The Wars of Light and Shadow - Chapter 7

© 1998 by E. Liddell


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Molly woke in an unfamiliar room, to the sound of someone else's breathing. It took her a moment to work out, in the dim light, where she was. It took an instant longer to realize that she wasn't alone in the bed.

Nephrite lay with his back to her, still almost fully dressed, although he had taken off his boots and his jacket. His head was pillowed on his arm, and his hair was tousled and untidy. His breathing was slow and regular, and she was sure he really was asleep. She wanted him to stay that way. The situation was just a little embarrassing. Here she had been sleeping with the guy of her dreams without even knowing it! She imagined the look on her mother's face if she ever heard that, and repressed a nervous giggle. I wonder why he put me in his bed? And himself along with me?

She couldn't bring herself to lie back down beside him. What had she been doing in bed with a man who, when all was said and done, was almost a total stranger to her despite everything they'd been through? She had been really frightened last night when she had realized what he had meant when he had said that they wanted to 'question' the creature. Torture. Oh, my poor Nephrite... And yet, with her he was gentle and charming. Protective. And she was absolutely certain that she was in love with him.

Molly sighed. Even that slight sound was enough to wake Nephrite, who rolled over to face her.

"Sorry about the accommodations," he apologized. "There's a lot of space here, but most of what I don't use myself is empty. As far as I know, poor Jadeite is still sleeping on the floor. And I did need the rest almost as much as you."

"Just don't ever tell my mother," she said, and was rewarded with his smile. "She's going to be worried about me," Molly continued. With reality intruding, she added, "I don't suppose you have anything here that I could wear?"

"I can probably find something." Nephrite propped himself up on one elbow, said, "Damn," very softly, and rubbed his shoulder.

"It still hurts you?" Molly asked.

"To be honest, I think it's all in my mind. I know those thorns were my death wound, and my subconscious manages to convince itself sometimes that it never healed..."

Cautiously, she reached out to take his hand. His skin was warm. She remembered him as always feeling like he had a mild fever. Except when he had been dying. He had been cold then, like a lead weight in her arms.

His free hand reached up to caress her face. There seemed to be only one proper response to that.

She leaned down and pressed her lips against his. She had meant it just to be brief, only a touch, but his hand shifted to the nape of her neck and held her there for a lot longer than she had intended. Molly found herself blushing, but he was too strong for her to be able to pull away until he let her.

"We'd better not do that again," Nephrite said when he finally decided to come up for air.

"Why not?" Molly asked, and blushed even redder. I'm sure he enjoyed that. I know *I* did. Did I do something wrong?

"Because you're much too young for me to do what I'm wanting to do right now." He turned, swinging his legs over the far side of the bed to stand up. "I'll go see if I can find something you can wear. Be warned that it's probably going to be much too large." He padded out of the room, leaving his boots and jacket in the corner where he had flung them.

Molly could only watch his retreating back and wonder what she was going to do.

There were five of them seated around the table that morning. Molly finally met Jadeite, who arrived late, unshaven, and in rumpled clothing, with a half-full sake bottle in one hand.

"What is she doing here?" Predictably, the objection came from Zoisite.

"She's part of this," Nephrite said firmly. "And in any case, she may be our best possible bait. Youma and the like seem fond of her, for some reason." His hand squeezed hers, hidden under the table, as though to tell her that he didn't really mean that.

Everyone looked at Malachite. The white-haired general stared broodingly at Molly for a moment.

"Very well," he said at last. "She has proven herself able to keep Nephrite's secrets. She may stay."

"A lot of help she'll be." Jadeite took a pull from his bottle and lounged back in his seat.

"More help than you, Jadeite," Malachite snapped. "We're here mainly to bring you up to date. I expect you to be quiet and listen."

"Who died and appointed you god?" Jadeite sneered.

Malachite's eyes began to glow. Wind rippled through his hair. "Do not attempt to cross me," the oldest general warned. "I would prefer not to waste energy fighting amongst ourselves, but I am still the most powerful of us. Perhaps you need to be reminded of what that means." Molly, seated between him and Nephrite, felt something oppressive in the air, as though lightning were about to strike.

