Poison Ivy – Epilogue.

Seven months, three weeks, five days, sixteen hours and counting. Ivy was nineteen. Summer and autumn had come and gone and now another winter was covering up the dried brown leaves with slushy white snow. The world kept on spinning and spinning, so fast it made her dizzy.

Kennedy and Mac were more in love than ever; they made one of those picture perfect couples that you stared enviously while they walked down the street, hand in hand, laughing like they had just heard the funniest joke in the world. They were love drunk. Ivy laughed with them and smiled and acted like she didn't care.

Ivy's name never featured on the news anymore. She could venture out into the streets without being recognised, except by people who thought they surely 'knew her from someplace'. But no, Ivy assured them, no they didn't. And they would shrug and smile and carry off on their way, glancing pleasantly at the beautiful girl who seemed so carefree. Little did they know.

Seven months, three weeks, five days and sixteen hours. And 'one day' still hadn't come. Sure, she could walk, talk, smile, laugh, scowl and cry like herself and for a few hours here and there Ivy could kid herself she wasn't acting. She could convince herself it was the real deal; until she looked in the mirror and saw nothing other than him.

His face, smiling at her, his shoulders, tensing in frustration at some stupid thing someone or other had said. His hands, running over her body in an almost frenzied manner, tearing at clothing and making her heart stop. His lips, telling her in his voice that everything would be okay, that he loved her, that he always would.

'Liar' Ivy screamed in her mind. Liar. It was her who would never stop loving him. Her who was unable to function without him there and her who's life had shattered to pieces the day he left her, seven months, three weeks and five days ago. And still, she had never gone one day without thinking about him.

It would be a lie to say that Ivy wasn't disappointed in herself. She didn't want to love him anymore, since he undoubtedly didn't feel the same way. She didn't want to pine over some lost love who she would never get back.

I love you, she'd said.

It doesn't matter, he'd said back. So what was the point? If that didn't matter, the one thing in her life that Ivy had truly meant, heart and soul, then what did? What on earth could be more important than that?

She faked it well enough that they never asked. She suspected Kennedy knew, if no reason other than that she had gone through the same thing once upon a time, with a boy who had come back. But she didn't say anything, never said anything, because their relationship was still tenuous enough that she didn't dare mention it.

Mac on the other hand was wilfully ignorant. He wanted so terribly to believe what she told him that he did, no questions asked, even when he could hear her crying in her room at night, while he slept only two rooms away. She did try to be quiet, but it was difficult when one's heart was shattered into pieces. The need to let it out outweighed the need for self preservation.

She had started work on a number of things to try and distract herself. She got a job in one of the beautiful, expensive boutiques down the road, working there part time. She had been hired practically on sight, probably because she had borrowed some of Kennedy's less expensive clothes and thrown together in what she considered a boutiquey kind of style. The money was a bonus too, because not only did it mean she could give some to Kennedy, which made her feel far better about living with her friend, but she could use the rest of it to distract herself with shopping.

Ivy joined a gym too and started working out once a day. It was a twenty four hour gym and sometimes she would find herself down there in the middle of the night or early hours of the morning, running herself ragged to try and forget. She lost a lot of weight; almost too much, which prompted her next obsessive activity; cooking.

She began to cook her way systematically through the longest cookbook Kennedy owned, which sadly was entirely in French. She got Kennedy to translate it for her and set about cooking dinners, lunches, desserts and occasionally even breakfast before she headed off to work.

Usually, Ivy found that by the end of the day she was so tired she didn't have enough energy left over to think about anything other than her bed and when she finally feel into it, the dreams would come.

"I think you have an obsessive personality," Kennedy told her once, when Ivy finally finished the cookbook. "You find something and then you obsess over it, until you finish it and then you find the next thing."

Ivy had laughed at the time, but it wasn't a happy laugh. She laughed because it was so very true she couldn't think of any other reaction. Obsessive. That was her alright, to a tee. That was why thoughts of him were so very inescapable, even in her dreams. Because what her and Ace had started never did quite get finished. So instead, she was left to obsess over him, because that was what she did.

