Okay, so I got this great idea during the middle of the night... Or maybe I was showering. I don't quite recall. But it was so great that I had to sit down and feverishly write out the plot details so I couldn't forget. And that very great idea happened to be this very fic. Now, I know I've a million other things to be writing and homework to be doing, but this haunted me (and still haunts me) and wouldn't leave me alone. So I had to write it. Anyways, I wrote this part somewhere in October, and then I edited it, and I've been patiently holding it until this very day to post it. Which was unbelievably hard as I've been so excited about it and wanted to tell the whole world. Anyways, I love it to pieces, and I'm rather proud of it. I really couldn't wait to post it. I decided I was sick of waiting, and so here I am, posting it way earlier than I meant to.

There will be a second part. And more... I don't really know how long this is gonna go on, really, to tell the truth. I haven't really thought that out much. And it may very well be that there is a long time between updates. I'm gonna try and have the next chapter out by December 2nd or 3rd, but I can't really make promises. On the bright side, I think I'm over halfway done.

Now, for some explanation... Okay, this is in Second Person. And, while few names are mentioned in this part at all... I'm pretty sure you can figure out who's point of view it's sort of in. I think you'll get it if you read it. As for the time period, this is strictly first season, set directly after the events of Un-Sweet Sixteen. Except for this chapter, which takes place during like... the last 5-10 minutes of the episode, I think. The rest of it takes place afterwards, so it's sort of an aftermath thing. It's a little AU, but basically all the same things do happen, just differently, because of the one big thing that happens in the next chapter. I'll give you a clue... The ending sort of foreshadows something.

Finally, we come to the thanks section. Okay, so first thanks go to Six for answering my stupid questions, lol, giving me her very valuable opinion, letting me use her old title... and finally and most importantly, for writing If Things Were Different, which was a fountain of help to me when I couldn't just go and watch the episode on YouTube. I seriously couldn't have done it without your help. And then another thanks goes out to Ruby, for giving me her opinion on this. It really means a lot to me.

Anyways, now on to the actual story. Aren't you proud of me? I actually kept it brief for once. Hope you all like it!

You pushed past him, barely able to keep your disdain and hatred for him from spilling into a violent rage. You wanted to rip him apart, to tear him limb from limb. His uncle, though, he wouldn't like that. Neither would she, you thought. You'd promised her... It was her birthday wish that you'd get along with him. And you're infamous for your temper, but you bit your tongue and held back. For her. Because you owed her that much. So even then, after he'd ruined everything for her, you honored your promise. Hitting him wouldn't make things better. It might make you feel better. It might make you feel less like you just sit there and let him break her heart. But it wouldn't make things better. You doubted that anything you could say or do would even come close to making it better.

You think you've broken her heart far too much already, and that she doesn't need any more heartbreak. You try and remind yourself that you warned her, but you still feel like you didn't try hard enough. So, in that sense at least, you feel that this is all your fault. You want to make things better for her. She looks so lonely there, leaning up against that railing. She's holding on to it desperately as if it were an anchor, as if it could save her. As if it could rescue her from a sea of loneliness and heartache. But it can't... you think you might, someday, hopefully, on some later date... That you might possibly fill that torn hole in her heart, that terrible void in her life... but you're not sure of that. And that's why, at first, you just sit and stare at her, thinking, wow. Just wow.

She's so... pretty. Her hair's suddenly limp and hanging in her face, and something about her whole posture has drooped. Her dress looks somehow not tragic enough, and she looks rather pale in it. You think she ought to be angry instead, that she should've thrown a drink on him at the very least. It's not like her to be so sad. You can deal with her angry, albeit not well, but you can. Rage is a safe, friendly emotion. You know it well. But crying? You're hopeless around tears, especially those of a woman. God knows you've broken more hearts than you can count (or would be willing to admit), and you've never stayed around long enough to help, but... she makes you want to fix it. Unlike him, when you say that she makes you want to be a better guy, you actually mean it.

You glanced up, taking in your surroundings. The blackened clouds hung in the sky, heavy with rain. It had been a strangely dark, sickly green color. The light that shone in the alley was weak. It was so dim and dreary, much like the girl who stood there, sobbing. The air smelled like rain, and there was a December chill in the air that made you shiver. But there was something else in the air, not the rain and not the chill... something else entirely that made the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. There's something utterly wrong about it, but you can't put your finger on it. And then you can... Anticipation.

You wanted to... you should do something. But you can't make yourself move. You want to, but your feet won't take that necessary step. You just stood there like a marble statue, staring at her. Your breath caught in your throat. She was that beautiful. You keep thinking of roses because they're your favorite flower, as girly as that is, and you can't help but remember how she smelled earlier. She reminds you of one, too, with her hair that shines like rubies, and her dress so deep an emerald. You've seen her bloom before your eyes, and you've felt the sting of her thorns. Or at least you thought you had. You didn't know then. And you wanted to buy her flowers because that had always made things better before with those other, cheap girls, but she isn't like them.

It was going to rain, but you didn't know how hard. When it finally did, the force of it surprised you. It had rained earlier, far earlier in the morning... when you'd surprised her with that pancake. 12:01 and silver lighters and birthday wishes, you think with a wry smile. It was funny how that happy time seemed suddenly so far away. You haven't smiled like that in ages, but you always smile when you're around her. You can't help that, and it scares you. You're not that kind of guy, but you can't help it... God help you. But it's all so different now, now that you can... That she's... Now that her boyfriend had cheated on her. Now that he'd carelessly dumped her and left her there, treating her like garbage on the street that he was just too lazy to pick up. It kills you to think that you'd actually wanted this to happen, for her to be free, and you'd been wanting it for a pretty long time, but never like this... You'd never wanted to see her like this. She didn't deserve to be left so broken, suffering from the wounds of a shattered heart that was just... killing her.

You knew her, and you knew her well, so only you could tell just how devastated she truly was.

She had a broken heart, and all you wanted to do was fix it. Dry her tears... Heal her. Pick up the pieces and put her back together again like in the song you yourself wrote at the tender age of sixteen. You're not used to having these kinds of... feelings. Suddenly she looked up and saw you there, and your heart flew up into your throat. It was like you forgot how to breathe with her eyes on you, so afraid that you were going to screw things up and ruin everything. And you knew you would, but you forced those dreadful, morbid thoughts back. You lied to yourself, told yourself that you wouldn't ruin it or her. You weren't that kind of guy anymore. You were a good man, you said in your head, and good men do not...

Funny how you couldn't finish that thought.

But your brain had turned to mush from all your glancing at her in that dress. You two just stared at each other for that one, endless, timeless moment, and it was like nothing mattered anymore. None of it. Not your job (which you didn't care much about anyways), not your past, not her future, not what everyone else said, not her now ex-boyfriend, not her geeky best friend, and most certainly, not her age. Only her. She was the only thing that mattered to you and... when that realization hit you, you became so scared, alive with the fear.

