A/N: Rewatching season one leaves me with a deep, deep appreciation for Derena again. Seriously... what happened, JS? They were so perfect. Anyway, this goes out to two people, who are incredibly awesome and amazing and etc. etc. - Court and Derena1045. Their Derena love has obviously never faded and I hope we get awesome Derena in season four, just so they can be happy. LOVE YOU BOTH. NEVER CHANGE.

Also, this is a hot mess. It does not give Derena justice.

They're a walking cliche.

Sometimes they don't even care.

He looks at her like she's some sort of guiding star that he's following home; and it's a little scary, just a little, because she's never been that for anyone ("I don't even think they looked at me at all") but it makes her want to be better (for him). She's above him on the food chain but when its just them, she's at his level, and he's still looking at her like she's untouchable. It's unnerving (it's terrifying) but it's beautiful.

He looks at her like he's found the sun. She's found herself resonating in that glow.

Guys have smiled at her, painfully flashing their pearly white teeth, shading their dark eyes with their hand, when they say, "I love you." And she always believed them, of course (she's Serena, she's naive, she's childish, of course she did). But it always ends up with her waking up in an unfamiliar hotel room not remembering the night before, just those impersonal and careless words, "I love you."

When he says it, he's naked in every sense, vulnerable and free with all those layers shed off, so she's just seeing him, and he's just seeing her. And he's looking at her again like she's perfection and she feels so... she doesn't even know if there's a word for it.

"I love you," he says.

And it makes her smile (please stay for a while) and for once, just for once, she knows he's telling the truth. She doesn't even know what to say, but she closes her eyes and savors the words before: "I love you, too."

He always looks like he's surprised to hear the words repeated, with that slow smile stretching taut across his lips, his eyes shining with knowledge she cannot even fathom.

She's awake the next morning and - well, she doesn't remember much, just...

They were drunk (shitfaced, smashed, etc. etc.) so she wants to blame it on that (she should blame it on that and never bring up the topic again). But she remembers ("Do you want to talk about it?" "No.") and ("What happened to us?" "I don't know."). And...

It's a story for another time. It didn't even happen (she makes sure to brush it off her shoulder, and brush it off his as well). "I love Nate," she says but she doesn't even... does she know what love means anymore? She always found it in his eyes but now... (well, things are different now).

And he smiles (it doesn't reach his eyes). "I love Vanessa."

It sounds like he's agreeing with her but she catches his eye, his gaze, and he's looking at her like he never has before. It scares her all over again. (What happened to us? You were never supposed to look at me like a stranger.)

It's a pattern (break up, make up, break up, make up).

But when she presses her lips to his and holds his gaze, keeps watching for a change in his expression, and he's still looking at her like he used to, awed and revering. Like nothing's changed at all. And that's when she's realized something.

The pattern is broken (it only took so long for it to happen).

And there's a lot of things they don't talk about. It's been too long, far too long, and they don't talk about what strangers they might as well have been. They barely know each other at all.

(But she curls up beside him and stares at the ceiling and says, "Tell me what I missed.")

("You missed me missing you," he says.)

And they're a walking cliche. Everything they say is cheesy, and they have those conversations on the phone ("Miss you!" "Miss you more!" "Miss you times infinity?") like they're four years old again but...

Well, they aren't strangers anymore.

It's how it should be.