A/N: This is the end, the end of our story. Oh this is the end, the end of our story . . . Okay, I heard that on an episode of Animanics when I was younger and it always floats around my brain when I get to the end of a story. And here we are! Thanks to all my reviewers (ink-stained-frenzy, DarkSmile, CatWak, xxxVICTORIAxxx, anglhededhpters, and JClayton-sorry if I forgot anyone). Thanks for all the support and love you guys. I hope you enjoyed this story as much as I have enjoyed writing it.
~Up, Up, and Away!~
She would like to say that she had been contemplating the universe or something equally as deep when she was interrupted, but it would be a lie. In reality, while she sat there in the empty cafeteria, a good hour before the start of school, all she was trying to do was find a way of not thinking about the one thing she had trouble not thinking about. It had been a week since The Second Kiss and she was back to avoiding JONAS (well, one-third of JONAS because Joe and Kevin were having none of her avoidance nowadays). And while before she deluded herself into believing that all her avoiding was a good thing, she couldn't quite manage it this time.
It was obscenely unfair that she should be plagued with so many regrets about a relationship that had never really happened. And despite Stella's assurance that things would get better once everyone had time to mull the situation over, Macy didn't see this ending happily. Well, since it technically never started it couldn't end, but the general sentiment was the same. She was avoiding Nick, who was avoiding her, and that made her so miserable she ended up sneaking in school hours before her peers so she could stare forlornly at all the empty lunch tables. This behaviour was so utterly pathetic that Macy was really glad that the school was deserted and no one was ever around to see her act so lame.
So when the crumpled dollar bill hit the tabletop and bounced its way over to her folded hands, she was two parts surprised and one part sheepish. She raised her head timidly, almost afraid of who she was going to find there. There was the possibility that it was Stella, who had the best mopey-best-friend radar in the world. There was even the possibility that it was Van Dyke, who was still pretty sweet for a guy that got dumped for an imaginary relationship with a guy who wasn't even nice enough to acknowledge Macy's existence (there was also some bitterness lining her unhappiness these days).
But the possibility that it would be Joe Lucas standing there, smirking at her from his spot just in front of her table, hadn't even crossed her mind. She was so surprised to see him there that her mind blanked completely. She couldn't even muster a greeting. She just watched mutely as he chuckled at her before sliding into the spot next to her. He bumped against her playfully and nodded at the crumpled dollar bill she now held in her hands.
"Dollar for your thoughts," he said cheerfully.
She blinked and looked between him and the dollar. "Huh?"
"I know it's supposed to be penny, but Mr. Reynolds was covering inflation in class yesterday," Joe explained. "I figured 'penny for your thoughts' was a pretty old adage and that with inflation it probably came to about a dollar nowadays. So, a dollar for your thoughts."
She couldn't help but laugh at his antics. She smoothed out the dollar with her hands, looking sideways to give him a teasing grin. "A dollar? Inflation or not Joe Lucas, the sparkling pearls of wisdom that float around in my mind are worth far more than a dollar."
"We can work out a payment plan later," Joe quipped without missing a beat. "The most important thing right now is the thought. So stop trying to distract me and spill it. What's got Macy Misa hiding out in the school cafeteria so early?"
She sighed, the mirth leaving her as quickly as it had come. "You really don't know Joe? Or is this some weird Stella manoeuvre to get me to talk about Nick some more?"
"Hey, I don't always mindlessly follow Stella's lead," Joe tried to look affronted, but couldn't quite keep the smile off his face. "I have been known to have an original thought myself, every now and then. Now granted I'm no Kevin, with his goofy charm and incredibly out there sensitivity towards chipmunks, but I am your friend. So this whole cornering you in the cafeteria thing is totally my own brain-child and derived solely from my concern that this thing with Nick has driven you both batty."
The smile on her face was small, but spoke volumes. Joe threw an arm around her shoulders and Macy leaned into him slightly. Dropping her head onto his shoulder, Macy was pleasantly surprised to find herself very comfortable there. This friendship thing with Kevin and Joe was coming along nicely.
"And as overwhelming it must be for you to be able to hang all over my awesome body, I don't want you to get distracted," Joe said while giving her an affectionate squeeze. "You going to talk to me, Macy Misa?"
"I would love to talk to you, Joe Lucas," she replied smoothly. "If only I knew what to say. I'm here thinking about Nick, who's probably at home thinking of ways to avoid me. I sort of wish I was still angry with him. Then his avoidance wouldn't matter to me much, and my avoidance would make much more sense. But the thing is, even if I wasn't avoiding and he wasn't avoiding, what would we do? Things have just gotten so out of focus."
