Your Hands Can Heal
Paul scratched his head as he stared down at the letter he was currently writing to Quil. He had given up on Sam's - didn't even think about touching Jared's yet - and thought maybe it would be easier going to some of the others, but they were all proving a bit difficult. Even the one to Seth had been hard, and he thought that one would at least be short and easy.
For not the first time that evening, his eyes drifted over to Briony's books. He had managed to stay a couple hours when he went over for dinner, the two of them settling into reminiscing about the old times. Had even ventured a bit into their lives beyond that, but always being careful. Briony had tiptoed around any topics she thought might bring up Rachel. As Paul was leaving, she walked over, holding out the rest of the series and told him to take his time reading them.
And now they all sat at the edge of the coffee table. Somehow, he had finished the first book and started on the second but told himself he needed to focus on his plans otherwise he'd continue to put them off.
Sighing, Paul put the pen down and reached over for the second book, opening it up and starting where he left off. If he wasn't going to stop thinking about them, he might as well try and get the series out of the way. Thankfully, they weren't too long and Briony's writing was easy to read - made it go by fast. And even though he knew most of the stories by heart, he couldn't stop reading once he started.
An hour later, he sighed and tore his eyes away from the book, knowing if he didn't stop, he'd be up all night reading. He put the book down and looked over at the laptop. He was still curious about Briony's life in LA even though they didn't really get into it as it was intricately tied up with Brandon. And talking about Brandon would ultimately lead to talking about Rachel. Or thinking about her. Though it wasn't as though Paul wasn't constantly thinking about her.
Thinking he could chance it - the worst he could do was stop himself before it got to be too much and then go punch something - he grabbed the laptop and went to Google, typing in Briony's writer name. He made a mental note to ask her how she came up with it next time.
Paul stopped, sitting up as he frowned at the thought of intentionally seeing Briony again. But at the same time, he knew that he would. That he wanted to. She had quickly been added to the list of people to make some sort of amends with. It would take too long to do it fully, but he would at least have to try.
He then turned back to the task at hand, pressing enter and waiting as various articles and such came up. He clicked on a video link and waited until it started.
"We're here today with writer B. McHale, talking about her latest book in her series - 'The Rains'," a woman chirped. She then turned to look at Briony, who seemed uncharacteristically at ease, a warm smile on her face. "Thanks for coming!"
"Thanks for having me," Briony replied.
"Now, before we get into the book… there are rumors going around that you're being courted by a few producers and directors," the woman said, a knowing look on her face. "Is there any truth to them and can we expect that husband of yours to feature?"
An uncomfortable look passed over Briony's face. Paul glanced at the date and did the math. Shit. She had probably just found out about Brandon being sick. For a moment, Paul's finger hovered over the laptop, thinking he should stop it before they got into talking about Brandon's cancer.
"Well… what I can tell you is that nothing has been settled yet," Briony said diplomatically, a smile back firmly on her face. Paul had to admit that she was really good. Good enough to be an actress. "I'm still not sure if I want them adapted to screen yet."
"But this is the last in the series, isn't it?" the woman then asked.
"I… I think I'm at a good stopping place… for now," Briony replied.
"That's a shame. I know I'm a huge fan and it's been quite the journey," the host said. "I'd like to see what happens with Aster and Derek. Especially after reading this last one…"
A flush came over Briony's face as Paul's eyes widened. Derek was the character based on him. She laughed, a sort of nervous chuckle that was in stark contrast to her easy demeanor at the beginning of the interview.
"Well… suppose we'll just have to see… all of us," she replied.
Paul stopped the interview and went back to the search results, going through a few more articles, intentionally skipping over the more recent ones. Though he wondered if it was true - that someone wanted to make movies out of her books. He wasn't completely sure how he felt about that - someone playing him in a movie. It felt… strange. But then again, it wasn't as though he was Derek. The character was based off him, yes, but he was fictional and there were some differences.
He settled into watching older videos and interviews - ones well before her husband got sick. Briony looked happy. Really happy. Like she could take on the world. The young girl he had known was still there, but she had grown up. Matured. There was an easy confidence around her that he had only seen when it was the two of them. Or them with their friends. And though he saw glimpses of it now, it wasn't much.
