I wasn't really planning on writing a V-day story this year because I thought I was over this whole notion of romance (ha, who am I kidding?), but I'm glad I ended up doing this story because it was lots of fun to write! That, and focusing on the lives of Serena and Darien makes it easier to forget I had to survive yet another Singles Awareness Day (though I did end up getting giri-choco - 'obligation chocolate' - from the mother of a Japanese girl whom I teach).
So on that note, this story is for all you wonderful, beautiful people who have to go through another year without a Valentine. Here's my gift to you (so now you can't complain about not getting anything)!
Serena Tsukino had to read the letter six times before she finally registered its contents. She was twenty-three, single, lame enough to be in the office at eight a.m. on a Saturday morning, and apparently now jobless. The last fact made her stomach lurch, her head spin, her blood boil at the injustices of the world – but seeing she did not quite have the means to embark on a crusade for the sake of the righteous poor, Serena could only take a deep breath and shake her head. Then she read the letter for the seventh time.
It is with my deepest regret to inform that this will be your last day with Shields' Enterprises. Please ensure that all your belongings are removed by the end of the day, and that you leave the company with adequate documentation about your current areas of responsibility. Your presence will be sorely missed, and I wish you all the best with your future endeavours.
This time, after reading the dismissal letter – it was more like a note, the cheap bastard – Serena allowed a growl to escape her throat. How dare he brush her off so easily, without any warning? She had been his secretary for five long years, and he did not even have the courtesy to confront her in person. Hell, he didn't even know her name – what kind of title was 'madam'? Was he amused by the idea of her looming spinsterhood and decided to pour salt on the wound? Or had Darien Shields discovered that his obedient, loyal little secretary harboured feelings for him, and was dismissing her indirectly so that he would save himself the trouble of a long rejection speech?
Tears pricked at her eyes as she considered the last thought, but Serena rubbed them away, refusing to be defeated by the arrogant, pompous ass. She was stupid to have allowed her weak, romantic side to get the better of her – after all, she wasn't really going to execute her plan anyway. She was a mature, intelligent, independent woman – never mind the fact she had just lost the only steady job she ever had and would probably have trouble finding a new one with her lack of qualifications and the current economic situation – and she was strong, she would maintain her dignity and be unfazed by absolutely nothing—
"Hi Serena, is that a love letter from your Valentine?"
"No, no Mina," she stuttered, clutching the awful piece of paper to her, "it's um, it's not what you think!"
Mina simply raised an eyebrow, her expression a mixture of amusement and scepticism.
"Seriously, Mina! It's work-related!" Serena fumbled with the letter and was glad to find that it had been printed on company stationary. She thrust it towards Mina. "See! Shields' Enterprises. The world is about work Mina!" Serena snatched it back when Mina moved to inspect the contents of the letter, and offered her friend an exaggerated smile. "Okay, now that that's been sorted out, let's go back to work, work, work is fabulous!"
"You know…" Serena's smile faltered at the seriousness in Mina's tone. "I don't want to know. You go back to your flittering. I'm going to finish up these designs and get out of here ASAP—can't leave a hot date waiting for too long!"
The only response was to smile, nod, and then let loose a string of enthusiastic, encouraging remarks about Mina's marvellous boyfriend while silently recounting her own misfortunes. Mina seemed to buy her act fairly quickly, and Serena soon found herself alone again, in her little cubicle that was less than ten steps away from Darien Shields' own office.
Then Serena remembered the letter in her hands, and her shoulders sagged once more as she visited its contents for the eighth time.
"What do you mean, he fired you?"
Serena sighed into the phone for the umpteenth time, questioning her level of sanity as she ran her fingers over the reams of paper hidden away in the supply closet.
"Serena?" Raye's impatience could be felt even through the communication device. "Tell me what happened."
"It's like I said," Serena answered. "I walked into the office, found an envelope on my desk, opened it, and bam, I'm now going to live on Lita's charity or starve on the streets for the rest of my life."
