Okay, I know that I was just going to leave Chasing Cars the way that it was and let the readers think up whatever ending that they wanted, but I was reading through some of my reviews for that story, and then skimming the story itself and remembering how much fun it was to write about all of that crazy stuff that I finally convinced myself to give you guys a real ending to it. *applauds self*

I am so so so so so happy with how this came out. I wrote seven pages of it just last night, and then finished it up about ten minutes ago, ending on page ten. So, yeah, I had a lot of loose ends to tie up, and I think that I got them pretty well.

I don't plan on making a sequel to this, but if Rex continues to be the object of my focus for much longer, it might happen. But no promises, since I have no clue what I'd even do if I were to consider writing a sequel. Nevertheless, I'll still think about it if you guys want me to.

Okay then! Enough of my babbling, and please enjoy the official end of Chasing Cars!


All kinds of worries and possible outcomes were racing through my mind—all of them with a horrid ending, I might add—as I walked back up the sidewalk to the house I'd robbed only maybe three hours before. I'd been far too conscious about the fact that I'd stolen from three of the only friends I'd ever had to try and get the love and respect from my used-to-be legal guardian, Seth, that I'd never thought to be aware of how long I'd been gone.

My footsteps seemed unnaturally loud as I came up to the front door—still unlocked, just as I'd left it. My mouth was dry, like you'd expect a nomad's to be as he wandered aimlessly throughout a frozen desert, guided only by the map the stars laid out and the light of the perfect moon. However, I was not as at ease as said wanderer may or may not have been. At least he wasn't risking his paradise, his only chance at happiness.

He hadn't stolen his friends' Dino Holders—then again, his friends probably didn't have them, but still. Same basic point still applies.

I stood in front of the door—I was no longer sure if it was the door to heaven or the door to hell, there was no sign of fire nor of any blessed light to tell me which—and trembled like a statue in the middle of an earthquake. I'd seen this kind of thing on TV before since Zoe loved to watch movies about some evil person having a change of heart, then coming to make it up to whoever he or she had wronged. But I'd never imagined that it would really be this hard—they made it look so simple for crying out loud!

In the movies, all they had to do was barge through the door with tears streaming down their faces, state that they'd been wrong, blubber out apology after apology, and by the end of it all, they were already wrapped up in their lover's arms. Forgiven. Indisputably, improbably, inconceivably, impossibly forgiven. It was stupid how easily it always was for the do-gooder to say 'it's okay, it's okay, I don't hate you' to the used-to-be bad guy.

But was that really how it happened in real life? No. It wasn't. And that terrified me to no end.

Still, I had to return the Dino Holders. No matter what happened besides that.

Turning the knob and pushing the door open as quietly as I could manage, I peeked into the living/entry room and saw that there were no lights on, though the sun was just starting to rise outside (Darn me and my inability to pick a halfway decent time to get the devices and get out, but still leave enough nighttime to be able to come back if I were to change my mind). No one was up yet. That fact gave me a bit more comfort.

Zoe was still sleeping soundly on the couch, just as she had been when I'd left. As soon as I was absolutely positive that she wouldn't wake upon my entering the home, I stepped inside and slowly closed the door behind me. Not even wanting to risk waking her thanks to the click of the lock, I continued into the room in favor of leaving the door unlocked. Nobody—aside from me—was going to break in.

I tiptoed into the semi-dark room, though the light seeping in through the windows was beginning to grow bright enough to throw a thin shadow on the ground as I crept along. The sight sent a shiver of panic down my spine. I had to hurry up, or they might wake up and find their Dino Holders missing before I had the opportunity to either put them back where I'd found them previously or think up some believable lie about why I had them—

No. No more lies. If they wake up, you're going to tell them what really happened, and why you came here.

The thought was said so strongly in my head, with such finality…It made me afraid to think about what might happen if they really did wake up, leaving me with no time to think of alibis, or methods of escape. But in my heart, I knew that my mind was right. If they got up before I had the chance to clear my pockets of all this incriminating evidence, then I would be honest. I'd show them the blood on my hands and admit to having murdered any life our friendships could've had.

