Summary: When Felicity makes her big "choice", things don't go quite as planned. Once she realizes her mistake, she has learn what her true heart is telling her. And what it says is something more familiar than she realizes.

"Sally, it's me. These past few weeks have been so crazy. I'm not sure where to start." Pause.
"I had decided to go to Berlin with Noel. The letter that he'd written was so beautiful, so simple and sweet that I couldn't resist. I should have known that everything wouldn't go the way we . . . I mean the way I had hoped. So here's what happened . . . "

Noel's face, when I entered the airport terminal registered a look of complete relief. I was expecting something else, I suppose. Joy, maybe. He smiled faintly and pulled me into his arms. His cologne was sharp, and disconcerting. From the moment he touched me, something just didn't feel RIGHT. I can't explain it. It was like something seriously had changed between the two of us. And I wasn't quite sure where that feeling had emerged from. That last time that we had kissed... It had been so real, and I had been so sure that Noel and I would find our way back to each other somehow, even if I didn't go with him to Berlin. So there I was, standing with him, ready to get on the plane.

And all I could think of was Ben. Where was he? Was he still waiting at the loft for me? Should I go to him now? No, I thought. That's impossible. I've made my decision and it's the right one, I'm sure. God, I hope it's the right one.

So we got on the plane, and we were both a little nervous, I think. So he smiled at me, took my hand as we got into our seats and said quite seriously, "Felicity, I'm . . . I'm glad that you're here with me." His eyes sort of skipped away from mine for a moment, watching the people still boarding the crowded flight. I waited, and he looked at me again, not smiling, "So did everything get worked out with Julie? I know that she was pretty mad at you."

"No. I didn't manage to talk to her before she left for home." It still felt horrible, knowing what Julie had seen and heard between Ben and I and when I answered Noel, I couldn't look at him. I was afraid he might see the regret in my face, "I hope that when school starts again in the fall, we'll be able to make things right. She was . . . is one of my best friends."

He looked away, as if he weren't interested, "Well, I hope it does work out. At least Ben's no longer in the picture. Right?" He turned back to search my face, questioningly. I sensed something immediately about Noel's attitude that I didn't like. Like he was testing me somehow. I wasn't sure I could answer this question honestly, so I merely smiled at him complacently and squeezed his hand.

But by the time our plane lifted off, he had reverted back to his optimistic self. He chatted with the other passengers, whispered to me sweetly and was generally, the same guy that I'd fallen for so many months ago. We talked about the things in Berlin we wanted to see, places we would go and foods that we would eat. It wasn't until we landed in Paris for our connecting flight that things took a really odd turn.

"Oh my God. Eli?"
I had been standing outside of the terminal lounge, waiting for Noel to return with our drinks when someone had tapped me on the shoulder. I nearly dropped everything I held to the floor in shock. Dear God, what in the world was HE doing here?

"Felicity, it's been a long time..." He smiled at me in the same familiar, seductive way he had before, and I smiled back, trying to look friendly, but uninterested. I couldn't believe he was here. I kept thinking to myself, what act of fate is this?

"Eli... Wow. How are you?" I struggled with my bags for a minute, trying to cover my anxiety.

"I'm doing pretty good. What about you? What are you doing in Paris?"

"Actually, a friend and I are going to Berlin together. We're supposed to get a connecting flight in about an hour or so. " Then, I saw Noel coming towards us through the terminal, carrying two Styrofoam cups. I smiled at Eli, "Here he comes... Oh, please don't mention what happened between us . . . "

He smiled understandingly, "I understand. You have my word." But when Eli saw Noel, his face fell. And I looked to Noel for some kind of reaction. I got it.

"Well well. Look who's here." Noel said sarcastically, handing me my Pepsi. His face was a mask of conflicting emotions, and I couldn't help but think that these two must have met before. Oh no, I thought. Could Noel possibly realize that Eli was the one I'd cheated on him with? Impossible!

"Hey. How's it going?" Eli asked tightly.

"You two have met?" I asked, my voice rising in panic.

