Title: Reni's Mom
Author: The Final Stillness of Saturn
Pairing period: AU
Teaser or Summary: Serena Tsukino had a Reni at 14. Everything went downhill from there. Now that her daughter is 14, Serena fears for her because of charming, 21-year-old Darien Shields.
Chapter One: Reni Tsukino
My name is Serenity Tsukino, but no one calls me that unless I'm in trouble. I make them call me Reni. I am fourteen and have blue eyes. My red, wavy hair is a source of constant annoyance to me, so I generally just put it up in a bun. I'll admit that I'm really short, though I'm taller than my mom and grandma. Shortness runs in my family. Mom says it comes from my great-great grandfather, who was Japanese. Mom has always been proud to be Japanese, even though you couldn't guess we're Japanese by our overly pale skin. When my she was younger, Mom loved watching Anime and reading Manga. She gave me all her old books and videos; that's how I got to like them so much.
I guess I should tell you about my mom. Her name is Serena Tsukino, hence the name Serenity. She is twenty-eight, and I was born when she was fourteen, if you can't subtract. She informs me, because I can't remember, that we haven't seen my father since before I was two-years-old. Currently, she is the personal assistant of Rei Hino or Hino Rei, a Japanese fashion designer that opened shop here a few years ago. My mom is really pretty; she has the all American girl look, somehow, of blonde hair and blue eyes.
I attend Crossroads High School, where there is this teacher who has been mean to me for that last few years for no apparent reason. Her name is Mrs. Patricia Li, but I was telling you about myself. My best friend in the whole world, Samantha, is in all of the same classes with me. I have known Samantha Johnson as far back as I can remember. Seriously, her mom has pictures of us hitting each other with rattles. I'm a little envious of her perfectly straight, sandy blonde hair, but I much prefer my blue eyes to her brown. Like everyday I go with her to her father's arcade, The Crown. The usual visitors are around ten-years-old, so I don't remember why we go there all the time. One cool thing about The Crown, that's where I first met Darien Shields.
Samantha was talking about some guy that she had noticed earlier at school when this totally gorgeous guy walks through the door. He has jet black hair and amazing blue eyes. As he walked toward the counter I got a nice view of his fine backside. It took Samantha several minutes to realize that not only was I ignoring her, I was practically drooling. She looked towards the stool where the hottie sat, and her eyes widened. I assumed she was thinking along the same lines as me, so I was rather surprised when she ran over and hugged him. I stood up and walked over to the pair.
The man looked down at the girl pinning his arms to his sides. "Hey, Squirt," he greeted, a look of sudden recognition dawning on his face.
Samantha straightened. "Where have you been, Darien? I haven't seen you in, like, forever!" she gushed.
Darien, I thought the name perfectly fit him, laughed. "And I thought forever was a little longer than five years."
"That is forever!" Samantha replied. "What have you been doing? Where do you live? Most importantly, why'd it take so long for you to come see me?" I wondered if he had a girlfriend.
Darien laughed again. "I've been going to college in Connecticut. I just moved back about a month ago."
"Really? In one of those Ivy League schools, huh?" she asked, with a grin.
"Yep." He returned the grin. "You know, Sammy, you're a real looker."
It was Samantha's turn to laugh. "Why do you have to say strange things so often? I haven't seen you in six years, and that has come out of your mouth within five minutes!"
"Now it's been six years? Anyway, I was just telling the truth. Who's your friend, Squirt?" he asked, glancing at me.
"This is Seren--, I mean, Reni. She's my best bud, but when you were with us she was staying with her grandma," she introduced in a single breath. I noticed that she glanced at me somewhat hesitantly when mentioning where I had been. I knew why. A moment later, I remembered Sam had told me about that a boy had come to live with them when I'd gotten back from Obaa-san's, a name Mom adopted for grandma. It could only be "Dare."
"I think you mentioned her, only about a million times. I'm Darien," he said, the first part directed at Samantha. After a pause he continued. "Your hair makes you look like you have a tomato on your head." I stuck my tongue out at him.
"Hey! That's no way to talk to a person you've just met, especially Reni!" Sam protested.
Darien tilted his head slightly. "You're right," he acknowledged. He stuck out his hand. "Sorry. I'm Darien Shields."
