4 months later in April:
"Aaron!" I squealed, darting away from his outstretched fingers attempting to tickle me. "Stop it!"
He just laughed before catching me by the waist and pulling me into his hard chest. My chuckle came out breathless as he fumbled with the key to his dorm.
I tried to help him, but he just squeezed my waist in warning. Before I could do anything else, I felt his lips skim the top of my shoulder and side of my neck before he barged into his room, still tightly holding on to me.
"You know, you've been so antsy this entire day," I commented as he threw his keys on his desk, one hand still guiding my back.
"Are you complaining?" he teased, before pulling me toward his bed. I hesitated at his question before following him. Just as I was about to sit next to him, he caught my hips and dragged me on to his lap, my legs settling on either side of his hips. My fingers came up to trace over his cheekbone, and his arms tightened around my waist.
I gave him a pointed look, motioning my head to our position, but he just pouted and replied, "What? I missed you. We haven't spent time together in ages―"
"That's cause you've been busy with soccer practice," I retorted, with only a slight bitter edge to my words. Just because he loved it, didn't mean I had to.
"Yeah, and then today when we had to have lunch with my family..." he trailed off, his cheeks warming beneath my fingertips.
I laughed as I recalled the meal we had together.
"So how have you been, Jessa?" Mrs. Rush asked kindly, her light brown hair piled up into a simple ponytail. Clark and Ty sat on either side of her, playing with their food in a indifferent manner. For once, Mr. Rush was there as well, and he sat silently near his wife. From what I gathered after spending time with his family, he was a man of little words.
Although my father and Aaron's did seem to hit it off the first time they met each other.
"I'm fine. Certainly not as busy as Aaron since I'm not playing any sports," I replied, shooting Aaron a side glance. Over the past few weeks things had grown increasingly tense between us because of his time commitment to soccer and his soccer friends until it blew up into an argument. I had been incredibly upset until we had come together and talked about it.
As if knowing where my thoughts were headed, Aaron placed a comforting hand on my knee and rubbed small circles into the skin there. We shared a small smile before turning back to Mrs. Rush who regarded us knowingly.
"How has school been? Are you still running these days?" Mrs. Rush asked, while cutting Ty's chicken into smaller pieces.
"It's been fine. It has definitely been a lot less hectic with cross-country. I still run by myself, but, since the season ended, I haven't done any competitive stuff."
"We still meet up with the rest of team though," Aaron added, glancing at me with a small smile. "Even though cross-country is over we still try to have pizza together every now and then as a team. Sometimes Jessa even goes running with the others."
"Oh that's fun! I'm glad to hear that you're still keeping in touch with your cross-country friends. Well does that mean you aren't doing any extra-curricular activities?" Mrs. Rush asked in a thoughtful voice. My mouth parted as I rushed to convince her that I wasn't as lazy of a person as I actually was.
"Um, well, I have been looking into some volunteering opportunities, but I haven't had much luck," I explained sheepishly, my cheeks heating up under her careful scrutiny.
"Mm. Well if you have some free time on your hands, maybe you should consider babysitting Ty. Like all of my other boys, spring is a really busy time, and I could use some extra help," Mrs. Rush replied with a wide grin.
"What? Really?" I said excitedly, looking at Aaron in surprise.
"Of course! Why not? Ty already loves you."
Plus it would be a good way to earn some extra money," Mr. Rush piped up with a small smile.
With an enthusiastic grin I accepted there offer. Ty, however, seemed completely oblivious to the news.
While Mr. and Mrs. Rush talked more about these new developments, Aaron leaned into me and murmured, "You'll be great at this. You've always been so good with Ty."
"Really?" I whispered, turning to face him, only to realize that he was inches away from me.
His gaze darted down to my lips, before smiling and replying, "Of course."
His hand squeezed my leg just as Clark coughed pointedly at the two of us. This, incidentally, resulted in Aaron pelting a piece of bread at Clark's head. He could only glare since Mrs. Rush was bringing out the dessert.
While we ate fruit salad and vanilla ice cream, the Rush family talked amongst themselves while Aaron and I ate in silence. His hand was still on my knee and soon it was creeping up higher and higher.
"Aaron, are you okay?" Clark asked with a knowing look at the two of us. Aaron continued to cough into the crook of his elbow, trying not to choke on his fruits. I had pinched the inside of his wrist when his hands started to reach my upper thigh.
"Yeah, I'm fine," Aaron replied, glaring at him.
"You should chew slower," I commented sarcastically, moving my hand to rub his back in mock-concern. He just stuck his tongue out at me.
"You were so impatient," I said, my nose nudging his after I thought about our lunch together.
"I couldn't help it when my beautiful girlfriend was sitting right next to me," he countered, his other hand coming up to tangle and twine in my hair.
I giggled at his words before finally leaning down to kiss him. He responded enthusiastically, his hand tightening around me as he poured himself into the kiss. I sighed against him, my fingers traveling down to scratch lightly at his chest.
