A/N: So here's the final chapter of The Weird One, thank you to everyone who's read/reviewed/favorited/followed the story, I really appreciate it.
SHOUTOUTS TO: shinju asuka, BradyTheJust, and Electra001! Your support means a lot! A special shoutout to my best friend Kat for reading these chapters and giving me advice when I needed it. I love you!
Lazily, with some pressure, I traced patterns over Ashton's chest, watching as he breathed deeply. For a while his eyes were closed, because I told him to focus on what he was feeling. After a while he opened his eyes, and I noticed, but didn't say anything. I sat cross-legged next to him, a sheet pulled up to his waist.
"You're outlining my organs," he noted. I faltered but then kept going, unable to keep from smiling. Years worth of anatomy and physiology classes, and I had better be able to outline where organs are.
"I can only do swirls for so long," I replied. He smiled softly. We had been on my bed like this for probably a half hour, letting us regress to a calmer state, especially for him. Everything I had used on him was discarded or put away (for cleaning).
Ashton reached up and clasped my hand in his, bringing it to his lips. It felt like a soft moment, and I think I blushed. The apartment was quiet, I had put on a shirt since I was sitting up, but he was still completely nude. He looked nice. The entire experience was nice, and I felt satisfied on several levels. This was the best connection I'd felt with somebody in a long time.
"Holy shit," I whispered. "We would make a good couple."
"I like that you're saying that, but you look a little scared," he said. "And what makes you say that?"
"I like being dominant, you're perfectly fine being submissive, and I'm pretty sure you're going to quit acting like you're going to implode every time I walk into a room now. Plus you're really fucking hot," I explained. He grinned at that.
"I think the same of you! And yeah, I'm sorry for being so weird lately," he said. He rubbed my hand between his, and they were big and warm.
"Connie's comments really got to you," I smiled.
"Well you know now that I like… what I like, and honestly, when she said that, all I could do when I saw you was imagine what she could've meant by that. And I've liked you for years, it was kind of hard to focus around you after that," he confessed. I couldn't help but grin widely at that.
"Really? Why thank you!" I squealed. I leaned forward and grabbed his face, kissing him. He put his hand lightly on my waist and smiled when I pulled back.
"You're really cool," he murmured.
"You're really sweet… you wanna go out with me sometime?" I asked sweetly.
"Absolutely," he laughed. I leaned forward and kissed him again. He wrapped his arms around me and I moved myself so I was lying down next to him. I didn't mind staying like that until Bri came home.
I checked and the only rules about staff dating at the college were about not dating students. Apparently the board was well aware that professors got really horny and decided to let them go at each other, which was good for Ashton and me. Everything became easier between the two of us. We actually interacted, and not just in a romantic, flirty way. We teased each other (or rather, I teased him and kissed his cheek when he blushed) and spent downtime together. When we went to each other's offices or to the lecture hall, it was easier to get grading done, to have someone there.
I didn't tell Bri, Ashton didn't tell Gray, but Connie knew. We didn't tell her, she just looked at us and laughed... at us. We weren't touching, just smiling at each other, and then she made a dick joke. When I called her Willian Shakespeare she stopped. The three of us moved on.
"We're dating," Ashton grinned. He was sitting in a chair on the other side of my desk. He had a laptop with him and I had mine in front of me. I was looking over a test from the previous semester and making small changes to the actual document.
"We are," I smiled.
"We're dating, and we're exclusive," he crowed. I stopped what I was doing and watched him. Fuck, had he always smiled that wide?
"Yes we are," I confirmed. His smile grew wider, and so did mine. He was being so cute!
"We're dating, and we're exclusive, and you're my girlfriend," he sang, drawing out the last word. I laughed. I knew that other people tended to play the field and keep in contact with others until one of them stuck out and they had the define-the-relationship talk. I knew that, but that seemed utterly exhausting, so I didn't do that. He knew that, and so he asked me if I just wanted to say that we were together. I said yes, and he still looked happy about it.
"Yes I am! And you're my boyfriend," I cooed. I stood up and walked around my desk. I put his laptop on the ground and sat on his lap, kissing him. He wrapped his arms around me and pulled me closer, like a hug. Bri was right, he was a lot more affectionate than I was. However, he was incredibly sweet, and I just wanted to touch him.
I was going to say something about getting back to work, but then my phone interrupted us. I would have ignored it, but the exact sound that continued to come from it alarmed me. I gave people distinct ringtones for when they called, because calls demanded a more immediate response. Everybody knew only to call if it was important. Bri was calling, so this was important.
