Okay, so, phew, I am finally done with this chapter! I was all in a sweat to get it done, too, since yesterday was my dear friend Six's birthday. And she got me a present for mine, so it's only fair, right? ;) Although this chapter is thirty pages... like three times as long as the last chapter. I apologize for that, but I knew this was going to be a long one, and please excuse it if there are any errors, but it's really late/early, and I'm tired. I've been writing most of the day. I also apologize if the end part sucks, 'cause a lot of that was me trying to incorporate the dialogue that I wrote out before. Also, there may be errors and such, because my powercord is evil and refuses to actually charge my computer. Or the other way around. Who knows?

Now, you get to find out pretty soon what happens in this chapter. It gets cleared up a lot more in the next chapter, since Tommy doesn't know much. I will say one thing: I really, really, really love this chapter. I think it may be the crudest and most sensual thing I've ever written... at times. And there are allusions all over the place. See if you can spot them! ;) And there are well, remotely funny bits, but it's pretty depressing. If you don't like depressing stories, well, then, you're in the wrong place. I'd put this under tragedy, only no one dies. And I don't think they'll always be sad. There will be some anger and what not. And some parts of it may seem really repetitive because Tommy struggles with a lot of things, especially guilt. And there's some little childhood mentionings and random song lyrics and stuff thrown in, just to make it fun. (laughs)

I almost named this chapter "The Hardest Thing". Just occurred to me, but sort of fits the tone of the chapter. But you know, 98 Degrees or The Beatles... It's not rocket science, my friends. Especially since "Hey Jude" is such a sonic masterpiece, and I love it, and I wrote this little section that corresponds to it. That being said, it's waaaay too upbeat for this chapter. Lol. So play your depressing music. Whip out the sad boyband songs, get the French ballads, your Alanis, your Leah Andreone, your Fiona Apple, Evanescence. Happy is not what we aim for, people. That's the beauty in it. Sorry if I sound a bit nuts, but I've been writing all day and fighting an often losing battle, and my headphones won't stay in my ears.

But what I like about this is that no one has ever used this plot. People have done remotely similar themes, but not like this. It makes me feel original and incredibly avant-garde. Lol. Except I'm not.

Now, to explain a few things. This is also in second-person, and the "you" in question is Tommy. Jude and other people are generally referred to by name in this chapter. As for the timeline, this chapter takes place the day after Jude's Un-Sweet Sixteen. A chapter written in first-person Jude POV will follow it, and it will take place on the same day, and it picks up a few minutes after this chapter ends. Now, since Tommy only lives in Toronto temporarily (so he thinks), he lives in the penthouse suite of a hotel. It's nice and has several rooms.

That all being said (and I seriously apologize if any of that is misspelled... but I'm typing with one hand, holding my powercord in with the other, and generally trying to avoid the low battery sign)... This chapter's dedicated to Six, my wonderful co-conspirator, wishing her a happy birthday. Because I give my internet friends all the thoughtful gifts: songs, poems, writings, a huge-ass chapter, an email with birthday cake pictures... aren't I thoughtful? Lol, seriously, it's only my real friends that I stay up for (getting a handcramp). So, happy birthday, Six! Hope you like your present!

The first sensation you became aware of upon opening your eyes was a mildly throbbing headache. You didn't even want to open your eyes to face the world, so you kept them shut. What was so good about daylight anyways, you thought darkly as the sunlight hit you square in the eyes. You must've imbibed a little too much champagne at Jude's party last night. You only remember having two glasses, though. Two glasses isn't that much, especially for you... You don't even get buzzed off of that. Your head shouldn't hurt like this. And then it all came to you in one bright, horrific flash... Shay breaking up with Jude, almost kicking Shay's ass, you kissing Jude in the alleyway, sneaking liquor in your office, and then, of course... the bitter denial. You really screwed up this time. She must hate you.

Not that you can blame her. If it hadn't been so... worth it... You might hate myself a little more than you already do. You hate yourself a lot. You can't believe that you actually did it. You can't believe you kissed her like that. Did you completely lose your mind last night? How could you have possibly been so stupid? What was it that you told Kwest...? Ah, right. You told him that she was too young, out of bounds. You're not "That Guy", you'd said. Well, apparently you were That Guy. Great, just great. Now you're a freaking hypocrite, on top of being a pervert. Some guy you are.

You had previously been sleeping on your stomach, head buried face first in the pillow. But that brilliant light of truth kept hitting you between the eyes. You'd stupidly left the blinds open. So you placed your head underneath your pillow in the vain hope of getting back to sleep. You felt tired, and you didn't want to face a world knowing what you'd done. You preferred this oblivion of dreams, where anything could happen. You shifted and suddenly realized that your side was slightly sore. Groaning, you turned over on your back, yawning and stretching. You bit back the cry from your lips, flinching in pain. You must've pulled something.

You fell back unto the pillow, grunting, but still not wanting to get up. It was some ungodly hour of the day. You were best off sleeping. You hadn't been doing much of that lately in between the late nights at the clubs, your numerous sexual encounters, and even more numerous late nights at the studio. Plus, there was the annoying fact that even when there was another person in your bed, you were kept awake at nights with thoughts of her. You thought of her too often, and more often than not, you thought of how very wrong it was to think of her at all. You screwed your eyes shut tighter and concentrated hard on going back to sleep, but it didn't work.

Since you figured that you did, after all, have to go to work at some point, you opened one eye, peering at your clock. No matter how much you didn't want to go to work, you had an obligation to Georgia. Freelance or not, she was your friend, and you were doing her a favor. You owed her big time. She most certainly had some project for you to do. Besides, you reasoned, after all that had happened last night, Jude probably wasn't going to come there anyways. This was all well and good because you didn't want to face her at all. Not after what you'd done to her. You didn't think you could see her so soon after it. You didn't want to see how much you hurt her. She was going to hate you anyways, and you two would never get any real work done. Unless you wanted to help her in writing a song about yourself, and you had the nasty feeling that would bring some unwanted emotions to the surface.

The glaring red light of your alarm clock flashed 11:46 three times before it changed to 11:47. You wrinkled your nose, still feeling bone-weary. Okay, so you were supposed to be at work at 8:30, but you usually got there seconds before the stroke of nine anyways. You had been blessed with an artist was usually later than you were, who also happened to be in school most days at this time, so you could afford it. Ugh. You have to stop thinking about Jude. It's not healthy, especially when even the littlest things like the time drive you to it. You supposed that you ought to get up sometime, so you forced both of your eyes open and sat up a little. You stared at the ceiling for a few more moments, sighing. The bed was so... comfortable and so... warm. And it was Sunday, the biblical day of rest, was it not? There was nothing more you wanted to do than to lie in bed all day just because you could. But, you remembered, you had some serious mixing to do that you'd put off in lieu of Jude's birthday bash. Shows you what your priorities are, now doesn't it? Or rather, who...

You shook the stupid, useless thought from your head vigorously. Thinking things like that surely weren't helping your cause any. It wasn't making anything easier on you. The less you thought about Jude, the better. Especially since you'd kissed her. If you kept thinking about her, you'd be just as likely to lose control again. And you can't have that happening again, now can you? You really did not want to wake up, but it became a necessity. It was rare to find you in bed not thinking about Jude. The idleness left you with too much time to think, so your thoughts always focused on her. She was a mystery you wanted to solve, after all, so great contemplation was a prerequisite. Only that's a horrible excuse. You rarely contemplated anything with such a degree of depth, that was certain. Save Jude, who had you so confused that you had to ponder it out, just to debate the morality of entangling yourself in an affair with her. Anyways, you couldn't go back to sleep... not without being plagued by thoughts of her, that is.

If not in your conscious, then in your subconscious, where your deepest feelings and thoughts were wont to frolic. All of a sudden, you heard a soft noise that ripped you from your reverie. It had not sounded from your own lips. This alerted you to the fact that there was someone else in your bed. Hopefully and most probably a woman. You are definitely no stranger to waking up with a strange woman in your bed who claimed to have had sex with you. Actually, they usually have, in fact, had sex with you, nailed the legendary Little Tommy Q. This is why you are also no stranger to forgetting the details of sleeping with that woman. Sure, you remember how the parts fit and other such vital details, but everything becomes fuzzy after ten drinks. And, Hell, you're no stranger to even forgetting her name. In fact, it's usually pretty odd of you to remember such a small thing. Names, to you, are small... They don't tell you anything about the person. None of the bed-hopping's personal to you. They don't matter to you, and you don't matter to them. You use them to get laid, and they use you because you have a big name, and you know how to please a girl. It's really as simple as that. It's a life of meaningless flings night after night, if you haven't collapsed from exhaustion. And it's a pathetic, wasted life that's even more hollow than your acoustic.

The woman pressed her soft, smooth, bare skin against yours, which is how you were able to tell that she was a woman. You felt your lust returning. You were hungry and insatiable. Women weren't safe around you, even if they were asleep. The feeling of her against you was enticing. The woman rolled over in her sleep, groaning slightly but strangely unafraid to snuggle up to you. You weren't a touchy-feely kind of guy, and you disliked cuddling with a passion. It was just sex. It was better off without having those annoying feelings mixed up in it. Still, there was something beautiful about her that... softened you. Her auburn hair acted as a curtain, blocking her face from your vision as she buried her face in your chest. If you didn't know she was unconscious, you would've thought that she was being a tease. You smiled then, satisfied, thinking that explained how you were slightly sore. So this girl had been a wildcat. You frowned then because you usually remembered the wild ones. Maybe she hadn't been that good...

But somehow, you knew that wasn't true at all. You tried in vain to remember, but the memories didn't come to you. It was almost as if you had blocked them all out. You knew she was something special just by the way that she looked. This one really looked like her. You have this shameful secret to confess... For the past few months, you had been no stranger to waking up with a redhead in your bed. The brighter the hair, the better. It's obvious why, isn't it? So that's why you didn't immediately freak when there was a redhead in your bed. Jude, you thought, feeling a brief pang of guilt. You felt like you'd cheated on her somehow, even if you weren't dating her. It was wrong to use women like this, to lead them on. But you led women on all the time, so you got over it. But there was just something about this one that really struck you, reminding you of who she was meant to replace. And in your head, when you looked at this girl, you kept calling her Jude, even though you were sure that wasn't her name. She seemed like such a nice, innocent girl, a lot like your girl that way. You didn't want to lead her on too... You felt low, really low, so you decided to tell her to leave. If it wasn't your room, you would've left. She wasn't... well... She wasn't her.

The girl, however, was blissfully still asleep, and she seemed to have no intentions of leaving. You envied her in that respect. She seemed so at home here... with you, in your bed, in your room. Even you weren't that at home here. You were staying in a hotel, and even though you weren't living out of your suitcases... You felt like you were just biding your time here. It was a hotel room, even if it was a luxurious penthouse suite in one of the best hotels in Toronto. And it seemed so impersonal. You didn't really have any trinkets laying around. There were no personal affects to speak of, really. No, that wasn't true. There were pictures on your desk. One of your family, one of you and the band, and one of you and some of your friends. There were pictures of you and Jude in the drawers. You kept them there like a secret menace, lonely and frameless. There were dozens of them, though. In some respects, it was like a collection of pornography. You would stare at her picture for hours some nights to inspire you. Both habits were unhealthy, but your dirty little secret resulted in nine full journals. You'd only known her for a little more than four whole months... Damn, she was supposed to be the prolific one of you two.

But, for a guy who had retired from singing... You sure wrote an awful lot of songs... chords and everything.

In fact, just to prove how at home the woman was with you, she absentmindedly ran a hand up your chest, entwining her smooth legs with yours. She seemed so comfortable with invading your personal space that you almost didn't want to move. There was, after all, still time enough for another round, you thought with a mischievous grin. You smirked, casually slinging an arm around her waist and drawing her nearer to you. The air had a heady, humid quality to it, a souvenir of the abnormally warm winter Toronto was experiencing. The smell of sex was oppressive and strong, but you didn't mind. That musky, sweaty odor seemed to linger around you anyways as a natural cologne. Your skin felt sticky, and you had the sudden urge to take a shower. Maybe, you thought enterprisingly, looking at the woman... maybe she'd help you get clean... Then, as you were thinking this, the girl in question stirred, flinging her hair backwards, off her face. And it was then that you finally managed to catch sight of her face.

It was a very familiar face, and that never meant anything good. She had pale, creamy skin that was flecked with tiny freckles. It seemed to stretch on like this forever, undisturbed, an endless expanse of perfect, silky skin. It almost appeared to glow as it had, you recollected suddenly, after you had finished with her. Her hair was a slick and shiny blood-red mass of dark crimson curls. Her long eyelashes fluttered briefly in her sleep as she sighed softly, her breath flitting across your upper abdomen. She seemed so peaceful and so calm in the depths of slumber, unlike the wild hellion you thought her to be. Vestiges of last night's mascara and eye-liner lingered on her heavily closed eyelids, and these were the only signs that made her even remotely recognizable. This apparent carelessness was the only sign that she wasn't the delicate flower she seemed to be. Her lips were soft, inviting pink and swollen from your kisses. Staring at her bee-stung lips, you wanted nothing more than to kiss her again. Instead, however, you refrained by biting down painfully on your bottom lip, chastising yourself for even thinking up such a frivolity. You gazed admiringly at fresh scarlet bruises where you'd left your mark on her slender neck last night. Your nose brushed against her neck as you bent down to smell her skin. Just as you suspected, she smelled strongly of roses. You couldn't see her eyes, but you already knew that they were a piercing shade of blue.

You would recognize those features anywhere. They've been burned into your mind. For, unfortunately for you, this was no random woman. She was a girl, your girl. Of all the girls in the world, you had to pick this one! It suddenly occurred to you that maybe you'd known it was her somewhere deep in your subconscious. Maybe you hadn't really forgotten what had happened last night after all. Maybe you'd deliberately forced it from your memory so you wouldn't have to face... this. Whatever this was.

So it turned out that the mysterious woman you'd woken up in bed with was no woman at all... She was just a girl, but more importantly, she was... Jude. You swallowed hard, feeling the cold guilt beginning to rise up in you like a slow death. "Hey Jude" suddenly had a whole new, terrifying meaning.

It took at least a good minute for the horror of what you had done to sink into your skull. Normally, it would've come to you sooner, but at first you thought you were hallucinating. It seemed so unreal, you waking up to something you'd been wanting since... well, since when, exactly? You thought that by thinking Jude's name, you had magically conjured her there. It seemed so unbelievable to you that it must be a dream, or in your case, a nightmare. So your first thoughts were happy, celebratory ones. You tightened your arm around her protectively, drawing her closer to you... just because you could. She was obviously not wearing a stitch of clothing underneath that tangled sheet, and you knew what that had to mean... But somehow, it didn't register to you as being wrong. Here she was, in your arms, finally, and it felt so much better than it ever had. She was really there. So you pinched yourself to see if you were dreaming.

Only you didn't wake up, and it hurt. And that's when it truly occurred to you what this was. This was your worst nightmare come to life. You'd lost all control and done something so horrible that you cannot mention it, even in your thoughts. You don't want to think about it, this deplorable thing you've done. Besides, it's illegal, so you're better off not thinking of it anyways.

That's a cop-out, though, and you know it. So you forced yourself to admit it in your head. You had sex with Jude. There's absolutely no getting around that fact. When that hit you, smacked you in the face really, your immediate reaction was to sit up straight in bed. You ripped your arm from her waist as if you had been burned and shifted away from her as best as you could. It was like she was poison, and you had to stay away. As you sat there, unable to be free of her, the black sin darkened over your head. You were a child molester! You took advantage of her! You had taken her innocence away, had taken something that she could never get back. She didn't deserve that. It... it shouldn't have happened like this. You know you were just kidding yourself by denying it, thinking that it could never happen. Only it could and it did. It should've been different. The timing's not right at all... even criminally wrong. You should have been in love with her. She should have been with someone who's sure of his feelings, not like you. Not like you, who's barely even sure that you care about her. You don't love her, though. You probably don't even know how to love, but this girl is as close as it gets for you. You wish you loved her just like you wish that you could make this all disappear... To make life better for her from now on.

Only you can't, so you have to face the black sin of what you did head-on. You have to accept the consequences, whatever they may be. So here's the sober facts of it: You could lose your job for this. Not that you're particularly fond of your job... It's not your life or anything (only it sort of is), and you have plenty of money left over from your ass-shaking days... but some scandal like this could prevent you from working anywhere. You want to be seen as more than that guy you were before. You've changed. You're different now. If this ever gets out, your reputation would forever be tarnished. Not that it's sterling or anything... It's more of a dark, mossy green, really, but... This is something it would never recover from. And it's bad enough because you know you deserve it. No matter how much you say that you aren't That Guy, you are. Your own hypocrisy makes you sick. It's bad enough that you're going to have to live with this.

How can you live with it, then, when you can barely live with yourself most days? This isn't fair to Jude, you can't help but think. It isn't fair to anyone. But, Hell, you could go to jail for this! So you didn't really have a choice. Funny, isn't it? You'd kept thinking that last night, but now, it was really true. You had absolutely no idea what to do. Your back was pretty much flat against a brick wall here, and your options didn't look good. Your screwing around had resulted in you being screwed. You wanted Jude in your life, and you wanted that... her... desperately. But you couldn't do that, or else you'd risk starting up something stupid like this again. You don't want to hurt her again, and it's a vicious cycle with you two. You know it'd be better off for you to leave, to remove that temptation, to remove the cause of her pain... Except you know that your leaving would devastate her in another way. You don't want what she said last night to be right. You want to prove that you can be relied upon and trusted, even though you can't. You need to show her that you won't just leave her when things get tough... That men in general won't just bail on her when hard times come.

If you left, if you stopped being her producer... Her music would suffer without her muse, her best critic, her biggest fan, her best friend, and sole arbitrator of her music all rolled into one. The producer-artist relationship was a volatile one, and you and Jude were surely no exception. You couldn't leave, though, even if it'd make things easier. You'd feel like you'd let down Georgia. Georgia, who was one of the few people to ever, ever put any faith in you. But moreover, you and Jude were achieving greatness on that album, and you'd be selling the both of you short just to leave in the middle of it. You wanted to be known for something other than being in a boyband and breaking girls' hearts. Well, you were doing a lovely job of that, now weren't you?

However, if you leave... Then you technically could legally be with her, since you weren't in a position of authority over her any more. But that was too easy. People wouldn't look at you the same. And you'd just screw it up anyways. It was better off and more stable to have her as a friend. You see, you don't think you could be with her then anyways. You'd still feel, deep down in your heart, that you were taking advantage of her. And no one would understand. Hell, you don't even understand half the time. All you know is that she gets you, and that's all that matters. No one ever gets you. And you'd be proving yourself wrong by pursuing her 'cause then you'd be That Guy. You hated That Guy with a passion, but you hated even more that he was you.

You can't take the easy way out of this one like you did last night. You can't deny it. And worst of all, you thought, you were going to hurt her even more. There was no chance you'd ever fix this. Girls got more emotionally involved after... And Jude was already so invested in you. Your relationship was on the verge of unhealthy codependency. If you got any more wrapped up in her... Then what? Your heart of ice would finally melt? So you fought it in your bones at the most basic level. But you knew that as much as you wanted to... You couldn't deny this. It was impossible. And you couldn't forget either. At that thought, a cool panic ran through your veins. God, had you even used protection? What if she...

After this, your immediate reaction was to flee the room, then your suite, then the hotel, then the city, then the country. Then maybe you would try to follow in the path of fellow boybander Lance and try to leave the planet. Maybe you could establish a colony on the moon. You didn't even care that it was your place. You needed to get out, and you needed to get air. Damn it if you didn't have the strongest craving for a cigarette. However, since the girl was currently half on top of you, you found escape to be nearly impossible. Especially as you wanted to leave before she woke up, so she might perhaps think that she'd dreamed it all... Yes, that sounded just perfect. That was your goal, and unless you moved very, very carefully, it was an improbable one. You, however, decided to try it anyways, so you shifted slowly, scooting over and cautiously moving Jude further unto the bed.

Unbelievably, your not so ingenious plan worked. You were finally off and out of your bed, and Jude was wrapped up in your sheets, slumbering peacefully. She looked so innocent and sweet laying there, oblivious to the world and what you'd done to her. You almost didn't want to leave. And suddenly, you found yourself reaching down with an uncharacteristic softness and gently stroking her hair. She smiled in your sleep, and you had the nasty feeling that was the last time you'd see her smile for a while. You frowned at the thought and tousled her hair more playfully than was proper. She was obviously not a light sleeper... Maybe you could get a shower in before you have to face her.

It'd be easier to face her with her smell off of you. It'd be easier to deny it if you were clean, and your skin wasn't sticky from the remnants of that forbidden act. You'd feel better about yourself if you were clean. Plus, at least you wouldn't be in the room. You needed an escape and a shower seemed to be just the remedy for such a need. Only, what if you could never get clean? What if this misdeed clung to your skin like a stubborn pigment and left a permanent stain on your character? Who are you kidding? Your character was already black with soot. There was no way the dirty deed wouldn't leave its mark.

You escaped to the shower, retiring to the relaxing steam of solitude. You intended to let the water cleanse your blackened conscience and rinse the evidence of your sins. You wanted to be free of this burden upon your soul and absolved from your guilt. The scalding hot water ran over your sore muscles, relieving some of the tension. It relieved some of your woes, but not near enough. Your back was so straight; it hurt to keep your spine so upright. But your spine had to be so upright, didn't it, to make up for your lack of moral uprightness? The near-boiling water, giver of life and bringer of death, sanitized you. It felt like a penance as it seared your nerve endings, but you knew it would never burn you like you had scarred her. You scrubbed your skin raw, clawing at it desperately... but her smell wouldn't come off.

