Through Thick And Through Thin

Chapter Eighteen

Katie looked up from her breakfast and forced a smile when she saw A.J. walked into the room. "Hey there, sleepyhead," she greeted softly.

He nodded and collapsed into a chair.

"Are you hungry?" Katie asked, keeping her cool. "I made some extra waffles if you want them."

"No," he mumbled, not looking into her eyes.

Katie took a deep breath, telling herself to stay patient and not lose her temper. "Okay. What do you want to do today, sweetie?"

"I don't care." He still wasn't facing her.

Katie sighed sharply. "Alex, what's happening to us?" she asked quietly.

A.J. finally looked up. "What?"

"We used to be inseparable, and now look at us. We treat each other like strangers. Oh yeah, except when we're having sex," she pointed out sarcastically.

A.J. shrugged. "I don't know. I'll be right back," he said, getting up and walking away without so much as a backward glance at her.

Katie's eyes narrowed slightly. She was getting really sick of him treating her like that, and she planned to educate him about that when he returned.

Five minutes passed, and A.J. still was nowhere in sight. Katie was starting to get suspicious. She walked out of the room and up the stairs, dreading what she would find.

Katie walked down the hall and knocked on the bathroom door. "A.J.?"

"Uh...just one second," he replied nervously.

"Open the door!" she commanded, praying that what she dreaded was not true.

"No, don't!" A.J. cried as Katie discovered that in his haste, he had forgotten to lock the door, and threw it open.

She gasped. He was sitting on the counter, curled up in a little ball. In the shaking fingers of his right hand was a lighted cigarette. Katie's head started spinning as she backed away. She had to get out of there, she had to leave... Katie turned on her heel and took off down the stairs.

A.J. quickly put out the cigarette and ran after her, catching up with her at the front door. He bragged her arms. "Where are you going?"

"I'm leaving!" she shouted, breaking free and opening the door. She ran outside and slammed the door in his face before he could follow.

"Ow, fuck!" A.J. cried out in pain as the door hit his forehead.

Katie heard him through the closed door and felt a glimmer of satisfaction. Good, she had caused him some pain after the hell he had put her through for the past few weeks. By the time she was almost to the car, the tears were streaming down her cheeks, and her breath was coming in gasps. She heard A.J. running up to her as she opened the car door and hunted for her keys, her vision blurred by the crying.

"Katie, stop!" A.J. begged. "Please, baby--"

"Up yours!" Katie shouted as she found her keys and tried to stick them in the ignition. She was having trouble, as she couldn't find the right one.

A.J. thanked the heavens that the window was open as he knelt beside her door. "Katie, please think about what you're doing."

Katie paused her search for the correct key to glare at A.J., who was surprised by the intense fury in her green eyes. "You think I haven't thought about it, A.J.? You think that it hasn't been on my mind every waking minute of every G-d damn day since I found out about your little habit? Do you honestly think that I would make a decision like this without thinking about it at all?"

"Katie, I didn't mean--"

"Don't tell me that you don't know why I'm doing this, Alex," she continued. At the blank expression on his face, her jaw dropped. "Oh, come on! You treat me like shit! Like I'm just a body that you can use for your own pleasure, for a distraction from your problems! When was the last time over these few weeks the two of us had a decent conversation, or sang to each other like we used to, or fell asleep in each other's arms? When I made the sex-for-no-smoking deal with you, A.J., I thought that it would help you, and maybe it did. But it trashed our relationship! It made our relationship merely physical which, ironically, is what I thought I wanted when we first got together. And I know that I said that I was willing to sacrifice our relationship for your health. But you know what? Having you slowly torn away from me is too fucking painful! So I'm going to save us both the trouble and make the break now!" Katie found the right key and jammed it into the ignition.

"Katie, please!" A.J. begged. "Don't leave, please--"

"You had your chance, and to say that you blew it would be a gross understatement!"

"But you can't leave, it's your house!" A.J. pointed out as she revved up the engine.

"I don't fucking care!" Katie retorted. "I already lost one person who meant the world to me to cancer, and it almost destroyed me, and I refuse to lose another that way!"

She's talking about her father, A.J. realized. Oh my G-d. she thinks I'm going to...

Katie started to press down on the gas pedal but stopped as A.J. ran in front of the car.

"A.J., don't do this! Move!"

He shook his head, and Katie could see his cheeks glisten with tears. "I won't let you go."

"Move or you'll be road kill before you know it!"

