(A/N:) Hi everyone! Here's my new multi chapter fic! It's quite different than my last one, but it's still great in my opinion! BUT before you start, two things- ONE, I had posted this as a two shot months ago and it was only 3 years after everything. But now it's 5 years after everything and edited better. TWO, and this is an important one - Ezra never wrote a book. Ezra and Aria never fought on a ski lift. This is more five years after 4x18 opposed to 4x20.
Alright, done. Hope you enjoy this! And don't forget to read a nice review at the end! :)
Aria unlocked her apartment and went inside. She couldn't help but make connections with her mind. How many times had she walked into Ezra's apartment? Stopping while ahead, she sighed and went through her mail. She was now twenty-three and living in San Francisco, California. She was attending an arts college and tried tackling a million different careers. She took up painting, acting, singing, and anything that she could thrust her pent-up emotion into.
After the first semester of senior year, she took the rest of her classes online and got into her college early admission program. She had to get out of Rosewood, so she did.
She remembered everything so vividly as if it was yesterday. She remembered catching Ezra red handed. She remembered the girls suspecting him prior to his reveal. She remembered how he tried to explain, but only made things worse. She remembered Alison confirming everything. Her heart might as well stopped.
Well, that's kind of what it did. Ever since she found out Ezra was against her and backed the A Team, Aria had major trust issues. And it wasn't like she avidly went out to find guys. What? Would she go to a bar to pick up some man up? Bars and boys were like body bags and stab wounds to her.
She never spoke to Ezra again. That December was the worst month of her life. He broke her heart. Actually, he did worse than break her heart. He broke her heart as well as every bone in her body, metaphorically speaking. She was shocked that he hadn't been shipped off to prison. Aria knew that he had confessed to endless criminating things. He made CeCe kill Wilden. To give Ezra some credit, he only wanted Wilden gone because he tried to kill Aria, but it still didn't make it okay. He drove the car into Emily's house. He was Ali's mystery man under the name of Boardshorts. That's just about all Aria knew. She didn't want to know anymore, either.
All of her friends didn't want her to leave and neither did her family. They all said, including her parents who had to be let in on some of the gruesome details, that they could have Ezra leave and she could stay, but Aria couldn't stay in Rosewood. She just couldn't.
As Aria shrugged her coat off and walked further into the apartment, she felt her pocket vibrate. Even though A was long gone, she still jumped every time. She wondered when – if – that feeling would ever go away.
It was an unknown number, and out of curiosity, she answered. "Hello?"
"Hello?" Aria said into the phone again, growing more impatient. When she was met with silence, she huffed and hung up, shoving her phone back into the pocket.
Ezra rubbed his face and felt his eyes moisten once he heard her voice. What the hell was he doing? He thought as he looked out the window. He could see the Golden Gate Bridge from his view and stepped onto the tiny hotel room patio.
Ezra pulled out a pack of cigarettes and lit one up. He started smoking once she left. He'd also taken in a lot more scotch. He couldn't believe himself. Had he really just flew all the way from Philly to San Francisco to see a girl who he was positive would slam the door in his face? What was he thinking? Was he even thinking at all?
He pulled out a slip of paper that had been deep in his coat pocket for a while now. He grazed the ink with his finger and decided if he should really go through this crazy plan.
The crumpled post it read:
421 Cedar Pine Avenue
Urban Terrace Apartments
Ezra knew that she moved to San Francisco after Christmas of that awful year. Now, here he was, a full five years later, still in love with her. He knew she probably still had an inkling of love for him, but it was most likely very small and locked away deep inside her heart. His love for her, however, was crystal clear and painfully obvious.
He had concocted a plan to go see her and talk to her. He had to be with her, face to face.
On that same night, Aria, as always, enjoyed a night of waiting on the arrival of Chinese take-out and music playing loud. She'd started blaring her iPod instead of watching movies because it reminded her too much of him.
Ezra parked his rental car across the street and walked through a back entrance of her apartments. What the hell was he doing? He knew, from looking her up online, that her apartment number was 6H. He clomped up the stairs, wondering if this was what Aria had done every day since that terrible winter. He finally reached the sixth floor and thought about running all the way back down, hopping in his car, and speeding all the way back to Philadelphia. But it was too late. There was no going back now.
