valentine's day 2016
los angeles, california
The plan, half concocted just two days ago, was still fresh and he had gotten the big items ready immediately after thinking of what to do but there was very little structure to all that was going on inside the mind of Alex Milligan. There were still so many gaps left to fill in.
He could technically text Ione something sort of foreshadowing, leaving her guessing, but then he wasn’t sure if she’d start asking questions or show signs of reluctance or something he said might be worded in the wrong way leaving everything to fall apart. He didn't want to risk leaving hints and have her continuously try and guess while he put everything together.
He thinks about texting Scout and asking her for help about this and he realizes he’s probably the last person she wants to speak to right now and more than that, there’s a good chance she wants to slaughter him. She’d be more than right with it. He remembers that Ione mentioned that she’s got some of her own things going on and so he doesn’t want to be an imposition on top of all else because who knows what sort of other things she’s dealing with and so he decides against it pretty quickly.
He’s pacing back and forth in the hotel room now, and for a split second he actually thinks about calling her mom and asking if she could spend the day with Ione to keep her distracted because he wants to do something for her and it will require her absolutely not going back home. That’s only a silly notion that he pushes off right away because aside from the fact that they probably have their own thing going on, the idea of actually having to speak to her parents frightens the living hell out of him. He stops in his tracks and actually let those thoughts engulf him. They like him - well - they liked him. It doesn’t matter what Ione says when she tells him that Amanda sort of brushed it off. She’s a mum, mums react to that sort of thing. And Mr. James? He doesn’t even want to think about Mr. James. He’s so goddamn concerned about what that man is thinking that he reverts to calling him Mr. James even in his stream of consciousness going on. David is too casual at the moment and he doesn’t think he’s at a place where he can just call him David like they’re old pals at the pub. He sits down on the bed, sinking down slightly as he ruffles his hair. They’re out having brunch with their only daughter, enjoying themselves, but they know what went on. They know what he did. He was the guy that wasn’t supposed to hurt her and yet….
Alex, listen to me. Me being you. Shut the fuck up you fucking idiot. Stop thinking like that, get up, and continue on with what you’re going to do to make today special for her. Step up to the plate. Get back to business.
He stands up and walks on over to the desk where he grabs the notebook from the hotel and he sits down on the chair, scribbling things out quickly. He knows he has to do this as fast as possible because they’re already at brunch and he’ll need to at least get part one of the plan in motion before everything else is finished. He makes a phone call, scribbles a few more things down, lays down some instructions and then hears a knock on the door.
“Alex! You awake? You weren’t answering your phone.”
He goes over to open the door for Sophie and steps aside to let her in, but he’s gotten into such a groove that he only nods a hello at her before he’s rushing back to sit and keep scribbling things down.
“You are acting mental. What has gotten into you? Oh, is this a song thing?”
She shuts the door behind her and goes over to him, jumping up on the desk and swinging her legs slightly as she leans over curiously to see what has been jumbled on the piece of paper. Her eyes widen suddenly and she gives him a big nudge.
“Shut up! You and Ione are back together? Let me see that.”
She grabs the piece of paper and her eyes start scanning all over the page.
“You’re a very messy planner, you know that?”
He snatches the paper back and places it down in front of him, looking up at Sophie.
“Yeah, I'm sort of running around trying to figure more things out. Um. Well. I dunno. It's just that I’m not seeing anyone else, though. She’s not seeing anyone else s—“
“So you’re back together, you idiot.”
He laughs, rubbing his eyes.
“The past few days have been...”
He shakes his head slightly, everything rushing through his mind.
“Really, really incredible. I just want to capitalize on that. I was very much stuck in all that has been going on I didn’t exactly become a time management expert when it came to figuring out everything I want to do for today. Nothing too crazy, but something nice. Make her feel good. Show her I care.”
Sophie leans over to grab a bag of nuts and she starts munching on them.
“Well, dear brother, you’ve come to the right place. Let me help.”
