dedication: to Mars. for all the times we never thought we'd make it through. we're still here, nugget. we're still here.
notes: sometimes I reread the first arc and cry ugly tears.
notes2: yo it's so good to be back in this universe like damn
title: heads will roll
summary: You make me feel like a hunter. — Rei/Jadeite, Makoto.
Rei Hino sat curled in the window seat of her apartment, a steaming mug of jasmine tea tucked between her fingers, cradled in the hollow of her bare legs. It was early, still—the sun hadn't quite risen over the horizon, and grey-pink dawn filtered in through the glass to wash her bedroom in pale morning light.
It was still and silent this high up, away from the crash of traffic below, and Rei breathed in slowly though her nose.
For now, she could pretend she was alone, and that there wasn't a snoring blond-haired lug in her bed.
And no, she wasn't talking about Mina. No, she wasn't even talking about Serena.
No, she was talking about Jakob (a very naked Jakob), who happened to be sprawled in her bed with his hair everywhere, and who also happened to be snoring very loudly.
But Rei didn't have the heart to wake him.
They did this, sometimes; after he'd taken her home on the train (after Kaidou), something had finally snapped between them. Rei could feel it even now, a slowly-steadying skein of camaraderie that was built mostly on extremely athletic sex and a shared disdain of the world they lived in. She hadn't put a name to it yet, and wasn't planning on it.
Jakob was annoying, but there were times when he was quiet and soft and almost sweet (when he wasn't smirking and whispering dirty things in her ear, anyway). Morning tea before he headed to the university because he knew she hated coffee, the trail of his fingers down her bare back, fresh Chinese takeout waiting on the table before she got home, steaming warmth and—
Rei shook the thoughts away.
They had extremely athletic sex, and that was it.
There was no relationship happening here.
A groan came from the bed. "Jesus, Rei, I can hear you thinking from here."
"Shut up," she told him succinctly, and drew her knees up closer to her chest. "I'm enjoying the sunrise."
"The sun isn't even up yet," he sighed. "Get over here, Majesty."
"I will actually kill you," Rei warned him, but she unfolded herself from the window nook, the shirt he'd worn the previous night held together on her frame by a single button. She stepped softly across the wood-paneled floor, each footfall careful.
"White washes you out," Jakob said. He stretched, muscles twisting and bunching, and reached for her. "You look better in black."
"I look best in red," Rei corrected him, but she let him pull her down onto her comforter.
"Actually," he snickered into her hair, arms tightening around her waist, "I think you look best in nothing—"
"Stupid!" Rei whacked him over the head. "I have clothes on!"
"They're my clothes, you're gonna have to take 'em off, remember? And once your clothes are off—" Jakob paused, and his eyes glazed over.
"You're not getting morning sex, Jakob," Rei told him boredly. "I'm supposed to be meeting Lita, and I still need to shower."
"Sure I can't persuade you?" he asked, skimming the tips of his fingers down her back. When she shivered, he smirked. "Absolutely sure?
"Get off, idiot," Rei sighed, but made no effort to push him away. She closed her eyes and tucked into him, breathing in the scent of his skin in the sunlight. Her morning rituals were not meant to be disturbed, but Jakob did such a good job of it that she almost didn't mind.
He laughed, so softly that if she hadn't been pressed to his chest to feel the rumbling of it, she wouldn't have heard it at all. Rei pulled away to shoot him a piercing look.
"Up," she said, "and out. I have things to do, Jakob, and none of them involve you."
"Awww, I was looking forwards to getting done—"
Rei didn't even deign to reply to that.
He hit the ground with a muffled thud, a sound that felt like pain. She peeked over the side of the bed, and got a face full of Jakob's perfect abs.
It was way too early in the morning for this.
The sheets went flying across the bed, white clouds across the moon, and then Rei's long bare legs were a flash of warm skin in the light in through the window. She stood, stretched, stretched, all the bones in her spine popping in an ugly oilslick of a sound.
"I have to go," she said. She didn't pay attention to the man sitting naked on her floor; Rei had long made it her mission in life to never let anyone know when they had the upper hand (if they ever did: she'd never been one to give up leverage without a fight). "And you need to get dressed."
"Aww, can't I stay 'til you get back? We could—"
"No," Rei said, sudden fury snapping behind her lips.
