Book 2 Chapter 4
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Two weeks later, Endymion and his Guardians returned to the Moon for a formal visit. Nephrite had found it hard to wait, now that he had made up his mind what to do about Naru, but he had wanted to wait to carry out his plans until a time when he had an excuse for spending a few days on the Moon. Finally, a few well-chosen words to the King about how morose Endymion was, missing his Moon Rabbit, had resulted in the five men being sent for a three-day official visit. Plenty of time, Nephrite thought.
The first night was the formal reception and banquet. The four Guardians were seated with the Inner Senshi, to the apparent delight of most members of the group. Kunzite was being suave, and Minako of Venus watched his every move with wide eyes and an adoring smile. Zoisite and Ami of Mercury were deep in conversation, much to Nephrite's surprise. He wondered if those two might actually become friends. Jadeite was flirting outrageously with Rei of Mars, who was pretending, unsuccessfully, to ignore him.
Nephrite tried to attend to a half-hearted conversation with Makoto of Jupiter, but most of his mind and attention were occupied by the chair slightly behind Serenity, where Naru sat in attendance upon the Princess and Queen. Every time he saw Naru she seemed more beautiful than the time before. Tonight she wore a gown of gauzy layers of green linen, embroidered all over with tiny blue and white flowers. Her hair was tied at the nape of her neck and her waist with big bows of the same green gauze. She gave no obvious signs of having noticed him, but every once in a while her eyes would stray in his direction and she would blush slightly.
After the banquet, Nephrite begged off of further festivities with the Senshi Princesses, saying that the Transport that day had left him with a headache. In his rooms, he wrote a hasty note, then found Endymion and Serenity standing on the Grand Balcony overlooking the gardens. Nephrite cleared his throat softly, to warn them he was there and get their attention. When they turned and looked at him, he approached them, then took the Princess's hand and pressed the folded note into it. "You know who it's for," he said quietly.
Serenity nodded. She and Endymion didn't take their eyes from Nephrite. "Should I give it to her now?" Serenity asked.
"Later would be all right," Nephrite replied. He left the couple and went down the stairs into the gardens, to the fountain where he and Naru had sat during his previous visit.
Nephrite centered himself and established a link with the stars. I love her so much, he said to them. Please shine down on us, and bless us.
This is what you truly want? the stars asked.
Yes. More than I've ever wanted anything.
You couldn't be persuaded to wait awhile?
No. A war is coming. I don't know what will happen. You've told me you can't see clearly what will happen. If I wait, it may be too late.
Child. A wave of warm affection caressed him. You must remember, our son, that we see from a much larger perspective than you do.
I'm going to follow my heart in this. Just once, I'm going to live as though my life were my own.
A sigh, a faint chiming sound. Very well, then. Be happy. We will bless you as we are able, beloved son.
The Earthlight made it hard to see the stars, but by concentrating and holding on to the pendant he wore, Nephrite was able to discern their positions. For a long time he sat contemplating the stars, trying to determine the patterns of the future. It was too uncertain; what was to come depended upon too many separate choices that had yet to be made.
After about an hour, Naru approached the fountain. She still wore the green gown and the green bows in her hair. She looked luminous in the Earthlight. Nephrite stood; she hesitated on seeing him, then ran to him. He kissed her, leaning into her until she arched backwards, held securely in his arms. They finally broke the kiss, then he took her by the hand and they sat on the edge of the fountain.
Nephrite held her small, soft hand in both of his, looking at it while he gathered his words and his courage. Finally, his heart pounding, he said, "Naru, I want to marry you."
She gasped and looked up at him, joy and confusion in her face.
"As a Guardian, I can only legally marry with King Arrendel's permission. I asked permission to marry, and he refused. I thought it over, and decided that I want to marry you anyway, if you'll have me."
"I - Nephrite - Yes, I'll have you." A smile spread across her delicate face as she spoke.
"Naru, you need to understand that this marriage would not be legally binding. You would not be my wife under the law. You also need to understand that I would be disobeying the King. I doubt it would be treated as a serious matter, but I would rather not take any chances. We would have to keep our marriage a secret until I can change the King's mind."
Naru laid her free hand atop his hands. "I understand. How soon can we be married?"
