Beauty Is Only Skin Deep
Alicia Blade

I must admit, I hate the title of this story. Haha... but alas, how silly it would be to change it 5 years after writing it.

Brace yourself for sap. Lots and lots of sap. Sweet dreams!

Beauty Is Only Skin Deep

She fell against the wall as streams of tears flowed down her cheeks. With a sob, she stumbled into a small alleyway before collapsing to the pavement and curling into a small ball, her blonde head buried in her knees.

"I hate him... Oh, I hate him..."

Once again, he had criticized her, yelled at her, insulted her. Once again she had let it cut straight through her heart, until it felt as though she was being torn apart bit by bit by every venomous word. The few moments replayed themselves over and over in her thoughts.

"You're such a ditz, Serena! Why can't you try to be serious for five minutes?"

"I don't care what you say, Darien!"

"I'm so hurt. But honestly, you have to grow up. All you do is sleep and cry all the time! At least, when you're not klutzing out. You're terrible in school, pig out on junk food all day, and are always acting like a total baby!"

"Shut up Darien!"

"I'm only telling the truth, Meatball Head. It's not my fault you're a failure."

She couldn't bear to hear anymore after that, and so had turned and fled.

Now Serena found herself biting her lip as unnoticed tears continued to soak her skin. Her dim blue eyes stared blankly at the pavement below as she remembered all of the hateful words that had stung like knives.

"Why do I have to care what he thinks, anyway?" she murmured. "Why does it matter?" She tilted her head to the side as she felt a pounding headache start up at the base of her skull. "It's not like I care about him... just... what he thinks about me... For some reason..."

But she knew she couldn't fool herself. Ever since she'd met him, she'd had the same fantasy in which, just once, she would walk up to him, and he would be the one drooling over her. And she would be completely irresistible, so that even Darien, the king of self-control, couldn't keep his eyes off of her. And she'd dreamt that he would be so taken aback that he would fall madly in love with her and then...

She always ended the daydream there. It was too painful when she realized it wasn't true, it wasn't happening. And it never would happen. He didn't care for her. To him, she was nothing more than the annoying, klutzy, brain-dead teenager.

Serena clutched at the skirt of her school uniform, wiping her tears with her sleeve. "All I want... is for him to notice me... just... once..." And the tears fell from her eyes as she concentrated on that thought... and the complete impossibility of it.

"Darien, why do you do this to me?" Her teeth clenched in momentary anger.

He's probably laughing at me right now. Yes, I'm sure of it. He's thinking about how immature I was running out of the arcade like that and how I'm so childish and irresponsible and...

"Oooh, Darien you make me so mad!" she yelled out to no one. "I don't deserve to be treated like that by you! I deserve, just once, to be noticed by you! I deserve that! After all I've put up with, and how you treat me, I deserve for you to be completely... awestruck!"

With clenched fists, she wiped her red cheeks, gathering any remaining tears, and pushed herself up to lean against the brick wall. Looking around for the first time, she muttered, "Where am I, by the way?"

Peering around the corner, she saw a beauty and cosmetic shop right by where she was standing. She laughed to herself as she thought, But then again...

With a nervous smile, she walked into the salon.


Darien sipped at the straw, his brow scrunched as he stared at... the change machine?

"Yo, Darien, are you sure you're okay? You've been sitting there for over two hours now. What's wrong?"

Darien shrugged. "Nothing, Andrew."

Andrew looked at him, obviously concerned, but knew it was useless to try and get more out of him. He left to the game area to help some of the little kids with the video games.

Darien gulped down another drink, cursing himself inside.

I was too mean to her. I went way past the line this time. She'll never talk to me again... oh, what would I do if she never talked to me? What would I think about? What would I look forward to every day? He sighed and cursed himself for being too sentimental.

Why do I have to be so mean to her? Am I physically incapable of saying anything nice? All I want is for her to know what I really think... well, maybe not everything that I think... I'm sure I could leave out the part about her gorgeous, silky hair and long, slender legs and... He mentally hit himself for thinking such things about a 14-year-old girl.

