L: Well, here we go again. As per request, we'll try to make this one short.

R: *snorts* Sure. Like that'll happen. Well, let's get the legal stuff out of the way - the Mages, Arcadian Knight, and all present bad guys belong to us. Everyone else belongs to the people who wrote Sailor Moon (i.e.-Naoko Takeuchi).

L: That genius-lucky-wonderful-type-person-

R: You're too early, Lauren - that doesn't happen for another couple of paragraphs. No litanies in the Disclaimer!

L: Well dammit! Litanies are my forte!

R: Well, maybe next disclaimer.

Z(alisite): Do you realize that I didn't even get to be in this episode?

L: Be thankful. But if you want to get cheesy, you were here in spirit - and in Renee's hormones.

R: *Renee begins to silently fume*

L: *Sings* Some enchanted evening, you will meet a stranger, you will meet a stranger - across a crowded pet shop!... AAAAAHH!!!!!

*Renee and Zalisite proceed to chase Lauren off the face of the disclaimer.*

Part 10 -- Kiss and Make Up!
by Renee-chan and L.M. Griffin

Renee pulled her legs up on the bench, Indian style, rested her elbows on her knees and plunked her face down onto her hands. Hmph. Who needs her anyway! Good fer nothing, know-it-all! No, wait. If she's a know it all, then that means that she was right about my guy... Which she wasn't! Renee started chewing on her lip in frustration, But that sheepdog did look pretty damn familiar... Oh bother. Renee pouted, then uncurled her legs and stretched - trying to postpone the inevitable. She's gonna be absolutely insufferable if I tell her she was right... Damn it. Renee slowly got up off the bench and stared in the direction her friend had stomped off towards - The park. How clichéd can you get? She started trudging off after her fellow Mage...

Lauren kicked at another pine cone, Gosh-darn-stupid-Renee-type- person-who's-so-concerned-about-her-damn-boyfriend-Negaverse-type-person- thingy-and-GRRRRRR!! At this point Lauren's thoughts degenerated into incoherent growls. She suddenly looked up, Oh great, now I've wandered into the freaking park! How clichéd can I get? She rolled her eyes, kicked another pine cone and kept stomping around the park. Several little children and innocent songbirds ran away, in terror, from the look on her face. She suddenly stopped, again, and listened. Was someone trudging behind her? And was that her name that she heard being frantically screamed behind her? She allowed herself a small, slightly evil-sounding chuckle, And now the fun begins...

Lauren slowed her stomping, just a tad, but increased the size of her steps - causing her to look even more imposing than she had just a moment ago. This time even the bolder squirrels ran away in fear. Hmm... must've followed us from Delaware... The trudging behind her slowed a bit, and her smile grew just a bit wider. Am I being too smug? Nah. I just love being right! And I love it even more when she has to admit it!! Yeah, baby!! She almost went into a happy little funky dance, but remembered she was supposed to be stomping.

Renee looked up at her friend's back. She's doing this on purpose. I just know she is. She made a mental raspberry and Mindsent it at Lauren. Lauren spun around and opened her mouth to yell at her friend, but changed her mind and raspberried her back. Renee changed her mental raspberry to a physical one and a tongue war ensued.

After a few moments, Lauren made a few noises, "Ih ee thept phthi fup muh awrer ee oh aff ehy sahifah ef ob ar fons aa ee oh ee afuh oo awk." Renee sucked her tongue back into her mouth and managed to spit out, "What??"

Lauren pulled her own tongue back into her mouth and swallowed a few times, "I said, 'If we keep this up much longer we won't have any saliva left on our tongues, and we won't be able to talk.'" Renee sweatdropped.

Lauren put her hands on her hips and said, "Well? Are you finally going to admit that you are wrong?"

Renee crossed her arms over her chest, "Fine... As long as you're willing to admit that you're being an arrogant little bitch."

Lauren's eyes widened and she started to protest, then her face resumed it's smug expression, "But I'm right?"

Renee put her hand over her mouth and mumbled something. Lauren leaned over to her friend and said (in a singsong voice), "I can't hear you!!" Renee spat out every word as if they tasted bitter, "Yes. You are right. Are you happy?"

Lauren looked at her distraught friend's face and felt her happy attitude deflate, "No, Renee. For once, I'm not happy to be right." She enveloped her fellow Mage in a hug. Renee allowed herself a sniffle or two. Lauren patted her friend's back, "How's about some ice cream? What's your favorite flavor? My treat."

