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Summary: Sequel to Hands and Knees
Rated: M
Categories: Jonas Brothers Characters: None
Challenges:
Series: None
Chapters: 24 Completed: Yes
Word count: 112928 Read: 35814
Published: 05/18/2020 Updated: 05/18/2020

1. Chapter 1 by The archive [Reviews - 0] (642 words)

2. Chapter 2 by The archive [Reviews - 0] (4700 words)

3. Chapter 3 by The archive [Reviews - 0] (3601 words)

4. Chapter 4 by The archive [Reviews - 0] (3532 words)

5. Chapter 5 by The archive [Reviews - 0] (6257 words)

6. Chapter 6 by The archive [Reviews - 0] (2437 words)

7. Chapter 7 by The archive [Reviews - 0] (3398 words)

8. Chapter 8 by The archive [Reviews - 0] (3261 words)

9. Chapter 9 by The archive [Reviews - 0] (3755 words)

10. Chapter 10 by The archive [Reviews - 0] (6404 words)

11. Chapter 11 by The archive [Reviews - 0] (6698 words)

12. Chapter 12 by The archive [Reviews - 0] (3577 words)

13. Chapter 13 by The archive [Reviews - 0] (6138 words)

14. Chapter 14 by The archive [Reviews - 0] (3473 words)

15. Chapter 15 by The archive [Reviews - 0] (6923 words)

16. Chapter 16 by The archive [Reviews - 0] (5109 words)

17. Chapter 17 by The archive [Reviews - 0] (4823 words)

18. Chapter 18 by The archive [Reviews - 0] (4220 words)

19. Chapter 19 by The archive [Reviews - 0] (8085 words)

20. Chapter 20 by The archive [Reviews - 0] (2547 words)

21. Chapter 21 by The archive [Reviews - 0] (5853 words)

22. Chapter 22 by The archive [Reviews - 0] (7739 words)

23. Chapter 23 by The archive [Reviews - 0] (9378 words)

24. Chapter 24 by The archive [Reviews - 0] (378 words)

(flashback: late August)

My baby was gone.

I killed it with my own negligence. I didn't even mean to, but it was like everything I touched was destroyed. My baby was supposed to be here with me; kind of like a consolation prize for losing everything else that meant something to me. Instead, I lost my baby, and I lost Nick.

I suppose I could've gone on living life the way I had before. Before the pregnancy, before Nick, before May. I could've pretended that none of it ever happened and returned to being the Evie I was before, the one who slept around and partied and showed up late to class with sunglasses covering red-rimmed eyes from smoking weed in the parking lot. It would be so easy to be that girl again. I wanted to, I really did. Every time I thought of Nick, I wanted to get ridiculously drunk and give myself away to some meaningless, nameless guy, just to convince myself that I could be loved again. But I knew deep down that even though Nick and I barely even got to second base... nobody could love me like he could.

So I didn't go out. I isolated myself in my bedroom. I read books. I listened to my iPod. I didn't answer my phone. When Nick called, which was often, I stared at my phone, each time undergoing a silent struggle with myself: to pick up, or not to pick up?

I never picked up.

One day, as Alex was digging around the house for any last-minute things she should be packing for her return to college, the doorbell rang. I was sitting at the kitchen table curled in a ball on the chair, immersed in the last chapter of the book I was reading. I let Alex answer the door; she was moving back and forth throughout the house anyways.

Besides, as soon as that familiar ring of the doorbell pierced our ears, she looked up from the pile of DVDs she was creating in the den, her eyes alert. She obviously hoped it would be... who, Lara? Or her secret lover, Joe? It was one of the two, I'd be my life on it. Either way, I rolled my eyes in displeasure and resumed reading my book.

She returned to the kitchen on her way to the den, saying uncaringly, "Someone's here to see you."

I frowned as I inserted a bookmark and closed my book, pushing myself up off the chair. Who could it be - Kyla? Jess? Steve? It seemed odd that they would be so concerned as to come over and check on me, but at the same time, I hadn't been answering my ph-

Nick.

"Nick?" my voice cracked.

What was he doing here? I told him I couldn't see him again. I told him we were done, over for good. It was devastating enough the first time I had to do it; I couldn't possibly do it again.

