One-shot featuring Teegan and Jared, West Hill series.

AN: hey guys, I'm sure I will tweak this a little more but for now here it is. I'm trying to write through a small writer's block and I've always wanted to write a one-shot. Plus I decided to experiment with a different writing style to my norm. Hope you enjoy it :).

"My aim is usually better," Teegan said, hand on her hip, unable to hide the disappointment in her voice. She glowered at the dishcloth as though it were at fault for missing her target.

Jared, who ducked despite the cloth hitting the kitchen wall three inches to his left, straightened cautiously. "I'll count myself lucky then." He brushed a hand through his messy brown hair. "You should come with a warning sign – like `Beware of the dog`-"

He held his hands up in defence at the soapy sponge aimed his way – a sponge he was sure would hit its target this time. "Whoa! Whoa! I didn't mean it like that!"

She narrowed her eyes but lowered the sponge all the same. "What do you want?" Teegan bit out.

"A Mazda - red preferably. Could do silver," he said with an offhanded shrug. "I don't mind." He coughed and shifted under her stony glare. "You're not in a joking mood, huh?"

"What do you want?" she repeated without the hostility. Drained, she collapsed into a chair at the dining table and dried her hands.

Jared brushed his hand through his hair again, glancing down at his feet, the table, the metallic fridge front...anywhere but Teegan. He tried not to focus on his faster than normal breathing, the sickening knot in his stomach or the irregular beat of his heart. She had the power to make or break him; he was terrified. "I want... I want to apologise, I want you to forgive me; I want to be able to walk into a room without a nuclear missile aimed at my head!"

He lifted his head to look at her. She stared up at him; her green eyes searched his face - for what he wasn't quite sure.

Sincerity? He could give her that. Guilt? That was definitely there, too. Regret? That he wasn't so sure about. Actually he didn't regret it in the least... Well, he grimaced to himself, maybe he regretted the humiliation and hurt she had gone through, but not the event itself.

"You're sorry?" Her face bore no expression, her voice flat and unfeeling. He couldn't tell how she was reacting to his apology - she was giving off less emotion than a rock - but that was Teegan all over. "I was under the impression that you were happy about this."

"I guess," he answered slowly, downplaying the immense joy he'd been feeling for the last week. Oh, what a great week it had been!

"You guess!"

Jared had never thought someone could sound shocked and angry at the same time; usually one or the other usually came out the stronger. Teegan did it remarkably well.

Wrong answer. He bit his lip and looked over at her with, what he hoped were, big, sad, pleading eyes. He prayed that his boyish charm would win her over.

"You better be happy, Jared! If neither of us is, this whole thing gets a hell of a lot worse!"

Apparently it didn't; in fact it seemed to wind her up more than win her over. He needed to work on his charm, he thought, as his stomach sunk in grave disappointment. But, where his charm didn't work, he knew his determination would. She was mistaken if she thought he was leaving without her being happy with him, towards him or even civil. He could bargain for civil, giving her current temperament perhaps it was the best he could hope for.

"I'm happy you're not going out with that cocky arsehole anymore. I'm not happy you were hurt in the process, or that he embarrassed you in front of everyone like that!"

"And yet, you're the reason he hurt and embarrassed me." she replied returning to her cool, unfeeling tone. "You told him."

"I am. I did. I pushed him to it. I know that and I knew that then." He took the chair opposite her, his eyes imploring her to understand; to forgive. "I'm not perfect. I make mistakes like everyone else. Sometimes it feels like you hold me on some mighty high pedestal. Everyone falls but I fall the furthest... only I don't have the crash mat at the bottom that you give everyone else."

"Why?" she asked after a brief silence. There was no mistaking what she was asking.

"I want you happy, don't get me wrong, but not with him."

"With who then? How is it your choice? He wasn't that bad." She threw her hands up. "Of course I agree with you now, on this side of the humiliating break-up. I never thought he'd do that to me... to anyone."

Jared grinned, hope of resolving their conflict once again unfurling within him. "Well at least you see what I see now, Sean's a –"

"Don't push it."

Jared dropped his grin, a small smile taking its place. A silence fell. Teegan played with her dark brown hair absentmindedly. He watched the light dance through the strands, making her hair shine bronze and red, mahogany and gold.

She sighed as she stood and moved to the fridge, effectively breaking his gaze. "With who then? What's this great type of guy that should make me happy?"
His heart sped up rapidly. The sickening feeling in his stomach reached his throat as he balled his hands into loose fists to hide their shaking.

It's now or never.


Now or never.


Teegan's hand froze on the fridge handle. She turned to face him slowly. "What?" Her voice was faint; she could barely hear it over the frantic thumping of her heart.

Jared stood, taking two steps toward the fridge to stand in front of her. He was too close, far too close. The strong smell of his cologne was intoxicating. "Me," he repeated, radiating confidence. "T, I love you. Plain and simple."

