If You'll Have Me

Marina didn't know if you got to choose who you fall in love with, who ends up taking a little piece of your heart with them when they leave. If someone had asked her, she didn't think she would have chosen Harry Styles, and she doesn't know if he’d have chosen her. But standing here, looking back through the crystal clear lens of hindsight, she likes her choices.

Loosely based off the fantastic novel A Fault In Our Stars by John Green.

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2. Chapter Two

 

January 29th - Day 13

I lay his file on the kitchen table, my feet tucked underneath me, a cup of coffee resting on a coaster near my hand. I was still in my pajamas, enjoying a lazy Sunday. I’d been so tired lately, and it was nice to have a day just to lie about and do nothing. On the other side of the tiny kitchen, Liam reached into the cabinet, nabbing a box of cereal from the upper shelf and pouring himself a bowl. “New patient?”

“Relatively.” I opened the folder, the cover page neat and organized, a washed out picture of Harry at the top, next to his name, age, and lines and lines of personal information. “Met him last Tuesday.”

Liam nodded absently, dousing his cereal in milk. “Our charming late night caller?”

I smiled, the memory of his voice still warm and fuzzy in my mind. “One and the same.” Liam came around to my side of the table, peering over my shoulder to get a look at his file. “Nice hair.”

I pulled the manilla envelope towards me. “Patient confidentiality, Liam.”

He stuck his tongue out at me. “I just wanted to see what he looked like.” 

“Don’t you have somewhere to be?” I asked, shooting him what he called ‘the sassy queen Marina smirk

,’ something that I probably shouldn’t have found as hilarious as I did.

“I do actually. Danielle wants to not watch a movie.” He smiled, shooting me a thumbs up over his cheerios. 

“Be safe.” I replied, resisting the urge to roll my eyes at the childish expression on his face. What Liam lacked in intelligence, he made up for by being completely adorable, something that only really became a problem when we had to file taxes. 

“You know I will, Lou.” He winked, tossing his bowl into the sink and heading for the door. “See you later!”

“Bye, Li!” I called, taking a long drink of coffee and flipping to the second page, the words Patient Overview printed at the top in stark black letters.

I scanned down the sheet, my eyes falling on two words that made my breath catch. Attempted suicide.

The sentences seemed to blur. Overdose. History of self harm. Admitted December 12th. That was only two months ago. I dropped my forehead into my hand, his face swimming in my mind. 

Oh Harry, what have you done?

January 31st - Day 15

I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t spent most of the next few days thinking about him. I knew I shouldn’t spend so much time fretting about this, but I couldn’t help it. Sometimes I really wished I didn’t have to feel like I did, always caring too damn much about things I had no control over. It was part of the reason I was so good at my job, because I was incapable of just walking away.

I could feel a sudden rush of relief as I walked into his hospital room. Harry was just as I had left him, with his blankets pulled up to his waist, computer in his lap, and eyes glued to the screen. “I’m beginning to think you’re attached to that thing.” I quipped from the doorway, giving him a friendly smile.

“I had it welded to my thighs a few months ago.” He replied, not looking up from whatever he was doing. 

I stared at him, wondering if this could possibly have been the same boy who’d called me so early that morning, whose breaths I’d fallen asleep to. It seemed that in the cool light of the hospital room his walls had gone straight back up. I could still see him, the broken boy with the soft voice, but he was hiding now. “Doing well then?”

“Bit headachey.” He replied, tapping out something on his laptop.

I moved from the doorway, marveling at how lived in Harry’s room looked. His computer charger was plugged into an extension cord by his bed which wound across the floor to an outlet, the long orange cable taped to the ground. In the tiny closetspace I could see jackets and pants hung up in a row, and a few pairs of shoes on the floor. His bedside table was a mess of mugs, pencils, and a few framed photographs of smiling teenagers that had gathered a brushing of dust on their upper edges. “Who are they?”

“Hmm?”

“The pictures.” I knelt, looking at their bright faces. Harry, holding one hand above his head, his arm slung around a broody looking boy. That same boy ruffling Harry’s hair while a dark haired girl with too much makeup on laughed at them. The three of them and an enthusiastic blonde standing on a beach, all pointing at something out of the frame.

