A/N: Hey guys… I'm so sorry this chapter took this long! Aghhh I've been really busy… but I hope you all enjoy the chapter!
Rosewood, Subtract All Tragedies
** Two Years Ago **
Ezra was sitting in the cafeteria at his school in New York, with his usual friend group. Nick, Tucker, and Luca, then sitting with them today was his twin brother, Sam. Sam had a tendency to simply want to take away from Ezra all that he could, or at least that was what it seemed like to him. Ezra still hadn't quite forgiven him for his latest stunt with Ezra's –now Sam's latest girlfriend. He assumed that was why Sam was bugging him and his friends as they had been trying to eat lunch in peace. Ezra rolled his eyes and bit into his sandwich.
"Hey, are you guys all coming to my party Friday night?" He asked from the end of the table, and Ezra glanced over at him unappreciatively.
"What party?" Nick asked.
"C'mon, Bro, you didn't invite them to the party?"
Sam really got on his nerves – a lot of the time.
"It's your party," I reminded him, and he nodded.
"But we're brothers."
"Try not to remind me," Ezra said unhappily, but Sam ignored his comment.
"Anyways, you three should come," Sam said, shooting a smile at Ezra when he thought he was looking, "It'll be fun."
"Thanks," said Nick, knowing his friend's ongoing battle with Sam, "But we're hanging out at Luca's tonight."
"Suit yourselves," Sam replied, and he got up and walked away.
"There are some days I'm so glad that you guys aren't identical," Tucker said and the rest of them chuckled.
"It wouldn't have an effect on their personalities," Luca reminded him, and I nodded.
"Yeah," Ezra agreed, "I wouldn't want to look like him."
It wasn't that his brother was hideous with awful malformations; it was just nice to be different. Seeing as the brothers looked quite a like with one striking difference – Sam was blonde – no one ever really confused them. When they were younger they had both been blonde, but Ezra's had slowly started to darken as the years went on. It was nice, now that they looked so different, with no one swapping their names, no one calling on one in class when meaning the other, or calling the wrong name in the hallways. Ezra took a deep breath as the bell rang.
He could feel himself turning into a terrible person as he walked, he was looking forward to the day that he would no longer be in the same area as Sam, to finally be out from under his thumb. He kept thinking that it would only be another fight between mom and dad where just a few too many harsh words were yelled across the apartment. That was all it would take, and then he'd be home free. He shook himself out of his train of thought mentally before letting it go much further. He really had to stop thinking like that.
"You ready for the English test?" Luca asked him.
"Who are you kidding?" Nick laughed as they got up from their table and were heading back towards the hall, "It's Fitz, the guy lives to read."
** Present Day **
Ezra was sitting in Aria's living room on the couch with his arms around her. Her father, who had told him to simply call him Byron several times was in his office grading papers, and her mother wasn't home yet. He leaned down and kissed the top of her head without taking his eyes off the page that he was reading of his book. She was happily leaning back in his arms, and working on an essay that she had yet to write for their English class.
"What time does your mom get home?" He asked and Aria just looked at him.
"I told you, I talked to her," She said, "And she agreed to give you a shot."
"Thanks, but I still don't think we should push it," Ezra said and Aria just looked at him, then leaned in and kissed him softly.
"I think that you think too much," She smirked, and he leaned in and kissed her.
"Hey guys," Byron walked in, forcing them to pull apart.
"Dad!" Aria blushed.
"I was just wondering if Ezra was planning on staying for dinner," He replied, "We're having Chicken Parmesan. It's delicious, you should stay."
"Ok," Ezra seemed really surprised at the invitation to dinner.
"Ok then," Byron smiled in a self-satisfied manor as he headed back into the kitchen.
"Ezra," Aria said as Byron disappeared.
"Yes?" He smiled down at her.
"I am so sick of Ali and everyone and I think we should just come out with it," She said, "Tomorrow at school – and we should just be a couple."
"You think that's a good idea?" He asked, giving her a slightly scared smile.
"Yeah," She said, defiantly, "I'm ready, it's been a month – and I think it'll be ok."
"Ok," He replied, then took a deep breath, "We'll do it tomorrow."
"Wait, you've been talking to Jason, right?" Aria said, "Do you think he'll be ok? And I want to meet our mom!"
"I think he'll be fine whenever it comes out," Ezra told her, "He knows it's coming. And I'm sure she'd love to meet you too."
"Well he just started talking to me again –kind of," Aria said, he had begun to acknowledge and contribute to what she was saying sometimes.
"He'll be ok," He assured her, kissing her temple adoringly, "He's going to be a little upset, but he'll be ok."
"Ok," Aria agreed and Ezra nodded as Mike waked into the room.
"Dad says dinner's ready, mom should be home in a few minutes," He announced, then headed back towards the kitchen.
