AN: Under the dictionary definition of "not cooperating," you will find this chapter. But here 'tis. Also, it's songfic timeee! Except I'm not doing a character competition anymore, just a songfic, because that got complicated. I wrote about 12 pages of this chapter with "Total Eclipse of the Heart" as the song (as sung by the Glee cast), but the timing was all wrong. Then I switched to "Suppose" by Secondhand Serenade, and I hope you'll agree with me that it fits! (FYI: other contenders were "Sunshine" by the All-American Rejects and "What About Now" by Daughtry.)
QOTC: Change the colors of the sky, and open up to the ways you made me feel alive- the ways I loved you. For all the things that never died, to make it through the night, love will find you.
Chapter Thirty: Turn Around, Bright Eyes
I didn't stir. I couldn't. I stayed there, protected and safe in Henry's arms, and prolonged the moment for as long as I could. For whatever reason, he didn't seem to be in a rush either.
Forever wouldn't be long enough for me, but after a few seconds, I took a deep breath (one last inhalation of that smell, one last moment to try and preserve these feelings for the rest of my life) then I pulled away. It was one of the most difficult things I've ever done.
Suppose that I missed you
Suppose that I care
"Great work, kids!" Bob yelled at us. "All right, we're done for the day."
Not looking at Henry, I went to change back into my comfortable clothes.
Ah, crap. I'd accepted Henry's offer of a ride to the set without thinking about having to accept a ride back to the hotel as well.
I was oh-so-tempted to ask someone else to take me- and make some pathetic excuse to Henry- but I knew he would see through it as a coward's move, and I was trying hard to be a little braver where he was concerned.
So when I saw him waiting by his car, tapping his foot absently against the gravel, I swallowed before literally (and figuratively) shouldering my baggage, reluctantly meandering in his direction. Move, Katie. It's a ten-minute ride to the hotel. Just stare out the window and for heaven's sake don't talk.
Okay. I could do this. I could be polite and ignore the k-i-s-s. I was afraid to even think the word in my head. The fresh memory, coupled with the emotional overload of the meadow scene, sent uncomfortable tingles down my spine and weighed down my heart.
"Hey," I said breezily, tugging at the door handle. Yep. I had this. I could pretend it was all fine, that I was fine-
The door was locked. I tugged at it again, with increasing violence, before glaring over at Henry. "Open the dang door."
He frowned, looking suspiciously innocent and bemused. "It should be unlocked."
I huffed. "Well, it isn't." I'm not the brightest of the lightbulbs, but even I can open a door (most of the time. And, most of the time, without injuring myself or others.). A tiny smile on his gorgeous face, he came around to my side.
Henry stood beside me and held out a set of car keys. The first raindrop of the evening fell on my nose as I scowled at him. "What are you doing? It's starting to rain!"
I tried to snatch the automatic clicker, but he was too clever. His hand closed around mine, holding me immobile. I shivered- and not from the cold. "What's the magic word?"
My breath was snatched out of my lungs as I remembered the last time he had asked me that question.
A faint look of surprise crossed his face, still half asleep. "Oh. Sorry." His arms loosened around me, but then tightened again, to the point where I could hardly breathe.
"Hey," I protested mildly, squirming. His grin widened.
"What's the magic word?"
You have got to be kidding me. "Let me up, please?" I rephrased.
"Nope," he said amiably, arms still wrapped around me.
I poked him. "Fine, what's the magic word?"
He shook his head. "You have to guess."
I scowled blackly. "How about… let me go or I'll do something mean?"
"You'd never be mean to me," Henry laughed. He was more playful than I'd seen him in a long time- since he and Megan broke up. "Any more nightmares last night?"
"No." I frowned, thinking. "Magic word… magic word…"
Henry relented. "Say you love me."
I stared at him, unable to blink or breathe or think, damn him. It was clear he had remembered, too. Henry was determined to make all of this as difficult as possible. "I'll go with Orla in the prop truck," I said, fighting back angry tears and trying to wrest my hand free.
And suppose that I spent all my nights running scared
That I was never there
His grip only tightened. "Katie, turn around."
"Listen to me."
"Stop being so stubborn. I'm not being unreasonable!"
