Could This Be Love? (17)

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A Story by Deborah Benson

Satine Act 2

I will love you until my dying day

Not a word was spoken throughout the entire theater. Blank faces of confused audience members barely became visible when the stage lights shifted off the open platform down to Reed’s equally confused face. Not a single member of the cast moved, stunned into silence by the stranger on their stage.

Kimberly’s tears stained her cheeks, makeup trailing down in streams of black eyeliner and rouge. Her hands on John’s wrists shook, her eyes locked onto Reed, pleading for him to do something. Just off stage she could see Morgan lowering his gun as even he couldn’t handle a theater full of witnesses, yet the issue of how to get off stage in one piece still hung in the air.

A single cough from the audience pulled the remainder of the cast back to the performance as they all scrambled for a means of covering the new addition. Thankfully, with Paul standing offstage in a wing, there was one empty position that needed filling.

“You—you think this disguise fools me?” Reed spoke out to the audience, doing his best to remain in character. “A cheap wig and new shoes couldn’t fool anyone!”

Slowly the audience seemed to accept the new circumstances, though silhouettes from the investors table seemed to squirm uncomfortably the longer John stood onstage.

“This woman is mine,” Reed continued, sneaking a concerned glance to Kimberly as he headed up to the platform. To both his and Kimberly’s surprise however, it was John who moved away first.

It was not their sudden appearance on stage that seemed to throw John. No his focus was on, and forever would be on, Kimberly. Her inability to answer his question had proved enough. He didn’t have to hear her say she never loved him. As far as he was concerned the fact she couldn’t admit to even having loved him in the past was an answer enough.

“Save your breath. She’s yours now,” he said coldly, digging around in his pocket for whatever cash he had, throwing at her feet before stepping off the platform. The pain in his eyes evident to the entire theater. “I’ve paid my LovePeddler…”

Kimberly’s heartbeat froze, the words piercing her chest stronger than bullet could ever have managed. The second she was left alone on the platform her body gave way, allowing her to fall to her knees, covering her mouth in an attempt to hold back her sobs. Her eyes blurring John’s familiar outline as he walked downstage.

“I owe you nothing,” he continued, his voice dangerously calm. “And… and you are nothing to me anymore.”

A sob escaped her clenched fist. Her body collapsing onto itself as much as her costume would allow. She wished the gun had gone off and given her some salvation from the torture on stage. She wished she could bring herself to look him in the eyes.

By the time she managed to raise her head John had already taken her delayed response as another reaffirmation of her lack of caring.

Blinded by his own pain he couldn’t have seen hers even if he tried.

“John,” she managed, her voice difficult to hear despite the microphones around the stage.

At the sound of his name his entire body visibly clenched, forcing himself to turn his back to the withered shell of the woman he loved. Tears staining his cheek despite himself.

“Thank you,” he replied just as quietly. “Thank you for curing me of this damned obsession with loving you.”

Neither could bring themselves to speak any longer as the spotlight began to follow John offstage. The entire cast shifted their positions, allowing him into the audience to make his exit.

The space left by Kimberly’s side quickly filled by Reed, his hands grasping her shoulders in an attempt to pull her back onto her feet.

The path through the audience seemed even longer with the silence of the theater, all eyes glued to John as he passed table after table of guest. A satisfied nod even coming from Luscious to add insult to injury. He had lost.

He had lost Kimberly. He had lost any chance of happiness.

The sooner he could forget he had ever tried to return the better.

Without a word he continued his walk towards the stage doors, desperate to break down in the privacy of his suite. Or even better in a cab headed directly to the airport. Anything to keep him from looking back at Kimberly.

Yet he did.

He needed to prove to see her, to remember her as a woman with no love for him, weak and desperate for the slightest bit of attention. That was what he wanted to see when he glanced back.

The woman he saw however, was too broken to even seem capable of hurting anyone else. She stood hunched over in Reed’s arms trembling. Her microphone barely picking up a hushed conversation between the two.

“Let him go, it’s better this way Kimmie, let him go,” Reed soothed, breaking character to keep every inch of honesty in his voice.

Kimberly shook her head weakly, her hands gripping his shirt in tight fists as she regained her own balance. Not once did she look back down to the audience. Instead her eyes seemed fixed at one of the crumpled bills on the floor below her.

She needed to convince herself the same of John as he was trying to convince himself of her. Both needed to hate the other before they could move on, yet neither could manage to continue on their own.

