Thanks for all the reviews! As for me not updating (insert nervous laugh)…err…I've been really busy! Honest Injun! (And been reading Huck Finn) So here's the next installment. Hope you like. Don't forget to review. As for where the story's going, I've got a lot of ideas for later on, so if it seems to be moving slowly, never fear…plot fluctuations are on their way.
This chapter's not short per say but it's not as long as I would have liked…because I felt like this was a good closure. Next chapter will be a little less dark and more fluff between Serena and Mamoru cough I mean Darien (grrr). Ah well what can I say. If I'd added the date w/ Seiya, I'm guessing the chapter would have been way too long.
All I can say is…hopefully it wont take me too long to update next time, ok? Though I'm sincerely doubting that, what w/ all these major tests/ competitions/ STUFF coming up. Don't ask. Just pray that I come out of this alive.
Next chapter's that date with Seiya! Isn't that going to be loads of juicy goodness! Oh, on a sidenote, has anyone read Twilight, the novel? Someone recommended it…sounds pretty good.
Tootles, Ummster -
Warning: Contents are deeper than they may appear. Also, this chapter has some cursing…please don't be offended, I'm just trying to keep things real.
Disclaimer: Sailor Moon belongs to the ever glorious Naoko Takeuchi.
After swindling my daily dose of Sweet & Low from the Crown Café, I hustled back to the Starlight Complexes to change out of my eccentric ring-circus garb into something more comfortable. My only objective as I made my stealthy exit to the studio was to avoid Rei and Mina. No doubt, being micromanaging psychopaths, they would disapprove of my casual attire.
Unfortunately, the fates were not on my side. (As if they ever were.) Providence had decreed that the one day I had been coerced into smearing bottles of makeup on my face, the weather had turned unexpectedly downcast; akin to those cartoons where the dejected nobody is stalked by a blur of black ominous rain clouds. I could already feel the dampness from my eyes trailing darkly over my countenance. To top it off, I had already noticed Mina's engorged head about a half-a-block away, darting out of a French boutique. To my chagrin, she'd spotted me almost instantaneously with those hawk like eyes of hers; that is, after she'd finished snapping at the poor lady in the boutique that she'd ordered Versachi and not Burberry (in addition to a few hardly appropriate expletives).
"Sere!" she wailed incessantly over the consistent hum of the rain, gazing at my sweatpants with obvious critique, "For the love of god, you're not wearing that to your date, are you?" Mina shuffled the twenty bubble-gum pink bags from under her chin to her left shoulder with the ease of an artisan with years of practice. I had to admire her spunk- boasting impossibly high shorts, high-heeled boots and a mid-drifted top like a regular prostitute, all in weather that would clearly ruin her outfit in under five minutes. Either that, or freeze her to death.
"Mina, you should go into gymnastics!" I piped before I could stop myself.
Her pink nose popped out of one of her bags, blond bangs winnowing over bright apple eyes. "What was that, hon?" (A/N: I don't know why, but I like that description.)
I blinked beneath trails of dripping mascara. "Umm…nothing." I shook my head to clear my head of thoughts of how much of an airhead she could be. "And about my attire…I've still got a substantial half a day to pass off before (cough) that…thing." I wasn't sure why, but for some reason I was having considerable difficultly spitting the words out. I guessed it was because of my repulsion to dates- especially with superficial -albeit wealthy- men.
Pale green eyes widened as she choked painfully. It was blatant that my lack of fashion morals was squeezing the breath out of her. "Serena, I love you and all, but this is a bit unconventional of you."
Unconventional? "Mina? You think education is a government conspiracy."
Her tongue poked out of the corners of her mouth and she scrunched up her face. "So?" She shook head in annoyance, eyes flashing brightly. "Think about it! All we did in school was get lectured -they're trying to stop us from accomplishing anything in life!"
"And why would they want to do that?" I asked, knowing full well what she was about to say. Mina sustained quite a few conspiracy theories, most of which spilled out of her mouth like gumballs when she was intoxicated -which was quite often, actually.
"I'm running late for my photo shoot," (I rolled my eyes) "But I want you to call me around 1. Now seeing as you're an amateur at this whole dating deal, we're just going to outline the basics." After fishing out one of her pink fuzzy pens, she scrawled out her number and thrust it nonchalantly into my cleavage. I slapped her hand away with a little grumble.
