Circles
by NaruMolly (aka Gwenne-chan, or Bard)

PART FOUR: Bad News

* * * * * * * *

The dark figure stared in confused fury at her hand, watching the dark, oily blood ooze from the numerous tiny wounds. Shards of the shattered crystal dusted her liberally and she felt a rising fury. Who had been in that crystal? Why had it shattered before she could seize the lifeforce trapped within? With a snarl, she threw her arms out wide and the entire plain of crystals imploded at the same time, leaving the plain covered with a thick layer of gleaming dust.

Millions of voices cried out, only to be silenced…

* * * * * * * *

Nathan appeared in a swirl of crimson energy in his room at the musicians' house, blinking in the fading light of dusk that filtered through the open curtains on his window. Surreptitiously shoving the Star Crystal into a pocket, he pushed the door open and stalked out into the hallway, his eyes scanning the area warily. He paused at the door to ZoŽ’s room, hearing a muffled noise behind the partially open door. Curious, he paused, peeking into the young woman's dim room. ZoŽ knelt on the floor by her bed, her face buried in her hands, weeping bitterly. Her newly cropped bangs fell softly around her fingers, masking any trace of her features. Nathan shook his head, wondering, a grimace on his handsome features. From down the stairs came the rippling sounds of the piano--Malcolm. **Damn! Mal's either pissed-or worried as all hell. Or both,** Nathan thought finally, listening to the clipped fall of each note.

Sighing, and shaking his head, he moved past the stairs, continuing down the hall. He stopped at Jared's door, uncertain whether or not he should go in. Then something caught his attention. He stopped, frowning at the graceful dragon that was gilded into the wood. Had that always been there; Nathan couldn't remember? Finally, setting his shoulders with grim determination, Nathan pushed open the door and walked into the room.

Jared lay absolutely still in his bed, not even seeming to breathe. The younger man's gentle face was drawn and deathly pale, an unhealthy shadowing all around his eyes. Already fairly slender, he seemed to have collapsed on himself, looking like a doll in the bed. Bridgette sat with her legs curled under her, the folds of a royal purple silken skirt falling around the chair legs. She glanced up at Nathan from the sketchpad she was idly drawing in as he closed the door and leaned on it. Her face remained calm, though her eyes churned with a hundred of emotions, including the faint fire smothered fury. "Welcome back, Nathan," was all she said as she returned to her drawing, the pencil moving in smooth lines over the page, though Nathan was at a bad angle to see what it was she was sketching.

"Who are you?" he demanded suddenly, his fists tightening into fists at his side, barely feeling his nails cutting furrows into his palms.

Bridgette calmly raised her head to look at him again, then carefully set aside her drawing on the nightstand, without needing to look to do so. "What do you mean, Nathan?" She asked gently, tucking a few stray curls behind her ear with a graceful hand. "I should think you know who I am; you have been with me for twelve years."

Nathan gestured angrily, slashing his hand down to still any further words she had. "Enough! Each person you have taken into this group was--someone else. I know who they are, and I know who they were, but I do not know you."

Bridgette's eyes flashed with a little pain, and she sighed, looking away briefly, but remained calm as she uncurled her legs from beneath her. "Please, Nathan, what--"

"I am not Nathan," he snapped.

"Then who are you?" Bridgette countered, a bit of anger coming to flavor her lyrical voice. "Yes, I will admit I know what is happening to you; I know who you were and what that meant." She raised an eyebrow. "Nephlite is dead, Nathan. It is up to you whether you let him resurrect or whether you can accept all that he was into yourself and realize that you are a different person from that one, if you care to remember that."

"Who are you? One of the Negaverse?" Nathan gasped, staring at her incredulously. "How can you possibly know such things--"

Bridgette smiled, but there was no humor to the expression, only bitterness. "Never, Nathan; never was I--of the Negaverse; it's--impossible. For all that I have spent a great deal of time in that dark place, I doubt that any there would bid me welcome, especially now." She rubbed at her forehead, eyes filled with the same old sorrow that Nathan was so used to seeing flowing to the surface once again.

"Why did you seek us out? Why did you bring us together?" he demanded. "What are you? Why do you insist on speaking in riddles to me?"

"I'm a musician, Nathan, as are you--at least partially. And I don't mean to speak in riddles, it's just that I can't--"

"You are no simple musician." Nathan stormed closer gesturing to his shoulder. "Explain this! I saw the amount of the blood on the sheets this morning! I should have died! Instead, I am completely healed as though nothing ever happened, and all I have a memory of is you standing over me all night with your hand pressed to my shoulder." He glowered at her darkly, crossing his arms.

"You can't play a fiddle with a shoulder that's been mangled," Bridgette said calmly, and almost plaintive note to her voice, her eyes never leaving his.

"You know too much for a simple musician. You can do too much!"

