On Opposite Sides of the World

Chapter Twelve

The White Flag

Christi brings news to Rynora that Julian has gotten into a car crash. Rynora doesn't believe it at first, but at Christi's incessant urging, she finally relents and heads towards the infirmary. She finds Ashton with Julian, and he confronts her regarding her behavior and attitude towards his brother. Rynora is indignant, but after she is left alone with Julian, she doesn't really know what to say to him anymore.

"So..." I coughed.

A pregnant pause.

"I like how you're horizontal and I'm vertical."

I couldn't even believe I was doing this. I rubbed my temples. Why on earth had I agreed to such a ludicrous idea anyway? Sitting here and watching over Julian? I wouldn't have done something like this even if it was the last thing possible in the world!

He hadn't woken up in the past twenty minutes. In fact, he hadn't even twitched or made the tiniest bit of movement ever since I landed myself in this room. I knew because I watched. I watched for the tiniest hints of movement, and when it came, I could dash out into the hall, holler up a storm, and then sneak out when all the nurses and students were crowded around him. That had been my plan, but as of now, it was still in the pending stage.

I tapped my finger irritably against my knee. Did I want him to wake up? Well of course, because then I would be able to escape this place. The sinister and evil side of me, however, wanted him to stay unconscious for a longer period of time. It wasn't that I wished doom upon him, but the devil in me believed that he had it coming. No one told Rynora Emerson to fuck off and got away with it.

Another fifteen minutes passed.

By then, I had already gone through the multitude don't-die-on-me-because-I-love-you cards sitting on the spare table. They had proved to be rather dull reading material. I had always hated trashy soap operas, but even they were better than reading these gag-worthy letters. Who would spend thirty minutes of their life reading this kind of nonsense?

Well, excluding me, that is. I wasn't part of the tally, considering that I was already bored out of my wits. Sitting around with an unconscious Mr. Popular was not something that pricked my fancy. Of course, if I were given the option of castrating him with a fork, then that added a whole other meaning to sitting with the enemy.

The door opened behind me and Ashton stuck his head in.

I offered him a raised eyebrow. "Yes?"

"Just coming to see how things are going. Is he awake?"

"He's still perfectly dead," I reported.

Ashton made a face at that. "You sound pleased."

"Good going, Sherlock," I snorted. "You do realize that Julian and I get along like a worm and a bird?" Did that analogy even make sense? "It's a miracle that he's still breathing."

"I'm surprised. You managed to restrain that barbaric temper of yours." He smiled good-naturedly. "Oh, aren't you a sweet one."

I rolled my eyes and opened up the book I had found in Julian's backpack. I was rather sure he wouldn't mind me borrowing it for a few minutes. Normally, I enjoyed conversation with Ashton, but when it had to do with his younger brother, he was as annoying as Julian was.

"Now that you've seen that your brother isn't dead or dying, could you please leave me in peace?"

Ashton grinned, but he nodded and retreated out the room, closing the door after him. I scoffed. Even an idiot could tell that Ashton was wondering whether his brother was in two pieces or one. Even if I did want to tear Julian limb by limb, I'd at least do it in a deserted alley or underground tunnel.

I started reading the book.

A few minutes passed by.

I looked up and noted a few boxes of chocolates sitting around. One glance at the label told me that it was the highest brand and most expensive chocolate that money could buy in the malls. It was a wonder that girls were willing to spend so much on a guy who probably wouldn't eat the fattening food anyway. He had to watch his weight after all, though I had to say Julian probably didn't care about food consumption. He had fast metabolism, so he didn't even have to worry about weight gains.

Even so, I was a chivalrous girl, and as such a helpful soon-to-be stepsister, I decided to eat the chocolates for him. It would save him the trouble of giving into the temptation.

I bit into one. They were good, I had to admit. But then again, I didn't expect anything less. There were Julian Burke's chocolates.

Oh, what was it that Ashton had said? I was being unfair? I was judgmental? I'd like to see him pointing all those accusations at me now. I was sacrificing myself for Julian here, and he wasn't even conscious to witness the action.

