Stuck Without You


Skyler stared blankly ahead, her green eyes fixed on nothing in particular as she drove down the deserted Florida road. She didn't know where she was going. Hell, she didn't even know if she was going anywhere at all. She was just trying to get away from her problems. Trying to fit a few hours of relaxation and tranquility into her life that had been so full of stress and activity lately. Unfortunately, even driving didn't let her forgot about troubles, because he, the man who was the root of her problems, had bought her this very car that she was driving right now as a birthday present last year.

Skyler sighed, glancing down at the speedometer. She was doing sixty, and still nothing. Usually going at any speed higher than about fifty-five gave her a rush, a feeling of excitement that distracted her from everything else that was currently floating around in her mind. But today, that feeling just wouldn't come to her. Letting out another sigh, she reached for the radio and turned it on. She immediately turned it back off again. Of course his song would be playing just when she was trying to forget that he even existed. Of course she would have to hear his beautiful voice that seemed to plead desperately and tease cruelly all at the same time. Her brow furrowed as she stared fixedly at the road before her. She was going to forget about him, damn it. That was why she had chosen to go on this drive in the first place. Biting her lip, she forced herself to think about something else that was just as important to her.

About half an hour later, she was actually smiling as she drove, thinking about the success that she was experiencing at the moment. Skyler was a professional singer and songwriter, and her latest creation had finally gotten her the recognition that she had always dreamed of. The last few months had been a mad blur of autograph signings, interviews, photo shoots, and live performances, among other things. Now it seemed like there wasn't a person in the country who didn't know the name Skyler McCullough. A sigh left her lips, and she leaned her head back against the seat. Her dream had come true at last. And she owed it all to...

Skyler jammed her foot down on the brake pedal, her eyes widening as the car came to a screeching halt. No! She didn't owe it to him, she didn't! Quickly putting the car into park, she folded her arms over the steering wheel and buried her face in them. She stayed there with her eyes shut tightly, trying to get a hold of herself. But she didn't cry. Skyler almost never cried. She was too strong of a person to let herself cry.

A few minute later, she regained control of her emotions and lifted her head to find out where she was. A small gasp of surprise left her lips when she took in her surroundings. She shook her head, soft brown curls tumbling in her face. She couldn't have driven here. She was just imagining it. Right? Raising an eyebrow, she thought back to when she had left her house and mentally retraced her path. When she was done, she smacked her forehead with the palm of her hand. She had really done it. She had unconsciously taken herself to the place she was trying to avoid the most. The place where she had last seen him and touched him and kissed him, and the place where she had done those things so many times before. Her first instinct was to start driving again and get the hell out of there, but then she felt it. The place's pull on her heart. She had always felt it before, why should today be any different? Sighing, she eased the car into one of the parking spaces in the tiny, empty parking lot she had stopped in, turned off the engine, and stuck the key in the glove compartment. She wouldn't have to worry about anyone stealing the car here. There was no one around for miles. Which was why she had come here so much with him. Skyler shook her head as she unbuckled her seat belt and reached for the door.

A gust of wind blew across her face the minute she stepped outside, and she shut her eyes and half-smiled, smelling the salty air. Lifting her head, she opened her eyes and immediately had to squint. The sun was being reflected off the vast expanse of water. It would be setting within the hour, but right now, it was just about at eye level. Shielding her eyes with her hands, Skyler slipped out of her sandals, leaving them on the hood of her car, and walked across the small strip of pavement. She headed down the old wooden steps and sighed sadly when she felt the fine sand beneath her feet and between her toes, remembering one of the many times she had been here with him. She remembered how they had spread a blanket across that sand and lain there in each other's arms for hours, talking softly, laughing, kissing. They had done that so many times before. But they had never gone any further than kissing.

Skyler remembered the last time the two of them were on that beach, the time that stood out the most in her mind. That had been about three months ago. She remembered how she had gotten there early to think, so when he got there, he had come running to greet her, for it had been four long, hard months since the two of them had last met in person. He reached for her, picked her up, and swung her around in the air. The next thing she knew, her body had been set on the ground again as his arms wrapped around her and his lips met hers, pressing hard. She remembered letting out a whimper, a sound that meant pure pain, before pulling out of his embrace and bitterly informing him of what she had done and why.

