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The thoughts echo in Michael's mind like droplets of water dripping from a leaking faucet into the hollowest sink in the world. An empty sink. Michael's mind isn't empty. It still drips and echoes. It's so loud. Why won't it just go away? The thoughts are like a bright light emanating from a burning candle. The candle isn't burning out. It hasn't. Not for weeks, not until the idea is carried out.

Michael gets the haunting thought that makes his heartbeat echo in his ears during Thanksgiving. Since Michael's a senior is high school, it might be his last Thanksgiving at home. His family agrees to let him spend the morning with his boyfriend, Jeremy, but he has to stay in the house for the evening. Mell family gatherings always seem so important to everyone. Well, everyone but Michael.

Jeremy takes Michael home for a sleepover the day before break. Mr. Heere was on a business trip, so Jeremy is home alone until he flies in anyhow. Of course, they have planned to relax; however, that's not what happened.

“Michael, what is going on that's so important?” Jeremy asks, sitting on the couch trying to find a movie for the boys to watch.
“I have no idea. I’m just getting a bunch of texts from my family.” He sighs.

It's a little known fact that Michael doesn't like his family very much. Between his neglectful parents, older stuck up sister, and homophobic abusive older brother? Michael isn't very well liked by his family either. His parents prefer Jackson above Michael, though he isn't even their oldest child. It's always about Jackson and Sophia. Everything Michael does is wrong.

“They want to know where I am.” Michael mumbles.
“They?”
“Mama and Sophia.”

Sophia isn't exactly protective of her youngest brother, but she always cares to know what he's doing. It's for her own good. She knows that Jackson has beat up Michael on multiple occasions, and that's not something Sophia wants to come home to. Though, Jackson and Sophia don't even live in the house anymore. Since Michael's parents travel so much his siblings come to check on him because his family believes he's gonna screw up and burn down the house or something. Why would he? He's not Rich Goranski.

“I thought they knew you were here.” Jeremy groans.
“They do.”
“And?”
“I think they might want me to come home.”

Jeremy sighs, and looks at Michael. He's seen Michael be protective of him, but never for himself. If someone hurt Jeremy, Michael would jump into the rescue. Jeremy wonders why Michael has never once defended himself. He wonders if Michael's lost hope. Hope in himself. In truth? Michael doesn't think he’s worth fighting for.

“They said you could stay.”
“Mama said I could stay here tomorrow morning. Not tonight.”
“What about your dad?”
“Come on, Jeremy. You know my dad hasn't talked to me since I've come out.”
“He thinks you're a mistake.” Jeremy says quietly.
“I am.”
“But you're not!” Jeremy exclaims.

Mr. Mell has not spoken with Michael since he knew Michael was gay when he was thirteen years old. There's a few mumbles here and there, but no long conversations. Michael wants his father's approval, and there's nothing he can do to get it. He isn't going to be a doctor like Jackson, and he isn't a lawyer like Sophia. He's going to be a computer programmer of some sort. For some reason, that's not good enough for Mr. Mell. Michael isn't good enough.

“Maybe I am.” Michael shrugs. “They had Sophia, and they had Jackson. A daughter and a son. I'm the third one and I always fuck up.”
“Michael, you know that's not true.”
“How would you know?”
“I don't. You have to trust me.”
“I do.”
“Then say that you are not a mistake.”

There's a pause, and Michael feels his tongue sit in his mouth. Could he really admit that? He always said he'd do anything for Jeremy, but Michael's not sure he can say it. He goes to speak, but his tongue ties. It feels wrong sitting in his mouth. He finds a loophole.

“You are not a mistake.” Michael grins a dopey grin.
“Michael! That's not what I meant.” Jeremy blushes slightly, Michael's smile always makes him happy.
“Fine, I'm not a mistake.” He mumbles.
“Thanks, babe.”
“Anything for you.”

Michael gets away with staying for the night and Jeremy picks some boring old movie. The boys really just cuddled and talked all night. The next morning, the sun seemed to fracked through the blind in Jeremy's room. Jeremy is tucked into Michael's chest, one of his hands interlocked with Michael's. Michael's phone was going off once again. Michael rolls his eyes and picks up the phone.

“Jackson, what do you want?” Michael asks, being quiet for his sleeping boyfriend.
“You need to get your ass home, f-”
“Don't say that word.” Michael cut his brother off, knowing what's coming.
“So you're coming.”
“I am.”
“What's that squeaking?”

Michael looks down at Jeremy who's sleeping. Sometimes Jeremy squeaks in his sleep, it's his way of snoring. Just small, cute, tiny, little squeaks that make Michael's heart content.

“My boyfriend.”

With that, Michael hung up the phone. He doesn't want to hear Jackson’s snarky remarks about his relationship with Jeremy. Michael gives Jeremy a kiss on the head. Michael gets out of bed, and searches for his hoodie. He looks and sees that Jeremy is wearing his loved red hoodie. Michael sighs and walks out of the room.

Michael slinks into Jeremy's living room and grabs his backpack. He's hoping he has another hoodie at home, Michael feels naked without it. He still has sweatpants and some Nintendo shirt on that he was wearing under the sweatshirt.
Michael heads towards the door, but a floorboard creaks beneath his white sneaker he has just slipped on his foot. Michael hopes he didn't wake Jeremy, but Michael forgets Jeremy's a light sleeper.

“Mikey?”

Michael stops in his tracks. He's probably scared Jeremy, and Michael feels really guilty about it. Jeremy's biggest fear is Michael leaving him. Michael fears Jeremy would leave him, and he can only imagine what might be going through Jeremy's head.

“Jer, I'm sorry I didn't mean to wake you.”
“Where are you going? Did I do something wrong? Are you-”
“No” Michael cuts him off. “No, baby. It's not what you think.”
“Are you leaving me?” Jeremy asks, panicked.

Michael drops his school bag and meets Jeremy at the bottom of the stairs. Jeremy's blue oceanic eyes are filled to the brim with crystal orbs that stream down his face. Michael pulls Jeremy into a hug and kisses his head. Jeremy is fisting the back of Michael's shirt.

“Don't you think if I was leaving you, I'd take my hoodie with me?” Michael asks, laughing.
“I guess.” Jeremy laughs a little, sniffling.
“I just have to go home.”
“But it's so early.” Jeremy whines.
“I know, baby.”
“And we always watch the parade together, Micah!”
“I know, baby.”

There's silence for a little while when Jeremy pulls away to look up at the taller male. Michael cups Jeremy's face and brushes away Jeremy's tears with his thumb. Jeremy leans into the touch, smiling a small bit at Michael.

“Is there anyway you can stay?” Jeremy asks sweetly.
“Unless you want me to get a black eye?”
“Go.”
“I'm sorry, babe.”
“I know you are, sweetheart.” Jeremy sighs. “But there's nothing you can do.”
“I’ll see you soon?” Michael kisses Jeremy.
“Soon.” Jeremy smiles.