"Well at least you won't loose it- I know no one ever goes down there," she retorted smugly.
I flipped drenched blonde locks over my shoulder with a little grunt, watching Mina stride into the boutique to begin, once again, her maniacal sparing match with the owner of the boutique.
"You're damn straight!" I called after her with a wary shake of my fist, "and don't get me started on how shameful your job is!"
Often times I sincerely wondered what went on in Mina's head. This, undoubtedly, was one of those times. With a wayward sigh, I tugged the slip of paper out of my shirt and let it flutter into the nearest sewage drain.
I heard the slight thud of footsteps coming from the front entrance and there was my disturbed romanticist, fashionably late, his hair slightly tousled from the wind. Curly wisps clung damply to his forehead, cutely astray from the thick line of impeccably combed hair that was a wee bit long enough to cover his ears and the middle of a long neck. He looked down at his drenched suit and the tie that had unraveled from his neck and had mangled onto his dress shirt, and nodded apologetically at me. "I didn't really expect it to rain."
"That's no problem," I replied, "It's better this way." It was. He was currently leaning, dare I say, seductively against the pair of glass front doors with his hands crawling up the sides of his head to smooth down unkempt raven black hair. Two remarkably keen blue eyes blinked down at me tartly. "Is there something on my face?" Darien chastised, "or is it just my inarguable good looks you're admiring?"
"Don't flatter yourself." I reached up to take his wet suit coat for him. "You could only know that if you were staring as well."
Darien chuckled softly. "Well at least I'm man enough to admit it."
"I'm neither a man nor do I wish to be one," I snapped. "Besides, arriving an hour late is hardly manly of you."
He chose to ignore that last comment, shoving his fists into his pockets as he peered headily at the framed painting of Mina that dangled just above the desk that was plopped unceremoniously in the middle of my gallery. Viridian eyes winked under tails of luxurious beach blonde hair, tucked under her ears and just reaching the tips of perky breasts, but that was where the painting had been cut off. Her index finger just grazed her cheek as she pouted -a familiar pose of hers. The other hand reached desperately at the camera. Although I hardly approved of the brazen position she'd fixated herself in, there was no doubting the fact that the picture remained one of my best works. Something about the painting drew you in and gazing at it there was an unmistakable aura of some unforeseen trap, mixed in with the bewitching hues of pale rose and lusty tan.
"So you do paint nudes?" he quirked, referring to our previous conversation and gazing in earnest at the painting, his eyes drinking in the exposed flesh.
Well for the love of- "I do not!" His lips twitched into a trying smirk. Damnit. "Fine, maybe only women -but on personal request. Besides, that's not a nude portrait! Can't you see it's cut off rather strategically…" (A/N: Has anyone ever read the Big Sleep? Doesn't it start with a description of a painting like that?)
"So the women in the portrait…"
"My roommate. She thinks perhaps some knucklehead of a man -quite like you- will casually step into my studio, take a glance at it, and fall head-over-heels in love with her." I paused, whisking the clutter of papers on my vanilla desktop into one of the stacked cardboard boxes on the ground. "God forbid a man ask me to do a nude portrait."
His lips curled higher, his eyes twinkling victoriously. "That would require a bit more knowledge of male anatomy, no doubt."
I looked up tartly, the cardboard box clutched tightly in my fisted palms. I bit my tongue to keep from giving him a stringent slap along those finely curved cheek bones of his. He'd pulled the wet tie off his shirt and was twirling it around his palms, his fingers listlessly etching away at the raw silk. Suddenly I felt painfully inferior to this man, dressed so elegantly in his tailored designer apparel while I cowered beside him in a lazy sweater and slacks. His eyes grinned down at me. It was painfully evident that he was thinking along those same lines.
I licked my lips headily. "I haven't always been a feminist," I said simply.
His eyes shot up deftly to catch mine. "Are you implying something, Ms. Tsukino?"
"Of course not." Beaming, I heaved the unwieldy box off the ground, and, huffing slightly, began to inch towards the back room. No sooner had I gone three steps that he stepped behind me and plucked the box with considerable ease out of my grasp.
