Author's Note: I don't know what it says about me that Tommy's headspace is so much easier for me to get into than Jude's, but here we are.
Takes place during the proposal scene in the restaurant in 4x13, "London Calling" and goes AU from there.
"You wanna come to London with me and we can shack up together?" She asks. She's almost joking when she says it, a teasing lilt to her voice, but he can hear the undercurrent of truth in her question.
Tommy looks at her, then, really looks at her. He has never loved another person the way he loves her, this he knows to be true. And just as vehemently, he knows that he will never love another person again the way he loves her. She's it for him. The One. Capital letters and everything. If he has to move to London to be with her, then so be it. He'd follow her anywhere. He meant it when he told her, almost a year ago to the day, that he wanted all of her with him forever, and despite their roadblock that was New Brunswick, that hasn't changed.
These thoughts race through his mind in a split second, all at once, almost not giving him enough time to comprehend them. He thinks of their time apart, how lonely and broken he was. He thinks of what Jamie had said to him earlier, how their split had nearly killed her. And he vows never to let that happen again. Ever. He should make this permanent. He should ask her to marry him.
It's not like he hasn't thought about it before. The week before Tristan's call, he'd even perused a shop - online, of course, to avoid any paparazzi attention - and had a general idea in mind. He figured maybe he'd ask in a year or two, give her time to at least start her 20s before settling down. But now, looking at her in this empty restaurant, the drama of the past year and the fears of the upcoming move to London laid out before them, he thinks he should ask her. He doesn't have a ring or anything but he can work with that. He can keep her with him.
He opens his mouth to ask her then, but that thought gives him pause. If they get married, it can't be about that. It can't be about keeping them together, about his fears that she'll wisen up and leave him for good. And, god, it certainly can't happen now. Not after the basement trauma, so fresh she hasn't even sung the full song yet. Not now, when she's 18, and young, and just about to really soar. Because her remixed album is beyond good and that album and this recording deal are going to skyrocket her to the stratosphere. And she wants that, even if she doesn't always say it. And he wants that for her, wants her to have those experiences.
She's young. She's so young. He forgets that; it often seems like she's the older of the two of them. But she's not, she's still a teenager even, and marriage and settling down should rightfully be the furthest thing from her mind. And Tommy feels ready, but is he really? He's not convinced. To settle down? Absolutely. He's had a wild life, starting as far back as he can remember. He's been away from home for fifteen years already. He wants some peace, and he doesn't think that's asking too much. But Jude hasn't had that, he reminds himself. She's lived at home, with at least her big sister if not her loving, supportive parents for her entire life. The craziest thing she'd ever done had been her arrest that time with Patsy, and even that was nothing.
She's barely lived, he thinks with a start. She hasn't even had a life to settle down from. He can't ask her to do this. Hell, he can't let her do this.
He lets go of the wrapper he'd absentmindedly started twisting into a ring and watches as it falls gently on the table. It doesn't make a sound when it lands but he hears it as if it had been a ton of bricks. It sounds like finality.
"No," he says on a sigh. He smiles gently at her - she frowns back at him, appropriately put off - and it's all he can do to keep his eyes from tearing. "I think that, um, maybe you should do this alone."
She opens her mouth as if to say something but nothing comes out for a few moments. "What are you saying, Tommy?" She asks slowly.
He hears a dark tone to her voice and he knows that she thinks he means to end them. Maybe he does. He doesn't know. But he knows he can't go with her. If they want this to ever work, to really work, he can't be the one to hold her back. He just doesn't want to let her go either.
He has to face his fears and just tell her how he feels. He owes her that. After New Brunswick, the least he can give her is that.
"I don't want this... us, to end, Jude. Ever."
"Me neither," she responds quickly.
He smiles at her and the action gives him enough pause to let the words get stuck behind his teeth. He exhales, reminds himself that he is trying to be honest for once in his life, and presses on.
"I love you. And, someday, when the time is right, I'm gonna ask you to marry me." He smiles softly at her intake of breath, takes a moment to revel in the knowledge that he's quite literally taken her breath away, seals the feeling away, and continues. "That's what I want for us."
"Me too," she says quickly.
He smiles at her, a real, full smile, and lets the sentiment steel him for what he's about to say. "But I think we have some growing up to do before we're ready for that. You know almost everything now. About my past. But if we're ever really gonna have a shot at this, I, um, need to deal with it."
