A/N: So, despite the fact that I have eight exams coming up, I figured there's no better way to distract myself than to write the next chapter of this baby. You might have guessed already, but I'm quite the chronic procrastinator.
Now, I present to you... The reunion (kind of).
My heart rate accelerates at rocket speed, and I can hear the steady beating as clearly as the beeping of the heart rate monitor I was hooked up to only hours ago. The thud-thud is hammering in my chest like a heavy metal drum solo, my ragged breathing sending shivers down my spine.
There's all of that, plus the sheer shock. The shock of seeing someone after a decade, of coming face to face with them after they had ripped your heart from you, stomped all over it, and put it back in your chest. That is what I am feeling in this moment.
'Jake?' I choke out in barely a whisper. 'Jake Armstrong?'
'The one and only,' replies Jake with the ghost of a smile. 'It's you, right? Cassie Blake?'
'It's me,' I confirm.
'What are you doing here?' He asks, gesturing to the hospital surrounding us.
'I could ask you the same thing,' I fire back.
Jake moves closer to me, and I see him properly for the first time. He is decked out in dark green scrubs and a white lab coat, with a stack of folders in one hand. 'I work here.'
'You're a doctor?' I ask disbelievingly. Jake Armstrong, the bad boy playboy of the Western seaboard chose to go into medicine, of all things? Christ, he could have gone into modeling and would have lived the freaking high life.
'Actually, I'm a surgical resident,' he corrects, and it's most likely my imagination, or residual effects of my pain medication, but I see him straighten his back as he says so,almost like a bird fluffing out its feathers in pride.
'Wow. You changed a lot since we last... saw each other,' I say.
'You mean after you kicked me out of your life? Yeah, I have changed, Cassie. It's been nine years.' A bitter tone seeps into his voice for a moment, and I wince internally at the reminder of our last meeting.
'Look, Jake, I -'
'It's okay, Cassie. I didn't mean it like that. You don't have to say anything. I get it,' interjects Jake, sighing.
'It's fine, really,' I say quickly. 'I should go anyway. Take care, Jake,' I add as I turn to leave.
Then, Jake lunges forward and grabs my arm. 'Wait. My shift ends in five minutes. Just wait here, okay? We can talk, catch up.'
I look at him, wide-eyed, taken aback. My first instinct is to run for the hills (well, the door) but then I check myself. What are the chances of us meeting here after all these years. This is a chance, an opportunity to clear the air between us, to move on past the hurt, the betrayal. I need to get over what happened; I need to get over Jake.
I sigh, and nod my head in confirmation. Jake smiles. 'Thank you,' he says. 'I'll be back in no time.'
'So, this is your place?' I ask as Jake leads me into his studio apartment.
'Yeah, mine and two other second-years,' Jake replies.
'Guys?' I ask, lifting one of several dirty socks from the floor.
Jake looks sheepish. 'Yeah, we aren't the neatest people,' he says.
'I can see that. When was the last time you guys cleaned in here?'
Jake shrugs. 'A week, maybe ten days? I'm not sure. I've been working the night shift the last few days so dusting hasn't really been a priority.'
I take off my coat and hang it up on the nearest hook, also setting my bag containing my soiled wedding dress down on the floor. 'Where do you keep the vacuum cleaner?' I ask.
Jake raises an eyebrow. 'Why do you need to know?'
I can't help but let a small smile take over my face. 'Because we are going to clean this pigsty up,' I answer.
'But I thought we were going to -'
'- Talk. Yes, we are,' I say firmly. 'But I refuse to sit down on that couch,' I add, gesturing to the seating area full of old beer bottles, pizza boxes and remains of old takeaway dinners.
Jake's line of vision follows my arm, and he cringes slightly. 'Ok, you have a point. That is pretty filthy.'
I smirk. 'So, where's the vacuum cleaner?'
An hour and a half later, and the living/dining room is clean. Exhausted and dishevelled-looking, Cassie and I sit down on the couch (now removed of last Thursday's dinner). I hand her a cold beer from the fridge and open one for myself.
