Disclaimer:

I do not own 'Keith' or Jesse McCartney even though I wish I did. I do not own Natalie, or 'The Hotel Eden' either. I don't know why I wrote this only that I had to... My tears wouldn't stop after the millionth time of watching this movie and I couldn't help this. In my head I always picture Keith surviving and Natalie having a happy life with kids and the whole caboodle but right now I just had to write what I think she would do if I let him die like he was supposed to. It hurt's...T_T

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"Natalie?"

I jerk and turn towards the man responsible for making me cry. His eyes are a ruddy cinnamon, his skin too golden to be brown, and his words, like ice, freeze me to the core. The same petty arguments about the same little things that haven't mattered to me in a long, long time. I let the tears fall not caring one wit about how I look to the people around us, our friends. I can feel Brooke looking at me her eye's boring into the back of my skull, a silent form of back up if it's needed.

I don't need help though. I don't want to split up our friends. I don't want my party to end like this. I wanted to celebrate my twenty-first birthday without an argument, without tears, without feeling like someone just crushed a cold rusted spike right through my chest and into my heart. I wanted happiness if only for a little while and I wanted to feel like time was standing still. I wanted my moment of grand options to open up and let me fall wherever I may. But, this right here, the aforementioned pain, and biting sadness I didn't want.

I don't want this.

"I'm leaving, Brooke. Call me later. After everyone has had a good time and left."

"Natalie" I can't believe he is interrupting me but, it seems tonight is about amazement.

"What?"

"Why won't you answer me?"

"There is nothing to answer. I told you no before. I meant no. No amount of you putting me on the spot in front of all of our friends is going to change that. Anyone, including you who doesn't like that answer needs to leave and stay gone."

I grab my sweater and march out the pale gray door of my studio apartment, tears still pouring down my face. I don't want to feel anymore or listen to anything. One drink in and I can't even enjoy the freedom in knowing I won't get into trouble anymore. All the stress from finals, all the pain of knowing I am almost done, can no longer be pushed to the back of my brain where I wanted them. It's all situated quite happily in the front first row seats waiting to be dealt with.

And the problem is I have no idea what to do. I don't want to get married to Quinton. I didn't want to leave my apartment. I liked my space. The airiness of the studio and the handiness of having a garage right under me to park and baby honey-bunz whenever I needed to. I enjoyed the look of one huge room separated into parts only by one bar and a stove to mark the kitchen, soft multicolored fabric that hung from the mahogany beams that strutted across the ceiling that marked my room and, glass blocks that made up the wall that formed around the bathroom and a pale yellow door.

My place was open, so open I couldn't hide anything. Everything in my home shouted out about me. The stove and appliances were mismatched, while the dishes, glasses and, silverware came as a set. The threadbare pale yellow couch and dark army green recliner had red silk throw pillows scattered about them, while the end tables and entertainment center where a crisp black. A glass coffee table holding everything from Cosmo-girl to various truck and car magazines being the center focus.

Even my bedroom would scream at anyone who walked into it. With only two walls to tend to I had painted one a pale tarnished yellow and the other a vibrant crimson red, each of them plastered with various photos and posters. Some things emphasized much more than others. An old coat rack sat next to my bed and its only friend was a hand me down army jacket, a few bowling balls sat on a silver desk hollowed out being used to store my pens, pencils, and various paperclips. A paper bind that sat on my desk next to the bowling balls made out of used tic-tac containers being one of my favorites.

I held many tell-tells in my home, things I could never imagine parting with even into my own death, but they all remained shadowed by the fact that not everyone really knew the real me or how much of me was forged by the hands and soul of a young man who had me from 'Who do YOU think I am?'. Nobody bothered to ask about that time I went a little crazy, well almost nobody. Brooke just wouldn't let me go. She made me talk and screamed until I listened. She knew. She even understood. She changed with me when it was all said and done.

When I leave she knows I am leaving so I can get lost and be free. She knows I won't answer my phone or return any messages. She understands that I need time, that my life keeps going but I want it to stop if only for a moment to breath. She understands that I need to go on an imaginary adventure far away from everyone who lives and breathes and step back to look for the answers. I love her because she understood Keith in the end. Before he left she finally talked to him, or more like argued with him, but she understood. So when I need to leave, I run to honey-bunz and she understands. Lock my door, check my car, and tell me when I can finally breathe. She understand her role in the 'Help Me' scene.

So, when I finally climb behind the wheel and breathe in the minty smell of tic-tacs, gasoline and oil I can relax a little. I can pretend if only for a second that he is right next to me saying 'What's with the tears Partner?' a silly grin marking his face as he tries to make me feel better. I flick the dice with tip of my finger and press the garage door opener on my key ring with the other. My eye's zoning in on the silver key in my hand that I need to turn the ignition on for just a second, tears falling as I wish it was someone else's hand. I pull out and watch the door close locking away my bike and a few boxes of old clothes and mementos I'd rather not see every day. The urge to run heightening my adrenaline until all I want to do is run, so I do.

