I'd be willing to bet that the number of condescending smiles Augustus and I got as we walked hand-in-hand around the world rivalled the amount of 'cure-it-all' cancer treatment trials I'd been subjected to over the years. It was hard to decide what was worse - the sympathetic grimaces at the sight of my obvious illness and our less obvious feelings for each other, or the slight smirks, eye rolls; the whispered laughs of 'puppy love'.
I never thought I'd say that two words I disliked intensely were 'puppy' and 'love', as the first I always wanted and the second never really believed in, but for once, I can say my discomfort is not a side effect of cancer.
It is, rather, a side effect of Augustus.
These are becoming more frequent, and each more terrifying than the last. They include mom's knowing smiles, willingly pausing America's Next Top Model, and breathlessness that is not caused by my lungs' refusal to be lungs.
"Hazel Grace," he says one day, when we're sitting side by side on the sofa in his basement, my head on his shoulder.
I try to look up at him without moving, but his ear is obscuring itself, so I sit up straight, ignoring the slight jarring in my chest I get from the motion. Suck it up, lungs.
"After yesterday, I was thinking-"
"Augustus, if this is about the woman, it doesn't matter."
Yesterday, we'd been on the train, with my mom. She'd dragged me away from the comfort of my sofa to do our annual 'throw clothes on Hazel' trip, that was more painful than any treatment. However, this time, Augustus had taken the bullet, and insisted that he had an eye for particularly skin tone matching colours. Though she'd protested, mom had eventually given in, with one of her side-effect-of-Augustus-smiles that made my skin crawl (not in a bad way).
We sat separately from her, my legs entwined with his (real and fake) as we discussed whether book covers were important when selecting something new to read. During our conversation, a woman with a big nose sat opposite us with her friend. One of them accidentally knocked my oxygen cart, and I moved it out of their way quickly, though Augustus looked thoroughly unimpressed. Thoroughly unimpressed Augustus was a pretty hot Augustus.
I threaded my fingers through his, and the looks on the women's faces immediately turned to that familiar condescending one. They spent the remainder of the journey talking loudly about puppy love, and how fickle teenagers were. We spent ours trying to be as couple-y as possible, which is harder than it sounds on a moving train in scratchy seats, when one of you is looking over a small metal cart, and the other has a wooden leg.
There is no try, though, only do.
"Sh," Augustus said now, pressing one thin finger against my lips. I raised my eyebrows as I was reminded how dramatic practiced speech Augustus was one that made conversation very awkward, though not unpleasant. "I just wanted to, like, inform you, that this is definitely not puppy love."
"And how," I said, teasingly, "would you know that?"
He pressed his lips to my cheek, and I felt his smile against my skin. "Because puppy love is thinking the other person is flawless, and loving them for that." He paused, then drew back slightly, though my vision was still entirely Augustus Waters. "I know your hamartia, and I'm still in love with you." Oh, I loved it when he spoke intellectual to me, dramatic speech or not.
"Cancer?" I said, and he laughed as he kissed my jaw lightly.
"Hardly," he replied. "America's Next Top Model."
Based on John Green's answer to someone asking why he wrote Hazel and Gus with no flaws - 'I don't know how you can say that Hazel does not have one huge terrible flaw when it is repeatedly stated throughout the novel that she regularly watches America's Next Top Model.'