Eventually, though, you came out of the shower, lazily wrapping a towel around your waist, dripping wet and unaccustomed to the cool of your bathroom floor. The air in the room was heavy with heat and mist. You stepped forward and took a good, hard look in the mirror. You didn't like what you saw. Imagine that. You were red in the face, and your skin was hot. You shivered a little in the air, feeling a chill. Then you thought of her, still in your bed, unaware. You had to face her sometime, but you didn't want to now. It seemed too soon, but the time would come sooner or later. It had to come. You started pacing, feeling feverish, running your hands through your hair anxiously. Your thoughts flew at the speed of sound, jumping from synapse to synapse, leaping from neuron to neuron.

But eventually your skin resumed its normal color, and the bathroom's air cleared out. You cooled down. And you knew, like that, that it was time to leave. It was time to talk to her. You couldn't avoid it or prolong it any longer. The time was now. You sighed, looking heavenward, muttering a prayer under your breath. You ran through the catechism you'd learned as a mere child, asking God for forgiveness, admitting that you'd done wrong. You weren't a religious man, but you were scared to death. So you prayed for yourself to save your own ass, but mostly, you prayed for her. You felt all those old words you'd renounced, the ones you hadn't spoken for years, bubbling back up in you.

Murmuring prayers alternating with curses under your breath, you strode into your bedroom. The words died in your mouth, and you peered at the bed nervously. You were relieved to see that she was still in your bed, soundly asleep. You envied her for a minute, wishing that you could return to that state of blissful ignorance. Or better yet, that you could undo last night. But you can't turn back the clock, and you don't really envy her after all. Because in about five minutes, or whenever she wakes up... whichever happens last... you're going to break her heart.

You're going to shatter her, and it couldn't come at a worse time. Sometimes you really hate yourself. But you have to do this. Well... you don't, but you need to. You have to do the right thing. You've never been the kind of guy who does the right thing, but you know when you have to do it. And you have to do it now. Even if you'd rather gouge out your own eyes. Fitting, isn't it? You used to kid yourself, pretending that you only saw her as a little sister. You'd never really seen her as a little sister. If you had, you would've ducked when she tried to kiss you. But that had been the excuse you'd hidden behind when you started getting... dare you say it?... jealous. So it was a sick sort of incest, and like Oedipus, here you were wanting to gouge out your eyes for looking at her... to cut off your hands for touching her... For having sex with her like she was any other woman. Because she wasn't just any other woman to you. She was something special, something delicate, something innocent... something not to be messed with. But you toyed with her anyways like she was a defenseless mouse, and you were the hungry, vicious tomcat. It was wrong! It was wrong; you knew it, and you did it anyways. If only you had a brooch.

You're sick. She is a child, and you, the adult, know better. You're over 18. You can vote, smoke, and drink in every country there is. In the eyes of the world, that makes you an adult. And, damn it, when you're an adult... People expect things of you. They expect you to be mature. You're not supposed to act like a selfish little boy anymore. You're not an overgrown, spoiled teenager. Not that that stops you from acting like one. You still brood, sulk, and pout when you don't get your way. You don't whine, and you don't throw temper tantrums anymore... But you fight, and you screw around, and you get wasted. It's what you do. It's how you live. You never really grew up anyways. You didn't have that luxury. But you know better.

You should know better, and you do. So why can't you act like it?

You're contemplating waking her up. You even reached out your hand to touch her, her hair, even... But you refrained. She just looked so peaceful lying there. And you were amazed, staring at her with awe, stunned speechless. The sunlight that was streaming through the windows hit her skin, making it gleam. Her brilliant crimson hair blazed like ruby slippers. She turned over onto her stomach in your bed, twisting her head to face you, eyelashes fluttering softly in her dreams. Her arm dangled over your side of the bed limply while her head rested lightly on your pillow. She was still covered by your sheets, but her movement caused them to slip down her smooth back, revealing inviting skin and the hints of curves. She seemed to you a celestial goddess in that lighting.

You were debating the merits of waking her up when suddenly... she opened her eyes. Her eyes were a sleepy, cloudy blue, and she did not register your presence at first. You were glad. Jude yawned, slowly bringing her arms up over her head and stretching like a cat. Then she opened her eyes, which soon cleared enough to suggest that she was truly awake. She sat up a little in your bed, gathering the sheets around herself before she even saw you. When she finally did see you, she merely blinked and didn't look surprised at all. She smiled slightly, adjusting the sheets around her self-consciously. "Hey, Tommy," She whispered softly, smiling at you innocently, lovingly.

You felt a pang of regret, searing and hot. She couldn't look at you like that. You'd break if she did. Her eyes were so light and soft, making them a pretty turquoise color. Her eyelashes seemed impossibly long, and her hair seemed almost adorably mussed. You smiled weakly, hating the fakeness of the gesture. You looked at her sadly, trying hard not to show your remorse. You wondered if she had even realized what must've happened last night. She wasn't stupid, but she wasn't looking at you like that... differently. She wasn't looking at you any differently. You wiggled your fingers in a half-hearted wave. "Hey, Jude," You crooned too hoarsely, a silly grin on your face.

Jude smiled back at you radiantly. You felt guilty because you didn't deserve it. She was looking at you with such... love... in her eyes that you didn't know what to do. What could you possibly say to her? Right now... nothing. She giggled softly, flushing a flattering pink under your stare. You weren't intending to flatter. You just couldn't... You had to look at her. She looked different to you. At first you couldn't put your finger on it, but then you realized it. She looked older. She looked older, and she looked happy. She couldn't stop smiling. You didn't want to ruin that for her. You wanted her to be happy. She deserved to be happy, and you wanted to be the one who made her happy. But you couldn't ever be that guy. You couldn't even make yourself happy, much less anyone else.

She motioned for you to come closer, beaming at you. She was incandescently happy. So you complied with her wishes and stepped closer to the bed, trepidation creeping deeper into your brain with each step. And then you were there, right next to the bed. And Jude smiled at you anew, but it was a different, coy sort of smile. She reached out and grabbed your hand suddenly, lacing her fingers with yours. Her eyes were fixated on your joined hands, and when she first laid eyes on them, you saw her eyes light up like the sun. It was as if a bullet of guilt had pierced your heart, like a modern-day version of Cupid's arrow. Her eyes crinkled at the corners, and her smile turned decidedly mischievous. "You know, Tommy," Jude began conspiratorially, giving you a once-over. She continued to let her eyes roam over your form appreciatively, pausing deliberately. She licked her lips sensuously and leaned forward. "You look awfully hot when you're wet," She finished seductively, trailing her free hand over your chest unashamedly.

The gesture was far too familiar for your taste. You realized that you had indeed slept with her, and that nothing was more personal than that... But you weren't used to this kind of behavior from her. From anyone, really... It only served to remind you of the shameful things you had done to her. But the most shameful thing of all was that you were itching to do each and every one of those sinful, bad things to her all over again. You forced the impulse back, but the both of you knew just how much she was affecting you.

So maybe you let your guard down. You knew that she was going to kiss you the second she grabbed your hand. And, though you were loathe to admit it, you wanted her to kiss you badly. Your eyes locked with hers in a fatal stare. Her eyes darkened, turning a murky indigo. She slid her hand up the side of your neck, resting her sweaty palm on the back of your neck. Her grasping fingers kneaded the skin there, tracing the bones in your spine all the way down. A surge of heat spread up your backbone at her touch, but you managed to stay under control. Her hand came back up to its former place as she tangled her fingers in the curly hairs at the base of your neck. She pulled you down to kiss her. You could've pulled away, and you probably should have, but you didn't. She pressed her lips against yours, and you responded in kind.

Her lips were softer than you'd remembered. You groaned, nibbling on her bottom lip. She'd gotten better, too, since you'd kissed her last. Since you remembered kissing her last, that is. You must've practiced with her a lot last night. It's slowly coming back to you, little flashes in bits and pieces. Next thing you know, she wrapped her arm around your back. She pulled you against her, dragging you down with her. It felt so good, and for a while, you didn't care about anything other than being here with her. She tasted good, so you attacked her lips, starving for her kisses. You were half on top of her before you realized what was going on. You did not need to repeat last night. It wasn't going to help matters if you did this again.

It would only make things worse, harder, in the end. You couldn't lead her on anymore. So you forced yourself to tear your lips away from hers, to push yourself off and away. You shook your head, wiping your wet lips. You couldn't do this, definitely not again. You looked at her with sad eyes, trying to make her see that you just... couldn't. You sighed, getting up, taking a full step backwards. You couldn't be trusted so close to her anymore. "We can't," You murmured wearily, glancing down so that you didn't have to see the confusion in her eyes. You were so tired of telling her this over and over again and then... one of you defying it to feel. You were sick of having this conversation that you never wanted to have. Maybe that was why you kept having to stress those same points; on some level, you didn't even believe yourself. Maybe you never approached it with the proper depth of discussion. You hadn't made yourself clear enough, maybe? Well, that was about to change soon enough... You would be crystal in a few minutes when her heart would break into a million little glass slivers. You couldn't look at her anymore either. It wasn't right to stare with eyes as hungry as yours, the inappropriate want reflected plainly in their icy depths.

It was strange, too, because you'd already had her and yet, you still wanted her. It was never like this with other women. They gave themselves up to you, and you just lost interest. It never changed. That's why your "relationships" (if, indeed, you could call them that) had barely lasted to a month or so. Usually less. Eventually even the sex got routine for you, or if it didn't, something about the girl's personality grated on your last nerve and so you just... broke it off. You thought your ex-wife was different, some four-five years ago. You'd been with her for a few months, and you hadn't gotten sick of her. Of course, she didn't live with you then, and you cheated on her nonetheless. But you thought you were in love with her because she loved you so much. Not because of your name, just because you were you.

And at the time, that had been enough. So you married her because you thought you loved her. You resigned yourself to the fact that this was as close as you were going to get to love, so it must be love. But eventually, even that wasn't enough for your flighty mind. When she moved in, you started arguing all the time. And you were on a very demanding tour at the time (Darius' retribution for your decision to marry his baby sister), so you two weren't really living together. She slept on the tour bus with you some nights, and when you were in town, the two of you holed up in some hotel room to play house. It never lasted long, though. You weren't in a city for more than a week; it was less than a week, in fact, most of the time. Some nights you wouldn't come home. You'd go out to the club and stay there all night. Or you'd wake up in some girl's apartment with no idea how you'd gotten there.

Other times you just brought girls back to the tour bus when Portia wasn't around. The guys knew how to keep a secret, even if they hated you. After all, they knew how self-destructive you were, and they knew that one day you'd eventually destroy yourself anyways. So they didn't care. You just received an occasional lecture from J.P. on how you shouldn't mess around with Big D's sister, or how you shouldn't have married her in the first place. You were so pissed at those little "chats", you remember. You'd almost decked him one day, saying that he wasn't one to talk considering he already had one kid and another on the way. And maybe Chaz glared at you half of the time and stared at you enviously whenever the paparazzi focused all their attention on you. You soaked it all up, absorbed yourself in the fame and all the perks that came with it. Your ego grew to monstrous proportions. And okay, so you had been booed offstage twice; the times were changing. And you also had to endure the snide comments your former friends whispered behind your back... "Little Tommy Screw's at it again!" But it was worth it for the glory.

You really let it get to your head, so you got cocky. You brought girls back to your suite... even when your beloved wife was there. How many times had she walked in on you? You bought her presents to try and make up for it, ever contrite: a ballerina necklace, a new car... But it didn't make it better. And one day, you just got so sick of it all. You got sick of all the fighting and how she hated you so much. You were fed up with the media portraying you as an adulterer. You were beginning to see that your marriage was a sham and had been a mistake from Day One. You wanted to be free, and she was only trying to chain you down. And you didn't love her. So one day, out of the blue, you just... left.

You made sure she didn't know which room you were staying in, had them ban her from the tour bus. And sometimes, when she found out which room you were staying in, you pretended that you weren't there, that you didn't hear her. You ignored the violent strings of insults, the bitter proclamations of her hatred for you, then... you even ignored her cries. She would pound on the door erratically, over and over again, sobbing in hysterical fits of tears. She would fall on her knees before your door, sobbing and pleading for you to give her another chance. She made promises she couldn't keep. She blubbered out "I love yous". Eventually, she stopped coming. And you didn't care.

It was easy, after that, to file for divorce. Within the year, you were a divorcé (with one e, Jamie). You never looked back, and you never regretted it. It was the right thing to do after you'd been doing the wrong thing for as long as you could remember. So she was shattered. Big deal. It hadn't bothered you any because you'd never loved her. You'd cared about her once, but that brief, hellish month of marriage had killed all affectionate feelings you'd ever had for her. And the vicious divorce had pushed you right into near-hatred, except you couldn't hate her. You'd wronged her too much for that, and hatred became yet another extremity of feeling she didn't inspire in you.

And what scared you about Jude was that you hadn't lost interest. You lost interest in women who loved you even faster than your flavors of the week. And somehow, with the whole wide world, yourself included, telling her not to do it, and against all of her better judgment, fighting against everything in her... she did. She loved you something awful, something insane, something passionate. She loved you, and for once, you hadn't lost interest. After years of avoiding serious relationships, you were really starting to feel something for this girl. For starters, it scared you to death, and that alone was reason enough to shy away from your feelings. But she was just so, so young... and you couldn't start anything up with her.

Her eyes blazed angrily as she realized what you were saying. She was quicker on the uptake this time. She knew exactly what you were trying to do, and by God, she wasn't going to make it easy for you. Her still slightly swollen eyes did not fill with tears immediately, as they had last night, but were instead hard and stubborn. She dug her heels in, unwilling to give up the fight like you had already done so very long ago. She sat up, crossing her arms over her chest like she knew exactly what that did to you. Then she stared you down with a fierce gaze, the likes of which took you aback a little. She was unyielding this time, sick of getting hurt. But you had to bend her. You had to make her break.

"That's not what you said last night!" She said in a voice that was too shrill. Her vocal control, however, was amazing. She didn't even sound perturbed. She sounded calm, cool, and collected... Three things Jude rarely ever was, much less at the same time. You flinched at the unspoken venom and all-too spoken reminder of the things you had done last night. You barely even remembered most of it... You did, however, remember one incredibly disturbing detail, aside from the torturous, shadowy depictions of the two of you together currently swirling in your mind. You forced yourself to not recall these shades of memory any further, lest they be brought into the light for all to see. How quickly you'd be painted as a model of iniquity. So you repressed those brief, fleeting, amazing memories, for it was better off and easier to live with that way. It made you want her less, but only a little. Those visions still haunted you, though, in your sleep, as strange images alternating from dream to nightmare. But, as for the troubling detail; it was the curious fact that... Last night had been the best sex of your entire life. It was absolutely mindblowing.

You didn't know what you could possibly say to her. You didn't even know what you'd told her last night. You had to have said something to her. Had you said something stupid, had you lied to her? You hoped that you hadn't said something you'd regret later... something you didn't mean. But you didn't know. You didn't know. You pursed your lips, peering at her as if trying to see through her. You tried to guess what you'd said, but you couldn't. So you just sighed, taking in her furious features. "I'm sorry, Jude," You murmured simply, hearing your hoarse voice break. You swallowed hard, glancing down at the ground shamefully.

You turned away from her then, wanting to say something. But you couldn't find the words, if there were any. You were getting that feeling more and more often. She was growing up before your eyes. Jude was a lot stronger than you were. Sometimes you envied her for it. She wasn't like you yet, bitter and jaded and mired in self-hatred. You had once loved music, but it had left a bitter taste in your mouth. You used to wish that you had never been discovered, that you weren't able to sing at all. You don't wish that now. You still love music, but you can't get over how much you hated singing. Nowadays, you sing only out of necessity, and that's why.

But Jude... she isn't like you, at least, not yet. And you don't want her to be. She will be if she's with you. Your personality will spread to her like the cancer it is. She loves music. She loves you. But it's impossible to love both masters at the same time, and you'd rather her love music than you. Music would take her places, send her to new heights. And you... you wouldn't. You'd take her to new lows and break her heart again. She was tough and brave. She had a bravery you'd never possessed: the bravery to wear her heart on her sleeve. There was a certain kind of stupidity in that, but there was a stupidity in your actions too. You two were about even in that respect. You admired her for that, too, though. You could never be that open.

You heard the sheets rustling behind you. You felt her eyes burning a hole through your back, but you didn't turn around. Then you felt her hand grab your arm, warm against your cold skin. Once again, you held firm and didn't turn around. "Tommy... look at me," She pleaded, her voice hitting an amazingly plaintive note. You refused stoically, not giving in an inch. You tried to jerk your arm away from her, but she dug her nails into the flesh of your arm. Her fingers scraped your skin, held fast and held firm. It was a sharp, knife-like pain, even though she had short nails. She whirled you around with a stunning force, sending you reeling.

You were facing her now, and the space between you was nonexistent. But you still didn't look at her. You forced yourself to focus on her bare feet. She was gripping your arm with a red-hot fury, demanding silently that you look at her. She was naked, and you knew it. But still, you couldn't look at her. If you did, you wouldn't be able to stop yourself. One look would turn into a stare, and a stare would turn into a touch, and next thing you know, you'd be having sex with her again. And doing that did not mesh with your way of pretending it didn't happen if you don't remember it... well. "I... I can't. It's not ri-" You protested weakly, feeling sick to your stomach with the situation you'd been placed in. Jude saw right through you, though. She always had a funny way of doing that, seeing who you were to the core. And all of a sudden, she knew that you weren't as sure as you liked to make it seem.

Her eyes blazed at you, an intensely deep blue fire that made you take a step backwards. She didn't allow this, of course. "The hell it isn't, Tommy! Now look at me!" Jude snapped so loudly that you winced. She stepped forwards, still holding on to you bruisingly like it was some twisted sort of tango. She was so close that you could feel heat coming off of her skin. You wished she could grab something to cover up with. You didn't need to have her here, in front of you, tempting you, revealing all of herself all over again. You were, after all, only a man. And a man who had serious feelings for her, at that. She stepped forward, and you stepped back. Again and again. This sick dance continued until your back hit the wall, and you knew you couldn't escape her anymore. You had to really face what you did, and that meant you had to look at her.

Your choice was gone. It suddenly became that much harder for you. So you did what you could. You got angry, flung your arms away from her violently. You tried to scare her off, but she only took two steps backward. Still too close for you. Jude wanted you to look at her, and damn it if you weren't going to give her what she wanted. You never could say no to her anyways. Your eyes trailed up her body slowly as your wild, starving eyes savored the memory, and your mind filed every little detail away to make a vivid mental picture. Creamy, supple skin, flushed cheeks, messy dull red hair, tiny freckles, killer curves, legs that went on for miles, the indentation of her bellybutton, angry red bruises going down her neck and over her shoulders... You let your mind wander as your eyes took her in the way a thirsty man drinks water.

So it was as you'd expected. You wanted her even more badly. You sucked in a deep breath, still amazed by her. You'd seen many a naked woman in your day... many a naked girl, even, when you had been younger. But somehow, you'd never seen anything like her. You'd dated models, some of the most beautiful women on the planet, who all certainly had better bodies than she did. But. That was it. There was a but. But... you couldn't take your eyes off of her. And, somehow, you felt a strange, out-of-place softness towards her... an odd surge of admiration and respect... Something you'd never felt for one of those many other women. You couldn't even speak, and you had to remind yourself to breathe.

Only your breathing was speeding up, and you were feeling an unwanted surge of desire that told you to get her back in that bed right now. You wanted to make that horrible mistake all over again. You wanted her in your bed now. But you forced yourself to fight that carnal, animalistic urge, clenching your fists. Other than that, you were like a statue. You refused to move for her, and your anger with yourself manifested outwards. "Okay, okay. I'm looking at you! Happy?!" You shouted irritably, cold eyes glinting like steel. You weren't enraged at her, though, not at all. She was making it difficult, and sure, you were frustrated. But this wasn't her fault at all. You had brought the entire thing on yourself. You're the adult. You know better. At least... you're supposed to. But you're used to doing lots of things you're not supposed to.

Like her, for one. You're not supposed to look at her like that. You're not supposed to touch her like that. You're not supposed to want her. You're not supposed to need her. You're not supposed to care so much. But you do. You do. You always do... with her, and only her. She never answered your rhetorical question, but the answer's clear. If you go through with this, which you will (how can you not?), she won't be happy. Neither will you, but you kept that to yourself because it makes your case stronger if she doesn't know. Finally, you manage to look up to her face. You didn't hesitate to look her straight in the eyes this time. You actually wanted to know what she was thinking. When your eyes finally met, you saw that her eyes were soft and warm. It pained you to see her devotion for you written so plainly on her face, and you ended up wishing that you'd just looked away instead.

But just as you'd turned your head away, you felt her slender fingers attaching themselves to your chin, pulling you back to face her. She was only inches away from kissing you now, but this time you were determined not to give in to her. Her eyes still looked the same, but this time a bright, feverish determination shone in their vivid blue depths. Her eyes looked like the sky just after a rain, when the clouds had all cleared, and there was only a clear blue expanse that stretched on above the rainbow. Like that same sky... Her eyes were full of promise.