Well excuuuse me! I may not be the strongest tool in the shed, but at least I can carry a goddamned box into the next room! Taking a few exhasperated gasps of air I swung in front of him and snatched it back. "I can do it, you know!"
"I believe you," he winked carelessly, "but I'm just being gallant." In a moment the box was in his arms again; this time, dangling over his head.
I groaned audibly. I hated being outwitted. "No need for gallantry here, Mister, it's not going to get you anywhere."
Darien cocked his head slightly, chuckling at my futile attempts to retrieve the box. He patted me arrogantly on the head as I hopped on my Mary J's with considerable effort to reach the box dangling tantalizingly from his fingers. "Another innuendo, I presume?" he reprimanded lightly, "Chivalry is by no means a method of seducement." He bent down slowly, leaning the box against my waist. "Besides…If I ever was to seduce you…there's a much easier way…"
I shivered slightly as I felt the warm flutter of breath on my lips and cold fingers slipping under my blouse along the sensitive skin over my hip; but in an instant, they were gone; he turned around, with the cardboard box of nonsensical papers clutched loosely in his grip, and all that was left was the icy tingle that twittered down my spine.
"So tell me- how did you become a painter?"
I ignored him, sliding my reading glasses back up my nose to get a better look at the page I'd been gracefully hiding behind my unfinished portrait. (A/N: OO, a dork! I love dorks! Have I ever told you that Mamoru looks adorable w/ glasses too?)
"…there seemed to be no longer anything in Hester's face for Love to dwell upon; nothing in Hester's form, though majestic and statue-like, that Passion would ever dream of clasping in its embrace; nothing in Hester's bosom, to make it ever again the pillow of Affection."
My life, summed up in one rather astute sentence. I smiled largely. That was by no means something to be complaining of. On the contrary, it was one of my few boasting points.
"Men of the sword had overthrown nobles and kings. Men blonder than these had overthrown and rearranged -not actually, but within the sphere of theory, which was their most real abode- the whole system of ancient prejudice, wherewith was linked much of ancient principle. Hester Prynne imbibed this spirit. She assumed a freedom of speculation-
"Are you caught up in another one of your romantic fantasies?" Darien asked quizzically, looking up, rather bored, from his position reclined along the plush love seat– which, may I add, had nearly expended my prop budget for the whole year. It was artistic heaven- the ivory white leather nicely complemented his lustrous black hair and the starch gray pinstriped suit I'd stuffed him in to adhere to my 'neutral' chromatic theme. I took a moment to rid my thoughts of the color wheel and sheepishly stuffed The Scarlet Letter (A/N: One of my favorite books!) into the nearest drawer. Luckily, it'd been hidden under the half-finished portrait propped in front of me.
He did seem to have an annoying habit of interrupting my romance-bashing reveries. "I suppose you want to rephrase that?" I warned, repositioning the canvas in front of me to get a more thorough view of him. I dotted his hair black on the sketched layout.
"I meant exactly what I said."
"So I suppose I heard you wrong?"
"Possibly. Or not."
My brow tensed in meditation as I attempted to mix the premise dark blue of his eyes; unfortunately I couldn't get past an aquamarine. Without looking up, I quipped, "You know you're a condescending bastard?"
I could tell Darien was grinning at me sexily from that languid pose of his, with his elbows folded neatly behind his black locks and his feet propped up on the empty loveseat. He flexed his biceps comfortably in front of me. "And you like it," he beamed cockily, blowing me a lazy kiss over his shoulder.
Muttering expletives under my breath, I aimed a paint brush at the very bicep and let fly. Fortunately for him, I missed and the paint brush clattered to the ground in front of his feet.
"Where is this going?" he asked.
I shrugged, adding a dab of chartreuse; just to find that he had opened that excessively large mouth of his again. I had the desperate urge to seal his mouth shut with masking tape. "As much as you conveniently deny it, we both know that underneath those layers of antipathy, you're really a vulnerable sadist masking your attempts at attention with biting remarks."
My head whipped upwards with rebellious flare. I supposed that at that moment he was applauding his stunning use of demeaning vocabulary. Idiot man! The insatiable need to criticize him was by no means fueled by sadistic intention! To even suggest that I expected- I shuddered despite myself. What ever happened to plain and simple annoyance? Was it so hard for him to comprehend that I genuinely disliked him?
