A/N: OH MY GOD. This story took...forever...to finish but I finally did it! I discovered BCB back in March I think and it's been sitting in limbo since then. I remember originally that the comic creator was planning to end the series after the Curtain Call chapter but luckily that didn't happen. So this is sort of telling of what could have happened if it did end there. Now, I'll warn you; this is a LONG one shot. I was planning to split it into two chapters but it felt better to make it just one long one. Please forgive me if this story isn't my best. I've been struggling for a long time and I feel my standards are slipping maybe. Anyway, I hope you enjoy and we'll see you at the end of the story!
Bittersweet Candy Bowl and characters belong to Taeshi.
"The Graveyard Near the House" was written by The Airborne Toxic Event.
This Shade of Blue
"I love you."
"I just…what am I supposed to do!?"
"I don't know…what do you want to do?"
"…Well…would you mind if I said no?"
"I have Sandy and all…and it's just that I would really…I don't know…I can't think of anything that involves you."
"Didn't you want me before?"
"I did…but things happened…now you're just…no."
"No it's fine…"
"Did you expect me to-"
"No…I guess not…I just wanted to tell you…to be honest for once."
"Well…I'm glad you did that."
"I'm sure that it was obvious…"
"…Yeah. It was."
"I have to go this way now…"
"…So a girl hundreds of miles away means more to you than…me?"
Lucy snapped back to reality at the sound of someone shouting loudly and the contact of something solid against her shoulder. She looked up to see a middle age Siamese peering sternly at here from behind lopsided glasses. He readjusted them and bared his teeth.
"Watch where you're going!" He yelled. Lucy made a face of indifference and walked past him with a half-hearted apology.
The Siamese grumbled something as he continued on his own way down the barren sidewalk. To Lucy it was of little consequence as he was already cast from her mind like the leaves that swirled through the air from an autumn afternoon breeze. She advanced down the sidewalk at a leisurely pace, half lidded blue eyes scanning the neighborhood around her.
It had been so many years since she had been home.
The houses that she had walked by so many times on her way to school had changed little, a paint job maybe or a new fence but nothing more. The air was cool and quiet just like she used to remember and the people were still friendly, excusing her recent encounter. Lucy crossed the street at an intersection and an even more familiar sight came into view.
The school still stood tall, its clock ticking away just as efficiently as it had when she was there. She smiled slightly at that. It was nice to see so many things from the past almost untouched and preserved for her memories.
And it did bring back many memories.
Lucy stared at the school as the previous memory that caused her to drift off into another world crept back into her head. But before it could replay, she shook her head to halt the action. A frown formed on her lips and her ears folded down, a light blush creeping across her cheeks. The Khao Manee turned on her heel and wrapped her arms tighter around herself, footsteps increasing in speed. There was a sudden impulse to get as far away from the school as possible.
Not that it would matter.
Truth be told, those memories had begun to spring up on her frequently for some time. It angered her and moods often soured quickly. Not that that was anything new. Lucy still had her trademark temper but had gained better control over it over the years. A fact that only irritated her further in that events thirteen years ago could easily undue.
Lucy tried to put it past her as she crossed another street and a series of trees came into view, their orange and yellow foliage standing out brilliantly against the grey clouds that blanketed the sky. The pace of her steps slowed and a small knot of anxiety formed in her stomach. But the snow furred feline pressed on, ordering her body to cease being so distressed. Lucy entered Roseville Park and wandered along the dirt path, her feet kicking up leaves that had bundled along the way.
Those memories began to stir again and Lucy found that the further she ventured, the harder it was to block them out. She clenched her fists and gritted her teeth in concentration. She focused on the path and eventually came to a small clearing. Lucy came to a stop as her eyes rested upon a tall maple tree, an umbrella of gold and crimson hanging above. As she gazed upon the Acer, her mind overcame her resistance and a memory formed in front of the very same tree.
"Why you gotta do that!?"
"Glare at me!"
"I wasn't glaring!"
"You totally were!"
"Oh go away, I'm not picking a fight with you today."
A few minutes later…
"You're so unfair, Lucy!"
"You're such a…"
"What, Mike? C'mon, say it!"
"You're just so selfish! You treat me so badly after all I've done for you!"
"All you've done for me? I don't need you-"
"Yes you do, Lucy! Look, I am sick of this! Quit your stupid tough girl act and learn to be grateful for once! Dealing with your bullying from the day we met, protecting you after what happened years ago at Acapulco. I'm always trying to keep you safe and for what? Just to be picked on and insulted?"
"You're lucky I haven't gotten totally sick of it…at least so far…I'm not going to by your side forever…so just keep that in mind and leave me alone."
A strong breeze broke her stupor and Lucy sighed to herself, the anxiety in her chest increasing. Lucy closed her eyes and exhaled through her nose slowly. Her eyes cracked open and she smoothed down her clothes and fur before walking towards the tree.
As she drew closer, Lucy could make out a pair of outstretched legs sticking out from behind the bark and that trepidation rose with every tiny step. She paused once she reached the tree and found that her hands were shaking. With a few silent orders to her body, she stepped out in front of the stranger. He looked up at her and it was if the world stopped turning.
His ashen fur shined despite the sun hidden behind a veil of clouds. Emerald eyes locked onto her onyx ones and she sucked in a breath. A dark colored suit donned his small but athletic physique, tie flapping in a sudden gust of wind. The fur on his cheeks seemed a little rougher as did his whiskers but there was no mistaking the recognition of his handsome features and boyish expression.
She waited for what felt like an eternity until finally saying the name that caused so many emotions to rise up within her.
Mike rubbed at his third finger on his left hand absentmindedly as a few stray birds chirped in the trees above.
There was a discoloration of fur, a tiny band of light grey clashing against his steel blue coat and his thumb ran over it in a nonsensical pattern. When he realized what he was doing, he quickly let go of his hand and rubbed his eyes. Mike straightened his suit jacket and readjusted himself against the tree to get more comfortable, a deep shaky breath escaping his lungs.
He wished he could shake the uneasy feeling that wreaked havoc on his nerves.
Nervousness was something he hadn't had a problem with for years. In his profession, he couldn't afford it, especially now. But ever since he made that phone call last month, it was like every bit of tension he had mentally pushed out had come rushing back to him along with old memories. Memories that lead him back to this very spot.
Mike let his green eyes roll upwards to the leaves above and he watched a few dance in the wind then fall from their branch, dropping to the earth below. He sighed again and his ears folded down.
He knew how that felt.
To be perched on top of the world, strong and rooted. Then as time passes, things begin to wither away slowly and the world starts to change. You hang on for as long as you can until you realize you're fighting a losing battle. Your grip weakens and you fall from your perch, down into a pit of loneliness.
Mike looked away from the leaves and back out towards the park in front of him. Despite hard times, he also knew what it was like to be picked up again.
A small smile formed on his lips as he remembered late night phone calls that never ceased to end. Moments he shared that he wasn't proud of and often embarrassed about. Things he never thought he would ever discuss with…her.
Mike rubbed at his finger again and his eyes focused on the small package that rested on his lap. It was small black rectangular box with a tag attached to it. A name with neat cursive style graced the cream colored tag, sharp and inviting. He picked up the box gently and swallowed a lump in his throat that formed when he pictured what was inside as well as what it meant.
Mike's ears suddenly perked up when he heard the sound of footsteps closing in. Those nerves suddenly jumped into high gear and he found himself fiddling with his tie. He ran a hand through his head fur and straightened his jacket again. The ashen colored feline noticed that the box was still in his lap and he stashed it on the other side of the tree in a panic.
The footsteps stopped just short of him and then she appeared. There was a moment of unbearable silence as the two stared at one another. Green eyes locking with magnificent blue, a thousand different feelings and moments running through them until he heard her voice.
Mike continued to stare at her, his eyes taking in the image in front of him.
