Title: Awakening Aria
: R
: When A gets her hands on one of Aria's sensitive journal entries, Ezra does not react well, and Aria emotionally runs straight into Jason's waiting arms.
: Aria Montgomery, Jason DiLaurentis, Ezra Fitz (with mentions of Spencer Hastings, Hanna Marin, Emily Fields, Aria's parents and brother, Alison DiLaurentis, and A)
: Romance, Drama
: Complete.
: Unlike other one shots I've posted so far, this one moves much, much faster for Aria and Jason, but I hope that I provide enough character motivation to justify Aria's actions. Also, this was written before the last two episodes of the second season, so some things have not occurred yet in this story. Thanks and, as always, enjoy!


Awakening Aria
A Jason and Aria One Shot

This wasn't what I expected. When I used to imagine what being with Ezra would be like once we were allowed to actually be together open and honestly, I thought everything would be... well, perfect. We'd go out on dates together – sometimes alone, sometimes with other couples. He'd proudly introduce me to his friends, and they'd become my friends as well. He'd get to know Spencer, Hanna, and Emily and realize how amazing my friends are, and they'd eventually come to see him as more than just their ex-English teacher. But most of all I thought that we'd become more intimate with each other. And I don't mean sex, per say, though that certainly should have been a possibility, but just closer. It'd be like, once we stopped having so many secrets from the rest of the world, our walls around each other would come crumbling down as well.

Was I being idealistic? Yeah, probably a little. Was I being naïve? I don't want to think so, because shouldn't relationships be more than... this?, but it appears that way. Things between Ezra and I are are just so... well, boring. And it has nothing to do with the fact that, now that we're not sneaking around to be together, all the fun is gone. I've just come to realize that, for the majority of our relationship, sneaking around was really all we had. Perhaps we had common interests and fun in the beginning... for like five seconds, but, looking back on the last year, I realize that, when we weren't fighting, or making up, or breaking up over the fact that we couldn't be together openly, we really didn't see much of each other. He has work, and I have school, my family, and my friends. In an open relationship or not, our lives simply don't meet, and forget about them actually combining. It's like church and state with us... or, at least, how the constitution intended for church and state to be like.

A part of me questions whether it's the rush of our secret rendezvouses that I miss, but that just can't be it. I remember what those were like. After all, it wasn't that long ago that we were still hiding our feelings for each other from everyone else but especially my parents. I hated sneaking around. It was nerve-wracking, sometimes even scary, and most definitely inconvenient. Then, I start to question Ezra's apparent apathy towards our relationship now that we're together freely. Has he lost interest because I'm no longer the forbidden fruit so to speak? I don't want to think this way. It's going to do nothing but further drag our relationship down, but, at the same time, things aren't right between us. At least, I hope not, because, if this is what I have to look forward to in the future of all my romances – seeing each other once, maybe twice a week; semi-cold dinners of chinese takeout, followed by a rented DVD and stale popcorn; and stilted phone conversations between his responsibilities and mine, well, then, I'm not sure if I want to even date. It's depressing, and, because it's depressing, it drags down everything else in my life as well.

Don't get me wrong. I love Ezra, and I believe that he loves me, too, but I'm starting to realize that love just might not be enough. (Wow, did I sound like a depressing break-up song there!) We need to be friends, too, and, right now, we're more like strangers. When exactly did this happen to us, and where was I when it did; how did I not see this until it was too late? Is it too late?

No, I won't think that way. What Ezra an I share together is far too important, and we fought way too hard to be together to just... give up. No, we just need to talk about our issues – get them out on the table so to speak and deal with them. And this should be simple enough. If nothing else, Ezra and I have always been able to talk to each other... probably because he's an English teacher/professor, and I just can't not talk about things – my thoughts, my feelings. I just wish that, before I talked to Ezra, I could run through my ideas with someone else first, but that's not going to happen.

