One-shot. Standard Disclaimer applies.

Sticks and Stones
By: Luna


"Let's go, boy's!" A warm, gently loving voice rang through the airy house. Thunder seemed to pound throughout the house as the men of her life ran down the stairs, and she watched as her husband kept careful eyes on their son in case he fell. He would never admit that to their son though; he was too proud a boy and would not want his parents concern.

Bright blue eyes, filled with love and excitement, looked to his mother and smiled widely. "You said that we could go wherever I want to, right mom?"

She ruffled the black hair atop his head, laughing, and he smelt the faint scent of her perfume. "Hm. We did promise, didn't we? After all, it's not everyday a boy has a birthday, now is it?"

The father laughed, reaching out to give a friendly shove on his sons shoulder in the direction of the front door. "Well, get a move on, boy! The cliffs will wait for you, but the sun sure won't."

Once they gathered together in the car, they quickly pulled out of the driveway and headed towards the cliffs, an isolated spot where only teenagers go to after dark. The boy loved it there. It was quiet, it was secluded, and the grassy spot allowed you to relax to the sounds of the waves hitting the rocks below again, and again, and again.

Sadly, the family didn't make it all the way. The boy looked out of the front windshield, saw a dog or a coyote standing in the middle of the road, and felt his body jerk when his dad swerved the car out of the way. But the railing on the side of the road wasn't there. The metal braces that Dad had said protected cars from going over the edge of cliffs when people drove at night weren't there, and he felt the slight sickening sensation of free fall as the flew over the edge of the road, and he saw the frightening sight of rocks getting closer, and closer, and closer...

When he awoke, he remembered nothing.

He didn't know why he looked around the room for two bodies he didn't know the identity of; he didn't realize why he was sniffing the air for a telltale smell of perfume he didn't recognize, and he didn't know why it felt as if something were missing, as if a huge part of his heart was suddenly ripped open and left gaping.

The door opened and a man in a long white jacket walked in with a brown clipboard. He scared the boy, but he didn't show it. "Darien Chiba. This is a hard time for you, I realize. But the best way to explain a situation, I find, is to explain it bluntly. You have recently gotten in a car accident, and I'm afraid your parents didn't make it..." The man droned on some more, but the boy didn't really pay much attention to him because the words the man spoke held no meaning to him yet, having only one stray thought running through his head.

Darien. My name is Darien. I wonder why I didn't know that before...

Laughing gaily, Serena, unable to resist, started running the rest of the way to the after-school hangout, Crown Arcade. She got a B+ on her math test. A B! Highest she ever got on a test was a fifty-two. Even her teacher had a speck of pride in her voice when she pulled Serena from the hallway and personally congratulated her on the improvement. Though, it hadn't gotten her out of detention for falling asleep in class, it sure managed to cheer her up a great deal. Hmm, maybe Andy, the arcade guy, will make her a free chocolate shake! It was a long shot, but one could always hope. With that thought in mind, her smile grew ever-so dazzling, and she ran even harder to her destination.

Humming along with the little jingle the automatic doors made when they slid effortlessly open, she sailed through. Andrew would love to give her a free milkshake. What were best friends for, right? But as she caught sight of a certain dark storm cloud, her own little cloud of happiness dimmed a bit. It was Darien. Darien, the one who did nothing but beat on her self-esteem and rarely ever said anything nice to her, and the man she foolishly felt she was in love with. She thought it must be something in his midnight blue eyes; something only she could see underneath that hard, cold exterior.

Or maybe she was just stupid and crazy.

Shaking her head, she rearranged her smile and brushed invisible lint from her clothes, and moved forward with shaky courage. She parked herself right next to Darien's booth seat, ignoring the way he seemed not to even know she existed. She drew in a deep breath as she smiled at the man behind the counter. "Hey, Andrew..." She cooed slyly. "You love me, don't you?"

