Chapter 5
Chasing Serena

Darien had tried to follow Serena into the school. He didn't care about his damned car, which between Serena and Rini had lost about $10K in value in the last hour alone. What had left him speechless, and now utterly concerned, was how strongly Serena had reacted against his plea for Serena to be a little nicer to Rini.

He knew Rini had put her through a lot, but Serena was the most forgiving, understanding person he'd ever met, in any lifetime. For her to be so adamant against Rini just didn't equate. "It had to be the dream," he mumbled under his breath. The dream had driven him nearly mad, as well. And hers had been different; what if something in her dream was forcing her to be exceptionally cruel to Rini?

He stood in the principal's office patiently, checking his watch.

"Mr., um, Tsukino? Did you say something?" a secretary asked.

Darien turned: "I'm just wondering what's taking so long to find Serena!"

The secretary looked embarrassed. "Well, you see your niece's teacher is running late this morning. Serena's friends said she was in the bathroom, but, er, that was quite some time ago. If you'd like to take a seat—?"

"No," Darien said coldly. "No, thank you," he said, and left quickly, wondering where she'd gotten off to in the last half-hour!


Walking out of the school's office, he was quite literally run over by his Odango-headed princess. She leaped up and screamed, "Are you trying to KILL me?"

Thankfully, Ami took a little pity on him and helped pull him up. But she asked, "What are you doing here, Darien?"

As Serena took off running out of the school, Ami looked back apologetically and followed Serena. Darien immediately took off after them, expecting to learn that there was a droid attack somewhere. But once outside, he was surprised to find Serena back at his car, Ami squealing to a halt beside her. Ami turned to Darien and said, "Oh, my GOD Darien is this your car? What happened?"

"Rini happened," Serena glared. She looked at Ami: "Wanna ask him?"

Ami cringed, but turned to Darien, "Can you get us to the airport, like, right now?"

Darien glanced up at Serena, who was staring at nothing, then used his key fob to unlock the car: "Let's go," he said. Nevermind that it was a school day, or that he had classes he NEEDED to get to.

Serena instantly opened the back door and climbed in, which for some reason bothered him, but he'd play it her way. He opened the broken passenger door for Ami, and she stepped into the front seat. He walked around the car, thinking that maybe yes indeed his life had gotten pretty stupid since Rini showed up. Just.. stupid. Not that it was Rini's fault, of course; just that the timing was funny. Rini came; the droids started appearing; the nightmares. A UFO! People from the future with hideous laughs… his best friend turning on him like the four Shitennou had.

"So what's at the airport," he asked Ami, refusing to direct any questions to the brat in the back.

"Well, you see there was this misunderstanding and we need to talk to Reika before she leaves," Ami said sweetly.

Darien chuckled. 'Misunderstanding.' Out loud, he said, "Maybe you should leave Reika alone. Sounds like she's been through quite enough."

The car grew insanely quiet.

Darien asked, "Well, what do you plan on telling her? Sorry her boyfriend likes someone else; have a nice trip?"

Ami smiled coldly and said, "Serena just found out they'd broken up and she'd like to talk to Reika, that's all."

He glanced in the rearview mirror; Serena was staring out the window, completely ignoring the conversation.

Fine. He looked at Ami and said, "Did you ever make any sense of those attack points in the city?"

Ami opened her mouth, but then shook her head. "No. I think Rubeus had one set of plot points. Emerald hasn't hit us enough to find a pattern. All I can really tell is that she seems to have a new set of plans."

"Do you think she's still after Rini?" Darien asked.

"Possibly. Although she could have had Rini in her grasp in the sweets shop, but that figurine was more important. I think Rini is more like, icing on the cake now. Not her primary objective."

As they drove on in silence, Darien finally said, "So are the Senshi really going to send Rini back to her future?"

Ami's eyes went wide; instead of reacting vocally, though, she listened for any kind of movement from the back seat.

Then Serena said, "I haven't discussed it with the Senshi yet, but after this morning, I've decided I want her to un-brainwash my family, and —just get out of my life."

Ami piped up quickly, "Um, Serena, I thought we'd decided it was best if we could keep an eye on her?"

"She's too dangerous to be around my family, Ami. She tried to throw a brick through THIS car, and guess who's responsible for paying that bill—!"

Darien gritted his teeth: "I've already SAID I won't hold you responsible for that, SE-REE-NAH!"

Ami cringed: "Well, Darien, she does have a point. If this hadn't been your car, they could have been sued—"

"WHICH MAKES ME THE NICE GUY!" Darien spat, speeding up to fly by all the traffic in his way.

Serena sighed and said, "Darien can keep her at his place. All she has to do is un-brainwash my family so nobody will miss her, and she'll still be safe. That's probably how it should have been all along—"

"Woah!" Darien said, "Woah woah woah, she's a nice kid, but I don't recall signing up for that duty!"

Serena closed her eyes. She'd tried so hard to hold her tongue. SO hard. But not anymore— "No, what you DID was sign ME up for that duty, knowing she was after me and my crystal all along, and not minding that she put myself and my family in danger constantly! Boy what a sacrifice YOU'VE made—!"

