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Dawn

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Bill has found, as the week dragged along, that he doesn't like the feeling of a full house closing in on him.

Despite the fact that his parents are paying attention to him, even if it's twelve years too late and only because people are visiting, he hates every second he spends under the harsh pressure of their questions and stares. He isn't used to them spending time with him outside of the incredibly rare occasion where they all sit through a painfully silent dinner together and it's jarring to see it change. And yet, he still feels himself fall for it. Even if they would cast him aside time and time again, when his mom actually asked him how he was doing he couldn't help but smile. Sometimes he does wonder if he'll ever truly be able to resent them, or if he'll just keep directing that hatred inward, exactly how they taught him to after George died.

The wind is heavy and humid when it hits his face, waking him from his thoughts as he takes the first step out of his car.

Amid all of the loneliness he's felt since he was ten years old, he rarely had anyone to talk to.

There had been a time, years ago, when he had six best friends. His losers were everything to him, they were all he had, and yet, even they couldn't last forever. Every single one of them moved out of Derry at one point or another as they grew up, every single one but him. First it had been Stan and most recently, the last of them to leave, had been Richie, which was the hardest goodbye of them all. He was closest to Bev and Richie, but at least he had Rich when she was gone. After he left...he had nothing.

All he had were parents who couldn't care less about him and a homeless cat that refused to leave him alone after he fed him once, so naturally, he took the cat in and wallowed in what was left of his loneliness.

Well, at least until he met her.

The first time Bill was aware of her existence was a month after she moved to Derry.

It was a cold, harsh December morning, but, even if he didn't realize it at the time, that was a defining day in his life. The bite of the cold nipping at his numb, flushed skin was soothed by the heat of the coffee shop as soon as he passed through the door and a delightful chime of the Christmas bells hanging above rung in his ears. It was a place he often frequented after a long day of working to have a cup of coffee and spend what little free time he had to finish writing his book. The atmosphere was pleasant and warm there, especially during holiday season, and he found that it was easier to breathe there compared to the silent suffocation he endured back home.

It had been a couple of weeks since he last went and, in the span of those few weeks, Y/N moved to town.

Pouring coffee all day and working countless hours talking to strangers wasn't exactly what she would call her dream job, but it paid bills and kept her out of the house for eight hours, so she wasn't inclined to complain. It wasn't until the fifth time he came in that she actually interacted with him, but she did know of him before their first encounter.

Bill unconsciously kept his eyes on her a lot while she worked, casually glancing up from his work to see her half-hearted smile as a customer said something he couldn't make out, and for a while she didn't notice. Until one day, that fifth day, when she came over to his table when it was so late that no other patrons were there and plopped down into the seat across from him with a cup of tea.

He vaguely remembers his confusion when the stranger simply sat with him in silence and continued on with her day as if she didn't just choose to sit beside him in a room of empty tables and chairs.

Trying something new, Y/N asked, "How was your day?" a tiny sip of her tea and then, "I don't mean to intrude but you've been sitting here for five hours and seem like you could use someone asking that."

What she meant by that, he wasn't sure, but he responded nonetheless.

"Good, n-n-n-not getting as much writing d-done as I should, but still alright, I g-guess."

Steam curled up from her mug in wisps and warmed the skin of her face with every awkward second neither of them were speaking for, her free hand coming up to adjust the turtleneck collar of her sweater.

"You're a writer?"

Bill shrugged, "In t-t-theory."

Perhaps he was, and always had been, hard on himself for reasons that all seem to trace back to his childhood, but, with the way he saw it, what kind of real writer takes as long as he did to finish a book? He spent four years working on his and would only come to finish it two months following their first conversation.

She would eventually come to the point where she was comfortable enough to pester him with compliments regarding his work and try to force some confidence into him, but for the time being, she nodded and sat back in her seat while he typed.

After only a minute or so of him asking her the same question and her not-so-honest, sugarcoated answer, he knew he was a goner.

The summer sun is nearly overwhelming on her skin now.

She hopped out of the car instantly after he shut it off, giddy to be back to one of the only places she feels safe with the only person she feels safe with after a week full of endless work and silent suffering at home.

They meet here, him picking her up as soon as her shift ends in his piece of junk car every Friday evening just in time for dusk. The vibrant colors of sunset are cast across the horizon and over the Quarry water, painting everything that surrounds them in a gold and orange light.

It felt odd when they first befriended each other. Considering the fact that she's a married woman and he's single, hanging out alone together felt a bit dangerous, but she knew she would never let it get to a point where that could happen. Or, at least she likes to believe that she won't.

Truth be told, there was a reason she let herself get close to Bill, a reason she won't let herself believe is real. Her makeup manages to veil the evidence of it, so he would never have to know, but he does have his suspicions. Even if she could cover the physical evidence, there are other tells she has. He learned quite early on not to raise his voice as to not spook her. The first and only time he accidentally used a sudden, loud tone around her, she had flinched from his direction with fright flooding her eyes. It lasted a split-second, but he caught it all the same.

His voice fades back to her as she looks up from where she'd been staring off the edge of the cliff to the water.

"Twelve r-r-r-rejection letters, Y/N," Bill says from where he's laying back against the hood of the car with his arms folded behind his head, "twelve. I muh-might-might as well just give up. It took me four years to write it and nobody wants t-t-to publish the damn thing."

The light of dusk makes the red in his hair intensify as it halos him and she can't help the smile that crosses her face at the sight of him, but what he said makes that smile fizzle out almost as soon as it came.

Birds chirp to a level of near obnoxiousness as she turns over his words in her head for a few seconds. Give up, she thinks, she never knew him to be someone to give up.

"Why would you say that? You and I both know you're good, if they can't see that, then it's their loss and they'll be sorry when someone else picks it up."

There's a shadow that falls over her his face this time and he pulls his bottom lip between his teeth in thought. It's hard for her to keep focused on the conversation at hand when he does this; her eyes unable to help the way they follow the movement of his full, pink lips as he chews on them. It takes a lingering moment of this admiring, wondering how soft his lips may be if she were to kiss him, before she forces herself back to reality. Back to the problem he's having.

His chest falls with a heavy exhale and he turns onto his side, head propped on his elbow, to look at her.

They both feel a shiver down their spines when their eyes meet. Bill's voice goes quiet in a way that makes her want to reach forward and run a soothing hand through his hair, to watch him shut his eyes in response that touch and her loving affection, when he speaks next.

"Well, w-what if I'm n-n-n-not good enough? They've gotten be rejecting it for a r-reason, after all..."

If he were being honest, he'd tell her about the shame he constantly feels, but he doesn't want to draw attention to his flaws. Why would he knowingly do something that might make her realize how pathetic he is? For God sakes, he's twenty-six years old, has yet to accomplish the one thing in life he's sure of, and still lives in his parent's garage. He knows he's still young and probably shouldn't feel so pressured to have his entire life figured out, but he can't help but feel the disappointment like an infestation in the deepest trenches of his heart. Other than what he feels for the woman sitting beside him, writing is the only thing that makes sense nowadays and if he can't do that...

Y/N shakes her head and scoots closer to him, laying down on the scaldingly hot steel of car's hood so she's face to face with him.

"Come on, I know you don't mean that," She says softly, "You're more than good enough, Bill..."

It feels as if all of the oxygen has been sucked out of the air surrounding him at the distance, or lack thereof, between them. Every second is stretched into minutes so long as she looks at him the way she is now, a hand pressing flat against the car for support as she lays on her side with a hip curving up toward the sky. And, though he may not be sure of it, the feeling is mutual.

Bill has a way of making her breathless, tipsy almost, when he's near. The temperature of the summer air mixes with the heat he brings to her cheeks and she almost loses her control. For a moment, she lets her eyes dance up and down between his eyes and lips. She could swear that his breath catches in his throat in reaction to that, but he interrupts their moment.

Blushing, he turns away and says, "T-T-Thank you."

He decides to look up at the sky instead of her; he studies the intricacies of the clouds and blooming color that dances high above, still able to feel her eyes burning on his skin. For a fleeting moment of bravery, the words almost leave his mouth and he nearly asks her.

What would your husband do if he saw me here with you?

A question that would lead to them having a conversation he's not sure she wants to have. If there wasn't anything other than friendship between them, he wouldn't have to ask, right? Cause even if they never did cross that line, they both know they were never only friends. Friends don't dream of touching friends the way she's dreamt of touching him, friends don't look at her the way he looks at her...surely her husband would kick his ass, or at least try to, if he saw the way he was just looking at Y/N. Even sharing a glance with her felt intimate in a way that made him have to turn away to relieve the tension.

But, in the end, he doesn't dare ask it and even if he did, the answer wouldn't be honest. It would be sugarcoated and covered in makeup, as is every other sign of what she's going through is. If he were to ask her, she'd say he'd be upset with her, angry, but not irrational.

That couldn't be farther from the truth.

He only looks over at her once he's sure she's stopped looking at him and watches the way she shuts her eyes and breathes in deep, peaceful breaths.

Maybe he'll ask one day, but not today. Today, they can continue to live in their own little world.

Bill lets his head roll back onto the car and looks to the setting sky.

-

The morning comes too swiftly for his liking.

His sheets are soft, the material sliding against his skin as he wakes and looks up from his pillow to the clock perched on his bedside table. For a brief moment, he forgets that it's a Saturday and almost jumps out of bed for work, but then his senses come back to him and he slumps down against the mattress with a soft groan.

Last night had been strange.

As per usual, they met up at the Quarry and laid on the hood of his car, talking and listening to music, but something felt different. Something felt off in a way that he couldn't place.

They talked, mostly about whatever random shit that came to mind and his various rejection letters from publishing companies, and he couldn't help but feel a shift between them. Though he isn't sure when it happened, it surely did happen. After they shared that strange moment, when they were laying so close that they were nearly touching and their eyes met in a way that made them both shiver, things hadn't felt the same.

You're more than good enough, Bill, she had said.

Bill smiles tiredly with his face pressed against the pillow, cheek squished against the soft cotton pillow case and hair sticking out every which way from tossing and turning in his sleep.

With every blink and moment when where he lets himself drift back into that half-asleep, half-awake state, he sees her in flashes.

Those eyes had been piercing when she looked over at him through her lashes. He hears her laughter, the sweet sound of her voice, and can easily remember what it felt like when she had held his hand later that night. Y/N has nice hands, he thinks, and even if that is a weird thing to fixate on, he remembers looking down at their connected hands and having that thought. Though, he thinks almost everything about her is lovely anyway. She obviously does have flaws, she's human, but the good heavily outweighs them and he wouldn't trade her for any other friend in the world.

Right, his eyes open slightly to the light coming in through the windows, friend. They're only friends. Despite what he may feel, and what he doesn't know she feels, they never did cross the line. They may have toed dangerously close to it, with their hand-holding, undeniable chemistry, and near-cuddling, but never had they crossed it.

And that sticks with him for a second, the thought of their stolen moments and the days where she'd be so comfortable with him that she'd forget to be afraid of what her husband might do and start flirting with him. Every single time she's flirted or left a far too lingering touch on him burns in the back of his mind as he lays, eyes fluttering back shut, and lets himself get lost in her.

There's this image that forces its way into focus so swiftly that it knocks the breath from him; an image of her hands touching him, running down his chest and dipping her fingertips under the waistband of the jeans he wore last night.

For a long few seconds, he does try to pretend he didn't just think that, as he always does when he thinks of her this way, but, as always, he eventually gives in to the fantasy.

Sweet, sparkling eyes looking up into his, palms flat against his bare skin, the curve of her hip beneath his touch-he can't help but picture her the way she'd been when they laid beside each other yesterday. But it's the sudden thought of her gently pushing him onto his back and straddling his hips rather than him turning away as reality would have it that makes him start to feel that familiar inkling of desire stir. With him, or perhaps when she's far away from home, she seems more at ease and in control, so he has no problem picturing her taking the lead with him. He hears her voice, distant and breathy, telling him what she wants him to do and that's the spark to set him off.

Bill rolls over onto his back and stares off at the wall, huffing out a shaking exhale at the shift in position. He could still try to ignore it and hope it goes away...

Instead, he lets his hand trail down and rubs himself through the material of his underwear, unable to help the sound he lets out in reaction to that first touch. If he weren't alone, if she were actually here rather than living in the expanse of his imagination, his cheeks would've gone red at that. His moans are breathless and have a soft, whining quality to them that always leaves him feeling a little hot in the face at the idea of someone hearing.

That train of thought transforms into something else though, it leads him to wonder what sounds she might make and he feels himself instantly stiffen beneath the pressure of his hand at that.

The vibrant color of the sunset last night would've cast them in warm, orange light as they kissed and grasped for each other atop the hood of his car. Her breasts pressing against his chest, him tugging her dress over her head, her hand stroking down the length of him like he desperately wishes she were doing right now-

He pushes the blankets off of his body and shifts in a way that's only slightly uncomfortable for the few seconds it takes him to lean over to his bedside table, frantically search the drawer for the bottle of lotion he keeps there, and get it onto his hand. His underwear is shoved down his legs quicker than he can blink.

It's cold against him when he first wraps a hand around his dick, hissing through his teeth at the sensation that has his toes curling instantly, and it takes a generous ten seconds before he's accustomed to it, before he can actually start to give his throbbing erection some much-deserved relief. Considering the fact that he moved down into the garage a couple years ago, after returning from home college with an English degree and no writing-related job offers whatsoever, it gets cold in his room and that bottle of lotion wasn't going to be the exception. He debates tugging his comforter back over his body and running the risk of staining them in favor of avoiding the early morning chill, but opts against it.

Y/N would be the one in control, that much he knows, and he pictures her in his arms, legs so perfectly wrapped around him, and shudders at the thought of her guiding him into her wet heat. The pace of his strokes are slow and teasing in a way that only makes him harder, sensing that satisfaction that he leaves just out of his own reach with every brush of his hand against himself. Thumb brushing over the head, another moan escapes from him and that pleasure spikes instantaneously. Imagining that it's her doing this to him makes him certain that this will end much sooner than it typically would, but he can't bring himself to care. Even if thinking about her makes every pump of his hand go a little quicker or every sound a little louder, he can't help himself.

The mere thought of her is addictive enough for him to not want to turn away from it.

He'd take his time with her, pressing kisses and sucking love bites into her skin everywhere he went. The flesh of her breasts would feel soft against his skin with every thrust he'd make into her, slow and deep, amid her soft moans and whispered words to him. The steady-building pleasure budding in the pit of his abdomen is that of a spring readying to bounce and his head tilts back in reaction to it. Subconsciously, his hand starts to move faster as he focuses back on that image of her in his mind and his hips jerk up into his hand.

Still, there's never enough time that he gets to spend with her in this fantasy he's created for himself. There's a part of him that surrenders to it and wishes for it to last forever, if only so he can forever live in a moment where they're actually together. Cause, God, he wants her, he's never felt desire like this and it's driving him out of his mind because it isn't just desire. He's had partners before and none of them have made him feel half as good as how the mere thought of her makes him feel. She's not even here and she has him wrapped around her finger.

When it comes down to it, the difference between those lovers and her is one very specific feeling he isn't sure he's ready to confront, but it's hard to ignore. It's there every time he talks to her or meets eyes with her, its there every time she laughs and he can feel that beautiful sound deep in his chest in a sweet, yearning ache. It's there whenever she cries and all he wants to do is make those tears disappear, to make the man in her life who always makes her feel defeated and small disappear.

He has to bite down on his lip to keep himself from making any more noise as his movements turn needy. Drops of pre-come drip from the tip and onto his hand, already slick with lotion, that just so slightly twists on the upstroke with every pump of his hand.

And, though he doesn't realize it, he does murmur her name for the brief second that his lip escapes from between his teeth. It's starting to become overwhelming and he knows he's close, can feel it with every beat of his heart that sends blood rushing south. Bill's brows furrow as he imagines her calling his name as she climaxes, her muscles contracting around him and her head thrown back in a slack-jawed moan. This is nearly enough to send him over the edge with each movement that has him so dangerously close, but it's the thought of saying something to her that he's never dared to say aloud that brings him there. It's imagining the feeling her surrounding him, her voice, her body, her nails digging into his biceps-that's what does it.

All he wishes he could do is tell her he loves her and that, paired with the dizzying image of her coming undone in his arms, is the push he needed.

Bill moans as quietly as he can as his orgasm hits him, painting his trembling stomach with his own release, and his eyes are practically rolling back into his head at the sensation of it. He's biting his lip so hard that it draws a few drops of blood, but he doesn't notice yet, he's too preoccupied with the high he's riding out.

His chest rises and falls dramatically with every heavy breath he takes and he takes a while to come down from his orgasm despite the urge to hurry up and clean himself. Time seems to pass by at a slower rate for him and it feels dizzying to a certain degree. There had been a realization he had amid the chaos that he never dared to think before, let alone say out loud, and he isn't sure how to process it.

He had fantasized about telling her he loved her...

Even while going through the motions of cleaning himself off with the tissues on his bedside table and pulling his underwear back up his legs, he's occupied with what he had confronted in his fantasy.

Bill lays back on his bed, still and utterly quiet, and tries to unravel every tangled thought.

-

This morning has sucked.

She hasn't been given her tips for the last week and her boss changed her schedule without telling her, calling her as she was in the middle of showering to yell at her and ask why she hasn't come into work yet, so it's safe to say she's feeling a little high-strung.

It's difficult for her to keep the happy, polite smile she usually gives to customers on her face through all the anger she feels for everything in her life. For her stupid boss, her husband, and her overall disappointment for the fact that this is what her life has come to, a vicious cycle of depression, denial, and letting people walk all over her. But, then again, she tries to reason, Grant did have a reason to be angry with me this morning. He's stressed out about our finances and not getting that tip money this week must have sent him over the edge...

Deep down, there is a part of her that recognizes that she doesn't deserve to be treated this way. Hell, if she weren't living in constant fear, she perhaps would acknowledge it out loud every now and then, but she can't bring herself to act accordingly. Every time she tries to fight back, she freezes and can't get a word out.

The truth is, life, and the people around her, are bleeding her dry.

Every day feels the same and she isn't sure if she can stand it any longer. Her resilience and strength is wearing thin and bending to the will of the evil in her life. Other than her friend here at the cafe, Bill is one of the only people who really sees her for what she's worth and that scares her. It terrifies her that there's only two people who see her as more than something to use and promptly abandon when they're done with her. She was raised to believe that the world is a good place, but she's found that hard to believe recently.

If she's to be honest with herself, she's not sure there's anything she can believe in anymore.

Life has become a hollow, empty shell of what it once had been and she can't seem to find her way out of the hole she's been dug into. Every time she tries to tell Bill, every time he makes a comment on how often her husband has her breaking down into hysterics, she simply stops and freezes as she always does. A part of her wants to scream at him every time he drops the subject after she defends Grant for what he does and tries to deflect, she wants to scream at him to keep asking and not give up on her, but that wouldn't be fair. How could he know or help if she drops the subject every time he tries to get her to open up?

Y/N's chest falls with a heavy exhale and she rubs her eyes, tired from the day she's had, as she debates quitting her job on the spot.

No way, I'd get in too much trouble.

For once, she wishes she could live in a world where she always feels like she does when she and Bill are together, helping each other escape their respective duties and the bullshit life throws at them. It's a sweet, loving kind of companionship that she often finds herself forgetting is only a companionship. He's never going to be what "fixes" her, just as she won't be that for him, but he sure as hell does help her. It doesn't matter that she's the only one who truly has the power to change things in her life, having him by her side makes her feel steady in a way she forgot she could be.

Bill, a voice in the back of her head whispers and she finds herself smiling. Against all the odds, with her extra amount of existential dread, the thought of him makes her lips curl in a lazy smile.

Last night had been strange.

As per usual, they met up at the Quarry and laid on the hood of his car, talking and listening to music, but something felt different. Something felt off in a way that she felt so achingly familiar with, only, this time, the feeling managed to appear externally too. No matter what, any and all feelings will always be hidden and stifled. No matter what he makes her feel, no matter how many of her daydreams are painted with pictures of him, this isn't a reality where those feelings can be entertained. Last night had been a close call, had he not turned away from her, she's sure she wouldn't have been able to keep those feelings at bay. She's still internally scolding herself for nearly kissing him, for that had been what plagued her thoughts as she tossed and turned all night.

Her husband was lying beside her, Grant was right there, and yet she was fantasizing about what would've happened if she had kissed another man earlier in the night.

She pictured Bill kissing her back, lips moving tentatively against her own and slowly gaining confidence as seconds pass by. The pile of blankets she kept on her side of the bed felt all too hot as the thoughts continued on; their clothes coming off, hands much more sure in their place on her body than they first had been, and that perfect mouth continuing it's path much, much lower. The mere thought of that last one, the memory she has of imagining what it would be like to card her fingers through his hair as he buries his face between her legs, has her thrown back into reality, however.

Hadn't she just promised not to entertain those feelings?

"A-A-A-Are you okay?"

The sound of his voice makes her jump, whipping around from where she'd been slumped over against the counter opposite to the register to see him standing there.

Bill's face is lined with concern, and partial amusement, from where he stands on the other side of the counter. The amusement is only because of how shocked she seems at seeing him here despite the fact that he shows up here to write and keep her company nearly every day. It's not a particularly busy cafe, so they often find themselves alone when he comes here during her shifts. It's, admittedly, a dying chain.

In his hands, there's his manuscript that he's always reading through for changes or mistakes and a bag food he brought her for a late lunch that smells heavenly to her after seven hours of monotonous work. Her eyes trail back up to his face through, lingering for a moment too long when they finally reach his eyes.

She shakes her head, as if snapping herself out of it, and says, "I'm fine, I was just...tired. Today's been so slow and I wasn't even supposed to come in today, but apparently work schedules don't matter and if Justin suddenly wants me to work, it's my fault that I couldn't telepathically intercept that message and come in without him even contacting me."

His eyes go soft with sympathy and he sets his things down onto the countertop.

"B-Bad day?" Bill asks, breaking the eye contact they were holding for an uncomfortable length of time.

Looking at her feels different after last night, and especially the morning he had, so he tries to avoid doing it as much as he can for the sake of not looking at her in a way that shows how desperately wants to tell her how much he loves her. From her end, though, it just looks like he's annoyed at having to hear about what happened today. She likes to think she doesn't complain too much, but this makes her hesitate.

Her fingers tap against the thick stack of papers that make up his manuscript, nerves spiking.

Is he acting this way because of last night?

Because he actually did recognize that she was about to kiss him for a moment there? Or is this him having a hard day himself and not wanting to deal with someone else's problems?

"Yeah," She says, starting to wipe down the counter to distract herself from him, "but it doesn't matter, I'm being too negative and it's just my boss being an idiot anyway."

Well, it wasn't that alone that made today particularly worse than usual, but he wouldn't have to know the other reason.

A frown lines his face.

"You're n-n-nuh-not being too negative, your day sucked and you wanna c-complain about it, don't feel bad."

Y/N looks up from where she'd been cleaning the counter and their eyes meet again in a way that makes her heart beat faster.

It's stolen moments like these that make her forget everything else that's gone wrong in her life. It can be a conversation, a brush of his hand against her's, or maybe a simple glance, like the one they're sharing right now, but no matter what it is, she always lets go of everything that doesn't matter when she's with him.

Growing up, she was a dancer. She had been on her feet and moving as soon as she could walk, making up routines and moves to show her parents, so it wasn't long before they put her in classes for it. They were already having trouble getting by as it was, but when they saw the joy in her eyes when she was doing it, they agreed that it was worth the extra shifts and money it took to put her there. Perhaps she had been too young to fully grasp the sacrifices they made for her happiness, but her appreciation for it shone through in how dedicated she was. And, as she grew older and life got harder, the only times she felt free or safe was when she was dancing. It was the way it felt when she started moving and all of her focus went into it that took away her ability to think about anything that wasn't essential.

Being with Bill is like what dancing once was to her before she lost her parents and couldn't bring herself to keep going to those practices that had once been like church to her. Their deaths inevitably led to her marriage with Grant. The idea of being with Bill and entertaining her feelings for him does scare her, but the idea of losing him scares her more.

She finally swallows back the lump in her throat, manages to let out a soft, "Okay," and and continues to wipe down the surface of the counter, "but I still have another hour of work before we can hang out, so I promise I won't blame you if you wanna leave and come back."

The stool he pulls up from where it had been stowed away across the room squeaks under his shifting weight when he sits down across from her, pretending not to notice the way her eyes linger on him through the movement.

He has to fix his hair from where it fell in his eyes before he looks back up at her again, his heart starting to race too as he remembers what he dreamt about saying to her this morning. There's this uncertainty that has fallen over him today surrounding whether or not he likes this shift in their dynamic and he's starting to think that they're nearing dangerous territory with one another, but doesn't know how to stop. He can't bear to hit the brakes.

Regardless of this uncertainty though, Bill shrugs, pulling his manuscript in front of him, and says, "I l-l-luh-like your company, I don't mind waiting."

Y/N finds it hard to focus on her work again when the door swings open to another customer.

-

She figures that most people would tire of going to the same place to spend time with the same person nearly every day, but she hasn't.

The Quarry is a place of a peace for her, mostly because her memories of time spent here are all tied to the person who's been her sanctuary since moving to Derry. She felt herself instantly relax upon arriving.

The breeze blows gently against her face as she watches Bill gather his things to bring with them down to the water later and she smiles at the sight of him. His shirt is disheveled from leaning back down into the car, twisting to reach into the backseat for his bag, and she watches absentmindedly. The piece of clothing is skewed enough for a pale stretch of skin along the base of his abdomen to be revealed and she doesn't think much of it, but then she finds herself thinking back to what she'd fantasized about last night and has a sudden itch to get her hands on him. Now, looking at him in even the slightest state of undress, if one considers a disheveled shirt a state of undress, makes her flushed in the face as if she were intruding on something she wasn't supposed to see.

She doesn't know why she's acting so weird-well, she knows why, but what she doesn't know is why it had been so easy to conceal how she felt one day and the next, it's become a challenge she can't seem to overcome. It had been hard to simply acknowledge that these feelings she has for him are real, let alone let herself ogle him as she is now.

Bill finally steps back, not having noticed her staring as he fixes his shirt, and shuts the car door with enough strength to make her flinch out of sheer habit when the sound echoes around her.

Back at the cafe after she ate lunch, he asked if she wanted to go swimming. At first, she'd been slightly apprehensive. If they went swimming at the Quarry, she'd have to undress so she could still go home in dry clothes and if she took off her clothes in front of him...but then he told her he had some clothes in the trunk of his car since neither of them, obviously, have bathing suits on hand and she warmed up to the idea of spending the afternoon with him. Slowly but surely, her defenses have deteriorated more and more the longer she spends time with him today. This morning, she'd been swearing up and down that she wouldn't let her feelings show, that he would never have to know what she truly wants them to be, but now she isn't so sure. Now, she lets herself get lost in him.

"You r-r-ready?" He asks, walking around the front of the car to her.

Not to her, she realizes, past her, but not without taking her hand to bring her along with him. The warmth of his hand in her's makes her lose her breath for a few seconds. Little does she know, the casual touch has a similar effect on him.

Her brows furrow.

"Ready for what?"

The path they walk down leads them to the edge of the cliff that looms over the water far, far below and as soon as they stop there, before the words leave his mouth, she already knows what he's gonna say.

He lets his backpack drop to the ground.

"When I w-was a teenager, my friends and I used to j-juh-jump from here..." He trails off, noting the incredulous look she's giving him and quickly amending, "You d-don't have to obviously, but I figured it would be f-f-fun."

With the idea of having to jump from it now in mind, the cliff feels ten times taller than it had only seconds ago. Looking down at the water, her lips press together in a firm line and she has to keep herself from chewing at the inside of her cheek out of nervousness.

"I'm not sure..."

From what he said, she wonders what it would've been like to have been friends with him at that age, wonders if she would've fit into the group he talks about every so often with such fondness and admiration. Jumping off cliffs, throwing rocks at their bullies, and, according to what Bill once told her, riding a bike so fast that you felt like you were one wrong turn from going over the handlebars-adolescent Bill sounds like he was far more wild than she had ever been. Her days were spent in quiet, calm daydreaming and dancing, a little lonely at times considering the lack of friends, but fulfilling enough that she wouldn't have considered herself an unhappy teen.

Bill, on the other hand, was. He was sent reeling from turbulent emotion to trauma and the slow, torturous process of losing all of his friends. Fleetingly, she wonders if they would've even gotten along back then or if that would've been the wrong place at the wrong time.

Even now feels like the wrong place at the wrong time with all things considered. In any other world, they'd have already swallowed their pride and gotten together already. In any other world, she'd choose him without fear or barriers. If only she'd met him instead of Grant after her parents passed...she can't imagine how differently her life would have gone.

He shrugs, leaning down to pull his shoes off, and offers, "Either way, I'll m-m-meet you down there."

There's always been a part of her that's been conditioned to worry a bit too much, whether it be from her fear of driving cars, since every time she's tried to since her parent's fatal accident, she panics and can barely breathe, to casual worry such as what she's currently feeling. There's always been part of her that refused to just...let go and it'd be a lie to say that she didn't regret a few things that she'd said no to out of worry or fear.

The sight of Bill tugging his shirt over his head makes her avert her eyes though, willing her traitorous thoughts into a false calm that she knows will disintegrate as soon as she looks back at him again. He strips down to his underwear, much to her near-comical frustration, and is gone before she can get another word out.

One second, he'd been there beside her and the next, he was hurtling forward and free-falling down to what her anxieties have convinced her is a watery grave.

Y/N sighs, looking over at the path back to the car that she knows will lead down to the water if she follows it all the way, then she kicks off her shoes.

What's the harm in letting herself live a little?

She whispers, "Fuck it," and jumps off the edge of the cliff.

The wind whips at her from all sides as she falls, a panicked scream coming from her involuntarily, and there's that sinking feeling in her stomach for the short amount of time it takes her to go from the top of the cliff to the surface of the water, but it's over before she knows it. Wind turns into water, her scream is silenced by the impact, and all the fear dissolves into nothing as soon as she crosses from the air to the water. It cradles her and gives this weightlessness when she's still sinking quite deep below from the force with which she crashed, but her wet clothes become cumbersome on her limbs when she kicks her legs out below her.

Her ascent to the surface feels much slower than it truly is, but she doesn't mind. It's quiet and peaceful down there, the only thing that could spook her is the depth of the water and she's too distracted with swimming up to currently care.

The first thing she says when she reaches the surface, sucking down a deep breath of air, is, "I can't believe I just did that."

Instinctively, her hands reach out for him from underwater and land somewhere along his waist to tug him forward. She's not that strong of a swimmer, but she can manage, especially in shallower waters unlike where they are now.

Bill's exhale is shaking with her sudden closeness, he can't help the way it makes him feel to have her hands on him. Just this morning he had been thinking about how it would feel if she ran her hands down his chest, among other things, and now she's touching him for real. It lasts seconds, yet it makes him tremble all the same and he isn't sure she's conscious of what she's doing. The touch of her hands on his waist is like an afterthought, done as casually as he had held hands with her minutes ago, as if she'd done it a million times before.

I want her to do it a million times again, he thinks, then debates whether or not to pull her closer too.

All the common sense he has has left him when he reaches for her the same way she did for him and wraps his arms around her, cautious and tender. Their bodies bodies press together tightly, his chest brushing her's with every breath they share, and he doesn't know what to do with himself.

She only lets go of him to wipe her eyes and, even then, he's still holding on. Neither of them mind the closeness and though they'd never admit it, they both love it. Any excuse they have to forgo their endless routine of suppressing their emotions and secretly longing for one another is good enough.

"Told you it's f-fun," Bill says with a soft chuckle that she can feel with every rise and fall of his chest against her own, "I didn't think y-y-you'd actually jump though."

A splash of water hits him right in the face as soon as the words leave his mouth, her own laughter escaping her simultaneously. Now he's the one wiping water from his eyes.

"You thought I was a chicken, didn't you?"

Opening his eyes to the bright sun shining directly at him, he can't quite see her well and that's the only reason he doesn't instantly notice it.

Their smiles are wide and eyes bright as they stay cacooned in each other's arms, endlessly glad to be relieving the constant need they share to get closer. Though it would never be enough, he can't help but savor the feeling of her; skin to skin, nearly nose to nose, her body pressing against him on every inhale, and that infectious giggle that makes his heart feel full.

He shakes his head, cheeks red, and begins to spin them around to avoid getting the sun in his eyes.

"I don't t-t-t-think you're a chicken, you're just-"

It's hard to breathe, for an extremely different reason now, when he finds himself looking at a nasty bruise on her left eye. The bruise hadn't been there moments ago, he could have sworn, but it's there now. Clear as day, streaks of face makeup she'd wiped away leaving it uncovered, it encircles her eye in shades of purple, red and yellow.

It's a roller coaster of emotions that he cycles through before it truly hits him, knocks him right off his feet with a brutality he hadn't been able to prepare himself for, but it's mainly sorrow that he feels when he puts the pieces together and realizes what's going on. There is anger-at everything, at Grant, at himself for not realizing sooner-but it's primarily sadness. The anger is secondary to it, not able to come through because he's afraid it'll scare her if he lets her see the full onslaught of his hatred for her husband. The last thing she would need if his suspicions are correct is another angry man in her life...

