Quick A/N: Last chapter! Lots of POV switches! Enjoy!

Leonard McCoy did not like to feel helpless. Truly, it was one of the reasons he became a doctor—to avoid The Waiting Room, the knuckle-cracking stasis and endless swirl of over-thought 'woulda-coulda-shouldas' that come with the inability to take action when someone you love is in danger.

He's waited a lot as the Enterprise's CMO; that much was true. But during the tense period before an away team was beamed back up, he could at least prepare so that he wouldn't waste a single moment. So that when a crew member—and almost inevitably the Captain—appeared in his Sickbay, no time would be lost to hesitation. McCoy considered it waiting with a purpose.

The few times he had faced situations that he was powerless to remedy, even after putting his heart and soul into finding the cure—his father, his marriage—he had come away a broken man.

Smaller failures—no, not smaller, but not family—were easier to process. Of course he felt acutely every loss, every death he couldn't prevent, but he had learned to use whiskey and books to dull the pain: whiskey for the short-term, and books for the long, to ensure that he knew what had gone wrong, could stop history from repeating itself.

But now he found himself again trying to beat back the waves of powerlessness that threatened to take him under; because even though he was light years away from Georgia, the man lying in front of him—the man possibly dying in front of him—was family. And despite being surrounded by the most advanced technology and medications, McCoy had done all he could as a doctor, and was left with no other option but to wait and worry, as a friend, as a brother. Like he so often found himself doing when it came to Jim Kirk.

Carefully, he reached over and peeled the damp compresses from Jim's forehead and neck—old-fashioned medicine again prevailed after near-overdose levels of antipyretics had failed to make a dent in the unrelenting fever. The compresses only had a minimal effect, but between them, the biobed's cooling function, and the IV fluids that were pumping through his system, the sick man's temperature had dropped to a slightly less dangerous level, and McCoy would take what he could get. They also made him—a man unaccustomed to empty hands—feel like he was doing something, even if it was just wringing out cloths.

McCoy was lost in thought, staring blankly at the brain scans and bio-readings hovering above Jim's head, when a slim, manicured hand placed a fresh bowl of water at his side.

"I can take over if you'd like to get some sleep, Doctor; it is my job, and you look to be just steps from landing on one of these beds yourself." Chapel deftly disposed of the old water and compresses as she spoke, and summoned up a new stack of cloths. She wasn't meeting his eyes, but McCoy could see the worry in the tenseness of her shoulders. He knew she saw it as her special duty to look after him as CMO, to gently step in when he was pushing himself too far; but he also knew that, until Jim was out of the woods, sleep was out of the question.

"I'm where I need to be, Christine," he said, trying to keep the rough edge of exhaustion out of his voice. "But thank you."

She nodded, giving a sad but understanding smile. "Can I get you anything?"

McCoy shook his head and heard her walk off, but was only half-surprised when she reappeared with a blanket and a mug of coffee minutes later. Chapel draped the blanket around McCoy's shoulders and left a hand resting on his arm; unconsciously, he leaned into it for support.

"He'll be all right, Len."

"I know. But dammit if he isn't going to make me suffer first."

Where is it, where is it, where is the goddamn hypo with the—

"He's stopped seizing, Doctor."

Thank God.

"Thank God. I thought we had him stabilized—what the hell happened?"

'What the hell happened' is that you waited too long, you idiot. You let a man that sick go without proper treatment for nearly a day, what in the hell were you thinking.

"He was, but his fever just shot back up, and now his BP is bottoming out!"

Shitshitshit 107, compromised brain function, need to get him rehydrated . . .

"Push more IV fluids, saline and wide spectrum antibiotics. We've already flooded him with everything else he can handle."

Don't you mean 'I flooded him with enough drugs to stun a Hengrauggi in its tracks' . . .

"His sat levels are way down. Sir, he's not getting enough air, we need to intubate."

Christ, no, I can't do that, what if he never—

"I don't want to tube him, Chris."

and I'd be the one who'd have to make the call, like with Dad, but worse, because Jim wouldn't be able to tell me—

"But Len—"

Come on Jim, don't do this, not now.

"Just give it a minute."

Please, I don't want to do this.

"Sir, it'll just be temporary. His system is overtaxed; it needs some help."

If that goddamn monitor would just shut up for a second . . .

"I know. I know that. But still—dammit, Jim. Get me an intubation kit. And turn off those stupid alarms, I can't think."

