Title: Hostage Situation
By: Alicia Blade


Summary: Serena is taken hostage and it's up to Darien to rescue her, through a cruel game of twenty questions. One of my most popular shorts and an excuse to make Darien get on his knees. evil smile


August 2004 ANs

This story was written three to six years ago. I've retained the original author's notes for novelty purposes, though some may no longer apply. This story has been recently edited for its most recent posting, but nothing else has changed. I hope you will enjoy it, whether reading it for the first time or the fiftieth!


Original ANs

This is VERY strange. Please don't ask me why I wrote this story. It was in my head, I wanted it out. Another first season… er… have fun!

Visit First Love: A Sailormoon Story Archive at: [[see bio for address]]

"Praise the Lord God of Israel who made heaven and earth! He has given David a son who isn't only wise and smart, but who has the knowledge to build a temple for the Lord and a palace for himself."
2 Chronicles 2:12

Hostage Situation

He was trying. No one could blame him for not trying. There was no point in admitting that it was impossible; he didn't stand a chance. Sure it was a useless waste of energy. And sure it never mattered in the end. But at least he could say that he was trying to keep his eyes away from her. Luckily, he didn't think Andrew had noticed up to this point what exactly had distracted him.

He was at the counter and she was sitting amongst her friends at a booth near the back. About twenty feet away from him. When he turned his head to the side he could catch glimpses of her profile, blazingly energetic eyes, small button nose, grinning lips. Her fingers hung around the straw of a milkshake. She would occasionally crane her neck down to latch at sips before looking up again to continue the conversation with the four other girls around the table.

Sighing, he turned away as Andrew came back to his end of the counter after serving another customer. His blonde friend hummed drowsily, leaning his elbows on the table, and ran a hand through his messy hair.

"Busy day today. I wonder where all these people came from."

"Yeah, and amazing they're mostly teens, right?"

"That too."

Darien shrugged carelessly. "Got to be expected, running an arcade and all."

"Yeah, I guess. Can't wait to get my degree and go into medics."

"Hm, maybe you should be a pediatrician," Darien joked, receiving a humorous glare in return.

"Ha ha, maybe you should go into psychology!" Andrew teased, knowing full well the extent of Darien's confusing life and the emotions that came along with it. Darien returned the look good-naturedly.

"I'd only drive all my patients more crazy than they already were. Wouldn't be good for business, you know."

"Maybe not, but you're good at talking to people, at least when it will have no effect on you in the long run."

Shrugging again, Darien leaned back on the stool, glancing at his watch.

"Need to be somewhere?"

"No, I just have a strange feelings."

"Care to elaborate?"

"Not extremely. Though I will say it's not exactly a good feeling… almost like something bad is about to…"

The sudden shattering of glass threw Darien a few inches off the chair as his nerves sprung into frenetic action. Sighing, he chuckled a little as Andrew raised an eyebrow at the clumsy waitress.

"Careful, Shannon."

A tall brunette smiled shyly, tossing the last of the remaining coke bottle onto her tray before scampering off to the kitchen.

Darien cringed a bit at his sudden paranoia, rubbing his hands over his closed eyelids. "I have got to start sleeping more," he muttered tiredly.

"What were you saying before?" Andrew asked, keeping an eye on the messy spot on the floor until Shannon returned to mop it up, before giving his best friend his full attention.

"Nothing. It wasn't important."

Loud giggling arose from the corner and Darien shifted his gaze to the bunch of girls, now standing, their chatter rising in tempo as they placed a few dollar bills onto the table. A breeze in the arcade sent chills up his spine and he furrowed his eyebrows. He was too far away from the door to be feeling that…

Steadily, the breeze became stronger, until everyone near by noticed it as well. Turning suspiciously in his chair, he looked around. Though nothing seemed out of place that would be causing the creepy change, things began to flutter around. It was all strangely swirling around the center of he room, like being caught up in a hurricane. His nervous glance turned to Serena and her friends who were standing frozen in place, fear and curiosity evident on their faces. A couple napkins lifted off of the tables, caught in the whirlwind. The air was growing cold and he saw Serena wrap her arms around herself as a barrier to the frosty degrees. Though everyone in the fairly small room felt the urge to run for their lives, not a movement was made. Shakily, Darien stood from his stool, his black hair whipping around his eyes. More and more loose objects were thrown into the chaotic mix, roaring thunder filling the room. A loud whimper emerged from the blonde to his right.

