Seiya leaned against the balcony railing and let out a deep, mournful sigh. He should have been happy. He should have been overjoyed. He should have felt a deep sense of completion and optimism. He felt none of these things. The contours of a familiar hand settled down onto his shoulder and he tensed under the touch before forcing himself to relax. The sounds of a familiar voice rang out as the hand left its place on his shoulder, "You're unhappy. I wish you'd tell me why..."

He closed his eyes then turned so his back was against the railing - it was always better to face her when speaking with her... He opened his eyes to take in her form once before speaking. Once upon a time... she'd been all he ever wanted. He'd been so deeply in love with her that it had frightened him - and she'd returned the emotion with equal vigor. They'd been so secure... so blithely certain that their love would last throughout eternity and beyond. But now... He closed his eyes again. Why was he unhappy? He thought he knew the reason... but did he have the courage to share it with his Princess?

He could feel it as she shifted beside him. He still knew her that well... and he still loved her. He just didn't love her the same way he always had... And damn it, he didn't know why! Some of his inner turmoil must have shown on his face because she spoke again, "It's about the wedding... I can see it in your face. Fighter, what's wrong? I can't help you if you won't talk to me!"

He could hear the desperation in her voice... Knowing that he was the cause of the crack in her royal serenity caused a pang in his heart whenever he thought about it. A bitter chuckle almost escaped him at his choice of words. Why could he never force that girl from his thoughts?? He shook his head as he finally opened his eyes to gaze on his Princess, "Kakyuu... I..."

That was all she needed to hear, apparently. She took a step back from him and shook her head, "Iie... Fighter..." One solitary tear fell from her right eye, "I can see it in your eyes... Why didn't you say something?"

Seiya swallowed a sudden lump in his throat, "I didn't want to hurt you... Kakyuu-hime... I do still love you... I always will. I... I just don't..." He couldn't finish the words. The pain that had been fighting to overwhelm him for the past year was threatening to shatter what little control he still had. He couldn't do this... He couldn't do it to her... Why couldn't he be happy???

One of those slender hands rose to cover her mouth before she regained her own control and lowered her eyes, "You still love me... Iie. Fighter... I don't think you do. Not the way I love you. Not anymore." She looked up at her lead senshi, her eyes tear-bright, "You love another. I don't know how you've managed to hide it from me for so long..." She touched one hand to his chest, then leaned into him, tucking herself into the curve of his body to best feel the beating of his heart. It was a simple action, one she'd performed hundreds of times before... but this time it hurt. It hurt so badly... because he so desperately wanted to have someone else tucked away in that spot that had always been hers.

Her voice was quiet and full of tears with her next words, "You're in pain... Such terrible pain. You hid that too... Fighter... Why?"

He couldn't take it anymore. Just because he was miserable didn't mean she had to be, as well. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her closer, "Everyone is so happy... Our planet has been rebuilt. Our people have all returned home. Everything is so perfect. I didn't want to mar it with my pain. It seemed such a selfish thing to do..." His voice dropped down to a whisper, "And the last thing I wanted was for you to have to feel this pain. One of us is enough."

She shook her head against his chest as she wrapped her own arms around his waist, "Oh, Fighter... You should have said something... We could have helped!"

"No you couldn't. You can't. There's only one thing that can ease this pain... and it isn't something that is yours to give." He released her and stepped away. Too close... she was coming too close. If she kept pressing he wouldn't be able to hide the depth of his injuries from her anymore. "What I want... it isn't possible, Kakyuu. I know that. I'm willing to stay here - with you. I'm still willing to marry you. I just hope that you can forgive me..." He bowed once, then turned and left. Kakyuu bowed her head and wept.

*****

Yaten lifted a hand to her mouth and shook her head as she watched Seiya run off. Oh... he may not have been running in the physical sense... but he was running. Running from a pain that would never leave him. How had she missed it?? How could Seiya have been hurting that badly and hid it from all of them? How could he have hid it from me?? She lowered her hand and smoothed out her dress. She'd have to talk to Seiya. He couldn't continue like this for much longer.