"And is he here? Has he talked to you about it in person?"
Serena was used to Raye's persistent questioning, but this was getting really tedious. "Yes, he's here; no, he hasn't mentioned it at all, even though we spent a good half hour going through his schedule for next week."
"And you didn't even think of bringing the subject up to him?"
Of course she thought about it, but what use would it have been if she said anything? He had made his decision, expressed it in the clearest way, and there was nothing she could do to change that. Besides, he had seemed concerned about her during their meeting, and there was a moment when he considered saying something about her strange behaviour. It was not much, but she suspected it would be the last semblance of attention she would receive from her boss. Of course, things might have been different if she had decided to be honest and open herself to him while she still had the chance…
"Serena, please tell me you're not fantasising about those thirty minutes you spent earlier today, locked together in the office you might never set foot in again." The blonde had the decency to blush. "You know, perhaps this might be a good thing for you after all. You've been so hung up on your Mr Shields ever since you started working at his company, and now you finally have a chance to get over him and put your own life in perspective."
"No, that won't happen," Serena replied instantly. "You don't know the kind of person he is, how amazing and giving he is. This isn't just a silly little crush, Raye, this is something so much more."
"See, that's what I'm talking about. You don't really know him, either. He's just your boss, Serena. And by tomorrow, he's going to have nothing to do with you at all. I know it's harsh, but you just have to accept this and move on."
The words stung her, but it was not what made her gasp. Raye started apologising for her bluntness, but Serena shushed her. "Oh goodness, you cannot believe what I'm seeing here," she whispered into the phone. "Someone just arrived with a huge delivery of roses…and Darien's signing for them. There must be at least a hundred of them, all red and beautiful and I can even smell them from here… Now they're taking them to his office… Oh Raye, he ordered roses… What am I going to do?"
There was a slight pause on the other end, before Raye spoke again, her tone suddenly suspicious. "Serena, where are you?"
Uh-oh. "I'm in the office."
"You never have lunch in your office," Raye said drily.
"Um, I'm not having lunch, Raye…"
"But it's your lunch break." Another pause. "Serena, you're not hiding in a supply closet and spying on Darien Shields now, are you?"
"Of course not; I'm updating the inventory."
She had finalised her reports by three-thirty, had them printed and bound by four, and finished clearing out her desk at exactly five in the afternoon. It was a ridiculous time to be at work on a beautiful, cheerful Saturday filled with red and pink streamers – not that she would have joined the festivities – but it would be her last day, and Serena was intent on ensuring Darien Shields would have no further complaints about her. He might have thought himself beyond basic courtesy, but she would remain professional and perfect to a fault – not that he deserved it. With that last thought in mind, Serena picked up her reports, made her way to his office, lifted her chin, and knocked on the door.
"Come in," Darien called from inside. She tried not to think about the devilishly handsome man who owned that smooth, seductive voice, and entered the room.
She was instantly overwhelmed with the sweet scent of the roses that were gathered in a corner of the room, and was strangely pleased by his uncomfortable shifting when she kept her gaze on the flowers longer than necessary. But he recovered soon enough, and Darien Shields was all smiles again.
"What can I do for you Serena?" he asked, making her heart jump – so the prick did know her name. Then he glanced at his watch, a Rolex Oyster Perpetual Datejust set with diamonds in white gold, and added, "Isn't it a bit too late to be still at the office? You work too hard sometimes; maybe you should take a vacation"
She would not allow him to intimidate her with the shine of his teeth and his twenty-thousand dollar watch. "I'm glad to see that you have your company's priorities in order; at the rate you're going, you're going to end up employing a bunch of inexperienced hobos, which might actually suit you rather well because you're turning out to be quite the brainless misogynist."