Darkness clapped over the storm, all lights flickering only once before plunging them into blackness. Serena screamed and Darien's senses immediately shifted to pure awareness. Loud banging noises were heard as the wind ceased suddenly and the objects fell to the ground. Darien's eyes moved anxiously in the dark but could find no source of light to see by. His mind only analyzed the predicament of no sun filtering through the glass windows in front for a second, before all electricity was replaced and a burning warmth emerged again.

The crowd gasped. In the center of the room, surrounded by piles of napkins, silverware, and other inexpensive items, a woman stood. She was facing the counter, a smug grin pulling at her lips. Not moving a muscle, her cool green eyes ran across the occupants of the room, smoothing over the gawking customers, pausing only on Andrew, Darien, and Serena.

Her long black hair fell to her thighs, the occasional wildflower tied into the shimmering locks. Black knee high boots covered tall shapely legs, and a flowing black skirt ended with her hair. A gold belt hung low on her hips, and a white tube top showed ashen midriff. Gold, tasseled armbands hung below her pale shoulders. Her long neck was adorned by a black choker, with a single gold heart charm dangling just above her collar bone. Crimson red lips against the bloodless cheeks smiled semisweetly.

She was gorgeous, but insanely wicked at the same time. Darien gulped, fear crawling over his spine as he noticed a silver blade at the side of her belt, shimmering in the blazing light, a decorative handle covered in ornamental flower and ivy carvings.

"Good afternoon ladies and gentleman," she spoke in a calm, sultry voice, her lips revealing pearl white teeth and a tender smile. Darien shook. What scared him most about the newcomer was that despite her obvious evil intentions, he couldn't sense a spark of hatred or evil in her. Normally, anyone from the Negaverse was boiling inside with both. The girl put one foot behind the other, pivoting smoothly to face those on the opposite side of the room.

"Let me introduce myself. I am called Aphrodite, Goddess of Love and Beauty. Also referred to as Cupid by many acquaintances." Her hand moved seductively to the knife, pulling it easily from the belt.

Darien tensed, his eyes searching for some kind of weapon. From behind, he could hear the almost silent opening of a drawer. Andrew was getting a knife.

In a swift, mechanical movement, Aphrodite had turned to face them again, pointing the tip of the knife just to Darien's left. "You, apron boy, don't even think of it. Your measly human weapons will have no effect on me, anyway." Smiling at his shocked and frightened look, she brought the knife to her chest, the coldness of the blade pressing against her bared skin. Her gaze turned away to sweep over the crowd again. "Listen closely, all of you. I want everyone out, except… you…" with a flick of the wrist, she pointed the knife in Darien's direction. He lowered his face slightly, glaring up at her, determined not to show a weakness. "You…" she continued, switching attention to Andrew. "And… you." The pointed end of the blade aimed at Serena, and Darien clutched his fingers around the seat of the stool.

Silence once again covered the room, everyone too scared to even think, much less head toward the exit.

"NOW!" she screamed. That was all the prompting they needed as a great rush of people flowed toward the door, startled screams and calls of fear following them. The chosen victims held still, as well as the four girls surrounding a terrified Serena.

After the commotion had died down and the glass doors swung to quiet stillness, Aphrodite turned her attention to the group of friends, still hovering next to their booth.

"Perhaps you didn't understand me, ladies. I said EVERYONE OUT!"

Lita glared at her unmoved, stepping defensively in front of Serena. "You've got to be out of your mind if you think we're just gonna leave our best friend here with the likes of YOU!"

"She's right!" continued Raye, stepping forward also. "If you want her, you're gonna have to get through us first!"

"Friends never leave friends in a time of danger!" added Ami.

"And we're not about to just stand by and watch as you threaten ours!" completed Mina, clenching her fists at her sides.

Serena, still in shock, took a trembling step back, allowing the four girls to defend her.

Aphrodite's expression turned from anger to amused mocking. "You think you can stop me? Well I suppose I'll have to do this the hard way." Carefully sliding the knife into her belt again, she pressed her heels together, standing tall with her head high in the air. Her long fingers slid up her side, past her head, until her arm was stretched into the air above. With a flick of the wrist, everyone tensed.

