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one.

It’s funny, kind of. It’s like that saying: Rocks fall, everyone dies.

Except he doesn’t. Not quite. Not entirely.

Rocks fall, he only kind-of dies.


They tell him his name is Shawn Hunter. They tell him they’ve called his emergency contact, and Cory should be here soon. The nurses smile. 

“He sounded so relieved, he must love you a lot,” one says. 

Cory is—someone. Someone who’s coming. Someone who meant a lot. 

He was in an accident—a rockslide. Freak accident, the only survivor on the mountain. Four other people died. He’s in Canada. He doesn’t know what Canada means, only that it’s apparently not home. 

He has amnesia. Brain injury—they had to cut open his skull. They’ll put his head back together when his brain isn’t so swollen. They don’t know if the amnesia is a result of the surgery, or the injury. He has pins in his leg, and five broken ribs. He may or may not keep his right arm, but they’re optimistic. 

They have to tell him this every time he wakes up. He gets his own room, and they write everything down, so when he wakes up he can see it. 

Your name is Shawn Hunter. You were in an accident, you need to stay still and calm. Press the button for your nurse. Cory is on his way.

He presses the button to call the nurse, and thinks: Cory is on the way.


He could press his fingers through the gauze on his head and touch his brain. That strikes him as—

It’s striking, anyway. Maybe if he pressed on it, felt his way around, he could fix it. 


Cory’s voice warm. His hands are warm, when he presses them over Shawn’s, and his lips are rough, when he presses the kiss to Shawn’s hand. 

“Oh, my God, Shawn,” he says, over and over, his eyes spilling tears. “Thank God, thank God. Oh, my God, Shawn.” 

Cory holds Shawn’s hand and listens to the doctors, asks for print-outs, to see Shawn’s chart. Cory calls the people Shawn was on assignment for, and then calls someone called ‘Topanga’ and gives her the people Shawn worked for’s number and the instruction to “make them pay for his goddamn medical bills.”

Cory doesn’t seem bothered that Shawn can’t remember anything, and because it doesn’t bother Cory, it stops bothering Shawn.

It’s funny how that works.

He stops wanting to put his fingers into his brain.


Cory says he’s staying in a long-term hotel. “It’s nice,” he says. “I can go grocery shopping, there’s a whole kitchenette, a little office, the bedroom is a separate room. It’s not terrible, really.”

Shawn understands maybe half of that, but he likes that Cory talks like he understands all of it. The nurses and doctors talk too slowly, and it makes him doubt himself—maybe he’s not catching things, and that’s why they’re talking like that. Cory rolls his eyes and says, out in the hall, 

“He’s got amnesia, not a case of the stupids. Talk to him like a person.” 

It gets better after that, and Shawn smiles at Cory, who beams back. Cory has a wedding ring, but Shawn doesn’t. They took his stuff, though, when they admitted him. Maybe they had to cut the ring off. 

He has to remember to ask Cory about it.


They aren’t married. 

“I married Topanga,” Cory says, like it's not a strange question at all. “You’re my favorite Shawn.” 

He says it simply, like it’s fact, but Shawn doesn’t understand. 

“The nurses—did someone tell you I was—?” Cory asks. 

Shawn nods, and then flinches, and Cory’s hands are pressing against his forehead and his jaw, helping him push the nausea back. 

“Oh man,” Cory sighs. “We’re not married, Shawnie. We’re best friends. You’re my Shawn, I’m your Cory, together we scheme and save the world. Well, usually we get into trouble, or we did when we were kids. Lately we've passed on the torch, because we're old.” 

“Oh,” Shawn says, his mind repeating not married not married not married. The yawning, clawing ache deep in his chest feels like something that’s waking up again. Like it’s always been there, and he’s only just noticed it. 

It’s the first thing that’s felt familiar. 


Toronto and New York have to talk, the doctors confer at length, and Cory’s wife, Topanga, gets involved. She’s a lawyer. She also owns—something. A cafe, maybe. It’s a lot of information to keep track of, and Shawn’s short-term memory is still shot. Cory never minds. He tells him things again—pauses and checks himself, checking in with Shawn, to make sure he's not cluttering up the space in Shawn's brain with information he already knows.

It's nice. Cory just seems to know when Shawn’s lost. They put his skull back together two months after Cory first came, and there are a lot of jokes about Shawn’s new metal plate, and Cory's fingers sliding over the hair that's barely growing back. As Shawn gets stronger, Cory get more anxious to leave. He has two kids and he misses them. Their pictures are on Shawn's bedside table, but sometimes it hurts his eyes to look at them, so he doesn't.

