Despair. Loneliness. Inadequacy. Failure. Rejection. My life, ina nutshell folks. That's right, I'm the one that hit the ground running, and tripped over my own feet. Ever feel like the world is perfect, but you're not? Everyone else can achieve this happy state of mind, and you're stuck feeling like you're just, there….existing. You feel like you are the only one who knows you, and that nothing, nothingcould save you from your disgustingly mediocre life. I'm not lying.There was nothing wrong with my life. There was just nothing right init. People are just so obscenely ignorant to your pain, because you'rethis easy going person who "was just so passionate". To this day, I don't know why I was so distraught, andaggravated. I guess it was a whole bunch of things, compiling togetherto form this massive entanglement of minor problems that continuallypersisted. The only thing I do know is that I was saved. Partly by myself, partly not, but I found my strength in the most unlikely placeyou could think of; someone else's heart. This is my story.

It was a rather dark day in September. The wind howled with a ferocity that had seldom been matched in days prior. The sky wasn't the only thing that was dark, however. Serena McGinnis felt just as dark at this exact moment. She sat gloomily in her math class, trying to ignore the apocalyptic feeling that washed over her as her teacher handed back the other days assignment. It was placed on her desk rather brusquely, upside down. Timidly, she turned over the sheet, not really knowing if she wanted to be doing this. Red circles abundantly covered her paper, this was not looking good.

And there it was. At the top in large red numbers was her score. 5/10. Fifty percent. FIFTY PERCENT? What was her problem? Serena used to be so good at math. Now it was like there was always something on her homework that was out of wack. She knew for a fact that she was smarter than many of the students in her class. But why was she pulling these low scores then?

Frustrated, Serena let her head fall to her hands. This situation had a nasty habit of repeating itself. For the remainder of the class period, nothing the teacher said infiltrated her head. This further made the situation worse, because she didn't learn the new material nearly as thoroughly as she could have, had she been able to bring herself to pay attention to the lecture.

The bell rang a short while later and she exited the classroom, her head spinning. She rounded the corner to go to her locker, and was surprised to see an unfamiliar piece of paper tacked to the outside of her door. As she neared, she could tell that it was an envelope. Serena ripped it off the door. The outside of it read, "McGinnis". She opened it, and found a hand written note inside.

McGinnis-

After reviewing the steady decline in your grades recently, I felt complied to ask you if you would be interested in tutoring sessions several days a week after school. The tutor would most likely be a fellow student. These meetings would undoubtedly be kept confidential. Please contact me tomorrow morning about your decision, for the sessions could start as early as tomorrow after school.

Mr. Roudron

Serena read it quickly, and immediately regretted it. This was almost completely out of the question. She had too much pride to think that she could ever possibly need to be tutored. She had never had a problem in her life, why was this starting now? What in the hell was she supposed to do?

She stuffed the note haphazardly into her backpack, and left the building at a fast walk. Serena knew that she was supposed to meet some friends after school for a milkshake, but she couldn't bring herself to have a good time right now. She needed to be alone, to think. Punching Mina's number into her cell phone, she quickly was greeted by her cheery voice.

"Serena Kay where ARE you! I thought we were meeting outside of the south entrance and walking together! Do you want to just meet there? That'd be totally fine, the rest of the girls are with me I'm sure the-"

"Mina, I'm not going, I'm really sorry," She interrupted. It sounded bad even to her, but Serena had long since given up on using excuses to get out of doing things with people. If she didn't want to go, or suddenly didn't feel up to it, she said so. It was the fair and honest truth, even if it sounded a bit rude.

"You're not?" Mina asked, a bit bewildered. Serena sighed.

"Look, something came up; tell the guys I'm really sorry. I'll be online or something later, I just need to do something for my math class," It was generally true.

"Alright, well…..listen, I'll talk to you about it tomorrow morning okay? Doesn't sound like a simple homework assignment, you wouldn't cancel on us for that." Serena smiled slightly. Mina knew her pretty darn well.

"Sure. Seeya later, Mins."

"Yep, bye."

