Disclaimer: I don't own the Tracys. Never have and never will.

A/N: Real life strikes again and another story I can't get out of my head is written.

Battered and Bruised

I thought she was the one for me. The one I could settle down with and feel complete. I lived for the moments that we could chat about anything and everything. I was able to trust and depend on someone - outside of my family that is - for the first time in my life. My brothers warned me, though, that she didn't quite feel the same but what did they know? My heart knew and common sense be damned, I was following it.

Months later and I knew what they said had been true. I've locked myself up in my room, nursing a bruised heart. Not broken because it seems that some part of my brain was listening to reason. All the dreams, I'd had were just that…Dreams. Never to see reality. Never to give me the one I'd give anything to love, honor, and cherish. Never to walk alongside or to hold.

Plastering on a smile that seemed out of place, I grab my carryall and last suitcase. Walking out of my bedroom door for the last time, I look back and leave my dreams behind.

"John?" Turning, I look and see the woman who I love more than any woman outside of family. "I came to say I'm sorry that I can't love you the way you want me to. I do love you just not that way."

I drop my suitcase and carryall to the floor with a thud. I can't resist and I hug her. "I love you." And despite knowing that I'm willingly setting myself up for more emotional pain, I can't bear not having her in my life at all. "I don't want to end our friendship. You mean too much to me to let that go."

Her arms tighten around me and I barely hear her words, "I love you, too, and you mean a lot to me as well. Your friendship is what helps me through some of the rough patches in my life." She stands up on her tip toes and brushes a quick kiss on my cheek. "Have a safe trip and don't forget me." With that she was gone.

I picked up my stuff again and made my way downstairs and out to my SUV that was loaded with the last of my stuff going to Tracy Island from my apartment that I called home while employed at NASA. Driving away, I glance back in the rearview mirror. Saddened yet not as I still had a friend who understood me and I could call up any time when I hit a rough patch in my own life. Bit by bit, I could feel some of those battered and bruised pieces healing.