But I want her to know how I think she is so beautiful, inside and out. How I love her light and love and kindness. How I think of her all the time and constantly wonder what it would be like to hold her and kiss her... And I want her to know she's not a loser, or a ditz, or a crybaby, but that she's incredibly sweet and caring and... perfect... Oh, Serena, why do I keep pushing you away?

His thoughts were cut short, rather rudely, by a whistle coming from the front of the arcade and a few men making obscene comments and calls. Curious, and angry at being interrupted in his thoughts, Darien turned in his stool to see what, or probably who, was causing the commotion. He felt his jaw drop, and no matter how hard he tried, he could not make it go back to its original spot.

It was her... but not her. Her usual, innocent charm had melted away to reveal a young, sexy woman. A pair of black ankle boots adorned her feet, followed by black nylons on her shapely legs, a short blue skirt showcasing her pale blue eyes, and a white tank top accenting her slim waist and arms. Silver bracelets were stacked on one wrist, and... a tattoo on her shoulder? Yes, a fake tattoo of a red rose entwined around a golden crescent moon rested on her bare shoulder. Her lips were stained a bright pink and her skin glowed with a light he'd never seen before. The meatballs were gone, so that the thick golden locks flowed to below her knees, two faux diamond clips keeping them pinned to the side away from her face.

She was standing just in the doorway with both arms clutched nervously in front of her. Then, she gathered her composure and let her hands fall to her sides. Her shoulders straightened and she lifted her head high, a small smile spreading across her lips. Darien gulped roughly and felt a faintness sweep over him as he watched her lick her lips slightly. In all the dazed emotions quickly dulling in his mind, he never once noticed that she was staring back at him. How her incredible, piercing blue eyes focused on him, among the other men in the large room. Something back in the corner of his mind urged him to turn away, to ignore her, to clear his thoughts of her someway, somehow... but he pushed the thoughts back to where they came from.

Looking away just didn't seem to be an option.

The look in his eyes announced victory to her. Just that confused, glazed expression was well worth the 85 dollars she had spent (all discounts after the women running the beauty store heard her story of desire for an older man who felt nothing for her). His jaw was open and his eyes, for the first time she had ever seen them, were full of astonishment. She smiled.

Every male eye watched the new beauty as she strolled over to a young, dark-haired man sitting at the counter. Slowly, very slowly, the lustful men turned back to their coffee and the wishful boys continued with their games.

Darien and Serena stared at each other, barely three feet apart. She smirked with pride at herself, ecstatic that for the first time, he was dwelling in her absolute perfection. Her incredible gorgeousness. Her divine fabulousness.

"What happened to you?" he managed to choke out.

She felt her world halt, stumble, and crash. What happened to me? What does that mean, Darien? You're suppose to say, 'You look beautiful! I can't believe I never noticed. How could I have been so blind? You are most certainly the loveliest women I have ever laid eyes on!' NOT 'What happened to you?'!

She cleared her throat, pushing the tears back to their ducts.

"What do you mean?"

His eyes roved shamelessly over her form for the ump-teenth time.

"THIS! What did you DO?"

She clenched her fists and breathed in deeply. "And just what would you care Darien?"

"Why would I care? Because you're 14 and you're prancing around like you're some 21-year-old college twit!"

Her heart sank. Her dreams, hopes, esteem...

"And just what does it matter, Darien? It's not like you care for me or anything! And it's certainly not as if we... we're... I hate you!"

"Serena, what happened?" asked Andrew from behind, just recently having recovered from his shock.

Turning with tears forming in her eyes yet again, she pushed past him and stormed out of the arcade.

Darien, his heart still beating abnormally fast, stared toward the doors, his jaw agape and eyes wide.

"Darien, what happened?"

The sweet voice echoing in his head drowned out that of his best friend.

I hate you!... It's not like you care for me or anything!... I hate you!... I hate you!


"What happened to my Meatball Head?" he mumbled.

"Huh? Yo, Dare, you okay?"

Finally, Darien tore his eyes from the door to focus on the blonde. "I... I... Did I imagine that?"

Andrew scrunched his brow. "Nooo... I mean, if you're talking about Serena looking... looking..."