At one point, I would have felt comfortable going to my mom with my relationship woes, but not now – not when I just finally got her to, if not support my relationship with Ezra, then at least to allow it. The last thing I need is for her to see a chink in our armor and pounce on it to use against us. Usually, I'd go to my friends, but I've just never been comfortable discussing Ezra at length with the girls. (And, side note, what's up with that? You're supposed to be able to talk to your best friends about anything but especially about your boyfriend. Huh. Weird. I don't know. Maybe it's because he was their teacher...) Anyway, besides my awkwardness concerning Ezra around them, it just doesn't seem right either – what with the three of them all having their own issues to deal with; they don't need my problems on top of their own as well. And forget about Mike. I swear, if he doesn't respond with a grunt, then he actually believes that scratching... something... is an appropriate answer to a question. Really, he's sometimes enough to make me think that Emily has the right idea about girls... only not, because... yeah, no.

Then there's Jason...


I have no idea where that thought even came from! I haven't spoken with, let alone seen, Jason in weeks. I mean, I know that he's around, but he seems so preoccupied with something, and then there's the way that we left things between us a couple of months ago. He knows that I'm with someone, but, at the same time, I'm not sure if he actually accepted my excuse. Not that he's done anything inappropriate or anything; I just get the feeling that he's... I don't know – biding his time, maybe. This should bother me, but it doesn't. In fact, I find it really flattering and even a little... inviting. What's up with...

"Aria, dinner!"

Halfway through her thought, Aria looked up from her journal, stopping immediately. Bounding up from her desk chair, she distractedly placed the pen she had been writing with inside of her notebook to mark her page before going down to dinner without a second's thought, her mind already spinning away in several new directions. She'd finish her entry later.

} ~ {

"Hiya, stranger," she greeted her boyfriend brightly as Ezra opened the door for her. Really, he should just give her a key at this point. It would save time and, well, be quite the romantic gesture, too. Leaning up on her tiptoes, she placed a loud, playful kiss against one of his cleanly shaved cheek. "Miss me?"

Without waiting for an answer, she moved into her boyfriend's cramped yet cozy apartment, making herself at home by dropping her purse to the floor and immediately kicking off her shoes. Curling up on the couch, she made herself comfortable, only to then realize that Ezra had yet to say a word, nor had he advanced any further into his own home than the still open doorway.

Curious, Aria tilted her head to the side. "We did have a date tonight, right? I didn't get the times wrong or imagine us making plans over the phone last night?" When he still didn't stay something, she went from being inquisitive to concerned. Standing back up, she advanced towards him. "Hey," Aria cooed worried, sliding her palm up to cup her boyfriend's left cheek. "What's wrong? Did something happen at work? Is it one of your friends? My dad isn't causing you problems again, is...?"

Her question was cut off when he roughly stepped away from her touch. With a puzzled expression, Aria watched as Ezra moved over to his desk and grabbed a couple pieces of paper. Shoving them in her direction, he demanded to know, "what is this, Aria?"

Well, now, she was back to being puzzled. With furrowed brow, she glanced down at the papers which were now in her hands, quickly realizing what she was holding. Darting her now equally heated gaze up to meet Ezra's eyes, she snapped, "where did you get these?"

"I really don't think that's what matters right now."

"Of course it does," she argued, her voice rising with every word she uttered. "These are photocopies of my journal; these are my private, personal thoughts!"

"I know. That's what concerns me."

Those six words felt like a slap against her face, and she hastily, desperately stepped back, needing to put more physical space between them. "Excuse me? You read them?"

"Well, they were sent to me," Ezra flippantly justified his own actions. "Wouldn't you do the same thing?"

"I hope not," Aria yelled. She realized then that her hands were shaking and that she had balled them up into fists at her sides, the photocopied pages of her journal clenched tightly by her right fingers. Lowering her voice slightly, she continued, "I'd like to think that I have enough respect for you that I would stop reading as soon as I realized what I had in my possession. What you did, Ezra, that was a huge invasion of my privacy."

"Please," he scoffed, turning away from her dismissively. "If I wouldn't have read what you wrote, then I wouldn't have had any idea how you really about us, about me, about Jason."

"He has nothing to do with this."

"Well, apparently he does, because you were the one to write about him in your journal, Aria."

