A/N: Hmm...Less reviews than usual for the previous chapter and I thought it was one of my better chapters. Anyway, I'm surprised no one picked up on the archaeologist and the artist comment by Bleu Neigeux. Let's see if the connection is clearer after this chapter... ;) Some definitions/clarifications placed at final A/N.
Thanks a lot to those who favourite/follow or simply took the time to read this story. Thank you also to those who favourite/follow me instead of my stories. Special thanks to:
kera69love: LOL. I'll try to accommodate your request but we won't be seeing anymore of Seiya and Saori for the next couple of chapters, although, they will definitely play a bigger part in later chapters. ;) JFVM, Godschildtweety & tototo: Thank you! Both for the review and for sticking with this story! I'm really glad the three of you approved of the chapter! ;) catgirl505: The meatballs of course! ;) trish 1573: LOL. I was confused, what did D do that made you soangry? When your PM came, I was giggling away! LOL. Out of 5000+ words, you zeroed in on his greeting Saori! You really are something! *I think you're great!* I'll comment more below as another reader shares your same opinion. ;) As for the baseball knowledge and my exam, lucky I inherited Mama's ability to absorb the written words pretty quickly, huh? ;) Moonprincess998: Erk! You really want them to get their memories back, don't you? The scene is actually already written but I don't think it's going to be what anyone would expect, at least not the outcome. As it is, the chapter is still titled Remembering the Past and is several chapters away and will still be dedicated to you! ;) Nickybluejess: Oh thanks! I like naughty Darien, don't you? There's also quite a bit of naughty Darien in S + D = ss + dd! ;) SerenityShields: Wow! What a comprehensive review and such a compliment! Thanks! *you made me blush again* Guest: Thanks! Welcome to TOBITF and here's your update! ;) Romyna.Z: Thanks! I'm glad you thought so. It was fun learning about baseball despite the initial confusions over all the terms and slang. I could use all the positive vibes, so thank you ever so much for sending some my way! ;) Emily: Wow! Another comprehensive review and such beautiful words! Thanks! D telling Saori that he's seeing S is one of my favourite scenes too! *wink* kbtjmandy: Thanks! LOL. I read over 20 articles on the subject! I kept coming across foreign term/slang which led me to more articles to figure out their meaning! I even studied Alex Rodriguez! I'm really glad the scene worked! You made my day by saying so! Thank you so much! Your review, as usual, made me smile a mile wide! You have a great day too! ;) CherrySerenity-sama: Thank you so much! I'm really glad you liked the black-eye scene as it was written in especially for you! You're welcome. As for the twist, I like creating surprises out of the predictable, but I'm quite surprise no one made the connections...yet! ;) Rose: Oh WOW! That's a LOT of love! Thank you! I'm speechless! And the answer to your question is...READ ON! ;) LOL, just kidding! Yes, they're heading to Japan and yes, they'll meet some characters from their previous life, older now... Big thanks once again *hug & kiss* Sacagewea: LOL. I'm glad you're still alive! And welcome to TOBITF! Emerald, Sapphire and Demoniques motives will become clearer as the story progresses and there may be a Kevin & Mina scene in TOBITF's next drabble in S + D = ss + dd. A double date huh? I'll try and accommodate that request in one of the future chapters. ;) trish 1573 & Sacagewea: D greeting Saori scene was written from both D&S POV. She saw it and was jealous due to her insecurities. He did it because it was knee jerk. I think readers reacted to S's feelings and would've been okay with it if she had been okay with it. But do remember, he had no idea she was affected by it. We get conscious of doing something wrong, not of something that is habitual. It had always been his way of greeting Saori. He also told Saori outright that he was seeing S. I think on one level, it's assuring that D still greeted Saori that way. It shows he has no feelings for her, nothing to feel guilty about. It also shows how assured he is in his feelings for S that he hadn't thought she might be insecure because in his mind she had nothing to be insecure about. We greet different people differently in our lives, a hug for someone close, a kiss on the cheek to some, a handshake or a nod towards acquaintances. It's knee jerk. The automatic way we greet certain people normally don't change with our relationship status. So aside from him being oblivious and her being insecure, neither S nor D is really at fault here. Though I wouldn't want to be in her shoes, feeling what she is feeling! She needs to tell him how she feels and she will. I'm building my moments! ;) smfan4ever72: Thanks! I'm glad! Jealous D is fun to write! ;)
Telepathic communications / thoughts are in Italics.
(Standard disclaimer: I do not own any of the Sailor Moon characters. All characters belong to Naoko Takeuchi.)
Chapter 22: Past Silhouettes & Birthday Celebration
Jason's and Nathan's Kitchen (As the baseball match took place)
"So, what kind of cake are we having?" Nathan asked curiously as he efficiently took out two trays of oblong pastries from the oven and set it to cool on the counter next to another two trays of little round swirly pastries that was already cooling.
"Chocolate butter cake with chocolate mousse filling and chocolate fudge frosting," Lita declared as she concentrated on spreading the frosting on the treat evenly, "and you're not getting any until the birthday song is sang, the candles are blown and Rena cut the cake."
Nathan angled his head, amused, his lips twitching, "What? Not even a taste of the frosting?"
He leaned down to kiss her but she saw his hand moved towards the chocolate fudge frosting and slapped it away, moving the bowl out of his reach.
Laughing when she saw the disappointed look on his face, she gave him a quick kiss and pulled a fresh spoon out of a drawer, dipped it into the frosting and held it to his mouth, "One taste is all you get," she relented.
