A/n: The lyrics in this chapter are from the song Alone Together by Fall Out Boy; I am using them for fun, not profit. Just saying.
Anyway. Thank you so very much to everyone who has read, followed, favorited, and reviewed this story. The feedback I've received has been better than I imagined it would when I first thought of these boys. So thank you. Again.
And, with that said, please enjoy the last chapter of Imperfectly Perfect, and keep your eyes peeled for the sequel, Perfectly Worth It, coming out later today.
Chapter 17: Which is Why
What the fuck am I doing?
I stare up at Harper's window, my hands shoved in my hoodie pockets. His light's on. That's good. Really. It is. I wasn't sure he'd still be awake. I mean, it is after eleven and the schedule in his journal said—
Fuck. I'm stalling.
Biting my cheek, I pull from my pocket the small pebbles I took from one of the gardens in front. I spend a moment just looking at them. I spend another moment staring up at the window again.
Am I really going to do this?
I—fuck. Yes. Yes, I am.
I have to.
I huff and run my free hand through my hair. My heart's pounding. My stomach's uneasy. I'm still not entirely convinced I'm actually here. Or that I actually have the balls to go through with this.
But I guess we're about find out.
With a deep breath in, I throw a pebble at Harper's window. Luckily, it hits. My lungs empty in a whoosh. I wait a few seconds before I throw the next one. Same goes for the third and fourth and fifth.
Fuck, I really hope he doesn't have headphones in or whatever.
Fuck, I'm almost out of pebbles.
I frown down at the three left in my hand. Fuck, shit, fuck. I don't—
"What are you doing?"
At the sound of his voice, I snap my head up. When I see Harper standing in his now open window, staring down at me, my heart skips a beat and my stomach swoops. That's when I know I'm doing the right thing. Even if I still can't believe it.
"Well?" he calls down, sounding impatient. I don't blame him when all I've done for the past minute is stare at him. "What do you want?"
I stare at him some more, my heart still pounding. Then, after swallowing hard and taking another deep breath, I do the stupidest, most foolish, embarrassing, and hardest thing I have ever done.
I sing to him.
"I don't know where you're going
But do you got room for one more troubled soul?
I don't know where I'm going
But I don't think I'm coming home and I said
I'll check in tomorrow if I don't wake up dead
This is the road to ruin
And we're starting at the end
Let's be alone together
We could stay young forever
Scream it from the top of your lungs, lungs, lungs
Let's be alone together
We could stay young forever
We'll stay young, young, young, young, young…"
I keep singing that song—one of his favorite songs by one of his favorite bands—making it to the beginning of the second chorus before Harper calls out my name to stop me. His voice is less impatient now, with a hint of amusement. My lips twitch at the latter even though my face feels like it's on fire and I'm pretty sure I'm about to puke.
But I keep it together long enough to send him a hopeful look and ask "Can I come in?"
Harper doesn't respond right away. For a moment, he just stares down at me and I'm too far away to see what kind of expression he has on his face. Which is why each second that goes by in silence freaks me out.
Which is why when he finally lets out a snort and says "The door's unlocked, you know," I feel like I could collapse in relief.
But I don't.
Instead, I just flash him a smile and then haul my ass back to the front door.
For a long while, we just stare at each other from opposite sides of his bed. Harper's expression is difficult to understand. Only his eyes clue me in to how he's feeling right now—a complicated mixture of anger, impatience, apprehension, longing, and curiosity.
Of course, the fact that I can read him so fucking well is just another fucking thing that makes it impossible for me pretend anymore. 'Cause if I didn't really care about him or his feelings, I would've never looked that hard. I would've never wanted to.
But I did. Which is why all of this shit happened. Because I wanted it to.
Because I wanted him.
I still do.
Taking a deep breath, I open my mouth to tell him that. Nothing comes out but the air I sucked in. I snap my mouth back closed. Fuck. Why is this so fucking hard?
I run a hand through my hair, glancing away from him. My throat feels tight and my stomach is in knots and I swear to fucking god my heart it going to give out soon if it keeps racing like that.
But I can't help it. 'Cause Tessa was right. I'm a coward. Especially when it comes to shit like this.
