A/N: Christmas present for Ellie (with the monsters) because she's my main babe and I love her more than anything else ever.


taking over this town, they should worry
but these problems aside i think i taught you well
king and lionheart ––of monsters and men

Ezra is the definition of easy. Pulling him takes hardly any effort, nor does roping him along to be a precious pawn in the mess you've orchestrated. You lead him to believe that you've got things all figured out, and he pretends he doesn't know that he's the reason why you're succeeding in the art of deceit.

You begin to notice things about him, eventually, convincing yourself that everyone else does too, even when they obviously don't. Like the birthmark right under his ear and how he sometimes mocks a high falsetto note to get you smiling when you're over at his for coffee and cake and kisses, but mostly for the way he appears just before dozing off into a nap, the pure epitome of peace.

"I love you," he states groggily upon waking up on such an occasion when afternoon has turned into evening and you are gazing expectantly at him when he sits up, inquiring about what he wants for dinner strangely being your first priority after utilizing his typewriter one too many times.

"I love you, too." You lean in for a momentary kiss, letting the words rather than the emotions engulf you for the time being.

"More than anything?" he prompts when he pulls away, looking a bit vulnerable. It isn't something he'd typically say.

He is the first person to fall for you like this and you can't stop yourself from wishing a little that he wasn't so naive. You shrug, but it's the tiniest movement, not making you seem at all condescending or unsure. "More than a lot of things."

It's not even a lie.

Noel pushes his limits. You know better than anyone how to make the boldest moves and still win the game, and yet he doesn't. He's infuriatingly overconfident. He sort of reminds you of the boy you lost your virginity to in Iceland, except not quite because you don't find it in you to have sex with him at any point during the charade your force him to partake in.

"Jesus, Noel," you reprimand one morning at school before the bell rings, "Could you be any more obvious?"

"About...?" he retorts, one eyebrow cocked, and you sigh, leaving him with that thought.

You realize early on – six and a half days later, to be exact – that he won't make it far and abandon him in style, personally through a two word text message and publicly through an exaggerated show in the halls prior to sixth period English. His locker is conveniently trashed by -A the next day.

Jason provokes a slight twinge in your chest when you recall his half smile. He's so unlike Alison that you almost feel bad for being what you are and doing what you're doing. You can see it in the way he looks at you that he thinks you're too good to be true, and you're frustrated. You can't find it in you to break his heart so instead you choose to prove him wrong. You hold out on the hope that he'll understand that it never would have worked out because you're part of something even bigger than you and him put together.

"I heard you went away," he mentions when he returns to town, purposely not meeting your eyes. His voice implies that it's more of a question than a statement. "After Alison. And everything."

Everything isn't even close to cutting it. You nod awkwardly nonetheless. "Yeah. To Iceland."

"How was it?"

"Good. I had some time to think about things."

You bite your lip to hide a smile when there is no question that follows about what sort of things, precisely, you thought and planned and schemed and are executing in front of his eyes these days, home sweet home in Rosewood, the city of lies and betrayal with a throne that only you truly deserve.

Holden tries too hard. It's simpler to delude him considering you're an attractive young lady and he hasn't seen you in several years. You're almost exactly the picture perfect version of the innocent girl he once knew when you used to amuse yourselves with crayons and dolls and toy trains beneath the sunset, holding hands and promising one another the world. The only difference now is that the dolls are real and you've taken the role of one of them as well, inflicting pain upon yourself to avoid any and all eyes that might stare too long asking cautious questions about where you've been and who with and why you seem to have fewer consistently damaging problems than Spencer and Emily and Hanna combined.

"How do you know me so well?" you ask him regarding the half-plain, half-green peppers pizza. A part of you should be worried, but you don't see him being an imminent threat.

"You were are my best friend. You sound so doubtful, Aria. Don't you trust me?"

"Of course I do," you reply with remarkable confidence, placing a hand on his shoulder, "If I can't trust you, then I practically can't trust anyone."

He believes you without skipping a beat.

Wesley is rather entertaining. It's not difficult to maintain the act of perfect girlfriend when phrases like But you're his brother fall so fluently off the tip of your tongue, and of all things certain skeptical individuals could suspect you of, you are one hundred and ten percent positive that none of them would ever call you out on this abrush up of your legs here and there when you pass him in the kitchen of Ezra's apartment, so modestly that it's arousing on its own. The illicitness of it is a pure thrill, which is ironic because he's a boy your age and it classifies as normal.

"I'm a terrible person," he breathes, arms wrapped around your waist. "I've done, you know, my fair share of not so great things. I'm eighteen, for god's sake. But I never thought I'd steal my brother's girl "

You interrupt him with a kiss on his collarbone, firmly whispering, "Shut up. Don't be stupid," which insinuates that you never really belonged to his brother in the first place, but he doesn't notice. He tastes like peppermint and lazy summer mornings, though it is still snowing outside when you wake up next to him hours later, clutching the duvet you'd fallen asleep under.

Getting dressed quietly and slipping out of his room long before he stirs is like taking candy from a small child. To say that you're selfish would be a severe understatement.

Toby is aware of how to play, if only because you've educated him on the basics. He texts you from time to time, getting the sense from your previous instructions that you're growing bored with the entire situation. What's next? it usually reads, because he knows you won't disappoint with your response. You laugh on the inside at the prospect but don't leave him hanging, on account of circumstances you can't fully explain. All you can do is act on past impulses, and that works out just fine in the end.

"It's wasn't me," he insists, referencing the train incident on Halloween. He genuinely wouldn't have the guts to lie right to your face, so you trust him for a quarter of a second at most.

"I'm letting you and Mona get what you want, Toby," you tell him matter-of-factly, "And what you want is revenge. That doesn't include a vendetta against me." The words Because I control you don't have to be said, because that much you assume is already understood.

Then your mental processes shift to the more relevant matters at hand, and you realize you better keep a closer eye on people who have relatively less believable excuses from that night, such as Ezra Fitz.

A/N: Please don't favorite without reviewing!