Bittersweet 03

@}~~}~~~~

For the next two days, life was placid for the Sailor Scouts, 
Mamoru, and Jadeite.  Ami spent a great deal of time with her charge, 
acquainting him with the facets of everyday life in Tokyo.  Working with 
her accustomed ease, she quickly located a small apartment not to far from 
her house.  Before her mother ever truly realized that they'd had a 
houseguest, Jadeite had moved into his new home, leaving Dr. Mizuno to 
wonder vaguely if the whole thing had been real.  For his part, Jadeite 
trailed Ami like a puppy, eager to have her teach him all about his new 
role in life.

Rei, still not happy to accept Jadeite into their midst, sulked some, but 
Minako and Makoto did their collective best to cheer her up with shopping 
and visits to the movies.  Usagi and Mamoru, caught up once again in their 
own personal world, didn't notice any of this.  

The third day brought changes...

~*~

Enjoying a tranquil moment on the lake, Usagi and Mamoru never saw Chibi 
Usa coming.  This, of course, was not terribly surprising, since the 
small, pink-flamingo haired girl dropped out of the sky onto their heads. 

Usagi stared at the small girl in disbelief as she demanded to be given 
the Imperium Silver Crystal before running off into the park.  "That was 
way weird," she muttered to Mamoru, who could only agree.

~*~

"HHWAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!" The piercing shriek echoed throughout the house 
as Usagi stormed downstairs to confront her little brother.  "What did you 
do to my room?!"

Shingo looked at his ditzy sister innocently.  "What do you mean, what 
have I done to your room--I haven't touched it!"

"Usagi, dear, since we have a guest, you really ought to clean your room," 
her mother reminded her pleasantly.  

Usagi blinked.  "Guest?  What guest?"

Her mother moved aside to reveal a familiar pink head.  "Your cousin Chibi 
Usa has come to visit us, you silly girl--She even brought her photo album 
from last summer's visit."

"Since when did I have a cousin Chibi Usa?" Usagi demanded.

"Jeez, Usagi, are you that empty-headed?" Sammy grumbled.  
"How could you forget your own cousin?"

"Has the world gone crazy, or is it just me?" Usagi sighed.

"It's you, dear," her mother told her, smiling.

~*~

A few hours after an unexpected guest dropped in on Usagi and Mamoru, 
Jadeite was relaxing in another portion of the park.  He'd never had the 
chance to do such a thing when he'd been a servant of Beryl's-the closest 
he'd ever come to simply enjoying the wonders of a normal life on Earth 
had been during the time he'd worked at Rei's temple.  He'd persuaded Ami, 
who'd had other things to do with her afternoon anyway, that he would be 
able to manage on his own for the afternoon.  

Sprawled across a park bench under a shade tree, half-drowsing over a 
volume of Shakespeare, Jadeite came fully awake from his doze.  Blinking 
in confusion, not entirely certain of what had woke him, it took him a 
moment to realize what had caught his attention.  

There was a new quality to the afternoon: a subtle buzz, slightly 
unpleasant in nature, niggled at the edges of his perception of the world. 
Jadeite recognized the sensation; as a creature formerly of the 
Negaverse, he was familiar with the energy signature of an entry from that 
dark realm into the Universe.  

His heart sank dramatically.  Had Kunzite taken exception to his defection 
to the Sailor Scouts, or was he merely interested in trying to establish 
his own Nega-empire?  Jadeite groaned silently, wishing that he would have 
been allowed a little more time to live as a normal human.

~*~

Kunzite frowned mightily at the sense of Negaverse activity emanating from 
Earth.  /Could it be that Jadeite is more devious than I thought?/ he 
wondered.  /Has he played the Sailor Scouts for fools?/  The dark humor of 
the thought pleased the Negageneral for a moment, but his enjoyment faded 
swiftly.  /I would have liked to think that it was possible for one of us 
to break free,/ he thought gloomily, faintly disappointed in Jadeite for 
being just another slave of the Negaverse.

He turned suddenly, aware of another presence behind him.  Jadeite leaned 
against a wall, careless of his new clothes.  "What are you planning, 
Kunzite?" he said peremptorily.  

Kunzite looked at him quizzically.  "I had thought that I should be asking 
you that question," he said mildly.  "What are you planning, Jadeite?"

Jadeite, taken aback, hesitated.  "I'm not planning anything," he 
answered.  

Kunzite's expression indicated his lack of faith in this assertion.  "I 
find that difficult to believe."

Annoyed by the disdain his former comrade was exhibiting, Jadeite allowed 
his temper to slip slightly.  "I'm here to find out why I felt the 
Negaverse while I was napping over *Macbeth*!" For emphasis, he brandished 
the book of Shakespeare that he had absentmindedly brought along.  "Again, 
I ask you: What are you planning, Kunzite?"

"I'm not planning anything," Kunzite shot back.  "I thought I had made it 
very clear that I want nothing more than to be left alone--I care nothing 
for anything that has to do with the Negaverse!  Furthermore, I thought 
you had abandoned the Negaverse so that you could punish evil in the name 
of the Moon!"

