Author: ThereAfter PM
Alex never made a bet, but he gambled with desire. He never lit a match with intent to start a fire, but recently the flames were getting out of control. SKoW Challenge Response - #23 So Many Songs, But I'm Feeling So Lonely. SKoW Runner-Up Round 11Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Angst - Words: 7,419 - Reviews: 15 - Favs: 28 - Follows: 2 - Published: 11-05-10 - Status: Complete - id: 2861925
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Challenge #23: "So Many Songs, But I'm Feeling So Lonely!"
General Idea: Write a one-shot based on a song, either one from the SKoW playlist or another of your choice - as long as it's even remotely related to love, it'll do.
- the story must follow the plot of the song
- the title of the song must be the title of the story, or at least a part of it (ex: Walking By: Pete's Story, with the song in question being "Walking By" from Something Corporate... you get the gist)
- you must use at least three lines from the song as narration or dialogue. Be sure to bold or underline them. I italicized them.
- give us what song you're using at the beginning of the chapter, along with all the usual skow challenge requirements
- must be at least 6000 words
- this is not a "songfic" so no free-hanging verses in the middle of the story (all song lines added in must make sense and flow with the rest of the story)
AN: The song I chose is Jasey Rae by All Time Low, specifically the acoustic version. I suggest listening to it while you read.
His head fell back against the couch as she pressed light, darting kisses along the column of his neck. She kissed the corner of his jaw, nipping his skin lightly, a soft giggle escaping her lips as she pulled back. Her hair fell around them like a curtain, blocking his view of anything other than her face.
Try as he might, he couldn't stop his gaze from dropping to her lips, bruised and swollen from his feverish kisses. Her voice, when she spoke, was breathy and light, an unavoidable reminder of how new this all was to her. "What, Alex? Did I do something?"
He barely stopped himself from laughing at her. Sure, she had done something. She had been doing something all night. It had been easy enough to ignore her at first: the party had been pretty wild and she'd stuck close to her friend – Lorry, or Rory, or something, he honestly hadn't bothered trying to remember – but he kept seeing her out of the corner of his eye, quick flashes of her hair or smile. Worst of all had been when he caught her draining the very last of a beer, her head tipped back, lips curved around the mouth of the bottle. Hell if he could resist that.
It hadn't been hard to convince her to stay after everyone else went home. A few whispered words in her ear, a quick graze of his lips along her jaw, and she had been putty in his hands. Rian, his roommate, didn't even blink an eye when Alex tugged her downstairs, one finger looped around four of hers. She wasn't the first girl he had persuaded to stay, and she wouldn't be the last.
Taking advantage of the way they lay on the battered couch in his musty, old basement and the way her legs straddled his lap, he rocked his hips into hers. He couldn't think of a clearer method to explain why he had moaned her name and if she didn't understand him now, he was sure she never would. Surprise flickered across her face at his crude clarification and she bit her lip sharply, her teeth teasing the tender flesh.
His skin blazed wherever they touched, and his veins pumped with liquid fire. It was driving him insane.
God, he wanted her so damned bad.
His next kiss was rough with intent, deliberate and practiced. But as his tongue brushed over her bottom lip, she pulled away, shaking her head slightly, raising a hand to touch her lips. "Wait, Alex. Please, just wait."
"What's wrong, babe?" he groaned, pressing his face against her neck. "Don't you want this?"
"I –" she hesitated, stumbling over her words. "Where is this coming from? Before tonight, I barely would've thought us friends." He felt her shudder as she released a hard breath, her chest deflating raggedly. "I don't understand…"
"I've wanted you for so long, so damn long." He'd wanted her ever since she walked into his house that night, dressed to kill, her skirt showing off just a little more leg than was strictly necessary, her top riding up to reveal a strip of tanned, taut stomach. He'd wanted her ever since she greeted him with a shy smile and quick hug, barely even touching him before being dragged off by her friend.
In the silent moments that followed his words, he heard the distinct clap of thunder outside and the pattering of rain against the small windows at the top of the walls. A streak of lightning lit the room, illuminating her from behind and casting her face into weird relief, the shadows playing across her skin.