Afraid of what you'd do because you knew you'd do something about it. You're the kind of man who does things. You're the kind of man who screws up, and heaven knows you do that a lot. You know you'd ruin it, that you'd ruin her... because that's what you always do. You screw up; it's all you do. You should stay away from her. And yet, next thing you know, you were walking over to her, offering your support as best you could. She was your friend, after all. But just your friend, nothing more. Not even in your dreams (only that's a lie). She couldn't... It was the least you could do. She snapped at you, striking out, finally showing that fury you knew her to be capable of. "Go ahead," She barely managed to choke out in an accusing tone, voice breaking, glaring at you with all the might she could muster, "Tell me 'I told you so'!"

But it wasn't true wrath, just bitterness, and her voice was so achingly full of hurt that it broke your heart- the heart you like to pretend you don't have. She was like a cracked porcelain doll, only no hospital could fix her. Then she sniffled loudly, the bright light in her eyes dying out as she turned away from you, burying her head in her hands. You wanted to tell her that you would've never rubbed such a thing in her face, but you didn't. It wasn't necessary. You hadn't noticed, too wrapped up in her pain to care, but it had started to rain. Her shoulders shook as she sobbed, and you came closer. You wanted to do something nice for her, something to comfort her, so you gave her your jacket, even though it was already wet. It was a nice gesture anyways. You placed one warm hand on her shoulder lightly, setting the other one on her back soothingly. Your hands moved of their own accord, and you found your left hand rubbing slow circles on her back. Your movements were slow and gentle because you were afraid of crossing any boundaries.

It was no use, however. The dress and the jacket were so thin and so waterlogged that you could easily feel the muscles and bones in her back beneath your hand. Her muscles seemed so stiff, but she yielded surprisingly to your touch. She was oddly comfortable with you, letting her guard down for a minute as her watery eyes flickered dully over her surroundings. You sighed softly under your breath, wishing you could take her in your arms for real. You wanted to touch her bare skin, too, and wondered how soft it would be. Would it be as soft as her lips had been against your cheek this morning (twice, you recalled. She'd kissed you twice. Not that you're counting or anything)? You'd only barely been able to resist kissing her in the Viper and probably would've had that woman not called. Oh, you remembered that, and you remembered with disdain. But you couldn't and shouldn't touch her. If you did, who knows what you'd do? You wouldn't be able to control yourself anymore, and your grip was already slipping.

She was still shuddering, and your hands were cold. It had been warmer than usual for December that day, but you were all too aware of the bite in the air. You wanted to give her good advice like you always did, the kind of advice you'd wished someone had been around to give you when you where her age. But the words that always came so easy... they didn't come out like you wanted them to. You couldn't think of a single thing to say to her that would make it all better. Maybe this was because you had never been in love, and had never been attached enough to any of your girlfriends for the inevitable break-up to hurt. So, in this instance not speaking from experience, you settled for the first thing that came to mind. "For what it's worth, Shay's a kid... and an idiot," You told her, trying to comfort her by insulting her ex.

That was what friends did, wasn't it? After a break-up, they trashed the boyfriend who'd ruined it. Cheaters were the worst of all, the lowest of the low. And, after all, you were a notorious philanderer, so you should know better than anyone. You weren't thinking about what you were saying as much as you should have. It sort of just came out. What you meant was that she didn't deserve a kid. She deserved a real man, not some punk who couldn't possibly see how great she was. He was an idiot if he couldn't see that, and he was an even bigger idiot for giving her up. What you wanted to say was that she deserved someone who would appreciate her. And you were a real man who knew how great she was and didn't take her for granted, but just coincidentally. Or so you tell yourself.

You exhaled heavily, backing away from her. It was clear she didn't want you hanging all over her. Why were you doing this? She doesn't want you, and her boyfriend just dumped her on national television at her birthday party. She's in a vulnerable place, and you would only screw things up. You don't want to be a rebound guy, not in her case. And you know you shouldn't, but you have to say something to show her she's desirable, at least in your eyes. So you say it anyways, putting your hands in your pockets as you try and stare out at the alleyway. You can't look at her when she's like this, tragically beautiful. But you do anyways, eyes darting to meet hers as you lean in a little... "And he made the wrong choice," You murmur slowly, unable to take your eyes off her even if you wanted.

She looks up at you with those sad eyes as if in awe for a moment before the disbelief sets in. No one had ever looked at you like that before, as if you were some sort of angel, a hero-type... even if it was only for that one moment. She clearly cannot believe that you, of all people, are telling her this. That hurts a little, but you stand by what you said. There's a difference between you and him, you think. He had the choice. You don't. And maybe you knew deep down that comment would make her mad because it did. Her moist eyes blazed with a fire you hadn't seen in ages, and you felt relieved. "That's not much, coming from you," She spat vindictively, hugging her arms around her waist and giving you the darkest, most intense glare of your life up to that point.

You almost winced, but you held it in. That comment really got to you because... you were exactly like him, and he wasn't a guy you wanted to be. The only difference was that you'd broken her heart more and in different ways. You wished you'd never met her sister, let alone touched her. And you knew exactly what she meant by the barb, but you pretended you didn't. It was easier that way than to accept things you didn't want to acknowledge. "What's that supposed to mean?" You questioned a bit more sharply than you intended, sounding as offended as you felt. Did she think you'd liked hurting her, that you'd relished it... that you played games with her heart to suit your own purposes, just because you could? You weren't like that.

That was the old you, and you'd left him behind long ago, before you'd even met her. Eventually, a part of him still left in you had died each day until there was none of him left inside you still breathing, and the dead bits of that guy you used to be had just... fallen away into nothingness. And for that, you were proud. People could change. You tried to steady your racing heartbeat as some unknown feeling rose up in your chest, but it failed. Indigestion, you told yourself, even though it wasn't. You hated the way she said "you" like it was a dirty word, wielding the full force of that glare like it was Excalibur... You wanted her respect.

You really wanted a whole lot more than her respect, but those things were things that she couldn't give you by law... things she shouldn't give you. And it wasn't right to want them from her nearly half as much as you did, for you wanted them desperately. You were always greedy, and you couldn't help but to want more. She sighed raggedly, fast crumbling into pieces before your eyes. Her mascara had run around her eyes, making rings underneath them, her delicate silk dress ruined, and her normally vivid red hair was plastered to her forehead, a tainted scarlet, but you thought her beautiful nonetheless. She sniffled, turning her eyes away at the last moment, unable to look at you. "I'm so tired of falling for guys who don't fall back," She almost shouted, though her voice came out weakened and hoarse, heavy with pain. "It hurts," She whimpered thickly, shivering in the cold, glancing at you briefly from the corner of her dead, pain-stricken eyes.

The rain worsened, and thunder echoed over your heads. She leaned forward on the dirty metal railing, pressing her stomach against the cool metal. Her hands clutched the handrail with white knuckles, and she defiantly raised her chin and did not look at you. She stared desolately out at the pitiful dumpster below, eyes taking in the urban grunge feel. The alleyway seemed so sad, so low-class, so abandoned. The city had industrialized and improved, but not here. No, this little alley had been left behind, just like her. Her eyes peered wistfully at the large puddles below, defects in a street hardly level enough to be called a street. The asphalt was warped and full of potholes, forever damaged and incapable of ever being fixed, just like she felt she was.

You were guilt-stricken. This was all your fault. You should've never let that loser get anywhere near her. You should've banned him, never produced him. It would've been better off if she had never laid her aquamarine eyes on him. He was unworthy of even a glance from her. She had always been far too good for him. Oh, why didn't you ever tell her this? Maybe if you did, things would've been different. And, then again, maybe they wouldn't have...

