by Moon Momma
* * * * * * * *
"Naru." Someone was shaking her shoulder and whispering her name. "Naru-chan, wake up." Naru stirred and opened her eyes a little. Nephrite was kneeling by her bed. Quickly she sat up. "Nephrite! What's wrong?"
He sat on the edge of the bed next to her. "I met with Sailor Moon tonight, and a youma showed up. It attacked both of us, but it said things to imply that I had arranged an ambush. I thought I'd better warn you, because you're going to hear about it from Usagi tomorrow. I was depending on the Sailor Senshi to be willing to help us, but they'll never trust me now."
Naru put her hands on his shoulder. "I can talk to her. Try to convince her to trust you. Are you hurt?"
He dabbed at the top of his head, a slightly sheepish look on his face. "Just a scratch, from one of the youma's darts. Listen, Naru-chan, things aren't going the way I had planned, it's getting too dangerous too fast--"
"Nephrite, I told Usagi and I'll tell you, I'm tired of people worrying about me getting hurt. We're in this together, whether you want it that way or not."
He put his arms around her and held her for a moment, then kissed her. "Thank you, Naru-chan," he whispered, and teleported away in a swirl of red and white light.
* * * * * * * *
Usagi came early for Naru the next morning. "Naru-chan, we have to talk," she said. They found a secluded bench in a park on the way to school. "I know this is really going to hurt you, but I have to tell you what Nephrite did last night."
"I already know," Naru said. "He told me about it last night."
"I'll bet he told you he had nothing to do with that youma that showed up and attacked me." Usagi looked coldly angry in a way Naru had never seen before.
"It attacked both of you, he said. He was hurt."
"I bet it was just a trick, to make me think he was being attacked too. I'm never going to believe another word he says, and you shouldn't either. How many lies has he told you?"
"Usagi-chan, he isn't like that any more. He wants to change. He has changed. Please, I wish you would believe him."
"I've lost count of how many times he's tried to kill me, not to mention his youma who've almost toasted me," Usagi said. "You told me to not make you choose between him and me, but now I'm going to. If you want to be my friend, you can't keep going out with this guy who wants me dead."
"But, Usagi-chan!" Naru was nearly in tears. "He doesn't want to kill you, not anymore. I'm not going to choose. I'm going to keep seeing Nephrite, and I still want to be your friend. I love both of you. If we aren't friends anymore, it's because you decided we shouldn't be."
Usagi stared straight ahead without answering.
"Come on, Usagi-chan, we're going to be late for school." Naru started walking away. She looked back once, before leaving the park. Usagi hadn't moved.
Naru's shoulders drooped as she slowly walked to school. So much for helping Nephrite by convincing Usagi to trust him. She had never seen Usagi so angry and unforgiving before. Tears came to her eyes, and she wiped them away.
A sudden burst of wind, thick with cherry blossoms, disoriented her, and a hand grabbed her arm and pulled her into a narrow, dark alleyway. A gray-clad figure leaped over her to stand in the opening of the alley, blocking her escape. Zoisite. Naru clenched her fists and glared at him. "Why can't you just leave us alone?"
Zoisite chuckled. His laugh was all the more frightening for being so quiet and girlish sounding. "You scare me, little girl. Are you going to beat me up? Don't worry, I'm not going to hurt you, at least not this time. I've got a message for you from Queen Beryl. You tell your traitor boyfriend that he's coming back to the Dark Kingdom dead or alive. As for anyone who tries to help him, well, they'll definitely be dead." Before Naru could react, Zoisite reached out a hand and gripped her jaw. He forced her head as far back as it would go, and studied her profile, first from one side, then the other. "I can't imagine what he sees in you," he said, then let her go. "Well, it's not my problem. Have a nice day, Naru-chan." He twisted her name, making it sound like something nasty, then disappeared in a whirl of cherry blossoms.
