Bet You Can't!
- Chapter 15 -
"I knew I should have brought a gas mask."
Tanya looked at Aria and laughed at her pained statement. It was two weeks since Nessa's wedding, and the two friends were standing in front of Nick's closet, staring in wonder at the pile of clothes he'd haphazardly shoved in there.
"At least his room is clean," she responded brightly.
Aria followed Tanya's gaze and winced. "The two of us have different definitions of 'clean'," she retorted. At Tanya's incredulous look, she grinned. "I grew up with Neveda, remember? The obsessive-compulsive dust freak?"
"Of course." Tanya looked back at the closet. "Tell me again why we're doing this?"
"It takes Nick three times longer than me to get dressed for anything," Aria said, using her foot to topple the pile onto the ground. Dozens of shirts spilled into the room. "If I clean things up, he won't have an excuse to be late for everything. Efficiency is the key-"
"-to world domination," Tanya finished dryly, although she knew that wasn't the point Aria was trying to make. "Okay, so let's just get started, shall we?" She picked a purple T-shirt up, using only her nails to hold on to it. "Are these even clean?"
Aria shrugged, grabbing another shirt and shaking it out. "Smell it?" she suggested.
Tanya winced and let the shirt fall back onto the floor. "Or not?" She glanced at the digital clock on Nick's table and sighed. "We're been in the room for fifteen minutes and haven't managed to do anything."
"Yeah..." Aria bit her lip.
"How about we just toss everything in the wash?" Tanya suggested. "That way we don't have to risk dying of sweat-inhalation, plus it'll cut back on the sorting portion of today's agenda." She ran her fingers through her hair. "And we can do our folding while we're at the laundromat, so that should save some time too."
Aria grinned. "Awesome! Efficiency is the key-"
"-to world domination."
"Will you stop saying that?" Aria snapped, fighting not to laugh.
"Sorry," Tanya responded with a grin. "Okay, hold out your arms and I'll pile all this stuff into them."
Aria rolled her eyes to the ceiling. "You plan on walking with clothes in our arms?" she asked with a raised eyebrow.
"Uh-huh. I'll go downstairs and find a couple large garbage bags."
Tanya nodded. "And I will...risk my life by entering the Closet of Doom."
Aria laughed and walked out the door as Tanya stared dubiously into the closet. After taking a deep breath - both for courage and to avoid breathing while in there - she stepped in the small area, kicking away the clothes piles on the floor, and began looking through the things on hangers.
After a few minutes, she came across the white suit she had planned on loaning to Daniel. The reminder of that night made her smile. She and Kyrian had run into him a few days after Nessa's wedding, and the boy had been thrilled to find that they were together. He'd begun speaking of some social theory related to couples, until Kyrian had asked him to shut up or change the topic. In the end, they'd all had coffee together at Kyrian's place and spoken about the end of freshman pledge activities.
Daniel had made it through and become accepted into the fraternity, much to Tanya's delight, and he was to be officially introduced and welcomed into the House at a party to take place after final exams were finished.
Footsteps in the room made Tanya jolt out of her thoughts, and she pulled the hanger off the rack before stepping out. She was flipping the material over to check for the wine stain when she spoke.
"Hey, do you think I should drop this off at the dry cleaner's?" She looked up. "It's stained- Oh."
Thane stood in the middle of the room, his hands shoved so deep into his front jeans pockets that he was a little hunched over.
"Hi Thane..." Tanya tried to sound casual, but she knew it didn't work. She cleared her throat and tried again. "What brings you all the way here?"
"Where's Aria?" he asked sharply.
Her first instinct was to lie, but she quelled it. Aria was only downstairs and could arrive at any moment and her lie would be clear. "She's downstairs. Why?"
His eyes drifted over the suit in her hands and over to the piles of clothes on the floor. "So in your spare time you and my sister clean up after frats?" he asked.
"Only if they're our friends," Tanya responded carefully. Then she caught sight of what Thane had been staring at when she'd noticed him.
On the table beside Nick's bed was a framed picture of him with his arm around Aria. It had been taken at Nessa's wedding, and it was clear that the two were in love by just looking at the relaxed look on Aria's face as she pressed her cheek to Nick's chest.
"Friends?" Thane asked wryly. A glance at his face told Tanya that he'd followed her gaze. His eyes challenged her to speak.