Eventually Ivy came to terms with the fact that this would never change.

Eight months, eight days and eighteen hours. That was when it did change, all with a girl in a green pea coat.

All three of them were sitting inside with mugs of hot chocolate, watching a terrible soap opera in Spanish. Although none of them could understand it, the heinous facial expression and horrific acting was enough to make it worthwhile.

"I don't understand," said Kennedy. Her feet were tucked up on the couch underneath her and the loved up couple were thankfully resisting their urges to touch one another while Ivy was in the room. "Did she sleep with his sister, or her own sister?"

"How do you know it's her sister?" Ivy asked, even more confused now than she had been before the comment.

"Well look at them. All three of them have red hair. How many red haired Spaniards do you know?"

"I know a blonde Argentinean," Ivy replied distractedly, before realising what she had said and taking a long gulp of hot chocolate. This comment garnered some odd looks from both Mac and Kennedy, but thankfully neither of them commented.

"Just because they have red hair it doesn't make them related," Mac argued.

"Yes it does. At least two of them must be. There can't be three people with the same hair colour who are all unrelated."

"That's a ridiculous thing to say," he answered, flicking the TV onto mute so that the accented ramblings wouldn't interrupt his point. "Just because you have the same hair as someone it doesn't make you related to them. Look, Ivy and I have completely different hair colours."

"Yes, but that's because you were adopted," Kennedy said earnestly, then burst out laughing. "Only kidding, honey, only kidding. Okay, maybe it doesn't make them related, but they have the same eyes as well, look. Blue eyes, red hair. Sounds more like an Irish person if you ask me. Maybe they're half Irish and that's why they're fighting."

The pointless argument was interrupted by a loud knocking on their front door. All three occupants glanced at each other after the knocking had stopped with perplexed looks on their faces.

No one had invited anyone; they didn't get many visitors, mainly because Ivy, while no longer infamous was still a bit of a threat to their safety. And for someone to be here now, in Ivy's mind, only eventuated to very bad possibilities.

Kennedy stood up and went to the door. She opened it naturally, as though she didn't have a care in the world about who might be on the other side. The only thing giving her away was the tense line of her shoulders and the slightly too bright smile on her face.

On the other side was a girl. She was short, even shorter than Kennedy with olive skin and extremely large sunglasses propped on her nose. She had a white woollen hat placed just so over her brown hair and paired with her forest green pea coat, it made quite a bold statement.

Not only that, but she was smiling; a very brisk, to the point smile, but a smile nonetheless. Ivy didn't know her, so waited for Kennedy to show some sign of who the girl might be. A cop in disguise? Somehow she doubted it. For all her poise and fashion sense, she didn't look a day over seventeen.

Much to Ivy's surprise, Kennedy didn't appear to know the girl either. "Can I help you?"

The girl surveyed Kennedy quickly and seemed to consider it. "Well, you are blonde, but I really don't think you're his type. So I'm going to say no. Could I possibly come in, it's absolutely freezing out here?"

For a moment, Ivy had wondered if it was 4 standing out there. She definitely looked older, and her hair was darker, but it had been eight months and Ivy of all people knew how much could change in the time. Her heart had just about leapt out of her chest, when the possibility occurred to her, but the momentary appraisal of Kennedy has quashed any hope she might have held out. Besides that, her voice was different; much more feminine and with a hint of a New York accent which 4 had never had.

"I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name," Kennedy said with another smile, and yet the coldest tone Ivy had ever heard anyone use. Clearly she didn't like the girl very much.

"I didn't give it," she replied, but then seeming to relent, she added, "Lana. My name's Lana."

"And what exactly are you doing here, Lana?"

The way Kennedy was staring at the young girl – Lana apparently – would have been enough to make the toughest man want to shrivel up and die. As it was, Lana simply stared back at her from behind her dark glasses, unflinchingly.