So he does. He thinks that the plan is simple but then he really thinks about the plan and he realizes how not simple it actually is. He’s playing sort of stalker, sort of entertainer, all around idiot who’s trying to keep things on the right track. She’s an amazing girl and she deserves a great Valentine’s day. That's obvious. He thinks about going all out, extravagantly so, renting out an entire place and having a mini parade and making everything catered. Fireworks, huge banners, complete blowout. He knows, though, that this is not who they are. Also, where is he going to get a marching band and a crew of ballerinas doing a dance to one of her songs on the same day he’s supposed to have everything ready? Scratch that. He wants to eliminate all the unnecessary glitz and wants to go back to the basics: it’s just about the two of them.
He’s not going to ask Scout, he’s not going to ask her parents, he’s going to have to do a lot of imaginative thinking here. He’s up for the task, the plan is already set in motion, and now he needs to make sure it works out accordingly.
Aside from a quick stop after having breakfast with her parents and Scout, she can’t be back at her house until later, that’s the basis of every single thing he and Sophie are brainstorming rapid fire right now. Without her, he already had to get the plan going, so he grabs an unsuspecting victim: Lauren, one of Ione’s dancers.
He repeats via text that Ione is to know nothing about them speaking and her only job is to text Ione immediately and tell her that she and some girlfriends are having last minute mimosas on the rooftop at The Standard because fuck Valentine’s day and they’d love for her to come. Lauren agrees and a call is made to Ione. A chorus of fellow girlfriends even jump in that Ione absolutely needs to be there but the thing is, she can’t because she’s got Grammy’s rehearsal. She wishes she could, though. The word comes back from Lauren that it's a no go. Fuck. Back to the drawing board on that one, but at least he knows she'll be properly busy with the rehearsal.
Okay. So. He won’t be able to distract her with fun little things throughout the day. Internally, he’s freaking out. Externally, the same thing goes. He’s walking briskly down a street, hoodie and glasses on, despite the weather. Not in the mood for pesky photographers to start asking questions. Does this make him look more suspicious? It’s likely, but it’s also Los Angeles so there’s a lot weirder going on around him so he barely registers to anyone around.
He collects some more things he needs and via one of Benny’s friend of a friend’s contact he gets in touch with someone who’s working on coordinating the rehearsals that are going on. It’s going to be a long afternoon, especially for Ione. He sends flowers over to her dressing room with an accompanying note telling her good luck on the rehearsals. A part of him wants to rush over and hang out with her but he knows that this sort of rehearsal is important and he wants to help keep her focus. She might feel bad if he’s just hanging around the event space and feel obligated to entertain him, or he'll break her concentration, or he'll just be a pesky distraction for better or worse. He sends her a quick text.
hope you’re not getting too bored/nervous/frustrated/insert adjective here with all the noise going on around your performance. when in doubt, just remember, you are ione fucking james. who is pretty fucking fantastic. you’re going to crush it as usual xThere are a few back and forths between them until he’s back to business of buying a few more things and finally everything’s been completed and the buying process is done. He can actually get to setting up now. To hide traces of his car he gets driven to her house and has to make three trips inside between the grocery bags, balloons, and various other items he’s got. He knows she'll be at rehearsals for a while and has his contact over there to act as a pseudo spy when it comes to Ione leaving the venue. He fixes the backyard up first, with the help of Owen on setting the projector up duty and Sophie on making everything placed nicely duty. He tried and failed to make the projector work which is where tech guru Owen came in and Sophie demanded she help out where she could because, in her words, "It's Valentine's day and I'm alone in big bad Los Angeles so you've got to let me help so that I'll be happy." Once the backyard setup is done he feels he can tackle the rest on his own. So they leave and he continues on with it all.
Another hour passes and things are going great. Until he hears noises getting closer to being inside the house. He’s not daft enough to think there wouldn’t be flaws in the plans but he was a little bit too confident and that turned into not figuring out ways to fix the flaws that came up before they actually appeared. Which is why as he could hear Ione pull up in the driveway, his heart stopped and so did he. Dead in his tracks.
If she sees him, it would ruin the entire surprise. He scrambles around before inevitably deciding that the best course of action is running into one of the extra closets. Of course, he picks the one that has all the balloons in it. No time to switch now. He’s perched up on some jackets uncomfortably and just as he gets even more uncomfortable the door opens. Well. Hopefully she’s not going to be home for too long.
