A Day in the Park? Tuxedo Mask talks to the Soldiers!

 

Usagi grimaced as she ran. Late again. Reiís going to be snotty about this. She tossed her head and nearly fell as she overbalanced. She caught herself, but slowed to a walk. Glancing at the streets, she decided to cut through the park -- it was dinner time and almost nobody was around. Sheíd told her parents she was going to eat with her friends, but Shingo had started teasing her, and then her dad got worried... Luna had escaped early to get to the meeting, but Usagi was caught. At least her mom hadnít started in on her grades again.

As she walked along the path, she heard a laugh.

"Ray, you are so silly!"

Usagi slowed to a stop. No way! That sounded like Mamoru!! Her hands balled into fists, If Reiís skipping the meeting to be with him...! She snuck around a tree and looked. She saw Mamoru sitting on the lawn, holding a peacock feather. He was still laughing and Usagi blinked as she tried to fit that into her mental image of him. Whereís Rei? Suddenly, there was a tug on one of her hairtails. She managed to keep from jumping, barely, and looked down.

At her feet was a large silver-grey tabby cat, batting at her dangling hair. As she turned her head, her hair moved, and the cat leaped after it, doing a somersault in the air to attack the upper curl, then landing with both front paws on the lower. The cat was so obviously having fun that she couldnít help but laugh, and crouched down and pulled her hair across the grass for the cat to stalk. A slightly wistful thought crossed her mind, Lunaís a friend, but sheís not a normal cat. I wish sheíd play sometimes.

Usagi felt someone staring at her and looked up. Mamoru was standing near them, the feather dangling from his hand unnoticed as he gaped at the cat.

"Raylia?" Mamoru sounded astonished and Usagi glanced at him curiously.

Abruptly, the cat left off playing with her hair and attacked the peacock feather, tearing it from Mamoruís hand and disappearing under a bush with it. Mamoruís face softened as he watched. "Ray! Come back here with that!"

He glanced at Usagi with a smile, "Not that one can order a cat to do anything..." He gazed at her a moment, then his face colored and he looked away.

Usagi wasnít sure what to do about this; he hadnít called her "Ondango Atama" yet, she hadnít been clumsy yet... The cat leaped out of the bush and attacked her hair again. Laughing, she sat down and let the cat play. Mamoru retrieved the bedraggled feather, and flicked the catís tail with it. In a whirl that defied gravity, the cat grabbed its tail and the feather, then tried to attack the feather without harming its tail. As Usagi giggled helplessly, her hair moved, and the cat turned again to pounce on it. Mamoru slowly dragged the feather to one side of the tree. The cat watched with narrowed eyes, holding a strand of Usagiís hair in its mouth. It made no move until the feather had nearly disappeared around the tree, then it leaped for the feather -- still holding her hair. Usagi shrieked and laughed at the same time as she was pulled to the ground with the force of the jump tugging her hair. The cat looked extremely startled, and climbed up the tree, peering down at her, silver whiskers twitching, the end of Usagiís hair still held in her mouth. It let the hair fall to the ground, watching, tail twitching.

"Oh, Iím sorry!" Mamoru exclaimed, extending a hand to her. "Raylia spends most of the time in my apartment... She tends to be a bit wild when I get a chance to take her out."

Taking his hand, Usagi let herself be helped up to a sitting position again. Before there could be any embarrassment between them, the cat -- Raylia -- leaped down on Mamoruís shoulders, then launched herself for Usagiís hair. Mamoru grabbed her in mid-leap and tossed her up in the air, then caught her on the way down. Usagi drew her breath for a protest, but then she heard the catís purr, and saw the way she rubbed her head on Mamoruís chest. Mamoru saw her staring and shrugged, looking slightly embarrassed, "She enjoys it."

"Luna would tear out my eyes if I tried that."

Mamoru smiled, "Luna is a very serious cat." He set Raylia on the ground, and she instantly turned to bat at the laces on Usagiís shoes.

Usagi smiled gently as she pictured Luna, "Sheís a good companion."

Trailing the feather along Rayliaís backside produced no noticeable effect as the cat was intent on Usagiís shoe. "Rayís been with me almost as long as I can remember." He grimaced, and his face was suddenly still, "Actually, before I can remember..." His eyes clouded in pain.

Usagi wasnít sure what to say, suddenly aware that she and Mamoru hadnít really talked before, without arguing. But the cat mewed and pawed at Mamoruís hand, breaking him out of whatever black mood he was in. With an obvious effort he smiled again, and rolled the cat over with his hand. The tabbyís feet were all white, but she had black pads. All four feet kicked at Mamoru and they wrestled for a bit before Raylia broke away. Usagi dangled one hairtail... the cat pounced.