"Look, perhaps I didn't make myself clear," She replied in the most cordial tone, contradicting her expression. "My name is Lana Hunter. I believe your friend in there knows my brother."

And then she took her glasses off and Ivy's heart stopped. Lana had a pretty face, with high cheek bones and beautiful, full lips, but it wasn't that which made Ivy feel sick to her stomach. It was the stormy blue eyes that stared out at her, so unbearably familiar to the eyes she hadn't seen for nearly a year.

"I take it your Ivy?" she asked, and there was a chill in her voice that almost made her want to deny it. But instead, she just nodded mutely.

"Right," Lana Hunter said briskly, then walked over and slapped her hard across the face. Ivy's mouth dropped open in complete shock more than anything else. It took a few moments for the stinging to set in, but by the time it had, Lana had already put her sunglasses on and taken a seat on the couch opposite her. The other two stood gaping between the two of them like lost sheep.

"That was for my brother," Lana explained matter-of-factly, as though it was commonplace to waltz into someone's living room and slap them. "He wouldn't do it himself, because he would never hit a girl, but I felt someone needed to, since you've only completely and utterly ruined his life."

Ivy continued to stare at her, unable to muster any words at all to answer this girl with.

"I think there's something we need to talk about," she added then. "Preferably alone."

Mac and Kennedy exchanged glances, then Ivy's younger brother scowled. "What, so you can hit her again? I don't think so. We're staying right where we are."

"Mac." Ivy somehow managed to find her voice again. "Go. Both of you, please. I want to talk to her."

There was another stunned silence, broken once again by Mac.

"You've got to be kidding. After what he did to you-"

"I said go," she repeated softly, but firmly. There was another moment of silence, during which she could sense her brother next to her silently fuming. Then he rose angrily to his feet and stormed out of the door. After a disappointed look at Ivy, Kennedy hurried after him.

They didn't speak for very long; it must have only taken five minutes for Lana Hunter to convince Ivy Stallone to come back home – her real home, not this place she had spent the last month pretending she enjoyed. It almost made her sad to think that her resolve was quite so weak. She would have liked to think that after such a long time she might have hardened her heart a little, and with her cheek still stinging, she should have been on alert about this girl, but she wasn't. She wasn't, because all she really wanted to do was see him again, or even any one of them, because right now, she felt like nothing more than a pathetic imitation of a human being.

"You should bring a suitcase," Lana told her and Ivy's heart sped up another notch.

"Do you really think I'll need it?' Ivy hoped that Lana would understand the real question. She didn't get exactly the answer she had been hoping for.

"I wouldn't know, but it's best to always be on the safe side, isn't it. It's a long drive back here." If he says no, the unspoken words echoed around the room more loudly than the others. Sadly, to Ivy, this seemed like the more likely of the two options.

"I have someone to catch up with before we go, it'll only take twenty minutes. I'll be back to get you then."


As soon as the words were out, Lana disappeared out the door and Ivy sat staring at the door, not entirely able to believe what had just taken place. The only proof she had that Lana had ever been there was the faint pain in her cheek and the lingering of perfume in the air around her.

Without warning, Ivy was struck by a terrible fear that Lana wouldn't come back. That maybe while she was out she would change her mind and her one way back into the house would disappear forever as though it had never shown up in the first place. In case this was true, Ivy jumped up and ran to pack her bag, as though doing that might solidify the conversation she had just had. As though doing this might make Lana come back.

"Where are you going?" Mac asked when he and Kennedy walked back in the door ten minutes later. Suddenly Ivy felt sick again. Here was her little brother; the person she owed so much to and Kennedy who had taken her in and been nothing but hospitable towards someone she couldn't stand and now she was leaving them. And as if she didn't feel bad enough about it already, she couldn't even dredge up a scrap of regret. She couldn't want to stay, no matter how hard she tried, because even if she only got to see him for two seconds, it would be more than worth it.

