Hearts of Sword
by Moon Momma

Part Twelve -- A Kharandha'i Warrior

* * * * * * * *

We will stand at the pinpoint between darkness and light
Where truth is made so plain to see,
We will witness the enemies and opposites unite
As our captive spirits run free.

Peter Himmelman, "Love of Midnight"

* * * * * * * *

Jasper appeared in his apartment in a flash of black lightning, to the great startlement of Molly and the three Generals. "All right!" he shrieked. "You dudes ever tried teleporting off an airplane? Oh man! Bummer, though," he said more thoughtfully, "it blew up the plane, so I'm gonna have to get a new one, man, and a new band...."

Does this mean we can go home now?" Zoisite asked. She was still red-eyed from Molly's dressing-down.

"No way. The good guys are on their way and we're gonna trash them and I'm gonna be King of the Universe!"

"Oh, no," Molly whispered. Nephrite, be careful.

"What's the matter, baby?" Jasper turned his hideously-painted face towards Molly. "Worried about your man? Forget that loser. Stick with me, baby, and you'll be Queen of the Universe."

"I thought that was Metallia's job," Malachite said.

"Whatever. We haven't had our fun yet, baby. Gotta make sure you stick with me..... I know." Jasper disappeared into his bedroom and reappeared with a pair of handcuffs. "Now you won't get away from me. Hold her still."

Molly tried to duck away as Jadeite and Malachite both grabbed her around her shoulders. Jasper snapped the handcuffs onto her right wrist and his left. "Gotcha, baby. Now, we just wait for the good guys to get here." He plopped onto a couch, pulling Molly down across his lap.

Molly gagged at the smell of him. She was more terrified than she had been since the Generals appeared in the taxi outside Dr. Hidari's office, but she sensed that her disgust and panic were what Jasper wanted. Stay calm, she told herself. Think. She looked at Malachite and Jadeite; they turned their faces from her.

"Hey, I know," Jasper said. "How about a bedtime story?"

"Whatever." Molly tried to sound completely bored.

"Metallia told me a good one. Once upon a time there was this majorly studly general dude who was all hot for a sweet little piece named Maira. So he bagged her and got her knocked up and went and joined the bad guys. And guess what, nine months later he comes back with the rest of the bad guys and wastes her and the kid and everyone else in the kingdom. And they all died happily ever after. Cool story, huh. Heard it before? No? It's your story, baby. You didn't know that your husband, Mr. Good Guy Nephrite, wasted you and your kid?"

She squeezed her eyes shut against his words. How dare you! she wanted to scream, as she tried to block out the memory that came, unwanted, into her mind....

* * * * * * * *

A cold, dark jail cell, her home for the last several months, ever since the Queen's War Council decided that Maira was a "security risk." She had been arrested when her condition became obvious, held up to public condemnation, labeled a traitor's whore, and imprisoned. The Queen had been opposed to Maira's arrest, but in the interest of maintaining the Moon Kingdom's unity in the face of war, had been powerless to openly oppose the actions of the War Council. Maira could have avoided disgrace and prison by denying that Nephre'im was the father of her child, but she refused to lie when she knew she had done nothing wrong. She refused to repudiate her love, no matter what anyone said about him.

She was alone. She lay on the floor, on her thin, lumpy sleeping mat, wracked by the labor pains that were coming longer, harder, and closer together. She had never imagined that anything could hurt so much, it was indescribable, she felt like nothing existed in the world except for the pain.

"Help me!" she cried when she could catch her breath between the pains, but no one came. No guards were left in the jail; all fighting men were needed to defend the Moon from the Dark Kingdom's invasion. She was alone in a world made of pain.

A key scraped in the lock, and the door opened. At first, Maira couldn't see who was there; the pain made waves of blackness over her eyes, blinding her. The darkness passed for a moment, and she saw Princess Serena. The Princess hurried to her and took her into her arms. "Oh, Maira, I can't believe they left you locked up here so close to your time!"

Maira couldn't answer. She screamed, carried away by another wave of pain that she was certain would tear her body in half. Finally it passed. "Serena," she said hoarsely.

"Come on, Maira. I'll get you out of here."