For a moment, she was speechless. How did he not see how wrong his actions had been? How did he not get that, for a girl, her diary is sacred? How did he not understand that what she had written had just been her thoughts – words – but not her feelings? And, for that matter, he was an English professor. Shouldn't he recognize that the ellipsis at the end of the entry meant that she had been interrupted? Running a frustrated hand through her hair, Aria pushed her thick locks away from her face, unsure of how to proceed. Should she continue to rail against her boyfriend, or should she back down and just apologize – be meek and make nice? Usually, she would choose the latter, preferring to keep the status quo with Ezra rather than rock the boat, but she just couldn't do that, not this time, not after what he had done.

"I was making like James Joyce... you know, stream of consciousness and all."

Haughtily, he replied, "I get it, thanks. I think that, between the two of us, I would be the one to understand Joyce better, don't you?"

"And just what the hell is that supposed to mean?"

"It means that maybe everyone was right about us, Aria," Ezra sighed, moving to sit against the arm of his couch as he talked to her. No, it was more like he was lecturing her. "Maybe you are too young for me."

"Why, because I had doubts about our relationship? Because I questioned the fact that, since we've become a couple in the open, things have not been great between us? Because I dared to mention another guy in my journal, someone who has been in my life far longer than you have?" She scoffed. "If that's the case, then you're the immature one. It's NORMAL to do all those things; if I didn't and I saw our relationship with rose-tinted glasses, then I'd say you had cause to be concerned, but I don't, and you certainly don't. Not only did you read my journal without my permission, but, apparently, you were prepared to just accept our relationship for the way it was and not try to fix it or make it better."

"How was I supposed to know that you weren't the one to send me those pages," he nodded towards the photocopies still gripped tightly in her right hand. "After all, the envelope had no postmark."

"Really? Seriously? That's what you took away from my speech?" Laughing without humor, she spun around on her bare heels, realizing that they had left the door open the whole time during their argument and suddenly finding that she missed the presence of her heels, of the slight sense of... power they gave her.

"I don't know what else you want me to say."

His quiet, dull words devoid of any feeling made her pivot right back around. "I want you to apologize," she railed against him." Walking quickly across the short distance which separated them, she shoved the copied pages of her journal against his chest. "I want you to take what I wrote in these pages seriously enough to want to mend what's broken between us but not seriously enough that you... fixate on what's not important here – like Jason."

"But, you see, that's where I disagree," Ezra commented softly. "I think that Jason might be what matters the most here." Before she could protest, he posed, "answer for me this one question: do you have feelings for him?"

"For Jason," Aria asked, realizing after it was too late that her question was an obvious stall tactic.


Throwing her hands up in the air, she tried to dismissively reply, "of course I have feelings for Jason. He's Ali's brother, and he's my friend, too, but I love you."

"I don't doubt that," he told her sincerely. "The problem is that you could love him, too. You know that; after reading your own words, it's obvious that Jason knows that; and, now, that I know it as well, this isn't something that I can just turn my back against and forget about, Aria."

"You don't get it," she protested, staring at him incredulously. "If, if Jason is a problem for our relationship – and I'm not saying that he is, then he's only a symptom; not the disease. We have bigger issues – mainly the fact that we barely see each other, and, when we do, all we do is hide away in this stupid apartment of yours. Nothing's changed since we came clean to my parents, since my mom relented and allowed me to date you openly. We're still hiding from the rest of the world. Are you ashamed of me, of us? Is that what's wrong here?"

"No, I'm not ashamed of you, and, until I read what you wrote, I hadn't been aware that there was anything wrong with our relationship." Ezra's quiet, almost emotionless words took the wind out of her sails, and Aria stumbled several steps over to his desk chair and collapsed down so that she, too, was seated. "I don't think you get it. This – semi-cold dinners of chinese takeout, followed by a rented DVD and stale popcorn, that's who I am, Aria. I don't know what else you want from me? I'm not someone who enjoys going out to clubs. I don't dance. I don't like parties, I don't like crowds, I don't like noisy rooms or noisy people. I thought you knew this about me and loved me because of it, not in spite of it."

