Sorry for the long wait, everyone! Hope you enjoy the chapter. :D


"D-dreams?" asked Serena, cheeks taking on a pink hue. "What dreams?"

Darien smirked at her and circled his finger on the rip of her mug.

"Some secret dreams I've heard about."

She made a croaking sound in her throat, and bit her lip.

Watching her squirm in her seat, he openly displayed his joy at seeing her like this. He wasn't trying to be mean; it was more that he loved teasing her. Always had. Always will.

Hopefully, he thought, she'll feel comfortable soon enough to tease me back soon. But right now, he grinned, it's my turn to play.

He chuckled under his breath. "I was hoping you'd share them. With me."

"There's not much to say," she said, shrugging. "I-it's nothing, really." Face turning red, her eyes clenched shut hoping to make the moment go away.

"You sure?" he asked, drumming his fingers on the side of her cocoa. "It's not worth sharing even for your hot chocolate?"

Staring at the cup he still held in his possession, she groaned. He was keeping it captive until he got what he wanted.

"It'll get cold," whined Serena.

"Oh?" he asked, raising an eyebrow. He smirked and shrugged his shoulders. "Then you might want to get started."

"You're evil." She stuck her tongue out at him.

"Mmm, mmm, mmmph! Smells so good!" He waved the cup under his nose, breathing in the rich aroma. "Are you sure you don't want this anymore?"

"This is blackmail!" Looking down at her lap, she twitched her nose, not at all happy with this idea.

He chuckled and shrugged his shoulders again. "All's fair in love and war…"

Hearing the phrase, she looked up at him and blushed. Still something new to get used to.

Catching her eye, he found it hard to swallow his next sip of cocoa. A ruddy color of scarlet tinted his cheeks.

"It's fine," he said, moving the cup back to her. "If you don't want to—"

"It started a little while ago," she interjected, staring at him.

His mouth hung open, but he closed it not wanting to interrupt. He had wanted to give her an out from the explanation, but if she was willing to tell him, he wasn't going to stop her.

The cup lay in between them, his hand still touching it as he was pushing it towards her. Ignoring the cup, she instead stared at him. The blush hadn't left her cheeks, but that wasn't important right now. Heart was racing so badly, she could hear it in her ears. But not important right now. Her body shivered as if cold, but it was just nerves—shaking so fiercely, she couldn't even dream of holding her cup steady in her hands right now. But that wasn't important. Not right now.

Right now, she was going to tell Darien something. Confide in him something that she had kept a secret from him, but had told the two other people in her life she trusted implicitly. Told everyone but him something that only concerned herself and him.

So this was her big step. It was time to trust him.

Like he trusted her in the park. Her heart fluttered remembering what he told her earlier. Maybe it was just girlish thoughts, but she believed he had wanted her just for her. And wasn't going to push to get anything else than what she was willing to give.

And she wanted to give him this.

She wanted to open up to him till he knew that he was important to her. So very important. That she appreciated he wasn't going to pressure her into anything she wasn't ready for, but that didn't mean they couldn't be close without doing anything physical.

"It started a little while ago," she repeated. Looking up at him, she saw he was giving her his undivided attention. Like she was the only thing that mattered right now.

"Maybe not a little while ago, I guess," she continued, shrugging. "It was when that kid dumped his milkshake on him by accident. My shirt was wet and you gave me your jacket."

Darien remembered that incident. She was wearing a white shirt when a milkshake drenched it—a wet white shirt that plastered to her body.

Looking back, he really should've expected her to have grown physically. It shouldn't have taken him by surprise so much to know she'd…developed. One minute he was teasing her about her hair and homework like usual, and the next he was staring at her in shock. Couldn't pull his eyes away.

Thankfully, Andrew coughed to get their attention. Knocking him out of his trance.

Ripping the green jacket off of him, he draped it over her shoulders and buttoned it closed. Then he clutched her arms and turned her towards the door.

Not trusting himself to speak in full sentences, especially when his tongue felt so heavy in his mouth, he uttered one word to her. "Home," he had ordered.

At the time, he wasn't sure if he was rescuing her from the disastrous event that took place, or getting her as far away from him as possible. He wanted her away from everyone's leering eyes, including his own.

"I really did mean to come back and return your jacket that day," she continued. "But it was getting late already and by the time I showered and changed…" Shrugging, she sighed. "Sorry."

"Not a big deal," he said. "You shouldn't be out walking in the dark just to return it; besides, you gave it back the next day."

"I…I slept in it that night." Glancing at his eyes, which had widened in surprise, she looked back at her lap.

"What?"

