What is there left to say? You are beautiful, wonderful people. Whether you read this tonight or ten months from now, I'd love to hear your thoughts. This story was my baby, you know?
Maybe there'll be an epilogue. I don't know. Like I said, what is there left to say? ... Oh, and one more thing. I have started a new story, so if you're feeling charitable, or simply enjoyed this one, please check it out. It's called This Matters, and it has slash and het in it. I'd appreciate some love!
... Oh, and one more thing. I have started a new story, so if you're feeling charitable, or simply enjoyed this one, please check it out. It's called This Matters, and it has slash and het in it. I'd appreciate some love!
I don't know why I expected October to still be there when I woke up... I guess I thought enough had changed since the last time for him to actually stick around.
I was disappointed to find the room empty, but this time I wasn't going to let him run away and pretend it hadn't happened. He owed me one hell of an explanation, because fuck was I mad at him- for going out and drinking in the first place and making me so fucking scared... let alone for abandoning me in the cold light of the morning.
It was more than that though- I wanted to find him because I was worried about him. I loved him- I was surer of that than I'd ever been of anything, letting the feeling fill me up with dizzy, delicious butterflies. I felt like shouting it from the rooftop or doing one of those crazy beautiful romantic things that those guys in the movies always did. No matter how scared I was of the feeling, I knew I'd risk another heartbreak if it meant being with October because I wanted it all- the mood swings and the debates and the heart-melting, soul-capturing looks that made me feel like he wanted me too. Being in love with October felt like nobody else could ever have known the emotion, like all of the love songs on the radio were an understatement because nothing could match the way just thinking his name made my heart race.
I'd never been so conscious of being alive.
I knew he couldn't love me; deep down I knew that no matter what I wanted, he'd always be October DeTamble. He couldn't suddenly become mushy or sentimental or start believing in love, and that was probably why he ran, if I was being honest with myself about it. And still, I wanted him more than anything. It felt so different from those weeks with Josh... I mean, before we were found out, it felt perfect and untouchable and fairytale-like, just because I was so stupidly naive about it all. With October, it hurt like hell. It was fucking painful, watching him self-destruct, knowing that he couldn't bring himself to talk to me. And still... it was real. It wasn't like some perfect teen romance novel situation and it wasn't all going to be neat and resolved... I knew that. It was perfectly flawed and human and I found myself treasuring the feeling more than anything I'd ever felt, because it was so uniquely mine.
I was disappointed that he'd gone, though, of course I was. Disappointed, angry and insecure, to the point where my feelings hit me in waves, threatening to drag me under and making me frantic with worry.
I headed straight to his room in a trance, hoping that even if he wasn't there Seth may have some answers for me. I brushed my teeth at double speed and threw on a cleaner pair of pants, grabbing a nondescript blue t-shirt on my way out of the door. I realised as I ran down the hall, down the stairs to room 2C, that it was Declan's and not mine, having 'Illyria Prep Swim Team' printed logo and all on the front. I didn't care whose it was and I couldn't bring myself to stop. I felt like if I stopped moving or rushing around then all I'd do was think about losing October and I'd end up hating myself and crying in the corner, and that wouldn't do either of us any good.
I banged on 2C's door with frenzied hands, using both and hammering desperately as I waited unanswered. I shouted for October. I screamed Seth's name. I shook like a leaf- desperate now to find October, to hit him or kiss him or fix him or just fucking do something because I knew he needed it. He could pretend he was a lone wolf. He could pretend he didn't need anybody or resent me for rescuing him- I didn't give a fuck. All I wanted was for him to open the door and let me in.
The door was yanked open and all I could do was stare- a very wet boy in a towel was standing there, breathing heavily and gaping back at me in surprise. A sexy and smiley looking blonde boy, who unfortunately wasn't October, but wasn't Seth either.
"Um... you're wearing my t-shirt?" Declan asked, sheepish but smiling. "Did you wanna join us, Jake?"
Oh. Oh my God.
I wasn't shaking anymore- there was a feeling in the pit of my stomach that felt almost like relief. For a second I repressed October and the pain in my heart; I slotted the pieces together and laughed outright as I realised what Declan meant, why he was wet and out of breath and had taken so fucking long to answer the door.
I was so, so happy for him.
"You and Seth?!" I whispered , smiling even though it hurt.
He nodded, sighing and closing his eyes as if he were still dreaming.
Declan had gotten his happy ending and I tried to tell myself that maybe I'd get mine, but the voice inside my head was nowhere near to being convincing. "When, how and why?" I added, the curiosity mingling with a desire to finally hear something happy, something romantic.