Nathan closed his eyes and savoured the rich taste of chocolate fudge, "Completely worth it," he murmured, and then taking another fresh spoon, he dipped it into another bowl at his station and held the spoon to her mouth, "How's my vanilla custard filling?"
Lita tasted the cream puff filling and sighed in appreciation, "Very nice," she commented.
"It is if I do say so myself," Nathan replied as he started piping in vanilla custard into the small swirly pastries.
The two worked silently side by side, comfortable in their own separate corners, each perfecting their delicacies with the radio playing in the background.
Satisfied with his cream puffs, Nathan put a pot to slow heat and added chocolate and butter to melt. He turned and took out the whipped cream from the fridge and deftly filled in the oblong pastries, determined that his éclairs should be as perfect as his cream puffs.
"Hmm...Maybe you should take the cream puffs down and come back here for the éclairs and cake? I'm almost done with the cake and can put the chocolate icing for the éclairs for you. There should be enough room in the downstairs fridge," Lita said seeing the crowded kitchen counter, "They'll taste better cold. So we'll take them out and arrange them properly nearing to the time. Also, see how Amara, Michelle and the children are faring downstairs and make sure Andrew doesn't over do it."
"Hmm...Are you sure we aren't overdoing it?" Nathan asked, gesturing to the makings of apple crumble and beef lasagne that was waiting their turns for the two culinary experts' attention.
Lita's eyes twinkled. "There are thirteen of us with most of us and Rena each having a sweet tooth...plus four children with Rena's appetite...plus two cats with a weakness for beef lasagne."
Nathan laughed. "And I'm pretty sure they worked up an appetite at the game. What I wouldn't give to see Rena and Mina in action!"
Lita lifted a brow, a smirk on her face, "Why do you think Amara and the children opted to have the celebration downstairs in the base op, where all our monitors are? Amara and the children are watching the game."
She walked to the fridge with her leftover frosting and sent him a level amused look over her shoulder, "Figures," she muttered as he disappeared in a puff with two trays in his hands, not even bothering to transfer the cream puffs into plates or containers.
Humming softly to herself she piped chocolate icing onto éclairs and prepped fresh tomatoes, tomato paste, onions, garlic and minced beef for her lasagne and in her concentration only vaguely caught the news on the radio, "...connections between the missing Joe Kichirou, forty-eight years old millionaire cyber carnival owner and Yumemi Yumeno or more infamously known as the fifty years old legendary artist, Peggy Jones, other than the fact that both personalities hailed from Minato, Tokyo. In fact, both rather private figures are said to come from the Azabu-Juban district. In other news..."
"Joe Kichirou," she murmured slowly. The name brought to her mind the image of a teenage boy with backwards cap, brown hair and dark brown eyes behind black rimmed glasses who had a knack for winning toys from the crane games once upon a time, in another lifetime, "Crane Game Joe?"
Darien's and Andrew's Kitchen
Meanwhile, in his kitchen, in the middle of preparing a dozen pepperoni pizza and trays of chocolate brownies for the girl he loved like a sister, the mention of the Azabu-Juban district of Minato, Tokyo from his own sound system, also brought memories of the past from a different lifetime to the forefront of Andrew's mind.
Slowly, he put the knife in his hand down and sat on a stool, his hazel green eyes glazed over from remembrance of a different life, of him and a beautiful girl with long wavy brown hair that reached her waist with round, intelligent brown eyes that had melted his heart, standing together at the airport with the sound of airport officials announcing for the boarding of the flight to Nairobi, Africa.
In her gentle voice, she had promised to keep him always in her heart and to write to him every day and he had made her the same promise as he let her go to further her studies.
"I'll miss you so much. I'll write to you every day," her voice played in his mind over and over again.
But Motoki Furuhata had died and he was reborn as Andrew Forbes and Andrew wondered what had become of Reika Nishimura, the love of Motoki Furuhata's life.
Shields Exclusive Living Complex, Basement
Amara laughed at the image of Mina running around with the baseball in her hand, horror and confusion on her cousin's face as she yelled for Amy for instruction.
"I can't believe those two!" she said wiping her eyes, the balloon in her hand completely forgotten.
"What did I miss?" Nathan asked as he appeared right behind the famous car racer and her equally famous musician lover.
"Aunt Mina's confused who to throw the ball to," Darren answered him, passing a huge blue balloon to Michelle to be tied up.
"It's the second inning, the other team's the home team and our team is currently leading 4-3 with two men out," Michelle filled him in.
"Mina's right field and she's just caught a long fly ball," Amara added, "and running around lost like kitten did in the first inning."
Nathan's eyes widened. "They really went in completely clueless? And still managed to stay on top and not drag the team down?"
Amara chuckled, "Apparently so. Seems all the training paid off. They're in excellent shape," she said smugly.
"Mummy hit a home run, Uncle Nathan!" Suri said, jumping excitedly.
Darryl added proudly, "In the first inning and she was the first hitter too!"
Nathan whistled approvingly.
"Are those cream puffs, Uncle Nathan?" Sara asked, her nose sniffing the delicious smell coming from Nathan's hand appreciatively.
Nathan looked down at the trays in his hands and groaned, "I forgot to transfer them into containers!"
On the second level of the command center, Luna and Artemis were going over the same report heard by Andrew and Lita, both of which were still upstairs preparing the feast for the evening's birthday celebration.
If it were possible for cats to have expressions, Artemis and Luna's would have been worry and bafflement. It seemed that more than just the two prominent figures that originated from Minato, Tokyo had gone missing the last week and a half and that was how long the Demoniaques had been silent, undetected by their radar.
