A/N: I know, I suck. I finally got my butt in gear and wrote another chapter. There will be one more chapter after this-probably an epilogue-type of chapter to wrap up all of those loose ends and everything. I know you've heard this before (hah), but it really will be posted very soon as I'm currently on a writing high and have actually found myself wanting to write more (gasps!) :D hehe...anyway...thank you very much to everybody who reviewed (thanks for not sending me any threatening "finish the story!" reviews...you have wonderful patience)...my thanks go out to Unique Child, Lucy Grace, Silver Stars, angeleyez61888, Freakage, JazzyMa-06, angel1357, sleepiedreamer, bitterdeath, channingcaughtfire, Ashelin, Rachael1011, Whisper, The Ferrett, MystryBright, the rocket apple, Arya Darcy, jade-is-a-star, Gwyn Baranof, why can't I just be tall, rainey, Shadow of the Black Wolf, Tech-and-Magic, Lexi Elizabeth Walker, summers-end, Sam, Black Pearl n Shadowz, Laen, Chrome Shadow, jane speaks, Angel992210, hija de jesucristo, youpin, KimHua, ihrtbks, and eskimoxisses! Enjoy!
"That's the third flash of lightning I've seen in the last ten minutes!" Aubrianne exclaimed.
"It's raining pretty badly out there," Brent commented. He had been out of the hospital for nearly a week. His demeanor reflected a calmness which Aubrianne currently lacked.
"How am I supposed to drive home now?" she asked.
"You're going home?"
"Well, I was planning on it."
"You're not going home."
"Am I supposed to stay here?" Aubrianne questioned, surprised. Brent shot her a confused look.
"Annie, it's not like you've never done it before," he pointed out.
"I know that I've stayed with you before, but I've never stayed here before. It's still weird- you living here," she explained.
"You're being overdramatic."
"I'm being honest."
"I know. I'm sorry," Aubrianne said. "Where are the guys?"
"They went camping for the weekend."
"Why didn't you go?"
"Just didn't want to."
"But you love camping," Aubrianne pointed out.
"I'm hungry," Brent announced, avoiding her statement. He walked into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator. Aubrianne followed, eyeing her friend curiously. Ever since he had left the hospital, his demeanor had changed slightly. It was understandable as it would take a while for anyone to cope with the fact that they had been in a coma for months. But still, she didn't like how lately he treated her differently; sometimes, he would just avoid her questions, and other times when she would talk to him, he wouldn't even look at her. And when he did look at her, there was something different in his eyes-something unreadable.
It's only been a week, Aubrianne reminded herself. Just give him space.
"You hungry?" Brent questioned, looking over to her. She bit her lip. Should she tell him how she was feeling? She wanted to, but how would he feel? She didn't want it to seem like he was attacking him at all. "Annie?"
"I asked if you were hungry," he said, still intently watching her. "Are you okay?"
"I don't know," Aubrianne replied, honestly. "I mean, I'm okay. I think I'm okay. But are you?"
"I'm not following you." Brent shut the refrigerator and shot her a confused look.
"I'm sorry, maybe I shouldn't have said anything."
"Annie, I don't really know what you're getting at, but whatever it is, you can tell me. Is it that you don't want to stay here tonight? If you don't want to drive, I can drive you-"
"No, I'm fine staying here. You don't need to worry about me. I'm just worried about you."
"Why are you worried about me? I've told you that I feel fine. I don't even feel any pain from the accident."
"You don't think of me any differently than you used to, do you?" Aubrianne asked. For a split second, Brent's eyes widened, but he quickly composed his face. Did she know? Had she figured out his feelings?
"What do you mean by differently?"
"Like…I don't know. Maybe I'm just imagining it; I probably am. I just-you still want to be around me, right? I'm not like a complete burden or totally annoying you or anything like that, right? Sometimes it seems like you just don't even want to look at me when we're talking. Oh gosh, what am I saying? I'm sorry. You're hungry. I'll find you something to eat." She paced around the kitchen, avoiding Brent's steady gaze as she searched for food.
"Sometimes I can't look at you," Brent told her. Aubrianne stopped. Her heart dropped. She hadn't expected him to be so honest.
"Oh," she whispered.
"It's not what you think, though."
"Look, I know that I was a terrible friend after you woke up, but I thought we had talked about that. If you can't get over it or if you just need some time away from me, then just tell me, and I can leave."
"Annie, I need to tell you something," Brent said. His tone had changed. The quiet strength was replaced with a shakiness. Aubrianne shut her eyes tightly. She didn't know if she could handle whatever he was about to tell her.
