A week after the final showdown the girls arranged for Serena to meet them in a hotel room. She awoke that day, showered and dressed and found an envelope with a card key in it and a room number. Curious she had called them, but no one answered. She was all alone in the beach house, choosing to stay for the rest of the summer there while Darien and the guards headed back to the city. He was very hurried to get the guys new names and get them enrolled in school. She snorted, Darien was such a nerd. But she missed him so much. The girls knew why she was so depressed. It was strange the way things worked out in the end. She loved the jerk to no end, and she never knew she could feel so much emptiness. He had only been gone for three days and to her it felt like an eternity.
As evening rolled around, her cell rang and Mina was on the other end.
"Hey chick, a limo will be around to pick you up." She said cheerfully. Serena frowned and walked to the window. No sooner did she look out when the dim lights of a car shone through them.
"What's going on?" She asked them and grabbed her purse.
"Make sure you lock the doors when you leave. We'll see you soon." And then she hung up. So Serena locked up the house and the driver, waited patiently until she came out. He smiled warmly and opened the door for her. She slid into the buttery soft leather seat and the smell of roses assaulted her. Before her were seventeen bouquets of flowers, in a white ice chest.
They arrived at the hotel in twenty minutes and she cautiously walked into the lavishly decorated foyer and immediately walked to the elevator, punching in a number. Soft music filled the small moving bounce. She hated elevator music. Tapping her foot impatiently, she waited for the elevator to reach the floor. When it finally did, she escaped as fast as she could. The hallway was long and the plush champagne colored carpet muffled the tip tapping of her heels. At the end of the hallway, she saw the room she was suppose to go to and slipped the card key in. The light flashed and she opened the door, slowly. She wouldn't put it past them to ambush her right away. But the room was dark. The white curtains were drawn and silence greeted her.
"Hello?" She called out, and flipped on the light.
"SURPRISE!" Her friends popped out from behind the furniture and Serena stood, shocked. Letting out a little laugh, she shut the door behind her.
"Uhh…thanks?" She said and placed her purse on a nearby table. "But my birthday is in two weeks." She said. Mina rolled her eyes and pulled her further into the room.
"We know meatball head." Raye said flippantly. "But we're going back to the city in three days and we have to make the most of it now, while we still can."
Lita popped open a bottle and Serena looked at the bubbling liquid in her hand skeptically.
"Sparking cider." She said defensively and Ami giggled and grabbed five wine glasses. Lita filled their cups liberally and Raye raised her glass.
"To Serena. The most kick ass Moon Princess." She said and the others cheered and with a blush, Serena tapped her glass to theirs as well.
"I wonder what the girls are doing right now." Zoicite breathed whimsically, looking outside to the night sky. They were all in Darien's apartment, sitting in the living room. It had been a hectic day. With the help of Luna and Artemis, all four of the guys were now official Japanese citizens, attending their second year in the same college Darien attended.
"They're throwing Serena an early birthday party." Darien told them. He was looking through the mail that had piled in his box, frowning at the bills, throwing out old magazines and credit card offers.
"Oh, I see. So they rented the strippers already?" Jadeite asked in innocence. Darien's head whipped around, with an incredulous expression on his face. The mail slipped from his hand, scattering on the floor.
"What?" He barked swiftly walking to the kitchen chair Jadeite was sitting in. Jadeite tensed all of the sudden. Anger was rolling off of his Prince in tides.
"What are strippers anyways?" Kunzite asked, and Darien ran to the doorway, grabbing his shoes.
"Lets go, I'll explain it on the way. Damn them! I'm going to kill your girlfriends!" He yelled, and yanked the door open, letting it slam harshly against the wall. The guys exchanged looks and ran after him.
"Wait Darien! What are strippers!" Zoicite called after him.
The girls all settled on the carpet in the sitting room of the suite they booked, eating the birthday cake whole, each with their own fork.
"So, when we get done here we got a big surprise for you." Raye said, and popped a finger in her mouth. Serena's fork froze halfway to her mouth. There was something in the way Raye was looking that she grew thoughtful, but very on guard.
"Really?" She asked slowly and popped the cake in her mouth, chewing and regarding each of her friends warily. The phone rang and Ami left them to answer it.