"Where do you think I'm going?" Ivy asked him, watching her hands purposefully to avoid looking at him.

"Don't," he said, as though that one word could change her mind.

"You don't. I'm going to go."

He didn't speak, then he just looked at her sadly and shook his head. She bit her lip and stopped packing.

"It's not you," she said quietly, "It's just, it's me." She felt even stupider. She wasn't trying to break up with him, she just wanted him to understand.

"I love you, Ivy, more than he does, or he wouldn't have sent you away in the first place. I don't understand why you're going to hurt yourself again when you're happy here."

The words sent a stab of pain through her chest. "Say something horrible," she muttered, looking up at the roof, because that awful begging look was still on his face. "Tell me you never want to see me again, or that I can't come back. It'll make me feel better."

She couldn't see his face, but there was something verging on disdain in his voice. "Of course you can come back. You can always come back."

She zipped up her suitcase and looked at him. "I'm so sorry, Mac. I know I've been an awful sister and I thought I could be better, but I can't. I just can't help it." Help being awful, or help being hopelessly addicted to him? She really didn't know.

He sighed, touched a hand to his head in a frustrated way and then looked back at her. It was such an aged gesture.

"Go then. But don't be surprised if you're coming back here sooner than you think."

Looking at the two of them, Ivy wondered if he was right. Was she really taking this opportunity to walk out on the only two people she had left, for no apparent reason and no guarantee? Her stupidity amazed even her. But her suitcase was packed and it was too late to turn back now.

"I'm sorry," she repeated, glancing and Mac and Kennedy in turn. "Thank you so much, for everything."

And with those extremely disappointing last words, she walked out the door and sat down on the sidewalk outside the house to wait for the girl who she may or may not have imagined to return and take her home.

For most of the trip, Ivy could feel Lana's eyes glancing from her to the road and it made her awfully uncomfortable.

"You're very thin," Lana said after another one of her furtive glances. "You're not anorexic are you?"

Ivy shook her head and didn't speak.

"You must have lost weight then, since you two knew each other, because I can't imagine him being attracted to someone as thin as you."

"I have," Ivy supplied. Too much. She silently cursed the gym. It had seemed like such a good distraction at the time, but now that she was finally getting a second chance, was it going to be her downfall? Would he take one look at her and chuck her out because the skin on her collarbones was drawn a little too tightly? The Ace she knew certainly might. He was always moody like that.

"I have to admit," Lana began again, a little further into the journey, when Ivy's eyes had almost started to drift shut, "I find you absolutely fascinating. I mean, here you are, seeming like nothing out of the ordinary, in fact, I would go so far as to say dull and yet no one's ever made him so completely mental before."

"Sorry," She answered, in her 'so-far-as-to-say-dull' tone. "I'm just a little surprised. I didn't have this planned into my schedule for the day."

"Naturally." Lana fell silent again and focused back on the road. It was a car Ivy didn't recognise, which for some reason she found relieving. Being in his car would probably have made her cry, which was the last thing she needed. Walking in to the house with red, puffy eyes and a tearstained shirt wouldn't have been good.

"He never..." Ivy stopped and thought about how to word what she was going to ask. "He never asked – about..?"

"No." Lana was evidently a very direct girl, because she threw the word casually out there, as though it didn't bother her in the least. "Not directly... He just got really angry at a lot of people, a lot of the time, for nothing in particular."

For some reason, the image made Ivy crack a smile. Perhaps it was the ease with which the picture flew to mind. For around the last year, Ivy had watched Ace get mad at people for 'nothing in particular'. Whether or not it was a good thing that she found this image reassuring, she wasn't entirely sure. If he had been mad at them, then surely she wouldn't be exempt, even if once upon a time she might have been.

"Then why did you think to come and find me?"

Once again, Ivy felt herself being glanced at. "Do you want to me to be honest?"

