A Little Older, A Little Wiser
A young blonde woman glanced up guiltily from where she is cleaning blood off of her face and body in the shower at a small black cat standing in the doorway to the bathroom.
"Luna, it's not as bad as it looks. Really. You know that head injuries just tend to bleed a lot. It really is just superficial." Serena said quickly, trying to sound casual about the pink tinged water swirling down her drain.
The cat looked at the woman and shook her head. "You can't keep doing this. You need help. You are the princess, if something happened to you..."
Serena sighed softly and limped over to the cat and picked her up, hugging the small cat to her chest. "Luna, no. We've gone over this. They deserve to live their lives, to be themselves and be happy without always having to worry about where the next attack is going to come from."
"But you are the princess and..." The cat protested, pushing back a little from Serena to be able to look up into her face.
"Yes. I am. And as princess, I will protect my people." Serena cut her off, her voice firm.
"Besides," she added with a sad smile, "The princess of a kingdom that has been gone for 10,000 years is expendable."
And with that Serena set Luna back down on the floor outside the bathroom and closed the door.
"I don't care what she says Artemis, she won't survive many more battles like this if she doesn't get help. Did you see her after that last fight? I'm surprised she could walk at all! And I know she is hiding some of her worse injuries from us."
Luna sat next to a white cat on top of the low wall that surrounded the apartment that Serena lived in. The two cats watched Serena through her apartment window as she moved around her apartment.
"I know Luna, I know. But she is not completely fighting alone. That Moonlight Knight person does show up occasionally. And for now she is determined to fight without the scouts. We can't go against the will of our princess." Artemis said, his tone resigned.
"Why not?" Luna spit out angrily at her companion.
"Because, if we break trust with her she may leave us like she has left everyone else." He said quietly.
After a small silence Luna turned to her oldest friend, her despair written plain across her face. "Should we stay with her to watch her die or save her life and be abandoned?"
Artemis just shook his head, "I don't know Luna. I just don't know."
Serena came home from work and flopped down on her couch with a small bouce. Work had been hell. She had been on her feet all day and that was not helping her bruises and cuts heal. Not to mention that her head wound was making her nauseous. But she couldn't afford to lose this job. It paid too well and the hours were flexible enough to put up with the strain of being Sailor Moon.
She had lost her last job by having to leave early to go fight some monster or other too many times and it had taken her awhile to find a new job. In order to pay the rent during that time she had had to stop eating. She had scavenged free samples from the grocery store for a week.
But she wouldn't go home. Not even for food. She had learned pride and it wouldn't allow her to go begging back to the family that had tossed her out.
Exhausted, she fell asleep on her couch.
3 years earlier
Serena snuck quietly back into her house. She was exhausted after her fight with the monster and emotionally drained from her fight with her parents earlier in the day. Now all she wanted was to fall down on her bed and sleep.
Just as she was crossing the living room the lights turned on and there was her mother and father. Her mother was crying softly as her father grabbed two suit cases that were at his feet and handed them to her.
"If you can't live by our rules Serena, you can't live here."
She stared at them, stunned. She looked dumbly down at the suitcases and tried to understand what her father had just said.
"Did you hear me Serena? I won't have a daughter who sneaks out at all hours, doing god-knows-what. This was the last straw."
Numbly, without saying anything, she picked up the suitcases, turned and walked away.
That night she slept on a bench in the park and the next day began looking for a job. He friend Molly had allowed her to use her address and phone number when applying for jobs. Molly's own parent though had heard rumors about Serena and decided she was a bad influence on their little girl so Serena couldn't actually stay there. Instead Serena lived in one of the abandoned warehouses she had discovered while fighting monsters until she earned enough to make the down payment on an apartment.
She had never gone back to her parents' home.
Serena was almost skipping home from work. It was Friday, payday and that raise that her boss had given her a few weeks ago had finally gone through and appeared on her paycheck. No monsters had attacked for weeks and the two painkillers she had popped in the morning had lasted all day. This day couldn't get any better.
Her plans for the weekend included curling up on the couch with a few comic books and a warm mug of soup and maybe even a box of cookies. The recipe for the perfect weekend.
As she turned the last corner before she got to her apartment she did something that she had not done for years, she literally ran into someone.
Darien had been back for a week and he was bored. All of his friends were in America now, where he had been going to school for over two years now. He had loved it there but had wanted to return to Japan for the summer. There was no reason for why he had wanted so desperately to come back. He had no friends left here, they had all gone their separate ways and he had lost track of all of them except Andrew, who was off at Med School. But despite all that, he had felt the insane need to return.