She spoke slowly, the words coming to her as the realization did. "I guess I just need... more."

"And that's okay. You're entitled to want more. What I said before," he admitted, rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly, "about you being too young, maybe I was wrong; maybe I'm just too old for you."

"Okay then," she accepted his opinion, shrugging her shoulders. "I guess the question becomes what do we do about it." Reaching out a forgiving hand, an imploring hand in her boyfriend's direction and wanting him to meet her half way, she added, "how do we get past this?"

Only Ezra didn't reciprocate her gesture. Instead, he stood up, moved across the room towards his open door, and reached out to hold it expectantly – like he was ready to close it and was just waiting for her to leave. "We don't."

Tears instantly gathered in her wide eyes, but Aria rapidly blinked them away. "I... I don't think I understand."

"We don't move past this, because we shouldn't have to. I shouldn't have to change, and you shouldn't be expected to settle."

She stood then, rushing towards him. "Ezra, I don't feel like I'm settling by being with you."

"Maybe not, but I suddenly feel like I'm holding you back."

"Are you... no, I mean, you're not breaking up with me, right?" She tripped over her words, her tone laced with disbelief, hurt, and shock. Without realizing it, Aria had lost the battle with her emotions, and tears were effortlessly rolling down what she knew to be her even paler face than usual.

Ezra reached for her purse, her shoes, fairly thrusting them into her arms. "Goodbye, Aria."

And the next thing she knew was that she was standing alone out in her suddenly ex-boyfriend's hallway, barefoot, the sound of the door locking behind her the exclamation point to end the Ezra chapter of her life. Reaching up trembling fingers, she dashed away her tears... or as many of them as she could before blindly making her way down the corridor, through the stairwell door, then down the stairs and outside, never once stopping to put her shoes on. She just needed to get away as fast as possible, find a quiet place to be alone, and... process.

Five minutes later, she was safely ensconced in a private corner of one of the many small parks which dotted downtown Rosewood and the Hollis campus, the empty park bench she was sitting on her lone companion. But she wanted the solitude, needed it. Eventually, she'd go home. She'd crawl into bed, text her friends, and they'd no doubt come running with chick flicks, ice cream, and enough nail polish to give the entire world fresh manicures and pedicures, but, for the moment, she just needed to be alone; she needed to feel without fear of censure or even sympathy.

So, she cried. She cried because her first real relationship had come to a rather unexpected and anti-climatic end. She cried because, though it was Ezra's decision to break up with her, she knew that she had hurt him. She cried because she honestly did love him and because she knew that he honestly did love her. She cried because she didn't want to face everybody's 'we told you so' expressions, especially her parents', she cried because she was again alone, and she cried because A had been in her room, invading her privacy in such a flagrant, painful way. But most of all she cried because, though breaking up with Ezra hurt, it didn't hurt nearly as much as Aria had expected it to.

That was fitting, though, wasn't it? Wasn't that one of her complaints about their relationship during the past couple of months? Things had started to feel stale between them, staid. Or maybe, more accurately, there had been a general lack of feeling period, and suddenly that realization made her angry. Being in love should be more; breaking up should make her feel morethan her current apathy, detachment, and guilt.

"Did your shoes break?"

"Huh," a startled Aria looked up to be confronted with the very last person she had expected to find but, at the same time, the only person who made sense being there with her in that moment. "What?" Realizing what he meant, she laughed humorously, self-deprecatingly. "No, nothing like that. I just... couldn't put them on."

"Well, then, give them here."

She obeyed, unsure of what he intended to do, but then he lifted her legs, swinging them around so that her feet were resting in his lap. Practically in the very same movement, he slipped off his unbuttoned oxford as well, leaving his upper body now clad in just a t-shirt. When he used the balled up dress shirt to gently, sweetly clean off the bottoms of her dirty feet, she realized his intentions, giggling genuinely. "Jason, you don't have to do that. You're going to ruin your shirt. And I didn't mean that I couldn't physically put my own shoes on; I was just too emotionally unstable earlier, so I ran outside barefoot."

