by Gunman

Disclaimer: I own nothing. Not Eva, nor Sailor Moon

Summary: Shinji dies saving Hotaru from committing suicide, only to be reborn by the girl since he has proven that he cares for her.

Authors Notes: These are basically going to be Lemon stories where Shinji ends up with a different Sailor Scout under a different situation. These will not be mainstream, these will be totally separate stories of how he gets together with each girl.


Story Four
Love and Death

Hotaru Tomoe was depressed.

Not a good thing for a defender of the universe. On odd title really when one stopped to realize just what she could do. Sufficed to say, Hotaru wasn't your normal teenage girl. She was, in reality, Sailor Saturn, Outer Senshi of Death.

Once before, she and her three friends: Sailor Neptune, Sailor Uranus, and Sailor Pluto, were the four guardians of the outer planets. Their jobs were to defend mankind from attacks that came from outside their solar system. And of the four, Hotaru was the most powerful.

And she was depressed.

The reason she was depressed was that she didn't have any real friends. The Sailor Scouts said that they were her friends, but the truth was she scared them. The power to die, be reborn, come back and destroy a whole planet was something that had come in handy more than once. She ultimately saved the world by forcing the evil alien, Master Pharaoh 90, to flee back to his former universe to escape being destroyed with the Earth. Sailor Pluto then sealed the gateway to their dimension so that he could never return, and Super Sailor Moon used her powers as Neo-Queen Serenity to resurrect all that had been destroyed.

While Hotaru could have revived the Earth on her own, she just didn't the last time she destroyed it. It was the same with people, the ability to kill them and then bring them back to life in seconds. Or she could not. That was her power.

And she was depressed.

During the initial rebirth process for the whole Moon Kingdom, the Senshi of Death had been born a year younger than the Inner Senshi. She was already younger than the Outer Senshi, but now, with the exception of Rini, she was the youngest of the group. The pair had actually gotten along well with each other, until Serena decided it was time for Rini to go back to the thirtieth century.

And once again, she was depressed.

With the war against the Negaverse over, and the evil beings from the "Tau Ceti Star System" gone, Hotaru had nothing in this new world. No real friends, no real family (not with her father having died in a car accident on a business trip), and no one to love her. The other Senshi all had boyfriends and loved ones. They had someone who cared for them. Hotaru had no one like that in her life. Not now.

Which was why she now stood by the railing of the bridge that overlooked the heavy sewage drain. She was here every week, just staring at the large, ever-flowing canal. She had done this at least a dozen times already, and no one had ever noticed. She would wait until the canal had picked up in intensity before throwing herself over the edge. The flow of the canal would drag her into the sewer system where a normal person would die.

But not her. She was the Senshi of Death after all.

"The canal is filling up." she said to herself. I hope HE doesn't show up.

(Flashback, a week ago)

"Hey, did you hear me, freak?" the taller girl shouted at her.

"Leave me alone." Hotaru whispered.

"Why? What are you gonna do if I don't?"

Hotaru's fist charged with dark energy behind her back. All it would take is one little push, and this girl would be dead, and no longer an annoyance to her. But before she could unleash it, another voice joined the fray.

"Hey! Leave her alone!" Shinji Ikari shouted.

The girl and her two 'goons' backed up as Shinji stepped between them and Hotaru.

"What do you want Ikari?" the taller girl, named Suzu, asked.

"An explanation would be nice." Shinji said.

"We're just trying to teach little Miss 'I Don't Wanna Be Social' a lesson in manners."

"You're not a teacher, Suzu, so don't hand me that." Shinji said, crossing his arms over his chest.

While the girl wasn't intimidated by Shinji, the two boys behind her who knew of Shinji's reputation started backing up. Hotaru's energy ball dissipated, her cheeks flushing and heart racing when she realized who Shinji was.

The reason for these actions was simple: about a month ago Shinji had gotten into an altercation with another student who wanted to test the strength of 'Shinji the Hero Pilot'. He landed three punches to Shinji's face before the boy pilot's 'Berserker' nature kicked in, causing Shinji to break the boy's jaw with an adrenaline-filled uppercut that caught the boy by surprise.

Fortunately the other students had witnessed the fight and were on Shinji's side. Despite that, Shinji spent two weeks in detention for that little tussle. The boy had to have his mouth wired shut for six weeks.

