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Freezing in Hell

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She waves at the bartender and finishes her drink. She pushes the glass a bit away from her and waits for him to refill it. She pulls out a cigarette and lights it, taking a long drag from it before putting her lighter away.

“Smoking is bad for you.”

She pauses only a second before she exhales the smoke, causing a cloud to weave around her head before dissolving. She takes another drag of it before nodding to the bartender. She pulls the cigarette from her lips and taps it against the side of the small tin ashtray on the bar. She licks her lips and grabs the glass again. “I enjoyed a lot of things that weren't good for me. Smoking is safer.” She drinks the alcohol, sipping a little from the glass.

“I think the Surgeon General would disagree.”

She chuckles softly, she's sure he didn't hear it though. She takes another drag before turning and looking to him. He looks older, but then again, so does she. A decade is a long time. They have both grown up. His hair is shorter, almost too short. It's definitely too short to grab. She even pouts at that. Old memories of heated moments flood her brain, but she lets them dissolve, like the smoke. He's fitter, broader in the shoulders. She can see his muscles under the tee shirt and down his arms. He works out, a lot. She feels a corner of her lips rise at the thought of how the rest of him looks, but the thoughts dissolve with the smile. She looks up to his face. It's thinner. It's got sharp edges to it and he has lines near his eyes. She thinks about saying something, but everything quip seems forced. It would be more lame 'smoking is cool' or worse, asking about his life or even the weather. She doesn't have it in her to say any words, any that would matter.

He looks to the bartender and points to her glass. “Same as her.” He sits on the stool next to her.

She smells him, even through the smoke in the bar. She thinks maybe she smelled him before he spoke, but thinks her brain is being dramatic. It must be something in his smell that makes her do dramatic things, think dramatic thoughts. She watches his glass fill. He clears his throat, watching her. She lifts her glass and offers a really bad fake smile. “To old friends!” She doesn't wait for him. She finishes her drink off in a couple gulps.

He drinks his and gags immediately. “Holy shit. This is nasty.” He coughs. “Let's upgrade to the top shelf, eh?” He waves the bartender over.

She turns her glass over and takes another drag from the cigarette before pushing the cinders into the ashtray, extinguishing it.

He looks over at her. “Don't let me ruin your night out.”

She hears the tone. The mocking way he spoke like he had in high school. She lets it roll off her faster than she had when the wounds were fresh. “I have work in the morning.” She sounds tired. Her voice slurs a bit and she wants to try it again. She doesn't.

Logan reaches back and pulls out his wallet. “How long was your visit this time? Will a fifty cover it?”

The bartender comes over and hands her a credit card and a slip. She signs the slip, leaving a generous tip and slips the card into her jacket pocket. She ignores his questions. “Go home.”

“No.”

She sighs and slides off the stool. “Then I will.”

“Can I come with you?”

She sighs again and looks up at him. “No.” She pauses, looking down for a minute, then back up at him. “Goodbye.” She turns and walks towards the door.

He puts a ten dollar bill on the bar to cover his own disgusting drink and rushes to catch up to her. “I refuse to say that.”

She shrugs. She feels her insides burning with alcohol and grief, but she keeps them from coming to the surface. “Your choice. It doesn't change that I said it and intend to stick to it.” She stops on the sidewalk and looks around.

He follows, towering over her. “Let me take you home. If for no other reason than to make sure you get home alright.”

She can hear the emotion in his voice. She was always better at hiding her emotions than he was. She would say she could read him, but he let them out so easily. He wanted his emotions known, where she always kept them close, personal.

“Please. I don't know what I would do if I left now and something happened to you. You are drunk.”

She thinks for a moment. “I think I will see you off in a cab then go back in for some more quality whiskey.” She offers him another fake smile.

He gasps softly at her. “How often do you do this?”

“How often did you do it?” She shouldn't bring up the past. They are messy enough without the past. But they aren't who they are without it.

“That's not fair.” He is hurt. “That was a long time ago.”

“So was us.” She looks away from him, dismissing him.

He spots a cab and waves it over. He opens the door and looks to her. “Come on, let me get you home. Please.”

She looks up to him and shakes her head. She turns and walks down the street. She hears the cab door close and his footsteps behind her. She stops, looking down. She hears the cab drive off.

