Patrick has not been back to California in almost four years.

At first, it was because he'd spent all his savings on rent, and couldn't exactly afford a plane ticket across the country. Then, it was because he didn't really have any reason to go back. His mother was busy with his jackass stepdad, so family was a nonexistent issue. And well, whenever Patrick stepped foot into that town, it would bleed with memories of Kat. And he didn't need any of those around.

Now, it's a different case. When Patrick's flight lands, he isn't sure what his next move is. He had run lines through his head the whole plane ride here, convinced that he'd mustered up just the right words, but now that he is walking the way back to her, the only thing he's convinced of is that he's completely lost his mind.

As he makes his way to the familiar parts of town, by foot, he stumbles across a building he swore he'd never return back to. Patrick shakes his head, almost laughing at the fact that he is standing three feet away from a monument that held paradoxically nothing and everything for him.

He doesn't know why, and he doesn't want to know, but somehow he finds himself walking towards the front entrance of the school. The hallways are vacant, school is long out by now, and Patrick keeps walking in further. He scuttles his feet across the linoleum floors, and smiles as he remembers tugging Kat down this hallway, as they tried to make their escape out of the school after sneaking her in to take an English test. He passes by the fire exit and counts the steps up to the roof, where they had shared their first kiss. He gazes down at the dim courtyard, at the sunset slowly simmering against the horizon, and he thinks of how it all began—even more so, how it should have ended differently.

"Patrick Verona?"

Patrick is startled by the sound of his name. But as he turns around, he is even more surprised at the gentleman who uttered it. "Spoink?" he declares, unable to fully contain the smirk on his face. "Dude, no way. What are you doing here?"

"I work here," Cameron responds, disapproving the long lost nickname with his acidy tone. "I could ask you the same question. I never thought I'd see Patrick Verona in these halls again."

"You and I both."

"Let me guess," Cameron says matter-of-factly, tucking his hands into the pockets of his jeans. He looks grown up, Patrick notices impressively. "You're here because of one of the Stratford sisters. And not the one I'm married to. Who will no longer be a Stratford, actually, I guess..."

Patrick shoots him a wry look. Cameron may look older, but Patrick sure as hell wouldn't stop teasing him the way he did when they were in high school. "I think you're getting ahead of yourself there. You're engaged, not married."

"Aha! You have been keeping tabs, haven't you?"

"On you? Nah, I have a life, you know."

"You're doing what most psychologists would call dodging the issue."

"That's fascinating. Your point?"

"Come on," Cameron says, grabbing Patrick's arm. "I'll give you a ride there."

"What are you talking about?"

"I'll give you a ride home," Cameron clarifies, his eyes reflecting with that glimmer of innocent hope that Patrick had always secretly admired.

Patrick clears his throat awkwardly. "I'm not going home—"

"Yes," Cameron interrupts, pushing Patrick forward. "You are."


Kat emerges out of the shower, steam trailing behind her like a moss of recollections. A forsaking waft of coldness immediately cradles her, so she reaches for a pink furry robe—that clearly belonged to Bianca—and pulls it over herself. She thinks she looks absolutely ridiculous, with her long hair sopping over her shoulders, and her eyes plausibly tired, and her body comforted in a color that doesn't quite suit her.

Kat feels like she has been fighting for a long time; a sword and shield with her own thoughts. But right now, she neither has the energy nor the will to keep battling.

Sitting in her teenage room makes Kat feel like she has never left. Her father would be the last person on earth to start renovating, so everything—even the small comb Kat remembers placing at the center of her night table and the stack of journals hidden neatly at the corner of her closet and the photos of her mother scattered on the cobalt accent wall—looks as though they have never moved.

Crack.

At the suddenly sharp sound, Kat jumps and turns to her window. At first, she doesn't see anything—or anyone—except maple branches and browning grass and the darkness dimming over the day. But then, in quick motions, a figure casts himself between the hands of the trees. Panicking, Kat grabs the taser from her purse and holds it firm in her hand as she makes her way towards the window. But when she gets close enough, she is able to make out the intruder's face, which looks clearer than anything else surrounding her.

Automatically, she drops her weapon, lowers her defenses, and forfeits from the battle.

I won't. Not this time.

She opens the window further and beckons him inside.