Title: Dreaming of a White Christmas
Author: Alicia Blade

December 2004 ANs:

Another oldie! OMG, I can't believe it's almost Christmas already. I intended to post this weeks ago! Sorry it's taken so long, but I hope this and Merry will brighten up your holidays!

And if you enjoy a good Christmas story, be sure to join JoJo's C2, SM: The Holiday Collection. Amazing stories for every season!

I haven't taken the time to edit this one, so you'll have to read it in all it's high school grammar glory. And while the BSB references make me a tad nauseous, I think it almost has a nostalgically charming feel. I hope. )

Please enjoy, whether you are reading this for the first time or the fiftieth!

Original ANs:

First off, I have to thank Athena, Sailor Walnut, P-120, and Patricia Dawson as well as all of my wonderful friends and fans who have helped me and given me SO many ideas and inspiration for this fic. I really appreciate it! Please read their stuff. All are very talented! Of course, I have to thank A Sailor Moon Romance for posting all of my stuff. I am forever grateful to them!

Sailor Moon doesn't belong to me. Darnit! And I am in no way connected to Backstreet Boys either, though a close friend swears that she is going to marry Nick Carter...

PS I learned after writing this that Raye, in actuality, attended a Roman Catholic school and so some parts of this fic aren't accurate to the Sailor Moon story. Like they ever were...

Also Raye and Darien never dated and she never had any feelings other than friendship for him in this fic.

This story changes POV's A LOT. Every time it switches, I will have the name of the person's head you are now entering in these little decorative swirly things, like this actually, they will now be bolded. Kay?

Thanks for reading this. PLEASE e-mail me, whether you like it or not! I would love any suggestions for this fic or others that you might have! Mail is the only thanks we authors get!

Merry Christmas and God bless all of you! Enjoy!

Dreaming of a White Christmas
Alicia Blade

Andrew

I watched as Darien strolled into the Arcade. He was frowning slightly and his eyes were cast down.

"Hey bud! What's wrong?"

"Merry Christmas, bah humbug..." was his only reply.

"Not exactly in the Christmas spirit?" Now there's a stupid question. Every year it's the same deal. I invite Darien to eat with my family and me, he chooses to stay in his apartment and mope. Every year...

"Understatement," he says and collapses into the stool. I shake my head and return to my work, pouring him a glass of ice water.

"Here's an idea! Why don't you come spend Christmas with..."

"No way, no how."

"Aw... come on Darien! What else do you have to do?"

"Sleep, relax, read..."

"Boring!"

"Look Andrew, you know Christmas is not my holiday!"

"No holiday is your holiday! You don't even celebrate your own birthday!"

Darien sighed and let his head fall into his palms, resting on the countertop. "I'm just not into this whole gift giving, Christmas tree decorating, snow thing."

Like on cue, a cheerful voice came in singing and laughing happily.

"But if you really hold me tight, all the way home I'll be warm! Oh, the fire is slowly dying, and, my dear, we're still good bye-ing! But as long as you love me so, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!" Serena giggled and bounced into the stool next to Darien. "Hi Andrew!"

"Hey Serena. Can I get you anything?"

"Hot chocolate with extra whipped cream, please!"

"Yes, ma'am."

I turned and began making her order.

Serena

I sighed and took a deep breath, savoring the winter smell even from inside the arcade. "I love snow!" I exclaim loudly, to no one in particular. Then I realized there was a person sitting in the seat next to me. His elbows were propped on the table and his head was facing down, a very sorrowful sight.

I gently nudged the stranger. "Don't look so sad, sir! It's only two days until Christmas! Be happy! Can you believe how much it snowed last night? I was out playing all this morning! Mom kept yelling at me cause she thought I'd catch a cold, but I feel as alive now as ever! And then I'm going shopping later on to get last minute Christmas gifts. I still need to get something for Mina and Sammy. Sammy's my little brother. He is really annoying, but I guess even annoying siblings deserve a gift, doncha think? And then I think I'm gonna get Mina that cute orange sweater I saw yesterday over at the mall. I bet she'll love that! What about you? Got all of your Christmas shopping done?"

Darien

I smiled as Serena kept babbling on and on. She really has no idea who I am, does she? Wow, she's even this sweet to a complete stranger. All loving and bubbly, happy and light-hearted. I guess she's like that to everyone. Makes me wonder what things would be like if we hadn't gotten off on the wrong foot how many months ago. If she would like me at all... or at least more than she does now. Would she treat me like this every day? Talking like I'm her best friend in the world? If we were friends, maybe I could have gotten the courage to take it farther. Ask her out. But I can't now. She hates me, anyway. Besides, she could have any guy in the city of Tokyo that she wanted. Why would she choose me? Now, all I can do is listen to her mindless chatter, but who could possibly ask for anything more?

"Sir? Hello, sir? Are you okay? Are you sleeping or something? Oh, gosh, I hope I didn't bore you to death! I suppose I do talk way too much... but sir, can you hear me?"

I chuckle softly and slowly raise my head with a smile. "Hello to you too, Meatball Head."

She gasps. There is a silence.

Serena

Darien?! All this time I've been talking to Darien?! Why didn't he say anything? Oh, he surely thinks I'm an airhead now!

"Oh... hi Darien... I, uh, didn't know... I mean..."

He just chuckled lightly at my attempts to make excuses. Wait... why isn't he teasing me and stuff? He's actually being kinda... nice...

"Here's your hot cocoa, Serena."

"Thanks Andrew!" I begin to sip slowly, then feel the hot liquid steaming on my tongue. "OW!" The scorching heat was unbearable and I felt tears stinging in my eyes.

"Here, drink this." I gladly accept the water before me and chug a few large gulps down. Ahh... soothing...

"Andrew, why'd you have to make it so hot?" I whine.

"Sorry Serena. Are you okay?"

"Yeah..." I look over at Darien who was looking at me concerned.

"Ya sure you're okay, Meatball Head? That looked painful."

I smile warily at the nickname. Usually when he calls me that I scream and yell... but it didn't seem so mean today... "I'm fine Darien. Uh... thanks for the water..." I hand the cool glass back to him, which he takes mindlessly.

"No problem. Uh... you should probably want to wait for that to cool down..."

"Nope!" I take a spoon and begin scraping the whipped cream off the top. "This is the best part, anyway!"

He laughs. "At least you got your priorities straight." Slowly, he begins to sip at the glass, but then stops. "Hey, I didn't know you wore make-up."

I looked at the glass to see I had left a pink lipstick stain on the rim. "Oh... uh, I'm sorry. I usually don't..."

Actually, I had put some fruit flavored gloss on earlier hoping that I would run into, well, Darien. Guess I got lucky...

Darien

I smiled at Serena's nervous babbling. While listening to her, I made a small mental note that she had started talking about Christmas again, and the rest of me just gathered in as much information on her as possible. How she sits, smiles, laughs, the twinkle in her eye, the rosy cheeks that I had the cold weather to thank for...

Unconsciously, I took a sip of the ice water my hand still held. I was a bit surprised when I tasted sweet strawberry... Must be her lipstick. Is that what it would be like to kiss her...

I watched as she took another bite of the whipped cream. A small speck was left just above her lip. I smiled and wondered how she could be so adorable...

"Serena..."

"Yeah?"

"Uh... you have some... right here..."

I slowly reached out my hand to rub away the misplaced dessert, allowing my hand to linger just a second on her smooth skin.

Serena

I blushed when he finally pulled his hand away after what seemed like hours. He was so light and gentle...

Looking down, I felt my stomach begin the normal flip-flops that always occur when he is near. They happen with Andrew too, but not nearly as much. Such a torturing, yet pleasuring feeling...

Andrew

I had been completely forgotten by the two sitting at the counter. I watched as Darien stroked away something from Serena's cheek. I watched her blush, and him smile. Of all the years I've known Darien, not once has he ever looked at a girl like that. So... caring and gentlemanly...

Then it hit me like a ton of bricks, only a lot less painful. Darien likes her! I mean LIKE likes her! It is so obvious! How come I never noticed before? The way he is always teasing her, and then watches her leave until she's out of sight. How he is constantly asking questions about her and that look in his eye whenever her name pops into the conversation. Darien is so crazy about her!

I smile and retreat to another corner of the arcade, watching them the whole time. Neither notices my disappearance. Too caught up in their own world... So obvious...

Serena

How long had I been sitting here talking to him? I don't remember, but I really don't want to leave. He is being so... perfect... How come he waits until now to show me this side of him? I wonder if it's possible that maybe he doesn't hate me so much after all...

"Well, today was the last day of school before winter break! Yay! Three whole weeks with no reports, no homework, and NO teachers! And then Christmas is on Friday, and I absolutely cannot wait! I told my parents I wanted the new Sailor V video game and I'm pretty sure they got it for me too! Ooohhh! I just LOVE the holidays! All of the snow and stuff! Can you believe we might actually have a WHITE Christmas this year? I've never seen one before. Mom says the last one we had was 17 years ago! I guess you would have been alive then, but pretty young, huh? I don't even know how old you are. I just always figured you were 25 or something, I mean you seem so mature and sophisticated and stuff."

Darien

I had to laugh at that. Mature? Sophisticated? 25?!!

"Uh, not exactly, Meatball Head. I'm 19."

"19? Really, is that all? Hey, then you're not THAT much older than me! That's pretty cool. And here I was thinking it would be absolutely impossible to ever... Oh! I mean, um..."

"Serena? What were you going to say?"

"Um... I forget. What time is it?"

I glanced at my watch. "4:30."

"You're kidding! I've been talking for nearly an hour?! Oh, wow, Darien, I didn't mean to talk you to death. I'm sure you have places to go and people to see and stuff... so, um, I'm gonna go now."

"Wait... why? I mean... you don't have to or anything..." Gee, that didn't sound desperate at all...

She laughed lightly. "Oh, well... thanks, I guess. It's good that at least you're not trying to get rid of me..."

Serena

Could he actually want me to stay? Too bad Mom said to be home by five. Darn it! "Actually, Darien, I do have to go, though... so maybe I'll see you tomorrow. Um... if not... Merry Christmas!" Before I got scared, I quickly leaned forward and kissed him lightly on the cheek. He stared surprised and then smiled slightly... bewilderedly...

"Bye Meatball Head... Merry Christmas..."

I left the arcade with a smile on my face and skipped the rest of the way home kicking up snow and singing my favorite carols.

Darien

I shook my head and smiled out toward the door. What a girl... How can she always be so happy, and cheerful, and so... ALIVE?!

She kissed me. Serena KISSED me! You don't kiss people you hate, so... could she maybe... like me?

"My my my... so, uh, Darien... what exactly DO you think of our favorite little Meatball Head? Huh?"

I tore my gaze away from the door to see Andrew sitting in the stool next to me. "What was that?"

He shook his head. "You have it bad, don't you?"

I sigh. "I have what bad, Andrew?"

"Don't play that game with me. I see it in the way you look at her. You like Serena... a LOT!"

Looking in his eyes, I see that there is no way to talk my way out of this one. He's caught me, red-handed. With another sigh, I said, "Yeah, I do. But, so what? It could never happen. She's... beautiful, and funny, and loving, sweet, kind, exciting, absolutely gorgeous... What on Earth would she want with a guy like me? She could have anyone she wanted. I don't stand a chance."

"Really? Okay, then, Mr. Self-esteem, was it just me, or did she just KISS you?!"

Well, couldn't argue with that one...

"Precisely. Ya see, Darien, you DO stand a chance. In fact, you stand a much better chance now than you did about 2 hours ago. Keep up with the way you treated her today, and I bet she'll be just as crazy for you before New Year's!"

I smiled gratefully at my best friend. "Thanks, man."

"Hey, just telling you the truth."

"Yeah... I'm gonna go home now. I'll see ya later."

"Bye! And Merry Chri..."

"Bah humbug!" I yelled over my shoulder and walked out into the cold, winter air. Maybe Christmas isn't so bad after all...

Andrew

I smiled and wiped the last table then returned to the counter. The countdown is almost over. Today is Christmas Eve. I'm waiting for either Darien or Serena to walk in that door. I wonder if we'll have a repeat performance of yesterday... It's possible. If Darien takes my advice. He'd better. Serena could do wonders for that guy. Heck, she is exactly what he needs in his life. A warm, caring girl with just the right touch of vivaciousness.

I looked up to see my best friend walk into the arcade. I immediately poured him a cup of coffee. He accepted gratefully and sat down on the stool.

"Merry Chri..."

"Don't start, Andrew."

"Darien, don't you ever get excited?!"

He looked up at me with a slight twinkle in his eye. "Of course. I'm always excited when Serena's around. Or I hear her name. Or I see a bunny, or spaghetti shop, or a pink sweater, or anything that reminds me of her, actually." He smiled a little and sipped some more of his drink.

I laughed at the poor guy. He fell in love before realizing exactly what he was getting into, didn't he? "Well, here. This might cheer you up." I reached into my pocket and pulled out a small photo before handing it to Darien. "That Lita girl gave it to me awhile ago. She was on the other half."

Darien

I looked at the picture Andrew had just given to me. It was about 2 by 3 inches and was visibly ripped on the left side. But on the side I had, the only side I would have cared to see, was a picture of Serena. She was winking and holding up a peace sign with her fingers. The usual meatball style, big blue eyes, and that smile that could light up the worst day of my life. I slowly ran my fingers over the picture, smiling slightly. Looking up, I put the photo in my pocket.

"Thanks, man. Thank you..."

"No problem. I thought you'd like it."

"Hey, now I have to get you something!"

"Don't mention it, Darien. It was free... besides, maybe it'll cheer you up a little for the season."

"Yeah, maybe... well, actually, I just stopped in to get a caffeine buzz. I'll see ya around, okay?"

"Sure thing. See ya!"

I walked out of the café and immediately pulled out the picture. Smiling down at it, I began walking down the busy street.

