"I can't believe they don't have an open bar."
Max frowned when she heard one of her cousins—who wasn't legally allowed to drink the alcohol the bartender handed her anyway—complain for the third time about the lack of free-flowing booze.
"They aren't made of money, Candace," she snapped. The girl flinched, perhaps only just realizing that others could hear her shrill voice around the bar—her conversation with her boyfriend wasn't exactly subtle. "Would you like to help them pay for it?"
Her jaw clenched when the teen rolled her eyes, and she turned back to the bartender behind the counter, a counter covered in a white table-cloth and several laminated drink menus. He seemed to anticipate her order before she gave it, and she smiled slightly when he started to get a "Nolisa" ready for her: vanilla bean soda, vodka, and a mix of juices made up the happy couple's signature drink. When the bartender—a man who had definitely seen more than his fair share of weddings, based on the greying streaks in his hair—placed the drink in front of her, she set her clutch on the counter and rummaged through it for some loose change.
"It's on the house," he told her, grinning a little when she looked up with raised eyebrows. "Weddings are expensive enough as it is."
"Thanks, man," she said with a smile. Max pulled out a couple of dollars anyway and left them on the mixing counter when he wasn't looking. After taking a small sip, she started out across the grassy field, moving away from drink shack and toward the rest of the guests.
Four months. It had been four long months since she last saw Loki, and sometimes she forgot about him. School came to an end, just as it always did, and she managed to get through her final assignments with decent marks. Most of the students she proctored for her American History class passed, but she was pleased to no longer be a teaching assistant to that particular course.
Her proposal for her internship was approved, and she spent the entirety of her spare time studying nineteenth century English cannons. All the information she gathered went toward her research project, which had been handed in to her supervisor a week ago. Her spare time was limited; she was at the museum from morning until dusk doing whatever was needed of her. Sometimes she led tours, other times she cleaned artefacts. Twice, Max was permitted to work with a few other lower-level employees on some exhibits—both of which were well-received—and she left the internship feeling exhausted, but proud. It was the first time she had actually taken everything she had been studying over the last decade and applied it to the real world. If they had an opening, they promised it to her in the future—if she wanted to come back.
Oxford had been a good time. She made a lot of fun acquaintances, enjoyed the nightlife (when she had the time), and grew to love a wide range of teas. There were two opportunities for her to take an equally drunken British chap back to her rental apartment for the night, but each time she chickened out after some heavy petting. She just… She couldn't bring herself to be with anyone else. Her weekly phone calls with Thor grew shorter and shorter, but at least they were a reminder of Loki.
While she was away, Nolan pursued his relationship with Elisa with gusto, and suddenly, two weeks ago, he told her that they were getting married. She was stunned, naturally, until she discovered that Elisa was three months pregnant. From there, it all made sense: Nolan was hired to work at the new army base in New York City, taking a desk job as a weapons analyst with Captain America, and he wanted to settle the rest of his life too. Max wasn't about to complain: she boarded her flight back from the UK with giddy excitement to attend her brother's wedding. She didn't particularly dislike Elisa—she just didn't know her. However, over the last week, her soon-to-be sister-in-law made such an effort to include Max in every bit of wedding detailing that there was left that it was difficult not to like her.
Her mom's health had taken a turn for the better finally. She perked up enough to help with wedding preparations on the day of, and her dad managed to get Nolan to the ceremony on time after a rowdy night out with his friends.
At least it wasn't much of a drive for her to get to the ceremony, which was hosted on the farm that Elisa worked at. They had done a beautiful job at transforming a back field into a plush wedding reception hall: there was a giant white tent for everyone to eat and dance under, along with picnic tables on the outside for those that wanted to get some colour under the August sun. There were an overabundance of sunflowers everywhere—which Nolan hated but Elisa loved, so there they were—and the DJ was playing too much country for anyone's taste, but all in all, it was a pretty good wedding. Nolan even teared up when he saw his bride, which he swore to never do, and Max planned to tease him relentlessly whenever they had a minute alone.
Unfortunately, with Nolan shackled to someone, all the family interest in young love turned to Max. She couldn't count the number of times that day that a distant relative had asked if she was seeing anyone, or if she was dating Ben, who she had brought as her date. She initially asked Corey, but he was down in Memphis for a work thing, and Ben was a last resort. Besides, he was the only one of her friends actually in Masonville for the summer, working through his graduate thesis with his supervisor, and he seemed quite happy to come along.