I smirked at Julian, and in a moment of pure insanity, I waved the chocolate in front of his face. If I had been a little less pissed and a little more normal, I would've realized that Julian wasn't even awake to smell the chocolate…not that chocolate could be smelt. But I was feeling vindictive and unjustified. Everything just slammed together.

"Oh Julian," I started, clucking my tongue. "This really is a pity, isn't it? Never thought you'd actually be lying there and I'd be sitting here. Everyone expects me to say something nice and wish you well, but if you know me, you know that's not going to happen."

He was still.

I chewed on the caramel-filled chocolate. "I'm sure you know why I'm so mad," I said, after I had swallowed. "But in case you've become dimwitted again, I'll gladly repeat myself."

"You and I are from opposite sides of the world. You are up there," I gestured towards the ceiling with my hand, "and most of Halverson crawls at your feet and assume that they are down here." I brought my hand towards the floor. "Honestly, it's pathetic how you're able to control the student population with a simple snap of your fingers."

Julian probably would've been disgusted if he were awake to hear all this.

"I know I may be harsh with you at times, but is it truly my fault?" I shook my head, if only to add assurance to my statement. "No, it isn't. If you didn't walk around acting holier-than-thou, I wouldn't bother to treat you, as you say, 'lower than dirt'. There are too many people who act as if you're their saint. I don't think you need me to reinstate the belief."

I shifted around in my seat, well aware that I was talking to someone who was unconscious and possibly suffering from a concussion of some sort. It made me wonder if I were being a little too cruel and heartless, but I plowed on, simply because I needed to vent. Even if Julian couldn't hear me, I would've at least said all I wanted to say.

"I don't understand how we ever got ourselves into such a tangled web. I have no idea why my mom and your dad decided to get themselves into a lovey-dovey situation, and you know as well as I do that the marriage is not a fitting or a love-based one." I ran a hand through my hair, slightly frustrated. "And while I don't like you, I will admit that I don't hate you either. So for the sake of both our sanities, I think we should work together…"

I stopped right then. What was I talking about? Working together? For heaven's sake, we couldn't even act in the same play without punching each other silly. Or rather, me punching him silly…

He just lay there, unresponsive.

It felt a little awkward to see him so still when I was basically shredding him apart. The feeling was a little disturbing. I blinked. Was it guilt? No, it couldn't have been. While Julian wasn't the biggest idiot on earth, he was still far from a saint.

I observed him again, this time closely. I attempted to push aside all my animosity and looked at him with a neutral eye. I had to admit, Julian Burke really was not bad looking. He was more than decent, naturally, but I had never allowed myself to appreciate just how good-looking he was. I didn't know why I noticed these things now, but it hardly mattered. He wasn't awake, and even if he were, he couldn't read my thoughts. My new admittance about his looks would stay in this room and remain here forever. I would rather shoot myself than admit this to him, or anyone else for that matter.

"We might have been friends," I said quietly, trailing my hand along the border of the bed. "If only we hadn't started off on the wrong foot. But everything is too late now." I smiled wryly. "And remember, I'm only saying this once, so it's only too bad for you that you can't hear it. We could have been friends, good friends for that matter, but things just didn't happen that way."

The room was suddenly too warm and stifling. I had to get out of there. It seemed as if I had confessed too much, understood too little, and realized too many things that I should not have and didn't want to realize.

I grabbed my things and left the room, closing the door softly behind me. I blew out a breath of fresh air and ran a hand through my hair again. That was over and done with.

Ashton was nowhere in sight when I stepped into the waiting room. The nurse was still behind her desk, working on paperwork, and she looked up at me as I approached.

"Thanks for letting me stay for a while."

She shook her head. "It's fine, Miss Emerson. Have a nice day."

I nodded and opened the door. I was about to head about, but I turned back at the last second. "Will he be all right?"

The nurse smiled in a strangely knowing way. I was a little unnerved by it. There seemed to be a hidden meaning, though I couldn't seem to decipher it.

"Do you think he will be okay?"

I blinked. "I um…I wouldn't know, would I?"

"You wouldn't," she agreed, "but do you want him to be okay?"

This was getting weirder by the minute. "I guess?" What else was I supposed to say? And why was this nurse asking me these strange questions in the first place? Was she insinuating something?