This time, there was no denying that you knew exactly what she was talking about. She was talking about what had happened that night backstage at the Vinyl Palace, just before her set. That kiss that you two never speak of but cannot deny. You remember being so surprised that she would have the nerve to do that. It was a bold move. You... you never thought she was really serious about it. You just thought she was some girl with a crush on that guy you had been once upon a time, that scrubbed-down, clean-cut, happy-on-the-outside boy with the devastating smile who'd broken hearts all over the world.

You never thought she was actually into you, the real you. But you should've known better. Nothing about her was predictable, after all. You don't even get how she saw you for who you really were beneath all the baggage and the masks, but she did. She saw it in you that second day, when you were at the pier. Just like you saw something in her... that spark, that "it factor". That was when you knew she was going to be something huge. And, as much as you told herself she was wrong when she kissed you back then, she wasn't. Not one bit.

You hate to admit that because it means that you started to feel something for her much earlier than you'd like to admit, but it's true. You led her on a little, flirted a lot more than you should've or normally would have with an artist. Not that you were adverse to mixing business and pleasure, if the girl was hot enough. You really wanted her to like you, so you tried hard, and you went that extra mile... for her. She wasn't wrong. After she kissed you, you made excuses for yourself, saying that you didn't know how to turn off your natural charm... but every excuse was worse than the last, and they were all lies. You didn't really lead her on then, because some part of you, some perverse, sick, insane part of you... actually wanted her to go after you. You invited her behavior, and then you confused her because you weren't ready. So you acted like you didn't really want it after all, and denied it because you had everything telling you to do so and bury your head in the sand. You denied what you felt for her, and eventually you even convinced yourself to believe your own lies.

But in the end, they were still lies, even if they were beautiful. Even if you'd said all the right things to make up for it. You were dying to say that you had fallen back, but you bit your lip instead. After all, that would be stupid. You'd never fallen for anyone in your life, and the last thing you wanted to do was give her the right idea about how you felt. If you did that, you wouldn't be able to stop, and you'd only wind up hurting her in the end. It would've been a false hope. You stare out into the rain, soaked to the bone and freezing, but you don't shiver, and you don't move. You're concentrating so hard on saying the right thing, even if you don't know what it is. "Jude, I-" You began with all the best intentions, but she interrupted you.

She shook her head, tears or rain streaming down her face, and you were powerless to say anything more. Whatever you were going to say, she didn't want to hear it. She'd made that quite clear. She shook her head again, laughing bitterly. "You all say the nicest things... You're so great, you're so nice... but none of you wanna date me!" She lamented, choking back tears, gasping out the words, flinging her hands in the air. Her jewelry glimmered in the dusky light. The rain intensified, and so did her rant. It seemed perfectly timed, the worst of the storm both above you and around you. Lightning flickered just as her breakdown (for that's what it was, and it would be foolish to say otherwise) built up to a climax. She sobbed loudly.

For the first time in a while, she looked you straight in the eye, and you were taken aback by what you saw there in those cerulean depths. She suddenly seemed like someone strikingly older looking at you in that unnerving way that insured you wouldn't feel quite right about it. You suddenly noticed just how hurt she was. How this one stupid fling had completely damaged her. The pain in that soft, sky blue gaze was more than you could bear. Her stormy eyes crackled with force. The full wave of her emotions crashed over you, and you couldn't believe it was possible to feel so many things at once. And somewhere in there, she was looking at you a little like she used to, before him. She looked like a lost, lonely little girl, staring up at you with wide, naive eyes and an unbelievable reverence. That was the moment she foolishly invested all her trust in you. "So you want to help me, Tommy?" She asked loudly and forcibly, turning her head to face you and getting closer to you than she should have.

She wanted your opinion as a friend, yes, but she was far more concerned with your opinion as a man... a man who had also rejected her for another, blonder female. She had no right to ask such things of you, but she did anyways because she was sixteen, and she just didn't give a damn anymore. Rage was quickly building up within your chest. It was a dangerous, swirling cocktail... Fury against he who had cheated on her, wrath against yourself for hurting her, and finally, frustration that she couldn't see... everything. She was so blind! "Tell me what I do wrong. Tell me why I'm so easy to give up, and then maybe I can fix it!" She shrieked earnestly, becoming hysterical.

Your hands were on the railing she was leaning on too, almost brushing hers... You had previously been shooting glances over at her worriedly, but after that heartwrenching speech, you could take no more. Your rage bubbled over. You wanted to tell her that there was nothing wrong with her, that she was perfect in your fault-finding eyes, and that she was doing nothing wrong, but you stopped yourself. Why couldn't she see how amazing she was? Why couldn't she see that he had never, ever deserved her? Why couldn't she see that she was too good for that? And... why couldn't she see that you were falling in love with her?! So you straightened up a little bit, unable to deny yourself this one, small pleasure any longer. "You are asking the wrong guy," You exhaled huskily, trying and failing in a last-ditch effort to stop yourself from taking what you wanted. It was pouring, and the rain came down even harder, almost to the point of turning into hail. The thunder truly sounded overhead, and lightning flashed brilliantly every few seconds.

The frozen rain hit you hard as it pelted against your skin to the point of being painful. It was then that you knew you'd had enough of this. You were sick of acting and keeping this a secret. To hell with it all! You knew what you wanted, and you were going for it this time. You whirled around then, grabbing her by the arms, forcing her to face you, and pulling her towards you in a fluid motion. Before she even knew what was going on, you crushed your lips against hers savagely. It was not a kiss of careful consideration, nor was it a kiss of particular tenderness. It was a rough, hasty, impromptu expression of furious passion and intensity of feeling. There was nothing delicate about it. Had you been inside, you would've had her up against a wall.

You moaned at the thought of that, having her so close to you. This is what you had been wanting for months, to stop hiding behind that soundboard on the other side of the glass and say what you feel. Or in this case, express what you feel and then feel. After all, you've always thought that actions speak louder than words... And, in some cases, they do. This happened to be one of them. Her arms were positioned strangely in front of her chest due to the awkward position you'd assumed. She most definitely had not been expecting this from you, but she was a fast learner. Within seconds, she was responding fervently to your touch. She leaned upward on her tiptoes, grabbing you by the lapels, pressing her lips against yours tentatively at first, but then with more passion.

Your eyes were shut the entire time, and you rarely did anything with a girl with your eyes closed. It felt... amazing. And you'd kissed a lot of girls, but you'd never felt like this kissing any one of them. You know that's supposed to mean something, but you just brushed it off. It seemed like a second later, but you broke the kiss, partly because you needed to catch your breath and partly because you were afraid she was going to hate you for this moment of weakness. You were so nervous about her reaction that your palms, Casanova's palms, were actually sweaty. Imagine that. You still thought that she only thought of you as a friend. You'd never realized that she still had any lingering feelings for you, and maybe that had been why she'd brought Shay up all the time around you. Maybe she wanted to make you jealous, maybe she wanted to assert that she did not have feelings for you anymore. But the fact of the matter was that she did. She'd never really forgotten about you. So, less than nine seconds after you broke the kiss, you went back for round two. Because you could, and that wasn't an opportunity you were used to seizing. You wanted more.