How was he supposed to do his job with all this noise—

"Yes Doctor."

But the alarms were still blaring.

Very, very loudly.

"What in the—"

And suddenly Leonard McCoy was wide-awake, his head smacked off the edge of the biobed by a flailing arm. An arm that belonged to one Jim Kirk, who was conscious and panicking, his heart rate skyrocketing and setting off the alarms. He was clawing at his throat, fighting against the tube that McCoy had so desperately wanted to avoid using, and had been trying to look past during his vigil—as if ignoring it would make it go away.

"Jim! Jim, look at me!" McCoy gripped the man's wrists with one hand and placed the other on his still-too-warm cheek, trying to get him to focus. Jim's bloodshot eyes settled somewhere far to the left, but it was better than nothing. "I had to put a tube down your throat to help you breathe. I can take it out now that you're awake, but you need to calm down."

A lump caught in McCoy's throat as he watched his best friend try to process what he had just said. There was deep confusion in his eyes, a brand of fear McCoy had seen countless times in his disoriented patients, but would be happy never to have to see again. And for a man who could go from fast asleep to command-ready in 2.3 seconds, waking up with absolutely no bearings had to be especially disconcerting. He set Jim's shaking hands down on the blanket and covered them with both of his.

"You're still pretty sick, Jim, so not a lot is going to make sense right now. But I've got you, all right? You don't have to worry, because I've got you."

McCoy chose to ignore the quiet sniffle he heard behind him and adjusted the biobed so that his friend was propped up closer to sitting. He was glad to see that the monitors were showing his breathing and heart rate leveling off.

"You should be fine breathing on your own now, but so help me James Kirk, if you scare me like that I again I'll—" The younger man—who looked particularly young right now—just blinked tiredly at him, and McCoy sighed. "Fine, I'll save the lecture for another day. Now on three, I need you to cough for me, Jim. Can you do that?"

To his relief, he got a wobbly but recognizable nod in response.

"All right then. One, two, and three." Jim gagged as the tube was extracted, and then keened in pain as the movement jarred his sensitive head. McCoy had long gotten over his discomfort with the messier side of medicine, but he still gave mental shudders at procedures like extubation. He looked around for something to wipe Jim's face with, and without being summoned, Chapel appeared at his side with a bowl and a towel, and he silently thanked the Universe for sending such competence his way. She rubbed circles around the Captain's back as he got control of his breathing and McCoy cleaned him up, but she soon looked up at McCoy with a slight frown.

"He's sweated through his gown again; it's soaked. I can feel him shivering."

McCoy kicked himself for not noticing earlier. "I'll grab a pair of scrubs from the stores. You know how he hates waking up in a gown, and they're too damn flimsy anyway."

Jim was never one for modesty, except when it came to Sickbay. Even if there was nothing under there the entire crew hadn't seen before—now that was a good story—one of the man's first demands upon waking up was always "Clothes, Bones. Real clothes." But McCoy could understand that; vulnerability was one of the few things the 'invincible' Captain Kirk did poorly.

Chapel, professional as always, helped him with the change, and as he settled Jim back down and reached for the sedative that would smooth away some of those pain lines, McCoy saw a similar scene playing before his eyes. Of another time, on a very different day, when he had stood in an Enterprise storage closet trying to shimmy an unhelpful kid out of his cadet reds and into something less conspicuous; when he began to seriously question his own sanity, and wonder at what point James T. Kirk became someone he couldn't leave behind; before he knew that his decision to sneak his impossible, impetuous friend onboard would set in motion a series of events that would change all of their lives, incalculably.

McCoy retucked the blanket under Jim's arms and pretended he didn't feel a wave of paternalism go through him. He growled in spite of himself, glad Chapel had gone to check on another patient.

"Dammit, kid, get better so I can go back to chasing you around. You're killing my bad reputation."

He sat back down—the biobed's monitors always in clear view—and moved to put a fresh compress on his friend's forehead. As he smoothed down the cloth and pulled back, his hand was caught weakly by one of Jim's. Still bloodshot, the man's eyes were more focused, and the recognition McCoy saw there loosened the tight bands around his chest more effectively than any clean brain scan could.

"'ones, I—" Jim managed before the sedative fully hit him and his eyes fluttered closed.

"I know, Jim. I know." McCoy didn't let go for the rest of the night.

