This is it, my lovelies… the chapter to end all chapters. WAAAAAH why!? I seriously feel like crying. Gahhh, I love you guys so much, and I love writing this story so much, and omg Mal got shot wtf. Okay. I'm ready for this.
Since this is the final chapter, it's gonna be nice and long, just for you. Fear not, for this isn't entirely the end. I'll be uploading a few drabbles from now and again… they just won't be very often. I'll also be writing PLENTY of other Zal fics in the future. So, if you feel the need get your fix of this couple, you can always subscribe to my author alert. There will be one-shots and multi-chapters galore. I promise. On top of that, Bialy and I have decided to make a full-time series! Which includes a Dott fic, an Aleheather fic, and a Jo and Brick mystery fic. We've also decided to add in a Chris McLean fic! So yeah.
Anyway, I want to take this moment to give a huge thank you to all of you. That's right! YOU! You've made writing this story the highlight of my writing career on this website, thus far. I'm really looking forward to writing for this audience again in the future. I want to make a huge shout out to all you people, for sticking with the story from the very beginning. You really do rock! I can't say that enough!
I also want to give my final thank-yous to Thanny Bialy for being the best Sistah Shippah evahhh! Seriously, I couldn't have done it without you; you make life so much easier. I can't imagine the puddle of goop and molten brain gunk I would be reduced to were it not for you, my darling. You make me happy. Keep up the great work ;D (Iloveyouandcan'tstandwhenwearen'taroundeachotherandomgyou'rethebestevergahhh)
So there's my note for the chapter. I hope you guys like it. Welcome to Spotswood! Enjoy the fluff! Be sure to read the author's note at the end as well!
~Moony & Bialy
Chapter Thirteen - Spotswood
They stumbled through the snow, panting as they hurried along. He was damned near to collapsing again, his heart pounding at a dangerous rate inside his chest. The bullet had barely missed his heart. Had it lodged itself any lower, the vital organ would have been pierced. He'd have died. Thankfully, that wasn't the case, but the pain that he was experiencing now was more intense than any he'd ever felt before. He had his arm wrapped around her shoulders, leaning on her for stability. He could scarcely carry himself, knees weak from the stinging and burning in his chest.
It had been several hours since they'd crossed the border into Canada. They'd managed to make little progress on foot, eventually stopping on the side of a deserted backroad highway that was in quite a poor condition. They waited for a long time for a car, truck, anybody to pass them by; after so long of waiting with nobody coming near, they began to travel on in search of a town, a house, a city, some form of civilization.
Zoey was in a state of shock and panic. Her mind was torn between convincing herself that he was just fine, and preparing for the worst; that they wouldn't find help on time and he would die. It didn't help that the farther they went, the more hopeless everything seemed. Her small frame wasn't prepared for a situation like this, lacking the strength and size to keep dragging him along. She didn't have the desire to hurt anyone, but she made the resolve that she would take care of him in the next building she found despite any occupancy.
Their journey got progressively slower as they went, as she was unwilling to stop and gather her strength. Her muscles were burning, she was exhausted and dizzy, but she'd forged ahead until they had to stop and rest. He leaned himself against the trunk of a tree, clutching his hand to his chest and breathing heavily. He glanced up at her with an expression that wasn't quite readable, a mix of admiration, guilt, and despair. She offered him a wavering smiled in return, doing her best to convince the both of them that everything would be okay. She touched his cheek with shaky fingers, blinking away fearful tears from her eyes. He frowned softly at her, eyes narrowing to study her features. Gently, he reached up and wiped the tears away with his thumb.
"Don't cry," he whispered, wrapping his arm about her torso and pulling her into an embrace despite the burning sensation that the pressure triggered. He choked back a cough, petting her hair and nestling his chin upon her shoulder. Carefully she pulled away from him, avoiding the wound in his chest.
