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Chapter 9 : The butterflies vacate
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“No! Chick flick! It’s a heart-warming tale of-”
“It’s so our turn!”
I cut across the argument currently raging between the boys and my girlfriends. “How about the spy one? With the wife who doesn’t know her husband is actually a spy?” I suggested. It was a win-win with things blowing up, getting shot at and spontaneously combusting for the boys, romantic woes with a happy ending for the girls.
Everybody froze, looking at me for a moment in a daze, and then heads started nodding. Maddy flopped onto Drew’s lap, and he shot me a thank you look. Like me, he could appreciate a decent movie, even if it wasn’t great or our gender’s chosen genre, so he’d just been patiently waiting it out, same as I’d been. Until I’d lost my patience.
The guys all flopped down and looked at me expectantly. I sighed and found the DVD, shoved it in. Sometimes I wondered what they’d do without me. I visually dissected suspect foods, translated girl-speak and generally ended up looking out for them. Although, on the flipside, they took care of me too.
I sank onto the sofa next to Al and Tyler and squirmed a bit closer to Al, hoping I was being sneaky about it. We’d moved in two weeks before and had all just finished our first week of work or training. It was Friday night and no one was fired or kicked out yet, although for some reason Logan was running late, strange since he and Al were in the same program and should have been able to make it home at the same time.
Just as the menu screen popped up Logan burst through the door. We were in our apartment, since the boys’ were already dirtier than ours. We’d added charms to all our locks, so if we left the doors unlocked and were expecting each other we could just come in without anyone having to get the door. It had been Tyler’s idea(surprise, surprise, he didn’t want to get up from playing video games), but Rose was the one to take his whining and give it a practical application.
“Sorry I’m late,” Logan groaned, snagging a slice of pizza from the coffee table as I hit play. He poured a drink and then sat down on couch, forcing Al closer. I fought the urge to snuggle into his side and distracted myself with a bite of pizza.
Fifteen minutes later all the food was gone, the soda bottles empty, and the husband in the movie was the target of an assassin. I felt pressure on my ribs, and glanced down to find Al’s knee wedged against my ribcage. I glanced over at him-was it worth it to let him get away with it? It had been a long week, and I felt safe and cozy, but it would inevitably induce more wistful thoughts of more than friendship with him. I sighed as I caved and dropped my arm on top of his leg.
I made it about halfway through the movie before my eyes got so heavy I gave up trying to peel them open every time they shut. I drifted around in half-conscious dreams, the sounds from the movie and my friends coloring the direction the dreams took. Then the sound stopped and I fell even more soundly asleep. Until I heard Tyler.
“How do you hook it up?” I heard him ask. I struggled into a semi-awake state and cracked one eye open to find him eyeing a video game console that we girls hadn’t cared enough to set up with the TV yet. “Al?”
The other guys were scratching their heads. Al was the one who was good with the electronics. “I’m not getting up,” Al whispered from somewhere close by, just as I was drifting off again.
“Dude, come on,” Tyler said, which was quickly followed by a swacking sound. “Ouch, Mads. I’m wounded. Killer ballerina, huh?”
“I’m not waking Phee up.” Al whispered harshly across the room.
Hmm? I thought. What did Al’s activities have to do with waking me up? I snuggled farther in and clutched a blanket I didn’t remember getting higher. A warm hand tightened around my shoulder, and I gradually became aware that the surface my face was laying on was warm and felt an awful lot like tee-shirt-covered skin. I sniffed tentatively. Old spice. Albus’s skin, to be exact. I sighed in contentment, too tired and comfortable to worry about anything at all.
“Just take her to bed,” Rose’s voice suggested.
A Ty-snicker reached my ears, followed by a Ty-yelp. “What was that for?” he whined.
“What do you think?” Rose and Maddy chorused.
“As I was trying to say,” Rose was using her glaring voice, “before I was so rudely interrupted, she’s been really tired this week, the stress from work is messing with her blood sugar and keeping her up late.”
I felt Al nod, then start to move. I probably could have gotten up and gone to bed myself, but hey, who was I to tell Al not to carry me? He lifted my arm and stuck it over his shoulder, then hooked his arm under my knees. I was apparently lighter than I thought I was, because he lifted me like I weighed nothing, and my arm tightened reflexively on his neck. I told myself that my thumb just happened to end up in his hair, because I needed to hold on.