“Keep walking. I am not leaving you alone out here.”

She smirks and a chuckle escapes. “I've been alone out here for a long time. I thrive on being alone out here.”

He walks around her, looks down to her genuine smile. “I didn't walk out on you. Don't blame me for your loneliness.”

She chuckles, walking around him and pulling a cigarette out and lighting it. “I didn't say I was lonely.”

He freezes. She had wounded him. She can feel the theoretical knife twisting and she grins.

“You should call one of your escorts then. Have him walk you home.” He tries to sound normal. She can smell the bitterness and bile that he is sure to be tasting over those words.

She wonders if the alcohol is what makes her enjoy this or if she is simply tired of the routine they had. She wonders if she would have jumped on him ten years ago had he shown up like he had tonight. She turns and faces him, pulling the cigarette from her mouth, tapping the ashes onto the sidewalk. “Why tonight? Why after all this time?” She blames his dramatic scent again.

“I couldn't go another day without you.” He looks at her with those big brown eyes. They are wet and threatening to flood down his cheeks. She could see the tension vibrating off him. His fists are clenched and she is sure he doesn't know they are. His shoulders are rolled forward, almost as if he had been punched in the gut. She thinks back to her talk of loneliness and smirks. She had missed his physical reaction.

“How long is that then? I would like to mark the calendar for the next time this day comes around.” She raises a brow, putting the cigarette to her lips and sucking on it.

He rushes at her. She knows he would never hurt her, so she doesn't back away. He grabs her cigarette from her tiny fingers and throws it to the sidewalk with a disgusted grunt.

She exhales, her eyes widening at his actions.

He reaches up and grabs her head with his hands. His hands are warm on her cool skin, adding a bit of comfort she didn't know she was missing. He is holding her in place. He leans down, his lips hovering over her own. He looks into her eyes, searching between them, looking for something. She supposes he finds it because he pushes his mouth on hers. He holds the kiss against her lips, steady and strong. After a moment, he pushes his tongue along her lips, prying them open gently.

She relents, closing her eyes and letting more warmth rush her. She knows all he tastes and smells is alcohol and cigarettes, but this is his choice.

He moves his tongue into her mouth, playing with hers. He tilts his head to the side, getting a better angle. One of his hands reaches around and holds the back of her head. His fingers running through her hair.

She moans. She doesn't mean to. She hadn't planned on it. But he could always get her to moan. She moves her tongue with his, returning the kiss. She isn't being as passionate as he is, but she blames the alcohol for her slowness.

He replies with a moan of his own. He moves the hand on the back of her head to her back, trapping one of her arms to her side. He kisses hard and fast, like he was pushing a decade's worth of love and passion into it.

She lifts her hands, yanking the trapped one up and grabs the sides of his head. She returns the kiss with the same level of passion and lust. She feels herself waking up.

As soon as she touches him, he yanks backwards. He is panting. His eyes are dark. He is stretching his fingers out and making fists and repeating that as he looks down at her.

She blinks, lowering her hands. She watches him.

“You can't ignore it. It's still there.” He has conviction.

“I never could ignore it.” She speaks softly, catching her breath.

He steps back up to her, caressing her cheek. “Let's go home.”

She eyes him. She could easily fall back into that vortex. She would be happy, until she wasn't. And then, it would be worse than it is now. She had been a shell of her old self. But if this doesn't work, she would be nothing. She looks away from him. “I can't.”

“I want to marry you.” He ducks down to be in her line of sight. “I want to live with you for the rest of my life. I want to be ancient and holding your hand as we cross over to the next plane of existence together because that's the only way we could get out of this marriage.” He grins at her.

She looks up at him and he straightens again. She knows he means it.

“I want to make love with you in our home. I want to rub your feet after you come home from working all day. I want to cook with you and figure out why your cakes always seem lopsided.” He smirks.

She gets the images in her head and she smiles.

“I want to snuggle up on the couch and binge watch TV. I want to go to the movies and hear you bad mouth the writing and glare of those who dare to look back at you. “ He is almost laughing.

She smiles wider. She's almost able to reach out and touch that life.