Serena

"Okay, so that would be 24, 34, 44, 45, 65, 66, 67, 77 dollars! Not bad. I'm sure I'll have plenty of money to get presents, and maybe some to spend at the arcade too!" I smiled and skipped happily down the sidewalk.

Turning around the corner... WHACK!

As I rubbed my head I began to mumble to myself. "Of course. What would a nice, pleasant walk be without colliding into someone full force?" Getting up, I said, "Gee, I'm really sorry. I guess I wasn't looking where I was going..."

"It's okay, I'm used to it, Meatball Head."

Finally looking up, I came face to face with familiar, ocean blue eyes. Of course I would run into Darien. Of COURSE I would run into Darien. Why bother acting surprised? I swear we are magnetically attracted or something.

"Oh... uh... hi, Darien."

"Hey Serena." We both stood up when I noticed a white piece of paper, ripped on one side. Picking it up, I saw that it was half of a picture.

"Um, I think you dropped this." Before I could flip it over though, he had grabbed it from my hand.

"Oh, thanks! Uh... glad I didn't loose that. Heh-heh."

"Darien... what is it? Can I see?"

"NO! I mean... it's really not important... um, I have to go now... Serena."

He began walking away from me, quickly shoving the picture into his pocket.

Shrugging the strange behavior away, I continued on my way to the mall, only looking back once. Darien was standing at a crosswalk waiting for the light to change, staring at a small photo in his hand. With a smile, he looked up to catch me staring at him. I blushed, though I'm sure he was too far away to notice, and waved slightly. He returned the gesture. With a smile, I turned again and walked away.

Darien

I smiled and put the picture back into my pocket. That was close. She almost saw that I have a picture of her... not only that, but I was standing there mesmerized by it! But, it doesn't matter. My little secret is still safely concealed in my heart...

I could still see her standing there, nearly a block away. I couldn't tell, but I think she blushed when I looked up to see that she was staring at me. And she waved... such an innocent gesture, that meant so much to me... only because it came from her...

Strolling down the sidewalk, I peered into all of the stores hoping to find something for Andrew. He just gave me the best gift possible. What could I get for him...?

A sweater? Dull.

A music CD? Done.

Gift certificate? Too non-personal.

But what else is there?

Then, something caught my eye. But as I looked at it, Andrew was pushed far into the back of my mind, and another certain blonde popped up.

It would be perfect for her! It screams her name!

On the shelf, in the very middle of the window, was a glass figurine. The rainbows danced through the small treasure and the light bounced off of it so that it glowed in the frost covered window pane. It was of a small girl, perhaps 6 or 7 years old. She had two long ponytails flowing to her waist and in her arms was a small bunny, cuddled safely in her protecting and loving warmth.

I stared at it for awhile. I barely took notice of the shop clerks giving me strange looks from inside. She would love it. It would be so absolutely... HER! It was made for her. It even looks like her, just a bit younger. Plus, Andrew said once that she likes bunnies.

But wait. Could I really get this for her? Wouldn't she just laugh at me? Why would I get her a gift when I know she would probably shove it in the back of her closet, simply because it reminds her of me. Hold on Darien. Think about what Andrew said.

"Ya see, Darien, you DO stand a chance. In fact, you stand a much better chance now than you did about 2 hours ago. Keep up with the way you treated her today, and I bet she'll be just as crazy for you before New Year's!"

Well... it's worth a shot... besides, she has to have it! No one else could possibly be so incredibly perfect for this gift. I just hope she doesn't mind who gets it for her...

I walked in and bought the little figurine. Putting it in a small brown paper bag, I suddenly became very excited for the time I would have the chance to give it to her.

Serena

I took the long receipt and stuck it in the bag. With a smile, I walked out of the large department store and into the crowded mall.

Everyone seemed to have someone to talk to and shop with. I suddenly felt a pang of loneliness. Fighting it off, I started talking to myself. "Well, that's everyone. Mina, Sammy... I hope he'll like that action figure. Probably. And Mina was saying she needed a new sweater, so I know she'll like this. And I still have 55 bucks to spare! Hmm... what could we do with a ton of money?" I smiled. "Why, the arcade of course! And maybe if I get lucky Darien will be there too."

With that idea, I quickly took off toward the Crown Center Arcade.

Darien

I had finally decided on a gift for Andrew and having it wrapped, I headed back to the arcade. Wow, I sure do go there a lot, huh?

After turning the corner, I felt an all-too-familiar force ram into me full speed. I crashed, rather painfully, to the cold sidewalk. With a smile, I looked up, knowing exactly what to expect. I wasn't disappointed. Serena sat only a few feet in front of me, gingerly rubbing her head. Then, with lightning speed, she recovered and was on her knees, spouting apologies every which way. It always amazes me how quick she can recover. It amazes me even more how long it takes for her to realize exactly who she bumped into. I wonder how many times a day she does this, or if it only happens to me. I swear we are magnetically attracted or something.

"Ya know, Meatball Head, we should probably stop running into each other like this. People are gonna start to wonder."

Her head popped up from its apologetic state at the use of her nickname. "Oh, hi, Darien!! Gee... doesn't this seem a little familiar?"

I laughed and stood up. I reached out my hand to help her up, which she took rather doubtfully, and then began to scoop up the many bags now littered throughout the snow. "So, where ya headed?"

"Huh? Oh, the arcade."

"Yeah? Me too. Wanna give Andrew something."

We began walking together. I wanted so badly to reach out my arm and wrap it around her, or hold her delicate hand in mine. I wanted to show every guy that passed us and looked her over with admiring gazes, that she was mine. And if one more guy started undressing her with his eyes again, I would make sure they were thoroughly pounded into the ground for doing so. But I held back from sweeping her into my arms... though it may possibly be one of the hardest things I've ever had to do.

Serena

The arcade was a good 10 blocks away, maybe 9 if you take the short cut through the park. Part of me wanted to take the long way, if just so I could be seen with Darien a little while longer. I was beginning to enjoy the envious glares shot at me from passing women who must have taken notice of my... incredibly handsome... walking partner. Sometimes, I would think I saw Darien's hand almost reach out to take mine, but he always pulled back. I would smile to myself and walk a little bit closer to him.

We had just entered the park, and were still silent. The snow glistened all around us and for the moment I forgot about Darien and just walked happily staring up at the trees and their crystal covered boughs. So beautiful...

When I had eventually snapped out of my reverie, I noticed Darien staring at me and smiling. I smiled back, but kept my eyes glued to the slushy path after that.

"So... what is it that you want to give to Andrew?" "Oh, um, a Christmas gift."

"Really? That's nice." Then I stopped dead in my tracks and threw my hand to my forehead. "Oh NO!"

"What is it? What's wrong?"

"I knew I forgot someone! I forgot to get Andrew's and your gifts! Oh, darnit! I just knew I had forgotten someone!"

"Woah, calm down, Serena. Why would you wanna give me a gift, anyway? You really don't have to, ya know."

"Oh I know I don't have to, but, well, you're my friend, so I wanted to."

Darien

I was speechless at that. She considers me a friend? But... why?

"You... think of me as a friend?"

She looked up at me a little confused. "Well... yeah, of course. I mean, after yesterday and stuff... well, I mean... don't you think of me as a friend?"

"Yesterday?" I smiled a little. "So, let me get this straight. I have been nothing but mean to you from the moment we met, and then I'm nice for an hour, and already I'm your friend?" How ironic.

"Well... yeah, I guess so. Oh, Darien, I'm so sorry. I guess I just read into it and maybe it didn't mean anything after all. Why would you want to be a friend to a stupid klutz, anyway? I'm really sorry, I didn't mean... I shouldn't have brought anything up, it's just... well, you were so nice, and I figured that maybe you did like me after all, and so I thought... oh, Darien, I didn't mean to jump to conclusions."

Slowly, her eyes were starting to fill up with tears. Wait... she thinks that I DON'T want to be her friend? Doesn't she have any idea I want to be MORE than just friends?

I put a finger to her lips to quiet her. Cupping her chin in my palm, I turn her head up to look at me. "Serena, that's not what I meant. I want to be your friend so much, I don't know... I mean, I just never figured that I ever COULD be your friend. You had so many already, with Andrew and Raye and everyone else, and plus I was so sure that you hated me and all. So I just never even bothered to imagine that maybe someday we could be friends... and then, you say that I was nice for less than an hour, and I just... if I would have known, I would have tried that approach a long time ago, that's all."

She smiled up a little gratefully. "Well... good then. We're friends. But I still didn't get you a Christmas gift."

I chuckled softly. "Don't worry about it, Meatball Head. Right now, being your friend, knowing that you don't hate me, is plenty."

She smiled and we began walking through the park once more.

"Say, Darien... you never told me what you were getting Andrew for Christmas. I guess I'll see it when we get to the arcade anyway, but I'm curious."

"Nothing special. A small gift is all. Hey Serena... why were you going to the arcade, anyway? Was it maybe... to see Andrew?" I know she has a crush on him, and I braced myself for the sting in her answer.

I was taken completely by surprise when I heard her laugh. "Actually... I wasn't. I guess a week ago I would have... but Lita found out he's got a girlfriend. Funny how fast you can get over people sometimes, huh? But... how did you know about my uh... crush? Was it that obvious?"

I smiled at the fact that she was over him... and currently walking through the park with me. "No, I wouldn't say it was obvious. Only, maybe to someone who watches every little thing you do or memorizes every word you say."

Serena

I stared at the glistening snow at my feet in silence. Wait a minute... does that mean that... HE analyzes everything I do or say? Naw... why would he? This day keeps getting weirder...

"Oh... well, whatever..." I had completely lost any clue as to what to say and began frantically searching my mind for conversation starters. "So, uh... what are you doing for Christmas tomorrow?"

I realized I had chosen the wrong topic when I saw his face fall.

"Nothing. Stay at home for the most part..."

"Don't you have any friends or family to celebrate with?"

"No, not really."

I watched as he seemed to be struggling with his emotions. Trying to bite back the pain, and yet satisfy my questions at the same time. Stopping, I forced him to look at me. "Darien... what's wrong? Is something bothering you? Did I say something wrong?"

He turned his eyes away from me to look past my shoulder, blinking back tears with a grim expression written on his face. There was that annoying urge to throw my arms around him and hold him forever. To block any painful memories out of his mind. To make him somehow forget whatever it was he couldn't bring himself to tell me. "It's alright," I whispered, resting my arms on his, which hung loosely at his sides. "You don't have to tell me, Darien. I understand. It's okay..." He returned his gaze to mine, somewhat gratefully. I smiled slightly, never bothering to hide my concerned feelings, then turned him around again and continued down the path, my arm laced through his.

We walked two full blocks in silence. I watched as strangers passing by eyed us enviously. The women of my arms wrapped around his. The men... possibly because of the same reason? No, most likely because we were stealing all the attention of the other women. Or... because Darien was, I should say...

Darien

I stored the feeling of her holding onto me to memory. I breathed slowly as not to disturb the feel. She filled my body, heart, and soul with a light unequal to the sunshine... and asked for nothing in return. I somehow wanted to repay her for this light. To show her how much I appreciated her... if that word could even come close to what I felt. But how? What could I possibly do to make her understand how much I care for her... need her... trust in her... ?

"My parents died in a car crash..." She looked up at me with large, confused eyes. "...when I was very young. I... had amnesia. I don't remember either of them. The doctors said that... my name was Darien. And that I didn't have any know relatives at all... and so they sent me to an orphanage... I remember it was very cold there... And I really didn't have many friends. They all thought I was different... strange... Every year for Christmas they would buy a small Christmas tree and keep it in the dining room. And kids could make ornaments to hang on it, or make gifts for their friends... I... never got one..." My eyes were quickly filling up with tears. Sometime along the way we had stopped walking. God, Darien, what's wrong with you?! After all these years you STILL can't get over those STUPID memories! Who cares?! It doesn't matter! You don't need any of those kids at the orphanage! You don't need anyone... I realized just how wrong I was when Serena threw herself into my arms, shaking and sobbing. For... me? Does she really care that much? At that moment, I felt a boulder lifted off of my shoulders. A hideous memory I had been suppressing since I was 14 magically drifted away. I had never told anyone about the orphanage, not even Andrew... I wrapped my arms around her and cradled her petite body next to mine. The tears disappeared before ever falling. She cares about me... She actually cares...

No one, for as long as I can remember, had ever REALLY cared for me. I had had friends occasionally, and perhaps a girlfriend or two a while ago. But Serena had actually cared... She was the first person I had ever opened up to, and I knew that if ever I needed to, I could again. That I would WILLINGLY. Right then, as I listened to Serena crying into my shirt, I realized that I don't just care about her. That it isn't a crush, and not even JUST love. I NEED her. She is exactly what I have been waiting for. She is everything I could ever possibly wish for. The exact thing I have been dreaming of for years. I need her... I actually need my pretty little Meatball Head...

Serena

Finally, my sobs subsided. I leaned back to look up at him. He was actually smiling down at me, though I could still see hurt in his eyes.

"Oh, Darien... that's so sad... I'm so sorry. You didn't have to tell me... but I'm so glad that you did. I won't ask any more questions, okay? And I promise that I'm gonna give you the best Christmas EVER! I don't know how yet, but I will. You just wait!"

He smiled even brighter now and pulled me a little closer. "I think you already have, Meatball Head."

I actually smiled at the nickname before unwillingly untangling my arms from his waist.

Darien

I was in my own dream world walking through this winter wonderland, with the most gorgeous girl in Tokyo, who DOESN'T hate me! But not long after we had resumed our journey to the arcade, I felt something hard and cold hit me softly on the back of the head. Surprised, I whirled around to see Serena giggling to herself.

"Snowball Tag. You're It." And with that, she ran off into a large field. I smiled and shook my head before scooping up some powdery snow and chasing after her.