Bridgette smiled thinly and bitterly, though a hint of wry humor was in her expression, though it seemed more directed at herself than anything else. "No musician is ever 'simple', Nathan." She shook her head, the waves of her hair gleaming in the lamp and firelight. Strangely, the silver in the red-gold waves almost seemed to gleam like the actual metal. "Sit down, Nathan; if you want even a short and edited version of any sort of explanation, it will take awhile. And this is no subject for a shouting match, especially with Jared--"

Nathan started to snap a reply, but sat on the other chair in the room, glancing at the almost comatose man in the bed before him. "How is he?" he asked softly.

"He'll recover," Bridgette said softly, a gentle hand straying to brush Jared's hair back from the slack face.

Nathan stared a moment longer, watching Bridgette sit wearily, her dark eyes troubled and fixed on the man in the bed before her. Finally, Nathan could take it no longer. "Why? Why did I regain these memories? How did we all come back, and so soon? And why did you--"

Bridgette shrugged, leaning back in her chair, flopping against the back with a tired thud. "Humans are reincarnated all the time, Nathan. And you are--and were, at least partially, human."

"But how?" Nathan asked, almost pleading, restraining himself from throwing himself at her feet and placing his hands in her lap and begging. "As near as I can tell, I--died barely two months ago." He leaned forward in the chair and grabbed her nearest wrist. "How can it be that we be reincarnated while we were still living?!"

Bridgette shrugged gracefully, picking up her sketchbook again and cocking her head as she examined what she had drawn so far. "The answer to that, at least, is fairly simple if you stop to think about it, Nathan. When you crossed to the Negaverse, and fell under Beryl's sway, she 'killed' enough of you so that at least that part could be reborn in the usual cycle of things."

"Then why do we all regain our memories, and why now? Except Jared; he seems not to have gained the slightest bloody clue of anything about Jedite." Nathan turned to stare at the comatose man bundled into the bed beside him, not noticing as his accent started to flavor his words once more as he began to relax.

Bridgette shrugged helplessly, smoothing Jared's hair again, brushing her fingers over his cheek gently. "Because, Nathan, if you'll remember, Jared's other self wasn't dead; just trapped." She frowned a moment, the smothered fire of fury glaring brightly in her eyes, before fading to a steady glow once more. "That is, he was only trapped until a few moments ago."

"He was freed?"

Bridgette looked evenly at Nathan. "Is Beryl the sort of person you can see freeing a potential energy source like that?" Bridgette snorted, and Nathan had to scowl and shake his head in agreement. "No; you know the answer to that."

"And how do you know? How can you possibly know Beryl, unless you..."

Bridgette settled back after carefully readjusting the blankets tucked around Jared's chin, settling his slack arms to rest on the coverlet. "It is my job to know." She picked up her pencil again, idly moving the pencil over the paper once again.

"But why? Why are we--my shoulder? Where do you answer t', if anywhere? An'--"

Bridgette shrugged, tapping the eraser of her pencil on the paper softly. "The memories returning--your guess is as good as mine; I suspected it would happen, and that is why I brought you all together. I wanted to give you all something better to remember than the hatred, since I know Beryl erased the memories of your previous friendship."

"But why? Why did you seek us out? Why in hell you helping us?"

Bridgette shrugged, her eyes becoming troubled again as she turned to look out the window. "Call it nostalgia; a tribute to--things I've lost." She sighed, rubbing at the bridge of her nose wearily, not looking at him.

Nathan stood. "I don't understand, and you aren't telling me anything."

"Nathan--you must make up your own mind who you want to be. Are you going to let the past rule you and become Nephlite once more, or are you going to try to ignore it? Or are you going to find a way to live with both? Malcolm is fighting the return of his memories tooth and nail--and it is breaking him down as surely as anything; I can't help him if he doesn't stop avoiding me." She glanced at the door, a pained expression crossing her beautiful face once more. "ZoŽ cannot come to grips with the other half she is learning of; she simply can't understand why she feels such hate to people she loves so much in this lifetime. Jared--well, he is going to be the worst of the lot as all his memories just came back in one blast."

"How?" Nathan frowned, pacing, his fingers tangled in his hair in sheer frustration. "Why do the rest of ours come back in fragments? Why did I get the wounds back; the ones that killed me and almost did again?"

Bridgette glanced up at Nathan, finally standing and moving into the path of his pacing and taking his shoulders gently in her hands, stopping him. "I do not know why your death wounds returned, Nathan. Perhaps the death wounds will also return for the others as time passes and more of their old memories are regained; I can't say." She turned away a moment, releasing his shoulders, and her voice lowered, layered with sadness. "As to why Jared's came back all at once--the answer is easy. I just killed his former self."

* * * * * * * *

Malcolm's hands flew over the keys of the piano, madly running through piece after piece--then he stopped, laying his head on his arms as he crossed them on the keys, fighting back a sob. His head pounded; he was sick with worry over Jared's sudden collapse; Nathan's disappearance that morning; and ZoŽ’s mutable behavior didn't help him feel any better, either.