Nephrite reached into the chest pocket of his semiformal gray uniform jacket, and took out the two gold rings he had bought on Earth a few days before. "As soon as you like."
Naru picked up the larger ring between her thumb and forefinger. "Now?"
"If I can find a witness we can trust."
"We don't need witnesses. They say you talk to the stars, and that you are favored by them. The stars can be our witnesses."
He looked into her eyes; she met his gaze steadily. She was certain of what she wanted. "All right, then." Suddenly feeling rather breathless and shaky, he stood, then took her hands and made her stand. His heart was full of what he wanted to say; it took him a minute to order the words. Finally they came, a mixture of the traditional wedding vows and his own words. "Naru, I promise you that I will always love and cherish and care for you, and that I will keep myself faithful to you. You will be the queen of my heart and the treasure of my soul until the end of time. Even if we can't be together, you will always be in my heart." His voice shook slightly with the depth and intensity of his feelings. He took her left hand and slid the plain, slender gold band onto her ring finger, then pressed her fingers and the ring to his lips.
"Nephrite." Her gentle voice sounded slightly breathless. "I promise to always love and cherish and care for you. I am yours, and yours alone, forever." She slipped the broader band onto his left ring finger, then looked back up at him. "I have always been yours," she whispered.
"My love," he said softly, and bent down close to her. They kissed long and tenderly, then Nephrite straightened up and gathered Naru's head against his chest. "Oh, my love."
She pulled away again and looked up at him, smiling slightly. "So, my husband, is this not-a-marriage to be in name only?"
Her boldness took him a bit by surprise. He smiled a bit. "I - I was hoping it wouldn't be."
"Good. Even if I can't be your wife under the law, I at least want to be your wife in every other way."
He laughed; he couldn't help it. Pulling her close to him again, he rested his cheek against her hair. "Very well, my Naru." He held her another moment, then said, "I don't think I should take you back to my room, because the other Guardians are in the same quarters. But perhaps you know of a guest room that's out of the way, that no one's using...?"
"I do, but not for this time. I know another place." She took his hand and led him through the gardens to a tall hedge behind the palace. The hedge was trained in an intricate maze pattern; they followed the grassy paths to the heart of the maze, where there was a small, round lawn. "Here," Naru said. "This is one of my favorite places in the gardens. I used to come here and daydream about meeting you some day, and now, here we are."
"It seems private enough," Nephrite said, looking around. The hedges making up the maze were over six feet high, as tall as he.
"No one will see us but the stars," Naru said. She reached behind her head to untie the bow at her neck, but Nephrite moved her hands aside and untied it for her. He also removed the bow that tied her hair at her waist, then started on the small buttons down the back of her gown while she began unfastening his belt and jacket.
When Naru's gown was a gauzy green pile at her feet, she knelt in her long chemise and pulled off her green slippers, then helped Nephrite off with his black boots. She stood, and undid the fastenings of Nephrite's shirt and trousers while he untied the laces at her bodice. Soon the chemise and her drawers joined the gown on the grass, and Naru stood naked before him, blushing but making no move to hide herself from his view.
When Nephrite was undressed, he gathered Naru to him in a close embrace. They stood that way for a long time, reveling in the warmth of each other's skin along the full length of their bodies. Then Nephrite took Naru's chin in his hand and kissed her deeply, caressing her, loving her with his mouth and tongue. "Are you ready?" he finally whispered to her, his voice grown husky with breathlessness and desire.
"Yes," she breathed.
"You aren't nervous or afraid?"
"No. I just want you. Now."
Gently, carefully, he lowered her to the grass. She was trembling slightly, but whether it was from nerves, despite her words, or desire, he couldn't tell. She was a little awkward, from not knowing what to expect, but she was willing and passionate and gave herself to him eagerly. There was the brief moment of pain, but she clung to him without flinching away, whispering his name like a prayer. She held on tightly as he lost himself in her softness and sweetness and warmth. He kissed her deeply, moaning her name into her mouth as pleasure overwhelmed him. Then they held each other as their trembling, exhausted, over-sensitive bodies slowly returned to normal.
He cried, then, while in a far corner of his mind, he asked himself what kind of man cried after lovemaking. He never had before. But it had never been like this before. Not because Naru was the first virgin he'd ever been with, but because it was the first time he'd ever done this out of love, to show love to the woman he was with. Before it had always been boredom, or a simple physical urge, or, just because it was the thing to do. He wasn't losing anything by forsaking all others and keeping himself only to Naru; he was gaining something indescribably precious and beautiful.