The first time he woke up, there were alarms. And he was choking.

But Bones was there, and he fixed it.

Jim wouldn't remember that day later. Nor the ones after that, when a simple shift in his sleep made him wake up crying in pain and grabbing at his head; when his fever peaked again, and Bones picked him up off the floor when he tried to fight his way out of Sickbay; or when he sat up spouting what everyone thought was gibberish—scaring the hell out of Bones, who was still nervous about brain damage—until Uhura identified it as a dialect of Andorian.

Bones told him those stories later, much later, when enough time had passed that they were both able to laugh a bit at the whole situation.

No, for what felt like forever, he just faded in and out of dreams, marked by the sound of soft voices and the feel of caring hands. Mostly he dreamt of away missions, ones that took him and his crew through burning deserts or left him at the mercy of Klingon torturers. But though he could feel the heat, the pain throbbing through him, he didn't really mind those dreams; they normally signaled the return of the caring hands and the soft hiss that meant sleep would be easier for a while.

The dreams that stuck with him long after actually involved no pain, no feeling—just him on the Bridge, alone, completely alone with the blackness of space opening up before him, a terrifying void into which he screamed, silently. He would stay trapped in those dreams, far far away from the soothing touches that let him know there was someone else, waiting for something to make a sound. Even the imagined weight of solitude was, for Jim Kirk, crushing.

Eventually, the deserts didn't burn quite so hot, the silences didn't last for so long, and Jim felt a fog begin to lift.

And he opened to eyes to a very bright penlight.

"Hey, hey, stop it." Jim didn't recognize his own voice, rough with disuse and thirst, and he was surprised by how difficult it was to lift his hands to push the offending light away. His head hurt like . . . well, like something Scotty would have a word for, and the light felt like it was piercing back into his brain.

"Jim? Are you with us?" As the spots in his vision dissolved, a very relieved—and a very scruffy—CMO took shape in front of him.

"Where else would I be?" Where he was, he gathered, was Sickbay, but trying to come up with the why did nothing but worsen his headache. He opened his mouth to ask, but choked on the dryness in his throat, signaling Chapel to appear out of nowhere with a cup of ice chips. How the hell did she do that?

Truly, ice had never tasted so good; good enough that he let Chapel handle the spoon for him without complaint. His throat hurt like hell, and he felt like the ice melted the instant it touched his lips. So, definitely a fever. Jim tried to crane his neck to check his temperature, but no, the pain that shot up into his skull told him that was a bad idea. Instead, he looked back at Bones, who was hovering. As usual.

"You look like shit. Anyone told you that?" Jim croaked, and was rewarded with a McCoy-exclusive Snort-of-Disbelief. It was true though; the man looked like he hadn't slept, showered, or shaved in a good week. He was surprised Chapel hadn't hosed the doctor down long before now.

"You're not looking so hot there yourself, sunshine. Though you look a sight better than you have been." Bones put on his serious doctor face, and Jim sighed inwardly; no more joking, and unless he wanted to see those frown lines deepen, definitely no asking 'So what the hell happened?'

"How are you feeling? On the Kirk scale of 1 to 10—1 being bullshit and 10 being 'I could use a mild painkiller, Bones'—how bad do you feel?" Jim could have objected to that, but he was suddenly too tired to argue. The words got stuck thickly somewhere between his brain and mouth.

Instead he gaped, stupidly, like a fish. He ached.

"Jim?" Bones looked distinctly worried, and dammit, there was that frown—

He fought to remember if he was supposed to be saying something.

"Sorry, sorry, 'm tired." The words slurred out as the pull of sleep got progressively stronger. He watched a blurry McCoy adjust a few dials on the monitors and load a hypo.

"It's all right, Jim, just rest, we'll try to talk next time. You've got a lot of healing left to do."

As his eyes closed, Jim told himself to ask, when they had that talk, exactly what he was healing from. Because damned if he knew.

It wasn't really the opportune time to question Bones when he next woke up, considering he just ended up puking himself back to sleep.

Delighted that he was sitting up and vaguely coherent, the nurses had fed him some sort of enriched broth, but his body rejected it almost immediately. Of course.

"Sorry, Jim, it's the antibiotics," he heard Bones say over the sound of his own panting. "A side effect—we've got you on the strongest strain possible. I'll reduce them once we finally beat that fever, but until then, you're stuck with the IV."

