Bittersweet 10

@}~~}~~~~

"Mamo-chan!" Sailor Moon shrieked at the top of her lungs, 
clawing at the invisible barrier that imprisoned her in the strange place. 
 One minute she had been snuggled up next to Tuxedo Mask, the next... 
lying on a bed in an utterly foreign place.  "Mamo-chan, where are you?!"

"Princess, Princess, is that any way to behave when you're a guest in 
somebody's home?" a calm, collected voiced chided her.

Sailor Moon whirled and glared at the speaker, a tall, elegant man with 
pale hair.  "Who are you?  Where am I?  What am I doing here?  Where's my 
Mamo-chan?"

He smiled faintly.  "I am Prince Diamond, Your Highness," he introduced 
himself, bowing.  Sailor Moon absently noted that there was a strange, 
sibilant overtone to his suave voice.  "You are on Nemesis, the Dark 
Moon."

"You're Sapphire's brother?  Funny, you two don't look alike," Sailor Moon 
commented, retreating into flippancy--her favorite defense mechanism.

Rage flickered briefly in Diamond's eyes.  "Do not ever mention that name 
in my presence again, nor the fact that I share blood with such a traitor, 
Princess," he hissed.  Then his countenance cleared and he smiled at her 
charmingly.  "Forgive me for the abruptness of bringing you here so 
suddenly--I had really meant to go through more formal channels, but I 
glimpsed your beauty and simply couldn't help myself."

"So you kidnapped me," she said bluntly.

Diamond winced and crossed the room to stand before her.  "That's such an 
ugly word, Princess," he said, as she backed away until the barrier 
pressed against her back.  "After all, we're meant to be together."

"You're crazy," Sailor Moon gasped, shaking her head and flinching away as 
he reached out to caress her cheek.  "Mamo-chan and I are meant to be 
together."

Diamond chuckled.  "I'm afraid you're wrong, dear Princess." He seized her 
face suddenly and kissed her hungrily.

Sailor Moon had no choice but to accept the kiss rigidly, tears gathering 
at the corners of her eyes.  When Diamond finally broke away, she turned 
her face to the side.  "No," she whispered.  "This is wrong.  You are 
wrong."

Diamond guided her face around, forcing her to gaze into his eyes.  "You 
are mine," he told her, reinforcing the command with the brute force of 
his telepathic powers.  "You belong to me, and always shall..."

Sailor Moon's eyes went vacant, even as the tears slipped down her cheeks. 
 "I belong... to... Endymion..." she whispered.
  
Diamond cursed, releasing his grip on Usagi.  "How the hell did you manage 
that?!" he angrily demanded.

Sailor Moon drew herself up proudly.  "No matter what dirty tricks you 
try, I will never love you," she declared.  "My only love is Endymion, and 
not even death can break us apart!"

"Did I ever mention love?" Diamond asked sarcastically.   "Don't flatter 
yourself, Princess.  This isn't about love, it's about revenge--it's about 
seeing my people assert their superiority over those of Crystal Tokyo.  
Make no mistake, my dear Princess, I don't love you--but I will have you 
for my own."

"Oh my God," Sailor Moon whispered.  "You really *are* crazy."

Diamond grinned smugly and grabbed her shoulders, pulling her closer to 
his body.  "Too bad for you, I guess," he remarked, before attacking her 
lips with another, more brutal kiss.

"Leave her alone, Diamond," Sapphire commanded.  "It's me you want, not 
her." The barrier that Sailor Moon had been pressing herself against 
abruptly dissipated and she stumbled away from the slightly demented 
prince.

Diamond smiled gently at her.  "We shall have to continue that later," he 
promised her.

"I don't think so, asshole," Mars growled.

Diamond turned, and saw to his dismay that Sapphire had brought 
reinforcements.  "This was not one of the options I gave you," he remarked 
dryly.  

"Oh, darn.  My heart is breaking," Jadeite sighed melodramatically.

"This is the option we chose, Diamond," Sapphire replied calmly.  "Please, 
let the Princess go, Diamond.  You don't really want to do this."

"And I should listen to the traitor why?" Diamond asked, just as calmly.

Sapphire flinched slightly.  "Diamond, I'm your brother.  I would never do 
anything to harm you--It's Wise Man, I swear it!  He's just using you!"

"You are no longer my brother, traitor," Diamond snarled, "and Wise Man is 
the only loyal, competent servant I've ever had." He smoothed his 
anger-twisted features and smiled at the group surrounding his brother 
almost warmly.  "And now it is time for you to die, traitor."

He raised his hands calmly to blast Sapphire into oblivion, but the voice 
in his head cautioned him to pause for a moment.  /Wait, my prince.  We 
must regain the computer board before we obliterate the treasonous 
wretch./

/Why not do both at once?/  Diamond replied, releasing a blow that slammed 
into a shocked Sapphire, sending him crashing into Prince Endymion as 
Diamond deftly extracted the vital component from his brother's uniform.

