Title: Never Is A Promise
Series: Prequel to A Jackson Pollack Painting
Warnings: sexual innuendoes, swearing, mind-clogging angst, lesbians.
Archive: ask permission
Feedback: please! Anything!
Summary: Toni tries to find a way over being broken, in the most unusual place, and all she can think about is the past, and the promise she made when she said she'd never forget. Flashbacks in italics.
Dedication: For Daneorange, on her eighteenth birthday :throws confetti: and because she's partially to blame for the title. So here you go, Kitten, some birthday angst from Daddy.
"Where are we going tonight?" Toni asked her older brother, Dan, staring blankly out the passenger seat window. The streets all blurred together as Dan raced down the streets towards… well, towards wherever they were heading.
"Galena's. Alice and Kat want to meet us there for drinks, and well, some of us haven't eaten," Dan replied.
"Kat?" Toni demanded, getting angry, "Dan, are you on crack or something?"
"What?' Dan said looking confused. "I like Kat, we all do. I thought you did too."
"Yeah, I like Kat. But really, bringing me out a week after I break up with Gabi, on the night that would be our anniversary, to hang out with another one of my ex-girlfriends, I mean, Jesus."
"Oh yeah," Dan said, understanding. "Hey, if you want, we can cancel and do something else…" He handed Toni his cell phone.
"No," Toni said, "It's all right, I'll be fine. 'Sides, I haven't seen Alice in forever."
"Great, Tones, I knew you'd come through, I mean, it's Christmas break, after all. The gang won't be around forever," Dan said, pulling into a parking space on the street outside of Galena's.
"I don't want to ever forget this, Toni," she whispered, running her hands over my hair. "Here, you, now. I don't ever want to forget this." I smiled and tumbled easily onto the grass, pulling Gabi down with me. Laying on my back, her head on my chest, and more stars than I knew could exist dotting the inky black sky.
"I don't want to forget either, Gabi," I replied, rolling over and pinning her underneath me. "You've got a grass stain on your cheek," I told her, kissing it. She grinned lazily up at me.
"Say it," she murmured. "Say you'll never forget."
I felt the corners of my mouth curl into a smile, the way she made them do all the time. "I'll never forget."
"Forget what?" she asked, her teasing glint in her eyes.
"Forget this," I whispered back, kissing her face, all over, her forehead, eyebrows, nose, cheeks, chin, everywhere but her lips.
"I'll never forget," she murmured, seeking out my lips. "I'll never forget your soft kisses or your voice, or smile, or that look in your eyes." She brought her face down to the nape of my neck. Burying her head in it, she inhaled deeply. "Or this," she said, pulling back again, "The way you smell, like leather and Irish Springs soap."
"You can't ever forget," I told her, resting my forehead against hers, our mouths just centimeters apart. "Because, I couldn't stand being the only person on Earth who remembered this, who knew about this, about how it felt, feels. I couldn't stand being the only person in the world who understands what we have. I couldn't stand being the only person who knew we're in love."
"And you'll never be the only one, Toni. Because I can't ever forget I love you."
The smell of smoke and booze bit Toni on the nose right away. Bars tended to depress Toni, all those people, with their drug of choice, the ones they picked out to let them forget, searching for something.
And never finding it.
Dan scanned the crowded bar, his eyes finally landing on a booth in the back. "Come on, I don't see them, but there's an empty booth back there we should grab now. Come on," he urged Toni. "I can see them." Toni let herself be led by the arm to the booth.
Toni slid in one side and Dan in the other. "Wow, we're the first ones here, that's got to be a first."
"It definitely would be," a familiar female voice said. Kat and Alice conjured themselves up from the booth behind them. "Really," Alice continued, "Dan and Toni on time? Crazy!" She slid in next to Dan. To Toni's dismay, Kat sat down next to her.
"Hey, it's usually Dan's fault," Toni defended herself weakly. She was surprised at the urge she had to grab Kat and kiss her. She'd been around Kat since the break up before, and the feeling to pull Kat into her had never consumed her like it did now.
It scared her, if you really want to know.
"Happy anniversary," I said softly, leaning over to kiss Gabi's angelic face, to tangle my hand in her long black hair.
She broke the kiss and sat down at the small table, in the secluded corner of the restaurant. A small candle gave the table a beautiful glare. "Happy anniversary, Toni," she whispered back. I reached into my back pocket.
"I can't wait any longer to give you this," I managed, sliding a jewelry box across the table.
