Hi again! I'm trying not to put in too many Author's notes so you can just enjoy the story, but I do want to add one here. I hope you'll notice that Daren's memory isn't perfect. (Mine wasn't either, I had to have Losing Faith open while writing this so as to make sure things meshed correctly.) Overall, two things to remember from here on out. Memory is never perfect, and words are everything. Saying "I got on the plane." Is not the same as saying "I got in the plane." One is a bit more drafty than the other. Also, yes, I know the chapter numbers are a bit off. I confused myself by thinking chapter 2 came after the Prologue. I promise I'll go back and fix it...eventually. Anyway, enjoy the drama!

Chapter 8:

Daren lay staring at the ceiling. As usual, it seemed everyone could sleep except him. He'd already been lying there for at least an hour. And any insomniac knows that an hour usually feels more like four or five hours when you're trying to sleep. He found himself once again recapping the day in his head. They got here and went to the beach. That was fun. And he finally got to see Sarah in a bikini. That was just awesome. Her figure floated through his mind again and he couldn't help but smile. Hot and cute, an amazing combo.

Then they went to check in and the system was off. That's right, he'd almost forgotten, they'd have to change hotels tomorrow. They had left almost everything in the car once Rob and Ben came back from dinner, but Daren had forgotten since then. Hopefully he wouldn't have to deal with that same clerk again. But even if he did, this time, there would be no way they could turn him away. He thought about how he got to walk around with Sarah. It was amazing how different things were between then and when they went out to dinner. While they were looking for a hotel, she hadn't said anything. Daren did all the talking at the counter and they rarely spoke between hotels. Why had things changed so much once they were in a date setting? Shouldn't it have been the opposite? Shouldn't they have been comfortable talking while just walking around as friends, but awkward when it was clear they were alone?

But, how awesome had Rob been? Daren had rolled his eyes and acted like he was angry about being set up, but really, he was overjoyed! He had gotten to see Sarah in a swimsuit, he'd gotten about two hours alone with her and then a dinner date! No, he couldn't call it a date. Sure, it was a date-like setting, but neither of them had ever said anything about it being a date. He knew there was no way she would have thought of it as one. In fact, considering how well things had done, he would be surprised if it even crossed her mind at all. Besides, he had to protect himself and calling it a date, especially a successful one, would be dangerous. It'd be too easy to get his hopes up.

Daren turned his focus to the bottle of pills on the table next to him. Sleep obviously was not going to come easily tonight. His mind was much too active. His ears picked up on the slightest of noises. He could hear the soft hum of the refridgerator and the soft, deep breathing of everyone else in the room. He could even pick out which breath was Sarah's. That was it. The last straw. He got up and headed for the door. There was no point in staring at the inside of his eyelids for another hour or two, thinking about her. He tip-toed across the room and slipped out the door, closing it softly behind him. He slowly walked away from the door, no destination in mind. If he was going to stay up, he was going to at least have a change of scenery.

The place was completely commercial. He was hoping for a bench or a large rock to sit on, but there was nothing but concrete and cars. Daren longed for some kind of solitude. The cars and lights and noises were somehow less distracting than those inside the room, but it certainly wasn't like the woods back home. Daren loved to go out into the woods when he couldn't sleep. It was a nice quiet escape. But, even New York City, the city that never sleeps, wasn't as busy as this place at 2am. Sure, this place was like a second home to him now, but there was no place to be alone. No place where you just sit and look at the stars.

Daren laid down on the sidewalk in front of his car and looked up. It was actually a pretty dark night. The sky was fairly dark once you got past the lights from the street but the clouds covered the moon and what few stars he would have been able to see. He would just have to use his imagination. Unfortunatly, his imagination didn't stay on the stars for very long. He found himself thinking about something he hadn't thought about in a very, very long time.

It started with the water. He could almost feel the mist from the falls on his face, mixing with the tears he had tried to hold back. He could hear the roar of the falls behind him. And for a moment, he felt Jasmine call him a coward. It would be an almost welcome event now. He hadn't seen her in a long, long time. Then, for some reason, he thought about Jeremy. About the blood on the floor. About how grotesque his face had looked when Daren had finished with him.

Daren was really in the moment now. He sat on the gurney, looking at the bone sticking out of his knuckle on his right hand. He still couldn't feel it. It was numb then and it was numb now. He saw Jasmine's fingers take his hand softly and start to clean off the blood with a damp rag. It stung a little, but that was the last thing on his mind right now. The doctor came in to tell him the results of his x-rays and how Jeremy would fare after coming out of surgery. Daren couldn't hear him. The memory was fading a bit. He felt dizzy. He looked down at his feet, hanging from the side of the table. The floor was moving, spinning a bit. He staggered his way off the table. No sound could reach his ears now. He knew Jasmine had been talking to him, but he couldn't hear it. He couldn't even hear his own voice when he tried to respond. He found the drawer with the syringe. there was a label, but it was too blurry to read. He took the Epipen in one trembling hand and turned back to where Jasmine had been. He jammed the pen into his chest. Then, there was a scream. It was a deafening, blood-curdling scream that seemed to come right from his own ears. That brought him back to the parking lot. He knew it was only a memory, but that scream... Was there a scream like that? Daren didn't remember one. It certainly wasn't his. He knew he hadn't screamed. It sounded like a girl's... maybe Jasmine?

"Daren?" He jumped in surprise of the voice nehind him. It was Sarah. Of course it was. Everything that night pointed back to her.

"Hey Sarah. You couldn't sleep either?"

"Mmm." Sarah laid down on the sidewalk with the top of her head only inches from the top of Daren's head. They both laid there for some time, enjoying the warm air. Though perhaps even better was the atmosphere. She was like his security blanket. Being with Sarah could make him nervous, but it could also make him feel like this. Safe. Warm. The feeling that comes from having a friend who truly cares about you.

