The ringing in his ear grew louder. He felt another trail of blood making its way down the side of his face.
He swallowed. It tasted like rusted metal. Then he felt his chest hurt.
His lungs were failing him.
Darien smiled. He felt satisfied knowing that his last thoughts were of her, of kissing her, of being with her. He wished he could continue to protect her. But she had her friends. They had always come through for her, even when she was only a teenager.
He chuckled when he remembered meeting her for the first time on the street. That curious girl with the unusual hair, bad grades and gorgeous blue eyes.
As he thought of her angel-like face looking defiantly at him that day, he finally let go.
I love you… Meatball Head.
Then his eyes stared blankly forwards at nothing.
Serena clicked off her phone, a smile on her face. She sat on her bed, hugging her knees as she leaned back against her pillow.
When he read her note, he would finally know. He would know that she loved him. He would know that she had chosen him.
She smiled excitedly. She couldn't wait.
The Good Guy
By Phantasy Star
Serena burst through the double doors of the hospital, the white jacket she had thrown around herself dropping unnoticed on to the floor.
She ran down the hall and came towards a group of people gathered at a staff station. Doctors, nurses. They all looked concerned. Dimly, she recognized a female doctor who was one of Darien's coworkers.
The woman approached her first, "I'm so sorry, Miss Tsukino. Dr. Chiba is-"
"No, no," Serena whispered, shaking her head repeatedly as if in a trance, "No, it's… it's not him. You have the wrong person. I was just talking to him on the phone. The timing is wrong. It can't be him. It's not… it's not him… It isn't… It's not…"
"He's experiencing multiple organ failure," the female doctor said sympathetically, "He's probably not going to make it."
"No," Serena insisted again in her monotonous voice, tears streaming down her face, "No, it's somebody else. I told you, it can't be him. You don't understand. I was just on the phone with him a few minutes ago. He was talking to me like everything was normal. It's not him. It's not him. He was… He was…"
The stretcher rounded the corner and Serena felt her stomach churn. The nurses moved the body closer.
With a hand clasped over her mouth, Serena backed away, decided that she didn't wanted to see. Her body was shaking. Her legs seemed ready to fail her at any moment. With a hoarse cry, she stepped forwards and looked.
Her heart stopped.
"Darien!" she screamed, "Darien! No, Darien!"
Her cries drowned out the voices around her. She had just spoken to him.
It was wrong. This was all wrong. It was all impossible and wrong.
"Miss Tsukino…" the female doctor said as she put a hand on her shoulder, "There's nothing we can do…"
Serena shook her head desperately, tears streaming down her face.
"Please wait! There might be something we could try!"
Serena turned her bloodshot eyes towards the voice she used to know so well.
"I don't know if it's going to work," Amy admitted to Serena while watching the surgery from the gallery, "It's a new procedure."
They wouldn't let her operate, but she had given detailed instructions to the surgeons on how to proceed.
She had flown back from her studies in America immediately after she heard the news about Chaos. Only an hour after her flight's arrival, her old professor called her to the hospital with an "impossible" case. He had joked that it was a perfect chance to see how her training in the States had benefited her, and she had chuckled politely.
She had no idea the near-death case would be her one of her oldest and dearest friends.
Amy looked at Serena who sat trembling besides her.
"I… I was going to tell him I loved him," Serena whispered, "After all this time, I wanted him to know that he's the one I want, not Seiya."
Amy looked at her best friend wordlessly.
"He loves me," Serena said, smiling through her tears, "He's the only one who would never hurt me. He wanted me to be happy even when I was with somebody else… I finally realize that I love him too, and now… now he might never know. Now he might never know that I choose him…"
Amy clutched on to Serena's hand tightly, her voice defiant, "He can survive this. It's Darien."
Serena rested her head on Amy's shoulder, as the young doctor pulled her into an empty hug.
One month later…
Darien opened his eyes slowly. Then he shut them again. Sunlight. His eyes hurt.
'Where am I?'
He tried again, turning his head and looking at the apparatus next to his bed. IV drips. Heart monitor. He recognized the ceilings and walls. He was at his hospital.
Except he was a patient.
A nurse wandered inside and gasped.
"He's awake!" she called, and he winced at her loud voice, grateful when she disappeared out the door as abruptly as she had come in.
A moment later, a familiar figure came to the door.
"Amy?" he said hoarsely.
He cleared his throat.
"It's true, you're finally up!" Amy said, surprise and relief on her face. "Welcome back!"