So here he was, wandering the city he was born in like a complete stranger. There was nothing he wanted to do here or anyone he wanted to see. Just as he was starting to work up a really good sulk, he was knocked back as, with the oddest feeling of déjà vu, someone ran into him.
Serena bounced off of someone's chest and blinked, stunned. She could feel herself blushing as she began to apologize frantically to that chest. "Sorry. So sorry. I wasn't…"
She looked up with her mouth wide open. "Darien?"
Darien? Serena suddenly felt like it was very hard to breathe. Darien? God, he looked gorgeous. But he couldn't be here. Right? He was in America.
He was her biggest regret about refusing to allow Luna and Artemis to reawaken everyone but a part of her had been relieved as well. She had fought so hard for this man again and again only to lose him. It had almost been a relief have a reason to refuse to fight for him. Oh, she told herself that it was for noble reasons. That she didn't want to force him to be with her because of something that happened long ago and far away between them, that he deserved to have a life free of constant danger and fear. But alone, at night, when she forced herself to be honest, it was because she didn't think she could survive having her hopes and dreams crushed again, couldn't survive feeling his arms around her only to have him pulled away again.
"How is it that I have only been back in town a week and you've already managed to crash into me, Meatball head?"
"Meatball head!" she screamed and with that she snapped out of her daze.
"Glad to see you still can scream loud enough to wake the dead." Darien said with a laugh, making an exaggerated show of wincing and protecting his ears.
And Serena couldn't help it; it was too automatic with him. She stuck out her tongue. As soon as she realized what she had done she started laughing.
"God Darien, I haven't stuck my tongue out at anyone for so long. I don't think anyone else ever irritated me that much." She looked at him with a suddenly evil smile. "Why are you here anyway. Last I heard you went to America. Did they hate you so much they kicked you out of the country?"
"No." He answered with a huge grin on his face and a superior tone. "Genius like mine is actually appreciated there. I'm just home for the summer. Hey, what are you doing tonight? You want to catch dinner with me? It'll give you more chances to yell at me."
Serena looked at him, surprised at the offer and the sudden wash of longing that came over her. Saying a quick, mournful good-bye to her comics and soup, she accepted.
Darien followed her back to her apartment, keeping up a light conversation the entire way. He told her about his school and new friends and asked about her work and what she was doing now. She skirted the more uncomfortable questions until they got to her place where she changed out of her work clothes.
She suggested they head to a local café and Darien agreed readily enough. The owner, an elderly woman named Kate, gave Serena a hug when she came in and seated the couple in a secluded booth in the back, giving Serena a huge wink before leaving. Kate was fond of the young woman and had forced her to accept "leftovers" from the kitchen when Serena had been struggling with money and rent. In return, Serena had put up with her motherly advice on men and all things having to do with dating. It was a little too obvious, at least to Serena, that Kate approved of Darien after only just meeting him.
The couple spent the night talking about their lives and reminiscing about school. As the evening continued Serena found herself telling Darien things that she hadn't even told Luna about. Just having someone there to share things with lifted a load off of her that she hadn't even realized she was carrying. And Darien was a perfect listener, never judging, never interrupting and just nodding sympathetically at certain times and making her laugh at others.
Darien, for his part, was amazed at Serena. She had changed so much, finally showing the strength that had only been hinted at before. But he also was sad that someone who had once been so innocent and carefree had had such a hard time of it. But she was still the girl he had once known in her heart, she had proved that when she stuck her tongue out at him and called him a jerk.
For the first time since he had returned to Tokyo, he didn't regret the decision.
Over the next few weeks Serena and Darien saw each other several times. Serena could hardly believe that Darien cared about her without knowing anything about their past on the moon. It just seemed so surreal most of the time that she didn't try to analyze it.
Then, after almost two months of peace and quiet, another monster attacked.
Serena saw it just as it attacked a young woman in the park. Transforming into Sailor Moon, she called up her Lunar Armor. The Lunar Armor protected her from blasts of power better than her Sailor suit and had taken her a long time to make but it had been worth it, saving her life countless numbers of times.
As she was busy fighting the monster, she felt a white rose go flying past her face.
"Sailor Moon, behind you!"
Two more monsters had appeared and had been about to jump her from behind. The Moonlight Knight drew his sword and charged into the fight, taking his place at her back. Just then three more monsters appeared in the air above the fight.
Moving as one, Sailor Moon and the Moonlight Knight fought back to back against their attackers. Several hits got through her guard and every time she finally managed to defeat one monster another would appear to take its place. It seemed that her enemies had finally decided to end this fighting once and for all.
She felt the Moonlight Knight stagger back a step at one of the monsters managed to hit his leg, opening a huge gash. Sailor Moon was moving slower now too, her energy badly exhausted. She, too, was bleeding from several small cuts where her armor hadn't been able to protect her.