Michael then returns to his home, and is not the least bit shocked when his brother greets him with a hardy slap to the face. Michael just shrugs it off, but then Jackson pins Michael against the wall.

“Jackson.” Mrs. Mell comes into the living room.
“Hi Mama.” Michael waves.
“Michael.” She looks at him and then back at his brother. “No rough housing until after our dinner.”
“Yes Mama.” Jackson drops Michael.

Michael sighs. Rough housing? This is a bit more than rough housing. This is not even rough housing at all! It’s Jackson using Michael as he personal punching bag.

“Michael, why don’t you come help in the kitchen?” Mrs. Mell says, nicely.
“Why can’t Jackson help?”
“Cause I have studies, little bro.” Jackson shrugs.
“Well, so do I.”
“But you’re not becoming a doctor.” Mrs. Mell intervenes.
“Why can’t Sophia help?”
“Don’t get snippy with me.”
“I asked nicely, Mama.”

Jackson watches the exchange between his little brother and his mom. Michael won’t win, he never does. Michael’s just some push over that his family uses as a servant. It’s not even like Michael is family.

“Put your stuff down and come help me.” Mrs. Mell walks back into the kitchen.
“Girls do belong in the kitchen.” Jackson rolls his eyes.
“Don’t say that about our mother.” Michael grumbles.
“I can say whatever I want. I’m her little prince. You’re just some jester that’s not even funny and will probably be beheaded.” Jackson shrugs.

Michael sighs, and moves into his room in the basement. His parents didn’t even give him a room in the upstairs, they make him stay in the basement. It’s almost like they are ashamed of Michael. Maybe they are. Michael doesn't know, but it makes him self conscious.

As the day goes on, Michael helps his mother in the kitchen, getting the occasional stare from his father. Sophia helps out a little bit, but eventually disappears into her old room. It’s Michael and his judgmental parents. Jackson does come through the kitchen to bump into Michael so he messes something up. Although this seems unfair, at least Michael knew how to cook better than Jackson and Sophia. That’s something, right?

People say being the youngest siblings means that you are spoiled. This does not seem to be the situation with the Mell family. It’s like Jackson is the spoiled young sibling and Michael’s just an object. Michael’s convinced that if he never existed? No one would even care. At least, not in the house. Jeremy would care. At least, Michael hopes he does.

“Hey, sissy.” Jackson nudges Michael as he comes up from the basement after getting dressed. “No sparkles with your outfit.”
“That’s stereotypical.” Michael comments.
“Don’t blame your brother for wanting to pray away your gay.” Mr. Mell speaks.
“Dad that’s not what he was doing.” Michael replies to his dad.

Then there’s silence, no response from his dad. Michael walks out of the room a little shaky. He’s not sure how much of his family he could handle. He can’t handle them all at once, especially not with all of his cousins.

He wishes he were at Jeremy’s house, cuddling up on the couch. They could’ve watched the parade and the national dog show that always plats after. Michael always loved to watch the dog show because he loves dogs. Jeremy is just a lover of animals, so he never minds. How good would life be right now if he were there?

Eventually, Michael's family arrives to celebrate Thanksgiving. Suddenly, Michael disappears, or that's what it looks like. Michael has a big family and everyone has their favorite cousin, sibling, aunt, uncle, parent, or even grandparent. Michael is just there. His grandparents and aunts and uncles are mostly nice to him. But his little cousins? They love Jackson and Sophia. Doesn't just everyone? They forget about the tallest, but youngest of he three Mell siblings. The boy in the hoodies and the graphic t-shirts. He blends into nothingness, the noise in the Mell dining room. Michael's just another object. No attention is thrown his way, until he makes this mistake. It's not a mistake he knew, well, not really. Jackson drags Michael by the back of the navy blue hoodie he is wearing and his father follows Jackson.

“You know your kind is not welcome in this household.” Jackson glares at Michael. “Did you have to say what you said?”
“I don't understand.” Michael comments as Jackson pins him against the wall.
“You told your cousin you had a boyfriend.” Mr. Mell replies.
“So?”
“That's wrong.” Jackson sneers. “You are wrong.”
“I am not.” Michael huffs in Jackson's face.
“He doesn't have a boyfriend.” Mr. Mell rolls his eyes.
“I do.” Michael answers his dad. “And he's the nicest man I know! Better than you two.”
“If he's so great why don't you invite him over?”

Michael sighs. He's smart enough not to invite Jeremy over here. Not with his crazy family around. Why would he ever put his boyfriend through all this trouble? Sure, Jeremy knows Michael's family, but not the way Michael knows them. Michael fears Jackson would be brutal with Jeremy, so Jeremy doesn't ever come over anymore.

“You already know him.”
“It's that Jeremy boy.” Jackson rolls his eyes.
“Oh. Well, we should go son. We can leave the mistake where it is.” Mr. Mell comments and walks out of the basement with Jackson.

A mistake? Michael could agree with that, but he also can't deny the stinging in his heart. He's been dealing with these people for seventeen years now, and he can't take one more second. Oh, but he will try. His father spoke to him, and that's something.

Fast forward. It's close to holiday break in New Jersey, and Michael's packing his things in his empty house. His family is planning on going on vacation, and he really doesn't want to go. His family doesn't seem to want to take him, but it's a family vacation. He's leaving the next morning, and he's already said goodbye to Jeremy. That doesn't mean they weren't going to be texting every moment of every second of the trip. However, when Michael wakes up the next the morning, he find that his family has left him behind. He sighs, and is completely lost in thought. The thoughts that echo like leaky faucets that create steam because of the hot water running. He has no choice now, he must run away.

Michael’s sick of being abused and hurt and treated like shit. Sure, sometimes he feels like he deserves it; however, he can not live like this any longer. Not a moment longer. Michael packs a bag, and looks at his phone. Does he tell Jeremy or does he just go? Maybe it's best he just go. And he does. Hopefully, he would not have to return to the cracked up Mell house ever again.

Jeremy continues to text Michael during the break, but there's no response. No for the entire holiday break. Even though Jeremy celebrates Chanukah, he got his boyfriend a gift for Christmas. He is planning on giving it to Michael when they return to school. But Michael's not there. Not the first day, or the next. Jeremy starts getting overly worried, and begins to over think. Did Michael's plane crash? Is he alive? Does he just hate me and ignoring me? Maybe his phone broke. Jeremy isn't sure. He just knows that is boyfriend isn't here.

Jeremy starts getting quiet, and by the end of the week the rest of the friend group finally realizes that Michael's gone. Michael's gone, and Jeremy's not functioning how a human should function.

“Jeremy, are you okay?” Christine asks, concerned. “I know Michael's not here but I'm sure he's okay.”

Jeremy looks up at Christine. Jeremy's sitting and she's standing. Christine places a hand on Jeremy's shoulder and sits next to him on the bus bench he’s sitting at. Jeremy has his earbuds in and a playlist playing. Just a regular playlist. Although, every playlist has meaning. Jeremy pulls out an earbud, and sighs. Christine doesn't sound so sure if Michael is okay, but who can be sure? Only Michael. No one knows where he is.