"You are," I cried out, facing him like he'd wanted. "I have every right to be stubborn and you have no right to kiss me or tease me or hold my hand." Finally I managed to tear free of him. "You lost that. I'm not going to let you hurt me again. I don't think I could survive it a second time."
Pain and guilt welled in those honey eyes, but I knew better than to soften this time around. "You're right," he admitted, his hand falling back to his side. "But…"
Uncomfortably, I noticed we were getting strange looks from the crew that was striking the set. "Don't make a scene any more than we already have."
He unlocked the door and opened it for me with a gentlemanly flourish- only the action had a slightly mocking edge that wasn't like him at all. "Then get in the car."
I protested, backing away a step. "I don't think it's a good idea, not if you're going to act like this."
Henry pinched the bridge of his nose between two fingers, and all of a sudden I saw the tiredness there. Had he been sleeping at all? I fought the wave of concern that swamped me. "I promise to behave myself." When I still didn't move, he sighed. "Look, you were the one who was talking about making a scene."
To my chagrin, I realized he was right. I sat in the passenger seat with all the dignity I could dredge up after a long day.
The rain was falling harder now. It was quickly turning into a downpour, the water smacking the ground instead of kissing it. Far off in the distance, I heard thunder, and I grimaced. I hated thunderstorms.
And my eyes are screaming for the sight of you
And at night I'm dreaming of all the things that we've been through
Henry swung his door open, climbing into the passenger seat with his hair and shirt dappled by rain. "This is going to be an ugly storm," he remarked, and I made a commiserating noise. I crossed my arms and stared out the window. We spent the next minutes in silence. Twilight, that fleeting moment between dusk and nighttime, was upon Forks.
All of a sudden, lightning cracked in the sky, far too close for comfort. It illuminated Henry's face with eerie light, his hands firmly clenched on the steering wheel. Thunder boomed two seconds after, and I shrank down into my seat.
The violence of the weather fit my inner turbulence, even as they both frightened me.
And I can't hold on to you
So I guess I'll be lonely too
Of course, Henry noticed.
"What's the matter?"
"I'm not an idiot, Katie." I made a slightly disbelieving noise, and he sighed, letting that pass. "You don't like thunderstorms, do you?"
I scowled, mad that he could see through me so easily. "Maybe not," I conceded. Then it happened again, like nature was having a major temper tantrum, and even when I pressed my eyes tightly closed I could see the brightness, and hear the noise.
"We're almost there," Henry said reassuringly. I didn't move from my curled-up spot. "Hey. Look at me."
I warily eased one eye open, squinting at him. "What?"
There was mischief in his expression, and he made a funny face at me. Against my better judgment, I cracked up, easing back from my almost-fetal position without thinking. Henry cranked up the radio to drown out the thunder. "Better?" He asked.
I could still hear thunder in the background, but it was just an irregular drum beat against the music. "Yes," I said, still wary.
Without the thunder, the lightning alone didn't seem so frightening, but I still jumped a little when it flashed in the sky. Henry sighed. "I was hoping I wouldn't have to resort to this," he shouted over the loud music.
I frowned. "Resort to what?"
Henry began to sing along with the radio. Very loudly… and very off-key. I couldn't help myself; I doubled over laughing, and then I started to sing with him.
Since neither of us could sing, my face was hurting from smiling. My ribs ached from laughing. I had to hand it to him. Henry could distract me like nobody else. He had this… inner light in him, and he drew me like a moth to a flame. It felt so right to laugh and sing with him, to lose all sense of fear.
Still singing, we pulled into the hotel parking lot. Henry turned the engine off, and suddenly there was just silence.
Suppose we were happy
Suppose it was true
Oh, how I missed him. I didn't deny, just to myself, that I missed Henry. I missed teasing him, and seeing him smile for me, and being able to say and do anything and have him just… be there. I'd never had a relationship like that with anyone before, male or female. It was surprising how quickly I'd grown accustomed to something I had known would be transient.
Outside the window, the rain continued to pound the bumpy pavement. Lightning flashed, and it broke the stillness.
"Thank you," I said quietly, and all of the day's events rushed back into my consciousness. I returned to sanity reluctantly.
He glanced at me, a smile in his tired eyes. "For what? My incredible impromptu concert?"
I snorted. "I think everyone in Forks with hearing is thanking you for stopping." He put a hand to his heart, pretending to be wounded. "I miss you." The words slipped out; they were an inevitable result of the kiss, the meadow scene, the talking, the laughing.
