This is monster of a chapter. Almost five thousand words but I figured since most of us are in quarantine, we've got the time to take our time and read. I hope you enjoy this reunion. Please leave a comment below.
Who would have thought that, at any point of their relationship, there would come a day when Alaine would want to hide from Lucas? Back when they had been in their bubble of new romance, she'd never imagined it was possible. Now that the strength of their young love has been tested and tried, stretched and reshaped, to capacity, that bubble has popped fantastically and she feels as if she's been thrown into the air and left to free fall. Whether there will be a pair of sturdy hands there to catch her once she reaches the end is an uncertain matter.
There might be a little hope looming over the horizon, however. But, she approaches that hope with caution.
Before this, she would have been thrilled that he came all the way to Idaho for her. She would have felt safe, special, loved, relieved - all those things that make him her knight. She’d want to shout it to the whole world that she'd found the love of her life and he'd never once disappointed her.
Today it's very different as she opens the door to the room they'd rented at the motel and watches Lucas from the second floor balcony. It feels more like she's being sent to the executioner instead of walking towards the man she loves; so, she drags her feet accordingly. While she does, Alaine notes the remarkable changes in him.
This time, rather than of his usual confident air and take charge disposition that he wears, Lucas lowers his gaze at her slow approach, trying to hide a grimace of discomfort, in the hope that she doesn’t notice.
Alaine does notice. Resentment builds inside her, at herself, for dragging him all the way out here.
Physically, this situation has taken it’s toll on him. It's so easy to see in the way his clothes, which once were a perfect fit, hangs loosely over his once perfect physique. He looks tired too and disheveled and nothing like his usual immaculate self. With that acknowledgement, she no longer wants to hide. She wants to hasten her sluggish, heavy steps to him, hug him and cry and be angry at herself, and at Angus, for reducing him to this. She wants to promise that it will all be okay, yet, she measures each step she that takes her closer to him.
He leans against the rented SUV, that had brought him to the Keepsake Motel, for support. His limitations are difficult to witness. Maybe for the first time, Alaine really allows herself to imagine the psychological turmoil he must endure daily. She’s been down this road before, herself.
Couldn’t she have been a little more patient and understanding while he's adjusting to this new reality?
Right now Lucas doesn’t need her tumultuous emotions nor neglect. He needs someone steadfast, someone strong who can take his emotional beating and still stand after the KO. She owes him that.
She watches as, with a great amount of effort, he straightens at her approach and leans heavily on his cane.
How could she have ever doubted that he would show up? How could she have ever questioned whether he still cares for her?
His earlier pattern of behaviour should have been enough to know, once he learned of her absence, he would embark on the arduous journey west, to find her. Learning of her incident with Harlan must have made his hasty flight to her side even more desperate and urgent. Hence the reason he looks more beaten than usual.
He teeters a little, losing his precarious hold on his balance. But, fearful of the sting of his rejection, Alaine resists the urge to offer assistance as he steadies himself.
“Hey,” she greets softly going against the urge to launch herself against his chest. It’s been a while since he’s held her and frail though they may be, she misses the feel of his arms around her.
To contain the emotions welling in her chest, she breathes in a strangled breath and plants her feet an arm’s distance from him, trying to keep her uncertainty off display.
Lucas has already discerned it, though. His own demeanor softens when she allows herself to meet his eyes. His anger at her for being so reckless and putting herself in harms way, for the moment, takes a backseat while he assess the damage he's done to her trust in him.
Her slow march in his direction, with her features shifting fluidly, mimicking the swift rhythm of her thoughts, as they played on her face had been hard to watch; and made even more difficult because he is fully aware that it’s his own fault she is so unsure about him now.
Believing that he needs to earn the right again, to take certain liberties, like leaning down to kiss the uncertainty way, Lucas maintains the distance she leaves between them.
“Hey,” he returns, then reaches out a shaky hand to lift her chin.
Apart from wanting to reassure her with his touch, he takes the opportunity to examine the discolouration to the part of her neck exposed to him. Somewhere beneath the blue and red and black imprint of Harlan Jackson’s hand, is the faded scar that Angus had left.