Sapphire staggered to his feet, seeing too late his mistake.  "Forgive me, 
Prince Endymion," he choked out.  "I thought that it wasn't too late to 
save him--I'm sorry."

"No hard feelings," the prince sighed.  "Let's just beat him and go home."

"I'm all for that," Jadeite agreed.  "Ami and I have a wedding to plan."

"That was fast," Kunzite remarked, grinning a little.

Jadeite smirked back at him.  "So?"

Meanwhile, Sailor Moon had regained her feet and worked her way around to 
where Endymion stood.  "Did he hurt you?" he asked.

"Not really... the poor, sick bastard," Sailor Moon sighed.  "What on 
Earth twisted him so badly?..." She shook the melancholy off.

Diamond held the computer component aloft triumphantly.  "Too late!" he 
sneered, sending it to its rightful place in the controls of the Dark 
Crystal.  "I win--" He gasped in shock, as the Dark Crystal flared back to 
life.

"What the hell?" Venus said in amazement as Diamond's face contorted 
grotesquely.

"No--Get out--This is my body, damn it--Noooo!" Diamond screamed, dropping 
to his knees in agony as Wise Man assumed full control of his new body.  
"Sapphire!"

"Diamond!" Sapphire leapt forward, only to be restrained by Kunzite.

"That isn't Diamond any more," the white-haired guardian said somberly.  
"I don't know what it is, but your brother isn't there anymore."

The thing that possessed Diamond's body clambered to its feet, eyes 
glowing an unearthly red.  It began to laugh triumphantly.  "I am the Doom 
Phantom, and *I* win!" he gloated.

Mercury had whipped out her computer and was frantically scanning the Doom 
Phantom.  "Oh, shit..."

"Pitiful, weak Sapphire," the Doom Phantom said mockingly.  "Did you 
honestly believe that you could defeat me?" He laughed again.  "Come 
forth, my minions!" Gesturing broadly, a swathe of timespace ripped open, 
loosing hordes of shadowy daemons, the very essences of darkness and the 
Void incarnate.

"Shimatta," Mars gasped, summing up the sentiments of her companions.  

"Destroy them," the Doom Phantom commanded.  The horde screamed in 
pleasure and rushed forward as the Doom Phantom looked on with paternal 
pride.

The Sailor Scouts erupted into frenzied shouts of planetary attacks... 
Endymion drew his sword and stationed himself at his princess's side, 
hacking through the endless streams of the daemons.  Jadeite lashed out 
with bolt upon bolt of crackling scarlet fire... Kunzite's signature 
bluish crescents sliced through every daemon that crossed his path... and 
the daemons kept coming as the Doom Phantom laughed.

"Damn, we nearly missed a good party!" somebody shouted, laughing more 
cheerfully than the situation warranted.

"What the--" Jadeite risked a peek to confirm what his ears had just told 
him.  "NEPHRITE!" He absentmindedly took out another daemon as the 
auburn-haired guardian fell in at his side.  "You're dead!  What in the 
name of Beryl's broad butt are you doing here?!"

"I'm saving your ass," Nephrite replied, neatly slicing a daemon in half 
with a conjured blade.  "Don't ask why or how--just call it a great cosmic 
joke..."

Several feet (and far too many daemons away), Endymion, embroiled in 
battle with three daemons, nearly lost his life to a fourth, until a 
well-timed ice spear took it down.  "Hey, watch your back, Cape Boy!" 
Zoisite yelled at him, throwing another spear at the daemon trying very 
hard to claw Endymion's guts out.  "Zoi!" Another daemon went down.

"Zoisite?!" Endymion gasped.  "What the hell--"

"Being dead--especially with Nephrite--was supremely boring!" Zoisite 
explained cheerfully.  "So I had to come back and annoy you some more, 
Your Highness."

Prince Endymion just grinned, glad to have the erratic guardian back at 
his side.

Jupiter slammed another Thunder Dragon into a knot of daemons. Frustrated, 
she yelled, "Isn't there any way to keep them from coming?" She slammed 
another one angrily.  "Where are they coming from?" She could already feel 
herself beginning to tire, and if the Doom Phantom's supply of the 
monsters was really as endless as it seemed... "I'm too young to die," she 
muttered, thoroughly angry at the way fate seemed to be working out.

Mercury, with another monster having been washed away by a Shine Aqua 
Illusion, finally cleared a path between herself and Jadeite... and 
Nephrite?  "Jadeite, what's Nephrite doing here?" she cried.

"Killing monsters, love, he's killing monsters," Jadeite laughed, nearly 
bubbling over with joy to have his closest friend fighting at his side 
again.

"Love?" Nephrite grinned broadly.  "God, Jade, I just can't leave you 
alone, can I?"

Jadeite just laughed.  "Just promise me you'll be my best man, okay?" 

