Status: Completed

Chasing the Missing Paths

The Final Encounter

Emma and Alex did not get together the day she broke up with James despite Jack’s hope and meddling. It only made sense. Emma wasn’t exactly up to jumping into a new relationship after just getting out of one that ended on a super serious note, and Alex was not going to take advantage of the situation. Also, he didn’t want to be a rebound guy. He didn’t mind the idea of dating her, he actually quite liked the idea.

So, he waited as long as she needed. He didn’t date anybody else, he didn’t hook up with anybody else, he just waited. And it wasn’t just one-sided, Alex wasn’t doing it for no reason. Emma knew that he was waiting for her to be ready. He made sure she didn’t feel pressured and instead took her time. They stayed friends for the time being, keeping in contact rather than leaving it up to their chance encounters to bring them back together.

It took a while.

Emma was in her dressing room after a show. It wasn’t opening night, it was a few evenings later. Although she could have gotten tickets for the first show, she didn’t know anybody who was able to make it. Or, well, her parents were supposed to make it, but her aunt’s husband had passed away and her parents had to be there for her mom’s sister and for the funeral. Emma never really knew her aunt that well, so missing the funeral herself didn’t cause her any distress. Her parents, however, did make up for it and came another night to watch their daughter

“You were great!” her mom gushed as her parents entered the dressing room, going straight to hug Emma.

“You really think so?” Emma asked, hugging back her mom, being rocked a little from left to right.

Her mom pulled away and held her at an arm’s length. “Are you crazy?! Of course I think so!”

Emma’s dad took his turn to congratulate her next. He pulled her in his side, kissed the top of her head, and handed her a bouquet of flowers. “You were amazing, baby girl.”

“I love you guys,” Emma smiled and kissed them both on the cheek.

As the moment started coming to an end, a knock was heard from the door. All three of them looked around to see who it was. Emma was expecting to see one of her co-stars or maybe somebody who helped with her costumes, but was pleasantly surprised when it was somebody else.

“Alex!” She grinned and ran up to him, hugging him tightly. “You made it!”

“Of course I did,” he chuckled back, “I wasn’t going to miss this.”

After their hug ended, she pulled him further into the room and announced, “I don’t think you’ve ever met my parents.”

“I’ve barely met you,” Alex pointed out jokingly.

Emma further introduced them. She recounted that she and Alex had gone to Iceland together, to which her mom remembered who he was. Alex didn’t know anything about Emma’s parents other than that they had adopted her and had encouraged-slash-supported her decision to go to theater school and follow her dream. He could, however, tell that they weren’t her biological parents. She had all their mannerisms, which made sense, but she looked nothing like them. Alex knew Emma for her signature blonde hair and eyes that looked brown at first glance but actually were more hazel in color. Her parents both had black hair and the darkest of brown eyes, her mom of Italian descent and her dad with British heritage. But none of that meant they weren’t her parents and that she didn’t love them.

They even asked Alex to come with them to dinner. Although they were first going to just take their daughter out, they decided it would be fun to ask her really good friend to come along. It showed Alex where Emma had gotten her spontaneity from. They did it without knowing much about him and without caring how their plans would be affected. It was fun, and that was all that mattered, just like a lot of the things he had done with Emma.

The dinner was anything but awkward. Emma’s parents seemed to really like Alex despite going a trip with her when they barely knew anything about each other. Alex felt like he was being embraced by her family and made part of it even though they were only friends. Somehow, spending time with the people who raised her, Alex felt his heart flutter even more whenever he looked in Emma’s direction. It was like he understood her even better.

So, you can imagine that he didn’t want the evening to end when her parents had to go back home. Emma was thinking the exact same thing. While Alex was still unsure what he could and couldn’t do before overstepping boundaries, Emma didn’t worry about it at all. But then again, she never had. Even when she had boyfriends, she would always act really close with Alex. It was just the way she was. It was quite difficult for Alex to read.

“When do you have to leave?” Emma asked Alex as they walked out of the restaurant, her parents already having left ten minutes before.

“My flight leaves tomorrow morning at eight,” he responded. Although it was one of his only days off during a long tour, when Emma offered him tickets to her show--she managed to score the role as Cinderella on Broadway for a few months--he couldn’t say no. Taking a long flight and sitting for two hours wasn’t the optimal day off, but he wanted to see her.