Jadeite, instead of becoming angrier, seemed more disturbed.  "You aren't 
the one causing the activity that I noticed?" he asked. 

Kunzite sighed.  "I thought I'd already answered that question.  No.  I 
have not exerted myself since my last battle.  I thought you were the one 
causing the disturbance." It sounded more like a question than a 
statement.

Jadeite shook his head.  "Nope.  I fight for love and justice now, didn't 
I make that clear?" He grinned with gently mocking humor.  "If you aren't 
the source, and I'm not the source, who's the one making all the racket?"

"Do you think she knows how ridiculous that entire rigmarole sounds?" 
Kunzite mused.

Jadeite chuckled.  "It's the thought that counts, I think." He sighed.  
"It appears that she might get to inflict it on another set of villains, 
though... It's such a shame--All of them have just begun to relax into a 
semblance of normal life again."

Kunzite paused.  "Is it that wonderful, living a normal life?" he asked.

Jadeite shrugged.  "I'm not quite the person to ask--I've only been 
attempting it for a few days, but--Yeah.  I think it is.  It's pleasant, 
being able to converse with a person and not wonder if what you say will 
give them an advantage over you.  An act of kindness is just 
that--kindness.  There's no strings attached, no ulterior motives, no 
reason to be suspicious of the person who's helping you.  I've never felt 
this good before--This happy and content.  I never would have imagined 
that life could be so good.  That's why I came here when I first thought 
that you were the one oozing the energy that disturbed my nap." He grinned 
at Kunzite.  "You should come back with me.  It'd do you some good to get 
away from this place."

Kunzite lifted his eyebrows.  "Are you joking?" he asked, amused but also 
bemused.  "What would make you suggest such a thing?"

Jadeite grinned.  "It's something else the girls have been teaching 
me--it's called friendship." He might have added more, but a sudden 
powerful surge in the foreign Nega-energy emanations interrupted the 
conversation.  For a moment, Jadeite stood stricken, paralyzed by an 
overwhelming knowledge that Sailor Mercury and the rest of the Sailor 
Scouts were in trouble.  Without another word to Kunzite, he vanished to 
go aid his friends.

Curious, both about the unfamiliar energy and by Jadeite's odd little 
speech, Kunzite followed.

~*~

"Come on, you pink-haired brat!" Catzi yelled at Chibi Usa, deeply 
frustrated by the difficulty she was having in apprehending the child.  
Taking a deep breath of the twentieth-century air, she changed approaches. 
"Small Lady, if you come with me, I promise it'll be much more pleasant 
than if you make me hunt you down."

The only reply came in the form of Luna P magic--a coconut cream pie to 
the face.

"You little monster!" Catzi shrieked, infuriated by the damage done to hr 
carefully made-up face and to her outfit.  "If you left a bruise, I swear 
I'll have that pink hair of yours for a new muff!"

"I don't think so, Tu-Tu Lady!" declaimed Sailor Moon.  "How dare you 
threaten an innocent child?!" /Granted, she is extremely annoying,/ she 
thought privately.  /Still, no one deserves to be terrorized by that poor 
excuse for a fashion plate!/  "I am Sailor Moon, and in the name of the 
Moon, I will right wrongs and triumph over evil--and that means you!"

Catzi sneered, even as she tried to discreetly remove the pie filling from 
her face.  "Oh, yeah?  You and what army?"

"Us, Pancake Face!" shouted Sailor Mars, as the Sailor Scouts gathered 
just behind Sailor Moon.  

"Out of curiosity, did you apply your makeup this morning with a trowel, 
or did you just put it on in the dark?" Sailor Jupiter added.

Catzi howled in fury at the insult.  "It's time someone taught you Sailor 
Brats a lesson in good manners!" She cried out a few words that sounded a 
bit like a summons.

"Uh-oh," Sailor Venus muttered as a nasty looking droid appeared-a 
hulking, drooling BEM [Bug-Eyed Monster] with numerous long, writhing 
tentacles that reached for the Sailor Scouts hungrily.  "I have a bad 
feeling about this, guys."

"Ew, gross!" Sailor Moon screeched.  "Why do they always look so ugly?"

"It's standard Negaverse procedure, I think," Sailor Mercury commented 
dryly.  

"Enough chit-chat, Sailor Failures," Catzi snarled in her scratchy voice.  
"It's time for your lesson." 

Sailor Scouts screamed and scattered as the droid launched itself at them, 
laying about with its wicked tentacles, which not only oozed a viscous 
slime but also had rows upon rows of tiny, stinging cilia.  Chibi Usa, 
absolutely certain that this was the end for her, hid her face in Luna P.
        
A single, perfect red rose sliced through the air, neatly severing one 
oily tentacle.  The droid roared its pain and annoyance at the new, 
unexpected attack.  Tuxedo Mask scooped Chibi Usa up protectively.  "No 
child should ever have to fear the likes of you," he shouted at Catzi and 
the droid.
        
Neither seemed particularly impressed.  The droid continued to fight with 
the Scouts, while Catzi appeared bored.  Almost as an afterthought, she 
launched a bolt of dark fire at Tuxedo Mask.