"Holy--Where did he come from?" Mars gasped as Zoisite bounded across her 
field of vision, yelling like a banshee and decimating the ranks of 
daemons with his ice crystals.  

He flashed a wide, dazzling smile at her, overhearing her comment.  "I was 
bored, so I decided to come back and help out!" he cried gleefully.  "Bet 
I can kill more monsters than you can, Mars!"

She bristled, rising instinctively to the challenge.  "You're on, 
Gay-boy!"

"*Gay*?!" Zoisite glared at her, looking offended.  He took it out on two 
hapless daemons.  "Pyro-slut!"

"Asshole!" Down went three daemons, victims of a flaming mandala.

"Flying carpet whore!" One ice spear impaled two daemons.

"Pernicious rat bastard!"

"I'm glad they're having fun," Kunzite muttered, as Mars and Zoisite 
cheerfully continued shouting obscenities at each other and killing 
daemons.  For the moment, he pushed aside all the mixed feelings that the 
abrupt, unexpected resurrection of the little sakura brought, and the 
confused sentiments he felt while fighting next to Minako--Sailor Venus... 
and just where Makoto-Jupiter--fit in with his muddled emotions.  /For an 
Ice King, I sure have a lot relationship issues,/ he mused.

To his right, Minako-Venus--was defending Sailor Moon with a passion that 
would have made obvious to any observer that this was her leader for whom 
she was willing to die.  Kunzite knew he, in turn, should have been 
fighting at Endymion's left hand, but-

Kunzite snarled angrily and obliterated a daemon trying to attack Venus as 
she covered Sailor Moon.  The Scout flashed him a warm, startled glance.  
"Thanks, Kunzite."

"Just making up for old times," he replied, with a meaning to his words 
that only he understood.

"Oh, just let bygones be bygones," she scoffed, bringing down a daemon 
with one of her love chains.

Kunzite smiled sardonically.  "There are wrongs I have done you that I can 
never repay, Sailor Venus."

She laughed.  "You take yourself too seriously, did you know that?"

"I think you've told me that before..." Kunzite shrugged and forced 
himself to concentrate on the matter at hand.

Sailor Moon shrieked and hurled her tiara at a daemon.  "How do we make 
them go away?" she wailed desperately.  "There're too many of them!"

The Doom Phantom laughed harshly at this comment.  "You can never defeat 
me!" he declaimed proudly.  "I am invincible!"

~*~

In the depths of the profound blackness that was the Doom Phantom's 
essence, a lost and damned soul screamed in protest, having realized his 
mistakes too late...

~*~

/I should be back there, helping them destroy the Doom Phantom,/ Sapphire 
rationalized, even as he slipped away from the melee.  /Hell, I should've 
just destroyed the damn thing while I had the chance.../

~*~

And still the daemons came, since the Doom Phantom understood the truth of 
the axiom "There is strength in numbers." Although the daemons were almost 
pathetically weak, there were so many that the warriors were wearing 
themselves out trying to fight them all.  

"Scum-sucking goat!" Mars yelled at Zoisite, tiredly blasting another 
daemon.

He made a face.  "Is that really the best you could do, Mars?" he 
demanded, neatly skewering a daemon.

"Without repeating myself, yeah," she responded.

He whistled in appreciation.  "Well, I was just about out of ingenious 
insults, too... Call it a draw?"

"Okay... But I can still kill more of these things than you can!" she 
promised.

"Wanna bet?"

"You're on, Zoisite!" Mars, with renewed vigor, wiped out another daemon.

"Let's say... the loser has to do one thing-anything--for the winner." 
Zoisite demolished another daemon.

"You're on, Negacreep!" she yelled, as a fireball took out a cluster of 
three daemons.  "Three for me!"

~*~

/I'm dead,/ Jupiter thought bleakly, surrounded on all sides by daemons 
and knowing she would only be able to take down a few of them before they 
mobbed her.  Hemmed in on all sides, she prepared herself for a kamikaze 
attack that would destroy everything within a ten-foot radius...

~*~

Venus couldn't begin to count how many daemons she had killed while 
protecting the princess... It was like a nightmare that repeated itself 
endlessly.  She and the Scouts fought innumerable hordes, only to know 
defeat in the end...  /This is almost... almost like the fall of the Moon 
Kingdom.../

She smiled wearily at Kunzite.  "History is just a cycle, isn't it?" she 
asked sadly.  

"Eh?" He looked at her out of the corner of his eye.

"At least you're fighting on our side this time, Kunzite."

He was so startled that he nearly forgot to defend himself.  
"You--remember, too?"

"Yeah... Why can't it ever work out right for any of us?" she asked.

"Fate's a bitch," Kunzite shrugged.