Her snow white fur rippled in the wind, her tail and trademark tufts on the sides of her cheeks billowing to the side. Her body, though taller and adult was still small and fragile like the girl he used to know so well. Dark navy blue jeans clung to her slender legs and a heather hoodie was wrapped tightly around her upper body. Her ears were folded down and she rubbed at her arm timidly, a belt of crimson across the bridge of her muzzle that almost mimicked the color of the pink ribbon that still graced her neck after all these years. She was as Mike remembered her.
A small, quiet and shy creature but haunted with a unique beauty.
Mike was speechless at that moment, a fact that seemed to irritate the woman in front of him. Her face soured and her eyes narrowed at him.
"You gonna say something or just sit there looking like a moron?"
She was definitely as Mike remembered her.
He smiled at her as he stood up on stiff legs. The smile widened as he closed the distance between them and locked eyes with her again. The white cat peered back at him with a stern and angry gaze. They stayed that way for longer than they cared until her sour look softened and a tiny smile broke out from the corner of her mouth.
"Hi, Lucy." Mike said upon seeing her change.
His arms opened and before he knew it, Lucy was pressed against him in a tight hug. Mike held her tighter than he meant to, an old feeling of familiarity returning. Lucy buried her head into his shoulder and clutched at his jacket tightly as if he would be blown away from the wind. The two long-time friends remained in embrace until Lucy suddenly pushed him away and slugged him hard in the arm.
"That's for not calling me sooner!" Lucy lectured, hands on her hips. Mike frowned at her as he rubbed his arm but it soon dissipated as Lucy hugged him again. "I…I've missed you, jerk face."
He let himself smile again and squeezed her shoulders. "I've missed you too. I'm sorry I haven't called or been around as much."
"You should be." Lucy growled at him, pushing away again. Mike sighed, guilt spilling across his face and Lucy immediately regretted it. "But…I know how things are with you these days. You deserve the attention you're getting so…I guess I really can't be mad."
"Still," Mike said with a shrug of his shoulders. "I could have made some time. You always make time for me."
There was another silence until Lucy cracked a smug smile and crossed her arms.
"Yeah, well, you can start making up for it now. With all that endorsement money, you can afford to buy me a couple of drinks."
"I'm not sure if I have enough endorsements to cover your bar tabs."
"Shut up!" Lucy laughed and pushed him playfully.
Mike felt his smile widen at the sound of her laughter and he soon found himself laughing alongside her. It was a welcoming feeling and his nerves were suddenly calmed. Lucy began to walk away towards the southern part of the park before she turned back and beckoned him with a hand.
"Come on. Let's hit up O'Tooles."
"That place is still around? Jesus, I haven't been there since you, me, Paulo and Tess snuck in just before grad."
"Believe me; I was just as surprised to see it when I drove past this morning." Lucy concurred. Mike smiled again and followed after her, the childhood friends conversing along the way.
Unbeknownst to Lucy and forgotten by Mike, a small box lay nested between the grass and the tree. Its tag fluttered against the trunk but there was no danger of it flying away. It would remain there until weather stripped it of its colors or until the owner of the name scribbled neatly on the tag would claim the treasure inside. But for now it would stay, surrounded by the falling leaves of an autumn afternoon.
"So how's the family doing?"
Lucy looked up from her drink and watched Mike take a small sip of his and try and not to grimace. He was never a big fan of alcohol. Why he even ordered one was beyond her. There was an urge to call him an idiot for it but she suppressed it.
She didn't like that old habits were coming back so soon.
The foul tongued, mean and frankly, terrified girl she used to be was becoming more and more present inside her every time she looked at him. It bothered her to no end but she kept a grip on herself. She wouldn't make the same mistake twice in her lifetime.
"They're fine." Lucy answered. "Sam's still plugging away at his job and Jordan's skipping around town with some broad he met last week. Mom and dad are still active and out in the world despite retirement."
"I'm glad to hear that. Yashy and Lily?"
"They're well. Enjoying having my apartment all to themselves I'm sure."
"Doing well. Haley's just about ready for college and Chris is starting high school soon. Mom and dad are doing some travelling so they're in Monte Carlo right now." Mike informed her, flicking away a stray peanut from the table they sat at.
Lucy nodded and neither spoke for the moment. The sounds of the bar around them filled in the lack of conversation, bad country music playing on a jukebox. Both felines made eye contact and both looked away, neither one wanting the other to see the embarrassment on their faces.
Lucy could not stop swearing at herself in her head, ears pressing down against her skull. Everything she didn't want happening was occurring at a furious pace. She cleared her throat and turned back to him with a smile.
"I was glad that things were so convenient for this today. Seems like I decided to visit my mom at the right time." She said. Mike met her gaze again and smiled back. "Yeah. I could hardly believe it when I read my schedule. I guess I made that phone call just in time."
"I was happy to hear from you…"
"I'm sorry I didn't sooner. I had been trying to clear my schedule for months. I guess fate was finally on our side when I saw that I was to visit the old school for some publicity footage."
"Getting tired of all that fame yet?" Lucy asked with a playful grin.
"It...gets tiresome after a while to be honest." Mike sighed, leaning onto the table with his elbows. "I've never been good at receiving attention like that."
"What was it you were expecting? You're running in the Olympic trials. That's not exactly an everyday track and field meet."
"I know. I guess I didn't think I was going to make it this far."
"You broke just about every senior record in High School, not to mention in the state. You really didn't think you were going to go far? Christ, I remember all those scouts practically killing each other to get to your front door." Lucy told him, leaning back in her chair.
"Ugh. Don't remind me of that circus." Mike grimaced as the memory came to life in his head. Lucy shook her head and frowned at him. "Most people would've killed to be in your position. I can't understand your complaining. Don't you want to be in the Olympics?"
"Of course!" He responded with a look of insult. "Running has always been my favorite thing in the world. I've always dreamed of going to the Olympics for it. I just..." He trailed off at the end, his ears lowering slightly.
"Just what?" Lucy asked.
"I just wish I didn't have to put up with the headaches. I don't like being rushed into photo shoots or filmed when training. People want to know what I'm eating, how I'm eating it then film a commercial for this and that. I barely have any free time. It's...it's a lot of pressure. I mean...what if I don't even qualify?" He wondered out loud, sinking into his chair a little.
Lucy observed the frustration that was occurring in the Korat's head and she felt a pang of sympathy for hm. He was never good at handling any type of pressure. His constant complaining of Honors English assignments came to mind immediately.
As well as other things.
Lucy felt her face fluster again as she opened her mouth to give him some words of comfort like any good friend. Unfortunately, due to the sudden onslaught of emotion, the words that left her mouth were anything but comforting.
"Stop whining you little girl." She scolded. "For a guy who's making a lot of money off those headaches you sure bitch a lot. You always mope about tests or races and in the end you always come out on top. So grow a pair and deal with it."
Mike seemed to recoil from her response and his ears lowered even further and he looked away with an embarrassed and somewhat disappointed look. Lucy immediately kicked herself and screamed every sort of insult inside her head. Was she trying to screw things up? She composed herself and reached over the table to squeeze his elbow. Mike's eyebrows rose at her touch.
"Sorry…I just…" She tried to explain although finding it difficult. "…I just hate that you doubt yourself." She recovered. Mike's disappointment seemed to evaporate and his features slowly melted into interest.
"You've always been so talented and smart. We all saw it and I could never understand why you couldn't. You always freak out about something but you push through and succeed because that's what you want. I can't see the trials being any different." Lucy wrapped up, a friendly smile now gracing her lips.
Mike shared her expression and his other hand found its way on top of hers.
"Thanks, Lucy…That means a lot."
Lucy felt like a child under his stare and tinges of red erupted from her cheeks. With a quick yank, she pulled her hand out from under his and retreated it under the table where she wrung it nervously with the other. The grey cat in front of her seemed hurt by her actions but it was a brief display and he quickly smiled at her again.
"Well, what about you? How are things at the scouting agency?" He queried. Lucy pushed her glass away, no longer interested in the beverage and shrugged.
"It's fine. I'm working with this girl they think has some real potential but I don't see it." She said with disdain. "She's pretty and can sing but there's no heart in it. I may be deaf in one ear but I know what I hear. Any dickhead can stand up in front of a crowd and sing. People don't just want to hear a voice. They want to feel it and lose themselves in the story it tells."
