"Do you want some wine?" he asked, his voice calm, as he guided the bottle into his hands.  He began to work a cork screw into the top of the bottle.  She had her back to him, but she could hear the squeak of the corkscrew even across the room.

Her eyes had been closed for a moment as she stood in open doorway that lead to the penthouse balcony.  The wind was a little harder up at her elevation, but she liked it against her skin.  Even though she'd been shivering a little when they'd stepped out of the car, the room had seemed stuffy when they'd walked in and she realized that they would be alone for the evening.  She didn't like it, but she felt as if she needed an open door to at least make her feel remotely like she could escape if she wanted to.

Hearing footsteps she opened her eyes she heard him breathing next to her.  It wasn't a creepy kind of a feeling, having him so close to her.  It was comforting.  It was a comfort she didn't know that she'd missed having until she realized that it had been gone.

"Wine?" he asked when she turned and looked at him.

"Umm," she looked down at the bottle and saw that it was the kind she'd always order when they went out.  She never thought that he'd noticed the winery name.

He backed away a little.  "I won't spill it on you this time."

She frowned at his comment.  "Yeah."

"Ok," he said cutting off anything more she could say.  He went over to the cabinet and took out two glasses then poured some in the glasses and brought one back over to her.

"Thanks," she said.

"Oh," he said, "I almost forgot."  He walked across the room and opened up a closet and pulled something out.  Hiding it behind his back he came back over to her.  His hand stayed behind his back.  "I got you a present."

She narrowed her eyes.  "You can't bribe me into this.  Dinner is one thing, but presents are another."

"I'm not," he said and handed her a pair of fuzzy slippers.  "I know how you hate heels so I got you shoes to wear."

She didn't know how to react to his gift.  She took them from him and held them with one hand and her wine glass in the other.  It was true that she hated her heels, but she'd never known that he'd noticed before.

"I know what you're thinking."  His eyes looked her over critically as if he was trying to read her expression.  "You don't realize all the stuff that I noticed--"  He moved her hair out of her face and smiled at her.  "You used to come home from parties and take your shoes off and put your feet up. You used to tell me that it was just that you were tired and wanted to lie down, but it was really because your feet hurt."

She nodded and back away from him feeling the electricity between them becoming too strong.  She wasn't going to fall in to his arms so easily.  She couldn't fall into his arms that easily.  It wasn't a matter of pride.  It was a matter of heart.  If she opened up to him again she was afraid that she was going to get her heart broken because her expectations still seemed to high.  She wanted him to be perfect, but she also wanted him to be himself, but both things couldn't be done at once.

"Anyway," he said with a shrug. "I thought you'd want to wear them."

"Thanks."  She drank down a gulp of wine and prayed that she'd be a lightweight that night and have it relax her before she had a heart attack over all this.

When she sat down to take off  her heels and put on the slippers, she chose to sit on the couch in the tiny living room.  Chris saw that she was there and took a seat in the chair next to the couch.  "I arranged for dinner to be delivered to the room in about a half hour.  I wasn't sure what you'd want so I ordered chicken parmesean and a plate of alfredo pasta."

"I'm not gonna be that picky about it," she said, "You pick what you want and I'll have the other or we can split the two and share."

Chris laughed.  "Remember in Minnesota that one time when we were playing Minneapolis and the show got canceled from the snow so we ordered everything on the menu and shared it."

"If you remember right," she said. "You were the one who ate everything.  Sometimes I can't believe that you were so crazy with your money.  You had like a hundred dollars worth of food."

"No," he said.

"Yes," she said with a laugh.  "You told me the story about how restaurant people spit in people's food and I got sick to my stomach and wouldn't eat anything else."

"I did not," he protested.

"Yes you did," she said, "I remember though how you got sick after you ate everything and I was the one who was helping you out when you were puking up cherry pie, french fries, and manacotti."

"Oh," he said, "That was that night?"

Dani laughed, "What other nights did you puke up manacotti?"

He made a face as if he was thinking really hard.  "I don't know," he said.

As their laughter died down he smiled at her, "See...it's not that hard to laugh with me."

"That was never a problem with you."

"We had some good times though didn't we?" he asked.  She didn't like the way that his voice sounded so unsure.  Had it been so long that they couldn't remember all the the time they'd spend together that had made them happy?  There had been horrible times when she wanted to kill him for being so immature, but there were times that she wouldn't have given up for a million years.

"Yeah," she said and reached for her wine glass.  She stared at the burgundy liquid for a moment.  "We did.  There were more than a few times...I mean--"  She ducked her head a spoke softly, "I hope you don't think that I hated everything about us being together.  I never meant to make you think that."