He lifted his head off his arms long enough to take a drink from the crystal tumbler resting on the piano, rolling the scotch around in his mouth, as if trying to wash away the bad feelings. And he was angry with Bridgette, he had to admit it; angry with her for not seeming to be shaken in the slightest by any of this. He raised his head, raising a shaking hand to rub at his forehead. Where had all the happiness gone? Until they had come here, everything had been wonderful. At lease since Bridgette had entered of their lives.

Malcolm shuddered, laying his head back down on his arms. He could remember the stench of the alleys he had been forced to sometimes spend the nights of his childhood in before the shelter had taken him in. But then, another part of him; the part of him that was in those dreams--he could also remember laughing at other children in similar situations. That part of himself would watch them in the view of a crystal, ZoŽ tucked under his arm as he instructed her, pointing out the suffering.

Angrily, Malcolm pounded his hands on the keys, sitting up and then slamming the cover down over the keyboard. He snatched the glass and downed the rest of it, getting up and shoving the bench roughly back towards the piano. Glaring, he stalked towards the crystal decanter to pour himself some more. From upstairs, he heard Nathan's voice rise, then fall. **When did he get back?** Shaking his head, Malcolm leaned on the mantle, staring moodily into the dancing flames in the hearth, sipping at his drink, forcing those other whispering thoughts to the back of his mind.

Sighing, he went back to the piano and pulled the bench back out, sitting once more and opening the keyboard carefully. He placed his slender fingers over the keys, then just started playing anything that came into his head. He had no idea how much longer he played, but his fingers were beginning to ache and cramp up, and full night had fallen, the fire having long since died down due to his inattention. He was startled into awareness as the piano bench shifted slightly, and ZoŽ was suddenly at his side, peering up at him strangely, her emerald eyes inviting a hundred things. Malcolm looked down at her for a long moment, then put his arm around her, pulling her closer, resting his chin on the top of her head as he stared into the glowing embers in the fireplace. He started to lean down to brush her cheek with his lips, closing his eyes, some of the tension leaving his shoulders--when ZoŽ stiffened in his arms. His eyes flared open as ZoŽ stood hastily--looking at him as if he were some sort of demon. With a choked cry, ZoŽ fled to the shelter of her room, her door slamming.

Malcolm stared after her a moment confused, and then the confusion began to change to anger. He stood abruptly, the piano bench scraping loudly against the floor and he stormed up the stairs, wrenching open the doors to Jared's room, the fire in him building to almost a rage at the sight of Jared's still form.

Bridgette turned from the window she had been staring out of, her eyes flat and emotionless, as though she had been struggling to push everything away to retain her veneer of calm. "Who are you!? Why are you doing this to us?"

"Malcolm--" she began, then took a couple of steps forward, the coldness flooding out of her eyes to be replaced with concern, and no little anguish. "Malcolm--what do you mean? Please--I--I would never hurt you..."

"You know what is happening to us! You know what is--what happened to Jared! You won't tell us! After--after all this time--all we've all been through together--and you won't tell us!" He turned away, embarrassed at the tears flowing from his silver eyes, angrily rubbing them away.

He flinched when a gentle, slender hand fell to rest on his shoulder, tenderly brushing the long silver hair back from his neck. "Malcolm, if there were anything to be gained by telling you--I would, but it would only make things worse right now; you--you wouldn't believe me, anyway. When--this has played its course, I swear I will explain as much as I can--to you all." Malcolm remained facing away, trembling with all the emotions that were tumbling through his mind. The hands moved to encircle his chest from behind, her head stooping to rest against his hair, though he was nearly as tall as she now. "Mal'--please--if you--can still care for me at all--with what you're going through--Just let it go; don't fight it, please. I'm not sure I can--if I can help you if you fight this. It's hard enough if you were to just accept it."

Malcolm turned to stare at Bridgette, jerking free of her arms hurt in his eyes, tears tracking down his cheeks, and he didn't try to hide it. "Bri'--why?"

She looked at him a moment, slowly lowering her arms from where she had been holding him, then merely shook her head and helped him over to her chair, pushing him into it. Malcolm trembled as she just looked at him, her dark eyes filled with pain and compassion, and he let himself break down, sobbing hopelessly. She sat at his feet silently, reaching up and touched the side of his face with a gentle hand, her fingers carefully brushing away the tears. He slid out of the chair and into her arms, sobbing, feeling her hand gently stroke the back of his head as he clung to her, soothing, her voice murmuring comforting things he couldn't really hear. Finally, he had no more tears to shed, and he settled against her shoulder, falling to the first blessedly dreamless sleep he had had in over a week.

