by Moon Momma
* * * * * * * *
With Sanjouin Masato's heart started again, Dr. Kimura could concentrate on examining the massive stab wounds in his shoulder. Idly, while he probed and cleaned the wounds, he wondered about the strange name the girl had called him, "Nefrite," something like that. Wasn't that some kind of gemstone or mineral? Maybe it was a weird pet name between the two of them, or maybe they were in one of those clubs that tried to recreate history, where people pretended they were the Count of Whatever.
Speaking of the girl, who was she and what was she doing in the park in her pajamas with Sanjouin in the middle of the night? She wasn't Sanjouin's usual type; he usually showed up at dinners, nightclubs, and parties with one of four or five tall, leggy, sultry specimens, who were certainly decorative on the arm but didn't seem to have a lot to say. This red-haired, sweet-faced child was so different from the others, Kimura couldn't help wondering what was going on there. He felt a wave of protectiveness towards the girl--how much did she really know about Sanjouin Masato?--but at the moment his duty was to Sanjouin.
Of course, he reflected as he worked, how much did anyone know about Sanjouin Masato? He had appeared out of nowhere several months ago, possessing wealth, abilities, and an aura of authority and power far beyond what would normally be expected of a man who appeared to be no more than a year or two out of university. His company was legitimate, but everything else about him was a mystery. Dr. Kimura was certain there was far more to Sanjouin Masato than met the eye, and more certain now than ever.
Sanjouin's shoulder was a mess. Kimura prepared to order x-rays and surgery, along with a couple more units of blood. Universal donor; no point in even testing the guy for any other type. Maybe he was really an alien; that would explain his tennis serve. The doctor laughed a little. He usually tended to get a little loopy towards the end of a twenty-four-hour shift.
Sanjouin moved and opened his eyes a little. Dr. Kimura smiled, though the smile was hidden by his mask. "Welcome back, big guy. We ran up quite a power bill trying to get your heart going."
Sanjouin moved his mouth a little and tried to say something, but with the tube down his throat and the oxygen mask over his mouth he couldn't speak. However, Kimura had a feel for what trauma victims would usually try to ask first. "You're at Central Hospital, in the Emergency Room. I'm Dr. Kimura, a tennis victim of yours. The girl they brought in with you is ok--her hands are pretty roughed up, but nothing life-threatening."
An insistent-looking gesture with the left hand. "You want to see her?" A slight nod. "She's under sedation right now. This has all been too much for her. Why don't you wait till she wakes up?"
Sanjouin tried to move, as though he were going to get up and go find the girl himself. "Okay, okay, buddy. Hey," he called to a nearby nurse. "Wheel the girl over here. He wants to see her."
The nurse pushed the bed with the unconscious girl on it over to Sanjouin's bedside. Masato lifted his left hand, with its tangle of IV lines, and gently brushed the girl's cheek. Then he left the hand fall back to his own bed and visibly relaxed.
* * * * * * * *
A tall, slim, red-haired woman, attractive despite her reddened, tear-streaked face, was escorted into the room. "Naru!" she cried, and ran to the girl. "Naru, are you all right? Oh, baby, I was so worried!" She looked at Dr. Kimura. "Is she all right?"
Kimura glanced up from his work on Sanjouin's shoulder. "She should be fine. We had to sedate her--she fainted, then woke up combative. We want to keep her here a few days to make sure her hands will heal ok; they were scraped almost down to the bones in some places. We're worried about infections."
"Oh..." Naru's mother, Kimura assumed she was, covered her face with her hands. Then she looked at him again. "I've been calling hospitals and the police for an hour. When they said a girl had been brought in here that looked like my daughter... What am I going to do, Doctor? I don't know what's happening to my daughter, she's always been such a good girl, but now..."
"I'm not a psychologist, Mrs.--ah--"
"I don't know much about adolescent psychology, Mrs. Osaka, but this I can figure out. She's fourteen, fifteen, right? She's a very attractive young lady, and she's got a big crush on this handsome older guy. It's called hormones, Mrs. Osaka. She should come through it all right as long as she knows you're here for her."