Andrew glanced at him, surprised. "Blunt... but, yeah, exactly."

"I... think I made her mad..."

"Darien, you always make her mad."

"No... it was worse this time, somehow. I mean... she never actually said that she... hated me before."

"She said she hated you? That doesn't sound like Serena..."

"Yeah, well, in case you didn't notice, she wasn't exactly herself back there."


"I think I should go apologize."

Now Andrew was REALLY stunned. Of all the times Darien had teased her and made fun of her, he'd never actually considered apologizing. Heck, he'd never even seemed sorry.

"Um... yeah... I think... that'd be do..."


After about ten seconds of silence, Darien stood up and walked quickly, uncertainly, out of the arcade.


Serena swiped at the tears, yet again, and yelled mentally at the jangling of the small metal silver bracelets, a sound that appeared way too happy for her current state of mind. Hugging her waist, wrapping her bare arms tightly around herself, she leaned against a tree, her head falling onto her chest.

"Darien..." she muttered. "Why am I so hooked on you? Why do I have to care about you?"

Looking around, she found herself in the park. It was twilight. Dark shadows stretched all around her and she suddenly began to feel scared. Biting her lip, she searched the pathway to see if anything was familiar. She had walked through this park hundreds of thousands of times... but never at twilight. Now, everything looked different. Like an alternate universe.

"Are you lost?" asked a deep voice. She turned to see a man standing only a few feet behind her. He had dark brown hair and darker brown, almost coal eyes. Something about the way he looked at her, as if she were a piece of meat for devouring, made her feel very uncomfortable and she unconsciously backed away, landing herself against a tree.

"No... no, thank you. I'm fine..."

"Oh, well in that case..." he walked a bit closer to her and leaned his side up against the trunk. "How would you like me to accompany you home? Or we could go somewhere else... somewhere private..."

"No, thank you. I think I'll be going..."

Serena turned to walk away, but his hand grabbed her wrist roughly. She shuddered at the icy touch. Turning back to him, fear evident in her eyes, she whispered, "Let go of me." The fright was thick in her shaky voice, and he only smiled crookedly at her command.

"How much fun would that be?" He tightened his hand and yanked her back toward him before pressing her shoulder against the trunk with his free hand. Only a short scream emitted from her mouth before his scorching lips covered her own, forcing her head roughly against the wood. Her eyes rolled around, searching for any movement, any hope beyond him. Nothing. Finally, she let her eyes simply stare off to some unknown point as crystal tears formed once more. She could feel his tongue now probing her mouth and she whimpered against him. One of his hands clasped both of hers together behind her back while the other began to roam over her body.

Then, in a blur of black and green, he was thrown off her. She slid unconsciously to the grass below, her eyes still staring dazedly. Darien smacked the man with his fist in the chin again. His nose was bleeding now. With a muster of strength, the man pushed Darien over and rolled so that he had the upper hand. He landed a good punch in the stomach, but left himself open as Darien hit him hard on the face again. Fury built inside both of them. Before Darien knew what was happening, the man had pulled out a sharp knife and now lifted it to his throat, an evil, crazed gleam in his eyes.

A loud thud was heard. The man's brown eyes rolled back into his head and he fell unconsciously off of Darien, who quickly pushed him away. He then looked up to see a distraught Serena above him, just as she dropped a large stone to the ground beside the attacker. Both their breaths were ragged as they stared at each other. Serena felt tears coming, more from the sight of his blood than anything that had happened to her. And then, with a loud whimper, she fell to her knees and threw her quivering body into his arms. He welcomed her warmth and immediately wrapped his arms around her. Sitting up, he pulled her across his lap and rocked her back and forth slowly as she cried into his shirt.


Darien fumbled with the key before finally opening the door to his apartment. He carried the girl into his living room, turning on a light before lying her down on the couch. Her sobs had subsided, though she seemed reluctant to let him go. He kneeled down in front of her and her large blue eyes looked up at him thankfully. Smiling crookedly, he brushed some long golden strands away from her face. She smiled back at him. They stared at each other for a few brief moments before Serena reached a hand up to his shoulder.

"You're hurt," she said simply. The first thing she had said to him since "I hate you!"

