Please don't spoil the ending if you review.

It had been four days since he'd been found— according to Rochelle, at least. He couldn't remember most of it, nor could he remember the days before it. Now he was slowly coming back to himself, a little bit at a time, from that dark and hollow edge that he'd been pulled away from. Mostly, he slept. Rochelle and Ellis would wake him so he could eat— well, drink, since all he was allowed to have was chicken broth and protein powder shakes. They'd tried a half of a dinner roll after a few days, but he'd just thrown it back up.

He'd stumbled dazedly out of the thick black fog that had overtaken his whole world to find himself chained, once again, to a bed— not with an IV line, they'd taken that out after three days— but by his own lack of strength. He listened to Rochelle and the medic talk about 'anemia', a word he hadn't heard since Shaftsbury. 'Anemia' and 'malnutrition' and 'hypothermia'. Words that would have meant nothing to him if they weren't being applied to his failing body.

Nick was rarely alone. If it wasn't Rochelle it was Ellis, one or the other sitting in the chair next to him, talking to him or helping him eat or helping him to the bathroom. He didn't have much of a choice, but he never told them to leave, because he also couldn't admit that he needed them to stay.

They were blessedly lax about pressing him with questions about what had happened to him. He knew whenever they saw the tattoo they would turn a shade whiter and look away, as if ignoring it would erase it from existence. Nick didn't talk about it. He didn't much want to. Someday, he thought. Someday when the memory didn't make him shiver and collapse in on himself. He could see on their faces that they already knew what the facilities were like. They didn't have to hear about Shaftsbury and how it had completely splintered him apart from the inside out.

Sometimes one of them would come in with food or just to keep him company and he'd be curled up as tight as he could get on the end of the bed in the corner of the room, hands over the back of his neck, silent and motionless. They would come over and he'd wake up, but not from a dream, because he was never sleeping when it happened. Eventually, they stopped asking him what was wrong, and why he did it, mostly because Nick couldn't come up with an answer himself, let alone answer them.

He didn't talk much, and he could tell it unnerved them. Ellis was an almost-constant one-sided conversationalist, but Nick felt the kid talked enough for the both of them, and he didn't mind listening. Not anymore, not after the months of silence he'd just forced himself through. Nick knew everything about their journey from North Carolina to Maine within two days. He tried to force the bitter feelings back, that burning feeling of betrayal at how they'd gone on without him, but the more he tried to ignore it, the worse it got. If they'd waited, he might not have been brought to Shaftsbury. He might not be in the state he was in now, silent and hollow and worthless. He might still be Nick and not 315, not the trembling mess of fear and worry that Ellis and Rochelle had to constantly care for.

Coach didn't come around much. The big guy almost seemed frightened to talk to him, to learn what he'd become. Nick couldn't really blame him. He didn't much want to know himself, either. So he would curl up on the bed in a nest of blankets and listen to Ellis ramble on and on about nothing at all, or attempt to make conversation with Rochelle that usually ended with a long, awkward silence.

Eight days. He was able to get up and move around on his own, finally, although he was still restricted to the infirmary and couldn't do much but walk for a few minutes before having to rest again. It reminded him of how he'd felt at the ward, and he hated it, but he was glad to be able to do something by himself, independently, without Rochelle or Ellis carefully guiding him.

He saw the medic more and more each day. Nick had a strange brewing sense of paranoia that the others were scared to see him, uncomfortable with his silence and unsure how to interact. He wished he could be how they remembered. He couldn't blame them for not knowing how to handle it. It wasn't like he knew how to.

It took him a while to start talking back to her. Something about the creases around her eyes reminded him of a doctor with a warm, caring smile and a strong-headed mother with a firm yet gentle voice. But the medic— Melanie, her name was Melanie— talked to him like she'd never met him, because she hadn't, while Rochelle and the others still looked at him as if he were the same man they'd met six months ago. He wasn't. And he hated it.

But Melanie didn't expect anything from him like the others did. He knew they all thought he was going to come right back again, that a few weeks of rest and food would somehow reverse the clock and bring Nick back. He wasn't sure that was an option.

Not after the ninth day, when he woke up in the middle of the night sobbing, terrified and confused, expecting a concrete floor and flickering fluorescent bulbs but instead finding a bed and blankets and the soft light of a bedside lamp. He was alone but not for long, because Melanie had heard him and come in to see what was the matter. She flicked on the overhead lights and he flinched, falling silent, turning his face into the wall, expecting violence to come down on him for all the noise he was making.

