* * * * * * * *
Nephrite swung his racquet and sent the rubber ball flying towards Chibi-Usa. She intercepted the ball easily, deliberately aiming it towards the former general. The chestnut-haired man chuckled as he made another swing. Two years ago he had made his first public appearance at the very tennis court where he was now playing a friendly game of racquetball with Chibi, one resembling more of a simple game of 'catch' than tennis.
Sometimes, Nephrite missed, since his arms were not what they used to be, and it was hard for him to maneuver since the wheelchair he was using that day was hand-operated. Pushing on the wheels was a little difficult and inconvenient at times, but it did wonders for his physical therapy, as well as prevented any mishaps from Chibi-Usa playing on his lap and accidentally activating the joystick.
Others watched both the game of tennis and the usually reserved businessman laughing and playing with a young girl. Normally, Sanjouin Masato was rather quiet in public, and would occasionally give a disapproving look to others who stared or got too close to him. Today, he didn't seem to notice them.
After playing for a while, they paused, and Chibi set the ball and racquet aside, and helped Nephrite unfasten the strap that kept him from dropping his racquet. With both racquets set aside, Chibi climbed into Nephrite's lap and rested against his chest. The former general then noticed a few people staring and glared at them, until they retreated, muttering no doubt, about how rude he was. Then his expression softened as he looked down at the little girl sitting in his lap.
Chibi-Usa smiled up at him and asked "Wanna play some more?"
"Maybe, Little Lady," Nephrite chuckled.
The little girl hugged him, and continued to sit in his lap while they watched the others play. Nephrite couldn't feel Chibi hugging him around his middle, at least not physically, yet he felt pure joy just seeing that innocent display of affection. The two shared a hug, then Chibi-Usa picked up the racquets and the ball, and placed them in a bag at the back of Nephrite's wheelchair.
Nephrite pushed his chair out of the court, while Chibi followed him on foot. As they made their way to where Usagi and Naru were waiting, Chibi mentioned the grades she was getting, and how they were better than her mommy’s was. The former sky king chuckled, having known for some time that Chibi-Usa was Usagi's daughter. Chibi also talked about that cute fairy book her mother gave her, and how she wanted to show it to him sometime.
Usagi had heard Chibi's remarks about her, and reacted most predictably.
"Oooh WHY YOU LITTLE MIDGET!" she growled, giving chase to her laughing daughter.
Nephrite and Naru laughed as they watched Usagi and Chibi-Usa squabbling.
"I wonder if we would ever fight that way with our children," Nephrite chuckled.
"Probably not," Naru replied, as she sat down on his lap, "Chibi first appeared disguised as Usagi's sister, and both of them are young, so they act like sisters."
Nephrite smiled and nodded, and held Naru close. She nuzzled the former sky king and kissed him on the cheek, ignoring the stares from others.
"Would you like to go to this European-style restaurant today?" Naru whispered, "They have some musicians who perform live there, and I heard they are very good!"
Nephrite couldn't say no to that, so they got into his modified convertible, and drove to the place. The restaurant looked like a mix of old and new, and it had a sign listing the daily specials and the musicians. Some of the musicians had photographs by their names, and one in particular, Adrian Kirsch, looked familiar -- youthful, effeminate, long, wavy, dirty-blond hair... and green eyes.
"He looks... familiar..." Nephrite mumbled, "... odd..."
The former sky king scratched his head, and he and Naru waited to be seated. One of the receptionists showed them to their table, which was near a bar and in front of a stage. A waitress walked over to their table to take their orders.
They looked at the menu and chose an egg-noodle and sausage dish to share, and some apple wine. After the waitress left, Nephrite and Naru held hands and sipped on the ice water and lemon left for them. Nephrite tried the biscotti and offered a piece to Naru. She took a bite and enjoyed its light sweetness, and then kissed Nephrite on the lips. She lifted him out of his wheelchair and onto the bench beside her, so they could cuddle more easily and others could see them as a couple, not just a girl and her crippled friend.
"Oh, you're in that kind of mood, are you?" Nephrite laughed, kissing Naru on the chin.
Naru responded by kissing Nephrite on the ear and down his jaw and neck, sending shivers through his body. The chestnut-haired businessman reached up and hugged Naru, and brushed his hand against her chest. She giggled and blushed, and held Nephrite closer, kissing him on the lips.
