30 First Kisses
Thirty different ways Matt and Mohinder might share their first kiss
By Jennifer Rubio (nee Wand)
Author's note: How do you top 29 first kisses? With 30 of them, of course...
He was just out of surgery, and Molly was plastered to the window waiting for him to wake up. They'd said it could be days. And they would have to wait until Matt woke up and said yes, I want those people to visit me. But they could, at least, watch from outside.
When his wife came, she didn't even notice Mohinder sitting on the bench in the hallway on the far side of the window. She was too busy counting beds, as each one had a number printed on the foot of it to help the doctors and nurses match patients to profiles. "#14," she read aloud, "#12, #10... oh my GOD." The first sight of him seemed to hit her like a bullet herself. Her eyes slid briefly to the face of the little girl on the other side of the glass, but she was too distressed to much care who she was. Her hands went to the rail on the side of his bed. "Matt, oh, Matt," she crooned, her face sick with concern. It was impossible not to feel sorry for her. Mohinder wanted to go in there and sing his praises, to reassure her that what her husband had done was one of the most heroic and good-hearted things he'd ever seen, that he had saved a child and possibly the world and that was a debt he could never adequately repay.
Then she dipped down and kissed him on those slack lips, and Mohinder's stomach inexplicably turned. He was unconscious, he'd been through hell. Was this the appropriate time for such a garish display of affection? Was she trying to establish her possession of him? Trying to scare Molly off the window? What on earth was she thinking at a time like this?
Later, he would admit to himself, with some chagrin, that there was absolutely nothing untoward about the kiss. That he'd selfishly come to think of the man lying in bed #10 as "his" patient, and it'd shocked him to realize others cared about him too.That if he had been in her position, he would have done the same thing. That he already sort of wished he had been the one to kiss him like that. Molly's hero. His (handsome) stranger. Already, he didn't want to share him with anyone.
A week and a half later. Matt was awake now, and so pleased to see Molly there. Relieved she was doing OK. And although he didn't really know how to approach the strange man who was taking care of her, he felt a debt of gratitude for his kindness in doing so. The man was a little odd. He politely asked after his wife every time, even though Matt was in a hospital bed and she was across the country, having flown back out last weekend. Stranger still, Matt thought he caught a whiff of resentment along with the courteous concern.
"Um, thanks for asking all the time," he finally said, "but we're pretty much through, Jan and I. I just have to get strong enough to hold a pen, and she'll have the divorce papers sent over."
"Oh!" This news hit him sideways, apparently, because he tried desperately to put on an expression of sympathy, despite the mental cartwheels he was doing. (For what reason, Matt still wasn't sure.) The result was a sort of comic pout. "I'm terribly sorry," he said with an exaggerated tremolo.
Matt laughed. It was a good thing he was still bedridden, because at that moment he was seized with an absolutely inexplicable desire to get up, put those puffed-out cheeks between his palms, and kiss the poor baby's pout away. His mind didn't know what to make of it, but Matt figured maybe that was just as well. Some things were better unpondered.
Mohinder got used to bringing Molly over every day after school. Every day she'd run in, and every day Matt would greet her with a smile and a hug. But today was different. Today he would not even face them.
"Can you leave me alone for a while?" he croaked. Mohinder didn't have to see his face to know he'd been crying.
He shuttled Molly down the hall, saying he needed to talk to Matt, she should go get a snack, and handing her five dollars. Her gaze shifted between his face and the door to the room, and finally she nodded and went on her way.
"You're frightening her," he said reproachfully as he re-entered the room and closed the door behind him.
"I know. I don't really care right now. So lay off."
"Matt--" The word still felt funny. He'd been Officer Parkman for two weeks before Matt had corrected them both. "Please tell me what's going on. I know you don't know me very well, but... you're obviously in pain."
The voice was small. "They said I could go home this week."
"That's good news! Isn't it?"
"Yeah, I guess. It's just that..." His voice broke. "I don't have anywhere to go. I'm going to have to get a hotel room, and then fly back, and decide if I want to stay close to my old place, where I'm on suspension, or try to get a transfer, and go apartment hunting, and it's just too much. And I have to go back there when there is nothing-- nothing to go back to!" He sobbed a little.
Mohinder's nails were digging into his palms. He locked his feet on the floor. He had no idea how to comfort this man, who'd seemed so strong, nearly invincible. All he could think to do was comfort him the way he did Molly when she was missing her parents, and that was to bend that head into the crook of his shoulder, tell him that he wasn't alone, that Mohinder was there... and then kiss away the tears that were doubtless dripping from his lips...
That was a little different from the way he comforted Molly, of course.
But he did none of those things. Instead, he heard himself say, "Then don't go back."
Matt turned, incredulously, robbed of both tears and words. His mouth hung open.
"I mean it." Mohinder looked surprised at his own statement."If you've nowhere else to go, stay with us. We don't have a terrible lot of room, but--"
"Are you serious?" Matt knew he was grinning from ear to ear. He was shaking with relief. "Oh, thank God. Thank God. I owe you my life. Seriously."
Tears? What tears? He was in such a good mood now. He would have a place to go when he left this hospital. With a little girl he adored and a man who seemed never to have a selfish thought in his head. Two people whose very existence had made his life worthwhile in these empty months of helplessness and meaninglessness. He thought he saw the door to a new life opening, and he wanted to embrace it. Embrace them. Embrace him... and then...
And then what?
And then whisper "thank you," and touch my lips to his. Feel that skin under my fingertips. Hold him...
Matt turned away again, his cheeks flaming. He must be imagining things. This was just gratitude gone awry. This sort of thing didn't happen to him.
Matt looked ridiculous in the chair. Here was this giant hulk of a man, so much of that too-too-solid-flesh Hamlet had gone on about, packed into a small, shaky wheelchair and being shuttled out to the curb like an invalid. The expression on his face was even better. He looked thoroughly peeved. Mohinder wanted to laugh.
The orderly lifted Matt into the taxicab with what seemed like great effort. "Don't squeeze him, young lady," he warned the girl in the middle seat in a moment of prescience-- her arms were halfway around him already. She drew back, chastened, and Matt lifted a hand to ruffle her hair instead. She sighed happily.
Mohinder thanked the orderly, put Matt's bag into the trunk, and moved around to the other side of the taxi to get in. Molly was sandwiched between the two of them and loving it. "We totally did up your room," she said.
"Let me guess, stuffed animals everywhere," he said dryly. "Just what I've always dreamed of. How'd you know?"
She stuck out her tongue. "I'm not stupid."
