Well, now! This one didn't take me nearly as long to finish as part 3! ^_^ Hope you haven't been bothered too much by the wait - like I said, I turn these things out as fast as I can (and still retain the level of quality that I prefer in my writing). :) Anyway, to those of you who have stuck with me this far, I owe you a very big "Thank You!". You've all been wonderful, and I couldn't do this without your support and comments. BTW, speaking of comments, don't forget to keep them rolling in! If you don't tell me what you think of my stuff, then I can't improve. :)

Disclaimer Stuff: Most of these characters don't belong to me (with the exceptions of the Captains and Maggy), they belong to Naoko Takeuchi and Co. The characters that do belong to me are mine, don't use them without my permission. If you'd like to post my story on a homepage or something (Thank you to those of you that have!), just let me know so I can check it out and add a link to you on my fanfics page. I think that's everything... Enjoy the story!

Generals' Hour: Part 4

Beryl knelt at her mistress' throne, fury plain to read on her face. "Mighty Queen, I have presented my case to you. This little princess wishes to depose me and take your great Negaverse for herself! What is it you wish for me to do?" Boil her in hot oil? Stretch her on the rack? Anything you wish, Metallia, she laughed to herself. Metallia's response wasn't anything like what she had in mind.

Metallia looked down upon the sniveling Beryl, About time she had some decent competition. She has potential, though this Princess seems more worthy of my attention at this time. She gave an evil chuckle, Now, if I set these two against each other... Maybe in their efforts to outdo one another, one of them will actually get something accomplished! This is going to be fun... She hissed her orders, ~Tell the Princessssss to attend me in one hour. I have an interessst in meeting the bright young lady who causes you such distressssss, Beryl.~

Beryl jerked her head up, eyes flashing in indignation, "But, Queen Metallia!-- "

Metallia interrupted her, ~Becaussse you have given me many yearsss of loyal servitude, I will tell you this - the Princess has but one weakness at this time. The loss of her Prince is a great bitterness to her. Use this information well, my little queen.~ Beryl bowed her head, "Yes, mighty Queen. Thy will be done." She rose from the floor and walked stiffly out of the room. Metallia settled back to wait, Oh yes, this will be quite fun, indeed!

Jadeite stood before a closed door. It seemed he spent his whole life standing in front of closed doors. It must be symbolic somehow - there was no other explanation. He worried at his lip for a moment. Zoisite had barely known the other two Generals and she was already close to them. What am I doing wrong? Is there something wrong with me? Am I too pushy? Too young? He felt a surge of jealousy at the Healer-General, then another at the other two Generals. He had been the only one of the three who even knew she existed, and now he was knocked from the top of her list, as well! Why don't I fit in with them? I just don't understand! Nephlyte, Malachite, and Zoisite. They made such a neat little trio, if you thought about it. Leaving me where? In the dust.

He took a moment to wonder if he was being too paranoid. Then again, the current situation on the Moon seemed bred to induce that sort of attitude. He dropped his head, I don't know what to think. Maybe I'm just overreacting. Zoisite isn't like that - she's gentle and kind. She'd never hurt anyone she liked purposely. And Nephlyte and Malachite are the same way. I'm probably just reading too far into this. He sighed, Only one way to find out...

He looked up at the closed door and took a deep breath. He knocked. No one answered. After cooling his heels for another couple of minutes, Jadeite decided to just open the door. We're supposed to be mentally linked, being as we're the Royal Four. If they don't know it's me out here, then so be it. I guess they really don't care. He opened the door.

The tableau was one straight out of an artist's portrait. Malachite lay still and quiet on the bed, Zoisite curled up in her chair by his bedside. Nephlyte... where's Nephlyte? Nephlyte had his dagger drawn and was staring at him. Jadeite felt as if the knife had already pierced his heart. Something inside him broke. He backed up against the door. Nephlyte narrowed his eyes, then opened them wide. He sheathed the dagger and sat down, "Oh, Jadeite, it's just you."

Yeah, it's just me. Just Jadeite. Just call me a couch - I may as well be a piece of the furniture. I guess I wasn't just being paranoid. He shook himself out of his thoughts, "I need to borrow Zoisite for a minute, if you can spare her."

"Why?" Nephlyte asked.

Jadeite stared at him, "Because we have the problem of a slightly insane Queen on our hands... Serenity needs a Healer."

