Title: Little Epiphanies
Rating
: PG
Summary
: When Aria reaches a breaking point with her frustration over her stagnant, secret relationship with Ezra, she turns to the last person she should talk to but the only person she wants to confide in: Jason. Their conversation brings unexpected revelations.
Characters
: Aria and Jason (with mentions of Ezra, Aria's Family, Ali, and The Hastings)
Genre
: Drama, Romance
Status
: Complete
A/N
: I SWORE that I wasn't going to start any new stories. Although this piece isn't a multi-part fic, it is still new, but I couldn't help myself. I'm pretty much obsessed with the idea of Jaria, and, if the show doesn't want to give us the scenes we craved, well then I guess I'll just have to take matters into my own hands... meaning, yeah, there could be other Jaria pieces to come. Time will tell. Anyway, as always when I delve into a new fandom, I'm especially interested in hearing whether or not I captured the essence of this (should-be) couple. Happy reading!

Little Epiphanies
A Jason and Aria One Shot

She shouldn't be there. Aria knew that. It was cruel, and selfish, and probably even a little unfaithful on her part, but, still, she couldn't walk away. Shuffling her feet, she peered over her shoulder, checking yet again to make sure that no one was following her, watching her. There was just something about this house... Whatever it was, it certainly didn't help her sudden case of nerves. Her palms were sweaty, her bottom lip seemed to be permanently ensnared in the harsh, unforgiving grips of her teeth, and she was stalling to the point where it was becoming just plain ridiculous. It was almost like she was... afraid or something, but she wasn't scared of Jason.

Just maybe sometimes how he made her feel...

As quickly as the thought surfaced in her mind, Aria pushed it aside by taking that last step forward and ringing the doorbell... which meant there was no turning back now, no running away – no matter how tempting the idea might have been. She was a lot of things – a liar, a bad daughter, sometimes even a bad friend... as A was so quick to remind her, but Aria refused to be a coward.

She was so lost in her ruminations that, when the closed front door opened before her, she missed the movement. It wasn't until a very familiar voice quietly greeted her that Aria came back to the present. "Hey." Though he wasn't unwelcoming, even Aria could hear the curiosity and confusion bleeding through that one word.

She met Jason's intense gaze, only to quickly skitter her own eyes away from his. He was looking at her too closely, too... intimately. It was like he could see right through her, and, suddenly, the idea of someone being able to see her, know her, understand her like that was just too alluring. And the fact that it was Jason just felt too right.

"Look, I know that I should't be here," she confessed, skipping right past pleasantries and small talk. "It's wrong... on so many levels... but most of all it's just mean, especially after you told me, you know... how you..."

"How I feel about you," Jason interrupted her.

Braving a glance in his direction, Aria found him smirking. Arms crossed over a chest that she somehow had just managed to notice was bare – how had that not registered the moment he had opened the door? – and hair sleepily mussed, it was suddenly apparent that she had gotten him out of bed. So, not only did she feel horrible about acting so selfishly, but now she also had to feel sorry for waking him up, too. "Uh. Yeah." And then, like an inept, immature idiot, she shuffled her feet. Again.

Instead of slamming the door in her face... like he should have, instead of telling her to leave and quit bothering him, Jason shocked the hell out of Aria by taking a step back and opening his front door wider. "Why don't you come in."

"Really?"

This time he chuckled, leading her into the house and then closing the front door behind them. "You know, you say that a lot to me." At what must have been a puzzled expression upon her face, Jason reached out, softly grasping a lock of her hair between his thumb and forefinger. "The pink hair conversation," he clarified. The touch was completely innocent – like a big brother picking on his kid sister, but then why did it feel like every single nerve ending in her body was on fire?

"R..." When the word died in her throat, Aria paused, took a deep breath, and swallowed thickly. "Right," she finally managed to respond.

Fortunately... or maybe unfortunately, Jason relented in his teasing and simply watched her for an endless moment with narrowed, thoughtful eyes. Then, breaking the silence, he said, "wait here for a minute, okay? I'll be right back." Before she could respond, he was gone, disappearing through what she remembered to be the DiLaurentises' kitchen and into the laundry room. "I know I've been rather... well, rude about letting people into the house, but I have a feeling that, whatever it is that made you seek me out, it isn't something we should be talking about on my front porch where anyone wandering by could overhear us. Oh, and help yourself if you want anything," he called out to her. "There's orange juice... I think, milk... if it hasn't gone bad, and, of course, water. I can make us some coffee if..."