I run...I run from it all...

No.

I drive...I drive to escape from all the pain and the heartbreak. I drive and just keep going with nothing on my mind. I turn left and right, go over the speed limit, park on the side of the road and cry when I can't hold back the senseless tears. I drive the seven extra miles back to our spot and park, staring out at the brick. I don't get out until I feel like I am being suffocated and pushed out of the truck. I leave the keys in the ignition and walk out over to the ledge, tears all but dried from the last three hours I have been driving. The wind has a chill but I just snuggle in my sweater and ignore the goosebumps's crawling up my bare legs. The sound from the old radio floating to my ears forgotten just like the keys.

I can still see us here arguing over and over again, making love, just talking and it all hurts. A pinch of salt in a long opened wound. I want to feel like I did the first few months after he left me. I want to be optimistic and hopeful, I want that purpose again. I want to feel warm and loved for every part of me, not wanted for my brains and beauty. I want...

I just want...

I walk back to the truck and open the door turn it off and put on the brake. The sound of silence ricocheting off the trees comforting me slightly. I walk around to the tailgate and let it down before climbing in and wrapping myself in the blanket he always left in here. The scent of us still lingering on the fabric. The stars are bright and it's clear enough that I could lay here all night and not have a worry or thought about anything trivial. I map the constellations slowly just as Keith taught me and let a few tears slip every now and then when a particular memory assaults me. I miss the late night rides that always brought us here and the smiles I received with sarcastic bite. I missed having a clammy hand to hold close to me and a face pressed against mine.

I guess when I get to the bottom of it all I just miss Keith. I want my Keith. Keith Zetterstrom unnamed Russian soldier number three.

I want Keith here with me.

To talk to.

To hold him.

To be loved by him.

To love him.

The memory of his hazel eye's reflecting a dark forest green angry at the world and everyone in it. The warm caramel that shined through when he said he loved me. The memory of slim-jims and Twinkies. The feel of his arms wrapped around me as he slept off exhaustion caused by his pain and medication. The smell of Antiseptic and death permeating all other memories as I remembered the day they had to hospitalize him. The pain had gotten too bad, he had caught a cold that had slowly transformed into pneumonia and he just couldn't do anything anymore. He hated the hospital. He hated my tears that followed and he had hated me not being there.

"Why didn't you let me stay, Keith?" I waited and listened to the tree's scratch out a rhythm I couldn't fathom and listened harder for a voice I would never hear again. His last words haunting me now out of all times throughout these last few years that they could have.

'Don't forget to live a little, Partner. I'm sick not Dead. 'I cried when he had his dad send me home after they had told him his lungs were filling up with fluid and he would need to be put on a respirator. No talking for a while. He was pissed and his dad wanted him at least a little comforted even if it meant sending me away so his son wouldn't be even sadder at the sight of his upset girlfriend.

I remember Henry calling me late one night right before finals telling me Keith was slipping quickly that if I wanted to see him I needed to come fast. I remember jumping up in my pajamas running out the door hopping into my shoes and speeding all the way to the hospital the rain falling against my windshield and absorbing into my clothes not registering until I was standing outside of his door frozen solid as the air kicked in and I saw him lying there not breathing. I watched Henry lay over him holding him close crying tears only a father can for his son.

I remember dying a little as my tears began falling and the shaking from the cold racked my body. Blurred vision didn't help or hinder as I walked over and just kept begging. 'Please Keith' falling from my cold chapped lips as I gripped his hand, the last lingering warmth dying as my cold hands came into contact. I couldn't stop and didn't know what the hell had happened because, one minute I was there holding his hand and the next I was being dragged out of the room. A thick arm wrapped around my stomach as I cried and heaved struggling to get away. I watched a nurse come in the room as I was finally dragged passed the door shutting it and disappearing. I didn't stop until I finally fell onto the form holding me the crash to the cold hallway floor jarring me into reality again.

"I'm sorry Natalie. I'm sorry. So sorry. I thought...I'm sorry." I had cried even more as the words came though, the arms tightening once again as if trying to hold onto something special and keep it together. The tears didn't stop and neither did the sorry's. All dropped uselessly onto a cold hallway floor for people to listen to and watch in unwanted sympathy. I just cried till I was too tired to do anything anymore chants and begging for 'Keith' still slipping from my lips as everything went black.

