I'm suddenly hyperventilating. I cough and sputter and gasp my body back into life. Timothy's weight on me is hindering my breath. I try and push him off but I can't move.
Finally, his weight lifts and I see Jonathan's worried face. His thoughts race, afraid he's too late, afraid I'm dead, afraid I'm hurt.
I am hurt, but I'm very much alive.
Jonathan smiles and touches my face. All I can do is breathe.
"You're alive," he whispers.
I chuckle but it turns into a cough. I stop coughing and swallow. "Yeah, I'm alive. Gently," I say as he pulls me into a hug and squeezes me so tight I can't breathe again. "Gently!" I wheeze into his ear.
"Oh, I'm so sorry, Al," he says and lets me go enough so that we're face to face. We just stare at each other, breathing hard.
I look over at Timothy's dead body. His eyes are still open and his head wound is still bleeding. "You shot him."
Jonathan nods. "He was killing you. I told you."
"Told me what?"
He looks into my face earnestly. "You're not allowed to die."
We stare at each other for a long time. Our breathing quickens, our faces so close we might be able to kiss. I can feel a weird... feeling in our arms as we cling to each other. It's so powerful, I feel like I could charge a car with it.
"We've got to get you to a hospital," he says finally.
"I'm fine," I say. "We need to sort out this mess." I motion around us.
SCC agents are helping up the now-aware normals and they're picking through the rubble for the bodies, and there are many. We get up and begin helping. It's a process that takes weeks. The city gets involved and the restoration of the streets and buildings and soon, the SCC is left with just paper work. Jonathan and I opt for doing all of our paperwork at home as we rest and heal. Jonathan, poor thing, had cuts and bruises all over him, but nothing serious, a few scars on his cheek and his arms. I, on the other hand, suffered from oxygen deprivation, three broken ribs from catching Timothy, cuts all over me, and brain damage. It's nothing too serious, but I'm on leave for at least a month. Reggie is excited to have us both home, and we take advantage of it, having picnics in the backyard, and family dinners. He's so proud of us. We work as a family, but we don't talk about it. Every once in a while, I catch Jonathan's thoughts about it. He blocks me out as soon as I begin to decipher it. I hate to admit that it hurts when he blocks me out, but it does. I'm content, though, to go on pretending like everything is perfect and nothing needs discussing.
However I knew it wouldn't last.
One day Jonathan and I are both caught off guard when, as we are tucking him in, he says, "You two should get married."
I freeze and Jonathan immediately blocks his thoughts.
"If you get married," Reggie says, sleep slowly taking him, "We could be a real family."
I tuck the blankets around his chin, kiss him good night, and walk out. Jonathan does the same and goes straight to his study. I go to the den and slump into the big arm chair. I look out the window, looking out at the trees that surround the house. I can't think straight. I haven't considered the thought I'd had about Jonathan as I was dying since I was dying. I keep wanting to tell him, but I don't know if he feels the same way. He never lets me in his head any more. I don't want him to feel like I'm pushing him into something.
Finally, I make a decision.
I wait to tell him once I've got all the details in place. I decide to tell him after Reggie is asleep. I knock on the door to his office and open the door at his word. I linger in the doorway, not really able to look at him.
"I'm moving out," I say.
He looks up surprised. "What?"
I pick at his mind, but he's blocked me off again and I refuse to break into his privacy. "Yeah, I've found an apartment."
He puts down his pen. "You've been looking at apartments?"
I nod. "I borrowed your laptop. I've got some money saved up, from working, and I have enough for a deposit. I've found one across town. It's relatively close enough, so I can come visit Reggie whenever he wants."
"You're not going to take him?"
I narrow my gaze at him. "He's your son. I thought it's be best if he stayed here."
He frowns at the paper work on his desk and picks up a file. "Is it close enough to the office?"
I shrug. "I don't think I'm going to be working there any more."
Jonathan sighs at the paper work. "Well, that's your decision."
I nod again, but really I'm kind of dying inside. I think this is love. It hurts that he doesn't care, but I want him to be happy. "Are you happy?"
He looks up startled. "What?"
"Sorry, stupid question. I'm going to start packing my stuff." I slip out the door and dash down the hall to my bedroom before I lose my cool and start confessing.
I'm angry by the time I'm done packing one drawer full of clothes. Why can't I just have one thing? I deserve to be happy, don't I? I thought we were getting closer, I thought this whole family act would bring us together. I shake my head angrily.
Obviously, I thought wrong.
I start punching my clothes in the suitcase, angrily beating my sweaters and jeans until I catch my knuckles on one of the metal buttons and cut them open.
"Ahhhh!" I groan, more angry than in pain. "I hate him!"
I gasp and turn around. So caught up in my rant, I didn't notice him leaning in the doorway. I reach out my gift to him and feel him still blocking me. I frown. "No one, I just... I'm just angry, that's all."
He doesn't look at me.
I start packing again.
"Why are you leaving?"
I stop. "I guess I felt like I've stayed my welcome. It's time I went back to my life. I've done what I can and now it's time for me to move on."
He looks at his feet. "You know you're welcome here for as long as you like."
I shrug. "Yes, but I can't just keep staying here. I'm not your family, I've got no connection to you, I'm certainly not your wife, I can't just stay here. It's weird, we worked together, you're my boss, it would be inappropriate."
"I thought you were quitting," he says.
I throw my underwear into the suitcase. "I am."
"Then you're not my employee, it's not inappropriate."
"But it is!" I turn to look at him and finally he meets my gaze. "We're not... I can't just... I don't even..." I sigh.
He chuckles, "I've never seen you at such a loss for words."
I chuckle too. "Yeah, I'm a real chatterbox."
His smile disappears. "Alice, please stay."
"I can't," I say.
"Why? Why can't you stay? Is there not enough room? Are we too messy? Is taking care of Reggie too hard?" he asks, stepping farther into the room. "What's wrong?"
I look down, trying really hard not to let the tears that burned behind my eyes spill over. "I just can't stay here any longer."
"Is it me?" he asks, his voice so low I almost don't hear it.
I bite the inside of my lip. It is him, but if I tell him I don't know what will happen, which is a first in my life, I've never not known what someone will do. But I respect him too much to pry. I look up at him and something in his eyes is begging me to say something, anything.
Oh, fuck it.
"Yeah, it's you. I think I love you."
P.S. I've also hidden another reference in this chapter, towards the beginning :D