An au retelling of Sailor Moon's battle with Queen Beryl.
Disclaimers: The Characters in this short fic are owned by Naoko Takeuchi, and are used in America by license of DiC. All except my self and Aurelia Stanton. I own those two.
"Hello, Serena," Aurelia Stanton smiled at her student in greeting. "How are Rei, Amy, Lita, and Mina?"
Serena batted her big blue eyes nervously. Aurelia, after all, was her tutor. Not to mention being older and wiser.Which was how as Sailor Saturn she'd become the Sailor Scouts' unofficial leader.
"They're fine." Aurelia's mind, however, was far from the lighthearted conversation she shared with her friend. Instead, her thoughts dwelled on the dark-haired, mysterious man whose life she'd saved six months before. She'd come to love him during that time he'd been in hiding from both her people and his own, but knew it was not to be.
For Nephlite's heart belonged to another. Her thoughts soared back to the time she'd discovered that fact.
Nephlite had been in hiding for a bit short of two month at the time. She'd gone to bring him his week's supply of meals as she'd done since rescuing him. Most times he was polite, greeting her with a smile that put a sparkle in his sea-blue eyes.
This night, however, he did not answer the door as he had every time before. From behind that locked door came a
sound she'd never expected to hear. The sound of hoarse, heart-rending sobs.
"Nephlite?" her questing voice probed the darkened apartment. The shadowed form crouched in the corner of the bedroom
turned its head. Aurelia turned on the light.
The illumination the fluorescent bulbs cast revealed a sight which tore at her heart. Nephlite knelt on the bedroom's oak floor, flowing mahogany curls mussed, at his
knees the picture of a young girl. His breath came in choked, gasping, sobbing gulps.
"Oh, Nephlite," she dropped to her knees in front of him, wrapping her arms around him.
His tears dampened her flame-colored tresses as he wept, his chin resting on the top of her head. "G-gods, I f-feel l-like such a-an idiot," the statement was squeezed out between the hiccups that followed the storm of tears, "I c-can't believe I let m-myself g-get so up-upset over a s-stupid g-girl. I'm e-even st-stuttering, f-for Heaven s-sake. B-but I miss h-her."
Aurelia took his chin between her thumb and forefinger, her other hand gently wiping away the last of Nephlite's tears. "Don't beat yourself up so. Molly was the first girl you trusted enough to truly love. And since you've never loved anyone like that, it's natural you'd overreact a little to missin' 'em."
"I need to ask a favor of you, Auri. Is there any way you can make it possible for me to see her, just to let her know I'm still alive? I hated seeing her the way she was when she thought I was dying, that moment you teleported me away. Please."
"And if she's found someone new? Then what? Are you sure you're ready to face the devastation you're sure to feel if she has?"
Those gem-like blue eyes narrowed at the corners in determination. "Even then. I must do this, Aurelia. Please understand."
Her green eyes slid closed. "I do. It's just. . ." she trailed off, grunting in frustration, "I'm trying to protect you, Neph. If anyone finds out you're still alive, you would be in grave danger. I care about you, you big lug, and I don't want you to get hurt."
He hugged Aurelia's slender form to him. "I know you do, and there is no way I can show the full extent of my gratitude for that. But I have to do this. If I don't,
there will be a page of my life left forever unturned. I simply cannot live that way anymore."
"All right. I can't promise to bring her here or you there, but I can take a taped message to her."
Hope turned Nephlite's eyes a deep sapphire. "You'd do that? Let me get. .. ." his voice, deep and rumbling, broke off as his head disappeared beneath the bed. "Where in Heaven's name did I put that tape recorder?"
Aurelia burst into giggles at the sight of this one who'd once been so evil crouched on his knees with his head stuck under the bed like a boy searching for his favorite toy.
"Ah, here it is," he slid out with the palm-sized mini-recorder clutched in his right hand. Suddenly, he noticed his benefactor's laughter. "And just what are you laughing at?"
She regained her composure with difficulty. Until she ncaught sight of Nephlite's delicately flushed cheeks. That set her laughing again.
Which drew at the smile that had been tugging at the corners of the ex-General's mouth, bringing it into full view. It was only a matter of moments and he was laughing
right along with her.
Aurelia came back to herself as she watched Serena walking away, her two blond ponytails tugged aloft by the breeze. She stared at the tape in her hand as if she didn't remember removing it from her pocket.
The fifteen-year-old girl clutched the phone to her ear.
"Hi, Aurelia, what's goin' on?"
"I have something important to tell you. Can you meet me at the temple in half and hour?"
"Sure," Molly's New York accent, inherited from her military father, became more pronounced as her excitement grew, "I'll be there."
Aurelia nervously wrung her hands as she waited for Molly to arrive.
"Hi, Auri!" Molly was shorter than her friend by about three inches, with reddish-brown hair and round brown eyes."What didya hafta tell me that was so important?"
Aurelia pulled the tape from her pocket. "Promise you won't get mad?"
"I promise. Now, what is it?"
Auri stuck the tape in the deck. "Just listen to this. It will tell you what I have to say far better than I could."
Molly took the little deck and hit play. Her eyes teared up as the deep, much-loved voice she hadn't heard in six months flowed from the speakers.
