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Author's Chapter Notes:

She had no idea what time it was or where they were but it didn’t matter. No one had called or texted, no one knew they were gone, no one recognized him… everything was perfect.

“Remember when we used to go to the Jersey Shore and your mom bought us those tee shirts?”

“The really ugly tie dyed ones?”

“Yeah, we passed someone earlier with a tee shirt that reminded me of them.” She laughed. “Ours were particularly hideous … we loved them though.”

“I hope the evidence never surfaces.”

She smiled at him and adjusted her body so she could put her head on his leg, relaxing horizontally on the bench.

“It’s so beautiful here.”

“Yeah Spain is awesome.”

“Have you felt homesick yet at all?” She asked, “I guess it hasn’t been that long...”

He smiled and started playing with her hair with one of his hands as the other draped over the back of the bench.

“Actually I haven’t.” You’re the reason.

“That’s good.”

His heart caught in his throat thinking back to his life back home… where he had done so many things that he felt made him someone she could never trust enough to let him have what he wanted. “Have you?”

“No,” She said, thinking about it. “I honestly don’t know where I’d be homesick for. I guess Boston feels more like home now than Connecticut… but I don’t feel homesick for either.”

“You don’t miss it?”

She shrugged, “I miss things, I guess… honestly haven’t thought of them til now.” She smiled, “But, home is a moving target.”

He looked at her curiously, so many questions flooded to the surface and he tried to suppress them.

She reached up and took his hand from the back of the bench and laced her fingers through his, bringing it closer to her body.

Tell him

She was quiet for a few seconds, he was playing with her hair gently, the air was so still, the stars were still visible and she felt like she was in a dream. Tell him now.

Her ponytail fell across his lap and caught the moonlight, the weight of her on him was something he had grown to love the last few nights - if her body was touching his, he was delighted. He smiled to himself thinking of the past week and what might happen next, but it got caught on the fears… the snag in the system.

They stayed on the bench for at least an hour, with her head on his lap, his hand in hers and the conversation flowing freely between them but neither of them made the statements they really wanted to.

The door to her hotel room had not even closed all the way behind them and they were already kissing and removing anything that had to go: bags, shoes, jewelry… Nick’s shirt was next, he unbuttoned it from the top as she worked the buttons from the bottom, kissing the entire time they did so. He shrugged it off and let it land where it would as they made their way to her bed.

Coll’s hands ran over his arms and shoulders, fully exposed outside of his tank top. He was working her top out of her skirt and she was indulging in his every movement.

She felt herself falling back against the bed, his hands supporting her, letting her down gently. She slid into the bed and he straddled himself above her, still kissing her.

Do better.

Suddenly she felt the energy shift and he pulled away from her. “I really am sorry it wasn’t a real date.” He said randomly, annoyed with himself.

She sighed, “I honestly don’t know what you’d classify it as? What was not right about it?”

“Well, I blew it by not even asking you out right the first time.” He said, frustration evident in his voice. He fell beside her on his back. “Then the place was all wrong, then it just seemed like … I don’t know, casual. I mean, it was great, I had fun...” He stopped talking, trying not to blow it any more than he already thought he had.

She moved so she was propped up above him now.

“Well you’re welcome to give it another go, but it felt like a date to me.”

He was quiet. She watched him, his mind in a deep mysterious tangle.

“Nick, what did you really want to do tonight?” She asked, honestly trying to figure him out.

“This.” He said simply even though he meant more by it than she knew. Her question opened a door to a different kind of communication - just like her question earlier had. He wanted to talk to her, and be honest and explain everything to her but there were so many things in the way. But if he was going to try it, he wanted to do it in a way that felt special.

She smirked at him. “Then why so much apologizing about the date?” He was quiet, a small smile on his face.

“Shyyyyy.” She sang.

“I wanted it to be perfect. Like I wanted to have dinner, like, real dinner, at the perfect place.”

“It was perfect.”

“No, it wasn’t.”

“Well, I am capable of loving something that isn’t perfect, but I’m telling you it was. Why does it matter that what we did wasn’t pre-planned? And now you have ‘this’ so what’s the issue?”

“Because I fucked it up. I fucked it up from the beginning this morning.” He shook his head. “I just wanted more.”


“You.” Everything.

She smiled and tilted her head at him as a tingle crept up her spine. “What makes you think you can’t have that?” She asked him, but she knew it had to mean more of her in the non-physical ways, too. And she wanted to see what that meant to him.