~*~

/I'm not a warrior, I'm a strategist!/ Mercury protested numbl, killing 
another unfortunate daemon and noting that there was no way that she'd be 
able to continue for much longer.  /I'm too weak to fight--to protect the 
princess!/  Drawing strength from her anger, the Scout pressed on.

~*~

Endymion fought, blindly ignoring his body's weariness.  As long as there 
was danger to Serenity--as long as there was danger to their future--he 
could never rest.  /This time we *shall* have peace,/ he promised himself 
grimly.

~*~

"Do you mind if I join you?" someone asked politely as Jupiter prepared to 
release all her remaining ki.  Without waiting for an affirmative answer, 
he sliced his way through the daemons to stand at her side.  

Jupiter, looking at his thick auburn hair and warm brown eyes, felt her 
heart skip a beat.  /He looks just like--well, actually, he looks 
*nothing* like my old boyfriend, but.../ He was overwhelmingly familiar.  
"Who are you?" she asked, relaxing her ki.  

He grimaced and then chuckled.  "That took the ego down a notch," he said 
ruefully.  "But I'm hurt that you don't remember me... I thought that 
surely I'd made something of an impression on you..."

A name sprang, unbidden, to her lips.  "Nephrite."  She said it again, 
with dawning wonder.  "Nephrite!"

"I missed you," he said tenderly--or, as tenderly as possible in the midst 
of fighting for life and limb.

"I missed you more." She grinned at him mischievously.  "But what was this 
I heard about you and Naru?"

He flushed.  "I can explain, really... I think..." Thinking quickly, 
Nephrite blurted, "It was all Zoisite's fault, I swear!"

"Sure," Jupiter laughed.  "I'll let you explain--and make it up to 
me--later..."

"Is that a promise?" he asked.

"Maybe." She smiled at him broadly.

~*~

"This is pointless!" Jadeite shouted angrily.  "No matter how many of 
these things we kill, there are always more!"

The Doom Phantom chuckled.  "Submit now, then--There is no hope for you!"

"We will never give in to evil like you!" Sailor Moon shrieked.  "I am 
Sailor Moon, Champion of Love and Justice--In the name of the Moon, I will 
punish you!"

"Forgive me if I'm not impressed," the Doom Phantom replied sarcastically. 
 "You cannot hold back my daemons forever--even now you grow weary.  How 
much longer can you last before you begin dying?"

~*~

Sapphire stared at the Dark Crystal, directing every word his mother would 
have been shocked to hear him utter at himself.  The room was full of 
nearly palpable energy, seething about and emanating from the Dark 
Crystal.  The Doom Phantom's malevolent energy signature clung to every 
object and wavelength, making Sapphire's skin crawl just to stand in the 
doorway.

"Why didn't I just do the job right while I had the chance?" he groaned.  
Stepping forward, he gritted his teeth against the psionic onslaught and 
determinedly moved to the console.  It was a bad sign, in Sapphire's 
opinion, that it was pulsing with its own form of unholy light.

Sapphire laid his hands on the surface of the console-

--and was pushed across the room to slam vviolently into a wall.

"What the hell?" he demanded groggily, pushing himself back into a more or 
less standing position.

He heard unpleasant laughter.  

"We can all hope," he muttered, staggering forward.

 the disembodied voice sneered.

Marshalling his ki, Sapphire leveled a blast of energy at the console...

...After several disoriented minutes, his head stopped spinning enough for 
him to focus again.  "That may have been a mistake," he mumbled 
indistinctly.

There was no answer from a snide megalomaniac.  Sapphire decided that this 
was also a bad sign...

~*~

/Sapphire!/ Diamond screamed in protest, watching his beloved brother get 
blasted by the Doom Phantom's augmented powers.  /You bastard!/ His 
battered psyche rebelled against the overwhelming presence of the Doom 
Phantom's ego...

~*~

"Jadeite!" Kunzite snapped, calling the closest of his three fellow 
guardians.  "We're never going to get anything accomplished like this!"

"You had a better idea, Kunzite?" Jadeite replied, his growing weariness 
lending his words a tone rather more waspish than usual.

"You don't kill a snake by chopping off its tail," the white-haired 
guardian replied cryptically.

Comprehension flashed into Jadeite's eyes, and into the eyes of Venus and 
Mercury as well.  "We'll cover the princess," Venus said instantly.  Then, 
quietly, she added, "Be careful--for my sake."

Kunzite smiled at her tiredly.  "I'll do the best I can."

And Mercury cast a concerned glance at Jadeite.  He grinned at her 
crookedly.  "I'll be back, love, I promise!" he called to her.  "Just be 
patient, okay?"

"I'm going to hold you to that, Jadeite," Mercury threatened him.  "You've 
made a promise, remember that."

~*~

"What the hell is he doing?" Nephrite wondered aloud to Jupiter as he 
caught sight of Jadeite moving forward determinedly.  "Jupiter, I'm afraid 
that Jadeite--" He winced slightly "--and Kunzite have taken it into their 
heads to be heroic."