"Just," she murmured. "Hold on, okay? Hold on tight." He kept his fingers entwined with hers as she cast her eyes in each direction, scanning the wood for a sign of life. There was nothing that she could see here; nothing but snow, rock and trees. She sighed softly, ready to give up and curl into a ball with him; willing to spend her last few moments with him freezing in the cold, bodies entangled with one another. She scanned the trees one more time, pressing close to him, before her heart skipped a beat, and her face paled. Something had caught her attention.
She tore her fingers from his and ambled deeper into the snow, legs shaking beneath her, heavy like lead. She could scarcely believe what she was seeing now. Through the trees, she could just barely make out the only structure on the ground that wasn't snow or trees, the first sign of another human being since they'd crossed the border. Among the frozen foliage, camouflaged by the snow, a small cabin stood. She wouldn't have noticed it, were it not for the lights inside. She cast her glance back in his direction, eyes wide with disbelief.
"Zoey," he murmured slowly, voice hoarse. "What is it?" He did his best not to sound too pained, wishing not to concern her; however, his lips and voice trembled as he spoke, and he winced after each word, leaving his disposition undisguised. She frowned, biting back a flurry of questions. Her expression eventually grew troubled, but thoughtful.
"There's a cabin," she told him quietly. She glanced back down at the wound only for a split second before her eyes reverted back to the cabin. "It's lit. We could make it there..." He nodded quickly and stood, his hand reaching for hers. He let her rest, keeping his weight to himself. He could endure the pain for the next few minutes as the fumbled toward the small building. They'd found salvation, even if it was only temporary.
They crashed through the front door, unable to believe their luck. The tiny cabin was warm and bright, well lived in. Though a bit messy, it wasn't a sty, just disorganized enough to seem homey and cheery. The cabin was made up of one big room and a restroom. The room was filled with books and furniture; a bed in one corner, a table-and upon it, a lamp-that sat next to it, and a couch in the adjacent corner. The walls were lined with newspaper clippings and old photographs. Near the front door, a rather stately bookshelf stood, displaying various works of literature. They took a moment to ebb their curiosity, slightly awed by their find. After a moment, however, they were reminded of the terrible situation they were in.
Zoey led Mal over to the couch before ripping away his shirt, leaving his wound bare, exposed to the stinging air. He winced as she sat him up and examined the wound. Her primary goal was to just keep the wound clean. She couldn't get the bullet out. Not with the swelling he had right now, unless she wanted to exacerbate the wound even further. Still, the longer that it stayed in, the closer he was to lead poisoning settling in. Her fingers skirted along the outside of the wound before she placed her thumbs on the edges, pushing the singed skin apart just enough to see inside. She could see the end of the small metal capsule that was slowly being engulfed by fleshy, red bits of muscle and fat. At least, thanks to the cold outside inhibiting swelling, it wasn't infected yet. Without antibiotics, though, she tried not to think about what would happen if he ended up becoming so.
"Stay still," she murmured urgently. "There's got to be a first aid kit around here somewhere." He watched her carefully, teeth barred and fingers digging into the fabric of the sofa. He could hardly stand the pain that he was experiencing. He kept his eyes focused on her as she scurried about the cabin in search, and kept her on his mind. He repeated her name in his head over and over to himself, feeling a bit sick to his stomach.
"Okay," he whispered, holding a hand to his head. He wiped a bit of sweat from his brow, biting his lip. "Please, hurry."
"I've found one!" She said after a moment, relief resounding in her voice. It had been tucked under some other emergency gear in a small closet at the end of the cabin. She was back at his side not a moment later, picking through the contents of the kit. It was overstuffed. Whoever lived here had kept the kit over-stocked, and had even kept a small leather bite rag. She concluded quickly that this person must have done their own medical procedures quite a few times to keep such a larger variety of supplies. At least it would prevent Mal from biting off his tongue.
"Put this in your mouth. It'll help you cope with the pain," she muttered. He looked up at her expectantly before he took the leather and slipped it between his teeth. The last thing that they needed was for him to bite off his tongue.
"Guh." He bit down on it hard, eyes squinting shut. "Mfff. Keep Talking." He cursed to himself, trying to focus on her voice. She nodded, steadying her hands before she doused a Q-tip in alcohol and began rubbing it inside the hole of the flesh wound.