He shrugged his shoulders, casting a sideways grin in her direction before returning to his task. After wiping off her feet, he carefully slipped her heels back on. "I don't mind," he informed her, obviously in no hurry to remove her legs from his lap either, because he simply just leaned back, readjusted his hips into a more comfortable position, and then dropped his forearms and hands across her bare shins. While maybe he was slouching now, his touch made Aria sit up at attention, the nerve endings not only in her legs but throughout her whole body suddenly alive with adrenaline, buzzing with excitement.

Trying to distract herself from everything she was suddenly feeling with Jason, Aria rushed to ask, "so, what are you doing here," making sure that she avoided his gaze. While she waited for his answer, her fingers fumbled and twisted together, toyed with the rings she was wearing, and nervously pushed some fallen strands of hair back behind her ears.

Casually, he responded, "I was on my way home from the office, pulled up to the red light across the street when I saw you, so I stopped."

"Ugh, I hate that light," she commiserated. "It takes forever to change, and I don't understand why. It's not like Rosewood is this happening place with tons of traffic. They should install one of those traffic cams that monitor the flow of vehicles so that the light only changes when it needs to."

He shrugged, and one of his thumbs smoothed up and down, back and forth several times against that slight line of definition that delineated her calf muscle even when her leg was relaxed. "I don't know. It kind of worked to my advantage tonight."

"What, because I was upset?"

"No, I actually couldn't tell that from my car," he told her. "Just that I saw you," Jason then continued, making Aria flush as a warm tide of pleasure and satisfaction rushed through her, "and you were alone. It's been a while since we've seen each other."

"Talked," she offered, agreeing with his statement and adding to it.

He chuckled. "I guess I don't have to ask you how you've been, though." Sobering, he pressed, "but I will ask you what happened... you know, if you want to talk about it."

"It's fine," she waved off his concerns of prying. In a no nonsense tone, she rhetorically asked, "do you remember how a couple of months ago I told you that I wasn't available? Well, as of just about ten minutes ago, that status changed."

"Oh, well, I'm sorry – because you were hurt, not because you're now single." As if to emphasize his flirting, his teasing, Jason wiggled his eyebrows in her direction, and Aria immediately burst into laughter.

"Shut up," she ordered him insincerely, reaching out to playfully shove his shoulder. "You're such a brat."

"And you're now smiling, so you must not be too offended."

"Oh, I am," she effected a straight, serious face which lasted for maybe half a second. "But I'm just too polite to act like I am, especially when you were so kind as to slip my shoes on for me."

"You might be a lot of things, Aria Montgomery," Jason told her, twisting around so that his right arm could stretch across the back of bench and his body could lean in closer to her own. "But polite isn't one of them."

Just going with the mischievous mood, living in the moment, feeling, she launched herself at him, intent upon shoving him off of the bench only to find herself firmly planted in Jason's lap – one leg to either side of his own – with his arms wrapped around her, his right hand dipping dangerously low against the small of her back, his left curled around her neck so that his long fingers could reach around to rest against her racing pulse and his thumb could sooth the skin at her nape. Almost instantly, the energy between them shifted once more, and Jason was entirely serious when he asked, "what happened between the two of you; what went wrong?"

"I don't know," she shrugged, reaching forward to distract herself by toying with the material of his t-shirt, her fingers twisting and turning his collar. Biting her lip, Aria confessed, "I think we were just too different, and, for so long, we were focused so much on just actually being together, that we failed to really get to know one another." Glancing up at him, she asked, "does that make sense?"

"It does."

Blowing out a harsh breath intended to stir her forward falling locks out of her eyes, she pressed on. "It didn't help matters that we seemed to become almost too complacent, like, once we were allowed to be together openly, we stopped really working at our relationship. I mean, there were some obvious issues between us – things that we had swept under the rug and some stuff, too, that we just never even attempted to deal with, and we just did... nothing about them. While, on one hand, I think we were both afraid to rock the boat, on the other, I think we both knew that we were holding on to our illusions so tightly that, once we let go a little bit, everything would come crashing down around us. Which it did."

"It's not a bad thing to want something so much that you hold on to it blindly."

