Chapter 16-Now What?

'Burn the bed

Consummated

Rest the head

It just holds us back now

And still she keeps on looking

Of course, of course

And now there's nothing I hate as much

Wet the lips

And shut your pretty mouth

Use the kiss

Tomorrow fails to exist

And still she keeps on looking'

"Effigy"

American Head Charge

"Jon…"

"Hear me out, Miette" Jonathon interrupted. His voice betrayed neither anger nor upset, remaining calm and steady. "I know what you did, so you don't need to explain it. I know why you did it…you don't need to explain that either. You thought you were gonna wake up this morning and die within a few hours…" he shrugged "I can't blame you for what you did. But I can hate you"

Miette's head lowered and Jonathon thought he saw her eyes begin to fill.

"But there's a small problem with that, too…" He shoved his hands in his pockets, adopted his standard slouched-over pose. "You see, I do hate you. I hate you more than anyone else in this world because you've hurt me so badly" his voice began to quaver and he made the utmost effort to steady it again "But, even though I hate you, even though than I wish I had never even laid eyes on you…I love you too"

Miette opened her mouth to speak, but Jonathon shook his head. He wasn't finished.

"I wish it was as simple as just hating you and leaving you to deal with this alone" he continued, words steadily picking up pace and emotion, gesturing with his hands as if giving an important speech "But it's not. We came all this way together and I don't give a shit what you say, you could have fucked off any time you wanted but you didn't, we stayed together all that time, through all that, and to have it end like this would be a waste" he opened his mouth to continue, but stopped when he realised there was nothing more to say. Dropping his arms, he shrugged and bit his lower lip.

Miette combed back her wet hair with her long fingers and sighed. "When I first met you I thought you were either a tramp or an undercover detective" she began, leaning back and clasping her hands in her lap. "Never in a million years did I ever think I'd meet someone else like me. You're right. We've been through some serious shit…but we always scraped through, didn't we? And I owe that to you. You say that I gave you a reason to keep going. Well…it's the same for me"

Jonathon merely nodded, engrossed in what the redhead had to say.

"And even after everything that happened in Calliope, I'm still proud to say I love you. And I've never been more serious in my life" She leaned forward again. There was a tense ache forming at the base of her spine. "Even after our arguments and fights I still adore you. And if you want us to go our separate ways from here on in, I'll leave"

"Don't be stupid…" Jonathon began, but Miette's strident protest cut him off halfway.

"I am not being stupid, Jon" Miette returned, pulling a strand of tangled hair away from her eyes "It's me they're after, not you. They don't really give a fuck what happens to you. They probably think you've already topped yourself. As far as I'm concerned, well, I've got a personal vendetta to contend with and it'd be senseless for me to drag you into it when you could get away and turn over a new leaf somewhere else"

Jonathon seemed to consider this point for a moment before shaking his head vigorously, dark hair whipping at his eyes.

"Fuck off" he replied steadfastly, as if she had just said something ridiculously stupid. "You think I'm going to let you off alone when there's a good chance you might die? You obviously don't rate me very highly, do you?"

"It's nothing to do with ratings," Miette told him, swinging her legs over the side of the couch and holding herself upright with her hands. "I don't want you to die because of me. Especially after what I did to you last night"

"I'm not pretending you didn't upset me," Jonathon countered quickly, enjoying their little quarrel in an odd, perverse way. "But like I just said, it'd be a waste to have been through all that and survived just to fall apart. I've known you a week but it feels like I've known you for half my life. I feel for you things that I didn't even know existed when I was with Lohetta. You did more than save my life. You saved my fucking soul" dark hair fell over endless eyes and he brushed away the matted locks with fearful ardour, renewing his stare. His voice was softer now, less intimidating, more like the Jonathon she had fallen for a few days ago.

"I'm such an idiot," he murmured, taking a few amusingly coy steps towards her "By all rights I should be sick of the sight of you…but it's the complete opposite. I don't want to be away from you"

"I think you're fucking mad" Miette told him, and Jonathon wasn't too sure whether she was being serious or not. The cold look in her eyes disclosed an overbearing seriousness, but there was a softness about her expression and a lack of any real conviction in her words.

"I think you're a fucking whore," Jonathon said frankly, shoving his hands back in his pockets and puffing his cheeks out childishly "Doesn't stop me from loving you"

Miette tilted her head to the side "I always thought you were weird like that" she told him in an almost playful tone of voice "Calling people whores then claiming to love them"

"Looks like Lohetta's ghost still hasn't left me" Jonathon murmured, taking another slow step forward. He leant down so his face was nearly level with hers and looked up into her face, drinking in the elegance of her well-sculpted features, the dark sweetness in her fickle blue eyes. He leaned forward and absorbed the softness of her lips with his own, reaching two hands up in order to pull her closer, fingers anchored just inside her shirt collar. She didn't attempt to resist. Feeling indeed like the biggest whore on the planet, she placed her own hands on his neck and allowed him to do what he wanted. She felt differently about this sort of intimacy with Jonathon than with Brian…she knew straight away, from the moment she first felt the warmth of his skin against hers, that this was meant to happen, that it was somehow right.

