Four and Twenty: Chapter 24
Disclaimer: Even after all of this, I don't own Pretty Little Liars. All rights belong to ABC Family and Sara Shepard respectively.
Alright, here it is folks, the final chapter of Four and Twenty. It's been quite a ride, and I thank each and every one of you that has reviewed, read, and hung on for the journey. I'd list all of you, and I wish I could give all of you ice cream sundaes for being so awesome, but that'd take forever and I'm broke…so enough of my rambling. Ready? Read, Review, and Enjoy this final chapter!
July 2018: You and Me by Lifehouse
There are some things in life that certain. Birth. Death. Growth. Other things are not so constant. They're transitory, ever shifting, ever changing. Emotions. Beliefs. Decisions. Those unpredictable things, those crazy moments and events and feelings that make up the roller coaster of life are what matter most. It'd taken Aria Montgomery two very long and very dramatic years to realize that. She'd flown from one side of the earth and back, lost one friend and gained another, broken her heart and healed it. And most importantly of all, she'd come out stronger, loved deeper, and at the end of the day, lived fuller.
Of course that realization didn't really come to fruition until she purchased a one way ticket to California and shoved as much as she could into a carryon bag. Like all of her other crazy, life-altering decisions, Aria didn't really have a plan. She'd woken up alone for the sixty-fifth day and decided she was done. Done being alone. Done crying herself to sleep at night. Done being without him.
She slept through most of the flight, made her eleven o'clock connection in Chicago, and landed in Los Angles at four. Aria tried to call Ezra and warn him that she was coming—ten times in fact—but he hadn't answered a single one. And had she not been so excited to finally be making the right choice, she would've been a bit pissed off. As it was though, she couldn't be.
He didn't get off work until seven, and she figured she'd just go ahead and wait for him outside of the office building. She knew he hated surprises, but Aria had a feeling this was one he'd certainly appreciate. By the time 6:30 came around, she'd dropped her stuff off at his hotel, showered, and changed into something a bit more appropriate for the sweltering weather.
At 7:00 on the dot, Ezra strolled out of the office building, his cell phone in one hand and a brief case in the other. Aria had called him ten times. A sinking feeling shot through him—what if something had happened, what if she'd been hurt? He paused just outside the revolving doors and dialed her number, taking one deep breath to ensure he didn't sound like a panicked fool when she answered—if she answered.
"What's wrong? Did something happen?" Yeah, not sounding like a panicked fool didn't happen.
"Nothing happened. Why?" Aria peered around the corner from her perch on a bench and tried to find him. When she did, her face split into a large grin and she struggled to keep excitement out of her voice. The California sun had been good for him. He was tanner, his hair was lighter, and he seemed leaner—although that could've been the flattering cut of the suit he was wearing.
"Well, you called ten times today. I thought…never mind." He ran a hand through his hair and started through the courtyard, pausing to stare at the fountain in the middle. "So what are doing right now?"
Aria slid down from her seat and started to follow him, her steps quick but quiet. 'I'm checking out this cute guy…"
Ezra frowned and shoved his free hand into his pocket. "And you're telling me that because…"
Aria giggled wrapped her arms around him from behind. "Because I'm looking at you."
He dropped his phone straight into the fountain. "Aria!" The grin that spread over his face was so large it was nearly painful. Ezra turned and embraced her tightly, lifting her feet right off the ground in his eagerness. "What are you doing here?"
She laughed and sank back down onto her own two feet. "Visiting you of course." One arm snaked around his neck, and she tugged his face down towards hers. "I missed you too much. When I woke up this morning, I don't know…I just had to come."
Ezra smiled and slid both hands around her waist. "I'm glad. I love you, Aria." He kissed her then, his lips meeting hers fully and passionately. There was nothing slow and gentle about the kiss, there'd be time for that later. For now, it was rough and brutal, full of give and take. It'd been too long; they'd both endured too much to share anything less.
When he pulled away she was panting and a smirk was forming on her lips.
"Wow. I've missed that too." She kissed him one last time before untangling herself from his vice like grip. He stood there staring at her, a goofy smile on his lips. Aria giggled and gave his hand a small pull. "Well, are you going to show me L.A. or not?"
"I'd rather just stare at you."
She rolled her eyes and then softened. "I'll be here for awhile. There's plenty of time for that. But I'm hungry, I've been flying all day, and I want to spend the rest of the evening seeing the city before my boyfriend locks me in his hotel room for an indefinite period."
He shook his head. "I'd let you out…eventually." Ezra kissed her again, just because he could. It was surreal having her there beside him, and he was afraid if he let her go she'd disappear.
Nightfall brought a comforting quiet. They'd found refuge from the chaos of the city on the beach, and were quite happy to curl up together and watch the tide come in. The sand was cool and soft in the fading light, and Aria couldn't have imagined a better way to end her first evening in Los Angles.