Skyler remembered what his face had looked like right after she had told him. G-d, that image tortured her day and night. In his eyes and on his face had been the most awful mix of surprise and pain and love. But that look had actually lasted for only a few seconds. Then it had melted away into pure anger, He had literally pushed her away from him—he had never done that before—and told her that he never wanted to see her or be near her ever again. Hell, he never even wanted to think about her ever again.

Now, as she looked back, Skyler wondered if he had succeeded at accomplishing that last goal. Because she hadn't been able to get her mind off of him for more than about an hour straight since he had left her. It didn't help that her hit song, the one that had brought stardom to her, was one of the many that she had written about him. And it also didn't help that they had never chosen to hide their relationship, so all of the reporters were constantly asking her questions about why they had broken up.

Skyler went out to the edge of the beach, where water met sand, and sat down, moving her feet out so that small waves lapped her toes when she pointed them. Resting the weight of her upper body on her hands, she leaned her head back and closed her eyes. As another gust of wind suddenly blew through her hair and across her face, she took a deep breath and softly whispered his name.

* * *

Brian frowned, bending his head down further and jamming his hands into his pockets, as he walked along the deserted beach. Why had he even decided to come here? It was chilly, windy as hell, and if someone recognized him, he was in for it, because his bodyguard was currently on vacation. Not that there were very many people nearby, but still, there was always the risk of being spotted. Brian raised his head again, looking around him, and then his face softened. He knew why he had come. Because she was here. Not literally, of course. But her spirit, her heart...they were here, in this place. He could feel them.

Brian couldn't believe that the two of them had actually been apart for three months. Although they had definitely had their fights and disagreements before, it had always been the type of thing where they would have a horrible fight one day and already have made up the next. It had been a few years since they had managed to last for three whole months without getting back together. True, there was that time in high school, when they were apart for a year, and that time a couple of years after that when the group was formed and they had been apart for two and a half. But that had been three years ago, and since then, two months had been their record. And that had been completely different. It hadn't been over something as big as this. It was just that they had been too busy and stressed to make up until two months later, when they saw each other again. But this time, though, the breakup was serious. He had dumped her because she had slept with another man.

Brian remembered how shocked he had felt when she had broken the news to him. It just hadn't made sense to him. How could his beautiful, sweet, loving girlfriend have been unfaithful to him? For a moment he had refused to believe it, thinking that she must have been kidding with him. But then he had looked into her eyes and seen the ultimate guilt and remorse, and he had known that what she had told him was the truth. She had obviously realized that he was having trouble with the news she had given him because she had placed a gentle hand on his cheek, caressing him and telling him that it was okay and she still loved him. Brian had actually been comforted temporarily. In that moment, he had just wanted to reach out and pull her into his arms and tell her that it was all right, it was fine, he would forgive her if she just promised that she would never do it again and she would stay with him and only him forever.

But then...he started to picture it. He started to picture her and some other man, a stranger, going further than he himself had ever gone with her. He pictured her kissing the man with heat and passion, her screaming out the man's name instead of his own, her falling asleep in the large bed with the man's arms wrapped around her. And then anger had set into him. He had pushed her away from him, told her that he never wanted to see her or be near her or even think about her ever again.

She had nodded, as if she had known that he would be speaking those words, and had started to walk away. Brian had turned his back to her, folding his arms across his chest and staring out at the sea. And then she had laid her hand gently on his back and whispered the words that he hadn't been able to stop thinking about for the past three months. "Whatever you do, whatever happens to us, Brian...I will always love you. I swear."

As soon as he had heard that, Brian had known that he'd made a mistake. But by the time he was facing her direction again, she was already running to her car. He had taken a few steps towards her in a final effort, but she had already been pulling the car out of its parking space and driving away, leaving him all alone.

And since that day a little more than three months ago, Brian had been absolutely miserable.