It seemed so simple in his head; it had been so simple dozens of times before. And yet Jasey appeared confused, troubled and unsure. "I don't just hook up with guys, Alex. I can't just… it's just not me."
"I'm not asking you to hook up," he said, his lips ghosting over her skin with each word. "I'm up for anything with you. Anything." Tonight, he added silently. He was up for anything tonight. He would run down the street in nothing but his boxers – less if she wanted – and proclaim her his girlfriend, his one true love, anything as long as she stopped resisting. "Jase," he whispered. "Trust me."
A second passed in utter silence and he thought she would say no, shake her head, and scramble off his lap, but then she leaned forward, dipping her head down so that she could press her lips to his. The kiss was tentative at first before he urged it farther along, sliding his tongue past her lips to glide against her own.
His hands gripped her hips, pulling her down into him, and he rocked against her in a desperate search for friction, for the contact he knew wasn't far now. Slipping his thumbs beneath her shirt, he rubbed slow circles against her skin. A low, whimpering moan escaped her when he bit her lip and began to kiss a hot trail down her jaw to her neck. He nipped and sucked a spot at the hollow of her throat, soothing the tender spot with gentle swipes of his tongue.
Her head fell back, revealing more of her neck, and he quickly tugged her shirt up and over her head, tossing it to the ground before pressing a kiss to her breast just above her bra. "Fuck, Jasey…"
"Alex. Alex! Snap out of it, man!"
The voice startled him and Alex jerked his head up, casting a confused glance around the kitchen. Rian stood in the doorway, an annoyed expression on his face, arms crossed over his chest. Making a rude gesture toward his watch, he demanded, "What the hell, Alex? You were supposed to meet me outside twenty minutes ago. Remember, I was going to introduce you to my girlfriend?"
"Right, right. Chill out." He stood up roughly, his chair scraping against the floor with a screech. "Let me grab some shoes." Pushing a hand through his messy hair, Alex started toward the foyer.
"You don't have time to put them on. Just grab a pair and go out to the car," Rian said, shoving his friend to get him moving faster. "Tory is going to kill me if we're late."
Tory. Why did that name seem so familiar?
He scooped a pair of sneakers off the ground and followed Rian outside, quickly checking to make sure the front door was locked before trotting to the car. Tossing the shoes onto the floor, he climbed into the passenger seat and fumbled with his seatbelt. Why was the damn thing so hard to clip in? It wouldn't protect him if he couldn't get it to work.
Rian watched him struggle, before reaching over and securing the seat belt for him. "Have you woken up without a hangover a single time this week?" he demanded, a frown marring his features. "You need to lay off the partying, Alex. I know we're young and whatever, but you're going to kill yourself at this rate."
"I'm fine. Don't worry about it." Alex stared out the window, watching the houses rush by as Rian picked up speed. The last thing he needed was to talk about how many beers he had drunk the night before. Just the thought made his empty stomach heave. "So, this girl, Tory… How'd you two meet again?"
"That party we hosted a few months ago. I mean, I knew her in high school and she goes to UMass with us, but we never really talked until then. We hung out a lot over the summer and things, uh, got a little heated one night." He shrugged. "It just made sense to make us official, you know?"
Alex fought to keep his expression neutral, praying that his best friend didn't look over and notice anything was amiss. Tory was Jasey's friend, the one whose name he hadn't been able to remember.
It shouldn't have been a big deal, seeing Tory that is. He had slept with plenty of girls before, and he had seen them and their friends afterward without a problem. But he hadn't told those girls the things he had told Jasey, he hadn't made them promises he couldn't keep, he hadn't disappeared on them as soon as everything was over. And, most importantly, they hadn't haunted him the way she did.
They didn't leave an aching in his back; a stabbing pain that said he lacked the common sense and confidence to bring an end to promises that he made in times of desperate conversation.
And desperate it had been. He had realized that the next morning as he hid on their rickety back porch, waiting for Rian to text him and say he had dropped Jasey off at her house, waiting so that he could go inside without running the risk of seeing her.
