Part 7: A Change of Heart

See disclaimers in part 1.

Long overdue, I know. But...I'm trying so bear with me. Enjoy!

By the time they got back from their dinner AND movie…Michelle’s idea, it was past 10. They had class tomorrow so they both went straight to bed. Michelle was a little hesitant at first but seeing Alex’s encouraging smile she snuggled up willingly in bed and fell right asleep with her roommate following shortly after.

"What the hell?" The raven-haired woman jerked awake. She listened closely. <What woke me up? > She was a very light sleeper and she knew she heard something. Turning her head, she listened closer. It was Michelle with another bad dream. She rushed right over when she saw her struggling and whimpering. She took her hand to wake the girl up but suddenly everything stopped. Michelle calmed down and fell back into a dreamless sleep. <That was strange. Must have good timing I guess. > Puzzled, she went back to her own bed to try and go back to sleep.

But it happened again. Every time Alex would take her hand or even just touch her, Michelle would calm down. <It couldn’t be me, could it? > After the fourth time, she noticed it was already 4 am. It happened every hour at least. She sat down next to the bed and just held her friend’s hand. <Guess no sleep for me. But at least she won’t be suffering. >

This became a nightly ritual for the taller woman. Alex would keep vigil over her sleeping friend and she’d go back to bed at six when she knew Michelle would be up soon. Her sleep wasn’t worth it to see her tormented like that. So everyday when she came back from class she’d go straight to sleep. But all day there’d be interruptions causing her to lose those precious hours. She’d probably been getting only 4 hours of sleep a day and it started to show.

Michelle was studying in Susan’s room. "Hey, did you guys notice how much Alex is sleeping lately? You think something could be wrong?"

"Like what? Maybe she stayed up late studying." Susan offered.

"Yeah. One time I got up to use the bathroom and she was in the kitchen getting water." Capri added.

"Hmm, yeah could be. But it’s too early in the semester for her to be studying that hard. Plus you can see bags under her eyes now. I hope its not drugs or something." Michelle pondered her dilemma.

"By the way, how have you been sleeping? I remember last week that you were the one with those bags. Did the dreams go away?"

"Yeah. Strangest thing though. At first, the dreams were really bad. Then it started getting better. The dreams would start like they normally did then they’d be gone like that," snapping her fingers. "Now, I hardly even get those."

"Huh, that is weird. It’s like your sleepless nights got passed over to Alex. Maybe she’s got the dreams now at night." Susan said jokingly. But that hit a cord with Michelle. She didn’t know what it was yet but that sounded plausible.

"You know, my dreams got better ever since I told Alex about it. And I remember in my dreams I’d be calling out for Alex to help me. Maybe now she is." She was mostly talking aloud to herself trying to come up with a solution.

Her curly friend laughed, "so you think she’s in your dreams fighting off your demons?"

Giving her friend a glare, "Its possible."

That night she thought of a plan to figure out what was going on. She decided to stay up and just watch Alex discreetly while pretending to sleep.

Her roommate started her homework as soon as she got up which was about 9. Michelle decided to go to sleep at 10. "Well happy studying."

"Yeah. Sweet dreams."

After two hours of studying, Alex finally called her on her oh so perfect plan. "Michelle." She got no answer. "I know you’re not sleeping."

"How’d you know that?" She said while sitting up.

"You’re not snoring." She tried not to laugh at the expression that came to Michelle’s face.

"I do not snore." She said huffily. "Did you know the whole time?" With Alex’s nod, "Why didn’t you say something sooner?"

"I wanted to see what you were up to. But at the rate you were going, it would have took all night." Alex couldn’t help the smile that formed on her face because of the frown that formed on her friends.

<Ok. Plan A failed miserably. On to plan b…Damn. I don’t have a plan b. Fine, honesty always works. > "I just wanted to know what you do at night. You sleep as soon as you come home so I figure you must not be getting any sleep at night. I’m worried about you."

<I know she’ll get mad if I tell her. > "Well don’t be. I’m fine." It came out harsher then she meant. She saw the hurt it caused in her friend’s eyes.

