Author's Note: Well, my darlings, it has been fun! I am bringing you the final chapter of Friction. To everyone that has been along for the ride and reviewed religiously, I thank you immensly. Flames are and always will be welcome. Please point out any and all mistakes, because Lord knows that I don't catch them all.

Disclaim: I don't own; I borrow with the odd exception.

It's late. Loud music, dim lights. You're in Buck's office. The sounds from beyond the door are muted, and you know you have to be in all kinds of shit with him, because why else would you be back here? This is where he does his business, and for as long as you can remember, it's been reserved for knocking the sense into ignorant bastards that don't think the rules apply to them. You've never actually been back here yourself for anything other than a quick how-do-you-do of sorts from the doorway. He has never specifically asked you to sit across from him, on the other side of his desk, because you've fucked up.

You look at him and swipe your thumb under your nose as you shift in your chair. Johnny's hanging back by the bookshelf, trying to busy himself, but you know he's listening. You know you ought to be, too, but the words coming from Buck's mouth all run together into a string of incoherency. All you can do is nod and pretend for the sake of your room that you're paying attention, but you've heard this all a thousand fucking times from him. You know that no matter what, Buck is always going to have your back; it's just inconvenient and so goddamn annoying how he believes in this thing he likes to call tough love. He thinks you still have a lot to learn about how the real world works, which goes to show how little he really knows. If there's anybody who knows about the real world, it's you. He's spent all his life looking after his granddaddy's bar, and if you have to be quite frank with yourself, you think Buck needs to take his head out of his ass.

He sighs when he catches onto the fact that you've let your mind wander and leans forward. "One of these days," he starts, "someone's gonna get real fed up with your bullshit."

You shrug and lean back, turn your head enough to look at Johnny. "I ain't here for a fuckin' life lesson, Buck."

And you're not. You understand where he's coming from, though, and maybe that's your problem. His point is that you're not bulletproof, and even though you've never claimed to be, you know why he insists on reminding you. Eventually you're going to piss off the wrong people, but you've thought about that, and maybe subconsciously, that's what you've been trying to do. The thing is that you don't care, and Buck doesn't seem to grasp that. You've told him you don't know how many times that you're past the point of caring, but the words seem to fall on deaf ears, or he chooses to ignore you all together. He considers you something of a brother. You can't help but think there's something perverse behind it.

Reaching into your pocket, you scowl and look back at Buck. He's waiting for you to do or say something, tapping his fingers on the top of his desk. You have half a mind to get up and take your business elsewhere, but you have a hard time imagining anybody else being as lenient as he is. Instead, you slam your money down in front of him and recoil as if all the filth and degradation of your actions—everything you wish you'd never done just so you can keep that stupid room—burn. As you watch him take it, you can't reign your mind back in. You start to wonder if this was all some kind of clever ploy he had from the start, to make you revert back to doing something you've been trying to stop since you were all of eight years old. The only difference between now and then is that now you do it by choice. It's easy because there will always be some sick fuck waiting for someone like you, and there will always be someone like you waiting for some sick fuck.

Johnny drops something behind you. You stiffen and swallow, bringing yourself back to this. Back to Buck, and the office, and the fact that he's looking at you like he almost feels bad. He should know by now that you don't need him feeling sorry for you, especially because he's never done a damn thing to help you. You'll admit that he's tried, but he can only do so much . The small things, like giving you a place to hang your hat and ease your bones, have to be enough. Besides, you won't exactly let him do anything more than that, because as far as you're concerned, you've been on your own your entire life, and you don't need him. He likes to think that you do, holding things over your head the way he does, but it's a game of give and take. Buck needs what you offer, too, and you swear that sometimes he forgets.

"You gonna gimme my goddamn key back, or what?" You suck your tongue over your teeth and raise your eyebrows at him.

"I reckon so," he says, but you can tell he doesn't want to, and you don't blame him. "You're lucky I like you so damn much, Dal."

"You figure?"

You snort and snatch the key from him as he holds it out in front of you. He doesn't like you; he deals with you, and he's probably one of the only people that know how. Gives you what you want and sends you on your way, because the way he sees it is that you're safer to be around when you're happy. That's laughable. You're on the opposite side of the spectrum, as far as being safe is concerned. He should know better than anybody else that you're unstable at best. You have a blatant disregard for consequences, an unnerving ignorance toward social norms. Simply put, you are a threat to yourself and anybody who has the misfortunate of being around you.

