Chapter Thirty Three – I Swear This Time I Mean It

The next couple of days were weird. I have to admit I went back and forth on my decision so many times that I thought I was going to cave and wind up at Andrew's house. But I couldn't do that to myself. He had had every opportunity, even until the very end. I'd only asked him to leave, he could have said something, he could have tried to change my mind. But he hadn't even protested, he'd just walked right out, like there was no reason to even pretend to try. And that was answer enough right there about whether he would ever let those walls down for me. That told me everything I needed to know about us. If it wasn't worth fighting for, then it wasn't worth my time.

I tried to remind myself of this whenever I thought I might cave in. It made things easier, I can admit, but only by the smallest margin. Sometimes I was strung so tight I felt like I all I could hear was the sound of my own racing heartbeat. School was the hardest, especially Physics, where every now and then I would catch Andrew's eyes and notice they still held that wounded puppy look more prominently than not. There were times where he looked like he was going to break the silence between us, like it was killing him not to, and I wasn't sure how I felt about that. A part of me yearned for him to, but the rest of me had made up my mind and I knew the best thing to happen was for us to just stay out of each other's lives. No good could come of what we'd been up to. I'd been hopeful, but now I was realistic, my expectations were finally in line with reality. It was a little heartbreaking, honestly, but it was also a little freeing. Like finally I could relax.

But it was easier when I was at home, the basement was finally done and I was making it my new home. Dillon had one half, I had the other, and the silence of my room was more welcomed than marveled upon. I didn't have to look across from where I was sitting, while trying to study or do whatever, and see Cassandra shooting me death glares. In fact, I almost never had to see Cassandra, she made sure that we were virtual strangers in the house with each other. I knew, I honestly knew, that it was simply because I was in on her secret. And she couldn't handle that. A part of me wanted to shout it out to everyone at the top of my lungs. But it was her life. I could try and be the mature one, I was the older sister in this situation, and hope that one day she grew up and became less of a self-absorbed bitch. She made it hard to feel like I was doing her any justice though, the least she could have mustered was some form of gratitude.

I guess I was at the end of my rope, thinking about Sandy, when Cedric slinked into my room and made himself at home on my bed, looking over my shoulder as I sat at my little desk trying to get some homework done. I knew whatever he wanted couldn't be good for me, because the last time we'd had an honestly friendly conversation was so long ago that I couldn't pin-point it. Besides that semi-weird moment we'd had concerning my outfit before visiting Andrew's that time, which I didn't count because I was trying to pretend I hadn't ever known Andrew Wiser. I wasn't getting very far with that pretending, since every other thought of mine was about him, but I was trying nonetheless.

I sighed, swiveling around in my chair, and let my eyes lift to meet with his. This was not a conversation I wanted to have, I knew it before he even started in on whatever he was going to say, but if I was used to anything about mine and Ced's relationship, it was being annoyed by him. So I decided that I could grin and bear this. It couldn't be worse than anything I'd been through before. Shrugging, I propped a fake grin on my face. "What do you want?"

He smiled, like he was indulging me, and thought it was cute that I got straight to the point. In that condescending way boys did when they thought someone was being ridiculous. It made me grit my teeth in frustration but I held my tongue on the point. The less I said, the quicker this would go. He liked to preach from the soap box.

"You already decided you're not going to like this, huh?" There was a kind of smirk against his lips, he leaned forward and rested the weight of his body against the palm of his hand, which was propped on my bedspread.

I shrugged, not bothering to deny it, and lifted my eyebrows in defiance. "Yeah, pretty much. Every time you speak to me, it's basically to defend your twin. I mean, I have no idea what I've done to her in the last," I paused, glanced towards my nightstand alarm clock, and then back to his face. "Four hours since she gave me one of condescending looks… But go ahead and let me have it. Then we can go back to our separate corners of the house."