Darien turned angrily to yell at Serena, but she immediately screamed as the car jerked hard to the side; Darien quickly looked ahead as his car careened off the road. He jerked the wheel sharply to get back on the road, at which point they got t-boned by a car behind them.




"At least you were wearing your seat belt," Darien glowered at Serena, still furious with her.

The paramedics had come and taken them all to the hospital, even though everyone had pretty much lucked out due to airbags and seatbelts. Of course, his car was now in two pieces somehow; it had taken two tow trucks to haul it off, and a third for the car that t-boned them. The police had actually asked how a brick got involved in the accident; it had taken Darien a second to remember Rini's antics from a few hours ago.

Ami was busy lying her ass off to everyone involved that they'd left school with Darien to go to the hospital because of Serena's "head injury", which, thank God, was actually a real head injury. Dr. Mizuno, Ami's mom, had questioned why the school hadn't sent Serena to the hospital, but another helpful little truth about Ms. Haruna being a no-show actually made Ami and Darien seem heroic instead of delinquent.

Serena was left sitting against the wall in a tiny ER room with Darien, waiting for her CT scan results. For her 'head injury'. She'd refused to lay in the bed; both were too stubborn to sit in the lone chair; so they plopped on the floor instead. Finally, Serena sighed. "Sorry about your car."

When he didn't respond, she rolled her eyes, feeling pretty sure he had blamed HER for that, too, so she stood up to leave the freaking hospital—

Darien grabbed her wrist as she stepped over him and tugged her down, catching her as she fell into his lap. "Serena," he said softly, then softly kissed her temple, pulling her tightly against him.

She automatically tried to push away from him, but he pulled her even closer and kissed the top of her head. "I shouldn't have let you go this morning," he said. "That's why I followed you into the school. I have so much to tell you. —I, I shouldn't have let you go at all."

"Let me go," Serena begged, heartbroken. She felt like she'd screwed up everybody's lives, and maybe Darien was just being nice, but it was sure to lead to even more heartbreak for her, because it just felt too good to be held by him, and she knew he wouldn't keep holding her. She had steeled herself for his next mood swing, and although she hadn't expected this much of a mood swing, she was a warrior and knew how think on her feet. Which, in this case, required her to get off his lap on ON to her feet.

That's when he surprised her and gently pulled her head back and kissed her. And kept kissing her, even when she started trying to scramble away. All she could feel was his vice grip around her arms, and a desperate-feeling tongue trying to push her mouth open.

Ami pushed the curtains open brightly and said, "I've got good news, and bad—OH!" ..and ran out.

The interruption was enough to startle Darien's grip loose, and more than enough for Serena to jump out of his arms. She looked around quickly, miserably, and jumped on the bed, pulling the lone cover over herself as if for protection from his cruel maneuverings. Then she picked up the nurse call button and held it in front of her like a crucifix, ready to use it if necessary.

Darien sighed, then got up and sat on the edge of the bed, trying to keep a respectable distance from her before she bolted from the room. He'd had more than enough violence for the day, and it wasn't even noon yet. "Yes, I broke up with you because of the dream," he finally admitted.

Ami walked back in with her mother at that point, looking completely mortified at first, but breathing a sigh of relief when she saw they'd ..righted themselves.

Dr. Mizuno said, "Serena, you've got a concussion, but you'll live." She walked over and sat on the other side of the bed, setting the chart on Serena's lap and flashing a light in her eyes. "I called Ikuko just now. She mentioned your.. 'fall', this morning." She gave her her best Dr. Serious smile. "Said you had it checked out."

"Well, um, —Dr. M, I was dizzy at first, but once I cleaned the wound it looked fine and I really, really didn't need to miss any more school."

"You're on bed rest for the day; and you need to get another checkup in the morning. But I guess you can go home." She smiled warmly at the girl who'd brought so much light into her daughter's life. Ami had never seemed to have many friends before Serena, and now, Ami had tons of friends, places to go, even parties. And Serena was a good girl. Sure, some of their friends seemed a little.. odd. Especially that quiet priestess that lived with that ..perverted old man who'd actually put his hand on her derriere one night when she showed up to give Ami a ride home. But the Tsukinos were great people. Poor Serena just needed a LOT of help in school. And apparently, some help in her gait. She suddenly thought of something and asked, "Have you always had an issue with falling?"



"That was NOT funny," Serena seethed at Ami as they walked out of the hospital. Ami was playing 'drunk Serena', and completely forgetting that of ALL the people to make fun of her in front of, Darien was NOT one of them.

Darien had called for a rental car, and dropped Ami off at school, following her to the door to instruct her quietly to get Serena's homework.

Ami looked at Serena sitting in the car—back seat, again—and said, "Darien, I know you mean well. Well, I guess you mean well. But you really hurt her. A lot. And often. She —she's going to need some time." Like, years, but she let that go unsaid.