“I want to have kids with you, and only you, because you know what it means for me to trust myself around them.”

She blinks. She wasn't expecting that.

“Please, baby. Come home. Come back to me and be my wife.” He holds her hands in front of them. He chuckles softly. “I would kneel if I had a ring, but if you want me to kneel, I will. I will beg if I have to.”

“You are begging.” She squeaks out. It's too much now. She remembers how the last decade was cold and empty and she knew how to deal with that. This was warm and full of love and dreams and passion and trust. But, trust is an illusion and she loses some of her warmth. “I...” She steps back. “I can't.”

He looks down at her. He searches her eyes, trying to find some reason that makes sense to him.

“It's too late.” She supplies, looking away again.

“Why?” That raw emotion is back in his throat, choking him.

She takes a deep breath and sighs. She shakes her head, looking down.

“Tell me what it is. I'll fix it. We'll get through it.” He steps closer.

She looks up. She's not shocked he would offer, but it's nothing he can fix. “I'm sorry. You are wasting your time.” She continues down the street. She swallows the knot in her throat. She focuses on breathing. She doesn't even feel the warmth of the alcohol anymore. She shivers, but keeps moving.

He jogs to catch up, grabbing her arm and twisting her around to look at him. “Tell me what it is.” He uses a strong tone. He's urgent. He's worried and confused. His emotions are written all over his face and voice.

She stands there. Her shoulders dropped. Her eyes cast to his feet. She feels the tears behind her eyes, threatening to show her weakness. She fights with them, hanging on to the pain just until she can get away. She knows she will cry tonight. She will cry for days. She can't do it now though.

“Baby, please.” He is pleading. He knows it's big.

She looks up, lip quivering as she continues to fight her emotions. She sees him look to her lips then back to her eyes. She looks to the side and sniffles. “I.. I live just up there.” She struggles to keep her breathing controlled. She pulls away from him, walking up to a two story house. It needs to be painted and it has a shutter that needs to be fixed. It's dark inside with no porch light on awaiting her return home.

He lets her walk, following behind, panting. He's nervous. He follows her up her stairs to her porch and holds the screen door, complete with torn screen, while she unlocks the door and enters.

She stumbles inside and vanishes into the darkness. She hears him enter and quietly closes the door behind him. She lets out a soft chuckle at the thought that he might wake someone up. She turns on a lamp in the living room in the back of the house. “Lock the door and come on back.” She goes to the kitchen, pulling a bottle down and grabbing a glass. She fills the glass with brown liquid.

He walks towards her. He tilts his head at her drinking again. He looks around the place. The lamp she turned on doesn't have a shade on it and it's sitting on the carpet near the plug. She has a recliner with torn leather spots and a loveseat. They don't match. There's a small TV on the floor with a cable box on one side and a DVD/Bluray player on the other. There's no table in the kitchen, but a hanging light fixture marks the spot where one could easily go.

She gulps some of the whiskey down. She watches him appraise her way of living and smirks. He was never comfortable in her home, regardless of it's location.

“How long have you lived here?” His voice is stronger than she would have thought, but he doesn't know yet.

“Ten years, give or take.” She drinks more. She closes her eyes as it burns and relishes the feeling.

“Since you left...” It sounds like a question, but it's him processing it. “Why do you live like this?” He looked back at her.

She chuckles and it's so hallow. “Excellent question.” She finishes her drink. She leaves the glass on the counter and walks out around it. She walks over to the stairs and begins to walk up them. “Follow me.”

He does, holding a hand out to be prepared to catch her if she falls.

At the top of the stairs, she turns and stands at a closed door. She looks back, watching him reach the top. She can see her own bedroom behind him.

He turns to see the room, gasping at the emptiness of it. He takes a step towards it. He sees she sleeps on a mattress on the floor with a ratty blanket as her only bedding. Another lamp is on the floor and a dresser with a drawer missing is against the far wall. He doesn't go in to see more. He turns, his eyes sad.

She smirks. “That's going to seem like paradise in a minute.” She chokes on the words, tears starting to well in her eyes.

He walks closer to her. “What is going on here?”

She takes a deep breath and opens the closed door. She ushers him in, but she stays back. She flips on the light.