"Yes Thane, we're friends," Aria said, stepping into the room. She had a few black garbage bags thrown over her arm and was holding bottles of bleach and detergent, as well at a box of fabric softener, in her hands.
He turned to his sister and Tanya frowned with worry.
"Friends?" Thane repeated. Tanya couldn't see his face, but his tone was becoming harder and she felt a spark of fear for Aria.
Aria stepped around her brother to put down the things in her arms. "Yes, friends," she said patiently, as if talking to a child. When she was finished with her task, she turned around to face her brother. "Nick and I are friends, first and foremost, but we're in love with each other."
Thane had turned as he'd followed her movement, and Tanya could see his face enough to know his lips tightened at her admission.
Aria threaded her fingers loosely and let them rest against her stomach. She looked relaxed, as if discussing the weather, but Tanya caught the fact that her body was trembling ever-so-slightly. "I've loved him for some time. We began dating very recently."
Much to their surprise, Thane simply nodded at her words. "Why didn't you tell me?"
"I was afraid." Aria saw the pain in her brother's eyes and reached out to touch his arm. "Not about your reaction, Thane. I was worried this would just add to your stress."
He stared at her blankly, without speaking.
"You take on everyone's worry. You take on more responsibility for our actions than you're supposed to." Her fingers tightened on his arm as he tried to pull away. "I know you, Thane, and you're scared to death that Chad and Nessa rushed into things. You're scared that me, your baby sister, is going to have her heart broken. You're freaked out that the girl you love thinks you're a monster...and that you have nothing to say to her that will change her mind." Aria let go and took a step back. "What I don't know is what you have against Jonah and Neveda being together, but I know you're panicking about that too."
For a moment they thought he was going to walk away without saying anything. In fact, Thane turned towards the door and took a step before pausing. "He's a player."
The two friends exchanged confused looks. "Who is?" Aria asked quietly.
"Jonah." Thane looked over his shoulder, his eyes sad. "He is...was...my best friend. I've been there with him for all his 'conquests'. We had tallies of the number of girls that swooned at his feet-"
Aria interrupted him with a snort. "If I recall correctly, big bro, you had a tally like that too." She looked at Tanya. "Remember when we found that book in his room?"
Tanya looked between the siblings and felt a bit cornered. "Ah..."
Luckily, she was saved by Thane. "Yeah, I did that too," he said bitterly, "and I know that makes me a hypocrite...but this is my sister we're talking about."
"I'm sure a lot of girls on your lists were somebody's sister," Aria said pointedly. "Give Neveda some credit."
"I try. I did." He rubbed his face with a sigh. "All these days I was trying to see how serious they are. I knew Neveda is very into Jonah, but I wanted to know if Jonah returned her feelings to that extent."
Aria sighed. "You were experimenting on love?" she demanded softly. "Oh, my idiot brother...well?"
"What were your results?" Aria asked, air-quoting the last word with a grimace.
Again, it looked like Thane wouldn't respond, but he gave in. "Jonah became anti-social, he stopped smoking, he rarely drinks - I think to impress me - but...he lost weight..." He grew agitated as he listed the changes. "I fucked up bad." He looked stricken at his language. "I mean-"
"I've heard swearing before," Aria laughed, throwing her arms around her brother and pulled her head down to kiss his cheek. "Oh, you crazy little thing..."
Thane shot Tanya a confused look over his sister's shoulder. She shrugged in response, feeling very awkward. Deciding she had been intruding for far too long, she picked a garbage bag off the table and walked over to shove clothes in the bag.
She finished filling half of the bag by the time Aria let go of her brother.
"So what's the verdict?" she demanded cheerfully.
He chuckled. "I'm a two-faced pansy and my head should be scraped with a cheese grater until my ego oozes out and leaves me human."
Tanya couldn't help but laugh and look over from her spot on the floor. "Allison?"
"Yep." And the way his eyes lit up at the mention of her made Aria and Tanya stare at each other. Thane was a goner.
"You know, she lives near here..." Tanya began.
Thane quickly shook his head. "No, I can't face her now." He paused. "Or probably ever."
"Oh my God! What did you do to my room?" Nick shouted, barging into the rooms, his eyes fixed towards the closet. He swore loudly and turned towards them.