"Very well." Michelle rolled over away from Alex and went to sleep.

Later that night, Alex sat next to Michelle’s bed on the floor. <I can’t keep doing this. Its getting harder to wake up in the morning and I’m falling asleep in class. Gotta think of something else. > She laid her head back against the bed and tried to think of anything.

The next thing she knew there was the sun streaming through the window. <Wow! Can’t believe I fell asleep. I must have reached my limit. Oww, cramp! > She turned her head and was met with accusing green eyes.

"So this is what you do at night? What were you thinking?"

Alex flinched at her tone. Getting to her knees, "I was thinking of you. If I don’t do this, you have nightmares." She pleaded for understanding.

Michelle’s voice softened at her answer. "Well stop. I’d rather have the nightmares then put you through this."

"I can’t." She looked away.

"It’s my choice Alex. So stop. Please." The taller woman got up and just walked out the door.

Alex avoided the dorms the whole day causing her to miss her nap. It was Friday so she wasn’t worried. <I’ll catch up tomorrow. > Walking in at 12 when she knew Michelle would be asleep; she was surprised to see her waiting on the couch.

"Avoiding me won’t work you know."

"I wasn’t." Stormy green eyes pierced to her soul and she was forced to look away. "I just can’t ignore it Michelle."

"Well then I guess I better start looking for a new place then."

Alex‘s head snapped up, "What! Why? You don’t ha…" The taller girl looked stricken.

"Yes I do. Since you won’t stop, I have to. Can you honestly tell me that I’m not affecting your schoolwork?" Alex stared at the floor. "Thought so. I don’t want to be the reason you fail out of school."

Alex went over to sit next to her friend. "Look, let’s not do anything drastic. We’ll figure something out." Taking her hand, "I don’t want to lose you." Michelle was about to interject, "I know you think we’ll still be friends but it won’t be the same…I won't see you every night before I go to sleep, just being able to talk in OUR room or just hanging out." Her voice dropped to a whisper, "I’ve never had that with anyone." She finished with a sigh.

Seeing how vulnerable her friend was right now, she knew in her heart that she could never leave this wonderful woman even if all they would have would be friendship. "Well I’d miss you too...Fine. But if I’m going to stay, we need to come up with a solution. I don’t want you to sacrifice sleep for me. There’s gotta be another way."

They both tried to think up different ideas but none survived. It was past one when they gave up. Alex looked at her watch, "Whew. I think its time we hit the sack huh? I missed my nap today." She stood up and turned into a miffed blonde.

"See! That’s exactly what I mean. This has to stop."

"Hey, we’ll figure something out. Just not now cause I can’t think when I’m tired." Throwing her arm around her friend she led them off to bed.

Like clockwork the smaller woman’s nightmares came back with a vengeance. Since Michelle hadn’t been having the dreams lately because of her best friend, she was totally unprepared when it came back full force. Alex had tried to stay awake but she couldn’t hold out. She had fallen asleep no less than half an hour before it started. Normally her distraught friend’s tossing and turning would be enough to wake her but she was totally wiped which made her sleep like the dead. Only when her roommate let loose a strangled cry did she finally snap out of it. The raven haired woman barely remembered climbing to her feet and collapsing on Michelle’s tiny single bed while throwing her arm around the other occupant. The dreams stopped immediately.

That’s how the smaller woman woke in the morning. The first thought she had was how safe she felt. Of course next was the realization that there was another body in her bed. She turned her head so fast that her hair had a whip like effect slapping the other person in the face effectively waking her up as well.

"Ouch! What are you doing?" Alex had barely opened her eyes to see what her sometimes mischievous friend was doing to her while she was trying to sleep when lightning hit her morning fuzzed brain. Her shocked blue eyes went as big as saucers when she realized where she was and that Michelle’s questioning green ones were mere inches away. She quickly tried to get up but didn’t realize how close to the edge she really was and ended up on the floor instead. "Dammit!" Rubbing her bruised tailbone she muttered "this just isn’t my week." An amused chuckle followed that statement in which a glare quickly got shot back.

