by Moon Momma

Chapter 1

* * * * * * * *

The blinding flash of light faded, and the black dust that had been Zoisite's three youma drifted up to the night sky. It took Naru a moment to realize that the monsters were gone. She was shaken out of her stunned confusion when Nephrite groaned and let his weight sag onto her. She looked up at him, alarmed; beneath the blood and dirt, his skin was a terrible gray color. He was too weak to hold himself up any more, but he couldn't lie down because of the huge thorns protruding out his back.

Naru slid out from under him and grabbed the two thorns she had been pulling before. Though the current of his energy leaking out along the thorns was weaker than it had been, it still gave her arms a painful jolt.

"Help me!" Naru cried to the Sailor Senshi, who hadn't moved. "He's still alive--please, help me save him!" The Senshi hesitated only a second, then ran to her. Sailor Moon grabbed Naru around the waist from behind to help her pull, while Sailor Mars knelt behind Nephrite to brace him against the pulling. Sailor Mercury produced a small pink gadget like a calculator and began pushing buttons. "Someone's been stabbed in Woodside Park, near the south gate," she said into the gadget. "No, I didn't see who did it. Thank you." The pink communicator disappeared. "An ambulance is on its way," she said.

The thorns were covered with tiny barbs going in all directions. Naru's hands slipped as she worked to pull the thorns out of Nephrite's shoulder, but she didn't notice the blood and shreds of flesh she was leaving behind, or the stinging, burning pain. "I'm not going to let you die, Nephrite," she sobbed.

Suddenly Nephrite screamed, a terrifying, inhuman sound, as the two thorns tore loose. Naru and Sailor Moon stumbled backwards and nearly fell over. Fresh blood poured from the wounds in Nephrite's shoulder. Naru briefly wondered if pulling the thorns out was really such a good idea, then decided that doctors could do something about blood loss but were helpless against magical life-draining thorns. She tossed aside the thorns she held and grabbed the next two. Sailor Moon reached around her for the third, while Mercury came to pull behind the two of them. "Hold on, Nephrite, please hold on, help is coming, I'm not going to let you die!" Naru cried through gritted teeth. Nephrite's eyes were shut tightly against the pain, his blood-spattered face was tense.

The energy surging through the thorns burned Naru's hands and jarred her arms to numbness, but she dug her heels into the ground and pulled with strength she hadn't known she possessed. As abruptly as the first two, the last three thorns pulled free. Naru, Sailor Moon, and Sailor Mercury landed in a heap on the ground.

Naru threw the thorns aside and crawled to Nephrite's side. She couldn't believe the amount of blood that was coming from the holes in his shoulder. Two words from first-aid class pounded over and over in her mind--apply pressure apply pressure apply pressure. She ripped off her pajama shirt and wadded it up against the exit wounds in his back. Sailor Mars quickly eased him to the ground. Naru's pajama pants followed, pressed against the holes on the front of his shoulder and chest. Naru crouched over Nephrite without sparing a thought for her nakedness, putting as much of her weight as she could on the wounds, hoping desperately that this would be enough to slow the bleeding until the ambulance arrived. "It'll be all right, Nephrite, just hold on, please," she sobbed through chattering teeth. Nephrite tried to say something, but she couldn't hear it.

The siren as the ambulance arrived was the most beautiful sound Naru had ever heard. Two paramedics hurried towards her and Nephrite with a stretcher and their bags of equipment, then stopped and stared as Sailor Moon stepped between them and their patients. "He's hurt the worst," Sailor Moon said, "but she needs help too. Take good care of them." Then she and the other Sailor Senshi were gone.

One of the paramedics whistled and asked, "Is it just me, or was that Sailor Moon?"

"It was her," said the other. "And look. This guy's got green blood! That's what I get for working an extra shift this month."

"Please help us," Naru begged. It hadn't occurred to her until now that Nephrite's body was so different from a normal human's that the paramedics might not know how to take care of him.

The first paramedic, whose badge said his name was Ayako, knelt beside Naru and Nephrite. "He may have green blood, but right now it looks like most of it's on the outside, instead of inside where it belongs. Let's grab and go."