He noticed her white coat and the chart in her hand.
"What happened to me?" he asked.
"Severe damage to multiple organs," she said sympathetically, "Most people wouldn't have survived it, but your body heals faster than most – you probably know why."
Darien recalled his natural self-healing abilities.
Amy gave him a small smile, "Darien, it's been… twenty-six days."
"I… I've been out for a whole month?"
"And you work here now?" Darien said, confused.
"Yes," Amy said, "They offered me a clinical fellowship here and I took it. I wanted to be in Tokyo in case something happened…"
Darien's eyes widened, remembering.
He lowered his voice, "Are we still fighting Chaos?"
Amy turned away slightly, "No. We defeated it."
"And Serena? Is she okay?"
Amy flinched, and an uncomfortable smile came over her face.
"Yes. We're all fine. She's not working today, but I can go call her if you'd like."
Darien nodded, and Amy left the room. He took the time alone to survey his own body.
A large cast was wrapped around his torso and part of his chest. He touched the large bandage over his head which he assumed was covering a wide gash. He tried moving his arms and legs, relieved when all his limbs responded.
He rested his head on the pillow again, looking up at the ceiling. He realized he was still very tired.
Closing his eyes, he drifted off.
Darien looked out the window at the clear night sky. It had been hours since he had woken up. The room was dark, with the lamp next to his hospital bed dimly lit.
It still seemed unbelievable to him. He had been in a coma for almost an entire month.
His thoughts wandered towards Serena again.
Where was she? She really fought against Chaos and won? Were the other girls okay? Was Hotaru okay?
He saw a familiar shadow on the floor and turned towards the doorway.
He felt his heart speeding as usual when he saw her. He smiled. She was beautiful as always, her golden hair seeming to brighten the room. She was thinner than he remembered though, more tired.
"Darien…" she whispered incredulously, "It's true. You're awake."
He felt a mix of emotions coursing through him. Joy, relief, guilt. Hope.
He sat up quickly, his voice hoarse, "Serena… I… I want to apologize. The day before I was attacked, I overreacted when I stormed off from the hospital cafeteria. I was worried about Hotaru and, well, I shouldn't have blamed it on you."
She looked at him with a small and dismissive smile, "I don't want to talk about it. It's almost a month ago now."
He nodded, "Right…"
She went up to his bed.
"Darien…" she said quietly, "The doctors told me that your chances of waking up were very slim. Amy actually told me less than ten percent. I… I never expected you to come back."
He looked at her, confused. She looked almost guilty.
"I… I didn't know you'd get better…" she said again, avoiding his eyes.
"What… What's going on?" he asked, frowning.
She shook her head, ignoring his question, "Darien, I didn't come to work today because I'm on my one-week break. In fact, I'm catching a plane out tonight to Hong Kong. Maybe we can use this time apart to figure out what we really want."
He blinked, confused.
Just then, Seiya walked into the room.
"Darien…" he said with a nod, "I'm glad you're awake."
Darien watched wide-eyed as the other man put a hand on Serena's shoulder.
"Serena," Seiya said, "We need to go now if we're going to make it to the airport on time."
Serena looked down uncomfortably.
Darien looked into Serena's eyes, his voice hesitant, "I… I don't think we need time apart to think. I think you already know what you want."
"I'm sorry, Darien."
He looked at her flushed face. Then his gaze fell.
Seiya gently led Serena out, and Darien raised his eyes to stare after them.
Then he sank his head back into his pillow.
Hotaru ran towards him happily, crashing into him for a hug.
He winced laughingly from the pain. It was worth it.
It had been a week since he had woken up, and his doctors had finally let him off his bed. He was taking a stroll around the gardens behind the hospital when he ran into his unexpected visitor.
"I've missed you, kiddo," he said cheerfully.
He smiled at Setsuna, who stood several feet away watching them.
"They told us you might not get better," Hotaru said, her large eyes brimming, "I was so, so happy when Amy called us!"
He grinned, kneeling down so that he was face-to-face with her.
"And you've been well?" Darien asked, "No complications from your injury?"
"Yes…" Hotaru nodded enthusiastically, "I'm all better now."
Darien felt his stomach tighten as he remembered Hotaru's attack. He wished he could have helped fight against Chaos, to avenge Hotaru's injuries and his own. Then he thought about how his outburst may have been what cost him his relationship with Serena as well. His eyes darkened.
"Dar Dar, what's wrong?" Hotaru said wonderingly, "Aren't you happy you're better?"
Darien forced a smile.