"We can't keep doing this!" she yelled over her shoulder at the Moonlight Knight.
"We need a better place to fight! More defensible!" he yelled back.
"Agreed. On three!"
They both shot into the air, jumping free of the battle as the monsters, who hadn't expected such an abrupt retreat, looked around briefly in confusion, giving Sailor Moon and the Moonlight Knight the few precious extra seconds they needed to get a decent head start.
"Where are we headed?" The Moonlight Knight asked as they raced across the roof tops, the pack of monsters following only a little ways behind.
"There's a warehouse down at the docks! No windows and only one door! I hope it works!"
The two warriors managed to get to the warehouse, Barricading the netrances, it soon became even more evident that this was not a simple attack but an all out siege. More and more monsters appeared outside and Serena could not imagine where they were all coming from.
Exhausted, Serena watched as yet another wave of creatures flung themselves at the door, trying to overwhelm the crude defenses she and the Moonlight Knight had been able to erect there. When the remaining ones finally retreated, she stood gasping and leaning against the Moonlight Knight, worried. They both knew that they couldn't hold out much longer. She stared down at the Silver Crystal, desperately trying to think of something.
"My mother was able to destroy all of Queen Beryl's forces and give her court the chance to be reborn an earth with this."
"Your mother died using that!" snapped the Moonlight Knight, realizing what she was thinking.
"We're dying anyway. At least we can take them all out with us." She said, desperation in her voice.
"And who is going to defend the Earth with you dead?"
"I guess Luna will finally get to reawaken the Scouts like she's always wanted." She said, trying to make a joke and knowing it was rather pathetic.
"No, there has to be another way." His voice was gruff with denial.
"Maybe...Luna says I'm horrible at asking for help when I need it. But I've never had to ask you before. But I'm asking now. There's a chance that if both of us combine our strength, we may be able, together, to destroy them and survive." She glanced out the door at the gathering monsters before adding quietly, "Or we may both die."
For one second she felt his eyes on hers. Looking up, she met his gaze with her own and felt that old spark between the two of them.
"Sailor Moon, I am with you. Always."
She felt the tension run out of her shoulders at his words. "Thank you, my friend. Thank you."
As the monsters restarted their attacks on the warehouse, Sailor Moon and the Moonlight Knight clasped hands and funneled their energy into the Silver crystal. As the monsters gained entrance into the warehouse a soft light encircled the pair of warriors in the middle of the room, seemingly ignoring the coming danger.
The first monsters to attempt to attack the couple touched that innocent looking light and disintegrated into a piles of black ash upon the floor. The others, more cautious now, prowled the edges of the light, looking for a way to finally get at their prey. These were caught completely unawares by the sudden explosion of rays of light in all directions, destroying all that they touched. Other monsters that had been to farther away began to retreat in fear as they saw the main ball of light growing steadily faster and larger.
Soon the light covered the entire city, cleansing it of all the evil that had hidden there. Only a few of the very strongest and fastest were able to escape back to their dark dimension, but even they were badly injured.
Inside the light, Sailor Moon and the Moonlight Knight talked.
"That's enough, Sailor Moon. The city is safe. We need to stop now." The Moonlight Knight insisted.
"But there is still so much to do. They're not all gone. Some escaped. And you still need healing." Sailor Moon said with a glance at his sluggishly bleeding leg.
"No. No more. If we stop now, together we may still have enough in us to survive."
With a tired sigh, Sailor Moon admitted defeat and they began to recall their light.
Several hours later, the Moonlight Knight woke up from where he was laying on the cold cement floor of the warehouse. As he stood up, he suddenly remembered not to put weight on his injured leg, only to realize it no longer hurt. Glancing down he saw that there was no wound.
"Ah, my Lady, I thought I said no." he muttered down at the still unconscious Sailor Moon, her own blood pooling around her to mix with the ashes of the dead monsters.
He picked her up gently from the floor, careful of her wounds, and carried her away from the site of the battle.
Darien was worried. He had called Serena that afternoon to see if she wanted to do something. When she hadn't answered the phone he had left a message promising to call back later. After a couple hours, he had called back and still no response. She usually called him back right away and it had been well past the time she normally got home from work. He had tried to tell himself that she was probably just out with some friends or something had come up at work, keeping her late. But something made him keep trying to call her and each time he left a message, he grew more and more worried as the hours ticked by. He stopped worrying about looking like a stalker and just worried. Finally, just before dawn, he decided that he couldn't take it anymore and had driven over to her apartment.
