Rachel was wrong, Miles' situation didn't resolve itself on its own. Time passed, the weather warmed up and yet Snowman Miles remained standing. Aaron claimed that the Nanites spoke to him and told him the answers he was looking for were in Oklahoma, so he and Rachel set off, leaving Charlie, Bass and Gene behind in Willoughby with one irate snowman.
'They've been gone too long, when are they going to come back?' Miles complained, not used to helpless inactivity or forced sobriety.
"They'll be back, mom will figure something out," Charlie assured him, patting his "shoulder". She frowned and looked him up and down, finally focusing on the ground in alarm.
'What? What is it?'
"You're wet," Charlie said, her blue eyes wide. "And there's a puddle on the ground."
"What's going on?" Bass asked, joining them, ready for his shift of Snowman-sitting.
"I think Miles is melting," Charlie explained worriedly.
"What?" Bass asked in shock, inspecting his icy friend for himself. "Shit."
'This just keeps getting better and better', Miles grumbled.
"I'll go get grandpa, maybe he'll come up with something," Charlie offered.
'Sure, maybe he's got a walk-in freezer that happens to be working'.
"We'll figure something out, ok? We just need something temporary for now, till mom and Aaron get back. I'll be right back," Charlie turned and headed back towards the house.
'Not like I'm going anywhere.'
"Hey, the kid is right," Bass said. "We'll figure this out. This might be the weirdest situation we've ever been in, but we've beaten worse odds and always came out on top."
"We need to move him somewhere colder," Gene assessed the situation, full on Doctor Porter mode, with Charlie in tow.
"Where? And move him how, exactly?" Bass asked.
"Very carefully," Gene said dryly. "The basement in Marion's bar is also a wine cellar, its temperature isn't nearly cold enough to sustain ice, but it might slow down the thawing, buying us some time."
"You had me at 'wine cellar' and 'bar'," Bass smirked.
"Are we just going to be carrying a snowman across town, won't that look suspicious?" Charlie asked.
"We'll cover him up completely and move him at night, hopefully no one looks too closely or asks any questions," Gene said. "Let's just hope he's.. Solid and sturdy enough."
"He's a chubby snowman, there's lots to grab onto," Bass said with a grin.
'I'm going to grab onto that scrawny neck of yours-'
"Careful, you don't want me to accidentally drop you and then put you back together with your ass instead of your head, even though that sounds pretty accurate."
"Are they always like this?" Gene asked Charlie, shaking his head.
Charlie merely shrugged. "Pretty much. You just learn to tune them out."
Bass and Charlie took turns watching over Miles, which was really all they could do at this point. They watched him slowly melt away for days, hoping he would just change back, or Rachel and Aaron would return with a cure.
"You know, we wouldn't have had this problem if we were back home," Bass mused, sitting amicably next to the slowly shrinking snowman. "We had ice, we could have figured some way to keep you frozen."
'The Republic's gone,' Miles' voice was uncharacteristically gentle. 'I got a feeling I'll be gone too soon.'
"You will with that attitude," Bass mumbled, leaning against the wall and closing his eyes. "Does it hurt?"
'I can't feel anything,' Miles said. 'I just know I'm becoming... Less. Like I'm slowly fading away... It feels a bit like Trenton. After all the close calls I've had, all the different ways I imagined myself dying... I never pictured this.'
"Well, you're not going to die on me, because I'm not going to let you," Bass promised. "You don't get to leave me, not like this."
"Nobody's going anywhere," Charlie came down the stairs, a big grin on her face. "Mom and Aaron are back and we're going to fix this." Gene, Rachel and Aaron followed her down the stairs, Aaron looking anywhere but at the snowman and shifting on his feet awkwardly.
'Took you long enough,' Miles groused, his voice tinged with relief.
"Well, it's not like we could just teleport ourselves to Oklahoma and back," Rachel said breezily.
'Well, did you find out anything?' Miles demanded impatiently.
"Oh, well the Nanites are pretty insane- it's a long story, we met Grace there- and that ball of twin is really impressive," Aaron said nervously.
'Aaron, I swear to God-'
"The Nanites, somehow got the impression that you're... Mean," Aaron winced.
"I know, right? How crazy is that?"
"What does that have to do with anything?" Bass asked.
"They're trying to teach Miles a lesson," Rachel said slowly, shaking her head in disbelief.
'They turned me into a snowman because I'm mean?' Miles asked. 'Where the hell did they get that idea from, Aaron?'
"Look, it doesn't matter why or how it happened," Rachel took control of the conversation. "What matters is that there's a way to reverse it, only I don't think you'll like it," she said to Miles.
'What? Human sacrifice? Giving up a limb? What is it?'
Rachel looked to Aaron to explain, making him gulp. "You have to... You have to be nice to us."
Gene, Bass and Charlie all stared at him in utter silence.
'Wait, what now?'
"The Nanites thought you were cold and unfeeling, so they turned you into a snowman. In order to turn back, you have to say nice things about us," Aaron explained in one breath. "And yeah, I know how crazy this sounds, but they assured me it would work. It's gotta be the truth though, they can tell if you're lying or faking it, they can read your thoughts."
'I'm running out of time here, if this is some kind of prank-'
"It's not," Rachel said. "It's completely batshit crazy, but it's legit."
"Miles, being nice," Gene mused. "Is that even physically possible?"
