Holly leaned against a pillar, watching Peter chat with Clint across the room, when this word was spoken and she turned to see who had spoken it.
“Evelyn! Hey! Thank you so much for everything you did for today. And for helping Amy.”
“Of course dear. I loved every minute of it. But you didn’t answer my question. Well?”
“Well what? What are you talking about?”
Evelyn rolled her eyes. “Well, what about him?” She nodded across the room.
“Him? What you mean Peter?”
“No. I mean that paparazzo he’s talking to. Of course I mean Peter.”
“Well what about him?”
“Oh honestly Holly. You’re an actress; you can do better than that.”
“Look Evelyn I really don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“You don’t?” Evelyn huffed. “I saw the photographs Holly. Everyone did. You staring adoringly at him. If it hadn’t been for that look then the faked pictures with McCall wouldn’t have worked as nearly as well as they did.”
“I don’t see how this is any of your business.”
“Of course it’s not any of my business. But have you ever known that to stop me?” Evelyn smiled sweetly and Holly couldn’t help but chuckle.
“Alright, fair point. But in this case there’s nothing to discuss.” Holly glanced back towards Peter.
“You are kidding? You can’t take your eyes off of him.”
“Look, this isn’t up for debate, so drop it.”
“When are you going to make your move?”
“I’m not going to make anything and I said to drop it.”
“But why ever wouldn’t you? I mean you must realize that at this point it would be very difficult for Peter to make it. In fact he made that a couple of years ago and that didn’t work out for him. So now you need to be the one who makes the next move.”
“There are no moves to be made here Evelyn. It’s a stalemate. Will you please stop talking about this?”
Holly looked around nervously, and feeling there were too many people within earshot, lead Evelyn further back to the edge of the room. “There are no ‘but’s’, no ‘and’s’, no ‘or’s’, no ‘if’s’.”
“You love him.”
“You don’t know that.”
“I saw the pictures. And I see the way you look at him. If you don’t love him then you really need to work on your facial expressions.”
Holly sighed. “It has nothing to do with whether I love him or not.”
“Ha! I knew it! You do love him.”
“Like I said: that’s irrelevant.”
“How could that possible be irrelevant?”
“Do I really need to remind you that I was engaged to the man who murdered Peter’s wife?”
“What does that have to do with anything?”
“Everything. I chose Alan over Peter. That’s not something you can just forget. Look maybe if I’d left Alan before he was arrested it might have worked but I didn’t. I would have married him. I know that. Peter knows that. And you just can’t move past something like that.”
“Oh really, Holly, between you and Peter I don’t know which one of you can be the most infuriating. If it wasn’t for me, the two of you would be wallowing in self-sacrificing sickening nobility. Sigh, well, once more into the breach I suppose. The past doesn’t belong anywhere except firmly in the past. Who cares if one or both of you have been idiots? Who cares who loved whom once upon a time or who didn’t? Because if you’re living happily ever after you really don’t care about what came before that. Everyone has issues. If we had to wait until we’d fixed every little thing wrong about ourselves before we could commit to a relationship, then the human race would have died out in the Stone Age. And certainly none of us have a spotless past. So who cares if those spots involve each other? So much the better I say, because at least that saves some time in having to explain your baggage. No, you find someone who loves you warts and all. And neither of you care, because you love their warts as well. It baffles me how people always say they want someone who loves them for who they are, and then someone comes along who will do just that, and they say ‘it can’t possibly work because I can’t let him love this bit of me.’”
“You loved Alan and he broke your heart. Peter loved you and you broke his. And if the two of you had parted ways and never seen one another again, that would have been fine. But look at the two of you. You haven’t parted ways and you certainly love each other now.”
“Peter would always know. I chose Alan, just like Layla did.”
“And Peter chose Layla once upon a time. If anyone can understand falling in love with the wrong person it certainly should be Peter.”
“No. It’s not supposed to be this complicated.”
“What? Love? Whoever said that? Love is almost always complicated. But that’s our own foolish fault. We think we have to be all fixed before we commit. We think we have to have our lives all together and picture perfect before we could possibly think of settling down. Except no one is ever perfect. No one doesn’t have a crisis just waiting around the corner for them. You find someone and the two of you face all that mess together. And that is love.”
There was a long pause. “I’m moving to New York.”