"I wore other things, too!" she said, backing away against the chair. "It wasn't like I just wore it—I had my jammies and stuff. I just…it smelled like you and I wanted to hold onto that for the night."

She spared a glance at him and saw a slight blush on his cheeks.

"You were so nice to me that day—just giving me your jacket without worrying about it getting dirty. I couldn't help it; I wanted to feel close to you."

"Yeah?" His lips suddenly felt too dry and he licked them. She followed the action with her eyes.

"It was that night that I had the first dream—not a really detailed dream or anything. But it was that night that began it all."

She paused for a moment, playing with the strands of her hair. Cheeks a bright pink, as if remembering that night.

He wanted to ask her what happened in it. To make her tell him faster. Put him out of his misery.

But he waited. Let her set the pace.

"It wasn't all that cold that night. With my pajamas and blanket, I would've been fine. But the jacket…it was really warm. I would've taken off the blanket, but I didn't want my parents waking in my room in the morning and seeing it—wouldn't know how to explain it. Definitely needed the blanket on top to hide that green color."

She smirked, thinking of the green color she'd teased him about for so long. And that night, she didn't want to part from it even at the chance of getting caught with it.

"I cracked open a window to let in some cool air. There I was, lying in bed underneath the blanket wearing your jacket. The sleeves were so long, my hands didn't even come out the ends. I was completely enveloped by it. So I guess it made sense that I dreamt you held me in bed that night."

Now her breath caught and she looked up at him.

"It wasn't anything dirty—nothing crude or vulgar," she added, as if to reassure him. "You just—in the dream—held me. The jacket was warm, so it was easy to just imagine it was you wrapped around me."

"Sounds nice," he whispered.

His eyes glazed over as he watched her, his mind imagining her covered in his green jacket as she slept. All night covered in his clothing. Then him covering her all night while she slept. His arms wrapped tightly around her body in her bed.

"Yeah, it was nice," she said, nodding. "After that night, I kept dreaming of you. Every night. At first, it would be of you holding me like the first time, but then the dreams changed. Soon, it would be you catching me when I knocked into you. You did that already so often, and now I would be reliving those moments while I slept.

"I have to confess," she said with a small smile, "after I started dreaming about the events that already happened between us, I would accidentally-on-purpose knock into you."

He chuckled hearing the confession. "I, uh…" he started, scratching the back of his head, "I would accidentally-on-purpose wait around corners at the right time to have you knock into me."

She looked up at him, hearing he had done the same thing.

"I loved it when you caught me," she said, staring at him. A slight shiver went up her back. "Your fingers felt nice when you were holding me—trying to keep me from falling."

And every time he would catch her, she fell a little harder. For him.

Her hands crossed around her, fingers reaching to grip her waist where she remembered he would often touch to catch her.

"I'd sometimes hold myself while I slept, pretending it was you." She looked down at her fingers, noticing him stare there, as well. "But it's never the same." Chuckling, she spared him a glance and shrugged. "My hands are much smaller than yours."

Darien gripped the cup a little tighter, trying to gain some self-control. Trying to stop himself from hauling her out of her chair and placing him on his lap so he could hold her just like that. His hands wrapped around her waist as he brought their bodies closer together.

"Yeah, yours are just a little smaller," he said, smiling. Extending his fingers, he saw them tingle at just the thought of doing that.

"That's how it was in the beginning—pretending you were holding me at night. It was easier to dream it when I fell asleep. Easier to dream of you."

He watched her nibble her bottom lip. Waited patiently for the next admission.

His little Meatball Head was driving him nuts. The blonde hair a halo around her face and those bright, blue eyes peeking up at him every once in a while.

When he first started dating, it was just because he was asked. And he didn't have a reason to say no. A date was a date, and if it ended up anywhere, then that was fine by him. If it didn't then he'd be fine walking away.

Girls were just girls. There was no particular one. They were all the same to him. No one special.

It's not as if he disrespected any of them or broke commitments. He'd never not put in the effort to treat them nicely. But it was just nice.

He always let them control it all. Pick what to eat and where to go. What to do for any holidays or anniversaries at the appropriate times. He even let them pick who they hung out with on a normal day basis. Because he had no desire to show any of them off to Drew.

It wasn't that he was embarrassed to let his friend meet any of his girls, but more that he had no desire to keep the girl in his life longer than when she would suggest they see other people.

He made no promises to hold them longer in his life. Gave no promises of commitment. No desire to stay with them because he couldn't bear to be away.

And that's ultimately why the girls would call it quits. Some would say their relationship wasn't going anywhere, which he couldn't deny. Nor wanted to. Others would say he was too available. That they wanted him to chase them a little. To which he responded there was nothing to chase—they had asked him out. And a few would hit home, saying they weren't important to him. That while he cared about them enough, they were never special in his eyes. Just ordinary.