"I wonder what he is here for," Nephrite wondered, thinking about this mysterious Adrian Kirsch.
"Well I hope he isn't here to hurt you," Naru replied, "I remember him... what a coward! Leaving you there to be killed by those awful monsters!"
Nephrite sighed and smiled wistfully. "Zoicite and I used to be friends, before Metallia took over and used her influence on Beryl... we were supposed to protect the King of earth, and we ended up causing so much destruction."
Naru held his half-paralyzed hand and stroked it, kissing his fingers and pressing the hand to her cheek. Nephrite closed his eyes and sighed happily. Naru's lips met his again, and their tongues wrapped around one another .
The sound of dishes being set on the table snapped them out of it, and Naru sat up and set Nephrite back onto the bench. He wrapped his arm around her shoulder to brace himself, then began eating. The bewildered waitress stared for a while, blushing, then walked away.
Both had a good laugh at the look on the waitress’s face, and Nephrite hugged Naru again.
"I don't care who is looking," he whispered, kissing her repeatedly.
Naru just melted, and then took a forkful of noodles and fed them to Nephrite, before kissing him on the nose. Nephrite, familiar with this romantic custom, happily ate the noodles and then, with some difficulty, returned the favour. Several girls walking by saw the two and giggled, and commented on how romantic it was.
"Which one uses that wheelchair though?" one asked, eliciting some chuckles from both lovebirds.
"You'll have to guess," Naru said, winking before returning to her lover.
She even caressed Nephrite where she knew he couldn't feel, and Nephrite played along. It was good not to have attention drawn to his disabilities for a change. It had been so long since they were reunited, yet it almost seemed like only yesterday. Naru stroked Nephrite's wavy chestnut locks, and kissed his eyebrows, then his eyes. She felt Nephrite hugging her again, gently and lightly with his weak arms.
As they snuggled and shared their pasta, the two lovers heard an announcement for the next performer, Adrian Kirsch. They looked up at the stage as someone dressed in a dark trench coat and matching gloves and fedora carried a small, sickly-looking young man up to a barstool someone had set there. The man, who looked almost like a child, had wavy brownish-blond hair tied back in a ponytail, and was dressed in an elegant black suit. His companion had blond hair, almost white, and darkish skin, judging from the stranger's face, which was obscured by large sunglasses. This struck Nephrite and Naru as a bit odd, but not as odd as what the young man was carrying in his lap: a black piano accordion, which looked to be almost a third his size.
The mysterious companion sat down on the barstool and held Adrian on his lap. Adrian adjusted the microphone, then began playing his accordion, surprising everyone with a beautiful song. Accordions often had the reputation for being annoying, and were thought to only be useful for playing a 'polka', but this musician was playing a slow romantic song and singing in a language Nephrite and Naru recognized as German. They noticed that his companion was assisting him in squeezing and pulling the bellows, and would often stroke and caress his hands as he did. The young man seemed to be growing more and more pale, but his sweet, breathy tenor voice never wavered and his playing didn't suffer.
"Wow," Naru whispered, "He's really putting a lot of strain on himself... "
Nephrite nodded, and whispered, "He always did..."
"You mean that horrible person who left you to die?"
Nephrite sighed and nodded again, a tear running down his face.
"We weren't always like that," he explained, "We used to be best friends, until we came under the influence of Metallia and Beryl. After that, we were consumed by our own desires and jealousy ran rampant..."
Naru stroked Nephrite's hair and kissed the tear away. The former sky king smiled at that, and placed his head on his lover's lap, deep in thought.
Was Adrian coming back to finish the job? What was he up to?
The young man finished his song, and started another after taking a few breaths. By then, his skin suddenly turned ashen, as if his blood had been drained from his body. His companion gently caressed his face, and wiped the sweat from his forehead. As the man played, his companion periodically adjusted his position and helped him with the bellows, and even sang along with him, adding some harmony and depth to his songs.
Naru watched those tender displays of affection in awe. Could he have changed?
As he was nearing the end of a song, his companion whispered something in his ear, and at that, Adrian summoned all the strength he could, his long, thin fingers dancing over the key and button boards as he sang. After finishing that song, the young man slumped over, exhausted, and his companion carefully slipped the accordion off the man's chest and set it on the floor. He then carried the deathly pale Adrian offstage, and kissed him on the forehead as he left.
