"Nothing looks right!" Serena cried, looking in a full-length mirror at her reflection.
A small pile of recently tossed shirts shifted on the floor to reveal an exasperated black cat.
"What was wrong with that last outfit?" Luna asked as she tried to get rid of the static electricity that had built up in her fur from wiggling out of the clothes pile that Serena had thrown on her.
"It was horrible! Way too casual." Serena snapped in irritation.
"And what about the black skirt?" Luna asked, wincing as crackling static caused her fur to stand on end.
"Too business-y." Serena replied, returning to her search for the perfect outfit, ignoring the growing ball of static that used to be her cat.
"Serena." Luna began, trying to inject a note of calm rationality into Serena's bubble of chaotic insanity, "They are your parents. They won't care what you are wearing. They just want to see you."
"Ha!" Serena scoffed, "I need an outfit that says I'm successful and independent while still casual enough to say that I am relaxed in their presence. It has to look good but still look like it was something I decided on without too much thought."
Luna stared at the insane blonde, contemplating those words. Not much thought?! She'd been at this for two hours already! They were way past the thoughtful length for getting dressed and well into the obsessive-compulsive end of the spectrum.
And to make things even worse, just that moment a second whirlwind of blonde chaos stormed the apartment.
"Serena! The Goddess of Love and Fashion is here to save the day." Mina loudly proclaimed, throwing open the door to the apartment with a flourish.
"Help me!" Serena cried pitifully in reply as she slumped to her knees in the midst of her clothes.
"Don't worry love, I brought reinforcements!" Mina chirped cheerfully, leaning down to give Serena a supportive hug, "Malachite! This way. Follow the sound of my voice!"
As Mina yelled over her shoulder a walking pile of luggage slowly made its way into the apartment. Upon reaching the couch, everything was dropped to reveal a white hair, disgusted looking man who was trying to glare at both the offending pile he had just been carrying and the small blonde that had convinced him to carry it.
"Mina…" Malachite began to speak when Mina interrupted him with a kiss on the cheek.
"Thank you, Malachite." Mina said sweetly before starting to dig through the bags.
Emerging seconds later with all sorts of clothing dangling from her hand she turned to Serena, "I just knew you would be having problems finding the perfect outfit. So I'm letting you raid my closet. I figured it was easier to just bring it her to you."
From where he stood on the other side of the room, Malachite sputtered, "You had me carry you entire closet?"
"Oh no. Just the clothes Serena here might want." Mina said dismissively. "Oh, and of course all the little extras like jewelry and makeup."
Serena had snatched the offered clothing and locked herself back in her room. Mina followed with an enormous case of jewelry, leaving man and cat, standing with matching expressions of befuzzlement, in the living room.
A half hour later and many mysterious sounds and loud exclamation passed. During that time, Malachite had mysteriously produced paperwork from somewhere and starting working. That left Luna with the only option of curling up in a nicely placed patch of sunlight and taking a nap. It was this relatively peaceful scene that Darien arrived. Raising an eyebrow in surprise at Malachite's presence as he let himself in, Malachite's only response was a nod at the small mountain of now empty luggage. Darien gave a half smile, petted Luna and then went to the kitchen for a bottle of water. The water was his, supplied by him. Serena rarely bought anything that did not contain some for of sugar or artificial coloring. Water was entirely too bland so in defense, Darien had started stocking her fridge with a few things like water for when he needed some bland in his life. Or at least his diet.
Serena and Mina emerged not long after this, both looking supremely satisfied with themselves. Serena wore a long jean skirt that reached her ankles and a plain white quarter length sleeve shirt with a pair of tall black boots. A gold choker and several thin gold bangles were the only jewelry that she wore. Luna had to admit that it was casual but still flattering to the girl. Her make-up was subtle and very natural and her hair had been tossed up into a single long tail that hung down her back. All in all, it was a classy but simple look.
Behind Serena, a supremely smug Mina was standing, giving the room her signature V for victory. Apparent the Goddess of Love and Fashion was taking all the credit for finding the perfect outfit.
Darien smiled and walked over to Serena, giving her a small kiss, "Are you ready?"
"No." Serena replied shakily.
She had been the one to call her parents after they had talked. Her mother had been the one to answer the phone. Darien had stood there, through the entire conversation, holding her, propping her up both physically and emotionally. It had been a rather short call. After several awkward pauses, Serena's mother had invited her over for dinner the following night. Serena had immediately asked if she could bring Darien and the time had been set.
