October 31, 2012. Halloween. This used to be the night where Tony Stark would put on some lame pirate costume and go trawling the party scene for an easy hookup. Used to be. And now? Now, he's sitting in his workshop screwing around with the schematics for his newest toy, adjusting this and recalibrating that, tweaking the design and hoping like hell it works this time.

"Okay, Jarv, let's have it," he says, loading the new fixes. "Fire up the sim again. See if we can get this thing to stay in one piece."

On the tabletop in front of him, the projected image glows as it powers up, pulsing brighter for four promising seconds before it explodes into a million pixels and joins its predecessors in inevitable death.

Tony drops his head into his hands. "Shit."

"I'm sorry, sir," says Jarvis. "The initial power surge is still too unstable. With that level of output, the energy is too strong to be contained in the casing."

"No. It should've worked. Run diagnostics on the coding for the simulator: make sure this isn't just some system glitch creating a false failure."

"The coding appears to be correct."

"Then run a detail report and take us back to the last time it worked."

"The last successful test occurred two days ago at half power."

Exactly what Tony was afraid of hearing. "Right. Okay. Well, roll it back to the start again. We're getting nowhere with this version, so why don't you throw together some mockups, increasing power on the original to see how big we can take it before it fails. Then add the new components back in one by one and do the same thing. See if you can pinpoint where we're going wrong. In case anything amazing happens, I'll be upstairs."

He'll be upstairs pacing the empty house and trying to think his way through this problem. Just like he did the previous night, and the night before, and almost every night before that for the past month. He's close. So close, and he knows he's so close, but that last inch... that last, elusive little secret that's keeping him from finalizing this design...

He pours himself a glass of milk, squinting against the glaring light of the fridge in the dark kitchen, and paces on out to the living room and the bank of windows overlooking the ocean. He could turn on a lamp, but somehow it's nicer like this, in the shadow of night. He can stand against a wall of glass, staring up at the wispily clouded stars, and imagine he's closer to them.

(Which way is Asgard? Can he even see its star system from here? Does it belong to one of those tiny winks of light across the impossible distance of space?)

It's been three months.

To be exact, it's been three months and two days since Loki opened the portal. Two months and twenty-seven days since Thor used the Tesseract to take Loki back to Asgard. Two months and twenty-four days since Tony returned to Malibu and Pepper stayed in New York. Two months and nineteen days since he last spoke to anybody involved with S.H.I.E.L.D.. Two months and sixteen days since he last interacted with another living person on a level more meaningful than an exchange of money for food delivery. One month and eight days since he last even spoke to another living person over the phone about anything more than how much today's pizza is going to cost.

And maybe that's weird, but in all honesty, Tony's fine with the way things are now. Involving oneself in the world at large is overrated. Being part of the bigger picture is overrated. It was never more than a show, anyway: the exhausting, unending spectacle called Being Tony Stark. The drama and the glamor and the constant push to be bigger and better and more exciting, all for the benefit of an unforgiving public with a three-second attention span. Why did he ever bother? Why did he ever think he needed to? What was the point of spending all those years building up such a colossal image, as if it added any value to him at all?

So maybe it's weird, but he'd rather be alone, in the dark, at 11:30 pm on Halloween night, than where he was five years ago, surrounded by booze and drugs and fake tits and an entourage of adoring idiots whose names he didn't even bother to know. He's happier with an engineering problem in his head than with a thousand dollar bottle of champagne in his hand. Happier wearing ripped jeans than a Zegna suit. (Though maybe later he'll put on one of those suits and crack one of those champagne bottles to sit downstairs watching a shitty horror movie while a new project design renders, because, fuck it, why not?) He's happier overall. Or maybe not exactly 'happy'. 'Accepting of his new lifestyle' might be a better description. Some things could be better, but at least he's doing well enough now. One thing is still missing.

It's been three months and two days since he last saw Loki, on the rooftop. That's three months and two days he's spent thinking about Loki. A constant drumbeat of one thought after another. One recollection after the next. Good and bad both, but mostly good. The memory of touch and taste and the sound of Loki's voice with its low, silken-smooth cadence (he can almost feel its echo in his ear)...

He thought it would get easier, but it hasn't. He thought he'd come to his senses and realize how stupid he was to ever think that being with Loki could be a good idea, but that didn't happen. So.

