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Love In The Time Of Loss

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“I AM THE DANCING QUEEN, YOUNG AND SWEET ONLY………SEVENTEEN!” I screamed along to the song currently blasting out of my speaker and spun around my room, nearly dropping the almost empty bottle I was currently using as a microphone. I giggled as I collapsed back onto the bed, a small amount of liquid sloshing out of my bottle. But my laughter was cut short when I turned my head and caught sight of the photo on my nightstand. Tears filled my eyes and suddenly uncontrollable sobs broke through my happy buzz and wracked my body as I was reminded of the reason I’d decided to get drunk in the first place.

The smiling faces of a six-year-old me and my parents looked back at me. My parents, who would never smile again, and myself, who wondered if I ever would either. It had only been a few days since they’d both died, died saving my life on the Magellan, and I was still deep in grief. The alcohol was the first thing to have given me some relief from the pain that was eating away at me from the inside, but now I’d seen my parents’ faces again even that wasn’t enough. I knew that. It wouldn’t stop me trying to escape again though.

I quickly downed the rest of the bottle and opened a second, curling up on my bed and crying without restraint. The music continued to fill my room, now far from appropriate to my emotional state, and the upbeat sounds of Dancing Queen made me cry harder. The song was ancient but it had been my mum’s favourite, become my favourite too. Now it was just a painful reminder of happier times.

“You are…dancing queen, young and…only seventeen.” I sang quietly through sobs and hiccups as I clutched the photograph to me and continued drinking, “Dancing Quee-,“ my singing broke off and I gave up trying to do anything but cry and drink until the world would slip away.

A soft knock sounded at the door but I didn’t register the sound through my grief or the music playing. The knock came again. Much louder this time accompanied by a voice calling my name. It was loud enough for me to hear this time but I elected to ignore whoever was outside. An exasperated sigh reached my ears followed by the door being pushed open and footsteps coming towards me. My music became quieter and I groaned. They weren’t going to leave me alone.

“Go…away.” There was only one person I could handle seeing and I was pretty certain he wasn’t the one currently in my room. No, Nik would be busy with something, like he always was. I felt the bed dip behind me as my visitor sat down and an arm reached over to pull the half-empty bottle from my grasp. An arm which just so happened to be covered in tattoos. I turned my head and was shocked to find Nik looking down at me, a concerned expression adorning his features.

“You-what-Nik? What-what are you…doing here?”

“I came to check on you, I talked to Hanna earlier and she seemed extra worried about you. I can see why.” He looked at the bottle he’d taken from me and at the other empty ones around the room, “how much of this have you had?”

I shrugged, “I don’t know, a lot. Why does it matter?”

“Because this isn’t healthy. I get you need something to help you cope but this isn’t the way.”

“Yeah, well, it’s the only thing that’s helped at all so far so forgive me for not giving a shit if it’s healthy. Besides, who the fuck even cares what I do?” I knew I was being overly harsh but, in the moment, I really didn’t care.

“I care damnit! And so do Kady and Hanna and Ezra and Ella and Chief Grant and everyone else, we all care about you (Y/N)! And we don’t want to see you hurting yourself like this.”

“Well you don’t have to, go ahead and keep focusing on the files and I’ll keep my depressing grief away from you all.” I tried to turn away from him again but he reached out and cupped my face in his hand, stopping my movement.

“That is NOT what I meant. We don’t want you to hide away from us, we want to help you, we want you to talk to us. We’ve been trying to give you space but we’ve all been so worried about you. I know we’ve been busy working but there’s not a single one of us who wouldn’t drop everything if you need us.” He let out a long breath and brushed some of my still-flowing tears off my face, “I understand if you’re not ready to talk yet or even do much else, but as soon as you are, I’m here for you. Just please-I know you’re grieving but…please, if you won’t let us look after you, look after yourself.”

I gave him a barely perceptible nod and he replied with a weak smile before moving to leave. It was only when his weight lifted and his hand left my face that I realised just how much I wanted him to stay. Quicker than I thought I could move, I rolled over and reached out to grab his wrist. Only to end up missing and holding his hand instead. Heat rushed to my cheeks as I realised what I’d done and I quickly let go as he turned to face me, confusion masking his features.

“I-uh-sorry-um-I-could you-uh-maybe stay with me? For a little while? If-if you-uh-don’t mind.” Nik cocked his head to the side, considering me and what I’d said but not moving, “I mean you-uh-don’t have to if-if you’d rather j-just go.” I fiddled with the sleeves of my jumper and tried to avoid looking at him, “Just-uh-forget about it, you can go, I’ll be okay.”

Nik still hadn’t moved and it was starting to make me nervous. I wasn’t sure if I’d crossed some sort of line in our friendship, one I hadn’t realised was there, but I wished I could turn back time and just let him leave first time round. More time passed in silence and every second felt like a lifetime. Finally, though, he spoke.

“Of course I’ll stay with you, but I have a question first: why are you so nervous about asking?”

I swallowed and managed to look at him again. He seemed confused.

“Because I-uh-you…I li-but you-Hanna-uh-I-” I couldn’t form a full sentence, I couldn’t tell him how I really felt, not with words anyway. I looked at him and took his hand, trying to convey as much as I could without talking and hoping he would understand. A soft smile worked its way onto his face and he laid down beside me on the bed, pulling me into his side and wrapping his arms around me.

“Shhh, it’s okay, you don’t need to be nervous (Y/N), I like you too. Honestly, I don’t know how you’ve never noticed before.”

“But you and Hanna?”

“There was never a me and Hanna, we realised it wouldn’t work…especially because I was always, to quote her, ‘obviously and madly in love’ with you.”

“But…but you always went on about her and were always flirting and-” he placed a finger to my lips to stop me.

“I didn’t think you’d ever think of me that way, so I tried to move on. It was never going to work though because I spent every moment from the day we met falling for you more and more. At this point there’s no one else I could imagine being with. I hate to be cheesy but the truth is, my heart belongs completely and entirely to you and I think it always will. Maybe now isn’t the best time for this but I need you to know because it’s important that you know I mean it when I say I’ll be there for you whenever and wherever you need me and I’ll help you through this if you’ll let me because I love you and I’d do anything to make sure you’re okay.”

Fresh tears fell from my eyes at his words and a smile finally worked its way onto my face as I tilted my face up and tangled my fingers in his hair to gently pull his face towards my own. He didn’t need encouragement and lightly connected our lips in a chaste but loving kiss.

“Thank you, for…y’know…being there for me and…for telling me that, I wasn’t expecting you to be quite such a sap but I love you and I can’t explain how much it means to have you here for me. It makes everything feel a little bit brighter and I really need that right now.”

“You don’t have to thank me. Just remember all your friends are there for you too and they all want to help. You don’t have to go through this alone okay? Now why don’t you get some sleep, I’ll be here when you wake up.”

“Okay.” I cuddled deeper into his side and he placed a soft kiss to my forehead before reaching up a hand and stroking through my hair to slowly lull me to sleep. It didn’t take long before I began to drift off, my body exhausted from so much crying, and for the first time since I’d lost my parents I fell asleep with a smile on my face.