Renee sniffled a little more, "Peanut butter and chocolate?"

Lauren smiled as Renee pulled out of the hug, "Done. You go sit on the park bench and I'll get the ice cream." Renee laughed, "Thanks, Lauren." Lauren ruffled Renee's hair, "No problem!" Renee skipped over to the bench, happy now that a sugar rush was within her grasp. Lauren began to wonder if the ice cream had been such a good idea.

She weighed the options, Depression - Sugar Rush. Depression - Sugar Rush. Hmmm... Sugar Rush. She went off to get the ice cream - Renee was such a generally bubbly and happy person, that if she actually got depressed, she'd probably pull all of Tokyo down with her. And to her surprise - the ice cream store actually had something called 'Peanut Butter and Chocolate'! Lauren looked dubiously down at the cup of ice cream, Chocolate ice cream with a ribbon of peanut butter - I hope that's what she meant... She picked up her own cup of mint chocolate chip and headed back to the park bench.

She handed Renee her ice cream and Renee promptly screeched in delight and hugged her friend. Guess I got the right kind... Lauren thought as they sat down to eat their ice cream. Suddenly Renee piped up, "Gee, Lauren, we've been gone for nearly 3 days - I wonder if anyone's noticed that we're gone?"

Lauren pondered the situation, "Hmm... Well, maybe our parents. And - oh my gosh! Jess was supposed to meet us for lunch yesterday!"

Renee's eyes went wide, "Oops..."

Jess trudged up the hallway, wondering what had happened to Lauren and Renee, "It's not every day that both of your future roommate's stand you up for lunch..." She pushed open the fire door between her and Renee's dorms, intent on finding out why the two had failed to meet her. She knocked on Renee's door, and it slowly opened under her hand. Spooky...

She pushed the door open and walked in. "Ewwww!!" A pizza sat on the floor along with a bottle of soda - they looked like they'd been there for 3 days. "Gross!" She stepped over the food and looked around the room for a note. She saw that the TV was on. She reached over to turn it off when a white, gloved hand reached out from the TV to grab her wrist. She only had time to let out one frightened shriek before she too was sucked through the TV by the chick with the long green hair.

Happy that she had patched things up with her best friend, Lauren headed off to her date with Andrew with a happy heart. I'm gonna date Andrew, I'm gonna date Andrew! Woohoo!! She skipped a little bit, not noticing Andrew watching her from where he was leaning against a nearby tree. He laughed - he couldn't help it. It wasn't often that you saw someone with such a light, free, and happy heart. Just watching her made him smile and want to skip with her. He called out her name, "Lauren!"

She froze, put her hand up to her face and rubbed her temples, Why me? Why is it that whenever I'm doing one of the most embarrassing things in the world, I always get caught? She turned to Andrew and put on one of her sweetest smiles, "Yes, Andrew?"

He walked over to her, "Ready for our picnic?"

She linked her arm through his and said, "Whenever you are!"

The two walked together in silence, not sure what to say after the opening statements had been made. Lauren, in one of her fairly famous maneuvers with men, looked down at Andrew's shows and said, "Nice shoes. I mean it, they are really nice looking shoes... Uh, yeah." She trailed off.

Andrew smiled, "Thank you - yours are very nice, too."

Another silence ensued. Lauren noticed that Andrew was leading her back into the park and wondered if her life from here on in was going to be one big cliché. She decided that a date with Andrew was well worth it. Andrew turned to her and pointed to a nearby clearing, "How's this one?"

Lauren looked up at the clearing - the one by the lake. Mentally she moaned, Not again... Please God, don't let me end up in the water - unless of course, he suggests going skinny dipping... She mentally slapped herself, No, bad Lauren, bad! Very bad, Lauren! She nodded her head, "This one's fine - lots of grass and flowers and trees and stuff." She mentally slapped herself a second time as Andrew spread out the picnic blanket, Oh yeah - real original, Lauren. I'll bet you're truly impressing him with your sparkling personality and rapier wit. Oh sure - yessiree. Oh help!

Andrew turned and looked up at Lauren, gesturing for her to make herself comfortable on the blanket. Andrew thought to himself, Oh yeah, we're impressing her, Andrew. Oh sure. We're not talking and all we're doing is smiling at her like an idiot. Get it together and say something! He opened his mouth to talk and realized that Lauren had already done so. He closed his mouth and Lauren closed hers. He indicated that she should speak first. She blushed and shook her head, motioning for him to continue.

