Author's Note.

Okay, I know I haven't updated in well over a year. My laptop broke, I had to move, start school, and a handful of other conflicts got in the way. BUT. Thankfully, I have a new laptop now and can start writing again, and I'd love to continue this story for anyone still interested in reading it. The love for this story has been overwhelming. I didn't expect such warm and positive reviews, but I constantly reread every single one and I appreciate all of you for stopping by to tell me you're enjoying it! It's you guys that inspire me to continue it. That being said, I really love Riley's subplot in this and this chapter touches a little more on it, so I hope it's something you'll enjoy. If you're a fan of riarkle, you're in for a ride. If you're a fan of rucas, don't give up hope yet. And, of course, if you're a fan of joshaya (obviously) you're gonna love this one. Okay, enough of my rambling. Let's get this show on the road.

All mistakes are mine.

.

Remember all the things we wanted?
Now all the memories are haunted.
We were always meant to say goodbye…

x

Riley doesn't want to marry Lucas.

Christmas has faded into the cusp of New Year's and the festivities have dwindled, December chill evident by the wispy silk breaths that fall from her sleeping infant's lips and into the pale night air. Watching the lines of his face crinkle in his dreamy state keeps her calm as she waits for the cold streams on her cheeks to dry. This isn't fair to him.

Neither of them.

A soft whine interrupts her self-chastising thoughts and with a gentle pat of her palm to his backside, her baby silences again and she's left with the haunting silence of her mind.

The distant calls of birds is as much a looming promise of morning as the soft pink glow of the sky as the moon prepares to retire, peeking lazily at her from between the awnings of two skyscrapers in the distance. It's peaceful and serene in these early hours, when the world is still asleep and absent of judgment and she can be alone with her poor decision making skills.

Ascending footsteps on hard concrete tickle her ears and with an anxious gulp, her neck cranes around the edge of Silas's puffy hood until her eyes land on Farkle's shadow slowly fading into sight from the dimly-lit doorway. "Riley."

Relief escapes her in a breathy sigh and she smooths her palm over her son's bulky coat to ensure he's warm. "You startled me," she whispers, fully aware that the distance between them and the whistling wind more than likely prevents her visitor from hearing her.

"It's freezing, you shouldn't be out here."

"Thanks dad."

Farkle responds with an eye roll as he crosses the remaining distance between them and awaits her impending explanation. He tightens his unzipped blouson and buries is hands into the warm fleece pockets, pretending not to notice the gleam of a wall light reflection on the suspicious trails beneath her eyes. It's too early to be Pluto right now.

"Little man was fussy, and I didn't him want to wake everyone so—"

"Coming up to the roof in a twenty degree climate would surely calm him down." He precedes, matching her amused smile. Silences surpasses both of their urges to speak and he watches as her slender, manicured fingers instinctively catch a slipping pacifier from her baby's mouth until Silas suckles it between his gums again. "We should really get inside."

"I don't want to see that guy. He's on the couch." Didn't he see him on his way up? The ice in her tone reflects her urgency to avoid crawling into bed with Lucas, stare at the sleeping face of a man she can't bring herself to love the way she did when she was sixteen. She still does – she always will – but there's something… different now. Something unexplainable.

"Wade? Why is he on the couch?" The smoothness of Farkle's voice warms her chilling features and the muscles in her face relax from her previous thoughts as her eyes roll.

"Fighting with Maya."

"Again?"

A beat. Riley's best friend radar has been off the charts these past few days, and she's ashamed that she's been too caught up in her own misgivings to pay attention to a screaming Maya. She should have her friendship rings taken from her and incinerated. "I'm worried."

Farkle's wary half smile screams "Me too".

.

She wakes too quickly.

Maya's eyes snap open and alert blue irises dart around the room, across the textured ceiling to the spinning blades of a fan that doesn't provide nearly enough soothing sound to keep her calm. She blinks away the sleep and lets her eyes adjust to the brightness of the guest room. The hand under her pillow glides over the satin sheets on the neighboring side of the bed, but the surface is cold and unforgiving, and her lips part with a sigh.