Darien shook his head. "She hasn't told you about the dream yet, Ami. She had the same dream last night that I'd had when I broke up with her. I'd thought it was prophecy—"

"Prophecy?" Ami said, slightly interested. "You know, Rini had a dream that was actually an attack—"

"It wasn't like that, Ami. It was a dream about the future; Serena and I were getting married, but then Crystal Tokyo fell, and Serena was dying… a 'prophetic voice' kept telling me that if I stayed with her, she would die horribly in that future."

"And she had that dream last night?" Ami said, confused. But then, realization dawned on her like getting hit by a bus. Or t-boned by a car. "THAT'S why you pushed her away? Darien? A DREAM?"

Darien ignored her rantings. "Ami, she had the same dream last night, only this time, the dream was riddled with errors! She told me about it this morning, and how she'd spotted it as a fake right away." He looked down, ashamed. "Well, she didn't really think it was a fake; she thought I'd sent her the dream. And she thought Rini was involved… it's a long story. But suffice it to say, she thinks the dream was manufactured, and I'm beginning to believe it, as well."

"Does she still think you sent the dream?" Ami asked, glancing over at the car to see what Serena was doing. Serena was starting to watch them now; they'd better hurry this up.

"No," he said. "When we were arguing about it this morning, something made her realize I couldn't have sent it. Even though it was my voice in the dream, or a facsimile of my voice. It seems the fake me didn't know about Andrew and got quite upset about it. Serena apparently didn't remember that detail until we were discussing it this morning—"

"What?" Ami asked, then stared at the car. "Darien, she's bolting—"

Turning around, Darien saw Serena running through parking off and took off: "Serena!"





When he caught up to her, she turned and pointed at him: "Stay AWAY from me, Darien!"

Darien grabbed her arms and said, "Just listen to me! We need to figure this out—"

Tears were streaming down her face now. "I've FIGURED it out, Darien!" She pushed him away and held her arms close to her chest. "You dumped me because you had a damned dream—"

"I didn't want you to DIE," he said, clenching his teeth to keep himself cool. "Serena, I love you! And I never stopped—"

She smacked him. Hard. "No, Darien, you DIDN'T love me. If you had LOVED me, you never would've done that to me! Hell even your BRAINWASHED 'Dark Endymion' self was nicer to me than YOU were." She backed up. "How DARE you claim to love me!" She angrily wiped her eyes and said, "I could have lived with being too stupid for you, or being too fat. Too clumsy. I could have lived with THE TRUTH! But you didn't trust me enough to tell me the truth; you said all those things to push me away—"

"Serena, I'm sorry!" he pleaded shrilly. "I thought I was doing the right thing—!"

"THE DREAM DIDN'T EVEN LOOK REAL!" Serena screamed. She was breathing too hard, she knew; she stepped back again, pointing at him. "My GOD you had me running from you so hard that I MADE OUT with Andrew, and broke up his relationship with Reika! Now he's alone, too, since you're not even his friend anymore! —Andrew didn't deserve ANY of this! And you KNOW it!"

"I'll apologize to him, Serena! I didn't mean—"

"No, you DID mean it! You said it! You never let me go. You just made me think that. You broke me apart, then PUNISHED Andrew for trying to comfort me. And …and RINI?"

"Serena, you're the most forgiving person I know and you HAVE to listen to reason here—!"

She'd stumbled backwards completely out of the parking lot, and now they were on the sidewalk. She glanced down to keep her footing, but kept backing up. Then she looked up at him hatefully. "You wanna know why Rini's going to live with you, Darien?"

Darien shook his head. "I can't do that, Serena. And you can't do that to her. She loves you, and your family. Even if she undoes the brainwashing, SHE's not brainwashed! She'd MISS your family! And apparently she hates me now, judging by the brick, so she won't want that."

"That little demon spawn is your daughter, Darien," Serena said coldly, knowing it would shake him up. And definitely wanting to shake him up. "That's probably why you've felt so protective of her. And it's probably why she's such a fucking spoiled BRAT now! I bet you've let her get away with murder in the future, and then you sent her back when she ..get this! STOLE MY FUCKING CRYSTAL in the FUTURE, so I'm lying around somewhere DYING!" The look on Darien's face was priceless. He was piecing it together now. Slowly. And looks of horror and confusion played across his face that really made her wish she would have thought to record it.

And then she added the pièce de résistance: "Oh! Oh, not that I should complain since it's probably the FIRST peace I've had in a THOUSAND YEARS!"

Darien stood still. Perfectly still. He could see it now. Rini landing on Serena's lap; having the same name. Knowing about the Silver Crystal at all...! The hairstyle; the mannerisms. "You're her mother," Darien's voice cracked. "You're —Rini's mother."

"That's exactly what you said last night in that damned dream last night!" Serena's eyes flashed brilliant, and accusatory.

"Serena, you didn't tell me everything!" Darien said, fear gripping him now. "It's you," he whispered with horror. It's you in so much trouble that your daughter risked everything to come get help; to wake you up— Could she be dead? Rini probably… no. He couldn't think like that now. "Serena… I KNEW you were leaving something out!" is what he actually said, still stupefied. "I just didn't imagine—"

"How's it feel, Darien? You had your stupid fake dream and acted on it without telling me! Turnabout's fair play, right?" She stepped back again, not out of fear of falling into his arms, but out of fear of taking a human life. She seethed, "At least I let you off the hook in a matter of HOURS instead of MONTHS!"