"Jewelry?" she asked, "Christ, Toni, you didn't have to."
"I know I didn't have to… I wanted to," I said. Her eyes smiled at me, a larger grin than the enormous one on her face.
"I love you," she replied.
"I know," I confirmed, "As much as I love you. Now open it, damn it."
"All right, all right," she giggled. "You and your dominatrix tendencies…"
"Damn straight," I replied. She rolled her eyes and peeled the paper off the box. Popping it open, her eyes lit up.
"Be mine?" I asked as she took out the small silver promise ring.
In response, she grabbed my collar and pulled my torso across the table to her, kissing me. "Is that a yes?" I teased into her mouth. She pulled away.
"It's a hell yes."
"These are great chicken strips," Dan said, his mouth full. Toni smiled patronizingly and drained the rest of her third Guinness of the evening. Kat glanced over at her, the way Kat always had. Toni could never remember just how cute Kat was until she saw her, her strawberry blonde hair pulled back, her tiny frame. Whenever Toni say her, the first thing she wanted to do was sneak up behind her and grab her from behind.
Kat's sideway glance was the one that she had given Toni when they were dating, that swift glance that came so quick Toni wasn't sure if she'd imagined it or not, but that made her feel just the way Kat always made her feel: adored, special, needed. Toni didn't like to admit she needed these things, but she did. She couldn't deny she needed people, needed feelings, needed basic human comfort.
Toni stopped herself from jumping as she felt Kat's hand graze her thigh and come to a rest there. If this kept up, she would not last the night.
"So what now?" Toni asked, struggling to keep a steady, even tone. "I mean, now that the human garbage disposal is finally sated…"
"Let's watch a movie," Alice blurted out, and then blushed, in fear of being seen as childish. "I mean, you know, like we used to. Go to Kat's and lock ourselves in the basement with the DVD player…"
"I'm in," Dan said.
"Yeah," Kat nodded. "Toni?"
Toni tried not to hesitate, "Sound awesome." Kat's hand squeezed her thigh.
I might not last the hour, she realized.
"How was your weekend?" I asked Gabi, sitting down in front of the couch and leaning my head back into her lap.
"It was… I don't really know… I mean, on one hand it was great to see Mom and Dad… on the other…" Gabi trailed off. She played absently with my hair, before moving down to rub my shoulders soothingly.
"Oh, fuck, babe, that's the spot," I murmured. "Gabs?" I asked, looking up in concern at her silence. "Baby, what's wrong?"
"Nothing," Gabi tried to say, but her voice cracked. I jumped up from the sofa and sat by her.
"You're crying, what's the matter? Please tell me," I pleaded, wiping the tears from her eye.
"She's sick…" Gabi gasped for breath. "She's sick."
"Who's sick?" I asked dumbly, "What do they have?"
"Mom…" Gabi whispered, "Mom has breast cancer…"
"No…" I demurred, leaning into kiss her. Trying to comfort her in my dense, stupid ways, trying to make her feel better the only way I knew how. "No…"
"I have to go," Gabi murmured. "I have to leave. I need to be with her…"
"Of course you do… I'm behind you, angel, a hundred percent," I promised. "We'll get you through this. I'll do whatever you need, get your notes, drive you up there, go with you, anything…"
"No…" Gabi whispered, "You don't understand."
"Understand what?" I asked, sinking feeling in my stomach.
"I'm leaving, I need to go be with her… I'm moving back."
Toni remembered this room. She remembered Kat's basement bedroom, and more to the point, she remembered the things she and Kat had done in this room. All she had to do was close her eyes and the pictures and the memories came back. Every touch, every taste, every smell, every moan, all flooding back into memory.
She lingered back behind the other three, watching leaned up against the wall as they chose the DVD for the night.
"Amelie, okay, Toni?" Kat called back. "I think you'll like it, the goldfish commits suicide in the first scene."
Toni laughed indulgently and forced her feet to move closer to her friends. "Sounds great," she lied, not that the movie didn't sound good, but nothing on this night could sound great. The four squeezed onto the couch, Dan and Toni on the end, with Kat curling in next to Toni. Toni felt her arm being pulled around Kat and indulged in the surge of protection she felt feeling the warmth of Kat's tiny frame against her embrace.
Such bitter déjà vu, she thought.
"So I guess this is it," I said, trying to keep my voice strong and firm for her. I didn't want Gabi to feel guilty; I couldn't bear it if she did. The thought of hurting her, putting her in more pain than she was already in made me sick to my stomach. "I guess this is good bye."
