A/N: Thanks to everyone who has reviewed! And another story is already in the works... r/t of course... hope you've enjoyed this fic!

Chapter Forty

Tawny swallowed hard and stared at the wall before her. It was decorated with several black and white photos, a number of them of her and Ren. She closed her eyes and concentrated on keeping herself from breaking down right then and there.

Ren eyed the back of the girl standing several feet in front of her. She had a million things to say to Tawny now, and not one of them was coming to mind. Where could she start?

Tawny turned around then. She parted her lips as if to speak, but no words came out. She sighed, keeping her eyes fixed on the ground, not looking at Ren's face.

"I got your letter," Ren finally managed to speak, she gestured to the letter, which was sticking out of her book on Tawny's nightstand. She'd set it there while she was waiting for the younger girl to come home from school.

Tawny lifted her head a little, again trying to force the words from her throat. What words? I've said everything I can say to her, she thought.

"Tawny," Ren started. "I…" she sighed. "You didn't choose me. You chose to give up on me. I gave you an out, and you took it."

Tawny didn't move. "I didn't… I just thought…"

"Because I thought…I thought that if I asked, you'd give me a chance. Because you loved me."

"Love you," Tawny corrected her. "I love you. I still do."

Ren nodded, avoiding eye contact.

"I'm sorry, Ren," Tawny said, her voice barely above a whisper. "I'm sorry."

Ren turned away from her then, pressing her forehead against the door. She swallowed, blinking fiercely. Inhaling deeply, she tried to regroup. But the more she tried, the harder it was. With Tawny standing there so sad and lonely and more beautiful than ever… it was damn near impossible for Ren to get her thoughts in order.

She felt Tawny's hand gently rest on her shoulder.

"I don't want to do this," she stammered, letting a few tears escape.

"Don't want to do what?" Tawny asked, moving to Ren's side and leaning in close so that she was mere inches from the side of Ren's face.

"This," Ren repeated, a hint of anger in her voice now. "I was…we were…none of this is…"

"I know I messed things up, Ren," Tawny tried. "But I can make it up to you. You just have to let me. Let me try."

"I wanted you to try, and you didn't," Ren muttered. "You didn't even want to give me a chance."

"Ren," Tawny protested nervously.

"No," Ren shook her head. "No, no… this isn't fair, Tawny. It's not fair. I've… moved on."

Tawny bit her lip, tears slipping down her cheeks in spite of her greatest efforts. She'd moved on?

Titling her head to the side, Ren peered over at the blue-eyed girl. Tawny was crying now, her eyes once again fixed on the floor. She'd figured where Ren was going with all of this.

"I've tried to, anyway," she clarified, not feeling right about leaving it so open-ended.

Ren sighed, her head shifting back into place. She stared at her feet and listened to Tawny stepping away from her. Not far, just a step or two away. She heard her inhale slowly, her breath shaking. "Please, Ren."

Ren gulped. Envisioning Tawny behind her, she saw every perfect line in her figure, her dark hair and her smooth skin, her smile, her frown, and her eyes…those two icy, piercing blue eyes. They followed her everywhere. She could feel them burning into her back now.

She took a deep breath and turned around. "Tawny--"

"I gave you a chance, Ren," Tawny interrupted her. "You cheated on me and I gave you a second chance. I hate… I don't want to bring that up… I don't want use that… but it's true. I took awhile, but I gave you a chance. I love you, Ren. I just… I love you."

Ren inhaled again, looking over the younger girl standing there so...broken.

Tawny waited for a response. She could hear her heart thudding in her chest, pounding in her temple. Ren was standing there, looking so confused. Her soft brown eyes were bloodshot and in no way were they hiding the agony she was in. Tawny wanted so badly to just… make everything the way it was. All that she needed was for Ren to make the choice, the right choice. Not the choice Tawny had made months before.

Just open the door and leave, Ren thought to herself. Why? Why leave? Why not give her another chance? She's right. She gave you a chance. She put up with…everything for you. But I can't go through all of this again. But can I…do this… just leave her? After everything? How do I do that?

"Tawny," she tried again. But she couldn't find the words. She sighed, frustrated with herself, with her confusion. Words weren't what she needed right now. What she needed right now was… Tawny. She looked over at the girl, still standing there. What she'd needed for months was Tawny. That was it. Tawny was it. She was everything. Ren cocked her head to the side as a strange feeling of relief passed through her. There really wasn't anything to think about here. She knew what she wanted. And she knew what both of them needed.

Ren reached out and grabbed Tawny by the arm, pulling her in close and wrapping her arms around her. She ran her fingers up through Tawny's soft hair, resting her hand on the back of her head.

Tawny tightly squeezed Ren against her body as relief surged through her. "I've missed you so much."

"You have no idea," Ren breathed, leaning back and looking down at her. She half-smiled and planted a soft kiss on Tawny's forehead. She moved her hands to the sides of Tawny's face, wiping away the few remaining tears with her thumbs. She pressed her lips against Tawny's, trying to make up for the past three and a half months in one passionate kiss.

When she finally broke the kiss, they were both breathless.

Ren laughed lightly. "A little overkill there."

"No," Tawny shook her head, grinning. "It was perfect."

After a few moments of silence, Tawny spoke up again, her voice a whisper. "So, are we ok? Are we going to make it?"