“Hmm… alright…” Emma nodded, a plan brewing in her head. She grabbed Alex’s hand and started dragging him along. “Come on, we have some time.”

Alex’s heart skipped a beat as Emma unexpectedly took his hand. Although he would never admit it to Jack, he really had developed a crush on this girl, especially since they had both been single. He had always been intrigued by her, but he was now crushing on her big time. All he hoped was that she’d feel the same way someday. He knew that she knew that he was waiting for her. The only question was if she thought it would be good idea, or if she’d fall in love with yet another guy.

Emma pulled him all the way to the nearest intersection and watched for a while before hailing a cab, making Alex wonder how she did it so effortlessly. As the cab started pulling up, Emma stepped forward confidently, making sure Alex had no choice but to do the same. She pulled open the door and started to push Alex in.

“Hang on, you go in first,” he refused and forced Emma to switch places so he could hold open the door for her, “you’re the lady.”

“I’m no lady!” Emma laughed, but got in nonetheless, knowing that it would either piss off the driver or somebody else would take their cab if they took any longer.

“You’re literally a princess on Broadway,” Alex argued as he slipped into the cab as well, closing the door behind him.

Emma gave the driver an address before settling into the backseat. She and Alex were still sitting far apart, the middle seat keeping the space between them. While Alex usually loved looking out of the window, he couldn’t help but consistently take glances at Emma who was scrolling through something on her phone.

Alex was super confused where they were. There were buildings surrounding him, but there was nothing he could spot that Emma would want to take him to for a fun evening. But the answer came after Emma paid for the cab--making Alex feel bad because he had completely forgotten to offer to pay--and closed the door.

“I just want to change and I have to feed my doggo, but after that we can go,” Emma told him, walking to the front door of a building and opening it.

“Wait, you live here?” Alex frowned, taking a look at the industrial warehouse in front of him.

“Yeah, it’s way nicer on the inside, though.”

And it was. Emma lived on the top floor behind a bright red door. Her apartment followed an open plan. The kitchen flowed into the dining room, which quickly became the living room, then a large heavy sliding door could be used to separate the bedroom from the rest. While quite an old building, the walls were a nice combination of smooth white walls and the authentic brick ones, and the windows fit with the rustic aesthetic everybody was trying to achieve. Emma had decorated it in quite a modern and sleek way. He couldn’t imagine that she had ever lived here with her ex--which happened to be true. She moved after noticing that everything haunted her in her old apartment, it made her feel guilty.

A dachshund came barreling towards the two, barely greeting Emma before excitedly sniffing around Alex to see who the stranger was. Although Alex didn’t mind it one bit--he actually missed his own dogs--Emma still instructed Rosey to stay down. She announced that she was going to feed her before going to the kitchen with the dog bouncing around her.

“Hey, do you mind if I use your bathroom really quickly?” Alex asked, standing awkwardly in the middle of the apartment.

“Sure, it’s that door right there.” Emma pointed at a white door in the wall next to the adjacent large sliding door mentioned before.

“Okay, thanks.”

Alex went to the bathroom and did what he had to do. He looked at himself in the mirror while washing his hands, his thoughts going into overdrive. His heart started beating a little faster. He was wondering if he should try to make a move. It had been a while, and Alex really was getting feelings for Emma, he didn’t want to wait too long and fall in love with her from a distance. But he had no idea how to make that move. He didn’t know what they were going to do, he just trusted Emma to surprise him.

When he left the bathroom, he noticed the sliding door was closed, but not all the way. He looked in the direction and saw Emma taking off the shirt she was wearing, revealing her bare torso and chest. Next, her jeans followed and, to his surprise, her panties also came off. Alex couldn’t help but stare through the small gap. He knew it was wrong, but he couldn’t tear his eyes away. She swept her hair to one shoulder and started pulling on a matching lacey burgundy underwear set. Alex started feeling a tingling sensation start inside of him. He wanted nothing more than to sneak inside and kiss her, making his move. But he couldn’t. The worst case scenario seemed too big of a risk. She could freak out and accuse him of creeping on her while changing. So, he finally broke his gaze and took a seat on the couch, Emma’s dog coming up to him and asking for attention.

Shortly after, Emma reemerged from her bedroom, now fully clothed. Her outfit was so innocent, but Alex knew what she was wearing underneath; he just didn’t know exactly what matching underwear meant for a girl. She was wearing black leggings, a simple white flowy shirt, a short denim jacket, and some cute taupe boots. Alex smiled at her when they made brief eye contact.

