitter (Setsuna)
Minako picked up the box and sounded out the name on the front. "Ben-dicks... London... chocolate!" Her face broke out into a smile. "Setsuna-san, can I have one?"
"Yes, but you'd better read the descriptions carefully," Setsuna answered. "Bendicks do all kinds of chocolate and some of them might not be what you expect."
Minako nodded. She pulled the lid up and picked up the biscuit description card, her eyes flicking over the English. Then she frowned. "How is that possible?"
"How is what possible?" Takehiko asked, looking up from the newspaper. Minako stuck the card out at him without looking. Takehiko took the card. "Bitter. There are some bitter chocolate biscuits in here."
"That's just it! Chocolate isn't bitter!" Minako rolled her eyes. "Everyone knows that chocolate is a sweet."
"Real chocolate is bitter," Setsuna corrected her, sitting down and handing Takehiko his cup of tea and setting a pot of honey on the table before him. "The higher the cocoa content, the more bitter the chocolate. Trust me, cocoa beans do not taste very sweet."
"That's why chocolatiers add so much sugar and milk when they're making chocolate bars," Takehiko added.
"I think you two are just trying to scare me," Minako said, picking one biscuit out of the box. "I'm shocked, I really am, you two are usually so-" She stopped. Her mouth puckered. "URGH!" She spat the biscuit out into her hand. "URGH - URGH - URGH! That's DISGUSTING! ACK!" She grabbed her squash and sipped it, swilling it around her mouth and then swallowing. "How can they call that chocolate?!"
Setsuna smiled slightly. "What's that you were saying about us trying to scare you?"
Minako shot her an evil glare. "I bet you like that stuff."
Setsuna took the other biscuit, popped it in her mouth and chewed. "Mmm," she said, closing her eyes in exaggerated pleasure. Minako got up.
"Meanies," she muttered, stalking off. As soon as she was gone, Setsuna swallowed and took the teaspoon of honey that Takehiko offered her, both of them laughing quietly.
Title: Bitter chocolate
Cut text: Sweet like honey
Title: La sangre de mis raíces
Theme: Origins (Setsuna)
La chica mestiza.
The girl of mixed blood. No matter where she lived, it was written on her face. In Peru, she was la japonesa, la mestiza (technically, it was meant to be applied to those who were half Indian, half Spanish, but they threw it at anyone who couldn't be put into one category or another). It was her eyes. In Japan, she was a gaijin, because of her hair and her skin (she would never be a pale Japanese beauty).
Soy media peruana, media japonesa. Y no voy a disculparme por eso.
She was Meioh Setsuna to her parents and the neighbourhood, she was Susana to her Peruvian friends, and inside her head, she was, she was... la guerrera. But she had never fought anyone or anything. Not in the sense of that word. She was no warrior. She was a scientist. She studied Physics and Biology and she applied to KO University in Tokyo, one of the Big Six, and she got in. She exchanged one country for another.
And then she found out where she really came from.
Title: The blood of my roots
Cut text: Tell me where I come from
Japonesa: Japanese (feminine)
Italics: I am half Peruvian, half Japanese. And I'm not going to apologise for that.
Guerrera: Warrior (feminine)
Title: La hora de los amantes
Theme: Secret Meetings (Setsuna)
You own the place
Where all my thoughts go hiding;
Right under your clothes
Is where I find them.
Underneath your clothes
There's an endless story,
There's the man I chose,
There's my territory,
And all the things I deserve
For being such a good girl, honey...
- Shakira, "Underneath Your Clothes"
They always met at the same place, a tea shop near the gingko avenue. Sometimes she would arrive first, and she would watch his slender figure move down the avenue towards her, wrapped in his grey woolen coat during winter or a green linen jacket in summer. He never wore a raincoat, he always carried an umbrella. Setsuna would take in each detail of his face until he walked through the door of the café, green eyes smiling and tender at the sight of her. Or he would arrive first, and then she would be the one making her way to the café, half enjoying the trees, half hurrying towards him; coming through the door, seeing him look up and smile, feeling her own mouth smile in return.
The tea would be sweet and fragrant; they'd eat small pastries, creamy and rich, savouring each other's presence far more than the food and drink. Then he'd pay for the meal (he insisted on this small thing) and they'd leave, hand in hand. They didn't talk much; they didn't need words. Just the feel of him beside her and his hand holding hers was enough for Setsuna. It was something she'd thought beyond her reach, even in this lifetime.
There were plenty of love hotels open, but they didn't want that. They always went to his flat or her house; his flat was more likely to be empty, since there were only two people living there. She wasn't sure if his cousin knew about their relationship, she didn't ask. It was enough that they had a relationship. It was enough that when he'd closed the door and they'd taken off their shoes, she could turn and run her hands through the curls of his hair and kiss that warm, clever mouth without any fear. It was enough that he would pick her up in his arms without a word (making her feel small and feminine) and carry her to the bedroom.
The sheets felt cool and welcome beneath her back as she pulled her top over her head, letting his fingers undo her bra and begin to massage her back. Setsuna closed her eyes, letting herself groan with pleasure. His fingers, already flexible from piano playing, seemed to find all the knots under her skin and untangle them, until she was limp and warm and ready for anything. She sat up and felt his hands gently cup her breasts and press her back against him, a mixture of caress and hug; in response, she smiled and tucked her head into the crook of his shoulder, which was bare by this time. His skin smelt of Oceanus, the faint tantalising smell of the sea.
"Happy?" he said.
