Adam had decided to spend the day at home. After spending a few afternoons at coffee shops around the city, writing and people-watching, he finally admitted that it was time to be in his apartment. He had to work on sorting through his things, all that junk he'd managed to collect that he had been meaning to get rid of. Plus finding those things of Kat's or that reminded him of her that he had stashed away.
Plus she might call. It was that thought that had kept him on edge, kept him rushing around between tasks. Drawers were open in his desk, the one he was finally clearing off. He and Kat had found it in an antique store and had daydreamed about all the stories he would write on it while she sketched at her drafting table. They'd never gotten the drafting table. Maybe he should get one for her.
Maybe that was too much.
Inside the desk he had found all the things that managed to collect in drawers. Paperclips, old notes, a notepad, pens that he was fairly certain no longer worked. Then he pulled out something that made him smile even as it made him feel a little warm: Kat's lipgloss. Well, one of them. She had always seemed to leave them everywhere. Most of them were just clear, but they all smelled like something.
This one he'd actually sneaked from her. She'd been wearing it the first time they'd kissed and he had had a weak moment and grabbed it when it had fallen out of her bag. Every time he smelled it it reminded him of the way her lips had tasted, that first moment of her breath and his mingling. Her lips had been sweet, and had tasted a little like honey. It still made him feel that pulse-speeding anticipation.
Holding the little pot in his palm he smiled, later memories making his stomach clench. Later kisses that had led to other things. The way the skin of her collar bone had felt under his fingertips, the feel of her back under his palm.
He cleared his throat a bit, then took a deep breath. All the memories of what had been made him think about what things would be like now. He hadn't seen her for years, not other than in magazines. She hadn't seen him either. What if they were too different now?
The buzz of the intercom shocked him out of his musings and his heart began to pound. It wouldn't be her. Probably just someone hitting the wrong number.
But what if it was her?
He stumbled slightly, tripping over the edge of the coffee table as he hurried across the living room to arrive with his heart in his throat. One little fumble, and he hit the right button. "Hello?" His voice sounded weird to him, but luckily he was pretty sure that nobody would be able to tell. The sound quality was pretty much crap.
"Hi Adam, I'm here..." His breath caught. Her voice, mangled by the speaker, but still hers. Thought stopped for a moment as panic set in. She was there. She'd arrived. It was actually happening.
Suddenly he remembered she was standing out there and he pushed the button to open the door. The fact that he hadn't said anything didn't register with him. He was frozen for a moment, stunned that he was about to see her.
Then terror set in. His apartment was a disaster. Everything was everywhere. He was wearing a pair of sweats and his t-shirt was old and faded, although he was pretty sure that was actually in fashion. But the sweats weren't.
Torn between trying to shove some of the mess out of the way, clear off the desk at least, push boxes out of sight, or pull on better clothes he managed to accomplish nothing before he heard a tentative knock at the door.
Time was out.
Pushing a hand through his hair, he really only succeeded to mess it up more, but it didn't matter. At least he hoped it wouldn't matter. He hurried to the door, shoving his shoes out of the way with a bare foot and flicking the lock open before he turned the handle, pulling the door inwards.
"Hi." Stunned. She looked just the same. Well, not quite. Looking at her he knew there were changes, tiny things, but she still looked so much like the girl he'd known. Or looked like that again. He knew she hadn't.
His heart was hammering in his chest and he realized that she was staring at him too.
"Oh. Umm... sorry. I didn't... You... um... Come in." It was awkward. Not because she was different, but because she was the same. Because here stood the woman he had loved for years, a woman he had been pretty sure he'd never see again. He didn't know what to do.
Part of him yelled at him to kiss her as he stepped back to give her room to come in. Just take her in his arms, kiss her, and tell her how much he loved her.
The rest of him, the sane part, said to take it slow. They had changed, and there would be time to figure it all out. She was back. They were going to get a second chance, assuming they wanted it. Screwing it up would be an incredibly stupid idea now.
Kat stepped inside, looking down at the floor for a moment before she looked at his face again and flushed. It was adorable and made him smile. He remembered that look and it put him on firmer ground. Yes, she had changed, and so had he, but part of her was still Kat.
