Soul's Winter
Part Two: How *Do* Those Odangos Stay Up?

/.../ thought
//...// flashbacks
*...* emphasis
|...| Smartass Inner Voices (tm)
"..." dialogue
<...> Eerie Disembodied Voices (tm)


Usagi, after a questioning glance sent in Naru's direction was ignored, 
chose to sit elsewhere for lunch.  By chance, she happened to meet Makoto.

The erstwhile Princess of Jupiter had what Usagi immediately identified as 
a first-class, grade-A, genuine Loopy Grin (tm) plastered all over her 
face. "Hi, Usagi," she said dreamily.  "Isn't it an absolutely wonderful 

Usagi plopped herself down on the bench and considered the question.  She 
was worried sick about Ami and Minako, heartsick about Naru's plight, and 
it was cloudy.  That was completely ignoring her concern over Rei, who 
alone of the group had not regained any memories of the Silver Millennium. 
"I've had worse days," she said diplomatically.  "What's got you in such 
a great mood?"

Makoto giggled and extended a hand, allowing Usagi to be dazzled by the 
light sparkling in the depths of an emerald ring.  "Nephrite proposed."

Usagi's eyes widened.  "You're kidding." Looking at Makoto's expression of 
contentment, she discarded that notion.  /Oh, what am I so worried about?/ 
She squealed happily and threw her arms around Makoto's neck.  "Oh, I'm so 
*happy* for you!"

Makoto's grin grew even broader.  "Yeah, well, we want to wait, of course, 
until after you and Mamoru tie the knot, but... don't wait too long, 
okay?" Her eyes took on a sly twinkle.  "I have all sorts of things I'm 
just *dying* to try with Neph, y'see..."

Usagi blushed.


/I swear, the next time I see Zoisite... the little Gay-boy is DEAD,/ Rei 
promised herself, finally escaping the detention that was her punishment 
for cutting school.  /He *promised* I wouldn't regret helping him out.../

|Now, now, did you really expect not to be punished for skipping a day of 
school?| her snide inner voice inquired.  

/Shut up.  Grandpa's gonna kill me.../ Rei groaned inwardly, despairing of 
ever explaining the situation to him.  /Ye gods, how did I let Zoisite 
talk me into doing that?  A week's worth of detention!/

She arrived home, going to her bedroom to deposit her backpack and change 
out of her school uniform.  As she expected, her grandfather was swift in 
accosting her.  "Where have *you* been, young lady?"

/No choice but to be honest./ "I was in detention, Grandpa."

He didn't seem terribly angry... yet.  "And why would my granddaughter be 
in detention?"

Rei turned faintly red.  "Well, I--ah... There was this bet I had with 
Zoisite, y'see, and I lost, and the stakes were that the loser had to do 
one favor for the winner, and Zoisite came to collect yesterday."

Her grandfather nodded slowly.  "And?"

"And he had me spend the day with him shopping, so I cut class and now I 
have a week's worth of detention for it," Rei finished in a rush.

"An entire week, eh?  Hmm... was it worth it?" 

Rei blinked.  Grandpa Hino was being much too calm about this.  "Well... 
yeah.  Even if Gay-boy did cause me to get into trouble, I had fun," she 
admitted, carefully.

Her grandfather mulled this over, then shrugged.  "Don't do it again.  
Cutting class once won't hurt you, but it's a bad habit to get into."

Rei couldn't believe her good luck.  "You aren't--mad at me?"

He laughed.  "I was young once, too, and you're already in detention for a 
while.  Now go take care of your chores."

Much relieved, Rei did as told.  /Well... maybe I don't have to kill 
Gay-boy after all./


Just as Rei was getting into the rhythm of sweeping the floor, Yuichirou 
interrupted her.  "Um, Rei, can I ask a favor of you?" he began nervously.

Rei inhaled deeply and put her broom aside for a moment.  "What is it, 

"Well, you see... my parents are coming to visit me in a week or so, and 
since I've told them a lot about you, they really want to meet you... So 
they suggested that the four of us meet to have dinner while they're in 
town, and I was just wondering if you'd mind doing it."

Rei just stared at Yuichirou for a moment.  /He wants to introduce me to 
his parents?/ Then her mouth took over for her temporarily disabled brain. 
"Sure, Yuichirou, I'd love to meet your parents." 

