Author's Notes: At long last! At long last! This is the last chapter! It's finished! Whoo! Thanks to EVERYONE who commented, emailed, favorited, and added to their alerts list. Hope you enjoyed the story!
Calvin and Hobbes, a book of short stories written primarily for children, was published the next summer. It was an immediate hit with children, their parents, and the critics. The book also gained a huge audience with young adults and adults, an audience who hungered for even the smallest bit of whimsy in their own lives. Calvin Haddock's stories delivered that to them in abundance. Calvin spoke truthfully when he said that all of the stories were based on things that really happened, but of course, only the children believed him – the adults simply assumed it was some clever PR on the part of the author. It wasn't at all unusual for a worn stuffed tiger to sit proudly on a table next to Calvin as he did book signings and book readings; children, especially, wanted to hold him, talk to him, and beg him to come to life. They often asked if there were magic words that brought the tiger to life and Calvin had to be honest and say no – because not even he saw much of Hobbes, his Hobbes, anymore.
But Hobbes' spirit, or whatever it was, always seemed to linger.
Susie had never told Calvin that she had seen Hobbes that morning in the emergency room. It didn't seem right somehow; she almost felt as though she'd experienced something immensely special in that moment, and that it would somehow become less real if she spoke of it out loud. It was her secret, and hers alone.
During the weeks following the funeral of Susie's mother, Calvin stayed at his mother's house, finishing his book and growing closer to Susie every day. He felt, without a hesitation or moment of doubt, that being by Susie's side was where he needed to be, and it soon became the only place he could imagine being. His urge to flee vanished. His mother seemed somehow more tolerable to him. The memory of his father grew more dear. There began to be a very quiet peace growing within him, one that he'd searched for all of his life. Hobbes was still his best friend.
One morning several months later, a box arrived on Calvin's doorstep. Inside were the first proofs of his book. Opening it to the dedication page, Calvin had smiled and made his way over to Susie's house – where he spent an inordinate amount of time – rang the doorbell and presented Susie with the book. She smiled, opened the book, and caught sight of the ten-word dedication:
This is dedicated to Susie Derkins, my own missing spark.
They were married early the next year.
Susie sold her mother's house, wishing to build her own life in her own home. With a three book contract to back them up, plus Susie's burgeoning new psychiatry practice located just within the city, the young couple were able to buy their own home, near their old neighborhood. Calvin's only stipulation was that the house backed up to His Woods, as Susie had always heard him refer to it, and this it did. Whenever she couldn't find him, she knew Calvin had taken off into the woods to be alone, to think, to imagine and dream. Susie's only stipulation was that the house had to have a widow's peak, which she could turn into her astronomical observatory. She brought her telescope to the new home, set it up, and began her beloved practice of late-night star gazing once again. She felt like she had a home – and a life – once more.
One thing both of them required of the new house was a room that could easily be converted into a nursery.
Hobbes slowly stopped coming to life, and Calvin couldn't decide whether he was heartbroken or whether he could simply accept that it was time to let go. Perhaps it could be both. He wasn't the same man that had come back after his father's funeral – an angry, confused man – but rather a husband, a writer, a friend, and soon-to-be parent.
Calvin spent his days writing and answering mail from his readers. Some part of him was immensely proud that a generation of children were growing up with Hobbes, as he had, although they were doing it through text and pictures. The amazing thing about children, Calvin had decided, was that they didn't necessarily need a stuffed animal to make Hobbes real. He lived in their imaginations, and that was what really mattered. That, too, had helped ease the pain slightly when Calvin realized Hobbes might never come to life for him again. At the very least, Hobbes was coming alive in the imaginations of thousands of children, and therefore, Hobbes would never really be gone.
Eventually, Calvin even accepted Victor, his mother's friend, as someone who might be in all their lives, and that was all right. Things were changing – had changed – so much for Calvin that he couldn't begrudge his mother making a few changes as well. Change was natural, inevitable, and a fact of the universe – who was he to stand in the way?
With the day drawing nearer that would see Calvin and Susie's life changed forever with the first addition to their new family, Calvin one day found himself studying Hobbes closely in the writing studio. He'd always kept Hobbes in the writing studio, perhaps to draw a little inspiration for the stories that were becoming so well-loved, but now Calvin decided there was a better place for Hobbes to stay. Grabbing the worn tiger and taking him upstairs, Calvin opened the door to the nursery that he and Susie had put together. With a smile, Calvin placed Hobbes in the crib, turned out the light, and shut the door. "Just putting the finishing touches on things," he told Susie with a smile later that evening.
He knew it had been missing something.