Chapter 12

He shouldn't have felt this wild need to go after Vinnie and make him pay for the things he had done. Okay, so maybe that was a natural reaction after everything he had been through because of Vinnie but he knew it wasn't what Tracy would have wanted. She would have wanted him to be the bigger person and let it go. He tried. It wasn't working. He found himself parked outside of the Von Tussel home in a mental tug of war. He finally had Tracy back, that was what mattered. They had a lot to work through but at least they were together, despite how much their relationship had suffered. He should let it go. He should let Vinnie walk away from this and be satisfied with the idea of never having to see his despicable face again. He should resist the urge to destroy that evil perfect face. All of the angry emotions he felt were still running fresh in his veins. He couldn't do it. No matter how against violence Tracy was. No matter how much Vinnie apologized. He got out of his car and rounded the vehicle heading straight for the front door of the house. He clenched his fist, the muscles in his arms tightening as he walked up the steps trying not to think of Tracy's face or the way the disapproval in her eyes would have looked at this very moment. Vinnie had put them through so much hell. He had to pay for it. What kind of man would have just let him get away with all this? He was pretty sure Vinnie wouldn't be a problem anymore though. It seemed like he was leaving and would soon be a distant memory. Link grudgingly thought, maybe he should just let it go. It would make Tracy proud. The thought made him smile and he grunted feeling confused. Suddenly the door opened and Vinnie was standing in front of him.

Vinnie shut the door behind him looking Link over with a sigh. He eyed his clenched fist and noted the anger still fuming in his blue eyes. He didn't seem surprised by Link's appearance, or scared either. He looked tired, like he'd been through a lot. They stared at each other silently for a moment before Link even realized Vinnie had a bag in his hand. He placed the bag down on the ground. Perhaps he was prepared for a fight? Link was always more of a lover than a fighter but in this one instant he would have loved nothing more than to beat Vinnie's face in. Before Vinnie could utter a word, Link had him slammed against the wall, his fingers dug tightly into his sweater. It knocked the wind out of Vinnie and Link tightened his hold, fury strongly burning in his blue eyes. Vinnie glared into his eyes hard but he didn't attempt to defend himself or to loosen Link's hold on him.

"You're a Von Tussel." Link stated shaking his head, the anger he felt still clouding his mind. He wasn't asking. Vinnie already confirmed this fact.

"Yes." Vinnie answered locking eyes with Link. Link slammed him against the wall again, and Vinnie remained in the same position as before. If it had hurt, he wasn't letting on. "I'm not going to fight you Link. If you still want to kick my ass, I'll let you. I'll stand here and take it like a man. I deserve it." He admitted. His eyes were burning into Link. Link could tell he meant it. It was then, that Link noticed the right side of Vinnie's face was already swelling.

"Looks like I'm not the only one who wants to teach you a lesson." Link snarled eyeing his right cheekbone. Vinnie smiled grimly.

"No, you're certainly not. Velma took a shot at me. Although I'm more worried what she has planned for Amber." Vinnie explained and the truth was he should have been getting out of there as fast as he could. He wasn't sure what Velma was planning and he wanted to get back to his mother. Velma still seemed to be in shock which bought him some time. She would eventually seek some sort of revenge and he knew when it came to Velma she always tried to hit right where it hurts. If she wanted to get back at him, she wouldn't do anything directly to him. No, she would try to take it out on his mother. And then Vinnie would be put in prison for murdering his Aunt. He cringed at the thought.

"Because you two didn't complete her plan." Link nodded slowly loosening his grip.

"Precisely. It's nothing." Vinnie answered referring to the swelling of his cheek. "My father will do much worse. Can we get this over with? I need to get back to my mother's." He added referring to whatever sort of beating Link had come to give him. Link let him go but continued to glare into his eyes.

"Why did you do it? I know you apologized, and that Velma put you up to it, but I want to know why you did it? What was in it for you? Was Velma paying you?" Link asked. He deserved to know why.

"Yes, money and a lead spot on her new show was a part of the deal but that's not why I did it." Vinnie answered honestly.