I woke up in a dark room scared out of my mind and hopping I had just had a bad dream, but when I went to turn on my bedside lamp it wasn't there, only a table with something oily stuck on it. It wasn't until I realized where I was that I started freaking out and screaming for him. The light suddenly coming on revealing a tired looking distraught Henry. His eye's flashed sympathy that night and I couldn't cry anymore, because I knew his pain was probably worse. Turned out he had stayed up since we left the hospital at the doctors encouragement for me to rest and he had called my parents and explained why I wasn't home or going to school and let me sleep off my shock.

It hadn't crossed his mind to place me on the couch or take me home, he told me Keith had wanted to tell me something and he was the only one who knew what it was, so he couldn't let me go home till he did. I had sat on Keith's bed breathing him in as Henry told me about Keith's final hour. The doctors could do no more he was tired and in pain and he had ripped out the breathing tube in a rage cause he couldn't say what he wanted to before his final scene. When he had stopped coughing, ignoring the blood in his mouth he had told his dad he loved him, he was the best, and that we still had to fix up honey-bunz.

I wrapped myself tighter in our blanket as I remembered the rest gazing up at the stars all the while. Henry explained to me that Keith was adamant I had to go to London for him and see all the other trucks he had wanted to see, that I had to help fix his truck with his dad so he wouldn't be alone, and that he loved me, so, so very much, and he didn't mean to, but he did. I had cried when Henry couldn't hold his own tears at bay anymore and held him. Both of us joining in the pain for someone we loved who we would never get back.

"I love you." I couldn't help the words slipping as the memory fell away, uncurling myself and placing the blanket and tailgate back in their respective places. Taking one last look at the sky and praying with one word. "Keith."

It didn't take me long to get back in the truck and on to the road, heading to the only other place that ever feels like home anymore. Pulling into an uneven driveway up next to a couple of unfinished cars and an unlit porch light never felt so exhilarating. Stepping out of the truck I took a deep breath and began walking slowly around the cars and up to the door. Key's settling into my pocket with ease as I stepped up right at the door resting my forehead against the cool metal. My breathing finally evening out right along with my pulse. My knuckles wrapped against the metal twice and I waited, still resting against the door with a lost hope that Keith would answer.

I stumbled into the house as the door was abruptly opened, Henry looking haggard as he looked at me. His flannel pajama pants and gray shirt making me long for the days I'd find Keith in the same garb waiting for a tub of ice cream and a movie so we could snuggle together on the couch till we passed out. I watched as he rubbed his eye's looking me over as if he was afraid I was hurt, taking note of my stance and dried tears before nodding me into the direction of Keith's room. He didn't say anything as he closed and locked the door again heading back to bed, and I headed towards the room and let him stare at the truck for a minute in privacy, locking the door to Keith's room at the same time he shut his own.

Forehead against a door once again, a deep breathe in, and I turned to look at the room. Everything was the same as I left it before. Still untidy as it was kept before I took up residence, still clean without really being clean. Smell of tic-tacs, oil, and gasoline stronger in here than anywhere else. I walked to the bed and pulled out the green suitcase that was filled with clothes I left here for when I didn't want to leave, so I could spend as much time as I could over here. I stripped out of my sweater and sundress and placed them inside before replacing it back under the bed and heading toward the closet. I walked in and found the extra-long oil stained t-shirt Keith loved to see me in and pulled it over my head.

The stained cotton comforted me as I slid into his covers not bothering with lights or anything else. I just laid there snuggled in his bed between his sheets slowly succumbing to sleep. The feeling of strong arms surrounding me and pulling me close making me smile against my fatigue. The shift of my hair as if someone was trying to kiss my neck making my eye's shoot open and my heart beat erratically. I sat up and listened trying to see in the dark waiting for my eye's to adjust. For a minute I thought I saw what I was looking for, Keith's imprint next to mine, a crooked smile on his face, and love shining in his eyes as he told me everything I needed to know with just a look.

I didn't bother to look anymore and just turned back over and waited for the feeling to return. I knew when I woke up tomorrow I would say goodbye to Quinton and take back my life once again. I would smile at Henry when I woke up and do up whatever dishes we used, cause I knew he would cook for me. I'd call Brooke tomorrow and see if she would meet me for some retail therapy, and talk about my pain once again. When summer break was over I'd go back to school and work my ass off like I always do and when I graduate it will be as a certified nurse. I let a few thoughts filter by as I finally fell into slumber and heard myself mumble.

"Keith, remind me to thank Al for the Studio. I love you."


R&R

Tell me what you think about this. It isn't beta'd or even checked over. I just wrote and posted, no sleep in between and it's 3 am and I woke up at 5 am yesterday...So sorry for mistakes...I'm just glad I got this out before I burst. ^_^

Updated 5/29/14