Thankfully, she had been so busy with bridal party things that they barely spent any time together. She was tired. Max was exhausted from her internship and wedding preparations and missing Loki, and she just didn't have it in her to deal with Ben. However, her mother gave her absolute heck for proposing to come alone, and Max didn't want to deal with that again.
Taking another sip of her drink, she lingered on the outskirts of the party tent. There were a lot of people from her high school milling about, and she just didn't have the energy to get sucked into polite chatter about her life. She wished Pat could have made it, but her friend hadn't been able to get time off from work with such short notice—Pat could have made anything fun.
Not that she was trying not to have fun. She wanted to have fun. A part of her wanted to laugh and dance and get drunk as a giant middle finger to the Asgardian who up and left her without so much as a note. However, she couldn't bring herself to be even fake perky, not when she had spent the last week debating whether to throw out or donate Loki's old stuff. She donated the electronics and clothes, kept a few sweaters that still had his smell, and chucked the rest.
It seemed like someone had finally gotten a hint across to the DJ, and she grinned when a catchy popular tune belted out from the speakers; that managed to get a few more people out on the dance floor. Nolan, although he disliked dancing, seemed perfectly happy to sway back and forth with his new bride—cane resting on a nearby table. Elisa was wrapped in a body-hugging knee-length satin number that Max definitely wouldn't ever wear, but she looked blissful and totally fine with her baby-bump. In all the excitement of the wedding, Max sometimes forgot that she was going to be an aunt in six months. However, considering no one had told her until two weeks ago, it felt reasonable that she might forget that her big brother was about to grace the planet with his spawn.
She couldn't see him as a dad. He was great with their little cousins, but she couldn't imagine Nolan getting up umpteen times a night to change or feed a baby. He would probably surprise her, like he always did, and she only hoped for the best.
She smiled sweetly as her dad wrapped an arm around her. Standing at roughly her height, it was difficult to lean her head on his shoulder like she wanted to, but somehow she managed.
"How are you?" He knew something was off, but he had been smart enough not to ask her when the rest of the family was in earshot. "You doing alright?"
"Yeah," she sighed, straightening up and holding her drink out for him to try. He shook his head and she quickly downed the rest, wincing at the extra vodka that lurked in the bottom of the glass. She cleared her throat softly. "I'm just tired."
"I bet." They stared out at the dance floor together, sharing a similar smile when her uncle aggressively danced up on one of Elisa's aunts. The silence felt comfortable, and for a moment she thought he was satisfied with her weak response. However, true to form, he wasn't. "Are you sure?"
She nodded a few times, her arms folded across her chest and empty glass clutched in her hand. "Yeah, I'm fine."
"You know, you never really told us what happened with Loki."
"I know, dad," she muttered, reaching up to fidget with a clump of hair that had fallen loose from the intricate bun at the back of her head. "I don't really want to talk about it."
Out of the corner of her eye, she could see him studying her, perhaps trying to gauge how far he ought to push this—she hoped not at all. He gave a soft sigh, which made her tense, and then changed the subject.
"Want to have a dance with your old man?"
She shot him a look and then smirked. "You're a horrible dancer."
"Better than you," he fired back, looping her arm around his and taking the glass from her. They worked their way through the scattered tables and random couples, and eventually found a semi-empty spot on the dance floor to occupy. She set one hand on his shoulder and the other in his palm, and they commenced some sort of sloppy waltz to a peppy pop tune.
"Anytime, sweetheart," he murmured, pulling her closer so that he could place a kiss on her cheek. "I noticed you brought a replacement."
"Yeah." She spotted Ben chatting up an old high school friend across the dance floor, long arms folded across his chest as he nodded along to an anecdote. "Mom wouldn't let me come alone."
"Well, you could have done worse." He quirked an eyebrow when she scoffed. "Well, you could have…"
"I don't really want to date anyone right now," she admitted with a shrug. She laughed when he spun her out and yanked her back in, both of them tripping over one another's feet. "Dad!"
"Am I embarrassing you?"
"Never," she told him with a grin.
"Now, I know you don't really want to discuss it," he said shortly after. They continued to waltz, despite the fact the song was more suited for fist pumping and bouncing—her dad was not that type of guy. In fact, Nolan wasn't either, but Elisa and her friends seemed to be having a good time. "But I wanted to know how you're covering your rent. You can't afford that apartment on your own."
