-1AN: I know, I suck. Well I lick and nibble on occasion too, but that's besides the point. wicked grin I finally finished this, after a three month hiatus. What can I say, the season finale, and the thing that happened that shall not be mentioned, kinda stole my Palex muse. And I'm not entirely sure it really came back. But I wanted to finish this, and finish it I did. Though the quality is definitely something I'll leave to your judgment. Thanks for taking the ride with me, and for being the awesome readers that you've been. It's been beyond appreciated!

"You apparently move on quick." I know that voice. How do I know that voice?

Paige pulls away from me quickly and I can feel the loss of her body heat immediately. I really don't like this. "Matt?"

Shit.

"So when did you start batting for the other team?" I step up behind Paige, putting the palm of my hand on the small of her back. I'm not entirely sure why. Though Matt is sending off really bad vibes. Sure, I never really met him or anything, but I really didn't realize how much of an ass he could be. Then again, he DID break up with Paige. The guy MUST have a dumbass gene in there somewhere.

"Hi, I don't think we've been introduced. I'm Alex. Paige's girlfriend." I make sure to stress the word 'girlfriend', leaning even closer over Paige's shoulder to extend my hand to him.

"Alex!" Paige hisses through clenched teeth, obviously irritated by my show of possession. Which bothers me even more now. Since when has she decided to hide our relationship? Sure, we've never exactly flaunted it, not like I'm doing now. But she sounds almost..…..ashamed.

As much as I've mellowed, I can still have a temper, and I can feel it starting to flare in the pit of my stomach "What? Aren't I?" I challenge her to deny it. All the while the anger is slowly fading into a tight knot of fear.

Paige just rolls her eyes, but she thankfully doesn't pull away from my grasp either. "Matt, what are you doing here?" She turns back around to face him, the Paige Michalchuk mask of indifference firmly slipping into place as she does so.

He never did shake my hand. Little prick. I don't have any idea what Paige saw in this guy. Then again, I never got her attraction to the Furby either.

"I could ask you the same thing. Though the show you just put on made it pretty obvious." He looks over Paige's shoulder back up to me, a nasty smirk on his face. "They do say Niagara is for lovers. Tell me Alex, is she any good? She never let me get past second base." The smirk turns to a scowl.

Before Paige has a chance to hold me back I'm flying at him, fists wrapped tightly in his collar and slamming him up against the paned window. "You shut the hell up you sick son of a bitch!"

"I guess that's a no. Frustrated much?" He chokes out, the smirk returning now.

"You really expect me to answer that?" I tighten my hold on him, dimly aware of Ellie yelling for me to let him go. Paige has been suspiciously quiet.

"You don't have to, your face says it all."

"Alex, come on. He's not worth it." Marco has a hand on my arm, trying to get me to ease my grip.

"Matt, you have NO idea. No idea or else you wouldn't be spewing the shit coming from your mouth." I shove him harder against the glass, rattling his head, before finally letting Marco tug me back. A glance at Paige and the rage from a moment ago melts away. She has that look. The haunted one that I so despise.

Dean.

And that ass just had to go there. He has to know why Paige is so reluctant to be intimate with someone.

"Baby, it's ok." I slowly step back towards her, trying to help calm her obviously rattled nerves. Reaching out I hesitantly touch her arm, just a bit surprised when she jumps back as if she's been scalded. Most times she's completely comfortable with my touch. It's only been on the very rare occasion that she's ever shied away from me.

One time I reached out to touch her hand as we drove past the university campus. I didn't think twice about it, I just had a sudden urge to feel her skin under my fingertips. But she jumped then too, though not quite as violently as just now. It wasn't until later that night after I had dropped her off home that I stopped to think about it. Then I understood why.

"Paige, it's just me. It's Alex." I try again, encouraged by the small glimmer of recognition flashing in her clouded cerulean eyes.

"Lexi?" He voice sounds so soft, barely more than a whisper.

"Come on baby, come back to me." I take a chance and reach, out, gently cupping her cheek in my palm. Relief washes over me in tangible waves when I feel her lean into my touch. "That's my girl." I pull her into me, assured now that she's herself again, back from the dark place that Dean's memory takes her. She snuggles into my chest, her hands grabbing fistfuls of my shirt in the process.