"Let's go back there and see if he's all right," Naru suggested.
She helped Nephrite back into his wheelchair and they both went backstage to see how the frail young man was doing. They saw him cradled in the older man's arms, coughing and gasping for air. His skin was ashen, as if he was dying. The mysterious companion stroked his hair and soothed him in Arabic, acting as if this was a routine. He kissed his young companion again and again, then reached for a glass of water and gave the young musician a few sips. Adrian's cough soon calmed down, and the older man gave him what looked like a caramel sweet, which the young man was sucking. He then took Adrian's hand and stroked it, before taking out a small device and holding it to his companion's finger. He squeezed the finger, producing a drop of blood, which he touched to a small strip of paper. That paper was placed in the device used to prick Adrian's finger, and his companion checked it, before giving the young man another caramel.
"Zoicite?" Nephrite gasped in disbelief.
Could this be his rival?
He slowly wheeled over to Zoicite and his companion, and got a better look at them. Naru followed, looking worried because the young musician looked so horribly sick.
The man gasped for air and coughed some more, and opened his eyes which were filled with tears from the coughing as well as the strain he had subjected his body to. The frail musician tried to answer but he couldn't, and attempted to catch his breath some more.
"Please leave," a low, Arabic/African voice spoke, "He is ill... come back later if you are looking for autographs!"
It was his companion, and he gave both of them a sharp look before drawing back in surprise, and taking off his sunglasses.
"Nephrite...?" he whispered.
The chestnut-haired man nodded. "Kunzite, I presume?" he asked.
The companion smiled wryly and nodded.
"What brings you here, Nephrite?"
"I would ask you the same question, Kunzite," Nephrite replied, laughing.
Zoicite coughed some more and gasped, before whispering "To bring... light... to... "
Another coughing spasm interrupted the young man, and Kunzite shifted him to a sitting position, and gently thumped his back.
"Is there anything I can do?" a worried Naru offered.
Kunzite shook his head. "It is his punishment, I believe," he explained, "as mine is to spend my life having to cover myself when I walk out into the daylight... they say I am 'allergic'... to light... if that is even possible...."
Zoicite caught his breath somewhat and kissed his partner.
"Mine is weakness..." he explained with a tired whisper, "I have to prick my fingers countless times every day, and inject myself with this 'insulin' so I don't lose my limbs or eyes...,"
Naru gasped, surprised that she was feeling sorry for him... he couldn't be the same one who hurt Nephrite... could he?
"Punished?" she cried, "But you couldn't... you couldn't be the one who hurt Nephrite!"
"I am," Zoicite replied, smiling weakly, "I was cruel and cowardly, and now I have a weak heart and body to pay for it."
Nephrite wheeled over to his former rival and placed his paralyzed hand on Zoicite’s.
"As it is my curse and blessing to be paralyzed from my chest down... " he stated, smiling, "It is a small price I had to pay to return... a small price to be with my angel."
Zoicite chuckled weakly, and ran his fingers over Nephrite's hand. With some difficulty, he rose from Kunzite's lap and braced himself on the edge of the vanity. The colour, which had been returning to his skin, had drained a bit. Zoicite panted, and tried to keep steady, but fell back onto the bench beside Kunzite, who caught him and let him rest on his lap again.
"Rest a little longer, sweet one," Kunzite whispered, as he stroked his mate's hair, "always pushing yourself so hard... and when you don't need to..."
"I do need to," Zoicite weakly replied, "I need to, as much as I need air... I have to do it... to bring light and counter the darkness I helped spread..."
Kunzite gently stroked Zoicite’s hair, and helped him sit back up.
"I understand, beloved," he whispered.
He opened his trench coat and held Zoicite closer, then took out a duffel bag and pulled out a flannel blanket, in which he wrapped his lover. Zoicite rested his head on Kunzite's chest, closing his eyes and relaxing after a hard day's work.
"Will you be playing here again?" Naru asked.
"I think I will..." Zoicite whispered, half asleep.
"Well," Naru replied, "It's good to meet you two... Nephrite and I need to get home, but we'll stop by again soon!"