Andrew swallowed, "So, it's a really beautiful afternoon, isn't it?"

Lauren nodded vigorously, "It is! With clouds and a sky and stuff... Oh listen to me, I sound moronic. Andrew I really like you, and you're really cute and nice and funny, and I'm making a total fool out of myself, and I know you're on the rebound and I shouldn't be doing this, but yeah - I think I'll just shut up now." She curled her knees up to her chin and wrapped her arms around them, certain that she'd just messed up any chance that she might have had.

She likes me, she really likes me! She thinks I'm cute. Wow, Andrew pondered. He opened up his mouth and managed to get his voice to work after another 30 seconds, "Well, I like you too. You're cute and nice and funny and you have really pretty eyes, and I'm just making a total fool of myself aren't I?"

Lauren perked up, glad that she wasn't the only one on this date with a rambling problem. She smirked, "No you're not - please continue. What about my eyes?"

Andrew let his eyebrow lift, finally falling into a comfortable flirting mode, "Aren't we a little smartass?"

Lauren giggled, then said deadpan, "Better than being a dumbass."

Andrew put a hand to his heart, "Touché!"

The hard part over with, the two fell into a comfortable conversation as they began to eat their dinner. Andrew looked up over Lauren's head and suggested, "There's a zoo over on that side of the park - do you want to take a walk there after dinner?"

Lauren pondered the option, Not as much fun as skinny dipping would have been, but it could work. She said, "Sounds like fun - I like animals."

Andrew raised an eyebrow as he started putting the food away. He smiled coyly, "I'll stow that fact for future personal reference." Lauren took that innocently enough, then the implications caught up with her. She started to giggle, then covered it up with a cough or two, Maybe the skinny dipping isn't out of the question...

Andrew put the basket back onto his arm and held out his other to Lauren, "The Zoo awaits, my lady."

Lauren's eyes narrowed as she remembered another blond gentleman she had met recently. She looked up at Andrew's face and mentally compared it with the other, but just as she was about to make the connection, Andrew tugged her arm and started running off to the Zoo, yelling, "Last one there has to buy dinner on Friday!"

Lauren put her hands on her hips and yelled, "Oh yeah???" then paused. Wait a minute - does he mean that he's asking me on another date? WOOHOO!!!! She started to run after him, "We'll just see who pays, mister! And the winner gets to pick the restaurant!!"

Renee looked over at Mina and said, "It isn't funny."

Mina and Artemis giggled, "Oh yes it is."

Artemis smirked, "Rusty is going to be seriously pissed at you, young lady. How in the world did you manage to forget your Guardian Dog and your shopping bags in a pet store?"

Renee blushed, not quite willing to tell them about her close personal brush with their enemy. Or her unwillingness to accept him as such. She shrugged, "You kind of had to be there."

Mina smiled, "I'll bet." She looked up and said, "Is this the pet store?"

Renee turned her head and breathed a sigh of relief, "Yeah, that's the one. And thank goodness they're still open." She ran across the street and pushed open the door. She went over to the counter, her cheeks matching her red shirt. She asked the clerk if he'd seen her shopping bags and her dog. The clerk raised an eyebrow, "So that dumb mutt was your dog? He's been causin' a ruckus ever since you left. What was so important that you up and left him here?"

Renee shook her head, "It seemed really important at the time..."

The clerk snorted, "I'll just bet it was. Let me go get your stuff for you." He walked away, "Stupid kid."

Renee felt the color drain from her face. Her knuckles went white as she clenched them in anger. Mina and Artemis looked at each other in worry. Artemis said, "Renee, don't even think about it- " Renee turned a sweet smile on the clerk from where he was holding her bags and leading Rusty out on a leash. The dog looked thoroughly disgusted. Renee raised a finger and her smile widened, "Thank you ever so much my good man..." Several seconds later, a tiger salamander was crawling around on the floor with Rusty. The clerk was nowhere to be found.

Rusty growled at her, "Emerald! What have I told you about misusing your powers?? Turn him back, this instant, young lady!!"

Renee picked up her bags and the leash, and smiled, "He'll be back to his old self in a day or so, Rusty. Nothing to worry about."

Rusty opened his mouth to protest and gagged as Renee yanked on the leash. He followed her out the door grumbling the whole while, "You mark my words, Emerald. I'm not through with you. When we get back to Lita's, you're getting a right proper chewing out! Do you hear me, young lady??..."

