Love You Always; Love You Never
A Jason and Aria One Shot
Sometimes it seemed like he had been in love with Aria Montgomery his entire life.
Everywhere he turned, she was there – in his thoughts, in his dreams; in his office at work and in his bed at home; in every student he taught and in every woman he slept with. She was the first thing he thought of when he woke up in the morning and the last thing he saw after closing his eyes at night. She factored into every decision he made and every chance he didn't take.
The scary thing, though, was that she had never actually been his. When they had first met, she had been his student – his high school student. He had been shocked and even slightly repulsed by his own attraction towards the teenager, and, in turn, that shame made him awkward and clumsy around her. Aria, however, made no secret of the fact that she liked him. Perhaps it was because she had been forced to grow up years before she should have had to, or maybe she just liked older men, but, whatever the reason, she had seen no problem with the idea of the two of them being together. Even to this day, Ezra wasn't sure if Aria had been brave or just plain reckless, but, back then – years before, her determination had frightened him. In a way, it still did.
No matter what he did to try and distract her, push her away – whether it was transferring her out of his class or befriending her parents, Aria remained steadfast. She quickly stopped trying to come onto him, settling for just being his friend, finding his love of poetry fascinating and his ability to hold an actual conversation about something more substantial than the latest so-called reality show craze compelling. There was just a small problem, though. While Aria had moved on and put her feelings for him behind her, he couldn't not be attracted to her.
Aria Montgomery was his complete opposite. She was headstrong and passionate, daring, vivacious, and she had the will the likes of which Ezra believed he would never see again. Nothing scared her... or, at least, that's how she came across to the rest of the world, and he found her energy utterly addicting. For a man who was relatively staid and one could even say boring, Aria was like a breath of fresh, invigorating air. At the same time, though, her sheer strength combined with her intelligence scared him more than ignorance and stupidity combined, intimidated him. While he couldn't be without her, he couldn't be with her either. He needed her; he feared her. He craved her; he cowered when confronted with her ambition and zeal for life.
And so had started a vicious cycle of keeping her close but not too close. As soon as Aria graduated from high school, he quit teaching at Rosewood, got a job at Hollis, and then pulled strings – and a lot of them – so that she could be his TA. It was unconventional, to say the least, to have a freshman TA, but between his enthusiasm towards the budding artist and Byron Montgomery's considerable influence on campus, Ezra got what he wanted: Aria – near him, with him, working by his side five, sometimes six days a week. It was manipulative, and it was underhanded, but, at the time, he knew that offering her a full-ride was the only way Aria would ever even consider staying in Rosewood and going to college where her father worked.
There were moments when he would feel guilty, particularly when he would see her spirit flickering, its bright light somewhat dimmed by the suffocating confines of a small town college campus, but then Aria would do something – like go out on a date with a guy who was completely wrong for her and his exact opposite, and Ezra's guilt would disappear. Retrospectively, he could admit that he had trapped the two of them in a horrible, unhealthy circle all those years before. While he wasn't brave enough to be with her, he would almost punish her for wanting to be with someone else. Hell, he had eventually started punishing himself as well.
After watching Aria go on one too many dates with guys he felt could never make her happy, Ezra went on a date himself. His old girlfriend – his old fiancee, actually – came specifically to Rosewood, to Hollis to find and be with him again, and her attention was gratifying. It soothed his wounded ego, and Ezra had latched onto Jackie with both hands. Looking back, he wasn't sure why he held onto Jackie so tightly – partly, it was because he felt like he owed her that much for using her in the first place, and, partly, it was because Aria had been so damn supportive of his relationship. She had given him advice and even gone so far as to befriend Jackie, wanting to put the other woman's mind to rest concerning their working relationship, because, at that point, that's how Aria had seen him – as her boss, as her friend, but not as her potential lover.
