Hi! I don't own Sailor Moon, I just like borrowing the characters. Umm, just imagine there are no other seasons past SM R. Not much needs explaining here, so enjoy! And please, please, please review!

08/4/01

A young woman sat at her bedroom's window seat and watched the rain slide down the window's pane of glass. She looked almost ethereal; her skin impossibly pale in the gloom and she sat so perfectly still that the twin blonde streamers of hair that tumbled down her back could have been made of solid gold. The only thing that gave her away as belonging to the mortal world was the slow clasping and unclasping of her fingers around a small diamond ring on one of her fingers. There was no question that this woman of sixteen was beautiful; there was no question that the ring she wore was expensive; it seemed that she lacked for nothing. But then, why was she so sad?

Serena sighed and rubbed her temples gently. " Why am I so sad?" she muttered out loud, as she finally roused herself from the hypnotic like trance the raindrops had put her in. He would want an answer soon, and the longer she put him off, the harder it would be.

The house was deathly quiet except for the soft drumming of rain against the roof. Her family had gone out that evening to something at Reenie's school. Serena tried but failed to keep the scowl from her face at the thought of Reenie, the pink haired little girl who had seemed to insinuate herself into every aspect of Serena's life. Funny that Reenie was the key to getting that which Serena wanted most, when she was also the reason for Serena's hesitation. Because if she accepted she would always wonder…

If only he hadn't broken-up with her, then she would have said yes without a moment's pause. She would have responded with all the innocence and naivety that was almost her trademark. But she had been forced to grow up quickly, and now she saw the world from a slightly altered perspective. The world was not a perfect place and it wasn't fair.

Flashback

" I don't love you anymore, Serena. We don't belong together, and you should just stay away", Darien said.

" But… But I don't understand. What's changed? What did I do wrong?"

" You didn't do anything, I just don't feel that way about you. Couldn't you tell?"

Serena burst out crying, she was so shocked. Before she knew it she was standing outside Darien's apartment, her arms wrapped around her as though she could keep the pieces of her broken heart from falling out and becoming lost forever.

' I'm not good enough, I guess. I'm just Serena Tsukino, the clumsy crybaby. He probably gave the relationship a shot because of our past selves, the prince and princess. Of course, he must have been horrified to discover, I was his long lost love', Serena thought.

End Flashback

Oh, Serena remembered that day very well. The day the world had seemed to take a flying jump forward and to leave her behind. The day she had stumbled into a phone booth and cried so much she had thought she might drown. He'd been so businesslike and calm when he had cut her out of his life, like he was finally getting around to completing a distasteful task. But then, that was Darien all over. Methodical and confident, he had everything planned right to the last detail and it was unthinkable that something like emotion would ever stand in his way. Emotion was an unknown variable in the formula that was his life. She wondered what he was feeling right now that she had upset that balance.

After the break-up incident, Serena remembered going through the days as though she were an actress and her life was a play. Despite having her confidence ripped to shreds, and her trust shattered, a part of her had remained optimistic: painfully hopeful.

Flashback

Serena watched as Tuxedo Mask disappeared after another battle, having swept her out of harm's way at the perfect moment. He had said nothing to her, and she had not been able to get past that lump in her throat to tell him all that she wanted to.

" Serena, are you okay?"

" Of course, why wouldn't I be?"

" Well, you told us you were going to confront him and demand that he tell you what you did wrong", Amy said.

" I changed my mind. Maybe, I'm getting over him", Serena said, not meeting the eyes of her friends.

The scouts shared a look and knew she was lying to them, but they appreciated why she had done it. She really was maturing, and although it was something they all claimed they wanted, they were sorry it came at the loss of her innocence.

" Besides, it's not like there isn't lots of other whales in the ocean", Mina said, coming close to the right idiom.

' But I don't want someone else, I love him. And I know that's pathetic, I mean how can I love someone who hurts me so much? But I do, I love him, I will always love him. That's got to count for something, right? One day, he'll realize that nobody can love him as much as I can, and then he'll come back to me. He'll tell me that he couldn't live without me and then he'll hold me and kiss me so passionately that I won't have any doubts' Serena thought.

End Flashback

She had been so naïve back then, and so gullible. She had been willing to dismiss all the evidence telling her that Darien did not care for her, and to cling instead to the few scraps of information that might be considered as caring. All those times when she had run into him, fallen to the ground, and skinned her knees and he had just stared past her… she had just pretended that he hadn't noticed. If it was all just a pretence as Darien had said, then he had tremendous acting ability. She had been entirely convinced that he hated her. And there had been no solace when she had discovered the 'cause' for the break-up. If anything, that truth had left her more hollow and uncertain then anything else.