"Well good morning to you too." Michelle’s amused face peeked over the side of the bed to see her still rubbing her backside. "You sure do know how to make a girl feel special in the morning don’t you. This is even better then breakfast in bed."

"Ha ha ha. Laugh it up short stuff. Wait until the next time you fall on your ass and we‘ll see if I‘ll be the sympathetic friend helping you up or the one rolling on the ground laughing." Picking herself off the floor she flopped down on her own bed. Trying to ignore the green eyes boring into her, she checked out the clock, "Well I am now officially disgusted. This is just too damn early. This is normal for you isn‘t it." She didn’t want to discuss what happened so she intended to get more sleep. But after a minute of just silent staring Alex couldn’t take it anymore. Blowing out a breath, "Look, I know you said not to do anything but how could I not! You’re hurting and if there’s something I can do to stop it then I will." The silence continued. "At least I got some sleep this time right? Wasn’t that your main argument? I really tried but..."

"Actually, I just wanted to know what you were doing in my bed in the first place but you answered that and a whole lot more." Michelle got up and walked over to her flustered friend. Holding the other woman’s hand she whispered, "I wanted to say thank you... for caring." Noticing how much larger the hand was from her own, "if you hadn’t come over..." her eyes started to water, "it was really bad last night."

Scooting up behind her shaking friend, she wrapped her body around her trying to give comfort. Laying her chin on Michelle’s shoulder Alex just hugged her till the tremors stopped.

Wiping her eyes, "Ugh, I seem to be doing this a lot lately."

"You’re entitled. Its been a tough week."

"Well that's all going to change right now. I’m starting this puppy off the right way." Standing up she started gathering some clothes for her morning shower though Alex had never seen this ritual before today since she was usually still asleep.

"Where you going?"

"First I'm going to go freshen up then its time for an all out shopping spree."

Alex saw the gleam return to her friend’s eyes, "Uh oh, maybe I should call the mall and warn them."

Smirking, "Nah. I won’t go overboard. Besides, you can be the voice of reason... since you‘re going to be there." Michelle got a groan from the pillow that Alex was trying to hide under as she walked out the door.

<I hate shopping. Since when do I let myself get dragged to do something I can’t stand.> As she thought about it she didn’t like the conclusion either. <Because you’d do anything to make that smile appear. This could get dangerous.>

Alex had thought about their problem throughout her forced outing but still hadn‘t come up with anything but a million excuses to the most obvious answer. <Only if I wasn’t so adverse to sharing she could probably sleep in my bed... Nope scratch that. Too much temptation there. She probably wouldn’t feel comfortable being in my bed. She barely knows me. I wouldn’t be able to go to sleep with her there anyway. I was just so zonked the other night I could have slept on nails and not notice. But what else is there?> She felt like a pack mule lugging around all of her over indulgent roommate’s purchases... looked like one as well. But since Michelle was having the time of her life she grinned and bared it through the throngs of mall goers. It was actually a good thing that she was there or else they would have had an atrocious lamp to add to their room. Her roommate’s reasoning for wanting it? It was on sale of course. But the raven haired woman had to put her foot down with that.

"I can’t believe you were going to buy that." They had just returned to their room.

"Come on. It wasn’t that bad. Plus it was on sale. You can’t beat that price."

Dropping everything she had, "Not that bad? It had a puke green sequined shade with a maroon base. They should have paid you to take it."

Crossing her arms, "Well I happen to like that color. And it wasn‘t puke, it was olive."

Staring at her for a second, "Whatever. All’s I can say is that it would have had a very unfortunate accident had it set foot in this room."

Narrowing her eyes for emphasis, "You wouldn’t dare."

Stepping up to the challenge, "Oh. You think so huh?" Getting right up close, "Well then you don’t know me very well... little girl." They were practically nose to mouth(since that's where the shorter woman’s nose went as high as) each trying to make the other back down. The air between them suddenly became electric. Each were aware of the other in every sense. Michelle searched through the piercing blue looking for some clue that what she felt was mutual. Alex on the other hand was trying to control her breathing wondering when the hell things got out of hand. Suddenly Susan burst into the room shattering the mood to one woman’s great fortune but the other’s consternation.