She lifted her skirts and took off at a jog, cursing the high heels she'd chosen for the day. If she couldn't keep up with Seiya... He knew the streets of the capital better than any of them - he could easily lose her in the afternoon's heavy traffic.

She spotted him up ahead, now running in earnest, and hastened to catch up. Damn, damn, damn! She didn't have a prayer of catching him in what she was wearing... After a moment's indecision, Yaten grabbed for her henshin microphone and transformed. She leapt onto a nearby rooftop and searched the area for signs of Seiya's form. She was already too late. Seiya was nowhere to be seen. She cursed.

Where could he have gone? Well... there was no use for it. She'd just have to scour the city in search of him. But first... maybe she'd get lucky. She pulled out her communicator and tried hailing him. Pick up... Come on, Seiya... Pick up, damn it! No luck. He either wasn't answering... or couldn't answer. A sudden feeling of foreboding shivered down Yaten's spine. Considering the frame of mind that Seiya was in, she wouldn't put it past him to do something monumentally stupid. "K'so!" She didn't waste another moment in beginning her search. Hang in there, Seiya... Just a little longer. I'll be there soon... Just hang on.

*****

Before Seiya had even registered what direction his feet were carrying him in, he had already reached his destination. He looked up and almost smiled. The salle... how... appropriate. When Taiki is upset he ends up in the lab, when Yaten is upset she ends up in the hospital, and when I'm upset... I end up in the practice arena. Why does everything have to make so much blasted sense?

Ah well. There was no use for it. If fighting would help ease the growing pain in his heart and soul, then so be it. He would fight. He pulled off his suit jacket and removed his shoes and socks, preparing to run through a kata. He had to find some way to center himself, some way to calm his raging emotions. If he didn't... if he didn't, he wouldn't survive this.

The first steps of the kata were comforting, easy. He slid into the next level of the kata with familiar ease as he felt his body and mind slowly starting to calm. For a moment - just for a moment - he thought it would work. However, the further along he pushed himself, the more uncontrolled his actions became. His soul was in such pain that he couldn't channel his energy into the movements properly. He brought the kata to a crashing halt, falling to the mats and slamming his fists into the unforgiving ground.

The sounds of his own harsh breathing were thunderous in his ears. He had to do something... He couldn't continue on like this... Even his normal calming methods weren't working! He waited a few minutes for his breathing to ease and for his soul to become quiet - or as quiet as it got these days. Not surprisingly, he didn't feel much calmer than before he'd started. His heart still felt like it was falling to pieces.

He forced himself to his feet and walked over to his locker to retrieve his sword. Even more than hand-to-hand martial arts, his sword had always felt natural. He hadn't taken it with him... when he went to Earth. After all, a sword is not a senshi weapon. That's what the Sailor Star Yell's are for. Each of the Starlights had one to channel their attacks through. But there were times... oh, there had been many times when he'd wished for the comfort of his blade while on Earth.

He pulled the katana from its sheath and took up the beginning stance of his favorite kata. Maybe... maybe this time he'd be able to stay in control. He had to stay in control.

He could feel the kata going wrong from the very beginning. His mind just wasn't focused enough. The encounter with Kakyuu had broken open a wound that he had deceived himself into believing was healed. Oh, he'd been wrong... The wound was at least as bad as it had been a year ago - if anything, it was worse. He thought... it felt like how he imagined a broken Soulbond would feel. Except that he had never been Soulbound.

As he allowed his mind to drift, the kata started to settle around him with the comfort of an old sweater. Better... that was better. Anyway, in theory a person had the potential to Souldbond to about 5 other people. So, why weren't there more Soulbonded couples in the Universe? Well... the odds that one of those five people actually lived on the same planet as you did - much less anywhere near you on that planet... were slim to none. However, if you were lucky enough to find one of your potential Bondeds then the Bond was there for life. If one died, the other died - it was that simple.

