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CHINA DOLL
by stargirl

PG-13 Alternate Reality

I wrote this in the early morning hours after I had watched a meteor shower with my parents in a clearing by a school. I decided to revise it and change the names to sm characters. There is an angst warning! Also, I used two ways to write it that I NEVER use--first person, and present tense. Usually, these turn me away, but I have seen them done successfully before with a real appealing, dramatic force, and I hope I succeeded as well. I'm really happy with how it turned out, and I hope you enjoy it too!

SLIGHTLY REVISED: Just minor things like I realized I didn't change his brown eyes to blue one time and some other sentence structures were awkward. I'm afraid that no, it's not any less confusing. I understand most of you have felt lost and I'm sorry! I suppose that it's because there's no explanation to how they got into this final conflict? I can't actually answer it myself, and an AN would not be the place to do so anyhow even if I knew. Try to either use your imagination or brush it off as irrelevant---this is at a crossroads. You get a feel for the past, the feelings, the characters in the middle when she thinks back, but no it doesn't reveal how they got to the crossroads. Just try not to let it deter you from enjoying the story. Most likely in the future, I'll try to work on it more, delve into the mystery and embed it into the story, but I don't feel it's a 911 call and I'd prefer to work on my other unfinished stories. ^_^ On the last note, Tsuki no Namida X WILL be out soon!



My fingers tremble over the cold metal, hands feeling the weight that they bare. Shivers clang through my body, and I don't know how I manage to stand. The gun's image is carved into my mind and is slicing through my heart. The pain is unbearable.

Everything screams to drop it, to throw it far away as if it were the most deadly snake. But the man before me is laughing, as if I was a five-year-old with a water gun. Burning anger runs through me as I scorn myself for feeling exactly like that. Blood slithers down the side of my face, reminding me that the gun is the only thing keeping me from death. I cannot drop it any more than my index finger can go that one-inch.

My chin lifts. I can just image it--the beautiful china doll standing on a glass shelf made specifically for her. Rose petal lips are glossed and parted that one fraction, the corners are not lifted or weighed, and yet through the years she seems to smile with a serene wonder. Wispy blonde hair curl over glass skin and the most beautifully sculptured pair of eyes. It would be hard to ever imagine something so beautiful getting broken, almost painful. So people don't, and just cherish her. But the one who was the most awed of her, the one who owned her and had handled her with such extreme care, seemed to have forgotten. No longer did that person pause to just gaze up at her, only glances that questioned why they even kept the china doll. The corner the doll graces is now dark with cobwebs. The sunlight that sparkled and lit up the hanging crystals besides her is no longer there. Her features, though they could never change, now made you only think of tears, of being trapped. And by the time she wobbles on her perch and falls, she doesn't even seem to care. But... she'll remember the happiness she once had, that person before they changed, at the awe in their eyes, and an invisible heart suspended within her hallow being will cry and long to live...

"What are you waiting for, Sere? Do it. I really don't give a damn anymore."

My eyes blink. I gaze into his glossy sapphire eyes. He's laughing and seems so relaxed. Does he believe I'd do it, and meant what he said, or is it just a mocking dare? My head feels like it has been cracked, like the china doll heating the dresser's edge on the way down. I can't think. I don't know what to do. My finger presses against the trigger but goes slack in fear.

"Stop--" My tongue feels so parched, and my lips sore and swollen. "Stop laughing." It's only a whisper to the wind. The laughing, the pain in my head and heart, and the object warming in my hands still seems so cold.

I'm remembering beautiful ocean-blue eyes of a seven-year-old as he held out his hand to a girl crying in the playground from the bullies. Darien was a tough kid even then. Three years difference and he still whipped the middle school kids.

He always seemed to be doing that, in one form or another. Dad was always abusive to my mom, but when I was thirteen, he started hitting me as well. When I walked home from school to see my mom sitting at the table, her eyes glazed over and a million miles away as she brought tea to her lips with trembling hands, I'd take one look at the ugly bruises and run out of the house. I wouldn't stop until I reached his house and was safely in Darien's arms. The pain and tears were never as hard to deal with in those embraces. But then… out of nowhere, Dad hit me. And then he hit me again… and again. Soon, I had to deal with covering my bruises, stocking up on make-up and sweating in long long-sleeved shirts.