But John’s body was already in motion, and though he would never forgive himself for his actions, he turned back to continue out the front door.


Backstage the cast stood just as stunned as those onstage. Morgan’s gun hung down at his hip still cocked. Paul clenched the curtains near his entrance, begging for a chance to go comfort his leading lady. Mark stood in the center of it all, watching his friend leave for good.

He had to stop them. There was no chance of John ever getting over Kimberly and there was no guarantee Serena’s escape plan would even succeed.

Frantically he ran around backstage to the cue master, tearing through the script in a last ditch effort to find something, anything, to save them.

As if by magic the original ending slipped out from underneath a stack of papers on the cue master’s desk. Their last hope staring up to him in black and white.

Without wasting a single moment he ran to Paul’s side, snatching the microphone from his costume, yelling the lyrics on the page as loud as he could manage.

“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love! And be loved,” he called out. “In return!”

The cut song reverberated against the walls, shaking several cast members before being sent out into the audience with just as much strength.

Mark couldn’t breath as he moved to look out onto stage, Kimberly’s face unreadable when she seemed to step away from Reed. John’s figure frozen in it’s place mere feet from the door.

It wasn’t enough for to just stall however, one of them had to make a move. He had given them a chance, but whether they could even bring themselves to take it was another matter.


Kimberly could barely breath, the sound of Mark’s voice shaking her to the bone as it echoed through the theater. The tears staining her cheeks cracked as she slowly repeated the line under her breath. Memories of the original ending, hearing the cut song for the first time, spending an entire night by John’s side without sleeping until the early morning all rushed back to before the numerous pills began to take affect.

She could barely make out his silhouette past the glare of the stage lights. She saw no sign of him turning around but he didn’t seem to be continuing out the door either. And that was reassurance enough in her doped up mind to step downstage.

Her balance was shaky at best, and the multitude of pills began to kick in early, but she was determined to have a final word. She had to at least make sure he had no chance of forgetting her.

“Never knew, I could feel like this,” she whispered, struggling to remember the old song.

“It’s liked I’ve never seen the sky before.”

For a moment the theater remained silent, John frozen in place, but just as she tentatively began the orchestra picked up their cue as well. Slowly the music began to play, softly at first, but with more strength as the players remembered their original melody.

” Want to vanish inside your kiss. Everyday I’m loving you more and more, ” she sang as a small smile found it’s way onto her lips. Carefully she began to make her way down stage. ” Listen to your heart, can you hear it sing?”

John seemed to turn back, his profile barely visible.

” Come back to me.” The smile grew, her voice finding it’s strength as she continued. ” And forgive everything!”

Her balance waivered, forcing her to catch herself as soon as the line had ended. A mixture of emotional distress and a chemically induced calm made her attempt more challenging than it would have been sober but she doubted she could have found the strength to try on her own.

The audience shifted in their seats, all turning to look towards John as a roving spotlight landed on him carefully. His face now aimed back to the stage. The faintest shimmer of tears still present under his eyes as he looked up to Kim.

” Seasons may change, winter to spring. ” The orchestra paused, giving her a moment to regain her strength. Her voice dropping out of the song to speak directly to John the whispery quality of her words increasing as she found it harder to force any sound out. “But I love you. Until the end of time.”

Her body grew weaker but she forced herself to stand tall. Not once did her gaze leave John’s as she prayed to gods she never believed in for him to listen.

” Come what may…” his voice called out quietly, causing the audience to latch onto his every move while he began to walk back down the isle. ” Come what may,” he sang louder, his voice far from professional.

But Kimberly couldn’t have cared less about what he sounded like. The fact of the matter was he heard her, and she heard him. Her smile had never been wider.

A smile broke out across John’s face as he continued, his rough belting filling the theater as he moved closer to a stage mic. The audience ate up his return with gusto, all joining him in their overjoyed expressions. All except for those sitting at the investors table, who even out of the corner of his eye seemed utterly disgusted with the turn of events.

John, however, could focus on nothing else but getting to Kimberly’s side.

From the edge of the stage Serena reached down to help John up, breaking character long enough to pull him back onto the main stage.

She too had broken out into a smile, her eyes darting offstage to catch Mark. A small nod of approval reaching him before she let John go.

The two found each other at center stage.