15 minutes pass.
New text from Sophie. He immediately dims the light on his screen and starts typing.
sophie: hey! how’s everything going??
20 minutes pass.
Finally he hears a voice.
“Ione, sorry, hi. It’s me! Where was it again? Okay, I’ll check there.”
It’s Scout. A sense of relief washes over him. He hears the phone turning off and he knows good and well he can just stay inside the closet but it’s getting hot, he’s cramped, his ass is numb, the balloons are getting squished in with the hangers, so he opens the door slightly and immediately perks up. Before he has a chance to say anything it seems that Scout thought the creaking door opening meant the sign of an intruder - as any sane person would have thought - so she falls over the couch in an effort to start running the other way, and then as she stands up she immediately throws her phone at him without realizing it's Alex.
“Ow, fuck! Scout! It's me. It' s ME. ALEX."
“Alex! What the hell are you doing here?”
“You know, just...hanging out. In Ione’s house. Secretly.”
He sees her face, completely unamused, and he softens.
“I'm kidding. Well, sort of. I have the keys, though. Look.”
He takes the keys out of his pocket and jingles them.
“Here's the deal. I just wanted to surprise Ione for later. See, I’ve got some balloons in there” He points to the closet. “Some other stuff I’ll be preparing that I haven’t done yet and I just wanted it to be something she could have after a long day. i didn’t exactly realize how long of a day she was going to be having, but yeah...where is she now, anyway? Rehearsals still?”
Alex gets the information that they’re heading off to San Francisc for dinner and he's genuinely happy her day isn't all about work and she'll get to have a fun time with friends. It also allows Alex to exhale a sigh of relief because he has more time and then also feel more nervous because maybe she’s only coming back tomorrow. Scout assures her they’ll be back later, he tells her not to rush on his account, and of course he swears her to secrecy that she won’t tell Ione any of this.
The time passes by slowly but he makes strides knowing he can put everything out in the open without any more distractions. He takes the balloons out from the closet and scatters them. He heads to another closet further down and takes the ones out from there as well. Then, he plays arts and crafts master as he sticks on photos of him and Ione that he has printed out at the bottom of the balloons. Photos of their Safari adventures, regular selfies taken all over the world, just woke up pictures, a few kisses where they’re lost in the moment, food they deemed good enough to remember, one of his favorites where he’s leaning into her and she’s laughing, purely scenic ones taken by each of them on various adventures. Walking out to the backyard to make sure everything looks even better as the darkness starts to settle, he’s starting to feel confident in everything. It has truly become a relaxation palace fully equipped with quite a few DVD options but some notable contendors include The Princess Bride, Dirty Dancing, When Harry Met Sally and Say Anything. He goes back inside to check in the kitchen where there are a few different flavors of popcorn, s’mores equipment placed right beside it as well as a few more snack and drink options.
Now that he's done and Ione still isn't back, he starts occupying himself as best he can to pass the time. He takes out all the red m&m’s from the large package into one bowl and then places it in the kitchen with all the rest of the snacks, he flips through the channels aimlessly, texts back and forth with Sophie, plays a few app games against Benny, realizes how hungry he is because he was so busy preparing everything he forgot to eat dinner except Ione’s house doesn’t really have much because she isn’t there all too often so he kicks it classic with PB&J sandwiches. He paces back and forth trying to figure out what exactly it is he wants to say to Ione when she walks through the door, pens down a few lyrics that come to mind, takes out the good ‘ole hacky sack and starts kicking it around, jogs up and down the stairs twice before he realizes that was a stupid fucking idea, checks her bathroom cabinet, dims the lights even more so that she doesn’t suspect anything until she gets inside, overthinks it all, and then before he has a chance to do anything else he hears a car pull in. She’s here.
He scurries around. After moving back and forth he decides to hide himself behind a door so the first thing she sees will be the balloons.
Footsteps make their way to the front door, a key turns, the door unlocks. The door opens, light switches on, a pause. The door closes. Another moment as he can hear her walk in further and examine what exactly is going on. He lets her take everything in just as he steps out and in front of her.
“Hi there. Hope you don’t mind, I invited myself in a little while ago.”