She's sitting in a corner, stirring her coffee and staring into space, when he shows up, breathless, apprehensive.

"Hey."

Finally, she looks up. "Hey." Her eyes drop down to her coffee.

He sits, ripping open a sugar packet and adding it to his own cup.

"You put something in that, or are you just stirring it?"

She shoots him a look. "Stirring." She never puts anything in her coffee, and he should know that by now. Without being asked, she offers the stir stick.

"Thanks."

There's silence for a few minutes, as he stirs his coffee and takes a sip. As for her, she's still staring into her mug, fingers drumming idly on the edge of the table. Finally, he sets down his cup.

"I'm glad you came. I wasn't sure you got my message, or if you were..."

Ignoring me, is what he wants to say but doesn't want to say.

"I was at Mass when you called." Delicately she takes a sip of coffee. She doesn't look great, he reflects, white pale with dark circles under her eyes.

"You went to Mass this morning?" He's surprised and a bit hurt... they usually go to Mass together on Sunday evening... but he kind of understands. "Confession too?"

She shrugs uncomfortably. "I don't like to go to confession unless I'm sure I'm repentant."

It's a good sign. He allows a little bit of hope to rise.

"I guess that's the question, isn't it."

Her laugh is unexpected, brisk and brittle. "Yeah."

He doesn't know how to broach the topic, but he's pretty sure she won't--fuck she's good at pretending things haven't happened, does anyone really know what she's thinking?--so he forges ahead anyway.

"About last night--"

Maybe it's too abrupt, because her fingers tighten around her cup. He lets it drop.

Eventually she picks it up. "I guess we were stupid, to think that we could be such good friends without letting something like this happen, that it wouldn't get awkward or go..."

Too far, is what he thinks she wants to add.

"Yeah, I know. I'm..."

What is he? Not sorry, not really, although he might be after this is over. He decides to take the conversation in a different direction.

"I guess we didn't think things through properly."

Her agreement is implicit in the shifting of her shoulders, the way she evades his gaze.

"So I guess the question is, where do we go from here? Do we pretend nothing ever happened?"

She jerks, spilling steaming black coffee on pale delicate hands. "How can you even say that? First of all, the question is not where do we go, it's what the fuck was that? And second, how can you even suggest that we pretend like nothing ever happened? It's... you can't just turn back time like that."

She's glaring, but at least she's making eye contact now. Hurriedly he backtracks. "Okay, okay, fine. So what the fuck was that?"

"Do I look like I know?" she asks, slinking back into dejection. "This would be so much fucking easier if we could blame it on alcohol or pot or something." She hides her face in her hands.

"Hey." He reaches across the table--that insurmountable barrier keeping the space between them--to pull a hand away and touch her cheek. "Don't cry, okay?"

"I'm not crying. And stop confusing me." Violently she pulls her hand out of his grip and swats him away.

"Yeah, pretty sure you're crying."

"I am not--fuck, why am I even doing this? Not like it matters anymore." She lets the pretenses drop, lets her shoulders shake with silent sobs, pulls a tissue from her pocket and wipes at her red watering eyes.

His heart breaks a little bit, watching her try to collect herself. There's an older couple a few tables away looking at them concernedly. He glares in their direction and then turns his attention back to her.

Finally, her shoulders still and she crumples the tissue back into her pocket.

"Better?"

"No. I hate crying in front of people. I haven't done it since my uncle's funeral, and that was only because I couldn't help crying and I didn't want to leave in the middle of the eulogy." Her voice is still a little shaky, her eyes red. "But what the hell. Does it really matter if you see me cry now? You've already somehow managed to see more of me than anyone else in this whole fucking world."

He's surprised at how bitter she sounds. "What are you talking about? Last night--"

"Oh, last night. That's part of it... maybe most of it. But even without last night, how is it humanly possible that you know more of my secrets, my feelings, my dreams and goals than my best friend, than my own mother? How come I end up telling you things--or you end up figuring them out or whatever--that are supposed to be secret?"

It's possibly the most honest thing he's ever heard her say. "You try so hard to be everything to everybody that they never really see you as yourself, they see you as what they need. I never needed anything, so I get to know the real you. That's why we're friends," he reminds her.

"Are we, though? Are we still? Because I kind of thought that after last night, that friends thing might not be..."

He knows what she means, or at least he thinks he does.