"Then, why?" Link demanded.

"What would you give to be able to see your mother again Link?" Vinnie questioned and the look in Link's eyes was immediately pained. He wasn't sure where Vinnie was going with this or what any of this had to do with his mother. "I know it's a sensitive issue for you, but what would you do to be able to see her again? To be able to have her in your life?" He continued.

"Anything." Link answered. It was impossible to hide the raw emotion in his voice. Vinnie nodded as if he already knew the answer.

"When she was alive...what would you have done to protect her?" Vinnie asked.

"Anything." Link answered immediately again. "But what does this have to do with..." He began.

"It was my mother's idea for me to come and stay with Velma, it wasn't something I wanted to do. My mother was more concerned with protecting me then her own well being. My father is an alcoholic and he tends to be pretty abusive. I want more than anything to save her and get her out of there before it's too late. Velma promised me she would help me do just that, all I had to do was help her take down the Corny Collins show. I wasn't expecting to feel any remorse or for Tracy to affect me in any way. I thought it would all be easy..." Vinnie explained looking away feeling guilty.

"Now what about your mother?" Link asked with concern in his voice. Suddenly, he understood so much better. He still thought what Vinnie did was wrong and disgusting but he couldn't hate him for it. He would have done the same if it meant protecting his mother when she was alive, he was sure of it.

"She wasn't happy when she found out what I was up too. She promised she'd finally leave my father if it meant I didn't turn into someone like him." Vinnie answered finally meeting Link's eyes and was surprised to see that hateful glare was replaced with warm understanding. It was strange because in a way he knew that if anyone could understand, it was Link.

"Do you think she really will?" Link asked.

"I don't know. She never has in the past, but all I can do is hope and try to get her out of there. My grandmother has a house here and we could go stay with her. My father should be out of town, but if he shows up when we are trying to leave it won't be pretty. I also don't know what Velma is planning..." Vinnie explained.

"You don't think she would..." Link began and his eyes widened.

"I know she would. Family or not, if Velma doesn't get what she wants there is hell to pay. She knows the best way to hurt me is by hurting my mother. So if the thought occurs to her..." Vinnie trailed off. "I'm really relying on her state of shock right now. That and I am sure she is going to deal with Amber first. But then....hell hath no fury like that woman scorned." He chuckled humorlessly.

"Do want help?" Link asked suddenly and he didn't know who was more surprised to here the words come out his mouth mouth, he or Vinnie. "I could get Seaweed and some of the other guys together and we can help you move to your grandmother's house. With all of us, we'd be done faster, plus if your father showed up....he can't take us all." He grinned with a shrug.

"You really think the Council Kids are gonna want to help me after everything I did?" Vinnie laughed and the sound was more genuine this time.

"No, but I never thought in a million years that I would want to help you either." Link reminded thoughtfully.

"Why would you? After everything I've done." Vinnie shook his head. Link thought it over for a moment. Vinnie's reasons didn't excuse his actions but Link understood. Vinnie was desperate and trying to protect someone he cared about. He had done awful things to save someone he loved. Then, he risked everything just so he could set things right. Link could hear Tracy's lovely voice in his head and he knew exactly why he needed to help Vinnie.

"Because it's what's right." Link smiled easily like the answer was simple and right there in front of them all along. Vinnie couldn't help but smile back.

One Month Later

A month had gone by since Link gathered some of the guys together, and helped Vinnie move from his father's house to his grandmother's. They were lucky and the move went surprisingly smoothly. Vinnie's father wasn't happy when he found out but there wasn't much he could do. Vinnie's mother was trying to keep her word and stay out of the abusive relationship but his father continued to harass them. Tracy was surprised when she found out Link actually helped Vinnie, but there was no denying the pride in her eyes. He knew it was exactly what she would of done despite everything. The only negative was that, since Vinnie was also staying with his grandmother, he was still attending the same school as them. Link was looking forward to life without Vinnie. Yes, he helped Vinnie when he needed it, but that didn't mean they were friends or that he wanted him sticking around. Vinnie kept his word that he wouldn't be any trouble though. He wasn't on the Corny Collins show anymore, and was barely noticeable in school because he'd taken to keeping to himself. Many of the other kids shunned him since his stunt on the show but Link had a feeling the isolation was also self-inflicted. Vinnie wasn't the center of attention. He wasn't trying to be. He wanted to blend in.