Another pain, that seemed like it would never end. "Too late," Maira gasped.

"I"ll never forgive him for this," Serena sobbed. "For leaving you like this. I'll never, ever forgive him. I'll never forgive myself for introducing you to him."

Maira expected another pain, but it didn't come. For some reason that was more frightening than the pains had been. "Not your fault, Serena. Not his fault, either," she whispered.

"You mean he isn't the father?"

"He is, but he didn't know. He was in so much pain, Serena. I only wanted to help him. Please don't be angry with him."

"Maira, how can you say --"

Maira didn't hear the rest of Serena's question. A new kind of pain swept over her, one that demanded a response from her. Strength surged through her, and she bore down with all her might. "Hnnnnnngh!" she groaned, then lay back against Serena, panting. Again, and again, and again. There was a sharp, tearing sensation, then she felt something dislodge. She pulled up her skirts in time to see the newborn boy slide out between her legs.

She had only the vaguest idea what to do next. She waited until the bloody mass of the afterbirth emerged, then she picked up the cord that connected it to her baby and bit it in half. Serena pulled one of the pearl clips out of her hair and clipped it on the baby's half of the cord. Maira picked the baby up by the feet and held him upside down. "Come on, breathe, little one," she begged. Obediently, the baby made a coughing sound and began to cry.

Maira started crying too. She lay back onto Serena's lap, and cradled the baby against her breast. Though his hair was matted with blood and the fluids of the womb, she could see that it was red. "Oh, Serena," she wept, "If he could only see his son, I know he'd come back. I know everything would be all right."

* * * * * * * *

Molly cried for the girl in the memory, giving birth alone, except for her frightened friend, in a jail cell. Jasper misinterpreted her tears. "Pretty rotten of him, wasn't it? You'll be better off with me. You just tell him that when he gets here. You and me, baby. We'll rule the Universe."

Please, she begged whatever power it was that removed the veils from memories. Let me remember something that will give me some hope.

* * * * * * * *

A beautiful day on the Moon. Maira and Serena stood on the Grand Balcony of the Moon Palace, looking down at the gardens. Or, more specifically, at the group of people who were walking in the gardens: Queen Serenity, King Arrendel Endymion, Prince Darien, and the four Imperial Generals of the Realm of Earth. The men from Earth had arrived a short time ago, and Queen Serenity was greeting them.

"He's so handsome," Maira sighed.

"Darien is the most gorgeous man in the Solar System," Serena said.

"What? Oh, Darien. Yes, he's all right, but that isn't who I meant."

"Really? So who do you think is even better than my Darien?"

Maira felt herself blush. "I could never tell you. It's silly, anyway. He'd never notice someone like me."

"Come on, Maira, please tell me!"

"All right." Maira covered her mouth with her hand, a habit of hers when she felt shy. "It's that General, the tall one with long dark hair. He's so wonderful."

"You mean General Nephre'im. He is awfully handsome, but I still like Darien the best. He's very nice -- General Nephre'im, I mean. The other Generals aren't nearly so nice. Those two -- General Mallory and General Zoyan, Mallory's the one with silver hair -- are really stuck up, and the other, General Jederin, never says much of anything. But Nephre'im is just the nicest man. He taught me and Darien how to play poker. That's a gambling card game the soldiers play. Mama would be so shocked if she knew I know how to play it."

"I'll probably never even get to talk to him," Maira said wistfully.

"Why not?"

"I'll never be properly introduced to him. He's an Imperial General of the Earth, and I'm only a maidservant. There's just no way for someone like me to be properly introduced to someone like him."

The Princess suddenly got that look in her eyes, that made Maira feel worried and exhilarated at the same time. "If we only ever did things the proper way, not much would ever get done. Come on, Maira!" She grabbed the maidservant's hand and began to run, pulling the other girl behind her down the broad steps leading down from the balcony.

"Serena!" Maira gasped, trying to protest but laughing too hard. Hand in hand the girls ran through the gardens towards the adults there.

Serena waved her free hand at her beloved. "Darien, Darien!" she cried.