"You're far from stupid," Mohinder chimed in. It was as though Matt had forgotten he was there, because he looked up in surprise. Mohinder became acutely aware of the distance between them. And she was singing to herself and didn't notice the moment they stared.
I could reach right over her, right now, he thought. Tell him welcome home. Welcome to the family. And I could-- I could kiss him-- there's so little space between us--
He suddenly remembered what Matt could do and bit his lip in concern. Matt's expression, which had been blank, seemed to regard this small movement as more telling than anything. He gasped a little. Mohinder blushed.
Then the taxi hit a pothole and Matt was cursing, and it was like the whole thing never happened.
You would have thought the place was a penthouse for the way Molly was dragging him through it. "Here," she said, grabbing both his hands. "this is where I sleep. Isn't it cute? Oh, and look over here, this is my favorite place to sit when it rains, 'cause I can look out the window and see the rain hitting that flag over there, and it does really funny things with ripples..."
Mohinder cleared his throat. "Molly, dear, I think maybe Matt would like to see his own room first."
Her face fell. "Oh. OK." And her spirit returned in a flash. "Yeah, it's over here!"
Matt watched her skip down the hall, smiling. "God, she's something," he commented, more to himself than to Mohinder, who nevertheless nodded in agreement.
"Hey," Matt said, a touch nervously. "I don't know if I said so yet, but, um, I'm really grateful. Really, thank you. I'll be a good roommate, I promise. I can't cook, but I'm good at cleaning. And I don't listen to loud music or anything."
Mohinder laughed. "I'm sure you'll be fine." He fell silent, but the smile remained. It made Matt feel kind of lightheaded. Was Mohinder an angel or something, he wondered, to give him this second chance at family and home when he needed it the most and to never question him or offer a moment of doubt? How do you thank an angel?
Again he felt the odd thump. The urge to just walk over and lean his head in toward that smile. As though to taste it. To touch the halo of curls. If he touched him, Matt suspected he himself might grow wings.
Was this really just gratitude he was feeling?
It was that question, more than any hesitation, that kept his feet planted, unmoving, on the floor.
"Wait a minute. You're just leaving?"
Matt was furious. First, Mohinder had revealed that he'd been in touch with Noah Bennet. And now this? Traipsing all over the world in some weird fishing expedition? Mohinder didn't need to read minds to know the thoughts that must be racing through his head right now. "I am aware of your feelings on the subject," he said icily.
"What are we going to do... what is she going to do without you? What if she gets sick again?"
This was a truly ridiculous, and utterly predictable, line of conversation. "She's been immunized," he said flatly. "I've told you this already. Now all that remains is to take down the company that did this to her."
"Did it ever occur to you that being there for her is the best way to protect her?" Again with this argument, as well.
"We've had this conversation," Mohinder said, glancing at him angrily. "I've made my decision."
"But you're her--"
"I'm not her anything, Matt." He tried to ignore the sting of saying those words aloud. "And for that matter, I'm not yours, either."
"What is that supposed to mean?"
"It means--" Mohinder knew what it meant, but he was not interested in saying it. He was not yet ready to admit that becoming his was a very real possibility. "This discussion is over. Go back to your room."
"Don't talk to me like I'm a child," Matt warned him in a low voice.
Mohinder regarded him. The great shoulders, the sharp, piercing eyes in the dim light? No. Matt was many things, but a child he was not. Mohinder had become very aware of that over the past few weeks.
"The fact remains, I do not belong to you," he repeated. "So I'll thank you to stop making me some convenient outlet for your rage. I'm not yours." He winced as he said it, trying not to think what his mind was whispering... If you would only become mine, all that could change. I could be yours.
He pondered, for a moment, closing the gap between them with swift steps and insistent lips. Leaving the country having made his intentions known, and giving Matt time and space to ruminate on it as he traveled the world. Or at least letting Matt know how much he hated to leave. But in the end, he just let the misunderstanding hang, untouched, in the air.
It was raining. The school bus would be there in fifteen minutes. The taxi's wipers were dancing like anxious birds, whining a little because the car was still. The cab driver grunted and lifted the suitcase into the trunk.
Molly wasn't crying, to her credit, Matt thought as he looked down at her. Her lower lip was trembling a little, but she was smiling. Strong girl. He maintained his death grip on the umbrella handle to keep himself from shaking too hard.
When his luggage was stowed, Mohinder came back around to say goodbye. He kneeled beneath the huge dark canopy of umbrella and looked into her eyes. "I'll be back as soon as I can," he promised.
She nodded. "I know. Call, OK?"
"Of course. I'll call every day. And I'll bring you presents when I return."
"Big ones," she scolded.
"Right. Big ones." And then she was hugging him and whispering "I love you," and it was all Matt could do to not break down himself. But if she could hold it together, he sure as hell could do the same. At the very least.
Mohinder straightened up. "Take care," he said.
"Stay in touch." Matt forced a smile to his face. It hurt to maintain.
"I... will." For a moment, Mohinder's breath caught, and Matt's heart forgot to beat. They clasped hands briefly, and he got into the cab, waving as it started up and pulled away from the curb.
As the tires angled away, Molly lost it. She threw her arms around Matt's hip, crying. And Matt put a hand on her hair and watched the disappearing streak of yellow, thinking that maybe he was in a bad movie.
Because wasn't this the bad-movie scene where he dropped the umbrella and dashed madly after the taxi, screaming "Stop" and "Wait" until it stopped and Mohinder got out, looking confused, and Matt caught up to him, begging him not to go, and the rain was pouring down their faces and matting their hair and as he kissed him for the first time, the camera rotoscoped around them and the music swelled?
No. This wasn't a bad movie. This was real life. And he had a real girl to get off to school, and he had a real dilemma, because he had a real crush on a man. At least he had a real long time to get used to the idea.
Molly covered the phone with her hand. "Matt! Mohinder says he saw pyramids today!"
Her enthusiasm tickled Mohinder, and he laughed warmly. In the background, he could hear Matt say, "That's great, honey." Even the muffled voice, with its blase, so-what attitude, made his heart ache. He was happy to hear that they were getting along, that nobody had burned the place down in his absence. And perhaps he'd been romanticizing things a little-- he knew what they said about absence and the heart, after all-- but over the course of a week of late-morning phone calls to early-evening New York, he'd come to settle into acceptance of his attraction to Matt. He looked foward to hearing his voice over the line. He heard that same voice in his dreams. He fantasized about his eventual homecoming. And he managed to transmute the whole thing into energy for his tour. It sustained him, like a vitamin of some sort. Which reminded him.
