AN: For Farrell :o)


The time she left

He's not the best at alphabetizing things, he always forgets that the last name of the author comes before the first one (and how weird is that?) when arranging books on a shelf. But he tries his best anyways, childish hands stretching to wrap around the spine of a picture book dad had got him last week.

Downstairs, he hears his mom screaming.

Collin swallows, and the slightly shaky hands put the book in the almost right space, before he turns and starts to refold the clothes in his drawer for about the hundredth time that afternoon. Mom and dad had been shouting for a long time today.

There's the sound of a crash, like a plate or something being thrown across the room.

Collin retied his shoes, one lace was a little longer than the other. He stopped halfway through, telling himself stupid, stupid, stupid, because shoes get taken off at the door, and mom will be so mad if she sees mud on the new carpet-

He thinks he hears his dad crying, which doesn't make a whole lot of sense because his dad's a boy.

There's crumbs on his desk from when he and Serena were eating graham crackers earlier, before mom had made her take a nap, before they started yelling. He scientifically swipes them onto the floor, making sure that they blend into the carpet and therefore no longer exist.

There's more screaming, still his mom, and the sound of someone running upstairs. Halted, Collin gave up on cleaning and immediately went to sit on the edge of his bed, hands folded primly in his lap as if waiting for inspection, young eyes trained on his closed door.

His door never opens, just the closet one where the Killingsworth family luggage is stored.

There's some muffled yelling, and crying, and now dad is screaming too and he wonders if it's possible for adults to get time out because his mom could use some-

He hears feet stomp down the stairs again, hears the slamming of the front door. He waits a few seconds before he rushes to look out of his bedroom window, the one that overlooks their driveway.

He sees mom throw a bag into the back, and pull out keys. Hears the roomroomroom noise of the car starting.

He presses his nose to the glass, watching the car speed out of the driveway, a different picture book on his desk being bumped by his elbow and falling to the ground, where now it will stay.

His room's messy for the rest of his life, because a clean room only reminds him of the mother that drove away without a look back.

The time he thought he may have pushed a few boundaries.

The relationship that he has with his little sister's new best friend would be described as rocky at best. Maybe it's because he isn't quite sure how to feel about Serena hanging around with a girl that has gang tattoos on her face and never once hesitates to call him 'kook' or 'gabacho' or 'stupid blond idiot'. Maybe it's because he's always been Serena's best friend, and he can feel Jimena edging him out piece by piece when Serena doesn't want to watch old movies or order takeout on Friday night because she's going out clubbing.

Maybe it's because, under certain circumstances- like when he's tired or his eyes are too sun strained to see beyond soft focus or when she's smiling or when the light's hitting her face just so- she becomes less of an imposter/crazy girl/criminal/sister-stealer and more of a friend/interesting/someone who doesn't take crap/funny feeling in the stomach. And maybe it's making him uncomfortable, and a little intimidated.

Serena -who knows him far better than he'd like her to, he realizes- starts to make snide little comments on the missing state of his shirt when her friend's over. He promptly ignores her or makes defensive statements ("My face is red because it's sunburned, Serena. Shut up!")

Whatever. Either way, he knows a girl that's out of his league when he sees her, and Collin knows that he can't mess up the only real friendship Serena's had since mom left because his hormones are out of whack or something. He can live without a girl, something he discovered after a poorly thought out date with Morgan where he ended up following her around while she tried on boots for three hours.

Jimena is different from Morgan. Jimena is that funny feeling that he knows how to squash down. Collin likes a certain measure of control in his life, and he knows that after a while somethings are easier left alone or kept at a distance.

Until the night that she sprayed whipped cream on his stomach.

And, well, that had felt pretty nice.

And he knew, watching her hesitate, watching her watch him for the first time ever, that he was going to get pulled into the undertow and washed up on a beach somewhere.

A theory that was confirmed when she immediately sprinted up the stairs, a hushed goodnight falling out of her mouth as Collin stood there like a moron with a mug of hot cocoa and a half-empty bottle of whipped cream.

What have I gotten myself into?

The time he jumped out of a car.