I was hurt and scared. I always felt broken… like curling up and shutting my eyes, never to awaken. Darien's arms would wrap around me and he would rock me as if I was four-years-old. I could feel his anger when he tried to comfort me, and I would just sniffle and dig my face further into his worn shirt. It was one thing to see mom hurt, but another when I was on the other end. I became jumpy, prone to shivering. My father was hitting me. His face twisted in cruel drunken contours, his breath sour. His fist barreled into me, leaving a thousand pounding aches, but it hurt so much more inside…

My father beat me.

Darien snapped. My mom never did anything when dad beat her… I suppose that's why it never occurred to me that I could do something. It occurred to Darien though. He went to the authorities, but in the beginning, they were sooner to believe that it was him who was abusing me, especially since there were no other witnesses to Dad's anger and Mom was too afraid to speak. When they brought her in for questioning, I watched her frail form. Darien's large hand squeezed my shoulder comfortingly. As a china doll, Mom was worse off than me, for she never had such a wonderful person to care for her, to make sure she didn't break or crack... Maybe that was why she spoke so softly the words that denied the beatings.

Dad found out that I had went to the authorities. I don't know how he did, but the night carved into my memory when he stormed into the house, obscenities falling like the stench of his mouth. I sat in my room, twirling the phone's chord as I teased with Darien when my head shot up. Dad stomped in and tore the phone out of the wall, making me yelp. He dragged me out. Vases shattered on the wall, papers flew, his full voice raged and pounded in my ears. I shook my head with tears prickling like glass in my eyes. I wanted to imagine myself in a far-off place. I wanted to imagine a loving father. I wanted to imagine a beach, anything. But he was as hard to ignore as thunder that rumbled your bones.

His iron hand gripped over my wrist and it felt like my bones where cracking under the pressure. I yelped painfully. He shouted that I hadn't been listening to him. I hit against the wall and crumpled to the floor. Shivering, I commanded myself in my panic to reach for my room or even the bathroom… anything with a lock. But even as I thought it, Dad picked up a chair. The first time it struck me, bursts of hot pain erupted everywhere. My eyes strained and saw an ocean of hazed red before steadying again on the kitchen. I shriveled up like a worm the next hit, and my body stung so hard that my lungs clutched and I could hardly breathe. Tears ran from my numb eyes. I could vaguely hear Mom screaming, hysterical. I looked up through bruised eyes, seeing her at my dad's back, digging her claws into his shoulders and trying to pull him away.

She was afraid I was going to die. Fear didn't scream through my veins anymore. I was too dazed, too lost, to contemplate or fear death. My body was hot, aching, convulsing, and numb at the same time. My tears began to be for Mom and Darien. How would they take my death? Would they blame themselves? But… it wouldn't be their fault!

My breath rasped in my throat, my head resting on the kitchen floor. The door slammed open. When the lean and athletic teenage body ran forward in a flurry of rage, it was all I could do to remember that I had been talking to him what seemed like days but was only minutes ago. He charged at dad. The chair toppled forgotten to the ground. Dad was a burly man with giant shoulders and hands, but Darien was quicker and not intoxicated with drink. If nothing else, he distracted my father until sirens peeled through the air and flashes swirled through the windows.

I was shaking, curled up like a fetal infant on the floor. Darien rushed to me once the cops took control of my dad, kneeling by my side, his breaths racking his body. His own hand shook as he smoothed away my hair. It was the first and only time I saw him cry. No words were spoken as he held me there. The sounds of people and sirens seemed numb, and despite my pain, I didn't want to go with the ambulance. I just wanted to stay within his arms forever...

Forever doesn't last long. We were closer than ever before for two and a half years. Dad was far away, a horrible nightmare washing away in the sunshine. Mom smiled more. Though both of us still felt frail, we were truly healing. I was going to be sixteen in a few months... and guys were getting in the picture. I loved Darien so much by then... but I could never bare the chance to break what we had. At that time, our relationship seemed to be the china doll more than I did.

Seiya was a friend I hadn't seen in years, only two times since his parents moved. But we grew up together. My mother was baby-sitting him the day I was born two weeks early. His family was moving back home and I was ecstatic. Darien was less than so... He seemed to take Seiya as a threat the day I introduced them. Maybe Seiya represented a lot of things Darien wanted--though he would never have admitted it at that time. A loving family, the attitude that drew many friends like a moth to light, amazing grades, but most of all, my attention.