“Friends.” He answered absently, before realizing that I was hoping for a more substantial answer. “Mum thought they’d make me feel better.”

“Do they?” I asked, standing back up and taking my normal place in the duct taped chair by his bed. 

“Not in the least.”

I was surprised at the bluntness of his answer. “Why not?”

He finally turned his green eyes on me. They were almost shocking, luminous and shining in the rather drab room, framed by dark lashes that sent shadows into the dark hollows under his eyes. He looked tired, tired like he hadn’t slept in weeks and like he’d simply felt too much. “Because I’m dying.” He said, like it should have been obvious to me.

“You really need to get out of this room.” I could sense the way he’d set roots down here, practically part of the room himself. He wasn’t just going to die, he was waiting for it. 

“Maybe tomorrow.” He replied, though I had a strong suspicion that his promise was simply to placate me into leaving him alone.

“Pile up enough tomorrows and you’ll end up with nothing but a bunch of empty yesterdays.” I said. “And besides, we can either spend this meeting with me asking you overly personal questions or we can go for a walk.”

He glared at me, realizing that in this particular situation I had the upper hand. “I hate you a little bit.” He said, sliding out of his bed on unsteady feet, his gray sweatpants bunched up around his calves. 

“Only a little bit?” I asked, standing and zipping up my jacket.

I caught another glimpse of him as he snuck a look at me, the barest hint of a smile on his lips. “Only a little bit.” He motioned towards the doorway. “Close the door. I’m changing.”

“You look fine, Princess.” I chided, smiling at his wrinkled tee shirt and sweats. “We’re only going for a walk.”

He looked at me seriously, pulling a new outfit out of the suitcase underneath his bed. “You don’t know how many days I’ve been wearing these pants.”

I cracked a smile. “I’m sure I don’t want to know.”

He made a swirling motion with his fingers. “Turn around. The clothes are coming off.”

For a moment I had the maddest urge to watch him, before my brain kicked in and I remembered that creeping on patients, even ones with lovely green eyes, was probably not something I should be doing. I turned, playing with the catch on my messenger bag as he thumped about behind me.

“How cute do I look, on a scale of 1 to 10?” He asked when he’d finished, setting his hands on his waist and jutting a hip out.

“I’d say about a seven. Maybe an eight.” I answered with a grin that was just the littlest bit impish. He was wearing a black Ramones tee shirt that hung loosely on the still muscular curves of his shoulders and a pair of tight blue jeans that hugged the long line of his legs. Even an eight was a gross understatement. He looked like a model for some kind of expensive cologne, even with his dark circles and mussed hair. I realized then that there was something infinitely beautiful in broken things.

“Liar. I’m most definitely a 10. Maybe a 9.8, just so we can leave some room for improvement.” He turned a bit to check out his ass, then grabbed a beanie from his bedside table and wedged it onto his curls. I liked the way he moved, in jerky bops and excited little twists marked by a calculated sort of slowness that reminded me of the way he talked. 

“Getting a little cheeky, aren’t we?” I teased, smiling over at him as he pulled his coat on and made for the door.

“It’s part of my charm.” He hadn’t lost his earlier insolence, but there was a warmth in him that hadn’t been there before. It made me think that maybe, just maybe, Harry wouldn’t be so hard to crack after all.

Smuggling him out of the hospital turned out to be a pretty easy task. It didn’t take more than a smile and a wink at the pretty receptionist to replace her suspicious glare with a blush.

“Where are we going?” He asked as we made it out onto the sidewalk, his eyes climbing the buildings like he was seeing them for the first time. Above us, the sky hung low and heavy with premonitions of snow and I worried briefly about my trip home. Hopefully we’d avoid any major snowstorms until I was safely back in my apartment. 

“That depends. Do you like cupcakes?” I asked, leading the way down the busy sidewalk, packed with commuters who barely glanced our way.

“You aren’t seriously asking me that, are you?”

I let out a soft laugh, slipping my hands into the fleece lined pockets of my jacket as a chilly wind whipped its way down the street. “Just making sure.”

He just smiled, a tiny upward tilt of his lips that warmed me up in a way that wasn’t entirely thermal. He’d tucked his chin down into the collar of his jacket, his hands shoved deep in his pockets like if he nestled up inside himself he could physically avoid the cold. His face was pink, breath wreathing his features like smoke, swirling up into his hair and then dissolving into the breeze. “I forgot what winter smelled like.” He said quietly, lifting his head and taking a lungful of air.