Nephrite gradually realized that his full weight was resting on Naru. He raised himself onto his elbows and kissed her face tenderly. "Are you all right?"
Naru smiled up at him. "I'm fine." She touched his face, tracing the damp path of a tear. "What about you?"
"It was never -" He stopped himself. It would be ungallant to refer to previous experiences.
"Nephrite," she said gently, "I'm not na´ve enough to think that you've never been with anyone else."
He looked down at her, marveling at how she could be both so innocent and so wise. "It was never like this before. I've never been in love before." He shifted off of her, to lie beside her, and she rolled onto her side to face him. He ran his hand along her shoulder, her waist, the curve of her hip. "I love you, Naru. There will never be anyone else for me."
She smiled and brushed his long hair away from his face. "I love you too. Thank you for letting the first time be here."
He kissed her. "Oh, Naru, I don't think I could ever say no to anything you wanted."
They lay together, looking into each other's eyes, another moment. Then Nephrite sat up and reached for his clothes. "Shall we go inside and find that room? Or," he glanced sideways at Naru sideways and gave her a wicked smile, "are you ready to call it a night?"
She returned his smile. "I thought we were just starting."
They put on just enough clothes to meet the minimum requirements of decency, then, hand in hand and carrying the rest of their clothing, they hurried into the palace.
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Kunzite lay beside his sleeping lover, staring at the ceiling of the dark room. This was not going well. Nephrite was being completely uncooperative, and was jeopardizing the whole plan. It couldn't be because of that little red-headed handmaid. Kunzite just couldn't believe that Nephrite would ignore the Princess of Jupiter for the sake of a servant girl. He resolved that he would not let that little slut ruin his plans. Too much was at stake.
He looked at Zoisite's beautiful, boyish face. Far too much was at stake.
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Naru awoke before dawn, entangled in sheets. Nephrite's arms were wrapped tightly around her. She turned to look at him. This had to be a dream, it couldn't possibly be real. Lord Nephrite was with her. She had admired him from afar for so long, she had loved him while never dreaming there was a possibility he would ever love her in return, but here he was, with her. He loved her, he was willing to defy his King for her sake, he had given her a ring.
It had to be a dream, but the man beside her was real enough. His long, dark red hair flowed in waves across his muscular back and shoulders. Lightly, she traced the lines of his face with her fingers, running her fingers along his eyebrows, nose, and mouth, stroking his cheeks and jaw which were covered with their morning growth of dark whiskers. She touched the gold studs he wore in his earlobes, fingered the silver chain and the pendant he wore. The pendant was a strange symbol worked in gold, set with an opaque, pale green stone at the top; she supposed it had some magical significance.
She looked at his face again. His deep blue eyes were open; he smiled when she met his gaze. "Good morning, love," he said, his low voice gentle. Then he rolled over her and kissed her.
After a while, Naru said reluctantly, "We should get back to where we're supposed to be."
Nephrite sighed, and brushed her hair away from her eyes. "You're right."
They both sat up and began looking on the floor and among the bedcovers for the clothing that had been discarded the night before. Naru's body felt different; she ached in places she had never been aware of before. The insides of her thighs were rather sticky with blood and seed, and a faint, musky scent still clung to her body. None of these sensations were unpleasant, though she supposed she had better wash up before beginning her daily duties. She watched Nephrite as he began dressing, marveling at what had happened between them. He turned to pick up his shirt from the bed, caught her staring at him, smiled.
She returned the smile. "Tonight again? Here?"
"Tonight, and every night, whenever I'm on the Moon." He pulled his shirt on. Before buttoning it, he lifted the chain over his head and unfastened it. He slid his gold wedding ring off his finger and threaded the chain through it, then refastened the chain and put it back on. "We shouldn't wear our rings openly, not until I've managed to persuade the King to consent to our marriage."
Naru had begun dressing. She finished lacing up the bodice of her chemise, took off her ring, and, with a mischievous look at Nephrite, tucked the ring down between her breasts inside the chemise.
"Are you sure it'll be safe there?" he asked.