The three watched on in fascination as every drop of blood drained from his face, leaving his normally tan face extremely pale.
"Now I know where you hear all the swearing," Thane said, staring coldly at Nick.
He looked like he was going to jump out the window any moment, and Tanya resisted the urge to walk over and give him a comforting hug. It wouldn't be the best idea in the world to touch Aria's boyfriend when her brother was overprotective about her taste in guys.
"You're dating my sister?" Thane demanded sharply.
Aria and Tanya exchanged amused looks that went unnoticed by Nick. His eyes were focused entirely on Thane.
He scratched his head so hard that it looked like he would draw blood. "She...it was her idea?"
Thane looked positively outraged at that comment...and then he burst into laughter.
Aria and Tanya laughed as well, enjoying the confused fear that forced Nick's eyebrows together.
"Is he always this amusingly idiotic?" Thane asked when his laughter subsided.
His sister grinned. "A lot of the time, yes."
This time it was Nick who looked outraged, but he kept his silence as he tried to figure out which piece of the puzzle he was missing.
Thane laughed again before letting out a long sigh. "Well then...I guess I'll have to go and make nice with Jonah."
Aria pulled him into a hug again. "Thank you," she mumbled into his chest. "On behalf of Neveda."
"For being an overprotective asshole?"
He kissed her forehead as they drew apart. "You."
Nick tensed as Thane turned back to him. "Yes sir?" he responded in military fashion.
Thane rolled his eyes to the ceiling. "Chill out."
"Yes sir." His stance did not change.
Tanya shook with silent laughter.
"If you hurt my sister, I will come for you and I will bring that flamethrower I saw on that online auction site." He looked at the girls. "It's quite a deal," he said conversationally.
Tanya let her laughter loose. "I'm sure it is."
"Yep." Thane stepped towards Nick and was pleased that he took a cautious step back. Fear was a good weapon when wielded correctly. "Welcome to the family." He stuck a hand out and waited until Nick took and shook it. His handshake was firm, despite the panic, and that reassured Thane some more. "Just an FYI," he continued. "You're not allowed to leave the family until Aria gets sick of you."
Nick looked between the siblings and finally smiled. "I'm doing my darnedest to make sure she doesn't," he said easily.
"Good." Thane walked to the door and turned back. His eyes scanned it again. "I'll call you tomorrow or so and let you know how things went," he said to Aria. "Nice seeing you again Tanya. Keep your own boy in line, or let me know and I'll handle things." They exchanged grins. "And Nick?"
"Do your own goddamn laundry, you pig." And then he disappeared into the hallway.
The three friends looked at each other and Nick released a long, drawn-out sigh of relief as Aria stepped into his arms.
"It's a good thing I love you, or I would have thrown your brother out the window for that."
The girls laughed. "Yeah, right," Tanya retorted, grabbing another bag to shove laundry into. "More like you would have jumped out."
Nick, taking Thane's words to heart, took the bag from Tanya and began throwing his clothes into it. "So what exactly just happened? I feel like I've been hit by a bus." He considered and added, "Repeatedly."
Aria and Tanya took turns explaining what had happened as they went about their tasks.
"He's going to talk to Jonah and Neveda," Aria said gratefully as she ran a damp cloth along the windowsill. "Finally."
"How wonderful," Kyrian said, walking through the open door. "We seem to have begun a cleaning company." He grinned at Tanya, who was sitting on the bed and untangling the laces of Nick's dress shoes, and walked over to knock the shoes out of her hands.
He pushed her flat onto the bed and covered her body with his as he gave her a deep kiss in greeting. She returned it briefly before pushing him away and sitting up with a blush. "Stop that."
"Please do," Nick and Aria chorused together as they pointedly kept their eyes focused elsewhere.
"Just making up for lost time," Kyrian said easily as he handed her the shoes and sat down with his arm around her waist. It said a lot for the couple that neither of him tensed at his reminder of their past. "What's going on in here?"
Nick motioned around the room and made a face that clearly called Kyrian stupid before turning back to shove the rest of his clothes into the garbage bag. "I'm finished," he announced. "Aria, how about hitting the laundromat?"
Aria stared at the room, taking in the dust, but shrugged and stood. She wanted to spend some time alone with her boyfriend before exams started, and she also wanted to revel in the fact that she didn't have to worry about their relationship any longer.