"Always, with you," she replied, turning in his arms to begin her tattoo of kisses over his body: shoulders, collarbone, sternum, ribcage. Marking him as her own, her secret lover. They wouldn't approve of this relationship: he was too young for her (there was only two years' difference), his past was chequered at best. But she was more concerned with his present, the smooth white skin and the way he gasped as her fingers tweaked his nipples. She dipped her tongue in his navel; he shuddered, because he was ticklish, and she smiled. A hand touched the back of her head, cupping it tenderly, and she looked up in response.
"How long can you stay?" His gaze was steady, strong. He knew the rules and he wasn't afraid to ask for his fair share.
"As long as I want," she murmured, sitting up and undoing his jeans. "I've been a good girl and now I'm going to have some fun."
Title: The Lovers' Hour
Cut text: I am open to you without asking
Title: El perro de la luciérnaga
Theme: Abandon (Setsuna)
Hotaru ran down the alley before Setsuna could call her back and disappeared behind a pile of boxes. Setsuna clicked her tongue and went after her. "Hotaru, you know that you're not supposed to run off," she began as she moved behind the boxes. The rest of the sentence disappeared.
Hotaru was holding a small akita puppy, probably only a month old. Its eyes were open, but that was its only advantage. Its fur, which should have been cream, was shaded from light to dark grey and it was painfully thin. Setsuna's heart contracted. "Hotaru..." she said.
"Even if I can't keep him, can I at least care for him at home while you ring the animal shelter?" Hotaru begged, holding the puppy close. It seemed too weak to protest at the closeness, or it would certainly have bitten her.
Setsuna hesitated, wondering if she could bear to take that puppy away from Hotaru, even if she did find a space at an animal shelter. Hotaru misread the silence.
"We can't just leave him here, Setsuna-mama! He'll die!" She blinked hard, holding back tears.
"We can take him home, but I don't know how Haruka-papa or Michiru-mama will react to him, Hotaru. That is out of my control. If they don't want him in the house, we will have to give him to a shelter."
"That's fine!" Hotaru cuddled the puppy closer, belying her words. "I just don't want to leave him here." The puppy turned around in her hands, snuggling closer to her warmth. Setsuna took a deep breath and told herself that she would not melt into a cooing mess.
"All right. You can take him home and keep him there while we decide what to do next."
Hotaru beamed at her. "Thank you, Setsuna-mama! I won't forget this!"
Setsuna nodded. She was more concerned with Haruka and Michiru's reactions. This was going to be interesting.
Title: The Firefly's Dog
Cut text: Here, we met
Title: El Meridiano Principal
Theme: London (Setsuna)
Setsuna stood in the courtyard and took a deep breath. For once, everything was quiet inside her. For once, she didn't have to listen to that constant ticking, the rushing, the knowledge that time was passing. Here on this spot, east and west met. Time began and ended.
Longitude 0° 0' 0''.
Setsuna looked down at the line that bisected the ground in front of her, a line that was only visible here, where it really mattered. She wanted to bend down and touch it with her fingers, a recognition of kinship. This line was a physical manifestation of something that was not physical, just like herself.
"Well, Greenwich," she murmured. "I'm back again. It's been a long time... I'm a mother now." She smiled at the young girl who was gazing at the clock a few feet away, fascinated by the words on its plinth. "But in other ways, I'm still the same. Still a senshi. Still guarding time. As you mark it." She straightened and looked around the courtyard. She had travelled to many places, she had stood outside time, but it was the Royal Observatory, in a city that had no connection to either of her nationalities, which spoke to her. Here was the beginning and the end, the absolute zero of time on earth.
Peace on earth.
"Te quiero, Londres," she said softly.
Title: The Prime Meridian
Cut text: Time's wingéd chariot
Te quiero, Londres: I love you, London.
Note: Greenwich is not pronounced 'green-witch' but 'grenitch'. ;)
Title: La cicatriz invisible
Theme: Agony (Setsuna)
Genre: Angst, Romance
Fue una tortura perderte,
Me duele tanto que sea así;
Sigue llorando perdón,
Yo ya no voy a llorar... por tí.
- Shakira, "La Tortura"
Setsuna knew what pain was. Pain was smelling another woman's perfume on your boyfriend's coat. Pain was having him kiss your cheek instead of your mouth. Pain was packing up all his things in boxes and waiting for him to come home so you could deal the final blow and make sure you had the control. Pain was watching him leave and knowing that despite your efforts and your hope, you were alone again.
That was pain. It hurt, it left scars, but you survived.
Pain was not the same as agony. Agony was standing in the same place for all time, outside of time. Agony was being separated from any human being. Agony was knowing you would never fall in love, never have children. Agony was knowing that your one friend had been twisted and warped into someone you didn't recognise. Agony was dying in the arms of a man whom you loved without ever telling him of your feelings.
Agony was far more deadly than mere pain. It ate you up and turned you into someone unrecognisable. She would never suffer like that again. Even if that meant breaking up with a man; even if that meant holding back from men completely and concentrating solely on her family (she loved her family, she would never abandon them or let them be twisted). She would only suffer for her family and her princess. Nobody else was worth it.
Then he came, with those green eyes and that quick mind, flirting with her, making her laugh. And Setsuna discovered that sometimes even agony could be sweet.
Title: The invisible scar
Cut text: Oh, love hurts me so much
Verse: It was torture losing you,
I was hurt that it had to be this way,
Keep saying you're sorry,
I'm not going to cry for you any more.
Title: El tono dulce
Theme: Brilliance (Setsuna)
Brilliance: 3. Music. Sharpness and clarity of tone.
