Chapter 3

'unsolved puzzle'

Darien smirked slightly upon seeing Ami bustling around the small cooking area when he entered the kitchen/dining room later that day. He figured that since he already had the layout of the ship in his head he might as well begin investigating the mystery that seemed to be the Ice Chamber as a whole. All his life Darien had never before been able to leave an unsolved puzzle. And it looked like he'd just stumbled onto a great a puzzle. He would most certainly be having fun with this considering how some of the crew members had been regarding him since the moment he stepped onboard. "Hello Ami," Darien said jovially. "What are you up to there?"

"Eek!" Ami jumped when she heard the voice behind her. Luckily she hadn't picked up the pot of boiling water yet. "Don't sneak up on people like that," Ami admonished him, looking slightly distressed, when she realized who it was.

"Sorry." Darien sat down at the table and smiled charmingly. "So as I was saying what are you doing?"

"Oh I'm just starting to get lunch ready."

"Right of course. Do you mind if I sit here and chat with you while you do? I felt like a bit of conversation."

Ami smiled over her shoulder at him. "That's fine with me. What do you want to talk about?"

Darien smirked when Ami once more faced her cutting board. Despite the smirk spread across his face Darien said pleasantly and a little curiously, "How about you tell me how you ended up on this ship."

He saw Ami's back stiffen before she obviously forced herself to remain calm and relaxed. "Yeah okay. I'll warn you though my story isn't very interesting," Ami replied keeping her back turned to Darien. "Essentially I'm here because Serena and Shingo are."

Darien raised an eyebrow at that but didn't interrupt the blue-haired girl. "When we were younger I used to live with my mum next door to the Tsukinos. Serena was my best friend. Three years ago Kenji and Ikuko Tsukino were accused of Sedition. And of course when it comes to Sedition the police don't demand proof. Just an accusation then you can burn someone. After the execution Serena and Shingo completely disappeared. I had no idea where they had gone. About a year ago I heard from a friend that they were working on this ship and so I left home, found the ship, offered my services as a medic and voila! Here I am."

Ami plastered on a grin as she dropped the food into the water and turned around to face Darien. So she'd omitted a few things but she hadn't totally lied. After glancing quickly to make sure the soup wouldn't cook too quickly, Ami sat down across from Darien the bright grin still stretched across her face.

Darien watched the girl before him while thinking. One piece of information had captured his attention. "Their parents were burned for Sedition? Did Serena witness the execution?" he asked. 'Because if she did,' he continued privately, 'a traumatic event such as that could explain at least why she refuses to speak to anyone but family.'

Ami immediately became even more cautious. "Why do you want to know?"

"I was just thinking that if she had watched both her mother and her father being burned to death at the stake it might explain why she wouldn't want to speak to people. And I personally I wouldn't blame her for it either."

Ami nodded carefully, keeping in mind that the man before her was not to be trusted. "Yes both she and Shingo were there to see the execution."

At that moment the tea kettle, which Darien only just noticed was sitting next to the soup pot, boiled letting off a sharp whistle. Ami jumped up to turn it off and what only seemed to be five seconds later Serena skipped through the door grinning ecstatically. It was the first time all morning that Darien had seen her without a blank expression and he was awed by the change that had come over Serena. Her already bright blue eyes were even brighter and sparkling with mischief and her smile… her smile was amazing. He shook himself out of the slight reverie he realised he'd slipped into as Serena bounced over to the table and dropped into the chair beside him without even considering any of the other ones.

Serena had just grabbed a piece of paper and was drawing something when Mina strolled in. She narrowed her eyes upon seeing that Serena was seated next to Darien. She sat down across from Darien openly glaring at him. Not moving her gaze she growled, "Serena why don't you come sit next to me?"

Serena looked up at her cousin when she heard the command disguised as a question. She glanced at Darien out of the corner of her eye before shaking her head at Mina, indicating no, and returning to her drawing. Darien raised an eyebrow at this while Mina unattractively gaped at Serena. When she overcame her shock she glared at Darien once more, even more heatedly.

"You don't like me much do you?" Darien asked while smiling winningly.

Mina's scowl deepened from having him smile at her. "No," she answered shortly. "I don't."

Darien raised a mocking eyebrow before realising that Serena had finished her drawing and was simply sitting quietly and watching Mina. "Can I see what you drew Serena?" he asked. Both he and Mina were surprised when Serena turned her head. Her blue eyes looked at him speculatively before she nodded and pushed the small bit of paper over to him.

He looked down at the drawing and stared at in shock. He was looking at a girl but it was who the girl was that shocked him. Yes she had been drawn like an anime character and yes she was wearing some strange tight-bodiced, mini-skirted version of a Terran sailor suit, but she was also unmistakably Rei Hino. Darien glanced at the words written above the figure and read: Raven hair, ruby lips, sparks fly from her fingertips. He blinked and read it again. Sparks meant fire. He couldn't understand how Serena could have possibly ever known what Rei looked like or that she could conjure fire. And why did Serena agree to let him look at it? Did Serena somehow know that he knew Rei?

