Authors Note: This story was originally only supposed to be three parts but I think there is more left to tell so there will be a few more chapters coming. Thanks for reading and I love you all that have reviewed.
Ethan didn't know what to say. He felt like she was asking the one thing he wasn't sure he could do for her. He looked at her standing there in the fading light, shivering. She looked older, there was no longer that light about her that he was so used to. Ethan glanced up at the darkening sky. It was late, she needed to leave and he needed to be alone with his thoughts. He looked at her again, her lip was trembling and with a sigh he handed her his cooling coffee. She looked at him in confusion but held on to it anyway. Ethan took off his coat, relishing the feeling of the cold as it hit him, and draped it over Kristina's shoulders.
"Let me walk you back to Kelly's," he said, heading back in the direction that they came from.
Ethan walked slowly, secretly happy to be near her again. Happy… that was something that had been in short supply these last several months. He looked over at her, his coat wrapped around her, and he found himself smiling. It was a completely unexpected reaction on his part, but he was beginning to feel as if a weight had been lifted off his shoulders. He wasn't necessarily happy with her explanations but he found himself understanding more than he ever thought he could.
"What?" she asked, looking up at him with a hesitant smile and a confused look on her face.
"Nothing, I was just thinking," Ethan said as he focused his attention ahead of them. He could feel some of the anger and resentment that had been steadily building up over the months, fading.
"Thinking with a smile on your face? They must not be bad thoughts." He could hear the slight bit of hopefulness in her voice.
"No, not bad," he said as he gave her a small smile. Something that she had said was running through her head.
You were going to be… my everything. You were going to save me from Kiefer, make me feel beautiful… loved. Do you remember when you told me that I was pretty and any guy would be lucky to have me? I wanted you to be that guy…
Ethan was pulled away from his thoughts by the sound of Kristina's voice as they reached Kelly's.
"Thanks for the jacket… and for listening," she said taking the jacket off and giving it back to him. As he accepted it back she looked up at him as if she was struggling with a decision on whether or not to say something.
"Ethan… I've really missed you." With a small smile she turned and entered the warmth of Kelly's leaving Ethan standing out in the cold. He turned and for the second time that night he began walking back to the docks. While he walked he pulled out his cell phone and scrolled through his list of contacts until he reached the "K"'s. He'd never had the heart to delete her number from his phone. He selected her name, and then "text message", and in the little white box he typed out four words.
I've missed you too.
Ethan stood there for a moment staring at the words and then with a sigh he deleted them. He didn't need to encourage whatever it was that was between them… what was still between them even after everything that had happened. He didn't know how, no one had ever hurt him the way she had, and that was saying something. Yet, he still had feelings for her. It was hard to decipher what they were, but they were there, tearing away at his insides.
How could it feel so right to want to see her and be near her? He wanted to believe that he was intelligent enough to have learned his lesson the first time around. She was trouble and he'd had enough of her to last him a lifetime and here he was, wanting more. Wanting more what? He asked himself.
More of her?
More of her company, her laugh, that indescribable way he felt when she smiled at him? How easy it was to talk to her? He wanted more and it went against everything he'd been telling himself these last several months. How in the Hell did she have that affect on him, and more importantly, why did he let her?
Finally making it back to the Casino he headed down to his room. Luke was back in town so the Casino was running smoothly and Ethan was sure he wouldn't be missed. He collapsed on his bed deciding that he should take advantage of the fact that he was actually sleepy, despite the fact that it was early in the evening. Maybe he'd be able to sleep through the night. He grabbed his phone intent on letting it charge while he slept. In an act of spontaneity, before he could once again talk himself out of it, Ethan pulled out his phone and sent Kristina a message.
I miss you too.
Not letting himself think enough to regret it, he plugged his phone into the charger, climbed into bed, and fell into a deep sleep.
Kristina was on her way back home, courtesy of her big sister Sam, when she felt her purse vibrate. She pulled out her cell phone and saw that she had a new text message. Hoping that it wasn't another one from her Mom asking when she was going to be home, she opened it and she was sure her heart literally stopped.
I miss you too.
Four tiny little words that felt like the longest, most eloquent, ones she'd ever read.