“I'm so worried about him.” Jeremy sighs.
“I know, but I'm sure he's alright. Maybe his flight got cancelled and his family decided to take an extra week off.” Christine tries reassuring Jeremy.

Christine's voice isn't its normal cheering tone, well, not completely. There's concern and worry in her voice. Christine's not sure if she's more worried about Michael or Jeremy. Jeremy's not sure of the tone of her voice. Everything seems so uncertain and undecided.

Jeremy shrugs, “Maybe…” His voice trials off.
“It's be okay, Jeremy.” Christine says hugging him a small bit.
“Thank you, Christine.”
“Anytime, Jeremy.” Christine smiles kindly at him.

Christine doesn't leave the bench area until Jeremy gets up from the bench and goes into school. Christine wants to make sure that Jeremy is still functioning as a human being while Michael's not around. Christine tells Brooke, and eventually the entire group is dedicated to taking care of Jeremy. Now, that doesn't mean Rich will stop teasing him or Jake will stop cracking jokes. Life is normal at Middle Borough, but it's just not the same for Jeremy without the music loving, red sweatshirt wearing, smiling, dorky, nerdy, caramel skinned, chocolate brown eyed boy. It's different. Jeremy just feels lost.

“Come on, Jerry! Why don't you come over?” Brooke asks.
“Not in the mood.” Jeremy mumbles, swirled the mashed potatoes on his lunch tray with his fork.
“Do you want to go out with Rich and I? We were gonna head out to the movies, but if you wanna tag along, that's cool.” Jake suggests.
“No, but thanks.” He grumbles.
“We can hang out after play rehearsal?” Christine shrugs.
“I don't really want to.” Jeremy admits.

Jeremy is sick of everyone at the lunch table, it's like every noise they make is irritating him. Not in an anxious way, in an infuriating way. The clicking for Jenna and Chloe typing on their phones. The jingling sound from Brooke’s earrings. Christine humming, she hums without noticing she's humming sometimes. The way Jake taps his foot on the floor when he's being impatient. Then there's Rich. Rich’s voice and dramatic movements are too much for Jeremy. It's hard to deal with without Michael. He wonders if this is what life would be like if the Michael had never forgiven him for what happened during the SQUIP incident. The idea sends a cold chill down Jeremy's spine. As long the squip doesn't start talking while Michael's gone? Everything will be fine. He hopes.

“So, you're going to play rehearthal and then right home?” Rich asks, looking at Jeremy.
“Not really.” Jeremy sighs.
“What do you mean?” Jenna asks, confused.

Jeremy rolls his eyes, they would make fun of him if they all knew. There's the say of home is where the heart is, and Jeremy always tell Michael's that his heart is in his hands. So, if home is where the heart is? Jeremy's heart is wherever his boyfriend is.

“Just forget it.” Jeremy comments, and throws his lunch tray away.

Jeremy doesn't even bother to finish his lunch, he just leaves the cafeteria. Lunch isn't the same when Michael's not there with his sushi and slushies and more. It's not the some without Michael bouncing to the beat of Bob Marley. Jeremy can slowly feel his world fade to black and gray as time goes on. Michael is the light out of his life, and now everything is just too dark. It gets darker and darker as more weeks go by.

“What is up with him?” Jake asks.
“He's missing Michael. The last time he wasn't around Michael for this long was when he was squipped.” Brooke shrugs.
Christine sighs, “You guys think Michael's okay?”
“Can I be honest?” Chloe asks. “I think that Mell kid just might be dead.”
“What maketh you thay that?” Rich asks, slurring his words.
“If you haven’t seen Michael Mell in a month, wouldn’t you think he was dead?” Jenna raises an eyebrow.

A month? No one could believe it’s actually February and that Michael hasn’t been seen by anyone since the end of December. Jeremy’s searching for him whenever he can, and his anxiety has really taken a toll on him. That’s visible. His clothes sag off him, more bunch than usual. HIs hair is more of a floppy mess, and Jeremy looks exhausted. He can’t really get through any of his nightmares if Michael isn’t there to comfort him.

“It’s been a month?” Christine pitches in after a moment of silence.
“Yeah, it’s almost February.” Jenna comments, showing everyone the calendar on her phone.
“Oh god.” Rich sighs.
“But not February, just yet?” Jake asks.
Chloe nods, “Why?”

Everyone looks around for a second realizing that Jeremy’s not in study hall. In fact, no one knows if they’ve seen him all day. No one knows where he is, but Jeremy. Jeremy is in his and Michael’s special place in the school. It’s where they go to talk about things during the school day if they need to. Only one other person knows about it.

“It’s Michael’s birthday.” Brooke realizes.
“Oh god.” Rich repeats.
“Where is Jeremy?” Christine wonders out loud.
“Oh god.”
“Rich, why do you keep saying that?” Brooke asks him.
“Michael and Jeremy are alwayth together on every ocathion. Jeremy hath been planning hith birthday gift for… forever! And Michael ith not even here.”
“That sucks.” Chloe rolls her eyes.
“And Valentine's Day is coming up soon, too.” Christine mutters.
“Why do you say that? Got something planned for me, Christine?”
Christine shrugs, “I do, but that’s not what I’m getting at, Jenna.”
“You mean because the day is obviously all about me because it’s my last name?”
“No Chloe.” Christine huffs, almost annoyed.

It’s painful how oblivious people can be sometimes. It’s not that everyone in the SQUIP squad is oblivious, but they have their moments. Jeremy has the most moments, he can’t seem to catch onto to anything.

“Remember last year?” Christine asks.
“Oh, yeah.” Brooke remembers. “Michael was so kind to Jerry! He got the best gifts for him.”
“Yes, but he’s not here.” Jake remarks.
“I’d feel bad he’s the only one not in a couple.” Chloe admits.
“I’m shocked.” Jenna rolls her eyes.
“I have emotions! I am not a robot.” Chloe snips back at Jenna. “I mean, I was going to go out with Brooke, but we could spend the day with Jerry.”
“Chloe you don’t have to do all of that! I’m thure that Jake and I could spend time with him. Right, Jakey?” Rich raises an eyebrow at his boyfriend.
“I’d be alright with that.”
“Oh no, guys. I was suggesting that I could. If Jenna didn’t mind.” Christine sighs.

Everyone stops for a moment and stares at Christine. Something about Christine and Jeremy spending Valentine’s Day together sounds like an awful idea.

“No.” Jake replies.
“Why not?” Christine asks.
“Because I don’t think Michael would be happy to hear that Jeremy spent a romantic holiday with you.” Jake shrugs.
“Maybe we could all take turns?” Brooke suggests. “That way he is never alone.”
“And then we could all go on our dates!” Chloe exclaims.
“Well, thanks guys, but no thanks. I don’t need to be anyone’s pity date. I’m sure that Michael will be back by then.” Jeremy sighs, entering the study lounge where the squad spends their free periods.

