Author's Note: I haven't touched or looked at this story in over two years. Forgive me for any errors I may make (ie. Last names, tiny details, etc) and also if the writing just feels different. I like to think that my writing has matured at least a little bit in the last couple years I honestly can't really remember some of where I meant for this story to go but I felt like giving it another shot to try and get this sucker finished. Thanks! Oh and p.s. this is a fluff story that was based off a story I wrote when I was 14. So no, the quality isn't up to par at all. Is there a point to this story? Truthfully?- not really. It's just fluff about friendships and relationships. And yes, the characters tend to be over dramatic and things aren't realistic. If people don't enjoy it then I suggest they don't read it. Doesn't bother me... But we'll get back to the story. I'm kind of condensing the story now I believe so there probably isn't that many chapters left. This story was always meant to have a sequel but I'm not holding my breath for that one, I'll be lucky to finish this one.

CHAPTER 34

"I don't get it, Lexie," Callie lamented to her best friend over the phone. "You would think he'd be psyched about the State win."

"I think he was," Alexandria told Callie. Truth be told, Callie only held part of her attention as the other half was given to Charlie as she watched him hopping around the basement. She liked to let the rabbit experience some freedom, but was always paranoid he'd get lost if she let him out of her sight.

"Maybe..." Callie sighed. "I don't know. Maybe I'm just being paranoid but I feel like there's something he's not telling me."

"What kind of something?"

"I don't know. Maybe he wants to break up."

"No way, Callie. Rob loves you." Alexandria gathered Charlie in her arms after a brief chase and returned him to his cage in the kitchen.

"He's just been so distant and quiet all week. Even before State, something was weird."

"Yeah, I guess I can give you that. He does seem to have something on his mind. I could ask Ben if you'd like. I don't think he knows anything though."

"No, that's okay. I guess I'll just try asking him myself again. He drove me home after school yesterday and I asked him what was bothering him and all he could say was nothing and don't worry about it."

"Well, there's obviously something up," Alexandria agreed. "He'll tell you when he's ready."

"I guess so. I guess I should let you go too, Ben's going to be there soon."

"Yeah. I'll talk to you soon though, Hun. Don't dwell on it too much, I'm sure everything's okay," Alexandria lied in an attempt to comfort Callie. She was just as clueless as Callie was as to what was going on inside Rob's head.

They said their goodbyes just as the doorbell rang.

Alexandria barely had a chance to open the door before Ben swooped in, his lips finding their way to hers.

"Mmm, hello to you too," Alexandria breathed as she pulled away.

"I missed you," Ben stated, grinning widely and closing the door with his foot; his hands securely planted on her hips.

"You just saw me not even twelve hours ago," Alexandria referenced his late departure from her place the evening before. They'd fallen asleep watching movies in the basement.

"Too long."

Alexandria laughed as she led him through the hall to the kitchen. "You better get used to twelve hours. How are you going to ever handle twelve weeks?" Her smile faded when she glanced over her shoulder and saw his stunned expression.

"What do you mean twelve weeks?"

"You know, when we both go away to school next year. Hailey told me what schools you applied for. We haven't even applied to any in the same States."

Ben looked as though he'd been slapped. "You didn't apply to any home State colleges? Seriously? Why didn't you tell me?"

Alexandria took her time replying, trying to come up with careful wording. "I don't know. I guess I just never realized I hadn't told you. Callie and I have always been set on attending college in New York. It's been a goal of ours since the third grade."

"New York."

"Yeah..."

They stood awkwardly for a few moments in silence. Ben was concentrating on something, and Alexandria was trying to figure out what had just changed between them. The atmosphere wasn't the same as it had been before her twelve week comment.

"I know we can do the distance thing, but really, Ben. We have over nine months left before we all go away to school. That's a long time."

Ben studied her silently for a brief moment before nodding. "You're right. Okay. Yeah." He stepped toward her and caught her in a tight embrace.

Alexandria clung to him. Neither wanted to break the hug, and Alexandria feared Ben's reasoning for the intense embrace.

-

A girlish giggle escaped Kara as Max recreated a ridiculous argument between Jake and Will he'd witnessed the night before. The re-enactment came complete with exaggerated gestures and voice imitations.

