A/N: So I finished Champion last night and it ToRE MY HEaRT TO SHREds and I had to do something about it so here you go. About two hours of mad typing later, I've produced this abomination for all you lovely readers' enjoyment. I really have no plot in mind for this because all I knew while I was writing it was that I needed to extend June and Day's story or else I'd die of heartbreak, but if people like it I'll write more.
12-31: I realized I'd forgotten it was June's birthday, so I've added that and a couple minor details to the chapter.
"Hi," he says. "I'm Daniel."
"Hi," I reply. "I'm June."
"Nice to meet you," he says. Then he smiles, slow and bashful, and it's just too much. Losing him to the coma, then to the amnesia, then to Antarctica. Who is he to waltz back into my life after I was so close to being able to finally let him go? I've found him now, but I almost wish I hadn't. I seem destined to lose him time and time again, and I simply can't take the knowledge that somehow, at the end of this all, I'll lose him one more time. There are tears stinging at my eyes, and I am no longer strong enough to hold them back.
Day looks taken aback. "Are you okay? Did I do something wrong?"
It takes me a moment to gather the composure for a reply. "No, of course not," I manage. "It's nothing. I'm fine, I really am. I'm just… overwhelmed is all."
"Oh? I understand. I've been known to have that effect." He grins and it's kind of like a smirk and it's almost enough to push me over the edge again. Because it's a familiar sight on a face that belongs half to my Day and half to this young stranger, and I don't know quite what to make of it.
God, when did I become so emotional? This is pathetic. I can't even bring myself to respond to his lightheartedness.
"Did you say you were having dinner at Tess'?" he asks after a moment of uncomfortable silence, changing the subject.
"Yeah. I was just on my way, actually," I say, nodding my chin at the train station.
Day looks back at Eden and then back at me. "Since it seems we're headed toward the same place, would you like to join me and my brother?"
I still can't quite believe that our paths have crossed after all this time, but I do my best to cover it up. "I'd be glad to."
"So," says Eden as soon as we've settled ourselves into a compartment. "What have you been up to lately, June?"
I tell them about the training I do and what the troops have been doing recently, but I don't go into much detail because I'm more interested in what Antarctica has been like for Eden and Day.
Eden goes on a passionate soliloquy about the amazing technology the Antarcticans have, and Day and I exchange amused glances. It's… nice to be able to do this with him without thinking. The only things we have in common now are Eden and Tess, but it seems to be becoming less of an impossibility to amend that, and for the first time in years I dare to hope.
"Are you staying in Los Angeles?" I ask Eden, interrupting him as he explains the mechanics behind Antarctica's game of life. The question has been plaguing my mind ever since I saw the headline on the JumboTron. I'm both eager and afraid to hear the answer, though I'm not sure whether I'm looking for a "yes" or a "no."
"If I get the job? Yeah, of course. It's so good to be home. Even if I don't get it, I think Daniel and I will stay here a while before we go back to Antarctica." He flows from one topic to the other without batting an eye, and I marvel at how much he's changed since I last saw him ten years ago. Then he was just a blind boy who needed to be led by hand everywhere he went. Surprisingly, it's not difficult to associate that image with the young, successful man who no longer needs anyone to hold him up.
"So, June," says Day, and my heart leaps at his voice the same it did when I was sixteen. It's ridiculous because the nerves I get around him are equivalent to those of an adolescent girl with a mad crush; it seems that my feelings have not worn off as much as I thought they had.
Day is looking at me expectantly, and I realize I've been too wrapped up in the sound of his words to register what they actually meant. What have I turned into?
"I'm sorry, I think I missed what you said," I hear myself say instead. "Could you repeat it, please?" My voice is distantly polite, the way it gets when I'm on autopilot. At least I haven't totally lost all my sense.
"I was asking how you knew Tess."
I glance at Eden, but he's busied himself with the fascinating task of looking out the window.
"I know her through you," I tell him. "When we first met on the streets, you two were together… do you remember?" I search his face desperately for a sign of recognition, but he just looks puzzled and slightly guilty.