He had lived his life like that for quite some time. Until he met her.

Met the girl that wasn't interested in flashing a smile and whisking him away on a date. Didn't think he was far too handsome not to have a piece. Instead, she fought with him. Daily.

And she didn't hold back on her opinions of him. While most people would've been offended, he would laugh because honestly, she was just retaliating for something he'd done previously. Because he would egg her on. He would add friction in their relationship because he was having fun.

For the first time since he could remember, he was truly enjoying himself with a girl. He wasn't just taking her to the movies because she'd decided they should see the new film in the theater. No, he was pulling at her hair buns because he knew it would cause her to shriek. While it wasn't the nicest thing to do to a girl, he was actually proposing activities—albeit non-romantic ones—to get closer to a girl.

For the first time, he felt a desire to spend time with someone. And he liked it.

He wasn't sure when he'd decided he wanted to keep her. Be with her and make her his. And he didn't just want a few dates for the thrill of dating until they called it quits. He wanted to come home to her every night and complain about his day. Wanted to surprise her with flowers for no other reason than just because they would make her smile.

Of course, he had gone about it all wrong. The only reaction he could get out of her was her screaming at him. He honestly didn't have practice on getting a girl to notice him what with them all approaching him out of their own accord before. So he continued with what had worked—he annoyed her until she was pulling out her own hair. Until she was pulling out his hair. And he loved every minute of it.

Within those life-threatening moments, he was able to portray himself in a positive light. Usually by accident. Like catch her from falling. First it was just instinctual—arms shooting out to stop someone from dropping to the ground.

Then, when he held her that first time, he felt something at his fingertips that made him want to do it again. Catch her again so he'd have an excuse to touch her. To feel her stare up at him in surprise, a smile forming on her face as someone—as he—held her. Rescued her, even.

That first time he was caught by surprise and his brain didn't comprehend that he was supposed to let go. It happened so fast that he hadn't even registered he told his brain to move. His arms just shot out and caught the blonde bundle and he was staring into her surprised blue eyes. She wasn't the only one caught by surprise.

She was breathing deeply, restless from the fear of falling to the ground, and then when she was expecting the ground—she was looking at him instead. Darien had hoped he was an acceptable alternative. Tolerable. Preferable, if he was feeling hopeful.

That was the first time he caught her. The first time he held her for so long, and when he looked back at that moment, he wanted to do it again. He wanted to feel her in his hands, and this time be able to enjoy it while it was happening instead of late at night when the moment finally registered. When his brain finally caught up to what he had done. Of who he had touched.

Like he had confessed to her, Darien would linger around building corners more often as he heard her about to rush by him. He'd wait till the opportune moment and step out to have her knock into him. Usually she would be running just hard enough that she couldn't stop herself from falling into him—thus he would be forced to catch her. Grasp her waist and hold it against himself, letting her catch her balance. For her own safety, of course.

Once, he accidently-on-purpose forgot he was just supposed to hold her, and not let his thumbs rub small circles against her. Not let his fingers stroke her skin through her shirt. Not let one of his hands climbing upwards to rub her back and pull her even closer. Not bend down slightly to burrow his head in her hair and inhale her sweet scent.

Sometimes she'd be running by so hard, she'd knock them both to the ground. At first, these times would scare him. Scared he had hurt her, and possibly himself, for a bit of a guilty pleasure. His brain imagined skinned knees and elbows, blood smeared on the ground, her whimpering in pain. Pain he had caused her. But that wasn't what he found.

The first time, he was thankful he had landed on the ground with her on top of him just by sheer luck. He had made sure that continued to happen every other time by pulling her onto him. And when they both landed in a heap of tangled limbs, he thought he felt her relax in his arms. Just for a moment.

At first, it he thought it was just wishful thinking on his part. Meatball Head feel comfortable with him holding her? That'd be the day!

But as the fall happened the second time, he expected her to be livid—had practiced an apology for when his guilty pleasure would get out of hand. Instead, he felt her hand run down his chest. At first, he thought she was just gaining leverage to push on his chest and pull herself back up again. But then her hand caressed back up and clutched the front of his jacket, as if to pull him tighter towards her.

She must've been lost in thought for during one of those times, because he was sure he heard her muffle something against his chest.

"Wow."

That's what she had said as she ran her hand down his chest. And back up again.

He hadn't felt too guilty for them accidently falling to the ground after that second time. Not when his chest tingled with her touch for the rest of that day. In fact, he was sure he felt her push a little bit harder once in a while to make them fall to the ground. So he would hold her entire body to him as she lay flushed against him.

