Title: Next Time Take the Stairs

Author: Alicia Blade

January 2005 ANs:

One of the few fics I can really consider almost pure comedy. This was so much fun to write! I hope it'll make you laugh and smile and swoon all at the same time!

Per request, A Million Kisses will be following this one. Sorry, but I needed something shorter this time around.

There will be three chapters. ) Enjoy!

Original (abridged) ANs:

This is ANOTHER first season romance... as well as my first sorry attempt at a 75 comedy, which I admit, probably isn't as funny as I would have liked it to be, but I'm sure you'll be satisfied anyway.

Thanx a million times over to Lady Starra, Edeet, Athena, Jessica, Patricia, and R-chan for the ideas you've all given me. Most creative people!!! And I love every one of them VERY much and hope the Lord will always bless them!!

God bless everyone!!

"God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever would believe in him would not perish but have everlasting life."
John 3:16

Next Time Take the Stairs: Chapter One
The Storm

She wrapped her arms tightly around her waist, staggering through the cold wind. Her blonde hair whipped around her body and her bangs clinged to her forehead, matted down by the pouring rain. She closed her eyes, but quickly opened them again for fear of colliding with something in the dark. The black clouds above offered no mercy as heavy drops fell unceasingly from the sky. She lashed at a few drops on her forehead with her sleeve. With a terrified sob, she urged her legs to run faster. She squealed as her foot splashed into a black, invisible puddle, sending mud and icy cold water over her already soaked legs and pleated skirt.

She let her other foot land, too late, in the ankle deep water, tears streaming down her pale cheeks. With a loud sob, she clutched at her shirt, imagining she had a warm coat to wrap around her shoulders. Taking a breath, she ordered herself to be brave. Gathering any willpower, she trudged out of the small ditch, running across a black street. Muddy water splashed onto her legs as she ran, though her bare calves had become numb a long time ago. Shuddering beneath a tree that offered little protection, she paused to catch her breath. More tears fled her eyes and this time she made no attempt to rid herself of them. Gasping for breath, she forced herself to continue on. Closing her eyes for a moment to gather anything left of her senses, she pushed herself forward.

Staggering down an empty sidewalk, she kept her head down, trying to ignore the biting cold or painful raindrops falling onto her. The only welcome thought to her... 'Home'.

She shuddered as a strong wind blasted at her, sending stinging, icy drops onto her skin. Her fists clenched until her knuckles were white. Her two locks of hair clang to her neck and arms, circling messily around her waist.

She bit her lip roughly, slamming her eyes shut. Opening them again, she could feel strength draining out of her. Fear gripped around her heart as she gulped and gritted her teeth together. She gasped for air, struggling to stay brave, to stay aware, to keep going. With shaky steps, she staggered ahead. Her eyes throbbed with tears and rain. Her cheeks burned and stung. Goose bumps covered her nearly frozen arms and legs. With her chest heaving in struggling breaths, she pushed herself one more step.

A flash of bright light above shook her to the core. The lightning was almost immediately followed by roaring thunder. She screamed and collapsed to the ground, all energy disintegrating into the surrounding storm.

She wrapped her arms around her as tight as possible, gathering fists full of cloth. Burying her face in her knees, she rocked back and forth on the cold pavement. "I hate storms. I hate storms," she chanted over and over as tears fell unchecked down her cheeks. Her frail body wracked with sobs and cries as she sat alone on the deserted sidewalk.


Darien gave up trying to keep the umbrella right side out and quickly folded it up.

'Whoever created these things could have at least TRIED to make them useful in windy weather!'

He stopped in his tracks as he noticed a small form huddled just to the side of the otherwise empty sidewalk. The petite body was shaking and over the roar of the storm he could hear loud whimpering. However, what caught his eye the most was a most peculiar hairstyle.

"Meatball Head?" he called over the blasting storm.

Darien gasped and staggered back at the sight that greeted him. Her usually bright, cheerful eyes were dull and lifeless, dripping with tears. The area around them was red and puffy from crying. Her lips quivered and her small shoulders shook with every gasp for breath.

For the first time in her life, Serena was happy to see Darien Chiba. She stared up at him for a moment, hope seeping into her mind. With her remaining strength, she launched herself toward him, tying her arms around his waist. Burying her face in his black shirt, she allowed her sobs to rack her body. Slowly, Darien found himself dropping the momentarily forgotten umbrella to the ground and wrapping his arms around the shaking girl. He held her close to him, his thoughts losing any rationality.