The events of last night scroll through her memory like a bad movie as she struggles to put the puzzle together in her mind. The corner pieces, she can sort out. She can arrange how she ended up alone in this bed, but she can't find the jagged pieces that explain why. The sunlight boring at her through half open blinds across the room let her know it's morning, but the alarm clock screaming beside her head could've clued her in too.

She can't wait to get home.

Home.

This is home. Supposed to be, anyway. This has been home her whole life; She spends five months in Europe and suddenly she's Jane Austen? Might as well be, she decides with a scoff as she tosses back the comforter and shuffles to her feet. She's engaged to a sharply dressed and well respected artist, she's reminded of that as soon as she takes her ring from the nightstand and slips the band on her finger. The princess cut diamond glares up at her like a gleaming reminder of everything waiting for her back in London. Her little apartment with Megan, her friends, the bookstore on Winston where she has tea in the mornings before class. The only thing still Yankee about her is her lack of an accent. And she's sure if she dives deeper into this fucking twilight zone of crumpets and Dr. Who, she'll develop one sooner or later.

Why does all of this suddenly feel so suffocating?

She forces herself to meet her reflection in the large wall mirror by the door, and can't help but be distracted by the sparkling rock on her finger as a shaky hand comes the knots from her disheveled hair. The metal is cold and hard against the pad of her thumb as she brings her hand in front of her face and spins the band with her free hand. She examines the sharp cut of the diamond, the smaller ones that sprinkle the outer edge of the band, and as much as she tries to pry her engagement ring from her finger, something just won't fucking let her.

She hates this.

There's a loud, staccato, irritating knock at the door that she swears only belongs to one person and her eyebrows sink with aggravation. Of all the people in all of the state of New York, of all the people in this house, Joshua Gabriel Matthews is the absolute last person she wants to see right now. She doesn't want to see his dumb face, or listen to his stupid advice. He doesn't have a say in her love life any more than she has a say in his.

But he sure seems to think otherwise.

She grabs a shirt from one of her bags, calls out for him to wait a second as she loops her head through the neck hole and flattens it over her naked abdomen because he doesn't get to see anymore. Ever.

She has just enough time to reach behind her and free the hair still trapped in her shirt before the door flies open anyway, and not one but two Matthews come strolling in like they own the goddamn place.

Oh, wait.

Riley's way too perky at nine, she's a bubbling ball of energy with Silas cooing on her hip as he gnaws on a rattling teething ring and stares at Maya with Lucas's eyes. Josh stuffs his hands in the pockets of his motorcycle jacket and Maya inadvertently shields her ring from his line of sight. "Can I help you?"

"We came to make sure you're awake." Riley chimes, as her son takes hold of her finger and shakes it in the air. "Mom made scrambled eggs. Or at least tried to, anyway."

"How do you fuck up scrambled eggs?"

The muscles in Riley's jaw visibly tense at the use of profanity around her son, but it's Maya and Maya can literally get away with murder in Riley's eyes, so she lets it slide.

"Have you met her mother?" Josh says, rolling his eyes and taking his newest nephew by the armpits when Riley finally releases her finger from the child's death grip. "We also just kinda wanted to check on you." The younger Matthews steps further into the room and gives Maya this look - this are you okay look that makes Maya's jaw go slack. She hates that look.

She hates lying to Riley.

Silence passes, and Maya audibly swallows as her eyes dart between the oldest Matthews, baby Huckleberry, and her best friend. Then they go back to Josh. Did he say anything to Riley? He hasn't mentioned what happened at Christmas since, and she was starting to get the idea that he's letting it go. Ugh, that's too easy. She knows him better than that. It's literally impossible for the Matthews clan to give up on anything once they're upset or passionate about something.

A sigh leaves through Maya's nose and the corner of her lip tugs upwards into a half grin. "Yeah. I'm fine, Riles."

Really.

At least, she's trying to be.