Here he was planning—plotting—ways to make her fall into him so he could hold her, and she had been dreaming about it every night.

"So you dreamt about me holding you," he said, tasting the words on his tongue. They had a sweet taste with a hint of innocence patiently waiting for passion.

Darien couldn't hide a smile at the thought. Little Meatball Head dreaming of him holding her while she lay curled up in bed. In his jacket.

"Yeah," she nodded, blushing. She peeked up at him and he could see her throat move as she swallowed. "At first."

The smile dropped off his face and his mouth suddenly felt dry. He wasn't sure what to make of what she just said. Licking his suddenly dry lips, he waited for her to continue.

"It turned from you just holding me to you…"

Her mouth hung open as she stared at him. The pink on her cheeks spread to the rest of her face.

Emitting an embarrassed moan, she covered her mouth. Shutting her eyes, she buried her face in both her hands.

Darien saw her ears turn red and he couldn't help but chuckle.

Moving her fingers slightly, she peeked through them to see the raven haired man laughing.

"Not funny," she groaned.

He scratched the back of his head and ruffled his hair. Sighing, he leaned in closer at the table and gave her a small smile.

"It's just me," he coaxed. "No one else here but me to hear any of this."

Serena thought about that and moved her hands to rest on the table. "I kinda already told Molly and—"

"Andrew," filled in Darien, scowling slightly.

"You're mad I told him?"

"Not mad," he said, pulling at the back of his hair. "Just…I guess a little upset. Jealous."

Serena blinked at the statement.

"You're…jealous?"

Darien shrugged and let out a sharp breath in response.

"I just…I guess I didn't expect you to be jealous about…well, anything."

He raised an eyebrow at her, unsure how he felt about her reaction to the news that he felt jealous. Why wouldn't he feel jealous?

"You told my best friend—instead of me—your dreams," he grumbled. "I think I have the right to feel something, even if it's not jealousy."

Thinking over his words, Serena felt warm inside. A small smile took over her face.

"What?" he grumbled. "Why are you enjoying this?"

"I," she said, "didn't realize I was someone to get jealous over."

He blinked at her words. Registering her response, he felt his cheeks warm in a tell-tale blush. Trying to remember when he ever felt jealous over a girl before, his brain turned up empty.

She was the first.

First girl he thought about when she wasn't around. First girl he wanted to get attention from, even if it meant torturing her. And the first girl he felt jealous over his best friend for.

"You're important to me," he said plainly.

It was an admission to both her and himself. He felt the words many times over, but hadn't told himself directly the simple truth.

"And," he continued, "I got jealous you shared these things with other guys—with Andrew—when I only wanted you to share them with me."

"Oh…" She stared at him, surprised by the straightforward truth.

He stared at her, not at all embarrassed by his confession. Not finding a single reason to hide his true feelings.

"I dreamt I kissed you."

Eyes widening in surprise, Darien stared at her. His mouth dropped open. Then several times made to close but never fully did so, as if his brain was wondering with what to respond to the confession.

"When you were holding me," she continued.

Darien saw her take a deep breath, as if readying herself for long speech.

"First you were just holding me, but then you kissed my head. Like Andrew would do if I was sad or something."

The blonde looked up to see his eyes narrow a pinch at the mention that Andrew had kissed her before. Even though it was a sweet, innocent kiss on her head, he still seemed to be miffed at the idea.

"Your kisses are different," she said. "Andrew kisses like a friend. You…" Staring at him, she swallowed once before continuing. "You don't kiss like a friend. It feels different with you."

She saw his eyes relax, to which she was grateful. And then she saw them narrow in a different way, and a slight flicker in his eyes showed he was a little appreciative of her explanation. Serena stared at the cups, not finding the courage to look at him the entire time as she continued.

"But it was just on the head," she said. "In my dreams, I mean. Well, it was first just on the head. But then…then you'd move down to my temples and then my cheeks."

Darien saw her blush and while she seemed to be a little embarrassed, there was a slight smile on her lips that showed she was enjoying remembering the dreams. Enjoying remembering dreaming about him.

"In a few weeks," she said, glancing at him for a moment before looking back down at the cups with a blush, "you would kiss my neck. And travel down…"

He watched as her fingers traced from her earlobe, sliding gracefully downwards. Her thumb caressed her lean neck, index rubbing in circles, before ending at her collarbone.

Raising her head slightly, she slowly raked the back of her nails upwards to her chin, and then sliding back down. Her stomach sucked in with delight at the movement, causing her hand to falter for a moment before continuing.

Darien swallowed watching the movement, his lips suddenly dry. His tongue ran over his lips as her fingers ended gracefully at the collar of her shirt.