I hadn't meant it. I knew I still loved Darien, always would. But Seiya was a wonderful friend and already showing signs of something more. When he asked me out, how could I say no? Darien was slipping further and further away from me, and I didn't even want to see it. It was obvious he didn't like Seiya, even to the point he plain said it. We got tangled in arguments. Minor ones, but still they slowly chipped away at the china doll that was our relationship. I was afraid to tell him I was going to go out with Seiya... So I didn't.

My date with Seiya was nice when I pushed away the nagging worry about Darien. I enjoyed myself. Laughing with Seiya about old times, getting to know one another again. Near the end of our date, Seiya started to kiss me--soft and sweet. I starting feeling terrible that I was starting the think of Darien as we kissed, but even as my thoughts strayed to him, Darien tore Seiya away from me, fire burning in his eyes. I'd seen him angry before, but never like this. I was so puzzled and everything was happening so fast. Seiya's right arm was broken within the next few minutes.

After hours at the hospital, nearly three in the morning, Seiya was in a cast (dark blue and already signed by me with a whiteout pen). I sighed, gathering my purse and replacing magazines back to their spot on the table when Darien walked up to me... I hadn't seen him since his fight with Seiya. His apology was hesitant and awkward and I could tell anger still rumbled inside him, but it boiled in me. "What were you thinking?" I cried, my voice low and shaking.

His large hands that had always comforted me like my guardian angel fisted in raging balls by his side. His handsome brow creased, trembles of restraint stiffening his body. "Me? Why didn't you tell me!"

"That doesn't make a difference!" I shrieked, barely keeping aware of the patients and doctors around me. "And you know what? That's exactly why I didn't tell you! How could you do such a thing?"

"You kissed him!" Darien yelled, as if it was the answer to all the world's problems.

I probably should have shut up right then--spend some time trying to figure out why Darien hated Seiya so much. But the blood flooded through me like hot rivers, my breaths as if I had jogged a mile. "I love him," I blurted, "More than anyone would love you." The words were bristling steam, coming out so smoothly… but the instant they did my tongue felt foul and my heart twisted painfully. I looked at him, abashed.

His eyes widened, his mouth dropped open. His rage had melted quicker than mine had as he stared at me.

I could hardly speak. I could already feel the hurt and shock folding around him. He was a steal door beginning to close. As I realized how fast it was closing, I gasped.

He swallowed, his Adams apple bobbing. He nodded a stiff goodbye and my insides twisted and burned. He turned and walked out the glass doors.

"I'm sorry!" my trembling voice called after him, on the verge of tears. "Wait! Please, Darien, Wait!" I pushed out the doors, meeting the chill of the night air head-on. The tires of his dowdy-blue care squealed as he turned out of the parking lot.

I dashed away at my tears with an angry hand as I huddled on my bed, listening to the drilling rings. My heart flipped at hearing his smooth voice over the phone, revealing his entire rogue charms in the simple words that said he wasn't home right then and to leave a message. I could hear my own distant laughter on the recording after I had sneaked a comment. Tears welled like burning liquid in my eyes and my throat felt tight. When the beep came, I couldn't speak.

The next day, I left the house early before school, jogging to the poorer district. I pounded up the steps to his apartment door, my hand sliding against a squealing railing with peeling black paint. I knocked so hard and long that my knuckled turned an angry red. No one answered.

Darien lived alone. His uncle who was his guardian only stopped by every few weeks for a few days at a time. And I always had to threaten him to get out of bed in the morning before we'd be late to school. I still made a habit of trying to play his alarm clock even when he was free from our sleep-depraving school. Once I broke in through a window to pour ice water over his stubborn form. Which is why I wasn't surprised at no answer… at first. My heartbeat grew as fast as my knocks. I shouted and still nothing.

The fear crawled up my skin and prickled the nape of my neck. I clamored over to the side, forcing my way up and threw the window as I planned numerous paybacks for him reducing me to break in. I landed on the dusty wooden floor, wariness dragging blankness to my face as I straightened up. Something didn't feel right. I rounded the short hallway to his room, stopping dead in my tracks. I stared at the unslept-in bed, the unnerving space on the usually cluttered shelves. Empty draws recklessly pulled out mirrored my feelings.

He was eighteen, two years older than I, finished with school and old enough to legally be on his own. I guess I had never thought of that. It seemed he would always be with me... that he would never leave.