Her arms relax and fall to her sides and she pretends not to notice how Josh's eyes fall immediately to the gleaming diamond on her finger.

"Seriously. When is your family gonna stop worrying about me?"

"At least some time after your funeral." She knows that was Riley's attempt at a joke, but all things considering, it's not so funny. Josh doesn't seem too amused either. Her best friend glances between the pair of them and clasps her dainty little hands together, rocking on the balls of her feet before gliding across the carpet to the door to join Josh. "Well, I'm gonna go eat the plastic my mommy's so kindly prepared for us this morning. Hope it's not all gone."

Josh snorts. That's a safe bet. Riley's candy pink colored lips leave a glossy mark on Silas's cheek before she disappears from the room, and her uncle catches the kid's gaze with a tired sigh. "I'm nothing more than a baby sitter to these people, right kid?"

Maya steps forward, relieves him of the baby and cradles him under her jaw. He's soft and warm and smells like Riley's favorite bath soap, and he coos as his little fist grips the collar of her tee, and it almost makes her think for a second she might have kids one day. Almost.

"I'm gonna tell Shawn."

It's almost like someone else came into the room, because that voice was definitely a few octaves lower and a lot more firm than it'd been five seconds ago. "What?"

"You heard me."

Silas's teething ring slips from his fingers and lands on the carpet with a loud rattle. He whimpers, but Maya doesn't lean down to get it. Neither does Josh. The staring – glaring – contest they're giving each other right now would make fifth graders jealous.

"I haven't heard you threaten me with that since tenth grade."

"I'm full of surprises," he folds his arms across his chest like the cheeky bastard that he is, a playful but serious smirk playing at his lips. "Just like you apparently."

Maya's eyes turn to slits. Silas whines again, louder this time, to alert the only two functioning humans in the room of the disaster that'd just occurred. His teething ring is now on the floor, and this is a huge deal. Something needs to be done about this. Why aren't they doing anything about this?

"I know you think you have a right to judge me, for some ungodly reason, but you don't." She takes a step toward him. The baby in her arms stretches an arm toward the ground and grasps at air as he groans in frustration.

"And you really don't wanna try me right now."

Josh doesn't budge. She's like a foot shorter than him, is she really trying to be intimidating? "You're right. I don't have a right. But your stepdad does."

"It's none of his business, Josh!"

"Let's see if he thinks of it that way."

"Why are you doing this?"

"Because he's hurting you, Maya!"

The combination of loud yelling and the utter despair of his abandoned teething ring lying helpless on the ground is just too much for Silas, and he erupts into a very distressed sob, writhing in Maya's grasp. "Oh great!" The frustrated blonde tosses an exasperated arm in the air and narrows her eyes at her ex-boyfriend. "Look what ya did. You made Little Huckleberry mad."

She storms past him, her loud receding footsteps down the stairs actively punctuating this conversation.

Josh runs a hand through his hair because god, she's stubborn, and closes the door behind him a little too hard.

.

"What do you mean?"

"Exactly what I said." Wade's tone of voice suggests he's already made up his mind about this. And she may have only known her fiancé all of five months, but she knows once he's sure of something there's no point in arguing.

Maya shuffles back, eyelids coming together for a second as a shaky breath escapes her. "Our flights for the third-"

"Cancelled."

"For an amateur art show?" Her unamused scoff slips out, and his eyes darken with the anger she knows he's been keeping buried the past week.

"It's a fund raiser, and they've asked me to present an award." He shakes out of his coat and perches it on the back of a nearby chair, never taking his eyes off of Maya. She sighs quietly, because this is ridiculous. How are they gonna find a flight on New Year's Eve?

"Can't you go without me?" Her hands slip out of her pockets as strong fingers pull her wrist closer to the man she wishes she loved. His breath smells like rum, and the way he licks over his lips is so handsome it almost makes her knees buckle.

