1.47: A Lot of Moments

This chapter picks up exactly where the last chapter left us, with Dustin and Ayala behind the community center. After nearly a year, he’s just confronted her about why she suddenly wanted nothing to do with him, only to find out it was all an impetuous misunderstanding. Admitting he has feelings for her, and realizing she had feelings for him, it’s now time to clear the air.

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Taking her hands, he kissed her again, then let out a deep breath. Leaning back to look at her, he gave her his lop-sided smile. “You silly little girl. You’re the only one I want. You always have been.”

“I have?” Ayala sniffled, and leaned her head against Dustin’s chest. Oh, it felt so good to have this simple contact with him. She’d pushed him out of her mind for so many months–nearly a year, and suddenly she realized that she’d stolen time with him away from own self. It only takes time away from the one you do love. Don’t waste a moment. That’s what Dad had told her, months ago. And she’d wasted a lot of moments. She’d been her own obstacle. She slipped her arms around his waist and hugged herself close against him, wanting every inch of contact.

 

 

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“You always have been,” he confirmed. His own arms tightened around her. They leaned against the back wall of the community center, under the overhang. By the sounds of it, the sudden storm had broken up the wedding party. Thunder rolled across the ocean, lightning flashed in the distance, and rain scoured the shore several yards away. “You always have been,” he repeated, almost to himself. He looked down at her then, his face serious. Lifting her hair in his hands, he let it sift through his fingers. “So let me get this straight, because I don’t want any more misunderstandings between us.”

“Neither do I,” she said, sniffling away the last of her tears–for the moment–and looked up at Dustin’s face, admiring the strong angles of his jaw. He gazed out across the sea, lightning flickering across his face in dramatic relief. Just looking at him brought another swell of emotion.

 

 

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“You stopped talking to me because you thought I slept with another woman?” Feeling a little ashamed, she nodded. A long pause stretched between them as he turned this information over in his mind. “That day,” he said. “When my sisters left. I heard you saying you wished I was leaving, that you couldn’t stand me–” Ayala stirred in his arms, but he placed his finger over her lips. “It hurt to hear that, even if we barely knew each other. That’s when it started.” His finger traced the outline of her lower lip.

“When what started?”

“When you started. For me.” He smiled down at her. “You didn’t like me because I’d called you a little girl–when you were a little girl–and yet there you were, years later, beautiful, and spitting fire over it. It was patently obvious that you weren’t a little girl anymore. In fact it was damn near impossible to ignore that fact. I was just always…aware of you after that,” he continued. “When we finally became friends a couple years later, I have to admit I was conflicted.”

 

 

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Ayala wondered about that. “Conflicted? How so? You didn’t want to be friends with me?”

“No, I–I mean, yes of course I did–but I also wanted to be more than friends.” A lot more than friends, he added mentally. “There was something about you. Even more so as I got to know you better.” He took her by the shoulders and leaned over her so he could see her face. So many thoughts ran through his mind as he looked down at her. Her lips were so close, he only had to bend his head down to touch them… but he felt a strong need to know where things stood between them, in light of what they’d learned of each other tonight. “You said it hurt when you thought I slept with another woman, and  you said you thought I didn’t want you.”

She didn’t trust her voice right at this moment, so she just nodded again. Once again, her eyes began to well with tears. The past half hour had turned everything she’d thought for the past year on its ear.

“Don’t cry,” he said softly, brushing away a tear with his thumb. “Does that mean–do you have feelings for me too?”

 

 

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“Yes,” she whispered.  Now she really was crying. “I’m so sorry Dustin,” she hiccuped. “I hate that I hurt you. I hate that I hurt myself by pushing you away.”

“It hurt me too. I couldn’t think what I’d done to make you not even want to be friends. And then you …you and Jake.” He took a deep breath. “But I didn’t sleep with that woman, or any other woman. I did want you.” He tipped her chin up. “I want you still.” In for a penny, in for a pound, he told himself. The scent of magick still lay on the air. The taste of her on his lips only left him wanting more. But first, he had to know. “So my question, Ayala, is where do we go from here? Are we friends? Or do you want–”

 

 

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“More,” she breathed, raising her tear-streaked face to look him in the eyes. Her hands reached up to tangle in his hair, pulling his head down toward her. “More, Dustin. I want more.”