Since then, the whole student body avoided trying to make Shinji angry.

"You don't scare me, Ikari." Suzu said. "I know for a fact you wouldn't hit a girl."

"True. But being a wall between you and Hotaru-san still keeps you from picking on her." Shinji said to the girl.

"Grrr. Fine!" Suzu huffed and walked away, quickly losing her patience.

"Are you alright, Hotaru-san?"

"Y-Yes, Ikari-sama." she said, somewhat reverently.

"It's just Shinji, Hotaru-san." he corrected her.

"Y-yes, Shinji-sama."

"No, no, it's..."

(Bell Ring)

Hotaru blushed and then mad-dashed back to the class room, World History actually, her mind in a torrent of rather lewd thoughts about Shinji.

(End Flashback)

It was after school and Shinji was walking back to his home, which was odd considering he had never come this way before. He paused when he noticed a familiar figure standing on the railing of the Kyoshu Canal. A figure with purple-ish hair.

"Is that... HOTARU!" he shouted as he ran up to the edge of the bridge and caught her hand.

"Shinji?" she gasped, seeing who had stopped her descent.

"Hang on!" he cried out as he tried to pull her back up.

"What are you doing?" she asked.

"I'm not going to let you go!"

No, please don't. You can't see this! She gasped in thought.

"Just hang on!" he cried, not willing to use any additional energy to try and make a call for help.

Not that there was anyone around to call for.

However, Shinji eventually gave up, in part due to the fact that he couldn't pull her back up. His Berserker nature, which only activated during moments of anger and pain, would have given him the needed adrenaline to lift the girl up onto the bridge. Such was not the case here.

"Fine." he said as he started to let his grip slip.

"Shinji?" she gasped, seeing his grip slip from the railing as well.

"No one should die alone." he said as he let go and grabbed onto Hotaru before they hit the water.

The pair are swept into the sewer where they get tossed around, churned, and dumped into the lower levels of the canal system.

Hotaru and Shinji wash up on a small slope deep in the sewer system.

They are both dead.

However, less than a minute later, Hotaru started to glow as little stars, that looked like fireflies, were pulled into the girl, causing her to glow as well. Seconds after the light had disappeared, she sat up.

"Shinji?" she gasped when she looked at the dead young man. "Oh, Shinji!" she sobbed as she crushed herself to the boy and started crying. "You... you tried to save me! You actually cared about me! And then you chose... to die with me! Because you didn't want me to be alone! Never have I known anyone to do that for another." she cried. "Especially me." she said as she got on top of him and kissed his lips while tears streamed down onto his face.

It was these tears that caused Shinji to start glowing as Hotaru had been. Hotaru didn't notice the entire time, her own eyes closed tightly in grief. Within seconds, Shinji had stopped glowing and blinked his eyes to stare up at the sewer system he was in.

"Where... where am I?" he asked, obvious confused and puzzled. Feeling a weight on his chest, he looked down and saw Hotaru's crying into his chest. "Hotaru-san?"

The girl gasped and looked up before smiling. "You're Alright!" she cried and threw herself around his neck, hugging him tightly.

Shinji gasped at her hug, but returned it before sitting both of them back up.

"Hotaru-san! Are you alright? Did you get hurt?" he asked.

"You... " she paused, remembering that he just died and probably didn't know it. "you nearly died, and you were worried about me?"

"Of course I was worried. Are you hurt?" he asked.

"Uh... no. I'm fine. A little sore, but what about you?" she asked.

"I'm... I feel dirty." he replied, looking at his sludge-soaked clothes.

"Well, we are in a sewer." she said.

"Right. Well, come on. Let's get you home." he said.

"Mine or yours?" she asked.

"Well... I'm not sure where we are."

"I think mine is closer." she said.

Hotaru knew this because she had done this several times before. The pair walked out of the storm drain and, as Hotaru had said, they headed right for her house.

Hotaru's house wasn't anything elaborate. A simple two-story white house with a reddish-brown roof, a small yard in the front, and a small stone fence around the yard.

When they got in, Shinji offered the shower to her first, but she insisted since he was the guest.

"I don't want to intrude." he said to her, not really noticing the large collection of lamps the girl had around her house.

"It's not a problem." she stated.