"It's not that bad," she assured him shakily. "There's no infection, and you don't have much swelling yet… I'm just glad you're alive." He clenched his teeth even harder, a choke escaping his throat. Nevertheless, he nodded in response.
"G-Glad," he sputtered in agreement. It stung like no other, the alcohol on the open wound, but he continued to listen to her. "Me too." He reached for her free hand, and twined their fingers together. He didn't dare to squeeze too hard, but he applied a bit of pressure, relieving some of the pain.
"Shh. It's alright." She squeezed his hand in return, and then ran her fingers through his hair. "It's gonna be alright." She threw out the Q-tip before taking a seat next to him. Slowly, the sting subsided, and he pulled the leather rag from his mouth.
"I hope so," he uttered, resting his head against her shoulder. She pat him gently on the cheek.
"You're taking it like a real hero, Mal." She smiled softly. "I still have to wrap you up. You think you can stand to sit through it for a few more minutes?" He groaned, but nodded and sat back up. She made quick work of his bandages, fingers skilled and nimble. He watched her work with a small frown, cringing from time to time. As she finished tending to his injury, she planted a gentle kiss upon the bridge of his nose.
"My strong boy," she murmured, as if talking to a baby. He smiled a bit before pouting, trying his best to be playful. If these were going to be his last moments-if he was going to die here-he was going to make her happy.
"I'm a man, damnit," he teased, scrunching up his face in feigned distaste. "I'm not a boy." She giggled, despite the situation, and slipped back to his side.
"Trust me, I know," she relented softly. Eventually, her face fell to relief and she physically relaxed. "But that doesn't mean I don't want to take care of you." He took a moment to smile, exhausted, before he laid his head in her lap, eyes shutting.
"Hnh. You're the most beautiful thing," he murmured. "The most beautiful thing I've ever had the chance to care about." He looked up at her again, eyes tired. She returned his smile, and began petting his hair soothingly. She leaned down to gently kiss his forehead before she sighed, letting her mind wander to more immediate things.
"You need to get some sleep. I'm not going to let you die because some insomnia kept your immune system from activating." Her fingers gently brushed over the wound, pensive. "Do you have enough strength to get to the bed?" He moaned, burying his face in her thighs before he sat up a bit.
"I guess so." He did his best to stand, legs still shaking from the pain and their trek. He sputtered for a moment before he trudged toward the bed, hand clutched to his head. He managed to collapse into the bed, and rolled over onto his back. She was at his side after taking a moment to put away the kit. She lifted his head up gently long enough to slide the pillow underneath, before collapsing beside him from exhaustion of another kind. He wrapped one arm around her, pulling her close, and promptly fell asleep. For the longest time she couldn't fall asleep for fear that she'd wake up in the morning and he'd no longer be breathing. Still, her body had taken its limit today, and her arms wrapped around him. Her eyelids fluttered shut and not long after, succumbed to darkness.
She was startled awake when the door slammed open. A tall, lean body stood in the doorway, with a slightly surprised expression settled upon its Latin facial features. A man in his mid twenties rushed forward, eyes wide and manic.
"Who the hell are you? What are you doing in my cabin! Did they send you?" He pulled her from the bed by the shoulders, suddenly angry. "I don't want to go back. You can't make me. Get out!" Zoey watched him for a moment, startled, before she drew her hand back and thrust it forward with her whole body, effectively slapping the man.
"Get off of me!" She screamed, clutching her own stinging hand. He stared at her, gawked really, mouth agape.
"You dare to break into my dwelling and then you slap me? She-devil!" He held his cheek before he stared at her again. "You have ten seconds to tell me what you're doing here before I kill you." His accent was thick. He was obviously an immigrant. A Spaniard. After all the death threats she'd taken over the course of the last few months, she was rather desensitized to them. However, she'd relied on Mal's protection more heavily than she liked to admit. Realizing this, she frowned and tried pulling herself away.