Pain lances through Lucas. Not the physical one he deals with regularly on a daily basis. The gut wrenching kind that appears only as a flash in his eyes; the only sign of life in their gray depths, in a long time, and a silent tick in his jaw.
Someone had hurt Alaine again. Again, it had been, inadvertently, his fault and again he hadn’t been able to do anything to stop it. The real worry is that, should his current state last, he may never be able to defend her again. As things stand, his track record of keeping her safe is pathetic and if he is unable to do better, she has every reason to walk away.
That realization cracks something inside him. On any other day, acknowledging his shortcomings would have made him bitter and if it weren't for the evidence of violence from the hand of, yet, another man marring Alaine's skin, it might have. At the moment, he forces those feelings aside to concentrate on her; and the anger over the man who had thought it acceptable to put his hands on the woman he loves returns like a tidal wave.
If he could have, Lucas would have found Harlan Jackson, without delay, to present him with the knuckles of his fist straight to his face. Because he can't, he reins in his temper, and his need for revenge, sets aside his own insecurities and fears enough to ask Alaine, "are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” she answers softly. "It's nothing," she mumbles.
To that, Lucas scoffs. "It's not nothing," he declares. "He hurt you."
The acid in his tone makes Alaine drop her stare. "You're angry at me," she states in a voice strained by emotion.
While the statement is true and he's way past angry at this point, Lucas chooses not to scold her for this fool's idea that had put her at the mercy of yet another beast.
“Where is he?” he demands instead and lets his hand fall limply by his side.
It takes some doing, but he successfully brushes aside the knowledge that his limbs are just about as useless as he feels now.
Ignoring his question, Alaine counters by asking, "why did you come here, Lucas? You shouldn't have. You should have just let me deal with this myself."
Still aware of the weariness in his features, she keeps her tone gentle but her soft reprimand might as well have been an indictment of how he'd failed her during his recovery. It might as well have been physical blows landing with precision to the places that would hurt the most.
“What did you think I would do, Alaine?” he asks, his tone equally gentle despite the way her words destroy him. All he wants is to make her see that he still loves her so he concentrates on that rather than the pain.
“Did you really think I would not know? Did you doubt for a second that I would be here?” he struggles to ask as he leans extra heavy on his cane now. “Before Tawny called, I traced your phone because I called and called and you did not answer. Why?”
The little confession, that he had invaded her privacy by tracing her phone suddenly becomes of little importance as he loses his footing or his legs give way because of fatigue. Alaine lunges forward in a bid to catch him and is successful in grasping him, but his weight drags them both down to the pavement with a pained yelp.
Dion, Seth and his new driver rush from the resting position beneath the awning at the front of the motel, each one of them offering a hand to pick him up from the ground.
Embarrassment infuses Lucas' skin with a deep shade of red but he makes no move to rebuff their aid. When he looks at Alaine again, his eyes are wet with tears and he expects her to regard him with disgust for this demonstration of his short comings. He finds her pretty features wobbling with her attempts not to cry on his behalf and for the first time in a long while, he's almost hopeful that maybe she'll want to stay, in spite of his physical limitations -- if he is willing to burden her with himself.
“Can we go somewhere?” he asks and sniffles away the rest of the tears wanting to slip from his eyes. “Somewhere I can sit?”
Alaine nods because she can’t say anything without it turning into a wail. The last thing she wants is to break down when he needs her to be strong. So they pile into the SUV and drive away from the motel in silence.
From the front seat, Seth passes the bouquet of pink roses to Lucas, hoping it will ease the tension in the confined space. It doesn’t, but it reminds Lucas of why he came.
“Is there a park close by?” he asks.
The question takes Alaine by surprise. It registers in the way her eyes go round and her mouth follows the same pattern with the loss for words.
"I thought that you would want to go to your hotel," she tells him. "I'm okay with that."
Lucas would tell her yes, that is what he prefers. He wants to go back into hibernation so no one can witness how Angus broke him. The only thing that stops him from accepting her unspoken offer to do just that is that, the woman he loves is more important than his pride; and his miserable failure in proving it to her.
He takes a long breath and shrugs before saying, "a park is fine."
Alaine gives him a look that expresses her skepticism but she doesn't try to argue. "There's one not too far from here," she says.