Finally, Serena clutched to the front of his green jacket. She looked up into his confused blue eyes with pleading in her own.

"Please... Darien... get me out of here. Please get me out of here... I can't... Darien..." she sobbed loudly, before her knees gave way and she slid down his body. Darien quickly wrapped his arms tighter around her, keeping her from falling to the pavement. It took him awhile to understand what she had said.

"Get you out of here? The storm?" With one arm still supporting her around the waist, he took off his jacket and slid it over her shoulders. She made no objection, but continued to cry into his shirt. Her legs no longer kept her standing.

Stooping down, Darien scooped her into his arms. Her head fell against his chest, tears soaking into his shirt, mixing with the salty rainwater. He held her carefully, as you would a china doll, and began making his way to his apartment building.


There wasn't any more rain pounding on her face. The brutal wind had gone. The sense of unknown danger disintegrated. But, strangest of all, Serena felt an incredible warmth and protection encompassing her. Slowly opening her eyes, she looked up to see Darien looking down on her worriedly. She was still held in his arms, his jacket, though wet, was still keeping her warm.

"Where are we?" she whispered. Darien smiled slightly.

"The lobby of my apartment," he said simply.

"Oh..." Slowly, Darien sat her back down on her feet, though his body screamed at him not to. Honestly, he was rather enjoying her needing him... her wanting his protection.

She stood shakily on the dark blue oriental carpet, her hands still tied around his neck. She dreaded releasing them. Looking down to the floor, she nervously released her arms from around his shoulders, sliding her hands down to lightly rest on his chest, though her fingers barely touched the wet black material.

"I... um... th...thank you..." she whispered finally. Darien smiled a little. 'Never thought I'd hear her say that,' he mused silently.

"No problem Meatball Head," he joked, attempting to lighten the mood. She lifted her eyelids, glaring at him subtly, though with a strange good natured-ness.

"Because you're being so nice... I'm gonna let that one slide."

He smiled crookedly. "Come on, let's get you upstairs for some hot chocolate."

Her face lightened instantly. "YUM!" she squealed, provoking a soft chuckle from Darien. He turned her around, hitting the up button next to the elevator doors. The two metal doors opened instantly and they walked into the empty elevator.

Serena watched a tad uncomfortably as the doors closed behind them. Darien hit the small button labeled '12' and she could feel the elevator begin to rise beneath them. Her eyes casually moved over to Darien. He was soaked, and the lack of his jacket didn't help. She smiled slightly, pulling the green coat tighter around her.

'It smells like him,' she thought dazedly. 'Wait... since when do I know what he smells like?' She shook her head and looked away.

"D...Darien?" she whispered quietly, nervously. He looked over at her, standing about four feet away from him, almost as if she was afraid to come closer.


"Why are you being so nice to me, anyway?"

He glanced at her a bit stunned before turning away. His mind searched for a logical explanation... but he came to the conclusion he wasn't even sure why he was being so... gentlemanly.

He laughed a little, turning back to her. She was staring at him confused and maybe even a little hopeful. He smiled down at her. "Let's just say I have a thing for damsels in distress."

She cracked a smile, almost unwillingly. "Well, you make a great knight in shining armor!" They both laughed, feeling the relief that this wasn't THAT awkward. After the small chuckling and giggling had died down, Serena wrung her wrists nervously. Taking a few steps toward him, she looked up at him, honesty thriving in her blue eyes, just now regaining some life to them. "But...Darien...I really do appreciate this... I mean... I... I was so scared and... and..."

He was just about to wrap an arm around her to keep away the tears from falling when everything stopped. Just... stopped. The small elevator went completely black and Darien felt the engine come to a roaring halt. Serena screamed loudly and launched herself into his arms, screaming and squealing.


He clamped a hand over her mouth, preferring to keep his hearing for a little longer. With his other arm, he pulled her as close to him as possible, molding their bodies together.

"It's alright Serena. Just calm down... Everything will be fine..." he whispered comfortingly. He removed his hand from her mouth to wrap it around her shaking body. Her arms clutched around his broad shoulders, as if she were literally terrified to let go of him. Darien looked around, trying to see any sign of light or movement. He found nothing. Serena was crying into his shirt and he could hear her sobs echoing in the now silent elevator.

Darien stroked a hand through her hair before holding her head in place on his chest, with an incredible gentleness. He knew he must stay assured... for Serena.