He turned, smiling, and saw her. He opened his arms to her. She let go of Maira's hand and ran into his arms. He embraced her and lifted her off her feet in one motion and swung her around, kissing her full on the mouth.

"Serena!" the Queen said, but her attempt to reprimand her daughter was ruined by the laughter in her voice.

Darien put Serena down, but didn't let go of her. Serena said, "Darien, I want you to meet Maira. She's a handmaid, but she's also my best friend. Come here, Maira!"

Maira had been hanging back shyly, but when everyone looked at her she had to come forward. She curtsied to Darien, who took one of her hands and said, "It's very nice to meet you, Maira."

Maira curtsied again. "Thank you, Your Highness."

Serena went on, wildly improvising the protocol for introducing a maidservant to visiting royal dignitaries. "General Mallory, General Zoyan, General Jederin, General Nephre'im, this is my mother's handmaid and my best friend, Maira."

The first three gave her the slightest nods that could still be considered polite. But the fourth, General Nephre'im, bowed deeply to Maira, then took one of her hands and kissed it. "Maira. A lovely name for a lovely girl. It is a pleasure to meet you, Maira." His deep voice had a slightly rough quality, but was kind and gentle nonetheless. His large blue eyes, bluer than anything she had ever imagined, met hers. She curtsied to him without breaking their gaze. He still held her hand, and the two of them continued to look into each others' eyes. The moment seemed suspended in time as something, some deep, instinctive recognition, passed between the two. I know you, Maira thought. You are the part of my life I haven't lived yet.

Someone cleared a throat, breaking the spell. "General Nephre'im," silver-haired General Mallory said, "we must continue with our discussion. Perhaps, Your Majesty," he said to Queen Serenity, "it would be appropriate for the Princess to join in the conversation." He emphasized the word Princess,' making it clear that the other girl's presence was neither wanted nor necessary.

"Yes, it certainly would be. Serena, you may remain with us. Maira." The Queen gave her a look that was sad, gentle, and reproving all at the same time. Maira bowed her head, chagrined and ashamed. She knew she had behaved in a terribly improper manner. "The yellow roses are beginning to bloom. I would like you to arrange some in my apartment for me."

Maira curtsied deeply. "Yes, Your Majesty." She turned away, trying not to cry. After walking several steps away, she glanced back at the group. The auburn-haired General was watching her leave. She met his eyes once more, and he winked at her. She smiled at him, her sadness suddenly gone, and ran towards the rose garden.

* * * * * * * *

Late that afternoon, Maira was in the kitchen garden bringing in some delicate embroidered linens that had been hung out to dry. She was hardly a laundrymaid, but Queen Serenity preferred to trust her with the most delicate items. Carefully, she set the last of the linens in the cloth-lined basket and hoisted it onto her hip to carry it inside.

"Wait, Maira." The masculine voice startled her; she looked over her shoulder at the arch that led from the kitchen garden into the larger gardens. General Nephre'im stood there. They smiled at each other, then he came through the arch towards Maira. "I've been trying to catch up with you all afternoon," he said. "You don't stay in one place for long, do you?"

Maira looked shyly down at the laundry basket. "No, I guess not. The Queen keeps me busy."

"Well, do you have a moment to sit with me?"

"I suppose so." She sat down on the marble bench where she had been. The General sat down beside her. He looked around the garden. "It's beautiful here."

"Yes, it is. I like to hang out linens here. The herbs make them smell so nice."

He was silent a moment. He was leaning forward slightly, his hands gripping the front edge of the bench. His long legs were tucked under the bench; now he stretched them out and crossed them at the ankles. "I came to apologize for General Mallory's behavior. Mallory, not to put too fine a point on it, is a snob, and what he said was inexcusable. He is being reprimanded for correcting a member of Queen Serenity's household in front of the Queen. Incidentally, he and Zoyan are a little sore about that, so you might want to keep out of their way. Anyway, I want you to know that I'm terribly sorry for Mallory's rudeness."

"Oh, it's all right." Maira felt completely bewildered. "I mean, I was behaving very improperly. It was my fault, and I deserved to be corrected."

"I don't think it was your fault. I saw Princess Serena dragging you down those steps like she wanted to break your neck."

