Author's Note ****PLEASE READ****

I would like to extend many thanks to my faithful readers who have for quite some time now been patient and, for the most part, understanding of my absence. Some times, there are things that are just more important, and for me, these things don't come to an end, such as grief, remembrance, and heartbreak... resulting in a prolonged trip back home, to Holland. My family and I have suffered many losses over the course of 2003, and are looking for a brighter 2004, once it arrives. For now, all we have are our prayers.

Details: The old site is still up at http://members.tripod.com/shorty_est_1986. So is the blog at http://dehekssirene.diaryland.com, which I'm planning on converting into my writing center (including this piece of work). Not exactly sure when that's going to take place, but ya know... Also, if you are a fan of CLAY AIKEN, check out this wonderful site I started: http://doaclfounder.diaryland.com - soon to be converted into a wonderful layout and host outside of that pitiful diaryland, 'cause I'm doing pretty good with my html. ^_^

Without further ado...

Lose Yourself

Chapter 12

~ * ~

*

In the doorway of the den, Dave watched Lisa intently. It was late, and though the storm was still unrelenting, Lisa's phone conversation had miraculously drifted to his room. While the others merely slammed the doors in frustration and tried ignoring the racket, Dave chose to make his way downstairs to witness for himself.

She sat in Jimmy's overstuffed easy chair with her back to him, clutching the phone to her ear. Her shoulders trembled with anger, and Dave dismissed the heated words that spouted from her mouth… until one line grasped his attention.

"It's not like I want to be here, Johnny. I'm obligated to stay." From there on, Dave didn't need to ignore her words; they were blurred and distant, dull to his senses. Her recent behavior, the look she gave him in the hall; none of it amounted to anything. He feared being delusional, he feared jumping to conclusions, he feared naivette, but how else could he interpret what she spoke? She really didn't care.

Reality snapped back to him when the harsh clang of a phone hitting its receiver echoed throughout the den. Letting her head fall into her heads momentarily, he could hear Lisa murmur to herself with a sardonic chuckle.

"And I'm not even crying…" she muttered, standing reluctantly. Turning, she gasped at the sight of Dave leaning against the living room's entryway, his head down and hands stuffed in his pockets. Dread filling Lisa's heart, she shook her head, praying he hadn't heard what she knew he had.

"Dave…" she started, stepping towards him. He refused to look up, and Lisa could feel the tension growing, as if the thin wire that held them together would snap at the tickle of her hushed breath.

The floor was the most interesting thing he'd ever seen... at least it didn't pain his eyes in comparison to Lisa's beauteous face. Dave repeated her words. "You're obligated…?"

Guilt-ridden, Lisa couldn't even muster sarcasm. "That's not what I meant…"

"You seemed pretty clear." He stepped into the room, his eyes avoiding hers. The silence between them gave way to the deafening roar of the downpour above them, a sudden thunderclap causing Lisa to jump.

"Why are you here, anyway?" Dave continued, looking to the window. Though the sun had only just set, the clouds that blanketed the sky made the darkness heavier. The only light within the room emanated from the weak fire, crackling down to its last embers. "You're basically the only one with a separate life to tend to."

Lisa knew she couldn't take what he said as an insult, but she could find no other reason for her swelling anger. "What the hell is your problem, Dave?"

A short, cynical laugh answered her. "Me? A problem? I haven't any problems, Lisa."

"You've changed, Dave," Lisa accused, crossing her arms. "I'd say that's your damn problem."

"I've changed!?" Dave exclaimed, gesturing to himself and finally meeting her stare. "I've changed? It's everyone else who's 'changed.' Even Jimmy is out of character with all of his damn seriousness."

"It's a sensitive time for all of us, Dave. Sorry for showing a little compassion!"

"If in your world showing compassion means alienating me, then thank God I'm not a part of it." Exasperated, Dave slumped into the chair Lisa had vacated, running a hand through his hair with a hesitant sigh.

Stepping in front of him, Lisa fumed at his childishness. "Oh, poor little Dave-"

Dave cut her short with a stern look. "Don't let me be a burden to you, Lisa," he told her, his voice thick with antipathy. "I didn't want this, but it was given to me. I have to live with it; I don't half expect you to."

Lisa's breath caught in her throat. "What's that supposed to mean?" Had he insinuated that he truly believed they would end up together? That before his illness, he actually expected them to rekindle their romance, but now that he deemed himself 'imperfect,' he didn't want her to settle for 'second best'? Or was he so ashamed of his weakness? He had never been before...

"I don't know anymore…" he mumbled, again averting his eyes away from hers. "I thought I had things figured out…"

Seeing a window of opportunity, Lisa jumped. "Johnny and I-"

"Why'd you leave him?" Dave interrupted, his cutthroat demeanor jumping to conclusions. "Did he serve too much jail time and convert to homosexuality?"

