Third First Breaths

Mars

The first time Rei Hino dies, it is with a poisoned arrow draining air from her lungs faster than she can breathe it in. She cries out for her lover – felled on Kunzite's sword and slowly fading beside her. Something explodes in the distance. Then a blast hits much closed, spraying her with debris. She clenches her fist and cries as she feels the crush of her lung collapsing in her chest. Breath comes to her too shallowly and is not nearly rich enough – full as it is of smoke and the copper of death. In comparison, the poison on the arrow tip is barely enough to blur her vision. Regretfully, she realizes, it will be the slow burn of suffocation that will kill her.

At least, she thinks bitterly, her people consider this a honourable way to die.

"Dite," she wheezes. Miraculously a hand fumbles to clasp hers. It feels clammy and weak.

"I've got you," the guardian of Venus groans and crawls closer. Rei can hear her open gut wound squelch as she moves.

"We failed." She stares blankly towards the burning sky.

"Don't you fucking – hungh!" she hears Dite heave. She smells copper mixed in with bile. Her good lung scrambles for air against her will. At this rate she may not die for hours – trapped in the limbo of the battlefield with Dite's rotting body holding her hand.

"Serenity!" Dite mewls.

And Rei is strong enough to turn her head in time to see the sword glint in the light of raging fires and the hunched silhouette of their princess. She turns back to Dite. "Don't look." Bright brown eyes meet hers, mirroring her pain and fear.

She feels a sudden stillness surround them, like all sound has been sucked from the battlefield. "The guardian of Saturn." She gasps.

"Not a myth," Dite groans. "Oh thank the gods."

"Shhhh…rest." She closes her eyes as a feeling like stillness washes over her.

"Ariesa," She hears Dite whisper as the Silence Glaive spares them both their pain. She squeezes Dite's hand…


The second time Rei Hino dies it is with a new name, a new planet, an old enemy, and a stab wound through the same fucking lung.

You don't feel your lung collapse and not remember feeling it before, after all. Skewered on large icicles is an odd time have de ja vu, she muses. At least exposure is a kinder death than suffocation. The cold numbs her instinct to breath. Heat leeches out of her body as her blood freezes on snow and ice.

She is 14 now. She thinks she was 16 the last time she felt a lung crush itself flat in her chest. Minako Aino is already dead, and Rei does not remember why that death stings more than the two other tombs stretched out between them on this ice sheet. She closes her eyes as a warm pink light envelopes her, calling her towards it. She'll support Sailor Moon to finally vanquish this evil and then, then, she can rest...


The third time Rei Hino dies she remembers all of her deaths in all the raw, painful clarity with which she initially felt them. Four months as energy in the Galaxy Cauldron feels like mere moments away from the times her body was poisoned, stabbed, frozen, and this time disintegrated. She lurches awake covered in sweat and throws up over the side of her bed. She cries and cries and clutches at her body against the phantom pain.

Suddenly she remembers Minako, her not quite lover if that was accurate. (What did you call it when, on the cusp of admitting your feelings, you both get murdered by an evil Sailor Soldier?) She thinks of that first death where Minako was "Dite" and wonders what that was a nickname for.

And why is she remembering? She feels strongly that the others won't. She needs to meditate.

It takes mere minutes to throw on a temple robe and make her way to the Sacred Fire. She freezes when she slides open the door to find her Grandfather already there, nursing an unusually small flame.

"It came back on this morning," he says as she shuts the door. "The day you disappeared, it went out, so as soon as I saw it, I knew you'd come home."

"Grandpa," she whispers. Unsure what she wants to say.

"I won't disturb you," he says with his back to her. He pats the mat beside him. "Just come sit with me."

She does. The fire grows as she nears and her grandfather feeds it a few more fresh logs.

She falls into a comfortable meditation, matching her grandfather's breathing. While it was answers she sought coming here, she feels calm instead. It's maybe better than answers right now.

"I knew you would come back." Her grandfather says after a long while. She feels his eyes studying her in the firelight. "The lovely Ikuko Tsukino and Saeko Mizuno were unsure…but I had dreams you see, that you would be alright."

She wants to reprimand him for flirting with her friends' parents, but finds her throat strangely closed.

"You don't have to explain," he continues. "I know."

"You do?"

"I told you, I had dreams, you're not the only one they come to, you know. It's a family thing, not your scout magic."

She feels the weight of telling lifted from her shoulders and she leans in to place a hand on her grandfather's arm. "I'm sorry that I was gone."

"We can't apologize for our fate," he says as his hand moves to cover hers. "But I hope you know I support you, and whatever you've been through, whatever's troubling you, I am very good at listening and giving good advice."

"I don't know if you'll understand." She says and jumps as he laughs.

"Understand? Ha! I have decades on you. And they are decades of wisdom. That still beats superhero any day, Missy."

She laughs until tears prick the corners of her eyes. For the first time since she woke up, it feels like everything will be all right.

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