And the more alert Shawn gets, the more conversations happen outside his door.

“No, I’ll—there’s addiction, in the family,” Cory says to the doctor, both of them talking in low voices, just outside the door. “Both of his parents. Alcohol, for his dad, drugs, for his mom. I’d rather—until he’s on his feet.”

“Of course,” the doctor agrees quickly, warmly. People respond like that to Cory. They want to do what he wants. “It’s so good of you to take him in.”

“He’s my best friend,” Cory says. 

Shawn thinks, though, under the glare of the monitors: addiction in the family

It’s a note in his chart, now. Patient may be drug-seeking, refer to medical proxy.

He wonders if they let him see those notes because they don’t think he understands. 

 

 

two.

He thought coming home would be better, but it’s not. The flight exhausts him, so much so that when he opens his eyes he’s in a strange bed, in a strange room, with no memory of arriving, and no energy to be upset by any of that. Cory is making this weird yipping sound beside him, familiar from so many nights of Cory conking out at his bedside. At least sleeping on the bed looks comfortable.

The house smells—well. It just smells, scents he can’t identify, and they come from everywhere. Not the sick-sweet of the hospital, and the air isn’t as sharp, and the lights aren’t as hard. 

There’s a woman in the doorway, and she smiles, a big thing, even though she’s clearly restraining herself. 

“Hi, Shawn,” she says softly, coming in to sit on the side of the bed, picking up his hand. Familiar, like she’s entitled to his space, too. They must be friends. “I’m Topanga,” she says. “We’ve been friends since we were kids.” 

“Hi,” he says, and his voice sounds fractured. She reaches for the glass on the bedside, helping him get the straw into his mouth. He got to keep his arm, after all, but it’s still hard to use. He needs a lot of therapy, the doctors told him. 

He needs to be realistic—though nobody will say what that is.

“How are you feeling?” she asks. “Do you need anything?”

“I don’t know,” he says, and her smile goes softer, sadder. 

“Oh, honey,” she says, and bends to kiss his forehead. It’s nice. He likes her, he thinks. “Go back to sleep, okay? You had a rough day.” 

He does. He wonders if that’s because he’s used to doing what she tells him to do, or because he really is exhausted.


They grew up together, Shawn, Cory and Topanga. Shawn and Cory were best friends, and Cory and Topanga were always in love. They stayed together through college, and grad school, and Shawn left (no one ever says why), and then came back a couple of years ago.

"You weren't really gone," Cory always says. 

"We went in different directions, for a while," Topanga says, delicate. 

She's a lawyer, and Cory is a teacher, and Shawn writes and takes pictures and travels. 

There are photo albums full of their faces over the years, and then they just—stop. 

He wonders why he left, really. 

Mostly he stares at the picture of his young self and wants to apologize desperately, for forgetting everything that kid became. 

He's an imposter wearing that kid's future, and he has no right.


 The house is full of people who stare at him. 

Cory is always by his side, but Topanga works. 

“She’s the real breadwinner,” Cory says. “I’m really a glorified houseboy.” 

“I don’t know what that is,” Shawn tells him.

Cory waggles his eyebrows and says, “Hubba hubba.” 

Shawn laughs, and then wraps his left arm around his ribs. “I still don’t know what that means, but please stop.” 

Cory and Topanga's kids are better than their pictures. It doesn't hurt to look at them. The girl seems unsure of how to be around him, and so she isn’t, very often, but the little boy will sit with him and read him books and watch TV. It’s nice.

Then there’s this blonde girl who stares at him like he’s going to throw her off a cliff. Not in the abstract, either—like he’s actually going to hurt her in some horrible way.

“I’m Maya,” she says one day, aggressively, when she and—and Cory’s daughter come through the door after school. He and—and Auggie are watching Doc McStuffins. Shawn likes that show, and Auggie seems glad for the company, sitting very carefully and reminding Shawn what happened last time.

Auggie glares at her now for interrupting his show, and presses the remote to pause it.

Maya ignores him and says, “We were—we used to hang out? You and my mom kind of dated, a little, but you and me, we. Hung out.” 