Cedric frowned, like I was being completely off base and preposterous, and scoffed quietly under his breath. I could see the wheels turning in his head, looking for some evidence to deny what I was trying to say, but he must have come up blank because a few moments of silence was all that he took for it. And then his next words were, "I just wanted to say thanks." I had to give it to him, he had a way of being entirely cryptic. I had no idea that was coming or where it came from. I spluttered for a few moments in confusion.

"Thanks for… what, exactly?" I shook my head, lost for words, and waited for whatever was about to sneak up on me that he'd wanted me to let my guard down for.

"Thanks for not telling mom and dad about everything, you know," he shrugged, shaking his head, as if the answer should have been obvious. And I could tell that the way I was receiving his thank-you was really getting underneath his skin a little bit. The way he pursed his lips was a dead give-away. "When Sandy needed us to stick together, you were there for her, and that was really decent of you. I mean, it's pretty obvious she wouldn't have done the same for you." He frowned, like this was mostly just occurring to him, and glanced down at the bed in some modicum of shame. I felt a small sliver of satisfaction that someone else knew that, that someone else could say that out loud, it was good to hear.

"But it's not really your problem though, is it?" I asked instead of showing that tiny little appreciation I had for his gesture. His gratitude didn't really matter, I hadn't done it for him, and my sister was practically incapable of recognizing that the whole world wasn't out to get her at every turn. "And it was a long time ago. I mean, a thank you for that is a little bit late, don't you think?"

He nodded. "It just occurred to me that neither of us had ever said it. And, with the way Sandy treats you, I think you had every reason to go back on what we agreed upon and just spill the whole deal. But you haven't. And that was good of you. So if she's not going to thank you, I figured someone should." There was a bit of meekness to his shrug when he lifted his shoulders, trying to be dismissive about it.

I looked him over, considering his answer, and trying to evaluate the likelihood that this was the whole truth. From what I could see, he wasn't showing any signs of caving, but it just didn't make all that much sense to me. Nothing had changed from then to now, Cassandra was her usual bitchy self pretty much the entire experience, and so I couldn't place why now would be the time Cedric realized I wasn't the protagonist in this fairy tale… Unless she had told him. I couldn't imagine it, I really couldn't, but I wasn't sure that I could deny it either. There was a small trace of something unidentified in his look, some humility that had never been there, and it only made sense if he knew.

His perfect twin wasn't as spotless as he'd imagined her to be. Well it was about damn time. Still though, that took a lot of maturity for Cassandra to fess up, to anyone at all. I wondered if she'd been caught and cornered, like with me, or if she had simply wanted to be honest for once in her life. I hoped it was the last, because that meant there was still something there for her, one last chance that she might learn from her mistakes and become the person she'd pretended to be for so many years.

I shook my head, a slow recognition to what was going on, and glanced up at his expression. "You're welcome, I suppose, or should I be saying thank you too? For thanking me?" That seemed awkward, but if Ced was going to try and be nice about the whole thing then I might as well go along with it. No point it making things more complicated or awkward just because I could. And if he was simply trying to figure out if I wanted to tell anyone, then, I supposed I could be straight about that too. Because I was bigger than this, than the two of them, and what they thought about their lives. And I didn't need to play that game anymore.

"Everybody makes mistakes," he said sympathetically, catching on to my train of thought.

I couldn't pretend to feel sorry for her, so I didn't try. "Yes, everybody does. But not everybody hides behind them, lies about them, covers them up to the exclusion of everything and everyone else, and refuses to even try to learn from them. So I don't think it's an acceptable excuse, mistakes being common place." I shook my head, expression set, to make clear that I wasn't the least bit won over by that logic.

"You don't know her like I do." I didn't think it was possible for Cedric to stop defending her, even though I knew he was trying, even though I knew his grasp of what had happened was so tentative. This was something Ced would never have condoned. All the lies, all the pretending, all the people that got hurt. He was not about that at all.