She nods slowly, once, agreeing without pushing him in the way that only she can.
"Jude," he continues, meeting her eyes, "You're so young. You've barely lived. This would be an amazing opportunity for you, for your music. You are going to be a superstar… and I think maybe you need to have the adventures an 18-year-old superstar deserves to have."
"You're saying I'm immature?" she questions at a deadpan.
He can practically see the steam pouring out of her ears and knows he needs to choose his words very carefully here. "No, girl. I'm saying I am." She blinks at him and he can tell she doesn't fully understand. "You're... inexperienced. I think you need to do this... without me to weigh you down. You need to go to London without me."
They break eye contact, then, each breathing heavily as they try to reign themselves in. Tommy simultaneously feels like he's being crushed to death and like he's weightless, but as the words had tumbled out, he'd only become more convinced that this was the right path for them. Maybe they can come back together in a year or two and be whole, be ready for each other. But that's just not where they are right now, and although it kills him, he knows they need this in order to find a successful future together.
Jude, for her part, hasn't said much since he started speaking and he wonders if her thoughts are as turbulent as his. She doesn't cry, though, just sits there and thinks, and he takes that as a sign that he isn't as far off with his assessment of their relationship as he could have been. When she does speak, finally, after what feels like a lifetime, she doesn't protest, and it's that more than anything that lets him know he made the right decision tonight, with her, for once in his life. Instead, she asks simply, "so, what now?"
Tommy wishes he knew.
Their food comes but neither are really in the mood to eat. He only manages a spoonful of his soup and he watches her push an errant tomato around her plate. What now, indeed? When the answer finally comes to him, halfway through what would have been the main course, he hates it instantly, but knows it's his only option.
He clears his throat gently, mostly just to get her attention. "That, um, nurse that you found in New Brunswick? She recommended someone."
"For your mom?" She questions.
He clears his throat again, this time embarrassed. "No, um, for me. A psychologist."
"Oh," Jude says, eyes going wide. He wishes he could read her mind, to know what she's thinking, if she thinks he's crazy for proposing this or if she thinks he's too broken to be fixed, then promptly decides he doesn't want to know.
She lays her hand over his and he's startled. She squeezes gently. "I'm proud of you."
He almost breaks down then and there but pulls himself together. Instead, he squeezes her hand back and flashes her a tight smile. He can count on one hand the amount of times anyone has ever said that to him, and coming from her, it's worth its weight in gold.
Tommy pays their bill and brings her home, Big Lou following them in his car down every side street. Their ride is as quiet as their dinner had been. She fiddles with the radio a bit and stares out the window. He tries to subtly memorize the contours of her profile, the elegance of her features in the moonlight and still maintain enough focus to drive. They're at a stoplight three blocks from her house when she grasps his arm. "Wait," she says.
He feels hope blossom in his chest and tries desperately to quell it.
"My house is still a zoo of notepads and cameras," she says. He doesn't understand and waits for her to continue. "We should go back to your apartment."
His mind immediately kicks into overdrive. There are a million things he wants to say all at once and he can't move his mouth fast enough to catch up with his brain. "Jude, I-"
She surprises him with her kiss, but the second it finally registers, he puts his all into it. These tokens of affection that used to feel endless are now numbered and dwindling and he'll be damned if he lets another second go to waste.
"Let's go to your place," she says breathlessly when they finally come up for air. She cradles his face in her hands and brushes over his cheekbones with her thumbs. "Let's say a real goodbye."
After, they lay together, not an inch of space between them. "What does this mean for us, Tommy?" She breathes into his chest. "I don't want to lose you, but I can't ask you to wait for me."
"I have waited years for you before, Jude. I can do it again."
"I might be a while," she says, her voice small.
He kisses her hair and does his best to put on a brave face. Inside, he feels like dying. "It's okay, girl. We've got time."
It's a while before she speaks again. When she does, her voice is thick with emotion. "Thank you, for knowing what I needed before I did. You always have."
He doesn't respond. He's not sure he could, even if he knew what to say. Instead, he swallows thickly, then kisses her deeply. He's always been better at expressing himself physically then emotionally, so he does his best to put everything he's feeling into his kiss.
He thinks she gets it.
She pulls back and he can feel her tears on his cheeks. "I love you," she says.
He hates how much that sounds like goodbye.