He is no longer smiling, she sees, that bright, happy smile that made her stomach feel fluttery and light took only seconds to disappear as quickly as it had come. Bill looks utterly heartbroken and, for once, he's the one who's worrying.

"What?" She asks and smiles nervously at him, "What's wrong?"

The silence is suffocating for the time it takes for him to swallow back the lump in his throat and gather his courage. If he did this to her...he's afraid of what he might do to Grant. Paired with all the times she's broken down crying about how he's yelled at her and made her feel like she's crazy...how had he not seen it sooner? There had been so many red flags.

It's soft, but she still hears him when he speaks.

"Your b-b-bruise...your eye is..."

At first, her face scrunches with her confusion, because she always has them covered without fail and he couldn't possibly see it through her makeup with how good she's gotten at concealing them, but then he watches as she comes to the realization.

She had been wiping her eyes with the water after jumping in and hadn't once thought about the fact that it could wipe away her makeup. There's that familiar sinking feeling she got when she jumped off the cliff in her stomach again, only it's a million times worse this time around and her heart is pounding against her chest in a swift cadence she's never felt it get to before. It would've been better if they talked about her parents, if he had asked about something so personal it would make her cry in his arms as she worked through the entire story of losing them, anything would be better than this.

He knows. The way he's looking at her alone can tell her that he's already put two and two together and no amount of the lying she wants to do will be able to change that.

The fear in her eyes makes him want to cry, he knows she isn't afraid of him, but the way she's looking at him...

Y/N's voice trembles, "Please, don't tell anyone-"

That's all he needs to hear to feel tears threatening to form in his eyes, so suddenly their pleasant exchange has twisted into something else entirely.

It's hard to keep a leash on his anger, no matter how much the sorrow outweighs it, because the thought of him beating her makes his blood run ice cold with rage. He didn't know too much about him, though he has stopped by his work a couple of times. This makes sense now that everything has come to light and he figures she's never even mentioned him to the cruel man because of this, but what he does know about him is enough to hate him with every morsel of his being. Already, he hadn't thought much of him due to the way he made her sob in his arms on multiple occasions, that in and of itself was enough for him to worry, but this changes things.

This is makes him scared for when she'll have to go home tonight.

"Y/N," He stammers, "I c-c-c-can't j-just let you go home to him i-i-if he's gonna-"

"You don't let me do anything, I can't just never go home again because you know now, that doesn't change anything."

She knows in her heart that he didn't mean it like that, because if the roles were reversed she'd probably have said the same thing, but the way he said it made her snap. Despite the abuse and the manipulation, she's not anyone's little pet, she doesn't belong to anyone. It set her off on accident.

They're still tangled up together as this unfolds, her hands bracing his arms as they're caught in a stare down.

Doing what's right logically means calling the cops and getting her the help she needs, but he's smart enough to know that it isn't that easy. That's what makes leaving so difficult and if he knows she's trying to escape from him, it could end horrifically. If she had undressed as much as he had to swim, he would see the bruises littered all over her body.

He knows he can't call the authorities because of one infuriating detail that had seemed insignificant until now, Bill looks over at her hopelessly and she can see him working through it in his head.

"H-He's a fucking cop..." He lets out a frustrated sigh, "You can't call for help cause he has the e-entire p-p-puh-police department fooled-"

"Nobody will believe me and even if they know it's true, they won't do anything."

It's too much to process at once, so he can't begin to imagine how she's felt all along. So many months of hiding what had been in plain sight, so many cries for help that he let go unanswered-he feels guilty. He feels culpable for not piecing this together faster.

Today had been bad because of her boss, yes, but what started it was not getting her tips for the week. Those would've helped pay rent and he got angry with her. Even as she screamed that it wasn't her fault, there was nothing she could do to stop him. The black eye is a week old, from a day when he'd been too blinded with anger to be careful, but today he hadn't been so careless. He knew where to hit and he knew that it wouldn't matter either way, knew that it would be covered and never to be spoken of again.

There's the sounds of the birds chirping, water gently lapping at their sides as he tries to find words, then he's pulling her into a hug. And she's never felt a place safer than his arms, holding her against him with a gentle, loving embrace that she melts into without hesitation.

"I believe you," Bill whispers into where his face is buried in her neck, "I-I believe you, I p-p-promise."

It takes a while for them to separate, mostly because she begins to cry and he takes the time to console her, but when they do, it's difficult to go back to the way their day had been before he saw. Even when she asks him if they can just enjoy their day, in spite of such horrific realizations, it's difficult to let go and it lingers in the back of his mind as he watches her smile and swim.

Her resilience and sense of normalcy in the face of such trauma astounds and inspires him, because he finds himself coming back to it every time he closes his eyes.

-

The bonfire crackles and surges when she adjusts the carefully stacked pile of branches and wood they scavenged for for a decent portion of the evening.

Y/N has tried, and succeeded, to lighten the mood following what happened when they first got here, but the shadow that fell over his face has never truly faded. While he has grinned and laughed and engaged in their typical banter, there's a new layer to their interactions now that neither of them had anticipated.

For one, she trusts him more now than she ever has. Opening up about what she's been going through has shifted her relationship with him in a way that she's not sure whether to lean into or turn away from. Now, she lets herself hold his hand, compliment him as she forced herself not to before, and blindly trust him against all reason. If anything, she would've thought that telling him this would drive a wedge between them, but it's done the exact opposite and that's what makes her nervous. There can't be anything between them and she can't let whatever it is that's been changing continue, it would be irresponsible.

Darkness, only interrupted by their fire and a few stars twinkling high above, envelops the Quarry.

It's been an hour and a half since they finally left the water for good, fingers pruned and lips blue, and she's still feeling a little chilly from the shift in temperature. Being beside the fire does help, though, and so does the shirt he gave her.

It's a well-worn, thick flannel. Soft against her skin with every slight movement, she feels much better wearing this than she had felt in her soaked clothes shortly after getting out of the water. It took him a few minutes to walk up to the car to grab towels and a fresh change of clothes, so she stood there shivering by herself. It gave her a moment to catch her breath and really think through how she felt about the day, but she didn't find himself recoiling at the way it made her feel. Letting that out and finally telling him felt relieving, it felt like she could breathe again.

The shirt smells like him and, when he's too busy laying some blankets down on the grass for them to sit on, she pulls the unbuttoned collar up to her face to nuzzle against it.

Bill smooths out the blanket he spread on the ground, leaned over on his hands and knees to do so, but he does see what she does in his peripheral vision. At first, he tries to brush it off as nothing and turns to sit down, staying quiet. But then, the memory of seeing her do that tugs at him like a nagging, insistent gravitational pull and he can't help himself. The way she smiled and pulled it closer around herself as if the reminder of him made her that happy-he can't help the way it makes him feel inside. For her sake, he won't acknowledge it, but on the inside, his heart does skip a beat or two.

This entire day has felt like they entered an alternate reality.

It started with the moment they shared on the hood of his car last night and slowly escalated into whatever it is they're experiencing now: a strange standstill where they're both afraid to make the next move. Before he saw her bruise, there was a dramatic shift between them that she hadn't registered until it was over. Without thinking, they let themselves get close and she had liked it. It made her feel like a traitor, but she can't deny that she wanted and liked it.

Shadows from the fire flicker over her face as she stares off in the direction of the water, unable to keep her wild thoughts at bay. It's easier to control herself when she isn't looking at him.

Earlier, when he'd been undressing to jump into the water, it had been an effort to keep her eyes from drifting back to him, but she forced herself not to. There's this constant struggle she has between pushing him away and letting him in closer, between "I'm a married woman" and "I don't owe my piece shit husband a thing". The rate at which she's switching sides is beginning to give her whiplash and she's sure that if it continues any longer, she'll lose her mind, but there's not anything she can do to resolve this.

For a while, they sit in silence, her sitting off to the side on the log she'd been perched on while she waited for him to return and him settling back down on the blankets.

Then he's speaking, "These p-p-past few days have felt a little w-weird."

Y/N looks over at him and already feels an inkling of fear for where this conversation may lead. These past few days...

He pauses, eyes moving from where they'd been fixed on her to look out in the same direction she had been staring off into, and his shoulders lift in a deep, exhausted inhale. If there were ever a time where she wished she could take a peek into that mind of his to know what he's thinking, it would be now. Neither of them have ever acknowledged what's been happening between them, not only over the past few days, but over the last two months. It's been a sluggishly slow, gradual process, but they've been dancing around this conversation for a while. If not because they want to talk through their feelings for each other, then to set boundaries should it turn out that either of their crushes on one another are unrequited. Because the fact remains that neither of them truly do know if the other has feelings for them. To anyone looking in, it would be obvious, but from the inside it isn't as simple.

The grip she has on the edge of the shirt she borrowed from him is so tight, her hand is shaking. All she can do is thank God that it's too dark for him to catch that.

"Not because of what you t-told me today, it's been like this f-f-for a while. T-T-Thuh-Things have been d-d-d-d-d-" Bill stops and lets out a frustrated sigh, "d-different, right?" Then, he's working up the nerve to finally say it, "Between you and m-m-me."

His vulnerability, while she would expect it to do the opposite, makes her feel safe. It's not hard to tell that he's nervous since he's never stuttered so much when talking to her before and she had been nervous today too, exactly as he is now. In the strangest way, seeing him so open and vulnerable makes her feel less scared herself.

It takes far longer than she meant to to respond, time lost in her endless, rambling thoughts, but she eventually does.

Leaves crunch under her feet as she stands and makes the couple of careful steps it takes to meet him there on the blankets, a distance that had felt worlds apart mere seconds ago. His chest stops moving in the time she spends coming over to him and sitting down. Their thighs brush when she finally settles into place and he never thought such a minuscule touch could make him shiver the way this does.

Neither of them scoot away, in spite of the way their bodies brush with the slightest of movements, and they can barely stand being so close.

"Yeah," She finally says and he could swear her voice is shaking, "Things have changed, haven't they?"

The rustling sound of the wind through the leaves fills their gaps of awkward silence as they have what they think might be the first real talk about their feelings for each other, if such a vague, hesitant conversation even counts as that.

He's surprised she can't hear his heart beating against his chest considering how rapidly it's pounding the longer this goes on. There's simultaneously so much and so little he has to say that he's stuck in this limbo where nothing can find its way out, where he chokes every single time he tries to find words and there's nothing he can do about it. He wants to tell her everything, wishes he could, but that won't happen. Not tonight, not now, because he can barely think it, let alone say it out loud. And the same goes when it comes to her, there isn't the same limitation when it comes to not being able to speak as freely as she wishes to, but there is a limitation. There is an inexplicable fear that if she admits how she truly feels, Grant will somehow know and finally kill her...

Actually, she supposes that he'd kill them both. Bill first, from tunnel vision and pure wrath, and he'd make her watch it happen. Only after he killed him, a crime of passion, would he kill her...something she knows he's come close to doing before. This is enough for her to keep those overwhelming urges at bay, the idea of her recklessness getting him hurt is enough for her to accept that they can only ever be friends, no matter how much it hurts to do. Cause she'd be a liar if she denied the fact that she's loved him for months now, if she said the mere sound of his laughter or the sight of his face after a long day didn't make her want to pull him into her arms every time.

But, in a beautiful moment of clarity, Bill says something that makes her resolve crumble.

"I spent y-years dreaming of someone like you, you know?" a bittersweet smile in her direction, "I c-c-can't believe that douchebag doesn't see how lucky he is...you deserve someone who sees how great you are, even if it isn't m-m-m-me..."

Her breath hitches in the back of her throat, then-

"You want it to be you?"

There's this look on his face now, as they've turned to face each other without realizing the shift, that she can't decipher. His features soften as soon as they meet eyes and it makes any part of her that had harbored fear for the consequences of their actions go radio silent. All of her attention is honed on him, for his response, for every unsteady breath, for every cue he might give her. Right now, there isn't fear, or sorrow, or anything-there's just them, alone, playing with fire and hoping to God they make it out alive.

The gentle touch of her hand bumping his brings him back to reality after getting lost with her for a minute there.

"W-We both know it can n-n-never be me, Y/N..."

It would be stupid of them to give into their feelings for one another, that he knows. It can never be him because it would end violently if it were. If she were to throw caution to the wind right here, right now, and decide it was worth the risk, there wouldn't be a happy ending. Still, he can't help but wonder...

She shakes her head, moving in closer to him, "That wasn't my question."

So stubborn, he thinks, his smile making her heart leap.

As if trying to one up her bravery, Bill gets a little closer too, so close that their noses almost touch. It's as if they're playing a game of chicken, trying to see which one will either cave or pull away first. After all, he had practically implied she was a chicken earlier when they were jumping off the cliff, so it only seems appropriate that they pick this game up where they left off.

Her hand lifts from where it had been idle at her side to brush a fallen strand of red hair from his forehead and that touch lingers, sliding down to his cheek so feathery light that it feels like she's barely touching him. He leans into that hand gratefully, shutting his eyes to savor the warmth of her touch on his skin since he knows he may not feel it again anytime soon. Step after fighting step, they cannot help but push those boundaries with every second they spend together, can they? It'll never be enough, no amount of closeness will ever leave them satisfied until they have it all and he knows this, but can't stop himself. He knows that once they cross this line...there's undoing it.

"Yeah," Bill lowers his voice to a whisper even though they're the only ones here, "I r-r-really want it to be me."

It's hard for her to keep her thoughts straight when he moves that last distance between them, so dangerously close to crossing the line, but giving her the last step. He anticipates her pulling away.

Her breathe is hot against his skin when she says back, "I wish it could be you. In any other world, I would..."

Bill desperately wants her to finish that sentence, his eyes fluttering shut as they stay, foreheads presses together, frozen in place.

She doesn't pull away from him, but she doesn't come any closer either, it's a genuine standoff she's having with herself. Whether to play it safe or play with fire...it's going to be the death of her. The breath they share with the limited air they have between them makes him go a little dizzy on each inhale and it feels like torture for them both to have what they want just out of reach. If only it weren't so complicated, if only she could simply let go, if only, if only, if only-

"Kiss me," Y/N whispers, the words coming out like more of a whine, "Please-"

He didn't have to be told twice.

They collide a bit too hard at first, his excitement having gotten the better of him as he closed the space between them, but it's quickly amended. With the caution he holds her with, with his tender, loving kisses, he makes her melt into his arms. Her hands cup his jaw as all of the tension and desire they've felt for the duration of their companionship pools between them in a matter of seconds. It's dizzying and heart-pounding, it makes him have to hold onto her so tightly by the shirt of his she's wearing. No fantasy could live up to the way it feels to, at last, let go and give into the feelings that have always felt so natural.

His lips are softer than she imagined them to be and he's so gentle with her, you'd think she's made of glass. Every kiss she's used to is aggressive and selfish, taking without asking, but he manages to be the polar opposite. Though it runs on the too-cautious side, it's a mix of passion and kindness that she's never felt before and, as it goes on, he only becomes more sure of himself. The pressure of his mouth moving against her's, which had been so needy to start off with, is calm and collected, even though he is anything but.

The way she pulls him in nearer, a barely-audible moan escaping from her into their connected mouths, makes his grip on her waist go tighter.

It takes them a while to tear themselves apart, but when they finally do pull away, they've gone breathless.

Sounds of the sighing trees and cicadas fade back them as they open their eyes to find that it wasn't all some elaborate dream, that it really did happen. All their senses seemed to evade them for the time they spent kissing and only now do they actually return to them; the warmth of the fire, the sounds of the forest coming alive around them, and the taste of each other lingering on their lips. Perhaps this moment would never feel real, but that doesn't matter to them, not after being knocked off their feet with the full extent of their feelings for one another. As soon as she asked him to kiss her, he no longer was capable of controlling them and certainly didn't want to if she were blatantly asking him for what she wanted. It's still surreal for him to think that she asked him and has wanted this as much as he has. All along, he thought he was fruitlessly pining after her, yet now they're here together.

Hand trailing up the length of her arm until it reaches her face, Bill lets his thumb trace her lips, which earns a smile from her that he feels against the tip of his finger.

It's a moment far too intimate and benevolent for them. With their situation and how they fit into each others' lives, one would think that anything they did would be passionate, out of control, and end in shame, but that isn't the case. Shame would surely come at a later time, but its absence couldn't be more clear as they look into one another's eyes. To a passerby, they would look like life-long lovers having a night to themselves by the fireside and the idea of that is intoxicating to them because that's what this should be. They should've met in the miserable span of time she spent grieving her parents while he mourned the loss of all of his friends, they should've found each other then and helped pick up the broken pieces of their respective lives, anything would be preferable to the reality of fear and forbidden desire.

He opens his mouth to speak, but the sound of her phone ringing interrupts before he can get a word out.

The cruel, lilting notes of that ringtone snap her back into real life.

"Shit!" Y/N exclaims, scrambling off of him to where her phone rings in her bag.

Trembling hands unzip the purse frantically and she's lost all of her courage in the search for that phone because she knows who's calling and, if she's right, that means this is over.

Finally having fished it out from the bottom of the bag, the name displayed on the device makes her heart sink into the pit of her abdomen. How had she let herself lose track of time and spend the entire afternoon with him, letting his presence blind her to the consequences of her actions? How has she let herself actually kiss him? How could she be so foolish and reckless? She could get them killed if Grant somehow figures it out.

She lets the call go to voicemail, knowing she won't be able to explain herself without the trip home to think about it, and swiftly gathers her things without a word. It's only when she's done, bag on her shoulder and shoes on her feet, that she turns and sees him standing there with worry lining his features.

"I have to go," She says, starting to make the move to walk past him, "I lost track of time and he's probably so pissed off, I'll see you soon."

Bill fights for the ability to say something, anything, "L-L-L-Let me drive you home? I'd feel b-bad knowing you walked all the way there at night..."

The look on his face is pleading and she knows he's only asking because he's afraid of what might happen when she leaves. She asked him not to tell anyone and not to call the police, but she never did make him promise not to get involved himself and she sure that if he saw him drop her off, it would start something neither of them want. Her safest bet is to keep them as far away from each other as possible, considering the fact that she's well aware that he would do anything for her and protecting her from Grant isn't an exception. If she can keep Bill away from her, she can keep him out of harm's way. The last thing she'd want is to be the reason he feels any pain.

Her hand holds his so tight, his fingertips are going red from the lack of circulation.

"I'll be alright. I can take care of myself, I promise."

She's running away before he can react.

-

The darkness of night that umbrellas her on her trek down their street is no longer the comforting, beautiful night that she admired back at the Quarry with Bill. Now, it's a looming, eerie presence surrounding and closing in on her on all sides.

There was no time to properly say goodbye or address what happened between them, but she isn't sure she wanted to. Though she knows how tonight will inevitably end, there was a small blessing in the fact that she has more time to ruminate over what the kiss changes between them, if it changes things at all.

It's difficult for her to accept that they crossed a line.

"Not a line," Y/N murmurs, "the line."

But there are more pressing matters on her mind the closer she nears to home, pressing enough that she lets the entire day up until now slip from her mind and replace with dread.

It takes her minutes of standing there at the edge of their lawn before she dares to make a move for the pathway up to the front door, the fear constricting around her heart.

Grant wasn't the type of person she envisioned herself with when thinking about love and marriage as a young girl, but he was there after her parents died and that was all she needed at the time. With charming words and promises, he struck when she was weak and gave her no chance of escaping. It's hard for her not to blame herself for everything he does to her, because, after all, she had married him and he does a perfect job at twisting her words around until she believes she's at fault for the way he treats her. The longer she spends away from him, the more brave and angry she becomes, but every time she goes back, it ends the same way. Today had been one of those days, a day of fleeting courage and joy, but it would not last. For these days never do.

Every sound she hears, from crickets chirping to their neighbors a couple houses down, makes her shoulders tense. Perhaps he'll be out cold by the time she gets inside and there won't have to be any fighting, but she knows that isn't true. He had called her only twenty minutes ago and, knowing him, he's waiting in the living room for her so she'll have no way of avoiding his drunken rage.

The door is unlocked for her.

He's one of those men that's a product of his childhood. With an absent mother and an alcoholic, abusive father, he grew up in the thick of these unhealthy dynamics and never found his way through the storm. Not that that excuses it, her of all people would never excuse it, but there is a reason. From the lack of a nurturing female figure growing up and the daily physical abuse he faced at such a young age to a dad who was also a cop that needlessly abused his power, he succumbed to that vicious cycle. She supposes that the determining factor in his choice of victim lies solely on the absence of his mother, he must have seen her at her lowest in life and subconsciously sought her out as an opportunity to settle the score.

Recently, on the rare occasion that she does start using this to give him excuses, she finds herself thinking about and comparing him to Bill. Bill's parents hadn't been physically abusive, as far as she knows, but they had been negligent. He might as well have not had a mother too after his brother died and he doesn't beat the shit out of her because of it, he doesn't make her feel like his trauma is her fault.

The door creaks loudly as she turns the knob and pushes it inward, a string of curses falling from her mouth at this, and she silently prays he didn't hear her.

The last time she was late to come home from hanging out with Bill for the afternoon, it hadn't been pretty. That had been one of the times he left bruises on her face, when he came to be so carelessly angry that he didn't care if she'd have to spent two weeks covering them in layers of makeup. At least he doesn't know who he is or that they're hanging out in the first place, though. If he did, the jealousy, and beatings, would become unbearable.

Her steps are light on the hardwood floor with every move she makes into their quaint house, the door having been shut carefully, always carefully, behind her. Living with him has made her acutely aware of which floorboards are safe and which aren't. Though it took some time before his facade of the caring, yet overbearing boyfriend wore down, she quickly found her ways to avoid negative interactions with him even if the attempts weren't always successful. Avoiding things like talking about finances, being too outspoken when he's hammered, and coming home late tend to keep his temper at bay for longer than it usually does.

Lucky me, she rolls her eyes, I broke rule three.

Already having made the venture across the living room and down the hallway, Y/N almost thinks she's in the clear. He typically makes his presence, and frustration with her, clear as soon as she comes through the door, but tonight that isn't the case. The living room had been vacant and dark with only the light of the moon shining in between the open blinds, no drunken man-child to be found waiting on the couch to confront her about coming home after dark.

She makes it all the way to their bed and slips off her shoes when he finally decides to approach her.

"Where have you been?"

The muscles in her face tense with the sound of that voice, eyes fluttering shut in tandem with the exhale that falls from between her lips.

Shadowed in darkness, this bedroom is more of a tomb than it is a place of comfort and warmth that one tends to look forward to coming home to after a long day. Her eyes open and find themselves fixed upon the dresser at the opposite end of the room from where she is, an intricately carved, large jewelry box sitting sitting atop the surface. That had been an apology gift he gave her the first time he beat her badly enough to leave a mark. She had accepted of course, since he already had her manipulated and wrapped up in his sick game, but now every time she stares at that stupid jewelry box, she thinks of all the times he's laid his hands on her. The amount of times she's slumped down against the mattress, entirely numb, and looked up at that thing are countless. It's almost as if it sits there and collects dust for the sole purpose of taunting her.

Y/N swallows loudly and turns around to see him standing in the doorway leading to their bathroom.

"I had to stay late because Alyssa called out sick today. Plus, I figured it couldn't hurt to take an extra shift since they didn't give me my tip money this week."

Only a half-lie, Alyssa has been gone all week on vacation, so they were already scheduled accordingly at the beginning of the week, but she had been called in unexpectedly today, regardless of whether or not her shift ended five hours ago.

If he believes the lie or not, she can't tell. He always has an unpredictability to him that sets her on edge when she has to lie. His head tilts to the side, as if in question.

"Okay," Grant says, a soft, sweet smile that's so unlike him crossing his face, "Thanks for picking up the extra shift, we really needed it."

His kindness is alarming, but she isn't inclined to complain about it. It may be a result of how horrific this morning had been, an attempt at pulling her back in after such an intense freakout, and she's afraid to fall for it. This is what he does every single time without fail. He treats her like shit and then lures her back in with a picture of compassion and understanding. She wishes it didn't have as much of an effect on her as it does, but she's in too deep. Despite the fact that she's finally recognized that this is unhealthy and wrong, she's just as afraid of leaving as she is of staying with him. That's what makes her believe that he's right, that she does deserve it, because what sane person stays with someone who treats them this way? At this point, isn't it her fault?

The floorboard creaks under her foot as she smiles back, mumbling a soft, "You're welcome," and makes for the doorway to the bathroom behind him.

But as she's trying to shrink past him, he snatches her up by the wrist and tugs her to him in one quick motion.

Nose to nose, her breath catching in the back of her throat, he looks her up and down. Then, there's a second where he stops and focuses in on her shirt, fingers brushing where the cuff of the sleeve ends at her wrist. His grip is excruciatingly tight, yet she can't seem to notice that pain and her wide eyes are trained on him.

"You can go when you tell me why you're wearing another man's shirt," He says, raising a brow and squeezing her arm, "This isn't mine, I've never once seen you wear this."

That familiar, sharp sense of fear strikes her harshly and she shakes her head, willing her face not to twist with the feeling. His fingernails dig into her skin underneath the sleeve of Bill's shirt.

She tries not to let her voice waver, "I spilled tea on myself at work, it isn't what you think. My boss had some extra clothes in his car. I would never do that to you..."

But she did.

There's a moment of brief silence that they share.

Staring into each other's eyes with an intensity that threatens to make her give in to him, she can see the wheels spinning in his mind as he thinks about what she said, that poisonous jealousy starting to take over with a crazed look in his eyes. It's visible in the little things; the way that vein in his forehead bulges with each inhale, the small step he takes to invade her space further, and his free hand creeping up the length of her back to grip her by the collar of the borrowed shirt. He's holding her like a dog, she notes, the way a mother holds her pup by the scruff of their neck to correct bad behavior, in an effort to control them. The shirt digs into her throat, forcing the air out of her, and he doesn't show any mercy for her at the sight of her reaction.

Everything inside of her goes still, from the previously thundering beating of her heart to the rise and fall of her chest against his with every breath. It's as if the entire world has halted in this neverending moment and she's blocked out everything. The sound of the wind outside and the crickets chirping, a sound she hadn't been able to tune out on the walk home, fall upon deaf ears.

"I don't like seeing you in other men's clothes."

His dark eyes pin her to her spot and she can't help but want to turn away from that possessive gaze.

"I only wore it cause I had to," She whispers, "...it won't happen again, I swear."

This night refuses to end and it's driving her out of her mind. At first, it had been a blessing that her day spent swimming and talking to Bill seemed to last forever, but now that she's back in Grant's arms, she wishes for nothing more than the peaceful lull of sleep. Well, as peaceful as sleeping next to the person she fears most can be. Anything would beat having to stand here and submit herself to him. For the first time in their relationship, she actually thinks she'd rather him dead. It took countless days and nights of gaslighting, manipulation, and physical abuse, but she finally let herself think it. After all he's done, even if she does think she deserves it, who wouldn't rather him gone?

Yet that could never happen. If she were to do anything in retaliation, if she didn't knock him out or kill him on the first try, he would get rid of her and no one would miss her if she were gone forever. With his connections in the Police Department, he could probably get away with it too. No one would suspect a thing.

That is, except for Bill.

He would miss her, he would notice as soon as something felt amiss and she knows deep down that he would go after her husband until there was justice. Whether it be justice served in court or by his own hands, fate would decide.

The shirt goes loose around her as he lets it fall from his closed fist.

"Tell me you love me," He says, still holding her wrist in an unyeilding grip.

So, she says it. With lifeless eyes and a tired, dull tone that she can't bear to change.

It isn't enough.

-

Bill had been laying in bed all morning thinking about what happened the day before.

The stray cat he took in a couple years ago, much to Zack and Sharon's dismay, stretched atop his chest as he remained lost in thought, absentmindedly stroking a hand down the length of the feline's curved back and earning an affectionate purr in response. As if sensing the anxiety and tension in him upon coming home late at night after staying at the Quarry for hours after she left, he curled up with him as soon as he closed the garage door and collapsed into bed. Whenever he needed company to quell the loneliness he felt so severely in those years after his friends left, Oscar was there and, as funny as it sounds, was his new best friend before he met Y/N.

Y/N. The name seemed to ring through his mind all night, even in his dreams.

Yesterday had been a whirlwind of emotion for him, so he could only imagine what it had been like for her when things inevitably took a turn into a situation far different than anything they've experienced together. The kiss didn't matter, not truly, not after they were brought back to reality and he realized all too quickly that she was going home to the arms of a monster. It didn't matter that they kissed, not in the grand scheme of things, and he spent all night tossing and turning at the thought of what Grant might be doing to her while he tried to fall asleep.

The instantaneous shift he'd seen as soon as he called her had been horrifying. Her eyes went wide, her hands began to shake as she searched through her bag for the phone, and he saw the regret in her eyes when she turned back to him. He could tell as soon as she looked at him that she would've taken that kiss back in seconds and it hurt. Like a blow to the gut, he didn't need to hear the rejection to feel it, but he did understand why.

He laid in bed for half of the day cuddling with Oscar and poured over every possible step to take after what happened. There were a ton of options, one of which that would end in prison, another which would end in his body being dumped in some remote place where no one would ever find him, and the last, and worst of them all, which would end the same way whatever it is they have together began. With him alone and her living a miserable life with a husband who'll probably end up killing her...and he couldn't stand for that. He had to do something, anything to help her. He meant what he said last night, it wouldn't matter to him if she doesn't choose him, or if she doesn't choose anyone after she leaves Grant at all, all that matters is that she's safe.

Rejection always hurts, always, but he couldn't make her love him and if she decides last night was a mistake, then it was a mistake...but he still had to know.

It didn't take long for him to get dressed, though a disappointed cat did meow at the loss of his company the entire time he got ready, and drive to the cafe where he knew she would be.

Bill has already bitten his lip raw by the time he sees her come out from the back room at the sound of him setting off the bell at the top of the cafe door.

Her day has been an exercise in control.

Controlling herself, her emotions, and everything she can as a means to not lose her last trembling grasp of sanity. If she couldn't control her life at home or anything that happened to her there, she could control everything else and how she reacts to such things. He had been so angry at her no matter what she did and made it far too clear that last night was unacceptable. Despite the fact that it felt so right, despite the fact that being treated like an actual person by Bill made her realize how wrong what's happening to her is....no matter how much she wants to be with him and be free, it won't happen. The sooner she accepts it, the better.

The cafe is particularly cold this morning and the workers aren't allowed to touch the thermostat, according to their boss that they're all quite sure has a couple screws loose, so she's still wearing the shirt she borrowed from him at the Quarry by the time he walks in. In an attempt to rationalize her decision to cling to the piece of clothing, even after what happened last night, she told herself she was only wearing it because of how cold it is in here. But it's the end of summer and she left the house wearing it because of reasons she was afraid to face after last night, it hadn't been cold until she got to work and was subjected to the frigid temperature inside the cafe. Wearing it made her feel safe.

Y/N lets out a heavy sigh as she walks from the back room where she'd been taking a break, since she's the only one working and there hadn't been any customers yet, and doesn't notice him at first. She instantly turns to take the croissants out of the oven, sets them down to cool, and only then does she turn around and flinch at the sight of him right there. After a night of thinking of him, he's standing in front of her and she doesn't know what to think. Her mind goes blank.

"Hi," Bill says.

Suddenly, she feels more alive when he speaks and, for a second, she forgets everything while looking into his eyes. It doesn't last, but for the time it does, she can't ignore the instinctive calm that falls over her in his presence. It feels natural to let go when she's with him.

The sound of his fingers anxiously tapping the surface of the counter makes her remember that he's talking to her.

"What're you doing here?" She asks, then tries to save how unintentionally harsh that had been, "Don't you have relatives in town? I'm sure they want to spend time with you."

His gaze shifts downward while she speaks, realizing that she's still wearing his shirt, and through her detached words, his face softens at that.

Nothing feels the same between them after last night, these last few days in general, and they don't know what to do. He doesn't know what to do because, on one hand, she asked him not to tell anyone and, on the other, he wants to help her put an end to this, but he can't if she doesn't want to herself. This isn't a situation he can figure out or deconstruct and that makes him nervous. His friends always looked to him for help and ideas, so that's what he's used to to doing. Except he can't fix this, he can't help her and he's afraid that something irreversibly bad will happen to her if she doesn't get out soon. All he could see when he closed his eyes last night, the warm summer wind brushing against his face where he laid beside the fire at the Quarry, was the black eye Grant gave her and the way she looked at him before she left for home. She had a negative reaction when he said it before, but he doesn't know how he let her go home to him and it kept him up all night. How is he supposed to stand by and say and do nothing?

Out of nervous habit, he starts chewing on his lip again.

"They l-l-left yesterday. They-uh-didn't r-really wanna spend time with me anyway, they were there for my p-p-puh-parents, so it's back to normal now," He offers.

There's something that flickers across her face at that and, if they were on normal terms, she would've stopped to talk about that, but nothing about today is normal.

"Well, I'm really busy, so..."

At this, they both look from left to right, scanning the empty shop and proceeding to awkwardly look back at one another upon finding a complete lack of work for her to do.