Flashback

" Darien! I need to speak with you right away", Serena said, pounding on Darien's door late in the evening. No answer came from inside, but she heard someone moving about. Feeling even more humiliated, she began to beg, " Please, Darien, I know you're there. I'll be quick, honest I will. Please, it's important."

Slowly the door opened and Darien glared down at her. " You're going to wake-up my neighbours. What do you want?"

" I…" Serena was suddenly afraid. Scared to tell him of the dream that had sent her running over here in the middle of the night.

" What?" he said, exasperated.

" I had a dream", she said in a rush. Darien growled and went to close the door, so Serena spoke-up before he could escape her. " In it, we were getting married and then at the last moment something tears me away and then everything goes red, and all I can hear is a creepy voice telling you to stay away."

Darien's eyes flashed in shock as he heard his dream described.

" I've had… I've been having that very same dream. At first, I tried to ignore it but then it kept coming night after night. I couldn't ignore it", Darien said.

" Then that means you broke-up with me, to protect me? Oh, Darien that means we can be together again", she said, and took one step closer to him. Darien took a step backwards and grew cold again.

" That can't happen Serena. Go home, go to bed. It's late", he said, shutting the door. Serena stared at the door in utter disbelief. He had not confirmed her 'protection' theory; he had not said one comforting word, or one regret for how hard the break-up had been on him. Had she been wrong? Was he really never coming back to her? She couldn't accept that.

" Darien, please, don't shut me out. I don't care what the dreams say; I just want to be with you. Don't you want to be with me? Aren't I more important then some dream?" she practically screamed into the door. Her words were greeted with silence and Serena collapsed onto the hallway carpet, crying. Why couldn't he have just said ' I will not endanger your life because I care too much', then she could have consoled herself with the fact that he still cared. But he hadn't, and it was obvious that he didn't think she was worthy of an explanation for his continuing to keep them apart.

End Flashback

Serena wondered if he knew how damaging that conversation had been to her. Never, would she be able to take a conversation at face value again. Now, she was always wondering if the words being spoken to her were lies. If it had been the dreams that had made him leave her, then why when she had confronted him with the issue, had he not taken her back then? Why had he waited two whole days before deciding he wanted her in his life again? Serena had a theory about that and it wasn't pleasant. But she was getting ahead of herself, and she was determined to think this problem through completely and thoroughly. She next had to consider the manner in which Darien and her had gotten back together. If she was to find evidence of love, it must surely show itself at that point, right?

Flashback

" I thought it was over for you guys, but I'm glad to see I was wrong", Lita said. They were standing at the top of a building, having just defeated a monster with the help of Tuxedo Mask. Tuxedo Mask had turned and left, as per usual, but the scouts seemed to think Serena should follow him.

" I don't know what you did to change his mind, but he obviously wants you back", Amy said.

" Yeah, and you look so beautiful right now, go to him girl!" Mina said excitedly.

" Just follow your heart, Serena. It will work out", Raye said. They practically pushed Serena in the direction Darien had gone, and then they left the 'lovers' alone. Serena had never been so confused in her life. What had the scouts seen that she hadn't? She saw no reason to chase after Darien; he had been as cool as ever, hadn't he? Well, maybe the girls knew something more about relationships then she did. She would do as they said, she would go after him, but still she was puzzled. Why now? What had made him change his mind?

Serena dashed through the park, pausing only when she saw Darien standing in the middle of the park in front of the moonlit pond. She searched for some clue in his face that would indicate that he wanted her to be there, but could not decipher his cool façade. Then Darien opened his arms, and without another thought she launched herself into his embrace. They held each other briefly, before Darien tilted her chin slightly and kissed her softly on the lips. Serena was in heaven, and didn't think to question the brevity of the kiss.

" Come on, I'll walk you home", he said gently. Serena didn't think to protest. He didn't take her hand as they walked at a moderate pace towards her home. There were no words of apology or forgiveness said. There was no explanation or 'I missed you' spoken. Darien seemed to assume that things could go straight back to the way things were as though the months of anguish Serena had gone through had never happened.

End Flashback

" Oh, Darien", Serena muttered to herself, sitting back down at her window seat. If she had had her way, that scene would have played out very differently. For one thing, she wouldn't have been so desperate for his love as to throw herself at the first sign of him giving in. She would have held out at least for an apology. She would have asked him exactly why he had changed his mind. In her head, Serena created a little fantasy of how it might have been.