When Jackie ended up pregnant, Ezra's first instinct had been to run away, to run right to Aria, but the woman he was really in love with, in lust with, obsessed with, instead of welcoming him into the solace of her arms, took him ring shopping. She planned Jackie's baby shower. Before he knew it, he had been married, installed in a cute little three bedroom starter home, was responsible for all the 2am feedings, and Aria seemed to be a whisper of a memory from his past. Oh, she was still his TA, and she did her job well, but it had quickly become apparent that she was avoiding him. Never did she use his office when he was on campus, nor did she go out of her way to be his friend any longer. Suddenly, there was this wall up between them, and Aria went from being just untouchable to unapproachable, and it drove his need for her over the edge.
Months passed, and he stewed, his anger and desperation simmering. Aria went on even more dates, but Ezra couldn't being himself to confront her. Just like always where his feelings for the younger woman were concerned, he was afraid of Aria – afraid of telling her how he felt. He feared her not returning his feelings; he feared that she would, because, even if Aria was in love with him – and there were times when he believed she was, because, after all, why else would she go out of her way to put distance between them, why else would she seemingly date every guy on campus but refuse to stand within two feet of him – could he really leave Jackie, his daughter, his family for a girl who represented everything he wasn't but had always secretly wanted to be?
For three years, he had lived like that, and, for two of those years, Aria had been a daily, tempting presence in his life. But then she had graduated. In a way, that day a year before had snuck up on him, catching Ezra off guard. For some reason, though he had known in the back of his mind that eventually Aria wouldn't always be there, it had been a vague concept for Ezra, not a reality. So, when he was confronted with the idea of her leaving, he was left scrambling, trying, in what would prove to be a vain effort, to scheme up a way to keep her in his life... only Aria would prove to already be gone. Without telling him she was going or where she was moving to, she slipped out of Rosewood during the dead of night and out of his hold, and that's when everything started to fall apart.
His work slipped. For four years, Aria had been a vital part of his success. It wasn't until she was gone that Ezra realized just how much he depended upon her. But it was more than, too. The torture of loving her from afar, of desiring that which was forbidden to him had been his main creative inspiration. Without Aria, he could no longer write, and, without writing, he had no outlet for his frustration. Also, without the prospect of his using his marriage and his family to hurt a woman who hurt him day in and day out by refusing to acknowledge her feelings for him, he stopped trying with Jackie; he lost what limited interest he had in the wife and child he had never wanted in the first place. Six months after Aria disappeared from his life, Jackie left him. They divorced. She kept the house, she got full custody of their daughter, and he moved back into the small, cramped studio apartment he had lived in when he first moved to Rosewood.
It had been a fluke, a serendipitous accident that he had managed to find her again. He had been absently flipping through a local magazine while waiting for his dentist appointment when, without warning, there she was, her beautiful, captivating face smiling coquettishly up at him. Enthralled, he had read the article about the Santa Fe artist who had quickly made a name for herself out west with a series of paintings simply entitled 'The Professor.' The writeup had been short on details concerning Aria's personal life, instead of focusing upon her professional career, but it had been enough to tell Ezra where she was and that, like he had suspected for years, she was still just as much in love with him as he had always been with her.
So, there he was – on a plane, flying three thousand miles away from his career, his life, and the daughter he always had the intentions of spending more time with but never quite succeeded in doing so, and he had quit everything to be there. He had turned in his resignation letter to Hollis, and he had given up his apartment, choosing to just take what he could in the few bags he owned and leaving what wouldn't fit in his shabby, beat-up duffles behind. For once in his practical, perfectly planned out life, Ezra Fitz was doing the unexpected; he was taking a risk; he was doing what he should have done all those years ago when a cute sixteen year old with dark hair, dark eyes, and even darker intentions had approached him one day after school.
He was finally going to make Aria Montgomery his.
| \ | / |
Sometimes it seemed like he had been in love with Aria Montgomery his entire life.