"Your hands would hold me really tight against my waist—like you did when we would bump into each other. It made me feel like I was the most thing to you. Like you didn't want to let go."

The raven haired man exhaled a harsh breath at the thought. He wondered for how long she really was the most important thing to him. Like he really did want to hold tight to her and not let go.

"Remember that time," she said, "when you grabbed my waist a little when you were holding me? Then you were rubbing my back?"

He gave a sharp nod once and didn't dare say anything to interrupt her.

"I dreamt you did that while I was…" Biting her lip, she smiled at him like she was about to confess something bad. Bad and a little too enjoyable. "I remember how you—your chest—felt. From when I would fall on you. I wanted to touch it again."

A sharp intake of breath was all Darien gave as a response.

"It was really warm that time. I would dream I could feel your muscles again. They weren't scary big—and I didn't want to change them in my dreams. I just changed that they were in front of me again. And you would let me touch them."

He wanted to admit that he was perfectly fine with her touching him again, but froze at her next confession.

"And then," she said, eyes closing. Her voice sounded more husky.

Darien watched as her face gentled until there was only a small hint of a smile—the kind men drove to the ends of the Earth for. He gripped his thighs, anxiously waiting for her to continue.

"A few weeks after that—almost two months—you kissed me for real. Kissed my lips."

Serena raised her fingers to her lips, gently caressing them as if remembering a particular dream. Her smile deepened and she let out a soft sigh.

He licked his lips again at the admission. Remembered how her lips felt on him. How they moved as he plundered through them. The taste of them as she moaned for him.

The blonde's eyes shot open as if seeing his thoughts in her own mind. Her hands dropped from her mouth to hug herself.

"We didn't kiss like—like that—not like we really kissed that time." She looked at him before dropping her gaze to the cups on the table. "In my dreams, I mean. We never kissed like that. You were really gentle."

Darien stilled at her confession, suddenly feeling the need to apologize.

"And it was just a little peck usually," she said, blushing. "You would kinda just rub my lips a little with yours and then…then pull away. It sounds weird, I guess, but it felt really nice..."

She scratched the back of her neck, suddenly feeling immature about her confessions. They seemed so juvenile compared to what Darien might've—definitely had—experienced before.

"I know it was just a stupid dream," she said, shrugging, "but I liked how gentle the kisses were."

"It's not a stupid dream," he said.

"And maybe kisses aren't actually like that," she continued. "I mean, I don't know—I've never been kissed before. Well, I mean, before you. So maybe I have no idea what I'm talking about—about any of it, really."

"Your first kiss," he groaned. Suddenly, he felt so much worse.

"This was stupid," she said, hands shaking. Suddenly, she felt very anxious to leave. And burry herself in a deep hole. "It's ridiculous to tell you all my weird dreams about some—"

"It's not ridiculous. It was perfectly fine to tell me—"

"—some weird girly fantasy—"

"—I want you to tell me stuff. These things. Any things, really—"

"—probably just gonna laugh about it later—"

"I'm not gonna laugh about it ever! I like knowing what you're thinking—"

"Dumb, stupid Meatball Head dreaming some dumb, stupid—"

*Thump!*

Slamming his hand on the table, he cried, "Enough!"

She stopped talking and stared up at him.

"Enough," he whispered gently.

She sat frozen in front of him. Afraid to move or talk.

"It's okay," he said. "It was a good thing you told me."

He smiled at her, willing her body to relax. Trying to convince her it was not bad to have opened herself up so much that she felt so vulnerable right now.

Seeing her unresponsive face, he nodded once and sighed.

There as a screech as he pushed back in his chair and got up. He held her gaze the entire way, finally breaking contact as he moved back to the stove.

Distance, he reason, might be best right now. Giving her space would help ease her mind and get rid of the wall she just put up between us.

He turned on the stove coil that had the pot of hot chocolate. Next, he walked over to the fridge to get the milk.

"I think," he continued, pouring the milk then returning it back to the fridge, "you're worried you're not sexual enough. For me, I mean." He dug around in the cupboards for another chocolate bar. "Afraid these—these weird girly fantasies as you called them sound—I don't know, immature? Naive? Juvenile?"

Turning to stare at her, he saw her glare in his direction. He smirked realizing he had enough words to describe how they sounded.

While he didn't feel they were so, he had a feeling she did. Especially when he saw her fingers still shaking slightly even as she tried to appear tough with the glare.

"You're wrong, Meatball Head," he said. "I don't think your dreams are childish. I'd say your dreams are more along the lines of…" Staring at her, he willed her to look only at him. To forget anything else in the room existed. "…hot."