The concert hall was old, perhaps built in the middle of the last century; it seemed small, but inside it was vast, with every room designed to achieve acoustic perfection. Of course, perfection was rarely reached, but it had to be said that these rooms came close to achieving it.
Unfortunately, nothing else was perfect at the moment. The violas were out of tune, the flutes kept going too fast and as for the violins...
The conductor rapped the lectern with his baton. "It says 'allegro'! Not 'pronto' or 'vivace', 'allegro'! Lively but not too lively! Sparkling! Bright! I want brilliance, do you understand?!" He raised his baton once more and brought it down. The music leapt into the air, singing, almost fizzing with light. Above it all rose the violins, one in particular, soaring with joy and pride, every note etched into the air like silver.
Setsuna closed her eyes and smiled. Michiru was half an hour late for their lunch, but when she could listen to this, who cared?
Title: The sweet tone
Cut text: Music of the sea
Theme: Celebration (Setsuna)
"Hurry, Setsuna-mama, hurry, it's starting!"
Setsuna smiled to herself at the irony of it, someone telling her to hurry. As if she didn't know that the New Year was only seconds away, as if she didn't feel it in her bones. "I'm coming!" she called, sailing into the room with a tray of four champagne flutes, three of them filled with pure champagne, one of them filled with Buck's Fizz for their young daughter, who was being allowed to stay up for the first time to see the New Year in.
Haruka and Michiru were already sitting on the sofa, Haruka's arm slung around Michiru's shoulders. They both smiled at Setsuna and took their glasses. Hotaru was on her feet, bouncing up and down, her eyes fixed on the television as the countdown began.
"Diez... nueve... ocho..."
Setsuna put the Buck's Fizz on a table nearby, so Hotaru could easily reach it at the proper time.
"Siete... seis... cinco... cuatro..."
She realised that Hotaru was chanting the numbers in Spanish, not in Japanese, and her heart swelled suddenly.
"Tres... dos... uno..." Hotaru whirled around to face her parents and yelled, "HAPPY NEW YEAR!"
"Happy New Year!" they chorused, all leaning forward and kissing her. She beamed at them and quickly grabbed her glass, holding it up. "Kampai!"
They echoed her cry, clinking the flutes together and drinking at the same time. Hotaru's face scrunched up. "The bubbles make it taste funny," she observed.
Setsuna hid a smile. "Well, you've had a drink, so you can tip it down the sink and just have orange juice if you like."
"No," Hotaru said, setting her chin. "That would be cheating." And she drank the rest of the fizzy mixture dutifully, then spoiled the effect by sticking her tongue out afterwards. "Yuk!"
Setsuna took the glass and walked her to the kitchen to have a drink of water. Haruka and Michiru were having their traditional New Year's dance and she could see fireworks being let off through the windows, red and white and yellow. The radio was on, and they hummed along to Beethoven's Ode to Joy as she ran the cold water tap.
Hotaru gulped her drink down in about five seconds and refilled her mug. "We'll go to the shrine tomorrow and pray for good luck, ne, Setsuna-mama?" she asked, her eyes already shining with possibilities. "Then we can celebrate the New Year with Rei-san and the others!"
Setsuna reached out and stroked the soft hair. "Of course," she said. "That's what New Year is all about: family."
Title: New Year's Eve
Cut text: The last night
Title: Una conversación sobre el destino, medianoche
Theme: "Jillian (I'd Give My Heart)" by Within Temptation (Setsuna)
"You know I wish I could help you," she said, looking up at the stars. "But you're the only one who can work through your karma, undo your destiny."
"Undo?" he repeated softly, examining the word. "You think we undo our destinies, not fulfill them?"
"You view your destiny as a knot, don't you?" she said, looking at him. "That's what you've told me before, Takehiko-san. That you have to undo the knot. It's not a positive view, but it's the one you've taken, so I'm trying to use it."
He smiled, looking down at the grass, melting from grey to black in the moonlight. It was a small smile, sad and knowing, acknowledging his faults. Setsuna wanted to hug him and shake him at the same time. She knew that smile, because once she'd had it on her own lips, in another life. She wanted to tell him that he was making it more difficult than it had to be; but then, it was not really possible for him to make things more difficult. She could tell him to be more optimistic, but that would be tactless, and pointless into the bargain. He had a long way to go and he needed support. She would support him any way she could.
"I'd give anything to undo what we did," he murmured.
"Don't be foolish," Setsuna answered, making sure that her voice was soft so the words didn't have their usual impact. "Do you truly think that if you hadn't betrayed your prince, everything would be fine? No. Things are not that simple. You know that. In the end, it would have been exactly the same."
He looked at her, startled. "Setsuna-san..."
"Everything happens for a reason," she said, smiling at him. "I can tell you that for a fact. I lived so long, Takehiko-san. I saw many kingdoms rise and fall. I've seen misery and horror, I've seen wonders and miracles. I wouldn't say that I've seen it all, but I've seen a lot. So do not dismiss what happened as something that is purely negative. If you hadn't fallen, you would not be so humble. Your humility is sometimes an obstacle, but more often, it keeps the peace. And your knowledge of the darkness may yet prove to be useful... or invaluable. Do not be so quick to judge your experiences as useless."
"So you're saying I'll free myself?" he asked, watching her, not quite willing to believe this ray of hope.
"Or maybe you'll stop viewing your destiny as a knot and start seeing it as a challenge," she replied. "As I said... it's up to you." She gave him another smile. "Whatever happens, I'll be here."