It was just sex.
It was just sex.
"Rei?" he asked, voice falling to low, gentle tones. "You okay?"
"Yeah," she said, tossing her hair over her shoulder as she turned towards her closet. "I'm fine. I told you, I have to meet Lita, and you have to be—not here."
She didn't say where, exactly, he had to be. New York was a big city, all big-city bright lights in the middle of the night and the screech-beep-beep of big-city traffic, singing its way through her veins; Jakob could go anywhere, as far as Rei was concerned.
As long as it wasn't here.
(He needed to be out of her space, like, yesterday.)
Her mood was black, and so that was what she wore. The fabric was thin and smooth against her skin as he pulled the dress over her head. Black heels, amethyst-red gems winking at her ears. She could hear him shuffling behind her, the clink of his belt as he did up his pants. She'd undressed him before, knew what the scars on his hands felt like between her thighs, could tell what the golden silk of his hair in her hands meant.
God, sometimes she would have given anything to go back to before.
(Of course, before meant Kaidou and her father and horrible white dresses that she wanted to burn to ash in the kitchen sink. Before meant weakness in her limbs, pale knobbly knees and fear tightening in her throat and—it meant a lot of things, none of them kind. Anything was better than before; Rei could no more go back to before than she could stop breathing.)
A long line of heat pressed against her back. Her whole spine turned to diamond, all her insides clenching hot, bubbling like cooking oil, and she stood unwilling and stiff in the circle of his arms. Jakob's hands skipped down her frame, came to rest on her hips; he was the realest thing in the universe for a moment, solid heat anchoring her to the world when nothing else could.
Rei pulled away from him, regardless.
(It was just sex.)
"Hands off," she said, sharply.
"Okay," Jakob said, and then he was off, gone. "Okay, Rei. I'm leaving."
For a moment, the sensory deprivation almost made her sick. She closed her eyes for a little longer than a standard blink to get herself back in order. Put away your darkness, hold your words like a flower in your mouth, keep your anger beneath your skin a comfortable fizzing, and no one will be able to touch you anymore, she thought, hiding in the blood-infused glow behind her eyelids.
Everything could be better, like this.
She wasn't expecting the sudden touch of lips against her cheek. There for a moment and then gone, leaving only the impression of desert dryness and a sudden cold, Rei couldn't tell if she'd imagined it or not.
It was such a little thing.
"See you later, Majesty," Jakob said in her ear.
Rei kept her eyes closed until she heard the door click shut behind him.
"I don't get it," Lita said, for the umpteenth time that morning.
"What's not to get?" Rei asked, sipping delicately at her tea.
It was a summery kind of morning, frothy green and seething with life. The café that Lita had picked—because Lita always picked the best cafés, it was a thing—had painted white chairs at sunny little tables with blue and white flowers in dark vases plunked right in the middle. Midtown rushed around them, singing the city's praises to echo down to the docks where the sun glittered stars off the water.
Rei picked at the raspberry scone she'd ordered, determinedly avoiding Lita's knowing green gaze. The tea was good, well-made Darjeeling, milky and sweet.
"Are you two together, or not?"
"Are you and Nate together?" Rei asked, instead of answering. She took another sip of her tea.
(Let her stew about that for a while.)
Low blow that it was, Lita didn't take the bait. She watched Rei with her hands cupped around a mug of something spicy, her curls tied up off her neck to avoid the already-brewing summer's heat. Serena's wedding was in three weeks, and no one was ready at all. No one would be, probably, even when the time came.
"No," Lita said. "We aren't. Don't be mean, Rei."
"I am mean," Rei said.
"Not to me," Lita said, and Rei couldn't argue with that. "To everyone else, sure, but not to me."
Rei's shoulders slumped as the fight went out of her. Head tipped back so that her long dark hair nearly brushed the ground, she might have been a war goddess reclining after a long day of rending her enemies in two.
But Serena's wedding wasn't an enemy Rei could stop. Lita wasn't an enemy at all. And Jakob… Rei wasn't sure how to fight him, either. She wasn't even sure if she wanted to.
"So are you together? Because I still don't get it. You're sleeping together, I take it."
"How do you know that?!"
"Rei," Lita said, very patiently, "when you've been laid, you're much better-tempered. The waiter looked down your dress and you didn't even yell at him. You are obviously banging someone."