To keep the conversation going he tells her, "You wanted to take a walk and I was an idiot."
“You weren’t up to it,” Alaine responds. "I shouldn't have pressed."
"I don't want you to give me a pass on this," he tells her.
“I should have been more understanding," she counters with her head bowed. "I shouldn't have pushed if you weren't ready...and you don’t have to do this."
Her insecurity about what the right thing is to say, shows. He came here to reassure her and he must be botching it because her eyes are focused on her hands balled into one fist in her lap.
"I went by your apartment to beg your forgiveness," Lucas explains. "And I got you these."
Nervousness and reservation has him all but shoving the peace offerings he'd bought into her hands.
Alaine accepts the wilting bouquet as a show of his repentance with a little smile that lightens the burden on his heart.
“They’re a little beaten,” Lucas concedes apologetically. “I’ll get you a fresh bunch,” he offers. "If these aren't you're favourite, I could get something else."
“They’re perfect,” Alaine says with tears in her eyes. She inhales the sweet perfume from the once perfect roses and wonders how it’s possible that it’s fragrance is not even slightly diminished when it’s already losing it’s luster. “Thank you,” she says hoarsely, finally lifting her head to look at him.
“I’m sorry, Ali,” Lucas says.
If he thought his fingers would hold firm and not tremble with the effort, he would have reached out a hand to wipe her tears. Because he doubts their integrity, he encases her hand in his instead.
“I got you chocolates too,” he says with a bit of humour in his voice.
“I do love my chocolates,” she admits.
“Hmmmm,” Lucas hums.
Seeing as this is the first conversation that they've had which hasn't turned into a mini battle, a little mirth oozes in to heal his soul.
“I know,” he tells her.
“I finally get to see where you grew up,” Lucas says as Dion pulls up next to a patch of green manicured lawn. Unlike Central Park, it's a small intimate area with only a few other people sitting around and for that Lucas is grateful.
Seth gets the door, allowing the two of them to climb out and he and Alaine amble across the soft grass to sit beneath the gazebo.
“How do you feel being back?” Lucas asks Alaine.
“Intimidated,” she responds on a deep breath. “It's a small town. I keep expecting to run into my parents. Or worse yet, my uncle which I am completely unprepared to deal with. I don’t want to talk about that Lucas,” Alaine tells him honestly. “Not when we’re...”
“Why didn’t you answer your phone?” Lucas asks when she trails off. “I called and kept calling.”
“I forgot it at the police station,” she explains. “And, I wasn’t trying to hide coming to Idaho from you."
He raises an eyebrow at her and asks, "weren't you?"
Alaine shakes her head. "Honestly, I just didn’t want you to make the trip. I didn't think that you were ready for it."
“It wasn’t because you think I don’t care?” Lucas questions perceptively.
“That might have been part of it,” she mumbles.
While her honesty confirms one of his worst fears, Lucas appreciates her candidness on the matter. To show his appreciation, he decides to speak a few truths of his own. "You're probably right," he admits. "I probably wasn't ready for it."
Feeling the wave of guilt that has been battering away at her since she woke up at the hospital rise to overwhelm her again, Alaine breaks into a stream of apologies.
"Wait," Lucas cuts her off. Desperate to have her faith in him restored, he insists, "let me finish."
She pauses and he takes a deep breath to parry against his unpreparedness to explain his calamitous behaviour for the last few months.
"I know I’ve been difficult,” he begins in an earnest bid for her understanding and forgiveness. “I’m well aware that I’ve hurt you and I’m the reason for your doubt. I am so sorry, baby,” he continues.
His use of the simple term of endearment -- terms she hasn't heard in ages -- shocks her.
Lucas ignores the stunned look on her face and the way it reveals the extent to which he's hurt her since his mood had curdled during his stint at the hospital.
“Things have changed, Ali," he explains. "I don't know that it will get any easier any time soon. But you have to know that I care for you. That doesn’t change. How I feel about you doesn’t change,” he continues to implore. "I love you. So much Alaine,” he confesses. “I’m so ashamed that I caused you to doubt it. I’m so ashamed of how I've treated you. But I love you with all my heart,” he says and takes her hand in a feeble grip. “I’m also afraid,” he admits as they sit in the quiet of the evening.