But Melanie seemed to know what to do. She spoke softly and approached slowly, talking in soothing tones. She didn't ask him what was wrong, nor did she tell him to calm down or yell at him or let off any hint of impatience in her voice. Melanie sat slowly on the edge of the bed and didn't touch him, her voice a comforting, constant low hum.

"You're in Bridgton," she told him, over and over, "you're with your friends. You're safe. Nothing's going to hurt you in here." She repeated it until he finally turned away from the wall, shivering, bewildered, pawing at his face and digging his fingers in his hair. "Do you know where you are?"

Nick had to think for a long time. One half of him repeated, Shaftsbury, Shaftsbury, but the other half knew the truth and he wished that half could be the one in control. "...I'm in Maine," he answered eventually, hearing the dull, lifeless tone in his own voice. He sounded like someone that was brain-dead.

But he could hear the smile in her voice when she told him he was right, and it put a strange feeling in his gut that he couldn't identify. He curled up tightly against the wall again, and started to put his hands over the back of his head, but she grabbed his arms and put them back at his sides and pulled him against her chest and he didn't resist, but the tears wouldn't stop coming out of his eyes and he couldn't stave off the gasping sobs coming from his chest.

"What's wrong with me?" he asked, feeling anger and terror and confusion, all in one white-hot flaring hurt in his chest.

"It's just bad memories," she answered, softly, rubbing his back. "We'll get you through them."

Nick tried to swallow the noises coming from him but they came anyway. His good eye frantically searched the wall next to him and he took a deep breath before talking; he didn't want to think about it but he couldn't stop and he had to tell someone, "...They don't want me," his words were just above a whisper, terrified that saying them aloud would make them true. "I'm too fucked... I'm too fucked up."

"Of course they want you." She didn't snap, or roughly correct him. Her voice had a startling lack of anger or surprise. "It's a long road ahead for you. You're not going to be fixed in a week. But they'll get you through it. You're going to be all right."

For a few minutes, he had the feeling that she was lying, just saying anything she could to get him calmed down. It gave him a sick feeling because it reminded him of Sijan and her voice and the noises she'd made when he'd—

Melanie held him tighter and the sensation broke his concentration. "Shh. You're going to be all right. You aren't alone."

Nick shuddered, hearing her voice echo in his head. You aren't alone. It had been so long. He didn't know what that would feel like or if he'd even be able to recognize it. You aren't alone. Wasn't he?

No, he wasn't, a tiny part of him said, or he thought it said, but it sounded like Melanie's voice in his head and not his own.

He stayed in her arms for a long time. She didn't leave until he'd fallen back asleep.

When he woke up again it was morning, and his head hurt, and Ellis was sitting watching him. The kid's eyes were bruised and bloodshot. Nick could only look for a few seconds before reverting his gaze back to the floor. Eye contact was impossible for him anymore.

"Mornin'," Ellis said softly. His voice was rough. He'd definitely been crying.

Nick stared at the checkerboard pattern of the linoleum beneath him. He wasn't stupid. "...She told you, huh?"

Ellis let out a hissing noise, and a short sob, and nodded. "Why didn't you tell us?" There was only a hint of anger in his voice. It was enough to put Nick on edge.

There were too many reasons why. They were already scared of him. He wasn't who they thought anymore. He didn't want to be pushed away and rejected. He was terrified to tell them what had happened because he was terrified of having to think about it. Too many reasons for him to be able to come up with a single answer. So he shook his head, and kept his eyes on the floor, hunching into the blankets. "...I don't know."

"Listen, Nick... we're here for you, okay? No matter what. Okay? Don't lock us out. We want to help you."

There was a voice in his brain. A distant, whispering memory. I want to help you. Let me help you.

Nick tucked his face into the blankets to cover the tears coming back up, but Ellis wouldn't let him hide. He dropped down from the chair to the floor and dragged Nick into his arms but it seemed more for his comfort than Nick's because he was the one crying the hardest.

"Waited six months for you to come back. D'you really think we'd give up on you now, Nick?"

No, he supposed not, but he wasn't too sure he could talk without making a mess of his words. He kept quiet. Ellis held him tighter. The damn kid was fucking massive compared to him, and he felt very, very small.

"We're not gonna turn away from you, Nick. I don't care if you grow three heads and your hair turns to snakes. You're... you're my brother, all right? You don't gotta hide from me. From any of us. Did you really think that we wouldn't want you anymore?"