Serena

I ducked behind a large tree, breathing heavily. If anything, that man can run! I listened for any sound to show that he was approaching, but heard none. Taking a chance, I leaned over and peered around the tree trunk. Coast is clea...

"AAAHHHHH!!!!" I screamed as I felt icy cold snow fall down the inside of my sweater. Screaming and jumping up and down, I tried to shake the cold lump out of my shirt. Whirling around, I faced my attacker. Darien was leaning up against the tree, holding his stomach from laughing. His eyes were watery, and I immediately resorted to anger. "WHY YOU LITTLE... I'LL GET YOU FOR THIS DARIEN!!"

"Yeah? How?"

I had to think about it for a little while, but then I quickly formed a plan. Pretending to act casual, I started to stroll over to him, anger still showing on my face. With exact preciseness, I tripped over a 'small hill' in the snow. (On purpose, in case you're wondering.)

Without hesitation, Darien had ceased laughing and leaped forward, catching me easily in his arms, and falling backwards in the process. We rolled in the snow a short ways, with me landing on bottom. Knowing what his answer would be, I asked very, uh... worried, of course, "Omigosh! Darien, are you alright? Did you get hurt? How do you feel? Darien, are you unconscious? How many fingers am I holding up? Darien, can you hear me?!" At this point, I was actually becoming a little worried. But slowly, he opened his eyes. Breathing a sigh of relief, only half staged, I continued with my plan of revenge. ::: evil inside laugh:::

Throwing my arms around his neck, I pulled him close to me, fake tears rising to the surface. Whoever said I couldn't act? "Oh Darien, I was so scared? Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine, Serena. Really, I am..." I heard him muffle into my slowly-becoming-damp sweater.

"Oh, thank goodness!" Pulling him away from me, I looked into his sparkling blue eyes, and the rest of my plan seemed to fall right into place...

With a hand on either side of his face, I whispered, "Darien, why did you do that? You could have gotten hurt. My hero..." And I kissed him, long, passionate, deep. For never having kissed a guy before, I'd say this has to be the winner for best ever first kiss! I had never felt such a warmth. Such love...

But then I remembered the plan...

Darien

Wow...

That was my only thought at the moment. Why on Earth would she be kissing me? Not that I'm complaining, but...

All of the cold winter air suddenly became quite warm and comfortable. My arms had wrapped around her and were now buried in the feathery flakes, and probably numb due to it. But those thoughts could never reach my mind when I was even in her presence... and now I am kissing her. Funny how she should get so worked up over me simply falling in the snow. Over me simply softening her fall. I would catch her for anything and never expect anything in return... but I am so happy that I did catch her this once...

I vaguely recalled the taste of her lipstick on my glass. Her lips carried the same flavor of ripe strawberries. I think those could easily become my next favorite food.

I suppose I should have run out of breath a long time ago, but something was sustaining me. Keeping me from fainting. Perhaps my desire to remain attached to her lips was the only thing holding me to this world, keeping me from slipping into unconsciousness. For right now, Serena can be my life force...

Serena

I know, I know, I probably should have gotten this over with a long time ago, but it felt so good being pressed between the freezing snow and his warm body. And the kiss was so perfect... And everything was absolutely perfect in every possible way, if just for a minute. So I dragged the minute on for as long as possible.

My head and heart wandered in a sea of emotions. Heavenly bliss... Complete ecstasy... I never thought any touch could bring a person to such an incredible height... If only I could stay on this cloud until New Year's...

But as I felt my breath slowly disintegrating, I realized I would have to break it off or lose my chance at revenge. And so, with a quick hand motion, (he didn't seem to notice the absence of my fingers on his neck), I scooped up a handful of snow and gave him a taste of his own medicine...

Darien

"AAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!" I pulled my lips fiercely away from hers as a ball of perfectly compacted ice slipped beneath my jacket. Jumping to my feet, I suppose I reacted in the same way Serena had. With arms and legs flailing, I hopped through the small patch of snow. Finally, I felt the snowball seep out through the bottom of my sweater. With a sigh, I turned to see Serena, still lying in the snow, with her legs kicking into the air, her hands wrapped around her stomach, attempting to calm the oncoming giggles.

Taking a few deep breaths to try and sort out the overflow of feelings, I strolled back over to her and collapsed to my knees beside her. With the acknowledgement of my company, the laughter came to a standstill. Her breath was ragged and tears rolled down her pink cheeks. We stared at each other for a moment, before she broke the awkward ice.

"You looked like a monkey."

I had no idea what to say in reply to her so serious sounding observation. And so I chuckled a little and bowed my head, trying to keep from laughing. Man, does this girl get to me... The scary thing is, I thought as my mind finally managed to make sense of the blur of events taken place in the last 5 minutes... The scary thing is that I would happily be buried in a pile of snow, in my birthday suit nonetheless, for just one more kiss like that...

Serena

He hadn't said anything for awhile and I began to worry.

"Darien... you're not... mad at me are you? I mean, it was only joke, I didn't think... Oh Darien, I'm sorry!"

Without second thought, I threw myself into his arms, and was surprised when they wrapped around me immediately, perhaps as much on impulse as the hug had been. He held me for awhile, rocking gently as tears slid down my face. I soon realized that he wasn't mad at me at all. And that changed the tears to those of happiness. Eventually, I pulled away from his embrace and looked into his eyes.

"Of course I'm not mad, Meatball Head. Hey, fair is fair!" He laughed a little and ran a hand through one of my ponytails, brushing some of the snow out of it. "We're even, then?"

I smiled at him. "Yup! Even!"

"Good." He then did something I wasn't expecting at all. He kissed me again, short though. A small peck on the lips, but who could possibly want anything more? Then he stood and pulled me to my feet. Actually, I'm glad he did, for I'm sure I couldn't have possibly accomplished that task on my own. At the moment, I had lost all control of my body. "Then let's get going. We're not even half way to the arcade yet!"

I giggled a little sheepishly. "Well... that's not my fault..."

"Of course it's your fault. You distract me."

Darien

And she does. She distracts me more than any other thing in this whole city, this whole universe. Always thinking about her... Her smile, laugh, blue eyes... Always contemplating what I'll say to her next time. Always racking my brains for a comment that will stick in her mind. I admit, possibly the only reason I have ever teased her, is to leave an impression. Somehow make her think of me as much as I think of her. Oh yes, she definitely distracts me...

Serena

I was surprised when he slipped his arm around me and continued walking down the sidewalk. I leaned up against him, feeling his warmth flow into me. Trusting him, I allowed my eyes to close so that I was guided blindly to the arcade. I memorized everything about him. The texture of his shirt and the muscles in his arm, wrapped tightly around me. I smiled, and for I think the first time ever, I made it to the arcade without tripping.

Darien

We were only about half way to the arcade when I looked down to see Serena with her eyes closed and smiling. If she hadn't been walking, I would have thought that she was asleep, and dreaming. She looked so serene... which made me smile. Maybe the name fits her on occasion after all... It amazed me how she actually trusted me enough to lead her blindly through the bustling streets. Then again... I would have trusted her...

We now stood outside the arcade and she showed no sign of coming out of her peaceful reverie. I bent down and pecked her lightly on the cheek, barely grazing her soft skin with my lips. Her eyes immediately flew open. I opened the door for her gentlemanly. She smiled and even giggled a little, perhaps not used to being treated like a lady, (shame, shame...) and walked into the warm arcade. I followed.

Andrew

I looked up from the video game I was helping a young boy with to see the new arrivals. I was shocked at first when I saw Darien opening a door for Serena... and her accepting gratefully? I guess Darien took some of my advice. Good for him.

I smiled kindly at Serena, then knowingly to Darien. His own smile widened and I knew my assumptions had been correct.

"Hey, guys! How ya doing?"

"Great!" exclaimed Serena, hopping onto a stool at the counter. I walked behind it just as I saw Darien grab the seat next to her. "Can you believe it's snowing Andrew? I hope we have a white Christmas! That would be TOO cool!" she babbled. I laughed a little at her anxiety, and more at the dreamy gaze Darien held on her. It just keeps surprising me how much he likes her... well, maybe not. A girl like her is EXACTLY what he needs, after all.

Serena

I soon noted that neither of the men were actually listening to me. Darien had this strange look in his eyes, one that I rather liked, and Andrew was looking at him slyly, as if he knew a very important secret.

"So, Darien..."

"Huh?" he asked, snapping from his daze.

"Aren't you going to give Andrew your gift?"

He looked at me blankly for a moment, then realization dawned. "Oh yeah. Uh... here ya go, Andrew. It's not as nice as... uh, what you got me... but, hope ya like it." He passed the shopping bag over the counter. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I should go."

"Wait! Aren't you going to watch him open it?"

He looked at me a little sadly. "I don't like watching people open presents." "Oh... I'm sorry..."

He smiled and grabbed my hand. Giving it a small, reassuring squeeze, he took off toward the cold air outside. He called over his shoulder, "See ya later, Meatball Head. And... uh... Merry Christmas."

After he had gone, I whispered, "Merry Christmas Darien. I hope..."

Andrew

It would have been possible for a blind man to see the love in her eyes. I smiled to myself. So she's in love with him too. Perfect! It must have been quite a while before Serena managed to tear her eyes away from the door and focus on me.

"So... ya gonna open that or not?"

I had forgotten about the gift. "Naw... I'll go stick it under the tree, open it tomorrow."

"Oh. What was the gift that you got Darien? Sure seems like he liked it a lot."

I smiled a little. "Oh yeah, he did like it a lot..." Purposefully ignoring her question, I asked, "So, Serena, what's up with you and Darien anyway? I think that was the first time you actually smiled when he called you Meatball Head."

She blushed and looked down at the counter. "Nothing's... up with us... at all... we're just becoming friends... that's all..."

I smiled at her stuttering. Oh yeah, she's just as sprung as he is... "I see that you're becoming friends. That's good. I think Darien needs some more friends, and you're perfect for him. You guys are really cute together."

"Yeah, I hope he thinks so too... I mean... uh... huh?"

I laughed. "Okay, Serena, stop playing. I saw the way your eyes were glued to him until he was gone! You like the guy. And NOT as just a friend." After that she had the courtesy to blush, very noticeably.

She sighed. "Oh fine, you're right. But you can't tell him, okay? I would just DIE if he knew what I felt. And we're just now starting to get to know each other. And I know he doesn't feel the same way, why would he? He's so... handsome and smart and funny... he doesn't see anything in me, I know. And so you have to PROMISE you won't tell him, okay?"

"Okay, okay, I promise. But Serena, honestly, I don't think you're giving yourself enough credit. You are definitely Darien's type of girl... if he has a type, and you are exactly what the guy needs right now. Trust me, just be yourself and you will have him eating out of your hand by New Year's! I should know, I'm the guy's best friend."

"You really think so Andrew?"

"No I don't. I KNOW so. So give the guy a chance alright?"

"Okay. Sure! I feel a little sad though... did you know he's never had a REAL Christmas?"

"Yeah, I did. Every year I invite him to eat with my family, and Rita and me, but he always says no. I don't know why..."

"Oh, I do! But I can't tell you. But it does make perfect sense actually. I just wish there was something I could do for him... I want to see him happy, ya know?"

"Yeah, I do know. But what?"

Suddenly, her head popped up and she stared at me wide-eyed. "I got it! It is SO perfect! It's just what he needs!"

"What?"

"You have to help me though."

Her excitement was beginning to get me excited too, though I had no idea what she was thinking. "Anything ya need, Serena."

"Okay, do you think he went straight home?"

"Yeah, probably. I don't know where else he would go..."

"Great! I need you to get him out of the apartment for about an hour, okay?"

"Serena, why? What are you thinking?"

"Just say you'll do it!"

"Sure, sure. I'll call him right now."

"Thank you SO much! This will be so perfect!"

"So, are you gonna tell me what this perfect idea is?"

"Nope, wasn't planning on it. But if it goes right I'll tell you everything tomorrow! I'll see ya later Andrew, oh, and make sure he's left within the next half an hour, okay?"

"Yeah, no problem. Bye Serena, and good luck!"

She disappeared out the door, two happy ponytails flowing behind her. I laughed and picked up the phone, coming up with excuses as I dialed the digits.

Mina

I gave the cashier my last ten dollars and strolled out of the store with a handful of bags. I had only taken a few steps when there was a beeping coming from my pocket. Quickly, I pulled out my communicator.

"V Here, what's up?"

"Hi Mina!"

"Serena? What's wrong?"

"Nothing, but I need your help. Can you come over to the café?"

"Sure no problem. See ya!"

"Bye!"

Amy

I bit my lip and scribbled a few variables onto my paper. "Divide each side by three, subtract the X, and then these two angles would be equal according to Theorem 3-5... So the answer is..."

Beep! Beep!

I sighed as my concentration disintegrated and pulled out my communicator. "Hello, this is Mercury. What is the problem?"

"No problem, Ames, but I need your help."

"Serena? You know the communicators are only for scout business."

"I know, but this is important to me. Say you'll help?"

"Serena, you know I'd do anything for you. But you must learn to take scout business more seriously."

"You won't tell Luna, will you?"

"I suppose not... now what is it you need?"

"Can you meet me at the café?"

"Now?"

"Yeah."

"I guess. Be there in a minute."

"Thanks Amy!"

I turned off the machine and stuck it back into my pocket.

Lita

Hmmm... he's not bad. Looks a little like Josh. Better than Josh, actually, cause Josh broke up with me. Ooh, look at that blonde! I love his eyes! Too cute! Oh, and that guy over there has great style! I love khakis on a guy. Drool...

I snapped quickly from my daydreams as a beep emitted from my pocket. I immediately snapped to attention and prepared to run off to fight.

"Hey! Ya found Jupiter!"

"Hi Lita."

"Oh, hey girl. What's wrong? Is there a youma? Why haven't you transformed yet?"

"There's no youma. But I need your help."