She licked her lips, hoping he wouldn't see through her lie. "I actually got a stipend from the internship that I haven't spent, and I put a lot of time in at the bookstore before the year ended… So, I'm covered, I promise."
Tony Stark had it covered, actually. She hadn't heard from him in almost four months, but every month somehow there was an extra chunk of cash infused into her bank account. Seeing as she only had one more year left to go before she finished her program at St. Judith's, Max decided to see how long she could take advantage of the zillionaire's generosity. The thought of taking on another roommate left a foul taste in her mouth, and if worse came to worse, she decided she would downgrade into a cheaper place. She should have felt bad about having someone else paying for half of her rent—it wasn't like Stark owed her anything. However, he hadn't stopped, nor did she receive some sort of warning to find someone else to cover the expense.
So… Why not? She could milk her broke-student status a little while longer.
"If you're sure—"
"It's fine," she said forcefully, nodding over at Nolan and Elisa. "Let's save this for another day."
"Alright, I'm only teasing," he told her with a chuckle. "How about we…" He trailed off with a frown, and Max glanced over her shoulder to see what he had suddenly noticed. Her mother was flitting between tables, piling up plates and handing them off to an awkward waiter beside her. "Oh, Jesus."
"Maybe you should deal with that?"
"I've already told her not to…" He ground his back teeth together, a habit he had been told to stop by his dentist years ago, and then kissed her cheek. "Be right back, sweetheart."
She stood still in his absence. The dance floor was getting progressively crowded with unruly drunks, many of whom could actually afford to pay for the slightly expensive cocktails at the bar stand, and she winced when someone nudged into her shoulder. However, before she could slip away and debate whether or not she needed more alcohol, someone took her by the wrist and pulled her to a slightly less busy area near the edge.
"It got busy here, didn't it?" Ben ran a hand through his shaggy hair. His necktie looked too tight and it definitely didn't match his shirt, but she liked that he had made an effort to look appropriate for a wedding. "Do you want to dance?"
"I guess," she replied. He reached for her hesitantly, but Max took a step back at the same time, moving along to the beat of the music. Seeming to take the hint, Ben swayed side to side awkwardly, his hips occasionally moving too—it actually made her laugh.
"I'm really bad at this—"
"I haven't been ignoring you," she said suddenly, a bit of guilt gnawing at her for the way their relationship had floundered since he told her about Loki. "I've just been… a bit preoccupied."
"I'll bet." He nodded a few times. "Weddings are really complicated to plan… so I've been told."
She smiled and took his hands, pulling him a little closer to spare the world the sight of his awful dancing. He could have made her feel bad for the way she acted, for her distance and her silence, but it seemed Ben made a conscious choice not to. It was sort of nice, actually.
She could do with sort of nice for now.
Before long, the pair was dragged into a really awful conga line, which Ben seemed to be a good sport about. She quickly realized that even if Loki was there with her, he would have been a miserable grump. Maybe this was for the best—maybe this was how it was meant to be.
"I thought you said the elevator was going to be fixed by today."
Peter glanced over his shoulder as Gwen struggled to keep up behind him, slowing as she rounded the corner from the most recent stairwell. She only had a single bag in her hand, but she had offered to take the one with all the juices and sodas in it.
"Apparently, I can be wrong sometimes," he told her, leaning on the railing as he waited for her to catch up. She was starting to get a little winded and they still had another four levels to go. "You should enjoy it while you can."
"Yeah, yeah," she grumbled. "I'll enjoy it when I can breathe again."
"Think of this as your trip to the gym for the day—"
"For the week, actually."
He laughed, and, when she was close enough, stole the bag from her hands and swung it over his shoulder, careful that it didn't knock into the grocery bag with the eggs. She said nothing to the new development, but shot him a thankful look as she passed.
They had been living in their new apartment for almost three weeks now, and it was actually pretty fantastic. Aunt May had been hesitant to agree to the arrangement, and Gwen's mom was even more difficult to persuade. However, legally, they were adults now—having the blessing of their elders was sort of just an added bonus.
Both were headed for NYU's science program that fall, and it only made sense to find a place that was within walking distance to the university. They started looking around Christmas of last year, knowing full-well that they were going to live together somewhere off-campus rather than in a dorm that would separate them, and landed a tiny—but cheap—apartment on Broadway near campus. Technically, they were subletting from the guy who owned it, and his bedroom was not to be touched while he spent the majority of the year working overseas—he had dead-bolted the door and everything.