"It's beautiful out here. Look at the moon." She relaxed against him, and settled herself between his legs. "How is it that you've never come out here before tonight?"
He shrugged before wrapping his arms over her shoulders. "Just didn't have the time I guess. I'm glad you're here." Ezra pressed a kiss to the top of her head.
"Me too." Aria smiled and picked up a handful of sand, letting the grains run slowly through her fingers before she spoke again. "I'm surprised I didn't come sooner. These past two months have been miserable."
"What made you?"
She bit her lip and tried to come up with a good answer. "A lot of things, I suppose. I can't sleep without you next to me, and I'm lonely all the time. Audrey and I had a conversation too—she's wise beyond her years."
Aria shifted to face him, her eyes impossibly large and beautiful beneath the light of the moon. "She made me realize that I've always taken things so literally, that I need to make decisions that aren't a part of my plan."
He furrowed his brow and traced a feather light trail down her cheek with one finger. "Your plan?"
"A few years on my own, engaged at twenty-six, my first kid at thirty—that kind of plan."
"Oh." He fought a grin as it began to dawn on him what she was saying. "Aria, what are you trying to say?
She took a deep breath and tilted her lips towards his for a brief kiss before responding. "I'm saying that I want you, forever. And I don't care if it's not a part of my plan—screw the plan. This, coming out here was completely insane; I quit my job—again. But it's the good kind of crazy; we're the good kind of crazy. No matter how far away we are from each other, or what we're going through, we always end up together. Always." A sigh escaped her, and she brushed her lips lightly against his again. "I'm rambling, aren't I?"
He smiled tenderly. "Yes, but you can keep going. I think I like where this is heading."
"Anyway, I guess what I'm getting at…" She trailed off for a moment to collect her thoughts. "God, I don't know why I'm so nervous."
He arched an eyebrow at her, prompting her to continue. That one little look, that tiny facial expression that made her heart melt and explode all at the same time gave her the courage to continue.
"Ezra, marry me."
Aria's proposal wasn't really a proposal at all. With the stubborn glint in her eyes, the thrust of her chin, and the firm line of her mouth, it was all demand. Saying no was clearly not an option. But rejection never crossed Ezra's mind.
"Aria, I…" He ran a hand through her hair, smoothing out the strands in the hopes that bringing order to the tousled curls would bring order to his jumbled thoughts. This was not what he'd envisioned. He'd wanted roses and candle light, and soft music, and a good size ring—not cold sand and a chilly breeze. Yet it was perfect in its own right. In retrospect to his ideals of the proper proposal, Aria's request was very…them. Their relationship was blunt, upfront, and a bit rough around the edges—and it most certainly wasn't perfect.
"Say yes, Ezra. Come on, just say it." Aria straightened up, scooting up on her knees to face him. "Say it."
Ezra chuckled and leaned forward to kiss her. "Yes." He grinned against her lips and kissed her again.
She squealed and wrapped her arms tightly around his neck, the force of her actions knocking him onto his back. "I…" Aria kissed him again. "Love…" Another kiss. "You."
He shook his head and pulled away, his fingers trailing lightly down her sides. "I love you too, Mrs. Fitz."
Aria softened, her lips quirking up tenderly. "I like the sound of that. Aria Fitz? Has a nice ring to it, don't you think?"
Late that night, long after Aria had fallen asleep in his arms, Ezra lay awake, staring up at the ceiling as the movement of the fan cast long shadows upon the walls. Two years ago he'd been watching Aria cry herself sick over a man who was never meant to be hers. And now, she was snuggled safely beside him, her breathing soft and cheek warm as it pressed against his bare chest.
He'd always believed in fate, in the power of will. Their relationship was testament to that. Two years, which wasn't very long in the grand scheme of things, had been enough to change a lifetime—two lifetimes really. The past twenty-four months had been an uphill struggle, full of heartbreak and heartache, tears, smiles, laughter, fights, planes, different cities, different countries, different jobs. There'd been several moments when Ezra had wondered if anything, if everything was worth the trouble he went through, the pain he endured. Yet when Aria stirred and slurred a sleepy love you, he knew it had been.
Two years. Twenty-four months. Forever.
A/N: And that's all she wrote, folks. Well not really, I've got a little bit of an author's note. First, thank you (again) to each and every one of you that reviewed—or even read (and there's THOUSANDS of you)! I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did.
A GIANT thank you to .soprano (none of this would've been possible without you), and several hugs to all of my friends over on the twitter-verse. You guys make my day!
Secondly, I've decided to do a sequel to Miserable at Best. It's going to be A LOT of work, and I don't really have a plan…yet. Suggestions would be awesome (songs to use for chapters are nice too). Look out for the first chapter sometime this week. It should be interesting.
The Promise of Possibilityprobably has a few chapters left in it too, so check often.
I think that's it.