Henry's eyes locked on mine before he turned away, staring out the window as I had done for much of the ride. "I miss you too."
And suppose there were cold nights
But we somehow made it through
I reached for the door handle, feeling awkward for having admitted to my weakness. What had happened to strength, and Katie power, and all that? I found that it was locked. Irritated, I hit the unlock button, but Henry locked it again.
Groaning, I flopped back against the seat. "Not again. Henry, I'm exhausted. Let's just go inside and forget this whole day ever happened, okay?"
"Okay," he said, and my eyes shot open again in suspicion. He sounded entirely too agreeable. "But there is a catch."
I groaned again. "What is it?"
"I'm going to ask you a question and I want you to answer me honestly. Then you can go and I promise I won't ever mention today again if you don't want me to."
Ouch, that was one dangerous catch. "Um… no."
"Have it your way." I could hear the amusement there, and oh-so-sneakily I crept my hand toward the unlock button. "Don't even try it. Either agree to answer my question, or we can just sleep in here tonight."
I stared at him without expression. "Do you realize how much of a butt you are?"
He laughed at me. "Yes. So which is it? Because I'm pretty comfortable right here."
Sighing, I considered the implications of both decisions. Just about when I'd decided to fall asleep where I was, it thundered again, and I jumped out of my skin. "Okay, okay," I said, hating myself. "I'll answer your question if you'll answer mine. And I get to go first."
Ick. Now I actually had to make up a question that he wouldn't want to answer, and when he wouldn't answer me, I would have a way out of answering his question. Man, I'm good. I chose carefully, picking a topic I knew he was uncomfortable with. I was uncomfortable too, but oh well. "If you love Megan so much you were ready to marry her, why do you do this?"
"You're going to have to elaborate," Henry said after it was clear I was finished. There was tension radiating from him now, but to my amazement he seemed to be thinking. Surely he wasn't going to answer me?
"If she's your one and only, why did you kiss me? Why don't you just let me move on? You have to realize that it's really hard for me to stay away from you as it is, but it's for my own good, and you're making it so much worse."
He was silent for so long I was sure he wasn't going to say anything. I started to prompt him and he held up one finger. "I'm thinking about how to put my answer." I stilled, my breath catching in my chest. All the lightning and thunder outside faded in comparison to my concentration.
Even worse, now that I'd put the question on the floor, I wasn't sure I wanted to know. If he did answer me, I'd have to answer him. Maybe I wasn't so smart after all…
"I told you… I'm confused right now," he began, and when I started to protest that that didn't explain anything, he reached over and put his finger against my mouth. I quieted, and he took his hand away. "I shouldn't have kissed you. I don't regret it, but I'm with Megan, and I shouldn't have done that."
I waited for him to continue, and he did.
"I'm confused because for the longest time, Megan was who I wanted. She was that girl I saw and instantly wanted to be with. She was… like fireworks. Bright and dazzling." He smiled wistfully, his eyes far away. "I felt so lucky that she wanted to be with me too. For the longest time I didn't see anything wrong with our relationship. Not until I met you."
Still I said nothing, for once just listening. I couldn't find any words to say.
"With you… it was so different. You were my friend first and foremost. I felt- no, I feel- so comfortable and easy with you. I don't feel the need to impress you, or be someone I'm not. With Megan, the problem was that I liked who I was for her. I didn't mind that it wasn't really me, not all the time. I didn't even notice it until things started to change with you and me, and by then, Megan and I had broken up so I felt like maybe I'd found the reason for everything that had happened. I didn't plan to love you this way."
I tried not to cringe. Me, the reason for everything that had happened? Hardly. And obviously, he couldn't love me that much, but I didn't interrupt.
"And then Megan came back. It repaired my pride, and I've been with her so long it just felt right to say yes to another try. But now, with both of you here, I don't know what I want. It doesn't feel the same anymore. I think about you when I'm with her and I want things I don't understand. It scares me. Megan is the safe option. I know what I have with her. But you… I don't know where I stand. I can't stop wanting to be near you, and I'm afraid it will never stop."
And suppose that I'm nothing without you.