The room is a nursery. It's painted in shades of purple and pale green. There's a chest of toys on a wall, a changing table and dresser on another. The crib, with a unicorn mobile, is on the last wall. There is a rug in the middle of the room and a rocking chair off in a corner. There's a night light unplugged and placed on the dresser. This room is full of life and love. It feels odd in this house.

He turns, confusion taking up his whole face, contorting it.

She takes a breath and looks down. She doesn't want to see the moment it hits him. “Her name was Isobel Iris Mars. She was born October 2, 2007. She died January 8, 2008.” She waits.

He tilts his head, doing the math inside it. “Piz's kid?”

She shakes her head. “Piz and I never had sex.” Her voice cracks.

He gasps and she knows he figured it out. “Mine?”

She nods, still looking away. She has found that the door calms her. She stares at the white wood markings on it.

“How...?” He breathes it out.

“I... I couldn't save her.” She feels the tears coming down her cheeks. She wraps her arms around herself. She remembers finding Izzy in the crib that morning. Her lips were blue. She went to touch her and jumped back. Izzy was cold to the touch.

“How?!” He is yelling. She expected yelling.

“She stopped breathing one night. I didn't know. I couldn't save her.” She backs up a bit, becoming smaller.

He stands there. She can hear him panting. She can almost feel the emotions cycle through him.

She takes a breath. “I'm so sorry. I didn't mean for her to die.” She doesn't wipe the tears as they fall off her cheeks. “I called the paramedics, but it was too late.” She shivers. “I failed her.”

He watches her. He tries a calm tone. “Did she choke on something?”

She blinks, unable to focus her wet eyes. “They said-” She sobs quickly. “They said it was SIDS.” She thinks about how they lied and said it wasn't her fault. Of course, it was her fault. She was Izzy's mother. “Izzy deserved better.” She can't control her sobs now. It feels so fresh in her mind.

“Izzy?” His voice startles her. It's warm and so wrong in this place.

She looks up at him. She can't see him well, but he is looking down at her with such love in his eyes. “That's what I called her.” She turns away again. She had failed him too. She shivers and hugs herself tighter.

He steps closer and pulls her into a hug. “I'm sorry.”

She blinks. She couldn't have heard that right. “What?” Her voice cracks.

“I'm sorry. I can't imagine the pain you have been going through.” He sounds strong.

She pushes at him, clawing out with dull nails. She stumbles backwards, hitting the wall across from the door. She looks up at him, eyes wide with disbelief. “I killed your child. How can you apologize to me?” She finds her voice is angry.

He shakes his head. “You didn't kill her. She died from something you couldn't control.” He takes a step towards her.

She slides down the wall, hugging her legs. She sobs again and her eyes look into the nursery. “I loved her so much. I was there for her. I didn't run from her. I had this piece of you and this piece of me and I cherished it so much. I couldn't be with you, but I had her and I was ok with that. I was so happy with just that.”

He watches her.

“But she left me. I failed her and you and now, I don't get happiness. I don't deserve to be that happy again. Someone always pays, right?” She feels so cold and hugs herself tighter. “I don't deserve marriage or foot rubs or another chance at failing my child.”

He falls to his knees in front of her, blocking her view of the room. “Yes, you do deserve happiness.” He is crying. She can't see his tears, but she hears it.

“I don't.” She reaches up and covers her face. She can feel her heart pounding in her chest and she feels lightheaded. She normally cries this hard to pass out so she can sleep without the nightmares.

“Hey.” His voice is sweet.

She feels his hand on her wrist and jumps. She pulls her hand back like he burned her.

He raises a brow and looks at the wrist. He gasps when he sees the scar. He grabs the other one and checks it. It has a similar scar. “Fuck.” He whispers the words. “When did you try this?”

She looks up at him, panting. She pulls back her hands and wraps them around herself again. She shivers. “I even failed that.”

He grabs her by her upper arms and yanks her towards him. He sits on the floor and cradles her. He hugs her tightly to him. He's crying. He trembles as he holds her.

She wants to get away. She wants to crawl back into her cold, dark space and never see him again. But she lets him hold her. He is warm and smells clean. Maybe she will just stay until she stops shivering.

