Author's Notes: AU. A different look at at Season 1. Starts before Venus shows up. The Scouts, Tuxedo Mask, and Zoicite have found all the Rainbow Crystals and are fighting over ownership of them all. Let's say that instead of one General for every few months, it was one per year or so, so the girls are all 16-17 and Darien is 20-ish. This is mostly to get your opinion, and to fix anything I might have left out. This is only a teaser, so I'm only going to post the first two chapters cause I need feedback at this point. Also, this is intended to be Part 1 of an eventual crossover trilogy.

Disclaimer: Ms. Takeuchi owns all, I own nothing...

Chapter 1

Serena was late again. Speeding around corners and dodging people at top speed, hair flying out behind her like banners, she slowed down a little as she rounded the corner by the Crown Arcade and espied a familiar green blazer out of the corner of her eye. Oh, no! Brake! Brake! Her brain screamed the command too late and Serena soon found herself plastered up against her biggest human nemesis. The ever tall, dark, gorgeous, and totally rude, Darien Shields.

"Morning, Meatball Brain," the truly contemptible creature greeted as he pried her off him. "You know, with morning calls like yours, a guy might start to think you did it on purpose."

Serena fumed at him. "Only in your wildest dreams, jerk."

Darien was given a mental jolt as all his tactile senses recalled just how she had felt while pressed up against him. "Better watch it, Meatball Head, some guys might take that as a come-on," he replied, snapping out of it. Get a grip, Shields, the girl's, like, only fifteen!

A very mature looking fifteen, another part of his brain shot back.

Serena sneered. "And if you actually believe that, you are more arrogant and dense than I originally thought."

They continued on in the same vein, hurling insults at each other, as the morning crowds parted around them, the usual passers-by having gotten used to this kind of entertainment years before.

From across the street, a pair of bright blue eyes shrewdly observed the bickering pair. Ah, one of the more amusing of courtship rituals, the owner mused, stopping to examine them closer.

"Say," Darien said suddenly, "didn't Raye mention you have a rather large test today?"

His comment brought Serena's tirade to a crashing halt as she looked and stared at her wristwatch for a moment. "You made me late again!" she wailed, taking off at warp speed again. "I'm going to make you pay for this, Shields, don't you doubt it!"

"Oh, I don't," Darien muttered under his breath as he walked into his original destination: the Crown Arcade that his best friend, Andrew, ran.

"Morning, Darien. Did you detain Serena again?"

A grin was all the answer he got. "Coffee, if you please." As Andrew fetched the requested beverage, Darien leaned forward so that his elbows rested on the spotless counter-top and stored his new rush of energy away. The battle the night before had been rather draining, what with Sailor Moon nearly getting herself toasted again. And, for some reason, his daily battles with Serena only seemed to energize him. Maybe it was just the fact that she gave as good as she got, or maybe it was the glint that appeared in her eyes whenever she spotted him that told him she was looking forward to their next verbal altercation as much as he did. Argue with Serena in the morning before school and he'd be wide-awake all day; bicker again after school and he was ready for anything that the evil realms decided to throw their way that night.

Giving a sigh of appreciation as the steaming cup was placed in front of him, Darien buried his nose in the fragrant brew as he took a sip. "Thanks, 'Drew. I needed that."

"No problem. I live to serve," Andrew said, bowing mockingly.

Darien glanced at his watch, noting with some surprise the placement of the hands. "Wow, no wonder the Meatball Head was so upset. That little argument of ours took up more time than I thought." Darien lifted the cup of coffee in a salute and sauntered out of the arcade.

Andrew stared after his friend, trying very hard to contain some amusement at the name Darien had coined for the bubbly, effervescent blonde that had become his most reliable customer. Meatball Head. Dear god, I'd hate to hear what she comes up with in revenge.

Serena zoomed into the school and towards her classroom. Peering in the window, she noted with some amazement that her teacher, one Patricia Haruna, wasn't there yet. The final bell buzzed and Serena jumped into action, swinging the door open and flying into her seat before the final chimes resonated throughout the classroom. She was sitting there, ignoring the stunned looks of her classmates, and looking entirely innocent when Ms. Haruna stalked in and slammed the door shut, making the entire class start.

Everybody except for Amy and Melvin groaned when their teacher handed out the assignment to end all assignments and then proceeded to sit at her desk, slamming things at random intervals.

When the bell rang, signalling the end of class, all thirty-some of her students raced out, having enough sense to fear her when she was riled. All of them, except one.

