Author's Note: Thank you once again to everyone following the story and waiting so patiently between updates. I've contemplated making smaller chapters to speed up the process but I love solid chapters so I think for now they'll stay as they are. Thank you to everyone that is taking the time to read and to everyone sending feedback. It means the world to me and really inspires me to keep the story going. Especially after chapter 18 I was a bit of a wreck and RV almost ended untimely with that chapter but I received a lot of encouragement to keep going so thank you so much. I have amazing friends because of Blue Lace and this story and all of you inspire me daily. Thank you!

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Love to all of you! Find me on twitter at rcampdel Paily*Love*Story to check out beautiful cover art for the story by: Saii79

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"What greater thing is there for two human souls than to feel that they are joined ... to strengthen each other ... to be at one with each other in silent unspeakable memories." -George Eliot

Movement beside her brought her eyes from the yellow lines in the middle of the road up to look at Mary. She switched her right hand out on the steering wheel and replaced it with her left, moving it to tousled the chocolate curls around her shoulders before letting it fall lightly to her thigh. That was it, no further movement. Every time Mary moved she couldn't keep herself from looking over at her to see if maybe Mary was looking at her but the blue eyes hadn't touched her in hours and it was no different this time. Mary's eyes stayed on the road and the only lighting she had to see her came from the soft glow of the dashboard. She had memorized everything the light touched...even Mary. Blues and reds that made the deep purple of Mary's shirt more vibrant, glowing against the cream of her skin, the pink on her cheeks and her lips that were slightly parted as she breathed quietly. She'd had hours to memorize it. There was nothing else to do. The worst was the way the light touched Mary's hand.

She swallowed weakly and looked away, casting her eyes back out her window. It was amazing the amount of focus they've had to stay awake without any form of stimulation. No music from the radio and no talking. There wasn't even the option of enjoying the scenery because the blackness of night engulfed everything the headlights didn't reach. She knew they weren't in Nebraska anymore only because a large sign had welcomed them to another state not long ago. She wasnt sure which one and she didn't care enough to note it. That was all she had...signs and mile markers and the lines in the road that made her feel nauseous as they zipped past. Her head felt foggy.

"Okay I'm done." She whispered, sitting up more in her seat. "Pull the car over."

"Pleeeaaase, Paige." Mary sighed, shaking her head and bringing her hand up to rub into her temples. "More fighting?"

"I don't know, Mar." She shrugged in defeat. "This silence thing isn't working for me and I need air so if we're just gonna keep ignoring each other than please let me out so I take a deep breath before holding it for another six hours."

"I'm not trying to ignore you, okay?" She whispered. "Maybe I just don't know what to say."

She swallowed hard and looked out the window into the dark sky. They'd been on the road for six hours and hadn't spoken in five hours and fifty-six minutes. Emily's hand had fallen away three hours and forty-eight minutes ago. The fact that she had coughed out those numbers so fast was reason enough to get the hell out of the car. It was after midnight now.

"Listen..." Mary started. "I'm not ever gonna apologize for hitting Cassie. She's lucky I didn't do worse and I think you know that... but I am sorry for not telling you I was leaving. I should have given you that...I just didn't know how."

"You didn't have to tell me. You're not even an employee, remember?" She sighed. "Not that I even know how the hell that happened."

There was more bitter sarcasm in her voice then she intended but she was beginning to feel so helpless in the matter that she didn't care to hide it. Instantly she scolded herself for feeling like that. It was Mary she was talking about and she cared too much about her to just give up. Emily's words rang through her head about listening and her heart began to ache when she thought about her other words, ones she never expected from Emily but ones that were so special coming from her mouth. Words about Mary's role in her life. Her eyes flickered over to her and what she saw broke her heart. Mary nodded, accepting the cold words like she deserved them. She didn't deserve them.

"Okay...you should have told me you were staying behind but with how I reacted I get why you didn't." She admitted. "I just wanted the chance to talk about everything and figure it out and when you weren't on the train I was hurt and I freaked out."

Mary looked at her and in the dark of the car she could see so much hurt in her eyes too. "You're right to be mad. It was selfish of me but...I got scared." Mary admitted, looking over at her with pained eyes. "If I had still been signed on to the show I can't promise I would have changed anything that I did. Employee or not I would have hit Cassie and that scares me because my impulse could have really hurt you. The show is so important to you and I could have fucked it up."

"Don't down-play the show like that, Mar." She called her out. "It's important to you too so don't try to tell me it isn't. You're a huge part of all of this."

"I needed to deal with my own problems without them affecting the people around me." Mary shook her head at a loss and looked over at her. "When you found me it was at a time when I was looking for something. I needed something else and I didn't hesitate to take this opportunity because it was an escape, one that I quickly found my passion in but...I needed to watch the train leave without me. I needed to know I was strong enough to make the decision and let it all go. Whatever happened after that..happened...but at least I know now that I'm strong enough to take care of myself if I need to before I can focus on anyone else. I made a choice, for once, without worrying about how it would affect anyone but myself."

She nodded and looked at her hands twisted together in her lap. It all made sense. There were so many times when she felt the same way about this lifestyle. So many times when she felt it would be best to leave it all behind and find what she really wanted...if there even was anything she wanted besides the show. The point was that she gave herself the choice and the chance to want something else. She was never able to leave though and they were mostly just passing thoughts. The closest she'd come was back in Rosewood...for Emily. If she was being honest that was more for herself than anything. She just wanted Emily to be okay. Her happiness, especially now, would always be found with Emily's happiness. She had the same love for her family. Even though it was out of her control sometimes she still wanted all of them happy because in return it made her feel complete too. She glanced over at Mary beside her and the thought of her not being there was painful.

"Mar...I'm sorry." She whispered. "I should have told you about Cassie and I should have stepped up more when she started attacking you. I felt sick that she did that."

Mary shook her head and shrugged lightly. "It wasnt your job to defend me. I can take care of myself."

"Yes it was my job." She argued "You're important to me and Cassie was my fault. Her being there was my fault."

Mary scoffed in disgust and the anger returning in her eyes made her sink lower in her seat. "Cassie and what she did to you was not your fault." She snapped, her voice growing past a whisper. "If you ever say that it was your fault again I swear to God Paige I'll be knocking you on your ass next time."

Her temper was flaring and she expected her to fight back regardless of Riley and Emily sleeping in the backseat. She nodded. Something told her to nod. It wasn't much of the fight that Mary had expected but it was all she could manage. She was tired...drained. The blue eyes warmed and glazed over when she nodded weakly and now Mary just looked lost, defeated. She felt her eyes fog over too as she looked at Mary and how sad she seemed. They felt further from each other than they'd ever been.

"I don't know how this happened."

Mary sighed softly. "What exactly? Theres so many things to choose from."

She was right. There were so many things that had happened and gone wrong between them that she could spend hours ticking them off so she couldn't argue. But there was good too...wasn't there? Her mind answered yes even before the question even fully formed but it hurt that she had to ask herself that at all, that there was doubt trying to work its way in.

"I don't know how we've been in each other's lives almost every day for five years and we don't really know each other. I feel like we do but then I can't back it up with anything about you. It's just hard to explain."

"It just feel like I'm supposed to look out for you." Mary whispered. "I know I failed at that and I'm not the best person to look out for anyone. I haven't done anything to deserve that role. Hell, I can't even figure out my own shit most of the time but I always just needed to make sure you were okay." Mary's eyebrows crinkled thoughtfully as she looked over at her. "This whole time we've just had this insane ego-driven banter that somehow keeps me sane and drives me crazy."

"I love our banter." She chuckled.

"I do too." Mary smiled. She felt relief at seeing a smile on her face because she hadn't seen a real one in the last few days. The smile belonged there.

"I don't ever feel like I have to tell you when somethings hurting me. Part of its my ego, that you've already pointed out, but it's also because I always feel better just knowing you're there. When I woke up in the hospital after the accident you guys were all there for me but...everytime I opened my eyes, day or night you were there."

"None of us left." Mary whispered. "Sometimes Peter and Riley would go for food or walk around but...I didn't leave the room once. Not for four days until we knew you were okay."

Her eyes watered more, blurring the lights from the dashboard as she swallowed the tightening in her throat. She couldn't remember much from being in the hospital, pain fluctuated in and out and pain killers left everything hazy, but she remembered everyone by her side. Mary's face was the clearest one but she hadn't realized that Mary hadn't left at all. Maybe that's why she was so clear and part of what played a role in her just assuming Mary would always be there. Assumptions weren't fair of her to make because it led to taking people for granted.

"To me you've always been here. It felt like enough but just because its enough for me doesn't mean its enough for you..." she ran her finger over the seam of the turquoise leather seat, the white thread stitched across the space between them. The foot of space felt like miles and brought a stinging behind her eyes like shards of glass. "I don't have many people left that look at me the way you do and I feel like if anyone understands me...without having to ask...its you. I mean we're both orphans aren't we?" Her voice felt weak and Mary's eyes softened more hearing her words. "I really want you to be happy though. If you don't want to be here..."

Mary squeezed her eyes shut briefly and forced a shaking breath as she blinked back moisture in her eyes. "We've both just been in places we shouldnt have had to be."

Mary seemed to go somewhere else, a pensive place that felt sad and brought goosebumps to her arms even when the air felt too hot. Mary shifted away from her behind the steering wheel and leaned her head against the window. It made her feel the strong uneasiness creeping back into her body, the same desperation she'd felt after dinner the night before. That feeling wasn't okay with her. It's all wrong.

"Mar, I don't want to make you feel like you can't talk to me to the point where you want to leave. I feel like it's just a given that we're here for each other, even if we don't say it.. but its wrong of me to assume that because if it made you feel like I don't care then you're wrong. I think that's why I didn't hesitate to show up outside of your door. It was the first and only place I thought of going because I knew you would just understand, even if it was wrong of me..."

