My days in Georgia ended faster than I could have imagined. As did my time with Leo.

Telling him goodbye was hard; he nearly had to claw me off him before he left.

But being on my own was harder.

At first, throughout most of the Christmas holidays, I kept to myself. I left my dorm only to eat and pick up more books. The grief of losing my second family nearly overwhelmed me.

I felt so foreign, even to myself. I missed my new friends. I missed Leo.

But school started soon, and I was forced out. I gained a roommate. A friend I could count on for years to come—Carol Marcus.

It was Carol who coaxed me out of my shell, slowly.

The classes at the academy were engaging and challenging, and once I became braver, I excelled in my classes.

Leo and I talked every three or four days. I had decided as soon as I had left that I would not bother him by trying to communicate with him every day—he had a medbay to run and I had to study.

I also had to rediscover who I was, alone.

But when we did speak, and his face flashed up on the screen, I always felt as if I could breathe again. Sometimes, we would laugh about a story of mine, or over something Jim had done. Other times, we were quieter. He had maybe lost a patient, or I was frazzled with the stress of keeping my scholarships. Occasionally, we even added Jo to the conversation, and we made sure she was doing well.

Sometimes I called Joanna alone, to make sure everything was alright. She trusted me with information that she thought would upset her father; we grew to be fast friends.

Back at school, Caroline often dragged me out to coffee shops, or to concerts, and I was glad for her. Because slowly, I forgot that I was different.

I was Eden Reyford. And I was no different than any other student. I was wholly myself, and I was content.

Leo managed to visit once or twice a year. He would meet me at the academy and we would make our way to Georgia to see Jo. During most of his visits, I didn't want to let go of him, because it didn't feel real. I waited so long for him to come back, and when he did, they were always beautiful times that never lasted quite long enough.

Jim once confided in me that Leo was always cranky when he got back after shore leave. He also said Leo often talked about missing me.

Carol knew how much I missed him. We didn't talk about Leo much.

Three and a half years flew by, and I graduated with a degree in nursing and a minor in linguistics. I was older. Braver. Sure of myself. I no longer flinched when people moved too quickly. I could hold my own in most situations. And I was happy.

Jim made sure that my first assignment was to the Enterprise.

And I was soon made head nurse of the medbay, under a certain Doctor Leonard H. Mccoy.

Years passed, and we grew stronger together. We helped each other in the good times, and in the bad times. Leo hadn't been lying when he said he could be mean. But I had my own set of problems, still dealing with the aftershock of what had happened to me. But we kept going. Little by little.

Leo proposed to me on a Tuesday, a few months after I turned 24.

I accepted.

Jim officiated our wedding, happier than I'd ever seen him.

And now, I write this from mine and Leo's shared quarters. They are the same quarters where I stayed with him all those nights ago, and learned to trust him.

I started out a broken, injured girl with no trust in anyone. A girl as sharp as a fox, who flinched at every turn.

I am no longer that girl.

I am Eden Reyford. And I am free.

I can't believe this is over! It's been so great to write this story for you all, and I've loved every second of this. Thank you so much for your continued support, and all the reviews, favorites, and follows. Each one means so much for me.

Stay tuned, I'm working on something new soon! I'm tossing around ideas for either an academy story with some fem!kirk and mccoy, or an arranged marriage fic with either KirkxOC or SpockxOC...not sure yet! If you want to let me know what you'd rather read, I'd love feedback!

Also if you'd like to leave feedback on this story overall, I'd love that too :) You've all been wonderful!