"Maybe not," she admitted, staring directly into his eyes so that he could not only hear her next words but see them, their true meaning, and her sincerity as well. "But that's not how I want to be held."

Jason swallowed roughly, and Aria stood up, reaching out a hand to him as she did so. Once he had joined her on his feet, he asked, "where are we going?"

"Somewhere where you can hold me the way I want to be held."

He didn't argue, didn't protest. Instead, he just smiled softly, lacing their fingers together and allowing her to lead him to his parked car. Even though she was in control, Jason was no passive participant. Plus, she knew that his restraint would only last for so long.

She couldn't wait to feel it snap.

} ~ {

By the time they arrived at Jason's house, he was the one leading her. It felt nice – to have a man in control for once. During her entire relationship with Ezra, she had been in the driver's seat... or as much as anyone could dictate the rules of a secret, forbidden relationship. But with Jason, it was different; he was different, and she liked it, though it was a new experience to have a guy taking care of her – not because he wanted to dominate or possess her but because he was sweet, and protective, and eager.

Okay, so maybe there was an element of possessiveness in Jason's actions as well, but, quite frankly, Aria found it to be a turn on. It was very Victorian of her, but there was nothing like the feeling of a man staking his claim. She wanted to belong to Jason, and she wanted to possess him as well.

He unlocked the door, and they moved into the dim interior of his house – Ali's house– without speaking. The lights were off, and the only illumination was a stray beam of light or two from the rapidly setting sun. Even in the shadows, though, Aria could see how empty the house was. "No wonder you papered over the windows," she murmured, not realizing she had said the words out loud until Jason chuckled. "I mean, we were just... curious?"

"No, you thought I was hiding a fugitive, plotting revenge, and probably drowning puppies in the bathtub as well."

"Kittens, actually," Aria quipped, earning herself another grin. She figured that, if they were going to do this, there was no room for coyness between them at that point. Or secrets.

"Don't worry about it. Spencer and I, we've reached an... understanding, if you will."

Just as she was going to ask him what exactly that meant, Jason moved towards the stairs, leading her behind him by their once more linked hands, and, as she followed him up the risers, the last thing on Aria's mind was her best friend. Instead, she found her thoughts zigzagging between the curious – just what would Jason's bedroom look like – and the excited, anticipating what they were about to do together. Because there was no doubt in her mind that she and Jason were going to sleep together that night... and she didn't mean platonically either.

The upstairs of the house was in far better shape than the downstairs. Through the open doors, she could see plain yet clean bedrooms, all of them simple yet tastefully arranged and decorated. Gone were any traces of his family, though, but she couldn't blame Jason for wanting a clean slate. He broke into her thoughts by admitting, "the house is really too big for me since I live alone, but I just... so many bad things happened here, so many people were unhappy. I guess I just wanted to start fresh but, at the same time, make up for the past, too, you know?"

"No, I get it," she reassured him.

"But I also need very little, and it's not like I do much entertaining."

"Well, except for right now," Aria corrected him.

They came to the only closed door along the upstairs hallway, the one that had to be to Jason's bedroom. She remembered that it used to be his parents' room, so it was probably the biggest, the nicest. Ali used to hate the fact that she didn't have the master bedroom, and a very small, petty part of Aria thrilled at the fact that now Jason had the room that his sister had coveted so much and that she was going to stay in there with him.

"Trust me, we'll do just fine in my room."

With that, Jason opened his bedroom door, allowing her to step inside first. Immediately, her eyes landed upon the focal point of the room: his mammoth, king-sized, silk sheet clad bed. Aria was pretty sure, if she were to try climbing into that monster of a bed on her own, she would probably need a step stool. Good thing Jason was there with her, though. She was sure he'd be quite willing to give her a little boost into...

And that's as far as she got before his hand was on her wrist, before he was spinning her around, before her back collided with the door she hadn't even heard slam shut. She wasn't even acclimated to her new position before Jason was lifting her up, hoisting her up so that their bodies were better aligned, his hips holding her hips into place against the door. They hadn't even kissed yet, and she could already feel just how much he wanted this, just how much he wanted her. The knowledge was liberating. Aria grinned deliciously, decadently, her gaze never once wavering from Jason's, and then she wound her arms around his neck, tunneling her fingers into his thick, honey hued hair and scraping her nails against his scalp.