Andrew was the only one who knew her feelings for Darien, so the easy teasing they shared were spoken with no hidden feelings of flirtation. He laughed. "Depends on what you want and how much you're willing to pay."

Darien, if possible, drew his cloud of lonerism closer to him, narrowed his eyes, and tightened his lips as his hand tightened around the mug of his coffee. He listened to her lyrical voice, anger welling in him as he imagined stars in her eyes while she gazed at his best friend. Has she ever looked at him like that? No. More like the spawn of Satan every time he opened his mouth. His teeth ground together as he forced himself not to look at her.

"Well, I got a B, you see, on my math test. The highest grade I ever got! Don't you think I deserve a little reward?" She laughed, proudly slapping the test paper on the counter. "I was hoping maybe you could hook me up with a free milkshake. You know, 'cuz I did so good."

With a near silent growl, Darien slapped some bills on the table as he stood abruptly. "Big deal."

He stalked out of the arcade, missing the flash of pain that streaked across Serena's face. Andrew patted her hand in sympathy, angry with his friend for his careless words and stupidity. "Hey," His voice was gentle. "How 'bout I make that a triple chocolate shake, whip cream and cherries in all."

Serena forced a cheerful smile to her face. "I get double cherries, right?

She never did finish her shake. She lied and said her mother was waiting for her. But Andrew knew she was lying. He always knew, it seemed. Taking a detour on the way home, she planned to walk through the park that faced Tokyo bay, when she saw him. He was leaning his elbows up against the railing that guarded pedestrians from falling down the cliffs. Even in that large expanse of space along the railing, Darien's sheer size seemed to dominate the area. The air was salty, and the cool breeze picked up the short strands of his black hair with ease. He wasn't smiling. He never seemed to smile much anymore.

She moved towards him, even knowing she risked getting hurt again, and smiled warmly when he flicked his eyes to her, then back at the sea. "It's a nice day today, isn't it? Not too warm, but not too cold either. What do you think?"

"What do you care?" He watched from the corner of his eyes as she reverted her eyes from him and pulled a long strand of blond hair from her face, only to have the wind blow it right back. She sighed.

She tried to smile, but knew it wasn't a very cheerful one. "Mom should be proud of my grade today. She's been so disappointed in me lately..." At this, Serena grew silent, leaning towards the railing and mimicking Darien's stance in facing the sea.

She shivered, and in the next instant she felt something heavy fall on her shoulders, and she looked down, surprised to find Darien's heavy leather jacket. She looked over to him and eyed the gray turtleneck he was wearing, and deemed him warm enough so she wouldn't feel obligated to give it back. Still eyeing him, she let herself admire his physique only a moment before looking away. "Sooo... what has made you so grumpy today?"

He raised a perfectly arched raven brow at her. "I give you my jacket to wear and you call me grumpy?"

She made an impatient gesture with her hands, getting a little fed up at his sidestepping. "I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about earlier today in the arcade. Did something happen? Are you okay?"

He straightened suddenly, his back stiff as he glared down at her. "You barely even know me. How do you know if I'm 'grumpy' or if this is how I am? Please, you don't know anything about me."

She didn't, he thought, and ached with the knowledge. It's not as if he meant to act the way he did, but whenever this particular day came around, a feeling would overtake him and often times he found himself hating everything, even his own company. It didn't help that the same hateful demon inside him would roar to life every time he saw her stare at his best friend with such open affection, while she stared at him with a guarded look to her eyes and a fake smile.

He hated that, and sometimes even hated her when she did it.

He had once thought, when he had first met her, that teasing was enough. She was five years younger than he was, and he had thought provoking her and watching her childish displays of temper would somehow appease him. It hadn't. And lately, as he watched her more and more, he could no longer force himself to pretend. He couldn't pretend that he didn't mind that she openly cared for Andrew. He couldn't pretend that he didn't mind that teasing was all that was between them.

And he couldn't pretend ant longer that he didn't love her when he did, but he also couldn't pretend that the age difference between them was nothing.