"Sure, anything girl. Say the word."

"Can ya meet me at the café?"

"Sure thing. Be there in a jiffy!"

"Bye Lita."

With a flashy smile directed to Khaki Boy, I ran off to my appointment.

Raye

"Chad!!! If I hear you sing one more Christmas carol I'm gonna shove that guitar down your THROAT!" I picked up the large broom and ran after the long-haired idiot. "You'd better be running!"

He screamed and picked up the pace down the stairs. I humphed my shoulders and turned on my heels, preparing to go back inside.

"Jingle bell, Jingle bell, Jingle Bell, like, Rock!"

"CHAD!!" Turning, I practically launched myself full force down the short staircase. A beep made me freeze in my place. "Saved by the beep," I mumbled.

"Mars. What's the problem?"

"Hi Raye!"

"Meatball Head?! What are you doing? Ever heard of a telephone?"

"Sorry, but this is important."

"Serena, to you a sale at the donut store is important."

"Raye, don't tease! Please help me! Spread some Christmas cheer!"

"You KNOW I don't celebrate Christmas!"

"Well, whatever. Just say you'll help me."

I sighed, a tad agitatedly. "Fine, fine. What do you want?"

"Just meet me and the scouts at the café ASAP. Alright?"

"Yeah, I'll see you in a bit. But this had better be worth it!"

I stuck the communicator back into my pocket.

"Frosty, the Snow Man..."

"CHAD!!!"

Darien

I looked down lovingly at the photo in my hands. She is so beautiful... I wonder if she knows that. Probably not. And if she did, she wouldn't flaunt it or anything, or make others feel lesser because of it. She's way too good for that. She is so perfect in every way. And I know she could have any guy she wanted... I wonder if she has a boyfriend. Gosh, I hope not.

The thought of her with another guy... kissing him and playing in the snow... holding him, his hand, playing with his hair... made my blood boil. Suddenly, I felt complete hatred for someone I'm not even sure existed.

I wonder how many guys she's gone out with. How many guys ask her out... probably 2 or 3 a day. I wonder if she ever says yes, or if she wishes she did. Maybe her parents don't allow her to date... I've heard that some won't let their kids date until they're 16. I hope that's not the case, cause then they'd NEVER let her date someone older... a whole 5 years older. The other day she was about to say that she always thought it would be impossible to do something because of my age. I wonder if she was going to say 'it would be absolutely impossible to ever date you.' She did think I was 25... Sorry, Meatball Head, not quite. Even if I was though... I still would have fallen for you... 14 and all.

I wonder how many guys she's ever kissed. Who else has tasted those strawberry lips? I wonder... could today, in the snow, have been her first kiss? Could I be the first guy to ever have the opportunity of being that close to her? Of feeling her mouth on mine? I wonder... if maybe I'll be the only guy she ever kisses...

Coming up with wedding plans already, Darien? And yet... the thought of her kissing any other guy gave me the adrenaline rush to kill. Only time will tell, I guess. Besides, for all I know, the only reason she's even been nice to me lately is because of the season. You know, peace on Earth, good will to all... maybe she's just trying to be happy around me, so as not to ruin HER day. No, of course not. Serena's not like that. She is anything but fake and NOT a phony. She is as real as they come. Or as real as such a perfect, angelic, gorgeous girl can come...

I smiled and slowly slid the picture into a small silver frame I had bought earlier for just that reason, and stood it on my night table. With one more longing glance, I strolled out to the kitchen.

Just then, the phone rang.

"Hello?"

"Hey, Darien."

"Oh, hi Andrew. No, I'm not going with you to the Christmas Eve party."

"Well, for your information, SCROOGE, I wasn't going to ask. Actually, I just wanted you to help me come up with a gift for Rita."

"Rita? Christmas is tomorrow and you still haven't gotten her a gift? That's not like you."

"I've been really busy..."

"No you haven't."

"Look, Darien, does it matter? Just come shopping with me, okay?"

"I don't know, I'm really tired..."

"We might bump into a certain Meatball Head..." he teased.

This, of course, immediately made me start evaluating my choices.

Of course, the chances of running into her are extremely slim... but that never stopped me from bumping into her before... "Oh fine, I'll come."

"I knew that would work!"

"Don't push your luck. I'll be at the arcade in 10 minutes."

"Okay, see ya!"

I hung up the phone, threw on a pair of shoes, and walked out the door, leaving an empty apartment.

Serena

"The apartment should be empty by now," I said.

"Of course, Andrew knows exactly how to get a job done," said Jupiter... were those hearts in her eyes?

"My scanner indicates that the domicile is indeed unoccupied of any living forms save organic material."

"Huh?"

Mercury blushed slightly. "He's gone and he grows plants."

We all nodded slightly. "Okay, then let's get this show on the road!" yelled Mars. Once again picking up our supplies, we quickly jumped from the rooftop down to his 8th story apartment. As I jumped down, I heard Jupiter whispering from behind,

"Since when did she get so graceful?"

I smiled. When I put my mind to something, I can get it done... especially if it involves Darien.

Landing on the balcony, I crossed my fingers, praying that he didn't lock the sliding glass door. We were in luck. The door opened easily, without a sound.

I looked around my surroundings. Wow this place is clean...

"He must be an organizer..." said Venus, practically reading my mind. "Why am I not surprised?"

"Okay, scouts, enough chit-chat. Let's get to work!" said Mars, powering down. The rest of us followed her example, detransforming into normal civilians. "Alright, here's the plan..." she always was a good planner, "...Serena, you work on the lights. Mina, set the atmosphere. Lita, you bake some food. Amy, fake snow would be nice. I'll light some candles. How much time did you say we had, Serena?"

"About an hour."

"To be sure, let's get outta here by 7:15. That'll give us a 15 minute time space to be safe. Now get to work!"

Lita

At Raye's command, I raced into the kitchen, carrying the large picnic baskets in my hand. Carefully laying the contents out, I sorted through to gather the necessary ingredients.

"Hey, does anyone know what he likes to eat?"

"I think he likes strawberries..." answered Serena.

"How would you know?" asked Raye.

Serena blushed slightly. "I just do... I'm not sure though. Do something chocolate. Everyone loves that."

I nodded my head agreeably. Hmm... maybe a chocolate ribbon cheesecake with a graham-cracker crust, and a strawberry cream sauce as a dressing. Then we can mix up some sugar cookies with cinnamon, and some fruit-flavored sprite punch... delicious!

Serena

I sighed and untangled some more lights. That was close. How do I know Darien likes strawberries? Well... I don't. But, my lipstick is strawberries, and he didn't seem to mind kissing me earlier... oh, what am I thinking?! That was just playing. Just for a fun joke. But he didn't know that at the time...

I sighed and plugged the lights into the wall, testing for dead bulbs. After I was satisfied that all the lights worked, I began stringing them along the bookcases and mantles. This place is going to be gorgeous!

We had brought only white lights, feeling that the multi-colored versions were, well, outdated and tacky. I was VERY happy with our decision. Bright colors just wouldn't match this place very well. But white is perfect. He needs a little more light, I think. He has such a wonderful personality, I don't understand why he's always surrounded in dark colors. I wonder if it has something to do with the orphanage...

I blinked back the tears of pain I felt for him, and continued with my assigned mission, lighting up his life, just a little...

Amy

After transforming back into Sailor Mercury, I started to search my computer for the easiest way to create fake snow that wouldn't freeze a person to death, and wouldn't melt into a puddle of slush. But I did want it to be snow...

Finally, I found an equation that would work. I walked into the kitchen and grabbed a handful of sugar, much to Lita's dismay. Back in the living room, I used energy to break the sugar to near invisible specks. Mixing them with just the right amount of water, I had created a fluffy, sweet tasting mixture. With swift hand motions, the powdery substance fell from my hand and onto the chosen decorations in a haphazard fashion. Then I used my Mercury Bubbles to create a foggy atmosphere throughout the room. The powder reacted to the moisture and combined with it, so that the substance tripled the amount it was in and also spread more thoroughly around the room. It created the appearance of glistening snow that wouldn't melt, but simply evaporate. And, plus, it tastes good.

Happy with my work, I turned to see if I could help Lita with her cooking.

Mina

I pulled the small pin out of my teeth and placed it into the wall, careful not to prick myself. Then I continued to lace the small gold beads over it.

"Are you sure those will hold?" asked Serena from behind me.

"Sure. I do this all the time."

"Oh. Okay."

I went back to hanging pinecones and small decorative ornaments from the stringed beads. Carefully stepping down from the ladder, I grabbed a handful of holly from the box and climbed back up, pinning the pretty little leaves and berries to the bare walls.

"Deck the halls with boughs of holly, fa la la la la, la la la la!" I sang loudly, arranging the decorations in bunches.

Raye

I smiled as Mina began to sing. Such a better voice than Chad. Even if I don't join in the normal festivities, I always did love the carols. I joined in, happily, "'Tis the season to be jolly! Fa la la la la, la la la la!"

I listened as the rest of the girls joined in quickly.

"Don we now our gay apparel! Fa la la, la la la, la la la. Troll the ancient Yuletide carol! Fa la la la la, la la la la!"

I smiled and lit another match, carefully lighting the wax candle which had been placed on a small silver tray amidst another four. They were all gold and glittered so brightly with each other, setting the living room alive with fire. After the small centerpiece had been lit, I quickly moved over to the fireplace, already covered in gold tassels and boughs of evergreens decked in sparkling white lights.

Andrew

"What about this one?" I asked, pointing out yet another small gold chain.

Darien sighed. "Andrew, it's beautiful. It's just as pretty as the last one, and the one before that, and the one before that..."

"But I don't want JUST as beautiful! I want stunning, ravishing, breathtaking! Don't you think Rita deserves it?"

"Of course Rita deserves it, but do I deserve this?" he mumbled.

"I dunno... maybe I should go with silver..."

"Yes! By all means, go with silver!"

"Yeah, I guess so... which one do you think she would like more?"

He rolled his eyes at me. "I... don't... CARE!! Just pick one! They all look exactly the same! Rita will be perfectly happy with whatever you decide! Here, take this one! Take it! Just buy it already! We have been in this store, no, this AISLE for the last forty-five minutes!"

"Okay, okay, I get your point. ... ... ... So you really think I should get silver?"

Darien whacked me on the side of the head and stomped away to another area of the department store. I smiled and put the necklace back. Following after him, I yelled, "I think you have the right idea, bud. Let's go see what they have in the REST of the mall!" He groaned, but followed me anyway. I wonder if he would have deserted me a long time ago if he thought we might not run into Serena. Probably...

Serena

I slumped into the snow-covered green couch and looked over our masterpiece- the very new winter wonderland! I was very happy with all of our efforts. I knew with the help of my friends, we could do anything! And now this is SURE to be the best Christmas Darien has EVER had! I wish I could be here to see the look on his face when he opens the door. But, then he'd get to asking questions about how we got in and all... no, I'd have to be satisfied with knowing he would be happy. That he would know someone cares about him... even if he doesn't know who. I hope he'll like it. Oh no! What if it brings back bad memories?

With that thought, I sat up in fear. What if it hurts him more than it makes him happy? What have I done?

"What's wrong, Serena?" asked Mina, claiming the seat cushion next to me. "Is something missing?"

I looked around. No, everything is perfect. Perfectly jolly, joyful, and Christmasy. Darien will surely love it! I hope...

"No, Mina, everything's perfect."

"I agree. We should turn everything off though so he doesn't see it right away. Hey, Raye! How are you going to get your candles to light up?"

"Lita and I worked out a system. Ya see, she connected all of the lights to the electricity in the normal light switch. Then using the combined energies of Mars and Jupiter, it will also trigger the fire and candles."

"Wow. Nifty."

"Yup, my idea. Look, it's only 7:15. Let's have a look around, shall we?" said Raye. "Lita, Amy, you want to join us? You haven't stepped out of that kitchen since we got here!"

"I'm almost done with this no-bake cheesecake! Of course, it needs to be chilled for awhile. I guess we should leave Darien a note, huh?" said Lita.

"You go ahead and do that, but we're gonna have a look-see!"

Raye grabbed my hand and pulled me into the hallway, Mina on our heels. Soon, I found myself in his bedroom. "Raye, I don't know if this is right. What if we see something personal?"

"Like this?" said Mina, holding up a small silver frame. From where I stood, I couldn't see the picture inside.

"Mina put it back, whatever it is."

"Trust me Serena, you're gonna want to look at this."

"No, I don't." I turned my back to prove my point, though I was completely lying. Actually, I was using all of my energy to keep from digging through all of his drawers trying to gather as much info as possible. But, no, I would let him keep his privacy.

"I wanna see," said Raye. I heard her walking over to Mina, and then she gasped, very loudly. I turned to see her standing, staring at the small silver frame still held in Mina's palms. Her hands were clapped over her mouth and her eyes were wide in shock. By now, I was VERY curious. Biting my lip, I tried to refrain from grabbing the frame from Mina.

Finally, I gave in to temptation. "Oh fine! Let me see!"

Stepping over to Mina, I grabbed the picture from her. What I saw blew my mind. In the small silver picture frame, previously set on Darien's night table, was a small photograph of... ME!

I nearly dropped the frame, but my shaking hands held tight. Wha... what's going on?

Why on Earth would Darien have a picture of ME of all people?! What does it mean? And not only that, but he ONLY has a picture of me. There are no more photographs anywhere that I've seen. Where did he get this? And why is it framed? And why is it on the night stand? Then I noticed that the left edge had been ripped. It occurred to me that this was the day Lita, Mina, and I had gone shopping downtown. Lita must have been on the other half... yes, I remember that... So then... did SHE give this picture to Darien? Why? Or maybe... a week ago, before we found out Andrew had a girlfriend, Lita said she had given him a picture of us, in hopes it would remind him of us whenever he looked at it. If that's the case, then Andrew gave this to Darien... still doesn't answer my question as to why Darien would want this though. Or why he would frame it...