"Sweetheart, can I talk with Matt for a moment?"
"Sure, I gotta go to bed anyway. Goodnight!" Hand over the phone again. "Matt! Mohinder wants to talk to you!"
"Coming!" Mohinder closed his eyes and smiled at the voice. He relished this moment, when it was suddenly right there, close to his ear. "'Lo. How's the weather?"
"Oppressively hot. I quite like it," Mohinder smiled. "I meant to ask you, are you making sure she gets decent nutrition? I keep hearing in my head what you told me about not being able to cook, and it gives me the cold shivers."
Laughter over the line made him feel warm and slightly tingly. "You sound like her. She's always telling me the same thing. She even went out and bought herself these weird calcium supplements. I think they're brainwashing her in health class or something."
"Check them out. Make sure they're not snake oil," Mohinder said in sudden concern.
"I hear you, Mama Bear," Matt teased. Did that make him Papa Bear? The idea made Mohinder tense and giddy in less-than-family-friendly ways. Oh, my, he thought suddenly. Can you hear thoughts over the phone?
There was a silence, then Matt's "Hello? Mohinder? Did we get cut off?"
"Yes. Hello, I'm here. Sorry," he stuttered, relieved.
"Is everything OK?" Suddenly his voice was lower, serious. "Have you been able to get this guy's attention yet?"
"I think he's almost ready to make his move," confided Mohinder. "I have a lecture later today that I think he'll attend. I'm hopeful that he'll approach me. If not, I'll have to find a way to force the issue."
"Well, be careful."
Mohinder sucked in a breath. That tone of voice did things to him. "I will. Tell Molly good night for me."
"Good luck." So low it was barely a rasp. Mohinder felt as though, if he closed his eyes, he would be able to feel Matt's breath on his face.
He pressed his lips silently to the phone's mouthpiece. "Thank you," he whispered. "Goodbye."
Matt hung up the phone and stared at it for a long while.
God, it was easy to care about him long-distance.
Without the physical presence, without the seeing him every day and the being reminded that he was a real person-- not only a man, which was weird enough, but another human being with traits that could be quirky and frustrating and sometimes downright awful-- he was just a warm, ethereal voice of concern, and Matt wanted to float away on the breaths he exhaled, puffing into the receiver.
He wished he knew how to set up a wiretap. He wanted that voice on a recording for posterity, so he could hear it when he went to sleep at night. He imagined taping that thank-you, that goodbye, and placing a small tape player beneath his pillow. And when he heard the voice from beneath him, he thought, he'd probably kiss the pillow like a child and pretend the fabric was flesh, that the smile in his head was beside him, that what he was feeling was real--
He didn't know quite how he felt about the real Mohinder. But at this point, he had no problem admitting to himself that he was hopelessly in love with his voice.
What Mohinder was thinking, when he came in the door, was how excited he was to see Molly again. It's amazing how quickly a bond can grow between a child and an adult, he thought. There is something about children than opens your heart, even after you've put up a thousand walls. Then again, Mohinder had never been good at not caring. Some might say that was his weakness.
So after what seemed like a million nights away, the thought of the real, three-dimensional, quietly breathing girl awaiting him kept him alive through an interminable plane ride and a lonely taxi's trek through rain-slick streets. It didn't seem like the road home so much as another unfamiliar place; he had never quite felt this was a place he belonged. When the door opened, it was the door to his father's apartment. Maybe even the place he stayed. Even when he saw Molly's bed and her beautiful, tiny face, tranquil with sleep, he still only thought, I'm back.
But when he saw Matt slack and sleeping in the chair beside her bed, he looked at the two of them and thought, I'm home.
He wanted to lean down and kiss them both in that moment. The affection in his heart scared him a little in its intensity. But his bag and his eyelids were both heavy, and he needed both tea and a break. So the pair of kisses that flirted with his lips in that moment stayed tucked away just behind his tongue, making his lips curl upward into a smile.
Matt awoke to a sound. He was still reeling from what Molly's teacher had said today, and he'd dreamed someone was sneaking up behind him. So a sound was enough to jolt him into red alert mode. He pulled out his gun and moved in the darkness, spotted a figure in the kitchen under dim light and pointed at him. "Freeze!"
Even as the word escaped his lips he saw how foolish he'd been.
And seeing Mohinder there again was a different sort of jolt. He hadn't expected him to come home, and his very real and solid presence was tossing him into the worst kind of confusion. The very safe fantasy-Mohinder he'd allowed himself to come to love was suddenly and violently replaced with the much less convenient real Mohinder.
And there'd been a murder. And the suspect knew what he could do. And Molly was struggling and was currently mad enough to not talk to him. And there was something in her nightmares that he couldn't breach. And now he would have to deal with Mohinder in the flesh, playing his amateur spy game and being so frustrating...
...and lifting a mug of steaming liquid to his lips and taking a sip, his eyes never leaving Matt's.
Matt wanted desperately to be that mug at that moment. Anything to touch those lips. A wave of lust shot through him that nearly knocked him over. He gripped the counter.
Life was getting more and more complicated by the minute.
Mohinder watched his eyes as the flicker of emotion flew through them. When he'd come home, Matt's eyes had been closed in sleep. He looked so easy, so comfortable sitting there, just like the drawling voice on the line had been so comfortable to hear. He should have known things were never that simple. This wasn't some easygoing armchair of a man. Those eyes almost hurt to look at. They were dangerous. They challenged him.
And he wanted to rise to the challenge. Wanted to vindicate himself in those eyes, to prove that he wasn't deserving of such scorn. Was it scorn, though? The gaze seemed to simultaneously reduce him to less than nothing and elevate him to a place where they were the only two people in the universe, a clash of the titans in their own world. He would not flinch from that gaze.
That's when the spark of something else flew through Matt's eyes.
For a half a moment, Mohinder could believe that Matt might feel something other than derision. That he thought of Mohinder as something other than a young upstart, a know-it-all who was competing with him in some parenting tournament. So when Matt said to him that if he wanted to do something for Molly he should try not to die on her, Mohinder wasn't sure if he was saying it for Molly or for himself.
Was it possible? Because if it was, Mohinder would have no problem with walking right into the path of those dangerous eyes, risking their burning power, and making it clear with lips and arms and hands and body that he intended to stay alive for as long as he could. And not just for Molly.
And then the sweetest voice in the world doused the flames. "Mohinder, you're back!"