Darien gulped, feeling some strange sort of magic boiling in the woman in front of him. Allowing his eyes to drop for a second, he spotted the knife Andrew had been reaching for lying on the counter. His eyes looked up to make sure she was still preoccupied.

Aphrodite's fingers were now spread wide as the occupants of the room watched in awed silence. Suddenly, the tips began to glow, different colors like those of a rainbow. Her emerald eyes closed momentarily, then snapped back to life. She drew her arm back with swift agility before lunging it forward, five colored chains stretching from her fingers. Only gasps of shock aroused as the ropes slithered like lightning between the four girls, locking onto the blond trapped behind her friends. A shrill scream poured from her mouth as they tied her arms to her sides, before flying back to the sorceress, bringing the unsuspecting victim with them.

Everything happened before her friends could even think and, in the blink of an eye, Serena had a strong arm wrapped around her waist, a silver blade poised at her throat.

Darien's eyes blurred for a second, before his heart twisted in his chest, haunting fears streaming through his thoughts. Moving faster than he believed he ever had, even as Tuxedo Mask, he tossed his arm back and latched onto the knife, before snapping his attention back to the dangerous presence.

"Let her go!" he called angrily, holding the knife just above his shoulder, ready to throw it. He had a nice aim at her side, but knew he couldn't take his chances—not with Serena so close to her at that moment. He wasn't sure what he was saying or doing, only one thought echoed in his mind now. Save her.

Aphrodite shot him a bored look, before rolling her eyes tiredly. "Oh, put the knife down, lover boy. I'll deal with you soon enough." Serena gulped, her entire body shaking. The arm around her waist was so tight she could barely breathe. She couldn't yet feel the coldness of the blade, but she knew it was there. Somewhere in the back of her mind she thought she could hear Darien yell something, and the woman reply smoothly. What was happening? Her eyes darted to the scouts. They all looked so confused, so utterly helpless.

"Now," said Aphrodite, returning her eyes to the four girls. "I want each of you out of this building, now, or I slit her pretty little neck. Got that?"

They stood still for a minute, each of them shaking worriedly. Raye gulped, raising her hands up in surrender. "Fine, fine, we'll do what you want. Just… please… don't hurt her. Promise not to hurt her." "I won't hurt her… yet. IF you do as I say. Now OUT!"

Relaxing their stiff positions just enough to move, the four girls steadily made their way to the door, their eyes darting over the situation, searching for some kind of weakness, something they could do. They found none, and soon, the sliding glass doors opened, and they were forced unwillingly outside.

Serena whimpered loudly as the doors closed behind her friends, tears flooding her eyes. Her captor grinned, turning to the men again. Darien gritted his jaw, his eyes throbbing with fear and hopelessness. All he could see was the knife, just a bit too close to her sensitive skin.

Andrew was standing a few feet back from the counter, a million unreadable thoughts soaring through his mind per second. Serena… knife… Rita… arcade… police… psycho… help… hero… danger… Serena…

Smiling innocently once again, the woman stared at Andrew for a moment. "Apron Boy, I want you over there." She nodded her head in the direction of the booths. "You will say nothing until I am gone. One word and your little friend dies. Your job is to simply listen, acknowledge, and remember. Got that?"

Nervously, the blonde nodded, taking steady steps to one of the booths. Once there, he slid down into the seat, his eyes glued to Serena. She was staring back at him worriedly, tears falling from her azure eyes. He tried to apologize with his stare, so sorry that she was caught in this mess, but she turned away, her eyes staring up at the ceiling, unwillingly accepting support from her holder.

"Now things begin to get interesting," spoke Aphrodite, grinning at Darien.

He could feel tears welling up in his own eyes but forced them back angrily. No weaknesses.

"First of all, handsome, set down the knife. It won't do you any good and I think it's making the poor girl nervous."

"I'd rather not," he said, his voice refusing to show the shakiness of his feelings.

"That's funny; I don't believe I was asking. Let's get one thing straight here. I'm in control. When I tell you to do something, you do it. Understand?"

He only stared. "Great. Now that we're in agreement, set down the knife and kick it somewhere where you can't reach it."

He chewed on his cheek for a moment, before letting his protection fall to the ground with a loud clatter and kicking it to the side.

"Good, good. Now… kneel."


"You heard me. Down on you knees. Down boy!"