"I'm fine," he replied. But she only shook her head and sat up, against his urges to keep lying.

"No, you sit here," she commanded.

"I'm okay, Serena, really."

"Darien, I've had a really bad day, so don't argue with me for once, okay?"

He grinned at her before complying and sitting down on the couch as she disappeared into the hallway. He could hear her banging around in the bathroom, searching for something, and smiled to himself. Finally, she emerged with a washcloth and bowl of water. She sat the bowl down on the table next to the couch and kneeled down in front of him.

"Take your jacket off," she said authoritatively. He raised an eyebrow, but complied. She inhaled sharply and reached a hand out to roll up a sleeve of the black shirt. He smiled and nearly laughed at her nervous expression, a million interesting ideas flying past his thoughts.

Slowly, she dipped the washcloth into the lukewarm water before dabbing it lightly onto his wounded shoulder. She bit her lip in concentration and he smiled again. As he watched, he seemed to see his old, innocent Meatball Head filter back into this beautiful girl. She moved the warm cloth up to wash away some of the dried blood on his cheek. Darien was surprised to feel a loss when she reached back to the bowl to dip the cloth. She began to clean his brow, the side of his cheek, a cut on his lower lip...

Serena gasped quietly as their eyes met. Her thumb unconsciously brushed across his lips. Her eyes became a bit unfocused. His hand reached up to take hers. His fingers traced along the back of her hand tenderly.

"Thank you..." he whispered.

"Yeah..." was all that she could reply. Slowly, Darien leaned forward, his breath coming faster in the excitement of a heavenly kiss with Serena... just like he'd dreamt of how many times. His eyes analyzed hers, dancing between her blue, drowsy eyes and tempting pink lips.

Serena began to close her eyes and lean forward. She could still feel his fingers caressing her hand. She swallowed and parted her lip slightly just as their lips touched.

Memories flooded in of only a few minutes ago, back in the park, painfully burning kisses...

Serena pulled away quickly, tearing her gaze away to look at the carpet, pulling her hand down to her lap.

"Serena?" Darien asked with confusion very apparent in his voice. She looked up at him with tears pooling in her blue eyes. He tilted his head to the side, wanting to reach out an arm to comfort her, but afraid that she would pull away again.

"I'm sorry..." she whispered. "But... I just... thought... of... him..." She wrapped her arms around herself, shaking back and forth on her knees. Only then did Darien realize his mistake.

Of course she wouldn't be ready for something like that... Oh Serena... Slowly, he slid off the couch to sit next to her and placed a comforting arm around her shoulder. He held her close to him, nuzzling his face in her hair.

"I'm sorry," he whispered. "I'm sorry..." Bending his neck down, he gently kissed a tear away from her flushed cheek. Her crystal eyes looked up to him and she fell willingly against his chest. He brushed a hand through her hair and kissed her forehead gently. "I'm sorry."

He held her for a long time, uncountable for both of them.

Finally, Darien whispered, "You're hurt too."

She looked up at him confused. "Not really. He only k...kissed me." She looked down again as she said that. Darien smiled slightly to comfort her and ran two fingers over her lips. Surprised, she looked up at him.

"Your lips are bruised," he said matter-of-factly. Her eyes seemed to be searching his to see if he was serious or not. He only smiled and stood, dragging her up with him, before gently nudging her onto the couch. He took the bowl and washcloth in the kitchen and returned with a glass of ice cubes. Sitting next to her, he took one out and began to rub it lightly over her swollen lips. She gasped and quickly took the ice from him, approaching the task herself. He only smiled and leaned back calmly, not exactly sure what to do.

"Serena... have you ever... I mean..."

She looked up at him confused.

"Well, I was just wondering if you'd ever kissed somebody, I mean, before..."

Serena looked down and Darien could have smacked himself for being so stupid as to ask something like that. However, when she looked up at him, she didn't seem embarrassed or angry.

"No," was all that she said at first, then continued, "I never thought my first kiss would be like... that." She shuddered noticeably and Darien placed his arm around her again.

"It didn't count, you know. I mean, for a first kiss, or any kiss..."