My throat was locked up with a mix of emotions. I felt… worse and better at the same time. Better because I understood what he was thinking, and my heart was lighter for knowing that he wasn't playing with me. He couldn't help himself.
I wasn't the only one.
I felt worse because no matter what he said or did now, I was still second best. Second choice. No amount of heartfelt explaining, Pop-Tart sharing, or singing off-key would change that. Plus, he was still with Megan, which said something all by itself.
"What's your question?" I asked, my voice raspy. I didn't respond to his confession. I didn't know how to.
He stared at me for a moment, looking… disappointed. He recovered quickly. "What I asked earlier, when we were alone. Would you have told me to go to Megan or to stay with you?"
I flinched, like I had when lightning flashed- but this time it was worse, because there was no escaping Henry. This painful brightness wouldn't go away. It would illuminate us, even the things I wanted to keep in the dark.
"You promised to answer me," he reminded me.
"I know," I whispered, already regretting it. "Give me a second." He waited patiently, his gaze never leaving my face. "Why do you want to know?"
Henry smiled at me, his eyes bright in the shadows. "Now, now, don't go breaking the rules on me. A question for a question, and I already answered mine."
I shut my eyes. Looking at him would make getting the words out even more impossible. "I would have said… to go to her."
Peering tentatively at him, I saw the flash of hurt across his face before he hit the unlock button and schooled his face into an impassive mask. "That settles things, I suppose."
Desperate to make him understand, I reached out to take his wrist as he moved to open his door. "Let me say what I mean." His eyes flew to me, and there was pain there. As always, I had an impulse to take his pain away, and I was determined to try. "I would have told you to go because I wouldn't want you to resent me. It would have been selfish for me to ask you to stay, when so much of your life was with Megan for so long."
I had to swallow hard, throat aching all over again. "If I was choosing for myself, of course I would've wanted you to be with me. I loved you, Henry, in a way I've never loved anybody else. But if we were ever going to be together, there couldn't have been anything in the way. No baggage or regrets or maybes." Then I moved my hand from his wrist to his hand, covering it with mine, because I was afraid to say the next part. "But the truth is, you shouldn't have had to ask me. If I was what you wanted, then there shouldn't have been a decision to make."
His hand released the door handle. "You say you loved me in the past tense. It's not true anymore?"
I smiled at him tiredly. "A question for a question, and I've answered mine." I released him and opened the door; Henry let me go. After I entered the hotel lobby, I looked back to see that he was still sitting in the car, gazing in my direction.
It took everything I had, but I turned my back on him and went to my room.
My eyes are screaming for the sight of you
And tonight I'm dreaming of all the things that we've been through
Henry walked inside slowly, and he was soaked by the time he got to the lobby. Almost on autopilot, he went to Megan's room and knocked.
She opened the door, a cell phone attached to her ear. "Oh, hey, honey! Come on in." She leaned up to kiss him, not seeming to notice that Henry drew back from her a little. She talked on the phone. "Henry's here, dearest, so I'm going to talk to you later, okay? Love you bunches, let me know what happens with Milan."
The phone snapped shut and Megan smiled at him, her blinding white teeth glaringly obvious. Henry found himself wishing for a different smile- one with a tiny gap between the two front teeth, a smile that was a little rarer and a lot more sincere.
This had been happening for the past few days. He would see Megan, and he would try to feel happy and contented, but he couldn't get Katie out of his head. It was frustrating. Ever since their conversation at the overlook, she occupied his thoughts. He kept thinking about how to apologize, how to make it up to her and win her over.
All entirely inappropriate thoughts for a man who, a little over a month ago, had been prepared to ask a different girl to marry him; a girl who was standing in front of him, beautiful and sweet and intelligent.
"How was your day?" Megan asked, looping her hand through his arm and leading him over to the couch.
"Oh, good. You'll never guess what happened today. Camilia called, and she got me the most incredible audition in Tokyo. And I've been booked to do a spread in Seventeen! Oh, Henry, I can't believe it. I feel like the whole world is at my feet."
She was beaming at him, her enormous, innocent eyes sparkling in the lamplight. "That's great," he answered, and they lapsed into an awkward silence- the sort of silence that had been happening more and more often since she'd come back. "Megan, there's something I need to talk to you about."
"Of course, honey."