His hands were stuffed in his pockets, and he took a step forward into the house, quickly scanning the perimeter for any signs of my mother.

"I just... came over to say goodbye," he stammered awkwardly. Alex shuffled past us up the stairs with a mountain of DVDs in her arms, and I almost wished we could switch places. "Because, well... we're leaving tonight."

Of course. The tour. I had been counting down ever since the day I severed my relationship with Nick. The tour would make my life more bearable - knowing Nick wasn't accessible to me, knowing Nick was too busy to talk to me - it would make him easier to avoid and easier to get over. Not that I could ever see myself getting over him.

"I know," I answered, pulling the sleeves of my sweater over my hands to hide them. It was summer; but I was wearing a sweater. I hadn't been outside in days, anyway.

What amazed me about Nick was that he wasn't angry. I unexpectedly terminated our relationship and basically pushed him out of my house, proceeding to ignore all of his calls up until now... how was he able to refrain from screaming at me? I just didn't understand it. Real people aren't like that.

He surveyed my pathetic figure. My messy, tangly hair; my giant sweater covering half my body; my scrawny legs. He was so sad, I could see it in his eyes.

"What do I have to do... to get you to talk to me?" he asked quietly. "Just tell me what I did wrong. That's all I want to know."

I shook my head. "You did nothing wrong."

"Then why is this over?"

I shrank into my sweater. I couldn't answer him.

He, too, shook his head in frustration. "It's not over. One day, you... you're gonna open up to me, and tell me what's bothering you. And I'm gonna fix it. And we'll be fine, Evie." My expression must have portrayed fear, because he held his hands up defensively, repeating, "We'll... be fine."

I was afraid because I was imagining what would happen if I did open up to him. He was lying to me; he wouldn't try to fix it if he knew what I'd done.

He took a step towards me, sighing impatiently. "Evie, I've seen you screaming your head off in fright when we were on that rollercoaster at Funtown... and I've seen you puking your guts out after drinking too much. I know you're not a virgin by any means and I know you go out and get trashed every weekend in any way you possibly can. Whatever you're hiding... whatever it is that you can't tell me, I just want you to know that you can. Because I've seen you at your worst, and I know all the bad things about your past and present, and there's nothing you can say that will make me stop loving you."

I swallowed the sting of his words. Do not cry, Evie. Do not cry.

"And if it's something that I've done that's made you lose your trust in me, then you have to tell me about it so I can fix it. I have to fix it... don't you get that? I won't let you go, not even if you hate me."

He took another few steps until he was standing directly in front of me. He waited for my response, but there were virtually no words.

"Please tell me why you're doing this," he whispered in a pleading voice.

I opened my mouth, but words didn't come out. I knew he'd seen me at my worst - he just made that clear - but I still didn't want him to see me break down again. To prevent him from staring at me, I buried my face in his chest and let his arms wrap around me protectively.

"You're not gonna tell me, are you?" he murmured as he rested a cheek against my hair.

I shut my eyes tightly and savoured his warmth, thinking that I'd never get to do this again. He'd go on tour for months, and when he came back, he'd know that things were over between us. Over for good. And that would be it.

I realized that he had poured his heart out to me, and I'd only given him seven words since his arrival. But there was nothing I could say, nothing I could do. I had to push him away; it was for his own good. It was because I loved him so much, more than anything or anyone else.

We stood in silence for a while longer in our warm embrace. I couldn't bring myself to return the hug, and I felt myself getting sleepy as he rubbed my back.

"I'm gonna keep waiting..." he said, finally breaking the silence. "Even if I'm not always here, I'll always be here... okay?"

He pulled away to assess my reaction, and the only thing I could think of to do was nod drearily.

"I love you," he said firmly, his hands on my shoulders. He kissed my forehead. "Please don't forget that."

Then he left, and in my mind, he was leaving forever.

(mid-January)

It was official. Nick and I were no longer together. We were broken up, we weren't dating, I'd been dumped... you get the picture.