Shawn nods, and his head kills as soon as he dips his chin, so he lifts his head slowly, carefully. Cory is already coming over with the pills and a glass of water. Shawn opens his mouth and Cory puts the pill on his tongue, then holds the straw carefully so Shawn can drink. 

Maya’s eyes are huge—they take up almost half of her face anyway, and now they’re red and glassy, and Cory’s daughter, the dark-haired girl—Shit, he knows her name. R-something. She pulls Maya away, the two of them disappearing like shadows. He wonders how they do that.

Wonders, if he asked nicely, if they’d teach him.

“It’s okay,” Auggie tells him. “Maya’s pretty bad at people, and Riley’s having feelings about boys that make her stupid about everyone. That’s why I married Ava Morgenstern 50 years ago.” 

Shawn looks at him, and then at Cory, and Cory just rolls his eyes and makes a ‘go with it’ gesture.

“Sure, kid,” Shawn says, and Auggie presses play.

At dinner—which Shawn sits at the head, sandwiched between Cory and Topanga so they can both help him to stand and sit—Maya and—Riley, that’s her name, Riley. They sit and stare at him.

“So, girls, how was school?” Topanga asks. 

“Fine,” they say, in eerie unison. Shawn shifts, and Cory stands up, and just like that he’s going back to the bedroom, because Shawn thinks, Cory can read his mind.

“It’ll be okay,” Cory says. “They’re just weird right now, because they’re self-involved teenagers.”

“Good thing we were never like that,” Shawn says, and Cory laughs, and helps Shawn change into his pajamas, and then changes into his.

It never strikes Shawn that it’s weird that Cory sleeps in the bed with him. 


It’s like he’s something to keep. 

They don’t mean it, he knows they don’t. 

But nobody’s allowed to see him, and he knows that people want to, because he can hear Topanga and Cory on the phone. 

“No, Dad, he’s not up to visitors right now. No, I know you’re family—”

“Mr. Feeney! I’m sure he’ll be happy to see you, but right now he confuses so easily.” 

“Jonathan, I know he’s like a son to you, but right now it’s all so much.” 

“Sure, Jack, let’s aim for next week, okay? He has an appointment with a specialist on the 18th, so let’s pencil it in for the 20th at 10:00? He starts to fade in the afternoons, so…”

“No, Eric. Not on your life.” 

“Mom, Jack hasn’t even seen him yet—”

“Katy, I know Maya wants to, but we’re just trying to keep everything—I know. It’s rough on everyone, but we have to do what’s best for Shawn.” 

The little boy will climb up on the bed with him and lay down. 

“I know you’re hurting, Uncle Shawn,” he says quietly. “I brought you my dragon. She’ll protect you. Her name is Ava, and she’s terrifying.” 

Shawn holds onto that dragon tight. She’s a bright, bright pink with iridescent blue wings, and black beads for eyes. He wonders if the dragon is there to protect him, or keep him. In the little boy’s books, the dragon guards the door, keeps the princess captive.

Auggie, he thinks. The little boy’s name is Auggie. And I’m the princess.

That should be funny.

It’s not.


 Cory takes him to physical therapy, and his appointments, and organizes his pills. Cory touches him, all the time, and never seems to be aware. It’s funny, because Shawn doesn’t feel like he fits in his body—like it’s separate from him. But Cory—Cory’s so comfortable with Shawn’s body. Knows how to avoid the spots that make Shawn ticklish, and it’s nice. It’s really nice. He’s broken, but Cory doesn’t care. Cory doesn’t notice.

Cory tells the doctors that Shawn’s side hurts, and it’s only after Cory says it that he realizes yeah, his left side does just sort of ache, low and dull and present, all the time. 

It’s so easy to defer. To let Cory manage his meds and his pain and everything else. To drop his eyes when Topanga mentions having visitors, and let Cory say,

“Not yet.” 

He doesn’t know how long it is—there’s snow on the ground, now, and they’re talking about Christmas, and maybe this year it should be quiet.

“Am I ruining everything?” he asks Cory one night. Cory tugs him in, arranges them so Shawn is safe and tucked up against him.

“No, Shawn,” Cory says fiercely. “You’re not.” 

 

 

three.

The doctors suggest it, and Topanga agrees, so for Christmas, Cory’s parents, and his siblings, and Shawn’s brother all come over. Maya is there too, because she never seems to leave, and Shawn sits in his chair with the blanket over his lap and his brain a little fuzzy from the anti-anxiety pill (it makes him cold, hence the blanket, and the slippers, and the cardigan). 