"What's the point of…"

"Don't argue with me!" she screamed. Darien could tell by the look in her blazing eyes that she had a very short temper: not good for someone holding his Meatball Head hostage. His knees bent slowly until he was kneeling on the tile floor, still about fifteen feet away from both Andrew and Serena.

"See, that wasn't too hard, was it?"

Gulping, Darien forced his breath steady. Finally, after feeling in control of his voice again, he spoke, "What do you want? Look, I'll give you anything you need, if it's money or… power… or… whatever it is, I can help you get it, just leave the girl out of this, okay? Just let her go!"

He was cut short by a shrill laughter emerging from Aphrodite's throat. Serena cringed, but forced her head still. She knew that if she made one wrong move the blade would come in contact with her throat— something she wasn't looking forward to.

"You've mistaken my intentions completely!" Aprhodite laughed ironically. "I don't want anything, not that you can give me, at least. You'll realize my intent soon enough. And now, second rule for the day. I will ask all the questions and you will answer them. NOT the other way around. To begin: What is your name?"

Glaring, Darien inhaled deeply. "Jack," he finally muttered.

Her eyes narrowed. "I don't appreciate being lied to, understand. And I have a gift, also. I can tell exactly when someone is lying to me. The same goes with you. And so, from now on, let's keep it honest. Again, what IS your name?"

After another, longer moment of silence, he choked out, "Darien."

"That's better. It's a pleasure, Darien."

"Wish I could say the same."

A thin eyebrow shot up. "That isn't very polite. Let's keep in mind who is holding the knife here, shall we? Now then, Darien, we're going to play a little game. The stakes are this lovely girl's life." He let out a long breath, tears beginning to boil unwelcome. Silence. He didn't trust his voice from breaking.

"I'll take that as a yes. How we play this game is simple. I'm going to ask you a few questions and you're going to answer them. Some will be simple yes or no while others will need a bit more detail. Here's the catch. My trusty, handy-dandy knife is going to begin at two inches from this young lady's throat. Every time you lie to me, it will get one… inch… closer. Three lies and you lose." She drew the knife slowly through the air to prove her point. Serena shuddered, a quiet sob rolling up from her throat.

Shakily, Darien nodded, his head dropping slightly in defeat. He had to play along, for her. Her sake, her life. "Fine," he whispered.

"Then let us begin! You're name is Darien, correct?"


"What do you do for a living, Darien?"

He paused. "A computer technician."

"Ha! Strike one! And not two questions into the game. Goodness Darien, you're going to have to try harder than that!"

He flinched, realizing it was no good to test her. How could she possibly have known he was lying?!

Andrew furrowed his brow from the sidelines. How could she know? Darien was incredible at hiding truths and emotions from others. He gulped. His brain was still attempting to digest everything that had happened, creating a headache in the process. He knew that if he continued to try and analyze everything said and done, he would never be of any help.

"Again, I ask, what do you do for a living?"

He sighed. "I'm still in school, but I have a part time job at an engineering company."

"What are you studying to become in school?"

"A brain surgeon."

"Ooh, a doctor. How impressive. Now, what is this young lady's name?"

"Serena," he whispered quietly. Serena gulped at the mention of her name, her blue gaze continuously attached to the tiled ceiling above, listening intently to the conversation, prayers flying through her thoughts.

"Serena: what a beautiful name. How long have you two known each other?"

Darien thought for a moment. "About six months."

"Six months. Close enough. Do you know the exact day you met?"

Serena rolled her eyes unconsciously. Her mind was just beginning to calm down, think rationally, but she couldn't figure out for the life of her the meaning of these stupid questions. Who would remember the exact day of…

"March 2."

Her eyes widened, slowly lowering to see him, but he was staring at the ground. He looked kind of funny kneeling there, nervousness and discomfort evident. She found it difficult to comprehend that he had actually remembered the exact day of their meeting.

"Must have been an important day for you to remember that," said Aphrodite slyly. Darien only stared. "Are you and Serena close?"

"Not really."

"Would you like to be?"

"What kind of question is that?!" His voice rose slightly. First fear, then worry, nervousness, and now embarrassment? He wasn't good with any of those emotions. He'd just gotten used to happiness.

"I am asking the questions, Mr. Chiba!" she yelled angrily. His gaze shot up to hers, surprised.

"How did you know my last name?" he asked uncertainly. Surely he had never seen her before…

She only glared at him, and he shook inside, realizing his mistake.