“You really don’t get out much, do you?” I asked as we turned the corner, fighting the stab of sadness I’d felt at his words. This was going to be his last winter, I realized with a start, the last time he’d walk through January 17th and stare up at a cloudy sky.

“No.” He answered simply, curling back in on himself.

We walked in silence for a block or two. I’d run out of things to say and he was evidently content to share the quiet. 

I grabbed his arm a minute or two later, pointing up at the brightly colored sign. “We’re here.” I pushed open the door, stepping into the small bakeshop. It was one of my favorites, a tiny hole in the wall with delicious coffee, great pastries, and ever better cupcakes. A gush of warm air rushed over us, sweeping off the winter chill.

Harry’s eyes widened at the wall of display cases, each filled to the brim with meticulously decorated delicacies. I spotted Danielle at the counter, her light blue sleeves rolled to her elbows and a light dusting of flour on her caramel skin. She waved when she saw me, her face lighting up. “Hey Marina!

“Hey Dani.” I headed to the counter, Harry tagging close behind me. “Harry, this is Danielle. Danielle, Harry.”

He treated her to a timid wave, looking back over at me. “Liam’s Danielle?”

I nodded, trying not to be impressed that he’d been paying that much attention. “The same.”

Danielle smiled widely. “You told him about me?”

“Only nice things.” I assured her, unzipping my coat as the warmth of the shop began to seep into my bones. “So what’s fresh?”

She peered back into the kitchen, an open area just behind the counter where two other girls were frosting a rather elaborate cake. “Well I did just finish some chocolate cupcakes. If I’d eaten one, which I certainly didn’t, I’d tell you they were delicious.”

I looked over at Harry, who gave me a nod.

“That sounds great.”

She rang us up. “Anything to drink?”

“Coffee. The usual way.” Danielle was the only person in the world who I trusted to make my coffee, one of the reasons I was seriously hoping for her and Liam to get married. The other reason of course being that they were sickeningly adorable, but that almost went without saying.

“Hot chocolate, please.” Harry added from behind me, and I was struck once again by the low, husky quality of his voice, how it floated just below the lull of conversation.

She gave him a grin, one she quickly redirected towards me as she rang us up.

“You go grab a seat, I’ll be right there.” Harry nodded, moving towards a small table by the picture window near the front of the shop.

Danielle pounced as soon as he was out of earshot. “Oh my god Marina, he’s so cute. Your children will be the cutest things ever, oh my god.”

I fixed her with a look. “Dani, oh my goodness, no. He's my patient, there are boundaries.”

Her face fell for a moment, then picked back up. “But you like him.”

“Well of course I like him, he’s a patient.” I replied, trying to keep my voice down as she prepared the drinks. “We aren’t together, Danielle.”

“So he’s gay?” She asked, topping off the hot chocolate and adding a dollop of whipped cream.

I thought of his earlier comment, something about checking me out. “Not exactly.”

She nearly spilled the cocoa as she set it in front of me, excitement filling her very movements. “Marina you need to date this boy. You need to. He’s broody and cute and- oh my god he’s taken his hat off and those are curls, Marina. Curls.”

I flicked my eyes back over to Harry, who was busy being immersed in the knit of his gray beanie, his gaze solemn. She was right, he was cute, very, incredibly unfairly cute. He was also someone I was supposed to help through their time of need, not have a crush on. It would be completely inappropriate. “It wouldn’t be professional.”

She pouted, setting my coffee down next to his drink and putting two pristine pink-frosted cupcakes on small china plates. “YOLO, Honey.”

I gave her a stern look. “Please tell me you didn’t just use YOLO at me unironically.”

“I did.” She paused, her smile teasing. “YOLO.”

I rolled my eyes, picking up our tray and walking towards Harry, careful not to spill. “We are no longer friends, Danielle. No longer friends.”

“I love you too, little bird!” She called back, the end of her yell dissolving into giggles. 

I sat down in the chair across from Harry with a roll of my eyes. He reached for his cup, peering over at me from the swirl of whipped cream. “Little bird?” He asked, his eyebrows disappearing into his hair.