Then I remembered something else. Earlier that day when I ran into Darien the first time, he dropped a picture. That was ripped on one side... This must be it! Darien was carrying around a picture of me! And walking around staring at it!

I felt a warmth of happiness flood into me. Maybe Darien likes me too... Maybe, just maybe, I stand a chance...

Lita

"Here, Ames, could you put this into the fridge for me?" I asked handing her the cheesecake. On top of the plastic wrap was a yellow stickie-note telling Darien not to eat it until after 9:00, cause it had to chill.

Amy took the pie from me and placed it into the near empty refrigerator. "You know, Lita, he is going to be awfully suspicious when he finds strange food in his house. I wonder if he'll think it's poisoned!"

"Oh, come on Amy! Who would go through the trouble of all this decorating just so they could poison someone?"

"I don't know. How long have the girls been in his bedroom? Oh goodness! Look at the time! It's 7:25! Darien should be here in approximately five minutes!"

As if on cue, we heard a key in the doorknob. Gasping, we each looked around for a hiding spot. Raye and Mina came walking out of the hallway just then.

"You guys will never guess what Darien has on..."

"SSSSSHHHHH!!!" we both said at once. They looked at us puzzled, but then heard the door slowly opening. Gasping, they each dove for the kitchen counter we were already hiding behind.

"We have to get out of here!" whispered Raye.

"Well, duh!" I snapped. Without any other words, we began crawling towards the glass door. I opened it very slowly, as not to make a sound. I could hear Darien entering the living room and searching for a light switch. Good thing we had turned all the lights off...

Silently, we crept out of the doorway and onto the balcony. Then jumped just as silently to a roof about 10 feet below.

"What about Serena?" asked Mina. I shrugged.

"She'll have to get out on her own. We can't go back now!"

We disappeared into the night.

Darien

"Ow!" I yelled, tripping over a cord. Funny... I don't remember having anything plugged in there before... and why does it smell like evergreen and cheesecake in here? Finally, I reached the light switch and flipped it on. I nearly fainted dead away.

The normal overhanging light didn't turn on. Instead, thousands of tiny stars popped up all over my living room. Candles burned brightly in all directions and a flaming fire was cast upon the hearth. Green boughs of evergreen and holly were strung along the walls along with gold and silver beads, tinsel, and metal balls of all sizes and colors. Christmas wreathes adorned the walls, plates of cookies littered the tables and countertops, and fake snow glistened like crystals everywhere. My breath was caught. Did I get the right apartment? What happened in here? How? Who?

Serena

I stood up straight as a deep voice yelled, "Ow!" from the hallway. Oh no! That was Darien! Quickly, I set the frame down and began searching frantically for an escape. The window would make a lot of noise opening and is probably too small to climb through anyway. There isn't any way out through the bathroom. But how do I get out to the living room?! I held my breath and prayed for a miracle. There was a silence as I saw a faint glow come from the living room. So... he found the surprise. I REALLY don't want to be a part of the surprise.

For a few minutes, I wondered if Darien had fainted. No sound was emitted from the rest of the apartment. I took the chance and peeked out around the corner of the door. I could see Darien standing awestruck at the sight before him. He was facing sideways from me so that I could make out his profile quite easily. His jaw was slightly agape and he wasn't moving. Hardly even breathing, actually. I gasped when I saw he was very close to tears. I yanked my head back into the bedroom.

He's crying. I made him cry. I hurt him. I brought back bad memories and now... Oh Darien, I'm so sorry!

If I hadn't been trying to remain absolutely silent, I would have broken down and started bawling right there. But I couldn't. I need to figure out how to get out of here.

I saw the closet open just wide enough for me to slip inside. Ah-ha! I'll just hide in there and when he goes to sleep, I can sneak out! Simple! And he will never know this was my idea, and never know that I was the one who hurt him!

Silently, I slid into the small closet and leaned comfortably against a wall. The handle of the vacuum was poking into my back, but I could deal with that. Jackets and dress shirts tickled against my face and nose, but it was bearable. The closet door was the type with the small slits so that you could see through quite clearly, but not in so well. With a small sigh, I leaned up farther against the wall and attempted to become more comfortable. I could be here for awhile...

Darien

I was speechless for at least 20 minutes. I didn't move. I'm not sure I even breathed. My mind traveled over any possibilities that this could be a mistake. That someone had made a mistake. That I had made a mistake. But... my key had worked, so this WAS my apartment... But then what on EARTH is all this stuff doing here?! And who...?

That was the biggest question in my head. If this was, indeed, for me, then who did it? Who would go through all this trouble for ME? And why? Who... ?

Slowly, I strolled around my living room, looking at all of the little details. The Santa ornaments, the stuffed reindeer pillow (which made me laugh a little), plates of sugar cookies in the shapes of snowmen, bowls of nuts complete with a nutcracker soldier... everything that screams Christmas. Except... the tree. No Christmas tree. Which is fine by me. Absolutely fine... They probably couldn't think of how to get it up here... Who's they, Darien? Do you know? No, you don't. And how did they get in here in the first place Darien? Do you know? No, you don't. And are you confused Darien? Completely. But... are you happy? Never been happier in my entire life.

Finally, I pushed all reason (that there had been a breaking and entering, I don't know who they were, or why they did it) aside and smiled. Someone did this for ME! Someone did THIS for ME!

I slumped into the couch and pulled the reindeer close to me. I reached for a cookie and shoved it in my mouth. I picked up a small wooden train and began running it along the back of the sofa. I felt like a kid. Young and free and alive! I guess this is how Serena feels all the time...

SERENA! Could it be? Could she have done this? It's something she would do, I guess... but for me?

I let the cookie drop from my mouth and the train clatter to the frosty carpet. Serena... my little Meatball Head with the biggest heart in the world.

Deliriously happy, as well as deliriously exhausted, I sauntered into my bedroom, sure that whoever the mysterious Santa had been, had left before I returned. The first thing I saw was a small silver frame sitting on my night table.

Serena

I watched silently as Darien came into the room. His back was turned to me, and so I couldn't tell if he was smiling or not, though I imagined he was still crying. Every time I thought that I had hurt him, it was like a thousand knives stabbing into me. I would do anything to make sure he didn't get hurt...

Darien walked silently over to the bed- or the short table beside it to be exact, and picked something up, staring down at it, he turned and sat down on the bed. I noticed the small silver frame, with MY picture, in his palms. My breath caught. Why...?

"It was you, wasn't it Meatball Head? I know it... ha! You're probably the one who talked Andrew into leading me on that shopping spree! That was torture..."

I was feeling close to tears. I'd hurt him more? I don't know what he's talking about, but why do I feel like it's my fault?

"But it's okay, Meatball Head. I forgive you. You did do this after all..."

Forgives me? I did what? What is he talking about? Isn't he hurt? And how does he know it's me? And WHY is he talking to a picture?!

"My beautiful Meatball Head, such a big, innocent heart..."

I froze. 'My beautiful Meatball Head... My beautiful Meatball Head...' MY?! BEAUTIFUL?!

Suddenly, something went terribly wrong. The vacuum... that darn, painful vacuum... came with a cord. And I'm a klutz.

"AAAAHHHH!!" I was on my knees, my head having hit the closet door. Ow...

Darien

I heard a scream come from my closet and a thud. That sounded like... I looked at the picture. I looked at my closet. Picture. Closet. Picture. Closet.

Standing, I walked over to the closet door and slid it open. I saw a small form on hands and knees, two golden meatballs on top of her head. I was stunned to say the least. I saw her gulp, a little loudly, then she looked up at me, shock on her face as well. Then she smiled and held up a black loafer.

"How come you never wear these?"

Serena

I still held the shoe in my lap, only I was a lot more comfortable now. Well... sort of. I sat on Darien's couch, back in the living room. After the little klutz attack, Darien had stared at me for a little while, then shook his head and walked silently into the living room. Not knowing what else to do, I followed. Now I was on the couch, he was standing in front of the fire, and both were silent. I gulped for the fourth time that minute. My throat was dry and clogged. I was scared and worried and hurt. He didn't like it... I had hurt him... Darien, I'm so sorry...

Finally, he turned to me, tears brimming on his azure eyes. I bit my lip. I couldn't bare the silence anymore. Jumping up I began wailing, "Oh Darien! I'm so sorry! I didn't think it would hurt... oh, I didn't think at all! I realize that now. It's just that it seemed like such a goodidea at first and I thought you'd like it! Honestly, I thought you'd like it! Oh Darien, please don't hate me. I know you told me something so important to you and I go and do something like this and complete destroy that trust and I know it must bring back so many bad memories and Darien I'm so sorry..."

In the blink of an eye, Darien was standing in front of me, and I was wrapped in his arms. I sobbed into his jacket as he held me close. Very close. EXTREMELY close. His face was buried in my hair, I could feel it. And his fists were clutching my sweater. As if he were afraid to let go. I liked the feeling, of being so close. Of him... needing me. I know that wasn't it, but for a moment I imagined that it was. After my sobs had subsided, I looked up to see a tear streaking down his cheek. I gasped and leaned my head against his shoulder so that I could look up at him. He never broke the gaze. Carefully, I lifted my fingers and wiped away the tear. He gulped as I touched him, never letting his arms leave me. He was still holding me so close...

"Serena..." he whispered. I gulped now, preparing for the worst. I expected, 'It hurts to see this.' I expected, 'You didn't know how much it would hurt.' I was even expecting, 'I forgive you.' What he said, I was not expecting.

"Thank you."

I blinked up at him. "Wha...?"

"No one has... ever done anything like this for me before. Thank you so, so much, Serena. I... I don't deserve this, I know, and honestly I don't know why you did this, or even HOW you did this, but thank you. I can't thank you enough Serena. I just... thank you so much..."

He cried then. Not hard, wracking sobs, but a flood of tears no less. I reached up to hold his neck and his head fell softly on my shoulder. I didn't know what to say. He wasn't mad. He wasn't hurt.

"Me... Merry Christmas, Darien..."

He laughed lightly and looked up at me out of the corner of his eyes. "Merry Christmas Meatball Head."

Raye

"She hasn't come out yet," worried Lita, pacing the sidewalk. "Oh, relax, I'm sure she's fine," said Mina, also pacing.

"Yeah, if nothing else, she can always trip, knock him over and run if she gets caught," I said.

"Raye, would you stop teasing that poor girl?" said Lita. I rolled my eyes.

"Look, just standing here isn't going to get us anywhere."

"But we cannot go back in there! The chances of us getting into his apartment without him seeing us, finding Serena and getting HER out of there as well, are..." Amy began typing a little on her computer. "...one out of 200."

"Not very good odds if you ask me," said Lita, finally taking a seat.

"Sorry guys, but Serena's on her own on this one. But... while we're here, Mina and I have some gossip that will really interest you."

Mina's face brightened. "Wow, I'd forgotten all about it!"

"What?" asked Lita, noting that this must be very interesting. Amy rolled her eyes, but still scooted closer, trying to get a better hearing opportunity.

"You will never guess what Darien has on his night stand."

They both just stared at us confused. Mina jumped in, very excitedly, "He's got a picture of Serena! In a little silver frame! Right beside his bed and everything!"

"You're kidding!"

"Nope."

"But... how did he get a picture of her? Did anyone give it to him?" We all shook our heads at Lita's question. Then, she almost answered herself. "Wait... was anyone else in the picture?"

"No," I said, "but it was ripped on one side."

"Was Serena giving a peace sign?"

"Yeah..."

Lita broke out laughing then, much to everyone's surprise. "That's the picture I gave to Andrew! Of me and Serena! He must have given it to him!"

"No way! But why would he do that?"

"Girls tell their friends everything, right?"

"Mostly..."

"Well, maybe Darien told his BEST friend, that he had... uh... feelings for Serena?"

"Then that would be why he gave it to him!"

"That is so sweet! Darien actually kept a picture of her!"

"Yeah, no kidding."

"Hey guys?"

"Yeah?"

"Uh... Serena's still not out yet..."

Always count on Amy to be practical when we wanna be romantic.

Serena

"How on Earth did you do all of this?" he asked, waving a hand around the room.

"Magic," I replied simply.

He smiled. "How did you get in?"

"Magic."

"How did you get the candles to turn on like that?"

"Magic."

"What is this snow made of?"

"Magic."

"How can you be so beautiful?"

I looked up at him with a sly smile and giggled. "Magic?"

He laughed then as well. "Well, it doesn't matter. I'm just thrilled you actually did this... for me."

"Who else would I have done it for?"

"A friend?"

"You are a friend." He nodded a little at that, then appeared slightly melancholy.

"Darien?"

"Serena... I have to know something. And... I want you to be honest."

I nodded my head in understanding, though I suddenly felt very nervous and a tad uncomfortable. "Sure..."

"Today, in the park, when you..." he licked his lips a little nervously, "k...kissed me... what did it mean?"

I stared at him for a minute and then my eyes wandered to the snow-covered carpet. "I... don't want to answer that..."

He slid off of the couch he had been sitting on so that he was sitting with me on the floor. "Serena... please, I have to know..."

"Why?" I asked, snapping my head up to look into his eyes.

"Because I want to know if I should read into it or not."

"Well, then let me ask you a question. Should I read into you having a picture of me on your nightstand?"

He was silent at that as his gaze dropped from mine. "I... don't..." he chuckled a little now. "I don't want to answer that."

I smiled knowingly. "Then don't. But I'm hungry and if I remember correctly... there should be a tasty treat in the fridge."

"Oh?" We both got up and made our way to the kitchen. I opened the refrigerator door and pulled out the cheesecake and strawberry sauce.

"Yum. Lita made it and she is the BEST cook you will EVER meet!"

"I can't wait to try some." We walked out to the living room again and I plopped down on the carpet once more. Darien handed me a fork, which I took gratefully, and we began eating out of the pan, not bothering with plates or cutting slices.