"It could be anyone," Rei muttered rebelliously.
Lita didn't even deign to reply to that. Instead, she just stared at her piercingly until Rei realized that she wasn't going to be going away any time soon.
"Fine. We're—I don't know the word. It's not a relationship."
"Then what is it?"
And that was the million dollar question, wasn't it. What is it? What is it? Was there even anything to talk about, when he was snickering in her bed and she could only wonder what it would be like to press her thumb into his pulse and push? Rei exhaled, trying to find the words to explain. They came, but haltingly.
"We don't care about each other."
"You are such a bad liar," Lita smiled, chin resting on her linked fingers. "That was almost as bad as Serena, Rei, come on, at least put some feeling into it."
Rei's scowl was fierce, biting wintry fury too intense for such a lovely day. She sat across from Lita, chin set forwards in a wordless challenge, and tried again.
"We don't. Or at least—at least he doesn't care about me."
"Okay, you lying liar who lies—"
"Have you been talking to Mina? That was a Mina-ism, Lita."
"—He cares about you so much that it's gross. He's devoted, Rei, are we even talking about the same person? Jakob's in love with you; he has been since the start!"
"It doesn't matter, anyway," Rei said, mouth tight, hair across her face. A breeze had sprung up, one of those odd breezes that you could see and hear before you felt: the sound of leaves rustling in the park across the way and the movement of the branches, the way the girl up the street lost her hat to the sudden wind.
Rei watched for it, waited, and then breathed out relief when it finally hit.
There was something on the wind, caught up in Lita's curls, but Rei couldn't put her finger quite on what it was. It was a little like purple-white lightning, maybe a knowledge that sat in the marrow of her bones, the crack and snap-pop of it settling something deep inside. It was something in the breath of the world, a pounding in its veins that Rei could feel.
It was a fundamental change.
"It's okay, you know," Lita was saying.
Rei blinked at her friend, pulled ever so rudely from her reverie. She'd been a million miles away—or, at least she'd been as far as the other side of the city; she'd been curled, for a moment, in Jakob's shitty Brooklyn apartment with its bare-brick walls and its ratty carpet and its wobbly table. She hadn't even realized she'd been there until Lita had taken her away from it. "Sorry, what is?"
"Caring. It's okay."
Rei's hands clenched convulsively. She sat ram-rod straight, all sharp in the shoulders, a terrible tightness in her throat. "Excuse me?"
"Caring is okay," Lita said again, and she was so gentle and so sweet that Rei could feel something sloshing behind her eyes; it was about to spill over into the real world, and she couldn't have that.
"I can't Lita, you know I can't."
"You can, though," she said. "Jakob isn't Kaidou."
There were so many things Rei was afraid of.
But this was what she was afraid of, most.
"I know that," said Rei.
"Do you, though?" Lita asked. "Do you really? Because I know you, Rei, and I get how you are about feelings. And, okay, I understand. What Kaidou did—that was so low. That was the lowest, and you don't ever have to forgive him! But they're not the same person. Don't judge them the same, okay?"
Of all the people in all the world, this was why Rei trusted Lita the most.
Lita was sitting across their little table with her head in her hands and her heart on her sleeve, and all she asked was that Rei do the same. It wasn't like Mina, who's fury over Ace still simmered beneath her skin, or Serena, who didn't know what it meant to fall in love with the wrong person at the wrong time, or Amy, who would only know a bad relationship if it hit her the face. Lita saw things as they were, not as the world wanted them to be: she took them at face value. But still, she hoped.
Gods, if Nate ever hurt her, Rei would burn him alive.
"I'm scare, Lita," Rei said.
Lita reached across the table to link their fingers together.
"I know," she said. "But we're all scared."
"What do I do?"
"The only thing you can do," Lita shrugged, still smiling. "Move forwards."
"I hate it when you're right," Rei sighed. Lita's eyes twinkled brightly, sun through new leaves, and didn't say anything. "Where's our waiter, I want some—"
And then, of course, the entire world inverted.
Rei's head snapped up, her eyes went narrow, and she twisted around in her chair so fast she gave herself a neck crick. The pain was a hot shrill thing, and then it faded just as fast as her horror overtook her entire being.