I slinked over to the coffee table where I'd found Zoe's Dino Holder before, and set it down where I remembered it having been (I wasn't sure how good the magenta-haired girl's memory was, so I decided it was best to be as specific as possible when it came to the details). Then, reminding myself once again about the details (stupid details), I picked the device back up, and brought Paris back out of her card. It would be a little more than obvious that something weird had happened last night if she—or any of them, for that matter—were to wake up and find their dinosaurs missing.

The pale green Parasaurolophus came out of her card without a sound, but I nearly flipped my lid when she jumped up onto the couch to nestle in beside Zoe. To keep myself from freaking out too badly, I grasped my chin-length bangs and pulled down hard, biting my bottom lip as I did so. I waited impatiently for Zoe to wake up, ask me what I was doing, and then have me be completely unable to explain myself.

I dreaded that moment like death itself. Except, death didn't seem to bad right now, so maybe that wasn't the right comparison. Perhaps entering hell was a better example. Or running out into a blizzard after putting on clothes that you'd drenched the snot out of in the bathtub. Maybe stapling bacon to your skin and racing out into a pack of starving dogs.

Anything, absolutely anything, was worse than what I feared right now.

Zoe never did wake up despite Paris' slightly obnoxious attempt at it. Seeing now that I had nothing to be truly afraid of, I released my abused hair and took a few calming breaths, closing my eyes to try and aid in the process of soothing my fraying nerves. I'd learned after some time that whenever I got really freaked out, I would take it out on myself by yanking on my hair. When I was younger, I recalled having pulled on Seth's instead. It wasn't all that surprising that he'd gotten me to start hurting myself instead, though.

My eyes rose from the spot on the floor they'd wandered to and my gaze landed on Zoe's sleeping face. She seemed so…at ease now, this girl that had been bothering the stuffing out of me for the past couple of days. And yet, I felt like it was my own fault that my temper had gotten out of hand so many times. No, I didn't feel it, I knew it was true. If I would've been more caring about who she was as a person, and less about what I needed to gain from her, then maybe we could've been better friends.

But it was too late now.

I cast her one last remorseful look before stalking quietly out of the room, moving my feet with such care that I surprised myself by how gentle I could be. I'd never been the kind of person who was smooth when it came to…well, anything, and I wasn't the type of girl who was able to handle everything with an air of confidence and grace. Heck, I was pretty much the exact opposite of both of those things and I knew it well. I wanted to be like those girls, but…you can't change who you are.

After shuffling through the hallway to Max's room, I proceeded to open the door with a lot less concern regarding waking him than what I had with the front door. I knew that Max wouldn't wake up no matter what I did, though. I could get a whole pep band in here from the high school a couple miles away and have them play as loud and as horribly as they possibly could, and the most he would probably do is start snoring louder to drown them out.

I pulled the second to last Dino Holder out of my pocket, and weighed it in my hand for a moment, thinking. Max had always been a good friend to me, even when I was trying to kill him or beat the crazy out of him. He'd made me laugh, face palm, and he'd made me question everything I'd once thought about cooking and bacon. We'd fought a bit here and there, but really, didn't every friendship have its rough spots?

In some ways, friendship was like the sea. Or, if you want to think of it in a way that was easier to remember, it was like an actual ship sailing on the ocean. Sometimes you had nice weather, calm waters, and a happy crew to work with, but during the same day you might face typhoons, wicked waves that soared above your vessel and sprayed all on board with salty rain, and had…a not-so-happy group of sailors, I guess. Either way, you were still stuck together in the middle of a watery desert, and you had to work through the hard times no matter what.

Unless you were betrayed by one of your crew members. Then you had every right to throw him to the sharks and watch as they came and tore him apart, watch as his blood turned the water into a frothy new liquid, listen as he screamed and screamed and screamed for God to have mercy on his soul, for his friends to forgive him before he finally died of blood loss. Before the sharks devoured his lungs, his brain, his liver. His heart.

I shuddered momentarily at the vivid pictures that ravished my mind like beautiful music, though this wasn't pretty in the least bit. Sometimes, I suppose, Seth could be right: I had a very active imagination. Sometimes it was helpful (to him, anyways), like when I would imagine all kinds of ways that he might punish me if I were to ever cross him or make him really angry. And sometimes it was kinder to me, like the times when I used to try and convince myself that there was something out there waiting for me, something somewhere that was better than Zetta Point. Better than Seth.

I'd found it. But I'd burned every bridge that might lead me back to it.