Shinji nodded and then headed upstairs to where the bathroom was. As he ascended the stairs, Hotaru blushed, realizing that she not only had a cute boy in her house, but a cute boy who had tried to save her life; who cared about her. She blushed furiously at the feeling.

It took about a half hour to get all the sewer-gunk off of him. When Shinji finally stepped out of the shower and looked around, he saw that his clothes were gone.

"Uh, Hotaru?" he called out, quickly wrapping a towel around him waist.

Hotaru quickly came around the corner into the bathroom. "Yes, Shin..." she said, pausing in her tracks, blushing brightly as her voice lost it's strength due to the fact that a half-naked and dripping wet young man was right in front of her. "...ji?" she managed to finish.

"Uh...have you seen my clothes?" he asked, blushing a little at his semi-nakedness.

"Uh... I... I put... your wet naked... Clothes! I put your hot, naked Clothes! I put your clothes in the wash!" she gushed, turning away to avoid a potential nosebleed and fainting.

"Oh. Uh... do you have anything I can wear until they're clean?" he asked.

"Uh... I think I can find something."

Hotaru managed to get Shinji a robe, but no underwear.

Shinji thanked her for the clean clothes, and Hotaru went to shower herself. While she did that, Shinji decided to make himself useful and started fixing something for the both of them to eat, using what Hotaru had on hand in her kitchen. Once Hotaru was done with her shower, and dressed in a simple bathrobe, she wandered down the stairs and found Shinji preparing a simple but delicious meal for the both of them. It was just salad, strips of chicken with seaweed, seasoned fruit and juice.

She smiled happily at his gesture.


"So... you're father is in an institution?" Shinji asked as the pair sat down at the round kitchen table.

"Yes. He went mad a short time ago and... lost his mind." Hotaru said, as she sat on Shinji's right.

"Do you go to see him at all?"

"Well...yes. Though he barely remembers me. Or the trouble he caused."

"Trouble? What kind of... oh." he suddenly gasped, realizing that whatever it was, it was most likely personal.

"Do you know?"

"No, but... he... must have done something pretty bad if he went to an asylum. My father went to one as well."

"He did?"

"Yeah, he tried to genocide the world in order to resurrect my mother."

"Oh my!" she gasped, knowing that Shinji would not lightly talk about something like that.

"When it failed, he... lost his mind. He's in a maximum security hospital for the criminally insane. I can only visit him once a year and that's only because I'm his son." he said.

"I see." she said sadly. "My father did something similar. His actions...I'm sorry. I... I can't really.."

"No, no. It's alright. I understand." he replied.

"Thank you, Shinji. You're so nice." she said with a smile.

She's so cute! He thought with a blush.

He's gorgeous! She thought with a dreamy look in her eyes.

The pair talked about other things besides their estranged fathers, neither really noticing that their hands were drifting closer and closer together, as were their bodies towards each other in their chairs. It was when the dryer finally dinged that Shinji and Hotaru snapped back to reality.

Shinji quickly noticed just where their hands were, a slightly guilty feeling welling up in his mind as she politely got up and hurried into the back room behind the kitchen where his clothes were ready.

However, as he left, Hotaru got up and went after him, a mischievous side of her wanting to see him change. That was when she overheard him.

"What the hell is wrong with you, Shinji!" he snapped. "You nearly kissed that sweet, cute and innocent girl, and she probably didn't even want to be kissed by you!"

He thinks I'm cute? Hotaru blushed. And he wanted to kiss me?

"I should just get my clothes and get out before I do something she'll hate me for." he hissed.

However, right as he said that, a flash of lightning and a crash of thunder sounded outside.

"It's raining?" Shinji gasped. "Now I can't leave!"

It's raining! Hotaru smiled. Thank You Kami! She praised.

"Guess I can get dressed, at least." he said as he did just that.

Outside the washing room, Hotaru's heart was about to beat out of her chest. Her mind was in a whirlwind of thoughts, all laden with lust.

What is wrong with me? Shinji likes me... but he seems... hesitant. How can I... she thought, when suddenly...

"Hotaru?" Shinji asked, causing the girl to jump.

"Eep!" she cried out.

"Are you alright?" he asked.

"Yes! Um..." she paused. It's now or never! She thought before answering him. "Shinji-kun? Can I... can I ask you for a favor?"

"A favor?" he asked, looking questioningly at her. "I guess. What is it?"