Serena cautiously approached the desk where Ms. Haruna had her head resting on her crossed arms on the desk. "Ms. H? Are you all right?"

Patricia peered up at her favourite student (though she would rather die than admit it), and summoned a weak smile. "I'm fine, dear. Just another bad date, in a long line-up," she confessed, suddenly seeking only to assuage the worry she saw in the gentle blue eyes that were staring back steadily at her.

"Don't worry, Ms. H, he'll come around right when you least expect it."

"Who will?"

"Your soul mate. When he comes, you won't have to look hard. Until then, just listen to this," the petite blonde said, touching her chest above her heart, "instead of this." With a tiny smile, Serena poked a gentle finger into her teacher's forehead. "No matter what you think, your heart will never steer you wrong. In the meantime, if you desperately require affection, maybe get a pet? Not a fish, or a lizard, or something that just sits and stares at you from inside a tank; but a cat, or a dog, something that will reward you with affection and love just for loving it back." Serena frowned a little, obviously fearing that she'd crossed the line. "Think about it."

"When did you get so smart? About soul mates and stuff?" Patricia queried with soft surprise.

Serena's eyes grew misty and distant. "I've had to wait 1,000 years to find mine again. I know he's out there, though, I wouldn't be able to survive if he hadn't made it with me. Never lose hope, Patricia, he'll turn up when you least expect it." Blinking her eyes, she shook her head and gazed blankly at her teacher. "Sorry, what?"

"Nothing, Serena. You'd better get moving, or you'll be late for your next class instead of mine."

Her student nodded and that sage look entered her eyes again. "Don't lose hope, Patricia, don't ever lose hope in love. Because once you do, it's next to impossible to get it back again." With that, she exited the room with more grace and poise than Patricia had ever seen her possessed of. If asked, she'd have had to say that Serena's attitude seemed almost... regal. She even shrugged off the use of her given name, knowing that it was an instinctive need to comfort that had driven Serena to use it so familiarly.

Patricia recalled what it was that made Serena her favourite. It wasn't her grades, which were this shy of horrendous, or her attendance record (or, more correctly, the lack thereof), or even a propensity for paying attention and listening between the lines. It was her heart. Serena had the biggest heart Patricia had ever seen in one so young. She knew that she would never allow Serena near a chemistry laboratory, but like with another student, Lita Kino, Serena had a knack for bringing the best out of a troubled peer.

"Ah, Serena. What are we going to do with you?" Patricia murmured to herself as her next class started slowly filing in.

Later that day Serena wandered into the Crown Arcade with Amy Anderson, otherwise known as Sailor Mercury, in tow, cast one lingering glance at the Sailor V game, and trudged on to lay claim to her favourite booth. "Hi, Andrew! The usual today, all right?"

Andrew looked up from serving another patron and gave his favourite customer a welcoming smile. "Hi, Serena. It's coming right up, promise." Serena grinned at him and returned her attention back to her companion.

"Okay, Serena, what did they say?"

Serena peeked up with a definite twinkle in her blue eyes. "They want us in America," she finally announced.

Amy's jaw dropped as her eyes grew wide. "You're joking!" she gasped. "What did you say?"

Serena cast her blue-haired friend a look of mock disgust. "I said I'd have to talk it over with my partner first, of course. I may be a ditz, but I'm not completely stupid. Besides, I want someone to read over the contracts. You have connections in the law department, don't you?" When Amy nodded rather numbly, Serena reached into her book bag and pulled out a thick sheaf of papers, and handed them to Amy. Business having been concluded, Serena pulled out a remarkably large textbook, perched a tiny pair of reading spectacles on her nose and began reading, pausing only long enough to smile at Andrew when he came by with their drinks.

Serena and Amy studied for about a half hour, conferring every now and then about the subject matter until Amy (who was facing the doors) heard them swish open and spied Lita and Raye at the entrance. A swift kick to the shins was all Serena required to ditch the book and glasses and whip out a comic book, instantly getting completely engrossed in the storyline.

"Serena!" Raye began. "Your brain is going to rot if you keep reading those comic books!"

Serena peered up at her fiery guardian. "And?"

"And we need you to have at least some brain cells left if you're going to lead the defence against the Negaverse!" Raye shot back, settling beside Amy as Lita plunked herself down next to Serena.

Serena couldn't help flicking an amused glance at Amy, who studiously had her nose buried in her textbook, though the corners of her lips twitched suspiciously. "Don't worry so much, Raye. Your face will freeze that way." The two settled into their normal bickering routine, leaving Amy and Lita to ignore them.