“Just give me a second, okay?” Emma excused and slipped into the bathroom.

She had a similar moment with the mirror, only she knew exactly what she wanted from this night. Although Alex was going to have to leave early that morning, she was wearing her best pair of underwear. It didn’t necessarily mean she wanted the night to end in sex--although she wasn’t opposed by the idea--it just meant that she had an extra confidence boost. She had a whole game plan ready, unlike Alex.

“Okay, let’s go!” She exclaimed as she came out of the bathroom, making Alex get up from the couch and follow her out of the apartment.

This time, they didn’t get a cab. Instead, Emma started leading towards wherever she wanted to go. To Alex, it shouldn’t be that far away, otherwise they would have taken another means of transport that didn’t consist of walking. Emma didn’t even bring them to a subway station, so it really just had to be a couple blocks away. Still, Alex had no clue where he was going. He was thinking of grabbing Emma’s hand so they could walk hand in hand as his first move, but it would have been more than awkward if he would do it right outside where they had to be, so he didn’t want to make a fool of himself.

But then he recognized something.

“Hey, isn’t this the flower shop you used to work at--I’m assuming you don’t work there anymore.” Alex stopped in his tracks and pointed at the shop he could still vaguely remember walking in and seeing Emma for the second time.

“Yeah,” she nodded enthusiastically and stood with him, “and you’re right, I don’t exactly work there anymore. Although, I do co-own it with the person who was my co-worker at the time. They were shutting down the place, so we managed to buy it quite cheaply. We didn’t want it to close.”

“Really?” He asked, his voice laced with surprise. What was even stranger was that it still seemed to be open. The blackboard was still outside and the lights were still on. “And it’s still supposed to be open at this hour?”

“It’s why business is actually doing pretty well.” She winked, but didn’t show any signs of wanting to go inside. “People don’t just fuck up during the day. They need to apologize to partners at the weirdest times of night.”

Alex nodded casually before storming into the store and screaming, “code five!”

The person working there was helping somebody, who turned to look at Alex in confusion, much like Alex had done all those years ago when somebody interrupted him and Emma. Coincidentally the guy working there was the same guy who helped him after Emma took the new client. It was all too perfect to be true, a direct reflection from the past.

The guy shouted something to somebody who apparently was in the back, “yo, Pat, take over from me, I’m going to help code five!”

“'kay!” A girl appeared from the back room and jogged up to the guy who was being helped already.

When the guy started walking up to Alex, Emma came running in as well, scoffing, “Alex!”

“Oh, Emma!” the guy chirped, pleasantly surprised to see his co-owner. “I didn’t know you’d be coming in today.”

“Neither did I, but Alex came running in,” she said before turning to Alex, “you don’t even have a girlfriend.”

“Psh, let me do this,” Alex retorted and made a motion for her to back away.

Emma did as he gestured and slowly left the store as he kept glaring at her. She was confused beyond measures. Here she was, thinking Alex was waiting for her, wanting to show that she was finally ready for a relationship, and he was out screaming ‘code five’ at her flower shop. Was there a girl she didn’t know about? Had he flown out to see her again and lied to another girl about it? She didn’t want that to happen again.

Meanwhile, inside, Alex corrected himself as soon as the door closed behind Emma. “Okay, it’s actually a code one, but I needed to shout it out for nostalgia.”

“Code one, huh?” The guy, whose name tag said ‘Aaron’, wiggled his eyebrows before throwing an arm around Alex and guiding him somewhere into the store. “Well, you’re lucky I know Emma quite well.”

“Good, cause I feel like it’s easy to go too far over the top in this situation.”

“And that’s not good, especially in Emma’s case. Her place is classy, you don’t want to give her an overabundance of pink and purple flowers.”

“Right,” Alex agreed.

What did code one mean? Well, it was at the bottom of the spectrum. Code five was an emergency, a relationship threatening to come to an end. So, what was the opposite of that? Budding feelings. Flowers to show somebody you cared about them. It wasn’t confessing love just yet, that was the next step. It was, however, a crush you wanted to confess.

“With Emma’s busy schedule, you want to get her something that doesn’t need too much water. While I usually wouldn’t say get a potted plant for a code one, because they often last quite long, I say go for it with Emma. Her place is seriously missing some green stuff, you need to get her a succulent.”