I jumped off of Ashton and leaned over my desk to grab my phone.
"Hi sweetie," I answered into the phone. I made the mistake once of answering the phone faking an attitude, and she had been crying. The high-pitched squeals of despair still rung in my ears.
"Lilly," she whimpered, and I stopped what I was doing. She only called me that when she was really upset. I turned around and slid down, sitting on the ground, leaning against my desk. Ashton immediately picked up on the vibes and sat down with me.
"What's wrong? Are you hurt? Where are you?" I asked.
"I'm at home, and I don't know, I just don't know," she cried. I frowned, because she didn't answer two of my questions.
"Okay, I'll come home. Are you hurt?" I asked again, because I needed to know. I stood back up, and noticed Ashton putting my things in my bag for me, and then shoving his laptop in there because I guessed that's how that was going to work. I would have smiled, but Brielle.
I stayed on the phone with Bri as Ashton and I left the college. Ashton drove my car, because I was too focused on the conversation to let him guide me to his. He didn't say anything, just watched me and made sure I didn't walk into any walls. He opened the passenger door and shut it after I got inside, and ran to the other side to get to the driver's seat. He had to adjust the seat, because I was small and he was big and in any other situation I would have laughed at how much of a giant he looked with his knees stuffed against the steering wheel.
"Bri, what's going on around the apartment?" I questioned. Bri was hyperventilating and if it's one thing I knew how to do it was talk down someone from an anxiety attack. When I was a teenager I had them frequently, and I knew that Bri got them, and I was a therapist for goodness sake.
"The TV is on, I have case files on the coffee table," she answered slowly, hiccuping a little.
"What's playing on the TV?"
"That cartoon show you like with the weird kids," she whimpered and I nodded.
"Okay, that's good. Start reciting the dialogue to me, tell me what's going on," I told her.
"Um, the dad just said, 'Linda, there are animal anuses all over our walls!' and then Linda said, 'just think of them as cute little rumps.' There are paintings of animal asses in the restaurant," Bri recited. I nodded, this was good.
It was the middle of a weekday and we lived relatively close to campus, so Ashton pulled up to the apartment's designated parking spot and parked, cutting off the engine. He grabbed my bag again and this time I felt around and got out of the car myself, albeit clumsily.
Ashton helped me walk up the stairs, because the elevator was out of service. (I was a professor, we lived in a nice building.) Something about stairs freaked me out so I didn't find it odd that he kept a hand hovering over me the whole time. The hand I had not on my phone never left the rail.
"Okay Bri I'm right outside so I'm going to hang up now," I said into the phone, right before I pressed the red "end call" button. Ashton still had my keys so he was the one to unlock the apartment door and let us inside.
Bri jumped up from the couch, the blanket she had wrapped around her falling down like a billowing bed sheet. She ran into me, and I mentally thanked Ashton for keeping a hand on my back, because I would have fallen otherwise. I wrapped my arms around her and walked her back to the couch. Ashton put my bag on the hook where I normally put it, taking out both of our laptops to decrease the weight.
"I can't do it, I can't do it, and I feel terrible," she cried. She still hadn't told me exactly why she was upset, and I just knew there was a reason.
"Terrible about what, exactly," I murmured, pulling back. She hastily wiped her eyes and cheeks and I could see that she was red and blotchy. She looked how she felt but I didn't say that out loud.
"I'm not going to go back to him," she whispered, and then everything was quiet. I reached out and turned the TV off with the remote, so I could hear her better. Ashton sat on the couch behind me, slipping an arm around my waist.
"To Grayson?" I checked, and she nodded.
"We've been on and off since high school, and we've known each other for so long, and I want him to be in my life but I don't think we're meant to be anything more than friends. Our relationship is kind of immature when we're together, and it's probably not a good idea to be dating anyway when the both of us are in therapy. Why is Ashton here and why is he touching you?" she asked suddenly, and I stopped moving for a second, except to look down at Ashton's hand. I heard him say "um" behind me.
"Remember when you said we would make a cute couple? Yeah, we're giving that a go. So, back to Grayson. Now, as much as I think you two are cute together when you're together, when you break up it's fucking irritating as shit, so I'm supporting your decision," I said with a smile. She narrowed her eyes at me, but at least the blotchiness was going away. She wiped at her cheeks.