"Of course I am. I'm even happier that you came to see me. I'm still a little tired, that's all."
A few days later, Darien was slowing his car to a stop at the city harbor.
He got out and stepped towards the pier, looking out at the sea. The ocean air and warm winds felt fresh and invigorating. He had been indoors for far too long.
He turned when he heard a vehicle pull up. The red sports car came to a stop on the other side of the road, and Serena got out from the passenger's side. She jogged towards him.
"Hey Darien. Sorry I'm late."
He shook his head, "It's okay."
"I… I didn't purposely avoid your calls," she apologized, "I've just been really busy lately."
He looked past her and saw Seiya in the driver's seat of the car. He looked at her again.
"It's fine, Serena. I know you were busy on your holiday. Listen, I know you asked me to meet you because you had something to tell me. But I've been meaning to ask you, are you sure that Chaos is gone? How did you defeat it?"
"The other girls and I used our powers and we won," she said plainly, "You don't have to worry about that anymore."
Serena looked at him uncomfortably, "Anyway, my… my news…"
Darien glanced at Seiya again, sitting silently in the car.
"You're back with Seiya?" he asked, trying to keep his voice neutral.
She looked deeply into his eyes.
"We're getting married next month."
Darien took a faltered step backwards as she handed him a small, white piece of paper. He stared at it.
You are cordially invited to celebrate the wedding of
On Wednesday afternoon
At four o'clock
He raised his gaze to look at her, forcing a smile. His throat tightened and he swallowed.
"That's… That's great," he said, taking the invitation from her, "Congratulations."
He flinched as Serena put her hand on his larger one, her expression a mixture of sympathy and guilt.
"I'm sorry," she said as she looked up into his eyes, "Darien, please don't be sad. Ever since we were teenagers, I've always been so afraid to see you sad."
Darien gently withdrew his hand and turned away from her, trying to keep his voice steady.
"Don't be silly, Serena," he said smilingly with his back towards her, "I… I admit that I'm disappointed, but the toughest part is over. When Seiya came back to Earth, I already knew that it was over between us. I know he lied to you so that you can put down your feelings for him. It seems like he really cares about you…"
"Darien…" Serena whispered behind him.
He turned towards her, his eyes gentle, "I'm fine, Serena. I… I should go say congratulations the groom."
He walked to the red sports car parked several feet away, and Seiya got out.
"I wish you two the best," Darien said sincerely as he faced the younger man, "I hope you won't mind if I remain close friends with Serena. Hotaru still needs her as a big sister, and Serena's family is like my own. But I promise, I won't come between you two."
Seiya nodded and smiled, "Of course."
He offered his hand and Seiya took it politely. Then he watched as Seiya took Serena's hand, leading her back to his car. Darien stared after them, at their joined hands, Serena's back as she left him for the last time. He looked away towards at the sea, trying to keep himself steady.
Then he turned around and walked away.
Darien lay in his bed, staring up at the familiar ceiling. It had been two weeks since he had gotten back from the hospital, two weeks since he had been allowed to resume his normal life.
Serena was getting married.
He had decided a long time ago that it didn't matter how she felt about him. He would have been content to die – and he almost did – knowing that she would be happy. It would have been enough.
But there were too many memories between them. Finding out she was Sailormoon for the first time in the tower, remembering his identity and his love for her in Alan and Ann's apartment, fighting alongside her against the Black Moon family.
After they had broken up, when he returned to Tokyo, he was only too happy to be a part of her life again. He was fine with being her confidante, of being her big brother when she needed him especially during her difficult period with Seiya. But the truth was, despite everything, despite his acceptance of being the nice guy, despite just wanting to protect and look after her, he still loved her, and he knew that she loved someone else.
It still hurt.
He hastily wiped away a single tear about to touch his pillow.
Suddenly, a chill ran through his body.
His vision blurred.
He clutched his head, a sense of urgency and desperation rushing through his body. Pain split from his forehead down his spine to his knees.
He gasped. The feeling was strangely familiar. Just like years ago, when he felt Sailormoon in danger.
Just then, a knock at the door came.
He staggered to the living room as quickly as he could, opening the door to find Amy looking wide-eyed at him.
She stared at him.
"Serena needs your help."
Darien stepped on the motorcycle gas pedal as far down as he could.
He had only a minute in the elevator to talk to Amy, but her words raised more questions than they answered.
"Serena asked me to lie to you. We never defeated Chaos," Amy had said.
Darien continued to speed past the few cars on the street, running red light after red light.