She couldn't help the venom in her voice. Didn't want to, for that matter. "What are you doing here? Don't you have class or something?"
Jakob's grin was wide was the whole sky and twice as bright. "Oh, we were invited!"
"No, you weren't! I told you I was meeting Lita for tea—how did you even find me?!"
He pointed brightly at Lita who waved guiltily at Nate, who'd somehow managed to hide his giant's frame behind Jakob. Or, more likely, Rei had been so focused on the source of all her anger, she'd not seen fit to pay attention to the rest of the world.
It was one of her many problems with Jakob.
He made her forget everything else.
It was infuriating.
"You traitor," Rei said to Lita, mouth open, gobsmacked. "You betrayed me for—for a lay! Benedict Arnold! Marcus Brutus! Judas!"
"He's a really good lay," Jakob said, happily, as he draped himself all over Rei like the limpet he was.
"How would you know?" Rei asked, momentarily distracted from trying to fry Lita with her eyeballs. She tipped her head back to look up at him. His hair was shining in the sun. "I didn't know you were sleeping with him."
Jakob winked down at her. "There's so much you don't know, Rei."
She almost didn't have the heart to shove him off.
But only almost.
"Get off," she said.
He did, for once, gaze burning a clear kerosene blue. It made Rei think of lakes so poisoned that nothing could live them in; death blue was he, all grinning mouth and golden hair, and then her chest was aching with something she didn't know how to name.
He took his hands off her. The loss of them left her cold despite the warmth of the day.
Lita had stood and was beaming up at Nate, soft white flowers growing out of her smile, a forest with thick tree trunks protecting them from the world. They were so close together, tall and taller, Nate's head bowed towards Lita like she was the only important thing in the world. He watched her like she was stars on fire, a burning in the atmosphere, sweet scent of sick ozone.
Not together, my ass, thought Rei.
"They make everyone else look dysfunctional, huh," Jakob said, quietly in her ear. His breath was hot on her neck, and all she could think of was his head between her thighs.
"No," she said, so quietly that it was almost lost in the shuffle-sound of feet against pavement. "You and I just make everyone else look functional."
Jakob laughed, but he didn't deny it, either.
The champagne flute in her hand was cold, perspiring against her skin in the over-heated depths of Mina's mother's ballroom suite.
She hadn't been planning on coming to this party.
In fact, Rei had never planned on coming to any of these parties, but it seemed to keep happening whether she liked it or not. People milled around, glitter-shards of high society's finest all up in their expensive jeweled finery, their laughter grating across her ears as nails against chalkboard. They smiled, but they all had too many teeth.
Rei had to set her jaw to keep from screaming at them.
Gods, what she wouldn't give to be away from here.
It had been Jakob's idea, because it was always Jakob's idea, these days: partycrash one of their parents' shindigs, as though their parents could feel anything but delight at their presence. As if they were really partycrashing at all, when they'd all been invited, born with silver spoons in their mouths. As if the doormen didn't know them, didn't wave them up when everyone else had to be checked, their purses and their wallets all flashing gold cars and fake IDs. As if. As if.
She sipped at the champagne, bitter ash in the back of her throat.
Lita was some ways off, smiling prettily at a group of men and women who all seemed enthralled by her presence. Nate stood at her back, hulking and looking pained. This was about as much his scene as it was Rei's, which is to say, not at all. She caught his eye across the room and tipped her glass in his direction.
Well, at least she wasn't the alone in this misery.
Rei turned, one shimmering long line of ink streaked over fresh paper, to search the room for her wayward—whatever Jakob was. He'd run off earlier to talk to some friends from school, and Rei knew their kind: all golden and blue or dark and dark, all tall, all with laughter like sweet red wine. She'd stay away from them, if she could. They were just building blocks of a society she hated.
It was too bad Jakob wasn't like that. She could have been rid of him, if he was.
Rei looked for him, now.
And found him with a girl hanging off his frame like a shirt.
Later, she would remember that the girl had hair like fire and that she was smirking like she knew a killer secret. Later, she would think that Jakob had looked like he was about to get shot. Later, she would laugh about it, if Rei could laugh about things that made her bubble on in the inside.
But right then, all Rei felt was boiling hot, then freezing cold and shaking in the deepest parts of her soul.
The walk across the ballroom took forever.