Renee wisely tuned him out as the four of them walked back to Lita's apartment.

Lauren leaned casually on the light post, and smugly smiled as Andrew huffed up. She commented dryly, "All video game work and no jogging makes Andrew a slow boy."

Andrew stopped huffing, and gave her a bemused glare, "Well...we'll just see how slow I am later on, Ms Speedy Gonzales."

Lauren's eyebrows raised. She giggled, and hooked her arm through Andrew's. "I look forward to you proving that statement..." she batted back. Andrew laughed, winked, and they started through the park, arm in arm.

Lauren looked at all the animals, her mind flickering. Animals... why was she thinking about animals. Small ones. With tails... and red fur. "Andrew... can we go look at the foxes?"

Andrew looked away from a tiger, and into Lauren's hazel eyes. His breath caught slightly. "Sure..." he said softly. Lauren grinned, and started off. Andrew breathed softly, and muttered, "But who says I'm not looking at one now..."

They stopped at the cage, the foxes either prowling around, or sleeping. Lauren frowned; why in the WORLD did she want to look at them? Andrew came behind her, and she felt her attention leave the furry critters, and concentrate on the fact that Andrew was rubbing the palm of her hand with his fingertips.

In the shadowy depths of the cage, two blue eyes sparked open. And stared right at Lauren. Andrew's lips brushed Lauren's neck...she looked up at him, he leaned down...she moved her head upwards...

And a VERY LOUD mental voice screamed in her head, and growled in reality, ~Sapphire...if I told you once, I told you a THOUSAND times. NEVER kiss on the first date. Didn't I EVER teach you ANYTHING about being coy?~

Lauren and Andrew jerked apart, Andrew shocked by the growling, Lauren suddenly smacked with Memories...of a sarcastic fox that had been her teacher, her mentor, and one of her best friends...nearly a thousand years ago. She slowly walked up to the bars, her mind barely believing it. ~S-S-Sly?~

A quiet voice muttered in her head, ~No, it's the Sugar Plum Fairy... OF COURSE IT'S ME! Now get me out of here!~

Lauren squealed happily, and sent ~I'll be back! I'm going to get help!!~ She turned to run off, and stopped, looking at Andrew. Uh Oh; I could get Sly out by myself...BUT he's here. Oh Boy is he here.. Lauren was suddenly struck with a wicked solution.

~Sorry Sly... this is the ONLY way you are getting out...~ as she slide up to Andrew, who went from dazedly staring at Sly, to dazedly staring at Lauren. She leaned on her tip-toes, and her lips gently brushed his. Andrew's arms wrapped around her waist, as he began kissing her back. One hand wrapped around his neck, her other hand flipped behind her, she flicked her wrist. The cage door slowly opened, and while the other foxes were mysteriously 'stuck', Sly padded happily out the door, and it shut slowly. Lauren's other arm wrapped around Andrew's neck.

Sly snuck into the bushes, and quietly COUGHED. Lauren again broke away, and murmured, "I have to go...call me tomorrow for the restaurant?"

Andrew dumbly nodded. Lauren grinned, and ran off. He watched her, and touched his lips softly. Whoa... he thought to himself. Just whoa.. He straightened the basket, and wandered through the zoo. Somewhere near the Lions he started skipping.

Lauren and Sly warily approached the Cherry Hill Temple. Sly looked up at his Mage, "Are they always this loud?" Lauren frowned, "Only Serena and Rei, so I'm not sure what all the yelling is about..."

Sly frowned in concentration, "If I didn't know better, I'd say that that was Dumb Dog's voice..."

"Dumb Dog? Who's Dumb Dog?" Lauren queried.

"Don't tell me you don't remember the Mutt," Sly finished.

Lauren said, "Well, of course I remember Rusty! I just don't remember you ever calling him a Dumb Dog."

Sly blinked, "You really do have a Swiss Cheese memory, don't you? Our fights were as legendary as Rei's and the Princess'!!"

Lauren said dryly, "Actually I remember you calling him a lot worse things than 'Dumb Mutt'."

Sly laughed as he jumped into her arms, "That's my girl!" He nuzzled her under the ear and gave her a gentle lick. Lauren smiled, "Do I feel a mushy moment coming on??"

Sly tucked his head under her chin and snuggled down, "I haven't seen you in 1000 years, Sapphire. Even I can break down and have a mushy moment after that long."