Nephlyte nodded, then turned back to Malachite, quickly forgetting the younger General's presence in his greater concern for his brother. Jadeite swallowed, not believing. After everything I've done for them... He wiped a hand across his eyes and crossed over to where Zoisite was sleeping. He put a hand on her shoulder and shook her gently. She blinked her eyes muzzily, then when she managed to focus on him, she smiled her sweet little smile. "Morning, Jadeite!"

Jadeite was momentarily stunned, Could she...? No. It's probably just an act. The concerned Healer. He pulled away from her when she tried to give him a hug. She frowned at him, worry lines pulling at her gentle brow.

What happened? What'd I do? Zoisite wondered. I guess he's just not feeling like the huggy type today... She indulged herself in a total body stretch while she tried to sort out what had just happened. Her gift of Empathy was sending her mixed signals from the young man, and she didn't like what she was reading. Jadeite pulled even further away from her. She stood up and tried to close the distance, but he backed another step away. She mentally sighed, OK, it's keep-your-distance day. I get it. We're all on edge. I'll have a talk with him later.

Zoisite raised an eyebrow at him, "OK, you didn't just wake me up to pay a social call, so what's the matter?" She caught the edge of a thought from Jadeite, ~Like I'd never stop by to see any of them for a social reason... The eternal outsider...~ Her eyes narrowed and she almost said something. Jadeite's eyes went wide when he realized that he was thinking very loudly, of a major personal problem, in front of an Empath. He very hurriedly said, "You saw what happened to Queen Serenity, right?" He didn't pause for her to answer, "Well, she needs you right away, so if you don't mind leaving Malachite for a minute, it would be appreciated." He spun on his heel and walked out the door. Zoisite stared after him in confusion for a moment before walking over to Nephlyte to tell him where she'd be.

Jadeite leaned against the wall and let his head fall back, What a gods-cursed, idiot! I am a total moron! He threw a few more choice insults at himself. She's an Empath, and a marginal Telepath to boot! She probably picked up on everything I was thinking! He slammed his head back against the wall, Now she's gonna go all concerned on me, like the good little Healer that she is. Not that she'd show any concern on a comrade level, or a friend level, or any other kind of level. Just another sick patient to Heal. Just what I need. He heard her crystal clear tones from inside the room. Probably telling Nephlyte where she'll be. A courtesy you give to a friend. And here I am, on the other side of a closed door. As usual.

He heard a soft click and Zoisite stepped into the corridor, "They should be all right while I'm gone." She slipped her hand through his arm and said, "Now let's go check on the Queen." She gave his arm a reassuring little squeeze as they started walking.

Zoisite frowned as she felt Jadeite's muscles go tense. She held his arm closer, trying to send a wave of reassurance at him. He looked at her, brow furrowed and she gave him a magnificent smile that seemed totally out of place in the middle of Healer Hall. Come on, Jadeite. I'm your friend, you know that! Stop being to damned standoffish.

When they reached the room where they had placed the Queen, Jadeite withdrew his arm from her grasp and opened the door. Jupiter was sitting with the Queen, looking very concerned. Zoisite gasped when she saw the Queen's shorn hair. She moved forward, her hand outstretched. Jupiter smiled sheepishly. Zoisite frowned, "You're going to explain this, right?"

Jupiter shrugged, "Her hair was getting in the way. I figured her safety was more important than her looks."

Zoisite shook her head, "Well, let's see if I can do something for her. Do you have any idea what's wrong with her?"

Jupiter spoke softly, "The Goddess Venus said that while Serena's betrayal was the killing stroke to her sanity, the original wound was caused by 'an affair of the heart'. Though she didn't quite put it that way..."

Zoisite pulled one of the Queen's hands into her own, then went still. Unreachable. Jupiter stood and walked over to where Jadeite was slumped in a chair. She poked his shoulder, "You OK? You don't look so good."

He looked up at her and shrugged, "I'm just feeling a little out of the loop, that's all."

She felt the edges of her lips pull downward, he looked as she had her first year in the palace. Not a friend in the world. It had been quite some time before the Scouts had accepted her as part of their group. But, she knew the Generals - they weren't like that. She perched on the arm of the chair, "What do you say you and I go get dinner - Zoisite'll be OK by herself, and I could use some company." She held a hand out to help the young man up.