"I know," he replied. "You've been here since the beginning, always helping. It's meant a lot to me." He took her hand and squeezed it. The familiar frustration curdled in her stomach. There's so much I want to tell you, but it's not allowed. You have to find your own way.
"I was here in the beginning, and I'll be here at the end," she promised, squeezing back.
"Until the end," he agreed, making the promise back to her.
Setsuna almost laughed. It was so typical of him to return the promise; he would never let something like that be one-sided. She wanted to hug him and tell him that with such decency, he had no need to fear. Instead, she just smiled at him and said, "Let's go in."
He nodded. "I have a long journey ahead of me," he said, as if he'd read her mind, then let go of her hand. The physical contact was not needed anymore. They were holding hands in a different way now.
Title: A Midnight Conversation About Destiny
Cut text: Why am I here to try again?
Title: La nana del tiempo
Theme: Whisper (Setsuna)
It was always Hotaru's favourite part of bedtime. After Haruka's bedtime games and Michiru's music, Setsuna would come and say goodnight. It was always Setsuna who came last, because Setsuna was the one who was best at getting Hotaru to sleep.
She did this by telling Hotaru stories of what she had seen as the Time Guardian. Sometimes the stories were about people whose names were still recorded in history books. Sometimes they were about people who remained anonymous, but had nevertheless made a great impact on history: the kitchen maid who had left the fire burning in Pudding Lane; the company owner who had told the architect that so many lifeboats crowded the Titanic's decks; the unknown woman who had inspired Shakespeare's sonnets; the people who helped escaped slaves travel on the Underground Railroad.
Hotaru drifted off into sleep listening to Setsuna whisper the stories of the past and present; stories of realities that she would never see; stories of realities that would never be. A lullaby of unreality.
Title: The lullaby of time
Cut text: Tell me a story
Title: El sueño más profundo
Theme: Poison (Setsuna)
Belladonna. Literally meaning: "beautiful lady". Named for the Italian noblewomen of the Renaissance who often used drops of the berry juice to enlarge the pupils of their eyes, and look more attractive.
Setsuna sat at the table, her pulse pounding in her throat. Her arms and shoulders were bare and cold, gleaming brown in the candlelight. Her dress was ruffled crimson, complimenting her colouring and the richness of her hair. She stared at the berries on her plate and tried to remember just how many an adult could eat before they got sick... before they died.
"There are two types of berries in front of you, my dear." He templed his hands, smiling. She gazed back, hating him. "Blackcurrants... and deadly nightshade. One, of course, harmless; the other... well. The name speaks for itself, I think. Choose the blackcurrants and you will go free. Choose the nightshade and you won't be in a state to care."
Setsuna clenched her fists under the table. She didn't have her transformation pen and even if she were able to transform, he was not a youma. Just a highly unpleasant human. She gazed down at the separate piles of berry, both gleaming softly, and closed her eyes. Her abuela's voice came back to her through the long years.
"Algo que tiene un sabor amargo, tiene buen característicos, Sunita. Los dulces son atractivos, pero te hacen mal."
Setsuna opened her eyes. She took one berry and put it in her mouth. It was incredibly sweet, making her mouth water for more. She swallowed and took one from the other pile. It was bitter compared to the first one, the taste refreshing the back of her mouth. She ate every berry from that pile and sat back.
She looked up, ready to fight for her freedom now, ready to hold him to his bargain. He was slumped forward in his chair. For one moment, Setsuna thought he'd had a heart attack while she was eating, but no. His chest was moving in and out, very slightly. All the berries on his plate (he'd only had one pile) were gone and someone was leaning on the chair, someone with wonderfully familiar green eyes.
"I swapped his blackcurrants for deadly nightshade. Just enough to put him in a very, very deep sleep. Hope you don't mind."
The chair fell over as Setsuna stood up. She told herself that she was not going to jump on him and burst into tears, or throw her arms around him and start kissing him. "I don't mind," she said carefully. "I don't mind at all. Could we leave?"
She managed to restrain herself from kissing him until they were safely home. Then all restraint vanished... and so did the dress.
Title: The deepest sleep
Cut text: The fatal kiss
Abuela's advice: "Something which tastes bitter has good properties, Sunita. Sweets are nice, but they don't do you any good."
Gracias: Thank you
Title: La princesa perdida
Theme: Disaster (Setsuna)
Genre: Angst, Drama
Version: Manga (Black Moon Arc)
She hurries through the palace, her heart hammering strangely. For once, she is completely at sea. She knows nothing. She is like any other human being. And she is unable to enjoy this condition, because of what is happening. Pluto thought the Queen being in a coma and the King being paralysed was bad enough, but this...
He turns. "Pluto?!"
"Diana is watching the Time Gate," she says, her voice distant in her ears as something inside her cries out Small Lady, Small Lady, Small Lady. "She told me what happened. I know that Small Lady has been... warped."
Sadness flickers across his transparent features, sadness for his lovely daughter, sadness that he cannot do anything to help her. Pluto begins to move again. "We must go and help her," she says, knowing that he will follow her. They run through the palace, though she is the only one making any noise. As they burst out of the palace, they see Demando has the two Ginzuishou and she hears Endymion swear, but all Pluto can see is the girl in front of her. She'd heard what Diana said, but she hadn't imagined...
Small Lady is taller, with her mother's figure, but that is her only resemblance. Everything sweet and innocent has become dark and sexual; her lips are crimson and curled with resentment, and her eyes... there is nothing in them. Pluto can feel her heart breaking.
