It's been a long time since Demi and Selena have been alone together. It's been even longer since outsiders have seen them together, in any context. The media began painting the picture of a friendship shattering fight happening when the distance between the two became obvious. Most people thought they didn't even talk anymore, like they didn't own cell phones and computers with internet capabilities. But they weren't completely wrong. They didn't talk on a daily basis and they didn't get to see each other nearly as much as they used to. At first it started out as going for a day every few weeks without talking, but one day turned into many days and days into a week. Then there was usually just a text of "hey, how you doin?" thrown out every few weeks until Demi just stopped saying anything back. Eventually, those too tapered off.
Selena hadn't noticed it much when it began, her work had taken all of her attention, but it was becoming excruciatingly more obvious the longer she spent at home. There were so many things that Selena was beginning to miss without Demi at her fingertips and she was sure Demi missed being with her too. As the weeks rolled on her confidence in them turned into something else entirely. She found herself forgetting about Demi. The more time they spent apart, the less she thought about her. But her lack of remembrance was always offset when the night settled in. Selena would be lying in bed with phone in hand, it would vibrate and the first name to cross her mind would be Demi's, but it was never her. Then her thoughts would be poisoned with memories of how they used to be and she'd be aching to call her. Something always ended up stopping her though, whether it was her plummeting gut or racing heartbeat, it didn't matter.
She started to become foolishly disheartened when she would lie awake and the other girl didn't call her either. That was about the time that Selena gave up. She focused on everything that wasn't her dissipating relationship with her best friend. And when her thoughts stopped rushing, she would remember. Morning would come and Demi would be washed away. Two months passed before she properly realized how long they'd been going on like this, keeping up a heavy silence.
It was the beginning of another year when Nick was tossed back into her life. Of course it was all a Public Relations move to create a stronger hype for his new album. Selena didn't mind though, she usually enjoyed the time she spent with him. He was good company and a great listener. It wasn't until lately that she discovered he was also a fabulous observer. Nick was the only one besides her mom who noticed just how much the lack of Demi in her life affected her. It came as a surprise to her when he calmly brought it up one day as they were sitting on a cold park bench, allowing the paparazzi to get shots of them 'together.'
"So, how's Demi?" Selena felt her heart double its rhythm at his softly spoken words but her face remained calm. Her ability to hold back and show emotion was part of what made her such a fluent actress. It also made her a convincing liar, that and her endlessly innocent face.
"She's okay I guess."
Nick hummed while crossing his legs and folding his hands in his lap. "You guess and Demi together in the same sentence are two things I never thought I'd hear."
"Things change, Nick. You know that," she said, turning to challenge his broody stare with one of her own.
"I'm aware, Selenita." Her eyes narrowed at the sound of the affectionate name. He knew how to push her buttons. "But we both know that Demi isn't someone that you would just let walk away from you."
Selena felt an anger rise from the base of her gut. "You're right, I wouldn't let her walk away and I didn't. She ran."
"And why didn't you run after her?" Her eyes turned pensive as she faced away from him, contemplating her answer. She really hated it when he was so direct with his questions that there wasn't any way she could avoid the truth. There was such a silence that the two could hear the faintest clicking of camera shutters in the distance.
Selena breathed out through her nose. "Because, Nick, this time she didn't want me chasing her. This time she was running from me. And she ended up right in the arms of everything I've tried so hard to keep her out of. They've got her now and their claws have already sunk in. One day they're gonna dig too deep and she's not gonna notice until it goes too far. I dread that day, Nick. I dread the day when they realize she has no more power to feed off and they leave her feeling used. I dread it because I won't be there and by the time I do it'll be too late."
Selena stopped to look at him when she felt herself shaking. She could see the emotion she was feeling being reflected back in his eyes. "Demi's not like us. She doesn't know how to not be vulnerable and not let everybody in because all she wants is to be loved. She needs someone to be the anchor that keeps her feet on the ground. And I love her family to death, but they're all so fucking clueless. It's like all they see is shallow happiness and don't even bother see the deeper issues. And it kills me to know that I'm no longer someone she needs in her life. I've pushed her so far away it's gonna take a miracle to get her back."
"You don't need a miracle. You need to talk to her." He made it sound so simple and logical that it was almost patronizing. "I can't, Nick. Every time I try something stops me. If I can't figure myself out, how am I supposed to convince her to fix us?"
"I wasn't aware you two were broken. I just thought you'd been apart for so long you forgot how to be friends."
"I—but—we didn't," Selena's tongue tripped over the words. "We left it in an awkward place, the kind of place that can change everything based on how it's handled. Both of us ignored it for so long we ended up ignoring each other. I can't see her, she can't see me. But I do see her and what I see scares me. She's changed. She's changed into someone that can finally live without me."