It needs to stop.
With another deep breath, I take out the folded pieces of paper in my pockets. After staring at them for a second, simultaneously debating whether or not this was a good idea after all and telling myself to stop being such a fucking pussy, I look back up at Harper and hold the cards out to him. He takes them, cocking an eyebrow. I feel myself flush.
"Uh…those are—it was Chloe's idea…" I explain. Lamely.
Harper says nothing. He just looks at the cards and then at me. The relief I feel when I see the slightly amused glint in his blue eyes and the crinkle at the corners he only gets when he wants to smile is fucking unbelievable. I let out another breath.
But I know those aren't enough. Not after everything. I can see it. I know it. He needs more than that. He deserves more than that. I just—this is just so fucking hard. I don't know what to fucking do.
I huff and shake my head, avoiding his gaze as I mutter "I wish you could just read my mind. That would make this so much easier."
Harper snorts. But he still doesn't say anything. And he's not going to. Not until I do.
Swallowing thickly, I force myself to look back up at him.
"I'm sorry," I say. It's the first time in a long time those words have come out of my mouth. From the flicker of—something across Harper's face, he knows that. Strangely, it encourages me to continue.
"You were right the other day. About everything. I am full of shit. I didn't…I was lying when I said all it was was sex. It wasn't. It never was. But I couldn't admit that. To you or myself. Because…because I'm a fucking idiot. And a coward. And—fuck."
I squeeze my eyes shut, taking a shakily breath and running my hands through my hair. I stay like that for a few seconds before I can manage to speak again.
"Tessa said something to me yesterday that I thought was bullshit at the time, but now—now I'm not sure anymore. She said that…that the reason I act the way I do—you know, like such an asshole—is to push people away. Because I'm scared. Of letting someone get close to me. Of letting someone in. Of letting myself be happy…
"And—fuck—she's right, isn't she? That's exactly why I do all of that shit. Because I'm fucking terrified of letting someone in and having someone get close to me because—well, because the last fucking time I did that it all went to hell. Because the last fucking time I was happy it turned out to be a fucking lie and I told myself I wasn't going to let that happen ever again. Because being fucking miserable all the time is easier and safer than risking getting hurt like that again."
"Are…?" Harper clears his throat, but his voice is still quiet and hoarse with hesitant curiosity when he tries again. That's okay. "You're talking about what happened with your parents and Charlene, aren't you?"
I lift my head up to meet his gaze and nod. "Yeah. But—here's the thing. I always knew my parents weren't fucking right for each other. I mean, they only got married because mom got pregnant with me and is from a super religious family that says you can't have a kid out of wedlock. And they used to fight all the time. It was—fuck. It was fucking awful. I knew that. I knew they shouldn't be together and whatever, it's just I didn't want to know, you know?
"So, I didn't. I made myself think everything was fine 'cause apparently that's what I do, which is why when it came out that dad had been seeing Charlene and she was pregnant and dad wanted to divorce mom, I fucking lost it. Because I couldn't keep pretending anymore and I fucking hated them all for it. Especially after mom left. And when I say she left, I don't fucking mean she moved out, to another part of town. I mean, she left. As in I haven't fucking seen her since.
"And that—I couldn't fucking do it. She…we used to be really close. Like I can't even fucking explain to you. And it just hurt so bad and I was so mad and confused when she left that I didn't know what to do except take it out of Charlene and Chloe and keep taking it out on them because it was their fault she's gone.
"At least, that's what I thought. But now…I don't know." I shake my head, running a hand through my hair again. Then, I furrow my eyebrows at Harper.
"Remember the day I freaked out on Charlene in front of Chloe—the day we got into a fight that ended up in us—you know—humping each other off?"
Harper nods, his mouth giving a little spasm like it wants to smile at my words, but he won't let it. That's all right too. "Yeah."
"Well, I got a letter that day. From mom. Saying she was never coming back and was never going to contact me again. That's why I freaked. 'Cause it felt like the day she left all over again. Only worse 'cause before I still had the little bit of hope that she'd come back and at least she called me every once in a while. Now I don't. And it—it really fucking sucks.