Bill's about to accept it and walk out, take the invitation to see himself out with grace, but then she looks at him, really looks at him, and he can't help but frown at the pain lingering in her eyes. The black eye is barely visible through the thick layer of makeup if you know where to look, which he now does, and there's an ever-present sheen over her eyes today that makes her look like she's constantly on the verge of dissolving into tears. It was the same look she gave him before she fled, promising him that she could handle it. They had been playing with fire last night and she had paid the price for it, hadn't she? When she was away from her husband yesterday, both emotionally and physically, she was lively and open. Now, he can see the effort it takes for her to keep breathing and blinking, as if it consumes all of the energy she has remaining, and her eyes are dead as she stares off at the counter below. She's running on fumes and is pushing away the last person who wants to help her through.

He glances at the door, then back to her, and shakes his head, looking at her in a way that cuts through all the bullshit and shows genuine worry worse than she's every seen on him.

"What did-did he do to you? I know you and I k-know you're hurting right now, so, p-p-p-please, get help. I meant what I said, no matter what it is, it doesn't have t-to be me with you or helping you escape just as long as you aren't in danger...Just-" he's shaking his head, "I know you think you do, but you don't h-h-have to stay with him."

Her lip wobbles with the urge to cry and she wishes she could hide it from him, but he sees it. He sees everything she's dealing with currently and can read every emotion that she lets slip through the cracks

In the brief time it took for her to gather her things at the Quarry, a lot of things crossed her mind, one of which being the possible consequences of confessing her true feelings for him. They both know it could only end in violence, either against her, him, or the both of them at the hands of her husband. She can remember coming to the conclusion that if she keeps him away from her, it will keep him away from Grant. It wouldn't matter the cost it would have on her, not if it guaranteed his safety. If it means she loses her only friend to keep him from the possibility of getting killed by her husband, then so be it. If it means losing the man she-

She has to stop that dangerous train of thought, knowing that if she hears herself actually admit the truth, she won't be able to let him go.

It's what's best for them both. Wouldn't it be selfish of her to bring him into a mess that could end in such violence? Nevermind the fact that he doesn't want her to face the burden of it alone, how could she live with herself if anything happened to him? She already lost her parents, if anything happened to Bill, she wouldn't be able to move on. The guilt, paired with whatever twisted things Grant would be putting her through if he found out about them, would kill her.

Her heart aches for him, but she pushes it away.

"Go home, okay?" Every word hurts, yet she forces herself though it, "Last night was a mistake, this can't happen and I can't-I can't be around you anymore."

"I don't care about last n-n-n-night. The kiss d-doesn't matter, what matters to me is that you can't go home to someone who h-hurts you and makes you af-f-f-fraid of coming home a couple hours late," His vulnerability terrifies her, "I mean, fuck, Y/N, you flinch every time I accidentally r-raise my voice and close the car door, what happens if he doesn't stop one t-t-tuh-time? What happens if-if he keeps going until you're dead? Who's g-gonna call me out on my bullshit and talk about the newest episodes of that show you love and make e-every customer who walks in here leave with a smile on their face?" He pauses, then says, "You n-n-n-need to get out before it's too late, cause one day..."

His voice trails off into buzzing silence, the tension between them going taut, and she's so close to letting go and agreeing with him, because what he's saying is true. But she can't. Even if she wanted to, the words wouldn't come out. This feels like the last chance he has to get through to her and he can see it in her eyes that his words struck her in some way, that they hit exactly where they were supposed to.

It isn't enough.

Her voice shakes, "Go home. Don't come here again, just-just leave, Bill. I'm asking you to leave. Please."

The word rings through his head over and over again as he walks out to his car and lets his head fall forward against the steering wheel, the tears finally falling down his cheeks.

He'll let the loneliness and guilt eat him alive.

-

The week following their conversation at the cafe is bitter with loneliness and heartbreak on both sides.

Bill's life in the recent week has consisted of an endless cycle of work, submitting his manuscript to any publishing company he can, and falling asleep as soon as his head hits the pillow. Throwing himself into his work and the process of submitting his writing seemed to be a better alternative to moping around all week-though he has done plenty of moping no matter the distractions. Though he's done his share of wallowing in his sadness, this week has been productive, at least, and while his job at the mechanic shop is work, it's a job he genuinely likes. The coworkers are friendly, it's a family-owned businesses he's been working at since he started an apprenticeship there at seventeen, and it pays decent money, most of which goes to paying rent to his parents and saving the rest.

He comes home, exchanges empty words with his parents on the way upstairs to shower, and goes to sleep thinking about all of the words he couldn't tell her the last time they saw each other. It hadn't been the time nor situation for such words, but he wanted to say them with every quiet second that passed between them, with every mile of distance she put forth. Most of all, above any of the silent longing and professions of love he wishes he could give, he wants her to escape and stop blaming herself for things she couldn't possible be in control of. He knows it's hypocritical of him to think such a thing considering the guilt he still feels for Georgie's death, but only from this experience can he know how much she's building it up in her head and, in a way, it puts into perspective how unhealthy it's been for him too. They're two completely different situations, her's one of immediate danger and his one faded with time, but they both know what needlessly blaming themselves feels like.

And he can't help but feel irresponsible in letting her go like this, leaving her to be hit and manipulated by him, even if that's what she asked him to do. It feels wrong to let it happen any longer, but he's stuck and he doesn't know what to do. On one hand, doesn't he have a moral obligation to help someone he loves when they're suffering? Then, on the other, how is he supposed to go against her wishes to do so?

Weeks pass, August beginning to fly by, and he doesn't seem to notice.

Nothing feels right anymore.

-

Y/N doesn't know what to do at this point.

Every day it seems to get worse and now she has no one. Ever since she told Bill to leave her alone, life has felt dull and agonizing. Though this is what she wanted to do and though she would do it again and again, it still hurts. It's hard to believe that there had been a time when she lived without him, because right now she feels his absence like a void in her heart and can't help but want to run to him every time her control slips.

For the rest of the day following their encounter at the cafe, she couldn't fully process her emotions. Everything had gone numb as soon as she watched him disappear through that door, trying to keep himself from crying before he got to his car. It killed her to see him like that, but she didn't have any other choice. If protecting him meant hurting him, then she'd do what she had to do and deal with the consequences. Because the truth is, the afternoon they shared together at the Quarry was them living in a fantasyland and even if she wanted to, how could their relationship last under Grant's harsh surveillance? She's come to the conclusion that she and Bill aren't meant for happiness, that whatever it is that exists between them is destined to end in destruction and chaos, because there's no foreseeable way out of the hole they've dug themselves into.

Y/N presses her lips together in a firm line in an attempt to keep her husband from hearing her cry from where she sits at the window sill a room over. Moonlight shines through and illuminates her face, damp with tears, where rests it against the window.

She wants more than anything to be wrapped up in his arms, safe and warm, so that's where she images she is. Though it's risky, she hugs his shirt against her chest and inhales the faint scent of him that still clings to the soft fabric, wishing that the fantasy she creates of him didn't have to be just that: a fantasy. She doesn't want to acknowledge that him holding her close and whispering sweet nothings into her ear isn't real or face the fact that she has to let him go, even though, deep down, she knows he doesn't want her to.

"I miss you so much," She whispers into the shirt only loud enough for her to hear.

The feeling of his hands on her waist is still engraved into her mind, as is the taste of his lips when they last kissed, and her chest shudders at the memory. Her grasp on her control is slowly slipping away and there's nothing she can do except remind herself of how badly things ended a couple weeks ago, with every fantasy and thought, she feels herself tugged to him like the pull of gravity itself.

It doesn't matter. When she opens her eyes, a tear dropping onto and dissolving into the fabric of his shirt, he isn't really there.

-

The thirtieth of August started out normally.

Bill woke up, fed Oscar, and went to work as usual, trying to shut out the thoughts of her that never seemed to cease. With the exception of those moments when he's too busy to think of anything, she's an ever-present, reoccuring theme in his mind and he can hardly bear it. Having to be reminded of her everywhere he goes, but forbidden from contacting her...Bill frowns just thinking about it. This isn't how things should be, she should be happy and neither of them should have to feel such constant worry.

His day had been the same routine it always is, the monotonous cycle of waking up, working, and coming home, but that hadn't been the case for her.

The rain pounds against the pavement violently, droplets hitting the ground with a sound that drowns out every logical thought in her mind, as few as they may be tonight. Slick with that rainwater, her satin pajama shift clings to her like a second skin and gives no shelter from the harsh weather as it batters against her. Step after step through the puddles forming in the pot holes lining the street, she continues on blindly without a thought in her head outside of survival, outside of getting to safety.

She can't tell where her tears end and the rain begins.

It started out the same as always, her day had been torturously long and boring at work and without Bill's company, she grew lonely even as customers came in and out of the cafe. The tap of her fingertips against the counter, the ringing of the bell attached to the door each time someone passed through, the sound of timid conversation between patrons-nothing was amiss until far later. Until she made the trek home, legs aching from a day on her feet, and did as she pleased until it was time that Grant came home. Hearing the front door slam shut had made her flinch, but she willed herself to focus on what she was reading, sitting casually on her side of the bed while silently hoping that he'd be too tired to find something to be angry with tonight.

That had been a naive hope.

It took him longer than it usually does, but he did find something to yell at her about and of course she became meek and small and subservient. Even if that isn't how she truly is inside, he has her bent and shaped into the silent, obedient little wife he always wanted and she remembers cowering at the booming noise that was his voice.

Her sobs overpower the whipping wind as she hugs herself tightly, fingernails digging into the skin of her arms, and tries to breathe through it all. With the wind, rain, hyperventilation, and her cries, it's a challenge to suck down any air to the point where she feels lightheaded. Every breath and every step is a struggle she fears she won't win, but every time she debates falling down right where she stands in the middle of the road, that distant image of safety and protection sings its swaying hymn and she wills herself onward. Though every intake of air goes down like glass shredding her lungs, she forces herself to keep moving and breathing. To keep stumbling through the onslaught of that ache she feels deep in her chest to get to what she has come to believe is her only safe place in the world.

Nothing else matters, not the consequences, not Grant, not anything. She may have lost her belief in everything after she was slowly broken down, bit by bit, but not anymore. She believes in him; his goofball smile, his sweet words, and the writing that nobody else seems to see the brilliance in. If there were a clear thought in her head, it would be that. It would be that reckless, hopeful thought that has been lying dormant for far too long now in preparation for a day she knew would come at one point or another.

There's a tear in her clothes that has the strap of her shift falling down the side of her shoulder and her cries only worsen at the memory of it.

Time had passed, whether it was hours or minutes, she doesn't remember, but later in the night he wouldn't relent and no matter what she said...the sound of the fabric ripping echoes in her ears on repeat. Nothing had happened, that didn't happen because she hadn't let him get that far before she fought back, but she knew where it would have lead otherwise. He was trying to get a better grip on her wrists to pin them down and ended up punching her, his wedding ring splitting open a gash along her cheek. When she gathered herself, head spinning from the hit she'd taken, that was when she struck him back. Knowing it had to be hard enough to knock him off of her, she rallied her strength and kneed him as forcefully as she could between the legs.

That's all she can remember before she was sprinting out the front door and down the street, hoping over neighbor's fences and through yard in hopes that it would get her as far from him as quickly as she possibly could.

Coming here, though, that wasn't a conscious decision she made. Though she's only been here a handful of times, it was as if her body had went on autopilot as soon as she knew she was far enough that he wouldn't be able to see her from their front porch. She broke into a run, bare feet aching with pain in every scrape they made against the pavement and leg muscles nearly gave out beneath her. That swift pace only stopped when she tripped over a pot hole at the corner of his street and the asphalt hit her cut-open cheek with a dizzying force she hadn't expected. Gravel clung to her damp skin as she laid there and tried to get up as quickly as the pain would allow. She knew he'd be out looking for her soon and if she didn't make it to his house in time-

Bill is laying in bed with Oscar cuddled up on his chest, his hair still damp from his shower, when he hears a pounding knock on the garage door.

It isn't loud enough to be heard from upstairs, but he still jumps at the sound and his head jerks in the direction of the second level of the house in fear of his parents waking. After a solid twenty seconds of silence, that knock is back and it's much more frantic and desperate. When he stands and approaches the door, he can see the fist banging against the glass with such purpose and focus.

"Bill-"

The second he realizes it's her, he crosses the distance swifter than he knew he could move. His hands shake as they unlock it and reach for the handle, the garage door lifting with an obnoxious rattling sound that neither them bother to notice above the rain.

In a way, he doesn't believe what he's seeing and it takes him a few fumbling seconds to find words.

Y/N stands there on the other side of the entrance to the garage, shivering, sobbing and soaked to the skin, in her torn pajamas.

There is no way to describe the horror that he feels upon looking at her this way; with scrapes littered across her skin, that one bleeding cut on her cheekbone, and pleading, teary eyes that cut far too deep. She leaves him no greeting words, no explanation, not a single thing except that look on her face that he finds simultaneously so foreign and familiar. There had been inklings of this expression every time her husband came up in conversation or that night at the Quarry when she was about to leave, but this is that familiar look amplified to a degree he's never seen it at. Instantly, he knows. Instantly, he feels the sorrow and rage and helplessness seep into him, brutal as poison. It takes him a few seconds to come to his senses and realize the situation, but once he does, there isn't any time wasted.

At the same moment she snaps of out of her's, he seems to same out of his trance too.

"Oh my god," He says, "w-w-w-what happened to you? You're b-bleeding," His eyes fall back over her shivering figure, the torn pajamas, and the goosebumps that raised along the surface of her skin from the chill, "and you-"

He doesn't give himself the time to finish that sentence before he's hurrying over to where a shirt of his is hung on the post of his bed.

The water pools at her toes, rushing down the slope of his driveway all the way back to the street beyond where it pours into a current at the curbside. It drips down against her every limb and travels that path as she cluelessly waits for him, her cries never once starting to calm.

Bill appears before her in the time it takes her to blink with that shirt in hand, his face frowned with worry and eyes searching all over her for more wounds or bruises. The warmth of his hands is a shock to her system when he wraps the shirt around her shoulders and pulls her into his arms. Her chest deflates with a loud, agonizing string of sobs into his chest, that final piece of her that she had kept in tact only long enough to find him finally shattering with the rest of her. Now that she's in his arms, she can't stop herself from starting to crumble and that steadying touch of his hand cradling her head into the damp skin of his chest makes her lean into him for support.

They're stay this way, halfway inside, halfway outside, for a while and he's trying to get her to come out of the rain, but she hasn't caught what he's said until now. Only now that her chest is starting to rise and fall at a healthy pace and her wails have begun to dwindle into sniffle does she notice.

"J-J-Just come inside, y-you're hurt and shivering, you'll get s-s-s-sick if you stay out here..."

Come inside?

In a moment of clarity and spine-tingling fear, she shakes her head, a whine escaping her as she wrenches herself from his embrace.

It makes her feel stupid, but there's this roadblock that falls into place as soon as she hears those words. They're the words of reason and care, of love and compassion, the obvious step to take, but, one last time, there's a barrier that separates them at the prospect of that. She had come here on instinct, because she, at her most primal state, had trusted him more than anyone, or anything, else. She had believed in him above anything else...but now that she's calmed enough to think clearly, there's that familiar hesitancy that always stops her when she drifts too far off script. Except, this time is different and she can feel it, she knows that this time isn't going to be the same as before.

Nevertheless, she forces herself to step back anyway.

"I-" Y/N struggles to speak, "You-"

The warmth that his shirt provided doesn't last now that she's back beneath the unrelenting downpour of the rain, stood in his driveway on unsteady feet. It's soaked through already and hangs off her shoulders in an added weight she feels in her tired back muscles. He's staring at her with this look that she wants to turn away from because she knows she doesn't want to have to face him when he's looking at her this way.

Her eyes avert from his before she opens her mouth to speak.

"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have come-" A quick glance between him and the street behind her, "I can't-I didn't have anywhere to go and I realize now that I probably shouldn't have come here and woke you up just cause I have a problem-"

Bill can barely see through the rain as she's turning and hurrying down the length of his driveway, shaking her head as if she had been stupid to show up here for his help.

The droplets of water hit his skin so hard it nearly hurts as he decides to damn the consequences and chase after her, deciding that it's far too much of a risk to let her go off on her own after whatever it is her husband did this time. If it was so bad that it made her come to him, after what happened and all she said about not wanting to see him again those few weeks ago...he doesn't even want to know what happened. Cause if he does, if it's was that much worse than all the other times, he won't be able to stop himself from getting in his car and driving over to their house and she clearly needs him right now, so that can't happen.

His street is barren at night, especially considering the weather, and he doesn't see a sign of any life out with every step he takes to follow her. She had been walking fast, fast enough that he has to run to catch up with her long strides, and he isn't able to get her attention until they're in the middle of the road.

The distance between them, although it's only about six feet, feels boundless when he sees her stop in her tracks at the sound of his voice.

"Please," He says and it's hardly audible, "I d-don't care about what happened with us, even if you don't ever w-w-w-wanna see me again, c-come inside. Once I check your cuts and know you're okay, I p-p-puh-promise I'll leave you alone, but you're bleeding and you obviously came here for help, so let-let me help..."

Faintly, he can see her shoulders fall with an exhausted sigh and she stays silent, as if pondering how to respond or if she even wants to at all. This silence reminds him of that day at the cafe when she pushed him away and that terrifies him, the silence, so deafening, makes him feel as if he's going to suffocate with the need to fill the space left between them. This was how it felt when he was pleading with her last month; the tension between them, the remaining distance flooded with feelings neither of them could acknowledge, and that sense they both had of their control over themselves wearing thin.

Only this time, they both can tell that it isn't the same and they don't know whether or not to trust it.

The idea of letting go of fear has always felt like an impossible, useless fantasy that she drew upon when she needed it most, but now it's tangible. It's right in front of her, or, more specifically, six feet behind her, and she's still teetering on that edge. There's that roadblock, the line, and then there's her, daring to consider crossing it. Hearing his voice only makes that urge stronger.

Briefly, she wonders who she thinks she's kidding. She made up her mind the second she sprinted out the front door of her house.

"You can h-have my bed and I'll sleep on the couch, but," She can hear him step forward, foot noisily splashing in a puddle, "j-j-j-just-just don't go b-back-back, Y/N," then, so softly she barely catches it, "please."

The weeks she's spent without him have been hell. Without exaggeration or hyperbole in any form, life without his company had been utterly unbearable and, if she were to be candid, she'd tell him that. She'd tell him that it was an effort to keep herself from knocking on his door every day. Every time she felt so hopeless that the daydreams couldn't even tame her sadness, she came so close to running off to find him. Whether it be while he was at work or here, she wouldn't care, all she could think about was finding him and finally letting him in. It wouldn't have mattered if he didn't feel the same way, all she wanted to do was tell him, because every day has begun to feel like borrowed time with how bad things have gotten and she doesn't know if she'll ever get to tell him if she keeps putting it off for later. It's been lingering there for months now, in stolen touches and glances in their afternoons together at the Quarry or at the cafe. And she feels it stronger than she ever as in this moment, standing with her back to him as water drops down her face to the point of nearly drowning her, and it only grows with each passing second.

It's terrifying, yes, but the idea of not feeling this way, of not telling him and stuffing it back down as she has time and time again, is worse. How could letting go be any worse than living in the world of agony and fear that she does at home?

Turning around to face him, Y/N finds herself wanting to step across that line they only once dared to cross, but she still doesn't let go just yet.

"I can't go inside, you know he'll kill us both if he finds out."

The look on his face breaks her heart as he shakes his head, eyes welling up with tears, "He's already n-n-n-nearly killed you and you know what? I don't care if he kills me. I've said it before, as long as you're suh-safe, I don't care w-w-what he'll try to do to me, okay? You're covered in blood and scrapes and bruises, you're more imp-p-portant-"

Everything pauses the second she steps forward and cries at him dangerously loud, even with the wind and rain, "I can't go inside because I'm in love you and if I go with you, that's just another reason he has to hurt you and I can't let that happen!"

Nevermind the fact that he already has a reason to hurt him, nevermind the fact that they've already given him something to kill them over should he find out-Y/N can't handle the idea that her selfishness and love for him could get him hurt. If it did, she would never be able to forgive herself.

There's a dip of quiet between the two of them, their eyes met with an intensity that neither of them can stand as they're stuck, frozen in place, in the aftermath of that confession. His heart is hammering against his chest so hard, he can hear it in his ears, and she can't figure out what to say next cause he's sure as hell waiting for an explanation for all that she dropped on him. It hit him like a sucker punch, it knocked whatever air he had left out of him and leaves him scrambling for her next move.

There's a bittersweet smile on her face now and he can't figure out how to react. Every part of him has gone still...

"I love you, okay? Why else would I be here if not because of that, you're the only person who actually listens and cares and you're better than you give yourself credit for. Maybe this started cause we both happened to be lonely at the same time, but that's not how it is anymore and, for months now, I've barely been able to keep myself from telling you. Me loving you puts you in danger and I'm sorry for that, but it doesn't make it any less true," She sniffles and, at last, crosses that line, "I meant what I said at the Quarry, I want it to be you...as long as you still do too..."

It's hard to process everything as it's happening, cause it's all happening so quickly that neither of them truly have the time to piece it all together in their minds without getting lost along the way.

His heart no longer beats so wildly in his chest, instead, it's steady and slow. Almost hauntingly, he goes calm in the moment after she stopped talking and he doesn't feel himself tremble the way he had been before she told him what she's been dreaming of for every waking moment they've spent apart. After a month of fighting their feelings for one another, they both let go at the same time and it's peaceful. For once, there's nothing tugging at them from the depths of their minds and there's no worry that she'll never get to tell him how she truly feels. Now that it's out there, now that he knows, there's a certain freedom she feels that she hadn't been able to let herself reach before. Regardless of his response, letting go was imperative. If she didn't say it at some point, it would have consumed her.

There's the sound of her moving closer to him again, making yet another small, but courageous step closer, and this brings him back to reality.

Bill says it back, the distance between them crossed in a matter of seconds, "I love you too."

Then, they're kissing.

Arms wrapped around each other, their collision is hardly as tender and timid as their first had been. That kiss by the fireside that they shared what feels like an eternity ago had been practice run, them testing the waters, feeling each other out to see if one of them would be scared off, but this is a culmination of months of unaddressed feelings that is explosive in its purest form. She tugs at him in an attempt to bring him as close as possible, her hands trying to find purchase where they grasp at his back desperately and press him up against her without a smidge of hesitation. There's no room for doubt now, there's no room for anything but this perfect moment and they're to caught up in each other to overthink things as they always do. If anything, they aren't thinking at all. All that exists is them; kissing with an urgency that's been building up between them for far too long.

There's a soft, sweet sound that escapes the back of his throat when she cradles his cheek with her hand the same way he had only minutes ago in the driveway and it makes her feel warm. Though she's shivering against him with every breath and brush of their lips, that sound makes her warm with love. Rain dribbles down their faces, making it difficult to breathe, but if it bothers them yet, they don't make it known. He can't tell where she ends and he begins, he lets himself completely let go.

He thinks, as they finally tear themselves apart and breathe again, that he could stay this way with her forever if she let him. God knows he wasn't going to pull away unless he was about to pass out from not breathing.

It occurs to him that they're still standing in the middle of the road, as deserted as it may be, and, knowing how he is, Grant is probably looking for her by now. Plus, she needs to clean her wounds and get out of the rain before she gets a cold.

Bill gives her another brief, gentle kiss before stepping back and outstretching a hand to her, one last chance to back out, "What he doesn't know c-c-c-can't hurt me."

The line has already been crossed, hasn't it?

She takes him by the hand and lets him lead her back up the driveway to his house.

-

The light his lamp gives off is yellow and faded, most likely because he needs to change the bulb, and it makes where he rests on his bed much cozier.

As soon as they got inside, he gave her a change of clothes and directions to the upstairs bathroom so she could shower off the mud splattered up her calves and the blood dried on every cut she got when she tumbled down into the pavement on the way here. One of the cuts was clearly not from the fall. It lines her cheekbone in a way that gives him a visual to a scene he's not sure he wants to imagine, but he tries not to think too much about that because he knows it'll only make his frustration with not being able to do anything about the situation that much worse. If he keeps ruminating over the thoughts he's having about it, it'll only make it worse, so he distracts himself instead.

Playing in the background, the TV is a perfect distraction from those overwhelming worries that have become harder to ignore and he turns his head from where he'd been staring off at the ceiling to watch. It's a silly game show, but it's enough to keep him in the moment.

The last half hour has felt surreal.

He's not sure if she feels the same way, but he has been finding it hard to believe that she's really here, that what she said isn't some self-indulgent fantasy he created in idle daydream. It doesn't feel real and, though he knows he isn't imagining it, he doesn't know how to move forward now that everything is out in the open. After the months they spent suppressing their feelings for one another and after the months she spent hiding the reality of what's happening to her from him, it's difficult to know where to go from here. But he wants to keep going with her, with whatever this is, and doesn't want to spend another second feeling the way they'd felt when they were apart.

Ever since she came over, knowing that she's right here, that she's safe, he feels like he's finally able to breathe again. And, though she hasn't had the chance to tell him as much, she feels the same way.

Y/N tiptoes carefully through the house now that she's done showering. It did sting when the hot water hit her cuts, her barely able to keep herself from wincing in reaction to the pain, but it's relieving to be clean and know that there's no more dirt and bacteria lingering near her open wounds. As soon as she got inside, dripping water onto the floor, she came to her senses and realized she'd probably get infected if she went any longer without cleaning up.

The stairs creak under her shifting weight as she descends to the lower level of the house, slowing down significantly here or there when she comes across a picture from when Bill was a child hung upon the wall. For the most part, there's suspicious lack of pictures of him hung up, it's mostly pictures from relatives generations ago or the occasional family photo, but she ends up coming across an old school picture from when he must have been nine, at the oldest. And she comes to find upon looking at it that his smile has always been as bright as she's come to find it nowadays, though its appearance less frequent. The image of him keeps her too occupied to frown at the fact that it's one of the only ones of him.

Vaguely, she is aware of the fact that he and his parents have a strained relationship that had been thrown down the lonely road its on by the death of his brother. The topic is a sore spot, so it only came up once or twice before he always found a way to drift away, but he told her about him when she saw the weathered picture in his wallet one day and asked a curious question. Instantly, she saw that it struck a cord, but he told her about him nonetheless. About the day he went missing while Bill was supposed to be watching him and the bitter years that followed. As the years passed by, nobody was bothered to keep looking anymore and his parents only became more distant, filling his head with the idea that it was his fault that some sick person took his brother away from them. He hadn't meant for anything like that to happen, yet when he came back outside from the bathroom to where they were playing in the street...he was gone. Just like that, before he could blink, everything began to change.

Her hair is damp against her cheek when she brushes it back from her face and finally turns back to walk the rest of the way back to the garage. She had gotten lost in the memory of what he once told her and that school picture of him for a moment there, forgetting that either one of his parents probably wouldn't appreciate to run into her should they wake up.

The sound of the doorknob twisting makes him turn to look from the TV to see her quietly come in and shut the door behind her. His shirt hangs down much lower than her's usually do and he doesn't notice the faint smile that comes to his face at the sight of her in his clothes. Her's are hanging to dry in the corner of the room, along with the pajamas he'd gotten wet when he chased her out into the rain, and it's relieving to see her in something that isn't muddy and torn. It had barely been covering her and she was shivering badly when she came in. He didn't bother to ask where the tear came from, he already knew and the mere thought has his blood boiling again.

Y/N turns, arms crossed over her chest, and faces him with an expression that seems to ask, "What now?"

He suddenly realizes she probably doesn't want him hanging around all night and could use some rest after the day she had, his body moving on its own accord to get up to leave for the living room.

"No, it's-" Her voice is soft, "You don't have to sleep on the couch."

The floor is cold beneath her feet as she starts to walk across the room to where he rests on his bed. It sends a chill up the length of her body the entire time, but she's climbing onto the bed before it bothers her, the mattress dipping with her added weight beside his own. It's warm from where he'd been lying down only a few seconds ago and she savors that. The shower water went freezing cold after she spent twenty minutes scrubbing her skin down and trying to clean the dirt from her hair, so she will take any warmth she can manage after those last chilled ten minutes in the shower.

She crawls around him so she can settle down on the side of the bed closest to the wall, the side she figured he intentionally left vacant for her up until when he tried to leave.

"I want you to stay...plus, I'm cold and I wanna use your body heat for selfish reasons," She teases, staring over at him from where she lays with her head propped on her elbow.

His laughter makes her want to kiss him, but that certainly isn't what happens. For now, she manages to keep a leash on every wish that pops into her head when she looks his way or is melted by one of his smiles. It's a slippery slope, those thoughts that can never be satisfied because she knows that she'll only want more of him with every desire he satisfies, but she tries not to be too harsh on herself for having such thoughts. After all, she was able to openly express her feelings for him for the first time since they met tonight and it isn't surprising that she's still riding the high of that confession.

Love is an incredibly strong word, but-his cheeks are tinged with a pink color that spreads to the tips of his ears as he lies back down beside her-she meant it.

"Okay, I'll s-stay and let you use me as a p-p-p-personal heater."

"Thank you for offering your services, it's much appreciated," She says, smiling, and watches him pull the covers over them both.

They're fumbling at first, when it comes to finding out who goes where and what's actually comfortable, but they do eventually settle down together. Though the awkwardness never really does dwindle down, it's still just as lovely as she pictured it to be; cuddling up against him and feeling his arms wrap around her.

Her cheek rests against the pillow, her body facing the wall, while his arms remain secure around the curve of her waist. His chest presses up against her back when he scoots up to be closer with her and she thinks she can feel how fast his heart is beating against her. Every place they make contact with one another tingles, goosebumps raising against her skin, and, slowly, carefully, she rests her hand overtop where his are clasped in front of her. The palm of her hand is slick with a thin layer of sweat where it grasps the back of his hand, but he doesn't seem to mind it.

There's another few minutes of this looming, endless quiet that they share in the wake of all they've said tonight before he breaks it. Bill's voice is honey-sweet when he whispers to her through that cursed silence, breath hot against her neck.

"I-I've been dreaming of being able to tell you I love you for what must be w-w-weeks now, but now that I have, I have nuh-no-no idea what else to say. There's so much I've wanted to s-suh-say-say to you recently, but now my mind's going blank."

Her thumb traces lulling, soothing circles into the skin stretching over the back of his hand, and his eyes flutter shut at the feeling. She has a way of sending him into a sedative state when she's touching him this way and he leans forward to brush his nose against the nape of her neck, a response he knows will make her smile even if he can't see her do it.

If someone told her that she'd been here, with him, a couple weeks ago, she wouldn't have believed a word they said. But there was this part of her that snapped tonight at the same moment she stepped out through that door and began to run for his house. That part of her broke into pieces and suddenly she didn't care about anything except getting to wherever he was. If he wasn't here, then she would have walked to the Quarry and if he wasn't there, she'd have walked to his work and the search wouldn't have stopped until she tore apart the world to find him. She would've gone to the ends of the earth tonight, all because she realized as soon as she took that first breath of air upon leaving the house, that she couldn't go on pretending she wasn't in love him. Because she felt it in every dip of silence and every day she spent without him, she loves him. She loves him so much it aches to merely imagine being anywhere but curled up in his adoring embrace.

Y/N turns over to face him.

The shift is sudden and it makes his already pounding heart quicken for a brief stretch of time, but he tries not to let her see how much of an effect she has on him. Even with the smallest of things like meeting eyes with her, feeling her snuggling up so close to him that their noses nearly bump, and the sound of her voice makes his stomach feel fluttery with admiration. He's never felt so gone for someone before...after all these years and a few serious relationships here or here, this is the farthest he's ever felt himself go emotionally. People have had him tongue-tied and blushing before, but most people aren't Y/N. Most people can look at him without getting such a reaction, but that's not the case with her. When she focuses on him, he loses his ability to focus period.

"Me too. It feels good to have it all out in the open, but I think-I think I'm still afraid, you know? Deep down, I'm still afraid that he'll somehow know what I've felt all along and try to hurt you for it..."

His arms subconsciously pull tight at that and he presses a kiss to her forehead.

They couldn't get closer if they tried; legs tangled together and chests colliding with every inhale. The sound of the rain hitting the sides of the house has gone distant to them as they disappear further into their own world. Every second brings them closer and neither of them want that to end. Neither of them want morning to come.

"You're s-safe here," Bill whispers, "He can't find you, I p-p-promise."

"I know, it's just-after years of having to live through everything he does, it starts to feel inescapable. I know he doesn't even know you know me and I know that he can't find me, but I'm still scared. I'm sorry, he just terrifies me."

His love for her had grown from the beginning.

Unlike anything he'd ever felt before, his love for her overcame everything that should have smothered it from the inferno it has become into ash. No matter the obstacle or issue, no matter the amount of times he's been scared shitless for merely thinking about her this week out of fear that her husband will kill him, he couldn't stop loving her if tried to. And, for a while, he had tried. He tried to stop the subtle flirting, their unnecessary touching, and even the dreams he had about her, dreams that were clearly beyond his control, but it wouldn't cease. He too felt with it with every piece of him, so much so that it ached, and couldn't escape the way he felt when night would finally come and he'd have to confront the feelings he'd only let himself entertain in his dreams.