Dream

" Serena, I've been such an idiot. I'm so sorry for causing us pain, for causing you pain. Can… can you ever forgive me?" Darien said, standing outside Serena's window on a moonlit night.

" Why did you do it, Darien?"

" Because of the dreams. It was just like you said, Serena. I thought I was protecting you. I would do anything to keep you safe, I love you so much", Darien said, his voice thick with emotion.

" But then, why did you change your mind?"

" Because you had the dream too, and yet you were brave enough to see it for what it was. A test of our love. I'm sorry I ever doubted that strength, but I got scared. But I see the truth now Serena, and what's more, I can't live without you. I need you", Darien said.

" I need you too, Darien. I love you, and I never gave up hope", Serena said tearfully. Darien climbed up the tree that was next to her house.

" I'm so sorry", Darien whispered when he was close enough to tough her face with one fingertip.

" I forgive you, after all, you did it all for me. And I know you were hurting as much as I was. Now, we can move on, can't we?"

" Yes, I'm never letting anything come between us again", Darien said. Then he leaned in and kissed her soft lips. The longing in his eyes increased and Serena drew closer, putting both her hands on his face to bring him closer. The kiss was so passionate that Serena thought she might catch on fire. It pulsed in her body like a live entity, so powerful, so beautiful, that it made her moan. Darien's hands shook as he filled his heart and soul with her essence. When the kiss was over, they stared into each other's eyes and saw nothing but the love they shared.

End Dream

Yes, that was how they should have gotten back together. In fact, she would have been satisfied with any way so long as it hadn't left her with doubt. Doubt that he had not come back for her, but for whom she was or might be. What if he had wanted her back because it was a shame to throw away a thousand years of history? What if he had decided to go back to her, because she was Sailor Moon and it just made good business sense? What if he had come back because he wanted to be at her side when she became queen of Crystal Tokyo? And what, and this was the worst in her mind, what if he had gotten back together with her because she was the mother of Reenie?

Serena raised the bottom of her shirt and stared down at the flat expanse of stomach exposed. She ran long, pale fingers, across her abdomen and tried to imagine what it would be like to have a life growing inside her body. Was this what kept Darien at her side? The womb that would birth Small Lady? She wanted to dismiss the idea as absurd, but the thought always seemed to resurface itself like a truth that could not be ignored.

Flashback

Darien watched as Serena's attention drifted yet again. While for the majority of the time, she appeared to be her usual upbeat self; he noticed that she was more thoughtful then usual, and less quick to give into her impulses, almost as though she were afraid. And there were those moments when they were alone and he would find her eyes on him, watching, waiting: for what, he didn't know.

" Okay, what's wrong, Serena?"

" Huh? Oh nothing, just thinking", she said.

" You can't hide from me, I know something is upsetting you. Is it school?" Darien asked. Serena hid her disappointment at his comment. Why was it that when she was upset, he attributed it to something trivial, like school? Did he honestly consider her such an airhead that nothing 'real' could possibly bother her?

She sighed, " No, school is fine".

" Is it your friends? Is Raye teasing you too much again?"

" No, it's nothing like that".

" Then what? Are you hungry?" he asked teasingly. He moved to tickle her but this only made Serena back away from him. She was mad now that he was making fun of her mood.

" I'm going to go", Serena said, wishing she had the confidence to say what was really bothering her. But what if she said something, and Darien got angry? Then she would lose him, and she was sure she didn't want that.

" Serena, don't be mad. I won't ask anymore, I promise. If you want to be in a bad mood, then fine, you can be", Darien said. It might have been Serena's over-active imagination, but she thought she detected a patronizing quality to his words.

Angrily, she snapped out, " What made you want to get back together with me, the night of that battle?"

" What?"

" Why that moment, what made you change your mind? You were pretty sure about staying away from me when I came to your door to talk about the dream". Serena said, shaking. She wanted to run away she was so scared of the answer, but she had to know.

" I don't think there was any one thing. It was just getting so hard to stay away. I was with Reenie, and she suddenly started to fade away. I realized (AN: Sorry, but in my fic, Darien and Serena knew before the break-up that Reenie was their child, okay?) that she might never be born, and that made me think of all the things I was missing out on by not being with you. I had to have you back."

" Wrong answer", Serena said tearfully. " You should have just said you loved me."

" But I do, you know, love you", Darien said, uncomfortably.

" And I love you", Serena said, heading out the door. 'Only, I think I love you more then you will ever love me', she finished in her head.