She nodded, although she was surprised to be asked. Nothing had stopped Lana before, why she bothered to ask this time was a mystery. Either she had miraculously gained manners, or whatever the answer was, was bad enough to warrant the question.

"I don't particularly like you. In fact what you did to my brother makes me pretty much hate you, but I got so unbelievably sick of him moping around, I just couldn't deal with it anymore. That's when Queen said if I really wanted to do something then you'd be the one I needed to find. She said since it was your fault, then it'd be you who knew how to fix him. I don't really understand why she thinks that if she brings in someone to have sex with him a few times then he'll feel better, but clearly that's the opinion."

Ivy swallowed, her head spinning nervously at the very mention of that. The whole rest of the speech was entirely lost on her. "Oh no," she replied quietly, "No, he wouldn't want, I mean, I don't think that would be... No. No."

Lana rolled her eyes. "Whatever. Look, I don't really care. I was down here anyway to see a friend, so I thought I would take the opportunity to come and find this mystery woman who had messed up my older brother's life. And here she is, but I still don't see it."

"I didn't do it on purpose." The view out the window wasn't much to behold it and besides that it was getting dark, so when Ivy chose that moment to start staring out of it, it certainly wasn't for a view of the scenery. "If it was up to me, then I would have stayed."

I can't do it anymore. Was that even what he had said? She couldn't remember the words. It had been eight months, all she had now was the picture of his face, and the general idea of what he meant when he had sent her away. That and the ripped up feeling on the left side of her chest. That, she was sure, would stay for a lot longer than eight months.

"Then whatever you did must have been awful, because I can't imagine any other reason for him inflicting what he has on himself."

These words that Lana kept saying, they were only now starting to penetrate through the hardened shell of Ivy's mind. The things about pain and moping and unhappiness, all the feelings she was certain came from her end, from her side of the state, but not his. Certainly not his, because this whole thing was his decision. She would have stayed, she would have stuck around forever if it had been her choice. But he had told her to go, so why then, would he care that she was gone?

Was she wrong? He had perhaps not been so sick of her? Did he maybe still care, even a little? Enough to let her stay. Maybe even just to touch her again, so she could remember what it is like, before she returned to exile. Just once might be enough. Her hand or her face or her knee; anywhere at all.

She wished this was right. I love you, but I can't. Was that it? Was that maybe closer to what he had said? She shut her eyes and tried to think, but her mind had distorted the memory too much. All that was there was what she had told herself was there, and in that memory, Ace certainly didn't proclaim his love for her. In that memory he was sad, but also cold and angry. She couldn't seem to find the true memory, and even if she did, she wasn't sure she would know that it was true.

She shouldn't get her hopes up. It wouldn't do to go in there happy and expectant, only to be crushed again. She didn't know if she could live through what she had for a second time when it had hurt more than enough the first. More than a black eye or a broken rib. More than her parents and friends hating her.

"I suppose it was," Ivy answered, still dull, still staring out the window, still thinking. The culmination of the things maybe was bad, but singularly, Ivy didn't think one thing could be pinpointed. It was just them. Them together, it didn't work. Except when it did, because when it worked, boy did it ever. Then there were those times when it didn't and they fought and yelled and hated each other with that momentary, burning hatred that goes out after only an hour or two. But did one outweigh the other? She liked to think so, but then it seemed he had thought so too, only not in the way she had.

"It's snowing," Lana mused, as a wet white drop landed on the windscreen. "How quaint."

It wasn't long before they were off the highway, and in a place all too familiar to Ivy. Streets and alleyways and buildings she recognised were all around her and suddenly she felt nervous. About what, she knew, but didn't want to think about, because it only worsened the feeling.

When Lana pulled up outside the house, Ivy's stomach lurched so suddenly she actually almost gagged. She managed to breathe deeply enough and swallow hard enough to avoid throwing up, but it was a close call. That definitely wouldn't be the best second first impression, she thought to herself, shutting her eyes and laying her back against the seat.