Jadeite looked up at the proffered hand with a feeling of unease - Jupiter had never shown him any real friendship - she was so much older than he, after all. Then he made the mistake of looking up into her eyes. They held such compassion, such understanding - it seemed that Jupiter knew exactly what he was feeling. Without being told, without using any mental gifts. He let her pull him to his feet.

Jupiter smiled as she put an arm companionably around Jadeite's shoulders, "Let's go scrounge us up some grub!" Jadeite laughed and put his own arm around Jupiter's shoulders, feeling like he'd finally found a true friend.

Oh, my head. I feel like a wall fell on me, the young man groaned. He looked down at himself, trying to figure out what had happened. He'd been fighting with his troops, then he'd helped the trauma teams get people off the battlefield after the fighting. Oh, now I remember... He'd gone into the Palace to look for survivors, and the back wall of one of the Generals' quarters had collapsed on him. He chuckled, I guess a wall did fall on me. The laugh set off a series of aches in his chest, Oh damn, I think I broke a few ribs... Taking stock of the situation the young man realized that he couldn't move all of the heavier stones that were on top of him - he'd need Nephlyte and Jadeite's telekinetic abilities.

He gathered himself and threw a mental call into the Void, ~Malachite! Nephlyte! Zoisite! Jadeite! Do any of you hear me??~ He sat back and listened for a response. He got none. "Of all the- ! How'm I supposed to get out of here?" He glared at the section of wall lying across his legs, "I guess I'm out of reach." He tilted his head back and tried to think of a plan. Suddenly he heard something sniffing. In his confusion, the young man thought it sounded like a wolf, and his heart started racing in fear.

The animal sniffed again, then whined. The young man listened, Wait a minute, that's not a wolf - it's a Dog! He called to the dog, "Here fella, come on, boy. That's a good boy - there's someone in here. Come on, fella - where's your master?" He heard the dog snort. "What's the matter, fella?" The dog snorted again. The young man laughed, "Oh I see - you're not a fella, you're a gal. OK, girl, go tell someone I'm here! Hurry!" The dog barked once and left. You'd almost think she understood what I was saying...

Relli gave the wreckage one last disdainful sniff. Stupid humans. Not one of them had an ounce of intelligence. She turned around and trotted out of the building. Guess it's up to me to save one of 'em again, huh? She started sniffing around trying to find someone to lift the stupid boy out of the wreckage. She found no one. Well, off to Healer Hall it is. I suppose that's where all the people are.

When Healer Hall was in sight, Relli pushed her tired legs into a lope. She had people she needed to check on while she was here. She ran into the building, following her nose until she found her other charge. She looked over at the Healer-Woman and let her tongue loll out into a grin. Should I? She moved forward to push her off the bed, then saw that she was concentrating on trying to Heal her charge. Relli left her alone and walked over to the other side of the bed.

The Queen's hand hung off the side and she licked it. There was no response. What's wrong with her? Why does she just sit there? I haven't seen her react this badly to anything since the Master died. She whined, unsure of what to do. Her instincts were screaming at her to stay with the Queen, but the boy needed help. She paced the room, pausing to whine at the Queen every few steps. I'll come back for you, Serenity, I promise. Fighting her instincts, Relli left the room.

She sniffed around again, looking for the other two Generals. Nephlyte was closer, so she ran to find him. When she saw what door she'd stopped at, Relli growled a little. Still here, huh? Well, we'll see about that. She scratched at the door and barked. After a brief pause, the door opened. Nephlyte looked down at her, bewilderment clear on his face. "What's the matter, girl? Did you come to check up on Malachite?" Relli whined, she wanted to check on the Master's boy, but didn't dare take the time. The other boy could be hurt underneath all that rubble. She grabbed Nephlyte's sleeve in her teeth and started to pull, growling all the while.

Nephlyte tried to pull away, clearly startled. I've never seen Relli act like this before. I wonder what's gotten into her? The Dog kept trying to pull him out of the room. Nephlyte felt a fear settle into his heart. He knew that Relli wouldn't hurt him, but in all the confusion, something might have happened to addle her canine brain. He didn't want to have to hurt her. He looked down into her eyes, Oh boy. If those were a human's eyes, I'd say she was worried about something.

A low growl assaulted his mental ears. His eyes went wide in surprise. He heard a voice, ancient and somewhat harsh, as if there was a growl behind every word. ~All right, Boy. I know that you aren't as stupid as you're acting. There's a young man caught under the wreckage of one of the walls in Malachite's room. I need your help to get him out.~ The mental contact broke off, and Relli let go of his sleeve. Nephlyte stared down at the golden dog, "I think that there's a lot more to you than there seems to be." Relli nodded her head and turned around. She looked back over her shoulder, giving him an are-you-coming? look. He grabbed his sword and nodded. "Lead the way, girl!" Relli didn't hesitate.