His voice softens as though they aren't the only two in earshot. Fuck, where is everyone? Usually, you can't get a moment to yourself in this house. Suddenly everyone's playing Where's Waldo. "I need you there with me. I have to show off my future bride."

"I'm not a prize."

His grip tightens and her skin turns white around his tanned fingers, but his smile never falters. "You are to me, love."

She's Maya, so she yanks her arm out of his grasp and grits her teeth so hard she bites her tongue. Wade takes a threatening step forward and closes the space between them, his once charming smile faded into something almost wicked. She doesn't ask, just nods, and the metal of her ring is cold against the shell of her ear as she slips some silky blonde hair behind it.

Wade walks past her with a nod, smug and proud of himself for winning that lack of an argument. She watches his back disappear up the stairs toward what she assumes is the guest room to pack the rest of his Armani bullshit and whatever he wants her to take back home with her.

He'll no doubt forget to pack the friendship ring he insists she not wear anymore. Distracts from the real diamond, he says. Middle school silliness, he says.

Fuck him.

Fuck him and his stupid handsome smile, his haunting brown eyes and his adorable accent. She likes to think there was a time she really did love Wade.

Then the door opens, and Josh Matthews returns with Auggie, Ava, and Mr. Matthews, and she brushes away whatever shred of shame she has left. She plasters on the cutest fake smile you've ever seen as she zips up her pea coat and adjusts her knit beanie. With a breath, she rises from the bay window seat and she joins the Matthews clan in the living room.

Clasping her hands together, she scours her brain for the right words. It shouldn't be this hard to form a sentence. Nothing but jumbles, just like yesterday. What's wrong with her? "So! Bad news, el second familia."

Every head turns except Ava's, who's obviously a little agitated at Auggie for some reason by the way she's glaring into his soul. Maya takes notice, and her brows furrow briefly, but she shakes her head and gestures behind her to the forayer leading up to the bedrooms. "Wade's got this fund raiser thing at a gallery back in London that we can't miss, so it looks like we'll be leaving earlier than we planned."

"You're missing New Years?" Auggie sure sounds upset for someone who's been swept up in preteen angst the entire week and a half that she's been here. "You've been here for every countdown since I was born, you can't just leave."

"Auggie-"

"August." he corrects, firmly. Whoa, sorry.

"It's not up to me."

"Like hell it isn't."

"Josh." Cory's face kind of falls, staring at the back of his brother's head. Josh steps down off the platform and Maya takes an apprehensive step back when he comes closer. He can't... he can't do that. He just can't. She can smell his aftershave from here and that's not at all okay.

She won't admit she misses him.

It's scary the way his eyes turn to slits. He's almost never looked at her that way. Never. "You think you have everyone fooled, Maya, but you don't."

"Josh, don't." That comes out a lot shakier than she'd hoped. He doesn't seem to care.

"No. You put on this act like you're in this happy, healthy relationship with this guy that you barely know, who you know almost nothing about, and you fly out here to spend your Christmas vacation flipping through wedding catalogs with your mom to plan a wedding that you don't even want."

"Josh!" Cory might as well not even be in the room, and Josh signals that by holding up a stiff hand in his direction at the sound of his name.

"My engagement is none of your business." That's the nicest thing in her head right now. Everything else, she can't say in front of children.

"Do you even hear yourself?"

"Was it my business when you disappeared to California right after I told you I loved you?" Silence. The muscles in Josh's jaw tense and she can see his eyes darken from where she's standing. "You don't get a say in who I decide to marry, just because it wasn't you."

Josh's lips part, he's absolutely fuming and trying not to show it, and he rubs the back of his neck with a slight nod as he crosses the room and leaves the Matthews apartment, slamming the door behind him. The abrupt sound makes Maya jump as she fights back the tears threatening her eyes.

"Wow," Ava raises an amused brow, nudging Auggie in the side with her elbow. "And I thought we were the dramatic ones."

.

Silver nails comb through unruly blonde hair as Maya studies her reflection. It's even more damaged than usual, and that fucking terrifies her.