We shook hands, Andrew and Mina came out from the back, and the rest is history. Well, not really. That was about a two months ago. I don't think Darien is the hottest guy any more. Well, he's really hot, but Nick is mega hot. Never mind about Nick, though. Sam and I consider Darien a sort of older brother/best friend type. I sometimes wonder if the guy has any friends. What kind of twenty-one-year-old college student hangs out with teenage girls? Okay, other than psychos, which he's not. Not that I'm complaining about it.
Right, I the whole point I want to get to is that my mom is completely embarrassing. I can't believe what she did when I brought Darien over.
Chapter Two: A Towel
"You jerk, you're trying to be annoying," Samantha complained, hitting Darien playfully on the arm.
"I'll say," Reni grumbled from the backseat of Darien's car. "This is so not fair. My house is way closer than hers."
"Maybe I like you better," Darien teased.
"Hey!" Samantha yelled.
Darien and Reni rolled their eyes. "I was just kidding. Anyway, Andy said to bring you home immediately. You're going to a model thing, as he put it."
Samantha groaned. "I forgot about that. I can't stand those things. My mom makes me go. She’s the one who wants to work for the best designers she can find. I don't get why I have to go be bored to death by the ancient friends of fashion designers. It wouldn't be so bad if the designers themselves would come. They just stand around and talk about weather while eating expensive, disgusting food." She slumped down in her seat.
"You're not missing anything with the designers. I went to a designer thing with mom once. Hino-san isn't that bad, but she's very young. Most of them were talking in different languages, and the food is just as bad," Reni commented.
"Great," Sam said sarcastically. Darien pulled into the driveway of a small house. "See you tomorrow, guys." Sam got out and walked very slowly into her house.
"Does your mom work at Mina's?" Darien asked. He was referring to The Venus Agency, a modeling agency that Sam's mother ran.
"No," Reni said, fidgeting a little. She didn't like to talk about her mom because of all the problems they'd had over the years. "She works for Hino Rei."
"And she is whom?" Darien questioned.
"She's a Japanese fashion designer. She moved here about five or six years ago," Reni said.
"What does she do for Miss Hino?" Darien asked.
"Hino-san. Mom is Rei's personal assistant. Darien, do you have a job?" Reni asked, changing the subject.
Darien chuckled. "Not really, I'm in college."
"Well, don't you have to pay for food and stuff?" Reni prompted.
Darien shifted slightly. "My parents left me money when they died."
"Oh." The girl became uncharacteristically quiet.
Darien sighed. They were almost to Reni's. Every time he drove Reni home Darien felt a surge of guilt. Looking around, he couldn't help but think of his large home and nice neighborhood. He didn't mind driving Reni home, anything so that she didn't have to walk through her neighborhood alone. The neighborhood was between the middling neighborhoods, like Sam's, and the bad part of town. Every time he drove her home, Darien vaguely considered offering to let Reni and her mother live with him. He turned into the apartment complex, and Darien came to a stop.
"Since you're here, would you like to come up? My mom should be home by now. You haven't met," Reni suggested.
Darien took a deep breath. It would be rude to refuse. "Sure," he replied, parking his car. After getting out he pushed the lock button several times more than necessary. He followed Reni up two flights of stairs and past two doors.
"Hold on a minute," she said, her voice muffled as her head and one arm were half way in her bag. She pulled out a key and unlocked the two locks on the door. "Come in." Reni went in before Darien. After he had entered, she pushed the door closed and locked it. They were standing in a small, square room with a closet on either side. A living room, kitchen, and short hallway could be seen from here.
"Hey, honey. I bought a few frozen dinners if you're hungry right now, or we can make dinner. How was school?" Darien heard a soft female voice ask. Then the woman appeared in front of them, wearing only a towel. Darien let his eyes travel up her long slender legs and over the curves that were shown rather well before meeting her cerulean eyes. He noticed that her cheeks were flushed faintly and her lips slightly parted.
"Mom," Reni groaned. Darien blinked, and the woman disappeared to where she has come from.
"That's your mom?" Darien asked with his eyes barely focusing on Reni.