Max grinned down at her from where he stood. He felt like the more time Kara and he spent together, the happier she seemed. When they'd first begun hanging out, she was quiet and sullen. These days she was smiling and at times animated.

She'd started spending most of her nights with Max again, sleeping in his bed. Max was surprised by both of their will power to refrain from sex. He wasn't always exactly sure why they weren't having sex, but it felt right to keep it out of the equation for now. That hadn't kept them from doing other things during some of her more recent sleepovers.

It was different now though. Such experiences for both of them in the past had been a means to an end. With one another, that was no longer the case. Max felt like they exploring one another and getting to know each other on a physical, intellectual and emotional level. He'd never had this bond with anyone else, and he was sure she felt the same.

Max sat down next to her on the couch again. Kara reached for his hand.

"When was it that you said your parents are going away?"

"They leave the weekend before Christmas. Not back until boxing day. So, that means I'm hosting a Christmas get together on the Saturday."

She rolled her eyes. "Get together, right."

"Yeah, well, it'll be invite only so not a typical Cedar Falls bash."

"Am I invited?" Kara batted her eyelashes at him.

"You're the only one getting a week long invitation."

"Really?"

Max played it off. "What? You think I want Harrison crashing here every night?"

"No, Max. You know that's not what I mean."

A flicker of nerves ran through him. "See, the way I figure is, you seem to like spending your time here as opposed to at your own home."

"That's no home," Kara mumbled and averted his gaze.

Max held back from questioning; he was well aware by now she wouldn't answer anyway. The fact that she commented at all about her home life was a rare occurrence. "So, I just thought that maybe you'd be down for spending Christmas with me. Either way I'm telling my brother I'm spending Christmas at your place. There's no way I'm spending any more holidays with that bastard willingly."

When Kara didn't answer, Max spoke again. "Well, I mean I could always actually go to your place for Christmas..."

"No," she said sharply.

"That's what I figured."

"Okay," she smiled.

"Okay, what?"

"Okay, I want to spend Christmas with you. Just you." Kara shifted on the couch so she was straddling him.

"Mmm, that sounds like this is going to be the best Christmas ever," Max murmured as he molded her body against his. "I must warn you, I'm not much of a cook. I won't be serving turkey this year."

Kara kissed him. "I don't want a turkey. I only want you."

-

"You guys can't do this." Rob's voice was steady although he felt anything be steady. For the past two weeks, he felt like he was constantly fighting the urge to vomit.

"It's in your best interests. It's in our best interests," his father sounded exasperated. It wasn't the first time; Rob had questioned their decision, not even close to the first time. They fought this battle daily, sometimes more than once on any given day.

Nobody outside their family household was aware of the major decision that had been abruptly announced at a family dinner two weeks prior. Rob only had a week left to share the news, but he'd had no luck in speaking the words outside of his home.

His mother glared furiously at him. "Rob, darling. How many times do we have to tell you? We weighed our options, this is our best one. Now make peace with it," she snapped. She was done with the nice manner she'd held when discussing it the first few times. Rob had obviously frayed her nerves.

"This is absolutely fucking ridiculous!" Rob shouted at them before storming from the house. He knew it was immature but he also knew he wouldn't win this war. He was still seventeen; they were still his legal guardians. Not to mention all the financial control over his future.

He wanted more than anything to drive straight to Callie's but he knew he needed to calm down first. His patience was already limited lately; he'd caught himself snapping at her on more than one occasion in the last few days.

None of this was her fault. Not really. He knew Callie factored in as an ulterior motive for his parents. They'd said as much themselves. But Rob couldn't have known they'd react this adversely to his relationship with her.

"Better to nip it in the bud now, Darling..." his mother's voice rang in his head.

"We don't want you to lose your focus now, Rob. Not at such a crucial time in your life," his father had irrationally reasoned.

Rob let loose a string of expletives as he sped down the highway. His anger frightened him. His inability to tell his friends, and most importantly Callie, the truth frightened him even more. He was so busy being afraid and angry that it covered up his immense devastation. Part of him suspected that was why he kept the truth from the others. If he told them, that devastation would bubble up to the surface and take hold of him.