Serena suddenly stiffened, though her back was to the door and swung around. She went completely rigid when Darien sauntered in through now open doors and rolled her eyes, slumping so far down in her seat that only her two buns were visible from the back. "Why? Why him? Why now? I was having a perfectly good day until now," she moaned quietly, leaning forward so that her forehead thumped against the tabletop.

Raye's head jerked up and she spotted the object of her desires, with whom she had a date planned that very afternoon. "Hi, Darien!" she called in the most sultry voice she could muster. Raye pointedly ignored the snicker that came from Serena. Apparently, Serena thought that she was a little off the mark. But, what would Serena know? Serena had never had a boyfriend. Raye also conveniently forgot that neither had she, but wasn't about to let that minor detail deter her from her prize.

Darien wandered over to their booth. "Raye," he greeted as his eyes lit on a certain blonde who was trying her damnedest to pretend he didn't exist. At the sound of his voice, her head snapped up and a very familiar light appeared in her eyes as she looked at him from over her shoulder. It was the one that told him that no matter how she had behaved before he showed up, she was very much anticipating the next battle.

Darien was a little surprised to realize that he was looking forward to his and Serena's daily fight more than he was his date with Raye, but an answering glint that he no more prevent than he could stop breathing appeared in his own blue eyes. The morning's argument had only been a warm-up, and he proved that with his opening volley: "So, Meatball Head, get any more thirties lately?"

Serena bristled and fired one of her own back. "No, actually. Why? Have you?" she retorted innocently. It was weak, and she knew it, but she was satisfied nonetheless to see the jerk straighten and glower at her over the dark sunglasses he wore. She swiftly stomped a frisson of awareness that surged through her body when his cobalt blue eyes focused sharply on her into a quick death.

As abruptly as he stiffened, Darien relaxed and grinned lazily at her. This time it was more than a frisson that went screaming through her bloodstream. "Why, Meatball Head, I do believe that you've lost your touch. It seems I was right. I'll have to tell my professors about my results."

"What results?" Serena ground out.

"That silly little girls actually do get lamer as the day goes on. If your grades depended solely on what comes out of your mouth, it would be the Eighth Wonder of the World if you actually passed."

Serena couldn't find anything to say in response to that, so she just fumed and plotted revenge. It involved baseball bats, her tiara, and a few other things that he wouldn't find half as amusing as he seemed to find her. As Darien went on, she felt something poke her side. Wedged against the wall and her backpack as she was, the edge of her textbook was jabbing her in the ribs.

She was just considering doing something very rude and childish when Raye spoke up. "Oh, what's wrong, Serena?" she cooed sickeningly. "Have we used up our single brain cell already?" That hurt.

"Not quite. But, my single cell is bigger than your whole brain," Serena shot back just as sweetly, friendships be damned. There was a quickly stifled snort from directly opposite Serena, and she looked into Amy's sympathetic eyes. There was also a hint of barely hidden amusement there, but Serena knew that, no matter how much she longed to get out of there, she couldn't put the friend who had stuck by her through thick and thin, in the line of fire.

"I'm amazed you actually managed to come up with enough wit to string that together." Serena knew that Raye was willing to do just about anything to get into Darien's good graces and other areas, but this was going a little too far.

"Unlike you, who I am very surprised can produce a single coherent thought, let alone two to rub together." Serena smiled slowly, rather pleased with herself. The groove was coming back.

Raye's eyes flared angrily along with her nostrils, which was a fairly good indication of how close her temper was to boiling over. It actually made her look like one of the pink barnyard animals she took so much delight in comparing Serena herself to, Serena thought irreverently. She took a sip of her double chocolate fudge milkshake, closing her eyes in momentary bliss.

"Why, Meatball Head, with all that junk food you inhale I find it incredible that your brain hasn't turned into candy bars and sweets as well." Darien decided he just had to butt in with that.

"Is that was that smell was? I could have sworn it was Eau de Get-In-His-Pants." Serena directed that one solely at her former friend. "I should have known you'd have to resort to covering yourself with candy just to get Darien to go out with you." That got a response from both parties, and Amy's shoulders heaved behind her book.

Raye's legendary temper flared, you could almost see her eyes turning red as flames leapt and jumped in their burning depths. Serena smiled serenely and took another slug of her milkshake. "At least I have a boyfriend. Unlike you, who'd have to blindfold the poor guy just to con him into taking you out to dinner." Satisfaction gleamed in her eyes as she saw Serena finally sit up and glare. "However, he'd probably only date you if you promised to put out at the end of the evening, and even then, who'd want to sleep with you? You're nothing but blonde hair and blue eyes."