The young man again tried to push the stones off his body and legs. Again, he failed to move anything but the small pebbles. "This is getting ridiculous, what's taking that stupid dog so long?" Then he heard footsteps in the hallway. He called out, "Hello! Is anyone out there? I'm in here!"

The footsteps hurried in his direction, and he could hear a set of click-clicks along with it. So the dog brought help after all. He breathed a sigh of relief when he recognized General Nephlyte's voice, "Your Highness? Prince Darien? Is that you?"

Darien laughed a bit, "Yeah, Nephlyte, it's me. I'm pretty well stuck under here. I need help moving these bigger stones."

"No problem, just let me get a little closer..." With that remark, the stones began to shift and move to the side. When Darien could see the General, he gave Nephlyte a sheepish little wave. Nephlyte snorted at him, "I think you can help me with this big section over here - when I give the word, lift it up as high as you can. I'll pull it off your legs, OK?"

Darien nodded to show his understanding. When Nephlyte gave the word, he lifted the stone. A minute later, he was totally free of the rubble. Nephlyte held a hand out to haul him to his feet, then thought better of it and dropped to his knees to help the Prince search for broken bones. As Nephlyte checked his legs, Darien shook his arms to see if any of those bones had broken.

Nephlyte looked up and said, "Nothing down here - that long flat rock probably prevented you from being paralyzed."

Darien let out a low whistle, "I guess I'm pretty darn lucky then, huh? All I did was break a few ribs." He let Nephlyte haul him to his feet. It took him several moments to regain his balance, "But I suspect that Zoisite can fix those up for me pretty quickly. Now, where's that dog that I owe my life to?"

Relli stepped forward and obligingly sniffed Darien's hand. She gave him a quick once over to see that he had all his parts in place then turned her head and trotted off towards Healer Hall. Nephlyte smiled, "I think we've been dismissed. Let's go get you cleaned up."

Zoisite pulled out of her trance with a reluctant growl. This isn't working. I don't know why, but it isn't working. She looked down at the Crescent Moon Wand which hung half out of Serenity's interdimensional pocket. The place where the Crystal once sat was glaringly empty. Maybe that's what's wrong. Her sanity may have been tied into the Crystal somehow. I sure hope not - if that's the case, then I can't do much for her.

Zoisite got up off the bed and mentally reached for Leea, ~Leea, can you hear me?~

Leea's response was immediate, if a little drowsy, ~Yes?~

Zoisite smiled, ~I didn't mean to interrupt your sleep, but do you think you can find a nightgown for the Queen and come down here? I need someone to keep an eye on her for me. You're really the only one I trust to do it.~

Leea sleepily agreed, ~I'll be right down.~ Once Leea had arrived, Zoisite took her leave of them. I'll go check on Malachite and Roland. Then I'd better try to figure out who's in charge here. I sure hope it isn't me. I've got enough problems as it is.

As Nephlyte helped Darien walk back to Healer Hall, he explained the situation. Darien frowned, "So what you're trying to tell me is that I'm in charge now - whether I like it or not." Nephlyte nodded, "I'm sorry, Your Highness. I wouldn't wish this on anyone, especially not you."

Darien was in no mood to wallow in grief. He knew that he should feel horribly betrayed. But that wasn't how he felt at all. His Princess had betrayed him, his dearest love - a traitor. He wanted to feel grief, but at the moment all he could feel was an overwhelming anger. He had trusted Serena with everything: his innermost thoughts and desires, his people, his love. She'd taken them and treated them like dirt. Perhaps someday he would mourn for her loss. But not this day.

"Nephlyte, as soon as we get to Healer Hall, I want you to call a meeting of all the Generals and their Head Captains. We need to get some kind of organization happening here," he said, "And I'll want to talk to Malachite - we need to figure out some way to protect everyone without the shields."

Nephlyte paled a little, "Your Highness, I'm afraid that General Malachite won't be able to meet with you. He was badly injured during the fighting - he hasn't yet regained consciousness," he finished quietly.

Darien stopped walking when he heard the worry and grief in Nephlyte's voice, "I'm sorry, General. I didn't know. Will he be all right?"