Things were slowly starting to get back on track with Link and Tracy. Since getting back together, finding any real alone time was difficult. Edna refused to take an eye off of them and if she did let them out of her sight other than for school or the show, she insisted they have someone with them. It didn't help that she somehow found out Link's house had a decided lack of adult supervision. Things had gotten much more strict ever since the 'condom incident.' Link still wanted to kill Vinnie for that one. It was kind of hard to really be together or work on their relationship with Edna constantly breathing done their necks. Between school, the Corny Collins show and Edna's watchful eye, alone time was hard to come by. So could anyone really blame them during those moments where they acted as if no one else was in the room?

Link's lips curved into a smile. He studied Tracy with hungry eyes when he should have been concentrating on his homework. She had a dreamy smile on her face too, so he reckoned there was no way it had to do with the subject she must have been thinking about something else. Maybe about how much she wanted to be alone with him? He had to admit the thought was plaguing him, ever since he decided he was ready for this relationship. He was ready to open up and let her see the real him, or at least he was going to try to be. That was if he ever got a second alone with her. Right now they were at a diner that had become popular with the kids from the Corny Collins show. Coincidentally, Link was surprised to find out that Vinnie now worked at the diner after school. Apparently, Vinnie was trying to help his family out financially. Poor Penny had been assigned as Link and Tracy's babysitter by Edna. Link nearly forgot the quiet girl, who always looked so sad, was even with them.

Tracy pressed her lips together and it reminded Link that he hadn't gotten to kiss her as much as he wanted too. It sucked because they already lost so much time with all the recent drama. Tracy finally looked over at him, an angelic smile spreading across her face.

"What?" Tracy smiled curiously. But Link didn't say anything, instead he leaned in and kissed her softly. Penny looked away awkwardly.

"Excuse me, but this is a family restaurant." Vinnie grinned placing Penny's 3rd chocolate malt in front of her. Link and Tracy broke apart. Tracy sent him a glare and Link just rolled his eyes.

"Von Tussel..." Link sighed. Vinnie grinned, he hadn't come over to cause trouble. He kept out of their hair quite well, if he did say so himself. There was nothing he could do to change the things he'd done, but that didn't mean he couldn't try to make amends. From what he'd heard through the grapevine, Mama Turnblad had become a lot more strict. He was pretty sure that was his fault.

"Look, if you two want to get out of here I can look after Penny, until you guys head home." Vinnie offered and received looks of horror, disgust and confusion.

"What?! I'm not spending anytime with you." Penny cringed wide-eyed.

"Suit yourself if you'd rather feel like a third wheel, and if you two enjoy making her uncomfortable." Vinnie answered throwing a look between Link and Tracy before walking off. Tracy's mouth dropped open in rage and Penny stared down at her hands quietly. Tracy jumped up from the table and followed after him.

"Vinnie, where do you get off?!" Tracy demanded. He was now behind the counter, filling up another customer's coffee.

"Is that really an appropriate question? I told you this is a family restaurant." Vinnie grinned wickedly and she scoffed in disgust. He walked down to the end of the counter where no one was sitting and Tracy followed him. She stood right in front of him with her arms firmly crossed over her chest. Crap, he definitely ticked her off. "I was trying to help." He offered more seriously.

"By making Penny feel like crap?!" Tracy snapped heatedly.

"Okay, so I could have approached it differently." Vinnie allowed and Tracy raised an eyebrow that told him 'Ya think?.' "You don't think you're making her feel like crap by making out with your boyfriend in front of her while she's still nursing a broken heart?" He pointed out. Tracy's jaw dropped.

"I wasn't..." Tracy answered quickly but was cut off.

"It's no secret you've been on lockdown, my fault, I apologize for that." Vinnie offered. Tracy gave him a look but he seemed like he was being sincere. That was the problem though, he always seemed that way. He faked their entire friendship!