Kimberly’s hands reaching out to press against the lapels of John’s jacket as if to test if he was real. His hands caressing her waist before holding it tight. Both seemed cautious to hold one another again but found it impossible to go without touching the other.

The orchestra paused again, giving their entire attention to the pair.

“I will love you ,” they sang in unison, fresh tears finding their way into their eyes. ” Until my dying da—”

A loud crash came from backstage, startling the two from their vow. Without a moment’s hesitation John pulled Kimberly into his arms as though he could protect her from whatever unseen danger had scared the crew. There was little doubt in her mind that he would have failed her either.

That is until the distinct click of a pistol being taken off safety was picked up by a stage mic.

Sophie’s piercing scream alerting the cast to a presence they had managed to forget during the excitement.

“He’s got a gun!”


The entire on stage cast broke down into hysterics. Sophie, along with a handful of younger dancers, ran offstage as quickly as they could manage. The remaining dancers scrambled to get out of the debt collectors path, causing more harm than good as people crashed into one another as they tried to run.

Only the seasoned members managed to stay relatively calm.


Serena stood stage left, having watched Mark’s plan beat hers out. The sense of hope that had been absent since Morgan’s return finally began to find it’s way back into her heart. She may have even believed there was a chance even she could make it back into the real world in once piece.

It was Sophie’s piercing scream that brought her back to reality. There was no breaking Dakota’s rules without consequence.

Especially not when Morgan laid in wait only a few feet behind the curtain.

Frantically she ran forward, ushering John and Kimberly behind one of the raised set pieces to by them some time. Her eyes darted back to the source of the crash, used props scattering the floor around Morgan as if someone had tried to barricade him backstage.

With a glance to the left she had her suspicions confirmed, seeing Mark bent over himself, a trickle of blood from a broken lip staining his shirt slowly. His eyes were glued to Morgan’s gun as the other man began to make his way onto stage, no longer caring about hiding his job.

As far as the audience was aware the entire situation had been planned. Claiming any death to be staged would have been far too easy.

Serena refused to move from between him and his target, her resolve completely ready to stare down the barrel of his gun if it meant defying Dakota one final time.

Thankfully she wasn’t the only person ready to fight back. The countless times the company had been hurt for profit had given the two owners helped build a significant amount of enemies.

Both Reed and Paul moved out of their positions, urging the orchestra to continue playing to hide the threat as they attempted to take the man down. While Reed was significantly faster there was nothing to compete with Paul’s size. As long as they kept the gun from being fired they had an equal chance at bringing the debt collector down.

The three began to wrestle for possession of the weapon. Paul’s strong arms managed to dish out a good beating to the smaller man but he was too bulky to move quickly. Reed was significantly smaller than Paul and much quicker at avoiding blows, but his own strikes held much less power.

As long as the gun stayed in Morgan’s control he held the upper hand. Even the two men couldn’t risk standing in front of the barrel for more than a moment. All Morgan needed to do was land one blow with the butt of his gun against Reed’s nose and he would be left dealing with the stronger man on his own.

A pained yelp came from the smaller man as exactly that played out. One blow to Reed’s nose and he was beside himself in pain, clutching around the broken cartilage in an attempt to keep the damage from increasing.

Despite himself he was forced to leave Paul alone for just a moment. But the moment was more than enough time for Morgan to force the man away with the steadying of his pistol. He was going to win.

Without taking a moment to consider what she was about to do Serena ran over to the two as fast as she could manage. Her shoe finding it’s way into her dominate hand before cracking down against the back of his head with all the force she could muster. The impact stunned Paul as they both watched the man fall to the ground.

The gun slipping out of his hands only to find itself sliding down stage onto the dance floor below.

One shot discharged from the force of its landing, blowing a hole into a speaker miraculously without injuring anyone. However many rounds were left was unknown but as long as the gun lay unmanned the potential for it to become dangerous remained too high for comfort.

Regaining control over her body Serena kicked her second shoe off, hurrying down to the dance floor as fast as she could manage. The distance from center stage and the dance floor however, was much longer than the distance between the dance floor and the investor’s table. Serena ran but not fast enough.

All Luscious needed to do was stand and the gun found its way into his hands, silencing even the orchestra as he regarded the weapon carefully.

Halfway to the table Serena froze, her gaze cutting back up stage. Both John and Kimberly remained beside the raised set piece, his entire body working to shield her as they watched the investor terrified. Kimberly’s grip on his arms shook visibly in pure terror.