"For a man who hardly knows me, you seem to have me labeled quite thoroughly!" I lashed, my nostrils flaring as I took a defiant step out of my chair. Tempting my nerves was risky business. It was one of the few useful qualities I'd inherited from Rei.
My model looked at me with unperturbed eyes, boosting himself off his comfortable seat to meet me at eye level (although I myself had to crane my neck upwards to catch of glimpse of that spiteful face.) "Humor me then, sweetheart," Darien crooned lightly, with a hint of a teasing grin adorning his brow, "Who are you really?"
"Serena Tsukino," I said flatly.
"Very funny. That's not what I meant."
"I know exactly what you meant!" I exclaimed, barring my teeth with un-lady-like audacity. Then again, I wasn't the epitome of proper feminism, was I now? "And I have no intention of telling you!"
"Whoa, cool down." Darien moved a few dangerous steps closer, placing two unwelcome hands on my shoulder and beginning to massage the tense muscles of my neck. "Serena," he stated, as if addressing someone half my age, "Breathe." I complied, more out of exhaustion than agreement, and allowed him to carefully set me back down on the stool beside my easel. "Just breathe," he repeated, giving me one last -helpful- squeeze before beginning to knead the tense skin at the sides of my forehead.
At that moment, the one, blasted moment I let my guard down to enjoy a thorough rubdown, fate had decreed that the door would unceremoniously be flung open.
"Let's make this quick," she chided, glancing down at her fresh manicure and popping the gum in her mouth, "Mina sent me to instruct you on proper date etiquette , seeing as you casually forgot to call her for instructions, so she dragged me here to help you. But judging from the fact that I myself have a date with Jadeite in a matter of minutes, I'm going to drop off the dress and leave. That stays between us, got it?"
Her eyes raised to meet with my assent, only to fully engulf the picturesque of my companion with his hands resting against my forehead. "Darien?" she asked unsurely. Suddenly her features animated. "Hello! You sweet, sweet man! Have you single-handedly managed to break down the untouchable Serena's vow against physical contact with the opposite sex?"
So saying, she strode over to us, grabbed Darien's cheek roughly and implanted a chaste kiss on it. Then her face swooped down angrily over my own. "SERE! You have a man in your studio! A stunningly gorgeous one at that! How could you not tell me!"
Sheesh. Talk about feeling overexposed. "He's my model, Rei. And actually, I did mention him. He's that man from the park. And how do you know him?" I asked accusingly. I was sensing a past relationship, which was slightly unnerving.
"You two were talking about me?" Darien asked curiously, hardly hiding that despicable pride of his.
Rei ignored him, much to my pleasant surprise. "He's Jadeite's- I mean, he works with Jadeite." She coughed slightly. Hmm, perhaps the lack of real food was finally catching up with her. It was a miracle she didn't just keel over.
So it seems he worked for Chiba Enterprises; that would explain the man's debased morals. I supposed it wasn't entirely his own fault -his boss was the most eligible bachelor in Tokyo. Poor man- no wonder he craved attention. Judging from the fact that Seiya had a new woman hanging off his arm like a pestilence every day -and he was only runner up- I estimated that the real macho man must discard his woman by the hour. I wondered what he looked like. Roughish blonde hair perhaps? Maybe a nice tattoo to top it all off? I wondered, how did this man even managed his own entrepreneurship. Probably didn't even know what the word meant.
"Oh, you poor dear," I sympathized immediately, "It must be enthralling working with the most knuckle-headed bachelor in all of Tokyo." Alright, so I'd tampered with the official title, but to me, the two words were interchangeable.
Darien exchanged a rather hefty glance with Rei before chuckling, "If you're referring to Mr. Chiba, then you're right. It is a quite enthralling experience, actually. He's a gentleman and quite the extraordinary salesman. In fact, he's so good at maintaining a low profile you probably don't even know what he looks like."
My violet-eyed best friend dissolved into a fit of giggles, much to my bewilderment.
"Is there something funny about this? Really, I'd like to know! Because the way I see it, a multi-millionaire who spends his time fucking his secretaries while others run his business strikes me as…positively hilarious!"
