-Charles Caleb Colton
The Lacon, 1829
Anna and Logan Rapture
Blake, Amy and Joshie, teens
Aria rolled over, her chest buzzing with a mixture of guilt and excitement. This repeat of ending up in Dylan's bed wasn't exactly getting old, but she wasn't proud of it either. Day in and day out she seemed to be finding solace in the mess of his sheets.
She was slowly beginning to question her motives when it came to him. She was also beginning to wonder if maybe Dylan thought that what was happening between them was more then just sex. Some of the things he said...
Aria grimaced, pulling the blanket over her face. Just what she needed. Someone else to complicate things. Not that she knew for sure. Dylan had never exactly told her that he had feelings for her. Neither had someone else though... And look where that got her.
"Is everything okay?"
Dylan's voice sounded from the doorway and Aria pulled the blanket down far enough to peek over it at him. He looked amazing and a feeling stirred in the pit of her stomach.
He should probably put a shirt on before they spent another wasted night in bed.
Not that it was a complete waste..
She really needed to get a grip on herself. She was supposed to be meeting Danielle, Willow and Mila for a movie, but she couldn't seem to leave Dylan's bedroom long enough to get anything remotely close to done. Danielle was in town specifically for a girls night..
And Aria was busy with her son.
Aria squeaked, sitting up.
He crossed the room, sitting next to her on the bed. She pulled the blanket down completely away from her face.
"Are you sure?"
Aria bit her lip. She couldn't talk to him about this just yet. His response could change everything; and she really needed this connection right now.
She nodded slowly.
"I'm okay, Dylan. I promise."
He pulled her closer to him, pressing his lips to the top of her shoulder. She shivered as he kissed her collarbone and then her lips and she pulled him against her.
Yeah, she was going to be very, very late.
"I'm sorry I'm late!"
Aria said as she rushed over to the three girls who were gathered on a couch in front of two tables in the coffee shop. Mila had a smirk across her features and Willow also looked amused. Danielle's expression on the other hand was one that clearly said she had other, more troubling things on her mind.
"Did you have difficulty getting out of bed or something?" Willow asked, placing the drink she was sipping back on the table.
"I think she had difficulty getting out of someone else's bed by the look of her hair." Mila tittered, giggling into her palm.
Aria glowered, smooshing down her hair as much as possible. It wasn't like Dylan had a straightener. If he had, Aria might have doubled over in laughter.
"I was with Dylan."
She stated, leaving it at that. She scooted onto the couch in between Mila and Danielle, who still had her eyes glazed over with a preoccupied look.
"Of course you were. Still stringing him along?" Mila asked, stirring the straw in her drink in small circles.
Aria's mouth dropped open. "I am NOT stringing him along. Our.. whatever this is.. isn't romantic.. By any means."
She blushed and took the drink that Mila had ordered for her and drank it eagerly. She hadn't gotten much sleep the night before. She honestly hadn't gotten much sleep the last week.
Mila gave her a knowing look, one that Aria knew well and hated. She sighed, exasperated and looked away, towards the entrance.
"So are you guys ready to go to the movie? I am assuming it's about to start."
Willow suddenly looked nervous, playing with her straw. Danielle smirked, rolling her eyes.
"Ahha, busted." She teased.
Willow narrowed her eyes at her and looked back at her drink.
"Yeah, in a minute, we're still waiting for someone."
She looked away, not meeting Aria's eyes.
Aria's forehead creased.
"What? Who? I thought it was just us?"
She glared at Mila.
"You invited him didn't you?"
Mila looked away innocently, taking another drink of her coffee.
"I don't know what you're talking about."
Aria groaned, drinking the rest of the bitter liquid in her mug. She was going to need it to deal with Carter.
A few seconds later, she heard the chime of the door opening and looked over Willow's shoulder. Carter and Austin came through the door, laughing and joking. However, as soon as Carter saw Aria, his face instantly drained of color and his smile disappeared.
He looked at Mila, who sent him a small smile, and dropped onto the couch next to Willow, looking away at the display counter. Austin sat on the other side of Willow and wrapped her in a kiss.
Aria's heart sent flutters through her body at the purposeful look on Carter's face. He was making sure his eyes didn't connect with hers. She desperately just wanted to make things work out between them as friends. She felt like she was losing him, and it sucked.
Why couldn't things just be simple?