The thought made him smile as he looked down at the woman next to him. Braced upon his elbow, Jason watched as his wife slept on beside him. It wasn't that late, but she was exhausted, and he found her recently developed habit of taking several naps a day utterly adorable. Hell, who was he kidding? He found everything about her adorable.
"You're staring again."
His grin widened at her words, both in realization that she was now awake and in response to her accusation. Maybe it was the photographer in him, but Jason quite often would stare at people. Unlike other artists, he didn't take inspiration from his surroundings or from nature but, instead, from people. He could just watch men and women, fathers and daughter, mothers and sons for hours, endlessly fascinated by the play of emotion across someone's features or a person's usually hopeless struggle to curtail what they were feeling. But he had only ever had one muse during his lifetime: his wife, and she was the only person in the world who didn't seem to mind his penchant for staring. She was an artist, too, so she understood his passion, but, more than that, she understood him and, consequently, never felt uncomfortable under his attentions. Plus, it didn't hurt matters that she seemed to blossom under his gaze – his love and affection, she had often told him, making her feel special, and wanted, and beautiful. In fact, she often teased him that this was the reason why she had agreed to marry him – because he made her feel so pretty.
"Now, you're thinking too much," she playfully chastised, snuggling her nearly nude body closer to his. Though it was a warm night, it seemed like she was always on fire these days, meaning clothes were oftentimes optional once they were alone together in the privacy of their home, and Jason certainly had no complaints. "Whoa," his wife giggled, finally opening her sleepy, heavy eyes. "Is that a camera in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?"
He leaned down, pecking her lips once, and then twice, and then a third time as well. Kissing her was even more addictive than watching her. "What would you say if the answer was both?"
"I'd say lose the pants... and the camera, because we already talked about that, and it's not happening."
"But..." Before he could protest against her decision not be photographed naked, the doorbell rang. "This discussion is not over."
"Really, because I didn't realize we were even discussing anything."
"Very funny," Jason remarked, smirking in his wife's direction as he climbed out of the bed they shared, looking for and failing to find the shirt he had been wearing earlier that evening. Shrugging and giving up the effort rather quickly, he moved to leave the room, tossing a few parting words over his shoulder, "don't move an inch."
"But what if I have to pee, what if I get hungry while you're gone or cold, what if there's a mass murderer at the door and I have to get out of bed to save the fish?"
She continued to tease him as Jason made his way through their comfortable house, his wife's voice fading away to nothing the further away he got from their bedroom. Their home wasn't large, but it had high ceilings, and big windows, and even bigger wide, open spaces... just like the New Mexico desert landscape which surrounded them. It was nothing like Rosewood, and that was perhaps what he liked the most about Santa Fe... well, that and the fact that here they could live their lives without the past hanging over them or an entire town's expectations following them.
When Jason opened the door, he had been expecting to find maybe one of their neighbors needing an emergency cup of late night milk or even one of their artist friends who never seemed to know what time it was, but the last person he thought he'd find was some bookish looking man probably a few years older than he was who looked vaguely familiar. Though he couldn't quite place where he had seen him before, Jason had a feeling, at one time or another in the past, their paths had crossed.
"May I help you?"
Surprise was written across the other man's features. "Oh, uh, you're not her."
"I'm so sorry. I must have the wrong house, but I could have sworn this is the address the PI gave me. Is this," and the dark haired guy looked down at the scrap of paper he held in his hands, "4893 Hillt..."
And that's as far as he got before Jason interrupted him. "Who the hell are you? Are you a reporter?"
"What? No," the uninvited guest quickly answered. "Why would you even ask me that? And I'm sorry for bothering you, really. I was just looking for someone, and I was told she lived here. Perhaps you know her, though; perhaps she's your neighbor – Aria Montgomery?"
With narrowed eyes, he took a step forward, using his body to shield the open doorway. There was something about the other man which made Jason feel on edge. Even if it was ridiculous, he didn't want him even getting a glimpse of his house, let alone of his wife. "Why are you looking for Aria?"