He wasn’t sure he’d ever actually felt his heart skip a beat before, but looking down at her now, it did. After a pregnant pause, he lowered his lips to hers, cupping her face in his hands. He kissed the side of her mouth, then her lower lip. When her lips parted, his tongue delved into her mouth, stroking, tasting, discovering. Without realizing it, his hands slid up the nape of her neck, tangling in her hair, holding her mouth to his and pouring his heart into every weighted moment. The soft, wet sounds of their lips were drowned out in another roll of thunder.

 

 

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When finally they pulled back, he just stared down at her, wordless for a moment, then snugged an arm around her and pulled her into his chest. His other hand caressed the back of her neck. “Gods, Ayala,” he murmured, his eyes closing. Sighing, Ayala kicked herself again. To think, this man had nearly slipped through her fingers because of her own sheer ignorance and pride. She leaned into him and closed her eyes, pressing her cheek against the fabric of his shirt. His long fingers stroked her shoulder as they stood there in silence, listening to the rain as it tapered off. For the moment, she was content just to be close to him, to breathe his scent. She’d never felt such overpowering, searing emotions as she’d felt this night. It was absolutely polarizing. This is what it felt like to fall in love.

“I’m in deep,” he said, half to himself, oddly echoing her thoughts. His voice was low, reflective.

 

 

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The storm had passed, and the yankee moon was peeking under the clouds now, showering the wind-swept ocean in silver. They stood, listening to the night, she leaning into him, and he with his arms around her. At length, Dustin said he should walk her to her camp before her family thought she’d been kidnapped.

After all this, Ayala hated to say goodbye, even for a night, but had to admit she was now bone-weary. “Can I see you tomorrow?” he asked her, when they reached the quiet camp.

“Yes,” she smiled. He kissed her goodnight, a slow and unspoken promise, before disappearing into the night. Ayala was smiling when she fell into sleep. And she was still smiling when she awoke the next day.

 

 

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Carrick too woke up smiling. Ayala hadn’t been home yet when he got in the night before, yet she was already up before him. He could hear her singing as she did chores outside. Singing!

He wandered outside and dropped onto a seat before the fire, where Lilith had left a bowl of vegetable stew to keep warm for him. He watched Ayala breezing around the camp through narrowed, speculative eyes. She seemed in as good a mood as he was. And then he grinned. Dustin, he thought, nodding to himself. He’d told Dustin to go talk to her already, as he and Nala left the wedding last night.

 

 

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Nala. He felt a goofy grin creep across his lips.

Only 15 at the time, she’d lost both her parents, been abandoned by her older sister, and was left to care for four younger siblings on her own. And although she’d have been entirely justified for doing so, she’d never complained, never looked for an easy way out. Rather than feeling it was unfair, she’d instead turned her focus on how to care for what was left of her family. Her two older brothers, along with Carrick and even Ayala at times, had pitched in to make sure she had the help she desperately needed.

Somewhere along the way, he’d fallen in love with Nala, hook, line, and sinker. And last night, he’d finally told her. When he kissed her, nothing had ever felt so right.  He knew it in his gut, with more certainty and clarity than he’d ever known anything; she was the one.

 

 

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Of course, this brought a whole new heap of things to consider, but those only made him smile wider. He’d be graduating this week, and ordinarily that would mean building his own camp, making his own home. But that would also mean maintenance, and time away from Nala. Nala had the Riverhaven camp, and it wouldn’t be right to uproot her younger brothers from there. Instead, he knew, he would eventually stay there with her.