He took a deep breath and looked at her again, she was hovering over him, propped up on her hands on either side of him. He sat up straight and she reclined into sitting on her knees in front of him.

“Colleen.” He began, his tone more serious than she anticipated. need to know. “Do you trust me?”

She scanned his face, thinking about what provoked him to ask her at that moment. She could tell this was something he has been wondering for some time. “Entirely.”

He looked relieved, shook his head in disbelief and smiled a little.

“Is there some reason I shouldn’t? That you think I wouldn’t?” She asked, curious to know what he was thinking.

“You know me.” He said sadly, “What I’ve done, how I’ve been…”

She shook her head, “That’s why I do.”

He didn’t understand it. “I’ve done legitimately stupid things. I’ve been a bad person…”

“So you want more of me… but you’re afraid to go for it because you think I don’t trust you.” She stated. “And that’s why you’re shy and stopping short when you start to do or say things… because you can’t be sure since you doubt that I trust you.” She pieced it together out loud.

His body language was telling her she was right but he was still quiet.

She bit her lip. I can fix this.

“I know you and that’s exactly why I trust you.” She saw that she had to reel him back in from whatever long, self-deprecating thought process he was in. “You are not a bad person.”

This was the heaviest thing they’d spoke about since they started whatever it was they were currently doing with each other.

“I understand what’s happening though.” She moved her weight off her legs and crossed them in front of her. She slid a bit closer to him and reached out for his hand, tangling her fingers up with his.

“You’re thinking about some of the things I know about you but you’re forgetting that I know a lot more. You’re thinking about… that morning in London, about Mandy… you’re wondering why I would trust you - knowing some of what you’ve done and knowing what I haven’t.” She began, he hung his head, “You’ve done… things. And some of them were probably a little reckless.” She paused and shifted closer to him. “But I know you aren’t actually a reckless person. You aren’t careless, or reckless or stupid. I don’t see whatever reputation you think you have. At least I don’t see it out of context.” She took a deep breath, the room was quiet for a moment. “And you’re not acting reckless with me … which must mean something.” Their eyes met. “I don’t know everything you’ve done in the past however many years or with however many people. I do know that you probably took advantage of your situation, which is normal… and maybe some of that was careless. And then, maybe, people assumed something about you and because you didn’t know yourself well enough yet you fell into believing that about yourself.”

Her words fell into him like bricks, filling in holes, leveling him out. Stabilizing him even more.

“Plus if you didn’t have anything you felt was worth holding on to, it makes sense you weren’t really careful with it.”

He couldn’t speak. She had him pinned. It was exactly right, he had no idea how to hold something that meant anything, he had never had it before.

She went on, “So maybe you did a few stupid things. That doesn’t make you a stupid person.”

He hung his head, squeezing her hand gently in his. “How are you doing this?” His voice was full of something unrecognizable, something that landed between sadness, frustration and wonder.

“Doing what?”

His eyes landed on something across the room as he considered the reality, “You make sense of me.”

She smiled. “Look at me.”

It made him feel heavy. He did.

“I know you.” She was looking directly at him, “I know you are capable of doing amazing things the same way you are capable of making mistakes. Just like everyone else.” Her eyes landed on her hand holding his, “You’ve already done amazing things… more than you probably even realize.” She added quietly.

She thought about how safe she felt with him and how even that first night kissing him was relaxing and amazing even against a backdrop of unknowns and history they both wanted to maintain. She thought about how he made her feel comfortable enough to say things that surprised her even as they came out of her mouth. She thought about the fountain and she couldn’t keep a smile from spreading across her face. “Nick, I-“ ”no one ever got what they wanted by being shy and playing it safe.” She couldn’t have what she wanted without him knowing this either. “I can tell you I trust you and you can hear it but it won’t make a difference until you feel like I do - or let yourself believe that I do. Let yourself see it: when we’re together I feel safe, I feel … relaxed. I’m happy.” The best version of myself. “Because I trust you and I don’t have any reason not to.”

He reached out and pulled her closer to him.

“What do you see?”

“What do you mean?”

“With me? How are you able to feel that? You were fake dry heaving and I couldn’t even -” He stopped, annoyed with himself, “I wasn’t even good at asking you out. And I said you looked nice which is not even close to what I actually thought. I don’t even know your favorite Thai place.”

She looked at his hand in hers and she remembered how uncomfortable he looked when John texted her, and she remembered how she felt that night she had to leave the show to call Becka. “I see that you have been with me every night, I see that you really care about me and what we do together. I see how you work so hard for the things you want. I see how committed you can be to something. I see the best version of you.” She explained honestly but caught herself stopping short too, she saw so much more than that. “And I don’t have a favorite Thai place. I have an annoying ex boyfriend who thinks he knows everything.”