"Okay, one, thank goodness you guys are together, two, how long and why didn't you tell me, and three, seriously? Irritating as shit? Lillian, we could not possibly have been that-"
"Last year when you broke up you got tears on one of my student's tests, and Grayson showed up to the apartment drunk off his ass," I reminded her.
"I actually remember that, I was the one who drove him," Ashton added. I nodded as he confirmed my point.
"Oh, yeah," Bri whispered. "Sorry. But… you're supporting this? You guys were the ones who made Gray go to therapy." I shrugged.
"To be fair, I wanted to push him to see a psychiatrist when things were good too. This last time was just the last straw," I said. Ashton added his own thoughts on seeing his best friend so emotional.
"Yeah, I tried to help him, I thought I could," she sighed.
"You know you're going to have to have a real conversation with him about this. He'll probably expect to get back together once he thinks he's got some stuff sorted out," I said. She nodded, and I could feel Ashton lean forward and rest his chin on my shoulder.
"Lil's right. Just let me know when you're gonna do that so I can conveniently show up after. Or so I can hide the booze. I just need to know," Ashton added. Bri smiled a little at the (rather dark) humor.
"And hide his keys," she added softly, to which Ashton agreed. It was quiet for a moment, and I started to relax against Ashton, the warmth of his arm and chest soothing me. Then Bri gave us a weird look.
"You know… I saw your ice tray on the counter recently," she said, and I grinned brightly. Ashton hid his face in my neck and muttered something unintelligible.
"It was awkward so I decided it would be best to just fuck it out," I said, and Ashton groaned.
This was a good talk.
"Well Ashton and I are going to go work on session analyses, I'll let you get back to watching television," I said, standing up. I picked up my laptop and Ashton picked up his. Bri nodded and rewrapped herself into the blanket, finding a candy wrapper and putting it on the coffee table.
As Ashton and I reached my room I whispered something into his ear. He chuckled.
"I'll take that bet," he said.
"You're pretty," Ashton murmured, dragging out the second word. I giggled, and wondered how he brought out this side of me. I was still me, I still found so much comfort just sitting near each other while we did our own thing, and I still had a hard time noticing when he wanted to touch me but was afraid to. It was just that his affection felt good, and it felt good to give it back, and initiate it.
"You're handsome," I replied, because it felt natural. His arms wrapped around my waist and his chest pressed against my back. He moved my hair and kissed my neck and I fiddled with my keys to find the right one. Ashton wasn't trying to start anything by doing this, he was just happy that I initiated a kiss in public for the first time. We couldn't start anything at the moment, because I knew I saw Bri's car parked in her normal spot. I gripped the right key.
"Pretty Lillian," Ashton crooned, and oh yeah, he'd had a little to drink. I laughed and he rubbed his face into my back, acting like a puppy. I turned the key in the lock. I turned it and walked in, which must have caught Ashton by surprised because he stumbled forward a step.
I didn't get very far into the apartment before stopping, because oh my GOD. I almost laughed, half in surprise and half in satisfaction.
Grayson was on our couch, lying down. Brielle, the little minx, was on our couch on top of Grayson, and they were both smiling and giggling, and kissing. Okay, I must have laughed because Bri startled and Gray twisted around to look in our direction.
"Lillian! Guess what, we decided to stay together!" Bri squealed, and Grayson looked pretty happy about it, much happier than the last time I saw him. (To be fair, the last time I saw him I was vaguely threatening him.)
"That's fantastic! Isn't it, Ash?" I asked without turning to look at my boyfriend. I simply held my hand out, waiting. I heard mumbling, something along the lines of "freak of nature," and felt a paper bill placed into my hand. I smiled, even though Bri was looking at me with mild suspicion, but most likely just hidden amusement.
"Ah!" Bri gasped, and she sat up, still on top of Gray. He sat up so he didn't have to strain his neck.
"Lil, we're both dating! And our boyfriends are best friends! We can go on DOUBLE DATES!" she screamed. "We can go on couple vacations and everything!" I froze, and felt a hesitant hand steady on my back.
Oh. Oh no. No no no no no. This was not good.
(But I liked Ashton, and Bri was too cute to turn down. Damn it.)
A/N: I asked my friend Kat about whether or not I should have Bri and Gray break up, and originally we both agreed that it would be more realistic if they did. Then I decided not to, because I could make it funny. Kat liked it, so I'm proud of how I ended it, mostly. Thanks for reading!