"I shouldn't have let her --"

"There wasn't anything you could have done about it." He smiled, and a hint of laughter entered his azure eyes. "Serena is a force of nature, an act of God. You should know that better than just about anyone. When she gets one of her ideas, mere mortals can no more stand against her than against a hurricane."

Maira looked down, unwilling to say anything against the Princess, but knowing that the General was probably right. "What's a hurricane?" she asked.

"That's right, you wouldn't know," Nephre'im said. "It's a mighty storm, born over the oceans of Earth. Its winds can uproot the largest trees, and its waves can drown entire cities. In short, mere mortals can no more stand against it than they can against Serena when she's got one of her notions." He smiled at Maira again, and she laughed a little, covering her mouth with her hand.

"Besides," the General continued, "I'm glad I finally got a chance to meet you."

"Really?" Maira asked. She could hardly believe it. This tall, handsome, dashing General had actually been wanting to meet her?

"Really. I've been noticing you ever since... oh, I don't know. For as long as I've been coming here as Darien's bodyguard. I've wanted to meet you, but since there's no protocol for introducing handmaids to Imperial Generals, at least there wasn't until Serena, bless her wild little heart, invented one today, that meant it just couldn't happen."

"But why would you notice me?" Maira was stunned at her own boldness, but something about General Nephre'im made her feel so comfortable talking to him.

He stared in front of him, at the beds of herbs and vegetables. "You always seem so... happy and busy and content. Rare qualities to find among those who live in palaces. There's something about you that's sunny and bright, yet peaceful...." He trailed off, an almost wistful look on his face. Then he smiled at her. "And you are the prettiest girl in the palace."

Maira felt herself blush, all down her face and clear down to the low neckline of her blue dress. "Oh, please don't say that. There's lots of girls here who are so much prettier than me, like all the Sailor Senshi Princesses, and Serena's more beautiful than anyone else."

He shrugged. "That may be, but, believe it or not, I've got a preference for redheads."

Maira was too overcome with delight to say anything. She twirled a lock of her wavy, bright red hair around her finger, and looked at the General's own dark red hair.

"Well," he said, standing and picking up the basket of linens, "Miss Maira, why don't you show me where to bring this, and I'll see you inside."

"Oh, no, General Nephre'im, that really isn't necessary, I mean, I shouldn't..."

"Nonsense. I'll take any excuse to spend a few more minutes with you."

Maira could only smile up at him. A thought came to her, with struck her as odd, that if she had dropped dead right then she would have died the happiest girl on the Moon. But she didn't drop dead. Instead, she led the basket-bearing General into the kitchens, to the amazed stares and whispers of all the kitchenmaids.

* * * * * * * *

He would come for her, and rescue her from this monster, and they would go back to their home, to their bed, and have their baby, and be happy together forever....

There was a slight sound from the hallway outside the front door. Jasper stood, dragging Molly with him by her cuffed wrist. The other Generals also stood, alert. "Wait," Jasper said. "I don't wanna fight here. Might wreck the place, man. We'll play a little hide-and-seek." He grinned, black lips stretched around rotted teeth.

* * * * * * * *

In the hallway, the Sailor Scouts, Tuxedo Mask, and Nephrite could hear voices from inside the apartment, but couldn't make out the words. Nephrite stood behind the others; since he couldn't fight, his jobs were to give the orders and stay out of the way. "Okay, now, Jupiter," he whispered.

Jupiter called on the power of thunder and blasted the door open. Before the smoke and debris cleared, the Scouts, Tux, and Nephrite ran into the apartment. Malachite, Zoisite, and Jadeite were there, as was the scrawny, tattooed form of Mazz Destrukshun, Jasper, King of the Negaverse. He was holding Molly in a close embrace. Her face was turned as far from him as possible; she looked pale and terrified. The sight filled Nephrite with rage. It took all his self-control to not just start blasting everything in the room regardless of the damage it would do to himself. He couldn't blast Jasper if Molly was right there, he reminded himself. Jasper might be an idiot, but he understood what hostages were for.