She wasn't surprised and responded immediately, opening her mouth against yours. Kissing her felt so much different... so much better than you'd ever imagined. And you had imagined it to death, plagued by visions of her every night. Her hands slid down to your shoulders, and your hands went to her waist, pulling her against you, bringing her closer to you as much as you could. You wanted to feel her. Her body heat seeped through the cold silk. And you were happy, really happy, not thinking about a thing in the world other than being with her here and now. Only somewhere in there, when the need for oxygen became apparent, you pulled away slightly, keeping your eyes closed for a little while longer to savor the moment. Then you forced your eyes open and just... You rested your forehead against hers, holding her gaze, and staring straight into those sapphire depths. Her eyes had darkened with passion, and you desperately wanted to kiss her again, but you didn't.

You just stood there, catching your breath, holding her there, and not moving. You honestly didn't want to go anywhere. You wanted to stay there with her in that stolen moment forever, for that's what it was, and somewhere deep down, you knew that this must never happen again. It was a brief, stolen moment, and it would soon be over. You had finally been impulsive, and this was one impulse you promised you'd never regret. Your noses, hers noticeably redder than yours, brushed slightly, and she flushed a little.

Especially as the door at the end of the catwalk opened, revealing an old man and a far younger girl, party guests who were apparently looking for the way out and found more than they'd bargained for. You felt flushed and nervous at their arrival. They'd seen too much, so you looked away embarrassedly and distanced yourself from her. Finally, after an eternity, the old man closed the door, realizing that place wasn't a way out at all, leaving you two alone. At first, you said nothing at all, but then the realization and implications of what you had done hit you over the head. The image of that old man and young girl stuck in your head, and you substituted yourself for him and her for that girl. You were that old man, and she was that far younger girl. And you suddenly couldn't live with yourself.

You felt like a dirty old man who was messing around with something too young and too beautiful for one as emotionally crippled as you. You would be a horrible man to have a relationship with; distant, cold, neglectful, mercurial, sex-addicted, and angry as you were. With you, she would have to grow up far too fast, exactly as you had. Life in the fast lane was not a healthy experience. You didn't want her to wind up like you, immature in the brain, stupidly ignorant, burned out, and emotionally damaged. You didn't want this business to leave her with any deep, lingering wounds. You didn't want to leave her with a scar or scars as you knew you would. You felt like you were taking advantage of her, and that seemed to be exactly what you'd done. As it sunk in further, you became even more horrified with yourself.

You had kissed her, a minor. A relationship beyond the professional and platonic with her was... out of the question! Not to mention that it could get you jail time. And you'd finally given into your feelings, so what was stopping you now? You never, ever just kissed a girl. It was always more with you. And you found yourself going back on the promise you had made only seconds before... You did regret it. But, you amended, hoping to save face with yourself, you would never forget. Je ne oublie jamais, you swore in your native tongue. Je me souviens! It became your oath. You knew you mustn't, too, for this was a mistake that couldn't afford to be repeated. It is only from the mistakes of the past that you can fix the present. And it wasn't going to end pretty. You knew what you had to tell her, and it wasn't going to be easy.

She would probably hate you and for good reason. But her hating you was better than her loving you, better and wiser for the both of you. You wouldn't get in trouble, and she wouldn't get her heart br... Oh, wait... sorry. It was too late to save her heart. Fine, she wouldn't have to get a new producer, at least... Or lose a friend because of it. You had to do what was the best for the both of you, and right now, you didn't know what that was. But you had do it, whatever it was, no matter what either of you wanted, which had to be, of course, the same thing... to be to... No, you couldn't even think that dreaded sentence, lest you get your hopes up. You would... do something. You had to do something, but first, you needed to think... away from her. Your mind was too cloudy with worry, fear, regret, attraction, and affection here. "You should go, Jude," You mumbled distractedly, feeling dazed and unlike yourself. You needed space, and she needed solitude. Here you were, already distancing yourself.

She could feel it, and with that dreadful air came her own realization. It was like she knew. Her eyes widened in desperation as she clutched your shirt tightly in her hand, unwilling to let you do this. You knew it wasn't going to be easy, but you never thought it'd be this... hard. It was as if she was deliberately making this harder on you. And you didn't want that. "Tommy, don't!" She cried, distressed, voice breaking, nearly begging you not to make her leave. You wanted to take her in her arms and never let go, but you couldn't do that. It wouldn't be fair to her. You were damaged goods, too old to be messed with.

But, damn it, you didn't want to do this. You didn't want to purposely break her heart to save the both of you. You cared about her, and you weren't used to caring about much of anyone outside of yourself. You weren't used to looking out for people, or taking anyone under your wing like you had with her. You two were so alike and yet... so markedly different. She would never do this to you, you thought, had the situation been reversed. But you were the older one, and you had the responsibility to sort this all out. You tried to make it up to her with a tender caress of the hand, trying to gently get your message across.

You wanted her to know, at least, that, no matter what happened, you would always care about her. That had never been a lie. "I'll see you inside, okay?" You whispered, trying to convey the message with your eyes. You were never quite sure that she'd understood it. So many things between you two were better left unsaid, lest one of you say too much and get in too deep. She started to protest, but suddenly understanding flickered in her eyes, and a sad, empty look passed over her face. She'd finally admitted to herself what she'd known to be true only moments earlier. So she nodded, eyes filling with tears that you hated to see.

The rain had let up a bit. She couldn't stay here, though. She needed to leave, but you didn't have the heart to make her. "Just go," You muttered somewhat tersely, almost pleading with her to make this easier for you. Hurting her would be so much easier if she hated you. After all, you already hated yourself enough for this. You hated that you couldn't just turn your feelings off like a faucet or bury them in the ground like other dogs bury their bones. But no, this was your shame to bear, and suffer you must... in silence.

She shuddered from the sudden chill in the air, now that you two were no longer close. "Okay," She said in a quiet voice, brushing past you as fast as she could. It physically hurt her to look at you any more, knowing that you would soon let her down. And she didn't notice because she stubbornly refused to spin around and glance back at you, but you turned fully around and watched her leave, walking all the way past you and through the door. Your eyes burned a hole in her back, and you wondered how she didn't notice. The damp silk was incredibly thin and incredibly clingy. So you had stared at her ass unashamedly, but then forced yourself to look away. It wasn't right of you. God, you missed her already. And you hated yourself for that.

You staggered backwards almost drunkenly, reeling from your encounter with her, amazed at what had just occurred, and staring in the direction she'd just gone in suspended disbelief. You couldn't believe that had actually happened. It was like something out of a dream. But, as your leg and arms hit the back of the cool, wet railing, you knew it was real. You leaned heavily against the railing, turned around wearily, and stared moodily out into the darkness below. If you squinted, you could just barely see lights off in the distance. You shook your head, screwing your eyes shut, sighing and wishing it wasn't so, but alas, it was so. Bad, bad, bad... You'd just screwed up big time. You resisted the urge to touch your lips or to wipe off the pink stain that you were sure was smeared all over them. The lipstick was your mark... the only visible mark she left on you, and you would wear it with pride.