The more he thought of it, the angrier he became, and as the jealousy pricked at his heart with poisoned needles, he hated himself for feeling this way towards Andrew, the only true friend he could ever claim to have. He looked to her now, his eyes taking in her delicate loveliness, then looked away. "What are you still doing here?"

Her voice was strained. "I just wanted to know how you were. We're friends, after all."

Slowly, as if not to confuse her, he said, "We are not friends. If we were friends, you wouldn't look at me as if you wished I wasn't there."

She gasped, and a strangled sound was heard from the back of her throat, and Darien wondered if he should feel sorry. But before he had any real time to really think of it, she turned on her heel and fled from him, his black jacket slipping from her shoulders and dropping to the ground at his feet.

"Now, now Serena, don't take what he says too hard. Darien is... Darien is like that. He doesn't really know how to express himself half the time." Andrew tried to console her, but it seemed she didn't want to listen.

"Why is he acting like this? Usually he just teases me and calls me names and acts like the usual bully to me. What has made him so cruel suddenly?" She cried, her throat constricting painfully.

Andrew was quiet for a moment, rubbing the seventeen-year-olds back while he sorted out what to say to her. "Well... you should know by now that Darien gets this way almost every year."

"No," She sniffled. "He usually disappears around this time."

Sighing, Andrew pulled Serena away from him to look her in the eye. "Serena... why Darien acts this way... I can't really tell you why. It's something that only he can tell you. All I can say is that when he was young, ten years or so, he was in a really bad accident, and it changed him. I can't really understand why it had affected him so, seeing as how he couldn't..." Remember.

She looked up at him with confused, watery eyes. "But why on this particular day?"

"Because," He spoke patiently. "The accident happened on this day."

Her gaze was solemn when she drew in her last sniffle and nodded. She looked down at her hands, wondering exactly what to do. Andrew sighed, "Tell you what, if you really want to see him, I'll give you the address to his apartment building, but that's only if you're sure. I don't want to see you crying again, Sere."

Smiling a little shakily, she nodded. "Thanks, Andy."

He ran a hand through his hair warily, and nodded. "Yeah, yeah. But don't go see him tonight. He's probably madder than a bull, and won't want to see anybody." Except me, Andrew thought. He was damn well going to see him tonight.

He waited until Serena was safely out the door of the arcade before he grabbed his jacket. Tossing the keys to his assistant manager. He headed out the door to knock some sense into his friend.

His apartment was dark when Andrew charged through, hells fury on his heels to the apartments sliding back doors that led to the balcony some fifteen stories up, stopping abruptly at the sight that he hadn't expected to see in million of years. Darien's flourishing rose garden surrounded him on the deck as he lounged back in a recliner he must have dragged out earlier. He had a snifter of brandy in one hand and a picture of Serena (God knows how he got that) in the other. A cigar was clenched in his teeth as he stared out over the lights of the city, his face a mask of granite.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" Andrew demanded angrily, charging forward. "Is this what you do every year? Man, Darien, I didn't even know you drank."

He watched his friend's lucid eyes slowly slide to his, gave a smirk, and then toasted him with his glass of brandy. Andrew was disgusted. "I don't know what's going on, but you better apologize to Serena by tomorrow, or by God, you'll no longer be my friend."

Darien's drunk eyes widened in surprise, but he didn't say or do anything but stare. Andrew wouldn't let himself apologize for his words, and he hoped that somewhere in his drunk mind Darien knew that Andrew was lying. Darien was a popular guy for his looks and charm, though God knows he never shows that side of himself to Serena.

But Andrew also knew that what Darien lacked in his popularity was friendship and sincerity. He didn't open up to anybody except Andrew, and only on rare occasions, and that made it near impossible for anybody to get know him enough to be able to call him a friend. Andrew wouldn't abandon his friend now. But Serena loved him! How could his friend miss something so vital? Serena was a very expressional girl, and her heart had to be in her eyes every time she stared at Darien.