"I'm sorry it came down to this," Gabi whimpered, glancing around the empty bedroom of her apartment, empty save for a purple duffel bag. "I never wanted it this way."
"Don't be like this," I told her, pulling her close to me. "Don't ever feel guilty about it, what choice do you have?"
"We… always… have choices," she said weakly. "Always options."
"No, we don't," I told her, running my fingertips over her cheek and trailing them down her neck, to her back. "You don't have a choice, I don't have a choice. She's sick- you need to go to her."
"I know… just like I know we need to see other people… but… oh, I don't know," she snapped, "I can't help it, Toni, I love you."
"I know," I whispered, "I love you. But sometimes, it doesn't work like that."
"Why not?" she demanded.
"I don't know," I told her honestly. "I really don't." She's waiting for me to ask her to stay, I realized. If I ask her to, she'll stay. She'll stay for me.
And she'll end up hating me if I do.
"It's better this way, Gabs," I told her, needing to be strong for her. "Any other way, well… we'd end up hating each other. You're not happy, you won't be happy unless you're with her… it's killing you, I can see it. And I can't let you be in that much pain."
"But I'm in pain now," she whispered.
"I know," I replied, "I know you're in pain. But it'll fade. It will get better, Gabi, never forget that… it always gets better." She leaned into kiss me. "Besides," I said, pulling back eventually. "If we're meant to be together, we'll find our way back to each other, it's gonna be okay."
"Sorry to bail early," Alice broke in, yawning. "But I'm beat. I really am."
"Hey, don't feel bad," Dan said, "We're not as young as we used to be. I'm bushed too. You headed out?"
"Yeah," Alice said. Toni looked over at her, kind of surprised. "If you want to stay, Toni, I could take Dan back."
"Yeah, Toni," Dan said, tossing her the car keys, "Stick around, finish the movie. It's an awesome one, I swear."
As if I have a choice whether I stay or go now, Toni thought. "Sure, sounds good," Toni muttered as they left. Kat didn't scoot over any further not hat there was room.
Not that Toni was complaining any more.
The movie didn't matter, neither Toni nor Kat were paying it any attention. An hour and a half of touching and flirting and fitting like they used to had brought back too many memories.
"What's wrong, Toni?" Kat whispered, looking up from where she was curled into Toni. "What's making you feel like this?"
"Like what?" Toni asked, trying to dispel Kat's sixth sense. "I'm fine, what are you talking about, Kat?"
"Don't play dumb with me, Toni Fenwick," Kat huffed. "I know you far too well for that."
Toni looked away, staring at the screen, watching the colors on the TV swirl and blend as her eyes refused to focus. She finally looked back to Kat. "I'm broken," she said.
"Gabi," Kat confirmed, her brown eyes sad. "You're broken."
"Yeah…" Toni murmured. "But it doesn't matter now."
"You're waiting for someone…"
"What someone?" Toni asked.
"Just someone who can put you back together… someone you want, need, desire…" Kat explained. "Why'd we break up, Toni? We were so good together, you and I, we fit… Can't we just go back to the way things were? I don't even remember why we fell apart…"
"I know it'll be okay," Gabi told me. "I know it has to be. And I know you'll be okay. You're strong, Toni, it's one of the things I love most about you." She rested her head on my shoulder, still covered by my trademark leather jacket- I hadn't been there long enough to take it off. "I remember this," she said, inhaling deeply. "Leather and Irish Springs soap… Toni."
I smiled, remembering that night in the dew-covered grass, underneath the stars. "I'm going to miss you so much," I told her.
"Toni? Can we not talk about it now?" She looked up at me with tear-filled eyes, "Can you just hold me right now?"
"Gabi," I said, tightening my arms around her waist, "I'll hold you until you tell me to stop." She relaxed in my arms, but still kept her grip on me tight, so tight, like she was afraid I was going to let go. Sobs racked her body in streaks, sometimes violently, and sometimes so softly I thought she had stopped.
Seconds passed like lifetimes, each one longer than the next, a phenomenon I was thankful for. In the morning, all I'd have left of Gabi would be a handful of pictures and a few volumes of poetry she gave me. All I'd have left would be memory. I'd have to take my feeligns for her and lock them away, taking them out sometimes, letting myself feel the love I had for her for guilty seconds, but in the end, it would just be a memory.
She wouldn't find herself back into my arms.