"Look. Your cabin was empty and unlocked. I- We needed it. My friend is hurt." Her eyes drifted over to the corner of room, where a bouquet of wilted wildflowers sat, before she spoke again. "And I don't think we were the first to bunk here. Just calm down, okay?" He stared at her for a moment before he took a deep breath, trying to wrap his head around what she was saying.
"What happened to him?" he asked, rather abrasive. He strolled over to Mal, still looking a bit wild eyed. "Is that a wound? What sort of wound? Was he shot? Who shot him?" Her eyes narrowed and she stepped between the spaniard and Mal defensively.
"Yes, he was shot," she said slowly, carefully. She warily watched his reaction before continuing. "Some, ah, fellow Americans shot him. We were coming over the border."
"Oh. Good. Good." He shook his head. "Did you take out the bullet? Or does he have an exit wound? I don't see much blood." Her face scrunched up, crossing her arms.
"It's still in. I haven't had the will to dig out the bullet. Even if I have the medical training." Her head fell slightly, frowning. "I don't want to exacerbate the wound and cause an infection, but if I leave it in he'll invariably get lead poisoning and die."
"Did you find my medical supplies?" He squinted his eyes, head cocked a bit. "I keep them in the closet. Get them for me, please." She bit her lip, debating whether or not to trust this man before taking her chances. She nodded and scampered off, only to come back and produce the kit a moment later.
"I used some of them already. I hope you don't mind." He waved his hand before he shook his head.
"It's fine, it's fine." He looked at her. "I can fix this. But you'll owe me a favor later."
"A favor," she repeated softly. "What exactly do you mean by that?"
"We'll see." He tapped the side of his head before he returned his attention to the sleeping man who lay upon the bed. "What a heavy dreamer. Interesting." He slowly unwound the bandages that she'd so carefully dressed him with. She held out a hand to stop him when he was done with that.
"You should let me wake him up first. Wounded or not, he's dangerous." She warned, cocking an eyebrow at the man. He watched her for a moment before he stepped away.
"Quickly, quickly. I don't have much time to help you. I have places to be." He turned away from the bed, rubbing his temples distractedly. She perched at the edge of the bed and began gently running her fingers through his hair. The Spaniard watched her, softening a bit as it dawned upon him that they were lovers.
"Michael," she said softly and leaned over to give him a chaste kiss. "You have to wake up for a little bit, okay?" His eyes drowsily opened, and he stared up at her, looking defeated.
"What's wrong? Are we dead? Did I die?" He seemed quite delirious; exhaustion and anemia-not to mention his mental condition-were taking their tolls on him. He was at least numb to the pain. She frowned, giving a frantic glance towards the Spaniard before she turned and shook her head at his inquiry.
"No, of course not," Zoey stroked his cheek with her thumb. "I've brought a friend. He's going to help you, but it's going to hurt. We have to trust him, okay?" He nodded slowly, cringing as he tried to sit up. The other man gently pushed him back against the bed.
"Stay down," he mumbled. "You need to stay as still as possible. Can you hold him?" He gave the redhead a sideways glance.
"I can try."
He nodded and pulled open the supply kit, shuffling through every last bit of equipment.
"Needle, thread, prongs, gauze. Unfortunately, I have no anaesthetics. We'll have to use this." For the second time that morning, Mal found himself with the leather rag in his mouth. "This will have to do. Please, restrain him. I can't have him moving or struggling."
"With what?" she asked. "Unless you have handcuffs lying around, I'd need some rope or something to tie him down." He looked up at her with a glimmer in his eye.
"Handcuffs? I can do that." He stood up, turning around to rummage through his bookcase. "Ahah! Here." He turned around and scowled at the expression on the woman's face.
"Ask me no questions," he stated plainly. "And I'll tell you no lies. Use these." He placed the key to the cuffs on the little table that sat beside the bed. Gingerly, she accepted the objects, wincing slightly as she did. Still, she did what she was told, and cuffed each arm to opposite sides of the bed. She tugged on his arms and legs a little before guiltily deciding to click the cuff around his wrist one notch tighter. It would be uncomfortable, but he wouldn't be able to pull out of them. Finally, she sat on his torso, weighing down the last thing that they couldn't just cuff to the bed. Despite the way she was positioned, she turned to face the spaniard with complete earnest.