Teegan stepped back, trying to find the space to clear her head, her back hit the cool fridge front. He couldn't mean that, could he? "You're - you're joking?" Her voice wavered, her usual composed countenance crumbling.

Jared stepped up to her, re-closing the small distance she'd put between them. He shook his head slightly.

"You're not just saying that in the hopes you'll be let off the hook, are you? Because I am pissed at you, and no amount of love declarations changes that." She tried to grasp a hold of her confidence and composure; it slipped through her fingers easier than water. Why could Jared always do this to her? After being friends for so long, shouldn't she be used to his boyish charms and intense gazes by now?

"No, I'm not." he said as he ducked his head slightly to meet her gaze fully. "But I would like you to understand."

Teegan broke away from his gaze, glancing away across the kitchen. She wasn't comfortable with how small and unsure her reflection looked in his grey eyes. "Fine, I'll listen. Let's sit." She darted to the side but Jared barricaded her in with his arms, bracing his weight on his hands.

She felt the hairs on her neck rise at his close proximity. His breath light against the side of her jaw and neck. Damn, that tickled.

"I told him in a moment of weakness. If he really liked you, it wouldn't have mattered."

The anger that surged up was stronger than the shyness that had overcome her. She returned her gaze to his. "Of course it mattered! He was always insecure about you! And then you go prancing off and tell him you were my first!"

"T," Jared sighed, "it shouldn't have mattered. If I had asked the friend of a girl I was dating who her first was I wouldn't blow up at the answer. Especially if the friend said it was after too much drink and a stupid dare at her brother's party years ago!"

Teegan gaped at him. "He...he asked you?" There were no words for the mind numbing shock coursing through her, or the sharp stab of betrayal to her heart.

He'd asked him? Sean actually asked him?

He'd asked her himself last week, she'd explained with not so many words. It was with a friend. There were no romantic feelings, but she felt safe and confident, that's what mattered. That's what made her first time special. No, she wouldn't tell him who the friend was. He didn't need to know. Did he not believe her? Why couldn't he have respected her privacy?

"Why did he ask you?" Her voice was soft, her eyes watered a little and she blinked away the tears.

"He already knew."

"I told him, just not completely the truth. I didn't say who."

"He knew." Jared replied lowly.

Teegan's eyes met his. He was too close. "H-how?" Her breath hitched as he smiled.

"He said he could tell. Apparently it's the way you look at me, talk to me, revere me. You don't let me get away with my mistakes like you do everyone else. You don't pick apart your brother when he falls; you build Jake a new pedestal... closer to the ground. Mine... mine only gets taller." He shifted his weight, his knee grazed her leg. Her breathing became shallow as she struggled for air.

"You tear me to pieces when I make a mistake and build me back together stronger. I learn from my mistakes because of you, I'm better because of you."

"Jared I don't..." Her eyes wandered away from him, "I don't get all this talk about pedestals."

"The point is, I love you... and Sean thinks you love me."

"What do you want me to say?"

He shrugged, smiling his boyish smile that usually made her relinquish her claim on the last brownie.

"I don't... I don't love you..." She frowned up at him, "... I don't think." Her heart ached at the truth of it. She didn't want to hurt him, but the truth would hurt less than telling him what he wanted to hear in the long run.

Teegan watched in astonishment as Jared rolled his eyes. "That's fine. I wasn't after you to say you do, you did just get dumped pretty brutally five days ago and all." His smile strengthened. "I want you to forgive me, I want you to stop the death glares with those pretty green eyes of yours, I want to walk into A2 psychology without your textbook aimed at my head."

Teegan snorted, her hand covering her mouth to smother the laughter trying to escape. Jared, still smiling, grasped her hand, tugging it gently away.

"Above all else," he murmured as he moved closer to her; barely an inch separated his lips from her own. Teegan stopped breathing. Jared's gaze focused on her mouth; he leaned fractionally closer. "I want to kiss you," he murmured, each word a caress of his lips that made her shiver. She closed her eyes instinctively. Jared pressed his lips fully against hers. She felt him take a sharp breath through his nose before he stepped closer. With his hand on her hip he tugged her, pressing his body against hers.

Teegan wanted to pull away, or felt she should, but made no move to break free. She couldn't. She was lost in the sensation of his lips against hers, the smell of his cologne, the heat of his legs either side of one of her own, his fingertips grazing the skin of her neck, thumb brushing her jaw line. She couldn't suppress the shiver his gentle touch evoked.

He nudged her chin up with his thumb. His tongue swept across her bottom lip, urged her to give in, to let go, to fall. She wouldn't, she knew. She held on tight to the here and the now, unwilling to lose herself in the tidal wave of feeling crashing around her.