"I know. But it was so terrifying and so... it hurt. I mean, it actually hurt. Like... a violation... and it stung, or burned or...I can't believe I'm telling you this."

Darien smiled sadly. "Serena... well... all kisses aren't like that, you know. I mean... when you care about someone, and they care about you... they're not painful at all, you know... I"

"Why are you telling me this?" she whispered, looking into his eyes. He looked up at her.

Geez, why AM I telling her this?

"Because... I just... if you've never been kissed, I mean, REALLY kissed, then I don't want you to think that, you know... all kisses are terrible and frightening and... but that they really can be wonderful and... beautiful and, um... you know..."

"You're cute when you stutter."

Darien quit talking and looked up to catch Serena blushing furiously. After a stunned moment, he let his lips curl into a little grin.

"Anyway, Darien, thanks and all... but I really don't think I need to be thinking of kissing just yet. I mean, who would want to kiss me anyway, right? Other than some creep..."

Darien scrunched his brow. "Serena, are you kidding?"

She giggled slightly, sadly, and leaned against the back of the couch, her eyes closed. "No, not really. I mean... I'm me. Who would ever want..."

"Come here," said Darien, effectively cutting her off. He stood and offered his hand, which Serena took curiously. He led her down the hall and into his bedroom. Turning, he opened his closet to show a full-length mirror inside. He stood behind her and wrapped his arms around her shoulders, then whispered into her ear, sending delightful shivers own her spine, "What do you see?"

"Huh?" She looked at his reflection questioningly, but only saw complete seriousness. Finally, she just shrugged and stared at the mirror, pursing her lips together and analyzing her appearance. "Um... I see... blonde hair. And... blue eyes... and... no curves..." (Darien almost burst out laughing at that comment. If only she knew how many times he'd caught himself practically drooling over her feminine figure!) "Scrawny legs, big, awkward feet, pointed nose..." she sighed and stared at herself dejectedly.

Darien raised an eyebrow. "Are you sure we're looking at the same person?"


"Because I see silky, golden hair, glowing azure eyes, a VERY sexy figure, long, slender legs, an adorable little nose..." he took one pointer finger and tapped the tip of her nose for effect. She blushed and pulled closer into his embrace. "Serena, you're gorgeous. You are THE most beautiful girl I have ever seen. Guys would kill to go out with you... or to kiss you..." She giggled awkwardly and attempted to hide her blushing face in the folds of his shirt.

He smiled widely at her obvious discomfort. Serena had her side facing the mirror, her arms wrapped around one of his, a bright smile covering her face. They each looked at the reflection of the other simultaneously.

Both of them saw the picture of a perfect couple, happy and smiling and teasing. Serena fit so perfect in his arms... how her head nestled so perfectly in the crook of his shoulder and neck, and how his arms could tie around her and pull her so close. Like pieces of a puzzle. How their eyes glowed with such happiness and caring...



"Do you really think I'm pretty?"

Darien smiled down at the girl in his arms, finally tearing his gaze away from their reflections. "Beautiful. Gorgeous. Lovely. Radiant. Stunning. Irresistible..."

Serena giggled and hid her head in his black shirt again.

"But you know what?"

She looked up at him, a bit of worry dawning. "Hm?"

"I miss my Meatball Head."

She looked into his blue eyes that actually looked... sorrowful.

And for the first time since she'd known him, she smiled at the nickname. He smiled back as well, running a hand through her hair, feeling the soft locks falling around his arms. Then he took her hands into his and led her to the bed, sitting down beside her.

"Serena... why did you do this?"

Serena glanced down at her new ensemble. The short skirt, tank top, fake tattoo...

"You don't like it?" she asked hesitantly.

This took Darien by surprise. What could he say? The new look was gorgeous, sophisticated, sexy, but... it wasn't Serena. And he wanted Serena.

He laughed a little, looking into her pleading eyes. "How could I not like it? You look... well, just look at you! You could pass for 20! Sure, you look mature and sophisticated and... and... incredible! But... you're not... you're not Meatball Head. And... I want Meatball Head."

