A/N: Honestly people? 54 people read this, and I got one review? People, I can do the math, and 47 people skipped chapters two and three, which means you are consistently checking back on this story. Please, there is a box at the bottom, drop me a line :)
Thanks Stork Hardy for accepting my busy-ness, and Corky, for making me smile with all the squealing and all your reviews.
Nancy and Callie headed quickly out of the lounge, Ned waited for the elevator up to the fourteenth deck.
Frank must have taken the stairs, he mused to himself as the elevator arrived shortly after. The ride to their floor took forever, and he forgot he had to cross the entire ship back to the forward.
Ned wandered lazily across the sports deck, but didn't see her there. Walking into their room, checking every single room all the way to the front, he started think she wasn't there, until…
Ned turned around, and Alicia was standing behind him, eyes red, but otherwise, there was no signs she had been crying. "What are you doing back here?"
"Everyone is worried about you, you left kind of suddenly. They went to look for you."
Alicia shook her head and turned towards the big windows, sitting in front of them. "Typical." After a moment of confused silence, before Ned could ask what, she asked, "Am I still a child in your eyes?"
Ned blinked. "What?"
"A Child. You know. A youngster, a kid sister…" Ned stuttered for an answer, and Alicia sighed. "It's alright. Everyone else does too. And it's my fault. I've never spent any time with people my age. I'm always hanging out with Frank and Joe and their friends. I just didn't figure it out in time."
Ned was silent for a moment, then sat down next to her on the floor. "Alicia, do you really think that's all that people see?"
"Frank and Joe's little sister?" she clarified, looking over at him skeptically. "Yeah, I do. And don't deny that's how you think of me too. I'm Frank's little sister before I'm a friend of Nancy's." When he made no move to argue, she smiled. "See?" She looked back out to the moving water, sighing. The silence dragged out, and Alicia looked down at her knees.
Alicia looked up, shocked. "What?"
"If you think that's all anyone sees. Even I know there is a heck of a lot more to you than Hardy's little sister." Ned held her gaze with a very stern look. "But you still are a kid. You might be nineteen, but that doesn't mean you're grown up. Running away, lying—"
"I'm not lying," Alicia said defensively.
"Then what is really wrong?"
Alicia bit her lips, looking out the windows again. Ned waited silently, and was rewarded for it. "I don't know… I'm so confused, and I can't tell you why."
Ned put a hand on her shoulder. "Can't, or won't?"
Alicia smiled. "Won't. I know you won't tell anyone, but you are brilliant, and I'd like to keep pretending you don't know."
After a moment, Ned nodded and smiled. "I can respect that. But please, all of us are here for you. Don't run off on us? And talk to someone? Nancy's got a good ear, and you two are close, not related, and both female."
Alicia chuckled. "Alright," she said, "I'll stop running off, and I'll talk to someone, eventually. Is that good enough?"
"For now," he said with a smile. "Come on, let's go eat all the chocolate strawberries before the rest get back from looking for you."
"Oh, goodness," Alicia said shaking her head. "I'm starting to believe what they said at the show."
Ned paused as he lifted the tray off the table and was putting it down on the floor between them. "What was that?"
"The part where the cruise director told us the average person gains seven pounds while on a cruise?"Alicia teased. "Three three-course meals a day, plus chocolate strawberries and a buffet all day long, crepes at night…"
"Oh, right, I can't believe I forgot about that." He nodded towards the door. "We can hit the sports deck afterwards."
"Sounds good," she smiled, picking up a strawberry. Sounds good.
The door opened. "Hey! What are you two doing with my strawberries?!"