Rain fell in sheets, a steady rhythm that drowned out all but the loudest cars coming up and down the street. Occasionally a tire would hit the puddle – now a miniature lake – in front of him and send water spraying in every direction. Luckily, his perch kept the worst of it away from him – the fire escape was rickety and groaned any time he moved, but at least it was dry.
He'd stood on the sidewalk for half an hour before he'd noticed the fire escape and the welcome break from water swirling around his Sunday best shoes. Now, though, his black umbrella, folded and glinting in the streetlights overhead, rocked back and forth, slowly, on the rung beside him.
He didn't take his eyes off the house across the street.
'House' was an understatement, as far as he was concerned. Growing up with a litter of siblings meant luxuries, like the wrap-around porch and rose garden that hugged the house's south wall, were unheard of.
In the last two weeks, he'd called in every favor he had left. He'd lied so many times the truth felt like a dream – nah, ma, he hadn't gone back to that New Mexico hellhole, he'd landed a job at a California shipyard and worked there long enough to save up a couple grand.
That much, at least, was true. All the back-alley bribes he'd made, one tidbit of information at a time, left him with a fraction of what he'd earned back at Teufort.
He'd keep looking, though, even if it meant throwing away his last penny.
He wished the rain would stop. When he daydreamed about that day, the sky was blue and cloudless, and hell, maybe that angelic chorus could happen, too.
But no. Here he was, stuck in freakin' Hurricane Bad Luck.
A shiver of movement at the house's front door caught his eye. Instantly, he snapped out of his thoughts, focusing with hawk-like intensity and wishing, just then, he had one of Lawrence's scopes so the person opening the door wasn't just a flesh-colored blob in a black suit.
He squinted. It was some guy in a black suit, but the person behind walking out the door behind him instantly caught his attention.
It was her.
The rain forgotten, he slid off the fire escape, descending the ladder so fast he nearly slid down it. He paused only for a moment, glancing up and down the road before darting across. The last thing he needed was to get creamed when he was close.
So, so close.
By the time she made it to the gate, he stood beside it, raindrops pattering against the umbrella he'd finally remembered to open. Not quite the entrance he'd hoped for, but by then he didn't care. All that mattered was seeing her again.
She froze at the sound of his voice, her body rigid beneath her own umbrella. Slowly, like she barely believed she'd heard him, she turned to look.
The umbrellas flew to the ground, upside down and gathering water. They flung themselves at each other, an embrace so tight it left them breathless.
"I'm so sorry, Ann." Any heroic speech or apologies he'd planned vanished from his mind. The words he said instead tumbled out desperately. "I never meant to hurt anyone, especially not your dad. That's not-"
"Dad's alright." She swallowed, burying her head in the crook beneath his chin. "I mean, not alright, but he's alive. You have so much explaining to do."
"It wasn't- I can explain- Please, let's start over."
He felt her nod, and a flood of relief washed over him.
"I'd like that."
Billy squeezed her again. He'd found her, and she didn't hate him.
And now, he was never letting her go again.
Phew. It's been a trip. Apologies for taking so long between the last chapter and the epilogue, but I've been neck-deep in work things and novel editing. Also, the cheese, but I wanted Billy to have a happy ending.
Thanks to everyone who stuck with the story, whether you only signed on recently or have been following it since the early chapters. I've met some awesome people through this story – great artists, writers who make me look like a toddler with a crayon, and the world's best readers. I'll admit, this story has exhausted me, but I wouldn't have it any other way.
Instead of worrying about Tumblr posts, I'm just gonna do this last bit here. It's answering a few questions I've gotten in the last couple months, and since I've been asked more than once I thought I'd just do a Q&A type thing here. A word of warning: it's long, so pass this up if you hate long author notes.
Q: Why did you kill Fischer?
A: I felt like, of all the mercs, Fischer was the one that never really re-adapted to civilian life. He was my favorite character to write, but leaving him alive meant a loose end, at least in my mind. And for those of you wondering what happens to Miss Middy Magazine, Solly takes over and readership among 18-45 year olds skyrockets.
Q: I hated how you did (x). Why'd you do that? It ruined the story!
A: I'll be the first to admit I kind of shot myself in the foot here. More than once, I had what I thought was a brilliant idea, I'd write it in, and then a few chapters later I'd realize it sucked. With a post-as-you-write story, there's no luxury of a second draft. That's why this story is about twice as long as it needs to be. I could edit it, streamline it, and make it better, but that would mean re-posting the entire thing. I'll use Fischer as an example. Originally, I intended for him to die in the last fight and go out in a blaze of glory. Then, about ten minutes after I posted the chapter, I realized, "Oh crap. My Pyro's still alive." A lot of that could have been solved with better organization and better planning, but, when you boil this story down, it was a writing exercise for me and I definitely count that as a lesson learned.
Q: What are you doing next? You should write about (fanfic idea here)!
A: As much fun as I've had, unfortunately finishing this story means I'm ducking out of fanfiction. I might write the occasional one-shot, but right now my schedule is insanely busy, and it doesn't show any signs of slowing down. If you're interested in the non-fanfic stuff I write, you can hunt down my Tumblr. I post short stories there, and I keep it fairly well updated with my paid projects. There's a fair amount of fangirling, but beneath that it's sheer, professional substance, I swear.
If you have a Goodreads account, you can add the anthology one of my stories will appear in, even though it won't be released until May. Search for "Holiday Magick" and it should pop right up.
Q: Will there be a Last Hurrah sequel?
A: I tossed the idea around while I was writing the last few chapters. I think a story about the Blu spy's interactions with the surviving Red mercs could be an interesting character study. But, like I said above, I just plain don't have time. If someone else wants to write that, they can go right ahead. :)
Thanks again, everyone. It's been an awesome experience, putting this together.