Nick's gaze felt heavy against her as she fought the sting that came with her open honesty. A warm hand on her knee brought her focus back to the boy next to her. He was looking at her with his lips slightly turned up as though he knew everything was gonna be alright. It may not have been much but it made her feel better. Silently, Nick stood from the cold bench and offered his elbow to her. Selena accepted graciously as always and together they walked away from camera lenses and memories.
That night when she finally made it home was one of those nights that she'd asked her step-dad to go sleep elsewhere because she needed alone time with her mom. These kinds of nights had been happening more and more often lately. The ones where Selena would kick Brian out, climb into the bed, and curl up next to her mom. Then her mom would hug her until she felt her frustration simmer and her tension diminish. The best part was that she would never question her about it. But Selena had a feeling her mom knew what was going on. She was never one to be oblivious when it came to her daughter.
Months slipped away and the Northern Hemisphere was finally shedding its winter coat, welcoming the early spring warmth. Selena had spent a lot of those winter days with Nick, fueling the rumors of their togetherness by appearing at his shows and intentionally driving through paparazzi hotspots. Selena never minded though, even as the bright lights blinded her and imprinted the flashes into her vision. She was just doing her job.
But now that spring had arrived she was looking forward to getting back to real work and finally graduating. Selena was trying her hardest to just not think about Demi these days, but it was so hard not to think about someone who tainted so many memories. She was starting to discover that just about anything could make her remember. A song, a person, a country, a word, a phrase, a piece of clothing, even seeing purple and green together sparked thoughts of Demi. Selena hated remembering. She thought about how they used to be and she suddenly had this ball of regret in her stomach. She would remember Demi and miss her more than she ever had before. The longer she let their relationship go unattended the more she doubted. All her thoughts amounted to nothing because that's how they stayed.
Selena shouldn't have been surprised with what happened next. She really shouldn't have. None of it mattered anyway, it wasn't like anyone was there to witness the stunned eyes and irregular breathing. Demi Lovato and Joe Jonas were now dating. She really should have seen it coming. It was just the kind of thing she would expect them to pull when they had a new movie being released and an upcoming summer tour for said new movie. The relationship had publicity stunt stamped all over it and she knew it. That didn't make it burn less when someone sent her pictures of the two holding hands and laying in the grass. Had this been a year ago she probably would have been laughing at them, showing up at Demi's house just to make jokes at her expense.
As the weeks wore on and Demi and Joe prevailed, Selena could only feel more frustration. She would have been able to avoid the irritating relationship all together had someone not kept sending her pictures every time they were spotted together. It was obvious from the places they went that it was a game, that's how it was supposed to go. What made her blood boil was the touching. Selena couldn't remember ever being so jealous and the fact that she was actually jealous of Joe pissed her off even more. This wasn't how she wanted to be, but she kept torturing herself with emails and pictures. All she wanted was to be the one Demi was hanging onto and she hated it.
It wasn't until the end of May that she found herself breathing normally again. Joe and Demi had reached their end and Selena was relieved. It meant she could finally stop being so irrationally jealous and her mind could go back to trying to forget her. But it was hard to forget someone she didn't really want to forget about. Should have been easier considering that the one she didn't want to forget about had forgotten about her. Demi had seemingly moved on, with Joe, with other friends, with people that weren't her. So why was Selena clinging to something that wasn't hers anymore?
Hope. It was the only reason for anything Selena did these days. She hoped people enjoyed her show. She hoped she inspired people to follow their dreams. She hoped she could save a starving kid in some third world country. She hoped Demi would one day want to salvage their relationship. She hoped that everything was gonna be okay. It never really would be though. She still neglected to even try to break silence between them.
Birthdays passed and the intense summer heat lulled into a soft warmth. No summer had ever passed faster for Selena. Time was irrelevant and the days blended into each other, not even sleep could distinguish one day from the next. She completely lost herself in her work, accepting whatever project was sent her way. Her heavy workload kept her focused and busy. Two things she desperately needed to keep her thoughts away from useless questions. Selena may not have been as lighthearted as she used to but she wasn't a complete wreck either. She could smile and laugh and giggle and act like a total fool and no one would guess her insides were silently suffering.
It wasn't until the final days of October that she let her strength falter. Demi Lovato had checked herself into a treatment center. Demi was in rehab. For what, Selena had yet to find out. She just knew that it'd actually hurt when she heard it. It was as though someone had reached inside and squeezed her heart until their knuckles burned white. In the background was the slight presence of anger. Instead of letting regret consume her, she focused on the building fury. By the time she started making calls for answers she was already seething, mostly internal of course. But she was angry, at herself, at Demi, at Demi's family, at Demi's friends, at Disney, at the world. It shouldn't have come down to this.
Her feet started a tempered pace as the phone in her hand continued to only yielded the sound of ringing. She hung up and dialed again, determined not to give up until her questions had answers. After the third ring it was picked up.