I cringed though, if I was honest, the nickname did amuse me. “Liam heard me belting out the lyrics to this one Ed Sheeran song one day while I was in the shower, I didn't know he was home to be honest. Only perks of living with a boy though, Harry; cute nicknames. Though I'm getting quite sick of this one.”

He took a tentative sip, getting a small line of foam on his upper lip. “It’s cute.”

You’re cute

I froze as I processed the thought that had jumped into my mind. Oh god. This was all Danielle’s fault. I was actually going to kill her. 

He was looking at me quizzically. “Are you okay?”

I nodded, pushing my mind back to safer topics. “Yeah, I’m fine.”

Harry scraped a bit of frosting off the top of his cupcake with a forefinger, licking it off. He cocked his head, studying me. “Marina?”

“Yes?”

“You read my file, didn’t you.” I couldn’t quite read his expression. It wasn’t blank, guarded maybe, a little guilty? And sad. Definitely sad.

“You did tell me to.” I said, suddenly feeling as if I’d done something I shouldn’t have, which was silly considering that it was kind of my job.

“It’s probably best that you know.” He sighed, and I noticed the way he rested his left arm on the table underside down like it was a habit. I reached out, resting my forefinger and thumb on his wrist, silently asking his permission.

He merely held my gaze, holding perfectly still. I slowly turned his arm over in my hand, the pale skin of his forearm marred by  quick pink scars. There were six, neat and in a row, and so careful they made my stomach turn. I ran my fingers down his skin, the tiny ridges sharp against the sensitive pads of my fingertips. I felt him shiver at the touch and for a moment I wondered if I’d gone too far, but he didn’t move away, merely letting his eyes flutter shut and clenching his hand into a fist.

“Why did you do it?” I asked softly, feeling suddenly that sometime between arriving and sitting down we’d fallen into our own little world.

“Because I was tired of not feeling. There was a long time where I felt so much, so terrified and sad and angry and then it-” He let out a long breath. “I stopped feeling anything. And I couldn’t deal with that.”

“Did it help?” I asked, knowing the answer before he said it.

“No.” 

“But you thought that killing yourself would?” I asked, going just a little farther, unwilling to give up when we were finally getting somewhere.

“No.” He paused, opening his eyes and letting them flicker down to the table. He slid his arm out of my grip, tucking it into himself like he didn’t want to see the scars anymore. 

“Then why did you do it?” I’d dealt with suicide in it’s many awful forms before, and no one really seemed to fit neatly into the stereotypical box of ‘it all just became too much.’ I had a feeling Harry Styles was no exception.

He seemed to deliberate over the question for a long moment, drawing the mug of cocoa up to his mouth and taking a long sip before answering. “My life ended a year ago. It was only a matter of catching my body up.”

“Your life didn’t end a year ago, it ended the day you gave up. You aren’t dead, you have six months to live. You can’t spend all of them dying.” I said, seized with the sudden urge to grab him by the shoulders and shake him, to show him what he was missing while he waited to slip into a fate he’d chosen months ago. 

“But I am dying.” He replied, tapping his temple. 

“So am I!” I hissed back.

“But that’s different.” He replied, his face passive, like he was hiding somewhere inside his mind, somewhere my words couldn’t reach him.

“No it’s not! I could walk out of this shop and get run over by a goddamn bus. I could slip on the ice outside and crack my skull in two. It doesn’t mean I’m going to  waste my life just because one day my time is going to run out. So you know when you’re going to die, congratulations, now you have a deadline. A deadline to do everything you wanted to do before you bite it. Do you understand what I’m trying to tell you? You can’t think about the dying, only the living, or it’ll end up killing you.” My voice had gained a kind of urgency, my entire body aching with the need to get him to understand. 

“But I can’t.” He said, softly and filled with such melancholy that for a moment I wondered if he really was broken beyond repair. “I’m falling Marina, I’ve been falling for so long and I’m not sure I know how to stop anymore.”

“You know the only difference between falling and flying is how you land.” I said, feeling as if I was quoting something but unable to remember what it was. “I guess you could say my job is to be your parachute.” I shrugged, embarrassed for a reason I couldn’t quite pinpoint.

“Okay.” He said, staring down at his mug, his hands wrapped around the porcelain. “I’m sorry.”

