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ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Coming Out, Staying In
By Katherine Quinn

Chapter 23: Alex

It's a little after one when I get home, slinking in the door. I expect you to be there, sitting, waiting for me. Instead, I'm met with cold darkness. You're either not here, or you're already in bed. Either one is a bad sign.

I was so close to following you out. I wish you knew how much I wanted to. When Elliot grabbed my arm and fired off my social responsibilities, like I didn't know, I wanted to explain it to him. I wanted to show him what was in my head. I want to be there for you. I really do. I want to give you what you want, but I can't. I'm too scared. I've worked too hard to get where I am. Loving you is turning out to be more than I bargained for.

Slowly, I walked back across the room, trying to decide whether to follow you. I felt Matt sliding his hands comfortably back over my shoulder, making the choice for me.

"What was his problem?" He asked me, sliding his hand down my back. I wish he wouldn't do that. It makes me feel so sleazy, so cheap. It's worse when I could feel your eyes burning into my back. I knew you were staring at me. I knew that it must have been killing you, watching us, watching me.

I don't want to do that to you. It's not about you. It's about the fact that, well, there are some parts of this whole thing I'm not ready for. I love you with all my heart. I wouldn't trade anything for the last year with you, and even though our friends are supportive, and everything's generally okay, I still feel my body flinch when you touch me in public.

I gently fumble across the living room when I trip over your shoes.

You are here.

I sigh.

That means you're in bed.

I slip into our bedroom and I can see you're awake. Just by your posture, just by the way you're lying on your back. You never sleep on your back. Not unless we're wrapped in each others arms, my head resting gently on your shoulder.

"Hey," I mumble.

You don't respond.

Instead, you turn over and face the other way.

You have ever right to be mad at me. Hell, I'm mad at me.

Sighing, I drop the dress and slide one of your old t-shirts over my head. I have a feeling it's the only way I'll be close to you tonight. I pull back the covers and slip into bed beside you. I reach out for you, but you slide your body away, quickly turning your back to me.

"Liv, I'm sorry." I say, "It was a bad idea, we shouldn't have gone."

I reach for you again, but this time you get out of bed. "Don't."

"Don't what?" you ask, poison in your voice.

"Don't leave. We need to talk."

"What, Alex, what do you want to talk about?"

"About tonight?"

"What about it?"

"I'm sorry, sorry for what happened."

"What though, what are you sorry for?"

I try to be diplomatic. "I'm sorry that you were hurt."

"I'll be on the couch," is all you say, turning away from me, pulling a blanket off our bed, and grabbing a pillow.

I want to follow you. Make this better. I scramble after you.

"We have to talk." I plead.

"I can't right now, I'll say something I don't mean."

"Liv, please." I say, reaching for your arm.

You don't look at me, but you shake my hand away. "Go to bed, Alex. We can talk in the morning."

Chapter 24: Olivia

My back is killing me. This is a horrible stupid couch. I hate this couch. I mumble as I turn over and try to get comfortable. I can feel every vertebra in my back scream with disapproval. Pain shoots down my leg, and I move another inch to my left. No good. I really hate this couch. Well, at least I've hated it since I got the brilliant idea to try to sleep on it.

I can't believe you walked in here, pretending like nothing happened. Like you didn't choose to ignore me, even though you knew I was hurting. You were too busy pretending you lived the life you think they want you to live.

I don't know who I'm madder at, you or me.

After all, I knew what I was getting into. What did I expect you to do? Run across the room and jump into my arms? That wasn't going to happen, plain and simple. The fact I wanted it more than I wanted oxygen doesn't change that you're not capable of it.

What the hell was I thinking, getting involved with a closet case? I thought I knew better, I thought I had gotten my heart broken enough times before you. I can't believe that after a year of my life, spending it with you, loving you, and supporting you, that you would turn your back on me.

I can hear your quiet sobs in the next room. I don't care. I can't care. I'm too angry.

I'm glad you're in there crying. It's what you deserve right now. I have already cried myself out, and I can't feel bad anymore. My heart is too tired. My body is too tired. I hear your sniffling getting closer to my head but I'm determined not to give you the pleasure of talking this through. Not tonight.

"Liv? Please can we talk?" I hear your voice, which cuts through the quiet night like a knife. I can't see you, but I can tell by your voice that you're desperate. A sniffle fills the silence; I can feel your body getting closer to me.

"I don't want to talk," I say, with a satisfied smile as I turn my back to you again. Maybe you'll know what it's like to be rejected. Maybe you'll learn what tonight was for me.

"At least come back to bed."

"Alex, leave me alone."

"Liv, please," I feel your hand reach out for me in the night and I can feel you against the back of my neck.

I can feel your fingers, damp from wiping away your tears. I'm so angry at you; I can feel myself getting out of control. "Get the hell away from me," I yell at you, pushing your hand away from my shoulder as I quickly turn over to face you. I can feel you jump back away from me, the outline of your body apparent against the glow of the city lights coming through the window. "All I wanted from you tonight was this. I wanted you to reach out to me. And you fucking stood there, letting me watch you, letting my heart break. And now, now that you feel like that, you want me to hold you and tell you its okay? It's not okay Alex. It's just not okay."

"Liv, it's not like that."

"What it's it like, Alex?" I demand.

"I just can't do it in public."

"I don't just exist here, Alex. I'm a real person too. I carry you with me in my heart, everywhere I go. My love doesn't stop at the front door."

"Neither does mine," you mumble.

I laugh at you, I can hear the cruelness in the tone, the meanness. I want you to feel bad. I want you to feel worse than me. "Out there, out there, I'm nothing to you." I say, motioning to the outside.

"That's not true."

"I didn't expect you to walk up to me and French kiss me. I would have settled for a hello. But if you said hello, people might think that we were fucking like bunnies. Hell, they might even think that they could catch gay germs from you. Guess you didn't hear that loving me is not a disease."

You shift uncomfortably on your feet. Your silence is deafening. "Are you done?" you ask, finally.

I laugh at you again. "You just don't get it, do you?"

"I guess not." I can hear the anger starting to rise in your voice.

Good. I want you angry. I'm ready to take you on. Let's have a fight.

Part 25

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