"It's still coming back," he says, avoiding the "no" answer that he knows will crush me. Somehow, his delicate evasion hurts even more.
I do my best to ignore the hurt. Perhaps it's for the best that his memories of me never fully come back. I've taken so much from him, after all.
My eyes fixate on the paperclip ring around his finger. He must not remember who gave it to him. Why does he still wear it?
"I was just wearing it when I woke up," Day says, following my gaze. He seems eager to explain, like he's defensive about it. But I'm the last person he needs to explain it to. "I know it sounds silly, but… I feel like it's my only connection to the memories I lost. Like if I stop wearing it, I'll never be able to remember. Does that make any sense?" He looks a little embarrassed.
"Yes," I whisper. "It makes perfect sense."
Oh, Day. If only you knew.
I could tell him. I could tell him who gave that ring to him. I could show him the matching one tucked in my apartment.
But I won't. Maybe someday, but not now. Because he needs to learn everything on his own. I will not try to force his memories back to him. It would only drive him away.
"June!" Tess cries as she opens the door. Her eyes move to the brothers behind me. "Day. Eden. It's so good to see you."
She's trying to suppress her smile, but she still looks smug as a cat as she escorts us into the apartment.
I take her aside.
"Yes, June? Is there something you wanted to ask me?" Her gray eyes sparkle with mischief.
"You set this up, didn't you?" I say, but it's more of a statement than a question because I know she set it up.
"I don't know what you're talking about," she says with a grin.
I roll my eyes and ask her the real question: "Why?"
"What do you mean, 'why'? Aren't you grateful?"
I am, I truly am, but the thing is I'm not sure I should be. The sixteen-year old inside of me couldn't feel more indebted to Tess, but the twenty-seven-year old woman — the person I am today — is all too aware of the pain I could bring back into Day's life.
"I just… I know how much Daniel loved you," she continues more soberly when I don't reply. "I know how much you loved him— how much you still love him. When I heard that he and Eden were coming back to town, all I could think about was how happy you'd be to see him again. You are happy to see him, aren't you?" Tess peers up at me, her face troubled. I've made her doubt herself. I want to assure her that what she did was right, but who am I to lecture her about what's right when I'm not sure of anything anymore?
"Of course I am," I say. "Of course I still love him." And I always will, no matter how much time and distance separates us. I've come to realize that now. Don't they say that you never forget about your first love?
I loved him enough to let him go ten years ago, and I love him enough to let him go again. I'm not usually a good enough person to act so selflessly, but Day is my light. He makes me walk in the light with him. He makes me good. I'd do anything to protect him. I tell this to Tess.
"It's just that I left him for a reason, Tess," I say. "I caused him so much pain in just the one year that we knew each other for, and I know I'll keep hurting him for as long as I'm in his life. That's why I need to stay away. Didn't you tell me to be good to him?"
"I already considered that. I care about him too, you know. I've known him longer than you and I think he'll be fine. You didn't see the way he looked at you. Even after all these years I remember, and I'm convinced that the two of you belong together." She glances through the doorway at the living room, where Day and Eden are, then back at me. "Just think about it some more, okay, June? Come on, they're waiting."
Pascao arrives a little late, but we all catch up some more with each other around the dinner table. Eden tells me his interview is in two days. Tess has a new collection of stories about her patients at the hospital, and so does Pascao about his cadets. Day is unemployed again but no one cares since he saved the Republic when he was sixteen. Apparently the job didn't suit him, and he's so popular that he can afford to pick and choose what he wants to do and quit when he's tired of it.
"I'm still looking for a job that I'd like to do for the rest of my life, but I don't seem to be suited for anything but criminal activity," he tells us half-jokingly.
"Don't say that!" says Tess indignantly. "You were just used to using your talents to steal."
"That's what I just said," he laughs.
"I know, but it's not the crime that's your actual skill. You could use your talents for other things. Maybe you could work with June with the troops," she says, casting me a meaningful glance. "She's the commander of all the squadrons in the state. They're all training together tomorrow."