He then stopped, a long-forgotten memory coming into his mind…
"I could do it," Briony said, her voice firm.
Paul stopped walking and looked over at her, confused as to what she was talking about. They were walking down to a diner near the movie theater in Port Angeles where her grandparents were waiting to drive them back home.
"Do what, Bri?" he asked. She looked over at him, grinning.
"I could make a movie," she stated. Paul stopped walking and then snorted. Immediately the smile fell from her face. "What? I could write a movie!"
"Yea, I know you could do that. But you would actually have to show the script to someone to get it made, you know," he replied. Briony opened her mouth to reply, but then stopped.
Paul rolled his eyes and threw his arm around her shoulders, pulling her close. For a moment, he nearly lost it, smelling the perfume she had taken to wearing lately, deciding that at 15, it was time to start wearing makeup and other stuff the older girls did. Honestly, Paul thought she was pretty no matter what, but he couldn't help the way it affected him.
He was a 15-year-old boy who just realized that his best friend was a pretty, 15-year-old girl. And he wanted to kiss her.
Pushing aside his nerves, he kept his smile on his face, not wavering or allowing her to see he was wavering.
"You're a good writer, Bri. If you say you're going to write a movie someday, I think you will," he said.
Briony looked up at him, her smile reappearing.
"You really think so?" she asked. He nodded.
Briony looked back in front of them, the two of them starting to walk. As she started talking about her ideas, Paul tried to follow her, but all he could think about was if tonight was the night. If he would actually try to kiss her. But the closer they got to the diner, the more his resolve lessened.
No, not tonight. Not here.
Even though all his other friends had long ago had their first kisses - and often made fun of Paul for not making his move - he couldn't bring himself to do it. Because he knew that he wanted it to be with Briony. But she was his best friend and had never once made any move or comment or anything that showed him she felt the same way.
"What do you think?" she asked, looking up at him.
"Hmm? Oh… I think it's a great idea," he said quickly, hoping that she hadn't noticed he wasn't paying attention to her words. Briony stopped walking and turned to him, frowning. Shit. She knew.
"What's going on, Paul?" she asked, seeming worried.
"What do you mean?" he asked, shoving his hands into his pockets and looking at the ground.
"You keep going off somewhere lately. Is something wrong?" she asked, stepping closer to him.
"I'm fine," he said, looking up at her with wide eyes and praying to whoever could be listening that she didn't push it. Briony studied him a bit longer and then started walking again, though she continued to glance at him.
Paul shook his head a bit, wondering why that memory would come to him. He had long had a crush on Briony at that point. And it wasn't that long after that he had finally gotten the courage to tell her how he felt and kiss her. But that wasn't what he was supposed to remember, was it?
The movie. Right. She had wanted to write a movie. Paul looked over at the laptop, thinking to the bright, excited, confident Briony he had seen in the interviews. He then thought of the Briony he had had pizza with the other day. He hadn't forgotten how many times she looked longingly towards her laptop when she thought he wasn't paying attention.
He then realized how he could make his amends. How he could end things with Briony.
He needed to convince her to follow her dream. Again.
As soon as he thought it, the idea settled into his mind and a sort of contentment came over him. He didn't know how long it would take, but Paul knew that he couldn't go through with anything until he had helped Briony. Made sure that she would be okay.
Then he could leave it all behind.
Yes, that's what he would do. He owed her that much.
"Thank god you came," Briony said, smiling as Paul walked into the house. She couldn't help but feel buoyed by his appearance. He looked less tense than he had before. Was even smiling slightly.
"Well, when you mentioned how much stuff you wanted to take to Goodwill, I remembered I had the trailer. Thought it would help," he said, already looking around at the various boxes filling the living room.
And then there was the furniture from the master bedroom and spare rooms upstairs. Honestly, Briony was so grateful, she could kiss him. Just the thought of trying to get it all to the Goodwill store in Forks by herself overwhelmed her. Though, she probably could have asked Embry to help.
