Chapter Sixty-Three

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Waking up in Harry's arms, the whole of last night left Meredith tired. Today she was bound for Minnesota again. Meredith thought it nice to return to Minnesota; she needed some time to breathe. With everything going on, Meredith needed some time to herself. For the last month and a half, she had been away, traveling and going, and she just needed some sleep.

Staring up at the ceiling, Meredith heard Harry apologize again for last night. "I didn't know the crowd was going to be so thick. I didn't know how many there were. You just slipped from my grasp." And he went on, "You were so good, Mere. You kept yourself composed and and collected. It was amazing. You were amazing, Mere." He had said this since returning last night.

Meredith didn't feel amazing. She felt tired.

"Mere, are you okay?" Harry asked.

Rolling over, Meredith put her head on Harry's chest, hearing his heartbeat. It was still too early in the morning to be awake; she needed a few more hours of sleep. The sun was a lie. She was too far north to get proper sleep.

"No," she admitted. Her eyes came to Harry, and he frowned. A shiver went through his body. "Last night scared me. I didn't know where you went."

"Mere, I--"

"No. I don't want apologies. I've heard enough of those from you now. I just want to let you know that I'm scared." Meredith's body ache, and her stomach felt ready to explode at any moment. "I can put on a face, you know I can, but I was lost in the crowd. I'll need to learn how to stand on my own two feet, I know, and I will."

"I trust that."

"But how can you do nothing?"

Harry didn't understand the question.

"There were so many, and I know you've gotten fights before. I certainly don't want that. But how do you just not mock them? How do you stay silent? How do you leave? How do you go outside? How do you--" She sighed and put her head on his chest again.

After a minute, Harry responded, "Being silent is what I was taught. When there are paparazzi around, all they want to do is get you wound up. They want to make a mockery out of you. So we stay silent. We act stoic."

"You look pissed off," Meredith retorted.

"That too," Harry agreed. "As for going outside, it is my job to go and be seen. It is my job to go out and do. The paparazzi make it hard, but usually it isn't too bad. At events, they're kept back, but when it's just us-- no events or proper reason for the police-- the paparazzi can do what they like."

Meredith nodded, understanding. "You don't go out a lot because of it?"

"Yes."

"I can't do that."

"I know."

"I have to... go out. I need to do something. Yes, I like my alone time, but I need to explore. I need to see. Especially in London-- I don't know how you stay so still," Meredith said. "All I want to do is go outside, but I'm so scared that I could be followed. I don't want to be like this, but I can't be fearless."

"No one can be fearless. At some point, something shakes you to your core."

"They're just people. They just hold cameras. So why am I so scared?"

Harry's fingers ran through her hair. "It's natural, Mere. It happens. You weren't expecting them to crowd around you."

"But I was. I knew what was going to happen. I've thought about this. I've planned for this," Meredith listed. "I have gone through situations again and again in my head. I am prepared for whatever they throw at me."

"Is that it, then?"

"What?"

"Are you overthinking it?"

"I had to tell myself to move."

Harry knew she overthought it. "Mere, not all bad things are going to happen. It's just going to happen."

"I need to be prepared." Meredith needed to know the next move. Half the time, it was the only way she survived. Perhaps it was overthinking, and perhaps it was her being a control freak. But she needed to know. While others told her to go with the flow, it wasn't possible. Meredith didn't want to fuck up.

Harry kissed the top of her head. "We have time before you need to go to airport, and I think I didn't show you London properly."

Meredith arched an eyebrow. "What did you have in mind?"

Twenty minutes, the two were downstairs, dressed and ready to go. Harry knew he was about to get in trouble with Bill, but Harry couldn't give a damn. If you couldn't get in trouble for the woman you love, what could you do? And so, Harry grabbed his helmet and another helmet for her. Meredith dressed in some of his extra clothes. Going to the back Kensington Palace, Harry hopped onto the motorcycle, and Meredith slid on hesitantly.

"Try to keep yourself straight up at all times," he warned. "And hold on."

As this being Meredith's first time on a motorcycle, as soon as he went, Meredith let out a screech. Harry laughed, since this was only slow. After getting out of the gates onto the open road, Meredith held on for dear life as the motorcycle roared. The motorcycle zoomed past Buckingham Palace, going down the Mall. Soon enough, Harry drove the motorcycle by the River Thames.

The water was a murky brown, but it reflected the sun that came from the morning. The motorcycle teetered past Scotland Yard and the Palace of Westminster. Coming to a stop at a red light, Meredith looked around, waiting for someone to notice, but with the heavy helmets on, no one looked at them.

Going again, Harry kept by the River Thames. It grew less and less busy as they went away from the centre. Harry pulled off to the side of the road as a little cafe sat on the banks. Meredith grew scared, even with Harry firmly holding her hand, of paparazzi showing up out of nowhere. Seeing Meredith's hesitation, Harry gave her an easy smile.

Standing on the deck of the small cafe on the River Thames, Meredith watched as tourists rode the London Eye just up the river. Other tourists filled boats that traveled through the river. Summer was the busy season for tourism in London. Big Ben donged, and she heard it. Going back to Minnesota, and eventual Superior, it was just too quiet there. Though she liked the Highlands for the silence, where her thoughts lied, but London had everything she ever wanted. Harry was one of those things.

He stood next to her, eating a pastry and sipping on coffee. Meredith held her own cheese croissant and ice coffee. The silver chairs and tables gleamed in the sunlight. She slipped on sunglasses. 

"Do I look cool?" she asked.

"All the time."

Meredith scoffed. "I guess I have to go back now. Time to go back another year of university. Time to be an RA again."

"You're not a regular RA. You're a cool RA."

Rolling her eyes, Meredith almost choked as he said that, but at least Harry had a sense of humor about her leaving. It was just for another four months. Arrangements had already been made for early January, when they get together again. Time wasn't going to be so slow with Meredith having classes and a life in Superior, and Harry continued on with his life.

Landing on the ledge beside her, a seagull squawked at her. She fed it. Certainly it became her friend. "Is it bad that I'm going to miss the seagulls?"

"As long as it's not the pigeons, you're fine."

Meredith knew if there were seagulls, she was close to water. In London and in Scotland, seagulls flew around her. She was somewhere near water, so if she needed to get away, she had the ability. In Superior, it wasn't the ocean as much as it was a large lake. Yet, it was home.

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