The three of them played together for some time before the town bells sounded through the park. With an exclamation, Usagi jumped up. "Oh no!" Sheíd forgotten all about the meeting. Reiís going to kill me for sure now! "Bye!" Waving a hand behind her, she pelted off through the park.

The man and the cat stared after her, watching as her silhouette disappeared in the distance.

 

Usagi ran as fast as she could. Ohhhh... Suddenly, she stopped. Maybe if I bring them some desserts, they wonít be as angry with me. She changed directions and headed for her favorite pastry store -- it wasnít that far. Her shortcut took her past a bar that had a nasty reputation. She heard sounds of fighting from within it and shivered as she started to pass it by. Then somebody screamed. Usagi halted in her tracks. It was a sound sheíd come to know well. No. Her eyes glistened at the edges, I donít want to fight. The window crashed as a person fell through it almost at her feet. He rolled to a stop and didnít move. She reached a hand out and touched him. Alive, but drained of energy. Usagi looked up and then steeling herself for the inevitable, peered in the window. Inside was a magenta/black dragon-type creature crouched amid the broken tables. In its tentacles, people screamed. A glow surrounded one person and died. The creature threw that person against a wall, and reached for another. Evil. Frightened, but now determined, Usagi raised her hand, "Moon Prism... Make-up!"

 

In the park, Mamoru staggered, a hand raised to his head. "No!" A wind whipped around him and then Tuxedo Mask stood there. He looked curiously at the tabby cat at his feet, then turned his head. "Sailor Moon..."

 

"Stop right there! You propagate your evil and destroy all hope! I wonít allow it -- in the name of the Moon, I will punish you!" Sailor Moon finished her speech and stood for a moment -- the creature paid no attention to her at all! "How rude!" As it made to grab another person, she snatched off her tiara, concentrating, "Moon Tiara... Action!" The tiara glowed with her energy and flew through the air, slicing through the tentacles. The woman it was reaching for stopped screaming in surprise, and looked to her in utter relief. Then, prudence gaining its hold on her, she ran. If the monster had ignored Sailor Moon before, that got its attention. It roared, and turned its head towards her. The giant eyes glowed darkly and its fangs glistened wetly. The small tentacles waved around its head, then suddenly shot towards her, extending in reach. Sailor Moon had her tiara back in hand, but there was no time; she screamed and jumped to one side. The tentacles whipped past her, then twisted back, catching her around an ankle. She screamed again as what felt like a hundred pins pricked her skin. Another tentacle cracked towards her face. Clenching her hands, she felt metal -- she was still holding her tiara! Quickly, she threw it. The glow was feeble and she could see the tiara through it, but it smashed into the oncoming tentacles with what seemed like a small explosion. This time, the monsterís roar sounded as if it was in pain, and the tentacle around her ankle loosened briefly. She jerked out of its grasp and rolled back. She looked up to see it coming towards her again. Sailor Moon kept rolling and rose in a crouch, then leaped over a table. A lot of the patrons who could, had run screaming out of the building. But there were more, collapsed, unconscious, or trapped, who looked to her for their rescue. I canít... I must. She paused to regain her breath, and tried to summon her energy again, but something was wrong... A glint of metal caught her eye and she saw her tiara laying on the floor in front of the monster. "Damn!"

A person to the left of her tried to crawl to the fire door, behind the dragon. Without turning its head, a tentacle shot out to encircle him. The glow was brief, and the man was tossed down too quickly for Sailor Moon to react. She edged out towards her tiara, what else can I do? Another scream reverberated through the room. Sailor Moon turned to see a small child held in the air. How did he get in here? But the pastry shop was two doors down, and children were curious. Forgetting caution, Sailor Moon leaped out towards the child. The creature swung its head to her and Sailor Moon found herself staring at dark fangs. Screaming, she threw herself flat and felt the rush of wind lift her hair as the monsterís head darted over her. She looked up to see the glow around the child die and his limbs dangle loose. The tentacle unwound, throwing the limp body away -- at a stone wall. The boy would be killed! Sailor Moon rushed forward futility. She stopped abruptly with relief as Tuxedo Mask appeared, jumping down and catching the boy in one arm as he used the other to throw a rose at... her? The rose passed by within an inch of her face and as she turned to follow it, the roar from the monster knocked her down flat. She scrambled back, eyes on the fangs two feet from her, nearly fainting with alarm as she realized how close sheíd been to getting munched!

