It's a love story, baby just say YES.

DEREK

Her first kiss is messy and unforgiving as he plants his hands across the small of her back. She is sixteen, and the world is at her feet, but she knows little of how to work her way into it. He is grinning against her mouth, but she is trying to weasel her way from under his touch as the porch light flicks twice. Thanks Dad. Awkward is not a fully enough descriptive word to illuminate what she is feeling, crossing the threshold to her bedroom.

Blond hair lightly tousled and rose lips pinched swollen from a loss of virginity, she flops backwards on the bedspread and giggles like she's eight. All happy endings of fairytales, pretty ball gowns and sparkling jewels, handsome prince holding her fingers as she twirls and whirls around the dance floor. If this is the moment she's been wanting and waiting for with baited breath, then why does she feel exhausted at the fact of playing Mom and planning for the fabulous wedding that will surely come one day after college? Which they will attend together no question, of course.

Being eight was easier, she had far less to contend against, and her first kiss made fireworks go off in the background with Disney music. It was nice. And for now, since she knew no better, nice would do. I guess.

EVAN

He is the first boy that talks to her when she gets to CRU. He's tall and kinda cute in that super stereotypical jock way that she always liked when she was sixteen and dating poor, sweet, stupid Derek. She smiles wanly when he rushes off to get her a drink, not planning a wedding or their 3 kids in the suburbs of Chicago with matching blond hair and green eyes, but just enjoying the fact that she is worthy to be looked at. A fact she knows well enough since she was six and wore a pink dress to kindergarten and wore a tiara all day long, but still it's nice to be acknowledged just the same.

She thinks nice is becoming a common word when it comes to Prince Charming. Was he supposed to be nice or was it something else?

Dancing to her own beat, her baby blue skirt flares around her kneecaps, shyly flattering her sun kissed late summer skin as she waits in time, begging for a best friend and place to belong here. At this place where she knows little to nothing about herself or her possibilities. She has a friend, her first, that could be the other half she always wanted. And that fact is enough to deal with the nice (semi-sordid) guy, who she slightly recalls is named Evan, going to get her a drink. This is nice.

CAPPIE

His eyes are way too blue. They're making her dizzy. And when he smiles at her, she feels her heart contract just a bit too much for her liking. She has always been in control. For once she feels it spiraling out of her hands and into the horizon. A real smile stretches across her face; her cheeks are starting to ache just a bit. But she loves it. This is not nice. It's better.

CAPPIE

She agrees to a first date after the KT rush party. He picks her up at her dorm room, ignoring all the inquisitive glances from her hall mates, as he ties a blindfold around her cat green eyes. She is laughing so hard and he can barely walk because he is so nervous. She wonders where they're going, but she could care less about it as she thinks this is just as fun if not better, just to hold her tiny hand inside his bigger one as they run through campus just before dusk on a Friday night.

When he takes the blindfold off, they are in the outside amphitheater on the far reaches of the university. It's quiet and serene and the way he is looking at her while he talks and she talks back is making her stomach do cartwheels around the butterflies. They drink cold beer and snack on the dinner he has made, which tastes too spicy for her liking, but for some reason she can't understand, is the best thing she's ever tasted.

(From this point forward, she always asks for more curry powder on her food.)

The sun is coming up, and she is falling asleep in his lap, his head in nodding forward from fatigue. They aren't done talking as he walks her back to her dorm, so he asks her if he can take her out again that same day. She agrees, apple red flushing her face, and he ducks his eyes, trying to contain his smile. He tells her that he will pick her up at seven, and when she closes the door, even though she is so tired that she can barely stand, she wishes it was seven already. She hears him shout "YES" with vigor, and is still grinning when her head hits the pillow.

CAPPIE

The first time he kisses her, he sort of misses her mouth. He is a bundle of nerves and she is shaking as he places his vibrating lips on her own. They laugh and shake off the awkward moment as she opens her bedroom door. His eyes cloud over when she puts one foot inside the room, but with one swift movement he ganks her arm from the doorknob, and brushes her breasts against his chest.

They are so close, if she could concentrate, which she can't, she could count the freckles on his nose. He takes her hair, tucks it behind her ear, and placing a warm hand on her cheek, he gently, but firmly, presses her mouth to his. Every thought she ever had about nice goes flying out the third story window of her bedroom, as his hands weave through her golden locks, small wisps of air living on her face then dying on her cherry lips.

Breathless and without explanation, he turns crimson and mutters "whoa". Her smile is so big, she's afraid it will break her face. She kisses his nose, attempting in vain to hide her blush, and they both split into boughs of laughter. He kisses her again, and she sighs into his mouth.

Nice leaves her vocabulary. Permanently.

CAPPIE

She realizes at nineteen that Prince Charming comes in all shapes and sizes and variations. She wouldn't change hers for anything. Okay, so maybe he smokes a lot of weed and isn't very motivated and can't stand her sisters, except for Ashleigh, but she has her faults too. She has been known to blow off a day-date in the library [aka making out amongst the Victorian lit section] to hang with the girls or to not stick around during his 5 hour karaoke marathons at Dobler's.

However, she loves the fact that he'll sneak her into chapter meetings late, just so that they can have one more kiss. She loves the fact that the after effect of his getting stoned is to call her just to talk about anything she wants. She loves the fact that him and Ashleigh have regular coffee time on Thursday mornings before their PYSC 201 course.

She loves all of it.

CAPPIE

When he tells her that he loves her for the first time, they are in the parking lot of a convenience store right outside campus. She is laughing as they pull open the doors to his car, tossing in bags of Cheesaritos and Ding-Dongs for late night cramming sessions, lest he should forget to go to the cafeteria.