Wasn't it?

Walking closer, Andrew slapped a white envelope on Darien's chest. "Serena wrote this when she came crying inside the arcade. I hope you have enough sense to read it."

When his back was turned to Darien on his way to the door, Andrew paused when he heard drunk, slightly slurred words at his back. "Leave, go ahead. I don't care what you do. It's not like I've ever had anybody to go to." His voice went matter-of-factly, and so utterly miserable that Andre nearly turned around to go to him. "I'm like a lone wolf. I'm always alone..."

"You're wrong, Darien." His words were softly spoken, and from the silence behind him, he knew his words were being heard. "I had been here. You could have gone to me."

Reaching inside a large inner pocket of his jacket, he pulled out a five-by-seven framed picture of him and Darien on an overnight camping trip. Both were sitting around a poorly made campfire and grinning up at the camera as they attempted to roast hotdogs on droopy sticks. It was Andrew's favorite picture of him and Darien, because throughout the years they had known each other, it was the only picture where Darien's eyes, if only momentarily, held no shadow's in them, and he seemed... happy. Or at least content.

Silently, he placed the framed picture on a bookshelf that was stationed against the wall near the balcony, momentarily fingering the red ribbon he had tied around it. Softly, he whispered. "Happy Birthday, Darien."

And when he left, he didn't look back.

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words could break my heart.

Without a word, Darien took the burning end of his cigar and held it up against the small scrap of paper, watching the ashes disappear into the night when he threw the slip over the balcony to be carried away by the wind.

Serena chewed the end of her pencil idly as she stared blankly at the equations that stared rather ruthless back at her. Here she was, a senior in high school, and she could barely past the basics of algebra. What was the point of it, anyhow? Hadn't Einstein once said that algebra was scientifically and mathematically incorrect? So what was the point of teaching it to students? She sighed, filing the thoughts to the back of her mind to be viewed at in a later date in time.

Her eyes strayed to the window beside her, and she once again found herself daydreaming. Had Darien read her note yet? What was his reaction? Did he even have a reaction? Would he even care about her feelings? His actions confused her. Before this week, he had never truly been such a pain to her. He teased her, true, but he had always stopped himself from being cruel.

And what was Andrew talking about? So he had an accident. She had heard that some people came out of crashes with the fear of driving in a car, but Darien drove around in a sleek Lamborghini, so she doubted he had that phobia. Then what? Maybe he came out of the crash alive, but he had some wicked scar or injury hidden underneath his clothes. Ah, probably not. Darien was the most arrogant and conceited man she knew, so if he had some ugly scar on him, she doubted he would be so willing to show off his lean body.

When the bell rang announcing class over, Serena roused herself from her daydream and gathered her supplies. Usually, she went directly to her locker and then took the back exit to her house or the arcade, but a classmate's gossip caught her attention, and she shamelessly eavesdropped.

"Did you see him? Did you see his car?" Rachel, Serena thought her name was, gushed in a not so hushed voice to her friend.

"Forget about the car!" Replied her companion. "I wanna talk about the man! What's a college guy doing at the high school? Oh, what a hottie!"

Hottie? Serena thought amusedly. What were they, freshmen? But she was curious. Heading towards the front exit, her eyes scanned the front gates before they landed on a bright red car, surprise widening her eyes to near saucers. He was wearing the usual colors of gray that he always wore, with loose fitting black jeans that were snug around the waist.

Dark shades covered his eyes, and he was leaning against the car with his muscled arms folded over his chest and his head bowed slightly to the ground. Even from the distance, she knew his body was tense and as tightly coiled as a spring. He looked as if he were a wary member of some gang; alert and watchful. Many students were staring at his profile warily, while others carefully avoided looking at him all together as they skirted around his car on their way home. Others just blatantly stared.