You knew it was a mistake, but it felt so good that you could see this one happening over and over and over again... but only if you let it. And as much as you wanted that, you knew you couldn't let it happen. You don't usually learn from your mistakes, but this time you'd make an exception, and you'd learn out of sheer necessity. You couldn't possibly ever do anything this stupid ever again, and you'd done so many stupid things in your life... but this one topped the list. It was the icing on her birthday cake. How had something so innocent gone so wrong so fast?

For a while, you just stood there, accepting it all, taking the pounding of the rain on your back as a penance. It had a resurgence after she left, ironically enough. But it didn't hurt you like it should've because all you wanted to do was kiss her again. You knew that it was a mistake, but if you could go back in time, you know you'd do it again. Finally, you decided that you couldn't take the cold anymore. Sure, you regretted what you were going to do to her, and you deserved to suffer for it... but you couldn't freeze. Besides, you thought with a dour smile, if indeed you could call it that, women had always accused you of having a heart of ice.

Soaked to the bone and missing your suit jacket, you were sure you made quite a sight walking in there. You usually put so much care into your appearance, and people knew that. The paparazzi might have a field day with this, you think, had it been any other day. Luckily for you, they were too focused on the big break-up to care about you. For that, at least, you were grateful. You knew they were staring at you, and you could feel their eyes on you, but you refused to dignify their queries with a look.

Your hair was a mess, and your clothes felt heavy against your frame. However rude it was, you were even dripping on the floor. You hid that, though, by walking in all nonchalant like you'd just been going for a pleasant stroll outside. Of course, no one goes for a walk in the rain, but no one questioned you. Someone should've, you think, but everyone was too busy scuttling about, trying to fix his mess. Not even your best friend approached you, and on some level, you were relieved. But then again, you weren't. Your world had changed in an instant (kind of like hers did months ago, you suppose), yet nothing had really changed.

You retired to your office, needing to dry off a bit and get your thoughts together. You wanted to know exactly the right words to say to her, and you thought it over carefully. Then you realized that there weren't any right words, but you tried anyways. You came up with about a million things to tell her, but none of them seemed good enough. None of them would ever be good enough. Her heart would be broken anyways... again. You really didn't want to be That Guy. You had tried so hard, but even you had cracked.

Why was this so difficult, you bemoaned. You were between a rock and a hard place, damned if you did and damned if you didn't. You didn't have much of a choice. There was only really one option, one option that society could accept. You... you weren't such a great guy. She deserved better than you. You'd been around the block so many times you'd lost count. She didn't need someone like you, even though you needed her. You were too old with too many issues, and there's no way anyone would ever approve. Her dad would kill you if he found out. Her mom would press charges. And her friend would surely make jokes about you "infecting" her, or continually attempt to turn her against you.

So you sat there, thinking all this and watching the party die out from your window. You didn't know where she was just yet, but you knew her. So you'd find her... eventually. When the time was right. Only the time wouldn't ever be right again. You pulled the flask out of your desk that you kept there for such emergencies as this. You pulled it out and had a few sips. The whiskey burned a hole down your throat, but you didn't cough. You had long ago gotten used to the numbing sensation. There was, after all, a reason they called it liquid courage. Then you saw that the crowd was thinning, and you took a deep swig of it before you screwed the cap shut and slipped it in your pocket. After all, you never know when you might need a stiff drink.

You left your office, walking past the studios and various other rooms. You didn't even look inside some of them because you knew she wouldn't be there. You don't know how you knew, but you did. You knew she'd be in some isolated, lonely place that people never went. A place, unlike the fire escape, where people would be unlikely to walk in and intrude. Which meant, of course, that she had to be in the music room. It was a desolate, oft-forgotten side room with not much to its name other than the Baby Grand and strange, vented windows. Even Georgia forgot about the room most of the time as G. Major had few artists who played the piano extensively. It was rarely used for practice, and sometimes, after everyone had left, you would go in and just play for hours, composing symphonies and songs you would never write down or record.

So you somehow knew that's where she'd be. Your suspicions were further confirmed when you heard her singing that song she'd been writing as a present to him even though it was her birthday. She was experimenting with it, changing the words around a bit. The meaning changed along with them, and it almost hurt your ears to hear her singing lyrics that were so blatantly about yourself. It made you want to choke. Then she stopped playing, and her fists smashed down on the keys, making a horrible clash of sound. And, if you put your ear up against the door and listened intently, you could just barely make out the sounds of her heartbreaking sobs.

You didn't want to go in, but you knew you had to eventually, so you waited it out a bit. You fixed your hair, washed up, and warmed up a bit. The party cleared even more, and she seemed like she'd gotten it together a bit more. You took a deep breath, feeling sick to your stomach, and you forced your feet forward as you slowly opened the door. Sighing softly, you walked in, hoping to God that she didn't hate you already. You shuffled in, putting your hands in your (still slightly damp) pockets, glancing at the floor with trepidation. You felt her eyes on you, but when you glanced up, she was staring at the floor. "The party's pretty much over," You replied, by means of making conversation. You were trying to tell her that it was safe to leave, but the words weren't coming out right. "People are clearing out," You continued, grimacing at yourself. You were just babbling on, trying to fill the terrible silence with pointless chatter.

You weren't helping anyone. "Look, about before in the alleyway..." You began awkwardly. She surprised you by looking up just then, as if on cue, and meeting your stare. There was an dreadful, accusing look in her eyes that made her look wrathful, but her body betrayed her. She was shivering only slightly, bottom lip trembling, and she looked very, very afraid of you. You looked at her, really looked at her, for the first time in hours. Your jacket was still around her shoulders, in exactly the same place you had lovingly draped it earlier. She looked like a drowned rat, and you felt lower than that. The vibrant green silk of her dress made her look sickly and unwell. She seemed so incredibly vulnerable as she buried her head in her hands helplessly. She didn't even want to look at you. That's when it hit you that she really was only a girl. A little girl, and you were horrible for considering her anything else. She was just a kid. And, thoughts swirling in your head, you let yourself trail off because you couldn't think of a single decent thing to say.

You'd like to be able to get through this without her slapping you, but you know you'd deserve it anyways. You sighed, unable to come up with even a single word. You were usually so good at this sort of thing. Only words could save you now. So, why, when you need words the most, why were they determined to fail you? It was as if your mind had stopped functioning. And maybe there wasn't anything right to say in this situation, and you knew that too, but you were just so very determined. You had to say something, just like you had to fix your mistake. Finally, you just sighed raggedly and accepted the fact that maybe you couldn't fix this.

Maybe you would never be able to atone for this, no matter how hard you tried. But you swallowed that doubt down, hoping for the best. And, since you couldn't think of a single word to say to her, this girl you had so wronged already, you said the first thing that came to mind. "I really don't know what to say," You exhaled, feeling suddenly weary. There was more truth to that statement than you'd intended. She'd looked so small and pathetic there, listlessly curled up on that piano bench. But all of a sudden, she came alive. Her eyes blazed this time with a real anger, albeit one tinged with bitterness. She knew what was coming.