Lauren held him close, truly touched by his quiet admission of love, "I love you, too, Sly." She lightly kissed the top of his head. Sly pulled away from her and shook his head, "Ack!! I said I'd give in to a mushy moment, I never agreed to do the Kissing Thing!!"

Lauren smiled, knowing that that was only Sly's way of trying to maintain his cool. Sly growled, "And anyway, haven't you done enough of that, this evening?"

Lauren smartly commented, "Not as much as I wanted to."

Sly stared up at her, "I am not hearing this. I am not hearing this. Let's just go inside before this conversation gets any more ridiculous. It's not like I'm your mother or anything - and I really don't want to hear any questions about the 'birds and the bees' out of you, young lady! Premarital sex is a Bad Thing."

Lauren doubled over in laughter, "I don't believe I'm hearing this out of you! Of all people! Who thought you'd be the prude?"

Sly stared at her in horror, "Oh my God! I've turned into Rusty - or no, worse! I've turned into - into - aaah!! - I've turned into Luna!!!!" Lauren's laughter rapidly developed into hysterics. The Scouts came out to see what was going on. While Luna, Artemis, and Darien were present, Renee and Rusty were nowhere to be found. Lauren straightened and Sly jumped up onto her shoulder.

"...And another thing young lady! If I ever see you using your magic to take revenge on another human being again, you are in deep horse manure!! You need to relearn responsibility! What did they teach you at that University? Not anything about respecting your elders, that's for sure!! Stuffing your head with useless things like Organic Chemistry, and C programming languages, Animal Sciences - Useless!! All of it! And another thing!..."

Sly sauntered into the room, "Nag, nag, nag, nag, nag! Damn, dog, leave the kid alone! What'd she ever do to you?"

Rusty turned blazing eyes on the younger fox, "She left me in a Pet Store!! I could've been sold!"

Sly tickled Rusty's nose with his tail tip, "So, you left me in a zoo cage - I'm just lucky Lauren came along when she did. I would've been sittin' there forever waitin' for you to come back! But you don't see me complaining, do you?"

Rusty sneered, "That's not what I heard yesterday! Whine, whine, whine, whine, whine. "I've been stuck in this cage for 20 years, eating scraps, and sleeping with dumb animals... Yada, yada, yada." Though how you could tell the dumb ones from yourself is beyond me!"

Sly whirled around and snapped his teeth an inch from Rusty's tender nose. Rusty bared his own teeth and began to growl. Sly growled back. They stood that way, locked in place, teeth bared, and growling.

Luna and Artemis looked down from where they were curled up on the windowsill. Artemis shook his head, "Fight, fight, fight, fight, fight. That's all these two ever did back in the Moon Kingdom."

Luna nodded sagely, "It's been 1000 years, you'd think maturity would have set in by now..."

Sly looked up and smirked, "Well, well, if it isn't the Moon Kitties. Long time no see, pals. It's good to see you haven't changed - still poking your whiskers in where they don't belong. How've you been?"

The hair on the cat's hackles rose, and Artemis snarled, "WE'RE fine. But YOU won't be in THIRTY seconds."

A imperial cough interrupted the pre-fur flying fight, and all four Guardians turned to look at Serena. She stood, legs slightly apart, her blue eyes glaring at them, her voice calm and cold, "LISTEN to you four. Like nothing has changed. A thousand years later, and you are ALL still going at it, even more bitterly. You were friends, or has all your petty little differences blinded you to that?"

The four dropped their heads, and Renee quietly commented, "Getting THESE four to stop would be like trying to get YOU and Rei to stop tongue warring for a week!"

Rusty turned to Renee, and growled, "Young lady, did I, or did I not tell you NOT to speak? I'm NOT finished with you JUST yet.."

Lauren grinned, sticking her hands in her pockets, "Some things never change."

Ami raised her hand. Luna, bemused, said, "Yes Ami?"

"I hate to be intrusive, but who is the fox?" the blue haired girl asked softly.

Sly looked at them, and boggled, "Wait... you don't KNOW me??"

The five girls and Darien shook their heads. Sly stumbled backwards, "How could you forget ME? I'm so UNFORGETABLE!"

Rusty coughed, "Ego... Ego."

Artemis sneezed, "Megalomaniac... megalomaniac.."

Luna put her nose down in her paws, and snuffled, "His head will be too big to fit into his hat one of these days."