End Flashback

Serena never had been able to capture Darien's attention very well. When she was Sailor Moon, she had some chance, and certainly when something was wrong with Reenie. In fact, when they had been broken-up, the only contact she had had with Darien was through Reenie. Reenie was a powerful link to Darien, if she could swallow enough pride to use it. But as for attention for Serena Tsukino? Very little, in her mind. They had shared a grand total of nine kisses during the times they had been together, if you didn't include the moments when she was her alter ego Sailor Moon. And he never held her hand in public, unless she insisted. They had a date every Saturday night that Serena suspected he fulfilled for reasons of practicality, and the ring… The ring was given to her for all the wrong reasons. But she was getting ahead again. She was trying to remember the last time Darien had looked at her as a real person, and the only memory she could think of actually showed the opposite.

Flashback

" Are we really going to the circus, Darien? Really?" Reenie asked excitedly.

" Yes, we are really going", Darien said, laughing at her exuberance.

" And will there be tigers, and lions? Elephants? Oh and those guys who jump on swings?"

" Trapeze artists. Yes, I'm sure they'll have everything. It's supposed to be one of the best circuses around."

" And can we get peanuts and soda, and, and," Reenie couldn't think, she was so thrilled.

" We'll see when we get there. We'd better hurry, we want to get good seats", Darien said, taking Reenie's eagerly offered hand. Reenie reached out and grabbed Serena's hand too.

" Didn't you hear? We have to hurry, come on", Reenie said, tugging impatiently on Serena's hand. Serena took a few quick steps to catch up with her boyfriend and her future daughter.

As Darien and Reenie talked back and forth, Serena found herself being pushed to the back again. There were a lot of people milling around the entrance to the circus and the throng was so strong that she got separated from the others. She caught sight of Darien's ebony head as it weaved through the crowd with relative ease.

Darien was at the ticket booth, being jostled by the crowd, while at the same time holding tight to Reenie's hand so she wouldn't get lost. The man was asking how many tickets Darien wanted, but at the same time Reenie was screeching at him, wanting to ask a question. In the confusion, and also in part due to the ticket seller's thick Russian accent, Darien ended up with two tickets. Before he could correct things, he was through the gate.

Serena hurried to meet up with Darien but was stopped at the gate when the ticket seller asked for her money. Serena realized only then that Darien hadn't paid for her way in. Embarrassed, she stepped out of the line of anxious customers. Not that she couldn't have paid, she had money with her, and she was not the type of girl who insisted that her boyfriend pay for everything, but it was the fact that she hadn't even been told. They hadn't even made sure that she had gotten through the gate; they hadn't even realized she wasn't with them. Serena decided to go home, they would probably have more fun without her interfering.

" Darien, where's Serena?" Reenie asked fearfully. All the people around her, made her fear getting lost as well.

" I don't know. I thought she was right behind us", Darien said, just as anxious.

" But you only got two tickets".

" I know, it was an accident", he said. He picked Reenie up and then stood on a small platform so that he could overlook the crowd. Just as he was giving up hope, he caught sight of a flash of gold. Serena was clearing the crowd and heading back to the near deserted bus stop; he watched her climb aboard an arriving bus and depart.

" I guess, she didn't feel like staying. Maybe she doesn't like the circus", he said, trying to downplay how bad he was feeling.

Reenie didn't say anything, her happiness slightly muted because of Serena's absence. Strange, but even though she fought with Serena all the time, she liked having her around.

" Well, we may as well go in. So what's you favourite part of the circus, Reenie?" Darien asked, trying to change the subject.

" Everything", she cheered. But in her head, she wanted to say 'clowns', because they were Serena's favourite part. And when the show was over, Reenie wished more then ever that Serena had stayed because the clowns had been really good.

End Flashback

Of course, Darien had apologized profusely for the miss communication. Serena had forgiven him immediately; the incident had already been placed in the 'denial' file. The only thing different about the incident had been that Serena had seen what she had always feared seeing: the day when she was passed over for her daughter. If she had been a mother in the true sense of the word, then maybe it wouldn't have mattered, but she was only sixteen. She had never been very intimate with Darien, and she had certainly never slept with him, and yet she was supposed to be the unselfish, caring, adult. It wasn't fair that she be handed all the responsibilities of motherhood without ever having enjoyed her adolescence or the fumblings of first love. Darien and even her friends, didn't seem to see that, and told her to grow up. Well, she was trying to grow up, but when she expressed any sort of mature thought, all she got were blank stares.

Darien had begun to see the change in her as an obstacle. He thought she was flaking out, and perhaps about to do something rash or worse: about to do something that didn't suit his plans. That's when he had proposed. A marriage would surely keep her in line and keep the variables to a minimum - that would be his thinking. Serena thought back to yesterday, when the moment she had been waiting for her entire life, arrived.