"We were fighting Chaos tonight where the Starlight Tower used to be," Amy had continued, "She used all of her energy. She's… she's dying, Darien."
Darien ignored the dull dread threatening to consume him. He could still save her. He had done it before.
She couldn't be dying.
The roar of his motorcycle left a deadening sound down the otherwise quiet streets of Tokyo.
He had to get to her.
He slowed his bike abruptly when he saw a gathering of people on the side of the road. Sailor fukus, different colors. At least six of them. He stopped the motorcycle and jumped down.
Anxiously, he rushed towards where the Senshi had gathered. He dimly recognized Michiru, Haruka, Setsuna and Seiya amongst the group.
They were gathered around one fallen Senshi on the ground.
His heart cried out.
She lay unconscious on the pavement, her face pale, her long hair falling crumpled around her.
"Serena!" he shouted.
He knelt down beside her. The others were on the floor as well, staring at their princess with tears in their eyes.
"What happened?" he demanded.
"She used all her energy to defeat Chaos," Michiru murmured brokenly, "She needs you, Darien."
He looked at Serena's closed eyes, the moment strangely familiar. Then he glanced briefly at Seiya, hesitant.
"Hurry!" he said desperately.
Darien nodded. He took Serena's hand in his and, bending downwards slowly, he touched his lips to hers. He never thought he'd have the privilege again. His eyes closed, he felt his energy pour into her lifeless body. It left his own feeling empty and cold.
He pulled away gently.
His eyes widened when he saw color flooding into her cheeks again.
She opened her eyes slowly, her eyelashes fluttering.
"Ser… Serena…" he choked incredulously.
He never thought she looked as beautiful as she did at that moment, her face glowing and her eyes hazed. She was alive – she was okay.
It didn't even matter that he wasn't supposed to be the one holding her.
"We should give them their privacy," he heard Setsuna say, a hint of a smile in her voice.
Darien, pulling out of his trance, looked at the Sailorsenshi around him. Did Setsuna mean him and Serena, or Seiya and Serena? To his surprise, Seiya stood up, joining the others as they backed away, murmuring joyously at the awakening of their princess.
He turned to focus on Serena, and he helped her sit up.
"Thanks for coming," she said softly, a small smile on her face, "I… I didn't think you could save my life three times with a kiss."
He shook his head, confused, "You said you'd defeated Chaos while I was in my coma…"
Her voice was quiet, "I… I lied to you, Darien. We didn't defeat Chaos until today. But I didn't want you to know we were still fighting… The reason you were attacked first was, Chaos knew you were the most important person to me. It wanted me to suffer. I knew that if you knew Chaos was still around, you would try to protect me, and you would get hurt again. You're still weak from your injuries, I didn't want you to be hurt because of me again…"
He blinked, still perplexed.
She continued softly, "I… I needed you to stay away from me, so I had to tell you I didn't want to be with you anymore."
His confusion was slowly being replaced by a hopefulness he was almost afraid to grasp on to. He felt his insides jump.
"You mean…" he started.
She said sheepishly, "Seiya and I never got back together."
His eyes widened. "This whole wedding thing…"
"We… we made it up so that you wouldn't come near me…"
"Serena…" he whispered.
She tried to stand up and he quickly offered her his hand. Darien saw Seiya come towards them.
But he didn't approach Serena, coming towards Darien instead with a wide grin.
"Darien," Seiya said good-naturedly, "I hereby give you back Odango. You should take good care of her – it's been a tough month for her, fighting Chaos and still having to visit you at the hospital every night. I found her asleep at your bedside more times than I can count. She's really missed you a lot.
He smiled at Darien, "I wish you two the best. I hope that you won't mind if Odango and I remain friends. The Starlights see her as our princess now. But I promise, I won't come between the two of you."
Darien nodded, accepting Seiya's outstretched hand. "Of course."
Seiya gave Darien a friendly pat on the shoulder, then put his hands into his pockets and walked away.
"Serena…" Darien said as he turned back towards her, taking her hands in his, "You really had me going there. That wedding invitation, it even had a time and date on it."
She winced apologetically, "I wanted to make it seem real."
He shook her hands playfully, shifting the weight between his feet as he looked diffidently at her, "You know, that date in March… It's not a bad day." He shrugged, "When we were teenagers you always talked about a spring wedding… It's kind of a waste to have thought of a date and a time and not use it. What… what do you think we should do?"
She blushed, looking shyly at their joined hands, "Well, I guess we can… change the name of the groom… put somebody else's name in there..."