Serena looked up at him with a slightly shocked expression. She stared at him, a million emotions flying past her face. Finally, she leaned forward and quickly pecked his cheek, sending electricity flowing through him. Before he could gather his senses, she was out the bedroom door, calling "Be right back!"

"Huh?" He rubbed the spot on his cheek. "Serena?"

Taking a breath, he shook his head slightly, running a hand through his hair. Standing up, he glanced in the mirror with a smile, unstoppable daydreams and fantasies invading his thoughts.

A few minutes later Serena walked back into the room and stood in the doorway, watching him until he noticed her. Darien looked into the reflection and immediately, a smile dawned on his face. He chuckled. Turning around he looked her up and down, ending with her very proud grin.


"Much better. I missed you."

She giggled happily. "It's good to be back!"

He walked up to her and reached out a hand, playfully tugging on one blonde pigtail.

"Hey!" she squealed, jumping away. He laughed.

"Just had to make sure they were real!" he chirped.

Serena crossed her arms and pouted her lip, making Darien laugh harder.

Humphing her shoulders, Serena turned on her heels and marched out of the room, Darien not far behind her. When they had reached the living room, Darien, still with a goofy smile on his face, placed his arms around her shoulders.

"I'm sorry." She turned her head away. He pursed his lips together to keep from laughing more. "Aw, come on Meatball Head... I was kidding. Besides, you're so cute when you're angry I couldn't resist!"

Serena blushed bright pink and attempted to stutter a reply, but it only came out in laughter.

"That's better," Darien said, kissing her on the cheek, before releasing her from his embrace.

With a lingering smile, Serena turned around to face him. He was busy analyzing the meatballs. "So... how do you get those things up there anyway?"

"It's a girl thing."

"Oh..." Their eyes met and for a minute, Serena was lost in his dark blue stare. Her gaze drifted to his quirky grin. Darien seemed to notice the look. He found himself using all of his willpower not to sweep her into his arms and kiss the sweet breath out of her.

Goodness, he's handsome. This is like a dream. I mean, I never actually expected things to turn out like this. So close to him and in his apartment, all alone and...and... I've been dreaming of being with him and him actually liking me for so long...



"How many girls have you kissed?"

Darien was taken aback. "Huh?"

"Well... I told you I've never been kissed so it's only fair..."

Darien looked down at the ground. "Okay, I guess... um...two."

Serena stared at him for awhile before a small giggle escaped her lips. "Two! But... I mean... I figured that you, like, I don't know, had a different fling every week or something!"

Darien burst out laughing before running a nervous hand through his hair. "Well... uh... thanks?"

Serena giggled. "Aw, come on though, two? Is that all? But... you're DARIEN! The... the cute college guy who owns an awesome car and... TWO!"

Darien laughed harder. "Yeah... well... I just always felt that you shouldn't kiss a girl unless you really liked her. I can't stand those guys who play games."

Serena looked at him with the bright smile on her face as he looked down on her with a light twinkle in his eye. She bit her lip as a rushing urge came over her. Who cares about the creep at the park? Like Darien said, not all kisses are terrible and frightening. They can be wonderful and beautiful and if Darien WANTS to kiss me, then that means that he...

"Say, Darien?"


"You know how they say the third time's the charm?"

Darien raised a curious eyebrow. "Yeah..."

"Well..." Serena took a deep breath and took a step closer to him so that they were almost touching. Darien looked down into her eyes and wanted so much to feel her lips, to hold her against him, to call her his...


With shaky, but quick movements, Serena reached her hands to his neck and pulled his lips to hers. Darien was stunned at first and simply delighted in the surprising sensations. But as he gained his composure, he slowly closed his eyes and wrapped his arms around her. He placed tons of small butterfly kisses, one after the other on her lips before catching them in a long, passionate kiss.

Her hands slid behind his neck as she allowed him her kisses to his desire. He pulled her closer to him, one arm tightened around her waist while his other hand stroked through her hair, savoring the texture, like he had always dreamed of doing. Kissing her and holding her...

And to think that an hour ago I thought you'd never speak to me again... He smiled inwardly at the thought. She's kissing me. Of all the times I've dreamed of this happening, I always figured I would initiate it and yet this is purely magical My dear Serena... if I could hold you forever...