"Hello, Molly, Love. To be honest, I'm not quite sure where to start. Well, I guess it's obvious that the rumors of my demise were greatly exaggerated." He paused a moment to
chuckle at his own witticism. "I know you have probably gotten over me by now and gone on with your life with someone new. I will deal with that if you have. But I had
to let you know I've been thinking about you all this time, and I've missed you very much. I love you, Molly, and always will."
"Where is he?" Molly grabbed the other woman's shoulders, shaking her fiercely. "You gotta take me to him now!"
"If you'll give a while, I will show you something you might want to see. I have to make a few calls first, though. Can you meet me back here in an hour?"
Molly nodded in aquiesance. "All right."
A little over an hour later, Aurelia led a blindfolded Molly to an outspreading oak tree in the temple courtyard.
"Okay, Moll, I'm taking off the blindfold."
Molly gasped. There were hearts carved on nearly every reachable inch of that tree. In those hearts were carved names in an easily recognizable, beautifully flowing
script. "How did you find our tree?"
Molly looked up to find a pair of sparkling blue eyes peering back at her. "I wondered how long it would be before you looked up and noticed me."
There, sprawled comfortably among the branches, was Nephlite. He leaped down and embraced Molly.
It was she that broke the embrace, eyes full of tears. "I have something to tell you, Nephlite," Molly's voice was shaky as she spoke, "but I don't know how. Nephlite, I've been seeing someone else."
Nephlite flinched as if he'd been struck. Despite his brave words, the loss left him feeling as if his heart had been wrenched free of his chest. He let forth a howling moan as he fell to his knees.
Molly took him in her arms. "I'm so sorry. I thought you were dead! I'm only fifteen. I can't just give myself away to a memory. I had to go on with my life."
He tore himself away from her and flung himself into Aurelia's waiting arms.
Molly stared in utter shock. "I didn't expect him to react like this."
Aurelia shot the girl a cold stare over the head of the weeping man in her arms. "Didn't expect him to react?" she spat, her voice as icy as the glare she'd pinned the girl with. "What the Hell else did you expect? You were his life, for Christ's sake. Did you know, or even care, when you dragged him all the way here, begged me to put his life in danger just so you could break his heart in little pieces? The only thing that kept him alive during those first couple of days when it could have gone either way was the hope that he might get back to you again. Well, you've managed to dash that to pieces. Now he has to find another reason to live."
"Aurelia, please don't do this," Nephlite's voice floated up from between her breasts.
"I'm sorry, but these things must be said, and since you won't do it, it's left up to me to do so," Aurelia's green eyes flashed angrily when she looked at Molly again. "Nephlite loved you, likely still does. You dumping him destroyed his whole world. Rebuilding won't b easy."
Molly, unable to bear anymore, fled.
A knock sounded on Aurelia's door the next morning. "Auri, it's Ami. Are you up?"
Aurelia yawned and drew her housecoat over her nightgown before answering the door. "I am now. What was important enough for you to wake me at 8:30 on a Saturday morning?"
Ami ran her fingers through her dark pixie-cut. "Serena called me last night. She said Molly had called her and was very upset. She asked me to talk to you. What happened?"
"Ami, Nephlite is alive."
Ami's mouth dropped.
"He's been in hiding all this time. You see, I have the ability to teleport objects, and I used that ability to save him. I didn't know the whole story of who he was at the time, of course. The point is, I brought Molly to him at her request. When Molly told him about her new boyfriend, he just broke down. I said some things to Molly in anger that upset her."
"What was it you said to her?"
"The truth, that Molly and the hope of getting her back was the foundation upon which Nephlite had built his world, and that she'd wounded his heart so badly that it would be a long time before he recovered, if he ever fully does."
Ami nodded sympathetically. "That must have been a bitter pill for her to swallow."
"The truth usually is."
Aurelia sighed and plopped down on her bed, chin in her hands. "I love him, Ami. Where do I go from here?"
"Tell him," the slightly accented voice came from a small black cat that stood in the doorway.
Luna chuckled warmly. "What is it about that man that makes women want him so?"
Aurelia giggled. "He's drop-dead gorgeous, for one thing."
Ami smacked her playfully on the arm. "Auri!"
She sat up, a serious expression entering her green eyes. "There's just something about Nephlite. Despite being raised in a completely evil society, he's so very gentle.He has a wonderfully ironic sense of humor. Also, he's incredibly loyal, once you get through all his barriers. What woman wouldn't want a man like that?"
"Hello," Serena's voice echoed in the foyer, "are you decent?"
"I'm in the bedroom. Come on in."
"All right, where is he? He upset Molly. I have a piece of my mind I want to give him."
"Better not be too big a piece." Auri shot back, "You need to keep as much of it as you can."
Aurelia stood up. "Don't be too hard on him, Serena. Molly dumped him. It was me that got Molly all distraught."
"Girls, girls," that rich, husky voice was all too familiar to those present, "cease this useless bickering. There is more at stake here than that whimpering brat's feelings."
Serena and Rei assumed defensive stances, forgetting for a moment that they were in their normal human forms. Which, of course, meant that Serena inadvertently tripped over one of her long ponytails and fell on her butt.
A deep chuckle sounded, followed by a rushing wind in which a flurry of cherry-blossom petals floated. A female form appeared among the petals. Her hair was long, caught up in a ponytail, and looked as if it had been spun from honey. Instead of the temperamental flame they were accustomed to seeing, her slanted, cat-green eyes contained glinting
sparks of amusement. "I guess some things never change."