"No, I'm fine, thanks," Aria interrupted him. "But if you're hungry, or thirsty, or whatever," she continued as he reentered the hall, a t-shirt now added to his low-riding shorts ensemble, "don't let me stop you. And sorry for just showing up, especially so early. I guess I should have called first."

"Aria," his voice was firm, resolute, and, for the first time since he had opened the door, she met his gaze for more than just a few seconds as he talked to her. "You're always welcome here. Anything you need, anytime you need me, okay?" Not only were the words hopelessly sweet... even if undeserved, but they were also completely sincere, too.

"Yeah. Okay," she agreed, acknowledging his promise. Then, smiling, she tried to lighten the moment. "Hey, I like what you've done with the place, though it does put a whole new spin on the term minimalism." What had once been the DiLaurentises' pristine, beautiful home was now a disaster zone. There were holes in the walls – some even completely knocked down, all the carpet had been pulled up so that only the bare floorboards beneath remained, and there wasn't a single piece of furniture in sight.

Jason hooked his head over his shoulder, indicating the stairs, and, once more, she followed him. He sat down, and she followed, their bodies close enough that their shoulders brushed every time they moved. "Sorry about this... having to sit on the stairs. I'd offer you the dryer, but it's buried... and not just under clothes, and I really didn't think you'd want to sit on my bed."

She chuckled awkwardly. "Yeah, that probably wouldn't be a good idea."

He didn't acknowledge what she said, just watched her out of the corner of his eyes, a small, crooked smile lifting one of the corners of his mouth. After a moment, Jason returned them to their previous topic. "So, the house... I just... it was a lot easier to destroy it than it is to figure out what I want to do with it now."

"If you hate it that much, why live here?"

He shrugged. "Why not?" At her puzzled expression, he further explained, "I'm tired of running, of hiding. While I might have hated living here when I was in high school, it had nothing to do with the place itself. Let's just say that it wasn't the house's fault that I was unhappy."

Ali. Her name went unspoken between them, but Aria knew her old friend and Jason's dead sister was the reason why, for so many years, his life had been miserable.

A momentary uncomfortable stillness settled between, one which Jason broke a few seconds later by turning to face her. Even as he spoke, Aria was distinctly aware of his bare knee touching her own. She could even feel the tiny, surprisingly soft hair of his legs tickling her skin. "So, in your eyes, what is it that you wanted to talk to me about that makes you such a horrible person, because I have a feeling you didn't stop by to discuss my decorating skills."

Quirking a brow, she couldn't help but take advantage of the situation and return some of his playful taunting. "Or, more accurately, a lack thereof."

He narrowed his gaze at her. "You're stalling."

In return, she rolled her own eyes. "Fine." Lacing her fingers together in her lap so that she couldn't fidget as she talked, Aria confessed, "I know it's not fair of me to ask you for... I don't know, advice?... about my relationship with..." Her words trailed off. For some reason she didn't understand and quite frankly was a little afraid to comprehend, Aria just couldn't say Ezra's name in front of Jason. It felt wrong... or, at least, even more wrong than discussing her boyfriend with the guy who had so openly just a short while ago confessed that he wanted to be with her. "Anyway, I'd usually talk to my friends, but Hanna's never been in the same situation before; Emily's parents were just scared of her sexuality and not actually against the person she was with... not that my parents aren't scared, too, but that's in a 'we don't want you to think about boys let alone date them until you're forty' kind of way; and something strange has been going on with Spencer lately. Besides, I'd feel like a total bitch and the world's worst friend if I went to her with my relationship problems when she can't be with Toby. So, I was desperate, and I was self-centered enough to come here despite knowing that talking to you about this – about him – might hurt you."

"Okay, first of all, breathe," he instructed her – half serious, half joking. "And, secondly, trust me when I say that listening to you talk about a problem with your boyfriend isn't going to be any worse than me torturing myself with all these idyllic pictures of the two of you together in my mind. In fact, selfishly, it's a little reassuring, even encouraging."