A friend. Daren felt the warm feeling turn into a pit in his stomach quite quickly. That was all he was to her. A friend. She would probably never see him as anything more. She was his energy. The light in each day. But, the light had to go out eventually. In fact, every time she left, that light went away. It was the same in high school. He would be the happiest guy alive spending the day with her, but when night came and it was time to go home, that same darkness would creep into his heart, reminding him that he was nothing to her. That these feelings that he felt were not returned. And no matter how much he wanted to, that would probably never change. Those words just kept coming back to him. The words she said to him, before leaving him with Jasmine to sort things out. "I DO want to have a romantic relationship and be happy. I want to find someone I could marry. Someone who I love as much as they love me. I'm sorry that person can't be you."



"Do you remember what you told me? Back in the hospital." He had to be careful. No hints. He couldn't give her even the slightest hint of the real reason he was asking. "I've been curious for a while now. What kind of guy do you think you could fall in love with?"

Daren couldn't see the look on her face. Surprise was an understatement. "Gee, I don't know. What brought this on?"

Crap. "Nothing... I was just... thinking about some stuff, and I remember you saying how you were a semi-romantic person and I just wondered what kind of person he'd have to be for you to fall in love with him."

"Oh. Well, I don't know. We'd have to have a lot in common I guess. I don't know... I haven't really thought about it in a while. I guess... I'd want to be with someone who I could love... at my own pace. Someone who would be my friend first, lover second. You know? Like, I could feel at ease around him and just hang out and have fun."

Great. Someone you can hang out with and have fun with, huh? Daren would love to see her more, but with her off at college, it made it rather difficult. He could certainly see her when she came back home for a weekend, but outside of that, the trip was a bit too long to just pop in and say hi without having a decent reason. Besides, things had always been so awkward when it was just the two of them. It was amazing that their date today hadn't been. It was a real blessing.

"Have you ever..." He stopped. He wanted to ask if she'd ever kissed anyone. The thought had come to him some time ago. Other than Jeremy which at least he didn't think should count, had she ever kissed anyone? Did she kiss Rob way back when she dated him? Were there others that he didn't even know about? There must be. Maybe not people she'd gone out with, but she must have had people she liked. She probably had someone even now. Someone that she was thinking about just like he was while looking up at the starless night. Whoever he was, he didn't really want to know. "Nevermind."

"No, what is it? If it's something I can answer, I will."

"Well, have you ever really loved anyone? I mean other than like family or 'just friends'?"

Sarah had to think about that. The only person she thought she'd loved was Rob. And it turned out they were both wrong about that. And she hadn't loved Jeremy. That was for sure. That had just been... a time to try something new. And a really bad idea. But what about now? What about Daren? Even now, when they weren't even looking at each other, she could feel something. A small bit of nervousness around him. And a lot of happiness. Was that love?

"No, I don't think so. At least not now." She felt like she was lying. And yet, rationalizing it to herself, how could she love him? They'd only been on this trip for a little over a day and these feelings came from nowhere. There's no way she could have fallen for him so quickly. Not when nothing came from being friends with him for so long before. "How about you? Do you have anyone you love right now?"

To say Daren was nervous was an understatment. Somehow, he hadn't expected this question. A million questions ran though his mind and he had to try to answer them all and still answer Sarah without taking too much time. Should he tell the truth? Should he tell her now? Maybe he should lie. But, if he lied, what if she liked him? But she had just said she didn't have anyone like that. But what if she was lying? Should he just say yes and keep the rest to himself? Daren was getting even more nervous. The same feeling you get when you know it's your turn next to make a presentation to your class. And you have to sing. AND you suck at singing.

"I... well..." His mouth was moving on it's own. That was fine. His mouth always seemed to say the right thing when his brain was letting him down. "I suppose so. I really almost have to. My whole life is kinda built around love. I don't wake up for myself anymore. I wake up and I think of her. I go to work to earn money for the future I want with her. I do things the way I think she would want me to. And she's the last person I think about when I go to sleep at night. And during those times when I don't love someone, I don't know what to do with myself."

"Hmmm? Wow. You're amazing, Daren."

"Heh, no, I'm really not. I'm a mess when I'm not in love. There's no direction to anything I do."

"But when you love someone, you really love them. And you know how you feel. I wish I could be that devoted to someone."

For a split second, Daren imagined himself being that person. Being the person Sarah lived for. It hurt, knowing that it would never happen. "But that's not really your fault. You can't really control who you fall in love with."

"I know. I just wish I had someone that I thought about all the time like that." Sarah stood up. "Well, I'm gonna head back inside. I'm really tired."

"Mmmk. Thanks for the company."

"No, thank you, Daren. I know you were probably asking out of your own curiosity, but it really helped me sort things out a lot."

"Oh, well... ok." Really? She was right. He was really just curious. And he answered as truthfully as he could without giving anything away. Had he actually helped her? He sat up and watched her slip inside the door to their room. She was beautiful. Just... blehgparapov! That was all his brain could come up with. There weren't words to describe how much he loved her. He knew he couldn't hold back anymore. He couldn't protect himself from her. She would always find her way into his mind and invade his senses and take control of him. And he knew it could only end in heartbreak. Just like last time. And just like last time, he would probably try to kill himself. But, isn't it better that way? Daren certainly thought so. Wouldn't it be better to love her? Even if he could only make it six months before falling apart, those six months would be better than six years of living without her.

And it wasn't that he had no hope for himself in the future. The whole fish in the sea thing? He knew there were other girls and other chances. But he also knew that none were like Sarah. No one could make him this happy. She was the one he wanted. So there was no point in trying if he couldn't have her.

He looked up. They weren't really there, but he could see the stars now. And they were beautiful.