Plan A was to do everything he could to forget about Loki. Back in August, at Pepper's insistence, Rhodey came to stay for a couple days and they did nothing but talk about cars and weapons and play video games, at which time Tony proved that he can still wrap Super Mario Bros. 3 in 28 minutes. That almost worked and everything was okay until Rhodey mentioned an upcoming training camp in Phoenix. And then it all fell apart again. One offhand mention of one city is all it took. Things weren't as okay as Tony wanted them to be.

Plan B, a few weeks later, was to climb up onto the roof and yell into space and try to contact Asgard. It had worked for Thor in Atlantic City, so why not? Tony stood on the roof, staring up at the stars, and called out to a distant planet of pagan deities in hope of an answer. Any kind of answer. (Are you there, god? It's me, Tony...) Nothing came.

Now he's on to Plan C. The plan that keeps literally exploding in his face.

Maybe it's not meant to be, and was never meant to be. And maybe it will never be. Maybe he'll never see Loki again. But as long as some little part of his brain keeps pushing and insisting that he continue to try, he's not about to give up. (Tony Stark doesn't give up.)

The phone in his back pocket vibrates and chimes. Text message. He has no interest in either talking or typing to anybody right now, but something still makes him check it.

The name on the screen is a surprise. Bruce Banner.

You awake?

Well. Maybe he has some interest in talking to one person. He doesn't text back; he calls. Bruce answers on the first ring.

"Hey," Bruce says, sounding surprised. "Tony."

"What's going on?"

"Nothing much. Just bored out of my mind watching this really bad robot movie from the 50s and somehow it reminded me of you and... That sounds like a really stupid reason for texting you now that I say it out loud. Sorry."

"No, it's fine," says Tony. "Believe me, I've texted people over stupider things."

Bruce sounds like he's nodding. "I guess I just haven't talked to you in a while and thought it might be good to catch up. Actually I haven't talked to anybody since..."

Since Barton's jet didn't make it back to New York. Tony knows the story. Bruce started to lose control on the way back to the tower once he learned what Loki had done, and then... "Yeah, neither have I," Tony says. Like the 'since' they're discussing is no big deal. "Coulson's left me a couple messages, but I haven't replied. He hasn't bothered to come out here yet and bug me in person, so it can't be anything too important."

"You're back in California?"

"Yeah. It felt like the right thing to do. New York was too..."

"I know what you mean," Bruce answers softly.

"How about you? Where are you these days?"

"British Columbia. I'm still technically working for S.H.I.E.L.D. right now on a few research projects, but Fury said he didn't care where I worked as long as I checked in regularly. So I came back here because... I don't know... it feels a bit like getting away."

"Nothing wrong with getting away," says Tony. "Speaking of which. Do you want to come over?"

There's a long, uncertain pause on Bruce's end. "What?"

"Do you want to come over?"

"Right, I heard you, but since that came right after you telling me you were in California and me telling you I'm in B.C., I..."

"I know, logistics," Tony admits. "But we can work that out. The original question still stands."

"You mean, right now?" asks Bruce.

"Yeah. Right now. Or maybe more realistically in a couple hours, because I'll have to send a jet for you, and-"

"No, Tony, I'm not letting you send a private jet."

"Where exactly are you? Vancouver?"


"Anywhere near Vancouver?"

"Not really..."

"What's the IATA code? I'll send the jet right now."

"Tony..." he sighs. "It's almost midnight. I'm in a tiny little town and the tiny little airport's probably closed until tomorrow morning. Can't we just talk on the phone?"

"No. I need you here." And as soon as he says those words, he knows they're true. He needs Bruce. He needs a second set of eyes to look over the Plan C prototype and help him figure out what's going wrong. Why the hell didn't he think of this before? "Listen," he says. "I'm in the middle of a big project that's not working out for me and I think you might be able to help. This isn't something we can do over the phone, which is why I want to fly you down to check it out in person."

"What kind of project?" Bruce asks, unable to hide the suspicion in his voice.

"I'll show you when you get here. But consider this a job. I'm paying time plus travel."

"Is this something to do with...?" He doesn't need to finish the question; the implication is obvious enough.

"Maybe," says Tony. "Or maybe it's just another one of my crazy schemes. I've kind of been into those lately."

"How about I call you on Skype," Bruce suggests. "Now, or tomorrow? You can show me what you're working on."

"Or I could call my pilot and have him take the jet up to this tiny airport of yours you still haven't named. I have him on speed dial. It would literally be easier than you making me go all the way back downstairs to my computer and then me having to go through the whole hassle of installing Skype."