Even Luscious had to have noticed.

Returning her gaze to Luscious she attempted to move into the line of fire, but he had already returned the gun to point at the ground. The cold expression on his face melting away into one of utter defeat slowly.

” You can’t have her,” Serena muttered, barely loud enough to be heard.

She didn’t need to tell him what he already knew but she’d be damned if Dakota went without hearing it as well.

Luscious’s dark brown eyes returned to the gun as he turned it over in his hands. With a skilled ease he emptied it of the remaining rounds, dropping the bullet shells onto the floor between him and the stage. The empty weapon had a more significant place.

A place directly in front of Dakota’s seat as his table before he took his leave. He had admitted defeat. There was no point in him killing the woman he had tried to buy, that wouldn’t bring her back to him.

Dakota had lost.

Applause roared through the theater as Luscious took his leave, tailed quickly by Dakota’s desperate attempt to save herself from the consequences of her actions. Serena considered stopping her but there was no need.

Even someone only partially related to the Grey’s couldn’t hide from the press for too long. She’d be back in handcuffs before Serena bruised herself chasing after her.

The orchestra began to play an improvised ending, doing their best to keep the audience’s excitement going as the remaining cast members reveled in their victory. Bows were taking out of order but taken nonetheless. For a moment Serena forgot where she was, feeding on the audience’s love as if it was more precious than air.

The applause dedicated to her however, was nothing compared to the audiences reaction of John and Kimberly sharing one final kiss, not even caring to give the theater a proper bow.

The sound was deafening, cheering and cat calls breaking out as John picked her up in his arms when leaning down became too much of a hassle.

And for the first time Serena didn’t mind sharing the spotlight. In fact, even she joined in the applause.

The cheering continued even after the curtain fell, the audience practically begging for an encore as Serena moved back up to the main stage.

The cast poured out from their hiding places as Paul restrained the knocked out debt collector with ease. Reed’s broken nose being tended to quickly by one of the female dancers before Mark took over, giving him a scrap of someone’s costume to stop the bleeding before the two moved to congratulate Kimberly and John.

A smile broke out across Serena’s face as she moved to join them before she noticed that Kim’s shaking had yet to subside. In fact it seemed to have only gotten more violent.

The smile faded when Serena remembered their original plan, knowing all too well the shaking was much worse than just a fearful tremble.


Pure joy. The sight of both Luscious and Dakota leaving the theater inspired a multitude of emotions inside John, but pure joy was by far the strongest. He had been so close to giving up when Kimberly pulled him back. So close to losing her forever but there she stood, staring up to him with just as much adoration for him as he had for her.

It was almost too good to be true.

With the rest of company moving in around them he was forced to lower her feet back to the ground, stealing one hard kiss before resting his forehead against hers. His hands knotted themselves in her hair as he smiled, kissing anywhere he could reach before he became aware of her trembling beneath his hands.

Pulling back for a moment he smiled down to her, figuring the shock of everything had just proven too much.

“You’re safe, we’re both safe,” he reassured, his smile fading when he saw the far away look in her eyes. “What’s wrong?”

She smiled faintly before staring past his face entirely, her eyes unable to focus on whatever they were reaching for before she closed them entirely. Her grip on his shoulders slipped, her legs buckling underneath her before she fell to the floor.

Quickly he grabbed her lowering her down carefully, keeping her pressed against his chest as he knelt down as well. The smile on her face had gone out completely as she muttered incoherently, barely able to keep her body from slumping over.

Something was very, very wrong.

Around him he saw the company beginning to stop their celebration, all eyes pinned onto Kimberly as if they knew something he didn’t.

Even Mark watched helplessly as he felt her body still beside him.

‘She’s really sick,’ a voice echoed in John’s head as he locked eyes with his friend for a moment.

Her body slowly began to lose heat as she stopped moving entirely, her head lulling back against his shoulder when she could no longer support it’s weight.

“No…” Mark turned to order Paul out of the theater, his already pasty complexion loosing its color as he moved over to John’s side. “Mark what’s going on?” He asked urgently.

Mark didn’t speak. A short shake of the head communicating far more than any explanation would have.

He got to stay with her, but he was still losing her.

Frantically he pushed her hair off her face, trying his hardest to wake her as his heart dropped to his stomach.


She grew colder.


He couldn’t tell if she was breathing.

He may have already lost her.


…to be continued

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