"It wasn't wrong, Paige." Mary sighed softly. "I mean...it wasn't right for us to be an 'us', obviously, but it wasn't wrong. The fact that you felt like you could come to me even without us really knowing each other was something that always felt special to me. It's the biggest part of the unspoken thing we have and how we work. Because we do work. It might now seem like we do all the time...but we do. Its honest and raw and this combative thing we do is ...well, its just 'us'. Its the way we are." She stated surely. "I don't feel like I have to question it or waste time doubting it because it feels easy...not wrong. I just don't know why we stopped there or why we didn't even try."

"What do you mean?" She pressed.

"Why didn't try to talk to each other about why it happened in the first place? I knew it was about Cassie but you didn't feel like you could tell me and I know I should have asked but..."

"You deserved to know." She agreed. "I should have apologized and I didn't."

"I never wanted an apology. I never needed one." Mary shook her head firmly. "Maybe part of me was scared to really know the truth." She admitted. "Asking meant getting answers that I wouldn't like..."

She swallowed hard and looked out her window into the darkness. Silence engulfed them effortlessly and the only sound came from the engine and the cool air flowing through the vents. Mary deserved more than just the screaming rant she'd thrown at Cassie before the improv. She deserved the truth more than anyone else.

"You know Cassie and I were together when I met you." She started, looking over at Mary to see a speechless look on her face, her eyes careful as she nodded weakly. Even four years later Mary clearly wasn't expecting this of her...but she needed to tell her. "She'd been with the show for almost a year but most of that time was just flirting and whatever game she liked playing at the time. I just didn't really catch on to what she was doing. The feelings were new to me and I still wasnt sure what they meant...maybe I didn't want to know." she sighed a forced laugh as she looked at her hands entangled in her lap. "A few months after you got here we were playing that stupid game and drinking and she slipped me something. She was more pushy than usual because she took something too but I didn't have time to really do anything about it. The next thing I knew my first time with anyone was being reduced to a blurry and numb mess and I didn't even know what I was supposed to be doing. I was so angry the next day and she acted like it was no big deal. She twisted things and made me think I'd wanted it to happen. I should have done things differently from that point on but I didn't. I stayed with her for weeks and tried to be happy. It was hard to avoid her because we were trapped on the train for days and I thought maybe something was wrong with me because I didn't feel anything, nothing when she was touching me, nothing physically or emotionally. Maybe I was broken. When I learned she was stealing from my parents somehow that was my turning point. I drew the line with money and my parents being taken advantage of but I hadn't drawn the line with my body." She felt disgusted just saying it out loud now. "I told her to leave at the next stop and she pushed me into the wall in my room. I didn't leave my room for a couple of days until I was sure she was gone and then I picked myself up. It didn't matter to me if I was broken because I knew she was more broken than I was and I couldn't fix her. I could fix myself."

"Paige..." Mary choked on her name and she blinked back tears. It was confusing because she didn't feel sad about it, not anymore, and she didn't want Mary to be sad about it either. "I was there. I was probably only a few rooms away and if I'd..." Mary shook her head to clear thoughts. She struggled but this was just the finer details to what Mary had heard the day before.

"I was scared to hurt everyone with the truth but I was selfish too because I didn't want to be pitied over it. We all try to protect each other too much..." she sighed. "Emily pointed that out and she's only observed our craziness for a week."

"Shes amazingly intuitive without even realizing it." Mary smiled weakly. "Her empathy though..." she breathed. "That girl seems to feel everything."

"Off the charts." She nodded. "She called me out a few days ago on not paying attention to you actually. I already knew that I wasnt but I was just made a blind spot because I hurt you when I showed up outside of your door. Admitting that Emily was right meant admitting that I hurt someone I love most and then failed to make it right afterwards."

"You didn't hurt me, Paige." Mary shook her head. "The things that really hurt me have nothing to do with you. I can't be mad that you didn't tell me about Cassie when..."

"What?" She pressed for the truth but Mary bit her tongue and looked away. "We have to change what we were doing before because it clearly wasn't working for us."

Mary sighed and looked at her carefully. "I had a foster family when I was sixteen. They were perfect, at least to me. I was doing really good and going to private school taking advanced classes and working at a little diner after school and on weekends."

"Private school?" She smiled. "Like with the skirts and knee-highs?"

"Yes, Paige." Mary chuckled. "Is it a lesbian fantasy?"

"Isn't it everyone's fantasy?" She retorted.

Mary laughed again and nodded her head thoughtfully. "Yeah, probably."

Her smile widened but only briefly. Emily had urged her to listen and Mary was finally speaking about a past she knew nothing of. "What kind of classes?"

"AP English was a favorite but mostly Concert Choir and Theatre." Mary smiled.

"That's exactly you." She agreed. She could easily imagine little Marley critiquing a book with her opinion or speaking her mind through writing but the effortless images were those of her performing and being amazing in every aspect. "So they were the last family you had? They worked out?"

"They may have..." Mary's eyes furrowed and she reached to turn the cool air up higher on the dashboard controls. "I would have reacted to Cassie the way I did anyways because I care about you and what she did was..." she could see Mary tightening her fist around the steering wheel and with the bruises it had to be painful. Mary failing with her words again only made her more uneasy just as it had the night before.

"Mar?" She pressed, reaching to touch her arm lightly and bring her away from wherever she was.

"I not saying this to hurt you and I don't want you to feel sorry but...you said it yourself." Mary's eyes flickered over to her sheepishly "Last night after dinner you said something that made me decide to stay."

She could feel her heart sinking as she tried to remember everything she had said to Mary. Her mind was working too fast and coming up empty. Her goal last night had been to convince Mary to stay not seal her decision to leave the show. Her mouth gaped and she furrowed her eyebrows trying to think.

"You had four years to get over what Cassie did to you." Mary repeated her words, watching her hesitantly.

"I don't understand..." She mumbled, feeling confused. "Why would that make you stay?"

"I've had ten years." Mary said warily. Her blood began boiling in a heart beat at what she thought Mary was saying. She had to be hearing wrong. "I've been in your place...ten years ago and I'm still not okay. I know what its like to be hurt the way Cassie hurt you." Her stomach clenched. She wasnt hearing wrong.

"N..no but..." she shook her head weakly, her voice cracking and her eyes slammed shut to ease the burn. The last thing she ever wanted was for Mary to relate to anything Cassie had done to her. She was manipulated and emotionally abused and...her throat tightened at the rest. "How...I don't..." she shook her head to clear it but it didn't work.

Mary looked at her softly, understanding her struggle with forming the right questions. Part of her knew that the answers to the questions passing through her head were going to be hard but they kept evading her, not allowing her to grasp any of them. They were moving too quickly. It didn't make asking them easy. Mary spoke before a solid question pieced itself together. They were all just a jumbled mess of words and letters that didn't make sense. At least she told herself they didn't.

"I was sixteen. That family I mentioned, Ben and Lexi Harper...they had a little girl. Gracie was around Molly's age, and another foster son, Bailey." Mary smiled speaking of them. "Riley kind of reminds me of him now that I think about it."

"How old was he?" She asked flatly. Her mind was working too fast already, trying to find answers that Mary was still getting to. Every name she said made her angry as she tried to think ahead and find the person that made Mary able to relate to what Cassie had done to her.

"Bailey was twelve." She breathed. "It's weird that he'd be like twenty-two now. Gracie would be about the age that I was then."

Mary's eyebrows furrowed again and the smile faded, struggle swirling in blue. Seeing her that way made her grip her hands into the edge of the seat until her knuckles screamed. There wasnt a thing that could prepare her and she couldn't protect Mary from whatever it was that had happened to her because she hadn't been there. She felt worse now for denying Mary that chance after Cassie left. The helpless look that Mary had yesterday when she'd learned the truth...she could relate to that feeling now.

"I was seeing a guy that was a few years older than me. He had outgrown the system a few months earlier without really finding the right place. Now I just think that part of him didn't want to find it. He hated the whole system and how it worked. I think he wanted the bad reputation but he was so different with me that I always hoped it wasnt who he really was. He's always gentle and never pushed me if I wasnt ready for something. I mean he was still a guy so he'd test little things, hand placements and pushing the boundaries of how far I'd let him go. But it was always just the eager horny male thing, wanting more and whining about it sometimes. I wasnt ready and I loved him for understanding that enough to not keep pushing the same issue or getting mad about it. I hadn't been with anyone intimately before."

Her throat tightened more and now she felt her stomach turn painfully. Her whole body feared what Mary was getting at, the reason she related to what Cassie had done to her. She hadn't been ready to have sex with Cassie and instead of Cassie being okay with that and respecting it she had slipped Rohypnol into their drinks during one of their card games. Cassie took it too but unlike Cassie she didn't realize it until it was too late. The cards in her hand became a blur and so did the room. All she had were vague images of Cassie kissing her and touching her...of her touching Cassie back while not even knowing how or why she was doing it. She couldn't feel anything. Maybe it wouldn't seem extreme to everyone but it was wrong. It wasnt what she wanted that night and never what she wanted her first time to be. Cassie had taken that from here.

"I went over to his place one morning before work and he had been drinking the whole night before. He was sweet at first, himself, but I could taste the alcohol on him and I got mad because he tried to push me further than I was ready to go. When I said no he told me he loved me for the first time and then he tried to push further again. He was still drunk and he grabbed me when I was trying to leave and at that point he got mad too. My foster dad was a social worker and he didn't want me to go home and tell him about his underage drinking and him being rough with me. I wasn't even planning on it. We were both supposed to be going to the diner to work the same shift but after fighting with him I just wanted to go home and hide in my room alone. I just wanted to think about things. The last thing on my mind was telling my family but I left his house and started walking home and he that's what he thought."