Shocked, Lisa's mouth gaped open. Before, she would've stormed out right then and there, had he said such a thing out of normal jealousy. But no, his voice was dripping with spite. It held an intention of hurting. The wire snapped. Drawing back her hand, she slapped him across the face, immediately regretting it. She shuddered; her nail had left a jagged scratch along his cheek. Unable to regain her composure, she choked.

His face unemotional, though his eye cringed at the stinging sensation and the warmth of the trickle of blood trailing his cheek, Dave stood and left without a final glance. As soon as she knew he was out of earshot, Lisa doubled over and let the day's onslaught of emotion wash out of her in heated tears.



~ * ~

It wasn't until nine the next morning when Dave finally descended downstairs, still groggy from lack of sleep. The state of affairs from the day before reeled in his mind all night long, and no sooner had he closed his eyes to pardoning slumber did his internal alarm clock sound.

Rubbing his eyes temperately, Dave stepped into the conjoining kitchen and casual dining area, stopping short at the sight. Seated along the sides of the long, rectangular table were Lisa, Beth, Joe, Max, and Matthew. At the head of the table was a lone chair, meant for him. A soft smile of remembrance crept to his expression. If he hadn't known better, Dave would have called for a conference.

"No work today?" he asked, settling in his chair.

"We're taking a late breakfast. The others can do without us for a few hours." Gesturing around the table, Beth stood. "Can I get you a plate, Dave? Some coffee?"

Dave shook his head. "Nah, I'm fine Beth. Thanks." A collective gasp sounded along the table, all eyes turned on the man in question. Worriedly, Beth leaned across the table and placed a hand on Dave's forehead, which he immediately batted away.

"No coffee?" Joe asked, concerned. "Are you alright, dude?"

Frowning, Dave sighed. "I said I was fine. My doctor thinks I should lay off a bit, is all."

"I knew something was different about you," Beth mused, disregarding his glare. "In all seriousness, though, you don't look so good, Dave."

Growing defensive, Matthew shot to his feet. "So I gave him my cold! He's not gonna die or anything…"

"On the contrary, diabetics are highly susceptible to infections and diseases." Max grinned sardonically. "You may have written his death sentence."

Eyes watering, Matthew whimpered and spun on his heel, tripping a few times as he ran to his room.

"I was just going to ask how you got that nasty scratch on your cheek," Beth continued, glowering briefly at Max.

Casting a glance towards Lisa, who had refused to make eye contact with him since he sat down, Dave saw her wince at Beth's question. Touching his fingertips to his cheek, he himself flinched in pain. It hadn't yet healed.

Dave stuttered. "Oh… I-I cut myself shaving."

"Really," Max interrupted, not breaking from his bountiful plate of food. "I wasn't aware the prepubescent had the capability to grow facial hair."

Normally, Dave would have spit out his own sarcastic remark, but to the surprise of all witness, he smiled. "Thanks Max."

Max stared at his former boss in wonder. "You're… welcome…?"

Dave stood. "You're the only one who hasn't changed. Unbelievably enough… I hope you never do."

~ * ~

As a certain five members of Jimmy James' joint newspaper and radio station entered the office building, Cecile dropped what she was doing to intercept them, a bit irate. It was times like these that made her enjoy her position as co-boss.

"And where have you all been?" she demanded, her voice level for the time being. Waving it off, Lisa walked past her.

"It's alright, Cecile. We just had a late breakfast with our guest. We'll make it up to you."

Unable to argue with her associate news-editor, Cecile rolled her eyes and continued to Matthew's desk, her demeanor lightening at the thought of an interrogation.

Sitting on the desk's edge, Cecile grinned innocently. "A guest?"

Matthew's eyebrows rose. "Oh, did I not mention that?"

"Seeing how you five took an extended weekend, I figured something was up. But no, you did not mention it."

Starting up his computer, Matthew leaned back in his chair. "We finally got Dave up to New Hampshire."

"He's here?" Cecile inquired, jumping up from her perch. A bit timid from the woman's outburst, Matthew nodded. Grabbing his arm, Cecile pulled Matthew from his seat and shoved him into her office, closing the door behind her. Opening her file cabinet, she pulled out a small packet of papers and handed them to her employee.

"What's this?" Matthew asked, flipping through the pages. He eyed the cover, seeing his name alongside hers.

"Duh, our report." Joining his side, she looked over his shoulder as he continued to skim the words. "I edited it for you and put in a little bit of my own." Smiling, Cecile took the packet from his hands and beamed down at it. "Let's just say, this will be a hit."

~ * ~

Checking his watch, which read 8:00 PM, Dave breathed a diffident sigh. He stood before the main entrance of Jimmy's New Hampshire news radio station, unwilling to take the first step inside. Being there in the first place made him feel like a hypocrite. For so long, he had assured himself of his devotion to WNYX and refused the meager thought of coming to New Hampshire. Now that that right had been taken away from him, he felt like he was being drawn to the 'other side' even more so with his present situation.

