A/N: Hey guys… sorry (again) that the chapter took so long (again, though I did gain a nephew)…. Sorry (again x2)..

After The Rainfall

Chapter Thirty-Two:

Aria.

I crawled out of bed the next morning very carefully to avoid waking Ezra up. The last thing I wanted was to have to talk, or for him to realize that I was still not feeling exactly myself. I wasn't sure what I was going to do, but I knew I couldn't do anything until I had fully processed, and that was going to take a little while. I didn't know what to do, and I didn't know what to say. I got out of the shower, and dressed in the bathroom. I slung my bag over my shoulder and looked over at Ezra, my sweet Ezra, still asleep in bed.

He couldn't be what Jason said he was. He couldn't possibly be that much of a liar. How could someone fake that much? How could Ezra fake that much? And was it that he didn't love me? Or that he never thought he'd have to deal with me finding out? What if I just ignored the whole thing? What if I just pretended that I never heard what Jason had told me? Would I ever be able to look at him the same? Would I eventually just be able to not care, as long as I still had him?

I took a deep breath, sitting on the back of the couch still watching him sleep. He was so peaceful, though I knew his mind was racing. He was worried about what was bothering me, or at least he had acted like he was the night before. But who actually knew? If he could –

I took out my phone and texted Jason.

Tell me again. ~Aria

No. It'll only hurt more hearing/reading it again…I'll see you after your final? ~Jason

Yeah, and thanks I'll need it. ~Aria.

I was still watching Ezra sleep, I wanted to curl up in his arms and forget the whole thing. All I wanted was him, and for everything not to be nearly as crazy as it was. What kind of life was this that I was trying to lead. Then, he started to stir and I jumped – I didn't want him to wake up while I was still there. I went out the door before I gave him a chance to wake up. I assumed he would just roll over and fall back to sleep without even knowing he had scared me. Was I really scared of him waking up with me there?

"Aria, are you ok?" Spencer asked as I walked into my English Final, luckily I only really had to know the stories for this one.

"I'm fine," I replied, still completely on another planet.

"No, you're not," Emily leaned over.

"Did something happen with Fitz?" Hanna asked and I shook my head.

"No, I just have a lot on my mind," I replied, "Don't worry about it, ok?"

"Ok," They replied, and we all took our seats as our new teacher walked in.

"Now," She said, "Since from what I understand this class has been rather disrupted – what with having three different teachers. So, for your final I've decided that you will be writing one essay. Pick whichever book that the class has covered this year and write an essay in response to the essay question on your paper. I left them pretty vague so you can pretty much write whatever you want. If you have anything else you'd like to write about – I'm open to suggestions. Mona, pass these out to your classmates, please?"

The teacher handed Mona the papers, and she went through the aisles and passed them out to each of us. The essay didn't take me very long, but I finished towards the middle of the pack – so I wasn't too worried about it. English was my only final, so I walked out of class, stopped at my locker to make sure nothing else was in there, and headed out to the parking lot. Mike had two finals, so he wouldn't be out until later. So, I drove out to Jason's.

The plan was that I would rant to him for a while, then we'd go over and visit with Mike for a while. I pulled into his driveway, and there was already another car sitting there, and it took me not even a minute to realize who's it was. It was Ezra. What was he doing here? Why?

I know you just got out, so I hope you get this. Ezra's here. He thinks you're upset because I'm not doing well. Give me a few to get rid of him? Or you can just come if you want… ~Jason.

I'm already here, I'll be in in a minute. ~Aria.

I got out of the car, leaving everything but my phone in the car, and heading up towards the house. I took a deep breath, and walked through the front door without knocking, and walking into the living room without a thought. Jason and Ezra were sitting in the living room, each with a beer in their hand.

"What're you doing here?" I asked Ezra and he shrugged.

"I have days to myself, remember?" He smiled at me, "I was feeling a little lonely, so I figured I'd come hang out with Jason – what're you doing here?"

"Jason was going to come with me to see Mike," I said and Ezra looked taken aback, then recovered.

"Oh, that's good," He replied, "I'm glad you're able to see him. Thanks, Jason for doing that."

"It's no problem," Jason replied, smiling too, because he felt like he should.

"Ok, then," Ezra said, getting up and coming towards me, "I'll head out then, if you guys're headed over to see Mike…"

He leaned in and kissed my forehead sweetly.

"I love you," He said, and I did my best to beam like I usually did as he turned to Jason, "See you later, man."

