Aright. Here's the deal. In honor of those authors (like me) who can't get dates and will be lonely or just plain pissed off on Valentines Day (like me ^_^) I got a lovely story for ya to make you even sadder. Well, I think it is. Very romantic, very fluffy, and you'll all have to pretend (for the purpose of this story only) that Luigi um....doesn't exist or something.

Luigi: Wah?! (..)'

Sorry pal, you're out of the picture on this one.

Luigi: *grumbles* I'm calling my agent....

Okay....anyway enough ramble. Enjoy, you love-sick love-puppies you! ^_^

"How delicious is the winning of a kiss at love's beginning."

~Thomas Campbell

I'm so confused. I don't know what to think.

Of course Mario has rescued me before, let alone more than once. But never was he as protective as this night. Never so defensive and possessive. Bowser's insults towards him were blocked as if he wore a shield…but the comments directed at me hit him straight in the heart, as if with an arrow. His eyes burned with such an intense hatred for Bowser, such as I have never seen in the otherwise gentle plumber.

We travel home in quiet. The path is only slightly damp, but one false step and- Well, easier said than done. My feet slip out from under me in the thin layer of mud, but he catches my elbows, holding me up. Holding me steady.

I dare to look in his face, into his eyes which have barely met mine all night. Why an I suddenly shy? "Thank you."

"No problem." His voice is tired and soft. He reaches for my hand and holds it as we cross through the muck of the path, not letting me fall anymore. Does this mean…? No. No, Mario is my friend. He has always been my friend. He wouldn't just…

Or would he?

I'm so confused. I don't know what to say.

I hope he doesn't notice how my hand shakes, because it does. But I don't want to let go either. His hand…it's so warm. The silence, save for the distant crickets, is stifling. What to think, what to say…

A mere "thank you" is no longer sufficient. Not when he risks his life, time after time, to help me escape that horrible Bowser. Not when he is just an ordinary plumber from anther dimension, who never imagined he'd run about saving girls in distress. Surely this isn't the life he's dreamed of!

The dark shape of my palace grows closer. Amidst my thoughts I hardly remembered we were walking…I thought we were floating on some cloud.

I bite my lip tensely. Thoughts are raging through my mind, confusing me as if on purpose. he rescues me. so often. gentle plumber. horrible Bowser. he loves me he loves me not. always rescuing… I feel rushed for some reason. Rushed to think and say things before it is too late. Too late until what? I don't know that either.

I cannot take the silence any longer. A tremulous sigh, barely a sob, escapes my lips. Mario hears the sound and stops. I stop too.

"Princess, what's the matter?"

What's the matter? Everything, dear Mario. This whole wide world. A few scant tears block my vision just before I take notice of his gaze boring into me. He is so worried, so caring…

I shake my head, dismissing everything and the whole wide world. "Nothing." My voice almost squeaks, how embarrassing. I try to keep walking, but he still holds my hand, still standing and gazing.

"No one cries about nothing," he says, smiling a little. He's right, too. I'm crying over my fear of Bowser. I'm crying over my inability to break free from him and his minions. I'm crying over you too, Mario. I'm crying because I don't know, don't know…

"You don't have to be afraid anymore, Princess." I know, Mario. I know. Bowser is far behind us now. He won't bother me for a good while. He notices how I shake my head and he freezes.

"No, no, it's not just that I'm afraid of." The words slip out from my tearful voice before I can stop them. Now I've said too much. I can hardly believe I said it. Could it be I am afraid of love?

I turn away but he gently drags me back by the hand. No, I'm so scared…Tears still barricade my field of vision, but I look at the ground anyway. Straight down. Mario's brown shoes blend with the grass below, forming a strange earthy mixture of hue. Cautiously, as if not to frighten me, he puts his arms around my shoulders and lets me lean against him, to finish my crying spell. I feel so safe now, so warm…I suddenly feel so much calmer, though tears stream down my cheeks. His heartbeat sounding in my is such a reassuring thing to hear.

Many minutes seem to pass until my eyes are somewhat drier, and I slowly push away from him. Still he does not let me escape. He holds my hand…right or left, I don't know, does it matter? both of his own.

I'm so confused. I don't know what to do.

My head is still lowered but I can't look at the ground. I don't want to look at the ugly ground. I want to look at sweet Mario.

One hand leaves mine and rests on my upper arm, so close to my shoulder it may as well be called that. I blink away more tears that threaten to spill again and dare to look up. I must look like a wreck compared to him. His calm, small smile, his handsome blue eyes, his dark curly hair, that ridiculous cap that I have grown to love…have I grown to love him too?

It seems he can't speak either. Or maybe he just doesn't want to. Wordlessly, carefully, his hand on my arm slides across my shoulder, daring closer to my neck and finally settles just under the frame of my face, his thumb escaping the other four digits and resting on the lower half of my cheek. I can't help but close my eyes and lean into his hand, loving the feel of his skin. Loving the cool night air. Loving even the silence.

Loving Mario.

I open my eyes, staring back into his which are not clouded anymore. They are clear, as if they speak for him in his mute behalf. Finally, after minutes had come and gone, he smiles a little more and answers me.

"I know."

Oh, he knew. How did you know, Mario? Did you just figure it out? Or have you known all along? I suddenly don't care anymore. Eyes locking on eyes, he leans closer towards me.

Is this what I was afraid of? And did I just figure it out myself? Or have I wanted this as long as I can remember?

"You don't have to be afraid anymore," he whispers in my ear, his dark hair brushing past my own golden locks. I forgot how close he was. Sighing a response, I barely shook my head. "I'm not." I can hardly hear my own voice. Is my heart beating too fast? Are my thoughts talking too loudly? Is the silence deafening? None of that matters anymore as he graces my lips with a kiss.

Something precious and unused wells up inside of me. It races through me, like lightening. I have never felt this way before. Perhaps it is a yearning, a longing…yes, a longing for something I have missed for all too long. Our still clasped hands are trapped between us. Does it matter?

My knees feel suddenly weak and weary, my head is spinning. I cannot stand, neither can I collapse because he breaks free from my hand and wraps his arm around my back, drawing me closer to him.

No, nothing matters. Nothing matters anymore.

What to think…what to say…what do to?

Don't think anything. Don't say anything. Don't do anything. There isn't a need when Mario is holding me.

He breaks the embrace gently and gazes into my eyes, his thumb caressing my cheek.

"You don't have to be afraid anymore, Peach."

"I'm not afraid." The words manage to escape my constricted throat. Oh Mario, I'm not afraid anymore. I'm in love.

He wraps his arms around me again, pressing his lips to mine once more. No need to think, to speak, to act…nothing else matters. I am spellbound by my one true love.