They pushed the stretcher next to Nephrite and lifted him onto it, then took him to the ambulance. Naru remained crouched on the ground, her knees tightly drawn up against her chest as she tried to cover herself. The second paramedic, "Toshiro" according to his badge, came back with a blanket for her. She wrapped the blanket around herself and followed him back to the ambulance.

In the ambulance, Ayako was busy, cutting off what was left of Nephrite's clothes, preparing an IV, hooking him up to the monitors. Toshiro sat Naru on a narrow bench across from Nephrite's gurney, then took the driver's seat and started the engine. Naru trembled uncontrollably as she watched Ayako work. He asked questions that she couldn't understand, much less answer. All she could say was, "Please don't let him die," over and over.

The siren made an eerie background music to the whole nightmare. Toshiro's voice, on the radio to the hospital, rose and fell around the sound of the siren. "Central Hospital... two patients... male, early- to mid-twenties... multiple stab wounds... massive blood loss... penetrate all the way...Who's attending tonight?... won't freak?... fourteen- or fifteen-year-old female... skin on the palms of her hands... the guy's girlfriend... unable to answer questions... Hey, Ayako!" Toshiro yelled into the back, "I need a blood pressure on the guy!"

Ayako checked the monitor, swore, adjusted the blood pressure equipment, swore at the monitor again. "I'm not getting a blood pressure." He pressed his fingers at various points along Nephrite's throat, arms, and legs. "No pulse. I'm starting CPR!"

"No," Naru wailed. "Please don't let him die!"

* * * * * * * *

Nephrite felt very calm. It was curious, observing his body from outside like this. He watched as the uniformed man forced his mouth open with a large curved piece of metal, pushed a clear, flexible tube down his throat, and pumped his fists rhythmically up and down on Nephrite's chest. Nephrite felt a distant sense of surprise at the amount of blood covering him; he hadn't known his body contained that much blood.

He turned his attention to Naru. She was also covered with blood; his, mostly, except for the torn ruins of her hands. Had she done that trying to save him? Her hands clutched at a blanket that was wrapped around her. She was shaking badly and crying like a wounded, frightened animal.

"The Dark Kingdom has perfected many ways of taking life; the humans have almost as many ways of saving life." Nephrite looked around for the source of the soft, neutral voice, but saw nothing. The voice might as well have been coming from inside his head. "They may actually be able to bring you back."

Whether or not he got another chance at life seemed a matter of little interest to Nephrite. The only part of the scene in the ambulance that had any hold on him was Naru, wrapped in a blanket, bleeding and crying. Maybe, for her, it would be worth going back...

"But first," the voice continued, "there are some things you need to know."

* * * * * * * *

A garden, in front of a beautiful white marble palace. A girl, wearing a high-waisted dress of gossamer blue linen. Her hair, a long rippling flame of red, was tied with a big blue bow at the base of her neck. He took the girl's hand, bowed over it, kissed it lightly, and looked into her large blue-green eyes. "Naru," he said. "A lovely name for a lovely girl. It is a pleasure to meet you, Naru." A smile spread over her face like the sunrise...

* * * * * * * *

The ambulance pulled up to the glass doors of the emergency room. "Keep pumping," Toshiro ordered Ayako. Ayako climbed onto the gurney, straddling Nephrite's chest, and kept up the CPR without missing a beat while the hospital attendants unloaded the stretcher. In the frantic activity, Naru was left behind in the ambulance, still shivering and crying. She barely noticed when Toshiro came back for her. He lifted her down from the ambulance, and put an arm around her shoulders. "Don't worry, we'll get you taken care of."

* * * * * * * *

In the gardens again, coming upon two of the guards under his command harassing the girl. He sent them back to the barracks with dire threats hanging over their heads, then dried the crying girl's tears and helped her pick up the cut flowers she had dropped. On impulse, he tucked a flower into her hair. She touched a hand to the flower, a look of wonder on her face, and an unaccustomed warmth spread inside him.

* * * * * * * *

They rushed Nephrite into the emergency room. Ayako was still crouched over him on the gurney, desperately pushing at his chest while an attendant squeezed the air bag slowly and rhythmically. Naru followed, Toshiro supporting her as she walked. "Here's that stabbing victim," Ayako called to the blue-scrub-suited doctors who were running to meet them.