"I'm ready when you are," she nodded to him. He nodded back at her, glancing at Mal with a slight frown.
"Good. Let's begin, then." He sat down at the edge of the bed. "Terribly sorry friend. This is going to hurt. A lot." He took up the prongs in one hand, applying a numbing agent to the wound in hopes of ebbing the pain a bit. Unfortunately, this wasn't going to stop him from feeling every last moment of this excruciating surgery. He spread open the wound, looking a bit hesitant, before he slipped the prongs inside.
It took less than half a second for Mal to lurch forward, eyes wide, howling in pain. The Spaniard winced, but continued to dig deeper into the entry, and searched for the renegade bullet. The injured man was roaring in pain now, thrashing his arms, trying to escape; but just as soon as he'd started, he collapsed again, completely motionless aside from his heaving chest. The Spaniard clenched his teeth.
"Don't worry. He's just passed out from the pain. It'll be easier this way." He continued to dig around for the bullet, blood pouring from the wound.
"Be careful with him." Zoe grimaced. "It's quite obvious you aren't a doctor."
"I might as well be," he replied, expression unchanging. "Have you ever pulled a bullet out of somebody? I have a one hundred percent success rate." He narrowed his eyes for a moment before he grinned, and clamped the prongs. After a moment, he was standing and pulling the tools from the younger man's chest, a triumphant smile nested upon his face. Between the prongs sat a bloodied bullet. Her breath caught for a moment before she broke out into a relieved grin.
"Oh, thank you, thank you." She threw her arms around him momentarily in a hug, before pushing him away from both herself and Mal. The Spaniard frowned, staring at her.
"I'm not quite finished," he mumbled, slightly amused by her behavior. "He still needs stitching, otherwise he won't heal well."
"I can do that myself," she offered. "You don't have to trouble yourself anymore, if you don't want to." He shrugged, looking her over before he grinned.
"Of course," he said, gesturing to the needle and thread. "Ah, but Signorita, I haven't yet learned the name of you or your partner."
"I- I'd feel much more comfortable discussing that when he wakes up." She smiled apologetically. "Besides, you haven't told me yours yet, either. I don't necessarily want to know. We're… running from some things." He watched her for a moment before he laughed.
"As you wish," he said. "But trust me. I am the king of hide and seek. You are safe here, for now." He paused for a moment, and then turned away, heading for the door. She opened her mouth to say something before clamping it shut and nodding her understanding instead. She turned her attentions back to her partner, brushing her lips against his forehead and holding his hand for a moment. The moment was over as quickly as it began, though, and she donned the provided needle and thread. Pinching the two ends of the wound together, she set to work.
A long time passed-after she'd stitched his wound back together-before he began to stir again. His hands pulled tight against his bindings, and he moaned softly, head lolling from side to side.
"Zoey," he murmured, brow furrowed. "Zoey?" Her head jerked up immediately, expression softening.
"Hey." She gently laid her hand on his. "How are you feeling?" He flexed his fingers, eyes fluttering open.
"It hurts," he replied plainly. "But I'm okay. I'd be better if I had the ability to move." He raised an eyebrow at her. She gave him a sly grin, but moved closer to remove them.
"You don't like the handcuffs? I thought you'd be into that."
"I don't like restraints," he replied shortly. "I've spent too long dealing with them. Handcuffs, straight jackets; it all becomes very tedious." He almost smiled.
"Aw. I thought they were a nice touch. Well, I guess that's too bad for me," she laughed a little, but went to work on removing them. As the cuffs came undone, he sat up, wincing, and quickly laid back down.
"I want to hold you, damn it," he growled weakly, a scowl forming on his features. "But I feel like I'll barf up a lung if I sit up for too long." She moved to lay down with him and smiled.