I pushed my way into the room, flopping down onto a bed and trying not to wonder if it was October's. Declan laughed with reckless happiness- I couldn't help staring fondly at him, watching the glow in his eyes, the blush in his cheeks. His face seemed softer and prouder all at once and I couldn't believe the change in him; I was just glad he'd stopped being so damn stubborn because he looked more content than I'd ever seen him.
"I'd say it's about time," Seth said, emerging from the bathroom with a similarly beatific grin on his handsome face.
That smile was even brighter than the one I'd admired.
He sauntered over with a new spring in his step and I looked on in stunned disbelief. There in front of my eyes, he kissed Declan full on the lips. He kissed him with an almost painful slowness, cupping the back of Declan's head with his strong hands, while Declan raised his mouth and smiled as he closed his eyes in bliss. Seth's mouth lingered there as he pulled away, sighing into Declan's like an 'Amen' – all I could do was watch, embarrassed to be a voyeur in such an intimate moment but too awestruck to look away.
"Hailey convinced me to stop being so stubborn," Declan told me, glowing as he sat down facing me. Seth sat next to him- practically on top of him, actually, lacing his fingers with Dec's comfortably and kissing the back of his hand in wonderment as if he was still surprised at his luck.
"We got talking," Dec continued, "when we were out looking for Toby, you know, and Seth was pretty upset-"
"-about everything," Seth cut in, "like how Dec had rejected me and Toby was missing and you were going to secret therapy appointment things and-"
"-then after we dropped you off in town he got really mad," Declan said with a smirk, "and he hit me and told me I was an idiot and we started really fighting-"
"and it was really angry and emotional and intense and then he just... grabbed my arm mid-punch and kissed me," Seth finished, biting his lip in childlike excitement. I couldn't help feeling caught up in it, just picturing the moment.
I smiled at them both half-heartedly, feeling my lower lip tremble. Occasionally, it seemed, life was like a teen romance movie. Occasionally people got their perfectly fucked-up fairytale moments and didn't sit there for hours thinking about what to do before making their move- when change came, it was a sudden spark that became the hottest fire. Seth and Declan were so screwed up and so right for each other all at once; I almost couldn't watch them. I could feel it again, the angry, hurt beating of my heart against my chest. Declan watched me, as if trying to figure out why I wasn't as elated as him and Seth... and then his face softened.
"October didn't stay, did he?" he said, quiet and disappointed. "Oh babe, I'm sorry."
I choked out a shaky no and Declan scooped me up into his arms, recuing me once more as the tears began to fall. Seth was up in an instant, stroking my hair and exchanging furious looks with his boyfriend as he whispered curses into the air.
They let me cry, passing me tissues as they drew out my story and my confession. I cried hard, for October, who I'd lied to and rescued and fallen for, but also for myself. I knew that I'd been stupid and angry, trying to force him out of my system. I knew that our screwy relationship had already suffered enough after all the time I'd spent avoiding him. I cried because I loved him and because I was scared- just that once I really didn't want to be strong.
I cried because there was nothing else I could possibly do.
It was almost noon when I got back to my room. I'd tried running around the grounds- the icy numbness of the air weighed down on me like the heaviness in my heart. I hadn't found October anywhere and I was despairing- I'd rescued him once, I'd gone and found him and brought him home to me... and that wasn't enough. I just felt exhausted. Like... I didn't have a clue where to begin anymore, or whether I even should.
I didn't expect anything anymore. I leant against my door with a black cloud hanging over my head and a deep cynicism setting into my bones as I fumbled in my pocket for a key.
The door swung slowly open.
I walked in, knowing that I had forgotten to lock it in my crazy haste. I walked in, wanting only to go back to bed and pretend that October had never left, that waking up to find him gone was just a crazy dream. I walked in with my head held high and I headed towards the dresser, even as the familiar smell of love hit my nostrils.
I refused to look at the boy sitting on Declan's bed, although I felt his eyes searing my skin.
"Jake," October's quiet voice pleaded, the morning light streaming in through my window and illuminating his pale, tired face. "Jake, look at me... please."
Only because he said please.
I turned to face him, letting my eyes flit over to his face for a nanosecond before my gaze came to rest on his left ear. Technically, yes, I was looking at him. But for then, his left ear was all I could handle. The air in the room felt suffocating and stuffy. I knew that elsewhere in the building people were wearing sweaters and scarves but my skin just felt as if it were in fire. I felt as if I were dreaming.