Jadeite glared back, but didn't raise any power. "Another time," he said, and subsided.

Molly didn't bother to listen to Nephrite's recitation of the previous night's events. What am I doing here? she wondered. Dressed in clothing borrowed from Zoisite, which, as Nephrite had predicted, had turned out to be much too large, she knew she looked as out-of-place as she felt. I love Nephrite. I really do. But sometimes he manages to give me the creeping weirds, and the others are ten times worse. They frighten me, especially Zoisite. And Jadeite. And he'll never be able to completely separate himself from them, or his history with the Negaverse. Can I live with that? *Really* live with it, for the rest of my life? Or should I go back to Melvin and apologize for the way I've been ignoring him lately? She glanced up at Nephrite's profile. The things they don't tell you about this 'love at first sight' business.

As Serena knocked, the door swung open under her hand. "Molly?" she called uncertainly. "Mrs. Baker?"

The entryway was a shambles, the girl saw as she moved further in to the apartment. The paint on the walls was blistered, as though it had been exposed to great heat, and every scrap of fabric or paper was in a state somewhere between charcoal and ashes.

"Serena?"

She doesn't look like she slept a wink, Serena thought as Molly's mother entered from the direction of the bedrooms. "What happened here? Is Molly all right?"

"I don't know. She went with him. I haven't seen her since."

"'Him' who?"

"I wish I knew," Mrs. Baker said. "Molly called him Nephrite. He could have been Maxfield Stanton's twin brother. He..."

Not again, Serena thought. "Did he kidnap her? What happened?"

"Actually, I... I think he may have saved our lives."

That doesn't sound like the Nephrite *I* knew -- but then, our conversation in the park wasn't exactly like him either. Zoisite joking with Amy, Jadeite meekly taking what Raye had to dish out... none of them are acting in a way that I would consider normal. They might even be changing for the better. "Look, I think you're in shock. Let's go sit down, and I'll make some tea. Then you can explain."

Mrs. Baker allowed herself to be led into the living room and seated in a chair. She sounded remarkably calm as she explained to Serena where to find the tea. She wouldn't be nearly so calm if she knew what a mess I normally make when I try to do any kind of cooking, the Sailor Scout reflected wryly as she carried in the tray and set it opposite the older woman. Mrs. Baker seemed to improve a bit when she had drunk some of the hot beverage. Serena was about to turn the conversation back to Molly, Nephrite, and the events of the previous night when she heard her friend's voice in the entryway.

"Mom? Are you there?"

Mrs. Baker's hand shook, spilling some of her tea. "Molly? Is that you?"

"Of course it's me." Serena stared as her friend walked in. Molly was wearing grey uniform trousers that could only belong to one of the Negaverse Four, considerably rolled up, and a cream-colored shirt that fit too tightly in all the wrong places. She was carrying her pajamas over one arm. "Look, I'm really, really sorry about last night. I didn't want to frighten you, but I needed to know what was going on, and I think it would be a good idea if I talked to Serena. In private. Now."

She's changed, Serena thought. Molly's face was almost expressionless. She seemed not at all bothered by the fact that she had defied her mother and spent the night... where? The Negaverse? Is Nephrite trying to turn her into one of *them*?

"Go right ahead," Mrs. Baker said. "Not that you seem to care whether or not you have my permission."

Serena followed Molly into her bedroom. Molly threw her pajamas on the bed and closed the door. "Sit down, Serena. I don't want you to fall over."

Serena obediently sat in her usual spot on the floor near the window. "Are you going to tell me why you're wearing Zoisite's trousers?"

Leaning against the window, Molly ignored that. "I think, first off, I should warn you that Nephrite told me you were Sailor Moon." She smiled suddenly. It looked like the Molly Serena knew was back, at least for a little while. "I felt like such a dufus for not figuring it out myself. I mean, you do keep the meatballs."

"Hey, stop insulting my hair." Serena's protest was half-hearted at best.

"And I kinda have a message for you. Nephrite captured one of the monsters here last night. Those things call themselves the Empyrean, and they want to take over the planet."