"Penny has been forced to go with you two on all your little dates and witness all of your couple moments, while you and Link are forced to never be alone together. It can't be easy for anyone involved. But a good friend would notice how miserable she looks." He reasoned hoping she would understand what he was saying. He didn't want to offend her any further. He was actually trying to help.

"Don't you dare tell me about friendship." Tracy spat. Their eyes locked and Vinnie gave her an understanding nod. He had no right to really say anything, especially about friendship after everything he'd done to her. But he was trying to help her in this instant. He could tell she wanted to be alone with Link, and he had been the cause of so much strain in their relationship, the least he could do was help them to get a few hours alone together. Tracy placed her hands on her hips. "What makes you think I would trust you with my best friend anyway? Haven't you hurt enough people I care about?" She reminded and there was no hiding the hurt in her eyes when she said this.

"You're right. You have no reason to trust me." Vinnie agreed. He and Tracy never got the chance to talk after everything that happened. He figured he was the last person she wanted to hear from and he was probably right. He already apologized and there wasn't much more he could say or do. So he just kept his distance, because he couldn't make it better. "I'm trying Tracy. That's all I can do. I can say every word you want to hear and it's not going to mean anything unless I prove it. It's going to take time. I don't blame you if you can't believe that but I'll show you because I owe that much to you." He answered sincerely. It felt refreshing to be completely honest and own up to it all. They looked at each other silently for a moment. She was a beautiful person, he had to admit. He wasn't sure how he'd missed it before. It was almost hard to believe there was a time he was repulsed by her, or when spending time with her was an effort. A time when he thought he was too good for her. An arrogance he must have gotten from his father. Now he could only wish that she would find it in her heart to forgive, when he knew she'd never be able to look at him the same and he didn't deserve her too. He had to rely on that heart of hers that he considered a weakness for so long, and hope that he hadn't damaged it enough to really change her.

Tracy chewed on her bottom lip uncertainly. As much as she wanted to spend time alone with Link, she couldn't just leave Penny alone with someone like Vinnie. She already experienced him at his worst. She could only imagine what else he was capable off. She promised herself she wouldn't give him the chance to hurt her or anyone she cared about ever again. He seemed sincere but he was good with words and an even better actor.

"I can't do that to Penny." Tracy shook her head not noticing Penny and Link both approaching from her side.

"Yes, you can." Penny spoke up to everyone's surprise. Was Penny serious?! "You should go. This might be the only chance you'll have to spend alone with Link for a long time. I'll be fine." She added with a quick reassuring smile. Her smile didn't quite meet her eyes but that was nothing new these days. Tracy wasn't quite convinced. Why would Penny agree to be left alone with Vinnie when just a moment ago she looked a mix between disgust and horror at the very idea?

"But..." Tracy began to argue.

"I'm serious Tracy, it's fine." Penny answered giving her friend an encouraging nod. Tracy really wanted to believe her but something didn't feel right. Vinnie was slime. Ugh, she didn't know what to do. Part of her was begging to run off with Link and the other part was screaming that this wasn't a good idea.

"I'm sure it'll be fine Trace." Link pitched in draping an arm around her shoulders. Link thought this was a good idea? Had everyone gone mental?! This was Vinnie Von Tussel they were talking about. The guy that wreaked havoc in their lives for months. "And if Vinnie does anything to make us regret this decision, he'll pay for it later." He added with a grin trying to sooth the worry from Tracy's face. Link hadn't gone crazy but for some reason he trusted Vinnie in this case. He couldn't sense any kind of hidden agenda. Maybe he was being selfish but he wanted some time with Tracy to himself. Even if that meant sneaking it and leaving Penny in the hands of Vinnie.

"Oh please, Larkin." Vinnie rolled his eyes and grinned.

"I'll be fine." Penny insisted. Tracy sighed, the stern look Penny was giving her, told her to go.

"Are you sure?" Tracy asked with a worried look, throwing a glance at Vinnie.

"Yes, now go!" Penny answered practically pushing Tracy and Link toward the door. Link grabbed a hold of Tracy's hand and pulled her along.