He had never told a lie that night, but he had never told the truth either, and that made him a liar. He had blurred the reality about his intentions, about his feelings, about everything. For the life of him, he couldn't think of one thing he had been entirely honest about. He had said whatever it took to get her to say yes, no matter how big an exaggeration it was, no matter how much he stretched the truth.
At least he was feeling the guilt now, just as he had been every time he had thought of her since that night. That wasn't to say he hadn't slept with girls, or even that he had changed his ways really. Alex was still Alex. Nothing would change that. But never again would he take advantage of a girl who didn't know any better.
She had been a fucking virgin, for God's sake, and he had taken that from her in exchange for a few well-placed fibs.
"Alex?" Rian asked. "You still with me?"
"What?" He glanced at his friend, shoving his thoughts aside. "Yeah, totally. I get what you mean about Tory. Dating her because things got serious and everything."
"Try not to zone out like that when you meet her, alright?" Rian shook his head, laughing at Alex's distracted behavior. "It's not exactly the best way to make a first impression." The car turned into the parking lot of Rian's favorite breakfast place and Alex wondered where the ride had gone. It had been his last chance to get it together before seeing Tory and all he had managed to do was remind himself of how badly he had screwed up.
Leaning over to pull on his shoes, he shot Rian a pointed look. "It won't be a first impression. We went to high school together."
"Yeah, but did you ever talk to her? And I don't mean that she, like, passed you papers in class or something." Rian pulled his knees up to rest against the steering wheel and glanced down at him. "Are you sure you're okay, Alex? You've been acting out of it all day."
"Seriously, I'm fine. Stop worrying so much. I doubt Tory will find it attractive." He pushed his door open and stepped out onto the pavement, stretching his arms above his head in an attempt to get the kinks out of his back.
"It's not like you're much of a threat," Rian said, joining Alex on the tarmac and locking his car. "Your hair's a mess and you're wearing the same clothes you were last night. You probably smell like stale beer, not that I'm willing to get close enough to actually check."
"All right, shut up," Alex snapped. "I get it. You want me to stop partying. Message received. Now, let's get this over with." Shoving his hands into the pockets of his hoodie, Alex crossed the parking lot, Rian on his heels, and together they stepped into the quiet little diner.
Alex spotted Tory immediately – and not just because she was the only customer in the restaurant. Her tight, springy blonde curls stood out against the drab surroundings and he almost feared that the vibrant pink of her shirt would leave an afterimage on his vision. Tory was bubbly, fiery – possibly a little crazy. She was the complete opposite of quiet, soft-spoken Jasey.
Which was why it made no sense that he could practically see Jasey sitting beside her. He could see the way her hair would tumble over her shoulder as she tilted her head to the side, laughing for no other reason than because she could. He could see the way she would smile, just a gentle curve of her lips, a small sign that she was happy, content simply to be with her friend.
But that was how she would have looked before he slept with her.
He didn't know how she would look now. Would she still laugh so easily? Still smile at everything?
Maybe it was cocky to think that she was as affected by that night as he was, but – damn it all to hell! – he did not want to be the only one shaken up by what happened between them. It was pathetic: the way he hid from reminders of her, the way he worked so hard to pretend like he was exactly who he had always been.
"You're spacing out again," Rian murmured, wrapping a hand around Alex's arm and pulling him toward the booth where Tory sat. Releasing Alex, he slid into the seat beside his girlfriend and leaned over to give her a kiss. "Morning, Tor."
She grinned and, splaying her hands against his chest, pushed him away. "It's nearly noon," she said with a shake of her head. "And you're ten minutes late."Rian mumbled some sort of apology, but Tory ignored him, instead turning her gaze to where Alex stood and motioning him to sit down. "Hello, Alex."
Her cool greeting sent a flash of determination through him and he set his shoulders before sliding into the booth. 'Hello' was such an austere word, so removed and painfully polite. It lacked the cheerful quality of 'hi' and made a mockery of the friendly, but relaxed 'hey.' With that simple word, Tory had said all that was necessary. She did not like him, and this meeting was for the sake of pretense only. Were it not for Rian, she wouldn't even share airspace with him, that much was clear.