“You look like an old man,” one of the Matthews says. 

“That’s Eric,” Jack—Jack is Shawn’s brother, and he hasn’t left Shawn’s side since he came in the door—says. “He’s kind of a jerk.” 

“Ah, friendship,” Eric says. “It’s so—unrewarding, frankly.” 

Eric turns away, then, to go into the kitchen and face Topanga’s wrath, presumably. 

“Hi, Shawn,” the older woman says. “I’m Amy, I’m Cory’s mom, and this is Alan, my husband. I’m so glad you’re—” she pauses, and then gets ahold of herself. “It’s so good to see you, sweetheart.” 

Alan looks teary-eyed too, and Shawn looks at Cory, who smiles reassuringly, and Shawn pats Alan’s back awkwardly when he hugs him. 

“This is Morgan, Cory’s little sister, and Josh, Cory’s little brother,” Amy says. You all kind of grew up together, except Josh.”

“I was a surprise,” Josh says, grinning. 

“A good surprise,” Alan says, smiling at his son. They’re nice people, and they’re trying really hard, and Jack tells him all about their dad—or, he tells him the things that are nice about him.

Shawn knows their dad had addiction problems—it’s in his chart, after all. But to listen to Jack, he was a great guy who loved his kids and did his best.

It would be more convincing if Amy and Alan didn’t keep looking away or glancing over incredulously. 

The food is good, and there are presents, and Shawn looks at Cory because he didn’t get anyone presents, he—somehow forgot that Christmas involved presents, and Cory smiles and says, “Shawnie, your gift to us all is just getting better.” 

“Absolutely,” Alan says firmly.

“You got it,” Jack agrees.

“I mean, cash would be nice, too,” Eric says.


After that, Riley snaps. 

She’s there when he wakes up from a nap a few days later, and he blinks at her groggily. “Hey, kid,” he says. “What’s up?”

“I know you’re hurt,” she says, glaring at him. “But you were—are—really important to Maya. And my dad, but Maya thought you could be her dad.” 

Shawn’s not sure what she wants him to do about that, given that most days he can’t stay awake more than three hours at a time, and has no idea how to be a functional person. At best, he's the shitty extension of Cory (and isn't that a kicker, to suspect, deep down, that that's always been true). 

“I want you to get better,” she says, and Shawn stares at her because no shit.

“Riley,” Cory says from the door, and he sounds—he sounds almost angry.

“He has to get better,” she insists. 

“He’s trying,” Cory says. “He’s doing so much better than he was, and it hasn’t even been a year, yet.” 

“Maya—”

“I know, honey,” Cory says. “But Maya has you, and she has us, and she understands.” 

"That's not fair!" Riley snaps, and it's just sharp enough to make Shawn flinch, and of course Cory notices. His eyebrows lower and he juts his jaw and points out the door. 

"Out, Riley. Now." 

Riley runs out of the room, and Cory shuts the door to the room almost all the way, but leaves the crack and presses himself against it. He doesn't need to strain, because Maya was apparently waiting to yell at Riley just down the hall.

“What the hell were you thinking!” Maya yells. “He’s sick, Riley!”

“He needs to get better!”

“You can’t make him,” Maya argues. “He almost died.”

“I know!” Riley shouts. 

“Do you?” Maya presses. “Because you’re acting like a total jerk to everyone, and it’s not fair, especially not to Shawn. He almost died!”

“Stop saying that!” Riley insists, and now she sounds tearful, and Maya’s voice gentles, but is still hard, implacable. 

“He almost died,” she says, and then, “Shhh, I know.” 

“Finally,” Cory breathes, sinking down on the bed, and Shawn squeezes his thigh. “Oh, man, that kid is good at fake-it-till-you-make-it.” 

“She’ll be okay,” Shawn says, and it’s—it’s heady, to be the one reassuring. To see Cory’s face clear like that.

It’s a really good moment.


 

Not all moments are so great, and they’re coming around the one-year anniversary of his accident when Cory and Topanga have a fight outside his room. 

“Please, Cory,” Topanga says. “I know, you think Shawn can get better. I think he can too, but maybe he can’t here.” 

“Topanga.” 

“I know. I know, but Cory—when you’re not here he’s like—I don’t know. He’s not Shawn, but when you’re here he tries so hard, and I don’t know if you can’t see it because you want everything to be fine so much or if—” her voice breaks, and she inhales sharply, breath stuttering like her ribs are broken too.

