by Moon Momma

Chapter 8

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Naru couldn't move. She felt exhausted, drained, flattened. As much as she had loved Masato before, as deep and satisfying as their relationship had been, she now realized that half of it had been missing. He's Nephrite, she reminded herself yet again. My Nephrite, who I loved so much so long ago. I thought I would die when he died, but now he's back.

Part of the reason she couldn't move, she now realized, was that Nephrite was sprawled flat across her, asleep or unconscious or oblivious. She smiled; he was always aware of being so much bigger than she was and always took care to not let his full weight rest on her, but tonight... Tonight had been an overwhelming experience for both of them, and practical considerations had been far, far from their minds as they rediscovered each other.

Still, it would be nice to be able to breathe. She shook his scarred shoulder. "Nephrite, Masato, honey, could you please move over a bit?"

He mumbled something and slid off of her. She turned her face and saw that he was awake after all. They smiled into each other's eyes. "Sorry," he said in a low voice. "I didn't mean to... It's just that..."

"I know." She brushed her fingers over his scars. "I guess these are here for good now."

"I think you're right." They lay in contented silence for a few minutes. "What do I call you now?" he finally asked.

"My name is Naru," she said firmly. "I don't know why my mother changed it, but I had nothing to do with it." She thought a bit. "Of course, it would be hard to explain to everyone why you've suddenly started calling me by a different name, so I guess around other people I'm still Molly. But when it's just the two of us, I'm Naru. That's who I am."

He moved over her and kissed her deeply. "My sweet little Naru-chan, all grown up..." The conversation was forgotten for a time.

Later, Naru asked, "What do I call you?" She giggled for no apparent reason.

He laughed, too, nuzzling his face into her hair. Then he pulled her onto her side to face him. He caressed her face, pushing her hair out of her eyes. "I did terrible things under the name Nephrite. I'm not like that any more, or at least I hope I'm not. I'd rather be Sanjouin Masato. It's as close to a real name as I have. At least it's a name that I chose."

"I'll keep calling you Masato, then. But, I hope you don't mind, sometimes when we're alone, if I call you Nephrite."

He chuckled. "You can call me anything you want when we're alone like this, Naru-chan." Naru giggled again.

Their laughter died down. "I thought I would die when I lost you," Naru said.

He pulled her as close to him as he could. "It seemed so wrong," he said. "For the first time that I could remember, I cared about not hurting someone, and I was hurting you without even meaning to." His voice shook. "I didn't want to die, Naru-chan. I didn't want to leave you."

"I know." She started crying again. "I could see it in your eyes, when you were... dying." Tenderly, she kissed the scars on his shoulder, then raised her face again and pressed her mouth against his.

The doorbell rang. "Who could that be?" Naru murmured through the kiss.

Nephrite pulled away slightly. "I think I know."

Naru fell still. "I don't... I can't... How can I face him, knowing what he did to you?"

"I don't know. I'm not sure I want to see him either. But I think we have to let this all work itself out." The bell rang again. He felt around on the floor by his side of the bed, then handed Naru her clothes. She got dressed while he pulled on his jeans. Then they went out to answer the door, Naru tucked securely beneath Nephrite's arm. Nephrite took a deep breath and squeezed Naru a little closer before opening the door.

Zeb/Zoisite stood there, with Mallory behind him. Zoisite's face was reddened, swollen, and tear-stained. He was dabbing at his eyes and nose with a sodden white handkerchief. He looked at Naru and Nephrite out of red, wounded eyes. "Can you ever forgive me?"

Nephrite looked at him a moment, then pulled him into the room and wrapped him in a huge hug. "It wasn't you, it was Beryl, that sadistic bitch, pitting us all against each other."

Zoisite patted Nephrite's back, then pulled away and faced Naru. "Naru, I'm so sorry for what I did to you, poor little girl." He started crying again. Naru put her arms around him, and he returned the embrace. "I've got him back. Everything's okay now," she said softly.

Zoisite stepped backwards, and Mallory wrapped his arms around him from behind. "So you forgive me, just like that." He looked wonderingly from Nephrite to Naru and back again.

"Sure," Nephrite said after a moment. Then he grinned a little. "But you'd better watch your hands around my girl or I'll have to take your head off." They all laughed, a little nervously, but the tension was broken. Nephrite and Naru stepped aside, allowing the other two into the room. "By the way," Nephrite said to Naru, "Mallory was there too. He was Kunzite."