"Yes. Really." Mina purred and sucked a dab of frosting off her thumb. She saw Lita and Raye exchange glances. Serena was very curious now and she let her telepathy roam over each of her scouts minds. But their thoughts were securely locked from her. They must have felt her thoughts because they smiled and finished eating the cake. No sooner did Lita put the plate away did someone harshly bang on the door.
"Your present is here!" Raye exclaimed and the scouts all gathered around Serena. Lita covered her eyes.
"Hey…" Serena began to complain but Mina put another hand over her mouth.
"Welcome. Took you long enough…" Raye said.
"Wait Darien! Wait for us!" Zoicite cried out to his Prince who was stalking to the door. They had arrived at the hotel in an hour and a half. The Prince had told them on the way what strippers were. His thoughts were turbulent with anger and jealously. His guards remained silent.
They had parked in an empty handicap place and Darien jerked his shifter into park and yanked the keys out. He quickly got out, slamming the door and stalked into the lobby with his guards right on his tail. The night clerk greeted him and he demanded to know what room the girls were. Her friendly smile wobbled and she picked up the phone and dialed a number.
"Yes, there is someone here who wants to see you, should I let him…" Darien impatiently grabbed the phone from her.
"Who is this?" He barked. He heard someone laugh on the other phone.
"Room 612." She said and hung up before he could identify which girl he was talking to. He handed the phone back to the upset clerk and he and his guards were in the elevator. When they reached their desired floor, he walked swiftly to the end of the hallway and banged on the door. There was shuffling from inside and they Raye opened the door and smiled brightly.
"Welcome. Took you long enough." Her gaze went passed Darien to Jadeite and his guards. "He's so predictable isn't he?" She asked and shut the door behind her.
"Raye?" Darien heard Serena's voice before the door closed.
"Was this a set-up or something?" Darien asked, confused. There were no strippers that he could see. Just Raye and his grinning guards.
"That was our original plan. We had booked four pretty hot guys." Raye began and then stopped when Darien's eyes darken. "But we changed our minds." She said hastily. "She's been really depressed since you had left." Darien felt guilt swamp him. After the battle, when he knew it was over, so many things were left to do. Summer was coming to an end and his fall classes were going to begin and he didn't even get any of his books yet. He hand told her what he had to do, and she seemed to understand. But then again, Serena wasn't one to voice what she was really thinking. She was always concerned about everyone else. "We want you to be her present." Raye said and opened the door back up. Darien anxiously peered over Raye's head and saw Serena waiting patiently with Lita's hands over her eyes and Mina's hand over her mouth. He quickly blocked her telepathy.
"Okay Lita." Raye said and Lita lifted her hands and Serena blinked open her eyes. Her uncertainty was replaced by delight when she saw him. She stood silently as her friends backed away from her. Darien's anger slipped away and he offered her a smile.
"Happy Birthday Princess." He told her softly, giving her a light, lingering kiss on the mouth.
In the middle of the night, a storm had moved in. The winds tore restlessly at the beach house and the rain was falling loudly on the roof. Everyone in the house was asleep except for one person. All her life she had been afraid of storms and thunder. So much so that when one was blowing through town, she would hide under layers of blankets in fetal position and sing quietly to herself until it passed. But tonight, she did none of those things. She was actually outside on the deck swing with her eyes closed, listening to the steady rhythm of the rain. Damp air washed over her face and the mist damped her feet. She wasn't so scared anymore. She had woken up, snuggled close to Darien. After she had returned from the hotel after a pretty good birthday she thought a little wickedly. She was so exhausted that, Darien had to carry her half way back home. He tried to make light of the situation by telling her how heavy she was and she, along with the rest of the party followed his lead. It was the first time they had come together again.
When they had returned back from the last battle, she had kept a hard secret with her and they all knew. Especially Ami with her little computer. She knew that the readings she read were real and yet somehow she was alive; there with them. She could tell they knew she wasn't telling them something. But they hadn't pressed her for the details and she was eternally grateful for that.
After that final battle, she knew she over did it. The crystal stole every ounce of strength form her, it was a miracle she still stood to watch Beryl disintegrate into moon dust. But as she fell to the ground, she kept falling, and falling in a never-ending abyss of light. She didn't know death was like blinking. One moment she was alive, the next she was watching Darien call Ami a liar when she read her little computer and found no signs of life.