Mina said, puzzled, "But he's a fox. He doesn't wear a hat."

Everyone sweatdropped. Renee giggled as quietly as she could. Luna groaned, "It's a figure of speech."

Sly cleared his throat, "If you're all done poking fun at me for now, then I will tell the young Scouts who I am." He sat down on the floor and primly wrapped his tail around his front paws, "I was chosen at a very young age to be a Guardian to one of the Moon Mages..."

"I was innocently sunning myself on a rather large rock in the outlying forests of the Moon Palace. The sun was bright and warm that day - a rare occurrence on the face of the Moon. All of a sudden I heard several loud crashing noises and a frightened shriek. I was rather put off because they were interrupting my nap. I got up and stretched..."

"AAAAAAAAAAAAHH!!!!! Someone help! They're after me!!" a young boy's voice cried.

I was extremely upset, no one should chase little boys like that, after all. I sprang from my rock, trying to find the source of the disturbance. I soon saw a young boy come running through the bushes with a sprightly young brunette hot on his heels. I decided, this young lass was obviously trying to get this young man's more 'tender' affections. So, as the wise and benevolent fox that I am, I leaped lightly in front of the girl, allowing the poor young man to run on his way. I then stopped the girl with my masterful gaze, and set her straight on how to capture a young man's heart. She, so impressed by my brains and witty demeanor, decided to make me her mentor..."

"That's NOT how it happened!" Lauren blurted out. Everyone turned towards her.

"It is too!" Sly protested. Lauren snorted, "Yeah...right. Keep living in your deluded furry world. Okay guys, this is what REALLY happened..."

“I was running after an Youma who had just taken over the body of a young boy. As a young Acolyte, it was a prerogative for me to free the world of the Evils of the Negaverse. The Youma-boy, in a ruse to escape me, starting yelling for help. I had just about gotten him into my sights, when this WILD fox came screaming from the trees, and fell to the ground in front of me. I tripped over the little fuzzball, and the Youma got away! I was about to jump up, and chase after the Youma again, when I noticed the fox. He was obviously mad from hunger...so I decided to take pity on the poor creature, and take it home with me..."

"Oh Puh-lease... that was not what happened." Sly snorted.

"Like YOUR version is sooooo truthful." Lauren said, pointing at him. The two started bickering. Rusty tugged on Renee's pant leg, and said, "BOTH of them are lying through their teeth...just let me tell you what happened.."

Darien held up his hand, and said, "Allow Me." Everyone turned and stared at the Prince. "Uhm... Muffin, how would you know?" Serena queried.

Darien glared at Lauren and Sly, and growled, "I was the BOY. And I wasn't being chased to be kissed, nor was I a Youma. I was just an innocent young Prince on one of my FEW trips to the Moon, to get tutoring in Royal Etiquette. They felt it would be best for me to have a young lady to practice on - even if the only available Princess was about six at the time..."

Serena smiled and took his hand into her own. He leaned down to give her a tender kiss on the cheek. Sly coughed, "We get the point, you obviously learned your lessons well. Now can we get on with this farce? Or do you just want to admit that I was right and forget the whole thing?"

Lauren growled, "If you're right, then I'm the Pope, you little furball!"

Darien cleared his throat, "Lady and gentlefox, please. Allow me to continue." He sat down on the sofa, pulling Serena into the crook of his arm, "As I said, I was visiting the Moon that day for a class in Royal Etiquette. All Moon Mages and Scouts were required to take the class as well. Unfortunately for me, young Sapphire here didn't do her homework that night. She decided that she wanted mine."

Lauren growled, but Rusty hooked a claw into the cuff of her jeans, "Let him finish, Lauren." She angrily subsided.

Darien raised an eyebrow and continued, "Well, she said that if I gave her my homework, she'd kiss me. When I refused, she said that if I didn't, I believe her words were, 'Fork it over, shorty', she'd kiss me. I decided it was a no-win scenario and did what any real man would do - I ran for my life."

Serena giggled, "I guess your opinions on kissing have changed since then."

Darien blushed a little, "Serena, I was 11 years old at the time. All 11 year-old boys think that girls have cooties."

Sly snorted, "Oh yeah. Cooties. Sure..."

