A/N: Another longer than anticipated gap between posting, I'm sorry to say, but at least it didn't take 3 months this time. I waffled a lot on this chapter, but I believe I am finally satisfied. I hope you will be, too. Closing note following. Thank you!
After careful consideration – and a lot of longing glances and not-really-stolen kisses – Amber and Jerome had decided the best way to break the news of their arrangement to their fellow house mates would be all at once, with the one exception being Alfie. Alfie had to hear about it from them first. From both of them. He was Jerome's best friend, and had been entirely smitten with Amber for quite a while before the whole "Amfie" debacle had gone down. Amfie had not worked out, at all, but it was still important to Jerome that Alfie be informed gently.
So it was, the newly committed couple sat anxiously together on the side of Jerome's bed, waiting for Alfie to return from detention before supper. It was strange and uneasy. And initially did not go well at all.
"Ha-ha, Jerome. So funny. Hilarious," it began, and "Oh my god, you're serious!" it nearly ended when Alfie threw his Stormtrooper helmet at Jerome's head. But he wasn't really angry at them, as he explained when Amber attempted to soothe the tension in the room. "I just can't believe I didn't see it sooner. Are you sure you want to date this pain in the arse, Amber?"
"Yes..." Amber hesitated, unsatisfied that the boys in the room could be trusted not to go after one another as soon as she left. "Yes, Alfie, I'm as sure as I can be at the moment."
"Fine. As long as you're happy, it's fine," Alfie smiled sheepishly at her. "But if I see her so much as sniffling," he turned on Jerome, "I'll- I'll... I don't know what! But it won't be good!"
"Understood," Jerome nodded, trying to suppress his amusement at his roommate's threat.
"Oh, my heroes!" Amber gushed sarcastically, lightening the mood significantly, and bringing laughter to every face.
"Um, Amber? I usually sit there," Mara pointed out as the residents of Anubis House assembled for supper.
"Oh, right. Sorry Mara. Do you mind if we switch?" Amber asked as she settled into the chair beside Jerome.
"No, I guess not." The petite brunette crossed the table and seated herself between Alfie and Eddie. Patricia threw a nasty glance the new American's way as she squared away the foot of the table. Nina gave Amber a scrutinizing look before turning her winning smile on Fabian as he sat beside her at the table's head.
With all of her charges seated around the dinner table, Trudy brought out dishes of spaghetti and salad, before returning to the kitchen for a platter of garlic bread.
Eddie returned Patricia's sinister glare before setting his sights on the blonde girl across from him, giving Amber a wink. Amber smiled at the gesture, and Jerome's newly minted boyfriend instincts kicked in causing him to grab his lady friend's hand under the table. Amber's attention returned to Jerome as she turned her widening smile on him.
Mara noticed the exchange of expressions, if not the clasped hands, and her inquisitive nature came bubbling up. "What's going on with you two?" she asked as the attention of the entire room focused in on the blond duo.
From the kitchen, Trudy could here a bit of commotion, but was not expecting what greeted her as she brought out the bread.
"Well, everyone... We're dating." Jerome and Amber stood together, hand in hand, with crazy grins on their faces while everyone else sat agape. Trudy just barely managed to get her tray over the tabletop before it clattered from her hands, fluttering fingers flying to her heart.
"Oh, my dearies! Finally!" she gushed. Trudy rushed around the table to scoop the pair into a tight embrace.
"Um, Trudy, you're smooshing us!" Amber squeaked.
- "'Finally'?" -
"How'd Trudy know about this?" Mara questioned the room at large, and Fabian seconded.
"Trudes! Can't breathe," Jerome echoed Amber.
And a general chorus of 'what the's and 'since when's filled the space.
Alfie sat uncomfortably across from the outpouring of affection on their house mother's part, but with a reluctant smile on his generally smug face. "Did you know about this, too, Alfie?" Patrica asked as she noticed his lack of comment.
"Yeah. Well, only just. They told me an hour ago..."
"What the devil is going on?" Victor stood bellowing in the doorway, and silence fell. Trudy released Amber and Jerome from her stranglehold, and soothed the grumpy old caretaker.
"Just an emotional announcement at the dinner table. Nothing to be alarmed over, Victor. Come on, I'll bring you your supper in just a moment." She ushered the man from the room, turning briefly to give the students a wink.
"So..." Jerome smiled, resettling into his chair with Amber beside him. "Pasta anyone?"
It hadn't exactly been easy, or at all comfortable, to field the questions that bombarded them as Jerome and Amber had tried to enjoy their supper. Eventually, the table settled, and only Nina's narrow gaze had disturbed the relative peace in Amber's mind. The warm pressure of Jerome's hand around hers was reassuring as ever, and together they made it through the evening.
Amber's long blonde hair was tickling Jerome's bare arms in the breeze. The weight and warmth of her cheek pressed into Jerome's chest felt comforting and safe. The sun high in the sky, light filtered through the foliage, playing shadows across his eyelids. He trailed fingers through Amber's fly-away locks, wrapping a strand around his pinky. He smiled slowly to himself as he cataloged the minute and meaningless details of the afternoon. The textures of Amber's skin, the rhythms of the wind and their breath, the scent of freshly cut grass. Meaningless, but beautiful.
Jerome knew better than to ever assume the vivacious and surprising blonde was unaware of him, even – and especially – when it seemed as though she sleepily dozed off, but he remained gentle with her.
"I love this freckle," Jerome whispered, brushing a fingertip over a small birthmark on the inside plane of Amber's forearm.
"I don't have freckles, Jerome," the girl quipped in return, not bothering to move except to speak.
"A beauty-mark, then," he mused, trailing his hand across her smooth flesh. He could feel her smile into his chest at the more acceptable term.
It was so picturesque Jerome almost sighed. Life wasn't supposed to be this beautiful, was it? Not when you're 16 and the world around you makes no sense, he thought to himself. Yet he was happy, truly happy to sit in the shade with a beautiful girl in his arms.
That beautiful girl finally shifted her weight away from Jerome, looking up into his expectant face. "I'm so happy," Amber murmured, echoing his thoughts. Her eyes, grey in the shade, found Jerome's blue ones.
He gathered her back to himself, holding her tight, feeling her fists clutch the fabric of his shirt as he kissed her.
"So am I."
A/N: Le sigh. Special thanks to Magicians Hat, SullyClarke, Jamber111, MissBellaDiamond, TRIX19, Edrose, z3stygurl97, Green Adventurer, houseofjamber, anubisfreak, keshafever, and houseofsibuna. Your reviews and encouragement have been very much appreciated. I hope I have met your desires and expectations. And, of course, if I have failed you in any way, I invite you to go out and write your own stories and correct any mistakes I may have made while handling our dear friends Jerome and Amber.
It's been a difficult journey, and a lot of changes were made, plot bunnies sacrificed for the greater good. But we've come through, and our characters are happy! And so am I.
Ever yours, the PuffleHuff