Jason and I both stood in the living room in silence as Ezra left, and hopped into his car. He was pulling out of the driveway and off down the road before either of us even looked at each other.

"I'm sorry," Jason told her, opening his arms up and letting me walk into them for a quick hug, then I stepped out, "I was so surprised when he showed up, then I didn't know what to do. So I sent out a text so you would have an option to hide if you wanted to…"

"I don't want to hide from him," I said bravely, "I'm not sure what I'm really going to do about it yet, but I love him, Jason. And, he loves me. There's a reason why I personally haven't been physically attacked by A, maybe it's because he is involved. Maybe it's because he's protecting me…"

"Weird way to protect you," Jason commented.

"Well maybe I was the one A thought they were going to stab," I replied, "Maybe he took it for me. And maybe he knew A was going to use someone to attack mom and Mike, and that's how he was the first one there. Maybe he was in on all of it. So he tried to save them but was too late for mom."

"Maybe," Jason didn't seem convinced, but he didn't have to be.

When Jason told me the night before that he had sufficient evidence that Ezra was in on what was going on with A, my whole world crashed in around me. He had pictures of Ezra in weird places, around where A had been from the beginning. I knew that there had to be a catch, I had known he was there on all occasions, just not where the photos had him. I didn't know what to think. Jason had gone a little A-crazy lately – maybe Ezra was just next on his list of suspects that ranged from Melissa Hastings to the mailman to the homeless guy on the corner. Who was next?

And maybe it didn't matter if Ezra was in on it. What if he really was protecting me from the inside. He obviously really loved me, he wasn't going to throw me away like a piece of trash. I never once thought, or think that he would ever hurt me. My mind had been spinning since the second Jason had told me, trying to come up with something that would justify and explain – I had. Ezra may be involved, but he was shielding me.

"You ready to head over to see Mike?" Jason asked and I nodded.

We hopped into the car and drove over to the house, where dad and Mike were just getting out of the car. Mike smiled wide and ran right over to me to throw his arms around me as we got out.

"I didn't think you'd come," He said and I smiled.

"Well I got Jason to come with me," I replied and he smiled.

Dad looked less than pleased as he looked to Jason, but didn't say anything as we all walked into the house. It was weird, being there, I hadn't in so long. Mike, Jason, and I plopped down in the living room on the couch and Dad, rather grumbling, headed off in the general direction of his office.

"I missed you so much," I said, leaning over and hugging my brother.

"I missed you too," He smiled as he dropped his bookbag over the arm of the couch.

"Hey, don't worry about it," Jason told him, "Your sister and I'll come visit you pretty often, that is until your dad lets up about Ezra."

"He's out of control," Mike replied, "In all of this, what have I ever done? How am I the prisoner."

"You're bait," I told him, "Bait to get me back into this house. I'm so sorry."

"I understand," He said simply, "So how is Ezra?"

"He misses you," I told him and he smiled a little.

"Well tell him I miss him too," Mike said, "And tell him that I'm almost done with that book he gave me."

"What book?"

"He'd given me a few to read," Mike replied, "I hadn't but now I've started to."

"That's great, Mike," I smiled, "I'm sure he'll be so happy to hear that. How'd your finals go today?"

We visited with Mike for a few hours, then I dropped Jason at his house and headed home. I was still not quite sure to make of Ezra, but all I wanted to do was go home and collapse into his arms. There was no harm in that if he didn't know I knew right? And even if he did… I knew that he loved me, that could've never been a lie. Could it have been?

"You have a nice visit with Mike?" Ezra asked as I walked in, he was lying on the bed reading.

"I did," I smiled, pushing everything else but how much I loved the man before me out of my head, "I can't believe it's summer already."

"Oh, right," He smiled, "You're all done today."

"I am," I replied as I got onto the bed and curled up next to him.

"We should celebrate," He smiled, setting his book aside and wrapping his arms around me, kissing my forehead.

"We should?"

"Yeah," He replied, "Let's do something fun tomorrow."

"Fun?" I smiled, then teased, "What is this 'fun' you speak of?"

"Ah, but it does exist," He smiled mischievously as he leaned down and kissed me, "It's good to see you in such a better mood."

"Good to be in one," I smiled weakly as he scooted down to be eye-level with me.

"You know, all this talk about fun," Ezra smirked, as he wrapped me up in his arms and pulled me close, "You know, I could show a lot of that right about now."

"Oh, could you?" I teased him as he leaned in and kissed me.

"Any time."