"You'd rather spend... How much does a flight even cost?! You'd rather spend that than take two minutes to install a computer program?"

"Dr. Banner, if you even have to ask that question, you clearly don't know me well enough. I'm calling my pilot. Let me put you on hold."

"You're being ridiculous."

"Free trip to California. All expenses paid. Private jet. I'm still trying to figure out which part of this you find so objectionable."

"The part where..." Bruce groans. "It's just not my style. It feels weird. It feels like I'd be taking advantage of you and your money. I don't want to be that kind of person."

"It's not taking advantage when I'm offering. Pleading, even. If anything, I'm taking advantage of you. You just told me Fury doesn't care where you work, so why not work down here for a while? And before you say another word," Tony adds, "let me remind you that you were the one who contacted me, at midnight on Halloween. With that in mind, seriously, Bruce, buddy, did you expect anything less than total chaos to come out of this conversation?"

Bruce exhales loudly into the phone, filling Tony's ear with a moment of white noise. "You're right. It's midnight, it's Halloween, and of all the people in the world, I chose to talk to Tony Stark. Point made. I guess that means I'm taking a flight to Los Angeles."

Even if there's nobody around to see it, Tony smirks. "I knew you'd come around."


The first phrase out of Bruce's mouth when he spots Tony's Audi parked at the airport is, "Is that the same kind of car Zac Efron drove in 17 Again?"

The second phrase, after Tony stares at him for a couple seconds, is a sheepish, "It was on TV the other night. There's not a lot else to do up in Bella Coola."

"Zac Efron drove an Audi R8?"

"Maybe," Bruce says with a shrug. "I'm not a car guy. I don't know makes and models and all that by sight. But it looks the same, and has this same black part..."

And that's all Tony needs to hear. By the time they arrive back at his place, his mind's made up, and he tosses Bruce the keys. "Here. It's yours."

Bruce just blinks at him. "It's... what?"

"The car. You can have it. I don't want it any more. You'll have to get a new license plate because Stark 4 is clearly mine, but the car is yours."

"...You want to give me a car?"

"No, I just gave you a car. Are you hungry? We should've stopped for food. But I'll order in. Do you like Thai?"

"Tony, no, you can't give away a car!" Bruce insists as he grabs his duffel bag out of the back seat. "Not only because that's crazy, but also there's this problem of me living thousands of miles away in a different country."

He tries to hand the keys back. Tony waves his hand aside. "Logic later. We'll talk about that. I've actually thought it through and have a very sensible answer for you. For now, food. And quit making that lost puppy face." He pats Bruce on the shoulder. "I'm sorry you're now stuck with the social stigma of driving a Zac Efron car, but sometimes you just have to man up and take whatever fate throws your way."

"I should spend time with you more often," Bruce mutters. "I could probably live off your frivolous whims and hand-me-downs."

"Probably," Tony agrees. "So stick around. I also have this house in Phoenix I never want to see again, and you never know when it might be your lucky day."

Bruce seems to decide it's safer not to say anything in response to that, because he keeps his mouth shut until they're inside. Even then, he only offers a few necessary mm-hms and okays as Tony shows him around the house. Guest bedroom. Bathroom. Kitchen. Gym. Pool. He takes it all in with an increasingly obvious sense of overwhelmed awe, and doesn't speak a single full sentence until their food arrives and they're seated in the kitchen with no more architectural distractions.

"So..." he starts. "You said you haven't really talked to anybody since... New York."

"No," Tony answers.

"What have you been up to?"

Good question, that. Tony shrugs. "Usual things. I have this new project going. It takes up a lot of my time. Fourteen, fifteen hours straight... I lose track. And working out. I try to do at least four hours of cardio every day, and some strength training. Free weights, you know, at least two hours of that."

"And you sleep when?" Bruce asks with both eyebrows raised.

There's an ironic laugh clawing its way up in Tony's throat that he has to choke back down. (Sleep? Ah ha ha, what's that?) Sometimes he sleeps. Or at least he tries. Sometimes he nods off in the workshop, but never for more than an hour at a time. Sometimes he'll sit there so tired he can't see straight, yawning as he rubs his burning eyes, but the minute he gets upstairs and falls into bed... All that exhaustion evaporates. The second he turns off the lights it's gone, replaced by restless tension. Most nights he has to force himself to go to bed around the four am mark, all for the pleasure of staring up at the ceiling or watching the alarm clock on his nightstand silently count its way up to seven o'clock, at which point he'll write off sleep as a hopeless impossibility and stumble to the shower instead.

