Nikki hung up the last of her dresses and then shoved the suitcases into a corner to be put away later. With a sigh of exhaustion, she flopped backwards onto her bed. It had been a long, early flight and she was feeling the strain of the last couple of months. After traveling from city to city, show after show, coming home always felt so peaceful at the end of a tour.
She heard a knock on the bedroom door and propped herself up on her elbows.
“Come in!” she called.
The door opened a little hesitantly and Clint came into the bedroom.
“Clint. What are you doing here?”
“Well I sort of thought you were going to drop by my apartment when you got in. When you didn’t…I came here.”
Nikki nodded. “I was tired. I wanted to get home.”
He nodded. “I can understand that. You look tired.”
“So do you actually.”
“Well I’ve been busy.”
“Doing what?” she asked curiously.
“Just working on a project for Peter.”
She sat up on the bed. “What exactly are you doing for him?”
“It’s complicated. And I’m not sure I should tell you.”
She frowned and looked like she was about to argue so he hurriedly explained,
“I don’t think there’s anything illegal going on, but just in case there’s trouble down the road I’d just like to keep you out of it.”
“That’s not very reassuring. Clint. Please be careful. That man probably killed his wife. I don’t like the idea of you being alone with him.”
Clint laughed. “You’re afraid he’s going to try and kill me? Believe me, I don’t know what to make of Peter, but it’s not that. Look I just…I feel like I owe him. And I want to know the truth. It feels very important to me, that I know what he did.”
Nikki shook her head. “How are you ever going to find that out?”
“It’s complicated and leads back to what I’m doing with him that I don’t want to explain. But suffice to say, I will be careful.” He came over towards the bed and sat down next to her. “But I didn’t come over to talk to you about Peter. As fascinating a subject as he is. I came to talk about us.”
Nikki took hold of his hand and ran a finger absently over his palm. “Look I know I put you on the spot a bit when I called. I’m not going to deny that I felt hurt. But I thought about it and I understand why you might not feel like announcing ‘us’. It’s a bigger change for you then it is for me. So we should do it in your time. I get it. And I’m not mad.”
He gave her a look, clearly unconvinced. “Really? Because you sounded mad.”
Nikki laughed and leaned against him, feeling his arm wrap around her waist. “Maybe I was a little at the time. I’ve messed up more relationships then probably most people have been in in their lives. I’m just not very good at this. But I really want us to work out. So I tried to look at it from your point of view and I think I get it.”
There was a long beat and then Clint pulled back so he could look down at her. “Except you don’t. Look it would be easy for me to say that that’s it, that you figured it out. I don’t’ want the publicity; I just want it to be us. But that’s not true. I care about you Nikki. And I want us to work out as well. But I don’t think we will.”
She stared up at him confused; alarmed that she might have stumbled into another breakup without even seeing it coming. He might have seen her concern because he leant forward to kiss her gently and then pull away again.
“You’re not the only who can’t make a relationship work. I’m embarrassed to tell you how long it’s even been since I had someone I considered a ‘girlfriend’. I make bad decisions when it’s important. I tend to mess up. You are very special to me Nikki and I’m sorry if I made it feel like you weren’t. But when I think about you and me I feel like it’s only a matter of time because I don’t trust myself to make this work. The reason I don’t want to go public with us, is because when this implodes, I don’t want it to be in front of the whole world.”
She looked at him speechless. She couldn’t quite name all the emotions his words were eliciting, and they certainly weren’t all good ones, but one of them was clear and strong…touched. They might have other problems, but his not taking them seriously wasn’t one of them.
She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him.
“Maybe between us, we can make this work,” she whispered into his ear.
He didn’t respond, but instead kissed her back.