He broke away and plucked her hands from their place on his neck, enveloping her delicate fingers in his rough hands. "I don't give a fuck about Brian, and I think you know that already" he told her frankly, shifting his weight to his left foot. "But it's your choice, Miette. I hate to put it to you like this, but what it comes down to is a simple choice…me or him"

Miette pulled her hands roughly away from him and stared at him in apparent insult. She shifted back on the sofa and fixed him with the filthiest stare she could muster.

"How could you ask me something like that?" she asked incredulously "As if I'm going to pick him! My god Jon, I knew you were insecure but that is taking it to a new level!"

Jonathon drew himself up defensively "Well, you did fuck him!" he pointed out angrily, eyes narrowing in anger and defence.

"So fucking what?" Miette shot back "I'm sure you'd have fucked Ronnie if she wasn't a bloody lesbian!"

"No I wouldn't!" Jonathon retorted just as quickly "No I would not! I'm not like you, Miette. I actually care about your feelings"

"And I care about yours!" Miette exclaimed, eyes widening, voice rising to an almost unbearable pitch. She put her hands to the sides of her face in frustration, tugging at her lower eyelids "Jonathon, will you please stop making this harder than it already is?"

"You were the one who made it harder" Jonathon said in a voice of childish petulance "You were the one who jumped into bed with some bleach blonde midget"

"Fuck you" Miette muttered, seemingly out of arguments. She sank back into the cushions, closed her eyes and placed both palms flat over her eyelids. Taking a deep breath, she leaned back forward, snapping her bright blue eyes open and pinning Jonathon with another cool stare. "Jon" she said calmly, surprised at his lack of reaction to her angry exclamation. "Is it so hard to believe that all I want now is for us to get through this and start again? Can't we wipe the slate clean?"

"No" Jonathon shook his head simply.

Miette's coolness evaporated, replaced by hot anger and irrational irritation. Her rapidly drying hair hung limply in her face like clumps of congealed blood. "You're hardly an angel either, Jon" she reminded hotly, catching his flat onyx eyes and holding his gaze "How many times have you lashed out at me? You hit me round the face in Calliope. You threatened to smash me with a vase at Ronnie's house. You threatened to kill me. Hardly the work of a fucking innocent, is it?"

Jonathon opened his mouth to reply but realised that, detestable as the fact was, Miette was right. He sank back down, closed his mouth and puckered out his thin lower lip in a trademark sulky expression. He allowed a few tangled dreads to fall in his face, further lending to his sulk.

"Now then" Miette seemed calmer now, almost businesslike. She leaned forward even more so she was almost on his level. "Can we please, please talk without degenerating into stupid bickering? You may not have noticed but we're treading the line between life and death here"

"We can't do anything until Ronnie and Brian come back" Jonathon spat out the word 'Brian', making it sound like 'Dogshit' "And until then…"

"Until then" Miette interrupted gently, plucking absently at her eyelashes "Until then we may as well kick back and enjoy what's left of our freedom. Relax. Like old days"

"Like old days" Jonathon mimicked, adopting a mock high-pitched squeak. Then he pulled a disgusted face "Like the good old days where we'd swap stories of all the shitty things that have happened in our lives. Our wrist-slitting seminars"

Miette considered this for a moment. "Okay then" she told him thoughtfully, as if offering some brilliant compromise. "Okay, you tell me about one of your nicer memories" she leaned back slightly. Jonathon thought it vaguely amusing how she kept pogoing back and forth, upright to slouching and back again. She wiped all traces of expression from her face and waited in anticipation for his story.

Jonathon thought. And then it came to him.

"When I was sixteen" he began, drawing his knees up and wrapping his arms round them "Me and two friends of mine stole some tequila from a local off-licence and spent the night getting completely pissed. We had two bottles between us. I remember…" he squinted with the effort of the memory "It was me, Jimmy Marsh and Stefan Kelley. And…" he broke off again, this time grinning, on the very cusp of bursting into laughter "I remember Jimmy was sick in his girlfriend's handbag"

Miette smiled in return, thankful for the release of tension "Poor her" she commented

Jonathon nodded "She was okay about it after a few days and a lot of grovelling" he told her conversationally, resting his chin on his knees. He had shaved the previous evening and, for once, his face was pretty smooth and stubble-less. The smell of festering sea-salt was out of his hair and skin at last. He actually felt vaguely clean. "Must've worked, because last I heard they were engaged"

"Aww" Miette felt a silly smile cross her face and realised that she enjoyed seeing Jonathon happy. There was a peculiar expression in his eyes that had come and gone over the past week, flitting about his face like a moth trapped in a confined room, and it appeared to have returned. It lit up his whole face, turned pale, thin lips up into a smile, illuminated flat oil slick eyes.