Aria was proud, for once of how well her parents were doing with Ezra. She had sat her mother down a few weeks ago and had a very kind, polite, conversation on why she was no longer with Jason, and how she was with Ezra now. She had seemingly gotten through to her, and while it was still painfully obvious that she preferred Jason, she was a little more accepting of Ezra, which was all they had needed. Ezra was charming, and helpful, and kind – the kind of guy mothers loved, once they got to know him they would be all set.
What Aria was somewhat anxious about was the next day at school. There was no more hiding, and no more sadness – but there was going to be collateral. Letting everyone know that they were together was going to cost something, except she wasn't quite sure what it would be. Ali could be scary, and Aria had no clue what she would do. Aria knew what her friend was capable – but what she would actually do, she didn't know.
"Good morning, beautiful," Ezra smiled as Aria walked up to the car and hopped in – it would be just them that day on the way to school.
"Hey," She smiled, leaning across the center console and kissing him good morning.
"And you're sure you want to do this, today?" He checked, and Aria nodded.
"Today's the day Jason plays basketball before school, with a friend from across town," Aria said, "He won't be there, and we can act as couplely as we want."
"What about everyone else?"
"What about them? Toby and Hanna already know," Aria pointed out.
"Yes, but what about Emily? Spencer? Ali?" Ezra checked and Aria rolled her eyes.
"Em'll be pissed I didn't tell her," Aria replied, racking her brain, "And Spencer, I'm not sure about Spencer, but c'mon – it won't be that bad."
Ezra parked the car where he usually did, over near where everyone else did. They got out of the car, and waved to their group of friends, who were like always, standing around the front steps near the bike racks. Ali, Emily, Spencer, Hanna, Ben, and Sean were all gathered around. Ian was lingering in the background; it appeared he was starting to fall into Ali's original ploy.
"Ready?" Ezra whispered, as they were walking up from the parking lot.
"Absolutely," Aria smiled at him, slipping her hand into his as he leaned over and kissed her temple, like he'd done a hundred times, only this time it was in front of everyone.
Once they turned around to head over towards the group, the only ones without shocked faces were Toby and Hannah. Emily, Ben, Spencer, and Sean looked like they had just seen something like a unicorn, or some other mystical creature they never thought they would see. Ali looked more like she had been dethroned, and from the look on her face she was not at all happy about it, in the slightest. Aria looked up at Ezra and he smiled, trying to keep in the euphoric mood he wanted to be in.
"Aria, one step at a time, remember?" He said, and she nodded as he leaned down and kissed her.
Ali was gone by the time that they reached the group, and she had taken Spencer and Ben with her when she had. Emily, Sean, Hanna, and Toby, the first two with their mouths gaping open still had wide eyes as Ezra and Aria stopped to stand with them.
"When did this happen?" Emily asked, "And why don't you two look more surprised?"
"We've known," Toby admitted.
"Is this why you broke up with Jason?" Sean asked, but Hanna handled that as she cut across him.
"We've known for a while," Hanna added to Toby's statement, "And they're so cute, look at them."
"I can't believe you didn't tell me," Emily looked hurt.
"I can't believe that – does Jason know about this?" Sean asked, looking to Ezra.
"He does," Ezra replied, "And he's been – good about it. Unbelievably so."
"So what exactly is this?" Emily asked and Aria took a deep breath.
"We're a couple," Aria told her and her eyes went wide.
"I have class," Emily said, clearly hurt by not being in the know.
"I've got her," Hanna said, taking off after her.
"I can't believe you'd do this to Jason, either of you," Sean said, and Toby took off after him as he went in the opposite direction.
"Well that went…"
"Worse than expected," Aria completed Ezra's thought, and he nodded.
Aria shifted closer to him, and he wrapped an arm around her, kissing the top of her head trying to comfort her. She looked up at him and he smiled weakly, trying to keep her spirits up too.
"Still worth it?" He asked, because he had to.
"They'll come around," Aria replied, leaning up and kissing him, "And yes, you're worth it."
"You sure about that?" Ezra couldn't fight the guilt that was starting to feel toxic to him.
Aria put her hand up on the side of his jaw, then let it slide down to his chin.
His smile was a little stronger as she pulled away from him, and took his hand. The bell telling them to head to first period rang, and we turned to head towards the front door of the school.
"Ez!" They heard from behind them, and they turned around.
There were two teenage boys, about eighteen heading towards them, running towards them.
"Sam? Nick?" Aria looked up at Ezra, and he looked like he couldn't believe his eyes.
"Sam like your brother?"
"Yeah," Ezra replied, and Aria looked surprised, "Go ahead to class, I'll catch up with you."
"You promise?" Aria asked, and Ezra nodded as she leaned up and kissed his cheek, scurrying off just before Sam and Nick got to Ezra.
"What're you guys doing here?" Ezra asked.
"We came to visit you," Sam said, "We have the week off, so I was coming down – I asked Nick if he wanted to come."
"Who was that?" Nick smirked.
"Aria," Ezra replied, "My girlfriend – Does mom know you're here?"
"She does," Sam replied, "Called her this morning to tell her Nick and I were coming."
"Oh," I said, handing Sam my house key, "Look, I have to get to class – meet up with you guys later?"