Gulping back the knot of emotion that had tied my throat closed, I brought Chomp back out of his card, the bright orange-ish yellow triceratops appearing at my feet within mere seconds. He looked up at me with his soft coal eyes, clearly asking me why I'd done what I had. I've been asking myself the same question since the day that I agreed to come here. My thoughts were true enough, but all in all, I knew in my heart that I knew exactly why I'd done this.

I'd gone through with Seth's plan because Seth and Zetta Point were all that I'd ever known. I didn't have an option back then, when Seth had become my guardian. With my parents gone, I had needed someone to take care of me while I grew, to protect me from the dark of the night, and to teach me the difference between right and wrong. But Seth hadn't done any of that, aside from keep my alive.

He had raised me as he would have raised a beast he hoped to use to destroy the world one day: Without a care in the world regarding my emotional state, nor asking if I wanted to be a part of any of that which he'd already mapped out for my life. There was no list of options for me to choose from. There was nowhere else that I could go to get away from him and his tyranny. Aside from him, I was alone in the world.

All that I could do was try to make the best of what I had, try to get Seth to see that I was worth all of his effort. I remained vigilant in my studies for the longest while, only pausing to rest when I simply couldn't stand to look at anything that one might refer to as a book or a piece of paper. I would read and work and study until I couldn't feel my fingers or tell which marks on the page were the spaces between the words and which were the words themselves. I did all of that for that selfish, hateful, controlling shell of a human being.

I did all of it so that he might see that I was worth something, that he didn't have to look down on me because I was good enough. I could stand beside him and belong there. I could be whoever he wanted me to be, and do anything that he asked of me. Looking back at my life now and how I would've done anything for his acceptance, maybe even a glance that one might catch a note of affection in, I was afraid to realize that I wouldn't have thought twice about anything that he asked me. Anything.

Shivering again at the horrid thoughts that that notion brought to my overactive imagination, I shook my head at Chomp, uncertainty clouding my eyes. I couldn't be sure what had blinded me to the fact that this place, here with the D-Team, was the place where I'd truly belonged. I didn't know why I'd tried so hard to be loved by Seth. I had no clue why I'd followed his orders right down to the end of it all, right to the moment when I broke down and couldn't take his torments any more.

When I chose to do the right thing for what seemed like the first time in my life.

But that doesn't even matter now, does it? Why does anything matter anymore? I'm going to have to leave everything and everyone that I've grown to love because I can't stay here, and I can't go back to Ursula and Rod and Laura because they're back at Zetta Point with Seth and probably hate me as much as he does right now. I have no place here, there, or anywhere—

My whole body froze in place when Max started to stir in his bed, rolling around and groaning as he started to wake up. I'd made no noise when I set his Dino Holder down, and Chomp hadn't moved or made any kind of sound either, but yet here he was, opening his sleep-fogged eyes to see me there in his room. He'd caught me red-handed. And Chomp wasn't helping by jumping up onto the bed and bouncing around a lot.

"Rante?" His voice was groggy even as he tried to evict the tire from it, rubbing his left eye sleepily as well. "What are you doing in here so early? If the Boogeyman's bothering you, then you don't have to worry 'cause he's actually pretty nice. Just tell him that you're still sleepy and he'll be all cool and be like, 'Oh, that's all right. I'll give you five more minutes, then I'll kill you'. He's usually pretty good about waiting until after you're done dreaming too—"

I knew that the idea that he'd just given me wasn't a very believable notion, but I made a split-second decision that I didn't care one itty-bitty little bit if it was logical or not. It just had to work. "You're actually dreaming right now, Max. If you weren't, how would I be able to do this?" I raised both my hands and did the stupid little trick where you bend one of your fingers in and pretend that you're really pulling the very tip of it off. The brunette appeared to buy it, judging by the look of his face. "But you have to finish up dreaming so that my good buddy the Boogeyman can do his job and leave. He's got a meeting to make this morning and he can't be late."

Max's now wide eyes stared at me blankly for a moment or two, perhaps trying to decide whether or not his mind thought that I was telling him the truth. I prayed to anyone who might be listening right now that he would believe me; I wasn't ready to spill my guts out to him, or anyone for that matter. If I did, there was a very, very, very high chance that my pent-up emotion might be too much for me to contain and I'd start sobbing like my best friend had just been killed.