"Will you... will you kiss me?" she asked in a nervous tone.

Shinji froze as he stared at the cute girl for a few seconds, wondering if she had overhead him earlier.

"Are‚Äďare you sure?" he asked, himself sure that he wanted to kiss her.

"Yes." she said, this time with confidence.

"Well... if you... really want to." he said, swallowing hard as he moved closer to her.

Hotaru was almost ramrod-straight, her head tilted upwards as her eyes closed in anticipation. It made Shinji feel a little bit better that she was as nervous about this as he was. He gripped her small shoulders gently, startling her a bit, as he moved in towards her slowly, keeping his eyes opened so that he could see just where he was going.

Hotaru felt his warm breath upon her skin, right before his lips touched her own.

The second his lips touched hers, her heart-rate skyrocketed! Her pulse was erratic and her knees were like jelly. Yet, she remained standing as Shinji kissed her.

Her lips are so soft and warm. Shinji thought as he continued to kiss her.

He's kissing me! He's kissing me! Hotaru thought as her hands suddenly went up and around Shinji's neck, deepening the kiss and adding her tongue.

This was enough to shock Shinji and topple him backwards, into the living room and onto the couch where Hotaru kept a firm grip on him.

Shinji looked up at the girl, who was smiling and blushing furiously, her arms still around his neck.

"I... I really like you, Shinji-kun." she said in a soft tone.

"I really like you too, Hotaru-chan." he said back to her.

Hotaru smiled as she unwrapped her arms and placed her head on Shinji's chest. A contented sigh escaped her lips as she quickly fell asleep. Shinji looked down at the girl, noticing how comfortable and relaxed she was, as well as asleep, he decided that he would just let the girl sleep and talk about their relationship in the morning.

(15 Years Later)

Shinji was working diligently at his desk when a knock on his door altered him to the arrival of someone. Getting up from his desk he walked to the door, opened it, and gasped at what he saw.

"Hello, Mr Ikari. I'm Nurse Hotaru, and I'm here for your medical check-up, as required by hospital regulations." the young and shapely young woman said.

She was a few inches shorter than Shinji, dressed in a tight-fitting white nurses outfit that hugged her trim and athletic figure, though even Shinji could tell that she wasn't wearing a bra underneath her uniform. She had long, dark purple hair, sparkling indigo eyes, flawless cream-colored skin, and a rather cute, heart-shaped mouth.

"Are you sure, Nurse Hotaru?" Shinji asked. "I mean... I feel fine."

"I'll be the judge of that, sir." Hotaru said as she took Shinji's arm and lead him over to the armless couch that Shinji often used to relax. She pushed him down onto the couch and turned him so that he was lying completely head-to-toe on the couch. She then lifted her leg and stretched it over his stomach, her short skirt riding up her long legs, revealing her black silk stockings that stopped at her upper thighs. But it also revealed that she was wearing black, silk panties.

"Now... open your mouth and let me take your temperature." she said in a husky voice, taking a thermometer from her front pocket, shaking it, and sticking it in Shinji's open mouth.

However, once the thermometer was under his tongue, Hotaru quickly began unbuttonig his shirt.

"What are you doing?" Shinji mumbled almost unintelligently.

"I have to check how well your heart and pulse are functioning." Hotaru said, opening his shirt and staring at his well-muscled chest. She smiled lustfully as she ran her hands over his smooth skin, her fingers stretching and retracting, almost like she was massaging his chest. "My, my. Your skin feels very cool. And I can feel your heartbeat. It feels a little weak. I wonder how your pulse is?" she asked as her roaming hands went up to his neck, fingering his throbbing veins. "Hmm. Your pulse is a little weak as well."

Hotaru took the thermometer out of Shinji's mouth and looked at it.

"Yes. Your temperature is also a few degrees below normal." she said.

"What can we do about this, Nurse Hotaru?" Shinji asked, his breathing becoming deep and ragged.

"Well... the only assured way to raise your pulse and temperature..." she said, reaching for the buttons on her nurses uniform. " to stimulate your body into healing itself." she said, pulling her uniform shirt open, and proving Shinji right, that she was not wearing a bra. Her perky C-cup breasts which were nicely round and jutted out directly at Shinji.

"Oh... I'd say I'm definitely stimulated." Shinji said his hands suddenly reaching up and pulling the uniform-shirt completely off her body and dropping it on the floor.