"So nice to know you're not colorblind. I wasn't quite sure when I saw your outfit. I mean, come on, black and" -- Serena coughed softly – "bright pink? They're not exactly your colors, if you know what I'm saying."

"Why did I ever even consider thinking that you had even the smallest bit of intelligence? I must have been insane. He's right, you know. Underneath all that ghastly blonde hair, you've got nothing but spaghetti brains to go with that meatball hair of yours!" Raye cried.

That was the last straw. Grabbing her book bag, Serena shoved her way out of the booth past a startled Lita and an equally surprised Darien and ran out. Not before, however, she had taken one last sip of her milkshake and, deeply mourning its loss, poured the remainder all over Raye's horrifying clothes.

Darien instantly turned on Raye. "That was uncalled for."

She shrugged at him. "You do it; all the time."

"I've been doing it for years. She expects it from me. You, on the other hand, are supposed to be her friend. Didn't you once tell me that she's your best friend? And now you went and insulted her not only in front of the rest of us, but in front of the entire arcade. If I ever had a friend like you, I wouldn't need any enemies. By the way," he continued as he turned to leave, "I never had any interest in you, romantic or otherwise. You're just too blind to see what's right in front of you. Like a friend who would probably give her life for you at the drop of a hat. I don't want to see your face for a long time, Raye Hino. And, I suspect, neither does Serena." Without waiting to see her response, he turned on his heel and stalked out of the arcade.

When the doors closed behind him, Lita gifted Raye with her fiercest glare. "What the hell is wrong with you?"

Raye looked stunned. "What have I done?" Her self-disgust was palpable.

Amy sadly shook her head. "Screwed up the best thing to ever happen to you, I imagine."

Raye's head hung in shame, as tears filled her violet eyes. "What have I done?" she repeated.

Darien finally caught up with Serena in the park, on the pier. Her feet were dangling in the water, but her head was in her hands, and her shoulders heaved with silent sobs. Just seeing it made him feel like the lowest of the low. Not knowing what to say to her, Darien opted for walking quietly up behind her. "Mind if I sit?"

She looked up, her crystalline blue eyes glassy with unshed tears, as her wet cheeks bore testimony to ones that had previously fallen. "What do you want? Haven't you insulted me enough for one day?"

He saw the broken heart her words tried so desperately to hide, and his own ached. He carefully sat down beside her, slowly, afraid she might bolt if he moved too suddenly. "Actually, I haven't come to insult you."

"Then why are you here? Don't you have a date to be on?"

"Number One: what Raye wants doesn't matter right now. You're more important; Number Two: there is no date with Raye. I called it off; told her I didn't want to see her for a long time and that I imagined neither did you. I don't want to date someone who will turn on their friends as easily as she did you."

Serena looked away. "I never thought she'd resort to doing something like that. Though, I seem to recall…" She frowned briefly; searching for that elusive thing that had gotten hold of her brain only to discover it had fled.

"Mind if I tell you a story?" When he looked sidewise at her and she gave no indication towards a negative response, he continued. "Several years ago, more than a decade, actually, a recently orphaned little boy sat on his hospital bed, crying. Why was he crying, you ask? He was crying because his parents had left him all alone, and he had no one. He had made one friend in the weeks he had been there, but that day was the day his friend had to leave. He was wondering if it was his destiny to be alone when a little blonde cherub with a heart bigger than the ocean wandered into his room, drawn by the sound of his crying. She told him not to cry, that it was a happy day because she was a new big sister and she was going to visit her new baby brother for the first time. In her tiny hands, she clutched a small bouquet of roses, and plucked one out of the bunch and gave it to him as a gesture of friendship.

"Sadly, though he first accepted and welcomed her friendship, he later threw it back in her face when he started getting delusions that he didn't need anybody. He was wrong, by the way. And, he is now wondering if her offer is still open. Or if it's been rescinded thanks to his enormous stupidity." He peered fearfully down at the angel who had saved his sanity, hoping that he hadn't gone and laid bare his heart just so she could trample all over it.

Serena smiled softly, her eyes refilling anew. "I never took it back. Why do you think I've been haunting you all these years? When you shoved aside traditional methods, I had to find some way to get through to your stubborn brain. I've always been your friend, Darien. Even when you thought I wasn't." She hadn't even thought he remembered that meeting.