Her phone clicked shut, and she pocketed it. It felt good to have that off her chest. She had no work tonight, no homework, nothing to do. That was how she needed it to be. She came up on her house in the next 5 or 10 minutes. She walked around the cement driveway to the cement patio, and entered through the back screen door, placing her in the kitchen of the McGinnis family.

Her mother was obviously downstairs, for she could hear a number of harsh clanking sounds and buzzes coming from the laundry room. She shouted a hello, not really knowing if she could hear her. With that, she took the steps to the upper level two at a time, and was in her room with the door shut with record speed. Her canvas pack fell to the floor with a heavy thud, and Serena rolled her shoulders around while rummaging through a stack of CD's. She wanted something that suited her mood, and with a glance outside at the dark grey sky, decided that bleak and heavy was the way to go.

Collapsing on her bed from mental exhaustion, she let herself drift while contemplating the newly formed situation. Hours later, Serena sat on her window seat, the windows wide open, allowing the cold, biting air to blow freely inside. The night had gone by surprisingly fast. It was amazing how something like this could affect her entire mood. She felt incredibly depressed, yet nothing was really wrong. Sure there was the occasional problem with her friends not understanding, or her job annoying her for no apparent reason, but that couldn't be enough to make her feel like this. She felt like one of those melodramatic people who acted like their life was the worst it could ever be. Yet, Serena Kay could not, for the life of her, break herself from this feeling of despair, emptiness, and inadequacy. The fact that this was bothering her was even more annoying than the problem itself.

A part of Serena knew what was missing, what had caused this. How she could let one person have such a hold over her, she didn't know. She also didn't know how to fix it, or whether she should fix it. Her eyes burned as she stared out at the stars, looking for guidance. He was her one, her only. He was her love, and now her friend. Or rather,she was his. Stupidly enough, she had once loved him. At least, she thought she had. Ex boyfriends did not make good friends.

Her aggravation suddenly exploded in a fit, and she stood on her window seat, screaming out the open window into the night. She sobbed hysterically, sliding down the wall, not trying to fight back. She didn't know how long it was before she fell asleep.

Serena made the decision that night, in her dreams. When she awoke the next morning, she knew instantaneously what she was going to do. She hadn't even thought about it, weighed out the options, or asked for an opinion. She just knew. She also decided, naturally, that she was going to sleep in that morning, for she needed it. Clambering out of bed with only 10 minutes before she had to leave the house, was most definitely, the right decision. Somehow, she managed to dress, wash and dry, pack, and fix her hair in this timeframe. She even grabbed a granola bar on the way out the door. It was good, too, chocolate and some other flavor.

The walk to school went relatively quickly. She met up with Mina halfway there, who seemed intent on uncovering what Serena had been doing yesterday.

"What's going on?" She sounded curious more than anything.

"You know how my math grade hasn't been so hot?" Serena reminded her. Mina nodded, a crease forming in between her eyes.

"Well, I have decided that I'm going to get a tutor. I can't focus on my own, even if I understand it. I need someone there who can help me do that, I think. It was Roudron's idea….the schmo, but I am going to tell him this morning that it's a go," Mina had been oh-ing and yeah-ing through the whole thing, and now spoke.

"I don't know why you didn't do it sooner, with so much stuff you have going on, I'd have thought you would have cracked a long time ago."

"I didn't crack, Mina…besides, I don't have a lot of "stuff" going on," Serena defended. She didn't know why she thought that. Mina shrugged, and shook her head once.

"Seems like it to me, anyway. And by crack, I mean finally give in to having someone help you out. It's definitely not your style."

"As if I didn't know…"

"It's also not your style to need a tutor in the first place. My god Serena, if you need a tutor, I need my own institution."

"I don't know what my problem is," The two had entered the school, and were walking down the black and white tiled halls towards Roudron's classroom. Mina continued to gab until they reached the doorway. Serena motioned for her to stay outside. Mr. Roudron was sitting at his desk, grading a stack of papers with that dreaded red pen. Serena knocked on the open door, and he looked up.

"McGinnis, good-morning," he said curtly.

"Erm…yeah, you too. I came in here to talk to you about the uh…," Serena lost her voice, as she attempted to speak the word.