The share their every breath in the little remaining space between them and it makes them feel dizzy.

"You don't have to s-say s-s-sorry, if I was put through every you deal with on a daily b-b-b-basis, I'd be afraid too. You don't need to ap-pologize."

Her fingers brush his hair from his face, carding through soft strands of copper that had fallen onto his forehead with his movement. They can't help but want to get closer, even if there's no more distance left to cross, they want it all. It feels greedy and selfish, but the feeling is obviously mutual and neither of them can bring themselves to care if they're yearning for too much too fast. All he knows is that she's here, she's here and she loves him and that's enough.

Never would he have thought that this would exist outside of where he dreamt of her loving him back, he almost wants her to pinch him so he can know that he's not dreaming.

"I guess you're right, but it'll take a while to break the apologizing habit, so bear with me for a little while. It'll...it'll be hard to undo some of the things he's caused," She says through a yawn.

But he's right there, tender and reassuring, and he doesn't miss a beat.

"You're s-s-so strong," Bill replies seamlessly, shaking his head as if in disbelief "You just never give up and I love that. N-Now that I know what you've been p-p-p-putting up with for all this time, I can't wrap my head around how you hold it together. I'd've lost my muh-mind by now."

The storm outside is mere background noise at this point, the wind that's whipping so wildly is not nearly as worthy of their attention as this conversation is. They're hanging off of every word. After how long they spent keeping quiet, there's so much to say.

She doesn't stop running her fingers through his hair the entire time. He isn't inclined to stop her either, the touch is soothing and he leans into it with every stroke.

"I almost did," her eyes drift back up to meet his own, "then I saw you sitting there at the cafe and something fell into place. I know I'm strong enough on my own, but you kept me together too. Falling in love with you reminded me that there's still good in the world."

This tugs at his heart in a way he only thought that confession of love earlier tonight could do.

Falling in love with you reminded me that there's still good in the world. The words echo in his mind endlessly and he wonders if she knows how easy it was for her to make him melt in her arms. It's always been easy for her to have him tripping over himself for her, but tonight is different and has been ever since she knocked on his door. Every single thing she does makes him want to kiss her and pull her closer, so intoxicatingly close that neither of them can catch a breath through the passion and thrilling exhilaration.

It's hard for him to figure out what he wants to say next, so he says the only thing he's sure of. It's all he's been hearing in his head ever since he first imagined telling it to her and he knows he'll never tire of these words, knows that no matter how many times he says it, it'll never be enough. They might as well be the only words in his vocabulary, so she'll have to put up with how frequently he'll be saying them to her. After all of the loneliness they've both felt in recent years, he's sure she won't mind anyway.

"I love you," He whispers, but can barely get the last word out before she's kissing him.

It starts out gentle.

As it had been the first time they kissed, it's cautious at the beginning and every brush of her mouth on his feels like a whisper captured in physical form. Lips soft against his, hands perched on his shoulders, she doesn't need to say it back for him to know that she returns the sentiment. Everything she does is enough for him to know and he's never felt as loved as he does right now. His heart feels full with her holding him and kissing him like this and he knows she feels the same. It may have taken far longer than it should have, but things have finally fallen into place for them. He knows it'll be hard, mostly because of the constant fear of what Grant will do that has and will continue to linger in the back of their minds, but it'll be worth it too. She'll always be worth it.

It's clear in the way she's grasping at him, their breaths going shallow and labored in a familiar way that makes their blood run hot, that she wants to keep going, but he can tell how exhausted she is.

For the past five minutes, she's been yawning, sinking further into his arms, and her eyes have become heavy with the urge to fall asleep. Plus, after the turbulent day they've had, he doesn't want her to do anything she might regret. Part of it might be because those words she said at the cafe are sticking with him, when she said that their kiss had been a mistake, but it's out of love. Even if there is another layer to it that is entangled with his insecurity, he can tell that her body is begging her to give in to the fog that clouds her mind and knows that she'd be too tired to stay up another minute, let alone through that.

Bill pulls back, her chasing where his lips had been before he moved, and runs a hand down her back.

"You s-should get some r-r-rest..."

With yet another yawn, she says something that he can hardly decipher in protest, perhaps hoping that she can override that urge to fall asleep. Her protest was a jumbled mix of words said through a yawn, something about not wanting him to leave.

Understanding the gist of what she said, he simply strokes her back and says into the space between them, "I'm n-nuh-not going anywhere. Go to sleep," another kiss, "I w-w-w-won't leave."

And even if she weren't on the brink of sleep, as much as he wants her, there's no need to rush. By no means is he one who wants to wait, he's been waiting for what feels like an eternity to be with her, but they don't need to go too fast tonight. Already, there's so much to process and though he doesn't doubt that what she confessed to him is true, they should both get a night of sleep before they do anything. They're still coming down from an emotional night and, for her especially, they could use some rest. Typically, he's impulsive and reckless when it comes to certain things, but his head is oddly clear right now.

If last time taught him anything, it was that things can change overnight. If she wakes up tomorrow and hasn't changed her mind, that's fine, but at least he'll have given her the time she needs to sleep on it.

Y/N relaxes against him, her head nuzzling into the space where his neck and shoulder bridge together, and slowly lets herself drift into unconsciousness.

Eventually, so does he.

-

For most of the night, she slept uninterrupted.

Cocooned in his arms, Y/N felt herself growing tired instantly last night and she couldn't fight the sharp tug of sleep. It had been a rough few weeks without him, but as soon as she curled up beside him, all of that melted away. It wasn't until early morning when the sky began to glow with a faded blue light that she started to stir in her sleep.

The dream had been heaven, at first.

She was sitting on the hood of Bill's car at the Quarry with him, just like they always used to, and they were talking about running away from Derry. It had felt exciting, even if it were only a dream, to talk about starting a life with him outside of the secretive existence they'll have to endure should they stay and let their relationship continue behind her husband's back. They talked about taking off one day, just hopping in his car and driving away until they found someplace worth staying for. They let their minds run with the possibilities of where life could lead them when they're together and didn't feel fear as they often do in reality. All she felt was love and freedom.

But now it's starting to change.

The picture warps and the light in her dream world winks out in a matter of minutes, storm clouds converging over them and lightning cracking against the horizon.

Bill woke up an hour ago.

It had been the presence of the woman beside him that initially brought him out of his half-asleep, half-awake daze and the faint morning light that flooded into his room through the windows on the garage door. He awoke to the sight of her sleeping with her head resting against his shoulder and her arms wrapped tightly around his waist. There was a barely-there smile on her face as he watched, mesmerized, and tried to memorize the way she looked in that moment. Compared to when she's awake, she looked serene and at ease while asleep, as if none of her troubles in real life existed. That wouldn't be the case, though, as her dream of their afternoon spent kissing and talking about escaping would soon turn into a chilling nightmare similar to what she experiences at home. But, for the time being, he laid there and sleepily traced the length of her spine as he procrastinated getting out of bed for the day.

Eventually, he did have to get up and leave for work, but not without giving her a kiss on the cheek and murmuring a soft, "S-See you later," that he knew she wouldn't hear on the way out.

Y/N shifts uncomfortably, legs tangled in the blankets and sheets, and whines in distress at having to see her worst nightmare unfold before her eyes. Her chest rises and falls at a swifter pace now and her breaths have become heavy, like someone was pushing down on it with every struggling inhale.

With clouded skies and whipping wind, she sits up on the hood of the car, her brows furrowing deeply. The freezing autumn air blows the hair from her face as she squints through the sudden, eerie darkness to search for the man who'd just been lounging with her only seconds ago. As if in taunt, the world around her goes darker for a brief couple of minutes and that weight on her chest becomes overwhelmingly heavy at the prospect of never being able to find him again through the storm. He'd been there one moment and gone the next, as if something, or someone, had snatched him right from her arms. Those whines escalate into cries, the absence of him beside her, both in the real and fabricated world, leaving her distressed.

But she gathers her strength, rallies her courage, and crawls off the hood of the car, daring to step down into the dirt to chase after him just as he had for her last night when she went fleeing into her own storm. It downright terrifies her, but, for him, nothing could stop her.

Except, of course, Grant.

As if on cue, she can make out the silhouetted figures of both men far down the trail that leads to the water. They're fighting, that is clear enough, and she can see her husband starting to gain the upper hand over her lover.

He's violently shoving him into the water, not an ounce of mercy shown on his face as he delights in hurting a man who dared to love someone he feels is his property, so she bursts into action without thinking about consequences or her own safety. With Bill in danger, safety isn't on her mind. All that exists when she begins to sprint down the beaten down path to where he's being shoved beneath the surface of the water, kicking and screaming, is fear. As it always is, it's cruel and harsh and unforgiving. It makes seeing anything outside of those figures at the waterfront impossible and she doesn't bother with clear thinking or even realize it's a dream.

Because, truly, it isn't one.

This is the reality she faces with him with every second they risk being together, but she can't let it consume her, right? This is a page picked right out of her list of worst fears, but how is silently suffering the only other option she has? There has to be a way out, a light at the end of this infinite tunnel, or else she'll lose her mind for real this time.

Her legs move simultaneously as slow and fast as they ever have while she tumbles down the path to chaos. Rocks and thorns tear at her bare feet, but she pays them no heed. Always too far out of reach, constantly too close and too distant, Bill struggles for his life. She can see him break the surface of the water for only a second before being forced back underneath instantly. Her scream pierces out through the air at them both, but they can't hear it and it does nothing to save him or distract his attacker. The dirt turns into mud as rain begins to pour down as rapidly and intensely as it had when she ran to his house last night and it splashes up on her legs with every thundering step she takes. Her feet seem to sink into it every time she moves for where they're fighting, slowing her down significantly, and she cries out his name, begging her husband to stop, please stop.

The rain, wind, and mud consumes her in her attempts to reach them. Her body is held back by some higher type of power, forcing her to look and do nothing as his efforts to overpower the attacks become tired, as if he's starting to fade away. At that realization, she cannot help but thrash and wail and give her all to the cause of getting to and saving him, but she knows that trying is useless. She feels hopeless, but never stops crawling through the storm for him. Mud cakes beneath her fingernails and her hands go numb from the freezing bite of the chilled air, knees scraping the ground with every time she pulls herself forward.

She's screaming when he finally stops moving, body going limp beneath Grant's hands pushing him under water, and after he lets him float away, he's turning back to look at her.

Taking his time, he approaches her with a look on his face that she's far too aquatinted with, it's only when he reaches her and his hands suddenly grip her by the shoulders that she's saved from her personal hell.

Y/N jolts as she wakes to the unfamiliar, but cozy room she took refuge in last night.

Oscar is standing on her chest over the layers of sheets and blankets that all of her thrashing could not remove, wide emerald eyes staring down at her in an alarmingly human-like manner. He had been cuddled up between her legs, his preferred spot to sleep at whether its Bill he's curled up with or anyone else on the rare occasion he goes into other parts of the house, when her sudden movement and crying startled him from his own rest. Sensing her discomfort, he ditched his usual waking routine of stretching and instantly running for his water bowl for crawling atop her to get a closer look. She nearly flung him off when she woke up and her body jerked with the shift in scenery.

Her breathing is still as rapid as it had been while she dreamt, but her heart rate does manage to slow upon realizing whose room she's in. The cotton pillowcase is soft on her cheek when she lets her head roll to the side in relief, a sigh falling from her lips as she processes the fact that none of what she experienced actually happened. He wasn't killed and she isn't about to be beaten to death, they're both safe and he's just at work right now...the word seems to resonate with her in an instant.

Safe.

He had told her last night that she would be safe here, that Grant couldn't find her at a place he couldn't possible be aware of, at least when it comes to her being here. And despite her worries that find her no matter how much she tries to reason with herself, it is logical enough for her to trust it, to let herself trust him. God knows he most likely has his suspicions, hell, he's even accused her of being unfaithful in times when he isolated her from the world so badly that she couldn't meet anyone new if she tried, but he doesn't know that they know each other, let alone know that they're together now.

Are we together now? She lets the question fester there for a while, then concludes that after their confessions last night, it'd be weird if they didn't consider this as them being together. He loves me, she thinks to herself, I never would have thought...

Love was something she figured was lost on her as soon as she stopped feeling any emotions at all far into her twisted marriage.

For the stretch of time between moving here and meeting Bill, she had been numb to it all. To do anything took too much time and energy and she felt happiest when she was sleeping at night. It didn't matter that it wasn't easy sleep, since she could never rest as well as she did last night when laying beside hm, all that mattered was that she wasn't experiencing her perpetual numbness to the world surrounding her. In sleep, she didn't have to face pain or sadness or anything at all. It was blissful and quiet...but things have changed.

Now she's starting to feel again and she'd forgotten how it felt to do so. Between the happiness she feels when she's with Bill and the turbulent emotions she experiences at most other times, she's full of emotion right now. And, though it's perplexing at times, she doesn't reject it outright. Feeling something is better than feeling nothing at all.

Oscar purrs when she absentmindedly begins to pet him, his black coat silken beneath her palm as she does it and the repetitive action steadies her through the come down from the nightmare.

Although a nightmare like that would typically push her further into her endless cycles of fear and hesitation, now that she's calming down, it only solidifies the way she felt last night. It's easier to think clearly the farther she is from her home life and being away gives her the strength she needs to assess their situation the way it needs to be. Instead of being the occupied by her need to survive, she's left with a freedom she hasn't had in years. It leaves her quiet and thoughtful, caught up in the possibilities of it all.

He hadn't necessarily been wrong in what he said to her before they came inside from the rain yesterday. What Grant doesn't know can't hurt him and if they keep their interactions a secret, which they've had no problem doing for a while now, it can't pose too much of a risk, right? Whether or not their relationship was platonic, which it never truly had been, or romantic, it would've landed them in trouble anyway, so why deny their feelings if it was going to be an issue either way? It's hard for her to accept it, but she doesn't owe him a thing. He had violated her trust and showed her a lack of basic human respect before any of this happened, he had violated her and manipulated her in a way that broke their vows more than what she's doing ever will. He gave up his right to her loyalty the moment he laid his hands on her.

The room is warm, so she kicks the blankets off of her, as politely as she can as to not annoy the cat on her chest, and debates switching on the fan in the corner. Since she isn't scheduled to work today, there's nothing much to do other than lay here, watch TV, and cuddle with Oscar anyway, she might as well get comfortable.

After an hour or two of doing nothing, she finally gets out of bed and sneaks into the kitchen to eat something. Nobody is home, so there's no need to worry about that, but it does feel like an intrusion to go into the house when neither he or his parents are here. She gets over it quickly though, giving in to the call of her grumbling stomach that felt particularly drawn to the cabinet with oatmeal in it, her hands scooping up the carton of milk from the refrigerator and the cinnamon from the spice rack on the counter along the way.

She and Oscar both eat their breakfast at the table, his bowl and glass of water set at the placemat beside her own.

It felt strange, cooking without the need to be quiet so she won't somehow wake and provoke Grant, eating without feeling sick to her stomach that she might not make it out the door without a fight, but it does appeal to her. How could it not? The idea of being a part of Bill's life and doing the mundane, domestic things that come with that makes her want to smile.

It's something she could get used to, she supposes.

-

The sun is setting by the time Bill comes home.

Exhausted from a day of constant work, he sighed in relief as soon as he got behind the wheel of his car and realized she'd be at home waiting for him. Work was, well, work, but it did pass by fast due to how busy it had been today. He's decent at what he does, which isn't surprising considering how long he's been doing it, and today hadn't been too bad, so he isn't too quick to complain. It had been odd to go about his day as if nothing changed though. Knowing she was still asleep back in his room while he was there pretending everything was normal had been weird.

Last night had been strange. Terrible, wonderful, and strange.

Never in a million years would he have expected to see her there on the other side of the garage door, shivering and crying, seeking help. After what she said to him when he went to talk to her at the cafe, he thought she wanted nothing to do with him. In a way, he did suspect, and ultimately know, that it had to do with her husband because everything always leads back to him in the end, but she told him to go, so he went. It didn't matter that she was only saying it to protect him, though in her own, somewhat broken way, all he knew was that she didn't want him around anymore and there was nothing he could do to change it.

That was until last night.

Until, for reasons he may never know, she found a way to fight back and stand up for herself. It took her ages, but perhaps knowing that she finally had someone to back her up helped her feel secure in doing so. He knows that she'll inevitably have to return home tonight or, at the latest, tomorrow morning unless she decides to pack up and run away on a whim, but he tried not to think about it too much all day. It hadn't distracted him from what he had to do, but it did remain lodged in the back of his mind all day and no amount of work could remove it. He had to constantly remind himself that she's safe, nothing could happen to her, and that she can handle herself. His anxieties couldn't be prioritized over work, so he let it go.

The light in the garage is off and he assumes she's either resting or trying not to draw attention to herself, since she may not have realized that his parents have yet to come home, so he heads to shower off first.

It's always a process to get the oil and dirt off when it stains his skin after being under or bent over cars all day and it takes longer than usual this time, his entire body aching and tired. Sometimes he lets himself have unrealistic daydreams about writing full time and not having to scrub his hands raw every day after working, lets himself recklessly hope for a world where he can do what he loves and actually make a living off of it. It's a highly unlikely scenario considering the fact that most authors barely make any money off of writing alone and are forced to rely on multiple jobs, but it's not like he does it all the time. He only does it on days like these when life feels so confusing and overwhelming that there's nothing else to do except drift off to some faraway place. Today had been hard for him, even after last night.

Once he sees her again, he's sure that will change though.

He grabs something to eat on the way back to his room, just an apple he snatched from the kitchen, and doesn't think anything of the faint sound of a woman singing that he hears as he's opening the door.

Y/N, listening to music with headphones and entirely unaware of his company, is dancing.

The only light on in the room is that of the lamp on his bedside table with the dying bulb, which would explain why it seemed like she turned all the lights off to sleep, and the only sounds he can hear are her soft footfalls, the music that plays through the headphones she wears at what must be a deafening volume, and her quietly, very quietly, singing along to whatever tune is playing.

His eyes follow her movements as she sways with herself, hips moving back and forth rhythmically to the time of the music. It's unrestrained and loose in the way that you always dance when you think no one can see you. Not so much of a technically perfect masterpiece, but the kind of dancing that makes your soul happy. She'd be happy doing any form of dance, but not having to worry about form and technique as she always had to growing up feels great. Although, she hadn't considered the fact that he would come home soon when she lost track of time and ended up finding a tape of his to play in his old Walkman. It hadn't occurred to her that he could walk in on her dorky dance session, yet here they are.

He sets his apple down on the dresser, trying to be quiet in his movements as he settles back to observe.

The door that leads from the house into the garage is cold against his bare back as he leans back against it, arms crossing over his chest, and watches her solitary performance in amusement. At first, she'd been aimlessly wiggling around, but when he looks down at her feet, her steps look strangely organized and calculated, even if she isn't consciously trying to make it look as beautiful as it would with true effort.

She comes to a halt for a second, the music seeming to stop with her, then bursts back into dance and mouths the words to the song under her breath.

It's only when she spins in her place that she realizes he's been standing there. Because when she spun, she lost her balance and tripped over her own feet right into him.

It takes everything she has not to scream in shock loud enough to wake all of Derry.

Fingertips digging tightly into his skin, Y/N is clinging to him and it takes her a few seconds of hiding her face in his chest to raise it to meet his surprised gaze. Their bodies press together and his state of undress becomes painfully apparent as she looks him up, realizing that she very well could have accidentally ripped the towel off of him when she fell. Hands on bare skin, her pushed up against him, and silence plaguing the space between them; neither of them know what to do in the split-second after she fell and he jerked forward to catch her. It's hard to figure out whether she wants to address their current position first or the fact that he scared the living shit out of her. Despite their awkward current situation, she settles on the latter.

The room is quiet, save for the music distantly playing on the Walkman that fell on the floor, as they straighten themselves out, separating from one another almost instantly. He has to readjust the towel tied around his hips so this encounter doesn't go from awkward to downright mortifying. If she's too see him naked, she'd want it to be the appropriate time for it, not because she happened to be dancing around in his room and crashed into him so hard that she took his towel off.

"Uh-Why-" She stammers, "I was gonna say you shouldn't sneak up on me like that, but I probably shouldn't have been snooping through your old tapes in the first place..."

The tension in the air grows thick and inescapable and it's impossible for him to keep his cheeks from flushing with color at her wandering eyes. It's not as if she's deliberately ogling him, but...it's hard not to as well. For his sake, she tries to avoid looking at him entirely.

He gives her an awkward smile, shaking his head and offering, "I d-d-don't mind if you borrow them, I was j-just kind of-uh-distracted by the dancing. I wasn't expecting to w-w-wuh-walk in on that."

"Oh, God," her face falls into her hands, laughter escaping from deep in her chest, "I must have looked like such a dork-"

He doesn't give her the chance to put herself down.

"It was r-r-really cute, actually..."

The truth is, seeing her smiling and enjoying herself made that worry he'd felt festering all day disappear. Immediately, he felt himself smile and that familiar adoration flooded his heart the longer he spent watching her. It'd be a lie if he said that her almost undressing him to nothing didn't shift the energy between them a little bit, though. Last night, the tension had dissolved into nothing and they were left with honesty, raw and powerful, but that encounter just shifted that dynamic in a way so subtle, no one else could notice it. But they can.

It may make her feel stupid and immature for thinking in such a way, but she had been wanting more yesterday and that was only a reminder of their unspoken agreement for that to be postponed for a later time. And though he wouldn't admit it without blushing, it had done the same for him.

This budding relationship makes him feel giddy and nervous in a way he hasn't felt since he first began dating in High School. Logically, he knows he shouldn't feel this way. He's been with women before and, generally, has confidence when it comes to these things, but she makes his mind go blank and lose its train of thought the second she flashes those beautiful eyes at him. He felt more confident with her before they confessed their feelings, it's as if everything has changed in the wake of what they said and they still haven't adjusted to freely expressing their love for one another. He knows they should be able to be adults about this and communicate, but all it takes is one encounter much like what just happened and he becomes flustered.

"Thanks," She says.

The sheepish smile on her face makes him want to kiss her until their lips are numb, but he holds off for now.

Bill shrugs, "I mean it, it was cute, I didn't mean to s-s-s-scare you, but I got caught up w-watching you for a second..." there's a pause and then, "Also, you n-n-never told me you could dance."

It's an effort for her to not instantly scoff.

"I was just fooling around, that wasn't even real compared to the shit I used to do."

There's a curious look that blooms on his face at that, more specifically at the "used to" part of her sentence that implies something he never knew about her. Her being a dancer? It seems crazy considering the fact that she never once brought it up or accidentally let it slip in casual conversations they had hanging out at the Quarry.

"You u-u-used to dance?"

She wrings her hands in front of her as he gives her this new, unfamiliar look she's never seen him give her. As if he's seeing her in a way he never had, as if his perspective of her, although still true and faithful to who she is as a person, became a little wider at that trusting statement. Dancing is something so sacred and close to her heart, one of the sole remaining pieces she has of life before losing her parents, and, at first, she had felt exposed when she realized he saw her. It felt daunting and embarrassing, but then, only seconds ago, he looked at her in a way that calmed all of those nerves.

He thought they'd gone through almost everything with each other in the months that built to this, but, apparently, they hadn't went over everything. It occurs to him that there are still little passions and intricacies to one another that they have yet to explore, intricacies he would want to spend the rest of his life discovering and falling in love with. It's exciting.

They're standing a couple feet apart, hands now fallen at their sides, and she finally looks up to meet his gaze again. It's hard to ignore the feeling in her stomach at that.

"Yeah," Y/N says, letting her shoulders fall with her exhale, "Since I was little, I loved it and it's all I ever really wanted to do in life. Honestly, it's all I'm good at, but...then my parents' accident happened and for some reason, I couldn't do it anymore. Then I met Grant and you know the rest."

The first time she talked to him about her parents' car accident, he hadn't known what to do other than sit there in silence beside her and listen to every word she had to say. One topic bled into another and somehow, though she can never manage to talk about what happened in therapy or with anyone, she managed to open up about it to him. He helped her get through it, held her as she cried into his shoulder, and listened to what she had to tell him with understanding and compassion. She told him how hard it was to get up in the morning after they passed and how hard she had to work just to survive on her own since she suddenly had no place to live and couldn't afford the home she lived in with them. She was nineteen, homeless, and depressed beyond comprehension, but she had no choice but to pick herself back up and keep moving forward. Things changed when she met her husband, but for a while, it was only her against the world. It was incredibly isolating and lonely, but at least she hadn't experienced what she has now.

This lead him to talk about losing Georgie.

After they worked through the story of the accident that ruined her life, he told her about his missing little brother in depth for the first time. He knows that it's more likely that he's dead, but since he hasn't been found, his parents still cling to the idea that he might come home to to them. There had been a span of time that he had also held out unflinching hope that he wasn't gone forever, but by the time he was fifteen and five years had passed by, he accepted it. He died and nothing could bring him back no matter how hopeful he was. This is what made his heart ache for her when she broke down and began telling him what happened. Knowing how much it hurts to lose someone you love, he could easily sympathize with what happened to her.

He leans back against the door again, his heart beginning to return back to its normal pace.

"You s-should start again. Even if that w-w-wasn't you taking it seriously, you're talented and if you love it, you should at least do it f-f-f-f-for-for fun," He says, "But I have two left feet, so you're shit outta luck if you're looking for a p-p-partner."

The tension seems to dissipate slightly at this and she laughs.

"I don't need one, I did ballet," then she says, "but I did learn some ballroom when I was a teenager and I'm sure you can't be that bad."

There's a pause between them after she says that and before she reaches forward to take him by the hand that makes him lose his breath, that awkward transparency that lingers in the idle moments they share.

His hand is warm in her's when she takes it, fingertips brushing up his palm, and interlaces their fingers together to bring him in close. The feeling of having him so near steadies her in a way that nothing else can and she looks up at him, knowing that right now, in this moment, she's exactly where she's supposed to be.

For past six years since losing her parents, she's felt lost. Roaming without a place to call home, falling prey to a cruel man who took advantage of her when she was at her weakest and far less mature than he was, she lost sight of everything that made her her...but being with Bill helps center her. It was a realization that came to her weeks ago, but it still rings true: the feeling of being with him is that of how it once felt to slip on her pointe shoes and lose herself in dancing for a couple of hours. It feels exhilarating, freeing, and passionate. He's replaced what that once had done for her and for that, she's grateful.

Though he may not have consciously taken up that role in her life, he still did and his companionship has helped her find strength in an infinite amount of ways. He lets her disappear into him when she needs the kind of consoling only your true soulmate can provide for you.

It doesn't matter to her how cliche such a term is, it's what captures their bond best. They don't have to be similar in every way to be soul-bonded partners, the differences in him are what made her fall so hard. They're connected, but different. She dances away the woes of her heart in leaping jumps and turns, while he writes his out, words flowing one after the next with this inescapable need to capture a story that truly means something. She's darkness and moonlight and the far-off shining of distant stars, while he's balmy sunlight, candlelit evenings, and that indescribable weightlessness of free-falling on a rollercoaster.

And, now, after months of circling what they both knew was coming, here they are. She's made a home in his heart and desperately hopes that that won't have to change anytime soon. Nothing lasts forever, that they both know, but she wants to go the distance with him and knows that, in some way, there has to be a way for them to break free so that can be possible.

"It's actually easy," Y/N explains, finally pulling him the rest of the way in, "You have to place your arm like this around my back-"

He's still finding it hard to breathe with her touching him and starting to adjust his body position to be correct where it stands in line with her's. Even if he has no idea what any of what she says or does with him right now means, he smiles at the glimmer in her eyes when she's showing him a glimpse into what once had been her world. The music playing through the headphones on the floor is slow and the cadence of it strangely appropriate for the way they're beginning to dance, if one could even call what he does dancing. Her instructions are simple, but he wasn't lying when he said he has two left feet. When he went school dances many years ago, his dates couldn't exactly count on a romantic slow dance under the dimmed lights of the school gym. It was more of him accidentally stepping on their feet and trying not mess everything up. As much as he'd like to be more of a Ren, from Footloose, think more of Willard and one would better understand his incredible lack of skill.

Nevertheless, she adjusts his form here or there, then briefly disconnects her hands from his to reach down and grip him by the waist.

Her hands are gentle on him as she lets them wrap around his sides and pull him forward until their bodies are pressed together without a centimeter of space left between them. His chest is still damp from his shower, so those remaining drops of water dissolve into the fabric of the shirt she borrowed from him. The lack of distance between them is practically torturous, because they're so close and yet they still aren't able to break that barrier. It's nearing closer every second they spend this way, their patience after many long months spent in silent longing wearing impossibly thin, but she lingers in this moment they're sharing before letting her mind wander to those heart-pounding places. The idea of being with him in that way...

Him wrapping his arm back around her brings her from that thought with a quick jolt back to reality.

"I won't teach you any steps cause I'm sure you'd lose your mind trying, but just shift from one foot to the other," She says softly, avoiding his eyes, "Just remember to-um-keep that body contact at the middle..."

Bill seems to hesitate for a second, as if summoning the nerve to keep going, then murmurs back, "Luh-Like this?"

His hand drops to the southern-most point of her lower back, far enough to make her mouth run dry, and presses her into him by her hips. Something stirs in the pit of her abdomen at having to feel him against her there, the feeling so foreign, but so welcome. Most of the time, arousal is a mere physical reaction for her at this point in her marriage, even though it hasn't happened in ages, but with him-It's different in a way she wouldn't be able to discern. Because it isn't only her body reacting to him alone, it's her emotions and mind, it's everything. Never has someone made every single part of her ache with how much she wants them, yet he does.

She still can't manage to look up at him, especially after feeling shivers down her spine at that bold move he made, but she does answer back.

Her voice is strained, "Yeah," she clears her throat, "just like that."

They're swaying to that barely-audible music and both trying not to tremble as to not let the other know how much of an effect this closeness has on them.

Already having forgotten where to place his hands on her and how to hold himself, he worries that he messed it up, but after a minute or so, she still hasn't corrected him. It's for fun and the most dancing he's done in ages, so why would she bother ruining it with advice that he won't even remember? This is precious to her; time spent peacefully wrapped up in his arms where she doesn't have a thing to worry herself about. They aren't perfect, but when have they ever been that way? Their entire relationship has been intense and a whirlwind of emotions, but that doesn't make it bad. Just like how that doesn't make this bad since it's with him, it's better than having anyone else dancing by her side or with her as he is now.

Chasing perfection with fouettes and ronds de jambe had been cathartic back then, but now, simply standing here, barely moving, with him is enough. The fact that she's actually dancing right now, while for years following the accident all she ever did were little exercises she remembered to keep her in shape, is groundbreaking.

This month has been ever-changing, but she wouldn't change a thing if it would lead to anywhere other than here.

She looks up at him, still gently drifting back and worth with him, and says, "See, you aren't all that bad."

The bout of laughter that falls from him makes her brows furrow, but he doesn't bother to elaborate since he knows she knows why he laughs. As they both can realize, they're not really moving that much, it doesn't take that much skill to hold someone to you and sway a little bit.

Regardless of this, he offers back, "T-T-Thank you."

Her chest deflates against his with her heavy exhale and they don't back down from this vulnerable position they've put themselves into.

It's taken months for them to come this far and express their true feelings for one another, so they aren't inclined to waste any of the time they do have together. If they're lucky enough to have this love, they won't take it for granted any more than they already have and it's not as if there's any reason to hold back at this point. She's here and the reality of that has finally hit him, making him go quiet while he stares down at her.

It awes him to truly realize how much he loves her.

That first day they started talking at her cafe had been the start of something crazy and neither of them knew what was coming. It had blindsided them, at least it had done so to him, and his feelings for her hit him with the force of an oncoming train. They both had been suffocating in their separate lives, him due to the stagnant nature of his lonely existence of working and rejection letters and her for a much darker, more sinister reason. But, then, by the hand of a miracle, she saw him sitting there and decided she needed some company after a long day. And it was like learning how to breathe again, falling for her had given him hope when he hadn't known he'd been living in its absence. Everything about her drew him in, her eyes, her smile, her compassion, and heart, but that was the easiest part. What they're experiencing now is what's difficult and finding the courage to love without fear, to let this blossom amid such a harsh environment, is the hard part. But that's how he knows he's in love with her.

The difference between anyone else he's been with and her is the resilience of his feelings for her.

Had it been anyone else, a lesser connection, he'd be apprehensive, but it's her. He's staying and holding onto her through a persistently difficult time and that's why he knows what he feels is real. Anyone else would've been scared away by now, but not them. Their love is pure and unconditional in a way he hadn't known was possible. Sure, their relationship has only just begun, but their love has been existing and growing for months now and, if he's to be honest, it's one of the only things he believes in anymore.

They're still holding that eye contact when she leans up as far as she can and kisses him.