She has a Ding-Dong halfway in her mouth, chocolate on her lips, and he is trying not to smirk as he wipes it off her the corner of her face. His eyes turn a lighter color of the Mediterranean sea, and he blurts it out quick, almost unrecognizable. She asks what he said. This time he doesn't avoid her gaze, rather looks dead into it, and says "I love you, Casey."

Smiling she replies, "I love you too, Cap."

The ride back to campus is comfortably quiet, and she remembers the moment, replaying it over and over to herself in her dorm late that night, clutching her pillow and giggling like her eight year old self always wanted: that happy ending, all ball gowns and sparkling jewelry, handsome prince twirling and whirling her around a dance floor.

She giggles all the night long, tossing and turning, praying for tomorrow to come quicker so that she can be with him all over again.

CAPPIE

She plans a future with him over the following week, after a lazy weekend break of lounging in the sun, playing Frisbee, and watching marathons of scary movies just so that she can snuggle into his arms and he can laugh at her screaming.

She never tells him, but she knows they will live happily ever after. She believes this mostly because, for once, she has no plan. Her only plan: be with him. And for this time around, she is happy with that more than anything.

(He never tells her, but he's been planning a future since he first laid eyes on her.)

CAPPIE

The first time they sleep together, it is uncomfortable. And she cries afterwards. He holds her, speaking in a soothing voice, hands playing figure eights across her bare back, shuffling the hair against her neck. He tells her that he loves her and that it is supposed to suck the first time. This makes her choke out a laugh, and he smiles in the darkness. She moans something about not getting it "right". He tells her not to worry, that they have their whole lives to get it "right", and she looks at him through misty eyes in disbelief.

He says nothing, just lays her head down on his chest, and talks to her until she falls asleep. The next day, she wakes up first, watching his tufts of cocoa brown bounce and bob as he breathes. She flicks her fingertips through his wisps, ghost of a smile dancing on her mouth.

Slowly he stirs, wrapping a hand around hers, and with light sparking in his eyes asks if she wants to try again. Giggling, she turns into him and they don't get out of bed for the next five hours.

He deems that afternoon that they already got it "right".

CAPPIE

He won't tell her why he so badly has to go to the bookstore on the way to class the next day. She's a bit pissed when he tells her that she can't come in either. Thirteen minutes later he emerges with an ungodly large smug look on his face.

She begs to know what the hell is going on. He just kisses her forehead, hands her coffee, and scampers off the Roman history.

Later that day, she is in his bedroom, waiting on him to return from the vending machine raid, when she spies the bag from the bookstore on his desk. Feeling sneaky and a little underhanded, she reaches into the bag, roots around and finds a leather box. Her heart catches in her throat as she hears footsteps walking down the hallway and whistling to the tune of Jerry Garcia's "Box of Rain", quickly snapping open the flap, she peeks at what's inside.

Nestled on a bed of burgundy velvet are his letters.

She notes that she is irrevocably in love as she stashes the box back as the lock clicks. He tosses her a Ding-Dong and settles into bed, wrapping an arm around her. She grins hugely, and he flicks his eyes over to the bag. Rolling his eyes, he pounces on her and they don't study for the rest of the afternoon.

CAPPIE

They have their first fight after he gets drunk and goes to a strip club with Egyptian Joe. She wants to cry when he apologizes though. Until two days later when he forgets to call her cause he was getting stoned and watching Old School for the 800th time.

EVAN

The next time her supposed boyfriend is caught up in his karaoke marathon, a world record for him at 6+ hours, she's ready to leave. Even though his dedication is sweet and makes her feel fuzzy, it's late and she's tired.

Her boyfriend's roommate walks her home. And it is not without irony that the super superficial jock walks home the beauty. It's nice, she thinks. But just nice. However just nice it is to her, Cappie almost beats Evan to death in his sleep for the, what he considers, not so chivalrous act.

CAPPIE

The All Greek Ball is coming up fast and soon. She and Cappie are out shopping for dresses and tuxes in town. He tries on lots of tuxes to make her happy, to please her sisters, and he obliges, making a plan to get a sleek navy dinner jacket with a matching tie, just a few shades lighter. He figures this will work with the ice blue lace dress she tried on last. Emerging from the dressing room, barefoot, pink toenails, hair strewn around her shoulders, she looks like a goddess. He asks why she chose this dress, and she flushes, mumbling under her breath about how good it looked on the rack.

He tells her it looks better on her. She never tells him she chose it because it almost matched the color of his eyes.

CAPPIE

He's an hour late picking her up. She's standing at the door in her ice blue dress, hair perfectly falling against her collarbone. Everyone else is gone and even she knows she is waiting in vain. So she takes matters into her own hands.

EVAN

When she storms into their dorm room on the verge of tears, Evan is surrounded by an army of books and has a few lies ready on hand to defend Cappie. But when he sees her break into a wave of tears, all thoughts of rationality go right out of his head. After all, he saw her first, didn't he?

"You and I could go together."

She raises her eyes, meeting his kindred smile, wondering if maybe nice is all it's supposed to be. Pushing all thoughts of her boyfriend out of her head, she and her "not a date, just a friend" leave for the All Greek Ball. His tie is black and doesn't match her dress, but at least he showed up. To a certain extent.

CAPPIE

She's dancing with Evan, timid of placing a hand in the almost wrong place, while he grins down at her, his hands lightly skimming the hourglass curve of her waist. The touch is knowing and welcome, so she flushes into him a little bit more, hiding a smirk from his vision. Cap feels a dead weight sink in his stomach, pulling deeper down. He doesn't know yet that he will have this feeling for the next two years.

EVAN

One word of out his mouth and he's on the floor with his former best friend punching the side of his jaw. The look in Cappie's eyes is frightening and all the people in the room, decked to the nines, are standing aghast at the scene before them. Casey stands off to the side, burying her face in Ashleigh's shoulder, wincing every time she hears something crack or someone groan or shout. Cappie rams into Evan head first. Evan blocks it with his fist to Cappie's mouth.