The six that were sitting on the couches and bean bags turn to look over at the distressed Jeremy. He seems to be getting worse and worse everyday that Michael’s been gone.

“Anything yet?” Christine asks, hopeful.
“No.” Jeremy mumbles, sounding like he’s gonna cry. “I texted him.”
“You did?” Brooke looks at him.
“Yeah… I would never miss his birthday. No matter where he is or what’s going on with him.” Jeremy gives a very weak smile. “He’s my world.”

Everyone's noticed, Jeremy's practically falling apart from the inside out. It's visible to everybody but him. Jeremy sits on a beanbag and seems to sag as much as his lousy posture. It's lousier than normal because when he saw Michael on a bad day his spine would straighten. Now he has no reason to stand up straight anymore.

“So?” Jake asks. “You look like you have something to tell.”
Jeremy nods, “I texted him, that's all.” He says almost under his breath.
“And?” Brooke asks again, excited for Jeremy.

The tension in the room built as everyone waits for Jeremy to answer the question Brooke asked. Everyone wants Jeremy to say that Michael responded to his text, and everyone is honestly curious to where Michael is. In all honesty, most are starting to believe that the boy in the red hoodie is dead. It is likely, after all, it's Michael Mell.

“Nothing.” Jeremy sighs, looking like he could have a meltdown at that moment.

Everyone feels the need to rush to Jeremy's side, but knows there is no point. The only person who can comfort Jeremy when he's in this much distress is Michael, but Michael caused this. However, if Michael knew of this? Michael would come running back home in a heartbeat. No. Faster than a heartbeat.

“It's going to be okay, Jerry.” Brooke says, sympathetically.
“Is it though?” Jeremy snaps. “If your boyfriend was missing, what would you think? What would you think? And don't respond with you have a girlfriend! Michael was my safe place away from all of this!” Jeremy is using very flustered hand movements. “Away from my head, and this aching in my chest. He helps me breath when I can't on my own! And I don't know where the fuck he is! It's his eighteenth birthday! He's my best friend AND my boyfriend.” Jeremy sighs, he's started crying now. “And I haven't seen him since Chanukah. I got him a Christmas gift and a birthday gift. I know Michael's touchy about his birthday… cause everyone forgets. I always remembered.” Jeremy sniffles, wiping his cardigan sleeve against his face to try and dry the tears. “When we were ten, I got him that hoodie, ya know? He was so happy, all he ever wanted was a red hoodie, and then we went to a patch shop and…” Jeremy's voice trailed off.

Everyone listens to Jeremy, though he is a little emotional. He's got a lot on his mind without Michael around. He brings up these memories from his childhood constantly, it's almost like that's how he keeps Michael around him. The images in his head from the memories could let him remember everything about Michael. His glasses with the four green dots in the corner, his smile, the warmth of his embrace, his soft chocolate brown eyes, and his smooth caramel skin. There's so much joy that Michael brought into Jeremy's life, and Jeremy's trying to keep that alive. The memories are the only thing that keeps Jeremy going. That keeps Jeremy searching. Jeremy just knows somehow, that Michael's still out there.

“And you two picked all the patches he has on his hoodie now, right?” Chloe asks, she had put down her phone. So has Jenna. “I'm guessing.”
“Yeah, every single one we picked out together.” Jeremy smiles. “Except the Bowie one. I got that for him as a gift when David Bowie died.” He's still crying. “Mikey was really upset about it. He was so happy when I got the patch for him.”
“What does he not like Prince?” Jake asks, joking.
“What? Oh. Michael loves Prince. He loves a lot of music. We had been having trouble finding him a Prince patch.”
“Had?” Rich asks.
“I found one and I was gonna give it to him for his birthday.” Jeremy sighs.

One thing about Michael's hoodie is that almost every patch is from a musical artist. He has musical artists from all over because above all else? Michael loves music. Now, Michael would argue he loves Jeremy Heere more than music, but everyone else thinks music is the most important thing to him. In fact, Michael probably ran away with his headphones hanging around his neck like they normally are.

“And you still can.” Christine reassures. “When he comes back.”
“If he does.” Jenna mumbles.
“He will.” Jeremy looks at Jenna.

Everyone isn't as sure as Jeremy is about Michael's return. The others become less and less sure with weeks to come. Especially during the passing of Valentine’s day. Michael would never miss such an important holiday. Jeremy’s state got worse, and worse as well. Jeremy's bags could fall down to his neck from the sleep deprivation he's going through.

“Hey zombie.” Rich comments.
“Shut up.” Jeremy mumbles.

It's a struggle for Jeremy to be the only one alone in the entire friend group. He's known Michael ever since they were four years old, and he is his best friend. Michael's also Jeremy's boyfriend. Michael is Jeremy's safe place. Jeremy's Michael's safe place. It's a two way street. The only difference is Jeremy is in school and Michael's not.

Time goes by as the snow outside slowly turns to mush. The snow isn't completely melted, it's the just mush. It's like the snow is made of slushies. It reminds Jeremy of Michael and his obsession with slushies. It's now March. Michael's been gone for about two months, and he's yet to be found.

“I'm telling you, he's dead.” Chloe comments, filing her nails.
“I wouldn't thay that around Jeremy if I were you.” Rich replies, sitting next to Jake at the lunch table.
“I know, I know. I'm just saying he's dead.” Chloe shrugs.
“That's not very nice of you, babe.” Brooke rolls her eyes.
“Well, Brookie, I'm not always very nice.”
“No shit.” Jake mutters.

Chloe rolls her eyes, and sighs. Honestly, everyone is tired of this. Michael Mell missing is old news to them but it's hard to move on from it when Jeremy's hair gets less, and less tame everyday. When his bags under his eyes fall further, and deeper. When Jeremy's baggy clothes seem to sag deeper. Jeremy's heart is falling heavier everyday; he wonders why it's still beating after all this time. Jeremy feels so empty inside, so lonely. All he ever does is listen to music, now. He can't bring himself to do anything else; however, Jeremy sometimes can't even find it in himself to press the play button. He's listening to some of Michael's playlists on Spotify. Yet. It does not make Jeremy's spirits rise in the way the real Michael would.

“If he is dead-”
“Don't say that.” Christine cuts Jenna off. “Until it's confirmed he's dead, we don't talk about it, okay? We don't talk about him in the past tense. We pretend he's still around.”
“Chrissy, that's not gonna be easy.” Brooke sighs.
“I mean, she has a point. It's not confirmed anywhere that he's dead.” Jenna comments.
“That might be true, but Jeremy lookth dead.” Rich replies.
“It’s not like he needs Michael to survive.” Jake comments. “Jeremy has made it this far, and with stunning progress. He made it through midterms.”
Christine nods in agreement, “He did. And Jeremy’s is on the bottom of the list for honor roll! He doesn’t even need tutoring in math anymore.” She smiles.
“I hadn’t even checked honor roll for the second quarter.” Brooke admits.
“Brookie, you should.” Christine nods. “Why haven’t you?”
“I’m just worried I didn’t make it.”