"I thought I was SAVING you!" Darien said, growing angrier that she wasn't seeing the implications here. "Dammit, Serena, I love you! We've got to—"

She sneered. "This is just RICH. Remember how you said you didn't want to be STUCK with me now just because we were together in the past—?"

Darien interrupted forcefully: "I was trying to—!"

"Well I don't want to be STUCK with you because we're supposedly together in the FUTURE! If you can try to 'break destiny', then I sure as hell can too." She nearly leaped back ten feet when he sprinted at her. "I'm *not* living a THOUSAND FUCKING YEARS with YOU coddling that damned brat! You thought you could change the future? You just didn't try HARD enough! Me, I'll RIP OUT MY WOMB before I give birth to that thing! THAT oughta change a few things, right?"

Darien had stopped stalking towards her; something hit him that she wasn't thinking too clearly right now. Taking a deep, cleansing breath, he put on his best beside manner and said, very calmly, "Serena, we just need to calm down. Talk about this." He started walking steadily towards her, wondering – no, hoping! – that Ami had called the Senshi. Serena seemed so upset that he was half-afraid she'd throw herself under a train if he didn't get hold of her.

"How would YOU like knowing you'd be STUCK in HELL for a thousand years, Darien?"

"Serena, if we made it a thousand years, it wasn't 'hell'. And don't you remember that Rini's back here to save YOU? Her Mother? You're her reason for traveling through time, alone, when she's only eight years old!"

"You know what it makes ME wonder? I wonder why YOU didn't come!" Serena spat.

"We don't know enough to even begin to guess the answers to these questions!" Darien said, finally rounding on her and grabbing her from behind. He'd had to transform to do it, but he had her, and that's all that counted right now.



"What," Luna intoned loudly, "is going on here?"

Serena and Tuxedo Mask looked up to see all four Sailor Senshi and the two cats standing immediately before them. Mars stormed up to the battered-looking duo and said, "Take your hands off her now, Mask."

Tuxedo Mask held his breath for a moment, then said, "I can't do that, Sailor Mars."

Sailor Mercury said, "Well, maybe we should at least get off the street."

Jupiter said, "It sorta does look like Tuxedo Mask is mugging a teenager."

Tuxedo Mask looked down; yep, his hand was over her mouth, and her teeth were sunk in his glove. She was kicking and, were it not for his hand, would be screaming. Definitely crying. He looked at Mars and said, "Well what would you suggest we DO?"

Sailor Venus neared Serena and held out a hand: "Wanna go over to my place?"

Serena nodded, calmly, and Tuxedo Mask let her go when she finally seemed to stop crying. Venus smiled at him and took Serena's hand—

And Serena ran through the group of Senshi and jumped onto a moving vehicle. The car hit it's breaks, until the driver looked back to see an oddly dressed group of—oh, the Senshi, coming at it full blast. As a bright pink light filled the air, the driver hit the gas and drove for all he was worth.



Tuxedo Mask took off to get her, but found himself bound arm and foot by the Senshi. And Luna was on his top hat. The tuxedo-clad man screamed, "She's GETTING AWAY! Go GET her!"

Sailor Mars, pinning his arm against a light pole, growled out, "And that's okay, Tuxedo Mask. Why don't we give her a little SPACE. I hear she's had a ROUGH MORNING!" Although she couldn't imagine how things had degraded so much further after Darien had tried to kill Andrew yesterday at the arcade. Ami had just alerted them all that Serena was in trouble, and the only other information they had was that Darien had kissed her, then told Ami he had a dream. She muttered under her breath, "So did Martin Luther King. It actually brought people together, not rip them apart."

Tuxedo Mask watched as Sailor Moon leaped off the car she'd been on, then disappeared among buildings. "Great." Then he turned to Sailor Venus: "You made me let go of her; YOU call her on that weird communicator—"

Luna tore the hat from his head and dropped it to the ground: "Oh no you di'int! Let me tell you something, Mr. Project Runway. That communicator spent years in research and development and is perfectly designed for the tasks at hand. And someone who wears a hat like that just doesn't gets to ridicule it. —now what did you do to her this time?"




Promise Rings

Serena detransformed, and ran. She found a tree and beat it up, leaving it for splinters. And then she ran some more. When her communicator went off, she threw it in the ocean. Not figuratively, either—she transformed into Sailor Moon, bound for the coast of Japan, blasted herself high in the air, and just as Sailor Mars came onscreen with some surly remarks about her coming out of hiding, she THREW it into the ocean. And hoped that little tsunami it caused wouldn't completely destroy that tiny little island it was heading towards.

And then she turned toward the elementary school, fury in her eyes. She flew past buildings and cars, DARING someone to be in her way. —well, she would have felt terrible if she'd mowed someone down, so was careful that nobody was in her way to begin with. But it still felt nice to think she was DARING someone to be in her way.