Still, it could have been worse. Since the horrific incident with Curt Connors, Peter had been trying to play things pretty low. Although Gwen—when they reunited as a couple—supported his efforts to help law officials with petty crime, she wasn't excited at the prospect of him saving whole cities again. When the aliens invaded last year, Peter focused on protecting his old neighbourhood and keeping his family safe: it seemed like the new ragtag team of heroes could manage without him.
Besides, where the hell had they been when a giant lizard was destroying downtown Manhattan? Yeah, exactly.
So, he tried to balance a social life with crime-fighting, while also working part-time with Gwen as Oscorp. Both decided to pull out of the job once school started, and they only had two weeks to go before they needed to wrap up their final research assignments. He liked the way his life was shaping out. Like he said, it could have been a whole lot worse.
Despite carrying all five grocery bags, Peter managed to beat Gwen to the twelfth floor of the building, though he was forced to wait for her since she had the keys.
"Come on, the ice cream is melting," he whined, dancing on the spot as he waited in front of their door. She shot him a glare, rummaging through her purse with a noticeable sheen of sweat on her forehead. He was about to poke fun at it, but then thought better of it: this was not the time of the month to make fun of her appearance.
They both stumbled into their small, sparsely decorated apartment together, and Gwen groaned dramatically as she kicked off her shoes: it was just as hot inside as it was on the streets below.
"I guess he didn't fix the air conditioning yet," Peter grumbled, stalking toward the kitchen counter and setting the bags down.
"Did you seriously think he would?"
"Not really." So far, it seemed, if they wanted anything done, they really needed to do it themselves—their superintendent was pretty useless. The apartment had a really nice open layout, encompassing the kitchen and living area in one section. They had a sad balcony that they could sit on if they really wanted to, but for the most part they just used it as an extra window to let the cold air in. Their bedroom was off to the far side, next to the owner's, and there was a single washroom by the front door.
He had always thought that living with a girl meant things would be really decorated and intricate, but Gwen was almost as stupid about interior design as he was, and the best decoration they had in their apartment was a new television that sat by the balcony. Otherwise, it was mismatched furniture galore, along with a dish set that always seemed to be missing cutlery.
"I'm going to go see if he's home," he said after a moment of standing in the humidity. Gwen tried to open some of the other windows to get some airflow, but that didn't seem to help. "If not, I'm buying a fan."
"Sounds like a plan, Stan."
He grinned his wide-brimmed grin at her, watching as she gave up on one of the windows and smacked it for its trouble. When she was close enough again, he pulled her toward him and wiped the sweat from her forehead before planting a kiss there.
"Ugh, it's too hot for close contact," she insisted, pushing him away with a smile. "Go… Don't be a pushover if he is home."
"Don't let the ice cream melt."
They high-fived before he left, and as he hurried down the apartment's stairwell, he had trouble mustering up a stern face to approach the superintendent with: how could he be in a bad mood when things were going so well?
"Hey, I can see Stark Tower from here!" Sue's eyebrows arched as she peered up from her current box of living room nick-knacks. "Well, what's left of it, anyway."
"Johnny, focus," she chastised. "You're supposed to be helping."
Her brother rolled his eyes at her, making a point to be quite obvious and dramatic, and then hopped back to his own set of boxes with an impish grin. Reed cursed noisily, his head behind the new TV; he was a genius in so many ways, but setting up the cable had never been one of them.
She couldn't believe they finally had a place of their own. After years of renting and sharing random apartment buildings around Manhattan, the Fantastic Four—as the media had dubbed them almost a decade ago—had a permanent home at last. Although there technically hadn't been anything wrong with the last place they were in, Sue had been pushing Reed to find them a place that was more family friendly ever since Valeria had been born. The little girl was almost three now, and with her first-born—Franklin—ready to start primary school, their focus really needed to shift.
So, after pulling off a rather impressive project for the US government, they had the funds to buy an entire building for themselves. All fifteen floors belonged to Reed Richards, with Sue Storm as a co-signer. Naturally, her kid brother—no longer a kid, but still in a permanent state of bachelorhood—Johnny had to tag along, and she offered him the bottom two floors as his own private paradise. Ben Grimm, known as a poor man's Hulk these days, had two floors above Johnny's as well; it was downright impossible for the guy to find housing on his own.