Darien slumped forward in relief and summoned a rose identical to the one she had originally given him and passed it to her.

Her too perceptive gaze caught on the flower that had appeared out of nowhere and her eyes flew to meet his, surprise in every flicker. There was something knowing about her as well, and familiar, but he couldn't place his finger on it. Then she nodded and brought the beautiful bloom to her face and inhaled deeply, taking in its heady fragrance. They sat in companionable silence for a few minutes, simply enjoying the view and their fair solitude when Serena's natural curiosity couldn't wait any longer.

"So, since we're friends again, I wanted to ask you something," she started.

"You want to know why."

"Yes, please."

Her soft entreaty would have him tell her nothing but the absolute truth. "That's a rather complex question, with an equally complex answer. There isn't just one answer, nor is there many. It's hard to explain."


"I could say that I spent all that time bugging you because you look so cute when you're mad, and it would be true. Or that it's because you're so full of sunshine, and light, and love that anybody would do anything just to hold your attention for a moment, just to know how it feels to be loved so unconditionally. Even somebody who spent so much time trying to convince himself that he didn't need it, found himself doing anything to get your attention, just so he could bask in that warm glow. But, you wanted to know the real reason, didn't you?" She nodded slowly. "It's just… I remember, back in elementary school when you'd go home so proud that you'd gotten another "A". And then, your grades started dropping, you got klutzier every day, and the ditz routine got better. I mean, Serena, you're smart. I know you are. And, it made me so angry to see you wasting it all away while you pined after rhinestone jewellery instead of your next "A". You have so much potential to do something, to be somebody, with all the love that you radiate. And it's been just withering away while you tried to convince the world and yourself that you could never do better than a "D"."

"Let me get this straight: you've been ragging on me for all this time, just because you thought I was wasting away any potential I might have had?" Her expressive eyes showed her doubt clearly.

"When you put it that way, yes, I guess so. But, it was all faked, wasn't it?"

"What makes you say that?" Serena looked a tiny bit nervous.

"I saw you at the library with Amy."

"So? Amy's smart, she insisted on tutoring me in a futile attempt to get my grades back up. There's nothing wrong with studying in the library."

"Maybe not, but it sure looks suspicious when a pair of fifteen-year-olds are hanging out in the university library reading Advanced Calculus textbooks," -- Serena paled -- "especially when one of those girls is a renowned air-head who could never hope to do better than pass in school."

"It's sixteen, now, actually, but that's beside the point." Serena's eyes closed as she silently composed what she was about to say next. "It wasn't all a lie. The grades, I'm sorry to say, were true. But, about a year and a half ago, I went shopping with Amy and got a peek at the Advanced Physics books that she was buying. Though the stuff boggled my mind at the time, the more I thought about it, the more I actually understood what was written there. So, I asked Amy about it. She composed a series of tests, and when I actually passed them all, she insisted that I take correspondence courses at the high school. I secretly earned my diploma, and then Amy got me involved at the university. I'm currently majoring in Computer Engineering and Software Design," she confessed. She peeked up at him and grinned at the stunned expression on his face. "Surprise?"

"Wow, Serena, just… Wow. I solemnly swear that I will never poke fun at your intelligence or grades ever again," he intoned, holding up his right hand as if he was on trial. Then he pointed his index finger at her, "Your hair, however, is fair game."

She shrugged easily. "Fair enough."

"Forgive me?" he asked after a short interval.

"For what?"

"For all the times I belittled you, insulted you, made you cry, and did it all with a smile on my face." The past few years around her had not been some of his finer moments and he was deeply ashamed of how he'd treated her when all she'd done to deserve it was offer him an unconditional friendship.

"I always forgave you," she murmured. "Even when I was spitting mad at you, I forgave you. And, I am telling you here and now, that all is forgiven. You're my friend; practically my older brother, and friends shouldn't hold grudges."

Darien found himself in awe of her super-human sized heart. "So," he said somewhat teasingly, nudging her shoulder with his own, "when are you going to forgive Raye for what she said?"

She chuckled up at him. "Truth?" He nodded. "I already have. I just may let her grovel for a week or so before I let her know. This is an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, after all."

"True. You're never given many opportunities to see a very proud person beg, do you?"

"Of course not. Which is why I'm planning on milking this for all it's worth." Darien laughed, picturing all the things Serena would make Raye do to earn her forgiveness. Serena soon joined in, plotting revenge and wondering if she could possibly enlist his help.