"So, yeah. Anyway. Back to the point. I'm a fucking asshole and I've been a fucking asshole because of all that fucking shit and it's just easier to continue to be pissed off at everyone. I mean, I know I shouldn't be so hard on Charlene because I know she makes dad happy, and I'd be a fucking hypocrite if I kept hating her 'cause now I've been the 'other person' in an affair…
"That's never really why I hated her anyway. It's just—it's just so fucking hard to constantly be reminded that that's why mom left. It was just easier to resent and hate and be awful towards her than it is to forgive her and my dad.
"And the same sort of thing goes for you. It was just easier to tell myself that I was just trying to prove you weren't so fucking perfect as everyone thought instead of admitting that I was attracted to you. It was just easier to make myself believe that we were just hooking up instead of admitting that I actually had feelings for you. It was just easier to push you away than admit that I wanted to be with you too because then that would mean admitting a whole bunch of other things that I'm not really sure I'm ready to admit yet."
"Like how I'm sick of being fucking miserable all the time. Like how I want to be happy for once but don't at the same time because I don't want to be hurt again. Like how that's the reason I had to lie to myself about you because somehow you weaseled your way in and I realized you made me happy and that's fucking terrifying. Like how you wanting to be with me is fucking beyond belief because I'm so totally not the kind of person you're supposed to be with or deserve and I'm scared that if I allow myself to go along with this that it's not going to last—that you're going to realize I'm not what you wanted after all and leave me. And I can't fucking risk having someone leave me again—I can't take that pain again, Harper, I just can't."
Harper stares at me with huge, profound, and earnest eyes. "What if I promised you wouldn't have to?" he asks quietly. "What if I promised you I wouldn't hurt you? Would you believe me?"
"I don't know," I tell him with a helpless shrug and shake of my head. "I mean, I want to believe you—I do. I just don't know if I can…"
"Because…because I can't believe someone like you—someone who is practically perfect can honestly want to be with someone like me. Someone fucked up and full of flaws."
"Nic, don't you get it?"
"That's exactly why I want you."
I give him a sharp look. "The fuck."
Harper smiles slowly and sweetly, and shifts so he's kneeling right in front of me. He then takes my face between his hands. My heart skips a beat and suddenly I can't breathe. All I can do is stare into those ridiculously blue eyes of his.
What I see makes me want to fucking cry.
But that's nothing compared to what he says.
"I know you have flaws. I know you're fucked up. But like I said the other day, I don't care. That's what I like about you—why I want you. It's how incredibly human you are. I never met someone like that before. Someone who's so volatile. Someone who's rude, snarky, without a care, yet clearly has some deeper stuff going on. Someone who tries to make it out like he's only one thing, but slips up sometimes and makes it so obvious that he's more than that—that he's not simple.
"That's why I want you, Nic. Because you're the furthest thing from simple. You're infuriating, difficult, the biggest pain in the ass I have ever met, and for some reason I love it. Maybe because I wish I was more like you. Maybe because I feel like you balance me out—I don't really know. I just know that I think you're incredibly beautiful. That how flawed and fucked up you are is a part of what makes you beau—"
"Don't," I choke out, squeezing my eyes shut and shaking my head. "Please don't."
"No," Harper says as he rests his forehead to mine. "Listen to me. I mean it."
"How?" I demand. "I'm a fucking mess."
"I know, but that's okay. It doesn't matter. It doesn't change anything."
Inhaling raggedly, I force my eyes back open. Once glance into that stupid, lovely, gorgeous blue of his is all I need to know that he's telling me the truth. That he fucking means it. He doesn't care that I'm fucked up—he wants me regardless.
I grab a hold of his wrists, squeezing my eyes shut again. My heart is fucking pounding in my chest. I can't fucking breathe, either. I—
"I'm fucking scared," I tell him in a whisper because that's all I can fucking manage right now.
"I know," Harper murmurs back, brushing his thumb along my cheekbone. "But it's okay. I promise."
And—you know fucking what?—for some unfathomable fucking reason, I fucking believe him.
With a shaky breath, I open my eyes again to stare into his. Harper stares patiently back. My lips twitch. I let them.
Then I lean in and kiss him.