24 Hours to Life
by Moon Momma

6:00 pm, Dark Kingdom/Tokyo
Kunzite and Zoisite

* * * * * * * *

Kunzite opened his eyes and found himself lying in the tunnel into the Dark Kingdom where he'd had his fatal confrontation with the Sailor Senshi. The tunnel was dark and felt dead, devoid of the creeping sense Metallia's life force had permeated it with. He stood, sorting through memories - Zoisite's death, his death, the offer, the things he had learned about Zoisite, the events during his operations on Earth. He had a lot of work to do, but first -

He teleported to the palatial suite of rooms he had lived in during his time in the Dark Kingdom, where Zoisite had died in beauty and sorrow. If Zoisite was coming back too, that was either where he would wake up or the first place he would go. And of course Zoisite had to be coming back as well; what would be the point of Kunzite being required to accept Zoisite's true feelings, if Zoisite wasn't there? Though it was only logical that Zoisite would be getting a second chance as well, Kunzite braced himself for disappointment as he began searching his rooms.

He didn't have to look far. In his throne room, he found Zoisite sitting on the floor beside Kunzite's throne, knees pulled up to his chest. looking rather lost. Kunzite halted in his tracks, overcome by a mix of lust and a simple longing to just hold Zoisite in his arms and lose himself in the feel and closeness of him.

Zoisite looked up and saw Kunzite. "Kunzaito-sama!" he exclaimed, jumping to his feet. "You're alive too!" He started towards Kunzite, then stopped. "Did you hear the voice, too? What did it tell you?"

"It told me -" Kunzite froze up at repeating the requirement that he accept Zoisite's unconditional love. He still didn't know if Zoisite had the faintest grasp of the concept. "It told me that I need to make amends for the wrongs I did on Earth. Including," he said as discouragement filled him again, "issuing full refunds for the money people spent on my plans."

"Refunds?" Zoisite asked. "You'll have to tell me all about these plans of yours that I unfortunately missed out on. I assume," he said, looking around at the dull, deserted surroundings, "they were not as successful as you had hoped they would be."

"No." Kunzite scowled, remembering his futile attempts to identify Sailor Moon. "At least you were able to find all the Rainbow Crystals."

"For all the good it did. Those stupid little girls; I can't believe they beat you and Beryl."

"Is it really so bad, though?" Kunzite asked. "We weren't happy serving her, were we?"

"Happiness?" Zoisite snorted. "Is there really such a thing? Although..." A more wistful expression stole over his face. "There were times when I felt like I might almost have been happy..." He hesitated a bit, looking away. "That time that you gave me a rose, for example. And when we had our portrait painted together."

Even more than defeating Nephrite, even more than the triumph of successfully capturing the rainbow crystals, those were the times Zoisite remembered as being the closest he had come to being happy in the Dark Kingdom? Perhaps there was something to what the voice had said, after all. Feeling a little awkward at this discussion of feelings, and reluctant to speak too plainly, in case he was wrong, Kunzite replied, "I believe I came close to being happy those times, too."

They stood in silence for a moment. Kunzite felt torn between his longing to hold Zoisite and explore this new territory they had ventured into, and the pressure of time. The task was more important; if they succeeded, they would have plenty of time to share their feelings with each other. "For now," he went on, "we have a great deal of work to do."

He took hold of Zoisite's arm and teleported the two of them to the one place in Tokyo he could envision clearly, the cemetery in the Juuban district where he had confronted Sailor Moon. At least it was out of the Dark Kingdom, and in the waning daylight, there were few people about, so they had some privacy.

"How are we going to do this?" Zoisite asked after Kunzite had told him about his various schemes to try to identify Sailor Moon. "I remember how to find the humans who were the carriers of the Rainbow Crystals, but how will we find all the people who were involved in your plans, the customers at the hair salon, and the contestants in the Moon Princess contest, and the students at the Princess Seminar, and the others? And how are we going to refund their money when we haven't got any at all? And in only one day?"

"'We'? The refunds and locating all those people aren't your problem. You just worry about finding the carriers of the Rainbow Crystals, and don't concern yourself with me." The thought of Zoisite losing his chance to live again because of him caused an unfamiliar stab of pain in Kunzite's heart.

"Don't be ridiculous, Kunzaito-sama," Zoisite retorted. "We work as a team, remember? Besides," he said, looking away again, "I don't care about getting a second chance at life if you aren't going to be there too."

"Ah." For a moment Kunzite stood still, not sure what to do, still reluctant to open up and leave himself vulnerable to teasing or disappointment. But something told him that if he reacted wrongly now, it would be a mistake he would never recover from. So he did what he'd been longing to do since the first moment he saw Zoisite alive again, and put his arms around him. "Then please help me, Zoi-kun. Because I want another chance to have a life with you."

They held each other for a long moment. Kunzite waited for Zoisite to laugh at him, say he'd only been teasing, and push him away.

"I knew you'd see sense," Zoisite said. "So, then, Kunzaito-sama, what's our plan?"

Kunzite chuckled in affection and relief. "I was hoping you would have one, my clever sakura." With his arm around Zoisite's shoulders, they began walking towards the cemetery gate. Oddly dressed as they were, in tattered Dark Kingdom uniforms, they might attract unwanted attention, but, if Kunzite recalled correctly, Tokyo was a colorful city and strangely-dressed people were not an unusual sight.

"I know a place where we might get some ideas," Zoisite said. "Another cemetery, as it happens, in a more interesting part of town. Hold on to me."

Kunzite did so, and they teleported.

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The Nephrite and Naru Treasury