Rolling out of the way, Chibi Usa tucked under his arm, Tuxedo Mask faced 
a terrible dilemma.  Should he abandon Chibi Usa in order to fight and 
risk having Catzi capture her, or should he stand by while Sailor Moon and 
the others were in grave danger?

"So, who's the kid?" Jadeite, appearing next to Tuxedo Mask, inquired.

"Her name's Chibi Usa-That fashion statement over there seems to have an 
unhealthy interest in her," Tuxedo Mask said curtly.

Jadeite frowned at the melee, then observed the way Chibi Usa was 
clutching at Tuxedo Mask.  "That won't do, will it?" He grinned at Tuxedo 
Mask.  "You'd better stay with her, I guess." With that, he plunged into 
the tumult, suddenly clothed once again in his old uniform and attacking 
the droid with snapping scarlet energy. 

Catzi frowned; here was an ally to the Sailor Scouts she had not even 
known about.  Then, remembering that frowning could lead to premature 
wrinkling, she smoothed her expression out.  "So they have a new friend," 
she sniffed haughtily.  "They're still no match for me, Catzi, one of the 
Four Sisters!" She launched more dark fire at the Scouts and Jadeite.
        
Fortunately, even Sailor Moon was able to dodge the first barrage, but 
such luck couldn't hold forever.  Furthermore, the droid had managed to 
strike Sailor Mercury a few times, raising ugly red welts on her skin.
        
"MARS... FIRE... IGNITE!" Crackling flames impacted the ugly monster, 
causing it to stagger slightly.  Thoroughly annoyed to have been injured 
yet again, the monster went berserk as Catzi prepared herself for another 
round of dark fire.  

"VENUS... CRESCENT... BEAM..."

"JUPITER... THUNDER..."

"SMASH!"

"CRASH!"

The combined attack of Sailors Venus and Jupiter knocked the droid down, 
disorienting it.  "Quick, Sailor Moon!" Sailor Mars shouted.  "Use the 
Crystal!"

"Oh, yeah... MOON... SCEPTRE... ELIMINATION!" Sailor Moon shouted.  The 
droid howled in despair, withering away into a pile of ashes.  A jewel 
hovered in the air briefly, before turning dark and falling to the ground.

"Hmph.  So you destroyed my droid." Catzi lifted her chin.  "You still 
have to deal with-" She screamed as a curving bolt of blue-grey light 
sliced across her face.  "My face!" She clutched her cheek, horrified to 
feel a warm trickle sliding through her fingers.

"MOON... SCEPTRE... ELIMINATION!" Sailor Moon shouted again, this time 
without prompting.  Before Catzi even remembered that there were more 
important things to worry about than her features (namely, her life), she 
was a second pile of dust.  As Catzi's soul-jewel turned dark and fell 
into the pile of her ashes, there was a collective sigh of relief.  
Wobbling, exhausted from using the Imperium Silver Crystal twice, Sailor 
Moon would have fallen if Jupiter hadn't seen the peril and caught her. 

Sailor Mercury, although only slightly injured, was leaning, somewhat to 
her surprise, on Jadeite's arm.  She pushed aside the thought of the pain 
for a few moments to ask a very important question.  "Who attacked that 
horrible Catzi person?"

"He did," Sailor Jupiter said softly, pointing at Kunzite, who stood a 
little apart from the group.

Sailor Mars grimaced.  "You mean we owe *him* for our hides?" Her tone 
indicated that she might prefer being dead to being indebted to Kunzite. 

"Your gratitude overwhelms me, Sailor Mars," Kunzite observed 
sarcastically.  "Perhaps you would have preferred it if I had allowed that 
Catzi person to continue unhindered?  Maybe having Negaverse creatures 
toss dark fire at you is amusing to you--I apologize for interrupting your 
entertainment."

"Lay off, Mars--He did do us a major favor there," Sailor Venus pointed 
out.  "I, for one, am grateful."

"Yeah, so am I-and I'd hate to see what his idea of being able to do 
serious damage to an opponent," Jupiter added wryly.
        
Kunzite merely smiled slightly and shrugged.  Meanwhile, Tuxedo Mask had 
gently set Chibi Usa aside (albeit reluctantly) to go fuss over Sailor 
Moon.  "What brought on this attack, anyway?" he asked, as Sailor Moon 
happily rested her head against his chest.

"Catzi seemed intent on capturing Chibi Usa," Sailor Venus suggested.  She 
turned to the little girl.  "Chibi Usa, can you tell us why the lady--"

"That was no lady," Jadeite muttered, just loud enough for Sailor Mercury 
to hear.

"--wanted to capture you?" 

"I don't know," Chibi Usa said sullenly.  "I'm just a normal kid--Who are 
you, anyway?"

"Isn't she adorable?" Jadeite added with slight sarcasm, again under his 
breath.

"We're the Sailor Scouts, Chibi Usa," Sailor Venus replied.  "We will 
protect you."

Sailor Moon, unseen by Chibi Usa, grimaced at this, but sighed bravely.

