7 : Hoping for the Best

"This bed's too cold."

Veronica chuckled, not expecting his complaint.  While Théo pretended to look annoyed, she switched off the lights, then snuggled to him under the covers. "Better?" she teased.

"Perfect,"  Théo sighed. His arm circled her waist while he pretended to focus on the television screen. An impish grin put small slits beside his eyes.

Veronica kept a side comment to herself.  She was bra-less with nothing more than a thin sheath of sleeping gown over a small pair of scanties.  He wore nothing but his boxers.

No doubt he wanted to do something else later. They killed time watching TV, but she also kept her mind busy pondering things, committing to memory how addictively good it felt to be this intimate with him...to have him right next to her while he hugged her close.

It had always been like this.  Time apart always told her what they had was more than physical.  He'd made clear of that himself from the beginning.

"This isn't just a test run for me. Alright?" Théo had told her once or twice. In fact, he was the one who had insisted they try being exclusive.

She'd agreed to it months later, mostly because he kept on beleaguering her about it every time they talked on the phone, and because she was already too in love with him that time. It just made her scruple her once casual perception of their relationship.

Théo grinned before giving her a long, sweltering kiss. He pulled away when she started giggling again. "What's so funny?" he mumbled with wrinkled brows.

"You are," she bantered.  She kept laughing when he only gave her an inquiring stare. "Aren't you tired?"

He made a face. "Forget already that it's been seven months last time we were together more than a few days?" A scoff accompanied his question.

The displeasure in his reaction made her want to give him a sympathetic smile. Keeping another clever retort to herself, Veronica chuckled at how his accent was thinning. "You sound like a New Yorker now." She snuggled closer to him. Her face now rested on his arm.

"I don't feel like going back home yet." Théo sighed.

"Hear, hear."

"I miss you already."

She glanced up at him. "Thanks."

"For?"

"A lot." She closed her eyes. "For the distraction," she muttered, her voice taking on a serious tone. "They're expecting us to get everything done soon. Kavanaugh keeps emailing." She giggled, blocking off anxious thoughts about the deadlines, and the likelihood that if she and Kyle didn't finish the album on time, she wouldn't have enough cash for the new apartment. "It's stressing me out."

"What did Kyle say?"

"I was pretty chill about it. Then he started overthinking everything." She shrugged. "One of the execs just called. They set the date early." She fidgeted at the thought of the album still halfway done.

As of last week, not even halfway yet. It was discouraging. The new record label honchos were quite pushy and insistent this time.

"The songs aren't even half-finished yet. The recording would take at least a month. Then the mixing."

"About three months from now. Right?"

She winced. "I don't think we could pull it off before the deadline."

"Sure you can." Théo gave her shoulder a squeeze. "You need this break; trust me." His warm hand stroked her arm. "Might even clear your head...bring in some newfound inspiration." He ogled her and wiggled his brows suggestively.

It made her laugh. "Sorry to break it to you, man. But you're half the inspiration you used to be." She snorted. "Overused and overstated, frankly speaking."

"Admit it, though." A chortle cut him off. "I made the fourth album. Just, indirectly." His grin was now as puffed-up as his ego.

His conceit made her want to roll her eyes again. The adorable look on his face, though -- just precious. Veronica stared up at the ceiling, stifling another laugh. "Whatever helps you sleep at night, supermodel."

He snickered. The room fell silent. "This. Just this," he murmured. His short but sincere reply pasted another smile on her lips.

He'd always been very patient with her from the get-go, and he had always tried to be understanding of her work commitments and being workaholic.

The band was always on the road for as long as she could remember, doing as many as seven shows a week on occasion. Théo let her be, and since their relationship materialized, he had always been supportive. Even exceedingly tolerant of her mood swings.

Although this time, she knew he had been dealing with some pent-up thoughts lately. Not to forget her refusal to his brash proposal after he popped the question days ago.

Théo turned the TV off after what seemed like a minute of staring wordlessly at each other. It made her heart swell.  He'd been so sweet and understanding all week, and she loved thinking they hadn't been this happy in a while.