Once they had confirmed the identity and connection between Joe Kichirou and Yumemi Yumeno from their database, the cat guardians had run a search for four others that they considered might be targeted. Two was confirmed deceased while the other two, a genius professor and a renowned archaeologist also appeared to be missing, though in each case it was unclear whether the disappearance was voluntary or forced.
Peering at the balloons and the preparation for the birthday celebration that was underway at the lower level, they silently agreed to let the computer and cameras ran their search for the four presumed missing people and programmed an additional search for seven separate energy signatures. The day after would be soon enough to have a group meeting. For now, everyone had gone through enough in the past five weeks and their Princess deserved to celebrate her eighteenth birthday without the additional worry.
Back down below, Nathan was not proof against four pairs of 'Serena' eyes looking up at him pleadingly and he graciously let everyone take a cream puff each.
"I suppose I have enough time to prepare another batch of these and I have enough custard cream left for the filling," he said good-naturedly, "Just one each so you don't spoil your appetite. We're preparing a feast and I haven't even gone to check what Andrew's preparing yet!"
"What are we having tonight, Uncle Nathan?" Sara asked enthusiastically.
Rubbing her hair affectionately, he answered, "We have éclairs and these cream puffs and are making apple crumble pie and beef lasagne and I think Uncle Andrew's making pizza."
"Will you have some leftover beef too?" Darren asked hopefully.
"I supposed so. Why?"
"Can we make some Shepherd's pie, please Uncle Nathan?" Darryl answered for his twin.
"Without the carrots, please Uncle Nathan?" Suri added. Her 'Serena' eyes wide with plea.
Nathan couldn't help but laugh, "I think we'll be able to manage, if you insist," and laughed harder at the identical vigorous nods that came from the four children before continuing, "I need to teleport back up and transfer these into containers though. I'll need extra hands to bring the desserts and cake down to put in the fridge here. Who wants to help?" he asked ruffling Darryl's hair lightly and pulling Sara's pigtails teasingly.
"Just make sure you come back to help me find where Jason hid his present. That copy cat!" Amara growled out.
"What Ruka Uncle means is that we'd be really glad if two of you could stay and help with decorations and preparations down here, after you help Uncle Nathan bring the desserts down, of course," Michelle intervened gently for the children's benefit.
"Jace hid his present?" Nathan grinned, "You'll need a miracle! He's a master of illusion, you won't find what he doesn't want you to find!"
With the blond Scout of the Sky muttering about misuse of power, the tall muscular General of Earth teleported himself and the four children back to his kitchen on the twentieth floor where the Scout of Thunder figured with all the extra help she was getting, it would only take about twice as long to get everything done.
Shields Exclusive Living Complex, Basement (A few hours later)
"You should give up already, Amara. Rena and Jace are on their way back," Mina said slipping her communicator back in her back pocket.
After the baseball game, the siblings had gone off to see their parents so that they could wish Serena happy birthday, effectively warding the parents from dropping by and eliminating any need to explain the children's presence whose outward resemblance to Serena would no doubt raise the Taylors' suspicions.
Darien heaved a sigh of relief that there was no Demoniaques attack and both his girl friend and best friend were okay. He had been torn between whether or not to go with them but he and Serena had both decided that they weren't ready to let her parents know of their relationship status as yet, especially considering their own hesitation and fear to admit their own feelings, or rather the depth of it, to each other, or even to themselves, out loud and not to mention the overprotective nature of Ken Taylor of his 'little princess'.
It did take Jason promising to teleport both himself and Serena back to base immediately if there was an attack for Darien to leave though.
"It's somewhere around here. You know where. Tell me!" Amara growled out in response, turning a threatening look at Raye.
The raven haired beauty just laughed it off, shrugging her shoulder in the process, "He wouldn't tell me but I'm psychic. So, I have a pretty good idea. What's in it for me if I tell you?" she teased.
Before the tall blonde could reply, Amy interrupted, "They're here!"
The elevator entrance to their operation base opened to let Serena and Jason in.
"Happy Birthday, Rena!" everyone greeted the birthday girl.
Andrew turned up the music slightly and with a laugh, Lita grabbed Serena and danced her in a circle before Nathan expertly stepped in.
Darien watched as his very tall friend grinned charmingly at his Meatball Head and couldn't help smiling himself when his princess was passed from one set of arms to another and smiled wider when Serena let Darren and Darryl twirled her around.
His eyebrow rose when the normally shy and serious Zachary teasingly tugged Serena's braid and touched his forehead to hers and softly murmured something to the petite blonde.
He watched as she kissed Zachary's cheek and pouted when she was plucked out of Zachary's arm by Andrew who proceeded to kiss her lavishly.
He continued to watch as Kevin drew Serena gently into his arms and brushed the top of her head with a kiss. The show of affection and the tenderness with which the normally stoic Kevin bestowed it had Darien blinking in surprise.
These are his friends. Ones he had known his whole life. And all their lives, these guys had always kept themselves apart from outsiders.
Jason had managed to infiltrate the group in first grade when the Taylors had moved into the same city and he had moved to their school and ended up in the same class as himself, Zachary and Andrew but for a long time after that, it was the six of them against the world.
One by one each of his friend except for Andrew, had fallen in love, opened their hearts to the ones they claimed to be their soul mates but had otherwise maintained their distance from everyone else. Oh, they were a charming lot. Polite, pleasant and amiable depending on circumstances but there was always a thin, solid barrier keeping them separate from others.