Serena rolled her eyes. "Not again! What's so great about this planet, anyway? It seems like every space case from here to the thirtieth century wants it!"

"That wasn't really what I wanted to talk about, though." Molly slid down until she was sitting on the floor across from Serena. She looked lost in her oversized, borrowed clothes. "I kinda need a friend right now."

"What is it, Mol?" Serena asked with concern.

"It's Nephrite. Serena, I know I'm in love with him. But he scares me. Big time. He... he and the others were ready to torture that thing last night. I... It's like sometimes he's the wonderful guy that I know, and then all of a sudden he turns into someone else. Someone who belongs in the Negaverse. And I don't know what to do!"

"Mol, I..." Serena sighed. "I remember how I felt when Darien got taken by the Negaverse -- did Nephrite tell you about that? While he was working for Beryl, he was almost exactly like that. He'd be nearly his old self one minute, but then he'd do something cruel or horrible. I had to remind himself that it wasn't his fault. The Negaforce does something to people, Mol, and Nephrite lived in the Negaverse for more than a thousand years. I think the guy you know, the guy who cares for you, is probably the real Nephrite, but I don't know if he'll ever be completely free of what the Negaverse did to him. You're going to have to decide whether or not you can put up with him sometimes being mean."

"I don't know, Serena. It sometimes seems like I'm the one who's changing, and he's staying just the same. I mean, look at me." Molly slapped her grey-clad knee. "I told my mother off last night and ran away with a man I never even bothered to introduce to her. And I don't dare explain anything, because it's all wrapped up with a bunch of other people's secrets. I'm going to get into terrible trouble over it, but if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't change anything. I'm... kinda worried that I'm the one turning into a bad person."

"It's tough living in two worlds, sometimes," Serena said. "I've had to become an expert on climbing in and out of my bedroom window without waking up my family... Now look what you've done, Mol! You really must be turning into something horrible, because you're making me act serious!"

"Sorry, Serena." Molly smiled, but it was a tired smile.

"Where did he take you last night? The Negaverse?"

The red-haired girl shook her head. "I don't think they're living there anymore. No, it was a big gloomy building on a forested hill above the city. The view would be great if there weren't so many trees in the way. He gave me this --" she pulled a crystal about the size of her little finger out of her pocket -- "to use if I ever wanted to go back. I guess it isn't an easy place to find."

"They're living in the same place? All four of them?" Serena's mind boggled. She had seen just how well Nephrite and Zoisite didn't get along.

"Well, I don't think Jadeite's there much. Nephrite and Malachite seem kinda worried about him."

"Mol, will you do me a favor? Be careful around those guys, okay?"

"Of course I will." But the red-haired girl still didn't look too happy.

#All is in readiness,# the leader of the squad reported.

#Excellent. You know your orders?#

#We search for the being called Jadeite. He is most likely a Crystal Weaver and must be handled with extreme caution. We are to discover the extent of his powers, if any. It is probable that none of us will return. You will be monitoring us.#

#Excellent. Go now.#

#To the Glory of the Eternal Light!# The squad leader vanished with his troops.

#I hope they succeed in destroying him,# "my lord" reflected. #The Ancient requires a success to shore up his confidence.# Not for the first time, the creature decided that their leader was getting far too old.

He was coughing almost constantly, now. Blood spattered his hands whenever he raised them to his face. If it had not been for the all-enveloping trenchcoat, he would not have been able to pass for normal on the human streets, so wasted had his body become. But it's almost over now... His gaze sharpened as he spotted a familiar head of blonde hair, although how he could recognize it from ten stories up would have mystified anyone else. Fool, what are you doing here? Don't you realize what kind of danger you are in?

He felt the burning in his extremities that indicated the Empyrean were near, a legacy of the poison that was even now killing him. I am going to be forced to tip my hand at last. It's been a very long time coming.

Darkness encompassed his body, moving from the center outwards. When it had cleared, the rooftop was empty of anything except for a few puzzled pigeons.

The End of Chapter 7 - Goto The Other Chapter 7


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