I smiled, a sad sort of agreement, and chewed on my bottom lip. "You're right. I don't and I never will. I think she made that perfectly clear and, to be honest, I don't care to. Everything that surrounds her turns rotten. I'm sorry," I held up a hand, knowing this was going to set him off. "I'm sorry. But it does." And that was where we would always come to an impasse. Cassandra was going to forever have protection beneath Cedric, he would do any and everything to maintain the idea of the sister he'd grown up with, every moment of his young life. And I wouldn't indulge that. I simply couldn't. I knew her, maybe not in the way he did, but the parts I knew were more sincere. They were less tolerable as well. She was my sister, yes, but that was all she was to me. That was all she would ever be.

He could see that there was no point in arguing. I was glad when his only response was a simplistic, "I'm sorry you feel that way," before he stood up and stretched. I thought he would just walk out, which was better than what I had originally expected, something more along the lines of an angry storm out. But he took a few steps before pausing and when he turned back to face me, he said something that really surprised me. Something completely unrelated to Cassandra.

"You should make up with Mora," there was a kind of shrug to his tone, but his eyes held a little more interest than his stance was betraying. "I liked her. And she's good for you." He smiled slightly, nodded his head a little by way of exit, and then shut the door behind him when he left. I stared a little blankly in surprise for a while.


I was opening my mouth to form a sentence when I felt the familiar hand curl itself around the top of my arm and pull me away from where my friends were standing in the parking lot. I spun around, ready to give the person a piece of my mind, and felt the words slam against each other in my mouth as I looked up into Andrew's hazel eyes. I couldn't function to even mutter anything coherent under my breath, much less protest.

He pulled me entirely to the side, away from my car, away from the crowd, and I followed after him with very little pressure from his part to keep me moving along. Like I couldn't help myself, I just let him lead me, my heart rate accelerating so intensely I was starting to wonder if I was about to go into cardiac arrest. I pulled in a breath, trying to make sure it was slow, trying to calm myself down but I still felt lightheaded. We stopped when we were out of distance of prying eyes and he turned around to face me. I stopped breathing entirely, I don't know how I didn't faint.

"Aren't you sick of this?" There was so much pressure, so much pleading, in his tone that I couldn't hear the words at first. And he licked his lips after asking it which was beyond distracting. I blinked, trying to form a reasonable thought, but my mind was still a swirl of blanks and question marks.

"What?" It was the only thing I could manage.

"This," he motioned desperately between the two of, from his chest to mine, his eyes focused right on my face as he did so. "I'm sick of it. I can't do this anymore. You have to be sick of it too," it didn't come out like a question, it came out like he was dying of thirst and I was waving water right in his face. Beyond desire.

"I," I shook my head, still not really following, and looked up at him with a wrinkled forehead. Glancing behind me, I frowned, then looked back to the expression on his face. "I was talking to Mora. It was important."

He stared at me for a minute, like I had answered him in a language he didn't know, and opened his mouth to respond but nothing came out. It would have been funny if it wasn't so strange to see Andrew doing something like that. Blinking, he glanced down, almost like he was ready to concede the point. But his shoulders stiffened a second later and he looked back up to my eyes with his. He shook his head.

"No." He stepped closer to me. "No, okay? I'm not going to do this. I can't," he swallowed, licked his lips again. "I don't know how. I can't take this anymore."

"Take what?" I questioned, a clear tone of annoyance beginning to stir in my response. "Take what Andrew? There's nothing between us, remember? There's nothing to be sick of. We're not doing anything. I haven't even talked to you in, like, a week." I sighed, trying to process where this was coming from and what he could mean. "And then it wasn't a pleasant talk. So if someone has pulled some sort of prank on you, or if you are planning something to get at me, then you can just forget it be-" My words got trapped between his lips and mine.

I don't know why I hadn't noticed the way he closed the space between us, or the way he put his hands on my shoulders, or how his hands had squeezed them gently. I might not have noticed the way his lips fell against mine if it hadn't stopped my tirade of nonsensical words, put there only to fill the space so that I could continue to pretend I didn't know what he was talking about, and of course if it hadn't felt so damn good. I lost my train of thought entirely.