Mike allowed himself a private smile when he heard that. If anyone understood what is was like to tell a story with her voice, it was Lucy. A sudden rise of guilt tore at his chest as he suddenly pictured her wrapped in a blue dress, the lights of the Roseville High Auditorium stage illuminating her form. His smile faltered but he forced another one on.
"Well…if anyone can make her see it, it's you." He told her. Lucy rolled her eyes and offered a tired smile. "Thanks but I don't think I could even help this dope."
"You had the most beautiful voice." Mike continued as if he never heard her. "I still can't believe you opted to be a scout instead of a singer. You would have been huge."
"It wasn't for me." Lucy said softly. "To make so much off of something so…personal and special to me…just seemed wrong but I still loved it. I guess that's why I got into the scouting. If someone had the same ability and the same soul, then maybe I could help them get to where I was afraid to go. I guess that's kinda selfish…"
"No. It isn't." Mike argued. He leaned towards her and Lucy could see the reflection of the lights of his jade green irises. She inadvertently held in a breath and her body froze.
"You're giving others opportunities and helping them fulfill a dream. How many people can say that? I know you're not doing it for the money. You've never been one for greed and if anyone says otherwise, then they're dead wrong. You should be proud, Lucy. You've done more for people than I ever had with track."
Lucy stared at him and the corner of her lips tugged upwards. "Thanks, Mike. That…means a lot to me too." She said quietly. He returned it and the two cats lost themselves for a brief second in each other's eyes. Mike was the first to break eye contact and coughed uncomfortably as he leaned back in his seat again.
They sat in their chairs, once again plagued by a horrible and awkward quiet. It was far from the reunion she had envisioned or wanted. Lucy fiddled with her napkin, hesitant to look up at her friend. Those eyes pierced right through her every time he looked at her. A feeling she hadn't felt for a long time. She was beginning to feel like she had traveled back in time.
Back to when the mere presence of a boy in a scarf could ultimately reduce her to a timid and shy little girl. Where his boyish smile and friendly personality made her follow him around anywhere he went. Strong arms that would protect her from her biggest fear and a good natured heart that would cause her own to swell.
Lucy hated it.
She hated that she had worked so hard to rid herself of these feelings that after thirteen years, it was like they had never left. Lucy eventually let her vision rise and rest upon Mike again. He was staring at his drink, finger going around in circles on the rim of the glass. There was an odd looking clash of colors between his fur and a portion of his finger that was hard not to notice. But she found that she wasn't interested in his odd physical traits and soon became lost in his presence.
Lucy had worked hard to get over Mike.
It was a rough and arduous journey. There were times where she was unsure if she could do it and it terrified her. Her friends helped her along the way. Sue, Daisy, Abbey, Tess and perhaps even more so, Paulo. But in the end, it was Mike who helped her the most. Helped by offering to fix the broken pieces of their friendship.
At the time, she had trouble believing it. The look of guilt and remorse on his face as he dragged her into the green room after the play. The sincerity in his voice and look of longing for days to be like they used to. Before all the drama and all the hurtful things said.
"There's still a lot to talk about. It's not like everything is okay...but...you know...if you're interested...we could start things over."
That one moment of humility and compassion rocked her to the core. It was unexpected and at first she did not know what to say. A part of her was still angry at him but an even bigger part missed him. However she felt about him romantically, he was her best friend first and foremost. He was there, showing her that he did indeed care about what they shared growing up. For Lucy, that was enough.
"That'd be nice..."
It was nice to see that their friendship meant something to him. It was nice that he no longer looked at her with disdain and malice. It was nice to know that even though she may never have his affections like Sandy did, he would always be her friend.
And that was when things became a little easier.
Lucy found the yearnings of her heart to wilt a little day by day when she saw him. His smile no longer caused her face to erupt into a belt of crimson and the urges to find him whenever she had free time began to dwindle. She discovered herself spending more time with her other friends. Studying with Daisy and Abbey, shopping with Sue and Tess. And Paulo...
She spent a great deal of time with Paulo.
In the end, Lucy was able to finally let go of her dependency of Mike. They still spent time together as High School went on, even danced together once at the prom, all the way to graduation. Things did not change much from there, even when friends began to move away to pursue careers. She watched Mike move to Rickter to be with Sandy and three years later, she watched him marry the girl he had been in love with since third grade. There was some doubt as to whether Lucy would truly be able to witness the man she had loved for so long marry what was once the biggest obstacle between them. But she was truly happy for them.
And with Paulo by her side, she was happy for herself.
But those were happier times. Things were different now yet they were so much the same. Before Lucy could reminisce as to the reason of her irritation for that, she found Mike was staring at her with a perplexed look.
"What?" She frowned, knowing full well that he had caught her lost in her own little world.
"You kinda...froze there. Are you okay?" He asked with concern. She tried to resist it but the familiar and almost natural feeling of her ears folding occurred and she grimaced at him.
"Of course I'm okay. What are you doing watching me like that? Perv." She growled. Mike seemed somewhat irritated by her response and she quickly rebounded in order to save face.
"Joking!" She laughed nervously, plastering a large and forced grin on her face. "Come on, Mike! I got you pretty good there! Admit it!"
Mike's expression did not change which made her all the more nervous but she relaxed once she saw him fail at holding back a snicker.
"Alright. You got me." He confessed.
"Ha! Still the best!" She praised, crossing her arms and tipping her chin upwards in victory. Mike crossed his own arms and cocked his head to the side, a wiry and smug grin evident on his muzzle. "You may still be the best at pushing my buttons but I'm still the king of handing you your tail in Super Boxer Champions."
"Bullshit!" Lucy snorted though her smile never faded. "I let you win all those times."
"You did not!"
"Come on, Lucy! I was the more skilled one between the two of us! Most of the times you won were because I let you or you cheated!"
"Is that so?" Lucy inquired, narrowing her eyes at him. "Well then maybe you'd like to prove it, tough guy?"
"You, me and a couple of Sprites and a pair of controllers." She proclaimed, pushing out from the table. "Seriously?" Mike asked as he swivelled around in his seat, watching her make her way to the exit.
"Of course. Unless you're too much of a pussy?" She answered, hands on her hips and smirked concededly at him. Mike glowered at her and reached into his jacket to pull out his wallet. He threw a couple of bills down on the table and stood up.
"Prepare to be schooled."
"No fair! You're totally cheating! You can't just trap me in a corner and combo me like that!"
"It is not cheating! It's a fight! Anything goes!"
"Damnit!" Mike cried as he watched his character be unceremoniously KO'd in slow motion. Lucy raised her arms in victory as the screen flashed, 'Player 1 Wins!"
"That's three in a row, chump. Want to make it four?" She challenged with a defiant expression on her face. Mike returned that same expression and shifted himself on the floor to get more comfortable. "I'm going to destroy you."
"Fat chance, buddy." Lucy chuckled as she selected the rematch option.
Mike said nothing as the game began to load again.
The ashen furred cat reflected on the current situation and found it difficult not chuckle at it. Two almost thirty year olds with prolific careers sitting on the floor of Lucy's childhood room surrounded by empty soda cans and chip bags, arguing over a video game. Mike could hardly believe the thing still worked, a thin layer of dust coating the screen. He took the time to look around the room and see that not much had changed, Lucy's mother keeping the room the way she left it after leaving for college. He was thankful her mother was out for the night as not to hear their moments of vulgarity.
Time began to roll backwards in his mind and Mike saw himself, younger and carefree, sitting atop of Lucy's bed and engaged in the same sort of competition with the Khao Manee. Two friends lost in the simple pleasures of a game. No publicists, no journalists and no cameras following him everywhere he went. Just him and his best friend.
Bright letters flashed on the television and the match begun again. Lucy made some sort of demeaning comment but the Korat found that her and the game fading out into the background.
Mike was happy she was back in his life.
Happy that their bond had been saved due to his ability to swallow his pride. He never should have said those things in the first place. Mike had a right to be angry. He could give himself that much but he should have handled it far better than he did.
