"Hi," I said, when we stopped for air.
"Hey," she replied.
We stood staring at each other for the longest time with our arms around each other. At some point the other guys had left.
"So, do you have any more doubts?" Aubree asked, then bit her bottom lip coyly.
"No," I answered, and placed a soft kiss on the lips that were so familiar to me. Then I took her hand and led her to one of the couches so we could sit down.
We both started talking at the same time, as we seemed to do a lot recently. This time she insisted that I go first.
I couldn't stop touching her: her hair, her face, her hands. She was really there, but it still seemed unreal.
"Obviously, we both want the same thing. And I want nothing more than to pick up where we left off, but I understand completely if you don't feel comfortable jumping right back into it. We have all the time in the world, and I'm not going anywhere, no matter what, I swear." I sounded desperate again. But I was, damnit.
Aubree twisted my hair around her finger, and I was in Heaven. I loved for her to mess with my hair.
"Honestly, I've been thinking that it would be better if we didn't rush back into anything."
I was okay with that, really. I'd take whatever she was willing to give. But then she added, "But now that I'm here with you, I see that it's obvious we both feel the same as we did all those months ago. Why torture ourselves? We've already lost too much time. There's no sense in waiting. We belong together, Ashton. We can't deny it. And even if we could, I don't want to."
"Fuck, Aubree. I don't want to wait, either. God, I have so much to say and explain and apologize for, though."
She put her fingers on my lips to shush me before I went any further. "Let's make a deal, okay?" I nodded my agreement since I wasn't allowed to speak. "No more explanations or apologies. Nothing in the past matters now." Again, I nodded. But there was one thing I felt the need to say; an explanation I owed her.
"Okay, it's a deal, after I tell you this one thing."
"Okay, that's fair enough."
I was actually embarrassed to talk about it. But I had to. "I know I've already apologized profusely for the reasons why we split up in the first place. But I'm really truly so, so sorry, Aubree." She gave me the sweetest sympathetic smile. It looked like she was about to cry, which made me feel even worse. But I knew her intention wasn't to make me feel bad. She was just sad that it still bothered me so much. "I was just so damn insecure. I know that you realized that, and you tried repeatedly to convince me that there was no need to be. But people have used me my whole life. Even before I had money or was in the business, people took advantage of me. I never once thought you were using me. But it was just hard for me to accept that a genuinely good person like you could love me for simply being me. And even when I did accept it, I was still afraid you'd run the first chance you got. I had this stupid need keep tabs on you, to know what you were doing all the time. Like, I could keep you from leaving if I knew your every move or something. I don't know how to explain it. I was so afraid you'd forget about me if you weren't reminded of me constantly, I guess. It's all so dumb, I know. But I learned from it and I swear on everything good that I'll never be like that again. And as far as the jealousy crap, you have the biggest heart of anyone I've ever known, and I know you'd never hurt me. You'd never cheat on me or any of that nonsense. Part of you having a big heart means that you're going to have friends, male friends, that you care about, like Michael. And I get that now. He'd never hurt me either, and I know there's nothing to worry about there. I guess it's only natural to feel somewhat jealous at times, but that doesn't mean I need to act like an asshole. I won't ever again. And I hope you don't think this is just a bunch of bullshit, because it's not. I promise, baby."
Aubree blinked away some tears and literally climbed onto my lap to hug me so tightly that I thought I was going to have to ask her to loosen her hold on me. But it was the best feeling ever.
We were silent for a while, just holding each other. But she eventually whispered, "I trust you, Ashton. Don't let that weigh on your heart anymore." And then she raised her head from my shoulder and asked, "Are you okay?"
Without her specifying, I knew what she was asking about. "Yeah. I'm good. I still get sad when I think about it. But there's nothing I can say or do to change it. And it wasn't my fault. There's nothing left to do but move on." I shrugged, not knowing what else to say about the subject.