She felt much better when, as Serena Tsukino, regular girl, she waited outside the elementary school for Rini to come out. She smiled and waved at Rini, then grabbed her hand so they could walk.

"Did Darien take care of your head?" Rini asked warmly with a big smile.

"Oh yeah," Serena said, somewhat sarcastically. "He took care of things alright."

"Did you get Andrew and Reika back together?" Rini asked hopefully.

That startled Serena. Serena had forgotten all about how she'd screwed up their lives, too.

Rini, suspecting the answer, said, "Well, I know how we can do it! You see, there's this promise ring shop with free lessons so even you can afford it! Everyone's getting one, and they really work! Look!" She showed Serena the bracelet around her wrist. "I've already gotten one! What you do is, you make a promise ring for someone, and if they really love you, the ring will come apart!"

Serena glared at her: "I don't want anyone to love ME, Rini. I want Andrew to love REIKA again. And only her. The way it should be!"

"Well you could TRY, Serena! We'll just make one for Reika, and just to be safe, I'll give it to Andrew and tell him Reika wanted him to have it."

Serena let her frown subside, and actually smiled a little. "You really think that could work?" —but then she remembered, this was Rini. "Andrew will probably fall in love with YOU, Rini."

Rini harrumphed. "Well, that's better than him being in love with YOU, isn't it?"

"He's not in love with me!" Serena said. "He felt sorry for me. And —did you even SEE Darien attacking Andrew this morning? It's like everyone who's nice to me gets hurt."

Rini sighed. "I know how that feels."

They walked quietly. The Rini screamed, "Oh look, Serena! There's Molly! And her boyfriend Mundane! "

"Melvin," Serena corrected.

Molly ran up to the two: "What happened to you today? Your uncle showed up but they couldn't find you!"

"Car accident. Didn't Ami tell you?" Serena asked.

Then Serena remembered that Ami couldn't have had the chance to actually get back into school today. She quickly added, "We were at the hospital, but they let us all go. We're fine."

Rini looked up at Serena with concern: "Car accident?"

"Long story, kiddo," Serena said flatly, remembering all too well exactly why she'd gone to confront Rini in the first place.

But Molly grabbed Serena's hand and pulled her into the crafts store: "You came to make promise rings, right?"

"YES!" Rini lit up, grabbing Serena's other hand and jumping up and down.





"Well, that's it, then," Lita said. "Rini's got to remove that brainwashing and leave the Tsukino household."

"Yeah, Serena sorta gets a BIG say in this one, guys," Rei agreed.

"For the LAST time," Darien growled, "they don't have to PAY for the CAR! —forget the car!" Darien was completely frustrated. "You can't do this to her. Not just to Rini, but to Serena. Because she's going to come to her senses one day, and hate herself for kicking her own DAUGHTER to the curb!"

Ami shook her head, looking at her computer display. "I don't get the thousand years thing, but they do share DNA. It's not a reincarnated Serena that gives birth to that child." She sat back, tapping her pen. Turned to look at Darien. "Here's what we're going to do. We're going to extract some of her ova, freeze it, and just the possibility of you being able to fertilize the eggs one day will keep Rini's existence possible, so she won't disappear." Beat. "Then you and Serena don't have to get back together, regardless of the prophecies and destinies and whatnot!"

They all stared at Ami blankly, but Luna said, "You know, that MIGHT be comforting to Serena."

Lita laughed, "Sucks to be Serena right now, that's for sure." Darien had made his case to them once they reached his apartment, and they grilled him for details, enough so that everyone was pretty clear on what had happened this morning.

And Lita had smacked Darien, hard, for stopping Serena's spanking of Rini. Not one of the girls or cats were on Darien's side in this, which distressed him. "I'm just not a fan of corporal punishment, I suppose."

Rei said, "You can't blame her for cringing at the thought of her future, Darien! You've been HELLISH to her —and don't say a WORD about that dream. Plus Rini almost got us all killed."

"Trying to SAVE HER MOTHER!" Darien insisted again, for the billionth time. "Which is EXACTLY what our jobs are!"




A New Understanding

The strangely-dressed instructor stood over Serena and asked, "So who do you want to love you?"

"Nobody!" Serena spat. Then swallowed. "I mean, this isn't for me. This is for a friend of mine who broke up with his girlfriend, but they still love each other, and —"

"Silly girl," Regalia said, ripping the instructions from Serena's hands. "You make him fall in love with YOU." She shifted through a folder of instructions and pulled one out: "Here, THIS is for a third party!"

Serena ripped the instructions from the strange instructor's hand and started winding the strings together.

Rini said, "You're tying yourself in knots, Serena!" She jerked the strings from Serena's hands, or at least tried to, and somehow they ended up tied together.

Serena screamed, "You've cut off the blood supply to my fingers!"

Rini pulled harder: "I'm TRYING to get it out, stop MOVING!"

As the girls started ripping their hands apart, Molly showed up and clipped the binds with scissors, then helped them pull the strings away from their hands. "I'm almost finished the one I'm making for Melvin. Want me to do yours?"