Ivy wasn't sure she wanted to get out of the car, but she'd come all this way and the worst that could happen wasn't worse, she was sure, than anything that already had.

"Are you coming?" Lana pulled her hat down lower over her ears and ducked down to look at Ivy. "It's kind of cold out here and I wouldn't mind getting inside."

"Right, sure," Ivy managed to mumble. "Sorry." The sick feeling just wouldn't go away.

They walked up the familiar path together, and Lana fished a key out of her pocket, fiddling around with the lock, as though it was unnatural to her. Ivy couldn't even remember the last time the door had been locked.

"I should probably tell you," Lana said as the door opened, in a casual tone, "No one knows you're coming."

Inside the house, the lights were on and an unnatural yellow glow spilled out on to the snow covered ground. As Ivy stepped inside, she was hit by the smell of cleaning product, which was indescribably odd and also some kind of food.

Lana shut the door behind them after they entered, not bothering to flick the lock on it. Clearly she didn't care as much about security as the others did. That or she felt that if the house was broken into, she would be the least likely target.

"Queen, is that..." 3, walked into the lounge, still blonde, still short, but a brand new scar on his face, stretching from his temple to his ear lobe. "..you," he finished, in an entirely different tone.

His eyes screwed up slightly, in a manner that suggested he was trying to make sense of what he was seeing. He looked from Lana to Ivy and back again.


"Upstairs," 3 said, before Lana had time to finish the question. "He's upstairs."

"Thank you." Lana's voice was casual, but once again the words made Ivy feel ill. Every step she took was a step closer to another possible disappointment. And it seemed that the closer she got, the more she regretted her decision to come in the first place. Wouldn't uncertainty have been better than being absolutely crushed once again?

"I'll let you go up by yourself," Lana said. "I don't think I need to be there for this."

Ivy wanted to disagree. She wasn't sure she wouldn't run out screaming if someone didn't force her up the stairs, but when Lana slid quietly off into the lounge, she realised there wasn't really an option at this point. She was here, she had a shot, if she didn't at least speak to him, then she doubted she would be able to live with herself.

And so somehow, she forced her feet to walk up the seemingly endless stairs, and she forced her hand to turn the knob on the door, and then she forced herself to stand there in the doorway, as her eyes met with another set of eyes, which she hadn't seen in over eight months. A set of eyes that made her heart drop straight through the soles of her feet and disappear off to God knows where, so she felt like for a second she might have died, because she couldn't really feel any part of her body except for her eyes. The eyes that were still connected with his.

"Hi," she said, after one of those eternities they sometimes had, where no one spoke and they both just stared. It was a lame introduction and she felt stupid as soon as she said it.

Ace looked the same in a way, as he always had. A little bit older maybe, but not much. His hair was little bit longer, but not much. His looked tired and overworked and frustrated, but not too much more so than usual. The only real difference she noticed, was that he didn't look so cold as he had that night last July, or March, or whenever it was – she couldn't think now.

"You shouldn't be here." They weren't exactly the words she had been expecting, although they probably were what she should have assumed he would say. Subtlety never was his strong point.

"I know. But I hoped we could talk."

Ace wasn't looking at her. It wasn't exactly evasive, maybe uncertain would fit better. The emotions in the room were very confused right now.

"Yeah, sure. You want to sit?" He didn't look up and didn't stand. His only movement was a flick of his hand in the direction of the chair opposite him. To Ivy it sounded like a business transaction, or some formal, official conversation that didn't have a whole lot of meaning. Not to him anyway.

"Okay, sure." Uneven voice, Ivy thought; sure sign that something means more than you're letting on, but Ace didn't seem to be paying attention to her, so maybe he hadn't noticed the quaver in her throat. Maybe he didn't realise that this was important; didn't know that being here, sitting opposite him was almost breaking her heart again.

"I just wanted to see you, you know?" She said finally, because Ace didn't seem to have anything to say.