"Oh, good," the dark haired man smiled, apparently oblivious to the waves of distrust pouring from Jason's stance and words. "You know her."
"And you haven't answered my question. What the hell do you want with..."
"Jason, baby, what's taking you so long? If the neighbor wants some milk, just give them the whole jug." It amazed him sometimes how alike they were, but, in that moment, as he watched the beginnings of the train wreck that was about to occur, he also wished his wife wasn't so much like him, that she wasn't so independent, and stubborn, and beautiful, and that she had just stayed in bed like he had wanted but had also known her curiosity would never allow her to do. "We need to go grocery shopping tomorrow anyway? I think my cravings are about to change again." He silently watched her walk across the balcony which both led to the stairs and overlooked their great room, the shirt he had been unable to find minutes ago now in her possession and loosely buttoned over her otherwise naked form.
She talked on about her cravings, laughing at her own expense, totally oblivious to what was happening just outside their door. They had worked so hard to get to where they were at. While their relationship had come easily to them – their shared history and too many connections to even count making it almost seem natural that they end up together, the rest of the world had not been nearly as cooperative. Between his sister's murder, his checkered past, and her unwilling involvement with a twisted psychopath for years, their newfound freedom and relative privacy in Santa Fe was something they had fought long and hard for and now cherished, and, in one fell swoop, the idiot standing on their doorstep had the power to make it all come crashing down around them. If he was somehow tied up in their pasts...
His thoughts were interrupted when he felt his wife's arms slip around his waist, her petite form still relatively hidden behind his much taller body, but she leaned to the side in order to rest her head against his shoulder, revealing herself to the man who had, just moments before, interrupted yet another idyllic night between them. "Sorry about Jason's lack of a shirt, but I like to steal his clothes at night. Oh, who am I kidding? I steal them during the..."
And that's when realization slammed into Jason.
The man on his doorstep wasn't some reporter looking to reopen the wounds of his sister's case by writing yet another story; no, instead, the man was his wife's high school English teacher, the very same guy who had been obsessed with his wife for years as she worked as his TA, despite having a wife and a child of his own. While they had never formally met – Aria having known better than to put Jason in the situation where he would have been tempted to teach the professor a few choice lessons, he had seen the dark haired man from afar. Ezra Fitz had been territorial towards Aria for years – even going so far as to unjustly treat the male students in his classes who had even looked at Aria, and all of their male friends from Rosewood – Toby, Caleb, Holden, and Lucas – had more than once commented upon how strangely he had always treated them whenever they picked up Aria up from campus. And he knew about the crush Aria had had on her teacher when she had first met him, a crush that had quickly morphed into friendship and then an odd facsimile of friendship once she had become aware of the professor's feelings and had been unsure of how to act around him at that point.
"What the hell are you doing here," Aria demanded of her former boss. "How did you find me? Why did you find me?"
"I... I... who is this guy?"
Before Jason could answer for himself, his wife responded, "he's Jason DiLaurentis, my husband." In disbelief, she questioned, "Ezra, how did you not know about him? Jason and I have been together for years – started dating back in high school, eloped my sophomore year of college. And, speaking of marriage, where's your wife?"
Aria sighed then. Jason was just grateful that, considering her state of dress... okay, more like undress, despite her irritation, she was still standing behind him, his body preventing Fitz from really laying eyes on her. "Poor Jackie. And your daughter." He felt her hand slip between them, and he knew that she was thinking about their own little girl that they would be welcoming to the world in a few short months. "I don't know how you could do that to them."
"Why do you automatically assume that I did something? Jackie was the one who left me."
"Yes, because you were a horrible husband, Ezra, and she and your daughter deserved better, but that's all rather irrelevant now, I guess." After a quiet moment and another sigh – this time not from sympathy but due to her impatience and frustration, Aria said, "you still haven't told us why you're here."
"I, well, you see..."
