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 Three

When Rachel arrived at her flat, Heck was waiting. His usually happy expression was serious and drawn, and she realized it was the first time she had seen him, really seen him and the toll this whole thing was taking on him, since they had been married. She took his hand and led him to the couch. "We need to talk," she told him, and he nodded.

"Yes, we do."

Rachel continued to hold his hand, her eyes locked on the gold band on his finger, the matching one on hers. "Things haven't been good, have they? Not since the wedding." She spared a glance at the strain that showed around his eyes. That hadn't been there, before. "It's my fault, I'm sorry."

"It's not just your…" he began softly, but Rachel interrupted him.

"…no, wait, let me finish. I…" she took a deep breath, bracing herself. She knew, to stop hurting him, she had to deliver the worst hurt of all. "I fell in love. With someone who wasn't you." Once started, Rachel rushed to finish. "Nothing happened, nothing actually happened, but I betrayed you all the same. I tried, I really did. You're my best friend and I love you. I thought it would be enough, but it wasn't."

"No… it wasn't." Heck's voice was remarkably calm, scarily calm, and Rachel risks a glance at his face. His eyes were fixed on a point off in the distance, obviously deep in thought.

"I had to tell you, I'm sorry," Rachel told him, feeling like the words of apology were losing all meaning. "I couldn't keep hurting you, hurting us, anymore. And… I can't do this, not with you."

"I know." Heck's voice, and eyes, lost a little of their pensiveness as he dropped her hand and stood, walking to the far edge of the room before turning to face her again. "I've known for a while, actually. That's why…" here he dropped her gaze and studied the floor.

"Why what?"

"I've been having an affair." Rachel was surprised at how much his words hurt, given her own confession, and she lowered her spinning head into her hands. "I still love you," he hurried to say. "I just needed something…"

"Something I wasn't giving you," Rachel completed, their sad eyes meeting across the room they had decorated and furnished together.

"Yes." He sighed, his eyes unusually bright with tears. "I guess you broke our vows emotionally, and I broke our vows physically."

"Does it help for me to say I'm sorry?"

He thought for a moment. "Actually, I think it does. Being honest helps as well. We might have gone on for years hurting each other. This," he swallowed past a lump in his throat, "this is better."

The room was silent for a minute while he regained his composure before Rachel asked, "So what do we do now?"

"I… am going to go on a long holiday, take that trip that my editors have been suggesting I take for my book. I only resisted because…" he didn't finish his sentence, but Rachel nodded knowingly. He had only stayed for her, and now he had no reason to stay. "What about you?"

Rachel frowned, remembering the anger and sadness in Luce's eyes, the blood dripping from her hand. "I don't know. I, um, this… person," she stumbled over the pronouns.

"It's Luce, isn't it?" he asked gently and she cast him a guilty look.

"How did you know?"

Heck was lost in thought for a moment before he answered. "The other night. At Jillian's. You looked at her the way I want you to look at me." Rachel opened her mouth to speak, but he shook his head, cutting her off. "What you are feeling is the unstoppable force and I, well, I am not an immovable object."

"I don't know what to do. She's with Jillian now and I've buggered it up so badly…"

"Tell her." Rachel looked up at him, relieved to see her best friend again. "She loves you…"


"…and Jillian doesn't deserve to be hurt by this any more than I."

Rachel stood, walked over, and hugged Heck, feeling that, perhaps, they would be all right after all. "When you get back, we'll start the, um."

"Yes." He held her for a minute and then let her go. "Now go tell her." She picked up her coat and gave him a small smile before she left, and he gave her a half-hearted thumbs-up.

The hand-lettered sign read closed, and the cheery, colorful flowers seemed to mock her. Rachel had spent the better part of an hour coming up with exactly the right phrasing to talk to Luce only to find herself stymied by a sign with yellow flowers on it. It didn't seem right, somehow.

She scrutinized the hours posted in the window and tried the door, but to no avail. Thinking perhaps that Luce was on a delivery, she bought a coffee and sat on the stoop, her eyes scanning the pavement up and down and over and over again as the afternoon shadows lengthened.

Her coffee was long cold when the first drop fell, landing with a splat between the toes of her shoes. A few more fell, a light sprinkle, until the sky opened up and rained in earnest, a cold, heavy soaking rain that plastered her hair to her head and drenched her clothes.

And yet, despite her chattering teeth, the only thing Rachel could think of was the image of Luce facing a thunderstorm with an umbrella on a dark rooftop, her hair windswept, her smile wide. Rachel had wished then that she had the courage to sit with Luce, wrap her arms around Luce's waist, and watch the rain with her, with the heat from Luce's body to keep her warm and safe from the storm. But she hadn't the courage then, and now, when she could do so, freely, happily, Luce wasn't here and Rachel didn't know where she had gone.