"Zoycite," Rei growled, "what are you doing here?"
"I live here."
"Rei, ratchet down," Aurelia told her, "it's okay. Zoycite's here at my request. Let me explain."
Aurelia told the other Scouts how she'd found Zoycite and Malachite shortly after becoming Sailor Saturn, huddled behind a dumpster near the mall, the rain dripping from their bedraggled hair. Using her telepathic abilities, she'd learned of how Beryl, the Negaverse's Queen, had tried to tear apart the relationship her two Generals shared. For Malachite, already sick of Beryl's manipulative ways, that was the last straw. He and Zoycite packed their meager belongings and left, they hoped for good.
"So you see, they're on our side now."
Zoycite set a hand on Rei's shoulder. "Believe me, I have no intention of doing anything that might benefit that bitch. I love Malachite. Beryl wanted to break us up because she was afraid we'd be more loyal to each other than to her. She's probably right. But so what? She has to be made to realize that sometimes love for another person can make someone more loyal to his or her home. But not if you try to shape that love to your own ends. Beryl tried that, and now she's out two of her finest warriors. Three, if you count that scum Nephlite." She floated gently to the floor.
A well-built man with wise silver-gray eyes and a silky silver-blond mane that flowed over his shoulders to rest against the small of his back exited the bathroom just then, wearing nothing but the towel around his waist.
Zoycite strode over and hugged him, nuzzling his neck gently. "Mal, Darling," her voice held a teasing lilt, "as much as I love looking at your wonderful body, I think it would be a good idea if you put some clothes on. After all, it would be a shame if I were forced to slaughter these young ones because they saw a bit more of you than is proper and began lusting after you as a result."
Malachite, to the shock of all present, blushed clean to the roots of his hair. Even the skin of his neck was tinged pink by it.
"I came to get Aurelia," Zoycite stated, "You must come with me, quickly."
Aurelia sensed the anxiousness in the ex-General's tone. "It's Nephlite, isn't it?"
"I don't have time to answer any questions now. Just come on."
Aurelia accompanied Zoycite to the three-bedroom flat where she'd hidden Nephlite. When she opened the door, she stood stock-still in shock. The place was a shambles, papers and clothes flung on the floor. A picture, in its frame, smashed against a wall, leaving shards of glass in the wake of its passage.
Nephlite stood in the center of that hurricane of flying objects, eyes glowing, and his hair whipping about his face in a wind that was magical in origin.
Zoycite teleported to the heart of that storm, grabbing her rival by the shoulders and shaking him hard. "You listen to me," she hissed, "listen well." The storm
died, Zoycite having startled him so that his concentration snapped. "I've hated you for many years, and we both know I have good reason. But Aurelia has never been anything but kind to Malachite and I, so much so that we owe her a debt we can never repay. Therefore, though I don't like you and probably never will, I do this. For I would do anything to keep her from hurting. Even saving someone as worthless as you from himself."
Zoycite delivered a stinging slap to his right cheek, one that raised a brilliant emerald mark and snapped him out of his shock.
"Why?" was the only question that came to mind to ask. "Why did she make me love her then hurt me like that?"
"Who knows?" Aurelia answered as she reached his side. "Young ones often do odd, inexplicable things. What I do know is that Molly loved you. But I also know that she
wasn't right for you, no matter what Rei has to say about past lives or destiny. I see destiny as something you make for yourself, not something you fall into simply because
you may have been with someone in another life. Take fate by the horns, Neph. Make your own destiny."
Aurelia inclined her head in the direction of Zoycite and Malachite, who were sitting on her couch, Zoey's head in Mal's lap. "I know you want what they have, a bond strong
enough to weather any storm. You have to work to get it. Are you ready?"
"Of course I'm. . ." he trailed off, and in moments the other cheek was as green as the one that had been slapped. He grinned sheepishly. "I've started lying to you now. No,
I'm not ready to work that hard. But I am ready to learn. Before that, though, I have to learn to live among these people, to move among them as if I'd been born into their
"You're staying then?" Malachite asked, his voice as deep as Nephlite's but finer, smoother.
"Where else am I to go? Not back to the Negaverse, surely. Beryl would see me dead before I could blink. Here, at least, I am accepted. I have a life and an identity, false
though they are. What about you and Zoey?"
Malachite smiled, revealing two rows of perfectly white, even teeth. "Yes, we're staying, and I have a feeling Jadeite will be joining us once Beryl wakes him, which you
can be sure she will, as he is all she has left of her command staff. He was beginning to get just as sick of Beryl's shit as the rest of us. Oh, and I have a favor to
ask of you, Neph, my friend. Could you set up identities for Zoey and I here?"
"I'll do it because you ask me to. I think I ought to do the same for Jade, as well, while I'm at it."
And so Zoycite became known to the world as Zoey Waters, and Malachite as Malcolm Andrews.
Two weeks passed. It was on that summer Saturday that Aurelia got a call from Diane, her American friend. "Hi, Di," Aurelia greeted her friend cheerfully.
"Hey, Auri. Remember when you asked me a few weeks ago to find someone for you. I think I found him."
"Where?" the excitement was evident in Aurelia's voice.