He shuffled in his seat and then stood abruptly, heading towards the counter.
On a split second impulse, Aria followed him.
He didn't notice her behind him until she reached out tentatively and touched his arm. He reacted by spinning quickly and catching her wrist with his hand. His eyes widened when he realized it was her and he let go, turning back around.
He mumbled, completely disregarding her presence.
Her voice was meek, and she could feel his name heavily weighing on her lips as she said it. The elevator type music tinkling out of the speakers was louder then her words.
"What is it Aria?"
He asked with a sigh.
He looked back at her, annoyance and a tinge of disbelief in his eyes. He seemed to scale his response before saying it.
"My dad is here. He wants to have some sort of meeting at some point about his will."
Aria's chest instantly exploded in panic.
"What?! He's In Riverview? But.."
She stepped forward, putting herself in his line of vision.
"He apparently has liver cancer. I can't imagine why."
He spat bitterly.
Aria's eyes widened. Cancer?
Her next question was cut off completely by the ringing of Carter's phone.
He extracted it from his pocket and slid the lock across, reading the text message.
Carter looked up from his phone, a hardened look on his face.
Aria raised an eyebrow.
"What? What is it?"
He shook his head, putting the phone in his pocket.
"My dad wants to see me."
Aria's stomach flipped.
"You're not going to see him are you?? You can't. He isn't worth it."
Carter's eyes were glazed over with a far away look and he didn't say anything.
"I mean, I know he has cancer, but Carter it won't end well. You guys are just going-"
He put a hand up and whispered something she didn't quite catch before exiting the line of customers and heading for the door.
Aria's heart lurched and she instantly felt nauseous. She had a really bad feeling about this.
Aria fell asleep quickly when she got home from the movies. She had checked in on the little ones, kissing each of them on the cheek and tucking the sheets the babysitter had wrapped around them even tighter.
It was the first night she had spent alone, without Dylan, in a week.
It felt odd not having him next to her. She was growing used to it.
A shrill ringing brought Aria to consciousness. She groaned, peering through her blurry eyelids at the clock next to her bed. It said 3:21 in bright pink letters.
Who the fuck was calling her at 3 am?
She pulled the nightstand drawer open and looked at the caller ID.
"Hello?" She whispered into the phone, her voice raspy.
"Aria! You need to get over here, now."
Danielle's voice was filled with a massive amount of concern and Aria rubbed her eyes, sitting up.
"Wait, your hotel? What's going on?"
Danielle's response was choked with partially controlled panic.
"Just, get over here. I think you're the only person who can talk to him. I haven't told anyone else. I just. I don't know what to do. He doesn't even like me."
She stopped talking, and it sounded like she might be crying.
"Danielle, you're confusing me. What's going on? Who?"
She sighed a little, her voice coming back into the phone.
"Carter was here with his dad in the hotel bar, and they were both drinking. I went to the bathroom and I heard yelling, glass breaking, and when I came back, I saw him go through the exit to the roof. I didn't follow him, but Aria, I'm worried. You should have seen him. Heard the stuff his dad was saying-"
Aria was already putting clothes on, stuffing her car keys into her purse.
"Give me fifteen minutes."
She pulled her hair off of her face into a quick messy bun and took a deep breath, trying to calm the insanity building in her midsection.
"Thank you for calling me, Danielle. I love you."
She punched the end icon and texted Mila who was sleeping downstairs that she needed her to stay with the babies. One last look over her shoulder as she exited the house and she was on her way.
She was worried she might be too late.
Her first instinct was to call out, but she was afraid it would startle him, which would send him to the ground just as quick as if he jumped. She made her way slowly towards him, her worst fears confirmed when she spotted the bottle of clear liquid almost empty on the ground next to his fixture on the edge.
"Carter, what are you doing?" Aria called out, louder then she meant to; her voice breaking on his name.
He turned his head in her direction, groaning.
"What the fuck does it look like I'm doing? How did you even know where I was?"
His tone was bitter, and Aria knew something was really, really wrong. When he turned his face and the light from the street hit it, a black ring encircled his eye. Her breath caught in her throat, and she knew that Curtis had to be responsible.
The meeting had NOT gone well.
"Have you even thought this through? Are you just going to jump off of this building and kill yourself?"
Aria fought hard to keep the panic out of her voice.