* * * * * * * *

Nathan/Nephlite sat back against the cherry tree in the orchard below the house and stared at the violin he held in his hands. Why was he sitting out here in the cold like this? He hadn't even thought about his actions; he had merely had left Jared's room and had gone to his own, taking the instrument from where he had left it on his dressed and taken it outside to play. Nathan stared at the old instrument with a mix of love and hate, fingers caressing the familiar smooth wood.

He could remember the day Bridgette had given it to him with a startling clarity--a Stradivarius--the best. How Bridgette's face had glowed in pleasure, the ever-present sadness leaving her for a moment, when he had crowed in delight flinging himself at her for a hug, and immediately demanding a Sixteenth birthday jam session. He caught himself smiling, then held the instrument out at arms length, staring at it. Taking a breath, he raised it to smash it into the cherry tree--but something stopped him. With mixed emotions, he tucked the instrument beneath his chin and lovingly played through an old Irish march--one bleak enough to suit his mood--and one of the first pieces he had ever learned to play. As he lovingly played through the tune, he found himself remembering a conversation from years before...

...Gunfire pattered from somewhere nearby, and the four children had crowded closer to Bridgette seeking comfort and protection as she had raised herself a little to peer through the shattered glass and the ruined display of the clothing shop to look into the street. They had taken refuge in the shop one the riot had started, pushed in by Bridgette and shoved to the floor by the front, her spreading her cloak over them to protect them as the front window was shattered with a stray bullet. "What--do we do now?" ZoŽ had whispered, her terrified voice thick with the German accent that was still present whenever she spoke English.

Bridgette had settled back, leaning against the ledge behind her, gathering the children comfortably against her chest. She had looked at the children ranging from Malcolm's 13, to ZoŽ’s 9 with gentle eyes, and had smiled tenderly. "Well--we have a moment, why not try a bit of practice; we could sing."

"Music? Now?" Malcolm had asked incredulously, staring at Bridgette with wide silver eyes, his hair falling untidily into his eyes as he had flinched at the loud boom of a bomb.

"What better time?" Bridgette had smiled warmly. "Music has been a war stopper in tales older than this war; besides, music is a friend you can tell anything to..."

..."For an evil general, you sure do play good."

Nathan looked up quickly, the violin and bow dropping to his lap, though he didn't release them to defend himself, as he stared at Sailor Moon and the other Scouts. He shook his head ruefully; despite having all the memories of his life as Nephlite back, his reflexes had stayed the same as the ones he had had all his life as Nathan. The Scouts could have killed him and he would have gone into the darkness playing his fiddle. "Nephlite never played the violin. Nathan does," he said softly, turning his eyes to the instrument. Blushing a little, he smiled sheepishly. "Bri's right about that much."

"Umm--aren't you Nephlite?" asked Mars, nervously playing with a Ward paper.

Nathan paused a moment, then shook his head. "Nephlite is dead, Scouts. I--may have--his memories; I may even be him, but-or I was him, but--" he glanced at the instrument in his hands and shook his head with a slight laugh.

"'Just a musician' my arse, Bri," he snorted, but he felt a wry smile breaking out on his face and crinkling the corners of his eyes. "You old bat."

"Huh?" asked Jupiter, staring at him as if he had just sprouted a second head.

Nathan stood, stretching, before stooping to stow his violin away in its case with practiced speed. "Never mind, girls. Let's just say that--I'm turning over a new leaf, to speak--either that, or I'm shoving a whole bunch of leaves over the mess I made." He grinned at them and their stunned faces, then glanced up at the house, then back at them. "I can't say the same for the others, though they're still going through hell in there, so why don't we all find a nice place to talk away from here, hmm?"

The Scouts stared as Nathan chuckled and led the way out of the gardens and down the street, heading for the nearest park. Mina was the last one out, and turned to close the gate--and stopped, her brow creasing in confusion.

Hadn't there been a dragon on the gate?

* * * * * * * *

Malcolm's eyes flickered open and he stirred sleepily in his bed, yawning hugely. He was in his own room, tucked in with the exact care that spoke volumes of Bridgette's hand. With a half-smile, he snuggled back into the covers, enjoying the warmth, and glanced to his bedside to see--the back of what looked like a small golden-furred cat, curled up in the chair beside his head, though Bri's blazer was folded neatly across the back of his chair. Puzzled, Malcolm started to sit up, wondering where the cat had come from.

The 'cat' awoke', raising its head to look at him.

The head was of an eagle, a cruelly hooked beak shining in the faint light from the fire, feathers a soft, golden color to match the rich fur that covered its body and hind-quarters. Its front feet were taloned, scaly, like the feet of a hawk or an eagle. Two graceful wings stretched once, before folding neatly to rest on its back. It was a gryphon--a gryphon the size of a house-cat.