"Then I'm sure he will be fine." She smiled warmly. "Don't worry."

I restrained the urge to ask her what she was trying to get at, and instead gave her a wave and stepped out of the room. Her brief session of twenty questions had made me forget the queerness of Ashton's lack of presence in the waiting room. I would've thought that he'd be rather worried about his brother's health and his condition, but it appeared as if I had over-thought the situation.

Seeing as there were no classes today and since there was nothing else for me to do, I headed back to my dorm.

Christi opened the door before I could knock and pulled me inside. Her eyes were wide and her face eager. "Well?" she demanded. I hadn't even gotten the chance to take a breath.

"Well what?"

"How was it?"

I lifted an eyebrow and headed towards the fridge. "How was it? Don't you mean how was he?"

She waved her hand impatiently. "Same difference."

"Not really," I replied. "It implies that you're more concerned about the situation. He focuses on Julian's health."

Christi looked a tad frustrated. "Okay, fine. How was he?"



"Kidding. He's good. Asleep, unconscious, dead to the world…but still good. And alive."

She nodded and lapsed into a period of thoughtfulness. I ignored her and took a swig of the orange juice that I had poured myself. For some reason, I felt a craving for citrus. Lord knew why.

"So everything went well?" Christi finally asked, her head tilted. "You didn't seem to have stormed back in a raging fit."

I glanced wryly at her. "Raging fit? Why would I be raging? In case you haven't realized, Julian's not exactly in the best state of mind to reply to my insults."

Her eyes widened. "You insulted him?"

"To a certain degree."

"Rynora, he wasn't even conscious. That's taking advantage of the situation!" Her arms were flailing. "At least insult him when the guy has a chance to retort."

I put down my glass impatiently and crossed my arms. "What is it with you today?" I said, eyes narrowed. "Since when have you become such a valiant Julian-defender? I always thought you agreed with me that he's a heartless idiot?"

"I do. I just…"

"Just what?" I frowned suspiciously. "Is there something I…"

"No!" Christi said quickly, her voice high and a little strangled-sounding. "No, there's nothing you don't know about."

The situation was getting rather fishy. First of all, Christi Waverly hardly had a high-pitched voice, and it usually got like that only when she was angry or when she was shocked or frightened. Now, she seemed panicky. Still, I saw no reason for her to worry, unless of course…

"You're keeping something from me," I deduced.

Her eyes widened innocently. "Of course I'm not, Ryn. I wouldn't keep things from you. You're my best friend."

"Are you sure?" It wasn't that I doubted Christi. It was just that she was acting way too out of the norm for things to be typical. There was something off, and I was determined to find out what it was.

"Yes, yes." Christi smiled. "I'm just relieved to hear that Julian's still alive."

I sighed. "Same."

Her eyebrow rose. "Seriously?"

"You think I want him dead?" I walked towards our table and sunk into a chair. "Oh honestly. I'm not that bad."

"And he's not that bad either."

I threw a sharp look her way. "Christi, there is something wrong. I may let you off the hook now, but just to let you know, I'm going to figure out what it is. And then you'll have some major explaining to do."

She fidgeted and gave me one of her stern looks, though I could tell she was unnerved. "Rynora, don't use that tone with me. I am not hiding anyth—"

The door suddenly flew open with a crash, and Alex came stumbling in, his hair messy and eyes frantic. What was up with that? I remained in my chair, though Christi seemed uncharacteristically worried. She scurried over towards him and grabbed his arms.

"What's wrong? What happened?"

Alex sucked in deep breaths and let out a jumble of words: "Julian…check…missing…nowhere…"

Christi looked alarmed. "You and Ashton found Julian missing when you went to check up on him?"

My eyes widened. And no, it wasn't because Julian had disappeared. It was in shock due to Christi's ability to figure out so much information from those mere four words. Was it even possible?

Alex nodded hurriedly. "Yeah." He averted his gaze to me. "When did you come back here?"

"A few minutes ago," I estimated. "Why?"

"The ambulance isn't here, meaning the hospital crew didn't whisk him away." Alex grabbed the nearest bottle of water, opened it, and chugged down half its contents. "This means that Julian disappeared."

What was this? Science fiction? How could one person just disappear like that?