Jasper grinned. "Catch us if you can, losers!" Then with flashes of bright and dark light, and Zoisite's trademark whirl of cherry blossoms, the Generals, Jasper, and Molly disappeared from the apartment.

"Damn! Where'd they go?" Nephrite shouted.

Mercury was already working on it with her little blue computer. After a moment, she touched her earring to retract the visor. "It appears they've gone to the auditorium where the drum auditions were held. Nephrite, Tuxedo Mask, and Sailor Moon all know where it is, so with you guys leading we can all teleport together."

"I don't think I can teleport," Nephrite said.

"You'll be fine," Sailor Moon said. "Just stick with us." The seven of them held hands in a circle. While the Scouts called upon their powers of teleportation, Nephrite tried to concentrate on their destination. He had been a fool, he thought, to let his stupid human emotions overwhelm him to the point where he was so useless.

They arrived on the stage of the auditorium. Nephrite felt sick and dizzy from the teleport; he knelt down for a moment, until he felt recovered. Then he stood and looked around with the others.

The hall was quiet and seemed to be deserted. "Where are they?" Mars whispered. "Mercury, are you sure..."

"Yes. They have to be here."

"Let's split up and look," Moon said. The Scouts started to walk away, then Nephrite heard something. "Stop!" he hissed at them.

The sound came again, an evil-sounding chuckle. A spotlight came on and focused on two figures on a catwalk high above the stage. Jasper and Molly. "So you found us," Jasper said. "But, before you start attacking, there's something you should know." He raised his left arm, and Molly's right arm followed, limply. Nephrite saw now that their wrists were chained together. "If I go, the chick goes too." Before anyone could react, Jasper shouted to the wings at stage right, "Now! Attack!"

The three Generals, now in their gray Dark Kingdom uniforms, appeared and unleashed a massive barrage of energy towards the Scouts, Tux, and Nephrite. The force knocked all seven of them into a heap against the back wall of the stage. They tried to get up to counter-attack, but the assault was relentless. A large piece of wooden scenery flew across the stage and pinned them all down. Nephrite and Tuxedo Mask tried to push it away, but Malachite shattered it to splinters with a blast of energy blades. Nephrite looked from the Generals to Jasper, and saw the long streams of black lightning flowing from the King to the Generals. Jasper was feeding them the massive amounts of energy he had hoarded all this time.

Nephrite looked at their own situation. Venus had been knocked unconscious when her head hit the wall, and Jupiter was holding her forearm, which was bent in a place where it shouldn't bend. Everyone was bleeding from cuts and scratches made by the splintered scenery. Tux managed to throw one of his roses, but a blast of silvery fire from Malachite sent the rose spinning back into Tux's face. The young man cried out and clapped his hands to his eyes. The constant barrage from the Generals was keeping anyone else from being able to attack.

Nephrite knew what needed to be done. He had to get Molly's sword to her. It would be an awkward backhanded stroke with her left hand, but he had trained her in such difficult strokes. She could do it. He moved, and a hurricane of cherry blossom petals from Zoisite flung him back against the wall. The razor-sharp petals sliced through his shirt and left behind several cuts on his face, chest, and arms. Sailor Mars was crouched next to him; she appeared mostly unhurt. "Mars!" he hissed at her, but was interrupted when Jadeite sent a dozen metal folding chairs flying across the stage. Nephrite flung up his arms to guard his face and head from the chairs, and the edge of one struck his bad wrist. He felt things pop inside the wrist and knew he'd be looking at surgery number four, at least. He bit back his curses, not wanting to draw the Generals' attention to him.

Mars had a deep cut on her forehead, but she wiped the blood away from her eyes and looked at Nephrite. "You wanted something?"

"Yeah. Can you cover me?"

"Sure. What do you want me to do?"

"When I say Now,' I want you to run to the center front of the stage and create a diversion. I've got to get Molly's sword to her."

"Got it." She smiled at Nephrite.

He smiled back. She might be bad-tempered, but she was brave. He waited a moment, until he judged that the three Dark Kingdom Generals were flagging slightly in their attacks. "Now!" he whispered to Mars.