 

She wakes up on her bed, curled in a tight ball with her blanket on top of her. She's in her clothes, minus the coat and shoes. Morning light is starting to come in through the windows. She climbs out of bed. She stops at the stairs and notices Izzy's door is open. She swallows hard and takes a deep breath before walking over to it. She grabs the door and starts to close it.

“Hey.”

He is still here. She smiles just the smallest bit.

She opens the door back up and steps inside. She sees him on the rug.

He's flipping through a baby album. He looks up. His eyes are bloodshot and his nose is raw. “I found these pictures.” He looks back down. “She had your nose.”

She gulps and nods.

“Your dad got to meet her. I didn't want to ask last night, but I'm glad he did.” He flips to another page.

“He was here when she was born. He didn't like me keeping her from you.” She kneels next to him, running a finger gently over a picture of Izzy. “He said it wasn't fair.” She feels the tears again, but pushes them down. “I was working up the nerve to call you.” She looks to him. “I was probably a month away from calling you.”

He looks up at her and smiles. “I would have been very upset.” He pauses. “Then I would have jumped on a plane to meet her.” He reaches over and takes her hand in his.

“I'm so sorry.” She looks away from him and tries to pull back, but he keeps her hand tight in his.

“I accept your apology for not telling me I had a daughter. I accept your apology for not telling me she died.”

She closes her eyes. “I am sorry I let her die.”

He releases her hand and crawls over to her. He cups her face. “Hey, look at me.”

She opens her eyes and looks up at him.

“I don't blame you for Izzy dying. I won't ever blame you. I wish you could stop blaming yourself though.” He caresses her cheeks with his thumbs.

“I can't.” It sounds so much like her replies from last night.

“Have you talked to anyone?” He is asking if she got professional help.

“After I tried-” She stops and looks down. “They made me.”

“Do you still talk to someone?” He releases her face and reaches down to her hands.

She shakes her head.

“Will you start again?” He is trying to hold back tears. “For me? Please?”

She remains silent. She looks up at him. She wants to reach up and comfort him, but she doesn't have the strength. She sits there.

“Come back with me. See your dad. See Wallace and Mac and even Weevil. See someone. Get out of this cycle of grief.” He finds strength.

She sighs. He makes it sound so easy to do it. She feels the tears in her eyes.

“Please. Even if you don't want me, come home.”

She breaks and is crying again. She wonders if she can just go back. She wonders if her purgatory is over. She thinks of her life here. She has a job. She has friends. Actually, she has coworkers that occasionally join her at the bar, but usually only for one drink. “I have a job.”

“You wait tables at a diner.” He answers with a sigh because even he can tell it's a pathetic excuse.

“I like it.” She lies.

“There's diners in Neptune.” He smirks, just the slightest bit.

“I like the people.” It's another lie. But she is calming down and wants to see him smile.

“There's people in Neptune.” He smirks more.

“I like the weather here.” Another lie exits her mouth. It's almost always cold or wet, usually both.

“I'll make Dick stand still while you hit him until he cries for mercy.” He smiles.

She watches as his lips move, his cheeks rising up. She sees the smile reach his eyes and she lets out a sigh. She smiles back, though not as big as his.

“So yea?” He is still smiling, watching her.

She watches him. She almost laughs as she nods a couple times.

“Whoo!!” He climbs up to his feet and pulls her up to him. He wraps his arms around her and hugs her so tightly.

She giggles a bit as her feet dangle in the air until he puts her down.

He tucks some hair behind her ear and leans in, kissing her forehead.

“I need to sell this place and pack up everything.” She looks around and frowns.

“I'll hire someone. We'll have them box it all up and we'll put it away, until we can both go through it. Alright?” He loses his smile, but he's trying to keep her on board. “I think the rest of the place can be burned.” He chuckles, trying to lighten the mood.

She sighs and pouts. “I trashed a lot of stuff.”

“Oh, so you did have a bed?” He asks, brow raised.

She nods.

“And tables for lamps?” He chuckles.

“I had other lamps.” She smirks a bit.

He looks around the room they were in. “Why is this room so clean and not trashed?”