His roommate was oblivious to the tension in the air and began an animated conversation about a psychology class he was taking at UMass. Alex was surprised by the ease with which Tory joined the discussion. If he hadn't already been made aware of her distaste for him, he never would have realized it based on the way she joked with Rian and made idle chit chat with Alex himself. Her poker face was flawless.
It was a talent he couldn't help but respect.
Their waitress, when she finally appeared, looked frazzled. Her hair was falling loose from her ponytail and what looked to be ketchup stains lay splattered across her shirt. She rambled off her name and welcome speech so quickly that Tory had to ask her to repeat the day's specials twice before any of them actually understood what she was saying.
Alex had leaned toward the waitress with his casual, flirty smile firmly in place without even realizing he had done so, and it was only the scowl Tory sent him that made him conscious of his hesitated for a fraction of a second before shaking her off, turning all his charm on, and focusing on their waitress. Flirting with the wait staff was a staple in all of his dining experiences. There wasn't a chance in hell he was changing that for Tory, regardless of her status as Rian's girlfriend and especially not because of her status as Jasey's friend.
The waitress responded immediately to the way he ran his hand through his hair and flashed her his most charming smile. The bored indifference left her voice, replaced by a flirtatiousness that was nearly too obvious for even Alex to stomach.
Nearly being the optimum word, as he had yet to encounter a flirt who was too over the top for his taste.
When she left their table and returned to the kitchen, there was an unmistakable swing to her hips, and the smile she threw over her shoulder was far from polite. It spoke of an invitation to a far more private activity, one that would make a man less experienced blush. Alex was simply amused.
As the kitchen door swung shut behind her, Rian resumed their conversation exactly where they had left off, eventually pulling Alex in as well, coaxing him into talking about his economics class and his rather crazy professor. Tory laughed at the stories about the man's antics and admitted that she had him the following semester, but had been considering switching classes. Now, after hearing Alex's anecdotes, she was rethinking that decision yet again.
Alex was just beginning to feel comfortable when Rian stood from his seat and announced he needed to make a trip to the bathroom. Assuring them that he wouldn't care if they continued the conversation in his absence, he started across the room.
The silence that fell was immediate and uncomfortable, leaving Alex wishing that guys went to the bathroom in groups in the same manner as girls.
Tory's easy-going demeanor dropped so quickly he was left doubting it had existed at all, and the way she leaned across the table toward him nearly had him cowering back against his seat. Reminding himself that he had nothing to be ashamed of – or at the very least, nothing to apologize to this specific girl for – he straightened his back and crossed his arms over his chest.
She didn't give him a chance to speak, her hand smacking down hard on the table a moment before he opened his mouth. "I can't believe Rian is friends with you!" she snapped. "I mean, really. You're so damn fake, sitting there like you're king of the world, flirting with our waitress as if you give a shit who she is. It's such utter bullshit!"
"King of the world?" he said, the beginnings of a smirk pulling at his lips. "At least I didn't start today off with all the civility of an ice bitch. 'Hello, Alex,'" he imitated, heightening the pitch of his voice and looking down his nose at her.
"God!" Her hand collided with the table so roughly that the saltshaker toppled over, spilling white grains across the tabletop. "Don't act like you've done nothing wrong, like you have nothing to be defensive about."
"I haven't and I don't," he responded calmly, letting his hands drop into his lap and easing into a relaxed position. He stretched his legs under the table, intentionally crowding into her space and forcing her to move. "I've done nothing to you. This is the longest conversation we've ever had. Whatever problems I have are none of your concern."
"Is that what you think?" Tory leaned across the table, her wild curls falling over her shoulders with the movement. "Well, I don't know about you, but I stick up for the people I care about. I come to their defense when assholes play fucking mind-games with them."
This girl was pissing him off. His issues with Jasey were just that: with Jasey. Tory needed to take one hell of a step back.
"Oh, I assure you, there were no mind-games. Just fucking, some good, old-fashioned fucking." The disgusted look that crossed her face justified the sour aftertaste the words left in his mouth.
"You worthless piece of shit!"
Maybe she was going to continue, maybe she wasn't. Alex would never know, because at that moment he heard the sound of a door opening and he knew that Rian was returning from the bathroom, leaving them no time to continue their argument.