"Disappear as in…vanished?" I asked skeptically. "Are you sure you haven't been imagining things? He was still dead when I was there."

"Dead?" Alex looked incredibly anguished now. "Oh God. Is he really dead? Why didn't anyone tell me? He's dead!" He let out a cry that was all too loud and slumped against the wall. "He's dead! He…"

Christi threw an anxious look at Alex and then glanced at me, her eyes wide and…worried?

"Maybe…maybe he's not dead," she said hesitantly. "Maybe he just took a walk…"

I looked at her strangely. What was she talking about? Julian was clearly unconscious. How could a person turn from unconscious to conscious and then walk out the nurse's office in just a few minutes? Miracles didn't happen like that.

"I don't think…" I began, but was cut off by Alex's alarmingly sharp wail.

I gawked. Did Alex Iverson just wail?

Christi looked hopelessly concerned by his sudden toddler act and grabbed his shoulders. "Where did you search for Julian?"

Alex looked at her, his eyes red. "Everywhere. I looked everywhere."

"There has to be somewhere that you missed. The school's entirely too big for you to not have missed something."

He paused for a moment, his eyes narrowed at the ground, thinking. And then his head shot up. "The little secluded area next to the library! I didn't look there yet." His hopeful look suddenly faded. "But I doubt he'll be there. Julian doesn't often head towards…"

"It's our last hope," Christi said. "That's the only place you didn't look right? He could be there." Her eyes strayed towards me. "Ryn, do you mind…"

"I'll go," I blurted. My eyes widened in horror. What had I just said?

"Really? You'll go?" Alex surveyed me. "Honestly?"

I sighed exasperatedly. "Yes, I will go. Calm down. I doubt he's stupid enough to throw himself into a river or something."

Christi nodded towards the door and I blew out a breath and left the room. Christi and Alex were acting awfully close, but it could've been my imagination. That was…unless there really was something going on between them? Now that was a thought.

I headed towards that little garden-like area next to the library, simply because that was the only place Alex supposedly hadn't searched. I doubted that he had gotten to every single part of the school, but I'd start there first.

It was unoccupied.

I glanced around, surveying the small bushes and the stone bench. Couples often spent their free time here, since it was quiet and secluded, and they were free to do their business. For some reason, however, there was no one here. It wasn't the most popular spot in the school, but there was hardly a time when the place was completely empty. It felt strange…and different.

I bristled. It was weird, and for some reason, it seemed that there was someone else here with me. I shook my head and took in a breath. I was just being paranoid. It was in bright daylight, and our school was gated. The place was open space—if there were someone, I'd see them.

Or maybe not.

There was a faint shift from somewhere close to me.

I hesitantly took one step backwards.

The sound had stopped.

Was it coming from in front of me or behind?

And since I wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible, I hurriedly took another few steps backwards…and promptly crashed into something solid.

I whirled around and screamed, and before I knew it, I had slipped on a rock and was on my way towards the ground.

My attacker grabbed me just before my forehead smacked the concrete and yanked me back up to a standing position.

"Than…thank you," I gasped, my heart thudding too quickly for my liking. I had nearly cracked my head open! "That was…that was close."

"Yeah. Quite."

My breath hitched.

"Julian." It was a comment, not a question. I knew it was him even before I had looked up.

He nodded slowly. "Yeah."

Acting purely on impulse, I reached out and grabbed his arms, giving him a hard shake. "What the hell are you doing out here? You should be in the infirmary!" I shook him again. "Do you have any idea how worried Alex was? He was practically breaking down. Even Christi was anxious!"

Julian's face was blank, his eyes a dark blue. They were rather murky, to speak the truth. "Really."

"Yes." I nodded. "You shouldn't even be walking around."

"Do I look hurt to you?"

I stopped. What kind of question was that? I finally lifted my head to fully take him in, and realized with a start that the bandage around his head had been removed, and any trace of scrapes or blood had gone. He looked as normal as ever, his color healthy and movements smooth.

And through all this, I could only think of one word: Huh?

"Wh-what?" I stammered. "What's going on?"

"Do I look hurt?" he asked again, voice bland. When I only shook my head, he nodded. "There you go."