Yet here she was, and it was transparent that she had made her way into their hearts. Every single one of them.
Why should I be surprised? She made her way into my heart without even trying, he told himself, not a bit unnerved by the thought.
A tug on his leg brought Darien out of his reverie, "Daddy! Dance with Mummy!" Sara said as she and Suri pulled him by the hand to join the dancing Serena, Darryl and Darren.
Dancing and laughing, teasing and eating continued. The feast on the buffet table slowly disappeared and was followed by a birthday song sung by everyone and eighteen candles blown on top of a huge chocolate cake with chocolate fudge frosting decorated with red icings. Darien had even produced red rose petals which Lita had creatively scattered at the base of the cake.
Now it was time for the gifts and everyone gathered together on the matted floor that was normally used for training but covered with balloons and gifts instead that evening.
"Can we go first please Uncles, Aunties?" little Sara and Suri asked excitedly.
At everyone's assent, Darryl and Darren stood up and with Andrew's help, handed Serena a large rectangular present wrapped in gold paper with silver crescent moon patterns and tied with a silver ribbon.
Feeling sentimental, Serena uncharacteristically picked at the tapes with her fingernail, careful not to ruin the wrapping she intended to keep.
"Just go at it already!" Jason said impatiently. After all, they always tear into their presents during Christmases, Birthdays and every other occasion. But when Raye's elbow jabbed his ribs, he grunted and laughed good-naturedly.
The paper fell away to reveal a large piece of canvas. Serena gasped at the sight before her.
A painting of her and Darien sitting together on his couch, one of his arm around her shoulders, another holding Suri on his lap while she held Sara in hers. Sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of them were Darryl and Darren.
"We made it together Mummy!" Sara informed excitedly.
Suri continued with her twin's explanation, "Aunt Raye and Uncle Jason posed with us and Aunt Amy and Uncle Zach took our pictures and moved them into you and Daddy using the computer before printing it out so we could use it to draw you."
Amy cleared her throat, "Morphed, honey. We morphed your Aunt Raye and Uncle Jason's image into that of your Mummy and Daddy," she corrected gently.
Suri nodded and let Sara take up where she had left off, "Darryl and Darren copied the picture with pencil first," and finished her twin's sentence, "And then we all colour it together!"
The painting was not in the same league as the ones painted by the greats Da Vinci, Van Gogh or Monet but it certainly wasn't something that one would expect from four and eight year olds either. Oil and water colours, crayons and coloured pencils mixed creatively. No sloppy outer edges. Almost perfect depths, detailing and perspective, the colours were vibrant and the emotions alive. They had captured the moment and expressions perfectly. Joy and humour and love and contentment radiated out of the picture.
Dazed with wonder and love, Serena wordlessly reverently ran her fingers over the children's faces on the canvas.
"We only used the crayons and the coloured pencils but Darryl and Darren used the oil and water colours because they're better at it than us," Sara chattered on, not realising the state of mind her parents were currently in.
"We had to redo it a few times to get it just right. Uncle Kevin and Aunt Mina had to take us to buy extra canvases and colour supplies. Did we get it right, Mummy? Daddy? We didn't show you either Daddy, because we wanted you to be surprised too. Are you surprised, Daddy?" Suri asked Darien.
He scooped her onto his knee and almost helplessly watched Sara hugged Serena from the side, feeling his breath caught as though someone had squeezed a hand over his throat or his heart at the sight of the painting.
"It's so you'd remember us, Mom, Dad," Darryl put in quietly.
Serena couldn't get her breath. Her eyes blurred but she blinked them clear.
"It's so lovely. It's perfect," she said once she had her voice back, bringing both boys in for a hug before doing the same with her little girls, completely overwhelmed with pride and love.
Darien took her hand in his and kissed her head, instinctive gestures that neither noticed but others in the room did and hope bloomed and hearts sighed with longing, with faith, and, with anticipation.
"Now, how are we supposed to beat that?" Mina sighed dramatically, breaking the tension.
"I don't know about you, but I'm pretty sure my gift is pretty awesome too," Jason declared with a huge smug mischievous grin on his face.
"Well, let's see it then," Nathan prompted.
Still grinning, Jason went to retrieve his hidden gift. With a wave of his hand, what was part of the side sofa leaning against the wall shimmered into something else entirely. "Tada!" he excitedly presented a sleek electric guitar elaborately tied with a huge red bow.
Serena gasped and Amara cursed silently under her breath while Michelle struggled to hide her smile even as Nathan audaciously commented, "Hiding in plain sight. Told you. Master of illusion."
"Is that a Fender Classic Player Jazzmaster?" Serena squealed as she rushed to her brother to get a closer look.
"Rosewood 9.5" radius finger board, 3-tone sunburst," Jason nodded enthusiastically.
"I didn't know you played," Darien murmured softly.
Serena turned teasing eyes towards him, "There's quite a lot yet about me that you don't know."
"So it seems," he said thoughtfully, more to himself.
"This is really great, Jace," Serena said hugging her brother tightly in appreciation.
"I don't know about that. I think mine is better, especially considering he stole my idea for the gift," Amara scoffed.
"I did not steal your idea. I showed you mine even before yours arrived," Jason replied with an impertinent grin, tightening his hold on his sister.
"That's because mine is custom made from Brazilian Rosewood by a direct descendant of Antonio Torres Jurado himself."
"Who's that?" Lita and Raye asked the question simultaneously.
"He's the most prominent guitar maker of the nineteenth century," Amy and Zachary supplied, also at the same time.