Both Serena and Rini glared at Molly, who shrunk back with an apology. And then the bell rung, and Regalia screamed, "GET OUT! Go, wear your creations and—"

"I didn't get one!" Serena screamed.

But she was shoved out bodily by a laughing Regalia, and Rini was tossed unceremoniously into Serena's lap. Molly bent down to ask if they were okay, but saw how mad Serena was and took off, saying she'd see her at school the next day.

"I'm sorry, Serena," Rini said softly, walking beside her just as morosely as Serena was.

"Whatever," Serena glowered.

Rini said, "Hey, you think if we just went to the arcade and TOLD Andrew that you're into Darien—"

"I'm NOT!" Serena said, then spun on Rini and grabbed her wrist, pulling herself down to eye level with Rini. "Look, I used to, about ..him," she wasn't sure why it was so hard to even spit out his damned name. "But I don't anymore. Not at all. I would rather DIE than be with him. Do you understand me?"

Rini started weeping and said, "Is it because of me?"

Serena glared. This little brat was looking all pitiful, which Serena had SEEN her use a thousand times to get her way, and …and it was working. "AARGH!" Serena said. "Look, maybe you and I can get along. Is that what you want?"

Rini nodded, but still looked sad.

Serena smiled coldly, but let the little girl's arm go free. But she stayed kneeling to face Rini eye-to-eye: "Fine. Here's the thing. I don't want to be treated like he treats me—"

"But, Serena!" Rini started whining.

"NO!" Serena said. "No BUTS. He used to be nice; he's STILL nice to most people. But he's not good for me; we're not good for each other. And you know that as well as I do. If you want to be friends with me? —keep any mention of Darien out of my earshot. I don't want to hear it. He and I aren't even friends anymore." She smiled sweetly. "I'll work with him to keep you safe, just like I'll work with the other Senshi. But that's IT." She breathed deeply, PRAYING that Rini understood this completely. "Okay, Rini? Can you do that for me?"

Rini said, "It's because of me."

"No," Serena said, again, feeling like she was explaining the same thing over and over to Forrest Gump. "It's because Darien and I don't belong together. It's because if I EVER go out with another guy again, he'll be NICE to me. He won't think I'm fat; or stupid; or clumsy —even if I am."

"You'll never find a guy like that, Serena," Rini said, sadly.

Serena's eyes bugged out, but she swallowed her fury and said, "Then I won't go out with any guy. I have plenty of friends, and —well, like Lita says, there's always one-night-stands! Play the field; have fun! Because life is …" she choked briefly. "Short. Life is short, Rini." Or it sure as hell SHOULD be short.

"But my Mommy's lived a long time, Serena! You might too! And me, too!" Rini said happily.

"All the more reason to not get stuck with a guy that hates you, right?" Serena smiled. "I've set a horrible example for you in the way I've handled this thing with Darien," Serena said.

"And school," Rini added. "And homework, and your mom, and the droids—"

Serena glared at the brat and stood up, dragging Rini down the street and towards their home. "Okay, just remember I'm fourteen and am allowed to make a few errors."

"Your other friends are fourteen or fifteen and they don't—" Rini shut up as Serena started screaming at her.





Darien was dragged into the arcade by four girls, and followed by two cats. They'd spent the last hour or more at his apartment going over both his dream, and Serena's interpretation of her dream. And now they'd decided that, regardless of what they did with Rini, maybe Darien had a point about Serena's immediate mental state.

But since the one thing that seemed to bug Serena even more than Rini being her daughter was what had happened to Andrew during all this drama, they almost unanimously decided that fixing up Darien and Andrew's friendship would be a good start to fixing things with Serena.

"This is stupid," Darien said, trying to turn to leave. But Lita was behind him, and, with a wide smile, she said, "Do it."

Darien rolled his eyes and walked ahead, straight into Andrew. Who was glaring at him: "I thought I told you never to set foot back in here again."

Mina went to hang onto Andrew's arm with a wide smile, but ended up face-first over a barstool as Lita shoved her and grabbed Andrew's arm instead: "Darien wants to apologize for everything."

Darien backed up a step, right into Rei, who shoved him back towards Andrew. "Yes," Darien said. "I was out of line and am very sorry," he said robotically.

"Oh that sounds sincere," Andrew rolled his eyes.

"It is," Mina said, sitting up and pulling her skirts back down. "He's very ashamed of how he acted. He's been under a lot of stress and needs Prozacs—"

"Mina, I can talk for myself," Darien said haughtily, pulling his jacket out of Rei's grasp and straightening it up over his shoulders. He looked at Andrew and started to say something, then closed his mouth.

Andrew sighed, then asked, "How's Serena? Ikuko called and told me—"

"I-KU-Ko?" Darien asked in a strangling voice.

Andrew nodded and said, "Yeah, Serena's mom."

Darien said, "I know who the hell she is, you—"

Rei blasted from behind him, "Darien's just ..feeling guilty about Serena getting hurt this morning, Andrew."