He squirms in his seat, trying really hard not to look at his baby sister's hot best friend as she glares a hole through the backend of the passenger seat. The weird guys (and Morgan, who always demands her own category) that had, he guesses, technically kidnapped him (man that sounded lame, even in his head) are bickering among themselves, and somewhere between a stop light and looking at the backseat door a really, really asinine idea hits him.

He pitches his plan, and Jimena looks at him with a mixture of incredulousness and the tinniest flicker of respect. It's that flicker that makes him force out the bravado, even though his insides are flipping a little as the yellow lines move by in a blur outside of the car window.

"No fear," he says with what he hopes is a debonair grin.

Holy shit, he thinks, when she moves to grip the door handle and he allows himself to turn a little green before he jumps out of the moving vehicle with a crazy ex gangster, the tinniest of whimpers escaping his throat.

He's sure people have done stupider things to impress a girl.


It feels really bitter, whatever it is that's in his mouth as he watches his girl, THE girl, dancing with that guy he doesn't even really like. That guy that doesn't know her at all, that is drooling over her like a little kid and a particularly shiny lollipop.

And he knows there's distance between them, what with her being a goddess and him being a moron, but it doesn't really register until he sees Jimena dancing closely to someone that isn't him. And in his head it goes round and round for some inexplicable reason-Jimena and Robert sitting in a tree, Jimena and Robert sitting in a tree-

A dance floor feels like a continent as she's in plain sight but out of reach.

He watches her walk away from Robert and out towards the exit and he wants to puke in relief.

Heart thudding in his chest, Collin digs in his pockets for his car keys and goes after her.

He's watched too many people walk out of his life, he'll be damned if she's one of them.

The time she said, "Yes."

There's not a whole lot of things that Collin is sure about in his life.

For one, he's still deciding whether or not he likes his baby sister's boyfriend. If he felt intimidated by Jimena, he felt downright degraded when The Boyfriend introduced himself ("Hello, my name is Stanton, Serena's told me a lot about you-" "-I don't like you." "…"). But he seemed to love her, which is all Collin can respect about him.

He's also not sure if this is the right move. He's not sure if he's moving too fast, or if he should have done this months ago, or if Jimena was even interested in this kind of a commitment-

Its box jingles in the pockets of his shorts as he heads over to Jimena's surprise birthday party. It's always in his pocket, he makes sure of that. Because while Collin may appear to most as the average teenage beach bum with nothing but waves in his head and zinc on his nose, he did have quite the romantic streak in him, and he didn't want to have the perfect moment and be unprepared.

If it meant carrying the extra weight in his pants for another whole year, he was cool with that.

The party goes well, until Later. Later, he holds Jimena's birth certificate in his hands and matches up the years, he swallows what feels like a ball of tacks. This is it. This. Is. It. He doesn't even notice the surprised look on his sister's face. His sun strained eyes flicker from the paper to his girlfriend and for the first time since he bought that thing a month ago he feels a little bit scared.

As he prepares to ask her if he can talk to her alone, he slips a hand into his pocket and removes the thing from its box. His fingers, sorta slippery from the nervous sweat he suddenly gets, curl around the simple ring and he takes a deep breath.

No fear, wasn't that what he always used to tell himself?

He clears his throat, harnesses some chill, and quietly asks his girl if she could talk to him alone for a minute.

It was dust in his eyes when she put the ring on her finger.

The time only one came back.

He was hurt, yes. He was angry even more. Not at Jimena, who knew that only one girl (and a part of him hated that he kept thinking not the right girl) would be coming back from the last mission against the Atrox. Not even at Stanton (which surprised him) or his baby sister (who wasn't really a baby anymore). He hated himself, and for months he listlessly walked down the piers of Los Angeles, flyers in hand asking If You Had Seen This Girl? with her picture on them, hoping that one day she might just show up, washed onto the beaches or falling out of the sky. He was bitter for a very long time, wondering how she could just bat him away like a fly, how he couldn't make her stay on Earth.

And, after a few years, when he finally gave up, knowing that his sister was off somewhere living her fairytale ending and he should start living his, he realized that not once during the whole hellish ideal had he been scared.

Because there were fingers interlaced with his and her voice in his ear telling him it would be okay.