/I can't believe I just said that,/ her paralyzed brain blurted, as 
Yuichirou looked relieved and babbled something about restaurants and 
making plans.  /What *have* I done?/


/This is ridiculous.  I refuse to keep on mooning over him,/ Naru told 
herself, heartily sick of staring at her bedroom for the third day 
straight.  /So he dumped me.  I was too good for him anyway.  The bastard 
never stopped lying to me anyway.  I don't need him.  I can survive just 
fine without him./

Her mind made up, she rolled off her bed.  Regarding her reflection, she 
shook her head in disgust.  "I look awful.  This won't do at all."

With the first sense of purpose she'd felt in days, Naru changed clothes, 
brushed her hair, and applied a little makeup.  "Much better," she 
approved the new reflection.  "Now it's time to get out of this stuffy 
little room..."

Briefly she considered calling Usagi and asking if she wanted to do 
something, but decisively shook her head.   No.  Her pride was still 
stinging, and who needed a best friend who lied consistently?  There were 
other people to be friends with, anyway.  Keeping that in mind, Naru 
picked up the telephone and called Umino.  "Yeah, Umino, it's really me... 
You want to take me out for a milkshake?" Naru smiled at the enthusiastic 
affirmative.  "All right, then, let's do it... See you in a few minutes."


Umino hadn't imagined such bliss existed... To have been invited by Naru 
on-he hardly dared use the word--a *date* was something he had only 
dreamed about.  So what if her eyes were a little too bright with subtle 
pain, or she laughed a little hollowly?  She was looking at him, laughing 
with him, talking with him... Oh, the ecstasy of it all...

Naru barely registered the fact that Umino was so devoted to her every 
word.  She was too busy plotting out her new life.  So Nephrite didn't 
want her because he had Makoto.  Fine.  She'd just have to prove to him 
that he'd made a big mistake.  She'd make him pay, yes she would.  She was 
sick of being made a fool of, and sitting there sipping a milkshake with 
Umino, she began formulating her campaign...


The two couples walked into the ice cream parlor laughing and teasing one 
another, completely lost in their own little world.  Mamoru and Usagi 
simply held hands, but Nephrite kept his arm over Makoto's shoulders and 
she kept her arm around his waist.  Both pairs nearly glowed with the 
auras of being young and in love, and most of the other patrons of the 
shop smiled at them indulgently as they slid into one of the booths.

A waitress hurried over to the quartet.  "Will this be one check or two?" 
she asked pleasantly.

"One." Mamoru grinned at Nephrite.  "The engaged guy gets to pick up the 

"Who made up *that* rule?" Nephrite gave Mamoru a suspicious look.

"The broke college student, that's who."

"Hmmph.  One check it is." Nephrite conceded the point to Mamoru.  
"Mako-chan, make a note of this.  One of these days you and I are going to 
take shameless advantage of those two, all right?"

"Fine by me.  Broke college student my hind foot." Makoto smiled sweetly 
at Mamoru and Usagi.

The waitress took this in with amusement.  "So, who's the happy couple?"

"They are!" Usagi grinned, indicating Nephrite and Makoto.  "Just a couple 
days ago."

"Congratulations!" The waitress beamed at them, and then got an idea.  
"For a happy occasion like this, the ice cream's on the house, guys."


"...and I was wondering something, Naru..." Umino screwed his courage to 
the sticking place.  "Would you like to go to the movies with me 

"Sure, Umino," Naru said, absently finishing her shake.  First she'd have 
to shopping for new clothes... and the hair had to change... The day of 
the hair bow had come to an end.

Umino grinned hugely.  "You will?  That's great!" He paused.  "I'd take 
you this weekend, but my mom is forcing me to go to the eye doctor or 
something... Oh, is that Usagi?  Gosh, how did a ditz like her ever get a 
college guy for a boyfriend?"

Naru half-turned to look; the napkin in her hands ripped in half under the 
sudden tension in her muscles.

Umino rattled on, unperturbed.  "Wow, isn't that Sanjouin Ma--no, wait, he 
calls himself Nephrite now, right?" Mamoru's good-natured teasing of the 
newly affianced pair traveled clearly across the room.  "Wow!  Engaged!  
That was fast, wasn't it, Naru?"

"Hush, Umino." Naru's voice was dead.  "I don't want to talk about him."

The teenager's eyes narrowed behind his thick glasses. He wasn't a master 
of the nuances of social interactions, but even he wasn't *that* 
oblivious.  "Naru, why are you so obsessed with that guy?"