The little gryphon, yawned, keeping golden eyes focused on him, then fluttered down to the floor, padding towards the door, claws clicking on the wood. As it walked, the little body began to fade; by the time it reached the door, it had completely vanished. While he was still staring at the place where the gryphon had vanished, the door opened, and Bridgette stepped in bearing a tray laden with two steaming mugs. Malcolm raised dazed eyes to her, watching numbly as she crossed the room, and set the tray down. He stared in confusion at the mug she held out to him for a full minute, until her brow creased in concern, and she set the mug back down on the tray, perching on the edge of the bed, her fingers gently smoothing back his hair. "Hot chocolate," she said, softly. "Are you feeling all right?"

Blinking, he stared at her, then nodded as she took up the mug again, helping him to sit up and pressing the hot mug into his hand carefully. "Bri--there--was-a--"

"Aevon," she said, her dark eyes straying to the spot on the floor where Malcolm's silver eyes kept straying, "His name is Aevon." She shook her head, then turned her deadly serious eyes on him as he took a gingerly sip at the mug. "I am going to tell you something, Malcolm; about myself. You can believe it or not as you like, for the moment, but you will soon have to believe it, I fear." "Her eyes flashed with a little pain, and she sighed while Malcolm stared at her over the mug, eyes confused. She raised her own mug and sipped before setting the mug down, and turning her eyes to her hands which she folded in her lap. "Malcolm--I'm not human."

"What?!" Malcolm choked, almost sending scalding hot chocolate down the wrong way. She patted his back carefully until he caught his breath again.

"Careful, Mal' and let me finish." She shook her head, a self-mocking smile on her face. "I am not human, and I am well over--well, far over ten-thousand years old." She grimaced, shaking her head as if she had just said something that was such an understatement, if was almost a lie. Malcolm just blinked at her, silver eyes wide while Bridgette smiled thinly and took the mug from his hand before his slackening hand spilled the drink all over his lap. "I came from a distant place--called Cynillon." He eyes took on a distant look at she settled back into her chair, her face twisting into the deeply sad look that she always wore in her unguarded moments. "It was a beautiful place; full of magic and creatures that mostly only live in dreams and stories today."

"I--uh--"

"It was destroyed long ago, and I am one of the few survivors. Aevon is descended from others." Bridgette took up her mug again, but only stared into it. "I can't tell you any more now, Mal or I would. I have told you all that I can for now, until you--accept what is happening to you, and it runs its course." She grimaced bitterly, taking long pull on her mug. "I am actually being unfair to Nathan and the others, speaking to you of this without telling them as well, but I--" She looked over at him, sadly, her fingers straying out to touch his cheek gently. "Malcolm--just--if I seem flat--I don't mean to be; truly." She looked into his eyes for a long moment, then took her mug and stood, heading for the door. She laid a hand on the handle and turned back a moment. "I don't mean to be flat, or cold, it's just--see how cheerful you can stay after--so many years."

Malcolm could only stare after her as she sighed and closed the door behind her. **What has she been through? If she's telling the truth, or even thinks that she is, then--God, she's even worse off than I am.** Malcolm paused a moment, then stared at a single golden-brown feather laying in the chair Bridgette had vacated. Sitting up, he picked it up and stared at it. **Then again--maybe I am the crazy one.** With a groan, Malcolm flopped back onto the pillows.

* * * * * * * *

Nathan jerked upright, away from the tree he had been leaning against and blinked in confusion as Molly walked into the clearing, following the two cats. Frowning, he turned to Sailor Moon. "What is she doing here! It is dangerous to--"

"She knows about us," said Jupiter with a shrug. "So--we thought she ought to come along. After all, she gets caught up in the attacks enough, it's only fair."

Molly glanced uncertainly at Nathan, then sat at the base of a different tree, her dark eyes on him as everyone else took up comfortable positions around the clearing. Nathan stared at Molly for a moment more, his expression shifting from worry, to resignation, then sighed. "Very well." He looked up suddenly, his eyes growing hard. "But Molly does not get involved in any fighting."

"It's her choice," shrugged Mars, the only one not sitting as she leaned against a tree, her eyes still wary. "Now go on and tell us what in the name of Mars is going on with you people."

Nathan fixed her with a steely glare for one long minute, then shrugged finally. "I can't say completely; I'm not entirely sure m'self, you know." He sighed. "All I c'n tell you is that I've these memories belonging to a 'Nephlite' from the 'Negaverse' stuck in my head now, who was, in some way, a former incarnation of myself."

"From the way you screwed up in that life," Mars muttered, "it's no wonder you came back like you did."

Nathan glared at her a moment, then sighed. "I think that ZoŽ and Malcolm are also regaining memories; Jared--I don't think he was, but--"

"What happened?" asked Mina suddenly, her eyes widening a little.

"To explain that--I have to tell you what I saw when I went to the Negaverse to seek my Crystal." Nathan shook his head, spreading his hands helplessly, his hair flopping untidily into his face. "All Bri' would say--" he stopped, his face drawing into a frown as he absent-mindedly shoved his bangs back, glancing at Mina, "--Jared collapsed earlier tonight."