He saw her chest move at the sudden take of a sharp breath. Smiling at her reaction, he started breaking the candy bar into pieces. Dumping most of the chocolate in the pot, he held a piece in his hand and walked towards her.

"And," he said, reaching her and bending down, "I'm very, very grateful that…" Moving the piece of chocolate towards her lips, she opened her mouth on an impulse, still staring up at him. "…that I get play the lead role in these dreams of yours."

His eyes twinkled as he finished the thought.

She took another deep breath. Lips suddenly feeling dry, her tongue darted out to lick them—

Gasping slightly as she felt—tasted—his fingers. The fingers near her mouth holding the piece of chocolate. A ruddy pink coated her cheeks.

"Here," he said, smirking down at her.

He nudged the chocolate closer, allowing her to take it in her mouth. Not bothering to bite the piece, she let it rest on her tongue as she watched him.

His fingers had a slight coating of melted chocolate. And a small shiny spot where she had accidently felt—tasted—his fingers. She felt her stomach tighten as he licked the chocolate off, and made sure to include the spot she had licked him.

As the chocolate melted in her mouth, she felt the taste erupting in her mouth was the same as what he experienced. Chocolate and each other. The thought made her shudder.

"You don't have to worry," he said, staring at her as he moved to stir the pot, "about being anyone other than yourself with me. I know you think I mind that you're…young. Inexperienced, whatever." He waved the thought away as if it was no big deal. "I waited a long time for you. I don't mind waiting."

Darien saw her mouth open slightly, as if deciding to protest something he thought they had cleared up already. That he was fine with the slow pace they were setting and it didn't matter one bit that she didn't want to do anything physical until they were married. Until she was his wife.

He inhaled a deep breath at the thought.

He had never thought about marriage with any of the other girls he dated, but suddenly the idea was very appealing. Making her his wife definitely sounded like a good idea to him. And finally celebrating that moment with her by…

"I want to wait," he said.

"If—if you're just saying that because I want to—"

"Nah," he said, smiling wider. He shook his head at her and leaned back against the counter, still stirring the pot with the spoon. "I wanna wait because it'll be great. I did this whole thing backwards."

He thought back to all the stupid ways he'd been trying to get her attention. Trying to get her to trip on him so he could catch her. Calling her names. Holding her milkshake just out of her reach, making her jump for them. Making fun of her hair.

If anything, he thought, I was the one being immature about it all. Pulling her hair like some kid in the playground…

Shaking her head, he sighed and looked back at her.

"I was an idiot," he said, wincing. "Shouldn't have been basically torturing you just so you'd pay attention to me."

Serena shrugged at his comment.

"I didn't mind it," she said. "Well, not all of it. Some of it I minded—like when you added mayonnaise to my milkshakes. And chocolate syrup in my hair. Or— "

"Or when I poured cold ice cream down your back?"

"Yeah," she growled. "That I minded."

Darien covered his mouth, trying to hide back his amusement. He hoped one day they could look back on those moments and laugh.

And it's not like she didn't give back as good as she got. Such as when he was digging into a slice of apple pie and while he had been expecting Vanilla ice cream on top, it was instead a scoop of soap lather.

"I was an idiot," he said, shrugging. He wanted to add that it happens to men in love.

"It's okay, I guess," she said, shrugging. "I was mean to you, too. Maybe it just cancels out—"

"No, it's not that," he said, shaking his head.

Digging his hand in his hair, he pulled at the strands and took a few deep breaths.

"Can I do anything to help?" she asked.

He watched her fingers move a lock of hair behind her ear. Her blue eyes searched his own, wanting to offer any assistance they could.

"Forgive me?" he finally asked.

"W-what?" Widening in surprise at the inquiry, she wasn't sure what she was supposed to pardon him for.

Staring at her for a moment, he bit his lip wondering how to proceed. Taking a deep breath, he pulled his eyes away from her and turned off the stove. Taking the pot of newly made hot chocolate with him, he walked back to the table and re-filled their cups. The cold left over hot chocolate warmed up as it mixed with the new batch.

Pushing her mug towards her, he walked away to put the pot back on the stove.

He hadn't looked back at her while performing these actions, busy gathering his thoughts.

Nodding to himself, he stepped back towards the table and resumed sitting in his chair.

Taking a deep breath, he looked back at her.

"I don't know—don't think, rather—that you've ever been in a relationship—or have dated or anything."

He paused for a moment, waiting for her to comment. To agree or deny the claim.

"I haven't," she said, a slight blush on her cheeks. She reached for her hot chocolate. "A few boys asked me, but I didn't really want to be with them."

Darien blinked hearing that. That she'd actually been asked out. And declined those dates.