Slowly, her cries and whimpers subsided. Their eyes could find no light or movement. Serena slammed her eyes shut and buried her head in the material of Darien's shirt. 'No more darkness... No more darkness...'

Darien continued to whisper into her ear softly, bringing the fear down a little. Finally, he pulled away from her just enough to reach into his pocket. He immediately found his keys.

"Darien?" Serena asked in a tiny, frail voice.

"Don't worry Serena, I'm going to get us some light, okay?" With a click, a small beam of light entered the black elevator from his mini flashlight key chain.

Serena squealed with delight. Reaching out a hand, she instantly plucked it from Darien's fingers... and dropped it quickly to the floor. The small beam disappeared with a clatter and Serena screamed yet again. Darien rolled his eyes, but quickly pulled Serena back to his arms to comfort the scared girl. 'There goes that idea.'

"Oh, I'm so sorry, Darien! I just got so excited and I... and now we have no light in here and..."

"It's okay Meatball Head, don't worry about it. Here... I'll just... look around for it a little and..."

"Good idea!" Darien felt her slip from his grip as she dropped to her knees in search for the missing flashlight. He chuckled quietly and followed her example, exploring the carpeted floor. There was a still silence for a few minutes as they shuffled around in attempt to find the elusive flashlight.

"OW!" they echoed. Darien and Serena jumped back, rubbing their foreheads where they had clashed with each other.

"Oops..." said Serena.


Darien began chuckling lightly. Serena smiled, though the complete blackness still shook her to the bones. Steadily, Darien reached out a hand and easily found her small form in front of him. He cupped her chin and leaned forward, kissing her forehead gently. Serena gasped and trembled a little at the intimate touch. But then it was gone.

Darien could feel a blush creep into his cheeks. 'What did you do that for?!' he scolded himself.

He didn't know why, or even how, he'd kissed her small wound like that. It just... happened... like he was drawn to do it... and had no choice...

He cleared his throat nervously and stood up, scurrying away to put a few more feet between them, for fear of repeat performance.

Serena felt a lack as he moved away from her, though she couldn't understand why. But what appeared even more odd was that the small hurt on her forehead had disappeared the second his lips had brushed her skin. She closed her eyes, trying to force these thoughts out of her head.

Their contemplation was cut short by THE most annoying music they had ever heard filling the small, dark elevator. Yes, the emergency elevator music system had commenced. Serena shrieked loudly. "NO!! Not this!! Anything but elevator music!!! This can't be happening to me!!!"

Darien covered his ears. Between Serena's wailing and the awful, supposedly upbeat music, he wouldn't be surprised if he turned out to be deaf by the time he got out of this place.

Soon, bright florescent lights flooded the elevator as well and they both turned their eyes away to avoid the blinding light.

After they had adjusted, Serena looked up at Darien, and then, without warning, jumped full speed into his arms. He froze, stunned at first, but slowly tied his arms around her.

"Light! No more darkness! I hate the dark! And I can see again! I'd rather be deaf than hear anymore of that music, but at least I CAN see! And now we can go have that hot chocolate and..."

Darien scrunched his brow, no longer paying attention to her mindless chatter. No, he had more important things to think about. Like... why wasn't the elevator moving yet?

"Darien? Darien, what is it?"

He looked down at her joyous face and felt a pang of guilt in his heart. "Serena... it's great that we can see again but... we're still not moving," he stated slowly.

Realization dawned on her face and she cautiously backed out of his arms, much to his dismay. She looked around, as if to check for herself, and her face and heart dropped. "Oh no..." she whispered. She wrapped her arms around her waist, teetering from foot to foot. "Darien... why...?"

He shook his head. "I don't know Serena. They're probably just having technical problems because of the storm, that's all. I'm sure they'll have everything up and running any minute now."

He reached out for her, but she jumped away, surprising him. "Serena, everything will be fine." He took a step toward her, but again she stepped back. "Serena, what? What did I do?!" he asked, agitation now becoming clear in mind and voice. He didn't understand why, but all he seemed to be able to think about was holding her near him again. And this cat and mouse game was already getting old.

"Stay away from me," she said coldly. Darien opened his eyes wide in shock. Her eyes were turned down to the floor, her arms, shivering beneath the oversized green jacket, still wrapped in front of her like a shield.

"Excuse me?" he said curiously.

"This is all your fault!" she stated seriously. Darien raised an eyebrow. Habit kicked in and he immediately switched to defensive mode.