It took him exactly one hour and seventeen minutes of driving back roads in the area before he felt he was calm enough to go to Callie. He was determined to try again to tell her what was happening. Then again, he'd tried to reveal the truth to her every single time he'd seen her in the last two weeks but the words had never been verbally spoken; instead, they remained securely lodged in his head.

"Rob!" Callie's mom smiled warmly as she opened the front door to their home. "This is a surprise. Is Callie expecting you?"

"No, Mrs. Brennan. I was hoping she might be available to go out for a bit."

A small frown replaced the warm smile. "Well I do believe she's working on an essay right now. Just let me go and get her. Maybe she needs a break." The warm smile returned before she turned and headed upstairs to retrieve her daughter.

At least Callie's parents were trying. Rob was well aware of just how strict they were with their only child, and how protective they must feel. And here he stood, wooing their brilliant and talented daughter away from her studies. Yet they still treated him with kindness and respect even after the messy introduction a few months prior.

His parents, on the other hand, were pretentious snobs whom he was beginning to suspect had never been genuinely kind to or respectful of anyone in their entire lives.

"Hey," Callie spoke as she slowly approached him. She reached out for one of his hands and rubbed it soothingly. "What's up? What are you doing here?" she asked, her voice laced with worry.

He shrugged. "Want to go out for a bit?"

"Where?"

He glanced at the floor, shrugging again. "I don't know. Anywhere."

"Well, I'm kind of in the middle of some homework right now..."

He couldn't blame her for being hesitant. He hadn't been much fun lately, and his moods had all been dark. "Just for a bit. Please," he added with a pleading quality in his tone.

"'Kay. Just let me grab a different sweater."

A few minutes later they drove in silence to Trickle Diner. Callie watched him closely, he could feel it as they entered the diner and sat down, but he was doing a good job of avoiding her gaze. They ordered their drinks and as soon as the waitress had left them Callie reached across the table with both of her hands and clasped his.

"Rob, are you okay?"

Finally, Rob met her gaze. He sighed and pulled one of his hands from her grasp. He rubbed his face, exasperated. "Not really, no."

"You can talk to me, you know. About whatever's bothering you."

He nodded. "I know. I just can't. I should but I can't."

He could tell Callie didn't know what to make of that, but after considering if for a few moments, she nodded. "Okay. Well if you won't utilize my masterful listening skills then I'll do the next best thing. I'll distract you!" She gave him a half hearted grin before launching into a second-hand story Max had shared with her earlier about Jake and Will.

An hour later as they were munching on some fries, Rob found himself laughing with her. She'd succeeding in making him talk a bit about meaningless drivel. She'd tried her best to make him forget but he hadn't and as Callie took a break from speaking to have a sip of her pop, he had a sudden burst of courage.

"Callie," he spoke suddenly.

"Mm hmm?" she looked at him, her eyes round and possessing that look of innocence he so loved about her.

"I..." Rob hesitated, the courage he'd felt just a moment before vanishing. "I love you."

Callie paused and he knew she was aware that wasn't what he originally intended to say. She didn't acknowledge that fact though. "I love you, too."

-

Rob found himself standing on Callie's lawn shortly after midnight the following Friday night. He'd parked his car a couple blocks away, as he knew Callie's parents were out late at a function but he wasn't sure what time they were expected home and he didn't want to raise any suspicions that he was there. Callie wasn't expecting him either, and by the darkness engulfing the home, he knew she was already in bed.

He contemplated leaving, but he knew that wasn't possible for him to do. That would mean his final image of her would be her walking away from him, after he'd dropped her off here earlier after school.

And she still didn't know. Because he still hadn't told her. He hadn't told anyone.

Rob could barely remember the week. He'd drifted through it, a feeling of numbness overtaking him. Somehow he'd made it through the week though, he knew that. Because here he was, standing on his girlfriend's lawn. There were only eight hours left to say his goodbyes. He had to say goodbye. He couldn't just leave.

That devastation boiling deep beneath the surface was starting to surface now. Kayleigh had caught him crying earlier that evening as he packed up his room. She was five years old so when she'd questioned why, he hadn't lied. He was going to miss his friends. He was going to miss Callie.