Rachel pushed the trolley through the supermarket with a decided lack of enthusiasm, her eyes focused on but not really seeing the list in her hand. It had been a week and a half since she had been shopping and even though her list was extensive, she found it difficult to drag herself though the aisles.

Most evenings, she had been grabbing a bite at the pub round the corner from Luce's shop, her impromptu stakeout so far yielding no results. She had rung the shop, rung Luce's cell, and walked by or sat outside the shop almost every day, but it was like Luce had disappeared off the face of the planet, or, and this thought worried her more than the other, left on holiday again to avoid her.

So wrapped in her thoughts, she didn't notice where she was going until a loud "Watch it!" and a clang of two shopping trolleys startled her out of her daze and she looked up into a pair of shocked green eyes.

"Luce! What, what are you doing here?" That Luce would appear like a mirage out of her fixated subconscious was not entirely outside the realm of possibility, so Rachel waited to see if the apparition would speak.

Luce's eyes narrowed angrily. "I told you I wouldn't stop shopping at my usual supermarket just because…"

"No, no, I mean, here. In England. I thought you had gone." Luce looked perplexed, and Rachel didn't exactly blame her. Slowing her words and trying to make sense, Rachel said, "I've been trying to contact you. I've rung you and stopped by the flower shop several times. I thought you had…"

"Oh, well, it's my mum," replied Luce with a half-shrug and a bounce of her head, "I've been taking care of her." Seeing Rachel's eyes widen alarming, she hastened to explain, "Oh, no, she fell, dancing with her boyfriend, and broke her leg. So she's been needing a bit of help." Luce worried at her bottom lip with her teeth, guilt clear in her eyes. "I got your messages, I just couldn't, what, with taking care of my mum and all."

"I need to talk to you." Faced with Luce, Rachel felt the urgency of the last nearly two weeks bubble up within her. "It's important, I… could we get a cup of coffee or…?"

"I'm sorry," Luce looked at her with those sad eyes, and Rachel could tell she wasn't the only one who had struggled these last few weeks, "I can't, not right now. Maybe in a few weeks, we could…"

"Yes, yes, of course." A sick feeling traveled through Rachel's body and settled in her gut and she tried to hide behind a cheery response. "We'll definitely…"

"I have to," Luce waved her hands at the store shelves, carefully maneuvering her cart past Rachel's, and Rachel had the distinct feeling that if she let her leave, she would never see Luce again.

"I told Heck," she blurted out, and Luce froze in her tracks, standing stock-still, with her back to Rachel.

"You told him what?"

"I told him I'm in love with you. We're getting a divorce." Rachel paused for a moment, to let her words sink in. "Luce, I can do this."

Luce turned to face her, her green eyes unreadable, but certainly not filled with the joy Rachel wanted or expected to see. "And what if I can't?" she asked quietly.

Rachel felt her world tilt and her eyes darted over Luce's face, trying to discern her meaning. "I, I…" A sudden inability to breathe around the pain her chest forced tears to her eyes and she stammered out, "I understand. You, you've moved on and…" She couldn't continue to speak so she did the only thing she could do; she turned and grabbed the handles of her trolley, preparing for a swift escape. Luce's voice stopped her.

"I didn't. Move on. I couldn't," Rachel turned back, seeing matching tears in Luce's eyes. "I can't," she confessed softly, "I could never get over you."

"Then why?"

"I, what if you, you've been wrong about your feelings before, what would happen, if…" And suddenly Rachel understood: Luce was scared too; this was unknown terrain, for Luce as well as for her.

"I need you." Rachel took a step closer, close enough to touch. "You, you're like oxygen, I need you to live." Seeing Luce's eyebrow quirk at such melodramatic phrasing, Rachel reached out and caressed Luce's cheek. "When I'm away from you, that's not living, not to me. I need you, Luce. With you, I'm whole."

Luce's eyes searched hers, and Rachel could see the beginnings of smile touch the corners of her mouth. "You're sure?"

"I've never been more sure of anything in my life."

Closing the distance in a rush, Luce caught Rachel's face with her hands and their lips met in a kiss, the hurried desperation of their former kisses burned off to leave only a pure, explosive passion between them.

Rachel didn't remember how long they stood there, kissing in the middle of aisle 3, until a throat clearing brought them out of it and face to face with an old woman, scowling disapprovingly. Rachel had glared, but Luce's smile drew her back to Luce's lips and the woman had disappeared from Rachel's consciousness in the sparkle of Luce's eyes. Rachel didn't remember them leaving the supermarket or how they made their way to Luce's flat. She only knew that she didn't have one item from her trolley when they did arrive and she got her first look at Luce's much-derided flat. It fit, she decided, it was just like Luce: warm, messy, comfortable, and to Rachel, it felt like coming home. She fell into Luce and they fell into the bed and Rachel felt her whole world come together when their lips met.

The End

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