She brought her left boot up on to the seat to hug her thigh against her chest. Her eyes burned more with each passing second and her fingers went self-consciously to wipe at her cheek, using her knee to hide the movement from Mary. That's what their problem had been though, hiding things from each other. Both of them so worried that their true thoughts and feelings would only hurt the other. It couldn't be like that anymore. Not after this. She kicked her foot down and shifted towards her instead, forgetting about trying to stop moisture from falling. Looking at Mary she could see the same pain in her eyes that she saw when she had learned the truth about Cassie, the same hurt that had been there too much in the last two days. She was struggling too, her eyes glazing over in the same way. The thought of anyone touching Mary and...hurting...

"Can you pull over?" She asked, fighting back the burn in her eyes and the closing of her airway as she ripped her seat belt off. The space of the car was suddenly too small for breathing to come easily. Her eyes slammed shut and her hands clenched into fists. "Please just... pull the car over." Her voice was a lot harder than she meant for it to be but the walls were closing in too quickly.

Mary nodded weakly and signaled to the wide shoulder of the dark road. The car had barely stopped before she threw open the door and stepped out. She felt nauseous and the air outside wasn't nearly cool enough to find relief. Mary climbed out after her and walked slowly around the hood of the car, watching her hesitantly in a very knowing way. Just her blue eyes told her that the things she was imaging right now...the possible scenarios she was seeing in her mind...were right. The most wrong truth in the world when it comes to anyone let alone someone you love.

"Marley?" she looked at her pleadingly, wanting her to say she was kidding and that the horrible thoughts in her head...the images...they had to be wrong. Her hand moved to cover her stomach soothingly, willing it to stop twisting the way it was now because she could feel acid rising in her throat.

Mary choked on the air, looking up to the dark sky and blinking back tears in her eyes. She forced a weak breath before sitting on the hood of the car letting her head hang sadly. She sat quiet and unmoving. She didn't speak for what felt like hours but when she finally did every breath and every word that left her lips looked capable of breaking her into pieces on the dark pavement.

"He came up behind me in this wooded area I always walked through to get home. I'd never seen him angry or anywhere near the way he was then. It wasn't him but at that point I really questioned how well I even knew him, if I did at all. The only answer I had was no."

She forced herself to move closer and sat beside her, trying to stop shaking because now the air felt freezing. The weakening of Mary's voice made staying away impossible. She wanted to be close to her but it didn't lessen the powerless emotion in her body. There was pain for what Mary was telling her and so much anger that a person could have it in them to hurt someone like her. She understood more and more why Mary had reacted the way she did to learning about Cassie, why she looked so helpless and broken, because not one part of her felt strong hearing this right now. Her hand moved to touch Mary's but an involuntary flinch made her pull back, sliding her hands into the front pockets of her jeans instead.

"He said I was choosing my family over him and that they didn't want me as much as he did. He held me down. Maybe I could have stopped him if I just agreed with everything he was saying...but I couldn't. Part of me believed they didn't want me but mostly I couldn't bring myself to lie about the only family I'd had just to keep him from hurting me. They say you're supposed to try to save yourself with words, tell your attacker what they want to hear, agree with them so that maybe they won't hurt you. But he never even believed me when I told him I hadn't been with anyone before so what was the point?" Mary's voice cracked and a tremble appeared on her chin that she tried to fight. "What kind of person wants to hurt someone like that?"

Her jaw clenched and she felt her eyes betray her at once when she saw a tear slide down Mary's cheek. She never wanted this to be something they had common and she'd never really seen Mary cry before. It was heart wrenching, the kind of pain that startles your entire system and leaves you paralyzed. What happened with Cassie was wrong but right now it just didn't seem as horrible as having your body violated the way that Mary had.

She stood from the hood of the car and reached for her, pulling Mary to her feet and wrapping her arms around her. She needed her there. She needed her in her arms to solidly prove that she was safe now and that she was okay, as okay as she could be. Mary flinched slightly in her arms but just as quickly she brought her arms up and hugged her closer. The scent of Mary's hair reaching her nose took her back four years and brought comfort to her body, like candied cherries and vanilla and it made her muscles relax into her more. They didn't move for a long time and they didn't feel the need to. She couldn't distinguish between the shaking in Mary's breath as she cried and the weakening of her legs as her own tears fell. The support they had was each other and it was the only thing that kept them from falling, the reliance that the other was there. This felt right, both of them trying to heal with someone who understood. She couldn't remember if she had ever really hugged Mary before just to let her know that she was here. It felt wrong that they'd never become as close as they could have. She knew Riley and Peter and she was always comforted by that knowledge but how was it okay to know Mary without really knowing her? To be a part of her life and not put in the effort? Neither of them had really confided in anyone about what they had gone through and now they had that safe place in each other. Not that she wanted their common ground to be because of something so terrible but the point was that they had each other now, more than they ever had, and that felt unbreakable.

Mary kissed her cheek lightly, a quiver on her lips as she pulled away and sat back down on the hood of the car, wiping her fingers lightly under her eyes.

"Ben, found me in the woods when I missed my shift. Cole felt bad and told him where I was." Mary smiled weakly but it was so full of loss too, a mask hiding sadness in an attempt to keep it from hurting so much. "My 'social worker dad' was Cole's reason for snapping. Cole won, he took them from me. I couldn't go back to living with them after that because i knew id hear his lies in my head and find a way to blame them for what he did. I knew it wasn't the truth but I couldn't separate the image of them from Cole's words and what he did. I went back into the system. They tried to talk me out of it but because of trauma being involved it was my choice. They didn't have a say in any of it. Ben showed me a bunch of paperwork. Their plans to legally adopt me had been in the works for months without me even knowing about it but I felt broken and too lost to want that anymore. I should have taken that as a sign that they wanted me but it was just the opposite. I took it as a sign that it wasnt right for me because of what Cole put me through to get to that place..because of my family. I had something Cole didn't and I couldn't see anything good coming out of me staying with them but I saw something really good coming out of me leaving." Mary paused and looked to her hands, picking at a tear in the denim on her thigh. It was dark and the road was deserted but the headlights made the bruises on her hand look worse than before.

"What?" She whispered.

Mary smiled lightly and fought back tears again, moving her hand to wipe self-consciously at her cheek and catching a drop as it began to fall. "I asked them to adopt Bailey instead. They didn't have the means to adopt both of us and I wanted a home for him. He needed it more than I did." She breathed a laugh but it just hide so many different emotions. "I was moved into Albany, further away from things that would remind me of what happened...thats was my case worker said anyways, that it was better for me. I didn't really care at that point I just wanted to forget it all. I lost my school and home and I went back to switching placements every few weeks. sometimes I'd be in the same place for a month or two. I got the job at the bar at nights with a fake id, I had to sneak around constantly to get away with it but I wanted to save enough money so that I wouldn't ever have to rely on anyone."

Her throat tightened again when she remembered that night and the way she'd found Mary. The smoky eyeliner under her eyes and button ripped on her shirt..her jeans. "The night I found you..."

"That wasn't the same thing." Mary shook her head firmly. "That was my asshole boss getting a little too grabby when I asked for extra shifts. I wanted to save more money and he wanted to try to negotiate. Nothing happened but...at the same time I think part of me didn't care if it did. That was a rock bottom moment. Cole took away so much when he..." she cut off her words and took a soft breath. "I didn't feel like I had anything left to be taken."

"God, so I'm sorry." She whispered, her voice shaking as she closed her eyes. She hated what Mary had gone through and she felt guilty because she'd done absolutely nothing but make things worse for her. "I shouldnt have gone to you that night and I shouldnt have kissed you. I was missing something and it was wrong of me to use you to fill that void. If I'd known I never would have come to you."

Mary looked over at her and shook her head in disbelief, disagreeing with her frantically. Her blue eyes watered more and another tear fell down her cheek. Mary ignored it completely, too lost in what she was feeling to wipe it away or try to hide it.

"Thats not what I am saying, Paige. If anything you helped me that night. I wasnt strong enough to say no to you and I didn't really want to because..." Mary's breath shook and looked away from her guiltily. Her eyes were so quickly able to change, stirring constantly with feelings that were honest no matter what her lips were saying. Her eyes told the truth and she scolded herself for not noticing it before. "You were outside my door and you were hurting. It hurt more seeing you like that than any amount of pain Cole had put me through. You kissed me and I brought my hand up to your cheek to break away from you but...you were crying and I just...I wiped your tears away instead." she admitted. "I realized something in that moment that kept me from stopping it."

"What?" She pressed. Mary shook her head lightly and didn't move to speak. "Mar, please tell me."

The conflict increased as Mary's eyes flickered over to her. She parted her lips to speak and then they'd close again as she picked over words and looked away again. She waited patiently, not pressing her further but also refusing to back down. Her hands shook when another tear fell from Mary's eyes and it took everything in her to be still and wait. She needed to listen.. not speak. Her patience was being tested and all she wanted was to make everything that had hurt Mary...just disappear. She couldn't stay still. Her hand moved before she could stop it and made contact with the moisture on Mary's cheek, wiping it away softly. She'd wait for as long as it took.

Mary's tongue rolled lightly to part her lips again and let out a shaking breath as she looked over at her. Her eyes were stronger.

"The last time Cole kissed me was after he told me he loved me." She started, a new wave of strength in her voice too, less shaky and more sure. "Within minutes he changed so much and when he caught up to me in the woods he tried to kiss me again. I didn't let him. I was so angry before I got really scared but the whole time, no matter what he did, I fought to keep him from kissing me. I loved him the last time he kissed me and I held on to that memory. It was all I had because I didn't love him anymore. He didn't love me the second he thought of hurting me. I promised myself I wouldn't kiss anyone that I didn't love and know loved me too." Mary's eyes softened again and the strength faded. "I almost pushed you away that night but I didn't because I noticed the difference. I do love you. I mean its different from how I feel about Riley and how you feel about Emily but...its still love and I told myself you wouldn't have come to me if you didn't trust me. Doesn't trust like that come with some amount of love?"