"Dani don't get all hyper.  I know why you broke up with me.  Believe me."  Chris sat up straight in his chair and put his hands on his knees.  She saw his knuckles turn white as he gripped his knees with his hands.  He took deep breaths then looked her in the eyes and she could see there the emotion that was hiding behind the soft delivery of the words.  "I know.  It was spelled out really clearly--"  He shrugged.  "It was me.  I know what you hated about me back then and I know the little things that you hate about me now."

"I don't hate you."  Dani's eyes teared up.  She wanted to be strong and act like the mature one, but his words really upset her.  She didn't like being someone who was hated by other people.  It ususally didn't matter, but the history between her and Chris was long and involved and she didn't want to wipe out the good due to the small percentage of the time that had been bad.  The moment she'd broken things off with him she'd felt free, but at the same time she'd felt more alone than she had in a long time.

"The other night surely didn't show it."

Dani sighed.  "You spilled--"

He put his hand up to stop her.  "I ACCIDENTALLY spilled--"

"Fine," she said with a sigh, "You accidentally spilled something on me, but it was accidents that have happened between you and me consistantly--"

"What do you want me to say Dani?" he asked, his voice raising a little, "I said I was sorry the other night and I meant it.  I'm not the type of person to do something like that to deliberately hurt you."

Dani turned away from him and pushed herself up and went over to the doorway.  She could hear Chris coming up behind her and she felt herself stiffen thinking that he might reach out and touch her.  Most of that day she had wished that he would be there with her like that, but at the moment he wanted nothing to do with him.  This nasty back and forth stuff was getting old.

Luckily, when a knock sounded at the door he turned the other way and went to get the door.  She saw his reflection in the window as he let the bellhop in and waited while the guy set the table up for them in the corner.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
 

He tipped the bellboy handsomely before closing the door and letting them get back to their evening together.  He wasn't sure how the rest of the evening would go, but at least with the food there they'd be able to get destracted from each other and keep the fighting to a miniumum.  With food in their mouths he wouldn't have a way to yell at her and she wouldn't have a way to yell back.

"Dinner is ready," he quietly called to her where she stood at the doorway.

He cocked his head to the side and watched her for a moment trying to see what she was doing.  He had worried about her being so quiet.  He wasn't sure if she just didn't want to talk to him or if she didn't want to say the wrong thing.  He was having a hard time himself trying to say and do the right thing.  So much of him just wanted to pull her close and kiss her and tell her that he missed her, but the past came back to haunt him too much to make the situation comfortable.

*****
 

[six months before...]

"Awe FUCK Dani!" he said angrily.  "I'm sorry.  I'm sorry."  She could hear him get up and move around from where he'd originally been.  "I'm still in Vegas.  I'm sorry.  I'm sorry.  I went to sleep last night then got up around two in the morning and went out with the guys...I'm sorry...I came back here and I went to get a shower so I could catch my flight, but I guess they thought I already left because I didn't--I'm sorry."

"Save it Chris," she said, "You should have been here YOU should be here with me for this.  FuMan is YOUR company.  It's YOUR responsibility."

"I know Dani," he said.

"Don't say I know Dani," she said with a sigh, "I quit.  I'm going to go in there and save your sorry butt once again, but I mean it Chris, I'm out of here.  I can't do this anymore."

"But--"

"No butts," she said.  "It's over...and I don't just mean this way of doing business."  She paused.  "Chris you need to grow up and until you do I'm not going to take part in this.  I don't just mean the business Chris.  I mean us too Chris."
 

*****

Growing up for him was taking a little more time that he thought, but he was trying to do it for himself for her and for them.  Even if the them that he wanted to be wasn't shaping up so easily.  One half of them was standing across the room probably wondering if them would ever happen again.

He could make out her face in the reflection of the glass door and could see clearly that she was crying even if the reflection wasn't that clear.  It wasn't just the look he saw on her face.  It was the way her shoulders slumped and the way that arm arms were hugged around her that said the most.  If they had been together he would have walked up to her and wrapped her arms around her and held onto her giving her the support he knew she needed, but knew that they weren't together and she'd more likely slap him for that than take comfort in him being there.

"You can eat out there if you want to," he said then mumbled the rest that came out.  "I'm sure you wouldn't want to be next to me anyway."  He took his glasses off and rubbed his temples before putting them back on again.

When his eyes focused again Dani was standing near him.  He pointed to the table that had been set up and they moved closer to the table.  "I'm sorry for overreacting about this," she said.