A gloved hand helped her up, then shoved her backwards behind him. "Sailor Moon! Take the child and go!" Sailor Moon glanced at Tuxedo Maskís determined profile. He added, "Call the Senshi. We need them."

"Hai!" She gathered up the boy in her arms and ran for the door. Tentacles swarmed after her, but Tuxedo Mask jumped in front of them, his cane whirling rapidly, beating them off. They tried to maneuver behind him, but he kept himself just ahead of them.

Outside the building, Sailor Moon paused to catch her breath. "Ishe!" Two concerned parents descended upon her. She gave their son to them and dashed back into the building. Looking around, at first she couldnít see Tuxedo Mask. Then she spotted him at the back of the room, dodging tentacles. She pondered what she could do -- without her tiara, she could only attack physically, and the dragon didnít seem particularly vulnerable... Cursing suddenly, she remembered the second part of Tuxedo Maskís command. She pulled out her communicator.

"Trouble!" Sailor Moon saw the image of Rei in the communicator. "At the... uhhh... Two shops from the pastry store!" She didnít have to say which pastry store.

"The pastry store! Have you been there this whole time?"

Sailor Moon glared at the image, then a cry tore at her heart -- she looked up to see Tuxedo Mask enveloped by the tentacles. She spared a last thought for the communicator, "Hurry!" and then attacked the monster. It was concentrating on Tuxedo Mask and she was able to get close before the head swung to face her. She didnít stop and leaped up to deliver a well-placed kick straight on its left eye. The roar of pain shattered what windows were left in the building and she cowered back, covering her ears. When she looked up, the other eye was focused on her. She gave a small whimper as she found she could not move. Then Tuxedo Mask was beside her, enveloping her in his cloak with one arm as he used the other to throw a rose straight in the snout of the dragon. The rose shattered, petals falling to the ground. The monsterís eyes blinked and the tentacles all retracted to swarm over its face. Tuxedo Mask staggered even as he held Sailor Moon, and she supported him as they retreated.

"Wait!" Tuxedo Mask reached down, picked up her tiara, and handed it to her. She looked into his eyes, falling into their blue depths. He stared back at her, "Sailor Moon...", then he shook himself and looked behind them, "This respite is only temporary. I donít have the power to destroy it." They walked to the door, then both turned. The dragon was still thrashing in pain. Tuxedo Mask looked at Sailor Moon, "Thank you."

"Youíve saved me enough times. About time I did something to return the favor."

Tuxedo Mask smiled. "Being yourself is more then enough repayment."

Sailor Moon blushed. Pulling in a deep breath, she focused on the dragon, and raised her hand to her tiara, centering her energy and aiming for a point below Tuxedo Maskís rose.

"No!"

Astonished, Sailor Moonís attention centered on Tuxedo Maskís hand covering hers. "But you always tell me to fight after youíve halted the yomas."

"Itís not the time yet, Sailor Moon." His eyes were serious behind his mask. "Itís not a yoma. This creature is still too strong. You would need to expend too much of your light to destroy its darkness now. Better to wait for the Senshi."

"But..." Sailor Moon looked to the dragon. "What can we do?"

Tuxedo Mask also looked at the monster that was getting back up on its feet. It didnít look happy. "Distract it until they get here."

He sighed and removed his hand from hers, slowly pulling out his cane instead.

"Tuxedo Mask!" Sailor Moon grabbed him, "Youíre too weak."

His laugh was music to her ears. His hand turned hers over and he dropped a kiss into her palm, "I thank you for your concern, my Lady." He grinned at her, "Iíll be fine. You are at my side."

Sailor Moon felt her heart turn over and her breath caught. Unnoticed by her, her back straightened and her head rose. Her eyes glinted with new determination and confidence. Tuxedo Mask nodded his approval, then turned to face the dragon.

 

***************************************************

 

In the park, Mamoru staggered, a hand raised to his head. "No!" A wind whipped around him and then Tuxedo Mask stood there. He looked curiously at the tabby cat at his feet, I know this cat..., then he turned his head. "Sailor Moon..." She is in the world -- that way. He took several steps forward, then phased to where he sensed her.