Darien knew that between Serena's brother and himself, the three of them outnumbered Serena's parents, which should help if everything went badly but he doubted it would. He could still remember the look on Serena's father's face when he had appeared at the fight. While he couldn't remember much about the actual fight, he had made sure to keep that memory when the others were taken so that he could help Serena and her family finally bridge the gulf that had grown between them. He knew what it was like to not have a family, to miss your parents. But at least he had the belief that his parents had abandoned him because death gave them no choice and that they had loved him. It was hollow comfort many days but it had been more than Serena had had. She had believed that she had lost her parent's love. That she was a complete failure as a daughter and that was why her parents had turned away from her.
Tonight would hopefully start the healing on those old wounds. He knew better than to expect everything to be fixed right away, but he was fairly confident that it would happen if given time.
Mina and Malachite said good-bye to the couple. They were off to look for a more Oriental style for their first joint fashion/advertising project. Serena got into Darien's car, working at not thinking about the upcoming dinner. She knew that there was nothing she could do right now and worrying would only make things worse but that didn't necessarily mean that her brain would listen to her and stop coming up with worst case scenarios. Though that wasn't a real surprise. Her brain rarely did what she asked.
The drive went quickly as she struggled to not think. Before she realized it she was back in front of the house she had grown up in.
Darien turned off the engine and turned to look at her. She knew she was probably hyperventilating but all she could hear was her brain screaming at her that this was a mistake, that her parents had made it very clear that they didn't want her here and that she was going to regret this. And she was starting to believe her brain.
"Breathe." Darien whispered, taking her hand, "You are not alone. You can do this."
"I…I don't know what to do. Or what to say. How do I act? Do I look alright? Maybe I should have worn something else." Serena said, nervously brushing at imaginary wrinkles in her skirt.
"Shh. You are going to be fine." Darien said soothingly.
"Promise?" Serena asked quietly, turning to look at Darien with troubled blue eyes.
"Promise." Darien said, leaning in to kiss her lightly.
Taking a deep breath, Serena gathered all her courage and opened her car door. She could do this. Darien would be there the entire time. He would make sure she was all right. She could do this. Really.
Together they walked up the stairs to porch and rang the bell.
A sound like an avalanche came thundering from the other side of the door before it was thrown open and Sam stood there.
"Serena!" He exclaimed happily, grabbing he into a huge hug that probably should have been too much for his teenage dignity.
The rush of joy and acceptance coming from her brother was more than she had ever expected and Serena felt tears pricking in her eyes as she laughed. Her brother made her feel short as she disappeared into his embrace but she wouldn't have changed it for anything.
Blinking rapidly, Serena fought back the tears before they could spill over and pulled back slightly to get a better look at her brother.
"How's Lita and Lass and Nephrite?" Sam asked excitedly.
"They are great. All back in Ireland and Lass is recovering. Apparently she is being spoiled by the local bar-goers as a hero." Serena replied.
Sam laughed and finally noticed Darien standing there on the front step, "Hey Darien."
"Hey Sam." Darien replied, smiling at brother and sister.
A slight cough caused the trio to turn to where Serena's mother stood with an odd look on her face and said graciously, "Please come in." Then, with a suffering look she turned to Sam, "And close the door before you let the cool air out."
"Yes Mom." Sam answered and Darien was pretty sure that he was the only one who saw him roll his eyes as Sam closed the door.
Serena stood awkwardly in the entry, looking everywhere but at her mother. Just then her father came around the corner and stopped. There was a tense silence in which Darien felt like the entire world had stopped to hold its breath while father and daughter stared at each other. It was her father that made the first move. He took a step forward and, after the slightest hesitation, hugged his daughter. Darien could see that it was a stiff and unsure gesture but it seemed to break the ice.
Serena's mother came forward next and hugged her daughter, this time the act was much more easily and comfortably done.
"Dinner will be ready soon. Why don't you introduce your friend here?" Her mother suggested, turning curious eyes towards Darien.
Serena looked gratefully at her Mother and then turned to Darien.
"Darien, this is my mother and father. Mom, Dad, this is Darien, my…" Serena hesitated a second over what to call Darien. What exactly was he? He was her friend, like her mother had named him but he was so much more than that. Once, a lifetime or two ago they had been engaged. But that didn't necessarily mean that they still were. It seemed pushy to label him her fiancé, especially since they had never talked about marriage. So was he her boyfriend? Serena frowned at that thought. It seemed to imply something less than he was. But…they never had talked about being more. True, things had been rather crazy since she had found him again and she really didn't want to get married right now. She just felt like she needed some time to discover both who she was these days and who Darien had become while they had both been living their separate lives. Not that she didn't want to marry Darien. But what if he didn't want to marry her? What if he was feeling trapped by old memories and really wanted nothing to do with her and was only waiting until her life got more stable to tell her. That sounded like something Darien would do. He wouldn't want to hurt her or take away his support when she was most in need of it. He was considerate like that. Suddenly Serena could feel herself starting to panic. What if Darien really did want to leave her? Could she handle that? God, could she really lose him again after she had come to depend so much upon his strength beside her?