"Yes..it does." She nodded. "For me...love and trust have always been hand in hand for you."

Mary breathed a weak smile as she nodded and looked away again. Standing up from the hood of the car Mary seemed so much stronger now, confidence returning to her slowly just from being honest with each other and knowing that she was needed. It wasn't 'just'... because honesty made all the difference and when spoken it could be the most important difference in the world.

She reached and grabbed Mary's hand lightly to stop her but just as quickly she scolded herself for doing it and let go. Her eyes flickered to the bruises and she remembered Riley grabbing her hand earlier. The way Mary had winced from the pain was something she didn't want to be responsible for causing. Mary's words rang through her head about her being held down and hurt and the last thing she wanted was to push her back into those dark memories. Mary stopped in her tracks and turned to her. She expected her to snap at her or for reflex to catch up with her throat the way it had with Riley's. She deserved it and she braced herself for it.

Mary looked at her and stepped closer, closing the gap quickly and pulling her into an embrace again. It should be knowledge for the entire world that she loves Mary and she loved her back then too. They both knew the difference but it doesn't make the emotion any less powerful or meaningful. Her eyes stung again because the thought of someone hurting a girl like her was sickening. The way she puts everyone first and how loyal she is and loving. She cares so much for all of them, for Riley's family and little Molly and she was there for Emily in such a big way without really knowing her at all. Everyone before herself and never expecting anything back. It was unfathomable that someone could hurt her and even more unbelievable that the experience hadn't taken away all of the beautiful things about her and who she was. It hadn't completely broken her the way Mary thought it had. Not even close. Ten years later and Mary was stronger than she gave herself credit for.

"Part of me is glad you lost all of those families because you found us. Is it wrong of me to feel like that?" She breathed, her eyes watering over when Mary shook her head against her shoulder and held her closer. "We were all broken and lost in a lot of ways but I couldn't ask for a better family and we need you. I need you."

"I need you too." Mary whispered, squeezing her tighter by bringing her hand up into her hair. "We're a lot alike aren't we?"

It was true and she smiled and felt proud to be like Mary in any way. She was some how able to be a best friend even without them knowing everything about each other and this just made them stronger. There was never miles between them they were just so comforted by the other being close that they never needed to measure it. It was effortless and unspoken but so irreplaceable.

"For your sake I hope we're not too much alike." She smiled against Mary's neck and took a deep breath, letting the scent relax her.

Mary sighed and rubbed her hand soothingly across her back. "Au contraire, Paigey."

"Did you take French too?" She tilted her head and pressed a kiss to her cheek before Mary pulled away and smiled, tossing the car keys lightly between her hands as she took a step back towards the driver's door.

"Oui." Mary winked.

"Thank you." she called, stopping Mary as she moved to open the door. "For what you did for me with the improv...and for Emily. It was beautiful and you..." her eyes burned just remembering how happy she'd been in those moments and how sad because Mary was hurting. "...you didn't have to do that but you did anyways..."

Mary smiled softly and ducked her head to the keys in her hands. "Just dont hurt her."

"I wont." she shook her head firmly.

"Good because you'll be answering to me if you do." Mary beamed proudly and climbed into the car, leaving her staring after her.

Ducking her head with a smile she walked back to her door and slipped in silently, careful not to wake the backseat sleepers. "Just so you know there's never been a doubt in my mind about how strong you are." She shook her head lightly and looked at Mary. "You're probably one of the strongest people I know."

"Maybe that's the problem sometimes." Mary's blue eyes flickered over to her as she pulled back on to the highway. "I'm something different for everyone arent I? I'm strong for everyone in the way they need but not just for me?" She shook her head sadly. "I mean Riley's probably the only exception because for some reason I can't seem to keep myself from hurting him over and over again."

"I didn't mean to mess with things between you and Riley...by coming to you that night. I wasnt even thinking about him and I should have been."

"You're not a good kisser anyways so I forgive you." Mary teased. "Well...I'm pretty sure you bit my lip which.. if I'm being honest was insanely hot but the taste of whiskey really killed the mood for me."

"What?" She nudged her playfully and laughed. "Wow I really screwed that up then didn't I?" She tisked. Mary smiled too but all humor aside she understood where each other's hearts were back then and even more so now. She could have messed things up for her and Riley and that was the last thing she'd ever want. "Oh God does Riley know?" She whispered.

Mary's eyes flickered over her shoulder to Emily and Riley sleeping on the backseat. His head had fallen to his window and she had slumped over, her head nestled into his side. "I didnt tell him." She shook her head.

"Why not?"

"Because if I did then I would have had to feed his ego about him being the better kisser and I wasnt really in the mood to lie to him so..."

"Poor guy."

"Oh, he has no idea." Mary grinned, relaxing into her seat more.

She lowered herself in the seat too and nestled her head into the headrest. It was heartbreaking to think about what Mary had gone through at such a young age and how that event had affected her entire life in intricate ways. How could it not? Her relationship with Riley made more sense along with pretty much everything she did, why she reacted so strongly to learning about Cassie. The way Riley doesn't ever seem push her or be anything other than patient. He'd be wrong to push and that wasnt Riley's personality anyways. His parents and Molly have always inspired him to be the best kind of guy. Mary needs that and Riley needs everything about her.

"So..." she started, tilting her head to the side to look at Mary. "You and Riley...its serious right?"

Mary shifted away slightly and flipped a knob on the dash, kicking the cool air up a little higher. She shrugged lightly and didn't return her hand to the shifter, instead it went to the wheel as she switched her left hand out to comb through her curls.

"I don't know." She sighed. "I know I need him but I know he deserves more than I'm able to give him right now. It's not fair for him to have to wait on me to work through my shit. He didn't do anything wrong."

"You're wrong." She shook her head. "Riley's one of the most patient people I've ever known. He's like a people-shaped ice cream for everyone...or whatever your favorite comfort food is. His mother did well."

"She did." Mary chuckled.

"It's beyond me." She smiled. It soften quickly at seeing struggle form in Mary's eyes again. "Mar?"

"I'm not trying to hurt him." Mary looked over at her with sadness. "I know you two grew up together and that you're really close so I want you to hear that from me. There's just so much that I haven't figured out how to cope with yet. I feel damaged sometimes and I feel worse because it hurts him but I can't just forget some things. I'm trying for him but I'm also not holding my breath."

"I get that...but dont expect him to go anywhere because I know him better than that and I know you do too."

"He deserves better."

"He has the best already, Mar." She sighed. "Riley needs someone like you. He's figured it out and you'll get there too. I did. It just took time and the right person and you've already got the right person so you're halfway there." She reached to pick at a long curl hanging over Mary's shoulder and instantly she smiled as her hand was slapped away. "Back to normal." She laughed.

Mary smiled and caught her hand as she pulled it away, holding it instead and letting them rest on the center of the seat between them. "We are all so far from normal its fucked up."

She chuckled. "We're all such a perfectly flawed little family of misfits." She took a deep breath and glanced again at Riley sleeping before setting her eyes on Mary's hand in hers and her smiling softly. "Have I told you how I met Riley? Has he?"

"No just that you guys spent summers together."

"When I was thirteen I snuck out of my grandparents house one night. My parents wouldn't really let me explore during the day because they kept me busy around the show. I was walking down the main street outside of the grounds and he was with some guys in parking lot next to that ice cream place across from the main gate. They started shouting at me as soon as I passed, whistling and cat calls about why I was out late alone and if I was looking for company."

"Assholes." Mary frowned.

"Not Riley." She shook her head firmly. "No...Riley was sitting on the hood of one of the cars and the second they started in on me he called them out. Told them to stop. He walked me twenty-five blocks back to my grandparents house and the whole time kept his hands in his pockets and polite two feet between us. And that's after he gave me his jacket to wear because I left the house so fast I was just wearing shorts and a tank top."

"That definitely sounds like something he'd do now."

"He hasn't changed." She smiled. "I saw him the next day on the grounds and found out he worked for my grandparents. Just small manual jobs. We were pretty much inseparable after that. He looked out for me a lot and I didn't feel like I needed it."

"Awe...just like you now?" Mary teased.

"And like you." She smiled and ducked her head, running her thumb in a careful brush across the bruises on Mary's knuckles. "We used to sneak out at night sometimes and just hang out in the fields or in town. He kinda had the bad boy image that people gave him but he'd never actually done anything to earn it. Well...until he lit the truck on fire." She looked over at Mary to see a slight crinkle of interest between her eyebrows as she listened. "The summer when I was fifteen and he was seventeen we went out with a few of his guy friends and several others we'd met...a few girls that had a serious crush on him. There were a lot that did. Riley was always around me but they realized pretty quickly that we weren't interested in each other so the girls didn't see me as a threat."

"Heartbreaker..." Mary smiled lightly but it didn't quite reach her eyes. She knew without asking that Mary was comparing herself in a way that she shouldn't. A way that she wouldn't ever compare herself if she really understood Riley.

"He wasn't a heartbreaker." She shook her head. "I think that's what I loved about him so much. He never gave any of the girls a second glance, usually not even a first glance. We'd lay out in the fields drinking and talking about girls, the main topic we had in common." She chuckled and Mary mimicked the sound. "He had a very specific image in his head of what he wanted. Not the shallow girls throwing themselves at him and pining. He wanted someone real and right for him. He wasn't sure what real would look like but he always said he'd know when he found it. I've known him since he was fifteen and I'd never seen him date anyone. I'd never even seen him looking at anyone with interest."

Mary looked over and eyed her skeptically. "There had to have been someone."

"You." She nodded. "The first time I saw Riley really look at someone...it was you." Even in the darkness of the car she could see Mary's breathing stop. "The night he drove the truck to pick us up when I found you was the first time I'd ever seen Riley want someone. I think him singing to you on the ride back was him not really knowing what to do with himself."