The welts from the droids nasty tentacles were fading enough that Ami felt 
it safe to stand on her own.  She smiled warmly at Jadeite, thanking him 
silently.  Feeling strangely buoyant, Jadeite approached the aloof 
Kunzite.  "So, did you decide to take me up on my offer?" he asked.  

"Hardly.  I was merely curious about that new Nega-energy and followed you 
to investigate." Kunzite shrugged again.  "I didn't particularly care for 
the creature, so I lent my aid.  It will not happen again." With a swirl 
of his cape, he returned to the Negaverse.

Tuxedo Mask grinned slightly.  "I think I rubbed off on him," he 
commented.  "As I recall, I kept helping the Scouts and promising that 
it'd never happen again."

The Scouts, momentarily distracted, realized too late that Chibi Usa had 
disappeared before they could continue questioning her.  Sailor Moon 
struggled to her feet, assisted by Tuxedo Mask.  "Here we go again, I 
guess," she sighed.  "I'm starved--anyone wanna go for a milkshake?"

~*~

"Mizuno residence, Mrs. Mizuno speaking."

"Hi, this is Greg.  May I speak with Ami?" The young man on the other end 
of the telephone line sounded abashed to have reached an adult.

"I'm sorry, she's not home right now... May I take a message?" Ami's 
mother was curious.  She hadn't ever heard her daughter speak of Greg 
before.  

"Um... Yeah.  Would you tell her that my father was transferred back to 
Tokyo, this time for good?"

Mrs. Mizuno scribbled down the message.  "All right, I'll let her know."

"Thank you, ma'am."

~*~

"Oh, Ami--somebody called for you while you were out," her mother 
mentioned casually as they finished dinner.  "What was his name again?  
Oh, yes, it was Greg."

Ami blinked.  "Greg?" she asked eagerly.  "What did he say?"

"He wanted you to know that his father's been transferred back to Tokyo, 
apparently permanently," her mother told her.  "How come you haven't ever 
mentioned Greg before?"

Ami blushed slightly.  "He and I are just friends, that's all," she 
replied.  "He had to move away because of his father's job."

Mrs. Mizuno smiled wisely.  "I see--Well, since he's in town, why don't 
you invite him to supper some evening?  It could be a welcome-home 
celebration."

Ami went even pinker, thus confirming her mother's suspicions.  "We'll 
see, Mom," she promised.

~*~

"I swear, Minako, when I find that little brat, I'm going to kill her,"       
Usagi grumbled as she and her friend trudged along.  Chibi Usa was nowhere       
to be found at home, and Minako had strongly hinted that she should be       
found before one of the strange new Negagoons showed up. 
         
"As I recall, Usagi, it was a similar threat that made her run away,"       
Minako said.  "You're far too hard on her, Usagi.  She's just a little       
girl."

"Sure, take her side, too," Usagi said bitterly.  "Everyone likes her       
better than me."

"Usagi, you're not jealous, are you?" Minako sounded shocked.

"Maybe a little," Usagi admitted.  Then she caught sight of something up       
ahead. "Hey--isn't that Mamoru?"

Minako was about to ascribe this exclamation to wishful thinking, but then       
she realized that the figure visible just ahead was Mamoru after all.  As       
a special bonus, Chibi Usa was with him.

      "What's he doing with her?" Usagi muttered angrily.

"I'm sure I don't know, Usagi, but it's lucky for us that we've run across 
them," Minako observed.  "Quickly, let's catch up with them."

~*~

"What do you see in her, Mamoru?  She's such a klutz, and really       
empty-headed.  She's not worth your time," Chibi Usa argued.  "She's       
always mean to me--not like you, Mamoru.  You're much nicer than Usagi."

Mamoru laughed.  "You and Usagi just get on each other's nerves--You       
haven't been able to see Usagi's good side, that's all.  The two of you       
are a lot alike."

Chibi Usa made a disgusted face.  "I'm not like her.  I'm nothing like       
her."

"That's good, because I don't want to be anything like you," Usagi shot       
back, having sneaked up on the two unobserved.  "Mamoru, is she bothering       
you?"

Mamoru grinned, picking up Chibi Usa and setting her on his shoulder.       
"Not at all, Meatball-head.  She and I have been having a nice       
conversation while I take her home."

Usagi noted with disapproval that she couldn't hang on to his arm, as was       
her wont, since he was carrying Chibi Usa.  The pink-haired child shot       
Usagi a triumphant, smug grin.  "Oh, in that case, why don't I leave the       
two of you alone, since you don't seem to need me around." With that, she       
stormed off.

/What got into her?/ Mamoru wondered, confused.

~*~

"Let me go, Rubeus," Bertie begged.  "I'll capture Small Lady and the 
Imperium Silver Crystal, and I'll avenge Catzi's death on those wretched 
Sailor Scouts."