"No funny stuff Von Tussel." Link called over his shoulder. Tracy looked back, the worried look still not quite disappearing from her face. The door shut behind them and Penny let out a heavy sigh. She looked worn out, defeated and really sad.

"So, what should we do?" Vinnie grinned trying to distract Penny. She looked like she was about to cry. He wasn't so good with that kind of thing. He was usually the cause of it.

"What?" Penny asked harshly. She shook her head in disbelief. "I'm not actually going to hang out with you. I just said that so she would go and not feel bad. The last thing I need is their pity. Like you said I wouldn't want to be their third wheel when they obviously want to be alone." She explained and the last part came out sounding more bitter than she meant for it too. She couldn't help it. Maybe she was bitter. She was a lot of things right now.

"Why didn't you let them know they were making you feel that way?" Vinnie asked curiously.

"Because." Penny snapped.

"Great answer. Well, you're not going anywhere without me. I promised I would look after you." Vinnie reasoned with a smile that just angered her even more.

"I'd be better off without you." Penny rolled her eyes.

"I gave them my word." Vinnie shrugged.

"Your word means crap." Penny reminded with a cynical laugh.

"I'm trying to change that." Vinnie offered with a grin. "And luckily for you, I'm off in..." He continued looking down at his watch. He held up one finger. "Wait, for it."

"I'd rather not." Penny replied dryly.

"Now! Lucky you." Vinnie smiled pulling off his work hat and apron. "Whatever happened to the sweet, bubbly Penny? I liked her." He asked as they headed for the door.

"She got dumped for your cousin." Penny answered throwing a look over her shoulder right at him. This time he wasn't smiling. She walked off and he was out the door in and instant trying to catch up with her.

Tracy and Link walked hand in hand into the Elementary School Auditorium they both attended as children. She was a bit surprised that this was where he wanted to bring her. It wasn't what she was expecting when he said it was somewhere that held a special place in his heart. She was still worried about Penny, but those thoughts were somehow pushed to the back of her mind and forgotten. She was alone with Link. Something that hadn't happened since they'd gotten back together. It felt so good to hold his hand and feel his body close beside her. The silence so far didn't even matter because they were together. She almost felt like breathing a sigh of relief. Between all the drama they'd been through, and now her mother always being on their case it was like they never got a chance to just be. The time was never enough and she knew this moment wouldn't last nearly as long as she wanted it too so she needed to soak it in and treasure it. They walked down the isle toward the auditorium stage and a smile spread across Link's face. His smile and the look on his face was nostalgic and bittersweet, like he was remembering something that made him happy and sad all at the same time.

Tracy watched him in wonder and followed along when he led her up the stage steps. He pulled her to the center of the stage, where he stood silently for a moment. He looked out at the empty seats. He remembered standing on this very stage when he was a child. His memories were clear and vivid yet somehow they still felt faded and too far away. Tracy supportively squeezed his hand causing him to shake his head and come out of whatever daze he was in. He looked down at her with a small smile gracing his beautiful face. Tracy sighed. He was so dreamy. He still made her heart flutter. He leaned down and pressed a soft kiss against her forehead. Somehow, her lips felt jealous. He smiled again, at the look on her face.

"So, this is the special place you wanted to show me?" Tracy asked with a bright smile and the raise of an eyebrow. She looked angelic. He couldn't imagine losing her, not ever.

"I've had a lot of good and bad memories on this stage." Link smiled down at her.

"I'd think any memory of you on a stage would be a good one." Tracy offered thinking back to the first time he ever really noticed her at the Hop. His voice sounded like velvet when he sang 'Ladie's Choice' that day. She'd never forget the sexy way he moved his hips or the alluring look in his eyes when he watched her dance. It got her flustered just thinking about it and she could feel her cheeks burn crimson. He smiled and softly brushed his thumb against the blush on her cheeks. If only he knew.

