I own zilch.

A/N: I apologize for the 18092013 different author alerts. I happen to be a very impatient and easily frustrated person. Fanfic.net decided to act up and I, in turn, became a raging lunatic. Please accept my apology.

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Ryan POV

I pushed the door in to see Seth sprawled over his bed pushing numbers on a calculator and writing in a pad.

"Hey, what's up?" I asked, walking in and sitting at his desk chair.

"Dude," he said, glancing up at me, "I'm calculating how many hours I have to work to pay off what I owe Dad."

"And how many?"

"Somewhere around the 380 hour mark - and that's without counting taxes." He sagged his shoulders and let his head droop. "I'm going to be paying this off till my kids graduate from college."

I chuckled. "Serves you right for spending two weeks in Hawaii and changing hotels. If you'd stayed put, we would have found you and you'd only have to work 80 hours."

"Whatever, men," he said, throwing the notepad on the floor. "Hawaii's beautiful - I had to explore it. Would I have been able to go to Maui if I'd stayed in Honolulu?"

"Alright then... stop complaining."

"I'm not, it was worth it." He sat up. "Anyway, have you got all that stuff sorted out?"

I nodded. "Yeah, I start next week."

"Cool," he said, satisfied. "Now you just have one more thing to sort out then."

"What?" I asked, feigning ignorance. I picked up a pen from his table and started playing with it.

"This Anna leaving thing," he replied, matter-of-factly.

It had been all I could think of for two days and I hadn't come any closer to a solution. "Dude, I told you. I asked if she could stay and she said no. What more can I do?"

He hissed. "For someone who's supposed to have all this experience," he said, crooking his fingers for emphasis, "you sure as hell know nothing about women."

"What are you talking about?" I asked, a little too excitedly. I couldn't believe that my desperation had reached the point of actually looking to Seth for advice.

"Bro, you've gotta do something big; something to let her know how you really feel."

"She knows how I feel." She had to.

"You're sure? You've told her explicitly, "Anna, I like you and I want you to stay?""

"Not in so many words but yeah."

"If you didn't say it in as many words, which I suspect by your standards might be no words at all, I'll take that as a 'no.' When it comes to love --"

"Wait… wait… love? " I interrupted, trying my best not to choke. "I didn't say all that. I just said I don't want her to leave."

"Whatever. The point is, you have to do something big."

"I don't do 'big'." I started rocking back and forth on the back legs of the chair.

He rolled his eyes. "Too bad, 'cos it's time to. Tsk tsk," he hissed, wagging his finger. "Let me school you on the ways of the world."

"Uhn-hun… should I be scared?"

"No, you should be glad - be ready to learn a lot. When you love someone -"

"Seth," I cautioned.

"When you whatever-you-want-to-call-it someone, you've gotta do it big. It's gotta be memorable. It's gotta be in slow-motion with everyone waiting in baited breath to see what's going to happen next. You've got to climb on a coffee cart and tell her how you feel. You've got to run to the airport and stop her from leaving --"

"You want me to run to the airport and stop her from leaving?"

He nodded. "Sure, why not?"

"If I recall, it didn't work for you." And I wasn't in the mood to get rejected more than I'd already been.

"That was different. Besides, you're missing the point."

"Oh, there's a point?"

"Of course there's a point. Hell, yeah, there's a point. Would I be saying all this if there wasn't a point?"

"Can you get to it?"

"The point is, you've got to be prepared to be an idiot - a jackass. You've got to be ready to humiliate yourself, to be embarrassed, you've got to be ready to sacrifice your pride to let her know how you feel. You've got to be ready to have everyone think you're a moron."

"In a nutshell, I have to be you."

He raised his hand as if to give thanks to the heavens. "Ding, ding, ding, we have a winner."

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"O.K, so fine, I do it big but what do I say?" I asked Seth. We were in the game room playing videogames. I knew he was a little surprised at how good I'd gotten but surfing the web also came with access to numerous websites with links to a few 'tips' I'd perfected playing with Anna. Not that I shared that bit of information with him.

"There are two ways to do this," he said, not taking his eyes from the screen.

"Which are?"

He refused to respond because he was too busy devoting all his energy to the game. I paused it.

"Hey, so not fair! I was just about to kick your ass," he complained.

"Well, you can do that in a minute."