A part of him said he was being stupid. She was probably fine and he was about to show her that he was insane showing up in the early hours but he had to know she was okay. There was something in his gut that was telling him that she was in trouble and the very thought of her hurt made him ill. He was just beginning to realize how special she was to him and the thought that he might lose her...he didn't want to think about it.
Darien ran up the stairs to Serena's apartment and was planning on pounding on the door when he saw that it was open. Inside he saw a man dressed in bloody white clothes standing over Serena where she lay on her couch.
"What the hell are you doing?" Darien growled out from behind the man.
The man turned and Darien saw that there was a piece of cloth covering most of his face but for some reason the man's eye's looked oddly familiar.
"Just making sure my Lady is safe. She needs your help now." The man said. A small note of bitterness crept into the voice as he continued, "I do hope that your American med school was worth it. Maybe you can finally be of some use to her."
And with that he was gone.
Darien looked down at the figure on the couch and gave a strangled cry. Serena looked like she had been badly beaten. A few of her cuts had reopened and were bleeding again. And there was dirt and bruises covering her from head to toe.
Darien ran to her bathroom and grabbed a washcloth and filled a bowl with water from the sink. He then returned and began cleaning her, trying to figure out just how hurt she really was. Serena's two cats, he saw sitting on the windowsill, watching him.
And all the while he worked, he called her name out softly, trying to wake her.
Serena heard something calling her name. But she didn't want to wake up. There was pain on the other side of consciousness and little else.
But it seemed like she wasn't going to be allowed a choice. Someone was being insistent.
Darien finally had her cleaned up and had bandaged most of her wounds. There were a couple he knew needed stitches but he didn't know if she should go to the hospital or not. If she was in some kind of trouble...
Just then he realized that she was looking at him through her eyelashes, still trying to pretend to be asleep. He had the sudden urge to strangle her.
"Serena, I know you're awake" he said instead.
"Am not." came the slightly muffled reply.
The urge to strangle her got stronger.
"Yes you are. And I need to talk to you."
"Should've…died. I'm sure when you're dead...people let you sleep."
"Darien, maybe you should just let her sleep" came a quiet female voice from behind him.
Before he could turn around to look at the speaker, Serena sat straight up.
"No Luna!" she managed to yell before her brain caught up with her body and she gasped in pain.
Darien turned around, half afraid at what he was going to see and yet, somehow, not surprised. Sure enough, there was Serena's little black cat Luna looking at Serena with anger and concern warring on her little feline features.
And behind her was the white cat Artemis sitting on the shoulder of the strange man in white from before.
"Serena, you need more help than I can give you. We almost died tonight. We can't do what we did tonight again and be sure to survive it the second time." said the man.
Serena, supported by Darien's arms, stared at the man in front of her and Darien was torn between holding her and attempting to kill this man.
"How did you know who I was?" was all she asked.
"How could I not?" said the man as he removed the cloth in front of his face and Darien found himself looking into his own face.
"How?" Serena asked softly, glancing back and forth between the two Dariens.
"Darien created me to protect you after the final battle with Beryl. A good thing too, since you refused to try and reawaken him. But you need the real Darien now. You need someone who can stand next to you always, whether you are fighting or not. And before you tell me no," he said as she opened her mouth to reply, "It's not up to you."
The man with Darien's face turned to him, "Do you want to remember?"
Darien looked down at Serena, looked at her beaten body and turned back to the man.
"No!" Serena cried out as the stranger slammed into Darien.
He came to a second later cradled in his love's arms, her tears falling down her face to fall on his shirt. A thousand images of their lives together flashed though his mind, images of them on the moon, fighting the Negaverse together, him fighting her with under the control of Beyrl, the Moonlight Knight's memories of them fighting side by side.
"Shhh, Serena. It's okay, my love. It's okay." He said, raising his had to wipe away her tears.
"You weren't supposed to remember. You were supposed to be free. I'm so sorry." she sobbed.
"Serena, look at me. Believe me, when I say that I would rather risk my life a thousand times to be able to stand by your side than be forever safe and parted from you."
He held her like that, rocking her back and forth, reassuring her that he loved her, that he had wanted this, till she fell asleep.
He picked her up and laid her down on her bed, but she refused to let go of him till he was finally forced to lie down next to her.
* * * * *
Three months later Serena and Darien were standing outside of a temple.
"I don't think I can do this."
"You promised, Sere."
"But there haven't been any attacks since the warehouse battle. Shouldn't we at least wait and see if we need them?"
"No. They deserve to know who they really are at the very least. And you heard that news report about the mysterious attacks around town lately. You know what they mean."
Serena sighed and began to walk up the temple steps. Before she entered, she turned and stuck her tongue out at the man still standing on the lower step.