"Just rest. I promise there's going to be time to do that and more, later." He pouted and delicately wrapped one arm around her, resting his head against hers.
"I don't want rest, I want you." He moaned the words as though he were an impatient child, and placed his lips upon her ear. She shivered and cuddled closer to him.
"You have to rest," she objected weakly. "You jerk."
"I'm a jerk for wanting to hold my best friend? Alright. Alright. I see how it is." He closed his eyes and bit at her earlobe before pulling her closer and yawning. "Let's both get some rest, huh?" She agreed hesitantly.
"Fine, but only for a little bit. I want to check your stitches again, later." He nodded his consent and squeezed her.
They managed to rest for almost an hour before the Spaniard returned, and he had company. A man with red hair and a small blonde stood in the doorway, both looking rather surprised by what was going on.
"So, I can keep this here, if everything works the way it's supposed to." The red haired man nodded slowly, looking a bit puzzled.
"But there's no way we'll be able to keep the land." He sighed fretfully, running a hand through his wild hair. "Pappy left me with almost no money. We're going to lose it. They're too rich."
"Ah, but my new friends, here, owe me a favor," the Spaniard replied suavely. "A life for a life. I'd say that's fair. Hey! Wake up! We've got things to talk about!" He looked over at Zoey, eyebrows raising. She rose first, shaking out her lethargy. The scene surprised her only for a moment, before she took in the unusual group.
"I didn't realize more people were here," she muttered sleepily, glancing away from them to Mal. The Spaniard crossed his arms and tapped his foot impatiently.
"You said you're Americans, right? You obviously crossed the border illegally, otherwise your friend there wouldn't have been shot." He looked thoughtful. "You're illegal immigrants. Don't you know?" He was quiet for a moment, waiting for her to response. She stared at him, starting to panic.
"Please, don't turn us in," she whispered, eyes wide. "We can't go back! They'll never let us-" She was cut off by a quick gesture of the hand.
"Fear not, Signorita. I have a plan for you. How would you like for your man there," he said, gesturing to her partner, who was just beginning to wake himself up. "To become a very, very rich individual?" Her head tilted to the side and her eyes narrowed.
"Uh, well, what exactly do you mean by that?" She inquired cautiously. "That sounds a bit too good to be true." He smiled at her, looking satisfied.
"Trust me, the only thing that you'll be doing is favors for everyone. Spotswood will welcome you with open arms!" He smiled widely as if to reflect the feelings of the rest of the town. "Won't they?"
"Of course," agreed the red-haired man. "Favors, open arms, all of that." Zoey's eyes narrowed, Mal sat up, rubbing his temples, and leaned carefully against her shoulder.
"What do you need us to do?" she asked tentatively.
"We don't need your help," the Spaniard said, cutting her question. "We only need his help. We will not burden you with the weight of such a tremendous favor. This is his task. I saved his life. This much, he owes me, as well as these two." He gestured to the young couple before them, who now stood with their arms wrapped about one another.
"I accept." Mal cut Zoey off before she could say anything more. "You saved my life, and this favor will make it better for us, it seems. I'm willing to help you. You can count on me." The Spaniard smiled, letting his eyes shut, relief washing over his sharp features.
"Excellent, my friends," he said quietly. "This is Dawn, and this is Scott, and I am Alejandro. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance."
They'd stayed with Alejandro for almost six months before they finally got their own place. It was a small space, but Al was hardly there. For the most part, the lovers had the little cabin all to themselves. Dawn was the one who visited most often, adorning the house with little plants and flowers, and bringing them fresh vegetables from Scott's fields. Everything was pretty peaceful, until one day Alejandro came to collect Mal.
"I need a favor," he said casually to Zoey. "He'll be back before sundown, and you'll be free as birds. No strings attached."
They were gone for hours. She was beginning to worry a bit, because the sun had already sunk low beneath the hills, and the last rays bounced off of the clouds and then disappeared altogether as the night consumed the sky. There was barely a sliver of a moon left in the sky, but it washed the ground whiter than it already was casting long shadows between the dead branches of snow-covered trees. She fell asleep after long, sitting in the corner of the bed farthest from the door, her knees pulled up to her chest.