It was a frightening sort of promise too, because they seemed to promise to love you forever. You didn't think you could handle that. And you sure as hell didn't deserve her affection. All you'd ever done was hurt her, reject her, and run away from her. You weren't a good guy. She held your chin with fixed resoluteness. She had no idea just how much she was asking of you. You weren't that strong. Your eyes slipped down from her stare shamefully. You weren't worthy. Jude was so much... better than you were. But Jude didn't yield you anything. "Tommy... you look at me the same way that I look at you," She murmured softly, leaning in even closer. It was the truth, and you knew it. You were just too ashamed to admit it. You attempted to shy away, but still she insisted. "That means something!" She cried, trying her hardest to make you see the connection. Yes, yes it did, you admitted silently. But outwardly you did nothing.

After all, you couldn't do anything. You forced your eyes shut, trying to immerse yourself in that blissful ignorance yet again. It didn't work, though, and you'd always known that it wouldn't. Jude's hands slid to your shoulders quietly, warming your cooling skin. You knew she was leaning in, and you attempted to move your head back in order to escape. Only seconds later, however, you knew it to be doomed. Her lips brushed against yours for the briefest instant, and you pulled back immediately, eyes flying open. You shook your head vigorously. "Jude, don't..." You said warningly, unconsciously licking your lips. She'd just brushed her lips against yours, but you could still taste her kiss.

Jude's eyes turned pleading. She brought her soft hands down over your muscular arms, gliding slowly over your skin as if she wished to remember the sensation for a long time. As well Jude should, you thought, since you were staying away from her from now on. Maybe even for good. A pouty frown appeared on her lips, and you knew you were powerless to say no to her. "Tommy, can't you see it?" She asked in a weak, pained voice. Yes, yes, you could. Whatever it was, you could see it. Then she trailed her hands down the plane of your chest, and you had to bite your lip so as not to let out a groan. Jude made quiet noises of pleasure, running her hands up and down your chest, and you were so busy trying to keep your cool that you didn't even notice her nimble fingers undoing the knot in your towel until it had already fallen to the floor.

Your eyes widened in surprise as you stared into her sparkling, slightly mischievous cerulean eyes. You swallowed hard, trying not to notice as her eyes briefly flicked down and then back up. A coy smile appeared on her lips as she innocently traced your hipbone with her index finger. You cursed her silently, glaring at her with stormy eyes. She wasn't as innocent as she looked. You had been giving her too much credit. Jude knew exactly what she was doing to you, setting your naked skin on fire with her touch... And she was doing it on purpose, damn it! She wanted you to be tempted like this, craving her, almost exploding with desire, and desperately longing for release. She wanted you moaning her name, crashing your lips against hers, pressing your skin to hers. She selfishly wanted you to have your wretched way with her. And most of all, she wanted you just as bad, if not worse, than you wanted her.

But you held to your principles, no matter how much it was killing you. And you tried to think of dull, boring, unsexy things that weren't Jude at all. You even tried to think of work and all the things you had to do. Of course, none of it worked, and all your traitorous thoughts came back to Jude. Your thoughts always came back to Jude in the end, didn't they? You didn't give in though. Maybe you were stronger than you thought... No, wait, you weren't. You'd given in last night when you slept with her, and earlier when you'd first kissed her, really kissed her. This minor semblance of control didn't make up for that. You were once again craving a cigarette with fierce abandon, wanting to use the smaller addiction to replace the bigger one.

Finally, Jude became impatient and tired of waiting for you to come around. She shoved you against the wall none-too gently, but you liked that. It sent a forbidden thrill up your spine that you instantly condemned, but still the impulse burned in you. You longed to reach out and make that first move, but you'd so engraved it in your mind that you mustn't do anything inappropriate that... you couldn't. And you were grateful for that bizarre instance of self-control. Then Jude pressed her skin against yours, twining her arms around your waist, and all thoughts immediately disappeared. She pressed into you uncomfortably only seconds before she grabbed your ass. You almost jumped, but she slammed her hips against yours, and it required all your wits to keep your heart beating steadily and to stop yourself from jumping her bones right there against that wall. No matter how turned on you were or how much you wanted to.

Her eyes were a dark, smoky sapphire as she stared at you intently through heavy-lidded eyes. Warm skin against hot skin, you were burning up. A half-smile that spoke of challenge lingered on her reddened, full lips, something about their flush almost begged you to kiss her. And you were having a hell of a lot of trouble restraining yourself from doing that very thing. Jude's slight grin widened a bit, almost becoming a smirk. She leaned forward, wantonly pressing her skin even closer to yours, so that her lips hovered only a few millimeters from your own. You moaned too loudly as she swayed from side to side, never removing her skin from yours. You foolishly allowed her to drape your big arms loosely around her waist, drawing her nearer to you purposefully. You ached for her. Once again, she looked you in the eyes, completely unafraid. Her eyes were indigo, almost a shade of violet with lust, as she pulled back only slightly before throwing herself against you with reckless abandon. "We fit," She murmured huskily, shuddering against you, trembling with how much she... needed you, wanted you. "This is right," She breathed mere seconds before finally crashing her lips against yours, burying her fingers in your thick hair... and it was.

It was so right, so wonderful, such an amazingly new feeling... that you let yourself get caught up in it for that moment. You pushed back against her, refusing to detach yourself from her lips in order to breathe. You grabbed her tight around the waist, and she arched her back, wrapping her legs around your own waist. And she sighed and moaned in all the right ways, the perfect ways, and she let you carry her to the bed again. You placed her on it as gently as you could, and she was as eager and ravenous as a newlywed. She fell back easily unto the bed, spreading her legs wide open for you, tenacious arms around your neck, pulling you down with her. Her skin was so soft against yours, and you had almost made yourself comfortable when she broke the kiss for a brief gasp of air.

It was then that you saw the world with the clarity that you'd been lacking. You wanted her, God yes, and you cared and maybe even... Oh, you couldn't finish that sentence! But you couldn't do this. No matter how good, how right it felt... It wasn't. So, no matter how much you wanted... this... with Jude... again... No matter how much it hurt you, physically hurt you, not just emotionally hurt you, to refuse... You had to do it. You couldn't lie to her, and you couldn't lead her on. You had been telling the truth earlier. You just... You couldn't.

You'd never wanted it to be like this for her. Not that you'd thought about it... much. Ha. That was a lie, a bitter lie, and you knew it all too well. She deserved to be with someone who she loved who... loved her back. Then again, what was saying that you... You forced the foolish thought back. Stupid. In biblical times, sex was a marriage of sorts. Sure, there had been some ceremony, but it wasn't always like that. It couldn't have always been about papers and ceremony. Hell, they'd allowed bigamy back then! In the Bible, sex was for marriage and children. And, no matter how much of a whore you were, a part of you had always kept that in mind. When you were younger, much, much younger... even than Jude... before the band, when you'd still been a good little Catholic schoolboy... You'd thought that you should only have sex with someone you could see yourself marrying. And so, it made you wonder... Could she see herself marrying you?

Could you see yourself marrying her? You immediately dismissed the thought, though, because it was really quite ridiculous... and she was far too young anyways. Then again, Juliet got married at thirteen... but those were different times. Even if you felt differently about Jude than any other woman... And even if you cared about her more than your former wife. Try and tell yourself that doesn't mean anything! You swallowed hard, feeling full of regret. You really did love Jude in your own way, even if it wasn't the way she wanted. You shook your head slowly, backing up. "No, Jude," You muttered, voice wavering slightly, "It's not." Her eyes filled slowly with tears as she realized what you were doing, but she made no attempt to cover herself.

She just lay there, splayed out on your bed, completely naked before your eyes. There was something so vulnerable about her lying there, all ivory skin, gray-blue eyes, and scarlet hair. She made no attempt to move, and Jude didn't take her eyes off you for a second. Her eyes were a sad, glassy cornflower, dulling to the point where you almost didn't recognize them. Disappointment and despair shone in their once bright depths. She bit her cherry lips painfully, trying to hold back the cries. Jude was stubbornly silent, trying to be strong by refusing to let the tears fall. So, unfettered, you continued speaking. She wasn't going to interrupt you now. "This... can't happen, Jude," You said slowly, stressing your message. She merely blinked at you, shooting you a glance that held more sadness than a thousand tears.

You felt that you had to give her concrete reasons for your decision, so you did. You found that you had to look away from her now, that it was becoming too hard... "You're too young," You began, using the biggest reason. She visibly flinched, and the tears started rolling down her cheeks. You sucked in a deep breath, feeling incredibly nervous and awful inside. "And I'm the wrong guy," You whispered hoarsely, echoing what you'd said earlier last night... just before she'd kissed you. Her eyes flashed at the mention, and her posture stiffened into something uncomfortable. You swallowed harder this time, taking that stormy flash of life in her eyes as a positive sign. Jude rose quietly from the bed with a strange pallor in her cheeks. A feverish fire shone in her glittering eyes.

Jude wiped the salty remains of tears from her face unashamedly as she strode towards you. You motioned towards the bed, gesturing at the sheets, wanting her to take one to cover herself. You hastily picked up your boxers, dressing quickly like a nervous jackrabbit. Jude held her head up high, proudly displaying her marked neck. She surprised you by bending down gracefully and picking her dress up from the floor. She stretched languidly, pulling the wrinkled silk over her head and down her body. It was skintight, and you couldn't help but notice. Your throat was dry from noticing her. And then she approached you slowly, as if in a dream. "You said that last night too," She murmured in a low whisper, finally reaching you. She was close again, so close... And you let yourself inhale her smell. Seconds later, Jude reached out for you hesitantly, gently touching your shoulder. Then her lackadaisical eyes flashed vividly, hardening into frosty diamonds. "Right before you ravaged me," She hissed viciously through tight, prim-and-proper lips.

Her words came out harsh and jagged as she had clearly intended them to be. There was a bitterness to them, and she had a way of making what you'd done seem worse than it was. Or maybe you were just kidding yourself by thinking it wasn't that bad. You had ravaged her after all. Such an ugly word, "ravage". Ravage made it sound like you'd raped her. It made it sound like you had forced her to do it, like you'd hurt her physically. Ravage. You went on a rampage; you plundered, and you pillaged. You stole what wasn't yours to have. So she was right, then, wasn't she? You saw the furious wrath of judgment shining in her eyes, and even you had to admit that you deserved it.

This sentence made you flinch and draw back from her, your Jude. Your Jude whom you suddenly couldn't recognize at all. She was a stranger whose eyes bore into you like pickaxes, whose hands were cold, and whose eyes were dead and empty, void of all life. She was hurt, heartbroken, furious, and confused... So it was only understandable that she would lash out at you. You swallowed hard, feeling the waves of guilt crash over you again, threatening to drown you in their waters of silent torment. You fought to stay above the surface by pacifying yourself with the truth. Yes, you had sinned here. You had made a grave error, one you could neither fix... nor take back like that kiss last night. But you were remorseful, and you felt regret. You did not want to hurt her, but you had to in order to do what was the best for yourself. You kept telling yourself it was just that simple.

But it wasn't. And you didn't know if she was lying or telling the truth because you couldn't remember. But you knew that it was at least a half truth. You'd called yourself the wrong guy last night too... out on the fire escape. Okay, so it had been implied in a way, but... it held up. Maybe she meant... that. You had said that just before kissing her, after all. Maybe that was what she meant.

And maybe this was all just a sick, twisted nightmare. If only it were that easy.

You tried to look away from her, but it proved to be impossible. Your eyes were magnetically drawn to her. Still, you persisted in trying to avoid her eyes. It would make it so much easier to tell her what you had to tell her... Only, what did you have to tell her? You hadn't thought it through that far yet. But you knew you had to say something, and you had to make it fast. And, all of a sudden, the words started to flow out of your mouth, fluid as water. "Jude... I can't do this with you. No matter how much I w... I can't, okay?" You stressed, meaning every word. You didn't pause long, only long enough to catch your breath. You had to make this airtight, so she couldn't find a hole in your wall of lies and rip it down. "I know that's not good enough for you, but that's as good as I can give you right now," You said, and after you said it, the sheer selfishness in your words nearly made you choke.

But you pressed on bravely, for it was all you could do. Finally, you knew it was time to look her in the eye. If you didn't, you had no credibility, and she would never believe you. You wanted her to believe you. You needed for her to believe you. You looked up at her, eyes softening immediately. She squirmed in her dress, not wanting to look at you at all. Her hands had long ago fallen from your shoulders, and that lack of touch left you bereft and... so cold... without her. You took a couple steps towards her, unable to stop yourself. You reached out for her, gently setting your hand down on her shoulder. You rubbed the bare skin of her shoulder with your thumb, back and forth, hoping the gesture would pacify her. You looked at her intently, unconsciously leaning in towards her, resting your forehead against hers. "I care about you, Jude..." You whispered, meaning every word. You sighed softly, closing your eyes, staying frozen in that moment. "Never doubt that," You breathed, slowly moving your head upwards. The tip of your nose trailed up the bridge of her nose, then up her forehead, until you eventually buried it in her hair.

Her hair smelled like wildflowers, you thought fleetingly. Then you pressed your lips to her brow in a soft goodbye kiss. Your voice was soft and steady. You forced yourself to open your eyes before you did something you'd really regret, pulling back a little to look at her properly. Your hands slipped down to grasp her upper arms. And this moment reminded you of something else an awful lot, but you didn't know what. Déjà vu overwhelmed you, but you couldn't place the feeling. It seemed so obvious. It seemed to be screaming out at you, but you didn't know what it was. That feeling further unsettled you. "But, girl, you have to understand. This is not an ideal situation for me... I'd change it if I could, but I can't!" You declared raspingly, feeling impassioned.

Jude's face hardened, and her eyes turned bitter. She pushed away from you, eyes flashing. She clenched her fists to her sides. An angry flush rose in her cheeks. "You might as well just say it," She stated bluntly, staring you down, "Tell me what you told me last night..." Here she paused almost hesitantly, trailing off. Her voice wavered for a few seconds. Then her eyes darkened to a murky, almost threatening midnight blue. "You know, before you nailed me," She growled bitterly, bringing up your sin again. Her eyes narrowed in disgust, and she began to pace away from you. Like she couldn't even bear to be near you. You felt disgusted with yourself. And a part of you wanted so badly to tell her to run away from you now that she could. But another part of you wanted to hold her close to you and never let her go.

She glared daggers at you, stopping in her incessant pacing for one moment to focus that dark stare on you. Jude crossed her arms over her chest stiffly, letting out a sharp, biting laugh. "It never happened, right?" She mocked, throwing her hands in the air dramatically. Her eyes glinted coldly, and the fire in her cheeks started to pale. Jude was a sight to behold, that was certain. But what stuck in your mind was... how much older she looked. So much older you could almost... You licked your lips. "The wine got to your head, and you're sorry. Oh, yes, you're sorry, so sorry, but you can't!" She scoffed derisively. She shook her head at you, lips curling upwards in a sneer. You looked down shamefully, and her voice would ring in your ears for the rest of the day. Jude had gotten so bitter so fast. Now it just seemed like she was sick of you.

She sighed, and your eyes shot back up to her, heart in your throat. Now Jude just looked... exhausted. Her eyes were drawn, and her posture just... drooped. She didn't break down, but... She looked close. Then she surprised you by pulling up her head boldly to face you, and when she did, not a trace of sadness showed on her face. There wasn't a hint of it in her features, but it was there nonetheless. "I'm sick of hearing it, Tommy," She murmured, trying to make the words come out as sharply as they had before but failing miserably. Her voice betrayed her; she sounded weak. She was weak, and you had made her that way. But Jude grimaced and got a hold of herself. "It never happened. It never happened. It never happened," She repeated, uttering each word faster and faster, louder and louder, so that they fell in a peculiar succession. It was like she was spitting fire. And she was, too... throwing your own words back at you like that. Ouch.

Here her eyes looked a bit misty, but Jude was firm in her resolve. She was resolved not to cry over you anymore. "You can say it as many times as you want, but I'm never- never- going to forget it!" She proclaimed passionately, striking out at you. She hit you hard in the chest, but you didn't stumble backwards. You wouldn't forget it either, you feared... and you couldn't even really remember the deed in the first place. All you had were flashes, little bits and pieces, mere fragments of memory. You snatched at each one as they flitted close to your vision, close enough to grab. But the memories were faster than you were, and they flew out of your reach like bejeweled butterflies, colors fading fast in the wind.

Jude clenched her jaw tightly, practically breathing down your neck. If she was furious, full of wrath and rage... then there was no room for tears. She couldn't cry now, not now when there was still hope and the hurt was still so fresh. She didn't want to give you that little satisfaction. She was so sick of crying in front of you. "So, come on, Tommy, tell me. Say those words. Break my heart all over again," She seemed to dare, eyes glinting like steel buried in the snow. She held out her arms, palms outstretched and turned upwards. Under normal situations, this positioning could've been considered calm, even meditative, but not now. There was something off about the way she was standing there, flexing her fingers and giving you that "come hither" stare.

She sounded like she had last night in the alley when this whole mess had really started, asking those rhetorical questions she knew you couldn't answer. In a way, she was just as forlorn and heartbroken... only you hadn't done it yet. You hadn't really broken Jude's heart for good this time. You were just watching and waiting, whiling the time away, and wanting to pick the perfect moment. But there was no perfect moment for this kind of thing. But this Jude seemed stronger, more jaded. She didn't expect anything of you at all, and it was... strange. She expected the worst of you. You only wanted to give her your best. But you couldn't do that. You could only give her what you could, and right now... that wasn't much of anything. You looked at her through remorseful eyes, feeling the apology slipping from your lips before you could stop yourself.

"Jude, I'm..." You began sorrowfully. You hadn't been quite sure what exactly you were going to say to her, but you figured you'd just let the words flow out of your mouth. You were so sorry. Guess you never got the opportunity to figure out just what you were going to say to her, then, did you?

It had been a reflex. After all, weren't you always apologizing to Jude about some stupid thing you'd done? She had a point, though, this time. It was as clear as day. She didn't want to keep on perpetuating this vicious cycle of pain and self-denial. Jude didn't want you to think it was okay. Like you didn't already know how very wrong it was... "Save it, Tommy!" She interrupted furiously, looking possessed. "I'm sick of your apologies," Jude spat venomously, shooting you a fierce glare. "If you really meant them, you wouldn't keep hurting me like this! So come on, say it!" She continued vehemently, purposefully goading you on.

Her narrowed eyes were a piercing crystal blue. Her hair burned scarlet in the radiant sunlight. Her cheeks were flushed from anger. A fiery rage glinted in her eyes as she approached you, staring at you with such intensity that you had no choice but to bend to her will. Much like she had last night. You were starting to wonder which of the two of you here was the adult. It was a long battle, but inevitably you had to give in. Sometimes you were just so tired of fighting it. "Okay..." You relented, nodding slowly. You exhaled heavily, knowing what she wanted to hear. She wanted to hear the terrible truth that you hadn't yet dropped on her. "Okay," You muttered as an afterthought, and it felt a helluva lot like you'd switched places and gone back in time to last night. You remembered making her promise. What a horrible thing to do! You squinted your eyes shut, swallowing the self-hatred that surged up in you rebelliously. You drew in a slow, deep breath, trying to calm your rattled nerves.

But this was not enough for Jude. It was not near quick enough for her tastes. She was sick of waiting, too, apparently. Not that you could blame her. You were even more sick of waiting to... well, you know... be with her. So you hadn't waited. And now you'd gone and screwed everything up, per usual. After all, ruining a good thing was your forte, wasn't it? Everything you touch... breaks, especially girls' hearts. Even the hearts of girls (okay, girl... okay... Jude!) that you didn't want to break. "Damn it, Tommy, say it! Spell it out for me in black and white! Break me!" Jude screamed at the top of her lungs, voice tinging on hysterical. Her eyes blazed, filled with unshed tears. "Come on, I'm just begging for it..." She taunted mercilessly, throwing out her arms dramatically. "Let me fall!" She half-sang, mocking her own song, trying to coerce you into doing... what? Her eyes hardened as she placed her hands on her hips decidedly. She took on a strange, seemingly apathetic attitude. "Do whatever the hell you want, just..." Jude snarled. Here her breath got caught in her throat, and her voice dropped to a whisper. She paused for the briefest of moments. "... Get it over with," She finished, sighing heavily.

So you were basically backed up against the wall, and you had to tell her the horrible awful truth. You simply had no other choice. This time you sighed, feeling weary all the way down to your bones. Your shoulders sagged under the burden. You forced your feet forward, propelling yourself in her direction. When your feet stopped moving, your nose was almost brushing against hers. Too close. You reached out and grabbed her hands tenderly. "We can't be together, Jude," You murmured quietly, as if your sensitive stare and gentle touch would soften the blow of your rejection. She knew that you were going to say that. She'd even begged for you to do it, but when you finally did, all her false bravado was gone. Her shoulders slumped, her knees buckled, a vermilion fringe obscured her stormy eyes. Furthermore, her eyes turned gloomy and downcast.

She may make love just like a woman, and she aches just like a woman... but she breaks just like a little girl. Appearances, after all, are very deceiving. The blossom of youth was still rosy upon her cheek. So she's not really a woman at all. She's just a child, just a pretty little girl... But she's your girl, and she'll always be your girl. You took a deep, heavy breath that got caught unpleasantly in your throat, gesturing between the two of you. The gesture came off more awkwardly than you'd intended. "This... can never... happen again," You stated with a slow finality, looking her directly in the eyes and meaning it, really meaning it, all of it.

It was like someone had thrown ice water over her. She froze immediately, jerking her hands out of your grip immediately. She stared at you with wide, shocked blue eyes that were fast filling with tears. But she took a deep breath, trying to calm her nerves. She sighed as if accepting it, and she walked over to sit on the edge of your messy, rumpled bed. "Just answer me this, Tommy..." She asked in a barely steady voice, looking down at the floor. "Why?" She looked back up at you with those innocent gentian blue eyes, fluttering her heavy black eyelashes. You wanted to sit down next to her and wrap your strong arms around her fragile frame, but you couldn't do that.