Naru sagged against one of the alley walls, then slid down to the ground. She was crying and shaking, and she felt sick. Something blocked the light at the mouth of the alley. Naru looked up to see Usagi standing there. "Usagi-chan?" Usagi gave her a cold look and walked away. Naru buried her face on her knees and began crying harder. "Nephrite, I'm scared, I need you."
A few seconds later, she felt a hand on her shoulder. It was him, crouching next to her in the dark alley. He gently touched the areas along her jawline that still stung from Zoisite's twisting grip. "Zoisite," he said, a statement rather than a question.
Naru nodded, wiping away tears, and told him about the encounter with the tawny-haired General, and how Usagi had walked away from her. Nephrite gathered her close against him and let her cry while he stroked her hair. "That little bastard. He'll pay for this."
After a few minutes her crying quieted to sniffles. "How did you know I needed you?"
"The same way I knew that night, when Zoisite's youma took you." He held her another moment. "Naru-chan, I will always come when you need me, no matter what. I hope you believe me."
She looked into his blue eyes. "I do believe you. I trust you, Nephrite."
He squeezed his eyes shut, almost as though in pain, and crushed her against his chest. After a moment he loosened his grip. "You're going to be late for school."
"It doesn't matter. I'm already on detention for the rest of my life, anyway."
"Well, you still need to be at school. Come on, I'll walk you." They left the alley, their arms around each other. As they walked, Naru told him about Usagi's ultimatum. "She isn't going to listen, Nephrite. I don't know what to do."
"We've got no choice but to keep trying. I'll see if I can adjust my plan so it doesn't require the Sailor Senshis' cooperation. And you try talking to Usagi's other friends. It's my guess that the other Senshi are among them. Maybe they can convince her to listen to us."
"I'll try," Naru said doubtfully. He didn't answer, just hugged her with the arm that was around her shoulders. At the front gate of the school he kissed her, still without saying a word. Naru walked slowly into school, knowing that she was really going to get it from Miss Haruna today.
It was a miserable morning. Miss Haruna scolded her in front of the whole class. Usagi wouldn't even look at her. Umino put his attempts at flirting with her into high gear. Naru sat in unhappy silence, fingering her heart pendant and wishing she could just be with Nephrite all the time.
At lunch, she sought out one of Usagi's new friends, Mizuno Ami. While everyone else ate in the cafeteria or outside in laughing, talking groups, Ami usually stayed in the classroom so she could read while she ate. This was where Naru found her today. "Hi, Ami?" Naru said. "Can I talk to you for a minute?"
Ami glanced up from her physics textbook. "Okay."
"Um, well, I wanted to ask you a favor, if you don't mind? See, I had an argument with Usagi-chan, and she just won't listen to me. I can't tell you what it's about, but maybe you could just ask her to give me a chance?"
Ami closed her book. "Sit down, Naru. I have to show you something." From her school satchel she took a small blue object like a pocket calculator, with a curious symbol on the cover. She also took out a golden stick with the same symbol at the top. "Naru, I'm Sailor Mercury," she whispered. "I know what this is about. Usagi told all three of us about it last night. I'm sorry, Naru, but I have to take Usagi's side in this."
"But I'm not asking you to take sides, I just want--"
"I'm sorry, Naru." Ami put the objects back in her bag and opened her book again.
"It's ok," Naru said. She left the room, thinking. Usagi was Sailor Moon, Ami was Sailor Mercury... of course. Funny how she had never seen the resemblances before. Usagi's friend from the Hikawa Shrine, Rei, the girl with long dark hair, was Sailor Mars, and the new girl, Makoto, the tall one with the thick brown ponytail, was the newest Senshi, Sailor Jupiter. Naru went back out to the schoolyard and found Makoto sitting with Usagi. Naru took a deep breath and approached them. She had to try, for Nephrite's sake. "Usagi-chan, please--"
"He's tried to kill me too many times, Naru. Forget it."