She took the five and a half angry steps that brought her to his desk, and practically threw the paperwork down. "I don't know reliable your judgement is, but I hope these documentations are adequate enough for your liking. Updates on the system, detailed summaries of every meeting you've attended in the last five years, specific instructions to making your favourite coffee for the unfortunate soul of your next secretary, and even an inventory of supplies for next week's audit. I've packed all my belongings, including the lame excuses of 'gifts' that you gave me every year at Christmas and on my birthday, and I'm now going to turn around and walk out of this building and take a permanent vacation and be satisfied that I will never have to think about your sorry ass every again."
"What are you talking about? Serena?!"
She was halfway to the door when she felt his hand enclosing over her wrist. She jerked back from the contact – though his skin was surprisingly soft – and regarded him with livid eyes.
"Okay, the game stops here," she all but shouted. "You know, I really respected you as a person, as the founder and CEO of this entire company, but now you've turned your office into some aromatherapy clinic. What kind of respectable male does that? You know, I was silly enough to believe that you were the most gorgeous male alive on this planet, and up until ten hours ago, I would have happily had your babies. But now I'm never going to confess my feelings for you, you jerk!"
"Except you just did," he said in his matter-of-fact voice that made her want to throw a shoe at him.
"You're unbelievable! And I'm disgusted that you can even think of taking advantage of your secretary in that way! I can't believe I'm even trying to reason with you… Goodbye, Mr. Shields."
"Why exactly are you leaving?" His tone was a cross between confused and amused, and Serena did not like it one bit.
"Because you gave me the boot, you bastard! And you know what, now that I think about it, I don't even need your excuse, because I quit!"
"And when exactly did I supposedly fire you?"
"Wow, and I can't believe I ever looked up to your intelligence," she said, dripping in sarcasm. "You gave me the pink slip this morning, you moron."
"No, I didn't."
The room suddenly started spinning in the other direction. "But… You did. You left that note, that letter, that thing in that envelope…" She retrieved the crumpled paper from her pocket, her heart thudding as Darien skimmed the contents.
"That was for Samantha, that senile accountant who just retired. She must have dropped this yesterday while she was moving her things, and the cleaner probably placed it on your desk this morning."
Her mouth was formed in a 'o' shape, but Serena had seemed to lost her voice.
"So what was that part about having my babies?"
"Um, can we pretend that the last fifteen minutes never happened?"
"Not a chance."
He was looking at her in the way that made her knees feel weak, and Serena wracked her mind for something to say. "I still maintain that the roses are stupid. Who are they for anyway?"
"I was going to give them to my secretary," he said, ignoring her small gasp, "an amazing woman I've liked for years, but she seems to have quit her job. However, now that I remember some of her last words, I recall she said that she wouldn't date me anyway, had she kept her job… I suppose that means I have a chance now, and that maybe she might even agree to join me for dinner, if she's in the mood."
"Dinner?" she managed to squeak.
Darien nodded. "It's Valentine's Day, you know. I actually lied to her yesterday about how she was urgently needed to draft up a proposal for a business plan that I don't need until next Wednesday, just so I could get her in the office and surprise her. She always seems to be in her own little world, which I find very endearing, but that made it difficult for me to show her I was interested. You seem like an insightful young lady, Miss Tsukino – perhaps you could give me some advice?"
If Darien Shields wasn't standing so close to her that she could practically feel the warmth of his body, then Serena might have spent hours overanalysing her answer. But he was looking at her with those breathtaking blue eyes that were so intensely focused on her, and she could only swallow and say, "I think you should take this amazing woman in your arms at the earliest convenience and kiss her senseless."
And he obliged all too happily, his hands on her waist, pulling her close. His lips brushed gently across hers, teasing her with soft kisses, making her head spin with the erratic rhythm that left her wanting more. She vaguely heard him whisper her name against her lips before he kissed her in earnest, covering her mouth with a heat that made her whimper. Any doubts she might have had were burnt away with the intensity of his kiss, and Serena could only feel joy sweeping through her.
She was twenty-three, not-so-single, lame enough to be in the office at five thirty p.m. on a Saturday afternoon, and… She tensed, peeling herself away from him.
"Am I still fired?"
Finis. Please review. :)