"What's that smile about?" asked Sam from the driver's seat as they came to a red light. Kristina looked over at Sam and put her phone back in her purse, despite the fact that she wanted to read those words over and over again until she could convince herself that they were real.
"Nothing, just a funny forward." Kristina said looking straight ahead into the darkening evening. She could still smell Ethan all around her. It had been very difficult to part with his coat and it had nothing to do with the cold. She had liked having some part of him close to her, if only it had been for a few minutes. The strangest thing was the fact that she was reminded of the night that Kiefer had attacked her. His scent brought with it images flashing into her head.
"It's okay, it's okay baby. We're going to get you some help… It's going to be okay."
Kristina turned her attention back to Sam and blocked out the feeling of Ethan's arms wrapping around her as he picked her up to take her to the hospital. Sam was staring at her with a suspicious look on her face. "Yes?" Kristina asked, drawing her thoughts away from that night and everything that had happened because of it.
"I asked you what the forward was about?"
Kristina had to suppress the urge to roll her eyes. She had turned eighteen last week but that didn't stop everyone from treating her like she was still a little kid. She had grown up a lot in the last year but she wasn't able to get anyone else to see that so she had reluctantly stopped trying.
"I don't even remember now. I get so many of them." Kristina really wanted to get home, go up to her room, and try to figure out what she was supposed to do now. Ethan was… confusing to say the least. First he hated her and now he missed her. She was happy about the last part of course, but she wondered if it was nothing more than a passing feeling.
"I think we both know that you're lying," Sam said matter-of-factly as they turned into the driveway. Kristina couldn't bring herself to continue with the lie so she dropped the pretense.
"Can't I have some things that I want to keep to myself? I'm not talking to Kiefer, he hasn't even tried talking to me since the last time. I would tell you if he did. You can't begrudge me one secret can you?"
Sam sighed and Kristina could tell that she was trying to be supportive and less over-bearing. It was funny but Kristina was starting to see a lot of their Mom in Sam, especially when it came to how they looked out for her. She appreciated it, she really did, but she didn't like it.
"Just don't get hurt, Krissy."
"I won't. I promise." She leaned over, hugged Sam, and then got out of the car, having the distinct impression that she might have just lied.
It wasn't two minutes after she had walked in the door she felt her phone buzz again. Her heart in her throat she looked at her phone only to feel cheated that it was a message from Alexis.
Glad you got home safe. You know the drill. Molly and I will be home soon. Love you.
Kristina rolled her eyes. Seriously Sam and her Mom should just get walkie talkies if they were going to spend all of their time talking about her anyway. Yes, she knew the drill, all doors and windows locked and no answering the door. Kristina double checked the door to make sure she had locked it on her way in and finding that all was well, she sat down on the couch with a long sigh.
What a day.
She'd gotten to see Ethan. That had been a surprise and at the time not a good one. Seeing him had been so unexpected that when she had heard his voice at Kelly's it had made her stomach queasy. Just seeing him did all of these things to her, she was flooded with emotions and honestly she didn't like it. She missed the days of butterflies, of smiles, and laughter. All of that was gone now, she'd be lying if she said that the butterflies weren't still there but there was just so much more going on that they turned into an afterthought.
And he missed her.
It had been pure lack of brain function that made her blurt out that she missed him. Her brain had been just a second too late at stopping her mouth. She felt like an idiot afterwards, but this, knowing that he felt it too, made her feel a lot less foolish.
Kristina wanted to text him back but she was at a complete loss as to how to respond. She didn't know if she was even supposed to respond. Regardless of the massive amounts of confusion, she felt like a weight had been lifted off her chest. She was finally able to tell him why she had done what she had and he had actually listened to her. That had meant a lot to her. Logic told her that she had finally got the closure she had been searching for all of these months. Logic told her that now she could let go completely and move on. However, her heart was saying that he actually missed her.
Maybe they could get to the point where they could talk to each other on a regular basis, be friends even? There was nothing that she wanted more than that. Kristina decided that she wouldn't respond to his message. She didn't want to ruin how things were and she didn't want to push him. If he missed her, really missed her, then just maybe things would end up working out okay after all.