A little known fact, the SQUIP squad has quite a few scholars. These people include: Christine, Rich, Brooke, and Michael. Sometimes Jake will make it but he’s not usually up there with the rest of everyone else. Sports really shift Jake’s focus.

Brooke pulls the list up on her phone and nearly drops it. She’s absolutely shocked. She looks around at everyone at the table. Before she can say anything, Jeremy Heere walks into the lunch period.

“Hey guys.” Jeremy sits down next to an empty seat, Michael’s usual spot at the table.
“Hi Jeremy.” Christine smiles. “Feeling better today?”
“Not sure.” Jeremy responds. “He’s been gone for two months.”
“Yeah, well… dead boy walking.”
“Michale is not dead!” Jeremy exclaims, practically in tears. “What gives you the right to say that, Chloe?”
“I was talking about you, you look dead. But now that you mention it…” She trails off.
“He’s not dead. I swear to god he’s not dead.” Jeremy says, getting flustered.
“Chloe, we told you not to say anything.” Jenna says, quietly.
“Why not?” Chloe shrugs. “He brought it up.”
“And now he’s going to explode.” Jake comments, nudging her.

Jeremy does look awful, but he also looks extremely pissed. He stands on shaky knees. Everyone looks at him bright eyed, concerned about what is about to come out of the pale lanky boy’s mouth.

“My boyfriend is not dead, and he would leave me something if he was! I know damn well that Michael Mell is not dead! He is alive and living and his heart is beating and his lungs are functioning like lungs should! I did not just stand around and lose my mind waiting for him to come back for nothing! And Michael is going to come back, so help me God!” Jeremy exclaims, his hands in fists. “I swear he is alive, otherwise I’d know. If Michael’s dead, then so am I! And I’m alive, aren't I?” Jeremy’s eyes were now leaking tears down his freckled face. “Aren’t I? I’m not just some heart broken freak the six of you can just stare at! I’m not your little circus freak or care project! I’m Jeremy fucking Heere! I have issues and that’s who I am. So fuck all of you! I have to go find Michael before it is too late! So he is somewhere out there. I know he is. I can feel it in my heart! Why? Because I fucking love him and he would never just….leave me.” Jeremy’s shoulders dropped. He has never even considered that might be why. “And if he did? I would just… I don’t know. But I need a straight answer from him! He is the love of my life! He is my boy! My riends. So you know what? Fuck all of you! I’m not coming back to this hell hole until I find Michael!”

With that, Jeremy up and left. He isn’t planning on going back to Middle Borough until he finds Michael. Jeremy has to know where he is and why all of this occurred. Jeremy partially blames himself. However, he can’t think about that right now. Right now he has to go find Michael. And where does it start other than Michael’s house.

“Jeremy?” Sophia opens the door. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m looking for your little brother.” Jeremy mumbles.
“Jackson?” Sophia tilts her head.
“Michael.”

There is a slight realization that comes over Sophia. Michael’s family hasn't realized Michael’s been missing, at all. Jeremy looks at Sophia rather confused. Michael has such a presence in a room, how could you not notice him?

“Michael’s not home.” She realizes, but let’s Jeremy in anyhow.

Jeremy walks into the familiar Mell house. He gives a small wave to Michael’s parents who have always liked him. They give Jeremy a small smile while Jeremy runs into the basement. He goes directly into Michael’s room. It’s empty except for the stuff he’s left there. Jeremy looks around. It’s all too familiar to Jeremy.

The green lava lamp on Michael’s dresser which has clothes hanging out of it. The pac-man Bluetooth speaker on his desk, next to his notebooks that Michael uses for writing things. Stories, video game designs, and songs. In a cup next to the speaker there’s Michael’s drumsticks and guitar picks. They were almost dusty because Michael’s gone. Jeremy continues to walk through the room. A bunch of hoodies were hanging up in Michael’s closest, but not the red one. Jeremy’s assuming that Michael’s wearing the red one. God, Jeremy misses Michael so much. Jeremy slips on a blue hoodie Michael has. Jeremy puts the hood up, just admiring the smell of his boyfriend.

Jeremy sits on Michael’s bed that have Zelda sheets on them and looks up at the ceiling. There’s glow in the dark planets and stars on the ceiling. Jeremy has similar ones, but they aren't as exact as Michael’s. Michael’s stickers represent the lay out of the Milky Way galaxy. Jeremy’s are just scattered about his ceiling.

Jeremy lets out a sigh as he studies the gray walls of Michael’s bedroom. There’s posters of retro and modern video games. Then Jeremy’s attention turns to a pin board that’s next to Michael’s messy dresser. It’s a board that has pictures of him and Michael pinned all over it. Jeremy sighs and looks at all of the pictures. Michael looks so happy. The polaroids and the selfies and everything. There’s a picture from every moment of their lives. Their kindergarten graduation, Jeremy’s first play in middle school with Michael on sound crew, Michael’s 8th birthday when they saw Weird Al, Jeremy’s tenth birthday that they spent playing laser tag, the time Michael took a ballroom dancing class (cause his parents forced him to) and he brought Jeremy with him, The time they launched their first bottle rocket, when they completed their first video game, and just some pictures of them. Them holding hands in some cheesy romantic setting. Them. Them kissing on their beanbags. A Polaroid of Michael blowing smoking rings into the air and spelling Jeremy’s name with smoke. Just some Polaroid of the time they went to homecoming together. And another…of just them hugging.

Jeremy feels a few tears slip his eyes. He continues to walk circles in Michael’s room. Where could Michael be if he wasn't here. Where did Michael have to go beside Jeremy’s house? That’s when Jeremy’s eyes landed on it. It’s a blue notebook with a brown strap that keeps it shut. Jeremy takes it and sits in a hanging chair that Michael has in the corner of his room. Jeremy opens it and reads a few pages. This notebook contains all of Michael’s plans for his future. His future job, future living space, where he would live, what college he wants to go to, That’s when Jeremy’s eyes land on it. The beautiful city written in Michael’s slightly smudged cursive. It’s only smudged because Michael’s left handed. New York City. It’s Michael’s dream city. Jeremy decides that this must be where his boyfriend is. Jeremy places the small notebook in his hoodie pocket and sprints out of the Mell house.

Jeremy isn't sure where he will find Michael, all he knows is that he will. New York City is a big place, but Jeremy's going to find Michael. He's sure of it. True love is true love, right? People who are truly in love will always find each other. Jeremy is sure he would see Michael until he heard a voice.

You really think he's going to want you?

Jeremy's footsteps screech as he stops sprinting. The rain dripping in his chestnut brown curls, making them curlier. Jeremy sighs, slightly panting from all the running. What could the SQUIP possibly want.

Michael Mell ran away from you.
“No he didn't.” Jeremy scoffs.
You know better than to speak out loud, Jeremy Heere.