Jim thought, but couldn't say because of all the retching, that he had been under the impression that medicine was supposed to make you feel better, not worse. Though he had had enough adverse reactions to drugs to know that wasn't true.

He begged to be left alone in his misery, but he could feel Bones and the nurses watching him from just a few feet away. They had outright refused to pull the damn privacy curtain, and Jim wondered vaguely if that counted as insubordination. Then his mind drifted to mutiny, and pirates, and what he would look like with an eye-patch, until the next bout of nausea gripped him.

After the half-hour mark, he was shivering with fever and his head ached so badly that he could barely open his eyes—even in the blessedly dim light of the gamma shift—so he resorted to curling on his side and propping the basin under his cheek. Not like he had anything left to throw up; it was all just dry heaves.

Until it wasn't.

"Bones," he rasped, trying not to look at the red streak in the bowl. "I think maybe I need you."

Closing his eyes, he felt the basin being pulled away from him.

"Tore up your damn throat. Of course you did. You never do things halfway, do you." He could hear Bones mumbling above him, and then felt a hand on his forehead. "Sorry kid, I didn't want to, but I need to knock you out before you do any serious damage."

"But I just woke up," Jim protested weakly, not even bothering to open his eyes; he knew that tone meant 'lost cause.'

"You'll have plenty of time to be awake and bored later, believe me. Anyway, you look too pitiful now to effectively harass the nurses. Give it some time."

Jim felt the sting of the hypo—though Bones was going easier on him with those, if he wasn't mistaken—and didn't bother to retort, settling for a menacing grumble as he felt the blanket being tucked back around his shoulders.

As he drifted off, he heard a chair being dragged across the floor.

"Doctor—Len, I can watch him. Please, get some sleep, or at least go somewhere other than Sickbay. You know he's going to be just fine, he's through the worst of it now." That was Chapel, but her tone was softer than Jim was used to.

"I keep waiting for those damn alarms to go off again." Bones' voice sounded tired, ancient. "I don't think I'll be able to rest until he can without me drugging him to high heaven."

"Okay, but the offer still stands. It always does."

"Thanks, Chris."

Jim smiled inwardly and released his tenuous hold on consciousness, knowing that he wasn't the only one being looked after tonight.

Leonard McCoy deserved a drink.

The fact that he needed one was a given, of course.

Because after almost five touch-and-go days, the Fever That Just Wouldn't Die (as he had taken to calling it, all caps, thanks very much) finally decided to sit down and shut up, due in large part to an aggressive antibiotic treatment that Jim's stomach and throat weren't thanking him for, but the rest of him certainly was. And Jim made it out of bed for the first time today—albeit with quite a bit of help, which the stubborn mule didn't appreciate—and managed to stay awake, if not alert, for most of alpha shift. And he had been pestering McCoy the entire time.

So yes, McCoy deserved a drink, both in celebration for his patient's recovery, and for not snapping and picking up where Mother Nature had been thwarted.

The kid still looked like hell, but McCoy wasn't foolish enough to expect otherwise. From the winces that appeared every time Jim turned his head too far or spoke too loud, the head and neck pain was still a problem. And the fever, with its relentless cycling, had drained his reserves completely, making it difficult for the man to even hold a spoon steady.

Despite that, the idiot had thought his body was up for a trip to the bathroom; Jim was honestly lucky to have avoided the edge of the biobed and a head injury, after his legs has folded beneath him like a house of cards. McCoy's first instinct had been to reprimand, but sprawled on the floor in too-big scrubs and a serious case of bedhead, his friend looked so damn pitiful that he held back and merely called some nurses to help him ferry the man to the bathroom.

And if he thought about it, he didn't feel up to lecturing at all, really. This time, McCoy himself had been Jim's wingman in his flirtation with disaster, and had been in the position to stop it before it got too far—but, nevertheless, didn't. He knew that blaming himself wouldn't change anything, but it was difficult to keep the voice in the back of his mind quiet, especially since his quiet bedside vigils had given him more than enough time to think himself into a healthy serving of guilt.

The guilt would drain off, of course, like any healing wound, once things were back to normal on the ship. But for now, he could feel its gnawing presence.

McCoy paused in his charting to check on his now suspiciously quiet patient. McCoy thought the man might have finally dropped off, but a glance over at his biobed proved him wrong. Jim was worrying his lip with his teeth and trying his best to shred yet another Starfleet issue blanket, and also doing possibly the worst job ever at sending covert looks in McCoy's direction. Obviously, something was bothering him, beyond the requisite physical pains.