No matter how hard you tried, you couldn't make this all better. So, instead, you sat down gingerly on the armchair directly facing your bed. It was conveniently facing Jude's very position, and although you could see her just fine... It seemed that there was some sort of impassable gulf between the two of you. And, of course, there was no way to reach each other, no mythic overland bridge, no secret Northwest Passage through the icebergs that locked you both firmly in your positions. For the icebergs were of your own creation, and you'd just sunk the landbridge. You could only stare at her across the wide expanse between you with dark eyes. "You know why, girl," You murmured knowingly, recognizing somehow that she would know what you meant. To be honest, you were just so world-weary and half-dead, sick of repeating those hurting words over and over again.

You smiled at her, and it was a genuine thing. There was absolutely no reason for you to smile softly at her, only you did. You kind of wished she'd smile back, that you two would share a look of understanding. That this wasn't at all what you wanted. That what you really wanted was her. But Jude was only sixteen and heartbroken, so she missed your completely subliminal signals. Having a whole conversation with her eyes was not a trait she had yet mastered, and you were far too complex for her to figure out anyways. Who knows? Maybe in a different life... But sadly, this was not a different life. This was a dark, dark world where you'd screwed Jude (pardon the rhyme scheme). And your Jude wasn't the little girl she seemed to be. "No, Tommy, I'm afraid I don't. Why don't you explain it to me?!" She hissed venomously, eyes glittering dangerously. You could hear the hysteria bubbling up in her voice, and it worried you more by the minute.

She was so furious that her cheeks flushed near magenta. She carelessly threw her hair backwards, out of her face. Her pretty face twisted into a grimace, and distaste was written plainly all over her features. You were suddenly so frustrated with her. It was like she was deliberately trying to make this all the more difficult for you. And, yes, that would've normally been okay because you did, after all, deserve it. But... if Jude pushed you any further, you were going to snap. This strong front you've put up would dissolve, your protective walls would crumble and fall like Jericho, and you would break down. All shook up like Elvis, and no place to put that volatile energy... You didn't know what you'd do. So that, that was why this couldn't happen. You had to be strong, and if the girl put one more ounce of pressure on you, you were going to explode. And that wouldn't be pretty in the slightest.

"Do you think this is easy for me, Jude?" You questioned irritably, hands curling into fists at your sides. It wasn't. It was the hardest thing you'd ever had to do. "Do you think that I like hurting you?" You continued sharply, anger beginning to rise up in your voice. You didn't, actually, as incredible as that was to believe. You hated it something awful, but you did it anyways (countless times), so much, in fact, that she could easily throw it back in your face. Which she did often enough as it was. She always knew how to get under your skin, didn't she? Like now, when she was staring at you with those wet doe eyes and those pouting, trembling lips- Looking so damn innocent you wanted to... to unspeakable things to her. You growled in frustration, cursing your foolish, utterly inappropriate thoughts. Shady visions of the two of you naked and sweaty in that bed haunted you like demons, viciously continuing in their graphic onslaught without a single regard to your sanity. Your ravenous eyes appraised her form, and the tawdry images flashed bright and garish in your mind, lit up by the smoky red glare of neon lights. After all, you thought wickedly, envisioning each and every last immoral thing you could do to her, she wasn't wearing a thing under that silk...

Then suddenly you found yourself yelling at her, caught up in a blind rage. The hurtful words flew out of your mouth. "I made a huge mistake," You professed loudly, letting out a huge breath of air. You shook your head at your own stupidity, swinging your arms around menacingly, feeling restless. "I never should've had sex with you, Jude!" You swore so vehemently it sounded like a profanity. Jude looked absolutely stricken by your words, and you hated that you had meant them with your whole heart. You wanted to put your hand over your mouth to stop the words from coming out, but they just kept coming. Your voice was rough, your tone harsh. And, although you were directing your yelling at Jude, you were really berating yourself. "I should've known better than to do something so stupid!" You screeched almost incredulously. This time she flinched like you had called her stupid, and in a way, you had. After all, you'd done her, hadn't you?

Your feet started moving of their own accord, and then you were pacing dizzyingly. You cast a brief glance at her as you paced, rubbing your temples. Your minor headache was already beginning to verge on a migraine. "You know, I could wind up in jail for this!" You shouted desperately, accidentally raising your voice up an octave. It was shrill, too high, and too loud. But you were at your wits' end and riled up enough to pull out clumps of your hair by the roots. You were so paranoid, thinking that people could hear every single word you'd said to her through the walls. That was more out of fear than anything else, though. You had said some awfully incriminating things. Jude almost jumped from the force of your words, so you saw fit to tone it down a little. You were being rather hard on her, after all, and she was just a slip of a teenage girl. This remembrance hit you hard like a snake bite. "You're way too young... Out of bounds..." You mumbled half under your breath, repeating your own words.

Memories of that talk with Kwest that made you a hypocrite bombarded your mind. You remembered the Vinyl Palace too, all too well. You and Jude alone backstage, how nervous she'd been... She was so grateful to you, but she was acting very strangely. You thought she was just worried about her first gig, or that maybe you two needed to bond a little more, that maybe confiding in you was still awkward. So you tried to bolster her confidence with compliments, but she wound up getting the wrong idea... not that you could blame her... and then she kissed you. You were so surprised when she did that. You usually made the first move, not the other way around. Girls tended to forget who they were around you, dissolving into silly, shy creatures who giggled hysterically at your every word but were too afraid to actually approach you as Jude had and even brush their lips against yours. That was when you knew there was something different about her. She had guts, all right.

You squinted your eyes shut and finally stopped walking, exhaling heavily before opening your eyes again. You gazed off at your reflection in the side mirror, noticing the way your eyes stood out. "And I knew better, but I just couldn't resist," You proclaimed boldly, almost yelling. Your eyes must've seemed shocking cyan whirlpools. They were unrelenting like the overwhelmingly azure waves that crashed into the jagged, beached rocks with deadly precision. And with the way you were staring at her, you felt like you were sucking her down into your undertow, taking her into the dark depths of the sea, never to return.

Jude gasped softly, blatantly staring at you, taking in your features hungrily. Your lips turned down into a frown. You walked towards her, dropping your voice several octaves. It was low, and husky, but the latent anger still remained there. "I took advantage of you, I led you on..." You drawled bluntly, bringing your eyes up to stare at her. However, your eyes roamed openly over her form, and you didn't make any attempt to quit looking at her. God, you just wanted to... But you can't do that. You swallowed hard over the lump in your throat. It's wrong, you reminded yourself. Your fingers were itching for a cigarette. You were dying for some nicotine, to exercise one vice instead of another. You needed to feel that self-destructive fire burning your lungs, inching its way down your throat. You looked at her, purposefully hardening your gaze. "Don't you get it, Jude?" You cried, voice crescendoing, feeling very cross with yourself. Then you met her stare unflinchingly. "I'm not the kind of guy you want to get involved with!" You very nearly snarled, trying to show her with your rage that you weren't a nice guy. That she was better off without you a guy like you as a boyfriend. You'd think that she would know that already after dealing with Shay, but you were worse even than he was.

But you weren't really angry with her; you were mad at yourself for thinking such dreadful, deliriously wrong thoughts. And then again, maybe you were pissed at her for making you this way. For making you think these criminal thoughts, and worse yet, for actually making you feel guilty about your illicit, never-gonna-happen (a little late for that, isn't it?) fantasies. You were screaming at the top of your lungs, and she looked absolutely terrified. She almost cowered, petrified, against the headboard, clutching the pillow as if it were a life preserver. You'd slept on that side of the bed, you remembered somewhat fondly, as Jude buried her nose in your pillow. Yes, this... This was why you couldn't be with her. You were too old, too set in your ways, too bad, too angry, and, well... too you. "Do you think that I don't care?" You whispered weakly, finally, hearing the painful rasp in your voice.

Jude was no longer afraid of you. She released your pillow frostily, casting it off to the side uselessly. She didn't need it anymore. Her spine straightened, and she moved away from your headboard, towards you. She was suddenly all fire and ice, stiff, cold to the touch, but burning with anger. Her pale bluish-gray shale eyes were flinty; thin chips of fury flaked off of them, trying to pierce you and make you pay. She as good as nailed you to the wall with that infamous dirty look of hers. Her arms stiffened as she leaned forward slightly, sliding off the edge of your bed as if she was disgusted that she was sitting where you'd slept, on the same bed in which you'd had sex with her last night. She moved now so she was sitting on the very edge of your bed, legs deliberately spread wide open. You couldn't see anything, even though you wanted to, and you hated yourself for wanting that. Her dress had just ridden up a little, revealing her bare knees.

You didn't realize you were staring until she leaned forward slightly, placing her hand on your knee, your bare skin. She was suddenly looming so close in your vision, and your breath caught in your throat from surprise. Then Jude shook her head sadly, so near that her crimson curls fell in your face. She sighed wearily, drawing back from you just a little, as if she wished to distance herself from you but didn't know how. "Do you ever act like you do?" She asked, forcing that cruel ice into her voice, trying to make you recoil as she had earlier. She wanted to make you uncomfortable, to watch you suffer... which you wholly deserved. But you did care, damn it. You cared so much that it hurt.

You sighed heavily, rising out of your chair and walking over to sit down next to her on the bed. You shook your head sadly and couldn't look her in the eyes. Your fingers toyed with your sheets, twisting the soft fabric in your fingers nervously. You felt restless, kind of like you just wanted to fly away from here. You exhaled softly, trying to keep your voice steady. "Jude, you don't get it. I can't have feelings for you," You stated a bit too flippantly. You winced at how condescending you sounded. It was like you were telling her how to feel. You scooted backwards a little, leaning back on your hands. You weren't any more comfortable, but it gave you something to do other than clutch the sheets and focus on your breathing. "It's wrong," You breathed, feeling the dark, bruising sin of it seep in under your skin, blackening and killing your soul like a silent plague. That was all anyone had ever told you, how wrong it was to feel this way.

So you believed them instead of your own heart, and you betrayed her with your lies. Jude was absolutely silent for the longest time, and while you wanted to tell yourself that she was the quiet type, you knew this to be false. It occurred to you that something must be gravely wrong, and that you must've deeply wounded her this time... But you can say nothing to ameliorate her pain. You've exhausted all apologies. The time for arguments and reason has passed. She's too hurt, too emotional, and too much of a woman scorned for any of that to have even the tiniest effect on her heartbreak. And you don't think Jude wants your pity or your sympathy. Then it'd all sink in, and she'd be truly pathetic. This leaves you with two options, each of them hopeless. One, you can sit here and say nothing, attempting to reassure her with your mere presence to show her that you haven't abandoned her... yet... and hopefully don't plan on it. Only you're not too sure of that one, so it must be out.

And then there's the second option, which is even worse. It is, however, the only way you could be sure of her ever forgiving you. And it'd be so easy. But it would change things drastically. And, more importantly, it would be a lie, and you've sworn off playing games with her heart for good this time. You can't sit here in silence without touching her, comforting her, or trying to do something to help. And you most assuredly can't say those three words that you know would make her the happiest woman in the world. You don't love her now. Not yet, at least, but you could try. But you won't because, remember, you can't! So you were forced to stand there like an idiot, trying to keep your distance and swallowing down the guilt that bubbles up in your throat, acidic and repulsive, like bile.

The both of you were silent and motionless for what seems like an eternity. You snuck a peek over at Jude, peering at her face. She looked completely unperturbed, and her face was devoid of all expression. She seemed numb to feeling, but maybe she didn't want to feel anymore. Maybe she was just sick of the pain that seemed to pervade her existence. Then, while you were still watching her face, it was like her whole countenance fell apart completely, and the porcelain doll she appeared to be cracked, letting fragments of glass fall as they would. Something in her broke, you thought, as she rose to her feet suddenly. Her eyes darted around the room aimlessly and her hands shook, but she seemed determined.

She moved so she stood directly in front of you now. Jude wavered slightly on her feet but managed to hold firm. Her eyes seemed impossibly depressed, and her face was a portrait of abject misery. Her glittering eyes were full of wet, heavy tears that she kept trying to blink away furiously, but they stubbornly refused to disappear. However, not a single one of these tears fell on you. They didn't even fall at all because she refused to give you that satisfaction of having her cry her eyes out over you yet again. She sniffed softly, but kept staring at you unnervingly, refusing still to wipe at her eyes. A lock of claret hair hung in her eyes adorably, and she made no moves to fix it.

She just stared right through you with those penetrating ultramarine eyes. If you remembered anything about that moment other than those words she said next, it would be that: being absolutely captivated and caught up in her feverishly brilliant ultramarine eyes. She took a loud gasp for breath just before saying it, just so it'd sound like some big revelation. "But I love you!" She screamed passionately, breathlessly, childishly, knees buckling beneath her as she threw herself at you. Her soft, girlish hands rested gently on your knees, and she very nearly threw her head blindly into your lap before she remembered how little clothing you were wearing. The mere thought made her uncomfortable enough for a pleasant blush to spread down her skin, and she refrained from this activity. Instead, she placed her head towards the very edge of your knees, briefly resting it there. The sick part of you wished she would've thrown her head against your thighs anyway, inappropriate and invasive or not. And then it really hit you. Jude was in love with you, and she meant it. The mere thought sent an almost erotic thrill up your spine. It was a manipulative, childish thing to do, using love against you... But you wanted her even more desperately now. The declaration of love brought out such an intensity of feeling in yourself that you didn't know what to do with the sudden surge of decidedly uxorious feelings.

You were so overcome by this strange new emotion that you caressed her hair with a distracted tenderness completely unsuitable to who you were and what you were known for. Then, a few moments later, staring at her face, beautiful eyes closed, tears leaking on your bare legs, cheek against your skin, full lips brushing against your knee... You placed a kind finger underneath her chin ever so gently and made her to look at you properly. She stared at you, tears running in helpless, glossy tracks down her face, and you almost forgot your name. These mysteriously ardent feelings were scaring you to death. You had no idea what to do about them or what they were or how to stop them. You didn't even know what you were going to do next, but whatever it was, you knew you'd be unable to stop yourself. And, right now, the tempting idea of kissing those swollen pink lips of hers again was beginning to seem more and more enticing. You leaned in just a little closer to her, bending your neck down so you could better bridge the gap between the two of you. But slowly, ever so slowly, did your lips near hers.

And just at the very moment that your lips finally touched hers, but only just barely, you remembered yourself. She was a new sixteen, that was all. Too young, Tommy, too young. So, ruing your existence, you pulled away from her a little bit because you couldn't bring yourself to back away entirely. You still wanted to be this close to her at least, since you couldn't kiss her or touch her inappropriately. Now, there was still something wholly inappropriate about the way you were touching her now, but it was mostly innocent. Only Jude leaned in again, wanting you so bad you could taste it, and tried to land a desperate kiss on your lips. You were giving her really mixed signals, and now you had to make yourself clear.

You didn't want to do it, which had been why you'd had so much trouble doing it in the first place. But you needed to repel her. You needed to find something that would keep her away from you. She needed to find you completely repulsive. But what could you say that would make her never want to kiss you again? You'd been trying to do that since you met her, and you'd been doing a pretty half-assed job of it. Probably because the thought of her never kissing you again, of those lips never touching yours again... was absolutely unbearable to you. You'd said all sorts of hurtful things, and still... So you had to be nasty instead. You had to hit below the belt. You had to be low-down and despicable. It was a role that suited you well.

So you pushed her off your lap almost violently and rose to your feet suddenly, stepping over her body. She reached out for your ankle, but you were stronger than her. You pulled the appendage free from her grasp easily, plastering a cold look on your face. Sometimes you've got to be cruel to be kind. It's funny how you've never understood that phrase until now, when it's become a mantra in your head. You keep repeating it to remind yourself of why and what you're doing this for. In Jude's case, you've got to be cruel to be kind, and cruel you are. You turn on her almost viciously, eyes narrowing as if you were offended by her honest proclamation. You were anything but offended, but you have to lie now. She can't love you, even though she does. She'll understand when she's older, and maybe then you'll be lucky enough to get the time of day from her. Later, later, later. You worked yourself up into such a frenzy of rage against yourself that your anger seems like the whole of it is directed at her. "You loved Shay yesterday!" You growled accusingly.

You spat out love like it was a dirty word, and to you it is and still remains to be that: an empty word, a broken promise, never unconditional, and mostly not reciprocated. Jude picked herself up off the floor with pride and a dignity you thought she'd given up when she'd thrown herself at you. Her limbs were stiff, her features as if made of stone. She was really offended, not like you. She shook her head at you, exhaling furious breath through her nostrils. Jude placed her hands on her hips, and she looked like an avenging goddess standing before you, ready to kill. She took personal offense to your rather flip comment, but your accusation, now that you thought about it, did, in fact, have some merit. After all, she'd kissed you back on the rebound. Hell, she'd had sex with you on the rebound, and she'd been broadcasting her love for Shay all over the world for weeks. She sure moved on awful fast from heartbreak to heartbreak. "I can't believe that you, of all people, have the nerve to insinuate that I'm a whore," She stated stiffly, a disbelieving, bitter edge in her tone.

That's a backhanded insult if you've ever heard one, and it's also why you two can't be together. You're too old, too experienced. You're a whore, yes, you get the picture. You don't need her to tell you that to know it to be true, so you don't argue with her. "How many women have you had sex with, Tom?" Jude continued fiercely. Her daring surprised you this time, but she had you thinking. It's obvious, really, if you look at the trail of broken hearts you leave in your wake, and the drawer of panties in your bureau leftover from one-night stands. It gets even more obvious when you try and remember each and every one of them. There's a whole period of your life that's a mystery to you. Some nights are blocked out of your memory forever. You may forget the nights, but you always remember the mornings after with a piercing, even painful clarity. If you're honest with yourself, you couldn't try and count all the women that there have been if you tried. Not that you will. It'd be much to difficult, and you'd actually have to talk to your former bandmates, something you've sworn never to do. So you settle for an infinite number rather than anything concrete.

And, since you can't actually think up an answer, but have to make some comment, you go once again with the first thing that comes to mind. "That's none of your business," You state tersely, even though it's a lie. What stupid words, you think a second later. Of course it is her business, and you don't know. But telling her that you're such a slut that you don't actually know, and that you couldn't count them if you tried is just embarrassing. It wouldn't help your case any in the end, and she'd just feel disposable, which she isn't. She wants to know what number she is, you can tell, just like you want to know what number you were to her. You think maybe, maybe that Jamie kid was her first 'cause they seem to have some sort of history, and that kid's obviously got a thing for her. And then there's Shay, who you bet "hit that" anyways, just because he's so much like yourself at seventeen that you want to hurl. He's been spoiled by his uncle, and he's used to getting whatever he wants- which, of course, would include Jude. After all, you're used to the same and look where it got you. That'd make you a lousy number three, but her number would be even higher. Maybe higher than five hundred... or a thousand, you think. You're not sure, and that's entirely the problem, isn't it?

Jude was pissed at you. Her hands fell roughly off her hips, and she was now clenching those very same delicate, pale hands into white-knuckled fists at her sides. She was seething, and you could practically see the red-hot steam coming out of her ears. You almost recoiled, but that would be a sign of weakness you can't allow, and you already think she can smell your fear, your hesitancy, and your avoidance. "But I think it is, Tom," She managed to get out with an impressive civility. Her upper lip curled into a sneer. "After all, you screwed me too, didn't you?" She scorned, glowering at you. She forced a laugh, and a bitter smile crossed those lips that would never quite escape you. "It's my prerogative to know," She continued self-righteously, putting up an impenetrable shield of pride. One you hopefully couldn't get through. "After all, I don't want to catch anything," She hissed spitefully, and you were surprised to find that the barb hurt.

You knew she was hurt and just reacting to your own apparent cruelty, but you were tiring of this endless argument quickly. You were fed up with hearing about how you'd wronged her. Of course you knew that you had done it. And you knew how awful you were, but you felt so damn bad about it already... and it was almost like she was rubbing her pain in your face so it'd hurt you more. It already felt like a knife to the heart, salt in your wounds. Your irritation was growing by the minute, and those repressed urges were growing. They itched like shards of glass crawling under your skin, and all you wanted to do was scratch that hideous, penetrating itch... until it was raw. It was so hard to resist and fight that impulse, but you did it with everything you had. It was a battle that was fast wearing the fight out of you. "Don't talk about things you don't understand, Jude," You muttered curtly, clenching your jaw, feeling the muscles strain.

She shook her head this time, backing away from you warily. Jude had that look in her eye again, that shaky, scared, wide-eyed look. Her eyes were beginning to get teary again, but she just gulped and blinked unflinchingly, refusing to let a single tear fall. When she spoke, she sounded choked up. "No, Tommy, I think I understand just fine," She murmured jadedly, holding back the tears. Her lip trembled slightly, but she sniffed and attempted to compose herself anyways. The bitterness dripped off every word and nearly overwhelmed you. She swallowed over the lump in her throat, and you could see her eyes harden. And then suddenly, you couldn't lie to yourself any more. You couldn't go on pretending that she didn't matter to you because she did. You couldn't act like she meant nothing to you, like you weren't crazy about her, like you didn't have ridiculously deep, serious feelings for her... like she didn't affect you at all. Because she did affect you, and you felt all of those things and knew it was real.