"Sorry," he muttered, almost inaudibly.

"For Serena's sake, I hope you're finished with your questioning. Now can we continue?"


"Again I ask, would you like to be closer?"

He hesitated, feeling the golden haired girl's eyes on him. Closing his eyes for a brief second, he muttered, "Y…yes," and prayed she would switch to another line of questioning.

"Why aren't you two close?"

Good enough. "Uh… well… we never really… talk much…"

"Why is that?"

"Er… I kind of… tease her… sometimes."

She raised her eyebrow at him, before lowering her gaze to see Serena staring at him, an unreadable expression on her face. "Would you call that an understatement, Ms. Serena?"

Her breath caught. When did she come into this conversation? "Uh… yes… a little."

"Would you call it teasing?"

She shook her head, just barely.

"What would you call it?"

Darien stared at her, and she returned the gaze, speaking unknown, unsure volumes, before rolling her head back to stare upward again. "I don't know… insulting?"

A not-surprised gasp arose from Aphrodite. "Why, Darien, you insult the poor girl?!"

He groaned inwardly, his mind screaming at himself to defend his pride, like he always did, but his heart wouldn't allow it. Too much risk. "Uh… I guess… it could be pretty harsh at times."

"At TIMES?!" Serena screeched, but the arm tightened briefly around her waist.

"Do not speak unless spoken to!" the dark haired woman warned her. Her voice quieted again to her normal attitude. "Darien, what exactly do you tease her about?"

"Uh… different things…"

"Name five."

"Five? Why fi…"

"Answers, not questions!" came the scolding interruption. He sighed, lowering his gaze to the cold floor. This was ridiculous! There was no point whatsoever to this interrogation, unless maybe to embarrass him. And yet he could see no possible way out of it.

"Alright, alright, five things… that I tease her about… Okay, um… her hair… uh… klutz attacks, grades, um… whining, and… uh…" he looked up at her, searching for something else. He didn't know what all he teased her about. When she was around, it just came out. It wasn't like he sat at home and thought about these things. Well, he did, but not in the bad way they usually came out as. "And… I guess… her looks."

"Her hair," repeated the lady, glancing at Serena from the corner of her eye. "I imagine you mean these two little ball things on top of her head?"

He sighed, "Yeah, those."

"Do you like her hair?"


"You heard me. Must I repeat everything?"

"No, it's just… er… do I LIKE it… I… don't know…"

"Don't you?"

Gulping, Darien raised his eyes up to Serena again, but she continued to gaze away from him. She looked so extremely helpless at that moment, so very delicate. "I… guess… I do like her hair."

"Why is that?"

He groaned again, his head beginning to pound slightly. So meaningless… "Because… I don't know! It… it's unique! It's different and special and… and… long and soft and… gold…" His voice softened before dissipating into a tired moan. "Can we move this along?!" he all but screamed. Looking up, he saw that Aphrodite was smiling at him, almost a winning smile. Serena was looking at him also, now, shock written on her face. He sighed, staring into her cerulean gaze. Shrugging, he mumbled, "It's true."

Serena could hardly believe what she was hearing—from him? The guy who always made fun of her hair, her style, called her MEATBALL HEAD for goodness sakes, was now admitting that he LIKED it?! Something sparked inside her, and despite the fright, anger, and hopelessness of this situation, deep down inside, something began to boil. Something quite akin to happiness.

"Klutz attacks?" And the quiz continued. "Why would you tease her about that?"

Darien gulped, shrugging a little. "Because… she's a klutz."

Serena narrowed her previously sparkling eyes. Had to ruin it, didn't he?

Her lips almost turning into a genuine smile, Aphrodite giggled quietly. "True enough. And her grades? Do you consider her stupid?"

"I am stupid," Serena mumbled, more to herself than anyone else. 'Might as well help this along a little.'

"You are not stupid, Serena," the deep voice from the front of the room announced. They made eye contact again. "No, I never considered her stupid. She's not all that great in school, yeah, but… that's just because she never tries. She's not dumb at all. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if she was one of the brightest people at her school. After all, it takes a good head on your shoulders to come up with all the things SHE'S called me in the past!"

The smile was almost not forced as Darien tried to get Serena to relax. Her obvious fear and nervousness were beginning to take effect on him as well.