"Sure. I know." Did he really, she wondered, because that wasn't the impression he was giving and the last thing anyone in the room needed right then was sympathy. Ivy had got enough of that over the last months and God knew, he probably had too. Or maybe not, now that she thought about it. Who was there to feel sorry for him? Certainly none of the people he lived with were heavily into pity.

"I wanted to know how you're doing? It's been such a long time, I... I wanted to make sure you were okay?"

He grinned, a completely hollow, soulless grin. "Okay? Why wouldn't I be?"

"You know."

"Do I?"

"Ace, please don't make this harder than it needs to be." Her voice was quivering again. Not so noticeably, maybe, not quite such a give away.

"Oh I'm doing that?" He seemed to be asking a lot of questions, and not giving a lot of answers, not the kind she wanted to hear anyway. Maybe in a way, this was an answer. Again though, not one that she wanted. "I'm not the one who came here. I'm not the one who made this hard."

"It was already hard." She shook her head, for want of a better action. "It was, and you know it. I don't know what else I was meant to do, here. What did you want me to do?"

"I can tell you what I didn't want." She could hear, feel – sense, even – the tempo of the conversation picking up. The anger was growing, the heat rising, everything getting more familiar and naturally, more painful. His voice was half amused, half livid; that odd combination which he made somehow appealing, when it wasn't aimed at you.

"Cause I sure as hell didn't want you coming here just to remind of how fucked up everything is. I didn't need you to rub in my face the fact that I can't have you. And don't try and act as though you didn't know you were doing it, because you did. You knew and that's why you came. You thought if I saw you, then maybe I'd be so depressed I'd want you back."

Ivy stopped and sat, staring at him, for a very long time. He was breathing quickly, worked up. As they sat though, it slowed down. When she had worked out something to say that wasn't either a lie, or an apology, she spoke.

"Well since I'm not denying it, is it working?"

"Shit, maybe it is." Ivy was certain her heart began to beat faster at that. He didn't look so angry then. His face relaxed slightly, his eyes shut and he covered his face with one hand. It was sign of exasperation, maybe, or something a little different, Ivy didn't know. Exasperated with her, or himself? Again, she wasn't sure.

"You're wrong, you know." She said after another pause, while his words sank in.

"I thought you weren't denying it." He still hadn't looked at her. His eyes had wandered to every corner of the room, every inch of wall and table and window, but never to her face. Almost as though looking would make it too tough.

"Not about that. About me. You said you couldn't have me, but you can. You can have me whenever you want, Ace. I've been yours for a pretty long time now." She paused and took a deep breath. It felt strange to pour her heart out to him again, for what must be the hundredth time, and yet it felt like the first. It never got any easier.

"Would you look at me? Cause I feel kind of stupid saying this to the top of your head." She grinned half heartedly, and he finally glanced up from the table.

He wasn't crying, thank God, or she might have passed out from shock and ruined the speech, but the expression might have been his equivalent. It's was drawn and surprised and wary, all at once. It made him look old. Older than usual, but also just plain old. Like he'd had more than enough of the world and just needed a break. His eyes, still the same colour as they'd always been, looked almost imperceptibly less hollow than they had when she walked in. Almost.

"It wasn't me that wanted to go and it wasn't me that didn't want you, so if you think that any of this is happening because you can't have me, then you're wrong."

"Then so are you." He didn't look away when he spoke, Ivy noted, which she was grateful for. It was nice to look in his eyes while he spoke. It reminded her of other times, which she had missed. "Because I never said that I wanted you to go. Just because I thought it was better for other people, it doesn't mean I wanted it."

"Then why did you do it?" She found then that she was quite inclined to cry with frustration. What had been the point, if not for him?

"You don't understand, Rocky, what it's like to be responsible for someone other than yourself. What it's like to owe someone so much that what you want doesn't matter anymore. When someone trusts you with their lives; when they'll die for you, you can't understand what it's like to have that amount of pressure on you and you have to stop acting as though you're the only one that matters."