He took in the number and letter on the door. One more time, he thought about what the hell he was doing. He heard music blasting from inside her apartment and wondered if he were to knock, if she would even hear it. This was all such a waste of time.
Come on. You can do this, he told himself.
He took in a sharp breath and knocked on the door loud enough so she could hear it. He heard her shuffle around in the apartment and turn off the music.
Aria dashed from the couch to her speakers and turned the volume to mute. She grabbed a few dollar bills from her wallet so she could tip the delivery person. "Just a second," she hollered at the door, unclasping the buckle on her purse.
Ezra knew it was his last chance. He could bolt now and she'd never know he was here. He could slip out without a trace. But no, he wanted to see her. He needed to.
Aria pulled three crisp dollars out and headed to the door. When she swung it open, she felt her stomach drop as well as her jaw. It felt like she was about to pee her pants and vomit all over the place all at once. The room spun around her and she forgot how to blink, speak, or breathe.
Ezra gulped audibly once the door was ajar and felt his palms clam up. He watched her eyes bulge out of her head and her jaw hit the floor. He was happy she didn't slam the door and forget anything ever happened.
Neither of them spoke and they heard someone coming. Aria peeked out a bit and saw a person dressed in Hung Fu Garden attire carrying a bag of food. "Miss Montgomery?"
"Uh, yeah, um, that's me," she stuttered.
"Here's your food and your receipt," he said, handing it over to her. She took it in her hands and set it on a table inside. Aria gaze fell back onto Ezra, but then she realized Delivery Boy was still there.
"Can I get my receipt back?"
"Right," she laughed awkwardly. She grabbed the second slip of paper off the table, signed it, and handed it to him, along with the tip. "Thanks."
The guy nodded and headed back down stairs. It was back to just Aria and Ezra in the hallway and the air was heavy.
"Can I come inside?" Ezra asked, barely above a whisper.
Aria inhaled and opened her mouth to speak, but closed it, not knowing what to say. She nodded meekly and went back inside. Ezra followed and closed the door behind him.
"Aria, I know – " Ezra dove in.
Aria whipped her head around and placed a hand on her hip. "How do you know where I live?" she interrupted.
"There's a lot of information on the internet," he shrugged, as if this was no big deal.
Her eyes doubled at his response and she yelled, "You shouldn't be here."
"Then why are you!?" she screamed, infuriated.
Ezra ducked his head. "I needed to see you."
She laughed sarcastically, "What, you didn't see enough of me on those cameras of yours a few years ago?"
Ezra sighed, "Aria…"
"Wait, were you the call I got earlier?" she remembered. "How do you even know have my new number? Oh, right, you're probably still stalking me! You probably know everything that's happened to me since I left Rosewood. You probably put a fucking microchip inside of me or something!"
Ezra pleaded, "Aria, please."
Aria stuck out her neck and looked at him incredulously. "Please what? Please stop yelling at you for ruining my life! You broke my heart! You broke me!"
She felt her throat swell and her eyes get damp. "You broke me," she repeated quietly.
"I'm sorry. I really… I'm sorry," Ezra said, raising his eyebrows.
"Stop," Aria whispered. "Stop! How dare you come here! How dare you come across the country just to screw me over again!"
"Aria, please listen to me. Just hear me out."
Aria stared at him, steam practically coming out of her ears and nostrils. Ezra made a move to come closer and Aria took a wide step backward. "Don't come near me."
Aria started breathing heavily and felt like she was going to faint. She felt her heart beating faster and faster. She clutched the edge of the couch, trying not let her knees go out from under her.
Ezra, who could clearly tell she was having a panic attack, disobeyed her orders, and rushed to her side. "Aria, calm down. Please, you're scaring me, calm down. I'm not going to hurt you," he stated, wrapping an arm around her waist to prop her up.
Aria quickly shrugged him away, but Ezra resisted and helped her onto the couch. Once she sat up, Ezra traced circles around her back and chanted, "It's okay."
Aria scooted a couple of inches away and started getting her breathing back on track. After a few minutes, she wiped away her tears and sighed. She turned to face him and choked out, "Ezra, why did you do it?"
Just hearing her say his name sent chills up his spine. "I did it because of Mona."
"What do you mean?"
"Mona blackmailed me."
"Why? For killing Alison?" Aria accused.