"I always hated that name," Mallory said. "I think I'll keep on being Mallory." The other two men nodded agreement. "Zeb." "Masato."

"I'm Naru," Naru said firmly.

Masato poured wine for them all, then sat down on the sofa, with Naru curled up in his lap. "So what happened to you guys?" he asked.

"Beryl killed me," Zeb said, "because I tried to kill Tuxedo Mask, who turned out to be the Prince."

"No kidding," Masato said. "What did she want with... Never mind." He shuddered. "What about you, Mal?"

"The Senshi got me."

"Well, that's one of us that was killed by the enemy instead of by our own people... Sorry, Zeb. I'm assuming the Senshi won, since the Earth still exists, but how did we all come back?"

"I haven't the slightest idea," Mallory said.

"At least now I know why I'm missing three years," Masato said. "I was dead during that time. But I wonder why I forgot everything before that."

"Me too," put in Zeb.

"What I want to know," Naru added, "is how I could have forgotten all of this." A name and a face clicked in her memory. "That decorator, who did the decorations for our wedding. Chiba Usagi, except her name used to be Tsukino Usagi, and she was my best friend! Oh my, that means she married Mamoru." Naru started laughing. "They couldn't stand each other! I wonder what happened. Anyway, maybe she can tell me something."

"More than you think," Masato said. Everyone looked at him. "Usagi is Sailor Moon," he explained, sounding slightly smug.

Naru stared at him, wide-eyed. "What?"

"You figured that out?" Mallory exclaimed. "I went to all that trouble to learn Sailor Moon's identity, and never found out. How did you--?"

"I have my methods."

"I've heard that before," Zeb muttered with a slight smile. "You always were an arrogant bastard, Neph--I mean Masato. But that explains how Usagi and Mamoru ended up together," he said to Naru. "Mamoru is Tuxedo Mask."

"And Usagi is the Moon Princess," Mallory added.

"No kidding," Masato said.

Naru stared at the three of them. "I'm confused."

Masato hugged her, sloshing her wine onto himself, and laughed. "I'll tell you the whole story later, love."

They all finished their wine in silence. Masato got up to pour more, then Mallory said, "I wonder what's become of Jadeite."

Masato stopped in mid-pour as he was refilling Zeb's glass. "You don't suppose he's still trapped in that crystal, do you?"

"Good heavens," Zeb said. "How awful... All this time."

"Jadeite was the first of us to be... eliminated," Masato explained to Naru as he resumed pouring. "Queen Beryl got fed up with his failures, and trapped him alive in a crystal. So, you see, the rest of us were lucky. We only died."

Naru shuddered, thinking of that poor man's fate. "Was he that cute gym owner, and that cute guy who worked at the... That shrine where we were married, I knew Rei too. She must have married that crazy rock musician who came there, after--after you--"

Masato raised an eyebrow at her. "Jadeite? Cute?"

Naru felt herself blush. "Well, I was only fourteen."

"You're not allowed to think anyone's 'cute' but me, Naru-chan." He grinned wickedly at her.

"Maybe we ought to do something about Jadeite," Zeb interrupted. "Go and try to find him."

"I could fly us up to the Arctic," Mallory offered. "That's where the gate to where we were living is located," he explained to Naru.

"Hell no," Masato said. "I feel sorry for him, but not sorry enough to fly in a plane with you to the end of the world. I'll put up the money, but you guys will have to go without me."

* * * * * * * *

Seaman First Class Ivan Chesnokov, currently home on leave, sat hunched over his home computer. The computer and the Internet access were an extravagance on his and Tatiana's wages, but Tatya had been understanding of his desire to keep up with his old friends. He had told her his whole crazy story, the entire, absolute truth, the first night they spent together, and she had believed every word. That was when he knew he had to marry her, and he had never regretted it for a moment. He hoped she hadn't either.

When he had awakened to find himself buried in dirt and snow, the crystal in shards around him, he had only been grateful to be free and alive. He had questioned the few surviving youma, and learned of his three friends' fates and the defeat of the Dark Kingdom. He was glad to have survived to live free of Beryl's control and build a new life, but he was angry that his friends weren't getting the same chance. There was a possibility, though, just a small one, that he could help them. He had little strength, but he used some of it to get back into the Dark Kingdom and fetch as many of his books as he could carry. Then he burned the rest of it teleporting someplace warm where he could get food and alcohol.