“Of what?” Alaine asks.
“That I can no longer be the man you fell in love with. There’s no guarantee I will be," he confesses
“Oh baby,” Alaine says.
Leaning forward, she take his face between her hands so he can focus on her teary eyes. “I love you. I love you,” she repeats firmly, with the same fervency of his confessions while willing the truth of her words to be plain. “That’s all I have. My love for you and I’m not going anywhere,” she promises. “You are exactly who I fell in love with. A determined and strong man. A kind and thoughtful man who will brave hell or high water for me. You forget I’ve been where you are,” Alaine explains. “I healed but the only time I started feeling like a whole person again was when I met you. That is why I know that we will get through this but the only way is if we do it together, baby. We can only do that if you let me in. Trust me,” she pleads.
Lucas groans in frustration and pulls away from her touch. “I want to say yes, Ali,” he tells her. “I want to believe every word you say but it’s not easy.”
That, Alaine doesn’t understand. Her scowl and searching eyes tell him so without her having to voice her confusion.
“You left, Alaine,” Lucas reminds her. “You left me once before. I still don't know why but it nearly killed me when you did,” he states. “And there was nothing wrong with me then. Now that I’m not me,” he presses and looks down at his body to prove his point. “How do I trust that you...”
Understanding dawns on Alaine.
“I left because I wanted to keep you safe,” she finally admits before he can finish his sentence. “I left because I didn’t want you to get hurt,” she sobs quietly this time. “And I came back and you did. You got hurt because of me, Lucas. It’s my fault and you have every right to blame me and be angry at me and hate me. Why don’t you hate me?” she whimpers.
Stunned by her revelation, Lucas goes quiet. He lifts his head and blinks up at the wooden ceiling over their heads while trying to make sense of what she'd just said. Her words create a kaleidoscope of emotions that converge and morph and reshape his understanding of that terrible day when he'd emerged from licking his wounds to find her gone.
Once he comes to terms with what an idiot he's been, he turns to her again and it's like seeing the love in her eyes for the first time. The immense love projected towards him grips his heart and steals his breath.
"You would sacrifice yourself for me?" he speaks in awe.
Unsure of how to respond to that, Alaine sniffles but other than that remains silent. Lucas wills away his tiredness and forces his hand to obey his order to stroke her cheek. The touch is fleeting and doesn't last long before his arm drops back by his side.
"I've never...I'm not...," he stammers in a struggle for something else to say. "Why didn't you tell me this?" he questions.
"Because," she mutters and shifts her stare from him to her hands.
"I wouldn't have let you," Lucas finishes for her.
She nods her head. "It wasn't an easy decision to make," she confesses. "I wasn't trying to hurt you. I left for no other reason than wanting you to be safe," she cries.
"Look at me, baby," Lucas orders in a voice choked by emotion. When she does, he says, "first of all, you are never to do anything like that again. You are never to put yourself at risk to protect me or anybody else, do you understand me?"
Knowing that she is going to argue, Lucas cuts her off by demanding, "I need your word, Alaine. Promise me that you won't."
"I promise," she croaks.
"Second of all, no more keeping things from me," he orders. "Christ, Alaine, I thought you didn't love me," he scolds. "I thought you'd decided that my past was too much to deal with. I've been going crazy thinking that you...and as for this road trip of yours...You should have come to me with all of it. God, I'm idiot."
The passion returning to his eyes and his rambling almost make Alaine smile. Out of consideration for him, she fixes her features into a somber mask and says, "you don't need to worry about anything but your recovery. You don't need me to be a burden."
“Alaine,” Lucas sighs.
He takes her hand in his and expends the extra energy to lift her fingers to his lips. “You are not a burden. I love you,” he says. "And that's what love does. I want us. I want you, always and everything that comes with being with you. I could never hate you, baby. And I don’t blame you for what happened. Am I angry? Yes, I am. I’m frustrated, yes. But not with you.”
“I want us too,” she confirms, feeling suddenly lightened by the conversation.