Lucy could have told him to go to hell and a part of him wouldn't have blamed her but she didn't. She forgave him and it was as if their friendship rolled over back to before the resentment and ill will. And then somewhere along the way, that cynical and mean little girl seemed to disappear.
As they finished their High School years, Lucy was friendlier to him and while her belittling and insults never disappeared completely, there was a change in her and Mike was glad to see it. Her reliance on him started to fade and she found her way into other social groups. He never asked her about her feelings for him again. His answer was usually that of seeing her spend more time with Paulo than himself. Mike didn't mind. He was happy to see her with someone who could give her what he could not.
Even if it was Paulo.
While Lucy's relationship with the Somali blossomed as did his own with Sandy. Once he was old enough to drive he would make frequent trips out to Rickter to see her, long as they were. After years of letters, texts and phone calls, they were finally able to bask in each other's presence and affections. Eventually, he made the decision that after being so unbearably apart for so long, he would move to Rickter. For Mike, it was a dream that had manifested into a reality.
His track career was taking off faster than he could have imagined and Sandy's modeling was burning up the runways. There was an inevitable cloud of doubt as to whether they could maintain a relationship with so much going on. Yet somehow, amidst the hectic schedules and ever growing abundance of opportunities, they still found time for each other.
And he still found time for Lucy.
They would almost immediately meet together anytime he found himself back in Roseville. She had yet to leave for the city and they could enjoy their old haunts in the meantime. He was keen on keeping their friendship strong after it was reduced to nothing more than a guilt ridden shadow in the back of his mind. If anything, the long night chats and walks through the parks began to remind him what he saw in her that others couldn't understand. Her compassion and kindness that used to be masked by anger and sarcasm was more present and often made him feel like he could tell her anything again.
Such as how to pop the question to Sandy.
It was an odd subject to bring up to her he felt. Lucy had nothing but good things to say about her and even when things got rough between them, she never brought her up. Yet he was reluctant to bring up the past. But Lucy was nothing short of supportive, encouraging him and pushing to buy a ring.
Eventually he submitted and he could still remember the look on Sandy's face when he got down on one knee. An expression of shock, disbelief and utter happiness. The same expressions that masked his own. He owed that moment to Lucy. Without her, he wasn't sure if he would have found the courage to do it.
Without her, he wasn't sure if he had been able to survive the collapse of his marriage two years later.
He was never really sure where things went wrong. Somewhere between being groomed for the Olympic trials and Sandy getting more and more engrossed in her career. The days seemed to get longer and the time away from one another increased. They both figured that things would calm down eventually.
But it only seemed that their obligations and commitments deepened more and more. For Mike, it was unbearable and if he could not find time to be with Sandy, he would make time. It was an easy decision for him despite blowing off a sponsorship appearance and almost facing a massive lawsuit for breach of contract but he was determined to make sure things worked.
If only Sandy felt the same.
As Mike strove to be with her more, Sandy was more concerned with her bookings and expenses. Whatever time they did have together, she would usually spend on her phone with her agent. She would apologize over and over to him, promising that they would go on a vacation after her next show. But her promises became as empty as the house they lived in, Mike finding himself wandering the lonely halls at night. At that point, there was little hope of turning back. They spoke less and less to each other and when they did, it was usually with raised voices. They had even stopped being intimate. He wasn't even surprised when Sandy handed him divorce papers.
It was then that this beautiful dream he once had had suddenly turned into a nightmare.
A part of him wanted to fight it. To rip up the papers and turn their lives around. But in the end, this was inevitable. There was a small comfort in seeing the pain and heart wrenching grief in his former wife's eyes though. The subtle proof that she was just as torn up about this as he was. Mike never really blamed her for things. Her way of handling things and pushing loved ones away for a career were traits of her mother who was never thrilled about Sandy marrying him in the first place. But he signed the papers anyway with a heavy heart.
And then...she was gone.
A large empty void formed inside him and he had to put on a face every time he stepped out of the house. The void increased day after day and a severe and troubling depression was gnawing its way inside him and he was unsure of who to turn to. Then the answer came to him one night and his hand trembled as he picked up the phone. It had been a long time. They hadn't spoken in so long due to his training and the problems with Sandy. Guilt was added on top of everything else he was feeling and he felt his courage withering. But knowing he had to talk to someone, he dialed the numbers and let the phone ring away.
"Hello? Anyone there?"
"You still there?"
"Yeah...yeah I am. I just...I haven't heard from you for a while."
"I know...I'm sorry. Things have been...busy."
"No, I understand. I'm not surprised with the way things are going for you. You're...you're making quite a splash, jerk face."
"Heh. I don't know about that."
"Still modest as ever I see. When are you ever going to take a compliment?"
"...I'm sorry I haven't been in touch."
"It's fine, Mike."
"No. It's not. I don't have a good excuse, Lucy. It's almost been two years since last we spoke."
"Mike, really, I understand. You don't have to beat yourself up."
"Okay, can you shut up for a second?"
"We both have busy lives, Mike. Sometimes time just gets away from us. Shit happens. I'm...I'm not mad at you."
"You should be."
"What was that? You were mumbling."
"Sandy and I are separating."
"Things have been rough for the last year and...and it wasn't going to get any better. I signed the papers three months ago."
"...Mike...I'm so sorry."
"...I'm sorry I bothered you with this."
"No! Don't apologize. I'm glad that you did. Is there...is there anything I can do?"
"Do...you have some time to talk?"
"Yeah...I got lots of time..."
From that one phone call, Mike began a long a difficult healing process. There were many nights spent on the line with Lucy, his emotions often breaking through. Even through such harsh emotional turmoil, he would softly smile to himself as the irony had never been lost on him.
So many years he had been her rock. Something stable for her to grab onto when things begun to break down. A position he once resented. And now here he was. Clutching onto her like she was the last thread of hope to climb out from this pit he had let himself sink into. Shame and guilt burned on his face and clung to his heart whenever they talked. To dump all his problems on her made him feel worse and like an even worse friend.
But Lucy was an angel to him.
She listened for hours on end, softly comforting him into the early hours of the morning. There were no snarky remarks or insults. Not once did she get frustrated and her calls to check up on him became more and more frequent. She made trips out to see him and the evident determination to console him warmed Mike to his core.
And then a funny thing happened.
As the months passed, both felines found themselves in each other's company more and more, just like when they were younger. Laughter and joking replaced sadness and fear. The clouds over Mike's head seemed to have dispersed and soon thoughts of Sandy were replaced with Lucy. Old feelings from long ago returned and the Korat longed to see her whenever she was away. They became even closer when things between her and Paulo fell apart.
Lucy never fully explained what happened. Only that their relationship had been rocky for the last few months and that eventually a break up would occur. Mike always felt she was hiding the real reason from him but never pushed it. All that mattered was the console and comfort they offered each other. It was then he began to feel that familiar ache in his chest.
At first he tried to deny it. That it was merely a case of exaggerated appreciation for her kindness. But the more he saw her, the more he felt his heart race and his nerves tingle. She made him feel like that blushing twelve year old who tripped trying to kiss the girl he liked. She danced in the back of his head during training and the memory of her laugh kept him sane through the reporters and film crews. It became clear to him that he couldn't deny it any further.
He had fallen in love with her all over again. And he could see it in her as well.
Lucy had always been an emotional girl. Her peculiar attitude and body language often gave her away when confronted with something. Her feelings for him fifteen years ago were obvious as she would respond with the opposite of how she felt. Angry, sarcastic and demeaning, avoiding any form of confrontation about it. The same responses he had been getting from her over the months and especially tonight. Her reactions disappointed him, wanting her to be honest with him but he supposed he was no better.
It was the proverbial elephant in the room but none had yet to address it. They had grown closer than ever before but neither wanted to admit it to the other.
For Mike, he was hesitant of such a confession. There was a fear that Lucy would think he was simply using her as a rebound to get over Sandy. But nothing could be further from the truth. She had reminded him as to what drew him towards her so many years ago even during he and Sandy's long distance relationship. What had been in front of him all along.