She had already put in orders for some new furniture, but it couldn't be delivered until Embry was finished with most of the renovating, though she supposed she could start with upstairs since that part was at least done. As it was, she was sleeping on a mattress in the guest room while Embry worked downstairs. And she supposed at some point, she should go back to the LA house and decide what she wanted from there. Vivian was already working on getting it listed, but it wouldn't be shown until she got all of the personal items out.
A pinch of pain hit Briony in the chest as she thought about having to go through what was left there. She had already packed up most of Brandon's things. But there was still some left that she just couldn't bring herself to go through.
"How the hell are you eating?" Paul asked, bringing her out of her thoughts.
She looked up at him, blinking a few times before she looked over at the mess that was now her kitchen.
"Oh, well… I go into town for most meals now," she said. "Or takeout…"
"You should get in touch with Sue Clearwater," he then said. "Sure she could feed you."
Briony stared at him in shock, a bit thrown by his concern. It took her back. Paul shifted on his feet, not meeting her eyes.
"I'd invite you over, but… not much of a cook myself," he mumbled.
Briony knew it likely had more to do with the fact that he didn't want her to see whatever state his house was in but didn't dare touch that with a 10-foot pole.
"Yea, sure. I'll give her a call. Been meaning to get into La Push more," she said instead, being careful to keep her voice light. "Emily and Sam actually had me over last night."
Paul looked over at her, surprised. Briony shrugged and wrapped her arms around herself.
"Well… we should probably start loading this up," Paul said, turning to the living room. He started towards a large box.
"Careful that's-" Briony stopped as Paul easily picked up a box that she hadn't been able to move at all. "Heavy."
He just offered her a small smile and started towards the door, not straining at all. Briony watched him in shock for a moment before shaking her head and starting towards another, smaller box.
There really was something in the water at La Push.
A few hours later, Paul and Briony walked out of the Goodwill store, the person running it following them out and once again asking if Briony was sure she didn't want any sort of compensation for all the stuff she brought in. And once again, Briony said to just make sure everything found a good home to go to.
She could feel Paul watching her but pushed it aside as the manager walked back inside and she looked around the small town.
"So… you hungry?" Paul then asked.
Briony turned to him and nodded.
"Could probably eat a horse," she replied as they started towards the diner. Paul snorted softly, bringing her to a stop. Had he seriously just laughed?
The smile then suddenly fell from his face as he hunched over slightly, still walking. Briony quickly caught up to him. They made their way to the diner and sat with Briony going over the menu, though Paul just looked around. They then ordered, the waitress asking Paul if he wanted his usual. He just nodded in return and then turned his dark eyes to Briony.
She sat back, noting the intensity was back. Since when had Paul been so serious? Oh right.
"I read a bit about your books. Does someone seriously want to make them into movies?" he asked. Briony just blinked. How had he found that out?
In truth, her father had been begging her since the first one came out to let him make them. But she said no, unsure if he really thought they were good, or this was just another of his plots to try and make up for how he had been the first 15 years of her life.
"I've had a few offers, yea," she admitted.
"Why won't you do it?" he asked.
"I… well… just not sure," she said.
"That's bullshit. We both know how badly you wanted to write a movie when we were younger," Paul said. Once again, Briony was shocked into silence. "You should just do it."
Briony's mouth fell open, though she quickly snapped it shut and reached for her water glass, looking away from him.
"I don't know, Paul," she said, her brow furrowed.
"What's stopping you?" he asked. Briony looked over at him, unsure of what to say.
But as soon as she met his eyes, a realization came over his face and he looked away.
"You should at least think about it. It is something you've been talking about since we were 15… at least I suppose," he said, reaching for his own glass of water.
"It's not off the table… just… taking a break from… that. For a bit," she admitted. Paul looked up at her and she offered him a small smile. "I'll get to it."
"You promise?" he asked. Briony nodded, unsure of why he was so invested in this.
"Any ideas on who you want to play you?" she then asked. Paul's eyes widened as he shook his head.
"I wouldn't have the first clue," he said. "Don't really get out to see movies that much… anymore…"
An uncomfortable silence fell over the two of them as Briony started playing with her napkin. She then sat up and smiled.
"I'll make you a deal. You go see a movie with me and I'll think about calling my publisher to set up a meeting or two."