"I don't believe anyone anymore!" Demando screams, holding up the two crystals. "Black Lady, Wiseman, you have the immense power of the evil Black Crystal. But I have the past and future Ginzuishou. I have the power to cross time!"
"What's he going to do!?" Endymion says, horrified. "The two crystals..."
She can feel everything slowing down. Time is in danger. If they touch, it could be the end of the world!
Small Lady's face contorts in outrage, the expression of a deprived child. "Give them back!" she yells, running towards him, heedless of the consequences.
"Small Lady!" Pluto hardly recognises her voice. She has never shouted in her life before. She has never felt so close to crying.
Demando doesn't hear her. He doesn't hear anything. He is far gone, a crazed smile lighting up his face, triumph filling his eyes. "We'll all be going on a trip," he says, bringing the two shining crystals together.
"No!" she screams. She cannot let it end like this. She cannot let Small Lady die in this perverted form. She cannot let her Queen and King down. There is a confusion of yelling, but all she hears in her head is that sweet voice, so long ago now.
"Pluto... you must never stop time. If you ever violate that law... you will give up your life."
Pluto closes her eyes. She is not afraid of death. She is not afraid of change. If she has to stop time to save Small Lady... to save the world... it is a small price to pay. She lifts her staff up above her head and calls out those words, "Time! Stop!"
She feels it freeze. Her blood freezes along with it. She stops her own heart to avert disaster. As blackness overtakes her, Pluto knows that whatever happens... she was a part of it. She will not die alone. She will be able to say goodbye to Small Lady. If she wasn't in so much pain, she would smile.
Title: The lost princess
Cut text: I sacrifice everything for you
Dialogue taken from Alex Glover's translation of Acts 22 and 23.
Title: Las líneas de fortuna
Theme: Out Of Time (Setsuna)
Version: AU (set in the "Butcher Boys" timeline)
Matthew Chalmer stamped his feet on the cold cobblestones and looked about him, his breath misting in the frosty air. He wished that he were back at Scotland Yard, miles away on Embankment; or better, in Vauxhall with his wife. Instead, he was in Limehouse, waiting for Andrew to emerge from an opium den.
He jumped and turned around. A woman was standing there, almost his height, which was unusual; she was not Chinese, which was more unusual. Her head was bare and long dark hair fell past her shoulders, some of it caught up in a small bun at the back of her head. Her skin was brown and she had dark, full lips. Portuguese or Spanish, possibly Italian.
She smiled a little. "You look lost." There was a definite accent but her English was still clear.
"No; no, just waiting for a friend," he said, glancing at the doorway.
"Ah." She looked sad. "I see."
"No, it's not what you think, it's..." Matthew stopped himself. He could hardly give Andrew away to a total stranger; he had no idea who she was. She might even be working for an opium lord. "He'll be out soon," he finished lamely.
The woman looked at him for a moment, analysing his features. "I am... Ophelia," she said. "I think that is how you pronounce my name. What is your name?"
"Matthew." Matthew glanced down at her clothes: a dark red shawl covering a deep blue smock; a long patterned skirt, rich in blue and purple; ankle boots which seemed to fit her properly. He could not place her nationality and looked away again, hoping she would leave him alone.
"Would you like to know your fortune?" Ophelia said.
Matthew blinked and looked at her. "You tell fortunes?"
"I read hands... palmistry, it is called. There is no charge," she added as Matthew opened his mouth. "Think of it as... a way to pass the time. You are curious about the future, no?" She smiled again, her teeth white in the darkness.
Matthew decided that he might as well humour this woman. She didn't want money and it might turn out to be interesting. He didn't believe that your life could be predicted by the lines on your hand, but it would be something to tell Serena. Serena had a weakness for such things.
"Very well." He held out his right hand and Ophelia took it, her fingers surprisingly soft.
For a few minutes, there was silence. Ophelia pursed her lips, turning his hand this way and that, moving his fingers. "You have a long life line," she observed. "You are strong and healthy. You have flexible fingers, and they are of a good length. You are honest, but your Luna mound is strongly pronounced. Strange things happen to you. Be careful of dark places." She paused. "You are married?"
"Yes," Matthew said, her prevous words still ringing in his ears.
"A deep love," she murmured. "Other people may be jealous of that, Matthew. Jealous of you. It brings danger."
Matthew snatched his hand away. "What do you mean?!" He glared at her. "Explain. What danger? What jealousy?"
Ophelia straightened. "You will see what I mean," she said. "And now, farewell." And before he could stop her, she turned and vanished into the murk of the alley, her footsteps echoing in the narrow passage. Matthew was stunned for a moment, then ran after her for a few angry steps. But she was gone; it was as if she had vanished into thin air. Matthew stood on the cobblestones, fuming and confused.
"Chalmer?! Where are you going?" Andrew had emerged from the door, wrapped in his great coat, hat pulled down low over his eyes. "We came this way, remember?" he said in a lower voice as Matthew came back.
"I wasn't trying to go back, I was trying to chase after someone..."
Andrew looked sympathetic. "Pickpocket, was it?"
Matthew shook his head. "If only... a pickpocket would be much simpler." He put a hand on Andrew's arm, forestalling any questions. "I'll tell you on the way back. Let's get out of here."
Title: Fate lines
Cut text: Give me your hand
¿Estais perdido?: Are you lost?