"Hey guys! Heard you went shopping." When no answer was forth coming, she dived for the bags scattered on the floor. "Did you get anything good?" Again nothing so she took a good look at the pair. <Alex looks guilty for some reason and Michelle is shooting sparks at...Me? What the hell! Something's happened. I can feel it.> "Whats up?"

Michelle got her voice back, "Nothings up. Nothing at all. But yeah we did go shopping." Looking back to her friend who looked like something terribly interesting was going on with her shoes, "Right Alex?"

Snapping her head to attention, "Oh yeah." Adding a little smile and looking pointedly at her friend, "Against my will I might add." She could still feel the tension that flowed through them both, "Um.. yeah well I’m going for a run." And she bolted out the door.

Turning her attention from Alex’s retreating form back to her curly friend, "Timing Susan. We must work on your timing."

Outside on the steps a puzzled young woman sat. <Whoa. That was just too familiar a feeling. Got to stop getting into situations like that with her. One day I'm just going to lose it and there won’t be no turning back... then I'll lose her forever.> Silent tears ran from her eyes as she thought about her past. <I’m just thinking of her. That’s why this feels like this. I just got to remember its Michelle not Kat...Oh don’t even say her name. Michelle’s not like that so I’ve got nothing to worry about.> She took off down the street to release some pent up energy.

By the time Michelle double checked every purchase made with Susan and told her the whole story it was time for bed. Alex returned about an hour before so they were all gathered in front of the TV in the common room with Susan and Capri when Michelle noticed for the 3rd time those baby blues close only to be rapidly blinked a few seconds later.

Getting up and holding a hand out to her zonked out roommate, "Come on tiger. Time for bed. You need your beauty sleep." Alex actually let herself get hauled up by Michelle just proving how tired she really was. Last night she only got about 3 hours before her rude awakening just adding to her past sleepless nights.

Susan of course had to add, "Damn! Anymore and that girl would be illegal." That comment earned her a few snickers from Capri and a deadly glare from Alex making her hastily turn back to the TV.

Michelle led her sleepy eyed roommate to their room and right to Alex’s bed who collapsed into it. She struggled to pull the blankets from under her dead weight friend and laid them over her. Sitting on the edge she brushed a few stray bangs out of the older woman’s face. "She was right Alex. You really are beautiful." Just then a hand snaked out from under the blankets and snagged Michelle’s out of the air. She squeezed the hand back and tried to remove herself before things went any deeper but her friend decided to roll over successfully trapping her arm in place. She tried futilely to get free but it was impossible without help. But as she noticed where she was she thought, <There's nowhere else I'd rather be so why fight it?> and gave up to her fate lying next to her friend.

In the morning the shorter woman barely woke up first. As soon as she moved to get up though Alex awoke as well...very light sleeper remember. This time it wasn’t such a shock for either of them. It actually felt...well, right. They stared at each other for long seconds till the alarm went off breaking the moment. Michelle glanced at the clock and noticed it was only 8. Way too early for her roommate to be up and about. At her own raised eyebrow, Alex filled her in. "I need to go to practice today...even if I can’t bowl yet." All she got in was an "oh" before Alex hopped right over her to go get ready.

Watching her she noticed that Alex looked a lot better this morning. The circles she had were not quite gone but her color came back as well as her energy level. But Michelle needed to know one thing that's been bothering her so she just blurted it out, "I thought you said you couldn't sleep next to anyone."

"I did. Strange huh? Never could before. Guess you’re the exception."

More confused by this, "What? I’m a what?"

Giving a little crooked grin, "Well as I’ve learned, there’s an exception to every rule. You practically broke all the ones I had so I think you‘re mine." Shrugging her shoulders she grabbed some necessities and headed to the bathroom.

Those words sent a warm flush throughout Michelle’s body. "I could be yours if you’d let me..."



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