"Are you okay?" October asked me, standing up and walking towards me. His voice was full of delicious concern. "Please tell me you didn't get sick because of me." He sounded sexy as ever- sexier for the soft emotion running through his voice.
All of my hurt and anger fizzled through my veins, but my resolve weakened at his voice. He sounded okay- not broken anymore. He sounded warm and real and there; how could I not meet his eyes?
"I hate you," I sighed, and he looked at me in horror before he relaxed, realising perhaps that it wasn't true. "Don't be nice to me, Tobe. I'm really mad at you right now."
He studied me intensely, having the decency to blush. He said nothing and I re-gathered my courage, summoning up just enough bravery to ask the question I really didn't want the answer to.
"I know that you won't... but could you just... like, try to tell me what the fuck it is that you're running from?"
He looked me directly in the eye and I kept my chin up, trying not to lose my nerve.
"Love," he murmured softly. "You."
"You don't believe in love," I said, with only a hint of bitterness. It wasn't that I didn't believe him. I just kind of believed I deserved more than two words and a vague answer.
"Not true," he said slowly, looking disappointed with my answer. "I've seen Declan looking at Seth, you know. I know that that's love- I mean, you gotta be blind not to see that. I believe in love... I just don't think I'll ever deserve it. I don't trust it. It's not what people say it is, you know?"
"You can't be serious," I said. But he was. I could see it in his eyes. He stepped back again, sitting down on Declan's bed and leaning back on the wall the way I'd seen Declan do a hundred times. I didn't know what to do with myself- I didn't want to go join him on the bed, so I just stood there, looking down at him from the other side of the room at the foot of my own.
"My dad loved my mom," he explained slowly. I snapped to attention at his words, because I knew how rare it was for October to talk about his life. He never spoke to me about it- I'd told Hailey that and until then it had been true, because even when I was saving him I was never sure what I was saving him from.
"He met her at the beginning when he was struggling to set up his record label," he continued. "She was a country singer from Nashville, Tennessee... how fucking clichéd is that? She made him a shitload of cash as his first big signing and then she married him, thinking that gratitude was the same thing as love. I used to think that they only got married because they rescued each other and were stupid enough to think that that meant something."
His words were loaded with a meaning that I couldn't possibly ignore.
"I think it sounds sweet," I interjected. I knew it was lame. But I also knew that his twisted, stupid view of love was wrong and I had to challenge it.
"She got bored," he continued, curling his lip up in distaste. "She tried being an artist, like that could fill up the emptiness of a loveless marriage. That didn't work. She got into all that new age religion crap and had me and stuck me with this stupid name... and then this summer, she realised that I wasn't enough anymore either. And now? My dad's a bitter old man who only loves his money and according to her fucking note, my mom changed her name back to Wilhelmina Stewart and moved back in with her back up guitarist, some hick down in Nashville called fucking Billy Joe or something. Maybe she's wanted him all this time... who knows?"
I frowned, angry at his parents but also mad at him for only being able to focus on the negative.
"That's messed up," I murmured with bitterness of my own. "But love isn't always bad or painful. It isn't."
I love you. I fucking adore you.
I prayed that he wouldn't ask what made me so sure because I definitely didn't feel ready to start throwing the words around. I wasn't ready to tell him I loved him because he wasn't ready to hear it. When his reply came though... it was worse than what I'd prayed against.
"I thought it was... you know, until you loved me."
Something about his words mad e me freeze in fear. I fell backwards, sitting down heavily on my bed with the awful weight of his words on my shoulders.
He smirked at my terrified face, looking every inch the cruel, powerful boy people now saw from the outside.
"I heard what you said to Leo, Jake, I'm not an idiot."
It was the way he said it that made me crumble. Oh God, my heart. My poor, sellotaped heart.
"No, you're not," I said softly, hating the smug look on his face. I didn't know why he was being so awful about it. It just didn't seem fair, after all he'd put me through. "I am though. Loving you is a recipe for disaster."
His smirk faltered as if he hadn't expected such a blatant admission of my feelings. He shook his head at me and I registered how angry he seemed, like he was mad at himself for being such an asshole- at least, I hoped that was the reason.
"God, I'm sorry," he said, surprising me by sighing and raising his chin to stare into my eyes, looking completely sincere now. "This is coming out all wrong. I am an idiot... look, I'm trying to tell you... I wanted you to realise that loving me isn't good for you and that you deserve someone so much less fucked up and cynical... but you seem to have figured it all out for yourself. How can you know that and still want me?"
