by Moon Momma

Chapter 15

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Mamoru was the first to awake. He sat up, looking around with a dazed expression, and finally focused on Naru.

"You're ok," Naru said to his questioning look, as Dusty finished bandaging her hands. "This isn't part of the Dark Kingdom. Nephrite brought you here. He's gone back out to find Usagi."

"Where is she? Is it over? What happened?" Mamoru asked anxiously.

"I don't know what happened, except that she won. Everything except this room is destroyed. Nephrite will find her, Mamoru. Don't worry."

"What about them?" He indicated the Sailor Senshi. "Queen Beryl sent out the DD Girls to destroy them."

"They're alive," Naru replied. "I found them and brought them here. I couldn't just let them die, and anyway, I thought Usagi might need them, but I guess not."

Nephrite reappeared, carrying Usagi in his arms. She wore a long, flowing gown of white silk trimmed with gold. Her head, arms, and legs hung limply; she was deathly pale and absolutely still. "Usako!" Mamoru cried. Carefully, Nephrite set her down beside him. Mamoru sank back to the floor, pulling Usagi to him, calling her name.

Naru knelt beside them. "Let me," she said. She touched Usagi's cold, limp body, and found just the faintest traces of life. She fed some of her own life-force into Usagi, enough to bring her heartbeat and breathing back from the precarious edge. "She's alive, Mamoru," Naru said wearily. "She just needs to rest and warm up." Naru felt so tired, just like the times when her energy had been stolen. She wondered if she had given away too much energy today. Nephrite brought over the last fur from the bed and covered Usagi where she lay in Mamoru's arms. Then he sat on the edge of the bed and let Naru begin unbuckling his armor.

It wasn't long before Usagi and the other Sailor Senshi stirred, nearly simultaneously. They sat up, letting the fur coverings fall aside, and stared at each other. "We did it!" Rei finally cried. The four Senshi gathered around Usagi and Mamoru, crying and hugging each other. "I couldn't have done it without you guys," Usagi sobbed. "I knew you would help me. But I was so afraid you were all dead!"

Sailor Mercury held back a little from the group hug, looking around at their surroundings. "I don't understand it," she said. "It looks like we're still in the Dark Kingdom!"

Naru looked up from tugging off Nephrite's boots. "This is our room," she said. "I found you guys and brought you here so you'd be safe."

The five Senshi looked at Naru where she knelt in front of Nephrite. Usagi pushed herself up from Mamoru's lap and wobbled over to Naru, then hugged her friend. "Oh, Naru-chan, I've missed you! Are you all right?"

"I've missed you too, Usagi-chan. I'm fine; I'm just glad you guys are okay. But how could they help you when they were out cold here?"

"It was their spirits that helped me. I was afraid they were dead."

"But we're alive," Sailor Venus said. "Thanks to Naru-chan."

The way they were all looking at her made Naru uncomfortable. She blushed and tried to turn away, but Usagi put her hand on Naru's shoulder. "Thank you for saving us."

Naru nodded, not sure why she suddenly felt like crying.

Nephrite said, "I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm ready to get out of here. We can talk more at my place."

"How are we going to get there?" Mamoru asked. "The Senshi are too weak to teleport."

"If we all join hands, our strength will combine, and we can all teleport together," Usagi said.

Naru was the only one who had no power to teleport, so Nephrite positioned her between him and Mamoru, who were the strongest. "What about our stuff?" Naru asked.

Nephrite smiled at her. "I can send Dusty back for it later." Then the eight of them--the five Senshi, Mamoru, Naru, and Nephrite, joined hands and concentrated on the woods outside Nephrite's mansion.

They appeared in the middle of a cold, windy, pre-dawn drizzle which held the promise of snow. The cats were curled up together in the shelter of a hollow tree trunk. Mamoru scooped up a cat in each arm, and the group followed Nephrite into the house.

Dusty had come on ahead, and had lit a fire in the gigantic fireplace in the main room and started boiling water for tea. Everyone gravitated towards the fire, especially the Sailor Senshi in their impractical uniforms. The group all settled on the floor, while Nephrite thought to himself that he really was going to have to furnish this room a little better.

"I can't believe it's over," Ami finally said.

"Yeah, no more Dark Kingdom to worry about," Makoto added. She looked at Nephrite. "I mean, obviously we don't have to worry about you."

"What now?" Minako said.

Luna spoke. "I don't know what the future holds. Hopefully things will be quiet and you can live normal lives for a while."

They ate the tea and sandwiches that Dusty brought them, then Mamoru phoned for a couple of taxis. Usagi, looking like an ordinary schoolgirl again, paused before joining Mamoru in one of the cabs. "Aren't you coming, Naru?"

Naru stood with Nephrite, encircled by his arms. "No," Naru said. "I can't go back. This is where I belong now."

"But what about your mom?" Usagi asked.

"I'm not ready to face her yet. I have no idea what I'm going to say to her."