Six floors were going to be dedicated to their various research projects, of which there were many both waiting to be started and currently in the works. Three floors were for her growing family: Reed and the kids were pretty pleased with the layout proposals she drew up. Right now, no one knew what to do with the remaining top floors, but they were at the back of her mind for the time being. The building itself was fairly narrow, with only a few useable rooms on each floor. So, while it seemed extravagant to an outsider that she had three personal floors for herself and her immediate family, it seemed to be just enough for everyone to be comfortable.
There was still so much to do. The building had a few floors that were in pretty bad shape. Laboratories and testing rooms needed to be build and modified. The kitchen needed new appliances. The kids were still squabbling over which room they wanted, but she had left them in Ben's careful—though physically stony—hands while Reed, Johnny, and her tackled the living and dining room that afternoon. August had been hot and muggy, but air conditioning was one of the first things Reed set up on all the floors with people on them. The rest, for now, could deal with clogged vents and questionable window construction.
But they were in the heart of the city. Four blocks away from Central Park, they were in the hub of everything that mattered. Ever since their glory days as the city's protectors, they had shied away from the limelight. Too many people came calling for help, and not everyone took their refusals kindly. Last year, Reed had turned down Nick Fury seven times in the span of a few months, refusing to participate in any Avengers programs—or whatever the man was working on. As much as he found the secret agency's programs fascinating, they agreed that it would be best if they did everything in legal channels now that they were parents.
Unwed parents, mind you, but parents all the same.
She wrinkled her nose at the dust that flew up when she ripped open her newest box, and then looked back toward Reed. He was on his feet now, hands resting on his thin waist.
"We have cable!" He turned to grin at her, a shaggy bit of dark brown hair falling across his eyes. He brushed it out of the way, still looking for her stamp of approval on the operation. "I told you I could do it."
She exchanged a look with Johnny, who was in the process of unpacking family photos to set on the fireplace mantel: if Reed hadn't gotten the cable sorted, Johnny planned to do it while he was in the bathroom.
"Hey, good job, man," her brother said, his tone hovering between patronizing and genuine. Reed shot him a look, and Sue continued to sift through the box with a smirk on her lips.
After unpacking all the contents of said box, Sue realized she had simply moved them from inside the box to the floor—she had no idea where she was going to put half of this junk. Thankfully, there were enough floors to hide away pointless trinkets.
"Sue, come look at this."
Dusting her hands on her pants, she stepped over a few more boxes and some packing bubble-wrap to join Reed in front of the television. Head cocked to the side, she watched a news broadcast flash across the screen.
"Reports of aliens in Georgia," the newscaster finished, her eyebrows up and a forced serious expression on her face. "Tune in tonight at eleven for that and more."
"Aliens?" Reed mused, arms folded across his chest as he stared at the television.
"It's probably one of those awful recordings again," she said with a sigh, leaning to the side to rest against him. Moving was exhausting. The only thing getting her through was that she had two full-time babysitters living with her. She smiled when Reed planted a soft kiss on her forehead.
"People are so dramatic these days," he muttered. "They'll believe anything they see in TV."
She nodded as she fixed her sloppy bun, and then glanced at the clock. "Want to take a lunch break?"
Loki awoke to darkness. He sat up slowly, every joint protesting the movement, and then leaned back against the cold, jagged surface behind him. He sighed, slow and lengthy, before tentatively touching his face to check for lingering damages. Thus far, the gash beneath his eye had started to heal properly, while the rest were gone at last. It seemed there was something in the air here—or perhaps in the water—that slowed his natural healing abilities. For example, the tips of his fingers had been bloody stumps for… days? He couldn't quite figure out how to quantify time here, but he went with days because that was what he was accustomed to.
There was a sliver of light trickling in from the door to his rocky prison cell. The stench was as awful as usual, and after he finished assessing his person, his wounded hands swept across the floor: cold, damp, and a little sticky. He wrinkled his nose, easing himself to his knees, and then crawled toward the slit of light.
He had been sold out—sold out by a power-hungry Pagurolid and given to the vengeful remains of the Chitauri race. Most of his former allies had been wiped out in the Avengers' nuclear attack almost a year ago, and because of it, they were forced to partner with the Pagurolids. It was an amusing situation, one Loki had laughed outwardly at when his first tormentor told him of their situation. The Chitauri were horribly prejudiced toward beings they considered inferior to them, and Pagurolids were fairly low on the universal food chain. However, their numbers were so pathetic that they were forced to ally with someone, and seeing as the Pagurolids had used a few of their bodies to sneak onto Earth, it was an unfortunate, but likely, alliance.