"Well, it's no fair to let them hog all the glory," Jupiter said 
philosophically.  "Wanna go help?"

"You read my mind," Nephrite grinned.

~*~

Zoisite shook his head.  "That noble idiot," he said in mock disgust.

"Eh?" Mars inquired.

"Kunzite obviously thinks he and Jeddy can take on this Broom Phantom 
fellow," the little sakura sighed.  "And they aren't even trying to guard 
their flanks..."

Considering this, Mars shrugged.  "I bet I can guard Jadeite better than 
you can keep an eye on Kunzite."

Zoisite smirked.  "Sailor Mars, you have no idea how long I've been 
'keeping an eye' on Kunzite."

"That's not what I meant, you pervert," Mars grinned.

~*~

"What's going on?" Sailor Moon called to Prince Endymion as Kunzite and 
Jadeite ceased to be merely on the defensive and began to advance.  Then 
she caught sight of two faces she (in her concentration on avoiding death) 
hadn't previously noticed.  "Nephrite!  Zoisite!  When did they get here?"

"About a hundred daemons ago," Endymion replied dryly.  His deep blue eyes 
were concerned, though, as his four closest friends waded into the deep 
flood of monsters.  "Be ready, Princess."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

~*~

"How amusing.  Here come the noble warriors, ready to defend their prince 
and princess to the death." Kunzite hadn't known it was possible to twist 
a human's features into such an unholy expression of malevolent glee.

The Doom Phantom turned his attention away from Sapphire (still recovering 
from his attempt to ki-blast the console) and smirked at the group.  "I 
shall take great delight in destroying the lot of you."

"Oh, shut the hell up, Boom Fanatic," Kunzite heard a light tenor say in 
disgust.  "Megalomaniacal speeches are so passť, not to mention 
last-season."

"Shut your mouth, Kunzite," Jadeite advised quietly.  "You're not too 
impressive when you're gaping at Zoisite like an idiot."

Zoisite smiled sweetly at Jadeite.  "Can I help it if I'm much more 
fascinating that Boom Boy over there?"

"Doom Phantom," Nephrite corrected mildly.

Zoisite shrugged.  "Whatever.  He's beginning to annoy me."

Kunzite shook himself slightly, once again putting the personal issues to 
the side.  "My life just keeps getting more and more complicated..."

"Then let me solve that problem for you--permanently!" the Doom Phantom 
cackled.

The little sakura rolled his eyes.  "Oh, please.  Even Sailor Moon can 
come up with a better one than that." Almost on afterthought, he launched 
five ice crystals at the Doom Phantom.

"Now that's harsh, Zoi," Jadeite commented, adding his own scarlet fire to 
the fun.  "Damn it, he's not allowed to duck!"

"That's three fewer daemons to keep track of," Kunzite grunted.

"Hey, Mars, I'm up to thirty-eight.  How about you?"

"Forty-two," she said smugly, wiping out the daemon attempting to claw its 
way to Jupiter.

Zoisite cursed heatedly, and Jupiter grinned broadly.  "I haven't heard a 
mouth that foul in a millennium!" she said brightly.

"Enough chattering!" the Doom Phantom shouted, more annoyed than harmed by 
having had to duck five ice crystals and a bolt of flame.  "Now you die, 
mortals!"

"Again?" Nephrite complained.  "This is getting monotonous." The bolt of 
dark energy that he promptly dodged incinerated five daemons.

"Hey, be careful with him!" Jupiter yelled.  "He's my old boyfriend!  Only 
I--and sometimes Zoisite--get to beat him up!"

"Are you implying that Zoisite could take me?" Nephrite was indignant at 
the insinuation.

"Of course.  After all, he'd have Kunzite to help." Jupiter smiled at him. 
 "Don't worry, though.  I still love you anyway."

Nephrite seemed far from satisfied, zapping four daemons consecutively 
(the Doom Phantom was amazingly agile).  "Well, good," he muttered.  "Hey, 
while we're on the subject of Kunzite, d'you mind telling me what--" 

Jupiter giggled mischievously.  "He was there, I was there, he was cute... 
you were dead... Funny things happen sometimes." She paused.  "Besides, 
he's more of Zoisite's type anyway."

Kunzite did what he could to ignore the wisecracks flying around him.  He 
was a little annoyed, though, that despite their collective best efforts, 
no one had been able to hit the Doom Phantom...

~*~

...Sapphire picked himself up and scowled at the Dark Crystal's console.  
"All right, you son of a bitch," he growled, "now I'm angry." He began 
gathering his ki.  "I don't know who, or what, you are, Doom Phantom, but 
I know what you've done to my people."

Cautiously he probed the defense around the console, which seemed somewhat 
lower than before.  "This is for the sisters!" he yelled suddenly, bracing 
himself against a pillar and launching a blast at the weakest point.