She couldn't help herself; she snorted. "Our relationship is far from idyllic."

"See, so far you've told me that there's a problem between the two of you that your relationship isn't perfect. I'm two for two. Now," Jason sobered, "tell me what's going on."

Aria screwed up her face, wincing slightly. "Actually, I was hoping that you could maybe enlighten me."

"From a guy's perspective?"

"No, from a 'your parents disapproved of your relationship, too' perspective."

"What are you...," he started to ask before realization dawned. "Oh. Melissa."

Maybe if Aria wouldn't have been so distracted by her own worries, she would have noticed the wave of intense discomfort and embarrassment that washed across Jason's face, but she didn't... at first, and so she continued. "I know you two were only together for like... five seconds, but was it because your parents didn't want you together that you broke up?"

"You have to actually be with someone in order to break up with them, and Melissa and I were never a couple, not really," Jason informed her. "We didn't work out, because Melissa wanted to be with Ian... or, at least, that's how it seemed back then. I mean, she did like Ian, but the entire situation was far more complicated than either of us realized all those years ago."

"I, uh, I'm not sure what you're trying to say, Jason."

He scratched the side of his face, obviously apprehensive about what he was going to say. "Look, there's no easy way to say this, so I'm just going to come out and tell you, okay?" She nodded her agreement, though his question had been rhetorical. Finally, with unblinking eyes, Jason confessed, "Melissa is my sister – my half sister. My mom and her dad had an affair; nine months later, I was the result. We had no idea about any of this all those years ago, but our parents did, and that's why they didn't approve of our... whatever it was Melissa and I had together. So, even if she wouldn't have liked Ian, we never could have been together. Her decision just bought our parents a little more time to keep the truth from us."

"Oh my god," Aria gasped. "Oh my god." She knew that her mouth was hanging open like the village idiot's, that her eyes were wide, incredulous, and stunned. Without thinking about her actions, she just reacted, reaching out to take one of Jason's hands into her own. "Are you... are you alright?"

"Yeah, I guess. I mean... it's weird." At her snort, he laughed, correcting himself. "Okay, so it's really weird, but there's nothing I can do about it. It is what it is, and what happened wasn't my fault. It was their's – for cheating, for covering up the truth, for lying to us for so long." Purposefully, he stared into her eyes, and she couldn't look away, not even when she felt him turn his hand over so that he could lace their fingers together. "And it's not like I have those kind... or any kind of feelings for that matter for Melissa at this point... as you're already well aware."

Needing something to say to break the moment, Aria mumbled, "well, I guess that explains why I had an unexpected week-long houseguest. Spencer's parents finally told her and Melissa the truth."

"No, actually, Spencer kind of figured it out herself."

Aria rolled her eyes in an 'of course' manner. "She's kind of good at that."

"And then I confirmed her suspicions. Her parents certainly weren't going to tell her the truth unless someone forced their hand, and Spencer deserved to know that she has a brother."

"And you deserve the chance to know your family as well," she told him softly, squeezing his hand in what was meant to be a reassuring gesture. When Jason smiled in return, she hoped that it was because she was saying the right things, that she was, even if in a very small way, helping him feel a little better about the paternity mess he found himself embroiled in.

And she thought her family was a disaster! Suddenly, in light of everything Jason was going through – had been going through apparently for quite some time, Aria felt even worse about turning to him for comfort, about going to him to unburden himself. But she could feel the regret over her actions later; in that moment, she needed to focus all her attention upon Jason. He deserved that much from at least one person in his life... if only for a few minutes.

"As for Melissa, I have no idea if she knows the truth or not," he continued to share his situation with her. "It was one thing for me to talk to Spencer about all of this; I'm really not ready to confront Melissa as well."

"Well, that's a slightly... stickier situation," she commiserated. Tilting her head to the side, Aria observed him thoughtfully. "But you're telling me about it, so..."

"So... sometimes it feels like you're the only person I can actually talk to."

"Oh."

"That's enough about me, though," Jason segued, squeezing her fingers one last time before letting go of her hand, turning back around to face forward, and knocking his shoulder into her own in a nudging, playful manner. "You didn't come here to be my sounding board."