"What, are you afraid someone might find it there?" She pulled her green gown over her head.
He laughed a little. "No, but it might fall out."
Naru turned so he could do up the buttons on the back of her gown. "This is just temporary," she said. "I'll find a more permanent way to wear it without anyone seeing it."
Nephrite finished with her buttons, then, still standing behind her, nuzzled his mouth against her neck and shoulder. "I promise, one day we'll be able to wear them openly," he whispered.
Naru leaned back against him, and reached up a hand to tangle her fingers in his hair. He was an honest man, as he had said once, telling the truth no matter how painful it was. But she couldn't ignore this tiny feeling she had, gnawing at her mind, that he had just told a lie.
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The next two days were difficult, as Nephrite and Naru had to stay away from each other and go about their duties. Naru wanted to tell someone about her marriage, but this was out of the question. Serenity was the only person she could trust to keep her secret, but she didn't want to burden the Princess with the knowledge of Nephrite's disobedience to his King. Still, though, sometimes she saw Serenity watching her with an unusually serious and concerned look on her face, and thought that maybe Serenity knew that something important had happened between her and Nephrite.
In the evenings, at supper and afterwards, Naru would watch Nephrite in the company of the Princess of Jupiter and the other Senshi and Guardians. He made an effort to join in the others' conversation, but it was clear to Naru that he wasn't really interested in it. Every time she glanced at him, he was looking at her. She wished she could be the one sitting at the table with him, but she didn't envy Princess Makoto. Rather, she felt sorry for the Princess, whose heart was in her eyes every time she looked at the auburn-haired, blue-eyed Guardian. She would never have what Naru had, Nephrite's heart and soul and love.
Late at night, when most of the activity in the Palace had died away, Naru and Nephrite would meet in the unused guest room. There, they dropped the day's pretenses and came to life again. They had two more nights together, long, soft, deep nights of warm skin and hungry kisses and bodies moving together in perfect rhythm. It was far more than they would have expected to ever have, only a few months ago.
Near the end of the last night, in the hour before dawn, Nephrite lay in bed, propped up on his elbow, looking down at Naru. She looked so young when she was asleep. Gently, he brushed his finger along the curves of her cheek and lips. She smiled slightly in her sleep.
He remembered, before he had met her, thinking that if he could only see her one more time, or speak to her just once, he would find something that had eluded him his whole life. Now, after having done so much more than see her and speak to her, now that she was his wife in every way except under the law, he knew that he had found what he'd hoped to find, and more. He'd found peace and contentment, and, to his surprise, joy. Happiness was possible for someone like him, who thought too much and who always saw things as they were, with all their faults. For the first time in his life, he'd found something he could take pleasure in without questioning or doubting.
Naru stirred, and opened her eyes. She smiled on seeing him in the dim, pre-dawn Earthlight.
"Good morning, my love," he whispered.
She was still too sleepy to talk, so she just reached up a hand to caress his face and hair.
"I'll have to go soon. We're returning to Earth first thing this morning."
"I know," she murmured.
"I hope you can come to Earth sometime."
"What's it like?"
"The Earth? It's very different from the Moon. The Moon is pretty much the same all over. The Earth is much bigger, and no two places are the same. I'd like to show you the mountains with snow on them, and the sea, and the forests and deserts. And the stars - you can see them so much more clearly from Earth."
"Is it beautiful?"
"Very." He leaned down and kissed her mouth. "Almost as beautiful as you."
She laughed a little, then grew serious. "Queen Selene is going to send me to Earth with Serenity after the wedding. I guess so the Princess won't be too homesick."
This was news to Nephrite; he allowed himself a moment to imagine being able to see Naru every day. "That's a year from now," he said. "Maybe by then I'll have persuaded the King to permit our marriage."
"I hope so," Naru said. "But what if there's a war between now and then? Everything could change."
Somehow, Nephrite knew what she meant but was too afraid to say. If a war came, he could be killed. "If I told you not to worry your pretty little head about that, would it do any good?"
"No." She was silent a moment, then she put her arms around him and pulled him down to her. "Nephrite, let's just be glad for what we have now, and not think about the future. Please?"
He pressed her hand against his cheek as he looked down into her eyes. "All right."
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Lyra's Children Index / go to Book 2 Chapter 5
The Nephrite and Naru Treasury