Darien said, "Anyway, as I was running through the forest, trying to get away from her, this rabid-looking fox jumped off a rock and attacked us! He said, 'Now, listen up, tender young morsels. I'm a real fox - not some dumb Guardian that's gonna get saddled with some incompetent mage - nosirree! I'm a real, snarling, biting, mean old fox! And you two are about to be my dinner! Grrr!' To this, Sapphire replied in her most snotty tone, 'Well, if you're not a Guardian, then how come you can talk?' The fox's jaw dropped, 'Uh, well - you weren't supposed to hear me talk! And anyway, I'm just practicing to be a real fox. I haven't quite got all the kinks worked out yet.' Sapphire's face took on a truly thoughtful look. She said slowly, 'Well, I still need a Guardian...' The fox's eyes went wide, and he said sarcastically, 'Didn't I just say that I didn't want to be saddled with a moronic little mage? Especially one that chases little boys through the forest!' Sapphire answered, 'Well, I'll bet you couldn't teach me anything! You can't even attack someone without talking!' The fox bared his teeth and growled, 'Oh yeah?' Sapphire said, 'Yeah!' and stuck out her tongue. The fox said, 'Wanna bet? I'll show you!' And they've been together ever since," Darien finished smugly.

Ami smiled, "Oh so that's who he is."

Artemis laughed, "Yeah, Darien, thanks for clearing that up for us."

Sly and Lauren had the decency to blush. Lauren murmured, "That's still not how I remember it." Sly growled under his breath, "Me neither." Luna threw up her paws in despair, "Get over it people! Besides, we all know Darien would never turn evil!" At Serena's incredulous look and Ami's raised eyebrow, Luna blushed, "Oh well, there was that brainwashing episode... But other than that he's been a saint!" She turned to Darien who wisely said, "I'm just going to keep my mouth shut."

Luna turned back to Sly who was muttering, "What brainwashing? I don't get it." Luna growled, "It's a long story. Ask later. What I want to know is where the heck you were the day that Beryl attacked!"

Sly answered nonchalantly, "Oh, I was in the youma camp."

Everyone yelled, "WHAT???"

He slicked his fur back, "Yeah. I was Serenity's secret agent. She wanted me to try to break up Beryl's ranks from the inside. You know. Cause dissention. She didn't want a bloody war - she thought that if we could trick them into fighting amongst themselves, that it would take care of the problem. Beryl wouldn't have an affective fighting force. The youma weren't the problem - they already fought amongst themselves. It was the Generals that were the real problem, and eventually how I got caught."

Sly settle himself more comfortably and took a deep breath, "I had managed to cause some problems between two of them. Zoisite was just naturally distrustful of everyone except Malachite, and Nephlyte seemed an easy target for her distrust. He was so cold and distant, that I managed to get her to see it as a challenge to make him get angry. Once she started getting him to argue back, then that was complete. I also managed to get them to think that Jadeite was incompetent."

He preened himself a moment, "That was a pretty piece of work, if I do say so myself. Anyway, the only one that I couldn't get under the skin of was Malachite himself. But his love for Zoisite would automatically make him distrust anyone who thought ill of her. So, I figured that if I could get Zoisite and the others to fight, that Malachite would eventually have to get involved."

His puffed up chest deflated as he hung his head, "But I didn't succeed fast enough. They were still together enough to attack the Moon Kingdom. And destroy it. By the time they were ready to attack, they had figured out who I was and locked me up. I couldn't even get there to warn you in time." He looked up at Lauren, his eyes full of tears. He whispered, voice cracking, "I felt you die. I didn't think I could survive after that. But I did. God help me, I did. Long enough to get back to the Kingdom and say Last Rites over you all. Fortunately for me, Sailor Pluto took pity on me and sent me on to Earth with the rest of you. I'll tell you, those cliffs were starting to look mighty appealing towards the end."

Lauren, their disagreement forgotten, scooped the distraught fox up into a back-breaking hug, "I'm so sorry, Sly!" He licked her face, "It's OK, I've had 20 years to cool off. I'm not really mad at any of you. Just mad at myself for not getting there soon enough."

Everyone fell silent at this sad testimony. Rusty sniffled a little bit, "Didn't think you had it in you, Sly."

Sly gruffly said, "Yeah, well. Just don't go expecting me to do it again." He turned to Lauren, "I mean, look at all the trouble you get into without me to help you out! I intend to stick to you like glue!" He puffed his chest out and Lauren groaned.

Luna smiled, "Good to see that everything's back to normal - for now, anyways."

Artemis laughed, "You mean until their next fight?"

Luna hung her head, "Whatever."

Part 9 | The Graveyard | Part 11
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