~*~

The Doom Phantom staggered a little as Sapphire's energy slightly 
disrupted his concentration, and consequently could not fully dodge a 
streak of Jadeite's scarlet ki fire.

"Hey, I hit him!" Jadeite shouted happily.  "Hot damn!"

"Wretched creature," spat the Doom Phantom, addressing both Sapphire and 
Jadeite.

"Jadeite, look out!" shrieked Jupiter, knowing even as she shouted her 
warning that it was too late.

The attack came in low and fast, dark bands of fire that wrapped 
themselves around Jadeite's leg and dragged him down to the floor amid a 
flurry of his curses.  Daemons, screaming with delight, swarmed to the 
spot, eager for the blood of a warrior of love and justice...

~*~

Venus, fighting next to Sailor Moon, had long since lost sight of Kunzite 
and Jadeite, but every so often caught snippets of the conversations 
they--and the other two guardians-were having.  She smiled to hear 
Jadeite's exuberant shout, but--

In her peripheral vision, she saw Mercury go still as the Doom Phantom 
began to laugh.

~*~

"Jadeite!" Nephrite yelled, feeling the ki of his best friend--his brother 
in all but blood--drop away.

~*~

Sapphire grunted, sublimating the pain his battered and bruised body felt 
into another blast of ki.  Hammering away at the same weak spot, he 
yelled, "This is for Rubeus!"

~*~

"Mercury, pull yourself together!" Venus yelled, torn between defending 
her princess and her shell-shocked friend.  

The quiet Scout's lips moved silently.  "Jadeite." A large tear rolled 
down her cheek.

"Mercury, you have a duty to the princess!" Venus cried.  "You have to 
protect her!"

"Jadeite, you promised," Mercury whispered.

"Mercury, *please*," Venus begged, praying that the Doom Phantom wouldn't 
notice how vulnerable Sailor Moon was at this point.

~*~

Retracting his attack on the insolent fool who had managed (through mere 
luck, of course) to hit him, the Doom Phantom left his daemons to finish 
the job--

--And he staggered again under a second onnslaught from Sapphire, who 
seemed bent on destroying the console even if it meant his life.

Sometimes the Doom Phantom just didn't understand humans at all.

Pain--physical pain (a foreign concept to the Doom Phantom) blossomed in 
his right shoulder as an ice crystal pierced it.  

"That's for Jadeite, you--"The thin, androgynous face of a vengeful 
Zoisite snarled at him before vanishing in a swirl of cherry blossoms and 
foul, improbable descriptions of the Doom Phantom's ancestry.

~*~

"That was damned stupid!" Mars yelled as the Doom Phantom howled in fury.  
"Zoisite, have you got rocks for brains?!"

Zoisite turned teary eyes on her.  "He was my friend, damn it!  Leave me 
alone!"

~*~

"Jadeite, you promised!" Mercury screamed, raising her clenched fists to 
the ceiling.

~*~

The Doom Phantom angrily quelled the increasingly strident Diamond and 
focused furious eyes on the three remaining guardians.  "You shall pay for 
that," he hissed, each syllable dripping with venom.  He raised his good 
hand and brought it down sharply, sending a blast of dark energy at the 
little sakura.

~*~

Mars turned, prepared to watch Zoisite get taken down in the same way 
Jadeite had fallen.

~*~

/I will never understand humans,/ the Doom Phantom marveled again, as a 
blue-grey blur threw itself in front of the impudent Zoisite, blocking 
with his ki the energy meant to destroy the small blond.

~*~

"My God," Nephrite breathed, as Kunzite glowed with slate-colored ki and 
fended off a nasty-looking knot of energy.

~*~

"My God!" Venus gasped, as Mercury began glowing cobalt blue.  Frightened 
by the fierce look on her shy friend's face, Venus took a step back.  

Mercury unclenched her hands and brought them down in front of herself 
sharply.  Cobalt blue ki lanced out from her outspread fingers, laying 
waste to every daemon unfortunate enough to be standing between her and a 
seething mass of ripping teeth and shredding claws.  "JADEITE!"

~*~

"Kunzite..." Zoisite whispered in disbelief. 

"Did you think I was going to stand by and watch you die again?" Kunzite 
gasped, the strain of holding off the Doom Phantom's energy telling in his 
voice.  "I still haven't forgiven myself for that."

~*~

Feeling the Doom Phantom's energy and attention focusing elsewhere, 
Diamond hammered all the harder at the walls of his mental prison.  /Give 
my body back, you double crossing son of a bitch!/

~*~

Through the clear space that Mercury had created, Venus could see the 
blazing grey-blue blur that was Kunzite, holding out against a ball of 
black fire, but only just.  "Kunzite," she murmured helplessly, knowing 
the decision he had made and forgiving him for it in the same instant.