She sat patiently. Her hair, as always, floated around her, perfectly straight and glossy. She smelled of expensive perfume. Megan was what he had always wanted, the girl from his dreams that he had pictured himself with. But how much of her beauty was superficial? It seemed like all she talked about was her career. He'd bet she didn't even know what scene he had filmed today.
And I can't hold on to you
So I guess I'll be lonely too
Just to check, he asked: "Did I mention what we were working on today?" He knew he had- he'd left her a message this morning, in fact, after Bob had called- but for some reason he doubted she'd paid attention.
She smiled as prettily as ever. "I don't think so."
"The meadow scene," he told her. There was no recognition in Megan's eyes. No flicker of worry or even understanding. "It's… an important one," he said lamely.
Another awkward silence. "Megan… I kissed Katie today."
Was it just his imagination, or did her eyes narrow? "Oh, as part of the scene? Well, I'm glad you mentioned it, but it's only acting. I understand."
Henry braced himself and took her hand. "No. I mean… not when we were acting." He saw his meaning register, and she snatched her hand away.
"That slut," she growled. "I warned her, Henry. I know it isn't your fault, and you're too much of a gentleman to make it clear, but I told her she wasn't to play with you anymore. I can't believe she kissed you."
Now Henry was the one to pull away, standing up abruptly. "What are you talking about? Did you really just call her a… a slut?" The word came with difficulty to him, because that particular four-letter word and Katie simply didn't mesh.
Megan clapped her hand over her mouth. "Oh. I suppose so. I'm sorry… I overreacted." Her innocent eyes stared up at him. "She must have done this deliberately to hurt us. To hurt me."
He stared at her in disbelief, unable to recognize this… harpy as the woman he'd been with for three years. Had she always been like this, or had she changed? He didn't know, and he didn't especially care to find out. "Didn't you hear what I said, Megan? I kissed her." He put emphasis on 'I.' "I'm the one responsible, and I don't regret it."'
Tears spilled out of Megan's eyes, and she pushed him, making him stumble. "How could you do that to me? After I gave you another chance. After I gave you my trust. You didn't deserve it! You two deserve each other!"
"This is the first time I've ever done anything to earn your accusations, but you've never believed me," Henry said firmly. He felt plenty of emotions, but the primary one was anger. That day on set, what had Megan said to Katie? No wonder his friend had reacted the way she had. "You don't trust me- you never have- and that's not fair. I've always been honest with you, especially now."
Megan snorted derisively, and all of her perceived prettiness was changed into pettiness with that one revealing expression. "Like I'm supposed to believe that."
"Believe what you want," Henry said, and he was partly in shock. How had things escalated into this breakdown? He couldn't find it in himself to apologize, though, because he didn't know what he would apologize for. He didn't regret kissing Katie and he didn't regret telling Megan the truth. "I think you'd better pack, Megan. We're done here. Good luck in Milan, or Tokyo, or wherever the hell it is you left your soul."
He stormed out the door, and when he arrived at his own room, somehow he couldn't make himself go in. He needed… Katie. Of course he did. He needed to tell her he was sorry, he'd been stupid, it was his fault. He needed to know if she could forgive him.
Of all the mistakes he'd ever made, this had to be the biggest.
Slow way down
This breakdown's eating me alive
(back to Katie's POV)
Jason intercepted me on the way to my room. "Hey, Katie." I stared at him blankly. It was late in the evening and I was tired. What could he possibly want?
"Hi, Jason," I said politely. "We didn't have any work scheduled, did we?"
He grinned, looking completely unabashed. "No. This is pleasure, not business."
"Oh. Okay. What's up?" I was drawing a blank. If this wasn't about my failure to learn Spanish grammar and trig identities in my spare time, what could be so important he'd seek me out?
"I want to ask you a question, and I want you to answer me honestly."
What was up with everyone asking me personal questions today? Seriously. I was done. After I got through whatever Jason had in store for me, I was going into my room, curling up on the couch with a pillow over my head, and sleeping for twelve hours. No more people, please.
"All right, what is it?" I finally grumbled.
"I realize that back in L.A., our date didn't go so well." Jason bulldozed on despite my stunned expression. "But I really do like you. I think you're amazing, and I can't help hoping that maybe... Do you think that you could give me one more chance, and I can promise not to go all psycho?"
