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Bonus Chapter

Bonus Chapter:

Three years later...

"Hurry up, Benjy, or you're going to be late for AJ's plane!" My mother pounds on my bathroom door, pressing me to get a move on. 

"Mom, for the hundredth time, stop entering my house unannounced. I'll be out in a minute!" I snap, tired of her over-involvement in my life -- how does she even know that I need to pick AJ up from the airport today?

"He's probably been styling his hair for the last hour," I hear Laura's voice before hearing all three of those brats snicker at my expense.

"You're one to talk, Laura!" I say loudly while running my hands through my hair, styling it for what feels to be the billionth time since this morning. They're brats but they're not wrong.

"Don't forget to comb your beard!" Sasha adds before they all laugh in mockery.

I roll my eyes and slam the door open, just about knocking their heads off their shoulders in the process. "It's stubble, Sash! Get it right!"

Lea smiles at my reaction and pats my shoulder in an attempt to comfort me. "You nervous, big brother? You shouldn't be. It's been three years of dating and this girl still gets you tongue-tied."

Not quite three years; AJ made me work for her for at least three months before budging even the slightest. It was difficult and she was really a pain during that time but I know now that she's worth it and always has been. Since then, we've made long distance work, probably because we're finally on the same page. We're both as equally committed to this thing we call a relationship as the other.

"Just don't blow it, boy," my dad tells me, carefully warning me. "Your sisters actually approve of this girl. You mess this up and I can't guarantee that your obnoxious siblings will ever approve of another girl for you. You may have to remain a bachelor forever."

"Hey!" Sasha glares at our dad. "Rude! Offensive! Unnecessary!"

Dad shrugs at her. "You know that you make your brother's life a living hell."

Sash contemplates it for a second before nodding, admitting to it. "This much is true."

Laura speaks up again. "It's true through. We really do like AJ. She fits in so nicely here. It's like she's already part of the family."

They better not be telling AJ this. My girl keeps bringing up the subject of marriage and I still see myself as a little kid.

"You said that she's like a hyper, energetic bunny on crack a few days ago," I remind Laura, sending her a defiant stare of anger.

Lea nods and smiles before answering for Laura. "Exactly. We love her!"

"Why are you all standing in the bathroom with Benjy?" Ma asks, peering at us from around the corner. 

"Because I have no privacy hence why I moved out years ago!" I shout, becoming irritable.

Ma helps me by ushering them all into the living room, including Dad, but not before Sash messes up my hair on her way out. 

Ma sends me a fierce look when they're all out of hearing shot. "Speak to me like that again and I'll hit you upside the head so hard that your eyes will roll out of your skull."

I drop my head in submission. "Sorry, Ma."

She messes up my hair for good measure before leaving to join the others in this weird family. I shake my head after her, wondering where my place is. I don't fit. I feel like an outsider sometimes.

I rejoin my family in the living room after restyling my hair for the billionth and one time. I grab my keys and wordlessly make my way to the front door, praying that they'll be gone by the time we arrive home.

"Hey, Ben?" Sasha's voice stops me.

I sigh out of tiredness and glance over my shoulder at her. "What, Sash?"

"I love you," she reminds me with a genuine smile -- something rare for her. Seeing the sincerity in her face, I can't help but return the smile, immediately feeling more a part of this family than what I really am. I open my mouth to respond but she beats me to it, ruining the moment completely. "I also love my boyfriend, please remind him of that if you see him!"

I huff in fury. "Adrien hates you, Sash! You know that! I'm pretty sure that he told you that to your face last thanksgiving. He's also younger than you!" I explode on her, hearing them all laugh loudly at me as I leave.

She did that on purpose! She knows that I suffer with all Adrien's pranks because he's punishing me for having a witch like Sash in the family. Like everything else bad in my life, it's all her fault! 

I open the door to my Bentley, thinking over my own thoughts.

Man, AJ's right, I'm turning into a little, over-dramatic girl.

*~**~*

The anticipation to see AJ is always there when I go and fetch her from the airport. I'm always excited because it means I get to see the one person who understands me, sometimes even better than I understand myself. She makes me feel like I fit, like I belong somewhere.

I miss her so much when we have to split. Long distance sucks.

I check the time again as I wait for my girl who must be taking her sweet time seeing as she's running a few minutes late. A massive grin forms on my lips when I spot my dark-haired beauty grabbing her bags. It's then that I see why she's been taking so long. It seems she's made a friend.

My gaze strays to the petite blonde she's busy talking to. The stranger grabs her own bags before turning around. That's when I catch a glimpse of her face. My heart begins to pound in my chest, a lump forming in my throat as emotion takes over me.

"No way on this damn earth can that be who I think it is!" The words leave my mouth before I even realize what I'm doing or saying.

No way! Just...no way.

I know it's her for certain when she grimaces and immediately ducks her head, making a futile attempt to walk straight passed me, hoping to go unnoticed and fade into the background. I mentally scoff. Please, she couldn't even if she tried. Has she forgotten who she is? She unintentionally makes a scene wherever she goes.

AJ says something to her before purposely directing her into me, clearly aware of who she is and our history together.

Still,  Aqueela helplessly tries to hide behind her long, blonde hair and escape past me.

