Realizations

Ned smiled as he heard the knock. "Come in," he called out from the couch.

The door opened familiar blonde walked through it with the usual smile on her face and bounce in her step. "Hi," she said as she walked over and plopped on the couch next to him. She looked at the breakfast that was spread on the table in front of them, and laughed. "Do you think you have enough food?"

"I had a feeling you'd be coming," Ned replied.

"Why's that?" Chloe asked. She took one of the plates and placed a few pieces of fruit on it. "Don't tell me *you've* started having psychic dreams." She settled back on the couch and popped a piece of fruit in her mouth.

"No, but because you've been coming here practically every morning for the past two weeks," he reminded her. He looked at his watch. "In about two minutes, you'll somehow find a way to mention Alexis, and then we'll spend approximately half an hour talking about why I should be with her."

"Is this your subtle way of telling me I'm not only predictable, but a pain in the butt?"

Ned grinned, "You forgot nosy."

Chloe took a grape from her plate and threw it at him. The round fruit plopped squarely against his forehead then fell onto his lap. "But at least I'm a good shot," she grinned back.

Ned tossed the grape on the table and smiled. "You're a woman of many talents."

"So does this mean I can start my thirty minutes now without you groaning in protest?"

"Yes. No, wait," he stopped her, raising his hands. He got up slightly to reach over and grab a piece of toast. "Okay. Go ahead."

There was a definite twinkle in his eye. That, along with the smile on his face that revealed his dimples, made Chloe forget what she had been about to say. "Uh. Right, so, I just don't." She stopped as Ned's smile grew wider. "Okay, Ned, what's going on?"

"What makes you think something's going on?" he asked. He took a bite of his toast, still smiling.

Chloe narrowed her eyes. "You're not fooling me, mister, I--" She stopped suddenly as she realized why Ned seemed different that day. Her smile faltered a little, but she recovered. "Did you meet someone?"

Ned looked surprised for a moment, then shook his head. "No, more like came to a realization."

"About Alexis?"

"Partly," he nodded. "Though I guess I've known how we both felt all along."

"Oh," Chloe managed to say. It was as if the breath had been knocked out of her. This was what she had been pushing for, but now. She stared at the man in front of her, and instead of the rush of happiness she was supposed to be feeling for her friends, her stomach was tied in knots.

"That's all? Oh?" Ned's voice brought her back into focus.

She smiled as best she could. "I was starting to think you were the most thick-skulled man on Earth."

"It took me long enough," he agreed.

"Have you told her how you feel?"

"Not yet."

Chloe knew she wouldn't be able to keep her feelings hidden for long. She got up, looking down at Ned, but avoiding his gaze. "Then go and tell her."

There was a moment of silence, then Ned spoke. "You're right."

Chloe could already feel the sting of held-back tears. "Great. I, um. I'll see you later, okay?" She turned away from him, heading towards the door.

"Chloe," Ned stood up to stop her.

"Oh, you don't have to thank me," Chloe tried to joke. "I know I'm good."

"I love you."

Chloe turned her head, and smiled. "You're welcome." Her eyes were bright with unshed tears.

Ned chuckled nervously. "No, I mean I'm *in* love with you." He waited for her reaction, but she simply stared at him.

Chloe finally found her voice. "But. you just said."

"I said I realized something, and I did. I care about Alexis, and I always will. But she wasn't the one I missed. She wasn't the one that I kept thinking about, the one I hoped I would be seeing that day." He stepped closer to her. "It was you."

"Ned." A tear finally escaped. Ned cupped her face, and used his thumb to wipe it away. The tender gesture caused more tears to fall.

"I'm sorry," he said. "I know this seems to be coming out of nowhere. I know you still love Jax--"

"I love you, too."

Now it was Ned who simply stared. "What did you say?"

"I love you," Chloe said, her face pained. "I didn't know it until just now." She took a breath to steady her voice. "Alexis is my friend, Ned. You're not supposed to fall in love with your friend's ex-fiancée."

"Chloe, you tried everything you could think of to bring Alexis and I back together. But you couldn't, because it's over. Alexis knew it before I did. She'll understand this."

Chloe was quiet, remembering all the conversations she'd had with Alexis. She'd been so determined to fix things that she hadn't stopped to really listen to her. There had been regret in Alexis' voice when she talked about having left Ned at the altar and hurting him. But it was the kind of feeling that one would have towards a friend, not the love of one's life. And Ned. he loved *her*. There were so many emotions that went along with that thought.

"Chloe?"

Chloe looked up, and saw the searching look on Ned's face. "How can my life feel like it's falling into place when I'm so confused?"

Ned smiled. With his index finger, he tipped her chin up and gently placed a kiss on her lips. "Love will do that."

Chloe blue eyes swirled with love and the beginning of desire. Ned's lips brushed hers again, and her confusion seemed to dissolve as he deepened the kiss slowly. There was only her and Ned. He loved her, and she loved him.

And in that moment, that was all she needed to know.

~The End~