A/N: This is the last chapter of "Stay". I originally had it continuing for another two chapters, but this ending feels right to me. I'm also posting the first chapter of it's sequel, "Go", so look for it, and let me know what you think. :) Also, I'm working on a semi-short story entitled "Girl Meets the Return of Game Night". It's going to be set post semi-formal. I don't know what's going to happen in that episode, but I'm trying to incorporate some of the "rumors" for the episode and have it all come out during a game night (which is my FAVORITE episode and my secret wish is that there will eventually be another one).
Thank you so much for the reviews on the last part. I am so glad that the two things I set out to achieve with that chapter were realized: (a) keeping it classy and (b) have it be emotionally satisfying. I built the whole story around the reunion and I wanted you guys to feel that emotional satisfaction when they were finally reunited. A few of my previous drafts of the whole story had them sharing a few kisses before that moment, but I decided at the last minute that it would be so much sweeter if I waited. It makes me so happy that you guys saw that and felt the same way I did. I hope you all enjoyed the story. Thanks for reading and for the feedback. :)
Riley smiled in her sleep. She knew it wasn't healthy to dream about him now that it was over, but what a dream. She could almost feel his arms around her. She snuggled further into her pillow. Her eyes opened. This was no dream and she was not snuggling into a pillow. She looked up and her eyes met his.
"Hey," he said simply.
"Hey," she replied shyly. "What time is it?"
"About two in the afternoon." His fingers began to lightly rub her back. "Did you sleep well?"
She nodded. "Yeah. I haven't slept very well since…" her voice trailed off.
"Me either," he confessed.
"So, did you fall asleep?"
"No." She looked up at him. "I didn't want to sleep. I didn't want this to be a dream."
"Oh." She closed her eyes for a moment. This felt so natural, so right. Part of her just wanted them to lay like this, entwined in each other's arms forever. The more logical side knew that they had a lot to discuss. "So…"
Lucas wasn't sure how to bring any of it up, or even where to start. He searched his mind for a moment. "Maya let me read the letter that you wrote her."
Riley's head snapped up. "She did what?!"
He looked down at her. "Yeah. She told me last night that you still had feelings for me, but I wouldn't believe it. From the way you've acted and the things you said, I thought she was wrong. I got your letter this morning and showed it to her, hoping that she would understand that we were just friends and that you didn't care about me in that way anymore. Well, when they dropped me off, she handed me the letter you wrote her." He watched as she sat up and turned to him. He sat up as well so they were face to face with one another. "Is it true, Riley? What you wrote to her…is it true?"
Riley didn't speak. She only nodded and looked down.
"Why? Why didn't you tell me any of this?"
She didn't look up at him. This whole time she thought she was doing the responsible thing, the noble thing. The conversation with her mother came back to her. She knew her mom was right…her mom was always right. Riley knew that Lucas had to know the truth…even if it was months after the fact. "I thought I was doing the right thing. I thought if I told you how I felt that you…you'd stay for the wrong reasons."
"Riley, you didn't give me any choice in the matter." He paused. "Initially, I was never planning on going if I got in. I never wanted to go. You found out about it, and we broke up. When we became friends again, you always seemed so adamant about needing space and wanting me to go. I thought that there was no choice to make." He rubbed the back of his neck in minor frustration. "You took that decision from me."
She looked up at him. "That's what my mom said…the morning after prom. I was going to tell you how I felt, but then you told me about all the stuff I apparently said the night before and how you agreed that we just needed space. How was I supposed to say anything? I thought you were over it."
"Over it? I was never over it, Riley. I went to Texas to try to survive it."
"What happens now?" There, she asked it. The one question she was dying to know the answer to. At the same time, she knew it was potentially the one answer that could kill her.
"Now that I have a say in my own future?" He saw her nod slowly and look away, "I made that decision before I climbed in your window." He took a deep breath. "I'm staying. I want to stay."
"W-w-what about school?"
"Riley, there are about a hundred schools where I can study to become a vet. It's a decision I won't have to make for a while, because first, I have to get through undergrad. I can get my undergraduate degree pretty much anywhere…including NYU. I may end up in Texas post-undergrad, I may not. It's just not a decision that has to be made right this moment."
"It'll be harder for you to get in unless you go there for undergraduate."
"Hey, I'm pretty smart, I'll have you know. I'm not Farkle, or you, but I'm pretty smart. They do take a small number of applicants from other schools. It'll be a lot of work, don't get me wrong, but I want to stay here."
"There are a lot of schools that I can get me to where I want to be one day." He leaned forward and cupped her cheek in his hand. "There is only one Riley. You have been telling everyone for years to chase your dreams, pursue your passions. I have two big dreams: become a vet and be with you. I can reach both by staying. I want to stay."
"Lucas, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry for everything. I thought I was doing the right thing." She took a deep breath. "I want you to stay."
He smiled, the first honest, genuine smile in months. "Was that so hard to say?"
"Apparently," she gave him a small smile, "Took me six months to tell you that."
He leaned in and kissed her softly.
Riley smiled against his lips, but pulled back. "We need to get up."
He chuckled. "Why?"
"We have several calls to make to get you back into NYU."
He nodded. "Yeah, and I need to figure out where my luggage is at in Austin."
She giggled. "Are you sure this is what you want?" She held her hands up. "I swear it's the last time I'm going to ask."
"Yes. I love you, Riley. I want to stay."