They say death is a glorious place where you finally felt free and your life was complete. And she did feel that way at first. But then, she realized that she would never be with her friends again and she would never be held in Darien's arms again, or listen to Sammy being a menace, or be locked out of the house when her mom found out about her bad grades and all those first feeling floated out the window and she began to cry. She wanted to live damnit! She wanted her life back, she didn't want to die! At that point she had never felt so lost and scared and bitter at God before. And then, when she thought all hope was lost, her mother appeared before her.
"Serenity, daughter, you're not happy?" Her mother asked her. Serena felt tears course down her cheek as she shook her head 'no' wildly. Her mother sighed and knelt in front of her, brushing her tears away. "But you saved them, you saved mankind."
Serena sniffed. "But I'm dead. I don't want to be dead. I want to be with them." She motioned below her at the scouts running after Darien. "I want my life back, I want my room back. I want to go to school and to the arcade. I want to tell all my friends that I loved them, I want to tell Darien…" She stopped herself quickly, suddenly gasping at her next words. "I want him to know that I love him." She breathed and looked back down at him with new tears of despair. "I want him mother, I want him." She sobbed and leaned into her mother for comfort, knowing she would never get her wish. God, she hated death! She wanted life! Life!
After a good hour of crying and feeling sorry for herself, her mother spoke. "You've grown so much since all this has happened Serenity. I've never been more proud of you." Serena sat up and looked at her mother, standing above her, no longer holding her.
She sniffed. "Everything had happened so fast. First with the guards coming back." She sighed. "Why did they come back mother?" She asked. The spirit Queen stood.
"I have a lot to tell you, don't I?" She asked her. Serena bit her lip. There were still some missing pieces to the puzzle. Serena let the silence stretch. Her mother seemed to be contemplating what to tell her.
"Tell me." She finally said and paused. "All of it." Queen Serenity took a deep breath.
"When the Earth royalty came to visit us, things…things were not so well between us." She looked thoughtfully at an orb that had floated around them. "Earth wasn't part of the Silver Alliance. I suppose the council labeled them a rouge planet, because no matter what we did, or what we offered them, the King wouldn't have any of it. It was at that time when Queen Beryl had appeared. We knew nothing of her or her politics, and we wouldn't have even let her into the council chambers if it wasn't for the King of Earth. He was the one who presented her to us.
"When I first met her, I sensed such darkness around her. The others must have felt it also, because the council wouldn't let her speak. This offended the King of Earth, and it pushed him farther away from us. I didn't know it at the time, but the King was under a spell. When I learned this, I knew that Beryl was a threat, The King of Earth wasn't weak, and to hold him in her power showed me amazing magic. I feared for the Alliance. I feared for you." She sighed.
"We didn't have contact with Earth until Prince Endymion took his father's place. I was glad when I first met him because he seemed a lot stronger that his father. A lot more open to the idea of joining the Alliance. And the council agreed with me and let him and his guards come to the Alliance. That's where you met him." Queen Serenity shared a secret look with Serena and for some reason, Serena blushed under the look.
"Don't think I didn't know about you affair with the Palace guards. But it didn't bother me much. I saw the way you and Endymion clashed the first time I introduced you. Even though he was a guest, things between Earth and Moon were still tense with Beryl in the picture, and I was glad you didn't get along. Because if things didn't work out I didn't have to worry about hurt feeling. I was totally oblivious to the feelings you started developing. Late one night, as I sat in my room she appeared." Her voice got quiet.
"Beryl?" Serena asked and her mother nodded.
"She showed me." She said sadly. "She showed me what I had dreaded the most. You and Endymion together."
Guilt swamped Serena. At that time, she knew that Endymion was forbidden to her. Maybe that's what attracted her to him at the beginning. Having something that was denied to her. When they began the tryst, she didn't think about the repercussions of her mother's reign if anyone found out. She selfishly indulged in the affair.
"I'm sorry mother." Serena mumbled miserably and hung her head in shame. Tears began to form when she thought of the internal battle her mother must have had to fight because of her self-centeredness.