He moved on to the next level of the kata - actually, it wasn't that simple... It just seemed that way. The truth was that it actually was possible to Heal a broken soulbond - no matter how much damage it did to a person's heart and soul. All you had to do was soulbond to someone else, ne? Only one problem - if it was hard to find one of the five people you had the potential to soulbond to, then it was virtually impossible to find two. Therefore, if your bonded dies, or if the bond was somehow broken, you died because your Soul would slowly tear itself apart and bleed to death.

He didn't understand why he felt like that was such an appopriate description for how he'd been feeling this past year, but it was. He'd managed to hide his soul's injuries from everyone, but Kakyuu had almost undone him earlier. At least it had been Kakyuu and not Kinmoku's resident Mindhealer. He had no doubt that now that Yaten was freed up from dealing with the hurts that the people of their planet had experienced upon returning home that she would find out about what he'd been hiding. She was too perceptive to miss it now that she had the time to really look. He'd have to avoid her...

The thought of having to lie to his best friends caused a different sort of pain in his heart. Was this what his life was to be like from now on? An endless round of lies, deceptions, and soul-searing pain? If so... he didn't think he was up for it. He would never make it - especially not with his control already cracking.

As for right now... he just wanted the pain to stop. He didn't care how, he just wanted it to stop. A small sob welled up in his chest as he pushed himself harder into the kata. There had to be some way to make the pain stop! A deep shock suddenly ran down his arm and he jumped, dropping his sword from a suddenly numb hand. He stared down at his left arm in surprise - and at the fat drops of crimson blood splashing freely from the gash on his forearm. What? He hadn't cut himself in practice in... in... well... forever!

He dropped to his knees beside his fallen sword and stared at the fresh wound. It slowly filtered into his consciousness that when he had cut himself... the pain in his heart had dropped into the background. Only for a moment... but it had. Maybe... He lifted his sword again and this time deliberately drew a line down his arm beside the first. He watched in detached fascination as more blood welled up. The shock of the injury was less this time, but it still distracted him from the pain in his heart.

Somewhere in the back of his mind a small voice was screaming that this was a bad idea, but he no longer had the strength to listen to it. He continued to draw lines of blood down his left arm until he had made a complete circuit around to the first gash. They were fairly small cuts, but they were deep and they bled freely. It felt so clean, so pure. This pain was his. It wasn't being forced on him by something he couldn't control and couldn't fix. A slow smile spread across his face as he shifted his sword to his left hand to better get at his right arm.

He noticed, with irritation, that his left hand seemed too weak to properly hold his sword. He was forced to brace the sword between his legs to steady it. Ah... that was better. He made the same circuit around his right wrist as he had around his left. The fresh injuries and the steady flow of blood kept the other pain away. His smile widened. As he made the last cut on his right wrist he started to feel his eyelids drooping. He was so tired... why was he so tired? That rational little voice was screaming that he was so tired because his body's whole supply of blood was busy pooling out onto the floor of the salle, but he was too drained to make any sense of it.

He let the sword drop to the floor a second time and only barely noticed as his body followed it. He was so tired... As the pain of the cuts began to fade the pain in his heart swelled and rose to the occasion. He let out a choked sob. No... not after... no... it wasn't fair. I just want the pain to stop!! Onegai...! Onegai...

For a change, someone answered his desperate prayers. The edges of his vision started to gray with approaching unconsciousness. The little voice was screaming at him that if he passed out... if he didn't get to a doctor right that instant... he was going to die - bleed to death. Nonsense. He was just going to go to sleep and let the pain fade. No harm in that, ne? He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and drifted off on the haze of pain.

*****

Yaten was about ready to scream in frustration. She'd searched the area where she'd lost sight of Seiya and had found no trace of him. Which meant that he must have teleported somewhere. She could only pray that he'd been in complete control of his faculties when he'd done it - if not, he might very well be dead. Don't think about that, Healer... just don't think about it.

