AN: Well, hello there. I sincerely apologize for the prolonged absence on this one but I'll admit I kind of gave up on this story. But I was inspired by those last few recent reviews to end this once and for all. I'm not sure I'm completely happy with the way this story came out so I MAY redo it if I have time during the summer, which is pretty much now for me...And may I point out this is the only story, besides oneshots, that I have completed? Bravo to me. Anyway, this chapter came out completely different than I had originally planned but here it is in all of its glory: the end of the dramatic saga that is The Day the Music Died!
It had been over a year.
Or something like that. Paul had lost track of time after the first month or two of Annie's abrupt absence. He couldn't bring himself to dwell on the days for too long because, quite honestly, he had better things to do with his time. Like, for instance, one of the pretty extras from the Beatles' new movie.
He shook a cigarette from the near empty pack, absentmindedly placing it between readily parted lips. The taste of tobacco provided an empty comfort for suppressed feelings hiding deep down in places he couldn't reach even if he tried. That was why he drowned himself in his work, or in the bed of a young and willing girl. He wouldn't admit it to himself, of course, but there was a reason behind his risqué behavior and the sudden abrasiveness with his skyrocketing career. John was very clearly irked by his friend's condition but nothing he so blatantly said cured Paul of the bout.
Paul wandered aimlessly through deserted streets of an American city he couldn't quite remember in his current state. His mind was fogged with the stinging feel of bitter liquor in a dastardly attempt to force those feelings further down his subconscious. He was losing himself but he wasn't sure if he wanted to be found. Well, perhaps in the literal sense he did. He had not the slightest clue as to his whereabouts at the moment. In the metaphorical sense, however, he would much prefer to stay misplaced.
He had loved Annie, the moral part of his mind reminded him. And she had left without so little as a goodbye uttered from those lips he had kissed the night before. It stung, knowing she could just take off much like she had done years ago. That was why he was acting out and drowning his sorrows in the bottle. That was why he was a drunken mess in a foreign country. He had also taken to smoking, not just cigarettes, but something called cannabis the group had tried under the wing of their new friend Bob Dylan. Dylan was a strange bloke, he was, but he knew a thing or two of ways to numb the pain.
George and Ringo tried to talk some sense into him, explaining that Annie wasn't worth his time. If she couldn't bother with a goodbye then he shouldn't bother killing himself in misery. But Paul refused to listen to either of them because he knew they were heartbroken as well, both for different reasons. He felt worse for Ringo, though, because he had not only lost a girl but a child as well. Yes, he had moved on and recommitted himself to his relationship with Maureen but Paul knew he was still hurting.
At least he had gotten a letter from Cristina.
Paul (and George) had gotten absolutely nothing. Annie just disappeared without a trace, running back to her home in Florida. Paul had been on his way to see her when he found out. He had walked over to her flat, whistling a cheerful tune, only to discover the apartment completely empty. A neighbor across the way informed him that the tenants had clocked out a few hours ago.
Startled and highly confused, he walked over to Annie's childhood home. Maggie greeted him at the door but she did not return his kind smile. She stiffly informed him her sister was not there and closed the door before he could get a word in edgewise.
Worry slowly began weeding its way into his mind as he walked by to the recording studio. He caught John on a smoke break and told him of what he had discovered. John, for the first time in almost the entire history the two shared, looked slightly uncomfortable. Paul glared at him.
"She's gone, Paul," John informed him bluntly.
"What do you mean 'she's gone'?"
"She and Cristina went back to America."
"How do you know?" Paul demanded hotly.
"Cyn and I sort of accidentally caught them on their way to the airport." He smiled sheepishly. "Annie gave nothing away but you know Cris."
Paul growled in frustration and stormed inside the studio.
Now, he collapsed onto the rough pavement and leaned against a building with a sigh. The cigarette dangled carelessly from his lips, swaying slightly from his breathing. He couldn't understand why she had left. What purpose was there in simply disappearing? It wasn't like last time, when she poured her heart out and he rejected her. Now it seemed like the opposite; she hadn't rejected him then but by leaving, that was a clear sign of rejection, wasn't it? He placed the cigarette between two fingers and snubbed the fire in the ground, extinguishing the light and what little hope he had with it.
He couldn't love someone like Annie Holloway.
The next morning, he awoke to Brian Epstein yelling something at one of his friends. He winced slightly, feeling slightly disoriented as the effects of a major hangover washed over him. Knowing when a fellow Beatle was completely beside himself, John set the hotel room trash bin before Paul just as his stomach gave a nasty lurch.
"You're going to have hell to pay," John said with a sad shake of the head. "And I don't just mean the hangover."
"McCartney!" Brian shouted, rounding on him. "What is the meaning of this?"
Paul grimaced and nudged the foul bin away from him. "I'm fine, Brian."
"Fine? You're fine? You are most certainly not fine! Far from it, if I am correct."
"Brian—" Paul whined.
"Don't you start! You are hung over. How could you do something as stupid as drink yourself silly the night before a major show?"