Nephlyte shrugged, "No one's really sure. I think he will be, but I've always been rather optimistic where his recuperative abilities are concerned."

Darien squeezed his shoulder, "I'm sure he'll be fine, General. Come on. Let's go home." The two resumed their walk in silence.

Zoisite quietly closed the door, smiling all the while. Roland and Diana were tucked into a pair of quilts on the floor in the lounge, sleeping peacefully. She didn't have the heart to wake either of them - they deserved the rest. As she turned around, she nearly crashed into someone who was headed the other way. The other woman wrung her hands together and mumbled an apology.

Zoisite put a hand up to stop the flow of words, "Easy, it's OK. No harm done. Can I help you?"

The woman took in Zoisite's green-clad form then took her apron into her hands and began wringing it, "I don't know. You're a Healer?" When Zoisite nodded, she continued, "Do you know where they would have taken a recently admitted person? See, I was told that he was brought here, but someone else told me he died, and I just have to know!"

Zoisite led the distraught woman over to a chair, "All right. I'll help you. Why don't you tell me who you are and what this man's name is, OK?"

The woman sniffled and nodded, "My name is Maggy. I run Her Majesty's kitchens. The boy I'm looking for, his name is Malachite. And I should have come sooner, I'm probably too late, and I'll never forgive myself!"

Zoisite put a hand to her mouth to hide her twitching lips, she knew about Maggy. And her motherly attitude towards the First General. She put a hand on Maggy's shoulder, "Well, I can reassure you that he isn't dead. He was hurt pretty badly, but we're expecting him to regain consciousness within the next day or so. Come, I'll take you to him."

Maggy looked up at Zoisite with a huge smile, the relief apparent in her eyes, "Oh thank you, thank you!" She stood up and followed Zoisite down the corridors.

Nephlyte and Darien arrived at Healer Hall with little to no fuss. He asked one of the MasterHealers to see to Darien's ribs, then went to gather the Captains and Jadeite. Darien told him that he wanted to see Malachite before the meeting, but that he'd meet them in the Healers' Lounge upstairs.

Once Darien's ribs had been patched up, he strode purposefully down the corridor towards Malachite's room. Of all the times he could have picked to get himself hurt! Damn. He reached the corridor and saw two women headed down it from the opposite direction. After a moment's inspection, he recognized them as Maggy, the Head of the Kitchen, and Zoisite. Zoisite saw him and immediately ran up to him.

"Darien! You're all right! I was so worried about you!" then her face lost its glow. Her voice dropped in concern, "Has anyone told you about the Princess?"

Darien nodded curtly, "General Nephlyte was kind enough to do the 'honors'." When Zoisite moved to speak, Darien held up a hand, "Don't. Just don't. I can't take the time to mourn, not now. Especially when I'm not even sure that I should."

Zoisite frowned at him, "Darien, I know how much she meant to you. She meant a lot to me, too. She was the closest friend I ever had. Even though I know what she's done, I still miss her."

Darien narrowed his eyes as he stepped away from the Healer. He said coldly, "Well, then I guess she played us both for a fool, didn't she?" He moved around her and walked into Malachite's room.

Zoisite stood for a moment, staring in shock. She had expected grief, sorrow, any of the normal reactions for a young man who'd just gone through such a horrible experience. She wrapped her arms around herself, feeling doubly violated - his rebuff had hurt. She hadn't yet had a chance to deal with her own feelings about the Princess' betrayal, and just now she felt stung and sore from the Prince's blunt statement of fact. She hadn't thought that he might lash out at her. She turned towards the door to Malachite's room, reluctant to enter a room that held the Prince.

After a moment of shaking, Zoisite stopped. She was a Healer, it was time to start thinking like one. The Prince was hurting and had lashed out at the nearest possible target. He hadn't meant to hurt her, hadn't done it intentionally. She had no reason to be afraid of him - as always. He'd been a friend too long to let this come between them. She pushed open Malachite's door.

Darien was standing a few feet away from the bed with a very lost look on his face. Maggy was sitting on the bed, clutching Malachite's hand and chattering at him. Zoisite leaned a little closer to try to catch some of the words, "...And you'd better get better, boy! You hear me? I won't stand for this nonsense! Scare a poor old woman to death! How could you do that? Oh, am I gonna give you a piece of my mind when you wake up!..."

