"So is it me?" He asked quietly, stuffing his hands in his pockets, waiting.

I turned away, feeling a gentle prickling at my eyes. I took my books and papers out of the cab of my truck and stuffed them into my bag, telling him adamantly, "No, it's just me."

He gave a dry chuckle, a bit bitter in his response, "Yes, because it's always about you."

I'm pretty sure he was looking for my usual snark, a sarcastic remark, to say that things were okay with us. That I had never yelled at him that I didn't love him. That I had never told him to get off his high horse and just forget it. But he was right... And I was wrong, wrong, wrong.

I felt a few tears trickle down the side of my nose. I quickly wiped them away but he had still noticed. He took my hand but I pulled away sharply, finally looking him in the eyes. And all I saw was pain and remorse and that made the guilt eat away at the last bits of sanity.

He drew closer, our proximity intimate, as he whispered, "So, you really don't love me?" I wanted to open my mouth and tell him beautiful lies. That no, I really did love him and I was just hiding in denial. But I was being serious then, so why stop now?

"I don't," I confessed at long last, my voice barely a whisper, "but I have certain feelings for you..." I drew a little closer, daring myself to touch his cheek. And as soon as I did, he leaned into my gentle caress. I only gave a sad smile, feeling more tears ready to spill.

I continued, his dark brown eyes attentive to every word I said, "I lust for you. I want to have your body close to mine. But..." I lowered my gaze to the ground, my hand growing limp and falling to my side. The tears came so fast, I barely had time to think about what I was saying.

My emotions were in a whirlwind: disappointment, for telling him the truth. Anger, for letting the truth slip out so easily. And remorse and guilt, for what the truth was doing to him.

"But?" His tired, sad voice inquired, catching my attention but enough to lift my gaze. I sniffled quietly, "I can't do that to you." My voice cracked and we both could hear the sobs sitting in my throat. My chest was beginning to ache as I thought more about what I was doing. It was the worst feeling possible. I wished I had stayed home and buried my head under the comforters for the day.

"Why?" He finally asked, his voice cracking as noticeably as mine. Oh, what a horrible question. It only brought more tears to my eyes, more sobs to my throat, and more aching in my chest. Why was I stringing him along? Why was I hurting him with the truth? Why was I doing this to him? Why was I doing this to me? But no, no more evasiveness, especially not now.

I wiped away more tears and crossed my arms over my chest, finally finding courage in myself to look up at him. He watched gently, concerned as I told him, somewhat blubbering, "Because I just can't. I can't do that to you." He looked surprised; was it not the answer he was expecting or was he not expecting me to have a mental breakdown?

He gently tugged my arms away from my chest and I let him hold my hands tight in his. He asked, watching my tear-filled eyes with caution, "What can't you do?"

So many questions, so little I wanted to answer. But why was I now all of sudden pouring my heart in to the ugly truth of things? Yes, he deserved to know but why so soon? Why couldn't I wait to calm down over the past days' events? Because this is his love for me we're talking about and he deserved to know why and how and what.

I replied, turning my head away in shame, "I just can't treat you like that! Ask you to come to my place for the evening and then leave before you're even awake! To treat you like a possession that I can just throw away whenever I'm done with it. You deserve better than that and I know it! You may not but I know it's for the better."

I gripped his hands tightly and faced him, telling him, pleading with him, "You deserve better than me! Please, just please..." We stood in silence, my sobbing echoing in the distance. I knew people were staring and gossiping and assuming but my only priority was making him understand and back off. I would deal with the rumors and "Are they sleeping together?" comments later.

Instead, he pulled me towards him and wrapped his arms tight around my back. And man, did it feel good. It was exactly what I needed but didn't want. Yet, I couldn't help myself from clinging tight to him and crying into his chest.

He waited patiently for me to calm down, running his fingers through my hair in a effort to slow the crying. It felt really nice, gentle too. But I screamed at myself to push away, to tear myself out of his embrace. My resolve was weak; I did not budge.

He told me softly, "That doesn't mean we can't ever be." I opened my mouth and faltered; was he seriously thinking of waiting for me? When I didn't say anything, he took it as something I couldn't argue and smiled. Oh, what a beautiful smile...

Wait, am I being utterly ridiculous about this? Was I really denying my feelings for him, repressing them like those awful memories I had of Brian. But why? Was I... afraid? Was I using an excuse so I wouldn't hurt myself? Or so I wouldn't hurt him?

But the excuse was hurting him. So what was I doing? Argh! So many frickin' questions but no answers. Or at least no definite answers.

He let go of me, letting the cold air wash over me, and I shivered. It was like the cold reality of truth seeping in; I really did love him. But I'm hiding behind excuses to cover my own fear. I'm afraid of hurting someone. I'm afraid of taking on the responsibility of loving someone for who they are. I'm afraid to do the wrong things and ruin our relationship. I'm afraid of being just like Brian, using someone to their advantage and then tossing them away.

But when he wrapped his thick, winter coat around me and his clean, warm scent filled my senses, I began to realize it wouldn't be my burden to bear alone. He would be there with me, holding his hand out for me when I stumbled. He would understand and listen if I said something or did something wrong.

All I had to do was let him.

He asked, "Can I... walk you to class?" He rubbed the back of his head nervously, looking distracted by my tears and concerned. I wiped the remaining tears away and nodded my head, slowly giving him a smile, "Of course." I held my hand out, waiting. He looked up at me, seeing the warmth in my eyes and his smile widen, if that was possible, holding my hand tightly. And we walked to class in silence; it was the most wonderful moment of my life.

--

So instead of working Longevity and Prosperity like I should be, I decided to write this one-shot and work on another story.

The story behind this one-shot: I woke up in the middle of the night a couple nights ago, probably after having a vivid dream about it, and told myself, "I have to write this story." It took ten and half pages out of my notebook and I am quite happy with how it turned out.

So please review and let me know if I should have more middle of the night story-writing sessions! -Annie