DISCLAIMER: Imagine Me & You and its characters are the property of Ol Parker etc. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: AU: Heck didnít hear Rachelís confession and Rachel didnít go after Luce, so Luce went on her long holiday. Named for the Die Mannequin song of the same name. This is totally not what you were expecting, I imagine, when you gave me this prompt, ralst. Sorry, the muse said angst, cuz lord knows thereís not a happy ending written that I canít eff up. Happy Birthday?
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Autumn Cannibalist
By zennie


Part Two

"Rachel!" Luce's green eyes were wide with shock. "What are you doing here?"

"It's my parent's," replied Rachel, a bit affronted, and Luce grimaced at how her surprised question must have sounded.

"Um, sorry, I didn't mean it like that." Luce shifted on her feet, biting her lip. "It's just when H invited me to dinner, she said you wouldn't be here."

"Are you avoiding me now?" Rachel's voice was mildly accusing, and Luce almost groaned in frustration as she realized that she was digging herself further into a hole. But she didn't get a chance to explain as H called from the other room. With an apologetic smile and a light touch to Rachel's hand, Luce left Rachel standing in the foyer. The spot where Luce had touched her tingled like a live spark had been applied and vibrated through her whole body. Her mother came across her, standing there lightly rubbing her hand, and swept her into the dining room before she could bolt.

Even enduring hours of Heck and Coop and their boy talk suddenly seemed like a better alternative to the agony of sitting across the table from Luce as she charmed H with her witty answers to H's endless supply of questions. Her smile unforced and her hair slightly wild, Luce seemed a force of nature rather than simply a woman, and Rachel sat and watched in silence, her yearning for what might have been not the least bit drowned by the wine from the glass that her father kept filled.

As H ran off to get some school book to show Luce, Tessa observed, "My daughter is besotted with you." Rachel choked on her wine as wide green eyes looked at her, the guilt evident, Rachel thought, for anyone to see. "H thinks you hung the moon," Tessa continued, oblivious to the sudden tension at the table.

Luce coughed, then recovered, saying, "Yes, H, of course. Well, I'm rather fond of her as well." She shot Rachel another dismayed glance as the conversation continued around them and H returned, eagerly pointing out a passage in her book. Luce's eyes lost a little of their sparkle, Rachel thought, like she was disappointed to find it was H and not her that Tessa had referred to.

Later, she would blame that look in Luce's eyes, and the liquid courage her father had unfortunately supplied her with, for what happened next.

Luce was stepping out of the bathroom when Rachel caught up with her, and caught her, pulling her into a tight embrace.

"Rachel, what…?" The rest of Luce's question was silenced with a kiss, urgent and needy, as Rachel pressed her against the wall. She could feel Luce respond, the passion that they had only begun to explore rising up to consume them both as hands roamed and tongues battled for dominance. Kissing Luce was like great gasps of oxygen after nearly drowning; it could never be enough, and Luce seemed to be suffering the same deprivation.

Pulling back, Rachel caressed Luce's cheek and gazed into desire-clouded eyes. "Luce, I can't stand this." She kissed her again, their bodies molding together like they were the old married couple, not her parents, certainly not she and Heck.

After what seemed like an eternity but was, in reality, only a few moments, Luce turned her head away and trapped Rachel's hands, freezing them from their exploration. "Rachel, no. We can't…"

"Why not?" Rachel exploded, at her breaking point after too long denied, "Why the hell not? I want you…"

"Not enough." Luce's quiet rejoinder was like ice to her flame. "Not enough to choose me." Her tone was sad, but her eyes were even sadder. "And I won't be the other woman. I can't."

"Luce, I love you." Rachel played her trump card, knowing the power of it, knowing it was a cruel trap, but not caring. She couldn't let her go, and so she had to try everything to keep her. But then she felt Luce's fingers trace her lips and tears sprang to her eyes.

"I know," Luce whispered, truthfully, heartbreakingly, "but we can't go on like this. You're hurting everyone involved, and I can't be a part of that." Rachel watched as the light in Luce's eyes darkened and went out. "Not even for you."

Then H called for Luce and she pulled away, leaving Rachel queasy and teetering on unsteady legs.

"I'm sorry."

The door was wide open on this sunny day and Luce was concentrating on pruning back a potted plant, which was why she hadn't heard Rachel come in. At the sound of Rachel's voice, she jumped, tried to turn and straighten at the same time, and in the process, cut her hand open with the shears. "Damn!"