What he had given up on.
Mike found himself back in reality and witnessed his character being brutally manhandled. He found that his fingers had no desire to press the buttons to defend himself and his eyes shifted over and locked onto Lucy. He traced her face and figure, that tightness in his chest increasing.
"Yes! Suck on that, loser! You barely even put up a fight!" Lucy celebrated with her controller raised in achievement. She turned to smirk at him in jest but her visage suddenly became confused.
"What are you staring at?"
Mike dropped his controller and swallowed the lump that had formed in his throat. He came to Roseville for a reason tonight other than publicity and that reason was staring back at him.
It was time.
Lucy could only watch in confusion as Mike dropped his controller.
The next round had begun but the characters remained still on the screen as both cats no longer seemed interested by their childhood game. Mike continued to stare at her which only brought an onslaught of heat to her face and a frenzy of havoc on her nerves. He was silent for a moment before finally opening his mouth.
"Lucy," He said, barely above a whisper. "I…I need to tell you something." The snow pelt cat stared at him, ears flattening again and a pink glow forming across the bridge of her muzzle. She tried to speak but found her mouth refusing to move.
"O-Okay." She finally said back, her words slightly trembling.
The Khao Manee sat up on her knees, fingers digging into her jeans. She knew what was coming. She knew it had been coming for a long time. How it had not happened earlier she had no idea.
"These past few months...have meant a lot to me." He continued, his tone serious but soft. "You've helped me so much with everything. I don't know where I'd be without you."
She wished it wasn't happening. She didn't want it to happen.
"I know I haven't been around as much what with this circus I have to put up with but...I thought about you a lot." He continued and appeared to shuffle closer to her.
"Mike...I don't think-"
"The more I'm away, the more I wish you were with me." He continued as if never hearing her. "Sometimes I can't sleep and some days just feel like…I'm going through the motions. My coaches keep getting on my ass about focusing but…I can't."
"This is the Olympics, Mike. You should-" Lucy tried to say but Mike cut her off again moving even closer. "I don't care about the Olympics right now." He whispered.
Lucy could feel herself shaking and her fists clenched into even tighter balls. Why was this happening? Mike looked down at his left hand and rubbed at his finger again before looking back at her.
"It feels like the ring is still there sometimes. I feel its coldness and it reminds me of everything falling apart. But when I'm with you…it's like it was never there at all."
Lucy was frozen as his soft gaze wandered down her body and back up to her face. She had spent so many years with her world revolving around this boy and it took everything and more to break free from that. They were back to being friends and she was happy with that. She didn't want to go back. She couldn't take the pain again.
Lucy watched as Mike's own face became pink and his ears folded, the man in front of her becoming a shy little boy wrapped in a blanket.
"Sorry, um. For being weird about it. But I gotta try being confident. I need to be that way around you."
"I'm sorry that this is so…weird…again. But I don't know really how else to do this. If I wasn't so unsure of myself before, I would have done it sooner."
"Your mom is due in, like, ten minutes…Do we have to do this now?"
"Mike…I don't…I can't…Please don't do this."
"When else are we ever going to do it!? You always dodge the subject! It needs to happen NOW!"
"We can't push this away, Lucy. I know you feel it too. Don't run away again."
There was a pause as they both peered into each others eyes and Mike's face became even redder. But he moved closer again to where they were almost nose to nose. Lucy's bottom lip quivered and her tail curled around her waist tightly.
"I really, really like you…"
"I…I love you."
His words hit her harder than any punch she could dish out. The words she had wanted to hear for so long finally graced her ears and Lucy found that she was feeling faint. A gentle but strong grip on her arm brought her away from the brink of unconsciousness and saw that Mike was leaning towards her. The heat that escaped from his mouth blew across her own and a shudder ran up her spine.
His lips were inches from her own and while every cylinder firing off in her brain was telling her not to do it, her heart wanted it more than anything in the world.
She loved him just as much as before.
Fighting it had been an ongoing struggle for months and she knew that it was a losing battle. Everything that made her fall for him the first time was still there. His warmth and generosity coupled with honesty and humility. Like a flame in the dark, her passion for him burned as brightly as before but…
"Lucy…" Mike whispered one last time before closing that final gap. But instead of finding her lips, he found himself being held back by an arm. Lucy had her head turned to the side and her lips were twisted into that of a frown.
"No you don't." She suddenly said, her voice icy and hard.
Mike stared at her in concern before shaking his head. "What do you mean?"
"You don't love me."
"Lucy, I do."
"Bullshit!" She screamed at him, making the Korat almost fall backwards. Her blue eyes that had shone with shyness and kindness all day were now burning and spiteful. "You don't mean a goddamn word of that."
"You said you cared about me before…then you went back to Sandy." Lucy spat. She knew what she was doing and while it made her nauseas, she couldn't resist.
"Lucy...this isn't like that." Mike tried to explain softly as he could sense the other feline's agitation increasing. "Then what's it like, Mike?" Lucy snapped.
"How long until you're finished with me and you go back to her? How many times will you tell me you love me before acting like nothing ever happened?"
"Stop it, Lucy." Mike ordered, his own agitation increasing alongside hers. Lucy wanted to stop. She wanted to give in and accept what her heart was telling her but she couldn't. Lucy had forced up years of agonizing emotional torture and bitterness in hopes to quell her feelings. She couldn't turn back now.
"Why? Because it's the truth? Well the truth hurts sometimes. I should know…"
"Hey!" Mike suddenly yelled, anger and frustration in his voice. "I gave you a chance but you didn't take it! You pushed me away that night!"
"I was fucking twelve! I didn't know what I wanted then!"
"Well, what about after that!? What about after the museum trip!? Instead of being up front with me you ran away like you always do!" Mike argued.
In that moment, high pitched voices fought against each other, digging up the past they had wanted to stay buried. One voice tried to overcome the other but both were exceptionally loud and just as angry.
"I wanted to say something but you could never shut up about Sandy!" Lucy shouted, her face spiteful and red.
"Could you blame me!?" Mike answered back, his face reflecting her own. "I was at a point where I was thinking about you more than her but you made it pretty clear that you never really cared about me!"
"What the hell are you talking about!?
Lucy shook her head at him and her face turned even redder. "Are you insane!? I practically had a meltdown when I thought you were dead! I didn't think I could ever cry that hard! What could ever make you think that!?"
"You and Paulo!" He screeched back at her. Before she could even respond in confusion, Mike continued his verbal onslaught. "I'm 'dead' for not even an hour and everyone tells me you clung onto him for dear life! If you could move on so easily and so fast then what did I ever really mean to you!?"
"That's not what it meant at all!" Lucy retorted.
"Oh sure, that's why you rebounded with him when I rejected you. If you couldn't cling to me then I guess he would be just as good." Mike huffed, crossing his arms and looking away angrily. Lucy slammed her hands on the floor and leaned towards him, a fiery rage burning in her veins like poison.
"I was in love with you and you knew! You knew and you told me a girl hundreds of miles away meant more to you than me! You're best friend! What the hell was I supposed to do!? Shrug my shoulders and say 'Oh well'!? I was hurting so bad and Paulo was there for me and again after you turned into such a fucking jerk!"
"Well, maybe if you treated me better than I wouldn't have had to!"
"Don't blame me for being such a pussy!"
"And don't blame me for being such a bitch!"
"You were the reason Paulo left me!"
The onslaught of insults came to a sudden halt as did the anger in Mike's body. His face softened as his eyebrows rose up in surprise and question. Lucy's body trembled as tears fell from her eyes like a stream of diamonds, falling to the floor. Mike opened his mouth but found no words coming out. He tried again and his voice came out shaky and timid like all the life had been sucked from his body.
Lucy made no effort to wipe away her tears and while she was no longer shouting, the ire and discontent that fueled it was still very much present in her words.
"I spent so much time listening to you cry about her…just like when she left you the first time. You held such a grudge against me for depending on you, for being a crutch to lean on. Yet you thought your life was over at nine fucking years old because she moved away and I had to pick up the pieces but did I ever complain once?"