All in good time, though. Now 16, Nala was still young. He doubted she’d ever even kissed anyone before they shared their first kiss last night. With a happy, anticipatory shiver, he naturally already looked forward to spending his nights in her bed–but that, too, in good time. It would be far more rewarding for her to discover and experience this new love, to savor the experience as any other young woman would. There was no need to rush. For now, Carrick decided it would be better to temporarily move to her brother Jake’s camp.

 

 

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Last night had been wonderful. After their kiss, they’d curled up by the fire, talking and laughing. They’d become friends over the previous several months, but somehow it felt so much freer and more intimate now. Even Nala, long used to having his company, seemed to almost come out of a cocoon, more confident and open to him. It was like everything had finally fallen into place for both of them.

 

 

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Natasha and Jace were doing homework with the quads this afternoon. They listened to the girls argue about the cutest boys at school.

“Chaz is definitely the hottest boy,” Annika stated, as if it were fact.

“Bull! Abel is better looking, and he’s already taller than Chaz, too,” retorted Ashlyn.

Jace smiled at Natasha as she dipped her head. It embarrassed her to hear his little sisters talking about her little brother. He looked back down at his homework, shaking his head a little, while the girls continued their intense discussion. His little sisters sure were boy crazy.

 

 

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“I think Will is best looking,” Mary Jane put in, scrunching up her nose at her math problem.

“You’re just saying that because you really like Chaz,” Annika accused Mary Jane.

“Oh gods, I do not. Will is nicer and that makes him better looking even if they are twins.”

“Gah, you’re all daft. You can have those boys. I’m going to marry Jessie Swift. And Will and Chip are quads, not twins, just like us.” This from Lakelyn.

 

 

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With a sigh, Jace put away his homework and turned to Natasha, extending his hand to help her off the ground. “C’mon, let’s go catch a fish and we can share dinner up at the bonfire pit. I don’t know about you, but I could use some peace and quiet.” Natasha shot him a grateful, but knowing sidelong glance as he took her hand. She knew he was only saying that because she was uncomfortable; in truth, he doted on his little sisters and looked out for them as big brothers should.

 

 

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Later on, almost as soon as the young teens had finished their food,  they were startled by a squealing woman and a laughing man running headlong from the bushes. Jace recognized Rhea, his brother’s ex-girlfriend, and he knew the man to be Kiwi Hale. Neither Rhea nor Kiwi so much as acknowledged Jace or Natasha, and obviously had other business in mind. They collapsed in a heap before they even reached the tent, which some enterprising youth had pitched somewhat beyond the bonfire pit, a liquor bottle rolling from their hands and sloshing liquid into the grass.

 

 

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Turning their heads to watch the commotion, they saw Kiwi hitching up Rhea’s skirt, unloosing his pants, and guiding himself into her with his hand. So that’s how they get it in there, Jace observed, before quickly swiveling around to stare stolidly ahead. No way could he look at Natasha right now.

They sat awkwardly apart as the couple behind them began having sex without delay. Very loud sex, replete with giggles, groans, and the sounds of skin slapping against skin. Round One apparently ended quickly, after which they finally moved into the tent. After a few moments, more noises issued from the tent as Rhea’s moans took on a new pitch.

 

 

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“Do you think they ever do anything besides fuck?” Natasha wondered.

Jace, already flushed from the awkwardness, and, well, arousal of the moment, blushed all the way to his strawberry roots upon hearing that word from Natasha’s mouth.

“Uh. I guess. I don’t know.”  People had sex. It was a natural part of life and love, Jace knew. It was nothing to be ashamed of when both people wanted to do it, and, in the small rural village, where privacy was a commodity, it wasn’t always exactly hidden. Still, Jace was really uncomfortable. Natasha had been his girlfriend since they were in grade school, but they hadn’t done it yet. He hadn’t even gone to second base. Although he was proud of himself for kissing her last week.

 

 

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“Let’s get out of here,” he said, standing. As they walked back to the village, Jace wondered if Natasha would ever let him do it to her. When he kissed her last week, his body had acted funny, which she hadn’t noticed, thankfully. They’d always been great friends, and he felt more comfortable around her than the other kids. She was so pretty, and he loved her. He decided he would at least kiss her again. But not unless they were alone.