Slowly, Darien pulled away to be sure he hadn't pushed it too far. Her eyes were closed in a dazed, half dreaming state. When they opened, he saw diamonds twinkling back at him. They had only kissed for a little while, and yet both were out of breath. Darien smiled down at her, raising his eyebrows in question. She smiled back and he could feel an incredible happiness flow through him. He leaned forward and kissed her lightly on the tip of the nose, making her giggle and pull away a little, though his surrounding arm offered no mercy. Leaning down, he brushed her lips with his again. She could feel a tingling reaching from his kisses down to her toes. She inhaled sharply but then smiled, her eyes drifting closed again. Darien looked her up and down, attempting to believe she was really here in his arms. She was expecting another kiss on the lips, he could tell...

With a mischievous grin, he lightly kissed the top of her forehead, drifting down her cheek, the tip of her nose... before ever- so-gently teasing her lips. He then kissed her forehead again and traveled down the other side ending with yet another irritating kiss on the nose... before lying butterfly kisses down her neck, skipping over her puckered lips. He heard her whimper above him and chuckled lightly. Standing straight again, he kissed her nose briefly once more. Slowly she opened her eyes, confused and blurry, full of desire and adoration.

"Darien..." she half whispered, half pouted. He smiled down at her teasingly, brushing his nose against hers. She stood on her tip- toes, but he always seemed a fraction of an inch away. Finally she gave up and with yet another pouting face, she removed her arms from his neck and folded them in front of her. "You're mean."

He laughed and wrapped his arms around her waist and leaned over so that their cheeks brushed against each other. Serena seemed startled at this, then she gasped when she felt him gently kissing and nibbling on her earlobe. She giggled a little as she felt herself melt like butter into his hands.

"I'm sorry..." he whispered, his warm breath sending any rational thought straight out the window, "but you're so adorable when you're angry." He kissed her earlobe one last time, before beginning a trail of soft kisses toward her lips. Serena closed her eyes in anticipation until Darien finally reached her lips. He kissed them softly at first, like before, though his kisses were becoming slowly deeper. Serena felt a light-headedness, and then she felt Darien slowly, cautiously, nudging her lips open to his assault.

He wasn't sure about this. It might be too fast for her... too much like earlier... too scary... too... Darien groaned in surprise when he felt Serena's mouth open instantly and her tongue slide into HIS mouth. Of course, that was all the encouragement he needed. His tongue immediately began to play with hers. After what seemed an eternity of kissing her, holding her, feeling completely lost in emotions for the first time in either of their lives, they pulled away, each gasping for breath. Darien leaned his forehead on hers. After his heartbeat had somewhat calmed, he chuckled a little.

"THAT was you first kiss?"

Serena nodded, a blush rising in her cheeks. "Well... I... watch movies..." Darien smiled at her resting peacefully in his arms. With a smile, he led her over to the couch and motioned for her to sit down. She complied with a nervous look.

"Serena, I have a confession to make."

She looked at him, analyzing his face, searching for any signs that would tell her of this 'confession' of his. "What is it, Darien?"

"Well, honestly..." he looked up into her worried eyes and smiled slightly. "I have wanted to do that since the first time I met you. I can't even remember a time when I WASN'T thinking of you or holding you or kissing you and... Serena...I think I love you..."

Serena stared at him for a minute. Then, she reached up and pinched herself.

Darien looked at her surprised. "What did you do that for?"

"Well... this just got too perfect, so I figured I was dreaming or something."

"Too perfect?" he asked, raising an eyebrow.

She only nodded, before reaching out and pinching him. "Ow! Hey, stop that!"

Serena looked at him with a strange, goofy look on her face.

"You're real..."

"Of course I'm real."

She laughed quietly. "And then... you... really feel that way... for me?"

He smiled at her hopeful eyes and smile. "Of course. So... do you...?"

"I love you!" she squealed, finally throwing herself into his arms. He only gasped and kneeled there for a little while, before wrapping his arms around her and comprehending what she had just said.

Closing his eyes, he nuzzled his face into her golden hair. "I love you, too, Meatball Head."