Mrs. Osaka stroked her daughter's hair. "You're right, of course. It's just that I've been so busy with the store lately, and her father's been gone since she was little, she's probably been turning wherever she thought she could get some attention."
"Ah. I'm sorry. If you'll excuse me, it's time to take this guy to surgery. I don't know the story behind what happened to them tonight, but hopefully you can get Naru to tell you. Let her know you'll just listen, and not judge or get angry."
"Thank you, Doctor," she said behind him as he headed for the scrub room.
* * * * * * * *
Naru woke up slowly. Her head hurt, then her hands, then the rest of her body. She felt sick to her stomach. A blurry face hovered over her, then resolved into her mother's face. "Mama?" she whispered.
"You're all right, baby. You're in the hospital, but you're going to be all right." A cool hand smoothed Naru's tangled, matted hair away from her face. "I was so worried about you, sweetie. You were gone, and I couldn't find you."
"I'm sorry, Mama." The whole nightmare came crashing into her memory. The park, the thorns, the blood, the monsters... "Is Neph--I mean, Mr. Sanjouin, ok?"
"Last I knew, they were taking him into surgery. Naru, I'm worried about this. He's too old for you, and he does have a wild reputation. You're going to get hurt, Naru-chan."
Naru looked away from her mother. "I love him, Mama. And he would never hurt me--he nearly died protecting me from some bad people."
"Naru, please, listen to me." But Naru refused to respond. She stared at the opposite wall until she fell asleep again.
* * * * * * * *
Nephrite wasn't dead, but right now he wished he was. His head hurt, he felt nauseated, and along with the pain in his shoulder he could feel tubes and needles sticking out of just about every place where they could be stuck. Sights and sounds faded in and out, not making any sense. He shook his head back and forth in frustration. A face drifted nearby, and sound came from it. "I know, it's rotten waking up from general anesthesia. Hang in there, it'll get better."
It was maddening, not understanding what was happening to him. He hated feeling weak and sick, hated seeing his body turned into what looked like some crazy experiment, hated not being able to just get up and walk away if he wanted to. Tears stung his eyes, making him feel even more helpless and humiliated. He'd never had any patience with people who wasted time feeling sorry for themselves, but right now he was powerless to fight the self-pity that washed over him. He gave himself over to the unfamiliar emotion until, mercifully, he fell asleep again.
He woke again in a different, darker room. He didn't feel quite so sick, but the tubes and needles were still all over him. Machines with blinking lights beeped and hissed around him. The self-pity was gone, replaced by a vast empty feeling. He puzzled over this for a while, wondering why he wasn't just glad to have survived the night.
He was out of the Dark Kingdom, that was pretty certain. But when had anyone ever left Beryl's service alive? Well, maybe, technically, Jadeite was still alive, if being sealed up in a crystal could be called alive. At any rate, he didn't think Beryl, damn her rotten soul, was going to just let him walk away. Which meant he was still in danger, and so was Naru.
He was very confused about Naru. He had heard the doctor's assurances to her mother, that Naru's feelings for him were nothing more than an adolescent crush and she would get over it. In the Silver Millennium, a girl Naru's age would have been considered fortunate to make a good marriage with an older, well-established, wealthy man. Back then, it wasn't her age that would have raised eyebrows, but the difference in their social stations. He was, after all, a Royal Guardian and a prince in his own right, and she was a mere servant, though highly-favored by her Queen. A thousand years ago he had been ready to defy society's prejudices for her sake. Was he willing to do so now? And what about the danger he would be putting her in by being with her? He didn't want to be evil any more; what would someone who wasn't evil do about Naru?
His thoughts chased themselves around in circles, growing more and more jumbled. He imagined Zoisite telling the doctor that Nephrite was too young for Naru. All this thinking was making him hot...
A nurse came in, looked at the machines, felt Nephrite's face, "tsked" disapprovingly, and left.
* * * * * * * *
Naru woke up late that afternoon feeling a lot better, though still very weak. Her mother had brought her a proper nightgown, robe, and slippers. She put these on, fumbling with her heavily bandaged hands. Later, when no one seemed to be looking, she slipped out of her room to look for Nephrite. The intensive care unit was just down the hall and around the corner, and she easily found the room with Nephrite's alias, Sanjouin M., on the door She slipped into the room and stopped when she saw a pair of doctors examining Nephrite's shoulder and a nurse hanging something up on the IV tower. "Can I help you?" the nurse asked.