Mike didn't respond but instead let her continue. Lucy shook her head and looked away from him, watery eyes now focused on the floor.
"But I still did it. Because you were my friend and I hated to see you hurt like that. And the more time I spent with you…the more Paulo got suspicious. He didn't like the idea of us spending time together after your separation. He thought things would go back to the way they were between us. In a way he was right. Just not the way he was expecting."
Lucy's sullen expression finally softened as her gaze reached his once more. The pain that reflected in them reminded him of his own when Sandy had left. He felt his throat tighten as more tears slid from her cheeks.
"You always made it so damn easy to like you." She sniffed. "Everything that made me remember why I fell for you was still there and I fought it with every fiber of my being. But I couldn't stop it and Paulo was beginning to see what was going on."
Mike felt the urge to reach out and hold her. To comfort her like he did the night she told him they had ended things. But now that he knew he was the cause of that, a feeling of guilt was creeping into his body, clutching at his insides.
"He confronted me about it and…we yelled and…God, I've never seen him so hurt…" Lucy sobbed, fresh tears replacing old ones.
"I…I didn't know." Mike whispered. Lucy snorted in response and shook her head again. "You know what the worst part is?" She asked him. The Korat merely shook his head.
"That once he was gone…I didn't feel empty like when you left me. Paulo loved me so much and I loved him but…all I could think about was you. How fucked up is that?" She asked him, her voice cracking with sorrow.
Mike watched her cry and his cheeks burned with embarrassment and guilt. He reached over with a hand, hesitated, and then grasped the Khao Manee's.
"I'm sorry, Lucy. I had no idea. Why didn't you tell me this before?" He questioned. Lucy looked at him for a moment before her visage twisted back to its former indignant expression. She ripped her hand free from his and yelled at him,
"Why!? Why!? Because I can't do this again!"
Mike recoiled from her outburst and instinctively brought up an arm to shield him from an angry fist. There was none to greet him again but Lucy continued to scream, her voice rising with each syllable.
"I can't stand the thought of loving you and having you resent me for it! That I'm nothing more than some clingy girl who makes your life miserable!"
"No! This is different!" Mike interjected, trying to find some way to diffuse the powder keg of emotion in front of him. "I-I said some things that I shouldn't have and wished I never did. We've been over this and…Lucy, I love you."
"Stop saying that!" She screeched at him, her voice so loud that the neighbors probably heard it.
"I don't want to love you again! I don't want to be broken again! I wanted things to be before all this! When we were friends again! Because…"
Lucy trailed off at the end of her fit, slumping down into a defeated sitting position, turned away from Mike. Silence ran supreme throughout the room and Mike crept closer to her, his ears deaf to her silent sobs.
"Because," She spoke just above a whisper. "Loving you was the most painful experience of my life…and I never want to have it again."
Her words cut him so deep that Mike winced and his heart felt like it had stopped. He was frozen in place, unable to move and hardly able to breathe. The grey cat wanted to speak. He wanted to fight her on this but the toll of her confession was a weight so large that he couldn't even speak.
The two remained where they were for what seemed like an eternity until Lucy finally spoke, her voice quiet, cold and full of anguish.
"You should leave."
Mike could only stare at the back of her head wanting desperately for her to turn around. But all he was offered was a pain filled silence. Slowly, he rose to his feet. He stared down at the cat he had come to confess his love for and it felt as if an ice cube was being rubbed over his heart. His body seemed to move on its own, turning around and leaving the room. He made his way down the staircase, footsteps echoing through the old house until he came to the front door. He took a long look up the stairs before exiting the house.
The cold night air was there to greet him like it had so many times when Sandy had left and a chill worked its way into his bones. But Mike had barely felt it as he left the front yard and wandered back onto the street, his shadow stretching along the pavement from the street lights above.
Back inside the house, Lucy watched him leave and her chest hurt so much that it felt like someone was drilling a hole through it. She looked back down to where they had sat, controllers laying in a heap and the game flashing the menu screen. She suddenly felt sick and the room began to spin. Needing to leave the room she too descended the stairs, her hand gripping the banister with a shaky grip. When she reached the bottom, Lucy had to hang on as her knees felt as if they would give way. Fresh tears stung her eyes and she swore she could hear both Mike and her voices up the stairs, laughing and talking.
She quickly made her way to the door and flung it open then slammed it behind her. Lucy leaned against the door, her breaths coming out fast and hard. Steam stained the air with each one and she found herself walking away from the house.
She couldn't be there right now.
Lucy walked a fast pace up the street, opposite of where Mike had left and kept her head down. Every instinct in her body was telling her to release what she felt but she kept on marching instead. Her walk soon turned into a jog.
The jog turned into a run.
The run turned into a sprint.
Lucy flew down the sidewalk, not even bothering to look where she was going. Run. That's what her mind told her and her body complied. Step over step she went, heart hammering in her ears and her throat starting to sting with the cold weather. But she didn't care. Lucy just wanted to run until she couldn't feel anything.
For how long and how far she ran, Lucy had no idea. Only that she couldn't go any further and collapsed to her knees onto the wet grass. She wheezed horribly as catching a breath was difficult but what she experienced next was even more difficult. Lucy gripped the grass in her hands, ripping out blades as her cries mixed in with her wheezing. A trembling hand covered her mouth, an inconceivable sadness flowing from her eyes.
Lucy looked up as the Korat's face appeared in her head and her agony only increased. But as she looked up she could see where she had ended up and for a moment, her cries ceased.
Surrounding her was the familiar abundance of trees she had grown up around. Her eyes suddenly focused to the right and that's when she saw it. The moon had broken free from the wall of clouds and its light shone down, illuminating the clearing she was in. Lucy rose to her feet and slowly walked forward.
Dead leaves lay scattered around its trunk, its branches rustling by a passing wind. Lucy could only stare at it, bloodshot eyes locked onto its bark. Then, with a yell that would put the fear of God into the Devil himself, Lucy pounded her fists against the tree she and her childhood love had sat under so many times.
"You idiot! You asshole! Why did you have to come back!? Why couldn't you have worked things out with her!? Why did you make me love you again!?"
Lucy assaulted the tree again and again until the strength to even stand was gone again. She fell against the tree, face in her hands as she sank down to her tail. Her body heaved with new found sobs.
Another gust of wind blew though the clearing and something hit her foot. Lucy stopped in her self-loathing and looked down as to discover what had touched her. It was partially covered in leaves but she could make out what looked like a box. Brushing the leaves away, she picked up the item and stared at it. There was a little tag hanging off the edge and she read the name that was so neatly printed on it.
Mike shuffled his way down the street, eyes cast to the ground.
He had found his way back into the busier part of the town, surrounded by pubs, gas stations, restaurants and other establishments. People walked the streets and moved aside for him though he didn't even notice they were there. A few recognized him but their calls to him went unheard as all he could think about was what had just transpired.
"Loving you was the most painful experience of my life…and I never want to have it again."
The words made him cringe. She had never once mentioned any of this when they were in the processes of rebuilding their relationship. Why couldn't she have told him? Why did she hide it? If he had known…
Mike felt himself stop and suddenly collapse on a nearby bench at a bus stop. He hunched over, head in his hands as a long tormented breath left his body.
He felt stupid.
Stupid that he thought he could just stroll into town and tell her he loved her and that there would be a happy ending. After the things he said to her fifteen years ago, no matter how much forgiveness, they can't be forgotten so easily. How could he blame her for reacting the way she did? He treated her so badly.
Not as badly as she treated you.
Mike heard the voice in his head and found himself replying to it.
"That was just her way of coping."
And that makes it okay? Come on, man. After everything you did for her she walked all over you. We both know she deserved it.
"Not like that she didn't."
You can't always be the nice guy. People need tough love sometimes. Besides, look at what she's doing now. You come all this way out for her and pour your heart out and she pushes you away just like before. You know she loves you and she would rather run away. Sounds like a lost cause.
"Lucy is not a lost cause."
