Bishoujo Senshi Sailormoon is the property of Takeuchi Naoko, Toei Animation, and Kodansha Comics.

At The Day's End

By Gita Toronjil-Lee

The current head commander of the Queen Beryl's assault on the earth and one of the four kings of the Dark Kingdom, the lord Zoisite, had always considered himself an ambitious man. He wanted to be powerful, he wanted to be beautiful, he wanted to be important, he wanted to be loved, he wanted to be tall (like that was ever going to happen…) -- he had set high goals for himself, and was willing to do almost anything to achieve them.

But right now, all he wanted was a bath.

Zoisite materialized in his room in the Dark Kingdom after finally realizing that he wasn't going to catch that infinitely-damned tuxedoed freak who'd escaped with his violet nijizuishou. It wasn't fair -- he'd gone through his own personal hell to get the stupid thing from the even stupider, ugly animal, and then, once his hard work had paid off and the gem was in his custody, the cheating masked idiot had stolen it out of his hand.

By Metallia's name, he felt hideous. He was sweaty from the chase that had ensued after the thievery, his hand was bloody from the sharp rose his opponent had viciously attacked him with, and he smelled. He'd had to walk, run, and even crawl on hands and knees through the disgusting sewers of Tokyo, after all. At one point, he'd slightly fallen in, and his right high, black leather boot still bore evidence of this. And the rats! They'd chased him, surrounded him, touched him -- he was certain that he'd been contaminated with all sorts of disgusting plagues.

He looked around his bedroom in the castle with an angry eye. He was alone -- there was no one to vent to as he so badly needed. Instead, he furiously stripped off his white gloves and threw them to the black stone floor. He followed this with the removal of his black leather belt, then his gray uniform jacket, then the white shirt he'd been wearing underneath, then his tall boots, then his pants, and lastly, the turquoise rubber band that held his long, golden hair in a ponytail. Upon completing that endeavor, he simply stood shivering in his underwear.

Finally, he let out the scream of rage he'd been holding back.

This got him results. He heard heavy footsteps coming from outside the room heading toward him. A white-gloved hand wrapped itself around the doorframe, and a white-haired head peered around into the room.

"Zoi-chan? Are you okay?"

He turned around, arms tightly hugged to his body, still panting from post-scream breathlessness. Though he wanted to say something, anything, about his frustrations, his tongue suddenly felt thick, and all he could do was to shake his head, answering in the negative. Tears stung at his eyes.

The lord Kunzite, highest king of the Dark Kingdom and Zoisite's not-publicly-acknowledged significant other, sighed and entered the room fully, the top of his head nearly brushing the arch of the door. "I take it you weren't successful today."

Then he blinked, as he finally seemed to notice Zoisite's state of undress and the pile of clothes on the floor, and wordlessly looked to his lover out of curious, highly interested silver eyes.

Zoisite refused to start crying, rather choosing to straighten up his posture and look to the other with pleading eyes. Kunzite noticed this and walked over, intending to put his arms around his smaller partner.

About two feet before he reached him, however, he stopped, aristocratic tanned features contorting slightly. Kunzite bit his lower lip, and said, hesitantly, "Zoisite… do you smell something?"

That was all he could take. Zoisite started sobbing and flung himself into an embrace with the reluctant other, who held him gingerly and delicately stroked his loose, matted hair.

"Kunzite-sama," the shorter of the pair wailed, "I had to go chasing through the sewers to get the nijizuishou because it was in an ugly cat and I slipped in and it was disgusting and then I was following it and I found a wall that was warm and that was because it was a wall completely covered in rats and they chased me so I had to crawl down a tiny, slimy tunnel and then they surrounded me, engulfed me like a tidal wave, and then I still got the nijizuishou after all of that and Sailormars was there but I ignored her and then as soon as I held the crystal Tuxedo Kamen threw a rose at me and he cut my hand and grabbed it when I dropped it and I had to chase him but I couldn't catch him and I failed and it was so gross…!"

The tall king didn't know what to say or do. He could see why Zoisite was upset, of course, and he wanted to soothe him somehow, but he was also mildly repulsed by his usually-immaculate, beautiful lover's appearance and aroma, and slightly disgusted at his own sudden feelings of desire that were nevertheless aroused by holding the scantily-clad figure. He was only somewhat more than human, after all.

After a moment's deliberation, Kunzite said, in the most comforting tone his deep voice could muster, "Don't worry, Zoisite. We'll get those nijizuishou back, just wait and see." He hesitated. "Zoi-chan?"

The tears had dried up a little. "What?"

"Why don't you get in the shower? Don't take offense, I just think it would be… practical…"

Zoisite sniffled, and, in doing so, could smell the combination of sewage and sweat which clung to his skin. He broke free of his lover's arms and nodded, turning to enter the bathroom. Upon reaching the entrance, he looked over his shoulder at the other.

"You'll burn those, won't you, Kunzite-sama?" he asked, turning his gaze to the pile of cloth and leather he had discarded to the floor.

Kunzite inspected the soiled pile, made a face, then nodded.

"Thank you." Zoisite smiled sadly, all rage and fury spent, and went inside the bath, closing the door behind him.