"Hmm," Joe playfully stoked his chin. "I see your dilemma here. Do you confront Nick and have another insanely tense bout of tongue-wrestling? Or do you avoid him in the hopes that your avoidance will finally clue him into the fact that you have better things to do than wait around for Nick Lucas to get his act together?"
"Which would work if I actually had better things to do than wait around for Nick to get his act together," Macy muttered sadly. "Unfortunately, I broke things off with Van Dyke because of the whole thing with Nick-"
"Tongue-wrestling with two boys probably would have been a bad way to go," Joe interjected with a sage nod.
Macy lifted her head off his shoulder and gave him a look. "Could we not call if that, please? It sounds way naughtier than it actually is."
Joe's eyes lit up. "It was naughty in any way? Ooh, Macy, do tell."
"Is this your idea of helping?"
"No-well yeah. This is my first attempt at consoling a friend of the female origin. Well, I have consoled Stella from time to time, but that's different. Anyway, I have a short attention span and sometimes it's better if we just get to the meat of the matter before I go running headfirst into the first tangent than presents itself."
Macy giggled and gave Joe a little push. "You're horrible."
"And you're trying to distract me again," Joe gave her a mock glare. "I am onto you now, Misa. Spill the beans girlie, before I have to get all tough and drag it out of you."
She smiled at his words, but the heavy weight on her heart started getting worse. Joe was being sweet by trying to talk to her about this, but she wasn't sure what to tell him. She wasn't sure there was anything to tell him. She hadn't seen Nick since The Second Kiss and she certainly hadn't come to any better understanding of what to do. Things were just as frustratingly complicated as they had been last week. She liked Nick (the kissing being the most obvious sign of that) but she was still miffed by his actions. Why was it so hard for him to just stick around after kissing her?
"Macy?" All the humour was gone from Joe's voice. She looked at him and saw the concern on his face. "You okay?"
She shook her head. "He's your brother, Joe. Tell me, what should I do? He won't talk to me, he calls his feelings a THING, and every time we get close, he rushes off before I can formulate a sentence. And now, after spending a week avoiding him because he's been avoiding me, all I can say is that I'm still confused and more than a little hurt. Am I not good enough, Joe?"
"What?" Joe's eyes widened in shock. "What do you mean, not good enough? Macy, don't ever think that! You're more than good enough. You're great! And if my brother wasn't such an idiot, which by the way was surprising since he's supposed to be an almost-genius, he would be telling you that himself."
"But he's not," Macy sighed. "Everyone keeps saying that it's just a matter of time, but I don't think so. There's no love songs, no nice words, no warm gestures-"
"Is that what you want? A love song?"
"No! Well, not exactly. It's not about the song Joe. It's about him just saying it out loud. Him just showing it in some way. I mean, we've all been putting words into his mouth, Stella especially, and while I on some level that it's true, it's not the same. If he can't show that he likes me, or even acknowledge in some way that he does, doesn't that mean he can't really like me all that much?"
Joe blinked a few times, a dazed expression on his face. "I think this train of thought left me at the last station," he murmured, shaking his head slightly. "Listen Macy, I don't want to say just give him more time. Honestly, if it was any other guy, I think all of us would tell you to forget it. His actions don't say much about who he really is. But he is my brother, and I do know him pretty well. So I know this could be a good thing, if only he's smart enough to get over his pride and actually get the thing started. But I think all those things that you're getting hung up on are half the problem."
Now Macy was lost. "Huh?"
"Well, I know everyone thinks Nick is so deep and in touch with his feelings because of the songs that he writes," Joe said with a roll of his eyes. "But what most people don't get is that Nick isn't the most expressive person in the world. Sure we're rock stars and it's easy to let our thoughts show through our songs. And yeah, he can write love songs when he's got a crush on some girl because it is just a crush. Crushes are simple; they come and they go pretty fast. And that head rush you get when you first get a crush, it's easy to write about because it's always the same. But love-that's really hard. Love isn't nice and simple. It's complicated and it has ups and downs and sometimes you love love but other times you hate it. It makes you happy, sad, angry, frustrated, and sometimes it makes you those things all at the same time. It's not easy putting that into words, especially not rhyming words."
Macy was sort of impressed. "Joe, that was kind of deep."
He gave her a wink. "Hey, it was bound to happen sometime."
She giggled but stopped quickly. "So what should I do?"