I didn’t have an excuse for the way it was sneaking steadily further into the soft black locks, however.
My head slid up from his chest to the crook of his neck as he lifted my higher in his arms. I nuzzled in, inhibitions vanished in my sleep-addled state. The light flashed brighter for a second-that was weird-and then a steady beat came as he carried me down the hall to my bedroom.
All too soon he was easing me out of his arms and gently cradling my head as he lowered it to the pillow. My body tilted towards him, the weight of the knee he rested by where my hip now lay pulling the mattress down. “Night Phee,” he whispered just before something brushed my forehead. I heard myself make some sort of soft sound, and after a few moments the door snicked shut.
Moments later, I was asleep again, dreaming about the safety of my best friend’s arms.
“What about that time I tried to teach you to dance?” Al widened his eyes at me, but James had already heard.
“You, Albus?” he said, snickering. “Dancing? I bet you looked like a chicken with its head cut off.”
Al huffed as I explained, “Not really, it was a waltz we were attempting. In fourth year, I think. Lily and Claire wanted a boy to ‘fancy’ dance with.”
“And he sucked,” Lily groused from across the table, “didn’t even try for more than a minute or two once Sophie taught him. Total waste of time.” Letter finished, she got up and wandered out, looking for the family owl. Al and I were at the Potters for a Saturday brunch, although at three in the afternoon, brunch was long over, and just about everybody else-like Rose and Scorpius-had left.
Al was still glowering at James, who had an eyebrow raised as if to say so what? I laughed at the stare down, and poked James in the side to make him stop. When he didn’t, I stabbed again. Suddenly he swung around towards me and narrowed his eyes. I grinned and batted my eyelashes once, not liking the predatory gleam he’d gotten in his eyes. Lightning fast his hands whipped out and grabbed my wrists. “Not so cocky now, huh?” he taunted. I squirmed a bit, knowing that he wanted me to try and get loose but not bothering to do much since I knew he’d let me go when he was good a ready and not a moment before. Lucky me, the older brother I never had.
“Al, I’ve got her!” he crowed, peering around me at his younger brother. Then he jerked his chin back towards my abdomen, “Do it!”
I groaned, knowing that chances were pretty good I was about to get tickled. A moment, a hesitation, and then Al’s hands landed on my side. I wiggled, trying to get free, but it didn’t work. My gasp-laugh rang out through the kitchen as Ginny walked in.
“Hey Mum!” Al called cheerfully, and James chimed in with, “We’re just torturing Soph a bit!”
“Mmm,” she hummed, pulling a glass down. I finally twisted away and fixed Al with a reproachful look.
“How could you gang-” I started, glaring up at his happy green eyes, when I cut myself off with a shriek as he snuck a hand onto my ribcage again. I settled for finishing my thought with a simple but effective “Gah!”
He smirked back obnoxiously, and I tried not to stare at his lips. Or his eyes, because the longer I looked at his eyes the more I wanted to kiss him and the more sure I became that my want was clear in my own eyes.
It was just so easy to let my guard down with him.
“Well, that was fun,” James said, then promptly walked out of the kitchen. I shrugged-boys were weird-and watched Ginny pour a glass of ice tea and pick up a magazine and notepad. I was just sitting down again when I heard bleep-bleep bleep-bleep .
“Al!” I whined, glanced over to find him tapping the screen of Harry’s cell phone distractedly. He looked at me, shrugged, and continued tapping. Bleep bleep bleep-bleep. I reached over and caught his fingers in mine, moved them away and then let go, because I had to. They felt right wrapped around mine, warm and solid and like home. A moment after I let go…bleep-bleep-bleep-bleep. He was smirking at me, smugness written in every line of his face.
I reached around him and snatched the phone off the table. “You stole my dad’s phone!” he said, sounding aghast. I shrugged. He turned to his mom, who was just settling herself at the other end of the table. “She stole dad’s phone.” I looked at Ginny, not entirely sure how she’d react, and hoping my sheepish expression would keep me from getting into too much trouble. Her lips twitched in an almost-smile and she shrugged at Albus, a so what? gesture.