This will become a common occurrence for the boys: breaking apart because of her. Little do they know that one day they will come together over her too.

CAPPIE

Casey leaves him for Evan, and Cap seriously considers leaving Cyprus and going back to California. Kappa Tau is the only thing that keeps him. Or so he tells everyone. What really keeps him is the fact that he will not rest until he wins back the girl that he fell in love with the moment that he saw her smile.

He has no plans to get over her. Never has. Never strategizes. Just keeps a steady rotation of girls with no names worth mentioning falling into his bed night after night. He has to keep busy after all.

EVAN

She realizes a few months into her relationship with Evan that she is completely heartsick for Cappie. But there is no turning around now. Evan is all that she ever wanted when she was thinking of that handsome prince. All topaz wheat hair on their sinewy baby boys and matching leaf green eyes. A house in Chicago suburbs near a top notch school so that their children can also train to become lawyers and graduate from Harvard. She wonders when it all became about soul sucking and material wealth and appearance.

She misses picnics and vending machine dinners and butterfly kisses and holding hands just for fun. But she will not admit that she misses him.

EVAN

At the beginning of junior year, she runs into Cappie at Dobler's where he is donning his signature naked Time Square Cowboy ensemble. She fights back a grin when he approaches her as Ash ducks away to the bathroom. He has always been able to do that. To make any semblance of control whirl right out of her fingertips. It's disconcerting and terrifying and it is also the real reason why she is still with Evan. She has the power. She has the control.

Evan sneaks up, insults Cappie, and plants a hard fast one on her mouth. She closes the lids of her cat green orbs and pretends it's the boy with the heartbreaking eyes and cowboy boots. That's all he is. He's pretend.

EVAN

Rush week Evan cheats on Casey with Rebecca Logan. For once in their relationship, she feels that control and semblance of dignity slip betwixt her slender hands. So she finds a way back into it.

CAPPIE

He becomes a reality with her back pushed against the pool table. His hand is squeezing the firm curves of her hourglass figure, lips hungrily drinking her in, other hand twisted gently in her silk locks. She keeps trying to convince herself that is payback, control, power.

It's just an excuse to escape that reality and tumble back into the rabbit hole where she is queen and he is king and the world is their playground. She almost loses face climbing out of his bed the next morning and getting dressed as slowly as possible. Some things have to stay in the balance of nightfall and secrecy and their playground fantasy world is no exception. Still, she lingers, hoping that she'll wake from the nightmare that is her and Evan and their plan for a future.

Instead she wakes the king and coarsely dismisses him, slinking down the creaking house stairs and running smack into their trap Trojan horse. The brothers clap, hoot, holler, whistle, and commit any other vulgar motion as she fruitlessly creates fake excuses. Finally she caves and smiles at them, pointing a finger and getting the hell out of dodge.

It's not a walk of shame until she realizes that she is ashamed of herself for not staying.

EVAN

She tells him they're even over canapés and crudités and watches his eyes flash in anger and disappointment. It's satisfying if not disgusting to regain her throne. When she finds out a week later that Beaver spills the news to the entire Greek system, she doesn't get mad, rather, she just shrugs it off as a fallacy. What would she be doing with Cappie? I mean for god sakes, she's dating Evan Chambers.

Right?

RUSTY

He sees more in the first weeks at college than Casey ever wants him to. When Rusty declines Omega Chi and accepts his bid at Kappa Tau, Casey breathes a sigh of relief, but the night she sees him and Cappie in Dobler's when she is with Evan, her heart pops in her stomach.

Clearly he has already chosen sides. Not that she can blame him.

And since this is their first time for a real sibling relationship, she puts all of herself into it: cheering him on at intramurals against her sorority's wishes, giving and getting advice, coffee chats, and even helping him find a date.

But she almost loses her shit when Cappie drags him to a strip club and tells Rusty their entire history. Almost being the operative word. I mean, he has a right to know, especially when sophomore year comes and he is thrust in a similar Cappie like position. Casey rolls her eyes at the irony.

Still he's her little brother and is happy that he defended her honor from day one.

CAPPIE

Evan lavaliered her. So being the immature imbecile that he is, Cap attempts to win her back. And he is so close when he's on his back in his bedroom with her slim frame puzzling together with his. Now is the time to seal the deal and tell her the truth, even if she won't accept it.

"I know where I wanna be in ten years. Do you?"

"I wanna be with you."

It's probably the most romantic thing anyone could ever say in so little words. And she kinda hates him for it.

Later on that evening, feet squished in the crisp grass of the Omega Chi front lawn, she accepts Evan's lavaliere and Cappie witnesses the whole debacle. She decides that the feeling of growing up is painful and useless if you don't get to at least be happy.

CAPPIE

He only goes to the strip club for one reason.

RUSTY

The truth is shocking and disturbing, but also makes a hell of a lot of sense. He will spend a whole lot of his time plotting and scheming for ways to push his big brother and big sister back together.

EVAN

He breaks up with her when she is elected ZBZ president. She wants to laugh belly laughs at this. Finally has it all and then nothing, just give back the letters and pretend that it is all going to be fine. All going to be fine becomes her mantra. It has to be better than "I'm done with you" and the sound of a door slamming, wasted years flitting out the window into the Ohio breeze.

RUSTY

He watches his sister mope and moan through Christmas, sitting in her room, eyes glazed over from her Dawson's Creek marathon, ice cream stains on her pink pillowcases, and wonders when she became so damn pathetic. I mean, Evan, was such a fucking douche. Is it even worth it to cry and feel sorry about years down the drain?

