A/N: I was really pleasantly surprised with the response to the last little one-shot I did for Private. I am happy so many people enjoy how I'm writing, heh. So, thank you for those reviews! This is dedicated to Megan, who forces me to do these, and will also leave a review at the end of this if she knows what's good for her (:
Oh, also, I was about to make this into a oneshot, but then I realized that it's easier to just compile all of these into one area...so, I'm just adding it to "Complacent Comfort". Issues? Feel free to quarrel with me. ;P
Disclaimer: I don't have short blond hair, nor do I have loads and loads of money. So...you can cleverly deduce that I'm not Kate Brian, and thus do not own Private or any of the ideas associated with it.
Josh wasn't planning on taking her to his room when their conversation started. He never planned anything...not with Reed, anyway. The more time he spent with her, the more he realized that things often just happened on their own. He had no control over any of it.
Not that he was complaining. Because in addition to the previous realization, when he spent more time with her, he also found himself falling deeper and deeper for her. It was like he was diving down into this pit and the more conversations they had, the closer they got, the harder it was for him to claw his way out. Sure, he didn't really want to, but he still liked the idea of knowing that he could.
Shaking the thought from his mind, he stayed focused on her – the way her hair was curled up a bit at the ends and a little disheveled from...everything. Hell, her boyfriend had died, and people were constantly peppering her with these insane questions. If he were in her shoes, he'd have been committed days ago (he resisted the urge to laugh to himself at that comment, the little inside joke he had with himself).
In all honesty, he thought she was so strong for holding up the way she had been. A part of him admired her for the way she just kept plugging through her schoolwork, keeping up with friends. But he still saw the exhaustion behind her eyes, and the frustration and confusion not far beyond that. He wanted to relieve her of that; ever since the night on the train, and after, all he'd been able to think of was touching her again, comforting her. Taking away all that pain that he could see so clearly.
He wanted to brush her lips with his and remind her of the happiness in the world when she saw none. He wanted to stroke her cheek and kiss away any tears that might stream down. He just wanted...to be there. Somehow. The thought perplexed Josh whenever it overcame him, because he couldn't be sure where these feelings had come from.
She'd just snapped at him, and while normally he'd be taken aback by the tang of her sharp tone, this time he pushed through. Because he knew that he just had to prod a little bit, and she'd let him in. Josh saw it in the way her eyes refocused when she talked to him, whereas they remained slightly blurred when talking to others, her concentration wavering.
Upon her apology, he brought his head down to level with hers, which was down on the lunch room table. Laying his cheek on the table, he reached his hand out to hers, brushing his pinky against her own.
He hadn't expected the sensation – a twang of zapping heat ran up his hand and arm and through his entire body in a mere matter of seconds, shooting to the very tips of his toes. Josh bit the inside of his cheek against the feeling, and focused on verbalizing. Words. Those things with the letters.
"It's okay, what's going on?"
Josh watched her as she seemed to experience the same thing as he. Despite the fact that her face was hidden in her arms and hands, he saw the slightest pink tint on her cheeks. She let out the tiniest of gasps when their fingers touched, so small and quiet that he knew she didn't think he'd heard. But he did. Because he listened to her closer than he listened to his own heart and breathing when he was around her (always making sure they weren't too rapid, or loud, giving him away).
He smiled when her head perked up and her eyes met his shyly. They were both aware of the moment that had just passed. Josh didn't want it to end, he didn't want this to be over, didn't want to forget it. He wanted more contact than that; wanted to feel her entire hand touching his, their fingers twining together loosely as soft lips met chapped-from-the-cold ones.
At the very thought, Josh darted his tongue out and licked his lips, and realized that she still hadn't responded to him. He was worried that when he'd somehow crossed that invisible line that he really hadn't even recognized, he'd misread her. Maybe she didn't want this.
Oh, shit. She'd just lost her boyfriend. He was dead. She'd lost him permanently, forever. And he was a jackass. Such a jackass.
"Reed?" He questioned worriedly, eyebrows furrowing slightly.
Her eyes met his again and he sensed the reassurances, however meek, behind her gaze.
"I just wish I could get out of my head," Reed confessed to him. "It's unlivable in here."
He understood that more than she'd ever know. Feeling like you were trapped inside your own mind, with all sorts of memories and whispers of the past. Wanting to just throw yourself at a wall to make it all stop. But he'd found a way to get outside of himself that didn't involve hurting anyone or anything. And it really did make everything better.
So, with his overwhelming desire to just take her out of the deep, dark cave that her head had become, he decided to offer up a proposition. One that going into this, had not even been a distant flicker in his mind.