"Did you punch him?" She chuckles a bit, her voice muffled against me. The sound of her laughter, even with it disguising unshed tears, helps to release the knot that had been gnawing in my stomach.

"Did you want me to punch him?" I really almost did. But Paige tends to hate violence, especially mine. It took every ounce of my self control to keep my fist from reaching back and breaking his nose. And probably a few of my knuckles with it. But it would have been SO worth it.

Paige is more than worth it.

I can feel her nod into my shoulder. I gotta admit, that surprises me a bit. He really must have gotten to her. Ok, hello to broken hand I guess. I go to pull away, fully intending to deck him, but Paige just tightens her hold on me. "Lexi, no. I know how much you want to." She raises her head up to set her blue orbs on me. "And you have no idea how………..safe that makes me feel." A tender smile appears on her lips, causing my tightened fist to unclench at my side, coming up to cup her cheek. Once again she leans into my palm.

"You know I'd do anything to take that memory away." It's the first time I've ever overtly mentioned her rape. But God wouldn't I. I'd have traded places with her in a heartbeat. She has no idea how much I can understand how she felt, what she went through. Losing your virginity to a cold, violent monster, it's something we share. Maybe one of these days I'll tell her, share my own experience. But not right now, now it's about her.

She's everything.

And the last thing I want is for her to focus on worrying about me and the secrets I've kept. She needs to be able to totally trust me.

Paige nods in acceptance. "I know baby." She leans up, placing a ghost of a kiss on my lips before turning back around to Matt. And the rest of our class, who apparently have been watching in rapt attention. "Matt, I don't know why you're here. But just leave."

The smirk has once again returned to his face. Apparently he feels confident in the fact that Paige won't let me hit him. I've got news, I'm not THAT whipped. "Can't do that Paigey. I work here. I haven't been here that long, but damn, last time I saw a show like that was back in college!"

What a pig.

I mean really. He reminds me so much like Jay. Either he's changed that much or my vibe was totally off when he was dating Paige. Granted I was all kinds of jealous when she was with him, but that's besides the point.

"God, when did you turn into such an ass Matt?" I can hear the disgust in Paige's voice.

"Maybe when you cost me my career you little bitch." His face is turning red, his fists clenching rhythmically at his sides. He better not even think about it………..

"There were two of us in the relationship. I lied for you. I can't help it you have a guilty conscious." Paige fires back. That's my girl.

"Who doesn't want a hot young piece of ass?" He barely has a chance to finish spewing his filth before I can feel the bones in his nose snap underneath my knuckles. White hot searing pain is the first indication I broke something myself.

"Alex!" Paige and Mr. Simpson yell in unison. It's kinda hard to hear over the sound of applause though. Score one for me I guess.

"You fucking bitch!" Matt is slumped over one of the nearby tables, blood dripping through his fingers. Oops.

"What is going on here!" Apparently the manager has decided to finally make an appearance. Great timing. Knowing my luck I'll get hauled off for assault.

"Your employee here was harassing two of my students." Mr. Simpson pipes up before anyone else can say a word.

"That's bullshit! She fucking hit me!"

"Matt! That's enough. We don't condone that type of language in front of the customers!" His manager scolds him and I can already feel the satisfied smirk crossing my lips.

"But she punched me for no reason!"

"Actually Mr. Farrell, that's not true." Surprisingly it's Ms. Hatzilakos who chimes in this time. "He was making very crude comments to Miss Nunez's girlfriend, Miss Michalchuk. Alex and Paige both repeatedly asked him to stop. When he kept on Alex just found a way to shut him up." I'm even more surprised by the hints of a smile tugging at the corners of the principal's face. Huh, who knew she was cool.

"Just what kind of crude comments?" This must be really thick.

"Alex is my GIRLfriend. And Matt is my ex. Connect the dots." Paige pipes in, her hand holding onto my arm. I think she's worried I'll deck him again. I do still have one good hand left.

"Oh. Ohhhhhh!" It's almost cartoonish, the look on his face as the light bulb finally pops on. "Well then…." He seemed to be thinking, which given the looks of him, probably isn't a good thing.

"Maybe we should discuss settling the bill instead?" Lets see…….." Mr. Simpson cuts in, pretending to take a quick head count. He's so damn sneaky. He would have thought a big computer geek could be cool? "I think we have 52, including Ms. Hatzilakos and myself. Right?"