 

Tuxedo Mask perched on a wall light, swinging one foot idly. He was still only partially materialized, and couldnít be seen yet. He watched Sailor Moon fight the dragon. She does well. He held a rose loosely in one hand, ready to intervene if need be. His senses were unfocused, feeling the moments of time swirl in patterns before him. Sailor Moonís filament was the one imperative to continue. Tuxedo Mask kept part of his attention on the dragon. Pure, dark evil it was. Coming through a Gate of even darker evil. Iíll have to take care of that when Sailor Moon is safe again. He could see no true weak spots in the dragon. Pure Negaverse. Distraction must be my only key. Suddenly, the time swirls resolved themselves into one fatal pattern and he knew he must act. He opened his eyes to the material world and saw what Sailor Moonís problem was. "Damn." His attention must be divided to save them both.

Leaping off the lamp, he caught the boy with one arm while throwing the rose at the dragon. His energy spiraled off with it, jolting into the monster and seriously distracting it. But he dared not put too much of his energy into it yet -- he could sense this fight would be long. Fully materialized, he couldnít sense the time patterns as well, but... He put the boy down and walked to Sailor Moon, helping her off the ground. Then he placed himself in front of her. "Sailor Moon! Take the child and go!" Without taking his gaze off the dragon, he knew she was looking at him. He added, "Call the Senshi. We need them." He could feel it.

"Hai!" Sailor Moon took the boy and left. Tentacles swarmed after her, but Tuxedo Mask jumped in front of them, his cane whirling rapidly, beating them off. They tried to maneuver behind him, but he kept himself just ahead of them. This thing is strong. He expended part of his energy to phase some of the people to safety -- those who were in the most danger. The others, he wove a time band above, to displace them until the situation was resolved. It was something that he sensed had to be done. But dividing his attention had its problems. As he beat off one set of tentacles, another slipped past his cane and wrapped around him. A cry tore its way out of his throat -- it felt like a hundred-thousand jelly fish were stinging him. He struggled, but could not get loose. Then the tentacles loosened while the dragon roared in pain. Tuxedo Mask fell ungracefully to the floor and looked up to see Sailor Moon standing in front of the monsterís head. One eye was red and half-closed. Tuxedo Mask smiled, Good for you, Sailor Moon.

His danger sense was about ringing his head apart. Jumping over the tables between them, Tuxedo Mask landed beside Sailor Moon, enveloping her in his cloak with one arm as he used the other to throw a rose straight in the snout of the dragon. This time, he poured as much energy into it as he could. The rose shattered, petals falling to the ground. The monsterís eyes blinked and the tentacles all retracted to swarm over its face. The darkness retreated, but didnít even fray in the spot his rose hit. Damn, itís strong. His energy as shattered as the rose, he staggered even as he held Sailor Moon, and she supported him as they moved back to the doorway.

"Wait!" Tuxedo Mask reached down, picked up Sailor Moonís tiara, and handed it to her. She looked into his eyes, her own wide with her love and fear. He could sense the light pouring out of her, directed at the world in general and, at this moment, him in particular. He found himself falling into her deep blue eyes, "Sailor Moon...", then he shook himself and looked behind them, "This respite is only temporary. I donít have the power to destroy it." We need the Senshi. All of them. A image rose up in his mind of the Princess, flanked by four determined Warriors. He recognized Mercury and Mars, but not the other two. Even as he thought it, names spiraled just beyond his comprehension, Venus, Jupiter. There was no sign of Sailor Moon, but she is there. The image swirled away. He blinked, but didnít try to trace the thought-image down. He sensed it was out of the Time Eddies and as such, untraceable. But he would remember.

They turned when they got to the door. The dragon was still thrashing in pain. Tuxedo Mask could sense his rose stem dissolving in the darkness. But the thorns of light were having their impact. They had a few minutes before the creature would be able to resume its attacks. Good thing I did the time band first.

Time... His own filament had come close to leaving the pattern. Tuxedo Mask looked at Sailor Moon, "Thank you."

"Youíve saved me enough times. About time I did something to return the favor."

Tuxedo Mask smiled. The statement was older than her years, but wholly herself, and not the other that guided her and was part of her. "Being yourself is more then enough repayment." And it was. The Light that poured through her body flooded his senses and renewed his energy. Only Sailor Moon had the love of life that could affect the world.

Sailor Moon reached a hand to her tiara, and he could feel her pouring her energy and light into it, focusing for a final attack.

"No!" Tuxedo Mask reached out to interrupt her sending. "Itís not the time yet, Sailor Moon. Itís not a yoma. This creature is still too strong. You would need to expend too much of your light to destroy its darkness now. Better to wait for the Soldiers." Her light was pure, but the dragon came from the darkness and was whole.