Mina frowned. "That--why? How?"

Nathan sighed. "The Negaverse is rebuilding itself."

All of the Scouts jumped erect. "What?"

"Oh no! We just finished beating them," whined Sailor Moon, flopping back onto the leaf-littered ground with a thud, several leaves being tossed into the air to float back down lazily--one landing right on her nose.

"Beaten, but not completely destroyed," Nathan said, "Beaten and destroyed are two entirely different things, particularly with someone like Beryl." He sighed, then paused, a curious look crossing his handsome features. "Either that, or there were more humans in the Negaverse than I thought."

"What's that got to do with anything?" asked Mercury, confused.

Nathan shook his head, shrugging helplessly. "I-it was just something that--Bridgette said; something about humans returning all the time." He shrugged. "In any case, Beryl--"

"Hey! I killed her!" Sailor Moon protested.

Nathan shook his head. "I am merely telling you what I saw, Serena. I personally don't know if she was actually killed or not, but even if she was, she's back. I saw her on a plain littered with the crystals which held the life forces of those of her minions she had become displeased with and banished to eternal sleep; like what she did to Jedite when he failed her." Nathan shuddered a little. "As painful as my--death was--that--that was far worse." He regained control of his shuddering, and continued. "In any case, she was crushing each crystal and consuming the life force for energy to rebuild." Nathan licked his lips. "I can only assume this is what she was doing when Jared collapsed, since he is, or was, at least partially Jedite."

"But if Beryl is using their life forces," Ami said slowly, "then Jared wouldn't regain any memories, would he?"

"I thought of that," Nathan said grimly. "Likely, Jared would have died, part of his soul being drained and consumed like that. But--Bridgette got to him first."

"Who is Bridgette, anyway?" asked Serena.

Nathan shrugged helplessly. "I couldn't tell you, Serena. I trust her, though. I'd trust her with my life--and I'd trust her with Molly's; somehow, I can trust her." He blushed, his voice softening with the slight hesitation before Molly's name. "Besides, no matter what she is, or what she claims to be, she's been like a mother to me for a long time; she took me in without question, even when--" He broke off, shaking his head.

"Luna thinks she's--ow!" Serena rubbed her shin and glared at Rei, who drew her leg back from kicking her leader, and raised her dark eyes innocently to the branches above her.

Nathan waited for Serena to continue, then shrugged when all she did was chase Rei around the tree a few times. "That's all I know at the moment, I fear." He shrugged. "Needless to say, though, I at least will fight on your side this time--if it comes to that." He smiled suddenly, a bit of humor sparkling in his eyes. "I may be an evil general reincarnated, but I am Irish, an' we don't like people killing us, y'know."

Molly spoke up finally. "What--about your shoulder?"

Nathan frowned and touched it. "It--it's better, thank you, Mol." He blinked a moment, then shook his head. "It's bloody well going t' take some thinkin' t' keep up with which memory is which." He made a face and then stuck out his tongue at Lita, who giggled and made a passing comment about 'scatter-brained'. He shrugged at Molly. "I'm fine, though."

Molly was quiet for a moment, and the Scouts merely watched. Nathan watched the red-haired girl for a long moment, some silent war going on behind his sapphire eyes. Finally, he stood up, stretching, and then walked over to where Molly sat beneath a tree, and crouched at her side, placing his hands on her knees. "Well, Molly, I dunno if you still like them or no, but how'd you like to go find ourselves that chocolate parfait I promised you? Maybe today after school?" He shook his head, eyes loosing most of the deep seriousness, and being replaced by the familiar sparkle. "I fear my chocolate addiction is far too much for me to overcome alone." He stopped suddenly, the grin fading as he watched her uncertainly.

Molly held her breath a moment, then smiled brightly, a warmth spreading to fill her as tears pricked at the corners of her eyes. "Sure, Nep--Nathan."

Nathan smiled in relief, hugging her warmly. "Call me anything but Nephlite, Mol. I'm trying to quit, y'know," he murmured softly.

* * * * * * * *

ZoŽ sat up in bed suddenly, the sleep immediately leaving her. She knew now--those dreams; another life--an awful life. **No--I'm the weak one; an idiot! I'm no better than that idiot, Nephlite.** Frowning, she stood, pulling on a fresh set of clothes; one of the uniform-like suits she had favored even before the dreams had started. Moving to the mirror, she straightened the clothing, a half-smile on her lips, raising a hand to adjust her hair. She turned briefly, then smiled. **Malachite will like this one. He--** She stopped in mid-thought, glancing at the door. **No; he's Malcolm. Malcolm loves--** ZoŽ frowned. These two people she held the memories for were hard to reconcile. Part of her loved Malcolm desperately--the other half thought of him as a brother. And Nathan; part of her loathed him, while the other cringed at the thought of anything happening to him. **And what,** she thought, **about poor, sweet Jared?** She found herself sneering into the mirror. **Jedite always was a weak fool,** she thought glumly to herself. Sighing, she shook her head and turned away from the mirror.