"Sounds pretty good to me." Carter dropped the glass he was holding onto the street below him and she heard it faintly shatter.
He put a hand next to him and shakily got to his feet. The fear in Aria's chest grew ten times worse.
"If you jump, I'll jump after you.." Aria stepped closer, the tears hot on her cheeks. Her pulse was like a jackhammer and she could feel it in her fingertips. She uttered these words, not completely convinced she would carry through, but something deep inside told her she might.
"That is the stupidest fucking thing you have ever said." Carter slurred, tipping a little. Aria's heart skipped a beat. The rain that was falling from the sky and slowly making the cement slick made everything ten times worse.
"And what you're doing ISN'T stupid?"
He scoffed, his placement on the ledge once again becoming questionable. He leaned to one side, regaining his balance quickly.
Aria inhaled, the tears coming faster.
"Goddammit, Carter! Get down!"
He shook his head, looking over the edge. "I don't see a reason to. I'm so sick of all of this. I have no one."
Aria could feel the panic she was holding on to burning stronger. "That is such bullshit and you fucking know it! You have me!"
Her cry was louder then she meant for it to be and it caught his attention.
He looked at her. "Why do you care so much? Who am I to you? No one!"
He shouted the last two words and they echoed through the sky and she could feel it burn right through her. The anger climbed up Aria's throat and exploded before she could think it through.
"You are so fucking stupid Carter! How can you even say that?! I am the ONLY person who has ever been there for you. I'm your best friend!"
Instead of having the effect Aria suddenly worried that it would, Carter turned away from the street below him and towards her. "Maybe that's not enough. Maybe I just can't hold on for you anymore."
Aria took two more steps closer and held her hand out towards him, choking on her tears.
"Carter, you're being an idiot. This is not the answer. Killing yourself won't make him go away. It won't take away your childhood. It won't fix anything. You'll just be gone and you'll have left so many people who care about you behind." She bit her lip, her throat raw from her scream.
"You're not giving me a legitimate reason not to jump. He will be gone for me if I do this, Aria. It will all be over." He mumbled the words and they collided with one another, drunkeness more then apparent.
"Did you just fucking hear yourself!?? That's was so incredibly selfish! Of course he will be gone for YOU. But not for me. The only thing I--" She backtracked,
"We, would be losing, is YOU."
"I can't do this anymore. I am sick of this shit. When I left Hidden Springs, this was all supposed to end. It's supposed to be better here. Why should I hold on.. There's nothing here for me."
Carter stared out over the tops of the buildings, the stars sparkling in the sky. A jet engine echoed in the distance and The moon hung full and silver next to the blanket of starlight.
"There's gotta be somewhere out there that is better then what is here right now."
Aria's voice shook with the tears that raced over her face.
"You HAVE to stay here. You cannot do this to me. I need you."
He glanced at her hand.
"I need him to fucking die, that's what I need."
Aria bit her lip. "You can't let him do this to you. Think about it Carter, how would you have felt if I would have died the night I took all of those pills? How much would you have lost?? I NEED you." She repeated, closing the space between them and taking his hand in her own.
"Aria.." He paused, his green eyes glossy and bloodshot.
He was silent for a few long, agonizing minutes.
Then, he amended:
"I need you too."
He hesitated, his fingers ice cold in her grasp. His balance wavered again and Aria's pulse, once again, skyrocketed.
"Now, can you PLEASE, get the fuck down?"
He stepped off the ledge and Aria buried herself in his chest. "Please, dear God, Carter, I can't lose you."
His arms encircled her waist and she felt his hold tighten, could smell the whiskey emanating from his breath. She was terrified if she let go, this might be the last time she would ever be this close.
He pressed His lips to her forehead and his voice sounded in her ear, smooth and deep. "I'm not going anywhere. I'm so sorry..."
She clung to him tighter, soaking the area where her face rested with tears of relief. She pushed up onto the tips of her toes and kissed the part of his face that was damaged, her heart aching in her chest.
She thought maybe in the few seconds where his eyes were on hers, that he would try to kiss her again.
But he didn't.
She nestled her face in his chest again and her heartbeat slowly returned to normal. As the end of the rain started to fall from the sky with hushed splashes, Aria realized that if he would have tried, she would have kissed him back.
Aria welcomed babies 77, 78 and 79: Angie, Resin and Draco Rapture a few weeks later :)