The streaks of moonlight passing through the windows kept the room from being pitch-black. As they locked gazes in the dark, he kept drawing her close. "Sing to me. Please?"

•••

Their last night together before he had to leave the States again came earlier than expected.

Théo watched as his girlfriend paced around the bed to start tidying up.  She had to resume work with the band, and he was due to fly back to Paris.  He had been having second thoughts about the L.A. shoot. Especially since Veronica wouldn't be there with him.

Although dismayed that their time together was cut even shorter, he obliged without any complaints. He couldn't say anything to make her change her mind, anyway.

Since their relationship came about, she'd already made it clear she would still want to put work first...and he understood that.  He had to.

Her independent nature and being dedicated to her job were two of the things he admired most about her. So even when he felt sorry for himself sometimes that he was always second on her priority list, he sucked it all up.

He always tried to be considerate and uncomplaining, because he was serious about her, and because he knew there was this tiny bit of her heart that believed what they had was something else.

From the get-go, he thought what they had could handle the consequences of having a long-distance relationship. He didn't know for sure if she still felt the same, though. Probably not.

"He said it's 5:30, but I gotta be there 'round four." Veronica crouched by the hotel bed. She glanced at him with a small pout on her pink lips. "Sorry."

"It's fine. I know you're all so busy." Théo stood next to her and helped her tidy up the hotel bed.

She thanked him for helping her stuff her clothes into her suitcase.  The packing barely took five minutes. She surprised him a bit when she embraced him from behind and apologized again.  She even kissed his nape.

"S'okay," he murmured, lying to her and to himself. He clutched her warm hand on his chest.

"Hungry?"

"A little."

"Gimme a few minutes." Veronica tied her hair into a ponytail. She watched as he rushed to the other end of the room to neaten his own bed. "Need somethin'?" She started walking in the direction of the bathroom door.

A longer hug and another kiss, he wanted to say.

"What?" his girlfriend asked when she found him staring at her stuff.

Théo stayed rooted to the floor, his calves and back muscles still aching. He glanced up to meet her gaze. Again, he couldn't stop staring. Her hazel eyes did that to him most of the time.

"Let's move in together," he wanted to say out loud, but he fought off the urge. He would rather lose sleep dwelling on the what-ifs than scare her off.

"Earth to Théo..." she quipped.

It made him grin, and distracted him from his nigh on outlandish thoughts.  "Erm...can I borrow your iPod?" Borrow your iPod. Right. He nearly slapped himself. Stupidest alibi.

"Only if you agree that I update your playlists." With a raised finger, Via headed for the bathroom.  "It's in my brown bag," she reminded him, almost shouting this time. The faucet went off. "Find the pouch?"

"Erm...which one?" Théo winced, chastising himself for thinking his weaseling was going somewhere. He reached the desk where her corduroy bag sat. He pretended to wait for her answer before unzipping the handbag.

"The brown one. Did you hit your head?" she called out, snickering at the question.

Right. It was another minute before he found the iPod.  Certain she'd be busy for another fifteen minutes, he gave in to the temptation and cautiously poked around her stuff. He found her cellphone first. It was off. He touched a pack of wet wipes, and then something else.

A long and thin yellow container caught his eye, especially since it was almost completely concealed in the secret pocket. But maybe it wasn't a secret pocket; it had no zipper or anything. He'd never seen her bring the thing out of her bag before.

His chest felt funny now.  Théo popped the top lid open as carefully as possible. He wasn't surprised to see what it contained. Of course, it was the pills and not her vitamins.

He frowned and shook his head, thinking what he was doing was just downright stupid. He closed the lid.

Did she keep a year's supply of birth control pills? Did she think she always needed them? Did she think he wasn't careful?

Seeing the stuff bothered him. He knew from his sister's experience how taking pills regularly for a long period of time could cause serious health concerns. The small compartments laid in two rows.