"I see you received my notice about the study sessions. Have you made a decision?"

"Yeah."

"You have?" he arched an eyebrow in a manner that made Serena a bit angry.

"Yes…I'd like to do it. I can't seem to learn the best from the classroom, no offense," She stated truthfully. She could hear the bustle of students outside, and prayed that one of them wouldn't walk in, or overhear this conversation.

"I see. Well, very good. I'd like you to meet your tutor in the Advanced Physics room after school this afternoon. Do you know where that is?" he asked in a manner that made Serena more than a bit angry.

"I had it last term," she replied through clenched teeth.

"Excellent," He smiled, a handsome, yet odd smile. Serena would guess that the guy was about 25 or so, new out of college, but he was just plain weird sometimes. Too bad he couldn't be like most young teachers, hip and exciting. That mockery he had hinted at didn't get him on her good side.

"I'll be there, then," she shot, with a bit more bite than intended. He merely raised his eyebrows quickly, the same strange hint of a smile playing at his face. With that, she turned and exited the room quickly.

"Okay, so I take back what I said earlier," Serena told Mina. They were walking to Serena's locker, at an unusually fast pace.

"About what?"

"Roudron isn't a schmo. He's a dick," Mina laughed, a bit surprised. She continued to tell Mina what he had said earlier while she unloaded her pack. Mina was amazed that a teacher would act thatway, and soon decided that Roudron was indeed, a dick. Serena also told Mina about after school, and she agreed to accompany her to the meeting room, at the very least.

"God, this sucks a lot!" Mina blurted out for the fourth time. She walked gloomily besides Serena, on the way to her tutor session. Mina had only just realized that with Serena busy after school, they would not be able to make their weekly trip to the arcade.

"Yeah I know…but hey, It's only a couple of days a week probably, Mins. Maybe we can go later this week, or over the weekend," she suggested. Mina scoffed, jokingly.

"I guess we don't really have any other options, huh?" She laughed. Serena smiled at this.

"Exactly, so stop it. And for the love of god why are they making us meet all the way over here!" Serena sighed, exasperated. Mina narrowed her eyes suspiciously.

"Hey, who exactly is this tutor anyway?"

"Didn't think to ask."

"Oh no?"

"Yeah. Why? Do you know who it is?" Serena laughed as her friend got that stupid expression on her face. Waaaait for it….

"Serena Kay are you ditching me for a MAN!" She burst out, flailing her arms wildly. There we go.

"No, I'm not ditching you for a MAN," she stressed, laughing ridiculously, despite herself. This always cracked her up.

"I think she is Mina, and I'll give you one guess who it is," an arrogant male voice suddenly cut into their dialogue. Serena really hoped it wasn't….

"Well, I guess you're at the bottom of the list, for obvious reasons. That's all that's important really," Mina bit back. And it was. Serena loathed this guy. He followed her everywhere, and always, always, turned up when Serena's love life was being discussed. Yes, if here was one person Serena McGinnis could not stand, Jake Bohan was it.

"Why don't you let Serena decide that," Jake smirked.

"I have, but you know, apparently the usual "Fuck off you son of a bitch" hasn't really been hitting it home, so I was thinking….why don't we hook up some time?" her sarcasm dripped off the words like butter on hot noodles.

"Really?" Jake asked. Serena couldn't tell if he was just stupid, or was ignoring her sarcasm.

"No," she stated simply. Mina guffawed, impressed.

"Shot down!" she whooped, and motioned for Serena to move along.

"We won't be seeing you," Serena said over her shoulder. He glared in her direction, before turning around.

"That was nice," Mina complimented.

"You weren't bad either," Serena pointed out. The pair continued to discuss how much they had thoroughly enjoyed pissing Jake off the rest of the way to the classroom. Serena stopped in front of the door, swallowing a bit nervously.

"Please don't let it be someone I know," she begged no one in particular. Mina turned the handle, and pushed Serena, who still had her fingers crossed ridiculously, through the open door. Serena didn't notice she was in the room until she heard a thunderous bang, which brought her back to her senses quickly. She turned to see what had happened, and realized Mina had dropped her textbook. She was staring fixedly, at something behind Serena. Serena turned again, and immediately knew what had caused Mina's mishap. There, in front of her, was a man. Not just any man, but a gorgeous man. Serena didn't usually fall easily for someone's looks, but God, help her aching heart now.