Leaning in, Josh pushed the thought of just kissing her and getting it over and done with out of his mind. He wanted to be a gentleman, because it was at the core of who he was. He knew better than to just jump into it, and practically force her into something. If all the signs he thought he saw were really there, Reed wouldn't mind it; but it wasn't like Josh to do things like that.
Thus, he just gazed at her, a twinkle developing in his eyes as he attempted to try and cheer her up.
"I might have an idea of how you can do that. If you're interested, that is," Josh offered, smirking playfully.
Reed's eyes turned hard, abruptly and he got that sinking feeling of worry again – feeling like he'd crossed the line without realizing. God, when had he gotten so horrible at recognizing when it was too much? He wanted to get up, apologize and just walk out. He wanted to give her space, for them to just forget this...
"If you're talking about pot or something, I'm not interested."
He almost laughed right in her face, while at the same time taking somewhat of an offense to the accusation. Was that really who she thought he was? A pot-head? That had been Thomas, sure, but not him. He never understood the whole allure of taking drugs, was always pretty scared of the permanent brain damage he'd been taught about since he was a kid.
"It's not drugs, Reed. Come on. What kind of idiot do you think I am?" Apparently the insensitive, pot-head type, given what she'd said.
However, her face instantly softened and blush crept onto her cheeks. He bit the inside of his cheek, wanting to kiss the places that that blush spread upon, to brush his lips on the sides of her face and stroke her hair.
Josh would wait for that, though. It was what was right, plain and simple.
She finally agreed to come with him, and he felt a whoosh of pleasure wash over him as he led her to his dorm. They reached the door to his room and he noticed Reed's hesitance when she realized where they were. He'd anticipated her apprehension far before hand, but hadn't been worried about it.
Because he knew what she did not.
And when they breezed past his old dorm room and down to the new room he'd been given not long ago, Josh heard Reed breath out a sigh of confused relief.
"Here we go." He opened the door to what was now his room – essentially, a broom closet, only big enough for a bed, dresser, and desk, as well as three easels.
Reed's confusion was expelled as she spoke again. "What? But I thought..." She trailed off, and Josh watched her take it in – the bed, desk, dresser; he watched her eyes widen almost imperceptibly at the paint splatters on the wall, the easels pushed up against it. He wondered momentarily if she thought he was insane, if she wanted to bolt. He had knowingly brought her here to show him a part of himself – to let her in. Josh trusted Reed; he wanted her to trust him just as much, if not more so.
He explained to her about how the headmaster had moved him there the week after Thomas's funeral, since their room had become a crime scene. He confessed how he hated it, and began to ramble without realizing it.
"I hate it," Josh began. "It's like, how much can one person go through? It's like I..." He steeled himself, sensing that something was shifting. He couldn't do that just yet, wouldn't let her see that part of him. Josh thought of the pills that sat in his closet, the ones that helped keep him from being undone right now; the ones that kept him sane for her. So she would keep liking him. He couldn't slip up.
"It just sucks," he finished plainly.
"Yeah," Reed agreed with him, nodding slightly. Josh began to search for the paintbrushes, and he heard her plop down on his bed, letting out a sigh that contained more heartbreak and weighted emotion than he could even begin to fathom.
"Josh, I'm so sorry," she told him wearily. "Everyone keeps asking me how I am...but I never asked you...are you okay?"
Her thoughtfulness touched him in a way, it warmed his heart. He smiled to himself before blowing out a breath he didn't know he had been holding in for so long.
"Yeah, I guess. The whole thing is really surreal, but...what am I going to do, you know?"
She stared back at him, searching through his eyes, peering into his soul. He resisted the urge to shrink away and let her look. It would have to happen eventually. "Most of the time you seem so normal. How are you dealing with all of this?"
Panic alarms went off in his mind. How had she figured it out? Were his eyes a bit crazed, the way he got sometimes when it was nearing the end of a half-day's dose? Had she known before-hand? Josh looked at his feet, feeling guilty and just like trash in general. Reed was a good person; he should've mentioned it to her from the start, rather than freaking her out like this. God, she was probably so freaked out. He was afraid to touch her now, to do anything.
Realizing he hadn't replied, Josh shuffled his feet before speaking "I have my ways."
He crouched down again, searching for the box of brushes once more. Aha! He thought when searching hands finally stumbled upon the wooden box.
"Like what?" Reed pressed the issue, and Josh tried to shove his growing frustration down.