"I said that I didn't want to talk about it." Naru slid off her stool.  
"I'm going home." Leaving the befuddled Umino, she steeled herself to walk 
past the booth where the couples sat.

Holding her head high, she stalked towards the door, frantically searching 
for just the right scathing words to say to Nephrite when he noticed her 

He never even turned his head in her direction, and Naru exited the store 
without being detained by anyone.

/The bastard,/ she thought angrily, able to see him and Makoto from her 
place on the sidewalk outside.  /How dare he ignore me?!/

Inside, Makoto laughed at something and began spoon-feeding Nephrite his 
sundae.  Naru ground her teeth at the sight of the intimacy.  /I *hate* 
her./ How dare the other girl touch *her* beloved Nephrite so boldly?

Naru turned on her heel, shaking with a tremendous fury.  She'd be damned 
before she'd surrender Nephrite so easily.

/He's *mine*./


Jealousy.  Wrath.  Bitterness.  Hatred.

Darkness seethed, exulting in the tumult of emotions that beckoned it.  It 
had been so long, so very long, since such strong sentiments had fed it... 
so very long since anyone had called out, seeking its aid...

At last.  An opportunity to be free again...

Darkness rejoiced.


Naru sat, unseeing, on a park bench.  She hated them all, hated them for       
the careless ways in which they handled all the precious gifts they had...       
Beauty.  Magic.  Money.  Charisma.  Love...

 a sly voice whispered in her ear.

"What?  Who said that?" Naru looked around sharply, but she was alone in 
the park.

"It isn't fair at all," Naru agreed wholeheartedly, shrugging her 
shoulders.  Not much could faze her anymore, and the little voice at the 
back of her mind that was screaming about eerie disembodied voices being 
the wrong things to talk to was ignored.

"They wouldn't, if I had my way about it," Naru muttered.  "I'd make 
things fair, that's for sure.  No one would ever be able to come along and 
steal someone else's rightful belongings."

Naru's face twisted.  "You might say that."

"Oh, yes.  He was *very* important to me," Naru snarled. "Then that slut 
came along and stole him from me!"

 the voice sympathized.  It hesitated.  

"How?" Naru asked suspiciously.

"So you're offering to help me out of the goodness of your heart?" Naru 
smirked.  "I'm sorry, but I don't buy that."      

There was soft laughter, tinged with the faintest hint of malevolence.  

|Run away!| the warning voice in Naru's head screamed.  |You know who this 

"It's practical," Naru conceded, ignoring the warning.  "I get Nephrite, 
and you get--what?"

"I see." Naru frowned, and decided.  "So, where do we begin?"

"Who are you, anyway?"

More laughter.  

"Okay.  Do you have a body, Metallia, or are you just a voice?"

A sliver of darkness opened to her right.  

The girl stared at the darkness, feeling a shudder of doubt.  Her inner 
voice screamed in fear.

 The voice was coaxing, 

Naru stood and stepped firmly through the portal.


"Something wrong, Neph?" Mamoru asked, as a shadow crossed the guardian's 

"I--" Nephrite frowned, unable to put into coherent words the feeling that 
had just brushed across his awareness.  "I can't define it... but--yes.  
Something's just gone wrong."

Makoto groaned.  "What's wrong with letting us have some peace and quiet?" 
she moaned.

Usagi smiled sadly and shook her head.  "We'd just get bored..."


The darkness was overwhelmingly complete, and the air was foul.  She 
coughed, and began to have second thoughts about her deal with Metallia.  
"Hello?" Her voice sounded tiny, swallowed by her surroundings.

"I don't suppose you could turn on a light?" Naru asked hopefully.

A faint red glow answered her, emanating from a large globe.  It cast the 
room into stark relief--stalactites and stalagmites looked unpleasantly 
like teeth to Naru.  The room was small, and bone-chillingly cold.  
 The globe pulsed with the cadence of the syllables.  

"Is that--you, Metallia?" Naru pointed at the light source with a shaking 

Naru edged forward, her mouth dry.  /This is for Nephrite,/ she told 
herself.  /Only for him./

Naru gulped, and placed her hands upon the icy cold surface.

 The triumphant voice roared.  Metallia's power roared 
through Naru, changing her as necessary to serve the dark power's designs. 