"There she is," Jason whispered, his mouth so close to hers that, as he talked, their lips would rub together. "There's my pink haired girl."

Before she could even grin, he claimed her mouth with his own, the kiss anything but light and airy. Rather, it was hard and fast, demanding, wet, and so unbelievably erotic. His tongue played with hers, massaged hers; his teeth nipped at her bottom lip, at the corners of her mouth. And, while his mouth tempted her, tasted her, his hands seduced her. They slid under the hem of her dress which was already riding high upon her thighs and smoothed their way over her bottom, dipping past the edges of her skimpy boy shorts to tease the skin waiting underneath. That wasn't enough for him, though, and soon Jason removed his hands, gripped the sides of her dress, and pulled it off her body and over her head in one liquid movement. It wasn't fast enough, though, wasn't fluid enough, and, while their lips were separated, Aria let out a needing whimper.

"Ssh," Jason breathed against her neck before laving it with his tongue – once, twice, and then he bit her just hard enough to make the gesture sting slightly – as though he were marking her as his own. Wanting to return the favor, she dropped her hands from his hair and greedily tugged at the neck of his shirt, wanting it off of him in the worst way, needing to touch his bare skin. He obliged, tearing the garment off of his body and letting it drop carelessly to the floor. For a brief moment, Aria stared at her dress and his shirt where they lay pooled together. The image was both reassuring and empowering. She liked seeing their things so close, and, what's more, his clothes looked better on the floor than they did hiding away his lickable, oh-so-kissable body. By the time she sunk her nails into the muscles of his back and scoured them downwards, Jason had removed her bra, unhooked her legs from his waist, and was in the process of removing her final article of clothing... well, besides her shoes. For some reason, he seemed to want those to remain, and who was she to argue?

"Bed. Now," Aria demanded, pleased with herself when he obeyed her command. He walked backwards with her still held tightly in his arms before quickly turning around and, unceremoniously, dropping her so that she bounced slightly against his mattress, giggling gleefully. Her laughter soon faded, though, as she watched him finish stripping out of his own clothes – first his shoes, then his socks, and then, finally, Jason simply removed his jeans and his boxer-briefs in one sure gesture.

As quickly as his power had emerged minutes before, as he lowered himself to hover over her on the bed – his hands placed on either side of her head, while his strong, corded legs pushed her thighs wide to accommodate his presence – Jason suddenly become tender, his touches the softest of silk against her skin. His kissed the hollow of her chest between her breasts. He kissed the freckle which dotted the underside of her left breast. He rubbed his nose against her belly button, tickling her slightly, before he moved lower and kissed her right above what would have been her panty-line. He kissed her aroused, sensitive right aureola and then her left before reaching towards his nightstand and removing not a single condom but an entire, unopened box. Both the fact that he was so presumptuous that he automatically (rightly) assumed they would be sleeping together more than once that evening and the fact that she must have been the first girl in a long time that he had taken to his bed made Aria smile widely. That grin disappeared, though, when he placed the foil packet in her hand, obviously wanting her to sheath him.

While Aria wasn't opposed to such an idea, until that moment, she had never realized how... familiar of a gesture that was – a woman placing a condom on a man. The thought made her nervous with excitement and giddy with anticipation, so much so, in fact, that her fingers were trembling too much to even get the condom open. So, when Jason wrapped his hand around her own, and they opened the packet together, she nearly melted. If putting a condom on a man was familiar, then doing it together was downright intimate.

Once the protection was in place, Jason surprised her by not automatically joining their bodies together. Instead, he lowered himself so that, instead of resting against his hands above her, he was leaning against his forearms, their faces just inches apart. And then he started kissing her again – slow kisses, languid kisses, provocative kisses, honeyed kisses – so much so that, by the time he did finally thrust inside of her, she was completely relaxed and aroused at the same time – an odd combination, her body automatically molding itself around him. And, when Jason moved inside of her for the first time, she felt... everything.