I roll my eyes at her childish antics and grab hold of her arm, forcing her to halt in her quick steps. "Your vanishing acts have come to a closing."

I hear her sigh in unease before she finally glances up at me with a sheepish expression, her doe-like eyes giving away her anxiety. "Well, hi there, BoyBand," she greets me with a cute wave, unsure of how I'm going to react. "Didn't see you there," she lies to my face, all tensed up.

It so good to hear her voice again. I cannot even explain it. None of this feels real.  I want to be angry but when she's looking up at me with so much uncertainty and so much insecurity, it's hard. The Aqueela I know has always been straight-up confident.

"A month my my ass," I joke, the words leaving my lips before I'm stepping forward and crushing the small being against me, just speechless.

I feel her stiffen. "BoyBand?" She asks in confusion.

I grin from ear to ear. It's so damn good to hear her call me that again. This is all too surreal. "I gotta say, I missed the nickname," I confess, only realizing now just how much I've missed this wild but loving hooligan. She's put us all through hell and back yet I still adore her.

As if relieved that I'm not killing her right about now, she steps forward and awkwardly hugs me back. I smile down into her shoulder and hold her tightly, glad to have my good friend back. I didn't know what it meant to have a real friend until I met her.

I cannot believe the girl who made me quit my job is back and here in my arms right now. I'm struggling to wrap my head around all of this. I don't want to let her go because I'm scared she'll just vanish again and I'll wake up or something.

Eventually, I release Aqueela and turn to my girlfriend, eagerly placing a kiss against her lips. I don't know how she did it but she brought my friend back to me. "So, you met her then?" I ask AJ, gesturing over to Aqueela, still in shock. A heads-up would have been good. It's kind of embarrassing losing my cool like this just because of one person, one stupid but sweet person.

Aqueela has practically not aged a day. She looks exactly the same, just with longer hair and a more mature look about her -- I can't really put my finger on it. She's still as small and cute as I remember her to be.

AJ nods all too happily. "Oh yeah!" She confirms the obvious. "She's great!"

I've got the kindest girlfriend on the planet. I couldn't be anymore grateful to have her in my life.

I crack a small smile. "She's alright. Nothing special but she will do."

A faint smile appears on Aqueela's lips as she begins to relax. "Shut up, you Looney Tune!" She bosses, the Aqueela I know resurfacing. "I'm plenty special," she argues and it somehow feels like she never left to begin with.

Nothing has changed.

After some more teasing from my and AJ's side, I decide to get a move on -- my parents should be gone by now. I take the girls' bags from them and place them on a luggage cart, telling them to follow me to the car.

I can't watch Aqueela struggle with a bag that's practically bigger than her any longer.

"Wait, wait, wait!" I hear Aqueela's voice echo from behind me.

I stop simply because of the desperation in her voice. "Yes?"

I already know what's coming next.

"Where is everyone at nowadays?"

I wince, not in the mood to discuss how we've all pretty much drifted apart, not to mention the fact that Jay's been gone for years himself. "How about we talk about that later, yeah?" I ask, walking faster as if to evade her stare of concern.

Why am I always the guy left to deliver bad news? I know I'm great at it but it's really not fair how fate has placed me in this cruel role.

*~**~*

"So, where are you staying then?" AJ asks Aqueela as we stop in front of my car.

I don't miss Aqueela fumble with her hands and shift position, not quite keen to answer my girlfriend. "Well, I...uh--"

"You can stay with us!" AJ cuts her off, still as compassionate as the day I first met her.

My heart goes out to Aqueela. I don't like seeing her so lost and doubtful. I want the irritating, feisty blonde back, the one who'd demand to stay with us whether we agreed to it or not. So, when I see her frowning, about to turn AJ's offer down, I step in. "I once told you that if you need anything, I'm your guy," I remind her of a promise I made to her a lifetime ago. When I'd said that, I meant every single word of it.

Her genuine smiles make my entire day. It's all I wanted to see. It's clear she remembers that day as well. Her hazel eyes light up and she beams like a lighthouse leading a lost ship home, a ship that really needed a sense of belonging today.

"That offer still stands. It's still on the table," I repeat, giving her a nod of assurance. "All you have to do is speak up and we..." I motion between AJ and I, "will both have you covered with whatever it is that you need."

Aqueela's family to me.

And so after some more arguing from her side and some more shushing our side, she finally gives in and launches froward, hugging the life out of both of us. I can't help but chuckle along with AJ from under Aqueela's grasp, happy to have this idiot back. I missed this idiot too much and if she ever leaves again, I'm probably going to follow her and drag her back home to where she belongs and makes others belong.

Plus, I totally knew she and AJ would get along!

*~**~*

Hey guys :)

You asked for it, and you got it -- Benley's POV on when Aqueela returned. Hope you enjoyed it.

Let me know your thoughts on this chapter :) Was it what you were expecting or hoping for?

1. Thoughts on Ben and his family issues?

2. Thoughts on AJ and Ben's relationship progression?

3. Thoughts on AJ and Aqueela meeting?

4. Thoughts on Aqueela and Ben's friendship?

Thanks for all the support! You guys are still the best ;)

Officially signing out of this story forever :D

~CJ







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