He was standing near the desk casually, in a pair of brown dress pants, and a long sleeved cream shirt. Dark midnight tendrils fell forward into two dangerously handsome oceanic blue eyes. Serena obviously hadn't touched his hair before, but she could tell it was like silk. His features were strong, and angled perfectly, and she would guess that he was a tick under six feet tall.

It was then that she heard a snort from behind her. It grew rapidly, and had soon converted into a hysterical fit of high-pitched squeals. Mina was laughing harder than she had ever heard her laugh. A tickle bubbled in her chest, and she could barely suppress her own laughs with a stupid smile that no doubt covered her face right now. Their words from earlier boomed in her head.

' Serena Kay, are you ditching me for a MAN! '

Whirling around, she picked up Mina's fallen textbook, and shoved it forcefully into her still laughing friend's arms. Mina didn't even seem to be aware of her surroundings, and Serena quickly pushed her out the door, slamming it behind her. She was almost afraid to turn around, but she did. The guy looked a bit taken aback by this, but who could blame him? She moved forward stupidly, planning on attempting an apology, but was instead interrupted before she started.

"You must be McGinnis," he said. Good lord, even his voice was hot. It was kind of husky, with a soft edge to it.

"Yeah…wait, god, didn't he tell you my first name?" Serena asked, growing angry.

"Roudron? Are you kidding?"

"Shouldn't have gotten my hopes up. I'm Serena, nice to meet you er…he didn't tell me your name, either."

"Hi Serena, I'm Darien," he extended a hand, and she took it, a bit timidly. She hoped her hands weren't clammy. His skin was soft, and the handshake warm. She flicked her bangs nervously with her other hand.

Darien motioned for her to sit in a pair of desks he had pushed together, and she complied, him taking the one next to her.

"So," he said, leaning forward in the desk, "math isn't your subject?" Serena narrowed her eyes, trying not to over analyze the question.

"Okay, I have something to tell you, before…before we start this whole thing," she said in a very business like manner. Darien eyed her with interest, smiling slightly. She continued.

"I am not stupid. I am a smart kid, honestly. I understand almost everything in the class," she expected him to be surprised by this, even confused perhaps. Serena was the one confused, however, when he nodded.

"I know."

"What?"

"I know."

"What?" Darien laughed, a warm laugh. It was a good laugh, and Serena was pleased to have made him do so. She liked making people laugh. And hey, if he was cute, kudos to her, even if it was unintentional.

"I know you're smart. I can tell. When I asked if it wasn't your subject, I was wondering if you liked it or not," Serena blinked.

"How do you know?" she arched a curious eyebrow.

"I just do. Trust me on that."

"I guess I will. And in answer to your question, I hate math. I'm sure you like it enough for the both of us, though," she sighed.

He raised his hands, shrugging. "There are worse things," he stated.

"Like Roudron," Serena laughed heartily at herself for a few minutes, Darien smiling. "The guy doesn't always teach people the best way, not really. I'd have to say, yeah, he's kind of a nut job," he agreed. "But then the problem at hand is what exactly?"

Serena glanced downwards, at the wooden grains in the desk. She could feel his eyes watching her. This was the other thing she hadn't really wanted to discuss.

"The homework part. It's like, I know how to do everything, but the stupid books throw in weird things from last year that I don't remember totally, or they word the questions funny. And I'm kind of unorganized and unmotivated."

"I see," Darien replied quietly. Serena got the distinct impression that that was not the type of answer he was looking for, but he pried no further on the subject.

"Well, I can help you with that. I can definitely help you on the homework, and refresh some of the topics that you may have forgotten. This isn't really a teaching session, but more of a study group. I like to think of it as I'm here if you need me, and you're here to help yourself stay on track."

Serena was appalled. This was definitely not the type of thing she had expected, but it was welcome. Maybe this wouldn't be totally humiliating after all.