She sighs. “I was never mad when I was in here. Sad? Yes. Depressed? Yep. Hallow shell? You bet. Never angry. I would leave if I felt the anger rise. I didn't want this room to be a place I destroyed.” She reaches out and holds a purple flower drawer pull in her fingers.

“Makes sense.” He pulls her back into a hug and kisses the top of her head. “Ok, let's go see what you have in that closet of yours or if we can give the rest of this house completely to the trash man.” He ushers her out of the nursery.

She walks out and watches him close the door. “Hey?”

He lets go of the door handle and looks down at her, a brow raised.

“If I come out of this, we can talk weddings.” She grins a bit. It's shy and uneasy, but it's real and it's full of hope.

He scoops her up and hugs her to him, grinning wide. “You'll get out of this. We will together.”

She giggles a bit and hugs him tightly back. “I love you, Lo.”

He leans in and kisses her sweetly. “I love you too, Roni.”

 

She startles awake. Images of Izzy fade as the soft moonlight enters. She sobs once, curling up tighter. She feels a warm hand touch her back.

“Ronica?” It's him. She remembers he brought her home, his home. She is in his bed.

She sobs again, but out of relief.

“Come here.” He offers his arms. He reaches under her and rolls her back towards him, towards his warmth.

She lays on his chest, calming herself.

“What happened?” His voice is soft and tender.

“Bad dream.” It's so common to her.

“Oh.” He hugs her close to him and rubs her back slowly. “Want to talk about it?”

She shakes her head on his chest.

“Ok.” He isn't pushing her.

She idly runs her fingertips over his chest.

He holds her hand, stopping her. His hand slides down to her wrist. His thumb gently rubs over the scar there. “When did this happen?” His voice is so light and weak.

She yanks her hand back again. “I don't want to talk about that.”

He lets her hand go easily. He doesn't speak at first. But seconds pass and he is still awake. “Does your dad know?”

She takes a deep breath and nods. “He knows.”

She hears his heart pounding in his chest. “He still left you up there?” There was anger in his voice.

“I made him.” She places her hand on his stomach, feeling his abs tense before he relaxes a little. She takes a breath. “He came up with me, over that summer. We found this house for sale and we went shopping for furniture. Almost all of my stuff came from a thrift store. I had a kitchen table and coffee table. It wasn't glamorous and none of it matched. But it was mine. My dad wouldn't let me look at used baby stuff though. He insisted on paying for new everything. He claimed it had to do with warranties or safety laws, but I think he was just getting ready to spoil her. He painted her room, forcing me to sit outside to enjoy the weather.” She pauses to chuckle. “At least he gave me an umbrella.”

He calms. She could think he is sleeping, but his fingers are playing with her back.

“He came back up a week before her due date. He didn't want to miss her joining the world. He was so excited.” She feels tears forming, but ignores them. “He told me that he was turning me in for a newer model.” She laughs softly. “I was being replaced as his favorite and I better enjoy these precious moments alone with him while they lasted.” She runs her fingertips over his stomach again, watching it. She enjoys having something to focus on. “She came out with ten fingers and ten toes and I never felt so much love. I was exhausted and it hurt, but I didn't care. I had this little person.” She lets the tears flow as they would. “My dad got us settled back in my house and helped me as much as he could. He was there for a month.” She laughs. “He wouldn't go home. Once he did, he didn't stay there. He came back up a month later, claiming it was for her two month birthday. I just had to roll my eyes and hand her over.” She pauses, feeling that knot coming back. “He was going to come up for her third month birthday, but work kept him in Neptune. By the time he could make it up, it was for her funeral.” She quiets the sob before it escaped. “It was just me and my dad. I thought about calling you.”

He takes a sharp breath, wrapping a hand around her back to her shoulder, pulling her closer.

“I knew you should have known, but here I was, feeling so horrible and so sad.” She is trembling as she talks. Her voice struggling to get past the knot. “I knew I couldn't give you the gift of our child, but I couldn't bring myself to call you. I could give you the gift of ignorance. I could save you from this frozen hell. I could let you be happy.” She sobs. “I'm so sorry.”

He wraps both of his arms around her and softly shushes her. He strokes her hair and kisses her head.