I took a step back and shook my head. "I don't…I don't understand. I thought you had gotten into a…"

"Car crash?" His smile was sardonic. "And even then, you didn't care enough to visit me on your own free will."

Everything was slowly starting to register into my head. The car crash, Christi's sudden spurt of emotions towards him, Alex's toddler-like bawling, Ashton's words…

"This is all a set-up."

Julian had the audacity to smirk. "So you aren't as dimwitted as I thought."

I could feel the anger building. "You liar."

"Hardly," he replied, his eyes hard. "I wouldn't call it lying. It was more of a test."

"Test? Test on what? Math, English, economics? Or wait…social science?" I snorted disdainfully, my pride sorely wounded. "You made me falsely believe you were ill and hurt. You lied and got me to go to the infirmary to see if you were all right. You manipulated my friends and got them to turn against me." I gritted my teeth. "I regret ever meeting you in the first place."

He stared at me, hard. "You blame everything on me because it's the easiest way to go, isn't it?"

"No," I spat. "Because you are the one to blame. You're a fraud and a cheat and the lowest scum on earth!"

"And you're much better?" Julian snapped, eyes flashing. "What did I ever do to deserve your hostility? Just because I have a more approachable personality than you do? Just because I happen to have some friends? Just because I happen to be a little popular? So now what? I deserve your condescending tone and insults now?"

"You know that's not true." I took a step forward. "You walk around as if you own the world. You act as if everyone should bow down to you. Now tell me, should I bow down like everyone else and treat you like a God?"

His voice was flat. "You don't have to repeat everything. I heard you."

My eyes narrowed. "In the room, you mean? You heard everything I said to you?"



"You always say I'm the one who treats everyone like dirt. But haven't you ever paused to think analyze your own actions? Since when have you ever given any guy the time of day?"

I sneered. "Look at the guys in our school. Do you think I should?"

Julian snorted. "No, you shouldn't. I'd feel sorry for any guy who ever thought that you would possibly make a good girlfriend."

"At least I don't use people and then dump them."

"And you think I do?" He paused then, and then shook his head and ran a hand through his hair. "Forget it," he muttered. "Don't answer that."

I smirked. "So you finally realized?"

He looked up. "No." He sighed and stuck his hands into his pockets. "Forget it, Emerson. This isn't going anywhere."

I stared at him. "Was it supposed to go somewhere? Did you really expect me to feel all happy and giddy that you played around with my emotions?"

Julian lifted an eyebrow. "But in order for me to play around with your emotions, it would imply that you actually have them."

"Of course I have feelings!" I snapped, incensed. "Who doesn't?"

"Forgive me," he said mockingly. "I hadn't realized that you were capable of caring."

I didn't know whether to slap him silly or to give him a kick in the you-know-where. Either way, I had a strong urge to inflict bodily harm upon him. "Are you daft?" I cried, waving my arms around furiously. "If I didn't care, you'd think I'd bother to come out here and look for you? I'm not made of stone, Burke. Even if I don't particularly like you, that doesn't mean I'd feed you to the wolves."

"How touching." His smile was crooked. "You're an interesting person, Rynora."

I scowled. "Shut up."

"This entire thing wasn't really my idea, actually." Julian glanced around and observed some region over the top of my head. "I guess Alex really wanted to win the bet, and I…"

"Bet?" I cut in, brows furrowed. "What bet?"

"The bet you made with him earlier." He didn't specify, but I knew what he was talking about. My cheeks flushed slightly. "I didn't see any harm in it. I guess I was curious as well."

I held up a hand. "Wait, wait, you lost me. Harm in what?"

"This entire scheme." He gestured between us, as if that explained everything. "It was mainly Alex's idea, and Christi agreed. They dragged me into this, though I can't say I was completely unwilling."

My eyes narrowed drastically and I pursed my lips. So that was what Christi and Alex were up to! That was why they looked so mysterious and strange back in the dorms. It was all a trap, and I had fallen into it...headfirst. Talk about glorious.

"So, did you learn anything useful?" I said in clipped accents. "Have you been inspired? Has a sudden dawning of realization enlightened you?"

