Home | Prologue | Chapter One | Chapter Two | Chapter Three | Chapter Four | Chapter Five | Chapter Six | Chapter Seven | Chapter Eight | Chapter Nine | Chapter Ten | Chapter Eleven | Chapter Twelve | Chapter Thirteen | Chapter Fourteen | Chapter Fifteen | Chapter Sixteen | Chapter Seventeen | Chapter Eighteen | Chapter Nineteen | Chapter Twenty | Epilogue | Thanks
This Christmas
Chapter Nineteen


"Hey, you."

I turned around and smiled, taking the cup of iced tea that AJ offered. "Hey. Come join me."

He chuckled lightly. "That's where I was headed."

We passed a few minutes in silence, sipping our tea, swinging on the wooden swing, and listening to the waves against the shore. That's one of the things I love about AJ. With him, the silences are rarely uncomfortable. He gets so little time to breathe when he's around the boys that, when we're together, he doesn't mind shutting up long enough to just be.

"Penny for your thoughts?"

I chuckled lightly at the question, and he bumped my shoulder with his. "Seriously, chica, what's up? You've been kinda quiet all evening."

I shrugged. "I don't know. It's just a quiet evening, I guess."

I didn't even have to look at the man to know that he was arching an expectant eyebrow. Of all the people in the world (other than Diana), AJ is the least likely to buy my bullshit. And trust me when I say that there's a lot to sell.

"You aren't ready to leave either, are you?"

I shook my head and leaned into the embrace he offered. "Not in the slightest. Hanging out together, just being Taylor and AJ--it's been fun. I'm not quite ready to go back to reality just yet."

He laughed, a deep rumble that shook against my back and made me smile. "Me neither, babe."

We sighed in unison and ended up giggling about it for a few seconds. When the silence resumed, I took a deep breath and began to ramble.

"I don't even know how to explain it. It's just...everything here has been so wonderful, you know?"

He nodded his agreement. "Most definitely. It's a pretty magical place. Hell, it brought you to me."

I rolled my eyes at the cornball nature of the line, but couldn't help smiling. "Right. Seriously, though, I guess there's a part of me that's afraid that we're going to leave, and things won't be like this anymore. I'll go back to New York and you'll head to Orlando, and I'll see you when the tour rolls through Manhattan and you'll call me every few weeks to check in. And it's not like there's anything wrong with that, because it worked fine this past year, but..." I trailed off, not knowing how to explain that I wanted to see him every second of every day like I'd been doing for the past two weeks. Somewhere along the line, we'd become better than just good together, and I didn't want to lose that.

"But now neither one of us are going to be satisfied because we know what it's like to have more than that," he finished. I looked up in surprise, and he laughed. A good, hearty, genuine laugh. "Don't look so shocked, baby. I've been thinking about it too, you know. I wasn't kidding when I said that I love you too."

I closed my eyes and snuggled closer to his chest. "I know."

"Then you know that things aren't going to change tomorrow when we fly back."

I opened one eye to look pointedly at him. "Some things have to change, AJ. We live in two different states, for fuck's sake. We won't see each other as much."

"No, but it doesn't mean that I'm going to stop loving you the second the plane touches down. Tails, you bring me a sense of normalcy that I haven't had since this crazy Backstreet circus started. If you think I'd let that go so easily, you're freaking insane."

I sighed heavily, somewhat comforted by AJ's declaration. "So what do you propose we do?"

"Well, first off, I was thinking that you could spend New Year's Eve with the guys and I. We were all planning on meeting up in Orlando, and I figured you could chill with us. They liked you a lot, and since we've gotten closer, I figured you'd want to get closer to the fellas as well."

I chuckled. "The fellas?"

"Shut up."

"Next thing I know, you're going to start calling them your homies."

He pulled the bill of his baseball cap to the side and jutted his bottom lip out. "You fuckin' know it, dawg! Shit!"

I did what any normal girlfriend would do, and stole the hat.

"Hey! Now my hair's going to get all messed up."

I shot him a doubtful look as I secured the hat on my head. "Age, there's not enough hair there to get messed up."

He glared playfully at me. "You calling me bald, woman?"

"Not yet. Give it a few years, though."

"You know, I should whoop your ass good for that."

"But you won't," I answered cheekily.

"Oh? What makes you so sure?"

I stuck my tongue out at him. "Because I've got your mama's cell phone number, dude!"

"Ouch! Break out the mom on me!"

I grinned. "Damn straight. A girl's got to have something good to use in her own defense."

He shrugged and wrapped his arms more tightly around me. "You could always threaten to hold off on the sex until I did your bidding."

I groaned. "AJ, the idea is to torture you. Not you and I at the same time."

His eyes lit up. "You mean the absence of my lovemaking would pain you?"

I sighed. "Is your ego going to blow up to the point that I have to get off your lap if I answer affirmatively?"

He blinked a few times, and I laughed. "Yes, AJ, the absence of your lovemaking would pain me."

"I knew it!" he whooped. "I knew you couldn't resist the charm forever. I'm fucking hot, dammit!"



"Tone down the ego."

"Yes ma'am."

I had to laugh. Even in the middle of one of the more serious conversations we'd ever had, AJ could still get me to smile.

"So, all digressions aside, would you come back to Orlando with me to chill with the Boys for New Year's?"

I shrugged. Why not? "Sure."

"You still freaking out about what happens next?"

I chuckled. The boy already knew me far too well. "Just a little bit. I know I shouldn't, because you and I have a way of working things out, but I don't want to lose you on account of distance."

He shook his head. "You won't. Worst case scenario? I'll get lonely and fly my ass to New York to crash your apartment for a little bit. We've got some time off coming up because we just got off that fucking LONG ass tour, so I'll probably join you in New York for a bit anyway."

It was my turn to get all giddy. "Really? You'd do that for me?"

He burst out laughing. "You think I'm doing you a favor by going to New York?"

"Well, yeah. You'd be out of your comfort zone on my account. That denotes a favor."

He grinned. "God, I love you."

I frowned in confusion as he hugged me. "What'd I do?"

"You just...shit, Tails, you don't expect anything. You just do your thing, and if someone else wants to join you, that's cool. You don't try to shove things on them, though. You're just so fucking mellow about this whole relationship thing."

I glanced at him suspiciously. "Are you saying that I need to develop anorexia and randomly start stealing your credit card or something?"

He flinched. "Or something. I like you just the way you are, deviation from the norm or not."

I smirked. "Something tells me that I should've paid more attention to your past girlfriends."

He chuckled lightly. "In all honesty? They really weren't worth much attention."

"That's kind of sad, Age."

"Yeah, tell me about it. Better yet, tell Nick about it. The boy still can't seem to find himself a decent girl."

I shook my head in disagreement. "I don't think it's that he can't find a decent girl. I think it's more that he can't find a girl with a decent brain."

"Or that he can't find a girl with a brain period."


He furrowed his brow to match mine and adopted my stern tone exactly. "Taylor..."

"That wasn't very nice."

He laughed ironically. "The truth isn't always very nice."

In a rare display of hope, I cocked my head to the side and looked up at him with a childlike awe. Sometimes, on days like this, when the sun is setting and his hair is glowing red-brown in the dim light of dusk while he teases me and the guys for no particular reason, I can't believe how good we have it.

"But the truth'll be nice to us, right?"

He smiled down at me warmly. "Always, babe. Always. We've got a year of good things to come."