That was putting it simply. It felt so much more complex than that. He wasn't sure how he was going to be able to live without her. As melodramatic as that was; he couldn't change the fact that it was how he felt.

Rob steadily crossed the lawn and climbed the tree conveniently located just outside Callie's bedroom window. Standing on one branch and clinging to another, Rob tapped lightly on the window. It was a few seconds before a bedside lamp switched on. He could see her, half asleep trying to register what was going on.

Callie stared at him and sat up slowly. She blinked the sleep from her eyes before pushing her covers off and getting out of bed. She straightened her black tank top and blue cotton pajama bottoms before she shuffled to the window and pulled it open.

"What are you doing?" she asked as she removed the screen and helped pull him into the room. "Why didn't you just use the door? My parents aren't back yet."

Rob stopped and glanced at the window he'd just come through. "I'm not sure. Impulse, I guess."

"Is it normal for you to climb through girls' windows in the middle of the night?" she asked lightly, though he suspected she truly wondered if that was the case.

"Nope. That was definitely a first."

Callie had shuffled back to her bed and was pulling the covers over her legs. "What are you doing here?"

"I wanted to see you." Needed to see you, he thought.

He closed the window and crossed her room, before sitting next to her on the edge of the bed. "I'm sorry I woke you." He brushed a stray dark curl from her cheek and tucked it behind her ear.

"I don't mind." She smiled. "What can I do for you?"

He leaned closer to her, his forehead resting lightly on hers. "You don't need to do anything for me, Shorty. I just want to be here, with you," he breathed out. He kissed her soft lips, his heart clenching as he did. How many more kisses could he steal tonight before he would have to slip out of her room the way he came?

They gazed at one another and Rob wondered if Callie could feel his fear. His fear of leaving her; of losing her. Callie bit her lip, considering something intently.

She sounded afraid herself, as she said, "I love you so much, Rob." She didn't give him a chance to respond as her lips hungrily met his.

Any chance he had of telling her what he'd come to say was lost in that moment. There was no hesitation for either of them as their clothes were quickly discarded, and their hands and lips eagerly explored each other's most intimate places.

There was no rationality. There was no thought. There was no one else. No past, no future. There was only them and there was only now. Nothing but this moment; nothing but this feeling existed. Nothing else was real.

They were hungry for one another as they came together passionately and with no reservations. Rob murmured tender words of love in Callie's ear as he moved inside her. Callie's cries of pleasure heightened his satisfaction as they simultaneously reached the culmination of their frenzied actions.

A few minutes later, as Callie drifted off to sleep curled up beneath his arm, a satisfied smile playing on her lips, only then did Rob realize the enormity of what he'd just done.

He lay next to her, watching her in the soft glow of the lamp, the guilt settling in his gut like hardened cement. He knew that feeling would never leave him. He heard the sound of her parents downstairs and turned off the lamp to avoid their intrusion.

Once he was sure they were long asleep and Callie's breathing was even, he slipped from her bed and dressed.

He took one final look at his beautiful girlfriend lying peacefully in her bed before he climbed out the window and disappeared into the night.

-

Hailey skipped down the stairs early Saturday morning. The sun had barely risen, and so she was surprised to hear the two teenage voices coming from the dining room. Hailey paused at the bottom of the stairs, to find out who was here with Ben before she interrupted them.

The male voice sounded distraught. "I just... couldn't stop. I know it was wrong; but in the moment... Fuck, Ben... I didn't even tell her." A sharp intake of breath told Hailey that the guy was trying not to cry.

"You can't just not tell her," Ben spoke, his voice low. "It's not right."

"I can't go back. This is it."

Quiet fell over them and Hailey wondered what was happening. She heard a chair push back and footsteps before she heard somebody open the sliding door.

The words that followed, coupled with the tone of Ben's voice, sent a chill down Hailey's spine. "You're a coward."

Hailey peered around the corner to see a shadow hesitate before closing the sliding door and leaving. She didn't get a chance to see who it was.

Ben sat alone at the table, his head down. Hailey wasn't sure what had just happened, but she'd never seen Ben look so defeated.

"Who was that?"

Ben started slightly. He shook his head, never looking up. "No one."