"Makoto, can't you--"
"I"m sorry, Naru. No." They went back to their conversation. Naru walked slowly away, wondering what she would tell Nephrite. She thought of trying to find Rei after school, then remembered the examples she had seen of Rei's fierce temper. She couldn't face that.
The afternoon seemed to drag on forever. Naru had never felt so lonely in her life. But when she came out of school, Nephrite was waiting for her, leaning against his car. Ignoring everyone who was watching, she ran to him, into his arms. When she tried to tell him how she had failed to help him, he kissed her over and over and told her not to worry about it, it was all right, he'd think of something else, he loved her and was glad she had tried.
* * * * * * * *
Saturday afternoon, they drove up to a lake in the mountains. Nephrite had had the idea of taking Naru for an outing, away from the city and her troubles, and Naru had eagerly told him about this lake where she and her mother liked to picnic and swim. Mrs. Osaka was not happy about this expedition, but still felt that forbidding Naru to see "Sanjouin Masato" would only make things worse. She was cold to Nephrite when he came for Naru, stiffly allowed Naru to kiss her cheek, and said, "Have a nice time," without sounding like she meant it.
For the first several minutes in the car, Naru sat rigid and silent, but her control gradually broke down until she started crying. "I'm sorry, Nephrite. I wish I could make them listen. I can't make anyone believe that you're not bad, and everyone's being so mean to me." He sought out her hand and squeezed it, giving her wordless comfort. After a while she stopped crying, as they left the city behind and the memories of that awful week began to drop away.
The Ferrrari handled beautifully. As they sped along the curving road Naru said, "It hardly feels like we're going so fast."
Nephrite glanced at her. "I'm sorry, should I slow down?"
"No." A moment later she added, "Can this car go any faster?"
"Yes, but then it might not make these curves. That wouldn't be good." But as soon as they came to a long straightaway, with no steep dropoffs, he pressed down on the gas. The needle on the speedometer crept up and up. Naru listened to the finely-tuned roar of the engine and felt as though she were flying. "This isn't too fast, is it?" Nephrite asked.
She smiled, for the first time on the trip. "It's perfect."
He laughed, and she laughed with him.
At the lake, Nephrite parked the Ferrari at the hotel, then they staked out a picnic spot on the grassy, wooded shores of the lake. After they ate, Nephrite leaned against a tree, his long legs stretched out in front of him, and picked up his sketch pad and pencil. Naru had brought a book she was supposed to read for school, but it sat on the blanket beside her, ignored, while she watched Nephrite draw the lake and the surrounding woods and mountains.
The early autumn sun was warm. After a while she stood and said, "I'm going for a swim." Under her skirt and blouse, she was wearing a functional, one-piece racing suit. Nephrite kept his eyes glued to his sketch pad while she stripped down to her swimsuit, then gave her an appreciative glance. "What happened to the blue one?"
"The blue two-piece with the ruffles on the top and bottom? It isn't very good for really swimming, and -- Wait, when did you ever see that one?"
He smiled a little and patted the blanket next to him, so she sat down again. "You remember that black crystal that Zoisite tried to kill me for?" She nodded. "I made that, a few days earlier, thinking it would help me find the Silver Crystal. That's something the Dark Kingdom needs." Naru nodded again, remembering. "Well, the first thing it showed me was you, in that swimsuit. I think you were at a public pool, somewhere like that."
"That was the same day you called me, to meet you in the park."
"Yes. Anyway, what I didn't realize at the time was that what the Black Crystal was showing me had nothing to do with the Silver Crystal. I've since found out that the Silver Crystal doesn't actually exist. It was shattered into a number of smaller crystals long ago. So the Black Crystal wasn't showing me where to find the Silver Crystal. It couldn't. It was showing me something much more important. I was just too arrogant, stupid, and greedy to realize it at the time."
Naru smiled and hugged her knees, feeling warm and sparkly inside. He put an arm around her shoulders and pulled her close against him. "I wish I'd understood sooner. I might have spared you a lot of pain if I had." He held her a little longer, then ruffled her hair gently. "Go on and swim now."
