A/N: This is an AU BBRae oneshot. It's probably the favorite thing I've written and posted. And that's all I have to say.
A single drop signifies the end for her. It signifies her whole world crashing down on her, cracking and tumbling and burying her beneath its debris. Cold rain hits smooth skin and trickles down her cheek. It would be easy to break down right there and cry. No one would see the tears through the rain. But she remains emotionless, put together. She avoids eye contact with him, but his bright eyes stare sadly at her, piercing through the cold exterior. She wants to run – it would be so much easier to run – but her feet refuse to move. It is then that Rachel Roth realizes the truth. She is trapped.
He sees past the masquerade she puts on for everyone else. Garfield Mark Logan is her best friend, the only one who ever understands her, and sometimes can't even do that much. He wants her to break down, to cry, to show emotion, because he knows that if she doesn't it will only hurt more. He knows how she works and it rips him up inside to see her cause herself pain. He places a hand on her shoulder in an attempt to let her know he is there for her.
"Rae…" His voice trails off. He cannot think of the right words to say, if there are any.
She makes no attempt to further the conversation. They are standing in the rain, the wind blowing around them. Garfield knows that soon he will be soaked all the way through, but in his mind it will be worth it to get her to open up. He has chased her this far; he must see it through to the end.
Shivers dance up and down her spine. Her body shakes under the thin layers of shirts and a pair of jeans. She wants to be anywhere but there, but there is nowhere else to go. There is no home, no safe place. Another drop slides down her cheek. This time it is not rain. A tear. He senses this and removes his hand from her shoulder. She bites her lip. The comfort from the gesture departs. She closes her eyes to fight back tears. A second later he intertwines his fingers with hers and his large, rough hand is enveloping hers. She opens her eyes and looks up. He smiles a sad smile.
"C'mon, Rachel. Come with me."
And she does.
Rusted swings. A small slide. Water fountains. Monkey bars. He has brought her to a park. His hand still has not let her go, and for that she is glad. He sits on one of the swings and she sits on the other. Every part of her is cold except for her left hand. She allows herself a small smile that quickly vanishes. Part of her is happy that he is here with her. The other screams at her to run away. It is coded into her instincts to never let any one close, and yet here he is besides her, holding her hand. It feels strange and wrong and foreign and at the same time perfect and right and sweet. She knows that this is what she has always wanted – to be with someone, no strings attached, no questions asked – and even though it makes her want to feel something, she is still afraid to feel.
Rain pours down harder and harder. Lightning is accompanied by thunder. It is getting late. He watches her stare up at the sky, deep in thought. He struggles to keep himself from ruining the moment with a bad joke because he knows it is a time to be serious. What he has done catches up to him and he is still amazed that she hasn't pushed him away. She has always pushed him away before. Whatever she is running from is bad, must be for her to have given in to feelings, emotions. He needs the courage to ask her what is wrong, but he doesn't want to break the delicate string holding her together.
She snaps out of her thought and looks over at him. Their eyes meet and she can sense that he is worried about her. He has reason to be, but she wishes he would stop caring. Life would be so much easier if he would stop caring. But if he had, she would surely have killed herself by now.
He takes a deep breath. The courage has come. "Rachel, I want you to listen to what I am going to say without interrupting me, 'cause we both know you like to avoid this topic. I like you, and not in a 'just friends' kind of way. It's not even that I like you, really. I'm in love with you, Rachel, and I have been for three years, since we were fifteen. Now we're adults. You're going off to college, I'm going off to college, and our friends are going off to college. We're going to be graduating high school and going our separate ways, and I need you to know this. You can't live your life avoiding the truth, Rae. And I know that even if you don't love me the same way, you have some feelings for me. I just hope you'll let yourself feel those feelings for the remainder of our time together."
One down, one to go. Rachel stares at the ground, absorbing his words. But he is not done yet.
"I've told you this before: you think you're alone, but you're not. I'm here for you. You can trust me. I want to know what you're keeping locked up. It's changing you, Rachel, and everyone notices it. You may think you're hiding it well, but you're not." He pauses. "If you want to tell me, I'll listen."
"You just don't understand," she says.
"Then explain it to me."
Lightning lights up the sky once again and the thunder pounds out its beat. Another drop is all it takes for her world to crash down on her once again. This time, she is going to let him save her.
She tells him about her mother's death. She tells him about her angry father and all of his hatred. She tells him about the kids from her hometown, the ones that shunned her, the ones that were afraid of her. She tells him how she never fit in until she met him, Kori, Richard, and Victor. She tells him how even when she was happy to have friends she couldn't show her happiness or let her friends close because her father had raised her to be a cold, emotionless humanoid. She tells him everything and he listens, just like he promised.
He squeezes her hand, and says, "That's a lot to handle on your own."
"I'm not finished," she says. She stares directly into his eyes now, searching for the strength to say the words she needs so desperately to say. All she sees is love and that is enough to keep her going. "I know I've been cold and distant with you since we met, but you never stopped trying. I just want to say… thank you for that. No one else tried as hard as you did."
He blushes. "Well, I did have a crush on you since eighth grade."
"The truth is that I've liked you for a long time. I told myself that I didn't, but I did. And then when you went out with Tara the summer before sophomore year I tried to tell myself that I was over you even though I wasn't. I had fallen in love with you, Garfield. I'm still in love with you. I've been hiding it from myself and from everyone else, but I'm not afraid to let myself feel that any more."
His smile makes her stomach flutter. She smiles back her own small smile. "So does this mean…"
"Yeah, it does."
She pushes wet hair out of her face. The storm shows no signs of clearing up, but she is content to sit there with him. In fact, she is more than content. She is happy. She looks over at him. He is checking the time on his watch. As he looks up, he stands up, and she does, too. His smile softens as he says, "It's eight-thirty. Rita is going to have a conniption if I'm not home soon because of the weather." He pauses. "We should get going."
Her voice is quiet. "I don't want to go home."
"You're not going home tonight, not after what you just told me. Come over to my house to get warmed up and later we'll call Kori."
She nods. He leads her away from the park, down streets, and, finally, to his home. His mother meets the two at the door with a look of relief and a hint of anger. Her stomach twists as he introduces her to his parents as his girlfriend. The word floats around in her brain, making her smile. All in a matter of minutes she feels more love than she has her whole life. Rita worries that they will catch cold. Rita says she must make them both hot chocolate. Rita asks over and over whether or not they are okay. Rita rushes Rachel upstairs and forces her to change into some of her dry clothes. She cares so much Rachel feels she might explode. Perhaps it is not a bad thing.
After everyone is dry, Garfield and Rachel sit on his couch, hot chocolate sitting on the coffee table in front of them, to watch TV. They can hear Rita calling Kori's house from the kitchen. She rests her head on his shoulder as the sound of an old Western movie fills the quiet. She shuts her eyes and lets the world fade to black. The sudden release of all her pent of emotion leaves her tired, but she would not change anything.
One drop is all it took for her world to crash down. One boy is all it took to start the building process over again.