Ezra was stunned. "Aria, I didn't kill her. I told the girls that. I figured they'd pass that along."
"No, uh, once I left, I didn't want them to bring up anything about A – you – or Alison."
"Oh, well, CeCe admitted to burying her. There was press conference and Alison came home. A lot happened," Ezra explained.
Aria cocked her head. "How did you get out of everything?"
Ezra flinched, "Uh, my mom got me a pretty good lawyer. She – "
Aria interrupted again, "You committed, like, a plethora of crimes! Digging up a body, murder, statutory rape…"
Ezra flinched at the word rape. "What?"
"You and me. You and," Aria faded out, "Alison."
"Aria, you know that – "
"I could still press charges, you know?" she threatened.
Ezra begged, "Can you let me finish a sentence?!"
"Fine," Aria rolled her eyes.
"CeCe confessed to a lot. And so did Melissa and Wren."
"You left before the others found out. Melissa was in charge of it all."
"I thought you had that honor," Aria snarked.
"After you left, I went to Spencer, Emily, and Hanna and told them everything. I would've told you, too, but you were gone and they wouldn't give me your new number."
"Well, you're here now. Tell me."
"I was with Ali that summer in Cape May. She thought she got pregnant. The night she disappeared, she called me. She told me about how she was pregnant and needed money. Then, she said something and I realized she was lying about it. She said if I didn't give her money, she'd tell everyone how I took advantage of her. I had a girlfriend, Aria. I had a lot going for me. Alison just kept shouting and shouting at me so I pushed her."
Aria's eyes bulged as she gulped. It was as if she was camping and one of her camp mates was telling a silly ghost story.
"She hit her head on a rock and there wasn't anyone around, so I just ran. But, CeCe and Melissa saw. They decided to use it to their advantage and buried Alison."
"But, the shovel…"
"Alison fell on a rock when I pushed her. Remember how Mrs. Grunwald told you about how the side of head was bloody? That was from me. She fell and hit the side of her head. Later, CeCe told me how she dragged her from their and her and Melissa started digging. As they were digging, Alison woke up and Melissa hit her from behind. They thought they had killed her, so they threw her in the hole. But, she wasn't dead."
"So, where's Melissa now? And CeCe?"
"Oh, CeCe's got twenty to life."
Aria's pupils doubled, "How?"
"Attempted murder, arson, auto theft, and killing Wilden."
"She took the blame for Wilden? Even after…"
"I know I shouldn't have made her kill Wilden. But, other than CeCe's word, they couldn't prove that that's why she killed him."
"So you just let her go to prison?"
"Aria, I feel bad, but I wasn't about to go to prison."
"What about Melissa?"
"Well, you know the Hastings. She got off with community service."
"Wren assisted in digging up the body and covering up Ian's death."
Aria huffed and shook her head, still not believing this was happening. Not believing Ezra was an arm's length away.
"Look, Aria, I got away with a lot. The defense attorney didn't have enough evidence to prosecute me."
"So what happened to you?"
"I had to leave Rosewood. I had community service. I have a parole officer now, too."
"So was it worth it? Were all those hateful texts worth it?"
"I never sent any texts," Ezra muttered.
Ari laughed, "Oh, so Mona was the one making literary references to Tom Sawyer?"
"I might have sent a few… but none to you."
Aria clapped her hands and chuckled coldly. "Aren't I special?!"
"Aria, Spencer forgave Toby. Why can't you forgive me?"
Aria couldn't believe his comparison. "You did a lot worse than Toby ever did."
"I know that," Ezra said, moving closer to her. When Aria didn't flinch or push him away, he felt like he won a victory. "But, please forgive me."
"Wait, how did Mona fit in?"
"Mona knew that I was with you and that I was with Alison. She said if I didn't fund or help, you'd get hurt."
"Yeah, well, I got hurt anyway."
Ezra tilted his head. "No you didn't. Emily almost got sawed in half. Hanna got hit by a car. Spencer got sent to a mental institution. What happened to you?"
"I got almost pushed off of a train with a dead body!"
"That wasn't the A – Team. Wilden knew we were trying to kill the NAT club, which he was member of, so to get back at killing friends of his, he tried to kill one of our loved ones."
Aria let his words sink in before sitting straight up and making an epiphany. "You were there, weren't you?"
