No Night Without Stars

© 1999 by E. Liddell

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Author's Note:

This seems to be the Month of Bizarre Ideas. A very, very long time ago, while describing the NA episode "The Power of Friendship" to someone, I wondered what the remnants of Nephlite's blood that were still clinging to that bandage might have done to Melvin. Then, just the other day, this story came along and hit me over the head. Despite its genesis in the NA series, "No Night Without Stars" uses the characters' Japanese names, and takes place at some indefinite time that's most likely very late in the series.

As usual, I don't own the characters. Naoko Takeuchi and a bunch of other people do that. Please don't waste time suing me. It would cost you far, far more money than you'd ever get back.

Again? was all he could think, despairing, as the creature reached for him. Why do they always come after us? It was beginning to get very, very tedious. This was the second pair of glasses that had gotten broken by one of these things. Maybe I should get contacts.

Naru was standing beside him. She looked resigned, as though it was just the way of things for her to be monster fodder. And maybe it was. She'd been attacked on dozens of occasions, even when she wasn't with him. What had the first time been? That monster hiding among the cherry trees, back when they'd still been at Juuban? Somehow that didn't seem right, but he didn't really have time to think about it. The blurry green thing that was the monster's arm was almost touching him...

And then it reached past him to get at Naru.

He wouldn't even have tried to protect himself. He wasn't worth it. But he wasn't going to let it get her if he could help it. Not this time. She didn't deserve it, never had deserved it. And yet they always seemed to be picking on her. Well, enough was enough!

He grabbed his bookbag and swung it at the green blur. "Don't touch her!"

He made contact, but it only managed to annoy the monster. It slapped him in the chest with the back of its hand, throwing him against the wall.

I've failed, he realized. I should have known better, anyway. What's a computer geek supposed to be able to do against a monster? The Sailor Senshi will get here and trash it eventually, I suppose. And we'll be kept in the hospital overnight again. Why, why, *why* can I never save her, or even just myself?

<<You still have time.>>

His head snapped up. What?

<<You still have time,>> the strange voice repeated. <<I can help you, if you'll let me.>>

Who are you? What are you doing inside my head?

Image: a tall man with auburn hair is sitting on the grass, under a tree, with a young red-haired girl, who is tearing a strip from her pajamas to bandage a cut on his upper arm. When she's done, he smiles and thanks her.

Image: a boy, bespectacled and with tousled brown hair, is sitting on a bench beside the same girl, who is using a strip of orange cloth to bind a similar wound on his upper arm. The makeshift bandage is still stained with the first man's green blood. Unbeknownst to them, a few of those unhuman cells are still viable despite being a week separated from their host, and find the boy's body a comfortable place to take up residence.

<<Since that day, a little of me has been in you,>> the strange voice stated. <<Because of me, you fell in love with her, even though you'd only had eyes for Usagi before that. And because the two of us are linked, I can channel some of my powers through your body, if you'll permit.>>

No time at all had passed during their conversation. The monster's arm was inching forward with the glacial slowness found in dreams -- or nightmares. It was almost touching her. He had only a split second in which to decide.

Do it, he thought.

<<Thank you.>>

His body rose to its feet again, but under another's control now, that of a stranger who refused to be incapacitated by the pain of his bruises. His hand came up, and another man's voice issued from his mouth.

"I ask for power from the Stars."

The blow knocked the creature backward at least ten feet. He felt the other's satisfaction for a moment before the stranger was gone, sucked back down into the depths of his mind, there to wait until he was needed again.

As Sailor Moon arrived and began her speech, he knelt down beside Naru. "Are you all right?"

The girl smiled. "Yes, thanks to you... or..."

"What is it?" he asked.

"For a moment, it seemed like it wasn't you that I saw standing there. It was another guy, a lot taller, with long auburn hair and the most gorgeous blue eyes. He smiled at me. And it felt like I should recognize him, somehow, even though I'd swear I've never seen him in my life before. Umino, is something wrong?"

He shook his head. "No, everything's fine. Maybe we should get going, if you feel up to it... unless you want to watch the fight?"

"I don't think so. It isn't like I've never seen one before. And anyway, I have this sudden craving for a chocolate parfait..."

"I'm not sure that's a good idea. You know how my parents hate it if I eat sweets..."

<<Go with her.>>

What? Why?

<<It was my last promise to her. I think you owe me at least that much.>>

I guess you're right.

"...but maybe it'll be okay just this once," he said. "Come on, let's go."

They walked away together, arm in arm. And somewhere deep inside Umino's mind, another man smiled, a little sadly, and thought:

She has her life, at least, and someone who cares for her. He will watch over her as I never could, being what I was. I think they will be happy together.

And for him, it was enough.

The End

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