Flashback

" You look beautiful", Darien said sincerely, when Serena came down the stairs from her room, ready for their standard Saturday date. She was dressed in a simple navy blue gown, sleeveless with a high neck. It clung to her body except for the slits at the bottom of both sides where her long legs could be glimpsed. Darien had told her to dress up so she had and she was glad that he approved; she had tried to look very sophisticated. Darien looked dashing as usual in a tuxedo.

They arrived at an elegant restaurant, complete with intimate tables set in secluded alcoves, illuminated by soft white candles. The meal was perfect, as was the conversation. They talked in low voices about uncontroversial things. As the evening progressed, Darien began peering at his watch at more and more regular intervals. At precisely ten o'clock, he asked her to dance. They danced for exactly three songs, before returning to their table. During their absence, the roses Darien had obviously ordered, had been delivered and were waiting for Serena. There were eleven pure white roses in full bloom, and one blood red rose with its petals still closely wrapped together, nestled in the middle. Darien reached past her, and nervously plucked the red rose from the arrangement. Dangling from the stem was a small diamond ring.

" Serena, I know that things have been a little… well, you know. But you are the most important person in my life, and I just have one question to ask", Darien said. He was nervous, that much Serena could tell, but other then that her emotions were in too much of a whirl for her to figure out what was going on. Darien got down on one knee, " will you marry me?"

" Marry you?" Serena said, almost in a daze. Why was he asking? Was this because things had been a little strained between them since the break-up? Did he think that with this ring, he could keep her in his life? Was he that afraid of an altered future? Even this wonderful evening had been too contrived to have sprung from genuine feeling. Nice clothes: check. Expensive, romantic, restaurant: check. Dancing: check. Candlelight: check. Roses: check. Ring: check. Wife: check. She felt like one more thing on his 'to do' list. Perhaps she was being unfair, but he hadn't said those three little words. Where was the 'I love you, Serena, marry me?' But them again, this what she had always wanted. She loved him more then anything, did it matter if Darien didn't feel exactly the same way? This might be as close as she could get to her dreams.

" Yes, marry me Serena", Darien said, slipping the ring from the rose stem and placing it on her finger. Serena jerked her hand away by instinct; she hadn't answered yet. Darien's face showed a world of hurt. When next he spoke, his voice was drenched with sadness. " Just wear it for a few days, maybe the idea will grow on you".

" I'm sorry, Darien. It's really lovely, it's just… I wasn't expecting this. Can I have sometime to think about it?"

" Of course", Darien said, getting off his knees and turning away from her. " Let's get out of here."

He dropped her off at her house and waited to see that she got inside safely. When she was out of his sight, he drove a little ways down the street, before stopping the car again and letting his head crash against the steering wheel in despair.

End Flashback

So here she sat on a rainy Sunday afternoon, trying to figure out why she wasn't leaping with joy now that the love of her life had proposed to her. If she had been thinking straight last night, maybe she could have said something clever like, 'who is it you want to marry, Serena, Sailor Moon, or Reenie's mother?' But then, Darien would have said something equally clever like, ' I want to marry them all, because they're all parts of you'. Serena allowed herself a smile at the way she had mimicked Darien. Of course, she hadn't said anything clever last night, and that was why she was interrogating herself today instead of basking in the glory of being a newly initiated fiancé.

Was she being ridiculous? Was she being unfair? Darien had given her a lot of things over the years, did it matter if his attention was a little unfocused? Maybe she was being selfish, but then she wasn't asking that he be with her twenty-four seven. She just wanted to know that he liked being with her on occasion, and that he loved her for whom she was. She just wanted to know.

Serena decided at that moment that she would never marry Darien, no matter how much she wanted to, if he didn't love her as passionately as she did him. (AN: glad I put that 'if' in, aren't you?). It simply wouldn't be fair to ask him to live a lie like that. She ran her fingers gently over her stomach again. It also wouldn't be fair to bring a child into the world for the selfish reason of trying to hold on to your husband. No, it had to be love or nothing.

" Please, Darien, show me I'm wrong. Prove to me you love me, so I don't have to live without you", Serena whispered into the silence of her room. She twisted the ring on her finger, already becoming accustomed to its presence while at the same time wondering how a simple ring could weigh so much.

" Darien, what's the matter with you? You've been sitting here all day like a statue", Andrew asked. Darien was sitting on a stool in the arcade, staring at the countertop as though it held the solution to his problems.

" I just, didn't think she'd… I guess I just thought she'd say yes. I mean, that's what was supposed to happen."