"Whining? What do you mean by that?"

Chuckling slightly, Darien stared at Serena, trying to ignore the ominous blade still hanging an inch from her throat. "You wouldn't believe the set of lungs that girl has got. When she doesn't get her way she can wail loud enough to break a person's ear drum half a block away," he joked, delighting in the hateful glare he received in response. He could see her nervousness beginning to diminish. Proudly, he once again raised his stare to her abductor, his sureness growing ever so slowly.

"Ahh… I see. And lastly… her looks…"

And his sureness crumbled to the floor.

"Eh… wha?"

"You tease her about her looks, you say. Do you think she's… ugly?"

His heart pounded painfully once, and he held back the urge to choke. "A bit blunt, aren't we?"

She only raised an eyebrow, urging him to continue.

"Ugly… well… no, of course I don't think she's ugly…"

"Then she's pretty?"

"Uh… um… yeah. Yeah, that's about right… pretty… I guess."

"Is that all?"

"What do you mean?"

"You would only consider her 'pretty'? Any more… descriptive words?"

"Uh…" he gulped unsteadily, eyeing the knife with nervousness. "Well… maybe… uh…"

"Go on, spit it out, I haven't got all day!"

His eyes lowered, his heart forcing the words from his mouth. "Fine, alright! The girl is gorgeous!"

After a moment of silence, Serena's angry glare finally began to melt, staring at the man currently trying to hide his face from her.

"'Gorgeous' you say? And what makes her so?"

Groaning, he squeezed his eyes roughly shut. Inside, he began to curse honesty and unimaginable feelings…

"Well… look at her! Her hair, her eyes, her lips, her waist, her legs, every little thing is absolutely perfect!" With a rising voice, he looked up at Serena, careful to avoid her stunned eyes. "Anyone could tell you that. It's not MY fault she has the perfect body, the bluest eyes, the goldest hair, now is it? Yes, I think she's gorgeous. Hell, I think she's the most stunningly beautiful girl I've ever laid eyes on, satisfied?!"

Catching his breath, he finally allowed himself to look at her expression. Her jaw hung open, her disbelieving eyes staring at him in utter shock. Closing his own mouth, he gulped once, before lowering his gaze again.

"So then you're physically attracted to her, lustful even?" His face paled noticeably, before an awkward blush rose in his cheeks. He glanced up at the captive. No help there. She was still too bewildered from the last line of questioning.

Lustful? Was he lustful? No, of course not, she's a fourteen year old girl! He couldn't possibly be physically attracted to her! Well, okay, she was dazzlingly radiant, but… but HE couldn't be infatuated with her in that way… it was absurd!

Choking slightly, he furrowed his brow, staring up at Aphrodite. "No! Of course I'M not attracted to her, I would never let myself lust after someone so much younger and… and… even the thought is crazy!"

A silence filled the room. From the booth, silently watching, Andrew rolled his eyes. He'd become much more intent on the conversation than on saving the day, and now felt that he could have smacked Darien very hard for that last display. He couldn't trick the lady about his name and now he expected her to believe he wasn't attracted to Serena?! Even HE could tell that!

Aphrodite smirked as Darien searched the floor for nothing in particular, chuckling softly. "Strike two," she whispered, just loudly enough for all of them to hear. Darien's eyes rose in terror to see the knife inch closer. Serena whimpered, closing her eyes tight. As the coldness of the sharp metal just began to press up against her throat, a tear fell from her closed eyelids.

A strangled sob emanated from Darien's throat. Shaking his head slowly, he lifted his hands, begging to her silently. "No, no please don't hurt her."

"Tell the truth," she said simply.

Rubbing his teeth together, he refused to let his blurring eyes drift from the threatening blade. As the first tear slipped down, he managed almost silently, "Yes, I'm attracted to her."

Though so overcome in fear, Serena could still feel the familiar delight thump inside her heart. He was attracted to her. It was a start.

"Just her looks?"

He heaved a great sigh, wondering if this torture would ever end. Didn't this woman have a life?! "No, not just her looks," he mumbled dejectedly. Serena must already have figured out what he had been trying to hide for so long. There was no use in denying it now. All he needed to concentrate on was saving her from this lady's clutches. And if the only way to do that was to spill his concealed emotions, he would do that. No matter how embarrassing or painful it would be when she WAS free.

"What else?"