"I remember when I performed my first solo on this stage. It was one of my mom's favorite songs. She used to listen to it all the time when she was doing chores. Sometimes I think music was her escape from it all. I guess I'm the same in that way. I was so nervous I kept my eyes shut through the entire song. But when I opened them, she was crying. She looked so proud. I knew in that moment that I always wanted to be able to make her look that way. I told her how much I loved performing and she said I had a gift. She was always there anytime I wanted to do something. She would never miss a show." Link explained. Tracy held his hand tighter. His eyes were glistening and emotion was written all over his face. He looked away from her out to the empty seats.

"My father never came to any of my shows, not one. He didn't understand why I spent so much time singing and dancing. He thought it was something more for girls. He wanted me to be out playing sports and what not. There was one night, it was our final show of the school year. My mother and I begged him to go but he wouldn't. I'd went to the school early with one of my friends. I hated it when they fought, especially when it was because of me. So, he decided he didn't want her to go either. They fought and he refused to let her take the car. He claimed he had plans with a work friend but he was a no good liar." He shook his head. There was a pool of tears welled up in his blue eyes and Tracy could feel herself tearing up too. She silently rubbed his arm with her other hand. He was finally opening up to her.

"She knew how much it meant to me, for her to be there. It meant the world for her too. She couldn't miss it. She wouldn't. So, she decided to just walk to the school." Link choked on the emotion as the last word rolled out. He blinked and the tears streamed down his face but more just came gushing to his eyes like a never ending river. Tracy felt hot tears cover her own face too and this wasn't even her memory. Seeing him like this made her heart feel like it was being strangled. "But she never made it." He sobbed looking down at his feet.

"I sang my heart out that night. It was one of my best performances ever. Then, when I got off the stage my teacher told me that my mother was hit by a car on her way to the school." Her arms were around him in an instant and they cried together. He cried harder. His body quaked in her arms and all of his pain was now hers too.

"Link, I'm so sorry." Tracy murmured softly because it was all she could do.

"You know what the worst part is?" Link spoke into her shoulder, holding her tightly.

"What?" She asked sadly rubbing his back trying to comfort him.

"He was off screwing his secretary when she was dying." Link answered. Tracy could feel his hot tears on her shirt. "That's why he needed the car." She could hear the disgust and bitterness dripping from his words. He pulled away to look her in the eyes. She could barely take the look on his face. If she wasn't already crying so much, she would have been a wreck from just looking at him. She hated seeing him in this kind of pain. She would have taken it all on herself if it would have saved him from it. Link slowly brushed his hands against her face wiping away her tears and looking into her eyes.

"I'm so sorry." Tracy breathed. Link shook his head.

"You were like a ray of light on a dark day. I'm so scared of what I feel when I'm with you." Link admitted and Tracy felt her heart leap at his words. She felt consumed by the intense look in his eyes and all of the emotion of the moment.

"Why?" Tracy asked softly desperately wanting to understand.

"Other than my mother, I never had anyone who fully accepted me and loved me for who I am, good and bad. I feel like a part of me died and went numb after she passed. I went for so long not feeling a thing. I became popular. I kept with the singing and dancing cause I knew that's what my mother would have wanted me to do and then the Corny Collins show came around. Guys wanted to hang out with me because I had the cool image. Girls wanted to be with me because I was Link Larkin, the popular heartthrob. I dated girls but I never really cared about any of them. Then you came along and spun my world around." Link explained seriously.

"You weren't like the other girls. My looks and my popularity weren't the only reason you were interested in me. You wanted more. You never ran away screaming when the mask I wore for so long started to slip and it was clear I wasn't perfect. You still wanted me flawed, and fucked up as I am. It was like you woke up my heart and suddenly I was feeling all of these things I'd never felt before. I was afraid and instead of standing by your side when Vinnie tried to come between us, I ran away. I wasn't ready. What we had was so intense and real. Vinnie was opening up to you and giving you all the things I couldn't. I was scared to let my guard down and let you see the real me. I didn't know if I was enough to keep you. I was afraid to let myself need you as much as I do and now I can't imagine my life without you. I can't lose you. I came so close to ruining us." His voice cracked and he broke off. He could only hope that he was explaining this right. He was never that great with putting his feelings into words. He couldn't do it justice. He loved her so much.