And, so, Alex did. Just a few minutes later, he was walking back outside with a succulent in a nice gray pot. Emma was kicking around a small stone she had found on the floor, waiting for Alex to come back, while she was overthinking what had happened inside.

“Here, this is for you,” Alex said and held out the plant for Emma to take.

Emma frowned, carefully taking it from his hands. “And you need to apologize to me because…?”

She wondered if this was because Alex actually hadn’t been able to wait for her. She was afraid that she had taken too long and that he had moved on. This was his way of apologizing that he couldn’t wait anymore and that he actually already had a different girlfriend. And Emma’s misery would have been caused by her own actions. But no. That wasn’t it at all.

“I don’t.” Alex shook his head. “I lied about the code five, I just really wanted to shout it out because somebody else did the last time I was here and you abandoned me for them. It was really a code one.”

“Oh.” Emma nodded and looked at Alex.

She wanted nothing more than to kiss him, to say she felt the same way, but it wasn’t part of her game plan. For the first time, she actually wanted to follow her plan. If she gave in now, it would seem too much like a one-night-stand, and not a date--even though nobody ever said this was a date.

So, instead all she said was, “thanks.”

This left Alex confused. Here he was, confessing his feelings without words, and all she said was ‘thanks’. He started to think it was a mistake. Something in him said that day was the day to make a move, but maybe it had still been too soon for Emma. He was afraid he really screwed it up. He had promised to never force it on her, yet he was getting her a long-lasting plant. Maybe flowers that died within a week were a better choice for his gesture anyway in the end.

Still, they both went to Emma’s original destination. They had entered a block with more bars and Alex assumed that was all they were going to do. Honestly, he felt a little disappointed, and not just because he thought he had gotten rejected before. Everything he had ever done with Emma felt so spontaneous and exciting. Maybe it was because they usually didn’t plan to see each other, so it was already surprising, and if it was planned, it was some huge thing like a trip. He was afraid that he had built this grand image around Emma that just wasn’t the real her; he was afraid he had caught feeling for his idea of Emma instead of the actual person.

“Do you recognize this place?” Emma nudged as they entered one of the bars that was quite busy. However, when Alex took a bit too long to scan the place and remember it, she quickly explained. “It’s gotten a new owner and it’s been remodeled, but this is where we first met.”

“Wait, really?” Alex frowned.

Sure, it was still a karaoke bar, but the place wasn’t anything like it once was. The bar wasn’t dark anymore. There were more colorful lights, mainly blue and purple, and it was less stuffy. The chairs and tables also had a major upgrade. But when his eyes fell on the stage with the more recent karaoke machine, it was like Alex had been transported back to 2011.

“Holy shit, it is!” He gasped, remembering how different he had been back then. He clearly remembered being quite a dick, ogling at some hot girl after his girlfriend ran out, and falling in love with this girl’s singing.

“Thank god, I thought you forgot!” Emma put a hand to her heart and took a deep breath before walking towards the bar.

“Forget? I would never.” He shook his head and smiled at her as they waited for the bartender.

The chemistry came back as they talked over drinks, listening to the terrible singing from drunk people. It was like they were back in Iceland, challenging each other to tell the other a random fact, only to create a sexual tension between them that secretly had an underlying meaning. The conversation was as easy as back at the recording studio in LA, only without the confusion. Alex once again had eyes for her like at the random house party they were both at. And this time there were no boyfriends or girlfriends holding them back.

At one point, Alex was surprised to hear his and Emma’s names being called to sing something. He didn’t know how it had happened until he recalled Emma disappearing to the bathroom for a little longer than he expected. She gave him a mischievous smirk and pulled him up onto the stage with her. When the melody of the song started playing, Alex couldn’t help but laugh.

Their rendition of Ain’t No Mountain High Enough was even better than the first time. They weren’t strangers anymore.

When the song came to an end, Alex couldn’t help himself. He pulled Emma close and dipped down to kiss her, causing a few stray people at the bar to holler and clap. Emma’s game plan had worked just like she wanted.

All that had been needed was a little more effort than just chance encounters.
♠ ♠ ♠
I did it! I made something up! And it references all the other chapters!

This chapter is just as long as, like, the last four combined xD That was not supposed to happen.

I hope you guys are happy enough with this ending, though.