"Yeah, sorry about that. I should have warned her you were here." Reni closed one eye and half smiled.
"Er," Darien commented unintelligently.
"Darien? Are you going to be okay? Mom's not that scary, is she?" Reni waved her hands rapidly in front of his face.
"No." He knocked Reni's hands away.
The woman returned at that moment. She now wore a pair of jogging pants and a t-shirt. Darien was amused to note the strange style in which she wore here long hair, two buns and pigtails. He knew where Reni got her choice of hairstyle. "Excuse me. I don't always wander around in nothing but a towel, but I didn't know we had company." She extended a hand. "I'm Serena Tsukino, and you are?"
Darien took her hand lightly. "Darien Shields."
"So you're him. Reni, Samantha, Mina, and Andrew have been telling me about you." She let her hand drop. Darien imagined that her eyes seemed more guarded after learning his name.
"Darien decided to come up to meet you, Mom. Aunt Mina had somewhere that Sam was supposed to go, so we dropped her off first," Reni said, raising her eyebrows at her mother.
"Nice to meet you, Darien. Thank you for bringing Reni home so often. I would do so myself, but I get off work at the same time that she gets out of school," Serena said. She smiled. "Perhaps we can have a longer chat in the future."
"Nice to meet you, Miss Tsukino. See you tomorrow, Reni," Darien said. He unlocked the door and walked out. Why had Serena been in such a hurry to get rid of him?
"Mother," Reni grumbled as she relocked the door.
"What?" Serena asked.
"You did it, again. I don't know if you realize it, but that makes people very uncomfortable," Reni complained.
"What did I do?" Serena repeated.
Reni sighed loudly. "You act nice, but you're very cold about it. It makes you seem untrusting. Maybe that's why you don't get a boyfriend?"
Serena sighed. If only her daughter knew the half of it. "I don't need or want a boyfriend.
"Right, Mom." Reni brushed off her mother's comment.
"So, how was your day?" Serena asked as she led the way into the kitchen.
"Great, as usual. I barely escaped detention from Mrs. Li for, quote, spacing out at the blackboard. How, I ask, can you stare at a blackboard without seeing what's written on it? I don't think I was doing anything wrong." Reni answered, helping her mother gather supplies. "You changed the subject," she added.
"I did not," Serena protested.
"You did, too. You didn't want to talk about Darien. He's really nice. You'd like him if you got to know him."
"I'll just take your word for it, then."
"Oh, come on, mom! Why did you take an immediate dislike to him?" Reni demanded.
"He was checking me out," Serena grumbled.
"Okay." Reni clapped her hands over her ears. "I did not just hear that."
Serena grinned. "You are the one just telling me I needed a boyfriend."
"Ha, funny. I was thinking someone closer to your age."
"Are you afraid I'll move in on your territory?" Serena asked, quite happy to continue embarrassing her daughter.
"Oh please, mom, Darien is so not my boyfriend. He's a friend who's a boy but not a boyfriend," Reni said in exasperation.
"How old is he?" Serena asked suddenly.
Reni glanced sidelong at her mother. Before she opened her mouth she braced herself for an explosion. "Twenty-one."
"Serenity Tsukino!" she exclaimed. The ingredients she was mixing sloshed over the edge of the bowl.
"Mom, I told you. Darien is not my boyfriend, nor do either of us want him to be. He's like Sam's brother, and I sort of see him that way, too," Reni defended.
"Do you know what goes on in the mind of twenty-one-year-olds? You are--"
"Mom!" Reni cut in. "If you can't trust my judgment trust Aunt Mina's. Actually, trust Andy's." Reni had always called her mother's best friends by those names.
Serena carefully poured her bowl on top of what Reni had mixed. "I suppose I can. I'm warning you, though. If he so much as looks at one of you wrong, I'll put his lights out," she said forcefully. Reni sighed.
As he walked through his apartment door, Darien was contemplating his meeting with Serena. For some reason, she seemed rather wary of him. He supposed she could be trying to keep him away from her daughter; he knew that many parents were like that. Serena just didn't seem like that that kind of parent. What reason could she possibly have to mistrust him? Not knowing made Darien all the more determined to figure out why Serena disliked him. One thing was certain: he wouldn't be getting the image of Serena in a towel out of his head any time soon.