~*~

Endymion felt tears beginning to slip down his cheeks as the ki of Jadeite 
hovered faintly on the edge of dissipating, and Kunzite's ki faded 
steadily.  Two of his closest friends in the world were dying, and he 
could do nothing about it...

~*~

Sapphire could feel the barrier weakening.  "This is for Emerald!" he 
shouted, bringing his ki down on the crack again.

~*~

Nephrite blasted the Doom Phantom with raw ki, desperate to divert the 
fiend's attention from Kunzite and Zoisite.  At his side, Jupiter steadily 
alternated between daemons and the Doom Phantom... "What the hell?" she 
demanded, as brilliant blue ki sliced through the ranks of daemons.

"Is that... Mercury?" Nephrite asked.

~*~

"YOU PROMISED!" Mercury screamed, making for the place where all her 
senses told her Jadeite lay.

~*~

Nephrite's ki slammed into the Doom Phantom as Sapphire's attack battered 
at the now badly damaged ward on the Dark Crystal.  Reeling, the Doom 
Phantom roared in fury while reluctantly feeding some of the energy from 
his attack on Zoisite into the wards around the console.  /I *hate* 
humans./

~*~

/I'm so damned tired!/ Mars moaned silently.  /Why won't it just end?!/ 
Mechanically, she continued killing daemons.

~*~

Sailor Moon dared a glance at Venus as a new sense of pain--a quieter, 
more subdued pain that was, nonetheless, as deep as Mercury's--washed over 
her.  "Venus?" she asked in disbelief.  "What's wrong?!"

"Kunzite," Venus replied in a resigned tone.  "Don't you remember, 
Princess?"

Sailor Moon blinked.  And remembered.

//stolen afternoons hurried moments the collusion of two honor guards love 
blossoming love growing love burning love dying//

"This... must not be..." Princess Serenity whispered.  

~*~

A promise made... There had been a promise made... To a girl with wide 
blue eyes to whom he could deny nothing...

Yes.  There had been a promise made.

And he'd be damned if he wouldn't keep it.

~*~

Kunzite dropped to his knees, no longer able to support the shield and his 
own weight.

Gentle hands landed on his shoulders, and someone's ki began augmenting 
the shield.  "It wasn't your fault," Zoisite told him gently, "and I never 
blamed you for anything that happened.  It was just that Beryl (that bitch 
and daughter of a flying carpet whore) couldn't stand the thought that 
anyone could find light in the Negaverse." He laughed a little.  "Just how 
are you planning to work things out with Sailor Venus and me, anyway?"

"I think I'll become a monk," Kunzite replied.  

"Now that's cheating," Zoisite protested.  Kunzite could practically hear 
him pouting.

"Life in general isn't fair..."

~*~

Serenity could feel Mar's exhaustion and her deep desire for the slaughter 
to end... one way or another.  

She could feel Jupiter's almost tangible joy at having found Nephrite 
again (and her deeper fear that he might depart as suddenly as he had 
come).

~*~

"What the--" Endymion nearly dropped his sword as somebody's ki flared 
into brilliance.

~*~

"How in the name of God?!" Nephrite was nearly as shocked as Endymion when 
he saw the pile of writhing daemonic claws that had been the only mark 
that Jadeite existed disintegrate in an explosion of scarlet ki.  

Jadeite slowly climbed to his feet, barely recognizable under the massive 
wounds and the blood that soaked his hair and the ragged shreds of his 
uniform.  He staggered forward a step to Mercury, but lost his balance and 
went down on one knee.  Undaunted, he struggled back to standing.  
"Mercury," he whispered. 

The glowing Scout rushed across the remaining few feet between them and 
caught him as he lurched forward.  "Jadeite," she sobbed.

"A promise is a promise," he told her, contriving to smile at her faintly. 
 "No matter what, I'll always come back to you, I swear... I'll find a 
way..." He brushed her cheek gently.  "I love you, Ami... always and 
forever."

"I love you, Jadeite," Ami replied, clinging to him tightly. "Forever."

~*~

"How touching," the Doom Phantom snarled, his pride sorely stung by 
Jadeite's refusal to die.  Even though it was not wise, every fiber of his 
being cried out for revenge.  "Now die!" Dark lightning leapt from his 
fingers to slam into Jadeite's back.

~*~

Sapphire raised his hands high, using all his remaining ki in the creation 
of a sword of gleaming sapphire energy.  "This is for my brother, you 
bastard!" he screamed in fury, smashing the blade down, through the 
barrier, through the surface of the console, and into the delicate inner 
workings that directed and maintained the Dark Crystal.
  
Dark energy surged wildly through every available conduit, completely 
unbounded.  It slammed through Sapphire's ki sword, knocking him backwards 
and through a wall.  It roared through the Dark Crystal, and, with the 
circuit having been broken with the destruction of the console, remained 
in it, building up rapidly.

And the dark energy roared through the Doom Phantom and down the steady 
stream of energy directed at Kunzite and Zoisite's ki shield. 