"I--I wanted to see how Mr. Sanjouin is," Naru said.
"You're the girl that came in with him last night?" Naru nodded. "He's developing a nasty infection in his shoulder. He's going to be having a rough time for a while."
Naru stepped closer to the bed. She could barely see Nephrite through all the lines, tubes, and machines that surrounded him. A breathing mask covered half of his face, which was flushed and sweaty.
The doctors were arguing about Nephrite's treatment. "Kimura's crazy, he really is," one was saying. "He needs a vacation."
"He was the attending physician when this guy came in last night, and he's been studying the unusual aspects of this case. We should do as he suggests."
The first doctor sighed. "We're all going to lose our licences. Oh well."
"How bad is he?" Naru asked.
The doctors both looked at the girl. "Pretty bad. He's going back to surgery, to start with. If we can't clean out whatever's causing this infection, and if this little concoction of Dr. Kimura's doesn't work, well..."
"I see." Naru bit her lip. She pushed Nephrite's sweaty, matted bangs away from his face. Please don't give up, Nephrite-sama, she thought. I can't lose you.
* * * * * * * *
Despite the combined efforts of the nurses, the doctors, and her mother to shoo her back to her own room, Naru kept a vigil at Nephrite's bedside all that night and through the next day and night. The doctors were hopeful that the latest surgery had been successful in cleaning out the wounds, but still the fever raged. Nephrite would struggle, seeming to want to fight everything that was being done to him. The IV needles had to be securely taped in place after the second time he pulled them out, and he wouldn't let anyone get close to him. Strapping his arms down only made him thrash around harder. Finally, the doctors had no choice but to begin keeping him sedated. "We don't like to do this," Dr. Shindo told Naru, when he came to check on her hands. "Lying still is going to increase his risk of complications, but he was putting himself in serious danger by thrashing around like that."
On the third day, a terrible rasping noise began to come from Nephrite's chest as the ventilator pushed air in and out of his lungs. Dr. Kimura, who was back on shift, told Naru that Nephrite had developed pneumonia in addition to the poisoning that still remained from his infected wound. "Frankly, Naru," he said, "and I'm sorry to have to say this, but it seems like he doesn't want us to make him better."
That night and all the next day, Nephrite continued to get worse. Naru refused to leave his side, refused to eat, refused to sleep. Late that evening, Dr. Kimura tried again to persuade her to go back to her own room. "Naru, you were badly hurt too. You need to rest, or you'll end up as sick as he is. Please, go lie down, and we'll let you know if anything changes in here."
Naru was sitting in a chair pulled right up beside Nephrite's bed, resting her head and arms on the mattress next to his legs. "I can't leave," she said, her voice dull. "What if I leave and he dies? How can I let him die alone?"
The doctor sighed. "This is beyond me," he said, and left the room.
Several minutes later someone else came in. Naru glanced at him without moving her head from the bed. He was tall and lean, with graying dark hair and a thin dark mustache. He wore a long black robe and a chain with a gold cross on it, and a badge identifying him as a hospital chaplain.
He pulled a chair next to Naru and sat silently beside her for a few minutes. "It's hard," he said, "not knowing if someone you love is going to live or die."
Naru started crying. She reached to smooth the rumpled sheet across Nephrite's chest. "I love him so much," she said through her tears. "I just want us to have a chance to be together. But even if it doesn't work between us, I still don't want him to die. I want him to have a chance to really live."
"It sounds as though you truly do love him."
Still crying, Naru carefully held Nephrite's needled-and-taped left hand. "Is it wrong, him and me? I know he's so much older than me, and I'm so young; is it wrong of us to love each other?"
"It's hard to put boundaries and restrictions on the human heart," the priest said carefully. "Perhaps, when he's better, the two of you may decide that what's between you makes the age difference irrelevant."
For the first time since before the youmas' attack, Naru found herself smiling. She wiped her tears away. "Thank you, sir. I'm glad you understand."