Chapter Three: Parties and Problems
It had been two months since his first encounter with Serena. Her cool attitude towards him had changed very little, if at all. Admittedly, she seemed less worried to let Reni be anywhere near him, but she still regarded him with what could be called dislike. It was this that was on Darien's mind as he watched Reni and Samantha chatting animatedly across from him in the booth. He was jolted from his thoughts when his distant mind registered the word "party."
"What party?" Darien demanded, looking from one girl to the other.
Samantha looked worried, but Reni glared at him. "Don't try to act all high and mighty with us, Darien Shields. You were our age once."
Darien's eyes narrowed. Having been a teenager, that should make him more informed on such subjects. "What kind of party? Where is it? Who's holding it?"
"This girl from school is having it at her house tonight," Samantha said quietly, her eyes darting towards the Arcade's counter behind which her father stood.
"I gather that it's a party your father wouldn't like," Darien commented dryly, lowering his voice anyway.
"Puh-lease, Darien," Reni huffed. Her hands gripped each other in her frustration.
"What would your mother think of me if I--"
"So that's your problem, huh? You're worried about what my mom will think about you." Reni smiled at him knowingly. "Better yet, what would my mother think if I told her some of the other things that you've let Samantha and I do?"
"What other things?" Darien asked in confusion.
"I don't know, but I have plenty of time to think of some," Reni replied.
Darien gaped at her. For some reason, Reni really wanted to go to this party. She was going so far as to blackmail him. He didn't know she had it in her. He shrugged at her. "Fine. Are you ready to head home yet, Serenity?" he questioned, using her full name to voice his annoyance with her.
"I suppose. Six," she murmured to Sam, referring to the time they were meeting.
Following their spat in the Crown Arcade was a very tense car ride to Reni's apartment, where Serena awaited her daughter, oblivious to the fourteen-year-old girl's plans. "If she knew," Darien mused internally, "she'd probably have a heart attack." For some reason that he had yet to pinpoint, Serena was extremely overprotective of her daughter. Reni was rarely allowed to spend time with other people her age, unless Sam first introduced them.
"So, what's so important about this particular party?" Darien asked in an attempt to break the uncomfortable silence.
"Well," Reni began. She was quiet for several moments before adding anything else. "This guy is supposed to--"
When Darien's arm muscles tensed, the car swerved. He barely avoided going onto the curb. "A high school party is no place to meet 'this guy.' There are too many things that could happen," he stated, his voice serious.
"He's not that kind of guy," Reni defended.
"Oh, isn't he?"
"No, he's not. Why are you acting like my mom?" Reni demanded.
Darien glanced at her from the corner of his eye. She was staring at him, anger clouding her features. "Usually, I don't agree with her. She's too protective. For once, though, this is something that she and I would agree on. When I was in high school, I saw too many girls go to parties, and--" he trailed off, not wanting to share. Reni sighed. "I won't say anything to anyone; I promise. I just want you to write down my phone number and call me if you have any trouble. I swear I won't get angry with you." He also forced Reni to give him the address.
Reni went into her apartment with her mind working rapidly. She decided that the best way to approach the subject was to say it immediately. "Hey, mom, I'm spending the night at Sam's tonight," Reni announced as she walked past her mother towards her room.
"That's fine, honey," Serena responded. She had been planning to spend time with her daughter that night, but she liked to leave Reni time with her friends. "I guess I'll just stay home all alone as usual. Maybe watch a movie by myself. Eat the dinner I made for you..." Serena trailed off at Reni's glare. She grinned widely. "Can't I tease my daughter?" Reni giggled at her. They chatted for a while before Sam knocked on the door.
"Hey, Serena," Sam greeted cheerfully. "How are you?"
"I'm fine. Are Andy and Mina outside? I haven't talked to them in a while."
"Yes, they are, but we're have reservations to eat in--" Sam stopped to glance at the clock. "Five minutes. We really have to go. See you later, Serena." She and Reni left, holding hands. Serena, of course, didn't know that the two would be getting into a car with two girls she'd never met.