A bright ball of sunshine burst into the room, crossed the floor, and launched herself into a pair of welcoming arms. The joy in her voice and in her mind was so overpowering and vivid that Matt had to stand back. He couldn't and wouldn't get in the way of this reunion.
Mohinder cradled her in his arms, smoothed her long tangle of hair, promised he would never leave her again. And he opened his eyes and looked meaningfully at Matt.
Matt felt transfixed by that stare. As though someone had taken nails and driven them through his palms. He did his best to stare back, to convey to him that just because a child was in his arms, none of Matt's earlier warnings should lose their power. If anything, he needed to be even more cautious. Remember, he tried to telegraph through that gaze, this is what you're trying to protect. So don't be stupid.
Infuriatingly, Mohinder's eyes simply shone back with utter confidence.
A weak, shameful part of him wanted to crumble, to embrace them both and admit that he was scared to death of losing them both. That the lips that smiled triumphantly at him now should bless his own with their touch. That he needed them both so badly it scared the daylights out of him to even think about them in danger. The bud of emotion he'd cultivated as a hobby these past few weeks had grown stronger and straighter than he'd ever imagined, and now it was in full bloom. Seeing Mohinder and Molly there together sealed the deal.
They were his family.
When the scream came, Matt was there before he could make it. He was the first one to grab her and hug her, he was the first one to tell her it would be OK. Mohinder was useless, an afterthought, dwarfed by the doorway as she asked for a glass of water. He felt as though an invisible fence were keeping him from stepping forward and breaking the connection he saw between the two pale figures on the bed. Suddenly, he felt segregated.
He would never look like he was related to her. Matt looked so very, very much like a natural father as he sat there, and Mohinder was just a strange foreigner who happened to be in the house. He'd never before given any thought to his race. It had never mattered. But the contrast between white and brown right now made him nervous.
He berated himself. This was not the time to feel sorry for himself. He had enough on his mind, enough balls in the air. If he stopped to navel-gaze, he'd drop them all. And yet guilt and bitter disappointment and a sense that he didn't belong were all fighting with his better instincts for a place at the table.
When Matt drew back and joined him in the doorway, Mohinder felt even stranger and more foreign. He was within a breath or two of a man he'd been dreaming about for ages. They were sharing a child, a home. And yet there was still that invisible fence between them, an electrified fence at that. When they drew too close together, sparks showered the air and they pulled back, stung.
What kind of masochist was he, that he nevertheless wanted to reach across that barrier and grab him? To see just how different they were, to see if Matt tasted like something pale and powerful, if he thought Mohinder tasted like something spicy and exotic?
If he had the courage he needed, he could have at least touched his hand. But instead, he just stared. And they snapped at each other, frustrated and helpless at the suffering of their child, and Mohinder wondered what the hell he was doing having feelings for such a callous and petty man. Never mind he was being just as callous and petty.
But then Matt offered to get the water so Mohinder could put her back to bed, and in his eyes there was the hint of generosity. The message, It's your turn. Go to her. She needs you, too. As clearly as if it had been spoken aloud.
And once more he found himself lacking.
Matt's job right now was to go get Molly some water.
Why wasn't he moving?
Water, Parkman. Sink. Kitchen. Right behind you. Not that complicated.
But Mohinder was stroking Molly's forehead and whispering to her and he looked so natural doing it and Matt wasn't sure he shouldn't be taking notes. Because she looked so content and calm, even with the clammy forehead and sweaty sheets, so utterly trusting. She put her whole heart in Mohinder's hands in a way she never did with Matt. He felt jealousy prickle in his throat.
Then Mohinder began to sing, in a language Matt didn't understand. It all sounded like "ahh" and "eih" and strange consonants and vowels he couldn't name. But it was hypnotic. Matt felt his eyes get heavy along with Molly's. She fell asleep before his very eyes. Apparently that song could do everything water could, and then some. He watched her eyelids dip and shut, and Mohinder's lips brushing against her forehead before he carefully got up.
Lucky Mohinder, to have so much talent. To be able to kiss and soothe and sing away fears. And lucky Molly, to have those lips spill forth in ahhs and eihs and touches for her. Matt wanted those kisses, that lullaby, for himself. Never mind that they were for a child, and he was a grown man. He'd take anything those lips deigned to give him.
Lucky Mohinder. Lucky Molly. And unlucky Matt, to be watching it all from the doorway, unable to participate. Or to even get the damned water.
"I forgot the water," he said, as though just remembering it.
"Don't worry about it. She's asleep now; let's hope she stays that way," Mohinder said, closing the door after a final peek into the room.
"I feel so useless."
They said it at the same time, and stared at each other.
Matt shrugged and laughed. "Right. Sure. You're useless. You're just able to get her calmed down and sleeping again. She looks at me and she gets even more keyed up."
"Don't do that," said Mohinder testily. He didn't want to do this now. "We've both got our place around here. Let's not turn her nightmares into some sort of ridiculous contest for whom she likes better."
"See, you're even able to keep it in perspective. Damn it!" Matt kicked out with an angry foot, but stopped an inch from the table leg. Mohinder started, but exhaled his relief when the kick came to nothing. "I can't do anything for her. Just chasing down that stupid symbol she keeps drawing and coming up empty. God. That poor girl." He sat heavily and put his head in his hands.
The sight of him berating himself was agonizing for Mohinder. Here he'd been feeling sorry for himself, and Matt was feeling so helpless. He'd been here the whole time, dealing with these nightmares night after night while Mohinder had been a world away. "You're there when she needs you," Mohinder said sympathetically. "That's very important. Much more important than anything I can do for her."
Matt sat motionless, a big lump of heartbreak. Mohinder couldn't stand it. He put his hands on Matt's shoulders. "Look," he said gently. "You know she loves you. She needs you. If you weren't here, we'd both be so lost."
The shoulders had gone tense beneath his hands. All at once Matt was looking up at him, then getting up, then standing so close to him he could hardly breathe. A question glimmered in his eyes that Mohinder didn't know the answer to.
Finally, he just laughed. "Hey, you know what?" he said. "That's actually a huge comfort. Thanks."
And he smiled, and Mohinder's heart jumped. That smile, that casual tone... it was the Matt he remembered from those days of phone calls across continents. The warm laughter. The man he'd fallen in love with long distance. The man he was aching to kiss right now. Here and real and dependable and probably completely ignorant of the fact that Mohinder adored him.
That's how Mohinder knew it was all real. And for a moment he wavered. Considered leaning in and making a move. Looked at those full lips.
But for now, just knowing he loved him was enough.
They stood a moment in silence.
"Well. I should probably get back to bed myself," Matt said.