"But..." Sailor Moon looked to the monster. "What can we do?"

Tuxedo Mask also looked at the dragon that was getting back up on its feet. It didnít look happy. "Distract it until they get here." My job. Sailor Moon must keep her Energy for later.

He sighed and removed his hand from hers, slowly pulling out his cane instead.

"Tuxedo Mask!" Sailor Moon grabbed him, "Youíre too weak."

He glanced at her, surprised. He saw her care and more than that, he felt it. The Light that was hers alone flooded into him and replaced his flagging energy. He laughed in delight. It felt so right. This was how stars were saved -- her love renewing the world. His hand turned hers over and he dropped a kiss into her palm, "I thank you for your concern, my Lady." He grinned at her, "Iíll be fine. You are at my side."

Sailor Moonís breath caught in her throat. Unnoticed by her, her back straightened and her head rose. Her eyes glinted with new determination and confidence. Tuxedo Mask nodded his approval, his heart light with his joy in her certainty of purpose. She grows into her inheritance. They turned to face the dragon, together, as it should be. The world felt right.

 

**********************************************************

 

Somewhere in the fight, they got separated. Sailor Moon fought the dragon at the front, facing the tentacles and fangs. Tuxedo Mask was towards the back, next to the long skinny body with the short stubby legs of the dragon. The tentacles reached for him even there. The dragon hadnít emerged from the gate far enough to utilize its tail, something Tuxedo Mask was exceedingly grateful for.

"Ahhhh!" A tentacle grabbed Sailor Moon around her hand as she reached again for her tiara.

Tuxedo Mask reached inside his cape, then pulled his hand back out, empty. He whirled and jabbed his cane down on the foot nearest to him. The foot pulled back and kicked him so he smashed into the wall behind. But the action accomplished its objective in that the tentacle around Sailor Moonís hand was loosened and she broke free. The energy that had been leached from her made her feel shaky, and she backed up towards the entrance. The head followed her, watching her carefully. Sailor Moon whimpered, knowing it would attack in seconds and she couldnít stop it. Then a great gush of flames flowed by her and smacked the dragon in the head. It screamed, head, neck, and first two legs rearing up into the air.

"And I thought its roar was bad." Sailor Moon winced as the sound pierced her inner eardrums.

Sailor Mercury knelt down by Sailor Moonís side and put an arm around her shoulder. "Are you all right?"

"YesÖ" How did I end up on the ground? I was standing a moment ago.

Fire burst upon the dragon again, and its head whipped through the air, creating a gust of wind that spiraled off the flame into separate trails that guttered out. Watching it, Sailor Moonís mouth dropped open. Since the day sheíd met her, Sailor Mars had never been ineffectual in an attack. Sailor Moon stood up, supported by Mercury. Her hand reached for her head, then dropped away. She had been fighting for too long.

Sailor Mercury left her side and circled around to an open space. Sailor Moon needs a break -- this creature is too dangerous. She readied her Bubble Spray, focusing her powers on holding the monster still. Apparently attracted by her energies, the dragonís tentacles swarmed towards her, but Mercury kept her calm knowing she would finish her attack before they got to her. "Mercury Bubble Spray!" The Bubbles left her hands and spread around the dragon. She lowered her hands in satisfaction. Then her eyes flew open wide as the tentacles kept stretching out to her, barely slowed by the Bubbles around them. She took a step backward, knowing she was too late.

As she watched the oncoming tentacles in horror, something slammed into her from the side pushing her away from the danger. Sailor Mercury felt herself enveloped by a warm cloak, held by strong arms, even as they rolled over the ground. When they stopped, Tuxedo Mask untangled her and supported her. She glanced at him, embarrassed to be rescued so dramatically. "It didnít work," she whispered.

Tuxedo Mask continued to hold her next to him, but his gaze was on the monster. "Those that have the Negaverse in their blood cannot be held. They can, however, be confused." He smiled down at her and she felt her courage return in a rush. "Try again, and remember." He let her go and moved away, pulling out his cane and maneuvering to the rear. Mercury watched him a moment longer, so, if one attack doesnít work, use another one. Just because I donít succeed at first does not mean Iím incompetent. She nodded, she would remember. Then she turned to the dragon again. "Mercury Bubble Spray." This time she focused the power to blind and confuse. There was a roar from the monster, and the tentacles swarming around the room jerked back, flailing aimlessly around.

"Good work, Mercury!" Lunaís voice came from the side of the room where she peered in at them, her whiskers twitching as she watched the fight.