“He’s getting better,” Cory says, and his footsteps fade away, towards the kitchen, Shawn thinks.

“No,” Topanga says. “He’s not.” 

She pushes the door open, and Shawn closes his eyes, pretends to sleep. He doesn’t know if it fools her. He needs to get better at that. 

If he doesn’t, she’s going to send him away, and Shawn can’t go away. He went away for 10 years and he can’t do that again, to Cory.

 

 

 

four.

“So I was dating…Maya’s mom?” he says the next morning. Topanga’s head jerks up so fast her hair bounces. She has beautiful hair, he thinks, and wonders if she always has. 

“Katy, yeah,” she says, and pushes her hair back with her fingertips. He thinks she must have always had nice hair—she’s deftly careful with it. “You guys were taking it slow.”

“Why hasn’t she—“ come to see me, is the obvious end of that sentence, but he doesn’t finish it. He’ll let her fill it in the way she wants to. He has to convince Topanga, and something in him knows that if he just seems on the verge of getting better—if he can figure out what she expects, he can be that. 

“Well, it wasn’t really serious,” she says. “I mean, it was, kind of. But it was more like—you really liked Maya.”

“She seems like a great kid.”

“She is,” Topanga says, beaming at him. “And, well. You and Katy had sparks, but I think you were really trying because you liked Maya so much. Not that I don’t think you and Katy would—will—work. I just think that you got the push to give it a go because of Maya.” 

He nods slowly. “I was thinking—I mean.”

She pauses, putting down the carrots she was peeling, and looks at him. 

“What, Shawn?”

“I should get out a little. Not just—the cab to my appointments. Maybe something at the kids’ schools or—“

“Maya actually has an art show coming up,” Topanga says. “The…3rd, I think, so that’s next Thursday. Or maybe Friday, I have to check, but either way. I’m sure she’d love to have you, and I think it’s great you want to get out. I’m really proud of you.” 

She leans over and kisses his cheek, and he bites back the, Doesn’t it bother you that Cory hasn’t slept in your bed for a year? that threatens to come out. 

In any event, it works, because later that night he hears Topanga and Cory in the hall again:

“It was a good day,” Topanga says. “He didn’t remember, exactly, but he asked about Katy, and Maya. I think he might want to see her more—we can tell Riley that she can have Maya over for dinner again. He wants to go to her art show next week.” 

“I told you he was doing better,” Cory says. He’s not smug, there’s nothing mean about it, it’s just—happy. Cory is happy that Topanga is happy, and Cory is happy that Shawn made Topanga happy. 

“I think he might be. I mean, he’s still going to have bad days, but.”

“But we can handle it,” Cory says, and there’s a pause, and then two sets of footsteps going away, and Shawn thinks that this must always be the downside of the Shawn-makes-Topanga-makes-Cory-happy dynamic. It ends with Shawn alone in a big bed, staring at a blue-tinged ceiling, waiting for his drugs to kick in. 


 

The ten year absence is kind of danced around. Cory almost seems not to acknowledge it happened, and Topanga says, “We were busy living our lives! You were Mr. Adventure!” 

“Why did I…come back?” he asks Jack, during one of Jack’s visits. “I stayed away for ten years and then just…came back for Christmas a year ago?”

“Honestly?” Jack asks. “I think because you couldn’t stay away anymore. You didn’t find what you were looking for, so you just—came home.” 

“This is home.” 

“Yeah,” Jack says, smiling a little. “Home’s where the heart is, bro.” 

“What was—What was I looking for?”

“Uh, honestly? What they have. You know, the wife, the kids, all of it. You had your career down, you know the writing, the pictures, it all worked out. But our family has bad luck in the domestic department.” 

It’s probably a sign he’s doing better, that Jack feels like he can say things like that. Nobody’s talked about sending him away again, not for months, so—it’s working. 

He wonders if he stayed away because of those things, really, or if he stayed away because he wanted Topanga’s life. And he came back because he was willing to settle for the scraps, find a kid who wanted a dad and a wife who was happy with a husband who could be good to her, if not head-over-heels in love. 

The better he gets, and the more people slip and tell him things about himself, about his family and who he was and their joint history it all—

He gets nightmares a lot, and the sleeping pills just make him harder to snap out of it. Cory starts sleeping in bed with him again, even though he’s going back to work, now, and has to wake up early. 