I turned to my best friend, smirking, and found him still looking at his mother in shock. When he finally turned back to me, he only took a moment to find his bearings and act, which I was totally unprepared for. The phone was behind my back, and he lunged for it, startling me into a squeak of alarm. I jumped up and ran from the kitchen, and heard him pounding behind me. The skirt of my tiered dress swished against my legs while my long hair flew wildly around as I dashed through the hall, past the stairs and into the living room.
I glanced over my shoulder to check for him, and find him dangerously close, grinning as he gave chase. My face already hurt from my smile-such a nice pain, cheeks hurting from so much happiness-and a laugh bubbles its way out of my mouth, starting somewhere around my heart, I think.
Al catches me at the doorframe to the living room, although I know he’s let me get this far, could have caught me moments after I left the table, and I slip past the frame, flatten myself against the wall with the phone behind my back. He smirks down at me and puts a hand on my side, peeling me away from the wall even as I lean my shoulders back into it, arching my body to keep the hand holding the phone sandwiched better the wall and my upper back.
Our legs tangle, and he reaches his free hand behind my back, wrestles the phone away from me. I deflate, look morosely towards the floor but only see my one of my bare legs stuck between his, foot curved around his ankle. The fabric of his jean leg is rough against my freshly shaved shin and I look back up, startled by the intimacy of out entwined legs. We’ve shared so, so much, but physically I’ve been reserved, because every time I touch him-and a lot of times when I’m not-I’m sure my heart is in my eyes. This is foreign, yet still with the boy I know almost as well as myself.
I can feel my cheeks still flushed from running and smiling, the echo of the grin still aching in my cheeks, a sated kind of pain, when my eyes meet his green ones. His hand is still at my hip, the other arm braced at the elbow against the wall next to my head, the phone that started all this now missing. His eyes are on my face, intensely watching me. I think about all the times he’s looked at me like this, across a dinner table, a million other times I’ve glanced up and found him intently staring.
I stare back, just like I always do, never able to give up the chance to openly watch him-because he started it, after all, so it was okay-and feel the blood rushing to my cheeks as his scrutiny continues. He is so familiar, so safe, but unknown, too, because I do not know what his lips feel like, or how he holds hands, if he laces fingers or if he wraps his whole hand around yours.
His green eyes are warm, almost unbearably so, as we reach thirty, forty seconds and he shows no sign of looking away, of stopping. I give up trying to tamp my heart down, cease any effort I was still making to keep love from shinning in my eyes. I can’t hide this one thing I’ve hidden from him for all these years while looking him in the eye like this, less than eight inches between us.
And I’m tired of looking away.
I refuse to look away.
The fabric of his jeans rubs against my legs, bringing to my attention that he is, if it’s even possible, getting closer, never breaking eye contact. Something takes possession of my hands, which have been dangling at my sides, and suddenly they’re bunching the gray tee shirt at his waist.
The warmth in his eyes flares as something sparks, catches fire in his gaze. He is close, so close, his warmth no longer enveloping me but now merging with my own body heat, so that I can’t tell where he stops and I start; my foot is still hooked around his ankle, and then his forehead is resting against mine, our breaths mingling, eyes still locked.
He is hesitant and shy and serious and I just love him so much. It’s powerful and overwhelming and rushing through my body with my blood. His arm slides down the wall and he brings his hand up to clasp my neck, gently, like I’m breakable or precious or might spook and dash off. His thumb rubs tiny circles under my ear.
I want to savor this fragile moment, because it will never come back. I can feel my love for him flaring in my stomach, warming my heart and clearing my mind, the butterflies that have given me such grief now gone, replaced by calm certainty.
I close my eyes, move my face minutely and brush his nose with mine, body canting farther towards his, open them when his hand on my hip tightens.
“Really?” he asks, his eyes now shut, voice raised and hopeful at the ending syllable. I don’t ask what he means.
“Yes.” His eyes open and ask if I’m sure. One of my hands slips away from his waist and up to his hair. I can feel my I-love-you-so-much-it-hurts smile curling on my face, the one I only indulge in once in a while, when no one’s around, when I just can’t hold it in anymore.
And suddenly, his lips are on mine and my best friend is kissing me.
A/N: Sorry this took so long, life has been completely crazy, in every possible way. Anyway, I’ve had this written for a while, but I wanted it to be perfect, so I kept coming back and edting/tweaking it until I was totally satisfied! I’m really happy with it, but please please let me know what you think!!
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