I wouldn't give up that easy though. I sought him for weeks. After a grueling day, his uncle, who I had already traced down and questioned, phoned me. Darien had contacted him and left the address of a place he began working at a few cities away. I scribbled it down as if my drooping body was shocked with electricity, scrambling to call for a taxi. I barely was able to throw mom a comment as I left in a flurry.

It was mid-November, and the frost bit me as I stepped out of the cab an hour later. The sky was a whitewashed gray, as cold as the air that sifted through my jeans and as brittle as the leaves on the nearby trees. I let loose a breath, eyeing the run-down mechanics building in front of me. I murmured for the cab driver to please stay, and then headed to the steps to a glass door before averting my direction to one of the garages that was open. My steps were slow and cautious, tears prickling my eyes as I hugged my jacket around me. Darien left me. How could Darien leave me? I felt as numb as I had the first time my father hit me.

I stepped inside, my eyes catching on a pair of long legs clad in threading, stained jeans poking out from under one of the cars. Suddenly, my confidence fell into a swirling puddle in my stomach. I wasn't sure if I wanted it to be him anymore. How was I supposed to act? He wasn't a stranger, but at the same time, he didn't feel like my best friend--didn't feel like the one I had teased with all those years, the one I had run to when I needed to cry, the one who saved me from my father. That person wouldn't have left. How could he? Did he just want to throw it all away? What was so hard to face that he had to run away?

Maybe I made a sound in my throat, maybe he heard my steps, but far before I felt ready, the man working on the car stopped chinking away at the car, stayed there a moment, and then slid out. I could barely breathe. I couldn't speak. From under a mop of tousled black hair, a pair of ocean blue eyes stared up at me, faintly surprised but heart-breakingly indifferent. Not a smile or a frown graced his lips.

He rose slowly, hand idly rubbing across a smudged stain on the side of his face before he turned, wiping a rag over his hands. I still couldn't say anything, and was glad when he spoke, even if his voice was gruff. "How did you find me?"

"You're uncle," I said simply, standing there a few minutes later. "Why'd you leave?" It was a weak cry, a whistle of breath. I couldn't decide if he didn't hear me or was ignoring me. "Is it because of what I said?" Unbidden, my words sounded in my mind. "I love him, more than anyone would love you." The tears stung in my eyes and my chest clenched.

"Darien, please. I'm sorry! You know I didn't mean it. Please?" Tears cracked my voice.

He was silent for a moment, and I stared at the muscles of his back beneath the white, long-sleeved shirt. Then his words struck me, deadly soft and traced with bitterness. "Well, it's right isn't it?" He turned, his tortured, rough eyes clashing with my own wounded gaze.

"Why apologize?" Now he smiled, and it was so false that I longed for his indifference. His laugh made me jump. "We all know it's right. My Goddamn parents never loved me, my uncle nods at my existence, the school officials try to 'redeem' me but they don't give a shit."

"What about me?" My voice trembled. "I… care about you."

He laughed again, and I had to shut my eyes at the sound. "Yeah, Serena, you care. But that's all you do. We're just the rogue and the princess, that's what we are. You don't need me."

"That's not fair," I choked. "How loved do you think I ever felt? My mother wrapped up in her own pain. My father nearly killed me."

He stared at me a moment, loosing most of the terrible laughter, but a smile still nudged at his lips, and then he shook his head at me. "You know your mother loves you, Sere. And a lot of people around you love you. You've opened up since your father left. People care about you at school. Seiya loves you. You wanna know why I broke his arm?"

I couldn't move my head, but he spoke on.

"It's more than you think. Sure, he has a loving family, friends all around him. A future. But, when I saw you with him…" He stopped, the smile pulling painfully at his lips as he shook his head. And then that laugh sounded again and he looked at me. "I loved you--did you know that? Did you ever? I loved you when you laughed; I loved you when you cried. I loved you for how strong you tried to be. I loved you for letting me hold you when you were hurt. I even loved you when you dragged me out of bed." He studied me for a moment, his expression serious. "But you never loved me."

A thunder of protests rose but couldn't get past the knot in my throat. As I tried to breathe, tried to say something, I wondered whether it would do any good. I loved him with all my heart for as long as I could remember. If I told him so now, he would only deny it. And even if he did believe me, it was too late. The tears burned my eyes, and I knew it was too late.

I searched and searched his face for the love he proclaimed. I saw the heartache, the anger. But the love was missing, somewhere far away. Who said that love was forever? I saw traces of where it was, but only enough to torment me.