" I don't understand", said Andrew patiently. The arcade was empty on account of the rain, so Andrew gave his friend his full attention.

" I proposed to her, Andrew", Darien admitted. Andrew would know whom he meant.

" And?"

" And she said she'd think about it", Darien said. The words sounded so much more ominous in his head.

" I take it you were expecting something else?"

" Well, yeah. Everything was going so well. We got back together without problem, we saw each other regularly, and I proposed at the correct time. I did everything right and she just sort of looked at me, with this pleading look in her eyes. Do you think I should have gotten her a larger ring?"

Andrew angrily smacked Darien upside the head. " Don't be stupid. How could you accuse Serena of all people, of being so mercenary?"

" I know, but what else could it be? I just don't understand. Where did we go off track?"

" Darien, she isn't a math formula that you can work through for a predictable result, she's a person."

" Of course she is, I know that", Darien said moodily.

" Do you? The way you described your relationship just now sounded like someone writing out a grocery list. You've relegated her to some corner of your mind because you're so certain that she loves you, and because of that you think she doesn't require any attention anymore. You think because she's always been there, that she'll continue to be there for as long as you want her to be there. Well, she's a person and you can't pick her up, and toss her aside whenever you want. And you can't expect her to be ecstatic about marriage, if the only reason you asked was because it fit nicely into your plans and completed some grand scheme of yours. You think she's thrown a wrench in the works, but really she's trying to show you that she isn't just an entity. She's a person, when was the last time you told her as much?"

Andrew was right, he did take her presence for granted sometimes. Maybe it was because he knew something of their future? He knew they were married and he knew they had a child. Having Reenie around confirmed to him on a daily basis that this wasn't a dream, that he truly was blessed and that Serena would always be in his life. And maybe he was a little too set on acting in certain ways, and having things happen at appropriate times, but he had never been good at expressing his emotions. He didn't want to do something wrong and have things end or delayed. What if he made another mistake like the one he had made with the dreams and his break-up with Serena? Would she forgive him a second time? Since that moment, he had tried to be the perfect boyfriend, but she'd just grown more distant to the point where he'd freaked out that he was losing her, and asked her to marry him. Because he couldn't lose her again.

" How do I tell her what I see when I look at her?"

" You'll have to figure that out for yourself, I think."

" I thought you'd say that", Darien said, and stood up to leave.

" Well, if you really want my advice, I'd go over there and kiss her senseless", Andrew said.

" Oh, I don't think that would go over well", Darien said.

" Why not?"

" Because that's not the kind-of relationship we have", Darien said stiffly.

" Good God. Please tell me you're joking, and that you've kissed and held her more times then you can count?"

Nine kisses while we've been dating, Darien thought to himself. It didn't sound like very many, all of a sudden. " I didn't want to scare her, I was trying to be gentle. What's wrong with that?"

" Nothing, so long as you make it clear that's what you're doing. Try and see her perspective. For one thing, you don't show others how you feel about her – no outward displays of affection. That, I guess, is excusable. Two, you sure as hell don't show her how you feel, as you've just admitted. Three, you've probably never told her. How in the world is she supposed to know what you think of her?"

Darien visibly paled, Andrew's words finally hitting home. He wondered if Serena had any idea that every single day, every single hour, every single moment was only worthwhile for him because she existed. Did she know that he would sometimes go to bed early, just so that he could dream of her? Did she know that he kept himself away from her sometimes, because he didn't want to overwhelm her with the full expression of his need for her? Did she even know he loved her? He thought back to the proposal and realized he hadn't said he loved her then. He thought back to when they had gotten back together – he hadn't said he loved her then either. As far back as he could remember, he had said it only once or twice to her, and usually under duress. Darien felt almost sick. He had to go to her, now. And tell her over and over again so she never had a single doubt.

" I've gotta… bye", Darien charging out of the arcade, jacket and umbrella forgotten despite the intensity of the storm outside. He was soaked to the bone and shivering when he arrived at Serena's home. It was dinnertime, but he didn't see any lights on and the car was gone from the driveway. Oh God, what if Serena was out too?

He rang the doorbell frantically, then banged on the door when he got no response. He heard someone on the stairs and he heaped further abuse on the front door. Serena considered not opening because whoever was pounding on the door so harshly, must obviously be insane to be out in such a storm. She was dressed in comfortable sweats and a T-shirt, her hair mussed, and she was dragging around the quilt from her bed. When she opened the door the quilt fell from her hands.