He landed in a bar in a small town on Russia's Arctic coast. The pretty waitress there, who had broad cheekbones, cornflower blue eyes, and pale gold hair, felt sorry for the handsome, penniless, undernourished stranger and let him have vodka and stew on 'credit.' That was when he had met Tatya, and when he had seen the recruiting poster.

He married the waitress, joined the Navy, and began putting together a spell to bring his friends back. Their spirits, he was glad to discover, were retrievable, trapped by Metallia's influence rather than having gone the rest of the journey to the afterlife. It took him nearly three years to complete his research and weave the spell, while also completing his navy training, serving on shipboard, and managing a growing family; he and Tatya had their first two children in their first two and a half years of marriage. There was something about shore leave...

He could bring them back to life, but didn't have the skills to control where or when. They were all intelligent, ambitious people; they would do all right. He did work in a spell to keep them from remembering their evil past until they were ready to handle the memories. It was a gift to them; he still had frequent nightmares about the things he had done in Beryl's service. When all was ready, he set the spell in motion, and waited.

Nephrite was the easiest one to track. He already had an Earth identity as a prominent person, and when he suddenly reappeared, naked and unconscious outside a hospital in Germany, it had made all the papers and news magazines. Ivan read the articles with satisfaction, glad that his spell seemed to be working. He hoped that one day Nephrite would find the little red-haired girl the surviving youma had told him about, the one he had betrayed the Dark Kingdom for, the one he had died for, and that they would have a chance at the same happiness he had found with Tatiana.

Kunzite and Zoisite took longer to reappear. Their spirits had been together, so Ivan felt confident that they would come back to life together, but he had no idea what their circumstances would be. After Nephrite's revival, Ivan realized that the Internet would be an easier way to keep up with what was going on in the world. Tatya had gladly allowed him to invest their small savings in a computer, and reworked their budget to pay for the Internet access. About two years after Nephrite's reappearance, links appeared on his website to Mallory Clair's Wild Life Unlimited tours and the Zeb Mackenzie Galleries. He instantly recognized the men from their photos on the sites. So his friends were back, and making good lives for themselves, as was he. They probably had a lot more money, but he had Tatya and the kids and the sea. That was enough for him.

After six months at sea, there was a lot of catching up to do. Ivan checked the websites; Mallory was preparing to offer tours of the Kamchatka Peninsula, and Zeb was soliciting funding for a performance art tour. Ivan wasn't sure what that was, but based on Zeb's previous work, it would probably be very... interesting. Sanjouin Masato was expanding his work with local artisans around the world to find markets for their crafts. Ivan stretched his arms and cracked his knuckles, then entered the three names into a search of all the major worldwide newsmagazines' databases. More about the tours, the art, the business expansions, then, from about a month ago, a set of headlines, all reading along the lines of "Mysterious Millionaire Weds University Student." Ivan clicked on the first of these.

An article came up, illustrated with a photo of Sanjouin Masato and a young red-haired woman dancing in wedding clothes. Ivan read the article; the bride was Molly Baker, age twenty-three, from the United States though she had been born in Japan, a Ph.D. student in economics at Juuban University. The woman's face didn't show in the photo. Ivan clicked through several more articles until he found a picture that did show her face.

It had to be her. She was older, and the hairstyle was different, but she had to be the cute little redhead who was Sailor Moon's friend and who had such a talent for getting caught in Dark Kingdom plots. Osaka Naru, daughter of the jewelry store owner. It would have been hard to not notice and remember her. So Nephrite had finally found his little red-haired sweetheart and married her. Good. Ivan wondered if they remembered what had happened before; he closed his eyes and concentrated on the weave of his spell. The memory block had been broken. Well. He really should send a wedding present.

Tatya came up and hugged him from behind. "They're finally asleep," she said, referring to the three rambunctious children. "Have you found anything interesting?"

Ivan pointed to the wedding picture. "That's Nephrite and his red-haired girl, Naru."

Tatya smiled. "How sweet. They're a lovely couple. We must send a gift--will they know who you are, if you send them a photo?"

"I think so. That's a good idea. Let's send them a photo of us and the kids. I want my old friends to see how lucky I am."

Tatya kissed his cheek. "Enough computer. Come to bed now."

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return to Index / go to Chapter 9

The Nephrite and Naru Treasury