The glare Tory sent him was enough, though. He had made no friends here and in all likelihood he never would. The damage he had wrought that night in the basement was a barrier they could never surpass – not that he had ever thought it anything else.
Nonetheless, he was surprised by how disappointed he felt.
The night was calm, the sky clear of clouds. Alex knew that. But, as he lay sprawled across the couch in the basement, he could swear, not for the first time, that he heard rain pattering outside. Lightning flashed across his closed eyelids, and he snapped them open, revealing nothing but the dank, inky darkness of the basement.
He had stumbled down the stairs nearly an hour ago, not even bothering to flick on the lights as he went, his mind foggy and his stomach protesting the spiked punch he had chugged at a party earlier that night. It had become a routine of sorts, to end his nights after parties on the rickety, old couch.
Or, well, to end the nights where he left parties solo – and that wasn't actually all that often. But on those rare occasions when he did leave alone, he always managed to find his way to the basement. Maybe the alcohol was trying to tell him something, or maybe he just had masochistic tendencies. Either way, he and the couch had been seeing more of each other than they ever had in the past.
Knowing there was nothing to see in the dark, Alex let his eyelids flutter closed once more, slinging an arm across his head in the process, as though that would block out his pounding headache. Rian was probably right: Alex should cut back on the partying. His grades were crappier than ever, and they hadn't been all that great to start with. He went to a party last week on a Tuesday, for Christ's sake. Who the hell did that?
The tinkling laughter that split the silence barely fazed him. When he had first heard it weeks ago, lying on the couch all alone in what he had assumed was a deserted basement, he had freaked out, panicking at the thought of Jasey in the house. He had lurched into a sitting position, his head spinning, only to find the basement as empty as it had been when he first arrived. It had taken ages for him to realize that it was all in his head.
Now, after hearing her laughter and sometimes even her voice and pleased, little moans for weeks, he knew to just ignore it. No one else ever came down to the basement, not even Rian, and anything he heard was just his guilt fucking with his head. It was the same reason he could hear the rain and see the lightning.
It was also what kept bringing him back to the couch, since the couch itself certainly wasn't responsible. The thing was uncomfortable as hell, the cushions lumpy and old. No, he didn't come back for the couch. He came back because he needed the reminder that he had screwed up – royally so.
Of course, he didn't enjoy hearing Jasey; rather he listened to her because he refused to make the same mistake again. Hell, if he didn't fuck up a second time, maybe his conscience would lay off and he could get over the whole damned mess.
He heard Rian banging around upstairs, and the sound of Jasey's laughter faded away, leaving him with only the thump of his pulse in his temples and the gentle drumming of the nonexistent rain.
Moments later, when Jasey appeared in his mind's eye, she was so clear he could swear he had gone back in time. She looked so real with her hair tumbling down around his shoulders, her lips swollen. For a second, he could have sworn that he could feel her legs straddling his waist, her hands curled over his shoulders. And then, as Rian fell silent overhead, her voice drifted to him, soft and unsure.
"I don't just hook up with guys, Alex. I can't just… it's just not me."
"You think I don't know that, Jasey," he snapped. "I mean for fuck's sake—"
Dropping his arm, he opened his eyes and sat up. Was he honestly talking to thin air? Maybe he'd had more to drink than he had realized.
Heaving a sigh, he swung his legs over the side of the couch and braced his elbows on his knees, staring into the darkness.
"I get it," he said, his voice loud in the silence, despite being little more than a whisper. "I have to keep my fingers from making mistakes, to tell my voice what it takes to speak up and keep my conscience clean when I wake. I have to talk to Jasey and deal with this crap. After that, this guilt shit needs to stop."
He didn't receive an answer, but he hadn't been expecting one anyway. Voicing his thoughts made them real, something concrete that he had to follow through on; if they remained in his head, he would ignore them, just as he had ignored them for months.
Pushing himself off the couch, he fought off the wave of nausea that rolled over him and started up the stairs. He emerged from the basement into the small, cluttered hallway and called, "Rian?"