"Yes. I ought to do the same."
There was a small half-smile playing around Mohinder's lips, as though he had just learned a valuable secret. Matt wished he knew what it was, but Mohinder stubbornly refused to think the words. The knowledge was there, a sort of pre-verbal hum of ideas, but it made no sense to Matt. Sort of how it made no sense that it was four in the morning and they were still standing there, despite having agreed that it was time for bed.
It was just like dating, Matt thought with a bit of amusement. Here he was on the step with the object of his affections, waiting to see if there was anything left to do besides say "Good night" and walk back down the path toward his car as the door to the strange white house closed behind him. Would he have the courage to dare peck her on the cheek? A kiss on the lips was too much for a first date back in that day, at least, that's what he'd always thought. But he'd always been a little old-fashioned when it came to dating. He used to park the car and hurry around to the other side to open the door for his date, only to find she'd already opened it, gotten out, and closed it again and was halfway across the parking lot, walking toward the movie theater at full speed. He would lose his breath trying to catch up.
Of course, there was a world of difference between that situation and this. Matt felt like he'd jumped off the normal train ages ago. Now absurdity was his normality. He a) could read minds, b) had survived four bullets to the chest, c) had lost a wife and a kid, d) had picked up ANOTHER kid along the way, and e) was apparently now crushing on a member of the same gender. Whom he was f) living with in platonic bliss as they g) tried to bring down an Evil Corporation of Doooooom.
He feared what h) would be.
Oh, yes. h) was the fact that he was seriously considering a goodnight kiss. Because there were expectant eyes and a soft smile fixed on him, and he felt like a puddle of very sticky goo. Sticky because even if he did have the courage to kiss him, he was apparently stuck in place and couldn't move.
He forced a "good night" out of his lungs, felt them scrape against his ribs as though the words had broken him, and went to his room.
It was beautiful, sweet, tentative romantic bliss.
It didn't last.
Matt made the supremely stupid move of asking Molly to use her powers to find someone. Not just someone. The worst possible person. Mohinder realized his own foolishness had been never making an explicit deal with Matt about when and why they would ask her to do so. He'd just assumed Matt knew the answer was Never and for No Reason. He thought that would be basic parenting. You have a child whose life has been turned upside down by the fact that she has a special ability, and you have a chance to right it again? Your first step is to not be one of the many people trying to exploit her. It wasn't rocket science.
But apparently he'd assumed too much, because Matt asked her to find someone, and then things got impossibly worse. Molly's night terrors were torturous enough to witness, but her fully conscious, waking, paralyzed terror was absolute murder to watch. Every time he closed his eyes now Mohinder could see her slowly shaking head, her eyebrows drawn to a peak in the center of her forehead, her knuckles white against the bookcase as she begged him to please put the picture away.
Damn him! Goddamn Matt for putting that expression on her face! How dare he? Who did he think he was that he was so much better than all the others who'd sought to use her for their own gain?
He ripped into him the first chance he got. Like a cornered animal, Matt fought back. They tussled, blazing eyes and mounting frustrations layering over each other. Everything he felt for Matt was so intense, even irritation. Mohinder tried to play the intellectual superior, the one who was calm and rational and right in all this. He'd almost convinced himself it was true, too.
He tried to banish from his mind the thoughts of what it must have been like for Matt to have this revelation. A symbol attached to a murder, a girl's nightmarish drawings, a photo of twelve people who had no reason to know each other, a father who'd disappeared long ago, too many chains he'd thought were unlinked coming together in a puzzling knot and the center of it all, the key to the mystery and to his child's release from suffering and to his own sense of self was somewhere on this earth. And the child was the only one who could find him.
He couldn't afford to think like that. His daughter's mental well-being was in the balance. If only he could take Matt's hands and talk to him like a civilized human being, promise him that he didn't need to find this man, that all he needed to do was stay here and love her (and love them) and it would all work out somehow.
And then he would sigh, and I could put my arms around him and promise I'd always be there for him, and maybe then there would be eye contact and a kiss and an understanding, that understanding we're never able to get--
But Mohinder hadn't listened to that argument when he had been about to leave, and he doubted Matt would listen now.
Daddy issues. He was going on about daddy issues. What the hell did he know from daddy issues!?
Mister My Father's Theories Were Right and I Must Avenge My Father's Murder and My Father So Misunderstood and So Lonely and Only I Can Carry On My Father's Work?
Matt was just about to shove him through the wall at this point. How could he be so obstinate? The only way out for all of them was to find his dad and stop him. Then Molly would be safe and they could get back to real life. If his dad had killed Kaito Nakamura, if he'd tried to kill Angela Petrelli, if he was still on the warpath, then it was Matt's duty to find him.
And he knew from running from your fears. Molly had to face hers. And Mohinder had to face his, start understanding that what she could do was as much a part of her as his annoyingly dizzying intellect was of him. It wasn't something to be suppressed for fear of what it would do to her psychologically. If she could do this, and get through it, she would have an active hand in her own rescue. If she was kept sheltered, he knew, she would resent never being called in to help.
(Was he rationalizing? Probably. But it made so much sense.)
And now Mohinder was smirking at him, saying that yes, in fact, he knew quite a lot about daddy issues, and Matt really wanted to shove him through a wall, or onto a table, or possibly a bed, and plunder that mouth with wild kisses that would wipe that smirk off his face and show him that Matt knew exactly what he was doing, and he'd better shut up and take it like a man...
Shit. Shit, this is not the time. You idiot. Stop thinking that way. Now is NOT. The. Time.
Then Molly came out of her room. "I'll do it," she said in a voice like steel. "I'll help you find your father."
Matt turned around to look at Mohinder. He was still and acquiescent, like he had been punched in the gut. And Matt wanted to feel victorious, and just couldn't.
It was an odd ritual, like a seance, when they sat down with her. Matt kept a grip on the map and on Molly's arm; Mohinder sat between them, watching her face carefully, a hand draped over her shoulders. His fingertips brushed Matt's, completing the circle.
He'd seen her find people before. Every time, it was like her frail body was overflowing with information. Her eyelids flinched and flickered as the currents went through her, and the pushpin moved on the paper as though it were alive and just pulling her hand along.
Matt prodded her along, bringing her closer by degrees to the location he needed. City, street, number, apartment...
And then something went wrong and she yelped, the currents moving along her arms and making them jump. Suddenly Mohinder was miles away from them both. Something was going on between their two minds, and he couldn't penetrate it. Matt was shouting and grabbing her and on the verge of tears, and then he was back in reality and Molly was unconscious and running a fever and oh God what had they done to her?