Aria had been awakened.

} ~ {

Though his actions were gentle – a kiss across her brow, the fingers of his right hand, his loose hand – the one not wrapped around her – sliding sensuously, playfully through and against her own, the words that slipped past Jason's lips an hour later made Aria's heart stop momentarily before kicking into a panicked overdrive. "We shouldn't have done this."

"What," she asked, sitting up slightly by leaning an elbow against his chest where her head had just been resting and twisting around to look him in the eyes. "Why not?"

"Because you just broke up with your longterm boyfriend," he replied. His words held meaning but no recrimination. "And I'm not going to be your rebound guy. This is going to mean more and last longer than that."

Satisfied with his answer, she once more reclaimed her reclined position along his still slightly slick with perspiration body. Her own was as equally, as deliciously moist. "You're not my rebound guy, Jason."

"Are you sure?" Gone was the bravado, and, in its place, she could hear his vulnerability.

It was that raw edge of insecurity which made Aria roll over so that she was laying directly on top of him, her face resting along her folded hands high upon his chest just below his chin. "I'm positive, Jason. A rebound relationship has to be with someone who doesn't know you as well as you know me. We share far too much in our lives to ever just... sleep together a few times and then call it quits. Even if we weren't technically together at that point, we'd still constantly be around each other. Besides, in a way, we've been moving in this direction since you got back to town. What happened between us tonight doesn't feel like it just started; it feels like it was inevitable, like it has been building for months, maybe even years."

He smirked, wiggled his brows, and allowed his hands to slip under the light sheet which was covering their naked bodies in order to grip her by the derriere and pull her more intimately against him. "So, want to spend the night?"

"Uh, I thought that was already a given." He laughed then.

When she went to climb out of the bed, though, to get her phone, he stopped her. "Where do you think you're going?"

"I need to get someone to cover for me with my parents. They might be a little self-involved, but they do realize it when I don't eventually come home at night."

He flipped them over so that she was once more flat on her back before scampering out of bed himself, completely nude... much to her very appreciative eyes' pleasure. She barely had enough time to scoot up so that she was leaning against his padded headboard before he was back mere seconds later, handing her the phone as he ripped away the sheet that she had clenched against her chest. "Jason!"

"What," he asked innocently – and looking adorable while doing so. Before she could respond, he had climbed back into bed and slid himself between her legs, resting not so that he was hovered on top of her but with his back against her chest... or, more accurately, with his head cradled between her breasts, finally pulling the sheet up to cover them both, though he allowed it to pool around his lap. Aria immediately loved the position. As she held him, it felt like she was keeping him safe, protecting him from the rest of the world. It was a heady feeling.

Shaking away her thoughts, she refocused upon the task at hand. "Just let me call Spencer," she told him, already dialing, but then the phone was ripped from her grip.

"No, anyone but Spencer."

While she protested, he typed into her phone for her, texting – she glanced over his shoulder – Hanna. "But I thought you said that the two of you were cool now – which, by the way, you're totally going to have to tell me about, because Spencer, the brat, has said absolutely nothing about it... at least not to me."

After Hanna quickly texted back that she would cover for Aria – probably assuming that she was staying at Ezra's, because, after all, there was no way for her to know what all had happened that evening, Jason continued to text for her, sending a second quick message to her mom, giving her Aria's quickly obtained alibi. Once he was finished, he tossed her phone aside, literally onto their pile of clothes which was still on the floor, and then rolled over so that he was looking at her face to face. "Call me crazy, but I just find it mildly uncomfortable to think about my half-sister covering for you so that we can have sex. All. Night. Long."

With his final three words, Jason moved quickly down her body, punctuating them with open mouth kisses against her bare skin. She squealed, but he was not deterred, disappearing beneath the sheet. "Jason, what the hell do you mean that Spencer's your half sister?"

All it took was one last kiss choicely placed where it would cause her to immediately come apart in his embrace for Aria to lose all track of time, thought, and reality. "Yeah, okay," she agreed, voice high with anticipation and need, with feeling. "We'll talk later."

Much, much later.