Surveying the scene with Sam by her side, Reni decided that the party could be fun. "After all," she thought, "what's better than a party and a hot guy?" As the night progressed, she became more certain that James was not going to show. She found herself left alone while Same talked animatedly with a blonde boy. Reni tried to remember his name but only recalled that it began with an M. Finally, to feel more part of the crowd, Reni moved into the home's kitchen and poured herself a large cup of soda from a bottle.
She wrinkled her nose when she tasted it. "It must be flat." She returned to the living room and mingled. She did very little for what seemed like hours, occasionally going to get more soda and bumping into Sam in the kitchen once. (All of the different sodas tasted "flat.") She talked to several different people but never for very long. Checking the watch in her purse, Reni discovered that they'd been there for only two hours. When she looked for Sam for the first time in a while, she was startled to see Sam and a guy lip locked and stumbling up the stairs.
Something was wrong with this, she knew, but she couldn't think of anything to do. Her brain wasn't working quickly enough. "Darien!" she thought suddenly. She stumbled across the room in search of a phone. Eventually, she found a cordless phone and took it into the bathroom.
"Darien," Reni slurred. "You should come an' get ush."
Darien raised an eyebrow to himself. "I'm on the way." With a knowing sign, he grabbed his jacket from the closet and headed for his car.
`How could he forget his own high school experience? When he thought of it of a sudden, he hoped Andrew wouldn't find out the fact that Darien knew that his precious little daughter was sneaking out to a party. He gulped. Even worse, what if Serena found out that he knew? He tried to brace himself on the way to the place Reni had told him earlier.
Reni was starting to get worried. Sam had been gone for at least ten minutes, and Darien had yet to appear. She jumped to her feet when she saw him come into the room but quickly sat back down as a wave of dizziness hit her.
Darien saw her and made his way to her. "Reni, where's Sam?" he questioned, trying to keep the panic from his eyes. What if something had happened to her, something he could have prevented?
"Upstairs," Reni managed after struggling a few times.
His eyes widened. "Outside, please." He held a hand out to her. In the end, he carried her because she was leaning on him so heavily. After he plopped her into his car and locked the door, Reni watched Darien bolt back into the house.
Reni blacked out for a moment, and the next she knew, Sam was sitting behind her. "That was hysterical, Darien," she giggled.
"Ha ha. I'm glad you think so," he growled. He reached up to straighten his rearview mirror, otherwise Reni would not have noticed his split knuckles. "You're hurt," she commented.
He glanced sharply at her. "You should see the other guy."
"Yeah, you should," Sam agreed.
Darien glared at her in the mirror. "You may be quiet." Sam pouted. "I'm glad you called," he said to Reni.
"Mmm." Darien saw her asleep against the window. A short time later, after delivering Sam into the waiting arms of her father, Darien prepared for what he expected to be the hardest part of his trip.
"You let her go to a party?" Serena yelled.
"Excuse me," Darien demanded, pushing past the woman to rush his bundle into the bathroom.
"How could you betray my trust like that?"
"First of all," he began quietly, depositing Reni gently in front of the toilet, "I didn't 'let her go to a party' because I'm not in charge of her, nor did I know." He paused to pray that Reni's mother never found out about his lie. "Beside that, what trust do you have for me?"
"I--" Serena started, only to be interrupted by her daughter's retching. She watched as Darien pulled the girl's loose hair back and patted her lightly on the shoulder. He continued to comfort her until she had finished. Then he pulled her to the sink and helped her wash. "I guess he's not so bad. He and Reni might make a nice couple. If they get married."
"Do you have a garbage can?" he questioned, ending her thoughts.
"Of course." She retrieved it, and Darien proceeded to settle Reni into her bed (with all of her clothes on, of course). "Thank you," Serena murmured to him as she pulled the door shut. He shrugged. "Would you like a soda or anything?"
"Coffee," he replied in such as desperate tone that Serena grinned.
"Done. Have a seat. Black?" Ten minutes later they sat on the couch, sipping coffee. Darien was of the opinion that she was having some coffee with her milk and sugar but said nothing.
Darien's head shot up. "For what?"
"Bringing Reni home. Watching out for her, even though I've always been like that to you." Serena was staring into her cup.