"Spit it out already," Jason told him shortly. "It's late, Aria needs her rest, and you showing up here uninvited already got us out of bed." He knew it was slightly petty, but Jason took pleasure in twisting the knife just that much deeper into the wound learning about his marriage to Aria had no doubt inflicted upon Ezra Fitz. "So, whatever it was that you felt the need to tell her, do it and then get out. You're not welcome here."
"This is between Aria and I, though, and I would prefer to talk to her in private."
Before Jason himself could argue, his wife beat him to the punch. "My husband's not going anywhere... and not just because I'm wearing nothing but his shirt. He deserves to hear what you have to say to me, I want him to stay, and we don't have secrets from one another."
"No," she snapped. "And I'm losing my patience... which is something I can tell you is not a pretty sight these days." And his wife was not lying about that either. Her self-awareness about her fiery temper ever since getting pregnant was entirely accurate... and sexy as hell... as long as the anger wasn't directed towards him. "If you don't say what it is you feel you need to say to me in five seconds, I'm going to slam this door and..."
"I'm in love with you," Fitz yelled, the words practically exploding from his lips. "I love you, I'm in love with, and I have been for years now. All that time when you were my student, I wanted you, but I knew it was wrong. And, then, when you were my TA, you were the only thing I wanted – not my career, not Jackie, not my daughter, but you were this... risk that I wasn't ready to take, I guess, but then you left, and I realized that the only thing I was risking by not telling you how I feel is never actually living my life. When I saw you in that Philadelphia magazine..."
"Ugh, I knew that was a bad idea," Aria groaned, but Ezra just kept talking over top of her words.
"... everything just clicked into place. I hired a PI to find you, and, as soon as he did, I left everything behind... for you. I want you. I want to be with you. Aria, don't you get it by now? We're it for each other. Maybe you're married to someone else right now, but we can fix that, and then we can be together... like we're meant to be. I know that you feel the same way that I do; it just took me a while to realize everything, but, now that I have, Aria Montgomery, I promise here and now to love you forever."
"But that's just it, Mr. Fitz, I don't feel the same way. I'm in love with Jason, I love the child we're expecting together, and I love the life that I share with my husband. Did I have a crush on you when I was sixteen? Yeah, but every girl goes through a phase of wanting someone totally inappropriate and wrong for her, and, oftentimes, that person is a teacher, but that's all it was: a crush. Nothing more. So, while you might think that you're in love with me, I've never been nor will I ever be in love with you." While Aria's words weren't said to be mean, they were perhaps cruel in their honesty, but Jason had a feeling the other man needed to hear the truth spoken so plainly in order to finally believe it. "And now you need to leave and don't ever come back."
Without another word being said, Jason closed the door on the devastated professor's face, loudly clicking the lock into place. A second later, he turned around to look down upon his barefoot, shirt-clad wife's round and glowing face, a grin already turning up the corners of his mouth. Before he could say a word, though, Aria cut him off by placing an impossibly soft finger against his lips, silencing him.
"Don't even think about it. The answer's still no."
"But no one would have to know that it's even you in the pictures," he argued. "I could just shoot your body, not your face."
"Ha," Aria mock-laughed at him. "Like anyone would ever believe that I'd allow you to take pictures of some other naked, pregnant woman."
"Like anyone would ever believe that I'd want to take pictures of some other naked, pregnant woman."
He picked her up then, and Aria automatically wrapped her legs around his waist despite how awkward her ever-growing baby bump made their well-practiced habits. "Good answer," she teasingly praised him, her lips so close to his as he carried her back up the stairs, down the hall, and once more inside of their bedroom that he could taste the cinnamon of her toothpaste, floss, and mouthwash. And then she kissed him for real – her embrace demanding and utterly addictive, and everything else – even photographing his gorgeous, pregnant wife in the nude slipped from Jason's mind.
That – the way she kissed him – was just one of the reasons why he would always be in love with Aria Montgomery-DiLaurentis.