But such a breakdown didn't appear to be necessary yet. After another few seconds passed, a very serious, let's-get-down-to-business-then expression popped onto Max's face and his head hit the pillow mere milliseconds later. Chomp did pretty much the exact same thing, leaving me staring at the sleeping pair, still doing the finger-trick, wondering how in the world I'd just pulled that off so flawlessly (well, 'flawlessly' would've been not waking him up, but still. It went pretty well for a fail).

I backed out of the room as slowly as I could, hoping that he wouldn't suddenly wake up like he just had and scare me half to death again. Even though death was the only thing that I really felt like I deserved right about now, but even then I shouldn't be able to escape from this emotional torture so easily. I needed to feel this way, to be punished in one of the only ways that no one on earth is powerful enough to stop.

One hand gripped my shirt over where my heart would be as I closed the door, feeling as if I was about to crumple to the ground in agony if I didn't hurry up and get out of here. My face contorted in a grimace as I struggled to hold back a whimper, a cry, a sob, anything that my body might think would be a fun way of waking up the rest of the house.

I stood there, hunched over myself with one hand trying to hold my sporadic heart down and keep it inside my chest, for a couple of minutes, time that I didn't have. I only had one Dino Holder left to put back, one dinosaur left to re-animate, then I could run as far away from this pain as my legs were able to carry me. I could run to the farthest corner of the world, curl up under a rock in a deep cave somewhere, and wait for it to rain so that I could drown, sleep with the fishes, die in another world I didn't belong in.

I stared down the hallway at Rex's door, ajar for whatever reason. Oh, yeah. That was my fault. Right. Sighing internally at my stupidly forgetful nature, I started forward toward the last room, the last friend that I'd betrayed, and perhaps the one that bothered me the most. I knew why it had been so hard to consider the idea that I might never get to spend another moment with Rex after completing the mission so long ago, back when I still had the chance to stop myself. It was obvious, and I could deny it no longer.

I really did like Rex. A lot.

The blue-eyed wonder had been so sweet to me, so kind and compassionate. He'd been friendly and warm since the very first day that we'd met, when we'd been 'bonding' while putting one of his books back together after the little dinosaurs had gotten to it. I could still remember the way that he had looked at me when I'd been wearing that stupid little skirt that pink-haired menace had forced me into the day that she'd had dragged the three of us shopping with her—it was like he'd been looking at some kind of holy, angelic being, though I'd never been anything like that.

If anything, I was some kind of terrible, horrible, no-good demon who'd been created by the devil himself and had been sent to prey upon the minds of the believers here on earth. I was spawn of Satan, Dracula, a wicked beast of Tartarus that needed to be burned alive forever in the fiery furnace of hell. I needed to feel something as awful as I was for as long as I could stand it, and a thousand years after that point.

Gulping for the ump-teenth time this hour, I proceeded to push Rex's door open enough for me to be able to squeeze into the room like a slug. A slimy, wretched slug that wanted nothing more than to be taken out of its misery by a merciful shoe. There was a pale orange, yellow, and red-tinted light beginning to creep through the window in the same manner that I'd been slinking through the house so far. I had to get out of here, and fast.

But it was hard to rush knowing that this might be the last time that I got to see Rex's perfect face, even if it wouldn't be while he was awake. I slipped soundlessly over to his nightstand, remembering that that was exactly where I'd found it only hours before, and brought Ace back out of his card, immediately motioning for him to remain perfectly still, and perfectly quiet. He cocked his head at me, but seemed to notice my serious demeanor and obeyed despite how it went against his nature.

I stood there and stared at the Carnotaurus gazing back up at me, still confused but hushed, and thought for a moment about something that hadn't crossed my mind before: What was I going to do about Aza? I couldn't really bring her with me—she would make me happy, and after all the trouble that I'd caused and the hurt that I'd enforced on these people, I shouldn't be able to find any source of joy in my life ever again.

Convincing myself enough to know that it was the right thing to do, I brought Aza out of her card as well. She didn't seem to even have noticed the time that she'd spent apart from Ace, and I felt a sense of euphoria knowing that at least she would be able to lead a full and happy life. She, a friend of mine that I'd only had a few days' time to get to know, would have more than enough time to atone for the sin of having known me.