"Certainly. Certainly! Follow me Mr. Simpson, we'll take care of you right away." He bows, looking every bit the pompous idiot I imagine he is. As he leads the way towards what I presume to be the cash office he tosses nonchalantly over his shoulder. "You're fired Matt. Make sure to have your belongings out of your locker by the end of the night."

I really want to laugh. But I can be the better person here.

Really, I can.

One of the nearby waiters, who had been watching the whole spectacle apparently, takes Matt by the arm and escorts him towards the back hallway leading into the kitchen. The handkerchief he was using to control the bleeding in his nose is already soaked through. Well if his face feels anything like my hand does…………

"Lexi, let me see." I feel Paige's fingers delicately combing over the tops of my knuckles, being careful not to cause anymore pain than what I'm already experiencing. "Baby, why did you do that?" I'm pretty sure it was a rhetorical question, she knows me well enough to understand.

I roll my eyes, reaching up to run my free hand through her golden locks. "There's no denying that you're hot Paige." She looks up briefly from her inspection of my bruised hands to smirk at me playfully. "But no one talks to you like he did. No one. And if a few broken knuckles is the price I have to pay to make sure of that, then so be it." She glances up at me again, her expression changing from one of amusement to complete affection. Our eyes stay locked together for a moment before she pulls my hand up and brushes a few gentle kisses across my swollen knuckles.

"Lets go back to the hotel." My brow wrinkles a bit at the change of subject, but I'm not going to question it. Besides, I really could use some ice on my hand.

As the rest of our class is slowly meandering their way towards the elevators to return to our rooms, Mr. Simpson appears from the maitre de's office. "Alex, can I speak to you for a second." When Paige doesn't move away from me, he adds. "Alone."

Paige gives me a worried look, but I rub her back reassuringly. "It's ok babe, I'll be right back. Wait for me downstairs, ok?" She nods hesitantly, then backs away to join the rest of our class at the elevator bays. I turn around to give Mr. Simpson my full attention. I'm just hoping he doesn't expel me or something. Especially this close to graduation.

"You know, I could suspend you for what you just did. In fact, you're very lucky that charges weren't pressed." I have the decency to look chastised, even if I don't feel even remotely sorry for punching Matt. Mr. Simpson's expression softens though. "But I understand why you did it. He was being a complete jerk. And for a moment I thought he might actually hit Paige."

I nod my head in agreement. "Yes sir, I wasn't about to let him do that."

He smiles gently at me. "I know that Alex." He looks thoughtful for a moment before continuing. "You know, Paige has been really good for you. Violent outbursts aside." His smile widens. "You've become so much more grounded. And you've also been a wonderful influence on her. It's really amazing how well you click, how fantastic you are together." He gestures towards the elevator, putting a hand on my shoulder. We press the down button, waiting for the familiar ding of the returning car. "I'm proud of you both Alex."

My head snaps around to goggle at him. "You're proud of me decking someone?"

The doors open and we step inside, his laughter echoing in the empty car. "I didn't say that. But you were protecting Paige. That's definitely a good thing. Especially after what happened. It's something she's needed. It's what she deserves."

"Should I be afraid to ask how long the suspension is going to be?" Paige tosses over her shoulder as we step inside our hotel suite.

I laugh a little, pulling her back into my arms and guiding her out towards the balcony doors. I must admit, the school really did go all out. I wonder who the trip coordinator is? "No, no suspension at all."

The night echoes with the sound of the falls a few blocks away, the thunder of the millions of gallons of water piling their way over the mountainside surprising soothing. Paige reclines back into my embrace, pillowing her head on my shoulder. "How'd you manage that?" Her fingers are dancing gently against my bruised knuckles once again, the action like a healing balm on the tender skin.

"Don't really know. But not even a detention. Guess Mr. Simpson has a soft spot for me." I tease, leaning down to place a soft kiss on her cheek.

"He's not the only one." We stand there for uncounted moments, just enjoying the view, the night, and each other. I'm lulled into the strongest feeling of contentment I've ever experienced, only to be broken out of it by the sensation of Paige pulling out of my arms to turn around and face me. "Alex, about what he said……"

I know where this is going before it even has the chance to come out of her mouth. And I'm determined to nip it in the bud as quickly as possible. I reach up, my thumb ghosting across her lips, effectively silencing her. "I don't care what he said." I stop for a minute, thinking back to everything that spewed from that jackass. "No, that's not entirely true. I wouldn't have broken his nose otherwise." I can feel the smile creasing her mouth under my fingertips. "But the rest of it, I don't care. I get it Paige, I've always gotten it, it's why I haven't pushed."