To my surprise Julian actually looked contemplative. He offered me a faint half-hearted smile and looked away again. "In a way, I suppose."

I couldn't resist. "What way?"

"Oh, well." He eyed me with a spark of amusement. I noticed that his eyes had gotten rid of its murky sheen. "I realized that you aren't as cold-blooded as you seem."

"I'm not a reptile!"

"Well you sure acted like one," he responded.

I opened my mouth to reply, but then decided against it. Anything that I was going to say was not pleasant, and since Julian seemed rather world-weary today, I let him off the hook.

But Christi and Alex however…

"They are going to get it from me," I muttered.

"Oh Ryn, it was for your own good." Julian and I turned around and saw Christi and Alex standing there, eyes wide and innocent looking. Christi's eyes were bright and hopeful, and Alex, apparently having caught onto the situation, was smiling broadly.

Christi grinned at me again. "You look like you want to punch me."

"Oh really?" I feigned shock. "And why would I ever want to do that?"

Alex bounded over and threw an arm around my shoulders. "Don't be like this. I know you're happy; you know you're happy; everyone knows you're happy!"

"Sorry, I'm not." I shrugged his arm off and took a step away from him. "And don't think I'm going to let you off so easily." I whirled on Christi. "And you! My best friend! You threw me into a pit!"

Her eyes were wide. "But you were the one who said you wanted Julian to get run over by a car. It was on the Constitution of Happiness!" And to prove that she was right, she whipped out the sheet of paper and waved it in front of my face. "See! It's right here."

I sighed. "Well I didn't mean it. I was pissed off at the time."

Alex's smile widened. "So you don't want Julian dead."

"No," I snapped. "I'm not an evil overlord, all right?"

He nodded. "Good. I thought so."

Christi looked from me to Julian, and then back again. Her smile was wide and she appeared truly pleased. I wondered if Alex had to bribe her to get her to agree to his little game plan. After all, I couldn't see why she would suddenly team up with him.

"Please don't think I betrayed you," she told me. "I know you're probably mentally cursing your head off at me, but hey, I did to for you." At my raised eyebrows, she shrugged. "I really think that if you two tried, you'd be good friends. And besides, you still have to work together to make sure your parents don't marry, right?"

Ah, why not?

"I get it, I get it." I waved my hand impatiently. "Thank you so much for your kindness and your warning. I will do my best to ensure that Julian and I have a wondrous relationship from now on."

Alex gaped. "Seriously?"

Christi favored him with an exasperated look. "She's being sarcastic." She averted her attention to me. "It's okay. I understand how you feel at the moment."

I huffed. "You'd better understand."

Julian remained mute throughout the entire exchange.

Alex looked from me to Julian and then exchanged a glance with Christi. The two of them were really starting to get on my nerves. He smiled and tugged on her arm. "Come along now, Waverly. We mustn't ruin the lovely bonding time between these two."

I wanted to punch him.

Christi nodded. I wanted to punch her too. Traitor. "Oh yes, I agree."

And then I watched with a gaped jaw as the two of them walked off…just like that. I didn't really mind that Alex left—thank God he did else I would've done some terrible things to him…but Christi? Christi Waverly…as in my best friend?

Ah hell.

Since there was only Julian and I left, and since it would've been incredibly awkward if we ignored each other, I gathered up my courage and faced him, determined.

He lifted an eyebrow upon noticing my stance. "I hope you realize that you're not going to war."

"I can go anywhere I please," I snapped. "And I'm going to go now."

But of course, life would never be so simple. When would I learn that Julian didn't allow someone to walk out of his sight if he wanted to seriously bash their head in? But me, the stupid-smart girl of the century, decided that it would be all right to ignore this little perk of his and slapped his hand away when he reached out to stop me.

So instead, I got the rough maneuver, where he grabbed my wrist and yanked me over towards one of the stone benches surrounding the great maple tree.

"Excuse me?" I yelped. "Just what do you think you're doing?"

He continued walking. "Having a talk with you."

"Is this what you call talking?" I snapped. Julian didn't listen to me, only pressed two hands down on my shoulders and sat me on the bench. "I actually believe that manhandling is a better term to use."

"Hey Rynora? Shut up for a moment."