"In the county jail. Couple of guys beat him up in a bar, and he's the one who gets arrested. Don't you just love the American judicial system?"
Aurelia chuckled. "Why do you think I moved to Japan? Oh, give him the phone. There are a few people here who'd like to speak to him."
"Hello?" the voice on the phone was a firm yet musical tenor.
Malachite took the phone Aurelia handed him. "Hello, Jadeite."
"Lord Malachite? Where in the Hell are you?"
It didn't take Aurelia but a minute to see what Zoycite saw in him as a genuine smile slowly spread across his face.
"About 5,000 miles worth of ocean away from you." Mal could hear a slight rustling on the other end of the phone, then Jadeite speaking to someone on his end of the phone.
"Sorry," the younger man said, "the woman I've been staying with here has an eighteen-month-old daughter that seems to have become a bit attached to me."
Malachite put Zoycite on, simply because he was laughing hard enough to render him speechless.
"Dammit, Diane, would you please remove this little youma from my leg?" Jadeite sounded to Zoycite's trained ears as if he was very embarrassed. Her raucous, banshee-wail of a laugh sounded in his ear. "Well, I can see some things haven't changed. Hello, Lady Zoycite."
"Hello, Jade. Beryl sent you to bring the three of us back, right?"
"Yes, I am sorry to say. Gods, I hate that woman."
Another rustle, and a child's voice came over the phone. "Hi, my name is Lucia. Are you Jadeite's friends? I like Jadeite. He makes Mommy laugh."
Zoey laughed again as she heard her compatriot yelling desperately for Lucia to give him back the telephone.
"By the Negaverse! That child is more annoying than that damndable Sailor Moon. Oh, do be quiet, Zoycite. It's just like you to find someone else's misfortune funny. You just wait until you and Malachite have to raise a family."
That silenced her immediately.
"Now, if we can get serious. I wanted to warn you. Beryl is pissed with a capital P. If I don't bring you back, she'll come herself with enough youma to obliterate the entire Eastern Hemisphere. We are in trouble."
"Shit!" Zoycite swore. She'd accidentally turned on the speakerphone when she took the receiver, which meant all heard what he'd told her. They blanched.
Diane took the phone back.
"Now," she said, "you do realize that all of you will have to put aside your differences if you wish to survive."
Zoycite sputtered angrily, then calmed as she realized the girl was trying to help.
"I'm going to fly Jade here to Japan tomorrow," Di continued, "I'm coming with him, so I'll need a place to stay."
"Here, talk to Aurelia about that."
"Di, you don't have to come. In fact, I'd prefer you didn't. This fight is a dangerous business."
"Listen to me, Auri. When have I not been able to handle myself in a fight? Besides, I care about Jade. Any fight of his is one of mine."
That was one line of reasoning none of them could argue with.
The next day, Aurelia's two visitors arrived. She raced over and hugged the older woman tightly. She then gave Jadeite a once-over that brought a crimson blush to his face.
All the Scouts were gathered in their Sailor fukus, ready to fight for the displaced Generals, old enemies that had somehow become friends.
Suddenly, a symbol flashed on Di's forehead and disappeared.
"Serena," Luna spoke in a hushed whisper, "that's the symbol for Lady Titan, Princess Saturn's maid-servant and bodyguard."
"Me? Sailor Titan?" Diane breathed. "It can't be."
"It is," Luna told her. "Just as the Sailor scouts were the royal guard for Princess Serena, and Queen Serenity before her, so the satellite Senshi were to the Scouts. It is your destiny, Diane."
"I can't be Sailor Titan. For one, I'm too old. Besides, I have a young child. Since Mike died, I'm all she has. How can I care for her and still perform my duties as a Sailor
"Age is no issue," Artemis, Mina's white feline advisor, told her gently, "After all, Lady Titan herself was nearly thirty when she became Princess Saturn's protector."
"But what of Lucia? If something happens to me, she will have no one."
"She will have us," it was Zoycite that spoke. "Malachite and I will raise her if necessary. Hell, Jadeite and Nephlite would help, too, I'd bet." She took Diane's hands
in hers. "Please, Di, we need you."
Diane nodded resignedly. She took the transformation pen from Luna, speaking the words "Titan power!". Her street clothes vanished, a Sailor fuku that was white on top, with
a rust-trimmed burgundy skirt in their place. White trimmed burgundy boots that matched the fuku encased her feet, burgundy-trimmed white gloves on her hands. On her brow was a tiara of beaten gold that had a burgundy cabochon in its center. In her ears were little opal teardrops, the matching pendant on a rope chain around her neck. "So," her voice was warm with suppressed laughter," how do I look?"
Jadeite sucked in a quick breath "Beautiful. And dangerous."
"I'll be back in a few minutes. I want to try out these new powers."
Cries of "Titan Hurricane Strike" could be heard from the backyard, followed by the sounds of rending metal.
Ten minutes later, she came back in, a bit sweaty, but smiling. "Wow!"
"You're as bad as Jupiter," Luna sighed.
The sky outside Aurelia's window darkened.
"She's here," Malachite's voice was toneless.
Diane let loose a mirthless chuckle, "Her Youma and one of her higher ranking Commanders, more likely."
"Let's go." As soon as they stepped outside, they were completely surrounded by Beryl's foot soldiers.