"God that was so uncomfortable." Mary smiled.

"Tell me about it. I was sitting between you two." She agreed. "He kept nudging my arm like he was asking me if he was wooing you properly."

Mary laughed and shook her head. "And the song...light my fire?"

"Oh please that's tame." She scoffed. "I drove Emily home in Rosewood and I got Marvin Gaye on the radio."

"Oh my God." Mary choked on a laugh. "Sexual Healing?"

"Lets get it on." She corrected, her smile widening when Mary laughed. It was a beautiful sound. "But I think Riley was more than happy to take a suitcase to the stomach from you because you tripped him beforehand...which meant your leg touched his leg. He was proud for weeks because you touched him."

"He's amazing." Mary sighed and shook her head lightly. "I really don't get it."

"You must get it a little bit." She urged.

There was no way Mary couldn't see what she does to people, what Riley sees in her. Everything from how close she is with even Molly to how much she helped Emily before the improv. She's always so eager to be there for everyone even if it's in her tough love kind of way. Pushing Sadie and Faye to work harder or dragging doubters out of tent after her parents died. Her passion was always strong and driven but more importantly...genuinely...Mary cares.

"You're together now, for five years, and how long did that take you guys after you joined? A few weeks before I'd see you two in a tangled mess of limbs in the hallways?"

Both of those questions were rhetorical and Mary knew they were too. She wasnt saying this to hear Mary respond she just needed Mary to hear it all. The seed would grow on its own when Mary was ready for it to.

"Riley always told me he wanted someone that would make him better. Not only that...but someone that made 'better' happen without trying or meaning to. He's always wanted to be meant for someone in a way that no other person would ever be enough. No one but him. He's the soul mate kind of guy and I have him to thank for making me believe in the same thing. I wasn't enough for Cassie and she wasnt enough for me. We weren't the right missing pieces for each other so we didn't fit. I think I've finally found my piece and I know without a doubt that five years ago...Riley found his. He got lucky. He found you on the first try. The rest of us had to go through Cassies and..."

"Coles." Mary sighed. "We don't have good luck with 'C' names."

"Apparently not." She sighed and scooted lower in her seat, watching Mary do the same. Her eyes where a constant shift of emotions that just kept stirring. That was a good thing. She wanted Mary to feel everything that she'd said so that she wouldn't forget any of it. "Do you want me to drive?"

"Hey.." Mary arched her eyebrows pointedly. "I just earned unlimited Cougar privileges."

"Do I even wanna know how?"

Mary rolled her eyes and looked at her. "I don't think we have to tell each other everything."

"Yes." She nodded firmly. "Yes we do have to tell each other everything, at least for tonight." Mary's eyes turned to slits as she glared at her but she just smiled proudly in return. "Come on. Spill." She pressed.

"Fine." Mary shot with a smile. "We were on our way to find Cassie so I could kick her ass but I stopped the car at that damn gas station. Some kids were picking on another boy so Riley threatened the kid being bullied and got punched in the stomach. Basically I kissed a sixteen year old and now the bullies know that he can beat up a grown man twice his size and that he's capable of landing a girlfriend with really big..."

"And we're done here." She interrupted, laughing and shaking her head. She didn't really need to know everything. Nobody really needs to know everything.

"Then Riley was all wounded so we had sex in the backseat." Mary added.

She groaned and threw her head back into the headrest. "Emily is sleeping back there."

"Relax." Mary smiled. "Leather seats and there's cleaning wipes in the glove box. Riley loves his car."

"It's the principle." She argued. It wasn't unbelievable though. She had plenty of locations she could reference when it came to their sex life and that was too much information already. "Oh God are you guys the couple risking it in broad daylight?"

Mary's eyebrows crinkled in confusion "Clue me in, Ms. Vague."

"That little old man at the gas station." She clarified. "He said some couple was having se..." she cut herself off because Mary was suddenly smiling.

"Yeah..." She beamed and then so quickly her expression was serious. "Wait...he was still alive to tell you this? No heart attacks or strokes? Fuck, I must really be losing my touch." Mary frowned.

"Still alive and still kicking." she chuckled, shaking her head.

How could she expect anything less than Riley and Mary having sex in a public place. From spending teenage years with Riley she knew he'd never been with anyone but Mary, and she loved him for that, but for some reason walking in on them in compromising situations has always made her want to pull him away by the ear and slap the shit out of him then wait for him to stop crying before asking him about his intentions towards Mary. Call it a female comradery and just the natural need to look out for her but she knew deep down that Riley would never hurt her and she was comforted by that.

"This has your name on it by the way..." she sighed, reaching for the candy-striped card that Mary had thrown angrily on to the dash. "Its your card...not mine." when Mary smiled softly and ducked her head away she placed the card back gently where it had been. "But seriously just please give us a heads up if we need to stop for any adult interludes so Emily and I can exit the vehicle first. Don't just wait until we're sleeping. Or at least let me and Riley switch places so Emily and I can have the back seat."

Mary choked on a breath of air and looked at her with wider eyes. "Fuck, are you suggesting we all just 'go at it' in the car at the same time?"

"What?" she choked too. "No...I'm just..."

Mary smiled and shrugged thoughtfully. "It's not a bad idea..."

Her eyes widened and her cheeks flushed as she looked at Mary, an utter loss for words, but she relaxed when Mary rolled her eyes.

"I'm kidding, Paige." Mary teased, shaking her head lightly. "Besides, you two could have just taken Peter's car but I promise you'd be at least a hundred miles behind us right now."

"We could have taken your convertible." She smiled and rolled her head to the side to look at her.

Mary arched her eyebrows skeptically. "The Audi still probably isn't as fast as this."

"Well its cherry red and it looks fast."

"Well...we've had sex in that too." Mary smirked. "With the top down...while he was driving."

She shook her head in disbelief. "Yeah that is not safe at all." It was possible that Mary was kidding by the way she rolled her blue eyes but there's was no real way to know for sure.

"He's really very talented."

"Is he talented or are you talented because he was driving?" She groaned again and scrunched up her nose when that question left her mouth. "God...okay I think I've learned enough so we can stop now."

"Oh no." Mary teased, shaking her head. "We're being honest aren't we?" A sarcastic smile spread on her lips but it faded as she let the topic die. "You said you didn't feel anything with Cassie...when she touched you? What about with Emily?"

Her cheeks warmed and her stomach twisted into knots, fluttering knots that shifted into butterflies at the mention of a name. "Emily made me realize that I wasn't really broken. I can feel everything with her." Mary smiled and squeezed her fingers lightly. It felt peaceful now... relaxed but the bruises caught her eye again. "Does Riley know?" She asked eyes softening at seeing her hand. "About what happened to you?"

"Yeah he does." Mary nodded. "He figured it out on his own." She swallowed hard and her eyes moved to glance at him sleeping in the rearview mirror. "We were messing around one night, not in that way.. " Mary clarified quickly. "We were just playing and he pinned me down to tickle me. He held my hands so I couldn't really fight back and my mind went back to that place without warning and I just snapped." Mary's eyes looked away sheepishly and she could see the hurt there. "It wasnt his fault and I didn't mean to react that way. I just started crying and pushed him off. I didn't let him touch me at all for days because I was so embarrassed. He started watching me after that, piecing things together. The things that would make me flinch or jump. We talked about it a little but him knowing the details wouldn't have done any good so I kept it simple. He's pissed about me hitting Cassie because of this." She lifted her hand slightly from hers and bruises were easy to see even in the darkness. They were ghostly against the red and blue lights on the dashboard.

"I wish you wouldn't have done that." She sighed. "Not for Cassie's sake because I could give a shit less about her, but for you...I just care about you."

"I'm gonna be honest that wasn't entirely for you. Most of it was but..."

"What?"

"I wasn't given the chance to really fight Cole. When you and Riley held me back from her it felt like that all over again. I think that's why Riley let go of my arm, because he realized that." Mary's eyes glanced over her shoulder towards the backseat and then moved back to the road. "He held my hand down with his knee and broke my wrist and my hand in two places so I guess when I hit Cassie I felt like I was hitting him too. None of that should have happened to you and the fact that I was so close when she hurt you and I didn't know just pissed me off more."

"I didn't let anyone know. That's not your fault. It's not exactly the same thing either. You went through so much worse."

"Something like that shouldnt be measured on a scale from bad to worse. It's just all wrong. Every case of it under every circumstance."

"Yeah.. you're probably right." She nodded. "We can't change any of it though and if you ever try to quit on me again I'll hunt you down and drag you back. You're kind of irreplaceable and the idea of being left with Faye and Sadie is just...no."

"I'm sorry." Mary smiled. "That was unforgivable of me."

"Not unforgivable." She whispered. "Nothing you could ever do would be unforgivable to me because I know the kind of person you are. We know each other more than we think we do." Her throat tightened when other words of Mary's popped into her mind. Probably the words that hurt her more than anything. "About what you said earlier.." she started, unable to even look at Mary as she spoke. "The stuff about Sadie and Faye and their...sexual choices. I don't think that about you, not even close. I failed to admit how close you are with Riley because I was angry at myself for the night I came to you. I knew better and I'm sorry if I ever made you feel less than you are."

"We don't really have to talk about this." Mary pleaded. "It was wrong of me to throw that in your face and I didn't mean it. Whatever reputation I've made for myself is my fault and my doing...not yours."

"I guess when I walked in on you and Peter I made assumptions and I shouldn't have." She frowned. "That wasnt fair of me and it wasnt my business anyways."

"Oh Peter." Mary smiled, biting at her lower lip. "That wasnt what it looked like and I'm not just saying that to sound cliché."

"Mar, its none of my business. You don't owe me an explanation."