Paul seemed to be thinking it over a bit before he nodded.
"Just as long as you go through with your part," he stated.
"It's a deal…"
Briony walked out onto the deck that night and leaned against the railing, her mind wandering over the day and Paul's slightly strange request. It wasn't so much the fact that he had encouraged her to pursue her dream of writing a movie - he had done that before - but more the ferocity behind it. Almost as though he was desperate for her to follow through. It was a near about face from his actions so far.
Before, it seemed almost as though he avoided her. As though being around her was too difficult. And now… he was offering to help her with the house. Agreeing to go see a movie with her.
It was strange.
But maybe she was finally getting somewhere. Maybe she was finally helping him. A small smile came over her face. While she knew they had a ways to go yet, she felt as though she was finally getting somewhere. That she wasn't constantly saying the wrong things.
A tear suddenly slid down her cheek as she stared out at the beach.
You'll be okay, Bri…
She shook her head, not sure she wanted to go down that road just yet. Yes, she had seen that memory in her head many times over the past several months, but she wasn't ready to dwell on it. Not tonight…
Briony scrunched her face up, reading over the essay that Paul had just finished. As usual, it was due tomorrow and he waited until the last minute to finish it. He was always complaining about the books they read, calling them boring and dusty. Not to mention, he hated writing essays - this Briony knew for a fact.
But English was something she was really good at. So, she helped him as much as she could.
Finally, she put her red pen down and slid the paper over to him. Paul sat up in his chair, his expression making it clear that he was steeling himself for the flood of corrections that he was sure would come. He then looked up at her in awe.
"Really?" he asked. "I thought there would be more changes." Briony shrugged.
"Looks like you're getting better," she said, smiling. "See? I don't have to write your essays for you."
"Let's not go that far. This was just once," Paul said, looking over it. Briony rolled her eyes.
"If you would just read in between the lines, it wouldn't be that hard," she muttered.
"I still don't get that, you know," Paul said, frowning at her. "There's nothing in between the lines."
"I mean… you need to stop taking everything so literally," Briony huffed. "There's always some sort of lesson to learn from books. Find that and then write about it."
"Not always," Paul said, still frowning. Briony rolled her eyes again. "Not all of us are as smart as you, Bri."
"That's not true," Briony shot back. Paul was pretty brilliant, in her mind. He was really good at math and science - two things she never did that well in. "And I'm not that smart."
"Oh, so I must be really stupid then," Paul nearly shouted. Briony's frown deepened.
"That's not what I meant-"
"What she means is, everyone is good at different things," Grams said gently, walking up to the table and putting down two mugs of hot chocolate. Both kids looked over at her. "And you're both smart… just in different ways. If my opinion means anything."
"Course it does, Grams," Paul said immediately. Briony turned to him.
"I suck at science. And you're really good at helping me with my science homework," she said quickly. Paul thought it over a bit and then nodded.
"It's pretty easy when I think about it," he admitted.
"See? You're both good at something and smart at something. Just means you gotta help each other out," Grams said with a warm smile before walking off.
Both were now in a better mood as Paul put the paper away. He then turned to Briony.
"You finish more on that story?" he asked eagerly. Briony nodded and turned, pulling a notebook out of her backpack, then handed it over. "No… you read it to me… I like it better when you read it."
Briony chuckled and then opened it up to where she left off, her girlish scrawl filling the pages.
"Okay… so… where were we…"
She found the spot and started reading, completely losing herself in the story as Paul leaned his head on his hand, his dark eyes fixed on her and a smile on his face. He didn't move or say anything until she finished.
"What, that's it?" he asked, disappointed. Briony nodded and closed the notebook.
"I had homework and couldn't get much done today," she admitted.
"When you become a famous writer, don't forget about me," Paul said. While his tone made it clear he was joking, she could tell from the slight fear in his eyes that he wasn't completely.
"Paul… you're my best friend. I'm never going to forget you…"
Briony sighed heavily as she wiped a lone tear from her cheek. She never forgot him, not really. But she certainly hadn't been the best friend that she could. At least now she was finally making it up to him.
"I'm not giving up on you, Paul… not by a long shot," she murmured into the night. "Not at all…"