"Titan Hurricane Strike." Diane's attack took out half a dozen of the Dark Queen's youma. Jadeite's and Malachite's energy-fire attacks eliminated several dozen more.
Nephlite was in his element, he and Zoycite fighting side-by-side without so much as a nasty word spoken between them. His star-fire joined with one of Zoey's ice-daggers
to nearly decapitate one particularly vicious attacker.Unfortunately, they were but eleven defending against hundreds. It was not long before they began to tire.
WHERE THE HELL IS DARIEN WHEN WE NEED HIM? Serena thought fiercely.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Neph take a blow to the shoulder that had been impaled six months before.
"Nephlite!" Aurelia screamed, "Prepare to die, Bitch. Saturn Magma Destruction!" From Auri's hands were launched steaming masses that were a combination of molten lava and volcanic rock. The youma screamed in agony and shock as the attack engulfed it.
Nephlite grunted when he rose to his feet, wincing at the sharp pain the movement sent through the injured shoulder.
A rose struck the ground mere inches from the feet of one of several youma surrounding Serena.
"About time you got here, Cape Boy," Zoycite's crotchety voice rose above the bedlam.
Darien Shields, Aka Tuxedo Mask, gave her an aggrieved look. "I was at Andy's okay? In the middle of lunch. I had to convince his mother to let me leave."
Another cry sounded on Serena's right. Jadeite was hemmed in by youma on all sides.
A hurricane-force blast of wind knocked the youma away. The last one standing instantly found Diane's hands wrapped around her neck. "Listen here, Bitch, I love that man you're trying to hurt. If so much as one strand of his hair has been mussed, I will personally rip your head off with my bare hands."
The frightened creature teleported away, signaling the others to do the same.
Jadeite lay in the center of the circle of footprints the youma had left. He appeared bloodied and battered, but mostof the blood belonged to the youma that had died all around him.
"I'm going to kick Beryl's ass," Diane knelt next to him, blue eyes full of dark rage.
"Let's get him inside," Malachite took his legs, motioning for the others to help.
A low groan awakened Diane, who had fallen asleep in the chair next to Jadeite's bed, several hours later.
"That lying, back-stabbing, faithless bitch!" Jade's words rang with loathing, "Gods, how could I have been so fucking stupid?"
Diane didn't ask him what had caused this anger, just waited for him to continue.
"I gave her my life, dammit! She promised she'd never let Beryl force her to hurt me, no matter what. And there she was, leading the charge against me."
She instantly understood. The youma she'd nearly throttled had been his girlfriend.
"I left Beryl's service out of desperation. I'm not the loner everyone seems to think I am. I need female companionship as much as any other man. Nephlite had Molly,
as much as his relationship was frowned on. Malachite and Zoycite had each other. I had no one but a lowly youma to see me through. She's betrayed me, and now there's no one
at all." His jaw worked convulsively as he tried to fight back the hot tears that threatened. "You said you loved me back there. How could I ever be worthy of that?"
Diane smiled gently and laid her hand on his cheek. "Jadeite, I've cared very deeply for you since the day you stepped out of that cell with that disgruntled look on that
otherwise innocent-looking face. It's like we were somehow meant to be."
"What you did, you did to survive, and doesn't matter now. You want to change, and that's what matters."
He collapsed into her arms, the tears overcoming the resistance at last. Harsh, wracking sobs of a life gone terribly wrong through no fault at all of the owner of said
They were also tears of relief. Relief that no matter what wrong turns the path of his life had taken, he was loved.
Diane placed a gentle kiss on his lips. It was meant to comfort, but that light brush ignited a flame in her soul. It seemed Jadeite had felt it, too, from the way his breath
quickened at her touch.
"You are so beautiful," she whispered, running her fingers through his silky hair, the light turning random strands gold.
How long had it been since someone called him beautiful? Ten years? Twenty? He wasn't sure, but he knew it had been too long. "Make love to me, Aino."
My love! The startlement of a full-human woman speaking those words to him shook Jadeite to his very core. So much so that he wept for the wonder of it.
"Are you all right, Love?" she asked.
"H-hai," he answered. Diane pulled him down to kiss him once again. "Di, I . . ."
"Sh, Aino. No worries. Tomorrow will take care of itself. For now, let my love sweep all the darkness from you." She could hear his amazed gasp inside her mind when she touched him intimately for the first time.
Di, My chibi-Aino.
Her lips moved to replace her hands, sending another shudder coursing through the lean frame. Jadeite threw his head back, muscles taut, as she impaled herself fully on
I love you! The thought rang in both their minds, neither sure who'd sent it. He cried out as his climax overtook him, flowing like liquid fire through his veins.
At that very moment, Nephlite was awakened by a knock at his door.
"It's me, Aurelia. Can I come in for a minute?"
He nodded sleepily, rubbing his eyes in a boyish way that was so incongruous with that manly face.
"I needed to talk to you. God, how do I say this? There's so many things I wanted to tell you, but the words just get all jumbled up inside."
Suddenly, their eyes met, and he could read everything she felt. He lowered his mouth to hers, lips meeting in a soul-searing kiss.
Serena and Darien took everyone to breakfast the next morning.
"I think some changes have happened," Mina whispered to Serena.
"Why do you say that?"