“McCall made me an offer,” Holly explained. “He and I are starting up a production company together in New York. We leave next month. We wanted to keep it quiet until the Montell Connected Studios board meeting today.”
“Well that’s wonderful!”
“You don’t understand.”
“I can’t ask Peter to come to New York with me. And how are we going to have a relationship with him in LA and me in New York. If things worked, eventually one of us would have to move. It can’t be him and I can’t start a company with McCall knowing I might just move back here in a year.”
“Well you don’t have to ask Peter. If he wants to come, he’ll come.”
“But it’s not fair to expect him to make that decision. Layla wanted him to move to New York too-”
“Oh will you forget about Layla! Her ghost is well and truly buried, so stop trying to dig her back up. Look, take my advice. Tell Peter you love him and tell him you’re leaving. After all, if anyone has the right to make a decision about whether or not Peter will move, it’s not you, or me, or Layla’s memory. It’s Peter. It’s his right and only Peter’s right.”
“What’s Peter’s right?”
Holly and Evelyn whirled around. Peter had apparently finished chatting with Clint and come to find Holly.
“Peter! Hi!” Holly couldn’t remember the last time she felt quite this flustered. “How was Clint?”
“Pretty good. What were you two talking about?”
Evelyn smiled. “Crocodiles in Space. We were talking about the possibility of it becoming a trilogy and how fantastic you would be in it.”
“Then you two have clearly been drinking far too much. Because there is no way-”
“That’s what Holly said. I guess she really does know you well.”
Holly glared at Evelyn.
Try as Holly might, it was hard to push Evelyn’s words completely out of her head. As Peter and she got drinks at the bar and toasted to the success of Antigone, she couldn’t completely enjoy the moment.
Evelyn couldn’t be right…could she?
Peter hung out with her for the rest of the evening. Many people came over to congratulate Holly, but he continued to stay by her side and even made pleasant small talk with people. She realized that this was the most relaxed and at ease she had ever seen him in a large social setting. He was finding his place back in Hollywood and it made her happy for him. Almost.
Darn it, she thought, I had this all sorted and decided and then Evelyn had to come along and mess with it all.
Peter didn’t seem to notice that anything was amiss, or if he did he didn’t comment on it.
The evening wore on. Evelyn and McCall said their goodbyes, and people started trickling out.
“Need a ride home?” Holly asked Peter.
“That would be great, if it’s not too much trouble.”
“Of course not. Let me just say thanks to Amy.”
Holly found Amy in the back where she was overseeing the packing up of the glasses.
“Amy, hey I’m heading out. I just wanted to thank you for everything.”
“Of course! And I loved your movie.”
“Let’s grab some coffee next week. Catch up?”
“Sounds great! How about at my café?”
“Looking forward to it.”
The two hugged and Holly went back out to find Peter. She called the driver to have the limo waiting for them out front and then exited the building.
There were still photographers outside.
Holly felt Peter’s arm under her elbow and she couldn’t resist a smile.
The driver pulled the limo up to the curb and held open the door. They slid in and in a few minutes were on their way across town.
Somehow, from the far recesses of Holly’s mind, a memory presented itself of another limousine ride, with another man, after another premiere. She started.
“Is something wrong?” asked Peter.
“No. No, I’m fine.” Holly ran her hand across her hair.
Could Evelyn be right?
But what if she wasn’t? Holly didn’t want to hurt Peter again. And she didn’t want to lose him. He had been a friend. A friend that stuck with her despite so many things. Wasn’t that a friendship worth preserving at any cost? Then again, they’d made it this far. Maybe they could survive a few more tempests.
“You’re very quiet.”
“Hmm? Oh I’m sorry.” She shrugged. “I’m just tired I guess.”
“I can understand that. You’ve been working hard.”
“It was fun. I enjoyed the work. In fact that’s why I agreed to McCall’s business proposal.”
“What business proposal?”
“He and I are starting a production company together. In New York.”
“Oh.” Peter looked out the window. “That’s exciting. What about your acting?”
“I don’t think I’ll be doing much more of it.. At least not for a while. I went into acting for all the wrong reason. Well not all the wrong reasons, but certainly some of them. And now? Well I found something I love doing a whole lot more. I’m excited about this.”