"But you want to be with me?" he asked, wanting to hear her say it.

She blushed a little harder. The fingers gripping her mug clenched it a little tighter. He watched her chest expand as she took a deep breath.

"Yeah," she said, nodding. "I want to be with you."

Hearing her confession, he couldn't stop the smile that broke out in his face. He very well knew she wanted to be with him, but hearing that she'd been asked out—like he had—and didn't want to say 'yes' to anyone that had asked—same as him—because she wanted him instead was…it was a new found joy to him.

But that brought back the topic at hand. That she had never been with anyone else. And didn't know what usually—what was supposed to happen.

"The thing is," he said, rubbing the back of his neck, "I kinda basically jumped you."

She raised her eyebrows in question.

"The kind of kissing we did—well, that I did on you…"

He watched her blush. Saw her throat swallow a sip of hot chocolate with difficulty.

"That kind of kissing is fine, but not… not for the first time."

She nodded her head, thinking she understood. "No taking off clothes the first time," she said, putting her mug on the table.

"No, not that—well, yes, that's true. Clothes stay on the first time. But also the type of kissing we did…"

Serena took another sip of her hot chocolate, waiting for him to continue. He rubbed the back of his neck. She watched as his hand moved up into his hair and pulled at it.

"Something wrong?" she asked.

"Yeah," he groaned. "Something definitely went wrong."

Putting his hands on the table, he leaned in closer. Watching the movement, Serena did the same.

"Your dreams weren't wrong, okay? They're not some silly-girly-whatever you called them. It's supposed to be gentle the first time. I'm not just supposed to jump you."

Considering his words, she just blinked at him.

"Oh…"

"I'm just supposed to peck you the first time. Just a little kiss. Probably work myself up to your lips—start on the cheek first or something. I'm not supposed to just push you against a wall and…"

"I…" Serena wasn't sure how to process this new information.

"So I'm sorry. Really, really sorry. I was an idiot. Complete idiot."

The blonde stared at him pull at his hair again.

"That's what you want me to forgive you for?" she asked.

He stopped his movements and looked at her.

"Yeah," he breathed. "Please…"

Biting her lip, she mentally reviewed what had transpired so far. Yes, he kissed her. One of those push-against-the-wall kisses reserved for later it seemed. Definitely not the gentle ones she was supposed to get.

But then again, if he hadn't done that, she might not be sitting here. Might not be talking with him as a couple.

So she ultimately wasn't too upset over that kiss, seeing what it resulted in for the both of them. Never the less, she felt robbed for not getting to experience kissing the proper way.

"Will you kiss me like you were supposed to?" she asked. "The gentle ones like in my dreams?"

Smiling at the question in hopes that she was considering accepting his apology, he nodded his head. "Yeah," he said, "if you'll let me."

"Then okay," she said. Rubbing circles on the rim of her mug, she looked at him and smiled.

"That's it?" he asked, surprised. "We're good now?"

"I like being with you," she said, shrugging. "And if that's how we got together, then okay."

Darien felt like he was suddenly offered a far too precious a gift, especially after being such a cad. She trusted him. Implicitly. And he was nowhere near the man that merited such a treasure. But he vowed to become the man that deserved it. Deserved her.

"No jumping you again," he voiced out loud. "And waiting to do anything—work myself up to the kisses in your dreams."

Serena shivered hearing the statement. Was especially grateful Darien had mentioned not kissing her right then and there. Wanted to work up to just the gentle kisses. Start small, like on the cheek as he had mentioned.

"How'd I ever get so lucky?" he said, chuckling at the notion. Picking up his mug, he took a hearty sip of hot chocolate. "Having you dream about me. Thinking of me all night when you're sleeping."

"And sometimes not sleeping," she said, joining in with the laughter.

His mug paused mid-way to his mouth. Raising an eyebrow at her, he watched her blush again.

"Well, it started off with just dreaming about you at night," she explained, putting down her mug. "But then with plotting ways of running into you, I started thinking about you during the day. In school."

"What do you mean thinking about me?"

"Like, you know," she said, shrugging, "day dreaming."

He blinked at her admission.

"It wasn't all that bad at first," she said. "Just ways to run into you and where to jump out from. But then…well, I was wondering how you would catch me. Whether you would just hold my waist or if one of your hands would rub my back again."

Looking up at him, she saw him smile. Clearly enjoying as she continued with her secret dreams.

"Soon it wouldn't really be about running into you—the plotting stopped. Instead I would focus thinking more about what you would do afterwards."

"Wow," he said, smirking. There was a twinkle in his eye as if he was rather proud with himself. He had, unknowingly, succeeded in making the girl he loved thinking about him all the time. Any time they weren't together, her mind was still focused on him. "That sounds…"

"Sounds like something worth getting detention over?" she asked, sipping her hot chocolate.