"That sounds great, Darien," his name felt good to say, though she felt a bit awkward doing so. He smiled again, the corner of his mouth turning upwards.

"Good. Now how often are you able to meet?" he asked, pulling outa a notebook from a bag that she hadn't noticed on the floor beside the desks. A pen was pulled out of his pants pocket, and he started to flip through the book, awaiting her response.

"I guess about 3 or 4 days, I work a couple days a week," Serena responded. She hoped that this wouldn't take up all of her free time.

"Really? Where do you work?" he asked, looking up from the notebook, slightly amused.

"The Corner, like, the restaurant, not the intersection," she corrected.

"No kidding! I go there every week or so, you guys have got great soup," he rubbed his belly, leaning back in his chair. Serena's eyes followed the movement, and she could tell that tight abdomen muscles lay under his thin shirt.

"You should come in on a Saturday for lunch sometime, I waitress then, and Monday and Wednesday dinners too," she offered. Having Darien come in would certainly brighten up her dull work-day.

"I'll do that sometime," he nodded, the same smile playing at his lips. "Uhm, anyways," he said, shaking his head as if remembering he was here for a reason, "how do Tuesdays and Thursdays after school sound then?" Serena cringed. She could already hear Mina's voice ringing in her ear for filling up their Thursday, therefor interfering with their after school arcade visit.

"Alright, yeah. How long do you think we would meet, then?"

"No longer than an hour, I want you to have a life. A lot of times you'll probably finish before then anyway," he assured her. He sure seemed confident in her abilities.

"You mean you don't have a life to worry about?" she joked. Though he was writing rapidly, Serena could distinctly see his eyes flash.

"My life isn't so full at the moment, not much to worry about currently," he paused his writing, to glance sideways at her, grinning. Serena was very tempted to blurt out one more question, but even she wasn't feeling that bold.

"So, do you have your stuff with you?" Darien asked. Serena reached under her seat, grabbing her canvas knapsack. She pulled out her covered textbook, which was decorated with the names of bands and other random doodles, and her very large, very unorganized, 3 ring binder.

"There she is," she gasped, as she heaved the heavy piece of malarky onto the desk.

"So where are you guys right now?" Darien questioned. He grabbed her book, and started paging through it.

"Uhmm….proofs and stuff, I don't know the page, somewhere around 240 something," she answered. The subject was boring enough to go over once, hopefully this wouldn't be like living through math twice.

To Serena's relief, it was most definitely not like living through Roudron's class again. Darien let her explain the chapter to him, and he listened, every now and then asking open-ended questions in order for her to go into further detail. Even more rarely, he would add a tidbit to her description. It didn't really feel like a verbal quiz, but she could tell he was feeling her out.

"I told you you were smart," he said after asking his last question. Serena smiled, glad that she wasn't being misunderstood. "I'm assuming Mr. Roudron gave you homework for Wednesday then, huh?" he added. His tone was steady, but she could detect a bit of empathy and annoyance, as if he had experienced this as well.

"The world didn't end, did it?"

"Not really, no."

"Then you're damn right we have homework," Darien rolled his eyes, and nodded, as if to show he understood.

"Alright, then for tomorrow, why don't you get started on that, and I can look over it?" Serena sighed.

"What was the assignment?" he questioned, reopening his notebook.

"Page….246…1-20 I think," she strained her brain. She usually did her math on Tuesday, therefore memorizing the assignment tomorrow. She was amazed that she had remembered that, actually.

"Hey, write that down, Sere," Darien ordered. Serena jotted it down on a piece of notebook paper. "That way you can start it tonight," he winked, as if he knew her secret.

"You doubt my skills?" she laughed, pointing to her head. Darien shrugged sheepishly.

"Naw, just a little bit." Serena laughed, and glanced at her watch, not really paying attention to the time due to the image of Darien winking at her burning in her mind. She did a double take.

"Are you KIDDING me!" she screamed, jumping out of her seat.

"Late for something?" Darien questioned, looking a bit concerned. He was packing up his stuff into the black bag.

"Only a lot, I gotta be to work in 15 minutes!" She hurriedly slammed her books into her bag.