"So... whatcha think?"

"Delicious!"

"I agree completely!" I took another bite. "Actually, Darien, no matter what it MEANT, I had a lot of fun today..." The nervousness came back immediately as I wondered what he would think. What he would say...

"Yeah, me too."

I smiled happily. "I didn't even know you knew how to MAKE snowballs! Much less have a fight with them!"

"I would have won too, if you weren't so distracting!"

I blushed a little at that comment. "Well... it's not my fault."

"Right," he said sarcastically, rolling his eyes. "And who kissed who here?"

I could feel my cheeks redden even more, and I noticed he was enjoying this little charade. "But... YOU were the one enjoying it!"

"You liked it too! You're the one who had to go all 'damsel-in- distress!'"

"Yeah, well YOU were the one who had to throw yourself in front of me to catch my fall! It's not MY fault you had to play hero!"

"You were the klutz!"

"In case you haven't figured it out, I did that on PURPOSE!"

"And kissed me on purpose too!"

"And put snow down your shirt on purpose TOO! Did you forget about THAT part?"

"I pulled that prank FIRST!"

"I pulled it better! And because it WAS your idea, I do not take responsibility for it!"

"But YOU started the snowball fight in the first place!"

"Only because YOU had to get all depressed!"

"Yeah?"

"Yeah!"

"Well, I'm not depressed anymore."

"Yeah, well I'm GLAD!"

We were silent, just staring at each other. Somewhere amidst the heat of battle we had both gotten to our feet. Slowly, our determined faces cracked and we smiled. Darien chuckled slightly and I began to giggle. Within minutes we were both rolling with laughter. Out of habit, I threw my arms around him for a hug. He returned the gesture, both of us continuing to laugh our heads off.

Once the laughter had subsided and we remained in each others' arms, I looked up to see him with a smile still on his face. I whispered, "Ya know, Darien, no one gets me as worked up as you. What would I do without these arguments?"

He smiled and shook his head a little. "I feel the exact same way, Meatball Head."

I looked into his eyes for a little while longer before letting my head collapse onto his shoulder. "Well... I had fun today."

"The snowball fight or the arguing?"

I giggled a little. "Both?"

"I'll take that as an answer. I had fun too. We should do it again sometime. Whatcha say?"

A light bulb went off in my head. "Ooh! Idea!"

"No way, Meatball Head getting an idea? Dear diary..."

A slapped him playfully in the chest. "Okay, I say we make a tradition."

"What would that be?"

"Every time it snows, we have to get together to play!"

"EVERY time?"

"Yup, every time. Whatcha say?"

He looked up as if in deep thought. Finally he replied, "I say... I can't wait 'til it snows!"

I smiled. "Me either! Actually, I wonder if it's still snowing out there now."

"I don't think so. When I was coming home half of it was already melted. It never seems to stick around much. It'll probably be gone by the morning."

I looked up at him a bit frightened. "Re...really? You mean... no white Christmas?"

Darien

I watched the blonde in my arms suddenly overcome in sadness. Her large blue eyes started to fill up with tears and I suddenly felt the pain of being the bearer of bad news. How I wish I could make it snow for her. If I had the 'magic' that whoever made THIS snow, I certainly would. Heck, I would make it snow all year long for her.

"I'm sorry Serena. I know you really wanted a white Christmas... but, I mean, I'm not a weather man or anything... I could be wrong..."

She forced a weak smile, but it slowly grew larger. "You're just trying to make me happy, aren't you?"

I had to nod at that. Honestly, I was pretty sure there wouldn't be anymore snow until January. "Sorry..."

Her smile faded away to a REAL one and she hugged me tightly, much to my surprise. "Sorry for what? No matter what happens, this is still the best Christmas EVER!"

"Why is that?" It couldn't have anything to do with me could it?

"You of course!" Wow...

"Me?"

"Well, duh! Darien... I don't know why, because, I mean, a week ago just seeing you made my blood run cold, but now... I honestly don't think I've ever been happier in my life. It's like... I dunno, something about you, I guess... just, makes me happy. That's all."

I wrapped my arms tighter around her. She feels that way for... me? But... that's exactly what I feel for her. So... what does that mean? Could she like me as much... naw. Don't fool yourself Darien. It doesn't matter what she means or what she thinks. Right now, all that matters is that she is in your arms... and happy to be there...

"I have an idea!" I exclaimed loudly, startling her a little out of my embrace.

"Huh?"

"Wait here." I reluctantly pulled away from her and moved over to the corner of my apartment where I kept my CD player. Rummaging through the different albums, I finally found what I was looking for. "Andrew gave this to me a couple years ago. I've never listened to it... but I think this is the perfect occasion!"

I took the CD from the case and put it in my stereo before turning around.

"What is it?" asked Serena, now utterly confused. I wanted so badly to pull her into my arms. Then the music started.

I'm dreaming... of a white Christmas...
Just like the ones I used to know.
Where the treetops glisten and children listen
To hear sleigh bells in the snow.

Serena gasped, her eyes glazing over. I walked over to her slowly and bowed my head before lifting her hand to my lips.

"May I have this dance?" Before giving time to answer, I pulled her into my arms. She gasped again, her eyes never moving from mine. I placed one of her small hands on my shoulder before moving mine to her waist. I began slowly turning her around the living room, gazing into her gorgeous blue eyes for eternity...

Serena

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas.
With every Christmas card I write.
May your days be merry and bright.
And may all your Christmases be white...

I was surprised at the sudden 'invitation' Darien had given me. But that was nothing compared to my complete happiness... no, happiness does no justice to what I was feeling. In the arms of this wonderful man, in a literal winter wonderland, and all of my dreams portrayed in one of my favorite Christmas songs... I must have fallen into heaven.

I closed my eyes, leaning my head against his chest and spent the rest of the evening in his arms. We danced long after the CD had went blank...

--------

I opened my eyes slowly. Taking a deep gulp, I stood up from my bed and paced slowly to my curtain-covered window. Please let it have snowed... please let it have snowed...

I threw the sashes open to be met with a dull gray winter morning. No snow. Another year without a white Christmas...

But my thoughts immediately lightened. CHRISTMAS! Today is Christmas!

Laughing, I threw on my pink bunny robe and skipped down the stairs. My eager eyes were instantly met with mounds of presents stacked in every corner of the room. The tree we had decorated a few weeks ago was alive with bright little stars, but no comparison to the star on top. The smell of Mom's homemade pancakes drifted into my overwhelmed senses.

"I love Christmas..." I whispered to no one in particular.

"Well it's about time you woke up!" screamed an immature voice from the stair behind me. I swiftly turned around to see Sammy smirking on the second stair up from mine, so that he was nearly eye-level with me. With a bright smile, I swept the young boy into my arms and turned him around.

"It's Christmas, Sammy! It's CHRISTMAS!"

"Yeah, yeah, I get your point, now would you put me down? I think I'm gonna be sick!"

I set him down promptly and scampered over to the tree, my eyes roving over the small brightly colored tags, hoping to find some with my name.

"Serena! Well I thought you'd never get up! You have some explaining to do, young lady. Like where were you until 11:00 without calling?"

I didn't lift my eyes to my mother's. Instead, I closed them dreamily, allowing memories to seep back. Almost so silently I'm not sure she heard, I whispered, "Mommy, I was in a winter wonderland, with the dreamiest man ever..."

I could practically feel her roll her eyes before turning to walk back into the kitchen. "I'm not going to argue because it's Christmas. So go clean up and get ready for breakfast."

I licked my lips and jumped to my feet, hopping back upstairs to wash my hands and put on some slippers.

Darien

I looked outside hoping to see snow. No such luck. I sighed. Guess I won't have any reason to go see her now... And she didn't get her white Christmas... it was a long shot anyway...

Throwing some bread into the toaster, I walked into my bedroom to look at a certain picture on my night table. I had always been lonely on Christmas, but for some reason I seem even more so now. We must have danced for three hours last night, and now my arms were suffering from lack of her warmth. I ran my fingers over the small photograph, wishing it was her. I sighed and fell back onto the bed.

"Ow!" I yelled, jerking up straight. I turned around to see what I had fallen on. A plastic bag. Scrunching my eyebrows, I looked into it to see what was inside and pulled out a cardboard box. This looks familiar... but what...?

I opened it. Inside I found a small glass figurine of a small girl with pigtails, cuddling a bunny in her arms. I gasped and nearly dropped it.

In the excitement of last night my gift for her had completely slipped my mind. Then it clicked inside of my head. It would be the perfect excuse to see her... I mean, I can't give it to her after Christmas...

I smiled toward the heavens for this, what I was sure was a miracle or blessing or something.

Putting the figurine back into the box, I wrapped that present in record time, and managed to do a decent job. (And yes, I thought finding wrapping paper in my closet was a miracle too.) Then I was on my way...

Serena

"SAMMY! Bring that back here right now or I'm going to strangle you with these Christmas lights!"

He giggled and jumped over the back of the couch. I ran across the coffee table trying to lessen the space between us. Somewhere in the back of my mind I heard a knock on the door.

"I'll get that," said Mom disappearing into the hall.

"Sammy, I want that bunny and I want it NOW!"

"Ooohh, wrath of the Meatball Head! Run for cover, Meatballzilla is on the loose!"

"WHY DOES EVERYONE CALL ME THAT?!"

He simply laughed again and ran around the tree, nearly knocking it over. I jumped off of the table and grabbed a cushion, throwing it at him as he disappeared out the door, it missed him and barely missed a newcomer. Ignoring the company, I ran after him and began to jog up the stairs. "SAMMY!!!"

Half way up, I froze. I blinked a couple times, Sammy and my new plush toy momentarily forgotten. Hesitantly, I turned on my heels. Was that... could it have been...

"DARIEN!" I lunged into him full force. How I managed to go from the sixth stair to the front door in 5 milliseconds, don't ask. He chuckled and wrapped his arms around me as well.

"Serena, aren't you going to introduce me to your guest?" Mom asked.

"Oh, uh, Mom, this is Darien, Darien this is Mom." They shook hands politely.

"Come on, let me show you what I got so far!" I pulled the stunned man into my living room and fell to my knees beside the pile of newly acquired gifts. "See, I got these from Mom, and Sammy gave me this even though I'm sure he paid someone to buy it for me. And this is from Grandma, she lives in the states, so she had it mailed over here. And then this is from Mom and Dad, and this is supposedly from Santa even though I know it was from Mom and Dad too. And this is my favorite, see isn't it cute? Dad got it for me. And this was in my stocking and this..."

"Serena?"

"Yeah Mom?"

"Aren't you going to invite your guest to stay awhile?"

I looked up to Darien who had claimed a spot on the recliner behind me. "You are staying, right? You can stay for dinner and stuff. We always have plenty, and I don't want you to leave and be all lonely. You'll stay, won't you?"

He smiled down at me. "How can I say no to that?"

I smiled brightly. "He'll stay for dinner, Mom."

Darien

I smiled down at her. Her smile was brighter then the Christmas tree. She still wore her pajamas. Pink boxers and a white tee with a small silver snowman on the front. Her hair was up in the usual style, and very messy. I wonder if she even took it out after last night. On her feet was a pair of white bunny slippers.

"Here, I brought this... for you." I held out the small package. It was wrapped in gold wrapping with royal purple ribbon and a red rose strung through it. She gasped when she saw it.

"Oh, Darien... it's gorgeous. I don't want to open it."

I laughed. "Well that does me a lot of good!"

She smiled up at me then crawled over to the tree and put it under. "I'll open it later, okay? Thank you Darien. You know, you didn't have to get me a gift..."

"I know. Actually, I bought it yesterday afternoon. It just reminded me of you... so I did have to get it. I hope you like it..."

"I know I will!"

"Is it safe to come down?" asked a high-pitched mocking voice.

"No! Stay up there! Or better yet, why don't you go jump in the ocean!"

A short boy with brown hair came downstairs and glared at Serena. "But if I did that, I wouldn't get to annoy you anymore!"

"More like torture," mumbled Serena. "Darien, this is Sammy. Sammy, Darien." Then she snapped her head up to look at him. "And if you DARE say anything to embarrass me I swear you won't make it to New Year's! Ya hear me, Rat-face!"

He laughed. "Whatever you say Spaghetti Head!"

"Ugh! That's even worse than MEATBALL HEAD!"

"That's the point. So, are you Serena's boyfriend? You seem too old to be her boyfriend!"

"What?! Boyfriend?!" A middle-aged man ran into the room. "Serena, you CANNOT have a boyfriend! He's too old for you! Who are you? Why are you in my house?"

"DAD! It's Christmas!"

"Honey, relax," said Serena's mom walking into the room.

"I will NOT relax!"

"Yes you WILL," she said sternly. The man glared at me, then to his wife before admitting defeat and walking in the direction he had come. I gulped worriedly. Okay, we're gonna have to try to get on his good side. Then I felt a small warm hand on mine. I looked down to see Serena looking up at me with big blue eyes.

"I'm sorry, Darien. He gets worked up about things like that. He'll get to like you, I promise. I'll make him!" she giggled.

I smiled back. At least she's not going to give up on me, then I won't either. She's too important. She's too special to just give up on...

With my free hand, I brushed some bangs away from her face. "Thanks, Serena."

"I'm gonna be sick."

We turned to see Sammy staring at us. In the blink of an eye, Serena was on her feet. "SAMMY!" I heard a rampage of feet as both of them ran up the stairs and a door slam. I could hear Serena yelling something but couldn't make out the words.

Someone cleared their throat from behind me. I turned to see Serena's dad standing on the doorway. I stood and held out my hand for a handshake. He took it a little awkwardly.

"I..." he looked over to his wife who I saw was standing a few feet behind him. "I'm sorry, about the way I acted. It is Christmas after all and I would be very honored if you would... uh... be a part of my family for the occasion."