"Selena," Dallas struggled. "I—shit. Guess you found out, huh?" The silence answered better than the young star ever could. "Listen, I don't know much but what I do know isn't good. Demi's been back to her old ways. It's like 2004 all over again, except she completely broke down this time. She even sucker punched one of the dancers. I thought she had it under control, you know? I feel like such an idiot for not seeing it earlier. I should have known something was up when you disappeared."
Selena felt her chest getting tighter with each word. "It's not your fault, Dallas. It never was. Do you know when she can have visitors?"
"I have no idea, darlin'. They don't even let family visit for at least a week."
"Hey, don't worry," she assured. "I'm sure I can find a way to sneak you in early. You're Selena motherfuckin Gomez." Not even with the current situation looming overhead was Selena able to suppress her giggles. There was something about the way the two Lovatos made light of tense situations that always put her at ease.
"Thank you." For the first time in a long time, Selena meant it.
"I've always got your back, brat."
The next few days had Selena more on edge than she would have liked. Her phone was a constant source of dread whenever it buzzed or rang. She hoped it was Dallas but at the same time she didn't. The thought of being in the same room again made the pit of her stomach fall even deeper. She had no idea what she would even say to Demi once she saw her. But even through all of her slighted nerves and quivering emotions she still wouldn't have it any other way. Selena promised to always be there for Demi, no matter what might happen between them and she wasn't about to make a liar out of herself now.
It wasn't until a week and a half after Demi entered rehab that Dallas called and picked her up. She was finally able to see Demi. If she was honest, she was scared. She knew nothing of the younger girl's state of mind. Selena didn't even know if she wanted her there or if her presence would just make it worse. Her mind was thinking too much and it was killing her confidence. Doubt after doubt sank into her thoughts as her teeth did the same to her bottom lip. Dallas frowned when she saw Selena staring at the dashboard and biting her lip. It was unnerving how quiet she was being but she ignored it in favor of concentrating on getting them to the center quicker.
By the time the car came to a full stop in the visitor parking lot, Selena had managed to convince herself that this was actually a terrible idea. But as she looked at the building she was reminded of why she was so willing to go in the first place. Demi was hurting and no amount of time, distance, or pain would ever stop her from caring.
The walk from the parking lot to the building was a frigid one compared to the lingering heat of her native state. The inside of the building was nothing like she'd expected either. It resembled a welcoming hotel more than it did a sterile psych ward. The building's normalcy allowed Selena to relax some as Dallas chatted up the receptionist. When the woman behind the desk gave them the go ahead she felt the tension slide into her muscles again. Selena followed Dallas wordlessly until they stopped in front of closed wooden door number 182.
Dallas suddenly turned and grinned without meaning, "She doesn't know you're here. Have fun." She pushed open the door and shoved an unresisting Selena in. The door slammed shut behind her but she never heard it because her full attention was already on the girl reading a book in her bed. Demi's head shot up and the look on her face said it all. The book in her hand quickly disappeared and her feet were planted firmly on the ground.
"Hi," she said, slightly dragging it out. Selena couldn't stop the smile from appearing. She felt like she was seven again and seeing Demi for the first time. Her look was mirrored in Demi's face, and that smile. God, that smile. It had never looked so worn out before.
"Hey," her voice close to breathy this time, like she couldn't believe Selena was there, for her. Selena found herself becoming giddy with Demi's reaction. It was as though the months they'd spent not talking were automatically rendered invalid. They both knew that talk was cheap and none of it mattered because Demi was at her all time low. She wanted Selena more than she wanted words.
With renewed confidence, Selena moved further into the room. Demi's smirk faltered the closer she got because she remembered. She remembered what she was doing in this room. She remembered what she'd done to get there. She remembered why she'd progressively fazed Selena out. Mostly, she remembered how she felt. But when Selena pulled her into a hug and wrapped her arms around her neck, she forgot. Demi let go and held onto Selena as desperately and tightly as she could. Selena was what kept her feet on the ground and her head in the clouds. She had what no one else ever could.
Dallas peered into the room and felt her heart melt at the sight of the two girls clinging to each other, swaying gently from side to side. She'd seen them hug a million times before but none of them had ever seemed so intimate. Whatever it was would be forced to end because Demi's visiting window had swiftly dwindled down to its final minutes. Dallas made her presence known and watched intently as the two parted, though their hands kept contact.
"Call me, text me, anything. Just let me know you're okay, kay?" Selena asked, eyes searching the shorter girl's face. Demi nodded and let their eyes catch, smiling at what she found. "Okay."
Dallas had never felt so irrelevant. The two teenagers were in a world of their own and she was left alone in reality. But the two didn't stay isolated too long because Selena was soon squeezing Demi's hand and backing out the door with Dallas close behind.