Rubeus eyed Bertie thoughtfully.  She was young--only a little older than 
Catzi--but the two of them had been very close.  Bertie's desire for 
vengeance might provide her an edge.  Besides, like Catzi, her death would 
be no great loss to their cause.  Still, it would do no good to dally in 
their mission.  Prince Diamond was not always a patient man... Pondering a 
minute longer, he finally shrugged.  All the four sisters were really 
expendable, and he felt a miniscule amount of gratitude to Sailor Moon for 
eliminating Catzi.  She had been very annoying just prior to her death, 
almost as if she believed that he held her in some sort of regard. "Go 
ahead, Bertie.  Do not fail me as your sister did."

"Thank you, Rubeus--I will make you proud," Bertie replied, with a 
chilling smile.

~*~

Greg, feeling a touch miffed that Ami hadn't been home any of the several       
times he had tried to call her since he had returned to Tokyo, decided       
that he'd go for a milkshake to cheer himself up.  Walking into the Fruits       
Parlor Crown, he was about to slide into a booth alone when he caught       
sight of something that made it clear why Ami hadn't been home when he       
called.  She and a tall, blond man were in a nearby booth, conversing over       
their own milkshakes.  Ami glanced up and saw Greg.  Surprise, then pure       
pleasure, flashed across her face.  "Greg!" 

As she stood and went to greet the young man, Jadeite swiveled around,       
muttering to himself, "Who's Greg?"

"Um, hi, Ami," Greg said.  "How are you?"

"Busy," she said apologetically.  "I've been so busy lately--That's why I       
haven't been home much--I keep getting your messages, though.  Why haven't       
you left your phone number so that I can call you back?"

Greg shrugged.  "I just thought I'd get in touch with you eventually."

"Are you alone, Greg?  Why don't you join us?" Ami said brightly.  She 
gestured back at the booth where Jadeite was sitting.

"I wouldn't want to intrude-"

"You wouldn't be intruding.  Come on." Ami grabbed his sleeve and gently 
tugged him forward.  

Wordlessly, Jadeite slid over so that Greg could sit next to him, all the 
while eyeing the younger boy cautiously.  Why hadn't he heard about this 
Greg fellow before?  

Greg was examining Jadeite with a similar feeling of misgiving.  He didn't       
like the way Ami had been talking so earnestly to the handsome man, and       
there was something else about him that disturbed Greg mightily...

"Greg, this is my friend Jadeite... Jadeite, this is my friend Greg.  He's       
just moved back to Tokyo," Ami introduced them as she resumed her seat.  

Greg's eyes went wide as he realized what wasn't quite right about       
Jadeite--He was from the Negaverse.  "So, just how old are you?"

"That's a very interesting question... To which I have to say, what is       
time, when you think about it?"

Ami was trying to flag down a waiter so that Greg could place his order,       
therefore completely missing the exchange going on across the table.  

Ami's pseudo-boyfriend nodded slowly.  "That's what I thought..."

Jadeite looked at him innocently.  "About what?"

"Nothing... Never mind." Ami had succeeded in her attempts to capture the       
attention of a waiter, so Greg had to divert his attention to order a       
vanilla shake.

As Ami bubbled over with dozens of questions for Greg, Jadeite noticed      
what Ami hadn't ever bothered to mention to him.  As he began to feel more       
and more like a fifth wheel, he ran through lists of reasons for leaving.  
If he weren't trapped on the inside of the booth, he could just get up and       
leave... It didn't seem as if either of the other two would notice.        
Unfortunately, he came up blank for an excuse.  Utterly miserable, he       
wished desperately for something to happen.

Feeling the entrance of a Negaverse monster, Jadeite had to laugh to       
himself.  /Next time, I have to be more specific,/ he mused.  "Um, Ami, I       
hate to interrupt," he said.  /Now, how to word this.../ "I believe       
some... old friends have arrived in town... It might be rude if we didn't       
go to greet them properly." 

It took Ami a moment to catch the hidden meaning to Jadeite's comment.  
"What?  Oh... Are you sure?"

"No, I'm just saying that to be funny." His frustration with the situation       
oozed out into his voice slightly.  "Look, um... Why don't you stay here       
with Greg?  I'll go take care of things and meet you later... or       
something."

Oblivious to the antagonism between her two guy friends, Ami nibbled her 
lower lip.  "Well... Okay.  Good luck, Jadeite."

Greg let Jadeite out, still almost bristling at him, but very glad to see 
him go.  "So, um, Ami... when did you meet Jadeite?" he asked casually.

Ami shrugged.  "Oh, I've known him for a while, really, but he and I just 
became friends a week or two ago.  I kind of helped him out of a sticky 
situation."

"Oh."

~*~

Chibi Usa laughed joyously as Mamoru pushed her higher on the park swing,       
while Usagi sulked nearby, sitting on the merry-go-round.  Leaving Chibi       
Usa to pump her legs to go higher, Mamoru went to sit by Usagi.  "What's       
wrong, Usako?"

"You never pay any attention to me anymore," Usagi sighed.
        
"Aw, Usako... I just want to make Chibi Usa feel better.  She's so lonely       
and scared, I just have to try," Mamoru consoled her.

"It seems like you love her more than you do me," Usagi protested.  "I       
don't seem to matter to you as much as I used to."