She was startled awake, when they both stumbled through the front door, laughing their asses off, whooping, congratulating one another. Alejandro clapped Mal on the back, a suave grin placed upon his features. She stared at the two as they got themselves inside and removed their winter coats. Alejandro was clean as a whistle, not a hair out of place; Mal, however, was drenched, soaked to the bone, absolutely, one hundred percent covered in blood. She shut her eyes tight, doing her best not to gag. She could smell it; the horrid scent of iron filled her nose as he neared her, and gently planted a kiss upon her forehead.
"Sleep on, Little Red," he murmured happily. "Tomorrow, we'll have new lives to lead." He traipsed off to the restroom to get himself showered up. They left that cabin the next morning-after a night of tossing and turning, on Zoey's part-and never looked back. She'd be okay. She was used to this.
Now it was quiet, save for the light tinkle of chimes on the wind and the roar of the river in the distance. Over sunlight dappled hill, under the looming eye of the mountains, they now owned a beautiful piece of land; several acres of it. The skies were blue, when the sun would shine, and the rain came in downpours, like buckets thrust upon the earth. The winters were snowy and cold, but inside, by the fire, it was easy to chase away the chill and discomfort of the Yuletide air.
It was summer now. The pair lay on the grass, staring up at the sky with their fingers intertwined. The sun filtered through the trees, tracing stencils on their skin. Occasionally, one of them would mutter a question, or something incoherent, to which the other would sleepily respond. Summer in Spotswood was beautiful and mild. Under the shade of an oak, they found refuge. He looked over at her and smiled, dazed and happy. She cast her eyes to his, and smiled in return before she wiggled her way closer to him.
It had been two years since they'd reached Canada. This country had been incredibly kind to them thus far. Happiness had eased its way into their lives. Finally, they'd found their home. There was nothing to fear here. For once in their traumatic lives, both felt perfectly at ease. They'd come into quite a bit of luck, despite themselves. Perhaps it was dirty luck, but it was luck, nonetheless. Now, they owned the beautiful property that they now rested upon. Though their abode was small, the extent of their land was large. It stretched from the woods to the river. Across the river, where factories lined the water's banks, the small town of Spotswood had accepted them as a living part of their community. Once a week, Zoey would cross the river to retrieve groceries. Occasionally, her lover would accompany her, and they'd make conversation with the townsfolk. Zoey was well-liked among the people, who quickly took her cheerful attitude and blessed her for the calming effect she had on people young and old. They were a bit apprehensive when it came to Michael, though he did his best to behave. Some things would never change.
Mal resigned himself to Zoey's side, rarely acquainting himself with anybody else. He was content to have only one special friend, one who wouldn't judge him or hate him for his strange behavior and awkward social behavior. She'd encouraged him to go out with her from time to time, but even if he kept to himself, the people didn't seem to mind. It was a small town of misfits, and they had quietly accepted the two oddballs as well.
They rarely had visitors. Occasionally, Dawn could be found on their land in the spring. She came to find rare flowers, she'd said, and other herbs that grew in the wood. The couple didn't really mind; though she was strange, she never caused any trouble. The soothing effect she had on other people almost rivaled Zoey's. They were often visited by Alejandro, who had been the one to pull some strings to help them get their citizenship in Canada as well as their current residence. For a price, of course.
They'd retained a casual friendship with the man, and Zoey had even invited him over to celebrate after he'd finally won over the heart of a woman named Heather. While at the time he had declined the offer, replying that he had some business to take care of, they'd gotten to meet her on his next visit. They'd gathered around the dinner table, sitting down to hot chocolate. Mal had helped himself to a cup of tea. They all exchanged stories of valor, and Alejandro bragged of his heroics when it came to saving the life of his 'dear amigo, Mal.'