Andrew muttered, "Maybe he shouldn't have CREAMED her trying to get to me, then."

"THAT was an ACCIDENT, Andrew, and—" Darien pushed Rei off him, "GET OFF ME! I can speak for myself!"

Rei was startled; she hadn't seen this side of Darien in at least 24 hours. She glanced over at Lita, who, along with Mina, was hanging onto Andrew's arms, bodily protecting him. So Rei nodded, and stepped back. Cautiously.

Andrew shrugged. "I shouldn't have kissed her in front of you. It's somewhat my fault, I guess."

Darien's eyes turned from blazing red back to a more normal bleeding red, and he straightened up a bit. Nodded his head. "Well, no, I shouldn't have reacted so strongly."

Andrew agreed. "Especially since she's not your girlfriend anymore."

Lita cringed as Rei and Ami both grabbed Darien's jacket to hold him back. Sighing, she said, "Look, you guys need to chill out and be friends or Serena's never going to be happy." She didn't trust that Darien really cared about Serena's happiness, but she felt Andrew did.

Ami, shoving mightily past Darien without losing her grip, said, "It seems Darien's still interested in her. Maybe. And since you're his best friend maybe we shouldn't try to snipe at each other so much."

"Are you serious, man?" Andrew asked Darien.

Lita bent over and whispered into Andrew's ear, " C."

Darien said, "I'd like another chance to make it work."

Rei's eyes exploded, and she punched Darien in the back, then dragged him outside. "Excuse us!" she yelled as the door clanged behind them.



"Oh, HELL no!" Rei said. "You can't do this!"

"It's how I feel," Darien said, somewhat ashamed. "I never wanted to let her go to begin with, but if the dreams were manufactured—"

"And what if they WEREN'T?" Rei spat out. "What then? You just dump her again in the future? I go through this again?" She laughed, "Oh, HELL NO!"

"Why don't you let Serena decide what she wants to do, Rei?" Darien asked. "We have a child together—"

"And that makes things WORSE, you IDIOT!" Rei yelled. "Don't you SEE that?"

"No?" Darien said, seriously not seeing that.

She smacked his chest: "She already thinks you hate her, and I'm not so sure she's wrong. But if you want to date her NOW after you've learned that RINI is your DAUGHTER, can you IMAGINE how that would make her FEEL?" She shoved him hard. "Like a baby-making machine! And she deserves a LOT more than that. In case you've forgotten, she's not just some normal chick out here you can play your mind games with. You'd better be DAMNED sure you want her back before you even make that play again."





Serena and Rini were nearing the arcade when Rini screamed out in pain; Serena immediately grabbed her and saw the promise ring was glowing with Dark Energy. She transformed and ripped the offending bracelet from Rini's wrist, then said, "Get to the arcade; I've got to go—" and bolted back towards the crafts store.

Rini ran and ran, blasting past the last two corners and ran directly into Rei, who was beating Darien.

"What's wrong, pumpkin?" Darien asked, picking Rini up as much for protection as to comfort the scared little girl.

Rei heard screams coming from inside the arcade and ran in, only to see Mina and Lita ripping bracelets off their arms. "What the hell is that?"

Rini came running in and said, "Serena went back to the bracelet store. My bracelet did that, too!"

Andrew jumped up and said, "Mina, can you cover—?"

Mina knocked him back and said, "You stay, loverboy; we've got this." And with that, the four Senshi were out of the arcade and transforming, Luna telling them to try to contact Serena.



Sailor Moon arrived to see Regalia on the roof, relishing in the dark energy transferring from the evil bracelets into one of Emerald's little idols. "Oh WHY should I be surprised the tacky instructor is a droid!" She pulled out her Moon Rod and said, "Time to get hit the with Fashion Stick!"

Regalia turned, and laughed: "Who the hell are you supposed to be? Yankee Doodle who Lost Her Noodle?" Powering up a dark ring, Regalia yelled, "There's no room for Red White and Blue in the this dark energy gate!"

Serena steamed, aiming her Moon Rod at the ugly dark power ring Regalia was cooking up. Who the hell was Yankee Doodle? "Um.. how DARE you turn people's hopes for true love to EVIL!" Regalia's ring grew bigger yet, then took a flying leap at Sailor Moon. Moon screamed and dodged the thing, just as Luna hopped up to the roof.

Regalia laughed even more and said, "This is the PERFECT promise ring for the noodle with too many boyfriends! May they ALL love you and destroy each other forever!"

The rooftop exploded in front of Sailor Moon and Luna; they leaped back and Sailor Moon said, "Damn, she's serious!"

"Stand UP, Sailor Moon!" Luna hissed.

Sailor Moon stood up, only to have to dodge another evil ring. As the ring was airborne, Regalia yelled, "This Ring promises to leave your womb barren FOREVER!"

—and Sailor Moon stopped, staring at the ring flying at her. "Does that mean what I think it does—?"

Luna jumped at her just then, screaming "MOVE!", when a flying rose hit the ring and shattered the evil promise ring.