"And HOW is this MY fault?!"

"You dragged me here to your stupid apartment! If it weren't for you I'd be home right now, and warm! And SAFE!"

"No, if it weren't for me you'd be frozen half to death on the sidewalk! It's not MY fault you're afraid of a bit of rain!"

Her jaw clenched. Glaring up at him, tears threatening to soak her now dry skin, she leaned her back against the wall. "Well maybe it would have been better if you hadn't shown up. Being half dead would definitely be welcome compared to being stuck in an elevator with YOU."

Looking away, she slid down the wall, burying her head in her knees once more.

"I'll remember that next time I see you stranded in the rain then," he shot back cruelly, now leaning his back against the wall as well, staring off to the corner of the small elevator. The only sound was the continuously repetitive music.

His blood was boiling with anger. 'I try to do something for the little ditz and THIS is what I get?! She could at least be a little grateful! I could have just as easily left her on the freezing wet street! See if I ever do anything nice for..."

Darien's thoughts were cut short by a small whimper coming from the crouched form on the far wall.

Almost unwillingly, Darien looked down at her. She hadn't moved, though her slim shoulders trembled with hidden tears. She was trying to hide the fact she was crying again, to no avail. Darien could hear her sniffle and swipe a sleeve across her nose, before returning to her still position.

And the walls of anger cracked and fell in a fraction of an instant.

His shoulders sagged and his pride turned to bitter remorse and sympathy. Sighing, and looking up at the corner one last time, as if bidding farewell to stubbornness, Darien strolled slowly and silently over to the shaking girl. He slid down the wall next to her. She ignored him. However, once he reached out a hand to touch her arm, she yanked away from it forcefully, turning her head away.

Darien gulped before wrapping his arm, rather possessively, around her shoulders. She continued to ignore him.

"I'm sorry," he whispered. She said nothing, but sniffled and wiped at her tears with a sleeve yet again. "I didn't mean it Serena... I just... I'm sorry..."

She sobbed a few times, her shoulders shaking a bit more. Then, without warning, she turned and buried herself in his welcoming arms. He smiled as he pulled her close, seemingly drifting off in the warmth that came as he held her. He rocked back and forth a little, as if she were a young child, until her sobs had quieted.

He heard her whisper through her sniffles, "I just wanted to be home. I just... wanted to get out of the storm and... and..."

"Shh... I know... I know Serena... I'm sorry..."

There was a silence as Serena snuggled in his strong embrace. Finally, she whispered, "Don't be sorry. You didn't do anything. You're right... if it weren't for you, I'd still be out in that awful storm, freezing half to death and..."

"But you wouldn't be stuck here with the one guy you can't stand," Darien replied with a bitterness in his voice. He looked away as Serena turned her blue eyes up to him.

"Darien... that's not true..."

He sighed, smiling down at her softly. "Yeah, Serena, it is. I know you hate me, and I don't blame you. After everything I've said and done to you... and this is just the icing on the cake. You were terrified as it is. And now... you're stuck in an elevator and..."

"But I'm not terrified anymore."

Darien raised an eyebrow. She blushed slightly and tried to hide further in his arms.

"I was scared, because of the storm and everything but... I don't know... because you're here with me, I'm not as scared anymore," she whispered uncertainly.

Darien smiled slightly. Resting his head on hers, he closed his eyes and squeezed her gently. "I'm glad."

"Hey Darien!"


"Look what I found!"

He opened his eyes as she pulled something from beneath her. A chuckle escaped his lips as he noticed the small flashlight attached to his key chain.


Andrew walked quickly through the dark rain, his coat hood pulled tightly over his head.

"Of all the days Darien chooses to leave his wallet at the arcade," he muttered. Finally, he saw Darien's apartment building come into view. He picked up his pace and jogged quickly through the pounding storm.

He entered the lobby and immediately took off his jacket, shaking it out right outside the door. Taking a deep breath, he turned and was surprised at what he saw.

Two men in bright orange construction jackets stood directly outside the elevator, one talking on a walkie-talkie, the other on a head set. Raising an eyebrow, he walked over to them slowly. "Um... what's going on here?" he asked cautiously.

The one on the walkie-talkie turned to him slightly. "The elevator has stopped working because of the storm. We think there might be someone in one. It would be best if you could use the stairs," he said vaguely, before turning back to whatever he had been doing.