He then leaned up off the couch, the sexy nurse sliding off his stomach and down to his waist. Shinji placed his hands on Hotaru's back and pulled her flush against him, his lips finding hers as her perky breasts rubbed up against his chest.

"Mmmm! Mmmmmm!" Hotaru moaned before she pulled away from him. "Mr Ikari! If I didn't know better, I'd say you were trying to take advantage of me." she said, her own deep breathing was causing her chest to rise and fall.

"I apologize, Nurse Hotaru. You're just... such a beautiful woman." he said, brushing a stray lock of hair out of her face. "And it's been so long since I've had a beautiful woman to make love to."

"It's... been a long time for me too, Mr Ikari." she said in a dreamy, lust-induced state. "Perhaps... we can help each other."

Her blood was boiling, her breathing was deep, and her mind was no longer in control. The second she lunged forward, her tongue shooting into his mouth, Shinji knew that their roleplaying was over.

Which suited him just fine.

Shinji wrapped his arms tightly around her nubile torso, her only arms wrapping around his neck as their mouths quickly took to ravaging each other. Hotaru's arms quickly unwrapped and pulled his shirt off the rest of his body. They then ambled down his chest and stomach and began to unfasten his belt and pants. While that was going on, Shinji's hands slid down her slim body to her nurses skirt and expertly unbuttoned it and slid the zipper all the way down.

These rapid movements caused them to break their kissing, even as Hotaru dismounted Shinji in order to fully remove her skirt and panties. After shimming out of her silk, and moist, panties, she was about to remove her stockings, when Shinji stopped her.

"Leave them on." he said to her as he stood up and removed his pants and boxers.

"Oh, Shinji-kun." Hotaru moaned as his tall and athletic body was revealed to her.

"I love you Hotaru-chan." Shinji whispered as he leaned in, capturing mouth with his own as his tongue pushed past her lips and quickly wrestled with hers. She moaned passionately as her arms wrapped around his neck, his own arms wrapping around her upper torso, lifted her off the floor and back onto the couch. The pair adjusted themselves quickly, Hotaru lifting her hips so that her now dripping womanhood was directly over Shinji's aching manhood. In one smooth movement, Hotaru dropped her hips and impaled herself upon his eight-inch long, one-and-a-half-inch wide 'love muscle', causing her to gasp in joy once again.

Her lover once again buried inside of her, to the hilt, Hotaru lifted herself up into a sitting position, and began rocking her hips back and forth. Shinji gripped her hips tightly with his hands to keep her there, looking up and instantly becoming mesmerized by her beauteous form:, her wildly whipping hair, her bouncing breasts, her face glazed over with lust and desire as she moaned passionately over and over again.

"Uh. Uh. Uh. Uh. Uh. Ah! Ah! Ah! AH!" she cried out as her voice became louder and more vocal with each passing second.

Shinji's hands, still firmly holding her jostling sides, caressed her skin and moved upwards until they reached her perky bouncing breasts. She shrieked out suddenly as his hands enveloped her smooth and round breasts, her body not stopping in her rocking. His hands caressed and massaged the fine skin she possessed, his fingers tweaking her small nipples, which only sent euphoric feelings pulsating through her body.

"Oh! Shinji-kun! More! I... It's So Good!" Hotaru gasped as her own hands came up and pressed his hands tighter against her breasts.

Several minutes of tender groping eventually ended as Shinji quickly flipped Hotaru over and onto her back, looming over her in a position of sheer dominance.

"Now I'm going to have my way with you, my beautiful Senshi." he said lustfully, his arms reaching under her body, holding her body tightly, his left hand holding the back of her head firmly to as to keep her exactly where he wanted her.

Hotaru just looked up at her lover, unconcerned with his knowing her former occupation. She had told him that years ago. Her hands reached around and gripped his back, her legs wrapping around his waist so as to hold him to her, tightly.

"Then enjoy yourself, my noble pilot." Hotaru moaned as Shinji thrust his tongue into her mouth once again, his manhood into her body, her body tensing as Shinji did in deed have his way with her.