She ran towards the front of the stage, crying out, "Mars -- Celestial -- Fire -- Surround!" while Nephrite called Molly's curved sword, Leubhe'ira, to him. The Generals had to dive aside to evade Mars's attack. Nephrite ran to where he had a good angle to throw the sword to Molly. He invoked the sword's fighting power. "Fly true, and strike true," he silently asked it. Behind him, Mars screamed as a powerful whirlwind from Zoisite sent her flying backwards off the stage into the rows of seats. "Maira!" Nephrite cried, and sent the sword spinning through the air towards her.

* * * * * * * *

Molly saw Beloved Girl shimmer into Nephrite's hand, heard him call out her old name, saw the sword spin towards her. She reached up her left hand, and caught the sword perfectly by the hilt. "Strike true, and end this evil!" she commanded it in the old language.

Jasper looked at her. "Wha --?"

Molly closed her eyes and struck downwards, right to left, with the sword. The angle was awkward, but she had trained to this and the sword was eager to do her bidding. Jasper gave a horrible, brief cry as the sword slashed through his left arm and his body.

Molly was knocked backward about thirty feet by the energy unleashed by Jasper's death. She opened her eyes, then briefly closed them again at the sight of Jasper's severed left arm dangling from the handcuff attached to her right wrist. The other pieces of his body lay on the floor beneath the catwalk. She knelt on the catwalk, stretched the chain of the handcuff against a metal beam, and brought her sword down again to sever the chain.

She allowed herself a moment of nausea and sheer terror, then ran to the ladder on the left side of the stage that led to the catwalk. Nephrite was waiting for her at the bottom. Even before she set foot on the floor, he put his arms around her and pulled her off the ladder. "Oh, Molly," he cried into her hair, over and over.

Safe in his arms, Molly allowed herself to start crying, too, as they started to walk back to the others.

The three Generals stood stunned after their power source was literally cut off and their King fell, dead, from the catwalk. Moon, Mercury, and Tux were beginning to regroup and prepare to attack.

"Gotcha, Sailor Moon!" Zoisite yelled as she suddenly flung handfuls of deadly-sharp ice crystals towards Sailor Moon.

Mercury, Jupiter, and Tuxedo Mask shouted, "Sailor Moon, look out!" as they threw themselves on top of her. "Suckers!" Zoisite laughed, and fell to her knees, exhausted. The crystals instantly dissolved, then reappeared behind Nephrite and shot into his back. He cried out in agony, while the force of the impact ripped him away from Molly and sent him flying forward, to land in a huddle on the floor.

"Nooo!" Molly screamed. "Not again!" She ran to his side and knelt over him, embracing him and sobbing. A dozen or so red bloodstains were blossoming on the back of his shirt, and he was trembling hard. Mercury joined her, tapping on her computer and feeling Nephrite's face and pulse.

General Jadeite came running over. He stopped short in the face of the Sailor Scouts' hostility. "I used to be a Healer," he said. "Neph reminded me of that. I used to be a Healer and an honorable man." He knelt across from Amy. "Let me help."

She gave him a quiet, judging look, then nodded.

Molly was bent across Nephrite's body, crying, "Nephrite, no, this can't happen again, I can't lose you again, please don't go...." A firm, gentle hand on her shoulder made her look up. Jadeite said, "We'll do the best we can for him, but you need to give us room to work."

Still crying, Molly backed away. She couldn't help Nephrite right now, but there was something else she could do....

She picked up her sword from the floor, where she had dropped it when Nephrite was attacked. Then she walked over to face Zoisite. Her tears were gone; she felt nothing but a calm, focused anger. "Leubhe'ira," she said loudly in the old language. Zoisite and Malachite looked at her; they seemed to understand what she was saying. "This woman has caused too much pain to those I love, and to me. I ask for justice."

She felt a tremendous sense of satisfaction as she grasped the hilt in both hands and swung the sword above her head, preparing to strike. Zoisite cowered, covering her head with her arms. "Give me justice!" Molly cried.

"No!" Malachite threw his body over Zoisite's. "Please, I beg you, don't kill her."

Molly still held the sword above her head. She was starting to tremble, from fatigue, fear, anger, and the weight of the weapon. "Give me one good reason why I shouldn't."