Naru dropped to her knees.  "Thank you, Majesty, for allowing me to serve 
you," she murmured, grateful for her queen's praise.  "What may I do for 
you now?"

 Metallia replied.

"Youma, Majesty?"


During lunch, Usagi accosted Umino.  "Hey, Umino, do you know why Naru 
isn't at school today?"

Umino turned a dejected face to her.  "No.  Why should I know?"

"Well, you are her boyfriend... aren't you?" Usagi replied.

Umino appeared even more depressed at that thought.  "I don't think I'm 
anything more to her than... what are they called?  A rebound 
relationship.  She's still got serious feelings for Sanjouin Masato or 
Nephrite or whatever he calls himself.  I don't mean anything to her."

"I'm sorry, Umino.  I wouldn't have said anything if I had known," Usagi 

Umino smiled sadly.  "It's okay, I don't mind.  I'm just happy that I can 
be there for her if she needs me.  That's what a rebound boyfriend is for, 

"I wonder where Naru is," Usagi fretted.  "Do you think she's sick, 

"There is a flu going around..." Umino shrugged.  "But she seemed okay 
last night..."

/I can't go to her house tonight... We've got a Scout meeting.../ "I'll go 
see her tomorrow if she isn't back by then... and I'll call her tonight."


Minako was the first to arrive at the temple, only to be greeted by 
Grandpa Hino.  "Ah, welcome, welcome... Rei isn't home yet--"

"She's not?" Minako followed the old priest inside.

"She's in detention.  She'll be along eventually.  Until then, make 
yourself at home."

Minako settled herself in the fire room, waiting patiently for everyone 
else to arrive.

A swirl of cherry blossoms heralded Zoisite's appearance. He looked a bit 
surprised to see only Minako in the room.  "And here I was just certain I 
was going to be fashionably late," he sighed.  He arranged himself on his 
favorite perch--midair--and began twirling a lock of hair.  "Where is 

Minako shrugged.  "Don't know... except that Rei's going to be late.  
Apparently she has detention."

      Zoisite looked guilty.  "Oops.  Forgot about that."


"Um... I kinda sorta convinced her to cut school and go shopping with me 
the other day." He tried to look repentant, but it just wasn't working.

"Shopping?  With you?" Minako was amazed.  "Are we talking about the same 

"Yeah, I know, I'm hardly on her list of favorite people," Zoisite waved 
an airy hand, "but she owed me a favor.  And I think she enjoyed herself, 
although I dare you to get her to admit it to anyone."

Minako grinned.  "That's Rei for you.  Memories or not, she hasn't changed 
a bit."

"You know, that's really peculiar," Zoisite mused.  "All the rest of you 
remember... Wonder what makes her different?"

Minako shrugged.  "Who knows?  So... what do you do when you aren't luring 
innocent girls into juvenile delinquency?"

"Not much." He was quiet.  "I can't really motivate myself to do anything 
worthwhile, so mostly I sit around.  Got a TV the other day.  It's good 
for wasting time."

"Give yourself an official reason for goofing off," Minako suggested 
dryly.  "Enroll in a college." Zoisite laughed.  "I know what you mean, 
though.  It's hard... to keep going."

He scowled.  "It ticks me off.  He had a perfectly good chance to be happy 
with you-after waiting a thousand years for it--and what does he do?  He 
throws it away out of an overdeveloped sense of guilt!  Maddening man." 
Zoisite smiled at the shock on Minako's face.  "Don't look so surprised.  
You had the prior claim on him, right?"

"Yeah, but--

"No buts.  You'd have been very happy together, and the fact that Kunzite 
and I had a relationship proves that the Negaverse can't totally stifle 
the good in people.  Believe me, I wouldn't have stood in your way." 
Zoisite grinned suddenly.  "But oh well... it's a moot point now.  He's 
such a frustrating man!"

"Thanks, Zoisite." Minako smiled at the blond guardian warmly.

"Whoa, where is everyone?" Usagi walked in, accompanied by Luna and 
Artemis.  "Hi, Minako, Zoi."

"Princess." Minako nodded.

Usagi studied Zoisite.  "You know, I wish I could do that."

"What?" He was at a loss for what she was talking about.

"Lounge in midair.  It looks like fun," Usagi clarified.

"Trade secret.  The day you tell me how you get your hair to stay up in 
those buns, I'll teach you how to levitate," Zoisite promised, stretching.

Usagi pouted.  "Oh, fine.  Be that way."