There's this weight that lifts off of him as soon as their lips meet. All of the stress from work, the rejection letters, and worrying about what Grant might do, it fades until there's nothing left for her to take but him. And he would gladly give himself to her, if she only asked.

Their interactions up until now haven't gotten too intense. It always ends with one of them hesitating or backing out, typically because no time ever felt right, but they can tell it feels different tonight. Sure, they're still getting a feel for their relationship and what it's going to be like, but they're still them. They still joke and talk as they always have, only now they're able to to express what has always been subdued and repressed before. Their feelings had always been there, although hidden, now all they have left to do is reach out and take them.

Bill kisses her back with a passion she hadn't known to expect, dizzying a little bit as the hands that had been resting on her back dip lower to press them together once more to mimic the way he had earlier. That feeling that stirs again in the pit of her stomach is overwhelming and she doesn't know what to do with the way he makes her feel. Every place where their bodies connect burns so beautifully inside of her and it's an addictive feeling. This isn't even the beginning of what they might do and she's already so high on him.

Whispering into the space between them, starting to pull at him from where she braces her hand on either arm, she asks, "Is this okay?"

Obviously, she means it regarding them continuing where they surely would've gone last night had she not fallen asleep, but he forgets the context for a second before finding his way through the fog in his mind that their touching causes.

His thumb brushes against her lower lip, her eyes shutting as she presses a kiss to the tip of it.

"Of course, b-but s-s-shuh-shouldn't I be asking you that?"

A fair, but unintentionally harsh question.

It isn't wrong of him to want her to be sure. In fact, it's endearing and sweet, but it does make her cringe as she recalls calling their first kiss a mistake the morning after it happened. It doesn't surprise her that he expects her to back out, becoming too overwhelmed or scared, but she knows that isn't what will happen. If there's anything she's sure of in this world, it's him. He's always had her back, as she has had his in return, from the beginning of what they have. She has a tendency of falling for horrible men, but perhaps he's the one she endured her ex boyfriend and husband for.

It is basic decency, she knows enough to know that, but being treated the way she deserves is still shocking every now and then. It began when they first started hanging out with little moments they'd share that felt unfamiliar and strangely comfortable in a way that contrasted her other relations and has now progressed to this. Her husband surely never cares if she truly wants to do anything with him and as long as she isn't actively shoving him away, he doesn't care. Her apprehension at the Quarry made sense. So she knows that he didn't mean the questions as a cruel jab at her for being scared and confused, but she stands in his arms and still gives it thought before answering, even if she already knows what she wants. After all, she's initiating it more than he is.

The blue in his eyes seems brighter than usual as she looks into them, her face softening with that love she has for the man in front of her. The way she's looking at him makes his heart stop.

His hand trembles as he lets it drag from where his thumb traced her lip down to cup the side of her jaw. The skin beneath is soft, making him want to explore every inch covered beneath the clothes she borrowed from him this morning.

The thought of that makes him want to smile to himself. Thinking about her waking up and picking out which of his shirts to wear and, as oddly primitive as it would sound, feeling protective over her at the idea of her wearing what's so easily identifiable as his. It's what he wears all the time, it smells like him, there's a couple of stubborn stains from work that he couldn't manage to remove, and it hangs off her frame lower than it ever goes on him due to his height.

Bill's free hand drifts along the collar of the t-shirt, running the fabric between his middle and forefinger, and he still can't fight that tremble in his fingers no matter how hard he tries. It's overwhelming for him too, he realizes, letting her in in this way, it's...a lot all at once. But he wouldn't have it any other way.

Meanwhile, she lost the ability to breathe as soon as he started absentmindedly fiddling with the collar of the shirt she's wearing.

As soon as she felt him there, her mind brought forth that poisonous memory of Grant cinching the collar of Bill's shirt around her neck until she could barely get any air in her lungs. It had been commanding and controlling and she remembers how it reminded her of a mother holding her pup by its neck in an attempt to move or control them. That's what he had been doing: flaunting his power and control over her as if scolding a naive, misbehaving animal. She woke up the next morning needing to undo one of the buttons as to not feel the way it had dug into her neck all day long and there was a faint mark left in her skin from the incident that she had to cover with a thin layer of face makeup. The bruise has already faded, but she'll never forget looking in the mirror that morning and seeing the proof of having something given to her by the man she loves, the only scrap of freedom in her miserable life, used against her. Still, she couldn't bear to part with it, not when she knew she'd likely have to break whatever it was they were up to off as soon as she saw him again.

That's why she's holding her breath right now, trying not to let on how anxious that simple movement made her. Anyone else wouldn't have noticed, would've go on without a second thought, but that brought her back to a terrifying moment in her life. It makes her wonder how on earth he could love someone so broken...it makes her think this is a all a dream...

But then, he doesn't pull that collar around her neck as her mind had convinced her he would. Instead, his hand slides down to rest on her shoulder as he waits for her response. This is what gives her clarity, that stark difference between the two men that couldn't be more obvious, but had seemed blurred in the thick of that panicked memory.

He watches her work through those thoughts he doesn't realize she's having and rubs circles into the tense muscles at her shoulder.

She decides that this is that last of their hesitation and fear. Grant won't be able to control the one thing she has left, she can't let that happen. Cause Bill is her's, he's all she wants and she knows very well that his heart lies in her hands, but isn't as sure that he knows that it goes both ways. If there's any chance that her words from last month still cause any hurt, despite her intentions, she wants to settle it right at this moment. Before anything happens, before they dive into this relationship head first, she wants to make it clear that she'll gladly give herself to him in return.

He asks again and it brings her back to him, "Y-Y-Y-You're sure?"

The entire town seems to go still in the time between what he asks and when she responds, but he'd endure that wait that seems so endless over and over again if he knew what she wants to say.

Y/N runs her hand up the length of his arm leading to his neck and runs her fingers through his hair. Her lips curl in a barely-visible smile.

"I know I said some things I didn't mean when I was afraid, but," a shaking breath falls from her, "Loving you isn't, and will never be, a mistake. I didn't mean to hurt you, I was just terrified of what he might've done to us if I didn't push you away, but I don't care anymore. I'm tired of pretending, I just want you, I want this...I've wanted this for a while now."

There's no telling who leans into who first, but they're connected before either of them have the chance to blink.

They kiss and their hands grasp hungrily, but not aggressively, as she nudges him back in the direction of where his bed is pushed into the corner of the room. Every step is stumbling and slow, as if their bodies can't process any instructions from their minds as they try to fathom exactly what's happening, this eruption of emotion and tension that's been slowly building over the course of this past year.

Their bodies go on auto-pilot, blindly throwing them into the actions that should come as second nature to them, yet feel fresh and new considering who they're being done with. Sex hasn't been something for her to enjoy for a while, so the amount of attention he's giving to her satisfaction already is making her head spin. Knowing how he's always been with her, this doesn't come as a surprise. He's the kind of lover she anticipated he'd be, albeit a few surprises she couldn't have known due to the strictly platonic nature of their relationship before. She had her fantasies and an idea of this fabricated in her head, but he's much more confident in what he does than she ever pictured.

That passion that burns within him knows no limits, apparently, and they're utterly hypnotized by each other.

Bill opens his mouth to her and finds himself turned on embarrassingly fast by how in charge she is of the situation, her tongue having prodded at his mouth as if in question. That was what he got right, he supposes, his assumption in the fact that she'd want to take charge of it all no matter his confidence. Her lips are soft against his as they clash and their tongues meet in the middle of the fervid interaction, a part of him far lower beginning to press against her to where she can't ignore it.

The thought of making him feel that way...

"The bed," Her voice is hushed and low, a tone he's never heard her take with him before, then she says through a moan as he kisses at that sweet spot on her neck, "Please."

If he weren't half-hard already, that alone would've done it. The unspeakable things that that invade his mind at the way she sounded for him are infinite, all of those thoughts fueling their heady arousal. Not a second of hesitation to get in the way, he nods against where he's mouthing at her neck and crouches in place partway, body teasingly sliding against her own, to scoop her up in his arms.

Their mouths reconnect as he lifts her with a casual grace and strength that takes her breath away and does what she so kindly asked for.

The sheets are disheveled as he turns and lays her down upon them without another thought. They're well-loved and worn, the soft cotton brushing her arms as she scoots back and pulls him after her.

He has no complaints at her firm, but loving direction and there's nothing to do but admire the sight of her. She's reaching out for him, her eyes heavy with something far different from the exhaustion that had been there last night, and he only lets himself linger above her for a second before falling back into the rhythm they've set together. But for the second he does take, he does nothing but stare in awe at the fact that this is really happening. Last month he had been thinking of this happening as an unrealistic fantasy, a desire that would never be entertained, yet now she's looking up at him like he means the world to her and there's nothing to do but appreciate it. That second he took to look her up and down in disbelief will be burned into his mind forever.

No one's ever made him feel so alive, not in a long, long time. He doesn't have to ask to know that she returns the sentiment and she can feel that mutual sense of wonder between them at the realization that this is, in fact, happening. She never wants to leave the safety of his arms and the budding pleasure he's causing. If there's a way to live in a moment forever, she'll stay here with him until the end of time.

The muscle in his jaw contracts when she reaches down to tug his shirt up the length of her torso. Fabric gives way to a beautiful expanse of bare skin and the air feels chilly on her braless chest.

His hands are more of a shock to her skin though, making her shiver in delight and in reaction to his warmth at where his hands glide up her chest. The palms of his hands are whispers of a touch at first and he brushes over her breasts as if he'll break her with each gentle stroke. It's sweet, loving, and it makes her have to fight the smile that begs to cross her face at the care he takes with her. Except, at the same time, she wants him to know that she's not fragile and he doesn't have to hold anything back with her. The way he had been kissing her made her dizzy and that's exactly what she wants...she wants him to make her see stars with how much pleasure he gives her.

"I won't break," Y/N whispers, soft laughter escaping her, "I promise."

This seems to reassure his confidence, replacing the worry he began to harbor, worry that made him wonder if they should slow it down, and he smiles.

He says, "I'll t-t-take your w-word for it."

Bill tries not to worry, to not think about anything but what's in front of them, and lets his thoughts fade into background noise as he leans down to press lingering, open-mouthed kisses to her chest. Her chest shudders against every loving brush he makes on her, whether it be his hands kneading her breasts or his lips following that path, stopping to kiss at the sensitive skin on his way past.

Negativity has no place here, not when they're together and he's making her feel this way. It would be a waste to let anything get between them now. After all of the internal issues and doubts she's overcome when it comes to letting herself love him, she's not going to back out now and deny herself of the one person that makes life worth living. The one person in this world that she cares about and loves...

The lamplight illuminates his path down the length of her body.

He takes it slow, appreciates every inch of her that he discovers, and that light makes the saliva left behind from his trail of kisses glisten against her bare chest and wavering stomach. With every sharp breath and soft whine she makes, he becomes more sure in what he's doing. It's still experimental and breathtaking, but any smidge of encouragement from her makes him let go a little more. Rather than succumbing to the need to hide that these recent months have given them the instinct to do, they let themselves be seen.

Her back arches into every nip, kiss, and lick he gives her and that attention focuses in on the stretch of skin just above the waistband of her pants. The sensation of it, having him so close to where she wants him to be, his breath hot where he exhales on her abdomen, and the anticipation of what he'll do next, makes her shiver.

The sight of him alone is almost undoing in itself.

Her eyes follow him as he cradles her hips with his hands and pleasures her, fingers dipping underneath both her pants and underwear to tug them down the length of her legs. It makes her face feel warm with embarrassment when he pulls the layers of clothing off, painstakingly slow, but she knows there isn't any judgement on his face. Quite the opposite, actually, if the way he's looking at her is to tell her anything. There's this glint in his eyes after he lets her underwear and the pajama pants she borrowed from him fall into a pile on the floor that she can't help but feel a little vulnerable at. But it's the good kind of vulnerable, the kind that you feel when you're entirely exposed to someone you love, when you trust someone wholeheartedly and know that they aren't going to betray this blind leap of faith that falling in love is.

He's kissing his way along her inner thigh, nearing dangerously close, but not giving her exactly what she seeks yet, and her hips jerk into him, neediness getting the better of her before she can stop herself. It was a mere reflex, a reaction her body had to all that he's doing to her and what she knows is about to happen. That relief is so close she can almost reach it, but he remains so teasingly close and far from her all at once. With a couple of his sweeps up and down those sensitive stretches of skin at her thighs, she can feel his lips brush nearer and nearer each time. It's a game and she's totally losing, with her arching and twisting and the hushed murmuring of his name. She has no idea what the last one does to him though, because if she did, she would keep doing it to tease him back and call out his name until he couldn't stand it any longer, until he'd get so frustrated and needy that he'd abandon this teasing all together.

Her leg hooks around his shoulder when he dips his head between her thighs and kisses her, sending her head falling back onto his pillow as soon as he makes contact with her.

One of Bill's hands strokes the curve of her waist as he loses himself in the noises she's making for him. All of it, her moans, the taste of her on his lips, slick with her arousal, and the hand that dropped to card through his hair, goes straight to his neglected erection and he's so hard he's practically out of his mind. The only relief he gets is when his hips press down on the mattress every so often and he feels a spark of that pleasure pulse across his body like a jolt of electricity that he desperately wants to succumb to.

It's an effort for her to form thoughts, let alone words, so anything that escapes her is choked and incoherent, said through a gasp or moan that makes his grip on her hips go a little tighter in reaction to it. The only thing she says that he can recognize is his name, the sound of it falling from her lips something he never wants to forget. Being with her is heaven on earth and, even if what they're doing isn't exactly holy at all, what he's doing is definitely a form of worship. Only instead of worshiping a god or religion, it's her and instead of praying at at an alter...Love itself is a form of worship, but sex has always felt intimate and sacred to him in a way that isn't as casual as it could be to someone else, especially now that it's her, someone he truly loves, that's beneath him. There's an enthusiasm and emotional layer to it now that he hadn't yet experienced and it makes his heart pound.

His tongue caresses that incredibly sensitive spot at the apex of her thighs without warning or a chance for her to prepare for the wave of ecstasy that hits her so forcefully. Fingers that had threaded into his hair pull unexpectedly at this sudden shift and he lets out a moan that sets fire to her blood. Not even having the capacity to blush or become sheepish at his own whining, and, in his opinion, embarrassing, moan, he angles his head to get closer to her and he supports that leg that's thrown over his shoulder with his free hand. He ignores the dull ache in his jaw in favor of continuing those hungry, open-mouthed kisses until she's melting in his arms, hand cupping the side of his head ever so lovingly.

"Bill" She breathes out.

The repeated focus he has on kissing and licking at her sends her reeling and she can hardly stand it, she's so sensitive to every tender, but effective caress of his lips against her.

Her stomach wavers with every breath she takes and he can feel every jerk and twist of her hips rolling with him, with the tension that's building in the pit of her abdomen. She's only ever had sex with two people until now, the first having been so bad, due to their inexperience and age, that it makes her want to cringe just thinking about it and the other is Grant. He, of course, has never made her feel this way. She's enjoyed sex before, but with Bill it's a feeling unlike anything she's experienced before and it's impossible for her to focus on anything other than him. He won't stop touching and kissing her and she loves it, his enthusiasm, despite the slight uncertainty they share since this is the first time they've been together this way, excites her.

In fact, it excites her a little too much and she can sense her oncoming orgasm as if it's right there and all it'll take is another brush of his mouth on that bundle of nerves-

Y/N uses the hand that had been cupping the side of his head to dip down and pull his face to look up at her. At first, she can see worry line his face upon realizing that she stopped him and she knows he's about to ask if she wants to stop or if he did something to make her uncomfortable, but she's speaking before he can find the words.

"C'mere."

So, he does.

He crawls back up to her, the towel around his hips so disheveled that it's nearly falling off, and she takes him back into her arms. Her palms runs up his chest to his shoulders and she can hear his breath catching in his throat at her touching him, even if it's much more of an innocent touch than what he was just doing to her was. She finds her mind going blank for a brief time, too busy with staring up at him and admiring what she sees to think about what to do or say. His lips are red and the tiniest bit swollen from the constant irritation and it makes her want to kiss him. It makes her want to keep him here and kiss him until the world is crumbling to pieces around them, but they'd still be too caught up in one another to notice a damn thing.

There's a lingering five or so seconds that he gives her a chance to say something, but when she doesn't and keeps looking up at him with a certain look in her eyes that he can't seem to understand, he does it instead.

"Y-You okay?" Bill asks, voice light with worry, "We can s-s-stuh-stop if you want to."

But she's shaking head as soon as the last part leaves him and the question brings her out of the trance he unknowingly put her in with that taunting mouth of his.

Her hands both trail back down from where they were resting on his shoulders, "I'm fine," she says, "I don't wanna stop."

Why would she, anyway? He's only looking out for her, which is something she appreciates and loves about him more than she could ever express, but to her, the answer is a given.

Between the emotional and physical aspects of what's happening, she's overloaded with happiness and satisfaction. There's still that need she has that won't leave her until he calms it, makes love to her, and helps put out the fire he's causing to burn so brightly within her, but she's already satisfied beyond imagination. Being here with him makes her forget life outside of this and, though she knows she must go home at some point tomorrow, they still have tonight to soak up all of the affection they have to give to each other. Even if she lives in a world of darkness at home, he's her sunlight and nothing could change that, not even Grant.

His fingertips trace languid circles at the edge of her nipple, the pad of his thumb barely grazing her, but enough so that she shuts her eyes in appreciation for a second.

The space between them, however small, feels too far and they want nothing more to cross it and become as close as they physically can, to keep going until all either of them can remember is how it felt to be so wonderfully close.

He whispers, "You're s-s-sure?"

Y/N wants him so badly, she's sure she'll lose her mind for every second they spend idle, but she knows she can't expect him to know without her telling him as much...it seems that she'll just have to show him then.

"Of course."

This time, neither of them can get another word in, let alone another heartfelt confession or declaration of their love, and she's on him quicker than he can register. This time, her declaration of love is that of the carnal sort and she shares a state of mind quite similar to his when he was going down on her a moment ago, the mindset of treating this as a form of cherishing her lover and connecting with him in a way she hasn't been able to yet. More than it's a physical act, it's something that confirms everything she's felt for ages now and provides relief to that ever-present desire that had been forced to lie dormant for so long. Perhaps tomorrow she'll have to go back to pretending this love doesn't exist at home, but it doesn't matter. At least the pretending will be tolerable since she's actually with him now. Knowing that she'll have him by her side is enough to make her spit in the face of the fear that had once paralyzed her.

They kiss and he's fumbling to reach to unwrap the disarranged towel from around his hips, an unintelligible whisper of a profanity escaping him as she brushes against where his dick presses against the fabric of the towel while she tries to help rid him of the last layer between them. The damp towel slides off of him, revealing him to her in a slow, sensual way that has her biting down on her lip hard enough to almost draw blood, and onto the pile of clothes on the floor without a sound.

She can taste herself on his lips, as well as the mint of his toothpaste from when he'd brushed his teeth after he showered, as they reconnect and she's guiding him to turn onto his back until he's underneath her.

Bill can't help the moan he makes into her mouth when she settles on top of him, feeling her roll her hips down against him and delighting in the relief that she provides. It hadn't been on purpose or to tease him, but simply her body moving forward at him in an inexplicable need to get closer. She already has him this worked up and they aren't even doing anything right now, it's driving him wild with every second he spends this way. With her hands wandering all over him, one drifting much lower than the other does, low enough for him to jerk into her hand involuntarily, he's about to burst of his skin and everything she does intensifies this feeling.

Her chest presses against his with every heavy breath they take and there's a thin sheen of sweat that she can taste on his skin when Y/N ducks down as much as their current position, her sitting in his lap with a leg on either side of his hips while he's sitting up with her, will allow so she can suck a love bite onto him. They both know that leaving any sort of similar marks on her would end badly, but on him? He can hardly catch his breath with all that she's doing to him; her teeth nipping at that sweet spot on his neck, the more than occasional grind of her body against his, and the hand that slipped between them to run a finger down the length of him until she catches a drop of pre-come on her fingertip. All of these combined makes him have to shut his eyes, brows furrowing at the spike in pleasure, and he can barely string together a sentence in the heat of the moment. That drop of pre-come ends up dripping down her hand when she wraps it around him.

He tries to reach for the bedside table, but he can hardly tear himself away for her. Instead, he just tells her, too overwhelmed to see clearly through the haze in his mind.

"C-C-Cuh-Condoms are in the f-first-first drawer," He manages to say through every stroke of her hand and the lips that trail back up his jaw to his mouth.

There's a dip of silence in the room where all that can been heard is the distant playing of music from the Walkman that's still lying on the floor, forgotten, and the sounds they're producing. It's a cacophony of the undeniably hot sounds of their moans and lips meeting through the otherwise still and silent house. Slipping his tongue into her her mouth, Bill kisses her back with everything he has and doesn't hold back, not when she's making it so clear to him that she truly does want this-want him. It's still hard to believe that only weeks ago this scenario had been a fantasy and now it's real. It's real and he's so in love with her and so caught up in this intoxicating desire that it's hard to wrap his head around it all. But it is real, that much he knows, and he couldn't be more grateful for the fact that, even for a night, they can forget about everything else going on in their lives.

When she's pulling away to speak into the space between them, she teasingly, and gently, of course, pulls on his bottom lip with her teeth and this somehow makes him smile through it all.

"I'm-" The words are cut off with them being unable to go a few seconds without touching and kissing one another, that thought stopping in its tracks, and she has to force herself to stop for the short time it takes to say, "I'm on the pill," and they reconnect as soon as it leaves her.

It's still a challenge to hide the fact that she takes birth control from Grant, since he wants to try for children and she sure as hell won't let that happen, not with him, but she manages to pull it off. The idea of bringing a child into that house is scary enough for her to risk the anger she'd face should he ever figured out that she's been thwarting their baby-making efforts from the start. It's been a while since she and him have even done that, but she still takes it and hides the evidence of it just to be on the safe side. He must think she's incapable of having children at this point, but the last thing she needs in her life, with the environment she's been trapped in, is another person to protect. She can hardly protect herself, let alone a helpless infant, and she knows that having his child would only be another form of imprisonment. It would bind her to him more than this foolish marriage already has and he'd use it to trap her with him forever. And forever, with him, sounds like hell on earth.

Meanwhile, she longs to spend forever in Bill's arms. Rather than the dread she feels at the thought of having to stay with her husband for eternity, she feels free at the idea of staying with Bill for as long as she possibly can. Being with him never feels like work and his presence never suffocates her as the other man's presence often does. He's courageous and strong, but he's also soft, in a way. When he genuinely loves someone, his entire soul aches with the feeling and he feels no shame in that. It's that same connection he once had with his band of Losers that he feels with her, only their connection with him had been largely platonic. The same brand of devotion and care, only shifted. It's love, but in a more intense and romantic shade that he hasn't experienced until now.

He hums against her in response to what she said, nodding, and lets his mind go silent as he grounds himself to the moment they're sharing together. Thoughtless and dizzy with desire, they're both beginning to descend further into this faraway haven they've made for themselves to hide away in.

Neither of them can catch their breath as she raises her hips, enough so that he has to chase her lips a little with the movement, and sinks down onto him.

All he can do while she's adjusting to the feeling of him inside of her is rub comfortingly along her back, the breaths that she can manage to get in are all so shallow and shaking. It's not too uncomfortable of a feeling, he's not so overwhelming that it hurts, but it's a different kind of sensation and she can't help but feel incredibly full. That paired with her not having had sex in months makes this a gentle and delicate process. There's no need to rush things, so neither of them are bothered with the time they take, but she does find herself becoming impatient and wants to move things along by the time that pressure slowly ebbs into a surging spark of pleasure.

They're both drunk on this feeling and she doesn't know how to process all that she feels when she finally moves on him; their noses brushing and foreheads pressed close together. Bill can hardly function outside of sliding his hands down from where they were braced on her waist to settle on either hip as she makes that first dizzying roll of her hips against him. With every slow move she makes, she can almost feel that connection between them solidify into something tangible and real and her heart is overcome with how much she loves him. Between the rough times she's had and the wonderful days they've shared together, he was there either way and he proved to her, long before what they were ever amounted to this, that he truly cared. That this isn't just some easy fling in his eyes, because she knows that if she even thought that were the case, she wouldn't be here.

There was a time that they did get onto the topic of love and relationships, a conversation about her marriage that she quickly distracted him from and ended up flipping the questions back into him for. This conversation gave her all she really needed to understand what he's like in a relationship from a, previously, outsider perspective. She asked him if he ever got married, or at least came close, and he said no, but did say that there had been a few relationships here or there when a person truly captured his attention. He's only had one or two serious relationships and a couple of ones that didn't quite work out, he's overall more of a serious, "if I'm with you, it's cause I love you" kind of guy. Even before she asked, he never struck her as the type to date out of boredom or because he wants a distraction.

Her fingernails dig into his skin so hard it nearly hurts from where her hands grip his shoulders and he gasps a little into her mouth at the feeling, the pleasure and pain blending into something that effectively melts him in her arms. It's everything she does that makes him already feel so hot with that familiar sense of bliss, enough so that he has to actively distract himself so he doesn't end this far too quickly. The fact that it's taking so little for him to be this worked up almost embarrasses him, but he knows it's only because of the excitement they both feel and the fact that it her that he's with, for the first time too.

He looks up at her and his face softens upon meeting her starry-eyed gaze. Their bodies and faces press together with every intensifying movement that sends them in closer to each other; bare, trembling stomaches meeting each time he disappears into her, muscles contracting the effort of holding themselves in this position, and hearts beating fast.

Y/N almost doesn't catch him saying her name, the sound having a low and sonorous quality to it that she didn't hear until the last syllable that managed to bring her back to reality. It's an effort to keep from drifting into that entrancing haze that he sends her into, but hearing him murmur her name makes that feeling in the lowest part of her abdomen intensify. They meld together beautifully, she finds herself thinking, as she kisses him and finds a satisfying rhythm that's enough to make both of their mouths run dry. It's eager and breathtaking, but loving, as is the tender guidance of his hands on her hips, helping to dull the burn in her legs from the constant strain by supporting her each time she draws back from him.

Her skin is flushed, cheeks warm with color, with the way he looks at her on the rare occasion that they tear themselves away to adjust or simply look at one another. He's looking at her like he's never seen someone or something so astonishing and it makes her want to hide, but she doesn't. Instead, she watches him as he admires her and doesn't back down, in spite of how intimidating such unabashed, blatant desire can be. Instead of feeling shy or self conscious, she feels a strange sense of strength and empowerment that has been entirely foreign to her for years now. Bill is looking at her with love in his eyes, as if he can't quite believe that she chose him, and that's where she supposes that her newfound strength is derived from; choice.

Giving herself to him in this way doesn't feel like weakness or the negative kind of vulnerability that often makes her feel small, it makes her feel alive because it isn't something she was coerced and frightened into partaking in. Love and sex doesn't feel ruined as it once had, it feels sacred.

She had once said to him, "-in any other world I would..." and the words she never got to say were that in any other world she would choose him. Yet now, she can't imagine hiding from the love they have for each other. All she knows is that she did choose him, choose this, and she knows that she would make the same choice in any world, their's included.

Bill can feel her shaking with the effort it takes to hold herself up, her legs nearly about to give out on her, and can tell she won't be able to sustain this for much longer.

So, he takes her into his arms, whispers a soft, "H-H-Huh-Hold on to m-me," and shifts them so that she's turned to lay on her back.

He's settling back down between her legs sooner than they can notice the time they spent apart.

They're both moaning into each other's mouths at the change in position as soon as he slides back into her. She's so aroused that there's barely any resistance and the thought of that, that he makes her feel that way and has that much of an effect on her, makes the returning thrust much deeper in a way that makes her let out a strangled gasp. Her grip on his waist goes far too tight in response and her hips are still held up slightly by the arm that is slipped around her back as she meets every perfect thrust he gives her. At this point, they're so lost in each other that nothing could possibly distract them. One movement flows into the next seamlessly, he draws her leg up so it's wrapped around him, and her hand glides along the plane of his lower back until she can feel the muscles there flexing as his back arches with those fluid, seemingly-effortless movements.

The way he's holding her lower half ever so slightly up to him creates this angle that has him hitting a spot that threatens to send her over the edge. She never knew that it could feel this great, but now she realizes that the difference before was that no one she's been with knew what the hell they were doing, meanwhile Bill definitely does. They obviously still have much more to figure out about each other and they've had little time to explore what exactly works for them since it's the first time they've gone this far together, but they seem to be coping magnificently well on instinct alone. She doesn't want to keep comparing him to her husband, but it's impossible not to when some of her only other memories to draw from are with him and they pale in comparison. Everything he's done with her is much more selfish and more about receiving than the mutual give and take that she's currently experiencing. With her current lover, they both put in effort and genuinely care about each other's enjoyment and even if that should be basic decency, it stuns her to a degree.

He's kissing, caressing, and appreciating every accessible inch of her and she doesn't feel deserving of so much praise and attention. Nevertheless, he gives it endlessly and without hesitation or doubt, finally they've managed to outgrow that phase of hidden feelings, pulling away, and doubting themselves. They succumb to their feelings, emotional and physical, and find themselves experiencing something dangerously similar to happiness. And the way she's beginning to grasp at him and move in time with him makes everything escalate. Knowing that she's getting closer and closer to where she had been on the brink of that peak earlier, he feels himself start to slip through the cracks too and she can sense this as those cadenced thrusts become deep and erratic, more so than they have been.

The hand that had been supporting that subtle angle he held her up at, no longer needed now that she has wrapped her legs tightly around him and supports herself easily, slips away to reach down between where their bodies merge. Soft skin brushing up against his palm, Bill lets his fingertips wander down the front of her body until he reaches what he seeks and watches her writhe underneath him with that first touch he makes to her clit.

Y/N loses her composure for a second in the wake of such a sudden spike in pleasure, the pressure he puts on that bundle of nerves making the hot, throbbing presence of him inside of her that much more gratifying.

It's nearly to the level of becoming overstimulating, but she knows that she's so close to climaxing that it'll be over before it'll get there. But it's still overwhelming in the best way possible to be surrounded by him in every way. All she sees, feels, and tastes is him and she wouldn't change that for the world. Merely looking into his eyes feels like too much, but she can't bear to look away and the intensity in that gaze only adds to the rest of what he does to her, between simple things like kisses to the sensation of him consistently hitting that sweet spot in her, sending her careening towards her end swiftly and powerfully.

All of it builds to a breaking point that's so close that she can sense it about to crash onto her, but all she needs is a little more, a little push, and he knows that she'll only be able to go so long before it inevitably hits in a matter of seconds. He's close too, so much so that focusing through what he's doing is difficult, and he's sure that he won't be able to keep it together at the sight of her coming undone, not that he'd want to stave it off any longer anyway. He supports his weight on his free arm while his other is shoved between their rutting bodies to give her that extra bit of toe-curling pleasure that ends up being what does it for her.

She's a trembling, blushing mess when that wave finally crests and she's left to do nothing but let it take her apart piece by piece.

Her body goes still against his and those shockwaves of euphoria have no mercy for her as she clings to him through it, her mouth open against his own in a soundless slack-jawed moan. It's in this moment that she feels entirely weightless in his arms and the rapture of it all forces everything nonessential from her mind until all that remains is them. It's peaceful and an amount of bliss that she can't begin to describe in the peak of that high because she can't focus on anything but how great it feels. Even if it doesn't last forever, for the most fleeting of moments, it's the most physically pleasing feeling one can experience and it hits her hard. She's only ever gotten to this point on her own, never at the hands of another person, and she never realized how much more intense it would be to have this happen while someone else is inside of her, still giving her his all while she's dissolving into that white-hot sensation. All she can process is the way he feels; holding her, kissing her, touching her, inside of her-he alone is her true north and right now nothing else matters because she knows that she'll stick to him through it all.

Bill's own movements falter at the feeling of her tensing around him and this draws a groan from him involuntarily, that steady rhythm they once had crumbling into something utterly chaotic with those last few thrusts that have him coming inside of her with a hot, breathy moan. The sound, paired with that spreading warmth she feels inside of her, makes her squeeze harder where her arms are wrapped around him until their chests are pressed together as close as physically possible and there's nothing left to give.

She can hear his breath and feel his body shake with that same indescribable feeling she just felt as they ride it out together, his nostrils flaring slightly on the exhale as they both come down from their highs and his body barely moving with every lazy, languid stroke he makes into her until that euphoria slowly but surely fades out for good.

Their chests rise and fall rapidly together, her breasts grazing against him every time she takes another heavy breath, and it takes a moment or so before they can fully come down from it to separate. They stay trapped in this dazed state for a while without thought or anything outside of the sense of eased happiness that they share. After he catches his breath through, he gently withdraws from her and turns to reach for the towel lying on top of her pile of clothes, offering it for the mess he undoubtedly made on her.

After murmuring a soft, "Thank you," and cleaning off the best she can without getting up to shower, Y/N wraps it up tidily and drops it back where it was left before.