"No," she murmured, shaking her head.
"Whatever you're about to say is going to change things, I can tell. I don't know if I can handle that right now." She began to pace the room again. If only he knew. If he was about to tell her that he didn't want to be her friend, then she didn't want to hear it. Her heart wouldn't be able to handle it. The feelings she had inside had grown too strong. Hesitantly, Aubrianne looked over to Brent. He stood in the same spot as before. If only he knew, she thought again. Did he know that he was about to break her heart?
"Do you already know what I want to say?" Brent questioned.
"Yeah," Aubrianne quietly replied. Both stood awkwardly in the kitchen. "Maybe I should go."
"You don't want to talk about this at all?"
"Please don't do that to me, Brent."
"So that's it? You're just going to leave?"
"I'm just giving you what you want."
"You're not making this easy for me."
"When did you become the victim here?"
"Oh God, Brent-you haven't figured it out?"
"Figured what out? Annie, you're the one who wants to leave."
"I don't want to leave. I'm doing it for you-because it's what you want."
"What makes you think that I want you to leave?" Brent looked to her, confused. If she knew how he felt, then she would know that her leaving was the last thing that he wanted.
"You said it yourself! You can't even look at me anymore! I have to get out of here-" Aubrianne paced out of the kitchen and grabbed her car keys. The storm outside had gotten worse. The rain poured down from the sky in violent waves. Still, the storm outside didn't look nearly as bad as what she might feel if she stayed…he couldn't even look at her.
"Annie!" Brent called after her. Aubrianne threw the front door open and took a step outside. She was met with a sudden flash of lightning. The shock of it caused her to jump, in turn making her fall backwards. Before she could reach the ground, a pair of arms grabbed onto her. Brent. He helped her up, bringing her back inside.
"You can't do this to me, Brent," Aubrianne whispered, not looking him in the eyes. Brent's arms were still tightly wrapped around her.
"Annie, you're the one who's breaking my heart here," he replied.
"But you don't want to be near me."
"I never said that."
"Then why can't you ever look at me?" Her voice was laced with desperation. She pulled herself away from Brent and leaned against the wall. Brent paused. He understood now; she had thought that he was going to tell her that he didn't want to be around her anymore.
"You didn't let me explain," Brent replied. "Every time I look at you, every time I'm near you, I'm scared that I won't be able to hold myself back."
"When I see you, I just want to pull you in my arms and-"
Before he could finish, the lights began to flicker off and on. After a few seconds, they stopped, leaving the room in complete darkness. Aubrianne could no longer see Brent. She steadied herself against the wall.
"I'm still here."
A hand gently took a hold of her own. His fingers intertwined within hers. Brent moved closer to Aubrianne, finding her through the darkness.
"Brent?" she asked again, taking in a deep breath.
"Yeah?" His voice was now quiet and strong. Another flash of lightning came from outside, momentarily flooding the room with enough light so as they could see each other.
"You-Every time you see me, you-?" Aubrianne questioned, prompting him to finish his earlier statement. Brent opened his mouth but couldn't find any words. He slowly moved even closer, closing the gap that stood between them.
It was now or never.
He brought up his right hand and caressed her cheek. His left hand gently sat on her back as he pulled her to him. Aubrianne looked up, searching his face through the darkness as her eyes settled on to his dark eyes. And she finally understood. A newfound shyness overcame her. Brent softly smiled, leaning his head against hers. The silence of the room was only broken by the sound of their breathing. Aubrianne felt her legs tremble from beneath her, giving way to the rising anticipation of what she knew was going to happen next. Brent kept her steady by tightening his hold around her. His lips, a mere inches away from hers, slowly moved closer to hers. She surprised herself by moving her own lips forward to meet his. Within an instant, the anticipation had disappeared as Brent's lips met hers. A charge of electricity flowed through her body, reaching to the edge of her toes. She grabbed onto Brent's shoulders, clasping her hands around his neck. Brent ran his fingers through her hair as he fell victim to the softness of her lips. After only a few short seconds, they broke apart. An involuntary groan slipped from Aubrianne's throat as they separated. She looked up at Brent. His usually soft, dark eyes sparkled through the darkness that surrounded them. Brent kissed her cheek, then her forehead.
"Annie?" he whispered against her ear, causing chills to rise up in her spine.
"I love you."
Aubrianne shyly smiled up at him. "You do?"
"Mmm-hmm," he softly murmured, placing a soft kiss against her lips.
"I love you, too."
Brent smiled, bringing her face to his once again as he enveloped her in his arms. Another flash of lightning struck the sky. This time, they didn't notice.