"I try to get six hours a night," he says, looking down at his plate.

"Because after six hours in the gym and fourteen hours working on your project, I guess Tony Stark is so rich he can afford days with twenty-six hours in them?"

Shit. "Fourteen hours in the workshop was probably an exaggeration," he says, but Bruce is already looking at him with that skeptic's gaze.

"Do you... want to talk about anything?"

"Nope." Why would he want to talk? What is there to talk about? Only Loki, and how his head is filled with memories of Loki, how his day is saturated with thoughts of Loki, how he can't seem to focus on anything but Loki and his crushing need to see Loki...

"Are you sure?" Bruce keeps those eyebrows raised, and when Tony doesn't answer, goes right on ahead. "It's just... You seem kind of..."

"Kind of what?"

Bruce looks away. Whatever it is he wants to say, he can't say it with eye contact. "Look, maybe I'm wrong, I really hope I don't come across as a jerk by saying this. That's not what I want. But when I first arrived you seemed good. On the phone last night I had my doubts, but today at first you seemed really sharp and together. But after driving back from the airport, the tour around the house, chatting a constant stream of jokes and sarcastic wisecracks, constantly changing the subject, jumping from one thing to the next? Tony, you showed me where the gym was twice. You seem... 'manic' might be the right word for this. At first I thought you had to be high on cocaine, and it was kind of funny because yeah, rich guy, L.A., of course that's it, right? But two hours later, it hasn't stopped, and um." He chews his lip. "Now I think this might be something else. So. Like I said. Do you want to talk about anything?"

"Nope," Tony repeats. Even though he knows he's lying to himself because there are other words that almost come out instead.

"Okay," Bruce says slowly. "But if you change your mind and feel like saying anything... Anything at all. Just to say it and sound it out. Maybe saying something will help you sort through whatever you have bottled up inside."

If only Bruce had any idea what he has bottled up inside.

Unfortunately, that bottle might be starting to open. "Have you ever..." he says after a long pause. "Have you ever met somebody that straight off the bat, it felt like you've known them forever? I know that sounds really stupid and cliché and I'm not talking about any best friends, kindred spirits bullshit. I just mean... It feels like this person has been in your life for as long as you can remember, for good or bad."

"You mean Loki?"

The first time Tony hears that name in almost three months. It's like a punch to the gut. "Yeah... him. I spent all of three weeks with him and it felt like we'd been together for thirty years. I don't know. It was weird. I knew almost nothing about him but we had this... this comfort level, almost. Right from the start. It wasn't friendship, and it wasn't even that we liked each other. Sometimes people just work together. For whatever reason, we worked. We each understood the other."

"Until he opened a portal to somewhere in deep space and triggered an alien invasion."

No. Even after that. And during that. Tony still understood. Maybe now better than before. "That's... kind of what I've been thinking about for the past couple months."

"The invasion?"

"Loki's reasons behind it. Why he went ahead with what he did."

"Because that's why he came to Earth in the first place," says Bruce. "To grab the Tesseract so his alien friends could follow."

But that's not it; not exactly. Tony sits up straighter, leaning forward. "No, listen. I don't think that was his plan. Maybe at first, but at the end? When it counted? No. All that careful scheming and he blew it at the end. Why?"

Bruce opens his mouth, but closes it again without saying a word, instead motioning with his hand for Tony to go ahead with whatever harebrained theory is about to come out.

It's a good choice, because Tony's harebrained theory was going to come out either way. "He wanted to lose."

"Tony..." Bruce groans.

"I'm serious. He wanted to lose. He had every opportunity to succeed, and he took none of them, so the only logical conclusion is that he wanted to lose."

"Or he made a mistake."

"Or he wanted to lose. It's the only explanation that makes sense. How long would it have taken him to initialize the portal? One minute? Two? Yet Natasha and I were downstairs for a good ten minutes just wasting time, and when I finally made it up to the roof he was still standing there, not having done a single thing, like he was waiting for me. Then? He let me stall him even more. Took every single hook I threw out and spent all that time telling me exactly what he was doing when he could have easily killed me or knocked me out and gone on with the show. And if you'd heard what he told me, about Thanos, about the Chitauri... If you'd been there, Bruce, I think you'd side with me on this. He didn't want the Tesseract. He didn't want Earth. He didn't want anything except to get away from them, in whatever way he could!"