He put down his controller. "What were you saying?"

"What are the two ways?"

"You can be either be Hannibal Lector or Zoolander."

"What?"

He sighed as if I'd asked the dumbest question in the history of the world. "Hannibal Lector is the obsessive guy that plans every single move."

"Okay…?"

"And Zoolander kind of flies by the seat of his pants… actually, that's not true. I'll say that's more of Ben Stiller - There's something about Mary, Meet the Parents, the aforementioned Zoolander, you kinda get the feeling that all his movies are just improv, you know?"

I groaned. "So basically, you are saying that I should practice or just say what I feel."

"Pretty much."

"And why didn't you just say that?" I asked dryly.

He shrugged. "Bro, you know this about me."

I bent my head dejectedly. "This sucks. So I have to do something big and either plan out a speech or not."

"Yep."

"Shit." I should have known better than to seek advice from him - I wasn't any closer to a solution.

He slapped my shoulders sympathetically. "Don't worry, you'll be fine. As far it's not, "I wanna hang out with you," or whatever crap you said to her the last time, you'll do great ."

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I re-read the 12th draft of my speech when the traffic light turned red two blocks from Anna's house. I was still making sure I'd memorized it all when I pressed her doorbell. A teenage boy opened the door.

"Is Anna home?" I asked.

He frowned at me like I was a moron then pointed behind me. I turned around and saw her leaning against a car with a lollypop in her mouth.

"Hey, what's up?" I called as I approached her.

She shrugged her nude shoulders. She was wearing a strapless top with a pair of snug pants and I just wanted to touch her golden skin.

She pulled the candy from her mouth and introduced me to a red-head I'd seen on campus a couple of times.

"What's going on?" she asked. "We must have screamed your name a hundred times."

"Sorry.. Are you guys busy?" I just wanted to get it over and done with so that I could learn my fate.

"No, I was just about to leave," Sophie grinned, starting her car. "Anna, I'll call you tonight," she said before she drove off. I could have sworn I saw her wink.

"So, what's up?" Anna asked before she stuck her lollypop back into her mouth.

I was glad she seemed normal, like she didn't mind that I'd come without calling - I wanted to side-step any excuses she might have made. "I just wanted to talk to you."

"About?"

"Would you walk with me?"

She looked anxiously at her door then agreed.

"So, how's it going?" I asked as we walked in step.

"Fine," she replied through the side of her mouth then put on a pair of sunglasses. It was quite warm but I would have preferred to be able to read her eyes.

"Are you packed and everything?"

"Yes. Is this what you wanted to talk to me about?" she asked, pushing her hair behind her ears.

I suddenly got nervous. My neck felt itchy so I scratched it. Then I stopped walking to clear my mind and run through my speech one last time. But the more I thought about it, the cornier it sounded, so I trashed it and chose to go with option two and just wing it. I figured it would sound more natural anyway. At least I hoped it would.

"I'm getting kind of scared Ryan. Are you sick or something?" She asked, narrowing her eyes. She took her glasses off and threw her candy stick in a neighbor's trash.

Her concern made me feel a little better. I smiled apprehensively. "No, it's nothing like that. It's about us."

"There's an 'us'?" she asked, looking away from me.

"Of course there's an 'us'.

She started walking again. "Okay, so what about us?"

"We are getting old."

She stopped and leaned on her foot. "What the hell are you talking about?"

"This thing we do, you and me, is getting old."

"Are you speaking in English?" She looked around the street as if she was searching for someone to explain things to her.

I exhaled and took the plunge. "I am talking about this thing we do -skirting around each other, is old. I kiss you, or you kiss me then we don't talk. It's old. You know I like you and I think…"

"Whoa, you like me? Since when?"

Hello? "Come on, Anna, you had to know. I'm sure I showed you many times. I'm sure…"

"Na dude. I'm a girl. You can't just show me. You have to tell me."

"I told you," I protested.

"No, dude, not really. I once asked you about Marissa and you got all weird. And showing is not enough. I'm a girl. Girls fixate about things. We analyze every single gesture, every single move and till you tell us, we never actually know."

I felt a welcome sensation in my chest. It seemed like we were finally getting somewhere. "I see. So what are you saying? That you analyzed everything I did?"

"Ryan, I was speaking in general terms," she tried to be evasive but it was too late.

