DISC: I DO NOT own any of the chars from TSWOAM. They belong to Ken Lipman and Nickelodeon.
Enjoy!
God loves you!

"I'll Always Be With You"

Chapter 4

Annie and Alex spent the next day hanging out together. They talked about anything and everything while Annie nursed her little sister back to health.

She was relieved when Alex was able to eat some more soup and didn't get sick, even though she still felt a little queasy.

Her migraine was also going away thanks to the shot Jodi had given her the night before.

"Well it looks like you're on the mend." Annie said with a grin. "I'm glad you're feeling better, Al."

"Me too." Alex agreed. "I just hope the horse radish wears off soon."

"It will." Annie assured her. "It just might take a little longer this time."

Alex nodded as she gave Annie a hug.

"I don't want to leave tomorrow." She said a few minutes later.

"I know you don't. But you have to. Look at it this way. You'll have one incredible story to tell Ray when you get home."

Alex smiled.

"Well when you put it that way…" She said as her voice trailed off.

Annie grinned and ruffled Alex's hair.

For the rest of the day, the girls hung out and Alex continued to recover.

Annie decided to order out for dinner that night. She didn't want to risk taking Alex to the cafeteria and she knew she wasn't ready to eat anything really heavy.

After the food came, the girls ate and talked about this and that.

They slept together for the last time that night.

Alex smiled as she felt Annie comb a hand through her hair.

"I love you, Annie." She mumbled just before she fell asleep.

"I love you too, Alex." Annie replied. "And I always will." With that, she too fell asleep for the rest of the night.

Sooner than Alex would have liked Annie was waking her up. She was gentle about it, but insistent nonetheless.

"Come on, Al." Annie coaxed. "Mom and Dad will be here in a few hours."

Alex groaned as her green eyes opened.

"Annie, what time is it?" She asked.

"Almost ten." Annie replied. "Mom and Dad will be here around one-thirty."

"Can't you protect me?" She pleaded.

Annie smiled as she pulled Alex into a sitting position and hugged her tightly.

"I will always protect you if I can. Unfortunately, this isn't one of those times. I'll help you as best I can though. Okay?"

"Okay." Alex said.

"How do you feel?" Annie asked.

"Sick to my stomach." Alex said honestly as she felt the familiar tingle on her tongue.

"You're just nervous." Annie assured her.

"Annie!" Alex whined.

"Aw, my poor little sister." Annie said half sincerely and half teasingly. "You're gonna be okay."

Alex knew Annie spoke the truth, even though she didn't' feel it at the moment.

The girls made the most of the time they had left together.

Alex did get sick once, but Annie assured her it was from nerves rather than from her not feeling good.

Her fever had broken and she had eaten half of a breakfast sandwich and drank two cups of orange juice earlier.

As the girls were talking after Annie coaxed Alex to eat a plain turkey sandwich with tomato and lettuce and drink some iced tea, there was a knock at the door.

"Ready?" Annie asked sympathetically.

"No." Alex answered honestly.

Annie had a feeling her sister didn't need the bit of horse radish that was left in her system to give her that answer.

"It's gonna be okay, Al." She assured her. "I'll protect you as best I can."

"Thanks." Alex replied.

Before she opened the door, Annie pulled her little sister in for a hug.

They stayed that way for a long time.

There was so much Alex wanted to say to her and vice versa.

Alex had a feeling the hug said it all.

Taking a deep breath, Annie squeezed Alex's hand reassuringly as she opened the door.

Their parents sighed with relief when they saw their youngest daughter in one piece.

Mrs. Mack reached out to hug her and Alex hesitated. She locked eyes with Annie and her sister nodded to show her it was okay.

Alex walked closer and her mother pulled her in for a hug.

"Alex, Alex, Alex…" Barbara said as a few tears coursed down her cheeks. "You had us really worried! You gave us quite a scare, young lady."

"I know." Alex said softly. "I'm sorry, Mom. I really am. It's just that, Annie's my sister and I wasn't' ready for her to leave yet. I'm really sorry."

"I know you are, honey." Mrs. Mack said as she hugged Alex tightly and put a hand through her hair. "Don't ever do something like that again."

"I won't." Alex said honestly. "I promise."

"My turn." Mr. Mack said as he pulled Alex into a hug.

While Alex and her father were reuniting, Mrs. Mack turned her attention to her eldest.