"I don't mind," she was quick to assure him.

Jason twisted his head around to meet her eyes with his own. "I know." For several still moments, the two of them held their stare, saying so much but nothing at all at the same time. "Anyway," he looked away from her, combing his own fingers together into a single fist and allowing it to dangle between his spread legs. "Sorry I wasn't much help. I don't know what to tell you about your parents. I mean, I get where they're coming from, but I'd also be a hypocrite if I told you your relationship was wrong. After all, he's probably only a year or two older than I am."

"Yeah, but you were never my teacher, and my parents have known you since we were kids." Realizing exactly what she had been implying, Aria bit her lip and rushed to clarify her words. "I mean, not that we're together or anything. I'm just saying that if we ever were... not that that's going to happen... or not, I don't know. Anyway, yeah. Okay. I'm shutting up now."

"No, I get it," Jason laughed, easing her mortification and frustration. "We just... It wouldn't be nearly as jarring for your parents to see us together as a couple, because, in one capacity or another, I've been in your life for so long. But your teacher... that's something that I imagine no parent ever wants to think about – their little girl dating someone who was supposed to be safe, someone who was supposed to be a mentor, an authority figure in her life. Plus, Aria, you have to know that the whole teacher-student relationship is so taboo, and, with your dad being a teacher himself..."

"Who also had an affair with one of his students," she interrupted him, shocking no one more than herself that she could so effortlessly confess one of her deepest secrets to him. Like so many other things with Jason, though, it just felt natural. "Granted, she was over the age of consent, but he was also married."

"Wow. Our families, huh?"

Aria chuckled humorously, rolling her eyes. "Yeah. We make quite the pair, don't we?"

He smirked in her direction, the gesture devilish and full of innuendo. "I think so."

She swallowed thickly, blushing, and ducking her head so that she could hide behind the waves of her hair which fell forward to shield her face. Clearing her throat, Aria questioned, "okay. Well, what do you think about everything that I've told you? Do you think my situation is hopeless?"

"I think that I'm not a father, so I can't even begin to understand what your parents must be feeling about your relationship, but, when I think about even Spencer – a girl who is really just my sister in name at this point – with her high school English teacher, I see red."

"And with me?" She knew it wasn't right to put him in that position – to ask Jason to open himself and his feelings for her up even further, but she couldn't stop herself either. Not only did she want to know his answer, but she needed to know it as well.

"Oh, there's definitely some red there when I think about you with... him, but that's not the main color. Aria," he whispered her name, twisting his body around to face her once more, astonishing her when he cupped her jaw in his large, warm, slightly callused hands. The friction from his rough skin against her own much softer cheeks was much too delicious. Seductive. "You have to know that the thought of you with him, with any other guy makes me jealous as hell."

"That's why I shouldn't be here, why it's wrong of me to turn to you like this." Her words were just as softly spoken.

"Maybe," Jason conceded. "But maybe that's also why you're right where you're supposed to be."

"I still can't do this; westill can't do this," Aria murmured, refusing to look away from his gaze. With wide, beseeching eyes, she implored him to understand; with wide, beseeching eyes, she implored him to disagree with her. "I mean, even if I wasn't... you know, I'd still be confused, and it's been such an awful year." Despite her best intentions, she felt tears start to sting her irises. Quickly, she closed her eyes and shook her head in order to push the emotion aside. "I'm sorry. It's not like the past few months have been a walk in the park for you either."

"It's okay," he soothed her. When she still refused to open her eyes, Jason said, "hey look at me." Lifting her lashes, she found him leaning far closer to her than he had been just moments before. In fact, their foreheads were practically touching. Unconsciously, she closed the remaining distance between them, sighing when they finally met and came together.

Being with Jason, talking to Jason, it just felt right. While she had feelings for Ezra, while she was attracted to him, and while they had their shared interest in literature and writing, those things were nothing compared to everything that she had in common with Jason. Their similarities weren't mere hobbies but practically their entire lives. Everything about Aria that mattered was somehow linked to Jason and vice versa. They were connected. With everything else in her life was falling apart, she knew that she could turn to him, and he would be there for her. Ezra would try, but he just couldn't understand her the way someone who had known her for as long as Jason had could. What was more than that, sometimes it just felt wrong to talk to Ezra about the things from her past, about Ali, and, unlike with Jason – who confided in her just as easily... maybe even more so, Ezra never told her anything about himself unless she practically forced him to.