He groaned in response; his mouth left mine to pepper kisses along my jaw line. I sighed again when he nipped at my ear before exploring the territory of my throat. Inhaling sharply, I tried not to make much sound when I felt his teeth nibble at my pulse point, before moving down to my collarbones and the hollow of my throat.
"Aaron," I mumbled hurriedly, my hands skimming across his fingers. His palm opened up beneath mine and we intertwined our fingers together. His head tipped up to meet my gaze, his lips red and puffy; his eyes half-lidded and stormy.
I just heard him hum in response before he returned to my lips, causing me to gasp when I felt his tongue dart in through my parted mouth. Meanwhile, his other hand slid down my back to settle just above the curve of my butt.
Unfortunately, that was when the door to the room decided to open, revealing a shocked Tucker Jones.
"Jeez!" he shouted, making me yank away from Aaron. "Would you give a guy some warning?"
I tried to get off Aaron's lap, but he just braced one hand on my thigh and waist to prevent me from leaving. While I shoved at his shoulder, Aaron continued to talk to Tucker as if our position was perfectly appropriate.
"Dude, don't act like I haven't caught you and Angie in here," Aaron taunted, his eyebrows quirking up in a jeering fashion. At that moment I heard a particularly distinctive squeal that I immediately recognized.
"Angie?" I gasped, twisting around to see her burrowing her blushing face into Tucker's shoulder.
"See? I bet ya'll were coming in here to do the exact same thing we were."
Tucker's mumbled response pretty much answered Aaron's question, causing Aaron to laugh in response.
"Here, we'll give you guys the room because we're nice like that," Aaron joked. Before I knew what was happening, he was standing up, one hand supporting me underneath my butt, while my hands and feet quickly linked around his body like a koala bear.
My face was probably a bright cherry red by now, and I resisted the urge to smack Aaron upside the head. Instead, I just ducked my head down and smiled at Angie and Tucker who were an equal shade of magenta.
Aaron led me a little ways down the hall before I sputtered exasperatedly, "You are such a butt."
He just laughed at my choice of words, his head leaning back to look at me properly. "But I'm your butt."
Before I could rightfully reprimand him, his lips were on mine. I was vaguely aware that he was walking forward, and, soon enough, my back hit a wall. Arching against him, we picked up right were we left off, his hands traveling to squeeze at my thighs which were still wrapped around him.
However, just as his hand was inching beneath his shirt my cell phone rang.
"Let it go to voice mail," Aaron muttered against my lips, before biting and nibbling at my bottom lip. I gasped in response, but still put a hand up to his chest to push him away. He knew that if he managed to distract me enough, I'd eventually listen to him.
Aaron groaned before letting go of me gently. I smiled at his peeved reaction before answering.
"Hello?" I answered, my voice still breathless.
"Jessa! You have to get here quick Dakota's about to have the baby," my dad replied frantically.
"What?" I yelled, startling Aaron who shot me a concerned look. "Oh my gosh. Okay. I'm on my way."
I hung up after that before turning to Aaron excitedly. "Dakota's about to have the baby!"
Without another word we were off to the hospital. Luckily, in my crazed state, Aaron kept a sane head and did not start his truck until I buckled my seat belt. Unfortunately, this just caused me to shout at Aaron more than four times while he drove.
I kept screaming at him to speed up so we wouldn't be late. Aaron, of course, ignored me and continued to drive just over the speed limit.
Finally, after what felt like hours later, we pulled into the hospital parking lot just at the edge of Hutcherson Oaks. Before Aaron even had a chance to lock his red truck, I was was sprinting into the building.
With the help of a frazzled nurse, I quickly located my dad who was pacing outside of a room just as Aaron caught up to me.
"Is she okay? Is everything okay?" I rapidly after hugging my dad.
"Yeah she just had the baby. They're having a moment together, but soon we'll be able to see-"
He was interrupted by a nurse opening the door and beckoning my father and I in.
"She's recovering, but you can come in now," the nurse said kindly, her smile genuine and wide. I nodded towards Aaron before entering the room.
From the bed, Dakota smiled tiredly at me. Her hair was mused and sweat coated her brow, but she seemed elated. Inside the room, both Dakota and Keith's mothers talked quietly in the corner. I greeted them both before turning to the adoring couple on the hospital bed.
"Hi," she greeted softly, while Keith just grinned at us. His hand was placed comfortingly on Dakota's wrist and the baby's tiny fingers.
"Hi," I whispered back, eagerly walking up to see the baby.
The baby girl itself was bundled tightly beneath a soft blanket and hat. Small eyes peeked out wondrously and I cooed at the sight of her. Dark black hair peeked out from underneath her hat, and I swore that she had the most beautiful blue eyes.
"She's gorgeous," I finally muttered, grinning up at Dakota. "You guys did a good job."
Keith burst out laughing at that, and the baby was drawn to her father immediately. I watched as he placed small kisses on her face before she seemed to relax.
"What's her name?" I finally asked, after watching her in silence. I loved watching her mouth open and widen and stretch.
"Sheridan," Dakota replied thoughtfully before looking at me in apprehension.
"Thank you. I'm just so glad that you could be here," Dakota said, her eyes shining with unshed tears. I smiled at her, before moving to give her a brief, gentle kiss on the temple.