"But now is not the time to sort that out, Naru. Right now, you need to be taking care of yourself, for his sake. How do you think it would make him feel, to know --"
Low, silky laughter cut off the priests' words. "Oh, aren't we full of fine words, Priest," said a tenor voice that Naru had heard before, the voice that had taunted and threatened Nephrite as he lay injured. Naru jumped up and turned around. The beautiful young General with a mane of tawny hair tied back in a ponytail hovered in midair amidst a flurry of cherry blossoms. Zoisite, she remembered his name was. "But all those fine words won't do you a bit of good. The Dark Kingdom wants you, and we're going to have you."
"Do you have authorization--" the priest began. The Dark Kingdom General suddenly held out a finger-size black stone--the crystal he had taken from Nephrite during the attack.
"That stone!" Naru cried. "Get that out of here! Don't bring that evil thing near him!" She ran at the General. Casually, he kicked her in the shoulder and knocked her down.
A yellow radiance burst out of the stone and centered itself on the priest's chest. The priest shrieked in pain as a black hole opened in his chest, over his heart. Naru watched, horrified, as an orange gem nearly the size of her fist appeared in the center of the hole and flew into Zoisite's hand. The priest collapsed to the floor. "Ha! That was easy," the General laughed. "And now for my other little job. This should be easy--he's already weak."
"No!" Naru screamed. She ran across the room and threw herself over Nephrite. The priest's unconscious body began to twitch. He stood up, his body metamorphosing into a grotesquely over-muscled monster with gigantic wings and--boxing gloves? Naru stared, whimpering in fear, as she crouched over Nephrite's body on her hands and knees.
"Kill them both, Boxy," Zoisite said.
"Watch out for Boxy the Vulture, Champion of the Dark Kingdom!" the monster roared. He aimed one of his huge boxing gloves right at Naru's head. She collapsed flat on the bed just as the glove shot like a cannonball over her head and crashed through the window on her other side.
Naru was crying now, her eyes tightly shut against the horror, her arms wrapped over her head. This was a hospital--how could things like this be happening without anyone noticing? Surely a doctor or nurse or someone had to hear the dreadful noises coming from this room.
"Aah, you got lucky!" Boxy the Vulture roared. "But this one won't miss!"
"Hold it right there!" ordered another familiar, blessedly familiar, voice. Naru peeked out from beneath her arms. It was, indeed, Sailor Moon. "In case you hadn't noticed, this is a hospital room! For disturbing the patients, I shall punish you!"
The Vulture drew back to throw a punch at Sailor Moon. Sailor Moon dove aside as the boxing glove smashed into a row of cabinets on the wall behind her. Zoisite laughed and teleported away.
"Naru, did that used to be a human?" Sailor Moon demanded quickly.
"Y--yes," Naru answered.
Sailor Moon held up a stick topped with a large gold crescent moon. She circumscribed a large circle with it and cried out, "Moon Healing Activation!" A circle of light shot out from the wand and surrounded the Vulture. The monster screamed horribly, then the light faded to reveal the chaplain lying on the floor, unconscious.
"Are you ok, Naru-chan?" Sailor Moon asked. Naru finally realized where she was, lying lengthwise across Nephrite, face down, her head between his ankles. She started crying again. "Why didn't anyone else come?"
"No one else could have done any good," Sailor Moon pointed out as she patted Naru's back comfortingly. "I think Zoisite must have put some sort of sound barrier around the room before he entered, so he wouldn't be interrupted. But I have ways of knowing what that sleazeball is up to anyway! Oh, rats, though," she said, suddenly looking around. "He got away with the crystal, didn't he? A big colored jewel?"
Naru nodded, and sat up.
"Darn," Sailor Moon said, looking very serious. "That makes two they've got. I'd better go tell the others. Bye, Naru-chan!"
Naru watched Sailor Moon teleport away, wondering why she felt like she knew her. She crawled off of Nephrite to stand shakily on the floor, then knelt beside the priest, who was still out cold. She should call in the doctors, but how could she ever explain what had happened?
That awful laughter floated through the room again. "Sailor Moon's a fool, leaving you alone before she's made sure that I'm really gone," Zoisite said. "Now, for unfinished business." He held out a hand towards Nephrite.