His eyes froze over me, darkening stormily. Rei darted glances wordlessly between us with widened eyes as Darien inhaled softly with pained collectiveness. For a good few minutes he stared at me with unmoving, unwavering stoic black orbs. Suddenly the awkwardness dropped and he shuffled his feet beneath him, glancing at his watch with submissiveness and once more, looking at me with frightening impassiveness.
I watched his lips purse slowly. "How dare you…" he sucked in a hasty breath, "…accuse me of something so vulgar…" I couldn't quite make out the last words of the sentence, only felt a hand slide over my own and a business card slip between my fingers.
"Serena, you idiot!" Rei wailed, "Do you even know who he is! He's Darien Chiba! The Darien Chiba! You know, the one you were just talking about?"
Sure enough, flipping the card over unsurely, I made out that despicable hallmarked name, printed lavishly in ornamental print: Darien B. Chiba. I wondered what the b was for- maybe bastard.
I almost laughed aloud. "Oh you had me so fooled!" I exclaimed, my voice rising by the second, "I knew you were self-centered, but to think, you're the biggest womanizer of them all! You're the head of the goddamned clan!"
Mr. Chiba glared accusingly at me. (A/N: Notice the change in name). "You know, heading a corporate company and having woman find me attractive doesn't necessarily make me the jerk you put me out to be."
I rolled my eyes. "Please, spare me the antics and don't deny what we both know is undoubtedly the truth. I've read about you before; we all have! You're hobbies are, and I quote: 'Taking over companies…and woman'." (A/N: Haha…I like that one).
"It's not my fault they practically jump into my bed." He chuckled roguishly, his cobalt eyes sparkling slyly.
"Oh come on Sere," Rei interrupted officiously, shaking me sharply by the shoulders, "we all enjoy fooling around once in a while. It's human nature."
"Well I certainly don't! And don't you dare say I'm not human, Rei! You two have no idea what I've gone through, do you? Think it's so easy being me? That I just mope around all day and splatter paint on an aisle?" I bit my lip to ease the fury but it only made my eyes dampen. I turned wrathfully towards Darien, who was looking at me with spiteful curiosity and something akin to… "Oh and don't you go pitying me! Making me out to be some sort of lunatic…well maybe I am! And you know what? I have the right to be! I'll have you know I've gone to hell and back just to get to where I am now! And you know where that's brought me? Right back to the damn beginning!"
My head pounding with unwanted nostalgia, I grappled for the luxury coach and collapsed onto it unceremoniously, pushing my bangs out of the way. I closed my eyes painfully and let out an exuberant sigh.
"Oh please, put a can in it," Rei seethed. "Anyways," she thrust a neon-pink, frilly bag at my abdomen, "here's your dress. And, according to Mina, if you sweat in it…she'll…well…" she groped nervously for the proper words, while I stared spitefully at the excessively flamboyant pink piece of cloth Mina called a dress. Did everything they force me into have to be so…nonexistent?
"SPIT IT OUT WOMAN!" I screeched, my head popping up from its position on the opulent white armrest. I was growing annoyed at Rei's inability to form an articulate sentence.
"Eh…she'll-push-your-boobs-back-into-your-chest." She slurred, then smiled triumphantly. "What a load to say! It's like a weight's been lifted off my chest! Wait, that didn't sound right…"
"Please leave now," I chided desperately, heaving myself up to pick up her Marcs Jacob bag and thrust it out the door. "Please." I repeated.
"Alright, alright, I'm going!" She remarked, popping her gum in my face again and glancing down at the dress draped over my shoulder. "Oh, I almost forget- don't wear a bra with that. It's good to aerate yourself once in a while." With that cheerful remark, she swung open those fateful glass doors and departed from my rather abashed presence.
"And you!" I pointed to Darien who stood smirking widely at me from the other side of the room. "Leave!" I signaled flagrantly at the exit.
He took his time departing, brushing past me rather obviously and bent down over my shoulder, staring rather obviously at my chest. "If you ask me, I don't think they need aeration." Smiling with devilish charm, he added, "They're perfect the way they are."
I made sure to whack him several times with my pink frilly bag before shoving his still laughing body out the door.
Well that was an interesting chapter. Tell me what you think. Review, 'cause it makes me happy. Why the hell am I so sad?
And as always, thanks to my wonderful beta Eternal Dragon 101. I liked both the endings so I sort of merged them. :/ I dunno how it worked out.