He nodded, because there wasn't anything else he could do, he couldn't talk, he'd just make a fool of himself.

Ellis let out a pained noise and sighed. "No. Don't you think like that. I'm not goin' anywhere. I don't care how busted-up you are. We're all busted. We're all in this together, though, you understand that?"

Nick nodded again.

"Nobody's expectin' you to bounce right back. We'd be a bunch'a hypocrites if we did. And even if you don't. I'm not gonna go anywhere and Ro's not gonna go anywhere and Coach isn't gonna go anywhere, either. Don't shut us out, okay?"

Another nod. It was starting to feel mechanical. He still couldn't talk.

There was a shadow in the doorway and he looked over, startled, but it was just Rochelle. She looked even worse than Ellis. Like her best friend had just died.

Well. Nick probably wasn't her best friend, but a part of him was dead, and it wasn't coming back.

She came over at a near-sprint and climbed onto the bed and tried to tug him into her arms but Ellis was still there so they all just ended up piled up against one another. Nick was starting to feel grateful that Melanie had said something to them. At first he'd been angry. Now he was glad that they had an idea— that he had an idea— of what the hell was wrong with him.

There was another shadow in the doorway. Coach. The big brute wasn't crying, but he looked more than a little strained. Nick couldn't recognize any other emotions on the older man's stony face. Something like regret, or guilt. Over what, he had no idea.

He huddled in their arms for a long, long time, silent, slowly reining in his emotions. Nick didn't talk for about a half an hour.

After that, he told them.


He'd never cried so hard in his life.

Fifteen days. It was that afternoon when Melanie finally let him leave the infirmary. Ellis was there, of course, voice skipping in excitement as he led Nick around the safe zone, showing him their room— his room too, now— and the auto shop and everything else that he could think to talk about. Nick followed him silently, just listening, peering down the hallways and glancing over the faded white walls. It was a far cry from Eight Springs, with its hotel and bar and wide open courtyard. Bridgton wasn't much but an old elementary school, classrooms converted to bedrooms and gymnasium turned into an auto shop. Nick saw a few other people that he didn't recognize or feel the need to talk to. None of them talked to him, anyway.

They were afraid of him. The tattoo, he knew, and probably his nightmares and the way he looked, eyes empty and expression almost always blank. He kept his arm covered with the sleeves of the too-loose and heavy sweater that had once been Ellis', and wished they didn't know about it. Nick was positive they were already writing him off as insane. He wasn't quite that bad. At least he hoped so.

He was coming back. A little bit at a time. It was going to take a while. And he was never going to be all there, ever again, but he'd accepted that, like he'd accepted a lot of things. The loss of his eye. How clothes never fit him and he was always cold. His hair, barely an inch long now. Graying. He could deal with it. He'd dealt with worse.

Nick was staring out of the upper floor window at the parking lot below. The snow was beginning to melt, revealing the cracked blacktop underneath. He didn't know what day it was. It had been a long time since he'd been worried about it. He cleared his throat and asked Ellis.

The kid was counting off on his fingers for a few moments before saying with a guessing sort of tone, "May. Early May. I think?"

Nick hummed and looked back out the window. His eye caught movement and he noticed a shaggy form wandering around by the fence. Black and white. Something tightened in his chest but he ignored it.

"You have dogs?" he asked softly. He never spoke very loudly. Not anymore.

"Oh, yeah, man. Three of 'em. Peter found 'em guarding an old junkyard. Brought 'em over here." Ellis stood next to him, smiling slightly at the animal below. "That one's Annabelle. You wanna meet 'em, Nick?"

He blinked and thought for a long few moments. Then he shook his head.

Ellis shrugged. "All right."

Nick couldn't remember if he'd told them about Rob. His memory of the days earlier when he'd broken in half and just blubbered everything out like a frightened child was muddled and faint. All he could really remember was telling them about the facility.

He took a breath and carefully guided his thoughts away from the memories. Melanie had taught him how. Flashbacks, she called them, in a clinical tone, like a doctor would describe a minor cough. Like they didn't completely fuck him up and devolve him to a terrified, shivering mess for hours on end. He wondered if she'd been a psychologist.

Ellis was talking again; Nick blinked and focused, shaking his head a little.

"...And then we got Annabelle last. I think she's some kinda herding dog. Never seen one all black-and-white like that. You should'a seen 'em, Nick. They were all skin n'bones." Ellis tilted his head. "Worse n'you, yeah." His tone was lighthearted, trying to make light of the situation.