"Your turn" Jonathon peered up at her and tilted his head to the side so he could catch a better glimpse of her pale face and cool eyes "What's your 'nice memory'?"

Miette leaned back again and allowed her back to sink into the soft cushions. She chewed on her lower lip thoughtfully and puffed out her cheeks to an innate rhythm. "I think it was when I was thirteen and I played Blousey Brown in our school production of Bugsy Malone…" she stopped dead, noting the laughter in his eyes and the smile on his lips "…Yeah, laugh all you want" she told him, swatting his arm playfully. He recoiled with a merry grin, pretending to be injured. "I had to beat twelve other girls to that part and I got it. So…" she stuck her tongue out.

Jonathon snapped his arm out and grabbed her tongue between his forefinger and middle finger.

Shocked, Miette pulled back but Jonathon travelled with her, pulled onto his feet by her motion. She pulled herself upright and Jonathon, still holding her tongue, yanked her gently towards him and into the warm circle of his thin arms. She retracted her tongue from his grip and swallowed hard. His hand had tasted of bitter soap. She felt like spitting, but didn't. She allowed herself to be cocooned in the warm swaddling cloth of his borrowed shirt, feeling, for once, safe and warm and almost invincible. She felt him rest his chin on the top of her head, could feel the steady thud…thud…thud of his heart, could hear him breathe slowly and evenly. She relaxed, let him hold her upright. She felt like nobody could ever hurt her again.

She inhaled deeply.

The clean, salty smell that filled her nose wasn't Jon's, but Brian's.

She panicked, recoiled, writhed her way out of his arms.

"What?" Jonathon looked visibly worried, tucking his hands in his pockets and regarding Miette with wide-eyed wonderment. "What's wrong?"
'He's everywhere, on my clothes, in the air, I can still feel his hands like ghosts on my shoulders. That's what's wrong. But I can't ever tell you that, can I?'

"Thought I was going to be sick," she told him, cringing. The smell was still there, still hanging in the stale air like an apparition. Her stomach rumbled and she realised that she did feel a little sick "I haven't eaten in ages"

Jonathon nodded knowingly. "Mm" he agreed kindly "Ronnie was kind enough to make me some toast last night, but I know what you mean"

Miette nodded back.

There was a moment of contemplative silence.

Then:

"Is Ronnie really a lesbian?" Jonathon asked thoughtfully.

Miette nodded sagely. "Seems like it" she told him.

Jonathon considered this for a few moments.

He peered up at Miette through a framework of tangled dreads.

"Cool" he replied nonchalantly.

Three miles away, and gaining ground fast, Dominic Hayden drove on.

A/N: Just an advance warning: the next chapter may be a little longer in coming. And I mean a 'little', because I have mock exams right now. But…without further ado, my thanks:

SafaiaGem: For continually posting this on her website…I can't wait to see how 'Beyond The Blue Light' develops, as well as 'Single Blood Sin'

Dream Angel: For the (very appreciated) support you have given me since I first posted this. You've given me so much confidence and motivation to write. Now, I only ask that you continue with 'What Can Be Built Through All That Is Broken' (with some more of that yummy Gabriel ^^)

Noyze: For your helpful comments! Without you I probably wouldn't have been able to continue this without smacking into 'Cliché Road' and I thank you for all your support

Carter Tachikawa: For always, always reviewing everything I do. It can't be fun for ya, but you still do it! Thanks so, so much!!!! Keep writing 'Jaws Of Love', you know I love that fic

Niki: For always pushing me into writing 'your story'…hope ya liked this one ^_^

Arietti: Like Carter, you've reviewed almost everything I've written and you have no idea how much it means to me. Thanks for your constant support! Keep writing 'A Simple Game'…I need my next fix of Baidaness ^_^

And to my newest reviewers, Zinic and Hidden In The Shadows: thank you for sticking with this story as it develops slowly but surely. Your comments really do make my day!

Ok, now that's done, there's nothing more for me except to say thank you for reading and roll on chapter 17: Denial, Revisited

Thanks

Tio (TioRankP@hotmail.com)

(www.livejournal.com/users/tiorankp)