The warmth of his body is inviting and comforting by the time she settles back down beside where he collapsed onto the mattress in exhaustion. He had already been tired from working all day, so this rendezvous took that last kernel of energy he had left and depleted it. It takes too much from him to simply lay here beside her and do something as simple as blinking or breathing, which makes him certain that he'll be falling asleep far sooner than he wants to. Yesterday, she had been the exhausted one trying to fight the urge to sleep, but now it's him. It's something about having her curled up next to him and the relaxation of that post-orgasmic haze, the pillows and blankets cradling their bodies.

Lying on her side, facing him, she watches him and her eyes follow every twitch or move he makes, not wanting to miss a thing. He's holding her and resting his head on the pillow beside her head rather than use the one on his side because he wants to cuddle in close to her. There's this sated smile on his face as she lets her touch run along his cheek and he leans into it instantaneously, as if it's second nature and feeling her there is something he may never have to question again.

He perks up when she speaks again.

"I wish I didn't have to go home tomorrow." She says, then leans so close that their foreheads press together, lips brushing so near that the air they share makes him feel a little dizzy, "You're making me never want to leave."

With a tender press of his lips to the corner of her mouth, Bill admits, "Me either, I w-w-w-wish things could always b-be this way..."

God, what a life that would be.

Living in this sort of happiness and genuine love without ever having to hide or take a break from it-it would be heaven. Plain and simple, it would feel like a form of heaven to spend the rest of her life right here with him, living in this moment. If only she could capture the feeling of his hand running up and down the length of her back or if she didn't have to go home tomorrow, the last thing either of them want is to have to leave this perfect little world they've created for themselves. But, then again, she knows that they'll always have tonight and this could never be ruined by the thought of what'll happen in the morning, today was too wonderful for that to be a possibility. Even if the thought of tomorrow might be frightening, his presence calms her and sings her soothing lullabies of liberation and a world where love can coexist with fear. She hears it in every brush of his fingertips on her skin and that sweet, tired smile on his face that tells her more than words ever could.

There's a pause between them for a second, then he murmurs into her lips, still struggling to keep his eyes open, "I luh-love you."

And this time, she doesn't response with a kiss. Instead, she scoots up to be closer to him and lets him envelop her in his arms, her head falling to use his shoulder as a pillow all while he watches her get comfortable with quiet longing. Only when she relaxes against him and pulls the blanket up to cover them does she return the sentiment, gently and lovingly. The sheets are soft on her skin every time she moves and they, paired with the warmth of his body, lull her into sleep with their comfort, but not before she says it back to him. If there's anything she can see through how tired she's getting for, it's that.

Bill is looking down at her in a way that makes her blush when she whispers back, never once backing down from that gaze, "I love you too."

It's as if she can't get enough of saying that after spending so long stifling the true extent of her feelings for him. She never wants to be afraid of saying that again.

Neither of them are sure who falls asleep first, but somewhere along the way, after a tired and whispered conversation, they both succumb to their exhaustion.

-

She's gone by the time he wakes.

Y/N woke early in the morning to the sound of one of his parents leaving for work, but didn't feel alarmed to the unfamiliarity of the room as she had felt yesterday. Rather than jolting awake in a panic, it was a gradual process that involved her procrastinating having to get up and leave him, something she dreaded doing long before he even came home last night to the point where she began to become anxious over their dwindling time. It all changed when he actually got home though, she took one look at him and couldn't find it in herself to be anything but happy. He makes it difficult to be anxious or afraid or upset whenever he's around. It'd be more effort to continue feeling such negative things rather than not when she's with him. First, the spontaneous dancing she had done helped to dull that dread and then it all disintegrated the moment she tripped into him.

That was still something she couldn't process though; the fact that she was dancing again, for real this time. She had been doing exercises for years and would keep her ankles strong for the sake of not losing everything she'd worked for, but that was the first time she'd truly been dancing the way she used to before her parent's accident. With passion and enjoyment and joy, not just some set of exercises and lifeless motion that it started to become in those lonely years following their deaths. It made her feel exposed, in a way, when he walked in on her dancing, but she knew he held no judgement for her and after giving it a moment, it felt good that he saw that side of her that no one else has in years.

Trying to make as little noise as possible as to not wake him, she slipped out of the front door without a word and made her way home on foot, as always considering that she doesn't have a car nor would she drive one if given the choice. It's a hassle sometimes, having to walk everywhere, but it's preferable to the full-blown panic attacks she has whenever she gets behind the wheel and tries to go somewhere. Her vision always narrows with tears and she's transported into the car that her mom and dad were in when they got hit, the sound of shrieking tires and shattering glass echoing so vividly in the back of her mind. So walking it always is, she decided, and went down his street with no small amount of sorrow at the prospect of returning home.

Bill has been awake for a half hour now, but has yet to get up for the day. He hadn't expected her to still be there when he woke, but finding the other half of the bed empty still brought a frown to his face.

One of his hands rests flat on the place she took up beside him last night as he becomes lost in thought.

Last night...where can he even begin with every feeling that's swirling around aimlessly within him. Last night was a lot and he hadn't expected so much to happen so fast, but he'd be a liar if he said he didn't welcome it. Being with her has always felt natural and correct and that clearly hasn't changed. But nevertheless, he can't help but feel closer to her in a way that you only can by crossing that physical barrier that they did. They have been emotionally close for months now and when they confessed their love for one another, they felt complete, but being able to express those feelings with physical actions was immensely satisfying. There isn't this inescapable need anymore and all either of them feel surrounding their relationship is happy, calm, and slightly afraid. It seems impossible for those feelings to blend together, but they do in this situation. As long as Grant is in her life, the latter of those feelings will not go away, not unless he somehow leaves.

The thought of the man has him huffing as he sits up, blinking away the sleep from his eyes, and stands to get dressed for the day-or at least dressed enough to not be naked anymore. He's still half asleep when he's pulling a pair of jeans up his legs.

It's not that he's going to interfere, not when she explicitly made it clear that doing so would put her in danger, but he desperately wishes to. It's been disturbing him, actually, the thoughts he's been having about him...

He's never been and never would be the type of person who enjoys harming others, but he's been having intrusive thoughts about hurting him. Deep down, he knows that that isn't what he's like and at the most, he's only ever punched someone when he was nineteen when they put their hands on Richie, but whenever she mentions him or he happens to cross his mind, he tenses and has to distract himself for that urge to find him and beat him unconscious to go away. He's never hated someone so much in his entire life, except, perhaps, the idea of the unknown person that took his brother from him. But this is different because he knows who's causing her harm and with Georgie's killer, he has no idea who could've done it. For all he knows, that sick fuck is still out there doing God knows what to people, but her husband is here, he lives here and he knows everything about him because of his conversations with Y/N. He's not sure if he can keep doing this-sitting by and letting him harm someone he loves deeply-and, more importantly, he doesn't to let it get so far that one day she might go home to him and never come back. He wouldn't be able to live with himself if she died and he knew what was happening to her the entire time, even if she told him not to do anything, wouldn't that make him just as guilty?

But, then again, him doing something could be what incites such a horrific event and they both know help cannot be found at the hands of as enforcement, at least not here. He's walking a very thin, dangerous line and there's no telling how to keep her safe since both helping and doing nothing at all puts her in danger. No matter what he does, his actions, or lack thereof, risk her life.

"Fucking hell," He murmurs, annoyed with himself, "stop t-t-t-thinking about it."

Distraction is, and has always been when it comes to this topic, key.

So, he forces himself to let go of those thoughts the best he can and lets out a heavy sigh, walking from the the garage/bedroom through the house until he reaches the front door. The sidewalk is wet and dew clings to every blade of grass in the yard from the rain that lasted all the way into mid-afternoon the day before when he steps out. Even if they never noticed nor showed any appreciation outside of a blank, "Thanks", he always brings the newspaper in for his mom and brews a pot of coffee for them in the morning.

It seems that no matter how aware he is of what they've done to him, intentionally or not, he'll never stop chasing their approval and affection.

It was much worse when the disappearance was fresh and the change they went through had hit hard like a slap to the face. He hadn't been used to such blatant avoidance from them and would do anything to try to capture their attention or bring a sense of normalcy upon their cold, empty house. No matter what he would do, whether it be his stellar grades in school or the rare occasion where he'd act out on purpose to see if it would garner him some attention, he was invisible to them.

Positive or negative, it didn't matter what kind of attention he sought after, he simply wasn't getting it. The only time he can recall getting something out of his mother was when he got jumped by Bowers and his cronies and came home with a black eye and a barely-there cut that the impression of his knife made on his neck. For once, she seemed to snap out of it and she offered him an ice pack, sat him down at the kitchen table, and cleaned him up. As soon as he was good to go, it was over, but that interaction alone made his heart feel warm with the love he hadn't gotten in over three years. Sometimes he'd hurt himself on purpose, just to see if she'd care again, but it was never as bad as that first time so it didn't strike her as odd enough to break character for.

Nevertheless, he's grown accustomed to this behavior and it doesn't phase him as badly as it had to a more sensitive, adolescent Bill. It still hurts, but it's not a new wound and even as he thinks about it now, it would be hard for it to ruin the good mood that Y/N put him in.

The morning air feels nice on his skin and he finds himself smiling faintly at the thought of how careful she must have been while leaving earlier, trying to disentangle herself from his sleeping form without disturbing him and giving him a kiss on the cheek, that he vaguely remembers, as a goodbye. She's always considerate and kind to him, more so than she is with anyone else. Not to say that she treats everyone else poorly, but simply not with as much love and care as she bestows upon him and it's flattering to even think about that.

Truth be told, he can't begin to wrap his head around what's happened with them, around these past two days and all that they signify for their relationship.

He's lost in his thoughts about her as he bends down to pick up the newspaper with a faint, gentle smile and doesn't hear the relaxed footsteps on wet pavement before the stranger is talking to him.

"Excuse me?" The man's voice makes his head snap up to look, "Sorry to bother you, but I've been going all over town today and I need help."

He finally manages to stand and bring himself out of the depths of his mind, but what he sees makes his heart stop.

The sounds of the rustling leaves and birds chirping falls on deaf ears as he stands and finds himself standing with a person he hates more than even he could describe. No amount of talent with words could capture the rage he feels when their eyes meet through the foggy morning and he realizes that, as if he summoned the man, Grant is standing with him at the foot of his driveway.

Taking his silence as permission to continue, another of his many problematic habits, Bill assumes, he elaborates, "My wife hasn't been home for two days now and that's not normal for her," He hands him a small picture, "She's missing and I was just wondering if you've seen her or saw her a couple days ago? Anything out of the ordinary or suspicious? A couple of the neighbors saw her walking on this street, so I figured I'd go door to door..."

To any unsuspecting person, his desperate efforts to find his wife would come across as a worried, loving husband trying to ensure the safety of the woman he loves. Bill supposes anyone who truly loves their partner would be quite worried anyway, cause he sure as hell knows that if she were truly missing, he'd do anything to find her or, if the worst possible scenario came true, put an end to the person who'd obviously be the one to kill her.

The newspaper is rolled up in his now clenched fist. Seeing her smiling face in that picture is the sole thing that stops him from taking the newspaper and shoving it down his throat.

"Uh-I c-can't-can't say that I have...I'm s-s-s-suh-" the words cant seem to come out.

In a mixture of his rage and the nervousness that wraps around him, he can't get it out and it's almost as if he can feel his throat closing up with every attempted syllable, though that may be the sudden nerves making breathing seem difficult.

Grant's eyes are heavy with exhaustion, but he also senses something a lot like annoyance there as he pauses to gather himself before trying to speak again. He's a nice looking guy, but that heaviness wears on him in a way that's telling when he considers all of the inside information he's been told. As if he's terrified that she left for good this time or is seeking help for what he puts her though and that fear is wearing on him. He isn't sure what this will mean for Y/N when he realizes that she's back, but it is briefly satisfying to see that, for once, she caused him fear rather than the other way around. His anguish is much more satisfying than any physical retaliation ever could be.

How dare he walk around and play the part of a distraught husband, though? Using the worry and fear he has for being caught and disguising it as love?

Interrupting, Grant asks, "You what?"

He can barely hold himself at bay, but manages to stuff down the embarrassment and anger for the sake of ending this conversation as fast as he possibly can.

"I'm s-s-sorry, I haven't seen her," a funny statement considering where exactly he was nine hours ago, "If I do, I'll l-l-let-let you know..."

Then, there's this moment of pause between the two men and Bill doesn't breathe once in that seemingly endless, though probably quite short, stretch of time. The piece of shit that torments her is standing right in front of him, so close that he could reach out and touch him, and he's almost buzzing with that unspent energy that the anger provides. His happiness surrounding the recent confessions he and Y/N made has been snuffed out by this distracting feeling. They're only standing a foot or so apart, that picture of her still in his hand, and it's as if time slows as he looks over at him, sizing him up.

"I know what you did," Bill says, then strikes.

Incapable of stopping himself, his fist lands the first blow to his face hard and powerfully, enough strength behind it for the punch to send him to the pavement. His knuckles instantly ache from the impact, but he can't bring himself to care about anything outside of the task at hand and he follows him to the ground. His body is hunched over the other man's as he groans in pain and he gives him no chance to recover before he's repeatedly beating his fist into the side of the head to forcefully that it lands with a crunch-inducing cringe every single time. Punch after punch, groans of pain turning to cries, he's screaming at him as he does it. His voice is raw as he yells at him and loses himself in every landing blow, eyes narrowing in an effort to focus.

His hands go numb, but he can't tear himself off and not even the sounds of his parents and neighbors shrieking in horror can do the trick. He's gone, he's disappearing into the rage and violence and there's blood splattering his face-

Bill snaps back into reality when he finally gets his response, having fallen into that useless daydream so deeply that it takes a couple of seconds for him to come back from it. Nothing happened, he hadn't punched him, he hadn't risked everything; all he did was zone out and probably make him think he's a lunatic with the way he'd been staring off at him.

"Thanks, I appreciate it."

Only four words, but the sound of his voice is insufferable enough to make him wish this were over with already so he could go back inside and take a freezing cold shower to bring himself down from whatever place he just visited in his mind. He didn't like it, whatever it was. He doesn't like the idea of wanting to hurt people, but he's a different story. The second he put hands on Y/N, he became a different story and even if he'll probably never get one good hit on him, he still wishes he could. If she only let him, he wouldn't hesitate to kick the shit out of him, if he even could. But the harsh reality is the opposite and he can't go against her wishes no matter how badly he wants to.

He moves to hand him the picture back, but stops abruptly, mind clearing of that fog that had clouded there. He looks over at him and doesn't let himself shrink away from the eye contact.

"I h-hope you find your wife," Bill says, handing him back the photograph, and finds it hard to choke the next words out, "You seem like a g-g-g-good man, take care."

By the time Grant has left and moved on to the next house, he's made his way up to the front door and lets his forehead fall against it in frustration. If he sees him again, he's not so sure he'll be able to keep his composure again and the last thing he wants is for her to get hurt because he'd been reckless and let his emotions take precedence over what's most important: her safety.

The house feels colder without her, he notes, and what just happened only worsens that.

-

The next few weeks pass by with a few bumps in the road, but remain as peaceful as possible overall. Perhaps more peaceful for the both of them than life has been in years.

Tub filled with scaldingly hot water, Bill shuts his eyes against her soothing touch as she reaches up and washes a cluster of bubbles off of his shoulder, the sound of the water splashing as it cascades along his skin soft and faint. His skin has gone a deep shade of red due to the heat, to the point where one would think it'd be uncomfortable, but it relaxes him more than it does discomfort him.

Following the interaction he had with her husband on the driveway, nothing else of particular importance has happened since September has begun to fly by. Life when they're together doesn't seem to drag on the way it does when she's trapped in that house with no one to interact with other than her batshit crazy husband. It comes as a bit of a shock to her every time there's a difference between the two of them that results in Bill treating her with basic respect, but she supposes it comes with the territory of finding love in less toxic places. She tries hard not to glorify those differences, seeing that treating your partner like a human being is the bare minimum, but sometimes his compassion and affection does give her butterflies. After a year of getting to know him and a month now of being with him, it hasn't been hard to realize that he has this quality to him that inexplicably attracts people. And, particularly when his attention is solely on her, she wonders how she was ever capable of pushing him away, though it was because she wanted to keep him safe.

Y/N is sitting on his lap, legs on either side of his hips, and she's absentmindedly brushing her fingers through his hair, pushing it back from where the wet strands were stuck to his forehead. His shade of red looks like a darker auburn when his hair is wet.

The next time he saw her after she went home from spending those two days with him, he asked if anything happened when Grant realized she came back and promptly assured everyone that she wasn't missing. The answer wasn't what either of them expected.

Coming home that day felt like drowning, but she didn't have any other choice, not if she wanted a chance at things going back to "normal", and so she went. Except when he didn't lash out at her and, instead, began to coddle her and shower her in false affection and gifts, she felt taken aback. It wasn't anything he hadn't done before. Hell, most of her nicest things were "I'm sorry I hit you, take me back, please" gifts, like that stupid jewelry box, but it's been a while since that happened and it made her realize how much her disappearance must have startled him. Never would he have thought she'd have the balls to leave without a word like she had, but he doesn't know much about her and what she's been up to at this point anyway, it isn't particularly surprising that he underestimated her. He'd probably piss himself if he knew that she's in love with, and is sleeping with, his mechanic, something she found out when he asked her to call to schedule his car for an oil change and heard Bill answer on the other line, which prompted them both to burst out laughing.

Grant's performative kindness only lasted so long, but it was relieving when she wasn't punished for being gone. It was relieving to know that she had scared him and the shoe was on the other foot. It also was relieving when he told her he'd be gone for a couple days to visit his parents in Boston, which led her here.

They inevitably have to spend some time apart with work and her having to adhere to whatever ridiculous curfew is set for her, but it isn't anything new, it's only more frustrating now that they're seeking more time to spend together.

"I don't know," Bill says, having paused for a moment because her touching him distracted him, "I t-t-t-think I'm done sending it in, I'm tired of getting r-r-rejected."

It had taken a while for her to figure out what was bothering him, but eventually she managed to get him to talk and he told her that yet another publishing company didn't want his book. This new rejection letter makes it sixteen. Clearly, this put a damper on his mood and when she woke up to find him making breakfast, there was this newfound disappointment lining his features. It was the type of sadness that she hasn't seen since before they confessed their love for each other.

The billowing steam that rises off of the water envelops them and she finds herself wanting to fall asleep right in his arms, but struggles to remain awake for the sake of hearing out what he has to say after she spent the day wondering what happened.

As of late, she's been exhausted constantly. It would make sense considering the fact that she's been a little bit sick, something that Bill payed no heed to this week and still kissed and loved on her as if he couldn't get it too, no matter how much she tried to tell him that she's most definitely contagious. But, much to her relief, sex does make her premenstrual cramps better and he hasn't been shy with providing her that particular medicine. For this entire week, she's felt like shit, but she wouldn't let it ruin the weekend they have together. It all started on Tuesday, when she was making coffee for a customer at work and the smell made her sick to her stomach to the point where, by the time she got home, she started puking her guts up and remained bedridden for the next couple of days. She hasn't been back to work yet, but the thought of that strong coffee smell still makes her want to gag, so she's dreading tomorrow morning for multiple reasons-one of which being that their weekend alone together is officially over when she wakes.

She muses, "But you can't give up now, you've already written it and we've both read it through to edit the best we can, you might as well keep sending it. It know it's hard to keep hearing no, but what if the next one you were gonna send it to is a yes? Plus, I know I'm your girlfriend so that probably means I'm biased, but it's good writing, Bill. It's really good and you never know what might happen."

Bill's heart skips a beat at that and it takes her a second to realize what she said in her fatigued state.

They hadn't really talked about what they are yet, though they both have known the entire time that it's something serious, so hearing her say that took him off guard. Even if they've done everything but confirm it, with the I love you's and the sex-all of it, they've been more focused on enjoying it than defining it.

It takes a moment, but then he asks.

"You w-want to be my g-g-girlfriend?"

Immediately, her first thought is, how could I not want that?

It came from her so naturally and after all they've been through, all they've said and done together, she can't imagine her answer being anything other than yes. Her life has been a dark, lonely place to be in recently, but he helps light the path out of this perpetual state of nighttime she's been trapped in. She feels much more awake now that he asked and, even if it won't last, it has her up and alert.

"Of course," Y/N says, then parrots back, though the question makes her feel like she's some giddy young girl, "You wanna be my boyfriend?"

Then, he's kissing her, smiling into where their mouths meet, and murmurs a sweet, adorable-sounding, "Of course," that threatens to make her far more emotional than it should.

His hands are perched on her shoulders, but they slide down until they rest on her hips and as they pass her breasts, she can't help the way she gasps into his mouth a little. It's not like they've been intimate that recently, but she's still sensitive to the touch, apparently. It's been a day and a half, that sensitivity surely should be gone.

They've calmed down a significant amount, but for the first two weeks of September after that first time, they were all over each other to the point where it became comical. Anywhere they could, anytime they could; he picked her up after work one day and could hardly make it to the Quarry before she was crossing the armrest to kiss at his neck. Bill has heard the term "fuck like rabbits" before, but-holy shit-that span of two weeks was unlike anything he'd ever experienced and by the end of it, they both decided to tone it down for a bit more-so out of necessity. He's never had sex so excessively that both participants feel sore and need a week-long break, yet they'd somehow found a way to do so. After that strangely active period of time, they've since calmed down and the newness of it all gave way to a much more casual way of doing things. That initial surge of desire had been impossible to ignore, but now that it's been satisfied, their lives together have become much more domestic.

Sometimes he wakes early in the morning before she does on these incredibly rare days where she can sneak away to spend the night and he watches her in silent awe, pretending that he's the one she married instead. He often pretends that their lives are much different than they actually are, that he's writes, she dances, and the rest is just noise. Maybe life would never and could never be perfect, but he pretended that it could be and let himself dream. No matter how unrealistic it is, he wishes he could give her that life.

By the time they separate, that happiness they share spreading like wildfire, she's looking at him in a way that he knows too well and he already knows that that detour their conversation took won't last.

"Promise me you'll send the manuscript to one last publisher? Just one...you never know what might happen."

He thinks, or I'll get rejected again, so I'll be broke, upset, and nursing a bruised ego, but he doesn't say it. Instead, he lets their noses brush as she keeps herself leaned in close to him and rubs the pad of his thumb on her hipbone, giving it some thought before forming a response. Every rejection stings, but it's not as if she's wrong. Deep down, he believes in his work too and knows it couldn't hurt to send it out on the slim chance that someone might see it for what it's worth. He could handle one more letdown, especially when she's asking so nicely and looking at him like that...

His exhale falls from him with a gentle huff and he smiles, offering a soft, "Okay," then continues as she's opening her mouth to speak, "P-P-Puh-Promise me something too though, promise f-for-for a promise?"

Y/N raises a brow, intrigued.

She can't imagine what she could promise him that she hasn't already given, since her swearing that she loves him that day in the rain was the most meaningful one a person can make. Often times, she finds herself wishing she could take a look at what he's thinking sometimes, just to get a better understanding of him in general, but lately she hasn't felt as much of a need. Until now, that is, since she's curious about what he's asking for. She isn't opposed though, especially when he's looking at her like that...he could ask for almost anything and she's sure she'd do anything to make it possible, knowing that it goes both ways.

Water drips from his hair, down his shoulders, and onto where her hands are braced on his arms and she finds herself too distracted to want to wipe them off on the towel that's folded on the floor outside of the bathtub.

"What are the terms of this contact, then?"

Bill barks out a laugh, face falling into her shoulder, and says, "I w-wasn't aware you were g-g-gonna go all lawyer on me, but it's nothing legally binding, as f-f-f-far as I'm aware."

"Laugh all you want, Denbrough, but I take my promises very seriously, I never break them," She offers with a shrug.

The hand that had been at her hip is cradling her face now and it's hard to not get distracted by how relaxing everything is too her at the moment. Between the heat of the water, the comfort she feels in being in such a safe place, and him, she's been fighting the urge to nod off this entire time and he's not exactly making her task of staying awake very easy. Cuddling up against her, touching her, making her want to stay in his arms and fall asleep there forever...She can't help but think, through all of this, that he came into her life at the perfect time and can't believe she ever thought that they were a "wrong place at the wrong time" situation when, in reality, he was right on cue. Moving here saved her life, that much she knows, and though she may never have wanted to come here in the first place, she's glad she did since it led to her meeting him.

He quiets, as if finding the words, then says, "P-P-Promise that n-no matter what you'll keep fighting for yourself," that laughter is long gone now and his eyes display nothing but honesty, "and me, if I'm still what y-y-you'll want in the future."

It falls from her with her exhale almost immediately, her voice going soft, "Bill..."

That request packs a punch, but it wasn't anything she hadn't already decided on. Her entire life lately has been her fighting and standing up for herself and, subsequently, her relationship with him, but he already knows that, of course, his request was for her to keep doing it. No matter what, even if her husband finds out, even if he lashes out and ends up killing him, she supposes he's asking her to never give in to that cruel man's manipulation and entrapment. That no matter the consequences, she's to never let it take over her life the way it once had even if it turns out that Bill isn't in the picture anymore.

That last part makes her frown though, the prospect of somehow not wanting him or wanting him but having him taken away saddening and scary.

He always seems to doubt himself when it comes to them and the fact that she really does want this, but it's hard for her to see it from his side. While he does know she loves him, can feel is as if it were a tangible as they are, she's also in a difficult position in her life right now and he's her only option. It's just that sometimes he wonders if a huge contributing reason to their relationship is inherently connected to this role he's taken on for her in opposition to the person who emotionally and physically destroys her spirit. It's remarkably easy to let his mind wander into a place where his anxieties take control and he wonders if, once the novelty has worn off, she'll decide that she doesn't want him anymore...that once she finally leaves Grant, she won't choose him and even though it'd break his heart, he'd have to let her go.

Perhaps he's needlessly overthinking it, but he can't deny that he still doesn't fully believe that what's happening is real. Or, to put it more accurately, he doesn't quite believe that he's earned all of the love she's giving him.

His heartbeat quickens when she leans in and presses a kiss to his lips, her grip on him going tighter. He's about to accept that he asked too much of her by the time she stops to finally give him an answer.

"I promise," Y/N whispers and he swears he's never felt so close to a person before.

"I-I-It's a deal then. One last p-publisher, upon request."

They collide tenderly, but passionately and it's enough to make them both go breathless in reaction. The room still feels hot, overwhelmingly so, but it pales in comparison to the way they make each other feel every time they touch or kiss. It isn't even one of the most heated kisses they've shared, but it makes their knees go weak all the same and she's glad to be sitting down, for she would've had to lean on him for support if she were standing. Though this week was riddled with her annoying sickness and she'd have to endure work and Grant tomorrow, this moment can't be sullied by those negativities and she's glad for that. He has a way of making the bad in her life feel so far away when they're together, none of it reaching through to the world they've made for themselves.

The real world and his writings can keep its mindless sorrow and horror, but this one, their world, is beautiful. It's too precious to succumb to any of the rest, the rest is nonsense.

He ends up making love to her right there, upon one last request, and though it could all come crashing down, neither them can find it in themselves to care about that. Not as they disappear into one another and pray that they're never found again.

-

Work can always be counted upon to be a swift and harsh reality check.

Her sickness hasn't exactly gone away yet, which she figured out as soon as she started brewing the coffee and felt her throat constrict in the way it always does when she becomes nauseous. But skipping out on work would piss Grant off and only make their financial stress worse, so she left Bill's house and decided that she could handle going in today.

The shop is empty, their last customer of the morning having left only a minute ago, and Y/N is slumped over on the counter with her head in her hands, rubbing her temples to sooth the headache.

The range of symptoms she's been having are confusing her and she doesn't understand why it refuses to get any better no matter what she takes for it. Between the exhaustion, cramping, nausea, and headaches, she wants to lock herself up in a dark room and sleep it off. In hindsight, she'll most likely look back on this week and roll her eyes at how blind she had been, but it's easier to assume she's sick or having premenstrual symptoms rather than anything else, than what's actually happening since she knows that would be her worst possible nightmare. It doesn't make sense, but why would she assume it's anything that can't be fixed with some rest and cold medicine? It hasn't even crossed her mind, anyway.

While she usually works alone since this is a second job to most of her coworkers rather than their only one as it is for her, Alyssa came in today and it has helped to have a person to share the workload with.

"You okay?"

The sound of her friend's voice from behind her makes her smile, even while wanting to nod off into sleep and succumb to the multitude of things that are annoying her.

"Yeah, I think I'll be alright," She says, "I've been feeling like shit and I can't make it stop, though. Even if I get a full night of sleep, I don't feel awake enough and the coffee smell is making me wanna throw up..." a heavy sigh, "Sorry for venting, it just sucks."

Alyssa's brows furrow at this, worried, but she doesn't jump to any conclusions, even if it seems so obvious that she's not sure how she hasn't even wondered if it's a possibility, she keeps quiet. If you've never experienced it before, you can tend to justify the symptoms and accept them as being related something else, but she's been there before and what she's saying sounds eerily familiar enough that it raises suspicion.

Leaving Bill's house last night had been a challenge.

She wanted so badly to stay, but only had so long before her husband came home from his weekend trip to see his family and had to make sure she was back before him. The thought of last night helps dull that pain she's experiencing though, whether it be the headache, cramps, or nausea, the thought of him gives a her a jolt of happiness. They spent a while together in the bathtub after they finished, trembling in each other's arms, cleaning off and eventually spending the rest of the afternoon before she had to leave in his bedroom. She fell asleep as soon as they settled atop the sheets and blankets and woke to the sound of an alarm he set for when she told him she'd have to leave. She almost dammed the consequences and decided to fall back asleep. But she did leave in the end, practically having to tear herself away from him when he gave her a kiss goodbye, and walked home with a tired smile on her face.

The air was chilly, the beginning of that uncomfortable in between stage where the temperature officially makes the plunge from summer to autumn and you find yourself wishing you'd worn that one extra layer, but it didn't feel too bad on her skin. In fact, it was a welcome contrast to how hot she still felt from that steaming bath water and, for once, she didn't mind the fact that she can't drive. She knows how to drive and had trying to get her license when the accident happened, but it isn't anything physical that stops her from doing it, it's this insurmountable mental roadblock that she cannot conquer no matter how hard she tries to.

There had been countless therapy sessions before she got married and many attempts, but as soon as she sits down and buckles the seat belt, the world stops turning. There may never be something that can trump that fear she feels when she gets behind the wheel of a car, flashbacks beginning to suffocate her, but today might come close.

"Are you on your period or? When I get mine I get really bad headaches and cramping, but not the nausea," then she pauses, hoping what she's about to imply won't scare her or be too inappropriate for their relationship, "I only had the nausea and fatigue when I was pregnant."

That sentence seems to ring in Y/N's ears, I only had the nausea and fatigue when I was pregnant...

That's impossible.

Well, it's obviously possible, but the chances of it happening are slim since she's been birth control for years and has always been neurotic about taking it correctly because the last thing she wants is to let Grant trap her with him by using their baby as a pawn. It's always worked for her and she hasn't even had a scare while they've been "trying" for a child, not once. So, no, she's not pregnant and doesn't see how that could be possible, or perhaps she just wishes it weren't.

They're close friends, as close as they can be without telling her the secret only one other person knows, so this isn't overstepping for them, even if it's a sensitive topic. Their friendship had started from convenience, but she genuinely does enjoy her company. She always has.

Y/N pushes up from where she was hunched over the counter to throw a bemused look in the direction of her friend.

"I'm not pregnant, wouldn't I know if I were anyway? When you had your second, you told me you just had a feeling, I'm sure I'd notice such a big change."

Her response is just as quick and it instantly makes her feel a sharp, tugging sense of dread, "I'm not saying you definitely are, it just sounded familiar and it could be what's happening, but-I mean-you said it yourself, you've been exhausted all the time, cramping, and the coffee smell in here makes you sick to your stomach when it never used to, you should at least look into ruling it out cause that's exactly how I felt. You probably aren't, but it can't hurt to check."

It can't hurt to check? Of course it hurts to check, she thinks to herself. Because what if she does and it turns out that she is?

This would truly be what puts him over the edge and she can see exactly where this situation would end; with her and the unborn child dead at the hands of a jealous, unstable man. She would never tell him who the real father was, if this is even true, but he would know it isn't his because they haven't had sex recently enough for that to be a possibility and, unbeknownst to him, she's been on the pill the entire time they've gone without protection. And if the hypothetical little embryo isn't his then it can only be...

It can only be Bill's and that's what scares her. If it were her husband's, she'd only be putting herself in harm's way, but since it can't be, she's dragging the man she love's into her messy life and directly into the path of the abuse she's faced for years. Falling in love with him and sleeping with him had been one thing, but carrying his child is another. That would be ten times the betrayal in Grant's eyes, which means ten times the anger and it means that he wouldn't care about killing a woman pregnant with a child that isn't his own. It means that, while they could've gone on hiding their relationship before, he's going to find out what she's been up to one way or another.

Her thoughts are racing by too fast for her to process them, every logical side of her clashing with the emotional. The sound of her nails anxiously tapping the counter echoes in the space between them.

"I'm on the pill, it wouldn't make sense. These symptoms may be similar, but there's no way, you know me, I don't forget to take it."