"Because I love her." Molly was startled to see tears running down the forbidding-looking man's face. "I lost her once; I couldn't bear to lose her again. Surely you, of all people, can understand that."

"If I do understand, it's because of what she did to the one I love," Molly said coldly.

"Please," Malachite begged, "please, if I showed you any kindness at all, please spare her, for my sake. Please."

Molly thought of the cup of orange juice. "All right," she said finally. "For your sake, because you were nice to me one time, I won't kill her. Not for her sake."

Feeling utterly drained, she brought the sword back down to her side, and walked back over to Nephrite. Amy made room for her beside him. "I don't think any internal organs were injured," the dark-haired girl said, "but he's losing a lot of blood and his body temperature is dropping rapidly, from the ice getting into his system, I suppose. I've called for an ambulance, but in the meantime we've got to keep him from getting too cold. If you lie down with him, you can help keep him warm."

Molly looked down at her dress, the white and pink dress she'd worn to the doctor -- was it only yesterday? It was covered with the horrible sticky green mess of Jasper's blood. Suddenly it sickened her and she didn't want that awful stuff coming in contact with Nephrite. She pulled off the dress, not caring if the others saw her in her undies. At least she was wearing the bike shorts. She lay down beside Nephrite and wrapped her arms and legs around him. He was shivering violently, and felt dreadfully cold. How could anyone feel that cold and still be alive?

"He's been trying to say something," Jadeite said. Molly leaned over Nephrite so that her ear was by his mouth. "Molly... thought you might have... left. Couldn't forgive me..." His voice was terribly weak.

"Oh, Nephrite, I have forgiven you! Didn't I tell you that, didn't I show you, the other night? And I would never, ever leave you."

He tried to smile, but pain turned it into a grimace. "Better... if you left... So afraid... what he would do to you..."

"I know, lover." She kissed his cheek. "It's ok now. It's over. He's gone, and we're safe now."

Tuxedo Mask took off his cape and spread it over the pair. "If an ambulance is coming," he said to Sailor Moon, "you'd better get rid of that." He pointed to Jasper's remains. Sailor Moon turned them to dust with her Moon Scepter.

Malachite walked over to the group around Nephrite. "My name was Mallory," he said. "Zoi and I always hated him, but it doesn't matter any more." He unfastened his cape from his shoulders and spread it atop Tuxedo Mask's. "You showed mercy to Zoisite, Molly, and I'm grateful." The added layer seemed to ease Nephrite's shivering slightly, it seemed to Molly.

Molly looked up at the silver-haired man. "Why did you and she hate him so much?"

"Long ago," Malachite said slowly, "he knew a secret about Zoi and me that could have destroyed us. He never revealed it, though he stood to gain a lot if he did. We hated him because we were at his mercy. And because, if either one of us were in his position, we probably would have revealed it. Although I was his superior, he had more honor than I could ever hope to have." He walked away, to kneel beside the sobbing Zoisite and wrap her in his arms.

The ambulance arrived. The paramedics stared for just a few seconds at the strangely-dressed group, then got on with their business. "If the Sailor Scouts are involved," one of them muttered, "then I don't want to know." He radioed for a second ambulance, for Venus, Jupiter, and Mars, who had regained consciousness and was resting in a seat in the front row. The other paramedic knelt down to look at Nephrite. He confirmed Mercury's findings of heavy blood loss and hypothermia. Both paramedics moved Nephrite onto a stretcher to take him to the ambulance immediately. "What about her?" one of them asked, indicating Molly.

"I'm ok." She sat up, trembling, Tuxedo's cape clutched around her shoulders.

"She's his wife," Tux said, "and she's pregnant, and she's been through quite an ordeal in the last twenty-four hours."

"All right, sweetheart," the paramedic said. He helped Molly stand and put an arm around her shoulders to help her to the ambulance. "Come on with us. You can keep your husband company, and we'll get you checked out too, make sure you and your baby are ok."

Molly let him lead her out and help her into the ambulance. Nephrite lay on his stomach on the stretcher. The other paramedic had covered him with more blankets and was already inserting an IV line to begin giving him a unit of blood. Molly squeezed down to where she could see Nephrite's face. She couldn't tell if he was conscious. She touched his unshaven cheek and whispered, "Nephrite?"