Jeremy stares at the damp pavement beneath his feet, since he's too scared to look up. What if he sees the bright blue, almost cyan, figure flickering in front of him? Jeremy doesn't want to see the disfigured, beaten up, glitching Keanu Reeves.
How do you know all of this isn't your fault? What if Sophia and the rest of Michael's family was just hiding things from you? What if he is dead?

The voice echoes through Jeremy's mind and he looks up, a little scared. The figuring isn't flickering there. Jeremy continues to proceed to the train station, his converse trudging behind him. Jeremy just can't believe Michael's dead.

Why is that?

Jeremy has never really thought of why he hasn't processed through his mind Michael could be dead. Michael has rough times, but Jeremy doesn't think Michael's suicidal. Is he?

I wouldn't know, Jeremy. I'm not his SQUIP. I'm yours.

Jeremy realizes something else now, the SQUIP is talking to him. How long has it been since he had Mountain Dew Red? Over two months, but only because Michael's not around. Jeremy hasn't needed any since early December. That's only three or four months, right?

You're very slow at math, no wonder you needed me.

Jeremy scoffs, walking a little faster. He's just trying to get to the train station as fast as he possibly can. Perhaps Michael has some red on him. That would be lucky, and Jeremy doesn't think he's that lucky. After all, Michael has been gone for two months.

Approximately.

Yes, approximately. Jeremy reaches the train station that's in New Jersey. The only train he could get on was the one headed for the World Trade Center, also known as the Oculus. Jeremy sighs and gets himself a train ticket, placing his hands on the black straps of his red backpack. Jeremy had just recently walked out of school, and his backpack on him.

May I just say, you running out of school is the most rebellious thing you have done without my assistance. It's also probably something very stupid.

The SQUIP could say whatever it wanted, it does not mean that Jeremy is going to respond to him. However, the SQUIP can still read Jeremy’s thoughts. The SQUIP has been weakened, and it sounds like it needs to be downed in some more Mountain Dew Red whenever Jeremy has the chance.

Jeremy gets on the train and hopes he will see Michael when he reaches the city. He doesn't have much hope but he does have a little. Michael would give an explanation, right? Would Michael run away from Jeremy when he saw him? Jeremy’s starting to get worried again. He begins to cry, he’s been doing that a lot lately.

I bet you wish I still had control over your tear ducts.

Jeremy groans in his head, but not out loud. He wishes the SQUIP had actual ears so he could explode it’s eardrums. Better yet, kick that SQUIP in his damn shins.

With your lanky self, I think not. I’d watch what you are thinking, Jeremy. I can still optic nerve block Michael, ya know.

The thought immediately terrified Jeremy. The SQUIP could still block Michael from his vision? Jeremy wants anything but that. He needs Michael in his life. Jeremy sighs, and gives into thinking nicer thoughts. He needs to see Michael, but it’s not like he depends on Michael or anything. Jeremy has been taking care of himself for years, ever since his mother left him and his dad. Life is just better with Michael. It’s worse without him around.

The train lurches to a stop, and Jeremy slips his earbud into his ears. Jeremy doesn’t exactly appreciate all the noise in New York City, but he doesn't hate it either. Jeremy is listening to a playlist Michael compiled for him a little while back. It’s songs that reminds Michael of Jeremy. Jeremy likes how sweet the songs are, and misses the sweet things Michael used to say to him.

No wonder he ran away, he's such a disappointment.

Before Jeremy could totally get ticked off at the SQUIP and tell it off, he spots Michael. Jeremy swears the world stops spinning in the moment the chocolate brown eyes met the ice blue eyes. The silence between the two is deafening. Although, their ears have gone deaf to their surroundings. Jeremy starts breaking into tears just looking at Michael. Michael's in too much shock to do anything. He never expected that Jeremy, or anyone for that matter, would come find him.

Michael can feel his heart beating against his clavicle as he stares into Jeremy’s ocean blue eyes, leaking waves of tears. Michael wants to reach out to his boyfriend, but feels frozen in the moment. Michael’s white headphones seem older now, perhaps cause they’ve got a bit of dirt on the ‘L’ on the ear. Michael’s red hoodie color has slightly faded as the hoodie needs some washing. Michael looks slightly beaten down, and hasn’t done his hair in forever. His hair isn’t spiked, it’s not standing up. It’s flopping over his face.

Jeremy’s knees feel weak, and he doesn’t feel like he can move either. He can feel the soreness in his knee caps as he stands there. He looks at Michael. So many emotions pulsing through Jeremy’s veins. Concern, anxiety, worry, anger, sadness, relief, happiness, and any other emotion anyone could ever possibly name. However, the concern seems to grow further than anything else as Jeremy notices the sparkle in Michael’s chocolate eyes seems to have gone dim.

After a few moments, Jeremy slowly walks over to Michael. Jeremy kneels on the floor next to him. He puts the hood of Michael’s hoodie up and over his face because he knows Michael’s ashamed of his floppy hair. It’s for Jeremy’s eyes only. Michael’s eyes start to leak a few tears slightly. Michael wraps his arms tightly around Jeremy as the two hug. Jeremy is ugly crying by now. He can’t believe he actually found Michael.

“Michael.” Jeremy whispers looking up at him. “Where the fuck have you been?”

Michael has a lot of answers to that question, in all honesty. He's been in subway stations and restaurants and abandoned theatres. Michael’s basically been homeless in New York City. Although he lived with one of his cousins for a few weeks. Michael’s cousin, George, always welcomes Michael to his apartment. Michael just doesn't want anyone to know he's a run away. He’s at a tourist attraction so it kind of looks like he's a tourist who got kicked out of this hotel.

“I'm sorry.” Michael mumbles, kissing Jeremy's head. “Please, baby. I'm so sorry. I've missed you so much, Jeremy.”
“I've missed you too.” Jeremy sniffles. “I love you so much! And you scared the shit out of me.”
“I'm sorry, Jeremy. I'm so, so, so, sorry. I didn't mean to scare you, I swear.” Michael holds Jeremy close as Jeremy sits in his lap. “I'm sorry.”
“It's okay. You're okay. You're alive!”
“Wait, did you think I was dead?”

Jeremy stops for a moment, he never doubted the fact that Michael's alive. The other six that are still in New Jersey on the other hand? They seemed to be pretty convinced that Michael was dead. Except Christine, she had faith. However, Jeremy can prove them wrong. All of them. Michael's sitting here in front of him. Jeremy absolutely thrilled about it.

“Kids at school. Chloe and stuff… ya know?”
“Oh right.”

Michael seems to space out for a moment, totally forgetting about school. Although, Michael's been doing his schoolwork electronically from his cousin’s computer, and some library’s computers. Which is why Brooke dropped her phone while looking at the honor roll. Michael's on it, and he hasn't been at school. So, Brooke knows he's alive.

Why are you asking so many questions? You just reunited with him. There's more important things, Jeremy. Although I'm all for collecting data, you must not neglect yourself from sharing how you feel.