I thought I'd be devastated. I thought I'd retreat to that pitiful state I was in when Nick and I broke up the first time. I'd go days without showering, I'd avoid all my friends and isolate myself in my room, and my eyes would always be puffy from crying.

The funny thing is, it isn't like that this time. Sometimes it's hard to get up in the mornings, but I grit my teeth and pinch my arm as hard as I can - and then I climb out of bed. I shower, I eat a healthy breakfast, and I go to school. I practice guitar, I hang out with Kyla, and I do my homework.

Oh, and I see Kevin. My twenty-one year-old sexually-confused male best friend. I never saw that mouthful coming, but I'm grateful to have him in my life, especially at this point in time. Besides, we get along - even though he insists on calling me Evil and rolls his eyes in annoyance whenever he thinks I'm faking cheerfulness.

During my final guitar lesson, he said that if there was anything I wanted to learn, I had better ask him right then and there before he left for LA to film the Disney show. There was something I wanted to learn, actually. I had been looking for the sheet music for a long time, but for some reason I couldn't find it. It was like it just didn't exist. I told Kevin about it, and he said he'd see what he could do.

"You'd think they'd have it somewhere out there. It's a classic song - I could only find piano versions," he tells me as I sit across from him in Starbucks. It's our goodbye - he's leaving in two days. "Yeah, so I couldn't find it for you."

"Oh." I hang my head in disappointment. "Well, thanks for trying."

He laughs.

I frown at him. "It's not funny, jerk. I really wanted to learn that song."

"I know," he says, his smile remaining. He stands up and pulls a folded piece of paper out of his pocket, handing it to me as he sits back down. "That's why I stayed up til two a.m. this morning figuring out the chords."

My jaw drops as I accept the papers and open them. He's right; all the tabs are right there for me in his untidy but legible scribbles.

"Kevin!" I exclaim in shock.

He shrugs modestly. "That should work. Well, you can play around with it."

I beam at him, ear-to-ear. "I can't believe you did this for me."

"Of course," he replies, like it's natural.

I shake my head in disbelief, glancing at the papers again. "How can I thank you for this?"

"You can learn it and play it to me over the phone," he answers jokingly. "Leave me a voicemail."

"I will," I giggle. "Maybe I'll take vocal lessons to keep myself busy when you're gone. You'll be so blown away when I leave you that voicemail - you'll fall in love with me and my talent."

He scoffs. "Doubt it."

Speaking of love - that reminds me. "Have you talked to Dash yet?"

He wants to, I know he does, but he shakes his head. "I called once, but he didn't pick up."

"You called once? That's pathetic," I comment.

He laughs sarcastically. "Well, what do you suggest, relationship goddess?"

"Hey," I point an accusing finger at him. Then I relax. "I think you should go over there. You can't just leave without saying goodbye."

"It'd look pretty shitty if I went over there and said, ‘Hey Dash - funny story, I'm leaving for an undetermined period of time. See you around'."

I roll my eyes. "You don't have anything else to say to him?"

He shrugs casually, leaning back in the booth.

I offer another question. "Do you have any friends in LA?"

"Of course. The band will be there, and all the cast and producers and directors-"

"I mean people who aren't involved in all that," I cut him off. "Do you have people you can relax and pretend to be normal with?"

"Pretend to be normal?" he mocks me.

I'll take that as a no. "You need a best friend to talk to. And... whatever else Dash is to you."

He sighs. "He's really pissed off at me. He wants me to tell everyone what's been going on between us, but I just... I don't even know if that's what I want, you know? How can I tell everyone something when I don't even know for sure myself?"

"You can't," I assure him. "And you don't have to. If Dash is really your friend, he'll understand."

"Alright, Miss Cheese," he teases.

"Stop using humour as a defence mechanism," I order sternly. "It may be cheesy, but it's true. I want you to go over to his house and talk to him before you leave."

I hate Dash, but he and Kevin are good friends. Kevin shouldn't have to lose a good friend.

"Don't tell me what to do," Kevin replies with a frown. "I'm five years your senior and I spent two hours designing a song for you."

"Four years my senior," I correct him. With a shy smile I add, "And... thank you. For the song. I really appreciate it."

"I know. That's why I did it," he responds.

"Because you knew I'd appreciate it?"