The ones numbered '1' to '17' were all empty-told him his girlfriend devotedly took one every single day.  "Merde." Théo almost dropped the container to the floor so he put it back in the pouch.

"Sometimes I think we should have a baby now."

"No wedding if you don't want one yet. Let's just move in together. I'll pay for that house you really like. Does that sound sensible?"

"Why do you keep taking those pills?"

"Don't you want us to have kids someday?"

Those were just some unspoken questions he'd been meaning to ask Veronica lately.  He couldn't yet.  He knew it would instantly scare her off, which was much worse than not knowing.  So he kept his sentiments to himself.

Théo swore in his head.  How the heck was he supposed to think about anything else right now?

•••

"D'you want me to leave Paris?"

"What d'you mean?"

"So I can...see you all the time."

"No."  Veronica looked away. They just pulled over outside the airport's  Pre-Departure Area. Crowds were starting to fill the sidewalk, forming long queues.

Théo frowned and gripped the steering wheel, seeming disappointed and upset by her immediate refusal. "Why not?"

"Because you have a demanding job." She tried to sound calm but couldn't look him in the eye anymore. "A job that requires you to travel all the time."

"But, what if I move to New York?"

Him? Moving to New York? Just like that? 

"It's doable," Théo murmured after an awkward few seconds.

"What about Clara and Tris? And Mamie?"

He sighed. "So you don't want us to move in together?"

"No. I'm just..." Veronica stared at the airport entrance, confused by his chosen topic of conversation right before she had to leave him here, alone in this city.

Kyle, Dan and their manager awaited her arrival today.  Before she could explain her answer, her phone rang.  It was Kyle, calling again, probably wondering why she didn't reply to his last message asking if she was showing up for the meeting today, and for the long recording session they planned for tomorrow.

"Who's that?" Théo muttered after watching her unbuckle her seat belt.

"Kyle." She tutted.  "I have to go."

"Okay." Théo glanced away.

"Bye." She kissed his cheek and put on a smile for him.

"Have fun." Théo faced front before she could open the car door.

"Drive safe. Love you."

"Yeah. Don't stay up too late."

"You, too." She stepped out of the passenger seat with her bag. "Love you." She held the door open,  fixing the straps of her bag.

"Bye." Théo gave her a quick smile and checked his phone. The smile didn't even look half-genuine.

Why wouldn't he say it back? Was he upset that she was going back to work so soon? Did their conversation about him leaving France piss him off? Or was he just trying to punish her for messing with his head yesterday?

"I'm sorry." Veronica stood beside the window, not caring that there were strangers around. "Hey."

"Yeah. I know. Go on. You'll be late."

"Okay. Love you." She closed the door, her chest feeling heavy with guilt, her patience now being tested. She was still waiting for him to say the words back. 

Was he deliberately trying to make her feel like crap? Because she was putting her work first?

"I love you," she stressed, almost shouting through the window while she leaned over to study his expression.

It made him laugh.  A smirk tilted his grin.  Théo stared at her one last time before pushing the hand brake down, ready to drive off. "Love you. See you soon."

•••

"How's the girlfriend, sport?"

"Fine." Théo pressed his phone to his ear after checking the phone number. French zip code. 

It was his secret boss. His immediate supervisor in his other job. Her accent and unique term of endearment for him confirmed it. Did she have a new task for him?

"You're on vacation, I see."

He tried not to react. Of course the agency was tracking his whereabouts and company. Security reasons and all. "She's back to work."

"I thought so. Hardworking girl." Gillaume chuckled and sounded pleased.  "Going back to Paris soon?"

"Los Angeles. Quick photo shoot," Théo muttered. "Why?"

"New gig. Fresh out of the oven," Gillaume said in a more serious tone. 

"Where?" 

"All over, I imagine." 

"Huh?" The agency wanted him to spy on some people in multiple countries?

"Family of jet-setters. Old money folks. Deets soon."

"Yeah. Sure." He scowled and reclined on the hotel bed. How soon, though?

"Enjoy your free time for now. Goodnight."

"Night."

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