A/N: I think the biggest joke of 2021 is that I thought I could wait until the spring to post this.

Well, here we are again. This trilogy demanded to be a tetralogy (I had to look that up), and who was I to leave out Quil?

Welcome back to my mind. It's fun here. This is the fourth installment of my Fitzgerald series, featuring Quil and Claire. You don't have to read any of those to know what's going on here, but they'll give you a bit more behind the scenes, especially The Beautiful and Damned. You can find a chronological listing of all chapters from all these stories on my profile.

Updates will be slow but steady. I wanted to play a bit with different formats/timelines/etc, so this is presented a bit differently than the others, but with what is hopefully massive payoff at the end.

Thanks! Happy reading!



I took the SATs the morning I found out my mom had breast cancer. I wish I could tell you I took the test before I got the news.

As I now know, life doesn't work that way.

I'd woken up well before my alarm that morning, worried I'd sleep through the test. Faintly smelled the coffee my parents brewed each morning in the hours before we made our way downstairs. Felt the scratch of flannel sheets under my bare legs. Saw the beginnings of dawn peeking in through my palm-tree printed curtain. Heard my sister Callie snoring down the hall, as usual.

Everything was how it usually was.

Just as I was getting ready to throw open my door and head for a shower, I heard another sound: a sob.

I was prepared to rip my door off the hinges, get to whoever was hurt or hurting, when I caught my name.

"…Claire? Callie? My girls need me," Mom said, and I could tell by the watery undertone she was the source of the sob.

"Now, Hannah, baby." That was Dad speaking. "We don't know for sure that you're going anywhere. The doctor said you could have years."

I'd gone dizzy, sagging against the door frame that held notches marking my growth. The markings stopped around five foot seven, the one on my sister's door around five foot four.

My heart had stopped beating about twenty seconds prior.

Behind me, my phone buzzed on my nightstand. I already knew it was Quil – he'd promised to pick me up for the test. For all the hours he put in helping me study, he wouldn't have missed it for the world. He wouldn't have let me miss it either.

Quil!: Wake up sleepyhead! Got a vat of coffee w/ your name on it. Be there in thirty.

I wasn't sure I would be able to move in thirty hours, much less thirty minutes. My feet, my body, my head—fuck, my heart—were all filled with lead.

Yet somehow I was light. Floating. Floating down the hall, to the shower. Down the stairs, where I pretended like my sharp replies were just nerves. To Quil's truck, who knew instantly something was wrong but couldn't pry the words from me because I couldn't find enough of them to explain what I felt.

Maybe floating wasn't the right word. Desensitized. Raw.


So I sat there, writing an essay about The Great Gatsby and other loads of garbage, shit about the American dream and whether it's attainable.

You don't have to read the damn thing to know it's not.

But I guess something must have resonated with me, my mind riddled with panic and worry like Swiss cheese.

I passed with flying colors.

I don't know whether it's ironic or heartbreaking that for as big as that test just made my world, suddenly it got a whole lot smaller.