well this is it. *sobs uncontrollably at the thought of this ending* aha it's very sad but i'm very excited for the conclusion so hopefully you guys like it. and please review, this is my first fic and i would love to know your final thoughts, good or bad. even if you've never reviewed i know you've been reading this and have an opinion too! i'd like to thank everyone who read/reviewed/pm-ed me about this fic i appreciate it very much. and just fyi i do have another fic idea, a 4-parter that i'm very excited about, and will hopefully get to you guys in November. even though i was so positive i'd be a fan-fiction one-hit wonder because i really don't enjoy writing that much, my new idea has been eating at me so i'll have to do at least one more ha. anyways, read and enjoy and review and i love you guys!

Chapter Eighteen

"What did you give her?" storming through the office like a madman, Niles approached Maxwell's desk and began the questioning without even a "hello."

"Niles, welcome back Old Man, we sure have missed you too," Maxwell looked up from his paperwork and took his glasses off, dryly responding to his butler who for some reason looked like he was going to kill him.

"What did you give her?" Niles repeated, now needing to know what C.C.'s motives were for joining him. Her refusal to tell him angered him to extreme degrees.

"Give who?" Maxwell asked, thoroughly confused.

"C.C. What did you give her in order to convince her to accompany me in London?" he was seething now, pacing back and forth in the small office.

"What makes you think I gave her anything?"

"She's not telling me and for some reason is acting like she did this on her own accord. You and I both know that woman would not just do me a favor as big as this without getting something out of it. So what was it, Sir?" Niles stopped pacing and looked his old friend straight in the face, waiting for the answer.

Maxwell sighed. He had hoped this trip would allow his friends to work things out, but apparently they were right back where they started, hell maybe even worse than before. "Niles, I did not give C.C. anything to go with you to England. In fact, it wasn't even my idea for her to do this, it was hers, and I tried stopping her because I didn't think you were in the right state of mind to go to London after the situation with Emily." The producer leaned back in his chair, proud of his apparently on-par instincts that C.C. going would be a mistake.

Niles' eyes popped open in disbelief. "So she got nothing out of this from you?"

"Nothing," Maxwell repeated. "Maybe you should ask her why she did it."

"Yes I'll be sure to do that if she ever decides to speak with me again," Niles moped on the couch. "I don't get it. This would be the perfect opportunity for her to get in your good graces, after all she's only been trying to bed you since the day Sara died," he let out more to himself than to Maxwell. Nonetheless the Brit heard and had to stifle his laugh.

"C.C. is not interested in me," he stated simply.

"Oh please, she's constantly fawning over you, a blind man could see how obsessed she is with the perfect Broadway producer," Niles spat angrily; upset he couldn't offer her what she wanted.

"We're friends, that's it," Maxwell clarified. "And she's mostly 'fawning' over me when you're in the room. She knows it bothers you so that's why she does it. It's kind of funny now that I think about it," he chuckled faintly, getting out of his chair and joining the troubled butler on the sofa.

"Yes, a blonde witch making my life miserable is just hilarious."

"Look Niles, C.C. may sometimes act like she wants me but she knows we wouldn't work out. In fact she told me pursue Miss Fine before she left." That statement nearly brought Niles' jaw to the floor.

"She did?" At Maxwell's nod he confusedly headed for the door, the producer following suit. "Then why would she…."

"Why would you?" Maxwell offered, not wanting to meddle too much.

I'd do it because I'd do anything for her. Anything to make her happy. Anything to possibly get her to love me. My God! Has she loved me this whole time? Even before the trip? Niles' mind was in overdrive and he needed answers immediately. "Excuse me, Sir, I need to discuss this with C.C. at her penthouse."

"No problem and Niles?" Maxwell grabbed his friend's shoulder. "Don't break her heart."

"I won't," Niles quickly ran out the door and headed towards C.C.'s apartment, praying she'd answer.

xxxx

C.C. had changed into yoga pants and a tank-top, not in the mood to leave her apartment for days after that argument with Niles. Sitting on her couch and clutching a still-untouched glass of wine she wracked her brain with thoughts of the man she wanted to hate. I can't believe he doubts my motives for coming with him. Does he really think I'm that evil? Apparently. Wiping the tears away with rage she felt the ring still on her finger. Looking at it only brought fresh drops so she yanked it off and set it on the coffee table, now annoyed at the possibility of Niles coming any second to retrieve it. As if on cue the knocks on her door shook her back to reality. Slowly getting up and wiping away any traces of tears from her face she answered the door.