"Because I knew you'd smile," he returns. "A real smile, like that one you've got on right now. And I like those ones - I haven't seen one from you lately."

On her second week back at school, Alex came home for the weekend to spend time with Joe before he left for LA. I'm almost pleased to have Alex and Joe around again - I missed them, my life was kind of empty without them here. All three of us are surprised when Mom asks Joe over for dinner again. We thought he made such a bad impression last time that Mom would never speak to him again - but I guess people can surprise you.

Joe comes for Sunday dinner dressed in nice pants and a sweater-vest. I think he's aiming to impress this time, though I'm pretty convinced that Mom will see right through him.

"Haven't seen you around lately," he says as he plops down beside me at the kitchen table. I'm concentrating on calculus homework, eraser and pencil in hand. "Where've you been?"

"Here," I reply with a shrug. Where does he think I've been, Alaska?

"I thought you'd come around more often," he remarks, adding, "For Kevin and Nick." He has to make that very clear. Idiot.

"I had a lesson with Kevin on Tuesday," I point out. "I was over then. And I saw him again just last night; we went to Starbucks and said our goodbyes."

"What about Nick?"

I shrug again. "We kind of said our goodbyes already," I mutter, thinking of New Year's.

"Oh," he says. "Well, you can come over sometime. That's alright."

Thanks for the permission, pal.

"Aren't you leaving... like, tomorrow?" I ask, raising my eyes to glare at him.

"Tomorrow night," he points out.

"My bad," I say, mocking his voice. But my tone is finalized; the conversation is finished.

We eat dinner early because Mom has to drive Alex back to school. I expect the meal to be just as entertaining as the last one, but it's not. Mom is no longer inspecting Joe with a magnifying glass, and Alex and Joe are very quiet because I think they're sad about leaving each other.

"Well, have a wonderful vacation in Los Angeles, Jude," Mom says, her arms around Alex's shoulders as we crowd Joe in the front hall. He's preparing to leave.

"Joe," Alex hisses into Mom's ear.

She quickly corrects herself, "Joe."

"Thanks, Mrs. Cad-um, thanks," Joe stutters, remembering what happened the last time he tried to call Mom ‘Mrs. Cadham'. "It's actually not a vacation though. We're working full-time."

"Aren't we all!" Mom exclaims. Then she laughs. Alex, Joe and I stand there awkwardly. Was that supposed to be funny?

Mom stops laughing and her smile fades instantly. It's almost scary. "You and Alex are going to miss each other, aren't you?"

"Yes ma'am," Joe replies.

Mom tightens her grip on Alex. "Well, I'm sure you'll be fine. Alex isn't going to let you go, right, Al?" Alex stares at Mom, willing her to go away. Mom adds in a sing-song voice, "And I'm watching my credit card like a hawk, so there'll be no mystery plane tickets this time..."

She's pretending to be caring, but I really think she's enjoying this.

"That's alright," Joe says with a nervous chuckle. "Al has school, and I have work. We'll both keep ourselves busy, and... we'll be fine."

"We'll be fine," Alex repeats.

Nick said that to me once. It didn't work out. I'm nervous for the couple standing in front of me.

Mom releases her hold on Alex and extends her hand to shake with Joe. "It was nice to meet you, John. When you come back from your vacation, we'll have to have you over again sometime."

There are two things wrong with her statement that have previously been corrected, but Alex and Joe let both those things slide. Joe returns the handshake and turns his gaze to me. He's about to say something, but as soon as Mom leaves the front hall, he turns to Alex, instead.

"Your mom's taking you back now, right?" he asks.

She nods.

He looks at me. "Are you gonna be here alone?"

I nod.

"Why don't you ride with me back to my house? You can hang out for a while," he offers.

It's really... strange, I guess - the way he's so nice to me now. It's pleasant, but... strange.

"Nah, I have homework due tomorrow morning that I still haven't finished," I decline.

"Come on," he urges. "Bring your homework with you. You shouldn't have to be alone."

"It's only a few hours..." I make an excuse for myself.

Joe sighs. "You sure?"

"Yeah," I say quietly. "Good luck, Joe. With your show and all that."