Sweat dripped off their bodies as Shinji thrust in and out of the Hotaru's body, holding the young woman tightly in his arms, occasionally opening his eyes to stare into hers. A difficult thing since her eyes were closed tightly due to the euphoric high she was on. Flesh rubbed against flesh, a fierce friction within Hotaru's body causing the woman to moan even louder to the point of screaming. Her body felt like it was on fire, every nerve and synapse lit up like the 4th of July, her body thrashing around within Shinji's firm grip as he kept pumping harder and faster.

"Shinji! I can't... hold... on... I-I... I'M COMING!" Hotaru screamed madly, her fingernails digging into Shinji's back as he held her body tightly as a barnacle to a ship as he came with him.

"HOTARU!" Shinji shouted as their bodies froze in a tense and overwhelmingly pleasurable explosion of sexual satisfaction.

Hotaru screamed out madly as if in some kind of intense pain or torture, almost crushing Shinji with her arms, legs, and the inner walls of her womanhood, even as his hot seed shot fiercely into her body. Sweat and sex juices dripped down and off of their bodies as Shinji's body rested down upon her smaller frame, his lips kissing her neck to calm her.

"I think... you came a little harder... than last time." Shinji said softly to her.

"I think... I did." Hotaru whimpered to him. "But... at least... your pulse, heart rate, and temperature are... back up." she said with a small laugh.

Shinji smiled as he kissed her lips softly.

"I love you, Hotaru-chan." he said, nuzzling her nose with his own.

"I love you, Shinji-kun." she said, hugging him tightly.

15 years ago, Shinji and Hotaru became boyfriend and girlfriend. Their relationship grew steadily, all through high school and college. After graduating they got married, even as they entered med school. Their first time (meaning sex) was during med school, an action that had eventually lead up to these sexual roleplaying games. Even though Shinji and Hotaru enjoyed the 'Doctor and Nurse' games the best.

Shinji was a fully licensed doctor, with his own clinic, while Hotaru was his nurse/assistant. They had no children as yet, as Hotaru's Sailor Saturn death powers killed off all 'foreign' objects within her body, but they were patient if nothing else. While Shinji's life as an Eva-pilot was practically public knowledge, (which had granted him a type of emancipation-status from needing a guardian, and helped him and Hotaru move in together after becoming official) Hotaru's life as a Sailor Scout was less well-known. She eventually told Shinji about her life, everything including how she had been a heroine and 'threat' to the universe. She was, at first, concerned that Shinji would be afraid of her and leave her. But she had little to worry about, as both of them seemed to be almost the same in personalities and life experiences.

Both had loving mothers who died when they were young children. They both had megalomaniacal fathers. They both had several traumatic experiences in their lives.

(Shinji's consisted of Sachiel's beatings, Ramiel shooting him, Leliel capturing him, Toji's maiming, Zeruel's beatings, Rei II's death, Tabris's death. Hotaru's consisted of being ostracized throughout her life because of her healing powers (Random person: "She's a witch, I tell you!"), being hunted by the very same people who should've been her allies, when Mistress 9 possessed her body and when Galaxia took control of her and the other Scouts)

And both of them were shy, kind, selfless, and had low-to-dismal sense of self-worth.

Therefore it seemed appropriate, almost karmatic, that they had ended up together. Their dark lives had connected them to each other, and they had found love, peace and happiness in a way none of their friends had ever imagined or thought to give them.

It was all they had ever wanted.


Authors Notes:

I know it has been a long time since I updated this story. For that, I apologize. Hopefully this will make up for things. (At least for a little while) I'd like to thank all my reviewers and those who PM'd me about this story. Also, forgive my over-exaggeration of Hotaru's resurrection powers when they died. I couldn't resist.

My next story will be Shinji/Sailor Jupiter. I hope to have this out by next month.



"You... " she paused, remembering that he just died and probably didn't know it. "you nearly died, and you were worried about me?"

"Of course I was worried. Are you hurt?" he asked.

"Uh... no. I'm fine. A little sore, but what about you?" she asked.

"I'm... I feel dirty." he replied.

"Well, we are in a sewer." she said. "Come on. Let's go home."

"Mine or yours?" he asked.

"Mine. I think it's closer." she said.

Hotaru knew this because she had done this several times before. They walked out of the storm drain and headed towards her place.

"Uh, Hotaru?" Shinji asked.

"Yes, Shinji?" she replied.

"Why aren't your clothes dirty?" he asked, noticing her sludgeless clothes.

"Uh... special Scots-guard?" she grinned sheepishly.