This is the part where I make up some excuse about why Day can't join me, but for once in my life I can't think of a believable lie. Truth is, the soldiers would love to have Day train with them. It would be a huge morale booster that I shouldn't deny them.
This is the reason I use to justify my decision as I say, "If you're up for it, meet me at my apartment tomorrow at six." I tell him my address and my apartment number— 5001.
Pascao wiggles his eyebrows but my glare shoots him down before he can make a joke. Some things haven't changed, after all.
I turn back to Day. He's watching me with a thoughtful expression.
"Sure, why not?" he says. "Might as well try something new while I'm here."
I nod, keeping my face from showing any sign of my suddenly thumping heart. You seriously need to get ahold of yourself, June. I hate how the thought of spending more time with him reduces me to this.
But at the same time, I kind of love it.
"Oh, I can't believe I almost forgot!" Tess exclaims, turning to me and effectively interrupting my internal mooning. "Happy birthday, June."
"It's your birthday?" Day says, surprised. "You never said anything about it."
"It's not that big of a deal," I say with a shrug. "I didn't feel that I needed to mention it."
Actually, in the whirlwind that followed after I encountered Eden and Day, I completely forgot I was turning twenty seven today. But he doesn't need to know that.
"I bought something for the occasion," says Tess, standing. "Hold on, I'll be right back."
When she returns, it is with a bottle in her hands.
I raise my eyebrows. "I didn't know you drank, Tess. I figured all you ever used alcohol for was to clean wounds."
"This," she says, "is a special occasion. Because not only is today your birthday, but it also marks the return of our Daniel after ten long years."
She pours us each a glass, then lifts her own. "Here's to June and Daniel. I have a feeling that this day marks the beginning of something new."
It's nine when we leave Tess. Pascao needs to catch the train and I live in a different building, but Day and Eden have an apartment a couple floors up.
I'm about to step into the elevator with Pascao when Day motions for me to stay. The doors slide shut and Pascao disappears from view. When another elevator opens to go up, Eden goes in, leaving Day and me without a word.
What does he want with me? The possibilities are running through my mind.
I don't have to wonder long.
"I heard what you said," says Day.
"You and Tess. Your conversation."
Shit. Frantically, I run through what we said. All of it was about him. Whatever he heard can't be good.
"What have you done? To cause me pain, I mean." He's wrapped his arms around himself, subconsciously bracing himself for the news.
I almost don't want to answer. I don't want to him to know all the horrible things I've done to him. But it would be even worse to keep it from him.
"I was the one who killed your mother and brother," I say bluntly. No point in beating around the bush. I don't try to sugarcoat it. "I didn't hold the gun that shot them, but it was my fault. I might as well have done it." I might as well have held the gun to your mother's head, I think, remembering his words from so many years ago.
Day flinches as if he's been slapped. It must have been far worse than he expected. I wouldn't blame him if he never wanted to see me again, if he walked away without another word.
But of course he stays. Of course he does. Of course. He stayed even when the pain was still new and raw. Now he doesn't love me, but the memory is a duller ache.
"She said… she said I really loved you." His face is faintly pink, and I can feel myself starting to blush too.
"Yes," I say quietly. "She did."
We're both quiet for a moment. Neither of us know quite what to say.
"I don't expect things between us to ever go back to the way they used to be," I say at length. "It's okay if you don't want to be friends at all."
"No," he says to my surprise. "I'd still like to get to know you better."
"Why?" I ask before I can help myself. "What I've done is unforgivable."
He stuffs his hands into his pockets. "There must've been a reason I loved you. I guess I'm just curious."
Just curious. I swallow. "That's… a legitimate reason."
We stand looking at each other and I'm wondering if this conversation is over when Day nods abruptly.
"Well," he says. "See you tomorrow?"
"Yeah," I say. "Six."
He nods. "I'll be there. Happy birthday, June."
If you like it, review and I'll continue! Otherwise I'll probably end up putting this on the backburner while I work on other stories.