'Wow,' she says with a sigh, taking a sip of the cool dark liquid.
'Wow is correct,' I reply, sounding equally tired. 'Who knew that cleaning could be so strenuous?'
'Well, if you hadn't let it get so bad, we wouldn't have had to carry out this monumental feat,' she retorts semi-playfully. 'You were never this messy.'
'You were never such a neat-freak,' I counter.
We laugh for a moment, and then all is quiet. Cue awkward silence.
Then, I speak. 'Hey, you look really tired, maybe you should get some rest,' I suggest.
Cassie shakes her head. 'I'm fine,' she says. 'We should, you know, talk.'
'Where do we start?' I ask. I feel almost afraid to start telling her about the last nine years. I don't want to have to dig up all of those feelings - the hurt, the pain. I don't want to relive what I did to her. I'm not that man anymore - at least I hope not.
I take a drink of the beer.
Cassie takes a deep breath. 'We could always start with the present,' she suggests. 'I mean, a doctor? Nobody would've guessed that.'
'What, did you expect me to go to jail and spend the rest of my life doing time?' I tease, yet under the joking attitude there is the knowledge that others' expectations of me used to be so low, and the hope that someday, they will be different.
'I don't know,' says Cassie. 'I didn't know what to expect. I certainly didn't expect to see you again.' There is another pause, during which we both take a gulp.
'Well, to answer you question,' I begin, 'when I left Chance Harbor for the second time, I had no clue what to do, where my life was going. At first, I travelled a lot, saw the country. I was on the road for a while, did a few odd jobs, always on the move, never settling for too long.'
'And then? Something obviously changed for you,' Cassie remarks.
'Yeah, I ran into someone I knew from my witch-hunting days,' I say. I can see Cassie tense slightly. 'He offered me a new mission - a series of smaller kills in the South. I declined.'
'Because of you,' I say sadly. 'Telling you about my betrayal was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. The pain I caused... I knew that I couldn't do that to someone else. No matter who they were, the were always going to be someone's daughter, or son, or friend. They were someone else's Cassie.'
'How did you end up getting from ex-witch-hunter to doctor?' Cassie asks, obviously trying to ignore my last sentence.
'I realized that I had to do something with my life, I had to make it count. I came back to the West Coast, and this is as close to Chance Harbor as possible to make it familiar, but far away enough to not break the deal we made. I left, you didn't kill me.'
'I never could have killed you,' Cassie says quietly, with a faraway look in her eyes. 'I didn't have it in me.'
'I know,' I reply softly.
'But you left anyway?'
'I did wrong, and I had to respect the boundaries, accept the consequences. You banishing me was a small price to pay for the lives that I took, that I ruined. So I came here and decided to work to try and save lives to - '
'- to make up for the ones you took,' Cassie interjects.
'No, to try,' I correct. 'Nothing can make up for it, but I'm going to spend the rest of my life with that guilt.'
Cassie takes a long, hard look at me, studying me. 'You really changed,' she says finally.
'I hope so,' I reply honestly. 'At least, I hope that the eight years of college were worth it,' I add dryly.
A smile spreads over Cassie's face, and I can't help but feel a familiar ache in my heart - a good ache. The ache of having made her smile, if just for a short while.
'So, what's your story?' I ask her, after a moment.
'Yeah, what happened to you in the last nine years? Why were you here in the first place? In the hospital?' Then, realization seeps into me. 'Oh, god, Cassie, are you okay?'
'Relax, relax. I'm fine - now,' Cassie says. 'One question at a time.'
I take a deep breath, and finish off my beer. 'Why were you in my hospital, in this city?'
Cassie holds up her similarly empty beer bottle, and points to my own. 'You might need another one of those to hear this,' she suggests.
A/N: So, how do you like it? This is only part one of the conversation, as I wanted to spread it out over two chapters.
Leave me your thoughts, suggestions, etc. As always, reviews are love!