Suddenly, a single name entered her head: Darien. A mixture of hate and confusion rose in her. She would find this 'Darien' and make him tell her what was going on. Somehow, Zoisite was sure the former Prince had something to do with this; with this strange life crossing.

Besides, even if he didn't, it would still be fun to go and kill him.

Laughing to herself, she tossed her head and vanished in a spiral of cherry-blossom petals.

* * * * * * * *

"Wow! We get one of the musicians for the day?" asked Melvin, bouncing around. Molly winced and pretended to be absorbed in her English text. "I read about them on the Internet, and them being here is like Albert Einstein visiting my physics class!" Melvin's eyes, behind the masking glasses, were huge with hero-worship. "I can't wait to meet him and get his autograph for my collection!"

Molly glanced at Serena and Ami out of the corner of her eye, then sighed while Lita bit her fist to keep from laughing. "Uh--Melvin, I--" began Molly.

"Did you hear the great news? Since they missed several days, they are staying on an extra week at the end of the tour to repay our school the time we lost. So we get an extra half-week!!" Melvin grinned.

"Melvin, don't you ever do anything but go on the stupid Internet?" Lita asked, rolling her eyes.

Melvin laughed. "Sure! I do my homework and I collect bugs and autographs! I've got a terrific collection! Do you want to come over today and see them Molly? How about you, Serena?"

"Uh--no thanks. I--um--"

Miss Harruda walked into the room at than moment, followed closely by Nathan Malley. Nathan's sapphire eyes located the girls, and he noticed Melvin babbling away. "Huh," he said softly, as he walked past them, "Speed Racer."

All the girls in the class sighed in unison as he walked slowly past, his fiddle case in one hand. Nathan's lips quirked up with a hint of a smile, and he turned and winked at Molly and the others before leaning casually against the wall near the chalkboard. "Now class, this is Mr. Nathan Malley--"

"Nathan is enough t' tie the tongue, Miss Harruda" he interrupted with a chuckle. "Let's keep it at that, mm?"

Miss Harruda laughed, then blushed a bit. "Mr.--uh--Nathan has offered to come to our class today as a special treat, since it was because of his illness that our school's turn with his group has been moved back two months."

Nathan chuckled, wryly, easing his violin case down by his feet and crossing his arms over his chest. "Also, I had made a promise to some very good friends of mine--" he winked at Serena, Molly, Ami, and Lita again, drawing stares from the rest of the class, "that I would make a special effort--and then I went and got m'self sick. So--here I am." He bowed jauntily, sweeping his hand before him, and straightening with a wink.

The class stared, the girls all staring openly at Serena, Molly, and the other two. "You knew someone famous, and you didn't tell me?" Melvin gasped. Miss Harruda blinked. "You--ah--know some of the students?"

Nathan chuckled a bit. "Oh--some. You'd be amazed, Miss Harruda; you really would."

* * * * * * * *

Beryl surveyed her gathered forces, and frowned, anger sparking in her scarlet eyes. Not enough; not nearly enough left to work with. If she were going to crush the Scouts, she would need more power and more followers. "Joerdan?" she snapped.

A thin man stepped forward, still battered looking, his uniform covered in tears and stains from the past few weeks of trying to survive. Yet the cold eyes were calm, and he had managed to make himself a small lord over a scattered group of her Court in a secluded corner of her realm. "Yes, my Queen?"

"You mentioned that you had a plan to gain some energy, and perhaps more clues as to the location of my enemies," Beryl's voice purred as she settled back in her throne, her eyes narrowing at him.

"Yes, my Queen." Joerdan said, smiling in a self-satisfied way. Beryl would have to break him of that later. "As you know, the Sailor Scouts had alter-identities which remained largely secret. But I do know, from what I have studied of Malachite's and--the others' reports, that I believe I have traced at least some of them to a particular site on Earth; a school." He straightened from his bow finally, the inky black hair falling into his pale face, the ice-blue eyes gleaming in the pale light of the cold fire surrounding Beryl's staff. "As you know, one of the strongest human emotions is fear--and loss. I have arranged for this--school--to be put through such an experience, and gather this energy for you my Queen; and if the Scouts happen to fall as well, why, so much the better."

Beryl smiled thinly. "Good." She frowned then, staring down at the faint lines on her hand, still left from the crystal's unexplained explosion. "Still--caution. There may be--more to this than there seems. I sense--something..."