He smiled at me, and I was flabbergasted. "I… um…" I ran a hand through my hair self-consciously. I didn't want to hurt his feelings, but neither did I especially want to date him. His slightly maniacal tendencies concerned me.
But then again, everyone has their little quirks. "Why not?" I shrugged nonchalantly, fighting the sinking feeling in my stomach. This was a good thing, I told myself. It would take my mind off of Henry, and I needed a distraction. Plus… maniacal tendencies aside, Jason was pretty cute.
All righty then. "Really?" Jason exclaimed, and he gave me a one-armed hug. "That's great! I checked your schedule, and you have tomorrow afternoon free. Want to go get lunch or something?"
I held up my hand. "Jason, if you really want another chance, you're going to have to stop this control thing. Yes, that sounds fine, but from now on my schedule is my issue, all right?"
He looked a little shamefaced. "Absolutely. Sorry!"
"It's okay. Good night," I said, yawning. He kissed me on the cheek before letting me go. I didn't feel repulsion, or attraction. I just… didn't really care, either way, and I knew that that wasn't necessarily a good thing, but I was done with pining over Henry. He needed to see that. Everyone needed to see that I was stronger than one setback.
And I'm tired
This fire is fighting to survive
I dug my room key out of my pocket, happy to see my temporary hotel-room home. My mom was waiting for me, sitting with dinner in front of the TV. "Hi, Katie dear," she greeted me. "How was your day?"
Fighting a burst of (only slightly) hysterical laughter, I swallowed down my instinctive answer and went the safe route. "Lots of rain."
She rolled her eyes. "Well, that's not exactly a surprise in Forks. Were you able to get your scene filmed before this storm began?"
I sat down and picked up a plate, chowing down on pizza and a fruit tray (my mom loves junk food, but hates the guilt trip, so she frequently combines junk and healthy food in an effort to balance it all out. Go figure.). "Yeah. We had to take a break in the afternoon while it rained, but we got it done in time."
Mom and I watched TV together for a bit, and then she sighed. "It's still storming."
"Nothing like stating the obvious," I replied, and she smacked me on the knee. The thunder still freaked me out a little, but inside a sturdy building with food and a TV on, it wasn't bad.
"I was hoping to get a driving lesson in," she said, pouting. "We're already getting behind schedule!" She pulled out an Excel spreadsheet with… a syllabus and a schedule for my driving lessons. Just what I needed.
"That's a shame," I said. "But since there's a storm on and all, I think I'll hit the sack."
I had to hint a couple more times before Mom finally got up and went into the bedroom. I changed into pajamas before snuggling happily beneath the blankets on the couch. Ah... Sleep.
The phone rang just as I settled my head on the pillow. I moaned, flinging my hand out to bring the loud device toward me. I cracked one eye open to see the caller ID.
I was immobilized. I couldn't hit ignore; I couldn't answer. Not now, I thought. It's too soon.
The phone went to voicemail, cutting off quickly. I sighed in relief, trying to get blissfully snuggly again, and then the shrill ring knifed through the air once more.
My mom called from the next room, "Are you going to answer that, or sit there and stare at it?"
Filled with trepidation, I hit the talk button and pressed the phone close to my ear. "Hello?"
Tell me a secret (I want it)
Tell me a story (I need it)
"I need to talk to you," Henry whispered. His accented voice played across my starving ears like music. The phone had excellent speakers. It was the strangest thing- surround sound. Almost as though he were standing outside the door…
""Didn't we just do that? I thought I made it pretty clear I was done for the day, Henry," I said. I didn't mean to sound irritated, but really, first he acted like he wanted nothing to do with me- then he wouldn't leave me alone. I would never understand the half of my species that possessed a Y chromosome.
"Katie, please. I need you. I know it's selfish, and I don't deserve it, but I need my friend."
I could hear the tears he was trying to hold back, and instantly I sat up, jamming my feet into flip-flops and scribbling a hasty note to my mother, who was already snoring again. "Where are you?"
"Outside your door."
"I'm coming, hold on." I undid the night latch and slipped out. I knew I looked like crap, in baggy pajama pants and an oversized t-shirt, but if Henry needed me, none of it mattered.
And there he was- still in today's clothes, tears trickling down his face. I shut the door behind me, leaving us relatively alone in the hallway. Slowly, I hung up, and so did he. "What's wrong?