And then, of course, after you'd had this giant revelation, Jude had to go ruin the moment, which was a damn shame, as at that very moment, you were as close to giving in to your feelings as you'd ever been and would ever be... and extremely vulnerable to suggestion. If she'd said the right thing, you would've damned the consequences and gone for it, and it would've been you and Jude against the world. It would've been worth it, you think, if only because you were finally taking a stand. Unfortunately, however, what Jude said was about as far from the right thing as was possible. Damn. "When was your last HIV test?" She asked bluntly and blatantly, without shame. "Please, tell me you've at least had one," She said disapprovingly with a disgusted grimace. She was judging you with every word, and you knew it.

You hate the condescension in her voice, how she thinks the worst of you immediately. You may be dumb, but even you're not that stupid. When someone has sex as much as you do, you have to be safe. You just can't afford not to... or then you'd be gambling with your life. You are no stranger to STD tests. In fact, you've had your fair share of them, but you took some pills, and they went away. You were lucky. But you'd never tell Jude about that. You have had tests, too. Lots of them. You used to go to the doctor once a week. At first because Darius made you, but it became part of your routine afterwards. You wanted to tell her that you hadn't been with anyone for a while, a long while... in your case. One whole month of abstinence until last night... this morning... whenever. It just hadn't seemed necessary to have meaningless things when what you wanted was always so close at hand. You hadn't felt the need for a meaningless fling with Shay gone, when you could see Jude every day, anytime you wanted.

But, despite that, you'd gotten tested this week anyways. You got off early on Monday and went to your doctor's (like you always do), just because you knew sometimes these things took a while to manifest themselves. And while you were freezing your ass off, sitting there on that examining table in that skimpy white clinical gown, waiting for your test results to come back... all you could think about was her. You'd been thinking about her in that little room too, earlier. And while your eyes barely flicked over those magazines, the images not even registering, visions of her loomed first and foremost in your thoughts. You'd received a clean bill of health, by the way. Disease-free. But you couldn't tell her that because what would she think of you? Jude saw you in such a different light than you were used to being seen. She looked up to you. You were her hero, her partner, her support, her producer. She'd made you into a model of perfection. Jude made an idol of you. And you didn't want to let her down by showing her the side of you that you weren't proud of. "That's private," You replied shortly, brushing her off, giving her the cold shoulder.

You'd turned around, but Jude grabbed your arm and forcibly made you turn around. The force surprised you, so you humored her and didn't move at first. You stared at Jude, almost gaping at her. There was something fierce, almost feral about her wild blue eyes. Something about those eyes entranced you, holding you there, where you shouldn't be, against your will. She was like a siren in that respect, so you gave her your full attention. Her lips were pursed tightly into a deep frown. Her cheeks were white with an almost feverish pallor. She slowly let go of your wrist, but you still didn't move. She ran a hand through her tangled locks, sighing wearily and suddenly looking so much older. Then her teary, intense eyes met yours, and it was as if an electrical current passed between the two of you. A moment later, while you were still caught up in her stare, she blind-sighted you with a hard slap across the face. Both cheeks stung a little, but you figured you deserved it. "You were my first, Tommy!" Jude screamed passionately, tears beginning to slide down her cheeks.

When she said that your heart stopped. You didn't know whether you felt better or worse about it, knowing that you, not any other man, had been her first. It was sort of flattering, really, and you were sort of glad to know. It felt good to know that you were the first person who had ever touched her there. It felt... right and natural that you should be her first. Hopefully first and only, a tiny voice in your head suggested. She obviously wouldn't be giving you any diseases... But then again, it surprised you in a way. She was, after all, a very attractive girl. You were sort of surprised that she and Shay had never... And, you remembered quietly, she sure hadn't acted like a virgin last night... from what you could remember of it, anyways. She hadn't been shy or hesitant at all, but maybe that was because it had been you, and Jude trusted you. Jude had trusted you mistakenly, and you didn't deserve it in the slightest. Her dark blue eyes burned into you accusingly as she pushed you back fiercely. "Forgive me, Tommy, for thinking that losing my virginity meant something!" She shrieked hysterically, seething and shaking with rage.

You felt your jaw drop so low that it was almost painful. You didn't know why. It wasn't that surprising, after all, especially since she'd just said you were her first. But your jaw dropped nonetheless. Jude wiped at the tears briskly, dragging her fingers across her face so quickly that her cheeks turned red. She obviously didn't want to back down to you anymore. "Don't look so surprised, Tom," She muttered disgustedly, eyes narrowing. She crossed her arms over her chest protectively. "You think I slept with Shay in what, the two weeks he was actually here out of our entire two-month relationship?" Jude growled irritably, glowering at you unrelentingly.

No, you wanted to say, you didn't think it was Shay. You thought maybe Jamie, then Shay. Jude really wasn't forward enough to have sex with someone she'd just met two months ago. Although she had had sex with you, and she'd only known you what, maybe four months? And what did that say about her? That she jumped into love like you jumped into bed? Sometimes you thought she wasn't really in love with you at all, that she just had some silly schoolgirl crush on you that she'd convinced herself was love. Her feelings seemed to constantly be changing. One day she was pining for Shay, the next she was falling at your feet. Half of the time she hated you. "I'm insulted," She said venomously, and she was. You could almost feel the anger radiating off of her. Her lips tightened into a thin, narrow line. She gestured towards your bed and the messy, twisted sheets with a casual, dismissive hand. "The proof is on your sheets, if you can't believe me!" She hissed, whirling around and pulling back the sheets.

And there it was, of course, just like she'd said. The proof was on your sheets... and you hated it. You hated yourself for it. You had never, ever doubted her. You didn't have reason to doubt her, but you had all the reasons to believe. You just... you didn't want it to be true. And you'd tried to deny it, but that obviously hadn't worked. You couldn't just... go on, denying it now, now that she'd made it clear in your mind without a doubt. Your eyes were riveted to that dark spot on the bed like it was a car crash. You just couldn't look away, no matter how hard you tried.

Out, damn spot!, you thought futilely, feeling every inch like Lady Macbeth, like a murderer. Out, out, out! Her blood was on your hands now, and you didn't think your hands would ever be clean of this sin. You felt like you'd killed her, and you had, of course. You'd killed a little part of her, that naïve, innocent girl she'd been when you first met her. She certainly wasn't innocent anymore. You'd sure taken care of that, hadn't you? She was so young and innocent and pure and sweet and light and... all those things that you weren't, really. It felt like you'd taken that all from her in one fell swoop. You felt low, low like your belly was against the ground low. You were a low-down, disgusting, despicable, worthless excuse for a man. You were a pervert, and you'd as good as raped her.

You felt weak, so you sat back down in the chair, just staring at the bed. Your insides churned menacingly. And then Jude was talking, but you didn't hear the words. You were just staring, staring, staring at that stain. Finally, Jude realized that you weren't paying her any attention. She strutted over to you, placing her hands on your shoulders, and leaning in towards you. Once she got up in your personal space, she pushed you back further, nearly plastering herself against you. Needless to say, she had your attention, all right. Then, like that, Jude stood up, pulling you up with her. Seconds later, she managed to disentangle herself from you with no difficulties at all. She moved away from you warily, as if she was afraid you'd attack her. And why shouldn't she be, with those marks you'd left on her neck?

You wondered how it had been. You kept trying to remember, or you'd get a flash of something... and then it would go away. You hoped it wasn't rough, that you weren't a drunken, slobbering, desperate idiot all over her. She didn't deserve to have a first time like that with a drunken idiot hanging all over her. Or you being rough and fast, just taking what you wanted and casting her off. Your only memories of the night previous ended with (and you could only just barely remember this) you going after her after telling her it never happened. Somewhere in the time between then and this morning, you had caught up with her, gotten more drunk, had sex with her, and then fallen asleep with her. You frowned at the thought, turning your gaze to the woman standing before you.

She was shaking her head, a look of sorrow on her face. "And, you know what... Call me sick, but I don't regret it," She murmured sadly, sighing and playing with her hair. You didn't either, but then again, you did. "I'd do it again," Jude stated honestly. A dangerous blue fire blazed in her eyes. It looked like a spark of the ocean. That... It took your breath away. She meant it with her whole heart. And... so would you. You'd do it again in a heartbeat... if you could only remember it. You suddenly didn't care if anyone found out and sent you to jail. You'd go in fighting and still wanting the forbidden fruit. It couldn't be so bad.

You'd had worse times, like right before you met Darius. You'd been kicked out of school, kicked out of your house, basically abandoned and cast aside by your parents. Hell, you were homeless and living on the street when you met Darius. It couldn't get much worse than that. You were living day to day off of odd minimum wage jobs and the money you made busking on the street corners. You don't remember much of those two years you lived on the street, but you remember two feelings that plagued your days: the chill of a bitingly frigid Canadian winter (you'd lived through three of those...) and that gnawing, ever-present hunger that ate at your empty stomach. It had been tough, living on the streets after you'd been turned out... Only days before Christmas, you remember, since your parents had learned that you wouldn't be coming back that next semester. But you'd grown up there, really grown up, and maybe that was why you were the way you were.

Or, maybe, you were just an asshole bastard with a heart of ice all on your own.

Pasts aside... it was strange sometimes, how much you two were alike. Jude blinked, looking at you through heavy lashes. Her voice wavered, so that you could almost see the tears reforming. "I was waiting for the right guy, someone special," Jude said quietly, looking furtively at the ground. You were standing still, but you froze nonetheless, getting her message. You weren't that special guy. So she'd just lied to you anyways. She did regret it after all. Your spirits sank again. It had been so much easier if you thought that she didn't regret it. If you hadn't been what she was to you: a mistake. Only she wasn't a mistake at all. Still, she continued, and you felt pained.

Jude looked up nervously, staring at you hesitantly, almost as if she was afraid to tell you this. "Shay wasn't special, but you..." She began, pausing as if trying to figure out how to say whatever was next in the right way. You felt hope welling up in your breast, and you cursed the feeling. Jude smiled slightly, gazing at you almost dreamily with those loving eyes of hers. She took a deep breath, so deep that her eyelashes fluttered. "You are the real thing, all right... even better," Jude whispered huskily, echoing words you'd uttered much earlier, grabbing your hand. She laced her fingers in with yours tenderly, and the gesture broke your heart. You were eventually going to have to put a stop to this, but you didn't think you could hurt her again. Every time you hurt her was like a knife through the heart. You didn't think either of you could take much more pain.

You forced yourself to smile back at her, softening your eyes a little, but it felt wrong. The smile on your lips was entirely ill-made, and it was ill-suited and ill-fitting to your features. Jude knew, though. She had a funny way of reading you, of somehow always knowing what was on your mind. And she knew that those dark, sad thoughts were still at the forefront of your thoughts. She sighed heavily, still smiling, this time taking both your hands in hers. "I wanted to wait for love, and I did," She replied resolutely, looking you straight in the eyes. You flinched at the word "love", at the idea that she was in love with you when you so clearly weren't in love with her. But still, if it wasn't love, what else could this strong, strange feeling you felt for her be? You tried to shy away, but her grip was firm and kept you in place. She wasn't going to let you escape this time. You didn't get to just run away from her. Jude was determined to not let you have the easy way out.

And you think somewhere in there that she knew how much this pained you too, so she obviously wanted you to suffer. If her heart had to be broken, she wasn't just going to let go, to allow it to happen to her; she was going to drag your sorry ass down with her, pardon the pun. "And that guy, that special guy for me was..." She began softly, inhaling slowly. She paused deliberately, licking her lips nervously before finishing. "...You," She said finally, smiling shakily at you. A warm, fluttering feeling rose up in your chest against your will, and you forced it down as best you could. It still made you happy, though, to know that you weren't just some fling to Jude. It shouldn't, though. Because if you start thinking like that, it won't be a one-time thing anymore. It'll be a once-a-month thing, then a once-a-week thing, then a once-a-day thing... and then you'll be hopelessly addicted to her. You'll be visiting her on tour and staying to produce her next two albums, and then it'll start getting serious, and then there'll be talk of telling everyone on her eighteenth... And there'll be declarations and sneaking around and... you can't go there. You can't get committed. Not with her, not here, and especially not now.

She's so close though, and you want to kiss her so bad you can just picture it all happening in your head. Jude sighed again, looking down this time as if she was ashamed to tell you whatever it was. A small, wistful smile lingered on her lips. "Remember yesterday morning, when you asked me to make a wish?" Jude asked quietly, trailing off expectantly. You wondered where she was going with this. It was something about the wish, that was for sure. You nodded slowly, eyes on her and only her. Jude was diffident, and she still didn't look at you. She took in a shaky, shallow breath, playing with your joined hands anxiously. "I wished for... Well, it-it wasn't what you'd think. I don't... I don't even think I knew I wanted it until that very moment, but I did. Still do, actually," Jude stuttered, looking oddly flustered. Her skin was flushed, something you found strange. What did she have to be embarrassed of around you? You'd already had sex with her, seen her naked, and seen her at her worst, plus she'd already told you she was in love with you. It really couldn't get any more embarrassing for her.

Just where, exactly, was she going with this? You frowned in contemplation, watching Jude swallow hard. She forced herself to continue on fearlessly. This was hard for her, you could tell. "I didn't wish for you and Shay to get along. I'm not even sure I wanted you two to get along... I just, I don't know. It was the right thing to say. I couldn't have you not getting along, but... I sorta kinda didn't really mind your fighting. At all. I think... I think I wanted you to be jealous. Because, I don't know, I thought it meant that you actually, you know, maybe cared about me in the same way I... That was pretty idiotic of me. And look what I got because of it, huh?" She rambled in a rush of breath, looking downright queasy. She was restless, and couldn't even stand still. She kept walking around and sort of pacing, but not really. You shrugged, still confused, but went with it anyways. It sounded sort of manipulative from what you could understand, but you weren't really one to talk on that subject, now were you?

She shook her head, throwing a hand over her eyes as if the light hurt her vision. Maybe she had a headache from whatever liquor she consumed last night at your watch. You ought to get her something for that, maybe an aspirin? You should've bolted to get the pills, but Jude started talking again. "I didn't wish for Shay to come back for good. Nothing to do with Shay, actually. I didn't wish that my parents would stop fighting or that Sadie would be nice to me. I didn't even wish that my album would go platinum or anything involving my career," Jude explained with a deep frown. She exhaled shortly, sliding her fingers away from her eyes and down and off her cheek. She swallowed very hard and made herself look at you, really look at you. It was almost like she was looking through you. Her eyes were a piercing ice-blue, the color your eyes were sometime if you were feeling particularly cool. "I wished for you. You were my birthday wish, Tommy. I wanted some sign of how you... how you actually felt about me," Jude murmured passionately, ultramarine eyes glittering with a forgotten fervor.

You couldn't have been any more surprised if she'd said something wholly outrageous. You were this poor girl's birthday wish. Looks like she wasn't disappointed. After all, she had gotten what she wanted from you, right? Jude disconnected one of her hand from yours to wipe away a stray tear. She smiled weakly, but it didn't reach her eyes. "And I sure got it, didn't I?" Jude remarked ironically, even sarcastically, as she managed to choke out a bitter laugh. She shook her head sadly, wiping away more tears. "I thought that I just wanted to know, that knowing was better than the non-stop wondering about how you felt," She exhaled, speaking the words so quickly that they all blurred together like a giant breath. The thin smile fell off her face.

"But it's not," Jude replied sadly, staring at the ground and watching the tears fall. She'd stopped even wiping them away, just staring at the falling drops of saline and holding on to your hand as if it was the only thing anchoring her to this earth. "I mean, in some ways it's a relief to know that I wasn't completely wasting my time with you... that I wasn't just imagining the sparks..." She muttered somewhat distractedly. Then she looked up at you, tear-filled, ultramarine eyes burning into you. And she timidly fingers the hilt of the knife before she ruthlessly heaves it in just a little bit deeper. "That, you know, it wasn't all me," She spat bitterly. Jude scowled, throwing her hands in the air in her typical dramatic fashion. "Be careful what you wish for, indeed!" She exclaimed loudly, clearly wishing she'd heeded the warning.

You sat back down in the chair and almost pulled her down with you. Jude leaned over you, caressing your cheek. "I love you, Tommy," She whispered, the last hints of a small smile still on her lips. You didn't know why, but you were smiling back. You liked that she was in love with you. How horribly, terribly selfish was that? Jude pulled back and took her hand off your face. Your cheek felt cold without her touch. "Even if I'm not that girl for you, even if you try and take it back, make me forget... I won't forget. 'Cause for one night, you were the right guy. You were the only guy. You were him for me, and that's all that matters. Even if it was only once. 'Cause last night, you loved me back in your own way," Jude swore vehemently. Like her, you'd made a pledge to never forget. It never happened, but you couldn't forget. You weren't the right guy, though. You couldn't even believe she'd made you, of all people, the only guy. You knew you ought to deny it, say that you hadn't loved her back in your own way at all. After all, you didn't remember anything, so you weren't really lying.

Jude knew what you were thinking, though. She shook her head hard, staring you down sternly. "Don't try to deny it because you did," Jude nearly hissed. Then she eyed you with a shrewd look, pursing her lips. Those piercing blue eyes saw right through you yet again. "It was different with me, wasn't it?" Jude questioned in an odd, lilting voice. She was vaguely amused and confident in the knowledge that she was right. You merely swallowed hard, looking at your feet. You didn't have the guts to tell her she was right, and you didn't want to admit it. It had been different with her, though. You really wanted to remember last night. She was... She was Jude, and she was phenomenal. The other girls, well, they just weren't Jude. They were only bad imitations of the real thing. And just like you'd said long ago, Jude was it, the real thing... even better.

"Different than it's always been for you and those other girls," Jude murmured, grabbing your hand and searching your eyes for something. "You know it's true, Tommy," She continued, still frowning slightly. Yes, you wanted to scream, yes, it was true! She wasn't like every other girl that slipped in and out of your bed and then just disappeared from your life. If she'd have you, she was there to stay. As much as you wanted to deny it, there would always be a special place in your heart for Jude. And, honestly, it scared you to death, knowing that you were so attached to the girl. "And you might not love me like I love you..." Jude began slowly, sounding sad. You felt the dull prick of guilt return to torment your conscience. Jude trailed off as if she'd forgotten what she was going to say next or had perhaps thought the better of it, whatever it was.

Jude pursed her lips, shaking her head. "Hell, Tommy, I don't think it's possible to love somebody as much as I love you!" She shouted at the top of her lungs. You realized for the first time during this whole awkward conversation that her voice was hoarse. You knew without asking that you had made it that way, and that you were the reason for the dark circles under her eyes. You recoiled at that statement, hating that she loved you, and that she always would... no matter what awful thing you did to her. In her eyes, you could break her heart over and over again, and while what you did was most assuredly wrong... she'd still think you could do no wrong. You'd exposed her to each and every one of your flaws, and she still stayed by your side. She only loved you more, and she was already in too deep. You wished you could love her back the way she loved you, but you knew you couldn't. You and Jude were not wired the same way. Love just... love wasn't in your blood.

A bright, determined look shone in Jude's eyes as she stared at you intently. "But you know you feel the same as I do, even if you can't... even if you won't admit it," Jude avowed seriously, darkening blue eyes locking with yours. It sounded a hell of a lot like a promise. Only this time, Jude was wrong. Maybe she'd misunderstood the depth of your feelings for her, or maybe you'd misunderstood her meaning... one of you was wrong. You could never feel the same as her, that much was obvious. Did you have similar feelings to Jude? Yes, you did, but you felt no emotion with the intensity Jude did, and you didn't get caught up in a feeling as she did either. Your feelings for Jude were nowhere as deep as hers ran for you- but you had them, and they were deep enough to scare you into silence.

She was right about one thing, though. You couldn't admit it, not even really to yourself. And you were a stubborn, mean bastard, so you wouldn't admit it if you could help it, and, well, you could help it right now. Jude deserved to know the truth, but you didn't want to think about it. You couldn't think about it or else this carefully constructed act of yours would all fall to pieces- and you couldn't have that. You couldn't even really admit how you felt to yourself, and that was if you even knew. You only knew that it wasn't love, not like what Jude felt for you, even nominally.

So, since you couldn't say anything, you just looked down. Jude stalked away from you, flopping down on your bed, groaning. You saw a flash of green and glanced up to notice her dress was once again in a pool on the floor. She was lying on your bed with the sheets pulled up over her head, curled up on her side. You knew you had to do something... you had to say something. The guilt was creeping up on you insidiously, threatening to drown you in despair, sharper than a thousand razor blades. You were choking on your own hypocrisy, gasping for air. The overwhelming urge to "make it better" hit you like a tsunami, knocking all the breath and will out of you, making it hard to breathe. But it was even harder to live with yourself.

How could you after you'd done something so absolutely wretched? You had despoiled something pure. You had thoroughly ruined her and marked her for life as a victim of your careless care and affected air and consideration. She was innocent, but no more, not after you. After you, she was left barren and bereaved and alone, tossed aside like a used tissue. You'd had a whirlwind liaison with her in the heat of the moment, and now you were just casting her aside like a mistress you'd tired of. As if she'd been some random encounter you wished to forget. Only you cherished the memories, but you rued them something fierce at the same time. She was no encounter, no one-night stand, no true love. She was your addiction, plain and simple. And she had addictions too, for she was a masochist who knew better than to chase after you like you were the last and only dream of her soul, but she pursued you anyways because she was addicted to the pain, the bitterly recherche pain of you and her own shattered, broken existence.