Everything, no matter where he went, reminded him of her. If he saw something green, he saw her eyes. If he saw any couple together, he thought of the time that the two of them had lain on the blanket on the sand for hours and hours, just talking softly, laughing, kissing. Not to mention that he heard her name all the time and received endless questions about her from all of the reporters that were constantly after him. At first he had resented it because he had still been mad at her, but recently that had changed. It didn't make him angry any more, it just made him sadder and made him hurt more. All he wanted was to have her back again. He wanted to wrap her arms around her, to breathe in the scent of her long brown curls in his face, to feel her lips against his as he kissed her over and over. To say that the two of them had had a turbulent relationship would be a gross understatement—they had always had a lot of fights and breakups and had been going out on and off since the age of sixteen—but it had never really bothered him too much because their reunions had always been so sweet.

This time, though, there was no sweet reunion. No rapid but heartfelt apologies to one another. No holding onto each other so tightly and fiercely whispering declarations of love into each other's ears. It was all gone. Not that he hadn't tried to get her back, because he had. But every time he called, she was out of the house, and she had gotten a new cell phone number, and her email address had changed, and he had been on tour and therefore unable to come and see her in person. Plus doing any of those things, calling her or emailing her or going to see her, would be so awkward. Brian wished that they could just bump into each other at some random place, knowing that if they saw each other again they wouldn't be able to resist getting back together, but she was surely out of town or even out of the country at the moment, working on her budding career.

Now a tear slid down his cheek and fell to the sand below him as he walked down the beach. He wanted her back so bad. His heart seemed to ache for her. But she was gone. And now, for once, there was nothing he could do to change that.

* * *

Skyler shut her mouth and opened her eyes cautiously, as if her whispering his name might somehow conjure up his presence. Seeing nothing, she let out a forced laugh at her silliness and got slowly to her feet, brushing the palms of her hands together to rid them of the sand. She stared briefly out at the setting sun, shielding her eyes because of the bright glare. After a moment, she got sick of seeing his face stare back at her and besides, her eyes were starting hurt, so she turned away. Because she had nothing else to do, she started to walk, staying close to the edge of the water.

As she wandered along the shore, painful thoughts and memories of him started to pile up inside of her head, and after a few minutes, she finally stopped and collapsed onto the ground, her head buried in her arms as she started to cry. She let out ugly, painful sobs, hating herself for it but unable to stop.

She was still crying a few minutes later when she heard someone approaching her from the opposite direction. Pulling her knees up closer against her chest, she squeezed her eyes shut and prayed that whoever the stranger was, he or she wouldn't attempt to speak to her. She heard the person stop walking and muttered a curse under her breath.

Her heart stopped when the stranger spoke her name.

* * *

Brian started to become sick of just feeling sorry for himself as he walked along the beach. He started to pick up stones and toss them carelessly into the water, kicking up sand on purpose with each step. He noticed that the sun was setting but he didn't really care. Ever since he had broken up with her, he had found it so much harder to appreciate that type of natural beauty.

He jumped about a foot and stopped dead in his tracks when he saw a girl sitting on the beach no more than twenty feet away.

She was sitting with her her knees pulled up against her chest, her head buried her in her arms, which were folded on top of her knees. Brian noticed that her body was shaking, and somewhere in the back of his mind, he figured out that meant she was crying. But it wasn't her trembling body or timid position that his eyes were fixed so intently upon.

It was her long brown curls.

Curls that could only belong to one person in the world.

Brian drew in a shallow breath, his heart beating faster. So his wish had been granted. The wish about bumping into her in some random place. Only this place wasn't very random.

Gathering up all of his courage, he took a deep breath and spoke her name.

"Kylie?" he asked in disbelief.

The girl tensed up when she heard his voice, and she stopped crying as she slowly lifted her head. Her slightly reddish eyes widened when she saw him. "Brian," she murmured.

There was a long silence. Both of them were just staring at each other, unable to grasp the fact that this was actually happening, they were actually there in the presence of one another.

Then Brian let out a sigh. "Kylie..."

"Skyler," She corrected, turning back to look out at the ocean.