Shoving his hands into the pockets of his hoodie and squinting to block out the bright lights, Alex stepped into the kitchen and leaned his shoulder against the doorframe. Rian sat at their battered table, his college books scattered about him. He was rifling through a folder, his reading glasses sliding farther down his nose with each passing second. Realizing Alex had joined him, Rian looked up, took off his glasses, and rubbed the bridge of his nose. "What's up?"
How was he supposed to casually ask if Rian knew anything about Jasey? Rian was aware Alex had slept with her, but Alex had never told his friend the actual details of that night. He had no idea about the numerous lies Alex had told, the promises he had made but had no intention of keeping. Was there a way to broach the topic of Jasey without making Rian suspicious? Alex wasn't sure, but he was willing to venture a guess that no matter what he said Rian would be curious at the very least.
"You know Tory's friend Jasey?" he said at last. He might as well go for it, he figured. Worse come to worst, come morning he could pretend he had been so drunk that he didn't remember any of their conversation.
"Of course." Rian raised an eyebrow before sliding his glasses back on and returning his gaze to his textbook. "She lives with Tory on campus. They're roommates."
So that ruled out going to Jasey's dorm. If at all possible, he was going to deal with this problem without tangling with Tory. She was Rian's girlfriend, and Alex didn't want to cause any unnecessary tension between the two, but God knew what he would do if he saw the girl again. She had no qualms about bitching him out, and quite frankly he didn't need any more reminders of his fuck-up, especially not in the form of angry best friends.
He was plenty aware already.
"Look, man," Rian said. "Tory was pissed after the three of us had breakfast together last week and when I asked her why, she told me all about what happened with Jasey. I know that her version of the story probably doesn't match up with yours, but I'm just going to go out on a limb and say that you should leave well enough alone. Tory's more riled up than Jasey is, but that doesn't mean you should try to rehash something that happened months ago. What happened with Jasey happened. Let it be."
Alex frowned, toying with the string of his hood while he tried to think up a way to explain why he had to talk to Jasey.
Everything he came up with sounded stupid, not to mention petty. It wasn't like he was going to talk to her and walk away a changed man. Hell, if things went his way, he wouldn't have another guilty thought about Jasey the rest of his life. All he wanted was to say a quick apology, get this crap off his chest, and move on.
It was as simple – and selfish – as that.
"I'm not going to try to make friends, Rian, if that's what you think," Alex said. He crossed his arms over his chest and rocked his head back against the doorframe, staring at the ceiling. "And I definitely don't want to get in her pants again."
"And that's supposed to make everything better?" Rian turned to face him, looking more than a little aggravated. "Everybody and their mother knows that you sleep around, and there are plenty of girls who would willingly jump in your bed. I don't see why you went out of your way to convince Jasey you cared about her. Did you even know who she was before our party?"
"Of course I knew who she was!" Wincing at his own raised voice, Alex forced himself to remain calm. "I'm not going to justify myself to you, okay? Like you said, what happened with Jasey happened. You didn't stop it then, so don't act all self-righteous now."
Rian's jaw clenched, but he said nothing in response.
"I'm going to apologize to Jasey, whether you help me find her or not, so why not help me?" Alex asked. If Rian refused, Alex wasn't sure how to go about finding Jasey, after all UMass was a big college and if she didn't want him to find her, he wouldn't. But that was just all the more reason for him to pray his bluff would work. "Come on, Ri. I'll owe you one."
"Fine. Whatever." Rian was frowning and tapping his pen against his knee in a clear display of annoyance, but Alex knew that he had gotten his way and allowed himself a relieved sigh. He was one step closer to this Jasey mess being behind him. "There's a party at Zach's next week that I know she's going to. I'm sure you could catch her there."
Alex yawned and stretched his arms over his head, stepping away from the doorframe. "See, that wasn't so hard. Not painful at all."
"Go away, Alex. I have psych homework that I'm way behind on, and I really don't want to deal with your crap right now, so just go away, all right?"
Not bothering to argue, Alex turned on his heel and left the kitchen, content in knowing that he would be able to talk with Jasey in a week. At the moment, he was only concerned with crawling into bed and sleeping off the massive hangover he knew was looming. Everything else could wait.