"I think that you should go on being happy Macy, because you're good at it," Joe playfully ruffled her hair. "And not mope about Nick so much. He's going to understand it sometime, and then he can work on expressing it. Don't make yourself miserable on his account Macy. This whole thing is his problem. There's nothing wrong with you, there's nothing wrong with liking you. You go on and do the things that make Macy Misa happy, and if my brother is half as smart as our mother claims he is, he's going to get some clarity and finally stop being such a total toerag about this."
Macy laughed, and this time she meant it. The weight on her heart seemed to lighten just a bit as she favoured Joe Lucas with her first 100% happy-Macy smile in weeks.
"Now that's what I'm talking about. Hey, you think they got any food back there? Being all deep and stuff has made me kind of hungry?"
Two weeks passed and Macy took Joe's advice to heart. She stopped trying to avoid Nick, but she didn't necessarily do anything to find him either. Joe was right; this was something Nick needed to figure out on his own.
But she wasn't going to be miserable while he worked on that. Yeah it kind of hurt that he couldn't find the words to say what he was feeling. And yeah, her heart did ache sometimes because now that she was being truthful with herself, she kind of missed him. Incredibly childish behaviour aside, there was a part of her that was yearning just to be around Nick. And so while he was off trying to muddle his way through his emotions, she was left hanging, but she wasn't going to let that dictate her life. She might not be as happy as she could be. Her smile might not be as bright as it should be. And she might still shed a few tears about it every night before she went to bed, but Joe was right. None of this should stop her from enjoying the things that she did have going for her. She had her sports, she had her friends, and she had her family. She could spare a few moments of happiness for all those things.
She was indulging in one of those moments when it finally happened. She was just on her way out of the building after a very rewarding basketball practice (Coach was insanely glad to have her star athlete back in top form) when a hand appeared out of nowhere and grabbed her arm.
Now Macy wasn't usually a violent person, but she wasn't stupid either. Her father had sat her down just shy of her ninth birthday and talked to her about martial arts.
"Daddy can't be everywhere all the time, for the rest of your life. So if you keep on insisting on being as pretty as you are, Daddy's going to need you to do something for him."
Her mother hadn't been all that impressed with the speech, but Macy loved it because it was exactly something her father would say. And besides, what little girl didn't like being told she was pretty?
Macy had gone into martial arts with the same dedication she had for her sports. And she did as well there as she did on the field. So when that mysterious hand grabbed at her, the owner didn't realize what a terrible mistake he was making. It was dark, there was no one around, and Macy was sometimes just a little freaked out when she found herself alone in a deserted school parking lot. When that hand grabbed her, she just flew into action without taking even a second to consider finding out who that hand belonged to.
Five seconds later, Macy was breathing heavy and staring at the crumpled body in front of her with some trepidation. The guy had his back to her, and the lighting in the parking lot wasn't as great as it could be. But when the guy began to moan and shift around, Macy began to realize who her would-be attacker really was. She noticed the shoes first, then the school uniform that had Stella's fingerprints all over it, and finally the tell-tale mop of dark curly hair.
"Oh my God! Nick!"
The boy in question just rolled over onto his back and gave her a tired look. "Do you pummel all the boys like this, or am I just special?"
She felt a flash of irritation and offered him her hand. "Well, since you're the only boy stupid enough to sneak up on me in the dark, maybe you kind of deserved it."
"I'm sure you have lots to say on the things I deserve," Nick returned wryly, accepting her hand and scrambling to his feet. She let go as soon as he was on his feet, but he didn't let go of her hand. She paused, looking down at their joined hands. Her stomach started swirling with a mess of feelings and she had to take a deep sigh to steady herself. She tugged on her hand, but he still didn't let go.
"Nick, please," she murmured, pulling on her hand just a bit.
"Sorry," was all he had to say, but he didn't sound sorry at all. She felt some tears prick her tears and forcibly pushed them back. It took a lot of willpower for her to raise her eyes, but she managed to do it. She saw him standing there, barely visible in all the poor lighting, and felt her heart start to ache all over again.
"Nick, please," she said again, some strain in her voice. "I can't do this again. If you just leave me, again, I'll-Please, Nick. Just let me go."
"I probably should, but I don't think that's going to happen." He stepped closer, hand still tightly clasping hers. She couldn't take looking him in the eyes, so she dropped hers down to focus on the HMA crest on his jacket. The air was heavy with tension and even though this could be the moment she had been waiting for, past experience told her it could just be another spectacular let-down.