Aubree placed a lingering kiss on my forehead, then my nose, and finally my lips. There was something about it that time that had me wanting her desperately. The way she reacted told me that she felt the same. And if Joe hadn't knocked on the door and yelled for me to come to soundcheck, I would have had her right then and there. But in a way, I was glad we were interrupted, because I didn't want our reunion to be a backstage quickie. I wanted to love her like she deserved to be loved. Besides, the anticipation would only make it better.
It felt so perfect having Aubree sitting on the side of the stage watching us do our private soundcheck. Every time I'd look at her, I swear my heart would flutter. She had the most gorgeous smile and her face was full of love and admiration. I didn't think I'd ever get used to someone looking at me like that, but that's how she'd been since day one. I'll never understand what I did to deserve it. But her face reflected exactly how I felt about her, too, and I couldn't wait to prove it to her every single day.
Oddly enough, I enjoyed watching her interact with my friends, even Michael. Especially Michael. Even when Michael swooped Aubree up into a big bear hug when she said that she was going to the next show, too, I couldn't stop smiling because they were both so happy about it. I'm still not sure what had happened during that miserable time apart. But whatever it was that made me overcome that stupid jealousy shit, I was thankful for it.
We'd been reunited less than two hours and I was already at peace with everything that had happened. I'd put it behind me and was ready to move forward. Something was different, and it's just really hard to explain. There were no more questions, no more "what ifs," and no more regrets. I was exactly where I wanted to be.
Needless to say, the Twitterverse went insane as soon as people noticed Aubree at the show. Up until then, no one even knew for sure that Brandi and I were no longer together. I'd seen some speculation, but only because we hadn't been spotted together in a while. Of course, seeing Aubree there, fans automatically assumed she and I were back together, and that sparked another Brandi versus Aubree debate on social media. After the show, I got online long enough to post a thank you to the fans who were there, saw what I already knew would be happening, and logged right back off. It didn't matter. It used to bother me so badly when people would say such hurtful things about Aubree, and in the same breath praise Brandi. Oh, if they only knew. But if Aubree didn't let it get to her, why should I? I knew how amazing Aubree was, and that's all that mattered.
I locked my phone and jumped in the shower before Aubree made her way back to me. It was probably the quickest shower I'd ever taken. And when I was finished, I found her and Michael playing Mario Kart. I stood back and watched her without her knowledge for a few minutes. Her laugh was the best thing I'd had ever heard. Eventually, she reached over to the table to get her water bottle and caught me staring.
"How long have you been there?"
"Long enough," I answered, and winked at her. She smiled and shook her head at me for using the same response she'd used earlier.
I sat on the floor in front of her, situated between her legs, while she and Michael finished their game. And as soon as it was over, Dave came in and told us it was time to go.
Everyone started gathering their belongings, but I already had mine together, so I remained where I was while Aubree ran her fingers through my hair. But that was short lived because the guys stopped to hug Aubree goodbye as they left. Soon enough we were left alone.
I stood and pulled her into my arms, where she fit so perfectly, and buried my face in her hair, which always smelled of strawberries.
She said quietly, "Too bad you're not staying in town. The kids are staying with my mom tonight. I'm going to be all alone." Then she sighed dramatically onto my chest and I knew she was giving me bait.
One hint was all I needed. "Let's go. I'll catch up with them tomorrow." I put my arm around her waist and led her out of the room.
She looked shocked, but excited. "Are you sure? It was a big ordeal the last time we did this. I don't want you - "
We came to an abrupt halt as I interrupted her with a harsh kiss. Then I teased her by asking, "You don't want me?"
She stammered on her words for a second. "N-no! I didn't, I - "
I let her off the hook. "I know. I'm giving you shit. Don't worry about me. I'm a big boy, and they can kiss my ass. I'll text everyone right now." I sent a group text which included nearly our whole crew, so they'd all know my plans.
We practically ran to her car, and she had to remind me to keep my hands to myself so she could drive. I couldn't help myself.
I was surprised when everyone told me to have fun instead of yelling at me for breaking the rules again. Truth be known, they were probably just glad to see me happy. And I couldn't blame them. It was about damn time.