Author's Notes: Well, I just couldn't help myself. Here's the next chapter of Who Needs the World .
Disclaimer: I'm only borrowing them for a little while. I promise, Takeuchi-sama, they won't be hurt... Much grin
The next afternoon, Andrew was again standing behind the counter, when two of his favorite people walked in. He'd been watching the doors when, surprise, surprise, Serena ran headlong into Darien right outside them.
Darien pried her away from him with his usual calm and couldn't help the words that flew out of his mouth the next second. "Odango Head-ed Klutz."
She glowered fiercely at him and stalked in through the now open doors, letting a "Stupid Jerk" out over her shoulder. Her magnificently haughty exit would have been perfect had it not been for the fact that her feet somehow got tangled together and she went flying forward on a perfect crash course with the floor. Her soft cry of surprise was abruptly cut short when hard arms wrapped around her from behind, hauling her up against a chest that felt like it had been carved out of marble. "Thanks, Creep," she mumbled, head down, her feet still dangling several inches above the floor.
"No problem, Odango," he responded, slowly letting her down. When her feet touched the floor, he wrapped a hand around her elbow and escorted her to the counter. "How'd your exam go?"
"I don't think I failed, if that's what you're asking," Serena replied, with a slight glare. "You?"
"Same." Without warning, their glares vanished, and they smiled brilliantly at each other.
"By the way, I -..." Serena shook her head slightly and started over. "My cousin was wondering if you had your answer yet."
Darien drew in a slow breath and let it out with the same lack of haste. "I do. Do you know a convenient time to see her and tell her in person?"
"Drop by the apartment around 6-ish, she'll be there."
"Sounds good." Darien rose with a wave for Andrew and a light touch on Serena's shoulder. "See you around, Odango."
"My name is "Ser-ee-na"!" she shouted after him.
"Whatever, Odango." With that, he was gone, and Serena faced the counter, and Andrew's inquisitive look, with a slightly smug expression on her face.
"What?" she asked defensively. She checked her clothes discreetly, making sure she hadn't spilled anything, and returned Andrew's look suspiciously.
"Since when do you guys actually get along?" Andrew queried, having been nastily transported to the bizarre scene of the day before.
Serena grinned. Was that it? She waved a hand indifferently as she slid off the stool. "Oh, ages," she answered as nonchalantly as she could. "If Amy drops by, could you send her to my place? I was supposed to meet her here, but I forgot something at home."
Andrew noted the sad look that came into her eyes when she said "home", but nodded agreeably. "Sure, Sere, no problem."
Serena shrugged off the despair that had settled on her shoulders and smiled warmly back at Andrew as she left. Earlier that year, she'd been orphaned when a drunk driver running a red light had struck the car her parents and brother had been travelling in. With the St. Artemises already in place, all it took was a little hacking to make Luna St. Artemis a distant aunt and her new guardian. Judicious use of the Luna Pen had allowed Luna the cat to take a human form for the lawyers and Social Workers. Only Amy knew the truth about Luna; Raye and Lita both believed that Serena's new aunt was simply away on business a lot.
She was headed for her apartment when a distinct beeping sounded from her sub-space pocket. She groaned, she had a lengthy paper due early the next week and needed to get started on it, but dug the communicator out and flipped it open. "Where?"
Amy's worried face blinked up at her. "The university campus." Serena blanched. Finals weren't over yet, and more than a few die-hards stuck around campus 24/7, taking advantage of the extended library hours. While they were undoubtedly tired, the caffeine and adrenaline in the students' systems would be like a super-high for an intrepid monster.
"Fabulous." Serena ducked into an alley and transformed, then headed for the campus at top speed. She was pleasantly surprised when she looked over her shoulder and spotted Tuxedo Mask a couple of rooftops away. She slowed down enough for him to catch up, and then they raced together, matching each other pace for pace. "In case you're wondering, it's the campus," she offered.