I could ask her to stay right now, I told myself, ask her, she'll stay, and you'll be out of pain. Ask her damn it.
"Toni?" she whimpered, "I think you need to stop holding me now."
"You said, you didn't love me," Toni mumbled, "That you could… never… fall in love with someone like me."
"I was wrong," Kat managed, "I was scared. Scared of how you did make me feel…"
"And how was that?" Toni murmured, looking down at Kat. Kat rested her head against Toni's shoulder.
"Consumed. Overwhelmed," she whispered, "But I was so safe with you, I didn't feel safe though… you were so protective, but it didn't mean… what I wanted it to be."
"There was a piece missing, something more you wanted me to say…" Toni realized. "You wanted me to be in love with you… but you could never love me…"
"I could have… I can…" she mumbled, weakening.
"No," Toni demurred quietly, leaning her head down to nuzzle Kat's hair, "Never is a promise, and I can't let you break it…"
She pushed Toni backwards, and Toni sprawled onto the messily made futon. Toni let herself fall, she could have caught her self, could have maintained balance. It was torment, because now she'd always have to remember she let herself fall. Kat climbed on and straddled her.
"Do… do you remember how you first seduced me?" Toni managed to ask, smirking slightly. Kat ran her hands through Toni's hair, letting them tangle.
"I came over, with handcuffs, to watch a movie… and I set the handcuffs on the coffee table and sat in your lap… you didn't stand a chance…" she murmured, moving into a more pinning position and kissing Toni, this time more forcefully.
"I still don't… You were such a wild girl," Toni mumbled against Kat's lips.
"I still am," Kat promised.
"So I'm just destined to be your regret?" Gabi asked sadly, gazing up at me with those incredible violet eyes. I sighed sadly and leaned against the soft blue wall of her room.
"You know how I said that I'd forgotten some of women I've slept with?" I asked her, playing with the sleeve of my shirt. She nodded, her face contorting in confusion.
"What do you mean by that, Toni?" she asked carefully, fearful of what I could be saying.
"I'm saying I forgot some women, it was better that way… but you, Gabi, I can't forget you. You'll never be my regret," I reached over and brushed her hair out of her eyes, letting my fingers linger a second. "You're the one I'll never forget."
Gabi kissed me one last time and then let go of me, hoisting the duffel bag on her shoulder. "Never's a promise, Toni."
"I know," I told her. "I promise you, I'll never forget you."
"This is it, Toni…" she said, her voice barely audible. "Kiss me once because you love me, kiss me twice for good bye."
I walked over and gathered here in my arms. "I love you," I managed to say, leaning down to kiss her. Once. Twice. Three times. "Good bye…"
"You're crying, Toni," she managed, reaching a hand up to wipe away my tears. "I'd never seen you cry…"
"I'd gone six years without crying," I told her through the tears, "I could go six more, but for losing you… Nothing's ever hurt me so bad as losing you."
"Why?" she murmured, "Why do we have to hurt each other?"
"Because I love you, and I can never forget that," I vowed softly, kissing her again.
"You're lucky… I'm afraid I will," she admitted, tears flowing freely.
"You can't," I told her, "You promised. You said you'd never forget, and never is a promise."
"You're right," she said, kissing me again, lingering… too long. A car horn blasted in the distance. "The taxi…" she explained weakly.
"I know, we knew this day would come," I replied in a cracking voice.
"Promise me, Toni, again, promise me you'll never forget me, and you'll never forget we're in love."
"Only if you promise," I said.
"Leather and Irish Springs soap," she said weakly, "I promise, I'll never forget you."
"I'll never forget," I vowed. "Never is a promise, and to that I hold."
Toni kept her eyes shut, and in her mind felt Gabi's perfect red bow lips on hers, reached and felt that body that tore right through her, the one she used to have wet dreams about. Hell with used to, still did. One hand stayed tangled in hair. Finally Toni opened her eyes, expecting to see Gabi's violet eyes piercing her, the way only Gabi could.
But they weren't there. Kat's brown eyes fluttered open to hers.
No matter what happens, Toni realized, rolling over to pin Kat underneath her, I'll still never be able to forget.
No matter how many girls in how many bars, no matter how many nights I spend with them, no matter how they make me feel. No matter if I can kiss them and make them think I love them, it doesn't matter if they love me. It doesn't matter that I'm broken, it doesn't matter that Kat will never be able to put me back together… Nothing matters, except for the memories.
Never was a promise, and to that Toni held.