"I'll help in any way I can," Usagi said, then got into the cab with Mamoru. Naru and Nephrite watched the car drive away in the snowy dawn, then, still with their arms around each other, went back into the mansion.

Naru looked around. "Where's your motorcycle, Nephrite? I want to see it."

"I'll go get it." He went into the exercise room and came out wheeling the bike.

"Ohh," Naru said, running a bandaged hand over the leather seat. "Can we go for a ride, Nephrite, please? I mean, if you feel up to it."

"It's cold outside."

"I don't care. I've been dying to go for a ride."

He smiled down at her. "Naru-chan, I've learned not to try to say no to you. Just a minute." He went upstairs, then came down a few minutes later having changed out of his uniform into jeans, a pale blue shirt, and a sweater. He pulled on his leather jacket and tucked his hair inside the jacket. "Here." He held out a thick sweatshirt and Naru pulled it on over the thinner sweater she was wearing. It was way too big, hanging well down over her hips, the sleeves dangling over her hands. She laughed at herself, more out of relief to be out of the Dark Kingdom than anything else.

Nephrite wheeled the bike outside, then put on his helmet, climbed on, and handed Naru her helmet. She put it on, then straddled the bike behind Nephrite and wrapped her arms firmly around him. She gasped at the sense of motion and power when he started the bike.

They followed the twisting road back into the hills, passing only two or three cars in the early winter dawn. Naru laughed with delight at the sensation of freedom. She felt as though she were flying. Eventually Nephrite pulled the bike into a scenic overlook, stopped, and took off his helmet. He turned to face Naru, and she removed her helmet too. "What do you think?" he asked.

She laughed. "I love it."

"I knew you would."

"But can't this thing go any faster?"

He laid his hand against her cheek. "Not with precious cargo on board, it can't." He kissed her, and neither of them noticed the sharp, icy wind swirling around them. Finally Nephrite said, "I'm tired. Let's go home, and get some sleep."

Naru looked at him sideways through her thick eyelashes. "Sleep?"

"Yes, sleep," he said firmly.

* * * * * * * *

She awoke in Nephrite's arms in the big bed beneath the skylight. After living in the oppressive, windowless caverns of the Dark Kingdom, Naru understood why he had had this extravagant and impractical piece of glass installed in the roof of his house. She looked up at the sky, which was heavy with thick, low clouds, and watched snowflakes melt on the glass. Something was bothering her; they had forgotten something, but she wasn't sure what. They had left something behind in the Dark Kingdom. Not her clothes and CD player; Nephrite had promised to go back for those. Something else--

"Nephrite." She shook his shoulder. He mumbled something and rolled over, pinning her beneath him. "Nephrite, wake up. You're squishing me."

"Hmm?" he finally responded, and raised his head to look at her, his eyes heavy with sleep.

"Nephrite, we forgot about the guy in the crystal."

"Who? Jadeite? What are you worrying about him for?" He tried to cuddle her closer to him, but she straightened up and pulled away a little. "I'm serious, Nephrite. This is bothering me. Especially if he might still be alive in there. Can't you go back and try to free him?"

"Why? He's one of the bad guys, Naru-chan."

"So were you."

"I changed."

"He might change, too. Don't you think we should give him a chance?"

Nephrite pulled her close again, and this time Naru let him. "You're what made me change, Naru. I don't know if Jadeite would have a reason to change."

"But we have to give him a chance. Please?"

Nephrite raised himself over her and looked deep into her eyes. Finally he said, "All right. You wouldn't be my Naru-chan if you didn't insist. I'll be back soon." He kissed her, got up, and teleported away.

* * * * * * * *

The storage room had caved in. Nephrite found the crystal, with Jadeite still trapped inside, toppled over and buried beneath a thick layer of snow and rock. After digging away the debris, he put his hands on the crystal and concentrated; the bindings Beryl had put on it were gone. He concentrated harder, finding the weak lines in the crystal's structure, then shattered it.

"--rgh!" Jadeite yelled, the ending of the scream that had been cut off when he was trapped in the crystal. Then he sat up gingerly among the shards, and looked up at his rescuer. "Nephrite. Thanks. I was afraid you wouldn't be able to do it."

"Don't thank me," Nephrite said. "Thank Naru. She's the one who insisted that I leave a nice warm bed to come out here and try to save your sorry carcass."

"Naru? The little redhead I saw you down here with? Sailor Moon's friend?"


"What the hell is going on, Nephrite? What happened here?"

"The good guys won, Jadeite." Nephrite fixed the smaller man with a flat, cold stare. "Got a problem with that?"

"Not at all. Somehow, I've become disenchanted with Beryl and Metallia." He glared at the shattered crystal. "No idea why."

"Good. See you." Nephrite closed his eyes, getting ready to teleport.

"Wait!" Jadeite said. "Are you going to just leave without even telling me what happened? If they won, what are you doing alive? What's going on?"