Standing up, you can't help but think of Jane. You haven't hear from her in Lord knows how long, and you have a suspicion it's her brother's doing. But you know it's for her own good, because you're not the sort of person she needs to be associating with.

"You're a little shit, Dallas." Buck crosses his arms and sits back in his seat, glaring at you like you're the son of the devil himself. "I really, really hope you know that."

You clamp your teeth down on the inside of your cheek, back toward him as Johnny grimaces. "Anything else, Buck?" you ask as you hear his chair squeak.

"Yeah," he says. "Quit makin' yourself scarce."

You grin and slam the door behind you.

The air is stagnant, like the room hasn't been lived in for months . You trace your fingers over the condensation on the inside of the window, listening absently as Johnny shuffles around behind you. It feels like home, like safety. All the voices that have been whirring around in your head have stopped. You're at peace with what's around you—the walls that welcome you with softly whispered hellos, and the floor that is eager to once again hold your weight. You almost forgot what it's like to be wanted.

You are back to feeling indestructible, as if nothing and no one can touch you, because you are finally where you belong. Somewhere at the back of your mind, you know that these feelings are temporary—that at any minute, Johnny's going to clap a hand on your shoulder, and the twist of his lips is going to send you back into a downward spiral. You don't know if you'll be able to come out of it next time, because you seem to be getting progressively worse. He's a disease—your disease—and you have yet to find a cure. It's not as easy as telling him to take a hike, or saying that you don't want him, because you can't avoid him. He's a leech with teeth, and he's latched himself onto whatever is left of your life. Your mom always said that you need to be careful with the people you get involved with, and you guess that this is what you get for not listening to her.

But you never listen, so it's fair to say that you deserve this and that you've brought it all upon yourself. You just never would've imagined that Johnny Cade would be the person to have your mind in a state like this. The only intention you ever had for him, all you ever meant for him to be to you, was a distraction. But you let it get this far, and you let it get this out of control, and all of this is your fault. Sure, you know you've played no part in how manipulative and vindictive he is, but you make it easy for him to be that way. It's like you've been encouraging him this entire time, and you can't stop him because you don't know how. It's gotten too far too fast.

You turn around and face him. He's fiddling with the radio, trying to find something with a semblance of clarity. All you can do is stand there and watch his muscles pinch and pull through his shirt, and it's then that you understand why you've kept him around this long. He raises his eyes enough to look at you, and you stare back as he beckons you over with one finger. Your boots thunk against the flooring, the sound hollow as it reverberates around inside your skull.

"If I can make you come with one finger," he says, winding his fingers in the front of your shirt, "imagine what I can do with my entire body."

"Funny." You roll your eyes and shove him backwards, and you shiver when you hear the back of him hit the wall. You hover over him, hands on either side of his head, debating. One step forward, two steps back—you just can't win.

He glides his fingers over your jaw and grins. "You don't like me very much, do you?" he asks, but it's like he's teasing you about it.

Of course you don't like him. You keep him around so you don't have to go to bed alone at night, but he is everything you hate in a person. Maybe you used to be able to at least stand him, but that seems like a different lifetime ago. Whenever you think of him, you think of this. You think of big dark eyes, and tanned skin, and all the different ways that you can feel him. You think of how you wish you'd never had the displeasure of meeting him, and how you're constantly regretting the day you figured out you wanted him the way he wanted you. But mostly, you think that it's only going to be a matter of time before he gets bored of you and finds somebody else to hook his teeth into.

You hoist him up the wall and let him wrap his legs around your waist, tight as if he's trying to prove that he owns you.

"You ain't stayin' here tonight," you tell him as he runs his hands up the back of your shirt.

He looks at you and snorts like you're just so stupid. "Course I am." He leans in, grinning as he presses his forehead against yours. "You don't have it in you to throw me out, Dallas."

"My house, my rules," you snap. "If I say you're leaving, then you're fucking leaving. Get me?"

This is your room that you paid for with your own money that you had to sell yourself to get. You didn't do this for him.

Did you?