When Felice and Orlando entered the living room of the legendary Tiger House, the occupants went still, and quiet before standing. The two off-white-clad, barefoot warriors looked dusty and tense, as if they had just endured a visit from an adversary. They stepped lightly on the ground before Moira-Selene reappeared with towels to wipe up the water. Apparently, she was going to give Angelia a light sponge bath, given her condition, but she didn’t voice this intention. She allowed for Felice and Orlando to maintain the floor.
“We’re sorry to have kept you waiting,” Felice said. She gestured to the man beside her. “You all, this is Orlando Bloom, the new Sun Prince.”
A little nervous to have all those hopeful eyes watching him, Orlando smiled and gave a small wave. “Um, hello, mates.”
The other Senshi greeted him warmly. Without preamble, Usagi rushed to him and hugged him tightly. The Inners sweatdropped. Duo scratched his head, trying to figure out what was going on.
“There she goes, getting the first hug,” Minako muttered with a bit of envy.
But Orlando didn’t see this gesture the way Minako had; instead, he accepted the hug and embraced her back. He wanted her to know that he appreciated all she had done for him even when her own life had been at risk. Feeling the warmness from her heart, he understood why Felice explained that Usagi was so very important to everyone. She was now an important person to him.
“Gomen, Orlando-san,” Usagi said, looking up into his warm brown eyes. “I wish…I wish I could have answered your questions that day at the hospital. You were so hurt, so confused…”
He shook his head. “It’s okay. I think it turned out for the better this way.” He smiled down at her. “Usagi-chan.”
Usagi returned the smile, then hugged him again. “I’m glad!” she cried.
After Usagi had disentangled herself, everyone sat down, and Orlando finally saw Angelia lying on the couch. Without a word, he walked to her body and dropped to his knees in front of the couch. Taking in her bruised and battered body, his eyes misted. He lowered his head and rested it upon his entwined fingers. Danie frowned as she sensed his aura escalating. Orlando lifted his head after a minute, and his eyes had a slight golden sheen to them.
“Calm down,” Felice ordered him gently. She walked over to Orlando and placed a hand on his shoulder. He inhaled, then took a seat on the couch beside Angelia. Felice then turned to everyone else. “Senshi, we must talk about what comes next.”
“It’s obvious,” Duo remarked as he leaned on the wall next to Heero. He had given his seat to Moira-Selene when she had returned to the living room. “We go find Alex and kill him and his little girlfriend.”
“He cannot kill Alex—or Fiore—now,” Felice said. “Fiore’s evil soul will be on the move, and we cannot have him inhabiting another person, namely Orlando himself.”
Jessica frowned thoughtfully. “He will have to be contained and sent to Infinite Hell.”
“But we can’t do that,” Duo pointed out.
Jessica gestured to Heero. “Of course we can. We’ve got Heero, don’t we?” Evie, Sailor Infinity, was out of town on a school trip at the moment and was otherwise indisposed, but Heero, being Prince Infinity, had the same powers as Evie.
“Um, big problem, guys,” Cassandra spoke up. “We can’t just send Fiore’s spirit to Infinite Hell. If we did that, he would just come back like Amanda did.”
“Cassandra has a point,” Ami agreed. “When we defeated Amanda at Esperanza Park, Gretchen was hurt and could not properly help us. Evie banished her spirit to Infinite Hell, and there was where we made our little mistake.”
“Could someone explain this to me?” Orlando asked. “I’m a little rusty on my information on all you guys.”
Cassandra explained it. “When we defeat an enemy, they must go to Infinite Hell. It’s like Hell for bad guys. But before we can banish them, our Princess Kuruyami—or Sailor Darkness—must contain them for a brief period. She has to power to weaken the evil soul before it is sent away or it will find a way to return.”
“I say we find this…um, Sailor Darkness,” Orlando suggested. “I honestly don’t want to have to go through this same process again if this evil spirit happens to return.”
“I agree,” Duo piped up.
For some odd reason, most of the Senshi looked to Danie for a response.
“What?” She shook her head. “Look, The Fray is at the Jazz Room tonight. Chris and Sam and Gretchen were really looking forward to this.”
Jessica shrugged. “They can be superstars after we get past this.” She looked at Duo. “You and your buddy over there are going to go and get her.” Duo accepted. She turned to Orlando. “I think you should go, too. It might help our case.”
“That and she wants you to back off Annie-chan for a moment,” Duo retorted.
Jessica chuckled sheepishly. “Well, I can’t examine her with you in the way.” She shooed him away from the couch. “Go on, now. Have some fun out with Duo and Heero for a little while.” She shot a warning glare at Duo. “And don’t even think about picking some girl up at the Jazz Room, either.”
Moira-Selene crossed her arms. “Don’t worry about him, Jess. I think he knows what’ll happen if he does.”
Scared that Moira-Selene would maim him, Duo rushed over to Orlando and ushered him out so they could go.