"I can see the ties that bind people, remember? Malachite and Zoycite always had shades of purple and yellow in their bond. Longing and love. Yesterday, Jadeite and Diane shared a bond that was mostly blue and white for friendship and loyalty. Today, there's a pale pink and creamy yellow, tentative love and passion. It is same with Nephlite and
Aurelia. They're in love, I'm sure of it."
"Will it affect their performance in the battle to come?" Lita asked her.
"I think it will make them stronger," Ami commented, "After all, they now have something to fight for."
Mina looked up to see the three couples in question had left their seats.
Diane and Jadeite stood in front of the jukebox, the other couples looking on expectantly. A sudden smile lit her face as she whispered something in his ear and he nodded. Music filled the restaurant, and the three men bent and took the hands of their respective ladies.
Auri rested her head on Nephlite's shoulder. His breath brushed a curl back from her ear as he sang along in a surprisingly sweet voice.
When she looked up, she could see the moist sheen in the sapphire depths of those beautiful eyes.
"I do love you, My Prince, more than you will ever know. I know I may lose you in the upcoming battle, but I don't care. My love will always hold you in my heart."
Malachite stood on Aurelia's balcony peering up at the stars. The door slid open and Zoycite's arms went around him.
"You look pensive tonight, Love." she whispered.
His eyes, silvered by the moonlight, took on a wistful expression. "I was watching them all today, Nephlite and Auri, Jadeite and Diane. They remind of when our love was new." He turned to the woman he loved more than life itself. "How far have we really come, Zoey? I want more for us. I want to see us permanently settled, perhaps even married with a
family of our own. What do you want for us?"
For the first time in his memory, Zoycite completely let down her guard. "I want us to be together forever, but a family. . ." and tears came to her leaf-green eyes as she lowered her head. Though it had been five years, the pain of losing Calcite and Azurite, their twins, shortly after birth was still entirely too fresh for her. "I don't know if I can bear losing another child."
"You won't, Love," Malachite embraced her fiercely, "I promise." Their lips met in a kiss as fierce as the embrace that preceded it.
The door opened behind them. "Go away, you idiotic Youma-spawn," Zoycite muttered irritably.
"I came out here to tell Mal some good news," Neph's face positively glowed, "I've asked Auri to marry me, and she's said yes."
Malachite clapped him on the back. "Congratulations!"
Zoycite growled, "I can't believe this! Is our darling Sailor Saturn out of her mind?"
Mal gently set a hand on her shoulder, "Calm down, Zoey. I know you don't like Nephlite, but you should be happy. The 'youma-spawn', as you call him, did something right for a change."
"I sense a private moment coming here," Neph's blue eyes teased, "I think I'll be going."
"He knows me too well," Malachite chuckled.
Meanwhile, Diane lay in her bed, enfolded in Jadeite's arms. "You awake, Jae?"
"Mmm," he mumbled, "What is it, Di?"
"I heard Nephlite and Aurelia got engaged. It got me thinking."
Jadeite rolled over and propped himself up on one elbow. "About what?"
"'Bout, you know, us. Now, before you say anything, hear me out. I know this is kinda sudden and it's too soon and all that, but I love you. Lucia adores you, God only knows why. I want us to have something good. You know, like Nephlite and Auri. Or Malachite and Zoycite. Nephlite and Aurelia are gonna get married, and I have a feeling Mal and Zoey won't be far behind them. I just want us to be a family."
Those turquoise eyes peered into the deep blue ones of his beloved. But he couldn't meet that intense gaze for long.
"I want that, too, Diane. But I'm a little scared. I don't want to make that kind of commitment in a situation like this. I mean, what if I do make that promise and something
bad happens? You and Lucia would be devastated. I don't want to hurt you like that."
Diane took his face in her hands. "I don't care what happens later. I have you, now. The future can't hurt me. The only thing that can hurt me now is if you tell me you
don't love me."
"Gods, Di," Jade threw his hands up in frustration after sitting up, "You know I'd never do that. You also know how very much I love you and Luce. It's just, you know, not a
good time for this discussion. We're going to end up in a war with Beryl pretty soon. I want to be sure we're both going to come back from it intact before I make promises I
may not be able to keep."
Diane ducked her head. "I understand. But I know we'll make it. We have to. God wouldn't separate us now when we've just found each other. He doesn't work that way."
"I wish I had your faith."
She bent down and placed a gentle kiss on his cheek. "All there is to faith, my sweet Jade, is knowing that love will find a way."
Morning came all too quickly. Zoycite wiped her eyes clean of sand and got out of bed, tenderly caressing her lover's cheek.
"Good morning, Lady Zoycite," Aurelia greeted her.
"What's so great about it? I'm thousands of miles from the only home I've ever known, one I am no longer welcome in, I'm going into a near hopeless war with my former Queen, and my best friend is getting married to my worst enemy. All in all, I'd say it adds up to the worst day of my life."
"Dammit, Zoey," Auri grunted in frustration, "this has got to stop! How are we supposed to beat Beryl if we can't even stop fighting amongst ourselves? In order to succeed, we all have to work together! That includes you and Nephlite. Please, for me? At least try to get along with him."
The golden-haired woman heaved a heavy sigh, "I'll try. But I'm not going to promise to be friends with him."
The others soon followed Zoey out of bed.
"So," Serena asked, "what's the plan?"
