Author: thenifoundfivedollars PM
She's a ballerina grappling with life now that she's no longer taking the stage. He's a hockey player better known for his right hook than his NHL achievements. Together, they're finding that an unlikely friendship is enough to change everything. Complete.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Hurt/Comfort - Chapters: 12 - Words: 35,172 - Reviews: 146 - Favs: 269 - Follows: 101 - Updated: 03-12-12 - Published: 12-04-11 - Status: Complete - id: 2976618
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The morning after the ballet, Nate knocked on Elizabeth's door, armed with Christmas presents and more than a little anxious to see his niece and sister. He'd walked seven blocks with the three boxes balanced awkwardly in his grasp, and though they would do a larger celebration Christmas morning two Saturdays before the holiday he was eager to spoil the two women in his life. The temperature had dropped the night before, and he rubbed his hands against the fabric of his jeans to warm them as he waited.
"How was it?" He asked, scooping his niece into his arms the moment the small brunette opened the door. "Have a good time?"
"It was the best!" Abby bellowed as she laughed and squirmed in his grasp. "I got hot chocolate and a pink cotton candy and mom got two wines. And Julie hugged me afterwards and she was the prettiest Sugarplum Fairy I've ever seen."
Nate's grip slacked and he blinked at his sister from across the room.
Abby, at the chance of escape, wiggled to the ground and moved to the Christmas gifts in her uncle's hands. However, Nate never broke eye contact with Elizabeth. At Abby's words his insides had gone cold and he could not manage to form a reply.
"She was pretty surprised to see me there," his sister said, crossing her arms over her sweater and shooting him the judgmental look she'd perfected after so many years. "Happy that Abby got a ticket, and not mad that I was there, exactly, but I got the feeling the ticket was meant for you."
"She danced?" There was surprise in his tone, and his sister gave him a short nod of confirmation. At his sides, his fists clinched and unclenched subconsciously as he attempted to right his jumbled brains.
Julie had auditioned for and had made the winter ballet. She hadn't given him the tickets as some sort of peace offering for her confrontations… No, she'd wanted to share it with him. Most likely to thank him.
Cursing under his breath, he ran a hand through his hair and winced.
He really was an idiot.
"You're an idiot," Elizabeth said, echoing his sentiments.
"My thoughts exactly," he replied. Though his smile was grim and did not reach his eyes. "I had no idea. I should have been there."
"Yes, you should have." Nate glanced up to see his sister watching him carefully. Her expression softened as she took in the hurt and anger battling in his gaze. She'd never seen her brother so upset, and with a small sigh, she took a step forward to place a comforting hand on the taller man's shoulder. "She wasn't mad, Nathan. I think she just wanted you to be there."
"I have to go."
"I know." She smiled as she watched him go. "Good luck."
It only took fifteen minutes to walk to Julie's apartment. His legs carried him quickly, dodging pedestrians out early to begin their holiday shopping. Through the maze of bags and window shoppers, he sprinted. And by the time he was knocking frantically on Julie's door he was sucking in deep breaths, panting as his heart beat wildly in his chest.
Nate wasn't sure how long he knocked. How long he stood there, his fist turning red – far redder than it had out earlier in the cold – as he continued to beat against the wooden frame.
Finally he gave up. With a sigh, Nate leaned forward and rested his brow against the door, winded as he slowly caught his breath. He wasn't sure why he was so desperate to see her now, but it he didn't want to wait.
The sound of the voice was male, but Nate whipped to attention as Julie's neighbor peeked his head from next door. A small unkempt tuft of grey hair crowned the elderly man's head, but the blue eyes shined with youth. Nate nodded as he straightened his spine.
"Hi. Sorry about the noise."
The man waved his arm. "No problem, chap. Are you looking for Julie?"
Nate nodded eagerly. He tried to ignore the feeling that came by just hearing her name. He had thought at one point and time that he'd never find a girl who would make him want to settle down. He loved Abby and the idea of having a family, but it wasn't until he watched Zach and Lindsey interact did he realize how much he wanted someone like that in his life.
"You wouldn't happen to know where she is, would you?"
"Well, I don't know exactly, no, but she left to take her dog for a walk about half an hour ago." The old man smiled as his blue eyes brightened. "She came up with my paper this morning. Fine gal, that one."
Beaming, Nate agreed, "Yes. She is. Thank you."
"You're welcome to wait inside," the old man replied. "She won't be long."
"Thanks, but I know where she is."
And without waiting for a response, Nate spun on his heel and hurried down the hallway, taking the stairs two at a time. He'd wasted far too much precious time since he'd known Julie, and he entered the cool morning air and stuffed his hands into his pocket, he made the short trek to Central Park. He wasn't going to waste another moment.
It was cold, but sunny. And he knew exactly where she went when it was sunny and she needed to think. His insides warmed with the thought of how well he knew her, but his lips twitched to a frown as he realized how badly he'd screwed up. She was probably out fuming – in her quiet, diffident way – about him. About how he must not care for her.
Which was so entirely far from the truth it wasn't funny. He sped up, making his way to the bridge where she liked to rest on long walks. She once told him that her dog liked to scents there, but she loved the sights.
Sure enough, as he rounded the corner he took in the pavement giving way to planks of wood and there on the bridge, purple leash in hand, was Julie. Her arms were resting against the metal railing, her hands gloved and blonde hair peeking out from beneath a knit cap. Nate paused, smiling, just taking her in.
And then he quickly closed the distance between them and kissed her.
She'd been standing, thinking, and then suddenly a pair of warm arms were encircling her waist and a pair of lips were pressed firmly against hers. Her brown eyes widened in shock. Nate's scent infiltrated her senses, and though her eyes slowly closed and her lips relaxed enough to part for him, shock still twisted her gut.