Serena hid her smile, "You got me a guitar too, Amara?" she asked soothingly, discreetly squeezing her brother's waist affectionately before letting go to walk over to her cousin.
Amara picked up her gift, carefully hidden underneath the same sofa Jason had previously hid his gift and handed it to Serena, "Mine is real and doesn't require electricity," she answered, resentfully narrowing her eyes at her still grinning insolently, impertinent cousin but softened when Serena held her gift with reverence and looked up at her with eyes filled with gratitude and love.
"This is beautiful, Amara. Thank you," Serena said and hugged her cousin, adding "Now I have two guitars to teach the children with."
"It really is beautiful, Ruka Uncle," Darren added in smoothly while Darryl went to admire Jason's gift.
The rest of the room smiled at the little boys' diplomatic abilities. The future King and Queen apparently taught their children very well.
Sensing the dissipating tension, Michelle handed her gift and everyone settled back on the floor in anticipation as Serena peeled the aquamarine wrapper to reveal a leather-bound book of sort, its cover completely blank.
Serena's perplexed expression was replaced with awe when she opened the bound notes. "These are the notes to your music," she said reverently knowing that the famous violinist had never made her music notes public, had never publish them despite her extensive world tours and recordings.
Michelle nodded. "Some of which have never been recorded or played in public," she said softly. "Amara's gift would give a different sound to it than my violin, but I imagine it will be just as beautiful. And I figured we could work on a duet performance some time."
There was some request of a performance which Serena laughingly declined before everyone ganged up on her resulting in a quick but charming recital by her, Michelle and Jason and to which Mina and Raye added their lovely singing voices.
Bowing to everyone's applause, Mina picked up a golden gift box beautifully tied with black ribbons, "My turn," she said barely able to contain her excitement.
Serena pulled the black ribbon away and lifted the cover. A beautiful shade of wisteria satin complemented with elegant white Alencon lace greeted her sight. She drew in a breath and forgot to let it out for a moment.
Sweetheart neckline to empire waist bodice was exquisitely embroidered with tiny blue flowers set off against green leaves, strategically and sparingly threaded onto the white lace.
Serena gently lifted the dress out of the box and stood up holding it in front of her to reveal heavier embroidery around the empire waist and glossy wisteria satin that flowed down to floor length, pleated and mashed with ruffled white Alencon lace.
"It's so beautiful," Serena murmured, wonder on her face.
"I have a feeling you'll need it soon," Mina said mysteriously, extremely pleased with her cousin's reaction.
As the girls gushed and Serena twirled, Darien's mind saw clearly what she would look like in the dress and he had to work hard to swallow the lump in his throat.
The design itself was very simple, sleeveless and strapless with a floor-length A-line cut which was subtle yet stunning. The materials were fine and light and looked like it had floated out of a dream.
She'd look ethereal and seductive at the same time, he thought with mixtures of fear and anticipation.
When Serena was done hugging and thanking Mina, Lita smiled and handed Serena a smaller forest green gift box with an elaborate gold bow on top. "This one is from me. We sort of coordinated on our presents," she said gesturing to herself and the other inner Scouts.
Her smile grew wider when her precious friend excitedly pulled out a beautiful satin purse in the same wisteria shade, exquisitely embroidered with the same blue flowers with green leaves motives as the bodice of her new dress, admired it and hugged her in obvious gratitude.
"It was my idea of course, to get in touch with the designers of the dress and have them use the same material and embroidery design to produce Lita's conception of the purse," Raye said smugly as she handed her best friend a slightly bigger box than Lita's.
Serena opened the white ribbon tied around the bright red gift box and was torn between exasperation and gratification at the charming wisteria coloured satin pumps in the box. Tiny blue flowers against tiny green leaves delicately embroidered around the upper borders of the vamp and quarter of the pumps, stitched more heavily around the toes, "A four inch stiletto heels, Raye? Really?" she groaned, only partially joking.
Raye's laugh was quick and her grin was wicked, "You're such a shorty, you'll fit Darien better this way," she said cheekily.
Darien put his arms around Serena, "She fits me just fine," he said easily.
Serena buried her face in his chest for a moment before lifting it with narrowed eyes to her raven haired best friend, "She just wants to see me fall flat on my face, don't you Raye?"
"It's okay. I like catching you when you fall anyway."
Darien's easy admission surprised everyone. It was like seeing a barrier dropped. And behind it, hidden on the other side of the characteristic aloofness and sophistication, was a core of sweetness none of them had ever imagined him to have, despite their memories of the reincarnated Prince and Princess's courtship in the Silver Millennium.
Raye steadied her thudding heart and forced her nose up to Serena, "It's only three inches Rena, not four. It's not even classified as high heels," she sneered, her grin provocative.
Squaring her shoulders, Serena fell easily into their routine banter, "Yeah? Says which expert?"
"Jimmy Choo and Gucci," Raye replied smugly.
Anticipating the customary tongue war, Amy touched Serena's arm and quickly handed her gift.
Serena opened the lid of the deep blue gift box with the intricate silver bow on it and carefully took out a wrap made of wisteria chiffon and white Alencon lace with the matching blue and green pattern that was on the other items, beautifully and skilfully embroidered on its edges, the material soft and warm in her hands.
"This is really lovely, Ames," Serena breathed out.
"A blue flower is a central symbol of inspiration. It usually stands for desire, love and the metaphysical striving for the infinite and unreachable. It symbolizes the beauty of things and we think it aptly represents you," Amy explained earnestly, with feelings.