"Oh, Luce!" Rachel grabbed a towel and stepped forward as blood ran down Luce's hand, staining her sweater at the wrist and dripping down between her fingers.

Luce pulled her hand away, pressing her uninjured hand against the cut, slowing the flow of blood. She moved to put the counter between them, a trail of blood following her. "What do you want, Rachel?" Her tone was edged, angry.

Rachel glanced worriedly at the cut before meeting Luce's steely green eyes. "Maybe you should take care of that…?"

Luce spared a glance down, at the blood welling between her fingers. "It's fine."

Rachel frowned, but relented. "I wanted to say I'm sorry, for the other night. I shouldn't have…" here words failed Rachel in the face of Luce's silence.

Luce's gaze shifted down, like it was too painful to meet Rachel's eyes, but the silence persisted, and Rachel rushed to fill it. "You were right, I need to stop hurting everyone. I…" Luce raised her head and their eyes met, just like they had at the wedding, and just like that moment, Rachel knew. If only she were strong enough to follow that feeling. "I wanted you to know. I'm going to stop hurting everyone. I promise."

Luce nodded slowly, her eyes guarded as she watched Rachel leave. For a long time afterwards, she simply stood there, one hand pressed against the other, the slow drip of blood the only sound to break the silence in the flowershop.

"Why was she here?"

Luce startled again, splashing the warm water she was rinsing her cut hand with onto her jeans. If people could stop sneaking up on me, she thought, grabbing a towel in a vain attempt to sop up the water soaking into her jeans. "What?" she asked Jillian, distracted.

"Rachel. Why was she here?"

"She, um," Luce noticed her cut was still bleeding so she gave up on her jeans and put her hand beneath the water again, "she stopped by to talk. We ran into each other at her parents." She had her back to Jillian, so she missed the anger flaring in Jillian's eyes at her off-hand explanation.

"When was this?"

"Monday." Satisfied that the cut was cleaned and the bleeding was mostly stopped, Luce pressed several squares of gauze against her palm and reached for a strip of tape to secure it. "I told you I was going out."

"You didn't tell me you were going to see her."

Luce finally noticed something was off in Jillian's tone and she glanced over at her, standing frozen in the doorway. "I wasn't, not really. Heck had plans with Cooper and so she showed up at her parents. I was there to see H, so we ran into each other."

"So if it was a chance meeting, why did she stop by?"

The undercurrent of jealousy became clear to Luce as she regarded her girlfriend. "I told you, to talk," she replied coolly, watching as Jillian's eyes narrowed dangerously.

"What about?" All pretense dropped as Jillian nearly growled the words.

"That's between Rachel and I, not you."

"Bullshit. You are seeing her again, aren't you?" Luce watched as her previously charming, cultivated girlfriend turned nasty and decidedly low class. "I'm your fucking girlfriend, in case you forgot."

"I didn't forget, and Rachel and I are not seeing each other."

Jillian's movements were jerky with rage as she stepped up to the counter, and her hand connected with a vase, toppling it and sending the bouquet of red roses to the floor, blood red petals mingling with the drying blood. "Don't pretend, Luce, it doesn't suit you. I know, I know she's the girl."

"Then you should also know that there's nothing going on between us."

"Nothing? Nothing? So all those glances between you and the stroppy look on your face right now are nothing?" Luce opened her mouth to explain, but Jillian wasn't finished. "That bitch, I told her…"

"You told her what?" Jillian had never heard Luce's voice that cold before, and she knew she had just crossed a line, one she couldn't uncross. The tone seemed at odds with the easy-going woman, but while her temper was rarely evoked, it didn't mean she didn't have one.

"I told her to stay away from you," Jillian admitted defiantly.


"I told her to stay away from you."

"You had no right."

"I had every right. I'm your girlfriend and…"

Luce interrupted her. "That's easily remedied."

There was a stunned silence as Jillian processed the implications of Luce's words, but Luce didn't require any such processing. "Get out."

"Luce, please…"

"Get out of my shop." The words were spoken with finality, reinforced by the steely determination in those green eyes, so Jillian did what she had to; she left.

Luce's head pounded in time with the throbbing in her injured hand and she wondered if this day, week, lifetime could possibly get any worse. Then the phone rang.

Part 3

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