Though she doesn't know the full extent of what happens to her, she does know that there's very little love left in that marriage and has known that she's been taking birth control behind his back for a while now.

She raises a brow, "You're sure you never missed a day?"

"Of course not, I don't-"

Fuck, she thinks and the word might as well be a death knell, August 31st.

It all comes crashing down on her all at once and she damn near crumbles under that pressure.

The day that Grant terrified her to the point of no return has, and will always remain, a significant memory in her mind because of how much happened in such a brief stretch of time. Memories of that day, and, more importantly, that following day, are still so vivid and fresh in her mind because it marked a change in her life. It marked the day that she stopped giving into fear and let herself love Bill without worrying about what might happen if they get caught, which, now that she's having this conversation, had been a little reckless. But it's the day after that's of particular significance here, because she'd been too overwhelmed, too busy with all that happened to realize that she obviously hadn't brought her pills with her. And later that night when they had sex, it hadn't even occurred to her that she missed that morning. Neither had it occurred to her the next morning either, when she woke up at his place again and walked home later, missing yet another pill.

Who knows how badly that threw her off and considering that they didn't use any other form of protection, it wouldn't be surprising it is true. If all it took was one slip up and she ends up actually being pregnant, she won't know what to do, let alone know how to go forward from here.

The first word that leave her mouth are, "Oh, God, this is gonna be bad...Grant's gonna kill me."

Alyssa, having caught on to her birth control revelation, steps a little closer and tries to work through that last bit.

"I thought he wants kids, why would he kill you for being pregnant?"

She had forgotten she was there for a second.

She buries her face in her hands with a frustrated groan, rubbing her eyes. Suddenly, she doesn't feel so tired anymore and she wishes for the blissful ignorance she had yesterday, hidden away with Bill without any care in the world. There's no verdict yet, but how can she not worry as if she's already been given one? For crying out loud, she missed two days of birth control and they had unprotected sex, that paired with the symptoms she's been having all week make for a perfectly clear picture. Still, she tries to be the voice of reason within the collapsing structure that is her mind and forces herself to remember that it could still be a scare. These could all be coincidences and this may make for a really funny story to tell one day if she can manage to get out of her marriage alive.

Never has she been so thankful that she has a person to confide in other than her boyfriend, cause she'd be lost right now if she had no one to talk this through with and he clearly isn't an option, not until she can confirm this theory and decide what she wants to do. This is a delicate, delicate situation and there's an infinite amount of ways it can go awry.

Head propped on her elbow, she turns to look up at Alyssa and has to take a deep breath before asking, "Do you know Bill Denbrough?"

Theres a moment of confusion and quiet before she responds, "Stuttering Bill?" another pause, then, "The mechanic?"

If she weren't so caught up in, well, everything, she'd make a point to show her dislike for the nickname he once said kids in school used to use growing up, but she nods nonetheless. Such a slow day would typically strike boredom upon workers here, but that won't be what happens today, she's in for much more than she can handle.

"We went to school together, he and his friends kept to themselves a lot, what about him?"

Y/N's eyes narrow and she gives her this look, the kind that says what she thinks without her having to do it out loud. Its almost as if she's asking her how she hasn't caught on yet considering the context, but just as she thinks it's flying right over her head, she sees it register on her face. It's clear to see every shade of emotion and surprise that passes over her the second she puts it together and realizes what that look exactly meant. It's more disbelief than it is anything else, Derry is a small town and behaves like it, the fact that she's the first and only to know after an entire month is wild. Granted, they do their best to hide their comings and goings, but whether it be her or his parents, someone was bound to find out.

The incredulous look on her face tells her all she needs to know about how well-hidden their affair has been, which is a feat in itself considering the supernatural rate at which rumors and gossip is processed in this town.

"He's the father?"

She very quick to counter on that one, "He isn't the father of shit, you're getting overzealous and I haven't even taken a test yet, but in the hypothetical event of my pregnancy, yes, it's definitely his."

All she can do to keep herself sane is repeating the words in her head endlessly, I'm not pregnant, I'm not pregnant, I'm not pregnant, I'm not-

Alyssa interrupts her mantra.

"Then go down to the Pharmacy and rule it out now before you worry yourself sick, just take an early break. I can cover you for a while, it's not like we're packed anyways."

So, she does just that.

The walk down the street feels much longer than it usually does when she's picking up something on the way home or into work, but it passes by unnervingly fast either way. Cars whiz past and people walk by her going about their day as normal, but she can't help but worry. Her face isn't nearly as at ease as half of the people she passes and it's clear to see that there's something weighing down on her the entire way there. Thankfully, she doesn't run into anyone she knows and making it through the door to the store without seeing anyone, a bell ringing merrily to notify everyone of her shame-ridden traipse to the sexual health aisle, is a relief. But it isn't necessarily a warm, welcoming environment for her, in fact, she never knew a drugstore could feel so cold and clinical, but it does.

Gentle, upbeat music is playing through the store above her head and she looks out at a sea of various pregnancy test brands and can't figure out which to choose. It's not as if it matters, assuming that they all do the same job, yet it does. Strangely, it does and she feels like everyone else in this store, a whopping three people, two of which cashiers, is watching her and breathing down her neck until she picks. What works best, what's fastest, and, more importantly, what's accurate? All questions she has no answer to because she's never done this before and it's not like she can call her mom to ask her for advice, an instinct she wishes she could act on, but can't. She's alone in this, then. Even if this type of thing takes two, he isn't here and she prefers it that way until she gets a real answer. Why get him worked up about it if it's negative or if she decides to get rid of it before anyone, he or her husband, have the chance to figure it out?

She knows he wouldn't be angry with her for making that choice, but perhaps it would upset him deep down and if there's a chance of that happening, she'd rather him be in the dark. It may be his hypothetical child, but it's her very real body and life that would be taken away from her against her will should Grant ever know...it's quite on the fence for her.

The cashier doesn't give her any funny looks, but her paranoia tells her that he's having judgmental thoughts, which makes her frown as she drops the change into the donations jar and walks off to the bathroom with her bag in hand.

Her nerves are spiking as she opens it with shaky hands and can barely aim at the stick correctly by the time she's peeing because of this.

It's a cramped, one person at a time bathroom, but it suffices well enough for what she needs. The toilet is at least deemed clean enough to sit down on and she's not stuck hovering over it to make an already uncomfortable situation worse. It's in this moment, as she places the test onto the sink counter and moves to pull up her jeans, that her mind goes suspiciously blank. It's as if everything has gone on autopilot while she waits for it to be ready, adjusting herself and washing her hands while the time passes by torturously slow. That cheap, bubblegum pink soap that has a strangely too liquid-y consistency managed to dry out her hands, calling to her attention a hangnail that's been getting on her nerves for a couple of days that she decides to pick at for a distraction. She's sat back down on the closed toilet lid by the time she decides to look.

It takes her a second, her hand almost flinching as it nears the test, but she does pick it up and her emotions come back in full living color as soon as she takes a peek. Gone is that monotonous, bland waiting stage that had left her mind blank in an effort to protect her from the thoughts that may have come.

Y/N holds it level with her eyes and finds her eyes stinging with tears upon looking.

"Huh," She says, as if she didn't already know the moment her friend said that word.

The test is tossed in the near-empty trash bin in the box it came in on her way out and the sound of the door slamming loudly behind her echoes throughout that quaint, cramped bathroom.

-

Things have been different lately.

It's easy to sense that something has shifted, but he isn't sure what exactly it is or what happened to cause it. It isn't necessarily a bad shift, she's actually been much more cuddly and often wants to be even closer to him than usual, but it's a shift and he can't deny it. They still feel like them and their love is still as strong as it has been, which is all that truly matters, but she's been quieter and lost in thought as of late and he wonders if it's anything he can help her with, whatever it is she's constantly thinking over.

It's been five weeks since taking that test, one week since she actually got the blood test to confirm it, and it's only now starting to settle with her that she's actually pregnant.

There's many mixed feelings.

For one, the moments she spends with him are always the ones where she finds herself more confident about the situation and being with him has been different, but in a beautiful way she hadn't expected it to be. When she's away from Grant, she can relax more when thinking about it and often finds herself clinging to Bill like a child. They've always been affectionate and close in their relationship, but now she feels like she needs to be with him. Now, between the fluctuating hormones and her worry about what's happening, time she spends without him stretches on forever and she spends a lot of it thinking of him, trying to find ways to tell him. There had been a time when she tried, when she walked all the way to his work just as he was supposed to be finishing up and spent a couple of minutes waiting leaned up against his car with her arms crossed protectively over herself. It was warm that day and she felt it all closing in on her the closer he got. By the time he walked up to her, looked around to make sure no one was watching, and gave her a kiss, that urge to tell him had faded.

Similarly to how it feels whenever she tries to drive, whenever she tries to tell him, she freezes up.

The Quarry is far too cold to swim in at this time of year, but they still like to come to have a place to escape to every once in a while. It's cozy where they are though, wrapped up in warm clothes and blankets where they lay on the hood of his car. They can both vividly remember a time a couple months ago, in early August, when they were laying here together, except back then they hadn't confronted their feelings yet and remained a painstaking twelve inches apart at all times.

Her voice is soft, nearly drowned out by the sounds of nature, when she asks him, "You remember that day we went swimming?"

Bill turns from where he'd been staring off to and looks at where she's curled up beside him, head on his shoulder, glancing up at him with a distant look in her eye, "The d-d-d-day we f-first kissed?"

She's humming at this, giving a nod against him in response.

When she got back to the coffee shop after taking the test, and buying another to take again the next morning just in case it was a false positive-it wasn't-her friend was anxiously awaiting the verdict. Unsurprisingly, it turned out that no customers had come in in the twenty minutes she was gone, so they were free to talk as they liked and spent the rest of her shift going through it. The prognosis shocked them both, her more than Alyssa considering that she guessed she was pregnant as soon as she started rattling off her symptoms, and it took a lot of conversation before she began to wrap her head around the concept. Even if it were risky to confess about their relationship and, more importantly, the surprise pregnancy, talking to someone who's actually done this before helped a lot.

There had been a pause between them after a while of talking about it that seemed to hang in the air with a heavy weight to it before she was asked what she's going to do, which, she assumed, meant multiple things. But no matter what, she couldn't say anything other than those three words that couldn't seem to leave her alone; I don't know.

Whenever she's back home, trying not to provoke her husband or set him off in a way that could end badly, she's unable to think about anything other than escaping. Whether it be escaping with Bill or escaping the pregnancy, it doesn't matter, but all she knows is that when the fear is stronger, she's less sure of what she wants. But when she's with him, doing whatever it is they decide to with their limited free time, she can picture their future together if she dares. Looking at him as she is now, she can picture him being the same loving, affectionate man he is, but in a situation where they can afford to have a baby, where it's safe to as well. If only...

"It's just crazy to think that three months ago, we hadn't even kissed yet and now..." Y/N trails off, the words she can't say burning in the back of her mind.

It's been getting increasingly more stressful now that she's barely beginning to show, her round little bump at the base of her abdomen nearly too big to be mistaken as bloating or a few extra pounds. It doesn't matter if she wants to, it's gotten to the point where she can't take her clothes off in front of him. The most recent time had been a quick, lazy encounter they had in early morning before either of them had to go to work, so she was thankful when they didn't bother with their typical formality and her shirt was kept on the entire time. But she's been afraid of doing anything since that day and doesn't pretend that she can't sense Bill wondering if there's something going on, due to her shift in behavior and utter avoidance of any sexual contact that goes beyond over the clothes touching, although heavy petting does end up happening here or there.

She gets the most paranoid when he's touching her stomach. It's obvious that he isn't doing it because he knows and it's more of an absentminded action, but she can't help but hold her breath whenever it happens, especially now that there's an actual bump forming there. Recently, she always finds a way to direct him elsewhere as soon as she feels that touch and it doesn't seem like he's caught on. Partly, even if it would sound stupid if she were to say it aloud, she wonders if him absentmindedly trying to lay a hand on or rub at her stomach is something instinctual.

Bill leans down and presses a kiss to her nose, the action making her smile against his face.

"Suh-Sometimes I think about it too," He says, then pulls back to look at her, thumb brushing her cheekbone, "I n-n-n-never thought someone could make me so happy. After my b-brother died and all my friends left, I didn't think the loneliness would ever e-e-end."

Oranges and pinks paint the sky as the sun begins to sink below the horizon and it reflects off of the water beautifully. It would be awe-inspiring, but they're too busy looking at one another to bother admiring the sunset and she gets caught up in his eyes.

It makes her wonder who the little one would look like, whether it would favor one of them more than the other or be a healthy blend of their features all in one cute little package. It isn't too bad, she thinks in this moment, the idea of living freely with him and starting a family is awfully appealing, much more than she'll let herself admit. The obstacles in their way would never allow for it, but she wishes they could drop everything and run away together, simply get into the car and never once look back. They could see the entire country while her belly starts to grow out in front of her and he'll be watching her waddle along by the end of it, both of them excited for it to be over with by then. He'd write some stories and read them out for them while he lies beside her and she can't begin to imagine the wonder that would show through in his eyes when he'd first feel it kick.

So, she says as much, making a point to leave out the whole "I'm pregnant with your baby" thing, and sadly tells him that she wishes they could do such a thing.

He sits up, turning to prop his head up on his elbow, and the look in his eyes tells her exactly how much he likes the idea of that. It makes her regret mentioning it as soon as he perks up, cause she knows that she can't do it. She knows that Grant would track her down and kill them if she does, the same goes for her letting this pregnancy continue.

Truth is, she's stuck.

Between decisions, between men, between two lives; how is she supposed to make a decision that can have such harsh consequences on both of their lives? How can she do what she wants without endangering him? Trying to keep him safe never seemed to work well for her, but this is different and she knows it. Now, everyone knowing has become inevitable if she doesn't put an end to this, but she wants this too.

Because when she imagines that freedom with him, the idea of a life without abuse or manipulation, a family they could have...she wishes she could have that, she wishes so recklessly, but she's not strong enough to fight for it. Promise or no promise, she isn't sure that she could do this and not even he can aid her strength.

The hope in his eyes breaks her heart.

"Why d-don't we, then?" Bill says and lets the hand that had been on her face reach to her waist, taking her breath away, "N-N-N-Neither of us have anything going f-for-for us here and it's only a matter of time before Grant figures it all o-out anyway. I've got some m-m-money saved up, we could do it..."

And this is when she knows that he wants it too. Maybe not exactly what she does, but he wants that life with her and she can feel it with every word that left his mouth. More than anything, she wants to take him up on this offer, wants to give into the sweet sound of his voice and the feeling of those arms around her, and hit the road right here, right now. But that isn't possible. She'd be living in fantasy to believe that it is, right?

The air is thrumming with the energy between them and it makes her want to run and hide from this conversation. Somehow, she's faced with the same predicament and internal problem she overcame in August, only the stakes have been drastically raised. This time, it's harder to see a way out of it. Her heart is drawn to his, the magnetism between the two people too strong to ignore for long, and she knows what she wants, but her mind isn't on the same page. Rather than logically try to find a way to give herself what she wants as safely as possible, it's stuck. It freezes and she's never been so tired of that happening in the entire stretch of time that has followed her parent's death. The burn of that freeze, that torturous reaction she always has when it comes time to confront anything that will allow her to move past this stage of her life that she's outgrown, is overwhelming, the burn of everything is overwhelming. Of her love for him and the hatred for her husband, of her confusion and blind yearning for something she can never have.

She always knew that they couldn't end happily, but this outcome surpasses all expectation. The fact that peace and serenity is so close, but just out of reach-

"I can't do that. He'd find us, I know he would," Her voice is a whisper.

It looks as if there's so much he wants to say and it's all hanging on the tip of his tongue, but he doesn't. He doesn't say it and instead lets the disappointment fester, knowing that if she doesn't want to go with him, it's not like he can change that and he can't push her.

He wishes she would go though, and, little does he know, she does too.

-

The twenty-fourth of November started out normally. Kind of.

All has been normal in life, or perhaps it more resembles her old normal, and Y/N's been avoiding Bill like the plague for the past week.

It has been more out of necessity than it is anything else, but she can't deny that being without him has been wearing down on her sanity and every thought she's had, every action she's chosen, reflects that. A combination of having to be away from him and having to be home more, this week has been her own personal hell. That little bump remains little, but has grown and rounded out enough for it to be impossible to hide should she ever ditch her cycle of large, baggy clothing and her biggest pairs of pants that have become her saviors recently. Only when she's alone does she let it show and even then, it still terrifies her because she has this inexplicable fear of one of them finding out.

Life is a vicious cycle of hesitation and confidence, of being ready to tell him and run away with him, then shrinking back into the hollow shell of a life she's lived since her parents died and she met her husband. She isn't sure she can take it anymore, especially now that she's been avoiding Bill. He was the only good thing she had.

Grant is still working, so she figured now is a better time than any to get in some much-needed alone time without the fear of provoking him in some way. It's roughly thirty minutes into her night to herself, just as she's about to lie down for bed, when there's a knock on the door.

She groans at the thought of having to drag herself out of bed, but manages to summon the energy to do so and throws on a hoodie on the way there, just in case he decided to come home earlier than he said he would. The walk there makes her short of breath, yet another thing that's begun to happen the further along she gets.

What she sees when she opens the door makes her heart drop into the pit of her abdomen. Bill is standing there on the other side with a worried look on his face.

"What are you doing here?" She muses, grabbing him by the wrist and tugging him inside, "Are you insane?"

The front door slams shut behind them and that sound echoes in the small foyer, flooding that silence that lingers between the two lovers. Her arms are crossed over her body and she's looking up at him in a way he's never seen her look at him before and that scares the living shit out of him. There's fear in her eyes, it's clear as day, and he hasn't a clue what caused it, nor does he have a clue on how to make it all disappear.

This week has been strange and not in a good way.

He feared that maybe he was being too sensitive, that maybe she was caught up with work or obligations that would obviously supersede seeing him. But then an entire week went by with no contact and he began to worry. It had been months since they every went more than a week without speaking, so this hasn't been normal behavior for a while.

They've definitely gone a day or two, especially when one takes into consideration how secretive they have to be with their relationship, but it's never gone on this long and he can't help but think it has something to do with that conversation they had at the Quarry about running away. He hadn't meant to overwhelm her or do too much to fast, though they tended to go full speed ahead with everything else in their lives, yet since she had mentioned it to him, he figured that maybe, just maybe, that's what she wanted. That she might want a future with him and this relationship isn't just a distraction for her, that this won't end in loneliness and heartache.

It may have been naive of him to believe that, but all he knows is that he loves her. He loves her so much it hurts and he knows she feels the same, so what's going on with the avoidance? Surely there has to be an explanation, right? They've been here before and it's starting to feel like déjà vu. He ends up having to shove his hands in his pockets so she can't see them shake.

Their eyes meet through that confusing tension that has built up between them and he can feel that distance between that had once been nonexistent. Just last month everything was fine, they were perfect and he let himself believe that it could last, yet apparently that wouldn't be the case. But, above all of that, he wants to make sure that she's okay. He knew that it was either about that conversation or something far more sinister had happened.

Bill finally caves, knowing that if he doesn't speak first, neither of them will, and he's trying not to tear up, "I t-t-t-thought he killed you..."

Immediately, her heart breaks at that and she can't help but want to pull him closer. The way he sounded when he said it...nobody's ever sounded so worried about her before and she knows that he means it. That it isn't overdramatized or exaggerated and he actually wondered while he was driving home from work with no small amount of impending dread closing around him like a vice, if he lost her for good this time.

She doesn't dare cross that space deliberately put between them, but the fear in her eyes does lessen significantly upon hearing that.

"Just-" an exhausted sigh, "Come with me."

The stairs creak as he follows her up them, trailing behind her like a helpless puppy. He's never been to her house before, but it's not like it's anything other than what he'd expect. With pictures up on walls and signs of a happy, fulfilling life, but that hollowness that looms over the home cannot be missed. Knowing all that he does, this facade of a loving marriage is offensive to have to look at because he's seen the aftermath of what that man has done to her and knows firsthand that it has changed her. She's been broken and hurt and it's all because that asshole preyed on her when she was grieving over her parents. He saw a person ravaged by loss and didn't see her as a women in need of kindness, but rather as an opportunity for control. It enrages him to think about it to the point of impulsivity and rash, complete hatred.

Walls pass by in a blur and by the time they reach her bedroom, she's managed to calm the panic that had risen in her when she saw him standing on her porch. Never would she have thought that he'd be worried enough to risk coming here, but here they are. In hindsight, she should've known that he wouldn't stay quiet or remain calm if he thought that anything happened to her, he's always been quick to think worst case scenario with all things considered.

Bill ends up leaning against the closed bathroom door while she sits on the bed, wringing her hands in her lap.

There's a pause, then-

"I'm sorry," She's looking down, not even able to meet his gaze, "I didn't mean to worry you, it's just been-it's been really hard and I haven't been able to talk about it."

When she woke up one morning once the house was empty and she had it solely to herself, she went into the bathroom and practically fainted when she saw how prominent her bump had gotten when she took her shirt off to shower. It was as if she popped overnight and she thought that she'd have more time, even if it's normal to start showing by now. No matter what, she always thought she'd have more time. Except she didn't, now she had irrefutable evidence hiding under her clothes and how was she supposed to go about hiding that from him? Already, he sensed something had changed because she got weird whenever he touched her and began to act differently the more time went on, how was she going to keep making up lies and excuses for these changes along the way?

It was easier to avoid the entire situation and him rather than confront the decisions she has in front of her. This week may have worried him out of his mind and she feels sorry for causing him any of that, but he doesn't understand what's going on. As much as it may feel like she's avoiding him for reasons related to their relationship, it's more serious than he's capable of imagining. He has no clue how much danger they're in and, for the second time, her avoidance is only for his safety.

He walks forward, feet moving on their own accord, and kneels down in front of her. His hands are settled on her knees and that touch makes a sad smile cross her face. His voice is so gentle when he next speaks.

"You d-don't have to apologize, I j-j-j-just wanted to know that you're okay. The last time this happened, you s-showed up at my house c-c-covered in bruises and blood," If she were to look up from her lap, those blue eyes would be pleading, "Nothing h-happened, right?"

God, what hasn't happened? That voice in the back of her head chimes in, making her let out a wry chuckle that confuses him to no end.

These past few months have been a whirlwind of emotion for her, between all that's happened between her and Bill, the ever-escalating situation at home, and now this. Now, having to hide the fact that she's been pregnant for three months from both her husband and the father of said baby-both of whom having no idea this is happening. Her life has been spiraling into unhinged chaos for years now, but this truly outdoes anything that's ever happened before. If someone told her she'd be having an affair and pregnant because of it when she first moved here, she wouldn't believe it.

It's already her reality and she still can hardly believe it, so it goes without saying that this isn't a situation she could've foreseen.

He doesn't have the chance to ask her why she's laughing before she stops, face lined with a feeling he can't read, and voices her thoughts.

"What hasn't happened at this point? You know, I'm stuck in this stupid town, I'm having an affair, and now this week is happening and I don't know what to do," Y/N looks into Bill's eyes and every bit of control crumbles as soon as she looks at him, her bottom lip wobbling with the threat of tears, "I don't know what do do-"

The entire mood seems to shift as soon as those words leave her and she ends up in his arms, him embracing her from where he's stood up on his knees. His arms are wrapped around her waist, but neither hand drifts enough for him to realize that stark change in her body and one of them trails up to cradle her head. This contact is relieving beyond words, enough to relax her more than anything else could in the week she avoided him and she supposes it makes sense. Before this, that clinginess that her situation has brought upon her had yet to dissipate, if it ever will, and being near him feels right. It feels even better than how she imagines it would feel to delight in some caffeine, something she's been missing ever since she found out, or a scaldingly hot bath, which can apparently be harmful according to what Alyssa told her that day at work. Her tears wet the fabric of his shirt too, but he doesn't pay it any mind, instead deciding to pull back from their hug to get a better look at her.

Eyes already red from crying, she looks utterly lost. His face is so close to her's that their noses are brushing and he angles his head so that she's making eye contact with him, wanting to be sure that she hears what he's saying.

His voice is gentler than she's ever heard him be, "What's wrong? W-Whatever it is, I s-swear-" The feeling of a strong hand interlacing with her's makes her cry harder, "we can figure it out t-t-t-tuh-together."

They're so distracted that they cannot hear or pay attention to anything outside of this room-not even the sound of the front door opening and closing, a sound that would surely have them scrambling to shove him in the closet or under the bed had they heard.

She squeezes his hand and whispers, "You won't freak out?"

He shakes his head, the movement jostling them both a little, and keeps rubbing soothing patterns against the back of her hand with his thumb. It takes all of the courage she has, but she manages to start to say it.

"I'm-"

The door slams open, the doorknob rattling as it hits the wall behind it.

Forget about all the other times she's felt her entire world freeze with fear, there's nothing she could do to describe how much she feels right now. It's been her worst nightmare for months, the idea of him somehow finding out, the idea of getting caught, but she had never known how much more terrifying it would be the moment that nightmare blends with real life. This is why she pushed him away, this is why avoiding him was safer, but it's too late for that. It's too late to do anything the second Grant walks into the room.

They both separated and stood as soon as the door opened, but they aren't going to kid themselves by believing that he didn't see what was going on. Even if they hadn't been so close, faces pressed together and hands intertwined, him being here would be, and is, enough to set him off.

That shaking in his hands has progressed to a full-body one and he doesn't bother trying to hide it-his eyes darting back and forth him her to her husband, who happens to be staring at him like he wants to tear him apart limb by limb. He keeps a brave face, not letting that resolve falter once, but he knows that this will be bad. This is what she's been fearing the entire time, he realizes, this is it.

"What the fuck are you doing here?"

It's not a question for her, but for him. For someone he never would've suspected to see cozied up with his wife in their own bedroom, his mechanic, the guy who he asked about her whereabouts those days she went missing, and, in his eyes, the piece of shit who ruined his marriage.

They're both fumbling for something to say, but can't figure it out. Somehow, Bill manages to find his voice, even if he has no idea what's going to come out.

"Uh-I w-w-was j-just-"

"About to kiss my wife?" Grant's looking at him incredulously, as if he has an answer for him that won't end in one of them getting hurt.

He can see it in his eyes; he knows what this is. And he's sure that it goes both ways, that the shock on his face and lack of ability to come up with a reasonable explanation for why he's here provides everything needed to assume him guilty. The man takes a couple swift steps closer, a few strides all he needs to close the distance, and Y/N's heart stops.

"I saw a car out front and fucking knew it-"

She's shouting before she can stop herself and squeezes her way in between them, using all of her strength to send him stumbling away, "Get away from him!"

Nothing else mattered the second she saw him making a beeline for where Bill stood, all of those times he damn near killed her flashing before her eyes as an example of what he's capable of, and she didn't think at all as she went at him. Her mind went blank, body lurched forward, and before she knew it she was throwing him up against the wall, surprising herself with her own strength.

Her words hang in the air now as she feels her lover trying to get her to stay behind him, but holds her ground.

This is her fight, not his.

Grant hit his head against the wall, but that didn't hinder him by any means. In fact, he's rising to his feet alarmingly fast and she wonders if this is it for her, if today's the day he finally snaps and everything she predicted would happen will come true. She already knows the answer.

He's in her face before she knows it, grabbing her by the throat and shoving her at the bed like a rag doll. Her body hits the frame of the bed and the metal bar whacks against her shoulder-blade hard enough to make her cry out in pain.

She can vaguely see through that surge of pain to look over at where the two men struggle, but finds herself tuning out in response to that whole-body ache by the time the sound of a body hitting the floor with a heavy "thump" rings through the room. It sounded bad, like the person that fell must have been knocked out cold or, at the worst, killed and she's praying that the footsteps coming to where she's curled up facing their bed are that of Bill's rather than her husband's.

There's a pair of hands turning her over, throwing her violently so that she's turned to look up at him, and she knows it's over when she sees his face. A quick glance over at where she hadn't been able to see reveals Bill, knocked unconscious at the doorway to the bathroom, and she doesn't even notice that she's started to sob loudly.

Grant's eyes are wild with a familiar anger, but there's an unfamiliarity to it as well. Unfamiliar because he's never looked at a person with this much pure hatred before and not even on the worst days of her life with him has she encountered this. His hand is threaded into her her hair.

"You couldn't help yourself, could you?" He asks, practically snarling he's so full of rage, "You liar, you told me you'd never do this to me! You lied right to face!"

That day is one of her more vivid memories, seeing as to how important it was to her. That had been the day they went swimming, the day he saw her bruises and realized what was going on, the day they kissed for the first time-the day that she came home wearing another man's shirt and swore up and down that it didn't mean a thing. That it didn't mean she was cheating on him when, in reality, she had done exactly that and would go on to continue doing it. Without remorse or any sense of guilt, she did sleep with another man and knows in her heart that she would do it again, not only because she's in love, but just to see this same look on his face at the realization that he can no longer control her every move as he once had. Now that it's out in the air, she'd kiss him right in front of him just to make him squirm, but there are more pressing matters at hand than getting arise out of him.

Bill is starting to come to as he continues to scream right in her face and he scrunches his face at the pounding headache he wakes up to. He's still not quite there, but he can hear those distant words being said, twisting into the direction of them desperately with unclear thoughts and blurred vision that makes everything dim around the edges.

The hand in her hair closes into a tight fist, yanking so hard that she's shocked he doesn't rip a fistful of it from her scalp. He's so loud that the sound of his voice rattles in her eardrums.

"Tell me! I want to fucking know, tell me the truth! Tell me-"

"I love him! Is that what you wanna hear? Huh?" Y/N's screaming at him, "You wanna hear me say it? I haven't loved you for years, is this what you want?"

His nostrils are flaring with every breath and she watches silently, seething with her own newfound anger, as the words settle deep in him.

His voice is low, eyes burning, and he says, "You usually aren't even worth the energy it would take to kill you, but I'm gonna do it anyway...I want him to watch it happen."

There's a fist colliding with her face on the last word.

Hit after hit, punch after punch, he begins to batter her bloody. There's no chance to catch a breath or fight back, because he gives her no break. There's no mercy on the other end of those striking blows that send pain ricocheting through every nerve of her body. The fist that's gripping her hair is pulled so tightly that a few strands do manage to rip from the follicles and he uses this leverage to hold her in place as she thrashes against him. It's hard to know where one ache ends and the next begins and she's on the verge on giving up. She's nearly ready to sag in his arms and let him finish the job, to exert that last bit of control he has until he's officially taken everything she has, but then it changes. Then, as if giving her that last bit of strength to go on, something he does reminds her of what it is she promised she'd fight for. Not only did she promise to fight for herself, but she promised to fight for him too and he's irrevocably tied to that dream of a life she wants to create for herself.

The scene unfolding in front of Bill is clearer now and he's attempting to get his bearings when it happens.

Grant is standing now, having let her go and let her head hit the hardwood when he did so, and he's trying to stomp on her chest. She's dodging every attempt, even rolling right into the bed one time, but it's when the direction of his kicks begin to shift lower that she truly begins to fight back. By the time he kicks her right in her growing belly, she can no longer stay silent and hope that she dodges every attempt, it leaves her mouth without a twinge of hesitation.

"I'm pregnant!" She pleads, throwing her hands out in front of her as he's unable to stop the momentum of his next kick, "Please! Stop," the next words are nearly unintelligible and said through her sobs, "I'm pregnant!"

The first thing that leaves his mouth when he briefly halts is, "We haven't even-"

That's when he realizes and, simultaneously, so does Bill.

Lying on the ground and struggling to get onto his feet, Bill went still when she said that. And it all seemed to fall into place at once; the reason why she's been acting so different, that seemingly overnight shift between them, and why she's been avoiding him all week long.

It's been so obvious, hasn't it?

He's never known a pregnant person except for when his mom was with Georgie, and he barely remembers that, let alone the symptoms, but as soon as those words are out in the open he can't help but feel like he should have figured it out. Even if he wasn't thinking of that because she's been on birth control, even if that was the absolute last thing on his mind amid such serious matters, he feels stupid for not putting two and two together. Then, that delayed response from his hit to the head having kicked in, it only now dawns on him that not only is she pregnant with a baby, but she's pregnant with their baby, with his. Not her husband's, but his.

That's why she's been so skittish and shy around him, hands always directing his someplace else every time they drifted too close to what he hadn't known was a barely-showing baby bump. She avoided undressing at all costs and clung to him all the time and then there was that week where she was "sick", complaining about being tired all the time and feeling nauseous. Her avoidance wasn't her having second thoughts about her love for him, it was her hiding the fact that she's pregnant with his child. That thought is what wakes him up.

And if he hadn't already known whose it is, both of their reactions would have told him everything.

She watches them both, but is ultimately unable to tear her eyes away from where Bill lays, shocked, on the floor. Grant was looking at her at first, then halted mid-sentence when he too realized that he isn't the father, but Bill is.

