I'm impatient. I love you all. Thank you for the kind words. I hope this lived up to what you wanted. And if you're like me, you probably want Sam Hunt to take your time, but instead, I'm just writing stories about it. Haha.
Let me know what you think. Enjoy!
He knocks on her door the next afternoon, and stifles a laugh when she's got sunglasses on, holding a bottle of water larger than her head. She ignores his amused expression, and lets him in. She goes to put the tea kettle on, but he stops her and shakes his head.
"We're not staying."
"We?" she questions.
Austin nods, "I have a surprise for you. Get dressed, pop a few Advil. You're going to need it."
She wants to be apprehensive, but he's pleased when she doesn't ask anything further and goes to change out of her pajamas and into something more suitable for the outside world. He waits in the kitchen, gets bored and wanders into the living room. It's like looking through a time capsule and in a way, looking into a side of Ally that she doesn't often talk about. Her parents are in the majority of the pictures and so is he.
He picks one up. It's probably close to twenty years old, as she's about two or three in the picture. She's got her arms around her brother in what resembles a chokehold, but they're both smiling ear to ear. He looks happy and innocent, completely unaware that in two decades he'd die protecting the tiny girl on his right.
She clears her throat and is standing in the hallway, and he drops the picture like he's been caught doing something wrong.
"He always loved that picture. He claims it was the first time I tried killing him," she jokes.
He laughs. "You do have quite the hold on him. That's good."
"That's good?" she laughs, shaking her head. "I don't understand."
"You will," he adds, and motions to the door. "C'mon. We're going to be late."
He brings her to a gym, and he's pretty sure the look of confusion and slight fear is enough to make him double over in laughter. She stares at him with an open mouth, and he just shakes his head, kills his engine and motions for her to follow. He's grateful for how trusting she is with him.
They enter the gym, and he skips past all the lines and people, stopping before they reach a door. He's careful when he says, "Do you remember the other EMT from that night? His name was Jace."
"Yes," she answers, closing her eyes. "I do."
"He teaches a few classes here in his spare time. I got him to pull some strings. He's waiting for us."
"What? No offense Austin, I don't really want to work out."
He smiles, "It's not… exactly a workout."
He opens the door, and Jace is standing there with a similar smile on his face. He waves tentatively at Ally, probably a bit worried that maybe they weren't going to show. He knows he's got to explain. "You said you felt helpless last night," he replies to a look of confusion, "And that the twat you were seeing wasn't helpful. Jace is certified in more forms of fighting than I can list, and some I can't even pronounce. He's going to show you the best self defense skills you'll ever need. I already know from experience you've got a great punch, so I'm sure you'll excel here."
Ally blinks back tears, "What?"
"It's all free," he adds. "Jace and I figured something out, don't worry. You'll never have to worry about protecting yourself after this."
She's staring at him with the most awestruck expression and then she just shakes her head. "I'm sure he's got things to do, so let's do this. I'll deal with you later," she teases, and Austin raises his eyebrows. She turns to Jace. "Show me all you've got. This is awesome."
He excuses himself, and goes to grab some lunch for the two of them to share at the nearby park when she's done with her first lesson. He gets some tea made up, making sure that he places it in the shade of his car so that it's cold by the time she drinks it. He also picks up some of her favorite cupcakes from local bakery, lemon ones, and waits.
She exits the gym a few minutes later, sweaty but smiling and he's so damn happy that she looks happy. Fulfilled, refreshed. Like she can take on the world. That is what he wanted, after all.
"That was incredible," she breathes out as she enters the car.
He just grins, "I'd ask you to show me what you learned, but I'd like to be able to head into work tonight."
She laughs. "Where are we going now?"
"To celebrate," he declares.
He takes her to a quiet spot where there is a tree and throws a blanket onto the ground, emptying the takeout from the bag, each item one by one until they're ready to eat. He sees her eyeing it all, and watches as she crumbles before him. For some reason, unlike the other times that she's cried in front of him, broken down, this time is different.
It throws him back to that night.
There is a call on the emergency line for help a few blocks away. Two people, one badly injured. The guys all hop into the ambulance, wondering what kind of thing it was this time. They don't often get the full details until they arrive, and this time, the person who answered the call says the less hurt one was a bit of a mess, and it was a struggle to even understand what happened.