He brought her hand to his face and kissed the inside of her wrist. She felt it deeply that he cared for her, she just wanted him to say it. She couldn’t be mad at him for it, she wasn’t telling him how she felt either. Both of those realities frustrated her but she had to deal with this first.

“But you worry too much. About me.”

“No, Coll, I-“ He had to stop, she was looking at him and he could see her clearly again, it was overwhelming.

“I’m not going to break. I’m not that fragile.” She wasn’t sure how to say what she wanted to say. “Just-” she inhaled deeply, “please don’t be afraid of that one thing you know is true about me. It doesn’t mean all the things people interpret it to mean. I’m not so delicate. I don’t always trust myself, but I always trust you.”


“And I like being with you… I want to hear what you want to say, even if you think it’s messy, or ‘not perfect’...”

“Why?” He asked. Those were words he had never heard before.

She furrowed her eyebrows at him. This might require a bold move to make a point. “Why wouldn’t I?”

He was quiet, looking at her ponytail that was now fairly misshapen but somehow even cuter.

“You can be imperfect, Nick. I know that in your celebrity world that’s less acceptable but, with me you really don’t have to be perfect. I can handle it.” She took a deep breath and looked away from him for a second, “but tonight is perfect.”

”I am capable of loving something that isn’t perfect.”

His lips grazed hers again and they both knew there was more to say that neither of them were saying. But there had already been so much talking.

She wasn’t convinced that he understood how deeply she trusted him, but she knew they both needed him to. She pulled away from him and stood up off the side of the bed. She hesitated for a second but maintained her courage. With her back turned to him, she worked her top fully out of the waistband of her skirt, finishing what he had started. She crossed her arms, and grabbed the back of the top in her hands, quickly pulling it off and tossing it into an armchair. She then twisted her body to reach the side zipper on Andrea’s skirt and slid it off, tossing it to the armchair as well.

She looked back at him, feeling a little more self conscious than she was expecting to but somehow still confident in this move. He was watching her closely, a surprised smile on his face, he made a move like he was about to get up but she stopped him by returning back to the bed and placing her hands back on either side of his body again. The heat from his body spread across her skin and she tried to savor the feeling.

“Would I do this if I didn’t trust you?” She asked him seriously. “Would I have said everything I’ve said?”

He shook his head and his hands went to her bare arms, pulling her back into him, kissing her softly at first, then deeper.

“I trust you enough to be like this with you…” He was overwhelmed by her in the best possible way, “and I trust that you understand it doesn’t have to be more than this right now. I trust that you won’t do anything I don’t want to…. and that you’ll know.” He was listening intently, moving his hand cautiously up her arm. “I trust that you got caught up in some things that weren’t real, and that you treated them that way...” Her eyes were scanning his face again “And I’m trusting that you’ll know it when you have something that is real...” her eyes landed on his and she kept them there, “and that you’ll try to treat it like it is.”

He opened his mouth to speak but nothing came out. She had completely untangled his messy mind, she had made sense of things he had not even realized he was confused by. And she had given him more access to her in a lot of ways, but he had no idea what to do with it.

She deserves better. Do better. Don’t mess it up.

He had mumbled it to her more than once that if something was meant to be, you couldn’t mess it up. And he had questioned that several times privately but he discovered that the question was not whether it was meant to be or not, but what exactly was meant to be. He had full confidence that he could mess up just about anything but he still had no idea where they were headed, or exactly how much steering to do. But she was laying there with him, barely anything between his skin and hers and that was all he wanted from her. Another new reality for him. Unknown destinations.

“Is there anything else I should know?” She asked as she used her finger to move a piece of hair off his forehead.

He was quiet for a few seconds and she waited patiently.

“Probably.” Pathetic.

She could tell he was sorting something out, overwhelmed in some ways. She smiled softly at him, “I trust that you will tell them to me when you’re ready… and that none of them would change how I feel.” Tell him. She swallowed hard, pushing some anxiety back down, feeling so frustrated with herself, but also like she might have made some space for him to say something he wanted to. ”Knock and wait patiently.”

His hand was on the back of her bare neck and he was falling deeper. His head dropped, nuzzling his face into the curve of her shoulder. I am so in love with you… i want to tell you.

She closed her eyes and placed her hand on the back of his head, pushing her hand gently through his hair.

Just say it. It’s meant to be. You can’t mess it up.