She hears a voice as she's pumping a few squirts of foundation onto her palm, but doesn't look up. The jingle of his keys gives him away, and the excited way he sets his hands on either side of her hips when he comes up behind her. Maya glances into the mirror at their reflection, just in time to see him move some sandy blonde hair out of his eyes.

"Almost ready, love?"

"I'm not going." Her tone is way more defiant than she intends, but it works. His grip on her hips loosen and she doesn't have to check the mirror to know his eyebrows furrow. He slides beside her to catch her gaze, and the way his head slightly shakes makes her swallow. Her mind's made up. She's not leaving right now. She's just terrified of his reaction.

"What do you mean?"

"Exactly what I said." She's mocking him, but he either doesn't notice or doesn't care. It's Wade, so she assumes it's the first one. She turns a little, and his palm falls from her hip in the process. A quiet breath later, her eyes kind of close and one shoulder lifts into a slight shrug. "I've been an ocean away from my family for months. We've barely been here a week. I'm not leaving yet."

"You have to."

"I don't have to do anything."

The muscles in his jaw tense as a sour breath escapes through his nose. Blue eyes chase his brown ones for any hint of compassion, but she should know by practice that she's usually disappointed.

"Maya-"

"Wade." she echoes, folding her arms across her chest. Her fiancé pinches the bridge of his nose and she licks over her lips. "I'll fly back next week, before classes start. I promise."

"I'm sick of your empty promises."

Her jaw falls a little, and the slightest scoff emits from her throat. "My empty promises?"

"This is about Beanie Boy, isn't it?"

It disgusts her that she knows exactly who he's referring to. "His name is Josh, and no. This is about me, and my friends, and my family, and my sanity."

She turns back to face the vanity and begins to reach for her mascara tube, but an angry hand snatches her wrist and Wade abruptly pulls her into him.

The Brit seethes at her as he grits his teeth, and Maya squirms in his grasp. "Wade, you're hurting me. Let go."

"What gave you the idea that you can talk to me like that? Him?" The skin around Wade's tight grip pales, and Maya can hear her heartbeat throbbing in her ears. She sucks in a short breath, and paws at his clutches. "Let go of me!"

"Answer me!"

.

"Baby, is Silas in here?"

The sound of Lucas's voice in the doorway startles Riley, and the brunette takes a tired sigh as she clasps both hands on her hips. "I just put him down for a nap; he's been cranky all day."

"So why didn't you come find me?" Lucas takes a step into Riley's room and suspiciously folds his arms over his chest. Riley takes notice, and lets go of another tired sigh as she closes her eyes and swipes a hand exasperatedly over her forehead. "Lucas, can we not do this right now? I'm exhausted."

"Is that your excuse for everything?" For the life of her, she can't understand why he's being like this. She shuffles backward until her knees hit the foot of her bed and she sits down, glances at her sleeping son in his bassinet. "It's always not now. Later. But later never comes."

Riley doesn't have the energy for this. "I haven't even been able to find you."

There's an uncomfortable silences that passes between the two of them, and Lucas pretends not to notice the way she doesn't find his eyes. She'll look everywhere else in the room – the floor, the wall, even his chin or his forehead – but eye contact just doesn't happen. Silas coos in his sleep and the sound warms Lucas a little, calming the iciness that he'd felt before. "What's happening to us, Riley?"

It's a loaded question, and Riley's pink lips part as she tries to figure out what to say. Nothing she can think of could ever make the uncertainty of their relationship feel better.

"Hey, guys?" A quiet tapping of glass alerts the two of them to the bay window, where Farkle's trying to get in. Riley rushes over and unlatches the window, then pushes it up just enough to let him in. He crawls onto the cushioned bench with a grunt and stairs between the pair of them as his smile slowly subsides. "Am I… interrupting something?"

Before either of them can answer him with the firm 'no' that's on both of their lips, there's a loud thud in the other room.

.