“Shawnie, shhh,” Cory murmurs when Shawn starts yelling, and his hands are tight, and huge on Shawn’s arms, fingers pressing ten bruises into him, the hand in his hair is supposed to be soothing, stroking, but Cory’s fingers get lost. Tangle, somewhere, and Shawn wants to scream, just closes his eyes. Feels strands pulled from his skull and wishes he could go with them, float through the air and lay, forgotten and unmourned, on the floor, until they get thrown out, lost somewhere in the city, laid to rest. 

“Here,” Cory says, and Shawn opens his mouth and lets Cory press the pill to his tongue. “It’s just a rough night,” he says. “You’re just having a rough night. It’s okay. I’m here.” 

In the morning, Shawn wakes up with Cory’s arms around him, propped up against Cory’s chest, a blanket carefully tucked around them. 

It was a bad night last night, he tells himself. 

He tells his doctor, and she nods approval, says maybe they should change his prescriptions around. 

“We’re on the road to recovery, Shawn,” she says. “It’s great that you can recognize these moods.” 

He smiles and doesn’t say that he doesn’t. He never notices them, but Cory does, and Shawn associates the pills with the taste of Cory’s fingertips on his tongue.

He doesn’t say to her, I think I want to fuck my best friend? I think we’re too close, maybe, and nobody cares, and I think that I’ve never been a whole person.

 

 

five.

He can go to the grocery store. He can walk, and he can write with his left hand, now, and his agent has been calling to ask about him writing a book about his experience. 

It’s been a year and a half, and he has this choking, desperate feeling that if he doesn’t run now, if he doesn’t get out, he never will. 

He’ll never be a whole person.

He has to leave. He has to leave and not come back. 

He has to, because last night he kissed Cory. Or maybe Cory kissed him, but it was hazy and Cory's lips had been red and swollen, and he'd been a firm, heavy weight on top of Shawn, and Shawn had felt—electric. Like every nerve was singing, and it wasn't pain, it was—joyful. Jubilant. In their bed, in their room, it had been so easy to just take what Cory was giving, to fall asleep tangled together, satisfied, not afraid of the nightmares.

He has to leave.

He doesn’t have a lot. He has a bag, and Jack did say that if Shawn needed to get away he’d pick him up. Jack had been joking, but they’re brothers, and family, and—

“Don’t go,” Cory says, from behind him. 

Shawn’s body is whole, now. He can walk, and breathe without wanting that breath to be his last, and he can hold onto his new memories, and—

And he is never, ever going to live if he stays. He left, once, for ten years, and Shawn understands why, now. Why, when Riley was born, he took himself out of the picture, because it must have been killing him to stay. To be stuck under Cory’s pull; Cory, who didn’t want to admit anything was wrong, who thought he could fix it all, who Shawn, somewhere deep in his gut, believed could fix it all. Cory and Topanga’s lives had been moving on and Shawn had been stuck, standing still, caught in their orbit, incapable of having what he wanted and saving himself, and he had.

But maybe he only had one act of bravery in him. 

Maybe you only got one opportunity to leave, and he’d had his. 

Because Cory looks gutted. Like he could crumple, actually crumple down, like a piece of paper. “Shawnie,” he says, and swallows. “Don’t go again. I can’t—“ he stops, then. He stops, and his eyes are red, and then he says, “That’s not what I mean. If you want to—were you going to call Jack?”

Because Cory knows him, even when Shawn doesn’t know himself, and Shawn thinks he’s an idiot, wanting to walk away from that. A goddamn idiot. 

“No, Cory,” he says, and Cory presses forward, wraps his arms around Shawn’s shoulders and hauls him in. They’re about the same height, but Cory makes him feel tiny, and caged, and Shawn closes his eyes and curls his fingers into the soft fabric of Cory’s sweater and says, “No, I—I’ll stay.” 

"Shawn," Cory says, and he sounds so grateful, so relieved. "I don't know—if I had to lose you again, I don't. You're my Shawn, I can't."

"It's okay," Shawn says. "I'm sorry. You don't have to. I'm right here." 

 

six.

These are things Shawn Hunter knows:

  • He doesn't do well without Cory; not then, not now, not ever.
  • He's not a whole person, but nobody seems to notice, so maybe that doesn't matter.
  • When the rocks fell, he died. Nobody seems to have noticed that, either.

(and one for the road:

  • When the rocks fell, he died. It's possible, actually, that Cory knows, and it matters a lot.)