"Look, I've got a nice warm bed and a pretty red-haired girl waiting for me at home. I'm not going to stand around here in the cold telling you the whole story." Naru's face, with a reproachful expression on it, came into his mind, and he imagined he could hear her saying, And you just left him there, in the cold? He sighed. "Okay, come on with me." He grabbed Jadeite's arm and together they teleported to the spot in front of the big fireplace in the main room of Nephrite's mansion. "Sit down. It's a long story."

A short way into the story, Naru came downstairs, still wearing the oversize sweatshirt over her jeans and sweater. She looked at the two men, then walked, smiling, over to Nephrite. She dug her hands into his hair. "Thank you," she said, and kissed him like she meant it, while he reflected that virtue did indeed have its rewards...

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They met with Naru's mother three days later, in her office in the jewelry store. As Nephrite, Naru, and Usagi filed in at the appointed time, Naru looked at her mother's angry, disappointed face, then looked away again. Naru still didn't know what she was going to say to her, although Nephrite had told her to let him and Usagi do all the talking. The three of them sat down across the huge desk from Mrs. Osaka. Naru huddled back in her chair, looking down at her hands folded in her lap. Usagi sat up straight, her fingers nervously drumming on the wooden arms of her chair. Nephrite sat between them, sitting up straight and dignified, wearing a very expensive dark suit and necktie. He looked like an entirely respectable suitor, Naru thought. Hopefully her mother would feel the same way.

"Well?" Mrs. Osaka said. "This had better be good."

"Mrs. Osaka, I would like to marry your daughter," Nephrite said.

"Mr. Sanjouin, can you give me one good reason why I shouldn't have you arrested for kidnapping my daugher? And who knows what else you've done to her."

"You need to understand what Naru's life has been like the last few months," Nephrite said. "I'm not offering this as an excuse, only as an explanation." He related the whole story, the Dark Kingdom's attempts to destroy the earth, his own part in the plans, his early meetings with Naru, their falling in love, his near-fatal injury while protecting her from his evil colleague, why they were forced to flee to the Dark Kingdom, what their lives were like there, and Naru's part in helping Sailor Moon defeat Beryl. The only thing he left out were their few intimate moments and Naru's condition.

When he finally finished, Mrs. Osaka fixed him with a long stare. "You expect me to believe this," she said flatly.

"If you please, Usagi?" Nephrite said.

"Sure, Nephrite." Usagi stood, held out her transformation locket, and cried out "Moon Crystal Power!"

Mrs. Osaka stared as Usagi disappeared, to be replaced by Sailor Moon. "Is that proof enough, Mrs. Osaka?" Nephrite asked. "Or would you like to see me teleport, perhaps, or steal some energy?"

"Go to hell, Mr. Sanjouin," Mrs. Osaka said. "So Usagi is really Sailor Moon. That still doesn't explain why I shouldn't call the police right now." She reached for the phone.

"Mama, I'm pregnant," Naru blurted out.

"What?" Mrs. Osaka shouted, rising halfway up out of her chair.

Naru stood to face her mother. She wasn't going to just sit by and let things happen around her any more. She was stronger than that. "I'm pregnant. Maybe I made some mistakes, but they were my mistakes, that I made by my own choice. No one forced me to do anything--I went with Nephrite because I wanted to and because it was the best thing to do in the situation. It was the only way I would have been safe. And I am over the age of consent. Now, you can have him arrested for crimes he didn't commit, or try some other way to keep us apart, and make me go through having this baby alone. Or you can accept that I wasn't meant to have a normal life, just like Usagi-chan, and let us be together." Her speech, and the passion she delivered it with, and her nervousness, left her shaking and breathless as she waited to hear what her mother would say.

Mrs. Osaka sat down, propped her elbows on her desk, and buried her face in her hands. After a long time, she looked up again. Her face shone with tears. "Oh, Naru. I've always felt, somehow, that you weren't mine to keep for as long as I would have liked. But I didn't think this day would come so soon."

Naru went to her mother and put her arms around her neck. "You're not losing me, Mama. Don't you understand that?"

"I know, baby, I know," Mrs. Osaka finally said, stroking Naru's hair. She looked over at Nephrite. "It's a little less than a year until Naru will be of age to marry, even with my approval. Until then, she will live with me, and continue her education in a manner appropriate to her situation. I will allow the two of you to see each other, provided you agree to follow certain rules. On the day after Naru's sixteenth birthday, if you still wish to marry my daughter and if you have followed my rules, I will give my consent to the marriage. Should you decide you don't want to marry her, I will still expect you to provide for the child."

"Of course," Nephrite said. "And I assure you, I won't change my mind."

"I don't understand why my life turned out this way, Mama," Naru said. "But I love who I love. You're my mother. Usagi's my best friend. And Nephrite is... my life. I love all of you, and it would kill me to have to choose between you."

Nephrite came and stood behind Naru, his arms wrapped around her. "I'll take good care of her for you, Mrs. Osaka. And of your grandchild."

Osaka Midori looked up at him. "I hope so, Mr. Sanjouin. And if you break her heart, I will never forgive you."

"If I break her heart, I'll never forgive myself."

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The Nephrite and Naru Treasury