I gulped. "Uh... thank you, sir. It means a lot to me." I let go of his hand a little awkwardly.

"However," I felt nervousness wash over me, "IF you plan on... pursuing my daughter... you WILL treat her as a lady and with respect at ALL times, do you understand?"

I felt the need to salute him, but refrained. "Y...yes sir."

"Please, call him Ken, and I am Elaine. Please, come sit down, we'll be eating lunch shortly. I'll go call the children." Then she caught herself and added, "Not that Serena is a child... actually, she is a very fine young lady..."

I smiled at her attempts to, for lack of a better word, 'sell' her daughter. "Trust me, Mrs. Tsukino, I know." And I followed Ken into the dining room.

-----

"And this one's for Sammy," said Elaine handing yet another package to Sammy. I smiled a little as he tore the wrapping paper open full force. I was beginning to have second thoughts about this whole thing. Sure, I loved being here with Serena. I've never been happier than when I'm with her... but bad memories just seem to come with the whole Christmas package for me.

I looked at the tree. White lights twinkled all over it and I was reminded of my apartment... that Serena and who knows who else worked so hard to decorate... for me. She really does care about me, doesn't she? I remember when I told her about the orphanage, only yesterday though it seems years ago. She didn't pity me. Her eyes showed no sympathy, no pity whatsoever. Instead, they shimmered with sorrow, tenderness, and sadness. She had been sad for me. She had cared...

Small glass and glitter-covered ornaments adorned every branch. Small fake candles and palm-sized sparrows. Satin balls with gold and silver trimming, along with popcorn strings and boughs of holly. It was a glorious tree. So loving and personal and... family. It spoke of family who had spent years collecting their own little personal ornaments. And I'm sure every one of them had a favorite. I imagined Serena's was the small white bunny with a Santa hat covering one eye. It was adorable, after all, and very like her. But I don't have a favorite on the tree. Not one of the hundreds of ornaments holds any special memory for me...

There were piles and piles of presents beneath the tree. Stacked so that the bottom limbs scraped against their delicate wrappings. Not one of them was for me. Just like in the orphanage...

No! I shook my head. This is NOTHING like the orphanage! These people do care about me. Well, maybe not Sammy, and probably not Ken, and I don't know where I stand with Elaine, but Serena DOES care about me! Stop being selfish Darien! Think of all that she gave you last night! She must have used half of her own decorations, things that had been given to her over the years to do everything she did last night. A lot of it may have come from her own money. She did more for me last night than anyone has ever done for me! And now I'm feeling sad because I don't have a present under one Christmas tree?! No Darien, forget about it. You're here and that's plenty!

Serena

I was sitting on the floor in front of the recliner occupied by Darien. I looked up once. He was staring melancholy at the tree. I watched him turn to look at Sammy who was busy opening another gift, carelessly allowing the beautiful wrapping paper to be thrown to the floor. Darien's eyes appeared watery and sad. I could almost feel his pain as I sat there. I bit my lip, wondering what to do. It was Christmas. He could spend the whole day here and not be lonely. And he can eat with my family and sing with my family, and open presents... I gasped in realization. It's not because he doesn't want to be here... Of course not... I remembered what he had told me in the park.

"...kids could make ornaments to hang on it, or make gifts for their friends... I... never got one..."

Darien... he never had a gift. He must have had to watch everyone else open gifts while he just sat there. I can't even imagine... oh, Darien...

"And here's one for Serena," I heard Mom say. I turned around and she handed me a fairly large box with green and gold wrapping. The tag said, 'To: Serena, the most caring daughter in the world. From: Mommy and Daddy.'

I looked at it for awhile. "Well, aren't you going to open it, sweetie?" asked Mom. I turned around to see Darien watching me patiently, waiting for me to open the gift. I stood up and sat back down on the arm of the large chair.

"Here, Darien, you open it for me, okay?"

He looked at me wide-eyed. "But... it's your gift..."

"I know, but we don't have anything for you, so you and me can take turns opening mine!"

Darien

I smiled, completely awestruck. How can she always keep giving like that? And how does she always know exactly what would cheer me up?

With a small, surprised smile, I slowly took the package from her. "Thank you," I whispered. She smiled at me brightly, then leaned back and closer to me to get a better look. She was resting against me, and must have felt a bit uncomfortable, for she slowly slid her arms around to balance on the other arm. I smiled from her closeness and began opening the present. Inside was a set of candles, some in the shapes of moons and stars, others in the shapes of roses. She gasped and smiled lovingly at her parents.

"Thanks mom! Thanks dad! They're beautiful!"

"I'm glad you like them, honey. Now smile!" Elaine held up the camera as she did after every present. Serena edged closer to me. On impulse, I reached my arm around her and pulled her even closer. She gasped slightly before nestling in. The light flashed and all I could see was a purple dot in front of me. I heard Serena giggled.

"Great, now we can't see."

I laughed, never letting my arm leave her. She didn't seem to notice. As time passed, she even settled closer.

Serena

"Okay, who's this one for?" asked Mom, picking up another present. We were starting to come to an end, as only about 10 or 12 presents were left under the tree. "Let's see... Serena. Here you go."

"Thanks! Whose turn is it?"

"Your turn," Darien said. I smiled at him and read the tag.

"To: a great sister, even if she is annoying. From: the coolest brother in the world, Sammy." I ripped the bow off and threw it at him. "Well, thanks anyway Sammy."

"No problem, sis." After tearing off the wrapping, I found a large box of fudge from my favorite candy store.

"Oh thank you SO much, Sammy!"

"You have to share with me, though."

I laughed. "Of course."

I handed the box to Darien who set it down on the other side of the chair along with everything else I had accumulated during the last few hours. Somewhere along the line, much to my everlasting joy, I had found myself sitting... yes, you probably guessed, in his lap. Now don't get any ideas, it wasn't planned. I was just reaching for a gift and found myself there. Don't ask me when it happened or how, I know it wasn't intentional, but either way, Darien hadn't said a thing. I felt very close to him now, and it was almost as if we WERE dating, instead of being just friends, as we had distinguished. And, personally, I would LOVE to be dating for real...

"Let's see. This one is for... Meatball Head?"

I laughed and snapped from my thoughts to see Mom holding a gift with gold wrapping, a purple ribbon, and a red rose.

"Oh, that's for me!" She looked at me a little suspiciously, but handed me the gift. Just as I took it from her, the phone rang.

"I'll get that!" screamed Sammy, dashing to the phone. "Hello? Yeah, one minute. Serena, I think it might be Lita."

I almost reluctantly deserted Darien, handing him the gift to hold onto for the moment, and took the phone from Sammy.

Darien

I immediately missed her warmth which had been engulfing me for the past couple of hours. This was quite simply the best day of my life, save for maybe yesterday. I had immediately liked Elaine, Sammy was growing on me, and Ken, though a little scary, seemed like a very loving father and good man. And then there was Serena, my lovely Meatball Head, with a heart the size of the universe and eyes as blue as the sky.

"Hello?" I heard her say into the phone. "Oh, hi Lita! Merry Christmas! I'm fine, great actually! Huh? Oh, yeah, yeah, I made it out of his apartment okay," she looked up at me, her eyes twinkling with laughter. "Of course, you guys certainly didn't stick around to help with my...uh... escape much! I understand. Of course I forgive you, besides things definitely worked out for the best. Did he see me? Uh... you could say that... I'll explain later, okay? Okay. So why did you call? Caroling? That sounds like fun! When? Ooohh... I might not be able to by then... I sort of have company... that I REALLY want to be with. Who do you think?! Smart girl, good guess. Yes, he's here. No, I'm not kidding! Would you relax? Listen, why don't you guys stop by later on for a gossip session? That sounds good. Yeah, that'll be fine. Uh-huh. See ya later, Lita! Merry Christmas to you too!"

As she hung up the phone, I realized that I understood about 10 of that conversation. The part I DID understand, though, is that after I leave, 5 girls (I'm guessing 5 because of those 5 girls she's always with) will be discussing everything that I did today. Interesting... oh well.

Serena skipped back over to 'our' chair and plopped carelessly into my lap again, not even giving a second thought. On impulse, or maybe because I just wanted to, I wrapped my arms tightly around her.

"Okay, where were we?" she asked, rubbing her hands together animatedly. I held my gift in front of her and she gasped. "Oh yeah!" She took the box from me and looked at the wrapping. Slowly, she took the rose out and smelled it. With a smile, she stuck it carefully into a vase on the coffee table, then read the tag out loud. "To: Meatball Head, my personal angel. From: The Conceited Jerk." She looked up at me and laughed. "And don't you forget it!" I smiled back and anxiously waited for her to open it. My heart was beating terribly, and I'm sure she must have been able to feel it. I even trembled slightly as nervousness took hold.

Please let her like it. PLEASE let her like it. I prayed silently, a chant echoing in my head. Let her like it. Let her like it.

Slowly, too slowly, she took the ribbon off and let it fall gracefully to the floor. She took the paper off a little more carelessly, perhaps growing a tad nervous herself. Finally, there was just the box left. She opened it and dug through the shredded newspaper used to keep the fragile object safe. Her hand came out of the box, clutched around the gift. Slowly, she held it up. I gulped.

Serena

My breath caught. I held a glass figurine of a small girl. Her hair was in twin ponytails and in her arms was a small bunny rabbit. Light danced through it in tiny rainbows and her eyes seemed to be alive as she looked down at the creature in her arms. When I finally found my voice, I managed to choke out, "Oh, Darien... it's just like me... it's so beautiful... Oh Darien!" Turning around slightly, I threw my arms around his neck and hugged him fiercely. His arms pulled me closer. "Thank you. Thank you so much. It's absolutely gorgeous... Thank you Darien..."

I could practically feel him beaming. "You're welcome Serena. Thank you... for everything..." I smiled into his shirt and hugged him even more.

The best Christmas ever...

We opened the rest of the presents, only one was for me and I let Darien open it. We had Mom's famous oven-roasted chicken for dinner, though it could have been burnt to a crisp for all I know, for I stared into Darien's eyes the whole meal, and he stared right back. I know my family noticed, though no one really said anything. Instead, Mom and Dad listened to Sammy rave on and on about the wonderful game that our aunt sent him. After dinner, Darien informed me that he had to get home, and I felt sadness wash over me instantly. Not that I wouldn't see him again tomorrow at the arcade, but... I missed him already. And to think that not 4 days ago, I shuddered at his name.

"It was a pleasure to have you here today, Darien," Mom said as we edged toward the door.

"The pleasure was mine. I can't thank you enough for letting me join you. It really meant a lot to me..."

"Of course. I hope you had fun."

"More than you know..."

"And I do hope you'll come by and visit, maybe come have dinner sometime soon. I'm sure Serena would enjoy your company." I saw Mom give me a sly smile and was sure she, being a mother, had read into my feelings of Darien. I just hope Dad doesn't carry that same ability... "I'd like to sometime. Thank you."

We slowly made our way to the door and Darien opened it slowly. "I'll see you around, Meatball Head."

"I'm sure we'll run into each other... literally."

He smiled. "Good b..."

"WAIT!" We both jerked around to see mother smiling at us. Slyly, she pointed up. We both looked to see a single bough of mistletoe hanging from the doorframe. "It's tradition," she said.

I sighed, knowing Mom wasn't going to let this one go. I gave Darien an apologizing stare, but he simply smiled down at me with understanding. Without warning, he lifted my chin up with his palm and kissed me tenderly on the lips. I heard Mom sigh behind me.

Darien broke away, leaving me completely dazed. With a smile, he treaded slowly down the stairs and out onto the sidewalk. I watched until he had disappeared into the dark. Slowly, I closed the door, still struggling to keep my composure. With a small smile to my mom, I headed upstairs and closed my bedroom door before collapsing onto my bed. I pulled my pillow to my chest and stared dreamily into space.

It had been a soft kiss, and so gentle. Perhaps it was the sheer tenderness of it that had so completely destroyed any rational thought or feeling. With a long sigh, I finally let go of my hard-worked-for composure and allowed my body to tremble with delight. After my nerves had somewhat come down from their high, I closed my eyes and let my thoughts drift out to Darien...

Mom a.k.a. Elaine

I walked up the stairs slowly, carrying a glass figurine in my hands. I rapped slightly on Serena's door. "Honey, can I come in?"

"Sure, Mom, it's open."

I walked in to see her sprawled out on her bed. She was staring up to the ceiling with a dreamy gaze. I set the figurine down and sat down beside her.

"So..."

She looked at me, waiting for me to say something. I smiled at her knowingly.

"How did you meet him?"

She giggled. "Oh Mom, it doesn't matter."

"It does to me."

"Why?"

"Because I see my little girl falling in love and I am going to get as much information as possible on the lucky young man. So you had better answer my questions, young lady."

She giggled innocently, but did sit up. After a moment of silence, she said, "We met outside the arcade. I threw a test paper at him. He called me Meatball Head, I yelled at him, and we both walked away. That's basically the story of our first meeting."

I laughed a little. "And how did you become friends?"

She looked at me in deep thought. "I... don't remember exactly. It was like... one day we were insulting each other, and the next he was buying me hot chocolate."

"I see..." There was a moment of pause. "Darling... I love you. You're my only daughter and you are growing up to a fine young lady right before my eyes. And as much as I want you to always be the little girl who brought me flowers when I was in the hospital with Sammy, I know that you won't. And as a mother, I want you to be happy, and I feel that it's my job to make sure you don't let a perfectly good opportunity pass you by. That's one of the biggest mistakes you could ever make and something you would regret for the rest of your life."

"Mom, what are you talking about?"

I smiled at her lovingly. "Go for him."

"Huh?"

"Chase after him with every ounce of strength you've got. Attack full force, and when you catch him, hang on for dear life! Never, ever let him out of your grasp!"