"I understand Dani.  Neither of us is comfortable here."  With a serious tone he moved to get her chair for her.  He had her sit down and pushed the chair in for her before moving to his side of the table, lifting the lids from the plates as he went.  "We've been through a lot."  He took his seat then picked up his napkin and put it on his right knee then picked up his fork and picked at the alfredo for a moment.  "You and I have history that no one can take away from us, but if we're going to get past this, whether it be as a couple or as friends we need to discuss this like adults--something that neither of us were ready to do a few months ago.  Our relationship was like a fairytale and when that feeling ended we didn't know what to do."

"You thought of it as a fairytale?" she asked.  She seemed shocked to even hear that he cared about her, another sign of how he needed to change his perception of their lives together.  He'd been so blind to so many things for so long that he had been stupid to think that her breaking up with him was coming out of thin air.

"Yes."  He lifted his glass of wine to his lips to wet his drying mouth.  She'd never really known how much he'd needed her.  He'd tried to show her, but the gifts and the trips weren't the way to show how he felt for her.  "Everyone thought of it as a fairytale.  I mean I don't know how many times a day I hear about you and people wondering what happened and when we're getting back together.  While we were together people always said that he were like the mold or whatever that the guys should follow."

Her fork pulled at the chicken parmesean for a moment as the information sunk in and soon she was looking up at him again.  "They did?  I knew people were fans of --"  She made quotes in the air with her fingers.  "--us, but I never thought that it was like some romance novel...I mean I knew that we were in love--"  Her voice faded out.

"It was a fairytale for while."  His one hand swirled his wine in the glass trying to look casual while the other hand hand slid to his pocket as his foot began to bounce nervously.  He knew this was just nervous energy and moved his hand away from the pill bottle.  "I believed that all along.  I believed that you were the princess and I was the prince and nothing from the outside could touch us.  No one ever started rumors about us, no one ever tried to touch that at all.  Hell, we as a couple got more fan mail than I did before you, but--"  He set his glass down and leaned back a little and let out a sigh.  "I just know now that things weren't perfect."

"Nothing is perfect."  She took a sip of wine and put her glass back.

"I thought that we were.  You know the saying about love being blind?" he asked.

She nodded.

"I thought that since everyone thought that we looked perfect that we were.  I seriously took advantage of that situation.  I thought that because you told me you loved me and I told you that I loved you that we'd always be together.  I thought you were going to put up with whatever I put out, but I finally got a wake up call."  He put a hand to his forehead then removed his glasses for a moment.  "The only issue I had after that phone call I got from you in Vegas was that my wake up--"  He paused when he realised what he was going to say.  He put his glasses back on.  "It  literally and metaphorically and whatever-ly happened too late.  You were gone when I finally got the clue that I treated you shitty."

"You didn't treat me shitty," Dani said looking down at her plate.  "I mean things weren't perfect for us, but I know a million and one people who would want what we had."

"I'm not saying it was all bad, but I didn't know what I had until I lost it."

"Neither did I," she said.  "I heard stories in the weeks after that about how you were hurting and the Larry King interview really showed me a lot."

"Let's not talk about that night," he said, "I got so much shit for that.  I had people saying that the publicity stunt I pulled was great."

"Publicity stunt?" she asked.

"It took weeks for everyone to actually believe that we were broken up.  They thought that the tears that night and the words that I had were part of some big plan."

"That's horrible," she said, "I heard some things from people, but I never heard about that."

"I don't think you realized that I did care about what was happening with us.  I know I didn't act like it, but it wasn't easy for me to face that all the time."

"No," she sighed, "I didn't realize that it was that bad.  I guess that you didn't realize that it was bad for me when I was together with you and I didn't see how that break up got to you."

"Well I hope the break up got to you a little," he said then looked down, "I mean I know that if it effected you then it--"

"I'm not a heartless bitch," she said, "I'm not like Bobbie or any of those girls."

"What does Bobbie have to do with anything?" he asked.

"Nothing," she said then looked up.  "I just didn't want to turn into her, ya know?  She and JC had so many issues after they broke up that I didn't want to be put in that category.  I didn't want to be hated by everyone."

"You weren't hated by anyone."

"What about the Larry King interview?"

"You broke my heart Dani," he said, "What was I supposed to do?  Celebrate?"

"I broke your heart?" she asked.

"You break my heart every day that I'm not with you."

His words shut her up.  He didn't think it would happen, but they suddenly didn't have much to say each other.  The truth was out.  They were both were hurting and it seemed as if neither of them knew how to fix things.

• Back • Up • Next •