"Yeah," Ren nodded, taking a deep breath. "Well, I'm in, anyway."

"I'm in too then," she said, pulling Ren's face down to hers and kissing her again, this time pulling her toward the bed as they kissed.

"Hey, hey," Ren pulled her head back as the two of them toppled down onto Tawny's bed.

"What?" Tawny peered up, grinning devilishly.

Ren smiled, and kissed her again. "No."

"No?" Tawny pulled Ren down on top of her by her shirt collar. "How can you say no?"

"Because, your mom is downstairs."

"So?" Tawny asked, starting to kiss Ren's neck. "She's not going to walk in."

"She could hear."

"We're not that loud."

"I'm not. You are," Ren said, flashing a devilish grin of her own.

"I am not," Tawny countered in mock offense.

"Whatever you say, honey," Ren replied, kissing her again. "Later."

Tawny nodded, smiling. "I can wait, no problem. I've done it before."

Ren laughed.

"How long are you in town for?" Tawny asked a few seconds later.

"I go back January 3rd," Ren answered, tucking a stray lock of hair behind Tawny's ear.

"So, we have almost a month?" Tawny clarified, moving as close to Ren as she could. "I want to spend as much of it with you as I can... you'll be sick of me when you go back."

"Yeah, we have a month," Ren nodded, slipping her arms around Tawny and hugging her close. "I'd never get sick of you, Tawny Dean."

"Never? Really?" Tawny asked, in all seriousness. "I can be pretty annoying."

"Yes, that's true," Ren laughed. "But you're my girl."

"I am," Tawny agreed. "We have a month then."

"And then maybe you can come out to New Haven for spring break."

"Yeah, maybe I can," she smiled.

"It'll be over before we know it," Ren whispered.

"Uh huh," Tawny nodded, kissing Ren's temple. "And next year we'll just be…what? An hour and a half…two hours…apart? If I get in to NYU, anyway."

"Something like that, and you will get in" Ren replied, preoccupied with tangling her fingers in Tawny's hair. "Tawny?"

"Yeah?"

"I love you too."

Tawny smiled back at her.

"Keep that in mind," Ren said, sitting up.

"What? Why?" Tawny sat up with her, confused.

Ren reached over and grabbed her book off the nightstand. She pulled out a photograph. "So, um, I took this picture on your birthday…or, the morning after… you remember, that night?"

"Of course I remember that night," she laughed. "That was when I got you to try the thing… the bendy thing…"

"Yeah, well anyway," Ren cut her off, blushing.

Tawny laughed.

"I really don't know how you're going to react to this, but here, I felt guilty, so I want to at least let you know about it," she shoved the photo at Tawny, and tried to read her reaction.

Tawny's eyes went wide. "My God… seriously? You…"

Ren didn't speak, only waited on her girlfriend's full reaction.

"This is awful, I look awful," Tawny shook her head. "You don't get this back."

Ren nodded, still noticeably nervous.

"I'm not mad, it's…" Tawny smiled, putting a comforting hand on Ren's knee. "Well, I wouldn't have suspected you of this."

Ren grinned and shrugged. "Me neither."

Tawny's face straightened then. "You didn't show this to anyone, did you?"

"No," Ren shook her head, then adding: "only Louis."

"WHAT?"

"Kidding," Ren laughed. "My God, he's the last person I'd show it to."

Tawny sighed, laughing. "Not funny."

"I really can't keep it?" Ren asked.

"No, it's… I look so…no," Tawny just shook her head. "I could take you some better photos of me, if you want. Although, it only seems fair that I get some of you too."

"Ooh, sexy pictures? Will you be sexy in them, Tawny?"

Tawny laughed. "I can try."

Ren laughed and pulled her into a hug.

"Oh, I need to call Maureen and tell her the good news," Tawny said, reaching for her bag and digging out her cell phone.

"Maureen?" Ren asked. "You've been talking with my grandmother?"

"Yeah, I have her on speed-dial," Tawny grinned. "She's my second-favorite person ever, remember?"

Ren nodded. "And I'm your number one favorite person ever… although I don't know if that is on your list."

"It's implied by the whole thing, isn't it?" Tawny said. "Clearly I am fond of you… if you didn't get that from the list, well, then that's…really sad."

"Speaking of the list," Ren continued, pulling the papers out of her book and unfolding them. "I have a question."

"I'm not explaining 69."

Ren's shoulders dropped. "Well, fine."

Tawny laughed. "Come here."

Ren smiled. She tossed her book to the end of the bed and took Tawny's face in her hands and kissed her.

Tawny moved her hands over Ren's body, settling both on the small of her back and pulling Ren as close to her as she could.

"Ah, is your door locked?" Ren asked, breaking the kiss.

"What?" Tawny was caught off guard. "I don't think so. You shut it. Did you lock it?'

Ren quickly moved off the bed and went over to the door, twisting the lock. She turned and grinned at Tawny. "Yeah, so, I can't wait until later."

Tawny smiled. "Of course you can't. You're all about the sex."

Ren laughed and pinned Tawny down against the bed. "You know me."

"I do," Tawny smiled. She pulled Ren's face down to hers. "And you know what?"

"What?" Ren asked.

"I was really right when I said we had potential, when I said this would be worth it."

"Yeah," Ren nodded, smiling. "You really were."