A small, shaky hand covers her jaw as Maya peeks up from the floor through frayed strands of blonde hair at her fiancé. He's so much taller from this angle, and seems so much angrier. His fists ball at his sides and she searches his eyes for any sign of regret. It doesn't come.

Her palm massages the pain from her jaw but she's too scared to move it away, terrified she'll see blood on her hand. Her lip is throbbing and she's too startled to speak, so she just listens as Wade steps closer to her. He leans down, propping his arm on the wall above her head, which makes Maya wince. He doesn't budge. His breath is hot and angry as he moves her hair off her face, then whispers, "What have I told you about listening to me?"

His oxfords make subtle thuds against the carpet as he moves across the room, and grabs her empty suitcase from a nearby shelf, then tosses it onto the bed. "I expect you'll be packed within the hour." He leaves without another word, and Maya watches from the floor as his back recedes from sight. She's shaking as she rises to her feet and stumbles over to the vanity. It's sad how little she recognizes her reflection, with a swelling eye and a split lip to accompany the one that's almost healed. The breath she takes in is shaky, and she has to force herself not to let it out in a sob. The tears in her eyes burn enough.

She pulls out a drawer, and begins loaded her delicates into the suitcase her fiancé had been kind enough to open for her, suddenly terrified to challenge him again. Maybe she should just do what he says. After all, she's the one who said yes.

Footsteps enter the room and she doesn't look behind her, but the atmosphere around her shifts pleasantly. The sound of her best friend's voice is comforting when she hears her name, but the hand that touches her shoulder makes her nearly jump out of her skin. She jumps backward and spins around to face the three, shiny blue eyes shifting between each of them.

"Oh my god." That's the first thing Farkle says, as he steps forward to stand beside Riley. "Maya what happened?"

Riley doesn't miss a beat, because of course not. She's Riley. She crosses her arms accusingly, and her eyes darken. "What do you mean what happened? This is Wade's doing, isn't it?"

Maya doesn't answer.

She also doesn't notice the way Lucas's hands ball into fists at his sides, but Riley does. The brunette joins him and loops a comforting arm through his to hold onto his bicep. "You have to tell someone."

"No!" It comes out way shakier than she wants it to, and Farkle scoffs. "What do you mean no? Maya, has this happened before?" He takes a step toward her, and the blonde shuffles backward apprehensively. It's like a reflex, and that's so fucking sad.

Her silence in response to his question is telling.

A subtle sniffle is the only sound that fills the room as Maya dabs a shaky finger under her eye to collect any smudged eyeliner. This is all so overwhelming, and she doesn't know what to do.

"You have to tell someone." Riley repeats, slightly louder.

"Can you guys just butt out?" Maya snaps, and the firmness of her voice startles the three of her friends. She doesn't recover, doesn't budge, and instead just shakes her head and pushes past them toward the door. She doesn't get very far; Lucas stops her by grabbing her upper arm, and Maya's passive anxiety responds by spinning around and leaving a fresh handprint across his face with a loud, crisp smack.

Shocked, Lucas immediately releases her arm and Maya – despite her slap being unintentional – unapologetically storms out. A concerned Riley lays a comforting hand on the stinging welt forming on her boyfriend's face, but he shrugs her off and echoes Maya's actions out of the room to cool off.

Tears brim the brunette's eyes as Riley moves her gaze to Farkle, because he always knows what to do. He always knows what to say. He must read her mind or something, because he lifts one wary shoulder in a shrug.

This time, he doesn't.

.

"Don't make me drive aaall the way back to New York to kick this douche's ass, 'cause I will."

God, Maya should not have answered this facetime. It's not a conversation she was prepared for, and face to face is even worse.

Zay's voice on the other end is not the upbeat, excitable one she's used to. "I mean it, Maya. Los Angeles is not as far away as you think."

The laugh that falls from Maya's cold lips is the first genuine one she's had all day. "Might as well be on the other side of the world."

Zay snorts, audible even through the phone. God, she misses him. Watching him on her TV screen every Tuesday night just isn't the same as spending every day with him. No one warned them about separation anxiety in high school, man. "That's rich for you to say. Surprised you actually left your fancy new life in Europe to make time for the little people."

