I realize you all hate me for waiting a month to post this, the final, pointless, fluffy chapter. You see, the teachers in my city are on the edge of going on strike, so what's there philosophy? "Oh let's give the children a shit ton of work so if WE decide not to show up, they'll be learning!"
It's utter BULLSHIT!
Anywho, ranting and cussing aside, I give thee all the ending of Home Is Where Your Heart Is.
We flew back to the cave. As soon as our feet hit the ground, Fang grabbed my hand in his and squeezed tight as he led me through the mud. I smiled and let him.
As we got within about fifteen feet of the cave, Iggy raised his sightless eyes to us, and I knew he was listening to and recognizing our footsteps. He slowly stood from his perch as I went to get the first Aid Kit for Fang's hand.
I felt my eyelids drooping, but sleeping could wait, a few minutes at least.
As I approached the boys, I heard them talking quietly to one another, Iggy's brilliant fingers ghosting over Fang's injury. "Just a sprain," he muttered hoarsely, like he'd been upset, or crying. "A wicked freaking bad sprain, but a sprain nonetheless."
I nodded absently. "Kids sleeping?"
He nodded, a frown on his face. "They wanted to wait up for you but they were exhausted. Been a long day." He was short, almost as though he was angry.
I nodded again, suppressing a yawn. I wondered what was wrong.
"You're tired too," he said, almost emotionlessly. He stood pulling me up with him, snatching the medical supplies from me. "Go to bed."
I stared at him. Oh, yeah. Something was definitely up, but I didn't want to push, so I smiled at Fang and Iggy before turning to go.
Suddenly, with a choked and strangled sort of sob, Iggy reached out and wrapped his arms around me and pulled me tight against his skinny chest. "Max, I'm sorry," he whispered in my ear. "We screwed up, and we lost you . . ."
I hugged him back, hard. I understood know. Boy, am I off my game today!
"No, Ig, you didn't. I'm right here, alright? I promise I'm not going anywhere." I stood on my tiptoes and pressed a quick kiss to his forehead. "Just finish Fang's hand and get some rest, okay?"
He nodded once more, giving my hand a hard squeeze before letting me go with an almost sad smile.
I walked into the cave to find my munchkins sleeping soundly, warm and cozy in sleeping bags on one side of the cave. I saw the other three sleeping bags set up on the other side, and almost groaned in appreciation. I was sooo tired.
I crawled into one and zipped it up and finally gave in to sleep, about halfway there when I sensed someone standing behind me.
They knelt down and slid the zipper on my bag. They nudged me over a bit and I smirked to myself as I complied. He slid in, zipping it behind him. It was a tight fit, but I wouldn't have had it any other way as his arm wrapped tight around my waist and his warm breath slid over my neck.
"When are you gonna learn to stop sneaking up on people?" I whispered playfully.
"Never ever." Fang whispered softly, making me shiver quite agreeably. "It's my thing."
He hugged me closer as I snuggled my back against his chest. I felt his lips trailing carefully up and down the side of my neck, and I sighed in contentment.
He paused, his lips resting at the hollow behind my ear. "You scared all of us bad, Max. You scared me."
"Sorry?" I offered up sheepishly, not exactly sure how to apologize for dying on someone. Or how to tell him I was just as scared.
His arms tightened briefly before relaxing again. "Not quite good enough there, sweetheart." I heard him whisper teasingly.
With difficulty, I struggled and wiggled until I was able to turn over so my head was resting on his chest. His arms were unyielding around me as I fisted my hands in his t-shirt.
"Fang, I'm really sorry. I promise you the same thing I promised Iggy. I'll be right here whenever any of you need me, forever and always."
"Y'know Max," he murmured, "I was kinda hoping that you could promise me a little bit than you promised Iggy."
"What do you mean?" I wiggled a little more so that I could look up and see his face. I briefly registered the mischievous glint in his eyes before he captured my mouth with his. After several long moments, he pulled away, leaving me breathless.
"Oh . . ."
He grinned. "Yeah."
I grinned back. "I think I can definitely do that." I snuggled against him again. "'Night Fang."
"G'night, Max. I love you."
"Love you, too," I muttered, falling asleep at last. "Promise."