She'd never realised, before, how lonely it is when no one else knows who you are. Before Nick, she'd never understood how lonely it was the be the ghost, the girl just drifting from place to place, never seen, never heard, never remarked on or remembered. Before Nick, she hadn't understood that strange feeling in the pit of her stomach, the feeling that she'd forgotten something, or was forgetting, or would forget. It was hard to keep it straight sometimes, but the feeling never went away.
And then there was Nick, and she was running, and he was running, and they were running together, and he was always there, movement in the corner of her eye, heat sitting next to her, voice in his ears, arms around her as she cried, sobbed into his shirt. There was Nick, suddenly there and present the way no one had been since her mother, and what's more, he wanted to be there, hadn't walked away, hadn't forgotten about her, had worried when she disappeared, when things went wrong and he couldn't be certain she was safe.
She wanted to say he was like the brother she'd never had, because that was how she supposed she should except that wasn't quite right, didn't fit with her ideas of what siblings would be like, half-grudging and half-exasperated but all love in the warm, comfortable way family always made her feel when she thought about it.
Nick was more like who she imagined a best friend would be like, all trust and concern and wanting to make her laugh or smile, offering his help however he could, even when there was nothing he could do, just because it was what he was like. He teased her and she snarked at him, and they made each other laugh, and they worked well together, and he was the closest thing to a real friend that she'd had in years.
Sometimes she thinks, if she was older, maybe it would be something else, times when she thinks maybe in a few years she'd start to wonder about his arms, how they'd feel around her under other circumstances. Sometimes she wonders what would have happened if she'd been more like Kira when they met, beautiful and grown up and competent instead of dorky and young and scared. She hates being young, hates that she knows she's still so much older than she should be, but it's not enough, it's never enough, she's always still just a kid.
And he hates it too, she can see. He tries his best to take care of her, to look after her, but there's always going to be danger for them, no matter where they go or what they do, and they both know that, just like they both know they're safer together where she can see what's coming and he can be there to protect her, but she knows that Nick still feels like he's dragged her into it all, like he's putting her in danger, like he's somehow taking her away from whatever life she'd have if she was normal.
Some days she looks at him and it's like Seeing, like looking into the future, except what she's seeing is him, his guilt and his worry and his faith in her, the way he cares about her, the way he just wants to make sure she's okay even though he knows he can't promise anything. It hurts her more than she even would've thought possible.
So she tries harder, does everything she can think of to show him that she can take care of herself, that she's strong, that she's not weak, that she doesn't depend on him, because she's seen what it's doing to him, being responsible for someone else, and she can't stand the thought that he might only be there because he thinks she needs him. And maybe she does, maybe she's almost gotten used to it now, that feeling of someone else being in the same room, someone beside her, behind her, with her all the way.
But damned if she's going to let that be the only reason for him to stay.