"Hey," Niles spoke softly, as if afraid words would cause her to slam the door in his face.

"Hey," she said back just as softly, angry at herself for still being undeniably madly in love with this man even after all he's put her through over the years, over the month, over the hour. She opened the door to let him in and he timidly stepped forward.

"I wanted to apologize for assuming you got something out of the trip. Mr. Sheffield set me straight, and I can see what an ass I've been," he said while approaching closer, stopping only when he stood right in front of her and their bodies were mere inches apart.

"It's fine," she said coolly, folding her arms around her body, unwilling to give in just yet, pride winning the battle for now. She noticed how disheveled he looked, clothes slightly worn out from running no doubt, hair a mess, not unlike when she came to his bedroom a week ago.

He sighed at her nonchalant attitude. "Is 'fine' really what you aim for?"

"I try not to set my sights too high for disappointment," she ruefully smiled at the irony, now unable to shake the feeling she'd bypassed for so many years. Disappointed in Niles for not having faith in her intentions. Disappointed in herself for not making them clear before their whole relationship was on the line. Disappointed in the both of them for once again royally screwing things up just when they started making progress.

"You deserve more than that," Niles stayed close but didn't dare touch her, afraid she'd run at the first contact.

"We both do," she assured him quickly. "But the way we sabotage our every chance at being together, I don't think it's ever going to happen," she unfolded her arms and dejectedly dropped them to her sides.

"Sabotage is just our second-nature, of course it's difficult to let such a useful skill go," he reminded her with a half smile, hoping he could convince her it wasn't too late for them. Then he noticed something shiny on her coffee table. "You took your ring off," he observed aloud.

"I figured it was the right thing to do, considering you never gave it to me," she bent over and picked it up, handing it to him, gasping when he held her hand tightly in his own. "It's not mine," she said weakly.

Niles smoothly took the ring from her hand and held it steady on his palm. "But don't you see it is yours?" he questioned gently. "It fits you perfectly, shines when you have it on, and only wants your finger. I know recently it's caused you more harm than good, but C.C., you have to understand, it's been a bit confused as of late; things are perfectly clear now. It . . . loves you," he lifted her chin to look into her eyes as he spoke.

"Really?" her voice shook as she took in his words, wanting so badly for this to work out.

Niles' stomach took a spin at the hopeful look in her eyes, boosting his confidence. "Unfortunately," he responded with a bright smile. "I understand if you don't want it . . ." he trailed, hoping, begging, for her to interrupt him once again and steer things in the right direction. Silence filled the air for many tense seconds as C.C. silently took in his admission, her body stirring in emotions she could barely contain.

"I want it," she spoke before she could change her mind, knowing this was their moment. "I know it can be ridiculously annoying to the point where I want nothing more than to bash it to pieces, but my finger wants nothing else. And I think my heart has grown quite fond of it as well." Seeing his look of relief followed by elation brought the waterworks back with a vengeance. For a different reason this time.

"Good," Niles shakily slid the ring down her finger once again, knowing this was for real, holding her trembling hand in his. "It's yours," he leaned in and whispered against her ear.

"Well finally," C.C. joked through the sprinkles of water trickling down her face. Niles laughed softly while tenderly rubbing his thumb on her hand. The two stared at the ring for a moment and then at the same time peered up at each other, both with nervous yet excited expressions adorning their faces. Slowly, as if still giving each other one last chance to back out, heads came closer until lips joined lips and the love they were trying to fight all these years won the battle they'd been brewing zealously. Niles grabbed onto her waist in his first act of proving he'd never let her go, while C.C. began running her hands along his chest, eager to get his shirt off. Taking in the pleasure of her touch, Niles stood firm in disbelief as she started unbuttoning his polo with surprising efficiency for someone constantly moaning throughout their kisses. Coming to his senses, he slowly walked her out of the living room, never breaking his lips from hers or letting go of his hold on her body. C.C. stumbled backwards over the couch as he led her to the bedroom, smiling the whole time through the pain.

Later that night as he lay in bed with the woman he had long ago deemed unattainable, Niles made a mental note to thank his mother for holding him to their agreement in order to get those rings.

The End