Every time he hears a muffled cry, he lies to their mother and says that Ashleigh was having some problems and Casey was very involved in aiding her best friend. He sucks at lying, this he knows, but she buys it and Rusty walks by Casey's room, pacing in time with each sob, wishing she would let him help. Math, science, the universe all completely simple. Fixing your sister's broken heart, impossible.

CAPPIE

He wonders when he'll stop bailing her ass out.

(He figures roughly, around never.)

The kiss lasts too long to be innocent. The flask was too deliberate to be friendly. He will not even comment on the All Greek Ball. Flashbacks were hard enough to handle as it is.

(She looks stunning, but when has she not.)

CAPPIE

Sometimes dating Rebecca feels like he's cheating on Casey. It's such a punch to the gut when he sees her descending the ZBZ staircase. Confident, sexy, and still unsure of herself. Like she may be some kind of insufficient, which she never will be. It's like two years ago and he actually makes it to the house on time, and they get that happily ever after.

But it's not two years ago, and he has matched his tie to another girl's dress. Navy blue instead of scarlet red. And she's alone at the foot of the stairs, announcing the name of girl that isn't herself. It feels fifty different kinds of wrong, and he's suffocating under her glances of cat green, desperate for any kind of recognition.

(It was supposed to be us.)

And he leaves her again. It may, very well, be what he is best at.

EVAN

The All Greek Ball is painful to say the very least. And for some reason he still swears to all things holy that he catches her staring at Cappie, and he feels nauseous. It's always going to be that way. He sweeps forward for liquid courage, for anything, and runs right into the past.

CAPPIE

You would think that watching your current girlfriend and ex-girlfriend scream it out in tight jeans and tiny lace camisoles in the KT foyer would insight horniness. Wrong.

CAPPIE

Times like this make him wonder how they always end up in these situations. It's a Thursday night during spring break, and she's swaying tipsy as hell down the beach. Tiny skirt leaving little to the imagination and blue bikini top begging to be untied. It is taking every last bit of self-preservation to keep his hands in his fucking pockets or over his fresh black eye.

He can't help but laugh at her shouting to the stars, declaring her lack of plan, and she is smiling so big and her eyes are huge, illuminated. Arms flailing everywhere and tiny toes gripping white sand, hair flinging in every direction. Free and beautiful. He remembers why he is so damn in love with her.

That kiss seals everything pent up until right now. And he stops it.

And then curses himself for it.

EVAN

The easiest way to get over someone is to get under someone else. To forget her, you must have the opposite of her. And he damn well does.

He regrets it the moment it happens, but he doesn't know somewhere along the coastline, that they are rewinding the past and replaying freshman year. If he did, perhaps he would feel differently. He knows that he never had her. She would always belong to another.

RUSTY

The second she meets Max, Rusty unknowingly shoots himself in the foot.

MAX

He's weird and got the darkest past she has ever seen. Cappie and Evan were screwed up, but this guy, he takes the cake. A dead girlfriend. We have a winner, and yet she finds his exploits endearing, as he hopelessly courts her without even knowing it. Another falls prey to her touch. Rusty closes his eyes and pretends to lie to the one who has always loved her while falsifying the fact that she will never return to her past.

Max will be in for a rude awakening. But he doesn't know that yet. He's just another guy who will fall in love with Casey Cartwright.

CAPPIE

Sweet mother, when did we enter amateur hour with this douche? I mean, seriously.

MAX

She is so damn determined for him to fall head over heels for her. Sure, she may not be Sarah and she may not want to right all the wrongs in the world, but she makes him feel pretty fucking fantastic. Doing nothing halfway, chanting decrees, imprinting sayings, creating dents. It's chipping away, bit by bit, the layer of steel he worked so hard to put into effect. Completely terrifying. He is absolutely certain that she is it.

Sorority mixers and formals and weddings come and go. And they live together yet apart, and then he is standing in the Kappa Tau house with Rusty at his heels, gazing upon the face of a guy who he knows with certainty would push him in front of a bus given the opportunity. Does he understand the motivation? Unlikely. But it isn't difficult to guess.

EVAN

When he sees Casey at Casino Night, all he can think about is going so far off the map that he loses track of where he was to begin with. Her hair is down and the skin-tight white dress hugs her figure alluringly. He sees a man at her side; a bolt of jealously churns in his stomach. He ignores it.

Twenty minutes later when him and Cappie are seated at the same blackjack table, Evan recognizes the face again. Sometimes there is only one thing they can agree on: Casey Cartwright belongs to them. And no one else.

EVAN

Stripped of his chivalry, he doesn't know what the point is of being a man.

MAX

She can tell he feels incredibly insufficient standing there in his one-size-too-big tux, staring at Evan bearing down on their happy ending. It's a difficult situation without all the politics involved. Evan is staring at them mockingly; she can almost hear the words thick with sarcasm flowing into his glass of whiskey. She sincerely wishes that she could have been right about him and sometimes she thinks that she might be, but he'd never give her that kind of satisfaction.

Max's eyes bore down on the small of her back as she spits insults fury at Evan by the bar. With one cock of a brow, and a hand at her waist, she's out the door, falling into another illusion of Prince Charming. Only this time, instead of Evan or Cappie or Derek, it's the nerd with the wavy black hair that kisses her so hard that she almost forgets her name.

Then he opens his eyes, and they're brown, and her heart sinks a little.

MAX

He asks about long-distance and her heart hammers pseudo iambic pentameter of one saying that graced the mouth of another boy she thought she could forget.

I know /where I want/ to be in/ ten years. / Do you?

I want/ to be/ with you.

Shakespeare couldn't have penned anything as good.

CAPPIE

Why is it always the pool hall? Does she have some kind of radar that propels him towards her without even thinking? He could be eating a burrito or playing video games or taking a piss and then all of a sudden he is thinking that he should go find Casey.