Swamped with love, Serena looked at her four friends, one by one, "Oh thank you! Thank you all of you," she said, pulling them in for a quick group hug.
Darien cleared his throat, "I don't think the set is complete, as yet," he said handing Serena two small boxes and an envelope and hastened to explain, "I received this along with the charms from Pluto and Saturn. I didn't know what they were and who they were from, so I...peeked."
Amara pouted. "They sent them to you?"
Darien shrugged. "It was all in one envelope."
Serena opened the card curiously.
Mama and I took a quick glance to see what the others got you and we found something to match. I wanted to get you something with a firefly on it (did you know that Hotaru is Japanese for firefly?) but it turned out that they're not as beautiful as a butterfly and a dragonfly and harder to find. But I hope you like your gift all the same and will think of me when you wear them.
I love you and hope to see all of you soon,
PS: Mine is in the purple box.
Smiling as she finished reading Hotaru's wish out loud for the rest, Serena opened the purple box and lifted out a pair of silver barrette combs, the handles were carved with flowers, a dragonfly at one end and a butterfly near the other end. The silver flowers and leaves were accented with tiny blue and green stones while small purple stones graced the body of each butterfly and dragonfly.
Carefully, she combed one into Sara's hair and the other into Suri's, "Perfect," she said with a grin and looked up as if sensing a presence no one else knew about, "Thank you Taru. I love them," she murmured and looked down at another set of writing on the card, instinctively choosing not to read this one out loud.
No one else I know have a heart quite as beautiful as yours. Listen to it. Follow it. Trust it. All will be well.
Happy birthday, with all my love,
The small black velvet box opened to reveal a pair of gold rose earring set with sapphire stone flanked by two smaller emeralds giving the trio of stones the look of a blue flower in the middle of two leaves, perfectly matching the gifts of the inner Scouts.
"Why Trista, I do believe that's cheating," Mina said to no one in particular and yet couldn't hide the pleased smile on her face.
"Okay. I believe it's our turn now," Andrew said, gesturing to himself, Nathan, Zachary and Kevin. "We sort of coordinated too because Nate hijacked Kevin's idea and Kev and Zach both derived their ideas from mine."
"You can't really complain since my hijacking Kev's idea helped you with yours," Nathan commented drily, putting a gift the size of a suitcase in front of Serena while Andrew put another smaller one next to it as he smoothly replied, "True. So very true."
"It was certainly an interesting learning experience," Kevin commented with a rare smile on his face.
Her curiosity roused, Serena tore through the wrapping paper of the bigger gift and stopped, staring admiringly at the carvings on a huge walnut case.
"Kevin wanted to buy you one but I figured I could make you a nicer one. I'm good with wood after all," Nathan said softly as he carefully watched Serena ran her fingers over the intricate roses markings expertly carved throughout the wood's surface.
"It's extremely well done, Nathan. Very beautiful work. It must've taken you ages," Serena murmured, overwhelmed, "Thank you," she said with genuine gratitude shining from her eyes.
Nathan's smile was quick and pleased, "Go ahead and open the other gift before you open the case to see what's inside. Kevin and Drew went overboard and it took two cases to fit everything in. They're matching and identical except for the size," he replied.
True to his words, the wrapping to the smaller gift fell away to reveal an identical smaller treasure box.
Serena held her breath as everyone gathered closer to inspect the carvings and to see what treasures held inside. Her eyes went huge and she squealed delightedly at the sight of the endless painting supplies.
Oils, acrylics, pastels, watercolours and temperas of every colour, quality charcoals, chalks and pencils and different types and sizes of brushes filled both boxes, efficiently arranged, maximising every available surface.
"I started with the dry supplies but was lost when it came to the paints. There are so many different types and did you know that there are sixty different shades of blue? Sixty," Andrew said incredulously before adding sheepishly, "Kevin chose the paints, oils and watercolours and whatnot."
"I had to do a bit of reading myself," Kevin admitted quietly, his smile still intact. "And the boys were a big help. It's clear they have your talent," he added, ruffling Darren's hair and giving Darryl a light tap on the shoulder.
Serena stared hard at the supplies. When she looked up, her eyes shone even brighter than before. "I really love you," she said looking from Andrew's face to Kevin's to Nathan's.
Darien felt a slight twinge in his gut, unfamiliar envy that his best friends were able to draw the quiet, earnest declaration from her. But looking at their faces, it was clear to him that her love was fully reciprocated by each one of them.
"Now I'm feeling a bit left out," Zachary made the announcement softly, handing Serena his present.
Serena quickly removed the blue wrapping and laughed when she saw the title to the hard-covered volume in her hand 'Essential Impressionists: Every piece in history worth seeing', "This is great! It's my favourite kind of art! I hate abstracts but this, this is perfect!"
The joy in her voice, the quick delighted smile made everyone else in the room smile.
Luna purred and nuzzled her head at Serena's lap while Artemis did the same to Mina, signalling her to help him with a long rectangular leather case.
Mina complied and picked it up and passed it to her cousin.
"This is from Artemis and I," Luna said, "Though technically, they were always meant for you."
Ten collective gasp that came from six shocked Scouts and four Generals filled the air when they saw what was on the velvet lining of the case once opened by Serena.
"The Spiral Heart Moon Sceptre," Zachary breathed out.
"The Silver Sword," Mina murmured grabbing Kevin's hand.
Side by side on velvet lining was a scepter and a sword.