Andrew Fuller: Furuhata Motoki
Matthew Chalmer: Chiba Mamoru
Title: Los colores del arco iris
Theme: Image (Threads)
Genre: General (True Drabble)
She sat before the small chest of drawers and carefully pulled out the lowest one. It was full of spools. Every colour of the rainbow was represented here and for a moment, Setsuna sat back on her heels and simply smiled at the sight. She drank in the colour, the shimmer of light on the threads. Then she reached into the drawer and took out three spools. Viridian, aquamarine, emerald. Three different shades of the same colour. Setsuna held the spools in her hands and studied them for a moment, smiling. Then she stood up straight and went to work.
Title: Colours of the rainbow
Cut text: Threads of time
Title: El propósito de las tinieblas
Theme: Even (Setsuna)
"Are you afraid of the dark?"
Setsuna blinked. She looked down at Usagi, the blue eyes almost pleading for the answer. "Why do you ask?"
"Because... I still am." Usagi laughed a bit, embarrassed. "Even after everything. I remember being out there, in the darkness... it was so empty and cold. I wasn't scared then. But now, when I remember it, I am scared. Lying in my bed, in the dark... I'm scared. Even though I'm safe." She stared at the picture in front of them, her mouth puckered. "It's stupid."
Setsuna looked at the photograph. It was black and white, like all the photographs in the exhibition. The light and dark were so carefully balanced. She remembered the darkness of the cauldron, individuality shattered, nothingness; she remembered the call to come back, her identity forming out of the primordial sea, and the burst of light. She remembered the joy of seeing her body again in spirit form, of seeing her family and friends again. Pure light, no shadows whatsoever. Then back in this world where light and darkness coexisted.
"You're scared because you're safe," she said slowly. "Being scared... it's a luxury. We feel scared when we feel the world might be put out of balance, become uneven. When it is out of balance... there's no time for feeling scared then. If it helps Usagi-chan... never fear shadows. They just mean there's a light shining somewhere nearby."
"So they're even," Usagi said slowly.
"Yes. Everything is even."
Title: The purpose of shadows
Cut text: The light calls to the darkness, and the darkness calls to the light
Title: Los proyectos se diverten Dios
Theme: "We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us." - Joseph Campbell
"I wanted to be a physicist, you know."
He looked at her for a moment, the gaze sympathetic and calm. "You still can be."
"Not in the same way. You know that." She gazed down at her hands, brown next to his, but not as dark as they usually would be. He tanned too, although his skin went from white to gold. It was almost like alchemy, except there was no red stage. "Being the Guardian of Time does tend to take precedence."
"What would you have done?" he asked, looking down as they continued to walk down the street. "What would you have done as a physicist?"
Setsuna shrugged. "I don't know. Studied the universe. Found out more about anti-matter. Won the Nobel Prize."
He threw his head back in surprise, laughing out loud, and Setsuna took the moment to savour the sweet line of his neck as it curved down and merged into his shoulder. All the lines of his body were clear and beautiful. It wasn't just her, she knew that other people saw the same thing. But she was the only one who could see the whole picture.
"I still say you can," he insisted, the laughter lingering in his eyes. "Who says you can't win the Nobel Prize and be the Guardian of Time? I would have thought one could help the other, actually."
"That's cheating!" she protested, trying not to smile.
"Using background knowledge is not cheating," he answered, widening his eyes innocently.
"You're assuming I still want to win the Nobel Prize," she said, tucking her hand around the curve of his arm and pulling him close, partly for the warmth and also for the feeling of his hip brushing hers.
"Don't you?" he asked in a lower tone, matching his stride to hers. He tipped his head a little and strands of hair brushed her cheek.
"Perhaps... in another life. But the Setsuna who won the Nobel Prize wouldn't have these friends, wouldn't have a family, wouldn't have a daughter. Wouldn't have you," she ended softly. "It took a while to let go of those plans I had... but I honestly wouldn't go back to that life if I could. Not now."
He was silent. They walked side by side, unaware that they were making people smile, each lost in their own thoughts. Autumn leaves blew over them and the sun slid down the narrow streets between sidescrapers, surprising them at each crossing. Setsuna wondered if she'd said too much. She opened her mouth but he cut her off, speaking reflectively.
"My mother once told me a proverb: if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans. I think we must make him laugh a lot."
"I'm glad my plans didn't work out," Setsuna said, looking at him with a smile.
Title: Plans make God laugh
Cut text: Nobody said it was easy
Title: La interrupción imprevista
She watched him from the blankets, cosy in the nest he'd made before getting up. The blankets smelt of him. If she pressed her face into the linen, she could smell his cologne and his sweat and his skin. But she didn't do that, because then she would have to forego the delicious pleasure of watching him naked. Some people did not look right completely naked; their bodies took on an awkward, unconstructed look, like machines that hadn't been put together properly. He seemed at ease, the muscles flowing under his skin as he moved from the bedroom to the hallway to the kitchen. When he came back in and turned to close the door, Setsuna propped herself up on one elbow and savoured the view of his buttocks, small and taut, the perfect ending to his slender back.
"Are you enjoying yourself?" he said without turning around.
"Very much," she answered, grinning. "I have the most perfect view."
"A view which I will have to spoil, I'm afraid," he said, turning around.
She pretended to pout in disappointment. "Can't you stay like that just a little longer?"
"'Fraid not," he answered, walking towards her. "You'll have to settle for the full frontal view."
"Oh well," she sighed as he got back into bed. "I suppose that's not all bad. Especially since you've got me chocolate as well."
He smiled and snapped off a piece. "Is that my cue?"
"Clever boy," she murmured, opening her mouth and closing her eyes as he placed the chocolate on her tongue.