Naru placed herself between Nephrite and his enemy. "Leave him alone!"
"Step aside, little girl, if you don't want to get hurt. It doesn't matter to me if I kill just him or both of you."
"You will not harm him!" The voice that tore out of Naru was different from her usual voice. She had the oddest feeling of being two people at once. She was still Naru with bobbed red hair tied back with a blue bow, wearing a pink Hello Kitty nightgown, but at the same time she was someone else, with long hair, wearing a long blue dress. "He is my love, and you will not harm him." Not a threat, not a plea, merely a statement of fact.
Zoisite looked at Naru with narrowed eyes. "You!" he said, his voice dark with hatred. "You're only a servant. You have no powers, you can't possibly defeat me!"
"Try me." Naru didn't understand why this man was so intent on killing Nephrite, but she would not allow him to.
Zoisite hissed at her and raised both hands to attack her. Sailor Moon and three Sailor Senshi appeared in the room. "Stop right there, creep!" Sailor Moon ordered.
"Damn!" Zoisite spat, and disappeared in a whirl of cherry blossoms.
"He got away again!" Sailor Moon wailed.
"You've gotta quit giving them fair warning," Sailor Mars scolded her. "Just sneak up on them. They don't play fair, and neither should we."
But Sailor Moon wasn't paying attention. She was staring at Naru. "Naru-chan, is that--is that you?"
"Sure, it's me," Naru said.
"But you look different. It looks like you transformed, but only halfway. Are you one of us, Naru-chan?"
"I don't think so," Naru said uncertainly. "How could I be? I'm just Naru." But she wasn't. Who was this other person that she seemed to be turning into, the one Zoisite had recognized?
Sailor Moon spoke gently. "And I'm just Usagi."
"What? No way!" But Naru looked closely, and suddenly the resemblance clicked. How on earth had she never noticed it before? Especially that hairstyle. Her best friend Usagi-chan was Sailor Moon? That meant her life was getting way too weird.
Naru looked at the other Sailor Senshi. Mercury and Mars she recognized, of course, but the third, a tall girl with a thick brown ponytail, wearing a sailor dress trimmed in green, was unfamiliar. "Are they all regular girls, too, when they're not Sailor Senshi?"
"Yes," Sailor Moon answered, "but I'd better not tell you who they are. I'll leave it up to them decide if they want to tell you. By the way, this is Sailor Jupiter. We just found her two days ago."
"Hi," Naru said.
"Hi, Naru." Jupiter smiled and lifted a hand in greeting.
"Hey, we'd better go," Sailor Moon said. "Gotta catch up with that scum Zoisite. We've got to get those crystals he has, and keep him from getting any more. Bye, Naru-chan!" And the four Sailor Senshi were--gone.
Naru stood at Nephrite's bedside, staring at where the Senshi had been. Then her shifting identities abruptly resolved back into Naru in the Hello Kitty nightgown. The world rocked and spun, and everything went black.
* * * * * * * *
She awoke in her own hospital bed, her mother at her side. "Mama?" she mumbled.
"Oh, Naru, thank goodness you're ok. The nurse found you passed out on the floor of Mr. Sanjouin's room. It looked like there'd been a big fight in there. What on earth happened?"
"I--I don't know. A fight?" Naru felt a little guilty for the lie. But how could she ever explain to her mother what had really happened? Her life was definitely getting way too weird, she decided. But if being with Nephrite meant her life was going to be weird, then that was the way it was going to be.
"No one else can figure out what happened. We thought you might know." Naru's mother squeezed her hand. "Naru, the doctors have decided it would be best for you to go home. Your hands are healing just fine, and Dr. Kimura and I feel that you would get more rest if you were at home, away from Sanjouin Masato. You're being discharged tomorrow morning."
"But, Mama--" Tears filled Naru's eyes. She couldn't leave Nephrite. What if he died, or he needed her, and she wasn't here?
"No 'buts,' young lady. If you are very cooperative, I will let you come visit him sometimes. But only if you can show that it will not turn into a problem."
"Yes, Mama," Naru said sadly.
* * * * * * * *
return to Index / go to Chapter 3
The Nephrite and Naru Treasury