It was the sound of footsteps behind me that made me turn from my reverie at the tree and pause for a moment in shock. Clearly, fate had a sense of humor that I failed to understand.
I recognized him immediately because to be quite honest he had hardly changed at all in the last four years. He had that same careless gait, made uneven by a leg that was not performing to the best of its ability. He had that same spark in his blue-green eyes, as though I'd never attempted to take that brightness away from him. The snap back to the past, this memory invading my present being, was made complete by the crooked smile that he wore the moment he recognized me. He looked like he was legitimately the happiest person in the world.
I stood stiffly, hoping stupidly that he wouldn't come to stand beside me as he did. I don't know what on Earth I thought he was doing, but it wasn't what he actually did.
"Well." The single word was more than enough to melt my resolve to pretend that he didn't exist. "Fancy seeing you here."
I nodded, my words getting stuck in my throat. So many things I wanted to say but had never envisioned actually saying were firing off in my brain faster than my mouth could keep up with them, so instead I opted for silence.
He was watching the river continue its lazy travels with a serene expression, thumbs hooked into the pockets of his pants, his cardigan that was too big clinging to his arms for dear life. He must've had that cardigan for years. It was even frayed in the same places I remembered.
"You know," He chuckled and glanced at me out of the corner of his eye. "I had this utterly ludicrous notion that I would never see you again. I suppose at the time it was a bit rational, considering there was the chance that we'd be sent off to war and all. But you've never really been the confrontational type."
What to say to this? I had no idea.
"It makes sense that I would run into you in this place of all places."
Now he turned his whole head to look at me. I wondered what he saw in my expression that evoked the gentleness that came about his features. Pity? I didn't need any such feeling from this person. I had set on hating him, after all. All that was needed was a proper greeting and then a subtle goodbye. This great performance was completely unnecessary, and was more than likely he was doing this on purpose to shake me.
"Don't you ever call me that." The sharpness of his tone caught me off guard, but when I focused in on his body language, he was completely relaxed. He was contradicting himself, like he always had. I assume it's a habit he'll probably never break.
I paused to recollect myself and took the opportunity to clear my throat. The gesture seemed well-timed. "What would you have me call you, then?"
"You were always horrible with connecting names to faces." He said, smiling at some fond memory that was far beyond my reach.
I waited. I might have decided to cut him out, but that didn't make me know him any less. And I understood Phineas like no one else ever had or would. So as the connection between his comment and his answer were made somewhere in that complex mind of his, I waited.
"Upon meeting you, I decided that you would be my best friend." This was followed by a decisive nod. It made me angry, but I suppressed the emotion in favor of waiting to hear his flawed logic. He was not worth the time it would take to call him out on his lies. "From that point on, memorizing the different things that I've come to know about you proved quite easy. Your name, of course, was easiest of them all. Gene."
So long had it been since he'd addressed me. The pang of nostalgia couldn't be helped.
"You, on the other hand, had quite a time remembering my name. I'll admit that Phineas isn't the easiest name to remember, seeing as it is rather obscure. My parents were quite fond of the older names, you see. They thought it would make a wonderful tribute to some dead author that only they cared about."
He was digressing, and my anger was just growing stronger and stronger. "Finny, I—"
"So I told you that maybe if we came up with a nickname, you would remember a bit better." He turned his whole body to face me. The stance was vulnerable and calm. Like nothing had ever happened. "You started calling me Finny. Remember? Everyone else always called me Phineas, but you called me Finny."
I was slightly taken aback by this statement of a well-known fact. I hardly ever addressed him as Phineas. After everything that'd happened, calling him Finny seemed too informal. There were too many emotions behind that name that I had not only left behind but had sworn to never revisit. He should have known all of that. Was he patronizing me?
"So, in answer to your question." He continued. "I would prefer that you call me Finny. And I will call you Gene."
I watched him for a few moments, and his soft smile didn't waver at all. After a bit of tense silence, I gave him a curt nod. "Very well."
"Well, get on with it, then."