With a prescience born of love, Kunzite twisted the shield away from 
Zoisite, awkwardly forcing the younger guardian out of harm's way as the 
negative energy sliced directly through the slate-colored ki barrier and 
into Kunzite.

~*~

"Kunzite!" Venus shrieked.

~*~

"Jadeite!" Mercury whimpered, lying flat on her back and staring, 
unseeing, at the ceiling above her badly battered body.  He was gone, 
having protected her from the worst of the Doom Phantom's attack.  She 
closed her eyes.  "Jadeite..."

~*~

The Dark Crystal reached its capacity for energy storage, with no release 
for the already stored energy.

It exploded.

~*~

/Sapphire!/ Diamond shrieked, knowing that his brother was dead.

~*~

The Doom Phantom, reveling in the sudden flow of energy, turned gloating 
eyes on Nephrite and Jupiter.  He raised his hands to incinerate them--

--and staggered as the energy supply died  and the citadel rocked from the 
force of the explosion.  

"What?"

~*~

Without an energy supply, the rift in timespace that had allowed so many 
daemons to spew forth snapped shut, leaving a blessedly limited number of 
daemons trapped outside.  

~*~

Zoisite's eyes blazed furiously.  "You bastard!" he shrieked, nearly 
frothing at the mouth.  "Damn you!" In a manner reminiscent of the injured 
Sailor Mercury, he began emanating mossy-green ki.  All of the daemons 
within a twenty-foot radius suddenly sported ice crystals sprouting from 
their backs.

~*~

/This is my body, damn it!/ Diamond, with one final effort, exploded the 
walls that the Doom Phantom had imprisoned him in.
~*~

"This must not be!" Princess Serenity shouted, raising the Silver Imperium 
Crystal...

~*~

...The Doom Phantom clutched his head, jerking erratically as if two 
personalities were fighting for control of his body...

~*~

"MOON..."

~*~

...A second ice crystal buried itself in the Doom Phantom's shoulder.  
Eyes widened in shock and pain-but they were Diamond's eyes, not the 
half-mad, glowing red eyes of the Doom Phantom...

~*~

"...HEALING..."

~*~

...Diamond dropped to his knees, head bowed.  /They will never know how 
I've helped them.../

~*~

"...ESCALATION!"

The cleansing silver light swept over the room, melting every trace of the 
Doom Phantom's daemons.  Mars, bowed over with weariness, felt the aches 
in her muscles ease away and a fresh energy revitalize her.  It soothed 
Mercury into a restful, healing sleep as it closed most of the wounds on 
her body.  The light gently calmed Zoisite's stormy ki, relaxing the 
tempest within somewhat.  It touched Jupiter and Nephrite, nudging them 
together.  It caressed away Endymion's weariness, and offered mute 
sympathy to Venus, whose mere physical weariness could not compare to her 
soul's exhaustion.

~*~

Diamond felt the light wash over him, purifying him with its fiery heat.  
In the back of his mind, the Doom Phantom gave one final scream of denial 
as the flame devoured him.  

The prince of the Dark Moon lifted his face to the light, smiling like the 
innocent child he had once been.  /Sapphire... I'm sorry.../

The reply floated out of the brilliant whiteness.  /I know, Diamond... It 
wasn't your fault.../

"Sapphire?" Diamond asked, as a shape began to materialize before him.

His younger brother smiled.  "Welcome home, Diamond."

~*~

Princess Serenity lowered her Silver Imperium Crystal, exhausted by its 
use.  Prince Endymion caught her gently.  "Let's go home," she said 
tiredly, as her beloved supported her.

Mars had already gone to Mercury's prone form.  "I need a little help 
here," she called.  

Numbly, Venus went to aid Mars, as Nephrite walked over to Zoisite and 
place a comforting hand on his friend's shoulder.  The young guardian, 
never ashamed to exhibit his emotions, buried his face in Nephrite's chest 
with a stifled wail.

Jupiter looked around, puzzled by the curious absence of the fallen.  The 
Doom Phantom had disappeared--burned away by the Silver Imperium Crystal, 
she supposed--but what of Kunzite and Jadeite?  They too had disappeared.

"Let's get back to Crystal Tokyo--" Prince Endymion started to say, but 
swirling mists interrupted him.  

"That will not be necessary, Prince Endymion," the looming figure of 
Sailor Pluto stated calmly, as she appeared before the Gate of Time.  
"Neo-Queen Serenity has awakened and all is returned to the way it should 
be.  You must return to your own time again before there are any more 
disturbances."

Endymion nodded at Nephrite and Zoisite.  "Can they come, too?"

Pluto smiled slightly.  "The course of your futures has already altered; 
they will do no further harm.  They may return with you."

"Then let's go home," Jupiter sighed.

     ~Owari~

@}~~}~~~~




 

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