"Huh?" he replied out of pure confusion.

"I go by Skyler now. No one calls me Kylie anymore."

Brian looked genuinely hurt for a moment. Through all their years of being friends and being together and being something in between, he had always called her Kylie. Always. But now he shrugged it off, not wanting to ruin his chance with her. "All right then, Skyler," he agreed. It sounded so strange to him.

"Well?" she asked sharply when he didn't continue.

"Well what?"

"You were going to say something," she reminded him.

Brian, slightly taken aback by her sudden change in personality, started to stutter a little. "Uh...I was j-just...going to ask how you've been?" he covered, feeling lame.

She shrugged. "All right. You?"

"I've been all right too," he lied. He wondered if she was lying too. He would be able to tell if she would just turn towards him again, but so far she was apparently refusing to, and he couldn't read her feelings very well if he couldn't see her face. "Career going well?"

"It's going just great," she said coolly, still staring out at the water.

"Mine too," Brian agreed, even though she didn't apparently care. "All the reporters have been asking me a zillion questions about you," he told her, deciding to try a different tactic.

She finally turned back towards them, surprise on her face. "And what exactly did you tell them?"

"Nothing, except that we've broken up," he replied, just as surprised as she was. "Why, do you honestly think I'd tell them that—"

"No," she interrupted, standing up again. "They've been asking me about you, too. They can't seem to get over the fact that we're not an item any more," Skyler said, shaking her head.

And neither can I, Brian thought. "Yeah, I know what you mean," he said softly. Their eyes met and locked for a moment before Skyler looked away. Brian frowned slightly in thought. He had never seen her like this before. She never reacted to anything by bottling up her feeings and acting cold towards others, especially him. He would just have to try to soften her.

"Skyler," he said.

"What?"

"You were crying just a minute ago," he reminded her gently.

She shrugged, looking him straight in the eye. "So?"

"You never cry, Skyler." He had to hold back a triumphant smile. It was working. He was breaking through the barrier. That last "So?" had possessed just a touch of uncertainty.

"Well, that's obviously not true, since I was just crying a minute ago," she pointed out.

Brian smiled. "You're right," he agreed, obliging her. "You hardly ever cry, Skyler," he corrected.

"Yes, well, it was just one of those times, I guess," she rationalized, starting to look uncomfortable. "You know, the stress of being in the music business and all." She laughed nervously and looked at him to see if he was buying her story.

"Yes, it can be stressful," Brian agreed, looking right back at her and telling her with his eyes that he didn't believe a word of it.

She stared at him for a moment, trying to think of a better excuse, before she broke, letting out a frustrated sigh. "All right, fine," she said quietly. "I was thinking about..." She looked at the ground, scratching the back of her neck. That was one of her nervous habits.

Cautiously, Brian stepped closer to her and put his thumb and forefinger under her chin. He lifted it gently, turning her face up towards his. "About what?" he prompted softly.

Tears started to sting her eyes again. "About you," she whispered as one escaped and trickled down her cheek.

Brian of course saw it. "Oh, Skyler..." he said, wiping the tear from her cheek. "Don't cry..."

She couldn't take it any more and burst into tears, shaking her head as her whole body racked with sobs. "B-Rok, I...I just...miss you...so...b-bad.." she gasped in between sobs.

Brian's heart practically broke in two, and he instinctively pulled her into his arms, not even thinking about what he was doing. "Shhh," he soothed. "It's all right, sweetheart. I'm here now, aren't I?"

"B-But it's not the same," she protested, pulling away from him. "I hurt you. I betrayed you. I broke your heart," she said, touching the area of his chest where his heart was and making him smile slightly. "And I hate myself for it."

Brian immediately turned serious again. "No," he told her. "Don't hate yourself. I don't hate yourself. Why should you?"

"You're lying. How can you not hate me after what I did to you? To us?"

"You only did half of it, honey," Brian said.

"Yeah, right. Who did the other half? Pete?" she asked wryly, referring to the guy that she had slept with.

"No. I did."

"What? You did not," she denied. "I mean of course you dumped me when I told you that I cheated on you. What do you think you were supposed to do? Pat me on the back and tell me it was okay?"

