A/N: So, obviously, it's been 3 katrillion years since I've posted and I'm a terrible person. :/ Some of you may have already seen this, since I posted it to my tumblr ages ago, but I wanted to post it here just so it was all in one spot. Mostly, I just want to say I'm So Sorry! This story just got away from me, and I lost all interest in finishing it. :( I hope to post more stories in the future, but this one won't be continued.
If you do want to know what I envisioned happening to Caid, Josh, and Tally, here's a little thing I scribbled down when I first starting writing this story.
I love you all soooo freaking much even though I know it hasn't seemed like it for years.
Five years later and it still hurts when Tally catches Josh looking at Caid like he's the best thing to ever happen to him. Like he's so full up of love, he doesn't know what to do with it, reaching out to press his fingers on Caid's knee so it has somewhere to go.
It hurts for different reasons than it did before, sure, but some part of herself is always going to be that twenty-five year-old-girl in love with her high school sweetheart, trying so hard for it to work, holding the crumbling pieces of it in her hands, wondering where the moment was when it all got away from her. That tender girl who loved her brother more than almost anyone, and didn't want to deny him anything, even this biggest piece of herself. Even the boy she thought she loved. The boy she did love.
Sometimes she catches herself hating the both of them, especially this time of year, when it all went to shit that first time. When she moved back in with her parents for three months until she could remember how to do normal things without breaking down. She knows Caid can sense it, that he's always been able to tell when she's hurting, even though he can't see it on her face. Times like these, and she swallows, leaves the room for a minute, and thinks of how much better things are for her now. How she's got a full-time spot at a university and she's up for tenure since the publication of her second book. How she's got everything she's ever wanted, except for one thing, and that one thing shouldn't be making this achy desperation swell in her gut.
It's summertime, and Tally gets coffee with Caid every Tuesday. He shows up in slacks and one of Josh's dress shirts, and it doesn't fit him right around the shoulders, and after all this time, neither of them can figure out how to dress themselves. But it's fine, she thinks, it's fine because they're so lovely and warm that nobody cares what they're wearing, ever, and Josh sometimes makes little jokes about Caid not being the only blind one when it comes to fashion, and it always makes the breath catch in Tally's throat that Caid can laugh at that now, can let Josh call attention to it like the fact that Caid can't see is something that makes him beautiful, exquisite.
And every time, it reminds Tally of two Christmases ago, when she walked into the kitchen to get a glass of water, and Caid and Josh were on the back porch, facing each other and smiling, Caid with his hands on Josh's elbows and Josh's thumbs sweeping the tender skin under Caid's unfocused eyes. How Caid had said, "Tell me what you see."
How Josh had said, "You."
"That's not what I meant, Josh," Caid said, smiling gently.
"Yeah, I know," Josh said. "But it's still my answer."
And Tally had gasped and tripped back up to her room, tears pricking in her eyes and breath fiery hot in her chest. Torn between loving them both so much, what they were for each other, and feeling robbed at not having it herself.
Today, Caid is telling her about the renovations Josh is doing on their house, and how he wishes Josh would just call a guy about the damn pipes, but, "You know how he gets about these things."
"Yeah," Tally says, distracted and hot under the cotton of her button-up. She's got a class in two hours, and she hopes the students have done their reading. Hopes discussion will flow better than it had last session. Hopes she'll start feeling like an effective teacher one of these days.
Caid smiles, and he looks so different than he did when he came to her all those years ago. When he was defiant and ragged around the edges, weak and pissed off about it. Now, he's easy and open, keeps one hand on the handle of his mug, and the other elbow hooked around the back of his chair. He's twenty-five now, and she's almost thirty, and she still loves him as fiercely as she did when she pressed her hand over her mom's belly and felt him kick for the first time. So when he smiles like this, she's so helplessly in love with Josh, too. Because he did that. That lazy bastard made her brother into this man. And maybe she should stop calling him a lazy bastard, but old habits die hard.
"I can't wait to come see the finished product," she says, takes a sip of her drink, ignores the niggling worry that she has a whole stack of papers to grade this evening.
"Yeah," Caid says. "Josh keeps telling me he's painted the walls piss-yellow. You'll have to settle our bet that he's shitting me."
Tally laughs. "I wouldn't put it past him, actually."
Caid groans. "You know, neither would I." But he's smiling, still, not like a guy who may or may not have a house painted in various shades of hideousness, but a guy who can't quite believe his luck. Which is stupid, and Tally wants to press her hand over his and tell him he deserves every shred of what he's got, that she wants to give him more of it.
But she knows Josh has that taken care of. That anything Caid wants, and Josh will get it for him, and that all Caid really wants is Josh, so everything is always going to be fine. And that's all Tally really wants for both of them anyway. Knows that's all they want for her, too, no matter what happened.
In those first few months after, when she felt like all her insides were splintered and swimming in hurt, and Caid wouldn't stop calling, wouldn't stop showing up at the door begging her to be okay. Offering to give her anything, anything, except to leave Josh. When all of their conversations ended with him in tears, sobbing, saying "Tally I love him." Love like it was borne in him. Like it was all of him. Like he never expected her to ask him to give it up. And she never did, of course, could never. Not after she found their letters. He was her brother. Her little brother. And Josh was the man she loved, had loved since he threw a dodge ball at her too hard in third-period gym, and looked guilty enough to puke when her nose bled.
Not after they'd spent those months apart looking like hollow men, and she'd wondered, the whole time, why they both looked like they weren't living in their bodies anymore. How she'd felt when she read the words if you think this is working, you're wrong. Tell me to come home, Josh, and I will. Tell me to come home, and I'm yours. Even before the knee-buckling betrayal and white-hot shame, the delirious hurt that clung to her for months after, there was a moment of bright relief to find them both again, in these words, in the afternoon a year later when she'd asked Josh what he'd written back. Knowing, before he said, that his letter was of course, two words, followed by please. Followed by I love you.
A breeze kicks up, sends her skirt fluttering against her bare calves, and Caid hums, tilts his head back to the sun.
Sometimes she thinks about how easily she could have lost him that night his car flipped over, and he woke up broken and halfway dead. But most days, she thinks of him this way, alive and happy and so in love, still, after five years. It's catching, and Tally finds herself smiling, too, thinking of how she has so much to say, and time and words to say it with. How there are two books on her shelf with her name on them, and how her classes are almost always full to the brim with students who have just as much to say as she does.
The rest of it—someone to write her letters and fix up a house and see her, only her, always her—it'll come. Of course it will come.
And until then, she'll make sure Josh isn't painting the walls piss-yellow, that Caid is ironing his shirts before his job interviews, and to let them buy her cheap martinis every once in a while, to relax, to remember that she's young and cared for and appreciated for all the things she's done, and all those she still has left to do—by Josh and Caid, and also, someday, by someone she'll call her own.