He opened his eyes slightly as the ambulance drove away, and smiled a little. She could barely hear him over the sound of the siren. "You were great, Molly. I'm proud of you." His voice was a little stronger, now that he was safe and being treated for his injuries.

"But I killed someone," she whispered. "I should be upset about it."

"You're a Kharandha'i warrior, Molly. You did what had to be done, and you did it with courage and honor."

She touched his face again. "I'm just glad it's over. You're going to be ok. We're going to the hospital, and you're going to be just fine."

"Tired of hospitals... Hey, Moll?"


"I never bought you that chocolate parfait I promised you a long time ago. I thought about when you were... so sad, and how that was part of it. Thought you wouldn't want one, but... still buy you one if you want." His voice was getting weak again.

She smile, and pressed her cheek against his. "It's ok, Nephrite. Chocolate doesn't sound so good to me right now. I'm sure I'll get over it, though."

"Tell me... when you're ready... I'll buy you two... one for you... one for... little one...."

His voice trailed off, then his eyes closed and he fell silent. "Nephrite!" Molly gasped.

The paramedic who was working on Nephrite glanced over. "He's ok. I gave him something for the pain, that would also put him to sleep. See?" He indicated the steadily beeping monitor. Molly buried her face in her hands, overcome with relief. This wouldn't turn out like that other time. They would get a doctor, and everything would be all right. He wouldn't leave her.

At the hospital, doctors and nurses bustled around Nephrite, giving him more blood, checking his injuries, spreading an electric blanket over him. He was whisked away for a CT-scan to check for internal injuries. Before long, he was brought back to the emergency examining room where Molly was waiting. The news was good; he appeared to have only a few small scratches on his lungs, which should heal by themselves. With the blankets and the units of blood, he was already starting to come out of the shock and hypothermia.

Molly lay on an extra gurney next to Nephrite's bed. She had been given a hospital gown and a blanket. While Nephrite was being tended to and taken for his scans, a doctor checked her over. She described her ordeal, being held hostage by an unscrupulous business rival of her husband's. The doctor touched the scars on her wrists. "When did this happen?"

"A year ago," Molly said. She was never going to be allowed to forget that awful, dark time in her life. She wondered if that was bad or good.

"Have you been doing all right? Do you want us to arrange for counseling or psychiatric care?"

"No." Molly smiled. "Things got better."

"Funny how they always do," the doctor said. "You know, there's plastic surgery that can reduce those scars. I'll get some surgeons' names for you, if you want to think about it."

"I'll think about it," Molly said.

Nephrite was brought back in, and shortly after that a technician wheeled in a machine that looked like a bulky, complicated TV. "We'll do a quick ultrasound here, sweetheart," the doctor said as he pulled down the waistband of her bike shorts and squirted cold, thick liquid on her abdomen. "See what we can see. How far along are you?"

That was easy. "Seven weeks." From the information she had given Dr. Hidari, the obstetrician had concluded that she must have conceived on her wedding day. She remembered lying in the meadow under the stars with Nephrite that night, wondering if they had started a baby. Well, they had, or were about to, even as she wondered about it.

The ER doctor pressed something shaped like a microphone onto Molly's belly and moved it around. "There we go!" he said. "Look at that, sweetheart!"

Molly looked, and saw -- Fuzzy, but still discernible on the dark screen, a small round light-colored area. Inside it was a tiny curl of darker gray. Slightly above the center of the gray crescent was a speck of lighter color, flickering quickly and steadily.

"That's the heart," the doctor said.

"Ohh," Molly said. Awe and joy combined inside her soul, expanding until she thought she would burst. "Oh, Nephrite, look -- it's our baby's heart!"

He was already looking, oblivious to the doctor who was stitching up the larger wounds on his back. There was a hungry, yearning look on his face. He felt for Molly's hand and gripped it tightly. "I'll get it right this time, I promise," he whispered.

* * * * * * * *

return to Index / go to Epilogue

The Nephrite and Naru Treasury