Zoicite looked up and smiled, before handing Naru a business card with some contact information on it. Kunzite then lifted his lover up and carried him out the back door to the alley, where a small limousine was waiting for them. He turned and waved to Nephrite and Naru, and the two waved back, before leaving to pay for their meal.
Back at the park, where Usagi and Chibi-Usa were arguing about a comic Usagi was drawing, Nephrite and Naru sat on the bench and watched the hilarious scene. Naru braced Nephrite as he ate some rice cakes that Chibi-Usa had made. Usagi saw this and showed him a bag of some nice-looking cookies. The other senshi and Naru grew pale, and their eyes bugged out.
"I... don't think you would want to try those..." Ami warned, nervously clutching her pencil.
"Yeah," Rae added, "Usagi is a horrible cook!"
"WAAAAAAHHH RAE THINKS I CAN'T DO ANYTHING RIGHT I CAN'T EVEN COOK!" Usagi bawled.
Nephrite chuckled, then bravely took the bag from Usagi. With some difficulty, he picked out a cookie, then closed his eyes. He brought it to his mouth, and took a bite.
It tasted horrible... absolutely horrible... yet he had to finish it. So he did, and he ate another, and another, until he finished the bag.
"Did... you like them?" Usagi pleaded, her eyes big as those of 'Bambi'.
Nephrite made a face, and swallowed hard to keep them down.
Usagi's face took on a look of shock, bewilderment, and disappointment.
"Then... why did you eat them all?" she whined.
"Yeah, why'd you eat all those cookies if they're that bad?" Makoto asked.
Nephrite, at a loss for words, looked sheepishly at all his friends, and his love. He didn't know either...
He took Usagi's hand and wiped the tears, which were streaming down her face.
"Keep trying," he told her.
The odango-haired princess gave Nephrite a funny look, then sighed at her inability to make edible cookies. Suddenly, Mamoru walked out from behind a nearby tree, cheering Usagi up a bit. Chibi-Usa ran up and hugged him, and as he picked her up, she planted a kiss on his cheek.
"How's it goin', Little Lady?" he asked.
"Oh, I got in a fight with Mommy because she can't draw a good comic or write in Kanji like I can!"
Usagi turned purple with rage. "YOU LITTLE RODENT!" she screamed.
"Usagi!" someone shouted from a distance.
Everyone turned around to see a young boy with tousled hair and a long, mullet-ish ponytail. He was wearing jeans and a t-shirt, and a backwards cap.
"SEIYA?" Usagi and the other senshi exclaimed.
"Seiya?" Nephrite wondered out loud, "Who is he?"
Seiya ran up to where Usagi and the others sat, and gave the princess a pat on the shoulder. She looked up and smiled, then blushed as he hugged her tight.
"Seiya? How were you able to get back here with all the work you had to do?"
"Oh, I have my ways," he chuckled, "Besides, Yaten and Taiki thought I could use a break and spend some time with my favourite sis!"
He looked up at Chibi, who was in Mamoru's arms.
"Is she your daughter?" he asked Usagi. The princess nodded proudly. "Well, she is the spitting image of you!" the Starlight senshi complimented.
"Yeah, but she's waaay smarter," Minako added, making Usagi's eye twitch.
"... and she can bake better cookies!" Rei laughed.
"... but Dumpling-Head's the bravest woman I know," Seiya countered, hugging the now-weeping Usagi and wiping her tears with a hankie.
"You're her... brother?" Nephrite asked, confused at the exchange.
At that, everybody laughed, while Nephrite sat there with a confused look on his face. Soon he joined in. Laughter was one of the best gifts in the world, and he wouldn't feel sorry for himself for a simple gaff.
Of course, things were about to get a little weirder... suddenly, they heard someone playing a tango, and the last person they expected popped up from behind Usagi and Seiya, and sang in Italian while playing a concertina.
Nephrite and Naru both gasped, "Zoicite?"
Usagi, Mamoru, and the Guardian Senshi looked over at the smartly dressed boy, before giving chase. He made a run for it, leaving Seiya and Chibi-Usa to wonder what the hell was going on, and Nephrite and Naru to rest their heads in their palms, sighing.
"It's a long story," Nephrite explained.
"That -- I can see..." Seiya noted, chuckling.
* * * * * * * *
Return to Index
The Nephrite and Naru Treasury