They took turns feeding each other pieces of the chocolate until their hands were coated in it. "We'll get it on the sheets," she sighed.
"They'll wash," he whispered, taking her hand and gently sucking on each finger, pulling on something deep inside her belly. She tipped her head backwards, swallowing a moan as he licked her palm and nipped the skin of her wrist. The words came out of her throat almost as an afterthought, floating up from somewhere deep inside.
"I love you..."
He paused and she suddenly realised what she'd just said. Shit. Shit shit shit, shit in a bucket. She opened her eyes and saw his face, stunned, the mouth slightly open. Eminently kissable. Stop it. You have to think, not fantasise about his lips. She sat up, her mind racing to think of an escape plan, anything to blot out those words, wipe them away. He straightened, still staring at her. She wanted to scream at him, throw a pillow in his face.
Don't look so surprised!
"I'm sorry," she said, making her voice light. "I don't know what came over me..."
"The truth, obviously," he said, startling her. His voice was calm, almost dispassionate. His mouth was closed now and those green eyes were taking her in, every inch of her. She wanted to pull the blankets up around her body, but she didn't give into the impulse. What was the point of hiding herself after saying those words? Words that she'd never said to any man.
"Do you want me to tell a lie so that you can forget it?" she asked, holding his gaze.
"No," he answered quietly. "So few people tell me the truth... thank you."
He was thanking her? For saying 'I love you'? She couldn't believe this. "Thank you?" she repeated. "Is that all you have to say?"
"No... I don't know what to say. I've never had a woman say that to me before." He ran a hand through his hair, tugging at the strands in a familiar shy gesture. "They don't usually speak to me that much in bed, you know. I'm there for my body, not my brain."
Setsuna took a breath, feeling her anger start to drain away. Instead of being defensive in turn, instead of choosing to argue, he'd simply made himself as vulnerable as her. How could she attack him now? He'd just laid himself open. Clever boy. "Well, I've never said that to a man before," she told him. "So we're even."
"Even? That's a strange way of putting it." He looked at her, smiling a bit. "I prefer 'equal'. The truth makes us all equal."
She tipped her head. "Who said that?"
"Me." He slipped an arm around her shoulders and she turned into him, refusing to think about what had just happened. Better to breathe in his skin, kiss the crook of his neck, revel in the warmth of his body. Self-analysis could wait.
Title: The sudden interruption
Cut text: The truth that hides in my heart
Title: Las consecuencias de la confesión
The problem was that Setsuna was an analytical person. It was part of her job. She analysed the illnesses of people, she analysed the results of the experiments in her university courses, she analysed herself. Avoiding self-analysis was not her strong point. But she refused to think about those words and what they might mean. She refused to acknowledge the fact her feelings were becoming compromised because she didn't want this relationship to end. She didn't want to deal with the consequences of those three little words.
"Are you all right?" Michiru said to her in the kitchen one morning.
"Why do you ask?" Setsuna replied, keeping her voice quiet.
"You've been very withdrawn recently - and I know the difference between you being quiet and you being withdrawn," Michiru added. "You're always looking into the distance, frowning. I sense turmoil in you, and that's unusual, Setsuna. You're so calm."
Setsuna leaned forward and rubbed her hands over her face for a moment. At least it was Michiru talking to her, not Haruka or Hotaru. She wouldn't have been able to bear Hotaru's worry and Haruka... Haruka might have found the truth through constant interrogation. Michiru would be tactful and let Setsuna tell her as much as she wanted. She might draw her own conclusions but at least she wouldn't press for more information.
"I have been worried," she confessed. "I've said something to a friend..."
"Do I know this friend?" Michiru enquired.
"No," Setsuna replied immediately. "He's someone I know from uni."
Michiru nodded, taking this in. "And you've said something... tactless?" Her voice was slightly doubtful: Setsuna did not speak rashly.
"Not tactless, exactly. It just came out and I don't know how to face him after what I've said," Setsuna confessed.
"Well,I can't really help you unless I know what you said, Setsuna," Michiru said, giving a small shrug and picking up her cup of tea. The sunlight streaming through the windows made her hair crystalline, the Pacific distilled and turned solid. It was almost, but not quite, the colour of his eyes.
Setsuna looked into her own tea. She could not scry in water. She could not drain her drink and read the tea leaves. Nothing would tell her what to do about this new problem. Nothing would make it all go away. The only person who could deal with this was... her.
I have to talk to him. God help me.
Title: The consequences of the confession
Cut text: An open door
Title: In Vino Veritas
Setsuna took a deep breath and waited. Chatter and laughter swirled around her but she was apart. Always apart. It wasn't like the café near the avenue of gingkos. It was a small bar, dark with high ceilings, in the style of a traditional Irish pub. Normally, she might have enjoyed the lively atmosphere and the gleam of light on the polished wood on the bar. But she had to talk to him about what she'd said, so she couldn't enjoy anything at the moment. She couldn't relax until she'd explained those words, not just to him, but to herself. Her heart was thumping and her stomach was curling up in apprehension. Yet when he made his way through the crowd, smiling at her, she felt herself melt for a moment and a voice said inside her, It will be all right.
If only she could believe it.
Title: In Wine There Is Truth
Cut text: Forget my words
Title: La imposibilidad de decir adiós (incomplete)
I'm not looking for another as I wander in my time,
Walk me to the corner, our steps will always rhyme
You know my love goes with you as your love stays with me,
It's just the way it changes, like the shoreline and the sea,
But let's not talk of love or chains and things we can't untie,
Your eyes are soft with sorrow,
Hey, that's no way to say goodbye.
