24 Hours to Life
by Moon Momma

10:00 pm, Tokyo

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Nephrite drove slowly through the streets of the Juuban district, trying to decide where the most likely place would be to encounter the Sailor Senshi. He knew where the junior high school was that some of them had attended, but of course they were all long past the junior high years. He passed a couple of different high schools, but this late at night it was unlikely any of them would be hanging around their schools.

He drove past the OSA*P jewelry store; Naru's window was dark. She was probably still out on her date with that boy. Nephrite allowed himself a moment of peevish jealousy, wondering what the boy had that he didn't, then realized he was being stupid. The boy was alive, which was a big advantage.

The triangle park wasn't far away, the place where he'd been prepared to seduce the location of the silver crystal out of Naru, where she'd defended him against the Sailor Senshi, offering her life in exchange for his, and where he'd defended her against a Dark Kingdom youma, branding himself as a traitor. At the time, he couldn't believe what he was doing, but it was the only thing he could have done. The thought of her being harmed was unbearable, and so he had refused to allow it. After that, feeling strangely at peace with his treason, he had waited for the youma to destroy him - only to see it destroyed by the Senshi. He should have known then that he was on a course of no return. He had attacked his own side and been defended by the enemies of the Dark Kingdom; even if Zoisite hadn't killed him, Beryl never would have let that go. One way or the other, the moment he defended Naru he had signed his own death warrant.

He had no regrets on that score. But he sure would like to have the chance to live again.

He drove on through the neighborhoods and commercial streets of the Juuban district, and came to the park where he had died. He left the car at the curb and went through the gate into the park. The tree they had sat by was easy to find; it wasn't far from the gate, and was larger than any of the other trees around it. The ground showed no sign of the explosions; of course, the resulting craters would have been filled in and the grass regrown over them long ago. Just because there was no sign of the fight didn't mean it hadn't happened.

If only he had listened to what his heart was trying to tell him that night at the triangle park, a few nights before his death, if only he had found the courage to face his feelings for Naru and make a clean break with the Dark Kingdom, he might have been the one walking hand-in-hand with her this evening. Why hadn't he? Was it because he had still believed in Beryl's promises and still desired the knowledge and power that would be his if the Dark Kingdom won? Had he been afraid of the revenge that Beryl would have taken against a disloyal servant?

Or had he mostly been afraid of opening himself to new feelings and exposing himself to loss, rejection, disappointment, and grief? Had he been afraid of turning soft and letting himself become vulnerable?

It didn't matter why. All that mattered was that as he lay dying in Naru's arms, he would have given anything for one more chance to do things right. Now he had that chance, if only he could find the Sailor Senshi.

He could steal some energy from someone, stir up some trouble; that would bring the Sailor Senshi running - if they were still the Senshi. He hadn't thought of that. maybe they had only been given their Senshi identities and powers that one time for the purpose of fighting the Dark Kingdom. But that didn't seem right; where there was one group with evil designs on Earth, there were likely to be others.

But if he stole some energy in an attempt to flush out the Senshi, that would be piling more wrongs on top of the wrongs he had already committed, and he would lose his second chance. There had to be a better way.

He sat down on a park bench and leaned back, staring up at the sky and thinking. The stars barely showed though the haze of light and pollution given off by the city, but they were still there, he could feel them...

Of course. Why hadn't he thought of it before? He closed his eyes and murmured, "The stars know everything," centering himself...

The familiar warmth grew in the center of his forehead, and he knew without looking that his mystical symbol had appeared there. Now, if only the stars would respond as they once had. He wasn't in his observatory, but there had been a time long ago when he had been able to communicate with the stars directly and hadn't had to rely on the magical device of the observatory. He had lost that ability when he joined the Dark Kingdom, but now that he was determined to follow a better, more honorable path, maybe they would again grant him that right.

Fully centered on the warmth of his mystical symbol and seeing the stars more clearly in his mind than he could with his eyes, he said in his mind, I need to know where Sailor Moon is.

At first nothing happened, and he started to wonder if he was still cut off from the stars. Then a vision came into his mind of a young girl with long, blonde, bun-topped ponytails. Sailor Moon; Tsukino Usagi. He recognized her immediately, but then he also remembered -

The Moon Princess. Princess Serenity, of the Moon Kingdom, which the Dark Kingdom had destroyed. Of course. The Princess of the Moon had been reborn as the girl who was Sailor Moon.

He directed his attention away from ancient history, back to the girl's surroundings. She was in a fashionably-furnished high-rise apartment. From the window, he could see the quiet streets of the Juuban district, looking towards the park where he sat at that moment. She was sitting up, also looking out the window. Next to her was a young man, who appeared to be several years older than she was; a dark-haired young man whom he also immediately recognized. Tuxedo Mask - and, he now remembered, Prince Endymion. The Prince of Earth, whom he had been sworn to serve and protect, whom he had betrayed when he joined with Beryl. Who, along with his young golden-haired sweetheart had been killed in the destruction of the Moon Kingdom. The young man turned to Sailor Moon, said something that brought a smile to her lips, and kissed her. Their bare arms went around each other and they fell back onto the bed they were sitting on, and -

Nephrite actually felt himself blush, and he pulled himself away from the vision as soon as he realized what the young couple was doing. He wondered if they were married and, if not, if the girl's parents had any idea where she was and who she was with and what the true nature of their relationship was. For his part, he wished he hadn't seen quite so much. This was going to be awkward enough; he was going to have to face the Prince he had betrayed and the Princess whose death he had caused and the enemies he had tried to destroy along with their world, and ask them for help. And he was going to have to do so with the image of their lovemaking in his head.

He looked at the cheap watch he'd bought from a kiosk near where the other three had teleported, to replace the Patek Phillipe he'd loaned to Jadeite. It was getting late, but he'd better give Tuxedo Mask and Sailor Moon a little time before teleporting over -

No. Entering someone's home without permission was illegal. He doubted that Earth laws specifically covered teleporting into a private residence, but imagined that would be covered under breaking and entering. So he was going to have to do some detective work to find out where the apartment was - he guessed it belonged to the young man - and then get Tuxedo Mask to let him in voluntarily.

Easier said than done, as the humans said. He went back to his car, and drove off towards his mansion to do some hunting on the Internet.

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The Nephrite and Naru Treasury