Nick shoved his hands in his pockets, silent. He didn't react to much anymore.

But Ellis accepted that and shrugged. "Anyway, the big one, Rusty— I think he's a German Shepherd but I dunno for sure. I only had a few dogs growin' up, they were all Labs." He started walking down the hall again. Nick followed him closely. "I remember one time, Keith—"


"He got in a wrestln' match with one of 'em—"


The kid trailed off, looking back at him, worry on his face. "You okay?"

Nick frowned. "Ellis... shut the fuck up."

A huge grin split across the kid's face.

"Now that's the Nick I remember."

He felt a strange emotion turning over in his chest and just frowned again. "No. You just talk too fuckin' much."

Ellis laughed aloud, patted his shoulder gently, and moved on down the hall.

"You're gonna love the library, Nick..."

Twenty-one days.

Nick was finally given the green light to eat something other than the chalky syrupy shit he'd been forcing down for three weeks. He sat at the cafeteria with everyone else, staring down at the tuna salad sandwich that Coach had gotten for him. Half of one, of course. Nick peeled the crust off first and worked on that, taking small bites. It tasted good, and he realized that it was the first thing he'd enjoyed since Eight Springs. He ate slowly, savoring it, and also not wanting to puke it back up from going too fast.

It was strangely silent and he looked up from his food to see the others staring at him.


Ellis was beaming. "You're smilin'."

Nick hadn't been aware of it. He glanced uneasily at Rochelle, who had a similar expression. "Uh... okay," he said, not sure how he was supposed to reply.

"First time you've smiled in weeks," she said. It looked like a decade of age and strain had come off of her face. "It looks good on you."

His reply was reflexive and came from a part of him he'd thought was long dead.

"Ro'... everything looks good on me."

Coach let out a bark of laughter next to him and slapped him on the back so hard he thought his spine was going to break. There was a strange feeling in his gut and it took him a few moments to realize what it was. Then he grinned again.

A piece of him slipped back into place. He remembered what it felt like to be happy.

A month, now. Nick spent most of his time following either Ellis or Rochelle around. Anything to stop from being alone. Ellis spent most of his time in the auto shop working on cars. Rochelle spent her days with Melanie, learning about medical procedures and medications and a million other things Nick couldn't keep straight. Neither of them seemed to mind that he was constantly in their shadow. He didn't say anything about it, but he was sure they knew. Nick felt like some kind of homesick dog and it reminded him of Rob.

He wasn't sure why, but Coach tended to avoid him. After a month it started to worry him a little.

Nick eventually wandered to the cafeteria— Coach did most of the cooking for the little safe-zone— and tried to find him to ask what was wrong.

It was dinnertime and he could hear the others that lived here talking behind the doors. Nick entered cautiously, trying not to imagine their eyes on him. He kept his gaze turned down to the floor and made his way to the kitchen. Coach was there, stirring something in a massive pot.

He didn't look at Nick, but he did talk in what sounded like a forced tone. "Hey there. Somethin' I can help you with?" It was a lot like how Coach spoke to the other survivors here, the ones that Nick never interacted with. Clipped and almost unrealistically polite.

Nick took a deep breath. No need to dance around the topic. "Why are you avoiding me?"

Coach fell still and quiet, as if he'd been slapped. Nick studied him, the way he was standing, his silence and his half-bowed head. His mind turned over the information and he realized that he was seeing guilt. Over what, he wasn't too sure.

Until Coach cleared his throat and spoke. "Listen... I'm— I'm sorry. We should have waited for you."

Now it was Nick's turn to recoil. He hadn't thought of North Carolina, of the ship, of the day that had started everything, in weeks. The anger and feeling of betrayal had faded with time, but now it flared right back to life again. He felt his eyebrows tightening down. "Why didn't you?" It was a question he'd asked himself hundreds of times, back there, on the road.

Coach seemed to struggle with the answer. Like there were multiple reasons and he was carefully choosing which one would upset him the least. "...We all thought... we all saw the ship, Nick. We watched it sink."

The memory of the flooding corridors and roaring water rose up in his mind but his own strengthening anger quashed it down. "I know. I know, Coach, because I was on it when it sank." His voice was raised. It was the loudest he'd spoken in months. "How long did you even wait to see if I came back?"

Coach would not meet his eyes. He focused on the pot of food in front of him instead. "Two days."

Nick shook his head. "That's not a whole lot of time, Coach."

"...No, it's not."

"You didn't think I'd come back at all."

"No. I didn't."