"No problem, Ez," Nick nodded, Ezra gave him a quick hug then headed into school.
He walked into English late, and sat in his usual seat next to Aria. Spencer was, as always, sitting behind her. Throughout the entire class, Aria kept turning around and trying to get Spencer to talk to her, but it didn't work. I was trying to process, I was supposed to hang out with Aria after school, but now Sam and Nick were here - he didn't know what he was supposed to do. He wouldn't mind Aria meeting Nick at all, but Sam? Was he ready to make that leap? He had thought that moving in with mom would mean that he wouldn't have to deal with Sam. Luckily he didn't really get a chance to talk with Aria until they waked into Lunch.
"So Sam and Nick?"
"Nick's my best friend," Ezra began to explain, "Has been since Kindergarten, Sam's obviously my brother."
"You didn't seem too excited about seeing him," Aria pointed out and Ezra took a deep breath.
"My brother and I don't have the best relationship," He replied, as Ali, Jason, Sean, Hanna, Toby, Spencer, Sean, Ben, and Emily appeared at the end of the table.
They looked around like they didn't see us, or rather Ali did. Jason gave us a weak smile, Hanna gave me an apologetic look, Emily looked sad, and Toby shrugged nervously before Ali led them away from the table. Ezra took a deep breath.
"That's Ali, that's not them," Ezra tried to assure her.
"Why don't you get along with Sam?" Aria asked, clearly not wanting to discuss her friends.
"We're just very different people," Ezra replied blandly, and Aria just looked at him, waiting for a further explanation, "Sam, likes to make everything about him, and wants whatever I have, it doesn't matter what it is…"
"Like me?" Aria asked and Ezra shrugged.
"Like girls that I've tried to date in the past, yes," He replied and Aria nodded.
"Was that why you sent me away this morning?"
"That and I didn't want you to miss anymore school because of me," He replied and Aria shook her head at him.
"Ezra, I'm not going anywhere," Aria smiled good-naturedly.
"It was more of a shock and terrifying moment," He replied, "Because – I adore you, Aria. I mean, truly I feel so much more for you than I could ever imagine feeling for anyone, ever. The idea that you might get ripped away from me, by my own brother – it's terrifying to me."
"Ezra, once again, I'm not going anywhere, ok?" Aria told him, "However, if you want to wait a little while – it's up to you."
"Would you mind meeting up with Nick after school?" He asked.
"Sure," Aria smiled, "Oh, Crap, I'm supposed to make sure Mike gets home after school."
"Well I could drive him," Ezra offered, "We can drop him off then head off and pick Nick up."
"Ok," Aria replied, taking a deep breath, then Ezra caught her glancing over at her friends.
"They'll come around, Aria," He smiled bravely, "I promise – and if they don't – I'm sorry."
"Don't be sorry, Ezra," Aria looked almost sternly serious, "You have nothing to be sorry about."
"It feels like I do," He replied and Aria shook her head,
"Don't - -babe, relax, ok? It's hard enough with them all being mad, I can't handle you being upset too."
"Ok," He replied and Aria smiled, "Anything that'll put that smile on your face."
They walked into their last class of the day, hand in hand their faces dropped. They had just walked into Health class, with Jason and Emily. Emily was sitting across the room from where she usually sat, with them, and Jason wasn't even there yet. Aria shot Emily a soft smile, and Emily pretended to not even notice. The whole exchange didn't go unnoticed by Ezra who looked more depressed than anything about it. Emily was her oldest friend. He squeezed Aria's hand affectionately as they sat in their normal seats.
"Emily," Aria seemed surprised and Ezra took a deep breath.
"Don't apologize," Aria replied, almost dangerously and Ezra nodded as the bell rang and Jason walked in.
He walked right up and sat down in front of them, turning around and smiling.
"Hey guys, sorry about that at lunch," He said, "I would've sat with you, and I should have – I just thought it would be awkward, or something."
"It's fine, Jason," said Ezra, his mood improving almost instantly.
"Thanks, Jason," Aria said and Jason smiled.
"Honestly," He smiled, "It's good to see you guys together – you're happy. If they can't deal with that that's their problem."
"You mean Ali's problem," Aria said and Jason nodded.
"What're you guys doing after school?" He asked and Aria looked to Ezra.
"Ezra's friend from New York's in town," Aria said, "We were going to go and hang out with him after school."
"Mind if I tag along?" He asked and Ezra smiled.
"Of course," Ezra replied, just excited that he wanted to at all.
"Definitely, of course, Jason," Aria leaned slightly onto Ezra as she was beaming.
"Jason?" Emily said from across the room, "There's a seat over here if you want it."
"I don't, but thanks, Em," Jason replied, smiling at her kindly, "But you can come over here and sit if you want."
"Why do you want to sit with them? I mean, Jason –"
"Why wouldn't I want to see them?" Jason asked, "This is Aria, your best friend since you were about six. You're really going to let Ali make you turn your back on her? Really, Em?"