It was the only coherent word in her otherwise blurry mind. Her head hurt, as well as every bone in her body. She didn’t remember much, but she knew she’d been crying; she knew her body well enough to register that.

Letting out a slow, nearly inaudible groan, she stretched, rolling over in her bed, eyes half opened. As she gaze out to the part of her bedroom she could see, a flash of blond hair came to her and suddenly, everything came flashing back.

Zack. At the mall. AJ recognized him, she remembered, and then Nick came out of nowhere and..

She shot up straight in bed, her eyes glued to the body sitting in the chair at her bedside, remembering everything that had happened AFTER the encounter at the mall. Everything that had happened there, in her apartment.

She had no idea Nick had stayed, but the sudden realization filled her with a warmth she knew she’d been missing all her life.

He stirred then, shifting uncomfortably in his seat. His head tilted toward her, and his eyes fluttered briefly before opening completely.

He couldn’t help but smile at the sight of her; sitting in the middle of her bed, sheets tangled all around her body, eyes wide with a mixture of surprise and a recognition of some sort he couldn’t pinpoint. Her hair was tousled, the light brown curls falling evey which way. She was, in all sense of the word, beautiful.. and he loved her.

“Hey,” he said softly, a small smile on his face.

“Hi,” she answered feebly. “You.. you stayed..”

“Yeah,” he grinned sheepishly. “I hope you don’t mind, I kinda crashed in this chair...”

“That’s the most uncomfortable chair in the house,” she pointed out. “But... I’m glad you stayed.”

“You are?” If this wasn’t surprising, then Nick really didn’t know what was anymore.

“Yeah,” she whispered, her eyes never leaving his as she brushed a loose curl out of her face. “I.. want to thank you. For yesterday...”

“You don’t have to thank me for anything.”

“Yeah I do..”

“I thought about leaving,” he admitted. “I didn’t think you’d want to have me around when you woke up..”

“No,” she shook her head. “You’re wrong.”

Nick raised his eyebrows questioningly. “Now I’m the one who’s wrong?”

She gave a half hearted smile. “Well.. kinda. Yeah. I.. needed someone here.. you...”

“You needed ME here?” She was just full of surprises, he mused.


“Why?” he asked. He suddenly got the sinking feeling of being pushed even farther away; that she was now sitting in silence thinking of how to let him down gently.

He wasn’t having that.

Sandra shrugged. “I don’t know, honestly.”

“You don’t know?” Something told him she DID know; all he had to do was get it out of her.

“I told you, I don’t know. I just...” she sighed, looking down at the ground. “I guess I just wanted to feel.. not alone.”

“You’re not alone, San,” he assured her. “You never will be again, you know.”

“I won’t?” Now it was her turn to look at him questioningly.

He shook his head. “I’m not that easy to get rid of.”

She smiled then, happy with what he’d said. Thinking back to the events of the previous night, she recongized, for the second time, that she did love him. When it happened, she wasn’t sure. how it happened was something she couldn’t exactly explain either. Perhaps she’d been so caught up in avoiding and ignoring him, not letting him get as close as he would’ve liked, to notice these feelings creeping up on her.

Fact of the matter was, however, that those feelings were there, and she felt them.

Whether Nick would ever find out was a completely different story.

[chapter list | chapter seventeen]