Sighing, McCoy stood up from his makeshift desk—born out of the necessity of always keeping Jim in his sightline—and walked stiffly toward his friend. He had made a note, after the past few days, to get Sickbay some ergonomically correct chairs. And double flagged it.

He halted beside his friend, arms crossed.

"Out with it, Jim."

"What?" Jim's face immediately snapped into 'innocent' mode—a trained habit, McCoy assumed, after years getting caught with his pants down.

"You're being fidgety. And you're only fidgety when you have something unpleasant to tell me, or when you've caught Hegelian ringworm. So which is it?"

"Erm, well it's not so much 'unpleasant.'" The tone in Jim's voice was hard to read, but the lack of retort was telling. "I just—I have a question, I guess, and I don't think you're going to react well to it."

The hell? McCoy looked closely at his friend, taking in the uncertainty in his eyes and the deep bruising beneath them that only time and rest would fade.

"Do you have to go to the bathroom again?"

Jim blushed furiously. "God, no. Thanks for bringing that up."

"Anytime." McCoy had, of course, known that wasn't the issue, but he had also known that talks with Jim Kirk go better when loosened by whiskey or a laugh. And Jim wasn't getting any of his whiskey today.

"Actually, I was wondering if you could fill in some gaps in my memory."

"Okay, shoot." Not what he had expected, certainly. "What are you having trouble remembering?"

Jim refused to meet his eyes now. "Um, what happened to me, to start with. Along with all the events surrounding it. Before and after. Yeah, that would be useful."

"Memory loss? And you've been waiting all day to mention it because?" McCoy struggled against his natural tendency to berate his friend.

"This is the first time we've been alone. And, well, I didn't want anyone else but you knowing, Bones. It's bad enough that this," Jim gestured to his weak body, "is on display."

Oh Jim.

"Aw kid, with what you've been through, no one would hold it against you. That crew would follow you into hell, but they don't expect you to be superhuman."

Jim's face flushed, and out of the corner of his eye, McCoy watched the man's heart rate steadily climb.

"I don't even know what I've been through, first of all." Jim held up a hand when McCoy tried to interrupt. "But regardless, no matter what's happened, I am the captain of this ship. I don't have the right to be vulnerable in the eyes of the crew, and can't afford the luxury of being anything less than perfect. If I do, they lose faith, and I lose command."

His pulse was far too high now, and his voice had an edge of hysteria to it. He was giving in to mental exhaustion as much as physical.

"Just calm down, Jim. You're wrung out and you're scared—you have every right to be." McCoy paused, taking a deep breath. "I was pretty damn scared for the past few days too. So why don't you just sit back and let me catch you up, okay?"

Any other situation and Jim would have had his ass for 'patronizing him,' but for now he was responding well to the voice McCoy normally reserved for Joanna's post-nightmare calls.

And McCoy would deal with the inherent problems of that comparison later.

"So, what's the last thing you remember?"

"Talking with the Admiralty about the situation on Attros. And some flashes of prepping for a conference with them." Jim went back to picking at that damn blanket. "Should I assume that negotiations went sour? Or that I used the wrong dinner fork or something?"

Ah, now McCoy saw it. The kid thought he had messed up. And the freshest thing in his mind was the Admiralty's warning against doing exactly that.

"For once, this was out of your hands, Jim. You were sick—incredibly sick—and between the fever, the seizures, and all the drugs I shot into you before you went down, I'm not surprised the trip is a blank for you."

Jim looked at him oddly, thoughtfully. "Before I went down? You knew I was sick, and didn't immediately knock me out and drag me to Sickbay?"

McCoy flinched as his gnawing guilt took a bigger bite. "I should have, believe me. I was fully aware just how sick you were and yet actually listened to you, despite my better instincts. And dammit, Jim, you almost died because of it."

There was a heavy pause as McCoy waited for a reaction.

"Well, I imagine I was quite persuasive. I'm told that's a particular talent of mine."

McCoy felt the frown that had been growing soften, and some of the guilt melt away from his chest.

"I believe 'interplanetary war' was implied."

Jim was relieved to see the smile on Bones' face; for a while there, he knew his friend had been balanced on the sharp edge of self-blame, and even if he couldn't remember much of anything, he at least knew that that was undeserved. He himself felt calmer—though he would insist to the end that his eyes had been watering because of the lights, and not from any undue emotions.