The day had been boring and uneventful with everyone away from the cabin, leaving him stranded. Kristina still avoided him, which in itself drove him up the wall. All that was left were Matthew's cats and Mr. James; while he would have opted for the cats, he settled for the being that could actually converse with him.

No more than an hour ago, one of The Daily Jimmy's secretaries phoned the cabin and requested Jimmy's presence. In one of his brilliant insights, Jimmy decided to force Dave along with him. And while the newspaper was fascinating, pardon the sarcasm, Dave grew restless, and so forth found himself outside the station.

Figuring that it was well-past quitting time and the office would be deserted, Dave pushed open the heavy double doors and made his way inside. The first floor consisted only of a vacant receptionist's desk, so he proceeded to the elevators and up the to the second floor.

When the metal doors slid open, Dave's breath was taken away. The office was almost a mirror image of that of the original WNYX before he had had it redesigned, save for Beth's desk in the foyer and the extra office. The room was dimly lit by a few desk lamps, and, as he suspected, empty, save for the janitor who tipped his hat as he passed. Deciding against returning to the newspaper room, Dave wandered further inside, a rush of déjà vu jolting through him. The resemblance was almost uncanny.

"Shows how much they actually wanted to leave," he murmured to himself, smugly. Even the desks, though there were a few more, were positioned in the same way. The second separate office intrigued him, though. From what he had heard, Lisa had an accomplice in the news director position, and he had an idea as to who it was.

As if reading his thoughts, a door softly clicked shut, drawing Dave's attention to the office in question.

"Long time no see, Dave," Cecile started, taking a few steps toward him. Acknowledging her with a half-hearted smile, Dave continued in his inspection. "Look a bit familiar?"

"Yes, in fact, it does," he answered, his hands finding his pockets. "You've seen the old WNYX office?"

Cecile's smile was as lax as his was. "I was referring to myself."

Turning to her, Dave bowed his head for a moment. "Pardon me if I'm not exactly jumping for joy."

"Understandable," she returned. "But you don't seem to be surprised in the very least that I'm here."

Dave chuckled. "I knew. I overlooked Mr. James' business plans for this station and found your name and resume amongst the list of applicants."

"As quick as ever, I see. You've done your research."

He agreed. "I have. And it seems that you've done well for yourself."

Grinning, Cecile nodded. "I learned from the best." A look of disbelief, though not the good kind, as she had feared, crossed his expression.

"This coming from my long-term adversary?" he announced almost to himself. "You speak as if there was never any rivalry between us."

"It was hardly a rivalry," Cecile interjected, dismayed by his reaction. "Every promotion, everything in general, you bested me in. I can't deny that it hurt…"

Refusing pity, Dave met her gaze. "It wouldn't have hurt if you hadn't insisted that everything be a competition. If not for that obsession, we probably would have worked out."

Cecile paused in apprehension. "You mean like you and Lisa?"

Stunned to silence, Dave stared at her before his eyes drifted to the floor. "You knew about that?"

"Besides the constant stories Matthew's been telling, it was pretty obvious on Lisa's behalf. Not to mention, I've done a little researching of my own."

Dave shook his head, biting back a laugh of indifference. "I should have learned from the first time with you that office relationships can't work."

Closing the distance between them, Cecile rested a hand on his arm. "Ah, the truth is revealed. She is the reason you did not join us here."

"If I had come here," Dave conceded, "I would have been given the news director job." Almost ashamed, Dave again met her gaze. "Where would that leave you? Not to mention, Lisa."

Shrugging, a genuine smile crossed Cecile's expression. "I told Matthew that I finally beat you in something: getting this job. If I'm wrong, I don't think I'd mind." She swatted his arm playfully. "I've come accustomed to losing you, I guess." Her eyes widened and her face redened. "Losing to you, that is. TO you." Dave chuckled and winked.

Holding up her index finger, she trotted back into her office, returning with her and Matthew's report. Handing it to him, she answered Dave's questioning look. "I helped Matthew out with his WNYX assignment, but I think it may be more of this station's quality. Think you can give it a once-over?" Her demeanor turning serious, she looked straight into his eyes. "Just think about it, Dave. You're wanted here by so many. And I know a certain someone who wouldn't be too happy if you left."

Blinking slowly, Dave extended a hand to her. Taking it, she shook it genially and leaned slightly towards him. "Oh… and I've taken the liberty of inviting that someone."

Dave turned to follow her hint, his expression somber at the sight. In the foyer, with her arms crossed defiantly, was Lisa. Laying a reassuring hand on his shoulder, Cecile bid him farewell and exited the office, her smile broadening. She felt reconciled, and now, she could sleep easy. Her job was done.

~ * ~