And today he finds her fluid gold over the table, a smirk dancing on his mouth as he watches her daintily sip a beer. He has always loved that while she prefers lemon drops, nothing satiates her like a tall, cool brew. Fucking hot.

When he enters the room, elbows bent inside the soft flannel of his shirt, she doesn't flinch nor does she acknowledge his presence. Doesn't care why he's there, just half smiles and knows what he's doing all lean and enveloping like a well-worn record that she can't help but toss on the rotation again. I mean, it shouldn't be allowed for someone to make her feel so unhinged just by being himself.

Heartbreaking blue. Dear, sweet all things holy. When will he learn to stop her? That's all she wants him to do.

MAX

Another year started with settling, and she continues to do it. Claims moving rights in front of her best friend and watches Ash's gorgeous features crumble, nose crinkling in dissatisfaction. Then she pens her name on a paper and cringes inwardly as the woman asks about their status as a couple. Living together? Max perks up, eyes shining and then trampled as she pours truth from her coral mouth.

She can learn to lie better at least.

CAPPIE

He makes her smile when she doesn't want to and all thoughts and feelings about senior year and graduation and jobs and make the most of it going flying into the August heat. The way he grins when she proposes debauchery, oh my, her heart pitches in its chest flipping on like a light switch.

But she watches his heart slip from the rafters when she commands an ultimatum.

(What he will never know is that the ultimatum is not for him. It's for her).

RUSTY

He meets a girl with golden hair and hazel eyes and falls so hard that he trips and lands on a slide projector. When he tells Casey about it, fear seizes her limbs and its all she can do not to ask what happens when he slams back fifteen Jell-O shots and spends the day eating ice cream on the futon with Calvin.

She chose the other guy. The football player with the taut muscles, thousand dollar smile, and designer jeans. And all he does is sit and watch. He waits on the sidelines, wondering when he will ever get his turn. His big sister holds his hands and declares solidarity, all the while scorning the girl at ZBZ and thinking why Rusty isn't good enough. The next day she watches Rusty watch Jordan watch Andy and her stomach feels like it's going to flip out of her body.

The parallels are haunting.

EVAN

When he cheats this time, he feels nothing. It's almost disappointing because when he saw Casey look at him like the world spun off its axis, bile rose in his mouth and slivers of humanity burst to ash and time halted making him pay for the pain.

But now, without her, he doesn't know that.

MAX

Her hands begin to shake when he kneels in front of her, praising weddings and nice suits and delicious cake. Oh god, the cake. And then he has his hands wrapped around a velvet box of midnight blue and every bad memory of a front lawn and a Big Gulp and navy jackets comes full force on the tip of her tongue. She can feel the holy shit breeding, gaining strength.

It's not a ring. It's a promise. A lavaliere. She accepts, threading the slim gold chain around her neck, daintily laying her own letters on the cusp of her collarbone, a weak smile perched on her mouth. And she can feel the lies spelling out in large block letters across her forehead.

(Why do I always accept when I don't want it?)

RUSTY

It takes all her strength not to cheer when Rusty tells her that he kissed Jordan. And the best part of it all, she kissed him back. Maybe someone will have room for a happy ending.

MAX

He leaves with her aid, kissing her so hard that all thoughts disappear out of her head, flitting off into a different part of her that thinks she could be happy with someone that wasn't him. And then Rusty wraps a protective arm around her and she breaks, shatters into splinters of a person. Lying to her little brother is difficult because she can see his mind work and twist, the spokes turning in rotation and she knows that he almost believes her when she says that yes, she will miss Max.

RUSTY

He wonders when Casey became weak.

CAPPIE

The purge is not the most terrifying part of joining the Amphora Society. He'd be happy to spill his guts to anyone any day of the week about anything. Except Casey. And most of the things he has to purge about are concerning Casey. And then when he turns and the burlap bag flies off of Evan's head, his stomach wraps in a gazillion tiny knots and vomit piles in the back of his mouth when he realizes that he will not be the only one purging about Casey Cartwright.

In honesty, it doesn't go as awry as he thinks it would except when the mention of the fistfight pops up and Evan flinches touching his left eyebrow line. Cappie ducks his head in defiance, squirming in his chair, hands wringing nervously. And then he gives his side of the story. And the ironic thing that never changes: it's all about Casey Cartwright.

EVAN

"I'm sorry for the douche move."

"Which one?"

"I knew you wanted her first."

Evan doesn't correct him, just acknowledges that once again, his and Cappie's relationship has been, since that night, based around Casey. And then Cappie grins, offering his hand in a gesture of brotherhood that Evan hasn't seen since the likes of eighteen years old and facial hair and pledge paddles. Nostalgia is something. Evan accepts, holding it in his grip.

If there is one thing that can tear down their friendship to ruins and then build it up again, it's the only love of their life.

RUSTY

He doesn't really get why Cappie and his sister happen to be sitting in the KT living room at four in the morning, but then again, he doesn't know why he's wasting his time with Jordan and all he wants to do is yell. So that's what he does to a very captive, well not so captive, but enough to care, audience. And while he is giving this soliloquy, he can't help but wonder what is passing through the frisson between his big brother and big sister.

"I can't just sit around waiting that will take forever. It's easier for her because she's with Andy, but I can't just sit around hoping she'll pick me."

It's just a flicker of a spark, but he knows he ignites something fierce and gets the hell out of dodge and sure enough at the foot of the walkway just before the road an explosion goes off inside and all he can hear is yelling and he wonders why they fight all the time when it would just be easier to love each other. Shifting his backpack over shoulder, he trudges on home to catch some semblance of sleep.

RUSTY

Jordan picks him. She gives a speech and everything, crimson splotches decorating her cheeks and hair jittering on her collarbone like she's had fifteen cups of coffee. His grin hurts his face and when he gets to kiss her, for real without error, he can feel some kind of chain link break.

