- Text Size +
Nick looked up at Mally. "Go to him?"

"Yes," she said.

His eyes wandered away from her, to the lawn, to the road beyond it. A car went by slowly. Somewhere down the street, a dog barked loudly. They were normal sounds, normal everyday things, but they seemed other worldly in contrast to the proportion of the things going through Nick's head.

"You need them, Nick," Mally said.

"But they don't need me," he whispered, "I've done enough."

Mally's hands were still resting on his thighs. It wasn't sexual, it was just comforting, the way she was touching him, being there, looking up at him. She reached one up and rested it on his cheek. "I don't know everything, I only know what you told me last night," she said, "But from what I know, and what I feel about the people I love, I can tell you that they do need you."

Nick's eyes still refused to connect with hers.

"Nick," Mally whispered. "Look at me."

He looked. His eyes were heartbreakingly sad, crisp blue and desperate, not like the glowing excitement those same eyes had always carried back in the day. Mally ran her fingers along his stubble.

"You need each other," she whispered, "If you're ever going to move on."

Nick's heart felt like it was... stirring. The feeling reminded him of the cartoon How the Grinch Stole Christmas when the Grinch's two-sizes-too-small grows three sizes. He stared into Mally's eyes, biting his lower lip.

"There's never been a better time to do it ," she said, "You look good..."

Nick's eyes still didn't move from hers.

"And I can see in your eyes that you want to see them..."

Nick's voice was raspy and soft, "Mally... why did you help me?"

She was surprised by the question, it seemed out of left-field. "Why wouldn't I help you?" she asked.

He took a deep breath. "When did you figure out who I was?"

"When you admitted it in the kitchen last night."

"When did you suspect?"

"When you came out of the bathroom."

Nick took a deep breath, "So you helped me because I needed help."


He leaned closer, "You helped me when no one else would... when most people were abusing me... throwing rocks at my head, not able to look at me..."

Mally whispered, "I couldn't leave someone hurting like that."

Nick's hand was shaking. He raised his hand up and slipped it in her hair on the back of her head, tilting his head slightly to one side, leaning closer to her. She leaned forward, too, allowing him to pull her to him, her palm still pressed against the stubble of his cheek. The air passed between them and she closed her eyes as their mouths met, his lips soft and moist against hers. The flavor of his breath moving into her mouth and their lips moving against each other...

It felt so... right.

Nick's other hand came around her onto her back, and she shuffled on her knees closer to him until she was kneeling between his legs, looking straight up and him looking straight down, still locked in their kiss.

How has he only been in my life for 28 hours? Mally wondered, How is this new, how is this something that I've lived without?

How did she care about me when I was nothing to care about? Nick wondered, When I couldn't even take the time to care about myself?

When Nick drew back, after long moments of the kiss, their faces hovering just centimeters from each other, his voice was husky - whether from his condition or from the passion of the moment - "Thank you."

She whispered, "Nick, this world is really painful. It's going to tear at you and try to push you down. Bad things are going to happen to you, and you're going to feel the weight of it on your shoulders. But there are still people out there who will love you, who will care about you, who will take you in when you need to be rescued. Those people are your friends... You need each other."

Nick nodded. "Yeah."

"Go to them, Nick. Go to them and make it right," she whispered. "And then, come back to me."