* * *
When the three young men entered the Jazz Room, heads turned. That was no surprise, given the fact that two mysterious guys, along with Gracia’s most popular bachelor, had made an appearance in one of the Row’s hot spots. Duo called out to some familiar faces and turned down invitations for dates afterwards. Orlando nodded in greeting at some of the girls that were checking them out, while Heero gave him his infamous Yuy glare.
Duo noticed Orlando’s incredulousness over his best friend and shook his head. “Heero’s not the most…sociable person in the world when it comes to women,” Duo explained in a low tone so that Heero wouldn’t hear. Well, he probably heard anyway.
“Why does that not surprise me…?” Orlando commented.
The trio took a table near the stage. Duo ordered a beer. Heero ordered water. Deciding that he would try and relax with these two members of the male species, Orlando ordered a beer also.
“According to the board,” Duo remarked, “the Fray is on for another ten minutes, then we can talk to them backstage.”
The waitress brought the guys their drinks. Duo gulped down his beer with a sigh of happiness. Orlando took a sip, remembering nights at Angelia’s apartment when they would have a beer or two while watching TV on her couch. Pushing those memories to the back of his mind for the moment, he decided that he and Angelia would have more nights like that—after they defeated the current enemy, that is.
The Fray was onstage, performing one of their slower songs. Claudia-Michelle, wearing all black, joined them on her cello. Gretchen was singing lead vocals while Samantha played bass guitar and provided backup when Gretchen needed it.
While she was singing, Gretchen’s eyes had suddenly stopped upon him. Her green eyes glittered with something that intrigued Orlando. It was one of those things he couldn’t quite explain.
I don’t want those baby blues
I want a pair of brown eyes
That will tell me no lies
Duo was bringing the beer bottle up to his lips when he noticed Orlando checking Gretchen out. Raising an eyebrow, he nudged Heero to his left. Heero frowned slightly and looked at him inquisitively. Duo furtively gestured toward Orlando, then at Gretchen.
I want that boy
And I don’t care who he’s
I want that boy
And I don’t care where
He’s going to
I want that boy
And I always get what I want
They shared a knowing look and then waited the Fray’s set out.
When it was over Duo clapped along with the rest of the audience and stood. Heero followed suit. Orlando finished up his drink, then fell into step behind them.
They found the three members of the Fray in the rightly dubbed “Brown Room,” a room painted in neutral tones set up very much like a living room. Samantha was sitting on the lap of Max Harris, her boyfriend and the owner of Soul Love Live nearby. Chris was holding a drink and teasing Gretchen, who looked somber. When she spotted Duo and Heero standing in the doorway, she climbed to her feet and rushed toward them.
“Hey! Are you running from me, love?” Chris demanded.
“I’ll be back!” Gretchen yelled from over her shoulder. She turned to the guys and ushered them out to the back alley. She had sensed that someone would be along to get her eventually so she was ready, in a sense. And she really didn’t want Max and Chris to hear about this Senshi stuff.
Once any “innocent” ears were out of earshot, Gretchen crossed her arms over her chest. It took her a moment before she realized that Orlando was with them… When she did, she laughed nervously and was glad that they were in the near-darkness…
“Gretch, have you gone completely bonkers?” Duo asked, a little disconcerted.
Gretchen cleared her throat. “Don’t worry. I’m fine.” She paused. “So it looks like the rightful Sun Prince has appeared.” She offered Orlando her hand. “Gretchen Thomas. But you probably already knew that.”
“It’s still nice to meet you anyway,” Orlando told her, shaking it. “You sing very well. I got a chill listening to you up there.”
She grinned shyly. “Oh, stop. Danie wrote that song, if you can believe it, so all the praise is hers.”
Looking at Orlando sidelong, Duo remarked knowingly, “I can believe it.”
Sensing that Heero was about to utter one of his endearing (sarcasm) comments, Gretchen sobered. “So what’s going on, now? Has anybody heard about Angelia?”
“Heero, Danie, and I scooped up Annie while those jerks were fighting Orlando and Felice,” Duo explained. “So she’s at the Tiger House. All we need now is someone to secure our future happiness.”
“And a last battle. Can’t forget that.” Gretchen met Orlando’s gaze with a frown. “So…have you made a date for this last battle?”
“We haven’t done anything yet,” Orlando replied. “We decided that it would be best to get you first, then we would make major plans.”
“Good.” Gretchen yawned. “I’m glad you guys came…” She yawned again, more broadly this time. “I don’t know about you, but I think it’s bedtime, don’t you think?”
“Well,” Duo joked, “if you’re offering, I think I could—” Gretchen punched him in the shoulder. “Okay, dammit, I take it back. But I’m willing to be chivalrous and let you give Orlando the treatment.”
Heero shook his head in dismay as Gretchen chased him into the street yelling about having Samantha’s switchblade and knowing how to use it. Orlando caught some of her words and sweatdropped.
“Perhaps we should follow them before Duo loses his…manhood,” Orlando suggested.
“It would be an improvement.” But Heero followed him, anyway.