"Well what a goddamn surprise, huh?" Nick could feel the anger and spark in his own voice. How long since he'd spoken like he used to? Like he was alive? "And here I am. A hundred-twenty pounds and fucked up beyond belief because you couldn't wait more than two days."

Coach wouldn't look at him. He'd fallen quiet.

"No wonder you won't fucking talk to me. This," he gestured to himself, the gaunt, sickly, batshit-crazy pile of worthlessness that couldn't even stand to be alone for any length of time, "'s all your fault."

Finally the bigger man spoke. "Listen. Nick. I'm sor—"

"Don't. Don't say it. I don't want to fucking hear it." His voice fell and became low and hoarse. "I don't give a shit what your reasons were for leaving. You did it. That's enough. It was more than enough."

Coach turned toward him now, trying to look at him, trying to explain, trying to fix it. "Nick—"

He stepped back, shied away from any sort of contact.

"...Fuck you, Coach."

Nick turned and stalked out. The other survivors didn't look at him, and he was glad for it.

He went straight to Rochelle, who was in the infirmary, alone, reading a medical text. She saw the anger on his face before he even said anything, and frowned. "What's the matter, Nick?"

"Coach," he seethed, "fucking left me there after two days. How could you let that happen?!"

She shook her head, dropping her eyes to the floor. "There were zombies everywhere, Nick. We couldn't just hang around—"

"Don't you fucking say that. You could have waited another goddamn day."

Rochelle flinched at his tone. She seemed to realize that this had been a long time coming.

"Do you have any fucking idea what I went through to get here? It wasn't just Shaftsbury—" the word made terror creep up in his mind but he used his own anger to force it away, "—it was hell, Ro'. And I fucking did it alone."

She shook her head, and reached out to take his hand, but he flinched back.

"Just come with me," she begged. "I need to show you something."

Rochelle led him out of the infirmary, down the stairs to the lobby and the doors outside. It was the first time he'd been outside since he'd arrived here. She took his hand and guided him around the back side of the building. The sight that greeted him made his stomach turn. Gravestones. He was looking at a graveyard.

And right off to one side, there was a cinderblock with his name on it.

"What the fuck is this?" he asked, but he already knew.

"About a week before Ellis found you. We had your funeral."

Nick felt like he was going to puke. He stared down at it, tracing the four letters over and over with his eye. "Why?" he asked. "You seriously thought—"

"We thought," she spoke slowly, carefully choosing her words, "we watched the ship sink, Nick. And we did wait. You don't think we tried to find you? There wasn't anything in the water but dead zombies and pieces of that ship." Rochelle let out a long breath. "Please understand, Nick. What would you have done?"

He glared at her, giving her a rare moment of unbroken eye contact. "I would have fucking waited." It was true. He'd thought about it hundreds of times, and his choice would have always been the same.

"We did wait. There were so many zombies, Nick, we couldn't— I'm trying to tell you—"

"Then you fucking tell me. You tell me, Rochelle, how long has it been, huh? How long since the cruise ship? Two months? Three?"


"Six months. That's a half of a year, Rochelle."

"Yes, it is..."

"And how much of that did you spend thinking I was dead?"

"Nick, I don't like this..."

"No, you need to say it. You need to say it. How fucking long?!"

"I don't—"

"Listen to me, Rochelle. That six months? It didn't feel like six months at all. It felt like years. You have no idea what that's like."

"I'm sorry, Nick..."

"No. Don't tell me you're sorry. Don't you fucking feel sorry for me!"


"You. Yes, you. You could have waited a couple more days— maybe just one, I might have made it in one— for me to find you. Three fucking days! And here I fucking am, six months later, staring at my own goddamn grave because someone couldn't wait twenty-four more hours for me to catch up!"

Rochelle was crying, now, wiping at her eyes with the backs of her hands.

Nick shook his head. "Jesus Christ, Rochelle. Don't you fucking get it? Look at me. I'm not even half the person I used to be. You could have prevented that." The fact that he could have avoided Shaftsbury, avoided D.C., avoided the frozen lake and everything else by a simple decision from them made him want to scream until he went mute. "No wonder you're all afraid to talk to me. You fucking caused it."

He glanced over the grave one more time before turning and leaving.

Nick didn't know where he was going. He paced the hallways for a few minutes, then wandered off again. There was a flight of stairs at the end of the west wing. They led up to a door and he opened it and found himself on the roof of the school. Beyond the mountains, the sun was setting. As it fell from the sky it threw color into the air, orange-red and pink, brushing along the undersides of the fragmented clouds and reflecting off of the untouched snow beyond the fence line of the safe zone. The school beneath him was silent, and so was the rest of the world.