They arrive within five minutes, and the police and first responder are already there. He goes inside and sees no one at first, but a lot of broken things. Glass, pots… there are things everywhere. The first responder and officers who got there first are standing in front of a door that is closed, pleading with whoever is on the other side.
"Please let us in," the officer states. "Miss, we are here to help you. We've already taken the man into custody. We were told you need medical attention."
He doesn't hear a response.
"Miss?" the officer tries again. "I know this has been quite the ordeal…"
There is a high pitched wail, followed by pleading gibberish, and the cop breaks down the door to reveal a young brunette and a male who doesn't look to be responding. In attempts to help the more wounded, the cop and first responder practically shove her out of the way. She stumbles backwards into the corner, eyes wild and soaking wet with some kind of horrible emotion he never wants to experience, even though it's familiar.
The other EMT is on top of the male, performing CPR. It's only then does he see the mass amount of blood.
He tries to ignore the horrible feeling in the pit of his stomach and walks over to the female, who is just staring at them work on whoever that is. "Miss?"
He is about to ask if she's been injured, he's bent over so that he can hopefully not scare her when she flings herself forward, into his arms. There is blood coating her hands, practically up to her elbows and she's got a deep bruise on her forehead, and a nasty gash next to it. The bed is practically destroyed to her right, and there is a broken lampshade beside it, still attached to the wall somehow. A large, full-size mirror that probably once covered the closet is shattered on the floor.
She sobs into his chest for what seems like hours while they try to save the man beside them. Its a few minutes in reality when they declare him and begin the process of removing the body. In the meantime, he hears the cop say we need to get the story, but the girl doesn't budge out of his arms even when the cop prompts her. It's only when they ask him to go back to the ambulance does she eventually break off, looking like she may never function on her own again.
The next morning, he learns from his buddies there was a man in the cop car already. He broke into the house, for what they aren't sure, and attempted to take advantage of the girl. When she awoke from her bed, her brother came into the room. There was a struggle, in which the brother took the lamp and shattered it over the man's head, then threw him into the mirror. It was only then did the intruder reveal that he had a knife, using this to gain the upper hand and stab him a horrifying ten times.
He bled out on the scene, later finding that one of the stab wounds had completely severed a main artery.
There was nothing they could've done to save him.
"He would've loved you," she says, bringing him back to the present, and he realizes he's been staring at her with probably a horrified expression for quite some time. She's munching on the food, looking more at peace than he's seen her in a long time.
Screw the guys at the station who placed the bets. Screw the people and what they thought. He's looking at a girl who has survived hell and made it back.
"I never understood why I felt connected to you, but I'm glad I did."
He smiles, "Yeah, me too."
"Thank you for everything, Austin," she adds. "I wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for you."
She's quiet for a moment.
"You never answered me when I asked that question a few weeks back."
Ally asks a lot of questions, so he's not sure which one she's talking about. "I don't know which one you're referring to," he admits.
"I asked if you ever lost a part of you. You never answered me, but I've learned to read your expressions well and there is something that tells me the answer to that question was a yes. Maybe that is why I was drawn to you, and no one else." She tilts her head. "You understood on a level that no one else did."
She's right. It amazes him that she's able to read people that well.
He knows she deserves to know, so he figures it would be a good time as any to tell her. He lifts up his shirt, revealing a tattooed name. Grace. His little sister, only five years old when she was ripped from his life. She was everything to him. She was born sick though, with a disease without a cure. They told his parents when she was born that she wouldn't live to see her first birthday. He smiles at her stubbornness. She made five of them, you bastards.
She lived with pain every day, but he never once saw a day that passed in which she didn't smile.
She lived up to her name in every sense of the word.
She was with the angels now.
He tells her all of this, and she just smiles.
"She's with Brett," she answers. "He's with her."
"Yeah," he smiles back.
Austin is quiet. He hasn't spoken of her to anyone outside of his family since it happened, and it's been ten years.
He doesn't admit this.
She doesn't have to know.
Ally leans forward. She's got tears in her eyes, but she's still smiling.
A little broken, they both are, but somehow they're okay. They will be.
She studies him with such a beauty, he's reminded that she's more than what happened to her. They have a connection, one that he's so glad to have.
It happens quickly and he's so shocked by it, it takes him a moment to react.
She kissed him.
"I'm sorry," she says.