Beneath his snow-white half-mask, Sailor Moon was pretty sure she saw him pale, and then he picked up the pace a little. She matched him easily, her daily break-neck races to school having long-since given her the stamina to survive a cross-town run.
They arrived together, and surveyed the scene. Despite the time of day, the monster had only managed to get hold of a dozen or so students and seemed to be on the prowl for more. Further searching revealed Sailor Mercury huddled behind a tree, frantically typing into her mini-computer. Sailor Moon saw an opening and had her tiara charged and ready to charbroil when the dratted monster spotted her and her Tuxie – whoops, Tuxedo Mask – and attacked.
"Slimer!" it squealed, coughing up something that was a truly disgusting grey shade and hurling it in their direction. Sailor Moon shrieked in surprise, as she was perched on the edge of one of the university buildings and her balance was already precarious, and frantically looked for a direction to go other than down. Tuxedo Mask made up her mind for her, and he swept her into his arms, and carried her down to ground level; which was a vast improvement to plummeting down.
"Try again?" Tuxedo Mask suggested, slowly withdrawing his arms. To be honest, whenever she dusted a monster without needing him, he had begun to feel a little left out, as he relished carting her off to a safe spot more than he cared to admit.
"Mercury, can you freeze it?" Sailor Moon called in exasperation when they had to duck another potential sliming.
"Mercury Bubbles... Freeze!" was the response from her friend and Sailor Moon couldn't help a jeering laugh when it stopped in mid-slime.
"Oh, yeah! Suck Moon Wand!" She shouted out the activation words and winced a little when she put a little too much power through the thing and it singed her fingertips a little. "Ah, little too much juice, I think," she muttered, dropping the Wand back into her sub-space pocket.
"All right, Sailor Moon?"
She smiled up at her handsome savior. "Peachy. How about you, Mercury?" she asked as the blue-suited Scout stepped forward.
"I'm fine, thanks, Sailor Moon."
"In that case, I think I'll take my leave. Ladies." To her intense surprise, Tuxedo Mask leaned forward and gently bussed her temple with his lips before taking to the rooftops.
Sailor Moon looked at Sailor Mercury and exchanged bemused glances. "Don't look at me, I don't know."
Sailor Mercury's face took on a mildly amused expression. "I didn't say you did." Together, they took off in the same direction Tuxedo Mask had moments before.
Darien knocked a little nervously on the door leading to Serenity St. Artemis' apartment. Convulsively, he straightened his clothes yet again, fixed his hair (which he continually ruined by raking his fingers through it), and waited for her to answer.
The door opened a bit, revealing Serenity dressed in loose drawstring pants and a tight-fitting tank top and sneakers. "Hi, Darien. Come on in." The door opened further, and he entered, eyes following the movement of her hips as she walked away from him. "So, you have an answer?"
"Yes. I, uh, I'd love to join you and Serenity Lunar Gaming. I only hope I prove worthy of the trust you're planning to place in me."
Serenity chuckled. "I don't think we're going to have a problem there."
He pulled the contract out from behind his back and handed it to her. "I, uh, took the liberty of filling it out."
"Thanks. I'm having an informal meeting here tomorrow morning at eleven, so I can officially introduce you to the co-brain behind this little operation. Think you can make it?"
It would probably mean missing his daily run-in with Serena, but he nodded. "Sure."
She grinned. "Great. We'll see you at 11."
Taking that as his cue to leave, Darien headed for the door. "Good night, Miss St. Artemis."
"None of that, please. Serenity works, or Sere." Politely, she saw him out the door, and then collapsed against it the second it was closed, releasing the glamour and breathing hard. The man was too good-looking for his own good, even when he didn't try. She was going to have a hard time of it keeping her hands off him when they had to work so closely together.
Darien leaned heavily against the back wall of the elevator the moment the doors closed, trying to calm his heart. If the woman looked that edible all the time, she'd have cause to have him charged with sexual harassment.