At least, she thought she did. "Come on, Tommy!" She demanded venomously, straightening and glaring at you so darkly one would think you were the Antichrist. In that moment, you were. You felt lower than dirt. Her lip curled in revulsion. "I think we both know what you want to say," She snorted bitterly, scowling up at you knowingly. She was suddenly very volatile, on the brink of an explosion... and you didn't want to be the one to send her over the edge. This breakdown was going to be worse than the last one because what you had done was worse than what he did. She had to see you every day, every day knowing exactly what you did, what you two could've had together. And you would want her every day, but you could never say anything about it.

"It was just a mistake, right?" She asked rhetorically, voice rising tremulously. You hated to admit it was. It was, and... then again, it wasn't. You'd gotten caught up in the moment, yes, but you had wanted to kiss her for a scandalously long time. And wanting that, craving it so... That was worse than the actual deed. While thinking those thoughts didn't hurt her as she couldn't read your mind, they hurt your perception of her. In your mind, you were objectifying her, making her like all of those other women. All those lonely thoughts at night with no place to go. They didn't vanish, building up within you instead until eventually... you snapped. As you had tonight. So, in that sense, it was a mistake, even though you'd do it again if you could. And even though you thought it was beyond worth it.

But you didn't nod, and you didn't say a single word... artfully neither a yes nor a no. But she could see right through you, that girl. She always had too, ever since that day at the pier when she'd looked into your eyes and seen straight into your multidimensional, enigmatic soul. It still amazed you that she, a young girl, had seen through to you to the core. She'd seen a side of you that even your closest friends, lovers, hell... even your ex-wife had rarely even glanced, if they'd seen it at all. This girl had seen things in you that no one else would've ever imagined. And she already knew you better in the span of a few months than your ex-wife had before, during, and after the entire length of your brief marriage. Not that you should marry her, though. That would be crazy, after all, as she was far too young and you'd sworn long ago (after the long two years it had taken for the divorce to be finalized) that you'd never get married again. It was a promise you intended to stand by, no matter how amazingly fantastic this girl was... or how she got you the most.

Because she was only six-teen, after all, as you yourself had said. And so this sixteen-year-old girl who knew you so well; she took your silence for an answer, a silent admission of your guilt. She took it for what it was, for it was an admission of guilt. You just couldn't manage to get the heartbreaking words past your lips. You'd been so good at that business lately, shattering hearts left and right. But this one mattered; she wasn't like all the others.

She was, most certainly, nothing like any of the others in both good and bad ways. She had to know that you were the real mistake here. Even your miserable existence was a hapless accident resulting from a drunken night and a lack of birth control. You were that guy, a mistake through and through. It was in your very blood. You were good for a roll in the hay and maybe a song or a dance or two, but nothing more than that. You would never be any woman's boyfriend or any wife's husband. Not really because you didn't know how. You were just a fling most of the time, and any woman that got attached to you wound up brokenhearted, regretting it, and hating you. But a lot of them came back anyways at your beck and call like submissive marionettes, putting up with you for much longer than they should've, caught up in your image and delusions of making you love, of changing you, of taming your wild spirit, of being the one to finally make you settle down. And of course, such a woman would never exist. So it was their mistake, and you were that mistake. You scratched their itch, and you gratified that self-destructive yet delicious addiction.

She was no different from those women in that aspect, except that she held few delusions about you. Whatever delusions she had were firmly based in reality, a reflection of the improper feelings you had for her. And while that ideal, that woman who could do all that, who would conquer you, still didn't even come remotely close to having an existence... Mainly because you would never tolerate such a shrew, and you would only change if you actually wanted to and only when you were good and ready... The truth of it was that she came closer than any female, girl or woman, ever had. She kept coming back to you, even after ups and downs that would've made any self-respecting woman such as herself run away. Because she knew from the beginning that you were a mistake, and she didn't care. She came back anyways because she wanted you, and you were her favorite mistake to make.

She wasn't a mistake, no matter what she thought. But she hated this term as well she should. It made her like everything else in your life. It made her feel used and worthless, and pathetic because she still... she cared, okay! To say the least, she cared... no, she loved you. You thought it an honor of which you were wholly undeserving. But damn it if she didn't want to be a mistake, even if she was your mistake. Her whole life, all she'd ever wanted was to be famous. And now that she'd finally gotten exactly what she wanted, all she wanted was to be your girl. And, now that you finally wanted the same thing... You couldn't have it, and that hurt more than anything you could've told her. You knew that this was affecting her, but didn't she get it? She wasn't the only one who you were hurting.

Didn't she know how much it killed you inside to do this to her? To yourself? You didn't want to tell her these things... Her heart wasn't the only one breaking. Not that you had much of a heart to break. But you were doing this for her own good, and someday she'd see that. She'd see that and realize how much you cared about her. They say if you love something enough, you'll be able set it free. And, while you're not sure that this is exactly what you're doing... or, for that matter, how exactly it is that you feel about her... You care, at the very least, and you like her a lot more than you should. You've always been a rule-bender like that. But you don't think you love her. You were sort of cutting her free from yourself. It didn't mean anything, though, because you knew she'd just come back. You cared enough to walk away from her, but she cared too much to let you go. Only you had to try hard to let her go and make her stay away for her own safety. You were not the guy to get mixed up with at this crucial juncture in her career. You knew the horrible things the tabloids would say about it once they got wind of it, and they always did. You wanted to shelter her from that horrible dark side of this world. You loved her, so you wanted to protect her from every hurt she could ever face. And while you knew that this would only hurt her more... You loved... No!

You cared enough to walk away.

Her eyes, which had been nearly navy with her wrath, had slowly faded to a dull cornflower blue. You didn't like the looks of this. She was normally such a passionate creature, ruled by her emotions, capable of wearing her heart on her sleeve like you only wished you could. But you'd been in this business too long, and you couldn't afford to let your guard down even for a second. You couldn't afford to let some woman, especially an underage girl, of all people, into your heart. You kept it under lock and key for a reason. You'd been burned in the past, and so had the long, long line of women. And... you didn't want that for her. "Just a pity kiss. You don't feel the same way I do because I'm just a kid," She murmured forcefully, fighting back tears, voice getting progressively louder and louder. She closed her eyes then, willing the creeping tears to go back, to disappear. She didn't want to cry in front of you.

No, girl, you wanted to say. You wanted to tell her that she had it all wrong. You did feel the same way she did. But you couldn't because she was just a kid. It wasn't right. Of course, you couldn't tell her that either. You couldn't even imagine how you'd stutter those phrases and manage to ruin your meaning. You knew she'd get offended, or she wouldn't understand. She was still too young for such niceties as shades of gray, and far too young to notice such subtleties as the way you fidgeted or looked at her or touched her... She didn't grasp the deeper meanings behind your actions. She forced her startlingly blue, teary eyes wide open then. The fierceness in her stare took you aback, and you were stunned into submission, hypnotized. "Just say it!" She shouted, fidgeting horribly as if she wanted to get up but could not find the energy. Say what, you asked yourself. "Lie to me!" She wailed hysterically, her voice breaking and then fading out entirely.