His friend had filled him in on everything he had missed, from the Admiralty's manipulation to the bluffing Attrosities to an apparently brilliant speech of his that made "those rat bastards wet their pants." Jim was angry, of course; he never liked being 'handled,' and certainly not by the higher-ups. But he was having a hard time holding onto that anger, now that he was watching Bones reenact Spock's post-Attros videoconference with the Admiralty; he was getting pretty good at his Vulcan Face.

"I swear to God, Jim, I expected them to start sucking their thumbs and callin' for their mommas." Bones had been on hand to share his report if needed, but apparently Spock was 'sufficiently prepared' to take on the bigwigs himself. Jim only regretted that Bones hadn't thought to sneak a camera in there, though at least he was graced with a first-hand account.

"Ow, Bones, stop making me laugh. I think my brain is still a little loose up here."

Bones flashed him a concerned look and automatically reached for a hypo.

"Wait wait, don't put me down yet. There's still one detail you've left out: What disease do I actually have?" Jim looked on curiously as his friend reached for a PADD that had been left on a bedside cart.

"I figured you'd ask, and I figured it'd be easier to just give you the information. It's called vegan choriomeningitis."

Jim frowned. "Well that doesn't sound good." And it wasn't, based on what he gleaned from a quick scan of the info file. The word "contagious" in particular caught his eye.

"Geez, Bones, have I started an outbreak?? Why am I not quarantined? Why isn't anyone else sick? Where did I even get it—we've been on the ship the past two weeks?" Jim's stomach dropped as he imagined compromising the health of the whole ship—and possibly that of the entire planet of Attros.

"I gave that to you so you wouldn't ask me all these questions." Bones rolled his eyes as he plucked the PADD from Jim's hands.

"But you're such a better explainer, Bones." Jim threw in a little pout; in truth, his eyes didn't want to focus on the screen, but he didn't want to tell Mr. Hypo that.

"Explainer?" His friend shook his head but plopped down in a seat by Jim's biobed nonetheless. "First of all, no one else is sick because no one else is allergic to the vaccine, and therefore they all received it as part of their routine childhood immunizations, like they were supposed to."

"As if that's my fault!"

"I wouldn't put it past you to have willed most of your allergies into being to avoid the immunization hypos. Anyway, as to how you got it, the mode of transmission is part of why it's called vegan choriomeningitis. It can only be transmitted from plant to human—not human-to-human or human-to-anything else—and only then from ingesting an infected plant. And it's got about a two-week incubation period, so it took some time to hit you."

Plant to human? Wait.

"Wait. Wait wait. Are you saying I got this from eating my vegetables?" Bones instantly started playing with a hangnail, and was quite deliberately not looking him in the eye.

"Yeah, must have been on Rydan, at the greeting banquet they held," the man said nonchalantly. "We've let them know that some of their crop must have been contaminated, but since it's not a disease that Rydans can catch, they weren't terribly concerned."

"You mean, the banquet where you wouldn't let me skip the first three courses and go straight to those amazing-looking desserts? Because 'Dammit Jim, you can't just eat cake for dinner'?"

"Well, yes, that'd be the one." Apparently, the doctor had extremely interesting hangnails. But he was busted. So. Busted.

"See, this is what happens when I listen to you. 'Medical advice,' my ass."

"Don't be such an infant." Bones reached over to give him a light cuff on the shoulder. "Ask Spock—the odds of this happening were astronomical."

"Have we met?"

"This is true."

Jim sighed and leaned back against his pillows, feeling strangely satisfied despite the amnesia, pounding headache, and ridiculous physical weakness.

"Well, at least one good thing came out of this whole situation."

"And what's that, Jim?"

"I am never eating salad again. And you, sir, can't make me."

Jim fought the urge to stick out his tongue. But, conceding it a no-win situation, he lost.

A/N: Holy moly! My first ever completed fic! Thanks to everyone who patiently waited out the last month—I hope you enjoyed the extra-long ending, I did my damndest to do you guys justice.

As always, thank you so much to all my readers and reviewers. You guys are the best, and make me happier than a clam. And a special superduper thanks to ColtDancer—literally wouldn't have done it without you, though now it's your turn to be prodded ;) Or is it time for that collab now?

And that's all she wrote.