She looked at me surprised, but slowly smiled. "Okay, Mom, I understand... I think... I will, I'll try."

I smiled and rubbed some bangs away from her face gently. "That's my girl. Now WHAT is that sound?"

Serena

I perked up my ears. Sure enough, there was singing coming from the streets. Jumping up, I ran down to the front door. Throwing it open, I saw Mina, Lita, Raye, and Amy standing out on the sidewalk.

Silent night, holy night,
All is calm, all is bright.
Round yon virgin, mother and child.
Holy infant so tender and mild.
Sleep in heavenly peace!
Sleep in heavenly peace!

"Merry Christmas!" They all yelled at once. I laughed merrily and shooed them into the house.

Mina hung up her scarf quickly. "It's getting colder out there."

"Well, it IS winter," informed Raye.

I smiled and lead them up to my bedroom. "How are you guys doing?" I asked.

"Good! It's Christmas! How could you possibly be bad?" asked Lita. I smiled at all of them.

"Is this what you got today?" asked Mina, picking something off of my night table.

"What?"

"This," she held up the small glass figurine and my eyes lit up.

I grabbed it from her and cradled it in my palms. "Yup. Darien gave it to me."

This immediately caught everyone's attention. I sat down on my bed, leaning against the headboard. Mina and Lita claimed the opposite side and Raye edged in next to me. Amy sat on the chair accompanying my desk.

"Story time!" exclaimed Lita cheerfully. I laughed and told them everything, from when Darien came into the apartment last night, to showing up at my door this morning, to the mistletoe. At the end of my story, they all sighed, including Amy.

"That is so romantic!"

"No kidding!"

"You two were surely made for each other!"

"Soul mates, no doubt!"

I laughed. "Now you guys are stretching this a bit far..."

"Hey!" exclaimed Raye. "Before I forget, I brought gifts for everyone!" She picked up a red bag that had been sitting by the bed. This was the first time I realized they all had large book bags with them. "This one's for Amy, and this is for Mina, Serena, and Lita."

"Here you guys!" said Amy, passing out her gifts now as well. Soon, I had been handed four beautifully wrapped gifts.

"My gifts for you guys are in the closet. One minute!" I retrieved the presents and passed them out to my best friends. "Now I wanna see what you guys got me!"

One hour later, we were probably the five most joyful girls in the city of Tokyo, talking and chatting, and giggling to no ends. I had received a stuffed bunny with a bump on its head and swirly eyes from Raye, a pair of silver moon earrings from Amy, a pink and purple scarf from Mina, and now only Lita's gift was left.

"I think you'll like it. Actually, it's sorta from Andrew too."

I looked at her suspiciously, and began to tear at the small box. Finally, I recovered my gift. I stared at a small silver frame, though the frame completely slipped my mind. It was a picture of Darien. He wore his green jacket and was giving that quirky grin that could make any girl swoon. His blue eyes were twinkling and his jet-black bangs fell carelessly over his brow.

"Hey, girl, are you still breathing?" asked Lita. I looked up at her and smiled.

"Thank you so much. I absolutely love it!"

I carefully set the picture down beside my glass figurine and smiled, knowing exactly what I would wake up to tomorrow.

Darien

I held the picture in my hand, my eyes wandering over every detail. Of course, my mind had long since wandered to think of other things, such as snowballs and mistletoe and small glass figurines. I wonder what she's doing right now. Asleep? Probably not. She had enough energy in her to last a week. What time is it anyway? 9:00? Already? Wow, this day simply flew by. I wonder if Andrew's home. Probably has a bunch of company over, maybe playing Pictionary or Scrabble.

Slowly, I made my way over to the phone, covered in snow just now beginning to... evaporate?

"Magic," I heard Serena's voice say.

With a smile, I dialed my best friend's number.

"Merry Christmas!" he yelled into the receiver.

"Bah humbug!" I replied with a laugh.

"Well, if it isn't Mr. Scrooge."

"And you'll be Tiny Tim pretty soon."

"Is that a threat?"

"Perhaps. So what's going on?"

"Oh, Rita, my parents and some friends are playing Monopoly."

I was close... "Ooh, fun."

"Ya wishing you had come?"

"Nope! Actually, I had a very full Christmas."

"Reading books and staring at the TV do not qualify as making a Christmas 'full'."

"For your information, I joined Serena's family."

There was a silence. Then, "You did WHAT?!"

"Well, I went over to her house to give her a gift, and they invited me to stay. I just got back a little over an hour ago."

"Yes! You go Darien! I knew you could do it! See, I TOLD you that she liked you! So... did you kiss her? Ask her out? When's the first date? Got a ring on her finger yet?"

"Hold it! No, I didn't do any of that... except..."

"Except..."

"Well, we did kiss under mistletoe... but it was her mom's idea."

"Hey, a kiss is a kiss is a kiss..."

"If you say so."

"So... did you like it?"

"How could I NOT? This is Serena, here. My lovely, caring, gorgeous Meatball Head! OF COURSE I liked it!"

He laughed. "Yeah, well, there ya go. So... when are you going to take it to the next step?"

"Huh?"

"Ask her out. You're gonna have to do it sooner or later. Or at least put the moves on her, ya know? Next time you see her, just say whatever comes to mind. Make her yours for keeps, ya know? And go after her soon, before she gets swept up by another lucky guy. You'd never forgive yourself for that. Trust me, the sooner you grab her, the better. I should know..."

I could almost SEE him wink over at Rita. "Yeah, I guess you're ri..."

"NO WAY!"

"Huh? What? What is it?"

"Dude, look outside!"

A little warily, I pulled back the sheers of my window. Small white snowflakes were flowing lightly to the ground and already beginning to stick. As I watched, they began to fall harder and faster, creating a whirlwind of silver and white.

"Oh my..." was all I could say.

Memories seemed to flood in as the phone was forgotten in my palm.

"Every time it snows, we have to get together to play!"

"I bet she'll be just as crazy for you before New Year's!"

"I'm sure Serena would enjoy your company."

"Can you believe how much it snowed last night? I was out playing all this morning!"

"We might bump into a certain Meatball Head..."

"Snowball Tag. You're It."

"I wonder if it's still snowing out there now."

"You mean... no white Christmas?"

"No matter what happens, this is still the best Christmas EVER!"

"Can you believe we might actually have a WHITE Christmas this year? I've never seen one before."

"And go after her soon, before she gets swept up by another lucky guy. You'd never forgive yourself for that."

"Every time it snows, we have to get together to play!"

"EVERY time?"

"Yup, every time. Whatcha say?"

"Look, Andrew, I have to go!"

"Huh? What are you..." Click.

I threw on my jacket and headed outside.

Serena

"No way, Kevin Richardson is MUCH cuter than Nick Carter!" said Mina.

"I'm telling you, Nick is the best!" replied Lita.

"I would have to agree with Mina," said Raye.

"No, Nick, definitely."

"AJ's not bad..." said Mina. "Howie either, but Kevin is still way hot! Tall, dark, and handsome..."

"Excuse me," said a small voice. They all turned to Amy. "Brian is the best."

And the argument was back on track.

"Let's ask Serena. Serena, what do you think? Serena? Serena?!"

"Huh? Oh, I'm sorry, what were we talking about?"

They all sighed and shook their heads. "Why did you have to give her that picture, Lita? Now she'll never pay attention to us!"

I simply smiled and returned my focus to the small picture in my palms. He is so cute, so handsome, in every way...

"Hey Serena!"

"Sammy, get out of my room! Ever heard of knocking?!"

"Well, sorry! I just wanted to tell you it's snowing!" And he disappeared into the hallway. Wait a minute...

"SNOWING?!"

I hopped off of my bed and ran to my window, throwing back the curtains. Sure enough, white flakes were drifting down and clinging to the cold ground. Treetops were already glistening and driveways and rooftops alike were being turned invisible in the oncoming drifts. Already, there was a good inch on the ground.

"Oh my..."

"Every time it snows, we have to get together to play!"

"I'm sorry Serena. I know you really wanted a white Christmas..." "Just be yourself and you will have him eating out of your hand by New Year's!"

"Right now, being your friend, knowing that you don't hate me, is plenty."

"Chase after him with every ounce of strength you've got.

"My beautiful Meatball Head, such a big, innocent heart..."

"Ya know, Meatball Head, we should probably stop running into each other like this. People are gonna start to wonder."

"Don't let a perfectly good opportunity pass you by. That's one of the biggest mistakes you could ever make and something you would regret for the rest of your life."

"Every time it snows, we have to get together to play!"

"EVERY time?"

"Yup, every time. Whatcha say?"

"Guys, I have to go..."

"Huh? Serena, where are you going?" I heard Raye call, but I was already half way down the stairs. I paused long enough to grab my coat and slip on some boots, and I was on my way.

Darien

My arms were numb and I could barely see 10 feet in front of me, but I kept going. I'm probably insane. Yeah, I'm sure of it. I have gone completely bonkers. I am now a wacko. But I don't care. I want to see my Meatball Head. Even if I do have to trudge 12 blocks in the freezing snow. Actually, I'm pretty lucky though. There's no wind and no ice. Just the soft feathery flakes dancing all around me. I must have been walking for, oh, probably only about 10 minutes, though it seemed like an hour. Then, I could have sworn I saw an angel in front of me.

She was walking briskly, but stopped when she saw me. I saw a pair of boots on her shapely, BARE legs. Underneath a blue jacket that she had wrapped tightly around her I could barely see the cuffs of pink boxers and the neckline of a white T-shirt. She had two long streams of golden hair flowing to her ankles and I could see two beautiful blue eyes looking at me through the storm. Am I hallucinating?

She was just standing there, looking at me with shock. Neither of us dared to move.

"Me... Meatball Head?" I asked uncertainly. What is she doing out here? Is she crazy? She's gonna catch a cold dressed like that! After I had spoken, her features lit up like the morning. The next thing I knew, she was running toward me full speed. Before she could ram into me and knock both of us to the freezing pavement though, I put both my arms out and lifted her into the air, twirling her around like a cheep 1950's movie. You know the ones, where the girl comes running down the street into his willing arms and he picks her up, light as a feather, and turns around like a helicopter? Well, that is exactly what this was like.

She laughed merrily, her eyes twinkling in the winter air.

Finally I stopped and pulled her close to me. She wrapped both legs around my waste and my arms engulfed her tightly.

Her face was just inches from mine and I found myself looking up at her slightly. She was smiling and I could see, and feel, her breath coming out in small clouds.

"Guess what!" she asked in a small voice. I smiled.

"What?"

"It's snowing!"

I smiled and pulled her closer to me. Her arms reached around my neck, more for closeness than for support.

"Good observation, Meatball Head. Now might I ask WHAT you are doing out here in THAT!"

She looked down at her apparel and blushed. "Well... I just... uh..."

I chuckled and kissed her softly to silence her. We were both at a loss of words for the moment.

Next time you see her, just say whatever comes to mind

"Did you know that this is my first REAL Christmas?" I asked.

She looked a little surprised at first, but then nodded.

"I hope it was a good one..."

"The best ever. You know why?"

"Uh-uh. Why?"

"Because we both got what we wanted. You got..."

"A white Christmas!"

I laughed. "And I got you."

She looked at me with a stunned expression. "Me?"

I nodded. "Yup. I got my beautiful, funny, unique, charming, caring, friendly, absolutely perfect Meatball Head."

She was silent for a little while before smiling. "You wanted ME for Christmas?"

"Serena, I have wanted you since the moment I laid eyes on you. I have wanted to talk to you and dance with you and kiss you. But I was always so afraid that you would laugh if ever I asked you out. I was so scared that you didn't feel anything but hatred for me. And then the other day when you came into the arcade singing, you started to talk to me like we were best friends and had known each other all our lives, even though you didn't even know who I was. That's when I realized that I couldn't keep up this game we had going on. I couldn't keep teasing you every time I saw you, because I knew that I was pushing you away and I didn't want that. And so I stopped. And now... here we are."

She looked as if she was about to cry. "Thank you..." she whispered.

I shook my head. "No, thank you. For your light, and your smile, and a real Christmas. Thank you for being YOU."

"Darien, can I ask you a question?"

"Anything."

"Do you... love me?"

I was stunned.

Slowly, I nodded my head. "I do love you... I love you, I want you, and I NEED you. I always have. When we used to always collide on the streets, it was like electricity for me. Just being near you. And if a day went by that I couldn't touch you or talk to you or see your smile... then it was automatically a bad day, like I didn't feel complete. But when I did see you, even if it was only for a moment, then anything that went wrong from then on out was pushed aside and didn't matter, no matter how bad it had been. You make me happy Serena. You fill my life, my entire being with this light and this feeling of love that I never knew existed. And so, yes, I do love you. With every ounce of strength I have, I love you. And not a day goes by that I don't think of you and know that I love you. And up until two days ago, I was sure it was all in vain. That you could never return my feelings. That I had ruined any chance with you long ago. But now I know that that's not true. Because you are so sweet and caring and would give anyone, even the jerk who always teases you a second chance. And I'm going to take it. And I am going to hold onto you with everything that I have, because as of right now, you ARE everything that I have. You were my one true Christmas present, that I have EVER gotten. And the ironic, and yet wonderful thing is, you are everything that I asked for. You are everything I wished to have for Christmas. To hold you and kiss you... and tell you these things. To tell you that I love you. Serena, my beautiful Meatball Head, I love you. I am IN love with you. Do you think that you could ever possibly love me back?"

Tears were streaming down both of her cheeks by now as she remained only a few inches from my face. With a small, weak smile, she said, "I love you back."

I smiled and kissed her, long and deep and full of passion and emotion. And she kissed me with equal amount of each. Finally, we pulled apart.

"Merry Christmas, Darien."

"Merry Christmas, Serena. Now... aren't you cold?"

She simply laughed and pulled herself closer to me.

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Remember: Jesus is the reason for the season!

God bless and happy holidays!