He brushed the snow off of the edge of the roof and sat. Nick gave a glance down to the parking lot below. He wondered if he jumped, if the fall would kill him. Probably not. And that would be just his luck.

Nick pushed his hands through his hair and let out a shuddering sigh. The anger in him had begun to subside, leaving him feeling cold and empty. This was the first time in ages that he'd purposely gone off to be alone. He sat for a long time, watching the color of the sunset slowly change from red to purple.

The door behind him opened and shut. He didn't look.

"Hey, Nick." It was Rochelle. She spoke in quiet, sheepish tones and he heard the snow crunch as she slowly approached him from behind.

He thought about jumping.

She stood next to him. "...Can I sit with you?"

Nick didn't look at her, but he brushed aside some of the snow next to him and motioned for her to sit. She did, but she didn't get too close.

They sat in silence for a long time.

Rochelle spoke first. "I missed you."

Nick removed his eye from the color of the sunset and glanced toward her. He let out a long and silent sigh. "I missed you, too." All of them, really. But he wasn't about to tell Ellis that.

"That was the happiest day of my life, you know. So far. When Ellis brought you back."

He heard her shifting and flinched at the feeling of her hand settling on his shoulder. Rochelle didn't seem to notice.

"Never thought I'd see you again, Nick. But here you are. Here we are."

She tugged him a little closer. He resisted for a few seconds, then sighed, defeated, and let himself be pulled tight against her shoulder.

"I know you're angry. I'm angry, too. At myself. There's just things we can't change, Nick."

He kept his silence.

"We can't change them, but we can learn to live with them." She shifted and pulled back the sleeve of her jacket. He saw something that he hadn't noticed, because she always kept it covered— a scar. Huge, covering almost the entire limb. "We ran into a Spitter about four months back. Almost lost my arm."

Nick frowned, reaching over with shivering fingers to brush against it. The scar tissue was smooth yet uneven. It looked like it had been an incredibly painful wound.

"And you know... all I could think was, 'Be like Nick. He wouldn't have let this stop him.'"

He gently turned her arm over and she shifted and brushed her hand down and threaded her fingers through his, pulling him tight against her again.

"You are..." she paused as if to think, "...the strongest person I've ever met."

At that, he finally reacted, albeit with a slight scoff. "...Yeah, right."

"No. It's true." She rubbed her other hand up and down his arm. "I'm proud of you, Nick. I'm glad we're friends."

Something turned over in his stomach and he squeezed his eyes shut.

"We're friends, aren't we?"

He was silent for a long minute. "...Yeah. Yeah, we're friends."

She let out a soft chuckle. "I know you feel betrayed. And there's nothing I can do to change that. But please just try to remember. I'm here for you, Nick. I'll always be here for you. I'll never turn away." Her hand brushed up past his shoulder and he leaned along with her touch, settling his head on her shoulder. She brushed her fingers through his short hair.

Her arms were warm and comfortable around him. They fit well together. As if, for once, he belonged there. Belonged somewhere, anywhere.

"I'll be here for as long as you'll ever need me. And even after that."

A little spasm ran through him and he tried to swallow it, but it was too strong.

Rochelle made a small, sad noise. "Oh, honey, don't cry."

"I'm not. Crying. I'm not."

He could hear the smile in her voice. She held him tightly and didn't let go.

"This is where you belong, Nick. You're home now," she said.

And he was.


(Huge-ass author's note: Yay, I finished it! This is the first big project I've ever actually completed, wow. Almost fell flat on my face a couple times but thanks to my friends I was able to pick up and keep working at it.

Big thanks to my beta-readers, Kit and Vicks, without whom this story wouldn't have existed. And also you guys who helped fill-in as betas: Glue, Erik, Larry, Beetle, and Lizzy. You are way too awesome to me.

So that's it! Hope you enjoyed the ride.

I'll be working on something else for a while but many of you already know what it is. ;) Unfortunately you all haven't seen the last of me. I know, I'm such a pain in the ass.

THANK YOU SO MUCH to all my readers. I never expected my stupid little fic would get this much attention. I'm absolutely flabbergasted. You guys are all just fucking amazing. I don't deserve it.

If you need to reach me for whatever reason, my Tumblr and Steam links are in my ff.n profile. I'm not hard to get a hold of.

Clear skies, everyone!