At first Haley just stood in the doorway to JJ's apartment. So, this was Paige. JJ's ex, Paige. JJ's dead ex, Paige. No wonder the woman had seemed so familiar; she'd seen a picture of her once in the bottom of JJ's dresser. She'd found it when she had just moved in while unpacking the few belongings that she'd had with her. At first, she'd assumed it must've been Abigail when she was younger, but when she'd flipped over the photograph, she seen a heart drawn around the name "Paige," with a date written next to it. It was dated a few years back, but considering he'd kept the picture all this time, Haley could only assume she'd been special to him. She never told JJ she'd found it, especially since they'd hardly known each other at the time; it was too personal. Eventually one night when they were talking about their past relationships, he'd brought up her name, but Haley had acted like she hadn't heard of her before, and he'd explained what had happened. And now she was standing right in front of her in JJ's apartment.
Haley was ashamed to admit that for a few seconds she thought maybe JJ hadn't told her the truth about Paige's death. But his own reaction had remedied those thoughts quickly. He seemed to be in a state of shock that she'd never seen on him before.
Paige stood up off the couch and walked slowly towards JJ, her long brown hair tucked over her shoulder. "I can't believe this is really happening. I've been trying to get back to you for so long." Haley watched from JJ's side awkwardly, as if she were simply a witness to this private moment between them.
"H-how is this possible?" JJ asked. He stood completely still, as if he thought moving an inch might make it all disappear.
"I promise, I'll explain everything." Paige answered, her perfect lips forming a loving smile. Then, as if she hadn't noticed her until now, Paige's eyes widened as they fell on Haley, the smile replaced by confusion. "Who are you?" she asked, taking in Haley's wedding dress for the first time.
JJ shook his head slightly, as if coming out of a daze back to reality. "Oh – right, sorry. Th-this is Haley. My – uh – my…wife." Haley could tell by Paige's expression the exact moment that she processed JJ's words. The confusion spread into hurt, mixing with anger.
"Your wife? I – I don't understand what's happening." Paige backed up until her legs hit the couch, sinking down onto the cushion. Haley looked at JJ, not quite sure how to explain. She didn't know if they could trust Paige to keep the secret behind their marriage, especially if she thought Haley had taken advantage of JJ. But at the same time, she felt terrible for her. She couldn't imagine what it would be like to come back and have everyone move on. To have lost all that time.
"It-it's kind of complicated-" Haley started, looking between Paige and JJ. Before she could continue, he stopped her with a slight shake of his head.
"Complicated? Complicated how? Because as soon as you realized I wasn't an option, you just moved on to the next girl as a replacement? Gosh, JJ, I really thought our love meant more to you than that." Haley could see Paige's anger rising by the minute, and really, why shouldn't it be? She obviously still loved him if she'd come back for him after all this time.
"It did! I just – I don't know what to think right now; my mind is spinning. The last time I saw you, you were dead. How was I supposed to know you were still alive?"
"I don't know JJ. But I sure didn't expect you to move on so quickly. Not after we fought so hard to be together." For a moment they just stared at each other, seemingly lost in the past memories of their relationship.
"I'm sorry, I just-I need a minute to process all of this." JJ said, backing out of the apartment.
"Well? Aren't you going to run after your husband?" Paige asked, her voice dripping with disgust as she turned her anger on Haley.
"For what it's worth, I'm sorry." Haley apologized. "I can't imagine what you're going through right now." Before Paige could respond, she followed JJ out the door.
She found him sitting on one of the white benches outside of his – or theirs now – apartment complex. He'd kept himself together pretty well back in the apartment, but sitting all alone, he looked completely defeated. He had his head in his hands, and his shoulders were hunched as if they carried the weight of the world. She almost didn't want to disturb him, afraid that he'd crumble under the weight of everything.
"JJ?" Haley asked, hesitantly stepping forward. He raised his head, surprised to see her standing there. "We don't have to talk, I just wanted to make sure you were okay. And I'm not going to pretend to know what you're going through, but I can imagine it's not easy." She stopped next to the bench, not wanting to sit down and bother him if he wanted to be alone. She wasn't sure exactly what he needed right now, but she wanted him to know that she would support him – no matter what he decided.