Tracy felt fresh tears in her eyes and she blinked them away. Link leaned his forehead against hers.

"Link, I'm not going anywhere." Tracy promised and her voice was strained with emotion. Her throat ached from it. "I don't think you understand how much I care about you. I felt like I couldn't breathe when we were a part of me was missing." She tried her best to explain wishing she could take her heart out of her chest and show him that it beats for him.

"I know." Link nodded looking deeply into her eyes. He believed her.

"Are you still scared?" She asked softly caressing his cheek.

"No. I'm ready." Link smiled and the sadness in his eyes faded and twinkled into happiness. She felt a smile spread across her own face.

"I love you, Tracy." He admitted wholeheartedly for the first time. This time there were tears of happiness filling her eyes. She waited so long to hear him say those words to her. It was even better than she imagined it would be. Her heart inflated with all the love and hope in the world.

"I love you too." Tracy sighed throwing her arms around his neck and pulling him into a passionate kiss.

Penny's legs were getting tired and her attempts to get away from Vinnie were unsuccessful to say the least. He had no problem keeping up with her no matter how fast she walked. Penny huffed and crossed her arms over her chest. How could Tracy leave her with Vinnie? Ugh, okay, so she had insisted Tracy go off with Link, but it was so obvious they wanted to be alone. She really was the third wheel. She knew it wasn't fair to be angry with Tracy....even if she had been lacking a bit in the friendship department. Maybe she was just over reacting and it only felt this way because she no longer had a boyfriend. It wasn't exactly easy watching the Link and Tracy lovefest when she was alone. Vinnie was right about that one. She threw a quick glance over her shoulder....ugh, yes he was still there. He flashed her a brilliant smile and it made her blood boil.

"What exactly do you think is going to happen to me if you let me go off on my own?" Penny finally broke the silence sending him an annoyed glare.

"I don't know and we're not going to find out. I said I would take care of you..." Vinnie began to explain and she cut him off.

"Why? To prove your not that bad of a guy? To win points with Link and Tracy? Well, I say once a Von Tussel always a Von Tussel." Penny snickered.

"Wow, he really did a number on you didn't he?" Vinnie asked raising an eyebrow. Penny felt her entire face grow hot and she knew she was flushed with emotion.

"Yeah, he did. And if it weren't for you and your stupid cousin we'd still be happy together." Penny snapped. She sucked in a deep breath trying her hardest to hold back any tears. She did not want to cry in front of him.

"Maybe so, but if Seaweed was going to stray and develop feelings for someone else it would have happened eventually. It just so happened he and Amber developed some sort of attraction they never knew they had. I'm not saying it's right...but what happened with Amber and Seaweed was real. It wasn't part of our plan to take down the show. It just kind of happened." Vinnie explained it the best he could.

"That doesn't make me feel any better. That makes it worse." Penny shook her head refusing to look at him. She wished she could run away. She didn't want to be having this conversation. It was bad enough that everything that happened with her and Seaweed was still constantly eating away at her. But now she had to talk about it with Amber's cousin? She couldn't imagine what she did to deserve any of this.

"I'm just trying to say that...Seaweed and Amber hurting you wasn't intentional." Vinnie reasoned. She remained silent and stared off in the opposite direction refusing to look at him. "You know he came into the diner not too long ago asking about Amber. I think he's gonna go see her." He added. Penny whipped her head around angrily.

"Why are you telling me this?! Is that why you insisted on looking after me? So you could torture me?" Penny snapped. It was cruel. Maybe he really did only insist on hanging out with her so he could hurt her. It wasn't such a crazy idea considering some of the things he'd done.

"Because I think you deserve to know what's really going on, just in case you are holding onto hope of some sort of fairytale ending for you and Seaweed. Maybe the two of you will get your happily ever after, but you should know that he still has feelings for Amber and wanted to see her. Anyone can see how hard this break up has been for you. I mean you're still moping should know he's not." Vinnie answered softly and even if his raw honesty wasn't appreciated it was still the truth. Penny fully turned to look at him. Crap, she was crying. Her face was covered with fresh tears.

