Until the Last Petal Falls
By Perfect Solider 01
The flowers were still lying there on her desk, their gaudy yellow paper wrapping glaring at her under the electric bulb of her office, shining the artificial light offensively into her eyes whenever she turned her head. The hallway outside had long since surrendered itself to the cold hue of the night sky, and save for the sliver of natural moonlight shining in from the window, Emma sat isolated in the darkness, nursing the jagged wounds of her broken heart.
She wanted to leave the flowers there, go home and save herself from this perpetuating torment of indecision. She knew she should want to get rid of them and never have to look at them again, never to be reminded of how the man she loved had fallen so far from grace. Sue would no doubt tell her to throw them in the trash and forget about Will altogether, and part of her certainly wanted to tear out every petal and feel his apology wither and die in her own hands. But then she thought of the mess that would cause and reconsidered - no, no, she thought, shaking her head, she had to start getting better…
Yet Emma sat back in her chair and sighed. What was it all for now? Her picture of him had shattered; every perfect smile and every knowing glance was warped and painful to the touch, slicing through her skin with even the smallest of remembrances. Sure, she had no picture of them together at the state fair for her to kiss every night; all she had was that picture with the black-marker heart in last year's Thunderclap. But those long months of stifling heartache had etched every detail of Will Schuester into Emma's heart. Every look was documented, each arc and fall of his mouth catalogued, and every touch and caress, however slight and indirect, had burned its memory into the very fabric of her being. And his kisses, she would certainly never forget those…
Perhaps she had been naïve in placing him on such a high and polished pedestal, imagining him to be this pinnacle of chiselled kindness, unsullied sympathy and immaculate understanding. It would only be a matter of time before she was standing in her own broken mess of stone fragments and chipped rubble, the dust settling uncomfortably on her shoes. It always happened, no matter how hard she tried, so why would this be any different? She couldn't scrub away all his troubles away with just her little toothbrush…
Maybe Terri had been right; she saw him for an hour or two a day – how could she presume to know what kind of a man Will really was? What made her dare to believe that he would fall so easily into her arms if she merely had a supportive ear to lend?
Emma turned her thoughts elsewhere, shaking off those unanswerable questions as she looked back at the yellow beast beside her. Clearing her throat in the way she always did when there was a storm cloud to weather, she gradually forced her fingers around the bunch of green stems poking out the end of the wrapping. This is good, she thought, this is progress.
But as she glanced at the waste basket in the corner, the thought of seeing them abandoned there in the morning filled her with an uneasy sense of dread. They would be there waiting for her, peering up at her accusingly as they lay dying and starving, calling attention to themselves for the whole school to see with their loud sirens of colour - the chair legs winced with a scrape against the floor as Emma stood up in a hurry.
Swallowing her doubt as best she could, the punishing light of her office was soon behind her as she went out into the dark hallway. Making a conscious effort to take meaningful strides of steady determination, the click of her heels echoed loudly in her ears, pushing away any hesitation or regret that kept close in the shadows. Even if she couldn't dispose of them in her own office, these flowers would not get the best of her.
Before she allowed herself to stop and think again, she found herself on the other side of campus, hovering uncertainly beside a trash can. The smell of banana skins, sticky juices, day-old lunches and the stale wisp of cigarettes was enough to make her recoil in disgust, but she held her breathe and her arm out straight, scrunching her nose as the flowers dangling loosely in her hand.
This was it; she would throw them away and be done with him. Count to three and it will all be over, she thought, let his apology rot in the garbage; you can do this, Emma, just drop them and go home.
But three came and went in a long, nauseating pause, and the flowers were still in her grasp. Emma cleared her throat again, teetering on her heels and prepared herself once more. Yet the more she stared at them and tried to let go, the whiter her knuckles became.
"I want you to look at me the way you used to."
Emma jumped as his words resounded in her ears, his voice so close and thick with shame that it sounded as though he were whispering them right into her ears. She sighed and the flowers fell to her side. A well of humiliation started to boil inside her throat and she swung them high above her head in an attempt to throw the flowers down to the ground in a blind rage. But the petals collided with a soft graze against her side of her knee as they rose, and their unexpected tenderness made her shiver with remorse, snuffing out the suffocating flame in her chest as quickly as it had appeared. They fell back to her side.
She couldn't do it.
Lowering her gaze in pathetic defeat, she turned on her heels.