"It might not seem like it now," Jason told her, bringing Aria back to the moment, "but things will get better." He laughed then, and the gesture almost seemed... tired. She could commiserate. "I don't know how, and I don't know when exactly, but it will." And then he did something that surprised her even further: Jason lifted his face away from hers and softly brushed his full, impossibly soft lips against her forehead, sealing his next words with the gentlest of kisses. "I promise."

Still refusing to lose contact with him, Aria reached out and, once more, joined their hands together. "But there's so much more going on that you don't even know about it."

"Then tell me."

She smiled, warmed by how instinctual those three words were for Jason to say to her. Rather than tell him no or why she couldn't, though, Aria simply said, "perhaps someday I will."

"And in the meantime," he pressed her – not because he was being pushy but because he was genuinely concerned for her, she could tell.

Aria shrugged, stood, and then moved to stand on the riser below the one on which Jason was seated. Without meaning to, she found herself positioned between his legs. The moment wasn't sexual, though; just comfortable. Leaning forward slightly, she placed her hands on his shoulders. "In the meantime, I'm going to let you go back to bed." She blushed in his presence yet again for what felt like the hundredth time that morning already. "I mean, back to sleep."

"You know that's not what I was asking," Jason playfully chastised her, his head tilted back so that he could gaze upwards and study her face.

"Yeah, I know, but I'm actually not sure how to answer your question. I guess I have a lot of thinking to do."

"Really?"

Aria grinned. "Now look who's using that word."

He goofily wiggled his eyebrows at her., and she giggled "Maybe it's our word."

"Yeah, well, let's just hope that I don't sound nearly as dense as you do when I say it."

"Dense, huh," Jason repeated, pretending to glare up at her. "I'll get you for that Montgomery."

Finally, she removed her hands from his shoulders, taking several steps back until she was standing on the ground level once more. "It'll have to wait until next time. I'm late. Mike was supposed to be at practice like five minutes ago. He's going to kill me."

"Something to look forward to then – the next time, not Mike committing fratricide," he remarked, standing to follow her to the door.

As he held it open for her and Aria slowly backed out of Jason's house, she agreed with him. "Yeah." Finally, she turned around, made her way down the stairs, and was almost to the edge of his yard when she looked over her shoulder calling out, "hey, Jason?" His smile was all the encouragement she needed to continue. "If you ever need to talk... about, you know, I'm always available."

It was his turn once more to tease her. "Oh, so nowyou're available? What, does incest turn you on?"

A bark of laughter escaped her mouth. "Shut up! You know what I meant."

"I did and I will... talk to you again, I mean, and soon."

"Good. Because, no matter what else happens... or doesn't happen, Jason, you're my friend, and I think that's something we both need, perhaps now more than ever."

She left then, quickly moving to get into the car and pulling away before she could totally throw caution, and responsibility, and propriety out the window and run back to the source of comfort and safety Jason was rapidly becoming for her. Maybe going to him hadn't made her situation with Ezra any clearer, but that didn't mean that Aria was driving away empty handed. Being with Jason, talking with Jason had given her plenty of answers – some of which were even to questions she hadn't yet asked herself. Now, she just needed to figure out what to do with all of her little epiphanies.

Aria had the feeling that her life was about to change. Drastically. And she was... okay with that – excited even.

Content for the first time in what felt like weeks, maybe even months, Aria smiled.

A/N2: Now that you've read the story, allow me to shed some light on my own thoughts concerning it. First, after she shot his attentions down, I felt like Aria needed to be the one to go to Jason. Now, if the show had him go to her first, I would just be grateful for some interaction, but, since I was in charge here, I could do what I thought best. Also, they didn't get together in this one shot. While I do want them to be with one another, I don't want it to happen too fast. If they rush into things, I think that'll be a recipe for failure. Slow and steady; slow and steady. Finally, thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed the story as much as I enjoyed writing it. :-)

~Charlynn~