* * * * * * * *

Nathan grinned and removed his bow from the strings, bowing low. "That's one of my favorites, though it was originally not written for the fiddle, but a--" he stopped, frowning. He heard something; something that sent his body tense. He straightened, cocking his head, trying to place what had distracted him; that faint, high-pitched whine. He'd heard it before, and he didn't like it, but which life? Abruptly, his eyes widened and he ran towards Molly. "Everyone! Get down! There's a bomb!"

"What--" began Miss Harruda--and the outside wall of the classroom exploded inwards, just as Nathan crashed into Molly, knocking her behind a desk.

Serena screamed, joining the other students in diving under the desks. A few piece of rubble still hit her hard enough to draw blood, but it was nothing serious. When all was finally quiet, aside from the whimpering of the fellow students, and the occasional clink from falling rubble, she nervously poked her head out from under the desk.

Several students lay around, groaning, covered in blood. One or two, who had been closer to the wall, were definitely dead, and Serena had to fight down bile from catching the tiny glance at the mangled bodies that she got before she had to look away.

Miss Harruda lay in a heap by the wall closest to the hall, breathing, but unconscious. Serena could hear sounds of gunfire from within the halls; of students' screams. She started to stand, and to transform--but at that moment, the door burst inward, admitting several men with guns. "No one move," hissed one.

Serena froze, only her eyes flickering towards the others. Lita and Ami stopped in the middle of helping Melvin sit up, and she could just see Molly clinging to Nathan, his arm around her shoulders. The gunmen spread out as a dreadful silence filled the room. Finally, Nathan cleared his throat. "May--we see to our wounded, sirs?" he asked softly.

The man sneered, but gestured. "Feel free; then everyone against the wall. Keep your hands where we can see them."

* * * * * * * *

Darien sighed, stuffing his hands into the pocket. He pulled out his keys and unlocked his apartment, yawning hugely. Stooping to pick up the paper, he went in, yawning again. Not even 11 A.M., and he was already tired. "Well, well, Darien. So you finally come home."

Darien jumped into alertness, pulling a rose from inside his jacket and turning quickly to see--

A woman sitting calmly on the air above his table, slender legs crossed before her. Her long golden hair was drawn back in a tail, curls tumbling down her back and the emerald-green eyes peered at him with no little hate. "You!" Darien hissed.

Zoisite laughed and Darien winced. She seemed to have made her laugh even more grating than before she had died. "Of course, Cape Boy, who did you expect it to be, Queen Serenity?" She laughed again, but Darien noticed a certain amount of uncertainty to the cackle. Zoisite floated to the ground and strode closer. She glared heatedly at him, then she seemed to half slump. Finally, her fists clenching and unclenching, she said one soft word. "Why?"

Darien blinked. "Why--why what?"

"Why did you bring me back?"

"Bring you back? Why in the hell would I want to do that?! I hate your guts!"

Zoisite took a step back suddenly, her face falling. "But if it wasn't you--then how--" She sat heavily on the couch, all the arrogant cruelty flowing out of her to be replaced with much confusion and fright. "How can this be?"

* * * * * * * *

"Bridgette!" Malcolm yelled, frantically up the stairs, backing away from the television in shock, though he couldn't tear his eyes away.

She came running down the stairs, skirts flying and stopped easily on the slick wooden floor beside him, in front of the television. "What is it, Mal?" she asked, hand closing gently on his arm as she stared at the news anchor.

"The school; those girls' school." Malcolm shook his head. "It's like Beirut; terrorists have taken it over. Look!" He pointed to the screen as the view shifted to the partially ruined school building.

"What?" Smoke rose from it in some places, and a few small bodies still littered the yard. She could make out at least three people on the roof, with some sort of gun, all the guards watching warily. Then she hissed a little, her keen eyes picking out even more guards behind the windows. Malcolm stared at her a little, startled, never having seen her angry before.

Then her eyes caught sight of a banner, which had been hung over the entrance to the school. Bridgette's eyes flared with smothered fury. "I see." She said flatly, a low growl under the musical tones. "Mal--stay with Jared. I--have something I need to do."

She turned sharply on her heel to leave, but Malcolm stopped her. "Bri--this is real. This isn't some story. Please don't--"

"Have a little faith in the storyteller, Mal. I know what to do." She smiled at him, her eyes hard. She started off down the hall away from the stunned man, but then she paused and turned back for a moment. "Incidentally, ZoŽ should have completed--what she was going through. She may need help accepting it."

Without another word, Bridgette took her cloak off the hook and was out the door.

Malcolm frowned after her a moment, noticing something wrong with the garden; then he realized. **The dragon's gone from the gate--and that odd lizard-bird statue is gone.** He blinked as a small, golden thing flew overhead after his mentor. Malcolm closed the door firmly, clenching his eyes shut. **I did not just see that.** With a shudder, he headed up the stairs to take his place at Jared's bedside.

* * * * * * * *

return to Index / go to Chapter 5

The Nephrite and Naru Treasury