Plus, she'd noticed the way Kyrian and Tanya were cuddling, and wanted to give them some time alone as well.
"Guys?" Nick called from the door after ushering Aria into the hallway.
"Yeah?" Kyrian said absentmindedly, his fingers tracing circles on Tanya's waist, his eyes focused on her fingers as they fiddling uselessly with the shoelaces.
Nick rolled his eyes at Aria. "Do me a favour and wash those sheets when you're done having- Ow!" he shouted as Aria pinched his arm. "Don't make me tell your brother you're abusive!" he snapped at her as he pulled the door closed.
Tanya leaned against Kyrian in amusement when they heard Nick's key and the knob turn as it clicked into lock position. "Thane was here a little while ago."
"I take it things went well?" Kyrian asked. "Kitten looks a lot more relaxed now."
It didn't surprise her that he could read Aria so well. Kyrian was unusually intuitive about people. "He gave them his blessing, made Nick come close to wetting himself, said he was going to talk to Jonah and Neveda, and then he left. Thane is a very misunderstood character," she mused. Then she grinned up at Kyrian. "Oh, and he also said to let him know if I need you to be beat up."
"I'm sure you can handle that on your own," Kyrian murmured, pressing light kisses to her jaw.
Tanya shivered and reached out to push him away, letting the shoes drop once more, only to change her mind and pull him closer. "You know," she whispered as he continued to drive her crazy, "maybe Nick had a point..." She moaned as he moved on to her ear. "I mean...we have to...to wash...mm...right?"
His chuckle vibrated down her ear. "What ever happened to speaking in full sentences, love?" he whispered. Before she could respond, he blew a stream of warm air into her ear, making her shove him away and grab his own ear between two fingers. "Ow!"
"Don't mess with me," she threatened jokingly. "I'll claw you with my invincible nails!"
"Friggin' Wolverine," Kyrian muttered, trying to pry her fingers off his ear. "Makes sex so much harder...and painful."
Tanya grinned and released his ear, laughing as he massaged it fervently. "I'm just marking you as my own," she said easily, biting the tip of his nose before he could evade.
"I bet I can do better," he challenged.
Her eyes lit up at his words. "Uh-huh?"
His fingers found their way to the buttons of her top. "Definitely."
"In that case I..." she trailed off, letting her own fingers lift his shirt and move upward to rest on his bare chest. His heart was beating faster, his chest heaving as he breathed harder.
"In that case you...?" he repeated softly, making quick works of the buttons.
Tanya let her lips hover a breath away from his and felt his body react. She grinned.
"...bet you can't."
A/N: If you're surprised that this is over...well, I am too! *stares wide-eyed at the screen* No really, I am! I know the last chapter's A/N indicated that there would be much more coming (or, well, it was supposed to sound like that), but when I got to the part where Kyrian says 'I bet I can do better' I realized I'd just set myself up for an ending. (So then I checked my word-count for this chapter and realized that I'd reached 3,000 - which is my tentative minimum - so I finished it off.) So clearly this is all Kyrian's fault. *cough*
(1) So that's really it?
No, there's an epilogue coming...soon, hopefully.
(2) What happens to Thane and Allison?
Thane screwed up too much with Allison for me to fix it all here. It was my original plan to reconcile them in this story but I realized during the wedding scenes that it was not so easy to do. The plan right now is to do a [long] one-shot about them. Don't ask me when that will come out because I really don't know.
(3) What happens to Jonah and Neveda?
Check out the epilogue (whenever it's up), but I don't consider it a spoiler to say they get together. There will not be a whole new story dedicated to these two because I consider their relationship much too cliché...and, besides, between Devil Take It All and Bet You Can't! their story is pretty much covered. There's not a whole lot of information left for me to give them their own spotlight.
(4) Ah...just ask?
I don't know what else to add, so just ask me and I'll respond via review reply or PM. (Or, if the question is common, I'll post it here or with the epilogue.)
Thank you guys for sticking around (and reviewing, *hint hint, nudge nudge*)! This chapter is dedicated to everyone who reviewed last chapter, and especially Jainblu for being supportive during NaNoWriMo and also for giving me that final push (on my LJ) to update this.
P.S. Poll on my profile - please vote?