The scepter was made of rose gold lined at the bottom with yellow gold, a red crown set in yellow gold rested at its top. This same scepter was created by the love between Princess Serenity and Prince Endymion during the Silver Millennium. Its conception witnessed by all the Scouts and Generals in a battle where hope was almost lost and the Moon and Earth had almost destroyed each other before the very same object saved them all.
The sword beamed bright silver and despite the shine was not ornate or flashy. Instead, it was simple and elegant. It had a double-edged steel blade a meter long, a centimeter at its thickest with a silver hilt with straight crossbar. It was known to be resistant to all forms of damage including rusting, dulling or tarnishing and was thought to be indestructible. An assumption enforced by its very appearance at that exact moment for the Silver Sword had belonged to Queen Serenity over a thousand years ago.
The sight of both items filled the Scouts and Generals with a mixed of melancholy of what was lost, elation of what was gained and hope for the future while both Serena and Darien were filled with a sense of déjà vu, both knowing but not understanding, the importance of both items before them.
"Don't worry. Soon, you'll learn to wield them properly," Artemis said reassuringly.
Too young to understand the gravity of the moment, Sara pointed to a huge black box with silver stars and golden comets complete with an elaborate golden and silver bow at the end of the buffet table, "If everyone's given their gifts who is that from?" she asked innocently.
Adults and children and cats looked at one another.
"It's huge enough to fit a three tier wedding cake," Lita commented and almost had Darien squirm visibly.
"It's...hmm... from me," he said almost nervously and had everyone exchanging looks once again.
"Didn't you already get Mummy the charm bracelet, Daddy?" Suri asked.
Affectionately, Darien ruffled her hair. "I did. But that was from all of us. This one is from me."
Turning to Serena, he wordlessly gestured to the gift, beckoning her to open it.
When she lifted the cover of the box, its sides automatically fell away and everyone, with no exception, gasped aloud.
Lita was right enough when she used the word 'tier', for there were three tiers to the object, four if you counted its pinnacle and in a way, it did resemble the shape of a three tier wedding cake, with no separators between each tier that became smaller before the bride and groom figurines were placed at the uppermost tier.
But the elaborate, magnificent snow globe was definitely not a cake. Though a snow globe is a very loose term to describe what was on the table.
The lowest, biggest circle had sixteen different scenes blended into one another, eight of which were in globes. In one of these globes, the precise figure of Amara sat in her sports car. Next to it, Darien, Darryl and Darren standing in front of test tubes in a lab was perfectly sculpted with fine details followed by another globe which had Mina smiling cheekily up at Kevin who was looking down at her with tender resignation followed by accurately formed figures of Serena, Sara and Suri eating cotton candies with a Ferris wheel looming behind them followed by another globe with Amy and Zachary bent over a book inside it followed by what was a perfect replica of Andrew serving Darien coffee and Serena and the four children milkshakes at the arcade counter, another globe containing Lita and Nathan in aprons with pastries and its makings in front of them, Darren and Darryl on Serena's bed, brushing her hair, a globe with Jason laughing down at Raye who was scowling up at him, Darien reading to Sara and Suri on the floor, their backs pressed to the sofa, a globe containing Trista with a hand on Hotaru's shoulder in front of an Empire Victorian house that belonged to the Outer Scouts, the arcade, Luna and Artemis in another globe, the twenty floor building they were currently living in, a globe with a solitary Michelle peacefully playing her violin facing outside the globe to the park where Serena and Darien sat on 'their' bench and back to the globe with Amara in her car which now can be seen was faced towards Michelle's globe to close the first circle.
Each scene or more aptly described as memories or its monument, blended flawlessly into one another while remaining separate at the same time, sculpted and hand-painted by a master artist.
"I think we had the same idea about remembering and treasuring memories," Darien said softly to his children, "Though I'm nowhere near as talented as you are. So I didn't make mine. I had it custom made instead."
There wasn't any response. The children too awed and the adults and cats too stunned.
While the first layer was of present day and happy moments, the second layer featured pillars of an ancient civilisation arranged in a square. At the four separate sides stood proud and demure, the four Outer Scouts, Neptune, Pluto and Saturn in their formal Princess attire while Uranus stood in Uranian war apparel. At Michelle's feet was a small globe with a hand mirror inside it, three similar sized globes were at Amara's, Trista's and Hotaru's feet and each respectively contained a sword, a garnet orb and a glaive. At the middle of the structure stood a medieval fountain, its water flowing upwards inside another globe. Neither Darien nor Serena knew or remember this but that was where they had first declared their love for each other and sealed the fate of the Moon Kingdom by incurring the wrath of a jealous Terran witch.
The dark tones of the second layer blended into a third enchanting layer of a magical rose garden sculpted in four separate seasons, each season blended seamlessly into the other. Nephrite and Jupiter stood in the fall, their arms around each other. An even tinier globe than that was in the second tier was at their feet. In it, a four-leaf clover. Jadeite and Mars stood in the summer, a bonfire inside the globe at their feet. Kunzite and Venus in the spring, a rainbow featured in the small globe before them. Zoicite and Mercury stood in the winter, their globe held a snow flake in it. Each General wore their respective armour and each Scout in their formal Princess attire.
Rising up above the center of the rose garden was a castle and at its top, standing at the open terrace, Endymion and Serenity faced each other, him in his black armour and her in her white Princess dress. His large hands cupped her smaller ones and together they held a tiny globe which contained a familiar gold star locket.
Slightly unnerved by the silence and more nervous than he cared to admit even to himself, Darien wound the key at the base and dauntingly familiar music of the star locket filled the air as the structure turned smoothly, each layer going in opposite directions.