She'd checked his rooms in the palace. She'd checked all the other rooms in the Palace. She'd checked the local schools and she'd checked all the hospitals. No Seiya. If she was worried before, she was downright panicked now. After a moment of listening to her heart thudding and pounding in her chest, Yaten took a deep breath and sat down. She had to stop reacting and start acting. She had to start thinking. If she were Seiya and she were upset, where would she go?

She mentally ran down the list of options in her mind, pausing at each one and considering. When she arrived at the fourth, she smacked her forehead in dismay. "I should have thought of that first! Not last... My the gods help me..." She jumped to her feet and leapt off the rooftop, landing in a dead run for her destination. When Maker was upset, he went to the labs. When Healer was upset, she went to the hospitals. So naturally, when Fighter was upset, he'd find something to fight - or somewhere to practice fighting - in other words, he'd go to the salle.

*** I'm missing a paragraph or two here ***

By the time Healer reached the salle, a frustrated Taiki was already standing outside, scowling at the door. She pulled up short beside him, "What's the matter?"

Taiki's hands clenched into fists, "He locked the damned door from the inside. I think he's got something jammed against it. I've been trying to get inside for a few minutes now - and failing." He turned worried eyes on his fellow senshi, "I can feel that something's wrong with him. I don't know how I missed it before... Why didn't he tell us?"

Healer sighed as she stared around the outside of the salle, looking for another way in. She'd been puzzling that particular question to death since she caught that act between Seiya and Kakyuu earlier. "As near as I can tell, he just didn't want to bother us. Which is the damned stupidest thing I've ever heard! We're not supposed to keep things like this from each other. I'm a Healer, for crying out loud! If he didn't want to tell anyone else, he at least should have told me!" She gave the building one more good, hard glare, "Taiki... I think the only way we'll be able to get in is through the skylights."

Taiki nodded, not needing any further encouragement. Moments later found Healer and Maker up on the salle roof, staring down in horror at what they saw inside. They leapt into a double flying kick and went right through the skylight, now having confirmed that there was no time to waste - not if the rapidly spreading pool of blood that they saw glinting on the salle floor was any indication.

Yaten detransformed and immediately began tearing strips out of her court gown, cursing Seiya for his stupidity as she worked, "Bad enough that you could have hurt yourself by accident in here... no, that wasn't good enough. You had to go and slit your gods-be-damned wrists! Damn it, Seiya!"

She tied quick, effecient field bandages around her friend's arms and checked his vitals: heartbeat was slow, breathing was shallow... and the gods only knew how long he'd been laying here like this. She thumped a hand against his chest, hardly noticing as the tears starting leaking down her cheeks, "Don't you die on me, Seiya! Don't you dare die on me... Baka!"

Maker laid a gentle hand on her shoulder, "The ambulance will be here soon." She then paused as though she didn't want to ask the next question for fear of the answer, "Is... is he going to be all right?"

Yaten threw her hands up in frustration, "How the hell should I know? I'm a MindHealer, not a doctor! He looks pretty damned bad to me! Gods damn it - why doesn't he ever think before he does things, Maker? Why?"

The older senshi shook her head as she detransformed, "I don't know, Yaten... I don't know." Taiki knelt down next to his friend and stroked a lock of hair back from his pale, chalky face, "Hang in there, old friend. We've come too far to lose each other now... Just hang in there."

Several tense moments later, the paramedics rushed in the door, loaded Seiya onto a stretcher and into the ambulance even before the remaining senshi could register that they'd been there. Taiki helped Yaten to her feet, "Come on. My car is outside, we'll meet them at the hospital."

*****

Kakyuu paced anxiously around the hospital waiting room. She, Taiki, and Yaten had been sitting and waiting for news for nearly two hours now. She was one set of paces away from throwing everyone in the dungeon if they told her that she should calm down, yet again. Taiki opened his mouth, undoubtedly to say just that, and she just glared at him, fire and anger flashing in her crimson gaze, "Don't. Just don't." Taiki shut his mouth. Kakyuu resumed pacing.