She walked slowly, the click of wicked heels distinct over the murmur of a hundred voices. There were eyes on the back of her neck, but nothing could stop her now.
Rei had always known she was possessive, but never like this.
"Jakob," she said, flicked her hair over her shoulder. "I want to go home."
The girl at his side's smirk grew; her lips split over even white teeth. "You've been summoned, Jake, you should probably go."
"Bee—" he said.
She flicked long-nailed fingers at him. "Go on. I can find my own fun. New York's pretty big, there's gotta something to keep my interest."
She shot Rei a smug look that sang I know something you don't know, and then she whirled in a flare of vibrant purple and red hair, and was gone. There was something about her that would linger, later, that smirking intense knowing that Rei would feel curling at the base of her throat when she couldn't quite put her finger on what it was.
Jakob's palm was warm against her hip, callused-rough. He'd never had soft hands a day in his life, too busy playing sports or holding her up against walls to think about keeping his hands in shape, gods, he was so useless, how had he lived this long?
Rei wound her hands into his tie. Thought about tightening it until he couldn't breathe. Thought about stripping it off, stripping him entirely, and laying her claim here in front of all these people: this is mine, I dare you to try to take him away from me.
She didn't, of course.
Instead, she yanked him down to her level so that she could look him in the eye.
"You make me feel like a hunter," Rei murmured, mouth to his ear, and she smiled as her lips brushed over his earlobe and he shuddered beneath her hands. Knee between his thighs, she pressed up until his fists clenched into the fabric of her dress.
"Jesus, Rei," he exhaled.
"Are we going home, or not?" she asked, tugging on his tie again.
"Your place or mine?" his breath came in ragged pants through his nose.
People were going to talk.
Like Rei gave a shit, anymore.
"Home," she said, teeth pressing very briefly into his pulse. A squeaky sound escaped him; it wouldn't be long before he was tossing her over his shoulder and carrying her to the elevator and she'd kick at him because he wasn't a caveman and she wasn't some sort of prize but he—
Jakob's eyes were closed, and he was breathing in her in in great trembling gasps, choking on it. Rei held on and let him hold on.
"Home?" she said.
"Yeah," he nodded very slightly. "Home.
Rei had no doubt that she'd have her legs wrapped around him before they even hit the elevator.
The moon was setting over the horizon, though dawn was still a couple of hours away. She'd woken up sometime during the night and hadn't been able to get back to sleep. The stars were twinkling sleepily. Rei felt their plight very deeply.
"Hey, didn't realize you were up."
"Go back to sleep, Jakob," Rei said.
Her sleep-muzzy boyfriend—and that was the word, the only word that made any sense—left the bed. He'd found some pajama pants he'd left stashed in her dresser: they hung dark and low on his hips. When he plopped himself down next to her in the window nook, his skin was still warm from the covers.
"Nah," he said. "Awake now. What're we doing today?"
Rei's hair fell around her like a coat, black silk and protection against the cold, the blanket she'd tucked around her slipping away from her knees. She looked out the window, and allowed Jakob to wind himself around her. It was comfortable. She was still adjusting.
"Whatever we like," she said.
"Oh, so there's a we, now, huh, Rei?"
Rei glared at him, and Jakob laughed like sunshine.
"Come on, I'm kidding," he said, as he ran his hands through his hair. The golden curls stood on end with static or maybe just the damp. "Don't make me leave."
"No," she said, leaned against him. "No, you stay here." She paused to look at him, take in his hair and his sleepy-eyed grace. "You look ridiculous, by the way."
He went still around her, but only for a moment before he relaxed again. He tucked himself in around her, wrapped the blanket around them both. It was soft and white and warm, safe, and for a moment Rei breathed easy.
"It's early, I'm allowed to look ridiculous," Jakob mumbled into her shoulder blade.
"Mmm," Rei hummed. "I guess so."
"M'gonna go back t'sleep," he said, but it came out slurred with sleep.
"Okay," she said. "Get some rest."
Sleep took Jakob as quickly as it had left him, and it wasn't long before his breathing had evened out and slowed, his grip gone slack around her waist. Rei stared out the window for a long time afterwards, twinkling city lights and stars blurring into each other until all the light in the world was an artificial glitter.
Eventually, though, she closed her eyes.
Jakob warm around her, Rei slept.