A/N: Okay, I FINALLY got this chapter put together. I've actually written the ending, it's just that it's usually when I'm in class, and I've been really sick (lonnnng story), so every time I opened this, I felt a little discouraged. So tonight I finally had a chance to nail everything out. There's this chapter, then the epilogue, and then that will be it! Ahh! :-) Thanks for your reviews!

Chapter 48

"What happened?" Lili choked out after a long, surprised pause.

I shrugged, still grinning a little to myself as my head continued to spin. "Our first truthful discussion?" I suggested innocently.

She shook her head and smiled. "All I have to say is that it's about time," she smirked. I laughed and she gave me an impulsive hug. I hugged her back warmly, feeling light and buoyant for the first time in a long time.

"Found her." I heard Tyler announce behind us as we pulled away. We turned to see him leading Maggie, who looked slightly put out, over to us. Caleb, with his eyes fixed intently on me, followed the two of them. Tyler took Lili's hand as he joined us and then they began walking to the car without another word.

I turned to Caleb, who was still looking intently at me, and then glanced at Maggie, only to find her looking at Caleb. Okay… welcome to a weird love triangle.

Caleb ended the triangle by holding out his hand to me. I took it without really any hesitation but I saw Maggie's shock and then her anger… her fury, even, as her eyes narrowed venomously. "Ashley-" she began in a pissy voice.

"Leave it," it was Caleb who cut her off. She visibly shrank back in shock, staring at him for a long moment before her anger and indignation returned. She huffily stalked off after Lili and Tyler without another word.

I found myself beginning to feel guilty but Caleb tugged me closer. "She'll get over it," he told me quietly.

"But-" I began but then he pulled me to him again and I instantly forgot what I was saying as I felt a smile come to my lips just before they crashed against Caleb's. He slid his hand into my hair and pulled me closer as I kissed him back. He slowly eased back and smiled down at me. "Okay." I whispered. He could have just asked me to move to Tibet right then and I would have said okay.

"Okay," he nodded in agreement and then pulled away as he took my hand again. We followed Lili, Tyler, and a fuming Maggie back to the car.

Maggie climbed in behind Tyler and I decided that it would be best if I sat in the middle. I could almost feel the waves of hostility rolling off of Maggie as Tyler started the car.

But, for the first time, I took Caleb's hand…because he was mine. He squeezed back… finally, he was mine.

We were at my house ten minutes later. Maggie barreled out of the car the millisecond the car stop in front of my house, but that was no surprise. I began to get out as well (at a slower pace, of course), but Caleb kept holding my hand, which tugged me back to a stop. When I turned to ask, he said before I could speak, "Come with me."

"What?" I asked, slightly confused. "Where?"

"Hurry up." Tyler grumbled and I pretty sure that, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Lili elbow him.

"Shut up." Caleb told him good naturedly and then turned back to me. "My car is at Tyler's. I'll bring you home later," he told me quietly.

The thought of spending more time with Caleb, more time kissing Caleb, was vastly appealing. I looked at him, studied the look in his eyes, and then slowly nodded in agreement. "I just need to let Maggie into the house." I told him quietly.

"Hurry," he replied, letting go of my hand, his hurry taking on a very different meaning than Tyler's. I nodded and then jumped out of the car.

Maggie was impatiently waiting on the front stoop. "Finally," she practically growled once I was in earshot.

"Sorry." I mumbled as I pulled out my house keys. I unlocked the door and then she pushed her way inside without another look at me. I shut it behind her and was putting the key in the lock when she pulled it back open, pulling my keys inside with her. "Hey!" I hissed in complaint, trying to be quiet so that my mom wouldn't hear me, especially since it was already after midnight.

"Where are you going?" she asked through her teeth.

"I'm going with them." I replied vaguely.

"I'll come too," she invited herself along suddenly, making a move to come back outside.

Unbelievable… she just didn't get it. Or she chose not to, probably the latter. "Maggie." I said forcefully, firmly, calmly, as I pushed her back and away. Her eyes widened in surprise. "I'll see you tomorrow." I kept my voice steady as I pushed her further back, shut the front door, and then locked it.