"But I didn't see the important part," Brian said.

Skyler raised an eyebrow. "What important part?"

"That you told me about it," he said. "The important part wasn't that you made a mistake. It was that you weren't afraid to let me know. You never lied, Skyler. Most people would lie if they were in your place. It would be easy enough. I mean, if I'm not mistaken, there was no evidence of what you did."

"Ha," she said, finally smiling tentatively. "Like you wouldn't have been able to take one look at me and realize I was hiding something from you."

"Yeah, you never were a very good liar," Brian agreed, grinning. She made a face at him, and he laughed. His first real laugh in quite awhile. Three months, to be exact. Brian cleared his throat and forced a serious expression onto his face once more, restraining himself from pulling her close to him again. "Listen, Skyler, the point is that I'm just as sorry as you are," he finished.

Tears were forming in her eyes, and she put a hand to her mouth, trying desperately not to burst out crying again.

"Please, will you accept my apology?" he asked softly.

Skyler felt tears spill from her eyes, but there was a wide smile on her face. "Only if you'll accept mine," she replied.

Brian mirrored her expression, grinning but about to cry, as he pulled her into his arms. The two of them wrapped their arms around each other. "Course I will. I love you, Skyler."

Skyler smiled, her hand sliding down to his chest. "Kylie," she corrected.

"Kylie," Brian echoed, still smiling. "I love you, Kylie."

She squeezed him tightly. "I love you too, Bri," she replied, resting her head on his shoulder.

They just stood there for a silent minute, embracing, smiling, remembering all of the times they had done this before. Then Brian spoke.

"Baby," he said softly, "can I ask you something?"

She grinned. "Didn't give me much of a choice there, did you?"

He smiled too. "No, seriously."

Skyler lifted her head and met his eyes with hers. "Go ahead."

"Why did you do it?" he asked simply. "Why did you sleep with him?"

Skyler sighed. "Bri, I was just lonely. I missed you so much, so I found some other guy and then one thing led to another and the next thing I knew...I was waking up in some stranger's bedroom."

Brian frowned. "You know what? I don't think that's what I'm asking," he realized.

"What are you asking?" Skyler wanted to know.

"I guess I don't really want to know why you slept with him," he mused. "What I really want to know is...is why you didn't sleep with me."

Skyler pulled her head back in pure surprise. "What?" she said stupidly. "You've got to be joking."

He shook his head, his face free of any humor or laughter.

"Bri, I didn't sleep with you because I respect you and I respect your beliefs," Skyler explained. "Not because I didn't want to. Believe me, I did want to, lots of times. But I didn't let it show because I didn't want to ruin anything or sabotage any of your goals. Did you honestly think that I didn't want you?"

Brian smiled sheepishly and looked at the ground. "I don't know..." he admitted. "Like you said, you never showed it, and...well, us guys can be pretty dense about things like that," he said with a grin.

Skyler laughed. "Brian...this will sound a little corny, but...how could I not want you? I mean...well, look at yourself," she said.

His smile widened. "Thank you, baby. That's very sweet."

"Well, hey, you asked," Skyler replied, smiling back. Then she frowned. "Brian, I still...I feel so horrible about what I did."

"Babe, it was just—"

"A mistake," she finished for him. "I know, but...I still feel like I owe you something."

"Honey..."

"Please, Bri," Skyler said, playing with the collar of his shirt. "Is there anything I could do to make it up to you?"

Brian opened his mouth, ready to say no, but then something seemed to light up in his mind and he smiled slightly. "Well, actually..."

"What is it?" Skyler wanted to know.

"Well..." Brian began. He stopped himself, looking worried for a moment. "Now wait a minute," he interjected, putting his hands just above her hips. "Before I tell you this...well, let me just say I'm not trying to pressure you into anything. It's just something that...well, if it did happen, I think it could be amazing."

Skyler started to breathe a little faster. She had a pretty good idea of what he was about to say. "What is it, Bri?" she said softly.