"And I love you for that, you'll never know how much." She purses her lips to delicately kiss the pad of my thumb. "And because of that, it's why I'm ready."

Ok, she's lost me a bit. "Ready?"

She pulls away to take my hand and lead me back inside. "Lexi, it's never been about sex. It's been about trust, about the level of intimacy that I had always wanted my first time to be like." We stop at the foot of the bed, her arms reaching up and locking themselves around my neck, her crystal gaze settling intently on me. "Dean ripped that away from me. He took it, violently, harshly. And that dream, that wish, disappeared with it. Until now. Until you. Spinner and Matt, neither of them knew how to give that back to me. But you, you just stand there, and you look at me the way you are now, and it's all I've ever wanted. It's EXACTLY the way I always envisioned it. I'm safe with you, I know that, in fact I've known that from the beginning."

Paige leans up, placing a feather's soft kiss on my eager lips. I sigh into the touch, her breath mingling with mine, the sweetness making me feel lightheaded. Much too soon, she's pulling away again. "Give me a new first time Lexi."

"Paige….." I whisper, already aching to crush my lips against hers once more, but knowing that she might be rushing into something just because of the drama with Matt tonight. And the very last thing I want is for her to make this kind of mistake, for the both of us to make it.

"No, don't do that. Don't second guess me, and don't doubt yourself." She tucks a strand of ebony hair behind my ear, the affectionate smile creasing her lips making my heart ache with desire. "I won't regret this, I never could, not with you." She lowers herself down onto the satin sheets of the bed, pulling me along with her. "Make love to me baby."

I realized a long time ago that what Paige wants, Paige gets. And it's not like she's forcing me into something at all. I love her, she's the first, the only person in this world that I've ever felt this way about. I decide to let the worries go, to place my trust with her the way she's placed hers in me. If we're going to work, we need to just let go.

She looks like a goddess, golden hair splayed across black satin, cerulean eyes glowing up at me, love and trust so clearly reflected in them. A gentle kiss on expectant lips turns to two, to ten. Shirts are delicately unbuttoned and tossed to the floor, wanting fingers ghost over enflamed skin. Gentle turns to thirsty. And passion explodes behind my eyes as Paige's mouth finds it's way from my neck to someplace even more sensitive. Her hand grasps tightly in my hair, holding me to her as the feel of her sweat slickened body harmonizes with my own. It's the most exquisite of tortures, watching her as she rises farther and farther towards her climax.

The first thing I'm aware of is the feeling of someone watching over me. Not staring at me, but looking after me. The sensations are infinitely different. Turning in the circle of Paige's arms, where I had snuggled into sometime close to dawn, I see the glimmer of a lone tear shining in the corner of her eyes. "Baby, what is it?" I immediately become alarmed, already fearing the worst.

She tightens her hold on me though, not letting me pull away from her embrace. "God, you're beautiful." I can't hold back the sigh of relief from escaping my lips. She reaches down and places the sweetest of kisses on my worried brow. "I told you Lexi, no second guessing." Now her expression turns to one of anxiety. "Unless of course you……"

"I love you." And to prove it I lean up and seal the vow with a passionate kiss, designed to toss whatever bad thoughts she was having, right over that balcony outside our window.

I pull away after I feel myself starting to hyperventilate from the lack of oxygen to see a content smile on my lover's face, her eyes still closed, as if in a dream. "Mmmm, I love you too."

I snuggle back down into her arms, "So now that we've avoided the awkward morning after conversation, can we try and get some sleep?" I tease.

She leans in to nibble on an already over sensitive earlobe. "I suppose. Since we certainly didn't get any last night." I try desperately to suppress the moan, without much luck.

"You're going to be insatiable, aren't you?" I mock pout, the idea actually giving me quite the second wind. Or would that be the fourth or fifth wind………..

"Lexi, baby, have you SEEN your body?"

"So is that a yes?"

"That's a shut up and kiss me."

The End