Having forgotten that she was just as prone to loud noises that easily woke up even the very heaviest of sleepers as Ace was, I completely ignored that fact that I should've made the 'hush-hush' gesture at her as well. Due to that lack of precaution, she convinced Ace with a simple glance that it was silly to listen to me and it was much more fun to jump onto someone's bed with as much force as one could muster. Ace saw her logic.

I instinctively backed up toward the door, ready to bolt if Rex showed any signs of waking as they hopped skillfully up onto his bed. He stirred slightly, rolling over to face me now, but let out a small, contented sigh before nuzzling back into his pillow. The two dinosaurs seemed mighty pleased with the heart attack that they'd just given me, so they proceeded to end their little scheme by curling up together by Rex's feet, fading into the world of sleep within a matter of seconds.

I watched the two of them breathing deeply, peacefully, for a moment or two, catching myself as I wished that I could be like them one day and be at peace with myself for what I'd tried to do. But I knew that that was something that I would never be able to do; my strict, pain-centered mind would not allow anything of that sort to enter my life. It had slipped up when Rex, Max, and Zoe had been able to pass through its security system. But it would not make the same mistake again, and I knew it well.

My eyes meandered up from the two little dinosaurs to Rex's sleeping face, his bright yet dark eyes closed serenely as he lost himself in dreams. The morning sunrise's light reflected off of his golden hair, making it seem to shimmer. It set his kind face aglow with the way that it framed his flawless eyes and smooth, pale cheeks.

I recalled every smile that he'd offered me, every laugh I'd heard from him, every gentle, loving word that he'd made my world spin 'round with. Growing up on that island with Seth and the others, I'd never had the opportunity to meet someone that I might actually like in a way much stronger than what friends felt for each other—I mean, I had Rod, and that was pretty much it. Not a lot to choose from.

But, of course, the first time that I really get to leave, I find the most perfect person in the world and end up not having enough self-control to keep myself from falling so deeply that not even a microscope would be able to find me in that dark hole I'd dropped down into. I mean, really, who wouldn't have expected that to happen? Honestly, sometimes I hated how foolish and unthinking I could be.

As if to prove just how unthinking I could be, my right hand reached out on a whim of its own and gently brushed a stray hair behind Rex's ear. The tickly sensation made him smile in his sleep, and the sight of that precious smile broke my already tattered heart. It ignited all the feelings that I'd been harboring for so long, all the things that I'd wanted to tell Rex once coming up to bubble in my throat, create turmoil in my eyes as they filled with tears, knowing that I would never be able to see that lovely face again.

I stole my hand away from his sleeping form, feeling my already unstable resolve beginning to crack in a million places. Tearing myself away from the holy kryptonite of my existence, I turned tail and fled the room, allowing the door to thump softly behind me as I ran. I dashed through the hallway alone, empty-handed, as I passed Max's room, rushed past Zoe's dozing place on the couch, and out the front door into the chilly morning air.

Darkness could still be noted in the sky, but it was beginning to be overrun by brilliant oranges and reds and purples and yellows and all kinds of other colors as the rainbow spectrum led the way for the sun like the red carpet before the celebrity. It was beautiful, inspiring really, but I took not a moment of time to stop and stand, staring awestruck at the glorious sky. I didn't have that kind of time. I had to spend the rest of my life in unimaginable pain, not standing staring at the second most beautiful thing in the world—


The tears that I'd held back before came tumbling from my eyes at the sound of that voice, the voice that belonged to the loveliest, most valuable thing in my world: Rex Owen. They were not cheerful tears that fell, not relieved that someone had woken and I would get the chance to beg for forgiveness before I wasted the rest of my worthless life wallowing in depression and agony.

But they were from every time that Seth had told me I wasn't good enough, every single moment in my life that I hadn't been able to live up to his sky-high standards, every time that he hurt me without even trying to, every time that I wanted to cry but wasn't allowed to because 'dependable, respectable people never showed their emotions, never showed weakness'. I just couldn't help myself this time, though. I'd done something terrible, something that was going to ruin my life, and the only thing that kept me alive was going to be the first to be told the truth.

I heard the pattering of bare feet as Rex came over to me, still in his pajamas, apparently having been woken either when I'd stupidly touched his face or when I'd closed the door a tad bit louder than what a more clever person might've. Whatever the cause for his awakening, he was here now. With me. About to watch me fall apart after all these years of being able to handle the pain of Seth's emotional abandonment, but now having no idea how I'd even managed to contain myself for so many years.