I was finally free.

I practically skipped down the front steps as I went back to the Jeep. Caleb opened the door for me and I jumped in. He smiled down at me as we sat, crammed against each other, and I could tell that he was just as happy as I was.

Tyler pulled away from the curb and turned up the radio, singing loudly along. I heard Lili laugh as I looked up at Caleb through my lashes, smiling at him as he grinned back at me.

Tyler parked his car and I blinked, looking away from Caleb, slightly disorientated… we had gotten to Tyler's house sooner than I had expected. Caleb made me lose track of time.

The four of us climbed out of the car. "Do you guys want to come in and watch a movie?" Tyler asked nonchalantly, swinging Lili's hand.

Caleb and I exchanged the briefest of a glance before he smoothly answered, "No, I think we're going to go." I nodded in agreement.

Lili smiled but Tyler smirked at us. "Be safe," he advised dryly.

"Shut up." Caleb grumbled as he took my hand and began to leave me over to his truck.

"Call me, Ash." Lili called after me.

"Will do." I agreed as Caleb opened the passenger door for me and handed me in. "What a gentleman." I smiled at him.

"No problem," he smiled back and then closed my door. I checked my reflection in the side mirror as he walked around to the driver's door. He climbed in and then started the car, immediately turning down the music. "So what are you and Lili going to talk about tomorrow?" he teased as he put on his seatbelt.

"Depends what happens." I replied with a small smile.

"When?" he asked me.

"Tonight." I answered. We shared a smile before he turned back to the road. Once his attention was diverted and absorbed, I seized the moment to study him, and realized that he had found me, and that I had found myself… he made me a better person.

"Do you like what you see?" he called me out with a knowing smirk.

"Sure." I said evasively, although I'm sure he could hear it in my voice.

"Uh huh…" he said knowingly.

We drove a little further until I finally asked, "Where are we going?"

"Is my house okay?" he asked me, looking a little apprehensive for the first time.

"That's fine." I agreed. He slid his hand across the seat and took my hand in his. We rode quietly to his house.

He parked in the driveway of a nice two-story house. "Ready?" he asked me after parking and shutting off his car. I nodded and then almost threw myself across the seat before kissing him. I could feel his surprise and then his pleasure as he slid a hand around my neck, pulling me to him as much as he could, considering the tight confinement of his car. Things were getting heated when he pulled away and said in a rather strangled voice, "Let's go inside."

"Okay." I agreed breathlessly in reply. We climbed out of the car and walked up the front steps to the dark house.

He pulled out his house key and I took that opportunity to stand up on my toes so that I could nibble on his earlobe with my teeth. He slid an arm tightly around my waist as he sucked in his breath and dropped his keys. "Not fair," he hissed at me as I tried to muffle my laughter while he knelt and grabbed his keys. I checked the time on my cell phone… 1:30 AM. He unlocked the door and we silently stole up the stairs, hand in hand. He opened a door off the hallway and flipped on the light, revealing his room while he shut the door behind us.

I swept my eyes around the room as I took in the room. It was slightly messy, clothes and a duffel bag littered the floor, but nothing unexpected. A dark blue comforter was thrown back as though he had jumped out of bed that morning but his walls were white, except for a poster of a basketball team. "Sorry…" he said as he bent over and scooped up a ball of dirty clothes off the floor. "I wasn't expecting company," he smiled as he tossed the clothes at his hamper.

"It's okay." I smiled, suddenly shy, and then moved away from him by walking over to his dresser. I heard him approach as I was looking down at a picture of his family and various basketball memorabilia until he softly touched the small of my back. I tensed briefly with nerves and then relaxed as he slowly skittered his fingers across my back.

"Hey," he said softly, touching my side as he gently brought me around to face him.

"Yeah?" I asked, feeling slightly breathless, and slightly school-girlish.

He half smiled and then leaned in to kiss me softly. I kissed him back eagerly again and reveled in the familiarity of it. He kissed me back, harder now, as he slid a hand along my jawbone (shiver), and then back into my hair. His other hand slid down my back and fiddled with the hem of my shirt before he slid his hand under. I shivered again as he ran his cool fingers quickly around my back. He pulled back gently, reluctantly, and asked me carefully, "Are you okay?"