"Ooookay thanks for sparing me, Ms. Chivalry." Mary smiled sarcastically. "I'm giving you an explanation anyways so shut up for a second." She sealed her lips and Mary's smiled widened. "Riley knew about the Peter thing. It was just a bet. The bet was whether or not I could get Peter drunk enough so we could all sleep in the next morning. Riley didn't think I could and I proved him wrong."

"How has he not learned his lesson about placing bets with you?"

Mary shrugged "I really have no idea."

"So...how the hell did Peter's face end up in your..." her eyes flickered over Mary's chest and she gestured with her hand awkwardly as she cleared her throat. "Umm...in those?"

Mary laughed and shook her head. "And you're the lesbian? Wake Emily up and ask her what they're called and I promise she'll have a better word."

Her cheeks flushed and slammed her eyes shut with a smile. "You know what I mean."

"I was sitting on the counter lining up shots for him and 'these'..." Mary waved her hand over her chest. "were just incentive. And then as good timing would have it...you walked in."

"So no motor boat?" She asked warily.

Mary looked at her sheepishly "Well...kind of but the engine wasn't very strong." She laughed. "It was more like a sinking boat were the engine makes those gurgling noises as it goes down. I won the bet."

"Oh wow..poor Peter." She shook her head with a smile.

"No!" Mary argued. "Peter was perfectly happy...I promise."

"Oh God ..we're done here." She threw her hand up, still holding Mary's in her other. "No more. None of my business."

"I really shouldnt have thrown all of that at you earlier. It was a low blow and I'm sorry but you should know that I've only been with Riley." Mary's blue eyes were pained. "Since I joined the show... and since Cole hurt me...its only been Riley. Ever."

She swallowed hard and it took her a moment to nod. She felt worse knowing how much she hadn't known Mary, how much she'd failed to see her. It wasn't all her fault and she knew that it went both ways but it shook her world just hearing that it was only Riley. It made her smile because Riley was the only person she trusted to be good enough for Marley and in return she was the best person for him. There was something else that had been bothering her. It always had but the last few days forced it to the front of her mind and when Mary brushed her thumb soothingly over her hand..she made the decision.

"I don't want to call you Mary anymore." She stated, bracing herself for the fallout of saying it. Whatever argument it started...it didn't matter. "It's not who you are to me. You're not some fake person with a fake name."

There was silence beside her and she couldn't bring herself to look over. Doing that would make it seem like she wanted her approval and part of her did but either way it wouldn't change her feelings. If it started a fight then so be it because her determination to get Marley to a place were she could trust her and depend on her was more important. She'd fight for her. Mary was the girl who she had failed to see and know for five years and she felt like she knew her now. She wasnt going anywhere and Marley needed to know that.

"I picked it up after I moved back into Albany...after everything. I guess it was just my way of being someone different. If I was someone else then I didn't have to be the girl that was raped by someone who was supposed to love her."

Her jaw and stomach clenched all over again and she second guessed this whole name battle just as quickly. It wasnt important. Just a name. It didn't really change who she was.

"But..." Mary sighed lightly. "I wasn't in a good place back then and I feel like I'm getting there now so..."

She smiled softly to herself and looked over at her carefully. "Marley?"

"Yeah?"

Her smile widened at the peaceful response. "Let me drive the Cougar."

Marley smiled and shook her head. "No way. If anything happens to this car Riley will kill me."

"Lets be real, Mar..." She arched her eyebrows. "Riley will always find some way to love you more in any situation...even the demise of his car."

Marley's smile faltered for a second and when it returned it wasnt real anymore. It didn't reach her eyes the same way and she pulled her hand away to reach for the turn signal as she passed another car and then tousled her hair around her shoulders again. The change was so fast it confused her and made her question what she'd said. Nothing seemed wrong with any of it but at the same time Marley just looked emotionally drained and her eyes were now swirling off into different thoughts. Her own eyes felt tired and quickly she forgot what they were even discussing. So many new things were now in her head. Most of them hurt too much for her to even go near and others made her too angry when she felt too tired to fight. The strongest things moving through her head made her smile and relaxed every part of her body.

She reached to cover Marley's hand when it fell back to her lap again, holding it lightly in both of her hands and shielding the bruises in a protective way. She felt eyes flicker over to her but she didn't pull away. Marley needed to know that she was here for her no matter how hard things got. She was part of the family they all made up and when they were together it felt like nothing could touch them. She turned to look over her shoulder again and Riley's head had now fallen child-like on Emily's shoulder, like the innocent one he was most of the time. When he wasnt pinning assholes against brick walls in the gallant way of his.

"I ship that." She smiled, shaking her head lightly.

"Is he using her as a pillow?" Marley frowned, trying to turn around to see. "Wake him up. Emily doesn't need him drooling on her shoulder."

"He's fine." She argued. "Let him sleep. The guys comfortable and I don't blame him. Besides, Emily used him as a pillow half the drive so I think its fair." A thought crossed her mind and she turned to face Mary in her seat with amused smile. "Speaking of which...'hold me like a pillow'? Nice song choice for the improv slash testing of Peter's restraint."

"Oh come on! That was perfect." Mary beamed. "Peter wishes his pillows were as good as these. That's our song purely because of that line."

"No I agree, but do you think he'll be okay with making that a permanent performance?"

"Fuck I hope so." Mary nodded. "His little flustered cheeks are adorable."

"How did Sydney take that though?" Surely Sydney had seen the performance slash striptease but everything had seemed fine at dinner the night before.

"I got a high-five and a hug but I don't like to brag."

She smiled and nodded approvingly. "One True Pairing: Peter and Marley ...Parley?"

"What? No, Parley is our ship." Mary smiled and poked her finger at her thigh playfully, not breaking her hold on her hand. "The only thing remotely accurate for me and Peter is Marter."

"Oh my God, genius." She laughed "Peter the martyr choosing to suffer public humiliation rather than renounce to you." The sarcasm in her voice couldn't be faked. Peter loves Marley and her tempting, keeps him on his toes. "Oh the sacrifices he's making for the greater good."

"It's perfect." Marley smiled. "I'm really hoping I get to be his midlife crisis. It should be any day now, right?"

"Uh he'd have a heart attack that would end his life so it wouldn't be very mid-anything."

"Then he'd still be the martyr. He'll choose certain death over saying no to me."

"A moment of silence please." She bowed her head and then turned to look over her shoulder and laughed. "No protests from the backseat."

Marley laughed. "I ship Paily though."

"Paily?"

"Yeah I mean...I love Emily more than you so I was gonna put her first but Emiage doesn't roll off the tongue as beautifully so...I caved." She shrugged nonchalantly. "You wanted to make t-shirts for you and Peter but Paily may actually have to happen. I just envision this cute little shovel and pail set that are attached at the handles."

She laughed "Okay but what about you and Riley?"

"I'm already the ship name arent I?" Marley smiled knowingly.

"What do you mean?"

"Mary and Riley...Marley." She arched her eyebrows proudly. "I just fucked the shit out of your mind."

"Wow! " she laughed. "So I can definitely call you Marley when you're both in the room and you can't get pissed because I'm really just referring to the two of you as a pairing."

Marley chuckled and squeezed her hand lightly. She wanted to return the pressure but the purple on her knuckles made her worry of hurting her. Her touch stayed light.

"Say something in French." She whispered, a weak smile on her lips. Her eyes felt heavy and tired now and rested her head into the seat.

"Umm.." Marley sighed lightly. "Je serai toujours là pour toi."

"That sounds pretty." She smiled more and looked over at her.

"It is pretty." Marley agreed, returning the soft smile and squeezing her hand again.

"Je t'aime." She scooted lower in her seat and Marley released her hand to cover the shifter so she reached and draped her right arm over hers instead, leaving her the space to drive but still staying close. "That's all I really know in French."

"Très bon." Marley nodded in approval. Her voice was softer than a whisper but she picked it up easily and smiled. "That's probably the most important phrase to know."

"You know I do, right?"

Marley smiled softly and nodded with a glisten over her eyes. "I love you too, Paigey."

"Well, I don't love Paigey but its growing on me."

Marley breathed a laugh and she tightened her grip slightly over her arm. It felt good having her close along with Emily and Riley in the backseat sleeping. Her eyes felt heavy but she struggled to stay awake so that Marley wasn't alone but each passing second she grew more tired. Emily was the love of her life, nothing and no one could replace her or come close but...Marley...Riley and Peter...they all held such large pieces of her heart that couldn't be replaced by anyone else either. The void would be too large and the damage too great. She needed them all and it didn't make her weak to admit that. It made her stronger.

A battle started with her eyelids. Every few minutes they would try to close only for her to fight back by the need to not leave Marley alone. She didn't want to sleep and leave her alone to her thoughts because those thoughts scared her. With Marley trying to leave the show she was worried her reasons would come back. She didn't want them to come back and if keeping them away meant staying awake all night and keeping herself available to talk through them then so be it. If she slept she wouldn't be able to see when Marley's blue eyes swirled off into different emotions, if she was awake she could notice those changes and fight them. She could fight for Marley and Riley and fight to keep the only family she had together. She could tell herself that was her only reason for trying to stay awake but that would also be a lie. A blatant one. The biggest reason was also the most simple. It was just the peace that came with being in someones company. Someone that regardless of words had always been there. Not a single part of her wanted Marley to feel sad or lonely if she fell asleep. Her eyes closed again only to fly open immediately.

There were so many moments along the way, over the years, that had strengthened her desire to be close with her family, to keep them together. Call it her own selfish needs but she liked to believe they all needed her in the same way too. All of those moments rooted back to one event, one place in time that really started her unconditional love for all of them and when she knew she'd do anything and everything to keep them all in her life. The moment when she'd lost the most and needed them more than she'd ever needed anything or anyone. They had all been there. Her fingers moved to touch the charms hanging around her neck, singling out the clock and then the blue glass bead wrapped in red wire...the letter "E". They'd all been there in that dark moment, even without realizing it. Even Emily.