Darien gave her an odd look before courteously extending his had to shake her mother and father's hand, "Mr. Tskunino. Mrs. Tusknino."
Serena shook herself. God, she was messed up. She had just panicked over a line of logic, which started over something as stupid as what to introduce Darien as to her parents and ended with her spending the rest of her life pining over his memory while he lived his own life without her. Apparently, her brain, being denied the privilege of agonizing over her reunion with her parents was going to pick a new target.
Her mother smiled kindly at them all before returning to the kitchen to finish dinner. Serena, her father, Darien, and Sam all went into the living room to wait.
After several moments of silence, Sam decided to retreat from the room, going to help his mother in the kitchen. That left Serena and her father trying to pretend to be comfortable in the silence of the room.
Again it was Serena's father who broke the stalemate by taking a deep breath. Serena tensed, reminding Darien of a rabbit, seeing a large shadow moving and was waiting to see if it was a predator or something benign.
"I…owe you an apology." Her father began cautiously. "I was wrong. You saved Sam and I accused you of being at fault. Days of worry and frustration just kind of came to a head there and I lashed out at the first target I could find."
"Dad, it's okay." Serena said, looking at her father as if there was a miracle happening and if she even blinked everything would disappear.
"No. It's not okay. I acted without talking to you, making assumptions that I had no right to make. I hope that you will be able to forgive me eventually." Her father looked so miserable, trying to find words that would somehow fix the damage that had had years to fester and grow between father and daughter. Years of hurt and misunderstanding stood between them, creating a seemingly impassible gulf.
But the thing about impossible wishes is that there are always a few people in the world who are too stupid to realize something is impossible, too fuzzy brained to realize that the odds were horribly against them, or to even look at the odds. And these people were the ones who miraculously walked on air to get to the other side of a rift without ever realizing it was something special.
At least, that was how Rei explained it.
Serena stood up and dashed forward, hugging her father. She clung to him for a second, "Thank you Daddy."
Her father couldn't have looked more surprised if she had hit him. Actually, Darien thought watching her father slowly return the hug, he probably was expecting something more like anger. It said a lot that her father really had not expected forgiveness, at least not without a lot of time and work.
But Darien had first hand knowledge about Serena's version of love. If you worked your way into her life, be it as a friend, as family or even an enemy, she was always willing to forgive past wrongs if you asked. Even if you didn't ask sometimes, Darien thought wryly.
And only Darien, knowing her as well as he did, expected what she said next.
"Daddy, I'm sorry." Serena whispered.
"For what?" Her father asked incredulously.
"For never telling you the truth, for not being the daughter you wanted me to be." Serena said, a single tear falling down her cheek.
"Honey, no. No. You are the daughter we wanted. I…Yes, your mother and I wish we had known about…you know. But, well, we understand. And maybe you were right to not tell us. I..." Her father looked a little shamed, "I can't promise that I wouldn't have done something like forbid you from going out any more. Parents do stupid things sometimes where their children are concerned."
Darien decided that since everything seemed to be going well, this was a private moment for the two and it was time for him to quietly take his leave.
In the kitchen he found the other half of the family busily setting the table and finishing up dinner. Sam was trying to sneak food and him mother was playfully threatening him with a rolling pin.
Rather than disturb them he continued down the hall and leaned against the banister, looking out the window at the rising moon. He hadn't expected this trip to Serena's parents to bring back so many of his old longings. He had always wished his parents were still alive but he had thought that those thoughts had lost most of their sting. After all, he had friends, his own place, a destiny and Serena at his side though everything. How could parents he barely even remembered still haunt him this much? It seemed silly to be jealous of Serena's family, and yet, he was forced to acknowledge that was exactly what he was feeling. Jealousy of another's parent's still alive and feeling a little forgotten in the glow of this family reunion.
Which was stupid. Serena deserved this more than anyone else he could think of. She needed her family to be a part of her life again. They weren't going to replace him. But…
He was feeling a little uncertain. He had caught Serena's faltering when she introduced him to her parents. And he had no idea what it meant. A voice in his head insisted that it had meant something while he was trying to argue that it didn't. But what had she been thinking just then? Had she been looking at him through the eyes of her parents and been embarrassed of him? Was that it? No. Maybe. No.