Mamoru reached over to touch her face gently.  "That's not true, Usagi.        
You're the center of my universe, you know that..." He leaned over and       
kissed her.

On the swings, Chibi Usa watched them, feeling lonelier than ever.        
Unnoticed by the happy couple, she jumped down and ran off, clutching Luna P.   

A sudden, high-pitched scream interrupted the kiss.  "Huh?  What was       
that?" Usagi demanded.

Mamoru, more concerned about the third member of their little party,       
looked at the swings.  "Where's Chibi Usa?"

"I think it came from over there." Usagi pointed at a clump of trees.        
"Let's go check it out."

~*~

Chibi Usa, safely away from the nauseating sight of Usagi and Mamoru, sank       
to the ground in a small clearing.  "Mommy-Daddy--" she whimpered.  In her       
great distress, the golden moon sigil on her forehead became visible,       
shooting an incandescent beam of light into the sky.

"Ah-hah!  I knew you'd reveal yourself to us eventually, Small Lady!"       
Bertie cackled.  Snapping her fingers, two monsters appeared--Bertie's       
droids of choice were elementals.  One was crackling fire, while the other       
was sort of a golem-looking thing made out of clay.  Terrified, Chibi Usa       
screamed, thereby attracting the attention of certain older associates.        
As the golem reached out to grab Chibi Usa, Bertie cackled some more.        
"Where's the Silver Imperium Crystal, Small Lady?"

"I'll never give it to you!" Chibi Usa shouted, as if she had any hope of 
resisting the three Negamonsters.  

"I am Sailor Moon, and on behalf of the Moon, I will punish you!" Sailor 
Moon sprang to stand between Chibi Usa and the Negagoons.  "I'm getting 
really sick of you weirdoes harassing this poor little kid."

"Oh, Sailor Moon, I'm so glad you could join us," smirked Bertie.  Her 
face turned ugly with rage.  "You killed my sister Catzi, and for that, 
*I'm* going to punish *you*."

Unfazed, although insulted by the theft of her favorite line, Sailor Moon 
sniffed.  "Well, it's obvious that a lack of fashion sense runs in your 
family."

Bertie took this insult rather well, not quite as narcissistic as her 
sisters.  "At least my hair looks better than yours.  Those buns are so 
dopey!" She collected herself.  "Capture the child and kill the Sailor 
Scout," she ordered the elemental droids.  

Sailor Moon gulped, not liking the odds.  The golem reached out for Chibi 
Usa--

--And his hand shattered as a red rose hitt it.  "Everyone has the right to 
wear their hair in a fashion that is as unique and individual as they are 
themselves.  How dare you deny someone the right to have a hairstyle that 
is their own?"

"Okay, that had to come from the bottom of the barrel, Tuxedo Mask," 
Jadeite observed.  "Couldn't you have come up with something a little 
snappier?"

Tuxedo Mask shrugged.  "It did the trick, didn't it?  They paused and gave 
me a funny look, and you showed up with reinforcements." Sailors Jupiter, 
Venus, and Mars had arrived with Jadeite.

"Three monsters?" Jupiter complained.  "What is this, a competition to see 
how many monsters it takes to beat the Sailor Scouts?"

"Don't give them ideas," Mars snapped.  "Where's Mercury, anyway?"

"She was busy talking to Greg," Jadeite informed them.  "Heads up!"

The droids had grown bored with the talking.  The golem, one-handed now, 
lunged at Sailor Moon, as if meaning to crush her in a fierce embrace.  
She shrieked and dodged, but retained the presence of mind to take Chibi 
Usa along.  The fire monster lashed crackling arms at the new 
reinforcements.  Tuxedo Mask went after Sailor Moon and Chibi Usa, 
intending to protect them.  

Sailor Scouts shrieked and scattered.  "Mars, do something!" Venus 
shouted.

"And what am I supposed to do?" Mars retorted.

"Well, they do say to fight fire with fire," Jadeite told her.

"Oh, great, and what's that supposed to mean?"

"I'm not the one from Mars, how should I know?" The fire elemental threw 
some more fireballs at them; screaming, Sailor Jupiter went down, somewhat 
singed around the edges.  

~*~

Although he noticed the arrival of Negaverse warriors on Earth, Kunzite 
ignored them determinedly.  He would not get involved in another battle on 
the Scouts' behalf.  It just wouldn't be right.  He was Kunzite, formerly 
one of Beryl's best warriors. It wouldn't be *appropriate* for him to 
fight for love and justice...

~*~

"MARS... CELESTIAL FIRE.... SURROUND!" She wasn't entirely certain that it 
would work, but... Maybe if she could cut off the monster's air supply, it 
would die.  It couldn't hurt to try, certainly... 

Meanwhile, Tuxedo Mask was peppering the golem with roses, while Sailor 
Moon readied herself to throw her tiara (the golem didn't seem to have 
been put together very well--each strike chipped a little more clay off).  
Chibi Usa, although frightened by the monsters out to get her, felt 
strangely comforted by the presence of the Sailor Scouts.  