"He still opened the portal."

"Yes," says Tony, "but only at the last minute, after everything else, when he'd talked himself into it. When he knew I could stop him!"

There's uncertainty lingering in Bruce's eyes, though.

But why? There are too many questions, and too many inconsistencies, and all things that Tony can't really explain. Why did Loki send him to get the scepter, when it wasn't even necessary to open the portal? Loki knew – he knew – what effect it would have on Tony, and what it would trigger. Why would he bring only tens of thousands of Chitauri when he had to have known that would be nowhere near enough to carry out a full-scale war? "He had to lose," Tony says out loud. "But he had to make it look like he was still trying to win." It's the only way he could ever escape from Thanos. Truly escape. "He had to let the Chitauri through. He had to start the invasion to fulfil his oath to Thanos. He had to put on a show of going through with it while still setting himself up to lose in the end. Don't you see?"

Slowly, Bruce shakes his head. "Sorry. No. I don't. I see a guy who tried to pull one over on all of us, and in the end, it got him in the back. And I see you maybe feeling guilty for shooting him, because you thought he was your friend. But you're looking for reasons to forgive Loki for what he did. You're grasping at excuses. And I get it."

(No, he doesn't, he doesn't get anything at all...)

"You've been by yourself for three months, not talking to anybody, all alone in this big house after everything that happened. That's a lot of time to think about things too much and force-fit one and one together to make three. You want to exonerate Loki, so you start looking for clues and reading too much into his actions and maybe misremembering some of the-"

"No," Tony says, flat out. "I'm not misremembering, and I'm not reading too much into anything. I know what I saw, and I know what Loki was trying to do. I'm sure of it. I'd bet my life on it. And I might be about to do just that."

"You... What?" Bruce asks as those words sink in.

"I asked you to come down here for a reason. As much fun as it would be to just hang out and play X-Box and explore the totally legitimate science of seeing how well household objects blow up, I had ulterior motives in inviting you to stay. I'm working on something. Something big."

"Your 'project'."

Tony nods. "Yeah. And I think it's time I showed what that's all about."


Bruce's hand is hesitant. Like it's hovering over a live bomb, afraid of what might happen at the slightest movement. Carefully, slowly, he reaches down to touch the barrel of the HYDRA gun sitting on the table in Tony's workshop. Eleven. There are eleven of them in all: three of the bulky old style left over from Steve's day, and eight of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s new models. One's been taken apart already and its pieces lie scattered on the worktop. The naked energy casing glows a pale, electric blue.

"How did you get these?" Bruce asks.

Tony coughs. "Um. I may have promised Fury a few things about increasing range and accuracy in his designs."

"You're back in the weapons business?"

"Not exactly. That's what I said I was doing. But I have the feeling that when Fury finds out what I'm actually doing, there'll be a substantial price on my head."

Bruce's gaze shoots up, and he looks almost afraid to ask the question hanging from his tongue. "Are you putting HYDRA tech in your suit?!"

"Good guess, but no," says Tony. "To tell you the truth, if I never see one of these guns fired again it'll be too soon. I have a better project in mind. The reason I asked you to come down. You have a little more hands-on experience than I do with this, so..."

The click of everything falling into place in Bruce's mind is almost audible. "Oh no. No no no. Tony, that's... no."

"Why not?" Tony asks, coming around to sit on the edge of the table. "The Tesseract is gone. It's our only known method of wormhole travel, and it's gone. And there's nothing else like it. Except these guns. What's trapped in these guns?"

"You can't be serious."

"Tesseract energy, that's what. What did Steve say back when we all met in the Tower? That a bunch of Nazis accidentally invented a teleportation ray seventy years ago? Seventy years ago! The technology's already here! We're looking at it! And if they could do that then, there's no reason why I can't perfect it now!"

"You're trying to create another portal," Bruce says, staring at him with a look that just repeats what he said a second ago: you can't be serious. "Another gateway to Asgard."

Tony nods. "Yeah. And I'm close. Really close. Like... two or three minor tweaks away close."

"Because of Loki."

Because of Loki, Tony thinks, but doesn't say. Because of Loki. Because it feels like he's still part of my life, and every day I catch myself thinking of things I want to tell him, or turning around and expecting him to be there. Because he should be there.