"It's good to see you. You look... amazing." She did. So sweet, so utterly real. Not some unattainable dream but a woman he could spend an afternoon with just talking, someone he could tell about his stories.
She flushed a little brighter, her eyes wandering around the apartment as she stepped inside, closing the door and flicking the lock in what clearly felt like a familiar gesture. She had been there enough times in the past, although he had only recently moved in when they'd had their fight.
Her laughter rang out as she finally met his gaze squarely. One side of her lips tipped up in a wry smile that tugged at something inside him. It was a new expression, one he'd never seen before, but he liked it. "I see you're still no better at keeping order. Or dressing yourself." Laughter sparkled in her eyes and it eased him.
He shrugged, turning and walking into the living room to push things off the couch, glancing back at her over his shoulder. "I seem to remember you weren't any better. Other than dressing. That you can still do. Actually, I was trying to get a little order in here, it just had to get worse before it got better. And, well, I wasn't expecting to see anyone." He laughed, feeling awkward, standing beside the couch as he looked at her.
It seemed so natural to reach out and touch her cheek and he had to clench his hand to keep from doing it. It was too soon. He hadn't seen her in years and it wasn't fair to either of them to pretend they could just pick up where they left off. He could see in her eyes that she wasn't actually ready for that.
The possibility of them finding something was there, though. Seeing her as she was now made his heart beat, made him think of what her lips would taste like now. He realized that he still had the pot of her gloss in his hand and flushed, turning quickly to try to put it down before she could see it.
"You look good, Adam," she said, breaking the awkward silence. Carefully she folded herself onto the couch, curling up in a corner the way she always had, although now she was less hunched. She looked a little more certain of herself even if he could tell she hadn't slept well for far too long.
A laugh was his answer as he shook his head. "Kat... I.." He stopped, sucking in a breath as he settled on the other end of the couch, trying to look casual. "I'm not quite sure where to start." He looked awkward in an adorable fashion, helpless for a moment.
"I'm not sure either. I just had to see you. I couldn't... couldn't do it anymore. I got lost, Adam." Her voice shook a little, and he could see she was trying hard not to cry. In that moment he couldn't hold back, had to shift closer and tug her into his arms. It was hesitant, careful, but she came. Her head nestled in against his neck, under his chin, and his arms fit so easily around her. He felt her hands slide up over his shoulders as he squeezed her tightly.
"I did too. But we can figure it out. Together. I'll always be here for you, Kat. No matter what." He'd always meant it. Even if she had called him moments after the fight he would have been there. She was his best friend. At least she had been. He missed that.
"I know. It's why I knew I had to come back. I messed up, Adam. I should have been there when you needed me. I shouldn't have said all that stuff. I couldn't see you for my own dreams. It was stupid. There was nothing real to those dreams. You were right, all it did was make me unhappy. I had to become so... fake just to survive." Tears spilled down her cheeks. Only one at first, then another. His hand lifted as she pulled back to look at him and he carefully wiped her cheeks with the pads of his thumbs.
His voice was soft when he replied, "I shouldn't have said what I said either, Kat. I'm sorry. I should have found you, talked about it. But I think... maybe it was for the best. Maybe we had to go through that stuff." He'd thought about that often since she'd called.
Swallowing hard, she looked at him and nodded slowly. "I know. I wouldn't have listened back then. And you wouldn't either. But now... now we know, right? We grew up." She licked her lips nervously, looking down at his chest, then back up.
"Can we... start over?" she asked, her heart in her eyes. "Start again? See how it goes now?" Her heartbeat thudded at the base of her neck, tension holding her body rigid in his arms.
He could feel it and he pulled her close again. "Yeah. I want that. I want to get to know you again, Kat. We grew up, and this time I won't let you get away." He smiled at her as he lifted a hand to her chin again, tilting her head back as he looked down into her eyes. "I want to know who you are now, let you get to know me. I'm so glad you came back."
Then he kissed her. A soft, brief brush of his lips on hers. It was the seal of a promise, the start. A new beginning.
As he pulled back, his licked his lips nervously, then smiled; she still tasted like honey.