The doctor at the front of the group, a tall man with greying black hair, took one look at Nephrite and said, "Good heavens! That's Sanjouin Masato!"

"You know him?" one of the others asked.

"Sure. I've played tennis against him several times. Or tried, anyway. That guy has a wicked serve." As the entire group hurried into an examining room, the doctor examined the pajamas that had been packed against Nephrite's shoulder and back. They were firmly stuck; the doctor didn't try to pull them away just yet. "Is that the girl who was with him? Dr. Shindo, you see to her. Okay, you guys tell me what's going on. And please tell me this isn't blood all over him."

"Afraid it is," Toshiro said. He quickly repeated all the relevant information, then added, "We've been trying to resuscitate for a long time, but not getting any results."

"All right," said Dr. Kimura. "We've got to get his heart started, or nothing else makes any difference."

* * * * * * * *

Chance (or not so chance) meetings, brief conversations, then a ball. As befitted the Queen's handmaid, Naru sat in attendance upon those nobles who were too old or infirm to dance. It seemed a waste of her lovely gown, layers of sheer blue silk embroidered all over with silver thread, and of her sweet smile. Ignoring the proprieties, the Guardian asked her to dance. She was not an experienced dancer, but with him leading, she seemed to float in his arms as they waltzed. He looked into her eyes, and thought that if he could hold her in his arms night and day for the rest of his life, he would find all the answers to questions he had never even thought to ask....

The sly, hissing voice invaded his mind again. Unthinkable promises, images of his darkest, most secret desires, took over his thoughts. He closed his eyes, concentrating on his oaths to his lord and the code of honor he was sworn to live by, thinking of the girl dancing in his arms, but the seductive images and promises were getting harder and harder to ignore.

* * * * * * * *

"Stop the CPR. I want to see if he's got a pulse now," Dr. Kimura said. He felt the pulse points of Nephrite's body. "Nope. How long were you doing the CPR?"

"Sixteen minutes," Toshiro said.

The tall doctor shook his head. "We'll have to try shocking him." Nurses and technicians began bustling around, preparing equipment, attaching monitor leads to Nephrite's chest.

"What are they going to do to him?" Naru asked Dr. Shindo, who was flushing her hands clean with liquid squirted from a bottle. They were in a corner several feet away from the cluster of people around Nephrite.

"They're going to try to shock his heart into starting."

"It'll work, won't it? It has to... Doesn't that always work?"

The doctor met her eyes. "Sometimes it works," he said gently.

* * * * * * * *

Outside, on the Grand Balcony of the palace, the night before he returned to Earth. The girl stood before him, asking shyly if she had done something to offend him. He wanted to tell her that loving him would be a lost cause, that his mind, heart, and soul were being stolen away by something he didn't even understand, but he didn't have the words. If he kissed her, though, maybe he could find his way back.... He lowered his face towards hers, only to be interrupted by his superior, the silver-haired Guardian. Nephrite was ordered back to his quarters, to prepare for the morning's early departure, and the way was lost to him.

* * * * * * * *

"Ready with the paddles?" Dr. Kimura asked the technicians. They nodded. "Okay, big guy," he said to Nephrite. "Do me and your little girl over there a favor, and get that heart going, ok?" He nodded his head.

At his sign, the technicians administered the shock. Dr. Kimura looked at the monitor, and checked all the pulse points. Nothing. He swore quietly. "Again."

The technicians shocked Nephrite again. Again, there was no response.

* * * * * * * *

War was approaching, and the Guardian found himself close to committing high treason, abandoning his lord for the enemy's service, as the other three already had. He tried to fight it, but the pull of the darkness only grew stronger as his will wore down. A final visit to the Moon, a last chance, one final small, bright light in the darkness that was about to engulf him--Naru the Handmaid.