Darien nearly growled in his frustration. He loved Serena, more than anything else in this world and he knew, knew damnit!, that she loved him.
But then why the hesitation?
"Darien?" A quiet voice called from behind him and he turned to look at the object of his obsessive, compulsive thoughts.
"Hey." He said, forcing a small smile onto his face, "How are you?"
"I'm…" She cocked her head to the side and seemed to think before a huge grin split across her face, "I'm great. Happy."
She let out a joyous laugh that warmed him, "But why are you out here?"
"I just thought that you needed a little privacy." Darien answered.
Serena walked over and snuggled up against his side, her presence there doing more to fight his own doubts than all his internal arguing could.
"Serena! Did you…Oh good. You did find Darien. Why are you still out here? Dinner is ready." Serena's mother chided the pair.
Her mother stopped a second and studied the pair more closely, taking in their positions and her eyes seemed to light up before she turned to go back into the house. Darien felt Serena shift under his arm and he looked down into her upturned face.
Just as Serena opened her mouth to speak, her stomach growled.
"Exactly what I was going to say." She said with a definitive nod, "Let's go eat."
Dinner seemed to go well. The food was delicious and Darien was sure to be extra polite and courteous, offering to help with the clearing of the table and the dishes. Despite all his best efforts, Serena's father seemed to be getting progressively more and more irritated with him.
After dinner was finished, Mr. Tskuino marched up to Darien, "Come son, I'd like to talk to you."
Darien looked around, seeing Serena, Sam and their Mother all busy chatting had missed what was going on.
Swallowing nervously, Darien followed Serena's father into his study and pushed down the panic as the door was closed behind him.
"You wished to speak with me sir?" Darien asked.
"Yes. It has become clear that you are more than just a friend to my daughter. And while I am sure that you are a perfectly nice young man, I want to know what your relationship is, exactly, with my daughter and your intentions in that relationship." The glare that accompanied these words was scarier than any of the monsters Darien had ever faced.
Darien tried desperately to organize his thoughts, "Sir, your daughter and I have been together for … a long time and I love her. I have only the best intentions regarding her."
Serena's father looked at him long and hard, looking for what Darien had no idea but was simultaneously terrified that the other man both would and would not find it.
"So, Darien, what is it that you do?" Serena's father asked in a vaguely suspicious tone.
What followed was one of the most grueling interviews that Darien had ever had to go through. By the time he escaped from that room, Serena's father had found out more about his childhood, his friends and family and his schooling. Through some fast thinking and even faster talking Darien managed to side step most of the super hero issues, feeling that was more of a father-daughter discussion.
But in the end, it was worth it.
"Well son, I think we've been in here long enough, don't you?" Serena's father said, standing up.
"Yes sir." Darien said, trying to hide the relief he felt.
"Call me Kenji. I have no doubt you'll be family soon enough and family shouldn't be so formal." He said, walking out the door.
Darien stood stunned for a second. Family? Slowly a well of feeling bubbled up inside of him and it took him a moment to realize he was grinning like an idiot.
Serena was standing right outside the door, looking anxious. When she saw him emerge she pulled him into a hug.
"You okay?" She whispered.
"Yea." He said, hugging her back and letting some of his sudden joy flow into that hug.
"I'm sorry I didn't see you get dragged away. My father was always overprotective when it came to boyfriends. I…"
"Shh." Darien cut her off, "I'm fine. I think…I think it actually went well."
Serena looked at him skeptically and Darien was struck by how similar that look was to several her father, had given him during their talk.
"Really," Darien said, "I'm to call him Kenji and think of myself as part of the family."
"Wow." Serena said, her eyes huge as she stared up at him, "That's…just wow."
Darien chuckled, "Let's go out there while I'm still in your family's good graces."
From then on the night continued. Serena and Darien spent nearly three hours telling their complete story to an enraptured family. Their earlier lives, in another time, had been difficult to talk about. For everyone. Darien could tell that Serena's parents found it hard to hear about Queen Serenity. In a weird way it was like an adoption. But unlike some adoptions where it was the child who eventually had to be told that they had other parents, in this case it was the parents that had to be told that their daughter had another set of parents.
There were other things that were difficult to discuss as well. The late nights and mysterious disappearances that had happened while Serena still lived with her parents could now be explained. But that did not make things easier.