The blonde raises an unamused brow at her phone and he smirks. Still, she runs a hand through her long locks and admits defeat. "Zay, just let me handle this, okay? I'll figure something out. You know I will. I always do."

He can't argue with that, so he just kind of nods. A beat passes. "Lucas is pissed."

Maya sighs. "Story of his life."

"When Lucas is pissed, I'm pissed."

Fuck. Can Lucas not be John Wayne right now? That's the last thing she needs. And honestly it stopped being charming years ago. It's not like she doesn't have enough of the men in her life angry about this. I mean, she's already got –

"Fuck," the curse slips out in a breathy cloud as blue eyes widen at an approaching figure. Where has he been? "I gotta go, Zay."

"Wait—"

She taps the red button before he can finish that sentence, and stuffs her phone into the back pocket of her jeans. Josh doesn't say anything to her, which is not what she expects, just blows her off and walks past her with barely a glance. Dumbfounded, Maya's brows crinkle and she turns around, staring blankly at his receding back. It takes her half a second to remind her feet how to move, and one after the other she follows him.

"Hey!" Her boots increase speed and she catches up to his much larger strides, grabbing his arm to force him to look at her. "What's your problem?"

He shrugs her hand off his arm and bites out an unintelligible remark as he pulls a cigarette out of a nearly empty carton and stuffs it past his lips.

"When did you start smoking again?"

"We don't get a say in each other's lives anymore, remember?" He snaps almost immediately, the cigarette sticking out of his mouth bouncing with every syllable, and he cups his palm around the flame of his lighter to block the wind as he ignites the end of the stick. He stops walking, his back to her, and a sigh leaves him in the form of thick, gray smoke. He turns around to face her, and his jaw clenches at the sunglasses blocking her eyes. "Take those off."

She's Maya, so she cocks an amused brow and crosses her arms over her chest. "You know, I remember when you used to say that about my underwear."

Josh is unamused.

He doesn't even need to repeat himself for Maya to know he means it. She glances around; they're on a sidewalk in freaking New York City, next to a bakery with countless patrons inside. She sighs, and Josh doesn't have to see her eyes to know she's rolling them. God, he can read this girl like a freaking book. Doesn't bother mentioning that, though.

"Not here," she barely whispers, and her teeth catch her lip. It's swollen, still, and sore, and biting it doesn't help. But god, she just can't fucking help it when she's looking at him. All… standing there in his… stupid Aerosmith tee shirt, those obnoxious Chuck Taylors and… and that fucking beanie.

"Fine." He responds firmly, and takes her by the hand. "Come with me."

.

"Thanks, Zay. If we find her, we'll call you back." Riley breathes into her phone, her tone worried beyond comprehension, and her thumb punctuates the call as she ends it. Her heart hurts. She hates not knowing where she is, where Wade is. God, she swears if she finds him first—

"Riley." A familiar voice chimes behind her, and her ponytail smacks her in the face when she spins around, startled. There's been a lot of that lately.

She catches her breath when she sees Farkle. Her phone tumbles from her hand onto the couch and, without even thinking, she crosses the room in a rush and throws her arms around Farkle's neck, burying her face in his chest. "Did you find her?"

Farkle immediately places a hand on the small of her back, his thumb absentmindedly moving along the hem of her shirt. "No. I looked everywhere."

During their hugs, this is usually the part where Riley pulls away. She always pulls away first.

This time she doesn't.

Her arms tighten around him and her eyes leave damp, black marks on his shirt that she doesn't even notice when she moves her head to the side. "Oh god, Farkle, what do we do?"

A humorless, breathy chuckle escapes Farkle, and he inadvertently pulls her closer. "For once, I don't have an answer for this one. I don't have an answer for everything."

The front door behind them opens, and Lucas emerges from the hallway. He freezes in his tracks, and Riley and Farkle quickly separate.