Zoisite chuckled a little bit and walked over to the bed. She lifted a hand and touched two fingers to the center of Malachite's forehead. She let herself slip into a light contact. Malachite's mind was definitely far more present than it had been two days ago. She could almost feel his fight to return to consciousness. An urgency that was not to be believed. She could feel his mind turning towards hers, trying to reach her as a way back to the world. She felt the beginnings of fear at the back of her mind - that need and urgency were all focused at her. She tried to back away, to back out of his mind, but she found it impossible. He was holding her here by sheer force of will! She struggled, desperate to get out of his grip, but he held on tighter, still rushing to get to her...

Darien looked up, startled out of his musings, when Zoisite collapsed to the floor, clutching her head. He ran to her and grabbed her up in his arms, "Zoisite? What's wrong?" Icy fear held him in thrall, Not her, too. Please, Great Goddess, not her too! He shook her roughly, trying to get some sort of response. He Broadsent a Mindcall to the Generals, Captains, and Jupiter - hoping that one of them would know what to do. He pulled his friend close to him and leaned his head against her hair.

Zoisite recognized a second mental presence, very close by, ~DARIEN!~ She reached for him, needing his strength as an anchor. ~Help Me!~

Darien jerked his head up when he felt Zoisite reaching her mind towards his. He put a hand to her cheek and let the contact resume, ~I'm here, Zoisite! What happened? Are you all right?~ He could feel her mental nod.

Zoisite was ready to cry with relief, ~I'm fine, I'm fine. I need you to help me, here. Malachite's trying to wake up, but he doesn't have the energy to do it on his own - he tried to use me as a focus to get back here, but I panicked. I think I broke the link.~

A third presence reached out to envelop the other two - a cool, soothing voice reached out to them, ~May I assist you?~

Darien's mental laugh soared around all of them, ~Nephlyte! You idiot! Get over here - you're the one who should be doing this, in the first place!~

Nephlyte's warm chuckle filled their minds, he slipped into the partially closed link with his own strength and opened himself fully. He called into the void, ~Malachite! I'm here! Take what you need.~ Words to signify the ultimate willingness to help another. Nephlyte opened all his inner barriers, to light the path for his brother to come home.

Malachite turned his fierce attention on that light. Groggily, his mind began to wake up - something began to stir, aside from those primal emotions and urgency. He called back, ~Nephlyte?~

Nephlyte smiled as he went to the bed and soothingly stroked his brother's brow, ~I'm here, my brother. It's time to come back.~

He could feel Malachite drawing on his power, his very self. Then in a release of pent up energy, he reformed the link to his body. Exhaustion filled every mental crevice, but there was something - some reason... He had to wake up all the way. No matter how exhausting it was, he had to tell Nephlyte...

Nephlyte could feel his brother's struggle against sleep. The agitation from Malachite's mind was enough to send him climbing the walls. He reached into Malachite's mind, and tried to push it over into sleep. His brother surely needed it... It was the wrong move.

With a roar of primal fury, Malachite grabbed onto Nephlyte's mental energy and propelled himself into a full state of consciousness. His silver eyes blinked open to find Nephlyte's concerned blue ones staring down at him. Nephlyte winced, and Malachite's eyes sharpened in worry, ~What?~

Awareness of the body returned slowly. Even as Malachite was asking Nephlyte what was wrong, he became aware of a strain in his hands. He looked down, he was clutching Nephlyte's wrists for dear life. Embarrassed, he let go. ~Sorry.~

Nephlyte smiled down at him, and kissed his forehead. "It's all right. Don't worry about it. Now what was so gods-blessed important that you had to wake up, now??"

Malachite frowned, in his struggle to return to consciousness, he had lost that sense of feral urgency that had fueled his return. There was something very important that he had to tell Nephlyte, but he couldn't remember what it was!

Nephlyte could feel his brother's frustration. And he also knew something that Malachite didn't. He called Zoisite over and whispered in her ear. She looked startled, then chagrined. She nodded and sat down next to Nephlyte at the side of the bed. She put a hand on Malachite's arm and waited. When Malachite finally came back to himself, he winced and lowered his hand to clutch at his stomach. Zoisite smiled and started sending messages to his body - painblockers of a sort. It wasn't a good idea to confuse nerves like this, but for a little while, it wouldn't do too much harm.

Malachite looked up at her and smiled, "Thank you," he whispered. He swallowed, trying to wet his throat. Maggy snorted, "Oh, you people are hopeless!" and ran off to get Malachite a glass of water.