"You mean like, we'll never be able to go back to being friends like we were--"

"Yeah--"

"So we should, what, retreat to awkward acquaintance status or step it up to..."

So much unspoken in the conversation, but she gets his meaning.

"Um, yeah. Basically." She pauses for a moment, like she's waiting for him to make a decision or something, but he doesn't because he doesn't know what the fuck she wants. Finally, she clears her throat. "And, you know--I mean--it will probably be, like, less confusing, and easier on us--on me--emotionally, I mean, and I guess spiritually too, if you want to put it that way--if we just... don't hang out anymore, I guess."

It's not quite an arrow through the heart, but he's kind of surprised at how close it comes. "There were a lot of qualifications in there," he says, partly to give her a chance to back out, and partly because he really doesn't know how to respond.

"Yeah, I... yeah." She's back to avoiding eye contact, looking into her still mostly-full cup. It must be cold now, is all he can think.

"So basically we can't be friends."

"Yeah."

"We can't hang out or talk, and if we run into each other we'll both probably move ourselves out of the way so we can avoid the awkward how-are-yous while we mentally relive and rehash every important aspect of our friendship, including last night and this morning. If anyone asks, we'll be awkward and vague and people will start to guess that something like this happened, and then they'll ask questions, and we'll have to justify our actions and our decisions over and over again--"

"Stop. Please." She's crying again, and he's sorry he's caused it but he can't stop until he makes her see.

"What I'm saying is--is that what you want? Is it really?" He reaches across the table, bridging the gap, to wipe the tears from her cheek.

"No," she says miserably, "I want you, but it'll be like that in the end anyway. It wasn't supposed to be like this--it wasn't--you're not supposed to--We've been friends for so long--we've talked about so much stuff--I know all about your ex-girlfriends and how you felt about them while you were dating them and after, I helped you through every single breakup, I know your pattern, I know that someday you'll get bored and your attention will wander and everything will end just like you said except there will be all these bitter feelings and--"

A great sob overtakes her, and she buries her face in her arms.

For a while all he can do is sit and stare at her, because like she says he's known her for years and years and years, knows her better than anyone, and he's never seen her break down like this, never seen her willingly reveal this much of her personal feelings. That has to mean something.

The older couple a few tables down are staring with avid curiosity now, though the woman still looks concerned. He ignores them this time, because they don't matter anymore.

He gets up and scoots around the table, joining her on the bench and wrapping his arm around her.

"Hey. Hey, look at me."

Still crying, she does.

"You told me a while ago that I know you better than anyone else in the world. Maybe we didn't expect this--last night--this to happen, but it did, and maybe it was supposed to happen, because--don't shake your head at me--because I love you. You're still shaking your head. Stop it. I do love you--the other girls you were talking about, I didn't love them, you know I didn't, they were just short-term distractions, I guess you could say. I got bored with them because I couldn't talk to them, not the same way I talk to you. I guess you could even say, because they weren't you. For all I know I could have been in love with you for years and never realized it till now."

She's stopped crying, and she's staring at him with wide eyes and wet lashes. She doesn't say anything, and he has no clue what she's thinking, which makes him more nervous than he knew she could make him.

"So, to summarize," he says, partially to lighten the mood, "I'm in love with you. What do you have to say about that?"

She manages to shoot him a disapproving glare before throwing her arms around him and burying her head in his shoulder. He thinks she might be crying again.

"Hey, you okay?"

She takes a deep breath--he can feel it--and whispers, "Sometimes I hate you, but most of the time I think I love you too."

Those might be the best words he's ever heard, and he tells her that--right before he lifts her face up to kiss her.

The older couple a few tables down applaud. He gives them a thumbs up around her, because really, nothing is worth stopping for--

Well, nothing except an exasperated manager threatening to kick them out if they don't stop scarring the eyes of the kids in the booth across the way.


A/N: Alrighty then. Not entirely sure where that one came from. ...okay, so I moved into a new apartment and I can see two coffee shops from my bedroom window, so I completely have coffee on the brain all the time now. This was actually originally supposed to be from the POV of the older couple watching, and it was going to be part of a series of the old couple eavesdropping on people's conversations... yeah. Like, you know how if you go into a Tim Horton's in a small town, there are always these regulars in the back of varying degrees of creepiness? And you swear to God they're listening to you tell your boyfriend that PDA in front of his grandparents is really not cool? ...yeah, this has totally never ever happened to me...