Visits like this occurred once a month. The rest of the young couple's time was spent alone together. He still, from time to time, would have an episode. He wasn't violent when he would have said episodes. However, he was incredibly depressed and emotionally sapped. When she couldn't take the irrationality anymore she would retreat outside to the garden with a book. She never went far, making sure to check on him often, but she knew when they were over because he'd come sauntering up to her like it had never happened, dragging a chair behind him to join her in whatever she was doing. It was his silent way of apologizing. She'd learned not to let it hurt her feelings; she knew that he cared about her more than anything in the world. He was trying. That was what mattered.
Perhaps he had a hard time understanding and expressing his feelings, but she understood him. He wasn't perfect. He was human. More often than not, he was completely insane, but that was the man she'd fallen in love with. He needed someone like her to stick around and be everything he couldn't be. She'd become his conscience, like a sort of bad reference to Jiminy Crickett and Pinocchio, but had found her solace in that. He fell in love with her for that. She hadn't yet given up on him.
There was a silent agreement between the two that children would be a no-no. It was hard enough to take care of themselves, let alone young ones. There were too many risks. Neither was fit for parenthood. Zoey was confident in her ability to take care of Mal on her own, but he still consumed the majority of her time and energy. He did his best to be independent and spare her trouble. However, he was still in need of her touch. Though he was improving, he was still at the point where he needed her to shower with him. This, of course, may have been played up a bit. He was a man, after all. She was more than happy to oblige, though, just as content to keep on with the excuse as he was.
Their nights were full of holding one another, arms entangled and bodies melded into one another. His strong embrace made her feel safe, and her delicate limbs made him feel needed. They were inseparable. While she couldn't quiet the voices in his head, she tried her best to make hers the one that mattered. She'd brought a sense of peace and stability to a person who'd spent their whole life lacking it.
Spring days were spent out on the hills, enjoying the fresh air and the new, green life. She wove for him flower crowns, both as a gift and a joke, and would place them atop his head. While she lay giggling upon the grass, he would pluck one from the crown and place it in her hair. She'd roll over and lay her head in his lap, wrapping an arm around him as she watched the clouds take shape above. He'd press his hand to her cheek before raising her fingers to his lips and kissing each tip with a light smile.
His passion for her was unrivaled by any. Such a beautiful girl deserved his undivided attention; and so, it was hers. She, on the other hand, while not always successful at keeping her attention focused on him, didn't have to worry much about that. He'd find a way to take care of that, always eagerly providing the distraction. He would shower her with kisses when she least expected an embrace, or would throw his arms about her waist. Keeping a straight face when he did this was nearly impossible and she'd turn to him, breaking out into a grin. He planted kisses along her neck and throat, nipping playfully. She bit his ear and tugged on his hair, winding tufts of the mess through her fingers. The games would begin.
She was his world, now. She was his everything. They would grow old together, enjoy each other for as long as they could. There was no question that they were happy. Finally happy.
Psssssst... hope you enjoyed that. Stick around for more in the Vitus Macrocosm series. There will be plenty.
(PSSSSSST... By the way. Moony and JarOfStuff are the same person.)
We want to give one final thank you to all of the music that went into inspiring this fic and all its chapters. These are bands and artists that I highly recommend, especially if you want to branch out and find some super cool (somewhat underground) music. Without further ado... we give our appreciation to...
My Chemical Romance, which gave inspiration for the title and the plot. I Never Told You What I Do For A Living played a huge role in planning the plot. The title was inspired by the song Headfirst for Halos. Obviously, these guys are not that underground... but still.
The Orbweavers! This Australian band gave us a lot of inspiration for character development and setting development. Their songs Up To Your Neck and Spotswood helped us to plan out Mal's past and their final home. Spotswood.
Haroula Rose, Lavender Moon.
The Killers, Mr. Brightside.
Wye Oak, I Hope You Die.
Portugal. The Man, Evil Friends
Arcade Fire, Reflektor
Doctor Dog, the band itself. Listen to it.
Half Moon Run, the band itself. Listen to them too.
Carina Round, Do You
Sharon Van Etten, Serpents