Serena's breath caught in her throat for the umpteenth time that night, "That music," she softly murmured.
"I hear it in my dreams ever since I was little," they both said it at the same time and stared at each other in amazement.
"You've never met Saturn and Pluto. No one besides us, have met Saturn and Pluto. How did you know what their weapons look like?" Amara demanded through her bewilderment, breaking Serena's and Darien's eye contact.
At exactly the same time, the usually composed Michelle asked almost distractedly, "The dresses. How did...what gave you the idea for the designs?"
Darien shrugged. "I see what I wanted in my head. Backgrounds and structures and worked with the artist on the preliminary sketch. But to be honest, I left out Pluto and Saturn. I didn't remember," he said almost sheepishly before adding, "I had planned to go with the Scout's uniforms for you girls but didn't want to be too blatant and risk blowing your covers. The envelope from Pluto came as I was pondering for a solution. There was a painting of the nine of you together in the dresses where I was reminded that there are eight Scouts that fight alongside Sailor Moon. There was also a picture of the four Outer Scouts with your weapons and you together in your civilian forms in front of your home. I also have plenty of pictures of the guys, and the girls with them. Carmine, that's the Italian glass artist that also worked on the preliminary sketch, said the pictures gave perspective of your relative heights and measurements. When I was satisfied that she got the images I wanted with the right expressions, arrangements and such, she and Ying Bei, the Chinese sculpture, worked together to produce this."
Stop babbling Darien! Stop right now! He told himself even as his hands gestured at the perfected end product.
Though warmed by the obvious effort and trouble that he had went to for her kitten, Amara couldn't resist sneering, "Could still have blown our covers with the artists. Especially the guys," she said gesturing to Jason, Kevin, Zachary and Nathan.
Darien shrugged uncomfortably but his face remained expressionless, "I imagine there's a glimmer that worked to protect our identities since I'm the only one wearing a mask and everyone else looked pretty much the same except for the clothes," he commented drily.
Serena felt her eyes sting as she continued to gaze at his gift to her. Her heart did a long slow roll in her chest and something tingled deep in her belly.
Darien turned to her. "There are eighteen globes altogether. You know, because it's your eighteenth birthday," he said quietly, almost desperately.
Smiling, she lifted her glowing gaze to his and something sweet moved through her as she could see his nervousness.
The appreciation and wonder on her face closed his throat. The knot he hadn't known was in his belly, loosened.
"It's perfect. You are perfect. Thank you," she murmured and kissed him with a thoroughness that rocked him back on his heels.
The incredible warmth of her reaction temporarily melted his ability to speak and think and before he could respond, she kissed him again, this time soft and slow,"...for knowing me enough to say the right things this morning to get me to go to school and for knowing what matters most to me and choosing the most perfect gifts."
He brushed a thumb over her cheek, took her hand and kissed her wrist where the bracelet he had given her resided and made her heart stutter.
Behind his back, he produced a single red rose, held it out and curled her fingers around the stem. When her eyes started to glisten with unshed tears, he leaned over and touched his lips softly to hers again.
Mina drew in a deep breath and tried her best to blink back the tears that were forming in her eyes. Kevin simply pulled her back against him and rested his cheek on top of her head, soothing her like nothing else could. "It's beautiful...They are beautiful," she sniffled, reverence in her voice and on her face.
"They really are," Amy agreed, wiping her eyes and gripping Zachary's hand that was in hers.
"If he hurts her, I'm going to break every bone in his body," Lita growled. Yet, her own eyes were glassy. Nathan squeezed her shoulders comfortingly.
Raye said nothing but squeezed Lita's arm in complete accordance and leaned back against Jason who tightened his arms around her as he watched his baby sister and his Prince.
Posted on fanfiction: 11 December 2013
A/N: Japanese 吉 (kichi) means "good luck" and 郎 (rou)means "son" is the basis for Joe's last name, Antonio Torres Jurado is the Spanish luthier whose design after which the basis of most modern classical guitar is based on, High Heels have to be above 3.5 inches to be classified as such, and Wisteria is a shade of purple that happens to be my sister's favourite colour. On the glossy surface of satin, the colour tends to give off silver hues, at least her dresses does! ;)
My longest chapter to date! Over 7500 words! I wanted to include everyone in and show the unity and camaraderie of the group, their dynamics with each other, their friendship, love and devotion for one another. It's almost Christmas after all! :)
I apologise if Serena's birthday gifts didn't live up to expectations but I've always been one to put more significance on sentimental value rather than monetary worth. The gifts from Darien are also a tribute to my sister (whose favourite gifts to me are Disney snow globes) and my best friend who upon the return from every trip he took would gift me with a charm or/and a snow globe that would represent whichever city he was returning from, even if he had to have them custom made! Between the two of them, I have about 300 snow globes, every single one exquisite and precious! ;)
Do be patient with the back stories. The plot/history will unravel in its own time. I don't like to rush my moments. And this part of TOBITF is rather clear in my head. I usually have my own reasons for things to turn out the way they do. For example, in Chapter 20: Wishes & Charms, Darien stiffened slightly when Serena guessed the crystal ball charm to be his, calling it a snow globe instead. And now in this chapter, you find out why. Small body languages, subtle little clues are usually left behind in my chapters! ;)
Next up, some of our gang is heading to Japan and you'll meet some Japanese characters from the SM Classics arc, albeit they're older now! Like 30 years or so older! The plot is already mapped out in my head but tell me who you want to see anyway and maybe d I'll be able to accommodate you! ;)