The rest of the week went by in a haze for Selena. Her mind was constantly drifting to Demi. She had no idea what she was doing anymore. Two weeks ago she was trying her best to move on but now she was right back where she was nine months ago. She hated it but at the same time she really didn't care. She couldn't change the past, so why bother losing sleep over it? All she wanted to do was to be there for Demi and get her girl back.
It had been three days since her visit and now she was restless in waiting for Demi to contact her. It was pathetic how often Selena ended up checking her phone. When the call finally came, Selena's heart nearly beat its way out of her chest. She couldn't tell you what they talked about or how they ended up staying on the phone for five hours but she knew that it was the most she'd smiled in a long time.
The two of them kept up the same routine for months, taking turns assaulting each other with barrages of texts and phone calls. So it was troubling for her when it was a day in late January and Demi was ignoring all the texts she sent. Every time Selena tried to rationalize, a doubt came and shattered her courage.
Dusk was just settling in when the doorbell chime rang to life and echoed through the empty house. A visitor wasn't expected but it wasn't entirely unwelcomed either. Selena peeled open the front door without even considering who might be on the other side. The person on her doorstep was someone she'd only been seeing in memory.
"Selena," she said with a lopsided smirk. A moment later Selena's arms were sweeping her into a hug with her mouth a breath away from her jaw. An unnoticeable chill sank through Demi as Selena mumbled out 'I've missed you' and her words skimmed her ear. Something inside of her fell into place because she found herself slowly pulling away from the warmth before her. Selena's face stayed amazingly close to hers and she could see everything, but there was only one thing she wanted to do.
Suddenly, she did it and they were kissing. Demi was kissing Selena and Selena was kissing Demi. Nothing had ever felt so right. It was slow, but then it seemed that years of tension had finally found its outlet and they were fighting the heat. Demi's purse and keys were the first things to be lost in the war. Selena clutched at the edges of Demi's leather jacket, dragging her further into the house and never losing the other girl's lips. Demi's hands had wondered from her hips to her back to her sides and lastly to her chest where they found the zipper to Selena's hoodie and swiftly pulled it down. Hands were soon tugging thick material from delicate shoulders that quickly became tangled in their haste. The girls couldn't keep from giggling as the struggle continued and Selena was stuck flailing with her hands behind her back. At last the hoodie found a new home on the couch and was also accompanied by Demi's leather jacket.
The two starlets then began to migrate up the stairs from the living room. Each step provided a new kiss, a different stumble, and a set of giggles. They continued to fumble from wall to doorframe with their eyes closed until Selena's bedroom became the home front for their battle. Demi and Selena were lost for the night, pushing each other until there was nothing left to satisfy.
After that night everything should have changed, but it never did. Even with Demi under home observation and Selena working on the final episodes of Wizards, they still managed to find each other. Regret was not something they wanted that night tarnished with, because if both of them were honest, it made complete sense. Selena was Demi's anchor. She had Demi figured out. She was the only person who could soothe her with one touch. And Selena, she adored Demi. Demi had her heart dancing like a marionette. They complimented each other like colors.
Their relationship really didn't differ from their friendship. When they went to the movies they still buried their heads in each other's shoulders as they both cringed at the terror on the screen. Except now they could hold hands when freaky things happened. Demi even got to kiss Selena goodnight when she dropped her off, leaving them both with the wildest of grins.
It was now nearing the end of March, meaning it had been almost two months since Demi and Selena had slept together for the first time. Demi could feel herself falling deeper each day, which was why she had asked Selena out on an official date. It hadn't done her mind any good not knowing where they stood. She knew Selena wouldn't be with her if she didn't want to be but Demi needed reassurance. She needed to hear it from Selena herself. Lucky for Demi, Selena said yes.
So came Friday, neither Demi nor Selena could remember being more content just talking with the occasional round of foot nudging, of course. It wasn't until their plates had been cleared away that an idea hit Demi. She picked up her chair, keeping it against her bottom as she quickly edged her way over to the older girl. She plopped down next to her as close as humanly possible and pulled her phone from her back pocket, pressing on the screen a few times before she got what she wanted. Demi could feel Selena's curious eyes on her as she tried propping the phone against their glasses.
"What are you doing?" Her voiced was colored brightly with amusement. "You'll see."
At last, Demi succeeded in standing the phone upright. She pressed the only button on the phone as lightly as she could. Her hands quickly made their way to Selena's waist and pulled until her back was against her front before gliding up to curl around her shoulders. Demi smiled as she rested her face against Selena's and the other girl caught on, pulling the first face that came to mind. The phone made a faint shutter click and Demi grabbed it from its perch, smiling at the picture. Selena smirked as she took a sip of her drink. "So, what was that for?"
"I just wanted to make our reunion official because I realized something," Demi said, licking her lips.
"And what was that?"
"That I can live without you, but without you I'll be miserable at best."