To her rooms at midnight, on his knees before her, his face pressed against her belly, his arms wrapped tightly around her hips, her nightdress damp with his tears. He begged her to help him, he couldn't fight the darkness, not any more, not alone. She stroked the heavy length of his hair; she would have done anything for him. Gently, she made him stand, and took his hands to lead him to her bed. Almost there, he stopped, one thought coming with startling clarity into his mind--to use her this way would be an act of darkness. What he had thought was his last hope of salvation was a trap. He was lost, there was no way out, but he could do one final good thing before his life turned to evil. He could leave her unhurt. "I'm sorry," he said in a broken voice, then he turned and ran from her, into the darkness.

* * * * * * * *

The technicians placed the paddles on Nephrite's chest for a third attempt to shock his heart into starting. "You need to understand," Dr. Shindo said to Naru, "the protocol is that after three shocks, if there's no pulse, we declare."

"Declare what?" Naru's voice was small and tight.

"Declare the patient dead. No more treatment, nothing else we can do. I'm sorry, miss."

"Nephrite, please come back to me!" she wailed. The doctors gave the third shock.


* * * * * * * *

War, betrayal... A mixture of agony and relief as he finally gave himself over to the darkness that had hounded and tempted him for so long. Battles, killing, conquest, then the attack on the Moon Kingdom. Bloodlust, the screams of the wounded and dying, the fearful howling from the huge purple and orange cloud that covered the sky. The final battle flooded into the palace. In search of the Moon Queen, Nephrite pushed open the door of a storage room. The girl stood in the doorway, between him and the frightened children and old people hiding in the room. She held a sword in front of her; she must have taken it from the body of a dead soldier, and clearly had no idea how to use it. He towered over her in his elaborate, engraved armor, and raised his sword. "Don't do this, General Nephrite," she said, her voice ice-cold and shaking. He hesitated, the sight of her pulling at something in his soul he had thought was gone... Suddenly, from beside him, another sword thrust through the girl's chest. She looked at Nephrite with surprised eyes, from which the light quickly faded, then her body slid off the sword and crumpled to the floor. Nephrite turned to see emerald eyes and tawny hair bound into a topknot. "You fool," Zoisite sneered.

* * * * * * * *

"It's 2:07," one of the residents said. "Are we declaring?"

"Not yet," Dr. Kimura said. "You guys might have noticed, we're dealing with a physiology here that is probably different from what we're used to. I want to give it more juice."

"But--" several of the other doctors and nurses started to protest.

"I'll do it myself, and take the responsibility. I'm not going to let him cheat me out of the chance to return one of his serves one day." Dr. Kimura turned the dial on the machine to where the numbers were marked in red; this power level was intended only as a buffer, not for actually reviving people. He took the paddles and shocked Nephrite; nothing. Again, and nothing.

* * * * * * * *

Banished to the darkness, the glorious victory suddenly torn away. His Queen, in a fury, looked for someone to blame. "You showed weakness, Nephrite. Weakness is something I will not tolerate in any of my commanders. You will not fail me in this way again." She stretched her long-taloned hands toward him. Pain ripped through his head, as though she had torn into his brain and was shredding out pieces of it. Memories of a red-haired girl and his feelings for her became clear, then disappeared. He heard a distant screaming that he knew was his own voice but seemed to have nothing to do with him.

The pain ended. He found himself huddled on the floor, soaked with sweat. Trembling, he stood up. The other Generals looked at him with contempt. He stared at his Queen, aware of three things. He hated her; she had stolen something of infinite value from him, though he couldn't remember what it was; and he would never again allow himself to be humiliated like this.

* * * * * * * *

"I'm going to turn up the power one more time," Dr. Kimura said.

"You're nuts!" one of the residents protested. "You'll kill him, and yourself too."

"He's as good as dead anyway, so we've got nothing to lose. Stand back, everyone!" He twisted the dial again, as far as it would go, and put the paddles on Nephrite's chest. "Ready, now!"

* * * * * * * *

Pain, sudden brilliance.... "Any questions?" the voice asked.

"Yes!" Nephrite screamed, but there was no answer.

* * * * * * * *

Under the tremendous jolt of electricity, Nephrite's body arched up sharply. A steady beep came from the monitor, and one of the blue-suited and masked people said, "We've got a pulse."

The doctors and nurses cheered. Naru fainted.

* * * * * * * *

return to Index / go to Chapter 2

The Nephrite and Naru Treasury