“It might not be easy,” Lucas warns her. “I’m in a pissy mood all the time but I’ll take your advice,” he says when she presses her face into his chest to wipe her tears. He bends his head to place a kiss on her hair.
“What advice?” she questions.
“I’ll see someone for PTSD.”
“Okay baby,” she responds with relief.
After a pause, where neither is over burdened by the strains on their relationship, Alaine looks up at Lucas. “Is this the part where you give me my chocolates?” she asks and succeeds in her effort to make him laugh.
“There’s a reason I got those,” Lucas tells her. “I don’t know if I can function,” he admits hesitantly.
“Function?” she asks. “Ohhh,” she breathes, her eyes widening when he looks down at his trousers.
“That’s why I bought the chocolates,” Lucas says on a deep breath. “We’re going to spend a lot of nights eating chocolates, if you stay,” he continues with a dry, laugh at himself. “Do you think you could be with me, if I can’t...”
Alaine cocks her head to the side, trying to figure out how to remove the forlorn expression that’s returned to his face. “Fabulous sex is not the only reason we’re together Lucas,” she tells him. “And before you, I was getting along just fine without it.”
He chuckles at that. “Fabulous, huh?”
“Mmmmmm,” she says sultrily. “Amazing. The best I’ve ever had.”
Lucas allows himself to laugh. A genuine sound that puts a spark in his eyes and crinkles the corners of this eyes. “The only you’ve ever had,” he corrects.
“And I’m keeping it that way,” she promises him. “I love you so much,” she says again.
“I’ve missed you goddess,” he whispers caressing her face with his eyes. “I’ve been so stupid. This is much better than pushing you away.”
For the first time in two months, Lucas asks that question with his eyes. The one Alaine always eagerly says a silent yes to. He leans down, lifts that weakened hand to cup her face and kisses her softly. That’s all he wants to give her. A sweet make up kiss to seal his promise to treat her right from here on out.
Starved of his affection, she presses for more and drags him in for a deeper longer kiss. One that has his breath catching in his throat. His trembling fingers glide from her face to disappear in the hair at her nape. He gives her tongue entry and wishes he had the strength to pull her closer.
Like she read his mind, she closes the gap between them with her fingers trailing down his torso, to climb under his shirt and graze his skin. Lucas sighs at the familiarity of that touch then moans when she nips at his lower lip. He drags in a lungful of air and pulls back because his heart may well explode in his chest.
“Oh God,” he groans, pressing his forehead against hers. “I’m going to work really hard to get better. Can we try that again? I’m sure I felt something.”
“No,” she replies to his grave disappointment. “One we’re in public and two, your heart is racing. I clearly remember your doctor said, no hanky panky. Those were his exact words.”
“Maybe his credentials should be brought under scrutiny,” Lucas mutters and leans in again to graze his lips against hers. And though the kiss is short and soft it's potent and fuels Alaine's lust for him.
“I felt that, Alaine," Lucas says. "I felt you all the way in my toes.”
“We’re good together, aren’t we,” she says and smiles up at him.
“I’m better with you. I think we’re better together,” Lucas amends. “I’m sorry for how I’ve treated you.”
“It’s okay,” she tells him. “And in the meantime, we can eat chocolates and read those romance novels you love so much.”
Lucas laughs again. “That I love so much?” he protests.
“Mhmm,” Alaine replies, nodding her head against his shoulder.
“We should go get your phone,” Lucas tells her, placing a soft kiss on her hair. “I want to know who this Harlan Jackson is. I fully intend to get my new driver to beat him into a pulp. Have you seen his size?"
"Tawny's already done that," Alaine informs him. "I think having his ass handed to him at the hands of a woman is the best kind of punishment."
"I'll be the judge of that," Lucas grumbles. "I hate that this happened to you, Alaine. And to think that I drove you to..."
"Stop," she warns. "Stop blaming yourself."
And when he tries to protest, she kisses him again.
"Clean slate," Alaine suggests against his lips. "I absolve you of whatever you think you've done wrong, even if you've done everything perfectly."
"Clean slate," Lucas repeats.
Together they make it to the car, with Lucas sweaty from the exertion and Alaine silently encouraging him.
“I see all is right with the world,” Seth comments, handing Lucas the box of chocolate.