I pushed up on the balls of my feet and leaned all of my weight forward, walking him backwards slightly until his back collided with the wall, my lips and his connected so intricately that they became one entity. My arms moved up around his shoulders, clutched against his shirt desperately, my entire body flush against his own.

His hands moved up from my shoulders, to my neck, on up through my hair as he held my face close against his own. He kissed me like his life depended on it, held onto it like I could literally be the air he breathed, and even though I thought I might suffocate I held on with him.

When we absolutely had to catch our breath he sighed against my lips and moved his over the side of my face, from my jaw and over my cheek, up to my earlobe, down my neck. He just kept kissing me, so that I couldn't ever catch my breath, so that I couldn't remember why this shouldn't be happening, and so that I couldn't think to try and stop it from happening. I was reeling from the way it felt to be with him, to have him this close to me, the familiar smell of his skin as my nose skimmed along various parts of it and I kissed him back. God, I couldn't lie and say it didn't matter, it felt right. Like finally things were put into place and nothing mattered quite so much as never, ever letting this stop.

He shifted our positions so that my back was against the wall instead of his and moved his hands down my torso, to my hips, up under my shoulder until the palms of his hands were skimming across bare skin. I shivered, sucked in my stomach just slightly, and pushed myself against him like it was going out style. I hadn't meant to, it just happened that way, like I couldn't stop myself.

His mouth moved over mine, he tilted his head, we deepened the kiss. I moved my hands to his neck and curled my fingers against the nape, into the hair that I could get a hold of there, and kept his face meshed against mine until I'm sure we were both turning red in the face. Breathless, I banged my head lightly against the wall and pushed down against his shoulders, shaking my head from side to side without lifting it from the brick of the school building.

"Oh my god," I licked my lips, blinking, I forced myself to try and remember something constructive. "We. This. Can't." Pushing out a sigh, I tried to create some room between us by shoving myself closer to the wall and farther from where he was. But Andrew didn't seem to care that I was saying this was wrong, because his body followed mine like were tied by invisible strings. He didn't meet my lips but he dropped his head and started placing light kisses against the skin there, his fingers tracing gently patterns against the skin of my torso that made me shiver and press into him again like nothing was wrong with this.

"Drew, please," I tried again, although I'm not sure how much that particular sentence helped anything. It sounded more like an encouragement than a chastisement, and the way he smiled against my skin made me sure that he knew I was realizing that just now. He shook his head, kissing back up to my ear, and not letting any space linger between us. I was torn between being annoyed about that and being really fucking grateful. I'm pretty sure the grateful part of me was winning though.

"I missed you," he spoke right against the skin of my ear, it made me shiver. I tried to keep my breathing at a semi-reasonable pace but I doubt I was successful. "Didn't you miss me?"

This was seriously hard to think through right now. I blinked, hands curled into fists against his shoulders, but I wasn't sure if they were trying to push him away or pull him closer. "It's not that simple."

"It is," he challenged, leaning his head back to meet my eyes again. "It's that simple because this is right. Isn't it? It feels right to you." He trailed a hand up my shirt, over my bra, and rested his palm flat against my heartbeat in such a tantalizing way I couldn't even try and tell him something he didn't want to hear.

I just sighed one of those soft, dreamy sighs and leaned even more into him. I bit my lip instead of answering and he smiled; leaning his head down to kiss me, he sucked my bottom lip into his mouth and let the kiss linger with building intensity until I thought I was probably going to explode from it. I separated, very slowly, more than reluctantly, I let the kiss break. Pulling in another breath, I muttered, "Oh God. I can't think," almost entirely under my breath. Swallowing hard, I tried to remember why this was stupid again.

He chuckled, soft and sexy, and I was back to square one. "I don't want you to think. Just feel." And then he moved his hands and fuck if I didn't feel that. I went cross-eyed in concentration to build a reasonable argument, which he didn't even have the decency to let me get out.