Jadeite and Sailor Venus were dividing their attention between the fire 
elemental and Bertie.  "VENUS...LOVE CHAIN...ENCIRCLE!" Venus shouted, 
pointing imperiously at the fire elemental.  Jadeite was launching his 
scarlet fire-bolts at Bertie, who had learned from Catzi's mistake and was 
responding with sloshing dark water.

And poor Sailor Jupiter was lying on the ground, desperately trying to get 
up and help her friends--They needed her, and she had to help them, but 
she hurt too much.  With a groan, she allowed herself to fall back down.  

A dark pair of boots materialized in front of her.  Fearing this new 
attacker, she rolled over, trying to gather herself for one last, 
desperate defense.  Through a faint haze of pain, she saw Kunzite standing 
over her. /I'm doomed./  Terrified, she closed her eyes, not wanting to 
see her doom as it descended.

Instead, strong arms lifted her and carried her a short distance.  By the 
time she was able to make herself open her eyes, she was being carefully 
leaned against the rough bark of a tall tree.  Kunzite unfastened his cape 
and draped it across her.  "Watch that for me until I get back, okay?" he 
told her.  Dazed, Jupiter nodded slightly as he turned and went to wreak 
some havoc.

~*~

"MOON...TIARA...MAGIC!" Sailor Moon hurled her tiara at the golem, 
shattering it's entire left shoulder and a portion of its head.  "Ew, 
gross," she commented as it kept coming.
        
Tuxedo Mask threw another handful of roses, utterly destroying the 
remaining portion of the head.  Sailor Moon was readying her tiara for 
another throw, and he was preparing another barrage of roses, but neither 
were necessary.  A familiar blue-grey bolt of energy exploded against the 
golem's chest--When the dust settled, all that was identifiable of the 
poor golem was a smoking pair of feet, and a jewel turning dark.  

"I told you so," Tuxedo Mask told Sailor Moon.

Begrudgingly, she handed him some money.

Meanwhile, Sailor Mars' celestial fire was not doing quite as well as she 
had hoped.  The elemental struggled against the bonds, which restrained 
it, but didn't seem at all inclined to let itself be stifled.  "This isn't 
working!" she shouted at Jadeite spitefully.  "I hope you're happy!"

"It's not my fault!"

"MERCURY ICE BUBBLES FREEZE!"

"I thought you were talking to Greg!" Jadeite called over his shoulder.

"What?  And miss all this fun?" Sailor Mercury asked him as the elemental 
dissolved under a layer of ice.

"Good point... I guess you have to fight fire with water--Sorry, Mars!" 
Jadeite ducked away from one of Bertie's more vicious attacks.  "A little 
help here?"

"No way--you always managed to survive a battle with us--Weasel your way 
out of this one!" 

Jadeite winced.  "Boy, Mars, you really know how to hold a grudge... And I 
don't weasel!"

"MOON SCEPTRE ELIMINATION!"

"Y'see?  Sailor Moon isn't holding a grudge," Jadeite told Mars while 
Bertie faded into nothing but a bad memory.

"What do you expect?  She's a meatball-head," she snapped back.
  
"Be nice," Venus chided her.  "She's still our leader."  

"Thank you, Venus," Sailor Moon said.  "It's good to know that some people 
around here respect me." There was a moment's pause, then most of the 
group began to laugh.
        
The rest of the group (namely, Kunzite and Jupiter) was sitting underneath 
a nearby tree.  Too dizzy from the pain to focus clearly on the world 
around her, Sailor Jupiter barely even knew that someone was nearby.  
Kunzite, on the other hand, was only too aware of the situation and the 
memories it evoked of earlier times... The awful memory of holding Zoisite 
as he died vied for the present moment with Sailor Jupiter lying injured 
next to him....

~*~

//'Hold me,' Zoisite whispered as his life ebbed away.  Horrified, filled 
only with self-recrimination for having failed Zoisite in training, 
Kunzite gathered his lover into his arms.  With a barely perceptible sigh, 
Zoisite nestled against Kunzite's chest, his slight frame feeling even 
more fragile than ever before.   'Promise me...'

'Anything,' Kunzite said instantly, holding Zoisite tightly, as if this 
might prevent his life from slipping away into the night.
        
Zoisite gasped a little for breath.  'Don't--forget me.' With a soft sigh, 
his eyes drifted shut for the last time, and Kunzite was left holding a 
swirl of pink petals.  

'Farewell, my love,' Kunzite whispered, standing and feeling more utterly 
alone than he had ever thought possible before...//

~*~

A drop of moisture fell onto Sailor Jupiter's face.  Blinking, she turned 
bleary eyes upwards and became aware of the fact that she was wrapped in 
Kunzite's cape-and his arms, too.  It was his tear that had pulled her 
into consciousness.

/He's way more adorable than my old boyfriend ever was,/ Jupiter thought 
woozily.  She worked a hand free of the entangling material of Kunzite's 
cape and reached up to stroke his cheek softly, brushing away the tears 
that were seeping from beneath his closed eyes.