"Hey Jude" indeed, you thought. She was the sad song, the sad, broken, mournful love song. You'd already taken the sad song, all right... but after you'd had it in your grasp, how could you make it better? You knew the words of the song by heart now. It was the ringtone to your fancy cellular phone; it was the song inside your head. The lyrics were the words imprinted on your mind, always on your mind. It was your own ironic personal anthem. You knew all the words, but you didn't live them. You didn't follow its advice, and in fact, you usually went in the opposite direction.

Don't let me down... That was like telling a singer to stop singing. Letting people down was all you ever did, all you were used to. You couldn't not; it was in your bones, unshakable. Just like that, you'd made it bad... because when could you ever make something good, anyways? The only good thing you'd ever made was music- and just that... nothing else. You didn't let her into your heart, only you had... Somehow she'd managed to slip past your formidable defenses, past your high castle walls and flying monkey guard, to assume her rightful throne as the chief object of your unfortunate affections.

You weren't afraid in the slightest of, well, of her, anyways. You were afraid of yourself and the terrible things you could and would do... had already done. You sure found her. You went out and got her in your car last night, all right, but you'd gotten more than you'd bargained for, more than you'd expected. You hadn't expected to wind up in bed with her after a night of fun, perhaps the only fun she'd had since Shay and his new paramour had crashed the party. And, of course, she'd gotten further under your skin than even your own muscles and bones. She was in your veins and all around. She was everywhere and everything.

She was absolutely inescapable.

And you wanted desperately to just give in to her, so very badly did you long for it, but you couldn't. It hurt to keep holding yourself back from taking that one step, but you had done it willingly and for your own good, the both of you, until... last night. You should have refrained, but you were carrying the world upon your shoulders and even old Atlas needs to shrug once in a while. How could you not worry about this when she loved you and you'd just shattered her heart into a million pieces for the second time in as many days and if anyone ever found out that you'd... almost in a way treated her the same... that you'd even encouraged her feelings and then taken advantage of her like this- you'd wind up in jail serving five to ten. Maybe, just maybe, if you were lucky, but you're never lucky.

You didn't care if you were a fool because you had been a fool your whole damn life before Jude, and you'd continue to be the same old asshole after Jude. It's a fool who plays it cool by making his world a little colder, the song taunted, pronouncing a miserable judgment upon yourself. That didn't matter anyways. Your world was already frozen as it had been since you'd spent your first Christmas on the streets- but no, you think it was frozen even before then because you were never good enough for Daddy and Mommy was too damn busy drinking and screwing the pool boy to care about Little Tommy. And while the presents had been there, had always been there until the day they kicked you out of that cushy little suburban paradise and picked up their lives like you were nothing to them and moved away to another country... the sentiment hadn't. And what was a present without the sentiment? It was like an empty promise, that's what it was. A gift to pacify you, to bribe you, to "satisfy" you, and a lousy freaking present to love you!

But playing it cool, or at least as cool as you could, was not a foolish thing at all. It didn't reflect a languishing interest, and you weren't trying to win her... not that you needed to try. Playing it cool was the smartest thing you could do. It was the best thing you could do for both you and Jude. It was what you needed to do, and you didn't have any choice in the matter. It was practically a mandate from God, and you couldn't deny an order from God, now could you? God and your conscience and the media and society and your friends and your boss and her parents and the law!

You were made to go out and get the girl, true enough. You were some dark, romantic lord in a Gothic novel, some Fabio character in a bodice-ripping paperback, some action-movie superhero flying around in tights and saving the girl, you were that actor with the dreamiest smile and the bluest eyes, you were some knight defending your lady's honor complete with the white steed and matching pure banner, you were that singer with that low, husky voice that made women throw themselves at you. You were the epitome of those things and more, so much more. But you weren't some happy sap who trusted people like that and easily fell in love; you were you. And so simultaneously, despite all your many charms and trappings of wealth and good looks, you were not the man who actually sought the girl.

It came so easily to you that they came to you willingly, and you never really wanted any of them. You never saw any of them as anything more than an empty conquest, a challenge just waiting to be vanquished. You were not honorable; you were dishonorable, in fact, nor were you kind. You just were, and you weren't the type to change because you simply didn't know how.

Let it out and let it in... You had done that, just as you had breathed deeply, slowly. It was an action that came to you easily and effortless, like lying. You've had a lot of practice in all three, and as you always tell Jude, practice does indeed make perfect. Not that you're perfect. In fact, you're so far from perfect that it's almost laughable- that is, if your flawed lifestyle wasn't so damn pathetic. You weren't waiting for someone to perform with, either, because you'd already shown that you could act like a pro all on your own. You didn't want to drag Jude into this sick game of yours either. You didn't want to have her lying for you because this was all your fault, and you didn't even deserve her protection.

It was just you; you alone were responsible for the terrible error that had occurred on your part. Hey Jude, you'll do, the song mocked, satirizing your selection process... like you'd just pointed at her and said that. Yes, you'll do. You will suffice. You're okay... but only sufficient. She had done, too, for the night, but it was better than just sufficient- it was better than any you've ever had. You suppose all forbidden fruit must taste like that. There's something about it being banned that only makes you want to consume more and more of it until you are finally gorged and become a greedy, gluttonous pig. You're already so damn hungry and already a pig, so just one more step will push you over the edge and into something you'd loathe to be.

The movement you need is on your shoulder, the song chirps. What kind of movement, you wonder? Your conscience, perhaps? It sounded more like a parrot to you, and that's how you felt. You felt you were some peculiar sort of parrot who all day long uttered worthless words and phrases that never made any sense, half of them expletives. You did, after all, have a lot to swear about. Did you need some inducement to action?

No, no, you didn't because as you were thinking this your feet began to move of their own accord. You stepped towards her with a confidence you didn't feel, and you heard her stifled cries for the first time. Her sobbing got louder and louder as you got closer, and your heart became heavier and heavier, weighed down by leaden guilt. Each weight added tore the muscle of your badly-stitched heart open a little hurt, ripping out the seams so painfully you wanted to cry out. You knew you couldn't make it. And as for her heart, well, you were sure you were gonna break it. You were racked by guilt, weakened so you were only standing through some divine miracle. You had to face the truth now, even if it was a painful one.

The truth was that you couldn't even begin to make it better. You couldn't even come close. Your wishes and silent promises and proclamations weren't going to come true. The pain won't come back, Jude, you'd sworn resolutely to yourself after the tomfoolery (it literally was tomfoolery for you were Tom, and you had been a an even bigger fool than you usually were then) of last night, but it had returned, nonetheless. The crippling pain of separation and isolation was killing the both of you, but you'd rather die than give in again. Neither of you could afford that. But you had been a dirty liar, because it did and at full force!

You exhaled softly, stopping directly in front of Jude. You could see her form shaking underneath the sheets. You wondered if she knew you were there, standing directly in front of her. Could she sense your presence the way you always knew when she was in a room? Maybe not, with the way she was shuddering and crying her eyes out. You felt horrible for causing her this pain. But still you were compelled to fix it, even though you knew you couldn't.

For a few minutes, you wondered what to do, what you could possibly say. And then, all of a sudden, you knew exactly what to do. You got down on your knees, humbling yourself, trying to lower yourself to her level. You slowly peeled back the thin sheet enough so that you could see her face. Her eyes were shut tightly as if she was protecting herself against a harsh gust or an even harsher world. Tears streamed down her face in straight rivulets before taking a sharp turn and dripping down over her nose and unto the bed. You placed your hand soothingly on her forehead, trying to placate her with your mere presence. The moment was strangely serene. Jude opened her teary eyes slowly.

She seemed surprised to see you there, and the saline droplets practically froze in place on her eyelashes. She stared at you with wide, disbelieving, impossibly azure eyes. You smiled at her softly, and your hand slid off her forehead, down the side of her cheek. Jude looked downtrodden at this, like you'd just given her some hope and then cruelly yanked it away. However, your hand came down to brush away the tears, to dry her cheek. She smiled at you weakly, looking at you with such love in her eyes that it pained you to meet her gaze. You let your hand linger on her cool cheek too long because you couldn't bear to be away from her. When would you ever get a chance like this again, to touch her whenever you wanted... wherever you wanted, you thought lecherously.

Jude shifted, propping herself up on her arm to get a better look at you. Her lips curved into an amused smile. She had brought the Almighty Tom Quincy to his knees, and what a mighty achievement that was. Only it wasn't such a big achievement, because tons of groupies could boast the same thing. Jude smiled at you like a conqueror would to a subjugated people, victorious and slightly smug. Grinning at you lazily, Jude reached over, draping her arm around your neck. She waited a second to see if it was okay before she languidly, to be sure she was doing the right thing, pulled you into a kiss. Almost immediately, you close your eyes and just... gave in to the sensation. You tenderly put your hands on both sides of her face, softly brushing your lips against hers.

This, however, did not satisfy Jude. She crashed her lips into yours, kissing you deeper and deeper. It drove you crazy, left you breathless and reeling. You hadn't meant for the kiss to be so... passionate. You hadn't intended to kiss her again, but you were and you didn't mind it in the slightest. It was supposed to be gentle. You nibbled along her bottom lip, kissing her again and again and again until you couldn't string a coherent thought together. Eventually, however, you had to pull away from lack of oxygen. It was good that you did, too, or you might've gotten carried away. You removed your hands from her cheeks, but her hand slid up your neck to rest on your cheek.

You were still so close to her, and you could still taste her on your lips. Her eyes were still half-lidded, her cheeks flushed. She smiled sadly at you, trailing her nimble fingers down the length of your jawbone. She sighed wearily, looking you directly in the eye as if she was trying to divine some supreme truth from your ocean-blue stare. Her gaze was searching, probing, and deep like she was trying to see through you. She licked her lips nervously, looking worried. "Do you love me, Tommy?" She asked plaintively, so innocently that it almost broke your heart.

As you stared deeply in her eyes, you wanted nothing more than to say yes. But you couldn't do that. You couldn't lie to her- not about something as important as this. You sighed softly, covering her fingers with your own. You wanted to look down so that you didn't have to face her, but for some reason you couldn't break her stare. You had trouble even blinking. You tried to smile to reassure her, but your attempt failed miserably. The half-smile didn't reach your eyes, and Jude's eyes only looked all the more worried. She had to know what you were... Or maybe she didn't. You wondered how clear you'd really been with her about your feelings. To avoid dealing with it, you just used can'ts and don'ts and shouldn'ts... But you'd never actually told her how you felt.

You were terrified of how you felt and still so unsure about everything. But you had to tell her now; there was no alternative. You couldn't get out of this. You had to tell her. It was just hard to get up the nerve. You sighed again, raggedly this time. The hand covering hers grabbed it and pulled her hand down and off your face. You met her stare unashamedly, finally being honest with her. "Not the way you want me to," You whispered hoarsely, leaning your forehead against hers.

Jude's pretty ultramarine eyes filled with tears almost immediately. She managed to nod, though, a thin, grim smile on her lips. Her bottom lip quivered dangerously, and as the tears began to fall, you let her bury her head in the crook of your neck. As she sobbed against your neck, you reached up, stroking her sullen, strawberry-colored hair. She sniffled briefly, sobering enough so that she could murmur something to you. Her breath was warm against your neck and the sensitive area under your ear; it made the hair on the back of your neck stand up. "That's what I thought," She breathed tearfully, shifting her head so she could talk to you, but not removing it from your shoulder. Her soft, warm, swollen lips pressed against your cold, cold skin. You nearly moaned at the feeling. She hadn't meant anything by it, and she started crying again, slowly and less frantically this time.

Your heart broke for her. You wrapped your arm around her head carefully, pulling her closer to you. You exhaled slowly, making soothing noises to try to get the tears to stop. You noticed that sheets had slipped down around her, so you pulled them up. You rose to your feet carefully, sitting down on the bed, cradling her in your arms. You just sat there, holding her as she cried, because you could do nothing else. You needed to say something to her to show her that you didn't feel nothing for her, but what to say? "Jude, I might not be in love with you, but I..." You began quietly, trailing off, wondering how to finish the phrase. You were going to say that you loved her, but you figured that might confuse her and give her false hope, so you refrained. You thought for a moment, stroking her hair. "I care about you deeply, Jude. You mean a lot to me," You murmured sincerely, pulling her further into your arms.

You meant that, too. She did mean a lot to you. In a strange way, your happiness was dependent on her happiness... Not that you were a happy man by any stretch of the word. Jude glanced up quickly, less a moment later, tears still streaming down her face, and managed to smile at you. It was a sad, weak smile, but a smile nonetheless, and that gave you hope. You smiled back, meaning it this time. You suddenly remembered what it was about Jude that you liked the most... the way that she wore her heart on her sleeve. She was honest in a way you never could be, and you envied her for that. Jude exhaled softly, burrowing her head back into the crook of your neck. You smiled absentmindedly, stroking her hair. This felt so right. You suddenly realized that you were happy, really happy, for the first time in ages.

However, your stomach growled ominously, and you felt for the first time just how hungry you were. You must've worked up quite an appetite last night. Jude must be hungry too, you thought, gazing down at her. You wanted to take her out to lunch, but how would that look with her wearing the wrinkled, ruined silk from last night? You couldn't do it. Besides, how awkward would that be, eating with her after... You should at least make her breakfast or something. You owe her that much, at least. You never, never make any girl breakfast. In fact, you only made your wife breakfast once your whole marriage, and that was the day after your wedding night.

Then you remembered that you had work right now, and you were already at least three hours late. You had to go now, and damn, was Georgia going to rip you up for this one. You could only imagine how angry she'd be if she found out what you'd done to Jude. She saw so much potential in Jude, and you knew she saw her as a means of getting the label out of its current state of near financial ruin. So, as gently as you possibly could, you set Jude back down on the bed. Jude looked at you with wide, panicked eyes, not understanding your sudden change of heart. You threw a smile over your shoulder at her, scrambling around the room in order to find some clothes you could wear. You grabbed a pair of jeans and a black leather belt from your closet, spotting a black button-up shirt way back in the corner on the floor. You seized the shirt, tugging up the jeans, doing your belt up in a flash. You shrugged the shirt on hurriedly, turning around to see Jude frowning at you.

You realized what she was thinking, that you were leaving her alone in your bed. You must seem heartless to her. You shook your head, trying to think of a way to explain what you were doing. You speedily buttoned up your shirt, the one you'd been wearing down at the farm when you'd kissed Sadie like an idiot. You found a pair of sneakers in your closet, shoving them on your feet. Jude thought you were all in a sweat to leave, and her face was accordingly cold and dignified. She was now sitting up, leaning forward a little. She crossed her arms over her chest, looking as proud as a queen, and regarded you with a skeptical eye. You walked towards her slowly, deliberately.

Jude rose to her feet, clutching the sheets around herself. You bent down as you walked to pick up her clothes, which were strewn all over the room. You didn't know why, but you needed to do this. You set everything down on a spindly chair near Jude as you approached her, undergarments in hand. She cocked an eyebrow, looking confused. You tugged the sheet out of her hands, throwing it off towards your bed. Jude only blinked, completely bewildered. She crossed her arms over her chest embarrassedly. You made a gesture with your hands, trying to explain to her what you were doing without uttering a single word. The light of understanding flickered in Jude's eyes, but it looked as if she'd rather do it herself. But you didn't give her that option; knowing only that you needed to do this.

Panties in hand, you got down on your knees. Jude shifted awkwardly, looking incredibly uncomfortable. You suddenly understood what she was thinking, and you flushed, embarrassed. You never blushed. You held the underwear out, and she stepped into it, blushing nearly as red as her hair. Once she had stepped into the article of clothing, you slowly began to pull the panties up her legs. Your fingers brushed against her smooth, creamy legs. She was surprisingly warm to the touch. Jude's eyes fluttered closed. As you pulled the fabric up further and further, your fingers started shaking more and more. You tried to play it off, flashing a nonchalant smile, but she was really getting to you. Finally, your arms refused to stretch anymore, so you had to stand up, so close to her. She was almost completely naked, if not for the thin piece of fabric that was currently half up her thighs. For a moment, you wondered why you were tugging the clothes on, and not the other way around. After all, you were rather fond of the view. Your fingers were trembling so much you could barely move them, and you tried to look anywhere but Jude in a failed attempt to make this intimate moment not so awkward. She took a sharp intake of breath as you finally pulled them up all the way. Your hands rested lightly on her hips.

Jude was breathing fast, clearly very affected by your presence. You smiled at her, attempting to reassure her, but it came off as you being cocky again. You leaned back and picked up her bra. It was a fancy black lace push-up bra with a dark crimson ribbon trim. It somehow seemed out-of-place on Jude, strangely adult and elaborate. Smiling shyly, you pulled Jude's arms down. She blushed and looked down embarrassedly. You put her arms through the proper holes, trying not to stare at her chest so blatantly. Only you couldn't look away. You exhaled in a hiss, pulling the straps up her arms slowly, so slowly, that it was like death. You suddenly realized why you needed to do this. Eyes drink your last... Then you reached around Jude, hands skimming the sides of her breasts, until your chest was flat against hers. You grasped both sides of the black lace back, fastening the clasp together. There was only one clasp, too, and you were surprised you hadn't broken it in your haste to undress Jude last night. In your memories, it had been a rushed, spur-of-the-moment thing.

You still kept your arms around her, hands on her back. Jude smiled at you shyly. Next you gingerly picked up her dress, placing it over her head and then slowly pulling it down over her bra and flat stomach, down her hips and thighs until it reached the place it was supposed to fall. You straightened the hemline the way a mother or a seamstress would, pressing down all the wrinkles with your fingers. Jude stared at you with dark eyes, and you smirked back at her, smoothing imaginary folds in the thin silk. When this was done, you picked up her earrings (which had been on the nightstand on her side of the bed). You deftly separated earring back and earring, leaning forward so far that your breath brushed against her ear as you breathed.

You put the earring in the hole much the same as you had last night, fastening the back on with a little difficulty. You took a step back, walking towards her other side, and repeating the process with the other ear. Jude flicked both earrings, grinning stupidly. She was so unfailingly optimistic. Maybe you were misleading her... but how was that possible? You were, after all, redressing her, not the other way around! No matter how much you wanted to... God, you'd rather she stayed naked. You shook your head as if to clear it of these thoughts, grabbing her necklace and walking around her. You undid the clasp of her elaborate jade necklace, holding it up to her neck for a moment before fastening it. You paused there for a moment, smelling her skin, her hair, trying to memorize the scent. Then you abruptly removed your hands from her shoulders, walking around to face her.

You grabbed her shoes, making her sit down on the anorexic chair. Then you bent down and carefully slid each black high heel on her feet. You stepped back and Jude rose to your feet, looking regal and almost the same as last night, only her hair was down, messy, and dirty, and her clothes were rumpled. You picked up the final item, handing her her purse. Jude grinned amusedly, rolling her eyes at you. You were amazed at how normal she was acting. She was acting like nothing had happened whatsoever... Something even you, King of Denial, couldn't do. "What next, you gonna do my make-up, Quincy?" Jude quipped sarcastically. She pulled out lipstick and a compact as if to prove it.

You crossed your arms over your chest, feeling suddenly that she was mocking your good will. She was acting like you were some creepy stalker. She needed to get a cold dose of reality and remember who was in love with who here. You forced the negative thoughts from your mind, rolling your eyes at her. Who cared if she mocked you? She had dirt on you for life... it wasn't as if you could do anything about it. Plus, hadn't she been the party more embarrassed in this situation? First of all, waking up in bed with a strange man like a common whore, and then having her declaration of love fall on unreceptive ears? You needed to learn to let things go, to have a little less self-pride. Jude walked over to your full-length mirror, examining herself in it critically. Her lips quirked up into a half-smile as she placed her hands on her hips dramatically, imitating a model by taking a spin and posing for the mirror. "All dressed up and no place to go," She muttered ironically, scolding her reflection. She blew your reflection in the mirror a kiss.

You had to get out of here, and she was making it easy for you! So... why weren't you leaving? It was foolishness not to. If you didn't leave now, you'd wind up doing something like staying and repeating the process that got you in so much trouble the first time around. Think of an excuse, think of an excuse. "I have to go to work," You said quickly, already halfway to the door. It was the truth, too, no lie. Jude just nodded, a bitter smile on her lips and a listless look in her eyes. You felt another annoying pang of guilt, and you wished you could just will it away. It wasn't right to be leaving like this. The "I want you out when I get back" was unspoken, but you wondered nonetheless if she'd figured it out.

Why were you lingering here so? It only gave her more time to say something that would make you want to stay. You walked further towards the door, hating how cruel and cold you felt with every step. Your hand was on the door when you heard Jude's voice call out to you. "So, Tommy, was I good in the sack?" Jude questioned loudly, ensuring that you heard her all the way from your bedroom. Seeing as you were in the hall, this was a rather impressive feat. Her voice rang out and echoed almost like an accusation.

You snapped your eyes shut, refusing to budge an inch or to turn around and look at her. It was very hard to resist, but you managed to do that. So she was making it hard for you, then. Damn, you knew you should've left while you had the chance. "Jude... I can't answer that," You grunted irritably, gritting your teeth. Presently, you wished for nothing more than to leave. You could answer that, though, and it was a bittersweet yes that resounded in your brain, echoing in the empty space there annoyingly, trying, like Jude herself, to make you go mad. You grimaced at the answer, knowing it wouldn't do.

Jude's voice was bitter and frustrated this time. There was something incredibly adult and altogether immature about it. She sounded like a spoiled child who was about to throw a fit because she didn't get what she wanted. What she wanted was obviously you, and she obviously couldn't have you. For someone whose father was so into the British Invasion, you'd have thought that she, of all people, would know that you can't always get what you want. You surely can't... because if you did, you'd be back in bed with her. You wouldn't have to go into work all week (although technically you didn't have to work at all). She'd be twenty-one and perfectly legal to be all yours and exclusively yours. And you would love her back in that crazy, amazingly life-altering way she loved you. "God, Tom, what is with you lately? It's just a question. A very simple yes or no question. Just answer me. It's not exactly rocket science," Jude sniped annoyedly, finally expressing some of the anger and bitterness she clearly harbored towards you.