Love is easier.

CAPPIE

"Why can't you find someone else that just as perfect for you?"

"Because no other girl in the world compares to you."

Christ she hates him so much. It's difficult this feeling because it almost outweighs the love and then she places yet another ultimatum, again at her mercy, in front of him and this time he complies and then she can pin prick the moment she melted into a bunch of nerve endings setting off in a tizzy of electric shock waves. Over?

CAPPIE

Kiss me. Kiss me. Kiss me. Kiss me. It's all she can think as his eyes bore hers with so much anger on the side of the road, Garden of Eden float tied to the back of a beat-up pickup. He is yelling at her and she is screaming at him and then she sees relief pitch into his eyes, and she almost wants to smile and berate him until she is as blue in the face as his eyes are. And it's everything she is doing not to hurl herself onto his body.

This too shall pass she reminds herself as she pulls away, a promised land with her and Cappie abandoned on the overpass and there's a cup of tea and a confession on a balcony. And she feels like she is telling the wrong person and the right one is talking to her little brother reveling in his romance without strings and heartbreaks.

CAPPIE

"What's the common point in all the love triangles? Cappie."

"I have to go tell him."

RUSTY

If it's the end of the world, he wants to be with his girlfriend, not cooped up in some lab with the physics professor breathing down his neck about formulas and theorems and bubblers and whatnot. He wants Jordan and KT and his sister. I mean, that's what love is, right?

CAPPIE

If it's the end of the world I want to be with you.

The confession lives for a vicarious second and then dies on her lips with so much conviction that she can taste judgment and sorrow through the chapped skin. The rug has been pulled out from under her feet. After all, she spent so much time telling him no, why would he say yes?

He sits in solace on the rooftop, condemning his cries to the people below. What motivates a person to reject the only love of their life? Why only their sworn enemy of course.

EVAN

He really didn't mean to mess them up. Sincerely. He's just tired of being picked over Cappie.

CAPPIE

I'm an idiot. Again. I mean seriously, someone should be keeping count.

RUSTY

This is ridiculous. I'm pretty sure that they have been giving each other longing looks for the past three hours. I mean I thought she broke up with Max last night. He even told me to never pick the girl because it always come back to bite you in the ass, and here Cappie and Casey are looking at each other like they've never seen the other one in real life. How long does it take to get a glass beaker from a shelf that is well within your eye line, Casey?

And now I've said uncomfortable phrases and are getting stared at too. This is so stressful, I wish they would just kiss. Let's play a little game called poke the bear.

RUSTY

When Cappie hands him the burgundy box, mouth slight of grin, eyes downcast, his heart seizes in his chest like some kind of hangman's noose. This lavaliere was meant for someone else. A someone else with green eyes and golden hair and a coral mouth. A someone else who shares DNA with Rusty.

He holds it up to give it back before getting it thrust at him with so much force and a raised eyebrow that he doesn't try to shove it back into the dresser with Cappie's stuff. All he knows is that when he gives it to Jordan, the solar system jumps just a bit more out of alignment and the planets shift a bit, joggling the natural order of things. It just doesn't feel right.

CAPPIE

Lana is the anti-Casey which is probably why the first thing he does is beat Evan to the punch. A week later he's sitting in the strip club avoiding all contact with the outside world, especially Cartwrights.

RUSTY

He isn't really shocked to find him the strip club. He isn't really shocked to find out that it is because of Casey. He is pretty shocked though that nothing has been done about it yet. That would seriously save so much time. And money.

RUSTY

The wire is self-healing, and he can't help but think that there has to be some bigger and better metaphor for this. When he is sitting in the lab praying to something, anything that will answer his wishes and watching the two ends attempt to reconfigure themselves in a ridiculously long and overdrawn dance, he remembers that there is Thanksgiving dinner at KT that night.

He arrives at the house seeing his big brother staring out at the university skyline, blue orbs etched with disbelief and some kind of desperation that hasn't been seen since the likes of interaction with his sister. He cannot help but feel a bit discombobulated as he watches Cappie on the roof, not wavering in the least from his position. It's a common position: stationary as if waiting for the world, or for someone to slow down enough to reach him.

CAPPIE

"Why would I want to go through all that again?"

"To be with the love of your life."

It's incredibly disconcerting when Wade, Beaver, and Heath are right.

CAPPIE

Rusty starts talking about his wire that is self-healing. It keeps going back together, it never takes too long. Talking about Casey with him is a taboo subject to say the least but tonight the air feels charged with electricity or something. So he lets loose all the weight that's been trying on his back since he was eighteen years old and Rusty responds so incredibly Rusty-like. He tells him to go for it and under the harvest moon and surrounded by old friends and an almost lover, he makes that leap.

And the rest is just history repeating itself.

EVAN

"You have the perfect girl, a group of guys that worship you. My house is all I have left."

The ironic thing is that he is really only pissed about Casey. And he knows that Cappie knows this, a dangerous glint sparking in his eyes. With a shove off the porch onto lower ground, he finds his place yet again. Outside looking in at what he is never going to have and the one thing he is truly jealous of Cappie for.

CAPPIE

He spends a good portion of the day trying to figure out why she is freaking. Usually she is easy to read, and he picks up on little bits of her that others don't so when she won't tell him how she is feeling and then coarsely dismisses him, there has to be a reason to it.

It has taken them so long, too long, to get to here so he doesn't want to screw it up but it feels so much like freshman year when she races off and he pounds beers in front of the TV, house noises screeching in his ears. And then he takes one look at Rusty and gets off the sofa before he can punch a hole through his nose. He rents the Prince Charming getup and feels like a fraud because he's anything but perfect for her in any way, but that's not the important part.