'Shut up, Gene!'
"You're off to a promising start," Aaron said under his breath.
'When this is over, I'm going to kill you, slowly.'
"Miles, I don't think that will convince the Nanites that you're nice," Charlie implored him. "Look, I know you can be a bastard sometimes, but you can also be caring, I know it, I've seen it first hand, you can do this."
'If the Nanites can read my thoughts, then can't I just think these nice things and not say them?'
"Oh," Aaron mulled it over. "Maybe-"
"No, it has to be out loud and in front of all of us," Rachel said confidently, her lips quirking slightly. "Sorry, those are the rules." They all turned to look at the snowman expectantly.
'Fine,' Miles grunted. 'Aaron, you're not completely useless.'
"Thanks," Aaron rolled his eyes.
'You can finally light a fire and we saw in the Lighthouse that you can sometimes hold your own in a fight. Plus you've got some crazy, tiny robots listening to you, for some insane reason, so there's that too.'
"Is that all-?" Rachel elbowed Aaron in the gut. "Right, thanks man, glad to be appreciated."
'Gene, you fixed my hand, so you're not a terrible doctor. You also hated me right off the bat, so you're a good judge of character, at least when it's not Patriot-related. And you were trying to help your town, I guess I can understand that.'
Gene nodded his acknowledgment.
'Charlie, you're a good, smart kid, God knows you didn't get it from any of us. You managed to reach me when all I wanted to do was drown my sorrows in Scotch. You're annoyingly opinionated and can be way too optimistic, but you've somehow managed to keep me on the right path. Plus you didn't end the world, start a Militia or sell your soul to the enemy, so compared to the rest of us, you're doing great.'
Charlie smiled at him. "Somebody has to keep you idiots in line and alive."
'Rachel...' Miles faltered.
"Let me guess, I haven't ended the world lately?" She asked with a slight grin.
'Well, yeah. You're stubborn and too smart for your own good and you can never leave well enough alone. But you never break, no matter what I- what you're put through, somehow you always stay strong and manage to survive it. I.. I can't-'
"It's ok," Rachel said. "You don't have to go there, that was nice enough for me."
'Bass... Well, you're less crazy and you haven't tried to kill us or start a dictatorship yet.'
"Are you serious? God, you emotionally constipated schmuck," Bass spat. "Your life depends on it and you still can't say anything decent to me?"
'Ok, fine: You're loyal, you've followed me into hell and stuck by me, even when you shouldn't have. Everything went to shit, but it wasn't all on you. I was in that pit too and then I just ran, so anything that happened afterwards, part of it is on me too.'
"Now was that so hard?" Bass asked, his voice soft.
"So now what?" Charlie asked.
"I don't know," Aaron said. "I guess we wait?"
"Something's happening," Gene said tersely and all heads swiveled to Miles. The Snowman was changing, shrinking and expanding, morphing into Miles' slumped human shape, somehow still clothed and soaking wet.
"Miles!" Charlie ran over and hugged him. "Are you ok?"
"C-cold," Miles stuttered.
"We're going to need to get him out of those wet clothes and into some dry one," Gene said briskly. "Aaron- go to the house and get Miles some clothes."
"Yeah, ok," Aaron said, hesitating for a moment. "I'm really sorry about all this."
"I need you to be away from me right now," Miles said slowly through clenched teeth, not used to using his vocal cords and mouth to speak.
"I'm just going to go and get you some clothes," Aaron quickly retreated.
"Rachel, can you get some blankets from Marion? And some food and water? He might be malnourished from not eating or drinking all this time."
"I'll be right back," she promised Miles, running her hand across his wet cheek, reassuring herself that he's really himself again, before she went upstairs to get the supplies.
"We should get him upstairs by the fire and get him under some blankets until Aaron gets here," Gene told Charlie and Bass. "He might have hyperthermia, I'll need to check him, in the meantime, keep him awake and talking."
Bass and Charlie approached Miles and crouched next to him.
"Up and at them, tiger," Bass said cheerfully.
"I'm going to kill Aaron for this."
"I don't think you should be saying stuff like that, considering the Nanites seem to like the guy and can read minds and all. You should probably be nicer to him"
"Hey Bass, come here for a sec," Miles said groggily. When Bass leaned in close enough, he threw a weak punch that landed on his shoulder. "I promised you I would kick your ass when this was all over."
"That was your idea of kicking my ass? Come on, Stay Puft could throw a better punch." Bass and Charlie each grabbed a soggy arm and carried Miles between them up the steps to the bar.
"Right and calling him names is so much better?" Charlie asked Bass.
"Like you even know what 'Stay Puft' means."
"I know it's 'not nice', you should watch yourself or they might turn you into a snowman next."
"God-like machines passing judgment and punishment, I feel like we're in an episode of Star Trek," Bass complained.
They kept up a casual conversation the whole trip and poked Miles if he was silent for too long. They deposited him in front of the fire; Gene and Bass helped Miles out of his wet clothes and wrapped him in blankets. Gene made sure he drank and ate something and only when he checked him over and gave the ok, Miles allowed himself to close his eyes and let everyone around him become background noise. He listened to Bass' soothing voice and felt Charlie's warm presence by his side, holding his cold hand between her warm ones and he drifted off to sleep, for once content and happy to simply be himself again.