This just wouldn't do, Serena thought with amusement. Thinking – hoping, that he was there to see her, she straightened her shoulders and held her head high as she marched directly to him until she was a mere foot apart. He lifted his head then, and she watched his lips tighten before jerking his head towards the passenger door of his car. She was aware of all the stares her classmates were giving her, but her eyes were only on Darien, and slowly she opened the car door and slipped inside, watching through the windshield as Darien walked to the other side of the car and got in, purring the Lamborghini to life.

Not once did she think she was in danger. She wondered if she should, but it was too late for that, seeing as how she was already in the car and speeding with Darien down the busy streets of the city. Since it was most likely expected of her, she asked, "Where are we going?"

"My place." His voice was clipped, and he didn't leave an opening for more conversation, so she didn't speak again. She wondered what his place looked like. Closing her eyes, she sighed and leaned back in the dark leather seats.

Looking over at him, she decided she couldn't stand the silence anymore. "Where did you get this car?"

"A dealership."

She gritted her teeth together and prayed for courage, her tender patience for the brusque man she loved wearing thin. "I mean," She said slowly. "Where did you get the money?"

She watched as he took off his sunglasses and hooked them on his shirt. He shot a quick, amused glance at her and her heart fluttered when a fleeting smile graced his lips. "Out of thin air. Didn't you know? The whole five finger discount doesn't apply only to shopping centers."

At her expression, he laughed, the sound low and husky as if he hadn't done it in quite some time. She knew it to be true. "I'm just kidding. My parents left me inheritance when they died, and hard work had a lot with paying it off, too."

She stuck out her lower lip in a pout, hoping that his dark mood had passed and he'd turn into the teasing Darien he had been before this week had started. "You are so-o-o-o inconceivable."

"Never complained before." Her heart lightened at his quirky grin, and she was quick to catch on to his lightness.

"Oh, yes I did. You just haven't cleaned your ears out in a while and couldn't hear me. And even if you did hear me, your head's too thick!"

"What does having a thick head have anything to do with it? Not saying I have a thick head, that is." He seemed to be thoroughly enjoying himself at her expense. She decided to let him, glad that he was at least smiling at her instead of glaring.

"It—it—why—uh, oh shut up! It just does! It shortens your ability to understand the words that are being spoken to you." Her face was colored, but Darien didn't think it was because of embarrassment.

"I'm sure it does. And with grades like yours, I'm sure you're very correct in your assumptions." When the other end of the conversation went silent suddenly, he glanced over and her dark glare was targeted at him.

"That was a low blow, Darien."

He didn't have anything to say to that, so he kept quiet until they reached his apartment. He'd be more comfortable on his own turf. He hoped she would listen when he attempted to tell her about his past. Who knows? She might even be able to understand why he can't talk or be "friends" with her anymore.

She hadn't known what to expect of Darien's apartment, but this certainly wasn't it. It was... dead. Sterile, but definitely dead. It was, no doubt, a bachelor's pad, draped in the dark colors of forest green and indigo blue, an expensive stereo system stationed in one corner, and a massive TV and entertainment center in another. Black leather couches and loveseats were facing the TV and lined the walls.

There were a few plants that were stationed around the room, but they did nothing to soften the appearance of the place. When she looked to the kitchen, she was met again with the impression of absolute cleanliness. There were no paintings, no pictures. Nothing to give the impression that he lived in a home instead of a place.

He had said his parents had died, but wouldn't he want to keep pictures of them to keep their memories alive? Serena knew that if her parents had died, she'd want to keep as many pieces of them with her. The question popped out before she could contain it. "Don't you have pictures of you're parents?"

"No." His voice was tight. "They don't mean anything to me."

She turned around and stared at him for a moment. Didn't mean anything to him? Why ever not? Parents were a child's anchor in life. Were his parents not there for him to give him a home and family? But if they hadn't cared about him, why leave him inheritance at all? They had to mean something to him. If they didn't, he wouldn't feel as strongly about them.