"Thanks," he answers with genuine gratitude. He holds out his arms, and for a moment I'm afraid he's going to hug me. Then he remembers the awkwardness of our relationship and drops one arm to his side, letting the other hand pat my head. "See you later, Evie."

It's a weird farewell, but I wouldn't expect much more. Afterwards, I head up the stairs, knowing I have to give him ‘alone time' with his Alex. But my curiosity is too overwhelming, and I can't help eavesdropping.

"It kinda sucks that I won't see you for a while," Joe says.

"Yeah. Too bad I'm not famous, huh? Then you could just watch me on TV," Alex jokes.

"Are you gonna watch me?" Joe asks hopefully.

"We don't have cable."

"What if I sent you all the episodes of the show on CDs and you could watch them on your laptop at around the same time it's aired?"

"Isn't it, like... illegal to have those and send them out?"

Joe pauses. "Shit."

Ale laughs. "First of all, you need to learn a little bit more about the industry you're in. And second... you need to call me a lot."

"I don't have a phone," Joe teases her, imitating her exact tone in saying ‘I don't have cable'.

"Yeah? Then who's Joe Go-With-The-Flownas in mine?"

Their conversation is a bit awkward, I think to myself. I wonder if they can make it through the next few months.

"Oh yeah!" Joe cries excitedly. "I forgot about that. I'm gonna call you all the time, and all your friends are going to think you're such a loser. By the way, you have that picture I gave you up on your door, right?"

"I'm not putting your picture on my door!" Alex tells him firmly.

"That's what it's for! You live with two boys, Al. I know what teenage guys these days are up to - I am one!"

"Joe, do you honestly think that the only reason I wouldn't hook up with my housemates is because your picture is on my door and they're afraid? You really don't think I might have a hand in stopping something like that before it happened?"

"You might," Joe replies, clearly unconvinced.

Alex lets out a loud ‘Ha!' in disbelief. "Of course I would, you big stupid idiot! You're the only guy I'm interested in. Everyone else is just, like... too boring. Okay? Don't be worried. I love you."

She loves who?

I don't care if they see me. I poke my head around the wall and watch them from the top of the stairs.

Joe grins widely in shock. "Say that again."

She chuckles, her tone serious as she grabs his hand and says, "I love you."

"No, no, the part about everybody else being too boring."

She releases his hand and smacks his arm. "Joe!"

Laughing, he catches her by the waist and pulls her towards him. "Joking. You're for real, right?"

"I wouldn't say it if I wasn't."

"Can I say it back now?"

"If you want," she answers lightly.

"Will you believe me?"

"If you're convincing enough."

He kisses her hard on the mouth. "I love you," he states. He kisses her again, repeating, "I love you."

She giggles.

He breaks into his own version of the Barney song. "I love you - yes I do - Alex Cadham loves me too-"

"Alright, I get it!" she exclaims, feigning irritation. Secretly, I know she's loving it.

And at that moment, I change my mind. They'll be okay. They'll make it through, I can just feel it.

"Fine." He stops. "Have a good drive, and call me when you get there tonight."

"Enjoy the sun in LA," Alex returns bitterly, muttering, "I hate my life."

"You love your life because I'm in it," Joe jokes. In a low voice, he adds, "See you on Spring Break. Bring a t-shirt; I hear it's warm in California this time of year."

A small smile creeps onto my face. Alex is going to visit Joe, there's no doubt in my mind. I don't know how she can afford a plane ticket or how she managed to buy it without a credit card, but she did it so she could be with Joe. I like this new Alex.

"I'll bring my winter boots and hit you over the head with them," Alex answers, unfazed.

Yes, I definitely like this new Alex.

When I went to Kevin's for my guitar lesson a few days ago, Nick was home. We exchanged hellos and goodbyes and smiled awkwardly at each other, but there was really no conversation to be made. For some reason, it was like I couldn't think of anything to say to him anymore. I don't know why.

It was depressing. We promised each other we'd be friends, but it isn't working out and it's only been two weeks.