"Yeah, we have. What a surprise to find you here. Can I assume you haven't followed us from New York to get your hands on Felicity again?" Noel's voice was edged, and he was clearly on the verge of some furious outburst, "Everytime I turn around, it seems she's got somebody chasing after her."

"We met here by accident." Eli said gruffly. He gave me an apologetic look and took a card from his pocket, "Felicity, this is my address and number here in Paris. I'll be here staying with friends for another week. Call me if you need anything."

"Our flight leaves in an hour." Noel replied, his eyes dark with anger. Then he turned them on me, "But I'll leave you two to catch up. I'm going to make sure the flight is on time."

He gave Eli one last, scathing glance and turned from us, stalking angrily towards our gate of departure. Eli shook his head, smiling a little.

"Looks like I've messed things up for you. I'm really sorry."

I sighed, my eyes following Noel across the large space of the crowded, noisy airport terminal, "It's not your fault. He's mad at me, in general. I haven't been the greatest friend to him these last few days." I put his card into my purse and tried to fix him with a look of apology, "I just hope our time together in Berlin goes okay. Things seem to be strained between us right now. I'm not quite sure how to fix it."

He looked at me seriously, "Maybe it's not worth fixing. He seems really jealous. You always struck me as the kind of person that wouldn't put up with that kind of attitude."

He was right. But I was shocked that in such a short time of knowing each other, he had come to know that about me. I lowered my eyes to my feet, searching for a way to end this conversation. He was exactly right about Noel, but admitting it to myself was something entirely different. Noel hadn't always been this way. And I was scared that my attraction to Ben had marked a major turning point in Noel's feelings for me.

"I know what you're saying, Eli. But Noel is . . . one of my greatest friends. I care about him a lot. I mean, I love him. I do." But even as the words passed my lips, I knew that it was no longer true. Something had changed. And I knew that I was lying not only to Eli, but to myself as well. It was heart breaking to know that, and to be standing there in an airport, getting ready to dive into something that I was sure I didn't feel ready for.

And Eli sensed my hesitation. He took my hand lightly, and said softly, "If you aren't ready, don't go. You can get a flight back to New York. Maybe even tonight. Or you can come stay with me ..."

I smiled at him, shaking my head, "I don't think so. But thanks for the offer. I think I'll stick it out and see what happens. Maybe he'll feel better once we get to Berlin."

Leaning down, he kissed my cheek, his eyes warm with what seemed to be genuine friendship, "Okay. Then you take care. Maybe I'll see you in the fall." He looked up anxiously as Noel came towards us again, "Call if you need anything." He whispered. Then he turned and walked casually away as Noel reached my side.

"So," Noel said, near my ear, "Was this another old flame igniting?"

I turned to him in surprised anger, "Noel, what is this? What are you doing?"

"Being the jealous boyfriend, I guess. After what happened between you and Ben, I'm a little on edge. " He sighed tiredly and ran his fingers through his hair, "Listen, I'm sorry. I just wasn't expecting to see HIM here. After everything that's happened, I just hoped that we could be together with no interruptions."

"I've never seen you act like this before." I said uncertainly, starting to feel the travel fatigue creeping over me, "Except for that little incident before Finals when you took that Smart Powder from Meghan."

He chuckled at the memory of that night and grasped my hand which was still warm from Eli's. I started to pull away, but he took a finger and lifted my chin, forcing me to look at him.

"This trip is going to be great. I promise, no more jealous outbursts. Forgive me?" His brown eyes were filled with honest regret, and I couldn't stop myself from smiling and pulling him to me for a quick kiss.

"Okay, okay." I smiled up at him, trying to force the doubts away as I took a sip of my Pepsi, "So, is the flight on time?"

"Actually, it's not. There's been some problem with the scheduling or something. Our flight won't go out until morning. I hope you're not disappointed." He said cautiously.

"No, I'm not. It would be nice to stay over in Paris. Sort of romantic, don't you think?" I grinned at him and his eyes lit up with a familiar fire. He pressed a hand to my back and guided me towards the door.

