Title: Strangers at Heart

Chapter 7: Fall Back

Nathan moved about the apartment quietly as Evelyn slept. She had passed out several hours after their talk, still a little buzzed. Nathan picked up both of their empty coffee cups, and gave her a worried glance out of the corner of his eye. He didn't want to admit it, but after hearing Evelyn share the details of her molestation, Nathan had felt physically sick. It angered him that a grown man could do such things to a child and get away with it.

'He made me watch him…let people watch us…' he could still hear voice; see her cold and distant eyes.

'And when I wouldn't do the things he asked he would force me to drink juices and eat sweets with muscle relaxants in them. All I could do was lay there while he… or someone else had sex with me. I couldn't move, I couldn't scream…the only thing I could do was feel.

And taste her tears...

'I knew it was wrong. I knew in my heart that being with him wasn't okay, but all it took was for him to say 'I love you,' and all of those thoughts went away. For years, no one had ever said that to me. Not even my parents. He loved me…at least until I…" became a woman." He lost interest in love after that. It was just…sex. Cold and impersonal Like he was disgusted with me.'

And hear her sob...

'In the end, I ended up recanting.' Evelyn had told him with tears in her eyes. 'I didn't want to admit that I had done all those things with him, and as stupid as it sounds…I didn't want him to hate me.'

Nathan passed the settee again after placing the cups in the sink, and watched Evelyn roll onto her side, groaning. He knew she would be sick in the morning.

Nathan tiptoed into the bathroom and began dressing, one eye on the clock. It was after three in the morning, and Annie was probably going bonkers waiting on him at home.

He knew it would be best for him to go, but Nathan really wanted to look after Evelyn. She had felt so helpless and small in his arms when he held her. He wanted to hold her again, and to feel her heart beating quickly against his chest, but this time for a significantly different reason.

'Maybe I should stay…' he thought as he buttoned his shirt up halfway.

"I'll be all right Nate."

Evelyn startled him as she appeared in the doorway, dazed and drowsy. Her hair was a mess of tangled and flattened curls, but Nathan found it strangely arousing. He zipped his pants with one hand, and gave her an awkward smile.

"I didn't want to make it seem as if I was walking out on you. I just thought it might be difficult…" he started, and then looked at her face. It was still flushed from crying. The last thing he wanted to do was see her cry again.

"It's fine," she hugged herself. "After hearing all that I suspected you'd want to go. I don't blame you. I'm not the person you need right now. This whole thing…it's a mess."

"Don't be silly," Nathan chided. "I'll stay if you ask, Evelyn," he straightened her shirt collar with a little smile. "It's just that I know you're still drunk—

"—I'm not—

"—and if something were to happen…" he tweaked the tip of her nose with his fingers, "I'm sure we'd both hate ourselves for it, right?"

At once Evelyn remembered their kiss from before. She couldn't help but wonder how the rest of him tasted. Better than stale cigarettes, most likely.

"All right?" Nathan shook her from her daze. He peered earnestly into her eyes, confusion written all over his face. She had always been so hard to read.

"U-uh, yes. I'm fine," Evelyn pushed him back with one hand, afraid to let him see her blush.

"Yeah," Nathan studied Evelyn for a long while before giving her a kiss on the cheek goodbye. "Take a sick day and I'll call back around noon on my lunch break to see how you're doing."

"Um…I know it's early, but…" Evelyn fidgeted in the doorway, blocking his exit. "I—I could make you some eggs for breakfast. If…if you'd fancy it."

Nathan leaned against the door frame with a smile.

"Are you asking me to stay?" He was beginning to love teasing her this way. After all, it stirred him up inside to see her actually wanting to spend time with him, and he would definitely love it if they did.

Evelyn fell silent again. The whole thing was awkward for her. She'd never "come on" to anyone before, and after her emotional display only hours before, she wanted Nathan to see her as a woman again; not an abused child.

"I'm saying…" she fidgeted. " I don't want you to be afraid to come around here again."

Evelyn watched Nathan's eyes dart across her face, and then rest on her lips. She wanted him to kiss her, to put his hands on her and tell her that he'd always be with her. Like he used to. However, in her eyes it was apparent that over the years, Nathan had drifted away from that mindset. Now he seemed a little guarded, more hesitant with his affection towards her.

'You still don't trust me.' She thought. 'I don't blame you.'

"I'll call you," he said after the silence, and this time pushed past.

Evelyn winced as she heard the door slam shut, and put her head in her hands. She needed a drink. However, as she sauntered into the kitchen she noticed that all her wine and vodka bottles were sitting in the sink, empty.

A small smile on her lips, Evelyn's thoughts drifted back to Nathan. He had never stopped caring. She took a deep breath, picked the phone in the kitchen up from its cradle, and began dialing. There were two rings, and then the sound of an annoyed female.

"Hello? June? I…I'm sorry I'm calling so early, but I have something important to tell you. Something I've needed to tell you for a while."

That was it. Nathan couldn't take another moment alone in that apartment with Evelyn. If he had stayed, he would have definitely had her on the bed, the settee, or even the floor before she could protest in that cute little stammering way she—

Nathan shook his head to clear the thought, and stopped the cab driver about a block from his apartment. Maybe walking would do him some good. He could just about see his building when a female voice startled him from behind.