"No Serenity. I know what you're thinking. And I didn't think about that. All I thought about was your safety. I would have dealt with the council if it came to that. I was angry that Beryl would even consider blackmailing me into giving her control of the Alliance or the Silver Crystal. She told me if I didn't, she would show the council the image orb of you and Endymion together. But I played along with her. I acted like I was going to do what she said. And that night, when the Moon was attacked, when we were in the cave…"
"She was watching you?" Serena asked in a concerned voice, thinking back to that night. That explained why he mother was acting so strangely. Queen Serenity nodded solemnly, her light purple eyes, dark with her memories.
"I had to act like I was getting the crystal from you. But then you told me you married. I-I didn't know what to do. I didn't want you or Endymion harmed by her, and I knew that when she heard about the marriage, she would begin her attack regardless of whatever deal we had made. I wanted to save you. I knew we were out numbered, I knew the battle was hopeless. But I had to know that you, Endymion and the girls were safe, whatever happened. But you did it for me Serenity. When you cast your spell, I knew that you would be alright." She finished. "You've done everything right my daughter." Tears swam in her eyes and she knelt in front of her. "And now, I'll do something right. I'm going to save you like I planned to do so many years ago." Serena closed her eyes as her mother brushed a loving kiss across her brow. "Go back Serena. Back to your friends, back to your husband." She whispered.
"Go back?" She asked, feeling sleepy all of the sudden.
"Yes, go, and live, and love. I'll be watching…" And then she had woken up in Darien's arms. Back in the snow, back in the world…
"So that's what happened." Serena jumped at the voice. Darien had been behind her, and he had been reading her thoughts!
"Someday, I'm going to learn to block them from you so you can't eavesdrop all the time." She snapped at him and moodily swung in the deck-swing. She felt him hesitate, but he overcame it quickly and sat beside her, making her jerk back as he stopped the swing. She ignored him, and stared steadily at the misty rain.
"You were really dead?" He asked her softly. She heard the pain in his voice and tears burned her eyes. She really did die, and she chose to come back to live in this hurtful world, all because of him. She didn't respond, because she knew that he was reading her thoughts. And she prayed that he wouldn't make fun of her feelings.
"How could you think I could ever do something like that?" He asked her in an irritated voice, and bucked his legs back to stop the swing. She slipped a little on the seat and closed her eyes.
"It's strange really." She spoke softly to him, bringing her legs up and resting her chin on her knees. "Two months ago, I could never imagine us being here." She told him, and turned to lay her warm cheek on her knee, gazing out to the water as the rain, now a soft drizzle, began to disappear.
Darien was silent, staring at her thoughtfully. He couldn't see her face, and for some reason as she reminisced, he couldn't read her thoughts. It was sort of depressing, not to hear them. Not to know what she was thinking.
"I wonder what Andrew would think if he saw us here right now." He said with a touch of humor, imagining his friend staring at them tensely, wondering when they would start an insult duel. What he would say if he knew the summer they had together, how close they have become? Ho much he cared for her now.
"He'd freak out." Serena muttered. She was probably right he thought. They sat in silence as the sun's rays peeked over the ocean water.
"I'm glad." He finally said and Serena lifted her head from her knees and stared steadily at him. "I'm glad you came back to me." He told her softly and pulled her into his arms. She rested on his chest, listening to his strong, steady heartbeat. "If you didn't come back, I couldn't tell you how important you are to me." Serena tensed, and closed her eyes. Let him say it first, please…she thought to herself.
"I am pretty important." She murmured, wanting a little humor in the moment. He chuckled and kissed the top of her head.
"I know." He said and there was another long pause.
"You're important to me too." Serena said and sighed softly, nuzzling her face in his white tee-shirt.
"I am pretty important." He said smartly and Serena smiled. There was another long pause.
"DAMN IT! Say it already!" Suddenly, Mina and Zoicite spilled through the porch door, clearly exasperated with them. Serena and Darien frowned at one another, and then settled back to the way they were before the rude interruption on their privacy. They swung together in silence. Mina and Zoicite groaned and left them, muttering something about them being cowards and such. Serena just smiled.
: I love you Prick : Darien smiled and kissed her head again.
: I love you too Meatball Head :
AN: Love you all for the wonderful feedback and your unlimited patience! Couldn't have finished this one without all of my lovely readers. Review! Kisses muh!