I obediently closed my mouth, though I had no idea why. Perhaps it had been the tone he had used, or maybe I had subconsciously detected the seriousness of the situation.

"I heard everything you said back in the room in the infirmary…"

"I'll bet you did," I muttered darkly.

"I know you're pissed about that," he said, eyeing me pointedly. "And I would say I'm sorry, but I'm not, and that's only because I found out some things that I never would've guessed if it were up to me."

I smiled sweetly at him and crossed my arms. "Oh? And what would that be?"

"Alex said you don't always mean what you say." Julian paced the length of the bench, his eyes straying towards me every couple of seconds. "But I never really thought so…until I heard the part where you thought we could be friends."

"Could be," I enunciated. "But we aren't, are we? So what does it matter?"

He observed me closely. "It means that there's still room for change." He crouched down so that we were at eye-level. "I don't know about you Rynora, but I'm willing to take a few steps back and compromise on certain things."

I stiffened under the intense scrutiny and scoffed. "Do you honestly think we're capable?"


That short, honest answer made me cringe. Julian truly believed we could? But what if I didn't? What if I knew that this wouldn't turn out right? He had always seemed to live in a world where there were no doubts, because for him, everything had come and gone smoothly. There were no sudden mishaps, because his life could not have gotten any higher. Julian was at the top—how could anything be wrong there?

But as for me…

"I don't think so," I responded bluntly. "Some things are possible, some aren't."

"I know that," he conceded, "but I also know that things change with time. If you're willing to give it a try, who knows what'll happen?"

I wanted to remain firm and adamant on my ground, but even I had to admit that his words held an ounce of truth in them. I gradually caved. It was his unwavering assurance that got me. I had never met someone so sure about a situation and so sure about what was possible in the future.

Julian cracked a smile. "Rynora? Did you even hear me?"

I nodded slowly. "Yeah." I cleared my throat. "Yeah, I did."

"Then are you willing to give it a shot?"

I observed him silently. How did he manage to get people to agree with him? What was it about him that was so persuasive?

"Fine. I'll give it a try. But," I warned, but when I saw his face lighten and his smile brighten. "I'm going to tell you now that I don't think it will work. I don't have faith in us, unlike you."

And for the first time today, Julian flashed me that unbearably charming smile of his and got up and seated himself next to me. "That's okay. I have faith enough for both of us."

I offered him a dry glance, but his smile didn't waver.

He held out his hand. "Truce?"

I hesitantly grasped it. "Truce."

Author's Note: I know, I'm updating this story again. It may have seemed like a long time, and I know it was. Damn, a few months. Blagh. Please don't hate me. I had some serious writer's block, and I finally managed to get this chapter out. I hope it's satisfactory to a certain degree :) And thanks to all of you who haven't given up on me yet. Your reviews and steadfast encouragement mean a lot to me. So thank you! And much love to glacialangel for her constant support! Your ideas really got my imagination going, so thank you once again!

Please review :)

SolisLuna: Thank you :) And yes, Rynora was a bit too mean to Julian. But she can't really help it. She isn't particularly fond of him at the moment. Haha.

Serabi: And now you know. Actually, more information will be revealed in the next chapter regarding everything, since this is just the point when Rynora finds out that things have been a little...different than she had thought. Alex and Christi do make a lovely pair together, and you get to see some of their interaction in here. I might write them together, but their relationship won't be specially featured. Thanks for reviewing!

driew: Well, I must say, I'm terribly sorry. I guess it seemed like I really wasn't coming back this time...but I'm here now. Heh. Thanks for reviewing :)

tornangelwings: Thank you so much! I'm terribly sorry for neglecting this story for so long.

pixxidust: Rynora certainly is far from perfect x) I don't know how Julian can stand her at times. Thanks.

givelifeyourall: How do you like this 'lesson' that Julian gave her? Haha. Good enough? And I do admit that she's being a bitch at the moment, and even more so in this chapter. But things will get better :) Thanks.

starXcookie: Julian has to face her wrath, so I wouldn't say he gets all the good things ;) Thank you!

Nerissa: Thanks!