Grant turns and looks away from her to where the other man is slumped on the floor. Their eyes meet, tension going taut between them, and both of them can see the anger stirring beneath the surface the longer they hold that gaze. It's as if they're stuck, standing off to see who will move first, and can't seem to break out of it. It's eerily similar to that moment they shared at the end of his driveway, just before he handed him back the picture and there was this moment where he stopped, as if unable to let go just yet. Only this time, it's far different and that glimpse of a daydream he had about beating him to a bloody pulp is threatening to become very, very real if he dares lay another hand on her.

A muscle in his jaw clenches, his head shaking no, and his voice breaks when he begs, literally begs, at his feet, "Please."

It wasn't a good idea to reveal how much he cares, for it only fueled his desire to do the exact opposite of what he asks, but he couldn't help it. He's never pleaded for something the way he's prepared to keep doing for this.

It isn't enough.

Bill tackles him into the ground faster than he knew his body could move when he makes to hit her again.

It's all yelling and punching and chaos when he shoves him flat onto his back and gives him no room to overpower him as he gets lost in this state of cold rage. It's overwhelming-how vehemently he feels his hate for him. It shows in every blow to the face he gives, but nothing could truly capture it in its full magnitude.

There's too many things happening at one time, but what he knows is this: if he doesn't kill him, or at least incapacitate him, things will go badly, as in them both dying kind of badly, and he can't let that happen. His knuckles are in pain from every hit, the bones in his face making them crack with the amount of force he's exerting, but he doesn't notice it. Neither does he notice him subtly, ever so subtly, positioning himself differently, preparing to rally his strength and strike when he doesn't see it coming. He's only able to get a few good punches in, unfortunately, before he knees him in between his legs and, while he's busy groaning in pain, flips him over.

That same knee digs into his chest to pin him into place and the panic finally sets in when he feels hands wrap around his throat. All of Grants weight gets pushed into where he digs into his neck with a strength he wishes he could fight against, the pressure only growing as seconds begin to pass by faster.

And as fucked up as it is, if this gives her the chance to escape, then he won't mind dying tonight. She's probably still trying to gather herself after the amount of damage inflicted upon her and he can no longer breathe. He's cutting off his airflow, that hold strong enough to continuously, consistently keep him from getting the smallest gasp of it in, and he's sure that he's been holding him this way for at least a minute now and he knows that if it goes on for a couple more...

Memories come by him in flashes, even as he's pawing at where the hands around his neck choke him, and there's an unforeseeable sense of peace that washes over him the longer this goes on. Dizzy as ever, everything beginning to go dim around the edges again, he finds himself thinking of her, praying that she's already up and running out of the house. Knowing her, if he weren't so caught up in well-you know-being strangled to death, he'd know she would never leave him to die, but his logic is far too skewed at the moment to recognize that. Those memories, the good ones, all of the happy ones of his life, are kind, at least, and they start to lull him into submission as he loses the ability to keep tugging at Grant's hands to try to wrench them off of him.

He starts to sag in his grip, vision dotted with black spots, and finally goes unconscious all while Grant doesn't cease his torment. Why would he, anyway? He knows how to do this, knows how long it takes, and if he lets go now, he'll be waking up and that is not what he wants. He wants him gone, smug little bastard he is, fucking his wife and lying to his face the day they talked-that grip tightens harshly and Bill's face has gone red, but it's shifting into a pale, blue-ish color.

He was a fool to think she'd run out on him.

The sound of the jewelry box hitting his head reverberates through the entire room, as it does when she hits him again, hard enough that the stupid damned thing breaks over his head.

There was this moment between when Bill was hitting him and when he was inevitably overpowered where she was struggling to get to her feet, back turned to the horrific things happening behind her. Her hand reached out and clung to the same bed frame that caused the ache in her shoulders for dear life. It took every ounce of her remaining strength and energy, the latter having become limited nowadays, but she managed to heft herself up until she was bracing herself on their bed with her eyes on the other side of the room. With her eyes trained, as they always have found this object in times where she's slumped, defeated, on the bed after he does this to her, on the stupid eyesore of a jewelry box that has been collecting dust on her dresser ever since they moved in.

Only then did she whip around to see what was happening and spring into action, plan forming in her head. That jewelry box was a gift he gave her after leaving her badly injured one time, the first time he'd ever beaten her badly, and she loathed the sight of it as she does every other gift he gives to her in an effort to buy her silence.

This time, she would not go silently.

That was the only thought in her head, only accompanied by the ever-present need to protect the man's she loves, when she let the adrenaline of that protectiveness take over, marched to the other side of the room to grab the jewelry box, and slammed it into the back of his head to get him to dislodge his hands from where they were firmly planted. Grant went limp on top of him and she doesn't hesitate to throw him off to the side.

"Bill!" She cries, dropping to her knees and scooping him up in her arms the best that she can, his head rolling back when she doesn't support it, "Please, wake up!"

Unconscious, but breathing, he remains unresponsive through all of her efforts, but she doesn't stop trying. Shaking him by the shoulders as she cries uncontrollably, her tears are dropping onto him and dissolving into his shirt as if they never existed. Her face twists with every pained, heartbroken expression as she attempts to wake him and bring him back to her to no avail. How could she have let him stay here, even for a quick conversation, how had she not heard her husband coming inside?

All of these poisonous thoughts plunge deep into her mind and convince her that there had to have been something she could've done to prevent this. If only she had run away with him that day, how different would things be to how they are now? At least if they had left, they would've had a good chance of never being found, but only looking back on it does she realize that she was putting them in more danger by staying.

"Bill, come on," Then, there's a spark of anger through her choked words, "Don't do this to me! I swear, I'll never forgive you if you die on me, please! Don't go, please...I can't do this without you."

He's pulled onto her lap and she cradles him against her, her face buried in his neck as she rocks back and forth with him. She's sniffling and crying.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to-I didn't-didn't want this. I tried to stop him, I thought I did, but I was too late, wasn't I? Now you're dead and it's all my fault and I'm sorry!"

Y/N lets her face fall completely against him and he slides off her lap onto the floor as she loses her strength to keep him against her, her following him down until she's doubled over on him. She's still sniffling and crying the entire time, her chest heaving with every single one she lets out.

That day at the Quarry had been the first time she could think clearly in a long time ever since she found out, she thinks.

It had been a quick day at work and she hadn't been home since morning, so, naturally, she felt as safe as ever when she was wrapped up in his arms. It may never have been a permanent sense of safety, but she was always thankful for what little of it he was capable of providing when things got rough. That day, he'd been smiling at her the entire way there and she couldn't help but smile too. He had a way of doing that, it seems, being infectious. Whether it be with laughter, smiling, or affection, you can't help yourself. If he has a reason to be smiling, then how can you refrain from joining in, especially since he's not that happy very often? So, that infectious smile distracted her from the get and she rarely spiraled back into her typical cycle of doubt, hadn't done it up until the very end of that day when she mentioned running away. It didn't matter that there were things to think about, decisions to be made, all that mattered to her that day was him. With his goofy smile and incessant affection that she not only loved, but actively sought out with all of the new hormones that were flooding through her.

There was a lot to be happy about that day, yet she still let Grant get in the way in the end and she wants to curse her past self for taking that day for granted. If she'd known that her efforts to keep him safe would only end this way...

It doesn't feel real when she feels a hand reach up to hold her by the cheek, so much so that she thinks she's hallucinating it, but then she hears him. His voice is barely there and it's so raw that she feels the pain secondhand, but he manages.

"I-I-I-It's okay," Bill rasps, still closer to being unconscious than he is awake, but he is awake.

With that thought, she snaps her head up at where he's looking up at her, almost nodding off every other second. He's awake, she realizes, he's alive. He went a minute and a half without air by the time she hit the crazed man over the head, if she had waited an longer, there would've been consequences she doesn't want to think about.

"Oh my god!" Her hands grab him by the face, one of them brushing the hair from his forehead and the other inspecting his neck as he winces, earning a gentle apology and kiss in return.

This is when it occurs to her that they have to get out before Grant wakes, that thought having been procrastinated by the prospect of his death.

There's truly no time to spare.

"Hold on to me," Y/N says.

His grip on her is weak, but he's holding her on either arm, later opting for wrapping his arms around her shoulders as he's fading in and out of consciousness to the point where she has to account for all his dead weight when lifting him up. There's no time to revel in the fact that he's alive, now she has to focus on getting the hell out of this house.

He's completely gone, awake by the loosest definition, when she drags him to his feet and makes the first struggling step to the direction of the hallway. It burns her muscles to carry them both out, but she doesn't give up and leans into the pain rather than away. Every single step she takes hurts, but every time she wants to give up, she's reminded of the person hanging off of her and grits her teeth through the worst of it. He'd do it for me, she thinks when they cross from the hallway into the living room, knowing that he nearly died for her a few moments ago. It's hard not to trip over his feet, since he has no idea where he's putting them and they often land right in front of where her own need to go, but they only fall down once, at the top of the stairs, and get back up before either of them have a chance to give into their exhaustion from the fight, him in particular.

The night air is cold on her face, but she doesn't mind it one bit. In fact, she's never loved the cold as much as she does now, as they stumble off of the porch and in the direction of where his car is parked at the end of the walkway. She has to fish the keys from his pocket and it unlocks without hassle, him collapsing into the back seat without a word while she hurries back inside to grab a couple of things.

That front door closes behind her for a final time with everything she needs in her arms and she's frantic in everything she does, hurtling herself at the front driver's side door of his car without any thought in her mind outside of, We need to get out, we need to be safe, I need to protect them. But that all changes the second she sits down and, as legend would always have it with her fruitless attempts to drive, locks the seatbelt in place with a soft "click".

Thrown into a scene of carnage and endless pain, Y/N finds herself dissolved in that same, hellish dreamscape that she can never escape from.

Her parents are bleeding out in the passenger seat and on the front of the car, Momma's blood is pouring from her head down the hood of their car while she sits there in silent agony to watch it happen right in front of her.

Their car-not Bill's, she's in their car and it's going up in flames-is no longer the happy setting it had been to many drives to school or ballet, it's a scene lifted straight from one of her lover's horror stories. She can't bear it, but there's nothing she can do to ease their pain as they slowly start to fade away from her forever. All she can do is cry, shoulders shaking with it, and stare in abject horror at it all. It hurts so badly and she's unable to cope with that desolation, succumbing to the fire surrounding them. Her eyes are squeezed shut now, but she can see it with her eyes closed too and it follows her everywhere she tries to escape to. It's burning hot in here and they're bleeding, they're leaving and she can't save them, she's ripping the hoodie off to cool down-

Then, out of nowhere, she feels it.

It's so faint that she shouldn't be able to feel it, especially with how early on it is, but as soon as she began to slip away, there was this fluttering sensation inside of her that she's never felt before.

It felt like bubbles, like butterflies too, but she knew what is was as soon as it happened and it halted her oncoming panic attack right in its tracks. Though she knows this isn't the case, it's almost as if they knew somehow. As if they sensed it and started squirming around in there, kicking at her and trying to draw her attention elsewhere. She knows that isn't true, knows they couldn't possibly be capable of knowing what's going on quite yet, but it's what she believes just happened.

The entire world goes silent to her as she looks down at her now exposed bump, watching it in shock, and lets her hand fall from the steering wheel to settle atop it when it happens once again.

It's mesmerizing to her; those fluttering, light movements she feels just below her belly button where her hand is lying at that protruding, round stomach of her's. It makes it feel real, actually, and she can't begin to think about anything but the way it feels to have their baby moving around inside of her. At first, she was too terrified of what might happen to consider the fact that she could actually have a family with him. She was this close to having Alyssa drive her to the clinic a town over, but...she never did. Because, underneath the fear, this is what she wanted and she knew that. Underneath the secrets and the confusion and pain, this was her choice. And that had always been big with her; choice, or lack thereof, has been something she's struggled with for a while now. In her marriage, she was never allowed a choice, but being able to choose Bill that day in August and now, having the opportunity to choose...that's something she'll never have if she doesn't start this car.

The tips of her fingers trace circles and hearts on the front of her belly, trying to get a reaction from the baby, and she finds the ability to breathe again, to think clearly too. Her palm ends up remaining flat against it in the end, no more squirming within, but just in case little one decides to keep it up.

Hot tears slip down her face as she looks over her shoulder at where Bill is laying across the backseat with his cheek squished against the leather, fast asleep, but breathing. Alive, she has to remind herself, breathing and very much alive. Her gaze flickers back and forth between the two. At him, then her pregnant little belly, at him, then her belly, at him, then-

"I promised," She whispers, sniffling, "I-I promised I'd fight for you..."

Her other hand that had been gripping the end of the key twists and it's still scary as hell, but the engine turns over smoothly and all of those years that had suffocated her in the wake of that loss-it's finally time to let it go of them all. To say goodbye, at long last, because this isn't the way anyone should have to live. Her parents wouldn't want this for her, wouldn't want her to kill herself bit by bit because they aren't here anymore, and it's only now that she can understand this. Cause the idea of her and Bill's baby suffering the way she has when it grows up-it makes her break down and realize that she was young too. That she was their baby and they wouldn't want this, for no one in their right mind would.

So, the engine comes to life, she takes her first real breath of air for the first time in six years, and one hand still has to rest there on her stomach as she drives off into the night. The presence of them both, one asleep in the back and the other inside of her, gives her the courage she needs to keep going.

She never looks back.

Chapter Text

Their life together remains somewhat of a mystery to them both, between taking care of their baby girl and adjusting to the aftermath of all that they went through together, but they know one thing and one thing alone. And that is that they love their little family and the life they've created for themselves.

But neither of them can deny how hard those first couple weeks were, no matter if it led to such a beautiful place.

Driving felt odder than anything she'd ever done before, but she made herself do it. She made herself press on the gas and keep going through her exhaustion and tears and worry for Bill. She knew they'd have to stop so they could both get checked out by a doctor, her for the baby and him for everything Grant had done to him, but she didn't want to stop too close to Derry-or even Maine at all. Every time she started to slip and began to look for an exit with a hotel to sleep in and emergency room to go to, she pictured a man with crazed eyes walking in after having followed them.

She did not stop all night, but before leaving Derry, there were some things that needed tending to. First of which being that she had to stop by the Denbrough household to get his things.

Only essentials; social security card, birth certificate, that money he had saved up, clothes, his manuscript, and, of course, Oscar. After tearing up his entire room for what she knew he'd need to uproot his entire life, shoving all of it into a backpack that was lying on his desk, there was this noise coming from the bed and she whipped around to see the cat looking at her. Almost human-like, he seemed to be confused and asking her what was going on, where his owner was and why she was there without him. He didn't object when she scooped him up in her arms, snatched the mail that was left on the bed, and hurried out of the garage fast enough to make him dig his claws into her clothes in protest.

They drove all night long, for seven hours straight, until Bill woke up as they were driving into Manhattan. It was the only place she could think to stop. Far enough away from Maine, crowded enough to be able to disappear into clusters of people on every corner should an unexpected stalker have decided to make his appearance, it felt natural to stop there and he woke up right on time. He stirred against where he was sleeping on the backseat with Oscar curled up beside his face and blinked against the bright light of the rising sun coming in through the windows of the car. While he lingered in that half-asleep, half-awake state, he hadn't remembered everything that happened the night before and he wondered absentmindedly why he was sleeping in his car. That didn't last, though, not once he heard her voice coming from outside of the car and everything came rushing back.

The sounds of the city startled him and she supposed that was what woke him up from his sleep, eyes darting back and forth from the cars passing by to the people passing on sidewalks. It's Manhattan, so it would be crowded no matter what, but it was obscenely early in the morning on a Wednesday, so it wasn't all too bad by the time she parked. It was a miracle that she found a spot to park, but she wasn't going to question that good fortune and promptly got out to pay the meter with the coins in the cupholder. That was when he woke and, simultaneously, she felt a weight lift off of her shoulders.

Though she knew he was alive, the fact that he slept for so long worried her and she hadn't known whether or whether not that meant he was going to be okay. Upon waking though, he managed to get up on his own and function as normally, albeit speaking with a raspy, strained voice.

Most of their stay in the city was them doing damage control for the physical trauma inflicted on them and the first night they stayed there, they went to an urgent care facility.

It's not as if they had tons of money saved between the two of them, certainly not enough to do anything other than live out of the car, splurging on a hotel room every once in a while, but this was a necessity. If he went without treatment and it turned out he had a brain injury, he could've died, and she needed to make sure the baby was still okay after that kick she took to the abdomen.

He held her hand as the ultrasound technician prodded at her, moving the transducer over her to get the best look at her they could, and realized that they hadn't talked about it yet. They were in such a hurry to get themselves checked out, Oscar tagging along in his little carrier for when they needed to leave the car, that it hadn't occurred to them to have that conversation yet. Everything had been so chaotic that they didn't have the time or energy to truly work through it all, but it ended up happening after the lady left the room to them, letting them know that both the baby and woman carrying it are healthy and that she was fourteen weeks along at the time.

The room was thick with that tense silence, but as soon as he reached out and rested his hand over that ever-growing up, eyes flooded with wonder, it all disappeared into soft-spoken words and smiles. They were left by themselves for a good fifteen minutes before the doctor came back to take a look at him and they spent all of it talking about everything she kept to herself for the preceding three months. Most of it having been questions surrounding how she found out, how long she's known, and so on. It stung to know that she knew for so long without telling him but...he saw the full extent of her husband's rage and knew it was a difficult position to be in. Plus, none of that mattered anymore once they found out that all was well medically and they knew that they both desperately wanted that kind of life together. It was daunting considering the fact that they were living in a car at the time and their relationship was new, but they knew they'd do whatever they had to do.

There were a lot of decisions to be made in the city, it seemed. Because once he was cleared to go by a doctor, with a list of alarming symptoms to look out for and a nasty set of purple bruises in the shape of where the hands that strangled him had been, they were faced with what they knew they had to do as soon as they spent one night sleeping in that car; find Oscar a better home.

It was only right, after all, they knew that they would be struggling to look after themselves without taking him into consideration and it wasn't difficult to find a safe place to give him to. But once they got themselves seen by doctors, got a cast on Bill's broken hand, and found Oscar the loving family he deserved, they were out of there faster than you could blink.

The following months were a dream-like stretch of time that she supposes she'll never forget. It was hard most of the time, but they adjusted and adapted and ended up being able to live somewhat comfortably while they cruised across the country day by day. Some nights were much harder than others, especially with the pregnancy, but they still look back on that time fondly.

There was a particular time where she and Bill had been stopped at a supermarket after they hit the six-month mark, her now visibly pregnant through any clothes or ways she previously had hidden it, though they no longer tried or needed to hide it. Most of the time, they would stock up on non-perishables and toss them in the trunk for their convenience, and because it was their only option, but that day they decided to treat themselves after months of eating a cycle of the same filling, but repetitive foods. They still got the necessities but treated themselves to a little something extra too. Their rule was that they could each get one or two things they'd typically never get to have for lunch and her, having craved pickles the entire time and never given the chance to indulge, jumped at the chance to have some.

Only, there was a twist he hadn't seen coming and ended up hysterically laughing at her for; she was slathering them in jam.

"That's fucking g-g-g-gross," He said, quirking a brow at where she was sitting crisscrossed on the hood of their car, much like the old days of their life back in Derry, making her pickle and grape jelly masterpiece.

Y/N looked at him, scandalized, and then took a huge bite that made him have to look away to prevent himself from gagging. The mere sight of it set him off and she found that incredibly amusing since, with her strange craving for it, it tasted like the best thing on earth to her.

It was early March, but they drove further south to dodge the chill and opted to keep driving west through those southern states. That particular day was warmer than usual, even for being so far down, and she had hot flashes all the time on top of that, so she wore a dress. He couldn't help but keep commenting on how beautiful she looked in it all day and one of those remarks ended in her telling him to pull over and dragging him into the backseat. Her second-trimester libido was something that both annoyed and delighted her, annoying when there was no opportunity to satisfy it, but delighting when there was. And, of course, Bill didn't mind it one bit.

There was a bright red love bite placed underneath the curve of her jaw by the time they walked through the store, which made a woman look at her as if she were walking around with her clothes off because, oh God help her poor soul, apparently pregnant women can't like sex. She didn't say it, Bill reminded her, but she countered back by telling him that she was saying it with her eyes. He just chuckled and placed her highly coveted jar of pickles down in the basket, jokingly saying he'd defend her honor against the haughty elderly lady if it became necessary. He also said he knows firsthand that pregnant women can like sex considering the fact that a heavily pregnant one practically mauled him in the back seat of their car two hours prior.

She looked between him and her jam-slathered pickle, then said,  "I mean, I can't help what little one wants, you're just insulting their taste in food, not mine."

"I will gladly insult our c-c-c-child's taste in food if it's pickles dipped in j-jam, I helped create them and I'll t-t-tease them for their weird cravings if I want to, thank you very m-much."

Their little picnic in the supermarket parking lot was a wonderful break from seeing food as something for mere survival rather than the way they used to see it, which was a privilege he hadn't realized he had. She had been in a similar situation to the one they found themselves in, only back then she was nineteen and had no money whatsoever, so it was much harder on her before.

Finishing up the last of her food, she found herself eyeing up the cup of fries he was holding. Rather than wanting anything from the grocery store like she did, he had a hankering for French fries and she was scheming to steal a couple of them right from him.

They ended up chasing each other around the parking lot, her running off with his fries and him laughing and yelling after her, but he inevitably caught up in end. Scooping her up into his arms, his heart couldn't help but skip a beat at the sound of her infectious laughter as he stole the fries back. The amount of energy running from him took made her have to bend over with her hands on her knees once he set her on her feet, taking deep breaths as he reveled in his victory. Afterward, when they were both sitting back in the hood of the car again, he did give her a couple of fries and a sweet, lingering kiss as a consolation prize though, since she worked damn hard trying to pull off such a heist due to her big baby bump weighing her down. The idea of it getting any larger confused them both since it already seemed to protrude so much, but they were in for a treat if they thought that was big.

They continued on on their trip, driving state to state in search of a place to call home.

It wasn't like they didn't have a clear idea of where they wanted to go, they did, it was just that they would've had to settle for somewhere else had he not found the letter one day when they were cleaning out the car.

West coast, they decided, they wanted to go all the way to the other side of the country, as far away from the town they used to live in, and make a life for themselves there. The only problem with that plan would've had to have been the difference in the cost of living compared to what they were used to. They were thinking Oregon or California, the latter the one they were less serious about because of the much more intimidating prices. It would be doable, but a struggle nonetheless and they both anticipated how difficult it would be at the beginning. That was, of course, before he found an envelope that had fallen under the passenger seat that was bent out of shape and crumpled by months of being crushed, but ultimately ended up saving them.

The day that they left Derry, she stopped by his house to collect some of the things he would need on the road. Most of them were obvious, essential things that any person needs and some were less essential, but things he'd be upset to go without; Oscar, though they did part ways in Manhattan, his manuscript, and a framed photo of Georgie that he kept on his desk. This hadn't been something she consciously was looking for, in fact, she barely knew what she was grabbing, luck just had it that she grabbed his mail off of his bed on her way out. Mail that included a plethora of rejection letters and one miraculous letter that found its way into his lap in April, one month before she was due to give birth.

He squinted at it curiously when he dragged it up from the depths of the car, Y/N still drying her hair off a couple of paces away from when they showered at the local recreation center, and turned it over in his hands. They were starting to run low on money as the months passed, no matter how smart with it they tried to be since things like food, gas, and paying to use recreation center showers don't come free, but then, by the grace of God, here comes this long-forgotten letter.

As soon as he opened it, read it, and realized exactly what it said, Bill screamed for her so loudly that she nearly tripped over herself from where she stood on the other side of the car.

His last submission, only after she traded a promise with him for it, didn't get rejected.

He could hardly breathe as he realized that this wasn't some sick joke, that his book would actually get published and the good news had been hiding underneath the passenger seat for eight months! Immediately, he contacted the publishing company and they both anxiously awaited updates on the process once he finally responded to their offer for his manuscript. One can only imagine the amount of shock they felt when they were told that he was getting a fifteen-thousand dollar advance if he made the deal, which he immediately did and they decided right there, right then, where they were going to settle down sooner than expected. They were already planning on making the decision and getting a place right before their child arrived, but that gave them the chance to get started right away. They'd have to work other jobs, obviously, but it made it easier on them to pick a place without worrying about whether or not they would have enough money to give birth to their baby at a hospital, a concept that they complained about on a daily basis the closer they got to the due date.

They got an apartment in Oregon, which they always knew they were going to pick deep down, and got settled as they waited for the arrival of "little one". They had grown accustomed to calling the baby that since they didn't know the sex, which meant they hadn't chosen a name yet, and meant that they were in for a surprise when the time would come.

By the time forty weeks, nine months to the day, caught up with them, they were getting antsy.

Three weeks into living in their apartment, him having gotten a job at a local auto-shop and her far too pregnant to even think about working quite yet, they waited every day for little one to make an appearance, yet found days passing by slowly. It's normal, they knew that, and due dates are mere estimations, but never had they expected it to last until the first week of June. They tried every trick in the book to try to coax them on out, but nothing seemed to work. Not exercise, not sex-though it had certainly been entertaining when they tried, unable to stop the fits of laughter every time he would bump into her positively enormous belly-not spicy foods or anything everyone claims kickstarts labor. They concluded that this baby would come when it wanted and all they could do was calm down, be as prepared as possible, and wait for it to happen.

He had joked a lot, "They're g-g-g-gonna have their first birthday b-by the time they come out, they're never gonna l-l-leave."

But when the baby decided it was time, it was time.

It was the sixth of June when she started to feel her first real contractions, not the Braxton Hicks contractions she'd been having for a couple of months, and everything descended into madness from there on out.

Y/N was in so much pain that he had to carry her to the car, her water having broke while she was walking to get the mail, and he didn't realize how terrifying it would be once the time came. Perhaps a little naively, he thought they'd have tons of time to get to the hospital and endure the long, strenuous labor so many women experience, but that wasn't the case at all. They flew down the highway fast enough to make him worry, but not fast enough for the contractions that were starting to become dangerously close for her liking to no longer be worrisome. She was too caught up in getting through every wave of pain to hear what he was hearing, but if she had, she would've broken down into tears immediately. He nearly broke into tears himself and he wasn't even the one about to push an entire baby out of him. But once she did realize what was happening, she shared his sense of impending dread, because the car that had somehow carried them all the way across the country finally broke down...while she was minutes away from giving birth.

Every word that came from her was incoherent and she could barely focus enough to hear him, but she did hear one of the last things he said before things took a turn.

Bill was stuttering worse than he has since he was a young boy, healed knuckles white with the pressure he was holding the steering wheel with as the car came to a halt at the shoulder of the road, and he was looking frantically from her to the car door, helpless, "I-I c-c-cuh-can f-fix-fix it, I c-can-"

The next thing she said seemed to snap him out of his scared state of denial, for he hadn't realized that it was going to happen in a matter of minutes.

"You aren't fixing anything, this baby wants out!" She exclaimed, finally crying, and then said as she tried and failed to get her underwear off form under her skirt, "I need your help, Bill, I think-"

He was running out of the car around to the other side before he could hear the rest of her sentence, pulling open the passenger side door with a distraught, worried look in his eyes the second he looked at her.

But he did everything she needed him too nonetheless. Even if he had been scared shitless, his mind went blank as she told him to help her get her underwear off, then grab the towel from the backseat to set under her as she began to scream like she was being tortured and the sound tugged at his heartstrings. She kept saying that it was happening while they were driving, but he didn't realize that was what she meant-that she could actually feel it coming and needed immediate help. It didn't match up with any of the stories either of them had heard about giving birth, but, then again, they didn't talk to a ton of people who had up until the very end when people took her visibly pregnant belly as a sign to give unsolicited advice. The only people they talked to about it were doctors, who didn't exactly mention what her experience would be like because that's not something one can predict.

Much to both of their amazement, she gave birth right there and he barely had the chance to get her underwear off of her legs before their little girl was in Bill's hands, instantly to be placed on her heaving chest while he went to call an ambulance to where they were. It was difficult to learn to push through the pain she felt, but as soon as she did, it was over quickly and the sounds of high-pitched crying filled the car.

Coincidentally, Valerie, the Amy Winehouse song, was playing when it happened.

It was hard to worry about anything trivial or focus on anything other than her in the months that followed. Neither of them realized how different they would feel the second he laid her on her chest, but it was this instantaneous shift within them that they can't put into words. You wait all this time for your child to come and think you know how you'll feel when you finally see them, but you don't. You never expect that shift that occurs when all of your love zeros in on that tiny little human that knows nothing and no one but the comfort of your affection and attention. Once all was well and they were cleared to go home, the two of them simply laid in their bed with her and started in awe, unable to wrap their heads around the fact that she was real, that she was theirs.

And as time would pass, she'd begin to grow bigger and become more aware of her surroundings and they'd been hushed to silence every time she did something new. Her first giggle had her tearing up from a mix of fluctuating hormones and another thing that was much different, a thing she's currently thinking of as she had been that day.

The crashing waves are a peaceful white noise to their conversations as they lay on the beach, not having bothered with a blanket and set up camp right upon the soft sand.

Valerie adores coming to the beach and now that she's a year old, it's fun to watch her stumble around picking up shells and scuttling away from the oncoming waves that hit the shore with a delighted, but mildly frightened little shriek.

They're all lying in the sand together and Y/N watches them interact closely.

There's a gentle smile on her face while she observes the two most significant people in her life and lets her mind wander. It wanders to the past, to the future, to everything that's led them here, and, particularly, the months that led up to them leaving that cursed town across the country for good. It had been years that she spent silently suffering at the hands of that man, following her parent's death, and never had she thought that this would be the outcome. For a while, she had lost all hope and figured that the only way she would find a sense of peace of relief would be in death, whether at her own hands or Grant's, but then things changed. Then, she slowly began to regain her will to live and life no longer felt so bleak, filled with such inescapable terrors that followed her no matter where she went. It all changed in the span of those pivotal months.

So much happened so fast, it's almost jarring to think about how far they've come. His book got published and is being sold right now-under a pseudonym to keep complete anonymity from Grant-she's going to school between jobs to become an actual dance instructor, and now they have her. Their precious child that managed to give her strength in even the darkest of moments, the one of most importance being that time she first moved around inside of her when she was frozen behind the wheel of his car. That had been one of the most traumatic days of her life, but, simultaneously, it was one of the best too because of what it signified. It was a turning point, the turning point, and it was the day she set herself free.

It was the day she realized that no one and nothing could own her, except her. Not Grant, not Bill, not the past, but her, as broken as she may still be while they spend their days putting themselves back together piece by piece.

Bill pretends to groan in pain dramatically and is holding their daughter's little hand's in his, letting her walk up his chest with bare, unsteady feet planted on him. She steps on him with all of her limited strength, infectious giggle and all. It's too beautiful of a sight to describe; with the sun barely beginning to set around them, the beach they're laying on, and them. She's a complete daddy's girl, which became obvious right away. That's not to say she isn't utterly attached to her mother, but they're each other's best friend. It was hard to imagine either of them being so mushy and cute with someone before they had her, but as soon as she came out, they were all over her and couldn't tear themselves away.

The baby girl slides down off of him slightly, stumbling, and is only steadied when he reaches on instinct to catch her.

"Papa," She murmurs one of the only words she knows, little fingers grabbing at his face, "Papa."

He quirks a brow at her, then lets out a soft laugh when she doesn't follow it up with anything other than pulling on his lip. She has gotten to the age where she's finding her voice and mama or papa seem to be the easiest ones she can manage, as well as the ones they were trying to get her to say first anyway. It melted their hearts the first time they heard her say it.

But there's that lingering thought that has been inescapable ever since they had her that follows her around, especially now. Looking at them in shock, smiling at how happy they both are, she lets it fade back into her mind.

It's the thought that this very moment and many others like it that they experience on a daily basis, had been her idea of an unattainable fantasy two years ago. Letting herself dream of these tender type of moments between her and him, with their, at the time, hypothetical children had been an unrealistic daydream she used to escape the horror of her life at home. The sounds of her laughter and seeing the way he looks at her with so much love in his heart, it's so perfect that it felt like a trick. For a while, she didn't want to trust it, but now she watches Bill place kisses all over her little face as she giggles wildly and can't help but trust it. Plenty of people get to have lives like this, so why not her? Why should she waste her time hesitating and doubting as she had for many years? It's a useless thing to do, they've both realized, and living in the present is far better than letting yourself get eaten away by the past.

It will always be difficult when she thinks of her parents, or when he thinks of Georgie, a mystery that had never been solved, but they have this life and they have each other, which is all that really matters. Even in their "perfect" life in the aftermath of Derry, they have problems and arguments and fall upon hard times, but now they have what they lacked before, that essential thing that is what carries you through the bad days. They have love, true companionship, and nothing could overcome that.

Then, Bill looks over at her, their daughter now playing in the sand in the space between them rather than pulling at his face as she had been, and she finds warmth in that gaze. Blue is often such a cold color, the color of frozen lakes, sapphires, and fingers numb from the winter chill, yet the blues of his eyes are everything but when he turns his head to look at her. With such tender admiration and warmth, he looks at her and she knows in her heart that he's been thinking the exact same thing she just was.

It's moments like these that help you through horrible, lonely times.

Then, he turns back to the little girl between them, the moment passes, and they wait for the next to come.