So she knew then. Maybe she did notice after all. And yet... If she knew, then why was she making you tell her this? Maybe she needed you to tell her this so that... she'd get the message. Maybe she needed you to be firm and insistent. Maybe she actually did need to hear this... But, even so, it would still be a lie. You suddenly realized that your feelings for her ran a lot deeper than you would've ever admitted. And would ever, ever admit, even to yourself, you added mentally. She was only seconds away from dissolving into loud, thick, despondent sobs. You didn't want her to be trapped in that Hell from which there was no return. Why was it always a vicious cycle with you two? You needed to act now. So you sighed, looking at her with sorrowful eyes, trying to show her how much you didn't want this... but she didn't seem to notice, consumed by her grief.

She was weeping, openly mourning something between the two of you that could never be. You wished you could take her in your arms and embrace her, cry with her, but you couldn't. If you did that, you knew you would only wind up falling deeper... and you most certainly couldn't afford that. The intensity of the argument flooded rosy, healthy color into her cheeks. But your argument was anything but healthy for the both of you. Her eyes were a stormy, resentful blue-green, and they were deep and full... like two oceans of sorrow. You walked closer to her because it was necessary. Not just because you wanted to.

Even though you did, and it was killing you. You gulped, thinking very carefully about what you were going to say next. By some miracle, you could form the words, and once you had the full two sentences in your thoughts, set in stone, you spoke. But first, you bent down to her level, grabbing her hands gently. You made sure to look her straight in the eye, even though she kept trying to look down. You made her look at you in a passive-aggressive sort of way. You gazed at her gently, compassionately, trying to make her see, one last time, just how much you cared about her.

And you weren't the kind of guy to throw the L-word around, but you did love her on at least a basic level. Maybe not the head-over-heels crazy type of love just yet, but you could see it happening. You loved her as a person, as a friend... but not like a little sister, because there was something incestuous about thinking of her like that. And not like a woman, because you'd never been in love with anyone, and you weren't starting now. You loved her, but you weren't in love with her. Not yet, at least, but if things kept progressing the way they seemed to be heading... It was a likelier possibility than you'd like to admit. You couldn't remember the last time you'd cared about someone this much, and that terrified you. But you weren't in love with her.

It all seemed so unfathomable to you, the depths of your abnormal feelings for this one girl. You couldn't believe it. After all, you hadn't even slept with her, and you were still so... It wasn't healthy in the slightest. You weren't healthy then, either. You were sick, unwell in the head, to be even contemplating this... to be feeling this way towards someone like her. Thinking thoughts like these and having obsessions like her sent many a man to jail. She was so young. It wasn't right. You reeked of guilt. It was wrong, but it felt so... right, so normal... So absolutely perfect. And you hated yourself for that. After all, you weren't a pedophile, at least that's what you told yourself, but then again... you were. Weren't you?

It was driving you insane. She was driving you insane. You wondered if she knew that. But as you looked her in the eyes, you knew that she didn't. She had no idea how much power she had over you. She had no idea how she could sway your thoughts, all your beliefs about yourself and the world... and, of course... your passions. You were a man of many passions, and you threw yourself into them. She was suddenly so close, her form looming so near in your vision. You wanted to reach out and touch her to see if she was real. It was strange. She looked like a mirage to your hungry eyes, too good to be true. You wanted... You wanted so many things. You wanted to devour her, to crush her, to ruin her, to take her, to have her, to own her.

You wanted to possess her forever like she was a precious treasure. And she was, worth more to you than any amount of gold or diamonds. You think she would've been worth so much to you even if you weren't rich. You could acquire and accumulate as much money as you wanted if you were greedy enough and powerful enough. But you could search the world and never find a woman even an iota like her. So it was that she was invaluable to you and worth more to you than any earthly riches because she knew you and somehow loved you anyways, in spite of everything. So she became your gleaming ruby, your shimmering emerald, your shining sapphire. It was she who convinced you that you could love. She was your reward, your light at the end of the tunnel... She was your sparkling diamond.

And you'd never realized that you were so sappy, but it was true, at least most of it, and the whole of it would've made a wondrous song. But you couldn't do any of those things you wanted to do to her, and you were all too aware of that one fact standing in the way of all of your fantasies. So, instead, you did your best to show her that you were being sincere and that you honestly did care. She was so beautiful, achingly so. It hurt you to look at her and know that you could never... Enough stalling, you told yourself finally. It must be done. "Either I have to quit working with you, or I can stay," You proposed earnestly, speaking to her in a soft, deeply pained voice, leaning forward just barely. Your foreheads almost touched. It wasn't much of an offer though, and it wasn't much of a choice. You were so troubled. It was a miserable ultimatum, but you wondered if she even grasped what you had implied by the first part. It wasn't nearly as bad, nor nearly as ominous, being with you, as you had made it sound. But you weren't counting on her to notice the things you'd implied. You said them without saying them aloud for a reason.

You implied that she had a choice. You implied that you could be together if you quit working with her. And indeed, you could... by law. But you weren't that kind of guy, not like you'd been earlier. So you knew it would never work. She was better off just having you in her life as her mere friend, her rock, her stabilizing influence, her inspiration... rather than not at all. If you got together with her, you knew you'd only screw up and do something stupid like cheat on her. And then you two would break up, and you'd never, ever see her again. As much as it scared you to admit it, you needed her in your life. Desperately. She made you feel things like happiness that you hadn't felt in years. She made you care in ways you never had before, about anything! So you exhaled softly, watching the emotions flitting across her face, and taking a deep breath.

You waited momentarily for a response with bated breath, a response that she predictably did not give, before carrying on as you must. Her bangs clung damply to her forehead, and her elaborate hairstyle was ruined, slowly curling up at the ends. Her eye make-up had bled around her eyes, emphasizing the dark circles that had already been there (as a result of sleep deprivation at your own hands), making her eyes stand out more than ever. Her wet eyes were an impossible hue of sky blue, and they glowed with a strange, unearthly iridescence. She was so beautiful. And you could look, but you couldn't touch. You fought hard to keep the tremor from your voice and the tears from your own eyes. After all, you had to keep up this façade that you were frozen, buried under a mountain of ice. You couldn't let her see how hard this was for you, how... even now, you were wavering in your beliefs. She had to think you were unyielding and resolute in your decision.

Even if you weren't. "But we have to agree that that kiss never happened," You stressed huskily, hearing your voice almost break, not sounding half as strong as you wanted to, making a stupid hand gesture so she'd maybe understand it better. You forced yourself to look her in the eyes while you said it. Even if you knew it'd hurt her more. She had to know that you meant it, really meant it. And maybe, you shouldn't have told her that. You should've known, what with reverse psychology and all... You swore it vehemently, and you vowed "never" like it was the worst expletive ever spoken. And to you... as it was to her... it was the most awful word you could've ever said. With that one word, you ruined it all. You had no right to ask her, no, to tell her... to order her to do that so... so callously.

It was an undeniable fact now. But you couldn't look at her right after you said that. Doing that would only make the wound ache worse than it already did. Rub salt in the wound, bleed yourself with parasites, gouge out the flesh until blood pours from you as if you were a flagellant. You're a masochist. You take pleasure in hurting yourself, and for a long time in your life, you were a very instable and self-destructive guy. You did everything to the point of it becoming unhealthy. Too much exercise, too much sex, too many drugs, too much alcohol, too many fights. After all, what was one more injection? One more pill? One more cigarette? One more drink? One more brawl? Hell, what was one more girl... some insipid virgin who thought the world of you and let you do whatever you wanted to her... to you back then? What was one more girl worth to you now?