Usually though, the two were at his camp or hers. Now that his parents were older, Jace stayed home more, helping with chores, the garden, fishing, and sometimes even cooking for his adorable little sisters, brats though they were.

“Carrick’s at your camp a lot,” he said by way of changing the awkward subject. He wondered if Carrick did it with Nala. He was pretty sure his brother liked Nala like that.

“Yeah. He helps a lot. He’s almost like, Drake and Archer’s dad now. But he’s nice. I still miss my parents, though.” Jace put an arm around her shoulder in a quick hug. It had hit her hard when Daniela died. “I saw him kiss Nala the other night. They didn’t know I was looking,” she added. Well that answered Jace’s wondering. He was happy for Carrick. His brother was a man now and Jace looked up to him a lot.

 

 

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Carrick had always told Jace how it was important to take care of your family, and he thought Carrick was pretty awesome for taking care of Nala and still doing chores at home too. Jace knew he’d have to step into Carrick’s shoes very soon though. His brother was a grown up now and would be moving out real soon.

“You should find a woman–or man–that you love, and take care of your family, that’s what a real man does,” Carrick had told him one afternoon when he’d taken Jace hunting with him. “You’re almost a man now too, remember that,” he’d said. That had made Jace feel really proud, because he really wasn’t almost a man. But he hoped he’d be as good a man as his dad and brother were someday. Hopefully someday he could take care of Natasha too.

 

 

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Shane and Lilith sat in their chairs before the fire, reminiscing over the various portraits and mementos of a full life and family together. “Three boys and a girl,” Shane mused. “I guess you showed me!”

Lilith chuckled. When they were younger, he’d always teased her about wanting 3 boys and a girl. She’d given Shane 2 boys and 5 girls instead. They had a beautiful family. It had been a good life.

“I suspect Ayala’s found her a  young man,” he added.

“Dustin Swift. Daniel’s son by Kaila,” Lilith said. It wasn’t really a question. She’d heard his voice in the courtyard when Ayala came home a few nights ago. Her daughter had been out more often these past few weeks.

 

 

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She considered Dustin. He’d been a polite youth, perhaps more quietly self-assured as his mother had been, rather than Daniel’s brash machismo, but she saw a lot of the good of Daniel in him too. She’d heard he was preparing to start teaching the grade school by winter.

Shane nodded. “I saw them together at Joel’s wedding,” he told her. “Looked to be having a pretty heated talk about something. Weren’t they friends back last year?”

“But then she went with Jake,” Lilith acknowledged.

“There was some unhappiness between those two. She seems happy now. I think we’re about to lose Carrick to Nala, too. Our babies aren’t babies anymore.” He sighed, but it wasn’t an unhappy sound.

“They’ll find what’s right for them. We did.” Lilith reached for his hand and squeezed it.

 

 

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 Story/Challenge notes:

::sniffle:: That last bit.

So it was a little hard writing Jace, who’s a young teen of 13 or 14 now. He’s been the overlooked kid for much of this generation, but it’s time we get to know him. He idolizes Carrick, who is a man in his own right now. Carrick has officially completed his part of the Perfect Children roll, and Ayala is very close behind. The quads are doing well as children, and have managed to keep their grades up, despite being a bit boycrazy.

Also, a lot more of my poses in this chapter! That’s actually mostly the reason why I’m late posting this chapter. Well, that and an entire day spent modding those Dragon Valley dragons. Two of Carrick’s poses are entirely my own, as are all but two of Dustin and Ayala’s. Those were kind of a bitch to make, since Ayala is a teen and Dustin is a young adult–although teens can use adult poses, their bodies are smaller. Anyone know of a teen mesh for Milkshape or Blender?

Anyway, let me know what you think of the story! And don’t worry ladies, we’ll be seeing more of Dustin soon. A lot more 😉

Bloopers and Outtakes are up on the Outtakes tab!