Shaking his head, he shrugged slightly. "Everything?"

"Is that a question or answer?"

He lowered his head, collapsing it onto his chest. "Everything," he repeated surely. "I am attracted to her laugh, her kindness, her love for everything around her, even her klutziness, okay? I love every little thing about her. Always have…"

Her head swimming, Serena struggled to stay alert. Now she knew she was dreaming… Or hallucinating. Either way, Darien Chiba was NOT admitting that… that… he liked her… in THAT way. Was he?

"You've done fairly well, Darien. One question left. Don't screw it up."

Sighing, he raised his eyes, first to Serena who was staring at him with hope, fear, shock, and something else… He tried to convey to her a promise he would get her out of this, but knew he was shaking too hard. Finally, he looked up at Aphrodite, inhaling a deep breath, blinking back the oncoming tears.

"Very simple yes or no question."

His lungs were having trouble exhaling, but he forced himself to try harder. He would not fail now, not when he was so close.

"Are you in love with her?"

A dead silence settled thickly upon them. Even Serena's whimpering quieted as Darien's stormy eyes searched the emerald depths of Aphrodite's gaze. "Love… her?"

Aphrodite said nothing, but stared at him, waiting for the answer. Serena gulped painfully, feeling a touch of pain from the action. Her mind screamed loudly within her, strangely contradicting the horrid silence outside.

Rationally, she came to the conclusion that if he said no, it would kill her inside. If he said yes, and didn't mean it, it would kill her outside. But, if he said yes… and meant it…

She wasn't quite satisfied with the odds.

Darien also searched his mind, his heart aching with what he knew was true, but his mind searching for any excuse not to say it. Of course he loved her. Even the fact that she was fourteen couldn't make him deny that. But could he tell her? No, of course not. She would never speak to him again. But… if he said no, Aphrodite would know he was lying. And then… his mind replayed the hateful image a hundred times by the second at the terrifying thought of what would happen.

Inhaling sharply, he said with amazing calmness, "I can't answer that."

Aphrodite stared at him silently for a minute. "Then you surrender?"


"If you won't answer the question, you lose the game… and the girl. What a shame, I guess we just wasted 20 minutes of our lives. At least you tried to prolong her death."

Serena screamed briefly as her captor drew the knife to her left side, ready to draw it sharply right…

"Wait! You can't kill her!" Darien screamed loudly, raising his hands into the air. His entire body was shaking now, tears rolling unchecked down his cheeks.

"Oh? And why not?"

"Because… because you can't take her away from all the people who need her. Look, if you want to kill someone, take me. She has friends and family who need her. You… you don't understand. There are so many people in this world who… who wake up every morning praying that they will have the chance to look in her eyes. Who go through the day just waiting to hear her laugh. Who go to bed each night thanking the stars for putting her into their life. You can't take her away from those people. Serena… has a gift. She can make the worst day of someone's life absolutely wonderful just by smiling at them. She's the only person I've ever known who had that gift… and… and you're so quick to slit her throat?! No, you can't kill her. She's too special to… to die here. Not now, not like this. Please, please don't take her away from this world. Don't take her away from ME. She doesn't deserve to die because I made some stupid mistakes. Because… I'm too proud to admit that I love her…" Uncontrollable sobs and tears rolled up from him, his entire body shaking weakly.

Matching tears streaked Serena's face as well, digesting all that he had said. Her holder's lips turned into a real smile, the knife moving an inch away from Serena's throat.

"But, Darien, you just admitted it."

Ragged breaths tore at his lungs as he stared at her pleadingly. Never had he felt so hopeless, so lost…

"Here now; Take her and live happily." In a swift movement, she had slid the knife into her belt and pushed Serena forward. On instinct, Darien reached forward, catching the girl just as she fell to her knees before him. The second his mind registered she was out of danger, he wrapped his arms around her, pulling her close to his body.

"Apron Boy!" the woman continued, looking at a shocked Andrew. "Your job is to never let these two forget what was spoken here. And everyone, remember my face. I assure that you will see it again."

And with a cloud of purple smoke, she was gone. Not a trace but a lingering smell of wildflowers to prove she had ever been there that day.

Darien stared at the now empty spot on the arcade floor, barely feeling the shaking body in his hold. His arms tightened around her, and with that small movement, Serena sobbed loudly, wrapping her own frail arms around his neck and burying her head into his shoulder.