"That's why I brought you here," he replied calmly, even smiling a little. Maybe he'd just imagined it; was reading too much into things. Her eyes really didn't seem all that fearful. "I'm going to show you one of them."
Taking his iPod out of his pocket, he selected the loudest song he could, ready to show her a glimpse of his world.
"What are you doing?" Reed yelled over the music, wincing slightly.
"Helping you get out of your head!" Josh replied, striding over to an easel and uncovering the three jars of paint that sat on its ledge. He turned to her expectantly and she only returned his gaze with utter bewilderment in her eyes.
He only walked over to her, leaning in to speak to her so he didn't have to yell any more.
"This is what I do when my headspace becomes...unlivable," Josh explained, offering up a jar of paint for her to hold. He took his own jar, dipped the brush in, and flung the wet red paint at the wall, half hitting the canvas.
He nodded at her. "Try it!"
"Are you insane?" She asked him, but he could already see in her eyes that she wanted to try this, because he'd been successful in his efforts to make it look like fun and make it seem cathartic.
If only you knew, he replied silently.
After some back and forth between them, Josh managed to convince her to try it. His eyes were wild, he knew, but they weren't wild with insanity, they were wild with energy. Energy he knew she would crave to feel in herself. She'd been severely lacking it, what with the dark circles under her eyes, the lack of focus. He wanted to bring everything back into clarity for her, bring her life back into some kind of color.
Grasping her hand, brush and all, he helped her and dipped it into a jar of blue paint. Josh flung the brush with Reed and watched her face loosen, watched it light up. A sparkle came into her eyes and his heart made sudden leaps and bounds. The excitement in the room was palpable, tangible.
Reed grinned at Josh and he smiled back. As they continued the form of therapy, giggles bubbled up and over their astounding grief, and slowly the splatters diminished in strength as they wound down from the paint flinging.
And then suddenly, Josh felt something cool and wet slap across his cheek. He couldn't help the wide smile that spread on his lips as he gazed back at her, wiping at his nose, where Reed's paint had splattered.
"Oh my God! You're right! I do feel better!"
She giggled and he had the instant desire to feel her giggle on his skin, to feel her laugh vibrate him, to make her happiness a part of his own being. They continued to fling the paint back at one another, laughing, chasing each other. Josh knew he had the upper hand when Reed was backed into a corner.
He grabbed her waist and spun her into him, a shiver flying through him at the way it felt to be fully against her. It was happening fast, all a blur – her soft fingers touching the paint in his hair, yanking at it, her arms flailing on his chest. And suddenly, they were inches apart. Her face was so close to his, all he had to do was move just a tiny bit, and her lips would fold into his, her curves fitting his angles.
Josh could feel it between them, the beating of twin hearts, erratic and pumping blood furiously, the heavy, disoriented breathing of the two of them; the tingles, the jolts, the electricity. He glanced at her lips; they were the faintest pink, void of any gloss or even Chapstick, just naturally soft. There were quiet rumbles in the small space between them.
He could hear her shouts in her mind, telling him to go ahead, she was giving him permission. It was okay, he could do it now. Josh heard the shouts of his own brain as well, ten times louder than her own.
Do it, just do it, you know you want to. Thomas would kill you, you know, you little shit-head. Don't do it, if he were here, he'd kick your ass. You owe him, his memory, more than that.
With that, Josh had had enough. He let out a breath, biting the inside of his lip to help ward against the waves of nauseating guilt that were washing over him. Reed had been right before, when he threatened her with purple paint, and she had told him he'd done enough damage. Because he had; he didn't want to hurt her more by continuing this deceit. He could sense that she was on to...something, but couldn't be absolutely sure; part of him even thought it was mere paranoia.
Josh felt his heart drop in time with his slowing breaths, and couldn't help but keep his eyes on the floor when Reed asked where the nearest bathroom was. He couldn't look at her.
He was ashamed for pushing this, for pressuring her in a way. He knew that technically, there hadn't been any real pressure, Reed was willing, he could feel the happy heat radiating from her, from her heart, her soul. Josh had succeeded in making her happy.
But he was ashamed because Thomas was his friend. So what if he was dead? Josh wasn't doing a very good job of being a considerate friend, just moving in like this. He felt another wave of guilt sweep over him.
Because more than he was ashamed for what Thomas would have thought, Josh was ashamed at what he felt in that moment.
All he wanted to do was kiss her again. Go into the bathroom, grab her, and forcibly kiss her, forcing everything from himself, his heart, his being, into her lips, and onto her.
That thrilled him and nauseated him at the same time.
A/N: Review. Please.