Malachite turned his head at the sudden movement and smiled. He whispered, "Good old, Maggy. She's still trying to mother me." He shook his head in disbelief, "Goddess bless her soul for trying." He turned back to look at the other two Generals and frowned, "Where's Jadeite?"

Nephlyte and Zoisite turned startled glances on each other - neither had noticed that the fourth General wasn't there. Zoisite blushed and shrugged her shoulders, "We don't know..."

Malachite immediately started trying to get up, "We have to find him! He could be- " His eyes widened as Nephlyte and Zoisite both grabbed one of his arms and tried to hold him down. He frowned at them, his voice gaining volume as he woke up further, "Let me go!"

Zoisite shook her head, "No way, sir. You're not going anywhere." He moved as if to protest, but Zoisite snapped out, "Healer's orders, sir. You took a couple of very bad injuries. And I will not, I repeat not have you making your condition worse by letting you do too much too soon! Have I made myself clear??" Malachite settled back against the pillows with a terribly unhappy expression on his face - it clearly read, "I'm not through with this - not by a long shot." But he ceased trying to get up.

Maggy rushed back in with a pitcher of water and a glass - nearly running over the Prince in the process, "Watch where you're standing, boy! I nearly tripped over you! Move out of the way!" Darien bemusedly removed himself from Maggy's wrath radius and inched a little closer to the bed, trying to get a glimpse of the First General. Needing to reassure himself that his friend and mentor was all right.

Maggy reached the bed and plunked the glass down on the night-table. She filled up the glass and held it out to Malachite. He looked up and wilted slightly under her glare. He reached out to take the glass, but his hand was shaking badly and he couldn't steady it. Maggy sighed in exasperation and leaned down to hold the glass to his lips. He took a small swallow and smiled up at her. She gave him a tender smile and kissed his cheek, "There now, feel better?"

He nodded, "Thank you."

Maggy put the glass down on the table and wiped her hands on her apron. She smoothed the front of her shirt and skirt and spoke in a quietly dangerous voice, "Well, since you're feeling better, I have a thing or two to say to you..." Before anyone could stall her, she had turned back to face him. Planting her hands firmly onto her hips, she launched into a tirade about what an irresponsible young man he was, not being careful when he was fighting, not telling her when he got hurt, scaring her to death when he didn't wake up, the list went on and on.

As he listened, Nephlyte's smile got wider and wider. A small laugh escaped his lips - that set Zoisite off. She collapsed into the chair, giggling hysterically. Nephlyte tried vainly to hold in his laughter for another moment, but couldn't - he soon joined her in a small fit of hysterics. Darien was busy trying to handle the sudden flow of people into the room from the hallway - he'd forgotten that he'd desperately tried to call 5 more people in for help. Lita, Jadeite, Zafir, Roland, and Diana were all trying to get into the room. He finally gave up and let them come in. Through it all, Maggy's lecture continued.

When Lita saw Zoisite and Nephlyte collapsed on the chair and floor in laughter, she looked around for the cause. Maggy's lecture caught her ear. When she looked over at Malachite who was laying in bed looking very apologetic and harassed, she too, began to laugh. Jadeite and the Captains looked at her as though she were insane - which only made her laugh harder. She tried to explain what was so funny, but couldn't. Finally she tugged Jadeite's sleeve and pointed to Maggy.

He frowned, "I don't see what's so..." Then suddenly he did. His dour face cracked into a huge grin. He tapped a finger to his chin, "You know... maybe she would make a good Interrogator..."

In the chair, Zoisite was finally beginning to sober up - the laugh had felt good. More of a tension reliever than because the situation was truly humorous. She put a hand on Nephlyte's shoulder and pointed towards the doorway. He got up and held his arms open. Lita gratefully ran into them. He kissed her softly on the cheek. She smiled, "When did he wake up?" Hugging her a little closer, he smiled back, "About 10 minutes ago - Maggy's been lecturing for the past five."

About this time Maggy's tirade finally tapered off with a "Hmph." She crossed her arms over her chest, convinced that her "charge" had been properly chastised. Malachite shook his head, which was beginning to swim. He looked up and saw the crowd of people by the door and his head began to ache. Lita leaned over to grip his hand, "Good to see that you're feeling better, Malachite. Hasn't been the same without your old sourpuss around." He gave her a little smile, squeezing her hand lightly, "Good to be back, Jupiter. Even better to know that we didn't lose you."