She wanted to ask him questions. She wanted to sit here patiently and peel back the brittle layers of his many defenses and discover what lay underneath. But she would have to wait. She was here because he was about to tell her something, and it must be important enough to make him feel as if he had to pick her up at school.

"So... are you... going to tell me something?" She sat gingerly on the edge of a black loveseat, her fingers twisting in the material of her skirt as she tried not to stare at him.

He was silent, but for only a moment as he raked a hand through his hair and blew out a sigh. "Hell. I don't know why I brought you here. But Andrew..." He cleared his throat and sat across from her on the opposite facing couch. "Ah, I read your note. And I... wanted to apologize for any rude behavior I had shown towards you these past few days." He spoke haltingly, as if apologizing to her was one of the hardest things he could force past his lips.

Serena stared down at her hands, making an effort to unclench her fingers. "I guess I can accept your apology." Darien blew out a breath of relief, but tensed when she continued. "If you tell me what has been bothering you lately."

Standing, Darien started to pace furiously in the small space allowed between her seat and his. Should he tell her? It was what he brought her here for, wasn't it? But would she understand? Would she, or could she, relate or try to understand the odd feelings that always came over him this time of the year? He didn't necessarily understand it himself, after all. "Twelve years ago, when I was ten years old, I... got in a car accident."

Serena waited for him to continue with bated breath. Was this what Andrew had been talking about? "Yes... but what happened? I don't understand how that day can still affect you."

He gave a harsh laugh. "No, you wouldn't. Serena, that's the day my parents died. We were in the same car, going to the cliffs for my tenth birthday. Something happened, and we ended up going over the edge."

He heard Serena gasp, but didn't stop. "And I can't remember them! Every once in a while, I hear the sound of a woman's laughter, but I don't know whose it is! I wake up sometimes smelling her damn perfume! How can I remember all those tiny things but I can't seem to remember her face? And I want to remember, Serena."

When he felt a soft touch on his hand, he realized he had clenched his eyes and fists closed and stood stock still as he let his rampant emotions take over. He opened his eyes and stared down as her small hand hesitantly held his, then slowly followed the arm up to her face. She was crying. "God dammit, Serena. I didn't tell you this to make you cry."

She gave him a watery smile. "I know. But I can't help it, Darien! I feel so horrible that you had to live through your life by yourself!"

He stiffened and pulled his hand away. "Don't pity me."

She made a sound in the back of her throat. "I'm not! Feeling empathy and feeling pity is not the same thing!" She grabbed his hand again. "I feel for you, Darien! I can't really understand what you're feeling because every person I've lost I still remember, but that doesn't mean I don't understand your pain and loss!"

Darien sighed, and then finally sat back down on the couch. He looked up at her, a haggard expression on his handsome face, and smiled with wry amusement. "Who'd ever thought that you would be the one that I actually told this to."

"Andrew knew." Serena reminded him, then she wondered why she felt a pang somewhere in her chest when he unknowingly told her that he had planned on never telling her anything.

He shrugged. "Andrew's an exception. I met him almost immediately after I got released from the orphanage."

Serena sat quietly and stared down at her hands, wondering exactly what to do. She looked up at him from beneath her lashes, studying his look of discomfort. "Why did you tell me this? If all you wanted was for me to accept your apology, all you had to do was ask for it. Why did you tell me this?" She repeated, needing to know.

Darien leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees and linked his hands together. "Because... I wanted you know. I wanted you to at least try to understand me."

"Why?" Her voice was quiet and solemn.

He stared at her for a long while before he answered, as if weighing each answer he could possibly give her. "Because it matters to me that you do."

Never would she have guessed that her opinion or understanding would matter. Never before in the past had he showed at all that he cared or even liked her. He always teased her, always called her names and either made her feel horrible about the grades she got, or nearly made her cut off her long hair just so he wouldn't make fun of her style. She used to hate it when she saw him being kind and charming to other people. She used to hate it when he'd smile at another person – which usually happened to be a girl – but then he'd turn and catch sight of her and frown.