He picked her up, carried her to her bed, tucked her in carefully, and stomped away. Mohinder brought cold washcloths from the kitchen and placed one on her forehead, then turned toward Matt. He was standing by the tiny window with his hand to his face in despair.
Anger coursed through him. If it hadn't been for his stupid insistence on using her, none of this would have happened. Their little girl would be running around here happy as a clam and there would be no fever and no agony and no clue as to how to find the man who'd been giving her nightmares for months. Damn it. He didn't want to do this.
Why couldn't they be honest with each other? Why couldn't they act like real parents did? Mohinder imagined a beautiful alternative universe where he and Matt didn't blame each other or fight each other, where when this happened they held each other and swore they'd get through it somehow, where a gentle stroking of hair or a kiss of comfort reminded them that yes, they were in this together. He wished he could move among the universes and find that place of comfort, live there.
But that's not where he was. He was here in this reality, with a man who didn't know how Mohinder longed for him to stop being his rival and start being his partner. And that man knew how to push all his buttons. Babbling about hospitals and whatnot. No. If they were to get through this, Matt would have to finish what he started. Any talk of partnership, on any level, would have to wait.
The apartment building was clean and shaded by elm trees. There was a box of gardenias on the first-floor window. Matt thought it was the scariest-looking place he'd ever seen.
He remembered the goodbye all those years ago, a wad of bills stuffed into his hand and scraping stubble across the top of his head and then nothing, no father, no clue, no future. As they walked up the steps into the building, the memory became clearer, like he was going back in time. By the time they could see the door to Apartment 9, Matt was thirteen years old inside. He was terrified of what lay beyond there. He couldn't decide what was worse: if it contained all the answers or none of them.
Nathan was looking at him expectantly, and Matt knew it was time to knock, but all he could think about was about-facing and running back to the airport, catching the next flight back to Manhattan and making the taxi driver floor it and going up the steps two, three at a time. He kept imagining Mohinder's surprised face as he walked up to him and put his arms around him and kissed him and then kissed Molly and promised he'd never, ever do to her what his dad had done to him. Surely if she knew that, she'd wake up, he thought wildly. Why was any of this necessary? She just needed them both there, needed them to stop fighting, and she'd come right back to life. He was sure of it.
He shook his head. It was a nice illusion, he knew, but illusions usually were. Molly had looked into the face of her worst fear and suffered for it; to save her, he knew he had to do the same. He gritted his teeth and knocked on the door.
A lot happened after that.
Virus scares and murderers and revelations of secret allegiances. And Mohinder was holding a gun and walking down a hallway to see his sweet daughter and hoping that seeing her sleeping face would help clear up the storm of conflict in his heart. He hated the feel of the weapon in his hand, hated that he was cursed with the knowledge that he might actually end up using it. He didn't have a problem with guns; it was the idea that it was a Company gun that threw him. He felt like a pawn in someone else's game. No. He WAS a pawn in someone else's game. And he had no idea how to regain the advantage. He didn't even know where the advantage lay.
And his daughter was helpless in their care. What Bennet said was right. Once they had something he cared about, he belonged to them.
Except for they didn't have her. Because she was awake and talking to Matt animatedly. Mohinder's legs buckled in relief and he fell to his knees in the hallway.
She saw him, ran out, hugged him. He began to cry. "How?" he begged through the streams of tears.
"I was in a dream," she whispered. "Matt got me out."
Mohinder opened his eyes to see him towering over them both, smiling genially. Something had happened to him. He looked so tall. What had happened between the dream and reality that had changed him so?
It hardly mattered. He'd saved her. Mohinder mouthed "thank you" silently, and he grinned and nodded.
If his knees had worked at that moment, he might have sprung to his feet and kissed him full on the mouth. Now he knew how Molly felt. Matt was his hero, too, at that moment.
Matt was standing. Mohinder was kneeling. Somehow that felt very appropriate.
Mohinder was the kind of guy who inspired inferiority complexes in those around him. The guy was some sort of international superstar. His fine-arts-and-tea-and-crumpets accent, the delicate turn of his features, the mad rush of thoughts in multiple languages that sometimes drowned out everything else... these were tough things to live with for a plain old blue-collar cop like Matt.
But Matt had just been through fire. And when he'd said those words to his dad-- "I'm a good man. I'm a good cop. And I'm a damn good father"-- he'd believed them. He felt about ten feet tall.
Served Mohinder right for thinking he could one-up him. Snooty pretty-boys like him deserved a kicking down once in a while. Matt was Dad Triumphant. He relished the moment.
Except he didn't, not really. Not when the moment was so right and Mohinder looked so vulnerable, so needy. Matt had tried to forget about his feelings for him. He'd tried to make it all about Molly and the murder, just a detective doing his job and a father rescuing his child when she was in danger. But the truth is, he cared. And he wanted to show it. Why not do so, in this moment, when he was flying so high?
He kneeled in the hallway and put his hand on Mohinder's shoulder. The three of them were eye to eye to eye. He could so easily lean forward, moving that hand up toward his chin, tipping it toward his, and take the kiss he'd been fantasizing about for so long. He was so close. Victory, conquest, love...
Mohinder looked down at the hand touching him, and panic shot across his mind.What is he doing, what's going on, I can't handle this right now... And Matt came down off his cloud and felt his feet touch the ground. There was more going on here than just relief and gratitude. There was pain in those eyes.
"Sorry." Matt dropped his hand, although the loss of contact ached. "Should we go home, maybe?"
He was so relieved when Mohinder nodded and let a smile show through. "I think that's a great idea," he said.
Matt decided he loved that tea-and-crumpets accent.
They'd had this conversation before. "You're just leaving?"
"She's well, and Niki's not. My priorities are clear." Mohinder didn't even bother folding the clothes as he stuffed them into his bag. Matt just stared at him. Fine. Let him stare. Mohinder's mind was made up. "Besides. You're here."
To Mohinder's great surprise, Matt just nodded. "California, huh?" he said wistfully. "God, I wish I could go with you."
It took him a moment to realize that Matt was waxing nostalgic about his home state rather than saying something completely nonsensical. "Shall I bring you back a souvenir?" he teased, his lips quirking upward.
"Just... enjoy it a little. I know you're going on this secret mission, but..." Matt took a deep breath, as though he were willing himself mentally back to the left coast. "Get to a beach. Any beach. Just... stand under a palm tree or something. And just look at that perfect blue sky and the ocean and.. enjoy it."
