Twenty-four chapters? O.O Sorry, it's so long, everyone! Unless you're enjoying it. Then I'm not sorry. If you are enjoying it, I'd like to know, please .

~o~

I visited Nina everyday for the week and she was struggling trying to stay in one place. She wasn't allowed to get out of bed for fear of straining her back and tearing her stitches and she wasn't used to sitting still for too long. She liked to move around. She said she could almost feel her life slipping away as she sat there and did practically nothing. I tried to make sure that she wasn't doing nothing exactly. Every time I visited her, we ended up in one of our usual make out sessions. Most times we didn't get caught. Occasionally, Doctor Holiday would come in and kick me out to check her. We thought she was planning the interruption on purpose, either she was enjoying kicking me out or she really wanted to make sure that the stitches didn't move and would heal faster.

During the second week, Doctor Holiday allowed her out of bed to walk around a bit and shower. Circe helped to wash her back. Nina whined about how she hoped her tattoo was okay. I laughed because it was so childish. I told her I was just glad that she was okay. That led to us kissing again. And Doctor Holiday walking in and shooing me away. Zane visited a couple times and so did Noah. She enjoyed seeing them and went back to abusing Zane when he said colourful things. That Sunday, I was sleeping late again and I noticed that when I turned, my arm ended up draped over something warm and soft. My brain didn't process it but it was comfortable so I hugged it tighter.

A finger stroked my hand and my eyes shot open. Nina was lying next to me dressed in her usual clothes and staring up at the top of the bunk bed.

"Nina?" I asked.

"Nah, it's Jenna," she answered, turning her head towards me and smiling.

"Nina," I scolded.

"Just kidding. It's ten. Wake up."

"Ten more minutes."

"Shall I forcefully wake you up?"

"No, you should give me ten more minutes." She moved from under my hand and turned on her side and her hand touched the side of my neck. Her lips touched mine, moulding to fit but closed. It sent all my nerves on hyper alert and adrenaline and something else shot through me from my stomach. She drew away. "That did the trick."

"I knew it would. Now get up. Time to eat."

"Wait, how did you get on the side of the bed against the wall? You flashed in, didn't you?"

"You're a heavy sleeper. I climbed over you and you didn't so much as stir. I've been here nearly fifteen minutes." I smiled.

"That is not creepy at all."

"Oh, shut up. You weren't complaining just now when you were using me as a teddy bear."

"Speaking of which, you're in normal clothes. Does this mean Doc gave you the okay to resume normal activity?"

"Come join us for breakfast and I'll answer all of your questions."

I did the usual clean up routine and then headed to the cafeteria. She wasn't there but Zane, Noah, Bobo and Circe were and already eating.

"Hey, guys."

"Dude, you can sleep forever, can't you?" Noah asked. I shrugged. "Same here."

"Why are you guys all here?" I asked, specifically Zane and Noah.

"Nina called us and asked if we could come 'visit the cripple', as she put it. She told us to come have breakfast with you first," he answered.

"She just woke me up...sorta."

"Nina was in your room, was she? Good thing I brought those little rubber things she asked for," Zane said, grinning. "But I guess it wouldn't be the first time she's been there—"

One of Nina's infamous coins hit him in the head and we all turned to see her walking in. He grinned.

"Nina, my love, I was just saying how well I knew the pills would work—"

"You make another condom joke with my name in the same sentence or any reference to me and I swear I'll hang you upside down from Blinky and let him smash you all he wants," she replied with a frown. His grin widened.

"Blinky?"

"The tree in the Petting Zoo covered in eyes that likes to hit people. He's my favourite."

"I can see why. Reminds you of you, doesn't it? You missed me, didn't you?"

"No, I missed the stash of coins in my pants to hit you with."

"Anyway, you could not have heard that comment. You just walked in. Shall I assume your telepathy is back?"

"Yup."

"It is?" I asked.

"Yeah. The teleportation is gone though. It sucks. I'd rather teleport than read minds. I can already tell what most people are thinking."