"Hey! Douche-bag!"

Nathan knew that voice anywhere. Annie came running down the street with a trash bag in her hand, still wearing his clothing.

"What the hell are you doing?" Nathan snapped.

"Ah, this," she gave a sigh, and deposited the bag into a neighbor's garbage bin. "Well, I forgot to put the bin out and I was trying to catch up with the truck …but it's so darn early. Why do the trucks come around so early in this place? Was that even the truck? I don't understand…truck, truck, tru—

"—never mind," Nathan pinched the bridge of his nose with his fingers, and forced Annie out in front of him. "Just get inside before the neighbors start talking."

"About you and me?" Annie opened the door with her foot. "If I ever started playing that side of the field, you're the last guy I'd ever go for. Know why?"

Nathan raised an eyebrow, but didn't bother responding. It was most likely the opening to some dirty joke, and Annie was full of them.

"So…how's Evelyn?" The question came out of nowhere, but from the look on her face, Nathan could tell that she was dying to hear.

"She's as fine as she can be at the moment." Nathan ambled into the kitchen and stuffed half a granola bar in his mouth. "She's drinking a lot…she's depressed…I…I think she still feels like the molestation was her fault."

Annie looked at her hands, reminiscing. "I feel so bad…" she whispered. " I know there wasn't anything I could have done, but…it just feels like—

"—you should see her," Nathan stopped her and dug through his pockets until he found the torn page of the phone book with Evelyn's address and phone number on it. "Everyone can always use another 'same sex' friend. I don't think she's quite ready to open up to me again."

Annie took it without hesitation. She wondered if Evelyn would even remember her.

"Make her go shopping with you one day. She needs to get out more. I'm sort of afraid she'll hurt herself," Nathan looked down sadly.

"Don't worry Nate," Annie put a hand on his shoulder. "I'll see her today. She needs as much support as she can get."

"I see you're not wearing your specs," Annie changed the subject and was in front of him now, frowning deeply. "What did you do, leave them on her nightstand?"

"What?" Nathan touched his face. He hadn't even realized it. His eyesight wasn't very poor, but he'd been wearing them since he was eleven.

"I didn't have sex with her," he mumbled through the granola, and then washed it down with some orange juice.

"I would have killed you if you did. Taking advantage of a woman in such a vulnerable state is disgusting," Annie brought her face to Nathan's and stared straight into his eyes. She had a thing about protecting women. Maybe she had gotten it from her mother, or maybe it was a strong sense of feminism gained from her controversial lifestyle, but she couldn't stand to see a man taking more than he was entitled to. Nathan or not.

"I didn't touch her," he pushed away from her and smoothed the wrinkles in his shirt. "Although it wasn't as if I didn't want to."

"Well, it's nice to know that you can at least keep your dick in your pants for a night."

"And I'm pretty damn sure she would have fancied it," Nathan prattled on, ignoring Annie. "What I wouldn't give just to f—

Annie cleared her throat in urgency. Sure, she was into the fairer sex, but that didn't mean she wanted to hear Nathan fantasizing about shagging their brains out.

"It's so damn early," he yawned with a blush on his cheeks. "I've got to go have a lie down."

"A lie down?" Annie grabbed Nathan by the back of his shirt. "What are you 80? You've got to plan your next move with Evelyn!"

"What?" Nathan threw himself back against the couch in desperation. He had to go to work soon.

"Well, I don't mean you have to go and do something rash, but you at least need to plan a date," she took a seat on the kitchen counter, knowing that Nathan was barely listening. The man was struggling to keep his eyes open. Annie cleared her throat.

"You've gotten her to open up to you. That's brill, but now you need to begin to establish a romantic relationship. I'm willing to bet that after your show of comfort and understanding, Evelyn is looking at you in a whole new way."

Nathan hugged a pillow to his chest, thinking. He had been imagining Evelyn in some sexy, half open negligee, but it all faded as he listened to Annie.

'I can't even remember the proper way to pick up a woman,' he thought angrily.

"So what? I ring her up and just ask her out? Isn't that a little--

"—just be yourself, ding-dong. And when I say yourself…I don't mean your 'hot and bothered self' I mean your 'I'm so gosh darned sweet it hurts' self. Just come round her flat lots and do nice things for her."

Nathan sat up. "You mean like buy her fancy clothes?"

"No," Annie perked up. "Never. If you get the wrong size outfit, she'll hate you forever. I know I would."

"Well then…do you think she'd fancy a charm, or a necklace?" he was desperate to come up with something, and Annie looked contemplative.

"Yes, try that…" she opened the fridge and rooted around for bagels. "I've gotta go freshen up for her."

"Do me a favor and don't hit on her, will you?" Nathan shot Annie a dirty look.

"Who, me?" she batted her eyelashes innocently, and popped a bagel in the toaster.

Nathan rolled his eyes and fell back against the couch once more, curling up on his side. Sleep took him over almost instantly, and with it, dreams of passionate love.

This was a short and boring chapter, blah. However, the next is better. More sexual humor, and tension when Evelyn goes out with June and Annie, and then has dinner with Nate. Haha! Because this was a bit shorter than the last one, I'll try to be quicker with the update. Enjoy!