Early the next morning saw Serena putting breakfast together when Amy arrived, looking as fresh at 8 a.m. as she did at three. "Morning People," Serena grumbled, using the description as a vile epithet, when she got a good look at her friend. Amy, used to the complaint, giggled merrily and set about helping.
"Ames, do you think I made the right decision?"
"In Darien?" At Serena's nod, Amy went on. "I have to admit, I was a little skeptical at first, but, yes, I do think you made the right decision in him. If something happens to us, Heaven forbid, he'll be more than capable of taking up the reins."
Serena was of the sneaking suspicion that something would get Darien first before it got them, but kept it to herself.After cleaning up their breakfast, the two quickly immersed themselves in the work that came with operating a multi-million dollar business. So, when the doorbell chimed, they were wholly unprepared and Serena swiftly cast the glamour that would help conceal Amy's identity and her own.
Serena, as Serenity, opened the door, and gestured her handsome visitor in. "Darien, nice to see you. This is my partner-in-crime, Amelia. Amelia, I'm sure you know Darien Shields."
Once the introductions were done, the girls set themselves about trying to show Darien the business without any of the hands-on work. "For the first month or so, depending on how fast you learn, I'm going to have you acting as Amelia's assistant. She handles a lot of the day-to-day stuff, which, as I'm sure you know, is how you really get a handle on things."
"A lot of the actual work can be handled from home," "Amelia" added. "To help, we'll set you up with a basic home office system, so you're never out of touch." She held up a small black calculator and pointed to the two buttons that actually had something printed on them. "This is a communicator; the moon will get you Serenity, and if you press the other symbol you'll get me. If you need to talk to both of us, this little button here on the other end will be a sort of conference call." Darien nodded and took it
"While we don't expect you to be on call twenty-four hours a day, we will need you to be available when we need you," Serenity added.
"If it's all right, I'll follow you home afterwards to see what computer equipment needs updating or adding for our purposes."
The afternoon continued in the same manner as Serena and Amy crammed as much information into his receptive brain as they could manage.
That night, Serena was roused out of a very pleasant dream by a familiar beeping and she groaned, punching her pillow. "Damn, just when it was getting to the good parts." Sighing, she slid out of her comfortable bed, dislodging Luna in the process, and groped on her nightstand for her brooch. "Here we go again, Luna. Moon Prism Power!" The transformation swept over her and brought a surge of energy with it. She scooped the cat up in her arms and took a running leap off the balcony, taking perverse pleasure in hearing the often-irritating feline yowl with fright.
Sailor Moon's laughter echoed through the night.
Abruptly, she was made aware of company and glanced over to her left to find Sailor Mercury. Still not satisfied, a look to her right revealed the lean form of her – scratch that, not hers -- Tuxedo Mask.
"Sailor Moon, Sailor Mercury," he acknowledged with a nod of his head.
"Tuxedo Mask," they replied just as civilly.
"Where are we heading tonight, ladies?"
Sailor Moon shrugged. "Beats me; I just fight the things. Mercury?"
Mercury checked her little computer and groaned. "The university campus again."
Twin groans answered her announcement. "Not again."
When they arrived, Jupiter and Mars were already on the scene trading blows with a monster that looked like a clown.
Except when its mouth opened and they saw dozens razor-sharp teeth inside. Sailor Moon was rudely reminded of a shark when it did that. And that was before she discovered that they detached and shot straight at her like hundreds of knives. Luckily for her (and her dignity since she was about to fall flat on her face), Tuxedo Mask swept in and carted her off.
Jupiter sent a burst of lightning at it and then stomped in frustration when it dodged. Her frustration quickly turned into alarm when the teeth got shot in her direction.
"Mars Fire Ignite!" The burst of flame didn't incinerate them as Mars had evidently hoped it would, and instead turned them into burning hot skewers of death. "Run!" she shrieked at Jupiter.
"Mercury Bubbles Freeze!" The monster comically halted and they could see its eyes and mouth moving to no effect.
"Nice going, Mercury!" Sailor Moon cheered.
"You want to try dusting it now, Sailor Moon-Brain?" Mars demanded.