She had a lot of thinking to do. How could she have misjudged the situation so badly? She'd always been able to read Seiya like a book - no thought could remain hidden from her for long. Yet he'd been able to hide this soul-searing pain from her for a year. It was hard to believe. She'd thought that she knew everything there was to know about her beloved. But she hadn't known this. Somehow he'd kept it from her.

She turned and paced back the other way. Ever since they were children, Seiya had been there for her - always supporting her, always helping her, always loving her. They'd been closer than siblings all through their childhood and as they grew and matured, their love had done the same, slowly growing and developing into romance.

At first, her parents had been against her choice. After all, the senshi were encouraged to chose a female form upon maturity and the princess was encouraged to do the same. There could be no children from such a marriage. Or so the old customs dictated. It had been a long, hard decision, but Kakyuu had eventually decided that she didn't care what form Seiya's body took. She loved Seiya, Fighter - the person, not the body. And she would gladly fight her parents over the issue if she had to.

But, as usual, Seiya had stepped in with a solution even before the problem came to a head. He had chosen, in spite of common prejudice against the idea, to retain a male form upon maturing. It was a bold and somewhat unpopular move, but with Kakyuu's support and the strength of their love evident to all who saw them, his decision was eventually excepted. Her parents even backed down.

It wasn't many years after the furor was over that Galaxia attacked. Her parents had been killed in the first wave of destruction that swept over their planet. After seeing how desperately the battle was turning, Kakyuu had made a tremendously hard decision. Far more difficult than her choice to marry Seiya. She abandoned Kinmoku. She sent her people out into the stars with the promise that someday she would call them home.

She did have a plan - not a very detailed one, but a plan nonetheless. She and the Starlights could not fight Galaxia alone. That much was clear. And as princesses went, Kakyuu was not yet very powerful. They needed allies and the only ones that Kakyuu could think of, the only ones who had not yet fallen to Galaxia, were the senshi of the Silver Millenium. As a child, she had heard many stories of their bravery and their prowess in battle. Many stories of how, even as Metallia and Beryl destroyed their kingdom, they had survived to fight far into the future. Many stories of Queen Serenity and the legendary power of the Silver Crystal. It was on these stories that she fell back upon in her most desperate hour. And so, with a heavy heart, she kissed Fighter goodbye and sent her, along Maker and Healer, to Earth.

It was many months before she was able to join them. It had taken her that long to find the strength she would need to fight Galaxia alongside the Princess of the Moon. It had been a long, lonely journey, but it had been worth it.

Looking back on it, she should have realized that something was wrong, even then. However, when she had first seen him, the sight had filled her vision until there was nothing else left, and she had missed the signs. The underlying sadness beneath his joy upon seeing her. The wistfulness in his expression whenever the Moon Princess came up in conversation. The respect and admiration in his voice when he defended Serenity's powerful, yet untrained skills. The sudden hesitation in his touch when he held her in his arms. The little hitch in his breathing when he told her he loved her. All these little signs that she had failed to detect... and Seiya was now paying the price for her ignorance.

She stopped in her pacing and slammed a fist into the wall, scaring the daylights out of Taiki and Yaten. It just wasn't fair. It wasn't fair that Seiya was in such pain... and it wasn't fair that he was about to put her through it, as well. Oh, she was certain that he'd meant it when he said he was still willing to marry her. But it wouldn't be right to force him into that situation and she knew it. But what else could she do? If he stayed on Kinmoku and stayed alone, he would pine himself to death. But she couldn't let him return to Earth, either. Serenity... she was already taken, already Soulbound, and had been for one thousand years. He couldn't come between that, nor would he want to. So all that sending him to Earth would accomplish would be to cause the Moon Princess the same pain that they were now going through. And that wasn't right.

How had this happened? How in the world had Seiya fallen for her? She doubted that he had done it on purpose - not when he knew that Kakyuu would return to him someday. He would have fought falling in love with another. So, how had this come to be? She sighed heavily, finally sinking down into a chair and letting her head drop into her hands. It just wasn't fair...


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