"Stairs?! You've got to be kidding! Darien lives on the twelfth floor! There's no way I'm gonna trudge up all those! Sir, how long do you think it'll be?"

The man looked back agitatedly. "Look, we don't have time for this. We're working as hard as we can to get this running again, but so far all we've been able to do was switch the lights. It's weird... almost like something's making it so we CAN'T get it working."

"And what does THAT mean? What, you think DESTINY has made it so this thing won't work? You guys are crazy!"

"Like I said, we're doing everything we can. Now please back away and give us a bit of space to work here!" With that, the man turned back and opened a panel with a screwdriver and began testing wires again and again.

Andrew rolled his eyes and sighed. "Great! Just great! I come all the way here through the storm of the century, and the elevator is broken! Wonderful!" He stomped over to the other side of the lobby and collapsed into a chair.

"Darien might need his wallet. I suppose I could call up to him and tell him I'm here. Maybe he'll meet me half way or something... Or come down and we can go get a cup of coffee. The elevator's sure to be working once we get back."

Standing up, he walked casually over to the desk in the lobby. No one was working there, which seemed strange, since usually there was always someone back there filing papers or organizing mail.

Shrugging, he turned the phone around to face him and began dialing Darien's number. "I wonder if you have to push anything weird to call people in the building."

He was relieved to hear ringing on the other end of the phone.





"Hi, this is Darien."

"Hey Darien! Look, I have your..."

"Actually, I'm not home right now. Leave a message." BEEP.

He rolled his eyes and hung up the phone. "I hate that recording," he muttered. Turning around, he saw that the two men were still working on something or other. "Now... if Darien's not home... where on Earth could he be? He wouldn't be wandering around in this weather... and he doesn't work, so..."

And then, something clicked. "Wait... could Darien be... stuck in the elevator?!" He burst out laughing at the thought, annoying the man with the walkie-talkie. After he caught his breath, he walked over to the men again. "Excuse me... but is there anyway we can talk to whoever is in there?" he asked.

"We're working on that right now, sir."

The man with the headphone connected two wires together. Static was heard over a small speaker just above the elevator. "Hello, is anyone up there? Can you hear me?"


Darien and Serena looked up from their huddled position on the floor at the sound of the voice.

"Darien? What was that?" asked Serena with a shaky voice. He stood up slowly, leaving her curled up on the floor.

"Hello?" he asked suspiciously.

"Darien?!" screamed a voice.

"Sir, you have to back up a little, we're trying to..."

"Andrew?" Darien asked.

"Andrew?" repeated Serena.

"Serena?" they heard over the small speaker Darien had just realized the voice was coming from. There was a silence as Andrew seemingly struggled to get closer to the intercom back in the lobby, despite the engineers' protests.

Finally, they heard him speaking again. "Wait a minute... you and... YOU are stuck in an elevator together?! Oh, that's sweet! Ha, I never thought I'd see the day. So, have you killed each other yet? I bet you are totally at each other's throats, huh?" he blabbered.

Darien rolled his eyes and Serena giggled a little. Then they heard Andrew become a bit more serious.

"But... wait... Why is Serena at you apartment anyway?"

Darien cleared his throat a little nervously. "Well, you see..."

"You guys are an item, aren't you?"

"WHAT?!" they both screeched.

"No wonder you're always bickering! I thought there was more to you two than what met the eye. Oh, Darien, I am so happy for you! You guys really are perfect for each other, you know?"

"Andrew, shut up."

There was a silence as Andrew debated whether or not to be quiet. This WAS a once in a lifetime opportunity, after all.

"Darien, it's okay, Dude. You guys don't have to hide your feelings anymore. But... I'm the best man, right? I'd better at least be invited to the wedding. Oh yeah, and I wanna be the godfather of at least the first born, okay? Maybe you could name it after me, I'd really appreciate that. No, you probably want a Darien Jr. doncha? Or if it's a girl you could name her Serena... and for a middle name, how about Meatball Head? That'd be cute. You know, for the main course at the reception, it should definitely be spaghetti and meatballs, it would be SO meaningful for you two and..."


Andrew backed away from the speaker as a loud crash and then static resumed. "Hmm... he's gonna be really mad when he gets out of there."

Serena laughed uncontrollably as Darien leaned back against the wall after slamming a fist into the small speaker. "Well, we won't be haring from HIM in awhile. And listen! No more elevator music! I should have done that awhile ago."

She giggled some more in agreement.

Stay tuned for chapter two. Many more giggles to come!