Even more ambient music, because.. hey, why the heck not? Yellowcard – Hang you up

Thanks everyone for sticking around! It's been an interesting journey.. Very frustrating at times, but interesting :) Also, thanks to Kelly for bearing up with my constant yapping and complaining

Sorry if this one didn't go the way you expected it to. I always knew how I wanted this to end, but I'm not really good at figuring stuff out in between.. if that makes sense

Now, for one last time, enjoy!

4 years later.

It would be raining later, Jeff thinks as he walks down the boulevard by the river. He can tell now. Ever since.. He scratches the wide scar above his hip absentmindedly. With cigarette in hand and sunglasses on his face, he walks through Columbus as the nobody he is here. A nobody between nobodies. The capital isn't nearly as big as the Big Apple where Jeff had spent the last few years, but definitely big enough to stay anonymous if you wanted to be. Which, in fact, was exactly what he wanted. Right after high school, Jeff had left his mother and brother behind. He'd left Kurt, too, although he likes to think that they are still in contact.. At least every once in a while..

Anyhow, he'd left them all behind. Went away from all the pain that Lima had caused him, the mind-numbing relations he'd had, no feelings attached, before he'd met this stupid... before he'd had to learn an important life lesson. He sighs and pinches the bridge of his nose. All he'd actually learned was that love was dangerous, especially if you love someone who is, in fact, dangerous. But if he was completely honest with himself, which he hated, by the way, then he'd simply been a coward. The sight of Nick in a coma wasn't something he could stand for too long. In the few months after the confrontation, he'd cried more than he had all together in his entire life. Nick eventually did wake up, but he wasn't the same, not really. And so Jeff had left, heartbroken, though not his will to move on. To be happy. At least, that's what he tells himself at night.

And he is, in a way, happy. He'd found a job right away when he came back to Ohio. In fact, he's on his lunch break right now. As he walks on, his long sweater sleeves slide down, frustrating him along the way, and uncover his wrists every time he takes another drag from his cigarette. Bad habits die hard, he thinks.

Thinking back, reconsidering every decision that led him here, like he does every time he has too much alone time on his hands, he's come to understand. All he ever wanted was to be seen, conceived, understood. He wanted so desperately to be touched and held; felt. To let everything consume him, wanted the games, the pain, the trust. He wanted everything. Love. That's what that was. What he thought it was. But giving into it meant being vulnerable. He's taken the chance, but he's come to also understand that life isn't that easy. Quite on the contrary, actually. It's unforgiving, it's brutal, and for every good thing, there is always another... No, he sighs and blows white smoke into the wind. He shakes his head and has to stop himself from spiraling back into the most depressing parts of his mind.

Anyway, he'd taken the chance and it'd been the best and the worst thing ever. Not every chance would end this dramatically, he hopes, but this one did anyhow. He's paid the price for trying to do the right thing; in this case it was a hell of a lot of pain and the decision to leave, for the sake of his own sanity. He wouldn't have survived for long seeing Nick as broken as he was after he'd woken up. The brunet himself couldn't look back at him. The guilt and the anger was eating him up. That's some deep shit for a therapist, not a new high school graduate with his own emotional trauma. He wishes he'd been strong enough, taken another chance.

So... rain. The scar is itchy and feels uncomfortable.. and isn't that just Jeff's life? It reminds him constantly of all the things that have gone wrong; not that he actually wants to erase these memories, just... See, he went to a tattoo parlor when he turned 19, for example. To make the scar into something more organic, so that it wouldn't defile his skin so obviously.. They used earthy tones to create an abstract flame around the sensitive tissue and it was simply perfect.. To him, it's about having seen the light, to have fire step into your life and be burned by it... and to survive that. It symbolized so much more to Jeff than just the memory of pain. However, he categorically rejects the phoenix metaphor that his most recent lovers seem to read into his tattoo. They'll be fascinated and attentive when all he really wants is to go back to random hook ups, no feelings attached, no pleasantries exchanged. Well, except for the obvious ones. Come to think of it, he hates that metaphor more and more each day. What's done is done, and what's left is the tiniest flame with the promise of the inferno of days passed. He wonders if there will ever be anyone ever again to ignite his fire. He sure hopes so, but until then he goes back to editing some online magazines. Nothing special, mostly trash talk, but it pays the rent.

Every time Kurt asks him why he's wasting his youth to being a human spell check, he always answers that: "there are worse things I could be doing right now. Killing people, for example." Or killing myself, he usually adds in his mind, because he does that now. Hides stuff, just so that he doesn't have to lie. And he'd lie if he said that he's never thought about it before. Especially after Vladimir was able to weasel himself out of the police investigation. Fucking corruption. No wonder Jeff's backup police officer didn't do jack squat to help them and only called the ambulance after Vladimir had left the scene. Well, a few of the thugs that had put both Jeff and Nick into the hospital were imprisoned, but still.. It hadn't quite fit his expectation of evening the scales. However, repeating it over and over, the new mantra of his life: what's done is done. It's the past. Doesn't mean that it doesn't hurt, though.

He crosses the bridge towards his usual coffee place and looks up one last time, catching the last sun rays before a dark cloud moves and covers it completely. He takes another drag and then stops to grind the gleaming butt under his heel.

"Someone once told me that causes cancer," he hears a voice say from the other side of the bridge. He turns and takes his glasses off, seeing a dark figure leaning against the opposite railing, and he can't help but grin in disbelief.

"I know," he answers slowly, tries to remember. "And growth... disturbances?"

There is a long moment of profound silence. Neither move from their spot. Until, finally, they do.

"Come on. Walk with me, pretty boy."