You were glad for that. After all, you, of all people, knew that it wasn't healthy to bottle things up. Jude deserved to be furious at you. You had brought it on yourself by committing this deep, dark, unholy sin. You deserved her worst, her full fury. Hell hath no rage like a woman scorned... You wished Jude would show more. You could handle her anger so well that it was like an old friend come to visit. You always knew what to say to pacify her and calm her down. Too bad you weren't practicing any of those techniques today. You gripped the doorknob hard, knuckles turning white. "I'm not going to answer that," You stated coolly.

Anything you could say would help no one, least of all Jude. It would only make this sorrow of parting all the more sour, all the more bitter, and all the more difficult. You were tired of everything being so damn hard. You weren't used to living like this, to always have to watch out for yourself. You weren't used to controlling your wild impulses. You were used to living an easy, comfortable life... free of attachments. This was by no means normal to you. You were not an emotional guy, not the kind of man whom empathy and guilt choked. You didn't think, but Jude made you think all the time. She always kept you on your toes, watching out for her, caring about her... It was first after first after first with her. And you hated it; God, how much you hated it, every bittersweet, sappy minute of it. You hated feeling and you loathed sentiment; you abhorred emotion. You were frozen, and you had always been that way... until her.

It was just the way things worked. It was the way your life worked. You missed your old, Jude-free life. Yes, it had been free of complication, free of effort, but it was lacking in a few key matters of importance... It was empty of substance, devoid of deep feeling. So it was a half-life... You played it up big for the cameras and screwed around a lot, but you had no one to come home to at the end of the day. Your life was pointless before Jude. Your life was meaningless without her. You floated around carefree, but without a rock or a Northern star to steady you, to ground you to the Earth... Until Jude came along and checked and balanced you. Your life alone was worthless. And if she wasn't in it, you were empty. "Why... 'cause I was a lousy lay?" She interjected boldly, hurt edging into her voice despite her attempt to be strong.

You shook off the miserable thoughts, coming back into yourself at her sudden question. It was definitely not that that kept you mum. In fact, it was rather quite the opposite. But telling her she was good would only make things worse. It would add a layer of irony that you didn't need at this present moment. It was just another reason to stay there with her, to repeat that forbidden act that both of you were so talented at. You forced the images away from your mind, trying to remind yourself that you wished it had never happened in the first place. Only that was a lie, and you knew it. Lying to yourself was the worst kind of lie there was. You were forced to turn around at this comment, which had probably been Jude's intent. You shook your head at her, staring at her intently and letting your thoughts run wild. "No... Jude, it's not that, not that at all..." You explained somewhat distractedly, staring off into the distance.

In fact, you were staring at your bed, straining your brain in vain to try and remember some more delicious details of last night. And when your memories came up blank, you resorted to fantasizing. Your eyes were glazed, and you were so off in the world of X-rated daydreams that you didn't even notice her coming closer until she waved her hand in your face. She crossed her arms over her chest once she knew she had your attention, stealthily pulling the dress down a little to better show off her cleavage. "So then I was good in bed," She remarked slyly, a smug smile plastered ear-to-ear.

You scowled at her, feeling a sudden surge of rage and hatred for her. You hated her twisting your words like a snake. It was true, though, which made you resent it all the more. She'd hit the nail on the head. Funny, that sounded a lot like what she did to you last night. You grimaced, wishing you could turn off the constant flood of perverted thoughts. They were just embarrassing in Jude's presence, and the more and more you thought about it, the more constricting your already too-tight jeans became. You should've never worn jeans from your boybander days. You knew they were from your ass-shaking, bandanna-wearing days because they were distressed like Jude's usually were and not overly baggy, the fashion of the mid-to-late nineties. You flushed a little, growing increasingly frustrated by the moment. You were probably red in the face, too. Just fantastic, you thought, scowling. "No, I didn't say that!" You exclaimed, backing away, obviously flustered.

Jude rolled her eyes at you, raising her hands in a surrendering position. Her thoughts were written across her face: You were too touchy and being such a baby about this! Your scowl deepened, and you hoped to scare her straight by focusing it on her. She wouldn't go back to normal, and she wouldn't shut up. You suddenly understood why you kissed her so often this morning: to shut her up. Oh, how you longed to shut her up now! You didn't want to hear it, and she didn't get that. You didn't have the time, even though you owed it to her. Jude shrugged coolly. "Well, you said I wasn't lousy. Now you're saying I'm not good? I'm quite confused, Tommy. What do you really mean?" She pointed out, raising an eyebrow.

She was obviously awaiting an answer. And she was doing it rather impatiently, too, come to think of it. Too bad she wasn't get one. Didn't she understand that you were a master at avoiding the truth like the plague? You were no open book, and once something got shut up in your Fort Knox of secrets- it stayed there. Like this one would, hopefully. Then again, they say two people can keep a secret... if one of them is dead. What if Jude told someone? What then? You hadn't thought she'd do it, but now you didn't know. If she did, you were most surely doomed to a life of solitary confinement, gang showers, kitchen duty, and being Bubba's girlfriend unless you fought to establish a rep and brought in plenty cigarettes. And they'd freeze all your assets, of course, and give some to Jude's family and your lawyer as compensation/pay. Not that that made her sound like a hooker or anything. You were the only one who had any reason to keep this secret, you realized with a sickening lurch in your stomach. "Nothing... okay?" You hissed, eyes narrow slits.

No shame would be brought to Jude because she was the minor here, and she had been taken advantage of... She was in love with you, for Heaven's sake! Jude was no whore, and plenty of women had "been there, done that" with you. It was a well-known, established fact. You needed some insurance that she wouldn't... Knowledge that she held no grudge or bitterness against you. You needed, once again, to make her promise. Hopefully this one would be last heartbreaking than the last two. Jude glowered at you, shaking her head, hands on her hips defiantly. It was that very defiance that worried you so. "No. I won't accept that as an answer," She declared frostily, pausing for a moment, looking thoughtful, before continuing, "Was I just okay, then? I mean, honestly, Tommy, I need some feedback here. And you're a whore in your own right, so I figure you, of all people, would know if I was good. Or great. Awesome. Whatever."

Your jaw almost dropped as you found yourself surprised with her casual crudeness. She was nowhere near as crude as you, but she was not usually so blunt. You were rubbing off on her and influencing her in a very, very bad way. You couldn't help but worry for her. You were a whore. There was honestly no getting around that fact. You were beyond experienced and beyond qualified to give her the answer she asked for. Under normal situations, you would've been glad to tell her, but now you dreaded it more than anything else in the word. Why tell her? Why tell her, only to get her hopes up for something that would never happen? Why tell her only so she could go out and have sex with other, strange older men, knowing full well how good she was... how much of a natural she had been once you'd plucked her strings... and using the tricks and moves you'd taught her on those perverts, who were no worse than you. She was supposed to be your girl, and only your girl- no one else's! She was only supposed to have sex with you because, damn it, she was yours. She was crazy if she actually thought you'd critique her performance, most of which you didn't even remember (not that it had been forgettable in any way), tell you that she was the best sex of your life, and brand Tom Quincy, Sex God/Gold Medalist/Professional/Therapist... brand your stamp of approval for sexual activities on to her ass. "Jude..." You groaned wearily, fed up with all of this fighting.

Why didn't she get that you didn't want to answer her? "I have the right to ask, Tom," She stated sternly, staring you down fiercely, reminding you just why she had this elusive privilege. Not that you could ever forget, except all the details. She was pulling that card on you again. You said nothing, putting up the old stone mask. She nodded, trying to be understanding, only she didn't understand at all for the first time you could remember. "Ah, I see, still not answering... What's the excuse this time? You seemed to have no trouble telling me how you really feel about me, and this question is really far less hurtful," She continued calmly, knowing how much her words would sting. Then again, she thought you were unfeeling, so what harm could a handful of words do to a man like you, made of ice and steel? You were stubborn to a fault, and here that manifested itself as sticking to your convictions. Jude tried to be irreverent about it, but she really did want to know. Sadie had probably given her a few insecurity issues.

You swallowed down the truth, which was threatening to vomit back up. Jude shrugged again, toeing the ground nervously, looking down embarrassedly. When you were sure she wasn't looking at you, you smiled a wide, satisfied smile that would've answered her question in a heartbeat. "I mean, I was a virgin before you, so I don't expect you to say I was mindblowing or anything. Okay would really be good. After all, everyone improves with experience," She clarified awkwardly, clearing her throat. Or a good teacher, you added mentally, knowing full well that you could be that man for her. Just think of how much you'd already taught her about music. What she'd said was true; there were so many things you could teach her still. At least, that's what you thought. Practice makes perfect. Jude is relating it to her music and rightly so because you can serve as a guide, a Svengali to her in both areas. Not that she needs Little Tommy Q's lessons on how to be a porn star. Jude's not that kind of girl, and you don't want to make her into one.

She looked up at you, intensity shining in her deep blue eyes. Her eyes looked like the bottom of a freshwater well, murky, but still almost navy and clear. "It's something I can fix, unlike you loving me..." She promised, not intending for the remark to cut you as it clearly had. It was the truth, too, and you couldn't deny that. She deserved to always tell you the truth because Jude was one of the few people who could do that and live. Besides, Jude hated liars, and she wasn't about to become a hypocrite for you. She sighed, realizing how callous that had come out sounding. "'Cause I can't really do anything about that. I mean, you either do or you don't," She elucidated quickly, trying to repair her mistake. She couldn't help the remark that followed, or the ragged sigh that escaped from her lips and the way her shoulders slumped. "And you don't," She lamented quietly, her voice only a scratch above a whisper.

She took a deep breath to try and clear her mind of these depressing thoughts. They totally killed any chances she had at insistent fury. She coughed, glancing down briefly before forcing her eyes back on your increasingly unwelcome form. You hated this, this stilted, painfully awkward conversation! This was why you had no female friends: you screwed every last one of them, and they couldn't deal with it. "But this, this is a different matter," She mumbled briefly, breezing on to the next part, "Now, come on, Tom, tell me... Give me your honest opinion." She didn't want your honest opinion, though, no matter what she said. She wanted you to say that she was mindnumbingly amazing and wild and... perfect. Which of course she was... all of those things and more, but ... Psh, like you were going to tell her that!

It goes against your principles, not that you have especially strong ones, but this is your main one: don't let Jude know how phenomenal she was. Jude narrowed her eyes at you, leaning back to peer at you. She was uncomfortable with your all too close proximity. "Okay, apparently that's too difficult for you, which shouldn't be surprising..." She snapped harshly, taking a breath and making herself be civil with you. You didn't deserve civility from her anywhere other than at work, where it was absolutely necessary, so why was she trying so hard? Why was she putting up with your endless baggage? You were a piece of work, one she shouldn't have even involved herself with in the first place. Why was she trying to fundamentally change her character for you? You sure as hell weren't worth it. "Let's start with something easier, then. Okay? Okay, I got it! ...What did I do that you really liked? I mean, what drove you crazy... in the good way, of course... Uh, okay... Anything that really repulsed or annoyed you? ANYTHING?!" She inquired in a barrage of even more intimate questions.

Your eyes widened at the unexpected assault. You kept wanting her to give up, only she never did. Not once. It wasn't in her nature. You sighed exhaustedly, feeling for the first time all morning how weary you were. You must've kept her up all night. When that dawned on you, you suddenly wondered just how many times you'd had sex with her. It had to be more than once, at least... Most probably far higher even than that number. You had, after all, kept her up all night. No amount of foreplay could take up that long. Your bones ached a little; you weren't as young as you once were, but you had twice the stamina. It was a fair trade off, you supposed. It had definitely been a marathon session last night. "I can't..." You muttered weakly, meaning it. You honestly couldn't remember much of anything she'd done, but you were sure that none of it had been unpleasant.

Not that you'd tell her that either. You didn't want her to get a big ego like you. Jude's widened eyes became narrow slits in her fury. She crossed her arms over her chest, turning the full force of that venomous, withering stare on you. Her eyes reminded you of the color of your Viper when it had just been washed and waxed and shone like a sapphire in the sun on a hot summer day- as it had at the farm. "You seem to be saying that a lot. Now, could you please..." Jude retorted testily. Then all of a sudden, her eyes lit up with a revelation. You gulped, worried that a possible new problem had sprung up. You didn't want to fix anything else. "Oh, I think I know what this is about! You're worried about your sexual performance, aren't you?" Jude queried excitedly, almost clapping her hands together.

You were mortified. What, did she think you had some... difficulties... that would require a little blue pill? But then again, even if you were lousy, which of course you weren't because you're Tom Quincy and you take pride in the sexual act above all others... she was a virgin, so what would she know? Nothing, of course. Then again, she also wouldn't know if it had been amazing... to her any such experiences were amazing, and you were a pro at this. Wouldn't it suck if she expected this same standard from every man she ever slept with- and there would have to be more than you, of course, because it was the Twenty-first Century, not the 1950's, and thanks to Sex and the City there was no such thing as a woman who didn't nail her boyfriends and have one-night stands, which was usually to your benefit, since you made a habit of screwing every Samantha-wannabe in town. But it would suck if she always expected the sex to be as great as it was with you. Oh well, you supposed. After all, it only gave her all the more reason to sleep with you again and again and again... And only you, so she'd never be dissatisfied. You, after all, were a special case... not like those other losers out there. "Well, actually..."

Jude smiled brightly, interrupting you. She was grinning from ear-to-ear, as if she thought your sexual insecurity (which was laughable, as she'd merely assumed it to be so when really it was the opposite) was adorable. You were more than confident in your considerable sexual abilities. "No, no, Tommy, it's okay. You have nothing to worry about," She swore up and down, laughter dancing in her eyes. In some ways, as embarrassing as this situation was to you, you were glad to see that she was smiling again. Jude frowned, staring off into space thoughtfully, trying to find a way to express your sexual proficiency. She pursed her lips and finally managed to think of something. "I mean, I'm a virgin and all, but you were... I mean, wow! You were amazing! Um... not that I'm surprised or anything, because you look totally bangable, but, um... It was beyond good... There just, there are no adjectives for it, really," She proclaimed breathlessly, a satisfied grin on her swollen lips.

Her index finger lazily fingered her bottom lip, over and over. You had to bite your lip to avoid moaning. It's like she did that just because she knew how badly you wanted her. She wanted to seduce you back into that bed, damn her. And it was working, too! Jude leaned in a little, trailing her finger up the broad plane of your chest, smiling coyly. "You completely rocked my world, to be honest. And not like the cheesy boybander that you are, hard, like a punk rocker. I think the Sex Pistols would be proud," She growled, hissing the words right into your ear. She licked her lips when she leaned in further to whisper the words directly into your ear, placing a hand on the back of your neck and giving you goosebumps. Her breath was hot against your inflamed skin, and her lips were sticky-sweet and pink like candy. Coming from Jude, that was just about the best compliment you could get unless she compared you to Kurt Cobain, and as you were not blonde, grungy, and suicidal, the odds of that happening were slim to none. After all, you weren't going to write Nevermind in a year.

You ignored the veiled insult, focusing instead on how you could see down her dress. Being compared to one of the great early punk bands gave you the sudden urge to rebel against convention and not give a damn about what other people thought. You wanted to do what felt good. Screw everyone else. So you grabbed Jude by the waist, slamming your lips against hers. You attacked her lips with a ferocity and passion that no one you could think of would ever approve of. Her lips were so soft and yielding. You let your hands slip down to her ass the way that punk kid had tried to on set, and you kept them there before you lifted her up, pressing her into the wall. Jude pressed her arms against the wall, moaning as she wrapped her arms around your neck. Your lips trailed down her neck, and you wanted her so badly that you started to head for the bedroom.

Luckily, however, you ran into the wall, which thwarted your whole seduction process and gave you some well-needed clarity. What the hell were you doing? Trying to repeat last night? The very thing you didn't want to do? You regretted last night more than anything, or at least that was what you told yourself and... Damn it! You were supposed to be the strong one about this. Jude certainly couldn't be. She was blinded by her love for you and only saw you in a positive light. She didn't understand how horribly any tryst with you would end. And right now, you were not acting very strong at all.

You helped her off the floor, as she had fallen when you stumbled. Strangely enough, she didn't seem mad at you. She got to her feet, trying to catch her breath and fanning herself. You felt somewhat embarrassed at your clumsy attempt at seduction. Smooth, you thought darkly. Jude dusted herself off, straightening her dress as casually as she could in an attempt to regain some of her dignity. She was trying to cool down, but the memories were still so fresh in your mind that they kept surfacing. Jude took a deep breath, putting her hands on her hips. "Well, here's a question for you, then. If you could, would you have sex with me again?" Jude asked bluntly, snorting at you. It was clear that she already thought she knew the answer. This was not wholly unreasonable, given what you'd just tried to do.

Truthfully, if it wouldn't get you in jail, you'd do it whenever you wanted. But it would get you in jail, so it was useless to speculate. It was stupid to even think of it. The answer was yes, of course it was, but just because you could do something didn't mean you should. If you could, you would, but you can't. It doesn't matter. You glared at Jude, feeling that old ire blazing up again in your veins. "Jude, that's a stupid question!" You shouted angrily, realizing how stupid you were being. Yelling at Jude wasn't going to help you. You were mad at yourself, not her, and it was wrong to make her think this was his fault. You slowly started to calm down, wanting to reassure her. "And, Jude, even if..." You began, not knowing how you would finish the sentence. It was here that you faltered. "Even if I said yes, having sex with you isn't worth going to jail."

And there it was. Congratulations, Quincy, you said it. It isn't worth it, so you made her feel like she wasn't worth it. Stellar job, you congratulated yourself sarcastically. How much must she hate you now? If it was any tenth as much as you hated yourself, then you were definitely in hot water. You were beyond that. Jude's lips turned up in a bitter smile. She nodded her head, a sour look on her face. "Wow. Never knew you felt that way, Tom," She retorted sarcastically. Then Jude placed a finger on her lip thoughtfully. "Oh, wait... It's a little late for that, don'tcha think?" She sneered scornfully, pointing out just how much of a hypocrite you were. "Nice to see where I rank on your values," She muttered irritably, crossing her hands over her chest and beginning to walk away from you.

That had been what you wanted, hadn't it? To have her furious with you, a reaction you were used to? Funny how it didn't feel so good anymore. You walked after her, grabbing her arm and spinning her around to face you. You shook your head, frustrated with all the things she didn't understand. Maybe she didn't get you as much as you'd thought. Then again, she was just a girl, and it was wrong to expect so much from her. You clenched your fingers into fists. "Jude, it's not like that!" You ejaculated, livid and wrathful. Jude nearly jumped, and you felt guilty. You were being too harsh with her. You exhaled, drawing in a relaxed breath. "Damn it..." You muttered softly, under your breath, leaning against the wall. Next thing you knew, you were telling her things you knew you shouldn't, but you couldn't help yourself. "If I went to jail, I wouldn't get to see you for years. I can't handle that, and neither can you," You explained in a voice much lower and raspier than you intended. You wanted to touch her face, to splay your fingers on her chin and jawline.

She wasn't standing close enough to permit that, however, nor was she in a good enough mood to allow you to do such a thing. Right now, you were clearly persona non grata to Jude. She was starting to get sick of you, and you not loving her. Jude took a couple charged steps towards you. The vicious look in her eyes almost blew you away. Her eyes were a steely, threatening, accusing gray-blue. "My, Quincy, you sure do presume a lot about a girl," She hissed menacingly, stepping up to you, running her finger along your jawline coldly. A moment later, precisely when you weren't expecting it, she shoved you backwards. "Well, here's a newsflash for you: My life does not revolve around you... or any other man, for that matter!" She yelled virulently, narrowing her frosty blue eyes at you. She was hurt and just lashing out at you. And she'd misunderstood you again. You expected too much of her.

A lot of it was a show. As much as Jude wanted to be, she wasn't so fiercely independent. She depended on you a lot more than she wanted to admit. Not that you could tell by the possessed, seething form before you. "I will not just fall apart if you leave me," She vowed vehemently, giving you an out if you'd take it. Only you didn't want to leave her. You couldn't leave her, only to show her that all men would leave in the end. At that moment, however, she seemed as if she could take on anything, easily deal with the world... and come out on top. "I'm stronger than that." For her next statement, she made sure to look you straight in the eyes to show that she meant business. She was utterly serious and completely sober. She leaned in a little closer, stormy blue eyes flashing as she suddenly grabbed you by the collar. Her face was only inches from yours, but her thoughts were not of an amorous nature. "You might be the love of my life, Tommy, but my world doesn't end if you're not in it," Jude declared dauntlessly, bold and cocksure.

Independent spirit sparked dangerously in her eyes like lightning. For a split second, it looked like she was going to punch you, but she refrained. You knew she meant it, and even you weren't cocky enough to believe that it wasn't true. You hadn't meant that at all with your remark, and you wished she could see that. So, of course, you felt the need to explain. Jude removed her hands from your shirt, and you backed away. Next thing you knew, you were explaining it. After all, you were the love of her life, as she herself had just said, so she deserved to know what you really meant. "Well, Jude... Did you ever think that maybe mine will?" You questioned in a soft voice, looking at her through sorrowful eyes.