She stood and ran to the lake. While he idly continued sketching, Nephrite watched her run, then stop at the water line and test the water carefully with one foot. She ran then waded into the lake until the water was hip-deep, then dove in. He watched her swim; she was a good, strong swimmer. He wondered suddenly if he knew how to swim. Of course, no one swam in the Dark Kingdom; there were no bodies of water there of any size. But before that? He honestly couldn't remember. He recalled general things about the society and history of the Silver Millennium, but no details about his own life beyond what he had been shown during his brief death. It seemed strange, not to know something as simple about himself as whether or not he could swim. Maybe Naru could teach him...
He looked down at what he had drawn. It was Naru in her swimsuit, her small, curvy body poised to dive into the lake. He studied the image for a few minutes. The Naru that he had drawn was not a naive teenage schoolgirl. She was a young woman of great courage, loyalty, and strength, with a soul as old as his own and far, far wiser. Naru as he saw her. He tore the page out of the sketchbook, folded it, and put it in the pocket of his shirt.
She emerged from the lake a few minutes later and ran back to him, laughing and shivering, her arms crossed tightly across her chest. "C-c-c-cold!" she said, her teeth chattering. She sat down, picked up her towel, and began drying herself off. Nephrite moved over next to her and took the towel from her. He patted her dry, then wrapped the towel around her and cuddled her close against him. "Are you warming up?" he asked.
"Yes." She nodded her head against his chest. Then she turned and looked into his pocket, that she'd been leaning against. "What's this?" she asked, pulling out the folded drawing.
"Just a picture."
"Can I see it?" Without waiting for his answer she unfolded the paper. "It's me, but... different."
"That's how I see you."
She studied the drawing some more. "It makes me look grown up." She smiled, refolded the paper, and tucked it back into his pocket. Then she put her arms around his neck and kissed him.
He fell back onto the picnic blanket beneath her, and held on tight while she kissed him the way he had kissed her on his kitchen floor the day he left the hospital. He wondered if she had any idea of the effect she was having on him. It wouldn't have surprised him if she did. He rolled over, pinning her beneath him. "Naru-chan," he gasped around the kiss, "we'd better stop before we break the public decency laws."
She turned her face away, blushing. "I'm sorry."
"It's all right," he whispered into her ear. "I love you so much, Naru-chan. I've loved you for a very long time, longer than you could possibly guess."
"Tell me," she murmured.
He shifted to lie next to her and held her in his arms while he told her about the Queen's handmaiden and the General, and the love that had been cut short by treason and war before it ever had a chance to blossom.
"We loved each other so long ago," she finally said, in a wondering voice.
"We've loved each other for a thousand years, even while I was in the Dark Kingdom without my memories of you, and you were waiting to be reborn. I don't understand what's so important about our loving each other that we were allowed to find each other again and have another chance. But I'm grateful we were." They were silent for a few minutes, then he said, "You believe me, don't you?"
"Of course I believe you, Nephrite. I know you don't lie to me anymore. Besides, it explains something that happened in the hospital." She told him about facing down Zoisite, and how she had felt as though she were two people at once.
"It was Zoisite who killed you, before." He told her of the battle for the Moon Palace, her attempt to defend those who were helpless, and her death at Zoisite's hands. "You're as brave now as you were then, and I'm very proud of you." Naru blushed at his praise. He held her a little tighter for another moment, then let her go.
Naru's swimsuit was dry now, so she pulled on her skirt and blouse and lay down again, yawning. "I'm sleepy. Must be the sun and the swimming."
Nephrite lay on his back. He pulled her head onto his chest and put his arms around her. "Can you sleep like this?" he asked softly.
Naru was already half asleep. "Mm-hmm," she murmured.
They both slept. The sun was going down when they awoke. They lay there a while longer, Naru listening to Nephrite's heart beating, Nephrite gently playing with Naru's thick, wavy hair. "It's getting late," he finally said. "Let's have dinner at the hotel, and then we'd better head back."