Alex slammed the car door behind him as he stepped onto the sidewalk, stuffing his hands into his pockets and hunching his shoulders against the icy wind. It had snowed the night before, so much so that when Alex stepped outside in the morning he had sunk into a snow bank two feet deep. The snow beneath his feet now was a mess of churned dirt and slush, evidence to the dozens of people who had already made the trek through the cold up to Zach's house.
Another door slammed and Alex looked over to see Rian round the side of his car, lock the doors, shove his keys in his pocket, and start for Zach's. Alex fell in step at his side.
The wind howled about them, picking up snow and whipping it into a frenzy. Alex's hair, which had already been disheveled, fell into his eyes. He grumbled an annoyed curse, but didn't bother trying to fix it. This weather was utter crap. It was February and Alex understood that meant snow in New England, but he couldn't help thinking that God must have one hell of a sick sense of humor to dump this much snow on them at once.
He just hoped it wasn't a sign of how his night was going to go.
When they reached the house, they found the door closed but not locked and let themselves in. A few people stood in the foyer, shedding coats and stamping off their shoes, and Alex grunted a greeting to some guys from his accounting class.
The party was loud, the house packed, and as Alex started into the living room after Rian, he had a brief moment of panic. How the fuck was he supposed to find Jasey in this crowd of screaming, drunken partygoers?
Rian called something to him, but Alex had no idea what he had said. Shaking his head, Alex pointed toward the kitchen and started off, not waiting to see if Rian followed.
At their party, Jasey had stayed on the peripheral, talking to friends but not joining the mass of smashed dancers that seemed to occupy every room; he was willing to bet she would do the same thing this time, so what better place for her to be than the kitchen, the only place where no one would be dancing?
He waded through the crowd, stopping to talk to friends only when they were too insistent for him to shake off. If he was anywhere near as irritating a drunk as these people, he was glad he didn't have to deal with himself.
The kitchen, when he finally reached it, was almost empty. A couple was going at it against the sliding-glass door that led outside and a group was hovering around the punchbowl, but there was no sign of Jasey.
Eyeing the punch longingly but knowing it would have to wait, Alex tried to think where he would hang if he didn't dance. Outside would be a good bet during the summer, but that wasn't an option now. He doubted she was in one of the bedrooms, and if she was, then he needn't really apologize at all – unless, of course, he was the reason she had gone slutty. Shuddering, he pushed that idea away.
Just as he turned to leave the kitchen, he saw a door to his left. It was partially open, revealing a staircase leading down to a basement. Alex sighed.
That decided it; God definitely had a sick sense of humor.
Changing direction, he crossed the room and started down the stairs, bracing himself for whatever lay at the bottom.
The basement was crowded, though not with dancers. A group had gathered around the television, cheering on some sports team or another, probably the Celtics.
But that wasn't what Alex cared about.
No, what he cared about was standing in the corner, a cup in her hand and a smile on her lips. He remained at the foot of the stairs, unnoticed, watching as Jasey tipped her head back and laughed, her hair tumbling over her shoulders just as he had imagined so many times. The girl with her was in his econ class, but Alex was glad to see that Tory seemed to be missing. Maybe Rian had done him an unintentional favor and dragged her away from Jasey.
He wasn't sure how long he stood there watching her before he realized he was procrastinating, and yet no matter how much he urged his legs to move, they remained where they were. It was only when Jasey's companion glanced over at the stairs and saw him that he jerked into motion – and even then it was a struggle.
"Jasey," he called from halfway across the room. "Can I talk to you?"
Her gaze flicked to him and her smile faltered. It seemed to take her a moment to gather her thoughts, but she finally nodded. "Sure, Alex."
Ignoring her confused friend, he started back for the stairs, glancing over his shoulder once to check that Jasey was behind him. She was worrying her lip, her head down, but following nonetheless. He paused at the top of the stairs, unsure of where to go, before spotting the couple he had seen earlier. Rolling his eyes, he cut straight across the kitchen to the sliders.
"Hey, you two, take the show somewhere else."
The pair separated long enough for girl to flip him off and then moved away, still very much entangled with one another.