Aurelia had just opened her mouth to answer when a knock sounded at her door.
"Hello? Are you there, Auri? It's Molly. I need to talk to Nephlite."
"Please, Moll," Aurelia opened the door a crack, "this is not a good time."
The sky darkened just as it had before Beryl's first attack.
"Shit," Auri swore, "Get inside! Now! Molly, you are not to tell anyone about what you're about to see. Got it?"
The girl nodded, too shocked to speak.
"Moon Crystal Power!"
Her friends transformed all around her. "Serena, you're-" Molly didn't finish her sentence, only stared in open-mouthed shock.
"Yep. Gotta go, Moll. Explain later."
Nephlite graced her with a blank stare as he passed.Aurelia's love for him had eased the pain of Molly dumping him, but it hadn't erased the resulting anger.
"She's not worth it," Zoycite counseled, "Save your anger for Beryl. You'll need it."
"I have to go kick Beryl's ass right now," his voice was gruffer than it had ever been, even at his angriest, "I'll deal with you when I return." He turned back for a moment. "On second thought, here." He tossed her a quarter.
"What's this for?"
"In the words of a famous American Country-Western singer, 'Here's a quarter, call someone who cares'."
Diane fought hard, Nephlite on one side of her, Zoycite on the other. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the death's-head smiles they exchanged.
A cry sounded several hundred feet behind her, where Malachite, Jadeite, and Darien had been fighting side-by-side.
"Malachite!" Zoycite was at her lover's side in a heartbeat.
"Tuxedo Mask," Diane called, "get him back in the house. Maybe Saturn can help him."
Aurelia paled as she reached Malachite's side. He'd taken the youma's energy-blast in the chest, his uniform singed where it had struck. Malachite's eyes showed fear for the
first time that any of them could remember.
"I'm here, Love," Zoey whispered.
"That little bitch packs quite a punch," he said shakily.
"I'll take care of him, Zo'," Auri told her gently, "go on now, they need you out there."
"Now," Diane addressed her friends during a brief lull in the melee, "I know we've lost our strongest fighter temporarily. But if we all work together, I know we can win
A resounding battle cry rang out all around.
"Now, let's go kick Beryl's ass back to the Negaverse where she belongs."
"I have a better idea," Zoey countered, "let's finish the bitch, once and for all."
Serena drew herself to her full height, her motions for once graceful and confident. "Beryl," she yelled, "face us!"
The Queen turned, red hair aglow in the dancing flames of the battle. "You? You and your simpering Scout friends aren't even worth my time." A glowing green ball of lightning formed between her hands.
"Cosmic Moon Power!" The golden beam from Serena's moon-wand met Beryl's attack.
"Come on," Diane cried, "let's help her!"
Nine pairs if hands joined Serena's on the scepter.
"I have to go," Aurelia said quietly, "the others need me."
"I'll be all right," Malachite answered with a slight smile, "Go help your friends."
"Nephlite, Zoycite, Jadeite," Beryl snarled, "what are you doing?"
"What we should have done long ago," Zoycite snapped, "ridding the universe of a menace it doesn't need."
"Shit," Lita swore, "we need more power."
Another set of hands embraced the scepter. Serena turned with a start to see Malachite between her and Zoycite, eyes glowing with a golden light. "It looked like you could use
some help here." Malachite joining them was all that was needed to turn the tide.
"No!" Beryl screamed as the power tore into her. "It's not possible!" Her body disintegrated in a brilliant flash of light.
A groan echoed in the sudden silence. Malachite's knees folded beneath him as he sank to the ground.
"Malachite, no!" Zoycite knelt next to him, green eyes awash, and her hair falling from the broken thong in golden waves around her face.
"I am sorry, Little Rat," he reached up to caress her face. His hand dropped, an ominous rattle sounding in his throat as he breathed his last.
"He can't be gone," Zoey whispered, "his body's still here."
"I am sorry, Zoycite," Ami put a hand on her shoulder, "Beryl is dead, her power broken. That's why his does not fade. There is no one to subsume his body for its energy."
"No!" the mournful cry split the air. Suddenly, a brilliant light sprang up around Zoycite and her fallen lover.
"What's happening?" Serena asked.
"I don't know," Ami answered, "I've never seen anything like this before."
"She's trying to heal him," Nephlite whispered. Then, he rose, striding over to where the lovers were. He set his hands on her shoulders, adding his strength to
hers. Soon, all of them were gathered around, hand joined in hand in a circle of love and support.
As the light faded, Malachite's silver eyes slowly opened. Zoycite hugged him tightly to her. "I love you."
"So," Malachite said, "do you think we can plan that wedding now?"
Zoycite shook her fist at him, than burst out laughing. "Yes! Yes, you fool, yes."
A few hours later, Jadeite joined Diane on the balcony.
"Di, can I talk to you?"
"I'm sorry about the other day. I was just tense. Still, that's no excuse for me to talk to you that way."
"It's all right."
"No, it's not. I guess what I'm trying to say is; Diane, I want you to be my wife. I want a home and a family, things I never got a chance to have where I was. Diane, will you
Diane flung her arms around him.
"I take it that's a yes?" Jade's eyes took on a merry twinkle.
"You bet your sweet Negaversian ass it is."
She ran back in. "Auri, Zoey!"