If that were true she would have accepted you. But she didn't. You need to move on.
"After all she did for me? You think I can just push her aside like that?"
Mike had no response to that. The words bounced around in his head and it made him feel worse. It arose a series of questions in his brain that he didn't want. What if this voice was right? What if he came all the way out here for nothing?
That Lucy really was a lost cause.
The more Mike thought about it, the more the idea seemed to overtake his mind. If she could never fully accept him then what was the point? This girl that he loved, that he had shared so much of his life with, would always be out of his reach. Whether it was his fault or not, he couldn't decide. But the notion of losing her…
He felt his heart lurch and he clutched at his chest. Feeling the tightness there, he raised his head to breathe in the cool air when his green eyes caught the sight of two youngsters across the street.
There was a boy and a girl, cats and looked to be about eleven years old. They were talking about something humorous it seemed as they left together, voices rising above the frigid air. They came to a crosswalk and as they waited for the light to change, the boy fidgeted around in the pockets of his coat bashfully before pulling out what appeared to be some sort of candy. His face seemed to sink inside his coat as he offered it to the girl beside him. She was taken aback by surprise at first but then her face morphed into a look of elation as she snatched it into her own hands.
Looking back to the boy she leaned over a planted a kiss on his cheek, causing his face to explode in a wave of crimson. The crosswalk signaled that it was safe to cross and the girl grabbed the boy's hand and smiled at him. He smiled back, not so embarrassed now and they walked hand in hand across the street.
Mike watched them, those dire thoughts slowly being replaced by something he had forgotten long ago. Some faded reminiscence locked away in the back of his mind that came alive as a passing car's head lights blinded him. When his vision returned, he saw himself, six years old in the school playground with a Khao Manee latched onto his arm.
The other day, when we were walking by the graveyard near the house,
You asked me if I thought we would ever die
She tugged and pulled on his arm, trying to force him to do whatever it was she wanted him to do but Mike struggled to get away. This mean girl was always doing this and she wouldn't leave him alone. Why him? Why couldn't she pick on someone else?
As the tug of war ensued, the white kitten readjusted her footing to get a better hold on him but in doing so she suddenly tripped over what appeared to be a turtle lying in the middle of the playground. She fell backwards, letting go of him and twisting her body to try and break her fall. With a heavy thud she landed hard on her elbow. The little girl soon began to cry and Mike saw this as his chance to escape. But as her cries pierced the air he paused and looked back.
Tears fell down her tiny face as she clutched her elbow and strangely he immediately felt a rush of concern for her. He was by her side faster than he realized with a comforting hand on her back.
He did his best to console her though it did little to cease her wails. The more he heard her, the more it made him feel bad. Not really knowing what to do, he simply reached over with his hand and took hers in his own. The girl suddenly stopped crying and looked at him through teary sky blue eyes. Mike found himself staring at them.
He had never seen a brighter blue in all his life.
And if life and love both fade so predictably,
We've made ourselves a kind of predictable life
Offering her a smile, Mike helped her up back to her feet. She sniffed a few sobs back and held her injured elbow close to her body. Mike suggested that they see the school nurse and the girl simply nodded, her nose a little runny and the fur on her cheeks stained. As they headed inside, he could feel her hand tighten around his but he didn't mind.
They shuffled through the hallway and to the nurse's office where they took a seat to wait for her to finish with a boy who had scrapped his knee. As they sat, Mike realized that the girl had yet to release his hand. She didn't seem to notice it but suddenly realized herself that he was staring at her.
The sad and pitiful face she had been wearing quickly turned into the mean one he was so accustomed to seeing but with a small belt of red crossed over her muzzle.
"What are you staring at, jerk face?"
Mike could only respond in the only way he knew how. He smiled warmly at her and said,
"I just wanted to make sure you didn't bump anything else! I was once fell down at the park and hit my knee AND my head!"
The Khao Manee stared at him for a moment before laughing and he soon found himself laughing with her.
As their laughter faded, Mike couldn't ignore the fact that she was still holding his hand. But this time she was smiling at him. She had a very sweet smile and Mike could feel his cheeks burn at the sight of it. Just like when he thought about her eyes.
Maybe this girl wasn't so bad after all.
So I pictured us like corpses lying side by side in pieces in some dark and lonely plot under a bough
We looked so silly there all decomposed, half turned to dust in tattered clothes, though we probably look just as silly now
The distant honking of a car brought the Korat back to reality. He stared out into the street, the memory replaying in his head and he closed his eyes tightly, hands balled into fists. He couldn't do this again. He wouldn't do this again.
He and Lucy have done nothing but go in circles. They fought then they made up only to push each other away over and over again. Someone always ended up getting hurt. Mike pictured her in his head again only this time from a mere twenty minutes ago and the pain that reflected off her face. It caused his body to shake as emotion began to build up in his chest and flow through the rest of him. He heard her voice in his ears as if she were actually there and all of the fears that clung to it. Fears that stemmed from his mistakes.
Mistakes he wasn't going to make again.
With no hesitation, the star athlete slammed his hands down on the bench and pushed himself off so hard that he actually left the ground. When his feet were back on solid cement, Mike utilized the gift that had made him so renowned for so many years.
A few passerbyers had to almost leap out of the way as the grey colored feline blew past them at an unbelievable speed. Mike's feet pounded against the sidewalk and his calfs and hamstrings screamed at him in protest causing him to wince but not slow down. It was a painful reminder as to what happens when he doesn't stretch but he didn't care. His legs could break off at the knees and it wouldn't stop him. Mike rounded a corner and began to push himself harder.
He had to find her.
The very thought of it was enough to block out the pain in his legs and fuel his adrenaline. Soon the bright lights of the business district faded and he found himself in the small suburban neighborhood again. He was beginning to feel some fatigue set in but was of little concern. Mike had trained long enough to ignore those hurdles. He could see Lucy's house as he came up the street but for some reason his brain kept telling him to go past it. That she wasn't there anymore.
Unable to ignore that feeling, Mike blew past her house, his furious pace having yet to let up. If she wasn't home then where? It wasn't long until his mind came alight with another thought and he couldn't imagine her going anywhere else. It was still a bit of a distance but that didn't impede him in any form. He flew down the sidewalk, tie fluttering in the wind and a desire stronger than he had ever experienced before.
Stronger than the Olympics.
Stronger than Sandy.
Bye, bye, bye, all this dog-eared innocence. I can't pretend that I can tell you what is going to happen next or how to be
But you have no idea about me…Do you?
The Khao Manee instantly recognized it as Mike's handwriting. Lucy continued to stare at the box, the sadness she felt pushed to the back of her mind for just a moment. An intense overwhelming of curiosity took over her as well as anticipation but it did little to halt the flow of tears. With a shaky hand she removed the lid and stared down at a pile of paper sheet wrapping like the kind you would find in a birthday or Christmas present. Sitting atop the pile was a small piece of loose leaf paper with more of Mike's handwriting etched on it.
Lucy let her eyes roam over the note, each word seemingly causing her heart to pound louder and louder.
Do you remember the day we went to the mall when we were twelve? It was the day I found my scarf. Do you also remember how I was so picky with the color? There were so many but none of them fit for what I was looking for. Then finally I found it. You pestered me about why I had to take so long to pick out that particular one though I never said why.
Do you still want to know why I choose that particular shade of blue?
I had never seen a more beautiful and haunting color in all my life. Except in your eyes.
I choose that color so that whenever we were separated, I would have a piece of you with me at all times. So that whenever I was lonely or scared, all I had to do was wrap it around me and it would feel like you were right there beside me. I've wanted to give this to you for a long time.
Lucy read the letter over and over until it had been burned into her brain. She let out a large and broken sigh, her heart breaking more than she thought was already possible. Lucy stared at the box again and slowly her hand reached inside, pushing past the sheet paper. When she felt the soft fabric touch her finger tips, she let the box fall to the ground and another sob pierced the air as Mike's old scarf clung to her hand.