Jude's jaw dropped in shock. A moment later, she closed her jaw and shook her head in disbelief. She couldn't believe what you said was true. You understood that, too. You were a liar by nature, and you always had been. You'd grown up lying because lies made everything easier. Everyone was happier and better off not knowing the truth. Ignorance really was bliss. You weren't lying here, though. Jude gave your life meaning, as ridiculous as that sounded. You didn't think you could just resume your old life, going about all carefree, knowing that you'd hurt her this much. You didn't know how to live like that anymore. It was truly amazing how quickly your life had changed after meeting her, how quickly you'd started to develop feelings for her. Jude shook her head again, tears shining in her eyes. She refused to let them fall, but the watery sheen glistened. "Tommy... don't say things like that. Don't act like you have feelings for me," Jude reprimanded half-heartedly, glancing down so you wouldn't see her frantically trying to fight the tears.

It was a losing battle, too. You grabbed her hands gently, taking a step closer to her. You tilted her chin up, making her look at you. You looked her deep in the eyes, trying to let her know how sincere you were. You knew that she had absolutely no reason to believe you... No reason other than the fact that you meant every word with your whole heart. Even though you'd made it as clear and free of complication as you could, she still didn't seem to understand how you truly felt about her. Just because you didn't love her didn't mean that you had no feelings for her whatsoever. You cared about her a lot, and you had strong, romantic feelings for her that were as close to love as a guy like you could ever hope for. "I'm not acting, Jude," You murmured truthfully, holding her gaze and her grasp until she looked down and broke free.

She turned away from you, and when she turned back around, all vestiges of sadness or uncertainty were gone from her face. She crossed her arms over her chest, cheeks flushed in rage. Jude was surely no shrinking violet; that much was certain. She was a rose instead, one of a hue that resembled fresh blood. Like a rose, she was thin... But most importantly, she had thorns. You'd just pricked yourself on one. Just like a rose had thorns to protect itself from animals who would eat it or yank it out by its roots, Jude had these thorns in place to lessen the pain, to make you instead hurt as she did. And as a rose wilted, rotted, withered away, and died slowly as soon as you plucked it out of the warm, safe earth, no matter how much water you placed it in... So did Jude. She was a fresh-picked flower, and although she had at first bloomed, now she languished and appeared to wilt slowly before your eyes.

Her eyes were dead, devoid of emotion. She bared her thorns at you, wishing they were filled with poison... but she didn't have it in her. She just narrowed her eyes, an impossible, stubborn blue not found in nature. "And I'm not believing you, Tommy. You've never given me any reason to believe a single word you say," Jude snarled bitterly, hating you for all your lies. She hated you even worse for dressing them up in pretty clothing. A lie was a lie without the flattery. You sighed because she was right, and you were not too proud to admit to it. So you remained silent, and for a long time, you said nothing. There was nothing you could think of to possibly say.

Eventually, however, the strange, awkward silence started to get to you. You suddenly remembered something. You had to make her promise. While she wasn't going to like this, you needed to hear it from her own lips in order to get some peace of mind. Hearing her say it was security, safety. Once you had her word, you knew she wouldn't break it. After all, you could get in very big trouble for this, and while you resented making her lie for you... It was necessary, and thus... just. Or at least that's how you justified it, if only so you could live with yourself. You couldn't repeat last night, making her swear it didn't happen... But you could sure as hell act like it didn't, no matter how hard that was. "Jude... You can't ever tell anyone about this," You stated urgently. It was more of a plea than an order, but Jude thought otherwise.

She rolled her eyes at you, looking rather unaffected. It was as if she'd expected you to say that. Maybe she did know you after all... or maybe you were just ridiculously predictable. You didn't have any time to ponder this over, however, as you were quickly entangled in an awkward conversation with Miss Harrison. She smirked at you darkly. "Of course not, Tommy dearest," She retorted sarcastically, subtly hinting a resemblance to Mommy Dearest. She pulled a lipstick and compact out of her bag mid-phrase, quickly removing the top to the lipstick. She opened the compact, twisting the tube of lipstick until it actually came out. It was a dark crimson shade. Jude dragged it slowly across her lips, rubbing them together all the while staring in the mirror. "Wouldn't want you to go to jail or anything," She remarked obliquely, shooting you a dark look.

Jail. You nearly shuddered at the thought. You were sick of her being sarcastic. This was important to you, just like she was important to you. You bit your lip to avoid making a furious remark. You didn't have a choice here. The only reason you were even asking was to save your own skin. You had to do this, period. What did you have to do to get her to be quiet about this? Did you have to get down on your hands and knees and beg? Did you have to kiss her feet and offer her jewels and expensive clothes and bribes? What could you do to get her to swear her allegiance? Whatever it was... if she named it, you would do it in a heartbeat. No matter what it was. "That's not fair, Jude! I don't have a choice, okay?! I can't... I can't choose you. Even if I..." You exclaimed, beginning loudly, but slowly losing it mid-sentence. You simply couldn't think of anything else to say that hadn't already been said.

Jude raised an eyebrow at you, violently tossing the lipstick and compact (both of which were closed) into her purse. She frowned at you, hating you for trailing off at an interesting point. She pursed her lips, waiting for a moment for you to speak. "Even if you... what? Even if you... could? Even if you... wanted to? Huh, Tommy, which is it? Fill me in," She screamed mockingly, raising her arms, flinging them around. You felt mildly offended, as you'd meant the words to be more serious. Her she was, assuming she knew the end to your sentences. She didn't. Even you hadn't known what you were going to say.

You looked at her, desperation etched on your face. Panic was in your eyes. You were only about a step away from getting down on your knees for the third time that morning and pleading, praying, and kissing her feet. You'd give anything for her to agree with you. "Jude... Please... Promise me this. Promise me that you won't ever tell anyone about this... this..." You begged, clasping your two hands together. You should never have thrown yourself on her mercy. Jude wanted you to suffer as she had, and she had suffered far too much at your hands. She had cried and bled so much and so deeply at your hands that she was dying and when she finally expired, her blood would literally be on your hands. This... This was all your fault. You were so ashamed of it that you couldn't finish your sentences asking for the selfish assurance that you wouldn't get what you deserved. You shouldn't even be asking her for this. You should 'fess up and pay the piper.

But you can't do that either, because you'd be away from Jude. Which was the one thing in the world you wanted less than to be found out for the fraud and sex criminal you were. You were a deviant. Your obsession with Jude, still a minor and still a girl, was wholly unhealthy and wrong. You were not a teenager anymore, and that didn't give you the right to go around acting like one... cocky as hell, thinking you knew everything, owning the world, not giving a damn about anybody but yourself... Thinking foolishly that you could buy the world, that everything had a price. Your actions had consequences that affected people beyond you- people like Jude who were more important than a street rat like you could ever be. God, you didn't even know if you'd had protected sex, which was completely unlike you. You were always safe. You had to be. When had been the last time you forgot? Oh, yeah. NEVER. It wasn't that you needed it since she was a virgin, but she did. What if you'd given her some unknown STD accidentally? Or worse yet (was it really?), what if you got her pregnant? What would happen then?

You let the cool terror run over you as Jude started to speak. Your heart was beating so fast as the panic sped through your veins, shocking your senses worse than an electric current. "One-night stand? That is the word you're looking for, isn't it, Tommy?" Jude taunted mercilessly, noting how you paled. She didn't get it, though. It wasn't your typical one-night stand. If it had been, you would've woken her up right after you did and physically kicked her out of the bed. You almost made her breakfast! But Jude just got you. She most certainly didn't know you that well- other than in a biblical sense, of course. You'd just jumped straight into bed with the girl on the first opportunity you could get. Only it wasn't the first opportunity you'd ever been presented with, not with this girl. You'd been alone in your car for long expanses of time with Jude. You had even been alone with her on the farm for a significant amount of time. But this time it had truly been viable. There was no one to interrupt, no place either of you had to be but... here. "This really means nothing to you, doesn't it? I'm just another one-night stand to you, and you expect me to be okay with this. You expect me to lie to save your sorry ass," Jude demanded disbelievingly, fury rising back up in her again.

You had to act like it meant nothing to you. You had to act cool and nonchalant, not that you'd been doing a proper job of that so far, what with the mushy speeches and the stuttering and the comforting. Although Jude knew you as a nice guy, you weren't one. You'd toned it down specifically for her because she was so young. You didn't hit on her for that precise reason, not that you weren't adverse to hitting on your female artists. In fact, you frequently flirted with them like a madman, even Jude... Having a young, attractive producer who knew all the right lines and said all the right things was great inspiration for a love song, after all. And you couldn't help it if your clients loved you and regularly wrote songs about you. You secretly loved hearing a song on the radio, knowing it was written about you. It was so... flattering.

However charismatic and flirtatious you may be, you were very good at your job. You were really a consummate professional, despite appearances. You just hadn't crossed the line with any of your charges... not that they hadn't wanted it. You were Tom Quincy, so of course they wanted it. Really, who didn't? But you were no René Angélil (despite how you were acting), and you thought that it was a dirty pool. She wasn't just another one-night stand, and you didn't expect her to be okay. You didn't expect yourself to be okay. But yes, fundamentally, when you got down to it, you did expect her to lie to save your sorry ass. You wanted her to do it, and you needed her to do it, but you didn't have to like it. You shook your head, frazzled and barely able to string two words together. "Jude... I'm... This is an impossible position... and I..." You stammered, racking your brain to think of something decent to say.

Predictably, you came up empty. Words always failed you in your time of need, but you supposed that not all times were suited to words. Words couldn't fix everything, after all... They were only words, not magic... even from your lips. Jude looked irritated and bitter and suddenly so old. You had made her this way, jaded. "No, Tom," Jude insisted brashly, interrupting your nonsensical speech once again. She nodded curtly, clamping her hand down hard upon your shoulder. "I get it, and I'll even keep our dirty little secret," I announced loudly, holding out her hand for you to shake to make the promise good. You had gotten what you wanted from her... in more than one way, and she'd just agreed to be discrete about it, to keep a secret that was partly hers. So, if everything was going exactly as you had wanted, then why did you feel so miserable? You were so guilty it almost killed you.

Finally, you had almost grabbed her hand to shake on the promise when she craftily jerked her hand away. She stared at you, tossing her hair with pride. Her features were a perfect depiction of anger. "Because I love you, as twisted and as stupid as that is! You're lucky I love you!" She shrieked at the top of her lungs. Her voice was raspy and too shrill; it hurt your ears. You didn't need her to tell you that again. It felt like a vice around your heart, the guilt did, slowly crushing the life out of you. You didn't need that dull, throbbing pain, or the endless wishing that you felt the same... if only so you could alleviate some of her hurt, her turmoil, her despondency. You said nothing, though, knowing you deserved this verbal upbraiding. It would be a sick sort of catharsis, but if it would help her, you were all for it. You were lucky, though, that she loved you.

Many women had loved you in the past... but never for who you really were. Never for Tommy, always for the teen idol, that poster up on their wall. They thought of you as a flawless god, and once they found out who you really were, they didn't love you anymore. Not that you had ever loved them. In fact, you usually beat them to the punch by dumping them first. You never let anyone get too close; you were intrinsically mistrustful of mankind in general. But they say the love of a good woman changes a man, and... While you had continuously debated for months on whether or not Jude was actually a woman, but she was good, much better than you were. She was too good for you in any world, especially this one. Shay had called you Saint Tommy, and while you were sanctimonious, Jude was the true saint. She sure had the patience of one for putting up with you two. And... You couldn't deny that she'd changed you in the short time you'd known her. She not only made you want to be a better guy; she actually made you a better guy just for knowing her. Of course, Jude had no idea about any of this, not quite comprehending the pull and influence she had on you or the fierce affection you had for her.

You knew that wasn't love, but it sure felt a lot like it... or so you imagined, because you don't really know, of course. Jude shook her head, pursing her lips and leaning against the wall. She laughed hollowly, a thin smile faked unto her lips. "It would be so easy... so easy. You have no idea how easy it would be for me to tell someone. Like my dad or my mom. And I could tell them you took advantage of me and flash big, tearful eyes and say that you got me drunk," Jude remarked in a cool, calculated tone. She almost seemed bored and apathetic, but her eyes lit up when she thought about how easy it would be. You began to worry anew with all her talk of telling people, especially her parents. You'd come so close to getting her to promise, and now she was going to shoot all that to hell like she hadn't an ounce of love for you in her heart.

But she was wrong. You did know how easy it would be. Just like it would've been easier to walk away after you rose and pretend all of this never happened. Up until recently, you had been okay with settling for this life that was merely pretty on the outside, and empty on the inside. You had been a fan of going down the road less traveled by... You knew every good intention that paved the road to Hell because you'd been there and back... somehow alive and in one piece. You were certainly no stranger to the path of least resistance. Hell, you'd practically worn the trail down yourself. As of late, however, you had been doing things the hard way, knowing you couldn't have what you wanted... not like this, in the wrong place at the wrong time, but especially the wrong time. You were not a patient man, but you had waited, even if it was only for four long months.

Jude pursed her scarlet lips speculatively, running a finger absentmindedly along the length of her bottom lip. She looked so... Different. She definitely wasn't a girl anymore. She was a woman, thanks to you, her much older producer, and there was no denying it. You felt a small sense of pride at the accomplishment was were able to manage a small smirk. Jude's eyes were dark and vengeful as she thought aloud. "I could tell them that you took me back to your place, plied me with wine, got me drunk, took advantage of me in my vulnerable state, and that you..." Jude suggested in a low, husky voice. She peered at you through dark, heavily-lashed half-lidded eyes. A moment later, she slid her hand up and underneath your shirt easily, feeling your chiseled stomach hungrily, as if she wanted to memorize the feeling of you for the series of lonely nights in her future. Then abruptly, her eyes cleared, and she was no longer dazed. She quickly removed her hands from your bare skin and your shirt, pulling back a little.

Her bright blue eyes started to tear up, and she feebly attempted to blink the tears away. She spoke with a shaky, hesitant voice. It sounded uncharacteristically weak of Jude. She was many things, but weak was not one of them. "That I said no, that I didn't want you... And you went ahead anyways," She cried through forced tears, which she wiped away in a second. They stopped almost immediately. Your jaw dropped as you realized just how well she could act- and how easily she could make it sound like you'd raped her. You couldn't particularly remember it, either, so you couldn't deny it. In your own eyes, if you hadn't, since you'd gotten her drunk, you had gone as good as the same thing. She wasn't qualified to consent since she was drunk, and authority figures weren't supposed to try and have sex with her. You couldn't believe she'd be that awful and that vindictive to you, but then again, it could've been the truth. You had no memories to back you up.

Jude's face hardened almost immediately, and the ghost of a smile traced her lips. She shrugged frostily, acting deceptively calm. You were freaking out, and your heart beat painfully in your chest, slamming against your ribs. "Either way, it's so easy to lie," She said tranquilly, smoothing her dress serenely. Her eyes narrowed then as she took a defensive stance. It was all right. You had nothing to say to defend yourself. You deserved it, after all, whatever punishment she had in mind for your heartbreaking antics. "It'd almost be easier to nail you to the wall, but..." She mused briefly before suddenly trailing off, a very human emotion flashing in her eyes. She took a deep breath, looking vaguely apologetic. "I can't do that. I'd feel guilty," She mumbled honestly, looking down at her feet. You suddenly felt better knowing that she wasn't going to rat out your sin to the world, parents first, Georgia second, and tabloids third. You didn't think you needed that handshake anymore. Just knowing and feeling the relief was good enough for you now.

You felt like a huge weight had been lifted off of your shoulders, so great was your liberation. Somewhere along the lines Jude had morphed back into that sad girl with a guitar again. Only her guitar was nowhere in sight, and she was no longer a girl- she was a woman. And, like you'd thought before... that was solely your doing, no one else's. Her eyes were melancholic, her lips were frowning, and she was clearly fighting tears. "And in some ways, it's worse this way, because... You have to face me every damn day, knowing what you did. That way you'll have some modicum of how I feel. It'll hurt me to see you every day, but not as much as it'll hurt you..." She said quietly, voice shaking only slightly. The tears fell down her cheeks slowly. She was oddly wise, as if she had the future written in her eyes. She spoke her next words like a gypsy over her crystal ball, cursing on you and your house because you shortchanged her. "And that guilt's the worst of all because it will never, ever leave you," Jude predicted in a foreboding tone. Her eyes were made all the more blue by sorrow, or perhaps just her reddened eyes.

A mysterious, wicked smile appeared on Jude's lips, unbidden. She came closer, eyes thin slits. "Even when I'm overage... you'll remember your little part in my corruption," She promised poisonously, pointing a finger at you as if casting a spell on you. It sounded suspiciously like a curse. Then the strange, ethereal glow disappeared from her eyes, which once again became a desolate periwinkle. "Neither of us is ever going to forget, Tommy," She whimpered disconsolately, as a means of saying goodbye. You also recognized the promise in that statement, which scared you more than that faux enchantment ever could. What scared you was the fact that she was right, and you were so worried that this decision, this huge mistake you'd made with Jude would haunt you for the rest of your life. The mistake was not that you slept with her, which was a mistake too, but really more of a happy accident. The mistake was doing this, making her promise, making her lie, making her deny it all. That was wrong; that was the real mistake. Why couldn't you see that before.

Jude wiggled her fingers weakly, as a pathetic goodbye wave. She was trembling silently, shaking with the force of the silent tears that were falling down her smooth cheekbones. However, as miserable as the sight of Jude crying like that was, she still had her dignity. She had enough pride to hold her head up high and to fix her eyes on you, her fleeing Polaris, who had shifted position last night and was no longer her North Star... far from being any sort of compass, moral or not. She refused to sob, to even open her mouth. She didn't want to be any more weak and vulnerable than she had been already. It had gotten her nowhere and even less with you. This goodbye wasn't right.

It shouldn't be a cold, feeble wave. She shouldn't be crying so hard and trying to restrain it without even a whimper. It should be an embrace or a kiss or something. Something, anything, anything more than this barren farewell! But no, no kisses whatsoever! You'd only get carried away then, and everyone knows what would happen then, what terrible misdeeds you would commit shortly afterward. Still, you felt you needed to do something, something better than a wave. So you wrapped your arms around her, taking her into your arms, and wiping away her tears. You allowed yourself the luxury of one last, lingering embrace.

The embrace seemed to go on for a lifetime, to last an eternity. It was strange, but that simple touch made you feel so much better. Finally, you were forced to pull away. Kiss me goodbye, Judas. And, like the Biblical tale, it was an act of betrayal. You betrayed your own heart just as much as you betrayed and abandoned Jude. You were like pious Peter after he'd denied his friendship the third time, fallen from grace and not above the others anymore, not the most loyal friend. You never had been above the others. Just like Judas, you'd betrayed your best friend with a kiss... and so much more. The guilt was still piercing, but it had dulled with every moment you spent in her embrace. Now it was slowly surging back like a viper's venom, hitting you in waves of pain. Jude had stopped crying, if only momentarily. She smiled weakly at you, trying to let you know that there was some hope left for her to be happy. You tried to smile back, but it didn't reach your eyes. You couldn't make this better... You couldn't make yourself love her when you didn't. You finally accepted that, simply because you had no other choice.

You turned your back on her, leaving her there in your room, utterly forsaken. You reached the door in a few moments, and just before you closed it, you heard her start to sob. "Goodbye, girl," You whispered softly, under your breath. You didn't look back, even though you wanted to, and the guilt was plaguing you. You had to look to the future, when you could do this for real... if Jude ever gave you a second shot. Not that you deserved one. You'd taken advantage of her, abused her trust, gotten her drunk, deflowered her, kept her up and out all night, and broken her heart twice in as many days... and you didn't even have the nerve to remember the best part, the part that had gotten you in this situation in the first place! You were a terrible excuse for a man. Maybe she wasn't the child here. She wasn't your girl... maybe you were her boy. She might be the teenager, but you were the one who acted like it and knew better.

You thought of her sobbing and wondered when and if you'd ever see her again. You wouldn't blame her if she requested a new producer. But you wanted to be in her life so badly, damn it, that you'd do anything to stay in it! Anything. You felt wrong and sick about this, though... And even though you'd just showered, you felt dirtier than you did before, reeking of sex. You'd committed a cardinal sin here, and you were no helpless victim of lust, but a willing participant. The punishment deserved to be all on you, yet Jude was the one walking around in your hotel with a broken heart. It just didn't seem fair that she should suffer for your indiscretion. You'd done wrong by this girl. And, as you shut the door behind you, turning your back on her once and for all, you couldn't help but feel that you'd made a huge mistake here. One you would wind up paying for for the rest of your life.

Loren ;

Please review for this. Really, please... Don't you think I deserve it? I mean, I realize that this chapter is horribly depressing and repetitive and it seems to drag on and on at times... But it's the size of a Consequences chapter, and you all review for those. Ahem, sorry, I sound rather pathetic there, and begging/whining. I apologize. This chapter has just given me a really hard time, as has my computer. And I had to keep breaking to hold in the powercord. And I only missed my deadline by one day! Gimme some credit here, people. ;)

Oh, and before I forget, as you hopefully have noticed, last chapter was called "Happy Birthday". Every chapter in this story is named after a song. So, if you guess the name of the artist/band who sing(s)/wrote the song and the album on which it was on, you get spoilers! Yay! It's rather obscure, but I think you can guess it, especially if you've read this chapter well enough.

Anyways, thanks to any of you that review, and thanks to any of you that just read it. Though the thanks are understandably more grateful to the reviewers. I don't blame the lurkers, though. Anyways, thanks so much for all your wonderful support! And I had a great birthday, to anyone who wondered! ;)