When he pulled away, a brilliant grin encompassing his features, Julie blinked.
"Wha?" The tone of surprise was not missed by Nate, and he sighed. The action was followed by a puff of white and Julie watched his breath as it evaporated in the cool morning air.
"I kissed you."
Her eyes snapped up to meet his. "What?"
Rolling his eyes, the playful smirk never faltering, Nate leaned forward and once again and pressed his lips to hers. It was shorter this time, a small peck with only the slightest amount of pressure, but his grip on her waist was solid, holding her up, and the emotion blazing in his eyes was intense.
"Nate," she managed. He'd spun her so that now her rear was to the railing, and she reached back out for it, steadying herself. "What are you doing here? Why are… it's cold and it's early. What are you doing?"
"Well, I'm trying to be romantic here."
Her lips pressed into a thin line. While happiness began spreading through her chest at the implication of his words, her brown eyes remained wide with confusion and disbelief. "Why?"
She'd been hurt when he hadn't shown up last night. And though she convinced herself on the subway ride home that at least he'd remembered that she'd given him tickets at all, it wasn't for Abby alone that she'd hoped would come to see her dance. Then that morning as thoughts of him flittered through her mind during the course of her walk, she'd decided that it probably wasn't anything personal. Most guys – especially guys like Nate – didn't want to sit through hours of classical music and women dancing. Ballet just wasn't a man's sport, but she still couldn't help feeling the inherent sadness spread through her like an icy mist.
Julie had asked that their complicated relationship end because it was painful. And one of the things she'd promised the doctors, and herself, upon leaving the center was that she was going to start putting her feelings first. She liked Nate very much, but she didn't like nursing wounded pride and a broken heart thinking about his lifestyle. Thinking about him with other women, thinking about how he liked her, too, just not enough to be with her the way she wanted to be with him was far too agonizing.
But the question was still on her lips. "Why?"
Nate's smirk melted to a small frown. He rested his forehead against hers and his hands dropped from her waist to her hips, holding her inches from him. "Because I feel like a jerk."
"Jules… You told me you loved me and I didn't even go to your show."
A bright stain of blush blossomed on her cheeks, and he smiled at the rosy color before continuing,
"And I don't want you to get the wrong idea. I've been an idiot. I … I love you," he admitted, his eyes so close he could see the desire of his gaze reflected back in her big brown orbs. "I've been in love with you since the morning you woke up in my apartment." He frowned slightly, thinking that maybe it was when he walked her home from their first date. Or when he'd seen her in the butterfly conservatory, her eyes shining with unbridled happiness. More likely, however, it was the moment he'd first spotted her, trying to eat a scone. He could, after all, pinpoint that as the moment when he'd started thinking about Julie and hadn't been able to stop since. "And though I know I won't make the best boyfriend, I want to try. For you."
Julie continued to stare up at him, her eyes watering at his confession. She knew she was patient, that she was healing because of him, and that, if he was willing to try then she'd let him. Because she was helpless to do anything else.
"I wish I could have seen you dance."
"There's another performance tomorrow. One on Wednesday, and then another three next weekend. Nine in total before Christmas, I believe."
Grinning, he bent down and covered her mouth with his. She responded instantly this time, her lips parting and kissing him so firmly and so desperately that she had to hold onto the lapels of his jacket to keep her knees from giving out beneath her.
When Kovsky barked, they pulled away, Julie panting as she steadied her pounding heart and quaking lungs as Nate glared down at the dog. He smiled as he straightened
"I wouldn't miss it for the world."
She grinned up at him, her hands smoothing out the wrinkles in his jacket that her wringing hands had caused. The cold wasn't so frosty with Nate's warm frame so near, and her insides were ablaze with delight. Julie wasn't sure if she'd ever been so giddy.
Biting her lip, she asked, "You really think this is going to work?"
"Stranger things have happened."
Her laughter followed her words, and Nate wasn't sure if he'd ever heard such a wonderful sound.
"That's comforting," she said, though a smile played on her lips.
"I love you, Julie."
"I love you too, Nate."
After another quick kiss, he found that while his lips left hers he wasn't quite capable of dethatching his arms from her sides. Sliding one around her waist, he kissed her temple and began walking in the direction of her apartment building.
"Would you like to get some coffee?" she asked, leaning against his shoulder. Kovsky jerked on his leash as his small legs attempted to quicken their pace. Julie, however, did not want to rush the walk. Although a logical part of her knew that she could probably be so close with Nate any time in the future she pleased.
"Good," she replied, and grinning stopped just before the entrance of the park. Standing on her tiptoes, she pressed her lips against Nate's.
He'd been there when she really needed someone, even if she hadn't known it at the time. And maybe it was all a coincidence and maybe it was fate, but in the end, she decided, as long as Nate was there it didn't really matter.
I would like to give a huge thank you to all of the fellow lovers of fluff who reviewed, added this story to their alerts or favorites, and to all of those silent readers who were along for the ride. I set out to write a short, sweet piece and I hope with this I was successful.
Thank you so much for your kind words along the way, especially to those who time and time again gave me their support. I'd like to extend a special thanks to my most faithful reviewers:
ABSURDLY BRIGHT LIGHT, clkamp, sizzymustard12, gwenbell0010, lilacjasmine, LivesTooShort52, LoveStory87, Findingyourself, flunkybubbleshorts, funnechick, dream-beautiful, AMessofPickles, Northfacegrl5, Percabethgirl6245, and pixies114.
Thank you, thank you! And I hope to hear from you all again soon.