Sailor Mars came around from the side where she had been and stood next to Sailor Moon. Mercury also joined them, after hesitantly looking to Tuxedo Mask to see what he was doing. Tuxedo Mask moved away from them, towards the back of the room. He moved slowly, not with his usual grace and Mercury worried, but didnít see what she could do about it.

Sailor Moon looked at her two friends next to her and felt their strength and determination like it was her own. She swallowed, knowing well how long she and Tuxedo Mask had already been fighting with no apparent effect. But the others are here. It changes things, and we can work together. The Bubbles were starting to clear. Sailor Moon raised her hand to the slim band of metal at her forehead, centering her energies in the gem and not allowing herself to doubt. No words needed to be exchanged. Mars put her hands together, the fire in her soul gathering into an intense ball of heat and flame and light. Mercury reached within herself and turned, feeling the living water elements pouring through her being. Then the three of them sent off their attacks together, in the same instant. The tiara flashed in front, brilliant with the Light and Goodness of the Moon. The purifying fire that came straight from Marsí heart wrapped around the tiara and augmented the Power. And the righteous water of life of Mercuryís full knowledge of her role as defender joined them both, endowing the attack with the three Powers bent on destroying this Evil in their midst.

The dragonís screams reverberated through the room and dust fell from the ceiling. It reared up, its four front paws dangling in the air. Its head banged against the ceiling and it dropped back down again, roaring in pain and surprise. The monsterís massive head shook from side to side, tentacles withdrawing in around its mouth. Then it turned around impossibly in that small bar, crushing tables and chairs in its wake. For a moment it looked like a giant pretzel, as the dragonís body wrapped in around itself to get back to its point of retreat. The head started disappearing, and the tail came out around from where it had been hidden. As the tail whipped around the room it hit the three Sailor Senshi and sent them flying, smashing into the walls.

When they looked up again, the dragon was gone, leaving a quietness that filled the room. Sailor Moon sighed with relief, itís over. Tuxedo Mask stood at the back of the room, staring at the empty air. Sailor Mars stood up and walked towards him. Hey, Sailor Moon was indignant, heís mine! She tried to stand up but fell back with a scream of pain. Sailor Mercury and Luna were by her side in an instant. Sailor Moon held her arm and sobbed out loud.

"Sailor Moon," At her cry, Tuxedo Mask started towards her, but Sailor Mars stepped in front of him.

"Stop right there." They stared at each other Ė Tuxedo Mask with surprise, Sailor Mars with determination. "I sense Evil."

Tuxedo Mask blinked, then grimly smiled, "Sailor Mars, you nitwit Ė itís not me! Itís the Rip!" He waved a hand to indicate the area behind him, then walked closer to her.

Sailor Mars let him approach. Her eyes widened as she looked in him and then beyond him. She felt nothing but goodness emanating from him, the same as sheíd always been attracted to. Beyond him, thoughÖ She moved forward, dread making a palatable taste in her mouth.

It was a blackness in the air, jagged at the edges. Sailor Mars sank to her knees in front of it from the Evil she sensed through it. A hand on her shoulder fed her strength and she rose again.

"Can you close it?" Tuxedo Mask was standing next to her, his mask shaded tight as he looked at the blackness.

Sailor Mars looked at him in complete surprise, "You can see it?"

"Aye." His face was bleak. "Can you close it?"

Sailor Mars shook her head. She thought she might know how to do it, but it was many, many years away in her training before sheíd be able to do it herself.

"Do you know anyone who can?"

There was her grandfatherÖ Rei sighed to herself. Once, he might have been able to. He still had great powers, but not as he once was. And his lechery left a stain that could weaken him at a vital moment. Just as, and Rei hated to admit it even to herself, her pride made her less then she could be. Of all the Holy people she knewÖ "Just one person. But she lives several hours away, and has no phone or transportation."

Tuxedo Mask shrugged, then walked away from her, back to where Mercury still knelt next to Sailor Moon. Sailor Mars stayed by the wave of living Evil and tried hard not to fear.

Sailor Moon looked up as Tuxedo Mask knelt by her side. Just seeing him made her heart lift up in gladness. He took her arm gently, "Hold still for just a moment." Mercury settled back, watching them but trusting Tuxedo Mask.

"Simple fracture. Straight. On the lesser bone." His mask faded from the solid white it had been, but didnít clear enough for them to see his eyes. "Good. It should heal up without any problems."