"Come here..."

Her body startled when Marley pulled her arm away. Her eyes opened to the whisper of her voice and to the softest blue that gestured for her to sleep. Shifting lower she brought her feet up on to the seat and propped her head on Marley's thigh. With the comfort of a scent she recognized from four years ago, clinging to the purple of Marley's shirt, her eyes closed and an arm draped protectively over her shoulder. It felt safe but sleep became odd then, pulling her under into a floating place while keeping her close to the hum from the car's engine and the cold air passing through the vents..through her hair. She was there and far away. She could hear Marley breathing and feel the leather seat beneath her body...the warmth seeping through soft purple cotton against her cheek, but it was fading too. A blanket of unconscious thought trying to pull her under completely while her mind was still fighting not to leave Marley awake alone. The air shifted around her, stirring the cherry scent and startling her awake again. Her eyes flew open to familiar images flickering like a super 8 camera.

*Fall in your knees,

Oh hear the angel voices...*

"Paige, can you close the window now? You're letting all the warm air out."

The roads where snow packed and the sky had long since turned a navy blue, glowing white flurries of ice floating in the air and sparkling in front of the amber headlights. She groaned and lifted her head from the cracked window where it had been resting for the last few hours. Sleep had failed to work its way in the reason for that was blasting through the speakers and had been for most of the day. The cold wind blowing in through her hair helped to defuse the volume.

"Please turn it off." She begged, holding in the button to bring the window up again. "Or at least down...a lot. We all know its Christmas without having to listen to music for the whole drive. We should have flown."

"Someones festive." Her mom smiled. "If we'd flown we would have missed the views of driving and all of this long drawn-out quality time together.

"No we would have just had more quality time at the resort and its dark outside." She pointed out. "What views?" Her mom shook her head with a smile and turned the volume down one notch. "Seriously?" She chuckled. "One click on the volume? It's basically straight static so why torture me? I've done nothing to deserve this. I'm a good daughter."

"You are but you also have headphones don't you?" Her dad pointed out.

"Yes I do but we could also just lose the Christmas show tunes and talk instead." She argued. "Headphones are meant for music so why should I have to put them on just to drown out the music?"

"Okay fine." Her dad smiled, taking a hand off the wheel to turn the radio off. "Pick the topic and we'll talk."

She crinkled her eyebrows and thought but come to think of it there was really nothing she wanted to talk about either. "I've got nothing. You pick."

Her mom clapped excitedly. "I spy with my little eye...something that is...white."

"Oh good God..." she mumbled, laughing and looking at her dad who beamed playfully.

"SNOW!" He shouted. "My turn..."

Her mom turned and gave her a mock horror look that made her laugh and slump lower into the backseat...in what little space she had. It was tight and the only thing that helped was loosening her seatbelt slightly across her lap, letting it lay slack instead of cutting off her air supply and making her feel more claustrophobic that she already did. How they needed this much shit for a five day vacation was beyond her. Their bags for spending Christmas in Aspen were in the back of the red Range Rover, behind her seat, but somehow she'd been stuffed in the middle of blankets and travel pillows not to mention everyone's winter coats and random ear flap hats...an occasional mitten. One suitcase was hers, one was her dad's and three for her mom. Apparently there were different types of jackets for certain outdoor activities, skiing or a simple nature walk. Different colors as well but personally...a single coat for the temperatures of cold and colder was all she needed. Her elbow moved to nudge into the pile of stuff on the seat beside her, pushing it further away from her small amount of space behind the driver's seat.

"So are we gonna be doing family activities or are you two gonna ditch me like last year?" She teased.

Her mom turned around with a playful smile. "Last year you ditched us first, remember?"

"No if I remember correctly you two rode to the top of the slopes and just wanted to look down and admire the view." she pointed out.

Her dad smiled behind the wheel. "The view up there is amazing."

"I agree but that's not why you ride to the top. I mean you can admire the view briefly but then you ski down. You two just stood there for an hour like you were never gonna see it again...while I stood there waiting like a tourist."

"And then you went down and left us up there." Her mom argued. "And we are tourists."

"It doesn't mean we have to act like them. You guys rode the lift back down. You still beat me." She groaned. "The fun of going to a ski resort is to ski or..." her eyes looked over at her snowboard tucked behind the back seat. "...something. I mean we can get you guys a sled if you want. A good old-fashioned toboggan. I'm sure there are plenty of kids I could steal one from. Or just admire the view from the bunny hill next time."

"Okay little Ms. Bossy. We'll ski but..." Her mom chuckled. "We can bring Riley and Mary next year if you want just for company."

"Even Peter wouldn't waste a ski slope like you two." She smiled. "I'll just be at the bar if you need me."

"Not for another year." Her dad tisked sarcastically. "Stick with the mini bar in the room so you don't get arrested please. How many times have the cops brought you and Riley home in your life?"

"ten." She sighed, rolling her eyes. "But to be fair six of which were for your set curfew and it was the grounds security every time so it doesn't count. They're basically family. And I'm not a teenager anymore so that's not even a relevant argument."

"Exactly my point." Her dad teased, his warm brown eyes flickering up to look at her in the rearview mirror. "Theres adult consequences so be responsible and drink illegally in the hotel room." He winked.

Her mom shifted in her seat to look back at her. "Or better yet, maybe while we're busy standing and staring at the views like a bunch of old tourists you can explore and meet someone your age. Its been over a year since Cassie so maybe..."

She groaned and threw her head back hard into the seat, sinking lower and trying to disappear into the fabric. There was plenty of it after all. Maybe now would be a good time to bury herself under the mounds of coats and bags and just tune out her mom's hopeful and twinkling eyes. Her fingers went subconsciously to touch the small charm hanging from around her neck. A "3" that she'd lied to her parents about. She bought over a year ago to take the place of needing an actual person but the lie was that she'd told her parents it was a three. A number for the three of them as a family. The truth was that it was a blatant lie but it didn't matter. Even the truth didn't matter. It was just an inanimate object that couldn't ever hurt her the way Cassie had and maybe having it was a way of trying to trick her mind into not wanting something more...someone that she'd never have and had never been hers to begin with. It was just a piece of metal and it was more than enough for her because it proved what she'd had with Cassie wasn't love. She knew the difference between what she'd felt for Cassie and what she felt for the one who held this charm...the person behind it.

"I don't want to meet anyone. If I wanted to...I would. I don't."

"Well you just haven't been interested since Cassie so I was only suggesting. As long as you're happy" her mom sighed softly. "She had potential but she was wasting it. I was hoping with Mary joining she'd take some pointers from her and calm down a little bit but..."

"Mary's calm?" She smiled sarcastically. "She's the epitome of...whatever the opposite of calm is."

"She's driven and passionate." Her mom corrected. "Insanely smart too. Cassie could have really learned a lot from her if she'd wanted to."

"Cassie was nothing but trouble." He dad shook his head. "Mary is going somewhere in her life and Cassie was going backwards. I'm glad Mary came along when she did so we had a good back up in case Cassie bailed on us and left us without a replacement."

Her eyebrows furrowed as she looked up at her dad. The car was dark with only lights from the dash-board but he looked irked for something that happened over a year ago. They didn't even know the truth about Cassie aside from a simple explanation that they'd expected anyways...as her dad just pointed out.

"Yeah...well she did end up bailing didn't she." She sighed peacefully. "Cassie took off and Mary took over. Problem solved, can we drop the whole Cassie thing?"

"I'm sorry, Paige." Her mom turned to look at her again. "I'm so angry that she didn't even say anything to you. I don't understand why she wouldn't say goodbye."

"Because she was selfish." Her dad shook his head in distaste again. "You deserve better than that. She was only thinking about herself and she didn't care who she hurt. She just took off without a word."

"This is not considered 'dropping the Cassie thing.'" She pointed out, forcing her parents to nod reluctantly and respect her desire to not talk about Cassie.

He seemed to be taking this a bit too personally which was confusing because he didn't have anything to do with Cassie leaving. He hadn't known she was stealing money... in fact she personally had replaced every penny that Cassie had stolen with her own money and made sure her parents never knew about it. It was only fair to assume he was upset about his daughter being hurt. That would surely hurt him too and she'd never been anything but close with her parents. Her body relaxed just knowing they loved her unconditionally and never hesitated to say it or show it.

Before they'd left Rosewood it was a little harder. Her parents always working had kept them from spending a lot of time together but when the show came around all of that had changed. They were together so much, worked and traveled together and even with being with each other almost every day the train still always felt large enough to hide away and find privacy. She'd finished schooling online and with help from them it allowed her graduate a year early and then she had even managed to obtain her license to handle and care for the animals in the show. They always got to spend time together now and she wasn't with them she was found with Riley or Mary or lost in thoughts of her future that she was more than happy to spend alone. She had Stella too and that was more than enough for her. She was happy with her life completely and nothing in her wanted to ever risk another Cassie. Alone was better... and with family and friends. She was responsible for her future and only her future. No one else.

"I wish Riley and Mary would have come. That way you're not bored. You three are always inseparable." Her mom noted. "It wouldn't have hurt to have them along too."

"I'm the third wheel." She chuckled. "I love them both to death but they can't keep their hands off each other which makes for very awkward movie nights. Besides, Mrs. Brennan wouldn't stop pleading with them to stay home for Christmas this year. Mary wanted to go to Europe."

"The 'mom guilt trip' works every time." Her dad smiled. "That's why you're here right now, Sport."

"I know...I'm weak."

"You're anything but weak, Paige." Her mom laughed and smiled back at her over her shoulder. "You just really love us."

"I do which is why I'm here even knowing full well that you're going to ditch me at some point in the next five days." She nodded in agreement. "You two are going to leave me alone to fend for myself and I'll probably get lost and have no idea how to find you because the place is huge."