"Really, I'm fine." As if to betray his words, he found himself emptying the contents of his stomach in the bin once more.
Brian shot him an accusatory glare.
"I'm sorry," Paul sighed, dabbing at the corner of his mouth with a napkin. "I'll be fine in a few minutes."
"Is this about that Holloway girl?"
Paul flinched. "No."
"You're a terrible liar."
"Lay off, will you?" Ringo said in annoyance as he walked out of the bathroom, steam billowing behind him. "Just give him some time to readjust."
Brian opened his mouth to retaliate but then closed it, storming out of the room.
"What is wrong with you?" George asked after Brian slammed the door.
"Don't you start," Paul snapped, struggling to stand without losing his balance.
John shoved a mug of coffee in his hands. "I feel like your mother," he joked, forcing Paul to take a sip. "It's spiked with rum, by the by."
"Are you crazy?" George questioned him in horror.
"A bit, yeah."
"Nah, he's got the right idea," Ringo said. "The best cure of a hangover is to drink a bit of what you had the night before."
Paul gingerly drank his concoction without another word.
The boys got ready for their concert with idle chatter and virtual silence from Paul. Ringo kept shooting him concerned glances but otherwise said nothing. When the time had come, the four plus Brian and the rest of those on tour with them dashed out into the mob of squealing girls into the awaiting car.
"Where are we again?" Paul whispered once the car was set in motion. He jumped back as someone banged on the window but offered a tentative smile and a wave.
"New York City," George informed him, trying not to laugh at his momentary forgetfulness.
"The city of sin," John said with a little smirk.
"That's Las Vegas," Brian sighed.
"Well, why don't we have a show there, then?"
He was met with a group eye roll.
"Right, well," Brian began, ignoring the question all together. "When the car stops, I want you all to follow Mal into the stadium. No stopping, just continue walking. Do you hear me?"
They nodded in agreement, poised to jump out of the vehicle and into their destination. The car rolled alongside a looming stadium that had them all staring up at it in wonder. No concert had ever been performed there before, they had been told. Paul looked up at the letters spelling out "Shea Stadium" with pride and accomplishment.
And suddenly, the car stopped.
"Go!" Brian urged.
With efficient haste, the Beatles exited the car and were rushing into the stadium. The sound of the roaring crowd nearly deafened Paul as he hurried to the entrance.
But that was when he heard it.
Someone was calling to him. The only reason he could decipher it from the cacophonous noise was because they weren't calling for Paul – they were calling for Jimmy.
"What are you doing?" Ringo shouted when he noticed Paul stop. Paul gripped his wrist and turned them both to the sound. "Oh goodness," he whispered when he realized the significance.
Paul wasn't sure whether to run screaming or to stay rooted on the spot. So he chose a gradual shift towards Shea Stadium. He watched, absolutely baffled, as a little redheaded girl ran with all her might towards him, only to be stopped by security.
"No, it's all right!" he heard himself tell them. "She's with us."
The girl blew a raspberry in the face of the nearest guard and continued sprinting towards him, a big toothy grin on her face. She threw her arms around his waist and Paul tentatively returned the embrace, picking her up off of the ground and burying his face in her hair.
"Maggie, I've missed you," he admitted honestly.
"You have?" she gasped, pulling back to smile at him again. "Oh, I've missed you too!"
"Who are you here with?" Ringo asked, taking his turn to hug her tightly. "And why, if you don't mind me asking, did you call Paul 'Jimmy'?"
She shrugged her tiny shoulders. "I'm here with them." They shifted their gaze to two women rushing after little Maggie, frowns painted on their faces. The expressions only changed when they caught sight of who she was with.
"Who're they?" Paul asked.
"Sarah and Bethany," Maggie answered, motioning for the strangers to join her. "They were watching me for Annie."
"Maggie, your sister will be horribly upset you ran off like that!" One of the women, Sarah, called. "You know better!"
"But I don't," Maggie replied with a grin. Then she turned to Ringo and Paul. "Shouldn't you two be going inside? I'm sure Mr. Epstein will be horribly upset."
They exchanged a glance, both clearly confused. "She's right," a voice said from behind them. Brian grabbed their arms and yanked them with him. "It's lovely to see you again, Maggie."
"Bye boys!" the girl waved as she watched them go off. Paul glanced over his shoulder, watching her become consumed by the crowd. He was not sure what to make of this.
Going against his better judgment, Paul left the safety of the hotel to stand by the glimmering pool later that night. He felt recharged after that electric performance. Sure, the sound could have been so much better but he was sure that concert was one for the history books. He chuckled as he remembered John playing the keyboard with his elbows during "I'm Down". It had been an incredible night.
"You shouldn't be out here."
Startled, he turned to the voice, his heart sinking miserably as he identified who it belonged to. There, leaning against the gate surrounding the perimeter of the pool area, was a vivacious redhead smoking a cigarette caught between two red-painted smirking lips. Paul watched in silence as she clasped the cigarette between two fingers with a close precision, her green eyes never leaving his. Slowly, tauntingly, she eased open the gate and approached him. When she was nearly five short steps from him, she stopped, taking a moment to pull a drag from the cigarette.