But there were also things that seemed to make the story easier. All of the Scouts' identities were given and humorous stories were told about their old and new lives.
Things got a little more awkward when Serena's mother asked about the last fight.
Serena and Darien had looked at each other, sharing the burden of forgotten memories.
"We…can't remember, Mom." Serena answered with a sigh.
"What? Why not?" Her father asked, worried.
"Something…We had a reason that the memories had to be erased. Well, not exactly erased but I put a block on them that Luna and Artemis will remove when the time is right for us to regain them." Serena answered, searching for an explanation to actions she no longer understood completely.
"But, why would you do that?" Sam asked, "You had to struggle to get all your memories back last time. Why would you voluntarily give them up again?"
"Because," Darien answered for Serena, "If we were to have those memories, they would cause harm. And we will get them back eventually. But for right now, there is a reason that it is better for us to forget. And if we all agreed to it, then it must have been a good reason."
Serena smiled up at him.
When they finally left the Tskunino house, it was quite late at night. Serena was half asleep as they walked to Darien's car and leaning heavily on him.
"Darien?" She muttered sleepily.
"Yeah?" He asked quietly, looking down at her as she walked with her eyes half closed.
"Sorry about my Dad." She yawned hugely.
"Your Dad was great. A little scary, but great." Darien answered.
"Yea. But I meant about the whole family thing. I just didn't want you to be... you know…forced into anything." Serena said.
Darien stopped suddenly, causing the sleepy blonde to stumble a bit at the loss of his support, "What are you talking about?"
Shaking her head to try and wake up a little, "Well…You and I haven't really talked about the future…and I don't want you to feel like you have to marry me or be my boyfriend or…whatever. Sorry, this isn't coming out right."
"No, I think I understand." Darien said, adding calmly, "Serena, you are an idiot."
Serena sputtered, pushing him with surprising strength into a bush, "What!?"
Darien recovered his balance and glared at the blonde spitfire now fully awake in front of him, "You're an idiot."
"And just why is that?" She demanded, placing her hands on her hips.
"You honestly think that I don't want to marry you?" Darien asked.
"Well how was I supposed to know? It's not like we've ever talked about it!" Serena threw back at him.
"I didn't think it was something that we needed to talk about. I thought I had made things pretty clear." Darien said, throwing up his hands.
"Obviously not." Serena said.
"Well, it's not like you've ever said anything. I was starting to think that maybe you didn't want to be with me." Darien shot back, getting into the fight.
"Not be with you? You moron. I love you. Why wouldn't I want to spend the rest of my life with you?" Serena said, stepping forward to poke a finger at Darien's chest with each word.
Darien opened his mouth to answer, blinked and his entire face softened, "Serena?"
"What?" Serena snapped, still angry.
"What are we arguing about?" Darien asked reasonably.
"We're…you…umm…that you love me and I love you?" Serena said cautiously.
"Oh. Good. And here I thought it was nothing." Darien said with a small smirk.
"And that you are a moron!" Serena added quickly, unwilling to lose even a stupid argument.
Darien leaned down so that he was staring straight into Serena's blue eyes, "But you love me?"
"Um…yes." Serena answered, captured by that unwavering gaze.
"And you want to marry me?" He asked quietly.
"Yes." Serena sighed.
"Good," Darien said, "Then I can deal with being a moron."
Darien picked her up, her feet dangling in the air, and kissed her. Serena pulled back and laughed at him, still staring into his mischievous eyes.
"Love you." Darien whispered, resting his forehead against hers.
"I love you, too." Serena answered.
In the sky a full moon shone down on the couple laughing with the joy of each other, bathing them in its light and bearing silent witness to the peace that had finally been gained by one of its children.
AN: Whoa! Yea, I finished it. Really quickly, yes I am considering a sequal/spin off with the Rini/Helios story. No I have no idea as to when I would write that. I do plan on working on my sadly neglected X-Men fic and maybe write a few one-shots to clear some of the plot bunnies out of here.
And, with your indulgence, I'd like to do a couple quick than yous.
First, to Mercural1, you were an awesome beta. You put up me and my quirks and helped make this story so much better. I can not even begin to thank you enough.
To Miko666, thanks for all the information. You were like this great font of knowledge that I got to tap into occasionally.
To all be readers and reviewers, I'd list you all but then this whole section would be longer than this story and I've been told I'm long winded enough. But really, with out the people who read and reviewed there was no way I'd ever have gotten to this point. I got so many ideas and inspirations for even ssome of the most casual comments that I just wanted to say thank you.
Okay, the author is shutting up now.