"There'll always be people around you that can help you find your way." Her mom smiled playfully. "We'll try not to wander off too far when we're admiring the scenery."

"And admiring you tearing up the mountain with your boogie board thingy..." her dad laughed

She laughed and shook her head again. "Snowboard." She corrected, nudging the pile of coats beside her for more room and singling out a white down jacket on top. "And speaking of which...there wouldnt happen to be extra room up there for one...or five of your ten coats? I can barely move back here." Maybe it was an exaggeration but her parents both smiled and that was worth it.

"You're packed in tight back there. Safe and sound." Her mom laughed. "Just snuggle in and sleep. We'll be there soon."

She sighed, sinking lower into her seat and resting her head into the soft white fabric. Her eyes felt heavier now as the glowing red numbers on the dash ticked from 8:34 to 8:35. It was early but after driving for over eight hours the drowsiness was more out of boredom than anything else. There was nothing better to do. They were still about two hours away from Aspen and a short nap could leave her more energized to hit the night slopes for a little while. That was her favorite part of their trips to Aspen. The snow at night and staring down at dimly lit inclines from the top of a mountain. When the moon was full you could see for miles across the frozen landscape below.

Her eyes fell softly on her dad smiling over at her mom as he reached to hold her hand, letting them rest on the middle console between them as he traced light circles over her knuckles in a soothing way. It made her smile and her eyes closed. She didnt need Cassie. She didn't need anyone as long as she had her family. Nothing else mattered, not even the "E" hanging around her neck. She blinked. It felt like she had only blinked and then she felt something, fingers combing through her hair and coaxing her awake. Her eyes opened but there was no reason for the sensation, no one touching her or even noticing that she was awake. The numbers 12:05 were staring at her.

"Just slow down a bit more, it's not too bad." Her mom said.

"We're not there yet?" She asked, sitting up more in her seat and leaning forward towards the front. Her dad sighed lightly.

"No, we're close though. The snow picked up and slowed us down a lot."

'So much for hitting the mountain tonight.'

She sighed. The snow was heavier on the road, falling in thick clumps instead of single flakes and the two lanes were tighter and hugged closely by the steel guard rails. She sunk back into her seat again. Her parents were no longer holding hands, both of her dad's clung to the wheel and her mom slouched a little lower in her seat to settle in more with a notebook in her lap and a pen in her hand. She knew the brown leather binding well. Her mom could often be found playing around with ideas for new acts or improvements and writing them down to share with Mary and the girls or with Riley. The wheels were always turning and she enjoyed every second of it.

Her eyes closed again and they opened in that same second to a shake beneath the car...the feeling of the tires catching on the edge of the road. She couldn't even see the edge of the road but it was obviously there. Everything was white but the tires found the uneven ground and grabbed it. She saw the steering wheel jerked from her dads hands and he tried to hold it steady and her heart stopped before picking up and pounding out of her chest. She could felt the tires sliding and unable to grip anything or find traction and quickly she tugged tighter on her seat belt that still lay slack in her lap. Everything slowed down and sped up at the same time. She could see her parents clearly. Their expressions of worry so crisp even in the dark now as though her eyes were suddenly working much better than before and making images of their faces crystal clear..burning them into her mind and making sure she remembered them.

The vehicle slid harshly to the right side of the road and her dad's hands clutched tight to the wheel as he tried to correct it. The most sickening feeling came from the sounds...one in particular. The sound of the brake pedal hitting the floor while the car continued to skid forward towards the guard rail. It was a helpless feeling, the feeling of having exhausted your only option at stopping. It was out of their control now. Her mom's hand flew to rip up the emergency brake and her heart sank when it was deemed useless too. Her eyes slammed shut and she couldn't bring herself to open them, burying her face into the pile of coats beside her. The brakes were exhausted and yet the they still moved. The tires spun out against the white roads and her heart accelerated even more before the sound of crashing metal came and then the deafening silence that followed. The stillness.

"Are you girls okay?"

She opened her eyes to see her dad turning in his seat to look back at her...her mom too. She straightened herself up and sighed relief. They were okay. The range rover had come to a stop on the side of the road after crashing into the guard rail along the passenger side. It shouldnt be too bad because she couldn't see any damage to the doors from the inside and her mom was shaken but okay. Cosmetic damage most likely. They hadn't been going very fast.

"Paige are you okay?" Her mom asked, a furrow between her eyebrows with worry.

She nodded weakly. "Yeah I'm okay. Are you?" She forced a deep breath when her parents nodded too and her fingers moved to touch the charm around her neck just lightly out of habit.

Her dad's hand moved to pull up at the emergency brake, insuring that it was still set, then he flipped a button on the dash to turn on the hazard lights. The flurries of snow were falling heavier to the point where she couldn't see five feet in front of the car's headlights so they were needed to warn other drivers. She willed her hands to stop shaking and her breathing to slow but for some reason she couldn't find any ounce of calm even knowing it was over. They were all okay and that's all that mattered. A clicking sound caught her ears and brought her eyes to her dad pulling his seat belt off.

"I better go see what the damage is." He sighed, looking back at her again. He froze.

Time slowed and her eyebrows crinkled in confusion as she looked at him. Something was different about his face. Her eyes snapped to look at her mom too. It wasn't dark anymore. There was amber light shining across their faces and she could see them clearly now. Their worry confused her more but she couldn't speak. There was light shining bright and hot against her back and she could see her silhouette being cast upon the dash between her parents. That same light that was shining on them was back lighting her.

"Paige!"

She felt her mom's hand reach for hers as she turned to look over her shoulder through the back window. Two dots of light grew closer and became so bright that they merged into one and engulfed them completely, pulling her eyes closed and her fingers to close tightly around her mom's. Everything went black. There was no light. She heard a cry but it was fleeting as darkness crept over her mind and blocked feeling and noise...everything. She could have been sleeping and floating at the same time in the most peaceful of ways. There was nothing but sleep and that sleep felt needed. She felt tired enough to sleep forever and was being soothed with the sensation of fingers through her hair again. She would be fine staying there but something was squeezing her...holding her down. She couldn't breath in this darkness. She needed air and there was none for her here.

Her eyes opened and oxygen rushed into her lungs as she gasped. It was too cold, it should be warm but instead it was ice in her throat and she coughed. Her vision blurred in and out as she pushed to focus, cringing at a high-pitched ringing in her ears, her head pounding. Her eyes struggled to take in the image in front of her. Her head once again resting against her door beside the window. She could see a large white circle of light and she startled, jumping hard as she remembered the blinding lights that had brought concern to her parents faces and thrust her into darkness...coldness.

This light wasnt moving closer though. The moon. It held rings of light around it, halos though maybe it was a trick of her eyes, refracting colors like rainbows that appear through water in the right lighting and after rainfall. Beautiful and swirling out into the night sky. She clung to it but her vision sharpened and the colors faded away, moving her eyes elsewhere on their own. That moon of colors was now silver through thick clouds, full and managing to shine over miles of frozen landscaping below. It glistened off the tops of tall pines and caught falling snowflakes like glitter...against her cheek. The window wasn't supposed to be open the way it was now. It was so cold and she was letting the heat out of the car by having it open like this. She couldn't move to close it...she tried.

Her arm hurt but she pushed anyways, pressing against canvas bags on top of her as her fingers moved to clutch at the pile of coats strewn across her body and the seat beside her. The white down jacket that was now splattered in dark spots. Her mom would be so sad. It was her favorite one. Another breath of frigid air made her choke and cough again adding to the dark splotches on the white fabric. Her eyebrows furrowed and her fingers moved to touch it, wet and ...she rubbed the moisture between her fingertips. The color brought her hand to her mouth and her head began to spin, vision blurring as her eyes moved to the front seat where her parents were. There was only more of that same color. The color that she could feel running down from behind her ear and from her mouth. The crimson of the velvet her dad wore during shows. Her dad...

Her eyes watered and burned as another breath of cold air cut like jagged ice down her throat and the spinning increased in her head, pulling her eyes closed without her permission and burying her under a fog of black.

Her mom wasn't holding her hand anymore. She was alone here.


Thing About Us- Steve Moakler (Parley's Song) {I Do Not Own These Lyrics}

You don't have to say a word, to speak to me.
You don't have to know what hurts, to heal me.
Maybe that's the thing. Maybe that's the thing.

I don't have to move my feet, to dance with you.
You don't have to look to see that my love is true.
Maybe that's the thing. Maybe that's the thing.

Easy like a day goes by, you and I.
Getting on our way like a lullaby.
Like a steady rain when the ground is dry, every time we touch.
That's the thing about us.

I don't need no crystal ball, to keep my faith.
I think we're both better off, with a little mystery.
Maybe that's the thing. Maybe that's the thing.

I don't have to hold your hand to feel you there.
We don't really have a plan, but I'm not scared.
Maybe that's the thing. Maybe that's the thing

Easy like a day goes by, you and I.
Getting on our way like a lullaby.
Like a steady rain when the ground is dry, every time we touch.
That's the thing about us.


Goodnight my Angel- Celtic Woman (I Do Not Own These Lyrics)

Goodnight my angel.
Time to close your eyes.
And save these questions for another day.
I think I know what you've been asking me.
I think you know what I've been trying to say.
I promised I would never leave you.
And you should always know,
I never will be far away.

Goodnight my angel,
Now it's time to sleep.
And still so many things I want to say.
Remember all the songs you sang for me.
When we went sailing on a emerald bay.

And like a boat out on the ocean.
I'm rocking you to sleep.
The water is dark and deep inside this mother's heart.
You'll always be a part of me.

Goodnight my angel,
Now it's time to dream.
And dream how wonder your life will be.
Some day your child may cry and if you sing this lullaby.
Then in your heart there will always be a part of me.