And now he's leaving. It's all I can think about as I trudge through the snow on my way out of the school parking lot the next day. Tonight he'll take off on a plane and land in Hollywood, and I'll still be here trying to carry on with my life. I don't know how I'll carry on, by the way. I've become so used to having those boys around; in the past two months they've become an integral part of my life again. I can't lose them.

"Evie!" a voice shouts from behind.

I whip around instantly, clutching the straps of my backpack tightly. A boy is running towards me waving a piece of paper in the air. He has a familiar face. I think I have a class with him.

"You forgot this," he gasps when he reaches me. Out of breath, he continues, "In calc. You left this on your desk and... I thought you might want it."

I unfold the piece of paper. It's the calculus quiz I took last week; it was returned to us today. I got a 91.

"Oh," I say in surprise, "Uh... thanks." I want to add his name on the end of my sentence, but for some reason, nothing comes to mind. God, what is his name? And why did he go out of his way to give this to me? It's not like I couldn't get it tomorrow. He doesn't even know me.

"You're welcome," he replies, taking off his beanie hat and pushing his hair out of his face. "You did really well, by the way. Sorry, I looked at your mark. But, uh... maybe you could help me sometime. If that's okay. I'm not doing too well in that class..."

I crack a grin. Is this guy trying to get with me?

"Yeah," I tell him. "I don't mind."

"Great," he says with a smile. As we exchange phone numbers, he says, "I was at Dave's house on Christmas Break."

My face falls. He was at that party.

He shrugs. "Usually I'm not into that kind of stuff, but a bunch of my friends convinced me to go, and... well, it's not really my kind of thing. It was a pretty shitty night."

"For me too," I reply awkwardly, handing him his phone and stuffing mine in my backpack.

"Anyway, I just wanted you to know that... I think it sucks, what they all did to you. And I thought... I thought what you did was really... well, nice. And I know you're like, dating some superstar right now, but I just thought-"

I shake my head slowly. Not dating a superstar. Not anymore.

He raises his eyebrows. "You're not?"

"No."

He hesitates. "Would you... uh, wanna go out sometime?" He's crinkling his hat in his hands.

I smile again, looking at my feet. I'm not used to this. Before I met Nick, guys used to ask me out by cornering me at a party and sticking their tongues down my throat. This is not like that at all.

I look at him, embarrassed. "I don't even know your name."

"Jordan." He holds out his hand to shake. "We're in calculus together. And English. And Chem."

God, I feel terrible. He's even kind of cute. How could I be so ignorant?

"Jordan," I repeat, returning the handshake. "Look, I'm really flattered, but..."

He hangs his head in disappointment. "Oh. Yeah, no, that's okay-"

"But I do want to get to know you. So... how about that tutoring thing?" I offer.

He nods. "That'd be... good. Can I call you?"

"Yeah," I assure him. "Thanks again for bringing me my quiz."

"No problem. I'll see you around."

I'm beaming from ear-to-ear as I walk away. That's the first time I've ever turned down a guy while single. It's also the first time anyone at my school has ever treated me that way. The first time I've ever been respected in a conversation.

And now I have a potential new friend. Maybe I won't have to be so lonely after all.

When I get home, I immediately retreat to my bedroom and take out my guitar. I'm practicing the song I asked Kevin to find for me, the song he stayed up late creating. I don't know why I wanted this song so much - well, in a way, I guess I do. It reminds me of my favourite feeling in the whole world. The feeling that I get when I'm wholly and perfectly content, like when I'm with Nick. Mostly when I'm with Nick. Well... always when I'm with Nick.

Even though I won't be with Nick anymore, I don't want to let go of this feeling. I always want to remember it.

I've almost got this song down-pat, anyway. I can't play it fast and often I screw up, but it's memorized and I can sing along to it (not well, mind you).

That's exactly what I'm doing, however, when a familiar face peers around my half-open door. He intends to keep quiet, but when he steps into the room, my door creaks and I fly off my bed in a panic.

Nick laughs at me. "Whoa, there."

My eyes are wide and my breath is short - how did he sneak into my house?! "What are you doing here?" I ask breathlessly.

He shrugs. "Your door was unlocked, so I let myself in." He picks up the guitar, which I threw to the floor in my frenzy, hands it to me.