"What are you doing here?" Paul asked, coming to his senses.
She exhaled a puff of smoke, smirking again. "I could ask you the same thing."
"So am I."
Paul glared at her. She laughed dryly.
"I was here first – in New York, anyway. I have every right to be here. The only thing you've got going for you is being a Beatle."
Paul couldn't help but feel insulted. He scoffed and made to leave. Something was nagging at him, though. Turning to face her again, he demanded, "Why did you come here? To apologize for leaving?" When she said nothing, he shook his head and gave a humorless chuckle. "You're a horrible person, you know that?"
"Not any better than you."
He was not just shocked by the words, but also the lack of emotion they held. She continued staring at him curiously and he grew more discomforted by the minute. "What do you want, Annie?"
"Honestly? I don't know." She put out the smoldering stick with the toe of her boot. "I thought coming here to see you would give us both some sort of closure, I guess."
"Closure? That's what this is about?"
She raised an eyebrow. "You obviously need it. I heard what you've been getting yourself into, McCartney."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"I don't mean to sound shallow or anything but we all know the reason you've been drinking so much lately. I'm not dumb, Paul."
"You could've fooled me," he spat.
Her lips twitched slightly. "You think you can get the better of me with your harsh words and wit? Go on, Paul. Tell me what you really think of me. Maybe it'll make us both feel better."
Paul just gave her an Are you crazy look.
She shook her head slightly. "Everyone's a bit crazy, don't you think? If we were all normal the world would be a terribly boring place."
He heaved a great sigh. "I don't need this right now, Annie. I've got to get up early tomorrow to catch a plane to Canada and…I just don't need this."
"You could've left at any minute, Paul – I'm not holding you here."
Anger suddenly flared inside of him like a raging bull. "You want to know what I think of you? All right, then. I think you're a bitch. You are the biggest bitch I've ever met in my entire life. You go around throwing this snotty attitude in everyone's face like they owe you something and when things don't go your way, no one is happy. Then you go whore yourself out to anyone that will pay you attention to compensate for the fact that you had a ruddy childhood. And you like to lead guy's on when you really only wanted one person. But that goes back to the bitch thing and we're beyond that. You're also a bloody coward! The first sign of something that requires just a bit of courage and you run like hell for the first plane to America."
He hadn't realized that as he ranted on, he had come quite close to her. Still, he continued, thrusting an accusatory finger in her blank face. "How could you do that to me, Annie? I tell you how I feel and you just run! And you take Cristina with you. Do you have any idea how horrible Ringo felt afterwards? And another thing—"
He was suddenly silenced by her standing on tiptoe to place her lips on his. He poured all of his pent-up emotions into the kiss, leaving her effectively breathless.
"And another thing," he persisted, breathing heavily. "I hate that I love you so much." He also hated how weak he suddenly sounded but he didn't dare voice that.
She nodded vaguely, probing his eyes for something he was not quite sure of. "I made Cris go see Ringo today," she finally said. "She brought over Samuel."
"Her little boy. It's good that Rich sees him but there's not much to be done for him and Cristina; he's got his own family now. And Lord knows how Maureen will feel about Sam."
Paul hummed in agreement. "Annie?"
She sighed and tiredly rubbed at her eyes. "I'm sorry, Paul. For everything. I really mean it."
"The thing is, Ann, I suppose I can forgive you. But I'm not sure I can forget. Any of it."
"I know that," she agreed. "I know I've hurt a lot of people and I'm trying to be a better person by apologizing. But how many are willingly going to do the same for me?"
"I already have."
She ticked off a number on her hand. "Well, that's one down."
He smiled but then frowned. "What does this mean?"
She groaned. "Why does it have to mean something? Can't you just live in the moment?"
Paul relaxed the grip he had unknowingly had on her waist. "It doesn't work that way, Annie. I can't get into something without knowing the consequences."
"I'm sorry Paul, but I don't know that."
He shifted from foot to foot, uncertainty descending upon the pair. "I love you, Annie, I really do."
"I've never stopped loving you," she said gently.
"But I don't know where to go from here."
"Can't we just see where it goes?" she asked, suddenly sounding as weak as he felt.
"I-I don't know."
"Paul, please," she almost begged. "I didn't give up on you for all of those years and I'm not going to give up on you now. Is this about Jane?"
He bit his lower lip, pondering the situation. "She's part of the problem, I suppose. But she knows how I feel."
When he did not appear ready to elaborate she frowned and pulled another cigarette from her pocket. "You're killing me," she said after taking a drag.
"Not as fast as those things are."
She shot him a glare. "Not funny."
"I wasn't trying to be."
Annie threw her hands up in frustration. "I've been good for months and have barely cursed at all but you make me want to start again."
He suddenly seized her by the waist and kissed her once more. She gazed up at him curiously, fighting a smile that was threatening to escape. "Here's to our uncertain future?" he said, stealing the cigarette from her hand.
"Here's to our uncertain future," she settled, wrapping her arms around him with a content grin.