"Are you happy now? You hurt me. Now you can go, mission accomplished." Penny congratulated him looking away and wiping the tears from her face.

"I know you think the worst of me and I don't blame you for that but I wasn't trying to hurt you. Okay, I knew it would hurt...but I felt like you needed to hear these things." Vinnie offered and she finally looked at him. She didn't know what he was after. She didn't understand him at all. He was trying to help her? Was he trying to redeem himself for all the rotten things he'd done by telling her all these things she didn't want to hear?

"Why? Why do you care?" Penny asked shaking her head in disbelief.

"I'm trying to be a better person. I think you deserve to be able to get over this and move on. I thought maybe knowing what was really going on would help. I wasn't trying to hurt you and I'm sorry if that's how it came off. I don't usually sugar coat things." Vinnie shrugged simply. Penny believed him for some reason, even though she really didn't want too. She still didn't want to like him for all the things he'd done.

"Thanks, I think." Penny mumbled awkwardly.

"I sat and watched my mother be a part of an abusive relationship for years. I don't think any woman should be put through that." Vinnie explained. Her eyes met his.

"Seaweed's not abusive." Penny replied defensively.

"I believe that. He seems like a good guy. But there are different forms of abuse. He doesn't need to hit you in order to make a relationship unhealthy." Vinnie continued. "This..." He motioned to her current state. "This doesn't look healthy." He frowned. She couldn't argue with him. She'd been miserable for the longest time and the entire world could see it. Her cheeks were wet from tears and she couldn't remember the last time she didn't feel like crying. She couldn't remember the last time she truly laughed or felt happy. That wasn't a healthy thing. But how could you let go of something that wasn't even yours anymore? She didn't know how to move on when all her heart wanted to do was hold on.

All she'd been doing since she and Seaweed broke up was walking around like some kind of zombie. It all hit her hard and she wasn't ready for it, because she hadn't really broken down either. She felt her entire body shake as convulsive sobs took over her. Vinnie froze. He didn't know what to do. He'd made her cry before, and it was what she needed. She needed to know Seaweed might have real feelings for Amber. But this was different. She was breaking, falling to pieces right in front of him and he didn't want to make it worse. Normally one would offer a hug but they weren't friends, in fact he was pretty sure she hated him.

He pulled her into his arms just when she was about to crumble to her knees. She didn't fight him, instead she wrapped her arms around his waist and cried into his chest. He held her tighter, like his arms were the only thing that was keeping her together. He wasn't entirely sure that wasn't the case. His grip was strong and soothing. Penny was surprised by how comforted she felt. She didn't care how embarrassed she would feel after this moment. She needed someone and he was there. It didn't matter what he'd done in the past or how much she was supposed to dislike him. He was there for her in her time of need. Penny closed her eyes and rested her head on his shoulder. Maybe he wasn't so bad.

"I can't believe it's already time to go." Tracy pouted in between kiss. She and Link were now in his car. It was time to go and save Penny from spending any more time with Vinnie...not to mention they needed to make curfew. The last thing they needed was to show up late but Tracy just didn't want to let him go. She was still completely blissed out from the magical evening they'd spent together. She felt closer to Link now more than ever.

"There's never enough time." Link agreed rubbing his nose against hers and than kissing her lips.

"Especially when you have to sneak it." Tracy agreed with a frown. Link kissed her pout away and she smiled from ear to ear. "Say it again." She urged softly.

"I love you." Link smiled. It was amazing how easy it was to say those words now. Tracy beamed and pressed her lips against his once more.

"We better go, you're mom will kill me if I bring you home late darlin." He chuckled starting the car.

"We can't have that. Let's go save Penny." Tracy giggled. They drove into the night with their hands intertwined feeling happier and more in love than ever.

A/N: Thanks to Jess for always being on my ass about this. And to everyone I am sorry for the long wait, I hope it was worth it. :D

Preview: Use your imagination :P There will most likely be some sort of Seaweed and Amber in the next for the rest you will have to wait and see. Please RR!