"No, I mean..." I accept the guitar and place it on my bed, "What are you doing here?"

He rolls up his sleeves and explains, "We're leaving tonight. I came to say goodbye."

I stare at him.

He frowns. "What? You didn't think I'd want to see you before I left? You said goodbye to Joe and Kevin, but you didn't think I might want a goodbye, too?"

"I just... I didn't..." I stammer. Why is he mad at me?

He smiles at me, indicating that he was only joking. I relax. He saunters past me and plops down on my bed, his hands behind his head on the pillow.

"Keep playing," he says.

"What?"

"I heard you playing. You sounded good," he insists.

"No," I refuse. It's embarrassing. I'm nowhere near as good as him, and the thought that he walked in on me strumming away and singing along makes me cringe-

"Come on," he urges. "I like that song. Play for me."

"No!" I exclaim, this time with a timid smile. "You play the song."

"I don't know how. Teach me. I'll watch you."

I purse my lips together in displeasure. He's not going to give up, and he's not moving until I play. With a surrendering groan, I drag my desk chair towards the bed and sit on it, grabbing my guitar and propping it on my lap. Then I begin to play the song, fully aware that Nick's eyes are on me. I feel my face go red when I pause between switching chords, but he doesn't say anything, so after a while I get used to it. I try to ignore that he's in the room with me, and then it's just me and my guitar again, like it's been for so long.

I only remember that he's lying on my bed when he sings along the final lyrics of the song. "How wonderful life is... when you're in the world." I stop playing to stare at him. He props himself up on his elbows and grins at me. "That was really good."

I shrug. "I kind of suck, and I'm really slow and I make a lot of mistakes-"

"No, it was good," he interrupts. "Kevin did a fine job on you."

I giggle for lack of anything else to do.

He smiles at my reaction for a moment before repeating, "I like that song."

I nod. "Me too." Because it reminds me of how you make me feel.

We're both gazing at each other and sharing an intense moment, so Nick clears his throat and looks away, asking, "So what else can you play?"

I hand him my song binder. He flips through, mumbling to himself as he goes.

I can't help myself. He's completely immersed in the songbook, but I blurt out, "What are you doing here?"

He looks up slowly, surprised. "Didn't you already ask me that like, two times?"

"I know, but... I mean, we've barely even talked since New Year's. I just thought..."

He looks apologetic. "That I lied when I promised we'd be friends?"

I nod.

He closes the book and sits up straight. "I don't lie. You know that."

"I know, but-"

"I didn't change my mind or anything, if that's what you're wondering. I mean, I'm here now, right?" He scoots to the edge of my bed and leans towards me. "I told you it killed me when I realized how abandoned you felt last time. I won't let that happen again. We're gonna be friends."

He's so sincere. I sigh sadly. "Friends."

"Yeah," he says. He tries to make a joke, adding, "And we'll have slumber parties and paint our nails and talk about cute boys."

I raise a sceptical eyebrow.

He clears his throat awkwardly. "Too soon. That was too soon."

Allowing my muscles to loosen up, I laugh, "Yeah."

"You can talk to me about anything, though," he says seriously. "I mean, I'd rather not hear about the cute boys, but... if that's what friends do, then I guess-"

"Are you gonna ask Demi out?" I interrupt him hastily.

He's surprised. "No! Evie, how many times do I have to tell you we're-"

"Just friends, I know," I cut him off exasperatedly. "But now we're just friends, so... I was just wondering. You can tell me anything." I thoroughly enjoy throwing this back in his face.

He rolls his eyes. "Alright, alright. No, I'm not gonna ask her out. I'm not gonna ask anyone out. For a while, anyway."

I try to smile, but that last phrase just made my heart drop. Eventually, he hinted, eventually he'll date again.

He pauses to look around my room. His gaze lands on a crumpled-up piece of paper on my nightstand. I follow his eyes and instantly bite my lip. Shit.

He grabs it and opens it up. He frowns, saying slowly, "I thought I told you not to read this until I left."

It's the note he gave me on Christmas Eve.

He looks at me angrily. I shrug as innocently as possible. "I cracked?"

He shakes his head, reading over the note and mumbling, "I can't even remember what I wrote."