Who was she kidding? Simply denying that she could no longer look at Will in the same way again wasn't going to suddenly spirit away those tight, stalwart roots of affection that had bound them together in the first place. Emma knew that they were so entangled with her own heart that she no longer knew where those feelings began or where they ended. She had betrayed herself the moment he turned his back to leave her office, her eyes widening as her pursed lips trembled with unspoken words she had no courage to utter. All through the day she had vowed not to even think of him out of sheer contempt, yet her eyes repeatedly strayed from her work to see if he was walking past in the hallway, to see if they could catch a glimpse of his satchel or his thick, wavy curls in the swathe of kids floating past her door.
She had looked at him that way for so long, she wasn't sure she knew how to look at him any differently.
Emma picked up her step, feeling the pangs of grief snapping at her heels. Why couldn't this have been another of Sue's schemes to humiliate Will and destroy the glee club? Why didn't Will reassure her that none of her accusations were true? Why hadn't he denied it?
At that her chest tightened and she staggered to a halt, leaning against the cold frame of the lockers. Through no effort of her own the tears she had been holding back all day were wrung from her eyes, and she wept silently alone in the empty corridor.
A single carnation slipped from her hand as her body shook with sorrow, landing with a small patter on the floor, followed by another that brushed rudely against her ankle. The sudden sensation made her jump again, distracting Emma long enough to choke back her tears and see the mess she had made. Guiding an unsteady hand to her eyes, she bent down automatically to pick them up, fumbling for them through the watery haze that clouded her vision. She stopped herself just as she was about the touch the floor with her bare hands and tried instead to pick them up using the yellow wrapping to avoid any contact with the carpet of germs no doubt crawling over the linoleum.
But her tears made it impossible to steady her hands, and she was merely pushing the fallen flowers further and further out of her grasp. Wiping her eyes, Emma retreated and crouched there in the hallway, her head resting on her knees as her breathing continued to hitch in her chest.
Is this what Will Schuester had reduced her to? A sobbing wreck cowering among the trodden-down gum and the encrusted residue of thrown-away slushies? No, she wasn't going to let him win like this. She wasn't the villain in this piece.
A spark of anger rekindled itself inside her heart and Emma gritted her teeth as she stood up and marched back to her office, abandoning the carnations where they were. She would dump these flowers in her own waste basket - that would show him. That would show everyone.
However the walk back to her office was farther than Emma thought, and as fast as she tried to walk and think only of righteous revenge, her counsellor instinct dragged down on her shoulders. As much as she was reluctant to admit, she was in a very similar position now to where Will had been only a few weeks ago; the love of her life had lied to her, and it hurt. But did she really want to leave him like he had left Terri? Granted there wasn't exactly much to leave, a single date and a failed night of romance was the sum total of their relationship together… But she would also be throwing away a whole year of heartache and longing, a whole year of wishing and hoping, a year of giddy excitement as she waited eagerly for the next time he spoke to her, the next time he smiled, and the next time he clapped her affectionately on the shoulder. Did she want to leave that all behind, throw that all away?
The light from her office appeared from around the corner.
Emma stopped and cast a look back down the hall even though the fallen carnations were long since out of sight. Bringing the bouquet to her chest, she realised that somehow they had become more than just flowers to her. They were everything and nothing, and this would be the turning point. This would be the test.
But it wouldn't be her test – it would be Will's.
Returning to her office, Emma shuffled round the flowers so they filled the hole left by their lost brethren. Picking up her bag, she flicked off the light bulb and took the flowers with her as the light blinked and buzzed until it finally slept alongside the rest of the school. Stepping outside for the first time since she had arrived that morning, Emma took a deep breath of night air and managed a small smile.
She wasn't sure how long it would really take to heal the wounds. The only thing she knew was that she, and Will, needed time to think, and she would give them time. The detailed scenery of Will's so-called 'detours' might not be as sordid as Sue might have her believe, and she appreciated that Will was clearly suffering as well. Either way, she didn't want to be the one that walked out the door and never came back.
If they were really worth saving, then he would have as many days as the number of flowers in his bouquet. Every day she would throw one of them away - one at a time she could handle (she had already lost two); that would give her enough time to come to terms with what she would lose, and enough time for him to fight for her love. She had moved her own wedding to take a chance on him; now he it was his turn. The ball was in her court now.
He would have until the last petal fell.
AN: I hope you enjoyed reading this! :D I hope I didn't detract from Emma's righteous smackdown of justice (that definitely wasn't my intention!), so I hope it was in keeping with the episode. This is the first time I've written a Glee fic, and it's also the first time in ages since I've written in the third person, so your thoughts on that would be really appreciated! :)
~Perfect Soldier 01