Sailor Moon huffed crossly and refused to dignify that with a response, all the while unwilling to give up the comfort and protection Tuxedo Mask offered. Her tiara came off her forehead and charged up almost without her thinking about it and she was just aiming it when the monster broke free. The tiara found its home back on her forehead and she screamed even as Tuxedo Mask carried her away to safety once more, this time to a rather high tree branch. "Thanks."
"Don't mention it." His arm stayed around her waist and she relished the contact even as she knew Raye was going to be fuming with jealousy. "Once more?"
She made a frustrated sound and pulled out her Moon Wand, aiming very carefully, and shouted – more like bellowed, actually, "Moon Healing Activation!"
The monster disintegrated and Sailor Moon cheered again. Before she could start her victory dance, however, bad news in the form of Zoicite showed up. Her absolutely bloody irritating laughter reached their ears first and then they all saw the cloud of pink petals that signaled her appearance. Sailor Moon moaned her disapproval and plunked herself down on the branch. "Here we go again," she muttered as Beryl's "General" appeared.
"Hello, Sailor Brats," Zoicite greeted cheerfully. It wasn't so much the fact that she was in such a good mood that worried the Scouts, it was the fact that she was so unconcerned over the loss of yet another of the Negaverse's monsters. They looked at each other and the same thing passed through their minds: "Right, this is a trap."
"Hey, Zoicite!" Sailor Moon finally called, gaining their thorn's attention. "Why don't you make like a tree and leaf?" She heard muffled groans below her, and a hastily stifled snicker from her protector in response.
"I think I'll pass, thanks," the General replied, preparing a dark ball of energy.
"Jupiter Thunder…!""Mars Fire…!"
"Crash!" "Ignite!" The two attacks merged and the result was a lovely short-circuited effect as Zoicite lost her control on the dark energy and got electrified and barbequed at the same time. The Scouts laughed as she pranced around, trying to put out the fire on her uniform, and Mercury decided it would be a good time to help. "Mercury Bubbles Freeze!" Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask jumped down from their perch to get a better view. And were they glad they had.
The girls were nearly rolling around on the ground with laughter as they watched Zoicite's fire be put out and a thick layer of ice being formed around her in quick succession.
"Right, my turn!" Sailor Moon quickly powered her tiara up. "Moon Tiara Magic!"
Zoicite broke free at that instant and hurled far too many ice spikes at Sailor Moon. The charged tiara melted the ones it passed through but that only left a little void in the center of the icy screen of death. Zoicite didn't stick around to find out if it had had any effect and vanished, once more in that swirl of pink petals.
Sailor Moon briefly considered jumping to the side and realized that the ice spears were spread far enough apart that any dodging effort on her part would only mean more places to get skewered. "This is gonna hurt," she whimpered, closing her eyes and drawing into as tight a ball as she could manage. She felt Tuxedo Mask's presence at her side and the warmth of his arm around her shoulder, along with the sheltering protection of his cape as he drew it around them both. "Nice knowing you, Tuxedo Mask."
"Likewise, Sailor Moon." Even as he spoke, her Star Locket fell on the ground between them and, opening, started to play. The heroes looked at it, then at each other, and were suddenly surrounded by a light so white and pure it was blinding to look at.
When it faded, the ice was gone and they were still kneeling on the ground, staring at each other. Even as the other Scouts rushed forward to check on them, Tuxedo Mask leaned towards Sailor Moon and brushed a butterfly kiss across her lips. "See you around, Sailor Moon."
And then he was simply gone.
Sailor Moon looked up to find Sailor Mars glowering at her. "What the hell was that?" the fiery guardian demanded.
Sailor Moon stood up and powered down. "I don't know," she replied with a glance at Amy. "He's been acting a kinda strange for a few weeks now." Ever since she'd patched things up with Darien, as a matter of fact. She pushed the notion out of her brain as being far too bizarre and set off for home.
Well, that's it for now! Review please, and I'll consider putting up another chapter!