He grinned, his thumbs drawing lazy circles on the back of her hands.
"Well, who do you suggest?"
"How… How about 'Mr. Chiba'?" she said softly, blushing deeply.
"Well then, your name should be changed too."
She looked at him, confused and shocked, "Changed to what?"
"Meatball Head," he laughed, "Mr. Chiba and Miss Meatball Head, how does that sound?"
She was about to respond when he pulled her into a kiss, one arm wrapping tightly around her as his other hand supported her head. He barely noticed the cheers and laughter from the other Senshi. It didn't matter.
They were finally together again.
"Okay, I'll be the first to say it: Setsuna is always right."
The Sailorsenshi of Time merely smiled at Michiru's comment. She leaned her back against a tree while Michiru and Haruka lay leisurely on the blond woman's car, staring upwards at the cloudless sky.
Haruka spoke up, "I still think it was too risky. We're just lucky it worked out the way it did."
Michiru chuckled, "No, Setsuna made the right decision. She had to take away Serena and Darien's memories of their future. That way, the Princess can choose freely for herself to love the Prince, and vice versa. They will always cherish each other now. Not only will they be just and capable rulers of Crystal Tokyo, but they will be happy as well."
Their conversation was interrupted when Hotaru ran towards them.
"I want to go see Dar Dar!" she said excitedly.
Setsuna looked at her with a small smile, "Later, Hotaru. Give him some time alone with Serena. They just found each other again."
Hotaru sighed disappointedly, then brightened with a grin, "All right. I know that'll make Dar Dar happy."
She rested her head against Setsuna's hand, and the four Outersenshi looked up at the night sky together.
Finally, the future was secured.
Serena leaned her head against Darien's arm as they stood at the harbor, watching the ocean waves lap quietly beneath them.
It was a familiar moment. They had said goodbye to the Starlights who went back to Kinmoku to keep watch over their home planet. Haruka and Michiru had set off on another private mission, while Setsuna remained on Earth to continue watching after the flow of time, as well as the young girl in her care.
"Serena…" he said worriedly, "You haven't said anything since we said goodbye to the other Senshi. Are you okay?"
She looked up at him, a small smile on her face, "Darien… Why do you love me?"
He laughed lightly, "This question again?"
She shook her head, "I'm not asking rhetorically, or because I want some romantic answer from you. I really want to know."
He frowned, "Why now?"
She grimaced, "Because… I don't deserve you. I don't deserve to have someone feel about me the way you feel about me. During all this time, throughout everything I was going through, you've always been with me, protecting me, taking care of me. I don't deserve any of that, Darien. You're just… you're too good for me. You're like a perfect boyfriend, older brother, dependable future husband all rolled into one, and I-"
He put his arm around her gently.
"I'm the one who's worried I'm not good enough for you," he whispered, "I… I'm not a romantic person, Serena. I'm not a rock star, I don't know how to write love songs, I don't know which flowers mean what, and I don't know how to buy romantic gifts… I just know that I really care about you. I'm the one who's scared you'd change your mind about me."
"Never," she said softly.
"You don't mind taking the boring nice guy?" he said jokingly, "I'm not Tuxedomask anymore, you know."
She thought for a moment, then said truthfully, "You don't need a mask to be the most exciting thing that's ever happened to me."
Leaning downwards, he kissed her again.
It felt just like seven years ago, when they stared into each others' eyes under the moon.
Only this time, he would not let her go.
- End -
It's finally over! I hope everyone was satisfied with the ending! To the reviewers who mentioned Serena shouldn't get off so easily, I added Serena's long dialogue at the end for you. I realize I still didn't make Serena really grovel after her "mistake", but it was important to keep the story's theme consistent – Darien loves her unconditionally and self-sacrificially, so he wouldn't abandon her or be angry with her or even demand an apology from her. Yes, he's that great.
I also hope it was okay that I didn't include any fighting scenes, even though Chaos was supposedly defeated in this chapter. Reasons: (1) this is a drama/romance and (2) Darien was incapacitated during a lot of major fights in the anime so this is consistent, no? (smiles)
Last thing: I want to remind you girls out there to consider the good guys in your life! Why abuse yourself by sticking to the dangerous, controversial, hot-and-cold bad boys? Sometimes it's worth picking the considerate guy who wants the best for you – might make you happier in the long run. Hope this story was able to illustrate that!
Anyway, I'd love to hear what you think about the ending and the story in general. Please review!
July 29, 2009