She uses her sleeve to wipe the tears from her cheeks. "Lucas." His name tastes kind of bitter when she says it – mainly because she's subconsciously saying it to remind herself of something – but she ignores it. "Did you find her?"

Lucas doesn't answer her, but he finally closes the door. The brunette's eyes fall immediately to a stained bandage wrapped around the palm of his right hand, and he walks past them to the Matthews' kitchen. A quiet, concerned gasp escapes Riley as she notices the blood on his knuckles, in the corner of his mouth, and the dark purple bruise forming on his swollen eye.

"No, but looks like he found Wade."

.

"Why is it so cold in here?"

A lamp near the door comes on with the slight tug of its chain, and Josh drops his keys onto the wooden table it's sitting on. "Because I'm rarely here."

He turns around to push the door closed, his arm outstretched next to Maya's head. His palm freezes on the white door, nearly caging her, and he smells so good to her. Almost familiar… but not quite.

The proximity makes Josh swallow, and Maya's so thankful for the sunglasses hiding the way her eyes fall to his Adam's apple, and watching it jump apprehensively. Fuck, this is so much harder than it has to be.

It'd been so cold in here before, and now the air has turned warmer, reddening their faces and their breath. It's just… quiet. Her lips part.

He reaches between them slowly and pulls the shades off, and Maya's silky locks fall in her face. She's never been more thankful for her outrageously long – and sometimes quite annoying – mermaid hair. It's been more useful than not lately. Her lips close tightly and she forces herself to look away, clearing the tightness from her throat in a futile attempt to ease the silence.

Josh's fingers are warm and rougher than she remembers when he pushes her bangs out of her eyes and simultaneously lifts her chin. Maya's eyes, glistening with unshed tears – fuck she hates being emotional in front of him. He's the last person that gets to see her weaknesses. He studies her eyes, the black one she's trying so desperately to hide, and clenches his jaw.

"Say something." Please. She just… can't take the silence anymore. It's agonizing. Say anything.

A pink tongue parts his lips to wet them, and his index finger follows the length of her hair down to her shoulder. He watches as his thumb curls a bright strand, and then drops his arms to his sides.

Maya's eyes close. "Please," she whispers, brows furrowing sadly as the tears that'd been threatening her eyes come to fruition. She inhales a sob, shoulders shaking.

Josh doesn't comply, but he catches her lips in his own and Maya's not in the least bit shocked. His taste is unforgiving, and she prays he didn't notice the subtle whimper that slips out at the familiar feeling that swells inside her. God, she gives in almost immediately, melting into his embrace and heatedly throwing her arms around his shoulders. He's gentle, especially when his tongue parts his lips and brushes over the split in her lower one, making Maya jump slightly.

He reassures her with a hand at her back, and Maya sighs into their kiss, surrendering all her resistance and fisting a handful of his hair. She feels almost as though she's been taken over by a younger, slightly happier Maya, one she hasn't known in a long time. It consumes her, and she finds her hands slipping from his hair and running over his chest, and down the length of his abdomen. She can feel his heart rate quicken beneath her palm, and his breathing intensify to match hers.

Warm hands cease their wandering once they meet the cold metal of his belt buckle, and every hair on her arms raise. Josh pulls away, studies her eyes as they chase his, two pairs of swollen lips panting soft breaths.

Maya pauses.

"Fuck me," she whispers, barely nodding her head enough for it to be noticeable. "Please make me forget."

She's whispering so quietly it's as though she's scared someone might hear her, even though they're completely alone. It takes half a second for Josh to shake his jacket off his shoulders with Maya's assistance, and their lips find each other's again just before they fall to the floor.

God, it's wrong on so many levels. She swore so many times that she'd never be in this situation again. Ever. When she was a teenager, she swore she knew pain because of all she'd been through with her dad. One thing she's used to is the feeling of someone leaving. But god, she'd never felt her heart break like it did the day he left her, and then again on the day she left him.

Fuck, all they're good for is leaving each other.

Because it's them.

.