Jeremy winces when he hears the SQUIP echo in his mind, and looks at Michael. Michael sees the icy blue of a SQUIP color flicker in Jeremy's eyes, and hold him close. Michael kisses Jeremy's head.

“It's acting up again, huh?”
“Just today.” He sighs.
“We can talk about that later. We need to get you home now.”
“You're coming home?” Jeremy asks, excited.

Michael hasn't even thought about going back home. He ran away from the hell that is the Mell house. The Hell Mell house, and he has no intention of going back there. Then again, where else could he go? He can't stay in the Oculus forever. He can't hide in New York City for graduation. He doesn't want to be homeless.

“Jeremy, I can't.”
“What do you mean?”
“I can't go back to my house, baby. It's awful there.”
“I know. You're almost graduated.”
“But that just means college.” Michael sighs.
“It means you're your own man. Well, you're my man, but nonetheless.”
“I can't live there.”
“Then come live with me.” Jeremy quickly suggests.

What the hell are you suggesting there, Jeremiah?

WJeremy winces and clings to Michael tighter. Michael rubs Jeremy's back in soothing shapes with his thumb. Michael places his white headphones around Jeremy's ears, and presses play. Jeremy looks up at Michael, still crying. Michael wipes away Jeremy's tear with his other hand. He presses a kiss to Jeremy head and starts singly softly to him. However, Jeremy realizes something and sniffles. He temporarily pulls away from Michael.

“What the fuck is wrong with you?”
“What do you mean?” Michael asks, quickly.
“You left me! Are you crazy? Like why in the entire fucking world would you do that?”
“They left me at home.”
“What?” Jeremy stops, looking confused. “Who?”
“My family. They went on the trip without me.” Michael comments.
“The trip? Before the new year?”
Michael nods, “So I made my escape that morning.”
“You obviously have your phone on you though.”
“Yeah, and?” Michael questions.
“I’ve been sending you messages!” Jeremy exclaims, lightly hitting Michael’s arm. “Love, haven’t you gotten my messages?”
“No.” Michael shakes his head. “My phone has been on airplane mode.”
“You didn’t want to be tracked.” Jeremy realizes. “That’s my smart boyfriend!”

Jeremy knows that Michael’s smart, and that’s the smartest thing Michael’s done. Yes, Jeremy feels a little cheated but it’s good to know that Michael’s safe and alive.

So quick to forgiveness, aren’t you? Leave the scum here. Not everyone deserves to be found.

Jeremy sighs and stands, taking Michael’s headphones off and handing them to him. Jeremy extends his hand to Michael to pick him up off the ground. Michael straps his backpack around his shoulder, and stands holding Jeremy’s hand. Their fingers intertwining, snapping together like perfect pieces of a puzzle.

“Wait.” Michael stops the walking towards the subway stations for just a moment.

Michael takes Mountain Dew Red out of his backpack, just a small bottle. He looks at Jeremy and extends the bottle towards him. Jeremy looks at Michael, a little scared.

“Right here?” He asks, quietly.
“If you can't walk? I'll carry you.” Michael smiles. “It's the least I can do after all the trouble I put you through.” He sighs.
“Are you sure?” He asks, reluctantly taking the old soda in his hands.
“Jer, of course. I want you to feel better.” Michael looks down at the shorter male. “Please, just a sip.”

Jeremy sighs and nods. He untwist the white cap of the soda bottle, just regular plastic unlike the glass bottles Michael usually drinks soda out of. The carbonation fizzes and bubbles on the inside of the bottle. Jeremy swallows, creating a gulping noise. Michael sighs and pulls Jeremy over to a bench and sits, Jeremy sitting in his lap.

“Just drink baby, I’m right here.” Michael smiles softly, and rubs Jeremy's back.
“Unlike the past two months?” Jeremy raises an eyebrow. “Bitch, please.”
“Pardon?” Michael asks.
“Talk more at home.” Jeremy comments.

Jeremy takes the red and winces a small bit. Yes, the soda did taste rather wonderful, but it always makes Jeremy's head buzz a little bit. Michael scoops the boy up bridal style when they reach the train station. Michael then sits with Jeremy on his lap the entire train ride. Jeremy is still a little upset with Michael, but decides that can be dealt with later.

Jeremy admires being held in Michael's arms on the way back to New Jersey. Michael seems a bit more nervous than Jeremy. Michael's happy to be reunited with the only person who cares about him, but scared about his return to New Jersey. Has anyone really missed him? Michael's pretty sure that the only person who has noticed he was missing, is Jeremy. Michael's glad he is with Jeremy, but wishes Jeremy would just keep running with him. Sure, they would have nothing, but they'd have each other. Michael pauses on the thought for a moment. It sounds really cheesy, and Michael's not normally sappy like this. However, he's not sure he cares. Living in New York City homeless has changed Michael a little bit.

Eventually, the train reaches the station in New Jersey. It's not a long train ride, but Jeremy feels like it took forever. He just wants to bring Michael home, but Michael’s dreading home. Even if it means he's living with Jeremy. It's just hard to think that he has to go back, and after all the time he's spent away. His house isn't really a home anymore after living on the streets for two months and his family not noticing he had left at all.

Jeremy leads Michael on a walk to the Heere house. Jeremy's fingers are intertwined with Michael's as they walk together. Michael looking around at the New Jersey that he grew up in, and he's not sure he likes it so much anymore. New Jersey seems like a real wasteland compared to his dream home, New York City. It's not Michael's dream to live on the street, but he does want to live in that city when he's older.

“Dad?” Jeremy calls out as he enters his house. “Are you home?”
“I'm on way out. What is it son?” Mr. Heere asks, as he is right by the door.
“Hi, Mr. Heere.” Michael gives a small wave.
“Michael! Been awhile since I've seen you around kiddo.” Mr. Heere comments.
“Yeah, well, that's because he thought it was okay to run away from home.” Jeremy rolls his eyes. “Can he live with us?”
“Of course.” Jeremy's dad responds. “I'll see you two when I come home.”
“Thank you, Mr. Heere.” Michael gives another small wave.
“Anytime.” Mr. Heere smiles and then is out the door to work.

Jeremy appreciates that his dad doesn't question why he and Michael had showed up in the middle of a school day. Although, Jeremy's got something else way more important on his mind right now. Jeremy's pissed at Michael for leaving him with absolutely no notice before hand. As soon as Jeremy hears his dad’s car drive away, he turns to face Michael with anger in his blue eyes.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” Jeremy starts.
“Jeremy, wh-”
“Don’t act like you don’t know! You left me all alone and you are the one person who knows how to calm me down. Do you know what it’s like to have anxiety attacks and a breakdown without the one person who makes you feel better be there for you? Do you know what it is like to be abandoned like you are more worthless than a pile of jack fucking shit? Do you even know what you did to me, Michael? Do you?” Jeremy huffs. “Do you know what it is like to be left alone with absolutely no one left?”
“Yes.” Michael cuts Jeremy off. “I do.”
“What?” Jeremy snaps out of his anger, and looks at Michael. “What do you mean?”
“Jake’s Halloween party, junior year, bathroom. That ring a bell?”