It was Darien, but a Darien she had never seen before. His eyes were wild, and feral looking. He was drenched and shaking, but he seemed to be lit with an inner fire. Before she could say one word, he grabbed her almost roughly, hauled her warm body to his cold one, and pressed her up against the kitchen counter. Her small mewl of protest was cut off when his mouth descended upon hers, ravaging her soft lips, and shocking her to her very core. One of his hands twisted into her hair, angling her head so that he could gain better access to her mouth. His tongue plunged between her parted lips, tasting her, devouring her as though he could never be satisfied. And he probably never would be; he'd have to spend his whole life feeding his addiction for her, and that sounded like a great idea. He felt her arms tighten around his neck, felt one of her legs press gently against his thigh. He lifted her up so that she was sitting on the edge of the counter, and pressed his body against hers even more tightly.

Despite the dizzying sensations, Serena never forgot that she was kissing her love, her Darien. The one for whom her heart beat, her soul ached, and her body yearned. It was like a dream and if her hands weren't so busy, then she might have pinched herself, to make herself believe that it was real. The assault on her mouth continued and Serena loved every second of it. Gradually, their mouths drew apart, gasping for air. Darien continued to kiss her face, her hair, her neck. In between his fervent kisses, he mumbled almost incoherently.

" I'm sorry… I couldn't… I had to… I love you so much".

" What did you say?" Serena said, fearing she was hearing things. Darien looked her straight in the eye, and pressed his hands to either side of her face.

" I said, I love you. I'm sorry if you ever doubted that, but I love you. I'll keep saying it because it seems like such an inadequate way to express what you mean to me. I love you, a million times".

" I love you, too", Serena said, tears forming in her eyes.

" Don't cry, please don't cry. Then I'll start crying, and I'm just getting the hang of this emotion stuff."

" You're doing just fine", Serena said, laughing. Just then they heard the sound of a car pulling up in the driveway. In moments Serena's family were hurrying through the front door and out of the rain. Serena and Darien leapt apart, and Serena put her feet back on the floor, acutely aware of the Darien-shaped wet mark on her clothes.

" Serena, what have I told you about leaving things in the front hallway?" Serena's mother said, picking up the discarded quilt. She then noticed Darien, leaning up against the opposite wall. " Oh, I'm sorry I didn't know you had company. Darien, isn't it?"

" Darien!" screamed Reenie, running forward and wrapping herself tightly around his leg.

" Hey kid, did you have fun tonight?"

" Uh huh."

" Time for bed, young lady", said Serena's mother, Irene.

" Darien, will you read me a story?" Reenie pleaded. Serena was careful to keep her face completely neutral – she didn't want to come between father and daughter, but she couldn't help but feel that right now Darien and her needed to work some things out.

" I can't tonight, Reenie. I have something I have to do", Darien said gently, tweaking one of the little girls pigtails.

" Enough stalling, up the stairs, pronto", Serena's father said brusquely. He eyed Darien suspiciously but said nothing as he herded the little girl up the stairs. Sammy didn't say anything either, though he did look back and forth between Darien and Serena before shaking his head in amusement.

" Serena, can I talk with you for a moment?" Irene asked. Irene pulled Serena to the side a little bit and tried not to stare when she noticed the ring on her daughter's finger. " I can tell that we interrupted something important. So why don't you and Darien get out of here. Take what you'll need for school tomorrow and I'll handle things with your father."

" Really? But why?"

" Because I know my daughter, and I want you to have all the time you need, because I trust your judgement."

" What did I do to deserve you?"

" I ask myself that every day", Irene teased. She gave a nod to Darien before heading upstairs.

" Can we go someplace, I still have things to say", Darien asked.

" So do I, just let me grab a few things." Serena went up to her room and stuffed her schoolbooks and her uniform in a bag. When she was packed she came back downstairs. She realized she had forgotten her coat upstairs but decided she didn't want to wait any longer.

" Ready?"

" Absolutely", Serena beamed. They stepped out into the rain and Darien instantly reached for her hand. They half-ran, half-walked through the storm becoming wet in the process. The thunder and lightning began and Serena clutched nervously at Darien's hand, but a part of her was excited. Running through the dark, imagining all sorts of dangers looming in the shadows, but feeling perfectly safe because of the company she was in. She seemed to recall laughing when they splashed through a surprisingly deep puddle and she distinctly remembered Darien's answering laugh, as he picked her up and lifted her over the puddle, as though he could keep her from getting any more wet.