Alex flicked the lock on the door up and slid it open, motioning for Jasey to head outside. She frowned, shooting him a skeptic look, but stepped onto the patio. Joining her, he pulled the door shut behind him.
His breath left his mouth in visible clouds and goosebumps broke across his arms at once, but he only stuck his thumbs through his belt loops and rocked back on his heels, ignoring the cold as best as he could. Zach or one of his roommates must have shoveled the patio clean during the day; a fact Alex was grateful for. Standing in snow would not have made this conversation better, although it couldn't possibly have made it worse.
Seconds ticked by, though they felt like hours, and Alex couldn't find the words he needed to say. For her part, Jasey did nothing more than stare at his shoes.
"Fuck it," he muttered at last, unable to bear the silence any longer. "Look, Jasey… I was an ass to you. And I'm sorry. I screwed with you, used you, and then tossed you away like none of it happened. So, yeah, I'm sorry." He winced as the words left his mouth, scolding himself for a horrible choice of phrasing, but didn't take them back.
"Is that what this is about?" Jasey asked.
What the hell else could it be about?
She cocked her head to the side, her hair swinging over her shoulder, and rubbed at her bare arms. "It's all right, Alex. I can't say I understand, but I've long been over it." As soon as he opened his mouth, she added, "I promise."
"Bullshit! That's absolute crap and you know it." He leaned toward her, the wind tossing his hair into his eyes once more, but he shoved it back, determined to maintain eye contact. "Don't make this easy. It's been eating at me for months, and you're just going to stand there and pretend you don't care? Whatever you say right now, I want you to mean it, Jasey. Bitch me out."
"Don't yell at me, Alex," Jasey said, her soft voice nearly lost in the wind. "I can feel however I want. I'm sorry it's not the way you want me to, but I won't change it for you."
Months of guilt, and this is what he got? A girl who wasn't even upset?
"Call me a name," he demanded. "Kill me with words. I know you want to. Tory certainly made it seem like you wanted to when she was being a self-righteous bitch a few weeks ago."
For a moment Jasey looked confused, but then she shook her head. "Please don't bring Tory into this, okay? She hates what you did, and I guess I get why, but I don't feel like that. I'm sorry if she made you feel guilty."
What was going on? For the life of him, no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't detect a lie in Jasey's voice. She was serious. She wasn't angry. And it confused the hell out of him.
"Jasey, be honest," he said, desperate now. If she didn't yell, he didn't know what he would do. It wasn't adding up. She couldn't be okay with what he had done.
She just couldn't.
Jasey sighed, her eyes darting toward the kitchen. "I am. I am being honest. It's over. Getting angry now wouldn't accomplish anything."
"That's such a fucking lie!" Tangling his fingers in his hair and tugging, he turned his back on her. God, he had to get a grip. "I don't know why I care," he muttered finally. "If you don't give a shit, why should I?"
Without looking back, he strode to the sliders and stepped inside, jerking the door shut behind him. He left her there, standing on the patio, her arms clutching her body to ward off the chill.
All this crap he had put himself through was stupid. What happened between them was her issue, not his. He had simply done what he always did. No one could blame him for that.
He wove through he crowd at the punch bowl, grabbing a cup and draining it before heading into the living room and joining the crowd at its center. It wasn't long before he found a willing dance partner.
Let Jasey wait outside. Hell, maybe the air would serve to remind her that his heart was as cold as the clouds of her breath and his words were as timed as the beating in his chest.
And if it didn't, well, what the fuck did he care?
AN: So now that you've finished reading, I want to give just a little background into this story. I know that Alex seems like an ass: he was meant to. And I know that Jasey seems calm and resigned: again, she was meant to.
What I love about the song 'Jasey Rae' is its honesty. It hits at the gritty truth behind one night stands. In most cases, neither person actually walks off happy. Jasey knew she'd made a mistake, she accepted that, but she didn't blame Alex for it. She blamed herself, and she had made peace with the whole ordeal. Alex hadn't, and maybe never will. That's what I was trying to get at.
Let me know what you thought of it. I'm dying to know if this came across the way I wanted it to.