Slowly coming back to reality, Darien lowered his eyes to her quivering form, her hidden face crying roughly against him. He could hear her sobs and sniffles and for some reason… loved the sound. She was okay.

Releasing his strangled breath, he pulled her even closer to his body, tucking her small form perfectly in his arms and slamming his eyes shut against the oncoming tears. They spilled out anyway.

"I thought I'd lost you…" he whispered into her hair, kissing her temple and neck—any place near his aching lips. She shuddered noticeably, her cries ever-so-slowly subsiding. "I was so sure she was going to take you away from me. I was so scared. Serena… Oh, my Meatball Head, I'm so sorry you had to go through this… You didn't deserve this. I promise this won't happen again. I will always protect you…" Unheard promises filled the otherwise silent room.

Her fingers digging into the material of his jacket, Serena slowly raised her head to peer over his shoulder.

"Are you alright? She didn't hurt you, did she?" he asked worriedly, his heart and mind jumping to a million different thoughts at the slightest movement.

"I'm fine," she whispered, almost inaudibly. Her tears stopped temporarily, feeling him hold her so close, trying desperately to comfort her. Staring ahead at nothing in particular, she forced her voice to ask him a question burning in her thoughts. "Darien… do you really love me?"

His eyes slowly opened, his face still covered in her golden hair. Pulling away just far enough to breathe, he turned his gaze away, shame and embarrassment covering his otherwise elated emotions. He could feel the girl in his embrace take a deep breath… but she didn't release it…

Finally, he uttered quietly, "Yes, Serena. I really do love you. I always have."

Her shoulders sagged, her breath flowing in relief. Darien shook his head, closed his eyes, and began to release her unwillingly. Feeling the change, Serena in return tied her arms around him even tighter. He paused, wanting so badly to hold her just a little while longer, and yet not feeling he had the right to.

Learning forward, Serena let her lips brush against his ear and whispered,

"I love you, too."

Andrew opened the doors to the arcade after recovering from the inevitable shock and realizing that the danger was over. Not wanting to interrupt the intimate moment, he decided it would be best to let the girls in to know their friend was alright.

The second the glass doors, now letting in light again, were opened, four scared and worried girls poured into the arcade. Rudely, they ignored the blonde and began searching for someone very dear to each of them, asking a million questions at once.

Their eyes almost immediately fell on a couple near the counter, on their knees, caught in a passionate kiss.

After a moment of shocked silence, Raye managed to stutter,

"Did we miss something?"

Stepping through the portal, she let out a deep breath, running a hand through her long ebony hair.

"Well, that was a good job done," she whispered to no one in particular.

"You did an excellent job, Aphrodite," a soft, but futuristic, voice echoed from before her. Looking up through the warm mist surrounding her, she saw her long-time friend standing proudly, her garnet orb in hand. "Welcome back."

"Thanks, Pluto. Think they'll be okay? I hope I didn't leave too soon."

"They'll be fine. Look at them now!"

Stepping forward, she looked into a swirling mirror in one of the silver clouds, showing Serena and Darien just as she had left them, holding each other closely. He comforted her, and they spoke words she couldn't hear, before their lips slowly met. A smile crossed her red lips—genuinely happy.

"They sure are cute together."

"The truest love in the history of time. I should know, I've seen a lot of true loves."

Sighing, Aphrodite turned away from the image. "I saw my mother when I was there."

"Yes, I know."

"She hasn't changed hardly at all."

"That is very true. None of the older scouts have, really. Do you realize how much alike you and your mother have become? Sure, you take all your physical features from your father, but your personalities are like two peas in a pod."

"Like how?"

"You both always had a knack for matchmaking, for one."

Aphrodite laughed, "They don't call me Cupid Jr. for nothing!"

"Yes. Although… you tend to get your point across… much more violently than she ever did…"

Giggling, Aphrodite shrugged her shoulders nonchalantly. "Sometimes destiny needs to hurry up a bit! You know how impatient I can get!"

Laughing, Sailor Pluto began to lead her to the portal which would take her home to Neo-Crystal Tokyo.

"You know what trait I AM glad I picked up from my father, though?"

"What's that?"

"His sense of style. Mom was still wearing that ugly red bow, even in the twentieth century! I couldn't believe it."


Luv and God bless!