Brian stepped forward so that his lips were next to her ear. As he spoke, he slid his hands down onto her hips. "Let me make love to you, Kylie," he whispered.

Skyler immediately shut her eyes. She could hear in his voice all of what he was feeling, all of the love and fervor and longing, and it was bringing very vivid images into her head. She opened her mouth and tried to speak, but no words came out. Clearing her throat, she finally managed to say something. "Bri..." she rasped.

She looked up at him. Their eyes locked, and she almost gasped. His eyes, which were usually such a clear blue, were now clouded over with desire. He was clenching his teeth slightly, as if he were trying not to pull her even closer and kiss her over and over, and as she watched him, he wetted his lips with his tongue, conveying the message that he was dying to kiss her. On an impulse she reached down and took his hands off of her hips so that she could hold them. Still staring into his eyes, she lightly stroked one of his palms with her thumb. It was slightly damp from sweat. She could feel that his hands were itching to touch her body everywhere at once, and because of that she shivered.

Without a word Brian suddenly gripped one of her hands more tightly. He still didn't tear his eyes away from hers as he slowly lifted her hand towards his face. Finally he broke the gaze with her, shutting his eyes as he brought the back of her hand to his lips and placed upon it the gentlest of kisses. Skyler briefly shut her eyes as well, relishing the feeling of his lips making contact with her skin. Then, all too soon for her, he was opening his eyes and bringing her hand back down to its natural level and away from his mouth.

Skyler let go of his hands, just barely frowning as he studied him. Keeping one hand down by her side, she lifted the other and brought it up to the side of his face. Squinting her eyes slightly, she slowly ran her hand through the hair just above his ear. Brian immediately closed his eyes lightly. She could see from the way he tilted his head slightly towards her hand and from the expression on his face that he was savoring her touch just as much as she had savored his.

That was all the convincing she needed. Skyler slid that hand out of his hair and to the side of his face and brought her other hand up to the other side. When he opened his eyes, she spoke a single word.

"Yes."

A broad smile instantly spread across not just his lips but his whole face, especially his eyes. Unable to contain himself anymore, he slid his arms around her and pulled her against his chest.

"Thank you," he whispered to the side of her head. He was only an inch taller than she was.

She smiled and pulled back so that she could see his face. She opened her mouth to reply but she couldn't think of anything to say.

Brian laughed, sliding one of his hands up her back. "Where do you want to do this, Ky? My house? At a hotel?" She could hear excitement building in his voice.

Skyler smiled slowly and shook her head. "I have a couple of blankets in my car. Let's bring them out here," she suggested softly.

Brian's eyebrows shot up. "Out here on the beach?"

"Yes. It's the perfect place for our first time."

He smiled too. "You're right."

Skyler kissed his cheek. "Wait here, Bri. I'm going to get the blankets."

He kissed her back. "Okay."

Minutes later, the blankets were spread out on the sand, one on top of the other. Skyler and Brian stood up as they slowly undressed one another, punctuating all of their actions with soft, sweet kisses. Skyler found herself wanting to be with him more and more as she saw and touched more and more of his body. She could tell that he felt the same way. As they progressed, their actions became faster and faster.

Finally they were finished, lying together in between the two heavy blankets with him on top. A chilly breeze swept across the beach, and both of them shivered. Then Brian smiled and leaned down to whisper something in her ear.

"Let's warm up a little," he said.

She shivered again as she wrapped her arms around his neck, but this time it wasn't from the cold. Brian slid his arms around her waist and held her tightly, adjusting his grip and position as he got ready. After a minute he stopped moving and looked to her, his eyes asking her for permission. She nodded.

At first, it was a little awkward. Brian was so nervous to please her that his body was tense. As time went by he gained confidence, and his muscles relaxed. The movement of their bodies developed a rhythm. Skyler pulled her head back and shut her eyes, letting out little moans, and Brian squeezed his eyes shut and buried his face in her neck, unable to believe both the physical and emotional sensations that were surging through his entire body.