Mohinder stopped packing for a moment, and sat down opposite him. "Not enjoying the Northeast weather, then?" he smiled.
Matt shuddered. "Not hardly," he admitted. "But that's not the point. The point is, Mohinder... take a moment to think about why it is you're fighting. I know you're out to save that woman's life, but I'm hoping if you have a chance to remember how nice life can be, you'll be more inclined to take care of your own." He leaned forward.
For a moment, Mohinder thought he was going to kiss him. There were intense brown eyes searching his, and they seemed so close they were like moons eclipsing the galaxy's light. He trembled a little.
"I'll be back as soon as I can," he said soberly. "I promise."
He expected Matt to smile, but he never did. Instead, he reached over and squeezed Mohinder's hand. Warmth shot through him at the contact. Then Matt stood up and it was all over, he was going for the door. "Matt?" Mohinder called after him weakly. "I'm sorry I said all those things. About you and your father and..."
Matt put a finger to his lips. "Shh," he said. "It's over."
Mohinder's heart swelled. He felt a confession rising up in him. But by the time the first syllable was on his lips, Matt had gone.
When Matt realized what he'd done to his daughter, he was shocked.
He wished he could take it back. He wished he could go back and tell her she could go to her room if she wanted, she could eat a bowlful of candy instead of cereal if she wanted, she didn't have to do anything or be anything just because he had crept inside her brain and forced her to. He felt sick. He wanted to crawl into a hole.
But the human mind is brilliant at rationalizing, Mohinder had once said to him. You can think of a reason to keep doing whatever it is you know you shouldn't. And Matt figured that if he could use this gift to save a life, it would make up the difference. He could become comfortable with morally gray. If the scales tipped in the right direction in the end, that was all that mattered, wasn't it?
So he gritted his teeth and did what he needed to do, and he did not enjoy it, did not enjoy the woman's pain or the final act of breaking her and he did not enjoy messing with his supervisor's mind, he did not enjoy knowing he was the only one who could get at the truth and save this woman's life. Really, he didn't. He wouldn't let himself.
But his hands were shaking when he looked at Victoria's picture. He shouldn't know her name. He shouldn't know that her life is in danger. And he shouldn't seriously be considering calling Sasha downstairs to see if she would be willing to apartment-sit while he went off to try to save her.
He imagined Mohinder's face when he came home, in shock that Matt would dare go away and leave their child alone. No. That would be the worst thing. He'd figure out some way to get another guy up there to save her. As for Matt, he would wait here at home for Mohinder to come back. And then he would smile at him and remind him that nothing was more important than their little girl. And you, he'd add shyly, and Mohinder would blush... and he would lean toward him, touch the smooth skin of his cheek, and the kiss they shared would wipe away his guilt and his doubts and his knowledge that the fantasy could never happen now. Not that his hands were no longer clean. He had to see this through, or he would never forgive himself.
So he promised Molly it would only be one day, and he flew up to Maine. And what he saw, and what Angela Petrelli told him afterward, changed everything. Because he knew just how much was at stake.
He caught Sasha in the late morning and asked her to stay another two days. She'd have to apologize to Molly for him. He knew she'd hate him when he returned. Mohinder would probably hate him too. But better they hate him than the world be exposed to a killer virus, right?
Because if the scales tipped in the right direction in the end, that was all that mattered, wasn't it?
It was all over now.
Sylar had come and gone. Looking back on it, Mohinder couldn't remember how he'd felt. He knew there had been panic, rage, desperate calculation, relief, gratitude. He knew it had been a daylong drama that had left Molly shaking in his arms as they returned home. He knew it, but he couldn't remember how it had felt. It was like a crimson curtain had draped over the whole day, drawing the blood and fear out of sight, turning it into a red ghost of a memory.
He supposed he was suffering from some post-traumatic stress. He didn't feel as though he was suffering, though. He just felt cold, odd, like he'd been drawn into another universe and was now back on terra firma, unsure if the whole thing had been a dream. He scrambled for his keys, unlocked the door. Molly went running in. "Matt?! Are you home yet? Matt!"
She didn't have the defenses he did, so it was all real to her, real and fresh. Her little voice gained pitch and volume and intensity as she searched the whole place for him. He wasn't there, he wanted to tell her. But that fact was more painful tan almost anything else.
She came back to him sobbing, holding him tightly. "Make him come home," she cried in a tortured voice. "Make him come home, Mohinder, I need to see him! Where is he?"
She was so distressed, he thought with the same odd disconnectedness, that she forgot she could divine his whereabouts herself. He sighed. "I can't," he said. I have no right to, he added to himself. Not anymore. Not now that I have sinned as well.
He'd tried to find it in his heart to be angry with Matt. After all, she'd been left alone while he went off to do heaven knows what. But he couldn't. Not now that he himself had left her alone to go on some lifesaving mission that had only ended up causing more death.
No, all he wanted now was to see him again. To be sure that Sylar hadn't gotten to him as well. To be sure he was safe. Safe and whole and would come back to them and complete the circle of the family that had been so shattered over these weeks. They needed one another. He was no longer so blind or prideful that he couldn't see it. Now if only they could find their way back, Mohinder swore, he'd hug and kiss them both and never leave them alone again.
TUNE IN TO ODESSA/MIDLAND HOSPITAL RADIO, 1340 KHZ AM, read the billboard. In addition to the sheer absurdity factor, the advertisement also served as the impetus for the most coherent thought Matt had since seeing Nathan put onto that gurney: dear God, the hospital has a radio station?
He took a taxi; Peter was the only one who could ride in the ambulance with him. Matt figured that was just as well. A part of him had been detached from the moment those shots rang out. It seemed that no crisis could ever be averted without someone taking bullets to the chest. Perhaps that was just how the rhythm of his life went. Crisis, world gets saved, but not before someone gets shot. End of story. He should be used to it by now. Might make a hell of a program for that hospital radio station, though.
He walked stiffly into the emergency area. A girl's thumb was mashed up. A man was retching repeatedly into a basin. A pregnant woman, her belly stretched to its limit, was moaning. It was misery, misery, misery, and Matt couldn't see or hear a word of it. He was just turned off. It was either that or let all the moans and complaints into his skull, and that would be debilitating.
Behind the doors he could hear Peter's voice. "...anything, we can pay anything, just save him, please, take some of my blood, I know it sounds weird, but it will help him, I swear, you have to believe me..." Matt shook his head sadly. Poor Peter. He hadn't known him long, but he did know that Nathan was the most important person in his universe.