It left me to wonder if people ever know each other or just stumble around like strangers in the dark
Because sometimes you seem so strange to me, I must seem strange to you, we're like two actors playing two parts
Lucy ran her other hand over it, the aged piece of clothing looking as brand new as the day he bought it. It was warm and inviting and with no hesitation she brought it to her face, inhaling an all too familiar scent. The half deaf feline felt her throat tighten and her eyes screwed shut, her mind picturing the Korat sitting against the tree on a sunny spring day, the tail of his scarf billowing in the wind.
He turns his head and smiles at her, comforting and affectionate. Emerald eyes reflect kindness and love that no one had ever matched. Not even Paulo. Lucy buries her face into the scarf and weeps silently, her tears staining the sky blue color.
The pain that filled her was nothing short of when she was a child. Lost and alone, the one thing that always brought her away from that gone. Because she had run away again.
Did you memorize your lines? 'Cause I did. Here's the part where I get so mad. I tell you that I can't forget the past
You get so quiet now and you seem somehow like a lost and lonely child and you just hope that the moment won't last
Mike could feel perspiration slide down his forehead and the suit he was wearing feeling hot and stuffy. He was almost there. Just a little bit farther and he prayed that he wasn't too late. That she would be there.
He pushed harder again and zoomed through an intersection without even bothering to look both ways. A loud screech of tires and blaring of a horn filled his ears as suddenly he felt something painfully impact the right side of his torso. The car that had hit him came to a stop as Mike practically rolled over the hood, hitting the ground hard. The driver rushed out to check on him but his shouts of concern were lost on the would be Olympian.
As soon as he hit the ground, Mike was back on his feet, stumbling a bit but straining to get his speed back up. Another car came to a sudden stop honking at him, causing him to stumble again and fall but he pushed himself up and carried on amid angry and worried shouts. His right side throbbed with each step but he blocked it out.
Nothing was going to stop him.
Bye, bye, bye all this dogged innocence. I can't pretend that I can tell you what is going to happen next or how to be
But you have no idea about me…Do you?
Mike sped through the night, legs aching, side throbbing with nothing but his heart driving him forward.
He came to a barren street and finally he slowed down to a stop. He stood bent over, hands on his knees grimacing with every painful pant. He lifted his head and peered up towards a small sign that stood across the street. He read the words and gritted his teeth. Summoning the strength to move his legs, Mike felt flashes of pain run though his body but refused to give in, letting out only a muffled cry of discomfort as he entered Roseville Park.
With exception of patches of moonlight, the park was practically encased in darkness. Finding your way out seemed almost impossible but Mike had wandered this path so many times that it was almost instinct for him to know when to turn. Up ahead, he could see a break in the blackened treeline and the moon hanging brightly in the sky. With whatever strength he had left, Mike sprinted towards the clearing.
As he broke through the trees and onto the grass, he felt himself stumble and slip. The cat fell forward and slid painfully into the grass. He groaned as he laid there, body telling him to stay down. Not wanting to listen, Mike pushed himself up and onto shaky legs. When he raised his head, the pains of his body seemed to melt away as he spotted Lucy sitting underneath their tree.
Still, there's always a way around. There's something tying our feet to the ground. A moment passed, we hear how it sounds
And it seems a little less profound, like we're all going the same way down
Lucy let her hands drop, the scarf leaving her face and she instantly missed its warmth and presence. She could only stare at it with a look of intense longing when the sudden sound of something hitting the ground was heard. She had barely heard it, due to her bad ear, but as she turned her head, she felt her eyes widen as the image of Mike getting to his feet appeared just a few yards away.
Lucy felt herself rise to her feet, scarf held close to her chest.
I'm just trying to write it all down
Mike's eyes connected with hers and the two felines stood where they were. The world seemed to have stopped turning and all of Roseville itself faded into the background. Sucking in a breath at an attempt to calm his pounding heart, Mike advanced forward. Lucy watched him walk towards her and she felt no other desire than to walk out herself to meet him.
I write songs, and you write letters. We are tied like two in tethers, and we talk and read and laugh and sleep at night in bed together
And you wake in tears sometimes, I can see the thoughts flash across your eyes. They say, "Darling will you be kind? Will you be a good man and stay behind if I get old?"
The two met at an arm's length away from each other, Lucy gripping his old scarf even tighter now and making no effort to clear away her tears. Not even realizing that he had forgotten the gift earlier in the day, Mike could only look upon her with yearning as all he wanted to do was hold her. He licked his lips, ready to plead his case and his heart but before he could, Lucy interrupted.
"I always thought it was because of Sandy's bow." She whispered. Mike felt himself smile and softly shook his head.
"It was always you."
He stepped forward, closing the gap between them. His hands gripped her arms tightly but gently. Lucy had to resist the temptation of collapsing into him, his chest looking warm and inviting. Just like his scarf.
Then the letters all flash through my head, with the words that I was told
About the fading flesh of life and love, the failures of the bold
"That's why I'm not letting this happen again." He told her. "I won't let the most important thing in the world to me walk away again."
Lucy tried to look him in the eyes but her courage faltered and looked away. She felt ashamed. Ashamed that after everything she had said to him he was still here. He came back like he always did. Something she was so unsure she could do herself.
Lucy felt Mike tip her chin up so that she would have no choice to look him in the eyes. They shone with tenderness and devotion.
"I won't leave you alone again, Lucy. I'll never hurt you like that again. I said I would always be there to protect you and that's not going to change…just like how I'll never stop loving you."
I can list each crippling fear like I'm reading from a will
And I'll defy every one and love you still. I will carry you with me up every hill
Lucy felt her whole body suddenly go warm. Mike's words sparking her desires and smothering her fears. She sniffed loudly and looked down at his scarf. She played with it in her fingers before looking up at him with a smile. The sight of it made Mike stare at her in awe.
There was no traced of sadness in it nor fear. A pure smile that he had missed for so long. She bit her bottom lip before telling him,
"That letter was pretty corny, jerk face."
Mike felt a smile of his own grace his lips. They gazed at one another again before Lucy sank forward into his arms and Mike dipped his head down, lips pressing against her own.
And if you die before I die, I'll carve your name out of the sky
I'll fall asleep with your memory and dream of where you lie
She didn't push him away this time. Arms wrapped around his neck and pulled him closer, the warmth of her body sending a shudder up his spine. They broke away and Lucy smiled again before she wrapped the scarf around his neck.
Mike felt something wash over him like that of a warm blanket. Like something lost had been returned to him after so many years. He smiled down at her and her own widened. At that moment, a large gust of wind rolled through the clearing, carrying with it a swirl of fallen leaves. It swept past the two, encasing them in orange and yellow and time itself seemed to roll back.
It may be better to move on and to let life just carry on and I may be wrong. Still I'll try…
For when the leaves cleared, two fifteen year old cats stood in the clearing. An ashen coat Korat with a sky blue scarf wrapped tightly around his neck holding a small delicate Khao Manee with a large pink ribbon blooming at the back of her neck.
Their cheeks turned red as they leaned forward and kissed again, tails entwining with each other.
Because it's better to love whether you win or lose or die
It's better to love whether you win or lose or die
They broke away, the blushes never leaving their faces. Hand in hand, the two walked back to the tree and sat down together. The Khao Manee leaned her head against the Korat's shoulder, her blush becoming redder and she closed her eyes. A small smile graced her lips and the boy next to her squeezed her hand lovingly.
They sighed in unison as they sat silently in the night. The fog from their breath rose into the sky carrying with it a small remnant of friendship and true love before its vapors disappeared forever into the silver light of an autumn moon.
It's better to love and I will love you until I die
A/N: CAMEO BY TURTLE!
So much angst! Well, there she is. I highly suggest to check out the Airborne Toxic Event and this song especially if you really want a good feel for the song. So many of them remind me of these two but this one in particular really struck a cord with me. I'm not sure what else I can say about this. It was kind of a nightmare to write because nothing is that simple in the comic and the characters are always changing. Well, that was my attempt at MikexLucy I suppose and believe me, I wasn't trying to take a shot at Paulo. He's a good character. I'd write more about this but I'm exhausted right now so I'm going to bed.