It went on for what seemed like so long. The rest of the world seemed to disappear to the two of them as they stayed together. Both of them had wanted this for so long that it just made everything else seem utterly trivial and insignificant. Brian pulled his head up from Skyler's neck and pressed his lips against hers as he tightened his grip on her even more, wanting to feel every single inch of her body against his own.

Finally the pleasure reached its height. It happened to both of them at exactly the same time, and for a moment, as their eyes met, time seemed to stop altogether. The feelings inside of the two of them seemed to swell up, getting more and more intense until they were at the summit. Skyler and Brian both opened their mouths and let out loud moans as she wrapped her legs around his waist, locking their bodies together.

It took awhile before both of them recovered. Brian rolled off of her and onto his back in an effort to get a hold of himself, heaving and panting. Skyler stared up at the now dark sky in utter amazement, gasping for her breath.

She finally turned her head towards him, the rest of her body almost completely limp. "Brian," she whispered.

He was still panting, but he also managed to turn towards her. "Hm?"

She didn't have to say anything else. Smiles spread across both of their faces, and he reached up to run his fingers through her hair. Grinning, Skyler rolled up onto his chest, her legs straddling his body and her head resting on his shoulder. He crossed his arms protectively over her back as she reached up and touched his face with her fingertips.

"I love you, B-Rok," she whispered.

He smiled and squeezed her tightly. "Love you too, Kylie."

"Are you sure that was your first time, Bri?" she asked.

"Why?"

"You were so good!" she blurted out.

He chuckled. "I'm sure, babe. And thank you."

She lifted her head to kiss his lips before resting it on his shoulder again. "You're very, very welcome."

There was another moment of silence. As Skyler lay there on top of him, he stroked her back lightly, sending chills running through her body once or twice. They stayed silent for about ten minutes before he spoke again.

"Kylie."

"Mm-hm?" She lifted her head so that she could see his face.

"I was thinking...about what we just did...and how before I didn't believe in it," he mused.

"Mm-hm?" Skyler prompted, stifling a yawn. Lying there in the dark with his warm body so close to hers was starting to make her drowsy.

"And after this I think there's only one solution," he went on.

"What's that?" Skyler asked sleepily, starting to put her head back down.

Brian smiled slowly. "Marry me."

Her eyes widened, and her head shot back up. "What?!"

He laughed. "You heard me. Marry me, Kylie McCullough. I don't have a ring or anything yet, and I'm sorry, but I can't wait another minute to ask you."

Skyler couldn't help but let out a laugh when she heard that. "Oh Brian..." she sighed, looking away.

"Will you?" he asked hopefully. "Please, baby. Both of us always knew that we would be together in the end, and we're twenty-five now, not just kids any more."

Skyler smiled slowly. "Yes," she whispered.

For the second time that night, that single word that she spoke triggered a huge reaction of gratitude in Brian. He hugged her to him tightly, covering her face with kisses. Skyler couldn't stop giggling as she hugged him back, managing to capture his lips a couple of times with her own as he caressed her whole face. When he had finished, he opened his mouth and tried to talk, but his throat dried up and he wasn't able to.

"It's okay, Bri," Skyler reassured him, her eyes filling up fast with tears. "You don't have to say anything."

"I'm sorry, babe," he finally managed to whisper. "It's just that before tonight I was stuck without you and miserable, and now I not only have you back again, I have you back again forever. That's incredible to me."

Skyler smiled. "I think that is quite possibly the sweetest thing I have ever heard."

Brian looked a little embarrassed. "Good thing I don't get all mushy more often," he remarked.

She laughed and wrapped her arms around his neck as she rolled over onto her side. He turned onto his side too, so that they were still facing each other. "I love you more than words, Bri, and I can't wait to spend the rest of my life with you," she declared.

She thought that he would make a joke about how mushy she was, but he didn't. Pulling her up against his chest again, he placed a kiss on top of her head. "Me neither, baby," he whispered. He rested his chin on her head, smiling when he felt her breath against his neck. He heard her yawn, and he smiled as her eyes started to shut, her eyelashes brushing against his skin. His arms tightened around her as he shut his eyes too. "Me neither," he repeated in a soft whisper before they fell asleep in each other's arms.

The End



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