He felt a stirring in his soul of emotion. Willing it to settle down, he gritted his teeth. There was something important here he was doing. Something more important than the feeling that was straining to be heard, scraping at his chest like a caged beast. He was saving the world. He was freeing a generation from the sins of the fathers.
Except he was a father himself...
Peter burst through the doors, put his head on Matt's shoulder, and sobbed. Matt felt his eyes get itchy, too. He put his arms around the trembling man and squeezed. Peter thought in long bursts of mental sobs, and Matt did his best to console him.
can't lose him can't lose him god I just got him back
You won't lose him. Come on. Be strong. He's a strong man. He'll be OK.
don't understand, you couldn't understand, need him so much don't know what i'll do
I'm here for you. It's OK. Let it out.
without Nathan wouldn't even know I could do anything without him there I'm totally powerless am not even me without him OH MY GOD Matt you didn't tell me
What? Look, don't say stuff like that. You're your own person. I know you are...
Matt oh my god you didn't tell me, hurry up, you don't have time for this you need to tell them how you feel don't ever hold back OK you're a good guy go go go
It took him a moment to realize that Peter had read beyond the surface of his thoughts, had read deep enough to see the emotion that Matt had been hiding even from himself. And knowing he was exposed like that, he could no longer deny it. Homesickness surged up through him like a wave of nausea. "Stop it," he said aloud. His voice sounded hollow and far too loud.
Peter drew back and looked at him. He put a hand on Matt's arm, half-smiling, his eyes still wet. "You didn't tell me you had a family. I never would have..." He paused. "You've got to go. You're right. Nathan will be OK and so will I. Don't make me responsible for keeping you here when you've got something to tell him."
He was right.
Matt's vision felt clear for the first time in weeks.
It was time for him to go home.
For the very first and last time, and just for dramatic effect, Matt considered kissing Peter Petrelli. Peter laughed at this. Matt thanked him and turned to go. As he rode back to the airport, he turned his thoughts toward New York and a walk-up apartment and a family he very desperately needed and loved. He was on his way.
When the latch moved, Mohinder seized up. Molly turned in fear. But by the time the door opened, she'd already figured out who was behind it and was running toward those weary, trembling legs with all her might.
Matt dropped his suitcase, dropped his weary expression, and dropped to his knees. Seeing her made him feel a thousand years old and eternally young. He read with shock her internal account of all that had happened since he'd left, and he trembled, both with fright and relief. She was OK. They were OK. Everything else was details.
"Baby, sweetheart, I love you, I'm never leaving you again, not for anything," he swore.
"Sure you will," she whispered, grinning. "It's OK. I know you'll always come back."
"You're so smart," he said, tickling her side. She squealed. Once again we've been through fire, he thought. And we're still here. That has to mean something.
It means we're family, she thought. Matt buried his face in her little shoulder and nodded, weeping.
Then he looked up and saw Mohinder standing over them, his eyes wet too. He smiled.
Mohinder needed no further invitation. He dropped down to his knees as well, stretching his arms over the both of them. The warmth was so perfect. His eyes locked with Matt's and he said in a low, smooth voice like the swell of ocean waves, "Welcome home."
Matt swallowed hard. "Mohinder, I... I came home to..."
He couldn't say it. Partly because the words were stuck in his throat along with a sizable lump, but also because he was drawing closer and closer to Mohinder, and he could feel his breath on his face, see the eyes with the curtain of dark lashes closing, and this was happening, finally, finally, finally...
He felt the words whisper against his face. "Wait. She needs us now. We'll have time."
Matt nodded. He was home. He could wait.
They put her to bed and pressed thousands of kisses to her cheeks and forehead and made her squirm and wipe off her face, gagging and laughing. "I'm all wet!" she cried, and by the time they'd finished with the torture, she was exhausted and thoroughly happy. Together they whispered good night, shut the door behind them, walked out into the kitchen.
They stared at each other. The kitchen lights were dim and yellow. Mohinder looked sort of golden beneath them.
"What now?" Matt asked awkwardly, shuffling to the far end of the room.
Mohinder smiled shyly.
"I think," he said softly, tentatively, "now is the time we stop waiting."
That was enough. It was all he needed to hear. Matt was turning toward him, walking back across the room toward him. His face was full of purpose.
"I love you," Mohinder blurted out.
Then his voice left him entirely because Matt's hands were on his waist and Mohinder was touching his face, feeling the scratchiness of his chin and the soft hollows of his cheeks, and the world was eclipsing behind too many dark eyelashes. He couldn't see. He was drowning in happiness.
The lips that were half a breath away from his moved in a familiar rhythm, and Mohinder heard the echo of his own words in a different voice.
Then those lips, soft and true, were on his, and he was shivering and on fire. He clung to him, and they kissed until they were sure it was real, it was true, it was not twenty-nine fantasies and almosts and mistakes and not-quites, it was the one first kiss they were actually sharing. And then it was over.
Matt blinked at him earnestly. Mohinder touched his own mouth with a trembling hand.
"Funny," he said. "That didn't feel like the first time."
"No, it didn't." They were still close enough to have a single shadow.
"I've thought about it so many times," Mohinder confessed. "At least twenty."
"Thirty," Matt said, drawing his fingertips across Mohinder's mouth. The lips pursed to kiss anxiously at them. "At least."
"Yes, thirty. We've had thirty first kisses." It would be nonsensical in the morning, but for now it made perfect sense. "What do you do after you've had thirty first kisses?"
Matt shrugged. "You start on the rest of them, I suppose," he smiled.
And that is exactly what they did.
Author's Note: Um, wow.
Did anyone catch the easter eggs I tossed in here? Gold star to the person who finds them.
I have lots of thank-yous to give out, I suppose. Most of you know who you are. You're the best fandom on the Intarwebs, for sure. Hours and hours and hours of wonderful fic reading and discussion and occasionally whining but always just love.
I have gotten so many wonderful comments on these fics, and I want to thank everyone who has ever commented, but if this were an Oscar speech I'd probably already be waved off the stage, so a mere fan fiction author will simply have to just say Thank You.
Still, I want to particularly thank three fanfiction authors who have inspired me, and of those three, one especially. But you all should know how much your work has meant to me and continues to mean to me.
My shoutouts are tobaehj2915kleenexcow, and most especially to ilsaluvsrick for all the love, support, inspiration, and occasional smut you have thrown my way over these past several months. Thank you so much for everything.
And of course, thank you to my husband, who has said to me, yes, dear, go write your boys kissing, I'll still be here when you're done. Honey, I love you more than anything in the world and always, always, always will.