His face was pale, the dark circles under his eyes even more evident than they had been earlier. "I broke up with Megan." My heart ached to see him hurting. I wrapped my arms around him, trying to take the hurt into myself. I could stand to see his eyes cold and emotionless, or even angry with me, but filled with pain? I didn't have it in me to turn him away.
"I'm sorry, Henry," I said softly. He held on to me like a life raft.
"I'm not. I know it was the right thing." Henry spoke with conviction.
I rubbed his back gently, amazed that I had the power to comfort him. "That doesn't stop it from hurting, does it?" I asked, still quiet, mindful of the rooms around us.
He pulled away and I saw his eyes were reddened, but now dry. "No," he agreed. "Can we go somewhere?"
I nodded. "I'm here." He took my hand and we walked to the back of the hotel. The rain was still pouring outside, so we sat in the laundry room, which was quiet and deserted this late.
I'll listen attentively
I'll stay awake all night
Henry stared at me, still holding onto my hand. For once, I felt needed. I felt wanted. It was addicting, and if I let this moment affect me, I knew I'd forgive and forget everything between us faster than I could snap my fingers.
"Do you want to talk about it?" I asked tentatively.
He leaned his head back against the wall. "I just… I could see that she wasn't who I thought she was, you know? She wasn't who I needed." Henry looked over at me. "What did she say to you, that day on set? I asked once, and you wouldn't tell me."
I cleared my throat quietly. "That's because I think it's better to just let it get buried. It doesn't matter."
"It matters to me. I know you wouldn't lie."
There was so much earnestness in his words, and his face was open like a book. I shifted, only then realizing our hands were still linked. My face flushed and gently I tried to pull away. He pulled back. "She told me to stay away from you," I said with a casual shrug. "Typical female marking her territory. Nothing major."
Henry touched my chin with his free hand, turning my face towards him. So close to him. Too close. "Is that everything?"
All I need is a whisper
(So don't leave)
I blinked, and I could feel my face reddening even more. "It's all that matters."
"Did she call you a name?" He asked. I could hear anger lacing his voice like an undercurrent.
How did he know? I didn't want to begin tossing mud on Megan, even though she definitely deserved it. That wasn't the way to handle anything. "Henry, it's in the past."
"I told her I kissed you."
I froze, my hand clenching in his. "Why on earth did you do that?" I yelped. Visions of being murdered with a mascara wand floated through my imagination.
"Because I needed to be honest. She… didn't take it well." His smile was wry and bitter. "I've never seen her like that, Katie. I didn't know. I guess, even after three years, I didn't really know her at all." I hated to see him cynical. He had such a big heart, and people took advantage of it too often. Like me? I wondered uneasily, remembering that when we had met, Henry had reached out to read lines with me, to make me more comfortable, to help me. He was just the white knight type.
There's nothing left in me
(Please help me)
"She hides it really well," I whispered, not looking at him. "I even liked her when I met her in Los Angeles." There were so many unanswered questions. Questions I didn't want to answer and didn't want to ask. My traitorous heart was just happy to sit here, and be near to Henry. "It isn't your fault. You always believe the best of people."
He started to say something else, but I cut him off. "I don't care about her or anything she said. What I care about is whether or not you're okay."
He squeezed my hand tightly. "I am now." He seemed to choose his words gingerly. "I left her, and I didn't want to be alone. I wanted you." I started to blink hard. I will not cry. I won't let him do that to me. "All I could think about was how stupid I'd been. And how I could earn your trust again." Taking my other hand with his, and forcing me to face him, he said, "I don't want to have to be without you. I felt like a part of me was missing every time I saw you, and didn't say anything. Every time I wanted to hold your hand and couldn't."
Not even my body is strong enough to fight
(Let's make this right)
Please help me make this right
"Henry, stop," I said, cutting him off again. There were some things it would be better to leave unsaid- at least for now. I looked down at our hands, entwined, and I sighed- half in longing, wishing I could give up the fight to stay strong; and half in sadness, knowing that if I did that, I'd lose some of my newfound self-respect.
"I missed you," I told him. "I do miss you. But that doesn't change the fact that we've both messed up a lot. We can't rewrite anything that happened. I feel like I'm second best, that I don't matter. I know that that might seem stupid to you, but it's how I feel."