Tuxedo Mask stood bravely on the rooftop, and started his important speech: "A promise ring is the pure heart of a girl, and I won't forgive—"

Tuxedo Mask faltered when he got sucker-punched by a powerful ring.. only this wasn't an energy ring thrown by Regalia - it was a tiara! A Moon Princess tiara, in fact! Head zinging, he spun to see Sailor Moon catch the tiara and then turn to fume at him: "YOU don't get to talk about saving the pure hearts of girls, Mask."

He angrily cleared his throat and re-aimed his rose, yelling at Sailor Moon, "I'm trying to HELP you here."

Regalia had jumped into the air, confused as hell at the Sailor Upstart throwing her own rings at the masked man. "Who the hell is this Bat Boy?" She laughed, comprehending, when she saw the one called Sailor Moon glaring at the strangely-attired florist. "You helped me out; allow me to help you! Yo, Caped Canary! TRY THIS promise ring," and she started forming the darkest of rings yet, "SURE to guarantee that the man it hits will be forever separated from his true love!"

Tuxedo Mask deflected the ring with his cane, albeit unfortunately sent it flying right into the newly-arrived Sailor Jupiter. Jupiter freaked out, but the ring dissipated harmlessly. "Good, cause I'm SOOO not a man!"

"That's arguable, but no matter! —The power keeps growing!" Regalia gleamed, aiming several dark energy rings at Sailor Moon.

—who was aghast. The rose hit Regalia at the same time as Sailor Moon was yelling, "Oh, HELL no! Do you robots have NO sense of priority here? I HELPED you, you scantily-clad metal witch!"

Regalia said, "Sorry, Bat Boy deflected. You're on your own! And you're IN MY WAY!"

Crap, an energy ring was upon Sailor Moon —as was Tuxedo Mask. They rolled several times from the force of his hit, and Sailor Moon freaked when she saw the destruction on the roof where she'd just been standing.

She shoved Mask away: "Oh get OFF me!" and jumped up, just as the rest of the Senshi got to her. The warriors looked up aghast at the size of the towering statue.

"We've got to slow down her attacks so Sailor Moon can get in a hit!" Mercury insisted, dropping her computer for the second time in the last few days. She almost cried at the sight, but re-focused on the droid. "NOW!"

"On it!" Sailor Moon said, powering up.

Regalia was almost gleeful as the scouts spread out and started tossing powerless attacks at her rings. USELESSLY! This was pure joy!

Tuxedo Mask's cane blocked ring after ring, but they started rolling back towards him, still fully charged with the evil spells.

However, when he saw that Mercury's super-charged attack had finally completely frozen Regalia's rings, force of habit had him shouting, "Sailor Moon—"

The Halation attack was off; all Moon had to do was hold still a minute longer. And ignore the annoying commands of her ex-ex-SUPER-ex-never-again-in-a-million-years-EX boyfriend. "Focus - focus - focus," she chanted to herself, never letting her eyes off the droid.




When Regalia deformed into a little black jewel that tinkered to the ground, Sailor Jupiter rounded on an exhausted Sailor Moon and picked her up in a bear hug: "WE DID IT! —Damn, I thought for sure we'd lost that one!"

Luna, appearing out of nowhere, sat down by her exhausted charge and said, "Mercury's attack was VERY effective tonight." She cleared her throat. "But, um, Sailor Moon, I think your tiara throw ..was a little off it's intended target."

"Yeah THANKS for that!" Tuxedo Mask said sarcastically, huffing and puffing like he had single-handedly blown the statue down. The figurine was shrinking on its own, but the effect was the same. Sailor Moon glared at him wondering what the hell he was tired from. Eh, maybe the roses were heavier than they looked.

An angry Emerald appeared in the sky just as Sailor Mars was re-joining the group. "Oh not this again—" Rei thought, even as the laughter started:

"EEEE-bwahahahahaha!" Emerald gleamed, staring down at the runts. She continued her promises of destruction, building to her crescendo masterpiece that would surely drive them insane! "...and Crystal Tokyo will be DESTROYED! Beyond all repair!"

Sailor Moon stood up and shouted angrily, "I've had it about up to HERE about 'Crystal Tokyo'. If someone doesn't destroy it soon, I'LL see to it myself!"

"Ex-cuuuuuuuseeeee ME?" Emerald said, somewhat shocked. And actually landed on the rooftop to confront the Sailor Scout. "Let me tell you something, Missy. This is MY job. NOT yours."

As the Scouts, Tuxedo Mask, and the cats did a double-take of Sailor Moon, the Moon Princess sauntered over to Emerald and bopped her on the head with her moon rod.

"OOOOoowwwwww!" Emerald said, rubbing her scalp and backing up a step. "Easy there; JUST got the hair did, beanpole!"

Sailor Moon wagged her moon rod at Emerald and was about to give her the where-fore, when Emerald jumped up and disappeared.

From far above, Emerald screwed up her face in consternation. Crossed her arms. Put her arms on her hips. Wondered. Then her eyes flew open wide. The hair! The eyes! -well, not the boobs, but... "YOU!" she screamed, filled with horror.