"It's simple because I love you," he clarified, kissing along my jaw as I became aware of the fact that one of my legs had wrapped in a betraying way around his body to absolutely hold him in place against me. What a fail body I had. I was too busy cursing it to take in what he said, and so it didn't register until he continued on.

"And I've never said that to anyone before in my entire life, not even my own mother. I love you, Kelsey Sanders, and I don't know what to do without you. So if it's not simple, then make it simple."

It took a while for this to penetrate through the haze of conflicting feelings he had stirred inside of me with this onslaught, but when it did I shook my head and pulled in a stabilizing breath. Blinking, I locked my eyes with his and frowned. "You can't just tell me you love me and think that puts everything back right," I tried to make sure my voice was steady, that I sounded absolute, and I wasn't disappointed by what I heard. I thought his expression might fall but it didn't. He just kept looking at me like he was going to melt right into me and damn but his hands were still busy. Why hadn't I pushed those away yet?

"Why not?" He dropped his head and kissed my neck, scraping his teeth a little along the skin. My heart skipped a beat. Well, Jesus.

"Because…" How was I supposed to know what to say while being felt up like this? He had a really unfair advantage. I dropped my hands down to his arms and pushed a little, trying to catch his attention. Clearing my throat, I tried again. "Because, it doesn't work that way."

"I think it does." Undeterred, he slid his hands around my back and pulled me a little away from the way, a little more pressed against him. I hadn't thought it was possible. Huh. "You love me too. I don't see the problem."

"Drew," I tried to reason with that but his lips had moved to my collarbone and I was coming up really, really blank. Honestly, how was this even fair? "I…" Okay, I didn't even know how to counter that. What was the problem then, if he loved me? And, dear God, but he'd said he loved me. My stomach flipped in realization, my head spinning with it, I didn't want to argue with this. When he had a point, damn if he didn't have a good one. "I… This won't work next time," I settled on that because nothing else would come to me. And I was tired of it, he was right, I couldn't do this anymore than he could.

Andrew and I had been many things in all the years I'd known him, but veritable strangers was the worst. And really unbearable. I don't know how I had stood it for so long but the truth was that if he hadn't caved then I knew I was going to. Because I wasn't cut out for this. And because I was made for him. It sounded ridiculous, put like that, but if my encounters with Brian had taught me anything then it was exactly how much I loved Drew. He could give me nothing, promise me nothing, and take everything from me but I would still be his. I would want him forever, for always, and my brain wasn't any kind of match with that desperation going on in my heart. I needed him.

Andrew leaned back, smiling slightly, and looked into my eyes again. He couldn't mask the complete relief there, I knew that I'd made him happy. He shook his head. "There isn't going to be a next time. Now, stop telling me no and say what I want to hear." His smile was teasing, but I could see the worry right behind his eyes. I knew what he was asking.

I didn't even hesitate, it was that absolute. "I love you too. Too much for my own good." He really smiled then, it reached right inside of him and spread all throughout his expression. I felt my face counter and respond with a smile of my own, my arms curving around his neck entirely as I did so.

"Thank God for that," he whispered, and then he was kissing me again.


A/N: So this is the end of the line for this one. I still need to come back and edit (sorely, severely, I know) so don't think I'm oblivious to all the mistakes. I am just really lazy. For that I apologize. I do realize sometimes I misspelled Brian (brain) ... My fingers are more comfortable typing brain. That is embarrassing though, lol. Anyway, I hope you guys liked the content of the story and the grammar didn't detract too much from my work. If not, and this was a huge let down, then I apologize. Thanks for sticking with me through it all regardless. I love you all very much and I can't believe I finally got this over with. I'm so relieved. Usually I feel sad when I'm done with something, right now I'm just like Andrew in his last line... haha. It was fun nonetheless. And thank you so much for the SKOW nomination Ash.