"Paris awaits, my lady."

Paris at night was a magical place, full of life and sounds such as I'd never experienced. It truly was a beautiful city, and I should have been completely satisfied to be here, with Noel. I mean, it was supposed to be the most romantic city in the world, right? So why was it that Ben's face kept coming up in my mind everytime I looked out over the French horizon? Why did I imagine what it might be like to stand with him at the top of the Eiffel Tower and look down upon the glorious city? Noel was there beside me, holding my hand, kissing my cheek and then my lips. But I wanted it to be Ben. And I couldn't put it out of my head.

Ben. Oh, where was he? I kept imagining that he would fall asleep at the wheel with no one there to drive with him and get into some horrible accident, or that somebody would rob him as he was getting out of the car at some rest stop. I imagined all sort of awful scenarios, and it wasn't long before I lost all interest in the Parisian sights. Even Noel sensed my dismay and offered to get us back to the small hotel where we'd be staying.

"I think I'm just tired. That's all." I told him, as he hailed a cab for us. God, how I hated lying to him. He would have to be told. That was all there was to it. I could not keep lying to myself and to him. I could not go to Berlin. It would be a serious mistake for me. I decided to tell him the truth.

"Noel, I . . . " I began hesitantly, as I sat on the large bed in our hotel room.

"Did you want to get room service?" He asked quickly, searching the desk across the room for a menu of some kind, "I'm a little hungry."

"I need to talk." I said, trying not to be to forceful, "We never have discussed what Julie told you about Ben and I. Something needs to be said."

His eyes met mine and I could see his agitation flare up again. He did not want to hear anything about Ben. It was so obvious, but he forced himself to listen, and sat down on the plush velvet chair next to the little dining table to hear what I had to say.

"There have been some things that have happened between Ben and I . . . "

"Did you sleep with him?" Noel asked quietly before I could continue.

I shook my head, "No . . .no, of course not. It's just that, well . . . things have changed between Ben and I. There are feelings there that weren't there before." I hesitated, trying to draw out the words I knew I must say, but frightened of the reaction I might get if I spoke them, "Ben kissed me. Once. A day or two before we left, I went to tell him that I couldn't drive out to California with him, because I was going with you. And, certain things were said. . . " I sighed, trying to find the words needed to express my feelings. I'd never felt so lost, and yet I knew what I had to do. It was torture to see his eyes so full of sadness, yet I had to go on.

"I can't go with you, Noel." I'd said it, and there was no turning back. It was imperative that he know the truth, "I can't go with you right now. Everything with Ben is still up in the air, and I can't honestly commit myself to you or anyone until I find out what I feel for him. It wouldn't be right."

His reaction was quick and startling. He rose, turned from me and swept everything from the dining table onto the floor in a noisy, angry gesture of defiance, "Damn you, Felicity! We get all the way to Paris, and now you pull this shit on me? How can you do this?" He turned on his heel and stalked towards the door.

"Noel, where are you going?" I asked fearfully.

"I need some air." He paused for a moment in the open doorway and turned to me, his dark eyes narrowed with clear disdain, "I hope you're not here when I get back. Maybe you and Eli can enjoy the Paris nightlife together. Worthless slut."

I perched on the bed, frozen in shock at his hateful words. He'd never spoken to me like that before. It was more than enough indication for me. I had to leave. Right away. I would not be able to face him if or when he returned. In tears, I gathered my things and called for a cab. God, what a mistake I had made. How could I have imagined that after everything that had happened between Ben and I, that I could possibly enjoy a trip alone with Noel? What in the world had I been thinking?

I wrote him a short note before I left the hotel.

Please don't hate me. You and I have shared a wonderful friendship that I had hoped would last for a very long time. But if I can't be honest with you, then the friendship isn't at all what I had thought it to be. Please take care of yourself, and if you should want to talk, please call me at my parents' house.