"Where?" Ezra asked.
"The Halloween train."
"Yeah," Ezra admitted. "Uh, Mona took the blame, but I was the Phantom of the Opera. That's how I got there so fast."
Awkwardness settled into the air and both Ezra and Aria were silent. Aria couldn't believe some of the things she was hearing. CeCe was in prison. Melissa was in charge. Wren was involved. Melissa and CeCe "killed" Ali. Ezra had pushed her.
"Did you ever want to push me?" Aria whispered, bravely looking up at Ezra.
"Aria, that summer I was in a bad place and Alison was… Alison."
"You never answered the question!"
"Once. But, I didn't want to kill you or anything. I actually stopped CeCe from hurting you a lot of times."
"Do you want a medal?" Aria snapped before softening. "When did you want to push me?"
"Aria, I don't want to talk about it."
"Then why did you come all the way to see me?"
Ezra clenched his jaw and answered. "It was when I found out you knew about Malcolm. That's why I went to the school instead of talking to you later. I couldn't…. push you…. if there were people around."
"Wow," Aria exhaled. The room got quiet again. "Did you ever really love me?"
Ezra's jaw dropped. "Aria, I've loved you since I first saw you in that bar. When I talked about love at first sight in class, that was directed at you. I love you."
"Still?" Aria whispered.
"Still? I love you just as much as I always have."
Aria gasped inaudibly. "Ezra, we haven't even spoken in five years."
"Well, we could make up for lost time. I'm staying here, in San Francisco, until I want to go back home."
"It's not that simple," Aria explained, shaking her head. "I can't just forgive you for all the things you did."
"The other girls did," he shrugged.
Aria snickered, "Yeah, well, they weren't in love in with you while you tortured them."
Ezra was about to bring up the fact that he never tortured her, but decided against it. "Do you still love me? Like, even a little bit?"
"Ezra, I – "
Ezra interrupted this time, "I still love you."
"I'm not you, though."
"So you don't?" Ezra replied, feeling rejected and heartbroken.
"If I tell you my answer, I'm scared what will happen," Aria confessed.
"Scared? Aria, I'm not going to hurt you. I'm extremely sorry for everything. Forgive me?"
Aria warned, "Ezra…"
"Please. Please, forgive me."
"I forgive you, I guess, but not as much as you want me to, I'm sure. Just enough for you not to feel guilty."
"Aria, there will never be a time where I don't feel guilty about what I did to you and everyone else…. But, do you still love me? Even a little?"
"I love you and I fucking hate you. I hate you because I love you. I hate myself! I need to just move on but I can't, Ezra, I can't. I love you, okay? Are you happy?"
Ezra stared her down until Aria looked away. "Would it be wrong if I kissed you?"
Aria closed her eyes and drooped her head. "Ezra – "
Ezra didn't listen, though, and leaned in to kiss her. When their lips touched, it felt like those five years all disappeared. Aria, against her better judgment, leaned in as well.
The two pulled away from each other and Aria smirked. "I can't believe I did that."
"Honestly, I can't believe you did either," Ezra smiled. He stopped, however and got serious. "I love you, Aria."
"I… I love you, too," Aria confessed. She sighed and put her hand on his knee. "Do you want to stay for dinner? I got eggrolls."
"Do you want me to stay?"
"Actually…" Aria started. Ezra bit his lip, expecting a negative answer. "I think I do,"
"Then, I'll take an eggroll."
"Okay," she grinned, grabbing another plate from the cabinet. "Put a movie on. The remote is in that drawer." She hadn't seen a movie in a while, but it felt right to watch a movie with him while eating eggrolls. And besides, they could focus on the movie instead of awkwardly chat. She could picture it now.
Oh, Ezra, how's your parole officer?
Oh, he's fine Aria. How are your hating ex-boyfriends fuelled paintings selling?
Yeah. No way.
Aria brought over utensils, plates, and the food to the coffee table and sat down, keeping a safe distance from Ezra, but still sat nearby.
Despite all the lies and bad blood between them, it felt nice to just sit and eat together. It was astounding how easy it was for them to fall back into bad habits and start loving each other again. They both figured that when people like them fall in love, they'd always be important to each other and care about one another. They guessed when you have a connection with someone, it doesn't just wither away.
It stays there, despite anything that happens.