Disclaimer: I don't own the song I Want You To Want Me by Cheap Trick, obviously.
A swell of panic rose through his chest when he heard footsteps coming closer. The sound was familiar, more of a shuffle due to her bad habit of dragging her feet. She had been trying to fix that lately; it always made the bottoms of her shoes wear out faster. He swallowed down his emotions, leaving a knot tight in his stomach, but he continued to throw clothes into the open suitcase on the bed. It wasn't space-efficient but it was time-efficient.
He slowed his frantic packing when he felt her gaze on his back. He couldn't turn around; he couldn't face her. It would make things more difficult than they already were. Without even a glance at her, he finished packing. His clothes made a small mountain in the middle of the suitcase. There was no time to sit around and fold everything, so he simply flattened it all to an even surface and shut the suitcase with a bit of a struggle. He kept his hands on top of it, driving it into the mattress.
"You're leaving," she stated, breaking the silence. Her words made him jump and he finally looked at her. She was leaning on the doorjamb, pale arms crossed loosely below her chest and brown eyes fixed on him. She had just gotten home from work, still wearing the standard-issue teal polo and khaki shorts that all of the aquarium employees wore. He had been hoping that he would be gone by the time she got back.
"Yeah," he replied lamely. She shifted against the doorjamb, the dark hair from her low ponytail slipping behind her shoulder, before standing up. A second passed before she stood up straighter, back arched and shoulders back; she had been working on her posture lately. He turned his body to face her and grabbed the handle of the suitcase, but he couldn't seem to get it off of the bed. Her eyes caught the movement and her lips tugged into a frown.
"I tried," she murmured sadly, "really fu-… really, really hard." She had been trying not to curse lately.
"I know," he said, gripping the handle until his knuckles turned white. It was painfully obvious how hard she had tried to work things out, constantly grasping to salvage their relationship. He dragged the suitcase off of the bed and it landed on the floor with a loud thump.
"I guess it wasn't enough," she sighed, resigned. He watched as her posture slipped, her shoulders slumping with defeat. He almost wanted to remind her about it; he didn't want her efforts to be wasted.
"I-I'm sorry," he stuttered, at a loss of what to say. He had been through break-ups before but he never imagined going through one with her. She was supposed to be the one. It was why he had tried to avoid the whole confrontation altogether and just disappear.
"Don't be," she told him, shaking her head. A small smile played at her lips but her eyes were bitter. "I finally realized that if you don't want to be here, then I don't want you to be."
"I guess that's my cue," he bit out, a hint of anger leaking into his voice. He knew she heard it but she chose to ignore it. He brushed past her but paused right outside of the bedroom. He wanted to say something, one last parting word, but nothing came to mind so he simply left.
A month later…
He had thought he was too young to be in a serious relationship. He had thought he was missing out. He had thought he was supposed to be single. He had thought he needed to go out every night with the boys. He had thought he needed to come home every night with a girl. He had thought it would be everything he had expected it to be and more. He was wrong.
The apartment complex seemed exactly the same as he had left it. The elevator was still broken so he took the stairs. After three months of not doing so, his legs burned by the time he made it to the fourth floor. He walked to the end of the hallway, turned right, and came to a halt at the second door to the left. He wiped his slightly sweaty palms on his jeans, realizing that he probably should have looked in a mirror before he booked it to her apartment; he would have lost his nerve. The shirt smelled clean enough, but his dirty blonde hair was probably all over the place and he had broken out on the right side of his jaw. Oh God, she wouldn't want him back. What the hell was he do-…
"…-ing?" her voice rang. He jumped, placing a hand over his rapidly beating heart. He turned his head to the left and there she was, a bag of groceries dangled from one hand while her keys were in the other.
"H-hi," he stammered out. She blinked up at his green eyes for a second, and then shuffled past him to the door. She still hadn't stopped dragging her feet when she walked.
"Hi," she said, deftly unlocking her door and stepping into the apartment. When it didn't close behind her, he took it as an invitation inside. The small one-bedroom apartment looked exactly the same as he had left it; life went on with or without him.
"Uh…" he started, standing awkwardly in the doorway. She placed the paper bag onto the kitchen counter and shuffled towards the short hallway that led to the bedroom and bathroom.
"I'm going to go change," she stated and closed the bedroom door behind her. He let out a breath he didn't know he was holding and wandered into the kitchen. He rifled through her groceries, finding the usual: milk, some bagels, a box of crackers, fruit snacks, a bag of rice, and popsicles that he loved. He took the liberty of putting her groceries away, knowing exactly where everything went.
He felt her gaze and looked up to see her watching him. He took the time to examine her. The only thing she had changed was her jeans. The cotton shorts that she wore were likely rolled up at the waist with part of her oversized shirt tucked into the elastic. The bright red color clashed with the purple of her shirt; she always either matched perfectly or not at all. She wore her glasses, probably too lazy to have put her contacts in that morning, and her hair was thrown up in a bun although he didn't see the point of it. It hung just above her neck with locks falling out of it and into her face. Her shoulders were slightly slouched; she still needed to work on her posture.
"Hi," he repeated. She smiled at him, barely showing teeth, but he caught sight of her retainer. She was the only person he knew that still wore hers; she was extremely paranoid of her teeth moving, even though it had been years since she had gotten her braces off and her teeth were still perfect. "How've you been?"
A part of him wanted her to say that she had been miserable without him, that she wanted to get back together, that she still loved him. He was beginning to doubt their break-up even affected her; she seemed exactly the same. He watched as she cocked her head slightly to the right in thought, just as she always did.
"Why are you here?" she asked, not bothering to answer his question. He opened his mouth to answer, then closed it, and repeated this process several times.
"I missed you," he finally answered, avoiding eye contact. He let out a deep sigh and threw all caution to the wind; it wasn't like he was going to get any more miserable. "I thought I knew what I wanted, but now I really know what I want: I want you."
"… To want me," she added. Her face was completely serious.
"What?" he exclaimed, brow furrowed. He hadn't come to her apartment just to have his feelings shoved in his face. Maybe rejected, but not made fun of. "Look, I-"
"… Need you," she interrupted. He shot her a glare; she didn't even flinch. Instead, she rolled her eyes at him and gave him a pointed look.
"… To need me?" he offered. She smiled brightly, nodding her head in encouragement.
"I'd love you…" she started.
"… To love me," he finished, letting a small smile slip onto his face. He didn't know the rest of the lyrics to the song and he doubted that she did either. This is what he missed: being silly, being in love, being together. And not just with anybody, with her. What other girl wouldn't care that she looked like a bum? He still thought she was beautiful. What other girl would interrupt his confession with a song? It was strangely fitting. What other girl would he ever love? No one but her. "I love you."
"We already said that line," she pointed out, knowing perfectly that he was no longer using lyrics. He shot her a glare but the smile on his lips softened it. "I love you, too."
He slowly made his way to her, stopping with only inches between them. He gently removed the glasses from her face. She squinted up at him; her eyesight was atrocious. His hands carefully cupped her face and brought his lips down to hers. She pulled away all too soon.
She ran into the bathroom before he could get a word in and she returned with a small white container in her left hand. Her right hand was in her open mouth, easily popping the top piece of her retainer out. The bottom one soon followed and the lid to the case snapped closed. She ran her tongue over her teeth once and smiled.
"Way to set the mood."