It was..strange to have a heartbeat. And skinned knees and runny nose and emotions, of all things.
He still wasn't sure if he liked it. He didn't regret it. He wouldn't regret Christy, even if he still couldn't quite convince himself to examine his feelings for her. She was Christy, she was alive, and he liked that. He liked that she hung back from the daily race to walk beside the lake with him. He liked that she smiled and laughed and wrinkled her nose.
He even liked that she had the guts to push him in the water once.
At which point she panicked because she didn't know if he could actually swim, and jumped in after him, and they spent the rest of the afternoon wrapped in a blanket in front of the campfire trying to stop shivering.
Christy was different now. She wasn't Camp Champ, and she wasn't the girl who always came last. But that was all right, because he was different, too. He could run and jump and breathe, and she could laugh and chase her friends and ignore the competition around the camp.
The bears hadn't been around much since it happened, and he guessed he couldn't really blame them. He could remember hating them, remember trapping them in crystals, and it made his new breath catch in his chest. He could remember hating them. They were nice enough to him now, but they didn't seem to know how to act around him. And Christy saw how he froze when they were there, and her hand was warm in his, and it was the strangest thing, to care for someone.
It was even stranger to act on that care - to tug her cap over her eyes and pull her to him when she watches someone cross the finish line and jeer at the kids lagging behind; or to have an internal list of things of likes and dislikes that belong to another person. Christy likes peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and building sandcastles and playing marbles and him. Christy doesn't like tuna fish or horseback riding or people being mean.
He doesn't do it on purpose. It's instinctive and automatic, and whenever something horrible comes out of his mouth, the internal feelings he suddenly has to deal with (guilt, the little blue bear had growled at him, it means you really are a person) are nothing to the sad, distressed look on Christy's face (disappointment, the bear sighed. Story of my life.), and he finds himself getting very accustomed to the odd feeling of the words I'm sorry.
It is strange to have a heartbeat. And skinned knees and a runny nose and emotions. But it would be stranger, now, to go back to being that dark thing he used to be. Alone, without guilt or disappointment, sure, but without the soaring feeling in his stomach when Christy looks at him and smiles, too. He'll take the stubbed toes and the prickly feelings towards the two who follow Christy everywhere (Jealousy, the tubby little bear supplied. You've never had to share before) if it means he gets to keep the taste of apples and the warmth of her hand in his as she tugs him farther forward into this odd new life.