"October," I replied, rolling his name around on my tongue like the sweetest candy, "I can't turn it off. That's not how it works."
He looked alarmed. "I don't... Jesus, Jake, I don't want you to turn it off! Fuck, I'm bad at this." I looked at him helplessly, desperate for him to continue. I wanted that to be a good thing. I felt my heart lift at his words- he didn't want me to stop? I prayed to the God I almost believed in to let it mean what I hoped it meant.
October continued, oblivious to my inner turmoil. "Until you.... you know, loved me, I didn't think it could feel okay. That's what I meant to say before. I always saw love as a burden, even when Seth loved me it was just something that made me feel awkward and uncomfortable. I thought love was a weak, stupid thing, and I didn't want to get hurt and end up numb like my dad or unhappy like my mom. Until you came along with your stupid beautiful skin and your fucking hey-I'm-Jake-look-how-fucking-charming-I-am routine I didn't even think I was capable of love. And you made me want to rethink things and I couldn't really handle it. Am I making sense?"
No. Yes. I hoped so, because my interpretation of his words was terrifyingly, excruciatingly perfect.
"You don't want me to stop loving you," I said cautiously. It wasn't a question really, but I needed his reassurance before I let myself scream with happiness.
"Jake," he said, his voice thick with emotion. His caramel voice filtered through the pores of my skin, the nuances in his tone caressing every inch of my body; it made me want to throw myself at him. I had to physically grip my arms to keep myself from touching him.
"I hate the idea of someone else touching you," he said quietly. "I want to protect you, constantly. You're like, the only person to ever think I was worth saving and you've turned me into such a total fucking sap that... well, the only possible solution is to ask you if you'll have me."
I inwardly imploded, felt the euphoria build up inside me until it shattered into a million tiny fireworks. I couldn't even breathe and October wasn't finished yet either.
"I won't lie Jake, I'm a wreck. I'm fucked up and I'm warning you it'll be messy and I'll probably drive you crazy trying to run from it, but... I like you. And I want to, you know, try."
Try to... love me? Oh my God. Oh. Wow. I felt his words in my toes- it wasn't until he stood up, walking purposefully towards me, that I realised I was trembling. He touched my cheek fondly as he pulled me back to my feet. We faced each other, standing close and moving closer without hesitation, because this time, I knew it wouldn't and couldn't be meaningless. His face, centimetres from mine, was close enough for me to memorise every inch. I catalogued the plains of his smooth cheeks, the pink curve of his lips into my mind. I engraved his hazel eyes onto my heart, framed by thick black lashes and with a single tear in the corner. It fell, and this time I kissed it away without restraining myself, tasting salt and the first, sweet hint of October's skin.
I had a feeling I'd never be able to forget that moment, the exact look in his eyes, the exact way that my heart leapt at his tiny smile.
October's voice became the odd, hoarse tone that I remembered from Wells River. This time he simply said my name,
He breathed into my waiting mouth, finally meeting my lips with his own as I smiled into the kiss. One of his hands tangled itself in my hair and the other rested on my hip, his hand snaking underneath my t-shirt to sear my skin. And his lower lips grazed mine in slow, delicious friction; I felt like I was falling, tumbling into exquisite euphoria with nothing to cushion my fall. His hand gripped the back of my head almost desperately, crushing me closer and closer to him as he groaned lowly into my mouth- there were tears on my cheeks and I didn't even know who they belonged to but I knew why they were being shed. My body hummed with unrestrained pleasure, like every single nerve was tingling, like it was whispering, then screaming it out.
At last. At last. At last.
It was an end of the world kind of kiss- you know, one of those kisses that makes your entire universe shift. It was a kiss that made me know I was never so happy or alive as I felt at that moment, a kiss that told me he loved me as much as he knew how to. It said I love you and I need you and give me all your crazy mess and drama because nothing has ever felt this good.
He lifted off my t-shirt and I mumbled dizzily into his mouth.
He pulled away reluctantly, breathily heavily as he leant his forehead against mine.
"What?" he said, grinning as he rubbed his nose against mine- an Eskimo kiss. I pulled away, sighing in total bliss.
"I was wrong," I said, a goofy smile never leaving my face. "Happy endings do exist, don't they?"
The October I knew and loved answered my question honestly, as I'd expected he would.
"No," he said, looking seriously into my eyes as his hand traced my cheekbone in fond amazement. He pulled me in to kiss him again, whispering hotly against my lips.
"This is a happy beginning."