In the case of this one... everything. She nodded weakly, sniffling, a deluge of tears streaming down her face. "I know," She mumbled brokenly. And it was then that you knew her heart had just broken in two all over again. He had ripped it apart into little pieces of confetti, but you were the one who stomped out every vestige of life left in the bloody pulp. And no words could express how much you hated yourself for that. She looked down and away from you, unable to look at the shadow of a man who'd just broken her heart. Needless to say, you felt like a real prize. But you had to make her understand. You had to make her see.

You had to make her promise. She wasn't like you in that respect. She never broke her promises. So you just kept reminding yourself that she deserved so, so, so much better than you. And you needed her to promise because you knew how this could get out of hand so fast. She had a tendency of bringing things up in arguments, of throwing your words against you. And who knows what would happen if anyone overheard such an argument? She would have to get a new producer... You would have to get a lawyer... And she wouldn't be in your life anymore.

That was the worst part of all. You cared about the other stuff, all right, but that was all nothing compared to the thought of never seeing her again. You couldn't do it. So your hands slid to her wrists, grasping them tightly in your hands, you pulled her to her feet. She fought you at first, but not half as much as you would've liked. She continued to struggle, even after she was standing against her will. "Jude, say it!" You implored urgently, clutching her thin, delicate wrists hard enough to bruise, and needing so badly to hear her say it. To hear her promise, to admit it, to accept your offer. You fought with her, as she shook her wrists and flung her arms, trying fruitlessly to escape you. But some things, including the truth, are inescapable.

She didn't want to say it. That would make it real. That would make this pain she was carrying around real, and her heartbreak increase twofold. It was easier to live with if she didn't have to say it out loud. But here you were, making her, ruining this already catastrophic night for her even more. She fought it, crying as if the world was ending, clutching her heart as if she was dying. Had anyone else been around to witness this fight (and you seriously hoped that no one had, since she wasn't even trying to be quiet), that person would've thought she was being overly dramatic, that this wasn't the big spectacle she was making it out to be. That it wasn't a big deal.

But you then you looked at her, forcing her to look back. She did look back, too, tears streaming down her face like the rain had earlier. And she saw that that was what you needed to hear. So... She relented. She gave in. She broke. For you. Because, heaven help her, she loved you. On some level, at least, she loved you. So she pretended like she understood, and she tried to make herself understand. Only she didn't. Not really. She was still too young for that. "Okay," She choked out slowly.

It was so hard for her. She paused, and you gave her a look, urging her to go on. She took a deep breath, exhaling slowly. "Okay," She croaked weakly. But she still didn't say it. She didn't say anything. She was still getting used to the idea that you, the man of her dreams, had kissed her and that her boyfriend had dumped her... all in the same night. Now she had to get used to the idea of you rejecting her all over again. One giant step forward, two giant steps back. You needed her to say it. Now.

So you shot her another one of those famous pleading looks of yours, and you tugged on her wrists a little harder than you should've. And suddenly, she was so furious with you. She couldn't take it anymore. "Okay!" She exploded, nodding, nearly overcome by tears and very nearly wrestling with you. Her glistening eyes flashed a shocking cobalt, and she tried in vain to tear her arms out of your iron grip. You were probably hurting her, but your words had already hurt her anyways... so what was the difference? You held her still, held her in place, and forced her to look you in the eyes. Seeing your eyes broke her will for good, and her eyes softened, turning a passive blue-gray. "It never happened," She whispered disconsolately, taking the opportunity to rip her wrists out of your slackened grip.

A part of you couldn't believe that she'd actually said that. Another part of you couldn't believe you'd made her say that. And the biggest part of you couldn't believe that you'd thoroughly devastated her and made what he'd done to her seem like child's play. He was just an amateur, after all. You're the master at breaking girls' hearts in new and different ways. And, however unfortunately, she was no exception to that rule. Her heart lay in pieces at your feet, obvious culpability etched into your face. Less than a second had passed, but it seemed like forever to your surprised brain. "Okay?" She questioned ironically, voice filled with bitter disapproval. That's when you knew you'd made a mistake by pushing her away, but you made lots of mistakes, so you just let it go like you always did.

She, however, was a wild card. She whirled around and nearly flew out the door, deliberately letting your jacket fall to the floor with a soft thwap. She ripped one of the posters down carelessly, feeling that restless destructiveness you knew all too well. She made sure to slam all the doors behind her, so you could hear each one. And when you heard that last door, the big one, close with an eerie finality... You were left all alone to your own thoughts and devices. But you were still thinking about her. You couldn't help it.

And you were thinking about how her parents and her friends had already left long ago. And how maybe the janitor was the only person left here... Maybe not even Georgia or E.J. was left over. Your mind started to race, imagining terrible scenarios that could possibly unfold. After all, your mother always told you that bad things happened in sets of three. So that meant that she was due for another one, and she didn't need that right now. She didn't deserve that right now.

You didn't want to think about what could happen to her, or about how she could possibly get home without a car or a ride. Somehow, every scenario you imagined involved a naïve Jude asking someone for help... someone who took advantage of her. And in each and every one of these mental pictures, she wound up in some horrible state, each worse than the last. Drugged, beat up, kidnapped, raped, left for dead. You didn't want to worry, and you knew it was irrational to do so, but you'd just... You'd feel better if you knew what happened to her. So maybe it was rational to worry, but the chances of any of those things happening to her were remote. After all, Toronto was a safe city with one of the lowest crime rates in the world for a city of its size.

But still... It was an awfully long way to her house. Especially if she was walking. And walking alone down deserted alleyways in the darkness, wearing a skintight dress like that and looking like that... You could only imagine what those creeps would want to do to her. You knew men like that because, on some level, they were predators... kind of like yourself. Hell, you knew what you wanted to do to her, and the things those sort of guys wanted to do were ten times as bad. There was no telling what could happen to her.

So, all in all, you'd feel an awful lot better if you knew she was safe. Especially if you could see that for yourself. And what better way to find out than if you were able to give her a ride home? So, thinking on your feet, you nearly ran out of the room, sensing the urgency of the moment, picking up your jacket on the way out. On an afterthought, you picked up the torn flier as a souvenir of the night. You had a feeling you'd vividly remember the night anyways, and that you'd wind up keeping yourself warm at night with the mere memories of that toe-curling, wild kiss on the fire escape in the rain... like something out of a sappy romance movie. But a little souvenir never hurt, and you needed something concrete to remember this night.

So you carefully picked it up off the ground. You ran a tired hand through your hair, messing up the wet strands a little. You shrugged your black blazer on for warmth... and because it smelled like her. Mmm... roses. You loosened your tie slightly, so you could breathe better. Then you hurried out of G. Major like a bat out of hell. Your eyes burned bright, and your breath wasn't very labored at all. You felt a sudden burst of energy, driven by the urge to find her and find her soon. You wanted to accomplish that goal very much.

And... maybe, just maybe... if you really hustled, you could still catch her.

Loren ;

Reviews will be highly appreciated. Especially as tomorrow is the author's birthday. ;) Not that I'm trying to bribe you or anything, but a review would be such a nice present! Anyways, review if you feel like it. I'm not gonna pressure you. Thanks for reading!