"Oh, I don't understand that?" She laughed. "Ace, why do you think this happened? Who do you think I went out there for in the first place? It sure as hell wasn't me, and it wasn't you either."

There was another silence; one too many in Ivy's opinion. This was turning more into a staring contest than a conversation. It needed to be broken, so she broke it.

"I love you, still, even after everything. I spent nine months trying not to, and trying to forget and it didn't work. And maybe if you say no, if you say that you don't want me back, then I can go back to that and start trying again. I don't know if I can do it, but I know I can try.

"But if you can't say that; if you still feel like you used to, even a little bit, I don't think I could live with myself. I don't want you to punish me because you feel a sense of duty to someone else. It might be selfish, but I really don't care at this point. I've tried living without you and it doesn't work, so don't make me try it again if it's not what you really want.

"There isn't anything more I can do than sit here and ask you to take me back. I can't make what happened go away, I can't tell you I wouldn't do what I did again so if this isn't what you want – if you think you can do better, then I'll go. But I can't go without telling you that I love you, as much as I did nine months ago and in the near future, I can't imagine anything's going to change that."

Ace sighed. Ivy had to admit, it was quite a speech; more than she had expected to come out with initially, but she felt a lot better now that it was said. When there was nothing left she could do, she could fully appreciate that the decision was entirely in his hands and if he wasn't interested then there was nothing she could have done to make him change his mind.

"God, you make it so impossible."

His voice didn't hold a trace of the anger it had minutes ago, nor the frustration, which seemed odd considering his words. Usually one emotion or the other would be involved with a sentence like that, Ivy thought, but not now. He just sounded tired, and slightly amused.

"I don't understand why it's so damn hard to not love you. Really, it just doesn't make any sense to me. I can't tell you I don't want you, because I never stopped, but I can't tell you it'll work either. What we had before was one fuck up after another, and I can't guarantee it'll be any better this time. All I can tell you is that I do still love you, and I don't want you to go. God knows, I tried to want it, but you make it impossible."

Ivy smiled, what was potentially, thinking back on it, the first real smile she had had in a very long while.

"So that's your roundabout way of saying 'I'm sorry, I love you, please forgive me for kicking you out?' or am I misreading the signals?"

Ace's eyes creased up around the corners as he smiled that smile she'd been missing for so long now. "Maybe it was. I don't know about being sorry though."

"Oh, I think you are."

"And why's that?"

"Because." Ivy stood up and skirted around the table, to rest her hands lightly on his thighs. They felt familiar under her hands, and the very idea that she was one again touching him made her feel a little dizzy. "You missed out on nine months of me doing this."

Ivy kissed him, and all these feelings that had been shut off, that she wasn't even sure she remembered came back. Just another one of those things which she thought she had forgotten and yet now, here, it felt so very normal.

Ace chuckled, never moving away from her.

"You're right," he mumbled, resting his forehead against hers. "I am sorry."

"So am I," Ivy replied, looking into his eyes to try and best convey the honesty of the words.

"Nothing to be sorry for." Ace kissed her again, his lips just brushing hers for the quickest second before he spoke again. "You're absolutely perfect."

She smiled, closing her eyes and trying once again to breath in the smell of him, to imprint on her memory, even though she no longer needed to. She didn't need to memorise the feel of his skin or his lips, or remember the smell of his hair. She didn't need to be able to picture the way he looked when he smiled or laughed. He was hers again and any time she wanted to know, all she had to do was look.

"Not perfect." Ivy shook her head and, lifted a hand to touch his cheek. "Not yet. But it will be."


Confessions Of An Unadulterated Heart (sequel) link: .com/s/2726512/1/Confessions_of_an_Unadulterated_Heart

okay, so clearly I'm not allowed to copy the link onto this page. just put fictionpress infront of it, plus the www obviously and there you have the link, should anyone want to use it.