"What—detention?"

"Oh, yeah," she said, laughing. "Ms. Haruna was not very understanding of my mind wandering away during her lessons."

"But you were late almost every day. You're not saying you had detention all those times?"

"Had a lot to think about." She shrugged, blushing. "You'd show up to the Arcade later than I would after school finished, so it's not like I was missing time with you while sitting in detention."

"I was worth detention?"

"Yup. Worth every hour I spent in that room."

Darien laughed.

"I feel horrible for getting you detention so often, though."

"It's fine," she said, shrugging. "I did my homework there, so at least I got something out of it."

"You can do your homework here," offered Darien. He stared at her with a slight smile on his face. "I mean, do it with me. Instead of detention every day."

"You're thinking I don't need my detention time anymore?" she asked, smirking. "No more day dreaming about you?"

"Well, I figured the reality might be better than the day dreams, Meatball Head," he said, leaning closer. "Besides, why waste an hour sitting in a hard desk when you could do it on a warm body?"

Serena stilled at the question.

"You're teasing me," she said, narrowing her eyes. "Like you always do, but it's different."

"Yeah," said Darien, laughing. He shrugged his shoulders. "I still like to tease you. We can still do that even if we're dating now. Unless," he said, looking at her, "you don't want that. It's okay if you don't—"

"I want that," she interrupted. Picking up her cup, she took another sip. "I don't want that to stop."

"Glad to hear it." Raising his cup at her, he took a gulp of the hot chocolate.

"I don't know how to tease like that," she said, shrugging. "Not yet, anyway. But I'll learn."

"You picked up pouring honey into my pockets when I wasn't looking real quick," he said, chuckling as she smirked, "so I'm sure you'll pick up this type of banter easily enough. Oh," he added, "and my offer still stands."

"Hmm?" She raised an eyebrow, trying to remember.

"About you studying here. I mean, I'm pretty good at school work and what-not, but it'd be nice to hang with you away from everyone at the arcade."

"Does that mean," she said, putting down her cup, "we're not going to go on real dates?"

Darien put down his cup, too. Staring at her, he sighed and shrugged. "I'm not saying I don't want to go on dates. It's just that we're probably going to have to ease into that…"

"What?" she asked, narrowing her eyes. "You don't want to be a couple in public with me?"

Grinding his teeth, he glared at her. Upset she would insinuate such an idea.

"I'm perfectly fine," he ground out, "being a couple with you anywhere. Don't think you're getting rid of me that easily."

"You're the one that kissed me," she said, glaring back, "so you can forget about breaking up. You're stuck with me."

"I'm only stuck with you," he snarled, "because I'm not letting you go."

Serena leaned in closer, glaring harder. "You're not letting me go because I won't let you," she said, pointing a finger at him. "You belong to me now."

"That's because," he growled, "I'm in love with you."

"Not as much as me," she said, huffing.

"You don't love me as much as I love you; I've loved you before you even knew what love was!"

"Then why won't you," she spit out, "date me?!"

"Because I'm terrified of your father!"

Serena stared at him for a moment. The glare on her face slowly receded until she was just staring at him. Biting the inside of her cheek, she considered what he said.

"You won't date me because of my Dad?"

"I've heard about your father, Meatball Head," he said. "He's going to go for his shot gun as soon as he hears me ring the doorbell."

"So that means you won't date me? I'll just be a secret girlfriend or something?"

"No, not that," he said.

Darien wasn't going to keep her a secret like he was ashamed of their relationship or anything. It was one thing to gossip to everyone he met about their relationship, but he also didn't want to keep it such a secret that no one knew because they were afraid people would find out. Like he was embarrassed to be dating her.

He was quite alright with people know she was taken. By him. That in a way, she belonged to him. And judging by her words just a moment ago, he belonged to her. Darien smiled at her being so possessive of him. Somehow he found it endearing.

"We'll just," he said, "have to ease into it. For your father. I'm not sure how he'd feel with his daughter coming home one day saying she was going on a date with someone. Someone older, at that."

"He'd shoot you," she said quite plainly.

Darien wanted to laugh at that, but instead he felt a shiver run up his spine that chilled his body. His plans for their future involved him staying alive to fulfill them.

"How about," he said, "we start off by just telling Andrew and your friend Molly."

"Tomorrow after school?" she volunteered.

"That'll work."

"And then we'll wait a while to tell my Dad?" asked Serena.

"Yeah," said Darien, nodding his head. "We'll tell him just as soon as I learn how to dodge flying bullets."


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