"Go back home to your mom, Serena," Darien spoke, his voice defeated and throaty. "Finish school, go to college with Seiya. Don't come back here."

I stood still, memorizing his features, these last painful moments together. There was nothing here for me anymore. I nodded, my throat too tight to speak. And then I turned and walked to the waiting cab, a tear trailing down my cheek.



Darien is getting restless and still in his swingy, make-fun-of-the-china-doll-who-couldn't-use-a-gun mood. "Okay Sere, this is your last chance."

I look up sharply, having been so lost in the past. Everything in me feels numb. At first, I can only gaze at Darien and look for the guy I used to know--the one who loved me so much. I can't see it.

I didn't respond to him, still in my daze. He frowns and seems to lose most of his humor to anger. His next words are soft. "You know if you don't shoot me, I'll kill you."

He is serious... I still feel lost in the past. I can't be hearing this from him. But I start to realize I have to kill him to live.

I'm only nineteen. I don't want to die. Seiya had understood when I just wanted to be friends, but we are even closer now. He would be devastated. And what about Mom? Frail, beautiful, Mom, cooking breakfast, asking how college is going, a warm smile proof of her healing. But she still trembles, she's still afraid. After Dad, she needs me.

My thoughts continue to run as Darien starts again in the background. "If you don't shoot me to the count of ten Serena, I swear I'll kill you. One... Two... Three..." His words begin to grow in power.

But what about my dreams? My life? My happi- "Four... Five... SIX! SEVEN!" I look at Darien and feel my thoughts drop like flies in a poisonous spray.

There is no question in my mind now. Darien has been stepping closer and closer to me and was almost here. My clammy fingers clench over the gun as I take a shuddering breath and then... let it drop. Darien's eyes grow owlishly huge, but then the blue boils in anger. Why should he be angry? He'll live. He out of anyone should know that I could never kill my best friend, my first and only... love. Did I ever tell Darien... that I loved him? An overwhelming fear envelops me, grasping me like desperate claws. Not the brought on by the fact that that I'm going to die, but that I'm going to die before telling him that I love him.

I can see the china doll falling rapidly, unlike the slow motion she seemed to be in before. And this time she has one last wish, one longing desire, to be able to see the sun shine and sparkle through the crystals by her shelf one last time.

My lips are parched, and it seems minutes have gone by since I dropped the gun. It's only been seconds until now, as I feel the first pain, the blow to my head, and the black wisps pouring in like dark fingers. I fall with the first strike. I could barely stand up as it was. I don't know if he will be able to hear me, but I pray he can know and understand and have a better chance at life as the words pass through my lips.

I can barely even hear my own voice. "I love you." It seems so far, like someone turned the volume far down. My body's so sore, and sparks have lit inside my head, the blackness being the only way away from it all. With no regrets of my past few moments and with only hopes and dreams for the only one that I have loved, my world goes black...





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"Serena, honey. Serena!" Everything's blurry and a blinding white and the voice is far away like my own last words had been. "Seiya, hurry, get the doctor--she's waking up!" Beeps, a click, so much brilliance bringing tears to my eyes.

Even between the boundaries of sleep, I can tell I'm in a hospital, and it only takes a second to remember I was hurt. But not just hurt... Darien was going to kill me... I sort through the hazy fog like prying confused fingers through it, trying to realize that there are no more pains on my body than before the one blow that crumpled me to the ground...

He didn't go through with it... Mom, he didn't go through with it... I'm not speaking aloud to mom yet, but finally my eyes are open, which seems to make her ecstatic. Darien, I still love you.

For the first time, I know that the Darien I once knew is still out there. I won't make the same mistake as I did three years ago. This time I'll find him, and never give up. Love does have many ways of surprising us. Plans are already forming through my head but mom is here, and doesn't realize all I've figured out, let alone that I'm much aware of anything.

"Where's Seiya," I murmur in a throaty voice that hardly sounds my own, even though I already heard her tell Seiya to get the doctor.

"He just went out for a minute, Sweety. Oh! He got you a get well present too." A smile beams across mom's frail face as she gestures to the table beside the bed. Slowly, I turn my head.

A simple card is folded and standing. Get Well, Love Seiya, is all it says. Next to it, though, stands a beautiful china doll, even more beautiful than the one that I had when I was little that broke only two years ago.

A smile curls at my lips…



Well, there it is. Please tell me what you think!
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