Darien dropped the drawing back on the table and met Serena's eyes. There was one thing repeating in his mind. Who the hell was Serena Tsukino?

Someone cleared their throat and Darien dragged his eyes away from the mystery beside him. He discovered that while he had been staring at the drawing and then Serena, Kunzite and Shingo had arrived, Ami had finished cooking and now they were all watching him as Serena began to consume her food faster than he had ever seen anyone eat. Mina raised an eyebrow at Darien in mockery of the one he had previously raised at her. "Something wrong Hino?" she asked. "This drawing seems to have you spooked." Mina held up the sketch of Rei to further her point.

Darien hadn't completely recovered from his shock and so blurted out, "My cousin. She drew my cousin."

"Sailor Mars," a willowy voice whispered so softly Darien almost didn't hear it. He jerked his head around to look at Serena but for all appearances it seemed that she hadn't made a sound being too busy with her soup. A glance around the table confirmed the suspicion that he had been the only one to hear what Serena had whispered.

'Sailor Mars?' Darien thought confused. 'What is that supposed to mean? It makes about as much sense as the name Tuxedo Mask does.' Darien frowned and ate his soup as quickly as possible. The minute he finished he stood and placed his bowl in the sink as he said, "Thanks for that Ami. It was delicious."

"No problem at all Darien," Ami replied faintly.

Before leaving the room Darien walked back to the table and picked up the drawing. "Serena can I keep this?" he asked.

Serena glanced up from her second bowl of soup, first glancing at the paper in Darien's hand then at him. She smiled as she again nodded an affirmative. Darien sent back a small though genuine smile then left the room.

After the door slid shut behind him, he ducked into the corner next to the door in hopes of hearing anything they might have to say about him. "Serena why do you speak to and respond to Darien Hino?" asked Shingo.

"Because he's Tuxedo Mask," Serena replied, as if that should answer everything.

"Listen to me Serena," Mina began seriously. "I don't want you to have anything to do with Hino. He's dangerous, can you understand that? I'm telling you not to go near him okay?"

Darien cautiously peeked through the glass in the door to find that both blonde women were frowning at each other. "No it's not okay," Serena said, still frowning at her cousin. "You are neither my mother nor my father Mina Aino therefore giving you no right to tell me what I can and can't do. And also let's not forget the fact that I'm eighteen which makes me a legal adult. Even if my parents were still alive they also would not be able to tell me what to do since I am of legal age. So if I want to spend time with him I will. If I want to talk to him I will. And you my dear Mina can do nothing about it." With that Serena pushed herself away from the table and stormed through the door and down the hallway.

Darien considered going after her but decided it might be better to just let her calm down. Instead he remained in his hiding spot to listen to how the others reacted to Serena's outburst. The four people still seated at the table were all shocked. Though looking closer Darien thought that Shingo didn't seem to be completely stunned like the other three. Shingo just a looked a little surprised and… happy? Why would the boy be happy when his sister just got as angry as she did, Darien wondered.

"I… I haven't heard Serena speak that… decidedly and angrily and well… rationally in the past year at all," Mina stuttered.

"Well what did you really expect Mina?" Shingo asked. "Serena might be a little different-"

"Just a little?" Ami cut in sarcastically.

"Alright so she's a lot different from how she used to be," amended Shingo, "but even back then Serena hated to be told what to do. You know she only ever obeyed Mum's command to clean her because otherwise she'd be sleeping in a pigsty and because she knew Mum would ground her if she didn't."

"This is a bit bigger than just refusing to clean her bedroom Shingo," Mina replied.

Shingo rolled his eyes, angered by Mina's condescending tone. "Don't speak to me like I'm an idiot because I'm not one. I was simply saying that you tried to force Serena to something she didn't want to do. I thought you knew by now that being stubborn and headstrong runs in the Tsukino family since you've been one for twenty years. You really should've seen Serena's reaction coming from a mile away."

Darien felt a stirring of respect for Shingo seeing him stand up to his domineering cousin. He focused again as he heard Shingo continue. "Besides I can't say I'm sorry to see Serena exhibiting some of her old traits. I know you think he's dangerous Mina and I know you don't trust him, truthfully I don't completely trust the man either. But that doesn't change the fact that since he came onboard this morning Serena has been showing more of her old self. If Hino somehow prompts her to act like herself again then I have to say I'm somewhat grateful to him. Serena has been through enough in the last few years to last a lifetime. She deserves the chance to be a normal girl again."

Darien silently and quickly moved away down the hall when he realised that Shingo had stood up and was moving towards the door. The whole meal in general had been enlightening but at the same time had made the puzzle even more complex. It seemed like Serena was even more of a mystery than he had originally thought. As he was nearing his cabin, Darien stumbled upon Serena again writing on the wall. Realising that he had never actually thanked her for giving him the drawing of "Sailor Mars" he stepped behind her. "Thank you for the sketch," Darien said warmly.

He didn't receive a verbal reply and really he hadn't been expecting one. But before he left he glanced quickly over her head at what Serena was writing at that very moment. What he read left a small grin on his face as Darien finished walking to his cabin.

You're welcome.