He's going to try to be. And he can see the shock in her eyes when she enters the ballroom, looking like she just popped off the pages of a fairytale. And that grin he can't keep down or the spins around his heart he can't suppress or the bounce of his feet toward her are the unwritten story spelling out across parchment. There isn't going to be a happy ending because you have to have an ending to begin with. He's not planning on an ending. Just beginnings.

EVAN

He's terrified to hear her answer to his question.

She never answers it.

It's okay though. He's pretty sure he has known it all along.

CAPPIE

He bitch slaps Valentine's Day with a parking lot confessional. And true love.

RUSTY

When he sees Cappie's form to declare a major, he has never been more proud of his big brother. When he sees that, after a week, at least three dozen beers, five sleepovers with his sister, and a monstrous Valentine's Day championship that the damn thing is empty, then dread pools in a cold quiet puddle in his stomach.

Rusty believes in science and little else that is bigger than him, but he prays and asks if there is something out there that it can please not tip the scales again and have his sister and brother go careening over an edge that neither one needs to be sent to. He holds his breath waiting for the results. Loud or silent, they will come.

CAPPIE

He's not going to change, she has always known this but after the blank major sheet and the almost kiss with Joel, the world feels against them and she can't take it anymore. And then on top of all that, she has to go camping with his parents. Like in the woods. Like no running water. With all of this stress and lack of motivation and time on the stop watch coming to a quick finish.

Then April and Tobias make it worse and pull the divorce card and she can see his world crumble into pieces as he realizes that she is also going to leave. And it really is all his mother's fault. Casey has never really been one for going in the moment or just picking once and sticking with that decision either. His mother tells her, hand on her knee, heart on her sleeve that not all love stories are forever.

"Some love stories are short stories, but they're love stories all the same."

It's hard and unfair for an unhappy ending to a fairytale romance, but this is college and that's where the real world cannot touch. Therefore, magic has eminent domain.

RUSTY

He grins goofily when he sees a lavaliere slip into Cappie's pocket on the bus ride to Myrtle Beach. He inwardly cringes because he is wondering if they are strong enough this time.

CAPPIE

They break up with the ocean crashing angrily and a million other love-struck couples flouncing past, stars in their eyes and hate in their face. She resents him for the lavaliere. He resents her for leaving. And then suddenly the love story goes flipping off into the sea and he runs so fast that he cannot think and she stands so still hoping that it will turn back the hands of time. And yet, nothing.

He still runs and she still stands, neither in motion with the other, and the world falls a centimeter off course and the planets slip off track and everything just stops. Somehow the universe finds it impossible to move forward because if Cappie and Casey aren't going with it, then what is the point, really?

CAPPIE

He's been arrested for fighting once.

He's never been arrested for a domestic dispute that was never really a domestic dispute on the back staircase of Dobler's with a girl that currently isn't and in the future doesn't want to be his wife.

He blames it on her. She blames it on him. Rusty and Ashleigh blame it on the tequila and make both of them go home. Slurs strung together from the lack of closure ring out on the street and it feels so childish that it makes him want to scream. They could have fixed all this. And then she starts to cry and he can't take it so he leaves as fast as he can and in his drunken stupor he's sure that is clearly the only thing he will ever excel at.

RUSTY

He wonders what it feels like to love someone that much. In a sense, it isn't healthy at all because the rough periods are especially low. But the good periods are like an inexperienced high that is unique to the certain individual. And right now, he is watching like some sick voyeur as their world crumbles and explodes. He pushes and she pushes back and then someone falls. Usually Cappie goes first. Casey has always been his one soft spot. And this time it's no different.

Defenses up to the brink, he confronts him, gold on his wrists and lost oceans in his eyes and so far off the chart that the compass needle is spinning in a crazy combination of non-concentric circles.

"I feel like I'm going to lose her. If I say goodbye that's going to be it for us."

CAPPIE

He catapults through her window and asks, begs for a millionth chance that they both know he doesn't deserve but that she will inevitably give because he looks at her like he's some kind of epic hero and this is his final destination and he's coming home once again. And he never gets sick of seeing her face gazing upon him like the planets have finally realigned and electricity returns and the sky settles.

And she breathes hope into one word and watches as he sighs in thanksgiving. It almost feels like freshman year and first promises and a new start and then she remembers that they are way past that. The universe is back on kilter from its axis.

EVAN

Sure he's happy with Rebecca, but Casey Cartwright hot lawyer fantasy? Check.

CAPPIE

He attempts to recruit pledges for the first time in forever and he only does it to prove that he is trying to change, to grow and when she shoots him down, the pumping of his heart slows a beat and he wonders what the point is.

He wonders the same thing when she catches him stoned with Calvin. And when she stomps off looking for Rusty, he considers that maybe he is never going to be the grownup that she wants him to be if he's doing it just to appease her wishes. Maybe he should do it for himself, but the idea makes him sick to his stomach until he realizes that he never answered the question that Calvin asked him. Why are we here?

All he thinks about is a blonde head with cat green eyes and coral lips and a laugh that splinters glass and a kiss so intense that the inside of his stomach pools with hot liquid and he grins, big, and Calvin doesn't say a thing.

BEAVER

She's never really listened to more than ten sentences that come out of his mouth. Mostly because he never really says more than ten sentences that make any kind of sense. For one thing, Rio de Janiero is in Brazil for crying out loud. But that's not really the important part. Neither is the fact that Katherine is surprisingly pleased to be buying old torts procedure how-to guides from Heath. No, the surprise is that Cappie comes back to KT with a black eye and a crooked collar and a grimace wrought so tightly on his mouth that she thinks it might bite her when she raises a cautious hand to his fresh wound. He jerks away from her, sighing and taking off to his room, tie thrown carelessly over his left shoulder.