He turned back to her and smiled. “I’m really happy for you.”
Holly opened her mouth to say something, she wasn’t sure what, she just knew there were things that had to be said, when the limo pulled to a stop and the driver opened Peter’s door.
“I’ll see you soon Holly.”
“Definitely,” she answered quietly.
Peter slid out of the car and in another minute the limo had started again.
Holly watched the city as it passed by the window, but her thoughts were elsewhere, diving through the past, sorting through emotions, wondering, searching, and in a thousand places at once.
When they reached her house, it felt as if it had been hardly any time at all but also ages. She thanked the driver and headed inside.
Standing in the dark hallway, she didn’t want to turn on the lights. She didn’t even want to set down her purse. She stood there, for a full ten minutes, undecided, wavering, and then something took hold. Instinct, need, want, or maybe, she smiled as thought it, Evelyn herself, but Holly grabbed her car keys and headed back outside.
The drive back to Peter’s apartment was much different. This time she kept her thoughts completely blank. If she thought, she’d change her mind.
Holly parked outside the apartment building and hurried in. She was too impatient to wait for the elevator, and ran up the stairs. She found Peter’s door and rapped on it, loudly and persistently.
There were footsteps and the door opened.
Peter has still in his tux, but he’d taken of the jacket and the bowtie was undone. His eyebrows shot up in surprise as he saw her.
“Holly? What are you…I mean I did say see you soon,” he grinned, “and this is a pleasant surprise. Come in. Is something wrong?”
“No.” She looked around the apartment. It was a lot neater than the last time she had been here. “I mean yes. I guess I don’t know. There’s something I have to say to you Peter. And I hope…I hope you forgive me for this. If you loath me for it, I’m sorry.”
Peter laughed a little. “Holly, I could never loath you. What’s wrong? Tell me.”
“I love you. That’s what’s wrong. I love you. And it’s no good. Only Evelyn said it might be. Could it be? I mean we’ve made a mess of it so far. Or rather I’ve made a mess of it. But I love you Peter. I love you because you are kind. Because from the first night we met, you were there for me. I love you because I think you are one of the bravest men I’ve ever known. I love you because despite everything that’s happened between us, you were still there tonight. I just love you.”
“I’ll stay. I’ll stay in LA. I can tell McCall I’ve changed my mind. If you think there is any chance at all that we could work-”
Peter kissed her.
It felt wonderful. It felt right. It felt like the world, and it felt like this one particularly moment, suspended alone in time.
When they finally pulled away, Peter was smiling down at her.
“New York is a great city,” he said.
“I don’t want to ask you to move there just for me-”
“You are so much more than a ‘just’. And besides, I’ve only stayed in LA this long because of you. And I can write anywhere.”
“You’re serious? After everything, you’d be willing to do that?”
“After what? I love you. And you say you love me.”
“Then I’ve lived long enough to know that’s what’s important.”
She kissed him, and this time they didn’t talk again for a long time.
When the sun rose several hours later, they were sitting on the couch, turned towards the window to watch the light crawl across the sky.
Holly leaned happily against Peter, his arm around her, and listened to his steady breathing. He’d fallen asleep an hour ago. But Holly was too happy to sleep, too content.
For the first time in a long time, perhaps (if she were honest with herself) for the first time since coming out to Hollywood, she knew exactly what she wanted and where she was supposed to be.
AN: And that, three years and four seasons later, is the end! I realized that exactly three years ago today I posted the first chapter of Holly(Woods) so I decided not to split this update into two, and not to wait for my normal updating day.
Thank you so much for reading! Seriously, it was knowing that people were reading that kept me going when I was having a hard time continuing.
Thank you schn00dles for reading for so long! And for liking and commenting on the posts! Thanks Clyde for reading! And thank you Keith for always pointing out those pesky typos! It meant a lot to have people reading the story regularly!
I’m not sure that this last season was quite as good as it might have been (and it certainly took longer than it should have). I floundered a bit while writing it at a few parts. But thank you for sticking with it and continuing to read it.
I am incredibly happy to be done! I never realized that writing about the same characters for three years could be quite such a challenge! 😉 I also don’t think I realized when I started this that it would take me three years to finish it. But I’m so, so happy I stuck with it.
So one final thank you! I hope the ending is at least somewhat satisfactory.