"Maybe it never left. Maybe it was just less obvious," I suggested. She shrugged.

"Maybe. I guess I really am Nina again. I'll miss being Jenna. It was more convenient."

"Again with the confusing pseudonyms. So how are we celebrating your recovery? Did it heal perfectly?" Zane asked.

"There's a little scar. As for celebrating, I think we should just go to the beach. Say...Avis Bay."

"It still scarred?" he asked, frowning.

"The incision was four inches long. The scar is one inch and barely noticeable at all. You have to look carefully for it. See?" She turned and after studying for a few seconds the spot where the eagle's feel were, I just noticed the thin line and dots on either side of it. "Isn't it cool? I think scars are novelty items. They say that you have a story to tell. My story is pretty embarrassing since it's my own gun that injured me, but, say what, it's a life lesson. Kent taught me life lessons by having me experience them firsthand. "

"It is pretty cool. So, beach? Can I get out of my church clothes first? I see you already have." Zane said.

"Sure, but you have to walk."

"No need. My butler brought the car. He can drop us in the limo."

"Cool. Meet back in an hour. I have to go ask White if we can go. One of us should drive though."

"Gasp. You're asking for permission first? Who are you and what have you done with Nina?"

"Shut up. I am a professional first and foremost and thus must act accordingly."

"Big words. Yikes." She turned and headed back into the foyer.

"Noah, do you need a lift home to get packed?" Zane asked him.

"Yes, thanks," he replied.

"I'll come for you in an hour so we can meet back here." The two got up and headed out.

The beach was just as bright and calm as it had been many months ago when I'd first come here. It brought back all the memories of the last time and it brought to my attention how much I really cared about Nina. Everyone else was in the water except Nina who had spread a blanket and just sat, feeling the sun. I had gone in, too, for a little while but when I saw her there smiling at us, I gestured for her to come in but she just shook her head. I decided to come out and just join her. The sun was nice and warm, not too hot and the water was cool. As I came out, I tried not to seem like I was staring too much at her. She had been wearing a tee-shirt and shorts but the shirt was off now, revealing a flower-patterned black bikini top.

"Thank you for the compliment," she said just as I approached the blanket.

"What compliment?" I asked.

"The one about my boobs." I sat down and looked away.

"You've really got to stop doing that."

"Why? It's fun. Most of the time. I'm not offended by your staring anyway, unless it gets the point where you totally ignore me."

"I can't ignore you. You always say something outrageous that makes everyone give you their attention." She laughed, throwing back her head for a few seconds.

"True." She looked out into the water and jerked her head in that direction. "Check out Zane and Circe. They seem to be having fun." When I looked, it seemed that they were having a splash war and Zane was losing. He advanced closer and closer and then picked her up and dumped her in the water. She was laughing a lot. He was smiling widely. It was an adorable sight.

"They look good together."

"Yeah, they do. Zane will be good to her, once she learns to deal with his dry humour and profane language. You never know, she might change him. It's a win-win situation."

"People can't change other people."

"Not if they intend to change them and the other person is stubborn about it. That makes things worse. But if the person realises that they have some things to work on all by themselves even though the other person accepts them just as they are, then they'll have the will to change and follow through with it for the sake of being a companion that the other deserves. You changed me, didn't you?"

"I did?"

"You changed my mind about my tattoo. My language is a little better. When was the last time you heard me drop an f-bomb?"

"You know, I hadn't noticed it before, but even when you got hurt, you didn't say it at all."

"Total one-eighty from when we captured Circe. And look, now she's a member of Providence. We did good."

"Yeah, we did. Why won't you come swim with us? The water's nice."

"I was...praying for a bit...and talking to my brother. This place makes me nostalgic because of all the history I have here."

"Praying? What were you praying about?"

"Thanking God for being alive, praying that everything go smoothly today, praying that everyone will be safe, praying that we'll stay together for a long time."

"Well, amen to that." She chuckled.

She scooted closer to me and rested her head on my shoulder, her wrists still on her drawn up knees like mine. Bobo and Noah were playing volleyball and Noah was losing pitifully. I wondered what Six and Holiday would have been doing if they were here.