"It is stupid," he agreed. "Because it isn't true, and it never was, even when I couldn't see what was really important- but I get it." Henry stared into my eyes, like a scene from a movie, and asked: "Can you forgive me? Not this second, or tomorrow, but can you?"
Suppose that I was wrong
Suppose you were here
I looked at him- really looked at him. I looked past the surface, which admittedly was handsome and incredible and what had first drawn me to him. I looked at Henry, who despite everything I still loved more than anyone else. He had an amazing ability to draw me out of my shell, to take away all my fears, to make me hope for things I'd never even thought of before.
Henry, who knew me better than even my parents. Henry, who was the only person who knew all my vulnerabilities, the only person who I didn't doubt would catch me if I fell. If I would give in, we'd go back to how we had been, and maybe more.
There was a fragile moment where all our secrets seemed to be tossed into the air, and wherever they fell was out of my control.
Swallowing hard, I stared at my knees. "Yes." Out of the corner of my eye I saw a smile begin on his face and reach his eyes. "But it might take a little while. If you really do want to be with me, you're going to have to wait until I'm ready."
Henry, still holding my hands, nodded. "That's fair," he said softly. The smile still curved his mouth, and the tiredness seemed to have disappeared from his face. It thundered outside, but I wasn't scared. He drew me close, and I rested my head on his shoulder in contentment.
And suppose that I reached out and caught your tears
And suppose this fight just disappeared.
"If we're calling a truce," I said, "there's probably something I should mention." He looked down at me, his eyebrows raised in question. "I'm going to go on a date with Jason."
Henry's expression barely changed- he was good at controlling himself- but I saw a telltale darkening in his eyes. "Why?"
I shrugged. "He's cute, and friendly. Besides, don't you believe people deserve second chances?" My question seemed innocent, but we both knew that there was only one logical way for him to answer.
"Well… yes, but within reason!" He exclaimed. "Is this to punish me? Because if it is, pick something else. Something that doesn't make me worry about you."
I shook my head, laughing. "Not everything is about you, Henry," I chided. "I genuinely think that Jason acts so strange because he's insecure. Maybe, if he gets more comfortable, we'll really like each other."
Henry glared at me, his mouth set, and I smiled sweetly up at him. Of course, I added mentally, giving you a taste of your own medicine is an added bonus. Let's see if you like being the second choice.
And my eyes are screaming for the sight of you
And at night I'm dreaming of all the things that we've been through
My friend is a much wiser man than I generally give him credit for, because he knows when to fight… and when to retreat. "You're not going to budge on this, are you?"
"Nope," I said agreeably.
"Fine. But going on a date with him… would you call it being in a relationship?"
I should have noticed the renewed glint in his eyes, but I was too focused on trying to decide the best answer. "Not really. At least, not yet."
Henry grinned, and with his arms around me, he murmured in my ear, "Excellent. Then I reserve the right to try to change your mind." Softly, he kissed the hollow beneath my ear. I shivered.
I tried to push him off, and failed. "You're not playing fair."
He seemed to consider my accusation for a second, and then he leaned in to kiss me before I knew what he was doing. His lips met mine for the second time today, and I couldn't breathe. Sensation shot up and down my spine, and deep in my stomach, I felt a strange little tug.
Henry lifted his head, a tiny smile on his lips. The lips I'd just kissed. Oh, good heavens- literally. "Have it your way. I'll play fair… unless you tell me otherwise." He stood, and I wanted to protest, already missing his warmth and touch. Still… I was the one who had mentioned Jason, and I felt a twinge of guilt.
I took Henry's hand to stand up, and although I never would've admitted it, I was disappointed when he let my hand go. He made it seem so effortless, like it didn't bother him at all.
He walked me back to my room, and I faced him, the room key in my hand. I gazed up at his face, scanning it for any trace left of pain, anger, or sorrow. "You're okay, right?"
"Never better," he answered.
I was sure a smile spread on my face from ear to ear, but I simply said, "Good night."
"Good night." Henry turned and walked away. Taking a deep breath, trying to absorb everything that had just happened, I let myself into my room and fell onto the couch.
That night, I dreamed, and there were no more nightmares.
And I can't hold on to you
So I guess I'll be lonely too
But I'd rather be here, with you.
AN: Thanks for reading and let me know what you think!