"Nicholas Lucas, I want you to hear me," Macy said forcefully. "You have better have thought long and hard about this. And you better make it good. Because I promise you, if you do it wrong, if you leave me hanging again-that's it. I won't be a part of this anymore. I can't-it's not worth the heartache."
His voice was rough, full of some nameless emotion. She knew what she wanted that emotion to be, but she wasn't going to let herself hope. Not just yet. "That's fair enough."
She nodded mutely and they just stood there for a few tense moments, holding hands and standing ridiculously close to one another. Just a step more and she could bury her face into his chest, wrap her arms around his waist, and just press herself against him. She fought the urge and barely won. This had to be about him; he had to do it just right. She couldn't just jump into his arms as if all was forgiven. He needed to be able to say it.
"I didn't write you a song," was what he said. Macy felt her heart constrict painfully for a second, but she stayed quiet. He continued on after a brief pause. She wasn't sure if he was trying to collect his thoughts or waiting for her to react in some way. But soon he was talking again. "I didn't write you a song because I haven't written anything in weeks. I can't write about you, not that I haven't tried. But it's like every time I tried to put you down in words, the entire English language flew right out of my head and I had nothing. I've never had nothing. My head is always full of something, but you-you just deprive me of everything. There aren't words strong enough, deep enough, complex enough, or even flattering enough for you. I have nothing to say even though I've been dying to find some way of saying something. It took all this time for me to even come up with something to start with, and it's so lame that I'm embarrassed that I thought of it."
She spoke before she could stop herself. "What was it?"
He let loose a strangled laugh. "It was 'I'm sorry for throwing cake at you'."
"But I'm not sorry about throwing it at Van Dyke," he said in a rush. "He deserved it, because he was going to do something that if he did it, I thought I would have to hurt him for doing. But he was going to do it anyway, and you were going to let him. It was like my feelings didn't matter, not that you knew my feelings, and at the end of the day Kevin had to explain to me that I was being irrational. Kevin! Kevin had to explain something to me! It was like the whole world had gone crazy. But it turns out it was just me."
And if he didn't get to the point, she was going to go crazy. "Nick-"
"I know, I know," he interrupted her. "Just let me-I know. I shouldn't have called it a THING. I don't have an excuse other than that I was angry. I was angry because I was hurting and you didn't seem to understand how much I was hurting. And then I was even angrier because if you weren't so you then I would have the words to explain it. And you were still with HIM and I just lost my mind. I figured if you were hurting me without knowing it then at least I should hurt you while knowing it. And before you say anything, I know that's horrible. I just couldn't stop myself."
"You left me."
A deep sigh. "I know, I'm-sorry doesn't even cover it. But Macy, when we kissed-I swear it was like I had gone crazy all over again. It was just so-and you were just so-you see! I've been thinking and stewing and ranting for weeks and I still don't have the words! You're beyond words Macy!"
"Then just show me!" she shouted at him. "Show me, and don't just leave me again!"
His hand let go of hers and suddenly he had her by both shoulders. He pulled her right up against him and she felt herself start to shake. But the kiss never came. Instead his arms went around her and he buried his face in her hair. She could feel him take long, shuddering breaths and her knees started feeling like they were made of something slightly weaker than Jello. Her legs buckled and she stumbled. He just gripped her harder, holding her up against him and keeping his face in her hair.
They stayed locked like that for what seemed like an eternity. Finally he pulled back and rested his forehead against hers. The lighting was poor, but finally she could see his face clearly. Her hands went up of their own volition and soon she was tracing the outlines of his face with her fingers. He shut his eyes and pulled her close once more. She could barely breathe he held her so tight.
"Macy, if I had the words, they would be the most beautiful words in the world," he whispered. "They would make the most perfect song in the world and every time you heard it, you would feel for me exactly what I feel for you. And every time I sang it I would fall right back in love with you."
She gasped when he finally said it. The tears she held back came rushing forth now and her hands held his face tightly before she yanked him down. Her lips met his with a hunger that she had barely given voice to these past weeks and he deepened the kiss so forcefully that she forgot to be scared of his intensity and was for once in awe of it. Her hands moved up into his hair, fingers gripping those beautiful curls harshly before loosening in the end. She pulled back only when her lungs screamed for air and he moaned at the loss of contact. She dropped her head, buried her face in his chest like she had wanted to before, and finally cried her first batch of happy tears in almost two months.
"Macy-" he sounded so uncertain. She laughed into his chest and then shook her head lightly.
"Just-show me again."
She felt his grin instead of actually seeing it. Nick's fingers gently pushed her chin up and then he showed her again.
PSST! Anyone interested in a Nick version of Losing Neverland?