"I didn't know you'd been like anything to me," Darien observed, not meaning it as an insult or a suggestion.
"Exactly. Reni's right. I am always cold towards men. I couldn't help it. You're twenty-one, and she's my fourteen-year-old daughter. I can't be expected to just accept that without saying anything, but I didn't stop." She looked up to meet his eyes. "No matter what you did, I still kept my mind closed against you."
Darien sat his cup on the table and turned to her. "I don't blame you for that, but you need to understand that Reni and I are only friends."
"I couldn't help mistrusting you. She acts so much like me. I-I just didn't want this to happen to her."
"What do you mean by 'this?'"
"I-she-she's the same age I was..." Serena trailed off.
Darien thought for a moment. "What could have happened to Serena at fourteen?"
"Don't get me wrong," Serena continued suddenly. "I love Reni, but-well-I expected things to be so different before her. I don't want her to have to abandon dreams like I did."
"Serena, I swear that she and I are only friends."
She glanced at him sharply. "That's what Josh told my friends in high school."
"I suppose that raised a few questions when you started showing," Darien joked. She stared at him. "Honestly, there's nothing more than friendship between us." He stared into her eyes intently, willing her to see the truth in his eyes.
Serena looked down at her hands. "It was painful at first." Serena began speaking slowly, haltingly. "Finally, Mom let me stop going to school. My best friend Molly was the only one who kept in touch. By the time she was two, Josh stopped coming to see her. Sometimes I wonder if she remembers him, but I hope not. I can't imagine what it would feel like to know that your father didn't want you." Darien wanted to tell her about his parents' death, but he knew that interrupting might mean closing her off forever.
"I didn't like burdening my parents, so I found a girl to move in with as soon I as I turned eighteen. Makoto and I had a nice setup. She worked in the morning and watched Reni while I worked at night. We split the bills, and I paid more than her as thanks for babysitting. Mako was saving money to attend a cooking school in Florida and when she finally got in, I was between a rock and a hard place. I didn't want to move, but I couldn't afford the apartment. That was why I looked for a quick way to make a lot." She stopped abruptly, pain reflecting in her watery eyes. Darien was making his best effort to follow Serena's speech. He gently put an arm around her, encouraging her to continue. "I can never forgive myself for that. It was the most degrading thing in the world," her words came very quietly, and her face was turned down, as though she was trying to hide from the world.
"It's okay Serena."
"It's not okay, damn it!" She looked up at him, with narrowed eyes, tears beginning to slide down her face. "Other women might get some high from having that power over men, but I didn't."
Darien stared at her. What was she talking about? "She couldn't have been a prostitute," he thought. "Too sweet."
"I don't think I'll ever forget the embarrassment I felt dancing in front of people. I may not have been able to see them, but I knew they were there. Still, I stripped down to bare flesh."
Darien had to force himself to focus on Serena's pain. She seemed to feel utterly wretched about being a stripper. Personally, he didn't see anything wrong with it, but maybe it was something that varied from person to person. "It's not all that terrible, Serena. Lots of people do it." He felt her begin to pull away and quickly changed the words he was planning to say. "That doesn't make it right, but life will go on." The words seemed to brace her.
"That's when I met Todd, and he began to pay for my apartment. I was so relieve to be able to quit. I was just starting to feel secure when he started trying to control me." She sniffed. "I found out he was stalking me just a few months before you were with Mina; that's why you never saw Reni. I left her with my mother to keep her safe. He was arrested on sexual abuse charges a few months later." Serena leaned her head against his chest for a moment, and he held her tightly with one arm, wishing inwardly to hold her much, much closer.
Serena looked up at him. "Sorry to get all weepy like this. It just happens sometimes, but I usually don't have anyone around to cry on," she apologized.
"No problem. I don't mind being used as a means of comfort." Did that sound to her the way it did to him?
Serena grinned at him thankfully. "It's getting late. You should head home." She stood, and he missed her warmth. He followed her to the door and watched her unlatch and hold it open. "Good night, Darien," she murmured after a moment. He had taken a step out the door, when Serena laid a hand on his arm. Darien turned, and she leaned forward and planted a kiss on his cheek. "Thanks again." With that, she closed the door in his face.