"I think Six would have still come in a suit and desperately hid his fascination at seeing Doctor Holiday in a bathing suit," Nina answered. I laughed.

"You really think they have a thing for each other?"

"It's so obvious the way Six tries so hard not to appear that he cares for her. She's more obvious with it. She actually looks at him like she cares. He just doesn't."

"Love is complicated."

"It only gets complicated the older you get. When you're young, love is free and inhibited."

"Wow. You're like a sage." She gave a small laugh which sounded so nice.

"I've learnt a lot over my life. Kent was a wonderful teacher and so is the open road. Experience is the best teacher."

I leaned my head onto hers and relished the feeling of her besides me. It was nice that we could just talk. It wasn't always intelligent conversation but we could just talk. It made me feel like the bond between us was more than just romantic. It was absolute. We were friends and we were in love. It was a combination as sweet as when we kissed that probably made every kiss feel all the more electrifying.

"Nina," I said softly.

"Hm?"

"Let's go in the water."

"Sure. The sun's stinging now." We got up, she took my hand and we headed out to where Zane and Circe were just standing.

When Noah noticed us heading into the water, he and Bobo came, too. Bobo didn't want to get wet so Zane offered to carry him on his shoulder. I could tell Bobo felt cared for. He and Zane got along pretty well, like most pets and their masters would get along. Zane told her that her blanket was flying away and when she turned around, he attempted to go for the strings at her neck. He got a kick to the head and Bobo got wet anyway. He got out of the water and the sun was so warm that he was dry in no time and back on Zane's shoulders. This dash of normal made me feel so enriched. This was how ordinary kids lived, with girlfriends and friends and going to the beach. I didn't feel like I was missing out anymore. Providence was being more lenient with us. I supposed I had Nina's big mouth to thank for that. Her big, rosy, soft mouth that made kissing feel like paradise.

We all played a game of volleyball. Zane, Nina and Bobo were on one side, Noah, Circe and I were on the other. Zane was tough competition. In the end, my team won by two points. After that, we decided to go eat all those burgers we packed. While we ate, Zane tried telling us about how ground beef was made, all the way from killing the cow and when he started talking about draining the blood, Nina punched him in the stomach and told him that if he kept talking while eating, he'd choke and die and she'd leave him there on the beach. I laughed so hard that time I nearly choked on my own burger. After that, we just hung out on the sand, drinking sodas and talking about any and everything.

"Hey, the sun is setting," Nina said. "Let's go look."

We all waded into the water a little and stood with the water around our ankles and looked at the large orange mass illuminating all the water and the whole scene as it started its journey away. Sunsets never looked more amazing than at the beach, I figured. The water was reflecting its majesty and its ripples made it look really cool. 'Amazing' didn't do it justice. Nina was holding my hand for the whole thing and it brought me back to a time when I wasn't sure how I felt about her. She was even wearing the orange dress from that time now. She had put it on after we'd gotten out of the water, after the volleyball game. It really did make her look instantly younger. I felt like the fifteen-year-old I was that day months ago.

Her hand tightened in mine just as the last of the sun went under. I looked at her and her eyes were on mine again. I thought for Nina to close her eyes and she did. Then I did what she had done back then. I let my lips go down to hers and I kissed her. Her arms came around my neck and my arms were around her waist and it was just me and her again on the beach. The perfect end to a perfect day. The kiss lasted as long as it could. It was slow and deep. Her tongue touched mine just barely as it had so many times before. But then, all of a sudden, it was stroking mine very softly in a way that made me feel like I was about to collapse. She broke the kiss just as I realised I was about to pass out from air loss. She smiled at me and I couldn't help but smile back.

"I love you, Nina."

"I love you, too, Rex."

Her lips came back to mine and the whole world blended into the background.

Did some people seem out-of-character? Good. That was the point. Nina was supposed to make them all change. Do you think she was a cool character? Why not let me read your feedback. Thanks for reading. Please give a review, even if it's just a few words.