"Do you want a ride?" he asked, stopping her frenzied rush. Riding with Darien, in his car….hmm….was there a downside to this?

"Are you sure? I mean, it's really not that big of a deal, I can make it at a jog in 10 minutes," she assured him. Darien shook his head.

"I'd be happy to."

"Oh, thanks…I owe you a ton."

"Maybe you could buy me a coffee next time I'm in," he laughed. They headed out the classroom, and through a nearby pair of doors leading towards the student parking lot. Serena wondered what kind of car Darien drove. He seemed like a truck type of guy, but she doubted he would be driving one. They weren't generally cheap. He cut through a line of vehicles, and pulled out a jingling key ring from his pocket. He pushed a button on the keyless entry pad, and Serena could hear a bleep. She was extremely surprised to see that the bleep belonged to a shiny new red Mustang. Her eyes widened.

"Is that your car?" she asked in awe, almost afraid to touch the door handle. She had never ridden in a Mustang before. Darien smirked as he swung his bag off his shoulder, and threw it in the back seat.

"Yeah, do you like Mustangs?" he asked, as she carefully climbed into the front bucket seat.

"Promise you won't laugh?" she asked, turning to face him.

"I'll try my best," he said watching her closely.

"I've never ridden in one before. Like, any sports car, I mean. The coolest thing I've ridden is a Goldwing," Darien's eyes twinkled boyishly, and he grinned.

"Well I'm even more glad you agreed to ride with me then," He turned the ignition, and the engine roared to life. Darien turned, putting his arm on the passenger seat as he backed out of the space, allowing her to catch a whiff of his compelling cologne. Serena watched him as he drove. There was something about guys driving that was really appealing, and she couldn't help but smile at the intense expression on his face as they backed up. A car like this was like sex appeal on wheels. Boy would she have a story to tell the girls.

As they cruised out onto the main street, Serena was thankful to not be running those same lengths right now. She closed her eyes, and wrapped her arms around the headrest.

"Long day?" Darien asked, glancing over at her lengthy form.

"Uh, yeah, it was I guess."

"How come?" Serena pondered about that for awhile, then decided to tell him the truth.

"Nerve racking. I was freaking out about this whole tutoring thing."

"Really? Why?"

"I'm not used to this, in case you couldn't tell."

"There's nothing wrong with doing something to help yourself succeed, Serena."

"Naw, not really," she admitted, but in all honesty she had never thought about that part of it. "I am just used to succeeding right away."

"Oh…," Darien said, running a hand through his hair. "I know how that goes. It's hard to go from being at the top, to being the one in the dark. But you know what I find?"

"Huh?" Serena asked. He continued to look ahead as he talked.

"A lot more people are in the dark than you think, and by doing this, you'll be right back up there at the top again. You just have to realize that you're not alone, and that if you do what you have to do, you'll be achieving things before you know it." His words were the most comforting things she had heard in a long while, and the drive to The Corner ended all too soon. She wanted to drive with Darien until he helped her solve all her problems, but a few hungry people, who tipped a lot less than they ought to, were no doubt waiting for her inside. He pulled up to the curb, and she slid off the slick black leather onto the sidewalk before grabbing her bag from inside.

"You know, I was also nervous about something else," Serena mentioned.

"What was that," he asked, leaning towards the door.

"I was worried about meeting my tutor," she admitted. She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. Darien smiled slightly.

"And now what do you think? Am I good enough?"

"More than that. You made me feel the best I've felt in a long time, Darien," His face changed. It was rather serious, and sincere.

"Thanks again for the ride, I'll see you tomorrow," She hoped that she hadn't sounded weird saying that. In fact, she was very surprised she had said it herself. It had just slipped out.

"Hey, don't forget, you still owe me that coffee," he laughed, and waved, as she shook her head. "Have a good night at work." And with that, he sped away from the curb, leaving Serena staring after the red car growing smaller in the distance.

AN: Well there it is folks, the opener. Most of the chapters will be about this size, there should be about 5 when all is posted. You know the drill, review and let me know what you think. By the way, I most definitely do not own Sailor Moon.