Once inside, he stripped off the remaining clothes he'd been wearing, turned the "hot" knob in the wide, black-tiled shower as far as it would go, then walked over to the sink while the water heated up. The mirror, set over the black fixtures (he'd always wondered if black was the mandatory color scheme of his world -- maybe that was why it was called the Dark Kingdom) reflected back at him a lovely young man having a very bad day. His long, wavy, usually well-maintained golden hair was disheveled and grimy; his face was filthy; there were deep shadows under his dark green eyes; his body appeared dirty and sweaty; his posture was terrible…

He was embarrassed to be himself, looking like this.

Squinting at his reflection, he leaned in as close to the looking glass as he could get, analyzing his skin and trying to see the nasty germs and creepy-crawlies that he knew had to be lurking on his flawless complexion. He did this with a heavy sigh, which was followed by a nauseated groan, though he didn't see anything but some leftover sludge sticking to his features.

When he'd finished inspecting himself, he removed his earrings, the twin studs that matched the color of his eyes and were mandated by the dress code of the high-ranking officers of the Kingdom, and laid them down by the sink, beside his extras and by Kunzite's, which were identical in shape, light blue in color. Looking up again, he realized that the mirror was beginning to get steamy, and so he turned and stepped into the scalding hot stream of water, pulling the curtain shut.

The boiling water burned him, and his pale skin reddened with the heat, but it was oh-so-relaxing on his wearied muscles, and a relief to his mind, as he could feel himself being disinfected from all the filth that had touched him today. He stuck his head under the faucet and let the water run freely through his hair and down his face, getting thoroughly soaked before even considering reaching for the soap.

Zoisite closed his eyes as he rubbed shampoo through his hair, breathing slowly and calmly for perhaps the first time all day. He'd thought today's mission would be easy. He'd thought they all would be easy. But of course they hadn't been.

There had to be something he was missing, something he was doing wrong. Not too wrong, of course, as he did have the majority of the seven crystals he was assigned to retrieve, and he was certain that he'd get the ones he was missing. He could only imagine the look on Kunzite's face when he presented him with all seven jewels, shining in the colors of the spectrum, proving to his lover, his superior, his once-teacher that he was a success and worthy of his affections. That was what he'd always dreamed.

So, he reflected to himself, though today was not one he'd like to store permanently in his memory, he would remedy today's and all past errors. It was all part of the learning experience, after all -- Kunzite had always told him to learn from his mistakes, and to remember all he could to make himself a wiser person.

Today he'd learned that sewers are the most revolting places in existence, that he hated all animal life, that rats seem to have an affinity for the cherry-scented lotion he'd used that morning, that cats are nature's stupidest creatures, and that Tuxedo Kamen would always be the earth's most obnoxious jerk, worse even than that fool Nephrite. He'd learned much, though all lessons were not ones he felt were crucial to his life.

"I could have lived without them," he muttered aloud, feverishly cleaning his arms with the bar of soap. "I really could have. My life is so often completely horrible."

A bare foot shot out to strike the shower wall in frustration as he stared at the drain, wondering momentarily if there was a sewer system in the Dark Kingdom, or if all wastes were just incinerated or otherwise eliminated.

All garbage was taken away by the lower slave youma and dumped into a pit that all assumed to be endless -- after all, no one who'd ever been thrown into it had come back, but all had screamed an awful lot on the way down. He knew this to be a fact. If sewage was not treated in this manner, and there was some sort of underground drainage, it was assuredly equally abhorrent. Probably made of black stone and densely populated by the most offensive non-human youma in existence -- the Kingdom's ratlike counterparts to Tokyo's mice. That was almost certain.

Just thinking of this made him feel dirty again, and he scrubbed his entire body a second time, using the various cleansing agents with a furious vigor.

After he'd completed lathering himself in thick bubbles, he rested his head on his crossed forearms, leaning forward against the ceramic wall, back to the shower curtain. He closed his eyes again, trying as hard as he could to settle himself down.

It was because of this nearly-sleeping state that he didn't notice the door open, and then close again. He didn't hear the footsteps that carefully entered the room, or the curtain behind him being drawn open, or the slight cough made by the intruder when he was hit by the immense cloud of steam.

He did, however, notice when a pair of large, gentle hands stroked their way down his shoulderblades, though he was too fatigued to instantly turn around.

"I'm all sooty from burning your ruined uniform, Zoi-chan," Kunzite whispered softly, seductively, "need some company in here? I'll wash your back."

Zoisite smiled to himself, first slightly, then expanding it into a broad grin, and moved so that the tall man, who'd already shed his clothing, could join him. Oh, but some things (someone) made his life perfect, too.

He turned and wrapped wet arms around his lover's neck, the misery of the day's work quickly disappearing from his mind.


Notes: This takes place after #31, obviously. I'd recently seen this episode in original Japanese for the first time, and this comes from the ensuing decision that the first thing Zoisite would do after getting home would be to get into a very hot shower as quickly as possible, because, let's face it, what he had to go through was gross. This is the first time I've ever had Kunzite call Zoisite "Zoi-chan", because usually I don't like it, believing at the very least it should be "Zoi-kun". But then I realized that the somewhat-feminine Zoisite at times refers to himself with "atashi", which is the informal female word for "I", and so... well...

...sometimes I find myself doing the strangest things...

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