The early morning sounded so happy to me, with its brightly hued, chirping little birds, and the crickets singing as they played hide-and-seek with said birds. The clouds turned to gold above me, illuminated by the heavenly glow of the sun as it set the sky ablaze. But the only thing that I could see was the pavement at my feet, blurred by my tears as they slowly blinded me. I could only hear the ragged beating of my heart and the slight hitching of my breath as I tried desperately to get a hold of myself.

"Rante," Rex's angelic voice sliced through my resolve like a knife through water, a hawk diving through the air like living lightning. I relished it and loathed it at the same time, knowing that I loved the sound but also telling myself over and over again that the more I heard it now, the more it would hurt later. Rex must've noticed my broken composure despite me not facing him; his tone became even tenderer as he came up to me. "Hey, what's wrong, Rante?"

I felt an iron-clad fist close around my throat at the innocent, trivial question. It was such a simple question to everyone else, but to me…it was so hard to think up an answer. It was so difficult because…well, everything was wrong. I'd wasted my life trying to be good enough in the eyes of someone who would never care about me for even one moment in his life, and I'd thought that it was a good idea to steal from the only people who'd accepted me (albeit, they didn't know who I really was) in order to try and gain said sentiment.

Such thoughts only added to the torment that tore me up on the inside, and I dropped onto my knees, my face angled toward the ground so that Rex couldn't see that I was crying. Though, of course, he already knew. He knelt down on the ground beside me, and I could vaguely tell that he was saying something to me in a soothing tone, one arm wrapped around me, rubbing the shoulder farthest from him. But all I could focus on was what I was about to say.

My voice trembled so violently that I thought for a minute that maybe someone with extraterrestrial powers was physically shaking it, "R-Rex, I-I'm…I'm so…so sorry…! I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry! I-I'm a b-bad, bad, bad person, Rex, and you shouldn't have to know someone like me. I'm a terrible person and I shouldn't have come here…I shouldn't have met you—" A weak sob interrupted my verbal fit of self-loathing, and I raised a shaking hand to try and hide my tear-stained face, pressing my palm lightly to my eye as the salty tears began to sting.

Rex turned me around to face him, holding me by my shaking shoulders as I whimpered, my bottom lips quivering though I tried to make it stop by biting it. I could feel Rex's sapphire eyes searching my downcast face for a reason behind this sudden meltdown, but finding nothing he could understand, he gently voiced his confusion, "What are you talking about, Rante? You're a great person, and you haven't done anything wrong that you need to be sorry about—"

"Yes, I have, Rex…" I gulped one last time, feeling the weight of the world crashing down on me as I took in a quick breath and bled my heart out, knowing that there was no going back after this. My words came out as feeble whispers, the only thing that I could manage in this state. "I-I'm with the Alpha Gang. Seth adopted me when I was really little, and he trained me to be the evil creep of an agent that he'd always wanted…but I was never good enough for him.

"I did everything that I could to get him to at least notice that I was there, to make him see how hard I was trying to get him to at least pretend that my presence didn't completely disgust him. But he was never satisfied with anything that I did because there was always something I missed; he could find every single little flaw in whatever I'd done, and he'd exploit it until it was burned into my memory so I would never forget it again. He always told me I was a useless waste of space and that he shouldn't have taken me in when he had.

"But then h-he finally thought he'd found a use for me, just a couple of days ago. He told me that there was this enemy team, the D-Team, in Japan, and that I was the perfect person to go after the devices that they had because I could slip in amongst them, befriend them without them knowing who I was because I'd never met any of them before, and they'd never seen me with the others. He sent me away from Zetta Point, and he seemed so confident that I could succeed…he actually looked like he believed in me…

"I convinced myself that it didn't matter w-who the D-Team was, and that the only thing that was important was that I got back with the Dino Holders. But when I met them—when I met you...I started second-guessing myself at every turn. I couldn't decide whether or not it was wrong to do what Seth wanted, and I wasn't sure if his love was really what I wanted. The more time I spent with you, and Zoe, and Max, the stronger and more demanding of an answer those thoughts became, until finally I made a split-second decision to d-do what h-he wanted…

"I stole the Dino Holders from the three of you—only a couple of hours ago, actually. But…b-but I just couldn't go back to that place. I couldn't go back to that coldhearted man waiting so impatiently for me to land the jet, just so he could ignore me again as soon as the Dino Holders were in his possession. So I came back, and I put them back, and I was going to leave and pretend that I'd never intruded in your lives.