Thanos had abandoned them, off to seek a race with greater power. His parting words, however, were that they find use for Loki in his shameful defeat. Currently, he wasn't sure what hours of torture each day constituted him being of use, but he had yet to find a way to escape. Even with his magic, he was trapped; they had conjured some sort of force field to keep him entombed in his rocky prison. Somewhere in the bleakness of the universe, Loki suffered for his failings, for the destruction of the Chitauri army, for the weakness of his military prowess.
They were very clever with their torture. Some days it was all in his head, and they would leave him in a mollified stupor until he recovered. Other days, like the one that had just passed, were for physical sadism: his fingernails were barely given a chance to grow back before they were peeled off—one by one, slowly.
Sometimes, when he was finally alone with his thoughts, he thought of Max. He wondered what she must think of him; after all, it would have appeared that he abandoned her. There was nothing he could do to rectify the situation, and for her sake, he hoped she would stay safe. Her planet would succumb, as they all did, to the greed of the Pagurolids, and he wanted her to find a way to endure. It did no good, however, to dwell on thoughts of lost love. Escape was no longer an option here, and Loki wondered if he would wither away, kept company by his tormentors until he finally ceased to exist. By then, Max and her descendants would no doubt be long gone, and his memory would be a blip in her history.
He wished he could stop thinking such things, but he quickly realized his solitude was just another form of torture: he had countless hours to be alone with his thoughts, to focus on his mistakes, to recount his regrets.
It took some time to hobble toward the light—everything in his body screamed. Shaking fingers touched the wall, and he leaned forward to peer through the crack. He never saw anything but the light, and yet he was always desperate to look, hoping that he would see something worthwhile on the other side. However, this time was no different than the last, and Loki reeled back when a shadow crossed the light. He staggered and collapsed, his limbs giving up on his weight, and he crawled back when the intricate locks started to unfurl.
His tormentor was hooded, as they all were, and Loki's eyes traveled down to the grotesque pair of pliers in his large hand.
He couldn't bring himself to reply—his voice was touch and go these days.
"You stink, Laufeyson." He licked his lips, head inclined back as he tried to remain aloof to the creature's words. "But it doesn't bother me."
"I'm glad." He tested his voice: it broke halfway through the first word. The tormentor laughed.
"You've got very pretty teeth though," it mused, sweeping toward Loki and crouching in front of him. "I'm going to take one."
He clenched his jaws together as firmly as he could, weakly batting the creature's claw away. His gesture of defiance earned him a blow to the temple with the thick pliers, and before he could recover, the being had his mouth clutched in its grasp.
"Now," it murmured, head cocked to the side, "which one runs the deepest?"
Ugh angst angst angstttt. You wanted to know where Loki was, and there you have it! Our poor bby is just trying to survive. Not to fret! We will see him in the prologue of Ghost Town, and things might be starting to look up for him.
Like I said, I am posting the prologue at the same time as this chapter. In fact, as soon as I post this and mark the story as complete, I'll be in the process of setting up Ghost Town, which I've just finished writing. I got through both much faster than I anticipated, and I'm pretty happy with them.
The introductions of Peter and the Fantastic Four, like I hinted in the last author's notes, are hints to who else will be in the next story. Because of the mix of characters, I'm not necessarily sure what to categorize Ghost Town as. For now, it'll be under "Avengers", but we'll see if that changes. For those of you who aren't big into the Fantastic Four or Spiderman fandoms, don't fret-neither am I. The sequel is AU and based on the films (ish) with a few twists and turns from the comics. So. Just knowing the basic idea who everyone is is perfectly fine.
Erhm. I don't even know what to say. This is the end, but not really. I'm about to go edit the prologue and post that, so it doesn't feel like the end. I'm in the process of thanking all my lovely reviewers. I've only gotten through about thirty in the last few days, so if you haven't received something, not to fret: the message is on its way sometime!
I haven't finished a story in years, and I think a lot of the effort I put into this fic is due to you guys. I had some of the best readers I've ever had, and you were all so supportive and excited and eager for more updates, and it really helped me push through lulls. I really worked hard on this, and made so many changes and edits and reworkings of the plot-hell, Max was originally going to be in the nursing program and that had a whole backstory. But. I'm just really happy with the way everything turned out.
So. I'M PUMPED to start the sequel. I'll see you soon, darlings!