She calms a bit, sniffling. “My dad left again and I tried to go back to my life. I cried all the time. My co-workers would cover my tables while I was in the back crying. But, I had to work. I had to live.” She turns her hand over and looks at the scar on her wrist. “My dad flew me home for the holidays. He said it would do me some good to get out of that house and back in Southern California weather.”

He pulls back his arm that's crossing him and speaks. “I didn't know you ever came back.”

“I didn't tell anyone. Wallace found out because of Alicia, but he said he wouldn't tell anyone if I didn't want him to.” She pauses. “I don't even think Mac knew. I didn't leave the apartment except to take Backup out to the beach. I made it through to New Years and then I went home.” She sniffles again.

He reaches next to him and a tissue appears in front of her. She takes it and blows her nose.

“The one year mark of her death was a couple days away.” She starts again. “I was in the kitchen, cutting up a bell pepper for a stir fry. I nicked my finger.” She holds up her left index finger, inspecting it. “It wasn't bad. I wouldn't be able to use it for a couple days and be annoyed by that, but I would survive the cut.” She smiles, but it fades away. “I watched as the blood bubbled out of my finger and I just couldn't not try. I fell to my knees and cut them quickly and deeply.”

He gasps softly. He had asked, but he is shocked that she told him.

“I sat against my cupboards and stared at my dishwasher with my arms to the sides. I was bleeding out and my thoughts raced to criticizing myself for my final view. Why hadn't I at least picked a window?” She pauses. “My neighbor found me. She had come over to bring my mail and found me in the kitchen.” She wraps her arm around his stomach and squeezes. “My dad came up. I was stuck at the mental ward, but he came up. He never yelled. He just grabbed me and hugged me. He sent my neighbor flowers.”

He hugs her back. She hears his breath catching, but she doesn't hear him actually crying. She didn't look up at him yet.

“He stayed with me again. This time, he hovered over me. I had to shower with the door cracked open while he talked to me. He never asked me why. He knew. It still was eating me up inside though. After another month, I was better. I had physically healed, but wore new jewelry to cover the fresh scars. I told my dad to go home. We fought over it, of course. He didn't trust me not to try again. I didn't blame him for that. I knew what it was like to lose a child. I realized what I almost did to him. I told him so and promised him I would never try again. I just needed to go back to living. I needed to deal with it all.” She pauses. “He made me call him daily. He said he would come up the second he doubted my promise. He said if anyone was going to find me again, it would be him, not some stranger.” She wipes at her tears. “I called him every day. We never talked long. Neither of us wanted to talk about the loss.” She returns to playing with his abs. “The calls eventually faded to every other day, then a couple times a week. We talk still, but it's more when there's something to talk about. I don't ask him about Neptune and he didn't ask me about the house.”

He leans forward and kisses her head. He holds his face against her hair, breathing her in before leaning back against the pillows.

“I think maybe she's with Lilly.” Her voice is soft and shaking. “I think Lilly is watching her for us, telling Izzy about her parents and how we were as kids.”

He chuckles softly and squeezes her arm a bit. “Lilly was a horrible babysitter.”

“Meg is there too. Maybe they will even each other out.” She sniffles. “Maybe she's not alone up there. Maybe...” She trails off, unable to finish the thought. She looks at the scar on her wrist again. “The doctor told me that one day, I wouldn't see weakness when I saw these. I would see a battle scar. I lost the battle that day, but the war still fought on, somehow.”

He hugs her to his side again, his fingers trembling.

“You really think I'm worth forgiving? That I deserve to be happy?” She asks timidly.

He pulls back and rises up to look down at her. His eyes are dark and wet. His cheeks are shimmering with fresh and drying tears. He cups her face, forcing her to look up to him. “You deserve the world, Veronica. I'm going to spend the rest of my life giving it to you and making you the happiest woman of all time.” He leans down and kisses her forehead and her cheeks before coming to kiss her lips. It's a chaste kiss, but he keeps himself pressed against her lips for a few seconds. “I love you so much.”

She feels the outpour of love from him and laughs at it. She doesn't find it funny, but she is still shocked that she truly is loved that much. She wraps her arms around him and snuggles her cheek against his chest again. “I love you too. Thank you.”

He grins. “For what?”

“For finding me and dragging me out of hell.”