I nodded jerkily in reply and then smiled tremblingly. "Feels good." I blurted out, unable to censor my words.

"Good," he smiled back and then kissed me again. I sighed against him as I threaded my hands into his hair and pulled him down into the kiss. His hand left my hair and joined his other one under my shirt. Goosebumps raced down my arm as he slid his hands gently up my skin until he reached the underwire of my bra. He pulled away again and looked intently down at me. "Ash?" he said breathlessly, running his fingers along the underwire. He was asking for permission.

"Yes." I practically gasped, nodding jerkily again, giving him permission. He smiled down at me and kissed me again as his fingers wormed their way under my bra and inside. I gasped into his mouth as his fingers closed around me.

He pulled his hand away after a few delicious moments and began to maneuver me around. I already knew we were going to his bed before we toppled down on top of it. I giggled as he pulled away and seemed to check my reaction, although he was smiling as well. "Okay?" he asked me.

"Yeah." I nodded before leaning up to capture his lips for another kiss. I felt him smile wider against me as he shifted his weight so that he was on top of me, pressing me down into the bed. His hand went back under my shirt and I groaned/moaned appreciatively.

After a few more toe curling moments, both of his hands found the hem of my shirt as he pulled away slightly. He looked down at me and, when I didn't say anything, tugged my shirt up. I sat up slightly so that we could take it off together before I practically lunged at him and pulled his shirt off. He laughed a little as he tossed his shirt down on the floor behind him as I stared approvingly at his defined chest. He stared likewise down at my purple lace bra and then practically tackled me down on the bed. I laughed against him as he kissed me. That kiss was followed by small, short ones that made me ache and my toes curl around his sheets.

He pulled away again and looked down at me. "Hey," he said softly as he reached up and then stroked my hair.

"Hi." I whispered back warmly with a small satisfied smile.

He surprised me by saying, instead of kissing me again, "I think it's time for me to ask you out," while a soft, slow smile spread across his face.

"Yes." I nodded.

"Will you go out with me?" he asked me, serious all of a sudden.

Like I would say no! "Yes." I repeated, softer this time. His solemn expression broke out into a grin before he swooped down and kissed me again, sealing it.

A/N: That's the final chapter! I know, it's shorter than most of my chapters, but that's how the cookie crumbled. I tried to make sure I didn't rush it...

AbbeyEileen: Yeah, it has been a long time since she was caught up on Nate! Cody will be addressed in the next chapter... but to answer your question, yeah, they still hang out. Family is family!

Bob Evans: Yeah, all it took was a chapter to pull it them together, right? As for Caleb's reasons, a lot of my readers kept pointing out to me that Caleb would have given up a long time ago, so I chose to tie it together. Wedding in the epilogue! I can't believe this is almost over... as for the emergency room, my stomach was doing insane flips and hurting like I was being stabbed, so I went (it was 11 PM, which was why I didn't just go to regular urgent care) and they decided I had the stomach flu. It wasn't a complete waste of money, turns out, because I still wasn't really digesting well like five days after THAT, so my doctor had to prescribe me a week of antibiotics, and THAT finally cured me. So now I feel (and eat) like a normal human again, haha.

Gigi: WOW, I Googled the lyrics to Boys with Girlfriends, and I was like WOOOOOW, this is EXACTLY like Caleb and Ashley! You're right! And yes, finally Caleb and Ashley! :-)

jmu: I KNOW, Ashley finally got it! Yeah, I think Caleb knew (and told her) all along how he felt in some way but she just had to realize and admit it to herself to get it! And yes, Cameron is the epitome of a bastard, huh? Maggie's such a little pest... I loooove cookies! :-)

Lenny: I'm so glad that you loved the conclusion! And yes, the conclusion couldn't be reached without a little more drama... ;-) And as for Maggie... oh Maggie.

Okay, on to the epilogue!

until next time,

a smile that explodes