Insistent, he bit gently down on her lip. She gasped, allowing him to deepen the kiss. As his tongue brushed across hers, his thumb slid down her jaw line to her ear and his hand gripped the back of her neck, fingers tangled in her hair. He tugged and twisted strands as his other hand slid off her hip to press against her lower back.

Teegan's hands gripped fistfuls of his shirt, she wasn't quite sure when they had left her side but, judging by Jared's increased enthusiasm and determination, he'd noticed.
His tongue swept into her mouth for the umpteenth time, she failed to suppress her squeak of approval.

"Teegan," he murmured against her lips, panting for breath. That was all it took.

She fell.

Jared broke away from her, breathing heavily. He stepped back, dropping his arms to his sides, allowing her room to move.

"I... I forgot how well you kiss," she panted, leaning back against the fridge. Her cheeks were flushed, her hair tousled and lips swollen. He must look much the same. They'd have some explaining to do if her siblings or parents walked in any time soon; there was no mistaking what had just transpired.

He grinned sheepishly. "I forgot how much I love kissing you, I didn't mean for it to go that far."

Teegan's smile fell. He didn't like the sad, apprehensive look on her face. He knew what was coming.

"Jared..." She faltered, frowning.

"I know, I know. You don't love me. You said T." He smiled at her, trying to reassure her that it was alright even as he felt sick with sadness.

"I... I don't love Sean either, if that makes you feel better."

"Immensely," he lied; it was a little better but not all that soothing. "Look, T, I'd really like to go out with you sometime. In a few weeks, obviously, I'd expect you're hurting right now."

Teegan bit her lip before shaking her head. "Not as much as I thought I'd be; I feel more humiliated than anything."

Now that made him slightly more hopeful, perhaps he should push her although that really hadn't been his initial intention.

"T, have you ever been in love?"

She crossed her arms tight across her chest, hesitant. "Erm, no. No, I don't think so."

Jared raised an eyebrow. Interesting. "So how do you know you don't love Sean?" He so badly wanted to ask why she didn't think she loved him but thought maybe that would be a little too desperate.

"Well, for one I'm – I like Sean and sure I'm upset that he broke up with me, but I'm more upset that I wasn't the one to toss him, and he embarrassed me in front of so many people... Do you see what I mean?

"He's a great guy... sometimes, but no there's not something special there."

"So you have an expectation of what love is and that's just not it?"

"I guess. Is that bad?" She raised an eyebrow at him.

"Possibly." He shrugged, "I can't really say." He backed up further away from her; he needed to be closer to the door. He needed to make a quick exit after what he was about to say. "I think you love me."

Teegan's mouth gaped open in surprise; she appeared to search for words but said nothing.

Jared took several more slow steps back towards the door. He wouldn't pressure her; he'd leave for her to think clearly, in peace. A part of him, a large part, felt guilty and a bit of a jerk for the position he had put her in. "Just think on it. Think on what you do feel for me; think on what you think love is."

Teegan bit her lip. Adrenalin coursed through her veins; she could still feel the hairs on her neck standing up, and unease had her stomach twisted in knots. Her pulse raced, not slowing in momentum from the second he had said "me."

Think on it.

Jared was a great guy. He was funny, witty, overly stupid at times and completely embarrassing at others. He was clever but lazy with work, passed his exams far under his potential but then he never revised. He was her friend of almost three years.

What was she supposed to be seeing?

"I have to go. I'll see you tomorrow in psychology." Jared took one last backwards step to the doorway. She waved numbly before he turned to walk up the hallway.

Think on it.

Jared could kiss, that was for certain, and his eyes were lovely, his hair was lovely, he was lovely. But did she love him?

Possibly. Probably, a voice reasoned in her head.

She'd always been told love is not being able to see your life without that person in it, it's being around to help them back on their feet. It's safety, trust, security, respect. Did she love Jared?

Teegan frowned, if only she could understand what he was saying about the pedestals. Something was telling her he saw the answer there.

He'd said she rebuilt her brother's pedestal when he fell, and she supposed that was true. Jake had crashed his car backing out of the drive, drunk. One mistake among his many. She loved her brother dearly but she didn't respect or trust him half as much as she ought to now; that was why he wasn't so high up in her regard anymore.

Jared, on the other hand, crashed his car sober. Once she knew he was well and relatively unhurt, she had shouted and screamed at him. She had never been so scared, never shook with fear instead of cold before that night. She was grateful when Jared stopped driving so fast after his crash and turned the radio off.

She didn't understand. She didn't help him to his feet and pick up the pieces; she raged and shouted, she told him off. He adamantly climbed back up onto his pedestal by himself, building it taller as he went. She admired how he corrected his wrong, loved how he respected her fears and complied rather than scoff and continue as he had before.

She watched him walk down the hallway. When he reached the doorway it dawned on her. "Oh shit... I love you." She stared at him as he spun. Walking backwards, Jared saluted, his boyish grin spread wide across his face.