Author's Note: The End.

The Last Word

Matt is the only thing I stand to lose.

(And he wonders why I left him behind.)

I was stronger then than I am now. This time… I'll be bringing him down with me.

(And he wonders why I believe in heaven.)

You know how in job interviews, they'll ask you those stupid "If you were" questions? They weren't too concerned with those sorts of protocols in the Mafia or anything, but… I've always wished someone would ask me what kind of bird I'd be.

Immolation, regeneration, and here we are.

And here's Matt, promising me that I can do anything I set my mind to, 'cause, c'mon, second in the world ain't bad.

He grins when his grammar makes me twitch.

If there's time to remember, it's his grin that I'll be thinking of.

And his hands, and his mouth, and his eyes.

People always ignored Matt, because he was quiet and inconspicuous—because he didn't set the curve, like Near did, or bitch about Near setting the curve, like I did. It would be pretty fucking ludicrous to call myself a good judge of character, but I do give myself a great deal of credit for knowing, in the first instant, that I could trust him with my secrets and my life.

I have never met someone as unconditionally dedicated as Matt.

But… that's not where it ends. Because it's not like he's just here, it's not like he's a stand-in and a sounding-board and a punching bag; he's Matt. He pisses me off and riles me up and calms me down again, because he can and he wants to. He coddles me like a Hollywood socialite with a handbag-sized terrier—and believe me, we saw enough of those to know—but he doesn't let me walk on him. He takes the lead when he has to, when it counts, so that I can follow. So that I can let my guard down and be.

That's faith.

That's what he gives me.

(And he wonders why I love him more than I can afford.)

Christ, Matt… this world never deserved you in the first place.

And neither did I.