KittenOfFlame: Sorry about this late update. And as for Julian and his dad...well, I wouldn't exactly say that there's anything terrible that happened in the past. But there were some encounters that I could possibly write in when Rynora and Julian have more encounters with their parents.

Liviana: Haha. Now that you mention it, they do seem like they could play a part in P & P huh? x) And Julian really stood up for himself this time, don't you think?

cynical optimism: Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it :)

yonderwindow: And here it is...As it turns out, Christi was indeed joking about the car crash. Well actually, it was for the better cause ;) Thanks.

the invisible poet: Yes, I agree. They are rather muleheaded, though Rynora doesn't like Julian as of now. She cares about him, but she doesn't like him. As for Julian, even I don't know what he's thinking. The guy's a little crazy at times, and a little unsure about his feelings ;) Thank you!

Erica: Thank you! I'm pleased that you like it so much.

pinkfairydust: Sorry for this late update! I had writer's block...severe writer's block. But I hope this chapter made up for the belatedness!

kiiwii-short-cake: Good job! Christi was being fake about it, as it turns out :) Nice observatins. And no, I'm not British ;) I'm purely American. Never been to England in my life before. Haha. But I can see where you think I'm British. I do use words such as 'bloody hell' and 'prat' and stuff like that. It's Harry Potter having its influence on me ;) Thank you so much for the wonderful and lengthy review! I loved it!

Arialla: Really? Aw, poor Julian. But that's all right. Rynora is loved by all ;) Thank you!

Inky-Angel: Sorry about the late update, and I hope this chapter was good...to a certain degree x)

LethargicLove: Was Julian's response satisfactory to you:) This chapter wasn't so humorous and everything, mainly because I needed to get their little argument across before I could progress with the story. Thank you!

LuckyClover26: Thank you so much! I'm terribly sorry for the update, and I can only say, forgive me:)

PrincessPeach131: I've never considered giving up on this story...I just went into a severe period of writer's block that I couldn't get out of. But now that I have, I'm good :) And thanks for the support.

Moons-and-Stars: It sure does! ;)

Blueberry Sparkle: Oh come on ;) Of course Rynora has to end up with Julian! Haha. I would've thought it was pretty obvious:) I wouldn't have it any other way. Ashton does seem like a good candidate, and I might actually fiddle with that a little. I just don't think it'll be as sparky as if Rynora got together with Julian. And as for Ashton with Sharlotte...hmm...you're on to something there ;)

glacialangel: Wow. Thanks! Your review was about the most thorough one that I've ever recieved. And taking notes? Holy crap x) And yes indeed, Rynora and Julian hardly apologize. They're too headstrong for their own goods, and their personalities severely clash with one another. Even until now, neither apologized x) Haha. And as for that Can War...I've never had the opportunity to start one, simply because I'm too shy to do so. Imagine...facing the ugly wrath of those store managers...oh I shudder. And oh crap...I guess I put Sharlotte's age wrong. I'm sorry. You're the only one who's pointed that out to me, so thanks. This is what happens when I don't update for a long time. Heh. I think that having Rynora's philosophy isn't a bad thing. She's carefully when it comes to guys, so don't worry about it. That way, you'll find the best guy there is on earth ;) Selectivity and all of that. Haha. Thank you so much for the huge review! You truly made my day, and you inspired my work. Truly. Thanks!

October Rose: Thank you! And though Rynora isn't giving Julian much of a chance, at least he's willing to give her another chance ;)

caralene: Thank you!

Ski Bird: You mean how Rynora knew Julian and Alex? Well, I didn't think it was very important, but if you want it mentioned, I'll surely stick it in somewhere :) If it helps to clear up the story, then I'll do it. Haha. And I will explain why Julian like Rynora, but not right now. As you can see, they're not in the best of relationships at the moment, and it's rather clear that she doesn't like him, and as for Julian, he doesn't like her in that sort of way at the moment. And no worries :) I'm not going to change this story ;) I can still add these things in without altering the previous chapters, so thank you for the input! Rynora can surely be dense, yes, but I suppose that's her...magnetic attraction and all that. And as for the stepsibling thing, I'm trying to make it work out :) There are two sides that I could write at the moment, and I'm still playing aroung to see which one would work.

Thank you once again! And please review :)