"You had started saying something."
I stared in dumb confusion before his words began to make sense to me. "Ah. I was…just curious as to the reason for your arrival."
"Ah, yes." His face lit up as though he'd been reminded of something quite important. The pleased expression that accompanied this reminded me of those occasions on which I'd inadvertently done something that he found particularly favorable. Another stab of nostalgia hit me, much harder than the first. Painful.
"Well, you see. I thought to myself recently, 'Here we are, Phineas, on the fourth anniversary of that wonderful summer break that we shared with Gene. Wouldn't it be awfully nice to see him again? It has been an unbearably long time indeed.' Upon thinking this, I decided that I would quite like to see you."
He watched me expectantly as though this were a satisfactory answer. "Well what on Earth brought you here?" I prompted.
"That." He nodded. "I phoned your home – I hope you don't find that too odd, but seeing as I had no idea of knowing where you would be on this particular day of the year I found it necessary. I was greeted by your wonderful mother, God bless her soul, who told me that you would be visiting Devon. So I thought it appropriate that I visit, as well."
Of course this meeting had been orchestrated by him.
"Whatever did you hope to achieve by this?"
He titled his head to the side in an innocent gesture which indicated that the answer to my question was obvious to everyone but me. "Well I wanted to see you, of course."
"You know my position—"
"I know that suddenly out of the blue you decided that we weren't allowed to be friends anymore." He interrupted me, very serious. His moods shifted so abruptly, I had never been able to keep track of them. "I've told you numerous times that I have never blamed and never will blame you for what happened."
"I caused the accident on purpose, Finny." My voice was quiet and I was surprised that he could hear me. Maybe he hadn't heard me. Regardless, he had responded accurately.
"I don't believe that you made me fall." His expression was so sincere that I had to look away. Down at my shoes, from which no feelings of regret were generated.
I heard his steps as they crunched against the dry leaves and came up close to me. The tips of his pristine loafers shamed my city shoes, which had long since been spoiled by the muck and rain of the fields.
"You're the only one keeping us—"
"Finny, stop it."
"—from being exactly the way we were before."
His words rang true for me.
But I hated him.
He'd been conspiring against me!
"You have always had a horrible habit of brooding and keeping such tragic thoughts to yourself that are apt to destroy you one day." I felt his hand on my arm, and for some inexplicable reason glanced out of the corner of my to look at it.
It wasn't the familiar boy's hand that I had so grown used to that summer, but rather a man's hand. Large and strong and capable. And for me, it could be gentle. Unbearably so.
"I wish you would look at me."
His voice was beside my ear. This closeness was uncomfortable.
The level of intimacy that I had shared with this person was something that I would not readily admit to, but would less than readily forget. Had I loved him? I couldn't remember. Did I still hate him? My brain seemed vehemently opposed to forming coherent answers.
His arm slid up, around my shoulders and folded me into a tight embrace. He pulled my head against a masculine shoulder that had been well-shaped by years of sports and physical activity. A shattered leg had not hindered his passion for constant movement in the least.
His fingers stroked the ends of my hair that had grown too long in a loving gesture that I had so longed for, for such a long time. His cheek pressed against the top of my head. His body slowly grew accustomed to the act of holding me so closely. It felt so natural.
I couldn't help the tears that seeped from my closed eyes.
He sighed slowly in my ear. "I'm so sorry."
I gripped him fiercely, with such force my fingers ached in protest. "What are you apologizing for, idiot?"
A/N: You guys legit have no idea how happy I was when I realized that this book had a category on . It made my night. Not gonna lie.
So, my English class was assigned this book and I just couldn't not slash it. The slash is so obvious it's practically canon. I wasn't planning on uploading this (so go easy on me, okay?) but then I just...I just had to.
I've only read the first four chapters, so I don't want anyone to be like THIS TOTALLY ISN'T HOW IT ENDED STOOPID.
I know this isn't how it ends. Relax, troll. Just enjoy it because it's fluffy and cute and inspired by chapters 1-4.