- Hey, That's No Way To Say Goodbye, Leonard Cohen
"I'm glad that you called," he said softly. "I've been wanting to talk to you but... I got the feeling you were avoiding me. And there wasn't any point in talking to you until you were ready."
Setsuna felt herself go red. Oh God, why did he have to read her so well? Why did she have to love him for that? Why did she have to love him at all? "What I said..." she began, and then stopped. She couldn't go on. It was coming, coming towards her. The consequence of her actions. That horrible, horrible word.
"Do you regret it?" he asked very gently, when it became clear she wouldn't continue.
"No, but... I wish I hadn't said it. I wish I hadn't said it and... and brought us to this."
"This?" He blinked. "What do you mean?"
"This, us, here..." She wanted to hide her face in her hands. She had never felt so out of control.
"If you wish you hadn't said it, then you do regret it," he pointed out.
"I don't regret the words, I regret the circumstances," she said, making herself look at him. "It was... silly of me to say something like that. It raises expectations."
"Oh. Really." He sipped his drink. "My expectations have remained at the same level, I have to say."
"If it makes you feel better, I'll say it back." He gave her that gentle, winning smile. "I'll even do it now."
"In the bar?!" She stared at him.
"Might as well."
"No!" She shook her head. "Zabi, telling me that you love me is not going to make things better."
"And what is going to make things better? In your opinion?"
Setsuna bit the inside of her lip and looked at the polished surface of the table for a moment. Here it was, the way out. He'd provided it so graciously. And she couldn't take it. "This was never meant to be serious," she said softly.
"I think it became serious a long time ago," he said coolly. "It's just that now you've realised it and you're scared."
"We have to end it," she said, throwing the words out like dynamite and waiting for the explosion.
"You mean, you have to end it," he said, not even flinching.
"Fine, I have to end it."
"So do it. Say goodbye, get up and walk out." He kept watching her. Why wasn't he looking upset? "If you're so scared, if you're so convinced that our relationship has passed its sell-by date, why don't you just say goodbye?"
She looked at him, taking her last fill of that golden hair, those green eyes, that perfect mouth. She took a deep breath. She opened her mouth.
"I can't," she said, defeated.
Title: Los dichos del amor
Theme: "Only Time" by Enya (Setsuna)
Night keeps all your heart.
Who can say if your love grows
As your heart chose?
Only Time - Enya
She could remember it now, that night when they first kissed. Standing above the party, her heart pounding with delight and excitement as fantasy became reality. The taste of his mouth, wine and chocolate, his tongue slipping over hers, causing a shudder down her spine. His arms wrapping around her, blocking out the world. She remembered thinking, This is going to be delicious. This is going to be fun.
And it was fun. But it grew to be more than fun. It wasn't planned, of course. She skated along the surface and ignored the feelings swelling underneath, the words that crowded her mouth when he moved inside her body, the way she wanted to wake up next to him, the way she wanted to show him off.
At night, she wrote haiku after haiku, small and intense pearls that almost glowed with feeling. She kept them all in a pillow book, her own private treasury of love and longing that strung the pearls together in a necklace. Occasionally, she copied one out and gave it to him, if it wasn't too emotional. This was why she only gave them occasionally.
She should have known. You cannot choose the path of love. You cannot choose how it grows. You can only accept or reject.
Time will tell. She knew the truth of that saying better than anyone... and she was quite happy with what it said.
Title: Sayings of love
Cut text: Night protects your heart
Title: De acá para allá
Theme: Roller Skates
"Come on, Setsuna-san!"
Minako moved effortlessly past her, deliberately showing off. Her blonde hair flew out in a curtain behind her and Setsuna could see Takehiko's eyes glance towards her young friend for a fraction of a moment. It really was amazing, she thought; most men (about five on the rink alone) were openly staring at Minako. And Minako was highly aware of it. She was aware of how long and shapely her legs seemed in the roller skates, how the shorts hugged her hips and pert bottom, how the exercise brought a becoming flush to her cheeks.
Setsuna was quite prepared to roller skate, but not so she could be a contrast to Minako. She would roller skate for fun only.
"You go ahead," she said calmly. "I'm waiting for the right moment."
Minako sighed. "Okay... if you say so..." She flew off, holding her arms out behind her as if she were ice skating or posing for a statue. Setsuna watched her go.
She jumped. Takehiko was standing beside her, also watching Minako, his mouth curled in amusement.
"She certainly is," Setsuna replied demurely.
"Would you care to skate with me?" he asked, turning to her. "I promise I'll go slow."
"Oh, and I was so hoping that you'd live a little," she joked, standing up and taking his hand as she stepped onto the rink.
"Living?" he said, pretending to be horrified. "Whoever heard of such a thing?"
"You've obviously led a sheltered existence," she smiled, taking the lead as they began to skate. "Life is for the living. And roller skating is a fun part of living."
"Fun," he said, as they separated, still skating at the same speed. "Another thing I haven't heard of."
"Oh, I don't believe that!"
"It's true, according to Minako-san." Again that amused smile, which she couldn't help returning.
"Well, Minako-chan's idea of fun is..." She glanced towards the end of the rink, where Minako was now talking to two boys and laughing very loudly.
"Different," Takehiko supplied.
"Yes," Setsuna said, turning away and suppressing the thought that Minako was probably not having fun at this moment, despite those two boys. She couldn't always look after people. She had to enjoy herself sometimes. They were friends, roller skating together. She wouldn't feel guilty about it.
Title: Back and forth
Cut text: The funny blonde