by Moon Momma
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The baby was stillborn at seven months. Her heart was simply too weak and undeveloped to sustain her life any longer than that. At the hospital, they let Naru and Nephrite hold the tiny blanket-wrapped bundle for a few moments, then took her away.
When her baby was gone, Naru lay in bed and stared at nothing. Nephrite sat on a chair in the corner, his face buried in his hands. It was a little frightening to see him looking so lost and vulnerable. She had the feeling that nothing had prepared him for the emotions he was experiencing now. She was unprepared enough.
The doctors said they didn't know what had caused the baby's heart to not grow properly, but Naru knew. She was already pregnant when Nephrite was stabbed in the fight in the Starlight Tower. The life-energy she had given Nephrite to keep him alive, and that she had given to the Sailor Senshi and to Mamoru, was energy that had not been available for the baby's heart to form properly.
What would she have done, Naru wondered, if she had known that saving Nephrite and her friends would be at the cost of her baby's life? What choice would she have made? She could hardly bear to even ask herself the question. She could only be grateful that she had not been given a choice, that she had been allowed to do what had to be done without knowing what the consequences would be.
She fingered her heart necklace and looked at Nephrite in his corner. There was no way she could ever tell him any of this. His sorrow was so raw and open, she could not add to it the bitter knowledge that his survival had come at the cost of his daughter's life. Maybe one day, in the distant future, she could tell Usagi, but until then this knowledge was her own burden to bear. She tucked it deep inside her heart, something she would have to carry quietly for the rest of her life without allowing it to hurt anyone else. Then she was able to cry again.
Nephrite left his corner and lay down with her on the narrow hospital bed, and they held each other while they mourned.
* * * * * * * *
Nephrite didn't change his mind. The day after Naru's sixteenth birthday, they were married. To Naru's astonishment, her mother married Dr. Kimura, Nephrite's doctor from when he was in the hospital, several months after the fall of the Dark Kingdom. It seemed fitting to have him acting as a stand-in for her father at the wedding celebration. After all, he had saved Nephrite's life; without him, there wouldn't have been a wedding.
After the wedding, Naru moved into Nephrite's mansion, though she continued attending the small, experimental school her mother had enrolled her in, that catered to students who for one reason or another didn't fit into the regular schools. The other Senshi, along with Jadeite, who was dating Minako, were regular guests at the mansion. Nephrite often wondered if the old, long-lost friendship with Kunzite and Zoisite would also have been revived, and was genuinely sorry that he would never have the opportunity to find out.
* * * * * * * *
They had been married for a little more than two years when, one day, Nephrite went out onto the balcony off of the main room of the mansion to find Naru sitting on the railing, looking out towards the woods that sloped away from the house. He didn't like her sitting like that; it was a long drop to the ground, and if she fell off the railing she could be seriously hurt. But no matter how many times he asked her not to sit on the railing, she kept doing it. He leaned against the railing next to her. "Hey," he said.
"Hey," she echoed, smiling at him a little and resting her head against his shoulder.
"I wish you wouldn't sit like that. You might fall."
"I won't fall."
He ran his fingers through her hair, as soft and thick as ever even though she wore it shorter now. "What's up, Naru-chan? You've been very quiet lately."
She shrugged. He straightened, then took her in his arms and lifted her safely from her seat on the railing. "Let's go for a ride," he said.
They went out to where the motorcycle was parked beside the Ferrari Nephrite had bought to replace the one that had crashed. "Bike or car?" he asked.
"Bike," Naru said firmly.
They climbed on and put on their helmets; Nephrite never made any exceptions to this rule. They rode up into the mountains, along the curving roads, going faster when Naru indicated she wanted to by touching Nephrite's hand on the throttle. Finally they reached a place they liked, a small lake. They sat on a rocky outcropping overlooking the lake, Naru securely wrapped in Nephrite's arms.
"Are you going to tell me what's going on?"
Naru looked at the lake, then down at her hands. "I'm pregnant," she finally said.
"Oh... oh. But I thought..." They had planned to wait until she was finished with school before having another child.
"You know the only way to make absolutely sure it doesn't happen is to just not sleep together at all. Remember, we decided we didn't like that option?" She smiled at him a little.
He smiled too. "Yeah... So... how do you feel about this?"
Naru shrugged. "Surprised. Happy, excited, I guess. But mostly scared. What if something goes wrong this time? I don't think I could live through that again." Her voice shook.
"The circumstances are a lot different this time," Nephrite said carefully. "You aren't experiencing the same... stresses as before. There won't be the same demands on your energy."
She snapped her head around to look at him. "You figured it out, didn't you. About my giving you and the Senshi and Mamoru my life-energy."
"It took a while, but yes, I realized at some point that was why things went wrong."
"I knew that day. After they took her away. I just... I knew."
"And you didn't tell me, or anyone? You've carried this all alone, all this time?"
"How could I tell you? You were hurting enough; you didn't need this."
"Oh, Naru-chan." He wrapped her tightly in his arms and buried his face against her hair. "Oh, my brave Naru-chan. Don't you know that you can tell me anything, and if it hurts I'll get through it with your help?"
"I know. I just--I couldn't do that to you."
"Don't be afraid, love," he said. "Everything will be all right this time. I'm sure it will. And, Naru-chan?" He pulled back a little, to look into her face. "In case you were wondering, I'm happy about this. Very happy." They smiled into each others' eyes.
* * * * * * * *
Naru reached down into herself, to where two tiny, brightly-burning sparks of life were nestled safely inside her body. And she knew it would be all right this time.
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The Nephrite and Naru Treasury