"You can heal?" Mercury leaned in, looking at Sailor Moonís arm. She touched Tuxedo Mask without being aware of what she was doing Ė it had always been her dream to healÖ

Tuxedo Mask gently laid his hand over hers and placed it on the upper portion of Sailor Moonís arm. "No. But I can improvise. Your love for your friend will help." He closed his eyes, and a slight glow came from his hand as it overlay Mercuryís. Mercury stared in amazement for a moment, then felt a tug at her awareness. She closed her eyes and felt the wrongness in Usagiís arm. It was a small point of pain and chaos. The image of neurons flashing electrical signals came to her mind, then a picture of sore and strained muscles surrounding an expanse of bone where a crack ran vertically up for a short distance. A sigh seemed to come from without her, and she felt a release of energies that poured into the neurons and bloodstream around them, calming the frantic chaos and allowing the natural order of healing to start. Mercury nodded; she saw now how to do it. "Bubble Spray Healing," she whispered within the depths of her mind, and she saw her Bubbles surround and enclose the cracked bone and sore muscles. A satisfaction filled her Ė Usagi wouldnít be misusing the arm before it healed.

"NowÖ" Tuxedo Mask walked back towards Sailor Mars. The other two Senshi looked at each other then followed him without understanding but with trust.

"Tuxedo Mask," Sailor Marsí voice trembled, "Itís strong Ė what can we do?"

Sailor Moon blinked and walked forward, "Whatísó" Two arms shot forward to drag her back.

"Donít go there, idiot." Sailor Mars let go of her.

"We have to close it." Tuxedo Mask drew her back behind him and Mars before also releasing her. Sailor Moon didnít mind Reiís letting go, but would rather that Tuxedo Mask had kept close to her a bit longer. She sighed softly, finding it hard to concentrate on any danger she couldnít actually see, when Tuxedo Mask was so near to her.

"Close what?" Everybody looked down to see Luna standing next to Sailor Mercury, her whiskers twitching, "I sense something hereÖ" The crescent moon on her forehead started to glow, "Oh, I see. The Negaverse. Itís ripped through."

Tuxedo Mask and Sailor Mars blinked and looked at each other before turning their attention to the small black cat. "Can you close it, Luna?" Sailor Mars asked.

Luna shrugged, then looked up at Sailor Mercury, "Can you get a reading?" Sailor Mercury already had her computer out and VR goggles activated, "How very interesting! Yes, Iím getting readings from it, but Iím afraid I donít really know what they mean. What is a g -psihon?"

"Never mind that for now Ė youíll remember eventually. For now, just tell me how much they are."

All three girls looked at her in silence, then Mercury shook her head and answered, "127."

"Ouch," Luna winced, "The dragon must have absorbed some energy from our world before going back through. It would have been better if we could have destroyed it now."

"None of us separately had the power to destroy it. It must wait until all the Senshi are gathered." Tuxedo Mask spoke with decorum, but Rei sensed a wave of annoyance from him.

"Until allÖ" Luna faced him, "Who are you, anyhow? And what do you have to do with the Negaverse?"

"Luna!" All three of the girls cried out. "He helps us!"

Lunaís tail lashed against the floor, "But why does he? You are warriors fighting a powerful evil Ė learn to ask questions, girls."

Tuxedo Mask looked at her mildly, "Sheís right. And I donít actually know. The Negaverse is my enemy," his hand clenched into a fist by his side and his voice went hollow as he spoke, "And when you need help, I come. There should be more, but something is blocking my memory."

"Can you tell us anything about our enemies?" As long as weíre actually talking to himÖ Sailor Mercury wanted to get more information.

"Um," Tuxedo Mask looked at the Rip, "We donít have much time, butÖ He gestured to the Rip, "The Negaverse has long tried to enter our world through the dark hearts of man. Beryl is working with one of the supreme powers of the Negaverse, Metallica, to gain powers. That is where our problems are mostly coming from. Youíve already defeated two of her more powerful servants, Jadeite and Nephrite. But the more that she and her henchmen feed energy to the Negaverse, the weaker the barrier between our worlds becomes."

"This bar has always felt bad. Itís gotten worse in the last several weeks." Mars was very serious. "So, the barrier tore, and the dragon entered through it."

"And now we need to close it." Sailor Mercury was examining the area though her goggles. With their aid, she could see the darkness wafting through the black stain of the Gate.
"Itís knitting itself together at the top of the rip."

"Yes, Sailor Moonís light has made this a point of weakness no more," Tuxedo Mask smiled at Sailor Moon. "But the hole is still large enough that something can still get through."

