Author's Note: Sequel to "Rising from the Ashes" and "Ashes to Ashes," and it might make a little more sense if those two are read first.
Sara was fairly certain, all things considered, that Nick would be asking her to start chipping in on the rent – which would mean finding a job somewhere. After all, she had turned his living room couch into her bedroom the past year, and her toothbrush rested in the toothbrush holder next to his, and her leaves of spinach sat in the refrigerator next to his uncooked steaks. It was to the point where she either needed to chip in, or move out, because this was almost like her home.
Even though he hadn't said anything to her about it yet, of course.
She cleaned around the apartment while he was at work, though, and occasionally could talk him into eating what she made for herself, and their arrangement worked.
He had been such a good friend through everything, she mused to herself as she swiped the dust cloth lazily over the coffee table. Such a good friend and nothing she could ever do would repay him for the emotional support he had given her over this course of events.
Nick was fairly certain, all things considered, that Sara would be moving out soon. Not that he wanted her to, not because he felt as though she should - he enjoyed her company, and even though he would never admit it to anyone except for her, he had grown some sort of affinity for her meat-free dishes. Maybe it was because she would smile gratefully at him as he ate her vegetarian lasagna, or whichever meal it was that night. Maybe it was something else entirely.
It had been a year though since he was woken up by a call from the airport, a call from a distraught Sara, asking to be picked up even though it was five in the morning. She had settled into his apartment - first it appeared to be temporary, then indefinite - and made it her home, of sorts. He would never kick her out of someplace she considered home.
Even though it was working between them, he thought, as he pulled himself out of bed and threw on a t-shirt, she'd want to move on one of these days. And while it wasn't something he necessarily wanted, he would support her in whatever way she needed. After all, she had been through so much, with him by her side - there was no way he would leave her now.
"What's for dinner?" he asked, seeing Sara standing in the kitchen and washing her hands at the sink. Two place settings were already on the table: two plates, two glasses, two of everything.
She looked over at him. "Spaghetti and salad," she said, turning off the faucet, "it should be ready in fifteen or so."
"No meatballs, I take it," he replied with a mock-pout.
"No." She turned back to the box of angel hair noodles and studied it intently.
"One of these days, Sidle, one of these days."
"Keep dreaming," she said with a laugh, "now, out, so I can finish!"
Dinner was filled with companionable silence - neither of them spoke, except for an early declaration by Nick that "this is the best spaghetti you've made yet, Sara," which earned him a smile. He twirled the spaghetti noodles around his fork; she stabbed a dressing-covered lettuce leaf and a crouton with her fork; the sounds of chewing and swallowing were the only sounds in the room.
It was almost domestic of them.
Later that evening, she curled up on the couch and tucked her feet beneath her; he sat next to her, his hand resting on the back of the couch. "Nick," she said, turning to face him, "are you happy to have me here?"
He looked at her, and said, almost without thinking, "Of course I am, why wouldn't I be happy?"
"Because I've been living here for almost a year."
"Is that all?" he asked, laughing, "It feels like you've been here longer."
She narrowed her eyes. "Are you trying to imply something?"
"No. I'm not implying anything."
"Do you want me to pay you rent? I can get a job."
"Sara, I can pay for the rent on my own apartment."
"I was making you an offer."
"I know," he said, absent-mindedly reaching over and touching her shoulder, "but it's fine, really. You can stay as long as you want."
"Good," she replied, resting against his side, her eyes fluttering closed. She eventually fell asleep there, her head resting on his shoulder.
What they had - skirting the line between friendship and something more - was something Nick treasured. And as he faded off to sleep, his head resting on top of hers, the furthest thing from his thoughts was the letters he had written - and burned - over a year before. After all, that had been a different time in his life...
-to be continued-