"Annie, how are you doing?" She asked, embracing her tightly. "I'm sorry for everything."

"It's really okay." Annie assured her, hugging back. "It was an interesting first day. But like I told Alex, I wouldn't have traded it for anything. It made me realize how much I'm going to miss her."

On that note, Mr. Mack let Alex go and she practically flew into Annie's arms for one more hug.

"Shh, shh, it's okay, Al. It's okay…" Annie soothed as she heard her let out a sob. "Everything's gonna be okay. Before you know it, I'll be back home for Thanksgiving and you'll be counting down the days until I leave again."

"No I won't!" Alex said tearfully.

Annie giggled, despite the few tears in her own eyes.

"Call me when you get home, okay? I love you, little sister."

"I love you too." Alex said, trying to calm down.

After holding onto each other for an extra minute, the two sisters finally pulled away.

"You have a good first week, you hear me?" Mrs. Mack told Annie. "We love you."

"I love you guys too." Annie replied.

As she watched them leave, she mouthed something to Alex.

Her little sister nodded and flashed her a brave smile.

It took all Alex's self control not to run back into Annie's arms for one more hug.

The ride home was a silent one. Alex slept most of the way and listened to her walkman the rest of the way.

When they got home, her parents told her while they understood why she did it, they still had to ground her.

Alex understood and took her punishment better than they expected.

"We love you so much, honey." Mrs. Mack told her as she hugged her and kissed her good night.

"I love you too." Alex replied.

Getting upstairs to her room-she felt strange calling it her room, she flopped down on the bed and stared out the window.

"I love you, Annie." She whispered. "I'm gonna miss you."

As though her sister had read her thoughts, her cell phone rang.

Alex recognized the ring as a text message.

Flipping open the phone, she smiled when she saw the message Annie had written her.

Hey Al. I miss you already. I hope you feel better soon. Remember, no matter how faraway I am, I'll always be with you.

A minute after she had read the message, her phone rang with the ring tone she had selected for Annie.

"Hi." She said. "I got your text message. Thanks."

"No problem." Annie replied. "So how long are you grounded for?"

"A month." Alex replied.

"It'll go by fast." Annie encouraged. "Besides, before you know it, I'll be home for fall break."

This cheered Alex up immensely.

"Oh yeah! That's right." She said, sounding happier than she had felt since they had gone to drop Annie off at the airport.

Annie giggled and Alex could tell she was rolling her eyes playfully.

The girls talked for the next two hours until Alex yawned and Annie insisted she get some rest.

"You're still getting over that stomach flu you had." She reminded her. "You need rest if you're going to completely heal from it."

"I know." Alex assured her. "Night, Annie. I love you."

"I love you too, Alex. Sweet dreams."

"You too."

As Alex clicked off her phone, she smiled. She was gonna miss Annie, but she was right about one thing. She wasn't that far away. And no matter what, she would always be with her.

With that final comforting thought in her head, Alex fell asleep.

She slept well for the first time in a long time…

As Alex's mind floated back to the present, she smiled to herself as she finished the e-mail she had started a half an hour ago.

Well, I have to go. Ray's downstairs and he wants to go to that new ice cream parlor at the mall. He wants to try the three flavor combo they have.

Talk to you soon,
Love always,

Your sister, puddle girl aka Alex

Clicking the send button, Alex smiled in satisfaction when she saw the message had been sent.

Putting her hair in a quick ponytail, she threw the shirt Annie had sent her a few days ago over her T-shirt and headed downstairs to meet Ray.

Ray smiled when he saw his best friend. He was glad to have her home again. He had been worried when she had pulled her temporary disappearing act.

"Finally finish that e-mail to Annie?" He asked with a knowing grin.

"Yup." Alex replied. "Come on."

"Okay."

They walked in silence for a few minutes.

As they neared the mall, Ray asked the question he had been wanting to ask since Alex had returned a few days ago.

"Al, how did you manage to stowaway on the plane and end up at MIT with Annie?"

Alex smiled as they rounded the corner to the mall.

"It's a long story." She said. "I'll tell you when we're sitting down. I guess you can say it was an accident."

Ray nodded, a knowing twinkle in his eye as he locked gazes with Alex.

He had a feeling that the story Alex was about to tell him was one he would never forget. That was fine with him. In fact, he wouldn't have it any other way, just like he wouldn't have Alex any other way.

THE END