Lita's face clouded over, "Yes, well - you almost did."

Nephlyte's arm tightened around her waist, "We'll have time to worry about that later. You don't need to think about it now, love. Enjoy the moment - it may be one of the few happy ones that we have for a while." She nodded and made way for Jadeite to say hello.

Jadeite leaned over to take Malachite's hand. He smiled at the warm look the older General was giving him - not a hint of disapproval, not a chance that this one would shut him out, "You have no idea how good it is to see you awake, sir."

Malachite smiled as he squeezed Jadeite's hand, "What's with all the sir business, these days? Last time I checked, I still had a name..."

Jadeite smiled and snapped him a salute, "Yes, sir, Malachite, sir!"

Malachite laughed, "Oh, go on with you!" He swatted at Jadeite's arm, but Jadeite moved out of the way, "Better luck next time, sir!" Malachite rolled his eyes.

Zafir, Roland, and Diana also lined up to give their congratulations to the General - and by this time he was silently fuming. This wasn't getting anything accomplished, and in spite of Zoisite's painblocks, his stomach was really started to hurt where Venus had run her sword through him.

When the next head walked up from the doorway to "greet" him, his temper snapped, "Enough, already! I'm awake - it's wonderful, it's neat. Everything is just peachy - can we move on now please???"

Prince Darien of Earth raised an eyebrow at the General. When Malachite saw who it was that he'd just yelled at, his face turned red to the ears, "Your Highness! I'm so sorry!"

Darien smiled as he bent down to give the older man a hug, "No harm done, Malachite. It's just that we're all happy to see you awake. You had us pretty worried."

Malachite looked up into the Prince's eyes and saw the fear deep in them. True he'd been born and bred to rule, but he'd probably never expected to have to rule these people under these circumstances. He pulled the boy closer to him, ignoring the pain in his half-Healed muscles. He whispered into the Prince's mind, ~It'll be OK, Darien. We're all here for you - you need never face this alone.~

The smile that Darien turned on him was one of pure gratitude, "Thank you."

Malachite nodded and gave Darien's shoulder a firm squeeze. When everyone had settled themselves around the room, Nephlyte raised an eyebrow at the Prince, "Well, that was one way to get everyone in one place."

Darien blushed as Lita began to chuckle. He cleared his throat and all eyes turned their attention to him. For a moment, he felt an overwhelming sense of unworthiness - what right did he have to try to command all these people? Then he remembered Malachite's reassuring words from a moment before and slowly began to speak, "I guess we all know what happened. So we don't really need to say much about that..."

Malachite piped up, "I suppose this wouldn't be the time to say 'I told you so', right?"

Everyone permitted themselves a small chuckle at his feeble attempt at a joke. They needed the laugh. Lita growled, "You're still hurt, so I'll let that one slide for now, Malachite. But when you get better - oh boy, are you gonna get it!"

Darien smiled, "OK guys, I'm serious - what do we do about the Princess and Queen Beryl? They aren't going to go away - and we have no defenses. Queen Serenity is completely insane - and showing no signs of recovery. We need a plan, and we need one fast. Anyone got any suggestions?"

A sudden silence filled the room as all eyes turned towards Malachite. He shrank into his pillows. At Darien's mention of the name, Serenity, some knowledge had stirred in his memory, but it slipped away from him just as quickly. He cursed to himself, remembering some of his earlier sense of urgency, but he just couldn't grasp the thought. All of a sudden, a flare of pain made itself felt from his shoulder down to his hip and he gasped. Zoisite and Nephlyte were at his side in an instant.

Nephlyte turned to the others in the room, "Maybe we'd all better sleep on this one. We may come up with some ideas in the morning." Everyone nodded and left Nephlyte, Zoisite, and Maggy alone with Malachite. Zoisite removed the painblocks, they weren't helping anymore, and they might cause more harm than good at this point.

Malachite's face went white when the full pain of all his injuries slammed into him. Nephlyte let his brother grab at his hand to try to control some of the pain. Zoisite put a hand on Malachite's head and said softly, "I'm going to help you go to sleep now, Malachite - when you wake up, you should feel a little bit better."

As Malachite's mind slowly spiraled down into a sleep pattern, he could hear one thought echoing through his brain and ensuring him nightmares on the way... "What do we do about the Princess?"

Part 3 | The Graveyard | Part 5
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