They gathered up their picnic and stashed it in the car, then ate at the hotel restaurant. It was completely dark by the time they finished. In the car, as they drove out of the parking lot, Naru called her mother on Nephrite's cell phone. "We're on our way home, Mama. Sorry it's so late."
"I appreciate you calling," Mrs. Osaka said in a tired-sounding voice. "Did you have a nice time, darling?"
"I had a great time, Mama." Naru smiled at Nephrite, and he smiled back.
"Naru-chan," her mother said suddenly, "you really do love this man, don't you. You're happy when you're with him."
Tears suddenly stung Naru's eyes. "Yes, Mama. I love him very much."
Mrs. Osaka sighed. "This isn't what I had always imagined for you, but if he really makes you happy, and if you're careful, I suppose I can try to accept it."
Some of the tears slid down Naru's cheeks. "Thank you, Mama. That means so much to me. We'll be home in a few hours."
She switched the phone off and put it away. "Everything ok, Naru-chan?" Nephrite asked.
She repeated the conversation for him. He took her hand, squeezed it, and kissed it, then put it down so he could keep both hands on the steering wheel. He was driving slowly, for him, in order to negotiate the winding mountain highway safely in the dark.
A pair of bright headlights suddenly appeared in the rearview mirror. Nephrite shaded his eyes from the blinding glare with his forearm. "Damn speed demon," he muttered.
Naru giggled. "You should talk."
"At least I've got the sense to know you don't drive like that on a steep mountain road at night." They were on the mountain side of the road; he pulled as far over as he could to let the other car pass. It stuck to the Ferrari's rear bumper as though hitched there, forcing Nephrite to drive faster and faster.
There was a sudden flaring of bright, bluish light. Nephrite saw, in the rearview mirror, a sharp, demonic face. The headlights were actually large glowing eyes. Instead of arms and legs, the youma had huge wheels that were toothed like circular sawblades. Blue lightning shot out of the youma's eyes, shattering the rear and front windows of the Ferrari.
Nephrite and Naru had instinctively ducked out the way, but now Nephrite saw that the strike had gone right between them. The youma wasn't trying to kill them outright; it was trying to run them off the road. Maybe it meant for him and Naru to survive so it could capture them.
He pushed down on the accelerator as far as it would go, but the youma stayed right on the Ferrari's tail. "Naru," he said harshly. She looked at him, fear on her face, but there was trust there, too. "Do what I say, and don't ask questions."
He sensed the youma getting ready to unleash another bolt of energy. It shot through the car, again right between him and Naru. "Take off your seat belt and hold on to me."
She obeyed, wrapping her arms tightly around his waist. A curve overlooking the blackness of the forest was approaching. He judged the right second, then with a great, sudden output of energy, teleported himself and Naru out of the car. They rematerialized on the mountainside above the road in time to see the Ferrari crash through the guardrail and fly out over the dropoff. It landed in a huge fireball on the rocky slope below the road. The youma screamed a curse at the loss of its prey.
Nephrite leaned back against a rock, trying to catch his breath. He was still weak from his long illness, and that teleport had drained him. Naru's arms were still wrapped tightly around him, and she was shaking. "It's ok," he murmured to her. "We're safe."
"I think I'm gonna throw up."
The first teleport was always a shock to the system. "You'll be ok. Just breathe deeply, slowly... That's it." A moment later he asked, "Is that better?"
She nodded, but still didn't look too happy.
"Naru, things are getting out of hand, a lot faster than I expected."
"What are we going to do?"
"I don't know. I don't think that youma meant to kill us. I think Beryl wants to capture us. That would be even worse."
He continued thinking out loud, sorting out his thoughts as he talked. "She might want to use us as bait, to lure the Sailor Senshi to her--"
"I don't think they'd come. They don't care about us."