Three Days Later

"So, anyway, I got back to Palo Alto. God, Sally, I never imagined that it would turn out like this. My parents were happy to see me, of course. But they were really concerned about me. They still are, I guess. My job with Doctor Kessler is supposed to start next week. I'm really excited about it. Oh, and about Ben... I haven't talked to him yet. I've been trying to get over the jet lag and everything else. Besides, I'm not sure exactly how to approach this whole thing. It seems so strange, being home again."

I stopped the tape recorder and slid it onto the top of my dresser. I glanced at the pictures sitting there. All of them, images of old friends from high school. They all seemed like strangers now. But in a week or two, I hoped to get reacquainted with them, if possible. So much had changed. I felt like a completely different person. I looked around the room, scrutinizing the bed, the wall paper, the carpet under my feet. It all seemed to be something from a different time. How strange, I thought.

My Mom called up from the bottom of the stairway, "Felicity, why don't you get out of that room for awhile? You've been up there all day!"

Sighing, I rolled my head back and forth, stretching. She was right. I guess I'd been forcing myself to stay there, afraid that if I ventured out, I might walk by Ben's Mom's house, a few blocks down the street. And then what would I do if Ben saw me somehow? What could I do or say?

I looked at my reflection in the mirror. I wondered off-handedly what I might look like with shorter hair. It would be a rebellious act to cut it off, I thought. I could just imagine the look on my Dad's face. He had always loved my hair, and when I was little, wouldn't let anyone touch it with a pair of scissors. But now . . . I wasn't a little girl anymore. Everything just felt different. It was up to me, I thought.

I pulled my hair back and tied it securely. Yes, I thought. I'll do it. I quickly put on my tennis shoes and headed downstairs. I didn't dare tell my Mom what I was about to do, I thought. She'd lock me inside until I came to my senses.

"Mom, I'm going for a run. Be back in a little while." I called, as I headed quickly out the door.

I ran west, towards the beach, and thankfully, away from Ben's house. I could stop by the beauty shop on my way back. I wasn't really interested in the run as much as sitting on the sand and thinking about what I might say to Ben. So I found a quiet spot, away from most of the sunbathers and watched as the waves hit the yellow sand before me.

There was so much going on in my head, and I had to admit that much of it centered on Ben. So many feelings had been renewed within me. Old, familiar feelings that seemed to haunt me now both day and night. I had no idea what I might say to him if I saw him. There was so much I needed to know and so many things we needed to discuss. But in my mind, I could not conjure up any sort of a beginning to the conversation that I knew would eventually take place.

I sat there on the beach for an hour, going over everything in my head. What had happened between Noel and I still disturbed me greatly, and I wasn't sure that anything could repair the damage that had been done.
I walked home slowly, deciding that the haircut would have to wait. There was too much going on inside me to make such a change right now.

When I turned onto the walkway that led up to the front door of my parents' house, I glanced up to see my Mom talking to someone on the porch. He was tall, with short dark blond hair and before he turned, I knew. Ben had come.

I approached him slowly, wanting to savor the sight of him there. I barely noticed when my Mom shot me a sly smile and went back into the house, closing the screen door quietly behind her. His eyes were intense as he watched me come towards him, the blue of them dark with an emotion I had seen before and knew to be passion.

He smiled slowly, but made no move towards me as I paused at the foot of the stairs that led up to the porch. I wanted to fling myself into his arms, but knew instinctively that something would have to be said first. Some explanation of my decision not to accompany him on his drive home. Yet, as I saw his strong chest rise and fall with a delighted sigh, I knew he needed no such words.

"Come here." He said quite softly, imploringly.

I relented, coming up the steps and into his waiting arms. There was warmth there, in his strong embrace that could not be conceived as anything but right. It was pure and sweet, feeling him breathing into my hair and tightening his grasp on me as he pressed his full lips to my forehead. My mind went blank, it seemed. No words would come to me. I only felt the gentle warm breeze of the California coast and Ben's powerful arms around me, holding me close to him.

We were silent. The words would come later. For now, there was a quiet, easy peace. As I finally began to listen to what my heart had been saying all along. He was there, and he was mine.

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