A.J. shook his head vehemently and stepped closer, resting his hand on the front hood of the car. "Please, baby. I'll shape up. I'll do whatever you want, and I swear that I'll quit, just please stay with me. You might think that I don't care about you any more, but that's not true at all. I know that I've been awful to you these few weeks, and I'm so sorry, but you're the only thing that's been keeping me from going over the edge. G-d, Katie, you're the best thing that's ever happened to me. If I didn't have you, who knows where I'd be...still seeing a different woman every week and breaking hearts. It might sound like I'm shitting you, but I promise I'm not." By this time A.J. had edged over to window again, and Katie had let go of the steering wheel and frozen, staring straight ahead of her with blank eyes. "Please give me another chance to--wait, Katie, look at me." Katie slowly turned to face him, and when she saw his pleading puppy brown eyes, she knew that she wouldn't be able to resist him.

"Please give me another chance to do better. I promise that this time you won't be disappointed. I love you," he whispered.

", I mean,"

"Shhh," A.J. soothed, testing the car door and finding it unlocked. He opened it and climbed into the seat next to her, easing her trembling body into his lap. He held her tightly and kissed the top of her head as she cried into his chest, breathing in the scent of her long brown hair. "You say I haven't sung to you?" he asked, feeling her breathing gradually start to slow down.

"Yeah," she whispered.

A.J. paused and searched for a song to use. When he found one, he smirked wryly at the coincidence.

"I woke up this morning
From a dream that you were saying goodbye
We had a simple argument
But not enought to keep out each other's lives..."

A.J. moved her away slightly so that he could look into her eyes and cup her face in his hands.

"I wanna be happy, but I can't be happy
If I can't be with you
'Cause you're my baby, my sweet honey
And no other girl will do."

Katie sighed and leaned back on his chest as all of the sleepless nights scattered throughout the past few weeks caught up on her, and she had to fight to keep her eyes open as he sang the chorus that brought tears to her eyes.

"Don't leave me, 'cause you need me
I never wanna be without you
Don't leave me, 'cause you need me
I never wanna be without you

"I can't seem to figure out
Just what went wrong with us
You might've thought I was selfish
But everything I did, I did for us."

Katie started to sing along softly, making A.J. smile.

"I wanna be happy," she sang.
"But I can't be happy
If I can't be with you,"
A.J. continued.

"'Cause you're my baby," she sang
"My sweet honey
And no other girl will do,"
he picked up.

"So don't leave me, 'cause you need me
I never wanna be without you
Don't leave me, 'cause you need me
I never wanna be without you

"I can't eat or even sleep
Until I have you back inside my world
My life would be incomplete
Unless you stay my girl."

A.J. heard her yawn and looked down to see that her eyes were starting to close. He smiled. "Did you sleep at all last night?"

She blushed at being found out. "No..."

"That's okay, sweetheart. If you want to sleep now, I'll hold you," he said.

"Okay. I'm so sorry that--"

"No, don't be sorry. Thanks for giving me a wakeup call. I'm the one who should apologize," A.J. interrupted. "Just rest, baby," he coaxed.

"Sing to me more," Katie murmured as she relaxed and closed her eyes.

A.J. smirked.

"And I will take you in my arms
And hold you right where you belong..."

Katie grinned and playfully smacked him. He laughed and switched to a song that he knew was one of her favorites.

"When I'm lost in the rain
In your eyes, I know I'll find the light
To light my way
When I'm scared, losing ground
When my world is going crazy
You can turn it all around
And when I'm down, you're there
Pushing me to the top
You're always there giving me all you've got..."

A.J. realized by her deep, even breathing that Katie had fallen asleep, but for some reason, he couldn't stop singing.

"For a shield from the storm
For a friend
For a love to keep me safe and warm
I turn to you
For the strength to be strong
For the will to carry on
For everything you do
For everything that's true
I turn to you..."

Katie murmured his name in her sleep and shifted closer to him so that her head was resting just below the crook of his neck, and he felt tears sting his eyes as he tightened his arms around her protectively.

"When I lose the will to win
I just reach for you and I can reach
The sky again
I can do anything
'Cause your love is so amazing
'Cause your love inspires me
And when I need a friend
You're always on my side
Giving me faith, taking me through the night..."

A.J. trailed off as he shut the car door softly and closed his eyes, and soon the warmth of Katie's body on top of his lulled him into a deep sleep.

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