Jeremy stops for a moment. How could he ever forget? He abandoned his best friend for some girl that just didn’t love him. Jeremy is staring at the ground currently, remembering the entire conversation that had happened that night in Jake’s now burned down house. Michael is recounting the same memories, crystal orbs staining the smooth skin of his caramel face. Jeremy finally looks up and faces Michael.

“I’m sorry.” Jeremy mumbles.
“So am I.” Michael replies, tears evident in his voice.
“No, no Michael. If how you felt in that bathroom is even a fraction of what I felt? I’m sorry. I totally deserved this. I didn’t mean to hurt you the way I did.” Jeremy steps closer to Michael, and brushes Michael’s tears away with his thumb. “I didn’t meant to.”
“Neither did I.” Michael looks into Jeremy’s eyes. “I didn’t mean to hurt you, Jeremy. I just needed to get away.”
“Away from me?” Jeremy asks quietly.

The quiet tone of Jeremy’s voice breaks Michael’s heart. Michael holds Jeremy close and kisses his head. Michael always promises that he will be good to Jeremy, and never hurt him. Well, now he has. Michael couldn't feel more guilty in his entire life. Suddenly, running away isn't worth it to Michael. He wish he never had done what he did. He wishes he spent the last two months holding Jeremy in his arms, kissing his sweet, peachy lips.

“Never.” Michael says, kissing Jeremy's head. “Unless… I'm not good enough for you.”
“You're more than enough.” Jeremy gives a small smile, and sighs. “Please, never run away, ever again.”
“I promise.”

Jeremy is a bit shocked that Michael responded so quickly. Jeremy looks up at Michael, and Michael's back with the normal warmth in his chocolate eyes. Jeremy smiles, noticing the light that's returned to Michael's eyes. Jeremy nuzzles Michael’s chest and kisses his shoulder. Michael laughs softly and presses his lips to Jeremy's forehead.

“This is my home.” Michael smiles.
“My house?” Jeremy asks, raising an eyebrow.
“No, baby.” Michael shakes his head and then looks into Jeremy's blue eyes. “You.”

Jeremy smiles, home really is where the heart is. Jeremy looks up into Michael's brown eyes, Michael stares back into Jeremy's blue eyes. Michael keeps one arm around his waist, the other cupping his cheek. Michael leans down and kisses the shorter male. Michael's lips melting perfectly into Jeremy's.

“I love you.” Michael whispers, after the perfect kiss ends.
“I love you too.” Jeremy smiles.

However, this is not where the story ends. The two boys have one more order of business to take care of, returning to school. After spending the entire weekend together, ignoring messages from everyone at school, Michael prepares for his return. Jeremy has gotten decent sleep for once, and is looking a lot better. Michael fixes the twisted sleeves on Jeremy's cardigan, as Jeremy does his hair for him. They help each other get ready for school on the rainy Monday morning.

“Are you ready for this?” Jeremy asks, as the couple steps out of the house.
“Ready as I’ll ever be.” Michael sighs, taking an umbrella out to shelter him and Jeremy from the rain. “Are we gonna fool the squad?”
“Yes.” Jeremy nods, “Yes we are.”

Michael and Jeremy make the decision to walk to school because then Jeremy can approach the school before Michael. Jeremy only sees it fit to try and make everyone else cry after all the crying he did while Michael was gone. Jeremy gives Michael's cheek a kiss as they approach the school. Michael gives Jeremy's hand one last squeeze and then a kiss on the forehead.

“Good luck, Heere.” Michael smiles.
“Thanks, Mell. Or should I say, future Heere?” Jeremy raises an eyebrow.
Michael blushes, “Oh, so smooth.”
“I rarely am.”
“I know.” Michael nudges Jeremy.

Jeremy laughs softly, giving Michael a quick kiss on the lips before going inside Middle Borough high school. Jeremy made sure he isn't smiling and then walks inside. The SQUIP squad look towards Jeremy as he walks in. They are all slightly confused.

“I thought you were coming back with Mell.” Jake comments, looking at Jeremy. “Ending your search so soon?”
“Yeah, where were you thith weekend, dude?” Rich asks.
“Did something happen?” Christine questions, very concerned.
“Kind of.” Jeremy mumbles.
“Did you find Michael?” Brooke asks, hopeful.

Jeremy shakes his head, a lie. The SQUIP squad’s faces drop. The mood in the room drops, and Jeremy can feel the tension in his own chest. He's imagining life as if he didn't find Michael, and it just makes his heart fall heavy.

“He might never be found.”
“What?” Chloe snaps her head from her phone screen, and Jenna does the same.
“He was a good guy.” Jeremy mumbles, looking down. “Such a good guy.”

Jeremy sighs as he looks at the floor, and sheds a tear. Jeremy's just imagining what life would be like without his Michael by his side. If he never found Michael. This thought seriously makes the pale, lanky boy cry. Everyone looks rather sad, but then looks even sadder as they realize Jeremy is speaking in the past tense. Brooke is the first to shed a tear, and Jake is the first to hug Jeremy.

“Is he…” Christine can't bring herself to finish the question.
“Dead?” Jeremy asks, as he receives a hug from everyone in the friend group.
“I've never wanted to be wrong more in my entire life.” Chloe mutters.
“I'm sure Michael would love to be here with us.” Christine places a hand on Jeremy's shoulder.
“Well, he is.” Jeremy wipes his tears away.
“What?” Jenna asks, raising an eyebrow.
“Is that like some kind of super natural shit?” Brooke asks, still crying.

Jeremy laughs softly and shakes his head, he steps aside as Michael makes his entrance. Everyone looks to see the tall boy in the red hoodie, white headphones hanging around his neck. The Michael Mell everyone knows and loves. Everyone stops crying as best as they can, and smiles.

“He's alive?” Chloe raises an eyebrow.
Jake lightly punches Jeremy in the arm, “You asshole.”
“He's alive.” Jeremy smiles.

Michael comes up behind Jeremy and hugs him. Jeremy places his hands on Michael's hands, and Michael presses a kiss to Jeremy's head. Everyone feels relief as they see Jeremy and Michael together. Everyone happy to see Jeremy smiling and in a much better state. No more nervous breakdowns just because Michael isn't around.

“Thank God! I've never been happier to be wrong.” Chloe sighs. “Welcome back, bitch.”
“Thanks, bitch.” Michael smiles. “Dillinger, short ass, theatre freak, scarf girl, and gossip.” Michael greets each of them.
“Glad to see you.” Christine gives a small smile.
“I'm glad to be back.” Michael sighs.

In all honesty, Michael is glad to be back. Now that he doesn't have to live in his own house, but can live with Jeremy? Michael's never been happier in his entire life. Jeremy is glad that Michael’s safe and alive. Now everything seems to be solved in Michael's world. For now, that is. He's finally home. Sheltered and safe.