I picked up my cupcake and started to peel back the silver wrapping, realizing that I’d completely forgotten about it in the midst of our discussion. “About what?”

“I’m sorry I’m not easy to fix.” 

I sucked in a quick breath, his words catching me off guard. “Don’t be sorry. None of this is your fault.”

He nodded, offering me a smile that was trying really really hard to be a smile but just ended up making me want to jump across the table and hug him. “Thankyou.”

“Don’t worry about it.” I smiled back, taking a bite of my cupcake, a small exclamation of surprise escaping me. “Strawberry frosting. I thought it was just pink.”

Harry raised his cupcake to his lips, liking the icing off the top. “It’s quite good.”

“Oh god, you’re one of those people aren’t you?”

He looked momentarily wounded, an expression made a little bit adorable by the smear of pink frosting on the tip of his nose. “One of what people?”

I took a large bite and mumbled the rest of the answer through a mouthful of cake. “One of those people who licks the frosting off first.”

He stuck his tongue out at me, earlier sadness forgotten. He was really good at that, the whole pretending that everything was okay, like he’d been doing it for a very long time. “I like frosting.”

“So do I.” I replied, taking a sip of coffee. “I like it on my cupcake like it’s supposed to be.”

“And who made you queen of cupcake eating?” He asked, now peeling back the wrapper and starting in on the cake.

I snapped my fingers at him. “Me. Just now.”

He snickered, a quick that turned into genuine laughter, bubbling out of him before he could stop it. He seemed almost startled by the sound, like he’d forgotten that he could make it. “I don’t think I-” He put a hand to his lips. “Well fuck.”

“What?” I asked, though I already knew. I just wanted to hear him say it.

“I didn’t think I remembered how to do that.” His eyes were wide, filled with a kind of awe and disbelief that made my head spin. “Thankyou.”

I opened my mouth to reply, words escaping me. There was something about him, the way he looked at me, how his voice lilted that seemed to so often leave me speechless. I didn’t know what it was, but he was special in a way I’d never encountered before. 

His eyes flickered to the window, growing wide. “Marina, it’s snowing.”

I looked through the glass, my gaze falling on the thick white flakes swirling in the winter air, resting in the gutters and on the sidewalk like the smallest brushing of sugar. “It’s lovely.”

“Let’s walk through it.” He said, a sort of awed smile settling on his face. It looked so at home there, his expression open and childish and like he didn’t have a care in the world. In that moment, the snow swirling in the crisp night, I think he’d forgotten he was falling.

I set my half finished coffee on the table, standing and giving my coat a zip. “Okay.”

He stood, popping the last bit of his cupcake into his mouth and heading for the door, barely pausing to wait for me before rushing outside. It was cold, but in the orange glow of buildings and streetlights I felt oddly warm, like I was carrying some kind of fire inside of me that rushed through my veins and heated my bones.

We started walking back towards the hospital, soaking in the snowy wonderland around us. 

“I didn’t used to like winter.” He said, nearly colliding with a businessman as he was distracted by the drifting snowflakes. “But it’s kind of beautiful, isn’t it?”

“Everything’s beautiful if you know how to look at it.” I replied, earning myself an amused noise from Harry.

“You’re so damn philosophical.” He smiled, stopping at the crosswalk and staring up at the sky, sticking his tongue out to catch a few flakes.

“Cryptic one liners are my speciality.” I quipped, watching him as we waited for the light to change. 

He pulled his tongue back in long enough to shoot me a reply. “You should meet my friend Zayn. You could have a deep-quotes battle.”

“I’d win.” I replied, trying to keep away the dopey smile that was desperately close to breaking across my face. 

“Don’t be so sure.” He took a slow turn, letting his arms rise up away from his body. I just watched him spin, closing his eyes and turning like if he tried hard enough he could float away.

I watched as his feet slipped from under him and he careened into my arms, his weight folding into my chest. He looked up at me dizzily, his green eyes holding mine the warm light, snowflakes melting on his porcelain skin.

“I’ve got you.” I reassured him, tightening my grip around his waist. 

He just smiled, looking completely at peace. “I know.”

I realized then that Harry was wrong; he wasn’t hard to fix, he just needed someone who would.

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