"Of course. I wouldn't miss it for the world," I responded, swiping my fingers under my own eyes. In the past we had joked about me missing the delivery due to school, but luckily Sheridan was born at a time that worked for all of us.
"D-Do you want to hold her?" Keith finally asked, causing my eyes to widen comically.
My dad rubbed my shoulders as Keith helped me hold the baby. I smiled at my dad who whispered "I love you". Looking at Sheridan, I felt my heart constrict and my stomach clench. She seemed so incredibly fragile in my arms and I was scared to hold her any longer in case I broke her. I told as much to Keith, who helped relieve me of his daughter.
A few minutes later, we were walking out of the hospital room in a subdued state, and I immediately sought out Aaron who was sitting patiently on a chair.
"Hey," he greeted softly, pulling me into a hug while I buried my face into his chest. For some reason, seeing Sheridan caused a swell of emotion inside of me. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. I'm sorry for being like this. She's gorgeous. Her name's Sheridan and she's perfect," I babbled incessantly, my syllables mixing in with my sniffles. It had seemed like just yesterday that Dakota was my babysitter and Keith, her first boyfriend. I even remember that ancient truck he used to drive to pick her up from my house when I was younger. How was it possible that they just had a baby?
Aaron just chuckled softly, rubbing circles into my back. "I'm glad you got to see her on her birthday."
"Yeah, me too."
For a moment we were silent, just enjoying being in each other's arms, before we pulled apart slowly.
"T-Thanks for taking me. I'm sorry I was a pain before-"
"Don't worry about it. You were fine. And, I was even worse than you when Ty was born," Aaron interrupted, smoothing back strands of my hair. His smile seemed to soften as he brushed away stray tears.
"I'm so glad you're here...with me," I whispered, tightening my arms around his abdomen.
"I'm just happy I could be there for you," Aaron replied. He swiped his thumb across my cheek, back and forth before pressing a lingering kiss to my forehead.
For a moment, I thought about the future. I didn't know what would happen or whether Aaron and I would be a couple forever; all I knew was that I was so grateful to have this moment here with him.
Through the window of the hospital room, I could see Keith and Dakota curling around their baby. It was almost a picture perfect moment, with their wide peaceful grins and bundle of joy. In that second they had never looked more content and happy. My gaze swiveled back to a smiling Aaron, and I grinned back.
So far, the future didn't seem so bad.
A/N: *fair warning this will be a tad longer than usual. I won't be mad if you just skip to the end for news!*
Hello my lovely pickle monsters,
Wow two years really fly by, and, honestly, I never thought it would take me this long to finish TOW. But at the same time I'm glad that it has because otherwise I wouldn't have grown the way I have as a writer. This year has been hard due to personal things, and I've turned to writing so often as a place of comfort and escape. I feel like I've grown so much this year in terms of writing, and it's been amazing to change and learn along with Jessa (who has really become an extension of myself). On one hand I'm incredibly sad to finish her story, but, on the other hand, I'm excited for what that means. And I'm excited for you guys to be a part of this change as well.
Tug of War wouldn't have been what it was without the incredible support of some truly lovely people. Thank you to my FF friends Rionabelle, Penguinbuddy, and OfficialScrollKeeper for believing in the very first draft of this story and editing it. Without you guys, TOW probably wouldn't have even begun. Thank you also to M.M for always reading and giving me such an enthusiastic response whenever I finish a chapter. I'm so grateful for your continual support. Thank you also to jinx89! Your constructive reviews and constant support helped me so so much.
Finally, thank you to all of the readers whether you've been reading since chapter one or have just read this all in one go. You've been so incredibly patient, kind, and wonderful. Thank you for sticking with these characters, and thank you for giving me continual feedback and support. It's been amazing and I'm so thankful for the audience that I have. Take care, and please stay tuned!
Love you all so so much,
So, now what?
Well first of all you have to leave a review since you have one last opportunity. :P Also please tell me how much you loved the fluff in this chapter!
Here's the last review challenge ever: If you could have dinner with one dead person who would it be and why? Best present you've ever received? Flowers or chocolate or just snuggles?
Now that we have that out of the way I have a lot of things I want to do.
1. I really want to edit the entirety of Tug of War and then post it on wattpad. If any of you are curious my username is still AMessofPickles and hopefully Tug of War will have a bright future there!
2. I have so so many story ideas floating through my head at all times. Currently I have two stories and a three one-shots that are half-complete. I'm really hoping that I can get one of these things published by the end of the month, but we'll see because the beginning of August is always incredibly hectic. Either way I really hope you stay tuned and check out more upcoming things!
3. Lately, I've been so focused on getting TOW done that I haven't put much time into this community. I feel like there's been this weird separation lately from my readers and the FP community and me so if you need feedback or *anything* like that please please please ask! I'll probably have a little bit of downtime from now until my next published story and I'd love to connect with you guys! Even if you just need someone to talk to! Or need a cover page (I make halfway decent ones if I do say so myself :P)! Just ask!
Okay, that's all my pickle monsters. Take care of yourselves.