He breathed something so quiet that even she couldn't understand what he 
had said as his hand came up to cover hers.  Jupiter's hand slipped into 
his thick hair as he slowly inclined his head.  Their lips met softly...

~*~

"Are you all right, Chibi Usa?" Tuxedo Mask asked the girl, kneeling to be 
on her level.

She nodded vigourously.  "Yes, I'm fine. Thank you, Sailor Moon!  Thank 
you, Tuxedo Mask!"

/Now why can't she have this much respect for me while I'm Usagi?/ Sailor 
Moon wondered sardonically.  Then inspiration struck her.  /Hey, maybe if 
Sailor Moon told Chibi Usa to behave, she would!  Hmm, it's crazy enough 
that it just might work.../ She was about to implement this fascinating 
new plan when she heard Sailor Mars say something highly inappropriate for 
innocent ears.  Shocked beyond belief, Sailor Moon whirled around to 
chastise her hot-tempered friend, only to see that she--and the rest of 
the Scouts, as well as Jadeite--were staring at Sailor Jupiter and Kunzite 
in a mixture of horror, shock, and disbelief.

Sailor Moon's eyes bulged.  "I'm not seeing this!" she exclaimed.  "This 
can't be happening!"

Tuxedo Mask craned his head away from Chibi Usa to see what the fuss was 
about.  "Oh, my God."

~*~

/This isn't real./

Kunzite pushed the unwelcome thought away, denying the world in order to 
hold Zoisite for just a little bit longer...

/This isn't real.  Zoisite is dead./

He ignored the small voice of sanity, preferring to concentrate on the 
sensation of soft lips pressed against his, the faint fragrance of flowers 
that clung to Zoisite's skin...

/Zoisite is DEAD!  This is not Zoisite!/

Slowly, reluctantly, Kunzite pulled himself away from the all-too-pleasant 
fantasy.  Opening his eyes regretfully, he looked down and saw Sailor 
Jupiter smiling up at him dreamily, her fingers still wound in his hair.

/Oh, SHIT!/

He stared at Sailor Jupiter, paralyzed until Sailor Mars' cutting voice 
broke the silence.  "So, does he remind you of your old boyfriend, 
Jupiter?"

Smiling beatifically, Sailor Jupiter murmured, "*What* old boyfriend?"

Admittedly, Kunzite had very limited experience when it came to dealing 
with women, but even he could see the look of adoration which Sailor 
Jupiter fixed on his face.  Gazing into her luminous eyes (he dared not 
confront the stares that he felt coming from the rest of the group), 
Kunzite's heart sank.  How was he ever going to explain to this sweet, 
trusting child that it had all been a terrible mistake?

Gathering the shredded remains of his dignity, he carefully put Sailor 
Jupiter down, feeling all the while the heat of the blood in his ears.  
Avoiding to the last eye contact with any of the others, he silently 
retreated to the Negaverse, perhaps forgetting that Sailor Jupiter was 
still wrapped in his cape.

"What in the name of the Moon was *that*?" Sailor Moon finally found her 
voice to ask.

Jadeite opened and closed his mouth a couple of times before being able to 
find the proper words.  "I didn't know he was that kind of guy," he 
finally managed, weakly.

Meanwhile, Sailor Venus had gone to Sailor Jupiter to examine her wounds.  
"How are you feeling, Jupiter?" she asked.

"Happy.  Very happy." Sailor Jupiter's smile was just a touch loopy.

"That's nice, Jupiter... Do you hurt at all?" Sailor Venus pressed 
patiently.  

"Why would I be hurting?"

Sailor Venus sighed.  "Never mind... You'll figure it out eventually, I 
promise.  Now, can you stand up?  You really need to get home and rest 
some."

"I do?  Okay." Unusually tractable, Sailor Jupiter stood, leaning shakily 
on Sailor Venus' arm.  "Isn't it a lovely day?" she asked.

"I'm sure it is," Sailor Venus agreed mildly, giving the group at large a 
look that said quite plainly, "She's totally lost it!" 

"I'll help you get her home," Sailor Mercury offered, coming to take 
Sailor Jupiter's other arm.  

~*~

/How sad,/ Rubeus mused distantly.  /Bertie has failed.  Perhaps it is 
time for a new plan.../  "Avery.  Prizma."

"Yes, Rubeus?" Avery purred, turning away from her mirror to look at him.

"What is it, Rubeus?" Prizma added.

"Bertie has failed us." The two surviving sisters seemed unsurprised by 
his announcement, and hardly as distraught as they should have been.  
"Avery, I wish you to find and contaminate the present-day locations of 
the future Crystal Points of Crystal Tokyo with Negamoon energy.  If they 
fall to us now, Crystal Tokyo will fall to us in the future.  Prizma, you 
will capture Small Lady and the Silver Imperium Crystal.  I hope that you 
will prove more capable than Catzi and Bertie."

Prizma sniffed haughtily.  "Catzi and Bertie were weak, and foolish.  I am 
not.  I will not fail you, Rubeus."

"We'll see," he replied noncommittally.  "You had better not, for your own 
sake."

@}~~}~~~~


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