AN:: Written for a school assignment.

All he was currently aware of was a burning sensation in his lungs. In fact, he could scarcely focus on where he was going; his thoughts were far too preoccupied with who was waiting at his destination. His feet pounded on the street as Denzel raced through the city in the general direction of Marlene's house. The only real conscious thought he had was, 'Be sure not to crush it.'


An intrusive raindrop fell downfrom the sky, hitting him softly on the nose. Its coldness shot through his senses and awakened him from the haze of getting to his destination, causing him to look up quickly and realize he was on the wrong street. He paused, groaned, and leaned against a wall to catch his breath while he deciphered where to run next.

Taking a wild guess, he ran north, relieved to find a familiar street stretched out before him like a welcoming grey ribbon. Grinning, he sped around a corner a bit too quickly, the smile slipping from his face as rapidly as he'd tripped, landing with a wet 'splat' on the rain-soaked ground. Rising up onto his feet again, he grimaced at his now completely saturated body. He checked his pack; it was still dry. He kept going.

He mentally whined about the rain, cursing the angels for crying on a day such as this—on Marlene's birthday. However, the thought of sharing the day with her later raised him above petty thoughts of ill-content, and he continued on his way, pushing himself faster. Panting, he rushed across the quiet street, the earlier 'plip, plip' of rain now a steady drumming in his ear, on his face, dragging at his clothes and nipping at his ears.

Long after the cold had begun to numb his knee (for the knee had been torn from his jeans long ago) he pushed on, sprinting after his goal with a passion no one could match. The wind shifted, and still he ran valiantly against it. Finally he reached Marlene's house, trudging along the slick streets to her door.

Three knocks.

"Denzel!" Marlene exclaimed happily, letting him in behind her. He walked into her house, slightly ashamed of the water dripping onto the floor below him from his jeans, hair, and every other inch of him. He waited patiently as she fetched him a towel, and hurried when she stood beside him to wait. When he was as dry as the thin towel and storm outside allowed, he handed it to his friend, unsure of what to do concerning the whereabouts of her laundry despitenumerous visits.

Digging his hands around inside his pack, he produced, after a moment's hesitation….a cupcake. Extending his hand towards her, she merely looked at it for a minute.

"Happy birthday, Marlene," he said gently. She smiled softly. Taking it, she set it on a coffee table, and then, without second thought, brought her arms around his neck in a tender hug.

"You ran all the way here in the rain to bring me a birthday present…," she whispered, smile evident in her voice. "Thank you…"

Denzel laced his fingers around hers, muttering a quick "Any time" in her ear.

Running halfway across town to deliver a cupcake to Marlene was worth it.