"Guess what? I'm getting married!"
Two weeks went by in a whirlwind of planning.
"Gods, I'm nervous, Di." Zoycite stood before the big mirror in the temple's dressing room, fussing with her hair. She'd had it styled about fifty different ways in the
previous fifteen minutes.
"You'll do fine, Zo'. Here's your veil," Diane stretched to position it on the taller woman's head, "You're beautiful, Zoey. You're gonna take Mal's breath away."
"Look at you, Di. Jae's tongue is gonna fall out of his head when he sees you."
"Face it, girls," Auri said, "We are the three most beautiful brides on the face of this earth."
"It's time, girls," Rei said, "Your men await."
"We are gathered here today to celebrate new beginnings," the preacher was an older man, balding and possessing a teddy-bearish aspect, "for even as marriage is the ending
of the life of singleness, is also the beginning of a new life together. Brides, please step forward."
"I, Malcolm Edward Andrews, do take thee, Zoey Ellen Waters, . . ."
Diane peered over at Zoycite. She was beautiful, her face aglow.
Then, it was her turn. Jadeite's eyes misted over as he said with quiet joy, "I, Jerrold Alan Matthews, do take thee, Diane Lynn Kelley, to be my lawfully wedded wife. To have and to hold, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, to love, honor and cherish you, 'til death does us part."
Suddenly, the time had come for Nephlite to give his vows to his bride. He could feel the butterflies fluttering around in his stomach. It seemed Zoycite had sensed it,
too, for she reached over and gave his hand a reassuring squeeze. He spoke his vows in a clear, strong voice, one filled with an almost celestial happiness.
"Diane," Kathryn Preston, her mother, approached her in the reception line, "where's Lucia?"
"Serena's gone withher in the reception hall for a few minutes. Mother, I'd like you to meet Jerrold Matthews, my new
Kathryn looked Jadeite over critically. "So you're the boy my Diane was so crazy over. You treat her good, you hear?"
Jade smiled, "Oh, that I will, Mrs. Preston. I owe your daughter my life and more."
They gathered in the hall for the reception.
"So," Serena tracked Zoycite down at the buffet table, "what's the story with you and Nephlite? I sense a warming trend here."
A mere two months before, she'd never have asked that question. But a lot had changed in that time.
Zoycite smoothed the white lace at the waist of her Gucci wedding gown pensively before raising her eyes to meet Serena's intense gaze. "Nephlite and I went through Hell
and death and back together during that battle with Beryl. He stood by me at every step of it. When two people have been through something like that, it's kind of hard to hold
on to the hate." With that, the golden-haired ex-General turned and strode back to her new husband's side, leaving Serena with a new outlook on this once-hated woman.
"Look," Lita said, "Rei and Darien are headed for the stage."
Rei cradled the mike in a gentle grip. "Now. It's time for the dancing to start. Darien Shields and I are going to do a special song, one just for the brides and grooms."
A sigh went over the guests as many recognized the tune.
"It's your love,
it just does something to me,
sends a shock right through me,
I can't get enough.
And if you wonder
about the spell I'm under.
Oh, it's your love."
Luna, Diane, and Aurelia talked outside the main room. "Are you sure you won't stay?" Luna asked Auri, "We will miss you, you know."
"I have to leave the Scouts, Luna," Aurelia smiled at the cat gently, "Nephlite and I want to start a new life, away from all the fighting and the madness. We want to live peacefully and raise a whole passel of kids."
"I'm not leaving, Luna," Diane assured her, "I'm just going to be less active for awhile. If ever you need me, just call me and I'll be there. You know that."
And so began a new life.
It was March 25, 2001. The day had dawned clear and crisp in the small community outside Tokyo. At around 2:30 that morning, Aurelia Stanton had gone into labor. Zoycite and Diane went into labor about five minutes apart a half-hour later.
Amazingly, all three women ended up in the same labor room.
"Hey, Zoey," Auri greeted her friend.
"What is this?" Zoycite asked. "Women are dropping their whelps like crazy in this fucking town."
"Storm coming in from the west," Diane said, "Low pressure. If there's a woman within a month of their due-date in a thirty mile radius, they're going to have their babies now."
"Which, of course, means a shortage of doctors, a shortage of labor rooms, and probably a shortage of delivery rooms," Aurelia concluded.
An attractive and youthful-looking Japanese woman entered the room. "Hello, I'm Doctor Takeuchi. I'll be delivering your babies. Now, let's see how things are going." Her examination was quick and efficient. "Wow, you ladies are quick! Time to get you to Delivery."
"Hi, hon," Diane called as she passed the waiting area. Nephlite and Malachite received similar greetings from their respective mates.
A few hours later, three sets of boy-girl twins were born. The sight of the three fathers with a babe in each arm and tender looks on their faces was almost enough to give
Serena a fit of the giggles.
"I've already named mine," Zoey said, "Zoe Elaine and Malcolm Ian. How about you?"
"Mine, too," Auri told them, "Nathan Andrew and Angel Marie. How 'bout you, Di?"
"Jared Thomas and Amy Kathryn," Diane sighed as the nurse set her twins in her arms, "You know, girls, I think things are
gonna work out just fine."
The others nodded in agreement as they drifted off with a baby at each breast.
At long last, things were looking up. Life, in a nutshell, was sweet