"I know you don't really understand," he says instead, which Bruce answers with a sad little shake of his head. "But this is something... It's something I have to do. I don't need you to believe me, and I don't need you see things from my point of view, I just need you to accept what I'm doing. Bruce... For the first time in my life, I've done something wrong – really wrong – that I can't fix. Not here. Not with what I have. And I need to fix it. Upstairs in the kitchen you called me 'manic', and yeah, I agree with you. There are times when I can't sleep, I can't focus, I can't do anything, because there's this pressure in my head telling me I fucked up, that this isn't finished, and I need to finish it. I know I won't be happy until I do. So..." He pushes his hair back from his forehead, feeling sweat and heat against his palm. "I haven't talked to anybody because I don't want to talk to anybody. I haven't seen anybody because I don't want to see anybody. I just want this. That's all. This."

"And you're willing to risk your life?" asks Bruce. "This is really sketchy tech. We don't know enough about how it works or what it can do. It could misfire or have unexpected side effects or just plain not work right. Even if you succeed in opening a portal, if it's not 100% perfect, the second you touch it..."

"I could die. I know. I could be turned inside out. Did you ever see that Jeff Goldblum remake of The Fly? I could be that. But I also could've died on the tower rooftop three months ago. And I could've died three weeks before that in Atlantic City when Romanoff had one of these guns in my face. I could've been killed at any time by a couple different guys that wanted to kill me. Or you know what? I could've died from palladium poisoning, or by some freak accident testing out my suit, or hell, even in a car crash with my parents in 1991. I could've died a lot."

"That's not the same."

"I could die half an hour from now if I piss you off too much and you Hulk out on me."

"Tony..." Bruce warns.

"Five minutes from now?"

"There's a difference between accidental death and deliberately putting yourself in harm's way."

"Something I would know nothing about having spent the last two years as Iron Man," Tony counters. "You're not going to change my mind. I'm doing this. What I want to know is, are you going to help me?"

Now it's Bruce's turn to push his hair back. And adjust his glasses, rubbing the bridge of his nose. "I don't know if I can in good conscience do anything to assist with this... whatever it is you're doing."

"But can you, in good conscience, help me work out the bugs and make it safer? I told you. I'm doing this one way another. By myself, I might come out the other side of that portal as Jeff Goldblum. But with your help, it might work."

Bruce doesn't answer immediately. He looks up at the ceiling, and across the room, and down at the table of guns.

"I have the energy source, Bruce. According to my calcs, I have enough energy in those guns to keep a portal open for almost twenty seconds."

"Selvig and I weren't able to open any kind of portal at all, even when we had the Tesseract itself. Without Loki's magic, it won't work."

"I have Loki's scepter."

With a sharp turn of the head, Bruce's eyes snap over to Tony. "How..."

"Let's not discuss the how," says Tony. "Officially speaking, if anybody asks, I didn't just say that, and it's not here. Some... shady dealings may have been involved." Shady as in dark and underhanded, involving a word that rhymes with 'weft' from an organization that rhymes with 'field', but that's beside the point. "Important thing is, with the influence of that scepter, I know we can get the portal to work. So I have the energy. And I have the magic wand. All I need is a little help finalizing the device. Are you in?"

"I don't know," Bruce starts, but Tony cuts him off.

"No wimping out here, pal. Straight up. Yes or no. You in or out?"

Exhaling loudly, Bruce rubs his nose again. "Well," he says. "Really? When I think about it? I mean, really think about it? Keeping in mind that my only priority is to mitigate disaster and keep you from doing something dumb. But." A faint smile begins to crack across his face. "How cool would it be if this actually worked?"

Tony grins in reply. "Let's make ourselves a goddamn space hole."




Dear all,

Thank you so much for reading! It's been several months and well over 100k words (whut), but this thing is finally complete. I really can't thank you all enough for your reviews and favorites and support of this story. :)

This ends on kind of a "wait, what?" note, which can really only mean one thing: there will be a sequel coming up at some time in the near future. I don't have any definite plans yet, but I'm estimating a start date sometime in October. Notifications for that and any other totally legitimate, high-class, scholarly literary works I may force upon this archive will be posted on my Tumblr (fullofleaves).

Once again, thank you for reading, and I hope to see you again once I get my act together and figure out some important elements of what's coming up next. Like, you know, plot and stuff.