"Rex, I'm so, so sorry for betraying your friendship, and for ruining everything b-because of all the stupid choices that I m-made. I know you can't f-forgive me for what I did, and I'm not going to ask you to, but I just wanted you to know why I would've been gone if you would've woken up a bit later, and who I really am…" I trailed off into silence when I could think of nothing else to say, aside from repeating apology after apology after apology. I'd said what I needed to, and now I had to leave here.

But I couldn't will my legs to stand; I couldn't even feel them underneath me anymore, though I knew they were still there. Feeling suddenly curious to know how Rex, currently silent, his hands still on my shoulders, still holding me close, had reacted to my lengthy confession, I lifted my tear-tainted eyes to glance up at his face.

I was shocked to see that he was gazing down at me tender, sad eyes, like he'd completely missed the part where I'd told him about how I'd tried to rob him and his best friends. With a voice like silk and hands that were soft and warm, he pulled me into an embrace, holding my bewildered body against his while he spoke gently into my ear, "I know who you are, Rante, and I'm sorry that you had to go through all of that because of him.

"But you're wrong. I can forgive you, and I do. Your heart knew what it wanted to do all along; your mind just needed a bit more convincing after all that evil man put you through. And now that you're away from him, you never have to go back, and he's never going to be able to come and take you away. You're safe here with me. You don't have to be afraid of him anymore, and you don't have to struggle to be perfect, because you're already perfect to me. And I'm so happy to have met you, Rante.

"I forgive you, and I promise that you'll never have to feel this badly ever again," I wasn't sure if I was dreaming or not at this point. I'd never, ever expected that those words would ever be said to me by anyone in this world, and to be told this by Rex…it seemed so unreal. So…incredible, yet impossible at the same time. I was just waiting for someone to come and shake me awake, shouting, 'Just kidding!'

But that moment never came. I remained there, knelt on the sidewalk with my face buried in Rex's neck, breathing in his sweet, soothing scent as I cried. His arms held me tight, a feeling that I had only felt the pleasure of maybe a few times throughout my whole life, the sense that someone was going to protect you, to love you without question.

We stayed like that for…I wasn't even sure how long he comforted my broken soul. I'd lost all sense of time and our surroundings when he'd given me a sweet kiss on the top of my head, nuzzling his face in my hair afterward. To be perfectly honest, despite how terrible I still felt, I didn't really want this moment to end. I'd always wanted to hug Rex, though the idea had seemed foolish and unreasonable.

And yet, here we were.

After another few moments passed us by, the sun rising up ever so slightly to peek at us with cheeky curiosity, I noticed that the horrid feelings inside me were beginning to fade back into the recesses of my heart and mind, and my eyes were starting to run out of tears to shed as well. Nevertheless, Rex held me there, contentedly trapped within his warm embrace. I sighed gently into his neck and closed my eyes; all of my guilt and hurt had really taken a toll on me, not to mention the sleepless night.

I wondered for a moment about something that Rex had said, how he'd mentioned that Seth wouldn't be able to get at me while I was here. That little statement brought up a whole bundle of questions in my overactive mind. Would Seth be so angry with my leaving him that he would actually consider coming to get me? Did he think that having me on his side was really important enough to go through hall kinds of trouble to keep me from becoming a permanent part of the D-Team?

My thoughts were interrupted momentarily when Rex pulled away from me, his small, kind smile shining down upon me like some sort of guardian angel. I smiled back, the expression feeling so natural and genuine for what felt like the first time in my life. I'd never felt more complete, more happy and alive, than what I did right now. I wasn't sure if there was anything in the world that could prove to be better than this moment right here.

But I was proved wrong when Rex brushed away a tear that still clung to my cheek, his warm hand cupping my face affectionately. We stayed like that for a moment before Rex dropped his hand from my cheek and stood, offering his hand to help me up as he said, an air of perfection drifting through his words as he spoke so serenely, "Come on, Rante, let's go home."