"No, I am asking you: I really like you, do you like me?" I figured I might as well be direct.

"God, Ryan, this is so bloody corny. Nobody speaks like this anymore. I feel like I'm in an 80's movie and you're about to ask me to go steady with you or something. "

I grinned. "Well, not quite, but kinda."

She laughed. "This is interesting," she remarked, looking skywards.

"So what do you think?"

"About?"

"Anna, I realize that you can talk in circles with the best of them, but let's set things straight." Did it have to be so difficult?

She turned pink. "Ryan, I've learned that being direct with guys can backfire," she said in a quiet voice.

"Are you talking about Seth?"

"Well, you did tell me to go after him," she accused.

"I did? I didn't." Then I remembered the conversation we'd had at the fair. "Oh, shit, I did, didn't I?"

Amused, she nodded. "Remember where that got me?"

"It's different this time, though."

"How so?"

" Cos, it's me and I'm not thinking about anybody else."

With that, she turned around and kissed me. But only briefly. Then she started walking.

Pleased that things looked like they were finally working out and that I'd spend days worrying about nothing, I caught up with her, took her hand and just said the one thing I'd been too chicken to tell her. " Anna, I really don't want you to leave."

"You don't?" she said, smiling up at me.

"No." I said with all the certainty I could manage.

Still smiling, she averted her eyes. I wondered what was going through that mind of hers.

"So what do you say? Are you still going to Pittsburgh tomorrow?"

She nodded slowly.

Shit. "Damn, maybe I should have gone with Seth's idea," I thought aloud.

"What are you talking about?"

I reckoned that I might as well tell her since I had nothing to lose. "Seth had this idea that I had to do something 'big.' Like renting an ice-cream truck and announcing to the whole town that I wanted you to stay."

She grimaced. "Eww… I would have been mortified - thanks for not doing that."

In silence, we started walking again but had to wait for a car to pass before we could cross the street. "I guess I'll have to deal with calling you in Pittsburgh," I commented, giving her a sidelong glance.

"Yeah, I would like that," she replied thoughtfully. "Although I'd even like it better if you called my parents' house on Sunday."

That stopped me in my tracks. "Sorry, I'm not following you."

About two steps ahead of me, she spun around and said, "I am going to Pittsburgh because my cousin is getting married. I'll be back on Sunday."

"What? You're coming back to California?"

"Yes," she replied with the most beautiful smile I'd ever seen.

Before I knew it, we were holding on to one another, kissing. My arms were still wrapped around her when I moved my head back and looked into her eyes. "You're coming back?" She replied in the affirmative. Still in shock, I moved in and tasted her strawberry flavored lips again. "And you're kissing me back and not walking away."

I could literally see her eyes dance. "It would seem that way," she said then kissed me one more time.

When we separated, she slipped her hand into mine and we tried that walking thing one more time.

"And you're coming back to Harbor High?"

"I don't know. My parents are forcing me to spend the summer here - I guess they missed me or something. We haven't discussed the school year yet."

I chose to ignore the last sentence. "This whole time, you've known you were coming back?" I asked in disbelief.

"I've known for a few days."

"You knew when we went to Chino?" She admitted she did."Why didn't you tell me?"

"You never asked the right question… Well, I guess Chino isn't too far," she said, her mind going in a different direction.

"It's not, besides, I'll be here quite a bit."

"What do you mean?"

"I'll be working at the Crab Shack. My replacement was quite useless so Charles pretty much begged me to come back, with a raise and all. I figure in this economy, it's easier than trying to find a job back home. I'll be commuting a bit, but I'll also be spending a few nights here."

"Wow. That's pretty unbelievable. I should be scared -everything's been tied up neatly with a little bow," she commented.

Well, not quite. We still had the baby to contend with, her moving back to Pittsburgh when school started, or even where I'd live in the fall, but right then, everything felt pretty damn great.

I put my arms around her shoulders while she slipped hers around my waist.

"So what do we do now?" she asked.

"How about you take me to that comic book store you love so much?"

"Ryan Atwood," she purred, making my name sound sexier than it deserved to, " you want to go to a comic book store?"

"Hmm… not really."

"I didn't think so. How about we go play some pool instead?"

I smiled. It was going to be a great summer.

.

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THE END.

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A/N: Thanks for your great reviews. I really enjoyed writing this story.