"Maybe. I don't know if Beryl knows that." He thought a little more. "She might want to find out what we know, and then kill us when she's done. Beryl enjoys using creative ways of getting information from prisoners and then disposing of them. Or she could want to twist me back into her service again, and you too. None of those would be good."
"And the Sailor Senshi won't help us," Naru said. They sat in silence for a few minutes, staring at the burning wreckage of the Ferrari on the slope below. "Isn't there anyplace where we can hide?"
"We could go all over the world, Naru, and they would still find us, sooner or later." But she had planted the seed of an idea in his mind. He was going to need time to think about this. "With any luck, it'll take them a few days to figure out that we didn't die in that crash. It'll help if we lay low for a while, buy me some time to think. Can you pretend you're sick, and not leave your house for, oh, a week?"
"I don't know. Mama's pretty hard to fool that way. I've tried."
He smiled wearily. "Well, do your best. We won't be able to see each other for a while, at least not until I've worked out this idea I have."
She looked up at him. "Nephrite--!"
"Shh." He pushed her head back against his chest and smoothed her hair. "It's all right. Everything will be all right, love, I promise. Don't worry." And he wondered if he was lying to her again.
The flames from the car and the surrounding vegetation were beginning to die down. "I'm sorry about your car, Nephrite," Naru finally said. Nephrite sighed, staring down at the crash site. He really had been fond of that car. It was the only thing in this world, besides Naru, that meant anything to him. But it was gone. That was the danger with becoming attached to any material object. He could get a new one, but it just wouldn't be the same. "Maybe I'll buy a motorcycle with the insurance money," he said.
"A motorcycle?" Naru asked, smiling up at him. "That would be fun."
"You," he laughed, and caressed her cheek. "To look at you, who'd ever think you had a thing for fast wheels?" He pressed his mouth against hers, kissing her deeply. He didn't care what was to come, he didn't care that his car was a burned-out wreck down the mountainside and that their lives were in danger, all that mattered was that he had Naru in his arms and that in his arms was where she wanted to be.
A siren sounded in the distance, coming closer. "Police," Nephrite murmured, his mouth still against Naru's. He couldn't quite bring himself to pull away yet. "Took them long enough." The fire from the crash should have been visible from several small towns in the area.
The police car stopped on the narrow shoulder below the slope where Naru and Nephrite were. Two policemen got out and went to the shattered guardrail, and looked down at the still-smoldering wreck. "No way anyone survived that," one of them said.
Nephrite stood and began to help Naru climb down from their perch. "We're up here," he called down to the police.
The policemen turned abruptly, startled. One of them shone a flashlight onto Nephrite and Naru, then kept it on their path so they could pick their way down more easily. Nephrite reached the road, then lifted Naru the last step down. The policemen came across the highway to them. "You folks were in that car? How'd you get out?"
"The brakes failed," Nephrite said. "We had enough warning to jump out."
"What were you doing clear up there?" the other cop asked.
"The road's narrow here. We wanted to stay out of the way of traffic. Look, we could use a ride back to the city."
"Sure," said the first policeman. He started to lead the couple over to the police car, then stopped and did a double-take. "You're Sanjouin Masato, aren't you?"
"You're one lucky guy, you know, first surviving that murder attempt and now this.... Say, isn't this the girl that was with you when you were stabbed? Her picture was in all the papers, along with yours."
"Listen," Nephrite said, trying to be patient with the nosy officer. "We've had a long day and my friend is tired and scared. Let's just go. Oh, and by the way, I don't want to see anything about this in the newspapers."
"Sure, Mr. Sanjouin." The policeman held open the rear door of the police car. Naru climbed in. "I know it's probably none of my business, Mr. Sanjouin," the policeman said quietly, "but isn't she a little young for you?"
Nephrite waited until Naru was settled in, then paused as he got into the car. "You're right," he said. "It's none of your business."
* * * * * * * *
return to Index / go to Chapter 6
The Nephrite and Naru Treasury