Quietly, I respond, "You told me to be something. So I'm trying."

He puts the paper back and looks at me. "You don't have to try. You already are - were - no, are," he corrects himself, "something to me. Everything. You are."

He's not making sense, but somehow I can piece all of his words together and all they do is make my heart hurt.

"But that doesn't matter anymore," I whisper.

"It matters more than ever," he says with a light chuckle. His smile fades. "Look, I'm sorry. The last thing I want to do is hurt you... but I don't want to get hurt again, either. And I don't feel like us being in a relationship is the best thing for now, especially because I'm leaving for who knows how long?"

My heart skips a beat. "For now?" Those two words - they're so full of hope. "Does that mean... maybe... in a little while...?"

He runs a hand through his hair. "I don't know."

That's good enough for me.

I laugh with glee, standing up and twirling in a circle on the spot. Nick laughs along in disbelief, wondering what exactly it is I'm doing. I'm so happy that I grab his hand and pull him up with me.

"What?" he asks.

"I love you," I say, adding quickly, "You don't have to say it back. I just wanted you to know. Because no matter how long it takes, I know I'll never get over you. And I know it sounds selfish, but I kind of hope you never get over me, either. And then... maybe... in a little while..." I trail off, the corners of my mouth turning up slightly.

He's very serious, and he won't play along to humour me. In fact, I think I've made him uncomfortable. He looks at his watch. "Yeah. I should probably get going... I haven't even packed yet. And I told Kevin I'd come get him; he went to Dash's house..."

I nod. I have to let him go. "Okay." I smile bravely, wanting to assure him I'm fine - but in my mind all I'm thinking is that Kevin went to see Dash. Kevin's going to be okay.

I step aside, giving him room to pass me. But he holds out his arms, and I don't hesitate to hug him back. I squeeze him tightly, wondering if it's almost possible to transfer all my love to him.

With my arms still firmly around his back, I tilt my head back, looking at him and saying with a small hint of a smile, "I'm gonna keep waiting."

I think he knows where he's heard that before.

Instead of smiling back, he kisses my forehead and releases his hold on me. "Bye," he whispers.

Then he's gone, and I feel like crying. But for once, I'm able to contain myself. I won't cry. I don't need to cry. Nick might be gone, but he's not gone forever. I'll wait for him, just like he waited for me, and everything will turn out right. And if it doesn't, then I'll still have him as a friend. Everything is not lost.

I'm a little confused when I hear the front door closing for the second time. It's too early for Mom to be home from work - who is it? Footsteps thunder up the stairs and Nick reappears in my bedroom, guitar case in hand.

"You know what? I have five minutes to spare," he states simply. Then he throws his case on the floor, gets out his guitar, and puts the strap around his shoulder. He looks at me expectantly. "Let's play."

"Together?" I cry.

"Yeah," he says.

"Where did that even come from?" I point to his guitar.

"In the car."

"Did you drive here alone?" I ask in alarm.

He rolls his eyes impatiently. "Stop changing the subject. Let's play!"

"I... I don't even know how..." I say, but he walks over and pushes my shoulders down so that I'm forced to sit on a chair. Then he hands me the guitar and sits on the bed across from me.

"Of course you do," Nick replies. He strums a few chords, watching me. "Just play!"

I eye him warily, not understanding where his burst of energy is coming from. I start to play ‘Your Song' again, and he lets me for a few moments. Then he harmonizes, and I don't know how he does it. It frustrates me for a few seconds, but after a while I realize how much better it sounds this way.

And then - I don't know how this happens - I forget the tune that I'm supposed to be playing, and I let my fingers do all the work. Nick has to go slow in order for me to keep up, but it's like... well, it's exactly what he said to me once:

"When you figure out why you love it, then you can really play. Then you can hear the music inside you."

I know why I love music. It's so clear to me now. It's because music reminds me of Nick and it reminds me of home. It reminds me of where and who I want to be. And that's why I play.

Nick gets it. He knows how I feel. His face breaks into a huge, genuine smile and he laughs softly as he strums along.

I swear, right now I can hear the music in me louder than ever.

THE END :)