"Zoisite, stop pestering my girlfriend," Mamoru said calmly, walking in 
just in time to hear Usagi's final words.  

"I wasn't bothering her," Zoisite protested, pouting.

"Arguing already?  Can't you two control yourselves?" Ami asked, smiling 
at the group as she arrived as well.

"Of course they can't.  Arguing is their hobby," Makoto, coming in with 
her, said.  Then she squeaked and laughed as Nephrite pounced her from 

"Disgusting," Zoisite muttered, as the two lovebirds proceeded to tickle 
each other's tonsils.  "Get a room!"

Makoto and Nephrite reluctantly broke apart and settled themselves among 
he rest of the group.  "So, we're missing..." Nephrite did a quick head 
count "...the hostess."

On cue, Rei entered, a disgusted expression on her face.  "I hate you a 
lot, Gay-boy," she announced.  "A whole *week* of detention, all because 
of you.  Hi, everyone."

"Sorry, Rei.  But wasn't it worth it?" Zoisite asked, giving her a coaxing 

"Yeah, right, Gay-boy.  Now *you* owe *me*." Rei sniffed and went about 
settling herself with her friends.  

Nephrite glanced at Zoisite.  "Gay-boy?" he mouthed, incredulously.  

"I've been called worse," Zoisite shrugged.  "Besides, I've always been 
fond of those endearing little pet names people create for one another... 
Isn't that right, Pyro-slut?"

"I wouldn't know, Gay-boy," she sniffed, as her friends held their 
breaths, expecting her to explode.  The she smiled at him.  "But I suppose 
if it amuses you, it's not that big a deal."

"You're so generous," Zoisite said dryly.  "Enough chitchat.  I'm missing 
my afternoon talk shows."

"Heaven forbid that you miss a few sleazy excuses for entertainment," Rei 
snorted.  "Much as I hate to admit it, though, Gay-boy's right.  If we 
really do need to be having this meeting, we shouldn't be bickering."

Luna and Artemis exchanged glances.  Their young charges had changed so 
abruptly... Since when would Rei have given up a good round of squabbling 
in favor of Scout business?  Life wasn't supposed to change so abruptly; 
it was confusing.


The creature that had been Naru sat, unmoving and still, on the shattered 
throne in a silent hall, pondering how best to effect the complete       
resurrection and the subsequent dominion of her queen.  Such a thing would       
best be done swiftly, leaving no chance that the meddlesome remnants of       
the Silver Millennium would interfere as previously... Yet Metallia required       
energy in order to implement even the most preliminary bits of her plan.        
The mere act of contacting Naru and bringing her to serve the darkness had       
severely drained the dark queen (Naru was intensely conscious of the honor       
afforded her and vowed to prove herself worthy of it).  Now, as Queen       
Metallia's only agent, Naru faced the task of acquiring the energy for her       
mistress's goals.      

Naru smiled, and there was no trace of the warm, bright teenager whom 
Usagi had known in the thinning of those lips.  "My Queen," she said 

"I am familiar with the enemy and their ways."

"Your previous servants showed no innovation when it came to their battles 
with the enemy, and they have fallen into a complacence, My Queen."

"Although I may lack the finesse of previous generals, my Queen, I am more 
dangerous than they ever were." 

"I know how to avoid their notice... by the time they truly understand 
what is wrong, my Queen, it will be too late for them." Naru proudly 
lifted her head, secure in her experience.  "And although the enemy has 
traitors to our cause among their ranks, they will not be able to detect 
my work. Since they were not reborn in your blessed darkness, they will 
not have an affinity for emanations from the Negaverse."

 Metallia asked, 
full of dark good humor.

A shadow flickered across Naru's perfect face, and her eyes shut briefly.  
"I don't know, my Queen."

The meeting broke up, with nothing really having been accomplished save       
for a few hours of socializing.  Both Nephrite and Rei had made repeated       
attempts to discern the source of the former's vague sense of unease, but       
neither of them could obtain any information from their scrying.  The       
flames revealed nothing to Rei's repeated questions, and the stars said       
nothing to Nephrite.  It was maddening to Nephrite, who was certain that       
*something* was wrong... He just didn't know what it was.  After seeing       
Makoto home, he drove back to his place, lost in thought.        

/I wish Jadeite were around to talk to,/ he thought wistfully.  /Maybe       
he'd have a few ideas about what's going on./



               (                   (