"Can you tell us anything more about Beryl?" Sailor Mercury brought the conversation back around.

"The Queen sealed her long ago. Obviously sheís broken freeó"

Lunaís back arched as she hissed, "The QueenÖ Who are you?!!"

Tuxedo Kamenís mask shaded to complete solid again. "I already told you I donít know. Luna diíNath, you havenít changed a bit in a thousand years!"

Luna flushed scarlet over her body, "Stop calling me that!"

Tuxedo Mask shrugged, "Itís your name. Anyway, as you learn, so do I. Priorities are changing and I...," he shook his head.

"Priorities?" Lunaís voice was more reasonable this time -- obviously keeping herself under check.

"The Princess is trapped. I can hear her calling, but I donít know--" He stopped speaking and spun in a whipping motion, a rose leaving his hand and arcing towards the Rip.

Sailor Mars screamed, a high-pitched sound of terror, as she fell back, her hands reaching towards her calf where jaws attached to a long neck were clamped. Tuxedo Maskís rose flashed over the neck and stuck in the cement next to it. The creature promptly let go, itís neck twisting in convulsions. Mars scrambled back a bit, then loosed a spat of fire at it, not quite focusing enough for a full attack. It was enough to send the monster snaking back through the Rip, an anguished howl coming from the jaws without a face.

"Oh, ick!" Sailor Moon said, heartfelt, "Rei, are you okay?"

Sailor Mars shuddered, "That, thingÖ" Sailor Moon put her arm around her.

"I think we just ran out of time. Others have discovered the Rip. Time to close it. Or at least seal it for the moment." Tuxedo Mask looked at the Rip and sighed.

"But, we canítÖ"

He turned to them, serious as they had never seen him before, "Donít you ever, ever say anything like that. When you work together, there is nothing you canít do."

"But this Rip?"

He grinned, the expression lightening his face and making already handsome features beautiful, "Improvise." He pulled out a green rose from his coat, "Iíll direct it. When I need to, I can usually manage something. If you could feed strength to meÖ"

They looked at each other then back at him, "How do we do that?" Sailor Moon added, "Are you going to be all right?"

Tuxedo Mask frowned briefly, "You donít know?" Then he grinned as he looked at Sailor Moon, "And Iíll be fine. Though," he fell silent for a moment, "Well, at least it wonít kill me. But I probably wonít be around for awhile before you see me again.

"And think about how you feel when you concentrate your energies for an attack and then send them to me instead."

Sailor Mars rolled her eyes, for one of the first times seeing him as something besides handsome, "A little more detail, please."

"Ah," Tuxedo Mask looked to Sailor Mercury, and she caught a glimpse of intense blue eyes pleading for help before the mask shaded again. She stifled a grin and tired an explanation of her own, "Mars, your power is in the fire. When you feel it rushing through your body and soul, then you direct it out to the yoma with a thought of righteous fire purifying the evil, right?"

Sailor Mars nodded.

"Then, gather it the same way, feeling it within and through you, but then direct your thoughts to Tuxedo Mask, giving him the energy and strength of the fire. Sailor MoonÖ," Mercury looked back to Tuxedo Mask, who took it up again, "Picture the moonís pure light, glowing with the light to drive out darkness, and then trust me." He turned to Luna who nodded, "Iíll do what I can, which is mostly guard. Moon Cats only blend well with other Moon Cats."

Tuxedo Mask stepped back, gesturing the others back with him. All of them concentrated trying to do the best they could. The three Senshi felt their energies going out from them, going to Tuxedo Mask. Then he threw the rose. For a brief moment they all saw the Rip as a tear in the fabric of their world Ė a world full of energy and life, sparkling in the air. The Rip was a waver of nothingness wobbling in that life, pulling it in towards itself. The rose was a rose no longer but a flash of green growth enveloping and enclosing the darkness, sealing it from the world of life. When the Senshi opened their eyes, unaware that they had closed them, they found Tuxedo Mask gone from their midst. For a long minute, none of them spoke.

Eventually, Sailor Mercury activated her Visor as Sailor Mars explored the area. They looked at each other.

"Itís gone."

"He succeeded." Sailor Mars shivered at the thought of what could have happened if he had not. And then she thought about his strength, to do what she could not. No, not his strength alone. All of ours. We really were more together. She had much to think about.

"Can we go home now?" Sailor Moonís strength and courage had left with the disappearance of Tuxedo Mask. She knew that she had fought well, but she had fought too much, and only wanted to go home to her parents and her safe home, where the only monsters were in her dreams.