They arrived at Darien's apartment in a rare sort of mood. Serena was giggling like mad, despite the fact that her teeth were chattering, and Darien couldn't seem to keep the loopy smile from his face. He brought a big dark-blue fluffy towel and wrapped it around Serena's shoulders. With his hands on her shoulders, he began to roughly dry her off. Serena's eyes closed of their own volition at the rhythmic movement of his warm hands on her shoulders. Abruptly, he stopped and Serena opened her eyes. He was staring at her chest in the rain-plastered T-shirt. Seeing her watching him, he flushed and went to get a towel of his own. Peeling off his wet shirt, he grabbed another one from his wardrobe, and came back into the room towelling his hair.

" Hot cocoa?"

" I'd love some", she said. When the cocoa was ready, they sat on the couch and looked towards the balcony windows. Serena began playing nervously with her ring and it caught Darien's attention.

" Have you decided, yet?" he asked anxiously.

" If I tell you something, do you promise not to interrupt me until I finish?" Darien nodded. Serena took a deep sigh, and decided to explain to him all of her fears. " When you broke up with me, you said you didn't love me. You also said that I should have noticed that your feelings had changed." Darien wanted to jump in at this point and defend himself, but he then remembered his promise not to interrupt. " So I swore that if we ever got back together that I would pay attention, and not let myself be so easily duped. When I came to you with the dream, you still didn't take me back. It wasn't until you saw that Reenie was disappearing that you forgave me, and I thought… I thought you had come back to me because I was the only one who could give you Reenie. I saw it as some big master plan of yours: put up with me until she was born, and then forget about me. I started seeing all these instances where she came first and I admit, I got jealous. I didn't think it was possible that you could love me as much as I loved you. And the more I thought, the more distant you seemed to become. You never even touched me and then this proposal came out of the blue. Of course, you could never have Reenie unless we were married, and…"

" And you thought I was trying to hurry things along", Darien finished for her. Serena nodded. " I'm sorry."

" You can't be responsible for my thoughts", Serena said.

" But I should never have let things get so tense between us that thoughts like that could ever occur. After we got back together, I didn't want to be reminded of that horrible time we were apart. I certainly didn't want to remember that it had been you who had seen through the dream, and me who had taken the cowardly way out."

" It wasn't cowardly, I mean, it must have been hard on you too", Serena said, taking his hand.

" Serena, I thought I was going to die without you and I never thought of you as merely a vessel for Reenie. Reenie is a part of you and a part of me, that alone is enough for me to care about her. I love you, not what you can give me. I know I don't say it enough, but I love you."

" At the time, I didn't know what you were feeling. And you still never touched me, I thought I must repulse you somehow."

" Nine kisses", Darien said regretfully.

" You kept count to?"

" I have something of a confession to make also. You know, I'm not good with emotions, but as for showing you how I feel, I'm not much better." He pulled Serena into his arms, and she cushioned her head on her shoulder. He began stroking her hair and took a steadying breath before continuing. " Serena, I'm a virgin."

There was a momentary pause as Serena digested the news, and then she spoke. " So am I. What does it matter?"

" It's different for guys, certainly for twenty-one year old guys. I'm supposed to know what to do, how to take care of you – be experienced and confident about the whole thing", Darien said nervously.

" I'm glad we get to be each other's firsts. I think it's perfect", Serena said, snuggling herself deeper into his embrace.

" But, what if I can't… What if I screw up and you hate me for the rest of your life?"

" You're cute when you're out of your depth. Don't worry so much, you'll be my first so how will I know if you're terrible or not?" Serena chuckled. " Besides Darien, that kiss we shared in the kitchen at my house, what did you think about it?"

" I thought it was the most amazing thing I had ever felt", Darien said without hesitation.

" So did I, and we did it completely by ourselves, and totally on instinct. I think we're going to be natural at everything we do."

" I wish I'd told you this long ago", Darien said relieved. It felt so good to have that fear taken from his shoulders. Tightening his grip on his girlfriend, he whispered " I love you, Serena Tsukino."

" Serena Shields, I think you mean. That is, if the offer still stands?" Serena asked, waving her ring finger in front of Darien's face.

" It does. Will you marry me?"

" Yes, I will."

Darien kissed the ring on her finger and then he kissed her lips. He would never let her go again, or forget to be grateful for her presence. Serena gave a contented sigh, still amazed that she had gotten exactly what she'd asked for. Darien loved her: the only requirement she had insisted upon before becoming his wife. Who could have guessed that there would be so much drama over their marriage, when to every one else it seemed like such a sure thing? Apparently, even the most secure outcomes were still affected by unknown variables. Variables such as the human heart.

The end. Like or dislike? For anyone waiting for Chap. 3 of 'All the Right Notes', I promise it's coming soon, but it's a complicated chapter that I want to get right. Bye!