"I just – I can't believe after all this time. I just keep asking myself why now? Why today? How?"
"I don't know, JJ. But I'm sorry that it's happening like this. If we had only waited a day-" Before she could finish, JJ cut her off with the intense look in his eyes as his head turned towards her.
"No, don't say that. You shouldn't be apologizing. If anyone is sorry it's me; as if you don't have enough going on right now, this happens. I'm sorry, Haley." Honestly, she wasn't surprised at what JJ was saying. He was always the most selfless person she knew, even now, when his whole life had been turned upside down. But none of this was his fault, and he needed to understand that she didn't blame him for anything that was happening.
"JJ," she said firmly. "JJ, look at me." As he raised his eyes to hers, Haley felt that familiar warmth travel through her body, followed by a sharp pain at the thought of what she had to say. But she should've known that she wouldn't get this perfect fairytale ending. After all, her and JJ hadn't even married for love. The wedding dress she was still wearing just served as a sad reminder of the hope she'd had that morning for the two of them.
"You have nothing to be sorry for. No one could've seen this coming." Haley took in a breath as she looked away from the soft, searching look in his eyes. "But I do think you should give her a chance to explain. You two were in love, JJ. And I'm not going to make you stay with me." It was hard to admit, but even JJ couldn't deny that what she'd said was the truth. But she couldn't bring herself to say the hardest truth out loud yet. She could feel it hovering between them, but neither wanted to say it. If she hadn't died, you'd still be together right now.
As Haley turned, ready to leave before JJ could say anything else, JJ stretched out his hand, gently grabbing her wrist. For a moment, she just stared at his hand around her arm.
"Haley, wait." As their eyes met, she was finally able to see the level of internal conflict he was experiencing in that moment. "It's not that simple."
"I didn't say it was simple. I'm just saying that you shouldn't let our marriage stand in the way if you want to work things out with Paige." The conflict in his eyes stayed put. "JJ, please. I'm telling you that you've already gone above and beyond for me. Don't sacrifice this second chance at love just to help me." She pleaded. Haley truthfully didn't know why she was pushing for him to let her go, but she couldn't seem to stop the words from spilling out of her mouth. Maybe it was because she thought pushing him away before he could break her heart would somehow make her feel better. As if anything would make it hurt less.
The burning intensity of JJ's eyes made her look away. She suddenly felt all the emotions from the day weighing heavily on her shoulders as tears pricked her eyes. She shouldn't be the one upset right now. It was JJ's world that had been turned upside down. Blinking them away, she mustered up a comforting smile and awkwardly withdrew her arm from JJ's grasp. "I think I should spend tonight at the loft – Tripp already knows that our marriage isn't real, so it's okay. I just think we all need some time to process this and think everything over. It's been a long day."
"Are you sure?" JJ asked, looking up at her.
"I think it's the best thing for now." Haley answered, nodding.
"Do you want me to get some of your stuff before you leave?" Haley shook her head.
"No, it's okay. I'm sure Claire has a few things I could borrow. I'll be fine." The sad look in JJ's eyes made her want to stay, but she knew this was the best thing right now. She needed to give him space, and she didn't want to pressure him to make a decision. She also didn't want to make things even worse for Paige; she couldn't imagine how she was feeling right now.
JJ grabbed her hand, forcing her to step closer, and pulled her in for one last hug. Her arms immediately wrapped around his back as she savored this feeling that she knew she may not feel again. She tried to memorize it all; the feeling of his hands on her back and in her hair, the taut muscles beneath his suit jacket, his breath near her ear, his steady heartbeat beating in time with hers.
"I'm sorry," he whispered, his voice thick with emotion. Standing there, wrapped around each other, Haley saw what could've been. She saw that they could've fallen in love. Their marriage could've become real. They could've been happy. But maybe loving JJ just wasn't in the cards for her, and that was something she'd have to get used to.
"Goodnight, JJ." she whispered, pulling away. Walking away, all she could think was that 'goodnight' had never sounded so much like 'goodbye.'