But... she was here, wasn't she? Now, in this apartment, she could ask him any question, and she was almost completely sure that he would answer it.

She looked up at him, full in the face. He looked nervous, but ready to answer any question she had, and her courage felt boosted enough to ask the questions that floated first to her mind. "Why weren't you adopted? I mean, I'm sure you were a pretty good looking kid when you were ten."

He gave a half shrug and sat back in his seat. "I wasn't the typical kid parents wanted. I was quiet and moody. A loner, you might say. Parents wanted a kid who was cheerful and talkative and impressionable; someone they wouldn't really have to work on. I got passed around from one foster home to another every once in a while, but nobody really wanted to stick with me.

By the time I was eighteen, again, all the parents wanted the younger babies, not some broody kid with an attitude problem. Plus, by then I was old enough to move out on my own. I got a job, raised some money and entered college. By the time I was twenty-one a lawyer approached me and told me that I had inherited a little over a half a million dollars from parents I hadn't even known existed." He smiled, but it lacked warmth or humor. "And the rest, as they say, is history. Right now I'm working on my doctorate degree, so when I become a doctor I won't have to depend on my inheritance alone."

Serena felt awed. A week ago she would have said that Darien lacked the sort of determinism he obviously had in abundance, and felt oddly light at the thought of how strong he was to have survived his lonely childhood. "Oh, my." Was all she could manage.

"Well?" He prompted. "What do you think of the infamous Darien Chiba now?"

She was very solemn when she answered, not allowing him to make light of the situation. "I think you're very strong. But... at least now you're not alone, right?" He gave her a measured look, as if he didn't believe her words. She licked her lips nervously before continuing. "I mean, you have all your friends from the University and Andrew. And you have... me, with you. At least your no longer lonely, right?"

"Right." His voice was soft when he spoke, and he didn't look at her. "I'm no longer... lonely."

Hesitantly, Serena moved until she was kneeling beside him on the floor, and tentatively reached out to touch his hands. "You realize that, don't you, Darien? Andrew's not the only one there for you. You have me. You have me."

A hand lifted slowly, uncertainly, and a finger traced its way down her cheek. His eyes had an almost aching tenderness in them, and a small smile lifted the corners of his mouth. "Do I? I'm a real big jerk, you know."

A wobbly smile. "I know, and I'll be sure to remind you that whenever you get in the mood to tease me. But just..." She paused, looking for the right words. "Don't leave me?"

He gave her another measured look, and his fingers stopped their stroking of her cheek. "Do you know what you're asking? You do know, of course, that if you – that if you accept me, I'll probably never let you go."

Her eyes warmed, and her smile bloomed into something that made his breath catch in his throat. "Good. I wouldn't want it any other way."

But he shook his head, leaning forward, his eyes intent. "You should know now that I can be inconsiderate. I'm rude, and I'll say things that may hurt your feelings, and I'm selfish and often times cruel. Know what you're asking, Serena. Please."

She only shook her head. "I do. I do know what I'm asking – demanding. I've loved you from the moment I set my eyes on you, Darien, and when you love someone you accept the flaws as well as the form." She took a deep breath, her voice turning watery with tears. "But you're perfect to me. You're perfect and you're beautiful, and if you were anybody else but you I—"

The rest of her speech was cut off by a sudden kiss, her first kiss, and it was everything she hoped it would be. Soft as a butterfly's wing, as gentle as a breeze, and as loving as a hearts gentle beat. When he pulled back, his eyes were a stormy cobalt and suspiciously glossy.

"God." He muttered, leaning his forehead against hers. "Oh God. I love you, too."

And when he kissed her again, tears streamed down her face and her hands curled against his chest.

This, Darien thought, lovingly sliding a hand over to cup the back of her head. This is happiness. And it's everything he always dreamed it would be.

End


So? What do you think? It's the first Sailormoon fic I've gotten out in a looooooonnnnnggggg time.

Reviews are welcome, flames are not.

Luna