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SEBASTIAN WAS SAYING FAREWELL to the guys too when she walked towards them, promising to meet up with them again to catch up. After he fistbumped them all, he gave Ella a brief nod. With that he walked back towards the car, closing the door behind him. Now it was just them, standing there in the silent forest. She was clearing her throat, unsure what to say, when Alex spoke instead.

"So, we overheard you're going to St Joseph?" he said with an excited grin.

"Yeah," Ella said," so you're not getting rid of me yet."

"I wouldn't dream of it, babe," Alex said.

"I'm so glad, El," Will beamed up at her," I would have missed you if you were sent away."

"Likewise," Ella said," you've grown on me."

Will chuckled, but Alex froze, seeming like a thought had entered his head. She raised an eyebrow at him and he shook his head, eyes faintly amused.

"It's nothing," he said," I'm just mortified about the fact that I tried to teach Eleanora Martinez the basics of fighting."

"Sad I couldn't see you swing the bat," Will said, voice sweet," I'm sure you would have done great."

"I'm actually glad I didn't," Ella laughed," you won't believe how many times I've been close to exposing myself."

"MME, huh?" Levi said, an eyebrow raised.

Now it was her turn to be mortified. She placed a hand in front of her lips, embarrassment filling her.

"I had to sell it," she said.

"You sucked at that."

"And yet you still didn't find out," she smiled triumphantly, though her eyes were twinkling," no matter how much you told me I was a wolf in sheep's clothing." 

"I was right about that, huh?" Levi murmured, eyes wandering over her, like he was seeing her in a whole new light.

"At least you realized something, Levi," Alex scoffed, before saying," though I can add teaching the infamous Eleanora Martinez how to spar to my list now."

"What list?" Ella frowned.

"The list of all my most cringeworthy moments," Alex said with a confident smile," and believe me, there are many."

Will gave him a sympathetic pat on the back, but Levi was still focused on her, a flicker of amusement in his eyes.

"You really were telling us you didn't know your own brother, huh?" he said.

"Well, I wish I didn't," Ella said," he's stupid." She glanced back at Sebastian, who seemed to be whistling to himself in the backseat. "And I say that with affection, of course."

"He seems really protective over you," Will beamed," you both must love each other a lot."

She shrugged, mind wandering off for a moment. Sebastian had always been somewhat protective over her, but she knew her father's death had only escalated that further. That was the main reason she tolerated it most days, even though he annoyed the hell out of her at times. Her past relationships crossed her mind, but when she glanced back at Levi that disappeared again, his scowling face burning a way in her mind instead.

"Well," she said," you guys behave, alright? Don't stress out our dear Clarkson anymore than you already do."

"I can't make any promises," Alex grinned.

"I wouldn't believe them if you had," she chuckled.

Levi just looked at her, in that way that made it feel like his eyes captured the sun; so warm it felt like a caress. Will and Alex exchanged glances then, before they both hugged her and walked some distance away, leaving her alone with Levi. She looked up at him, their quiet conversation soothing her somehow. And then she saw Will excitedly waving over Levi's shoulder and snorted.

Levi frowned and turned around, before shooing Will away with a hand.

"What? You want alone time with me?" Ella teased.

"We're going to get enough of that within a week," Levi said as his golden eyes followed her every move," so don't worry about that."

"I wasn't worried," Ella said.

He leaned forward, causing the distance between them to shrink to inches, her heart beating faster as she watched his intense gaze.

"Sure you weren't," he whispered.

Ella raised her chin in a challenging move, their lips mere inches apart. Levi trailed a hand over the side of her face, his touch gentle, even though his hands were calloused and rough.

When he kissed her, she couldn't help the shock though.

His lips were surprisingly gentle, the kiss brief as he pulled away. But even though he wasn't touching her anymore, the warmth of him scorched her lips and burned her cheek with a heat that almost made her cheeks flush red.

"What was that for?" she said.

"Just in case you didn't think I was serious again," he said easily.

"Idiot," she scowled.

When a faint smile graced his lips though, her displeasure was quickly forgotten. The thumping of Sebastian's fists on the car window behind her pulled her back into reality again and she waved for him to calm down.

"See you," she said.

Levi nodded back at her, before caressing her cheek once more. When he turned her head, his breath fanning her ear as he whispered into it, she almost moved to hit him. As soon as she heard his words though, she couldn't help the small smile on her own face.

The moment he mirrored that smile so dazzlingly, that was when a blush consumed her cheeks.

"See you, Eleanora," he said softly, before turning around and joining his shocked friends.

The moment she stepped into the car, Sebastian's angry lecture started, although her mother surprisingly didn't add anything. She let it all wash over her as she remembered his words again though, not able to suppress the smile on her face.

"In case you were wondering, I can and have taken Sebastian out. So I guess I've won that bet."

She chuckled softly, the car driving away from the forest she had spent the last four days in. Though it had been so short, at the same time it had felt like an eternity; a soft one, filled with golden memories and silver days.


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