When Beav tells her what happened at ZBZ with the ever classic fist fight between the again not best friends, she rubs her forehead and groans in irritation, mouth set in a straight thin line. "Why are they always fighting? Why can't they ever be friends?"

"Because," he tells her, looking at her deeply as if he's going to tell her something that she has always known and yet never understood. "They both fell for the same girl." He scratches his head and squints his eyes at her, nodding with nonchalance.

"But it's over. Cappie and I aren't together anymore."

He laughs a little bit as if she is a child and this is like a difficult addition equation or a parent teaching their kid common etiquette. She just stares in disbelief.

"It's never over, Casey. That's pretty basic."

And she is dumfounded. He can see that by the way her cat green orbs crinkle in the corners. It's what she has known all along, since a spry eighteen and now at twenty three it still won't click until the opportune moment. He sincerely needs to be given more credit because this dance is one, that even as an outsider, he has memorized the steps backward and forward without hesitation. They'll get there. He has never had his doubts.

CAPPIE

Drunk Casey is a lot of fun. And a lot of repsonsiblity. But he wants to enjoy the show for a little bit because for once they are in the same place without fighting or yelling or hatred infiltrating the world. She goes careening down one of the luges and fires off into the garlands of crepe paper castles and glitter kingdoms surrounded by balloons and stands up with conviction. He laughs, his skin flushing hers and she wraps into him for support, giggling in his ear and shouting at the top of her lungs, booze heavyset on her coral lips.

He decides to walk her home so that she doesn't flop into some bushes and wake up covered in bugs or pine needles or something because she sure as shit isn't going to be staying with him. God only knows how dangerous for the both of them that could be, and still he finds himself stumbling in tune with her movements as they wind down Greek Row, her screaming as often as possible and his chuckling ringing back with bell force until they reach the quiet ZBZ house.

The stairs are a challenge to say the least, but when he gets her into the room, she literally, leaps onto the bed and lays flat on her back. Lace shirt riding up to reveal an appealing portion of midriff as she coaxes her arms behind her head, eyes drunk and surveying his casual lean against the doorway, and then in one swift motion, she is at his chest, breasts quietly heaving onto his torso, lips less than an inch from his face and then they are quick on his and it feels like lightning. Then he remembers that they are wasted and it's homecoming so someone had to have seen them sneak off and he can't have this on his conscious even thought, god, he really wants to, so he does the "right thing", but she just won't budge.

"What is this?"

"It's a fairytale."

She breathes it like sacred scripture and he can't argue as she pulls him onto her, buttons slipping open and clothes dropping to the hardwood floor. And everything he thinks he knows about making love to her is magnified because he's going to fix this, fix them.

CAPPIE

When and why does a woman ever go off birth control?

(Not that he doesn't think that they wouldn't have an amazingly gorgeous child. It's just, wow, thank god, not pregnant.)

RUSTY

He watches his big brother and sister continue their endless dance with steps that have never been mirrored in a more complicated waltz. They have memorized the twists and turns with little difficulty. He can't decide whether to be in awe or what. But he grins as Cappie steps out of line just once, throwing Casey who looks on as Cappie pulls from the sky and puts his feet firmly with denouement on the ground.

It sounds like change. And he now knows that he isn't the only one that sees it. True, it hits her with a deadly impact, but she still stands and it's victory.

CAPPIE

It's a circus and an amusement park and he's impressed to no end with all the different pies that he managed to con the bakery down the street into making on such short notice. When she walks into the backyard and rests her eyes on his, he can tell that she finally understands what he'd been trying to accomplish and it's such a relief that they can be fixed now.

She grins and his heart bottoms out in the caverns of his chest and then leaps in approval.

Some love stories are forever stories. They are lucky enough that theirs happens to fall in the classics without reprimand or regret.

EVAN

She won't let him be. He can't even have Rebecca as a solid second place to her.

"Did you ever think that four years ago that we'd be in law school together?"

She guffaws, the pencil skirt riding up her lower thigh and he, of course, leers and peers down her blouse because she is a freaking goddess and it almost feels like a sin not to look. Raising an eyebrow, she walks off, a saunter in her step because even though she hasn't ever thought that he was the one for her, he has been praying to anyone that will listen for her to acknowledge the fact that he has loved, hell, still loves her.

CAPPIE

Some things are always going to hurt. He hates himself for picking the KT house over her even if it may be for the final time. Ever the picture of composure, she holds his hand through it all and crosses the line, tossing her plan in the garbage all for him and he feels like some part of that Peter Pan attitude has been rubbing off on her.

Still, when his hand is etched in hers, terror stricken in his eyes, he sobs as the only home he has ever known is desolated and history stands frozen as the scholars write words of prophets and biblical verse into the years of CRU as legend of Kappa Tau. It's their story that is stitched into the insides of eyelids and upon the second hand scars of the soul. A family where understanding forges chasms into thousand year rock and rubble tumbles building a new generation, but this fairytale of a damsel in distress and a court jester and an evil turned okay king and a lady in waiting and several honorable knights is golden in its time and eras future to come. All will be measured in regard to it. To legacy.

EVAN

He's going to be bitter, but there is only room for one leading man. And it isn't him. It takes five years to realize this, and he finally feels acceptance watching them whirl in unison to the beat. He's just thankful that he got to be part of the story.

RUSTY

"Take care of my sister."

It's spoken so simply as though he knew with conviction that one day he would have no problem letting the golden words roll off his tongue. It feels like forever, and he's exultant for that. It's taken slightly less than that long to get to here and he's content with letting the credits fade to black on this tale because it was always going to be a happy ending. They just hadn't reached it yet, until now.

CAPPIE

"So, where to?"

"Wherever you're going."

Some love stories are short stories. Some love stories are long stories. And some love stories are forever stories, but no matter, there is always a happily ever after. Even for them because it's the only kind of story they have ever known.